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HOME > Short Stories > The Soul of Abraham Lincoln > CHAPTER XVIII "BEHIND THE SCENES"
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 The family of the President of the United States ought to be permitted a reasonable degree of privacy, but this has never yet been accorded them. In the case of the family of President Lincoln the rudeness of the public was shameful. It is not our present purpose to intrude into the domestic life of Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln, and if we shall ever do so hereafter it will be, let us hope, with more of consideration than some critics have shown. After the death of Mr. Lincoln, a number of books and articles appeared which gave close and intimate glimpses of the life of President and Mrs. Lincoln during the four years which they spent in the White House. We shall examine two or three of these only in so far as they relate to Mr. Lincoln's religious life.
For four years Mrs. Lincoln had with her in the White House as dressmaker and attendant Mrs. Elizabeth Keckley, an intelligent colored woman. In 1868 Mrs. Keckley published a book entitled Behind the Scenes.[50] It related many intimate details of life in the Lincoln household, with much about Mrs. Lincoln's extravagances of expenditure and infirmities of temper, and some things about Mr. Lincoln. It is a most informing book, though one containing many details which had been as well unprinted. Its general truthfulness is attested by its internal evidence. Of Lincoln's anxiety when battles were in progress, and of the relief which he sought in[Pg 204] agonized prayer, she tells, and with apparent truthfulness. Of one battle she relates:
"One day he came into the room where I was fitting a dress for Mrs. Lincoln. His step was slow and heavy, and his face sad. Like a tired child he threw himself upon the sofa, and shaded his eyes with his hands. He was a complete picture of dejection. Mrs. Lincoln, observing his troubled look, asked:
"'Where have you been?'
"'To the War Department,' was the brief, almost sullen answer.
"'Any news?'
"'Yes, plenty of news, but no good news. It is dark, dark everywhere.'
"He reached forth one of his long arms and took a small Bible from a stand near the head of the sofa, opened the pages of the Holy Book, and soon was absorbed in reading them. A quarter of an hour passed, and on glancing at the sofa the face of the President seemed more cheerful. The dejected look was gone, and the countenance was lighted up with new resolution and hope. The change was so marked that I could not but wonder at it, and wonder led to the desire to know what book of the Bible afforded so much comfort to the reader. Making the search for a missing article an excuse, I walked gently around the sofa, and, looking into the open book, I discovered that Mr. Lincoln was reading that divine comforter, Job. He read with Christian eagerness, and the courage and the hope that he derived from the inspired pages made him a new man."—Behind the Scenes, p. 118.
Mrs. Keckley helped prepare the body of Willie for burial. She relates:
"When Willie died, as he lay on the bed, Mr. Lincoln came to the bed, lifted the cover from the face of his child, gazed at it long and earnestly, murmuring: 'My poor boy, he was too good for this earth. God has called him home. I know that he is much better off in heaven, but then we loved him so. It is hard, hard to have him die!'"—Behind the Scenes, p. 103.
[Pg 205]
"Mrs. Rebecca R. Pomeroy, a Christian woman from Chelsea, Massachusetts, who had come to nurse the Lincoln children in their sickness, speaks of Lincoln's great affliction and sadness. On the morning of the funeral she assured him that many Christians were praying for him. With eyes suffused with tears, he replied: 'I am glad to hear that. I want them to pray for me. I need their prayers.' Mrs. Pomeroy expressed her sympathy with him as they were going out to the burial. Thanking her gently, he said, 'I will try to go to God with my sorrows.' She asked him a few days after if he could not trust God. With deep religious feeling, he replied: 'I think I can, and I will try. I wish I had that childlike faith you speak of, and I trust He will give it to me.' Then the memory of his mother filled his mind with tenderest recollections, and he said: 'I had a good Christian mother, and her prayers have followed me thus far through life.'"—Lincoln Scrapbook, Library of Congress, p. 54.
Mrs. Pomeroy was a Baptist, and had recently buried her husband. She volunteered for service as a nurse in the soldiers' hospitals in Washington, and in the serious illness of Mr. Lincoln's two sons she was installed as nurse in the White House and remained these several months.
She relates that she frequently saw him reading his mother's Bible, and that he found especial comfort in the Psalms.
Mrs. Pomeroy relates:
"On July 9, 1863, while sitting at the dinner table he could not eat, for he seemed so full of trouble as he said, 'The battle of Port Hudson is now going on, and many lives will be sacrificed on both sides, but I have done the best I could, trusting in God, for if they gain this important point, we are lost; and, on the other hand, if we could only gain it we shall have gained much; and I think we shall, for we have a great deal to thank God for, for we have Vicksburg and Gettysburg already.' Mrs. Pomeroy said, 'Mr. Lincoln, prayer will do what nothing else will; can you not pray?' 'Yes, I will,' he replied, and while the tears were dropping from his face he said, 'Pray for me,' and picked up a Bible and went to his room. 'Could all the people of the nation have overheard[Pg 206] the earnest petition that went up from that inner chamber as it reached the ears of the nurse, they would have fallen upon their knees with tearful and reverential sympathy.' That night he received a dispatch announcing a union victory. He went directly to Mrs. Pomeroy's room, his face beaming with joy, saying: 'Good news! Go............
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