Bernie Babcock.

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

. (page 3 of 14)
Online LibraryBernie BabcockThe soul of Ann Rutledge, Abraham Lincoln's romance → online text (page 3 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Arkansas, and its riches of soil and abundance
of game. ' ' There was one feller down thar had a
sow," he declared gravely. "She stole an ear
of corn and took it down whar she slept at night.
She spilt a grain or two on the ground, and then
she lay on them. And, gentlemen, believe it or
not, before morning the corn shot up, pushed on
right through her and the percussion killed her.
Next morning she was found flat as a pancake
and three-inch corn sticking like green har
through her spotted hide. ' '

"I swear!" exclaimed Jo Kelsy.

"Don't cuss ; jes go down to that country and
see, ' ' was Ole Bar 's comment.

"When Abe Lincoln's time came he was
asked for the lizard story he had told at the store



the night the flat boat stuck on the dam. In an
inimitable way he told the story, joining heartily
with the others in the boisterous laughter it
called forth, but neither this nor any other of
the stories told diverted the mind of Buck
Thompson from the main question, this being,
"Is he as green as he looks? Will he swap

"Don't happen to have a hoss you want to
trade, do ye?" Buck at last indifferently

The interest of the company was at once cen-
tered on the answer.

"Want to swap hosses?" Abe Lincoln asked
good naturedly.

"Well, I dunno. Do you happen to own a
hoss of any kind f ' '

* ' Yep, ' ' answered the visitor. * ' Such as it is,
I own a hoss."

An expression of pleasure showed on the face
of Buck Thompson.

"What sort is he?" Buck asked.

"Who said it was a 'he'?"

The crowd laughed.

' ' What kind is she ? ' ' Buck corrected.

"Well," answered the youth as if weighing



the matter, "she ain't nothing extra on looks,
but she can stand up under as much hard work
as any hoss in these parts."

"How old is she?"

' ' I dunno to a day not very old. ' '

"Stand without hitchin'f"

" Never 's been hitched to anything in her

"Saddle hoss, I take it. Ain't any mustang

"Not a drop of mustang in the critter, I
swear it."

"Ain't blind in one eye, is she?"


"How's her legs!"

"Can't lie partner. She's stiff in the legs."

"Stiff in the legs, eh? How about her

' ' Haven 't counted them. ' '

"Ever had the botts?"

"Not as I know of."

"Or winded?"

' * Not since I 've had her. ' '

"Want to swap hosses?" Buck asked.

"What you got?' Abe Lincoln asked with



"I got one what '11 stand hitched. I'm goin'
to be honest as you and tell you my hoss has stiff
legs. From what I git, my hoss is just about
such a hoss as your hoss. How '11 you swap,
sight unseen?"

Abe Lincoln aked a few questions which
proved beyond a doubt to Buck Thompson that
the lanky youth was as green as he looked on
the horse-trading proposition, and he was de-
lighted both for the stakes involved and the
effect of his deal on the Clary Grove Boys, when
Abe Lincoln agreed to the trade.

"Where's your hoss at?" Buck inquired.

"Out hack of Offutt's stoite. Where's

"He's to home but I'll bring him."

' ' Any rush ? ' ' Lincoln inquired. * * Morning 's
not far off."

But Buck had no notion of taking chances on
letting the horse-trader consider over night. He
insisted on winding up the trade in the bright
light of the moon in front of Offutt 's store. The
crowd agreed to be present, and immediately
afterward, with singing and loud talking, the
Clary Grove gang took their way to New Salem

to Offutt's store. Buck Thompson went after



his horse, and Abe Lincoln disappeared in the
shadows of the store to find his.

Buck was the first to arrive. Not even the
moonlight could cast any redeeming qualities
on the beast that hobbled after him. The crowd
looked it over and laughed uproariously. Buck
grinned with satisfaction at the sight-unseen
trade he was about to make and questioned hadf
fearfully if the greenhorn would stand by his

The appearance in the distance of a tall and
shadowy figure approaching with long, easy
strides was not reassuring. Certainly he was
neither leading nor driving a horse. The com-
pany looked. As he came nearer they saw he
carried something. Its shadow blended with
that of his body.

"He's got his hoss under his arm or on his
back, ' ' one observed.

Buck was looking anxiously.

"Bet two to one it's a goat," Jo Kelsy said.

This sounded good to Buck. ' ' Goat ! " he said
with evident pleasure. Then they looked again.
The next minute he cleared the last lap of shadow
and came into the light in the open space.

There was a moment of impressive silence.



