Payne dismounted in Madison Place and handed the reins to Herold .
There was a fog , which increased the darkness of the night .
Two gas lamps were no more than a misleading glow .
He might have been anywhere or nowhere .
The pretence was that he was delivering a prescription from Dr. Verdi .
Secretary of State Seward was a sick man .
The idea had come from Herold , who had once been a chemist's clerk .
The sick were always receiving medicines .
No one would question such an errand .
The bottle was filled up with flour .
Before Payne loomed the Old Clubhouse , Seward's home , where Key had once been killed .
Now it would have another death .
From the outside it was an ordinary enough house of the gentry .
He clomped heavily up the stoop and rang the bell .
Like the bell at Mass , the doorbell was pitched too high .
It was still Good Friday , after all .
A nigger boy opened the door .
Payne did not notice him .
He was thinking chiefly of Cap .
If their schedules were to synchronize , there was no point in wasting time .
He pushed his way inside .
For a moment the hall confused him .
This was the largest house he had ever been in , almost the largest building , except for a hotel .
He had no idea where Seward's room would be .
In the half darkness the banisters gleamed , and the hall seemed enormous .
Above him somewhere were the bedrooms .
Seward would be up there .
He explained his errand , but without bothering much to make it plausible , for he felt something well up in him which was the reason why he had fled the army .
He did not really want to kill , but as in the sexual act , there was a moment when the impulse took over and could not be downed , even while you watched yourself giving way to it .
He was no longer worried .
Everything would be all right .
He knew that in this mood he could not be stopped .
Still , the sensation always surprised him .
It was a thrill he felt no part in .
He could only watch with a sort of gentle dismay while his body did these quick , appalling , and efficient things .
He brushed by the idiotic boy and lumbered heavily up the stairs .
They were carpeted , but made for pumps and congress gaiters , not the great clodhoppers he wore .
The sound of his footsteps was like a muffled drum .
At the top of the stairs he ran into somebody standing there angrily in a dressing gown .
He stopped and whispered his errand .
Young Frederick Seward held out his hand .
Panting a little , Payne shook his head .
Dr. Verdi had told him to deliver his package in person .
Frederick Seward said his father was sleeping , and then went through a pantomime at his father's door , to prove the statement .
`` Very well '' , Payne said .
`` I will go '' .
He smiled , but now that he knew where the elder Seward was , he did not intend to go .
He pulled out his pistol and fired it .
It made no sound .
It had misfired .
Reversing it , he smashed the butt down on Frederick Seward's head , over and over again .
It was the first blow that was always difficult .
After that , violence was exultantly easy .
He got caught up into it and became a different person .
Only afterwards did an act like that become meaningless , so that he would puzzle over it for days , whereas at the time it had seemed quite real .
The nigger boy fled down the stairs , screaming , `` Murder '' .
It was not murder at all .
Payne was more methodical than that .
He was merely clearing a way to what he had to do .
He ran for the sick room , found his pistol was broken , and threw it away .
A knife would do .
From childhood he had known all about knives .
Someone blocked the door from inside .
He smashed it in and tumbled into darkness .
He saw only dimly moving figures , but when he slashed them they yelled and fled .
He went for the bed , jumped on it , and struck where he could , repeatedly .
It was like finally getting into one's own nightmares to punish one's dreams .
Two men pulled him off .
Nobody said anything .
Payne hacked at their arms .
There was a lady there , in a nightdress .
He would not have wanted to hurt a lady .
Another man approached , this one fully dressed .
When the knife went into his chest , he went down at once .
`` I'm mad '' , shouted Payne , as he ran out into the hall .
`` I'm mad '' , and only wished he had been .
That would have made things so much easier .
But he was not mad .
He was only dreaming .
He clattered down the stairs and out of the door .
Somewhere in the fog , the nigger boy was still yelling murder .
One always wakes up , even from one's own dreams .
The clammy air revived him .
Herold , he saw , had fled .
Well , one did not expect much of people like Herold .
He unhitched his horse , walked it away , mounted , and spurred it on .
The nigger boy was close behind him .
Then the nigger boy turned back and he was alone .
He rode on and on .
He had no idea where he was .
After some time he came to an open field .
An open field was better than a building , that was for sure , so he dismounted , turned off the horse , and plunged through the grass .
He felt curiously sleepy , the world seemed far away ; ;
he knew he should get to Cap , but he didn't know how .
He was sure , for he had done as he was told , hadn't he ? ?
Cap would find him and take care of him .
So choosing a good tree , he clambered up into it , found a comfortable notch , and curled up in it to sleep , like the tousled bear he was , with his hands across his chest , as though surfeited with honey .
Violence always made him tired , but he was not frightened .
