Strange True Stories of Louisiana
George Washington Cable
Part 4 out of 5
enraged mob, was being tried the experiment of a common enjoyment of
public benefits by the daughters of two widely divergent races, without
the enforcement of private social companionship.
From such enforcement the school was as free as any school is or ought to
be. The daily discipline did not require any two pupils to be social, but
only every one to be civil, and civil to all. These pages are written,
however, to tell a strange true story, and not to plead one cause or
another. Whatever the story itself pleads, let it plead. Outside the
"haunted house," far and near, the whole community was divided into two
fiercely hostile parties, often at actual war with each other, the one
striving to maintain government upon a co-citizenship regardless of race
in all public relations, the other sworn to make race the supreme,
sufficient, inexorable condition of supremacy on the one part and
subjection on the other. Yet for all this the school prospered.
Nevertheless, it suffered much internal unrest. Many a word was spoken
that struck like a club, many a smile stung like a whip-lash, many a
glance stabbed like a knife; even in the midst of recitations a wounded
one would sometimes break into sobs or silent tears while the aggressor
crimsoned and palpitated with the proud indignation of the master caste.
The teachers met all such by-play with prompt, impartial repression and
concentration upon the appointed duties of the hour.
Sometimes another thing restored order. Few indeed of the pupils, of
whatever racial purity or preponderance, but held more or less in awe the
ghostly traditions of the house; and at times it chanced to be just in
the midst of one of these ebullitions of scorn, grief, and resentful tears
that noiselessly and majestically the great doors of the reception-rooms,
untouched by visible hands, would slowly swing open, and the hushed girls
would call to mind Madame Lalaurie.
Not all who bore the tincture of the despised race suffered alike. Some
were fierce and sturdy, and played a savage tit-for-tat. Some were
insensible. A few bore themselves inflexibly by dint of sheer nerve; while
many, generally much more white than black, quivered and winced
continually under the contumely that fell, they felt, with peculiar
injustice and cruelty upon them.
Odd things happened from time to time to remind one of the house's early
history. One day a deep hidden well that no one had suspected the
existence of was found in the basement of the main house. Another
time--But we must be brief.
Matters went on thus for years. But at length there was a sudden and
The "Radical" party in Louisiana, gorged with private spoils and loathed
and hated by the all but unbroken ranks of well-to-do society, though it
held a creed as righteous and reasonable as any political party ever
held, was going to pieces by the sheer weakness of its own political
corruption. It was made mainly of the poor and weak elements of the
people. Had it been ever so pure it could not have made headway against
the strongest ranks of society concentrating against it with revolutionary
intent, when deserted by the power which had called it to responsibility
and--Come! this history of a house must not run into the history of a
government. It is a fact in our story, however, that in the "Conservative"
party there sprung up the "White League," purposing to wrest the State
government from the "Radicals" by force of arms.
On the 14th of September, 1874, the White League met and defeated the
Metropolitan Police in a hot and bloody engagement of infantry and
artillery on the broad steamboat landing in the very middle of New
Orleans. But the Federal authority interfered. The "Radical" government
resumed control. But the White League survived and grew in power. In
November elections were held, and the State legislature was found to be
Republican by a majority of only two.
One bright, spring-like day in December, such as a northern March might
give in its best mood, the school had gathered in the "haunted house" as
usual, but the hour of duty had not yet struck. Two teachers sat in an
upper class-room talking over the history of the house. The older of the
two had lately heard of an odd new incident connected with it, and was
telling of it. A distinguished foreign visitor, she said, guest at a
dinner-party in the city the previous season, turned unexpectedly to his
hostess, the talk being of quaint old New Orleans houses, and asked how to
find "the house where that celebrated tyrant had lived who was driven from
the city by a mob for maltreating her slaves." The rest of the company sat
aghast, while the hostess silenced him by the severe coldness with which
she replied that she "knew nothing about it." One of Madame Lalaurie's
daughters was sitting there, a guest at the table.
When the teacher's story was told her companion made no comment. She had
noticed a singular sound that was increasing in volume. It was
out-of-doors--seemed far away; but it was drawing nearer. She started up,
for she recognized it now as a clamor of human voices, and remembered that
the iron gates had not yet been locked for the day. They hurried to the
window, looked down, and saw the narrow street full from wall to wall for
a hundred yards with men coming towards them. The front of the crowd had
already reached the place and was turning towards the iron gates.
The two women went quickly to the hall, and, looking down the spiral
staircase to the marble pavement of the entrance three stories below, saw
the men swarming in through the wide gateway and doorway by dozens. While
they still leaned over the balustrade, Marguerite, one of their pupils, a
blue-eyed blonde girl of lovely complexion, with red, voluptuous lips, and
beautiful hair held by a carven shell comb, came and bent over the
balustrade with them. Suddenly her comb slipped from its hold, flashed
downward, and striking the marble pavement flew into pieces at the feet of
the men who were about to ascend. Several of them looked quickly up.
"It was my mother's comb!" said Marguerite, turned ashy pale, and sunk
down in hysterics. The two teachers carried her to a remote room, the
bed-chamber of the janitress, and then obeyed an order of the principal
calling her associates to the second floor. A band of men were coming up
the winding stair with measured, military tread towards the landing, where
the principal, with her assistants gathered around her, stood to confront
She was young, beautiful, and of calm temper. Her skin, says one who was
present, was of dazzling clearness, her abundant hair was golden auburn,
and in happy hours her eyes were as "soft as velvet." But when the leader
of the band of men reached the stair-landing, threw his coat open, and
showed the badge of the White League, her face had blanched and hardened
to marble, and her eyes darkened to black as they glowed with indignation.
"We have come," said the White Leaguer, "to remove the colored pupils. You
will call your school to order." To which the principal replied:
"You will permit me first to confer with my corps of associates." He was a
The teachers gathered in the principal's private room. Some were dumb, one
broke into tears, another pleaded devotion to the principal, and one was
just advising that the onus of all action be thrown upon the intruders,
when the door was pushed open and the White Leaguer said:
"Ladies, we are waiting. Assemble the school; we are going to clean it
The pupils, many of them trembling, weeping, and terrified, were with
difficulty brought to order in the assembly room. This place had once been
Madame Lalaurie's dining-hall. A frieze of angels ran round its four
walls, and, oddly, for some special past occasion, a legend in crimson and
gold on the western side bore the words, "The Eye of God is on us."
"Gentlemen, the school is assembled," said the principal.
"Call the roll," was the reply, "and we will challenge each name."
It was done. As each name was called its young bearer rose and confronted
her inquisitors. And the inquisitors began to blunder. Accusations of the
fatal taint were met with denials and withdrawn with apologies. Sometimes
it was truth, and sometimes pure arrogance and falsehood, that triumphed
over these champions of instinctive racial antagonism. One dark girl shot
up haughtily at the call of her name--
"I am of Indian blood, and can prove it!"
"You will not be disturbed."
"Coralie----," the principal next called. A thin girl of mixed blood and
freckled face rose and said:
"My mother is white."
"Step aside!" commanded the White Leaguer.
"But by the law the color follows the mother, and so I am white."
"Step aside!" cried the man, in a fury. (In truth there was no such law.)
A pretty, Oriental looking girl rises, silent, pale, but self-controlled.
"Are you colored?"
"Yes; I am colored." She moves aside.
"Marie O ----."
A girl very fair, but with crinkling hair and other signs of negro
extraction, stands up and says:
"I am the sister of the Hon.----," naming a high Democratic official, "and
I shall not leave this school."
"You may remain; your case will be investigated."
A modest girl, visibly of mixed race, rises, weeping silently.
A bold-eyed girl of much African blood stands up and answers:
"I am not colored! We are Spanish, and _my brother will call on you and
prove it."_ She is allowed to stay.
At length the roll-call is done. "Now, madam, you will dismiss these
pupils that we have set aside, at once. We will go down and wait to see
that they come out." The men tramped out of the room, went down-stairs,
and rejoined the impatient crowd that was clamoring in the street.
Then followed a wild scene within the old house. Restraint was lost.
Terror ruled. The girls who had been ordered into the street sobbed and
shrieked and begged:
"Oh, save us! We cannot go out there; the mob will kill us! What shall we
One girl of grand and noble air, as dark and handsome as an East Indian
princess, and standing first in her class for scholarship, threw herself
at her teacher's feet, crying, "Have pity on me, Miss ----!"
"My poor Leontine," replied the teacher, "what can I do? There are good
'colored' schools in the city; would it not have been wiser for your
father to send you to one of them?"
But the girl rose up and answered:
"Must I go to school with my own servants to escape an unmerited disdain?"
And the teacher was silent, while the confusion increased.
"The shame of it will kill me!" cried gentle Eugenie L----. And thereupon,
at last, a teacher, commonly one of the sternest in discipline, exclaimed:
"If Eugenie goes, Marcelline shall go, if I have to put her out myself!
Spanish, indeed! And Eugenie a pearl by the side of her!"
Just then Eugenie's father came. He had forced his way through the press
in the street, and now stood bidding his child have courage and return
with him the way he had come.
"Tie your veil close, Eugenie," said the teacher, "and they will not know
you." And so they went, the father and the daughter. But they went alone.
None followed. This roused the crowd to noisy anger.
"Why don't the rest come?" it howled. But the teachers tried in vain to
inspire the panic-stricken girls with courage to face the mob, and were in
despair, when a school official arrived, and with calm and confident
authority bade the expelled girls gather in ranks and follow him through
the crowd. So they went out through the iron gates, the great leaves of
which closed after them with a rasping of their key and shooting of their
bolts, while a teacher said:
"Come; the reporters will soon be here. Let us go and see after
They found her in the room of the janitress, shut in and fast asleep.
"Do you think," one asked of the janitress, "that mere fright and the loss
of that comb made this strong girl ill?"
"No. I think she must have guessed those men's errand, and her eye met the
eye of some one who knew her."
"But what of that?"
"She is 'colored.'"
"I tell you, yes!"
"Why, I thought her as pure German as her name."
"No, the mixture is there; though the only trace of it is on her lips. Her
mother--she is dead now--was a beautiful quadroon. A German sea-captain
loved her. The law stood between them. He opened a vein in his arm, forced
in some of her blood, went to court, swore he had African blood, got his
license, and married her. Marguerite is engaged to be married to a white
man, a gentleman who does not know this. It was like life and death, so to
speak, for her not to let those men turn her out of here."
The teacher turned away, pondering.
The eviction did not, at that time, hold good. The political struggle went
on, fierce and bitter. The "Radical" government was doomed, but not dead.
A few weeks after the scene just described the evicted girls were
reinstated. A long term of suspense followed. The new year became the old
and went out. Twice this happened. In 1877 there were two governors and
two governments in Louisiana. In sight from the belvedere of the "haunted
house," eight squares away up Royal street, in the State House, the _de
facto_ government was shut up under close military siege by the _de jure_
government, and the Girls' High School in Madame Lalaurie's old house,
continuing faithfully their daily sessions, knew with as little certainty
to which of the two they belonged as though New Orleans had been some
Italian city of the fifteenth century. But to guess the White League, was
not far from right, and in April the Radical government expired.