"My hoss is this kind one of the most use-
ful animals in this neck of the woods," and he
placed a saw-horse before them.

There was a moment of impressive silence,
then the angry voice of Buck Thompson.

"You're a liar," he cried, greatly angered
by the roar of laughter that had greeted the

A dead hush fell on the company. A fight
seemed the next excitement. Every eye was on

' ' Don 't get riled up, ' ' he said good naturedly,
"especially after I told you I was tellin' the
truth. Didn 't I tell you her legs was stiff 1 ' '

"Yeh," roared Buck "and you told me she
had two good eyes eh, boys?" and he turned
to the crowd standing close about.

"Easy now," Abe Lincoln remonstrated.
1 ' I didn 't say she had two good eyes. You asked
if she was blind in one eye, and I said 'No, she
ain't blind in no eye.' "

"You said she had all her teeth," Buck

"Naw, what I said was, 'she hasn't never
lost no teeth, far as I know. ' Can you see any
place where they have come out ? ' '



Clearly the new clerk had the best of the
trade. Buck Thompson stood to his bargain.
The horse was passed to Lincoln. He looked
it over. Something in the ungainly figure and
the big-headed horse brought a smile. Yet they
waited. What would he do next or say?

" Partner," he said to Buck after the exam-
ination, "I wouldn't know what use to make of
this here critter. I can't make no sight-unseen
proposition, but I'd give you two bits for my
own hoss back."



OFFUTT'S new store under the management
of Abe Lincoln came to be, almost immediately,
the chief point of interest in the village.

Business was never so rushing that the
genial, long-legged new-comer could not find time
for a friendly greeting or a new story.

Jo Kelsy, famed as the best Shakespeare
scholar New Salem boasted, soon discovered a
kindred spirit in Abe Lincoln, and was de-
lighted to find in him a pupil so hungry to get
acquainted with Bill Shakespeare.

Mentor Graham, the Scotch schoolmaster,
dropped into the store because he soon discov-
ered that, although the youth who had assisted
him on election day had had no opportunity of
going to school, he was far more advanced in
general knowledge than any pupil in his school,
and the fact that Abe Lincoln wanted to study
grammar with him, and after a while higher
branches, pleased him.

Even Doctor Allen, the busiest and most

conscientious Predestinarian in Sangamon



County, cultivated the acquaintance of the Lin-
coln youth, and he soon discovered that the
uncommon young fellow, who seemed to be
everybody's friend, was not given to social
drink, and this pleased Doctor Allen, who boldly
preached that liquor was poison and stood for
its total abstinence.

The Clary Grove Boys visited the store, and
when several of them happened in at the same
time, the laughter and boisterous talk could be
heard the length of New Salem.

Ann Eutledge had not yet been at the new
store. She had heard from it, however, through
her brother Davy, two years younger than her-
self, and her half -grown sister, known as "Sis
R-utledge," both having formed the acquaintance
of Abe Lincoln and both having immediately be-
come his staunch admirers.

Ole Bar was in the store one afternoon when
Davy came in.

"Davy," Abe Lincoln said, "see here"; and
putting three long fingers gently into his pocket
he drew out a handful of tiny rabbits. ' ' Their
mother got killed. I put the poor little things
in my pocket. Know anybody that will take care
of them?"



Ole Bar opened his good eye and listened.

' ' Sure, Ann, she '11 do it. Ann Rutledge takes
care of blind cats, lame dogs, lousy calves, birds
with broke wings, and all such things.**

Abe Lincoln had placed the rabbits carefully
in his hat and handed it to Davy.

"Want them back?'* the boy questioned as
he turned toward the door.

"No but hurry back with my hat. I'm
goin' out with Kelsy while he fishes, and read
about a Jew who wanted a pound of flesh. ' '

The expression on Ole Bar's small eye was
one of concentrated disgust.

"Men's not what they used to be," he ob-
served, chewing violently.

"I reckon not," Abe Lincoln observed.

"These times they wear whiskers on their
upper lip, and breeches buttoned up the fore,
but I don't see as it's give them any more wits. "

Abe Lincoln did not answer this, but asked
a question.

1 ' Who sings about these diggin 's ? It 's some
woman who has a way of her own."

"All wimmin sings ; wimmin birds sings, and
wimmin bull frogs sings, and human wimmin
sings. But whether they be scaled or feathered



or diked out in calico and combs, their singin'
is to git the men of their kind. Take the advice
of Ole Bar, my long-legged son, Abry Linkhorn,
and let all wimmin kind alone. Furthermore,
don't try to start no love-makin' with Ann Eut-
ledge and blame it onto rabbits. I've heard said
Ann Rutledge can outsing a bird. If she can,
it's for John McNeil. John McNeil, he's worth
ten thousand dollars so they say. Hain't this
worth singin' for ? ' '

"The one I'm talking about wasn't singin'
for any man's money."

