Booth’s Revenge Chapter Sixty-One

Previously: Booth shoots Lincoln and breaks leg in escape. Baker saves Booth’s life at Garrett’s farm. Anna Surratt pleads for her mother’s life. Johnson grants a reprieve, but it arrives too late. Lamon and Baker join forces to bring down Stanton.Johnson reluctantly joins in.
Boston Corbett stood before a congregation of Methodist Episcopalians in a rural church set among a stand of cottonwood trees outside of Camden, New Jersey. He in fine voice and form, ready to give his testimony of a life lived as a “Glory to God” man.
“Brothers and sisters, I stand before you tonight not as a proud man, but a man who walked the streets of hell before seeing the light and moving into the sweet arms of Jesus.”
Corbett paused because he knew a chorus of “Amen!” and “Preach on, Brother!” was about to shake the rafters. And he was right.
“God had blessed me with a righteous wife, valued more than pearls and rubies, and, in His own wisdom which we do not understand, he took her away from me as she gave birth to our precious daughter who only spent a moment on this Earth before going home to be with Jesus and all the saints and archangels.”
“Poor baby girl!” erupted among the womenfolk worshipers.
“Faced with such sorrow, I believed the false promise of Satan himself that I could find comfort in the demon liquors. My life sank. My soul shrank. And I drank and drank. All for naught. All in obedience to the devil himself.”
“No, no, no.” This was more of a mere whisper wafting through the pews.
“But God did not allow it!” Corbett bellowed. The crowd cowered in apprehension. “God grabbed me by my collar and said, “Boy, you will not waste this life I gave you! You will not dismay your wife and child who are by My side at this very moment! You will repent and spread the Gospel throughout this land. Yes, this land is on the verge of war, but you must let the people know that I will prevail!”
The folks sprang from their seats, shouting hallelujah and clapping. Their usual pastor, a man of small stature and graying hair, motioned for them to sit and be quiet.
“And from that moment on, I became a soldier in the army of the Lord. Preaching on every street corner, singing in every choir and glorifying God in every church. When my country sent me to war to end the evil that was slavery, I continued to fight for Jehovah too. Even when I was captured at Culpepper Court House in Virginia and was sent to that horrible plot of land called Andersonville Prison in Georgia, I continued to shout, I continued to pray, I continued to praise until the devil’s legions themselves could not take it any longer, and they traded me back north to home.”
Another round of hallelujahs and amens interrupted his preaching.
“After I returned the Army of Righteousness, I continued my crusade for my Heavenly Father. Then came that moment which has brought me to the attention of all you God-fearing American saints. That evil practitioner of the devil’s art of theater killed our Father Abraham.”
Corbett was thrown off his timing as he heard a man turn to the fellow next to him and say, “I don’t know if I don’t enjoy going to a good show, every now and again.”
“We trapped him at that barn in Virginia. I was ordered not to shoot and kill him but I obeyed a Higher Authority. I did shoot! And I killed him!”
More amens and hallelujahs.
Staring at the congregation for a long moment, Corbett lowered his voice and continued, “But evil did not die that night. Evil never dies! Evil will lurk in our hearts forever! Be ever vigilant against evil!”
The general mood of the people was to jump up and applaud, but the hand of the good, gray-haired pastor kept them in their seats.
“For, you see, God came to me that night. He told me John Wilkes Booth must not die at that time. He came to me in the form of a powerfully built short man with red hair and divine inspiration in his eyes.”
A murmur rose among the people. Women fluttered their fans wildly in the August heat, and the men shifted uneasily in the pews.
“He offered a substitute sacrifice for the nation, the corpse of a young man who looked like Booth but who was not Booth. Perhaps he was Jesus Christ come down to atone for our sins once again—“
Almost in unison, a moan rolled through the room as each man, woman and child stood and without further hesitation left the church, hurriedly returning to their homes.
Corbett had seen this before. For some reason, the sheep of this Earth were not ready for the kindly shepherd to herd them on the path of righteousness. He would not be discouraged though.
“Brother Corbett,” the elderly minister said to him in uncertain tones, “I don’t understand the meaning of your parable there at the end, and neither, evidently, did my parishioners. The saddest aspect of this, it seems, is that we had not taken the offering yet so I have nothing to pay you for your—for the most part—excellent testimony.”
Corbett smiled and patted him on the back. “Don’t worry, brother, the Lord will pay me much more richly than you ever could.”
As he had learned in previous encounters with retreating admirers, it was best that he leave town that night and find lodgings a few miles down the road. The cool night air felt good against his warm face as he rode his handsome little horse, the very mount that took him to the Virginia farm three years ago. A small inn appeared on the road side as he expected. Rapping at the door and rousing the keeper from his sleep, Corbett asked for lodging for the night, and the owner yawned, scratched his head and showed him to a small room in the back. The next morning at breakfast, he read the Camden newspaper.
On the front page was a story from Washington City. President Andrew Johnson fired Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, calling him a “fountain of mischief.” The president requested Stanton’s resignation and, when the letter was not forthcoming, dismissed him a week later. The story quoted Johnson as saying he conformed to the letter of the law as laid out in the new Tenure of Office Act. The newspaper also reported that the president had selected Gen. Ulysses S. Grant as Stanton’s replacement. The article ended with the statement that Stanton relented, leaving his job under protest.
As he sipped his coffee, Corbett looked out the inn’s dining room window to see dogs seek shade beneath a stand of oak trees. Something was awry, he told himself. God was on the verge of calling him again to save the soul of the United States of America. In his saddlebag, he had several letters from churches in faraway Kansas, beseeching him to share his testimony. Corbett shook his head. He must delay his trip out west because the Lord would be calling him to Washington City soon.

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