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AURA LEE - PART 14
1/6/2010 7:50:03 AM
AURA LEE – PART 14
John Wilkes Booth sat on a bench under a fanning sycamore tree on the south side of Pennsylvania Avenue and stared at the White House. Next to him sat an older man, a clergyman, not nearly so well dressed nor handsomely turned out; and they were both smoking long black cheroots.
“Father Ervin,” Booth muttered, half under his breath, while expelling a steady stream of blue tobacco smoke, “I must speak in confidence, with frankness, and fully relying upon your clerical discretion. Quite frankly, this matter weighs heavily, causing me much anxiety. I am not eating well, nor sleeping. Those who know me, seeing me often, say I look . . . ragged. And I have moments of keen depression, alleviated only by dangerous amounts of brandy and corn whiskey, which in reality give me little more than temporary oblivion and damnable headaches. There are times when I . . . when the whole issue, this business . . . well, to be frank, I favor kidnapping, snatching the blackguard when he rides alone, rather than outright assassination. But I have no theory, no plan in either case, as to logistics or execution. My confidants to a man are against the idea. I am somewhat . . . beside myself . . . hardly my best position.”
The Reverend Father Ervin Adare, S.G. was barely listening. He was watching a young boy, a lad of less than twelve years, playing with an old Negro and a Union army officer on the lawn in front of the mansion. The old priest, sitting next to the dapper, cosmopolitan, youthful Booth, was visually incongruous, and yet, at the same time, remarkably inconspicuous, as only a clergyman, edentulous and surpassing his prime, can be. He was of diminutive stature, all the more so sitting down, and he was quite bald, with what hair he had left pulled back beyond his ears and bunched over his neck and shoulders in an unruly wad. His eyebrows, forming a tangled frame above dark, narrow eyes, were two rows of untrimmed hedges that fluctuated with emphasis whenever he spoke. But it was his beard which separated him from the ordinary: a gray mass of curls that emanated not from his chin, cheek or jowls, but rather hung from his upper throat, commencing beneath the jaw line and giving the appearance of a wiry bib that covered him to his breastbone.
“Who,” he asked, and his voice, strong and clear, betrayed his demeanor, “is that soldier with young Tad Lincoln and the old retainer?”
Booth tilted his head and focused on the group across the street. “Ah, that’s the eldest son, Robert Lincoln. A regimental captain, home, I would suspect, for a week’s respite.”
“Handsome young man. Looks fit. Are you sure he, too, is Abe Lincoln’s son?”
“Most assuredly.”
“Bears no resemblance to the ‘monster’.”
Booth shrugged, indifferently. “Perhaps he was adopted.”
“No. If that’s Robert, he’s a Lincoln. I was in Illinois when the boy was born. I saw Mary Lincoln often at social functions in those days. Trust me, she was quite abundantly with child when I last saw her a few days before the blessed event.”
“Interesting . . . What say you to the idea of kidnapping young Tad— doing him no harm, of course, but holding him for ransom? We could easily exchange him for every soldier the Yankees are holding on Johnson’s Island. Lincoln would certainly acquiesce to any demands to reunite the boy safely with his mother and him.”
Father Ervin regarded his companion with a negative shake of the head, causing his beard to sway beneath his chin like a pillowcase hanging to dry in the wind. “Why not, then, simply snatch the mother? And the boy? And the older brother, as well? No, my cognizable thespian, that is not what my superiors have in mind. If kidnapping were a workable agenda, it would do only if Lincoln himself were the victim. And in that case, all results would have to be warranted for fruition exactly as prescribed, or it would prove naught and dangerously worthless. Frankly, though you may be partial to kidnapping, for all intent and successful purpose, assassination is the only true and sensible benison that will do.”
Benison? Booth seemed to ponder this, as nothing more was said for several minutes. Then: “Am I correct,” he asked, leaning forward and speaking in a stage whisper, “the bounty is set now at one million dollars gold?”
“Bounty? Strange choice of word. But you are correct.”
“And what modus operandi will place that sum into my anxious hands?”
Father Ervin scrunched a bit taller on the park bench and leaned back, resting against the ornate cast iron. “The first step is that you must go quickly to Richmond and inform President Davis of what—as you call it—modus operandi you have planned in order to carry out the, uh, mission. If he approves—and I see no reason why he shouldn’t—he will give you a deposit and an endorsement above his seal that you will bring back to me here in Washington. Upon receipt of that document, I will place into your hands two hundred thousand dollars gold. Actually, as such a sum will weigh more than you can carry, I will place the money in carpetbags to be hidden at your hotel, or wherever you prefer, and waiting for you as you make your escape back to Richmond. Once in the capitol again, present yourself to Mr. Davis and receive the remaining seven hundred ninety thousand in bullion. His instructions are that he is to pay you, or at least have the money ready, upon notice from us that Abraham Lincoln has been duly dispatched, by your hand, from his mortal coil.”
