The Path of the King
by John Buchan
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And then came the drums.

The sound broke into the still dawn with a harsh challenge. They were war drums, beaten as he remembered them in Montgomery's campaign. He quickened his steady hunter's lope into a run, and left the trail for the thickets of the hill-side. The camp was less than a mile off and he was taking no chances.

As he climbed the hill the drums grew louder, till it seemed that the whole world rocked with their noise. He told himself feverishly that there was nothing to fear; Jim was with friends, who had been south of the river on their own business and would give him the powder he wanted. Presently they would be returning to the camp together, and in the months to come he and Jim would make that broad road through the Gap, at the end of which would spring up smiling farmsteads and townships of their own naming. He told himself these things, but he knew that he lied.

At last, flat on the earth, he peered through the vines on the north edge of the ridge. Below him, half a mile off, rolled the Ohio, a little swollen by the rains There was a broad ford, and the waters had spilled out over the fringe of sand. Just under him, between the bluff and the river, lay the Mingo camp, every detail of it plain in the crisp weather.

In the heart of it a figure stood bound to a stake, and a smoky fire burned at its feet.... There was no mistaking that figure.

Boone bit the grass in a passion of fury. His first impulse was to rush madly into the savages' camp and avenge his friend. He had half risen to his feet when his reason told him it was folly. He had no weapon but axe and knife, and would only add another scalp to their triumph. His Deckard was slung on his back, but he had no powder. Oh, to be able to send a bullet through Jim's head to cut short his torment! In all his life he had never known such mental anguish, waiting there an impotent witness of the agony of his friend. The blood trickled from his bitten lips and film was over his eyes.... Lovelle was dying for him and the others. He saw it all with bitter clearness. Jim had been inveigled to the Mingo camp taking risks as he always did, and there been ordered to reveal the whereabouts of the hunting party. He had refused, and endured the ordeal... Memories of their long comradeship rushed through Boone's mind and set him weeping in a fury of affection. There was never such a man as old Jim, so trusty and wise and kind, and now that great soul was being tortured out of that stalwart body and he could only look on like a baby and cry.

As he gazed, it became plain that the man at the stake was dead. His head had fallen on his chest, and the Indians were cutting the green withies that bound him. Boone looked to see them take his scalp, and so wild was his rage that his knees were already bending for the onslaught which should be the death of him and haply of one or two of the murderers.

But no knife was raised. The Indians seemed to consult together, and one of them gave an order. Deerskins were brought and the body was carefully wrapped in them and laid on a litter of branches. Their handling of it seemed almost reverent. The camp was moving, the horses were saddled, and presently the whole band began to file off towards the forest. The sight held Boone motionless. His fury had gone and only wonder and awe remained. As they passed the dead, each Indian raised his axe in salute—the salute to a great chief. The next minute they were splashing through the ford.

An hour later, when the invaders had disappeared on the northern levels, Boone slipped down from the bluff to the camping place. He stood still a long time by his friend, taking off his deerskin cap, so that his long black hair was blown over his shoulders.

"Jim, boy," he said softly. "I reckon you was the general of us all. The likes of you won't come again. I'd like ye to have Christian burial."

With his knife he hollowed a grave, where he placed the body, still wrapped in its deerskins. He noted on a finger of one hand a gold ring, a queer possession for a backwoodsman. This he took off and dropped into the pouch which hung round his neck. "I reckon it'd better go to Mis' Hanks. Jim's gal 'ud valley it mor'n a wanderin' coyote."

When he had filled in the earth he knelt among the grasses and repeated the Lord's Prayer as well as he could remember it. Then he stood up and rubbed with his hard brown knuckles the dimness from his eyes.

"Ye was allus lookin' for something, Jim," he said. "I guess ye've found it now. Good luck to ye, old comrade."


A small boy crept into the darkened hut. The unglazed windows were roughly curtained with skins, but there was sufficient light from the open doorway to show him what he wanted. He tiptoed to a corner where an old travelling trunk lay under a pile of dirty clothes. He opened it very carefully, and after a little searching found the thing he sought. Then he gently closed it, and, with a look towards the bed in the other corner, he slipped out again into the warm October afternoon.

The woman on the bed stirred uneasily and suddenly became fully awake, after the way of those who are fluttering very near death. She was still young, and the little face among the coarse homespun blankets looked almost childish. Heavy masses of black hair lay on the pillow, and the depth of its darkness increased the pallor of her brow. But the cheeks were flushed, and the deep hazel eyes were burning with a slow fire.... For a week the milk-sick fever had raged furiously, and in the few hours free from delirium she had been racked with omnipresent pain and deadly sickness. Now those had gone, and she was drifting out to sea on a tide of utter weakness. Her husband, Tom Linkhorn, thought she mending, and was even now whistling—the first time for weeks—by the woodpile. But the woman knew that she was close to the great change, and so deep was her weariness that the knowledge remained an instinct rather than a thought. She was as passive as a dying animal. The cabin was built of logs, mortised into each other—triangular in shape, with a fireplace in one corner. Beside the fire stood a table made of a hewn log, on which lay some pewter dishes containing the remains of he last family meal. One or two three-legged stools made up the rest of the furniture, except for the trunk in the corner and the bed. This bed was Tom Linkhorn's pride, which he used to boast about to his friends, for he was a tolerable carpenter. It was made of plank stuck between the logs of the wall, and supported at the other end by crotched sticks. By way of a curtain top a hickory post had been sunk in the floor and bent over the bed, the end being fixed in the log wall. Tom meant to have a fine skin curtain fastened to it when winter came. The floor was of beaten earth, but there was a rough ceiling of smaller logs, with a trap in it which could be reached by pegs stuck the centre post. In that garret the children slept. Tom's building zeal had come to an end with the bed. Some day he meant to fit in a door and windows, but these luxuries could wait till he got his clearing in better order.

On a stool by the bed stood a wooden bowl containing gruel. The woman had not eaten for days, and the stuff had a thick scum on it. The place was very stuffy, for it was a hot and sickly autumn day and skins which darkened the window holes kept out the little freshness that was in the air. Beside the gruel was a tin pannikin of cold water which the boy Abe fetched every hour from the spring. She saw the water, but was too weak to reach it.

The shining doorway was blocked by a man's entrance. Tom Linkhorn was a little over middle height, with long muscular arms, and the corded neck sinews which tell of great strength. He had a shock of coarse black hair, grey eyes and a tired sallow face, as of one habitually overworked and underfed. His jaw was heavy, but loosely put together, so that he presented an air of weakness and irresolution. His lips were thick and pursed in a kind of weary good humour. He wore an old skin shirt and a pair of towlinen pants, which flapped about his bare brown ankles. A fine sawdust coated his hair and shoulders, for he had been working in the shed where he eked out his farming by making spinning wheels for his neighbours.

He came softly to the bedside and looked down at his wife. His face was gentle and puzzled.

"Reckon you're better, dearie," he said in a curious harsh toneless voice.

The sick woman moved her head feebly in the direction of the stool and he lifted the pannikin of water to her lips.

"Cold enough?" he asked, and his wife nodded. "Abe fetches it as reg'lar as a clock."

"Where's Abe?" she asked, and her voice for all its feebleness had a youthful music in it.

"I heerd him sayin' he was goin' down to the crick to cotch a fish. He reckoned you'd fancy a fish when you could eat a piece. He's a mighty thoughtful boy, our Abe. Then he was comin' to read to you. You'd like that, dearie?"

The sick woman made no sign. Her eyes were vacantly regarding the doorway.

"I've got to leave you now. I reckon I'll borrow the Dawneys' sorrel horse and ride into Gentryville. I've got the young hogs to sell, and I'll fetch back the corn-meal from Hickson's. Sally Hickson was just like you last fall, and I want to find out from Jim how she got her strength up."

He put a hand on her brow, and felt it cool.

"Glory! You're mendin' fast, Nancy gal. You'll be well in time to can the berries that the childern's picked." He fished from below the bed a pair of skin brogues and slipped them on his feet. "I'll be back before night."

"I want Abe," she moaned.

"I'll send him to you," he said as he went out

Left alone the woman lay still for a little in a stupor of weariness. Waves of that terrible lassitude, which is a positive anguish and not a mere absence of strength, flowed over her. The square of the doorway, which was directly before her eyes, began to take strange forms. It was filled with yellow sunlight, and a red glow beyond told of the sugar-maples at the edge of the clearing. Now it seemed to her unquiet sight to be a furnace. Outside the world was burning; she could feel the heat of it in the close cabin. For a second acute fear startled her weakness. It passed, her eyes cleared, and she saw the homely doorway as it was, and heard the gobble of a turkey in the forest.

