Tag Archives: Civil War

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Sixty-Six

Previously: 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. Lincoln impostor Duff must deliver the Gettysburg Address.
Cordie awoke early, went downstairs to the kitchen to have a cup of coffee and a muffin with Mrs. Edmonds. After that she solicited sewing jobs from other boarders, and asked if anyone wanted a nice, sturdy, plain quilt, cheap. Several young men gave her socks, and Cordie slowly climbed the steps. She had to finish her mending by noon, so she could volunteer at Armory Square Hospital. Every morning was similar: busy, hectic, and tense. She never knew when Mrs. Surratt would appear and demand information from the Executive Mansion. Her chest was beginning to hurt, but she decided it was just a bellyache and chose to ignore it. Settling in her chair by the window, she jumped when she heard a forceful knock at the door. Only Mrs. Surratt knocked that hard.
“Miss Cordie? Are you there?”
“Yes, Mrs. Surratt,” she replied. “Come in.”
The landlady entered, her hands cupped together, a smile cemented to her face and her eyes hardened with determination.
“Isn’t it a beautiful November morning, Miss Cordie?”
“Yes, ma’am, very nice.” She kept her eyes on her darning.
“May I sit on your bed?”
“Of course, ma’am.”
“Thank you.” Mrs. Surratt sat primly on the edge of the mattress, her back stiff. “Have you heard from your brother lately, dear?”
“Yes. He’s doing quite well, thank you.”
“And the young man, the private. How is he?”
“Very well, too, ma’am.” Before she knew it, she was blathering. “He has a new spring to his step. Keeping himself groomed, clothes washed.”
“It’s very rude not to look at people when they talk to you, dear.”
“Yes, ma’am. I’m sorry, ma’am.” Cordie looked up, her eyes beginning to well with tears.
“You mustn’t sound so contrite,” Mrs. Surratt said. “After all, we are comrades in the good fight.” She looked into Cordie’s eyes. “And there’s no need to cry. You start to cry every time I visit you.”
“I—I don’t have anything to say,” Cordie whispered. “I don’t want to be put out in the street.”
“That young man is still being uncooperative? After all these months?”
“Yes, ma’am.” She fought the urge to return her eyes to her darning.
“That’s a Yankee for you. Never thinking of others.”
“He’s very considerate. He’s nice to me. And to his lady friend, Miss Home. But then we’re nice to him. I mean, I don’t mean you’re not nice, ma’am.”
“I swear, if you call me ma’am one more time…” she said lightly, then paused to laugh. “I shouldn’t say such things. You take them so seriously. So what are we going to do about this situation?”
“I don’t know, Mrs. Surratt,” Cordie replied. “He doesn’t seem like he’s going to change. Maybe he doesn’t know anything to tell.”
“Hmm.” Mrs. Surratt opened her hands, revealing several gold coins. “I think I have another way the Confederacy can help you.”
Looking over, Cordie saw the coins, and her eyes widened.
“What do I have to do for that?” she asked, thinking she could never do anything wicked enough to earn that much money.
“Oh, dear me.” Mrs. Surratt laughed. “This isn’t for you. Your reward is staying here. These coins are for our gallant men in Virginia.”
“I—I don’t understand.”
“Downstairs I have two dresses, and you will sew the coins into the hems,” she explained. “Tightly, so no one can hear them as the ladies move around.”
“I’m busy with my darning.”
Mrs. Surratt took the torn socks.
“What do we have here? Oh. These can wait,” she said, tossing them to the floor.
“But the boy needs them…”
“I don’t care what the boy needs.” She stood and put the coins in Cordie’s lap. “I’ll bring the dresses right up.”
“This doesn’t sound right.”
“Some terribly sweet lady friends of mine wish to wear these skirts when they take a leisurely carriage ride through the Virginia countryside tomorrow morning. What is wrong with that?”
Cordie sighed deeply, causing Mrs. Surratt to put her hands on her hips.
“Now what?”
“It’s just that…” Cordie searched for the right words. “I feel guilty.”
“You feel guilty?” Mrs. Surratt took a deep breath. “It’s the damnyankees who should feel guilty!”
“I wish you wouldn’t use that word,” Cordie said softly, looking down. “I’m a Yankee.”
“Haven’t I told you how they’ve burned whole towns?”
“Yes, ma’am.”
“Taken livestock, food, left our people to starve?”
“Yes, you’ve told me.”
“Do you think I’m lying?” Mrs. Surratt’s eyes narrowed. “Am I not a woman of honor? Am I not letting you stay in my boardinghouse?”
“You said I can stay in your boardinghouse only if I sew the coins in the dresses.”
“I didn’t put it that crudely,” Mrs. Surratt said with a sniff, “but it’s a reason for you not to feel guilty then, isn’t it?”

