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首页 » 英文短篇小说 » My Day Reminiscences of a Long Life » CHAPTER XXVI
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We found it almost impossible to take up our lives again. All the cords binding us to the past were severed, beyond the hope of reunion. We sat silently looking out on a landscape marked here and there by chimneys standing sentinel over blackened heaps, where our neighbors had made happy homes. Only one remained, Mr. Green's, beyond a little ravine across the road.

We had, fortunately, no inclination to read. A few books had been saved, only those for which we had little use. A soldier walked in one day with a handsome volume which Jefferson Davis, after inscribing his name in it, had presented to the general. The soldier calmly requested the former owner to be kind enough to add to the value of the volume by writing beneath the inscription his own autograph, and his request granted, walked off with it under his arm. "He has been at some trouble," said my husband, "and he had as well be happy if I cannot!"

As the various brigades moved away from our neighborhood, a few plain articles of furniture that had been taken from the house were restored to us, but nothing handsome or valuable, no books nor pictures,—just a few chairs and tables. I had furnished an itemized list of all the articles we had lost, with only this result. 274 We had news after a while of our blooded mare, Lady Jane. A letter enclosing her photograph came from a New England officer:—

"To Mr. Pryor,

"Dear Sir: A very fine mare belonging to you came into my camp near Richmond and is now with me. It would add much to her value if I could get her pedigree. Kindly send it at your earliest convenience, and oblige,

"Yours truly,
"— —.

"P.S. The mare is in good health, as you will doubtless be glad to know."

Disposed as my general was to be amiable, this was a little too much! The pedigree was not sent, but later the amiable owner of Lady Jane sent her photograph. Also his own—on her back.

A great number of tourists soon began to pass our house on their way to visit the localities near us, now become historic. They frequently called upon us, claiming some common acquaintance. We could not but resent this. Their sympathetic attitude offended us, sore and proud as we were.

We were perfectly aware that they wished to see us, and not to gain, as they affected, information about the historic localities on the farm. Still less did they desire ignobly to triumph over us. A boy, when he tears off the wings of a fly, is much interested in observing its actions, not that he is cruel—far from it! He is only curious to see how the creature will behave under very disadvantageous circumstances. 275 One day a clergyman called, with a card of introduction from Mrs. Hartsuff, who had, I imagine, small discernment as regards clergymen. This one was a smug little man, sleek, unctuous, and trim, with Pecksniffian self-esteem oozing out of every pore of his face.

"Well, madam," he commenced, "I trust I find you lying meekly under the chastening rod of the Lord. I trust you can say 'it is good I was afflicted.'"

Having no suitable answer just ready, I received his pious exhortation in silence. One can always safely do this with a clergyman.

"There are seasons," continued the good man, "when chastisement must be meted out to the transgressor; but if borne in the right spirit, the rod may blossom with blessings in the end."

A little more of the same nature wrung from me the query, "Are there none on the other side who need the rod?"

"Oh—well, now—my dear lady! You must consider! You were in the wrong in this unhappy contest, or, I should say, this most righteous war."

"V? victis!" I exclaimed. "Our homes were invaded. We are on our own soil!"

My reverend brother grew red in the face. Rising and bowing himself out, he sent me a Parthian arrow:—

"No thief e'er felt the halter draw

With good opinion of the law."


Fortunately my general was absent at the moment. Like the Douglas, he had endured much, but—

"Last and worst, to spirit proud

To bear the pity of the crowd"—

this was more than he could endure.

