full dress, considering the excitement had
been kept up long enough, and that the
master's health was too delicate for any further
demonstration, determined to disperse
them. Rising to her full height, waving her
hand, and speaking majestically, she said:
"Gentlemen, Mars' Charles is a feeble pusson,
an' it's time for him to take his res'.
He's been kep' 'wake long enough now,
an' it's time for me to close up dese
With this the crowd dispersed, and Aunt
Fanny remained mistress of the situation,
declaring that if she "hadn't come forward
an' 'spersed dat crowd, Mars' Charles would
have been a dead man befo' mornin'."
Aunt Fanny kept herself liberally supplied
with pocket-money, one of her chief
sources of revenue being soap, which she
made in large quantities and sold at high
prices; especially what she called her "butter
soap," which was in great demand, and
which was made from all the butter which
she did not consider fresh enough for the
delicate appetites of her mistress and master.
She appropriated one of the largest
basement rooms, had it shelved, and filled it
with soap. In order to carry on business so
extensively, huge logs were kept blazing on
the kitchen hearth under the soap-pot day
and night. During the war, wood becoming
scarce and expensive, "Mars' Charles" found
that it drained his purse to keep the kitchen
Thinking the matter over one day in his
library, and concluding it would greatly
lessen his expenses if Aunt Fanny could be
prevailed upon to discontinue her soap trade,
he sent for her, and said very mildly:
"Fanny, I have a proposition to make
"What is it, Mars' Charles?"
"Well, Fanny, as my expenses are very
heavy now, if you will give up your soap-boiling
for this year, I will agree to pay you
With arms akimbo, and looking at him
with astonishment but with firmness in her
eye, she replied: "Couldn't possibly do it,
Mars' Charles; because soap, sir, soap's my
With this she strode majestically out of
the room. "Mars' Charles" said no more,
but continued paying fabulous sums for
wood, while Aunt Fanny continued boiling
This woman not only ordered but kept
all the family supplies, her mistress having
no disposition to keep the keys or in any
way interfere with her.
But at last her giant strength gave way,
and she sickened and died. Having no
children, she left her property to one of her
Several days before her death we were
sitting with her mistress and master in a
room overlooking her house. Her room was
crowded with negroes who had come to perform
their religious rites around the deathbed.
Joining hands, they performed a
savage dance, shouting wildly around her
bed. This was horrible to hear and see
especially as in this family every effort had
been made to instruct their negro dependents
in the truths of religion; and one
member of the family, who spent the
greater part of her life in prayer, had for
years prayed for Aunt Fanny and tried
to instruct her in the true faith. But although
an intelligent woman, she seemed to
cling to the superstitions of her race.
After the savage dance and rites were
over, and while we sat talking about it, a
gentleman - the friend and minister of the
family - came in. We described to him
what we had just witnessed, and he deplored
it bitterly with us, saying he had read and
prayed with Aunt Fanny and tried to
make her see the truth in Jesus. He then
marked some passages in the Bible, and
asked me to go and read them to her. I
went, and said to her: "Aunt Fanny, here
are some verses Mr. Mitchell has marked for
me to read to you, and he hopes you will
pray to the Saviour as he taught you."
Then said I: "We are afraid the noise and
dancing have made you worse."
Speaking feebly, she replied: "Honey,
dat kind o' 'ligion suit us black folks better
'an yo' kind. What suit Mars' Charles
mind karn't suit mine."
And thus died the most intelligent of her
race - one who had been surrounded by
pious persons who had been praying for her
and endeavoring to instruct her. She had
also enjoyed through life not only the comforts
but many of the luxuries of earth,
and when she died her mistress and master
lost a sincere friend.
THIS chapter will show
beat biscuit" procured for a man a home
and friends in Paris.
One morning in the spring of 185-, a
singular-looking man presented himself at
our house. He was short of stature, and
enveloped in furs, although the weather was
not cold. Everything about him which
could be gold, was gold, and so we called
him "the gold-tipped man." He called for
my mother, and when she went into the
parlor, he said to her:
"Madam, I have been stopping several
weeks at the hotel in the town of L.,
where I met a boy - Robert - who tells me
he belongs to you. As I want such a servant,
and he is anxious to travel, I come, at
his request, to ask if you will let me buy
him and take him to Europe. I will pay
" I could not think of it," she replied.
"I have determined never to sell one of my
"But," continued the man, "he is anxious
to go, and has sent me to beg you."
"It is impossible," said she, " for he is a
great favorite with us, and the only child
his mother has."
Finding her determined, the man took his
leave, and went back to the town, twenty-five
miles off; but returned next day accompanied
by Robert, who entreated his mother
and mistress to let him go.
Said my mother to him: "Would you
leave your mother and go with a stranger to
a foreign land?"
"Yes, madam. I love my mother, an'
you an' all de fambly - you always been so
good to me - but I want travel, an' dis
gent'man say he give me plenty o' money an'
treat me good, too."
Still she refused. But the boy's mother,
finally yielding to his entreaty, consented,
and persuaded her mistress, saying: "If he
is willing to leave me, and so anxious to go,
I will give him up."