' ' How do you know T ' '

"It wasn't that kind of a song."

Ole Bar laughed. ' ' Sonny, ' ' he said, ' * you 're
as green as you look. But why don't you go up
to the meetin' what Windy Batts's started?
All the singers will be there. Windy 's trying to
scare the devil out of his own den by his fierce
preachin'. Last night he called the whole Clary
Grove tribe by name and told them the devil
was goin' to pepper them with burnin' fiery
sulphur in chunks as big as Eutledge's Mill for-
ever and aye unless they crawled up on the rock
of ages. They'll be going to meetin' theirselves
right .soon, and if he don't know any better sense



than readin' cusses at them out of the Holy
Scriptures and pointin' the finger of scorn at
them before the people, they'll learn him some. ' '

It was this same evening Abe Lincoln decided
to go to Clary Grove in search of Kelsy, from
whom he wanted to borrow the Shakespeare.
The Grove Boys were in council. An indigna-
tion meeting was being held. Kit Parsons had
just been quoting Windy Batts, who had the
night before consigned those Clary Grove sin-
ners root and branch to burn forever, and it
had been just about decided that he, and the
horse he had purchased to start on an itinerary
after his New Salem meeting, should be treated
to a coat of tar and feathers.

"That deer-faced hypocrit tells how God
sent his angels to git Daniel out of the lion's
den, how he sent angels to git them three fool
Jews out of the fiery furnace. He says them
kind of angels guard the Hard Shells, saves
them from their enemies and gits them out of
tight places. We're needin' some angels in this
section. Let's coax them down. Let's anoint
this belly-aching coward with hot tar and feath-
ers both Tifan. and his horse, till we make him
look like the buzzard he is. Then we'll set by



and see how long) it takes them angels to git the
feathers picked off."

A laugh had followed this speech. It was
about this time Abe Lincoln appeared.

"Howdy!" Tie said in his most friendly

They returned his greeting, but it was evident
he was not wanted. They, however, asked him
for a suggestion as to how best to punish "a
moon-eyed pole cat that hain't nothin* better to
do than stir up a stink about hell fire and brim-
stone, and call out the names of them picked by
the devil to supply the roasts."

"I wouldn't take it to heart about his fiery
talk. He can't hurt G-od with his spittin' and
sputterin', and so long as God's all right the
rest of us needn't worry," Lincoln said, before
answering the request asked. "As to punishin'
a ' Moon-faced pole cat, ' I 'd plug him up in some
tight corner, poke sin out of him and he'd pun-
ish hisself gentlemen punish hisself."

Abe Lincoln got the book and went away.
After he had gone, the Clary boys put their heads
together, and before they* had separated for the
night, the tar and feathers plan had been tem-
porarily abandoned.


"sic 'EM, KITTY"

THE afternoon following his rather unwel-
come visit to Clary Grove, Abe Lincoln was
invited by Kit Parsons to attend religious serv-
ices that night. From the manner of the invi-
tation, the storekeeper gathered that there might
be something interesting on foot, and he decided
to go.

Some changes had been made in the meeting-
place since the gathering of the year before. At
the former time Satan had moved the dogs, so
the elder explained, to crowd under the exhor-
ter's stand and engage in riotous disagreement.
In an endeavor to chew each others ears and
gnaw holes in each others hides, they had
bumped their backs onto the rude floor under-
neath the preacher's feet, and in other ways
raised a disturbance.

To prevent a repetition of this disorderly
conduct on the part of the dogs, the hiding-place
under the stand had been made proof against
all intruders by the use of stobs driven so close
that not even a shadow could creep between.



It was in this long-time rendezvous of dogs
that a couple of the Clary Grove gang seemed in-
terested, as between services they strolled sev-
eral times past the pulpit end of the arbor.

That evening, in the shadowy gloom cast by
the arbor roof, a couple of men might have been
seen, had the dark been closely scrutinized,
moving softly about.

Just what they were doing was not apparent.
They seemed to have a barrel close by and a
long trough of some kind.

But nobody paid any attention to these quiet
two. All interest was centered in Windy Batts,
who in a trumpet voice was giving out the words
of t a song which all who knew him were certain
would be sung with great unction and fervor.

