His companion in the street car has often wondered since then what Mr. Lincoln thought about during the remainder of his ride that night to the Astor House. The Cooper Institute had, owing to a snowstorm, not been full, and its intelligent, respectable, non-partisan audience had not rung out enthusiastic applause like a concourse of Western auditors magnetised by their own enthusiasm. Had the address—the most carefully prepared, the most elaborately investigated and demonstrated and verified of all the work of his life—been a failure? But in the matter of quality and ability, if not of quantity and enthusiasm, he had never addressed such an audience; and some of the ablest men in the Northern States had expressed their opinion of the address in terms which left no doubt of the highest appreciation. Did Mr. Lincoln regard the address which he had just delivered to a small and critical audience as a success? Did he have the faintest glimmer of the brilliant effect which was to follow? Did he feel the loneliness of the situation—the want of his loyal Illinois adherents? Did his sinking heart infer that he was but a speck of humanity to which the great city would never again give a thought? He was a plain man, an ungainly man; unadorned, apparently uncultivated, showing the awkwardness of self-conscious rusticity. His dress that night before a New York audience was the most unbecoming that a fiend’s ingenuity could have devised for a tall, gaunt man—a black frock coat, ill-setting and too short for him in the body, skirt, and arms—a rolling collar, low-down, disclosing his long thin, shrivelled throat uncovered and exposed. No man in all New York appeared that night more simple, more unassuming, more modest, more unpretentious, more conscious of his own defects than Abraham Lincoln; and yet we now know that within his soul there burned the fires of an unbounded ambition, sustained by a self-reliance and self-esteem that bade him fix his gaze upon the very pinnacle of American fame and aspire to it in a time so troubled that its dangers appalled the soul of every American. What were this man’s thoughts when he was left alone? Did a faint shadow of the future rest upon his soul? Did he feel in some mysterious way that on that night he had crossed the Rubicon of his life-march—that care and trouble and political discord, and slander and misrepresentation and ridicule and public responsibilities, such as hardly ever before burdened a conscientious soul, coupled with war and defeat and disaster, were to be thenceforth his portion nearly to his life’s end, and that his end was to be a bloody act which would appall the world and send a thrill of horror through the hearts of friends and enemies alike, so that when the woeful tidings came the bravest of the Southern brave should burst into tears and cry aloud, “Oh! the unhappy South, the unhappy South!”
The impression left on his companion’s mind as he gave a last glance at him in the street car was that he seemed sad and lonely; and when it was too late, when the car was beyond call, he blamed himself for not accompanying Mr. Lincoln to the Astor House—not because he was a distinguished stranger, but because he seemed a sad and lonely man.