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Chapter 14

THE BEGINNING OF STRIFE


“Pride in their port,

Defiance in their eye,

I see the lords of humankind pass by.”


I had written home many times since we left Memphis, and had fully described all that we had seen and heard, as well as all that had happened to us, and I had received several letters in reply to mine. But all had made me a little anxious about my mother’s health, and I knew that she was fretting about our being so far from England. “Death cannot so completely separate us, Milly,” she wrote; “indeed, when I am dead, I shall often be close to you.” She was right. Time and distance are two sharp swords. Distance cuts apart, and time teaches forgetfulness.

Now trouble of all kinds is voluble, and has plenty of words, but happiness was never written down. Happiness is like religion; it is a mystery, and should not be explained or reasoned about. I find it difficult to put into words the pictures of the life full of all things good, which God gave me for the next four years, and I am glad that it had the little shadows necessary for its full flavor and strength. For it is a poor, weak happiness that is devoid of small worries and disagreeables; these things being the tonic bitters without which we should weary even of our pleasures.

So I had differences of opinion with my hired slaves. I did not understand the negro woman then, any better than I understand the Finnish or Irish woman now. I thought right was always right, and that all women, of whatever race, ought to do right; and Robert’s advice about “making allowances” was not agreeable. Robert himself did not always deserve, or, at least obtain, my approval; and my friends did and said things I thought they ought not to do and say. The children would play down at the creek, soil and tear their dresses, and then be sure to show themselves when they were not fit to be seen. Sometimes the dinner was a failure, sometimes the weather was all wrong for my purposes, sometimes I did not get the letter I was expecting.

For my twenty-sixth birthday Robert had bought me a piano, and it did not arrive in Austin until two weeks after it was due. I had not touched a piano for more than a year, and my fingers ached for the ivory keys. Those two weeks were hard to bear. I forgot all my other blessings. I knew that if hope brightened life, patience strengthened it, but I did not want to exercise patience at this time, and I worried all the pleasure out of the gift before I received it. I was sorry enough afterwards, but I could not undo the wrong. I had spoiled the gift by those self-inflicted wounds, which are always lost griefs. The piano has gone, I know not where, but the memory of my fretful unreasonableness is still with me, and can still cause me moments of keen sorrow and chagrin.

On July the second, A.D. 1857, I had a son, and all other joys were forgotten in the delight of this event. Early in the morning I had sent Mary and Lilly to the hotel to spend the day with Jenny Smith, and neither Robert nor I remembered them, till the negro woman, at eight o’clock at night, reminded us of their absence. Then I laughed and looked at the boy lying at my side, and Robert laughed and said that he had “forgotten”; my thoughts flew back to the birth of my eldest brother at Shipley, and to my jealousy of the attentions he received. It was my mother then. Now it was I. I looked again at the boy, but I resolved to be particularly affectionate to the two girls when they reached home, which they did about nine o’clock, weary and sleepy, and wondering why they had been neglected so long. Nor were they any more impressed with their first brother, than my sister Jane and I had been with ours. Mary asked what he was called; and when I answered, “His name is to be Calvin,” she said, “Oh!” and Lilly said, “What a queer name!” Then I asked if they did not remember Calvin Fackler, their father’s friend in Memphis, and they went sleepily to their bed, without any further notice of their new brother.

Soon after this event I received my first copy of Harper’s Weekly. It had no illustrations then, but I have never forgotten a story I read in its pages, called “The White Cat.” A few numbers later the illustrations began—the clever but terrible ones relating to the Sepoy rebellion. These illustrations were reproduced from a prominent London paper, and I had no intimation then of a coming day when the arrival of the regular pictures from London papers at Harper Brothers, would mean to me a respectable part of my income. These first pictured scenes of the mutiny had, however, to Robert and myself a powerful personal interest. Often we recalled the dream which had prevented us from going to Calcutta, and sent us westward to New York instead. For, when we cannot be guided by the ordinary course of events, the bars of the body are unlocked at dark, sleep falleth on the sensitive soul, and it is warned, or taught by dreams, which are the walking of God through sleep.

