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Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Forty-Four

Previously in the novel: War Secretary Edwin Stanton holds President and Mrs. Lincoln captive under guard in basement of the White House. Janitor Gabby Zook by accident must stay in the basement too. Guard Adam Christy reports on his condition each evening to his sister Cordie and fellow hospital volunteer Jessie Home. Tad Lincoln becomes ill.
Mrs. Lincoln would know what to do, Adam Christy told himself, but she is not the woman tending to Tad right now.
“I suppose so,” he muttered.
“I don’t know,” Neal said. “If it’s his appendix, it could bust right soon, and he’d be dead before morning if nobody does anything about it.”
“Neal.” Phebe slapped his arm.
They walked off fussing at each other as Adam nervously unlocked the door. Could Tad die? He was worried, as he entered with the three pots.
Gabby took his. “That Mr. Stanton, do you talk with him often?” He kept his eyes down.
“Please tell him—in a nice way, because I don’t want to get him mad, since he’s so hot-tempered in the first place—to be nice to Cordie.”
“I will.”
“She doesn’t feel well.”
“I think she has the family disease.”
“What’s that?”
“Sitters disease.”
Gabby turned to scurry behind the boxes and crates. Mrs. Lincoln came from behind her curtain combing her hair out, and for the first time since Adam had known her, wore a look of quiet resignation instead of pent-up anger. She smiled at him.
“Back already? My, you’re quick like a bunny rabbit.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Adam felt his face flush as he thought of Tad and his bilious condition. As had become the custom, he placed the chamber pots down outside the curtain and turned to go.
“Private Christy, is there anything wrong? You’ve the oddest expression on your face.”
“No, ma’am.” He turned back and felt his face turn redder. “There’s nothing wrong.”
“Nonsense.” She clutched the comb in both hands. “Your face is as red as a beet.”
“Well, I—I well…”
“Spit it out, boy,” Mrs. Lincoln ordered.
Lincoln, his collar undone, exposing masses of black hair on a bony chest, stepped from his private corner and put an arm around his wife’s waist and squeezed.
“It’s—it’s personal, and private.”
“You’re lying,” she declared.
“No, I’m not!”
“Now, Molly, no need to harass the boy so late at night. He needs his rest, and you need yours. I definitely need mine.”
“It’s Tad,” she whispered. “Something’s wrong with Tad.”
Adam’s eyes went to the floor.
“It is.” Her voice began to mount to its usual stridency. “I can tell. Oh, my God! Something’s wrong with my baby.”
“Come on, Private, we don’t believe in killing the messenger of sad tidings,” Lincoln said. “What is it?”
“The kitchen help said your son wasn’t feeling well,” he said. “They said he was bilious.”
“Well, that’s not so bad,” Lincoln replied.
“Not so bad!” Mrs. Lincoln struggled to free herself from his grip. “What imbecility is that? Haven’t you heard of appendicitis? Food poisoning? It could be any number of terrible, terrible things, and you say not so bad?”
Lincoln turned to Adam. “Why don’t you go upstairs and do a little reconnaissance work for us?”
“Yes, sir.” Adam left and went up the service stairs, his heart pounding so hard he could barely hear the straw mats crunching under his boots. On the second floor, he went straight to Tad’s room, where he found Alethia wiping the boy’s head with a wet cloth. To the side was a bucket filled with vomit.
“Poor child,” Alethia said as she looked up at Adam, “he must have eaten green fruit again.”
“No, I didn’t,” Tad protested.
“Is he going to be all right?”
“Oh, I think so.” Alethia smiled and stroked his cheek. “I gave him a dose of subnitrate of bismuth.”
“It tasted awful,” Tad said.
“But you haven’t thrown up since,” Alethia said.
Adam breathed deeply “That’s good.”
“I want Mama.” Tad looked from Alethia to Adam and back again. “My real mama.”
“Why, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Alethia replied.
“I think you’re a very nice lady who looks like Mama, but you’re not her. And that man isn’t Papa,” Tad whispered conspiratorially. “It’s part of a war plan. I got that part figured out.” His bottom lip crinkled. “But I don’t feel good, and I want Mama.”
Adam stared at Alethia, not knowing what to do, and hoping she had some answer, but the scared look on her face revealed she knew as little as he did. He jumped a little as he suddenly became aware of Duff’s presence in the room.
“What do you think?” he asked him, frowning.
“I think you should tell his parents that he’s received medicine and is feeling some better, but wants to see them. They deserve to know that much.” Duff looked at Tad and smiled. “I knew you were a smart boy. Thanks for keeping our secret.”
“You’re welcome,” he said. “But I still want Mama.”
“Of course, it’s not my decision,” Duff said to Adam, “but I think it’d behoove us to keep this child happy and willing to go along with our game. Isn’t that right, Tad?”
“Yes, sir.”
“I don’t know.” Adam shook his head. “I don’t know what Mr. Stanton would say.”
“What difference does it make what that old poop thinks?” Tad chimed. “My papa is in charge of this switch, ain’t he?”
“Of course, he is,” Duff said.
Adam and Alethia exchanged nervous glances.
“This young fellow here just likes to keep everybody involved in this caper happy,” Duff continued, smiling at the boy and reaching to muss his hair.
“Hmph, I don’t care if old Mr. Stanton is happy or not,” Tad said in a pout.
“I’ll see what Mr. Lincoln wants.” Adam’s stomach tightened as he lied to Tad. More and more, he feared the threads of Stanton’s tapestry were unraveling—the war continued, the boy knew and could talk, and the kitchen help was curious, too curious.
“Yes.” Alethia patted Tad’s cheek. “Soon you’ll get a hug from your mama. But you must promise not to tell anyone.”
“Not even Robert?” he asked.
“Especially not your brother,” Duff replied.
“Good.” Tad smiled impishly. “I like keeping secrets from my brother.”
In a few minutes, Adam was in the basement again, unlocking the door to the billiards room. Inside, Mrs. Lincoln rushed to him, grabbing his arm.
“How’s Taddie? Is he all right?”
“He’s fine. The lady thinks he has just a plain old bellyache. She gave him subnitrate of bismuth.”
“How much?” Mrs. Lincoln’s eyes widened. “Subnitrate is powerful medicine. If a child is overmedicated…”
“Now, Molly, I’m sure the lady upstairs knew the right amount to give him,” Lincoln interrupted as he walked up.
Adam noticed the look in Lincoln’s eyes did not match the moderation in his voice. Not even on the day he had brought the president to the basement did he see such anguish as he observed now. It made him nervous.
“Something else is wrong,” Mrs. Lincoln said. “I can tell. Your emotions are written on your face like Mr. Dickens writes stories on a page. What is it?”
“Tad is all right,” Adam repeated.
“What is it, son?” Lincoln asked ominously.
“It’s nothing, really.”
“Tell me!” she demanded, trying to control her hysteria, as Lincoln’s big hands clutched her shoulders tightly.
“He wants to see his mother.” Adam’s eyes wandered around the room and spotted Gabby peeking from his corner. He must have courage, or else he would dissolve into another Gabby Zook.
“So he knows that woman is a fake.” Mrs. Lincoln smiled with vindication.
“Of course he does,” Lincoln said, relaxing a bit. “He’s smart, just like his mama.”
“Then bring him down here. It won’t hurt. He already knows,” Mrs. Lincoln insisted.
“He’s kept the secret for two months now,” Lincoln added. “He can be trusted.”
“Oh, I know he can be trusted,” Adam agreed. “It’s just…”
“It’s just what?” Lincoln’s tone became ominous again.
“I don’t know if Mr. Stanton will approve.”
“Stanton! That evil man!” Mrs. Lincoln’s hands began to flail about.
“Now, Molly,” Lincoln said, forcing her hands down, “let me handle this.” He solemnly looked at Adam. “Go get Mr. Stanton’s approval right now.”
“He doesn’t like to be disturbed,” he explained.
“This woman’s already lost two babies.” Lincoln suddenly grabbed the front of Adam’s rumpled blue tunic, pulling him off his feet to eye level. “She gets fearful upset when another is ailing and she can’t pet him,” Lincoln stated softly, coldly. “So I suggest you get Mr. Stanton’s permission to bring that boy down here.”
Adam gasped in surprise as he nodded obediently. He quickly, painfully, became aware of Lincoln’s strength and anger. Scrambling for the door and fumbling for the keys, he followed the orders of the president of the United States.

