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rough log house, with a puncheon floor and a clapboard roof: the dinner was bread and milk.” Even when he appeared at the state capital he did not suggest any effete aristocracy. Vandalia was a big town for him, with three taverns, four doctors, five lawyers, two newspapers, and several stores, in fact all the complexity of a metropolis. Lincoln kept pretty quiet. He observed the large assortment of statesmen with whom he was thrown, but followed his habit of postponing action until he was at home in a new situation. There were in Vandalia many men who afterward became prominent, among them Stephen A. Douglas, who struck Lincoln as “the least man he had ever seen.”
The representative from Sangamon County voted for the principal bills of the session, chartering a state bank and borrowing half a million dollars for a highway, the beginning of a fever for speculative improvement which a few years later reached a disastrous climax. He naturally
a did not shine on his committee, that of public accounts and expenditures, a line of thought in which he never became strong, but he did introduce and carry through a bill limiting the jurisdiction of justices of the peace; made a motion to change the rules to prevent amendments to any bill after the third reading, a practice which was eventually adopted three years later; and introduced a resolution in favor of securing to the
state a part of the proceeds of public lands within its limits, which was laid on the table.
With this modest and prudent record he returned, in the spring of 1835, to New Salem, and began again to survey, study law, and distribute letters. The first thing of importance that happened to him was not worldly but intimate. He found that Ann Rutledge, the girl of the tavern, was in trouble. Her fiancé had gone away about a year before, and Ann had heard disquieting rumors. When
McNeill settled in New Salem, before Lincoln did, he had shown such business ability that in four years he owned a half interest in a prosperous store and a large farm in the neighborhood. Among the suitors for the beautiful Ann this energetic youth easily won, but as she was only seventeen the marriage was to be postponed. After a long engagement, late in 1833, about the time Lincoln left for Vandalia, McNeill told Ann a secret. His name, he said, was really McNamar, and he had changed it to keep his father's reverses from following him when he ran away from his Eastern home to retrieve the family fortunes. He now wished to go East to look up the relatives whom he was at last able to help, and he sold his interest in the store before starting. On his return, with his father and mother, Ann and he would be married. Ann believed him, but as months passed on and
she received no letters she told her secret, and all her friends met the story with convincing scepticism.
Lincoln, finding on his return from Vandalia that months had passed with no news, that Ann was sad and gossip cruel, took heart and asked the girl to be his wife. She consented in the spring to marry him when another year had enabled her to have an autumn and winter season in a Jacksonville academy, and had helped him to make a further start in life.
But Ann never reached the academy. As the spring and summer passed, her memories haunted her. What she felt about Lincoln we do not know. McNamar was on her conscience. Had she wronged him? Was he still faithful? Had she every right to love him in spite of silence ? She fell so ill that Lincoln was kept from her presence, and again we can only conjecture what this exclusion means. Finally hope had
gone and her new fiancé was allowed to spend an hour with her shortly before her death, which came August 25, 1835.
Lincoln, always tending toward fits of gloom, had his mind almost unsettled by this blow. For the sadness that marked his face through life many reasons have been given by those who knew him best. One of his most intelligent friends believed that constipation was the real cause. Others find it inherited from his unhappy mother. Others tell of the gloom of pioneer life, the desert spaces, the malaria, the loneliness, the absence of opportunity for a man who feels his powers ready within him. Whatever the causes, almost all who ever knew Lincoln well believed that the death of Ann Rutledge was an aggravation of the morbid tendency. She was the loveliest and most lovable woman in New Salem. Lincoln was deeply fond of her. In all probability her heart was never fully his, but he had reason to hope it would be. Then she died, and two months later McNamar's return, with proof of his honesty, gave a final touch to the pioneer tragedy. Lincoln, in one fashion or another, for several years loved rather readily, seeming in a mood to offer his hand and heart whenever a sympathetic relation was established, but in the case of Ann alone was the feeling deep. He and his friends feared for his sanity. As long as five or six years after he consulted Dr. Drake, a celebrated Cincinnati doctor, by letter, but the physician refused to give an opinion without a personal interview, and Lincoln was unable to make the trip. To a fellow-member of the legislature, within two years after the death, the representative from Sangamon said that although he seemed to enjoy life, he was so overcome by depression, whenever he was alone, that he no
longer dared to carry a pocket-knife, in spite of his old-time love of whittling.
After the first election to the presidency he answered his old friend, Isaac Colgate, who asked if it was true he ran a little wild about the Rutledge matter: “I did really. I ran off the track. It was my first. I loved the woman dearly. She was a handsome girl; would have made a good, loving wife; was natural, and quite intellectual, though not highly educated. I did honestly and truly love the girl, and think often, often, of her now.” To one of his friends, speaking of Concord Cemetery, seven miles from New Salem, Lincoln said, “ My heart is buried there.” There was a popular belief that in all weathers he used to sit for hours alone on her grave. McNamar,
. who saw Lincoln at the post-office, says, “He seemed desolate and sorely distressed; ” — and McNamar, himself, within a year, married another
Apparently it was this experience more than any one other which fixed the habit of reciting lugubrious verse, half-way between doggerel and poetry, which followed him through life, and these effusions represent one side of the man's personal nature with vividness. One of them has been made famous as his favorite, the poem which he recited for some thirty years at every opportunity. Part of it is :