Knowing how distressed we all would be
at parting with him, he went off without
coming to say "good-by," and wrote his
mother from New York what day he would
sail with his new master for Europe.
At first his mother received from him
presents and letters, telling her he was very
much delighted, and "had as much money
as he knew what to do with." But after a
few months he ceased to write, and we
could hear nothing from him.
At length, when eighteen months had
elapsed, we were one day astonished to see
him return home, dressed in the best Parisian
style. We were rejoiced to see him again,
and his own joy at getting back cannot be
described. He ran over the yard and house,
examining everything, and said: "Mistess,
I aint see no place pretty as yours, an' no
lady look to me like you in all de finest
places I bin see in Europ', an' no water tas'e
good like de water in our ole well. An' I
dream 'bout you all, an' 'bout ev'y ole chur
an' table in dis house, an' wonder ef uvver
I'd see 'um ag'in."
He then gave us a sketch of his life since
the "gold-tipped man" had become his
master. Arrived in Paris, his master and
himself took lodgings, and a teacher was
employed to come every day and instruct
Robert in French. His master kept him
well supplied with money, never giving him
less than fifty dollars at a time. His duties
were light, and he had ample time to study
and amuse himself.
After enjoying such elegant ease for
eight or nine months he awoke one morning
and found himself deserted and penniless!
His master had absconded in the
night, leaving no vestige of himself except a
gold dressing-case and a few toilet articles
of gold, which were seized by the proprietor
of the hotel in payment of his bill.
Poor Robert, without money and without
a friend in this great city, knew not where
to turn. In vain he wished himself back in
his old home.
"If I could only find some Virginian to
whom I could appeal," said he to himself.
And suddenly it occurred to him that the
American Minister, Mr. Mason, was a Virginian.
When he remembered this, his
heart was cheered, and he lost no time in
finding Mr. Mason's house.
Presenting himself before the American
Minister, he related his story, which was not
at first believed. "For," said Mr. Mason,
"there are so many impostors in Paris it is
impossible to believe you."
Robert protested he had been a slave in
Virginia, had been deserted by his owner
in Paris, and begged Mr. Mason to keep him
at his house, and take care of him.
Then Mr. M. asked many questions about
people and places in Virginia, all of which
were accurately answered. Finally he said:
"I knew well the Virginia gentleman who
was, you say, your master. What was the
color of his hair?" This was also satisfactorily
answered, and Robert began to
hope he was believed, when Mr. Mason continued:
"Now, there is one thing which, if you
can do, will convince me you came from
Virginia. Go in my kitchen and make me
some old Virginia beat biscuit, and I will
believe everything you have said!"
"I think I kin, sir," said Robert, and,
going into the kitchen, rolled up his sleeves,
and set to work.
This was a desperate moment, for he had
never made a biscuit in his life, although
he had often watched the proceeding as
"Black Mammy," the cook at home, used
to beat, roll, and manipulate the dough on
"If I only could make them look like
hers!" thought he as he beat, and rolled,
and worked, and finally stuck the dough all
over with a fork. Then, cutting them out
and putting them to bake, he watched them
with nervous anxiety until they resembled
those he had often placed on the table at
Astonished and delighted with his success,
he carried them to the American Minister,
who exclaimed: "Now I
know you came
from old Virginia!"
Robert was immediately installed in Mr.
John Y. Mason's house, where he remained
a faithful attendant until Mr. Mason's
death, when he returned with the family to
Arriving at New York, he thought it impossible
to get along by himself, and determined
to find his master. For this purpose
he employed a policeman, and together they
succeeded in recovering "the lost master," -
this being a singular instance of a "slave
in pursuit of his fugitive master."
The "gold-tipped man" expressed much
pleasure at his servant's fidelity, and, handing
him a large sum of money, desired him
to return to Paris, pay his bill, bring back
his gold dressing box and toilet articles, and,
as a reward for his fidelity, take as much
money as he wished and travel over the
Robert obeyed these commands, returned
to Paris, paid the bills, traveled over the
chief places in Europe, and then came again
to New York. Here he was appalled to
learn that his master had been arrested for
forgery, and imprisoned in Philadelphia. It
was ascertained that the forger was an Englishman
and connected with an underground
forgery establishment in Paris. Finding
himself about to be detected in Paris, he fled
to New York, and, other forgeries having
been discovered in Philadelphia, he had
Robert lost no time in reporting himself
at the prison, and was grieved to find his
master in such a place.
Determined to do what he could to relieve
the man who had been a good friend to
him, he went to a Philadelphia lawyer, and
said to him: "Sir, the man who is in prison
bought me in Virginia, and has been a kind
master to me; I have no money, but if you
will do your best to have him acquitted, I
will return to the South, sell myself, and
send you the money."
"It is a
bargain," replied the lawyer.
"Send me the money, and I will save your
master from the penitentiary."
Robert returned to
Baltimore, sold himself
to a Jew in that city, and sent the
money to the lawyer in Philadelphia. After
this he was bought by a distinguished
Southern Senator - afterward a general in
the Southern army
- with whom he remained,
and to whom he rendered valuable
services during the war. *
. . . . .