After Calvin’s birth I began to be very uneasy about my mother’s health. She no longer spoke of our meeting again; she wrote shorter and shorter letters, and her clear, fine writing was shaken and changed. It had always had one marked peculiarity—a frequent disconnection of letters that should have been united—a signal and exclusive sign, occultists say, of a spiritual nature ever ready to detach itself from the material, and endowed with high psychic powers. This diagnosis would be very true in my mother’s case: she lived in the visible, but was always ready for the invisible. Such tendencies, however, were in her day unrecognized, and those who possessed them were shy of admitting the fact. The church universally considered all phenomena it did not promulgate as a new kind of sin. Even John Wesley’s psychic intelligence was regarded as a lapse of his usual wisdom, and his book embodying it carefully consigned to oblivion. So Mother told me visions and warnings she never named to Father and rarely to my sister Jane, who was not mystical in any form. If a vision or dream was in the Bible, Father and Jane believed it firmly, if it was not in the Bible, they had serious doubts. And I have always felt that this want of spiritual confidence between my father and mother was a great wrong to their love. It wounded it in its noblest attributes; it denied it expansion in its purest aspirations; it ignored too often the spiritual bond between them, which, if given its due regard, is far, far stronger than any tie mere flesh and blood can form. But we cannot cross a stile till we come to it, and the world is even now only just beginning to seek after that sixth sense, lost in the abyss of some great moral fall.

At this time Mother was not fifty-two years old, and an Englishwoman of that age should be in the plentitude of her beauty and vigor. But she had worn life away in an unbroken service of love, for which she was physically most unfit; for, in those days there were no trained nurses, no anodyne to ease severe pain, except laudanum; no alleviations, either for the sick, or for those whose affection bound them to help and comfort the sick. She was not fifty-two and dying, and she knew it. But many afflictions and one Love had made strong her faith, and she said in her last letter to me, “I am no longer anxious about your dear father. The everlasting arms are his support and refuge. My watch is nearly over, your little sisters must take my place. They know who will help them. We shall meet again, Milly, but not in this world, darling, not in this world.”

With the Holy Name on her lips, she went away simply and solemnly, as if fulfilling some religious rite. I received the news of her departure one day when the house was full of company. I put the letter in my breast and said no word about it, for it was only to God I could speak of this sorrow; the common words of sympathy the news would have evoked, could not have comforted me. Even when Robert’s tears mingled with mine, for he loved her dearly, I was not consoled. For a long time, daily life felt thin and haggard. I had no mother to write to, and my heart was troubled because I knew that I might have written to her oftener. I might have given her hopes that would have made death easier. Oh, why had I not done these things? For it is not the flowers on the coffin, but the flowers we strew on the daily life of our dear ones that show the true affection. And it was too late! O daughters of good mothers, give while God permits you, the kind words, the smiles of understanding affection, the little attentions and gifts, that will brighten your mother’s last days. I do not know why I should have written “daughters of good mothers.” God makes no exceptions in his positive command to “Honor thy Father and thy Mother.”

I might have done more! that was the bitter refrain that for a long time made all my memories of the sweetest, tenderest mother sorrowful. But she has forgiven me long ago, and the vast breadth and depth of the river of death is now constantly bridged by our thoughts of each other. We walk far apart, but when I think of her, I know that she is thinking of me, and I wave my hand in greeting to her. Does she see the lifted hand? I believe she does. Why do I believe it? Because the soul is a diviner, and the things it knows best are the things it was never told. Whatever it divines, is revealed truth. Whatever it is told, may either be doubted or received.

For nearly a year after the birth of Calvin, there was not much change in the domestic life of Austin. The days slipped into weeks and months, and were, as the waves of the ocean, all alike, and yet all different. But early in 1859 changes so great were present, that it was impossible any longer to ignore them. There were bitter disputes wherever men were congregated, and domestic quarrels on every hearthstone, while feminine friendships melted away in the heat of passionate arguments so well seasoned with personalities. There were now three distinct parties: one for remaining in the Union; a second which demanded a Southern Confederacy, and a third which wished Texas to resume her independence and to fly the Lone Star flag again. It was a quarrel with three sides, and the women universally entered into it, with so much temper, that I could not help thinking they had all exercised too much long suffering in the past, and were now glad of a lawful opportunity to be a little ill-natured.

It may be strange, but it is the truth, that I seldom heard slavery named as a reason for secession. The average Texan had but a slight security for his slaves. The journey to the Rio Grande was not long or difficult for a man bent on freedom, who was sure to be succored and helped by every party of Indians or Mexicans he met. Arriving at the river, he had only to walk across some one of its shallow fords, and touch land on the other side a free man. The number of slaves who freed themselves by this way was considerable every year, and I heard many slave owners say that they would be well satisfied to give their slaves freedom on such terms as the English slave owners obtained. What really excited them was the question of state rights. They were furious with the United States Government’s interference in their state’s social and domestic arrangements. They would not admit its right to do so, and were mad as their own prairie bulls, when compulsion was named. I heard arguments like these, both from men and women constantly; they talked of nothing else, and the last social gathering at my house was like a political arena.

