Bernie Babcock.

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

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of the smoothly flowing Sangamon.

As if loath to leave the place he turned back

301



THE SOUL OF ANN RUTLEDGE

from the doorway and, leaning against the wall,
looked out into the darkness. Shortly after he
had done so, someone touched him gently on the
arm. With a great start he cried: "Ann!
Ann!"

A small figure drew back slightly and a voice
said: "I've been lookin' fer you, Abry Link-
horn. You're worse than a bee to run down. ' '

The man hesitated a second, then he held
out his hand and said, " Howdy, partner. What
did you want with me ? ' '

"I've been numerous in bar hunts as you've
heard tell, but I haven't never gone to no
berryin', so help me God, but the berryin' of your
Ann. And I wouldn 't have gone for no one else 's
'ceptin' it was you."

"I wish it had been," the man said.

"Maybe so, but since I was thar and you
wasn 't thar and I heard something that made me
pestiferous glad I went, I thought you would like
to hear about it."

"You are kind to think of me. What could
have made you feel glad t ' '

' * It made me feel glad to learn that God 's not
not a damn fool."

"How did you learn this?"

302



" WHERE IS ABE LINCOLN "

"From the berryin' itself. The parson read
out of a book that when this here meat body
changes into the other kind like Ann Rutledge
has, then death is swallered up in victory. Don't
this sound like God's got horse-sense?"

"I don't know anything about God." And
there was bitterness in the answer.

"Yeh, you do. You know nothin' but God
could make a gal like your Ann Rutledge. And
if God's not a blame fool he made her for some-
thing more than the little time she's spent in
thia here New Salem. I'm not promiscuous
enough to tell it like the parson, but I'm tellin'
you, Abry Linkhorn, that when I set by that
grave and put my flower over the place where
her hands was berried and said what I didn't
never have words to say when she was here about
thankin' her for remembering poor Ole Bar, I
knoiv she heard it. She didn't say nothing but
I seen her smile and I know I know curse it,
I can 't tell what I know. But Ann Eutledge ain 't
blowed out like no candle. I know this. And I
am glad. And I'm glad, too, Abry Linkhorn,
that she wasn't none of my gal. If you'd seen
John Rutledge standin' beside that grave you'd
been glad she wasn't no flesh and blood of youra,

303



THE SOUL OF ANN RUTLEDGE

I never knew before that grizzle-tops like him,
that's men, and not chipper-perkers, liked gals
so well. He didn 't make no noise like her mother
did, but it 's still water that runs deep and he '11
have the heart-bleeds for many a changin'
moon."

"Poor Rutledge," Lincoln said brokenly.
' ' I must go to see him. ' '

"Yep, and there's others you ought to go to
see, and you can't get started none too quick.
The whole kit and posse of 'em's' about to start
searchin' fer you; Clary Grove to boot. Any
reason why you should make your friends beat
the bushes when walking's good and you ain't
no cripple?"

It was this appeal that turned the steps of
Lincoln to the home of Dr. AHen as he and
"William Green yet sat discussing him.

As Ole Bar and Abe Lincoln passed Rutledge
Inn, the latter looked across the street. A light
burned in the window of the room where Ann's
little sewing-table had been.

The tall man hesitated and moved on.



CHAPTER XXXIV

FOB THE THINGS THAT ABE TO BE

WHILE Dr. Allen and William Green were yet
discussing the strange disappearance of Abe Lin-
coln, the door opened and he stood before them.

They turned toward him and beheld what
seemed a wreckage, wrought by hunger and long-
ing, unrest and the sorrow of a loss which could
never be made good. In his face were lines
already too deeply cut for Time's erasure.

No word was spoken. The two men seemed
awed by the majesty of his silence and strangely
moved by his dumb sorrow, and, strong men
though they were, tears wet their cheeks.

"Doc," Lincoln said, "how long will this
last for I cannot, cannot bear to think of

of "

His voice grew unsteady. He did not finish
the sentence; instead he said, "Is there any
honorable way I can finish it all?"

"You do not want to finish it. You want to
live your life. ' '

"I have lived my life."