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Forty-One

Omnibus from the 1860s
Previously in the novel: War Secretary Edwin Stanton holds President and Mrs. Lincoln captive under guard in basement of the White House. Janitor Gabby Zook by accident must stay in the basement too. Guard Adam Christy reports on his condition each evening to his sister Cordie and fellow hospital volunteer Jessie Home.
“Miss Zook, Miss Home,” Adam said, straightening his shoulders as a grin covered his face. “I thought you had fallen into a bit of trouble, you were so late.”
“Don’t worry, me laddie,” Jessie said. “I daresay I can defend meself and me friend better than ye could.”
“Maybe so.” He ducked his head and ran his fingers through his red hair. Looking up, Adam smiled again. “Did you have a good day at the hospital?”
“How is Gabby? Is he eating well?” Cordie chose to ignore his pleasantries.
“He’s fine, Miss Zook,” Adam replied. A cloud crossed his face. “Oh. There’s one thing.”
“Oh my Lord,” Cordie whispered, putting her hand to her ample bosom.
“He’s all right,” he said, trying to reassure her. “His quilt got—cut up. He needs a new one.”
“Cut up?” Jessie interjected. “Merciful heavens, what happened?”
“Someone cut it.” Adam breathed in deeply, and then knitted his brow. “He—they thought something might be in it.”
“There are only socks in it,” Jessie said.
“Who could be so mean?” Cordie shook her head, unable to understand what was going on, why her brother was in the Executive Mansion in the first place, and now a perfectly good Gabby quilt ripped to shreds.
“Mr. Gabby would like another,” Adam said.
“Of course,” Cordie replied. “I don’t want him to catch a chill, not with winter coming.”
“Private Christy,” Jessie said, “ye never answered the question. Who ripped the quilt?”
“I can’t tell.” His eyes pleaded with her. “Please don’t ask anymore. We all could get into big trouble.”
“The saints forbid ordinary people be privy to the goin’s on in the White House,” she said.
“Please don’t be mad at me,” Adam said, impulsively taking a step toward Jessie, who stood her ground. “It’s not my fault. I didn’t rip the quilt. I—I just can’t tell who did. I agree with you. It was a mean thing for him—them—to do. But I can’t do anything about it.”
“Don’t worry about it.” Cordie patted his hand. “It’s done and can’t be undone. A Gabby quilt is easy enough to make. I’ll start a new one tonight.”
“Thank you, Miss Zook.” He smiled at her and then glanced shyly at Jessie. “Do you forgive me, Miss Home?”
“Let me see, ye upset us dreadfully,” she said slowly, a twinkle in her eyes.
“Don’t tease the boy, Jessie,” Cordie said, watching the agony in Adam’s face. “I can’t stand to see a young man as unhappy as he is.” She smiled to herself over the skills Jessie used around men, skills she herself did not know how to use, nor did she possess the looks to make them effective. Cordie was too old to be jealous, so she just enjoyed watching men swoon at Jessie’s feet.
“I’ll tell ye true, laddie, if ye want to atone, ye may accompany us to our boardinghouses,” Jessie said. “’Tis much too late for respectable ladies to walk the streets alone.”
“Yes.” Adam vigorously nodded. “I’ll pay for omnibus fare, for all three of us.”
“Faith, I didn’t know the army paid so well,” she said.
“Oh, it doesn’t.” He smiled. “But it would be well worth it.” Adam hailed one of the lumbering omnibuses pulled by two large, bored horses and proudly paid the fares, stepping aside to allow the women to pass him and select seats.
“You can have the window seat, me dear,” Jessie said to Cordie, who knew very well her young companion was more interested in sitting next to the private than allowing her to have the view of the dark streets of Washington. After Adam settled into the seat next to her, Jessie leaned into him. “So, from Ohio, ye are.”
“Yes, Miss Home.”
“Bein’ from Scotland, I know nothin’ about Ohio. I crave to learn, though.”