So I was not sorry when on April the sixteenth, my daughter Alice was born, and I could retire for a few weeks into comparative solitude, and peace. Robert brought me the news from the Capitol every day, and it was as uncertain and changeable as the wind. One day war was inevitable, and Houston was coming from Washington to lead the Unionist party; and perhaps the next day it was the pen, and not the sword, that would settle the matter. I began to grow indifferent. “The quarrel is all bluster,” I said to Robert, “and their talk of war will fizzle out, some way or other, into a question of dollars and cents.” And I was vexed because Robert shook his head at my opinion, and replied, “Well, Milly, I heard George Durham say something like that this morning, and an old Texan in the crowd told him he was all wrong. ‘We are against seceding just now,’ he said, ‘but we shall be drug into it, and then we’ll be so all-fired mad, we’ll fight like a lobos wolf, who, the longer he fights, the better he fights.’”

“You always look at the dark side, Robert,” I complained; and he sighed and answered wearily, “It is generally the right side, Milly.”

One night, after a long, anxious day, I was conscious of that peculiar disturbance of heart and body, which warns of latent enmity or coming danger. My flagging soul felt

“As if it were a body in a body,

And not a mounting essence of fire.”



and though Robert was near me, I thought myself the most forlorn of women. All the sorrow of the world seemed to surround me, unseen, yet full of motion, and the terror of the dark grew, and my soul trembled in all her senses. Then I fell asleep—the dreary sleep of an unhappy, fearful woman. I was on a vast plain, dark and lonely, with the black clouds low over it, and the rain falling in a heavy, sullen downpour; and, as I stood with clasped hands, but without the power to pray, a great white arch grew out of the darkness. It seemed high as heaven, and wide as the horizon, and I wondered at its beauty and majesty. But, as I looked, I saw a black line down the center of it grow to a visible break, and this break grow wider and wider, until one-half of the arch fell to the ground, amid groans and cries, far off, but terrible. At the same moment I saw a Presence of great height, dim and shadowy, standing beside the ruined arch, and he cried for the birds of prey in a voice that filled all space. Turning north, and south, and east, and west, he cried, “Come! and I will give you flesh to eat!

From this dream I awoke in a maze of awe and wonder. I rose and went to the open door, and stood leaning against its lintel, carefully thinking over every detail of what I had seen and heard. It was hardly dawn, and that most pathetic of all objects, the waning moon, was sinking low to the horizon, and the whole world was wrapped in a gray mystery. For a few moments I saw Nature in those ineffable moments when she was asleep—so still, so cool, so soft and vapory in all her tints—her very face shrouded in a mist-like veil. I turned to Robert; he also was asleep, but I felt that I must tell him the message given me, while the spirit of it was still on me. I awakened him, and he listened in silence to what I had to say; but when I ceased speaking, he sighed and answered,

“It is war, then, Milly, and may God help us!”

“It is war, long and cruel war, Robert. What shall we do? Will you return to England? You know Sister Mary told us in her last letter, that your mother wished you to come home, and would do all she could to help you.”

“Nothing could induce me to go back to Scotland,” he answered positively.


“Then where shall we go?” I asked.

“Let us remain here, in Austin. I like the people, and I like the country. I am willing to share its fortune, war or peace—if you will share it with me.”

“Robert!” I said fervently, “your country is my country, and your friends are my friends.”

“Well, then, dear, we have been warned, and we must not neglect the warning. We must make all the preparation possible.”

“You must have a good deal of money saved, Robert?” I asked.

“No, Milly, I have not. I have invested all the extra money I made in land,” he answered. “I was working for our own little plantation some day.”

Then I asked if, in the changes likely to occur, he would be in danger of losing his position in the comptroller’s office, and he said, “It is possible. The United States Government has been kind and generous to me,” he added, “and I have no intention of taking any oath against it.”

“But if Texas should become a republic again?”

“She will not. Her enormous wealth is yet undeveloped. She has no money to carry on a government. I know that positively.”

We sat talking of probabilities until the dawn grew to sun-rising, and then we rode out to Mr. Illingworth’s place, and had our cup of coffee with him and his wife. And one of the first things he said was, “I tell you, Barr, there will be a turning up and out in the government offices when Houston comes home.”

“He is coming, then?” asked Robert.

