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."
We were expected, and were met at the door by all the family and guests. A hearty welcome was given us. After supper he was the centre of the circle in the drawing-room, and made the acquaintance of the children of the house and of the friends and relatives of the family who were there. He said little, but all listened eagerly to what he did say, and were charmed with his pleasant smile and gracious manner. "Cousin Rebecca" introduced him to her son-in-law, Captain Perrin, mentioning that he had been wounded in the war and was still lame from the effects. The General replied that at any rate he was all right now, for he had a pair of strong young feet to wait upon him, indicating his young wife.
As was customary in this section of Virginia, the house was full of visitors, and I shared my father's room and bed. Though many a year had passed since we had been bedfellows, he told me that he remembered well the time when, as a little fellow, I had begged for this privilege. The next day he walked about the beautiful gardens, and was driven over the plantation and shown the landscapes and water views of the immediate neighborhood. Mr. Graves, Dr. Tabb's overseer, who had the honour of being his coachman, fully appreciated it, and was delighted when my father praised his management. He had been a soldier under the General, and had stoutly carried his musket to Appomatox, where he surrendered it. When told of this by Dr. Tabb, my father took occasion to compliment him on his steadfast endurance and courage, but Graves simply and sincerely replied,
"Yes, General, I stuck to the army, but if you had in your entire command a greater coward than I was, you ought to have had him shot."