Bernie Babcock.

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

. (page 13 of 14)
Online LibraryBernie BabcockThe soul of Ann Rutledge, Abraham Lincoln's romance → online text (page 13 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

hand under the quilt, if I hadn't felt it was
wrong. I liked it. I 'm glad now you did it. "

Abraham laughed.

"And the evening at the mill when we sat in



the dark together. To me that has always
seemed a holy time. It was so different from
the May party. How we romped and played
that day. How the children laughed and sang !
How I jumped the rope and how you kissed
me. I didn't count but it must have been a
dozen times. And the wreath they put around
my head. Wasn't it a pretty wreath? And we
skipped away and went cross lots to my little
schoolroom where you picked me up and carried
me across * Jordan's stormy floods.' "

Again Lincoln laughed. Ann only smiled,
but her face was bright with happiness.

"But of them all, Ann of all the wonderful
days or nights the time I heard you singin' on
the bluff comes first."

"You have not forgotten that," she said

"Forgotten? I shall never forget neither
in this world nor in the world to come, for that
was the night my soul, though I did not know
what was the matter with me at the time, began
unfoldin' itself from the old life."

"Your soul," she repeated. "Abraham, we
believe in souls, don't we?"




"And we believe that, though our bodies
through the change called death, drop back into
the pond, the new creature in another, better
form lives on. ' '

* ' Yes, Ann we believe it. ' '

She leaned against him, and breathed heavily
for a moment, while he with puzzled, anxious
face watched her.

When she was rested she said : ' ' Did you ever
think how swiftly thought travels ? We sit here
together and our bodies do not move, yet we go
to the river and the mill ; we go to the woodland
and the bluff. I have thought about it and I
believe that souls can travel as quickly and as
easily as mind for souls have lain aside the
weight of the earthly body, you know. Do you
think souls can travel this way ? "

"I don't know, Ann."

"I believe it," she said firmly. "Our souJs
can travel. And so my soul will always go
wherever you are. If you are in Vandalia, or
Springfield, my soul will be there. If you should
get as far away as Chicago, even there my soul
will be with you, and though you cannot see my
face or hear my voice, you will know.

' ' Sometime there will come to your heart joy



like the wild, glad, singing joy of my life when I
could rnn and shout. It will be then that the
singing, shouting soul of Ann Eutledge is quite
near, helping you rejoice. Sometimes when you
are tired and weak and the way is dark, you will
feel new strength bearing you up. It will be the
soul of Ann Eutledge, strong and free trying
to help you out of the gloom. And when you feel
the force of that strange power that makes you
different from all other men that makes you
tenderer and stronger when you feel something
pushing you on to greater things as the wild
phlox is pushed through the sod into the sun-
shine, it knows not how, the soul of Ann Eut-
ledge will be as close as your own breath to
whisper her unshaken faith in your effort. Then
there will be quiet times, perhaps lonely times,
when apart from all the world you will feel a
gentle tugging at your heart. It will be the soul
of Ann Eutledge saying 'I do not want to be
forgotten.' . . . And when you get old, dear,
dear Abraham, when your eyes are too dim to
see other faces than those of the long-gone past,
you will hear her voice who has been sleeping
tinder the grass for fifty years the voice of Ann
Eutledge cailling you on the unforgetting love



of Ann Rutledge as strong and fresh as when
she shouted on the heights and gave herself
to you."

She had been speaking slowly, softly, yet with
deep feeling as if half to herself. She was not
looking at the man beside her, whose bronzed
face had undergone a transformation.

"Ann Ann," he cried, "for God's sake
what are you talkin' about?" and he bent and
looked into her face.

* ' Dear, dear Abraham, ' ' she said soothingly,
and she held her lips in a close pressure against
his forehead, his cheeks, his eyes.

"I did not want to tell you we are going to
part. It seemed I could not. And yet yet
Oh, Abraham! I am so tired so tired, and
the heart of me beats weaker every day. ' '

He put her back on the pillow and threw him-
self down beside her. She put her arms about
his neck, drew his head against her breast, wiped
the tears which were streaming down his brown
cheeks and tried to comfort him as a mother
comforts a child.

A few moments he sobbed. Then he arose
and straightened himself to his full height.

