Friday, January 4, 2013

Diary of Judith W. McGuire: Richmond, Virginia, Monday Night, February 11, 1862

Still greater uneasiness about Roanoke Island. It is so important to us — is said to be the key to Norfolk; indeed, to all Eastern North Carolina, and Southeastern Virginia. We dread to-morrow's papers.

The lady on Street has disappointed me. She met me with a radiant smile when I went to see her this evening, saying, “She agrees; she must, however, remove the wardrobe and bureau, as she wants them herself; but there’s a closet in the room, which will answer for a wardrobe, and I reckon that a table with a glass on it will do for a bureau.” “Oh, yes; only give me a good bed, some chairs and a washstand, and I can get along very well. Can I see the room?” “Yes; it is a back-room in the third story, but I reckon you won’t mind that.”  My heart did sink a little at that communication, when I remembered Mr. _____’s long walks from Bank Street; but there was no alternative, and I followed her up the steps. Great was my relief to find a large airy room, neatly carpeted, and pleasant in all respects. “This will do,” said I; “take the wardrobe and bureau out, and put a table in, and I shall be very well satisfied.” “I have a small table,” she replied, “but no glass; you will have to buy that.” “Very well, I will do that. But you have not yet told me your terms.” “Will you keep a fire?  “Oh, certainly, in my room.” “Then my charge is _____.”  I stood aghast!  “My dear madam,” said I, “that is twenty dollars more than the usual price, and three dollars less than our whole salary per month.” “Well, I can't take a cent less; other people take less because they want to fill their rooms, but I was only going to take yon for accommodation; and I can fill my rooms at any time.” Now the lines of her face were not undecided. I turned, and as I walked up the already lighted streets of my native city, feeling forlorn and houseless,

"In happy homes I saw the light
Of household fires gleam warm and bright;”

and hope that I was not envious. My friends were very sympathetic when I returned, not, however, without a certain twinkle of the eye denoting merriment, as it exactly coincided with a most provoking prophecy made by Mr. C. as I set out; and I joined in a hearty laugh at my own expense, which was a real relief to my feelings.

No good news from Roanoke Island. Fort Henry has fallen; that loss is treated lightly, but the enemy have turned their attention to Fort Donelson, on Cumberland River, which, if taken, would give them free access into the heart of Tennessee.

SOURCE: McGuire, Judith W., Diary of a Southern Refugee, During the War, p. 90-1

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