Other instances were
known of negroes
who preferred being sold into slavery rather
than take care of themselves. There were
some in our immediate neighborhood who,
finding themselves emancipated by their
master's will, begged the owners of neighboring
plantations to buy them, saying they
preferred having "white people to take care
* General Robert Toombs.
of them." On the Wheatly plantation,
not far from us, there is still living an old
negro who sold himself in this way, and cannot
now to accept his freedom.
After the war, when all the negroes were
freed by the Federal government, and our
people were too much impoverished longer
to clothe and feed them, this old man refused
to leave the plantation, but clung to
his cabin, although his wife and family
moved off and begged him to accompany
"No," said he, "I nuvver will leave dis
plantation, an' go off to starve wid free
Not even when his wife was very sick and
dying could he be persuaded to go off and
stay one night with her. He had long been
too old to work, but his former owners indulged
him by giving him his cabin, and
taking care of him through all the poverty
which has fallen upon our land since the
Many of us remember this old man, Harrison
Mitchell, who was an unusual character,
high-toned and reliable. His father was an
Indian and his mother a negress. He resembled
the Indian, with straight black hair,
brown skin, and high cheek-bones. His
great pride was that he had "cum out de
Patrick Henry estate an use to run a freight
boat wid flour down de Jeemes Ruver fum
Lynchbu'g to Richmon' long fo' dar was a
sign o' town at Lynch's Ferry." But his
great and consuming theme, especially after
the war, was the impossibility of the negroes
taking care of themselves "bedout no white
man," and nothing ever reconciled him to
his own freedom. Taking his seat in our
back porch, where my mother usually entertained
him, we would assemble to hear him
talk. I would ask: "Well, Uncle Harrison,
what do you think of freedom now after ten
"Lord, mistess, what I t'ink o' freedom?
Why, mistess, dese niggers is no mo 'kakalate
to take kur o' deyselves dan 'possum. An' I
tells 'em so. Kase what is a nigger bedout
white man? He aint nuthin', an' he aint
gwine be nuthin' no ways dey fix it. An'
dey aint gwine stay free, base de Lord nuvver
'tends 'um to be nuthin' bedout white folks.
Kase ev'ybody know nigger aint got no
trade. I nuvver want no nigger be takin' kur
o' me. I looks to my white folks to take kur
o' me. I 'lonks to Mar' Robert an' aint
gwine lef his plantation tell I die. What
right Yankees got settin' me free, an' den
karn't take kur o' me? No! niggers is niggers,
an' gwine be niggers, an' white folks
got to take kur on 'em tell end o' screeation.
An' der Lord gwine put ev'y single one
on em back in slavery jes' as sure as you
True to his word, old Harrison refused to
wear an article of clothing "ef de white
folks didn't give it to him." And his daughter,
wishing to give him a blanket, asked her
former young mistress to let him think it
her, or he would not take it.
At last "Mars' Robert" was on his deathbed.
Old Harrison went in to see him for
the last time.
"Mars' Robert," said he, "I got one
reques' to make fo' you die."
"What is it?" asked his master.
"Mars' Robert, I want to be buried right
outside de gate o' de garden lot where you
an' Miss Lucy is buried, so I kin see you
fus' on de mornin' o' de resurrection."
"Harrison, you shall be buried
lot with us," replied "Mars' Robert" distinctly,
and a lady who heard it told me she
never saw such radiant happiness as the old
man's face expressed when these words fell
on his ear.
O BRIGHT-WINGED peace!
thou rest o'er the homes of old Virginia;
while cheerful wood fires blazed on hearth-stones
in parlor and cabin, reflecting contented
faces with hearts full of peace and
good will toward men! No thought entered
there of harm to others; no fear of evil to
ourselves. Whatsoever things were honest,
whatsoever things were pure, whatsoever
things were gentle, whatsoever things were
of good report, we were accustomed to hear
around these parlor firesides; and often
would our grandmothers say:
"Children, ours is a blessed country!
There never will be another war! The
Indians have long ago been driven out, and
it has been nearly a hundred years since the
English yoke was broken!"
The history of our country, to our minds,
was contained in two pictures on the walls
of our house: "The Last Battle with the
Indians," and "The Surrender of Lord Cornwallis
No enemies within or
without our borders,
and peace established among us forever!
Such was our belief. And we wondered
that men should get together and talk their
dry politics, seeing that General Washington
and Thomas Jefferson - two of our Virginia
plantation men - had established a government
to last as long as the earth, and which
could not be improved. Yet they
talk, these politicians, around our parlor fire,
where often our patience was exhausted
hearing discussions, in which we could not
take interest, about the Protective Tariff,
the Bankrupt Law, the Distribution of Public
Lands, the Resolutions of '98, the Missouri
Compromise, and the Monroe Doctrine.
