- Historic Sites
Another Assassination, Another Widow, Another Embattled Book
August 1967 | Volume 18, Issue 5
The clerk, like all modern hotel clerks, was exquisitely arrayed, highly perfumed, and too self-important to be obliging, or even courteous.
“This is the woman I told you about. I want a good room for her,” Mrs. Lincoln said to the clerk.
“We have no room for her, madam,” was the pointed rejoinder.
“But she must have a room. She is a friend of mine, and I want a room for her adjoining mine.”
“We have no room for her on your floor.”
“That is strange, sir. I tell you that she is a friend of mine, and I am sure you could not give a room to a more worthy person.”
“Friend of yours or not, I tell you we have no room for her on your floor. I can find a place for her on the fifth floor.”
“That, sir, I presume, will be a vast improvement on my room. Well, if she goes to the fifth floor, I shall go too, sir. What is good enough for her is good enough for me.”
“Very well, madam. Shall I give you adjoining rooms, and send your baggage up?”
“Yes, and have it done in a hurry. Let the boy show us up. Come, Elizabeth,” and Mrs. L. turned from the clerk with a haughty glance, and we commenced climbing the stairs. I thought we should never reach the top; and when we did reach the fifth story, what accommodations! Little three-cornered rooms, scantily furnished. I never expected to see the widow of President Lincoln in such dingy, humble quarters.
“How provoking!” Mrs. Lincoln exclaimed, sitting down on a chair when we had reached the top, and panting from the effects of the climbing. “I declare, I never saw such unaccommodating people. Just to think of them sticking us away up here in the attic. I will give them a regular going over in the morning.”
“But you forget. They do not know you. Mrs. Lincoln would be treated differently from Mrs. Clarke.”
“True, I do forget. Well, I suppose I shall have to put up with the annoyances. …” Turning to me suddenly, she exclaimed:
“You have not had your dinner, Lizzie, and must be hungry. I nearly forgot about it in the joy of seeing you. You must go down to the table right away.”
She pulled the bell-rope, and a servant appearing, she ordered him to give me my dinner. I followed him down-stairs, and he led me into the dining-hall, and seated me at a table in one corner of the room. I was giving my order, when the steward came forward and gruffly said:
“You are in the wrong room.”
“I was brought here by the waiter,” I replied.
“It makes no difference; I will find you another place where you can eat your dinner.”
I got up from the table and followed him, and when outside of the door, said to him:
“It is very strange that you should permit me to be seated at the table in the dining-room only for the sake of ordering me to leave it the next moment.”
“Are you not Mrs. Clarke’s servant?” was his abrupt question.
“I am with Mrs. Clarke.”
“It is all the same; servants are not allowed to eat in the large dining-room. Here, this way; you must take your dinner in the servants’ hall.”
Hungry and humiliated as I was, I was willing to follow to any place to get my dinner, for I had been riding all day, and had not tasted a mouthful since early morning.
On reaching the servants’ hall we found the door of the room locked. The waiter left me standing in the passage while he went to inform the clerk of the fact.
In a few minutes the obsequious clerk came blustering down the hall:
“Did you come out of the street, or from Mrs. Clarke’s room?”
“From Mrs. Clarke’s room,” I meekly answered. My gentle words seemed to quiet him, and then he explained:
“It is after the regular hour for dinner. The room is locked up, and Annie has gone out with the key.”
My pride would not let me stand longer in the hall.
“Very well,” I remarked, as I began climbing the stairs, “I will tell Mrs. Clarke that I cannot get any dinner.”
He looked after me, with a scowl on his face:
“You need not put on airs! I understand the whole thing.”
I said nothing, but continued to climb the stairs, thinking to myself: “Well, if you understand the whole thing, it is strange that you should put the widow of ex-President Abraham Lincoln in a three-cornered room in the attic of this miserable hotel.” …
It is not necessary for me to dwell upon the public history of Mrs. Lincoln’s unfortunate venture. The question has been discussed in all the newspapers of the land, and these discussions are so recent that it would be useless to introduce them in these pages, even if I had an inclination to do so. The following, from the New York Evening Express, briefly tells the story:
“The attraction for ladies, and the curious and speculative of the other sex in this city, just now, is the grand exposition of Lincoln dresses at the office of Mr. Brady, on Broadway, a few doors south of Houston street. The publicity given to the articles on exhibition and for sale has excited the public curiosity, and hundreds of people, principally women with considerable leisure moments at disposal, daily throng the rooms of Mr. Brady, and give himself and his shop-woman more to do than either bargained for, when a lady, with face concealed with a veil, called and arranged for the sale of the superabundant clothing of a distinguished and titled, but nameless lady. Twenty-five dresses, folded or tossed about by frequent examinations, lie exposed upon a closed piano, and upon a lounge; shawls rich and rare are displayed upon the backs of chairs, but the more exacting obtain a better view and closer inspection by the lady attendant throwing them occasionally upon her shoulders, just to oblige, so that their appearance on promenade might be seen and admired. Furs, laces, and jewelry are in a glass case, but the ‘four thousand dollars in gold’ point outfit is kept in a pasteboard box, and only shown on special request.