Bernie Babcock.

The soul of Ann Rutledge, Abraham Lincoln's romance online

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the rank of Major. Abraham Lincoln at twenty-
one was driving two yoke of oxen to an emigrant
wagon through the mud-holes and wilds of the
West and had never been to school a year in
his life. I was tryin*. I felt that I was gettin*
ahead. Now comes a burden that will crush
me to earth for Ann Rutledge Ann But-
ledge," and he turned toward her and spoke
with fierce determination, ' ' every penny of this
debt must be paid if it takes me to the day of
my death with my coffin money thrown in."

"Yes, Abraham Lincoln," she answered
gently, * ' every penny and God will help you do
it, for God never expects the impossible. He's
not that kind of a God, you know."



"You talk about God," said Lincoln rather
indifferently, "as if you were sure well, I be-
lieve you are. I knew it the night I heard you
singin' on the bluff. I have heard you sing
that song many times since sometimes in my
dreams. I wish I could feel as you do when you
sing your pilgrim song. I have imagined that
I will some day, but now now I think of my
mother lyin' under a forgotten tangle where
strange beasts creep. She was a pilgrim, too
but she passed out of it all weak and weary. Yet
she believed just as you believe, as I have tried
to believe."

"But, Abraham you know we are here for
just a little time. The song says, ' I can tarry I
can tarry but a night.' Sometimes the night is
very short, as when a child passes on. Some-
times it is longer, as when an old, old man dies.
But whether long or short, the night gives way
to the morning with its light and fresh life and
strength. I know it is so."

She had been speaking in a quiet voice with
a touch of pleading, for she felt he was not pay-
ing close attention.

"How do you know it?" he asked, turning
to her. * ' Tell me how you know it or why you
believe so strongly."



"Let us sit down,'* she said, "here where
the light is fading on the river. See, only the
foam shines now. But in just a little while the
moon will put a thousand bars of silver on the
water. We are not afraid of the dark you and
I nor of each other. I want to tell you a story. ' '

He was paying attention now. They sat down
on the broad step of the mill door. To him Ann
Eutledge had never been so close before, and
yet just now so unattainable. Never before had
she spoken to him in such childish simplicity, yet
now she was mysteriously beyond his under-

"I have often doubted," he said, with some-
thing like a sigh as he stretched his legs across
the platform and waited; "I should like to be-
lieve as you do. Can you make me?"

"I will tell you a story," she said again.
Her voice was low and sweet. It seemed in tune
with the gathering darkness, the falling of the
water, the evening calm and the burdened heart
of the man.

"When I was yet very small I began wonder-
ing and asking questions about things I could
neither understand nor believe. It was while we
were back in Kentucky I was sent to the pasture



to watch the cows. There was a pond in the low
end of the pasture where the reeds grew and
where all was very quiet around. I was sitting
beside the water, wondering perhaps if some-
thing strange and beautiful would appear from
its depths as in fairy stories, when I saw a
hideous, mud-colored grub creeping slowly above
the water-line and climbing the reed. I was
tempted to knock it back out of sight, it was so
ugly. But I only watched. Very soon its muddy
shell cracked open, something with wings crept
out and the shell fell back to the place from
which it had come. The new creature spread
its wings slowly. They dried, turning as they
did so into silver gauze, which he spread out like
bits of shining lace. Then he went skimming
away across the pond and over the dandelions
and grass flowers, even over the heads of the
grazing cows. In all my life I had never dreamed
of anything so wonderful nor had any fairy story
ever been told me that was so marvelous as
what I had just seen. I looked back to the pond.
A ray of sun was shining so that I could see the
bottom. The cast-off shell was lying there in the
mud. There were others around it like it, except
they had life in them. They crept up and maybe



looked at the empty shell. One touched it and
turned away.

"After a time the new creature with the sil-
very wings came again and rested on the reed.
His reflection showed in the water. Perhaps he
could see those who were as he had been, creep-
ing in the mud. But he had no way of telling
them that they, would one day become creatures
of the upper world of sunshine and flowers and
sky, for the only world they knew was mud.
And then I thought of people and that we are
yet dwelling in the world of mud. The Bible
calls it the 'earth.' It says 'there is a natural
body' do you remember 'There is a natural
body and there is a spiritual body. The first
is of the earth earthy. ' And it is not until we
have left the old body that we can know the life
on wings the life up in, God's big fields of sun-
shine that we call heaven.