"Ann," he said, "it's all a mistake. I be-



lieve there is a God. If there is and He has any
heart in Him, He will spare me this. I have
had nothin' but you I ask nothin' but you. I
have never loved any woman but you, and I
never shall, for none can take your place. If you
should be taken away I will never live long
enough to get over the loss. God knows this.
He is not cruel. He will not let it be so He
will not, Ann!"

He sat down on the edge of the bed and put
his arm around her.

"Help me up again,'* she whispered, and she
rested her head on his shoulder. She had been
dry-eyed and had spoken with a steady voice.
Now there was a sob in her voice and her eyes
were blurred with tears as she said: "Put your
arms around me your big, long, strong arms
and hold me tight tight. Oh, Abraham ! if you
could only hold me tight enough to keep me here
with you ! I do not want to be bad, but I do not
want to go and leave you no, not even to be
with God ! Oh, Abraham ! will you pray that I
may stay with you will you!"

"Pray? Pray?" he groaned in pain. "I
will pray every minute. I will pray while I
walk with my rod and chains, crossin' the fields,



skirtin* the woods, walkin' the streets, every-
where I will pray."

Ann coughed and Lincoln put her down. He
smoothed the coverlet and brushed back her red-
gold hair. Then again he straightened up to his
full stature.

"Ann, we've both been frightened. Your
cough is better it is looser. I am sure of it.
Isn't it, Ann?"

There was an appeal in his tone and face.

Ann smiled a bright, sweet smile. To Lin-
coln it was full of hope. " Nothing hurts me,"
she answered.

Her smile was reassuring. Something of the
anxiety went out of his face. * * Yes, you are bet-
ter. If I were not sure of it I would not leave
this house. When I come again you will be still
better. God is not going to have it otherwise.
I have never done Him any harm. ' '

' ' Dear, dear Abraham how I love you. How
I shall always love you here or over there. For
though my body is weak, that part of me which
loves is strong and well very strong, and it
loves you, my Abraham. It will be yours, and
will be with you longer than the mind of man
can measure for I know now that love is
stronger than death."



DTJEING the month of August, 1835, an epi-
demic, called by different names, one of which
was black ague, visited the country about New

Dr. Allen was busy riding night and day,
and Abe Lincoln, who himself had suffered one
chill and was taking peruvian bark to prevent
a second one, went with him whenever he could
get the time, to nurse the sick and sometimes
help make a coffin and bury the dead.

Through Dr. Allen, Abe heard from Ann, the
good doctor's information always being that
Ann was about the same, and believing her bet-
ter her big lover went to others who seemed to
need him.

Then Davy was stricken down and Abe Lin-
coln made his plans to go out to the Eutledge
farm and stay as long as needed to nurse him.
His visit was hastened by news that Ann had
had a chill, and he knew, though Dr. Allen's
words were few, that he was alarmed. "She
must not have another," the good doctor said.
"She is too frail to stand it."



With a heart almost stopped by fear Lincoln
reached the farm. His greeting by Mrs. But-
ledge and her smiling face reassured him.

"Ann is better, Abe," she said gladly. "She
had a terrible chill last night and for a time we
were frightened half to death, but she will not
have another. She really is better. She is going
to mend now. Her fever is dropping off and she
does not cough so much. She feels like herself
and has been singing. She wants you, Abe,"
and good Mrs. Rutledge laughed.

As he entered the room Abe Lincoln found
Ann propped up in pillows and singing. He
almost expected to see her active young form
come bounding to meet him. Instead, she held
out her hand and with a face wreathed in smiles
said: "Dear Abraham, God has answered your
prayers, I am going to get well."

"Thank God! Thank God!" he exclaimed
fervently. Then he stopped, stood back and
looked at her a moment. "Oh, Aon, you look
just like an angel ! ' '

"What do you know about angels? Anyway,
I'm not going to be an angel. Pm going to stay
here to bake your bread and darn your socks and
make you eat ! ' '



Dr. Allen had come in shortly after Abe Lin-
coln and was in the other room standing with
Mrs. Eutledge by Davy's bedside. When Mrs.
Eutledge heard the happy laughter coming
from Abe and Arm she looked at Dr. Allen and
said with tears of joy in her eyes, "How good
it is to hear Ann laughing again."

Dr. Allen glanced at her questioningly. He
said nothing.

Ann was talking again of the beautiful days
that were past on which her mind seemed con-
tinually to dwell.

