The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Other Sketches
by Mark Twain
11.  Lucretia Smith's Soldier
I am an ardent admirer of those nice, sickly war stories which
have lately been so popular, and for the last three months I have
been at work upon one of that character, which is now completed.
It can be relied upon as true in every particular, inasmuch as
the facts it contains were compiled from the official records in
the War Department at Washington. It is but just, also, that I
should confess that I have drawn largely on Jomini's Art of War, the Message of the President and Accompanying Documents, and
sundry maps and military works, so necessary for reference in
building a novel like this. To the accommodating Directors of the
Overland Telegraph Company I take pleasure in returning my thanks
for tendering me the use of their wires at the customary rates.
And finally, to all those kind friends who have, by good deeds or
encouraging words, assisted me in my labors upon this story of
"Lucretia Smith's Soldier," during the past three months, and
whose names are too numerous for special mention, I take this
method of tendering my sincerest gratitude.
On a balmy May morning in 1861, the little village of Bluemass,
in Massachusetts, lay wrapped in the splendor of the newly-risen
sun. Reginald de Whittaker, confidential and only clerk in the
house of Bushrod & Ferguson, general drygoods and grocery dealers
and keepers of the post-office, rose from his bunk under the
counter, and shook himself. After yawning and stretching
comfortably, he sprinkled the floor and proceeded to sweep it. He
had only half finished his task, however, when he sat down on a
keg of nails and fell into a reverie. "This is my last day in
this shanty," said he. "How it will surprise Lucretia when she
hears I am going for a soldier! How proud she will be, the little
darling!" He pictured himself in all manner of warlike
situations; the hero of a thousand extraordinary adventures; the
man of rising fame; the pet of Fortune at last; and beheld
himself, finally, returning to his own home, a bronzed and
scarred brigadier-general, to cast his honors and his matured and
perfect love at the feet of his Lucretia Borgia Smith.
At this point a thrill of joy and pride suffused his system; but
he looked down and saw his broom, and blushed. He came toppling
down from the clouds he had been soaring among, and was an
obscure clerk again, on a salary of two dollars and a half a
AT eight o'clock that evening, with a heart palpitating with the
proud news he had brought for his beloved, Reginald sat in Mr.
Smith's parlor awaiting Lucretia's appearance. The moment she
entered, he sprang to meet her, his face lighted by the torch of
love that was blazing in his head somewhere and shining through,
and ejaculated, "Mine own!" as he opened his arms to receive her.
"Sir!" said she, and drew herself up like an offended queen.
Poor Reginald was stricken dumb with astonishment. This chilling
demeanor, this angry rebuff, where he had expected the old,
tender welcome, banished the gladness from his heart as the
cheerful brightness is swept from the landscape when a dark cloud
drifts athwart the face of the sun. He stood bewildered a moment,
with a sense of goneness on him like one who finds himself
suddenly overboard upon a midnight sea, and beholds the ship pass
into shrouding gloom, while the dreadful conviction falls upon
his soul that he has not been missed. He tried to speak, but his
pallid lips refused their office. At last he murmured:
"O Lucretia! what have I done; what is the matter; why this cruel
coldness?  Don't you love your Reginald any more?"
Her lips curled in bitter scorn, and she replied, in mocking
"Don't I love my Reginald any more?  No, I don't love my Reginald any more!" Go back to your pitiful junk-shop and grab your pitiful yard-stick, and stuff cotton in your ears, so that you can't hear your country shout to you to fall in and shoulder arms. Go!"& And
then, unheeding the new light that Bashed from his eyes, she fled
from the room and slammed the door behind her.
Only a moment more!" Only a single moment more, he thought, and he
could have told her how he had already answered the summons and
signed his name to the muster-roll, and all would have been well;
his lost bride would have come back to his arms with words of
praise and thanksgiving upon her lips. He made a step forward,
once, to recall her, but he remembered that he was no longer an
effeminate drygoods student, and his warrior soul scorned to sue
for quarter. He strode from the place with martial firmness, and
never looked behind him.
When Lucretia awoke next morning, the faint music of fife and the
roll of a distant drum came floating upon the soft spring breeze,
and as she listened the sounds grew more subdued, and finally
passed out of hearing. She lay absorbed in thought for many
minutes, and then she sighed and said: "Oh! if he were only with
that band of fellows, how I could love him!"
