« AnteriorContinuar »
H. Herndon knocked at the door of John McNamar, at his residence, but a few feet distant from the spot where Ann Rutledge breathed her last. After some preliminaries not necessary to be related, Mr. Herndon says, "I asked him the question:
“Did you know Miss Rutledge? If so, where did she die ? '
"He sat by his open window, looking westerly; and, pulling me closer to himself, looked through the window and said, There, by that,' - choking up with emotion, pointing his long forefinger, nervous and trembling, to the spot, there, by that currant-bush, she died. The old house in which she and her father died is gone.'
"After further conversation, leaving the sadness to momentarily pass away, I asked this additional question :
"Where was she buried?'
"In Concord burying-ground, one mile south-east of this place.""
Mr. Herndon sought the grave. “S. C. Berry,” says he, "James Short (the gentleman who purchased in Mr. Lincoln's compass and chain in 1834, under an execution against Lincoln, or Lincoln & Berry, and gratuitously gave them back to Mr. Lincoln), James Miles, and myself were together.
"I asked Mr. Berry if he knew where Miss Rutledge was buried, the place and exact surroundings. He replied, I do. The grave of Miss Rutledge lies just north of her brother's, David Rutledge, a young lawyer of great promise, who died in 1842, in his twenty-seventh year.'
"The cemetery contains but an acre of ground, in a beautiful and secluded situation. A thin skirt of timber lies on the east, commencing at the fence of the cemetery. The ribbon of timber, some fifty yards wide, hides the sun's early rise. At nine o'clock the sun pours all his rays into the cemetery. An extensive prairie lies west, the forest north, a field on the east, and timber and prairie on the south. In this lonely ground lie the Berrys, the Rutledges, the Clarys, the Arm
strongs, and the Joneses, old and respected citizens,- pioneers of an early day. I write, or rather did write, the original draught of this description in the immediate presence of the ashes of Miss Ann Rutledge, the beautiful and tender dead. The village of the dead is a sad, solemn place. Its very presence imposes truth on the mind of the living writer. Ann Rutledge lies buried north of her brother, and rests sweetly on his left arm, angels to guard her. The cemetery is fast filling with the hazel and the dead."
A lecture delivered by William H. Herndon at Springfield, in 1866, contained the main outline, without the minuter details, of the story here related. It was spoken, printed, and circulated without contradiction from any quarter. It was sent to the Rutledges, McNeeleys, Greenes, Short, and many other of the old residents of New Salem and Petersburg, with particular requests that they should correct any error they might find in it. It was pronounced by them all truthful and accurate; but their replies, together with a mass of additional evidence, have been carefully collated with the lecture, and the result is the present chapter. The story of Ann Rutledge, Lincoln, and McNamar, as told here, is as well proved as the fact of Mr. Lincoln's election to the Presidency.
OLLOWING strictly the chronological order hitherto
observed in the course of this narrative, we should be compelled to break off the story of Mr. Lincoln's love-affairs at New Salem, and enter upon his public career in the Legislature and before the people. But, while by that means we should preserve continuity in one respect, we should lose it in another; and the reader would perhaps prefer to take in at one view all of Mr. Lincoln's courtships, save only that one which resulted in marriage.
Three-quarters of a mile, or nearly so, north of Bowlin Greene's, and on the summit of a hill, stood the house of Bennett Able, a small frame building eighteen by twenty feet. Able and his wife were warm friends of Mr. Lincoln; and many of his rambles through the surrounding country, reading and talking to himself, terminated at their door, where he always found the latch-string on the outside, and a hearty welcome within. In October, 1833, Mr. Lincoln met there Miss Mary Owens, a sister of Mrs. Able, and, as we shall presently learn from his own words, admired her, although not extravagantly. She remained but four weeks, and then went back to her home in Kentucky.
Miss Owens's mother being dead, her father married again ; and Miss Owens, for good reasons of her own, thought she would rather live with her sister than with her stepmother. Accordingly, in the fall of 1836, she re-appeared at Able's, passing through New Salem on the day of the presidential election, where the men standing about the polls stared and
wondered at her "beauty." Twenty eight or nine years of age, “she was,” in the language of Mr. L. M. Greene, “tall and portly; weighed about one hundred and twenty pounds, and had large blue eyes, with the finest trimmings I ever saw. She was jovial, social, loved wit and humor, had a liberal English education, and was considered wealthy. Bill," continues our excellent friend, "I am getting old; have seen too much trouble to give a lifelike picture of this woman. I won't try it. None of the poets or romance-writers has ever given to us a picture of a heroine so beautiful as a good description of Miss Owens in 1836 would be."
Mrs. Hardin Bale, a cousin to Miss Owens, says "she was blue-eyed, dark-haired, handsome, not pretty, was rather large and tall, handsome, truly handsome, matronly looking, over ordinary size in height and weight. was handsome, that is to say, noble-looking, matronly seeming."
Respecting her age and looks, Miss Owens herself makes the following note, Aug. 6, 1866:
"Born in the year eight; fair skin, deep-blue eyes, with dark curling hair; height five feet five inches, weighing about one hundred and fifty pounds."
Johnson G. Greene is Miss Owens's cousin; and, whilst on a visit to her in 1866, he contrived to get her version of the Lincoln courtship at great length. It does not vary in any material part from the account currently received in the neighborhood, and given by various persons, whose oral or written testimony is preserved in Mr. Herndon's collection of manuscripts. Greene (J. G.) described her in terms about the same as those used by Mrs. Bale, adding that "she was a nervous and muscular woman," very "intellectual,” —" the most intellectual woman he ever saw, "with a forehead massive and angular, square, prominent, and broad."
After Miss Owens's return to New Salem, in the fall of 1813, Mr. Lincoln was unremitting in his attentions; and wherever she went he was at her side. She had many relatives in the neighborhood, the Bales, the Greenes, the Grahams: and,
if she went to spend an afternoon or an evening with any of these, Abe was very likely to be on hand to conduct her home. He asked her to marry him; but she prudently evaded a positive answer until she could make up her mind about questionable points of his character. She did not think him coarse or cruel; but she did think him thoughtless, careless, not altogether as polite as he might be,—in short, “deficient," as she expresses it, "in those little links which make up the great chain of woman's happiness." His heart was good, his principles were high, his honor sensitive; but still, in the eyes of this refined young lady, he did not seem to be quite the gentleman. "He was lacking in the smaller attentions;" and, in fact, the whole affair is explained when she tells us that "his education was different from" hers.
One day Miss Owens and Mrs. Bowlin Greene were making their way slowly and tediously up the hill to Able's house, when they were joined by Lincoln. Mrs. Bowlin Greene was carrying "a great big fat child, heavy, and crossly disposed." Although the woman bent pitiably under her burden, Lincoln offered her no assistance, but, dropping behind with Miss Owens, beguiled the way according to his wishes. When they reached the summit, "Miss Owens said to Lincoln laughingly, You would not make a good husband. Abe.' They sat on the fence; and one word brought on another, till a split or breach ensued."
Immediately after this misunderstanding, Lincoln went off toward Havana on a surveying expedition, and was absent about three weeks. On the first day of his return, one of Able's boys was sent up "to town" for the mail. Lincoln saw him at the post-office, and "asked if Miss Owens was at Mr. Able's." The boy said "Yes."—"Tell her," said Lincoln, "that I'll be down to see her in a few minutes." Now, Miss Owens had determined to spend that evening at Minter Graham's; and when the boy gave in the report, "she thought a moment, and said to herself, If I can draw Lincoln up there to Graham's, it will be all right."" This scheme was to operate as a test of Abe's love; but it shared the fate