Bernie Babcock.

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

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ment of God. ' ' McNeil spoke clearly and glanced
toward Ann as if for approval.

After fifteen minutes of spelling, half the
lines were seated. Ann Eutledge, John McNeil
and Lincoln were standing. It was, John's turn



"Next!" said the master, and the word
crossed the line to Aom.

"B-e-1 " she hesitated a moment and

glanced toward Abe Lincoln who now stood op-
posite her. He had raised his hand to his face
and one of his long fingers pointed to his eye.

"R-e-1-i-c-t " she said slowly "A relict

is a woman whose husband is dead."

Again there was a titter and somebody whis-
pered quite audibly, "John McNeil" But Mc-
Neil was not laughing. He had seen Abe Lincoln
give a sign to Ann that had made her a better
speller than himself.



Gradually the lines thinned until only eight
remained. Then the master gave the word
* ' Seraphim. ' '

"S-e-r-y "


"S-e-r-r-y "


"S-a-r-a-h "


"C-e-r-i "


"C-e-r-y "


"C-e-r-r-i "


"S-e-r-r "


It was now Lincoln 's time. He had been wait-
ing coolly. All eyes were upon him as he slowly
spelled, * ' S-e-r-a-p-h-i-m. ' '

"Correct!" said Mentor Graham. "Abra-
ham Lincoln is the champion speller of New
Salem until his better proves himself."

There was an outburst of applause. Lincoln,
started to take his seat, but the master motioned
to him to keep his place. The room grew quiet.



"The definition, Abe Lincoln?" he said.

"The kind of folks we may associate with if
we keep out of the Slough of Despond," an-
swered Lincoln.

"Tell us where you got it," Mentor Graham

1 ' I found it in Bunyan 's ' Pilgrim 's Progress '
one night as I lay before the fire tryin' to learn
something new. There was a wolf howlin ' down
in the timber. I tried to learn a new word be-
tween each howl. This was the third. "

John McNeil walked home with Nance Cam-
eron after the spelling-match.

"Where is John McNeil!" Mrs. Eutledge
asked as Ann joined them just outside the door,
for he was always on hand to walk with her.

"He's walking home with Nance Cameron,"
Ann answered.

"What's that for?"

"I guess he wants to tell her something,"
she said. But she too wondered, for he had not
spoken to her, had not even seemed to see her,
as he passed with Nance.

Others noticed this also, among them Dr.
Allen and Abe Lincoln. But they make no* com-
ment as they walked down the roadway together.



IT WAS Sis Eutledge who broke the news to
Abe Lincoln that Ann said he was afraid of
women. She went over to the store on an errand
and tarried a few moments, as she always did
when an excuse offered, to talk with the tall,
good-natured clerk. This time Mrs. Green's
quilting-bee offered an excuse.

"Goin' to Mis' Green's quiltin'-bee, are
you?" Sis questioned with a sort of malicious

"Men don't go to quiltin '-bees," Abe Lincoln

"They walk as fur as the door," Sis said.
"But you ain't like none of the rest of them.
You don't spark none of the girls, nor take none
of them to quiltin '-bees nor sugar parties nor
nothing. Ann says you 're scared of petticoats. ' '

"Ann Kutledge says I'm afraid of petticoats,
eh? Tell Ann I'm comin' by this evenin' to see

With this astounding piece of news Sis hur-
ried to Ann. She did not, however, report that



part of the conversation which might have ex-
plained to Ann why he was coming.

"Is John McNeil going with you to Mrs.
Green's quiltin'-beef " Abe asked when she oame
out to see what he wanted.

"No John cannot go."

"Would he care if I walked over with you
and the rest of them?"

"I don't think he would. We'll all be going
together. ' '

"I'll be on hand then," and this was all Ann
knew of the matter.

Mrs. Kutledge had gone over early that morn-
ing to assist Aunt Sallie Green getting ready
for such an important social function as a quilt-
ing-bee was no small matter.

First, there was the quilt to put in the frames
and the thread and chalk and strings to have
handy, and then there was the dinner, which took
several days to prepare. The feature of most
interest at the bee itself, however, was not the
quilt or the feast, but the discussion of town
topics, for women met at the bees who had not
had an opportunity of discussing neighborhood
news for weeks, and the time was never long
enough to tell it all.