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Sixty-Five

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. Adam and girlfriend Jessie enjoy the parade celebrating the Gettysburg victory.
Duff’s mouth went dry when Stanton informed him he had to deliver an address at the dedication of the cemetery at Gettysburg. Four months after the battle, the war dead were being memorialized. Duff Read, private citizen, had never spoken in public; as Abraham Lincoln, he must speak as a seasoned orator.
“Do I have to do this?”
“Yes,” Stanton replied. “Don’t blame me. I don’t want you talking in front of reporters.”
“Then why do I have to go?”
“Because David Wells of the Gettysburg Cemetery Association asked. Ward Lamon suggested it and managed to have himself named procession grand marshal.”
“What will I say?”
“Lincoln will write the speech.”
The day arrived, and Duff was on the train to Gettysburg along with Hay, Nicolay, Lamon, and Cabinet members Seward, Blair, and Usher. The new treasurer, Francis E. Spinner, refused to attend, saying, “Let the dead bury the dead.” Stanton also declined to go. Reading the speech as he sat in the rail car, Duff noticed it was short. He smiled in relief. When the train arrived at Gettysburg station, Seward spoke to the crowd. The next morning Lamon lead the procession to the new cemetery, exuberantly waving to the people on the roadside. Duff shifted uneasily in his chair, as he listened to Edward Everett’s two-hour oration. When time came for Duff to speak, he stood on wobbly legs and tried to find his voice as he stared out on the assembly. A photographer set up his camera.
The words were good, sturdy, Anglo-Saxon words with depth and meaning, yet when he tried to give them voice, Duff choked. Taking a sip of water, he began Lincoln’s speech, though softly and without much projection. When he finished, half the crowd did not know he had begun. A photographer’s flash caught him just as he returned to his seat.
Afterwards, most of the reporters seemed interested in getting a copy of Edward Everett’s speech; however, a few did request Lincoln’s address, which Duff obliged by handing out copies Stanton had provided. Stanton insisted he tell them the original had been composed on the back of an envelope. If this were true, Duff did not know; but Stanton swore the shred of information was the stuff that history was of.
On the train back the next morning, Duff sat alone watching Seward, Blair, and Usher dictating letters to their secretaries. His secretaries were laughing at Lamon, who was singing and dancing.
“All the grand ladies who live in big cities…”
Hay laughed out loud at the rhyming end of the next line, while Nicolay smiled and shook his head.
“Mr. Lincoln did well on his speech, didn’t he, John?” Lamon asked, huffing after his dance.
Ja,” Nicolay said. “The president did quite well.”
With that reply, Lamon laughed and danced a few more irregular steps before concentrating on Hay.
“Johnny, how would you compare today’s speech to those Mr. Lincoln made on the campaign stump back in Illinois?”
“I haven’t noticed.” Hay looked up, wide-eyed.
Again Lamon laughed and jigged his way to sit next to Duff. Lamon slapped him on the knee.
“Well, Mr. Lincoln,” Lamon exclaimed, “you did yourself proud, sir.”
“I don’t know,” Duff replied in a mumble. “No one seemed much impressed.”
“They will.” Lamon leaned into him to whisper, “Modesty is a good touch. My friend would have been reticent, too.”
Duff’s eyes roamed out the train window to see crowds gathered by the tracks.
“You should let the people see you,” Lamon said so all the others in the car could hear. “Wave to them. They love you.”
Standing, Duff leaned out the window to gesture with his right hand, while resting his left hand on the sill. Soon he was aware Lamon’s hand was on top his.
“Say nothing,” Lamon advised under his breath, “and continue to wave. I’ll ask you questions, and you’ll respond by making a fist under my palm for yes. If the answer is no, flatten it.”
Duff quaked inside: one of his terrible secrets was that he was innately a coward.
“Is this plan really the idea of Mr. Stanton?”
He could not make his hand move. Lamon lifted his weight from it, making it easy for Duff to make a fist if he wanted to.
“Is Mr. Stanton acting on the orders of Mr. Lincoln?”
His fingers quickly went to a fist. If Duff were going to lie, he had to do it without hesitation.
“So Mr. Lincoln is not being held against his will?”
Duff’s hand went flat, and he hated himself for lying the second time.
“Are you afraid?”
His hand stayed flat, but it shook. Lamon patted it.
“Wave to the people, Mr. President.”

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.

