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Mohun, or, The Last Days of Lee by John Esten Cooke

Part 12 out of 12

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to this was added the fiercer drama of May, 1864, when General Grant
invented the "Unseen Death."

Thus the journey which I made through the bare and deserted fields, or
the mournful thickets, was not gay; and these were only a part of the
panorama which passed before me. Looking toward the south, I saw as
clearly with the eyes of the memory, the banks of the Po, the swamps of
the Chickahominy, the trenches at Petersburg, the woods of Dinwiddie,
Five Forks, Highbridge--Appomattox Court-House! Nearer was Yellow
Tavern, where Stuart had fallen. Not a foot of this soil of Old
Virginia but seemed to have been the scene of some fierce battle, some
sombre tragedy!

"Well, well," I sighed, as I rode on toward the Oaks, "all that is
buried in the past, and it is useless to think of it. I am only a poor
paroled prisoner, wearing arms no more--let me forget the red cross
flag which used to float so proudly here, and bow my head to the will
of the Supreme Ruler of all worlds."

So I went on, and in due time reached the Oaks, in Fauquier.

You recall the good old homestead, do you not, my dear reader? I should
be sorry to have you forget the spot where I have been so happy. It was
to this honest old mansion that I was conducted in April, 1861, when
struck from my horse by a falling limb in the storm-lashed wood, I saw
come to my succor the dearest person in the world. She awaited me
now--having a month before left Eagle's Nest, to pay a visit to her
family--and again, as in the spring of '63, she came to meet me as I
ascended the hill--only we met now as bridegroom and bride!

This May of my life had brought back the sunshine, even after that
black day of 1865. Two white arms had met the poor paroled prisoner, on
his return to Eagle's Nest--a pair of violet eyes had filled with happy
tears--and the red lips, smiling with exquisite emotion, murmured "All
is well, since you have come back to me!"

It was this beautiful head which the sunshine of that autumn of 1867
revealed to me, on the lawn of the good old chateau of the mountains!
And behind, came all my good friends of the Oaks--the kind lady of the
manor, the old colonel, and Charley and Annie, who were there too! With
his long gray hair, and eyes that still flashed, Colonel Beverly came
to meet me--brave and smiling in 1867 as he had been in 1861. Then,
with Annie's arm around me--that little sister had grown
astonishingly!--I went in and was at home.

At home! You must be a soldier to know what that simple word means,
reader! You must sleep under a tree, carry your effects behind your
saddle, lie down in bivouac in strange countries, and feel the longing
of the heart for the dear faces, the old scenes.

"Tell my mother that I die in a foreign land!" murmured my poor dear
Tazewell Patton, at Gettysburg. I have often thought of those words;
and they express much I think. Oh! for home! for a glimpse, if no more,
of the fond faces, as life goes! You may be the bravest of the brave,
as my dear Tazewell was; but 'tis home where the heart is, and you sigh
for the dear old land!

The Oaks was like home to me, for the somebody with violet eyes, and
chestnut hair, was here to greet me.

The sun is setting, and we wander in the fields touched by the dreamy

"Look," says the somebody who holds my hand, and smiles, "there is the
rock where we stopped in the autumn of 1862, and where you behaved with
so little propriety, you remember, sir!"

"I remember the rock but not the absence of propriety. What were a
man's arms made for but to clasp the woman he loves!"

"Stop, sir! People would think we were two foolish young lovers."

"Young lovers are not foolish, madam. They are extremely intelligent."

Madam laughs.

"Yonder is the primrose from which I plucked the bud," she says.

"That sent me through Stuart's head-quarters in April, 1863?" I say.

"Yes; you have not forgotten it I hope."

"Almost; Stay! I think it meant 'Come,'--did it not?--And you sent it
to me!"

Madam pouts beautifully.

"You have 'almost forgotten' it! Have you, indeed, sir?"

"These trifles will escape us."

May loses all her smiles, and her head sinks.

I begin to laugh, taking an old porte-monnaie from my pocket. There is
very little money in it, but a number of worn papers, my parole and
others. I take one and open it. It contains a faded primrose.

"Look!" I say, with a smile, "it said 'Come,' once, and it brings me
back again to the dearest girl in the world!"

A tear falls from the violet eyes upon the faded flower, but through
the tears burst a smile!

They are curious, these earthly angels--are they not, my dear reader?
They are romantic and sentimental to the last, and this old soldier
admires them!

So, conversing of a thousand things, we return to the Oaks wandering
like boy and girl through the "happy autumn fields." May Surry flits
through the old doorway and disappears.

As she goes the sun sinks behind the forest. But it will rise, as she
will, to-morrow!

The smiling Colonel Beverly meets me on the threshold, with a note in
his hand.

"A servant has just brought this," he says, "it is from your friend,

I opened the note and read the following words:--

"_My dear Surry_:--

"I send this note to await your appearance at the Oaks. Come and see
me. Some old friends will give you a cordial greeting, in addition to

"Your comrade,


I had intended visiting Mordaunt in a day or two after my arrival. On
the very next morning I mounted my horse, and set out for the house in
the mountain, anxious to ascertain who the "old friends" were, to whom
he alluded.

In an hour I had come within sight of Mordaunt's mansion. Passing
through the great gate, I rode on between the two rows of magnificent
trees; approached the low mansion with its extensive wings,
overshadowed by the huge black oaks; dismounted; raised the heavy
bronze knocker, carved like the frowning mask of the old tragedians;
and letting it fall sent a peal of low thunder through the mansion.