The fright had awakened her mind and senses. For the first time she fully realised her condition. Life no longer moved steadily in her body; it flickered and wavered and would soon gutter out.... Her eyes marked every detail of the squalor around her—the unwashed dishes, the foul earthen floor, the rotting apple pile, the heap of rags which had been her only clothes. She was leaving the world, and this was all she had won from it. Sheer misery forced a sigh which seemed to rend her frail body, and her eyes filled with tears. She had been a dreamer, an adept at make-believe, but the poor coverings she had wrought for a dingy reality were now too threadbare to hide it.

And once she had been so rich in hope. She would make her husband a great man, and—when that was manifestly impossible without a rebirth of Tom Linkhorn—she would have a son who would wear a black coat like Lawyer Macneil and Colonel Hardin way back in Kentucky, and make fine speeches beginning "Fellow countrymen and gentlemen of this famous State." She had a passion for words, and sonorous phrases haunted her memory. She herself would have a silk gown and a bonnet with roses in it; once long ago she had been to Elizabethtown and seen just such a gown and bonnet.... Or Tom would be successful in this wild Indiana country and be, like Daniel Boone, the father of a new State, and have places and towns called for him—a Nancyville perhaps or a Linkhorn County. She knew about Daniel Boone, for her grandfather Hanks had been with him.... And there had been other dreams, older dreams, dating far back to the days when she was a little girl with eyes like a brown owl. Someone had told her fairy-tales about princesses and knights, strange beings which she never quite understood, but of which she made marvellous pictures in her head She had learned to read in order to follow up the doings of those queer bright folk, but she had never tracked them down again. But one book she had got called The Pilgrim's Progress, printed by missionaries in a far-away city called Philadelphia, which told of things as marvellous, and had pictures, too—one especially of a young man covered with tin, which she supposed was what they called armour. And there was another called The Arabian Knights, a close-printed thing difficult to read by the winter fire, full of wilder doings than any she could imagine for herself; but beautiful, too, and delicious to muse over, though Tom, when she read a chapter to him, had condemned it as a pack of lies.... Clearly there was a world somewhere, perhaps outside America altogether, far more wonderful than even the magnificence of Colonel Hardin. Once she had hoped to find it herself; then that her children should find it. And the end was this shack in the wilderness, a few acres of rotting crops, bitter starving winters, summers of fever, the deeps of poverty, a penniless futureless family, and for herself a coffin of green lumber and a yard or two of stony soil.

She saw everything now with the clear unrelenting eyes of childhood. The films she had woven for selfprotection were blown aside. She was dying—she had often wondered how she should feel when dying—humble and trustful, she had hoped, for she was religious after a fashion, and had dreamed herself into an affection for a kind fatherly God. But now all that had gone. She was bitter, like one defrauded She had been promised something, and had struggled on in the assurance of it. And the result was nothing—nothing. Tragic tears filled her eyes. She had been so hungry' and there was to be no satisfying that hunger this side the grave or beyond it. She was going the same way as Betsy Sparrow, a death like a cow's, with nothing to show for life, nothing to leave. Betsy had been a poor crushed creature, and had looked for no more. But she was different. She had been promised something, something fine—she couldn't remember what, or who had promised it, but it had never been out of her mind.

There was the ring, too. No woman in Indiana had the like of that. An ugly thing, but very ancient and of pure gold. Once Tom had wanted to sell it when he was hard-pressed back at Nolin Creek, but she had fought for it like a tigress and scared the life out of Tom. Her grandfather had left it her because she was his favourite and it had been her grandmothers, and long ago had come from Europe. It was lucky, and could cure rheumatism if worn next the heart in a skin bag.... All her thoughts were suddenly set on the ring, her one poor shred of fortune. She wanted to feel it on her finger, and press its cool gold with the queer markings on her eyelids.

But Tom had gone away and she couldn't reach the trunk in the corner. Tears trickled down her cheeks and through the mist of them she saw that the boy Abe stood at the foot of the bed.

"Feelin' comfortabler?" he asked. He had a harsh untunable voice, his father's, but harsher, and he spoke the drawling dialect of the backwoods.

His figure stood in the light, so that the dying mother saw only its outline. He was a boy about nine years old, but growing too fast, so that he had lost the grace of childhood and was already lanky and ungainly. As he turned his face crosswise to the light he revealed a curiously rugged profile—a big nose springing sharply from the brow, a thick underhung lower lip, and the beginning of a promising Adam's apple. His stiff black hair fell round his great ears, which stood out like the handles of a pitcher. He was barefoot, and wore a pair of leather breeches and a ragged homespun shirt. Beyond doubt he was ugly.

He moved round to the right side of the bed where he was wholly in shadow.

"My lines is settin' nicely," he said. "I'll have a fish for your supper. And then I'm goin' to take dad's gun and fetch you a turkey. You could eat a slice of a fat turkey, I reckon."

The woman did not answer, for she was thinking. This uncouth boy was the son she had put her faith in. She loved him best of all things on earth, but for the moment she saw him in the hard light of disillusionment. A loutish backwoods child, like Dennis Hanks or Tom Sparrow or anybody else. He had been a comfort to her, for he had been quick to learn and had a strange womanish tenderness in his ways. But she was leaving him, and he would grow up like his father before him to a life of ceaseless toil with no daylight or honour in it.... She almost hated the sight of him, for he was the memorial of her failure.

The boy did not guess these thoughts. He pulled up a stool and sat very close to the bed, holding his mother's frail wrist in a sunburnt hand so big that it might have been that of a lad half-way through his teens. He had learned in the woods to be neat and precise in his ways, and his movements, for all his gawky look, were as soft as a panther's.

"Like me to tell you a story?" he asked. "What about Uncle Mord's tale of Dan'l Boone at the Blue Licks Battle?"

There was no response, so he tried again.

"Or read a piece? It was the Bible last time, but the words is mighty difficult. Besides you don't need it that much now. You're gettin' better. ... Let's hear about the ol'Pilgrim."

He found a squat duodecimo in the trunk, and shifted the skin curtain from one of the window holes to get light to read by. His mother lay very still with her eyes shut, but he knew by her breathing that she was not asleep. He ranged through the book, stopping to study the crude pictures, and then started laboriously to read the adventures of Christian and Hopeful after leaving Vanity Fair—the mine of Demas, the plain called Ease, Castle Doubting, and the Delectable Mountains. He boggled over some of the words, but on the whole he read well, and his harsh voice dropped into a pleasant sing-song.

By and by he noticed that his mother was asleep. He took the tin pannikin and filled it with fresh water from the spring. Then he kissed the hand which lay on the blanket, looked about guiltily to see if anyone had seen him, for kisses were rare in that household and tiptoes out again.

The woman slept, but not wholly. The doorway, which was now filled with the deeper gold of the westering sun, was still in her vision. It had grown to a great square of light, and instead of being blocked in the foreground by the forest it seemed to give on an infinite distance. She had a sense not of looking out of a hut, but of looking from without into a great chamber. Peace descended on her which she had never known before in her feverish dreams, peace and a happy expectation.

She had not listened to Abe's reading, but some words of it had caught her ear. The phrase "delectable mountains" for one. She did not know what "delectable" meant, but it sounded good; and mountains, though she had never seen more of them than a far blue line, had always pleased her fancy. Now she seemed to be looking at them through that magical doorway.... The country was not like anything she remembered in the Kentucky bluegrass, still less like the shaggy woods of Indiana. The turf was short and very green, and the hills fell into gracious folds that promised homesteads in every nook of them. It was a "delectable" country—yes, that was the meaning of the word that had puzzled her.... She had seen the picture before in her head. She remembered one hot Sunday afternoon when she was a child hearing a Baptist preacher discoursing on a Psalm, something about the "little hills rejoicing." She had liked the words and made a picture in her mind. These were the little hills and they were joyful.

There was a white road running straight through them till it disappeared over a crest. That was right, of course. The road which the Pilgrims travelled.... And there, too, was a Pilgrim.

He was a long way off, but she could see him quite clearly. He was a boy, older than Abe, but about the same size—a somewhat forlorn figure, who seemed as if he had a great way to go and was oppressed by the knowledge of it. He had funny things on his legs and feet, which were not proper moccasins. Once he looked back, and she had a glimpse of fair hair. He could not be any of the Hanks or Linkhorn kin, for they were all dark... . But he had something on his left arm which she recognised—a thick ring of gold. It was her own ring, the ring she kept in the trunk and she smiled comfortably. She had wanted it a little while ago, and now there it was before her eyes. She had no anxiety about its safety, for somehow it belonged to that little boy as well as to her.

