Sarah's Ground (9781439115855)

Sarah's Ground (9781439115855) by Ann Rinaldi

Book: Sarah's Ground (9781439115855) by Ann Rinaldi Read Free Book Online
Authors: Ann Rinaldi
to President Lincoln. So I went to General Scott. At least he had treated me decentlythe last time we met, even though his passes had been overridden by McClellan.
    Under McClellan’s new regulations certainly Scott’s name would be good on passes this time, wouldn’t it?
    I got to the War Department building and left Priscilla in the carriage with instructions not to move the wagon. “I am on important business with General Scott,” I told her. And I left her a note with my name on it and the name of the Association.
    Inside was the usual crowd of hangers-on, favor seekers, and soldiers. I pushed my way through to General Scotts aide and told him what I wanted.
    â€œHe isn’t in today, miss. He’s sick.”
    â€œThen, who do I see?”
    He shrugged. “The president. Lincoln. If McClellan has refused you, there is no power on Earth who can help you now but President Lincoln.”
    â€œHow do I do that?” I asked.
    He said to go right to the White House. He grinned. “Everybody else does,” he told me.
    So, on to the White House. And more maneuvering to find a place for our buggy, and the same instructions to Priscilla. All I managed to absorb, as I was led by a soldier through the presidents house, was a glimpse of the Blue Room and the elegant carpets underfoot.
    I was in the White House! What would Fanny say? Iwondered as I climbed the stairs to the president’s office. Would she still insist on coming to fetch me home?
    Likely she’d scold me at this moment because my dress wasn’t fancy enough or my shoes dusty.
    What would Miss Semple think of me now?
    When I finally got in to see him, the president was at the window in his office, reading something. His glasses were on the edge of his nose. He was dressed in black, as I expected. But he appeared rumpled, from his cravat to his wrinkled trousers.
    â€œMiss Sarah Tracy, sir, from the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association,” his secretary announced me.
    Would he remonstrate with me for not receiving his wife that day? Would he even know of it?
    â€œAh.” He turned, adjusted his spectacles, and looked at me. “Do sit, Miss Tracy. Can you believe that I do not have a telegraph in my office? That I must go over to the War Department and Mr. Stanton’s office to get news?”
    I nodded and smiled. He didn’t have scores of guards, like McClellan had. Or an expensive uniform. Or more than one headquarters.
    A servant came in, peered at a plate of food on his desk. “Mr. President, sir, you haven’t eaten,” he said sadly.
    â€œFood does not appeal to me, Henley. Get me an apple.”
    The servant took the plate and left. Mr. Lincoln sat. His bony knees stuck out in front. He didn’t seem to knowwhat to do with his hands. He was all arms and legs. His face was sallow and wrinkled, but when he smiled and asked me about how Mount Vernon was doing, I felt a whole sense of warmth, I felt the world opening up for me, and I found myself telling him my troubles.
    â€œI must come to see you there sometime,” he said. “I must come and see the generals tomb,”
    The servant returned with an apple on a plate. Mr. Lincoln proceeded to pick it up and peel it with a knife, trying to get all the skin off in one long peel.
    â€œCan you do this, Miss Tracy?” he asked.
    â€œI did it once, sir,” I said.
    â€œIt’s an accomplishment,” he said. “Go on, so you were saying that General McClellan denied his aides issuing your passes.”
    â€œI’m sure he forgot, sir. He has many responsibilities.”
    â€œYes, I’m sure.” Then he smiled, and the homely face was full of a sort of rapture. “Like the farmer said to the pig after he slit its throat, Miss Tracy: ‘You must forgive me. I forgot you were the one I was going to let live. Next time I’ll do better,’”
    We laughed at the joke together, and when he

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