A Democratic school-board came in. June brought Commencement day, and some
of the same girls who had been evicted in 1874 were graduated by the new
Board in 1877. During the summer the schools and school-laws were
overhauled, and in September or October the high school was removed to
another place, where each pupil suspected of mixed blood was examined
officially behind closed doors and only those who could prove white or
_Indian_ ancestry were allowed to stay. A "colored" high school was opened
in Madame Lalaurie's house with a few pupils. It lasted one session, maybe
two, and then perished.
In 1882 the "haunted house" had become a Conservatory of Music. Chamber
concerts were frequent in Madame Lalaurie's old dining-hall. On a certain
sweet evening in the spring of that year there sat among those who had
gathered to hear the haunted place filled with a deluge of sweet sounds
one who had been a teacher there when the house had been, as some
one--Conservative or Radical, who can tell which?--said on the spot, "for
the second time purged of its iniquities." The scene was "much changed,"
says the auditor; but the ghosts were all there, walking on the waves of
harmony. And thickest and fastest they trooped in and out when a
passionate song thrilled the air with the promise that
"Some day--some day
Eyes clearer grown the truth may see."
The strange true stories we have thus far told have all been matter of
public or of private record. Pages of history and travel, law reports,
documents of court, the testimony of eye-witnesses, old manuscripts and
letters, have insured to them the full force and charm of their reality.
But now we must have it clearly and mutually understood that here is one
the verity of which is vouched for stoutly, but only by tradition. It is
very much as if we had nearly finished a strong, solid stone house and
would now ask permission of our underwriters to add to it at the rear a
small frame lean-to.
It is a mere bit of lawyers' table-talk, a piece of after-dinner property.
It originally belonged, they say, to Judge Collins of New Orleans, as I
believe we have already mentioned; his by right of personal knowledge. I
might have got it straight from him had I heard of it but a few years
sooner. His small, iron-gray head, dark, keen eyes, and nervous face and
form are in my mind's eye now, as I saw him one day on the bench
interrupting a lawyer at the bar and telling him in ten words what the
lawyer was trying to tell in two hundred and fifty.
That the judge's right to this story was that of discovery, not of
invention, is well attested; and if he or any one else allowed fictitious
embellishments to gather upon it by oft telling of it in merry hours, the
story had certainly lost all such superfluities the day it came to me, as
completely as if some one had stolen its clothes while it was in swimming.
The best I can say is that it came unmutilated, and that I have done only
what any humane person would have done--given it drapery enough to cover
To speak yet plainer, I do not, even now, put aside, abridge, or alter a
single _fact_; only, at most, restore one or two to spaces that indicate
just what has dropped out. If a dentist may lawfully supply the place of a
lost tooth, or an old beau comb his hair skillfully over a bald spot, then
am I guiltless. I make the tale not less, and only just a trifle more,
true; not more, but only a trifle less, strange. And this is it:
In 1855 this Attalie Brouillard--so called, mark you, for present
convenience only--lived in the French quarter of New Orleans; I think they
say in Bienville street, but that is no matter; somewhere in the _vieux
carre_ of Bienville's original town. She was a worthy woman; youngish,
honest, rather handsome, with a little money--just a little; of attractive
dress, with good manners, too; alone in the world, and--a quadroon. She
kept furnished rooms to rent--as a matter of course; what would she do?
Hence she was not so utterly alone in the world as she might have been.
She even did what Stevenson says is so good, but not so easy, to do, "to
keep a few friends, but these without capitulation." For instance there
was Camille Ducour. That was not his name; but as we have called the woman
A.B., let the man be represented as C.D.
He, too, was a quadroon; an f.m.c. His personal appearance has not been
described to us, but he must have had one. Fancy a small figure, thin, let
us say, narrow-chested, round-shouldered, his complexion a dull clay color
spattered with large red freckles, his eyes small, gray, and close
together, his hair not long or bushy, but dense, crinkled, and hesitating
between a dull yellow and a hot red; his clothes his own and his linen
He is said to have been a shrewd fellow; had picked up much practical
knowledge of the law, especially of notarial business, and drove a smart
trade giving private advice on points of law to people of his caste. From
many a trap had he saved his poor clients of an hour. Out of many a danger
of their own making had he safely drawn them, all unseen by, though not
unknown to, the legitimate guild of judges, lawyers, and notaries out of
whose professional garbage barrel he enjoyed a sort of stray dog's
privilege of feeding.
His meetings with Attalie Brouillard were almost always on the street and
by accident. Yet such meetings were invariably turned into pleasant visits
in the middle of the sidewalk, after the time-honored Southern fashion.
Hopes, ailments, the hardness of the times, the health of each one's
"folks," and the condition of their own souls, could not be told all in a
breath. He never failed, when he could detain her no longer, to bid her
feel free to call on him whenever she found herself in dire need of a wise
friend's counsel. There was always in his words the hint that, though he
never had quite enough cash for one, he never failed of knowledge and
wisdom enough for two. And the gentle Attalie believed both clauses of his
Attalie had another friend, a white man.
 Free man of color.
This other friend was a big, burly Englishman, forty-something years old,
but looking older; a big pink cabbage-rose of a man who had for many years
been Attalie's principal lodger. He, too, was alone in the world.
And yet neither was he so utterly alone as he might have been. For he was
a cotton buyer. In 1855 there was no business like the cotton business.
Everything else was subservient to that. The cotton buyer's part, in
particular, was a "pretty business." The cotton _factor_ was harassingly
responsible to a whole swarm of planter patrons, of whose feelings he had
to be all the more careful when they were in his debt. The cotton _broker_
could be bullied by his buyer. But the _buyer_ was answerable only to some
big commercial house away off in Havre or Hamburg or Liverpool, that had
to leave all but a few of the largest and most vital matters to his
discretion. Commendations and criticisms alike had to come by mail across
Now, if a cotton buyer of this sort happened to be a bachelor, with no
taste for society, was any one likely to care what he substituted, out of
business hours, for the conventional relations of domestic life? No one
answers. Cotton buyers of that sort were apt to have very comfortable
furnished rooms in the old French quarter. This one in Attalie's house had
the two main rooms on the first floor above the street.
Honestly, for all our winking and tittering, we know nothing whatever
against this person's private character except the sad fact that he was a
man and a bachelor. At forty-odd, it is fair to suppose, one who knows the
world well enough to be the trusted agent of others, thousands of miles
across the ocean, has bid farewell to all mere innocence and has made
choice between virtue and vice. But we have no proof whatever that
Attalie's cotton buyer had not solemnly chosen virtue and stuck to his
choice as an Englishman can.
All we know as to this, really, is that for many years here he had roomed,
and that, moved by some sentiment, we know not certainly what, he had
again and again assured Attalie that she should never want while he had
anything, and that in his will, whenever he should make it, she would find
herself his sole legatee. On neither side of the water, said he, had he
any one to whom the law obliged him to leave his property nor, indeed, any
large wealth; only a little money in bank--a very indefinite statement. In
1855 the will was still unwritten.
There is little room to doubt that this state of affairs did much interest
Camille Ducour--at a distance. The Englishman may have known him by sight.
The kind of acquaintance he might have had with the quadroon was not
likely to vary much from an acquaintance with some unknown neighbor's cat
on which he mildly hoped to bestow a pitcher of water if ever he caught
him under his window.
Camille mentioned the Englishman approvingly to three other friends of
Attalie, when, with what they thought was adroitness, they turned
conversation upon her pecuniary welfare. They were Jean d'Eau, a
slumberous butcher; Richard Reau, an embarrassed baker; and one ----
Ecswyzee, an illiterate but prosperous candlestick-maker. These names may
sound inexact, but _can you prove_ that these were not their names and
occupations? We shall proceed.
These three simple souls were bound to Attalie by the strong yet tender
bonds of debit and credit. She was not distressingly but only
interestingly "behind" on their well-greased books, where Camille's
account, too, was longer on the left-hand side. When they alluded
inquiringly to her bill, he mentioned the Englishman vaguely and assured
them it was "good paper to hold," once or twice growing so extravagant as
to add that his (Camille's) own was hardly better!
The tradesmen replied that they hadn't a shadow of doubt. In fact, they
said, their mention, of the matter was mere jest, etc.
There were a few points in this case upon which Camille wished he could
bring to bear those purely intellectual--not magical--powers of divination
which he modestly told his clients were the secret of all his sagacious
advice. He wished he could determine conclusively and exactly what was the
mutual relation of Attalie and her lodger. Out of the minutest corner of
one eye he had watched her for years.
A quadroon woman's lot was a hard one; any true woman would say that, even
while approving the laws and popular notions of necessity that made that
lot what it was. The law, popular sentiment, public policy, always looked
at Attalie's sort with their right eye shut. And according to all the
demands of the other eye Camille knew that Attalie was honest, faithful.
But was that all; or did she stand above and beyond the demands of law and
popular sentiment? In a word, to whom was she honest, faithful; to the
Englishman merely, or actually to herself? If to herself actually, then in
case of his early death, for Camille had got a notion of that, and had got
it from Attalie, who had got it from the Englishman,--what then? Would she
get his money, or any of it? No, not if Camille knew men--especially white
men. For a quadroon woman to be true to herself and to her God was not the
kind of thing that white men--if he knew them--rewarded. But if the case
was not of that sort, and the relation was what he _hoped_ it was, and
according to his ideas of higher law it had a right to be, why, then, she
might reasonably hope for a good fat slice--if there should turn out,
after all, to be any fat to slice.
Thence arose the other question--had the Englishman any money? And if so,
was it much, or was it so little as to make it hardly worth while for the
Englishman to die early at all? You can't tell just by looking at a man or
his clothes. In fact, is it not astonishing how quietly a man--of the
quiet kind--can either save great shining stacks of money, or get rid of
all he makes as fast as he makes it? Isn't it astonishing? Being a cotton
buyer did not answer the question. He might be getting very large pay or
very small; or even none. Some men had got rich without ever charging
anything for their services. The cotton business those days was a
perfectly lovely business--so many shady by-paths and circuitous
labyrinths. Even in the law--why, sometimes even he, Camille Ducour, did
not charge anything. But that was not often.
Only one thing was clear--there ought to be a written will. For Attalie
Brouillard, f. w. c, could by no means be or become the Englishman's
legal heir. The law mumbled something about "one-tenth," but for the rest
answered in the negative and with a black frown. Her only chance--but we
shall come to that.
All in a tremor one day a messenger, Attalie's black slave girl, came to
Camille to say that her mistress was in trouble! in distress! in deeper
distress than he could possibly imagine, and in instant need of that wise
counsel which Camille Ducour had so frequently offered to give.
"I am busy," he said, in the Creole-negro _patois_, "but--has anybody--has
anything happened to--to anybody in Madame Brouillard's house?"
"Yes," the messenger feared that "_ce Michie qui pote soulie jaune_--that
gentleman who wears yellow shoes--is ill. Madame Brouillard is hurrying to
and fro and crying."
