The Real Life – Abraham Lincoln by George Alfred Townsend

SPRINGFIELD, III., Jan. 25, 1867.

When history makes up its mind to commemorate a place, no special correspondence can keep pace with it1. After Mr. Lincoln’s nomination to the Presidency—the most Republican of all coups d’etat—2the little city of Springfield ascended at a bound from the commonplace to the memorable. Caravans of patriots from all the other States wended across the prairies to visit it. From a market town,3 where eggs were duly exchanged for calico, and the father of the family reported himself twice a year to get stone-drunk, it rose to be the home of a President, and sent him across the continent to usefulness and martyrdom. His body lies near by it—shrine which any city might covet—and his prim frame residence,4 practical and mud-colored,5 I have walked around these two nights, to find my curiosity shared by a half-dozen couples, looking upon it as if the tall ghost of its former owner might possibly appear.

I came here to lecture;6 of two days leisure spared me I have passed one-half of each in conversation with a man who knew the great citizen of Springfield for twenty years anterior to his Chief Magistracy better and closer than any human being. Until very lately you might have read upon a bare stairway, opposite the State House Square, the sign of LINCOLN & HERNDON. A year ago it gave place to the name of HERNDON & ZANE.7 Ascending the stairs one flight,8 you see two doors opening to your right hand. That in the rear leads to what was for one generation the law office of the President.9 Within, it is a dismantled room, strewn with faded briefs and leaves of law books; no desks nor chairs remaining; its single bracket of gas darkened in the center, by whose flame he whom our children’s children shall reverently name, prepared, perhaps, his gentle, sturdy utterances; and out of its window you get a sweep of stable-roofs and dingy back yards, where he must have looked a thousand times, pondering Freedom and Empire, with his eye upon ash-heaps and crowing cocks and young Americans sledging or ball-playing.10. As simple an office,11 even for a country lawyer, as ever I saw in my life, it is now in the transition condition of being prepared for another tenant. In the middle of the room the future President sat at a table side, and in the adjoining front room this table and all the furniture of the place is still retained, while in its back corner, looking meditatively at the cylinder stove, you see Mr. Herndon, the partner and authority I have referred to.


My Ántonia by Willa Cather

Book I: The Shimerdas


The engine was panting heavily after its long run12. In the red glow from the fire-box, a group of people stood huddled together on the platform, encumbered by bundles and boxes. I knew this must be the immigrant family the conductor had told us about. The woman wore a fringed shawl tied over her head, and she carried a little tin trunk in her arms, hugging it as if it were a baby. There was an old man, tall and stooped2. Two half-grown boys and a girl stood holding oilcloth a bundles, and a little girl clung to her mother’s skirts. Presently a man with a lantern approached them and began to talk, shouting and exclaiming3. I pricked up my ears, for it was positively the first time I had ever heard a foreign tongue4.

Another lantern came along5. A bantering voice called out:6 “Hello, are you Mr. Burden’s folks? If you are, it’s me you’re looking for. I’m Otto Fuchs. I’m Mr. Burden’s hired man, and I’m to drive you out. Hello, Jimmy, ain’t you scared to come so far west?”

I looked up with interest at the new face in the lantern light. He might have stepped out of the pages of “Jesse James.” He wore a sombrero hat, with a wide leather band and a bright buckle, and the ends of his mustache were twisted up stiffly, like little horns7. He looked lively and ferocious, I thought, and as if he had a history. A long scar ran across one cheek and drew the corner of his mouth up in a sinister curl8. The top of his left ear was gone, and his skin was brown as an Indian’s. Surely this was the face of a desperado. As he walked about the platform in his high-heeled boots9, looking for our trunks10, I saw that he was a rather slight man, quick and wiry11, and light on his feet. He told us we had a long night drive ahead of us, and had better be on the hike. He led us to a hitching-bar where two farm wagons were tied, and I saw the foreign family crowding into one of them. The other was for us. Jake got on the front seat with Otto Fuchs, and I rode on the straw in the bottom of the wagonbox, covered up with a buffalo hide. The immigrants rumbled off into the empty darkness, and we followed them.

(Online Text)