图书图片
PDF
ePub

'you oughtn't to lock this man up. It was a fair fight, and he's the best man in the State in a fair fight. And, what's more, he's never been licked in a fair fight in his life.' 'And if your honor does lock me up,' the prisoner put in, “I'll give your honor a thunderin' big lickin' when I get out.' The Judge took off his coat. "Gentlemen,' said he, “it's a powerful queer argument, but the Court will admit it on its merits. The prisoner will please to step out on the grass.'”

Virginia contrived to smile. She was striving against something she knew not what. She had come into this man's presence despising herself for having to ask him a favor. Now she could not look into his face without an odd sensation. What was in it? Sorrow? What had this man done ?-told her a few funny stories and given quizzical answers to some of her questions. She had never conceived of such a man.

“And now," resumed Lincoln, “to continue for the defence, I believe that Colonel Colfax first distinguished himself at Camp Jackson, when of all the prisoners he alone refused to accept a parole.”

Startled, she looked up at him swiftly and then down again. “Yes, yes; but, oh, Mr. Lincoln, please don't hold that against

him.

"My dear young lady, I honor him for it. I was merely elaborating the argument which you had begun. On the other hand, it is a pity that he should have taken off that uniform, which he adorned, and attempted to enter General Sherman's lines as a civilian—as a spy." “A spy! it takes more courage to be a spy than anything else

Then he will be shot. You are not content in the North with what you have gained. You are not content with depriving us of our rights, and our fortunes, with forcing us back to an allegiance we despise. You are not content with humiliating our generals and putting innocent men in prisons. But now I suppose you will shoot us all. And all this mercy that I have heard about means nothing--nothing

in war.

“Miss Carvel, I'm afraid from what I have heard just now, that it means nothing." - Oh, the sadness of that voice—the ineffable sadness—the sadness and the woe of a great nation! And the sorrow in those eyes, the sorrow of a heavy cross borne meekly-how heavy none will ever know. The pain of a crown of thorns worn for a world that did not understand. No wonder Virginia faltered and was silent. She looked at Abraham Lincoln, standing there, bent and sorrowful, and it was as if a light had fallen upon him. But strangest of all in that strange moment was that she felt his strength. Slowly she walked to the window and looked out across the broad Potomac. Presently she felt him near. She turned and looked at his face that was all compassion. And now she was unashamed.

"Sit down, Virginia."
She obeyed him like a child. He remained standing.
“Tell me about your cousin—are you going to marry him ?”

She hung an instant on her answer. Would that save Clarence? But in that moment she could not have spoken anything but the truth to save her soul.

“No, Mr. Lincoln; I was—but I did not love him. I-I think that was one reason why he was so reckless.”

The President smiled. “The officer who happened to see Colonel Colfax captured is now in Washington. Perhaps he is in the anteroom now. I should like to tell you, first of all, that this officer defended your cousin and asked me to pardon him.”

“He defended him! He asked you to pardon him! Who is he ?"

The President smiled and strode to the bell-cord. The door opened, and a young officer, spare, erect, came quickly into the room and bowed respectfully to the President.

“Major Brice, when you asked me to pardon Colonel Colfax, I believe that you told me he was inside his own skirmish lines when he was captured."

“Yes, sir, he was."

[ocr errors]

Suddenly Stephen turned and his eyes met Virginia's. He forgot time and place. He took a step toward her and stopped. The President was speaking again.

“He put in a plea, a lawyer's plea, Miss Virginia. He asked me to let your cousin off on a technicality. What do you think of that?"

“Oh!” exclaimed Virginia. Her crimson deepened. Slowly her eyes turned from Stephen toward the President. And now her wonder was that an ugly man could be so beautiful.

"I wish it understood, Mr. Lawyer," the President continued, "that I am not letting off Colonel Colfax on a technicality. I am sparing his life,” he said slowly, “because the time for which we have been waiting and longing for four years is now at handthe time to be merciful. Let us all thank God for it.”

Virginia crossed the room, her head lifted, her heart lifted, to where this man of sorrows stood smiling down at her. Falteringly she said:

“Mr. Lincoln, I did not know you when I came here. Oh, how I wish that every man and woman and child in the South might come here and see you as I have seen you to-day.”

Abraham Lincoln laid his hands upon the girl, saying:

“Virginia, I have not suffered by the South, I have suffered with the South. Your sorrow has been my sorrow, and your pain has been my pain. What you have lost, I have lost; and what you have gained, I have gained.”

He led her to the window. A patch of blue sky shone above the Potomac. He pointed across the river. “You loved that flag, Virginia. You love it still. May you always love it-Washington's flag.”

Then the President drew out his watch. “Bless me! I am ten minutes behind my appointment at the Department. Miss Virginia, you may care to thank the Major for the little service he has done you. You can do so undisturbed here. Make yourselves at home.”

As he opened the door he paused and looked back at them. The smile passed from his face, and an ineffable expression of longing came upon it.

Then he was gone. For a space they did not stir. Virginia first found her voice. “Oh, Stephen, how sad he looked.”

Overcome by the incense of her presence, he drew her to him. “You love me, Virginia ?”

“Yes, Stephen," and she hid her face against his blue coat. Then she drew away from him gently and turned toward the window.

"See, Stephen, the sun has come out at last.”

[blocks in formation]

IMMORTAL LINCOLN.

MELANCTHON W. STRYKER.

[From oration delivered at New York Republican Club, February, 1897.)

PRUNG from the loins of the people, to be their leader and

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

always mean more to be an American and a man! God was the tutor of this great commoner, and, as Lincoln so often said: “God knows what is best.”

He inherited his father's frame, and his mother's heart as his sole fortune. They were enough. His education was "picked up under the pressure of necessity.” Of school-attendance, one year was all he had. But always a learner, he came in practical wisdom to be a scholar, and to the last day of his life he grew in mental and in moral stature. His books were chiefly “Pilgrim's Progress," Burns, Shakespeare, Weems's “Life of Washington," and the Bible. But these he knew. Farm-hand, flatboatman, store-clerk, land-surveyor, militiaman, lawyer—then all at once the heart and will of a party, nay of a people; then the objectlesson of the world, then the lament of a generation; then immortal!

What a time was that for which he came to his more than kingdom! The Missouri Compromise had been repealed, the Dred Scott decision had seemed to make the ship of state a slave-ship! The Chicago Convention of 1860 did not at all real· ize what it had done in placing its banner in Lincoln's hand.

Neither he nor the wisest could then have comprehended his mission or its grandeur. But he went on his way "with firmness to do the right as God gave him to see the right.”

With what broad sagacity Lincoln composed his first cabinet, and with what surprise they discovered the calm self-reliance and determination of their master! From the outset his remarkable estimating of men, his keen perception of aptitude, his dignified

« 上一页继续 »