Mr. Edward Rosewater, editor of the Omaha Bee, said he believed Lincoln got relaxation by his story telling, and that the hearing of a good story gave him the mental rest that he so much needed during those brain-taxing days. These stories came out under the most trying circumstances and at the most solemn times. A striking instance of this was just after the battle of Fredericksburg. After the Union armies were defeated an official who had seen the battle hurried to Washington. He reached there about midnight and went directly to the White House. President Lincoln had not yet retired, and the man was at once received. Lincoln had already heard some reports of the battle. He was feeling very sad and rested his head upon his hands while the story was repeated to him. As the man saw his intense suffering he remarked:
"I wish, Mr. President, that I might be a messenger of good news instead of bad. I wish I could tell you how to conquer or to get rid of those rebellious States."
At this President Lincoln looked up and a smile came across his face as he said: "That reminds me of two boys out in Illinois who took a short cut across an orchard. When they were in the middle of the field they saw a vicious dog bounding toward them. One of the boys was sly enough to climb a tree, but the other ran around the tree, with the dog following. He kept running until, by making smaller circles than it was possible for his pursuer to make, he gained upon the dog sufficiently to grasp his tail. He held on to the tail with a desperate grip until nearly exhausted, when he called to the boy up the tree to come down and help.
"What for?" said the boy.
"I want you to help me let this dog go."
"Now," concluded President Lincoln, "if I could only let the rebel States go it would be all right. But I am compelled to hold on to them and make them stay."