"Thirteenth.--I determined, after commencing this, to wait and see your papa, who arrived last evening with Agnes. He looks fatter, but I do not like his complexion, and he seems still stiff. I have not yet had time to hear much of their tour, except a grand dinner given them at Mr. Benet's. Your papa sends his love, and says he will be in Lexington somewhere about the 24th....
There is no news. The country becomes more lovely each day. The locust trees are in full bloom, and the polonia, the only tree left of all that were planted by poor Charlotte and myself. How all our labours have come to naught. The General has just come in. Robbie is riding on his knee, sitting as grave as a judge. He says now 'Markie,' 'Agnes,' and many other words, and calls me 'Bonne Mama.' We expect Rob this morning....
At this time my father was persuaded to make me a visit. He had been invited before, when at different times he had been to the "White House," but something had hitherto always prevented his coming; now he decided to come. My "Romancoke" farm was situated in King William County, on the opposite side of the Pamunkey River, and some fifteen miles east of "White House." We arrived there in the afternoon, having come down by the steamer, which at that time ran from "White House" to Baltimore. "Romancoke" had been always a dependency of the "White House," and was managed by an overseer who was subordinate to the manager on the latter estate. There was on it only a small house, of the size usual in our country for that character of property. I had taken possession in 1866, and was preparing to build a more comfortable residence, but in the meantime I lived in the house which had been occupied by the different overseers for about seventy-five years. Its accommodations were very limited, simple, and it was much out of repair. Owing to the settling of the underpinning in the centre, it had assumed a "sway- backed" outline, which gave it the name of the "broken-back house." No repairs had been attempted, as I was preparing to build a new home.
My father, always dignified and self-contained, rarely gave any evidence of being astonished or startled. His self-control was great and his emotions were not on the surface, but when he entered and looked around my bachelor quarters he appeared really much shocked. As I was much better off in the matter of housekeeping than I had been for four years, I flattered myself that I was doing very well. I can appreciate fully now what he must have felt at the time. However, he soon rallied and concealed his dismay by making kindly fun of my surroundings. The next day at dinner he felt obliged to remark on my china, knives, and forks, and suggested that I might at least better my holdings in that line. When he got back to Richmond he sent me a full set of plated forks and spoons, which I have been using from that day to this. He walked and drove over the farm, discussed my plans for improvement, and was much interested in all my work, advising me about the site of my new house, new barns, ice-house, etc. He evidently enjoyed his visit, for the quiet and the rest were very refreshing.
About thirty miles, as the crow flies, from my place, down York River, is situated, in Gloucester County, "White Marsh," an old Virginia home which then belonged to Dr. Prosser Tabb, who with his wife and children was living there. Mrs. Tabb was a near cousin of my father, and as a little girl had been a pet and favourite. His affection and regard for her had lasted from his early manhood. He had seen but little of her since the war, and when "Cousin Rebecca," as we called her, learned he was to be at the "White House," she wrote begging him to pay her a visit. This he had agreed to do if it was possible.
While at the "White House," we had consulted together as to the best method of accomplishing this trip, and we determined to make it from "Romancoke." So I drove him to West Point, and there got aboard the Baltimore steamer, taking my horse and trap with us. At Cappahoosic, a wharf on the York, we landed and drove the nine miles to "White Marsh," arriving at "supper time," as we still say in Virginia--i.e., about 7:30 P. M.
When General Lee got off on the wharf, so great was the desire of the passengers and crew to see him, that they all went to the side of the boat, which caused her to list so that I was unable to get my horse out through the gangway until the captain had ordered every one to the other side. As the sun went down, it became chilly and I drove quite rapidly, anxious to get my father out of the night air as soon as possible. He said nothing at the time, nor did I know that he noticed my unusual speed. But afterward he remarked on it to several persons, saying:
"I think Rob drives unnecessarily fast."