These topics seemed to afford them intense
pleasure and satisfaction, for, as the "sparks
fly upward," the thoughts of men turn to
In 1859 we had a visit
from two old
friends of our family - a distinguished
Southern Senator and the Secretary of
- both accustomed to swaying
* General Toombs and General Floyd. Page 179
by the power of their eloquence -
which lost none of its force and charm in
our little home circle. We listened with
admiration as they discussed the political
issues of the day - no longer a subject uninteresting
or unintelligible to us, for every
word was of vital importance. Their theme
The best means of protecting our plantation
homes and firesides. Even the smallest
children now comprehended the greatest
Now came the full flow
and tide of
Southern eloquence - real soul-inspiring eloquence.
Many possessing this gift
were in the
habit of visiting us at that time; and all
dwelt upon one theme - the secession of
Virginia - with glowing words from hearts
full of enthusiasm; all agreeing it was
better for States, as well as individuals, to
separate rather than quarrel or fight.
But there was one
- our oldest and best
friend - who differed from these gentlemen;
and his eloquence was gentle and effective.
Unlike his friends, whose words, earnest and
electric, overwhelmed all around, this gentleman's
* Charles Mosby.
power was in his composure of manner
without vehemence. His words were well
selected without seeming to have been
studied; each sentence was short, but contained
a gem, like a solitaire diamond.
For several months this gentleman remained
untouched by the fiery eloquence of
his friends, like the Hebrew children in the
burning furnace. Nothing affected him
until one day the President of the United
States demanded by telegraph fifty thousand
Virginians to join an army against South
Carolina. And then this gentleman felt
convinced it was not the duty of Virginians
to join an army against their friends.
About this time we had some very
interesting letters from the Hon. Edward
Everett - who had been for several
years a friend and agreeable correspondent -
giving us his views on the subject, and
very soon after this all communication
between the North and South ceased, except
through the blockade, for four long
And then came the long dark days - the
days when the sun seemed to shine no
more; when the eyes of wives, mothers, and
sisters were heavy with weeping; when men
sat up late in the night studying military
tactics; when grief burdened hearts turned
to God in prayer.
The intellectual gladiators who had discoursed
eloquently of war around our fireside
buckled their armor on and went forth
Band after band of brave-hearted, bright-faced
youths from Southern plantation
homes came to bleed and die on Virginia
soil; and for four long years old Virginia
was one great camping-ground, hospital, and
battlefield. The roar of cannon and the
clash of arms resounded over the land. The
groans of the wounded and dying went up
from hillside and valley. The hearts of
women and children were sad and care-worn.
But God, to whom we prayed, protected
us in our plantation homes, where no
white men or even boys remained, all having
gone into the army. Only the negro
slaves stayed with us, and these were encouraged
by our enemies to rise and slay
us; but God in his mercy willed otherwise.
Although advised to burn our property and
incited by the enemy to destroy their former
owners, these negro slaves remained faithful,
manifesting kindness, and in many instances
protecting the white families and plantations
during their masters' absence.
Oh! the long terrible nights passed by
these helpless women and children, the
enemy encamped around them, the clash of
swords heard against the doors and windows,
the report of guns on the air which might
be sending death to their loved ones!
But why try to describe the horrors of
such nights? Who that has not experienced
them can know how we felt? Who can
imagine the heartsickness when, stealing to
an upper window at midnight, we watched
the fierce flames rising from some neighboring
home, expecting our own to be destroyed
by the enemy before daylight in the same
Such pictures, dark and fearful, were the
only ones familiar to us in old Virginia those
four dreadful years.
At last the end came - the end which
seemed to us saddest of all. But God knoweth
best. Though "through fiery trials" he
had caused us to pass, he had not forsaken
us. For was not his mercy signally shown
in the failure of the enemy to incite our
negro slaves to insurrection during the war?
Through his mercy those who were expected
to become our enemies remained our friends
And in our own home, surrounded by the
enemy those terrible nights, our only guard
was a faithful negro servant who slept in the
house, and went out every hour to see if we
were in immediate danger; while his mother -
the kind old nurse - sat all night in a rocking-chair
in our room, ready to help us.
Had we not, then, amid all our sorrows
much to be thankful for?
Among such scenes one of the last pictures
photographed on my memory was that
of a negro boy who was very ill with typhoid
fever in a cabin not far off, and who became
greatly alarmed when a brisk firing, across
our house, commenced between the contending
armies. His first impulse - as it
always had been in trouble - was to fly to
his mistress for protection, and, jumping
from his bed, his head bandaged with a
white cloth, and looking like one just from
the grave, he passed through the firing as
fast as he could, screaming: "O mistess, take
kur o' me! Put me in yo' closet, and hide
me from de Yankees!" He fell at the door
exhausted. My mother had him brought in,
and a bed was made for him in the library.
She nursed him carefully, but he died in a
day or two from fright and exhaustion.
Soon after this came the surrender at Appomattox,
and negro slavery ended forever.
All was ruin around us, - tobacco factories
burned down, sugar and cotton plantations
destroyed. The negroes fled from these
desolated places, crowded together in
wretched shanties on the outskirts of towns
and villages, and found themselves, for the
first time in their lives, without enough to
eat, and with no class of people particularly
interested about their food, health, or comfort.
