One day a poor woman approached Mr. Lincoln for an interview. She was somewhat advanced in years and plainly clad, wearing a faded shawl and worn hood.
"Well, my good woman," said Mr. Lincoln, "what can I do for you this morning?"
"Mr. President," answered she, "my husband and three sons all went into the army. My husband was killed in the battle of——. I get along very badly since then living all alone, and I thought that I would come and ask you to release to me my eldest son."
Mr. Lincoln looked in her face for a moment, and then replied kindly:—
"Certainly! Certainly! If you have given us all, and your prop has been taken away, you are justly entitled to one of your boys."
He then made out an order discharging the young man, which the woman took away, thanking him gratefully.
She went to the front herself with the President's order, and found that her son had been mortally wounded in a recent battle, and taken to the hospital.
She hastened to the hospital. But she was too late, the boy died, and she saw him laid in a soldier's grave.
She then returned to the President with his order, on the back of which the attendant surgeon had stated the sad facts concerning the young man it was intended to discharge.
Mr. Lincoln was much moved by her story, and said: "I know what you wish me to do now, and I shall do it without your asking. I shall release to you your second son."
Taking up his pen he began to write the order, while the grief-stricken woman stood at his side and passed her hand softly over his head, and stroked his rough hair as she would have stroked her boy's.
When he had finished he handed her the paper, saying tenderly, his eyes full of tears:—
"Now you have one of the two left, and I have one, that is no more than right."
She took the order and reverently placing her hand upon his head, said:—
"The Lord bless you, Mr. President. May you live a thousand years, and may you always be the head of this great nation."