“Yes. You will see him some morning soon, sitting in front of Tong’s grocery, looking like a lion, and wearing a Serape Saltillero[3] like a royal mantle. I can’t help admiring the man, though I do not like him. In a far-off way he reminds me of Oliver Cromwell.”

“Where is he now?”

“In some small room in a Washington hotel, faithfully attending every session of the Senate, and every meeting of the Baptist church, and unceasingly whittling hearts and anchors, and other such toys out of a bit of pine wood.”

“Whittling in church, and the Senate House?”

“In both places, in every place, and you will see him soon whittling in front of Tong’s grocery.”

We did not see him until the fall, when he ran for the governorship of Texas against his old enemy, Governor Runnels, whom he quickly talked out of political existence, and then seated himself in the Governor’s chair. I do not intend to trouble my readers with the political events of that date, excepting as they affected my own life; and, although General Houston is the grandest and most picturesque figure in American history, I shall refrain myself from magnifying either his exploits, character, or personality. Are they not written in the books of the historians, and in my own novel, “Remember the Alamo”? However, for a short space it will be necessary to note the conditions of affairs in Austin; for it was then the background of my story, but I shall do this without prejudice, and without unnecessary length of words.

An immense crowd came into Austin to witness Houston’s inauguration, and for long it did not altogether leave the city. The sweet, quiet, flower-scented streets were no longer haunted on moonlight nights by white-robed girls, and lovers singing “Juanita” to their tinkling guitars. They were full of rangers and frontiersmen, of deserting United States soldiers, waiting to join the Confederate army, and of little squads of Lipan or Tonkaway Indians, who were the spies and scouts of the United States army in their constant warfare against the cruel and hostile Comanche and Apache tribes. Yet a very handsome party of Apaches, under the watchful eyes of an Indian agent, visited Houston; for, over all Indians, Houston had an extraordinary influence. I do not remember being told that they had come with offers of peace and alliance, but I think they would not have been permitted to enter Austin under any other pretext. For there was speaking, and often quarreling at every gathering point, and not unfrequently the warning sound of a rifle or pistol shot. And, if a real scrimmage had arisen among the white men of the three parties, it would have been an enjoyable circumstance to either Apache or Comanche.

So I also kept quietly at home, teaching my two eldest girls and a few others, for about three hours daily. I did not in any respect keep a school as I did in Chicago, but I had always about four or five girls whose education I looked a little after. I did this first, for the sake of teaching, which was then, as it is to this day, a delight to me, provided I have a bright, eager scholar. Secondly, I retained my friends of all parties through their daughters. Thirdly, I loved then, as I do yet, the company of girls. I was their confidant and friend, as well as their teacher. They brought me intelligence from all quarters, and they told me their sweet, little personal secrets. I have never forgotten some of these girls, and they have never forgotten me.

Thus I passed three or four hours every day in a manner I particularly liked, and for the rest it went in looking after my dear children’s physical necessities, in humoring and pleasing Robert, and seeing that his special comforts were attended to, and in bearing, as well as human nature could do, the laziness, ignorance, and cunning diableries of the negroes in the kitchen. There was little visiting, the proud, retiring nature of the Southern woman showing itself as soon as strangers and crowds became common in Austin. In these days the pretty young girls in their white frocks and white sunbonnets vanished from the streets; and the men who strutted about them, or loafed on chairs a-tilt under the trees, moving round with the shadow all day, showed plainly the daily deterioration of masculine humanity left to its own devices and desires.

Houston’s complete defeat of Runnels was considered a great triumph for the Unionist party, and his influence undoubtedly put off secession for another year. This was the year 1860, during the whole of which there was the same restless looking forward to the war, every one felt was inevitable, if Mr. Lincoln was elected President. I kept quietly at home. Robert brought me the news and not infrequently a visitor whom he thought would interest me. One afternoon he wrote, saying, “The Indian agent and three of the chiefs in town will take supper with us,” and I was asked to set a plentiful table. In this visit I took the greatest possible interest. I brought out my best damask, and the richly gilded china that Robert’s mother had given me for a wedding present. She regarded it as almost too splendid to use, and I could not help a little laugh, when I imagined her sensations, if she could see these half-clothed savages drinking tea out of them. Then I regretfully sighed, “Poor Mother!” For my heart had turned a little towards her, since she had wished Robert to come home. I adorned the table with flowers, and saw that chicken in every form was prepared, and cakes, and pies in profusion. The party arrived promptly, and I was introduced to the members who composed it. The agent was a charming young man, full of all kinds of information, but in the Indians I was much disappointed.