When we moved to Florida about 20 years ago, my family and I exposed ourselves to family dinner conversation dominated by my wife’s Uncle Sydney.
My mother-in-law retired to Florida a couple of years earlier to be near her relatives and suffered a heart attack, which is why we transplanted our children and ourselves here to be closer for the next medical emergency. This meant when we all gathered to sup together, for whatever reason, we had to brace for Uncle Sydney’s “Actually…”
This happened when one of us made a statement, any innocuous statement, and Uncle Sydney would correct us with “Actually, that isn’t so.” And off he went uninterrupted because my mother-in-law thought it was impolite to interrupt her brother’s exercises of enlightenment. At one meal, someone mentioned how much they enjoyed a certain current song.
“Actually,” Uncle Sydney began, “no good music has been written since the 1940s.”
I believed Uncle Sydney was full of gas, but had the good sense not to say so in front of the family. Both my mother-in-law and Uncle Sydney have long since passed on, but recently I learned something from the internet that might actually explain why there hasn’t been any good music since he was a young man.
Several websites have been discussing recently the theory that all musical instruments, as dictated by the British Standards Institute, changed the official tuning pitch of music from 432Hz to 440Hz at the request of the corporate entity of the American Rockefeller family and—grab your hats, folks—Adolph Hitler.
The great classical composers wrote in 432, and Stradivarius developed his violin to resonate at 432. Tones of 432 are beautiful, warm and relaxing. Tones of 440 create anxiety, anger and aggression. One supposes a capitalist institution could more easily convince a disgruntled buying public into adopting new spending patterns. One could also see how Hitler’s inflammatory oratory could incite an already dissatisfied public to support a war against its own citizenry as well as the world in general.
After the war, the British Standards Institute continued its support for 440Hz by voting to keep it, the last vote coming as late as the 1970s. This could explain why the generation which grew up listening to music to the 432Hz frequency found the new rock ‘n’ roll sound attuned to 440Hz to be awful noise. Come to think of it, hasn’t the general public been generally ticked off the last 60 years? Don’t political movements begin because, as the man said in the 1976 movie “Network”, “We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore?”
Granted, all this can sound a bit paranoid, and there are no conclusive scientific studies to confirm the connection between the dissonance of music’s 440Hz and the general malaise that hangs over the world. Dr. Leonard Horowitz wrote in his investigation of this phenomenon that the effect of 440Hz goes beyond mere mood but to harming physical and mental health to the point of subduing spirituality and creativity.
To be fair, the British Standards Institute cannot legally dictate what frequency is used to tune musical instruments. If you own a violin or piano, you can tune it to anything you want. You can calibrate your tuning fork anyway you want. But in general the music establishment around the world uses 440Hz.
A good measure of how the general public has reacted to this bit of information can be found in the comments section following the internet article. One person wrote, “These articles are too superficial to be taken seriously.” Another writer wrote than from his own experimentation with 432Hz, he found it to be more soothing and harmonious, urging people to contact radio stations to go back to the original frequency.
Am I personally ready to jump on a 432Hz bandwagon? Do I want to believe there’s an international conspiracy to manipulate our emotions? Am I willing to accept the fact that Uncle Sydney wasn’t just full of gas?

