George William Bagby.

Selections from the miscellaneous writings of Dr. George W. Bagby (Volume 1) online

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would look out of the window a glance, and then to
work and study again. But nothing passed the win-
dow ; days, days, days, and nothing passed the win-


dow. She would not go out ; they might beg, they
might threaten and talk of doctors, but she would
not go abroad. She could get fresh air in the gar-
den, and now\ what were doctors made for, she won-
dered? Yet the dull days sped on, on, on, how
wearily, how lonesomely ! Hope, new-born and full
of vigorous life, was dying ; the light of life wa&
darkened, the star above her shone paler, and the
fresh impulse which had made her heart warm and
the world habitable, was gone. Then why is it al-
ways thus ? then he was announced.

She was not slow to meet him in her own parlor,
nor backward to atone for her rudeness at the party.
Surely, it became her to make his visit a pleasant one,,
so pleasant that he would return again. But he was
calm, and would not respond to her warmth and ani-
mation perhaps she showed her gladness too plainly.
Pained by this thought, she became as cold as himself.

Conversation had not fairly commenced ere he
startled and offended her by asking her to the piano.
She could not refuse, neither could she do herself
justice. "I am only a musical instrument in his
eyes, to which he will listen a little while and go
away and forget it." How cmdd she play ?

" Excuse me, Miss Annie," said he, " but I have
not forgotten the beautiful air which procured for
me the pleasure of your acquaintance. Will you play
it for me now ?"

" I cannot."


"Indeed, I cannot."


Soon he went away, leaving her not altogether at
peace with herself. But he came again, and with the
same petition. The compliment implied in his visit
was destroyed by this request, preferred, as before,
but a few minutes after he entered the room. " He
is in love with the tune," said she, to herself, " I have
heard of such instances before."

She would not play it for him, though he asked a
second and a third time for it. There was a smile of
derision, barely perceptible, but unmistakable, on his

" He thinks me childish. I am not," in wordless
answer to that smile.

He went away, and the weary days began to come^
and go. While the long hours wore on, she thought
to herself: "I w T ill yield next time. I will play it
with all my heart, my soul he shall like it better
than before."

But no sooner was he come than this promise wa&
broken. The old unwillingness and jealousy returned,
to her. Rising to leave, he said :

" I have never before sought a favor so earnestly r
nor will I ever again."

Yet he came back, and though he said not a word-
concerning music, his eyes asked all and more than/
his lips had ever asked. Only once, but very wist-
fully, almost sadly, lie looked towards the piano^
At this, her heart instantly gave way, and, unbidden,
she took her seat at the instrument. His face did
not even brighten. "But why," said she, wheeling
suddenly on the stool, "why are you so anxious to>


tear this air? It is old; you must have heard it
often before you knew me."

"Never, I assure you. It is beyond expression
tender and sweet; it is wild yet sad; the spirit of
freedom, the freedom of the forest and the seas,
breathes through its soft melancholy. I think it
must be original with you. These are reasons suf-
ficient to induce me to ask, but beyond these there
is another stronger than them all."

" Then tell me that reason, or I will not play for you."

"I cannot."

She closed the piano. He took his leave, mani-
festing his displeasure only by the gravity of his
parting words, "I will persist no longer." Fain
would she have called him back after it was too
late. Her satisfied pride assured her that womanly
self-respect demanded kinder treatment toward one
whose only fault was perhaps of her own coining
a suspicion on her part transformed into a defect on
his. If he was in love with her music, was that
cause enough to justify behavior such as hers? It
was not ; her common sense, her conscience told her
it was not. But what waywardness equals that en-
gendered of the purest of emotions, acknowledged or
denied, in woman's breast ?

Her heart told her he would persist, and told her

" Confess the secret reason, and I will play," said
she the moment he came.