His figure moved fast and was soon out of sight round a turn of the hill. And with that the landscape framed in the doorway began to waver and dislimn. The road was still there, white and purposeful, but the environs were changing.... She was puzzled, but with a pleasant confusion. Her mind was not on the landscape, but on the people, for she was assured that others would soon appear on the enchanted stage.

He ran across the road, shouting with joy, a dog at his heels and a bow in his hand. Before he disappeared she marked the ring, this time on his finger.... He had scarcely gone ere another appeared on the road, a slim pale child, dressed in some stuff that gleamed like satin, and mounted on a pony.... The spectacle delighted her, for it brought her in mind of the princes she had been told of in fairytales. And there was the ring, worn over a saffron riding glove....

A sudden weakness made her swoon; and out of it she woke to a consciousness of the hut where she lay. She had thought she was dead and in heaven among fair children, and the waking made her long for her own child. Surely that was Abe in the doorway.... No, it was a taller and older lad, oddly dressed, but he had a look of Abe—something in his eyes. He was on the road too, and marching purposefully—and he had the ring. Even in her mortal frailty she had a quickening of the heart. These strange people had something to do with her, something to tell her, and that something was about her son....

There was a new boy in the picture. A dejected child who rubbed the ring on his small breeches and played with it, looking up now and then with a frightened start. The woman's heart ached for him, for she knew her own life-long malady. He was hungry for something which he had small hope of finding.... And then a wind seemed to blow out-of-doors and the world darkened down to evening. But her eyes pierced the gloaming easily, and she saw very plain the figure of a man.

He was sitting hunched up, with his chin in his hands, gazing into vacancy. Without surprise she recognised something in his face that was her own. He wore the kind of hunter's clothes that old folk had worn in her childhood, and a long gun lay across his knees. His air was sombre and wistful, and yet with a kind of noble content in it. He had Abe's puckered-up lips and Abe's steady sad eyes.... Into her memory came a verse of the Scriptures which had always fascinated her. "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims upon the earth."

She saw it all in a flash of enlightenment. These seekers throughout the ages had been looking for something and had not found it. But Abe, her son, was to find it. That was why she had been shown those pictures.

Once again she looked through the door into bright sunshine. It was a place that she knew beside the Ohio she remembered the tall poplar clump. She did not see the Jacksons' farm which stood south of the trees, but there was the Indian graveyard, which as a little girl she had been afraid to pass. Now it seemed to be fresh made, for painted vermilion wands stood about the mounds. On one of them was a gold trinket, tied by a loop of hide, rattled in the wind. It was her ring. The seeker lay buried there with the talisman above him.

She was awake now, oblivious of the swift sinking of her vital energy. She must have the ring, for it was the pledge of a great glory....

A breathless little girl flung herself into the cabin. It was Sophy Hanks, one of the many nieces who squattered like ducks about the settlement.

"Mammy!" she cried shrilly. "Mammy Linkorn!" She stammered with the excitement of the bearer of ill news. "Abe's lost your ring in the crick. He took it for a sinker to his lines, for Indian Jake telled him a piece of gold would cotch the grit fish. And a grit fish has cotched it. Abe's bin divn' and divn' and can't find it nohow. He reckons it's plumb Ain't he a bad 'un, Mammy Linkhorn?"

It was some time before the dying woman understood. Then she began feebly to cry. For the moment her ring loomed large in her eyes: it was the earnest of the promise, and without it the promise might fail. She had not strength to speak or even to sob, and the tears trickled over her cheeks in dumb impotent misery.

She was roused by the culprit Abe. He stood beside her with his wet hair streaked into a fringe along his brow. The skin of his neck glistened wet in the opening of his shirt. His cheeks too glistened, but not with the water of the creek. He was crying bitterly.

He had no words of explanation or defence. His thick underlip stuck out and gave him the appeal of a penitent dog; the tears had furrowed paler channels down grimy cheeks; he was the very incarnation of uncouth misery.

But his mother saw none of these things.... On the instant he seemed to her transfigured. Something she saw in him of all the generations of pleading boys that had passed before her, something of the stern confidence of the man over whose grave the ring had fluttered. But more—far more. She was assured that the day of the seekers had passed and that the finder had come.... The young features were transformed into the lines of a man's strength. The eyes dreamed but also commanded, the loose mouth had the gold of wisdom and the steel of resolution. The promise had not failed her... . She had won everything from life, for she had given the world a master. Words seemed to speak themselves in her ear... "Bethink you of the blessedness. Every wife is like the Mother of God and has the hope of bearing a saviour of mankind."

She lay very still in her great joy. The boy in a fright sprang to her side, knocking over the stool with the pannikin of water. He knelt on the floor and hid his face in the bed-clothes. Her hand found his shaggy head.

Her voice was very faint now, but he heard it.

"Don't cry, little Abe," she said. "Don't you worry about the ring, dearie. It ain't needed no more."

Half an hour later, when the cabin door was dim with twilight, the hand which the boy held grew cold.


When Edward M. Stanton was associated at Cincinnati in 1857 with Abraham Lincoln in the great McCormick Reaper patent suit, it was commonly assumed that this was the first time the two men had met. Such was Lincoln's view, for his memory was apt to have blind patches in it. But in fact there had been a meeting fifteen years before, the recollection of which in Stanton's mind had been so overlaid by the accumulations of a busy life that it did not awake till after the President's death.

In the early fall of 1842 Stanton had occasion to visit Illinois. He was then twenty-five years of age, and had already attained the position of leading lawyer in his native town of Steubenville in Ohio and acted as reporter of the Supreme Court of that State. He was a solemn reserved young man, with a square fleshy face and a strong ill-tempered jaw. His tight lips curved downwards at the corners and, combined with his bold eyes, gave him an air of peculiar shrewdness and purpose. He did not forget that he came of good professional stock—New England on one side and Virginia on the other—and that he was college-bred, unlike the common backwoods attorney. Also he was resolved on a great career, with the White House at the end of it, and was ready to compel all whom he met to admit the justice of his ambition The conscious of uncommon talent and a shining future gave him a self-possession rare in a young man, and a complacence not unlike arrogance. His dress suited his pretensions—the soft rich broadcloth which tailors called doeskin, and linen of a fineness rare outside the eastern cities. He was not popular in Ohio, but he was respected for his sharp tongue, subtle brain, and intractable honesty.

His business finished, he had the task of filling up the evening, for he could not leave for home till the morrow. His host, Mr. George Curtin, was a little shy of his guest and longed profoundly to see the last of him. It was obvious that this alert lawyer regarded the Springfield folk as mossbacks—which might be well enough for St. Louis and Chicago, but was scarcely becoming in a man from Steubenville. Another kind of visitor he might have taken to a chickenfight, but one glance at Stanton barred that solution. So he compromised on Speed's store.

"There's one or two prominent citizens gathered there most nights," he explained. "Like as not we'll find Mr. Lincoln. I reckon you've heard of Abe Lincoln?"

Mr. Stanton had not. He denied the imputation as if he were annoyed.

"Well, we think a mighty lot of him round here. He's Judge Logan's law partner and considered one of the brightest in Illinois. He's been returned to the State Legislature two or three times, and he's a dandy on the stump. A hot Whig and none the worse of that, though I reckon them's not your politics.... We're kind of proud of him in Sangamon county. No, not a native. Rode into the town one day five years back from New Salem with all his belongings in a saddle-bag, and started business next morning in Joe Speed's back room.... He's good company, Abe, for you never heard a better man to tell a story. You'd die of laughing. Though I did hear he was a sad man just now along of being crossed in love, so I can't promise you he'll be up to his usual, if he's at Speed's to-night."

"I suppose the requirements for a western lawyer," said Mr. Stanton acidly, "are a gift of buffoonery and a reputation for gallantry." He was intensely bored, and had small desire to make the acquaintance of provincial celebrities.

Mr. Curtin was offended, but could think of no suitable retort, and as they were close on Speed's store he swallowed his wrath and led the way through alleys of piled merchandise to the big room where the stove was lighted.

It was a chilly fall night and the fire was welcome. Half a dozen men sat smoking round it, with rummers of reeking toddy at their elbows. They were ordinary citizens of the place, and they talked of the last horseraces. As the new-comers entered they were appealing to a figure perched on a high barrel to decide some point in dispute.

This figure climbed down from its perch, as they entered, with a sort of awkward courtesy. It was a very tall man, thin almost to emaciation, with long arms and big hands and feet. He had a lean, powerful-looking head, marred by ugly projecting ears and made shapeless by a mass of untidy black hair. The brow was broad and fine, and the dark eyes set deep under it; the nose, too, was good, but the chin and mouth were too small for the proportions of the face. The mouth, indeed, was so curiously puckered, and the lower lip so thick and prominent, as to give something of a comic effect. The skin was yellow, but stretched so firm and hard on the cheek bones that the sallowness did not look unhealthy. The man wore an old suit of blue jeans and his pantaloons did not meet his coarse unblacked shoes by six inches. His scraggy throat was adorned with a black neckerchief like a boot-lace.