"No, silently; yet as though her heart were breaking."
"And the doctor?" asks Camille, as he and the messenger are hurrying side
by side out of Exchange alley into Bienville street.
"---- was there yesterday and the day before."
They reach the house. Attalie meets her counselor alone at the top of the
stairs. "_Li bien malade_," she whispers, weeping; "he is very ill."
"---- wants to make his will?" asks Camille. All their talk is in their
Attalie nods, answers inaudibly, and weeps afresh. Presently she manages
to tell how the sick man had tried to write, and failed, and had fallen
back exclaiming, "Attalie--Attalie--I want to leave it all to you--what
little--" and did not finish, but presently gasped out, "Bring a notary."
"And the doctor?"
"---- has not come to-day. Michie told the doctor if he came again he
would kick him downstairs. Yes, and the doctor says whenever a patient of
his says that he stops coming."
They reach the door of the sick man's bedchamber. Attalie pushes it
softly, looks into the darkened chamber and draws back, whispering, "He
has dropped asleep."
Camille changes places with her and looks in. Then he moves a step across
the threshold, leans forward peeringly, and then turns about, lifts his
ill-kept forefinger, and murmurs while he fixes his little eyes on hers:
"If you make a noise, or in any way let any one know what has happened, it
will cost you all he is worth. I will leave you alone with him just ten
minutes." He makes as if to pass by her towards the stair, but she seizes
him by the wrist.
"What do you mean?" she asks, with alarm.
"Hush! you speak too loud. He is dead."
The woman leaps by him, slamming him against the banisters, and disappears
within the room. Camille hears her loud, long moan as she reaches the
bedside. He takes three or four audible steps away from the door and
towards the stairs, then turns, and darting with the swift silence of a
cat surprises her on her knees by the bed, disheveled, unheeding, all
moans and tears, and covering with passionate kisses the dead man's--hands
To impute moral sublimity to a white man and a quadroon woman at one and
the same time and in one and the same affair was something beyond the
powers of Camille's small soul. But he gave Attalie, on the instant, full
credit, over credit it may be, and felt a momentary thrill of spiritual
contagion that he had scarcely known before in all his days. He uttered
not a sound; but for all that he said within himself, drawing his breath
in through his clenched teeth, and tightening his fists till they
trembled, "Oho-o!--Aha!--No wonder you postponed the writing of your will
day by day, month by month, year in and year out! But you shall see, my
fine Michie White man--dead as you are, you shall see--you'll see if you
shan't!--she shall have the money, little or much! Unless there are heirs
she shall have every picayune of it!" Almost as quickly as it had flashed
up, the faint flicker of moral feeling died out; yet the resolution
remained. He was going to "beat" a dead white man.
Camille glided to the woman's side and laid a gentle yet commanding touch
"Come, there is not a moment to lose."
"What do you want?" asked Attalie. She neither rose nor turned her head,
nor even let go the dead man's hand.
"I must make haste to fulfill the oft-repeated request of my friend here."
"_Your_ friend!" She still knelt, and held the hand, but turned her face,
full of pained resentment, upon the speaker behind her. He was calm.
"Our friend; yes, this man here. You did not know that I was his secret
confidential adviser? Well, that was all right; I told him to tell no one.
But now I must carry out his instructions. Madame Brouillard, this man
wished to leave you every cent he had in the world."
Attalie slowly laid her lips on the big cold hand lying in her two hot
ones and let the silent tears wet all three. Camille spoke on to her
"He may never have told you so till to-day, but he has often told me. 'I
tell you, Camille,' he used to say, 'because I can trust you: I can't
trust a white man in a matter like this.' He told you? Yes; then you know
that I speak the truth. But one thing you did not know; that this
intention of his was the result of my earnest advice.--Stop! Madame
Brouillard--if you please--we have no time for amazement or questions now;
and less than none for expressions of gratitude. Listen to me. You know he
was always afraid he would die some day suddenly? Yes, of course;
everybody knew that. One night--our meetings were invariably at night--he
said to me, 'Camille, my dear friend, if I should go all of a sudden some
day before I write that will, _you know what to do_.' Those were his exact
words: 'Camille, my dear friend, _you know what to do_.'" All this was
said to the back of Attalie's head and neck; but now the speaker touched
her with one finger: "Madame, are your lodgers all up town?"
"Good. And you have but the one servant. Go tell her that our dear friend
has been in great suffering but is now much better, quite free from pain,
in fact, and wants to attend to some business. Send her to Exchange alley,
to the office of Eugene Favre. He is a notary public"--He murmured some
further description. "Understand?"
Attalie, still kneeling, kept her eyes on his in silence, but she
understood; he saw that.
"She must tell him," he continued, "to come at once. But before she goes
there she must stop on the way and tell three persons to come and witness
a notarial act. Now whom shall they be? For they must be white male
residents of the parish, and they must not be insane, deaf, dumb, blind,
nor disqualified by crime. I will tell you: let them be Jean d'Eau--at the
French market. He will still be there; it is his turn to scrub the market
to-day. Get him, get Richard Reau, and old man Ecswyzee. And on no account
must the doctor be allowed to come. Do that, Madame Brouillard, as quickly
as you can. I will wait here."
But the kneeling figure hesitated, with intense distress in her upturned
face: "What are you going to do, Michie Ducour?"
"We are going to make you sole legatee."
"I do not want it! How are you going to do it? How?"
"In a way which he knows about and approves."
Attalie hid her shapely forehead again on the dead hand. "I cannot leave
him. Do what you please, only let me stay here. Oh! let me stay here."
"I see," said Camille, with cold severity, "like all women, you count the
foolish sentiments of the living of more value than the reasonable wish of
the dead." He waited a moment for these words to take effect upon her
motionless form, and then, seeing that--again like a woman--she was
waiting and wishing for compulsion, he lifted her by one arm. "Come. Go.
And make haste to get back again; we are losing priceless time."
She went. But just outside the door she seemed to halt. Camille put out
his freckled face and turtle neck. "Well?"
"O Michie Ducour!" the trembling woman whispered, "those three witnesses
will never do. I am in debt to every one of them!"
"Madame Brouillard, the one you owe the most to will be the best witness.
Well? What next?"
"O my dear friend! what is this going to cost?--in money, I mean. I am so
afraid of lawyers' accounts! I have nothing, and if it turns out that he
has very, very little--It is true that I sent for you, but--I did not
think you--what must you charge?"
"Nothing!" whispered Camille. "Madame Brouillard, whether he leaves you
little or much, this must be for me a labor of love to him who was
secretly my friend, or I will not touch it. He certainly had something,
however, or he would not have tried to write a will. But, my dear madame,
if you do not right here, now, stop looking scared, as if you were about
to steal something instead of saving something from being stolen, it will
cost us a great deal. Go. Make haste! That's right!--Ts-s-st! Hold on!
Which is your own bedroom, upstairs?--Never mind why I ask; tell me. Yes;
all right I Now, go!--Ts-s-st! Bring my hat up as you return."
She went downstairs. Camille tiptoed quickly back into the death chamber,
whipped off his shoes, ran to a small writing-table, then to the bureau,
then to the armoire, trying their drawers. They were locked, every one. He
ran to the bed and searched swiftly under pillows and mattresses--no keys.
Never mind. He wrapped a single sheet about the dead man's form, stepped
lightly to the door, looked out, listened, heard nothing, and tripped back
And then with all his poor strength he lifted the bulk, still limp, in his
arms, and with only two or three halts in the toilsome journey, to dash
the streaming sweat from his brows and to better his hold so that the
heels should not drag on the steps, carried it up to Attalie's small room
and laid it, decently composed, on her bed.
Then he glided downstairs again and had just slipped into his shoes when
Attalie came up hastily from below. She was pale and seemed both
awe-struck and suspicious. As she met him outside the door grief and
dismay were struggling in her eyes with mistrust, and as he coolly handed
her the key of her room indignation joined the strife. She reddened and
"My God! you have not, yourself, already?"
"I could not wait, Madame Brouillard. We must run up now, and do for him
whatever cannot be put off; and then you must let me come back, leaving my
hat and shoes and coat up there, and--you understand?"
Yes; the whole thing was heartless and horrible, but--she understood. They
THE NUNCUPATIVE WILL.
In their sad task upstairs Attalie held command. Camille went and came on
short errands to and from the door of her room, and was let in only once
or twice when, for lifting or some such thing, four hands were
indispensable. Soon both he and she came down to the door of the vacated
room again together. He was in his shirt sleeves and without his shoes;
but he had resumed command.
"And now, Madame Brouillard, to do this thing in the very best way I ought
to say to you at once that our dear friend--did he ever tell you what he
was worth?" The speaker leaned against the door-post and seemed to concern
himself languidly with his black-rimmed finger-nails, while in fact he was
watching Attalie from head to foot with all his senses and wits. She
looked grief-stricken and thoroughly wretched.
"No," she said, very quietly, then suddenly burst into noiseless fresh
tears, sank into a chair, buried her face in her wet handkerchief, and
cried, "Ah! no, no, no! that was none of my business. He was going to
leave it all to me. I never asked if it was little or much."
While she spoke Camille was reckoning with all his might and speed: "She
has at least some notion as to whether he is rich or poor. She seemed a
few minutes ago to fear he is poor, but I must try her again. Let me see:
if he is poor and I say he is rich she will hope I know better than she,
and will be silent. But if he is rich and she knows it, and I say he is
poor, she will suspect fraud and will out with the actual fact indignantly
on the spot." By this time she had ceased, and he spoke out:
"Well, Madame Brouillard, the plain fact is he was--as you may say--poor."
She looked up quickly from her soaking handkerchief, dropped her hands
into her lap, and gazing at Camille through her tears said, "Alas! I
feared it. That is what I feared. But ah! since it makes no difference to
him now, it makes little to me. I feared it. That accounts for his leaving
it to me, poor _milatraise_."
"But would you have imagined, madame, that all he had was barely three
"Ah! three thousand--ah! Michie Ducour," she said between a sob and a
moan, "that is not so little. Three thousand! In Paris, where my brother
lives, that would be fifteen thousand francs. Ah! Michie Ducour, I never
guessed half that much, Michie Ducour, I tell you--he was too good to be
rich." Her eyes stood full.
Camille started busily from his leaning posture and they began again to be
active. But, as I have said, their relations were reversed once more. He
gave directions from within the room, and she did short errands to and
from the door.
The witnesses came: first Jean d'Eau, then Richard Reau, and almost at the
same moment the aged Ecswyzee. The black maid led them up from below, and
Attalie, tearless now, but meek and red-eyed, and speaking low through the
slightly opened door from within the Englishman's bed-chamber, thanked
them, explained that a will was to be made, and was just asking them to
find seats in the adjoining front room, when the notary, aged, bent,
dark-goggled, and as insensible as a machine, arrived. Attalie's offers to
explain were murmurously waved away by his wrinkled hand, and the four men
followed her into the bedchamber. The black maid-of-all-work also entered.