Rations were furnished them a short
time by the United States government, with
promises of money and land which were
never fulfilled. Impoverished by the war,
it was a relief to us no longer to have the
responsibility of supporting them. This
would, indeed, have been impossible in our
Years have passed, and the old homes have
been long deserted where the scenes I have
attempted to describe were enacted. The
heads of the families lie buried in the
old graveyards, while their descendants are
scattered from the Atlantic to the Pacific,
always holding sacred in memory the dear
old homes in Virginia.
The descendants of the negroes here portrayed, -
where are they? It would take a
long chapter, indeed, to tell of them. Many
are crowded on the outskirts of the towns
and villages North and South, in wretched
thriftlessness and squalor, yet content and
without ambition to alter their condition.
On the other hand, a good proportion of
the race seek to improve their opportunities
in schools and colleges, provided partly by
the aid of Northern friends, but principally
from taxes paid by their former owners in
spite of the impoverished condition of the
Many have acquired independent homes,
with the laudable purpose of becoming useful
and respected citizens. The majority,
however, are best pleased with itinerary.
It is needless to say that those of the
latter class can never become desirable
domestics in a well-ordered, cleanly house.
And those whose youth has been passed in
schoolrooms, with no training in the habits
of refined life, have not acquired sufficient
education to avail much in the line of letters.
Thus the problem of their race remains
unsolved, even by those who know
it most intimately.
In the matter of classical education the
question occurs: Will the literature of the
one race meet the requirements of the other,
or the heroes and heroines of one be acceptable
to the other? Has not God given each
country its distinct race and literature?
The history of every country occupied by
antagonistic races has been that the stronger
has dominated or exterminated the other.
Thinking of the superficial education at
some of our schools, I am reminded of a
colored boy's subject for a composition.
Not long since a "colored scholar,"
years old, with very fair intelligence,
who had never missed a day at the public
school, was asked by a white gentleman who
was much interested in the boy, and who
often took the trouble to explain to him
words in common use, the meaning of which
the boy was wholly ignorant, -
"Peter, what lessons have you to-night?"
"Well, sir, I got a composition to write
"A composition? What's your subject?"
"Dey tell me, sir, to write a composition
on de administration o' Mr. Pierce."
"Administration of Mr. Pierce!" exclaimed
the gentleman, himself an eminent
journalist and statesman. "And what could
you know about the administration of Mr.
Pierce? Did you ever hear of Mr. Pierce?"
"No, sir, I nuvver has."
. . . . .
The tie which once bound the two races
together is broken forever, and entire separation
in churches and schools prevents mutual
interest or intercourse.
Our church schools are doing much to
elevate and improve the negroes, and we
have to thank many kind, warm friends in
the North for timely aid in missionary boxes,
books, and Bibles to carry on the colored
Sunday-school work in which many Southern
people are deeply interested, without the
means of conducting them as they wish.
The negroes still have a strange belief in
what they call "tricking," and often the
most intelligent, when sick, will say they
have been "tricked," for which they have a
regular treatment and "trick doctors" among
themselves. This "tricking" we cannot
explain, and only know that when one
negro became angry with another he would
bury in front of his enemy's cabin door a
bottle filled with pieces of snakes, spiders,
bits of tadpole, and other curious substances;
and the party expecting to be "tricked"
would hang up an old horseshoe outside of
his door to ward off the "evil spirits."
Since alienated from their former owners
they are, as a general thing, more idle and
improvident; and, unfortunately, the tendency
of their political teaching has been to
make them antagonistic to the better class
of white people, which renders it difficult for
them to be properly instructed. That such
animosity should exist toward those who
could best understand and help them is to
be deplored. For the true negro character
cannot be fully comprehended or described
but by those who, like ourselves, have
always lived with them.
At present their lives are devoted to
a religious excitement which demoralizes
them, there seeming to be no connection
between their religion and morals. In one
of their Sabbath schools is a teacher who,
although often arrested for stealing, continues
to hold a high position in the church.
Their improvidence has passed into a
proverb, many being truly objects of charity;
and whoever would now write a true tale of
poverty and wretchedness may take for the
hero "Old Uncle Tom without a cabin."
For "Uncle Tom" of the olden time, in his
cabin, with a blazing log fire and plenty of
corn bread, and the Uncle Tom of to-day,
are pictures of very different individuals.
sketches of our early
days, I feel that they are incomplete without
a tribute to some of the teachers employed
to instruct us. Even in colonial
days our great-grandfathers had been sent to
England to be educated, so that education
was considered all-important in our family,
especially with my father, who exerted his
influence for public schools and advocated
teaching the negroes to read and write, contending
that this would increase their value
as well as their intelligence.
Determining that my sister and myself
should have proper educational advantages,
he engaged, while we were young children,
a most extraordinary woman to teach us - a
Danish lady, better versed in many other
languages than in our own. Her name
was Henriquez, and her masculine appearance,
mind, and manners were such as to
strike terror into the hearts of youthful
pupils. Having attended lectures at a college
in Copenhagen with several female
friends alike ambitious to receive a scientific
education, Mme. Henriquez scorned feminine
acquirements and acquaintances, never
possessing, to my knowledge, a needle or
thimble. Her conversation was largely confined
to scientific subjects, and was with
men whenever possible, rarely descending
to anything in common with her own sex.
