And then, from fifty fameless years
In quiet Illinois was sent
A word that still the Atlantic hears,
And Lincoln was the lord of his event.
The two speaking together: So the uncounted
To the birth
Of uncounted circumstance.
And time in a generation makes
Portents majestic a little story of earth
To be remembered by chance
At a fireside.
But the ardours that they bear,
The proud and invincible motions of
The parlour of Abraham Lincoln’s House at Springfield, Illinois, early in 1860. Mr. Stone, a farmer, and Mr. Cuffney, a store-keeper, both men of between fifty and sixty, are sitting before an early spring fire. It is dusk, but the curtains are not drawn. The men are smoking silently.
Mr. Stone (after a pause): Abraham. It’s a good name for a man to bear, anyway.
Mr. Cuffney: Yes. That’s right.
Mr. Stone (after another pause): Abraham Lincoln. I’ve known him forty years. Never crooked once. Well.
He taps his pipe reflectively on the grate. There is another pause. SUSAN, a servant-maid, comes in, and busies herself lighting candles and drawing the curtains to.
Susan: Mrs. Lincoln has just come in. She says she’ll be here directly.
Mr. Cuffney: Thank you.
Mr. Stone: Mr. Lincoln isn’t home yet, I dare say?
Susan: No, Mr. Stone. He won’t be long, with all the gentlemen coming.
Mr. Stone: How would you like your master to be President of the United States, Susan?
Susan: I’m sure he’d do it very nicely, sir.
Mr. Cuffney: He would have to leave Springfield, Susan, and go to live in Washington.
Susan: I dare say we should take to Washington very well, sir.
Mr. Cuffney: Ah! I’m glad to hear that.
Susan: Mrs. Lincoln’s rather particular about the tobacco smoke.
Mr. Stone: To be sure, yes, thank you, Susan.
Susan: The master doesn’t smoke, you know. And Mrs. Lincoln’s specially particular about this room.
Mr. Cuffney: Quite so. That’s very considerate of you, Susan.
They knock out their pipes.
Susan: Though some people might not hold with a gentleman not doing as he’d a mind in his own house, as you might say.
She goes out.
Mr. Cuffney (after a further pause, stroking his pipe): I suppose there’s no doubt about the message they’ll bring?
Mr. Stone: No, that’s settled right enough. It’ll be an invitation. That’s as sure as John Brown’s dead.
Mr. Cuffney: I could never make Abraham out rightly about old John. One couldn’t stomach slaving more than the other, yet Abraham didn’t hold with the old chap standing up against it with the sword. Bad philosophy, or something, he called it. Talked about fanatics who do nothing but get themselves at a rope’s end.