But Washington would not have him killed. He made him build a camp-fire, and then told him to leave them at once. The Indian did so, and as soon as it was certain that he was out of sight and hearing the two young men set out to make their escape. They knew the Indian would soon come back with others, and that their only chance for life was to push on as fast as they could. The Indians could track them in the snow, but by setting out at once they hoped to get so far ahead that they could not be easily overtaken.
It was already night, and the travellers were weary from their day’s march, but they could not afford to stop or rest. All through the night they toiled on. Morning came, and they must have felt it nearly impossible to drag their weary feet farther, but still they made no halt. On and on they went, and it was not till night came again that they thought it safe at last to stop for the rest and sleep they needed so badly. The strain they had undergone must have been fearful. They were already weary and wayworn when they first met the treacherous Indian, and after that they had toiled through the snow for two days and a night without stopping to rest or daring to refresh themselves with sleep.

Just before reaching their journey’s end they arrived at the brink of a river which they expected to find frozen over; but they found it full of floating ice instead. Without boat or bridge, there seemed no chance of getting across; but after a while they managed to make a rude raft, and upon this they undertook to push themselves across with long poles.

The current was very strong, the raft was hard to manage, and the great fields of ice forced it out of its course. In trying to push it in the right direction, Washington missed his footing and fell into the icy river. His situation was very dangerous, but by a hard struggle he got upon the floating logs again. Still the current swept them along, and they could not reach either shore of the stream.

At last they managed to leap from the logs, not to the bank, but to a small island in the river. There they were very little better off than on the raft. They were on land, it is true, but there was still no way of getting to shore; and as there was nothing on the island to make a fire with, Washington was forced, drenched as he was with ice-water, to pass the long winter night in the open air, without so much as a tiny blaze or a handful of coals by which to warm himself…

by: George Cary Eggleston (1839-1911)

The following short story is reprinted from Strange Stories from History for Young People. George Cary Eggleston. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1885.



This was not very easy, as the French had already had a good deal to do with the tribes in that region; but Washington persuaded the chief, whose name was Tanacharisson, to go with him to visit the French commander, who was stationed in a fort hundreds of miles away, near Lake Erie.

This march, like the other, was slow and full of hardships; but at last the fort was reached, and Washington delivered his message to the French officer. A day or two later the Frenchman gave him his answer, which was that the western country belonged to the French, and that they had no notion of giving it up.


All the trouble Washington had met in going north was nothing compared with what was before him in going back to Virginia again. The winter was now at its worst, and the weather was terrible. The rivers and creeks were full of floating ice, and the woods were banked high with snow. But Washington was not to be daunted by any kind of difficulty. He set out on his return march, and with the aid of canoes, in which his baggage was carried down a small stream that ran in that direction, he took his party as far as Venango, in the northwestern part of Pennsylvania.

There he found that he could go no farther on horseback. The ground was frozen on top, but soft beneath, and the poor horses broke through the hard crust at every step. There was a French fort at Venango, and Washington might have waited there very comfortably for better weather; but it was his duty to get back to Virginia as soon as possible with the French commander’s answer, and so he made up his mind to go on, even at the risk of his life.

Leaving the rest of the party to come when they could with the horses, Washington and a single companion named Gist set out on foot for the long winter march. As they had no pack-horses to carry tents and cooking-vessels and food, they had to leave everything behind except what they could carry on their backs; and as they were obliged to take their rifles, powder-horns, and bullet-pouches, their hunting-knives and hatchets, and a blanket apiece, they were pretty heavily loaded, and could not afford to burden themselves with much else.

Day by day the two brave fellows trudged on through the snow-drifts, sleeping at night as best they could, exposed to the biting cold of the winter, without shelter, except such as the woods afforded. There were other dangers besides cold and hunger. At one time a treacherous Indian, who had offered to act as guide, tried to lead the two white men into a trap. As they suspected his purpose, they refused to do as he wished, and a little later he suddenly turned about and shot at Washington, who was only a few paces distant. Missing his aim, he was quickly overpowered, and Gist wanted to kill him, not merely because he deserved to be put to death for his treachery, but also because, if allowed to go free, he was pretty sure to bring other hostile Indians to attack the lonely travellers during the night…

by: George Cary Eggleston (1839-1911)

The following short story is reprinted from Strange Stories from History for Young People. George Cary Eggleston. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1885.



