[Anna Cora Mowatt Ritchie, her second husband, William Foushee, and their home in Richmond in this short story published in 1906 by her protégée, Marion Harland.]
A WAR-TIME EVANGELINE
AT eighteen, if one has had a normal childhood and girlhood, life is still so new that a Party is an Occasion. At twenty-five, one alludes to it as a Function.
The Party to which I was bound on that particular evening in early April deserved a capital letter on its own account.
Mrs. William Foushee Ritchie, who, as Anna Cora Mowatt, had had an international reputation as actress and beautiful woman, held her modest salon in conservative old Richmond. There was always something to do, and to hear, and to see when she summoned friends to be her guests. Her winning personality and gracious hospitality made her tasteful cottage in a quiet cross-street a popular resort for aristocratic citizens and distinguished visitors to the mid-Southern town.
There would be celebrities there to-night, imported and native. Among the former were Edward Everett and the philanthropic banker, Corcoran, of Washington; among the latter, Governor Wise, of Virginia, and Thomas Lowndes Yancey, of Alabama, all to become notable names in a struggle of which nobody, save far-seeing and scheming politicians, had begun to talk or dream. When one is eighteen and provincial, a Celebrity also demands a capital letter.
I was later in arriving than I would have been had I known more of the world and its by-laws. Being, as I have confessed, provincial, I dreaded being an early arrival, and overshot the conventional golden mean Society-wise, I had much to learn.
Slipping up the stairs to the dressing-room to lay off my wraps, and slipping noiselessly down, fan and bouquet in hand, I stood on the threshold of the drawing-room when I was arrested by the measured cadence of a familiar voice.
The hostess gave no public readings after her marriage except for charities, and recitations nowhere except in her own house and at historic Lower Brandon, the home of her husband's sister. To-night, at Mr. Everett's request, she was reading selections from the then new poem, "Evangeline." I stepped back out of the range of the eyes of those who crowded the parlors and waited. Often as I had heard her recite, and well as I knew the lines now upon her lips, I listened with keen delight to the rich music of her modulated tones and the exquisite elocution that brought out every shade of the poet's meaning.
It was not then the caprice of an inattentive spirit that moved me to take a framed picture from the table against which I leaned and to look at it.
It was an ambrotype, marvelously well done, and the likeness of a marvelously handsome young man. I thought it then, and for many years thereafter, the handsomest face my eyes ever rested upon. The features were regular, clear-cut, and fine; the eyes, full of life and light, looked straight, fearlessly, and kindly into mine; the beautiful lips, the spirited poise of the head—all were instinct with the very joy of being.
Daily Bible-reading from my babyhood had interfused my mind with Scriptural imagery and language. The words which sprang to my lips at my first sight of Charley Carter's picture were,- “Rejoice, oh young man, in thy youth!"
Strength, youth, and beauty such as vivified form and face-were matter for rejoicing. He looked like one who gloried in the superb triumvirate.
With the full intentness of my subconscious self I hearkened to the melodious waves of speech flowing out to me from the inner room:
“Daughter, thy words are not idle, nor are they to me without meaning.
Feeling is deep and still; and the word that floats on the surface
Is as the tossing buoy that betrays where the anchor is hidden;
Therefore, trust to thy heart and to what the world calls illusions."
My eyes still studied the pictured face, the rhythmic melody, “keeping time! time! time!" with the rise and fall of my heart, when a young girl glided from the crowd that hung upon the reader's lips, moved, swiftly and soundlessly, up to me and held out her hand.
Without a word I took it and met her smiling welcome with responsive recognition. I had laid the ambrotype down at her approach and she did not seem to notice that I had been looking at it. Side by side we stood, neither speaking, until the reading ceased, and the clamor of voices, praiseful and congratulatory, filled the rooms. Then she said :
“We should know each other without a formal introduction. I am Belle Douthat. Mrs. Ritchie has often spoken to me of you. I am spending a few days with her.”
Two hours later, the older guests having dispersed, the hostess would have us two girls sit down by the fire and “talk it over.” We were in the full flow of chat when Mr. Ritchie came in from the hall, the framed ambrotype in his hand.
“My dear wife, you show generous confidence in the honesty of your guests in leaving this on the table out there, where a dozen appreciative young maidens must have passed it. Have you seen it?” he added abruptly, holding it before my eyes.
I grew absurdly hot all over. My cheeks flamed into silly scarlet.”
My laugh was awkward as I took the picture and feigned to inspect it as for the first time.