Sometimes in school our recitations would
be interrupted by recollections of her early
days in Copenhagen, and, instead of pursuing
a lesson in geography or grammar, we
would be entertained with some marvelous
story about her father's palace, the marble
stable for his cows, etc. In the midst of
correcting a French or German exercise she
would sometimes order a waiter of refreshments
to be brought into the schoolroom
and placed before her on a small table which
had a history, being made, as she often
related, from a tree in her father's palace
grounds, around which the serfs danced on
the day of their emancipation. She had a
favorite dog named Odin which was allowed
the privilege of the schoolroom, and
any girl guilty of disrespect to Odin was
in serious disgrace.
This Danish lady was succeeded by one of
a wholly different type, all grace and accomplishments,
a Virginian, and the widow
of Major Lomax of the United States Army.
Mrs. Lomax had several accomplished
daughters who assisted in her school, and
the harp, piano, and guitar were household
instruments. The eldest daughter contributed
stories and verses, which were
greatly admired, to periodicals of that day.
One of these stories, published in a Northern
journal, won for her a prize of one hundred
dollars, and the school-girls were thrilled to
hear that she spent it all for a royal purple
velvet gown to wear to Miss Preston's wedding
in Montgomery County.
In this school Mrs. Lomax introduced a
charming corps of teachers from Boston,
most cultivated and refined women, whom
it will always be a pleasure to remember.
Among these were Mrs. Dana, with her
accomplished daughter, Miss Matilda Dana,
well known in the literary world then as a
writer of finished verses.
We had also a bright, sweet-natured little
Frenchwoman, Mlle. Roget, who taught her
Besides these teachers we
had a German
gentleman, a finished pianist and linguist;
and the recollections of those days are like
the delicious music that floated around us
then from those master-musicians.
After such pleasant
school-days at home
we were sent away to a fashionable boarding-school
in the city of Richmond, presided
over by a lady of great dignity and gentleness
of manner, combined with high attainments.
She was first Mrs. Otis of Boston,
and afterward Mrs. Meade of Virginia.
At her school were
collected many interesting
teachers and pupils. Among the
former were Miss Prescott of Boston and
Miss Willis, sister of N. P. Willis, both lovable
Among the noted girls at
school was Amélie Rives
* This interesting girl married Mr. Sigourney of Massachusetts,
and after the war, as she was crossing the ocean
to Europe with her husband and all her children (except
one son) the ill-fated ship sank with nearly all on board.
We have heard that, as the ship was going down, Amélie,
her husband, and her children formed a circle, hand in
hand, and were thus buried in the deep. Page 194
County, Va. She spoke French fluently,
and seemed to know much about Paris and
the French court, her father having been
Minister to France.
We looked upon Amélie with great admiration,
and, as she wrote very pretty poetry,
every girl in the school set her heart upon
having some original verses in her album, a
favor which Amélie never refused.
Closing this chapter on schools suggests
the great difference in the objects and
methods of a Virginia girl's education then
and now. At that period a girl was expected
not only to be an ornament to the
drawing-room, but to be also equipped for
taking charge of an establishment and superintending
every detail of domestic employment
on a plantation - the weaving, knitting,
sewing, etc. - for the comfort of the negro
servants to be some day under her care. I
have thus seen girls laboriously draw the
threads of finest linen, and backstitch miles
of stitching on their brothers' collars and
shirt-bosoms. Having no brothers to sew
for, I looked on in amazement at this dreary
task, and I have since often wished that
those persevering and devoted women could
come back and live their lives over again in
the days of sewing-machines.
At that day the parents of a girl would have
shuddered at the thought of her venturing for
a day's journey without an escort on a railway
car, being jostled in a public crowd, or exposed
in any way to indiscriminate contact
with the outside world, while the proposition
of a collegiate course for a woman would have
shocked every sensibility of the opposite sex.
How the men of that time would stand
aghast to see the girl of the present day
elbowing her way through a crowd, buying
her ticket at the railway station, interviewing
baggage-agents, checking trunks, and seating
herself in the train to make a long journey
alone, perhaps to enter some strange community
and make her living by the practice
of law or medicine, lecturing, teaching, telegraphing,
bookkeeping, or in some other of the various
avenues now open to women!
Whether the new system be any improvement
upon the old remains open for discussion.
It is certain that these widely opposed
methods must result in wholly different types
of feminine character.
THE scenes connected
with the late war
will recall to the mind of every Southern
man and woman the name of Robert E. Lee -
a name which will be loved and revered as
long as home or fireside remains in old Virginia,
and which sets the crowning glory on
the list of illustrious men from plantation
homes. Admiration and enthusiasm naturally
belong to victory, but the man must be
rare indeed who in defeat, like General Lee,
receives the applause of his countrymen.
It was not alone his valor, his handsome
appearance, his commanding presence, his
perfect manner, which won the admiration
of his fellow-men. There was something
above and beyond all these - his true Christian
character. Trust in God ennobled his
every word and action. Among the grandest
of human conquerors was he, for, early enlisting
as a soldier of the Cross, to fight
against the world, the flesh, and the devil,
he fought the "good fight," and
crown awaited him in the "kingdom not
made with hands."