"Abe," said Mr. Curtin, "I would like to make you known to my friend Mr. Stanton of Ohio."

The queer face broke into a pleasant smile, and the long man held out his hand.

"Glad to know you, Mr. Stanton," he said, and then seemed to be stricken with shyness. His wandering eye caught sight of a new patent churn which had just been added to Mr. Speed's stock. He took two steps to it and was presently deep in its mechanism. He turned it all ways, knelt beside it on the floor, took off the handle and examined it, while the rest of the company pressed Mr. Stanton to a seat by the fire.

"I heard Abe was out at Rochester helping entertain Ex-President Van Buren," said Mr. Curtin to the store-keeper.

"I reckon he was," said Speed. "He kept them roaring till morning. Judge Peck told me he allowed Mr. Van Buren would be stiff for a month with laughing at Abe's tales. It's curious that a man who don't use tobacco or whisky should be such mighty good company."

"I wish Abe'd keep it up," said another. "Most of the time now he goes about like a sick dog. What's come to him, Joe?"

Mr. Speed hushed his voice. "He's got his own troubles.... He's a deep-feeling man, and can't forget easily like you and me.... But things is better with him, and I kind of hope to see him wed by Thanksgiving Day.... Look at him with that churn. He's that inquisitive he can't keep his hands off no new thing."

But the long man had finished his inquiry and rejoined the group by the stove.

"I thought you were a lawyer, Mr. Lincoln," said Stanton, "but you seem to have the tastes of a mechanic."

The other grinned. "I've a fancy for any kind of instrument, for I was a surveyor in this county before I took to law."

"George Washington also was a surveyor."

"Also, but not LIKEWISE. I don't consider I was much of a hand with the compass and chains."

"It is the fashion in Illinois, I gather, for the law to be the last in a series of many pursuits—the pool where the driftwood from many streams comes to rest." Mr. Stanton spoke with the superior air of one who took his profession seriously and had been trained for it in the orthodox fashion.

"It was so in my case. I've kept a post-office, and I've had a store, and I've had a tavern, and I kept them so darned bad that I'm still paying off the debts I made in them." The long man made the confession with a comic simplicity.

"There's a deal to be said for the habit," said Speed. "Having followed other trades teaches a lawyer something about human nature. I reckon Abe wouldn't be the man he is if he had studied his books all his days."

"There is another side to that," said Mr. Stanton and his precise accents and well-modulated voice seemed foreign in that homely place. "You are also a politician, Mr. Lincoln?"

The other nodded. "Of a kind. I'm a strong Henry Clay man."

"Well, there I oppose you. I'm no Whig or lover of Whigs. But I'm a lover of the Constitution and the law of the country, and that Constitution and that country are approaching perilous times. There's explosive stuff about which is going to endanger the stability of the noble heritage we have received from our fathers, and if that heritage is to be saved it can only be by those who hold fast to its eternal principles. This land can only be saved by its lawyers, sir. But they must be lawyers profoundly read in the history and philosophy of their profession, and no catchpennny advocates with a glib tongue and an elastic conscience. The true lawyer must approach his task with reverence and high preparation; for as his calling is the noblest of human activities, so it is the most exacting."

The POINT-DEVICE young man spoke with a touch of the schoolmaster, but his audience, who had an inborn passion for fine words, were impressed. Lincoln sat squatted on his heels on a bit of sacking, staring into the open door of the stove.

"There's truth in that," he said slowly. His voice had not the mellow tones of the other's, being inclined to shrillness, but it gave the impression of great power waiting on release somewhere in his massive chest. "But I reckon it's only half the truth, for truth's like a dollar-piece, it's got two sides, and both are wanted to make it good currency. The law and the constitution are like a child's pants. They've got to be made wider and longer as the child grows so as to fit him. If they're kept too tight, he'll burst them; and if you're in a hurry and make them too big all at once, they'll trip him up."

"Agreed," said Stanton, "but the fashion and the fabric should be kept of the same good American pattern."

The long man ran a hand through his thatch of hair.

"There's only one fashion in pants—to make them comfortable. And some day that boy is going to grow so big you won't be able to make the old ones do and he'll have to get a new pair. If he's living on a farm he'll want the same kind of good working pants, but for all that they'll have to be new made."

Stanton laughed with some irritation

"I hate arguing in parables, for in the nature of things they can't be exact. That's a mistake you westerners make. The law must change in detail with changing conditions, but its principles cannot alter, and the respect for these principles is our only safeguard against relapse into savagery. Take slavery. There are fools in the east who would abolish it by act of Congress. For myself I do not love the system, but I love anarchy and injustice less, and if you abolish slavery you abolish also every-right of legal property, and that means chaos and barbarism. A free people such as ours cannot thus put the knife to their throat. If we were the serfs of a monarchy, accustomed to bow before the bidding of a king, it might be different, but a republic cannot do injustice to one section of its citizens without destroying itself."

Lincoln had not taken his eyes from the stove. He seemed to be seeing things in the fire, for he smiled to himself.

"Well," he drawled, "I reckon that some day we may have to find some sort of a king. The new pants have got to be made."

Mr. Stanton shrugged his shoulders, and the other, quick to detect annoyance, scrambled to his feet and stood looking down from his great height at his dapper antagonist. A kindly quizzical smile lit his homely face. "We'll quit arguing, Mr. Stanton, for I admit I'm afraid of you. You're some years younger than me, but I expect you would have me convinced on your side if we went on. And maybe I'd convince you too, and then we'd be like old Jim Fletcher at New Salem. You'll have heard about Jim. He had a mighty quarrel with his neighbour about a hog, Jim alleging it was one of his lot and the neighbour claiming it for his. Well, they argued and argued, and the upshot was that Jim convinced the neighbour that the hog was Jim's, and the neighbour convinced Jim that the hog was the neighbour's, and neither of them would touch that hog, and they were worse friends than ever."

Mr. Curtin rose and apologised to his companion. He had to see a man about a buggy and must leave Mr. Stanton to find his way back alone.

"Don't worry, George," said the long man. "I'm going round your way and I'll see your friend home." As Mr. Stanton professed himself ready for bed, the little party by the stove broke up. Lincoln fetched from a corner a dilapidated carpet-bag full of papers, and an old green umbrella, handle-less, tied with string about the middle, and having his name sewn inside in straggling letters cut out of white muslin. He and Stanton went out-of-doors into the raw autumn night.

The town lay very quiet in a thin fog made luminous by a full moon. The long man walked with his feet turned a little inwards, accommodating his gait to the shorter stride of his companion. Mr. Stanton, having recovered from his momentary annoyance, was curious about this odd member of his own profession. Was it possible that in the whirligig of time a future could lie before one so uncouth and rustical? A democracy was an unaccountable thing, and these rude westerners might have to be reckoned with.

"You are ambitious of a political career, Mr. Lincoln?" he asked.

The other looked down with his shy crooked smile, and the Ohio lawyer suddenly realised that the man had his own attractiveness.

"Why, no, sir. I shouldn't like to say I was ambitious. I've no call to be, for the Almighty hasn't blessed me with any special gifts. You're different. It would be a shame to you if you didn't look high, for you're a young man with all the world before you. I'm getting middle-aged and I haven't done anything to be proud of yet, and I reckon I won't get the chance, and if I did I couldn't take advantage of it. I'm pretty fond of the old country, and if she wants me, why, she's only got to say so and I'll do what she tells me. But I don't see any clear road I want to travel. ..."

He broke off suddenly, and Stanton, looking up at him, saw that his face had changed utterly. The patient humorous look had gone and it was like a tragic mask, drawn and strained with suffering. They were passing by a little town cemetery and, as if by some instinct, had halted.

The place looked strange and pitiful in the hazy moonlight. It was badly tended, and most of the headstones were only of painted wood, warped and buckled by the weather. But in the dimness the rows of crosses and slabs seemed to extend into the far distance, and the moon gave them a cold, eerie whiteness as if they lay in the light of another world. A great sign came from Lincoln, and Stanton thought that he had never seen on mortal countenance such infinite sadness.

"Ambition!" he said. "How dare we talk of ambition, when this is the end of it? All these people—decent people, kind people, once full of joy and purpose, and now all forgotten! It is not the buried bodies I mind, it is the buried hearts....I wonder if it means peace...."

