'I wonder,' said Peggotty, who was sometimes seized with a fit of wondering on some most unexpected topic, 'what's become of Davy's great-aunt?' 'Lor, Peggotty!' observed my mother, rousing herself from a reverie, 'what nonsense you talk!'
Man's union hence with God ev'n Reason can,
'You will oblige me, ma'am,' interrupted Mr. Spenlow, 'by confining yourself to facts.'
'Yes, darling. Everything'll be all right. Just hang on to me. Are people waiting for you outside?'
Bond went up to his room. On the writing-desk an impressive array of dressings and medicaments had been laid out. He got on to Tracy and said, 'What the hell is this? Have you got a pass-key or something?'
Miss Mills must have been born to be a blessing to us. She ascertained from me in a few words what it was all about, comforted Dora, and gradually convinced her that I was not a labourer - from my manner of stating the case I believe Dora concluded that I was a navigator, and went balancing myself up and down a plank all day with a wheelbarrow - and so brought us together in peace. When we were quite composed, and Dora had gone up-stairs to put some rose-water to her eyes, Miss Mills rang for tea. In the ensuing interval, I told Miss Mills that she was evermore my friend, and that my heart must cease to vibrate ere I could forget her sympathy.
'Is he - is Mr. Dick - I ask because I don't know, aunt - is he at all out of his mind, then?' I stammered; for I felt I was on dangerous ground.
'Nonsense, Alfred. And you've got your living to make. Why don't we play a three-ball?'
In July, 1864, Washington is once more within reach if not of the invader at least of the raider. The Federal forces had been concentrated in Grant's lines along the James, and General Jubal Early, one of the most energetic fighters of the Southern army, tempted by the apparently unprotected condition of the capital, dashed across the Potomac on a raid that became famous. It is probable that in this undertaking, as in some of the other movements that have been referred to on the part of the Southern leaders, the purpose was as much political as military. Early's force of from fifteen to sixteen thousand men was, of course, in no way strong enough to be an army of invasion. The best success for which he could hope would be, in breaking through the defences of Washington, to hold the capital for a day or even a few hours. The capture of Washington in 1864, as in 1863 or in 1862, would in all probability have brought about the long-hoped-for intervention of France and England. General Lew Wallace, whose name became known in the years after the War through some noteworthy romances, Ben Hur and The Fair God, and who was in command of a division of troops stationed west of Washington, and composed in part of loyal Marylanders and in part of convalescents who were about to be returned to the front, fell back before Early's advance to Monocacy Creek. He disposed his thin line cleverly in the thickets on the east side of the creek in such fashion as to give the impression of a force of some size with an advance line of skirmishers. Early's advance was checked for some hours before he realised that there was nothing of importance in front of him; when Wallace's division was promptly overwhelmed and scattered. The few hours that had thus been saved were, however, of first importance for the safety of Washington. Early reached the outer lines of the fortifications of the capital some time after sunset. His immediate problem was to discover whether the troops which were, as he knew, being hurried up from the army of the James, had reached Washington or whether the capital was still under the protection only of its so-called home-guard of veteran reserves. These reserves were made up of men more or less crippled and unfit for work in the field but who were still able to do service on fortifications. They comprised in all about six thousand men and were under the command of Colonel Wisewell. The force was strengthened somewhat that night by the addition of all of the male nurses from the hospitals (themselves convalescents) who were able to bear arms. That night the women nurses, who had already been in attendance during the hours of the day, had to render double service. Lincoln had himself in the afternoon stood on the works watching the dust of the Confederate advance. Once more there came to the President who had in his hands the responsibility for the direction of the War the bitterness of the feeling, if not of possible failure, at least of immediate mortification. He knew that within twenty-four or thirty-six hours Washington could depend upon receiving the troops that were being hurried up from Grant's army, but he also realised what enormous mischief might be brought about by even a momentary occupation of the national capital by Confederate troops. I had some personal interest in this side campaign. The 19th army corps, to which my own regiment belonged, had been brought from Louisiana to Virginia and had been landed on the James River to strengthen the ranks of General Butler. There had not been time to assign to us posts in the trenches and we had, in fact, not even been placed in position. We were more nearly in marching order than any other troops available and it was therefore the divisions of the 19th army corps that were selected to be hurried up to Washington. To these were added two divisions of the 6th corps.