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Forty

Old city canal
Previously in the novel: War Secretary Edwin Stanton holds President and Mrs. Lincoln captive under guard in basement of the White House. Janitor Gabby Zook by accident must stay in the basement too. Guard Adam Christy reports on his condition each evening to his sister Cordie and fellow hospital volunteer Jessie Home.
Cordie and Jessie both laughed as they stepped out the front door of the hospital onto the Mall and into the rancid smell of the old city canal, broken into little cesspools of urine, rotting animal carcasses, and scum-covered water. Discreetly, they both pulled out handkerchiefs to cover their noses. Cordie tried to maintain her composure as they walked past the neatly landscaped grounds of the Smithsonian. Soon her eyes were searching the shadowy corners of the large, red, castle-like building. The many bushes around its walls provided perfect hiding places after dark for the roving gangs of thieves which preyed upon passersby foolish enough to come near.
“Are you sure we’ll be safe?” Cordie whispered.
“Of course, me darlin’,” Jessie replied with a laugh. “If anyone dared to jump from the dark to grab me, they’d better be ready for a swift kick and jab of me elbow. Scottish lasses are strong, and loud. I’d scream like a banshee and more help than we could imagine would appear in the twinklin’ of an eye!”
“Are you sure?”
“As sure as I am of me red hair and Scottish brogue.” Jessie put her arm around Cordie and firmly squeezed. “Ye worry too much, me love.”
All the same, they increased their pace as they mounted the steps of the iron bridge over the stagnant canal, putting them out of harm’s way from the Smithsonian gangs. Cordie tried to compose her thoughts and control her heavy breathing.
“I’ve never been one of the smart ones,” she began slowly and humbly.
“Why, what a thing to say! You’re sharp as a tack, ye are!” Jessie gently slapped at her shoulder.
“No, I’m not really that bright when it gets beyond cleaning a floor or washing clothes or sewing.” Cordie shook her head. “Believe it or not, Gabby was the smart one. You wouldn’t know it now. When we were young, he was so bright and smart. I pinned my hopes on him. I always saw myself taking care of Gabby’s clothes and house, and he’d take care of me, always provide a roof over my head.” She paused to laugh ruefully. “I knew I wasn’t going to find a husband, the way I look.”
“What’s wrong with the way ye look?”
“Bless your sweet heart.” Cordie patted Jessie’s back. “You’re so pretty and attract men so easily, you don’t really understand how hard it is for plain women to find a husband.”
“I’m not that pretty.”
They stepped off the bridge and walked briskly up Thirteenth Street to escape the canal’s stench. Turning west on F Street, they slowed their pace as the air cleared, and they put away their handkerchiefs.
“Now Gabby was a handsome boy, smart and handsome,” Cordie continued. “Put him in a lieutenant’s uniform, and I knew he’s be irresistible to the young ladies. But I hoped he’d find one who wouldn’t mind having his old-maid sister live with them as their maid and nanny to their children.” She breathed deeply. “It was a good life I imagined. But it all ended when he went to West Point.” Cordie paused, halfway expecting a question from Jessie, and was relieved when it did not come. Turning north on Fifteenth Street, she mustered the strength to finish her story. “When he came home,” she said, “his mind was gone. I realized I would have to support him, to be the smart one.”
She stopped talking to keep from crying. Looking ahead at the corner, Cordie saw Adam standing under the streetlight in Lafayette Square, his shoulders slumped and his head down. She noticed a change in him over the last two months—not as dramatic as the change in Gabby, but a change nonetheless—that scared her. Cordie did not want to witness another young man wasted by the insatiable needs of the war machine.
“There’s me private,” Jessie said with a chirp, quickening her step to reach the park.
Cordie practically had to run to keep up with her, but she did not mind. Watching young love bloom brightened her life and relieved her of the constant worry about Gabby and why he must stay in the Executive Mansion.

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Thirty-Nine

Tending the wounded
Previously in the novel: War Secretary Edwin Stanton holds President and Mrs. Lincoln captive under guard in basement of the White House. Duff and Alethia find pretending to be the Lincolns difficult. Alethia finds herself romantically attracted to Duff.
Another day found Cordie Zook putting away her mop and broom in a small closet of Armory Square Hospital. The sun had already set beyond the Potomac River, which caused her to worry about walking home. If only Miss Dorothea Dix honored her original agreement to allow volunteers to leave before dusk, all would be fine; but as more war casualties filled the long, parallel sheds of the hospital, the volunteers were forced to work later and later. More than ever, Cordie wished she had never left New York City, sure she could have found a job as a maid in a Park Avenue mansion, and Gabby could have been a janitor on Wall Street. Her lip began to quiver, but she commanded herself not to cry. It would do no good. It helped no one, not Gabby, not herself, not these poor broken boys lying in neat rows of cots in front of her.
Gathering her wits, Cordie went to the nurses’ cloak room, where she picked up her coat and hat and went down the line to get Jessie Home’s smart little tam-o’-shanter and plaid jacket. Jessie had become a good friend, Cordie admitted as she left the cloak room and started wandering up and down the aisles of cots, even though the young Scottish woman tried her patience from time to time. For instance, Jessie was never ready to leave when Cordie was desperate to go to Lafayette Park to hear about Gabby from the nervous private. She stopped short in the middle of an aisle and found herself forced to smile as she watched Jessie competently pull a fresh nightshirt over the head of an embarrassed, thin, shockingly pale soldier, who still self-consciously tried to hide the reddish nub that once had been his left arm.
“Now there’s no need for ye to be shamed in front of me,” Jessie said cheerfully as she grabbed the recovering nub and stuffed it into the white, coarse cotton sleeve. “You’re a national hero, and heroes should hold themselves proud.”
“But—but my arm,” the soldier stammered.
She smoothed the shirt down his chest and abdomen. “That’s your badge of manhood,” she replied smoothly. Smiling, she rubbed his white, gaunt cheek with her hand. “That shows you’re no longer a boy. What woman worth being a wife wants to be yoked with a pretty boy when she could have a real man?”
Cordie watched a smile creep across his lips, and she forgot about her fear of crossing the Mall after dark. This was thevolunteers’ purpose, to make the boys smile when other senses told them to cry. If they can do that, they can face the thieves and robbers who hid in the bushes surrounding the Smithsonian.
“It’s time to leave, Jessie,” Cordie said.
The young man looked up at Cordie, and then to Jessie. “You have to leave? You can’t stay a little longer?”
“I’d love to, me hero,” Jessie said, “but Miss Dix wouldn’t hear of it. If she found out I stayed late to sit by ye, she’d think I was tryin’ to romance ye, and then she’d fire me. Ye wouldn’t want me fired, now would ye?”
“I guess not.” His head fell a bit.
“Keep the faith, me hero.” Jessie took her coat from Cordie and put it on. “I’ll see ye again tomorrow.”
“Thank you.” His face brightened.
They walked away and put on their hats as several voices rang out.
“Good night, Miss Home.”
“Thank you, Miss Home.”
“God bless you, Miss Home.”
“I suppose the old lady who mops the floors don’t need a thank you,” Cordie said with a smile, trying not to sound jealous.
“They appreciate ye,” Jessie replied.
“Good night, Miss Zook,” an older voice called out.
“See?” Jessie grinned and grabbed Cordie’s arm. “It just takes maturity to recognize a true angel.”
“You don’t have to use your flowery words on me,” Cordie said, giggling. “Don’t forget. I’m a tough old Yankee.”

