One morning Senator Wilkinson and I went to see the President, and in the vestibule of the White House met two gentlemen whom he introduced as Sec. Stanton and Gen. Fremont. The first said he needed no introduction, and I said I had asked Senator Wilkinson to see him on my account. He replied:
“Do not ask any one to see me! If you want anything from me, come yourself. No one can have more influence.”
Gen. Fremont inquired where I was staying, and said he would call on me. This frightened me, and I felt like running away. But they were so kind and cordial that our short chat is a pleasant memory; but Mr. Wilkinson and I failed to see Mr. Lincoln. Next day Sec. Stanton gave me an appointment in the Quarter Master General’s office, but there was no place for me to go to work.
Gen. Fremont called at the houses of two friends where I was visiting, but both times I was absent. In 1850 I had also missed the calls of his wife and sister, and so I seemed destined never to meet the people I admired above all others.
My friends wished me to attend a Presidential reception; but it was useless to see Mr. Lincoln on the business which brought me to Washington, and I did not care to see him on any other. He had proved an obstructionist instead of an abolitionist, and I felt no respect for him; while his wife was every where spoken of as a Southern woman with Southern sympathies—a conspirator against the Union. I wanted nothing to do with the occupants of the White House, but was told I could go and see the spectacle without being presented. So I went in my broadcloth traveling dress, and lest there should be trouble about my early leave-taking, would not trust my cloak to the servants, but walked through the hall with it over my arm. I watched the President and Mrs. Lincoln receive. His sad, earnest, honest face was irresistible in its plea for confidence, and Mrs. Lincoln’s manner was so simple and motherly, so unlike that of all Southern women I had seen, that I doubted the tales I had heard. Her head was not that of a conspirator. She would be incapable of a successful deceit, and whatever her purposes were, they must be known to all who knew her.
Mr. Lincoln stood going through one of those, dreadful ordeals of hand-shaking, working like a man pumping for life on a sinking vessel, and I was filled with indignation for the selfish people who made this useless drain on his nervous force. I wanted to stand between him and them, and say, “stand back, and let him live and do his work.” But I could not resist going to him with the rest of the crowd, and when he took my hand I said:
“May the Lord have mercy on you, poor man, for the people have none.” He laughed heartily, and the men around him, joined in his merriment. When I came to Mrs. Lincoln, she did not catch the name at first, and asked to hear it again, then repeated it, and a sudden glow of pleasure lit her face, as she held out her hand and said how very glad she was to see me. I objected to giving her my hand because my black glove would soil her white one; but she said: