Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 25.djvu/322

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318 Soutlurn IHvtorirtil. Society Papers.

the bugle called "To arms," till Lee laid down the most spotless sword that was ever surrendered; then turning from the fire and smoke of battle, Dr. Semmes entered another army that of the Catholic priesthood there to wage an undying war while life lasted in defense of the gospel of Christ; a young girl who listened with wonderlit eyes to the stories told of a day of which the children of this generation can catch only the lingering light and shadows, and the humble writer of this sketch.

All around were memories of a beautiful past. The old mansion teems with legendary and historic relics, and suggestive pictures of the old, old life now passing away forever. In the library, filled with choicest thoughts of the master minds of every age, hangs the pic- ture of Mrs. Semmes' old " mammy," a privileged character in the household, as she goes about still exerting that familiar maternal sway which, even in the after years of married life, tenderly bound the women of the South to their dear old " negro mammies." From room to room are tokens and souvenirs from the most distinguished men of the century; the cabinets are littered with autograph letters from men who gave the South a history and a name, and here and there are quaint souvenirs of travel in foreign lands a statue from Rome, a piece of art from Florence, rare old pictures from the ancient masters and a trophy from -the Holy Land. And over the whole house is that delightful atmosphere of culture and love of study so grateful to the student and historian. Indeed, the peculiar, old- time charm about all is enough to evoke reminiscences of the past, when the evening shadows fall and the candles are lit, and everything around and about seems to cry out: "A home with such souvenirs is a home of memories, and a home with memories is a home with a history."

One turns from these pictures to the most conspicuous figures in the home itself Judge and Mrs. Semmes. Despite his three score years and ten, the venerable and distinguished advocate still proudly holds his own as one of the most eminent members of the Louisiana bar, and the fire of his genius burns as brightly to-day as in the days when he first stood in the courts of our State, pleading great causes, or later, when his voice was heard in the congress at Richmond, in those dark days of i86i-'65, faithfully legislating in behalf of his doomed but beloved Southland. As he sat there in the gathering evening talking of the past, and now and again turning with beauti- ful old-time courtesy to his wife, as he thought that she might relate some anecdote or occurrence better than he, the picture drawn of