The voice seemed far away as if from some

20 305



THE SOUL OF ANN RUTLEDGE

ancestral tomb. * ' I have lived my life. I found
it here in New Salem and I will leave it here. ' '

"No, no. You will feel differently after
awhile. You will want to live for the things that
are to be."

"For the things that are to be? What can
a man do when that which alone could make life
worth living is taken from it forever?"

"There are other incentives to life than love.
There is ambition with its measure of fame, and
service with the pleasure of duty," Dr. Allen
said.

"Ambition fame," Lincoln repeated wea-
rily. "What is fame but a bauble a passin'
bauble. ' '

"But think what you may live to do for hu-
manity in some way or another. You have made
a good beginning you have put in the founda-
tion, Lincoln. You might be Governor of Illi-
nois some day. Think then what you might ac-
complish for liberty for freedom and justice."

' ' My interest in these things is dead. Every-
thing is dead."

' ' No, not dead, only numb. Great pain brings
numbness, but Time heals the deepest cuts. The
edges stay tender, the old wounds bleed and

SOfi



FOR THE THINGS THAT ARE TO BE

the scars remain. But in spite of all, the numb-
ness and the pain give way in time to the healing
forces of nature. "

Lincoln dropped his head wearily on the
table. He was ill, tired, hungry, suffering from
loss of sleep all this with the other.

Dr. Allen looked helplessly at Green and
wiped his eyes again.

< < Abe ' 'it was Green speaking. ' * Can 't you
pull yourself together for a little while at least
until you get Jim Henry 's note paid T Tom Dick-
son from up near Springfield says they're having
hard luck. He was over their way and found
Jim's wife and baby sick and him about to lose
his place. Just a little along now and then will
save the day. He was talking about your note,
said you would pay every cent of it. On the
strength of this they were given more time.
This here's a plain duty and a man's job, Abe."

Lincoln raised himself and looked at Green.
"Jim Henry's dependin' on me and they've
given him more time because my note is good?"

"That's it. And when his wife was down a
few months ago and went to see Ann Rutledge,
Ann told her you would pay every cent of it if it
was the last act of your life. ' '

307



THE SOUL OF ANN RUTLEDGE

"I suppose this is one of the things that are
to be," he said, addressing Dr. Allen.

"No doubt. And with the days that follow
new duties and new opportunities will unfold.
' God moves in a mysterious way, ' the hymn, book
tells us, 'His wonders to perform.' We don't
know how or why, but back of it all He moves,
and He needs strong men, men not afraid, men
who cannot be bought or sold to stand for the
interests of the people and the rights of those
helpless ones who are always the prey of the
powerful and unscrupulous."

' ' Perhaps you are right, ' ' he answered. ' ' I '11
not neglect a duty."

Thus it was that the man who did not care
to stay in the world to be a governor chose life
with all its losses in order to pay an honest debt.

Then William Green delivered a message
from "Baby Green" which was a pressing invi-
tation to Abe Lincoln to visit her for the very
unselfish reason that the door had mashed her
toe and she needed a great, tall horse to ride her.

So Abe Lincoln went home with William
Green, where he was fed and looked after by the
motherly Aunt Sally Green and where he was in
turn expected to look after ' ' Baby Green. ' ' Here

308



FOR THE THINGS THAT ARE TO BE

children came to romp with him, books and
papers were sent, and occasionally several of
the old friends from New Salem came out to tell
him the political gossip.

Aunt Sally found something for him to do
every night, for she did not want him wandering
away to Ann's grave. He made no effort to do
so, however, and after a few weeks' rest he
returned to New Salem to take up his life as
best he could, and day by day live on for the
things that were to be.



CHAPTER XXXV

THE POEM

THE Clary Grove gang were going to have an
important meeting. It had been rumored that
Windy Batts, who went as a missionary to the
Indians, had lost his head. The general satis-
faction with which this news had been received
by the Clary Grove gang, singly, indicated that
it would prove a pleasant topic for discussion,
and nobody was likely to disagree with Ole Bar
when he said: "Them pizen shooting injuns has
riz to a tall and mighty pre-eminence in my mind
if they cut off that fire and brimstone croaker 's
rattle box. "

Kit Parsons was expected to divulge a plan
for giving the angels another job. He had been
desperately sick during the summer, and while
lying at death's door a local religious enemy had
said the gates of hell would soon shut Kit in
where he had ought to have been before he was
born. Kit said he had pulled through to fan the
face off of this profane wretch with brick-bats.
The details of the plans expected to prove
interesting.