He stood there with head bowed and he seemed to be speaking to himself. Stanton caught a phrase or two and found it was verse—banal verses, which were there and then fixed in his fly-paper memory. "Tell me, my secret soul," it ran:

"Oh, tell me, Hope and Faith, Is there no resting-place From sorrow, sin, and death? Is there no happy spot Where mortals may be blessed, Where grief may find a balm And weariness a rest?"

The figure murmuring these lines seemed to be oblivious of his companion. He stood gazing under the moon, like a gaunt statue of melancholy. Stanton spoke to him but got no answer, and presently took his own road home. He had no taste for histrionic scenes. And as he went his way he meditated. Mad, beyond doubt. Not without power in him, but unbalanced, hysterical, alternating between buffoonery and these schoolgirl emotions. He reflected that if the American nation contained much stuff of this kind it might prove a difficult team to drive. He was thankful that he was going home next day to his orderly life.


Eighteen years have gone, and the lanky figure of Speed's store is revealed in new surroundings. In a big square room two men sat beside a table littered with the debris of pens, foolscap, and torn fragments of paper which marked the end of a Council. It was an evening at the beginning of April, and a fire burned in the big grate. One of the two sat at the table with his elbows on the mahogany, and his head supported by a hand. He was a man well on in middle life with a fine clean-cut face and the shapely mobile lips of the publicist and orator. It was the face of one habituated to platforms and assemblies, full of a certain selfconscious authority. But to-night its possessor seemed ill at ease. His cheeks were flushed and his eye distracted.

The other had drawn his chair to the fire, so that one side of him was lit by the late spring sun and one by the glow from the hearth. That figure we first saw in the Springfield store had altered little in the eighteen years. There was no grey in the coarse black hair, but the lines in the sallow face were deeper, and there were dark rings under the hollow eyes. The old suit of blue jeans had gone; and he wore now a frock-coat, obviously new, which was a little too full for his gaunt frame. His tie, as of old, was like a boot-lace. A new silk hat, with the nap badly ruffled, stood near on the top of a cabinet.

He smiled rather wearily. "We're pretty near through the appointments now, Mr. Secretary. It's a mean business, but I'm a minority President and I've got to move in zig-zags so long as I don't get off the pike. I reckon that honest statesmanship is just the employment of individual meannesses for the public good. Mr. Sumner wouldn't agree. He calls himself the slave of principles and says he owns no other master. Mr. Sumner's my notion of a bishop."

The other did not seem to be listening. "Are you still set on re-enforcing Fort Sumter?" he asked, his bent brows making a straight line above his eyes.

Lincoln nodded. He was searching in the inside pocket of his frock-coat, from which he extracted a bundle of papers. Seward saw what he was after, and his self-consciousness increased.

"You have read my letter?" he asked.

"I have," said Lincoln, fixing a pair of cheap spectacles on his nose. He had paid thirty-seven cents for them in Bloomington five years before. "A mighty fine letter. Full of horse sense."

"You agree with it?" asked the other eagerly.

"Why, no. I don't agree with it, but I admire it a lot and I admire its writer."

"Mr. President," said Seward solemnly, "on one point I am adamant. We cannot suffer the dispute to be about slavery. If we fight on that issue we shall have the Border States against us."

"I'm thinking all the time about the Border States. We've got to keep them. If there's going to be trouble I'd like to have the Almighty on my side, but I must have Kentucky."

"And yet you will go forward about Sumter, which is regarded by everyone as a slavery issue."

"The issue is as God has made it. You can't go past the bed-rock facts. I am the trustee for the whole property of the nation, of which Sumter is a piece, and if I give up one stick or stone to a rebellious demand I am an unfaithful steward. Surely, Mr. Secretary, if you want to make the issue union or disunion you can't give up Sumter without fatally prejudicing your case."

"It means war."

Lincoln looked again at the document in his hand. "It appears that you are thinking of war in any event. You want to pick a quarrel with France over Mexico and with Spain over St. Domingo, and unite the nation in a war against foreigners. I tell you honestly I don't like the proposal. It seems to me downright wicked.

"If the Lord sends us war, we have got to face it like men, but God forbid we should manufacture war, and use it as an escape from our domestic difficulties. You can't expect a blessing on that."

The Secretary of State flushed. "Have you considered the alternative, Mr. President?" he cried. "It is civil war, war between brothers in blood. So soon as the South fires a shot against Sumter the sword is unsheathed. You cannot go back then."

"I am fully aware of it. I haven't been sleeping much lately, and I've been casting up my accounts. It s a pretty weak balance sheet. I would like to tell you the main items, Mr. Secretary, so that you may see that I'm not walking this road blindfold."

The other pushed back his chair from the table with a gesture of despair. But he listened. Lincoln had risen and stood in front of the fire, his shoulders leaning on the mantelpiece, and his head against the lower part of the picture of George Washington.

"First," he said, "I'm a minority President, elected by a minority vote of the people of the United States. I wouldn't have got in if the Democrats hadn't been split. I haven't a majority in the Senate. Yet I've got to decide for the nation and make the nation follow me. Have I the people's confidence? I reckon I haven't—yet. I haven't even got the confidence of the Republican party."

Seward made no answer. He clearly assented.

"Next, I haven't got much in the way of talents. I reckon Jeff Davis a far abler man than me. My friends tell me I haven't the presence and dignity for a President. My shaving-glass tells me I'm a common-looking fellow." He stopped and smiled. "But perhaps the Lord prefers common-looking people, and that's why He made so many of them.

"Next," he went on, "I've a heap of critics and a lot of enemies. Some good men say I've no experience in Government, and that's about true. Up in New England the papers are asking who is this political huckster, this county court advocate? Mr. Stanton says I'm an imbecile, and when he's cross calls me the original gorilla, and wonders why fools wander about in Africa when they could find the beast they are looking for in Washington. The pious everywhere don't like me, because I don't hold that national policy can be run on the lines of a church meeting. And the Radicals are looking for me with a gun, because I'm not prepared right here and now to abolish slavery. One of them calls me 'the slave hound of Illinois.' I'd like to meet that man, for I guess he must be a humorist."

Mr. Seward leaned forward and spoke earnestly. "Mr. President, no man values your great qualities more than I do or reprobates more heartily such vulgar libels. But it is true that you lack executive experience. I have been the Governor of the biggest State in the Union, and possess some knowledge of the task. It is all at your service. Will you not allow me to ease your burden?"

Lincoln smiled down kindly upon the other. "I thank you with all my heart. You have touched on that matter in your letter.... But, Mr. Secretary, in the inscrutable providence of God it is I who have been made President. I cannot shirk the duty. I look to my Cabinet, and notably to you for advice and loyal assistance, and I am confident that I shall get it. But in the end I and I only must decide."

Seward looked up at the grave face and said nothing. Lincoln went on:

"I have to make a decision which may bring war—civil war. I don't know anything about war, though I served a month or two in the Black Hawk campaign and yet, if war comes, I am the Commander-in-Chief of the Union. Who among us knows anything of the business. General Scott is an old man, and he doesn't just see eye to eye with me; for I'm told he talks about 'letting the wayward sisters go in peace.' Our army and navy's nothing much to boast of, and the South is far better prepared. You can't tell how our people will take war, for they're all pulling different ways just now. Blair says the whole North will spring to arms, but I guess they've first got to find the arms to spring to.... I was reviewing some militia the other day, and they looked a deal more like a Fourth of July procession than a battlefield. Yes, Mr. Secretary, if we have to fight, we've first got to make an army. Remember, too, that it will be civil war—kin against kin, brother against brother."

"I remember. All war is devilish, but ours will be the most devilish that the world has ever known. It isn't only the feeding of fresh young boys to rebel batteries that grieves me, though God knows that's not a thing that bears thinking about. It's the bitterness and hate within the people. Will it ever die down, Mr. Secretary?"

Lincoln was very grave, and his face was set like a man in anguish. Seward, deeply moved, rose and stood beside him, laying a hand on his shoulder.

"And for what, Mr. President?" he cried. "That is the question I ask myself. We are faced by such a problem as no man ever before had to meet. If five and a half million white men deeply in earnest are resolved to secede, is there any power on earth that can prevent them? You may beat them in battle, but can you ever force them again inside the confines of the nation? Remember Chatham's saying: 'Conquer a free population of three million souls—the thing is impossible.' They stand on the rights of democracy, the right of self-government, the right to decide their own future."

Lincoln passed a hand over his brow. His face had suddenly became very worn and weary.

