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And Happy Endings. Last summer, there had actually been a queue in front of Happy Endings—he had seen it with his own eyes—when the newest Grisham book arrived by UPS. The UPS man had been astounded when he pulled to the curb and everybody cheered. Mitford was making it, and without neon signs and factory smoke. It boggled his mind that Mack Stroupe knew anyone outside the confines of Wesley and Holding.

How had Mack engineered contact with what sounded like a large Florida development firm? And this thing about Mitford Woods, and Mack being the ringleader. Every window was up, three fans were running wide open, and Violet sprawled as if drugged on the top of the refrigerator. Even the gloxinia seemed oppressed by the noxious fumes rising from the basement. She laughed gaily. These days, clergy seldom liked living in rectories. Because they generally preferred to own their own homes, and because the upkeep of the rectory had been considerable over the years, the vestry had long ago voted to sell the old house at the end of his tenure.

Emil Kettner, head honcho of the construction company that built Hope House, regretted that Buck Leeper would be tied up for two years on a project in Virginia. Perhaps after that, Kettner said, they could send Buck to Mitford for six months, which ought to be enough time to overhaul the church attic. Could they wait? What happened in Mitford, Father? Harley, who was a ghastly color, was sitting on the floor of the hallway, clutching his stomach.

He hated the thought, but he despised himself more for his wishy-washy attitude about the whole situation. They needed desperately to sell it, get it off the shoulders of the parish; yet, here was a golden opportunity driving up the mountain in a rented car, and he wanted to run in the opposite direction. Surely it was as simple as his dread of letting Sadie Baxter go entirely. He glanced at Emma, who was staring at her computer screen. What did people find to stare at on computer screens, anyway? Nothing moved on the screen, yet she was transfixed, as if hearing voices from a heavenly realm.

Our computer man sent it to us. See there? She moved her pointer to a name. Every page is done in calligraphy and watercolor illustrations—by his own grandfather. Tendrils of grapevine leapt across the drive and entwined among a row of hemlocks on the other side. To their right, a gigantic mock orange faded from bloom in a tangled thicket of wisteria, star magnolia, and rhododendron.

He was touched to recall that exactly two years ago there had been the finest of fetes at this house. On the lawn, young people in tuxedos had served champagne and cups of punch on silver trays, as lively strains of Mozart poured through the tall windows. Inside, the ballroom had been filled with heartfelt joy for Olivia and Hoppy Harper, the glamorous bride and groom, and with awe for the hand-painted ceiling above their heads, which was newly restored to its former glory.

It had been, without doubt, the swellest affair since President Woodrow Wilson had attended a ball at Fernbank and given little Sadie Baxter a hard candy wrapped in silver paper. The man who came with Ingrid Swenson seemed interested only in biting his nails, speaking in monosyllables, and exploring Fernbank quite on his own. The rector saw him peering into the washhouse and wandering into the orchards, taking notes.

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Town water, I presume? The connection is a half mile down the hill and the right-of-ways pose some real problems. Ingrid looked at him archly. She smiled vaguely. An upscale property of twenty-one rooms and twenty-four cottages, including a state-of-the-art health center, would employ well over a hundred people, many of them coming from Europe and the British Isles and requiring satisfactory housing.

This, gentlemen, could create a small boom. She would talk it over with her associates, Ingrid told them in the church office. Their lawyer would begin the title search immediately, and a full topo would be done by a surveyor from Holding. Her people wanted to talk with the town engineer again, and expressed regret that the heating system appeared defunct and the plumbing would have to be completely modernized.

Before leaving, she mentioned the seriousness of the water damage due to years of leakage through a patched roof, and frowned when the subject of the well and sewer emerged again. He tried to be elated, but was merely thankful that the first phase was over and done with. He made a note to get up to Fernbank with Cynthia and go through the attic, pronto. She said she knew she might be taking a chance, but she wanted to do it and came to talk to me about it.

Barlowe like a hawk, but Lida has a soft center; she wants this to work. This means a lot to Dooley as well as his mother. When will you come for dinner? In the basement, a housewarming! Who else? He frankly relished it when they burst into a chorus of Scripture together. What the heck, he thought, taking it. At least one person was sorry to hear he was retiring. When he left the bakery, he looked up the street and saw Uncle Billy sitting in a dinette chair on the grounds of the town museum, watching traffic flow around the monument.

The rector made his way down Main Street, staring at the sidewalk. At the corner of Main and Wisteria, he saw Gene Bolick coming toward him, and threw up his hand in greeting. It appeared that Gene saw him, but looked away and jaywalked to the other side. In fact, the memory of his last birthday rushed back to him with dark force. He sat back in his swivel chair and closed his eyes. Wrenching, that whole saga of pain and desperation. And days afterward, only doors down the hall from Pauline, Miss Sadie had died.

When was it, anyway? He looked at the calendar. Straight ahead. No, fifty-six. He realized as he hung up that they could have used their birth years to calculate the answer. What a pair they made! He hoped nobody had tapped his phone line and overheard such nonsense. He felt suddenly furious. His face burning, he got up from his desk and left the office, closing the door behind him with some force. He deserved a medal for putting up with Emma Newland all these years—which, he realized only this morning, would be a full sixteen in September.

Sixteen years in an office the size of a cigar box, with a woman who made Attila the Hun look sensitive and nurturing? And here he was, inflicting it on everyone else. Actually, he was excited, himself. For some reason, Mona looked ten feet tall; she was also mad as a wet hen. Did Grandma Moses quit when she was sixty-five? Certainly not! And Abraham, which Bishop Cullen was so quick to yammer about on Sunday. A year or so ago, when Buster Austin had called the rector a nerd, Dooley had proceeded to beat the tar out of him.

He left one end of Main Street feeling like a million bucks, and reached the other end feeling like two cents with a hole in it. The owner of the Collar Button rushed into the street and extended his deepest regrets. A vestry member called him at the rectory. It takes time. So, better this than a parish riddled by resentment and low morale. So hang in there. That was the way with those unisex shops, he thought, darkly. He made an appointment for a month away, and deceived himself that he could talk Cynthia into an interim deal.

Go to Wesley, where they have the kind of barbershop you like, where men talk trout fishing and politics! Harley looked at him soberly. Certainly not. Cynthia had done the deed and dashed downstairs. He was putting on a clean shirt when Dooley wandered into the bedroom. Clean T-shirt, clean jeans; hair combed, shoe laces tied. Getting to look more like a millionaire every day! What was the matter with people around here, anyway? He would drive to Memphis next week, it was only nine or ten hours one way, and see Joe.

While he was there, maybe Joe would give him a tour of Graceland. He sighed deeply. For the third time that day, he got his scissors out of his dresser drawer and handed them over. This time, however, he had the good sense to pray about it. The showy pudding cake had been reduced to crumbs, the fruit bowl ransacked, the cookies demolished. All that remained in the glass pitcher were two circles of lemon and a few seeds.

Dooley scratched his head. Lace sat forward in the chair. Scott Murphy glanced at his watch and stood. Thanks for inviting me, sir. I had a really good time. Harley, come up and see me at Hope House. And let me know when you can look at my brakes. Scott left by the basement door, as the rest of the party said their goodbyes to Harley, then trooped up the stairs to the rectory kitchen and along the hall to the front stoop. The rector stood on the front walk and talked with Cynthia and Olivia as Lace searched under the bench on the stoop.

Then she came down the steps to the yard and peered into the boxwoods near the steps. There was a ripping sound as the skirt tore from part of the bodice. Who would even touch your stupid, snotty, dirty hat? Lace wrenched away from Cynthia and Olivia and flew at Dooley, who threw his arm in front of his face. She slammed her fist into his left rib, which sent him reeling backward toward the stoop.

Barnabas barked furiously as the rector grabbed Lace by the shoulders. Dooley regained his balance and stood without a word. He straightened his shirt. Cynthia and Olivia walked with Lace to the blue Volvo at the curb, as the rector sat wearily on the top step. Barnabas crashed beside him. Dooley stood in the doorway, panting. To Lace and Olivia.

Dooley went to the closet and opened the door. He lifted the hat off the floor as if it were something Barnabas had deposited in the backyard. A genuine apology! If this is what that fancy prep school had accomplished, he should be forking over an extra twenty thousand a year, out of the mere goodness of his heart. The mayor asked him to trot to her office—and be quick about it, according to the tone in her voice. When Esther Cunningham pulled the string, he, like most people, jumped.

He hated that about himself, but why not? Esther had kept an unflagging vigil over Mitford, sacrificing years of her time and even her health to keep things on the up and up. So yes, he came when she called, and glad to do it. Times are changin. He would do what the Russians do. Though it was his very own birthday, he would be the host, he would give the dinner. It would be just the two of them, and afterward, they would dance.

His blood was getting up for it. And champagne! That was the ticket. He examined the back of his head in the mirror again. A decent haircut, the new blue sport coat Cynthia had found on sale, dancing with his wife on his birthday—what else could a man want or imagine? So what if Joe had never gone to hair conventions to learn the latest thing? Joe was eminently companionable, and never talked your ear off while he barbered your head.