Had she not abundant cause for alarm, when he
.answered with all the solemnity of truth :


" In Paris, I was sick- dying, my physicians
thought. Little I cared, for life had never been dear
to me. But as I lay, whether awake or asleep I
knew not, whether dreaming or indulging those
fancies which come with death's shadow I cannot
tell ; while I lay thus, there came to me from the
street it seemed, though the nurse assured me other-
wise an air so like, and yet so unlike, the one you can
play if you will, that the resemblance, if it be a
resemblance, is wonderful even to the borders of the
miraculous. What the echo is to the sound, the
shadow to the substance, the twin brother to the
sister twin, was that air to yours. And yet it dif-
fered in this, that its suggestions were wholly unlike
those produced by yours. That suggested Home, in
its most vivid conceptions of repose, peace, seclusion,
purity, sanctity all that endears life; while yours,
as I have said, suggests freedom, as of a plumed
angel sweeping the starry expanse, joying in his
swift flight, yet carrying with him everywhere the
infinitely tender memories of heaven ; memories pen-
sive because of their unutterable sweetness. I bade
the servant open the window that I might the bet-
ter catch the notes of this ineffable melody. The
moment he did so, it died away ; and often as it re-
turned to me during the night, and often as I bade
him open the window, the same result followed.
"There was, of course, nothing supernatural in this.
Doubtless my brain was excited as the brains of
composers often are, and the melody was within and
not without me. Yet the effect was to arouse and


stimulate me, and this stimulus saved me. Can you 1
wonder that I was startled the night of the party,,
that I immediately sought an introduction to you,
visited you, entreated you time and again, in de-
fiance of my self-respect, to play this air for me, or
that, seeing how closely the story borders on the
marvellous, I should have been loath to tell it to you ?"

"I cannot," she replied, with his own solemnity [;
for the chill and the pallor of that very apprehen-
sion he had striven to disclaim, viz. : of the super-
natural, was upon her "I cannot. I fully believe
this story, nay I know it."

" How ?" asked he quickly.

" Because the melody came to me the very night
it came to you."

" Do you remember the night ?"

" Perfectly."

" "What was it ?"

" The twenty-sixth of August."

" Of the year just gone ?"


He bowed his head upon his palm, and sat nr
sculptured stillness.

" How can this be ?"

Then, with the star of her life shining in full
splendor near her, with the authority of one whose
destiny is assured beyond mischance, she answered :

" Ere very long I will tell you."


Many days after this she was playing the melody
^he loved so well, and which she also, for his sake,

He withdrew the hand that had been hidden
.among her curls.

" Annie, you have never named this air."

" Never until now."

" The name should be sweet. What is it ?"

" Sit down, then."

" Why ?"

" That you may see the name in those grey eyes
which you say reveal so much."

" I see it, plainly," said he.

" Then tell me."

"'The Dryad's Eequiem.'"

She shook her head. " Is it so sad as that ?"

He guessed again. " ' The Naiad's Bridal ?' r

She dissented. " You are not bright this morn-
ing, or else my eyes are dull, /must tell its name."


" LOVE !"

" First or last love ?"

" Both first and last, the one, only love."

" The best possible name. But why have you so
named it ?"

" Now that I have the right, I will tell you."

She told him the school girl's story the history
of her heart from childhood to girlhood, from girl-
liood to womanhood, the pure secret which had re-
vealed and interpreted itself in the air he so dearly


" You must give it another name," said he, when,
she had finished.
" What name ?"
" Call it < Woman's Power.' "
" Why ?"

" Because " he hesitated.
" Because what ?"
" It is omnipotent !"


A LMOST the first words my wife said to me on
_jLJL my return to Richmond after Lee's surrender
were " Richard, speak to Amy : she's been our best

So I " spoke to " Amy, a likely mulatto, which
much embarrassed Amy.

" Why, Ann has not deserted you, surely ?"

" Oh no ; but Ann is in the kitchen now, and you
can speak to her some other time."

Ann and Amy were the only servants we had;
and the night before the fall of Richmond, when I
went into the kitchen to take leave of them, and told
them that the Yankees would be in town the next
morning and they would be free, they asked me what
they had better do.

" Stick to your mistress. Good-bye," was my re-
ply as I hurried away.

And they did stick to her faithfully all through
that dreadful day, when the awful fire was raging,
when fragments of shell were raining on top of our
little home, when the houses across the street were
in flames, and when our own house, on fire a dozen
times, threatened to burn down over their heads,
and every day for three weeks after they had clung


.steadfastly to her, doing everything they could to
cheer, comfort and help her along, and abating not
one jot or tittle of their former respect.

