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Mr. Lincoln, but Awtry would not be denied. He
was as pompous and as imperious in his demand



to be shown into Mr. Lincoln's office as any mem-
ber of the Cabinet could have been. He sent a
card in and followed the messenger to the very
door. He had written on the card : " In regard to
the Brandon case," and presently some one came
out and conducted the three through a side door
into the private room to which Mr. Lincoln retired
when he was troubled or had a fit of melancholy
that somehow went hand in hand with him until
his unfortunate taking off. A fire was burning on
the hearth, and the three callers sat in silence
while waiting for Mr. Lincoln to make his appear-
ance. They waited a long time, as it seemed to
Bethune and Mr. Sanders, and even when the door
opened and a tall man with tousled black hair
came into the room. He was followed by a thick-
set, quick-spoken person whose features were
almost entirely concealed by a heavy beard and
spectacles with wide glasses.

" But, Mr. President," said this person, with a
show of indignation, " you will ruin the discipline
of the army if you go on reprieving deserters.
Why, this case is a most flagrant one."

"Oh, yes; I know all about that. But he's a
mere lad. Why, he's not more than twenty-two.
He got tired and hungry and homesick. Why,
when his mother came in this morning and told
me the facts, I didn't let her finish. I said, ' Hold



on, madam; you've said enough. I know all
about the case I've been in your son's shoes a
hundred times.' '

"But, Mr. President " interposed the other.

" But, Mr. Secretary," interrupted the President,
" you forget that every soldier in the Union Army
is a free-born American citizen. We can't afford
to hang American citizens because they get home-
sick and heart-heavy. You remind me of a fellow
I once heard of in Kentucky."

But before the President could point the moral
with a story, Mr. Secretary had whipped indig-
nantly out of the room, slamming the door behind
him with no show of respect whatever.

The three visitors had arisen from their chairs
when Mr. Lincoln entered the room, and at least
two of them regarded him with interest and curi-
osity as he came slouching toward them with a

" These gentlemen, Mr. President, have come in
regard to the Brandon case," said Mr. Awtry,
introducing the two Georgians. " You forwarded
a pass, through me, if you remember. Mr. Bethune
accepted the commission, and Mr. Sanders "

"Well, Mr. President, I jest come on my own
hook, as the little boy said about the cow in the
garden," Mr. Sanders hastened to say.

" Take seats, all of you," remarked Mr. Lincoln,


cordially. Then he turned to Mr. Sanders, " What
about the little boy and the cow ? "

" Why, one Sunday a little boy was set to mind
a gap in the gyarden fence. A panel had blowed
down in the night, and it couldn't be mended on
account of Sunday. So the little boy was set to
mind it. When the folks got home from church
the cow was in the gyarden, and the little boy was
settin' on the doorsteps snifflin'. His mammy
says, ' Why, honey, what in the world is the mat-
ter? The gyarden is ruined. How did the cow
git in ? ' ' She run her horns under my jacket an*
flung me a somerset,' says the little boy. * I see,'
says his daddy, ' she got in on her own hook.' The
daddy thought he had got off a good joke, but
nobody seed the two p'ints, an' this made him so
mad that he went in the house an' loaded his gun
wi' a piece of fat bacon, an' fired it right at the
cow's hindquarters. She curled her tail an' run
off smokin'. They say you could smell fried meat
in that neighbourhood for the longest."

Mr. Lincoln clasped his hands behind his head
and laughed a hearty, contented laugh.

Mr. Awtry regarded Mr. Sanders with a
puzzled expression. "Did you say the joke had
two points ? " he asked.

"Why, certain an' shore," responded Mr. San-
ders, with alacrity. "You've seed cows, maybe,



wi' no horns, but you never seed one made like
a rhinossyhoss."

At this, Mr. Lincoln laughed unrestrainedly.
Whatever reserve the shadow of care and trouble
had cast over him when he entered the room had
been driven entirely away, and his visitors had a
very close and intimate view of the real Lincoln,
the man of the people. At last, when it seemed
time for them to go, Mr. Awtry remarked :

" The reason I took the liberty of bringing these
gentlemen here was that some of Mr. Stanton's
men were preparing to arrest them."

"You did exactly right," said Mr. Lincoln,
emphatically. "I'm willing for Stanton to have
his fingers in all the pies if he'll let me break
the crust in places."

" Well, at the pace he's going, he'll soon have
the whole thing in his own hands," remarked Mr.