Fancy Skinner, on the other hand, considered the use of Sea Breeze beneath her station. He sighed, dialing HAIR. Fancy Skinner was the only game in town, and he hoped she could work him in. Course, your wife is young, she probably can do it, I used to drink five or six cups a day. But not anymore, did you know it makes you wrinkle faster? Who did this? Mama, come and look at this, this is what I have to put up with. My daddy had diabetes.

Maybe both. Either way, my mask is about as good as a facelift, not to mention four thousand dollars cheaper. A small price to pay for looking forty-eight on his sixty-third birthday. Fancy had urged him not to look in the mirror at Hair House. The minute he came in the back door, he turned and looked in the mirror. Surely not. Was it the dim natural light in the kitchen? He switched on the overhead fixture, fogged his glasses, and looked again.

Who would want to dance the tango with someone whose face was green? He splashed his face and dried it and looked in the medicine cabinet mirror, which was topped by a watt bulb that never lied. He stood gazing into the mirror, stunned. They had dined, they had danced, they had remarked upon the extraordinary fragrance of the roses.

He was visibly moved and completely delighted. To have a book in which he saw himself walking down Main Street and standing on the church lawn in his vestments. Now he knew how Violet must feel. He thought it immensely good of her not to comment on anything unusual in his appearance, though he was certain that he saw her staring a time or two, once with her mouth open. You seem.

His wife specialized, actually, in the domestic retreat. It was, to a worn-out clergyman, what retreads were to a tire. While they partied in the study, Barnabas had stood up to the kitchen counter like a man and polished off what was left of the lamb. He also helped himself to two dinner rolls, half a stick of butter, a bowl of wild rice, and all the mint jelly he could lick off a spoon in the dishwasher.

At two in the morning, the rector felt a large paw on his shoulder. This was major, and no doubt about it. He hastily pulled on his pants and a shirt, slipped his feet into his loafers, and thumped downstairs behind his desperate dog. Barnabas sniffed his turf. The place was a veritable smorgasbord of smells, apparently causing his dog to forget entirely why he had barreled outside in the middle of the night, dragging his master behind like a ball on a chain.

Suddenly Barnabas had the urge to go around the house. Barnabas strained forward with the muscle and determination of a team of yoked oxen. They were going to the monument. He trotted behind his dog, noting the peace of their village when no cars were on the street. There seemed an uncommon dignity in the glow of the streetlights tonight and the baskets brimming with flowers that hung from every lamppost. They had a good life in Mitford, no doubt about it. Yet there were Mitfords everywhere. How much longer could the Esther Cunninghams of the world hold on?

How much longer could common, decent, kind regard hold out against utter disregard? Then, thanks be to God, his dog found a spot behind the hedge surrounding the monument.

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He stood there as Barnabas did his business, and looked at the summer sky. The car seemed to remind him of something or someone. The town festival was tomorrow, and all of Mitford was scurrying to look tidy and presentable. Certainly he was looking more presentable. The greenish cast to his skin had disappeared altogether. Oh, please! What a day! In a day of shopping malls on bypasses, not every town could boast of a lively business center. He saw Dooley pedal out of The Local alleyway on his bicycle, wearing his helmet and hauling a full delivery basket.

He honked the horn. Dooley grinned and waved. There was Winnie, putting a tray of something sinful in the window of the Sweet Stuff, and he honked again but was gone before Winnie looked up. As he approached the monument, he saw Uncle Billy and Miss Rose, stationed in their chrome dinette chairs on the lawn of the town museum, where everybody and his brother had gathered to put up tents, booths, flags, tables, umbrellas, hand-lettered signs, and the much-needed port-a-john, which this year, he observed, appeared to lean to the right instead of the left.

How in the dickens he could have lived in this town for over fifteen years and still get a kick out of driving up Main Street was beyond him. Count your blessings, his grandmother had told him. Count your blessings, his mother had often said. Did anyone really count their blessings, anymore? But how much time did it take to recognize that he was, in a sense, driving one around?

He turned on the radio and heard Mozart straining to come across the mountains from the tower in Asheville, and fiddled with the dial until he got a weather report. Sunshine all weekend. Not often. He thought of last night, of his vibrant and unstoppable wife sitting up in bed, reading to him, knowing how he loved this simple sacrifice of time and effort.

He had put his head in her lap and reached down and held the warm calf of her leg, knowing with all that was in him how extraordinarily rich he was. He had heard Dooley come in, racing up the stairs on the dot of his curfew, and afterward, the sound of his dog snoring in the hall. He thought of the old needlepoint sampler his grandmother had done, framed and hanging in the rectory kitchen.

He had passed it so often over the years, he had quit seeing it. The patient stitching, embellished with faded cabbage roses, quoted a verse from the Sixty-eighth Psalm. And while he did the run to Farmer, he would do a seemingly childish thing—he would count his blessings as far as he could. Quite possibly the list could go on until Wednesday, for he knew a thing or two about blessings and how they were, even in the worst of times, inexhaustible.

It came to him that Patrick Henry Reardon had indirectly spoken of something like this. He had copied it into his sermon notebook only days ago. Which of our limbs and faculties would be left? Would I still have my hands and my mind? And what about loved ones? If God were to take from me all those persons and things for which I have not given thanks, who or what would be left of me? What would be left of me, indeed? He saw her standing at the corner of Main Street and Wisteria, looking toward the rectory. He had never seen her before in his life, but he knew exactly, precisely, who she was.

He felt himself loving her at once, as she held out her arms and smiled and started running toward him. He tried to run, also, to meet her, but found he moved as if through sand or deep water, and was dumbstruck, unable to call her name. There was plenty of talk on the street. The shelf along the wall had come down, replaced by posters of mountain scenery, and in the long-empty space in front of her display cases stood three tables and a dozen chairs.

And soup in the winter. What do you think? The Collar Button man was sweeping the sidewalk, with a sprinkler turned on the handkerchief-sized garden next to his store. When he reached the Grill, he stopped and sniffed the balmy air. I pay for the parts, he insists on doing the labor. This was front-page stuff, everything from llamas and political barbecue to a clogging contest and tourists out the kazoo.

Mule looked approving. He went to the red wall phone and dialed, knowing the number by heart. The rear end of a church van from Tennessee displayed a sign, Mitford or Bust. The Presbyterian brass band was already in full throttle on the museum porch, and the sixth grade of Mitford School was marching around the statue of Willard Porter, builder of the impressive Victorian home, with tambourines, drums, and maracas painted in their school colors.

He saw Uncle Billy next to the lilac bushes, sitting in a hardback chair with a bottomless chair in front of him and a bucket of water at his feet. She glared at him in a way that made Emma Newland look like a vestal virgin. He was afraid to let his wife see his face, since she could obviously read it like a book—but where else could he go? It was Andrew Gregory, the tall, handsome proprietor of Oxford Antiques, calling from his booth next to the statue of Willard Porter.

The rector could honestly say he felt a warm affection for the man who once courted Cynthia, escorting her hither and yon in his gray Mercedes, while Father Tim moped at the upstairs window of the rectory. He felt positively lighthearted as he stepped up to the booth and shook hands with the antique dealer, who looked elegant in a linen shirt and trousers. How are you? Andrew smiled. Look at this eighteenth-century chest. The other side shone, revealing the life of the wood.

Let me run it by the vestry. Why had he tried to put the whole Fernbank issue out of his mind when it clearly needed to be handled—and pronto? She wondered if. I know this is a strange request, but she wants you to do it for her. He turned his lemon oil over to Margaret Ann and went through the gate, relinquishing the dollar to Jake Greer, a farmer from the valley. Having petted the entire assembly, including a small pig named Barney, he withdrew through the gate, laughing.

His wife peered at him again in that odd way. He had stopped to pass the time of day with the llamas, who looked at him peaceably through veils of sweeping lashes. He paused to check the sky. As he started to look at his watch, he spied them through the queue for popcorn and ducked across. He might have. But character often takes time to show itself. How are you holding up? The challenge of it was breathtaking. She threw up her hand, smiling at this reminder of the Scripture verse she claimed as a pivot for her life.

Avis stepped out of the booth for a break, while Tommy and Dooley bagged and made change. The imported strawberries were selling at a pace, and Avis stepped to the booth and brought back a handful. Juicy, sweet, full of sunshine. He watched as Dooley passed a bag over the table to a customer. He was thrilled to see Dooley Barlowe excited about his work.

His freckles, which he and Cynthia had earlier reported missing, seemed to be back with a vengeance. Was this something he ought to discuss with him, man to man? The very thought made his heart pound. Ben Sawyer hauled past, carrying a sack of tasseled corn in each arm. In his mind, he saw it on the plate, thickly sliced and served with a dollop of hot sauce, nestled beside a mound of cole slaw and a half dozen hot, crisp hushpuppies. He shook himself and ate four raisins that had rolled around in his coat pocket since the last committee meeting on evangelism.

Cynthia eyed him again. Mood swings, she thought. That seemed to be the key! Definitely a domestic retreat, and definitely soon. He was sitting on the rock wall when Omer thumped down beside him. The blue and orange airplane roared straight up into the fathomless blue sky, leaving a plume of smoke in its wake. Then it turned sharply and pitched downward at an angle. Omer punched him in the ribs with an elbow. Esther and Ray and their daughters were joined by assorted grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and in-laws, who formed an impenetrable mass in front of the church booth.