"As I watched the shining creature sitting
on the reed, I thought perhaps it was a mother
wishing she could tell her child down below to be
brave and not mind the mud, for at longest it
can last but a little while. Of course there was
no way the one could speak and the other hear.
But it was a helpful thought. Do you ever think



of your mother this way? Bo you ever feel
when you are in the gloom that she is not very
far away, and only waiting until you have been
changed, to tell\ you many things'? The Bible
calls it 'when this mortal shall have put on
Immortality.' '

" Immortality," the man repeated, as if to
himself. It was the title of the new poem, he so
liked. Then he said, almost reverently, ' ' Go on,

"I believe," she said simply, "that's why I
am so happy when I 'm singing * I 'm a pilgrim. '
It is my soul you hear singing, Abraham that
part of me that will not die, that} is shouting on
the way. Wasn't God good to plan it all so

Abraham Lincoln turned slowly and looked
down on Ann Eutledge.

The moon was throwing its first gleams
across the river. In the pale light the face and
hair with its pale red-gold halo seemed to stand
out from the shadowy background like some-
thing ethereal and unreal. The man gazed at it.
It was so shining so happy.

"You were sobbin' in the cellar not so long
ago, "he said.

16 241


"That was the darkness but always the
light comes back."

' 'Because you believe. ' '

" Don't you believe? Oh you must believe,
Abraham. ' '

' * Do you want to help me to believe ? Do you
want to help me to reach the heights higher
heights than man has ever climbed? For I feel
that you can help me do even this. You can
transform me, and I do not expect to die either
not yet."

' * What can I do for you f ' '

"Once I saw an eagle rise from a bluff on
the river. Easily it lifted itself above every-
thing and soared against the sky. So was I
lifted up when I heard you singin' on the heights.
All night long I sat thinkin ' about it. I could not
fathom the mystery then. With the sunrise the
matin' call of the bird began to unfold the mys-
tery to me. Ann Ann Rutledge, I want you to
let me love you."

"Does love have to be let?" She asked the
question, looking out across the water and

"No never. But dams can be built, and
then the waters on their way must do one of two



things break the dam or change their course.
I do not want to change my course. I do not
want to break a dam if it can be helped for
I'll make a rip-snortin' big smash-up of it if I
do. May I love you ? ' '

He was looking into her face, which was still

' ' Let me get a letter to John McNeil asking
him to release me."

." And then, Ann?"

"Then Oh, Abraham Lincoln! then but
we mustn't even talk of it yet"; and she arose
from the step.

The tall man stood beside her. The rising
moon cast a light on his face. The girl looked
at it in wonderment.

" Abraham," she said, "you do not look like
the same man I found here. ' '

"Keep still, Ann," he whispered. "We are
just outside heaven."

"And you believe now believe?" and she
waited for his answer.

' ' Believe, yes I believe. I must believe in the
Great Creator. Nothin' less could have fash-
ioned the soul of Ann Eutledge. From now on,
eternally, I shall believe to my soul's salvation."



"Out of the gloom into the light," she said

A few moments they stood as if not wishing
to break some magic spell. Then he said, "You
must run right home. We will not go out to-
gether ; but from the door I will watch until you
are well away, then I will follow. ' '

Another moment they tarried in the wide mill
door? as if loath to leave, then she went out.

As she did so a small dark figure stepped
around the corner of the mill. The next moment
the voices of Davy and Sis Eutledge were heard
calling, "Ann ATITI Eutledge ! ' '

"So that's the Mollie that ain't at the mill
for no corn grindin'," the small man around the
mill said to himself when Ann had answered the
call. "Now who's the other bat?"

A moment later the tall figure of Abe Lincoln
emerged from the building and turned toward
the hill.

"Eh-eh-eh!" grunted the man behind the
corner. "He's a bar he's a bar," and he
slapped his foxed breeches and walked half-way
up the hill with his coon-skin cap squeezed
tightly under his arm as an expression of his joy.



WHEN John Eutledge was consulted about
the sending of Ann's proposed letter asking for
a release from her engagement to John Mc-
Neil, he said, ''What for? Hasn't he released
you enough yet ! He '11 never answer it. ' '

"Don't be too hard on him, John," Mrs.
Eutledge said. "He always seemed to know
about manners."

