I walked slowly back to the office and wrote my article. When the Printer came in at twelve I went to his room before he had had time to begin work.
‘Mr Greeley,’ I said, ‘here is my resignation. I am going to the war.’
His habitual smile gave way to a sober look as he turned to me, his big white coat on his arm. He pursed his lips and blew thoughtfully. Then he threw his coat in a chair and wiped his eyes with his handkerchief.
‘Well! God bless you, my boy,’ he said. ‘I wish I could go, too.’
I worked some weeks before my regiment was sent forward. I planned to be at home for a day, but they needed me on the staff, and I dreaded the pain of a parting, the gravity of which my return would serve only to accentuate. So I wrote them a cheerful letter, and kept at work. It was my duty to interview some of the great men of that day as to the course of the government. I remember Commodore Vanderbilt came down to see me in shirt-sleeves and slippers that afternoon, with a handkerchief tied about his neck in place of a collar — a blunt man, of simple manners and a big heart, one who spoke his mind in good, plain talk, and, I suppose, he got along with as little profanity as possible, considering his many cares. He called me ‘boy’ and spoke of a certain public man as a ‘big sucker’. I soon learned that to him a ‘sucker’ was the lowest and meanest thing in the world. He sent me away with nothing but a great admiration of him. As a rule, the giants of that day were plain men of the people, with no frills upon them, and with a way of hitting from the shoulder. They said what they meant and meant it hard. I have heard Lincoln talk when his words had the whiz of a bullet and his arm the jerk of a piston.
John Trumbull invited McClingan, of whom I had told him much, and myself to dine with him an evening that week. I went in my new dress suit — that mark of sinful extravagance for which Fate had brought me down to the pounding of rocks under Boss McCormick. Trumbull’s rooms were a feast for the eye — aglow with red roses. He introduced me to Margaret Hull and her mother, who were there to dine with us. She was a slight woman of thirty then, with a face of no striking beauty, but of singular sweetness. Her dark eyes had a mild and tender light in them; her voice a plaintive, gentle tone, the like of which one may hear rarely if ever. For years she had been a night worker in the missions of the lower city, and many an unfortunate had been turned from the way of evil by her good offices. I sat beside her at the table, and she told me of her work and how often she had met Trumbull in his night walks.
‘Found me a hopeless heathen,’ he remarked.
‘To save him I had to consent to marry him,’ she said, laughing.
’"Who hath found love is already in Heaven,"’said McClingan. ’I have not found it and I am in’’ he hesitated, as if searching for a synonym.