This news pleased me mightily, but did not in the
least surprise me, because I had always had a high
opinion of both Amy and Ann. Trained in the
house, they belonged to the better class of servants,
and were in themselves good-hearted people.

"How have the Yankees treated you?" was my
first question.

" Very well. The morning of the surrender your
father came early through the fire and smoke, bring-
ing me a guard a Pennsylvania boy, a private
quite handsome he was who read his Bible often
during the day, and treated me with the utmost re-
spect. At nightfall he was replaced by an Irishman,
a full-grown man, equally respectful, who paced the
back and front yards all night long, to guard against
fire and to protect us from thieves. He remained
several days, until order was restored in the city and
danger was passed. Other ladies, hearing of his
presence, came and placed themselves under his pro-
tection. He was such a comfort to us that we were
all sorry when he left, and I am sure that I tried to
show my appreciation of him by giving him the
best we had to eat in the house not very good, you
know, but the best we had."

" Haven't you had rations ?"

" Yes, but neither myself nor the servants could
eat the corn and bacon they gave us they are so
coarse, so different from ours."


" Then you like the Yankees, they have been so
kind to you ?"

"What! If Oh, Richard, how can you ask such a

u Why not?"

" Well, the men have been respectful, and the offi-
cers have certainly been very polite they are going
to send two great army-wagons and some men to

move us next week to Mrs. B 's, where I've

rented rooms much better than these we have here,
and the moving will not cost us a cent but but
I can't like them. Don't ask me why. They are so
unlike us, have such a strange pronunciation, and
they have conquered our country ; and and I don't
I can't like them."

" You wait a while. Their kindness will be sure
to break you down."

" Never /" was this rebellious woman's reply.

After our removal to Mrs. B 's we had some

further talk about the Yankees important talk
with a view to our future course in life. My wife's
opinion was, that we had little to hope from them :
they hated us, were doing all they could to humiliate
us, and would continue to do so. I did not agree
with her. My idea was, that the reaction from the
war would be quick and complete; that, as we had
at least shown ourselves to be brave, they would be
as proud of us as the English were of the Scotch
after the union of the two countries; that they
would make much of us, and do all they could to



restore our waste places, in order that the whole
country might prosper.

My idea is still the same. I believe now, not-
withstanding Mr. Lincoln's most unfortunate assas-
sination, that if the politicians and newspaper-men
had given the cue of kindness, the people would
gladly have followed, and that kindness shown so
generally by military men just after the surrender
would have been universally imitated by civilians,
and would surely have broken us down. Restoration
would then have been from the heart, without the
need of complex laws and constitutional amend-
ments. The opposite course was chosen by the au-
thorities in Washington, and the result is before us.
Here I am, Yirginian-like, talking politics when I
started out to tell about Servantgalism. My excuse
is this if, indeed, it were possible for me to help
myself that I have yet to read in a Northern mag-
azine or literary paper the first story, essay or sketch
relating to the war, or the events which followed it,
that was not pretty well peppered with politics, and
very sectional politics at that. But the conquerors
have rights that the conquered have not.

My little debate with my wife ended thus : " While
I believe that the Yankees are going to be kind to
us, even more so than they have been already,
I have no idea of remaining where I am on the
wrong side of the fence. I intend to turn Yankee

" What f" I wish you could have seen my wife's
eyebrows at that moment.


"Richmond is getting to be rather a hot and dark
place for me. Too many impudent negroes here. I
can't help feeling subjugated: can you?"

" No, indeed."

"Well, then, for one, I don't intend to remain a
down-trodden rebel ; I am going to be a free Amer-
ican citizen I am going to Boston."

"Boston /" The poor little soul was aghast, and
fairly screamed.

" Yes, Boston is the place for me. I want to be
in the head-quarters of Yankeedom. The laws
passed for loyal men will be my laws, the tariff
passed for their benefit will be my tariff "

"Desert your country in its hour of trial? Oh,

"My child, if by staying here and sharing the
sufferings of my fellow-rebels (so called), I could do
the least good, you know I would not hesitate an in-
stant. But that is not the question."

"What is it, then?"

"The question is, How am I to make a living
here ? how get food and clothing for you and the
little girl ?"

"Yes, yes," she answered sadly; "I had not
thought of that."

