A LIFE OF GEN. ROBERT E. LEE.
BY JOHN ESTEN COOKE.
"Duty is the sublimest word in our language."
"Human virtue should be equal to human calamity." LEE. 1876
LEE'S EARLY LIFE.
XII. Lee's Last Interview with Bishop Meade
A touching incident of Lee's life belongs to this time--the early spring of 1862. Bishop Meade, the venerable head of the Episcopal Church in Virginia, lay at the point of death, in the city of Richmond. When General Lee was informed of the fact, he exhibited lively emotion, for the good bishop, as we have said in the commencement of this narrative, had taught him his catechism when he was a boy in Alexandria. On the day before the bishop's death. General Lee called in the morning to see him, but such was the state of prostration under which the sick man labored, that only a few of his most intimate friends were permitted to have access to his chamber. In the evening General Lee called again, and his name was announced to Bishop Meade. As soon as he heard it, he said faintly, for his breathing had become much oppressed, and he spoke with great difficulty: "I must see him, if only for a few moments."
General Lee was accordingly introduced, and approached the dying man, with evidences of great emotion in his countenance. Taking the thin hand in his own, he said:
"How do you feel, bishop?"
"Almost gone," replied Bishop Meade, in a voice so weak that it was almost inaudible; "but I wanted to see you once more."
He paused for an instant, breathing heavily, and looking at Lee with deep feeling.
"God bless you! God bless you, Robert!" he faltered out, "and fit you for your high and responsible duties. I can't call you 'general'--I must call you 'Robert;' I have heard you your catechism too often."
General Lee pressed the feeble hand, and tears rolled down his cheeks.
"Yes, bishop--very often," he said, in reply to the last words uttered by the bishop.
A brief conversation followed, Bishop Meade making inquiries in reference to Mrs. Lee, who was his own relative, and other members of the family. "He also," says the highly-respectable clergyman who furnishes these particulars, "put some pertinent questions to General Lee about the state of public affairs and of the army, showing the most lively interest in the success of our cause."
It now became necessary to terminate an interview which, in the feeble condition of the aged man, could not be prolonged. Much exhausted, and laboring under deep emotion, Bishop Meade shook the general by the hand, and said:
"Heaven bless you! Heaven bless you! and give you wisdom for your important and arduous duties!"
These were the last words uttered during the interview. General Lee pressed the dying man's hand, released it, stood for several minutes by the bedside motionless and in perfect silence, and then went out of the room.
On the next morning Bishop Meade expired.
[Illustration: Environs of Richmond.]