E—— owns and lives at this place, and says we cannot stop here; that she does not want any soldiers about her house or place, and that we must move on.’
The General remarked in a laconic style: ‘The devil!
, you have made a mess, I expect.
, I wish you would go to Mrs.
E—, and tell her who we are, and engage what we wish.’
‘All right, sir,’ I said, and I rode forward, full of my mission and confident of a graceful reception.
I got off my horse at the yard gate, tied him to the rack, which at that day was a feature of the landscape never omitted from the picture of the planter's home, went in the yard, and was met by a dignified and most respectful looking darkey, past middle age, whom without introduction I recognized at once as the dining-room servant, butler, or gardner, or factotum generally, who illustrated and adorned every planter's home in those days, and who invariably met the visitor and showed him to the house.
This colored gentleman, with the grace and dignity of manner which such servants of a gentleman's house in old Virginia
caught from constant contact and association with gentlemen, a character which is now dying out, and which never can be reproduced, met me, and said: ‘My mistress, Mrs.
E ——, is a widow, sir
, receives no gentlemen company, and asks that you will excuse her.’
I told him that my business was urgent, and that times were troublous, and probably it would be better for his mistress to see me. With an apology for not taking me into the front way, he led me around to the rear of the house; as I was about to mount the steps of a long portico in the rear, Mrs.
E—— appeared at the top of the steps, and, making no acknowledgment of my salute, remarked: ‘Do not come up the steps, we will have no soldiers here.’
I apologized for my intrusion, said that we had no idea of forcing our way in, but that General Mahone
and his staff, some seven in all, wished to remain all night, that we would like to have some supper and some forage for our horses, and that we would pay in gold for all that we got, besides protecting her premises.
‘No, no,’ she said, ‘she did not intend to have us stop there.’
I was as tired as a man well could be, and really I did not feel like going any further, and I thought I would try the patriotic and sentimental.
I said: ‘So you seriously propose, Madam
, to deny the rights of hospitality, in an old Virginia
home, to one of her most famous generals and his staff, men who, for four long years, have fought your battles, and placed themselves a living wall betwixt yourself and the Northern
vandals who have come down upon ’