In Boston , Edwin Booth was winding up a performance of A New Way To Pay Old Debts .
It was a part so familiar to him that he did not bother to think about it any more .
Acting soothed him .
On a stage he always knew what to do , and tonight , to judge by the applause , he must be doing it better than usual .
As Sir Giles Overreach ( how often had he had to play that part , who did not believe a word of it ) , he raised his arm and declaimed : `` Where is my honour now '' ? ?
That was one of the high spots of the play .
The audience , as usual , loved it .
He was delighted to see them so happy .
If he had any worries , it was only the small ones , about Mother in New York , and his daughter Edwina and what she might be doing at this hour , with her Aunt Asia , in Philadelphia .
Everyone is ambivalent about his profession , if he has practised it long enough , but there were still moments when he loved the stage and all those unseen people out there , who might cheer you or boo you , but that was largely , though not entirely , up to you .
They made the world seem friendly somehow , though he knew it was not .
Wilkes was quite right about one thing .
Laura Keene had been in the green room .
The commotion had brought her into the wings .
Since she could not act , one part suited her as well as any other , and so she was the first person to offer Mr. Lincoln a glass of water , holding it up to the box , high above her head , to Miss Harris , who had asked for it .
She had been one of the first to collect her wits .
It was not so much that the shot had stunned the audience , as that they had been stunned already .
Most of them had seen Our American Cousin before , and unless Miss Keene was on stage , there was not much to it .
The theatre was hot and they were drugged with boredom .
The stage had been empty , except for Harry Hawk , doing his star monologue .
The audience was fond of Harry Hawk , he was a dear , in or out of character , but he was not particularly funny .
At the end of the monologue the audience would applaud .
Meanwhile it looked at the scenery .
`` Well , I guess I know enough to turn you inside out , you sockdologizing old mantrap '' ! !
Said Trenchard , otherwise Hawk .
There was always a pause here , before the next line .
That was when the gun went off .
Yet even that explosion did not mean much .
Guns were going off all over Washington City these days , because of the celebrations , and the theatre was not soundproof .
Then the audience saw a small , dim figure appear at the edge of the Presidential box .
`` Sic semper tyrannis '' , it said mildly .
Booth had delivered his line .
Behind him billowed a small pungent cloud of smoke .
They strained forward .
They had not heard what had been said .
They had been sitting too long to be able to stand up easily .
The figure leapt from the box , almost lost its balance , the flag draped there tore in the air , the figure landed on its left leg , fell on its hands , and pressed itself up .
Harry Hawk still had his arm raised towards the wings .
His speech faltered .
He did not lower his arm .
The figure was so theatrically dressed , that it was as though a character from some other play had blundered into this one .
The play for Saturday night was to be a benefit performance of The Octoroon .
This figure looked like the slave dealer from that .
But it also looked like a toad , hopping away from the light .
There was something maimed and crazy about its motion that disturbed them .
Then it disappeared into the wings .
Harry Hawk had not shifted position , but he at last lowered his arm .
Mrs. Lincoln screamed .
There was no mistaking that scream .
It was what anyone who had ever seen her had always expected her to do .
Yet this scream had a different note in it .
That absence of an urgent self-indulgence dashed them awake like a pail of water .
Clara Harris , one of the guests in the box , stood up and demanded water .
Her action was involuntary .
When something unexpected happened , one always asked for water if one were a woman , brandy if one were a man .
Mrs. Lincoln screamed again .
In the Presidential box someone leaned over the balustrade and yelled : `` He has shot the President '' ! !
That got everybody up .
On the stage , Harry Hawk began to weep .
Laura Keene brushed by him with the glass of water .
The crowd began to move .
In Washington City everyone lived in a bubble of plots , and one death might attract another .
It was not exactly panic they gave way to , but they could not just sit there .
The beehive voices , for no one could bear silence , drowned out the sound of Mrs. Lincoln's weeping .
At the rear of the auditorium , upstairs , some men tried to push open the door to the box corridor .
It would not give .
A Dr. Charles Taft clambered up on the stage and got the actors to hoist him up to the box .
In the audience a man named Ferguson lost his head and tried to rescue a little girl from the mob , on the same principle which had led Miss Harris to demand water .
Someone opened the corridor door from the inside , and called for a doctor .
Somehow Dr. Charles Leale was forced through the mob and squeezed out into the dingy corridor .
He went straight to the Presidential box .
As usual , Mrs. Lincoln had lost her head , but nobody blamed her for doing so now .
There was a little blood on the hem of her dress , for the assassin had slashed Miss Harris's companion , Major Rathbone , with a knife .
Rathbone said he was bleeding to death .
By the look of him he wasn't that far gone .