Trust in God kept him calm in victory as
in defeat. When I remember General Lee
during the war, in his family circle at Richmond,
then at the height of his renown,
his manner, voice, and conversation were the
same as when, a year after the surrender, he
came to pay my mother a visit from his
His circumstances and surroundings were
now changed: no longer the stars and
epaulets adorned his manly form; but,
dressed in a simple suit of pure white linen,
he looked a king, and adversity had wrought
no change in his character, manner, or conversation.
To reach our house he made a journey,
on his old war horse "Traveler," forty miles
across the mountains, describing which, on
the night of his arrival, he said:
"To-day an incident occurred which gratified
me more than anything that has happened
for a long time. As I was riding
over the most desolate mountain region,
where not even a cabin could be seen, I was
surprised to find, on a sudden turn in the
road, two little girls playing on a large rock.
They were very poorly clad, and after looking
a moment at me began to run away.
'Children,' said I, 'don't run away.
who I am, you would know
that I am the last man in the world for anybody
to run from now.'
" 'But we do know you,'
" 'You never saw me before,'
I said, 'for
I never passed along here.'
" 'But we do know you' they said.
we've got your picture up yonder in the
house, and you are General Lee! And we
aint dressed clean enough to see you.'
"With this they scampered off to a poor
low hut on the mountain side."
It was gratifying to him to find that even
in this lonely mountain hut the children had
been taught to know and revere him.
He told us, too, of a man he met the same
day in a dense forest, who recognized him,
and, throwing up his hat in the air, said:
please let me cheer you," and fell
to cheering with all his lungs!
. . . . .
My last recollections of General Lee,
when making a visit of several weeks at his
house the year before his death, although
not coming properly under the head of
"plantation reminiscences" may not be
It has been said that a man is never a
hero to his valet; but this could not have
been said of General Lee, for those most
intimately connected with him could not
fail to see continually in his bearing and
character something above the ordinary
level, something of the hero.
At the time of my visit the Commencement
exercises of the college of which he
was president were going on. His duties
were necessarily onerous. Sitting up late at
night with the board of visitors, and attending
to every detail with his conscientious
particularity, there was little time for him to
rest. Yet every morning of that busy week
he was ready, with his prayer-book under
his arm, when the church bell called its
members to sunrise service.
It is pleasant to recall all that he said at
the breakfast, dinner, and tea table, where in
his hospitality he always insisted upon bringing
all who chanced to be at his house at
those hours - on business or on social call.
This habit kept his table filled with guests,
who received from him the most graceful
Only once did I hear him speak regretfully
of the past. It was one night when, sitting
by him on the porch in the moonlight, he
said to me, his thoughts turning to his early
"It was not my
mother's wish that I
should receive a military education, and I
ought to have taken her advice; for," he
continued very sadly, "my education did
not fit me for this civil life."
In this no one could
agree with him, for
it seemed to all that he adorned and satisfactorily
filled every position in life, civil or
There was something in
which naturally pleased everyone without his
making an effort; at the same time a dignity
and reserve which commanded respect
*Here was seen the Mount Vernon silver, which had
descended to Mrs. General Washington's great-grandson,
General Custis Lee, and which was marvelously preserved
during the war, having been concealed in different places -
and once was buried near Lexington in a barn which was
occupied by the enemy several days. Page 201
and precluded anything like undue familiarity.
All desirable qualities seemed united
in him to render him popular.
It was wonderful to observe - in the evenings
when his parlors were overflowing with
people, young and old, from every conceivable
place - how by a word, a smile, a shake
of the hand, he managed to give
and satisfaction, each going away charmed
The applause of men excited in him no
vanity; for those around soon learned that
the slightest allusion or compliment, in his
presence, to his valor or renown, instead
of pleasing, rather offended him. Without
vanity, he was equally without selfishness.
One day, observing several quaint articles
of furniture about his house, and asking Mrs.
Lee where they came from, she told me that
an old lady in New York city - of whom
neither herself nor the general had ever
before heard - concluded to break up housekeeping.
Having no family, and not wishing
to sell or remove her furniture to a boardinghouse,
she determined to give it to "the
greatest living man," and that man was
She wrote a letter asking his acceptance
of the present, requesting that, if his house
was already furnished and he had no room,
he would use the articles about his college.
The boxes arrived. But - such was his
reluctance at receiving gifts - weeks passed
and he neither had them opened nor brought
to his house from the express office.
Finally, as their house was quite bare of
furniture, Mrs. Lee begged him to allow her
to have them opened, and he consented.
First there was among the contents a
beautiful carpet large enough for two rooms,
at which she was delighted, as they had
none. But the general, seeing it, quickly
said: "That is the very thing for the floor
of the new chapel! It must be put there."
Next were two sofas and a set of chairs.
"The very things we want," again exclaimed
the general, "for the platform of the new
Then they unpacked a sideboard. "This
will do very well," said the general, "to be
placed in the basement of the chapel to
hold the college papers!"
