In a note, written the day after, acknowledging a paper sent to him to sign, he says:
"...I wrote to you yesterday, Saturday, in reply to your former letter, and stated the reasons why I could not visit you. Your mother has received Mildred's letter announcing her arrival in Richmond and will write to her there. I can only repeat my love and prayers that every blessing may attend you and yours. We are as usual.
The attack of cold from which my father suffered in October had been very severe. Rapid exercise on horseback or on foot produced pain and difficulty in breathing. After he was considered by most of his friends to have gotten well over it, it was very evident to his doctors and himself that there was a serious trouble about the heart, and he often had great weariness and depression. He complained but little, was often very bright and cheerful, and still kept up his old-time fun and humour in his conversation and letters, but his letters written during this year to his immediate family show that he was constantly in pain and had begun to look upon himself as an invalid. To Mildred, who was in Richmond on a visit to friends, he writes jokingly about the difficulty experienced by the family in finding out what she meant in a letter to him:
"Lexington, Virginia, January 8, 1870.
"My Precious Life: I received you letter of the 4th. We held a family council over it. It was passed from eager hand to hand and attracted wondering eyes and mysterious looks. It produced few words but a deal of thinking, and the conclusion arrived at, I believe unanimously, was that there was a great fund of amusement and information in it if it could be extracted. I have therefore determined to put it carefully away till your return, seize a leisure day, and get you to interpret it. Your mother's commentary, in a suppressed soliloquy, was that you had succeeded in writing a wretched hand. Agnes thought that it would keep this cold weather--her thoughts running on jellies and oysters in the storeroom; but I, indignant at such aspersions upon your accomplishments, retained your epistle and read in an elevated tone an interesting narrative of travels in sundry countries, describing gorgeous scenery, hairbreadth escapes, and a series of remarkable events by flood and field, not a word of which they declared was in your letter. Your return, I hope, will prove the correctness of my version of your annals.... I have little to tell. Gaiety continues. Last night there was a cadet hop. Night before, a party at Colonel Johnston's. The night preceding, a college conversazione at your mother's. It was given in honour of Miss Maggie Johnston's visit of a few days to us. You know how agreeable I am on such occasions, but on this, I am told, I surpassed myself.
"On New year's Day the usual receptions. many of our friends called. Many of my ancients as well as juniors were present, and all enjoyed some good Norfolk oysters. I refer you to Agnes for details. We are pretty well. I think I am better. Your mother and sisters as usual. Custis busy with the examination of the cadets, the students preparing for theirs. Cadet Cook, who was so dangerously injured by a fall from his window on the 1st, it is hoped now will recover. The Misses Pendleton were to have arrived this morning, and Miss Ella Heninberger is on a visit to Miss Campbell. Miss Lizzie Letcher still absent. Messrs. Anderson, Baker, W. Graves, Moorman, Strickler, and Webb have all been on visits to their sweethearts, and have left without them. 'Mrs. Smith' is as usual. 'Gus' is as wild as ever ["Mrs. Smith" and "Gus" were the names of two of the pet cats of my sister. "Gus" was short for Gustavus Adolphus.]. We catch our own rats and mice now, and are independent of cats. All unite in love to you.
A month later he writes again to this daughter in the same playful strain, and sends his remembrances to many friends in Richmond:
"Lexington, Virginia, February 2, 1870.