The bolt of blue and orange gunned straight up, leaving a vertical trail, then shut off the exhaust, veered right, and thundered across the top of the trail, forming a straight and unwavering line of smoke. The M was fading, the I was lingering, the T was perfect against the sapphire sky. Hogan sank to the ground, rolled over on his back, pointed his Nikon at the sky, and fired off a roll of Tri-X. The M and the I were fading fast. Uncle Billy hobbled up and spit into the bushes. TAKES soon faded into puffs of smoke that looked like stray summer clouds.

He looked at the sky as if it contained the most beautiful sight he had ever seen, and so did the rector. The crowd started lying on the grass. They lay down along the rock wall. Miss Rose came out and stood on the back stoop in her frayed chenille robe and looked up, tears coursing down her cheeks for her long-dead brother, Captain Willard Porter, who had flown planes and been killed in the war in France and buried over there, with hardly anything sent home but his medals and a gold ring with the initials SEB and a few faded snapshots from his pockets.

The little planes romped and rolled and soared and glided, like so many bright crayons on a palette of blue, then vanished toward the west, the sun on their wings. They felt mesmerized, intoxicated. They heard a heavy-duty engine throbbing in the distance and knew at once this was serious business, this was what everyone had been waiting for without even knowing it. The Cunningham daughters hugged their children, kissed their mother and daddy, wept unashamedly, and hooted and hollered like banshees, but not a soul looked their way, for the crowd was intent on not missing a lick, on seeing it all, and taking the whole thing, blow by blow, home to Johnson City and Elizabethton and Wesley and Holding and Aho and Farmer and Price and Todd and Hemingway and Morristown.

A red Piper Super Cub blasted over the treetops from the direction of the highway, shaking drifts of clouds from its path, trembling the heavens in its wake, and towing a banner that streamed across the open sky:. The Presbyterian brass band hammered down on their horns until the windows of the Porter mansion rattled and shook.

As the plane passed over, a wave of adrenaline shot through the festival grounds like so much electricity and, almost to a man, the crowd scrambled to its feet and shouted and cheered and whistled and whooped and applauded. Esther was right for Mitford. Mack Stroupe might be for change, but Esther would always be for the things that really counted.

Harley gave him a philosophical look, born from experience. On Monday morning, he roared to the office, screeching to a halt at the intersection of Old Church Lane, where he let northbound traffic pass, then made a left turn, virtually catapulting into the parking lot. Did he kneel? Did he stand? Did he sing? Was she still blond?

And all because of modern technology! Close your eyes. He went home and jiggled Sassy and burped Sissy, as Puny collected an ocean of infant paraphernalia into something the size of a leaf bag. After a quick trot through the hedge to say hello to his hardworking wife, he and Dooley changed into their old clothes.

He felt fit for anything. What with a good job, plenty of sun, and a reasonable amount of home cooking, Dooley Barlowe was looking good. In fact, Dooley Barlowe was getting to be downright handsome, he mused, and tall into the bargain. We missed you at the town festival. Father Tim laughed. You might want to watch that. Law, this is good of you. Can I fix you and Dooley some lemonade? Father Tim opened the toolbox and took out a clawhammer and put on his heavy work gloves. He felt at once fierce and manly, and then again, completely uncertain how to begin. He looked at the shed.

Running with sweat, he and Dooley had taken turns driving the rusty nails back and pulling them out of every stick and board so they could be used for winter firewood. Betty apologized. As for himself, the rector felt oddly liberated. All that pulling up and yanking off and tearing down and pushing over had been good for him, somehow, creating an exhaustion completely different from the labors surrounding his life as a cleric.

And what better reward than to sit and look across the twilit yard at the mound of wood neatly stacked along the fence, with two boys beside him who had helped make it happen? He sat alone with Pauline. As she talked, he took notes on a piece of paper he had folded and put in his shirt pocket. Afterward, he sat back in the rocker. We never had a tree at Christmas. His mind went instantly to all that furniture collecting dust at Fernbank. He and Dooley would load up a truck and. But he was putting the cart before the horse. Can you do that? They were silent again. She was giving her boy away again.

But this time, he fervently hoped and prayed, it was for all the right reasons. Great to hear your voice. I wondered if we could send him out to you for the attic job. When can we expect to see Buck? How does that sound? The carved millwork in the Hope House chapel is locally done. That dark, brooding cottage under the trees, where the finest construction superintendent on the East Coast had thrown furniture against the wall and smashed vodka bottles into the fireplace?

And yet, there was something else in his voice, something just under the surface that the rector knew and understood. It was a kind of hope. Of all things to take on, and me sixty-seven my next birthday, can you believe it? Esther Bolick sounded close to tears. Some of the money will fly medical supplies to a village where people are dying of cholera.

Do you think the Lord would mess with that? I shouted for joy when I saw it turn the corner. Right now. He realized why he had put this off, over and over again. He had ducked into Fernbank a few times to check the roof leaks, and ducked out again as if pursued. To see those empty, silent rooms meant she was gone, utterly and eternally, and even now he could hardly bear the fact of it. They were up to the brow of the hill and turning into the driveway, which was overhung by a thicket of grapevines gone wild. She looked astounded. How could you even think such a thing?

He felt suddenly peevish and disgruntled and wanted to turn around and run home, but he remembered Andrew Gregory was meeting them on the porch in ten minutes. I was enchanted by the attention to detail. He referred to notes that he had hastily jotted as they toured the house. It must have been made by a local craftsman around the turn of the century. I have a customer in Richmond who fancies brocade napery. I know you will understand. Was Andrew picking over the remains? Besides, something had to be done with the contents of twenty-one rooms and the detritus of nearly a century.

How about the rugs? Andrew smiled gently. Look what I found! And look at this—an ancient wooden box of watercolors, two whole compartments full! A boxful of needlepoint chair covers, worked with roses and hydrangeas and pansies, in all my favorite colors! Perfect for our dining room! Oh, Timothy, how could we have neglected this treasure trove for a full year? Though the box appeared to be of no special consequence, he felt drawn to it, somehow, and knelt to remove the lid and unwrap the heavy object within. The figure had the weight of a stone, but a certain lightness about its form, which rested on a sizeable chunk of marble.

Think about it. If I had anything like that, would it be available? Since when does the rector have to attend every vestry meeting as if it were the Nicene Council? I shall be forced do what women have been forced to do for millennia. She marched around the kitchen table and thumped down in his lap. Then she mussed what was left of his hair and kissed him on the top of his head. Next she gave him a lingering kiss on the mouth, and unsnapped his collar, and whispered in his ear.

While Cynthia scraped and stacked the dishes, he sat in the kitchen, awaiting his cue to wash, and read the Muse.

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He roared with laughter. This was one for his cousin Walter, all right! He got up and pulled the scissors from the kitchen drawer and clipped the story. Walter liked nothing better than a few choice headlines from the type fonts of J. You borrow five hundred dollars for one year. The rector put his arm around his wife, who had come to sit with him on the top basement step.

They looked at each other, wordless. She pressed forward. Karen bought nine-point-five pounds of chicken. He went to his study and took pen and paper from the desk drawer. He was changing shirts for a seven p. When he heard the truck roll into the driveway again, he looked out his bathroom window and saw it backing toward the street. From this vantage point, he could also see through the windshield.

Dadgum it, he thought. He had a car-crazed boy living down the hall and a race-car mechanic in the basement. Was this a good combination? Stand, kneel, sit, stand, bow, stand, kneel, whatever! Who needed the assistance of a curate or a deacon when they had Emma Newland to think through the gritty issues facing the church today?

As he left the office for Mitford Blossoms, Andrew Gregory hailed him from his shop across the street. Would you mind having my contribution a dash early? I should say not. Thrilled would be more like it. He climbed the hill, slightly out of breath, carrying the purple gloxinia, and stood for a moment gazing at the impressive structure they had named Hope House.

Now that Miss Sadie was gone, he was the only living soul who knew what had happened the night of that terrible fire. He could muddle on about the fire, or he could look at what had risen from the ashes. Louella sat by her sunny window, with its broad sill filled with gloxinias, begonias, philodendron, ivy, and a dozen other plants, including a bewildered amaryllis from Christmas.

Dressed to the nines, she opened her brown arms wide as he came in. He set it on the windowsill and thumped down on the footstool by her chair. Are they still treating you right? Nossir, I done my duty, I sets right here, watches TV, and acts like somebody. He had always felt ten years old around Miss Sadie and Louella. Lida tapped her desk with a ballpoint pen, still looking stern. Very well. He found Pauline in the dining room, setting tables with the dishes Miss Sadie had paid to have monogrammed with HH.

A lifelong miser where her own needs were concerned, she had spared no expense on Hope House. Dooley will be with us, and Harley and Louella. Yes, they wanted Ingrid Swenson and her crew to come on the fifteenth. There were quite a few R. Davises in the state of Florida, according to the printout, but Lakeland was the only town or city with a Rhody Davis. Same at three in the afternoon, and again at eight in the evening.