Again, the two men fell into a prolonged, contemplative silence. Then Booth spoke first: “I have many preparatory expenses that I cannot meet. There are people in this with me whose time and efforts I must compensate.”
“That is not my concern. You will have plenty of money to meet those expenses once the deed is done.”
“You do not understand.”
“No, Mr. Booth, it is you who does not understand.”
The old priest sat forward and locked his gaze on the young actor. “We have placed one million dollars on the head of the author of the bloodshed, and the money does not come from the Confederacy. We SGs alone have been given the great enterprise to select an assassin and show him a crown of glory in heaven. You, dear boy, are to be the tool of the Society of God, and I can assure you we—they—are a brotherhood who never forgets.”
Father Adare’s tone pierced a nerve in Booth’s psyche. A tool of the Society of God . . . the SGs . . . a brotherhood who never forgets. The actor did not need to read between the lines to fully understand, and he was glad he had familiarized himself with Ervin Adare’s former relationship with Abraham Lincoln.
It had been in 1856, in Illinois, when an altercation had broken out between Father Adare and his bishop, a certain S.G. named Anatole Kipfer. Much verbosity, profane and otherwise, was bantered back and forth, and although Bishop Kipfer stepped aside and had nothing further to do with Adare, one of the bishop’s closest friends, a Father Maurice Dawdle sued Adare for slander. The case was brought in the spring of 1856, and Adare was represented by a lawyer none other than Abraham Lincoln. The future president arranged a most comfortable settlement and compromise before the issue even came to trial, but Adare took this as a monumental victory over the church and, to his discredit, went about for a time bragging that a certain morals charge had been, ostensibly, proven against the bishop. Within a syllable of being ex-communicated by Rome, Adare recanted his louche and ill-chosen diatribe and went abroad for two years. During that time, Bishop Kipfer died, allowing Adare to return to the United States and resume his duties in the diocese of the District of Columbia.
But, of course, the brotherhood never forgets. When it was determined by the S.G.s there was no such man, save Abraham Lincoln, who had undermined and demeaned the value of slavery, a system favored by the majority of American Catholics, the totalitarian Papacy pronounced this president a major enemy, and took it upon itself to find a way to remove him, as they had many others, as a head of state.
Father Adare, as an ex-priest twenty-three years later, would write a book called A Roman Lifetime, in which he would, wallowing in pique, describe the events soon to transpire as “a Catholic grand conspiracy”.
John Wilkes Booth, his insane plans to kidnap the President raked away like dead leaves of autumn, had quite conveniently made himself available as the Church’s most utile, mercenary instrument of his time.
* * *


The President of the United States stood in the window of his second floor office and watched his two remaining offspring playing catch with a hard India rubber ball in the yard below. It was a game of three-cornered catch with old Alvinas Turner placed off at an odd angle, and the two Lincolns threw the ball back and forth, rarely if ever including the dauntless retainer. Robert, the president noticed, was not as good a thrower or catcher as young Tad. This pleased Lincoln, and he turned to the secretary of war and made note of it.
“Look at this, Stanton,” he said. “The boy throws a more manly pitch and catches open-handed and unafraid. Captain Robert tosses the ball like a eunuch.”
Edwin Stanton got up from a wooden, straight-backed chair near the door and crossed the room to stand beside the president and look out the window. Lincoln was conscious of him standing nearby, but he did not look at him. Stanton, though robust, was easily a foot shorter than Lincoln and took on the image of a midget when they were side by side. His shaggy mane and full, elongated beard, splattered in irregular patterns with whitish highlights, did little to enhance his appearance; but his clothes, well-tailored and cut with perfection by the master haberdashers on M Street, made up for cosmetic shortcomings.
“’Captain Robert,’ as you call him,” Stanton said, pleasantly enough, “were this a crown sovereign—which in many ways your Cabinet so regards it—would be heir to the throne. He cuts a fine figure in his uniform.”
Lincoln grunted.
“And you, Edwin, are a master of the non sequitur . . . Well, in any event, they seem to have fun running old Turner ragged.”
“How long will Robert be home?”