The room was heavily darkened. There was a rich aroma of fine brandy on
its air. The Englishman's little desk had been drawn up near the bedside.
Two candles were on it, unlighted, in small, old silver candlesticks.
Attalie, grief-worn, distressed, visibly agitated, moved close to the
bedside. Her sad figure suited the place with poetic fitness. The notary
stood by the chair at the desk. The three witnesses edged along the wall
where the curtained windows glimmered, took seats there, and held their
hats in their hands. All looked at one object.
It was a man reclining on the bed under a light covering, deep in pillows,
his head and shoulders much bundled up in wrappings. He moaned faintly and
showed every sign of utmost weakness. His eyes opened only now and then,
but when they did so they shone intelligently, though with a restless
intensity apparently from both pain and anxiety.
He gasped a faint word. Attalie hung over him for an instant, and then
turning quickly to her maid, who was lighting the candles for the notary
and placing them so they should not shine into the eyes of the man in bed,
"His feet--another hot-water bottle."
The maid went to get it. While she was gone the notary asked the butcher,
then the baker, and then the candlestick-maker, if they could speak and
understand English, and where they resided. Their answers were
satisfactory. Then he sat down, bent low to the desk, and wrote on a blank
form the preamble of a nuncupative will. By the time he had finished, the
maid had got back and the hot bottle had been properly placed. The notary
turned his goggles upon the reclining figure and asked in English, with a
strong Creole accent:
"What is your name?"
The words of the man in the bed were an inaudible gasp. But Attalie bent
her ear quickly, caught them, and turning repeated:
The black girl brought a decanter from the floor behind the bureau, and a
wine-glass from the washstand. Attalie poured, the patient drank, and the
maid replaced glass and decanter. The eyes of the butcher and the baker
followed the sparkling vessel till it disappeared, and the maker of
candlesticks made a dry swallow and faintly licked his lips. The notary
remarked that there must be no intervention of speakers between himself
and the person making the will, nor any turning aside to other matters;
but that merely stopping a moment to satisfy thirst without leaving the
room was not a vitiative turning aside and would not be, even if done by
others besides the party making the will. But here the patient moaned and
said audibly, "Let us go on." And they went on. The notary asked the
patient's name, the place and date of his birth, etc., and the patient's
answers were in every case whatever the Englishman's would have been.
Presently the point was reached where the patient should express his
wishes unprompted by suggestion or inquiry. He said faintly, "I will and
The servant girl, seeing her mistress bury her face in her handkerchief,
did the same. The patient gasped audibly and said again, but more faintly:
"I will and bequeath--some more brandy."
The decanter was brought. He drank again. He let Attalie hand it back to
the maid and the maid get nearly to the bureau when he said in a low tone
of distinct reproof:
"Pass it 'round." The four visitors drank.
Then the patient resumed with stronger voice. "I will and bequeath to my
friend Camille Ducour"--
Attalie started from her chair with a half-uttered cry of amazement and
protest, but dropped back again at the notary's gesture for silence, and
the patient spoke straight on without hesitation--"to my friend Camille
Ducour, the sum of fifteen hundred dollars in cash."
Attalie and her handmaiden looked at each other with a dumb show of
lamentation; but her butcher and her baker turned slowly upon her
candlestick-maker, and he upon them, a look of quiet but profound
approval. The notary wrote, and the patient spoke again:
"I will everything else which I may leave at my death, both real and
personal property, to Madame Attalie Brouillard."
"Ah!" exclaimed Attalie, in the manner of one largely, but not entirely,
propitiated. The maid suited her silent movement to the utterance, and the
three witnesses exchanged slow looks of grave satisfaction. Mistress and
maid, since the will seemed to them so manifestly and entirely finished,
began to whisper together, although the patient and the notary were still
perfecting some concluding formalities. But presently the notary began to
read aloud the instrument he had prepared, keeping his face buried in the
paper and running his nose and purblind eyes about it nervously, like a
new-born thing hunting the warm fountain of life. All gave close heed. We
need not give the document in its full length, nor its Creole accent in
its entire breadth. This is only something like it:
"Dthee State of Louisiana," etc. "Be h-it known dthat on dthees h-eighth
day of dthee month of May, One thousan' h-eight hawndred and fifty-five,
dthat I, Eugene Favre, a not-arie pewblic een and for dthe State of
Louisiana, parrish of Orleans, duly commission-ed and qualeefi-ed, was
sue-mon-ed to dthe domee-ceel of Mr. [the Englishman's name], Number
[so-and-so] Bienville street; ...dthat I found sayed Mr. [Englishman]
lyingue in heez bade in dthee rear room of dthee second floor h-of dthee
sayed house ... at about two o'clawk in dthee h-afternoon, and beingue
informed by dthee sayed Mr. [Englishman] dthat he _diz_-i-red too make
heez weel, I, sayed not-arie, sue-mon-ed into sayed bedchamber of dthe
sayed Mr. [Englishman] dthe following nam-ed wit_nes_ses of lawfool h-age
and residents of dthe sayed cittie, parrish, and State, to wit: Mr. Jean
d'Eau, Mr. Richard Reau, and Mr. V. Deblieux Ecswyzee. That there _up_-on
sayed Mr. [Englishman] being seek in bodie but of soun' mine, which was
_hap_parent to me not-arie and dthe sayed wit_nes_ses by heez lang-uage
and h-actions then and there in dthe presence of sayed wit_nes_ses
_dic_tated to me not-arie dthe following as heez laz weel and tes_tam_ent,
wheech was written by me sayed not-arie as _dic_tated by the sayed Mr.
[Englishman], to wit:
"'My name ees [John Bull]. I was born in,' etc. 'My father and mother are
dade. I have no chil'ren. I have never had annie brawther or seester. I
have never been marri-ed. Thees is my laz weel. I have never made a weel
befo'. I weel and _bick_weath to my fran' Camille Ducour dthe sawm of
fifteen hawndred dollars in cash. I weel h-everything h-else wheech I may
leave at my daith, both real and personal property, to Madame Attalie
Brouillard, leevingue at Number,' etc. 'I appoint my sayed fran' Camille
Ducour as my testamentary executor, weeth-out bon', and grant heem dthe
seizin' of my h-estate, h-and I dir-ect heem to pay h-all my juz debts.'
"Thees weel and tes_tam_ent as thus _dic_tated too me by sayed _tes_tator
and wheech was wreeten by me notarie by my h-own han' jus' as _dic_tated,
was thane by me not-arie rade to sayed Mr. [Englishman] in an au_dib_le
voice and in the presence of dthe aforesayed three witnesses, and dthe
sayed Mr. [Englishman] _dic_lar-ed that he well awnder-stood me not-arie
and per_sev_er-ed een _dic_laring the same too be his laz weel; all of
wheech was don' at one time and place weethout in_ter_'uption and weethout
turningue aside to other acts.
"Thus done and pass-ed," etc.
The notary rose, a wet pen in one hand and the will--with his portfolio
under it for a tablet--in the other. Attalie hurried to the bedside and
stood ready to assist. The patient took the pen with a trembling hand. The
writing was laid before him, and Attalie with a knee on the bed thrust her
arm under the pillows behind him to make a firmer support.
The patient seemed to summon all his power to poise and steady the pen,
but his hand shook, his fingers loosened, and it fell upon the document,
making two or three blots there and another on the bed-covering, whither
it rolled. He groped faintly for it, moaned, and then relaxed.
"He cannot sign!" whispered Attalie, piteously.
"Yes," gasped the patient.
The notary once more handed him the pen, but the same thing happened
The butcher cleared his throat in a way to draw attention. Attalie looked
towards him and he drawled, half rising from his chair:
"I t'ink--a li'l more cognac"--
"Yass," murmured the baker. The candlestick-maker did not speak, but
unconsciously wet his lips with his tongue and wiped them with the back of
his forefinger. But every eye turned to the patient, who said:
"I cannot write--my hand--shakes so."
The notary asked a formal question or two, to which the patient answered
"yes" and "no." The official sat again at the desk, wrote a proper
statement of the patient's incapacity to make his signature, and then read
it aloud. The patient gave assent, and the three witnesses stepped forward
and signed. Then the notary signed.
As the four men approached the door to depart the baker said, lingeringly,
to Attalie, smiling diffidently as he spoke:
"Dat settin' still make a man mighty dry, yass."
"Yass, da's true," said Attalie.
"Yass," he added, "same time he dawn't better drink much _water_ dat hot
weader, no." The butcher turned and smiled concurrence; but Attalie,
though she again said "yass," only added good-day, and the maid led them
and the notary down stairs and let them out.
MEN CAN BE BETTER THAN THEIR LAWS.
An hour later, when the black maid returned from an errand, she found her
mistress at the head of the stairs near the Englishman's door, talking in
suppressed tones to Camille Ducour, who, hat in hand, seemed to have just
dropped in and to be just going out again. He went, and Attalie said to
her maid that he was "so good" and was going to come and sit up all night
with the sick man.
The next morning the maid--and the neighborhood--was startled to hear
that the cotton buyer had died in the night. The physician called and gave
a certificate of death without going up to the death chamber.
The funeral procession was short. There was first the carriage with the
priest and the acolytes; then the hearse; then a carriage in which sat the
cotton buyer's clerk,--he had had but one,--his broker, and two men of
that singular sort that make it a point to go to everybody's funeral; then
a carriage occupied by Attalie's other lodgers, and then, in a carriage
bringing up the rear, were Camille Ducour and Madame Brouillard. She alone
wept, and, for all we have seen, we yet need not doubt her tears were
genuine. Such was the cortege. Oh! also, in his private vehicle, driven
by himself, was a very comfortable and genteel-looking man, whom neither
Camille nor Attalie knew, but whom every other attendant at the funeral
seemed to regard with deference. While the tomb was being sealed Camille
sidled up to the broker and made bold to ask who the stranger was. Attalie
did not see the movement, and Camille did not tell her what the broker
Late in the next afternoon but one Camille again received word from
Attalie to call and see her in all haste. He found her in the Englishman's
front room. Five white men were sitting there with her. They not only
looked amused, but plainly could have looked more so but for the
restraints of rank and station. Attalie was quite as visibly frightened.
Camille's knees weakened and a sickness came over him as he glanced around
the group. For in the midst sat the stranger who had been at the funeral,
while on his right sat two, and on his left two, men, the terror of whose
presence we shall understand in a moment.
"Mr. Ducour," said the one who had been at the funeral, "as friends of Mr.
[Englishman] we desire to express our satisfaction at the terms of his
last will and testament. We have had a long talk with Madame Brouillard;
but for myself, I already know his wish that she should have whatever he
might leave. But a wish is one thing; a will, even a nuncupative will by
public act, is another and an infinitely better and more effective thing.
