"A woman's piercing shriek suddenly startled a party of surveyors at lunch in a forest in northern Virginia in 1750. The cries were repeated in a quick succession, and the men sprang through the undergrowth to learn the cause. "Oh, sir," exclaimed the woman as she caught sight of a youth of eighteen, but a man in stature and bearing; "you will surely do something for me! Make my friends release me. My boy, my poor boy is drowning, and they will not let me go!"
"It would be madness: she will jump into the river," said one of the men who was holding her; "and the rapids will dash her to pieces in a moment!" Throwing off his coat, the youth sprang to the edge of the bank, scanned the rocks and whirling currents for a moment, and then, at the sight of part of the boy's dress, plunged into the roaring rapids. "Thank God, he will save my child!" cried the mother, and everyone rushed to the brink of the precipice; "there he is! Oh, my boy, my darling boy! How could I leave you?"
But all eyes were bent upon the youth struggling with strong heart and hope amid the dizzy sweep of the whirling currents far below. Now it seemed as if he would be dashed against a projecting rock, over which the foaming water flew, and again, a whirlpool looked to drag him in, from whose grasp escape would seem impossible. Twice the boy went out of sight, but he had reappeared the second time, although terribly near the most dangerous part of the river. The rush of waters here was tremendous, and no one had ever dared to approach it, even in a canoe, lest he should be dashed to pieces. The youth redoubled his exertions. Three times he was about to grasp the child, when some stronger eddy would toss it from him. One final effort he makes; the child is held aloft by his strong right arm; but a cry of horror bursts from the lips of every spectator as boy and man shoot over the falls and vanish in the seething waters below.
"There they are!" shouted the mother a moment later, in a delirium of joy. "See! they are safe! Great God, I thank thee!" And sure enough, they emerged unharmed from the boiling vortex, and in a few minutes reached a low place in the bank and were drawn up by their friends, the boy senseless, but still alive, and the youth almost exhausted.
"God will give you a reward," solemnly spoke the grateful woman. "He will do great things for you in return for this day's work, and the blessings of thousands besides mine will attend you."
The youth was George Washington.