They were uncivil, self-centered, and could speak no English. And they did not know how to eat the good things provided for them, for they ate and drank every item of the meal by itself—vegetables alone, meat alone, bread alone, and the only dish that appeared to please them, was some cream and white of egg savored with vanilla and whipped as stiff as possible. They laughed over this delicacy, exchanged grunts of satisfaction, and handed me their glasses to be refilled. After supper I played and sang for them. They watched me curiously, but without pleasure, and were more interested in finding out where the music came from than in the music itself. So Robert opened the instrument, let them inspect the interior to see how the hammers struck the wires, and they watched with fear and wonder, and exchanged looks and interjections that expressed these emotions. To me there was something pathetic, and yet obscene, in this shameless exhibition of big, strong men clad like warriors, showing the fear and wonder of little children. I told Robert to bring no more friendly savages to see me, and that night I prayed with all my heart for any white woman who might fall into their power.


During the summer of this year, 1860, there was a sudden lull in events, but it was only the lull of warriors breathlessly watching. On the election of Mr. Lincoln to the Presidency, they sprang as one man to arms. Secession was now certain, and Houston found himself compelled to summon a general convention, which met in Austin on the twenty-seventh of January, 1861. It submitted secession to a popular vote, and adjourned. I was present at this decision, and wondered at the crowd of excited men submitting to the delay.

“We are laggards! Laggards in duty!” cried an old frontiersman; and Houston replied with calm dignity,

“Sir, we are acting as trustees for posterity. It becomes us to do all things decently, and in order.”

A loud, confused rattle of side arms was the only audible reply. It might have been an assent to Houston’s opinion, but it was more likely to be a promise, that the duty would be fully redeemed.

I did not wonder at the old man calling Texans “laggards,” for, immediately after the election of Mr. Lincoln, South Carolina seceded; Mississippi followed her in three weeks; Florida went out on January the tenth, 1861; Alabama, on January the eleventh; Georgia, on January the nineteenth; Louisiana, on January the twenty-fifth; so that, when Houston called the Texas convention, six states had already made preparations for meeting on February the fourth, at Montgomery, Alabama, to organize a provisional Congress of Confederate States. Robert told me that, in a conversation in the Governor’s office, some one spoke scornfully of this meeting, and Houston replied,

“Sir, it is an unlawful meeting, but it cannot be a contemptible one, with such men as ex-President Tyler, Roger A. Pryor, and our own Wigfall leading it.”

“Is that all, Robert?” I asked, for I was always delighted to hear anything about Houston.

“Very nearly. Some one added, ‘There is Jefferson Davis, also.’”

“Oh! What did Houston say?”

“He said, ‘I know Jefferson Davis, and I did not mention him, because I know him. He is proud as Lucifer and cold as a lizard.’”

Then I had one of those unreasonable certainties, that are all-convincing to the people who have them, and sheer foolishness to all ignorant of their irresistible testimony; and I said, “Houston is right; my lips shiver if they utter his name. He will bring ill-luck to any cause.”

On the eighteenth of February, General Twiggs, the United States commandant, surrendered to Houston all the national forces in Texas—twenty-five hundred men, and national property valued at $1,200,000. Five days afterwards, the vote on secession was taken. There were forty thousand for secession and fourteen thousand against it. These were anxious, eager days, and it was impossible to avoid catching the popular fever. The convention met again on the second of March, and on the fifth it at once adopted measures for entering the Southern Confederacy, to which new government all state officers were commanded to take the oath of allegiance on the fourteenth of March.

With two friends I went to the Capitol to witness the ceremony, and, as we had seats in the front of the gallery, we looked down directly upon a desk just below us, on which the Ordinance of Secession was spread out. One of my companions was a most passionate Unionist, and she pointed out the document with an unspeakable scorn and contempt. The House was crowded; it was really electrified with the fiery radiations of men tingling with passion, and glowing and burning with the anticipation of revengeful battle. And the air was full of the stirring clamor of a multitude of voices—angry, triumphant, scornful, with an occasional oath or epithet of contempt.

But when Houston appeared there was a sudden silence. It was the homage involuntarily paid to the man himself, not to his office. Firmly and clearly, he refused to take the oath of allegiance to the Confederate States; but the Lieutenant-Governor, a certain Edward Clarke, was eager to do so. He was an insignificant creature, whose airy conceit was a direct insult to Houston’s sad countenance and dignified manner; and I remember well how contemptible he appeared, as spry and pert, he stepped up to the bar of the House to take the oath. Just as he reached the desk, on which the Ordinance of Secession lay, my Unionist friend, a bright, clever girl, of about sixteen years old, leaned forward and spit directly on the centre of it. There was a little soft laughter from the women sympathizers who saw the action, and Clarke’s handkerchief lay for a moment on the historical parchment, but there was no remark, and the incident caused not the slightest interruption.