“I’m not sure. Less than the week, I would think.” The president, not in the least curious why Stanton was unsure the length of Robert’s furlough, turned from the window and walked away from his Secretary of War, circling his desk and finally dropping into the easy chair beside it.
Stanton remained at the window; something other than the group below playing in the field of the presidency had caught his eye. Was that the Roman Catholic priest Father Ervin Adare chatting on a park bench across the street with—could it be?—the actor, John Wilkes Booth? It most certainly was! . . . Wouldn’t Andrew Johnson, Stanton thought, like to be a blue jay perched within earshot on a branch in that sycamore tree!
After a moment, the cabinet officer turned away from the window and addressed the president. “Do you see much of Johnson these days?”
“Johnson?” For an instant Lincoln looked confused.
“Andrew Johnson.”
“Oh. No. . . .Why do you ask?”
“Merely curious. Since his days in the House and the Senate, we rarely see him in Washington.”
“I appointed him Military Governor of Tennessee for the expressed purpose of keeping him out of Washington. What I want of him is to use Tennessee as a model for reconstruction once this abominable conflagration ends. Hope, I’m afraid, will well exceed reality.” The president toyed quietly with the spoon beside his coffee cup. “Are you aware that he spent most of his time in congress trying to implement a plan whereby every man considered ‘poor’ would receive from the government the gift of a farm—complete with a horse, a mule, and a two-room house? A sort of national lagniappe?”
Stanton nodded. “I was aware . . . Is he ill?”
Lincoln made an imperceptible shrug. “Not that I’m aware. Hung over a great deal of the time, I would imagine; but seriously ill I seriously doubt.” The president pursed his lips, and regarded his colleague with a curiosity of his own. “I’m surprised you would give our erstwhile oenophile that much quandary. I wasn’t aware you considered him much more than an enfant terrible with barely a shred of rectitude.”
Stanton smiled at Lincoln’s choice of words, wishing as he often did that he could, in seemingly casual conversation, state his mind with such profound eloquence.
“No, Mr. President,” he chuckled, “I seldom dwell on Mr. Johnson or his proclivity for strong drink. A thought of him suddenly passed through my brain—there is talk he may be put forth for the vice presidency, being a Southerner and a Democrat to give the next ticket the face of balance. I was merely wondering . . . well, yes, curious . . . as to his whereabouts and activities.”
Lincoln sighed heavily and brought up his right hand, and he stared at it— the symbolism may not have been unintentional. “Inasmuch as Johnson’s role in this or any government is indefeasible and marred by his reputation as an inebriate, I cannot bring him much more into play than is barely prescribed by common sense. The less we see of him, the better. The man relishes the notion his position is in Cockaigne rather than Nashville. He is, of course, a fool.”
The Secretary of War sat down, nodding, but not so much at Lincoln’s analysis of the Military Governor of Tennessee as in his sudden grasp of Johnson’s blatant dislike and disrespect for the commander-in-chief: Lincoln knew him and saw him for exactly what he was.
“I would be delighted,” Andrew Johnson once said openly to Edwin Stanton at a meeting in his suite at the Willard Hotel, “to purchase the weapon, load it and place it in the hands of a hired assassin, and hold his arm steady while he squeezed the trigger, sending that baboon to his just reward.”
That remark, fueled by Tennessee whiskey, came during a conversation in which Stanton had been expounding on Lincoln’s mild Reconstruction policies if and when the war was successfully concluded. There was mutual animosity abundant in the room as these two, drinking and talking in total confidence, resolved that more radical reconstruction policies would be required to restore the Union to its deserved glory. For one thing, Lincoln had expressed his plan to admonish the South for its misdeeds by pouring millions into rebuilding farms and towns that were being destroyed in battle after battle. Jobs for prisoners of war returning home; pensions for veterans too incapacitated to earn a living; government subsidies not only for wrecked industries, but also for widows and children left destitute by the war. Worst of all, Lincoln was determined that race and color had no bearing on the recipients of this largess.
“We shall return,” he said, in a speech before Congress, “to a unified nation, one nation, one people known far and wide simply as Americans; and the brotherhood of this one nation, under God, shall prevail, shall endure throughout the centuries, while the stupidity of this conflict for which so many have given so much is submersed in a rare and singular culture to be envied by all mankind.”
Not in my lifetime, thought Edwin Stanton. It was his belief and purpose, along with many others such as Andrew Johnson, conspirators George Atzerodt, John Surratt, David Herold, certain European bankers led by the Rothchilds, domestic bankers and financiers, Copperheads, radical Republicans, the B’nai B’rith, Knights of the Golden Circle, the S.G.s of the Roman Catholic Church, a number of congressmen—quite nearly everyone who could muster an opinion, that the North was anointed not only to win the war but to avenge the conflict by literally crushing the South into the dirt of defeat through the total submission of conquest. Plainly, however, that is not at all what the Great Emancipator had in mind, and everyone knew it.