Lights were on in the evening, but no other signs of anyone being around. Maybe this will help—there was a tricycle in the front yard. I used what clout my collar can summon, but no way to get the phone number. Mitford, he noted, was becoming a veritable chatterbox of words and slogans wherever the eye landed.

The mayoral incumbent and her opponent had certainly done their part to litter the front lawns and telephone poles with signage, while the ECW had plastered hand-lettered signs in the churchyard and posters in every shop window. Three bites, max, and that sausage biscuit was out of here.

But who was he to preach or pontificate? I checked what it would cost to put up those billboards and—get this—four thousand bucks. Somebody said that even the media can take a look at that form. Velma took a deep breath and launched another volley. She would be let down, he thought, maybe even ticked off—and for good reason.

After all, she had worked hard to plan something special. He sat heavily on the side of the bed where she was propped against the pillows with a book. I also need Pauline to come along. She can take Jessie legally. She leaned against him, and they sat together, silent for a time. That was when families of Hope House residents would pour into Mitford, straining the reserves of the dining room.

He was vague with Dooley about what was going on and said nothing at all to Emma. As far as everyone was concerned, he was taking his wife on a small excursion, and Pauline was riding with them to South Carolina and visiting a great aunt. He regretted saying anything to anybody about Florida. And the colors in this part of the world—so vivid, so bright, so. In the mountains, in his high, green hills, he felt embraced, protected—consoled, somehow. Here, it was all openness and blue sky and flat land and palm trees. He never ceased to be astonished by the palm tree, which was a staple of the biblical landscape.

How did the same One who designed the mighty oak and the gentle mimosa come up with the totally fantastic concept of a palm tree? There went that puckered brow and concerned look again. He could feel the toll of the mile one-way trip already grinding on him as they zoomed past Daytona and looped onto the Orlando exit.

The engine might be working in spades, and the wax job glittering like something off the showroom floor, but the air-conditioning performed only slightly better than a church fan at a tent meeting. He peered into the rearview mirror, checking on Pauline. She had ridden for hours looking out the window. In order to get Pauline back in time to keep Lida Willis satisfied, they would have only a few short hours to look for Jessie before they hauled back to Mitford on another ten-hour drive. He parked the car under a tree by the sidewalk, where the early morning shade still held what fleeting cooler temperature had come in the night.

He had worn his collar, but only after thinking it through. He always wore his collar, he reasoned—why should he not? The small yard was nearly barren of grass. Plastic grocery bags were snared in the yucca plants bordering the unsheltered porch. The car was probably twenty years old, a huge thing, the hood almost completely bleached of its original color.

A weather-beaten plastic tricycle lay by the steps. No curtains at the windows. He rang the doorbell, but failed to hear a resulting blast inside, and knocked loudly on the frame of the screen door. Already the perspiration was beginning a slow trickle under his shirt. There was no doubt that this was five-year-old Jessie Barlowe; the resemblance to her brothers was startling.

This time, she appeared at the window on the left side of the door. She pressed her nose against the glass and stared at him. Perhaps she was in there alone, he thought with some alarm. She was barefoot and wearing a pair of filthy shorts. Her toenails were painted bright pink. He mopped his face with a handkerchief and looked toward the street, seeing only the rear end of his Buick sitting in the vanishing point of shade. He opened it quickly and stepped across the threshold, feeling like a criminal, driven by his need.

The intense and suffocating heat of the small house hit him like a wall. And the smell. Good Lord! His stomach rolled. He saw a nearly bare living room opening onto a dining area that was randomly filled with half-opened boxes and clothing scattered across the floor. She looked at him with that sober expression, and turned and walked into the hall. The smell. What was it? It intensified as he followed her down the long, dark hallway to the bed where Rhody Davis lay in a nearly empty room. A baby crib stood by the window, containing a bare mattress and a rumpled sheet; a sea of garbage was strewn around the floor.

The woman was close to his own age, naked to the waist, a bulk of a woman with wispy hair and desperate eyes, and he saw instantly what created the odor. Her right foot, which was nearly black, had swollen grotesquely, and streaks of red advanced upward along her bloated leg.

The abscesses in the foot were draining freely on the bedclothes. He was faint from the heat and the stench and the suffering. It was sitting on the floor by an empty saltine cracker box and a glass of spoiled milk. He tried to open the windows in the room, but found them nailed shut. Then he dialed the number everyone was taught to dial and went through the agonizing process of giving the name, phone number, street address, and the particular brand of catastrophe.

At the hospital, he got the payoff for wearing his collar. The emergency room doctor not only took time to examine Rhody Davis within an hour of their arrival, but was willing to talk about what he found. Blood poisoning resulted in a massive infection, and that led to gangrene. The amiable doctor chuckled. This one looks like it fills that bill, hands down. He should have been exhausted, with one long trip behind him and another one ahead. This happened within pistol-shot of the walls of Vera Cruz.

The soldier made his escape and gave the information, when various parties went in pursuit, but they returned without any success. It is supposed the officer has been murdered. We will rise betimes in the morning, take a sea-bath in the breakers, and then and there enjoy the only luxury known at Camp Vergara. Camp near Vera Cruz, July. The news of Cadwalader's defeat proved to be entirely false; that officer did not reach the main body of the army without considerable skirmishing, but so far as we can learn, he has overcome all obstacles.

Such is the first information we got on our visit to Vera Cruz. He ought to have been defeated, no doubt; and the Mexicans, by a figure of speech not described in rhetoric, said he was. His fortunes during nearly a year of captivity were very varied. Commodore Perry, than whom there is not a more gallant or energetic officer in either service, has just returned in the steamer Mississippi from the capture of Tobasco.

This is not a war favourable to naval distinction, yet the navy has to bear a heavy portion of the most arduous duties. There is no more trying duty than blockading;-spending weeks or months standing on and off shore; looking constantly upon a soil where you are not allowed to plant your foot; suffering for want of water and fresh provisions, with all the dangers of the sea, and a lee shore ever in prospect; no naval forces to contend with, and not allowed to strike a blow landward-these are some of the troubles of blockading.

Then a bright look-out must be kept to see that no adventurer from beyond seas eludes your vigilance, and carries "aid and comfort" to the enemy. Now our sturdy tars have to expose their lives to a more fearful enemy than Mexican soldiery; every river has to be explored, and every port taken; the stars and stripes are to wave over all the battlements that guard the sea-shore.

All service in the tierras calientes, the scorching lowlands, is fruitful in disease and death, and the river courses abound in deadly malaria. The garrisons of the enemy are of little importance, compared with the fell power that deals so lightly with those who have been born under its influence, and so fatally with the stranger. It takes stout hearts to face such dangers, where it may be said there are no commensurate honours. The Mexicans, indeed, have said emphatically that the vomito would soon end the war, by sweeping off both army and navy. My occupations do not allow me any intercourse with the Veracruzanos, so I cannot say much about them.

I occasionally make small purchases from the shopkeepers, who have one peculiarity common to their tribe everywhere, that is, to make strangers pay prices that ought to cover all losses from home-dealers. The shops throughout the town occupy the ground-floor, while the upper stories are used as dwellings. It is amusing to read the signs and advertisements; —Joneses, and Smiths, and Johnsons, and Thompsons are planted in and among Crapauds, and Ximenes, and Garcias, Rodri.

For languages, Vera Cruz may be considered at present a miniature Babel. All the public buildings are in the service of our officials: the quartermaster's department alone occupies a large portion of them. Time is now so precious, and sickness spreading so rapidly, that the most active exertions are being made to get our brigade on its way; but we have a large train to escort up, of provisions and ordnance stores, and as yet we have no teams to haul them.

There are, to be sure, a thousand or fifteen hundred mules in the camp for the purpose; but it is as hard to make a wild mule draw as to make a horse drink, the difficulty of which has passed into a proverb. You may see at any time on the long white beach a hundred wagons, with a team of mules and a double team of men to each, some going forwards in a run, some in a trot, some backwards, and some sideways; every way but the right way.

The mules go kicking, sprunting, rearing, pitching, running, backing, braying, all without rhyme or reason; and although it looks like a frolic to the spectators, it is anything else to those concerned. Several of the men have been kicked into disability for the campaign. The ambulances and some important wagons have teams of trusty northern horses. The ambulances, light four-horse wagons on springs, invented, as you know, by Baron Larrey, for the benefit of the wounded of the grande argene, are already kept very busy, carrying the sick from the camp to the general hospitals in the city.

My fellow voyagenur and late chum was assigned a place on the personal staff of the general, and for a time I was alone; but again I have a companion, whose intelligence and energy is likely to relieve my labours. These extend far beyond the command to which I am properly attached. We have had, on more than one occasion, night alarms; indeed, nearly every night some raw sentinel imagines an enemy in a bush, and startles us by his fire.

Once we had a general commotiondrums beat, and all hands called. Two sentinels gave the alarm at once-" Who goes there? The guards are formed immediately, and the entire camp as soon as possible. The sentinels swore to seeing persons prowling around in the bushes, how many they could not say. The poor fellows indeed were very much exposed; they were on the picket guard, on the hilltops, and their forms projecting against the sky were good marks for invisible guerrilleros.

