Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Sixty-Four

Previously in the novel: War Secretary Stanton holds the Lincolns and janitor Gabby Zook captive under guard in the White House basement.Private Adam Christy takes guard duties. Mrs. Surratt confronts Gabby’s sister Cordie at the boardinghouse about spying for the South. Cordie’s attempts to pry information from Adam.
Adam’s heart raced as he watched Cordie’s iron trolley disappear into the night. He jumped when he felt fingers tapping his shoulder.
“What are ye lookin’ for, me pretty soldier boy? Jessie asked.
“I was looking for you, Miss Home.” Adam turned and grinned.
“Ye was lookin’ down the wrong lane, me darlin’.” Jessie squinted and rubbed her gloved fingers along his unshorn cheek. “And what kind of military mission are ye on, Adam Christy, that ye can go days without shavin’ that wonderful face?”
“They don’t seem to care much.”
“And ye don’t seem to care much, either.”
Looking away, Adam could not find an answer to her observation.
“I wonder where Miss Cordie is,” Jessie said. “She’s late for the parade.”
“She’s already been here.” Adam held up the folded trousers. “She gave me these pants for her brother. When she said how tired she was, I told her to go home to rest. I told her you would understand.”
“Hmm.” Jessie narrowed her eyes. “How lucky for ye, me laddie. Now we don’t have a chaperone, do we?”
“Pretty soon,” Adam said, smiling nervously, “we’ll have ten thousand chaperones, all around us.”
“Oh. Well.” Jessie laughed. “As long as you put it like that.” She pointed to the trousers. “Shouldn’t ye take those pants inside to Mr. Gabby?”
“Oh.” Adam glanced toward the Executive Mansion. “I think I hear the parade coming. I wouldn’t have time. Mr. Gabby always wants to talk. It’d take too long.” He shuffled his feet and ran his fingers through his red hair. “Gosh darn it, I don’t want to lose any time with you.”
“A cursin’ man, are ye?” She laughed. “Well, we wouldn’t want to provoke another such outburst.”
Before Adam could reply, the crowd arrived. Many carried torches; others had drums, and a few banged pots and kettles with wooden spoons. He looked up to a second-story window and pointed. “The president stands in that window—see, the one that’s lit with candles.”
As the crowds jostled them, the curtains opened, revealing Duff.
“See there,” Jessie said, pointing. “Look, the light is on his Adam’s apple.”
Adam looked up to see the candle move from the neck to Duff’s face.
“Isn’t it glorious, Miss Home?” a voice behind them asked.
Adam turned to see a middle-aged man wearing a wide-brimmed hat.
“A monumental movement of humanity, joined together by joy and patriotism.”
“Yes, Mr. Whitman,” Jessie said. “’Tis good to see people happy. Too much sadness surrounds us today.”
“Well, aren’t you a handsome, strapping soldier?” He appraised Adam and then turned to Jessie. “Are you two courting? I hope so. Your progeny would be beautiful, red-haired demigods, worthy of loud huzzahs.”
“No, we’re just good friends.” Jessie’s eyes fluttered.
“Where are you going now?” he asked. “I’m going to follow the crowd, wherever it may go. Perhaps I’ll find myself drinking and singing with a group of soldiers as dashing as your friend.”
“We’re going to supper,” Adam impulsively said.
“Very well. Enjoy.” He disappeared in the crowd which was fading into the darkness.
“Who was that?”
“A poet and a nurse. One of the noblest creatures I’ve ever seen. He’s the first one there in the mornin’, checkin’ for the dead, to remove them to make room for the newly wounded. I’ve seen him obey young men about to die, tellin’ him to pin their socks together and crossin’ their arms across their thin chests, all the while tears rollin’ down his cheeks.”
“And he’s very smart,” Adam added as he and Jessie turned to walk down the street. “He said we should be courting. Maybe while we eat we could talk about that some more.”
“Ye think so, do ye?” Jessie laughed. Rubbing his cheek, she added, “If I’m to be your girlfriend, ye have to look your best. Ye want to look your best for me, don’t ye?”
The world cannot be all bad if red-haired angels are here, Adam decided; he smiled and nodded.

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