Not until two o'clock next morning did I reflect upon the probability that Belle Douthat had seen me with it in my hand when she came out into the hall.
“Who is it?" I asked as awkwardly as I had laughed.
Mr. Ritchie answered:
“The best fellow in the State of Virginia! Charley Carter, the son of my very dear old friend, Bob Carter, of Lancaster County-and an especial pet with Mrs. Ritchie. He brought her that picture to-day.nHow she happened to leave it lying around loose at the mercy of covetous young women I don't understand. He wanted to stay all the evening, but he had another engagement and had to leave early. You may have met him at the door. He had just gone when you came in.”
“I was not so fortunate!" I gave another sickly little laugh and something stuck queerly in my throat. I had a preposterous sense of personal loss. A good that I ought to have had eluded me.
I had never considered myself a susceptible young person, albeit addicted to the pursuit and worship of ideals. The sight of that picture had moved me unaccountably.
It was not only that the eyes gazed directly and with subtle meaning into mine, awakening vague, thrilling memories of former meetings which reason said had never been; not merely because the face bespoke soul and intellect and was as perfect in feature as that of the Olympian Hermes. It was very like that, in fact, as I reminded myself in the wakeful small hours of that memorable night. Mrs. Ritchie had an engraving of the statue. I wondered I had not thought sooner why the ambrotype reminded me of someone I had known intimately.
Thirty years afterwards, when I beheld the famous marble, a flash of thought bore me from Greece to Virginia, and I cried out as at a stab—so exact was the resemblance to the University boy I had just missed meeting upon the steps of my friend's house.
Something more than all that, and something occult and intense, appealed to heart and fancy in the face I could not make strange. The execution of the sun-picture was admirable. There were suggestions of flesh-tints, and eyes and hair were brown. The effect was of the clear shining of inward light through alabaster.
All this time I have not told you what a pretty and altogether engaging creature Belle Douthat was. When I grew to know her better-even intimately, I did not always remember that she was a popular beauty in my appreciation of the crystalline purity of her soul, her sound, sweet heart, her fidelity to noble aims, the fortitude which was sublimity, and her capacity for love, passing the love of any other woman upon God's earth of whom I have ever had any knowledge.
When, at last, I laid the picture upon her lap, with a jesting tribute to the comeliness of the subject and the excellence of the workmanship, she smiled, and with the slightest of glances at the face, turned it over and revealed a ring at the back for hanging it.
“That would be a good light,” she said, nodding at the opposite wall and rising
Half-way across the room she paused and cast an arch glance at the hostess,-
"Perhaps” -in the pure, round intonations that lent charm to her lightest utterance—“Mrs. Ritchie would prefer to have it in her own room?"
The husband protested threateningly; the wife disclaimed half-heartedly. They were still making merry over the proposition, Belle Douthat standing with the picture between her hands, and not once looking down at it, when I was told that the carriage was waiting for me.
I was ashamed that I dreamed of Charley Carter that night. Yet I laughed, while dressing, in recalling that he was enthroned upon a marble pedestal in one corner of Mrs. Ritchie's drawing-room and declaimed “Evangeline” to Edward Everett, Daniel Webster, and Nathan Hale.
This was in February. Early in May I went down the river to visit Belle Douthat.
It is not practicable to impart to this generation any other than the most elementary conception of what “Down the River” meant to pleasure-loving young people in ante-bellum days. I have not the space or the time or the patience to attempt the impossible here and now.
Shirley, Westover, Maycox, the Brandons, Upper and Lower, Wyanoke —are names to conjure with to those who have sat at the knees of mothers and granddames who recollected days when, as they tell you, proudly and sadly, Old Virginia life was worth living. We had never heard of "house parties,” but a bevy of merry-makers, sweeping up recruits wherever it alighted, floated from plantation to plantation from Monday morning until Sunday night, week after week, feasting, driving, riding, singing, and playing upon the piano, violin, and banjo, dancing every night and sometimes by day, often on the green sward in the moonlight like veritable fairies, while yellow jessamine and magnolia perfumed the bland air--always and everywhere love-making as innocently and naturally as children playing “Ring-around-a-rosey."