"The whole thing, as you call it," replied Mr.
Lincoln, levelling a searching glance at the young
man, " couldn't be in better hands. I'm told every
day that Mr. Stanton has small respect for the
President, and I reckon that's so ; but the Presi-
dent is willing to rock along on a small allowance
of respect when he's getting a steady supply of
the kind of work Stanton is doing day and night."

" That's so," remarked Mr. Sanders, judicially,
1 86


"Was Mr. Stanton the man that followed you
in here ? "

Receiving an affirmative answer, Mr. Sanders
went on, "I allowed so from his walk an' talk;
but the way you played wi' him put me in mind
of the feller an' his trained dog."

" How was that ? " asked Mr. Lincoln, leaning
back in his chair and twisting his long legs
together in most curious fashion. Every trace
of fatigue and worry had vanished from his face.

" Well, it was like this : A feller down our way
had a houn' dog that he thought was the finest
pup in all creation. He was good for foxes, good
for minks, good for rabbits, good for coons, an'
'specially for 'possums. Natchully, the feller was
constant a-braggin' on the dog. Well, one day
the feller had company at his house. The dog
was lyin' in a corner of the fireplace, an' presently
the feller got to braggin' on him. He said the
dog was both trained and domesticated. 'That
dog,' he says to his company, 'will do anything
in the world I tell him to do.' The company
sorter doubted about it, an' the feller ups an' says,
' Rover, git up from there an' go out of here/
Rover, hearin' his name, hit the floor a lick or two
wi' his tail, an' drapt off to sleep ag'in. The feller
hollered a little louder, ' Rover, don't you hear ?
Git up from there an' go out of here.' Rover got



up, looked at the feller like he thought he was
crazy, an* sneaked under the bed. Well, the com-
pany laughed consider'ble. But the feller stuck
to his statements. Says he, * There's a mighty
good understandin' between me an' Rover. He
knows when I'm playin', an' besides, he's a plum
hurrycane when it comes to runnin' coons up a
tree.' "

Mr. Lincoln laughed and looked at Mr. Sanders
with a quizzical expression. Just then there came
a rap on the door. The President arose, made
two long strides across the room, and threw the
door open.

" Mr. President, I heard something awhile ago,
and I think you should be told about it," said the
newcomer, excitedly.

"Well, what is it?"

" Why, when Mr. Stanton went out just now, I
heard him say you were a d d fool."

" Did you hear him say it ? " Mr. Lincoln asked.

" Yes, Mr. President ; I heard him with my own

" Well, if Stanton said that, I reckon there must
be something in it. He usually knows what he's
talking about. I thought you had some news for

" Good heavens, Mr. President ! " exclaimed the
person at the door.



" Yes," said Mr. Lincoln, solemnly, " good heav-
ens and good night ! "

Bethune sat with clenched hands. He could
hardly believe what he had heard. He was dazed.
He drew a long breath, arose from his chair and
took a quick turn about the room.

Mr. Lincoln observed the young man's excite-
ment. He paused before he seated himself, and
turned to Bethune with a smile that did not drive
away the expression of sadness which had returned
to his face. " What would happen if one of Mr.
Davis's advisers should make a similar statement? "
he asked.

Bethune replied, with gleaming eyes, " Mr.
President, the man who heard the remark would
knock the scoundrel down and afterward call him

" I reckon that's so. Mr. Davis has more close
friends than I have," remarked Mr. Lincoln
with a sigh. He seated himself and closed his

" It ain't so much bein' friends," said Mr.
Sanders, somewhat cheerfully, though in his honest
Georgia heart he deeply pitied the President, and
understood why he was lonely and sometimes
melancholy "it ain't so much bein' friends, it's
because we're all on high hosses down yan, from
daybreak till bed-time."



"Well, I wish " Mr. Lincoln paused and
looked in the fire.

Mr. Sanders seized the remark and finished it.
" You wish some un'd git on a high hoss for you ?
Well, sir, if at any time I'm aroun', an' any of your
fellers begin for to give you too much lip, jest turn
around to me an' say, ' Friend Sanders, what do
you think of the state of the country an' the craps
in general ? ' You say them words, Mr. President,
an' if I don't make the feller say his pra'rs to you,
you may call me a humbug. Down our way they
say you're a Yankee, but if that's so, the woods
is full of Yankees in Georgia, all born an' raised
right there."

Mr. Lincoln laughed with real enjoyment.
"You're paying me the highest compliment I
have had in many a day," he said. " But we can't
sit here palavering all night." He tapped a bell
and a messenger appeared. "See if the ladies
have gone to bed."

