March 20th.—The Merrimac is now called the Virginia. I think these changes of names so confusing and so senseless. Like the French “Royal Bengal Tiger,” “National Tiger,” etc. Rue this, and next day Rue that, the very days and months a symbol, and nothing signified.
I was lying on the sofa in my room, and two men slowly walking up and down the corridor talked aloud as if necessarily all rooms were unoccupied at this midday hour. I asked Maum Mary who they were. “Yeadon and Barnwell Rhett, Jr.” They abused the Council roundly, and my husband’s name arrested my attention. Afterward, when Yeadon attacked Mr. Chesnut, Mr. Chesnut surprised him by knowing beforehand all he had to say. Naturally I had repeated the loud interchange of views I had overheard in the corridor.
First, Nathan Davis called. Then Gonzales, who presented a fine, soldierly appearance in his soldier clothes, and the likeness to Beauregard was greater than ever. Nathan, all the world knows, is by profession a handsome man.
General Gonzales told us what in the bitterness of his soul he had written to Jeff Davis. He regretted that he had not been his classmate; then he might have been as well treated as Northrop. In any case he would not have been refused a brigadiership, citing General Trapier and Tom Drayton. He had worked for it, had earned it; they had not. To his surprise, Mr. Davis answered him, and in a sharp note of four pages. Mr. Davis demanded from whom he quoted, “not his classmate.” General Gonzales responded, “from the public voice only.” Now he will fight for us all the same, but go on demanding justice from Jeff Davis until he get his dues—at least, until one of them gets his dues, for he means to go on hitting Jeff Davis over the head whenever he has a chance.
“I am afraid,” said I, “you will find it a hard head to crack.” He replied in his flowery Spanish way: “Jeff Davis will be the sun, radiating all light, heat, and patronage; he will not be a moon reflecting public opinion, for he has the soul of a despot; he delights to spite public opinion. See, people abused him for making Crittenden brigadier. Straightway he made him major-general, and just after a blundering, besotted defeat, too.” Also, he told the President in that letter: “Napoleon made his generals after great deeds on their part, and not for having been educated at St. Cyr, or Brie, or the Polytechnique,” etc., etc. Nathan Davis sat as still as a Sioux warrior, not an eyelash moved. And yet he said afterward that he was amused while the Spaniard railed at his great namesake.
Gonzales said: “Mrs. Slidell would proudly say that she was a Creole. They were such fools, they thought Creole meant——” Here Nathan interrupted pleasantly: “At the St. Charles, in New Orleans, on the bill of fare were ‘Creole eggs.’ When they were brought to a man who had ordered them, with perfect simplicity, he held them up, ‘ Why, they are only hens’ eggs, after all.’ What in Heaven’s name he expected them to be, who can say?” smiled Nathan the elegant.
One lady says (as I sit reading in the drawing-room window while Maum Mary puts my room to rights): “I clothe my negroes well. I could not bear to see them in dirt and rags; it would be unpleasant to me.” Another lady: “Yes. Well, so do I. But not fine clothes, you know. I feel—now—it was one of our sins as a nation, the way we indulged them in sinful finery. We will be punished for it.”
Last night, Mrs. Pickens met General Cooper. Madam knew General Cooper only as our adjutant-general, and Mr. Mason’s brother-in-law. In her slow, graceful, impressive way, her beautiful eyes eloquent with feeling, she inveighed against Mr. Davis’s wickedness in always sending men born at the North to command at Charleston. General Cooper is on his way to make a tour of inspection there now. The dear general settled his head on his cravat with the aid of his forefinger; he tugged rather more nervously with the something that is always wrong inside of his collar, and looked straight up through his spectacles. Some one crossed the room, stood back of Mrs. Pickens, and murmured in her ear, “General Cooper was born in New York.” Sudden silence.
Dined with General Cooper at the Prestons. General Hampton and Blanton Duncan were there also; the latter a thoroughly free-and-easy Western man, handsome and clever; more audacious than either, perhaps. He pointed to Buck—Sally Buchanan Campbell Preston. “What’s that girl laughing at?” Poor child, how amazed she looked. He bade them “not despair; all the nice young men would not be killed in the war; there would be a few left. For himself, he could give them no hope; Mrs. Duncan was uncommonly healthy.” Mrs. Duncan is also lovely. We have seen her.