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From the Rapidan to Richmond and the Spottsylvania

I would climb up and sit on the flat top of the water cooler


anyhow, I got on. The cars were crowded--not a vacant seat on the train. We left Orange Court House at six o'clock P. M.--we reached Richmond at seven o'clock the next morning--traveled all night--thirteen hours for the trip, which now takes two and a half hours--and all that long night, there was not a seat for me to sit on--except the floor, and that was unsitable. When I got too tired to stand up any longer, I would climb up and sit on the flat top of the water cooler, which was up so near the sloping top of the car that I could not sit up straight. My back would soon get so cramped that I could not bear it any longer--then I crawled down and stood on the floor again. So I changed from the floor to the water cooler and back again, for change of position, all through the night in that hot, crowded car, and I was very tired when we got to Richmond.

We arrived at seven o'clock and the train--Richmond and Danville Railroad--was to start for Danville at eight. I got out and walked about to limber up a little for the rest of the trip. I had a discussion with myself which I found it rather hard to decide. I had only half a dollar in my pocket. The furlough furnished the transportation on the train, and the question was this--with this I could get a little something to eat, or I could get a clean shave. On the one hand I was very hungry. I had not eaten anything since early morning of the day before, and since then had walked nineteen miles and spent

that weary night on the train without a wink of sleep. Moreover, there was no chance of anything to eat until we got to Danville that night--another day of fasting--strong reasons for spending that half dollar in _food_. On the other hand, I was going to a wedding party where I would meet a lot of girls, and above all, was to "wait" with the prettiest girl in the State of Virginia. In those days, the wedding customs were somewhat different from those now in vogue. Instead of a "best man" to act as "bottle holder" to the groom, and a "best girl" to stand by the bride and pull off her glove, and fix her veil, and see that her train hangs right, when she starts back down the aisle with her victim--the custom was to have a number of couples of "waiters" chosen by the bride and groom from among their special friends, who would march up in procession, ahead of the bride and groom, who followed them arm in arm to the chancel.

The "first waiters" did the office of "best" man and girl, as it is now. I have been at a wedding where fourteen couples of waiters marched in the procession.

Well, I was going into such company, and had to escort up the aisle that beautiful cousin, that I was telling you about--naturally I wanted to look my best, and the more I thought about that girl, the more I wanted to, so I at last decided to spend that only fifty cents for a clean shave--and got it. My heart and my conscience approved of this decision, but I suffered many pangs in other quarters, owing to that long fasting day. However, virtue is its own reward, and that night when I got home, and that lovely cousin was the first who came out of the door to greet me, dressed in a--well, white swiss muslin--I reckon--and looking like an angel, I felt glad that I had a clean face.

And after the rough life of camp, what a delicious pleasure it was to be with the people I loved best on earth, and to see the fresh faces of my girl friends, and the kind faces of our old friends and neighbors! I cannot express how delightful it was to be at home--the joy of it sank into my soul. Also, I might say, that at the wedding supper, I made a brilliant reputation as an expert with a knife and fork, that lived in the memory of my friends for a long time. My courage and endurance in that cuisine commanded the wonder, and admiration, of the spectators. It was good to have enough to eat once more. I had almost forgotten how it felt--not to be hungry; and it was the more pleasant to note how much pleasure it gave your friends to see you do it, and not have a lot of hungry fellows sitting around with a wistful look in their eyes.

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