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Thirty-Eight

Mrs. Frederick Lander
Previously in the novel: War Secretary Edwin Stanton held President and Mrs. Lincoln captive under guard in basement of the White House. Duff and Alethia find pretending to be the Lincolns difficult, especially with Tad coming down sick. Stanton interrupts their dinner to make sure Duff is not eating too much. Alethia finds herself romantically attracted to Duff.
“Good night, Father.” Alethia tried to hide her disappointment that Duff did not offer to share his bed with her. As she went to her room, she decided it was for the best. They should not become intimate in the middle of their mission. She wiped a small tear from her cheek and thought Duff a very wise and wonderful man. Instead of undressing, Alethia quietly listened to Duff as he removed his shoes, slacks, and shirt. She clutched her bosom as she thought of him putting on his nightshirt and slipping into bed. Shaking her head, Alethia chastised herself for her silly thoughts. A knock at Lincoln’s door caused her to jump.
“Mr. President?”
“Come in, Mr. Hay,” Duff said.
“I wouldn’t bother you so late, Mr. President,” Hay said, “but I heard something tonight that I thought you needed to know immediately.”
Alethia wrinkled her brow and went to the door to eavesdrop more efficiently.
“I was at a party…”
“Where was it?” Duff asked.
“At the home of Colonel Frederick W. Lander,” Hay replied. “You know him. The civil engineer.”
“Of course. Last I heard he was wrestling with a bout of influenza.”
“He still is. He remained in his room the entire evening. The event was a fund-raiser hosted by his wife for the federal hospitals at Port Royal, South Carolina.”
“She was an actress or something like that, wasn’t she?” Duff said.
“An angel on stage,” Hay gushed. “When I first came to Washington I was quite smitten with her. Along with many others. She had many suitors.”
Not unlike Rose Greenhow, Alethia thought. Her mind often wandered to her childhood friend and wondered if she had ever escaped prison. She knew for certain Rose had not been executed, because she would have read about it in the newspapers.
“Even Mr. Stanton, before he remarried,” Hay added, “if that can be imagined.” After an embarrassing pause, he continued, “But that’s not what I came to say. During the evening Mrs. Lander sat beside me on her davenport and told me of meeting a brash young actor at an opening-night party at Grover’s Theater—a Virginian, I believe she said—who was trying to impress her with a story about some scandalous activity he was planning with friends that would make the front page of every newspaper in the nation.”
“And what might that activity be?”
“She said he didn’t elaborate, but from his tone and manner she drew distressing conclusions.”
“Which were?”
“Kidnapping, sir, possibly assassination.” Hay cleared his throat. “Of you, Mr. President.”
The concept of losing Duff to assassins caused Alethia to lurch into the room. Thinking better of intruding into the conversation, she decided to be startled.
“Oh, Mr. Hay.” She eyed him haughtily, as she thought Mrs. Lincoln would.
“He was telling me about a party,” Duff said.
“And to give the president a gift. Going through the buffet line, I noticed a large bowl of licorice.” He pulled a handful of the black candy from his pocket and placed it on the nightstand. “I thought he might like some.”
“Oh.” Alethia sniffed. That terrible stuff. He won’t eat decent food but turns his teeth black with that disgusting candy.”
“Now, Mother, you know it’s my only vice.” Duff looked at Hay and smiled. “Thank you, Mr. Hay. That was very kind of you.”
Both Alethia and Duff noticed Hay staring at the top of Duff’s open nightshirt.
“Is anything wrong?” Duff asked.
Hay paused, shook his head, and smiled, saying nothing. Alethia caught her breath, stepped forward, and then laughed.
“Oh, I know what you’re thinking, seeing Mr. Lincoln shorn like a sheep,” she said blithely. “But he has a cold coming on, and I absolutely refuse to rub ointment on that dreadful, hairy chest. So he must shave every time he feels under the weather.”
“Yes.” Duff coughed.
“You’ll keep our little secret, won’t you, Mr. Hay?” Alethia fluttered her eyes.
“Of course, ma’am.” Turning a light pink, Hay backed up.
“We’ll discuss that other matter tomorrow,” Duff said.
“Yes, sir.”
“I really don’t think there’s anything to it,” Duff added. “Just chatter at a party.”
“I hope so, sir.” Hay backed to the door, fumbled with the knob, then left.
Listening for Hay’s receding steps, Alethia and Duff smiled.
“At least you got the licorice.” She nodded at the nightstand.
“Yes.” Duff picked up a piece and looked at it. “It’s the one thing I absolutely can’t stand to eat, and I must.”

