A Confederate Girl’s Diary

Beech Grove,
September 6th, Saturday.

Another perch for Noah’s duck! Where will I be in a week or two from this? I shall make a mark, twenty pages from here, and see where I shall be when I reach it. Here, most probably; but oh, if I could then be at home! General Carter, who spent the evening with us day before yesterday, remarked that the first thing he heard as he reached town was that all the gentlemen and ladies of Clinton were hunting for country lodgings for us. It was pretty much the case. The General was as kind as ever, bless his gray head! and made us promise to go back to Linwood with him when he passes back next week. This is the way we keep the promise — coming out here.

Early yesterday morning we received a note from Eliza Haynes, one of our indefatigable agents, saying her grandmother, Mrs. McCay, had consented to receive us, and would come for us in the evening. Immediately my packing task was begun. But imagine my disappointment, just as I had finished one trunk, to hear mother announce her determination to let us go alone, while she remained with Lilly! Prayers, entreaties, tears, arguments, all failed; and we were forced to submit. So with a heart fuller than I can express, I repacked the trunk with Miriam’s and my clothing, and got ready to depart. In the evening the carriage drove up to the door with Eliza and her grandmother, and with a hasty and rather choky good-bye to Lilly and mother, we were hurried in, and in another moment were off.

I fancied the house would be north of Clinton, so of course the horses took the road south. Then I decided on a white cottage to the left of the mad, and about two miles out, found that it was to the right, not painted, and no cottage at all, but a nondescript building, besides. “’T was ever thus from childhood’s hour!” When did I ever fancy anything exactly as it was? But the appearance does not affect the house, which is really very comfortable, though apparently unfinished. The same objection might be made to it that I made to Mrs. Moore’s, for there is not a shutter on the place. But fine shade trees take their place, and here I do not feel the want of them so much, as our room is in the back of the house, to the west, where the rising sun cannot salute my nose as it did at Mrs. Moore’s. As to what effect the setting sun has, I must wait for the evening to decide, though I always enjoy that. At Greenwell, we used to walk a mile away from home to see the sun set in an open field.

I find Mrs. McCay an excellent, plain old lady, with neither airs nor pretentions, and very kindhearted. Here she lives alone, with the exception of an orphan girl called Jane, whose position, half-menial, half-equal, it would be hard to define. Poor girl! the name of orphan alone was enough to make me sorry for her. She must be “Friday’s child”! she is so “ready and willing.” Eliza, who it seems stays a great deal with her grandmother, is one of the brightest little girls I have seen for a long while. She sings and plays on the piano with a style and assurance that I can only mutely covet. Why cannot I have the confidence I see all others possess? She took me to the gin-house last evening, though I could not see much, as it was almost sunset when we arrived. An early tea, and singing, and music after, completed our evening, and then we were shown to our room.

Mrs. McCay has only room for us two, so it is fortunate that mother would not come. She says she wants us to spend a few days with her, to see if we like it, or if we will be willing to be separated from mother. In the mean time, we can look around for lodgings in a larger and more comfortable place where we can be together. She tells such stories about the house Lilly lives in, of its age, and unhealthiness, that I am frightened about mother. She says she will die if she stays there this month. Miriam and Eliza have gone to town to see them, and are then going to Mrs. George’s to see if she can accommodate us.

I wanted to have a splendid dream last night, but failed. It was pleasant, though, to dream of welcoming George and Gibbes back. Jimmy I could not see; and George was in deep mourning. I dreamed of fainting when I saw him (a novel sensation, since I never experienced it awake), but I speedily came to, and insisted on his “pulling Henry Walsh’s red hair for his insolence,” which he promised to do instantly. How absurd! Dreams! dreams! That pathetic “Miss Sarah, do you ever dream?” comes vividly back to me sometimes. Dream? Don’t I! not the dreams that he meant; but royal, purple dreams, that De Quincey could not purchase with his opium; dreams that I would not forego for all the inducements that could be offered. I go to sleep, and pay a visit to heaven or fairyland. I have white wings, and with another, float in rosy clouds, and look down on the moving world; or I have the power to raise myself in the air without wings, and silently float wherever I will, loving all things and feeling that God loves me. I have heard Paul preach to the people, while I stood on a fearful rock above. I have been to strange lands and great, cities; I have talked with people I have never beheld. Charlotte Brontë has spent a week with me — in my dreams — and together we have talked of her sad life. Shakespeare and I have discussed his works, seated tête-â-tête over a small table. He pointed out the character of each of his heroines, explaining what I could not understand when awake; and closed the lecture with “You have the tenderest heart I have ever read, or sung of” — which compliment, considering it as original with him, rather than myself, waked me up with surprise.


A Confederate Girl’s Diary by Sarah Morgan Dawson

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