March 29th.—I was awakened with a bunch of violets from Mrs. Pride. Violets always remind me of Kate and of the sweet South wind that blew in the garden of paradise part of my life. Then, it all came back: the dread unspeakable that lies behind every thought now.
Thursday.—I find I have not spoken of the box-car which held the Preston party that day on their way to York from Richmond. In the party were Mr. and Mrs. Lawson Clay, General and Mrs. Preston and their three daughters, Captain Rodgers, and Mr. Portman, whose father is an English earl, and connected financially and happily with Portman Square. In my American ignorance I may not state Mr. Portman’s case plainly. Mr. Portman is, of course, a younger son. Then there was Cellie and her baby and wet-nurse, with no end of servants, male and female. In this ark they slept, ate, and drank, such being the fortune of war. We were there but a short time, but Mr. Portman, during that brief visit of ours, was said to have eaten three luncheons, and the number of his drinks, toddies, so called, were counted, too. Mr. Portman’s contribution to the larder had been three small pigs. They were, however, run over by the train, and made sausage meat of unduly and before their time.
General Lee says to the men who shirk duty, “This is the people’s war; when they tire, I stop.” Wigfall says, “It is all over; the game is up.” He is on his way to Texas, and when the hanging begins he can step over into Mexico.
I am plucking up heart, such troops do I see go by every day. They must turn the tide, and surely they are going for something more than surrender. It is very late, and the wind flaps my curtain, which seems to moan, “Too late.” All this will end by making me a nervous lunatic.
Yesterday while I was driving with Mrs. Pride, Colonel McCaw passed us! He called out, “I do hope you are in comfortable quarters.” “Very comfortable,” I replied. “Oh, Mrs. Chesnut!” said Mrs. Pride, “how can you say that?” “Perfectly comfortable, and hope it may never be worse with me,” said I. “I have a clean little parlor, 16 by 18, with its bare floor well scrubbed, a dinner-table, six chairs, and—well, that is all; but I have a charming lookout from my window high. My world is now thus divided into two parts—where Yankees are and where Yankees are not.”
As I sat disconsolate, looking out, ready for any new tramp of men and arms, the magnificent figure of General Preston hove in sight. He was mounted on a mighty steed, worthy of its rider, followed by his trusty squire, William Walker, who bore before him the General’s portmanteau. When I had time to realize the situation, I perceived at General Preston’s right hand Mr. Christopher Hampton and Mr. Portman, who passed by. Soon Mrs. Pride, in some occult way, divined or heard that they were coming here, and she sent me at once no end of good things for my tea-table. General Preston entered very soon after, and with him Clement Clay, of Alabama, the latter in pursuit of his wife’s trunk. I left it with the Rev. Mr. Martin, and have no doubt it is perfectly safe, but where? We have written to Mr. Martin to inquire. Then Wilmot de Saussure appeared. “I am here,” he said, “to consult with General Chesnut. He and I always think alike.” He added, emphatically: “Slavery is stronger than ever.” “If you think so,” said I, “you will find that for once you and General Chesnut do not think alike. He has held that slavery was a thing of the past, this many a year.”
I said to General Preston: “I pass my days and nights partly at this window. I am sure our army is silently dispersing. Men are moving the wrong way, all the time. They slip by with no songs and no shouts now. They have given the thing up. See for yourself. Look there.” For a while the streets were thronged with soldiers and then they were empty again. But the marching now is without tap of drum.