A great horse-swapping horse-story was also

310



THE POEM

expected, provided Buck Thompson reached New
Salem that night. He had been up the Ohio
Eiver and it was told by a man that passed
through Sangamon County that Buck had traded
a Yankee out of a horse and got fairly good boot ;
that he took the horse, fed it some filler, painted
its ears, trimmed its tail and dyed it, put a few
dapples on its hide and traded it back to the
same Yankee 1 for yet more boot.

The group was about the fire when Buck
came. He had been away some weeks, and before
the story-telling started he wanted to hear some-
thing of town affairs.

"Lots of sickness, " Kit Parsons said.

"Yeh?" Buck questioned.

"Yes Grandpa Johnson's dead and Clem
Herndon's boy and Ann Rutledge."

Buck was interested now.

1 ' Ann Eutledge dead f No ! "

"Yeh she's dead."

"Abe's gal."

"Dead and buried out near Concord."

"Poor old Abe. Take it hard, did he! "

"Nobody knows. He ain't saying nothin V

"They say he went crazy for a time," Kit
Parsons remarked.

311



THE SOUL OF ANN RUTLEDGE

1 ' They lie," said Ole Bar. "Abry Link-
horn hain't never gone nowhere near crazy at no
time."

" Maybe he didn't go clear crazy, but Doc
Allen said he was hit hard and wasn't likely to
git over it no time soon,"

"I bet a bottle against a bottle he's over it
now," said Buck Thompson. * 'Who'll take it
up ? Will you, Jack Armstrong 1 ' '

"If it was somebody like you are I would.
You get petticoat-fever every change of the
moon, take it like spring pimples that's always
goin' and com in'. But some take it like the
smallpox and don't never get over the scars.
Abe Lincoln's the kind that will wear the scars. ' '

"Bars is the same," Ole Bar ventured.
"Most bars is done with their women folks after
matin ' season. Once in a lifetime you find a pair
of bars stickin' together. Nobody but their
maker knows what they do it fur. It's the same
with men, and Abry Linkhorn, he picked him out
one worth stickin' to.

" Yeh nobody blames him for gettin* sweet
on Ann Eutledge. But poke up the fire and let 's
get jolly or this dead talk will stir up the
spooks."

312



THE POEM

While they were piling up the fire and stack-
ing up the bottles, someone looked down the
road and saw a tall, slightly bent figure ap-
proaching in the darkness.

"Boys, he's comin'," Kit Parsons an-
nounced.

1 ' Who who 's coming ? ' '

"Abe Lincoln or his ghost."

"Thunder I hope he's not crazy. I kin
manage Yankees and niggers but crazy ones
ugh!" and Thompson shrugged his shoulders.

"Pull in your sorgum-sucker," Ole Bar said
shortly, "and don't none of you get nothin'
started about his gal. ' '

"That's it," said Jack Armstrong. "If he
hain't forgot about her let's help him do it.
Let's give him a howlin' good time."

Then they grew silent, for he was approach-
ing and they wondered. They had not seen him
since Ann's death.

The fresh flames were throwing fitful lights
up into the overhanging brown branches and
over the faces of the group, when Lincoln came
into the circle of light and, extending his hand
here and there, said: "Howdy, boys, howdy."

Something like a sigh of relief passed around
the group. He didn't seem crazy.

313



THE SOUL OF ANN RUTLEDGE

He dropped himself in the circle of light.
Then for the time they saw his face the effect
of which was to bring a respectful silence over
the noisy group.

The wind rustled slightly and a couple of
brown leaves floated down to the fireside. The
gray face looked up a moment. Another leaf
was falling. They all watched it.

"Boys," said Lincoln in a voice they did not
know, "the leaves are fallin' early."

"Yeh droppin* early this year."

Again there was a pause. Then he said, "I
haven't been with you in a long time."

1 ' Not in a coon's age and we 're glad to have
you, Abe."

