Six Months at the White House/XXXV
I have elsewhere intimated that Mr. Lincoln was capable of much dramatic power. It is true this was never exhibited in his public life, or addresses, but it was shown in his keen appreciation of Shakspeare, and unrivalled faculty of story-telling. The incident just related, for example, was given with a thrilling effect which mentally placed Johnson, for the time being, alongside of Luther and Cromwell. Profanity or irreverence was lost sight of in the fervid utterance of a highly wrought and great-souled determination, united with a rare exhibition of pathos and self-abnegation.
A narrative of quite a different character followed closely upon this, suggested by a remark made by myself. It was an account of how the President and Secretary of War received the news of the capture of Norfolk, early in the war. "Chase and Stanton," said Mr. Lincoln, "had accompanied me to Fortress Monroe. While we were there, an expedition was fitted out for an attack on Norfolk. Chase and General Wool disappeared about the time we began to look for tidings of the result, and after vainly waiting their return till late in the evening, Stanton and I concluded to retire. My room was on the second floor of the Commandant's house, and Stanton's was below. The night was very warm,--the moon shining brightly,--and, too restless to sleep, I threw off my clothes and sat for some time by the table, reading. Suddenly hearing footsteps, I looked out of the window, and saw two persons approaching, whom I knew by their relative size to be the missing men. They came into the passage and I heard them rap at Stanton's door and tell him to get up, and come up-stairs. A moment afterward they entered my room. 'No time for ceremony, Mr. President,' said General Wool; 'Norfolk is ours!' Stanton here burst in, just out of bed, clad in a long nightgown, which nearly swept the floor, his ear catching, as he crossed the threshold, Wool's last words. Perfectly overjoyed, he rushed at the General, whom he hugged most affectionately, fairly lifting him from the floor in his delight. The scene altogether must have been a comical one, though at the time we were all too greatly excited to take much note of mere appearances."