"I've been pondering a deal over the position of the South," he said. "I reckon I see their point of view, and I'll not deny there's sense in it. There's a truth in their doctrine of State rights, but they've got it out of focus. If I had been raised in South Carolina, loving the slave-system because I had grown up with it and thinking more of my State than of the American nation, maybe I'd have followed Jeff Davis. I'm not saying there's no honesty in the South, I'm not saying there's not truth on their side, but I do say that ours is the bigger truth and the better truth. I hold that a nation is too sacred a thing to tamper with—even for good reasons. Why, man, if you once grant the right of a minority to secede you make popular government foolish. I'm willing to fight to prevent democracy becoming a laughing-stock."

"It's a fine point to make war about," said the other.

"Most true points are fine points. There never was a dispute between mortals where both sides hadn't a bit of right. I admit that the margin is narrow, but if it's made of good rock it's sufficient to give us a foothold. We've got to settle once for all the question whether in a free Government the minority have a right to break up the Government whenever they choose. If we fail, then we must conclude that we've been all wrong from the start, and that the people need a tyrant, being incapable of governing themselves."

Seward wrung his hands. "If you put it that way I cannot confute you. But, oh, Mr. President, is there not some means of building a bridge? I cannot think that honest Southerners would force war on such a narrow issue.

"They wouldn't but for this slavery. It is that accursed system that obscures their reason. If they fight, the best of them will fight out of a mistaken loyalty to their State, but most will fight for the right to keep their slaves.... If you are to have bridges, you must have solid ground at both ends. I've heard a tale of some church members that wanted to build a bridge over a dangerous river. Brother Jones suggested one Myers, and Myers answered that, if necessary, he could build one to hell. This alarmed the church members, and Jones, to quiet them, said he believed his friend Myers was so good an architect that he could do it if he said he could, though he felt bound himself to express some doubt about the abutment on the infernal side."

A queer quizzical smile had relieved the gravity of the President's face. But Seward was in no mood for tales.

"Is there no other way?" he moaned, and his suave voice sounded cracked and harsh.

"There is no other way but to go forward. I've never been a man for cutting across lots when I could go round by the road, but if the roads are all shut we must take to open country. For it is altogether necessary to go forward."

Seward seemed to pull himself together. He took a turn down the room and then faced Lincoln.

"Mr. President," he said, "you do not know whether you have a majority behind you even in the North. You have no experience of government and none of war. The ablest men in your party are luke-warm or hostile towards you. You have no army to speak of, and will have to make everything from the beginning. You feel as I do about the horror of war, and above all the horrors of civil war. You do not know whether the people will support you. You grant that there is some justice in the contention of the South, and you claim for your own case only a balance of truth. You admit that to coerce the millions of the South back into the Union is a kind of task which has never been performed in the world before and one which the wise of all ages have pronounced impossible. And yet, for the sake of a narrow point, you are ready, if the need arises, to embark on a war which must be bloody and long, which must stir the deeps of bitterness, and which in all likelihood will achieve nothing. Are you entirely resolved?"

Lincoln's sad eyes rested on the other. "I am entirely resolved. I have been set here to decide for the people according to the best of my talents, and the Almighty has shown me no other road."

Seward held out his hand.

"Then, by God, you must be right. You are the bravest man in this land, sir, and I will follow you to the other side of perdition."


The time is two years later—a warm evening in early May. There had been no rain for a week in Washington, and the President, who had ridden in from his summer quarters in the Soldiers' Home, had his trousers grey with dust from the knees down. He had come round to the War Department, from which in these days he was never long absent, and found the Secretary for War busy as usual at his high desk. There had been the shortest of greetings, and, while Lincoln turned over the last telegrams, Stanton wrote steadily.

Stanton had changed much since the night in the Springfield store. A square beard, streaked with grey, covered his chin, and his face had grown heavier. There were big pouches below the short-sighted eyes, and deep lines on each side of his short shaven upper lip. His skin had an unheathly pallor, like that of one who works late and has little fresh air. The mouth, always obstinate, was now moulded into a settled grimness. The ploughs of war had made deep furrows on his soul.

Lincoln, too, had altered. He had got a stoop in his shoulders as if his back carried a burden. A beard had been suffered to grow in a ragged fringe about his jaw and cheeks, and there were silver threads in it. His whole face seemed to have been pinched and hammered together, so that it looked like a mask of pale bronze—a death mask, for it was hard to believe that blood ran below that dry tegument. But the chief change was in his eyes. They had lost the alertness they once possessed, and had become pits of brooding shade, infinitely kind, infinitely patient, infinitely melancholy.

Yet there was a sort of weary peace in the face, and there was still humour in the puckered mouth and even in the sad eyes. He looked less harassed than the Secretary for War. He drew a small book from his pocket, at which the other glanced malevolently.

"I give you fair warning, Mr. President," said Stanton. "If you've come here to read me the work of one of your tom-fool funny men, I'll fling it out of the window."

"This work is the Bible," said Lincoln, with the artlessness of a mischievous child. "I looked in to ask how the draft was progressing."

"It starts in Rhode Island on July 7, and till it starts I can say nothing. We've had warning that there will be fierce opposition in New York. It may mean that we have a second civil war on our hands. And of one thing I am certain—it will cost you your re-election."

The President did not seem perturbed. "In this war we've got to take one step at a time," he said. "Our job is to save the country, and to do that we've got to win battles. But you can't win battles without armies, and if men won't enlist of their own will they've got to be compelled. What use is a second term to me if I have no country.... You're not weakening on the policy of the draft, Mr. Stanton?"

The War Minister shrugged his shoulders. "No. In March it seemed inevitable. I still think it is essential, but I am forced to admit the possibility that it may be a rank failure. It is the boldest step you have taken, Mr. President. Have you ever regretted it?"

Lincoln shook his head. "It don't do to start regretting. This war is managed by the Almighty, and if it's his purpose that we should win He will show us how. I regard our fallible reasoning and desperate conclusions as part of His way of achieving His purpose. But about that draft. I'll answer you in the words of a young Quaker woman who against the rules had married a military man. The elders asked her if she was sorry, and she replied that she couldn't truly say that she was sorry, but that she could say she wouldn't do it again. I was for the draft, and I was for the war, to prevent democracy making itself foolish."

"You'll never succeed in that," said Stanton gravely.

"If Congress is democracy, there can't be a more foolish gathering outside a monkey-house."

The President grinned broadly. He was humming the air of a nigger song, "The Blue-tailed Fly," which Lamon had taught him.

"That reminds me of Artemus Ward. He observes that at the last election he voted for Henry Clay. It's true, he says, that Henry was dead, but Since all the politicians that he knew were fifteenth-rate he preferred to vote for a first-class corpse."

Stanton moved impatiently. He hated the President's pocket humorists and had small patience with his tales. "Was ever a great war fought," he cried, "with such a camp-following as our Congressmen?"

Lincoln looked comically surprised.

"You're too harsh, Mr. Stanton. I admit there are one or two rascals who'd be better hanged. But the trouble is that most of them are too high-principled. They are that set on liberty that they won't take the trouble to safeguard it. They would rather lose the war than give up their little notions. I've a great regard for principles, but I have no use for them when they get so high that they become foolishness."

"Every idle pedant thinks he knows better how to fight a war than the men who are labouring sixteen hours a day at it," said Stanton bitterly.

"They want to hurry things quicker than the Almighty means them to go. I don't altogether blame them either, for I'm mortally impatient myself. But it s no good thinking that saying a thing should be so will make it so. We're not the Creator of this universe. You've got to judge results according to your instruments. Horace Greeley is always telling me what I should do, but Horace omits to explain how I am to find the means. You can't properly manure a fifty-acre patch with only a bad smell."

Lincoln ran his finger over the leaves of the small Bible he had taken from his pocket "Seems to me Moses had the same difficulties to contend with. Read the sixteenth chapter of the book of Numbers at your leisure, Mr. Secretary. It's mighty pertinent to our situation. The people have been a deal kinder to me than I deserve and I've got more cause for thankfulness than complaint. But sometimes I get just a little out of patience with our critics. I want to say to them as Moses said to Korah, Dathan, and Abiram—'Ye take too much upon you, ye sons of Levi!'"

Lincoln's speech had broadened into something like the dialect of his boyhood. Stanton finished the paper on which he had been engaged and stepped aside from his desk. His face was heavily preoccupied and he kept an eye always on the door leading to his private secretary's room.

"At this moment," he said, "Hooker is engaged with Lee." He put a finger on a map which was stretched on a frame behind him. "There! On the Rappahannock, where it is joined by the Rapidan.... Near the hamlet of Chancellorsville.... Battle was joined two days ago, and so far it has been indecisive. Tonight we should know the result. That was the news you came here to-night about, Mr. President?"

Lincoln nodded. "I am desperately anxious. I needn't conceal that from you, Mr. Stanton."