At Mrs. Green's one of the first topics for
discussion was the postponed marriage of Ann
Eutledge and John McNeil. "Ann promised to
marry John McNeil and will sometime/' Mrs.
Eutledge said, "but her father wants her to
have a good education, and he says there is no
hurry in gettin ' her off. ' '

"I wouldn't take no chances in havin' an old
maid in the family, if I was you, Mis ' Kutledge, ' '
said Mrs. Benson. ' 1 1 hate to give up my Phoebe
Jane to Windy Batts, but I never would forgive
myself if I stood in her way and caused her
to be an old maid. ' '

"Is Phoebe Jane going to marry Windy
Batts !" was asked.

"Yes, I've consented. Windy 's goin' out
to convert the heathens of the West. He thinks
he'll tackle the Indians and preach the Gospel
and Phoebe Jane's goin' with him to sing."

What did you Hard Shells turn Mentor
Graham out of your company for?" Mrs. Eut-
ledge asked. "He's the finest man in New

"It was his views on abstinence. Sunday
schools, mission societies, temperance societies,
nor none of such things is authorized in the



Bible; you know they ain't, Mis' Eutledge.
Well, if they're not authorized, they're a snare
and delusion. Don't meddle with God's busi-
ness, we say, and that's what a body does that
talks against dram-drinkin' and tries to start a
society. ' '

"Dr. Allen says rum and such drinks is
poison real, sure enough poison, " Aunt Sallie
Green remarked.

This statement opened a lively discussion.

"Yes," said one, "and Dr. Allen couldn't
get no sort of office after making a remark like
that. Nobody can get anywhere without dram-

"Abe Lincoln don't drink anything stronger
than cider."

"And he goes with the Clary Grove bunch,
too. Wonder how he manages."

' ' No telling. The Creator broke up the mold
after Abe Lincoln was made. He isn't like no
human mortal I ever seen."

"Some folks says he's crazy," Mrs. Benson

"It was lazy I heard he was," another said.

' ' I heard he was dead sure to go to the Legis-
lature, crazy or no crazy."



He's always reading something. Looks like
he'd have all the books read through after
awhile. "Wherever he walks he reads."

"Yes, and I've found him, sprawled all over
the cellar door reading, " Aunt Sallie Green said.

"And did you ever see him lyin' under that
tree in front of the store with his hack to the
ground and his long legs reaching up the tree?
Phoebe Jane said he'd better watch or his legs
would grow on up like bean-vines."

"And somebody thought it was so funny,
they went and told him," added Mrs. Cameron.

"Mercy!" ejaculated Mrs. Benson; "was he

"No. He said he'd learned a new verse
something about seeing ourselves as others see
us he wasn't mad, though."

1 'And they do say he hasn't got but one shirt
to his back that he sends what little money
he gets, off to his step-mother."

"And that he never looks at none of the
girls. Is this true, Mis ' Cameron ? ' '

"He don't seem to. The time we had that
woman from Virginia and her two daughters,
he slept at the store on the counter every night.
But he's obliging that way when we 're crowded. "



"The men all say he's famous in stump
speaking, wrestling and story-telling."

"And the women like him because he's hon-
est, kind to women and forgetful of himself. ' '

"He has a good turn for everybody and
everything, from rabbits to such poor stuff as
Snoutful Kelly. But he don't show no attention
to girls. "

' ' Maybe he has a girl at Gentryville or back
on Pigeon Creek."

"I don't think so," Mrs. Cameron said,
"and I'd be apt to know."

""Well, I don't know much about his affairs,
only he never looks at Ann," Mrs. Rutledge ob-
served. "He really don't pay as much heed
to Ann as he does to Sis, and that's little enough.
I don't suppose he knows what color her eyes
are or her hair."

It was at this stage of the visit that the
young people were heard coming across the
fields, shouting and laughing.

Several of the women arose and looked out.

"Will you look!" Mrs. Benson exclaimed.
' ' There 's Abe Lincoln himself ! ' '

"And he's with Ann Rutledge," Mrs. Arm-

strong observed.



"Abe Lincoln with Ann?" Mrs. Rutledge
said, hurrying to the door.

For the moment she looked bewildered. Then
she said, "He's wanting something and just
happened to walk with Ann. ' '

"Just hear him laugh," said Aunt Green;
"I'm glad he's come. He's a fine hand to take
care of the baby. ' '

At the door the other boys in the party de-
clined to come in. Not so with Lincoln.

