Varina Davis was alone. There were plenty of people at the rail of the steamer Clyde, but Jeff was gone. She did not cry. He had told her not to. Not until she got to the cabin. The children, however, were loud. She had watched the boat bear Jefferson Davis and Clement Clay across Hampton Roads toward Fortress Monroe, her husband standing tall among the foreign-born soldiers.
Virginia Clay had stayed in her cabin. As the bereft Davis family came from the deck, she heard Jeff Jr. vent the grief and frustration of them all. A soldier said, “Don't cry, Jeff. They ain't going to hang your pa, ” and he sobbed back, “When I get to be a man, I'm going to kill every Yankee I see!” Virginia tried to comfort the eight-year-old. His tone changed to “manly tenderness” as he said, “My papa told me to keep care of you and my Mamma!”
Whatever coolness there had been between Varina and Virginia evaporated now in the presence of the enemy. Resistance made them instantly one, and the wit of each buoyed them both through the severe trials that began immediately, as policewomen stripped them, looking for “treasonable papers.”“Oh, 'Ginie! What humiliation!” Varina wept. Virginia had been her saucy self, mocking the suspicion, twirling her pistol (remarkably not confiscated), and making the detective unhook and then rehookher clothes, saying, “I've heard that white maids are as good as blackones.” Her repartee kept Union officers at bay. Varina muttered behind one of them, “Puss in boots!” and the friends were able to laugh instead of cry. Captain Hudson, from whom the Davises had lately saved Jim Limber, came demanding Varina's shawl as “part of Mr. Davis's disguise.” The ladies decided to fox him. Varina held out both their shawls, telling him to choose. But he outfoxed them. He tookboth shawls, went ashore, and got Varina's maid to identify