But we wish also to express our determination to see that you are not
hindered in the execution of any of the terms of this will, whose
genuineness we, of course, do not for a moment question." He looked about
upon his companions. Three of them shook their heads gravely; but the
fourth, in his over-zeal, attempted to, say "No," and burst into a laugh;
whereupon they all broadly smiled, while Camille looked ghastly. The
"I am the custodian of all Mr. [Englishman's] accounts and assets. This
gentleman is a judge, this one is a lawyer,--I believe you know them all
by sight,--this one is a banker, and this one--a--in fact, a detective. We
wish you to feel at all times free to call upon any or all of us for
advice, and to bear in mind that our eyes are ever on you with a
positively solicitous interest. You are a busy man, Mr. Ducour, living
largely by your wits, and we must not detain you longer. We are glad that
you are yourself to receive fifteen hundred dollars. We doubt not you have
determined to settle the affairs of the estate without other remuneration,
and we not merely approve but distinctly recommend that decision. The task
will involve an outlay of your time and labor, for which fifteen hundred
dollars will be a generous, a handsome, but not an excessive remuneration.
You will be glad to know there will still be something left for Madame
Brouillard. And now, Mr. Ducour,"--he arose and approached the pallid
scamp, smiling benevolently,--"_remember_ us as your friends, who will
_watch_ you"--he smote him on the shoulder with all the weight of his open
palm--"with no _ordinary_ interest. Be assured you shall get your fifteen
hundred, and Attalie shall have the rest, which--as Attalie tells me she
has well known for years--will be about thirty thousand dollars.
Gentlemen, our dinner at the lake will be waiting. Good-day, Mr. Ducour.
Good-day, Madame Brouillard. Have no fear. Mr. Ducour is going to render
you full justice,--without unnecessary delay,--in solid cash."
And he did.
WAR DIARY OF A UNION WOMAN IN THE SOUTH.
[The following diary was originally written in lead pencil and in a book
the leaves of which were too soft to take ink legibly. I have it direct
from the hands of its writer, a lady whom I have had the honor to know for
nearly thirty years. For good reasons the author's name is omitted, and
the initials of people and the names of places are sometimes fictitiously
given. Many of the persons mentioned were my own acquaintances and
friends. When some twenty years afterwards she first resolved to publish
it, she brought me a clear, complete copy in ink. It had cost much
trouble, she said, for much of the pencil writing had been made under such
disadvantages and was so faint that at times she could decipher it only
under direct sunlight. She had succeeded, however, in making a copy,
_verbatim_ except for occasional improvement in the grammatical form of a
sentence, or now and then the omission, for brevity's sake, of something
unessential. The narrative has since been severely abridged to bring it
within the limits of this volume.
In reading this diary one is much charmed with its constant understatement
of romantic and perilous incidents and conditions. But the original
penciled pages show that, even in copying, the strong bent of the writer
to be brief has often led to the exclusion of facts that enhance the
interest of exciting situations, and sometimes the omission robs her own
heroism of due emphasis. I have restored one example of this in the short
paragraph following her account of the night she spent fanning her sick
husband on their perilous voyage down the Mississippi.]
_New Orleans, Dec. 1, 1860_.--I understand it now. Keeping journals is for
those who can not, or dare not, speak out. So I shall set up a journal,
being only a rather lonely young girl in a very small and hated minority.
On my return here in November, after a foreign voyage and absence of many
months, I found myself behind in knowledge of the political conflict, but
heard the dread sounds of disunion and war muttered in threatening tones.
Surely no native-born woman loves her country better than I love America.
The blood of one of its revolutionary patriots flows in my veins, and it
is the Union for which he pledged his "life, fortune, and sacred honor"
that I love, not any divided or special section of it. So I have been
reading attentively and seeking light from foreigners and natives on all
questions at issue. Living from birth in slave countries, both foreign
and American, and passing through one slave insurrection in early
childhood, the saddest and also the pleasantest features of slavery have
been familiar. If the South goes to war for slavery, slavery is doomed in
this country. To say so is like opposing one drop to a roaring torrent.
This is a good time to follow St. Paul's advice that women should refrain
from speaking, but they are speaking more than usual and forcing others to
speak against their will.
_Sunday, Dec.--, 1860_.--In this season for peace I had hoped for a lull
in the excitement, yet this day has been full of bitterness. "Come, G.,"
said Mrs. F. at breakfast, "leave _your_ church for to-day and come with
us to hear Dr. ---- on the situation. He will convince you." "It is good to
be convinced," I said; "I will go." The church was crowded to suffocation
with the elite of New Orleans. The preacher's text was, "Shall we have
fellowship with the stool of iniquity which frameth mischief as a law?" ...
The sermon was over at last and then followed a prayer ... Forever
blessed be the fathers of the Episcopal Church for giving us a fixed
liturgy! When we met at dinner Mrs. F. exclaimed, "Now, G., you heard him
prove from the Bible that slavery is right and that therefore secession
is. Were you not convinced?" I said, "I was so busy thinking how
completely it proved too that Brigham Young is right about polygamy that
it quite weakened the force of the argument for me." This raised a laugh,
and covered my retreat.
_Jan. 26, 1861_.--The solemn boom of cannon today announced that the
convention have passed the ordinance of secession. We must take a reef in
our patriotism and narrow it down to State limits. Mine still sticks out
all around the borders of the State. It will be bad if New Orleans should
secede from Louisiana and set up for herself. Then indeed I would be
"cabined, cribbed, confined." The faces in the house are jubilant to-day.
Why is it so easy for them and not for me to "ring out the old, ring in
the new"? I am out of place.
_Jan. 28, Monday_.--Sunday has now got to be a day of special excitement.
The gentlemen save all the sensational papers to regale us with at the
late Sunday breakfast. Rob opened the battle yesterday morning by saying
to me in his most aggressive manner, "G., I believe these are your
sentiments"; and then he read aloud an article from the "Journal des
Debats" expressing in rather contemptuous terms the fact that France will
follow the policy of non-intervention. When I answered: "Well, what do you
expect? This is not their quarrel," he raved at me, ending by a
declaration that he would willingly pay my passage to foreign parts if I
would like to go. "Rob," said his father, "keep cool; don't let that
threat excite you. Cotton is king. Just wait till they feel the pinch a
little; their tone will change." I went to Trinity Church. Some Union
people who are not Episcopalians go there now because the pastor has not
so much chance to rail at the Lord when things are not going to suit: but
yesterday was a marked Sunday. The usual prayer for the President and
Congress was changed to the "governor and people of this commonwealth and
their representatives in convention assembled."
The city was very lively and noisy this evening with rockets and lights in
honor of secession. Mrs. F., in common with the neighbors, illuminated. We
walked out to see the houses of others gleaming amid the dark shrubbery
like a fairy scene. The perfect stillness added to the effect, while the
moon rose slowly with calm splendor. We hastened home to dress for a
soiree, but on the stairs Edith said, "G., first come and help me dress
Phoebe and Chloe [the negro servants]. There is a ball to-night in
aristocratic colored society. This is Chloe's first introduction to New
Orleans circles, and Henry Judson, Phoebe's husband, gave five dollars for
a ticket for her." Chloe is a recent purchase from Georgia. We
superintended their very stylish toilets, and Edith said, "G., run into
your room, please, and write a pass for Henry. Put Mr. D.'s name to it."
"Why, Henry is free," I said.--"That makes no difference; all colored
people must have a pass if out late. They choose a master for protection
and always carry his pass. Henry chose Mr. D., but he's lost the pass he
had." When the pass was ready, a carriage dashed up to the back-gate and
the party drove off in fine style.
At the soiree we had secession talk sandwiched everywhere; between the
supper, and the music, and the dance; but midnight has come, and silence,
and a few too brief hours of oblivion.
THE VOLUNTEERS.--FORT SUMTER.
_Feb. 24, 1861_.--The toil of the week has ended. Nearly a month has
passed since I wrote here. Events have crowded upon one another. A
lowering sky closes in upon the gloomy evening, and a moaning wind is
sobbing in every key. They seem in keeping with the national sorrow, and
in lieu of other sympathy I am glad to have that of Nature to-night. On
the 4th the cannon boomed in honor of Jefferson Davis's election, and day
before yesterday Washington's Birthday was made the occasion of another
grand display and illumination, in honor of the birth of a new nation
and the breaking of that Union which he labored to cement. We drove
to the racecourse to see the review of troops. A flag was presented
to the Washington Artillery by ladies. Senator Judah Benjamin made an
impassioned speech. The banner was orange satin on one side, crimson
silk on the other, the pelican and brood embroidered in pale green
and gold. Silver crossed cannon surmounted it, orange-colored fringe
surrounded it, and crimson tassels drooped from it. It was a brilliant,
unreal scene; with military bands clashing triumphant music, elegant
vehicles, high-stepping horses, and lovely women richly appareled.
Wedding cards have been pouring in till the contagion has reached us;
Edith will be married next Thursday. The wedding dress is being
fashioned, and the bridesmaids and groomsmen have arrived. Edith has
requested me to be special mistress of ceremonies on Thursday evening, and
I have told this terrible little rebel, who talks nothing but blood and
thunder, yet faints at the sight of a worm, that if I fill that office no
one shall mention war or politics during the whole evening, on pain of
expulsion. The clock points to ten. I must lay the pen aside.
_March 10, 1861._--The excitement in this house has risen to fever heat
during the past week. The four gentlemen have each a different plan for
saving the country, and now that the bridal bouquets have faded, the three
ladies have again turned to public affairs; Lincoln's inauguration and the
story of the disguise in which he traveled to Washington is a never-ending
source of gossip. The family board being the common forum, each gentleman
as he appears first unloads his pockets of papers from all the Southern
States, and then his overflowing heart to his eager female listeners, who
in turn relate, inquire, sympathize, or cheer. If I dare express a doubt
that the path to victory will be a flowery one, eyes flash, cheeks burn,
and tongues clatter, till all are checked up suddenly by a warning rap for
"Order, order!" from the amiable lady presiding. Thus we swallow politics
with every meal. We take a mouthful and read a telegram, one eye on table,
the other on the paper. One must be made of cool stuff to keep calm and
collected. I say but little. There is one great comfort; this war fever
has banished small talk. The black servants move about quietly, never
seeming to notice that this is all about them.
"How can you speak so plainly before them?" I say.
"Why, what matter? They know that we shall keep the whip-handle."
_April 13, 1861._--More than a month has passed since the last date here.
This afternoon I was seated on the floor covered with loveliest flowers,
arranging a floral offering for the fair, when the gentlemen arrived (and
with papers bearing the news of the fall of Fort Sumter, which, at her
request, I read to Mrs. F.).
_April 20._--The last few days have glided away in a halo of beauty. I
can't remember such a lovely spring ever before. But nobody has time or
will to enjoy it. War, war! is the one idea. The children play only with
toy cannons and soldiers; the oldest inhabitant goes by every day with his
rifle to practice; the public squares are full of companies drilling, and
are now the fashionable resorts. We have been told that it is best for
women to learn how to shoot too, so as to protect themselves when the men
have all gone to battle. Every evening after dinner we adjourn to the back
lot and fire at a target with pistols.
Yesterday I dined at Uncle Ralph's. Some members of the bar were present
and were jubilant about their brand-new Confederacy. It would soon be the
grandest government ever known. Uncle Ralph said solemnly, "No, gentlemen;
the day we seceded the star of our glory set." The words sunk into my mind
like a knell, and made me wonder at the mind that could recognize that
and yet adhere to the doctrine of secession.