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Thirty-Four

Lincoln and secretaries, Hay and Nicolay
Previously in the novel: War Secretary Edwin Stanton held President and Mrs. Lincoln captive under guard in basement of the White House. He guided his substitute Lincoln through his first Cabinet meeting. Then he told Lincoln’s bodyguard Ward Hill Lamon into believing Lincoln and his wife were in hiding because of death threats. Lamon comes to the White House to find out for himself.

Nicolay and Hay have not changed, Lamon thought, as he entered the room. Hay looked up from his desk where he was addressing envelopes, and smiled broadly.
“Hello, Ward.”
“Ward, we haven’t seen you in a while.” Nicolay said as he looked up from his letter opening. He smiled only briefly, yet Lamon took it as a warm reception since it came from the cold, bland Bavarian.
Lamon sat near Hay, throwing his feet up on the desk, as was his wont during Lincoln’s first year, when all was normal. He liked the secretaries immensely, Hay’s boyish charm and Nicolay’s reserved intelligence; still, Lamon had to learn what they knew about the president’s disappearance.
“Marshal’s office has been keeping me busy.” He looked from one to the other. “You two look no worse for the wear.”
“Thank you,” Hay replied, “and same to you.”
Taking a deep breath, Lamon continued, “I wish I could say the same about the old man.” His observation was met with silence. Perhaps he was being too subtle, so he turned directly to Hay, whom he considered the weak link. “Johnny, haven’t you noticed a difference in Mr. Lincoln?”
“Remember when we used to have booger-flicking contests?” Putting a finger up one nostril, Hay innocently returned Lamon’s gaze. “You always won.”
Lamon could not help but laugh, realizing, however, that Hay had not answered his question, deliberately or not, so he turned his attention to the inscrutable Nicolay.
“And you, John, have you noticed any changes in the president?”
“Mr. Lincoln hasn’t changed since those days in Springfield when we all first met him.” Ripping open a letter, Nicolay studiously read the contents.
“Those were the good old days with the president, weren’t they?” Lamon asked.
“Yes, Mr. Lincoln smiled more then,” Nicolay replied.
“Even the first year in the White House, the president made a few jokes,” Lamon continued.
“That was when we all, including Mr. Lincoln, still had hopes of an early resolution to the war.”
Narrowing his eyes at Nicolay, who kept his attention on the letters, Lamon then asked, “But since the time I saw him last, two months ago, Mr. Lincoln seems to have lost his spirit.”
“The president has had good days this fall. You just haven’t seen them.”
“Well, I guess I’ve been lazy long enough,” Lamon announced, putting his feet down and standing.
“Don’t be a stranger,” Hay cheerfully said.
Ja, come back soon,” Nicolay added, finally raising his eyes.
Lamon walked out, very proud of himself, feeling he had outfoxed Nicolay, who did not want to tell a lie, yet did not want to betray a confidence, but by playing his word games had revealed what Lamon wanted to know. In talking about Lincoln, Nicolay called him by his name; however, when Lamon referred to the man in the president’s office as Mr. Lincoln, Nicolay followed up by calling the man Mr. President. That proved they knew the current president was not Mr. Lincoln; what Lamon still did not know was if they knew this was the plan of Mr. Lincoln, the man they called Mr. President, or, worst of all, Mr. Stanton.

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Thirty-Three

Ward Hill Lamon
Previously in the novel: War Secretary Edwin Stanton held President and Mrs. Lincoln captive under guard in basement of the White House. He guided his substitute Lincoln through his first Cabinet meeting. Then he told Lincoln’s bodyguard Ward Hill Lamon into believing Lincoln and his wife were in hiding because of death threats. Lincoln’s secretaries realize something is wrong but are afraid to say anything. Janitor Gabby Zook, caught in the basement room with the Lincolns, begins to think he is president. Mrs. Lincoln decides to befriend him.

One mid-afternoon, after two months of ruminations about his confrontation with Secretary of War Stanton and his henchman Lafayette Baker over the disappearance of Abraham Lincoln and the substitution of a double, Ward Lamon climbed the steps of the Executive Mansion,. Entering the door, he nodded at guard John Parker, who, he noticed, was already glazed of eye from an early beer. Coming down the stairs was Stanton; Lamon quickened his step. Stopping abruptly when he saw Lamon, Stanton pursed his lips.
“Mr. Lamon, what are you doing here?”
“Remember, it was your idea I come back,” Lamon replied. “After all, Abraham Lincoln is a personal friend of mine. He allowed me to pretend I was his law partner once. Even if I don’t work for him anymore, I’m still his friend.”
“And people might wonder why I never visit my old friend anymore.”
Stanton puffed, stammered, but ultimately walked away. Lamon mounted the grand stairway, skipping every other step, eager to meet the impostor. Going down the hall, Lamon looked around and spotted the new Mrs. Lincoln, obviously a double because she had kinder eyes than the real Mary Lincoln. Opening the door, Tad smiled at Lamon.
“Mr. Lamon! I haven’t seen you in a coon’s age!”
“Good to see you, Tad.” He patted the boy’s shoulder. Despite the opinions of others, Lamon liked Lincoln’s rambunctious son, because he reminded Lamon of himself as a child. If Tad survived his childhood, he would make a good bodyguard or policeman. “The marshal’s office has kept me busy. I promise not to be a stranger anymore.”
“Good.” Tad ran down the hall. “Tom Pen! Tom Pen!”
Continuing the other way, Lamon was eager to see the double, wondering if he measured up to the original. He went through the glass panels and turned right into the first office. The bearded man at the desk looked up, momentarily went blank, then smiled in recognition.
“Mr. Lamon, so good to see you again.”
Frowning, Lamon carefully shut the door, pulled a chair close to the president’s desk, then sat and leaned close the double.
“You’ve never met me before in your life and you know it.”
“I—I don’t know what you mean.”
“I know you’re a fraud, supposedly because my Mr. Lincoln is hiding out somewhere. I don’t believe it. Abraham Lincoln never hid from anybody.” He paused to examine the man’s eyes to detect what lurked behind them. “Where’s Mr. Lincoln?”
“I can’t tell you that.”
“Why not?”
“Mr. Stanton wouldn’t like it.”
“I don’t care what Mr. Stanton likes. What would Mr. Lincoln like?”
“I assume Mr. Lincoln wouldn’t like it either. After all, this entire situation is Mr. Lincoln’s idea. If he wanted Mr. Stanton to tell you, you’d know.”
Fluttering eyelashes betrayed him. Lamon decided the double was afraid of Stanton and couldn’t tell the truth. Standing, Lamon patted him on the shoulder.
“Well, we shall be friends then,” he said. “Don’t be bothered if I drop in from time to time for an aimless chat. I visited Mr. Lincoln often, and he enjoyed it.”
“Then I shall enjoy your visits too.”
Lamon left and went to the secretaries’ office. He had known Nicolay and Hay since the carefree days in Illinois. Lingering at their door, he listened to their conversation.
“…and she’s a senator’s daughter, in addition to being attractive and extremely well-mannered,” Hay said. “I think she’s potential matrimonial material.”
“Ja,” Nicolay replied. “And the president can give you away.”