Word soon came back that the ladies were tak-
ing a light refreshment, and would the President
join them ?

" I want you gentlemen to see what sort of a
job you have undertaken," Mr. Lincoln remarked
dryly. " I can manage a mule or a steer pretty
well, but not a wilful woman."

"Amen! " exclaimed Mr. Sanders with unction.


The President led the way, followed by Bethune
and Mr. Sanders, Mr. Awtry saying he would wait
for their return. Before they reached the room
where the ladies were, the laughter and chatter
of Elise Clopton could be heard. She was in high
glee. Francis Bethune never knew until that hour
why he disliked his aunt. It was the uncertainty
and absurdity of her temperament. One moment
she was taking herself more seriously than a hero-
ine of romance, the next she had plunged headfore-
most into well, into inconsequence.

She was as truly herself here, practically a pris-
oner, as if she had been at once queen and house-
maid. She had met Bethune's uncle by accident,
while he was passing through Washington on his
way to Harvard. She, herself, was on her way to
a young ladies' school in Baltimore. Neither one
of them got any farther. The result of half an
hour's conversation, while waiting for the train to
leave, was an elopement. In a year or two her
husband was dead, but her bereavement had not
sobered Elise. At thirty-five she was still as beau-
tiful and as lacking in judgment as when a miss of

When Bethune and Mr. Sanders were ushered
into the room, Elise clapped her hands together as
the soubrettes do on the stage, gave a smothered
scream, supposed to represent joy, and fell upon



Francis Bethune and kissed him until he wished
himself well out of the uncomfortable position.

" Francis ! " she cried, " allow me to present you
to my dear, dear friend, Mrs. Lincoln. My nephew,
Mrs. Lincoln. And here is Mr. Sanders ! Oh, you
dear, good man ! you make me feel quite at home.
Mrs. Lincoln, this is my dear old friend, Mr. San-
ders. Are both of you prisoners, too ? Oh, isn't
it glorious to suffer for one's country ? "

Bethune looked at Mr. Lincoln. The President
was standing with his hands clasped behind him.
He was not smiling, but there was a comical
expression on his face. Mrs. Lincoln was laugh-
ing unrestrainedly, and it was very evident to
Bethune that the lady of the White House had
found Elise Clopton sufficiently amusing. His
irritation was such that he could scarcely refrain
from showing it in words. Youngster as he was,
it seemed to him that the whole South was here on
exhibition in the person of his frivolous aunt. He
was on the point of saying something regrettable
when Mr. Sanders stepped in, as it were.

"You don't look like you've been sufferin' for
your country much. Appearances is mighty de-
ceivin' if you ain't been havin' three square meals
a day, fried meat an' biscuit, an' hot coffee for
breakfast, collards an' dumplin's an' buttermilk
for dinner, an' ashcake an' molasses for supper."



"You see how the men jnistake us," protested
Elise, turning to Mrs. Lincoln. "Our keenest
anguish is mental, but the men never think they
are suffering unless they are in physical pain.
And the men think the women are too timid to
take any risks. Look at me, Mr. Sanders."

" I see you, Leese," said Mr. Sanders, so dryly
that Mrs. Lincoln burst out laughing.

" Don't mind him, dear friend ; he always was
comical. And then there was your grandmother,
Mr. Sanders, Nancy Hart. Didn't she suffer for
her country ? "

" She stayed at home an' hit the Tories a lick
when they pestered her, two for one, maybe ; but
she didn't complain of no sufferin', so fur as I
know. The sufferin' was all wi' them that pes-
tered her. Anyhow, we've come to take you
home, an' when we git there I'm goin' to build a
pen to keep you in. Goodness knows, I don't want
to be runnin' my head in no more hornets' nest."

"Why, you don't call this a hornets' nest, I
hope," said Mrs. Lincoln, smiling.
- " By no manner of means, mum," replied Mr.
Sanders with a bow. " This is the only homelike
place I've struck sence I left Shady Dale. But I
hear you're a Southerner, an' Mr. Lincoln is
Georgy all over, an' that accounts for it. If we
wa'n't here, where'd we be?"


"Well, we'll go back now and talk about
Georgia," said Mr. Lincoln. "To-morrow or the
next day we'll arrange about the lady's journey

" Yes ; I am willing to go now," said Elise,
dramatically ; " I have performed my duty ; I
have risked my life for my native Southland."