In the evening I attended a farewell gathering at a friend's whose
brothers are to leave this week for Richmond. There was music. No minor
chord was permitted.
_April 25, 1861._--Yesterday I went with Cousin E. to have her picture
taken. The picture-galleries are doing a thriving business. Many companies
are ordered off to take possession of Fort Pickens (Florida), and all seem
to be leaving sweethearts behind them. The crowd was in high spirits; they
don't dream that any destinies will be spoiled. When I got home Edith was
reading from the daily paper of the dismissal of Miss G. from her place as
teacher for expressing abolition sentiments, and that she would be ordered
to leave the city. Soon a lady came with a paper setting forth that she
has established a "company"--we are nothing if not military--for making
lint and getting stores of linen to supply the hospitals.
My name went down. If it hadn't, my spirit would have been wounded as with
sharp spears before night. Next came a little girl with a subscription
paper to get a flag for a certain company. The little girls, especially
the pretty ones, are kept busy trotting around with subscription lists. A
gentleman leaving for Richmond called to bid me good-bye. We had a serious
talk on the chances of his coming home maimed. He handed me a rose and
went off gaily, while a vision came before me of the crowd of cripples
that will be hobbling around when the war is over. It stayed with me all
the afternoon while I shook hands with one after another in their shining
gray and gold uniforms. Latest of all came little Guy, Mr. F.'s youngest
clerk, the pet of the firm as well as of his home, a mere boy of sixteen.
Such senseless sacrifices seem a sin. He chattered brightly, but lingered
about, saying good-bye. He got through it bravely until Edith's husband
incautiously said, "You didn't kiss your little sweetheart," as he always
called Ellie, who had been allowed to sit up. He turned suddenly, broke
into agonizing sobs and ran down the steps. I went right up to my room.
Suddenly the midnight stillness was broken by the sound of trumpets and
flutes. It was a serenade, by her lover, to the young lady across the
street. She leaves to-morrow for her home in Boston, he joins the
Confederate army in Virginia. Among the callers yesterday she came and
astonished us all by the change in her looks. She is the only person I
have yet seen who seems to realize the horror that is coming. Was this
pallid, stern-faced creature, the gentle, glowing Nellie whom we had
welcomed and admired when she came early last fall with her parents to
enjoy a Southern winter?
_May 10, 1861_.--I am tired and ashamed of myself. Last week I attended a
meeting of the lint society to hand in the small contribution of linen I
had been able to gather. We scraped lint till it was dark. A paper was
shown, entitled the "Volunteer's Friend," started by the girls of the high
school, and I was asked to help the girls with it. I positively declined.
To-day I was pressed into service to make red flannel cartridge-bags for
ten-inch columbiads. I basted while Mrs. S. sewed, and I felt ashamed to
think that I had not the moral courage to say, "I don't approve of your
war and won't help you, particularly in the murderous part of it."
_May 27, 1861._--This has been a scenic Sabbath. Various companies about
to depart for Virginia occupied the prominent churches to have their flags
consecrated. The streets were resonant with the clangor of drums and
trumpets. E. and myself went to Christ Church because the Washington
Artillery were to be there.
_June 13._--To-day has been appointed a Fast Day. I spent the morning
writing a letter on which I put my first Confederate postage-stamp. It is
of a brown color and has a large 5 in the center. To-morrow must be
devoted to all my foreign correspondents before the expected blockade cuts
_June 29._--I attended a fine luncheon yesterday at one of the public
schools. A lady remarked to a school official that the cost of provisions
in the Confederacy was getting very high, butter, especially, being scarce
and costly. "Never fear, my dear madame," he replied. "Texas alone can
furnish butter enough to supply the whole Confederacy; we'll soon be
getting it from there." It's just as well to have this sublime confidence.
_July 15, 1861_.--The quiet of midsummer reigns, but ripples of excitement
break around us as the papers tell of skirmishes and attacks here and
there in Virginia. "Rich Mountain" and "Carrick's Ford" were the last.
"You see," said Mrs. D. at breakfast to-day, "my prophecy is coming true
that Virginia will be the seat of war." "Indeed," I burst out, forgetting
my resolution not to argue, "you may think yourselves lucky if this war
turns out to have any seat in particular."
So far, no one especially connected with me has gone to fight. How glad I
am for his mother's sake that Rob's lameness will keep him at home. Mr.
F., Mr. S., and Uncle Ralph are beyond the age for active service, and
Edith says Mr. D. can't go now. She is very enthusiastic about other
people's husbands being enrolled, and regrets that her Alex is not strong
enough to defend his country and his rights.
_July 22_.--What a day! I feel like one who has been out in a high wind,
and cannot get my breath. The news-boys are still shouting with their
extras, "Battle of Bull's Run! List of the killed! Battle of Manassas!
List of the wounded!" Tender-hearted Mrs. F. was sobbing so she could not
serve the tea; but nobody cared for tea. "O G.!" she said, "three thousand
of our own, dear Southern boys are lying out there." "My dear Fannie,"
spoke Mr. F., "they are heroes now. They died in a glorious cause, and it
is not in vain. This will end it. The sacrifice had to be made, but those
killed have gained immortal names." Then Rob rushed in with a new extra,
reading of the spoils captured, and grief was forgotten. Words cannot
paint the excitement. Rob capered about and cheered; Edith danced around
ringing the dinner bell and shouting, "Victory!" Mrs. F. waved a small
Confederate flag, while she wiped her eyes, and Mr. D. hastened to the
piano and in his most brilliant style struck up "Dixie," followed by "My
Maryland" and the "Bonnie Blue Flag."
"Do not look so gloomy, G.," whispered Mr. S. "You should be happy
to-night; for, as Mr. F. says, now we shall have peace."
"And is that the way you think of the men of your own blood and race?" I
replied. But an utter scorn choked me, and I walked out of the room. What
proof is there in this dark hour that they are not right? Only the
emphatic answer of my own soul. To-morrow I will pack my trunk and accept
the invitation to visit at Uncle Ralph's country-house.
_Sept. 25, 1861._ (_Home again from "The Pines."_)--When I opened the door
of Mrs. F.'s room on my return, the rattle of two sewing-machines and a
blaze of color met me.
"Ah! G., you are just in time to help us; these are coats for Jeff
Thompson's men. All the cloth in the city is exhausted; these
flannel-lined oilcloth table-covers are all we could obtain to make
overcoats for Thompson's poor boys. They will be very warm and
"Serviceable, yes! The Federal army will fly when they see those coats! I
only wish I could be with the regiment when these are shared around." Yet
I helped make them.
Seriously, I wonder if any soldiers will ever wear these remarkable coats.
The most bewildering combination of brilliant, intense reds, greens,
yellows, and blues in big flowers meandering over as vivid grounds; and as
no table-cover was large enough to make a coat, the sleeves of each were
of a different color and pattern. However, the coats were duly finished.
Then we set to work on gray pantaloons, and I have just carried a bundle
to an ardent young lady who wishes to assist. A slight gloom is settling
down, and the inmates here are not quite so cheerfully confident as in
A BELEAGUERED CITY.
_Oct. 22, 1861._--When I came to breakfast this morning Rob was capering
over another victory--Ball's Bluff. He would read me, "We pitched the
Yankees over the bluff," and ask me in the next breath to go to the
theater this evening. I turned on the poor fellow: "Don't tell me about
your victories. You vowed by all your idols that the blockade would be
raised by October 1, and I notice the ships are still serenely anchored
below the city."
"G., you are just as pertinacious yourself in championing your opinions.
What sustains you when nobody agrees with you?"
I would not answer.
_Oct. 28, 1861_.--When I dropped in at Uncle Ralph's last evening to
welcome them back, the whole family were busy at a great center-table
copying sequestration acts for the Confederate Government. The property of
all Northerners and Unionists is to be sequestrated, and Uncle Ralph can
hardly get the work done fast enough. My aunt apologized for the rooms
looking chilly; she feared to put the carpets down, as the city might be
taken and burned by the Federals. "We are living as much packed up as
possible. A signal has been agreed upon, and the instant the army
approaches we shall be off to the country again."
Great preparations are being made for defense. At several other places
where I called the women were almost hysterical. They seemed to look
forward to being blown up with shot and shell, finished with cold steel,
or whisked off to some Northern prison. When I got home Edith and Mr. D.
had just returned also.
"Alex," said Edith, "I was up at your orange-lots to-day and the sour
oranges are dropping to the ground, while they cannot get lemons for our
"That's my kind, considerate wife," replied Mr. D. "Why didn't I think of
that before? Jim shall fill some barrels to-morrow and take them to the
hospitals as a present from you."
_Nov. 10_.--Surely this year will ever be memorable to me for its
perfection of natural beauty. Never was sunshine such pure gold, or
moonlight such transparent silver. The beautiful custom prevalent here of
decking the graves with flowers on All Saint's day was well fulfilled, so
profuse and rich were the blossoms. On All-hallow Eve Mrs. S. and myself
visited a large cemetery. The chrysanthemums lay like great masses of snow
and flame and gold in every garden we passed, and were piled on every
costly tomb and lowly grave. The battle of Manassas robed many of our
women in mourning, and some of these, who had no graves to deck, were
weeping silently as they walked through the scented avenues.
A few days ago Mrs. E. arrived here. She is a widow, of Natchez, a friend
of Mrs. F.'s, and is traveling home with the dead body of her eldest son,
killed at Manassas. She stopped two days waiting for a boat, and begged me
to share her room and read her to sleep, saying she couldn't be alone
since he was killed; she feared her mind would give way. So I read all the
comforting chapters to be found till she dropped into forgetfulness, but
the recollection of those weeping mothers in the cemetery banished sleep
_Nov. 26, 1861._--The lingering summer is passing into those misty autumn
days I love so well, when there is gold and fire above and around us. But
the glory of the natural and the gloom of the moral world agree not well
together. This morning Mrs. F. came to my room in dire distress. "You
see," she said, "cold weather is coming on fast, and our poor fellows are
lying out at night with nothing to cover them. There is a wail for
blankets, but there is not a blanket in town. I have gathered up all the
spare bed-clothing, and now want every available rug or table-cover in the
house. Can't I have yours, G.? We must make these small sacrifices of
comfort and elegance, you know, to secure independence and freedom."
"Very well," I said, denuding the table. "This may do for a drummer boy."
_Dec. 26, 1861._--The foul weather cleared off bright and cool in time for
Christmas. There is a midwinter lull in the movement of troops. In the
evening we went to the grand bazaar in the St. Louis Hotel, got up to
clothe the soldiers. This bazaar has furnished the gayest, most
fashionable war-work yet, and has kept social circles in a flutter of
pleasant, heroic excitement all through December. Everything beautiful or
rare garnered in the homes of the rich was given for exhibition, and in
some cases for raffle and sale. There were many fine paintings, statues,
bronzes, engravings, gems, laces--in fact, heirlooms, and bric-a-brac of
all sorts. There were many lovely Creole girls present, in exquisite
toilets, passing to and fro through the decorated rooms, listening to the
band clash out the Anvil Chorus.
