He hands a small twist of paper to LINCOLN.
Lincoln: Now, that’s uncommon kind of you. Thank you. I’ve heard much about your preaching, Mr. Custis.
Lincoln: I should like to hear you.
Custis: Mista Lincoln great friend of my people.
Lincoln: I have come at length to a decision.
Custis: A decision?
Lincoln: Slavery is going. We have been resolved always to confine it. Now it shall be abolished.
Custis: You sure?
CUSTIS slowly stands up, bows his head, and sits again.
Custis: My people much to learn. Years, and years, and years. Ignorant, frightened, suspicious people. It will be difficult, very slow. (With growing passion.) But born free bodies. Free. I born slave, Mista Lincoln. No man understand who not born slave.
Lincoln: Yes, yes. I understand.
Custis (with his normal regularity): I think so. Yes.
Lincoln: I should like you to ask me any question you wish.
Custis: I have some complaint. Perhaps I not understand.
Lincoln: Tell me.
Custis: Southern soldiers take some black men prisoner. Black men in your uniform. Take them prisoner. Then murder them.
Lincoln: I know.
Custis: What you do?
Lincoln: We have sent a protest.
Custis: No good. Must do more.
Lincoln: What more can we do?
Custis: You know.
Lincoln: Yes; but don’t ask me for reprisals.
Custis (gleaming): Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.
Lincoln: No, no. You must think. Think what you are saying.
Custis: I think of murdered black men.
Lincoln: You would not ask me to murder?
Custis: Punish—not murder.
Lincoln: Yes, murder. How can I kill men in cold blood for what has been done by others? Think what would follow. It is for us to set a great example, not to follow a wicked one. You do believe that, don’t you?
Custis (after a pause): I know. Yes. Let your light so shine before men. I trust Mista Lincoln. Will trust. I was wrong. I was too sorry for my people.
Lincoln: Will you remember this? For more than two years I have thought of you every day. I have grown a weary man with thinking. But I shall not forget. I promise that.
Custis: You great, kind friend. I will love you.
A knock at the door.
SUSAN comes in.
Susan: An officer gentleman. He says it’s very important.