The Blue and The Gray

It is so rarely that the world witnesses the spectacle of a superior nature triumphing over a baser one, that occasions of the kind should certainly go on record when they come under observation. Who knows the number of fine natures that are crowded to the wall almost every day by rougher and tougher fiber! How often, indeed, is an unlooked for trait in human nature revealed in a flash by some slight accident, but for the occurrence of which the world would have gone on doing an injustice, and by which an impression is left on surrounding minds which endures throughout a lifetime!

During the war a friend of the writer, a soldier in the Federal army, to whom he is indebted for the data of the following narrative, was stationed with his regiment at a dismantled Southern town, and, as too often happened in regiments stationed at dismantled Southern towns, the supply of food did not go beyond the narrow boundary of that mysterious texture currently known as “salt horse” on one side, and enigmatical “hard tack” on the other. Not remarkably toothsome at any time, what little charms they possessed were somewhat blunted by a familiarity with them which had bred contempt, and it was frequently remarked at mess that some fresh meat must be had, and that straightway.

One day comrade Simmons informed his immediate friends that he meditated a journey into the country a few miles, where he had reason to know that a diminutive pig, the property of a Southern lady, was frisking about as unconscious of impending danger as if a civil war was not waging under its very nose. Next day Simmons went in quest of his prey. He marched up to the door, and presenting arms, waited for a response to his knock. It came presently in the form of a middle-aged lady, very serene and very grave. It was in vain, however, that Simmons besought her to sell the coveted porcine; she preferred to keep the pig, she said; it would grow and be worth a good deal more in the Fall; in short, she did not care to dispose of her property. Simmons argued the case with fluency, alluding in touching phrase and tone to his long-suffering mess-mates; money was no object; they would bear the expenses jointly and were willing to pay more now for the porker than it would bring in the fall if it should weigh a ton:

She listened patiently and courteously to all his overtures, but like the incorrigible child whom the poet met, and who met the poet with the provoking refrain:

“Master, we are seven,”

she answered all arguments with the statement that she didn’t care to sell, and at last she bowed gravely to her unwelcome guest, and closed the door.

Simmons was nonplussed, and passed out of the yard, wondering what reasonable excuse he could make to his comrades for not bringing the pig a captive, when the object of his visit came running across the path. It was a terrible temptation, and Simmons fell. A second later the bayonet of a musket shot through his pigship, and the gun went back to the shoulder, with its squealing burden high in air. Then Simmons came back to the house, rapped again, and the proud woman again greeted him. For a second only she raised her eyes to her expiring property, and not a muscle of her face changed from its repose and dignity, as meeting the soldier’s eyes she quietly inquired:

“Well, my man, what is it?”

“Will you loan me a kettle to cook my pig in,” asked Simmons, with an impudence born of desperation.

“Certainly, sir,” she replied, and she brought it to him with the grace of a queen.

The pig was duly cooked and eaten, and then the story was told of how it was obtained; and the particulars of the episode were recited many times thereafter—in the mess-room of an afternoon, around the camp fire when the brands had burned low and the stars seemed to shed a light of tenderness over all; on the march and elsewhere, Simmons always concluding with the observation—“Ah! boys, our mothers and sisters are good women, but a lady one meets scarcely once in a lifetime.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

  Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.