Wherever we went, that halcyon and altogether idyllic fortnight, I heard of Charley Carter. Everybody knew him; the women, young and old, loved him in one fashion or another; the men voted him the prince of good fellows, and absolutely unspoilable by popularity that had no drawback. He was expected daily by his kinspeople, the Carters of Shirley, and lamentable were the bemoanments as one bright day slid after another and still he did not appear. There was a likeness of him at Shirley—a clever pencil-sketch made by a New York artist who has since become famous. He had been a fellow-guest with Charley at the old Colonial homestead last Christmas. It was framed handsomely, and hung in the dining-room exactly opposite to my seat when Belle and I spent a day and a night there. The smile lurking in the eyes gathered meaning as I looked into them from my coign of vantage until the significance of the steady gaze startled me.
“We know each other by now,” they seemed to say. “When we meet face to face we shall be friends and more than friends. For meet we shall! Until then I shall haunt you!"
There was something positively eerie in the fascination in which my fancy was held by a man whom I had never seen. I found myself listening for his name, wondering with my first waking thought in the morning and the last at night if he would come that day or on the morrow, rehearsing a dozen times each day our meeting, the gradual growth of our acquaintanceship into intimacy. The mystic bond strengthened hourly, until the phantasy obsessed my soul—the soul that, under the weirdly sweet magnetism of a stubborn idea, was preparing to melt into his as drops become one in touching.
All this time I was as gay in seeming as the merriest human mote swimming beside me in the sunshine. My delicious dream was my own.
What was to be, would be. Until then I was haunted." I liked the word. It repeated itself over and over to me whenever I was confronted by pictures of my modern Hermes. Thus I had named him to myself. The neighborhood was peopled by his blood-kindred, and they were a clannish folk, who kept in touch with others of the ilk unto the fourth and sixteenth generation. In every homestead I was sure to find some presentment of Charley Carter. Some were better likenesses than others. All looked enough like the rest to help fix his face and figure in my mind. Moreover, his bon mots were family property, freely exploited; girl cousins sang his favorite songs, regretting the absence of his splendid baritone, without which the ballads were tuneless and tame; the boys had tales of his hunting, fishing, and riding feats, magnified by every repetition into colossal prodigies.
“And I am going home without having a glimpse of your Admirable Crichton!” said I to Belle with feigned lightness, while a party of girls and attendant beaux awaited with me upon the Westover wharf the appearance of the boat which was to take me back to Richmond.
“I am very sorry," she uttered in frank concern. “It is not like him to disappoint his friends. I am especially anxious to have him meet you. I know you would be friends at sight.”
“Friends!” I felt my absurd color flicker. How little she knew of the mysterious sympathy that had overleaped the bounds of absolute strangerhood in daring inconceivable to coarser souls.
As the phrase recurred to me, a young girl near me began to hum the air of a popular song—then to sing some words of it -sotto voce:
There is an hour when angels keep
Familiar watch o'er men;
When coarser souls are wrapped in sleep,
Sweet spirit, meet me then!”
I turned sharply upon her:
“What put that into your head?” said I, unjustly suspicious. The coincidence was uncanny. We had never heard the word “telepathy" then.
She looked surprised.
“Oh, I don't know! It just came to me, so!”
And to rivet the coincidence, a man observed as carelessly as she had spoken:
“You ought to hear Charley Carter sing that on the river of a moonlight night! It is one of his best songs."
At least a dozen passengers landed from the boat and half as many embarked. There was hustling to and fro over trunks and hand-luggage, and a child lent variety to the hubbub by tumbling from the gang-plank into the river. A negro sailor jumped into the muddy, weedy tide and fished him out, and his mother had hysterics on the deck. Thus it came about that I paid little attention to the group I had left on the dock until the boat was too far upstream for me to distinguish one from another of those who shook handkerchiefs and waved parasols and hats in frantic farewells.
In another fortnight I had a letter from Belle Douthat. After telling me of the final breakup of our merry company, she went on to say:
“You must have brushed against Charley Carter as he was coming off and you were going on the boat the day you left us.
His coming was unexpected and took us all by surprise. I tried my very best to catch your eye that I might introduce him to you in dumb show, but you would not see us.
He was sadly disappointed. You and he have played hide and seek for so long that his desire to meet you is whetted by delays. It is like a new edition of Gabriel and Evangeline. I am sorry to say that there is little hope of his seeing you for some time to come. He left us this morning for New York en route for Liverpool. He will spend six months in travelling abroad."
The six months were up and I was arranging for a foreign trip of my own when my dear Mrs. Ritchie invited me to a dinner-party, adding to the note:
“At last I am positive that you will meet my very great favorite, Charley Carter. He has promised faithfully to be with us on Wednesday, and unless you object I shall send you in to dinner with him."