"So am I. I wish to God I had more confidence in General Hooker. I never liked that appointment, Mr. President. I should have preferred Meade or Reynolds. Hooker is a blustering thick-headed fellow, good enough, maybe, for a division or even a corps, but not for an army."

"I visited him three weeks back," said Lincoln, "and I'm bound to say he has marvellously pulled round the Army of the Potomac. There's a new spirit in their ranks. You're unjust to Joe Hooker, Mr. Stanton. He's a fine organiser, and he'll fight—he's eager to fight, which McClellan and Burnside never were."

"But what on earth is the good of being willing to fight if you're going to lose? He hasn't the brains to command. And he's opposed by Lee and Jackson. Do you realise the surpassing ability of those two men? We have no generals fit to hold a candle to them."

"We've a bigger and a better army. I'm not going to be depressed, Mr. Stanton. Joe has two men to every one of Lee's, he's safe over the Rappahannock, and I reckon he will make a road to Richmond. I've seen his troops, and they are fairly bursting to get at the enemy. I insist on being hopeful. What's the last news from the Mississippi?"

"Nothing new. Grant has got to Port Gibson and has his base at Grand Gulf. He now proposes to cut loose and make for Vicksburg. So far he has done well, but the risk is terrific. Still, I am inclined to think you were right about that man. He has capacity."

"Grant stops still and saws wood," said Lincoln "He don't talk a great deal, but he fights. I can't help feeling hopeful to-night, for it seems to me we have the enemy in a fix. You've heard me talk of the shrinking quadrilateral, which is the rebel States, as I see the proposition."

"Often," said the other drily.

"I never could get McClellan rightly to understand it. I look on the Confederacy as a quadrilateral of which at present we hold two sides—the east and the south—the salt-water sides. The north side is Virginia, the west side the line of the Mississippi. If Grant and Farragut between them can win the control of the Father of Waters, we've got the west side. Then it's the business of the Armies on the Mississippi to press east and the Army of the Potomac to press south. It may take a time, but if we keep a stiff upper lip we're bound to have the rebels whipped. I reckon they're whipped already in spite of Lee. I've heard of a turtle that an old nigger man decapitated. Next day he was amusing himself poking sticks at it and the turtle was snapping back. His master comes along and says to him, 'Why, Pomp, I thought that turtle was dead.' 'Well, he am dead, massa,' says Pompey, 'but the critter don't know enough ter be sensible ob it.' I reckon the Confederacy's dead, but Jeff Davis don't know enough to be sensible of it."

A young man in uniform came hurriedly through the private secretary's door and handed the Secretary for War a telegram. He stood at attention, and the President observed that his face was pale. Stanton read the message, but gave no sign of its contents. He turned to the map behind him and traced a line on it with his forefinger.

"Any more news?" he asked the messenger.

"Nothing official, sir," was the answer. "But there is a report that General Jackson has been killed in the moment of victory."

The officer withdrew and Stanton turned to the President. Lincoln's face was terrible in its strain, for the words "in the moment of victory" had rung the knell of his hopes.

When Stanton spoke his voice was controlled and level. "Unlike your turtle," he said, "the Confederacy is suddenly and terribly alive. Lee has whipped Hooker to blazes. We have lost more than fifteen thousand men. To-day we are back on the north side of the Rappahannock."

Lincoln was on his feet and for a moment the bronze mask of his face was distorted by suffering.

"My God!" he cried. "What will the country say? What will the country say?"

"It matters little what the country says. The point is what will the country suffer. In a fortnight Lee will be in Maryland and Pennsylvania. Your quadrilateral will not shrink, it will extend. In a month we shall be fighting to hold Washington and Baltimore, aye, and Philadelphia."

The bitterness of the words seemed to calm Lincoln. He was walking up and down the floor, with his hands clasped behind his back, and his expression was once again one of patient humility.

"I take all the blame," he said. "You have done nobly, Mr. Stanton, and all the mistakes are mine. I reckon I am about the poorest effigy of a War President that ever cursed an unhappy country."

The other did not reply. He was an honest man who did not deal in smooth phrases.

"I'd resign to-morrow," Lincoln went on. "No railsplitter ever laid down his axe at the end of a hard day so gladly as I would lay down my office. But I've got to be sure first that my successor will keep faith with this nation. I've got to find a man who will keep the right course."

"Which is?" Stanton asked.

"To fight it out to the very end. To the last drop of blood and the last cent. There can be no going back. If I surrendered my post to any successor, though he were an archangel from heaven, who would weaken on that great purpose, I should deserve to be execrated as the betrayer of my country."

Into Stanton's sour face there came a sudden gleam which made it almost beautiful.

"Mr. President," he said, "I have often differed from you. I have used great freedom in criticism of your acts, and I take leave to think that I have been generally in the right. You know that I am no flatterer. But I tell you, sir, from my inmost heart that you are the only man to lead the people, because you are the only man whose courage never fails. God knows how you manage it. I am of the bull-dog type and hold on because I do not know how to let go. Most of my work I do in utter hopelessness. But you, sir, you never come within a mile of despair. The blacker the clouds get the more confident you are that there is sunlight behind them. I carp and cavil at you, but I also take off my hat to you, for you are by far the greatest of us."

Lincoln's face broke into a slow smile, which made the eyes seem curiously child-like.

"I thank you, my old friend," he said. "I don't admit I have your courage, for I haven't half of it. But if a man feels that he is only a pipe for Omnipotence to sound through, he is not so apt to worry. Besides, these last weeks God has been very good to me and I've been given a kind of assurance. I know the country will grumble a bit about my ways of doing things, but will follow me in the end. I know that we shall win a clean victory. Jordan has been a hard road to travel, but I feel that in spite of all our frailties we'll be dumped on the right side of that stream. After that..."

"After that," said Stanton, with something like enthusiasm in his voice, "you'll be the first President of a truly united America, with a power and prestige the greatest since Washington."

Lincoln's gaze had left the other's face and was fixed on the blue dusk now gathering in the window.

"I don't know about that," he said. "When the war's over, I think I'll go home."


Two years passed and once again it was spring in Washington—about half-past ten of the evening of the 14th of April—Good Friday—the first Eastertide of peace. The streets had been illuminated for victory, and the gas jets were still blazing, while a young moon, climbing the sky, was dimming their murky yellow with its cold pure light. Tenth Street was packed from end to end by a silent mob. As a sponge cleans a slate, so exhilaration had been wiped off their souls. On the porch of Ford's Theatre some gaudy posters advertised Tom Taylor's comedy, Our American Cousin, and the steps were littered with paper and orange peel and torn fragments of women's clothes, for the exit of the audience had been hasty. Lights still blazed in the building, for there was nobody to put them out. In front on the side-walk was a cordon of soldiers.

Stanton elbowed his way through the throng to the little house, Mr. Peterson's, across the street. The messenger from the War Department had poured wild news into his ear,—wholesale murder, everybody—the President—Seward—Grant. Incredulous he had hurried forth and the sight of that huge still crowd woke fear in him. The guards at Mr. Peterson's door recognised him and he was admitted. As he crossed the threshold he saw ominous dark stains.

A kitchen candle burned below the hat-rack in the narrow hall, and showed further stains on the oilcloth. From a room on the left hand came the sound of women weeping.

The door at the end of the passage was ajar. It opened on a bare little place, once perhaps the surgery of some doctor in small practice, but now a bedroom. A door gave at the farther side on a tiny verandah, and this and the one window were wide open. An oil lamp stood on a table by the bed and revealed a crowd of people. A man lay on the camp-bed, lying aslant for he was too long for it. A sheet covered his lower limbs, but his breast and shoulders had been bared. The head was nearest to the entrance, propped on an outjutting bolster.

A man was leaving whom Stanton recognised as Dr. Stone, the Lincoln family physician. The doctor answered his unspoken question. "Dying," he said. "Through the brain. The bullet is now below the left eye. He may live for a few hours—scarcely the night."

Stanton moved to the foot of the bed like one in a dream. He saw that Barnes, the Surgeon-General, sat on a deal chair on the left side, holding the dying man's hand. Dr. Gurley, the minister, sat beside the bed. He noted Sumner and Welles and General Halleck and Governor Dennison, and back in the gloom the young Robert Lincoln. But he observed them only as he would have observed figures in a picture. They were but shadows; the living man was he who was struggling on the bed with death.

Lincoln's great arms and chest were naked, and Stanton, who had thought of him as meagre and shrunken, was amazed at their sinewy strength. He remembered that he had once heard of him as a village Hercules. The President was unconscious, but some tortured nerve made him moan like an animal in pain. It was a strange sound to hear from one who had been wont to suffer with tight lips. To Stanton it heightened the spectral unreality of the scene. He seemed to be looking at a death in a stage tragedy.