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Sixty-Three

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.
Walking down the Executive Mansion steps to Pennsylvania Avenue, Adam inhaled and exhaled deeply, thinking of Jessie. In the beginning, just the mention of her name had been enough to make his heart race and his spirits lift. Now he had to rely on a few gulps of whiskey. Pulling a flask from the pocket of his blue jacket, he popped the cap and lifted it to his mouth. The clanging of an omnibus caused him to jump and quickly cap the flask and return it to his pocket. Perhaps Jessie was on the bus, and he did not want her to see him drinking. She did not like it. He brushed aside his unruly red hair and smoothed out the wrinkles in his uniform. Standing on one foot, then the other, Adam eagerly waited for the omnibus doors to open. His heart sank when he saw Cordie appear. He wanted an evening alone with Jessie, but he forced a smile as Cordie walked toward him.
“I mended these pants for Gabby.”
Her hands were trembling, Adam noticed. Perhaps she was tired. His spirits rose when he decided to suggest that she go back home to rest. He wanted time alone with Jessie.
“Of course, I’ll give them to Mr. Gabby. You look very tired.”
“I’m fine. Jessie wanted me here tonight.”
“And how are you? Did you have a hard day?”
“It wasn’t bad.” Adam glanced down the avenue, hoping Jessie would appear.
“How’s Gabby?”
“Very good. He’s always eager to get his food.”
“That’s good. At least he’s eating well.” Her eyes went down. “I hope the war’s over soon, then Gabby and I can be together.”
“Yeah, I hope it’s over soon,” he said, distracted. He looked at Cordie. “Do you know why she’s so late?”
“Don’t ask me.” Cordie laughed. “I don’t know anything. You’re the one in the White House. You must know more than me.”
“Hmm.” His attention was down the dark avenue.
“I bet you even know what happened at Gettysburg today.”
“I bet you know how many soldiers got killed; where the army’s going next.”
“Troop movement?” Adam shook off his distraction to focus on her. “Casualty numbers? Why would you want to know that?”
“I don’t want to know.” Her eyes fluttered. “I was just saying you must know.”
“You’ve never asked questions like this before.”
“I was just making conversation.”
Her hands trembled more, making Adam think something was wrong.
“People don’t make casual conversation about troop movements,” Adam said.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I didn’t even say that. I only asked about your day.”
“No. You asked where the Union army was going next.”
“I didn’t ask anything. I never asked a question.” Cordie’s voice rose to a high pitch. “I said I bet you knew where the Union soldiers were going next. That’s all.”
“Don’t try to play games with me. I like you, Miss Zook, but I think you’re up to something bad.” Adam heard his voice, but did not recognize it, which frightened him. “Who put you up to this? I know you. You wouldn’t do anything like this on your own.”
“No one put me up to it!”
“Was it a Confederate spy?”
“She’s not a spy.”
“She? Who’s she?”
“Nobody! I—I didn’t say anything about a woman.” Her voice began to crack.
“Don’t lie to me.” Adam stared into Cordie’s watery eyes until she looked down at the hard dirt street. “Who is she?” He took her chin and lifted her face.
“My landlady.” She averted her eyes again. “She forced me to tell her about Gabby. And she wanted more information.”
“Did she give you money?”
“Enough for the omnibus,” she whispered.
“More to come later?”
“Only if I could find things out.”
“Are you that bad off?” Adam softened the tone of his voice. “If you needed money, I could have gotten some for you.”
“She was going to raise my rent.” Cordie took a handkerchief from her pocket to daub her cheeks. “She was going to put me out on the street.”
“You didn’t want to tell her anything?”
“No. But she scared me, just like you’re scaring me now.”
“I’m sorry.”
“Could you make something up for me to tell her, so she won’t raise my rent?”
“I don’t know enough to make up a good lie.” Adam ran his hand through his coarse red hair. “Tell her I’m a mean cuss who won’t tell you anything. Tell her it might take months to soften me up. By then, maybe the war will be over.”
“Thank you.” Her eyes focused on the trousers stuck under his arm. “Make sure Gabby gets his pants.” She sighed. “I’m tired, but I don’t want to disappoint Jessie.”
“You don’t have to stay,” Adam said hoarsely.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes,” he whispered. “Here’s omnibus fare.” He held coins out to her.
Cordie looked as though she were about to decline his offer, but instead smiled and took the money.
“Thank you. Tell Jessie I’ll see her tomorrow.” She walked toward an approaching omnibus.