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Thirty-Two

Tad Lincoln
Previously in the novel: War Secretary Edwin Stanton held President and Mrs. Lincoln captive under guard in basement of the White House. He guided his substitute Lincoln through his first Cabinet meeting. Then he told Lincoln’s bodyguard Ward Hill Lamon into believing Lincoln and his wife were in hiding because of death threats. Lincoln’s secretaries realize something is wrong but are afraid to say anything. Janitor Gabby Zook, caught in the basement room with the Lincolns, begins to think he is president. Stanton rips Gabby’s quilt from his sister Cordie and then proceeds with a strategy meeting with the President.

“You haven’t told us how Taddie is doing,” Mrs. Lincoln said impulsively, her hand reaching for Stanton’s sleeve but pulling back quickly.
“He’s fine.”
“Are his lessons going well? Is Mr. Williamson still his tutor? Has Tad learned to understand his Scottish accent better?”
“I really don’t have time.”
“Take time.” Lincoln stepped forward. “This is our son. We’ve a right to know about him. Even you have to concede that.”
“As far as I’ve observed, Master Tad’s lessons are proceeding as usual in the oval family room with Alexander Williamson. Whether he understands Mr. Williamson’s brogue is beyond my interest.”
“Why don’t you make it your interest?” Lincoln leaned forward, his hollowed eyes narrowing with contained anger.
He said that well, Gabby observed from his seat by the billiards table. If he ever returned to the president’s office, he must remember to use that tone when giving orders to whomever the president gives orders. Under his breath he tried to sound imposing in an unthreatening way. It would take practice.
“Very well.”
“Is he happy?” Mrs. Lincoln tried to smile. “Is Tom Pen keeping him amused?”
“Tom Pen?” Stanton asked.
“Thomas Pendel,” Lincoln explained. “He’s the doorman, and kind enough to play with Taddie.”
“Oh yes, Pendel. I seem to remember seeing them running in the garden together. He’s a bit old to be participating in such games.”
“Some people put the feelings for others ahead of their own interests,” Mrs. Lincoln said, with a hint of reproof in her voice. “Also Mr. Forbes. He’s been Taddie’s companion around town.”
“The coachman,” Lincoln offered.
“Between Mr. Williamson’s Scottish and Mr. Forbes’s Irish accent, it’s no wonder the poor boy can’t speak properly.” Mrs. Lincoln giggled.
“Well, Molly, I think we should allow Mr. Stanton to go.” Lincoln turned her shoulders away. “I’m sure he’ll make a greater effort to keep us informed about Tad.”
As the Lincolns walked away, Gabby noticed Stanton’s gaze fixed on him, which caused his legs to twitch. That man made him nervous, and he wanted to escape to his little corner behind the crates and barrels. He stood, and was almost to his Promised Land when Stanton called out. Gabby clutched Cordie’s quilt tightly.
“Mr. Zook. Come over here.”
“Yes, sir?” Slowly Gabby turned and shuffled to him. “Yes, sir?”
“Will you swear your sister didn’t sew a secret message into one of the squares?” Stanton tapped the quilt with his index finger.
“If she did, I haven’t found it.”
“Very well.” Stanton sniffed in derision.
Gabby heard keys jangling at the door which opened suddenly, hitting Stanton in the back.
“Be careful when you open that door,” Stanton said in a huff. “I always knock first.”
Walking away, Gabby heard Stanton mutter to Adam, “Be sure to tell me everything—and I mean everything—that the sister wants you to tell her brother.”
“Yes, sir.”
“Good.” Stanton left, shutting the door with more force than was necessary.
“Mr. Zook?” Adam asked.
Being called Mr. Zook was still unusual for Gabby. Mr. Zook was his father. General Zook was his uncle. It was good he had not finished West Point, or else he might be a general too.
“Call me Mr. Gabby, like the Lincolns do.” He smiled at Adam, trying to make the troubled-looking soldier feel better.
“Um, your chamber pot. Does it need cleaning?”
“Not that I know of. Let me go look.”
Going through the curtain, Gabby heard Adam walk across the room.
“Mr. Lincoln? Mrs. Lincoln?” he said.
“Yes?” Mrs. Lincoln replied.
“Chamber pots, ma’am?”
“Here they are,” Lincoln said. “I’ll carry them to the door for you.”
“Oh. I don’t think Mr. Stanton locked it,” Adam said with a stammer.
“Young man, I don’t think I’m going to bolt out the door after two months,” Lincoln said. “It’d be too disconcerting for Mr. Stanton.”
“Yes, sir.”
“Private Christy,” Mrs. Lincoln said.
“Yes, ma’am?”
“I want to apologize for my attitude,” she said. “Mr. Gabby pointed out to me you’re good at heart.”
“Thank you, ma’am.”
Gabby looked in his chamber pot to find it empty. He came around the curtain just as Adam opened the door and was scooting the pots out into the hall.
“Private, it’s clean as a whistle. Sorry. Maybe I’ll have something for you by lunchtime.”
“Thank you, Mr. Gabby.” Adam smiled.
Gabby was glad his presidential skills were working and lifting the young man’s spirits. Adam was about to close the door when Gabby stuck his hand out.
“Will you tell Cordie to make another quilt? It’s for Mrs. Lincoln. You know, a Gabby quilt is good for the soul.”