And so with everything the lady had sent,
only keeping for his own house the articles
which could not possibly be used for the
college or chapel, - a quaint work-table, an
ornamental clock, and some old-fashioned
preserve-dishes - although his own house
was then bare enough, and the donor had
particularly requested that only those articles
which they did not need at their home
should go to the college.
The recollection of this visit, although
reviving many pleasant hours, is very sad,
for it was the last time I saw the dear, kind
face of Mrs. Lee, of whom the general
once said, when one of us, alluding to him,
used the word "hero":
is the hero. For although deprived of the
use of her limbs by suffering, and unable for
ten years to walk, I have never heard her
murmur or utter one complaint."
And the general spoke truly, - Mrs. Lee
was a heroine. With gentleness, kindness,
and true feminine delicacy, she had strength
of mind and character a man might have envied.
Her mind, well stored and cultivated,
made her interesting in conversation; and
a simple cordiality of manner made her
beloved by all who met her.
During this last visit she loved to tell
about her early days at Arlington - her
own and her ancestors' plantation home -
and in one of these conversations gave me
such a beautiful sketch of her mother -
Mrs. Custis - that I wish her every word
could be remembered that I might write it
Mrs. Custis was a woman of saintly piety,
her devotion to good works having long
been a theme with all in that part of Virginia.
She had only one child - Mrs. Lee -
and possessed a very large fortune. In early
life she felt that God had given her a special
mission, which was to take care of and
teach the three hundred negroes she had
"Believing this," said Mrs. Lee to me,
"my mother devoted the best years of her
life to teaching these negroes, for which
purpose she had a school-house built in the
yard, and gave her life up to this work; and
I think it an evidence of the ingratitude of
their race that, although I have long been afflicted,
only one of those negroes has written
to inquire after me, or offered to nurse me."
These last years of Mrs. Lee's life were
passed in much suffering, she being unable to
move any part of her body except her hands
and head. Yet her time was devoted to
working for her church. Her fingers were
always busy with fancy-work, painting, or
drawing, - she was quite an accomplished
artist, - the results of which were sold for
the purpose of repairing and beautifying the
church in sight of her window, and as much
an object of zeal and affection with her as
the chapel was with the general.
Indeed, the whole family entered into the
general's enthusiasm about this chapel, just
then completed, especially his daughter
Agnes, with whom I often went there, little
thinking it was so soon to be her place of
In a few short years all three - General
Lee, his wife and daughter - were laid here
to rest, and this chapel they had loved so
well became their tomb.
reminiscences resemble a
certain patchwork, made when we were
children, of bright pieces joined with black
squares. The black squares were not pretty,
but if left out the character of the quilt was
lost. And so with the black faces - if left
out of our home pictures of the past, the
character of the picture is destroyed.
What I have written is a simple record of
facts in my experience, without an imaginary
scene or character; intended for the descendants
of those who owned slaves in the
South, and who may in future wish to know
something of the lofty character and virtues
of their ancestors.
The pictures are strictly true; and should
it be thought by any that the brightest have
alone been selected, I can only say I knew
It would not be possible for any country
to be entirely exempt from crime and wickedness,
and in Virginia, too, these existed;
for prisons, penitentiaries, and courts of justice
were here, as elsewhere, necessary; but
it is my sincere belief that the majority of
Southern people were true and good. And
that they have accomplished more than any
other nation toward civilizing and elevating
the negro race may be shown from the following
paragraph in a late magazine:
"From a very early date the French had
their establishment on the western coast of
Africa. In 1364 their ships visited that portion
of the world. But with all this long
intercourse with the white man the natives
have profited little. Five centuries have not
civilized them, so as to be able to build up
institutions of their own. Yet the French
have always succeeded better than the
English with the negro and Indian element."
Civilization and education are slow; for,
says a modern writer:
"After the death of Roman intellectual
activity, the seventh and eighth centuries
were justly called dark. If Christianity was
to be one of the factors in producing the
present splendid enlightenment, she had no
time to lose, and she lost no time. She was
the only power at that day that could begin
the work of enlightenment. And, starting
at the very bottom, she wrought for
hundred years alone. The materials she had
to work upon were stubborn and unmalleable.
For one must be somewhat civilized
to have a taste for knowledge at all; and one
must know something to be civilized at all.
She had to carry on the double work of civilizing
and educating. Her progress was
necessarily slow at first. But after some
centuries it began to increase in arithmetical
progression until the sixteenth century."
Then our ancestors performed a great
work - the work allotted them by God, civilizing
and elevating an inferior race in the
scale of intelligence and comfort. That this
race may continue to improve, and finally
be the means of carrying the Gospel into
their native Africa, should be the prayer of
every earnest Christian.
Never again will the negroes find a people
so kind and true to them as the Southerners
There is much in our lives not intended
for us to comprehend or explain; but, believing
that nothing happens by chance, and
that our forefathers have done their duty in
the place it had pleased God to call them,
let us cherish their memory, and remember
that the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.
he who rules each wondrous star,
marks the feeble sparrow's fall
the destiny of man,
guides events however small.
place of birth, his home, his friends,
planned and fixed by God alone -
lot is cast' - e'en death he sends
some wise purpose of his own."