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Sixty-Two

Previously in the novel: War Secretary Stanton holds the Lincolns and janitor Gabby Zook captive under guard in the White House basement. Stanton selects Duff, an AWOL convict,to impersonate Lincoln. Mrs. Surratt confronts Gabby’s sister Cordie at the boardinghouse.
“I’m sorry I’ve been harsh with you.” Mrs. Surratt looked fondly at Cordie.
“Then you’re not going to charge me for having Gabby’s clothes here?”
“Of course not.” She paused. “While your loyalty to your father and his Union sympathies is worthy, you must admit Mr. Lincoln does nothing to ease your financial woes.”
“Gabby and I take care of ourselves.”
“You know, the awful northern press paints a terribly unfair picture of the South and its sympathizers. We don’t want to see any citizen suffer. A lady like you shouldn’t have to worry about where the rent money is coming from each month.”
“Between selling quilts and mending socks I can pay our bills.” Cordie was becoming irritated by Mrs. Surratt’s comments on money. It was not her business.
“But you must have enough for emergencies.”
“What emergencies?” Cordie tried to sound pleasant.
“Why,” Mrs. Surratt said, with a twinkle in her eyes, “when a daft old woman like me demands more money than she should.”
“Oh.” That did not make sense to Cordie, but she did not want to be rude and tell Mrs. Surratt that.
“I shouldn’t tell you this, but I do so want to help you—in the spirit of the Confederacy, of course.” Mrs. Surratt put her arm around Cordie’s rounded shoulders. “My son John has very close contacts with the Confederate government, and therefore access to the Confederate treasury. I think I could intercede on your behalf to my son for money.”
“I don’t want charity.” Cordie was becoming angry.
“Bless you, my dear. Of course you don’t want charity. That’s what’s so wonderful about the Confederacy. It’s willing to examine your situation to find out what you have that it could buy.”
“What on earth would they want to buy from me?” Cordie narrowed her eyes.
“I don’t know anything.” Cordie felt extremely uncomfortable with Mrs. Surratt’s arm around her shoulders.
“You’re so modest. How sweet. Your brother works at the White House. He sees things. He hears things. The Confederacy pays to learn those things.”
“We won’t be spies.” Cordie stood; she had had enough.
“You’re so innocent.” Mrs. Surratt laughed. “It’s quite appealing. They’re playing word games with you. If they send people to Richmond, they call it surveillance, but when we southerners seek the truth, they call us spies.”
“It’s still spying.” Cordie turned her back to her. “I don’t even talk to Gabby.”
“Then how does he get his mending?”
“A White House soldier takes it,” she said grudgingly.
“Is he young?”
“He’s a private.”
“Appeal to his maternal needs. He can tell you—”
“I’m not his mother.” Cordie turned to look at her with steely eyes. “I’m not good at being devious.”
“You disappoint me.” Mrs. Surratt stiffened and stood. “On second thought, maybe I should charge you for your brother. After all, we’re saving space for him here, aren’t we? Space I could be renting to someone else.”
“Charge more?” Cordie held her breath. Gabby was not bringing in his salary, so there was not enough to pay more rent.
“And you’re selling these quilts. I didn’t know that. You’re making quite a living under my roof. I should charge more for that.”
“I can’t pay more,” she whispered.
“Then you’ll have to find another place to live, won’t you?”
Washington boardinghouses were filled; no rooms were available. Everybody knew that. What would she do? Cordie worried, as tears filled her eyes.
“Of course, if you were a friend of the Confederacy and asked your young soldier a few questions about the White House, perhaps I could reconsider.”
“Very well.” Cordie wiped her tear-stained cheeks. “I’ll try.”
“Bless you, my dear.” Mrs. Surratt kissed Cordie’s forehead. “You’ll save many, many lives.” Walking to the door, she turned to smile. “When will you see that dear young private?”
“Tonight. We’re going to watch the parade. I’ll give him Gabby’s trousers.”
“Good. Like I said, ask him a few questions.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Cordie hung her head as blankness covered her face.
“Thank you, my dear.” Mrs. Surratt reached for her change purse. “You look exhausted. Here’s money for the omnibus.” She dropped a few coins in Cordie’s hand. “There’s more where that came from, if you do your job well.”
As the door shut quietly, Cordie looked at the coins and sighed. Mrs. Surratt gave her only enough for the ride to the Executive Mansion and not back. Gathering her things together, Cordie left and, with apprehension, climbed on board the omnibus.

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Sixty-One

Previously in the novel: War Secretary Stanton holds the Lincolns captive under guard in the White House basement. Stanton selects Duff, an AWOL convict,to impersonate Lincoln. Duff learns how to conduct cabinet meetings. Stanton brings news of Gettysburg to the basement. Janitor Gabby’s uncle Sammy was killed.