" Howdy, ladies, howdy howdy!" he said,
lifting his hat gallantly. "May I come in!
I've heard tell of New Salem quiltin'-bees and
I'd like to see how it's done. "

His welcome was as hearty as his self-invi-
tation, and a few moments later he found himself
tucked behind the quilting-frame beside Ann
Rutledge who was said to be the best quilter
in New Salem.

Ann took out her needles, thread, thimble
and emery bag. The end of a chalked string
was tossed to her and she quickly made a few
white lines.

"See the pattern, Abe?" Mrs. Cameron
asked. "It's a tulip design, red flowers and
green leaves. The blue is the pot it's growing



in. " In a few moments the company' was quilt-
ing and conversation had again begun.

"We was just settin' in to talk about Peter
Cartwright and the way he prayed the dancin'
out of the legs in this community, ' ' Hannah Arm-
strong explained.

' ' I agree with him, ' ' Mrs. Benson said j * ' I 'm
down on all hoggin*, whether settin' or standin'
still or movin ' about. I haven 't brought Phoebe
Jane up the huggin ' way. If I had, Windy Batts
wouldn't have picked her to help him convert
the Indians. ' '

Abe Lincoln whispered something to Ann
about a hugging-match and laughed.

"I liked his singing, " Mrs. Armstrong said.
"I thought I'd cry my eyes out that night he
sung 'Down the dark river where the dark wil-
lows are weeping night and day.' I never felt
so near a grave-yard in my born days. Every-
body in the camp was mourning for some loved

" Wasn't that the same night he got around
to eternal punishment and the thundering smell
of smoke?" asked Mrs. Eutledge. "I heard it.
After they got started they kept going until

morning. ' '



While the religious question was being dis-
cussed Abe Lincoln was watching the nimble
fingers of Ann Eutledge as with one hand on the
top side and one under the quilt she wove the
tiny white stitches on the red and green and blue.

Presently the hand of Abe Lincoln disap-
peared under the quilt. The next minute a look
of surprise showed on Ann's face as she whis-
pered, * * Turn loose of my hand. ' '

"I'm just trying to learn how it's done," he
whispered back.

Ann looked about. Nobody was paying any
attention to them. She tried to move her hand
but it was held as fast as if in a vice.

"I'll holler," she said.

"No, you won't," he whispered back.

Then Ann jerked her hand and for the mo-
ment it was free.

She bent her slightly flushed face over the
quilt and was soon making the white stitches

But Lincoln's hand was yet under the quilt,
and before she had crossed the red tulip she felt
her hand again imprisoned.

"Let go," she whispered, turning a flushed
face to him and trying to work with one hand.



"I can't, I've got to hold on to somethin'.
I 'm afraid of women, ' ' was the answer.

The words were whispered in her ear. The
flush on Ann's face deepened. She cast a glance
around the quilt. Several were now looking at
her and saw that she was confused. Her one
free hand was working rapidly, but the stitches
were being set crooked.

For a moment or two her hand was held in
its prison. Once more he whispered, " Afraid
of women am I, little Ann Butledge?"

An instant she lifted her eyes to his. He
had never known they were such beautiful violet
blue. They were full of appeal, and Abe Lincoln
could almost see tears coming.

He dropped her hand, and crawling out from
behind the quilt, presented himself before Aunt
Sallie and offered his services.

"I can wash dishes, carry wood, rock the
baby, do anything that's needed," he said.

"A man like you ought to have a woman,"
Aunt Sallie Green observed.

1 'I'm afraid of women," he answered, laugh-
ing with boyish merriment.

Ann's face colored again slightly, but she
joined the laugh with the others.



''Beady to go, Ann Rutledge?" he said when
the party was over.

"I am waiting for mother," she answered
with quiet dignity.

He laughed. l ' Who 's afraid ? " he whispered
as they started home. But Ann walked beside
her mother.

This did not prevent word going out that
Abe Lincoln was shining up to Ann Eutledge.
What other reason on earth could there be for
a young man attending a quilting-bee and sit-
ting by her and getting her all nervous right
in the middle of her tulip-quilting.



THERE was considerable local pride in the
pioneer hamlet of New Salem, and Abe Lincoln
had entered into it with enthusiasm from the
beginning of his citizenship. While he was
ever present at political meetings and never
silent, his opinion was that local needs were
more pressing than national questions.

There were several needs which he contin-
ually urged. As good roads were at present
out of the question he advocated river traffic.
With boats plying the Sangamon River, freight
could be brought to their very door, and the
farmer's produce, on the sale of which depended
the future of the country, could be marketed
at such a saving of time and money as would
make the difference between failure and success.