In the course of the day a neighbor dropped in, and when the
conversation turned upon the soldiers, the visitor said:
"Reginald de Whittaker looked rather down-hearted, and didn't
shout when he marched along with the other boys this morning. I
expect it's owing to you, Miss Loo, though when I met him coming
here yesterday evening to tell you he'd enlisted, he thought
you'd like it and be proud of Mercy! what in the nation's
the matter with the girl?"
Nothing, only a sudden misery had fallen like a blight upon her
heart, and a deadly pallor telegraphed it to her countenance. She
rose up without a word and walked with a firm step out of the
room; but once within the sacred seclusion of her own chamber,
her strong will gave way and she burst into a flood of passionate
tears. Bitterly she upbraided herself for her foolish haste of
the night before, and her harsh treatment of her lover at the
very moment that he had come to anticipate the proudest wish of
her heart, and to tell her that he had enrolled himself under the
battle-flag, and was going forth to fight as her soldier. Alas!
other maidens would have soldiers in those glorious fields, and
be entitled to the sweet pain of feeling a tender solicitude for
them, but she would be unrepresented. No soldier in all the vast
armies would breathe her name as he breasted the crimson tide of
war! She wept again or, rather, she went on weeping where she
left off a moment before. In her bitterness of spirit she almost
cursed the precipitancy that had brought all this sorrow upon her
young life. "Drat it!" The words were in her bosom, but she
locked them there, and closed her lips against their utterance.
For weeks she nursed her grief in silence, while the roses faded
from her cheeks. And through it all she clung to the hope that
some day the old love would bloom again in Reginald's heart, and
he would write to her; but the long summer days dragged wearily
along, and still no letter came. The newspapers teemed with
stories of battle and carnage, and eagerly she read them, but
always with the same result: the tears welled up and blurred the
closing lines the name she sought was looked for in vain, and
the dull aching returned to her sinking heart. Letters to the
other girls sometimes contained brief mention of him, and
presented always the same picture of him a morose, unsmiling,
desperate man, always in the thickest of the fight, begrimed with
powder, and moving calm and unscathed through tempests of shot
and shell, as if he bore a charmed life.
But at last, in a long list of maimed and killed, poor Lucretia
read these terrible words, and fell fainting to the floor: "R. D.
Whittaker, private soldier, desperately wounded!"
On a couch in one of the wards of a hospital at Washington lay a
wounded soldier; his head was so profusely bandaged that his
features were not visible; but there was no mistaking the happy
face of the young girl who sat beside him it was Lucretia
Borgia Smith's. She had hunted him out several weeks before, and
since that time she had patiently watched by him and nursed him,
coming in the morning as soon as the surgeon had finished
dressing his wounds, and never leaving him until relieved at
nightfall. A ball had shattered his lower jaw, and he could not
utter a syllable; through all her weary vigils she had never once
been blessed with a grateful word from his dear lips; yet she
stood to her post bravely and without a murmur, feeling that when
he did get well again she would hear that which would more than
reward her for all her devotion.
At the hour we have chosen for the opening of this chapter,
Lucretia was in a tumult of happy excitement; for the surgeon had
told her that at last her Whittaker had recovered sufficiently to
admit of the removal of the bandages from his head, and she was
now waiting with feverish impatience for the doctor to come and
disclose the loved features to her view. At last he came, and
Lucretia, with beaming eyes and fluttering heart, bent over the
couch with anxious expectancy. One bandage was removed, then
another and another, and lo! the poor wounded face was revealed
to the light of day.
"O my own dar"
What have we here! What is the matter! Alas! it was the face of a
Poor Lucretia! With one hand covering her upturned eyes, she
staggered back with a moan of anguish. Then a spasm of fury
distorted her countenance as she brought her fist down with a
crash that made the medicine bottles on the table dance again,
"Oh! confound my cats, if I haven't gone and fooled away three
mortal weeks here, snuffing and slobbering over the wrong
It was a sad, sad truth. The wretched but innocent and unwitting
impostor was R. D., or Richard Dilworthy Whittaker, of Wisconsin,
the soldier of dear little Eugenie Le Mulligan, of that State,
and utterly unknown to our unhappy Lucretia B. Smith.
Such is life, and the tail of the serpent is over us all. Let us
draw the curtain over this melancholy history for melancholy
it must still remain, during a season at least, for the real
Reginald de Whittaker has not turned up yet.
The Classical Library, This HTML edition copyright 2000.