"Mr. President, Secretary Lincoln has arrived." said Jedidiah.
"Thank you, Jedidiah, please show him in." Bell stood behind the big desk, feeling anticipation and hope.
The tall, gaunt figure appeared in the doorway, face drawn, sunken eyed, sullen, even melancholy looking. Catching a glimpse of the President, the entire visage changed miraculously. A sudden animation, a broad smile, a relaxed friendly demeanor. The singular transfiguration struck Bell as almost being a different person.
"Hello Mr. President." Uttered the deep voice, with charm and sincerity Though, they had never met, the President felt at ease, as if with an old friend. Soon, he would be
"Hello, Secretary Lincoln." said Bell. "Thank you for your haste in arriving." "Please, sit down, would you care for some refreshment, Sir."
"Thank you, Mr. President, a glass of water would be nice, and please call me Abe."
"Jedidiah, please furnish a goblet of water for Secretary Lincoln."
"Yes, Mr. President." Jedidiah officiously complied.
"While we are alone, Abe, please call me John, since you should probably be sitting here instead of me." Lincoln was somewhat taken aback by Bell's candor.
"As you wish Sir, though the seat is not such an enviable one." Bell whirled to reply, but looking into the kind eyes, realized there was no malice, and a great deal of truth in the statement. He had chosen wisely.
"I have a plan Abe." "You are a key linchpin if it is to succeed." The President looking directly into Lincoln's eyes, continued. "That the present state of affairs with respect to the Union is untenable goes without saying." "The Great Compromise and the singular statesmanship of the State of Kentucky have delayed war." "However, you and I know that it is only a matter of time, before a horrible conflagration befalls us, without some extraordinary diplomatic maneuvering." Bell paused, still fixed on Lincoln's eyes, waiting.
"True, in every detail, Mr. President." "Of course, you can rely on my every cooperation." "If I may be so bold, I trust that your strategy entails assuaging both parties, somehow involving the use of the British and French." Lincoln, with a slight twinkle in his eye, Bell no longer surprised, now talking to a trusted ally.
The President continued. "As I see it, our main obstacles are time, distance, and communication with the parties, as you say." "I believe we can make use the speedy ships the British have been employing to run the Union blockade, maintaining trade, to overcome some of these difficulties." "However, that will not completely address the matter of communication." Bell pausing, Lincoln realizing his opening, spoke.
"John, in the election, the candidates overcame the communication problem by having stumpers deliver their messages to various cities." Lincoln took a sip of the cool water, and looked back up. "I have since thought that with the use of written speeches, a candidate, or in this case, a President, could reach far flung cities of the nation with identical speeches, delivered word for word." "I believe that such a strategy could be of great import in our current endeavor."
"I'm glad you're here, Abe." "In less than five minutes, we have a framework for our efforts."
"Now, for the hard part."
Coming soon, Chapter 3 -- "The Great Plan"and "The Assassination of Vice-President Everett"