By Pat Watson
He sat there on the bench out front much longer than our usual visitors do, seeming to drink in the scenes around him. He nodded and spoke as the veterans, out for their morning constitutional walk, passed by him. But the rest of the morning he seemed lost in reverie.
Later in the day on our tour I observed his wrapped attention, that of an eager student who sits in the front row of a class and take copious notes. As we moved from room to room in the Cottage, he checked out small details, the corners, the ceilings, the steps. Perhaps he’s an historic preservation architect, interested in the marvelous recreation of this manse, I thought. As I looked closer, I noted a curious Lincoln-like look about him. Perhaps he was a descendant of Lincoln’s relatives; he did seem to know a lot about Lincoln’s boyhood home and Springfield.
At the end of the tour the visitor said, “I plan to walk around these hallowed grounds; I’d like to sit on the veranda; I’d like to recline on the grass where the Bucktail Soldiers camped. I assured him that he was welcome to do so. He remarked, “You see I’m here to develop my character. I’ll be playing Mr. Lincoln soon, and I wanted to get a sense of where he spent his summertime. The solitude I sense here will be part of my character.”
“Mr. Lincoln” was concerned that he might jinx his role, so he dogged my questions about where and when I could see him on stage. But if you attend a play this season about Mr. Lincoln, know that the leading man may have developed part of his character, his “self of self” right here at President Lincoln’s Cottage.