The Illustrated Heart of a Soldier, As revealed in the Intimate Letters of Genl. George E. Pickett C.S.A.by George E. Pickett
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EARLY in life's morning I knew and loved him, and from my first meeting with him to the end, I always called him "Soldier"—"My Soldier." I was a wee bit of a girl at that first meeting. I had been visiting my grandmother, when whooping-cough broke out in the neighborhood, and she took me off to Old Point Comfort to visit her friend, Mrs. Boykin, the sister of John Y. Mason. I could dance and sing and play games and was made much of by the other children and their parents there, till I suddenly developed the cough, then I was shunned and isolated.
I could not understand the change. I would press my face against the ball-room window-panes and watch the merry-making inside and my little heart would almost break. One morning, while playing alone on the beach, I saw an officer lying on the sand reading, under the shelter of an umbrella. I had noticed him several times, always apart from the others, and very sad. I could imagine but one reason for his desolation and in pity for him, I crept under his umbrella to ask him if he, too, had the whooping-cough. He smiled and answered no; but as I still persisted he drew me to him, telling me that he had lost someone who was dear to him and he was very lonely.
And straightway, without so much as a by-your-leave, I promised to take the place of his dear one and to comfort him in his loss. Child as I was, I believe I lost my heart to him on the spot. At all events, I crept from under the umbrella pledged to Lieutenant George E. Pickett, U. S. A., for life and death, and I still hold most sacred a little ring and locket that he gave me on that day.
It is small wonder that this first picture of him is among the most vivid still; the memory of him as he lay stretched in the shade of the umbrella, not tall, and rather slender, but very graceful, and perfect in manly beauty. With childish appreciation, I particularly noticed his very small hands and feet. He had beautiful gray eyes that looked at me through sunny lights—eyes that smiled with his lips. His mustache was gallantly curled. His hair was exactly the color of mine, dark brown, and long and wavy, in the fashion of the time. The neatness of his dress attracted even a child's admiration. His shirt-front of the finest white linen, was in soft puffs and ruffles, and the sleeves were edged with hem-stitched thread cambric ruffles. He would never, to the end of his life, wear the stiff linen collars and cuffs and stocks which came into fashion among men. While he was at West Point he paid heavily in demerits for obstinacy in refusing to wear the regulation stock. Only when the demerits reached the danger-point would he temporarily give up his soft necktie.
It was under that umbrella, in the days that followed, that I learned, while he guided my hand, to make my first letters and spell my first words. They were "Sally" and "Soldier." I remember, too, the songs he used to sing me in the clear, rich voice of which his soldiers were so fond, frequently accompanying himself on the guitar. He kept a diary of those days and after the war it was returned to him from San Juan by the British officer who occupied the island conjointly with him before the opening of the war. I have it now in my possession.
- London : Sweet and Maxwell, Limited
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