“Why did you do that, Lucille?” I asked.

“To express my opinion. Did you see Clarke’s handkerchief?”

“Yes.”

“Then I suppose he got what I sent. And it is in Clarke’s handkerchief! In Clarke’s pocket! Poor spittle! What an ignominy!

Two days afterwards Clarke was made Governor in place of Houston. Changes in all the government offices were likely to follow, and I could not help feeling anxious concerning Robert’s position. About certain things he could be so stubborn. Men are made that way. They have prejudices, and they call them principles, and then—sink or swim, they stick to them.

Now an unreasonable detestation of slavery was one of Robert’s prejudices or principles. He would not allow that under any circumstance it could be right, and all his sympathies were with the slave. The majority of our small matrimonial frets were on this subject. If he had been compelled to tew with, and to bear every hour of the day the thieving, lying, and laziness of the three in our kitchen, his pity for their condition would have been much modified. I used to tell him this whenever the subject came up, but I could not make him understand my position, because he lifted his argument out of the personalities in our kitchen, and laid all their sins on the condition of slavery. If he had been an unmarried man, I am sure he would have gone to the Union army, but, being caught by circumstances in a southern city, where he had been generously and kindly treated, he felt, I think, much like Naaman, the Syrian, when he begged God’s pardon because circumstances compelled him to bow down in the house of Rimmon.


But, if the question of slavery became a test question, there was no telling what might happen, especially if it became a case of conscience, for Scotchmen have an historical record for enjoying “persecution for righteousness’ sake.” Then there was his English citizenship. He had always refused to give it up, and how could he expect a new government to pass by his allegiance, for the sake of his financial knowledge. These questions troubled me much, as I sat sewing through the long, sweet spring days.

One morning I walked to Henrick’s store very early. They were just opening it, and I sat down and waited. Suddenly through the clear, cool air came the sound of military music, and the tramp of marching men. It was the Second Texas, mustering for their march to the seat of war. What a sight it was! Not one man in it weighed under one hundred and eighty pounds, and the majority made the scale beam kick at two hundred pounds. They were all very tall, wiry men, with not one ounce of superfluous flesh on their big frames—straight as their own gun barrels, with up-head carriage and full of that kind of spirit we call “mettle” in a horse. My eyes filled with tears, and involuntarily I prayed for the men as they passed. Alas, the Second Texas has a record unsurpassed for bravery and misfortune! Its fine young captain was killed at Corinth, and not a single man ever returned to Texas. Some years after all of this splendid band of men had passed from life and almost from memory, I had an opportunity of reading a letter which contained the following passage,

“On the second night of the fight at Gettysburg, I was roused from my sleep to help a friend look for his missing comrade. We went to the battlefield and stepping among the shattered wrecks of humanity, we turned up the dead faces to the moonlight. Suddenly we heard a broken voice muttering, ‘Second Texas! Second Texas!’ It was the man we wanted. A cruel minie ball had ploughed out both his eyes, and he was otherwise fatally wounded. He was almost dead, and among the last of the gallant company, that I had watched march so proudly and joyfully to meet their fate.”


I came home from Henrick’s store much depressed. The brooding calamities of the Second Texas had affected me. I felt the doom that hung over them, though I would not entertain it. Near home I met two girls whom I knew. Their brothers were in the company; they had driven them into it, and they were now crying because they had succeeded in doing so. “What unreasonable creatures women are!” I thought. However, in a great many cases, it was the women of a family who compelled the men to enlist as soldiers, by a course of moral suasion no man with any feeling could endure. They would not eat with them, speak to them, or listen if spoken to. They ignored all their personal necessities, or met them with constant tears and voiceless reproaches, and what man could bear his family weeping over him, as if he was already dead to their love and respect? The middle-aged, and the old men needed no such treatment; they were generally hot and ready to fight for their ideas. The young fellows wanted a tangible fact, and the saving of their slaves did not tempt them easily to risk their own lives.

On April the fifteenth, 1861, my daughter Ethel was born. She was the loveliest babe I ever saw, and I was so proud of her beauty, I could hardly bear her out of my sight. Before she was two months old, she showed every sign of a loving and joyous disposition. If I came into the room she stretched out her arms to me; if I took her to my breast she reached up her hand to my mouth to be kissed. She smiled and loved every hour away, and the whole household delighted in her. Robert could refuse her nothing; no matter how busy he was, if she sought his attention, he left all and took her in his arms. I forgot the war, I forgot all my anxieties, I let the negroes take their own way, I was content for many weeks to nurse my lovely child, and dream of the grand future she was sure to have.