' ' Men have been killed for having no worse
manners," Eutledge said dryly.

"But we wouldn't want to be anything but
fair, ' ' Ann pleaded.

John Eutledge looked at her a moment. Then
he reached out his hand and placed it on her
red-gold hair.

"Poor little, tender-hearted goose," he said,
moving his hand up and down in awkward pats.
"Go ahead if! it will make you feel any better."

So the letter was written, and approved by
John Eutledge. Ann wrapped it in stout brown
paper, tied it carefully with string, her father
gave her the money to pay its way, and the post-
master mailed it for her.



After the letter had been gone several weeks
Ann began watching for a reply. Abe Lincoln
also watched, and though no comment was made
the matter was of tremendous importance to
both of them.

The spring of 1834 rapidly passed into sum-
mer. In the home and garden Ann and her
mother were busy every day, while with Abe
Lincoln time had never seemed to go so fast.
His surveying was taking him farther and far-
ther into the county. In every locality he made
new friends. His work was bringing him some
money also and he had begun to make payments
on the giant debt which hung over him. The
entire town considered him little less than a
hero, one of those uncommon heroes whose valor
lies in simple honesty.

Several of the unhappy experiences of debt
came to him, however, for his payments were of
necessity slow, and once he was sued at the law
and was compelled to turn over his horse
and watch two necessaries he had secured.
Friends, however, helped him get them back.

As the citizens of New Salem had before de-
termined, Lincoln was nominated for the Legis-



lature, and during the summer, as he went about
his surveying,, he used every opportunity to get
acquainted with the people. "I must under-
stand the people," he would say to John Eut-
ledge. ' ( I must come in contact with the people.
It is the will of the great mass of common people,
not the preference of the favored few, that makes

To the end of accomplishing this he took time
to get acquainted everywhere, sometimes telling
stories, sometimes going into fields and lending
a hand at gathering in the harvest. But always
his honesty, sincerity and hearty sympathy with
the toiler, and his big, glad hand of fellowship
won him friends, and often after he had told
John Butledge of his travels the older man
would say to his wife, "Abe's going to make
something of himself. I don't know what. But
he's got the stuff in him."

There was much interest in the election. His
opponent did not now charge him with being an
infidel. The pioneer citizens of Sangamon
County were rigidly against the union of church
and state and Abe Lincoln had them well in-
formed concerning the perils of a republic if
this foundation-stone of democratic govern-



ment should be stolen or cheated from them.
Nor would it have been easy in and about New
Salem to make the impression that Abe* Lincoln
was devoid of religion.

"When the voting was over and Abe Lincoln
was safely elected there was a celebration in
New Salem out of all proportion to the size of
the village, and one of the proudest and happiest
of all the shouting, cheering crowd was Ann
Rutledge, whose face had taken on again its
old-time gladness.

During the campaigning time Abe Lincoln
had seen little of Ann, and the letter which she
had long looked for had not come.

It was after the election excitement had sub-
sided that Abe Lincoln found an evening for
Ann. Early after supper the family sat about
the fire, and Davy and Sis and Sonny were loath
to go to bed, for they had not seen their good
friend much of late. But they moved out when
John Eutledge bade them, and after a half -hour
of conversation Mr. and Mrs. Eutledge gave the
room to Ann and Abe.

"Don't forget to cover the coals, Ann," her
mother had said as she left the room.

' ' Where *s the book. I haven 't read my poem



for a long time," Abe Lincoln said when they
were alone.

Ann took the book from her table-drawer
and found the poem entitled, "Immortality."
Lincoln read a few verses.

"It doesn't say much about immortality
does it?" Ann asked.

1 ' Not much, but it means it, because of course
the souls of men and of women do not wither
and die like the leaves of the willow and the oak.
But I should never have known the meanin'
the full, sure rneanin' of the word, nor have
entered into the better spirit of the poem, if it
had not been for you, Ann Butledge."

"I am glad if I have helped you, but put the
book away. Let's tell our fortunes in the fire."

Lincoln put the book on the table and stirred
up a bed of glowing coals. Then, side by side,
they looked^ into the future.