The bushes were beat, and no enemy found. Some days later, a poor half-starved white donkey was seen in search of water, badly crippled in the legs. Whether he was a spy or warrior, this deponent does not pretend to say. I must be drawing to a close my last letter from this place. We are under what is called afloat "sailing orders," that is, we strike tents with the morning's dawn, and take up the line of march for the interior. We are told the road is strewed with dead bodies; and I for one confess to going off with no light heart. Some of us -or may it be all? We leave home, happiness, and health behind us, to penetrate with hostile.

It looks like going into "exterior darkness,"-but allons! I chose my own profession and my own course; then "let fate do her worst," I mount my charger and pursue my line of duty. Here we are, on the morning of the 16th, some twenty-five hundred men, new and old troops, artillery, dragoons, marines, infantry, regulars and volunteers, belonging to, filling up, and completing various regiments now in the interior. The men are all under arms; the advance is off, dragoons and artillery; then the trains, ordnance wagons first, with their flankers.

There they go, yet so slowly that it will take hours to get fairly under way; men fall in the ranks, overpowered by heat, and the weight and constriction of their belts, muskets, and knapsacks. Those who are waiting suffer much more than their brethren in motion. At last, after many hours, the rearguard moves-the marines, accompanied by one piece of artillery. Good bye; I cannot loiter. A single ambulance and a few fallen stragglers are all that remain on the beach, this morning so populous.

I must send you this by the last chance, see the sick stowed, and follow the fortunes of the army. San Juan, July. HAVING sent back our most unpromising cases to the hospitals at Vera Cruz, the remaining sick were supposed to be able to shoulder their muskets, and march with the column; being allowed such indulgences as their condition required and the nature of the circumstances would permit. It proves an uphill business though, I assure,you; in our little command, I prescribe for at least one hundred persons daily, of whom some ninety-eight are cases of dysentery.

Other surgeons have still more; and I hazard nothing in saying, that out of our brigade of twenty-five hundred men, fifteen hundred are suffering more or less from that disease. The first night, en route, we had some experience in a soldier's life; the road for three leagues out from Vera Cruz, is of deep sand, and very heavy; the mules, at first, seemed willing to do their part, and half broken as they are, worked faithfully, but some slight hills overcame their good intentions; first, they would pause, then start, then stop still.

Now came coaxing, swearing, and pounding from the drivers, but it would not do; when the leaders would pull, the wheel horses wouldn't; when the wheelers were willing, the leaders would turn short round in the road. Directly, one starts to pull honestly, and all the rest hold back; now the refractory parties are coaxed or whipped in, and the one that had just set such a good example stops stock still, to kick for a good half hour. When such a contre-temnps happens in a narrow pass, all of the train in the rear is brought to a dead halt; the advance moves on, and thus the train becomes extended for miles along the road.

There was but one way of getting the wagons up the hills, and that was to double the teams,. We had two hours of moonlight, and thought not of rest while we could use our eyes; we were yet in the tierras calientes, the domains of the grim ogre, El Vornito, and it behooved us to move onward while we could. But darkness put an end to our labours, and at about eleven o'clock, we received orders to bivouac where we stood. Here was a prospect of comfort. No one knew where to find tent, bed, or provisions.

I started forward to look for the wagon that carried my scant equipage, and soon found myself in a gully flanked by tied and loose mules, all ready to use their heels on the least provocation; and not choosing to encounter such a battery, I made a hasty retreat. Returning to the regiment, I found the men stretched out on the road; some talking, some munching bread and bacon from their haversacks neither officers nor men had had either dinner or supper , and some already in the arms of the god of the wearied and sleepy, sending up to him such hymns of praise and thanks, as only true votaries, the heaviest sleepers, can send.

Such of us as were mounted, had our peculiar troubles. What was to be done with the horses? The men were fagged out, for though they had made but a short march, they had put their shoulders to the wheel, literally, having spent hours in helping the train along. We, of course, could not call on them for assistance.

Our own attendants were with our respective wagons, and probably ensconced therein, invisible and intangible. We groped about in the dark, and tied our horses to the bushes. But we could not stand up all night, so we blundered about through the undergrowth in search of something to make fast to, when we calme to a palisade around a deserted hut, and there we tied our fourfooted compaiieros.

We took off the saddles, and calling the attention of a sentinel for both picket and camp-guards were posted to their position, with the saddles as pillows, we threw ourselves down on the damp ground under cover of the broad canopy of heaven. It was an uneasy rest we had, begirt as we were with belts and bands, for all carried haversacks and canteens, besides their arms; then the.

They were caught and secured, in the darkness, with no little difficulty. The worst part of the story won't bear telling; the army was infected with an infirmity that made beds, taken in the dark, apt to be as uncomfortable as they were unsavoury. Morning dawned at length; bugles sounded, drums beat, and the first rays of light found the column under arms, and the advance in motion. By the time the sun became oppressive, the marines, forming the rear-guard, had reached Santa Fe,-a deserted hamlet three leagues from Vera Cruz.

Here the General called a halt, to let the men rest in the shade during the heat of the day. Some wild cattle, belonging to Santa Anna-for the soil and all thereon for thirty miles on either side of the road are his-had been shot by the marksmen, and we were regaled on fresh beef, cooked while the flesh was still quivering with the last vibrations of life. A party of some hundreds of lancers was seen reconnoitering, and not knowing but that it was an advance from a larger force, the troops were drawn up and the dragoons ordered out to meet them.

They did not seem to desire any close acquaintance, however, but fled as fast as their horses could carry them. Pursuit was not to be thought of, as the General's first object was to reach the main body of the army, by last accounts at Puebla. Our beef-steak and coffee breakfasts, and some hours of rest in huts and under guava trees, had sufficiently recruited the command for another start, and we came on in comparatively good style to this place, about seven leagues from Vera Cruz.

The road was high and level from Santa Fe, with the firmness of paving, though unpaved. We crossed some ravines, or water-courses, now dry, on good bridges, and swamps on excellent calzadas, or causeways. The sun was very powerful, and the men, all debilitated by the few weeks spent in this enervating climate, suffered severely-they threw off their incumbrances, first watch-coats, then extra garments, then knapsacks, blankets, many of them-in short, threw away everything but arms and accoutrements.

The road was strewed with enough for the outfit of a regiment. I felt for the poor fellows,. It was noticeable that the waste was on the part generally of Americans and Irish —rarely or never did a German throw off his pack. Whether they were less exhausted by the climate, or only more provident than the others, is more than I can say.

The sick had a trying time of it; the burdens of nearly all of them were stowed in the wagons, but they fell by dozens, or hundreds, I should say, by the roadside. We put as many of them in the ambulances as they would hold, and when possible, we would put a man on top of the stores in the overladen wagons, but they fell too fast for us, and all we could do at last, was to recommend to them to hold on to the tails of the wagons. Late at night the rear, still the gallant marines, reached this camp-ground, which the men, with sufficient reason, call " The Mudhole. The site is low and swampy, the undergrowth almost impenetrable, and in the midst of woods we can scarcely find two dry sticks to make a fire.

The whole camp is knee-deep in mud, inside of the tents as well as out. The men sleep in mud and water. For myself, I have two boxes in my tent, and a stretcher between them for a bed. The stretcher is a piece of canvass, six feet long, with longer poles at the sides-that is, it is a sort of hand-litter for carrying the wounded off the field. Don't be envious, although I sleep high and dry, I cannot turn out except in the nmud. Is the "a mud-hole" a misnomer? In Camp, Plan del Rio, July. IT was no easy matter to get away from San Juan, water-logged as we were, but it was ruinous to stay; so by a vigorous effort, we succeeded in getting the trains under way after a sojourn there of a day and two nights.

It rained heavily a great portion of the time, and we were beset by insects, as mosquitoes and ticks,-a little varmint so small that it fixes on you without attracting your notice, until, full of blood, with its head buried in your flesh, you see it on some portion of your person, as large and as round and as red as a cherry. This is the vaunted " life in the woods;" about equal in charms to that "on the ocean wave.

Is there no enchantment but that that distance lends? You may ask, what detained us at such a spot? The answer is easily given. The men and the teams reached there incredibly jaded; unaccustomed to such work as they were, and with so much sickness, the entire brigade was fairly stalled. The day's march from San Juan brought us to Lomo, where we.

Over against us, on a neighbouring hill-side, stood the ruins of an old church, that had also been used in its day as garrison and fortress.

Book: Out to Canaan

We had on the march a taste of guerrilla fight; divers escopets had been fired on the columns indiscriminately, from the hands of invisible enemies, concealed in the dense chaparral. Several of our men were wounded, one poor fellow, a dragoon, so badly as to require amputation at the shoulder joint. He and the others are all doing well, however.

Some shots were returned on the part of our troops, but with what effect is not known. Another day brought us to Tolome; our friends, the guerrilleros, still sending us some of their tokens, when, like the kid on the precipice, they could be brave with impunity. Towards night a party of them, mounted, was seen dogging the rear-there were no dragoons at hand to pursue them, but a well-directed round or two from a piece of light artillery, soon relieved us of their company. Tolom6 has somewhat the air of a town; it has, to be sure, its complement of reed huts, but then it has its square or plaza, upon which are several respectable tenements.