Mordaunt appeared in a few moments; and behind him came dear Violet
Grafton, as I will still call her, smiling. Mordaunt's face glowed with
pleasure, and the grasp of his strong hand was like a vice. He was
unchanged, except that he wore a suit of plain gray cloth. His
statuesque head, with the long black beard and mustache, the sparkling
eyes, and cheeks tanned by exposure to the sun and wind, rose as
proudly as on that morning in 1865, when he had charged and cut through
the enemy at Appomattox.

Violet was Violet still! The beautiful tranquil face still smiled with
its calm sweetness; the lips had still that expression of infantile
innocence. The blue eyes still looked forth from the shower of golden
ringlets which had struck me when I first met her in the lonely house
in the Wilderness, in the gay month of April, 1861.

I had shaken hands with Mordaunt, but I advanced and "saluted" madam,
and the cheek was suddenly filled with exquisite roses.

"For old times' sake, madam!"

"Which are the best of all possible times, Surry!" said Mordaunt,

And he led the way into the great apartment, hung round with portraits,
where we had supped on the night of Pelham's hard fight at Barbee's,
after Sharpsburg.

"You remember this room, do you not, my dear Surry?" said Mordaunt. "It
escaped during the war; though you see that my poor little grandmother,
the child of sixteen there, with the curls and laces, received a sabre
thrust in the neck. But you are looking round for the friends I
promised. They were here a moment since, and only retired to give you a

"See! here they are!"

The door opened, and I saw enter--Mohun and Landon!

In an instant I had grasped the hands of these dear friends; and they
had explained their presence. Mohun had come to make a visit to
Mordaunt, and had prolonged his stay in order to meet me. Then Mordaunt
had written to Landon, at "Bizarre," just over the mountain, to come
and complete the party--he had promptly arrived--and I found myself in
presence of three old comrades, any one of whom it would have been a
rare pleasure to have met.

Mohun and Landon were as unchanged as Mordaunt. I saw the same proud
and loyal faces, listened to the same frank brave voices, touched the
same firm hands. They no longer wore uniforms--that was the whole
difference. Under the black coats beat the same hearts which had
throbbed beneath the gray.

I spent the whole day with Mordaunt, After dinner he led the way into
the room on the right of the entrance--that singular apartment into
which I had been shown by accident on my first visit to him, and where
afterward I witnessed the test of poor Achmed's love. The apartment was
unchanged. The floor was still covered with the rich furs of lions,
tigers, and leopards--the agate eyes still glared at me, and the
grinning teeth seemed to utter growls or snarls. On the walls I saw
still the large collection of books in every language--the hunting and
battle pictures which I had before so greatly admired--the strange
array of outlandish arms--and over the mantel-piece still hung the
portrait of Violet Grafton.

Seated in front of a cheerful blaze, we smoked and talked--Mordaunt,
Mohun, Landon, and myself--until the shades of evening drew on.

Landon told me of his life at "Bizarre," near the little village of
Millwood, through which we had marched that night to bury his dead at
the old chapel, and where he had surrendered in April, 1865. Arden and
Annie lived near him, and were happy: and if I would come to "Bizarre,"
he would show me the young lady whom I had carried off, that night,
from the chapel graveyard, on the croup of my saddle!

Landon laughed. His face was charming; it was easy to see that he was
happy. To understand how that expression contrasted with his former
appearance, the worthy reader must peruse my episodical memoir, _Hilt
to Hilt_.

Mohun's face was no less smiling. He had lost every trace of gloom.

He gave me intelligence of all my old friends. General Davenant and
Judge Conway had become close friends again. Will and Virginia were
married. Charley was cultivating a mustache and speculating upon a new
revolution. Tom Herbert and Katy were on a visit to "Disaways."

"Poor Nighthawk is the only one whom I miss, my dear Surry," said
Mohun. "He died trying to save me, and I have had his body taken to
Fonthill, where it is buried in the family graveyard."

"He was a faithful friend; and to be killed on that very last morning
was hard. But many were. _You_ had a narrow escape, Mohun."

"Yes, and was only preserved by a Bible."

"A Bible?"

"Do you remember that I was reading by the camp fire, when you came to
visit me on the night preceding the surrender?"

"Yes--in your wife's Bible."

"Well, my dear Surry, when I had finished reading, I placed the volume
in my breast, as usual. When I was shot, on the next morning, the
bullet struck the book and glanced. Had the Bible not been there, that
bullet would have pierced my heart. As it was, it only wounded me in
the breast. Here is my old Bible--I carry it about me still."

As he spoke, Mohun drew from his breast the small leather-bound volume,
in the cover of which was visible a deep gash.

He looked at it with a smile, and said:---

"This book has been the salvation of my body and soul, Surry. I was
haughty and a man-hater once--now I try to be humble. I had no hope
once, now I am happy. I have one other souvenir of that memorable day
at Appomattox--this scrap of paper between the leaves of my old Bible."

He drew out the scrap, which was dirty and discolored with blood.

Upon it was written in pencil, the words:--

"This is the body of General Mohun, C.S.A."

As Mohun pointed to it, a ray of sunset shot athwart the forest, and
fell on his serene features, lighting them up with a sort of glory. The
clear eyes gave back the ray, and there was something exquisitely soft
in them. Mordaunt and Landon too, were bathed in that crimson light of
evening, disappearing beyond the shaggy crest of the Blue Ridge--and I
thought I saw on their proud faces the same expression.

"These three men are happy," I thought. "Their lot has been strange;
they have been nearly lost; but heaven has sent to each an angel, to
bring back hope to them. Ellen Adair, Georgia Conway, Violet
Grafton--these fond hearts have changed your lives, Landon, Mohun, and

In an hour I was at the "Oaks."

A month afterward, I had returned to "Eagle's Nest."

And in this April, 1868, when the flowers are blooming, and the sun is
shining--when a pair of violet eyes make the sunshine still brighter--I
end the last volume of my memoirs.


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