The tenderness in my father's heart for children I have already often remarked upon. One afternoon two little girls, the daughters of two of his professors, were riding on a gentle old horse up and down one of the back streets of the town, fearing to go too far from home. The General, starting out on his afternoon ride, came up with them, and knowing them well, said gaily:
"Come with me, little girls, and I will show you a beautiful ride."
Only too delighted, they consented to go. He took them out beyond the fair-grounds, from which point there is one of the grandest stretches of mountain scenery in the world. One of the little maidens had her face tied up, as she was just recovering from the mumps. He pretended that he was much alarmed lest his horse should catch them from her, and kept saying:
"I hope you won't give Traveller the mumps!" and "What shall I do if Traveller gets the mumps?"
An hour later, this party was seen returning, the two little girls in sun-bonnets on the one old, sleepy horse, and General Lee by their side on Traveller, who was stepping very proudly, as if in scorn of his lowly companion. My father took the children to their homes, helped them dismount, took a kiss from each, and, waving a parting salute, rode away. It was such simple acts of kindness and consideration that made all children confide in him and love him.
Soon after the attack of cold mentioned above, he writes to his son Fitzhugh, then at the "White House" with his family:
"Lexington, Virginia, December 2, 1869.
"My Dear Fitzhugh:... Your letters to Custis told us of your well-doing. I want to see you all very much, and think the sight of my daughter and grandson would do me good. I have had a wretched cold, the effects of which have not left me, but I am better. The doctors still have me in hand, but I fear can do no good. The present mild weather I hope will be beneficial, enabling me to ride and be in the open air. But Traveller's trot is harder to me than it used to be and fatigues me. We are all as usual--the women of the family very fierce and the men very mild. Custis has been a little unwell, but is well regulated by his sisters. Neither gaiety nor extravagance prevails amongst us, and the town is quiet. Our community has been greatly grieved at the death of Mr. Frank Preston, to whom I was much attached and for whom I had a high esteem. Give my love to Bertus. Tell him I hope Mrs. Taylor will retain one of her little daughters for him. She always reserves the youngest of the flock from Custis, as he is not particular as to an early date.