I shall never array myself for another social function with the solemn scrupulousness that marked my every preparation for that dinner-party. I had a new gown, silver-gray, with a sheen that gave it the effect of moonlighted waters. It was trimmed with white lace and pink ribbons. I carried a great bunch of pink roses given to me by a young fellow for whom I cared nothing. I had never looked better.
I had never been happier, with a sort of holy exaltation. The Turks have a proverb about touching heaven with one finger. My whole hand laid hold of the lintel of Paradise as I stepped from the carriage at Mrs. Ritchie's gate, my full skirt a mass of billowy moonbeams as I rustled up the walk and front steps. On my way down from the dressing-room, the billows flooding the stairs, I said a little prayer of thankfulness, coupled with a petition for strength to keep a steady head and cool judgment, now that the momentous interview was an assured bliss.
Mrs. Ritchie met me with both hands extended; her sweet face was serious.
“I am sorry to tell you, dear, that Mr. Carter was summoned, fifteen minutes ago, to his father's death-bed! The telegram reached him after he was actually in our house. You must have met his carriage at the corner.”
I said some civil nothings instead of the “Kismet!” that was upon my tongue, and accepted respectfully the introduction of ex-Governor Floyd to myself. He was old enough to be my father, and he talked all dinner-time about the Mount Vernon Association for the purchase of Washington's homestead and bones, and the Washington monument slowly rising in the Capitol Square to the memory of the Father of his Country and his colleagues.
Well! I went abroad, and before I saw my native land again the Civil War had ploughed a moat between the South and the rest of the world, and filled it with blood drawn by brother from brother's veins and brother's heart.
Five years separated the idyllic visit “Down the River” from the mournful day on which Belle Douthat and I drove from Westover to Shirley for a morning call. She was in mourning, as were most Virginia women, and she was thinner and paler than as I recollected her in our halcyon days. Her beautiful eyes and teeth and the ready smile which brought color as well as brightness to her face made her lovely still. The abomination of desolation that rested upon homesteads and soil tried men's souls in that dreadful transition period. It proved to the triumphant utmost of what stuff the hearts, spirits, and bodies of Southern women were made. Among the bravest of these Belle Douthat shone like a steady planet above a sullen cloud. I had been with her now for three days, and her steadfast heroism had not ceased to be a miracle to my wondering eyes. She led the conversation at Shirley that forenoon and made it optimistic. The darkest hour had come and passed, she maintained, and the dawn must be at hand. With inimitable tact she diverted the current of chat from depressing or dangerous channels and made the most of everything hopeful.
We were stepping into the carriage to return when an elderly gentlewoman, a visitor in the hospitable mansion, said to me:
“You must recollect poor Charley Carter? You know he was never heard of after the battle of Spottsylvania Court-House?”
“Killed?” I gasped. I had no strength for more than the one word.
Belle answered steadily-almost cheerfully:
"No, only missing. That means that he may come home yet. Such things have been. I heard last week of the return of a man who was in a Northern military prison for two years. He was ill for a long time after his release, then had to work his way by slow stages home. How glad his mother-or his sister-or his wife-must have been to see him! Good-by. We have had a delightful call.”
She never omitted one of the small, sweet courtesies that round life's ragged edges with grace. It was she who made talk as we drove through plantations that were like the shriveled, livid face of age by comparison with the bloom and vigor of other days.
“The days that are no more !'” quoted I dismally at last. “The days that can never come again!"
“Just the same days never come again,” said Belle cheerily. “Sometimes better come in their place. If not, new supplies of strength to bear the worse."
“Do you really believe that Charley Carter is alive?” I jerked out, from a sore heart, abruptly.
I was no longer a dreamy girl with a turn for mysticism. The hard realities of human existence had taught me common-sense and some perception of relative values. It is, nevertheless, true that throughout my wanderings and vicissitudes I had carried in one small chamber of my imagery the memory of that girlish romance. The picture of the lover that might have been still visited dreams of the night and day-reveries. What I had heard had hurt me to the quick. I could not get away from the Horror.
"It seems so unreasonable,” I continued, “to fancy that for three years he should make no sign if he is still living. All the war prisons are emptied and done away with. Where can he be?”
“I have the feeling that he is not dead," answered Belle slowly and thoughtfully. While she spoke she looked at the horizon, not at the landscape or at me. I could have believed that she saw a figure drawn clearly against the blue curtain the sunset was beginning to fringe with gold.