"I'm glad to be here. I felt as if it would
do me good to see you all. And I've brought a
poem I want to read if you don't care."

"Is it jolly?"

"Yeh something damn jolly is what we
want. ' '

"No," said Lincoln slowly, "it is not jolly.
It's the other kind. But this is my favorite of
all poems. May I read it to you 1 ' '

" Go to it, Abry Linkhorn, ' ' Ole Bar said.

Abe Lincoln took a book from his pocket,
opened it and laid it on his knee.

314



THE POEM

He read as if asking them the question :

O why should the spirit of mortal be proud ?
Like a swift, fleeting meteor, a fast-flying cloud;
A flash of the lightning, a break of the wave,
Man passes from life to his rest in the grave.

There was a slight pause. Every man's eye
was on the gray face bending over the book in
the flickering light.

When he began reading the next verse he
lifted his eyes from the pages and looked away,
farther away than the circle of brown-branched
trees. There was, to the men, a suggestion in
his tone of an approach to something strange,
perhaps forbidding.

The leaves of the oak and the willow shall fade,
Be scattered abroad and together be laid.

He paused a moment. Involuntarily several
glances were cast toward the leaves lying by the
logs at their feet.

He went on :

And the young and the old, the low and the high,
Shall moulder to dust and together shall lie.

It was very quiet.

The peasant whose lot is to sow and to reap,
The herdsman who climbs with his goats up the steep,
The beggar who wandered in search of his bread,
Have faded away like the grass that we tread.

315



THE SOUL OF ANN RUTLEDGE

There was much more than the words in
the reading.

The group about the fire saw the peasant,
saw the herdsman. They saw the saint who
enjoyed the communion of heaven and the sinner
who dared to remain unforgiven. There in the
quiet of the night beside the ashes and the flames,
he was making all these live and go their short
way.

So the multitude goes like the flowers or the weeds

So the multitude comes, even these we behold,
To repeat every tale that has ever been told;

Kit Parsons punched the fire. Buck Thomp-
son reached for a bottle and drew his hand back
empty.

We are the same that our fathers have been,

We drink the same stream and view the same sun
And run the same course that our fathers have run.

Pausing again, as if a line of thought ran in
between the verses, he looked away from the
book. The next verse was about the mother and
child each, all are away to their dwelling of
rest.

He seemed now hesitating whether or not to
proceed. The men watched him without com-
ment. His gray face was marked with a fresh

316



THE POEM

baptism of pain which he seemed to be strug-
gling to put away.

"With unsteady voice he read.

The maid on whose cheek, on whose brow, in whose eye,
Show beauty and pleasure

Here there was a long pause. Ole Bar got
up and went out. Kit Parsons poked the fire.
Buck Thompson took to spitting. But no man
spoke as the voice by the fire pronounced the
words "her triumphs are by," arid even the
fire seemed to burn softly.

For a moment he glanced! about the group
a helpless glance of appeal to those strong men.
Buck Thompson was drawing his sleeves across
his eye, evidently to remove some foreign matter.
Jack Armstrong was pinching his red bandanna
down under his leg. Another chunk was pitched
into the fire.

It was a relief when he went on again to the
f 'Hand of the king that the scepter hath borne,"
and the "brow of the priest that the miter hath
worn." They seemed to see the king and the
priest and they felt the force of the words as he
read:

From the death we are shrinking, our fathers would shrink.
To the lives we are clinging our fathers would cling.
But it speeda from us all-like-a-bird-on-the-wing.
317



THE SOUL OP ANN RUTLEDGE

He measured the words off slowly. He was
not looking at the book. Perhaps he saw fleet
birds winging their way beyond his vision. His
listeners divined something of the kind.

He had reached another hard place. He
picked up the book and looked at it and replaced
it on his knee. Again he was speaking nearer or
farther than those just about him.

They loved but the story we cannot unfold ....
They joyed, but the tongue of their gladness is dumb.

"Jo," he said, handing the book to Kelsy,
"you know the poem. Finish it for the boys."

Kelsy finished it. But they did not hear
him. The poem to them mattered little. The
man who had read it meant much.

"What's the name of that there poem?"
Buck Thompson asked.

"Immortality."

"Immortality that meanfe that $his here
vale of tears is not all that's comin' to us?"