"Do you know, Abraham, I cannot tell you
how I know it, but I believe I have loved you
from the first time I ever saw you, and when you
asked me at the mill if you might love me I was
almost sorry you did not ask me then if I loved
you only I knew you would not think it right
until we sent that letter which was never

"But the night that stands' out best of all is
the night we covered the coals, for that is when
I first felt your good, strong arms about me and
your kisses on my lips and all over my face.
And the very best day of all the days was when
you put the ring on my finger. Abraham, let's



live it over again, that night and that day. I
cannot stand with you before the fire now, nor
have I been to the table for several weeks. But
we can play it, can't we?"

"Yes, indeed make a Shakespeare play with
two scenes. One scene will be by the open fire
one will be the Thanksgivin '. ' '

1 ' And we will be lovers. ' '

"I never intend to be anything else."

"All right, begin. Say it over just what
you did the night by the fire."

Very tenderly and with all the meaning of
his soul he said the words her heart was hungry
to hear again, and he kissed her.

With a radiant face she reached under the
pillow and took out the little gold ring.

"Here's the ring. It won't stay on now.
But put it on just as you did, and say the same
words. I was so proud and so happy I thought
my heart would burst, and my thanksgiving to
God was very real."

His face was sober now. He took the ring
and the thin, white hand, and, repeating the
words that had made her so happy, he slipped
the ring over her finger as he kissed her again
and again. Then he lifted her hand and kissed it.

19 289


"You are getting to be a better lover all
the time," she said "Hold out your hand."
She put the tips of her fingers in the palm of his
hand and the ring dropped from her thin finger.
"Keep it for me a little while. Don't let any-
one get it and don't lose it. Now shall I sing
for you?"

"Yes, Ann no music this side of heaven will
ever be so sweet to me as your singin '. ' '

1 1 Dear old goose, ' ' she laughed. ' ' Then hand
me my hymn-book."

She turned the pages slowly. "I have sung
all the old ones and found some nice new ones.
Here is a new song a happy song:

What a mercy is this!
What a heaven of bliss!
How unspeakably happy am I,
Gathered into the fold

The song was interrupted by a slight cough
which ended in a choking spell. She rested a

"Do you like it, Abraham!"

"Yes, but that's not my song."

"You want the pilgrim song?"

"Yes, my little pilgrim, that is mine. Can
you sing it?"

"Yes, indeed, and I want to":



I'm a pilgrim and I'm a stranger;
I can tarry, I can tarry but a night !

Her voice was clear and steady. There was
the same triumphant ring, the same quaver and
lengthening of certain syllables. But the strong
buoyancy had given place to something sugges-
tive of an echo song, and it seemed to the listen-
ing lover that the message came from some more
distant heights than the bluff.

"That's the sample," she announced. "If
it sounds all right I'll begin again and sing
through from the first sing it all. But Abra-
ham, put the big shawl, that's on the foot of the
bed, up here handy. ' '

"Are you cold, Ann?"

' ' No, not yet but I feel feel strange. ' '

He put the shawl beside her.

" It 's handy now. I '11 sing. ' '

Again she sang the lines "I'm a pilgrim

I'm a stranger " She was singing slower

now. When she came to the words "I can
tarry," she stopped a moment. "The shawl,
Abraham, wrap it about me tightly."

"Let me call your mother," he said as he
wrapped the shawl about her.

"Not just yet not until I finish my song.
I will hurry. 'I can tarry I can tarry ' "



Again the song was interrupted by a struggle
for breath, and she seemed to be swallowing

"Put your arms around me I want to fin-
ish." Her voice wavered. She shivered. Then
came the words quite clearly, but sounding very
far away, " 'Do not detain me ' "

Again there was a slight struggle for breath,
and her head fell against his breast.

"Ann! Ann! What's the matter, Ann 1"

She did not answer.

He put his hand under her chin and turned
her face toward him. A film was forming over
the half -closed violet eyes.

"Ann! My God! Ann!" The words were
wrung from him now in fear and agony.

Warm and close she lay in his arms like
a little child but she was silent.

He placed her on the pillow and called to her
again. He wrapped his fingers about her wrist.
He put his ear against her breast, half groaning,
half calling : ' ' Ann ! Ann ! ' '

It was still in the room. He arose from the
bedside and slightly raising his face, which was
drawn and ashy gray, he called: "Ann! Ann!"

Again the silence.

Then with such a groan as voices the agony of



the human soul, he whispered hoarsely: "My
God why hast Thou forsaken me!"