Then she began to tell me of reading in a Northern paper of a man -a husband and father —who had come back from Australia after an absence of nine years, during seven of which they had not heard from or of him. He had received an injury on the head that affected his memory and was cared for by strangers as a semi-imbecile upon a sheep-farm. Coming gradually to himself, he made his way down to the coast and thence to his native land.
Another man had been cast away upon a desert island and lived there for three years. A third had been snow-bound for a year in the Arctic regions, etc., etc. One would have thought she had made a special study of “Lost, Strayed, and Missing" literature. It was entertaining from her lips, but not convincing to me. She seemed to express satisfaction from the relation. But Charley Carter was only her friend and in some sort a kinsman-never the hero of a unique love-drama. Whatever might be her motive in hunting out and treasuring such tales, hers was an impersonal interest.
“And there was Evangeline!” interrupted I, half in mockery, when the many-windowed roof of Westover came in sight. “Don't forget her!
“'Fair was she and young, when in hope began the long journey:
Faded was she and old, when in disappointment it ended.'
The reply came in sweet seriousness that shamed my petulance,-
“Yes! there is Evangeline! But disappointment was not the last word in her story. She found Gabriel! He knew her!
'And Evangeline, kneeling beside him,
Kissed his dying lips, and laid his head on her bosom.'
That was worth waiting for!”
The wistful "waiting" look I had noticed in her eyes often of late deepened and softened them into a glory of beauty. I held my peace in very awe.
But a new idea had been born in my brain. That night I found a chance to put a question to our hostess, -
“Was there ever any talk of a love-affair between Belle Douthat and Charley Carter?”
“Plenty of talk, but no more than about a dozen other young men. They were very intimate friends, you know. If matters ever went further, I never heard of it.”
Engagements were not announced in Virginia in the days that are no more. Still, Belle’s dear friend and kinswoman, in whose house we were now staying, would have been in the secret of this one had it ever existed. The suspicion died in my mind as soon as it was born.
Another year of heroic patience, of suffering, clamorous and silent, of privation and labor —all hard and complex elements that went into the work of Reconstruction - rolled by.
One afternoon in leafy May I was on my way from Norfolk to Richmond. My escort was a Virginian by birth and education, but now a resident of Chicago. He had fought for three years of the Civil War, and we fell into talk of that disastrous epoch in our country's history while passing Malvern Hills.
“I was taken prisoner at Spottsylvania Court-House,” he told me presently. “A tremendous event for me. A trifle in small type in the history of the Rebellion. I looked up the battle yesterday in a New York Encyclopædia. It was disposed of in two lines. I got them by heart:
“’The Second Corps (Hancock's) carried a salient by surprise, capturing a division and twenty cannon.'
"I was in that division! The capture meant a year in Fort Delaware and the Oath of Allegiance after Lee's surrender. A year taken clean out of a young man's life! Think of it!"
Both of us thought of it hard until he began to speak again.
“One minute of the engagement that ended in defeat and Fort Delaware for me is impressed more strongly upon my memory than all the rest of the hurly-burly. Hancock made an ungenerously early start, before he, or any other gentleman, should think of having his breakfast!
The field in which we lay was full of mist, and when the alarm was given we could hardly tell blue from gray. It was a hand-to-hand fight after the Federals tumbled down upon us over our breastworks.
I was on horseback, and doing my best with the rest of the division to hold our ground, yet falling back steadily all the time, when I saw, by the flash of the guns, a fellow I knew looking up at me from the ground with that hell raging over him. The life was trampled out of him while I had that one glance. But he recognized me and I recognized him. Nobody who knew Charley Carter was likely to forget him."
I have never swooned in my life. I suppose I came nearer to it then than ever before or since. Shore and horizon exchanged places suddenly, blended, and both went out of my sight before a paroxysm of blind suffocation. The half-death must have been without sound or motion, for when hearing returned my companion was not much further on in his story.
“The most stupendous blunder in the history of nations!” he was growling. “If the politicians who brought it about had been blown from the cannon's mouth at Sumter, there would have been an end of it!”
“You are sure you were not mistaken in the identity of the -- man! you saw on the ground?” I faltered, not daring to let him see my face.
I knew the muscles were twitching and that my lips were bloodless.
“I couldn't be! The poor boy was in my corps, and I had known him ever since he was born. A finer fellow and a braver soldier never lived.”
“His friends cling to the hope that he may still be alive." I formed the words with care; my lips and throat were dry. “He was reported 'missing,' not ‘killed.'”