No man ever lived whose name is more honored than that of George Washington, and no man ever deserved his fame more. All the success that ever came to him was won by hard work. He succeeded because he was the kind of man that he was, and not in the least because he had “a good chance” to distinguish himself. He never owed anything to “good luck,” nor even to a special education in the business of a soldier. Some men are called great because they have succeeded in doing great things; but he succeeded in doing great things because he was great in himself.


Everybody who knew him, even as a boy, seems to have respected as well as liked him. There was something in his character which made men think well of him. When he was only sixteen years of age Lord Fairfax admired him to such a degree that he appointed him to a post which not many men would have been trusted to fill. He put the boy at the head of a surveying party, and sent him across the mountains to survey the valley of Virginia—a vast region which was then unsettled. So well did Washington perform this difficult and dangerous task that a few years later, when he was only twenty-one years old, the Governor of Virginia picked him out for a more delicate and dangerous piece of work.

The English colonies lay along the Atlantic coast, while the French held Canada. The country west of the Alleghany Mountains, which we now know as Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, etc., was claimed by both the French and the English, though only the Indians lived there. The French made friends of the savages, and began building forts at different points in that region, and putting soldiers there to keep the English away. The Governor of Virginia wanted to put a stop to this, and so he resolved to send a messenger into “the Great Woods,” as the western country was called, to warn the French off, and to win the friendship of the Indians if possible.

For such a service he needed a man with a cool head, good sense, great courage, and, above all, what boys call “grit;” for whoever should go would have to make his way for many hundreds of miles through a trackless wilderness, over mountains and rivers, and among hostile Indians. Young Washington had already shown what stuff he was made of, and, young as he was, he was regarded as a remarkable man. The governor therefore picked him out as the very best person for the work that was to be done.

It was November when Washington set out, and the weather was very cold and wet. He took four white men and two Indians with him, the white men being hunters who knew how to live in the woods. As the country they had to pass through was a wilderness, they had to carry all their supplies with them on pack-horses. They rode all day through the woods, and when night came slept in little tents by some spring or watercourse. Day after day they marched forward, until at last they reached an Indian village, near the spot where Pittsburgh now stands, and there they halted to make friends with the Indians.

by: George Cary Eggleston (1839-1911)

The following short story is reprinted from Strange Stories from History for Young People. George Cary Eggleston. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1885.


At last, when the good husband was on the point of perishing with cold, the lights were put out. The maid cried softly in the curtains to the king’s sweetheart, that his lordship was there, and jumped into bed, while her mistress went out as if she had been the chambermaid. The advocate, released from his cold hiding-place, rolled rapturously into the warm sheets, thinking to himself, “Oh! this is good!” To tell the truth, the maid gave him his money’s worth — and the good man thought of the difference between the profusion of the royal houses and the niggardly ways of the citizens’ wives. The servant laughing, played her part marvellously well, regaling the knave with gentle cries, shiverings, convulsions and tossings about, like a newly-caught fish on the grass, giving little Ah! Ahs! in default of other words; and as often as the request was made by her, so often was it complied with by the advocate, who dropped of to sleep at last, like an empty pocket.


But before finishing, the lover who wished to preserve a souvenir of this sweet night of love, by a dextrous turn, plucked out one of his wife’s hairs, where from I know not, seeing I was not there, and kept in his hand this precious gauge of the warm virtue of that lovely creature. Towards the morning, when the cock crew, the wife slipped in beside her husband, and pretended to sleep. Then the maid tapped gently on the happy man’s forehead, whispering in his ear, “It is time, get into your clothes and off you go — it’s daylight.” The good man grieved to lose his treasure, and wished to see the source of his vanished happiness.

“Oh! Oh!” said he, proceeding to compare certain things, “I’ve got light hair, and this is dark.”

“What have you done?” said the servant; “Madame will see she has been duped.”

“But look.”

“Ah!” said she, with an air of disdain, “do you not know, you who knows everything, that that which is plucked dies and discolours?” and thereupon roaring with laughter at the good joke, she pushed him out of doors. This became known. The poor advocate, named Feron, died of shame, seeing that he was the only one who had not his own wife while she, who was from this was called La Belle Feroniere, married, after leaving the king, a young lord, Count of Buzancois. And in her old days she would relate the story, laughingly adding, that she had never scented the knave’s flavour.

This teaches us not to attach ourselves more than we can help to wives who refuse to support our yoke.


by: Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850)

The following story is reprinted from Droll Stories. Honoré de Balzac. London: John Camden Hotten, 1874.



