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school and began the practice of law. He was affable and made many friends. He was ambitious to succeed in his profession and in political life. He was in Vandalia for the purpose of persuading the Democratic members of the Legislature to turn out Colonel John J. Hardin from the office of District Attorney and elect him instead. He was successful.
The session lasted but a few weeks, and Abraham Lincoln went back to his surveying. He was not the same man he had been. The grasp of his hand, when he met Jack Armstrong, was as hearty as ever, but he had advanced to a higher plane of life. He had been considering questions which affected the welfare of his fellow-men and the prosperity of a great and growing State.
The young men of New Salem were attracted to the sitting-room of Rutledge's tavern because they desired to be where they could enjoy the society of the landlord's daughter; there was not a girl in 1835. all the country round who had such winsome ways, such grace of
manner and kindness of heart. If sickness came to a household, it was she who hastened to the bedside of the sufferer. It was her lullaby that soothed the fretting child. There was something so pure and holy about her that men were ashamed to utter an oath if she were near. She had attended school at Jacksonville; not many of her mates had enjoyed such advantages. Of her many admirers she accepted the special attentions of John McNeil, a young man from the State of New York, who had left home to make his fortune in the growing West. He had accumulated several thousand dollars. He planned to go to New York, bring his father and mother to New Salem, and then he would claim her for his bride. On the evening preceding his departure he informed her that his real name was not McNeil but McNamur. He had left home determined to make his fortune, and did not desire his friends to know where he was till he had attained his object. The explanation was accepted, and he took his departure. He would write to her, and she to him; he would not be gone many months.
The weeks went by, but no letter came for Ann Rutledge; the summer waned, and still no message. Friends whispered their suspicions. Was not the revelation he had made in regard to his name to his discredit? If a true man, why change his name? If upright and honorable, why not keep his promise? A letter came at last. On his homeward journey he had been seized with fever and delirium. Strangers kindly cared for him, but months went by before he was able to resume his journey. He had reached home, but it would take time to settle affairs. The troubled heart of Ann Rutledge was at peace once more.
Other months passed, but brought no letter. Why did he not write? Was he again down with fever? If so, would not some one inform her? Was business crowding out all thoughts of herself? Is it a wonder that her friends once more said he was fickle-minded; that he cared little for her; that he had found some one with a fairer face? It was no secret in New Salem that he did not write; that a great disappointment had come to her. She found comfort and consolation in attending relig ious meetings. There was unwonted pathos in her voice as she joined in the singing. Something had gone out of her life. Her once rippling laughter was not so joyous as it had been, and there was a shade of sadness in her winsome smile.
The heart of Abraham Lincoln goes out to her. To him there never was a blossom so fragrant, sweet, and fair as this flower of the prairie. Wherever he beholds her, whether in her home, in the religious meeting, or by the bedside of the sick, her presence glorifies the place. We may be sure that he who once waded the ice-cold stream to care for a dog would love Ann Rutledge with all the intensity and greatness of his soul. He had nothing but himself to offer her; himself-an ungainly, uncultivated wood-chopper, boatman, teamster, store-keeper, surveyora piece of driftwood, thus far floating on the stream of time. He was poor, almost in poverty. Would she accept his love?
But the true love of Ann Rutledge has been awaiting, is awaiting, unanswered letters. She will write once more to him to whom she gave her love. The letter is written. Weeks pass, no answer comes, and the wounded heart, chastened by disappointment, accepts the sympathy and affection of Abraham Lincoln.
It is pleasure to labor, because Ann Rutledge has come into his life. Never before have the spring birds been so joyful, the days so bright, the nights so calm and peaceful, the vault of heaven so lit with stars, or the air so perfumed with flowers.
He returns to New Salem from his surveying, to look once more upon the face of her for whom he would lay down his life, if need be. He sits by her side in the gloaming. She sings a hymn which she has often sung in the religious meetings:
"Vain man, thy fond pursuits forbear;
Death, at the farthest, can't be far,
Oh think before thou die !" (9)
The hymn to which he listens was written by one who in early life wrote a book upon the "Unreasonableness of Religion" (Joseph
Hart, of London, England), but who saw his mistake, and who became an earnest preacher of the Gospel. (1)
Abraham Lincoln had entered upon a period of doubt in religion. Thomas Paine's "Age of Reason" and Volney's "Ruins" led him to question generally accepted religious beliefs.(")
Little does he think, as he listens to the enchanting voice, that a great sorrow, like the shadow of an eclipse, is about to darken his life. He does not mistrust the unwonted bloom upon her cheek that, brightening her beauty, heralds the approach of life's closing scene. He does not dream the cup of joy brimming over with blessedness at that evening hour never again will come to his lips-that Calvary is not far away.
A few hours, and her blood is on fire-the fever burning out her life. Watchers stand by her bedside-all others are excluded by order of the physician. (")
"But I must see him," her pitiful appeal. He enters the room alone, stands by her side, gazes once more into her loving eyes. No ears other than their own hear the parting words. August 25, 1835, Ann Rutledge enters the life eternal, and all that is mortal of her is borne to its resting-place. He is stunned by the loss and walks as in a dream. He spends the night beside her grave, heeding not the chilling wind or driving storm.
"I cannot bear to have the rain fall upon her!" the moan of the stricken heart. A great hope has gone down-a joy forever departed. In the daytime he wanders aimlessly. If he sits beneath the trees on the bank of the river, the fallen leaves borne away by its current remind him of his loss. The faded flowers bring before him the fairer blossom cut down by death. He is overwhelmed by grief. Reason totters. His friends are alarmed, and seek to divert his thoughts. A friend sends him the poem written by William Knox, of Scotland:
"Oh why should the spirit of mortal be proud?
"The leaves of the oak and the willow shall fade,
And the young and the old, and the low and the high,
"Yea! hope and despondency, pleasure and pain,
The poem emphasizes the evanescence of earthly things. That which has come to him is the common lot of man, and so he will be resigned under the great affliction. Through life, whenever he is bowed with grief, he will find comfort and consolation in the lines.
Little does Bolin Green know what service he is rendering to the world when he takes Abraham Lincoln to his home. It is only a logcabin, but within its walls kindness and sympathy are tenderly given till reason is once more enthroned. Years pass, but the kindness is never forgotten. When at last this benefactor passes away, and Abra
ham Lincoln, crowned with honor, stands by the burial casket, he cannot give utterance to the words he fain would speak in commemoration of his friend. His eyes fill with tears; with tremulous lips he turns away, unable to control his emotion.
NOTES TO CHAPTER V.
(1) A. Y. Ellis's letter in William H. Herndon's "Lincoln,” p. 104 (edition 1889). (2) Judge Stephen A. Logan, quoted in Nicolay and Hay's "Abraham Lincoln: A History," vol. i., p. 108.
(3) Nicolay and Hay, " Abraham Lincoln: A History," vol. i., p. 109.
(4) W. G. Green to Author, October, 1890.
(6) William H. Herndon, "Lincoln," p. 113 (edition 1889).
(7) Ibid., p. 118.
(8) Ibid., p. 120; also, Nicolay and Hay, "Abraham Lincoln: A History," vol. i., p. 115. (9) John M. Rutledge's letter in William H. Herndon's "Lincoln," p. 138, note (edition 1889).
(10) S. W. Duffield, in "English Hymns," p. 100.
(1) William H. Herndon, "Lincoln,” p. 439 (edition 1889).
(12) Ibid., p. 138, note.