A moment later, Mrs. Butledge and Dr. Allen
who were standing beside Davy's bedside heard
someone step into the doorway.

They looked around. There in the open way
that made a rude frame they saw a picture of
unutterable sorrow. Deep as the still founda-
tions of the finest soul, the hurt had struck.
Like some monarch of a timber-line twisted by
titanic force, so he seemed to have been ruth-
lessly stormbeaten out of semblance to his for-
mer self. The little lines that had traced their
way on a young man's face seemed suddenly to
have grown deep as by long erosion, and he
was as pallid as a dead child.

He seemed to be making an effort to speak.
The muscles of his face twitched. No sound
came from his lips, but they framed the word :

"Abraham, what is it!" Mrs. Kutledge cried
in alarm.

Dr. Allen ran to Ann's bedside, Mrs. Kut-
ledge following. The man in the doorway waited
until he heard a mother crying : "No no, she is
not dead!"

Then he was gone.



NEWS of the death of Ann Rutledge spread
quickly, even Snoutful Kelly taking the news to
Muddy Point, and though there was much sick-
ness in the vicinity a large number gathered
around the open grave where her young body
was to be put away. Even Clary Grove, with a
constitutional dislike for funerals, was well rep-
resented, and Ole Bar, who had made his boast
that he had never been to a "berrying" in his
life, stood back behind the trees, holding tight
a flower which he had picked to put on the grave.

Most of those present came from a genuine
love of Abe and Ann. Some came to see how
the strongest man and greatest lover in Sanga-
mon County would take his bitter loss.

These were disappointed. Standing as he
did, head and shoulders above any other man in
the community, it would have been unnecessary
to look for the chief mourner. And yet every
eye around the grave searched for Abe Lincoln.

While the preacher was trying to give words
of hope and consolation to the bereaved ones it
was quiet in the place of graves except for sub-



dued sobs. But when the singers began the old,
plaint hymn.

Asleep in Jesus, blessed sleep,
From which none ever wakes to weep,

sobs broke out everywhere, for the melody car-
ried to the saddened hearts about the open
grave more than the words of the preacher had
done, the pain-filled consciousness that the voice
of the gladdest, sweetest singer of them all was
hushed forever.

After the simple burial rites were over,
Nance Cameron, Miss Rogers and others brought
armfuls of early goldenrod and asters which they
had gathered, to cover the low mound of the best-
loved girl in New Salem.

It was not until the company had gone that
Ole Bar came out of the woods, and, kneeling
by the grave, put his lone flower over the place
where under the earth her hands were folded.

From the dead, interest turned to the living,
and the one question asked by his friends was :
"Where is Abe Lincoln?" Dr. Allen asked Mrs.
Rutledge. She did not know and asked John
Rutledge. He did not know. William Green was
asked and Mentor Graham. Nobody knew any-
thing about Lincoln.



Early the morning after the day of the
funeral, Katy Kelly looked out and saw a man

1 ' Ma, ' ' she called, ' ' there 's an old man comin '
to our place."

Visitors being almost unheard of out there,
Mrs. Kelly looked out. For a moment she
seemed puzzled. The man was somewhat
stooped and walking slowly. It was none other
than Abraham Lincoln.

"Howdy, Mrs. Kelly," he said wearily. "I
was passing by and thought I'd stop a minute."

Mrs. Kelly hastened into her one room and
cleared off the only chair in the house.

' ' Ma, ' ' whispered Katy, not knowing she had
ever seen him before, "What's ailin' of that
old man?"

"Shut up," her mother whispered. "His
gal's dead, and he's not got over it yet." Then
to Lincoln she said: "You look nigh starved,
Mr. Linking. We hain 't much, but if you was to
refuse I'd feel powerful hurt."

"But I'm not hungry at all I couldn't eat.
I've been over about Concord and just stopped
to get a drink of water. ' '

"We've got a cow since Kelly got broke up



from dram drinkin*. You'll take a cup of milk,
I'm sure."

He drank the mi'lk, thanked her and went on.
She watched him until he disappeared behind
the trees. ' * He 's a awful-sized man to take it to
heart so. Don't he know there's as good fish
in the sea as has ever been caught?"

The second night that Abe Lincoln was miss-
ing a few of his close friends held a council at
Dr. Allen's house. William Green was there and
Mentor Graham. Dr. Allen had been telling
them that Lincoln himself had not been well for
several weeks. The suggestion that he might
have, in a moment of despair, ended his life was
not reasonable to those who knew him. Neither
was Dr. Allen of the opinion that the shock
would impair his reason.