Her large, watery blue eyes followed the flight of stairs, so far up, so steep, so forbidding. A deep sigh made its way through Cordie’s pale, wrinkled lips. Too many dying boys, too much moaning, she fretted, as she took her first step to ascend the boardinghouse stairs. The day was not over yet, because Cordie had agreed to join Jessie and Adam at the candlelight parade.
Finally reaching the top floor, Cordie breathed deeply before opening her bedroom door. And those trousers, she thought to herself, they had to be mended. Adam brought her a pair from Gabby, and they had to be fixed so he would have something proper to wear. In the room, the bed beckoned to her, but Cordie resisted; her duty to Gabby came first, so she sat, turned on her kerosene lamp, and proceeded to stitch the crotch of her brother’s worn blue pants.
Downstairs the front door opened, and Cordie heard Mrs. Surratt’s strident voice pierce the silence. After a few harsh words with Mrs. Edwards, the landlady stomped up the stairs. Cordie steeled herself as the steps neared her door.
“I’m here for the rent. It’s past due.” Mrs. Surratt swung open the door after sharply knocking once. She stopped and glared at the trousers on Cordie’s lap. “Those pants. Who do they belong to?”
“Gabby? Who’s Gabby?”
“My brother. He lives with me.”
“He lives here?” Mrs. Surratt went to the armoire to open it to see a rack of men’s rough shirts, a jacket, and another pair of slacks. “You mean he’s been living here all this time, and you haven’t paid his rent?”
“He hasn’t been sleeping here for almost a year.”
“Well, does he live here or not?”
“I guess not. But I always think of him and me living together. We help each other get by.”
“Then where is he living?”
“I—I don’t think I’m allowed to say.” Her eyes fluttered.
“When it comes to cheating me out of rent money you have to tell.”
“As long as it doesn’t go any further…”
“Get on with it.”
“The White House,” she whispered. “He—he’s the janitor.”
“Those Republicans make him work day and night?”
“Yes.” Cordie’s eyes went down.
“Those Republicans make everyone’s life miserable.” Mrs. Surratt’s face softened as she sat on the edge of the bed by Cordie’s chair. “Where are you from, dear?”
“New York City.”
“Ah, the gallant Irish. You know, they’re rioting this very moment against the infamous draft.” She smiled. “Were your parents from Ireland?”
“No,” Cordie replied. “They were born here. My parents never talked about where their folks were from.” She looked at Mrs. Surratt with curiosity. “Is Zook an Irish name?”
“I really don’t know what kind of name Zook is. It could be Irish.”
“Why do you care if I was Irish or not?” Cordie did not know why Mrs. Surratt’s questions irritated her. Perhaps it was because climbing all those stairs wore her out.
“Oh, I don’t care, really. It’s just I like the Irish, that’s all.”
“Why?” Cordie told herself not be so impatient with the woman. After all, she was making an attempt to be friendly.
“I suppose it’s their religion,” Mrs. Surratt replied in a flat tone.
“We weren’t much of anything particular.”
“Oh. We in Maryland follow the true faith, Roman Catholic. As do the Irish. The Irish in New York don’t want to be forced to fight against the South. The Pope sees this as a holy war against the Roman Catholic Church. The Northerners have no respect for the Pope.”
“Papa was a lawyer. He defended all kinds of poor people, Irish Catholics, German Jews, Gypsies. He even defended a man who didn’t believe in God at all.”
“But your father did believe in God?”
“You’re confusing me. What side are you on?”
“We’re for the Union. Papa said slavery was wrong.”
“My uncle, Samuel Zook, is a Union general.”
“You know, my dear, this war isn’t about slavery, but states’ rights.”
“Papa said states don’t have rights; people have rights.”
“As I was saying, this war’s about freedom, about the right to worship as you please.”
“Catholics get to go to church like anybody else,” Cordie firmly said.
“It’s obvious you’ve led a sheltered life. Religious intolerance surrounds us. You’ve only to open your eyes to see it.” She looked away, noticing the half-finished Gabby quilt on the bed. “What’s this?”
“A Gabby quilt. I used to make pretty ones, wedding ring, starbursts…”
“I loved to make starburst quilts. They sold well at the inn.”
“Good quilts sell for good money. These old things don’t go for much. The boys living here buy them. They don’t know better.”
“When my husband died, I didn’t have time to make quilts anymore.”
“Old age caught up with me. Then I started making these out of any old material I had around. These swatches are the last of Mama’s dresses. Then you sew old socks into the squares and sew the squares together in no particular pattern. I call them Gabby quilts because Gabby likes them.”

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Sixty

Previously in the novel: War Secretary Stanton holds the Lincolns captive under guard in the White House basement. Stanton selects Duff, an AWOL convict,to impersonate Lincoln. Duff learns how to conduct cabinet meetings. Stanton brings news of Gettysburg to the basement.

After announcing Gabby’s uncle General Samuel Zook was killed at Gettysburg, Stanton quickly left, locking the door behind him.
A groan escaped Gabby’s lips, and he sank to the floor. Mrs. Lincoln swept around the corner, dropped beside Gabby, and held his head in her arms.
“That wicked, wicked man,” she said. “He did that on purpose to hurt you.”
“Not Uncle Sammy. He was the successful one in the family. He was going to take care of us all. Who’s going to take care of us now?”
“Evil, evil. Why would he treat you like that? You dear, sweet, gentle man. What did you do to him to be treated so shamefully?”
“First, Papa died, then Joe, and now Uncle Sammy. What’s going to happen to me and Cordie? We can hardly take care of ourselves.”
“When this awful war’s over,” Mrs. Lincoln continued, patting his head, “and Mr. Lincoln is in office again, things will change. That Mr. Stanton will pay for his evil ways. He cannot crush people and go unpunished.”
“I wish Cordie was here.” His soulful eyes, glistening with tears, looked up at Mrs. Lincoln. “Her bosom is nice and big and soft. I could sink my head into her bosom and be comforted. The Bible says a rod and staff is supposed to comfort you, but I don’t think anything can comfort you better than a big, soft bosom.”
Her eyes widening and her jaw falling, Mrs. Lincoln stuttered, “I—I think Mr. Lincoln could comfort you better than I. He always knows the right thing to say.”
Standing, she bustled away. Gabby heard them fussing at each other for a few moments. Lincoln ambled around the crates and barrels, taking his time to sink to the floor and managing to cross his ungainly legs. He reached into his pocket and drew out a packet.
“Cordie says it makes my teeth look dirty.”
“Mother says the same thing.” Lincoln took a big chaw of it. “That’s why I like to eat it. It gives us something to talk about. If you want to talk about something, we can.” More silence ensued, punctuated by loud smacks and chews. “I don’t have any appointments in my book for tonight.”
“I thought the whole idea of sticking you in this room was to keep you from having appointments.”
“It was a joke.”
“I’m sorry you got involved in all this.” Lincoln finished his licorice, took out his handkerchief, and wiped his mouth. “If you had laid your rat traps earlier, you’d have missed getting caught.”
“Do you think the rebels killed Uncle Sammy?” Gabby asked as he looked into Lincoln’s deep-set eyes. “Or did Mr. Stanton kill him because he thought me or Cordie might write him? If he did, then Cordie and me killed Uncle Sammy.” Gabby’s eyes filled to overflowing. “Honest, Mr. Lincoln, I never tried to write Uncle Sammy. I couldn’t kill Uncle Sammy. I needed him to take care of me.”
“Mr. Zook, you could hardly kill rats. You couldn’t kill anybody. No. You didn’t kill your uncle. War killed Samuel Zook. It’s war, not you, nor I, nor Mr. Stanton. It’s war’s fault.”
Gabby could not hold his tears back any longer. He flung his head into Lincoln’s chest. He did not mind that it was bony. It was comforting, and that was all he needed.