They are long, low, onestory houses, plastered and white, with tile roofs and ample piazzas. In the plaza the artillery was parked, and the houses were occupied by the officers. It was a beautiful moonlight night; we had for the first time, music by a band; the smiths were busy at their fires repairing tires and traces, and I cannot tell you how cheerful the ringing of their hammers sounded; the men had begun to improve in health and spirits, and from the long lines of their transparent dwellings were heard lively songs and peals of laughter; —the whole was so like a gay panorama, that one might have fancied himself in a Coliseum, admiring the handiwork of a skilful artist, who by the illusion of music and transparencies gave to his work the reality of life.

We found ourselves getting into the region of hills, a pleasant change from the lowlands nearer the sea-shore, and after a hard day's march from Tolom6, we came to repose for the night at the Puente Nacional, or National Bridge, once known as the King's. Our advance met with a warm reception from some guerrilleros who had planted themselves under shelter, on almost inaccessible hill-tops.

We expected an engagement here, and great was the excitement among those in the rear when by the peals of the artillery and volleys of small arms we learned it had commenced. Every man wanted to rush forward, but this was not admissible; the immense train of between two and three hundred wagons had to be protected, and those in charge could not desert it. The skirmish waxed quite warm for a while, but shortly the fires began to slacken and then cheers, long and loud, resounded along the line. When we got in, we found our people in possession of the heights; a number had been wounded, none killed, and the General himself had escaped with a ball through his hat.

It would be difficult to find a place better suited for defence than the National Bridge. It is approached by a long, narrow, winding road, through defiles readily overlooked and comimanded; and the bridge itself is in a deep wild ravine, which can only be left by roads ascending obliquely, and enclosed on all sides by rough, precipitous hills.

The scenery is majestic-reminding me forcibly of Harper's Ferry, though more primitive. I called the attention of my veteran friend, Major G-, of the artillery, to this resemblance, he being like myself familiar with the picturesque grandeur of the latter place, and he fully coincided with me in opinion. The bridge is a noble structure, a monument of the old Spanish regime.

The village boasts of its ample hotel, and near at hand is a palace-looking building, which is one of the many country-seats of the autocrat, Santa Anna. In the street were found the remains of an American soldier, killed there during a late action for every passing train has had to fight its way at this point , and most probably under General Cadwalader, who fought his way through at night The soldier had not been stripped, and his fleshless bones were.

Our troops did not leave without laying him in his last resting-place, on the banks of the river Antigua. Officers and men took advantage of this fine stream, which looks 4. The day's march brought us to Plan del Rio, sixteen miles from the bridge. The rear got a parting shot from unseen enemies as they started; the advance had the same reception on their arrival at the camp-ground. On the way, we heard that sixteen hundred men were hovering around, to take us at a disadvantage and do what damage they could. I do not know whether it was a false alarm, or-whether they considered their opportunity wanting.

Our numbers, and yet more, our artillery, kept them at a respectful distance. It is thought by persons whose opportunities enabled them to judge, that no open or general attack will be made on this column, though we may and do hear, daily, some few exchanges of shots. They have in such cases the trifling advantage of being hidden and sheltered; while we, bound to keep to the open road, afford them a fair mark to try their skill on. In Camp near Jalapa , July. You see, I continue mny letters faithfully, though without knowing how or when they can be forwarded.

We have no communication in either direction. Not a wayfarer is to be seen on the road; nor have we seen hut or house tenanted.

Points of Light

All progress is in one direction —all the tracks go into the lion's den; none can be traced returning. But even Relynard's cunning would fail here, for there. Plan del Rio is a plain traversed by two streams within half a mile of each other; the first of which is a mere brook, and the second, a small river, with a depth of some two or three feet in dry weather; during the season of rains, however, it becomes a roaring torrent-fills to overflowing its deep canal-like bed, the sides of which have a perpendicular depth of upwards of twenty feet.

Both of these streams have had massive stone bridges of a structure, wre peremniuls, intended to rival the days of the great destroyer, TIME. As our advance reached the first, descending a long hill by a very rough road cut down the hillside, and overlooked by precipices inaccessible except by a long circuit through dense undergrowth, they found it heavily barricaded. Shots were exchanged with the guerrilla-men, and the train stopped until the barricades could be removed. One or two companies were despatched in pursuit of the enemy, who was "non est inventus.

Their principal arm, the escopeta or carbine, has a very long range, and sends a ball nearly the size of a grapeshot; it has not the accuracy of a rifle, to be sure, but that is not important where a host of men is known to occupy a certain extent of road, and the enemy can plant himself behind a bluff or tree, half a mile or a mile off, and his position entirely concealed by the chaparral. Clearing away the barricade, occupied no great deal of time, but a more serious cause of detention was soon discovered. Among the thousand rumours we had heard at Vera Cruz, was one that the Mexicans had destroyed all the bridges.

They follow the various occupations of herdsmen, farmers, and highwaymen, indiscriminately. The river bank was as steep and as clean cut to a perpendicular depth of twenty feet, as if it had been the work of pick and spade, though the hand of man had not been there. What was to be done-were we to build a new bridge? Were we to offer libations to Jupiter and Mars, and wait for them to help us out of the scrape and over the river, or should we sensibly take the back track, satisfied with the distinguished services we had already rendered?

I don't know that the General thought of either of these expedients, unless it was to offer up the libations, which I am sure all of our pious and gallant fellows didl, who had it in their power. This done, it was represented that with our force, a road might be shortly cut down oblicliely to the water's edge, and that the river could be forded. By this time night had come upon us, and after despatching a homely meal, a dinner-supper of bread, beef, and coffee, we went in pursuit of the I' sweet restorer.

In common with a number of officers, I took refuge under one of the arches of the first bridge, and thus saved a ducking, as it came on to rain terribly during the night. I may remark though, en passant, that the shelter did us no good; for lying on the cold stones, and exposed to the draught through the arches, many of us took severe colds, which was not the case when we slept in tents or in the open air.

The morning's sun found the men diligently engaged with pick and shovel on the new road. They were superintended by the engineers and some officers, Captain ]B, particularly, from " down east," who certainly had a natural turn for everything. The work went on rapidly, and by nightfall the whole train was on the other side, and hard by the base of Cerro Gorldo. The destruction, too, was accompanied by loss of life, some of the workmen having been caught in the fall, it was said; some human remains having been found in the ruins.

It is not likely though, that even a Mexican flood would have stopped the march of "progressive" Jonathan. It is true, we would have been detained longer, and thus have given more time for the collection of a force at the pass of Cerro Gordo, if such were the plan. The General ordered a company of dragoons forward in the night for reconnoissance, or to take possession of the heights; they were misled, however, in the darkness, and did not reach the important position. The column started at daylight, and as we were creeping up the mountain, there was more than ordinary silence, every man seeming to be buried in his own reflections.

My own were somewhat as follows; what others were thinking of, I cannot say:-" Well, Mister -, here's a battle before you-and, combatant or non-combatant, you may be sent to settle your last accounts. Don't you think you were very sapient to leave your happy, quiet home, in the valley of Virginia, to come wandering over these rivers, plains, and mountains, where you have no business; to be killed by the hands of an enemy with whom you have had no quarrel, or to die of the pestilential diseases of his climate?

Suppose you are killed, will your country mourn your loss? A Major-General's commission? A Colonel's? Even a Major's? No —no. No brevets, no honours. If you carry home a broken limb, or a broken constitution, maybe your pension will keep you and yours from starvingOh L-d 1" Aloud. But my reflections were uncalled for. If batteries had been planted at many available points, our slowly ascending column, with its heavy train, might have been raked from stem to stern, and the troops mowed down by regiments.

The road for miles approaching Cerro Gordo, would be impassable if defended by staunch troops; but since the two chiefs tried their strength there, and the American triumphedcl, the point has been abandoned. To have an idea of the advantages of the defenders, you must know that the mountain is marked by a deep ravine, that rends it from summit to base, enlarging and deepening as it descends.

This offered a sort of natural road to the top of the mountain, but a stream of water occupies its bed generally, and grows to a torrent during the rains. The road was, therefore, very judiciously cut along the side of the ravine, making a long continuous ascent, nowhere very steep. The lightest troops would find great difficulty in advancing at all, through bushes and over rocks, if they attempted ascending out of the road. The ascent is on the right side of the ravine; on the left, an escopet might be concealed behind every tree, looking down upon the road, and from half a mile to a mile distant.

The trees would protect the enemy from our small arms, and the artillery could not be brought to bear on him to any advantage. But the great stronghold is at the summit, where batteries could be and were, to receive Scott's army placed most advantageously. The greater portion of the road is completely commanded from that point. The disadvantages of the invaders are obvious. I have not seen any detailed account of Scott's victory, but it certainly required a master mind to overcome such odds.

Santa Anna's positions were well chosen, as is shown by the remaining breastworks and trenches, which extend from the road, across the head of the ravine, to the heights opposite. There are many heavy pieces of ordnance dismantled and useless, lying on the roadside, and hundreds of ballsgrape and canister, shot and shells of all sizes. Leaving Cerro Gordo, our eyes were gladdened with the sight of tenanted houses and cultivated fields,-a happy change to him who emerges suddenly from the desert and the wilderness.