So clearly did the young politician set forth
this need that he soon had the majority of the
men of the village of the same opinion. An-
other matter which he considered of first im-
portance was the education of all children in
free schools. This matter he also emphasized,

showing in his crude but effective way that the



future of Democracy depends on the education
of the masses.

Having impressed his opinions on the men of
the town their next question was how to get these
laws. The logical answer was, to elect to their
law-making body a representative of these views.

Then it was that the uncouth young back-
woodsman, without a dollar in the world and
scarce a change of clothing to his back, was
asked to represent Sangamon County in the next

He agreed to do so, and issued a circular
addressed to the ' * People of Sangamon County. ' *
In it he took up all the leading questions of the
day: railroads, river navigation, internal im-
provements, and usury. He dwelled particularly
on the matter of public education, alluding to
it as the most important subject before the peo-
ple. The closing paragraph was so constructed
as to appeal to the chivalrous sentiments of
Clary Grove. "I was born and have ever re-
mained," he said, "in the most humble walks
of life. I have no wealthy or popular relatives
or friends to recommend me. My case is thrown
exclusively upon the independent voters of the
county ; and if elected they will have conferred a
favor upon me for which I shall be unremitting



in my labors to compensate. But if," he con-
cluded, "the people in their wisdom shall see
fit to keep me in the background, I have been
too familiar with disappointments to be very
much chagrined."

A little after this the wonderful news was
announced that a steamboat, already on the
Sangamon Eiver, was to pass New Salem. The
captain had sent word that he wanted one of
the representative men of the place to help him
bring the boat to the village. Abe Lincoln was
the man selected. A company of boys and young
men also got together and with long-handled axes
set out on horseback to go along the bank ahead
of the boat and clear tree branches out of the way.

It was a time of great excitement and preg-
nant with meaning, for here already, were signs
that Lincoln's dream of river traffic might be
brought to pass.

Hours before the appointed time the villagers
were out, looking up at the sun to count the
passing of time, or gazing down the river be-
tween the green branches. Speculation was rife,
and there were those who boldly declared they
never expected to lay eyes on a real steamboat,
owing to their peculiar habit of blowing them-
selves up.



Almost to a minute of the announced time, as
the sun stood, a shrill whistle sounded over the
woods and fields and river a strange sound
for the quiet of the new country. Then came the
distant shouts of the branch-cutters as they came
riding down the banks swinging their long-
handled axes.

Comment hushed to an occasional whisper
as every head was turned and every eye strained
to catch a first glimpse of the first steamboat
that ever sailed the Sangamon.

Ann Eutledge was there. She was looking
for a man as well as for a boat a man she had
first seen scarce a year before. The plums had
been in blossom then. It was too early for them
now. But she had her bonnet ready to wave.

As the boat came in sight a great cheer went
up from New Salem on the bank. It was an-
swered by the ringing voice of a man on board
the steamer, a taller man than any of the others,
who waved his hat and shouted across the water :
" Hurrah for the Sangamon !" There were
other messages, and then a loud, long cheer from
the bank: "Hurrah for Abe Lincoln!"

The tree-cutters passed, singing and laugh-
ing. The boat steamed by like a bird. The



people waved. As the boat neared the bank
where Ann Eutledge and her mother and Mrs.
Cameron and Nance stood, Abe Lincoln lifted
his hat and held it clear of his head, and Ann
waved her bonnet and laughed and sang a snatch
of song.

As the boat passed from view the shrill whis-
tle sonnded several times. Ann listened.

" Nance, " she said, "I like the horn better
than the whistle. The horn has a gentleness,
and it makes me think of plum blossoms. I would
like to hear it again, just as it sounded a year
ago. The whistle it is hard it sounds like
blackberry briars. ' r

Nance laughed. "But thorns go with black-
berries," she said; "and travel must have its
thorns, too, if it keeps up with what Abe Lin-
coln calls progress. ' '

John McNeil joined the girls.

"Ann," he said, "you look very happy to-

"Yes," she replied, "I'm so glad about the

" It *s just about a year since Abe Lincoln first
saw this town, ' ' he observed.

"Yes it was April 19th, last year."

"You remember the date well."

11 161


"That was the day I found the first plum

"And you found them just in time to wave
at Abe Lincoln. ' '

1 1 1 was glad he got his boat off the mill dam. ' '

1 ' Ann, what do you suppose Abe Lincoln came
to New Salem for?"

