Page images

believe you will yet be grateful for my coming. I do not come to plead for the lives of criminals, nor for the lives of deserters; but I plead for the lives of those who were the first to hasten to the support of this government, who helped to place you where you are—for men who have done all they could; and now, when flesh and nerve and muscle are gone, who still pray for your life, and the life of the republic. They scarcely ask for that for which I plead. They expect to sacrifice their lives for their country. I know that, if they could come North, they could live, and be well, strong men again, at least, many of them. I say I know, because I was sick among them last spring, surrounded by every comfort, with the best of care, and determined to get well. I grew weaker and weaker, day by day, until, not being under military law, my friends brought me North. I recovered entirely by breathing northern air."

While she was so earnestly speaking, Mr. Lincoln's expression of face changed often, but he did not take his eyes from her. He was evidently distressed, for he was convinced that she was speaking the truth. IIis face contracted almost painfully as he said: “You assume to know more than I do." The tears almost came in the lady's eyes as she replied: “ Pardon me, Mr. Lincoln, I intend no disrespect; but it is because of this knowledge, and because I do know what you do not know, that I come to you. If you had known what I know, and had not already ordered what I ask, I should know that an appeal to you would be in vain; but I believe in you.

I believe the people have not trusted you in vain. The question only is—do you believe me, or not? If you believe in me, you will give us hospitals; if not-well.”

“You assume to know more than surgeons do,” said Mr. Lincoln, sharply. “Oh no,” she replied; “I could not perform an amputation nearly so well as some of them do. But this is true: I do not come here for your favor. I am 10 aspirant for military favor or promotion. While it would be the pride of my life to command your respect and confidence, still, even this I can waive to gain my object-waive for the

time. You will do me justice, some time. Now the medical authorities know as well as you and I do, that you are opposed to establishing northern hospitals; and they report to please you. They desire your favor. I come to you from no casual tour of inspection, having passed rapidly through the general hospitals, with a cigar in my mouth and a ratan in my hand, talking to the surgeon in charge of the price of cotton, and abusing our generals in the army for not knowing and per-, forming their duty better, and finally coming into the open air with a long-drawn breath as though I had just escaped suffocation, and complacently saying to the surgeon: 'A very fine hospital you have here, Sir. The

have here, Sir. The boys seem to be doing very well. A little more attention to ventilation is desirable, perhaps.' It is not thus that I have visited hospitals. For eight long months—from early morning until late at night, sometimes—I have visited the regimental and general hospitals on the Mississippi, from Quincy to Vicksburg; and I come to you from the cots of men who have died, and who might have lived if you had permitted it. This is hard to say, but it is


While she was speaking the last sentences, Mr. Lincoln's brow had become severely contracted; and a pained, hard expression had settled upon his whole face. Then he sharply asked her how many men her state had sent to the field. She replied: “about fifty thousand.” “That means,” he responded, “that she has about twenty thousand now.” With an unpleasant voice and manner he continued: “You need not look so sober; they are not all dead." The veins filled in his face painfully, and one across his forehead was fearfully large and blue. Then, with an impatient movement of his whole frame, he said: “I have a good mind to dismiss them all from the service, and have no more trouble with them."

The lady was astonished, as she might well be, for she knew that he was not in earnest. They sat looking at one another in silence. He had become very pale, and at last she broke the silence by saying: “They have been faithful to the gorernment; they have been faithful to you; they will still be

loyal to the government, do what you will with them. But, if

you will grant my petition, you will be glad as long as you live. The prayers of grateful hearts will give you strength in the hour of trial, and strong and willing arms will return to fight your battles.”

The President bowed his head; and, with a look of sadness which it is impossible for language to describe, said: “I shall never be glad any more." All severity had passed away from his face, and he seemed looking inward and backward, and appeared unconscious of the fact that he was not alone. The great burdens he had borne, the terrible anxieties and perplexities that had poisoned his life at the fountain, and the peaceful scenes he had forever left behind, swept across his memory; and then the thought that it was possible that he had erred in judgment, and done injustice to the noble men who had fought the nation's battles, brought back all his childlike tenderness.

The lady heard his mournful utterances, and said: “Oh! do not say so, Mr. Lincoln, for who will have so much reason to rejoice as yourself, when the government shall be restoredas it will be ?"