* ' Lincoln is large in all ways. He has a great
mind and a great heart. He has been a great
lover the greatest lover that ever lived in these
parts. Just now he is numbed by the shock of his
loss as one is numbed by a great blow. He is
somewhere alone in his grief no telling where.
But unless he has food and medical attention, he
too may follow Ann shortly. We must find him. ' '

While they were discussing his whereabouts,



Lincoln was, as Dr. Allen had supposed, alone
with his grief.

After a night by the grave of his dead, Abe
Lincoln set out at twilight of the second day to
visit the places where she who seemed yet living
had lived.

Turning "his face toward New Salem he made
his way slowly along the well-known roadway
to the place where he had dropped Ms bundle and
listened on a never-to-be-forgotten night to a
sweet voice singing on the heights. Then he had
been a friendly stranger in New Salem. How
fast the years had gone. What long and patient
waiting and what fulness of joy had been their
measure. But now the cup was bitter to the
brim with the stupefying potion of dead hope
and the gall of human loss.

In the shadow of the bluff he paused. He
moved nearer the bluff, raised his face and, with
a feverish expectancy, listened. As he stood
the drowsy stillness was broken by the far, faint
tinkle of a cow-bell. For a moment the mirage of
hope set his heart beating with spasmodic joy.
It was all a fearful dream all a heart crushing
unreality. She was yet up on the heights, alive,
glad, singing and shouting. He listened, even



straining his ear for the first notes of her glad,
free song.

As if she were not yet beyond sound of his
voice he called: "Ann! Ann!" Again he lis-
tened intently.

The gray of twilight deepened. The dim
music of the far-away bell dissolved itself in
a pervading hush, and all was still.

In a voice suggesting the pain of a fresh blow,
the man in the shadow whispered with upturned
face, "Ann! Ann!" The whisper, too, was
gathered into the all-enveloping gloom and

He went a little farther on, the soft music
of water running over stones came to his ear.
It was the stream in the schoolroom where ferns
had been books and God had been the teacher.

Mechanically he turned toward it. The swol-
len stream across which he had carried Ann on
a night not so long ago was smaller now. He
stepped across.

The gray of the open road deepened in the
fern-dell into gloom. But no light was needed
to bring to the vision of the man the picture of
one he yet sought in the land of the living. Again
he saw her with the sunshine falling over the red-



gold tresses of her wreath-bound hair as she sat
on the ledge of rock. Again he heard her voice
but he was too numb now to remember its

Groping his way to the stone, he knelt beside
it and spread his hands over the place where she
had sat. His fingers came in contact with dead
leaves. Feeling along the way they lay he found
the wreath, yet there, that had been a crown on
May day. Lifting it gently ,he cried: "Oh,
;Ann ! Ann ! It cannot be. You have not gone
away forever ! You will come back to me ! We
will have our little home! Oh, Ann! Ann!"
His pleading voice ended in a groan. He dropped
his face against the faded leaves.

How long he remained by the rock and the
wreath he did not know. After a time, like a
crushed and wounded animal, he crept from the
place and proceeded on his way toward the

He walked slowly a few minutes, then, as if
drawn by some pleasant fancy, he quickened his
pace. The roar of the mill-dam had caught his
ear. He was going to the mill. Here was a place
that she had said seemed sacred to her, and he
was glad when the dark outlines of the mill stood



out against the growing shadows. The double
doors stood open, just as they had before. He
went into the building and out on the platform
over the river, just as he had before. The foam
of the falling water shone white in the pale light,
just as it had before. The trees cast their
shadows and the stars their bright reflections,
just as before. He leaned against the doorway
as he had done once before when in great gloom,
then he waited for the one to come who had
brought the light.

Several times he turned toward the door as
if expecting to see the fair-faced girl emerging
from the dusky gray and coming toward him.
In a sort of numb expectancy he waited. Once
he reached out his long arm as if to encircle some
near object, but there were only shadows in the

After a time he took the little ring from his
pocket He moved near the edge of the platform.
He lifted the frail, little token of eternal love
to his lips and held it there a moment. Then he
reached his long arm out over the foaming water
and with a groan let the ring fall into the depths

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 13

Online LibraryBernie BabcockThe soul of Ann Rutledge, Abraham Lincoln's romance → online text (page 13 of 14)