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Fifty-Nine

Previously in the novel: War Secretary Stanton holds the Lincolns captive under guard in the White House basement. Stanton selects Duff, an AWOL convict,to impersonate Lincoln. Duff learns how to conduct cabinet meetings. Alethia, the woman playing Mrs. Lincoln, has had a carriage accident. He goes to see her at the hospital in Maryland.

Gabby finished his supper with one ear tuned to hear a knock at the door waiting for news–something mighty wonderful must have happened at Gettysburg. The first day’s news brought by Stanton was not good. The rebels had gained ground outside of town. The second day went well, thanks to the boys from Maine. Gabby tried to remember if any of his West Point friends were from Maine, but his mind was clouded, and the only friend he could remember was Joe, and he was from New York, and he was dead. Gabby could not do anything about it, just as he could not do anything about the soldiers dying at Gettysburg. His eyes strayed to his shirt front, and now he cared more about the stray drops of gravy there; that way, his heart did not hurt so much.
The door opened, and Gabby hoped it was Adam. Maybe today would be the day he would think of the right things to say to make Adam stop being so gloomy all the time. Instead it was Stanton.
“I’ve the latest news from Gettysburg,” the war secretary announced.
Gabby sagged and stared at his plate; he did not want to see Stanton. He did not like the man; more than that, he was scared of him.
“What is it?” Lincoln asked, scooting a chair from the billiards table and plopping down.
“Please say it’s a victory,” Mrs. Lincoln said.
“Total victory,” Stanton replied. “The rebels attempted a foolhardy charge up a hill strongly manned by our forces, and they were decimated.”
“Yes! Yes!” Lincoln said.
“Oh,” Mrs. Lincoln murmured.
Gabby detected compassion in her voice. Perhaps some of her Kentucky relatives were in the charge, but you cannot worry about relatives at war, he told himself. Uncle Sammy was fighting, but Gabby could not think about losing someone else close to him—first had been his kind father and second his friend Joe. Losing Uncle Sammy was too painful to comprehend.
“Bobby Lee’s slipping,” Lincoln said. “In his prime he would’ve never made such a strategic blunder.”
“I know the Lees very well,” Mrs. Lincoln added. “They’re fine and genteel folk.”
“Now, Mother, we’re not talking about hosting a party, at which I’m sure they excel. We’re talking about military tactics.”
“Still, I can’t glory in the death of any young man, be he from north or south.”
“Yes, yes, of course, Mother,” Lincoln replied. “War’s terrible, but terrible battles end a war fast so no more men die.”
Adam unlocked the door and entered.
“What are you doing here?” Stanton said in a huff.
“I—I came to get the dishes.”
“Oh,” Stanton said. “Get on with it.”
Gabby heard the clattering of china against the wooden tray. Adam turned the corner into his little safe haven.
“I’m sorry I didn’t bring my plate out to you, but that man scares me,” Gabby whispered.
“He scares me too.”
“Don’t be scared,” Gabby said. “Don’t be sad. Keep yourself cleaned up. You don’t want to end up like me.”
Adam patted Gabby’s shoulder and then turned to leave. He shut the door quietly and locked it.
“So,” Lincoln said. “Do we have General Lee in custody?”
“Um, no. They retreated across the border. General Meade said his men were tired, and so he felt it was enough to force the enemy from our soil.”
A giant slap against the felt covering of the billiards table made Gabby jump.
“Father,” Mrs. Lincoln said with a gentle gasp.
“Excuse me, Mother, but my patience is at an end. He has the audacity to hold us in the White House basement because I’m incompetent, but he lets Bobby Lee escape!”
“Sir, I share your anger that General Meade didn’t pursue Lee, but it was his mistake and not mine.”
“If I were still in control, this would have never happened!”
Lincoln’s outburst was not very presidential, Gabby told himself. Squinting, once again he wrestled with the question of whether he was the president or not.
“On another front,” Stanton continued, “General Grant will successfully conclude his siege of Vicksburg tomorrow.”
“And who will Grant let slip through his fingers?” Lincoln sighed.
“No one, sir,” Stanton replied.
“So. We do have a general who knows how to win battles the right way.”
Stanton grunted.
“I want…” Lincoln paused. “I recommend you send for General Grant as soon as possible. He should take on Bobby Lee.”
“He drinks too much,” Stanton said.
“And you think too much of yourself, but that hasn’t stopped you from attempting to lead this country.”
Gabby heard the fear in Mrs. Lincoln’s voice. She was right. Lincoln was out of control, but Gabby could not be harsh with him. Melancholia made people act queerly. Gabby should know. He had been acting queerly for years.
“You must forgive me.” Lincoln sighed again. “Cabin fever, that’s what it is. Did you ever have cabin fever, Mr. Stanton?”
“No, sir, I don’t think I have.”
“How about you, Mother, have you ever had cabin fever?”
“I’m having it right now.”
After a pause, Lincoln spoke, now more composed.
“Do as you like, but I believe General Grant would head the Army of the Potomac effectively.”
“Gideon Welles agrees with you.”
“He told you that?”
“Not me. The man upstairs.”
“God? When did you find time to speak to God?”
“The man upstairs, meaning your replacement.” Stanton paused a moment. “You know what I meant.”
“Of course, but I need a good laugh to get through the day, and if it can be at your expense, so much the better.”
“I’ve had enough of this,” Stanton replied, hardly containing his temper. “I’ll take under consideration your opinion.”
He walked to the door, stopped, taking a few steps to the side so he could see inside Gabby’s little nook behind the crates and barrels. Gabby shuddered when he saw Stanton’s beady eyes trained on him.
“By the way,” he said to the Lincolns, “I regret to report we lost several generals at Gettysburg. Among them was General Samuel Zook.”

