March 10.—Still we go on as heretofore, hoping and praying that Richmond may be safe. Before Mr. Hunter (Hon. R. M. T.) left Richmond, I watched his countenance whenever I heard the subject mentioned before him, and though he said nothing, I thought he looked sad. I know that he understands the situation of affairs perfectly, and I may have fancied the sad look, but I think not; and whenever it arises before my mind’s eye, it makes me unhappy. I imagine, too, from a conversation which I had with Mr. Secretary Mallory, that he fears much for Richmond. Though it was an unexpressed opinion, yet I fear that I understood it rightly. I know that we ought to feel that whatever General Lee and the President deem right for the cause must be right, and that we should be satisfied that all will be well; but it would almost break my heart to see this dear old city, with its hallowed associations, given over to the Federals. Fearful orders have been given in the offices to keep the papers packed, except such as we are working on. The packed boxes remain in the front room, as if uncertainty still existed about moving them. As we walk in every morning, all eyes are turned to the boxes to see if any have been removed, and we breathe more freely when we find them still there.
To-day I have spent in the hospital, and was very much interested in our old Irishman. He has been there for more than two years; first as a patient sent from Drury’s Bluff, with ague and fever. Though apparently long past the military age, he had enlisted as a soldier in a Georgia regiment, but it was soon discovered that he was physically unable to stand camp-life; he was therefore detailed to work in the gardens, which supplied the soldiers at the Bluff with vegetables. He got well, and returned to his post, but was soon sent back again, too sick for service. The climate did not suit him, and when he again recovered Miss T. employed him as gardener and marketman to her hospital. We all became interested in him, because of his quiet, subdued manner, faithfulness to his duty, and respectful bearing. Some months ago his health began to decline, and day after day he has been watched and cared for by the surgeon and ladies with deep interest; but he steadily declines in strength, and is now confined to his cot, and it is but too evident that his end is approaching. We had all remarked that he never alluded to his early history, and was singularly reserved with regard to his religious faith; yet, as long as he was able to go out, he might be seen every Sunday seated alone in a corner of the gallery of St. James’s Church. This evening, as I was walking around the room in which he lies, and had just administered to him some nourishment, he said to me: “When you get through with the men won’t you come back and let me talk to ye?” When I returned and took my seat by him, he looked earnestly in my face, and said: ” Mrs. ——, you have an Irish name—have you friends there?” “No, my husband’s grandfather was from Ireland, but we have no relatives there now.” “Yes,” was his reply, “it is a good name in Ireland, and you have been kind to me, and I want to talk to you a bit before I die. You know that I am a Protestant, and I have been constantly to Mr Peterkin’s church since I came here, because I like the church, and I like him; and I hope that now I am prepared to die. But I was not brought up an Episcopalian in the old country—our house was divided, like.
My father was a Catholic, and my mother was a Presbyterian; neither went to the church of the other, but they were a loving couple for all that. He said to her, when we were but wee things: ‘Mary,’ said he, ‘the children mast go to your church sometimes, and to mine sometimes; you may teach them the Bible; but when they are old enough, they must judge for themselves.’ And so it was; we were obliged every Sunday to go to one church or the other, but we determined for ourselves. I most always went with mother, because she was so good and gentle, and I loved her so much. We grew up a cheerful, happy family. My father was a gardener, three-quarters of a mile from Londonderry; he had a good little farm, and sold his fruit and vegetables in Derry, and had made a great deal of money; and we had a good house, and were so comfortable. We all went to school, and kept on so until I, the eldest child, was grown. In the neighbourhood was a man that my father hated. Oh, how he hated that man! But I loved that man’s daughter; with my whole heart I loved that girl.”