" If you only knew what a close call it was, you'd
doubtless be prouder still, I reckon," remarked Mr.
Lincoln with a smile. With that Bethune and Mr.
Sanders bade the ladies good night and followed
the President to his private office, where Waldron
Awtry awaited them. They were for returning to
the hotel at once, as the hour was growing late, but
Mr. Lincoln would not hear to it unless they were
willing to admit that they were tired of his com-
pany. There were nights, he said, when sleep
flitted away from his neighbourhood, and refused
to be coaxed back, and this, he thought, would
prove to be one of those nights.

First he wrote out a new certificate for Francis
Bethune, as well as a document to insure the safety
of Mr. Sanders, and then he began to talk about
Georgia sure enough, addressing his conversation
mainly to Mr. Sanders, whose comments he ap-
peared thoroughly to enjoy. He asked about the
people, their views and hopes. Once he declared
that if the people of the South knew his intentions



and desires as well as he did himself, he believed
they would put an end to the war, and come back
into the Union.

" But what about the politicians ? " calmly in-
quired Mr. Sanders.

"That's a fact!" exclaimed Mr. Lincoln; "the
politicians and the editors. We have 'em here,
too. Oh, I was just telling you of a dream I once

" An' then, ag'in, you're a Ab'litionist, Mr. Presi-
dent," said Mr. Sanders.

" Well, that matter has been settled, so far as I
can settle it, but, up to a few months ago, that
question was a mere matter of moonshine com-
pared to the Union. I said as much to Horace
Greeley, and he and his friends had a good many
duck-fits about it. All the Government doors have
big keyholes except Stanton's. Well, Abolitionism
was a great question, but it was small compared
with the preservation of the Union. All other
political questions are small by the side of that."

They talked until some time after midnight,
with occasional interruptions from messengers
connected with the War Department, or with
some of the committees of Congress. Once Mr.
Lincoln, after receiving a telegram, held it open
in his hand, and was silent a long time. Finally
he folded it lengthwise many times, and then


wrapped it around his forefinger, holding it in
place with his thumb.

" It has got so now," he said, breaking the
silence, "that I can tell by the rumble of the
wheels whether the man in the carriage is fetch-
ing good news or bad."

The President made no remark about the con-
tents of the telegram, but he fell into such a state
of abstraction that Bethune nodded to the others,
and simultaneously they all arose and bade him
gqod night. He no longer urged them to stay,
but asked them to return early the next day, say-
ing that he wanted to have a good long talk with
" friend Sanders."


When Bethune and Mr. Sanders went to break-
fast the next morning, they were escorted to a table
at which sat John Omahundro, who saluted them
in the most familiar manner. Bethune, whose
temperament lacked that off-hand heartiness which
is sometimes attractive and sometimes repelling,
bowed coldly. Mr. Sanders, who was heartiness
itself on almost every occasion, smiled vacantly
at Omahundro, remarking, " I've seed your face
someYs, I reely do believe."

"Why, certainly," said Omahundro in his drawl-


ing voice, "I travelled with you from Albany to
New York."

"That's so!" exclaimed Mr. Sanders; "you're
the feller that helt the 'oman's baby while she give
it caster-ile. Well, you're a mighty handy man,
but I've been in sech a buzz an' racket, an' seed
so many folks, that I'd never 'a' know'd you

They talked on indifferent subjects until the
meal had been despatched, and then they sat
in the reading-room of the hotel and talked

" What about your programme ? " inquired Oma-
hundro. " It's foolhardy, but I'm willing to go
into it on conditions I mean this kidnapping

" It's as easy as falling off a log," replied Bethune.

" Lots easier," remarked Mr. Sanders ; "but "

" Now you're beginning to say something. But
but how are you going to get away ? You don't
know a step of the road. How are you going, to
get Mr. Lincoln safely to the South ? "

"Trust to luck, I reckon," replied Bethune.

"What I was tryin' to say when you jumped in
betwixt me an' my words was that the job is easy,
but 'twould be a pity to put it through."

" You've said something again," remarked Oma-
hundro. " Mr. Lincoln has the hardest time of



any human being I ever saw. He reminds me of
my father."

"He puts me in mind of all the good men
I've ever know'd. He takes 'em all in," said
Mr. Sanders.

" He's a good deal like you," Bethune declared.

