October 19th, Sunday.
What an unexpected change! I am surprised myself! Yesterday as the Baton Rouge party were about leaving, Miriam thought Lilly would be lonesome alone here with her sick baby, and decided that we should leave by the cars, and stay with her until mother returned. There was no time to lose; so dressing in haste, we persuaded Anna to accompany us, and in a few moments stood ready. We walked down to the overseer’s house to wait for the cars, and passed the time most agreeably in eating sugar-cane, having brought a little negro expressly to cut it for us and carry our carpet-bag. Three young ladies, who expected to be gone from Saturday until Wednesday, having but one carpet-bag between them! Can it be credited? But, then, we knew we had clothes here, and depended upon them for supplies, when we now find they are in the trunk and mother has the key.
We walked aboard alone, in the crowded train, and found ourselves in the only car reserved for ladies, which was already filled with a large party returning from Port Hudson, consisting of the fastest set of girls that I have seen for some time. Anna and I had to content ourselves with a seat on a small box between the benches, while Miriam was established on the only vacant one, with a sick soldier lying at her feet. The fast girls talked as loud as possible and laughed in a corresponding style in spite of the sick man. They must have been on a picnic, from the way they talked. One in a short dress complained that she had not seen her sweetheart. A pert little miss of thirteen cried, “You can bet your head I never went to any place where I did not see one of my sweethearts.” One of about seventeen, a perfect beauty, declared she would die of thirst. “So will I! and I don’t want to die before I get a husband!” exclaimed her vis-à-vis. They evidently expected to produce an impression on us. At every “brilliant” remark (“stupid” understood), they looked at us to see what we thought. All of them sat with bare heads in the strong light, an unfailing proof of la basse classe on steamers and cars. Every time my veil blew aside, they made no difficulty about scanning my features as though they thought it might be agreeable. I must confess I was equally impolite in regard to the Beauty; but then her loveliness was an excuse, and my veil sheltered me, besides. While this young Psyche was fascinating me, with her perfect face and innocent expression, one of her companions made a remark — one that I dare say is made every day, and that I never imagined could be turned into harm. My Beauty uttered a prolonged “Oh!” of horror, and burst out laughing, followed by all the others. My disgust was unspeakable. Mock modesty is always evident. A modest girl could not have noticed the “catch”; the immodest, on the lookout for such an opportunity, was the only one who could have perceived it. Well! after all, no one can be perfect; this may be the single stain on my Beauty, though I confess I would rather have any other failing than this, almost.
Putting this aside, I hardly know which I was most amused by: the giddy, lively girls to my right, or the two ladies to my left who were as cross and ill-natured as two old cats and railed unmercifully at the silly creatures behind them, and carried their spite so far as to refuse to drink because the conductor (the husband of one of them) gave the young ladies water before passing it to their two elders. Did n’t the poor man get it! She would n’t taste a drop of that nasty dirty drippings, that she would n’t! Might have had the decency to attend to his kinfolks, before them creatures! And why did n’t he wait on those two young ladies behind her? He did ask them? Well, ask them again! they must want some! Poor Henpecked meekly passed the can again, to be again civilly declined.
I confess the “drippings” were too much for me also, though I did not give it as my excuse. Mrs. Hen recommenced her pecking; poor Mr. Hen at last surlily rejoined, “For Heaven’s sake, don’t make a fuss in the cars,” with an emphasis on the last word that showed he was accustomed to it at home, at least. With my veil down, I leaned against the window, and remembering Colonel Breaux’s remarks two nights before concerning cross people, I played his “little philosopher” for the remainder of the journey.
At sunset we walked in at Lilly’s gate, and astonished her by standing before her as she sat alone with her poor sick little Beatrice in her arms. . . .