He was reading the lines from a hymn-book.
At the end of every second line he gave the pitch,
whereupon all sang in many keys, but with
united fervor.

Into a world of ruffians sent,

I walk on hostile ground;
While human bears, on slaughter bent,

And' raving wolves surround.

Between each two lines he shouted, "God
have mercy on them Clary Grove sinners ! Them



ravening wolves! Strike them human bears

Then the hymn went on :

The lion seeks my soul to slay,

In. some unguarded hour;
And waits to tear his sleeping prey,

And watches to devour.

"God save us from them Clary Grove lions
that seek to devour."

The movements in the shadows just outside
the arbor continued, but nobody noticed. The
exhorter, calling on God and all the holy angels
to witness the truth of his sayings, was drawing
a graphic comparison between the righteous and
the sinner, especially of that most fallen and
hopeless sinner, the Clary Grove sinner.

After the discourse, which was thundered out
with tremendous force, the first altar-song was

If you get there before I do,

I'm bound for the land of Ca-na-yan;
Look out for me, I'm coming, too,

I'm bound for the land of Ca-na-yan;

When this popular song got well underway,
the. woods for miles around rang with the re-
frain. The altar filled with sinners who fell in
the dust, and with saints who whispered in their



ears full directions for planting their feet firmly
on the old ship Zion, and with shouters, among
whom was Phoebe Jane Benson.

Ann Butledge and Nance Cameron on one
side of the arbor, and Abe Lincoln and Jo Kelsy
on the other, had watched Phoebe Jane taking
her combs out and in other ways preparing for
the shouting. Ann, remembering what Mrs.
Benson had said about hugging, was prepared to
watch for developments as Phoebe Jane, with
arms flying, began her religious exercise.

When the mourners were prostrating them-
selves in the dust, one of the dark figures in the
shadowy background whispered, * * Tickle her up
and then run"; and as he reached a long pole
into the enclosure under the exhorter's feet he
said, "Sic 'em, kitty!" and the two were off.

Just as the first sinner was saved and the
shouterst were getting well warmed up, a heavy
and most unreligious odor suddenly pervaded
the air.

The front row of mourners, with their faces
in the dust, nearest the exhorter's stand, noticed
it first as it came like a puff from the infernal
regions just pictured by Windy Batts. Lifting
their heads, these mourners looked about, with


facial expressions none too pious, to see what
had smitten them. Next the shouters got the
full force of the growing odor. Immediately
their shouts turned to groans, and they put their
hands over their noses. By this time the
mourners were on their feet. This sudden
change from the dust of humiliation to the erect
poise of saved souls, ordinarily denoted a con-
version. At this time, however, the eye of sus-
picion cast on every man by every other man,
together with the sudden and violent outbreak
of snorting and spewing, gave evidence of some-
thing different from spiritual birth.

When "Windy Batts, who at this first moment
was engaged in holding Phoebe Jane in the close
embrace of brotherly love, was struck by the
force of the permeating odor, he pushed Phoebe
Jane from him, giving her a look both question-
ing and unsanctified.

A moment, and he understood. Springing
onto his high platform, he cried in trumpet tones,
' l The devil is at his old game ! A burning, fiery
trial is about to test our faith. Sometimes afflic-
tions come like lice, mites, boils, fits. But the
worst has been reserved for these later days, and

now doth God afflict his people with a skunk.



Satan abounds on every hand. The most eternal
and dingblasted stink ever turned loose on the
sanctuary of the Lord is now in our midst.
Let a committee of fearless men with good noses
volunteer to locate the spot where this varmint
of the pit is hiding."

The source of the odor was soon located.
About this time, out in the darkness of the
woods, was heard a man's voice shouting:

The devil's dead.

Oh! smell hia stink;

Killed by the power of Windy.

Then a rooster was heard, crowing the crow
repeating the words. Then a cat yowled and a
dog growled and a goose quacked, all sending
out the same message about the devil's death,
and the manner thereof.

Here was insult added to injury, for while the
exhorter might have forgiven God and the
angels for the horrible ordeal they were passing
through, he could never forgive the Clary Grove

During the excitement John McNeil had
joined Ann Rutledge and Nance Cameron.

"It's those Clary Grove rowdies," John Mc-
Neil said. "They're a bad lot, and there will



be murderers in the bunch if they do not change
their ways. For this they should be put in jail. ' '

11 "Windy Batts said very unkind things about
them, ' ' Ann observed.

' ' And didn 't say half bad enough. I 'm sorry
Abe Lincoln joined in with them. He was in
their camp last night. Like as not he hatched
this whole plot."