" Well, I wish to the Lord I was more like him,"
said Mr. Sanders, solemnly. " I'll tell you what,
fellers, that man has looked trouble in the eye so
long that he pities ev'rybody in the world but his-
self. Frank, I'll go into this business if you'll le'
me do the engineerin' if you'll put it in my

" Oh, I've no objection to that," assented Be-
thune, with a short laugh. " He's so different from
what I expected. By George ! don't you believe
it would break his heart to be taken away from
here ? "

Mr. Sanders pursed up his mouth and looked at
the ceiling. " No-o-o, 'twouldn't break his heart,"
he announced, after some reflection. " He's a
good, strong man, an' from the look he has in his
eye, he's seen so much trouble that he's ready
to shake hands wi' it wherever he meets it,
knowin' purty well that he'll git some fun out'n
it somehow or somewheres. You leave it to me,
Frank leave it to me."

"Well" said Omahundro, "if it's to be done,


to-morrow night is the time, between ten and
twelve the nearer ten the better. Mr. Stanton
usually calls about half-past twelve or one. Mr.
Lincoln may ask you to stay to supper. If he
does, say yes, and t hanky, too. If you take sup-
per here, a carriage will be waiting for you at the
door. If there is more than one vehicle near the
hotel entrance, the driver on your carriage will
say, ' Whoa, Billy ! ' If you don't take supper
here, the carriage will drive into the White House
grounds precisely at ten o'clock. The driver of
the carriage will stay with it until he hears pur-
suers, or until you meet another conveyance in the
road driven by a country chap. If you are pur-
sued, one of you must be on the driver's seat to
take the lines when my man retires, and then
you'll have to take the consequences, and get out
the best way you can. I tell you candidly, I don't
see how you are going to get out with the Presi-
dent, and but for orders from Captain McCarthy,
I wouldn't make a move in it. I'm fond of Mr.
Lincoln ; I feel like he's kin to me."

" Well, there are bigger principles at issue than
kinfolks and Presidents," remarked Bethune, with
some emphasis.

" That's so," assented Mr. Sanders ; " but I wish
from my heart he was more like some of the other
Presidents we have had in North Ameriky."



" Good night," said Omahundro. " We may never
see one another again. I'm going to help you
out all I can, but I can't say that I wish for your

" Nor me, nuther," commented Mr. Sanders.

The next day found Bethune and Mr. Sanders
at the White House. While Mr. Lincoln was busy,
they walked about the grounds with Elise Clopton.
They were not in a very gay humour, as may well
be supposed, and it was a relief to their minds to
listen to the lady's chatter. She related her expe-
riences from the time she left Sfrady Dale to visit
her family in Maryland, and if her reports were
correct, she % had been through many daring adven-
tures. She was quite a heroine in her own estima-
tion, and there is no doubt that, frivolous and giddy
as she was, she possessed both courage and pres-
ence of mind. Mr. Stanton paid her a high tribute
when he told Mr. Lincoln that she was quite the
most dangerous and daring spy that had operated
around Washington, and he wanted to make an
example of her.

As Mr. Sanders remarked on more than one
occasion, there were good points about the lady if
you didn't have to live on the same lot with her.
Curiously enough, she had conceived a romantic
friendship for Mr. Lincoln.

" Isn't he the dearest man ? " she said to her


companions as they strolled about, enjoying the
warm sunshine. " I think he is just grand. I am
dead in love with him. Oh, he is the most fas-
cinating human being I ever saw. I used to hate
him" clasping her hands and throwing her head
back " and now I love him. How can our news-
papers abuse him as they do ? "

Presently Tad, Mr. Lincoln's little son, came
from the rear of the house with his goats, and was
soon joined by his father, who was assiduous in his
attentions to the lad. Elise wanted to go where
they were.

"Now, Leese, don't let's make geese of our-
selves," said Mr. Sanders. "The man hardly
has time to speak to his family. Let him

" Oh, don't you believe that," said Elise. "Why,
he's the most devoted man to his family I ever
saw. He allows them to impose on him right and
left. It's perfectly grand to see how patient he is.
And look at that child's clothes ; see what a misfit
they are."

"It's the fashion, I reckon," responded Mr.

Elise laughed merrily. " The fashion ! why,
the world never saw such a fashion as that."

"Well, a President and his family don't have
to be in the fashion. When it comes to that,



they're mighty nigh as independent as me, I

The President heard Elise Clopton laugh, and
seeing Bethune and Mr. Sanders with her, joined
the group, Tad following with his horned team.

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Online LibraryJoel Chandler HarrisOn the wing of occasions → online text (page 10 of 16)