Camp near Jalapa, July. THE sight of the first i-ancho or hut occupied by human beings was decidedly cheering; though the inhabitants were but a poor old mtestizo half-breed and his wife. They appeared to be quite destitute, but offered in a spirit of Christian charity, all they had to give, a cup of cold water. It was nectar to many a parched and dusty throat, for the men always empty their canteens three pints very early in the day, and then, unless a stream or pond is found, pant for hours in the dust and sun without water.

We encamped at night on the banks of a fine stream three leagues from Jalapa. The camp was much diminished in size, for on the march the teams failed so fast, that tents and tent-poles, bag and baggage, had been thrown out and left on the roadside, that the train might not be delayed. All the wagons had started with teams of six mules; now few had more than four, and some but three; the rest had died, or were turned out to die, on the road.

I reached the camp-ground among the first, about the middle of the afternoon, and after waiting long and weary hours for my wagon, it came at last after dark, and you may judge of my vexation when it was announced to me that both tent and mess chest, supper and lodgings, had gone by the board. So many tents were missing, that all that were found had double or triple their complement; many of them had no poles, and were hoisted on such sticks as could be found, making all sorts of figures, and as the once bleached canvass had taken all the hues that mud and dust, rain and smoke can give, the camp might have been supposed to belong to an army of gipsies.

My chum, wider awake than myself, hired a Mexican camp-follower to take his donkeys and go back to the spot where the wagon had stalled, to bring forward whatever he could find; and towards midnight he returned with the tent, and other articles of less importance. Meantime the usual shower had fallen, and when we pitched upon the wet grass there was nothing between us and it but an oiled sheet we carried with us, and it was indeed a treasure. On the opposite bank of the river is an extensive hcaciencla an estate properly, but the word is commonly used to indicate the manor-house , and we are told the residents are not unfriendly.

Some officers, who had perhaps not yet received the order, went out in the afternoon to kill a beef; they ventured too far, were fired on themselves, and one of them severely wounded. The Mexicans escaped. A company of dragoons was concealed, with orders to wait, after the brigade had gone, long enough for these fellows to come up. Sure enough, when the rear-guard was just far enough off to descry the dust of a party of horse, it was seen; then there was a chase, a sort of steeple-chase, where none had ever been before; but it would not do-they knew their ground and their fastnesses, and having detected from a distance that some little arrangements had been made for their benefit, they took to their heels in time to make a safe retreat.

We marched through the outskirts of Jalapa, a picturesque, oldfashioned Spanish town, embowered in the midst of scenery of surpassing magnificence. There is a beauty in the rugged mountains of the background that one can appreciate to the full when he has. Nature is clothed in a new aspect; the very air, lately so dense and suffocating, is now pure, sharp, and bracing, and reminds you that you are coming into the tierras temnpladccs, the favourite region of perpetual spring.

Hundreds of people stood upon the wayside as we passed the town, to have a near view of los Yanquees, the barbarians from the North, and as it was on Sunday, the Jclctpeios were decked in their best apparel, making themselves an array much more showy than that of the army. Fruits and flowers appear to be highly cultivated about the town; and many trees, embraced, stem and branches, by flowering creepers, were beautiful in the extreme.

I thought that garrisoning Jalapa would have been much better than going farther " to fare worse;" but we are predestined to move onward; the Commander-in-chief is no doubt anxiously awaiting his reinforcements, and we marched on to encamp some three miles nearer to his head-quarters. Camp near Perote, July. WE all enjoyed a rest of a couple of days near Jalapa exceedingly. On the march, notwithstanding the exposure, sickness had abated considerably, and a little repose, in connexion with pure air and improved diet, recruited the men greatly in health and spirits. Apples, pears, peaches, bananas, plantains, zapote, a species of papaw, the aguacate, or alligator pear, cactus beriies, and many other fruits, are all offered by one person, and collected in one vicinity.

We had to pay pretty well for our luxuries, however; we bought milk, for instance, at a mned'io the half pint, that is, one dollar a gallon; eggs, from a cuartillo three cents to a medio six and a quarter each, and other things in proportion. Fortunately for those who had money, there was but a short allowance of it in camp, otherwise the prices would have advanced greatly. One fellow, who came to my tent with supplies, saw there the remnant of a sperm candle; he appeared to have a great desire for it, and I gave it to him; he then displayed a great eagerness to commence a barter for more, and upon inquiry, I found that spermaceti has the reputation in this region of being a sovereign remedy for various pulmonary diseases.

The Mexican gave his information with some reluctance, only coming out openly when he found he was talking to a mnedico, from whom he could get advice, if not candles, merely for the asking. Our time was not all given to rest. A train was sent to the town one morning for supplies; and it was understood that a body of lancers was lying in wait to surprise it. Some four hundred men were consequently ordered out as an escort, and prevention proved better than cure, as no attack was made. We learn that the guerrilleros levy upon the town at will, taking what they please, and paying for nothing-they are, in fact, but organized plunderers of their own people.

Our army must offer a remarkable contrast in the eyes of this distracted people-all private property taken by the Americans is honestly paid for, and at fair prices. Now and then, it happens that some act of violence or oppression is laid at the door of an American soldier, but injustice to the unarmed enemy is generally reprobated. Some trivial passes happened between individuals at Jalapa, and, in one instance, at least, that came under my notice, the American was mortally wounded. It appeared that. This caused a quarrel; a party of Mexicans surrounded the soldier, who was becoming helplessly drunk, and one of them inflicted upon him several severe stabs, entering his liver and lungs, and causing death in about forty-eight hours.

When brought to me, some hours after the affray, he was still beastly drunk, and apparently without any idea of the extent of his injuries. Several officers had their horses stolen during their short visit to the town. An unfortunate little black boy was severely beaten, and nearly killed, by a bold robber, who rode away in triumph on the noble steed the boy had in charge. A lot of fresh mules was bought for the trains at Jalapa, and taking up again the line of march, we arrived in good time at the hamlet of La Hoya the pit, or basin.

Here General Cadwalader had a severe encounter. The road passes through a mountain gorge of most remarkable appearance, that looks really like a huge trap, set by the war god of the ancient inhabitants, to take in unwary invaders —he, good soul, had never heard of a northern tribe at present of some note, under the cognomen of Los Yantques. Picture to yourself a deep river, with mountain shores narrowing towards a point like a fish-trap; then do away with your river, and let a road occupy its bed; make an imaginary disposition of troops, and you will place them on the sides and tops of the hills, protected by their elevation, the trees, and their breastworks, where a portion of your artillery is planted.

So much for the entrance to the pass; at the'little end of the horn,' or the narrowest part of the gorge, cut a ditch across the road, and behind it place a heavy barricade, and let it bristle with artillery.

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Place some few pieces also at intervals along the converging hillsides, and let them be well supported by a judicious distribution of infantry. With reliable troops, then you might defy Santa Anna, or another lame personage himself, also a distinguished commander, whose generalship is universally admitted. But though these dispositions actually were made, a small American force dislodged and routed the enemy, and passed on triumphantly to join the main army.

We spent the night in a hollow that may have been once the bed of a lake-before morning we might have fancied ourselves in the lake itself; for it rained in torrents, and all the rain from the hills poured in upon us, so that there was not only water enough in the basin for ordinary ablutions, but many of us were favoured with baths in our tents; and, what was less desirable, our clothes and bedding were soaked by the deluge.

Withal, the temperature has changed greatly since we have been ascending the mcuntains; the nights are very cold to those who have just left the coast, and though the thermometer may not indicate any great change, our feelings do. We left La Hoya bright and early, for Perote, which we did not reach until late at night. It was a hard day's march of upwards of twenty miles, a great portion of the road being rough and mountainous.

As we advance, however, the country is enlivened by more dense population; ranchos, hamlets, chapels, ventas small shops or inns , appear on all sides. Every house displays on its front the holy symbol of the cross-sometimes gilt, sometimes of plain wood or iron; here simply painted on the wall, there represented in stucco.

The spires of rustic chapels shoot up from amidst the green trees in every direction, and add much to the beauty of the landscape, though the edifices themselves are generally extremely plain upon a nearer view. Camp in the Plaza, Puebla, August, PEROTE is a dull, uninviting place, of about four thousand inhabit tants; it is on an elevation of eight thousand feet above the leyvel of.

The Castle is a very extensive and formidable fortress; its massive walls, its gates and drawbridges, its slopes and ditches, remind one of the boastful English proverb, " The Spaniards to build forts, the French to take them, and the English to keep them. Standing as it does in the middle of a great plain, an invading army could always turn it without difficulty; and the only apparent advantage is, that it would be a point d'appui from which troops could conveniently take the field, and where, in case of need, they would find a safe retreat.

You must always receive, however, my military speculations and descriptions with allowances. I cannot pretend to do more than give such views as present themselves to an observer entirely unlearned in the science of war. It was the first and only military station we had arrived at; and I am sorry to say that, even in the occupancy of American troops, it was most horribly filthy. Volunteers are apt to have a false pride as regards the humbler duties of military life, and they are very unwilling to come down to the necessary police duties.