"Look," she said, "at the lines just there.
I have a long life-line so long I must be going
to live a hundred years. ' '

He laughed.

1 ' And yours is long. And right in there there
is a wedding and over there are one, two, three
at least half a dozen children for me." She



laughed and stirred the coals again. * * This now
is your fortune. I see journeys and lots of
people. I believe I see the capitol building
at Vandalia. Maybe you are going to be a great
judge or some state official. ' ' She stirred again,
but this time she turned and said, "I've always
wished, Abraham, that you knew some love-

"I do," he answered promptly.

"You?" and she opened her blue eyes wide.

"Yes the best in the world."

"Where did you get them? You never read
story-books. ' '

"The best books and the greatest books in
the world are full of love-stories. In fact, Ann,
if love and love-stories were taken out there
wouldn't be anything left for the other fellow to
write a book about.

"How about Blackstone couldn't he write a

"No. In a world without love there would
be no matin' in the springtime and no people to
write about."

"I didn't mean that. I was talking about
just plain love-stories. ' '

"So am I. I've read Shakespeare. Did you



ever hear his love-story about Antony and Cleo-
patra? It's one of the greatest love-stories in
the world. She went to him in a wonderful,
golden barge with purple silk sails and flower-
decked maidens dancin' under its Tyrian purple
canopies. Little boats swarmed all about it,
burnin' incense so that it was wafted on the
water in perfumed breezes. This was the ship
the fairy Egyptian went to Antony in. Theirs
was the love stronger than death. We will read
it some time."

' * I like it tell me more. ' *

"You know the love-stories in the Bible:
the one about Ruth and Boaz, a little out of place
these times, but good for its day. You know
the unruly passion that caused poor old Sam-
son's downfall, a love-affair in which he loved
fiercely but not wisely. But the story that to
my mind means more than them all, is the story
about Jesus and Mary. ' '

"Oh, Abraham!" she said with a start.
"You don't mean that Jesus loved Mary."

"Of course He did. Didn't he love every-
body? What else can you make of the incident
where Mary, so anxious to show her love in
some unusual way, went to the dinner where she



emptied her vase of costly perfumes on his hair
and feet? Do you remember that her act imme-
diately called forth unkind comment and the
sort of criticism that hurts a gentle woman be-
yond the power of words to tell? What did
Jesus do I Did He sit by dumb like a coward and
let her feelin's be wounded when, whether wisely
or unwisely she had sought to prove her love?
Was He afraid of those sharp-tongued men? I
tell you, Ann, every time I read the story, this
Jesus the world loves looms up bigger and
grander and more heroic and sublime! Such
tender consideration as He showed marks a man,
a man. Do you remember what He said as she
sat with her eyes full of tears before those men?
'Let her alone/ He said; then He spoke the few
words which were forever to link the name
of Mary with that of Jesus, even as He
prophesied. ' '

While Ann was considering this somewhat
new view of an old story her Mother's voice
was heard calling, "Don't forget to cover the
coals, Ann."

Ann reached for the shovel.

"Not yet," he said, taking her hand and
moving his chair closer to hers. She did not try



to withdraw her hand from the large one that
held it.

For a moment he sat looking into the fire.
Then he turned to her. ' ' Ann, ' ' he said in a low
voice, and unsteady, "Ann Eutledge, look at
me. I have something to say to you. ' '

Ann turned her face to his. For a moment
he seemed to search it with a gaze as tender as it
was masterful andi as pleading as it was secure.
"We are goin' to cover the coals," he said.
"Do you know, Ann, that hearts are hearth-
stones where women keep the live fire burnin'l
My hearthstone has been ash-strewn and cold
with nobody to cover the coals!"

She felt the large hand around hers tighten
its grasp, but he yet looked into the fire.

When he spoke again it was with a different
tone. The pleading was gone. There was a
tone of masterful security in it.

"Ann," he said, "we have been waitin' for a
letter. It has not come. The time is now past
when one or ten thousand letters refusin' to
release you would avail anything. When a man
loves a woman as I love you, it is his God-
ordained privilege to get her. Do you under-
stand? I love you. I have loved you since



before I ever saw your face. It came to me the
night I heard you singin' on the heights. I love
you more than anything on earth or in heaven
and I feel some way that love like this can come
but once. I love you and I would give my life
to have you mine to cover the coals on the
hearthstone of my heart. ' '

There was such an intensity in his voice, in
his face, as Ann had never seen. There was a
pleading hunger, there was a suppressed mas-
tery that she was conscious of. She did not
take her eyes from his face. "Ann," and with-
out letting go of her hand he arose and drew
her up before him, "together we stand at the
most momentous time of all our lives do you
love me?"

