As I said to you, a law office is a dry place. There
is nothing in it but work and toil. Mr. Lincoln's habit was to get down
to his office about 9 a. m., unless he was out on the circuit, which was
about six or eight months in the year. Our office never was a
headquarters for politics. Mr. Lincoln never stopped in the street to
have a social chat with anyone; he was not a social man, too reflective,
too abstracted; he never attended political gatherings till the thing
was organized, and then he was ready to make a speech, willing and ready
to reap any advantage that grew out of it, ready and anxious for the
office it afforded, if any in the political world. If a man came into
our office on business, he stated his case, Lincoln listening generally
attentively while the man told over the facts of his case. Generally
Lincoln would take a little time to consider. When he had sufficiently
considered, he gave his opinion of the case plainly, directly, and
sharply; he said to the man: "Your case is a good one," or "a bad one,"
as the case might be. Mr. Lincoln was not a good conversationalist,
except it was in the political world, nor was he a good listener; his
great anxiety to tell a story made him burst in and consume the day in
telling stories. Lincoln was not a general reader, except in politics.
On Sundays he would come down to his office, sometimes bringing Tad and
Willie and sometimes not, would write his letters, write declarations
and other law papers, write out the heads of his speeches, take notes of
what he intended to say. How do you expect to get much of interest out
of this dry bone, a law office, when you know that Lincoln was a sad,
gloomy, melancholic, and an abstracted man? Lincoln would sometimes lie
down in the office to rest on the sofa, his feet on two or three chairs
or up against the wall. In this position he would reflect, decide on
what he was going to do and how do it; and then he would jump up, pick
up his hat and run, the good Lord knows where.
HERNDON TO WEIK, FEBRUARY 24, 1887.
The system of business was as slovenly as the office
itself: one day, Lincoln suddenly thrust his hand down deep into his
pantaloons pocket, and fished up two dollars and fifty cents, which he
gave to Herndon, saying: "Here, Billy, is your share of the fee for the
suit before Squire -----."
This transaction had every semblance of reality and
good faith; yet I felt bound somehow to consider it as a bit of
pleasantry; and accordingly I said incredulously:
"Is that the way this law firm keeps its accounts?"
"That's jest the way;" promptly replied Lincoln: "Billy and I
never had the scratch of a pen between us; we jest divide as we
go along:" and Herndon confirmed this statement of an extraordinary
occurrence by a nod.
WHITNEY, Life on the Circuit with Lincoln.