Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln sat, pensive, at his desk.  The setting sun cast an orange tint over the handsome trappings of his writing room. It would soon be time to light the lamps.  Out in the hall, aides talked, the murmurings from their exchanges drifting through the door.

Although Lincoln was a gifted writer, he nevertheless found word crafting somewhat oppressive – rewarding, yes, but still burdensome.  Today was no different.

A Senator from Indiana had asked him to speak to a group of Methodist ministers visiting from Washington.  Lincoln looked at his parchment and sighed.  The burdens of the war lay heavily upon his shoulders. As year after year wore on, he could feel those same shoulders sagging beneath the weight of the struggle to save the Union.

His quill pen was poised as he waited for some profound words to occur to him that had not already been said a thousand times before.  Every brother, Union and Confederate, who had died in this needless war, their bodies torn by a violence they never should have known, deserved their own unshakable, eternal eulogy.  Of course, Lincoln was not responsible for the start of this war; he was merely its steward, but the costs to bring this stewardship to fruition were appalling.

A witty man, he was nevertheless subject to dark moods.  He felt depression creep in on him now, stifling as the advance of night, and he fought it back wearily.

Lincoln looked thoughtfully at his blank page as minutes passed.  Then, dipping quill into inkwell, he put his quill to the page and began to write:

“The Union which we fight to preserve is sacred, consecrated in the blood of our fathers and the fires of our homeland.  In its collective breath, we hear the resonance of the Almighty, in His wisdom, granting us, His fortunate children, the strength of will and nobility of tradition to carry forth; to keep bright the enlightenment that gave birth to our nation and that will be its eternal beacon should our quest to save our Union be fulfilled.  That quest, indeed then, must be fulfilled.”

Lincoln paused in his writing.  It was too stilted, too mystic.  Then again, he would be speaking to churchmen who would be looking to him for words about God like cows look to the farmer for grain.  The metaphor amused him; the fleeting thought of placing the metaphor in the speech amused him even more.  He imagined a herd of ministers with big, brown, unblinking eyes.  The depression receded.

He would rewrite and edit the speech many times, of course.  In the meantime, he must press on.

A knock sounded at his door as he dipped his quill in the inkwell again. Lincoln looked up, distracted. “Come in,” he called softly.

The door opened, and two of his favorite orderlies entered, bringing a tray of food and a pitcher.  “Lunch, sir,” said the one called Tim.

“Thank you, gentlemen.  On the table, please, and I’ll get to it when I can.”

The orderlies complied and stood by the table, waiting for further instructions.  Lincoln smiled at them. “I need to work on this for a while.  No visitors for an hour, please – except for Mrs. Lincoln…” – his wife could be difficult for the staff – “…or urgent reports from the field.”

“Of course, sir,” the orderly named James replied.  They both turned and left the room.  The door swung shut softly behind them. The latch clicked.

Lincoln turned back to his desk, dipped his quill in the inkwell again, and folded his lanky frame over his work.

***

As the door shut behind them, James whispered to Tim, “Anything you say, Abe old boy.”  They chuckled.  A sign-holder by the door bore a piece of paper with the handwritten legend: D. Frye.

Tim looked back into the room through the wire reinforcement of the door window.  Inside, a thin, bearded, smock-clad man sat at a desk, writing, his long tangled hair cascading down his rounded back.  “He’s down to his last felt-tip,” Tim remarked.

James, still smiling, shrugged.  “If it runs out, I guess the speech’ll wait another day.”

They turned and pushed their chrome food tray cart down the bright hall, to the next room.  Their footsteps and the rattling metal trays echoed down the corridor.  Bright fluorescent lights reflected harshly off the stark, polished tile.

— Grandpa

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