“They mean the same thing by this time!” he retorted curtly, because sadly.
My father said the same thing when I told him the story next day.
There was not a shadow of doubt that Charley Carter's beautiful young life went out for all time in that sickening turmoil of bloody hoofs and fiery hail. I made the recital brief in the letter I wrote to Belle Douthat. We were not regular correspondents. So many weeks elapsed before I heard directly from her that her next letter was in no sense an answer to mine, and so full of other things that no allusion was made to the communication which had been full of woe for me.
The omission was an added pain to the dull ache at the bottom of my heart. Yet, as I reasoned in an effort to be charitable, it was hardly to be wondered at. Belle had lived in the heart of war for the four years I had spent out of the country. She was in black still for an uncle and a brother. A cousin had fallen at Manassas, another at Gettysburg. Confirmation of the death of a favorite playfellow and chum imported comparatively little to her. The horror that had held my eyes waking for many a night after that sail up the river between battle-blighted shores was too familiar to her imagination to be more than a passing shock.
It passed with me after a while. But the passage was slow and the time long.
I am an old woman now—sixty-eight my last birthday; old enough to have outlived romance, and to avoid the memory of such unsubstantial folly as sentimental devotion to the dear memory of a man who was personally a stranger.
A rattle-pate girl asked me in so many words, the other day, why I had never married. She was pleased to add that I must have possessed attractions of no mean order when I was young. Why was I still single? I answered promptly, gravely, and truthfully,-
“Because I never saw the man whom I felt I could love and marry.”
That night before I went to bed I unlocked a drawer and took from the back of it a box wrapped in a clean handkerchief. This, in unfolding, showed a morocco case, rubbed and rusty. I bought it surreptitiously in a daguerrean gallery in Richmond. The picture is still clear when one holds it to the light. When I die it will be thrown into a waste-basket with other rubbish. I have no right to keep it.
How little right I ever had to own and treasure it will be proved by the last scene in a story that is true from title to “finish.”
Twelve years ago, a few days after I read in a Richmond paper the notice of Belle Douthat's death, I sat next a Southern woman at a New York luncheon-party. Like hundreds of other natives of Virginia, she lives north of Mason and Dixon's line—the invisible boundary that once implied so much, and which, thank God! signifies less than nothing now.
Our speech betrayed us one to the other. The indefinable, unmistakable something that is not accent, nor yet pronunciation, which we never outlive.
“You are a Virginian!" I said, after she had spoken one sentence.
“And so are you!" she retorted, and we were friends.
By and by, after she had heard that I used to live in Richmond, and I had guessed truly that she was from Lynchburg, she spoke of Belle Douthat's death.
“Seeing the notice brought back the recollection of a sad, strange little story that came to me while I was on a visit to my cousin in Baltimore five or six years ago," she went on to say. “Her mother was Mrs. Carter” -bringing out the “Cuarter" in true Virginia style.
“One of her sons - Charley Carter, -a splendid fellow, I have been told, I never saw him,--was reported 'missing' after some battle. A year after the war some people in Fredericksburg, in whose house he had left his trunk when the march began, found out that his mother was living in Baltimore and sent it on to her. She shut herself up in her room with it for a day. Nobody knows whether she opened it or not, or if she ever had the key. She dragged it with her own hands into a large closet adjoining her chamber, and there it stayed until she died. Charley was her idol, and she could not speak of him even to the daughter with whom she lived.
"After her death they broke the lock and opened the trunk. All the linen was yellow and the woollen clothes were riddled by moths.
At the very bottom was a bundle of letters, tied with blue ribbon, and with them in a velvet case was Belle Douthat's likeness—an ambrotype in excellent preservation. The letters were all from her. The last was written three days before the battle in which he was killed. It seems they had been engaged for months, perhaps for years. My cousin thinks his mother knew of it. Nobody else--not even his sisters -suspected it.
“They burned the letters, of course. My cousin has the picture still. I saw it. She must have been very beautiful. With wonderful, wistful eyes-poor girl!”
She nibbled a salted almond, and put out her hand in an absent-minded way for a chocolate bonbon before adding:
“Something in the eyes and in the story as my cousin told it made me think of Evangeline. You knew Belle, I suppose ?"
“Not very well," I answered.
Harland, Marion. “A Wartime Evangeline.”
Monthly Magazine: A Popular Journal of Literature,
Volume 75. (Philadelphia:
J.B. Lippencott Co., 1905.)
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