"That's it. We are only here a little while
at best. Any good thing therefore that we can
do, let's do it. We won't come back this way,
you know."

Here Ole Bar returned. They all looked at

him inquiringly.

318



THE POEM

"What you lookin' at!" he growled.
" No thin' the matter with that poem. But my
fool nose she runs like the devil at first frost fall
and leaves ain't much good fur shuttin' her off
when 'a poem's go in' on."

His explanation was accepted.

Lincoln was speaking again. " You've been
good friends to have, and I want to say, because
I won 't always be about these parts, that if any
of you ever get in need of a friend and Abe
Lincoln can help him out, call on him. And I
want to say to you that I 've lived the best time of
my life right here in New Salem the happiest
and well, I'll see you again good-bye,
boys. ' ' And the tall man slightly bent, and mov-
ing as if aged, left the group around the fire.

There was silence about the fire for a full
minute.

* ' Poor Old Abe, ' ' said Buck.

"I'd a give my right arm to have kept this
here thing from happenin'," said Armstrong.

"Do you fellows recollect^" Kit Parsons said,
"the man that was through here preaching two
years ago the feller that preached one night
about the ' Man of Sorrows 1 ' Recollect how the
women bawled! Looked like they couldn't sup-

319



THE SOUL OF ANN RUTLEDGE

press themselves nor get hold of enough dry-
goods to sop up their flowin' tears. It's just
now soakin' into my head the reason of it all."

"Well, what was it !"

"That feller made 'em see the man."

Here was thought for reflection.

A moment later Buck Thompson took up a
bottle, threw back his head and raised it to his
lips, saying as he did so, "I'm glad he didn't
say no thin' about Ann Riitledge."

"Ann Eutledge!" exclaimed Ole Bar.
"Idiot! Fool! He didn't mention nothm' else."



CHAPTER XXXVI

ON THE WAY

IT WAS an October afternoon.

The first frosts had fallen, and where, a
few short days before, the goldenrod had shed its
autumn glory, it now stood sere and earth-bent.
The late asters had lost their color and the wind-
blown tendrils of summer vines were but stiff
spirals, clinging to the sumacs like skeletons of
their former graceful selves.

In the Concord burying-plot all was gray and
brown and restful. From the forest of oak and
hickory on the one side the leaves had fallen,
and lay cradled about the grave and strewn over
the grassy slope that led to the little stream
where willows held out their slender arms, nude,
save for here and there a pale and trembling
leaf.

A haze hung over the distant fields which
seemed to permeate the near-by woods, giving a
tint of filmy softness even to the shadows gather-
ing between the somber tree trunks.

There semed no living thing about when a
man, himself tall and somber as the trees through
which he walked, came to the place of graves,

21 321



THE SOUL OF ANN RUTLEDGE

and going to one of them fell beside it crying:
"Ann! Ann!"

A moment he knelt, speaking the name before
he threw himself full-length with his face upon
the sod. "Whether he were praying there or weep-
ing or struggling for the grace of resignation,
none might know, for no sound came from his
lips.

It was not until the sun had dropped behind
the tree-top that he arose. Yet a little time he
tarried. Then he went into the edge of the wood
and stood with his sad, gray eyes turned to the
little mound of earth. As the shadows length-
ened, reaching out from the forest toward the
grave as if to gather it in, they seemed to bind
him in also with the elemental things about him,
things rugged, resigned, patient and eternal.

A passing breeze stirred the dead leaves into
music like the plaint murmur of some long-for-
gotten sea, and back in the dusk a lone bird piped,
sending onto the stillness a message from the
vague and shoreless bounds of some eternal
place.

"Out of the depths fresh strength; out of the
dark, new light ; and even in the gloom we are
on the way."

322



ON THE WAY

The somber man in the gathering shadows
lifted his eyes from the low mound to a cloud-
bank rimmed with silver. The mask of sorrow
seemed suddenly to have softened. A faint smile
lit his face as he said reverently, ' ' Soul of Ann
Eutledge yes, I believe."

A bird darted out of the shadows and dis-
appeared in the gray and fading sky.

The man turned and started on his way, like
the lone bird, he knew not whither.





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