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Twenty-Nine

General Samuel Zook, Gabby’s uncle

Previously in the novel: War Secretary Edwin Stanton held President and Mrs. Lincoln captive under guard in basement of the White House. He guided his substitute Lincoln through his first Cabinet meeting. Then he told Lincoln’s bodyguard Ward Hill Lamon into believing Lincoln and his wife were in hiding because of death threats. Lincoln’s secretaries realize something is wrong but are afraid to say anything. Janitor Gabby Zook, caught in the basement room with the Lincolns, begins to think he is president.

“I used to like the military,” Gabby said, watching Lincoln retreat behind the curtain with his newspaper. “Uncle Sammy went to West Point first. He was the smart one in the family. He’s a general now.”
“Yes,” Mrs. Lincoln said in friendly agreement. “I’ve heard of General Samuel Zook. He may have his turn as commander of the Army of the Potomac before this war is over.”
“Now I don’t like the military anymore.” He paused to look down and bite his lip. “They said I killed my best friend Joe.”
“Oh no,” she gasped.
“That colonel said the whole thing was my fault. He said I was the one driving the team. I was supposed to be in charge of the horses, and I didn’t control the horses, and the colonel was hurt and Joe was killed.”
“But he ordered you to drive the carriage over your objections.”
“It didn’t make any difference, they said.” Gabby shook his head. “I was the one driving the team so I was the one responsible, they said. They said I was a murderer. They said they were doing me a favor by just throwing me out of West Point and not hanging me. They said—”
“Please, Mr. Gabby, no more,” Mrs. Lincoln said, holding her handkerchief to her face. “I can’t stand to hear anymore.”
“They told Mama and Cordie I was no use to them and for them to take me home.”
“That’s dreadful,” she said. “I’m sorry I had you tell me.”
“That’s all right.” Gabby tried to smile as he wiped a tear from his eyes. “Most days, I don’t even remember what happened. I just know I don’t think as good as I used to.” He shrugged. “I don’t know why I remembered everything today.”
“I’m so sorry for my behavior.” Mrs. Lincoln reached across the billiards table to touch Gabby’s hand. “If I’d known what caused your misery, I’d have been kinder.”
“I know.” He found the courage to squeeze her hand before withdrawing it. “I think—and please don’t get mad at me—you’re a little like me. Sometimes we can’t help the way we act.”
“Mr. Gabby, I do declare I think you’re more perceptive than many of the intelligent men running this war at this very moment.” She cocked her head coquettishly.
“Oh yes, I know I’m smart, except when I forget to be—smart, that is.”
“You must spend more time out here in the room with us, Mr. Gabby.” Mrs. Lincoln laughed as she stood. “You really must.”
“Thank you,” he said. “But I think that would make me too nervous.”
“I know all about being nervous. Well, as you wish.” She turned to go to her cot.
“Would you like a quilt?” Gabby asked.
“A what?” She turned to smile at him.
“A quilt,” Gabby explained. “My sister Cordie makes them. She made me one. Just a minute, I’ll show it to you.” Quickly padding to his corner, Gabby grabbed the quilt and brought it out, proudly displaying a crudely sewn composition of rumpled squares of old cloth of different colors, textures, and patterns. “Cordie calls them Gabby quilts. She named them for me.”
“How nice.” Mrs. Lincoln smiled as she touched it.
“She cuts squares out of old dresses, shirts, and things she has around, and sews two of them together with an old sock in the middle, and then she sews the squares together, and you got a Gabby quilt.”
“So each square is a memory of a loved one.” Her eyes sparkled as she stroked it.
He pointed to a square of dark brown. “Mama wore this dress all the time. And this,” he said, tapping a swatch of gabardine, “was part of Papa’s best suit when he was a lawyer.”
“How wonderful.”
“Oh, they’re really not worth much. Used to, Cordie would make fancy patterns with the squares. Now she just sews them up any old way. That way you can really use it. If you’re sick and feel like you need to throw up, you can just let it go on a Gabby quilt. It doesn’t make any difference.”
Mrs. Lincoln withdrew her hand.
“I haven’t been sick on this one.”
“Cordie used to say Gabby quilts were like love. Love isn’t something pretty to look at. Love is for everyday use. When you get sick you can wrap up in love—like an old Gabby quilt—and feel better.”