So it came to pass that I went, not to Boston, but
to 'New York, where I remained several months,
enjoying myself very much, as became a free citizen
of the United States. Mrs. Elder that is my wife
unwilling to be left alone in the negro-overwhelmed
city of her nativity, accepted the invitation of a


friend to visit her in a distant State. Amy went
with her; Ann, of course, had to be left behind, and
was discharged.

One day I ran down from 'New York to see Mrs.
Elder. As I drew near the house there was my lit-
tle Virginian toddling about the porch, and there,
too, was the faithful Amy. Ah, how my heart
warmed toward Amy ! how I relied on her !

The weather was intensely hot. Looking from
the porch, my attention was drawn to a white man
who was mowing in a neighboring field. Through
all the blazing hours of the long, long midsummer
day that man swung his scythe, stopping a half hour
for dinner, and never ceasing until the broad red sun
went down in the burning west. Panting in the
shade of the ample porch, I wondered he didn't drop
from sun-stroke.

"Gussie," said I, "who is that man?"

"Why, that is Tom Watson, who used to live in
Giles county."

" You don't tell me so ! I must go to see him."

That very evening I did go to see him, and he
gave me an item in Servantmanism.

" Tom," I asked, " how in the world do you stand
the life you are leading? I wonder it don't kill

" Kill me ! I never had such health in my life ; I
sleep like a top like ten tops. But, Richard"
here his face and his voice fell " my mind is going,
I can actually feel my brain shrinking inside of my
skull. You may laugh, but it is the solemn truth.


Head ! I never read, and I never think ; I have no
time to do either. When I get home at night it is
as much as I can do to milk the cow, chop the wood,
eat my supper, and fall into bed. I'm asleep in a
second. I can't even talk to my wife or play with
my children. And on Sunday I literally rest eat
and sleep. As for going to church, I never think of
it; it is out of the question."

" So, then, you don't believe in the Yankee theory
about the i dignity of labor ?' "

"Not a confounded bit. It is the most infernal
nonsense that was ever uttered."

Do you know that (being a Virginian) it pleased
me hugely to hear Tom say this ?

Then Tom, after explaining why it was that he
couldn't afford to hire "help" on his little farm,
gave me another item, this time about Servantgalism
or rather the want of it and white Servantman-
ism in its stead.

"Are you well acquainted with the old gentleman
your family is staying with?" inquired Tom.

"Well, no I can't say that I am. But why?"

" Because he is the gamest old cock that ever I
heard of."

"How so?"

" Well, a year or so ago, while the war was raging,
the old gentleman's wife, who had just given birth
to a child, was attacked by typhoid fever. There
was not a servant of any kind on the place, not even
a farm-hand, and none to be had, because it was
known that he was a Southern sympathizer. His


only grown son, a chip of the old block, brave as Julius-
Caesar, was in the Confederate army, and the rest of
his children, five or six in number, were all smalL
I did not live in this neighborhood then, but I know
it to be a fact that not a single neighbor came nigh
the old gentleman in his distress. The 'sympa-
thizers' were afraid to come, and the Unionists
would not visit a rebel. The doctor, even, came but
once or twice a week. Now, what did this old aris-
tocrat do? Why, he just did everything. He
washed, he cooked, he ironed, he cleared up the
house, he cut the wood, he brought the water, he
washed and dressed the children, he nursed his wife
by day and night, he attended to the baby, fed it
from the bottle, made up the beds, swept out, dusted
down, and finally, getting his dander up, he sent to
the city for a sewing machine, taught himself to sew
on it, bought patterns, and cut out and actually made
with his own hands clothes for the children, down
even to a dress for the baby!* Now, if that ain't
doing well for a worn-out rebel aristocrat, I'd like
you to say what is doing well. I tell you that the
old fellow deserves as much credit as the most gal-
lant officer in the Southern army."

As Tom Watson was not himself a born aristocrat,,
this deserved and disinterested tribute to a slave-lord
tickled me prodigiously.

"And that is what you all have got to come to in
the South," added Tom.

This did not tickle me at all. But I returned to<

* An actual occurence.


New York in high good-humor, glowing with admir-
ation for the faithful Amy.