"Maybe the same thing you did, John."

"I came to make money, and I'm making it.
He didn't come to make money. He don't know
how to make money and never will. Besides
he gives away all he does get hold of."

"How do you know?"

"I found out. And who do you suppose he
gives it to?"

"I don't know."

"His step-mother step-mother!" and there
was a strange tone in his voice whether of con-
tempt or pity, Ann could not tell.

"Perhaps she is old and helpless," she said.

"Well, suppose she is, she's only his step-
mother. If a man ever expects to get ahead he
must save his pennies and let them make other
pennies for him. That's the way to make

"I guess you know, John." Ann answered
rather absently.


JOHN BUTLEDGE and John McNeil were dis-
cussing Abe Lincoln as they sat around a low-
burning fire on an early April evening. John
Rutledge had just announced it as his opinion
that Abe Lincoln had uncommon stuff in him and
would make his mark in the world some way.

"I think Abe is a fine fellow," John an-
swered, "but he'll never get anywhere. "

""What makes you think that!"

"He doesn't know enough to get on the right
side of a question. He's always taking up for
something like nigger slaves. How's a man
going to get anywhere in politics taking up with
such notions?"

"I Ve never heard him say much about negro
slaves, one; way or another," Rutledge said.
"But the general principle of one man being
held as property by another man, that's what
Abe Lincoln gets after, and I think he's right."

* ' Do you know what he 's taking up for now ? ' '
John McNeil asked.

1 ' Haven 't heard. What is it ! "



" Indians, he's taking up for our enemies the
Indians. A lot of the fellows were talking about
the Indians. Ole Bar was telling the way they
poison their arrows. He told some of the most
blood-curdling cruelties you ever heard. ' '

1 ' And Abe Lincoln took up for the cruelties ! ' '

"Not exactly that, but he said the Indians
didn't do any worse than we would. They try
to kill us and go at it the best way they know
how. We try to kill them and, having bullets
instead of arrows, kill more of them. Besides,
he says this country belonged to them before
it did to us, and we got it just as a big dog gets
a bone away from a little dog. And he said
more. He said that we, professing to be civilized
and Christians, break our promises and treaties
worse than they do."

Eutledge took his pipe from his mouth and
slowly exhaled a thin cloud of smoke. Then he
said : "Well, John, the only thing the matter with
this is that it's all true."

' ' Maybe so, ' ' McNeil admitted. * ' But what 9 a
it going to get him, taking up for slaves and

"And poor little children whose fathers beat
them, and women dying alone in the forest!"



It was Ann who asked this question. She
had been sitting by her little sewing-table, mend-
ing stockings.

( 'That's what I'm asking, " John McNeil
repeated. "How's a man going to make money,
fighting customers who swear in his store, or
leaving his shop to hunt folks who have paid him
a penny too much; or to get votes, taking up for
folks that haven 't any ? "

The young man spoke quite seriously. John
Eutledge laughed and then said: "It's the prin-
ciple of things that counts. At present, however,
only local issues are being discussed. On these
Abe Lincoln is what we want."

"You'll lose your vote if you cast it for him.
He'll never get anywhere politically. Mark
what I tell you."

It was only a few days after this that the en-
tire New Salem community was thrown into
great excitement by news of an Indian invasions.
Treaties had been broken and Black Hawk, the
head of the warring Sacs, was again on the
war path.

A company was immediately formed in New
Salem to go out against the redskins. While the



organization was yet forming, a demand was
made for Abe Lincoln as captain.

He had a rival for the position and the choice
was to be made by vote, each man as he voted to
take his place behind the man of his choice.
The voting progressed briskly. When it was
finished the line headed by Abe Lincoln was three
times as long as that of his rival. Great cheers
were given, and Lincoln himself was exuberant
with joy. A good horse was brought to him,
the stirrups were lengthened, and he mounted.
Some there were who had never seen him on a
horse, perhaps. But now to the shouts of on-
lookers and members of his company, he showed
himself a horseman of experience and the angu-
lar lines of his body took on a really military

With horses prancing and men shouting and
calling, a parade was formed to march up the
one street of New Salem. It was a motley crowd,
some of them in buckskin, some in foxed and
homespun breeches, with a generous sprinkling
of coon-skin caps, that formed the company of

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Online LibraryBernie BabcockThe soul of Ann Rutledge, Abraham Lincoln's romance → online text (page 7 of 14)