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Fifty-Eight

Previously in the novel: War Secretary Stanton holds the Lincolns captive under guard in the White House basement. Stanton selects Duff, an AWOL convict,to impersonate Lincoln. Duff learns how to conduct cabinet meetings. Alethia, the woman playing Mrs. Lincoln, has had a carriage accident. He goes to see her at the hospital in Maryland.
As Duff rode back from Anderson Cottage, he thought about Alethia and Tad. His heart raced as he remembered the touch of her soft skin. The tenderness in her eyes raised hopes that she loved him as much as he loved her. But there were secrets, secrets, secrets—even the clanging of the carriage wheels pounded out the secrets, secrets, secrets. Duff smiled as he thought of how much Tad had matured in the last year. He had been inconsiderate, brash, and irresponsible, never thinking of others’ feelings; now, he put aside his enjoyment of the street parade to comfort a woman he knew was not his mother.
Back at the Executive Mansion, with the sun already setting beyond the Potomac River, Duff listened for the impending march, pounding of drums, and crackling of torches down Pennsylvania Avenue. He looked forward to the parade, an event yet to be experienced, even though those around him thought he had experienced it before.
“The parade’s turning the corner,” Tom Pendel said. “The window’s all prepared, sir. All the candles are lit.”
Smiling at the white-haired doorman, he tried to find a stance that Lincoln would take. Duff breathed in deeply as Pendel pulled open the curtains and breathed out in relief as he heard the roar of the crowd on the street. Pendel held the tall candle just out of view at window’s edge. Feeling the warmth of the flame, Duff briefly felt imbued with confidence, until he realized the candlelight lit his neck and chin, not his full face. Glancing down, he saw Pendel looking at the floor, his arm raised routinely high enough to illuminate Lincoln’s face. Evidently, Duff was slightly taller than the president. An awful moment of revelation passed slowly when Pendel’s eyes moved up and he became aware the candlelight was in the wrong place. Quickly he raised the candle, but his eyes stayed fixed on Duff’s face. Duff was flushed with humiliation. What would Pendel say? Several minutes passed as Duff waved to the crowd before it went down the street and turned toward the Mall, where a stack of old wood and trash waited to become a bonfire. As the lights dimmed from sight and the bonfire lit the evening sky, Duff turned to Pendel and forced a smile.
“Too bad Tad decided to stay at Anderson Cottage. He always liked the candlelight parades and bonfires.”
“Yes, sir.” Pendel kept his head down as he blew out the long candle.
Duff excused him and fled to his bedroom, where he threw off his clothes and put on his nightshirt. He did something he had not done in years. He fell on his knees, clasped his fingers together, and emitted moans from his heart only God could hear.
“Forgive me,” Duff said in guttural tones from the bottom of his belly. “Forgive me for my sin, my secrets, and my many offenses.”
Recognizing Robert Lincoln’s voice, Duff stood, buttoned the top of his nightshirt, and turned, hoping Robert had not heard him.
“I heard what you were praying.” Robert sounded uncertain.
“Robert, I thought you weren’t coming home.” Duff stood, grabbed the bedpost, and smiled. “Your mother’s fine.”
“No, she’s worse. The train stopped at Anderson Cottage long enough for me to see her. She got worse after you left. Tad’s there.” He paused. “I know I haven’t been as cooperative as I should.” Robert’s eyes went to the floor. “When I saw those bandages on Mother’s head, I realized parents don’t live forever.”
“It’s not all your fault, son. Sometimes, I’m sure, you feel I don’t trust you enough to tell you the truth.”
“You don’t have to apologize, Father,” Robert said. “I know you have to keep secrets from me, and I know you feel responsible for all the deaths in the war. God forgives you.” He scrunched his face in pain. “But I need you to forgive me. Please forgive me.” He stumbled toward Duff with his arms outstretched, pleading. As Duff hugged him, he burst into tears.
“I forgive you,” Duff whispered, even though his mind wandered to Alethia and if she would forgive him if she knew his secrets, his deep, horrible secrets.