Then he arranged the hour, the door, the signal, and all; and the servant went away, bearing with her on the back of the mules the golden treasure wrung by fraud and trickery from the widow and the orphan, and they were all going to that place where everything goes — save our lives, which come from it. Now behold my advocate, who shaves himself, scents himself, goes without onions for dinner that his breath may be sweet, and does everything to make himself as presentable as a gallant signor. He gives himself the airs of a young dandy, tries to be lithe and frisky and to disguise his ugly face; he might try all he knew, he always smelt of the musty lawyer.


He was not so clever as the pretty washerwoman of Portillon who one day wishing to appear at her best before one of her lovers, got rid of a disagreeable odour in a manner well known to young women of an inventive turn of mind. But our crafty fellow fancied himself the nicest man in the world, although in spite of his drugs and perfumes he was really the nastiest. He dressed himself in his thinnest clothes although the cold pinched him like a rope collar and sallied forth, quickly gaining the Rue d’Hirundelle. There he had to wait some time. But just as he was beginning to think he had been made a fool of, and just as it was quite dark, the maid came down and opened alike the door to him and good husband slipped gleefully into the king’s apartment. The girl locked him carefully in a cupboard that was close to his wife’s bed, and through a crack he feasted his eyes upon her beauty, for she undressed herself before the fire, and put on a thin nightgown, through which her charms were plainly visible. Believing herself alone with her maid she made those little jokes that women will when undressing. “Am I not worth 20,000 crowns to-night? Is that overpaid with a castle in Brie?”

And saying this she gently raised two white supports, firm as rocks, which had well sustained many assaults, seeing they had been furiously attacked and had not softened. “My shoulders alone are worth a kingdom; no king could make their equal. But I am tired of this life. That which is hard work is no pleasure.” The little maid smiled, and her lovely mistress said to her, “I should like to see you in my place.” Then the maid laughed, saying–

“Be quiet, Madame, he is there.”


“Your husband.”


“The real one.”

“Chut!” said Madame.

And her maid told her the whole story, wishing to keep her favour and the 12,000 crowns as well.

“Oh well, he shall have his money’s worth. I’ll give his desires time to cool. If he tastes me may I lose my beauty and become as ugly as a monkey’s baby. You get into bed in my place and thus gain the 12,000 crowns. Go and tell him that he must take himself off early in the morning in order that I may not find out your trick upon me, and just before dawn I will get in by his side.”

The poor husband was freezing and his teeth were chattering, and the chambermaid coming to the cupboard on pretence of getting some linen, said to him, “Your hour of bliss approaches. Madame to-night has made grand preparations and you will be well served. But work without whistling, otherwise I shall be lost.”


by: Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850)

The following story is reprinted from Droll Stories. Honoré de Balzac. London: John Camden Hotten, 1874.


“My dear,” replied the dear man, “you shall have them without being troubled with me;” and turning her round, “Your client has not told you who I am, eh? No? Learn then, I am the husband of the lady whom the king has debauched, and whom you serve. Carry her these crowns, and come back here. I will hand over yours to you on a condition which will be to your taste.”

The servant did as she was bidden, and being very curious to know how she could get 12,000 crowns without sleeping with the advocate, was very soon back again.

“Now, my little one,” said he, “here are 12,000 crowns. With this sum I could buy lands, men, women, and the conscience of three priests at least; so that I believe if I give it to you I can have you, body, soul, and toe nails. And I shall have faith in you like an advocate, I expect that you will go to the lord who expects to pass the night with my wife, and you will deceive him, by telling him that the king is coming to supper with her, and that to-night he must seek his little amusements elsewhere. By so doing I shall be able to take his place and the king’s.”

“But how?” said she.

“Oh!” replied he; “I have bought you, you and your tricks. You won’t have to look at these crowns twice without finding me a way to have my wife. In bringing this conjunction about you commit no sin. It is a work of piety to bring together two people whose hands only been put one in to the other, and that by the priest.”

“By my faith, come,” said she; “after supper the lights will be put out, and you can enjoy Madame if you remain silent. Luckily, on these joyful occasions she cries more than she speaks, and asks questions with her hands alone, for she is very modest, and does not like loose jokes, like the ladies of the Court.”

“Oh,” cried the advocate, “look, take the 12,000 crowns, and I promise you twice as much more if I get by fraud that which belongs to me by right.”

by: Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850)

The following story is reprinted from Droll Stories. Honoré de Balzac. London: John Camden Hotten, 1874.


“Is it true, my lord, the you have a hungry and relentless creditor?” said he.

“Yes, yes,” replied the other, “it concerns the mistress of the king. Don’t breathe a syllable; but this evening, in consideration of 20,000 crowns and my domain of Brie, I shall take her measure.”