The trivial voice of Welles broke the silence. He had to give voice to the emotion which choked him.

"His dream has come true," he said—"the dream he told us about at the Cabinet this morning. His ship is nearing the dark shore. He thought it signified good news from Sherman."

Stanton did not reply. To save his life he could not have uttered a word.

Then Gurley, the minister, spoke, very gently, for he was a simple man sorely moved.

"He has looked so tired for so long. He will have rest now, the deep rest of the people of God.... He has died for us all.... To-day nineteen hundred years ago the Son of Man gave His life for the world.... The President has followed in his Master's steps."

Sumner was repeating softly to himself, like a litany, that sentence from the second Inaugural—"With malice toward none, with charity for all."

But Stanton was in no mood for words. He was looking at the figure on the bed, the great chest heaving with the laboured but regular breath, and living again the years of colleagueship and conflict. He had been Loyal to him: yes, thank God he had been loyal. He had quarrelled, thwarted, criticised, but he had never failed him in a crisis. He had held up his hands as Aaron and Hur held up the hands of Moses...

The Secretary for War was not in the habit of underrating his own talents and achievements. But in that moment they seemed less than nothing. Humility shook him like a passion. Till his dying day his one boast must be that he had served that figure on the camp-bed. It had been his high fortune to have his lot cast in the vicinity of supreme genius. With awe he realised that he was looking upon the passing of the very great.... There had never been such a man. There could never be such an one again. So patient and enduring, so wise in all great matters, so potent to inspire a multitude, so secure in his own soul.... Fools would chatter about his being a son of the people and his career a triumph of the average man. Average! Great God, he was a ruler of princes, a master, a compeller of men.... He could imagine what noble nonsense Sumner would talk.... He looked with disfavor at the classic face of the Bostonian.

But Sumner for once seemed to share his feelings. He, too, was looking with reverent eyes towards the bed, and as he caught Stanton's gaze he whispered words which the Secretary for War did not condemn: "The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places."

The night hours crawled on with an intolerable slowness. Some of the watchers sat, but Stanton remained rigid at the bed-foot. He had not been well of late and had been ordered a long rest by his doctor, but he was not conscious of fatigue. He would not have left his post for a king's ransom, for he felt himself communing with the dying, sharing the last stage in his journey as he had shared all the rough marches. His proud spirit found a certain solace in the abasement of its humbleness.

A little before six the morning light began to pale the lamps. The window showed a square of grey cloudy sky, and outside on the porch there was a drip of rain. The faces revealed by the cold dawn were as haggard and yellow as that of the dying man. Wafts of the outer air began to freshen the stuffiness of the little room.

The city was waking up. There came the sound of far-away carts and horses, and a boy in the lane behind the house began to whistle, and then to sing. "When I was young," he sang—

"When I was young I used to wait At Magea'n table 'n' hand de plate An' pais de bottie when he was dry, An' brush away de blue-tailed fly."

"It's his song," Stanton said to himself, and with the air came a rush of strange feelings. He remembered a thousand things, which before had been only a background of which he had been scarcely conscious. The constant kindliness, the gentle healing sympathy, the homely humour which he once thought had irritated but which he now knew had soothed him.... This man had been twined round the roots of every heart. All night he had been in an ecstasy of admiration, but now that was forgotten in a yearning love. The President had been part of his being, closer to him than wife or child. The boy sang—

"But I can't forget, until I die Ole Massa an' de blue-tailed fly."

Stanton's eyes filled with hot tears. He had not wept since his daughter died.

The breathing from the bed was growing faint. Suddenly the Surgeon-General held up his hand. He felt the heart and shook his head. "Fetch your mother," he said to Robert Lincoln. The minister had dropped on his knees by the bedside and was praying.

"The President is dead," said the Surgeon-General, and at the words it seemed that every head in the room was bowed on the breast.

Stanton took a step forward with a strange appealing motion of the arms. It was noted by more than one that his pale face was transfigured.

"Yesterday he was America's," he cried. "Our very own. Now he is all the world's.... Now he belongs to the ages."


Mr. Francis Hamilton, an honorary attache of the British Embassy, stood on the steps of the Capitol watching the procession which bore the President's body from the White House to lie in state in the great Rotunda. He was a young man of some thirty summers, who after a distinguished Oxford career was preparing himself with a certain solemnity for the House of Commons. He sought to be an authority on Foreign affairs, and with this aim was making a tour among the legations. Two years before he had come to Washington, intending to remain for six months, and somewhat to his own surprise had stayed on, declining to follow his kinsman Lord Lyons to Constantinople. Himself a staunch follower of Mr. Disraeli, and an abhorrer of Whiggery in all its forms, he yet found in America's struggle that which appealed both to his brain and his heart. He was a believer, he told himself, in the Great State and an opponent of parochialism; so, unlike most of his friends at home, his sympathies were engaged for the Union. Moreover he seemed to detect in the protagonists a Roman simplicity pleasing to a good classic.

Mr. Hamilton was sombrely but fashionably dressed and wore a gold eyeglass on a black ribbon, because he fancied that a monocle adroitly used was a formidable weapon in debate. He had neat small sidewhiskers, and a pleasant observant eye. With him were young Major Endicott from Boston and the eminent Mr. Russell Lowell, who, as Longfellow's successor in the Smith Professorship and one of the editors of The North American Review, was a great figure in cultivated circles. Both were acquaintances made by Mr. Hamilton on a recent visit to Harvard. He found it agreeable to have a few friends with whom he could have scholarly talk.

The three watched the procession winding through the mourning streets. Every house was draped in funeral black, the passing bell tolled from every church, and the minute-guns boomed at the City Hall and on Capitol Hill. Mr. Hamilton regarded the cortege at first with a critical eye. The events of the past week had wrought in him a great expectation, which he feared would be disappointed. It needed a long tradition to do fitting honour to the man who had gone. Had America such a tradition? he asked himself.... The coloured troops marching at the head of the line pleased him. That was a happy thought. He liked, too, the business-like cavalry and infantry, and the battered field-pieces.... He saw his Chief among the foreign Ministers, bearing a face of portentous solemnity.... But he liked best the Illinois and Kentucky delegates; he thought the dead President would have liked them too.

Major Endicott was pointing out the chief figures. "There's Grant... and Stanton, looking more cantankerous than ever. They say he's brokenhearted." But Mr. Hamilton had no eye for celebrities. He was thinking rather of those plain mourners from the west, and of the poorest house in Washington decked with black. This is a true national sorrow, he thought. He had been brought up as a boy from Eton to see Wellington's funeral, and the sight had not impressed him like this. For the recent months had awakened odd emotions in his orderly and somewhat cynical soul. He had discovered a hero.

The three bared their heads as the long line filed by. Mr. Lowell said nothing. Now and then he pulled at his moustaches as if to hide some emotion which clamoured for expression. The mourners passed into the Capitol, while the bells still tolled and the guns boomed. The cavalry escort formed up on guard; from below came the sound of sharp commands.

Mr. Hamilton was shaken out of the admirable detachment which he had cultivated. He wanted to sit down and sob like a child. Some brightness had died in the air, some great thing had gone for ever from the world and left it empty. He found himself regarding the brilliant career which he had planned for himself with a sudden disfavour. It was only second-rate after all, that glittering old world of courts and legislatures and embassies. For a moment he had had a glimpse of the firstrate, and it had shivered his pretty palaces. He wanted now something which he did not think he would find again.

The three turned to leave, and at last Mr. Lowell spoke.

"There goes," he said, "the first American!"

Mr. Hamilton heard the words as he was brushing delicately with his sleeve a slight berufflement of his silk hat.

"I dare say you are right, Professor," he said. "But I think it is also the last of the Kings."


Original Transcriber's Notes:

This is best viewed at 10 point rather than 12. DB

From: mary starr

Subject: The Path of the King

There are many old-fashioned spellings in this book as well as many English spellings.

I have made notes of some of the things that might be assumed to be errors.


ise instead of ize such as in realise

ence, instead of ense as in offence

chapt 2..firstfruits is one word

chapter 4. Soldan of Egypt is correct

travelled is correct with 2 l's

defence is correct... practise is correct

chapter 6, He, drawer!" is correct, the He is accented.

chapter 7, instalment is the way it's spelled in the book.

Tchut in chapt 9 is correct

tittuped in chapt 11 is correct

accompt-book chapt 11 is correct

offences is correct throughout the book

O-hio in chapter 12 is correct

Her husband, Tom Linkhorn, thought she mending, Chapt 13 is correct (no was in the line.)

sensible ob it 14 is correct


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