The president looked away from his right hand. “Will you stay and have supper with us, Edwin?”
The Secretary of War rose to leave. “I think not, Mr. President, but I am much obliged for the offer. Give my warmest regards to Mrs. Lincoln, sir.”
He left quickly, wondering if he, too, might have a word with Father Ervin Adare.

TO BE CONTINUED
Copyright©2002 by Robert A. Mills




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• ALEX IN WONDERLAND - Saturday, March 05, 2011
• THE OSCARS - 2011 - Wednesday, March 02, 2011
• FIRST BIRTHDAY, PART THREE - Thursday, February 24, 2011
• FIRST BIRTHDAY, PART II - Tuesday, February 22, 2011
• MY FIRST BIRTHDAY - Saturday, February 19, 2011
• IDES OF FEB, MINUS ONE DAY - Saturday, February 12, 2011
• FUN AT THE ICE PALACE - Saturday, February 05, 2011
• VACATION FROM HELL - Saturday, January 29, 2011
• BARBERSTOWN CASTLE - Saturday, January 22, 2011
• TRYING TO TAKE TUCSON – a bonus blog - Wednesday, January 19, 2011
• THE “BOBBYS” - Saturday, January 15, 2011
• POLITICS 101 - Saturday, January 08, 2011
• THE SNOWS OF KILIMANGEORGIA - Saturday, January 01, 2011
• WRITER'S CRAMP - Saturday, December 25, 2010
• BELLS ON CHRISTMAS DAY - Saturday, December 18, 2010
• PATTY ROBERTS, Part Two - Wednesday, December 15, 2010
• SECRET SANTA - Saturday, December 11, 2010
• PATTY ROBERTS - Thursday, December 09, 2010
• GETTING MY GOAT(EE) - Saturday, December 04, 2010
• IN FLIMFLAMS FIELDS . . . - Saturday, November 27, 2010
• PLYMOUTH ROCKS - Saturday, November 20, 2010
• LACED FOR ACTION - Saturday, November 13, 2010
• PEER PRESSURE - Saturday, November 06, 2010
• POLL CATS - Saturday, October 30, 2010
• FRIENDS - Saturday, October 23, 2010
• MY COUSIN DOUGIE - Saturday, October 16, 2010
• LOBSTER POTTED - Sunday, October 10, 2010
• A PRECIOUS GOLDEN BOBBY - Thursday, September 30, 2010
• THE KING IS DEAD (or at least in his throes) - Saturday, September 25, 2010
• STAND PAT - Saturday, September 18, 2010
• EGGS ROSAKOVIA - Saturday, September 11, 2010
• POLL CATS - Saturday, September 04, 2010
• KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE - Saturday, August 28, 2010
• (Bonus Blog) BUT WHO’S COUNTING? - Wednesday, August 25, 2010
• PEANUTS AND CRACKER JACKS - Saturday, August 21, 2010
• LUCKY STRIKE GREEN - Saturday, August 14, 2010
• AMERICARE vs. OBAMACARE - Saturday, August 07, 2010
• THE MAN WHO WOULD (temporarily) BE PRESIDENT - Saturday, July 31, 2010
• THE WEDDING - Saturday, July 24, 2010
• BUTTERFLIES ARE HAPPY - Saturday, July 17, 2010
• HATTERS ARE MAD - Saturday, July 10, 2010
• WHAT DOES THE BOSTON TEA PARTY AND THE REPUBLICAN TEA PARTY HAVE IN COMMON? - Friday, July 02, 2010
• MILQUETOAST HEADLINES - Saturday, June 26, 2010
• JAMIE DUPREE DESERVES BETTER - Saturday, June 19, 2010
• WHAT BARACK OBAMA AND HELEN THOMAS HAVE IN COMMON - Saturday, June 12, 2010
• GRANDNIECE LEIGH IS OFF TO HONDURAS - Saturday, June 05, 2010
• MEMORIAL HOLE-IN-ONE - Saturday, May 29, 2010
• GRANDNIECE EMILY GRADUATES - Wednesday, May 26, 2010
• THE MOON IS ROQUEFORT - Saturday, May 22, 2010
• LENO VS. O’BRIEN – TEMPEST IN A TV POT - Saturday, May 15, 2010


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