Yet during this apparently peaceful pause in my life, the changes I feared were taking place. The new Governor was dismissing as far as he could all Houston’s friends, and Robert had been advised to resign before his sentiments concerning slavery, state rights, and his own citizenship came to question.

“As things stand,” Mr. Durham said to him, “your good will is taken for granted. You have been prudent, and no one has been curious enough to make inquiries. Better retire for a while; you will be wanted when things are more settled.”

So Robert “retired,” but he did not tell me so, until Ethel was two months old and I was in more radiant health and spirits than I had been for some months. Of course I was shocked at first, but easily convinced all had been done for the best, especially as Robert had all the private accounting business he could do, and he had never yet failed me. In all the changes I had seen, I had never wanted anything necessary for comfort. So I said cheerfully to myself, “God and Robert are a multitude,” and my bread will be given, and my water sure.

The summer came on hot and early, and was accompanied by a great drought. Pitiful tales came into town of the suffering for water at outlying farms, the creeks having dried up, and even the larger rivers showing great depletion. Then the cattle and game began to die of thirst, and of some awful disease called “black tongue.” Thousands lay dead upon the prairies, which were full of deep and wide fissures, made by the cracking and parting of the hot, dry earth.

The suffering so close at hand made me indifferent to what was going on at a distance, and also all through that long, terrible summer, I was aware that Robert was practicing a very strict personal economy. So I was sure that he was not making as much money as he expected to make, and when he asked me, one day, if I could manage with two servants, I was prepared to answer,

“Dear, I can do with one, if it is necessary.” And I was troubled when he thankfully accepted my offer.

To be poor! That was a condition I had never considered, so I thought it over. We could never want food in Texas, unless the enemy should drive his cannon wheels over our prairies, and make our old pine woods wink with bayonets. Then, indeed, the corn and the wheat and the cattle might be insufficient for us and for them, but this event seemed far off, and unlikely. Our clothing was in far less plentiful case. My own once abundant wardrobe was considerably worn and lessened. Robert’s had suffered the same change, and the children’s garments wanted a constant replacing. But then, every one was in the same condition; we should be no poorer than others. A poverty that is universal may be cheerfully borne; it is an individual poverty that is painful and humiliating.

Slowly, so slowly, the hot blistering summer passed away. It was all I could do, to look a little after my five children. I dressed myself and them in the coolest manner, and the younger ones refused anything like shoes and stockings; but that was a common fashion for Texan children in hot weather. I have seen them step from handsome carriages barefooted, and envied them. People must live day after day where the thermometer basks anywhere between 105 degrees and 115 degrees, to know what a luxury naked feet are—nay, what a necessity for a large part of the time.

Not a drop of rain had fallen for many weeks, and, when the drought was broken, it was by a violent storm. It came up unexpectedly one clear, hot afternoon, when all the world seemed to stand still. The children could not play. I had laid Ethel in her cot, and was sitting motionless beside her. The negroes in the kitchen were sleeping instead of quarreling, and, though Robert and I exchanged a weary smile occasionally, it was far too hot to talk.

Suddenly, the sky changed from blue to red, to slate color, and then to a dense blackness, even to the zenith. The heavens seemed about to plunge down upon the earth, and the air became so tenuous, that we sighed as men do, on the top of a high mountain. Then on the horizon there appeared a narrow, brassy zone, and it widened and widened, as it grew upward, and with it came the fierce rush and moan of mighty winds, slinging hail-stones and great rain-drops, from far heights—swaying, pelting, rushing masses of rain fell, seeming to displace the very atmosphere. But, Oh, the joy we felt! I cried for pure thankfulness, and Robert went to a shaded corner of the piazza, and let the rain pour down upon him.

When the storm was over, there was a new world—a fresh, cool, rejoicing world. It looked as happy as if just made, and the children were eager to get out and play in the little ponds. Robert and I soon rallied. The drop in the temperature was all Robert needed, and I had in those days a wonderful power—not yet quite exhausted—of recuperation. If a trouble was lifted ever so little, I threw it from me; if a sickness took but a right turn, I went surely on to recovery. So as soon as the breathless heat was broken, I began to think of my house and my duties. The children’s lessons had been long neglected, and my work basket was full to overflowing with garments to make and to mend.