Here his voice became excited, his eyes were suffused with tears, and his emaciated, pock-marked face almost glowed with animation. The room had become still; the sick and wounded and visitors to the room were all listening with deep attention to the old man’s story. “I knew,” he continued, “that my father would see me dead before he would agree to my marrying into that family, and he was a stern man, and I was afraid to let him know; and I tried to get over my love; but I saw her whenever I went to church, and at last I told her that I loved her, and she said she would marry me, and then, Mrs. ——,” he said with energy, “no mortal man could have made me give her up. After awhile my father said to me, ‘Johnny,’ said he,’you are of age, and must work for yourself now; I will give you ten acres of my farm; begin early in spring, break it up, and make a garden; in a few years you will be an independent man.’ Said I, ‘Father, may I put a house on it?’ ‘ No, my son; when I die you will have this house; can’t you live now with your mother and me?’ ‘ But, father,’ said I, ‘suppose I get married, where can I live then?’ ‘If I like the match,’ said he, ‘you may live here.’ I said no more then, but I saw Mary Dare,’ (he added, in a subdued voice, ‘her name was Mary Dare,’) and I told her I would try my father again, and if he would not agree to what I said, I would go to America, and make a home for her. She was distressed, and I was in misery. Towards the spring my father said to me every now and then, ‘Johnny, why don’t you break up your ground? I have seeds for ye; it is time to begin.’ But I could not begin; and I could not tell him why, I had such a dread of him. At last he said, ‘Johnny, you are behindhand; why don’t you go to work?’ I knew from his look that I must speak now, and my mother looked so tender-like into my face, that I said, ‘ Father, I can’t live here, unless I can bring my wife here, or build a house for her. I am going to marry Mary Dare, and if you object to it, I will go to America.’ My father looked sternly at me, and said, ‘I will not have you in my house or on my land, if you marry that girl; think about it; if you will give her up, you may live here and be well off; if not, you can go to America at once, and I will bear your expenses. Let me know to-morrow morning.’ My mother looked heart-broken, but she did not speak. She never opposed my father. This was Sunday. Next morning he asked me if I had made up my mind. I said, ‘Yes, sir; to go to America.’ ‘Then, Johnny, on Wednesday morning I will go to Derry and get you ready.’ On Wednesday he called me to get his pony, and to walk to town, and meet him at a tailor’s. He was there before me, and selected cloth to make me two good suits of clothes. We then went to a draper’s and got linen (for we wear linen in Ireland, not cotton) to make me twelve shirts, and other clothes besides. Then we went to the packet office, where we were told that a packet would sail on that day week for Liverpool, to meet an emigrant ship just ready to sail for New York. He paid my passage without saying a word to me, though his manner was kind to me all the time. As we turned to go home he said, ‘I have four pounds to give you for pocket-money, and I shall deposit fifty pounds in New York for you, which yon can draw if you are in want; but I advise you not to draw it unless you are in want, for it is all I shall give you.’ When we got home my mother collected her friends and neighbours to make my clothes. She and my sisters looked sorry enough, but not a word did they say about it. I knew that my father had told them not to do it, and my heart was too full to speak to anybody except to Mary Dare—she knew that as soon as I could come for her that I would come. When I took leave of my mother she almost died, like. I told her, ‘Mother,’ said I, ‘I am coming back when I am independent, and can do as I please. Write to me, mother dear; I will write to you and my sisters when I get to New York, and tell you where I am;’ and I did write to Mary and to my mother. I could not write to my father; I could not forgive him, when I thought how he had grieved Mary and me; and I could not be deceitful. As soon as I got to New York, I engaged with a gentleman at Williamsburg, on Long Island, to work his garden. For two years I worked, and laid up my wages; and not a single letter came for me. I grieved and sorrowed, and thought about Mary—I thought maybe her letters were stopped by somebody. I knew she would not forget me. Sometimes I thought I would go home to Ireland, and see what was the matter. At last, one day, my employer came into the garden with a newspaper in his hand. ‘Mr. Crumley,’ says he, ‘here is something for you;’ and sure enough there was a line to John Crumley, asking me to meet an old friend that had just come from Derry. I could not work another stroke, but went to the city, and there he was. I asked him first about my mother. ‘All well; I have a letter from her to you.’ ‘And haven’t you another letter? Didn’t Mary Dare write to me?’ ‘Mary Dare!’ he said; ‘don’t you know that Mary Dare died soon after you left the old country?” The old man stopped a moment to recover himself. Then, striking the side of his cot with his hard, sunburnt hand, he added, “Yes, she was dead, and I was then left the lone man that you see me now, Mrs. ——. My mother had not written before, because she hated to distress me, but she wrote to beg that I would come home; my father’s health was failing, and he wanted me, his first-born, to come and take the homestead. But Ireland and home were nothing to me now. I wrote to her that my next brother must take the homestead, and take care of my father and her, God bless her! I should never see Ireland again, but I loved her and my sisters all the same. The next letter was long after that. My mother wrote, ‘Your father is dead; come back, Johnny, and take your own home.’ I could not go; and then I went to Georgia, and never heard from home again. I tried to fight for the South, because the Southern people were good to me, and I thought if I got killed there was nobody to care for me.”
His story was done. He looked at me, and said, “You have all been so good to me, particularly Miss T. God bless you all for it! I am now almost at my journey’s end.” When I looked up I found the men subdued and sorrowful. The story, and the weak, sad tones with which it was told, had touched them all, and brought tears from some.