"Do I love you?" Ann half whispered with
a smile that turned her face radiant; meantime
her eyes grew shining with tears. The next
instant she felt those long arms around her that
Ole Bar had hinted would be useful in mating
season, felt them binding her slender body so
close she could hear the rapid thumping of his
heart, and he kissed her with the savage joy
of sweet possession, and, cradling her face in
his strong hand, he held her cheek against his



and breathed the fierce and tender joy words
could not tell.

"Oh, Abraham," she whispered, "do you
love me so much so very much."

"Love you?" he said half defiantly. "You
cannot know, for you have not starved for it as
I have. I love you, Ann Rutledge not for a
week or a month, or a year, but until this mortal
shall have put on immortality; for if souls
are immortal as you have taught me, love is

A moment longer they stood in each other's
arms. Then he held her away from him, looked
at her and in serious tones said, "Sing for me,
Ann: just one stanza of that good old hymn,
' This is the way I long have sought. ' ' '

"Hear Ann," Mrs. Eutledge said to her hus-
band as the old-time music of happy laughter
sounded on the stillness of the night.

1 ' Good for Abe ! " he answered drowsily ; " let
them alone. ' '



THERE was no one in New Salem surprised
when it began to be whispered about that Abe
Lincoln was setting up to Ann Eutledge.

Indeed that seemed quite the natural thing.
Both were favorites. Both were different in
some ways from any others, perhaps superior,
and both were everybody's friends. The won-
derful change in Ann, too, was a source of pleas-
ure to all who knew her, for she had not been
able to hide the disappointment and embarrass-
ment through which she had passed.

Abe Lincoln had always been fairly happy
so far as any one knew. He seemed even more
happy now, and quite naturally the people
charged this to Ann Eutledge, and the two
words, "Ann and Abe," began to be every-
where linked together. It was not until Thanks-
giving, however, that any definite announcement
was made. This was at a dinner, the biggest
and j oiliest ever given in New Salem.

"Mother," John Eutledge had said to his
wife, ' ' the increase has been fair, but we've more
than increase to be thankful for. Ann 's got back



to herself again. Fact, there never was a time
in all her life when her singing sounded so good
to me as now, and she laughs as if there were
no such thing in the world as trouble. Then
I'm not sorry she and Abe fixed things up. Abe
Lincoln's got some future, sure as two and two
make four. It does seem* outside the bounds of
all reason that a young backwoodsman that
never went to school and has had more hard
knocks than ten men generally stands up under,
could ever get to be Governor of Illinois. Yet
who knows who knows?"

"John," Mrs. Rutledge answered, " you 're
getting visionary. Just 'cause you like Abe
Lincoln uncommon well and he's going to marry
our Ann ain't any sign he'll ever get to any such
exalted position as Governor."

"I don't know. He's doing fairly fairly.
He's the youngest member in the Legislature.
His life is before him. He's going? to finish law
next year, and Major Stuart says there's no
man, old or young, in this state to-day that
knows the Constitution like Abe Lincoln. He
may never get there, but I'd not die of surprise
if he did. And I'm waiting with interest to see
what stand he takes down at Vandalia. But
getting back to Thanksgiving, we have uncom-

17 257


mon things to be thankful for, Abe has no home
and like as not nobody ever had a dinner for
him. Let Abe and Ann have a dinner and invite
in some of the young people."

This plan suited Mrs. Eutledge. Abe and
Ann were delighted and preparations were at
once begun. There were mince and pumpkin
pies, and cakes and plum pudding to be baked,
and the tenderest pig and the biggest turkey
on the farm were to be roasted. The cellar
and store-house were raided and in the woods
Ann had the good fortune to find a vine with
shining leaves and blue-black berries which she
twined about a great bouquet of evergreen set

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Online LibraryBernie BabcockThe soul of Ann Rutledge, Abraham Lincoln's romance → online text (page 11 of 14)