Being an exotic, and old at that, transplanting did
not agree with me, and I was forced to get back to
a more congenial climate. At the time of my re-
turn to Virginia, rny wife was visiting a relation in
the tide-water region. After I had been in the house
a few moments I said, very naturally, " I don't see
Amy. Where's Amy ?"

" Deserted me."

" Deserted you ?"

" Yes ; but I think her friends more to blame than
she is."

" We-ell 9 if ever I put faith in a nigger again you
may shoot me."

The county in which we then were had been full
of negroes, many of whom, of course, had gone off ;
still, a great many remained. But not a decent nurse
was to be had for love, money, or blarney. So we
did the best we could without a nurse, and as the
weather was warm and our relative's children helped
us all they could, we got along very well. But after
a time we had to return to Richmond. (You would
like me to call it the " rebel capital," but I won't do


Then came the tug of war to me. Every Sun-
day afternoon, and some of the afternoons during the
week, I had to " mind the child." Do you know
what that is ? If you don't, don't try to find out, or
let anybody force you to find out. The child could
walk a few steps at a time ; she might have walked


farther, a great deal farther, but, to vex me, she
wouldn't. So I had to tote her two-thirds of the
time. I would put her down, and in the sweetest-
tones would say, " Walk across, meese (miss) walk
for farberins-parberins " (abbreviation for farther).
" Walk across, that's a goody girly-purly."

The thing would waddle about ten paces, and then,
holding out its chubby arms, would say in piteous
accents, " Up-a-days."

Accordingly, I upped and daysed her, and toted
her until my left ulna and radius were ready to break-
Oh, how I maledicted the faithless Amy and objur-
gated the Yankees ! At last I discovered a wood-
yard on the bank of the canal, and then, by throw-
ing chips and bits of pine bark and brickbats into the
water, I would sometimes keep the thing quiet and
contented for twenty consecutive minutes. By that
time water-splashing was played out, and I would
have to up-a-days and tote her again. She had learnt
to say " teeple," and if she pointed at the Second
Baptist church and Dr. Hoge's church once and said
" teeple," and I responded once by pointing at Dr.
Hoge's church and the Second Baptist church and
saying " teeple," we pointed and said " teeple " ten
thousand times apiece during those long, hot, hor-
rible, tiresome, Amy-less afternoons. I was sick of
" teeple." If a commission de Lanatico had sat upon
me, and one of its members had chanced to say
" steeple," I would have gone off like a pack of fire-
crackers, and a verdict of non compos would have
been inevitable.


Finding that we must have a nurse, we induced
Amy to return, or rather she asked us to let her
come back, for she loved the " teeple "-pointer. It
was an immense relief, but she was not the Amy to
me that she had been.

Finding that boarding was too expensive, we rented
rooms, the cheapest we could find two rooms and a
half with kitchen privilege for sixty-five dollars a
month ! Very soon a little brother introduced him-
self to Miss Up-a-days, and for many weeks there-
after Mrs. Elder was exceedingly sick. Dark weeks
they were, I assure you. To get bread and meat and
pay that sixty-five dollars a month rent was no easy
matter. In my desperation I tried to obtain the
noble position of sewing-machine agent, and failed.
I projected all sorts of schemes, and actually went to
see a great railroad president, in order to induce him
to join me in organizing a series of grand excursions
from Northern cities to the battle-fields of Virginia.
He was very civil, offered me a free pass over the
whole length of his road and back again, but as for
my scheme he was unable to perceive it. Eventually
I touched bottom by determining to start a newspa-
per, the prospectus of which I wrote out in full, and
now have in my possession, but nothing less than two
dollars (the subscription price, invariably in advance,
of my paper) would induce me to part with it.

Just at this terrible time we discovered Amanda.
Ah, Amanda was such a treasure ! She was a light
gingercake-colored girl, with hair like an Indian's,
only it waved, and she had had her dose of Yankees !


That was a great card in our favor. Running away
from her master, she had found at Fortress Monroe
bad shelter, bad food, hardly any clothing, not very
kind treatment, and a plenty of ague and fever, with'
mercury and salivation to match. She knew her
business as nurse and house-cleaner thoroughly, and
we knew that she would stick to us.

So she did for a good long time eighteen months,.

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Online LibraryGeorge William BagbySelections from the miscellaneous writings of Dr. George W. Bagby (Volume 1) → online text (page 21 of 27)