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DOCENT/R. T. Smith GOOD AFTERNOON, LADIES and gentlemen from hither and yon, and welcome to the Lee Chapel on the campus of historic Washington and Lee University. My name is Sybil Mildred Clemm Legrand Pascal, and I will be your guide and compass on this dull, dark and soundless day, as the poet says, Ui the autumn of the year. You can call me Miss Sibby, and m case you are wondering about my hooped dress of ebony, my web-like hairnet and calf-leather shoes, they are authentic to the period just foUowing the War Between the States, and I wUl be happy to discuss the cut and fabric of my mourning clothing with any of you fashion-conscious ladies at the end of the tour—which by the way will be concluded Ui the passageway between the crypt and the museum proper. If anyone should need to avail themselves of the running-water faciUties, I will Indicate their location before you enter the basement displays; and please, aU you gentlemen, remove your caps In the chapel, and also, ladies, kindly ask your Uttle darlings to keep a hush on their voices as they would at any shrine. No camera flashes, please, in the General Lee alcove. No smoking, of course—a habit I deplore. Now, I am sure you know a lot aheady, and I may cover ground you have heard before, but please respect those who enter this tour with an open heart, and I wUl periodically pause to entertain questions, though I do not personally see any reason why they would arise. The Lee Chapel, before you, was completed with Intricately milled brick in 1868 on a Victorian design during the General's tenure, but it wore no green gown ofivy to begin with; I myself adore the ivy and do not care for the decision to trim it back. At this time of the afternoon it turns the light attractively spectral, wouldn't you agree? And I do not believe ivy could rip the building down. The chapel itself, which has never been officiaUy consecrated by a legitimate denomination, should not be confused with the Robert E. Lee Episcopal Church, which you can see, with the steeple facing Washington Street, at the end of the paved walk. I am told there are two Episcopal churches In the world which are not named for saints, but that is not one of them—which is told locaUy as a joke, if you think such things are funny. Ifyou look directly above to the beU tower, you wUl see the black face and white numbers of the timepiece, which with its chimes dupUcates the Westminster Clock Ui London and is dedicated to the memory of 42 · The Missouri Review Livingston WaddeU Houston, a student drowned in the North River, though I do not recaU when nor deem it important. The pendulum, of course, is Invisible, as Ui aU the best devices. The numerals, you wiU notice, are not normal American ones with curves and circles but the Ts and X's and Vs of Latin numbers, a language which was taught here to the young men from the beginning—and still is to some few, especiaUy those who wish to stand for the bar. Did you know that the "Lex" in "Lexington" is Latin for "law"? I have heard, however, that the young ladies who have matriculated—let's see, it's been some dozen years now since that infliction—do not enroll in dead languages. They are here, no doubt, for progress, and do not have time for such niceties. If such a perspective keeps them provided for and protected, they truly have my envy. In just ten minutes the hour wiU strike, and we wiU hear the tintinnabulation of the bells. I love that sound and wiU not abide random chatter once it begins. As we proceed through the front portals, you will see on either side caracole staircases with bentwood banisters, and we will file to the left, but mind you do not cross the velvet ropes to climb the steps because insurance issues must guide our path. We are entering a National Historic...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 42-50
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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