He was his father’s favorite

XV.

We embraced the boy at the door of his white stone home.

hans vollman

He gave us a shy smile, not untouched by trepidation at what was to come.

the reverend everly thomas

Go on, Mr. Bevins said gently. It is for the best.

hans vollman

Off you go, Mr. Vollman said. Nothing left for you here.

roger bevins iii

Goodbye then, the lad said.

Nothing scary about it, Mr. Bevins said. Perfectly natural.

hans vollman

Then it happened.

roger bevins iii

An extraordinary occurrence.

hans vollman

Unprecedented, really.

the reverend everly thomas

The boy’s gaze moved past us.

hans vollman

He seemed to catch sight of something beyond.

roger bevins iii

His face lit up with joy.

hans vollman

Father, he said.

the reverend everly thomas

XVI.

An exceedingly tall and unkempt fellow was making his way toward us through the darkness.

hans vollman

This was highly irregular. It was after hours; the front gate would be locked.

the reverend everly thomas

The boy had been delivered only that day. That is to say, the man had most likely been here—

roger bevins iii

Quite recently.

hans vollman

That afternoon.

roger bevins iii

Highly irregular.

the reverend everly thomas

The gentleman seemed lost. Several times he stopped, looked about, retraced his steps, reversed course.

hans vollman

He was softly sobbing.

roger bevins iii

He was not sobbing. My friend remembers incorrectly. He was winded. He did not sob.

hans vollman

He was softly sobbing, his sadness aggravated by his mounting frustration at being lost.

roger bevins iii

He moved stiffly, all elbows and knees.

the reverend everly thomas

Bursting out of the doorway, the lad took off running toward the man, look of joy on his face.

roger bevins iii

Which turned to consternation when the man failed to sweep him up in his arms as, one gathered, must have been their custom.

the reverend everly thomas

The boy instead passing through the man, as the man continued to walk toward the white stone home, sobbing.

roger bevins iii

He was not sobbing. He was very much under control and moved with great dignity and certainty of—

hans vollman

He was fifteen yards away now, headed directly toward us.

roger bevins iii

The Reverend suggested we yield the path.

hans vollman

The Reverend having strong feelings about the impropriety of allowing oneself to be passed through.

roger bevins iii

The man reached the white stone home and let himself in with a key, the lad then following him in.

hans vollman

Mr. Bevins, Mr. Vollman, and I, concerned for the boy’s welfare, moved into the doorway.

the reverend everly thomas

The man then did something—I do not quite know how to—

hans vollman

He was a large fellow. Quite strong, apparently. Strong enough to be able to slide the boy’s—

the reverend everly thomas

Sick-box.

hans vollman

The man slid the box out of the slot in the wall, and set it down upon the floor.

roger bevins iii

And opened it.

hans vollman

Kneeling before the box, the man looked down upon that which—

the reverend everly thomas

He looked down upon the lad’s supine form in the sick-box.

hans vollman

Yes.

the reverend everly thomas

At which point, he sobbed.

hans vollman

He had been sobbing all along.

roger bevins iii

He emitted a single, heartrending sob.

hans vollman

Or gasp. I heard it as more of a gasp. A gasp of recognition.

the reverend everly thomas

Of recollection.

hans vollman

Of suddenly remembering what had been lost.

the reverend everly thomas

And touched the face and hair fondly.

hans vollman

As no doubt he had many times done when the boy was—

roger bevins iii

Less sick.

hans vollman

A gasp of recognition, as if to say: Here he is again, my child, just as he was. I have found him again, he who was so dear to me.

the reverend everly thomas

Who was still so dear.

hans vollman

Yes.

roger bevins iii

The loss having been quite recent.

the reverend everly thomas

XVII.

Willie Lincoln was wasting away.

Epstein, op. cit.

The days dragged wearily by, and he grew weaker and more shadow-like.

Keckley, op. cit.

Lincoln’s secretary, William Stoddard, recalled the question on everyone’s lips: “Is there no hope? Not any. So the doctors say.”

In “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

At about 5 o’clock this afternoon, I was lying half asleep on the sofa in my office, when his entrance aroused me. “Well, Nicolay,” said he choking with emotion, “my boy is gone—he is actually gone!” and bursting into tears, turned and went into his own office.

In “With Lincoln in the White House,” by John G. Nicolay, edited by Michael Burlingame.

The death was only moments ago. The body lay upon the bed, the coverlet thrown back. He wore the pale blue pajamas. His arms lay at his sides. The cheeks were still enflamed. Three pillows lay in a heap on the floor. The small side table was askew, as if roughly pushed aside.

In “Eyewitness to History: The Lincoln White House,” edited by Stone Hilyard, account of Sophie Lenox, maid.

I assisted in washing him and dressing him, and then laid him on the bed, when Mr. Lincoln came in. I never saw a man so bowed down with grief. He came to the bed, lifted the cover from the face of his child, gazed at it long and lovingly, and earnestly, murmuring, “My poor boy, he was too good for this earth. God has called him home. I know that he is much better off in heaven, but then we loved him so. It is hard, hard to have him die!”

Keckley, op. cit.

He was his father’s favorite. They were intimates—often seen hand in hand.

Keckley, op. cit., account of Nathaniel Parker Willis.

He was his father over again both in magnetic personality and in all his gifts and tastes.

In “Lincoln’s Sons,” by Ruth Painter Randall.

He was the child in whom Lincoln had invested his fondest hopes; a small mirror of himself, as it were, to whom he could speak frankly, openly, and confidingly.

In “Reckoning: An Insider’s Memories of Difficult Times,” by Tyron Philian.

Will was the true picture of Mr. Lincoln, in every way, even to carrying his head slightly inclined toward his left shoulder.

Burlingame, op. cit., account of a Springfield neighbor.

One feels such love for the little ones, such anticipation that all that is lovely in life will be known by them, such fondness for that set of attributes manifested uniquely in each: mannerisms of bravado, of vulnerability, habits of speech and mispronouncement and so forth; the smell of the hair and head, the feel of the tiny hand in yours—and then the little one is gone! Taken! One is thunderstruck that such a brutal violation has occurred in what had previously seemed a benevolent world. From nothingness, there arose great love; now, its source nullified, that love, searching and sick, converts to the most abysmal suffering imaginable.

In “Essay Upon the Loss of a Child,” by Mrs. Rose Milland.

“This is the hardest trial of my life,” he confessed to the nurse, and in a spirit of rebellion this man, overweighted with care and sorrows, cried out: “Why is it? Why is it?”

In “Abraham Lincoln: The Boy and the Man,” by James Morgan.

Great sobs choked his utterance. He buried his head in his hands, and his tall frame was convulsed with emotion. I stood at the foot of the bed, my eyes full of tears, looking at the man in silent, awe-stricken wonder. His grief unnerved him, and made him a weak, passive child. I did not dream that his rugged nature could be so moved. I shall never forget those solemn moments—genius and greatness weeping over love’s lost idol.

Keckley, op. cit.

George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo, 2017.

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