September 25th, 1866.—Nearly a month since I have opened my diary, but I am busy these fall days. There are so many stitches to take, so many plans to make and remake; visitors coming and going; rides with my Soldier in Gray; long talks with Father in the twilight and helping Mother with the housekeeping, for she has not felt quite well of late. All this keeps me busy but I am happy. One of Father’s favorite sayings is “Happiness is a road-side flower growing on the highway of usefulness.”
Mrs. Kinnebrough is making some dresses for me. She is a good dressmaker and a pleasant lady; a real lady, the daughter of an English clergyman, she is quite pretty, too. It is time to be deciding just what my wedding dress is to be. Sister Mart will soon come home from Tennessee and she will help me to plan.
August 27th, 1866.—The grapes are a little late in ripening this year, they are at their best now and today we have had a couple of dozen friends to feast on them. They brought baskets and took home a goodly share. It is very pleasant to share what we have.
When we were children Mother used to read us stories from “A Father’s Tales to His Daughter,” a lovely little book, now out of print. It was printed in the last century and my copy is worn and old. What I remember best is this, “The Bunch of Cherries,” and the lesson taught (every story in those days had a moral) was “what you possess becomes doubly valuable when you are so fortunate as to share it with another.” A kindly thought, is it not?
August 26th, 1866.—We have to look ahead and plan for the fall wedding which My Soldier pleads for. He was born on All Saints’ Day and he is asking for a birthday gift. It is almost two months off and I have been talking with Mother this morning. I do not want a grand wedding such as my sisters had; circumstances are so different now. Father’s fortune has been swept away by the results of the war. It is true, he still has his land but that is almost valueless at present and it may never bring in anything again as land without labor is a poor proposition.
Father has aged since the surrender and he will never be able to recoup his losses. All this show and expense is wholly unnecessary. What I would like would be a pretty wedding dress, every girl wants that, but I want a quiet wedding with my family and his family present and some of his friends and some of my friends for attendants. Beautiful flowers from Mother’s garden, some of Hattie’s lovely japonicas, simple refreshments and NO WINE.
The Rev. William Esten Eppes, whom both families love, is our choice of a minister. Mother listened to all I had to say and then she said, “I will talk to Mag and Martha about it,” and I knew my cause was lost. Even so it was and I can do no more. Something less grand would suit us better for we are beginning life with “stout hearts an’ willin’ hands but nae siller.”
August 25th, 1866.—This is Father’s birthday and Mother always makes a “Red-letter Day” of it, with the delicacies of which he is most fond. Each of us had a present, selected with reference to his taste. He is sixty-eight today and so handsome.
August 20th, 1866.—This is a quiet neighborhood just now, so many of our number are away for the summer. Uncle Richard and Father do not feel the need of other company, they are so devoted to each other but I am sure Mother feels a little lonely sometimes.
Jordan has gone long ago and she has no regular carriage driver. She misses her drives around the country and the visits to the neighbors. She misses the large force of servants she used to manage so skilfully. Like the rich man in the Bible, she could “say to one go and he goeth and to another come, and he cometh,” and now all is different. The few servants we have are no longer cheerful and willing, they are given to grumpy spells, when they go around muttering to themselves and looking as cross as two sticks. Then, too, we never know at night if we will find any servants at all the next morning; all this is very trying to a housekeeper of the ancient regime.
August 4th, 1866.—I have not made a success of training Frances. She was taught the Ten Commandments. She committed them to memory, each one was carefully explained, but in spite of this I do believe she has broken them all save the sixth, she has not yet been guilty of murder, though I am afraid the will to do it is not lacking.
Mother keeps in her wardrobe a bottle of chloroform, she is very careful of this dangerous medicine and it is used for Mattie when she is suffering with the toothache. Mother locks the door of the wardrobe and usually puts the key under her pillow, but we have not yet become accustomed to the need for a lock and a key and sometimes it is forgotten.
This morning, just before day, Mother was awakened by the strong and penetrating fumes of chloroform. She opened her eyes and there stood Frances pouring the drug out on her pillow. Mother was so drowsy she could not move but by a mighty effort she screamed, this aroused Father and Frances ran, but he was too quick for her and locked the door by which she had entered the house.
She fell on her knees and implored forgiveness; said she was looking for money; said she did not intend to hurt “Miss Patsy,” but when daylight came her mother and her grandparents were summoned and the case laid before them. The result is that they have sent her to an uncle who lives in Tallahassee, with orders never to come here again. I am sure I would be glad to be rid of her, for she has given me more trouble than words can tell.
August 1st, 1866.—There is a new member of the family tonight, Richard McPherson Whitehead. He is named for his uncle Mac, who was killed at Winchester. His father and mother are delighted beyond measure and I believe it is the name more than the baby, as they loved that brother so dearly and mourned him so deeply.
In the New York Metropolitan is an answer to “The Conquered Banner.” It is written by Lord Houghton and is fine, but I wish the English people had discovered their real sentiments while there was yet time to help us; still I must admit it is a beautiful poem.
July 21st, 1866.—This is the anniversary of the Battle of Manassas. How hopeful we were then and it seems ages ago, so much has been crowded into life in these last years. The weather is intensely warm, clouds are gathering and a storm is evidently brewing. That will cool us off. Uncle Randal died today and Father feels it very much. He was so good to his slaves and really fond of them.
July 4th, 1866.—We do not keep the Glorious Fourth ; we feel no thrills of patriotism when the stars and stripes float on the breeze. That is, we are not thrilled with love of country. Our flag has been immortalized by Father Ryan in the “Conquered Banner” and in its furled folds all our love of country, all our patriotism is enfolded.
“Furl that banner, it is gory,
Yet ’tis wreathed around with Glory,
And ’twill live in song and story
Though its folds are in the dust.
For though conquered, we adore it
Low the cold dead hands that bore it
And wildly we deplore it
Furl its folds though now we must.”
There are hard things in life ; we cannot see why and faith must be our guide along this uncertain road. Some day, perhaps, we will understand and in time we may even forgive but never can we forget.
June 5th, 1866.—I will have to do some shopping and I am such a very indifferent shopper, but Mother positively will not go to Tallahassee, while the blue-coats have possession and Sister Mart is not here. Sister Mag is not well enough to trouble her with such things and Aunt Sue has gone away for the remainder of the summer. Father says make a list and give it to him and he will write to Smallwood, Earle & Co., to buy in New York and. ship to him. Mrs. Smallwood is a friend of the family and will select what I describe.
Captain Bernard is going to Europe and will get the silk dresses I need, in France. There is a first-class dressmaker in Tallahassee, so I hope we will not have too much trouble with my trousseau.
I wish they were willing for me to have only simple clothes for I am marrying a poor man and I do not ever intend to live beyond his means. Father would be willing but Mother and the sisters think, because they had these clothes I must have them, too. One thing certain, Father shall not get me any expensive jewelry, he shall not get any at all; I would not see him worried for the most costly gems in the world.