The suggestive odors within doors could never be stifled or cleansed away. Not before October could I get my consent to eat a morsel in the house. I took my meals under the trees, unless driven by the rains to the shelter of the porch. I suffered terribly for want of occupation. I had no household to manage, no garments to mend or make. My little Lucy could not bear the sun, and she sat quietly beside me all day. I could have made a sun-bonnet for her, but I had no fabric, no thimble, needles, thread, or scissors. Finally I discovered in the pocket of one of my Washington coats my silver card-case with Trinity Church on one side and the Capitol at Washington on the other,—objects I had now no right to hold dear. I made Alick drive me in my little farm cart to the sutler's and effected an exchange for a small straw "Shaker" bonnet which I am sure could have been purchased for less than one dollar. Protected with this, the little girl found a play-house under the trees. A good old friend, Mr. Kemp, invited the boys to accompany him upon relic-hunting expeditions to the narrow plain which had divided the opposing lines on that fateful April morning just three months before. Ropes were fastened around extinct shells, and they were hauled in, to stand sentinel at the door. The shells were short 277cylinders, with one pointed end like a candle before it is lighted. Numbers of minie balls were dug out of the sand. One day Mr. Kemp brought in a great curiosity—two bullets welded together, having been shot from opposing rifles.

The sultry days were begun and rounded by hours of listless endurance followed by troubled sleep. A bag of army "hard-tack" stood in a corner, so the children were never hungry. Presently they, too, sat around us, too listless to play or talk. A great army of large, light brown Norway rats now overran the farm. They would walk to the corner before our eyes and help themselves to the army ration. We never moved a finger to drive them away. After a while Alick appeared with an enormous black-and-white cat.

"Dis is jest a lettle mo'n I can stand," said Alick. "De Yankees has stole ev'rything, and dug up de whole face o' de yearth—and de Jews comes all de time and pizens de well, droppin' down chains an' grapplin'-irons to see ef we-all has hid silver—but I ain' obleedged to stan' sassyness fum dese outlandish rats."

Alick had to surrender. The very first night after the arrival of his valiant cat there was a scuffle in the room where the crackers were kept, a chair was overturned, and a flying cat burst through the hall, pursued by three or four huge rats. The cat took refuge in a tree, and stealthily descending at an opportune moment, stole away and left the field to the enemy.

Of course there could be but one result from this 278life. Malaria had hung over us for weeks, and now one after another of the children lay down upon the "pallets" on the floor, ill with fever. Then I succumbed and was violently ill. Our only nurse was my dear general; and not in all the years when he never shirked a duty, nor lost a march, nor rode on his own horse when his men toiled on foot or if one failed by the way, nor ever lost one of the battles in which he personally led them,—not in all those trying times was he nobler, grander than in his long and lonely vigils beside his sick family. And most nobly did the aged negress, my blessed Aunt Jinny, stand by us. My one fevered vision was of an ebony idol.

General and Mrs. Hartsuff were terribly afraid of the Southern fevers, but sent us sympathetic messages from the gate. But as soon as I could receive him, Captain Gregory, the commissary general, sought an interview with me. General Hartsuff had sent him to say that it was absolutely necessary for General Pryor to leave Virginia. He had never been pardoned. There were men in power who constantly hinted at punishment and retribution. He had been approached by General Hartsuff and vehemently refused to leave his family.

"Where, oh, where could he go?" I pleaded. "He does think sometimes of New Orleans."

"Madam," said Captain Gregory, "there is a future before your husband. New York is the place for him."

"He will never, never consent to go there," I said. 279 "Well, then, we must use a little diplomacy. Send him by sea to shake off his chills. Mark my words—as soon as he registers in New York, friends will gather around him. Only send him—and speedily. I come from General Hartsuff."

My Theo was listening to this conversation, and when Captain Gregory left, he implored me to obey him. Without consulting his father the old horse General Hartsuff had given me was hitched to the little cart, and we set forth to find some broker who would lend us a small sum, receiving my watch and diamond ring as pledges for repayment.

After several failures we found an obliging banker who lent me, upon my proposed security, three hundred dollars. As I left his office my hand instinctively sought my little watch to learn the hour. It was gone!—pledged to send my general to New York. I bought some quinine and ordered my husband's tailor to make without delay a suit of clothes to replace the threadbare uniform of Confederate gray. It was difficult to persuade the wearer to accept the proposition—which was only for the sea voyage in order to break the chills that shook him so relentlessly every third day. Nothing was farther from my thought or wishes than a permanent residence in New York.


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