This morning I joined the B.'s and their party in a visit to the new
fortifications below the city. It all looks formidable enough, but of
course I am no judge of military defenses. We passed over the
battle-ground where Jackson fought the English, and thinking of how he
dealt with treason, one could almost fancy his unquiet ghost stalking
_Jan. 2, 1862_.--I am glad enough to bid '61 goodbye. Most miserable year
of my life! What ages of thought and experience have I not lived in it.
Last Sunday I walked home from church with a young lady teacher in the
public schools. The teachers have been paid recently in "shin-plasters." I
don't understand the horrid name, but nobody seems to have any confidence
in the scrip. In pure benevolence I advised my friend to get her money
changed into coin, as in case the Federals took the city she would be in a
bad fix, being in rather a lonely position. She turned upon me in a rage.
"You are a black-hearted traitor," she almost screamed at me in the
street, this well-bred girl! "My money is just as good as coin you'll see!
Go to Yankee land. It will suit you better with your sordid views and want
of faith, than the generous South."
"Well," I replied, "when I think of going, I'll come to you for a letter
of introduction to your grandfather in Yankee land." I said good-morning
and turned down another street in a sort of a maze, trying to put myself
in her place and see what there was sordid in my advice.
Luckily I met Mrs. B. to turn the current of thought. She was very merry.
The city authorities have been searching houses for fire-arms. It is a
good way to get more guns, and the homes of those men suspected of being
Unionists were searched first. Of course they went to Dr. B.'s. He met
them with his own delightful courtesy. "Wish to search for arms?
Certainly, gentlemen." He conducted them through all the house with
smiling readiness, and after what seemed a very thorough search bowed them
politely out. His gun was all the time safely reposing between the canvas
folds of a cot-bed which leaned folded up together against the wall, in
the very room where they had ransacked the closets. Queerly, the rebel
families have been the ones most anxious to conceal all weapons. They have
dug pits quietly at night in the back yards, and carefully wrapping the
weapons, buried them out of sight. Every man seems to think he will have
some private fighting to do to protect his family.
_Friday, Jan. 24, 1862. (On steamboat W., Mississippi River.)_--With a
changed name I open you once more, my journal. It was a sad time to wed,
when one knew not how long the expected conscription would spare the
bridegroom. The women-folk knew how to sympathize with a girl expected to
prepare for her wedding in three days, in a blockaded city, and about to
go far from any base of supplies. They all rallied round me with tokens of
love and consideration, and sewed, shopped, mended, and packed, as if
sewing soldier clothes. They decked the whole house and the church with
flowers. Music breathed, wine sparkled, friends came and went. It seemed a
dream, and comes up now and again out of the afternoon sunshine where I
sit on deck. The steamboat slowly plows its way through lumps of floating
ice,--a novel sight to me,--and I look forward wondering whether the new
people I shall meet will be as fierce about the war as those in New
Orleans. That past is to be all forgiven and forgotten; I understood thus
the kindly acts that sought to brighten the threshold of a new life.
_Feb. 15, 1862. (Village of X.)_--We reached Arkansas Landing at
nightfall. Mr. Y., the planter who owns the landing, took us right up to
his residence. He ushered me into a large room where a couple of candles
gave a dim light, and close to them, and sewing as if on a race with time,
sat Mrs. Y. and a little negro girl, who was so black and sat so stiff and
straight she looked like an ebony image. This was a large plantation; the
Y.'s knew H. very well, and were very kind and cordial in their welcome
and congratulations. Mrs. Y. apologized for continuing her work; the war
had pushed them this year in getting the negroes clothed, and she had to
sew by dim candles, as they could obtain no more oil. She asked if there
were any new fashions in New Orleans.
Next morning we drove over to our home in this village. It is the
county-seat, and was, till now, a good place for the practice of H.'s
profession. It lies on the edge of a lovely lake. The adjacent planters
count their slaves by the hundreds. Some of them live with a good deal of
magnificence, using service of plate, having smoking-rooms for the
gentlemen built off the house, and entertaining with great hospitality.
The Baptists, Episcopalians, and Methodists hold services on alternate
Sundays in the court-house. All the planters and many others, near the
lake shore, keep a boat at their landing, and a raft for crossing vehicles
and horses. It seemed very piquant at first, this taking our boat to go
visiting, and on moonlight nights it was charming. The woods around are
lovelier than those in Louisiana, though one misses the moaning of the
pines. There is fine fishing and hunting, but these cotton estates are not
so pleasant to visit as sugar plantations.
But nothing else has been so delightful as, one morning, my first sight of
snow and a wonderful, new, white world.
_Feb. 27, 1862_.--The people here have hardly felt the war yet. There are
but two classes. The planters and the professional men form one; the very
poor villagers the other. There is no middle class. Ducks and partridges,
squirrels and fish, are to be had. H. has bought me a nice pony, and
cantering along the shore of the lake in the sunset is a panacea for
How It Was In Arkansas
_March 11, 1862_.--The serpent has entered our Eden. The rancor and
excitement of New Orleans have invaded this place. If an incautious word
betrays any want of sympathy with popular plans, one is "traitorous,"
"ungrateful," "crazy." If one remains silent, and controlled, then one is
"phlegmatic," "cool-blooded," "unpatriotic." Cool-blooded! Heavens! if
they only knew. It is very painful to see lovable and intelligent women
rave till the blood mounts to face and brain. The immediate cause of this
access of war fever has been the battle of Pea Ridge. They scout the idea
that Price and Van Dorn have been completely worsted. Those who brought
the news were speedily told what they ought to say. "No, it is only a
serious check; they must have more men sent forward at once. This country
must do its duty." So the women say another company _must_ be raised.
We were guests at a dinner-party yesterday. Mrs. A. was very talkative.
"Now, ladies, you must all join in with a vim and help equip another
"Mrs. L.," she said, turning to me, "are you not going to send your
husband? Now use a young bride's influence and persuade him; he would be
elected one of the officers." "Mrs. A.," I replied, longing to spring up
and throttle her, "the Bible says, 'When a man hath married a new wife, he
shall not go to war for one year, but remain at home and cheer up his
"Well, H.," I questioned, as we walked home after crossing the lake, "can
you stand the pressure, or shall you be forced into volunteering?"
"Indeed," he replied, "I will not be bullied into enlisting by women, or
by men. I will sooner take my chance of conscription and feel honest about
it. You know my attachments, my interests are here; these are my people.
I could never fight against them; but my judgment disapproves their
course, and the result will inevitably be against us."
This morning the only Irishman left in the village presented himself to H.
He has been our woodsawyer, gardener, and factotum, but having joined the
new company, his time recently has been taken up with drilling. H. and Mr.
R. feel that an extensive vegetable garden must be prepared while he is
here to assist or we shall be short of food, and they sent for him
"So, Mike, you are really going to be a soldier?"
"Yes, sor; but faith, Mr. L., I don't see the use of me going to shtop a
bullet when sure an' I'm willin' for it to go where it plazes."
_March 18, 1862._--There has been unusual gayety in this little village
the past few days. The ladies from the surrounding plantations went to
work to get up a festival to equip the new company. As Annie and myself
are both brides recently from the city, requisition was made upon us for
engravings, costumes, music, garlands, and so forth. Annie's heart was in
the work; not so with me. Nevertheless, my pretty things were captured,
and shone with just as good a grace last evening as if willingly lent. The
ball was a merry one. One of the songs sung was "Nellie Gray," in which
the most distressing feature of slavery is bewailed so pitifully. To sing
this at a festival for raising money to clothe soldiers fighting to
perpetuate that very thing was strange.
_March 20, 1862._--A man professing to act by General Hindman's orders is
going through the country impressing horses and mules. The overseer of a
certain estate came to inquire of H. if he had not a legal right to
protect the property from seizure. Mr. L. said yes, unless the agent could
show some better credentials than his bare word. This answer soon spread
about, and the overseer returned to report that it excited great
indignation, especially among the company of new volunteers. H. was
pronounced a traitor, and they declared that no one so untrue to the
Confederacy should live there. When H. related the circumstance at dinner,
his partner, Mr. R., became very angry, being ignorant of H.'s real
opinions. He jumped up in a rage and marched away to the village
thoroughfare. There he met a batch of the volunteers, and said, "We know
what you have said of us, and I have come to tell you that you are liars,
and you know where to find us."
Of course I expected a difficulty; but the evening passed, and we retired
undisturbed. Not long afterward a series of indescribable sounds broke the
stillness of the night, and the tramp of feet was heard outside the house.
Mr. R. called out, "It's a serenade, H. Get up and bring out all the wine
you have." Annie and I peeped through the parlor window, and lo! it was
the company of volunteers and a diabolical band composed of bones and
broken-winded brass instruments. They piped and clattered and whined for
some time, and then swarmed in, while we ladies retreated and listened to
the clink of glasses.
_March 22, 1862_.--H., Mr. R., and Mike have been very busy the last few
days getting the acre of kitchen-garden plowed and planted. The stay-law
has stopped all legal business, and they have welcomed this work. But
to-day a thunderbolt fell in our household. Mr. R. came in and announced
that he has agreed to join the company of volunteers. Annie's Confederate
principles would not permit her to make much resistance, and she has been
sewing and mending as fast as possible to get his clothes ready, stopping
now and then to wipe her eyes. Poor Annie! She and Max have been married
only a few months longer than we have; but a noble sense of duty animates
and sustains her.
THE FIGHT FOR FOOD AND CLOTHING.
_April 1, 1862_.--The last ten days have brought changes in the house. Max
R. left with the company to be mustered in, leaving with us his weeping
Annie. Hardly were her spirits somewhat composed when her brother arrived
from Natchez to take her home. This morning he, Annie, and Reeney, the
black handmaiden, posted off. Out of seven of us only H., myself, and Aunt
Judy are left. The absence of Reeney will not be the one least noted. She
was as precious an imp as any Topsy ever was. Her tricks were endless and
her innocence of them amazing. When sent out to bring in eggs she would
take them from nests where hens were hatching, and embryo chickens would
be served up at breakfast, while Reeney stood by grinning to see them
opened; but when accused she was imperturbable. "Laws, Mis' L., I nebber
done bin nigh dem hens. Mis' Annie, you can go count dem dere eggs." That
when counted they were found minus the number she had brought had no
effect on her stolid denial. H. has plenty to do finishing the garden all
by himself, but the time rather drags for me.
_April 13, 1862_.--This morning I was sewing up a rent in H.'s
garden-coat, when Aunt Judy rushed in.
"Laws! Mis' L., here's Mr. Max and Mis' Annie done come back!" A buggy was
coming up with Max, Annie, and Reeney.
"Well, is the war over?" I asked.
"Oh, I got sick!" replied our returned soldier, getting slowly out of the
He was very thin and pale, and explained that he took a severe cold almost
at once, had a mild attack of pneumonia, and the surgeon got him his
discharge as unfit for service. He succeeded in reaching Annie, and a few
days of good care made him strong enough to travel back home.