Very quickly I was so busy that I had no time for public affairs, and then the war dragged on so long, that my enthusiasm was a little cooled. Also I was troubled somewhat by Robert’s continued lack of employment. Food and clothing was dearer, and money scarcer than I had ever before known them, and Robert had become impatient and was entertaining a quite impossible idea—he wanted to rent a farm and get away from the fret and friction of the times. I pointed out the fact that neither of us knew anything about farming, and that Texas farming was special in every department. But in those days it was generally supposed that any man could naturally farm, just as it was expected that every girl naturally knew how to cook and to keep house. At any rate, the idea had taken possession of him, and not even the probability of prowling savages was alarming.

“All that come near the settlements are friendly,” he said, “or if not they are too much afraid of the Rangers to misbehave themselves.”

“But, Robert,” I answered, “very few of them think killing white women and children ‘misbehavior.’”

There is however no use in talking to a Scotchman who has made up his mind. God Almighty alone can change it, so I took to praying. Perhaps it was not very loyal to pray against my husband’s plans, but circumstances alter cases, and this farming scheme was a case that had to be altered.

Events which no one had foreseen put a stop to this discussion at least for a time. In the soft, hazy days of a beautiful November, a single word was whispered which sent terror to every heart. It was a new word—the designation of what was then thought to be a new disease, which had been ravaging portions of the Old World, and had finally appeared in the New. I had seen it described in Harper’s Weekly, and other New York papers, and I was afraid as soon as I heard of it. Robert came home one day and told me Mrs. Carron’s eldest daughter was dead, and her other daughter dying. Every hour its victims seemed to increase, and by December all of my friends had lost one or more of their families. I remained closely at home, and kept my children near me. Though they did not know it, I watched them day and night.

On the eighth of December near midnight, I noticed that Ethel had difficulty in nursing and appeared in great distress, and I sent for the doctor with fear and trembling.

Diphtheria!” he said; and the awful word pierced my ears like a dart, and my spirit quailed and trembled within me. For no cure and no alleviations had then been found for the terrible malady, and indeed many people in Austin contended that the epidemic from which we suffered, was not diphtheria, but the same throat disease which had slain the deer and cattle by thousands during the summer.

In the chill gray dawn of the ninth, as the suffering babe lay apparently unconscious on my knees, the Angel of Death passed by, and gave me the sign I feared but expected—a warning not unkind but inexorable. The next twenty-four hours are indescribable by any words in any language. A little before they ended, the doctor led me into another room. Then I fell on my face at the feet of the Merciful One, and with passionate tears and outcry pleaded for her release—only that the cruel agony might cease—only that—dear, and lovely, and loving as she was, I gave her freely back. I asked now only for her death. I asked Christ to remember his own passion and pity her. I asked all the holy angels who heard me praying to pray with me. If a mortal can take the kingdom of heaven by storm, surely my will to do so at that hour stood for the deed. Breathless, tearless, speechless, I lay at last at His Mercy. And it faileth not! In a few minutes Robert entered. He looked as men look who come out of the Valley of the Shadow of Death. I thought he also was dying. I stood up and looked anxiously into his face, and he drew me to his heart, and said softly, “All is over, Milly. She has gone.”


What I suffered for many weeks only God knows, but at last he took pity on my grief, and comforted me. One night Robert had gone to some public meeting, the children were asleep, and I was walking up and down the parlor floor, whispering to my heart my dead baby’s name. There was a lamp on a small marble table which I had pushed aside, in order to get the full length of the room for my restless feet. On this table there were a few books, and one small one was lying open, face down upon the marble. Without thought I lifted it, and finding a leaf crumpled, I mechanically began to straighten it. In doing so, my eyes fell on two lines; from the rest of the page they stood out as if illumined, and this was the message they brought me,

“Weep not for her, she is an angel now,

And treads the sapphire floors of Paradise.”


I saw nothing but these two lines. I wanted nothing more. They held a strange and heavenly comfort for me. I kissed them reverently and put the book in my bosom. Later I saw that they were part of a poem by a prominent writer for Blackwood’s Magazine, called Moir, a name well known in the early part of the nineteenth century, and always dear to my memory. I never learned the whole poem; I just took with a grateful heart the two lines given me.



[3] A Serape Saltillero, is an exceedingly fine blanket in which is interwoven gold or silver threads. It is so soft and fine that it can be carried in the coat pocket. It has an aperture in the centre which goes over the head. Made only in Saltillero, Mexico.



Amelia E. Barr