A Story in the Winds of Change Universe
The tall, lanky man looked in disbelief at the King. “Sire, I’m simply a backwoods lawyer, and a new one at that. I’ve barely been more than a store owner and a local politician. I don’t understand why you’ve taken the railroad halfway across our country to come here and talk to me.”
The King of America, Grant Maxwell, sat forward in his chair. “Call me Grant. You may be primarily self-educated, but you are not uneducated. You know the history of our Kingdom, how we have better technology than anyone else in the world. Do you know how that came to be?”
“Well, Grant, it’s pretty common knowledge that you’re from the future. But you set things up here to give our country a chance, even before it really was a country. I’ve talked with Judge Bingham a fair bit about the history of the Kingdom while we were down at the courthouse. He studied at the College of Charleston before moving out here a few years ago, to take over when Judge Massey passed away.”
“Ah, yes. Judge Bingham. That’s actually why I’m here. The College has studies on what is now an alternate history, for lack of a better term. The history of America if I ... we ... hadn’t come back in time.” Grant paused for a moment, obviously lost for words.
“I’ve heard the Judge mention a second war with Britain that never happened, and how the country had been still on a slave economy for many years, until a great war settled that once and for all. But of course, that didn’t happen because both your arrival and your subsequent actions changed everything.”
“To a certain extent, you’re exactly correct. What you’re not considering, because we didn’t really consider it as well, is that it’s not just the immediate ... well, history ... that we changed, but also the future. So no, there was no War of 1812, no burning of the capital by the British.” Grant chuckled. “Quite the contrary, actually.”
His expression got serious then. “But ... there was also the minor detail that we knew that people who would be born in that previous history almost certainly wouldn’t be born in this one, because of those changes. Between the changes in government, such as our agreements with the Indians, the vast improvements with the railroads and industry, and of course the difference in medicine ... well, we figured we’d irrevocably destroyed the future that had been. It was a tough choice, but for the good of the country, one we felt we had to make.”
“I can see that. After all, being in charge of America is not the job for a man who is faint of heart. Making a decision that would doom many but would keep the nation strong is, well, one that I am glad is not on my shoulders, but I can understand why you made it. But that still doesn’t answer my first question. Why me? I know Sangamon is the territorial capital, but I’m nobody special.”
Grant smiled. “Well, actually, the statement you just made is one that I had to consider, keeping the nation strong. Considering it’s a decision you ... well, made, or more precisely, would have made. That’s why when you began practicing law and working with Judge Bingham, he immediately recognized your name. This is ... well ... I’m not sure how to say this, because ... it’s an honor to meet you, Mr. Lincoln.”
Abraham Lincoln looked back in surprise. But he was, if nothing else, sharp as well. “From your previous comments, and what you just said, I’d reckon that in the history that never happened, I must’ve been something a bit more than just a simple lawyer.”
“A bit, yes. And it’s because I do know that about you ... well, the other you ... that I have an offer for you. I’d like you to attend the College, take the classes that we have on administration, and when you’ve successfully passed them, come back out here and be one of the regional administrators. The Kingdom will pay for your moving both back east and then back out here again, as well as providing housing in Charleston for both you and your family.”
“That’s an attractive offer, Grant. But I’ll have to talk it over with Anne. I know I haven’t been married as long as you, but I’ve learned that a smart man never makes a decision like this without discussing it with his wife first. I’m curious, though. What exactly did I do in this other world?”
Grant had a terse smile. “You presided over the country during the most terrible time known to our young country, a civil war that was fought over slavery.”
The decision was never really in doubt. Abraham went home that evening and told his wife that they would be moving at the start of the next month to Charleston, for a period of approximately two years, so he could learn about administration of the Kingdom from the instructors there. Anne protested slightly, their son was only a few months old and she was concerned about how the travel would affect him.
“Dearest Anne, think about this. What happened when you got sick from typhoid? The doctors were able to give you medicine that helped you recover. That very topic is something that came up in my discussion with the King. As you and I have discussed at times, the history of this country was changed by the actions of the King and his party. It seems ... well ... that in that other history, you came down with typhoid like you did here, only...”
“Only what, Abraham?”
“Only there was no medicine then.” Abraham took his wife’s hand in his. “You ... died from the fever, in that other world.”
“Then I am grateful for my life, and for being in your life now. I ... suppose we’ll have to trust that little Thad will be fine.”
The two years in Charleston passed swiftly. Slightly more than halfway through his studies, Anne was surprised one day when Abraham came home early. The door to their small house had slammed shut, startling her and waking Thad from his nap. She picked the crying child up and ran into their sitting room to find Abraham sprawled in his chair, a glass of whiskey in his hand, simply staring into it.
“Abraham Lincoln! What in God’s green earth has gotten into you?” She sat down on their sofa and started rocking Thad, trying to calm him.
Abraham continued sitting for a few minutes, then did something uncharacteristic for him. He slammed the whiskey down, then calmly sat the glass down. He gave a huge sigh. “I’m ... fine now, Anne. I simply...” He shuddered, then sat upright in the chair, quietly staring into space. As he did so, there was a knock at the front door. Anne got up.
“Your Majesty! I ... please, come in!” She tried to curtsy while still holding Thad.
“Enough of that formality, Mrs. Lincoln. Thank you for allowing me into your home here. Please, call me Grant. I’m sorry to disturb you, but I fear I may have caused a problem here for you inadvertently.”
From behind her, Anne Lincoln heard her husband pick up the decanter and pour more whiskey into a glass. She whirled. “Abraham, what’s gotten into you?”
“I feel like I’ve been shown the promised land and then found that it was denied to me.”
Grant said, “If you feel like that, then you’re a damned fool. Because that wasn’t you.”
“Really? The history book sure made it look like that to me. One of the greatest Presidents in the history of America, isn’t that what it said? The picture of the Lincoln Memorial, an older version of me sitting there for all to admire! Then...”
Grants voice softened. “That history won’t happen now.”
Anne spoke up while Thad was finally starting to settle down. “What do you mean, Your ... Grant?”
Abraham sighed. “My apologies, my dear Anne, Grant. It’s just that was...”
“Slightly overpowering, I expect. I knew that you had been told about how Anne had died in the history that didn’t happen. I made an error, though. I thought you already knew about your own history.”