Upon this the advocate blanched, and the courtier perceived he touched a tender point. As he had only lately returned from the wars, he did not know that the lovely woman adored by the king had a husband.
“You appear ill,” he said.

“I have a fever,” replied the knave. “But is it to her that you give the contract and the money?”


“Who then manages the bargain? Is it she also?”

“No,” said the noble; “her little arrangements are concluded through a servant of hers, the cleverest little ladies’ maid that ever was. She’s sharper than mustard, and these nights stolen from the king have lined her pockets well.”

“I know a Lombard who would accommodate you. But nothing can be done; of the 12,000 crowns you shall not have a brass farthing if this same ladies’ maid does not come here to take the price of the article that is so great an alchemist that turns blood into gold, by Heaven!”

“It will be a good trick to make her sign the receipt,” replied the lord, laughing.

The servant came faithfully to the rendezvous with the advocate, who had begged the lord to bring her. The ducats looked bright and beautiful. There they lay all in a row, like nuns going to vespers. Spread out upon the table they would have made a donkey smile, even if he were being gutted alive; so lovely, so splendid, were those brave noble young piles. The good advocate, however, had prepared this view for no ass, for the little handmaiden look longingly at the golden heap, and muttered a prayer at the sight of them. Seeing which, the husband whispered in her ear his golden words, “These are for you.”

“Ah!” said she; “I have never been so well paid.”

by: Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850)

The following story is reprinted from Droll Stories. Honoré de Balzac. London: John Camden Hotten, 1874.


The king, although vexed could not repress a smile, and kept her on a month to silence scandal. And last, la demoiselle de Pisseleu, anxious to obtain her place, brought about her ruin. Many would have liked to be ruined in the same way, seeing she was taken by a young lord, was happy with him, the fires of love in her being still unquenched. But to take up the thread again. One day that the king’s sweetheart was passing through the town in her litter to buy laces, furs, velvets, broideries, and other ammunition, and so charmingly attired, and looking so lovely, that anyone, especially the clerks, would have believed the heavens were open above them, behold, her good man, who comes upon her near the old cross. She, at that time lazily swinging her charming little foot over the side of the litter, drew in her head as though she had seen an adder. She was a good wife, for I know some who would have proudly passed their husbands, to their shame and to the great disrespect of conjugal rights.
“What is the matter?” asked one M. de Lannoy, who humbly accompanied her.

“Nothing,” she whispered; “but that person is my husband. Poor man, how changed he looks. Formerly he was the picture of a monkey; today he is the very image of a Job.”

The poor advocate stood opened-mouthed. His heart beat rapidly at the sight of that little foot — of that wife so wildly loved.

Observing which, the Sire de Lannoy said to him, with courtly innocence–

“If you are her husband, is that any reason you should stop her passage?”

At this she burst out laughing, and the good husband instead of killing her bravely, shed scalding tears at that laugh which pierced his heart, his soul, his everything, so much that he nearly tumbled over an old citizen whom the sight of the king’s sweetheart had driven against the wall. The aspect of this weak flower, which had been his in the bud, but far from him had spread its lovely leaves; of the fairy figure, the voluptuous bust — all this made the poor advocate more wretched and more mad for her than it is possible to express in words. You must have been madly in love with a woman who refuses your advances thoroughly to understand the agony of this unhappy man. Rare indeed is it to be so infatuated as he was. He swore that life, fortune, honour — all might go, but that for once at least he would be flesh-to-flesh with her, and make so grand a repast off her dainty body as would suffice him all his life. He passed the night saying, “oh yes; ah! I’ll have her!” and “Curses am I not her husband?” and “Devil take me,” striking himself on the forehead and tossing about. There are chances and occasions which occur so opportunely in this world that little-minded men refuse them credence, saying they are supernatural, but men of high intellect know them to be true because they could not be invented. One of the chances came to the poor advocate, even the day after that terrible one which had been so sore a trial to him. One of his clients, a man of good renown, who had his audiences with the king, came one morning to the advocate, saying that he required immediately a large sum of money, about 12,000 crowns. To which the artful fellow replied, 12,000 crowns were not so often met at the corner of a street as that which often is seen at the corner of the street; that besides the sureties and guarantees of interest, it was necessary to find a man who had about him 12,000 crowns, and that those gentlemen were not numerous in Paris, big city as it was, and various other things of a like character the man of cunning remarked.

by: Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850)

The following story is reprinted from Droll Stories. Honoré de Balzac. London: John Camden Hotten, 1874.