Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Consider the Elephant

Consider the Elephant is book by Aram Schefrin and purported to have been told by Edwin Booth, brother of John Wilkes. While I am certain Edwin was privy to much of what his brother said and did, I think much of the writing is the author's prose and flair. Regardless, the following exerpt about Atzerodt caught my eye:

It was half after midnight when the second man appeared. He wore short black Blucher boots, a dirt-streaked ancient bang-up coat and a bollinger hat with the crown crushed in along most of its circumference. His eyes were little marbles, of no discernible shade; he had no neck; his eyebrows melded above his nose; his jaw had a Cro-Magnon look and his hair flopped down over his ears and tucked itself inside them. Surratt, who'd answered the door this time, had never seen him before. He was dismayed at the look of him. "What do you want?" he asked. "Mein nomme its Atzerrrrodtt." "What?" "My nomme its Atzerrrrrrrodtt." " What?" "lch komme by Meester Brawner... " "Ah." Surratt allowed the fellow by, and the bourbon breeze which trailed him. "We're out of rooms," Surratt explained. "You'll have to sleep here in the parlor." "Oh, ya, fine, fine." "I'm going to bed. It's late." "Oh, ya, long trip. Gutte nacht to you. "Appolonia, in the morning, was the first to discover him. She shrieked, took a tight grip on her nose and ran into Mary's bedroom which was just behind the public room on the second floor. Mary threw on a cottage cloak and came out to examine the man. He was snoring on her best settee with his knees tucked into his chin. "John!" she hollered. "Get down here! Who is this golem?" Surratt quickly skittered down the stairs. "His name is Atzerodt, Ma." "I don't care what his name is. The man is a stinking pig!" "He won't be here long..." "I don't want him near Anna. Get him out of my house! "Along about noon, Surratt met Wilkes at Deery's billiard hall. They stayed long enough for Wilkes to make a good dent in a quart of brandy. Surratt explained the problem he had with Atzerodt; Wilkes agreed to foot the bill for a room at a hotel. "Shall I bring him tonight?" Surratt asked. "No. I don't need him there. Tell him to meet us at midnight at Gauthier's restaurant. "Surratt sped home and woke Atzerodt. Mary had let him siesta, afraid to poke the man. After much confabulation, the clerk at the Pennsylvania House agreed to take Atzerodt in. "Any luggage?" "No," said Surratt. "Does he look like owns anything?"

Wilkes knocked on the door of room 52 at the Pennsylvania House. The room was as filthy as the man himself. Atzerodt owned next to nothing, but what he had was strewn over bed, chest and floor, mixed with flakes of puffy dough likewise dispersed from the schnecken he'd been gorging on from the German bakery. "Kill da Fice Pressident? Ya, dis iss a choke?" He was backpedaling, slithering, stumbling over his own debris, then bending to snatch up a shirt, a sock as if to say how could you ask such a thing from such a tidy man? "You refuse?" Wilkes glowered. "Ya, I refuse." Now Atzerodt stood his ground. "You're already in deep enough to be hanged ..." "Ya, but ..." "And I will see to it that you are, if you don't do what you're told. "Atzerodt touched his neck, his chin. Nodded. Bowed his head.

The picture below shows Booth threatening to kill Atzerodt if he doesn't fullfil the changed plan to assasinate Andrew Johnson.
I still think Adzerodt got a bum deal.


April M. Beisaw said...

If you add up all the descriptions of George, it sure sounds like he had some sort of degenerative disease that affected his bones...if not more.

Scott said...

Despite his immigrant status, Adzerodt was not far removed from many of his contemporaries of the time. He proved himself slower than some of his siblings, but not so far removed from his normal associations. I dunno. It could easily have been another Port Tobacco resident caught up in this mess.

Dancing Willow said...

I've learned two very important things from this... 1) George definitely had many issues and I'm certain that man was challenged daily merely by waking up; 2) I had totally forgotten about the word "confabulation" until I read this. What a cool word! I must integrate this into conversation somehow this week ~:D

Aram Schefrin said...

Thanks for quoting from my novel! I was delighted to see it on your site. And would love to know what you thought of reading it online.

Scott said...

Mr. Schefrin. I did enjoy reading the book and I appreciate you providing it on line. I read the whole thing! As you know, our project is trying to find Adtzerodt's carriage shop and other evidence of his presence at Port Tobacco. Maybe you can guide us a little with some of your previous research? I speak for the team by saying I appreciate you adding the PTAP link to your site.