August 24th, Sunday.
Soon after dinner yesterday two soldiers stopped here, and requested permission to remain all night. The word “ soldier “ was enough for us; and without even seeing them, Anna and I gladly surrendered our room, and said we would sleep in Mrs. Badger’s, instead. However, I had no curiosity to see the heroes, and remained up here reading until the bell summoned me to supper, when I took my seat without looking at them, as no introduction was possible, from their having refrained from giving their names.
Presently I heard the words, “That retreat from Norfolk was badly conducted.” I looked up, and saw before me a rather good-looking man covered with the greatest profusion of gold cloth and buttons, for which I intuitively despised him. The impulse seized me, so I spoke. “Were you there?” “No; but near by. I was there with the First Louisiana for ‘most a year.” “Do you know George Morgan?” “Know George? Yes, indeed! You are his sister.” This was an assertion; but I bowed assent, and he went on, “Thought so, from the resemblance. I remember seeing you ten years ago, when you were a very little girl. I used to be at your house with the boys; we were schoolmates.” I remarked that I had no recollection of him. “Of course not,” he said, but did not inform me of his name. He talked very familiarly of the boys, and said he had met them all at Richmond. Next he astounded me by saying he was a citizen of Baton Rouge, though he had been almost four years in New York before the war broke out. He was going to town to look after the “property,” hearing his father had gone to France. An inhabitant of that city, who was so familiar with my brothers and me, and with whom I was not acquainted! Here was a riddle to solve. Let us see who among our acquaintances had gone to France. I could think of none. I made up my mind to find out his name if I had to ask it.
All through supper he talked, and when, in country style, the gentlemen left us at table, I found the curiosity of the others was even more excited than mine. I was determined to know who he was, then.
In the parlor, he made some remark about never having been in ladies’ society the whole time he was in Virginia. I expressed my surprise, as George often wrote of the pleasant young ladies he met everywhere. “Oh, yes!” said monsieur, “but it is impossible to do your duty as an officer, and be a lady’s man; so I devoted myself to my military profession exclusively.” “Insufferable puppy!” I said to myself. Then he told me of how his father thought he was dead, and asked if I had heard of his rallying twenty men at Manassas, and charging a Federal regiment, which instantly broke? I honestly told him, “No.” “Iagoo, the great boaster,” I decided. Abruptly he said there were very few nice young ladies in Baton Rouge. “Probably so, in his circle,” I thought, while I dryly remarked, “Indeed?” “Oh, yes!” and still more abruptly he said, “Ain’t you the youngest? — Yes! I thought so! I remember you when you were a wee thing, so high,” placing his hand at a most insultingly short distance from the floor. “Really I must ask your name,” I said. He hesitated a moment and then said in a low tone, “De J——.” “De —— What?” I absurdly asked, thinking I was mistaken. “A—— de J——” he repeated. I bowed slightly to express my satisfaction, said, “Anna, we must retire,” and with a good-night to my newly discovered gentleman, went upstairs.
He is the one I heard George speak of last December when he was here, as having been court-martialed, and shot, according to the universal belief in the army; that was the only time I had ever heard his name, though I was quite familiar with the cart of De J—— père, as it perambulated the streets. My first impressions are seldom erroneous. From the first, I knew that man’s respectability was derived from his buttons. That is why he took such pride in them, and contemplated them with such satisfaction. They lent him social backbone enough to converse so familiarly with me; without the effulgence of that splendid gold, which he hoped would dazzle my eye to his real position, he would have hardly dared to “remember me when I was a wee thing, so high.” Is he the only man whose coat alone entitles him to respectability? He may be colonel, for all I know; but still, he is A—— de J—— to me. He talked brave enough to be general.
This morning I met him with a cordial “Good-morning, Mr. de J——,” anxious to atone for several “snubs” I had given him, long before I knew his name, last night; you see I could afford to be patronizing now. But the name probably, and the fluency with which I pronounced it, proved too much for him, and after “Good-morning, Miss Morgan,” he did not venture a word. We knew each other then; his name was no longer a secret.