"I can't see why he should want to do a
thing like that," Ann said.

"You don't? Don't you know the whole
Clary Grove gang is opposed to religion? Do
you suppose this railsplitter would choose their
kind if he wasn't an opposer, too?"

"But he's not a railsplitter now he's
Offutt's clerk."

"He's no real clerk and never will be. Once
a railsplitter, always a railsplitter. ' '

"Maybe so, but even then, John, it's no dis-
grace to be an honest railsplitter and I'm go-
ing to ask Nance if he 's an opposer. ' '

"What difference does it make to you
whether he 's an opposer or not ? ' '

"I always like to think the best of every-
body, John," Ann answered, "and it's an awful
sin to be an opposer of religion."



THE Clary Grove gang were gathered in
council. A grave matter was to be decided and
there seemed a division of opinion as to the quali-
fications of Abe Lincoln for becoming a mem-
ber of the brotherhood. Personally no man had
an unfriendly feeling. In fact some of them
liked him. But there were certain qualifications
which it was not certain he possessed.

The horse-trade with Buck was discussed.
Had he gotten the best of Buck? Several con-
tended that he should have kept the horse and
would have done so had he not been afraid of the
gang. Others were of the opinion that he did
not want the horse, and several declared him a
good fellow for knowing where to quit joking.

There were graver considerations than this,

"Ever see a man that had any guts totin'
rabbits around in his pockets ?" Ole Bar ques-
tioned sharply. ' * I seen a feller once that packed
a couple of wild cats about with him but rabbits



rabbits " and language failed to express
his disgust.

"And he don't drink no whiskey."

' 'And Jo Kelsy says he never carries a gun. ' >

"Don't never go gamin'?"

"No," answered Jo Kelsy, "he ain't never
been no hunter."

"Hain't never killed nothing" Ole Bar
questioned in amazement.

"Not just fer fun. Once he killed a pant'er
what dropped on him without saying nothin'.
He ketched it around the neck and choked its
eyes out and skinned it. He said he wouldn't
have bothered it if it hadn't acted so nasty and
climbed his frame without warnin'."

There was silence. No such case had come
up for discussion. Here was a young giant who
could strangle a panther perhaps a bear. Yet
he didn't bother them if they let him alone, and
he carried new-born rabbits in his pocket, and
didn't drink whiskey.

"Offutt's got him put up against any man in
Sangamon County; says he can out-run, out-
wrestle, out-throw, out-whip the best man that
can be put up. He 's bragged till folks has forgot
about Jack Armstrong of Clary Grove."



The eyes of the company turned to Jack
Armstrong, the champion wrestler of Sangamon
County. Built square as an ox, his mighty mus-
cle gave the suggestion of the monarchy of
muscular force. Added to his force of muscle
was unusual quickness, and added to this, as the
Clary Grove crowd knew, was the art of a trick
that was held permissible by the gang as a last
resort in holding championship of the county.

"What about it, Jack?" Kit Parsons asked.

"I'll wrastie him."

"He's different from anything youVe gone
up against. Jo Kelsy saw him lift a whiskey
barrel and let a feller drink out of the bung hole
one day when he was in the store. ' '

"The Lord's truth," Jo answered solemnly.

"And Buck Thompson says he histed a
chicken coop that weighed five or six hundred
pounds and set her down on the other side of
the yard, nobody lendin' a hand."

"The Lord's truth," Buck answered.

"And Ole Bar says they was having some
sort of a contest down at the mill when he first
come here some sort of a stone-moving tussle
and Abe Lincoln let them strap him like a hoss
and moved a thousand pounds. Hey, Ole Bar! ' '



"I ain't sayin' nothin', only I seen it done."

"I can whip any man on Sangamon River."
It was Armstrong who spoke.

This was final and gave great satisfaction.
The crowd shook hands with the champion, and
one of the number was appointed to bear the chal-
lenge to Abe Lincoln, early the next morning.

When the young clerk was approached on
the matter of the fight he declined. " What's
the use of this wooly-rousin', anyhow? I
never did see no sense in tuslin* and cuffin'.
Grown-up men might be in better business."

But Offutt, satisfied that he could win the con-
test urged him on, and as there seemed nothing
else to do, Lincoln accepted, and the day was set.

The news spread over town and around the
country. Jack Armstrong the long-time cham-
pion was to! meet the giant youth known as flat-

1 3 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Online LibraryBernie BabcockThe soul of Ann Rutledge, Abraham Lincoln's romance → online text (page 3 of 14)