The idea of playing scavenger in an old den of Mexican troops, was certainly not agreeable to men, many of whom enjoyed high social position at home, and who entered the ranks believing that fighting and marching were the only legitimate duties of soldiers. Still, after entering upon a new field voluntarily, it became incumbent on them to endure all the contingent obligations. Some of these were on duty; others, convalescent, had nothing to do but take care of themselves-while the greater number were confined to their rude couches, bearing it in their expression to the practised eye, that, in the language of Corporal Trim, speaking of poor Lefevre, "they would never march again in this world.

Outside of the walls, immediately in rear of our camp, is a double line of mounds, where repose all the perishable parts of hundreds of our brave citizen-soldiers. They have fallen by scores, and not upon the battle-field, but from the ravages of disease; by the hand of the ruthless conqueror, before whom they fell as the grass under the sickle of the mower.

Death has been dealing his darts so freely here, that in many cases the only burial was that of taking a dozen bodies at once to be laid in a common grave. Perote is considered by the natives a healthy place, but the Castle, in its present condition, is certainly anything else-yet, it is to be observed, that the diseases which proved so fatal did not originate there, but that it was made the receptacle of all the unpromising cases of each passing portion of the army. Our own command leaves such cases as cannot travel without transportation, and in exchange we take with us such as are sufficiently restored to rejoin their respective regiments.

Many a poor fellow, in his anxiety to escape the charnel-house, reports himself well, and anxious to proceed, while his sallow countenance and tottering limbs belie his assertions. On Sunday, I attended church at Perote-not at the Castle, for there the chapel, a tasty and handsome apartment, was used as a sick ward-but in the town, at a spacious and time-honoured temple, where there was a large crowd of worshippers. The interior of the church was imposing, but the effect was impaired by a number of coarse paintings and tasteless statuary. Women formed eight-tenths of the assembled congregation.

During our stay at Perote, we were excessively annoyed by the light sand that was carried about in clouds by every breeze; just. The sand penetrated into everything; in clothes-bags, sugar, salt-into the dishes cooking on the fire; it filled our eyes, ears, and hair, and we inhaled it at every breath. Our sick list had not diminished in the proportion we anticipated. The march itself involved a great deal of exposure, paiticularly as it was during the rainy season; all day we are subjected to a scorching sun, while cold and heavy rains are brought with the shades of evening.

Few of the men, besides, have due deference to ffygeathey eat such fruits as they can get, green or ripe, and they drink, when it can be had, something even worse than bad water. If the "- takes care of his own," he does it very badly. Up to the time of reaching Perote, we had not met a human being bound to the coast; there, however, we learned that a number of volunteers whose time of service had expired, were about to make their way to Vera Cruz, homeward bound.

We could not go with them, except in spirit, but we left with them tidings to bear to our friends. Then " shaking the dust from our feet," we resumed our onward march in the bold pursuit of-glory! Puebla, August. A GREAT landmark, long in sight before reaching Perote, there appeared close at hand; I speak of the lofty mountain called the Cofre of Perote, from an arrangement of rock on its summit bearing a resemblance to a huge coffer or trunk.

To my eye, it looks more like the hut of a hermit, another Stylites, who had thus planted himself above the cares of earth, to enjoy a nearer view of the visible. The Cofre is of "basaltic porphyry;" it presents an elevation of nearly fourteen thousand feet above the level of the sea; but standing as it does between Orizaba and the Puebla mountains, whose towering summits ascend thousands of feet in the region of perpetual snow, its great height is diminished to the eye by comparison.

Our march had hitherto been ascending, but at Perote we stood upon the great central platform of Anahuac. In the ascent of the Cordilleras from the sea, we had passed successively through the tierras calientes, the region of perennial summer, where all fruits and flowers of the tropics reach perfection, and where, too, pestilence is condensed and concentrated; through the tierras templadas, where the chilling blasts of winter are equally unknown with the scorching heats of summer; and now we entered the tierras frias, a region cold indeed, compared with the lowlands behind us, but where there is no winter as we experience it even in our temperate Middle States.

When you recollect, however, that this great central plateau is the summit, in fact, of a range of mountains among the most stupendous on earth; that its elevation is more than one half of that required, even in the torrid zone, for perpetual snow; it will be obvious, that in this latitude, it was not at all amiss to christen the tablelands, TIERRAS FRIAs.

Once on the highlands, our average progress was much better than before; we followed a good road over immense plains, occasionally varied by hill and dale, from Perote to Puebla. Mountains, it is true, presented on every side, rearing their lofty heads towards heaven; but they rise abruptly from the plateau, and we kept our level road, winding around their bases.

A great portion of the country is arid, barren, and uncultivated; of forests there are nonewe had left them behind us; at times, scarcely a tree was to be seen for miles. Again, we passed through immense fields of the graceful and luxuriant maize: thousands of acres lay spread out before us in uninterrupted tracts of this invaluable grain. We passed through some thrifty villages, and by great haciendas; the road was enlivened by caravans of mules and donkeys, carrying on a circulation of trade between the cities and country.

The haciendas, or perhaps better, villas, that is, the abodes of the proprietors and tenements of. In the midst of a green field you see an extensive and massive white wall surrounding a large quadrangular building, white also, that looks more like a fortress than a private mansion. Extensive parapets, more for defence than ornament, and loop-holes, smacking of the feudal ages, and rarely seen in modern edifices, out of Mexico, are common enough here, where every man's house is literally his castle.

Dire disease still pursued us. Our ambulances, or avalanches, as the men call them, were full and overfull; -the wagons of the train were pressed into the service of transporting sick, in addition to their proper loads; but still many had to drag along their weary limbs as best they could, or drop by the roadside. This was extremely hazardous, on account of the ravening wolves that kept constantly on our trail-near enough to fall upon unwary and exhausted stragglers, and yet always far enough off, or sufficiently out of sight, to save- their precious persons.

I sometimes found myself miles behind the train, and even behind the rear-guard, trying to restore and bring on the fallen. The best that could be done in such cases was to group a party of the unfortunates, directing them to stand by their arms and by each other, and thus, marching and resting, to follow on to the camp, which they generally reached some hours after their comrades. I must admit, that on leaving my little squad to ride on unprotected to my own position, it was generally with a feeling of insecurity, as if a silent lasso from behind a hedge might interrupt my lonely progress.

Sometimes the whole road would be strewed for miles with stragglers, who could get on indifferently well when allowed to go at their own pace, but who could not keep their positions in the ranks-under such circumstances, numbers gave security. It is not particularly pleasant, when alone, to pass a wayside cross, with a pile of stones around it, and perhaps an inscription-" Don Fulano was murdered on the spot, at such a time, and he who passes, is besought to offer up a Paternoster and an Ave, for the repose of his soul.

The city does not show to advantage as approached from the Vera Cruz road, the site being rather low, but we entered by a splendid macadamized road, passed the garita, guard-station at city gate , and found a city worthy of its aspiring title. Some of the regular troops came out to meet us; I observed particularly, a gallant and dashing general officer Twiggs , whose staff and dragoon guard with their well-appointed and highly polished equipments, their free use of " pipe-claying and starching," threw our travel-stained and sunburnt warriors deep in the shade.

Puebla adorns the plains of the ancient Tlascala. It was founded upwards of three hundred years ago; and a legend is connected with its name and origin, which at some future time I may send you. The angels who tenant it now to say nothing of those who belong to our army are the fair poblanas, who have some feminine fame throughout the republic of Mexico: the better classes at present are as invisible as the celestial spirits who keep watch over them.

The triunmphs of our braves have so far been over men only; the smiles of beauty rest not on the victors; even their avowed willingness to surrender to the winning graces of the gentler sex, has not opened to them the doors of the boudoir and the drawing-room. Perhaps the ladies are right; but other reasons than the stately reserve of the old Spanish blood cause them to keep our gallants aloof: the most trivial acts of civility or courtesy are jealously watched by prying eyes; and the poblana who once nods her head to an American, is marked by a fierce and cowardly mob for future insult.

San Martin, August. THE main body of the army, under the immediate command of its illustrious chief, has passed the summer in Puebla, and this proverbially quiet and provincial town has been converted into another Babel. The rich and sonorous tones of Old Castile, so appropriate amidst the venerable temples and antiquated mansions of a city whose foundations are almost coeval with the discovery of the continent, are blended with, or I may say overwhelmed by, the "divers tongues" of the half of Europe; English, Dutch, French, and the well-known bro2gue of the gallant son of the Green Isle-who is sure to be found wherever there is lovemaking or fighting —all rise at once in confused sounds that almost disguise the pure vernacular of Yankeedom.

Don't suppose for a moment, though, that Jonathan himself is thrown in the shade; by no means. Behold a stately building, that looks like a Neapolitan palace; you can get admission there-for a bit of painted board makes it the " New York Eating House;" the noble pile opposite is the " Soldiers' Homlle;" and dozens of other stately edifices are reduced, pro tempore, into homely restaurants.

Enter any of these, and you will find your fellow-citizens, in and out of uniform, discussing politics and the war, just as they do in any bar-room in the States, from Maine to Texas, with only a little less zest than they clear the platters before them.