"I suppose, H., you've heard that Island No. 10 is gone?"
Yes, we heard that much, but Max had the particulars, and an exciting talk
followed. At night H. said to me, "G., New Orleans will be the next to go,
you'll see, and I want to get there first; this stagnation here will kill
_April 28, 1862_.--This evening has been very lovely, but full of a sad
disappointment. H. invited me to drive. As we turned homeward he said:
"Well, my arrangements are completed. You can begin to pack your trunks
to-morrow, and I shall have a talk with Max."
Mr. R. and Annie were sitting on the gallery as I ran up the steps.
"Heard the news?" they cried.
"No! What news?"
"New Orleans is taken! All the boats have been run up the river to save
them. No more mails."
How little they knew what plans of ours this dashed away. But our
disappointment is truly an infinitesimal drop in the great waves of
triumph and despair surging to-night in thousands of hearts.
_April 30_.--The last two weeks have glided quietly away without incident
except the arrival of new neighbors--Dr. Y., his wife, two children, and
servants. That a professional man prospering in Vicksburg should come now
to settle in this retired place looks queer. Max said:
"H., that man has come here to hide from the conscript officers. He has
brought no end of provisions, and is here for the war. He has chosen well,
for this county is so cleaned of men it won't pay to send the conscript
Our stores are diminishing and cannot be replenished from without;
ingenuity and labor must evoke them. We have a fine garden in growth,
plenty of chickens, and hives of bees to furnish honey in lieu of sugar.
A good deal of salt meat has been stored in the smoke-house, and, with
fish in the lake, we expect to keep the wolf from the door. The season for
game is about over, but an occasional squirrel or duck comes to the
larder, though the question of ammunition has to be considered. What we
have may be all we can have, if the war last five years longer; and they
say they are prepared to hold out till the crack of doom. Food, however,
is not the only want. I never realized before the varied needs of
civilization. Every day something is "out." Last week but two bars of soap
remained, so we began to save bones and ashes. Annie said: "Now, if we
only had some china-berry trees here we shouldn't need any other grease.
They are making splendid soap at Vicksburg with china-balls. They just put
the berries into the lye and it eats them right up and makes a fine soap."
I did long for some china-berries to make this experiment. H. had laid in
what seemed a good supply of kerosene, but it is nearly gone, and we are
down to two candles kept for an emergency. Annie brought a receipt from
Natchez for making candles of rosin and wax, and with great forethought
brought also the wick and rosin. So yesterday we tried making candles. "We
had no molds, but Annie said the latest style in Natchez was to make a
waxen rope by dipping, then wrap it round a corn-cob. But H. cut smooth
blocks of wood about four inches square, into which he set a polished
cylinder about four inches high. The waxen ropes were coiled round the
cylinder like a serpent, with the head raised about two inches; as the
light burned down to the cylinder, more of the rope was unwound. To-day
the vinegar was found to be all gone and we have started to make some. For
tyros we succeed pretty well."
DROWNED OUT AND STARVED OUT.
_May 9, 1862_.--A great misfortune has come upon us all. For several days
every one has been uneasy about the unusual rise of the Mississippi and
about a rumor that the Federal forces had cut levees above to swamp the
country. There is a slight levee back of the village, and H. went
yesterday to examine it. It looked strong and we hoped for the best. About
dawn this morning a strange gurgle woke me. It had a pleasing, lulling
effect. I could not fully rouse at first, but curiosity conquered at last,
and I called H.
"Listen to that running water; what is it?" He sprung up, listened a
second, and shouted: "Max, get up! The water is on us!" They both rushed
off to the lake for the skiff. The levee had not broken. The water was
running clean over it and through the garden fence so rapidly that by the
time I dressed and got outside Max was paddling the pirogue they had
brought in among the pea-vines, gathering all the ripe peas left above the
water. We had enjoyed one mess and he vowed we should have another.
H. was busy nailing a raft together while he had a dry place to stand on.
Annie and I, with Reeney, had to secure the chickens, and the back piazza
was given up to them. By the time a hasty breakfast was eaten the water
was in the kitchen. The stove and everything there had to be put up in the
dining-room. Aunt Judy and Reeney had likewise to move into the house,
their floor also being covered with water. The raft had to be floated to
the store-house and a platform built, on which everything was elevated. At
evening we looked round and counted the cost. The garden was utterly gone.
Last evening we had walked round the strawberry beds that fringed the
whole acre and tasted a few just ripe. The hives were swamped. Many of the
chickens were drowned. Sancho had been sent to high ground where he could
get grass. In the village every green thing was swept away. Yet we were
better off than many others; for this house, being raised, we have escaped
the water indoors. It just laves the edge of the galleries.
_May 26, 1862._--During the past week we have lived somewhat like
Venetians, with a boat at front steps and a raft at the back. Sunday H.
and I took skiff to church. The clergyman, who is also tutor at a
planter's across the lake, preached to the few who had arrived in skiffs.
We shall not try it again, it is so troublesome getting in and out at the
court-house steps. The imprisonment is hard to endure. It threatened to
make me really ill, so every evening H. lays a thick wrap in the pirogue,
I sit on it and we row off to the ridge of dry land running along the
lake-shore and branching off to a strip of woods also out of water. Here
we disembark and march up and down till dusk. A great deal of the wood got
wet and has to be laid out to dry on the galleries, with clothing, and
everything that must be dried. One's own trials are intensified by the
worse suffering around that we can do nothing to relieve.
Max has a puppy named after General Price. The gentlemen had both gone up
town yesterday in the skiff when Annie and I heard little Price's
despairing cries from under the house, and we got on the raft to find and
save him. We wore light morning dresses and slippers, for shoes are
becoming precious. Annie donned a Shaker and I a broad hat. We got the
raft pushed out to the center of the grounds opposite the house and could
see Price clinging to a post; the next move must be to navigate the raft
up to the side of the house and reach for Price. It sounds easy; but poke
around with our poles as wildly or as scientifically as we might, the raft
would not budge. The noonday sun was blazing right overhead and the muddy
water running all over slippered feet and dainty dresses. How long we
staid praying for rescue, yet wincing already at the laugh that would come
with it, I shall never know. It seemed like a day before the welcome boat
and the "Ha, ha!" of H. and Max were heard. The confinement tells severely
on all the animal life about us. Half the chickens are dead and the other
The days drag slowly. We have to depend mainly on books to relieve the
tedium, for we have no piano; none of us like cards; we are very poor
chess-players, and the chess-set is incomplete. When we gather round the
one lamp--we dare not light any more--each one exchanges the gems of
thought or mirthful ideas he finds. Frequently the gnats and the
mosquitoes are so bad we cannot read at all. This evening, till a strong
breeze blew them away, they were intolerable. Aunt Judy goes about in a
dignified silence, too full for words, only asking two or three times,
"W'at I dun tole you fum de fust?" The food is a trial. This evening the
snaky candles lighted the glass and silver on the supper-table with a pale
gleam and disclosed a frugal supper indeed--tea without milk (for all the
cows are gone), honey, and bread. A faint ray twinkled on the water
swishing against the house and stretching away into the dark woods. It
looked like civilization and barbarism met together. Just as we sat down
to it, some one passing in a boat shouted that Confederates and Federals
were fighting at Vicksburg.
_Monday, June 2, 1862_.--On last Friday morning, just three weeks from the
day the water rose, signs of its falling began. Yesterday the ground
appeared, and a hard rain coming down at the same time washed off much of
the unwholesome debris. To-day is fine, and we went out without a boat for
a long walk.
_June 13_.--Since the water ran off, we have, of course, been attacked by
swamp fever. H. succumbed first, then Annie, Max next, and then I.
Luckily, the new Dr. Y. had brought quinine with him, and we took heroic
doses. Such fever never burned in my veins before or sapped strength so
rapidly, though probably the want of good food was a factor. The two or
three other professional men have left. Dr. Y. alone remains. The roads
now being dry enough, H. and Max started on horseback, in different
directions, to make an exhaustive search for supplies. H. got back this
evening with no supplies.
_June 15, 1862._--Max got back to-day. He started right off again to cross
the lake and interview the planters on that side, for they had not
suffered from overflow.
_June 16._--Max got back this morning. H. and he were in the parlor
talking and examining maps together till dinner-time. When that was over
they laid the matter before us. To buy provisions had proved impossible.
The planters across the lake had decided to issue rations of corn-meal and
peas to the villagers whose men had all gone to war, but they utterly
refused to sell anything. "They said to me," said Max, "' We will not see
your family starve, Mr. K.; but with such numbers of slaves and the
village poor to feed, we can spare nothing for sale.'" "Well, of course,"
said H., "we do not purpose to stay here and live on charity rations. We
must leave the place at all hazards. We have studied out every route and
made inquiries everywhere we went. We shall have to go down the
Mississippi in an open boat as far as Fetler's Landing (on the eastern
bank). There we can cross by land and put the boat into Steele's Bayou,
pass thence to the Yazoo River, from there to Chickasaw Bayou, into
McNutt's Lake, and land near my uncle's in Warren County."
_June 20, 1862._--As soon as our intended departure was announced, we
were besieged by requests for all sorts of things wanted in every
family--pins, matches, gunpowder, and ink. One of the last cases H. and
Max had before the stay-law stopped legal business was the settlement of
an estate that included a country store. The heirs had paid in chattels of
the store. These had remained packed in the office. The main contents of
the cases were hardware; but we found treasure indeed--a keg of powder, a
case of matches, a paper of pins, a bottle of ink. Red ink is now made out
of poke-berries. Pins are made by capping thorns with sealing-wax, or
using them as nature made them. These were articles money could not get
for us. We would give our friends a few matches to save for the hour of
tribulation. The paper of pins we divided evenly, and filled a bank-box
each with the matches. H. filled a tight tin case apiece with powder for
Max and himself and sold the rest, as we could not carry any more on such
a trip. Those who did not hear of this in time offered fabulous prices
afterwards for a single pound. But money has not its old attractions. Our
preparations were delayed by Aunt Judy falling sick of swamp fever.
_Friday, June 27._--As soon as the cook was up again, we resumed
preparations. We put all the clothing in order and had it nicely done up
with the last of the soap and starch. "I wonder," said Annie, "when I
shall ever have nicely starched clothes after these? They had no starch in
Natchez or Vicksburg when I was there." We are now furbishing up dresses
suitable for such rough summer travel. While we sat at work yesterday the
quiet of the clear, calm noon was broken by a low, continuous roar like
distant thunder. To-day we are told it was probably cannon at Vicksburg.
This is a great distance, I think, to have heard it--over a hundred miles.
H. and Max have bought a large yawl and are busy on the lake bank
repairing it and fitting it with lockers. Aunt Judy's master has been
notified when to send for her; a home for the cat Jeff has been engaged;
Price is dead, and Sancho sold. Nearly all the furniture is disposed of,
except things valued from association, which will be packed in H.'s office
and left with some one likely to stay through the war. It is hardest to
leave the books.
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