“I know, I know,” he said, pressing a hand on either side; “but the springs of life are wearing away, and I shall not last.” She asked him if he felt that his great cares were injuring his health. “No,” he replied; “not directly, perhaps." She asked him if he slept well. He never was a good sleeper, he replied, and of course slept now less than ever before. Then, with earnestness, he said: “The people do not yet comprehend the magnitude of this rebellion, and it will be a long time before the end."

The lady, feeling that she had occupied too much of his time, rose to take her leave; and, as she did so, said: “ Have you decided upon your answer to me?” “No," he replied, "come to-morrow morning :-stop, it is cabinet-meeting tomorrow. Yes, come at twelve o'clock; there is not much for the cabinet to do, to-morrow.” Then he bade his visitor a cordial good morning, and she retired.

The next morning, the lady found that her interview had prostrated her; but at twelve o'clock she was at the White House. The President sent her word that the cabinet would adjourn soon, and that she must wait. For three long hours she waited, receiving occasional messages from Mr. Lincoln, to the effect that the cabinet would soon adjourn, and he would then see her. She was in distress, expecting defeat. She walked the room, and gazed at the maps, and, at last, she heard the sound of feet. The cabinet had adjourned. Mr. Lincoln did not send for her, but came shuffling into the room, rubbing his hands, and saying: “My dear Madam, I am sorry I have kept you waiting so long, but we have this moment adjourned.”

My waiting is no matter,” she replied, “but you must be very tired, and we will not talk to-night.” Bidding her to a seat, she having risen as he entered, he sat down at her side, and quietly remarked: “I only wish to say to you that an order which is equivalent to the granting of a hospital in your state, has been issued from the War Department, nearly twenty-four hours."

The lady could make no reply, except through the tears that sprang at once. Mr. Lincoln looked on, and enjoyed it. When, at last, she could command her voice, she said: “God bless you!” Then, as doubts came, touching the nature of the order, she said earnestly: “Do you mean, really and truly, that we are going to have a hospital now?” With a look full of benevolence and tenderness,—such a look as rarely illuminates any face,—he said: “I do most certainly hope so;" and then he told her to come on the following morning, and he would give her a copy of the order. But his visitor was too much affected to talk; and perceiving this, he kindly changed the subject, asking her to look at a map which hung in the room, representing the great battle-grounds of Europe. “It is a very fine map,” said he; "see—here is Waterloo, here are all the battle-fields about the Crimea.” Then, suddenly turning to the lady, he said: “I'm afraid you will not like it so well, when I tell you who executed it.” She replied: “It is a great work, whoever executed it. Who was it, Mr. President?” “McClellan," he answered, and added: “He certainly did do this well. He did it while he was at West Point."

The next morning, sick with the excitement through which she had passed, the lady was at the White House again. She found more than fifty persons waiting for an audience; so she sent in her name, and said she would call again. The messenger said he thought the President would see her, and she had better be seated. Soon afterward, he informed her that the President would see her. As she passed in, she heard the words from one of the waiting throng: “She has been here six days; and, what is more, she is going to win." As she entered, Mr. Lincoln smiled pleasantly, drew a chair to his side, and said: “Come here, and sit down." As she did so, he handed her a copy of the coveted order. She thanked him, and apologized for not being more promptly at the house; she had been sick all night. “Did joy make you sick?” he inquired. “I suppose,” he added, " you would have been mad if I had said 'no.'” She replied: "No, Mr. Lincoln, I should have been neither angry nor sick.” “What would you have done?” he inquired. "I should have been here at nine o'clock this morning.” “Well,” said he, laughing, "I think I have acted wisely then.” Then he turned suddenly, and looked into her face as he said: “Don't you ever get angry?” She replied that she never did when she had an important object to attain. Further conversation occurred as to the naming of the hospital, when the lady rose, and said: “You will not wish to see me again.” “I did not say that, and I shall not say it,” said the President. “You have been very kind to me, and I am very grateful for it," said his visitor. He looked up at her from under his eyebrows, in his peculiar way, and said: “You almost think I am handsome, do n't you?” His face was full of benevolence, and his countenance lighted by a cordial smile; and it is not strange that the lady exclaimed: “You are perfectly lovely to me now, Mr. Lincoln." The President colored a little, and laughed a good deal, at the impulsive response, and reached out his hand

« PreviousContinue »