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Fifty-Seven

Previously in the novel: War Secretary Stanton holds the Lincolns captive under guard in the White House basement. Stanton selects Duff, an AWOL convict,to impersonate Lincoln. Duff learns how to conduct cabinet meetings. Alethia, the woman playing Mrs. Lincoln, has had a carriage accident. He goes to see her at the hospital in Maryland.
Entering the small hospital room next to Anderson Cottage, Duff was taken aback by how small Alethia looked in the bed, how fragile, with gauze wrapping the side of her head. She appeared asleep, but when he closed the door, she opened her eyes and smiled, her cheeks moist with perspiration.
“How’s Tad? Was he upset he couldn’t see me?”
“First words out of his mouth were about you. He’s calm. He told me to say he loved you.”
“He’s such a dear boy.” Her head relaxed on the damp pillow. “Even though he knows I’m not his mother, he loves me.”
“He says I’ve a fat butt, but that’s all right.”
“Don’t make me laugh. I’ve this frightful headache.” She closed her eyes. “Is Mr. Forbes all right? They haven’t told me anything since he wrecked the carriage. I overheard someone say the bolts had been loosened on the driver’s seat.” She sighed. “Someone’s trying to kill you, Father.”
“Can I get you anything?” Duff sat on the edge of the bed and patted her hand.
“Send Mrs. Keckley up here tomorrow. I hate to take the nurses away from the men. I know she won’t mind waiting on me.” Alethia paused. “She’s so kind. I think she knows who I am—or rather, who I’m not—but she doesn’t care.”
“I thought you might like to read this,” he said, pulling from his pocket Rose Greenhow’s book and handing it to her. “My Imprisonment and the First Year of Abolitionist Rule at Washington.”
“Rose wrote a book!” Her eyes widened. “I didn’t know she was out of prison.”
“The book says she was released last fall to the Confederates. She went to London, found a publisher, and wrote her memoirs.”
“I knew she could talk her way out of anything.” Alethia opened the front page and squinted at the dedication. “To Alethia Haliday, our unknown hero who disappeared in Old Capitol Prison while in service to the Confederacy.” Her mouth flew open. “There’s my name!”
“Shush. Don’t tell anyone.” Duff smiled as he squeezed her hand.
“At least I know Rose is alive and well.” Alethia smiled and squeezed his hand back, lifting it to her lips to kiss.
“Are you sure you’re all right?”
“I’m sure.” She paused. “Does Robert know?”
“I sent him a wire.”
Touching her head, Alethia moaned.
“Let me get the doctor.”
“No, not yet. I’m enjoying your company.”
“Then I won’t return to Washington tonight.”
“With the nation celebrating a victory? You have to be there for the candlelight parade.”
“You would’ve have been a wonderful politician’s wife.”
“Besides, Tom Pen wouldn’t get to light the oval room window as you stand waving to the crowd. He’d be so disappointed.” Her smile faded as she moaned again.
“I must get the doctor.” Duff left the room and grabbed the first doctor he saw to have him attend to Alethia’s head wound.
Back at Anderson Cottage, Tad waited, sitting on the floor, meticulously unraveling the rug, strand by strand. When he saw Duff, he jumped up and opened the screen door.
“Is she all right? Does she still have a fever?”
“Yes, the fever’s returned, but it’ll pass. She asked about you.”
“She did? I’m glad.”
“Do you want to go back to town with me? There’s going to be a candlelight parade tonight.”
“With bonfires?”
“I suppose.”
“And Tom Pen’s going to light the window with candles, and you and me can stand there waving to all the people?”
“Of course.”
“Gee, I ain’t stood in the lighted window with Papa—I mean, with—I ain’t stood in the window since last July Fourth. There ain’t been no big battles won since—in a long time.”
“Yes, it’s been a long time.”
“She still ain’t feeling good, is she?” Tad looked off at the long white barracks where Alethia lay, wracked with aches and fever.
“No, she isn’t.”
“It’d make her feel good if I stayed here and sat with her tonight, wouldn’t it?”
“Yes, it would.”
“There’ll be other candlelight parades.” He narrowed his eyes in deep thought and sighed. “The lady needs me right now.”
“You’re a good boy, Tad.” Duff hugged him and bent down to whisper in his ear, “I’d be proud to have you as my own son.”
“You better go now.” Tad stepped back and rubbed his nose across his arm. “The people need you.”