I remember he asked, all of a sudden, who was President now; and when I told him, he asked if Old Abe was General Benjamin Lincoln’s son. He said he met old General Lincoln, when he was quite a boy himself, at some Indian treaty. I said no, that Old Abe was a Kentuckian like himself, but I could not tell him of what family; he had worked up from the ranks. “Good for him!” cried Nolan; “I am glad of that. As I have brooded and wondered, I have thought our danger was in keeping up those regular successions in the first families.” Then I got talking about my visit to Washington. I told him of meeting the Oregon Congressman, Harding; I told him about the Smithsonian, and the Exploring Expedition; I told him about the Capitol and the statues for the pediment, and Crawford’s Liberty, and Greenough’s Washington: Ingham, I told him everything I could think of that would show the grandeur of his country and its prosperity; but I could not make up my mouth to tell him a word about this infernal rebellion!
And he drank it in and enjoyed it as I cannot tell you. He grew more and more silent, yet I never thought he was tired or faint. I gave him a glass of water, but he just wet his lips, and told me not to go away. Then he asked me to bring the Presbyterian “Book of Public Prayer” which lay there, and said, with a smile, that it would open at the right place—and so it did. There was his double red mark down the page; and I knelt down and read, and he repeated with me, “For ourselves and our country, O gracious God, we thank Thee, that, notwithstanding our manifold transgressions of Thy holy laws, Thou hast continued to us Thy marvellous kindness,” and so to the end of that thanksgiving. Then he turned to the end of the same book, and I read the words more familiar to me: “Most heartily we beseech Thee with Thy favour to behold and bless Thy servant, the President of the United States, and all others in authority”—and the rest of the Episcopal collect. “Danforth,” said he “I have repeated these prayers night and morning, it is now fifty-five years.” And then he said he would go to sleep. He bent me down over him and kissed me; and he said, “Look in my Bible, Captain, when I am gone.” And I went away.
But I had no thought
it was the end. I thought he was tired
and would sleep. I knew he was happy, and I wanted him to be
But in an hour, when the doctor went in gently, he found Nolan had breathed his life away with a smile. He had something pressed close to his lips. It was his father’s badge of the Order of the Cincinnati.
We looked in his Bible,
and there was a slip of paper at the
place where he had marked the text—