December 20

It's rumored we are to move camp in a day or two; wish they would allow us to stay here; had monthly inspection at 3 o'clock p. m.; men in good condition considering. Captain Day was our inspecting officer. Captain G. E. Davis has gone to City Point; returned at 9 o'clock p. m.; got me two wool blankets; rumored in camp Jeff Davis is dead; don't believe it.

December 20, 1863

Sunday. To-day has been my well day. That is I felt so much better I got out for a walk and took in a church on the way, where I heard a part of a sermon in English. The walk has made me feel almost like myself. If I don't get another setback to-morrow I will be all right again. I got hold of a New Orleans paper to-day, printed October 22, 1861. It is amusing to us, but it cannot be so to the Rebels, to read what they then planned to do and then to look about and see what they have done.

December 20, 1862

One day is so much like another that the history of one will do for several. I think about everything that can be done for our comfort is being done. There must be some reason for our being kept here and it is probably because of so much sickness. It would not do to take us where others would catch our diseases and yet it is tough lines we are having. Chaplain Parker does everything he can to keep up our spirits, even to playing boy with us. A new doctor has come to take the place of one that died while we lay off Newport News.

Sunday, 20th , 6 p.m.—At last we are on our way back to Boulogne and mails, and the News of the War at Home and Abroad. At Rouen, or rather the desert four miles outside it, we only see the paper of the day before, and we miss our mails, and have no work since unloading on Friday. This morning was almost a summer day, warm, still, clear and sunny. We went for a walk, and then got on with painting the red crosses on the train, which can only be done on fine days, of which we've had few. The men were paraded, and then sent route-marching, which they much enjoyed. It was possible, as word was sent that the train was not going out till 1.30. It did, however, move at 12, which shows how little you can depend on it, even when a time is given. They had a mouth-organ and sang all the way.

December Twentieth

The Convention of 1787 was composed of members, a majority of whom were elected to reject the Federal Constitution; and it was only after the clause declaring that “the power granted under the Constitution being derived from the people of the United States, may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury and oppression, and that every power not granted thereby remains with them at their will,” was inserted in the ordinance of ratification, that six or more of the majority opposed to the measure consented to vote for it. Even with this accession of strength the Constitution was carried only by a vote of 89 to 79.

(From Editorial Article in Charleston “Courier,” 1861 )

 

South Carolina secedes, 1860

 

 

Mem-Sahib

      "Her life is lone. He sits apart;
        He loves her yet: she will not weep,
        Tho' rapt in matters dark and deep
      He seems to slight her simple heart.

      "For him she plays, to him she sings
        Of early faith and plighted vows;
        She knows but matters of the house,
      And he, he knows a thousand things."

[December 20, 1879.]

I first met her shepherding her little flock across the ocean. She was a beautiful woman, in the full sweetness and bloom of life. [The mystery of early wifehood and motherhood gave a pensiveness to her soft eyes; but her voice and manner disclosed the cheerful confidence of perfect health and a pure heart.] Her talk was of the busy husband she had left, the station life, the attached servants, the favourite horse, the garden, and the bungalow. Her husband would soon follow her, in a year, or two years, and they would return together; but they would return to a silent home—the children would be left behind. She was going home to her mother and sisters; but there had been changes in this home. So her thoughts were woven of hopes and fears; and, as she sat on deck of an evening, with the great heart of the moon-lit sea palpitating around us, and the homeless night-wind sighing through the cordage, she would sing to us one of the plaintive ballads of the old country, till we forgot to listen to the sobbing and the trampling of the engines, and till all sights and sounds resolved themselves into a temple of sentiment round a charming priestess chanting low anthems. She would leave us early to go to her babies. She would leave us throbbing with mock heroics, undecided whether we should cry, or consecrate our lives to some high and noble enterprise, or drink one more glass of hot whiskey-and-water. She was kind, but not sentimental; her sweet, yet practical "good-night" was quite of the work-a-day world; we felt that it tended to dispel illusions.

She had three little boys, who were turned out three times a day in the ultimate state of good behaviour, tidiness, and cleanliness, and who lapsed three times a day into a state of original sin combined with tar and ship's grease. These three little boys pervaded the vessel with an innocent smile on their three little faces, their mother's winning smile. Every man on the ship was their own familiar friend, bound to them by little interchanges of biscuits, confidences, twine, and by that electric smile which their mother communicated, and from which no one wished to be insulated. Yes, they quite pervaded the vessel, these three little innocents, flying that bright and friendly smile; and there was no description of mischief suitable for three very little boys that they did not exhaust. The ingenuity they squandered every day in doing a hundred things which they ought not to have done was perfectly marvellous. Before the voyage was half over we thought there was nothing left for them to do; but we were entirely mistaken. The daily round, a common cask would furnish all they had to ask; to them the meanest whistle that blows, or a pocket-knife, could give thoughts that too often led to smiles and tears.

Their mother's thoughts were ever with them; but she was like a hen with a brood of ducklings. They passed out of her element, and only returned as hunger called them. When they did return she was all that soap and water, loving reproaches, and tender appeals could be; and as they were very affectionate little boys, they were for the time thoroughly cleansed morally and physically, and sealed with the absolution of kisses.

I saw her three years afterwards in England. She was living in lodgings near a school which her boys attended. She looked careworn. Her relations had been kind to her, but not warmly affectionate. She had been disappointed with the welcome they had given her. They seemed changed to her, more formal, narrower, colder. She longed to be back in India; to be with her husband once more. But he was engrossed with his work. He wrote short letters enclosing cheques; but he never said that he missed her, that he longed to see her again, that she must come out to him, or that he must go to her. He could not have grown cold too? No, he was busy; he had never been demonstrative in his affection; this was his way. And she was anxious about the boys. She did not know whether they were really getting on, whether she was doing the best for them, whether their father would be satisfied. She had no friends near her, no one to speak to; so she brooded over these problems, exaggerated them, and fretted.

The husband was a man who lived in his own thoughts, and his thoughts were book thoughts. The world of leaf and bird, the circumambient firmament of music and light, shone in upon him through books. A book was the master key that unlocked all his senses, that unfolded the varied landscape, animated the hero, painted the flower, swelled the orchestra of wind and ocean, peopled the plains of India with starvelings and the mountains of Afghanistan with cut-throats. Without a book he moved about like a shadow lost in some dim dreamland of echoes.

Everyone knew he was a scholar, and his thoughts had once or twice rung out to the world clear and loud as a trumpet-note through the oracles of the Press. But in society he was shy, awkward, and uncouth of speech, quite unable to marshal his thoughts, deserted by his memory, abashed before his own silences, and startled by his own words. Any fool who could talk about the legs of a horse or the height of the thermometer was Prospero to this social Caliban.

He felt that before the fine instincts of women his infirmity was especially conspicuous, and he drifted into misogyny through bashfulness and pride; and yet misogyny was incompatible with his scheme of life and his ambition. He felt himself to be worthy of the full diapason of home life; he desired to be as other men were, besides being something more.

      [Greek: Kakon gynaikes all' homos, o daemotai,
     Ouk estin oikein oikian aneu kakou.
      Kai gar to gaemai, kai to mae gaemai, kakon.]

So he married her who loved him for choosing her, and who reverenced him for his mysterious treasures of thought.

There was much in his life that she could never share: but he longed for companionship in thought, and for the first year of their married life he tried to introduce her to his world. He led her slowly up to the quiet hill-tops of thought where the air is still and clear, and he gave her to drink of the magic fountains of music. Their hearts beat one delicious measure. Her gentle nature was plastic under the poet's touch, wrought in an instant to perfect harmony with love, or tears, or laughter. To read aloud to her in the evening after the day's work was over, and to see her stirred by every breath of the thought-storm, was to enjoy an exquisite interpretation of the poet's motive, like an impression bold and sharp from the matrix of the poet's mind. This was to hear the song of the poet and Nature's low echo. How tranquilising it was! How it effaced the petty vexations of the day!—"softening and concealing; and busy with a hand of healing."

      Tale tuum carmen nobis, divine poeta,
      Quale sopor fessis in gramine, quale per æstum
      Dulcis aquæ saliente sitim restinguere rivo.

But with the advent of babies poetry declined, and the sympathetic wife became more and more motherly. The father retired sadly into the dreamland of books. He will not emerge again. Husband and wife will stand upon the clear hill-tops together no more.

Neither quite knows what has happened; they both feel changed with an undefined sorrow, with a regret that pride will not enunciate. She is now again in India with her husband. There are duties, courtesies, nay, kindnesses which both will perform, but the ghost of love and sympathy will only rise in their hearts to jibber in mockery words and phrases that have lost their meaning, that have lost their enchantment.

      "O love! who bewailest
        The frailty of all things here,
      Why choose you the frailest
        For your cradle, your home, and your bier?

      "Its passions will rock thee
        As the storms rock the raven on high;
      Bright reason will mock thee
        Like the sun from a wintry sky.

      "From thy nest every rafter
        Will rot, and thine eagle home
      Leave thee naked to laughter
        When leaves fall and cold winds come."

Ali Baba, K.C.B