Mary Todd Lincoln: A Biography

By Jean H. Baker | Go to book overview

XI
Trial and
Confinement

After her return from Florida and the discovery that Robert was neither dead nor sick, only unsympathetic to her claims on his attention, Mary Lincoln occupied herself in the stores. During March, April, and now May 1875 the squat figure in black crepe—made even bulkier by the addition of a petticoat pocket into which she had stitched her bonds—had become a recognizable eccentric in downtown Chicago. Some clerks believed Mary Lincoln peculiar because she talked too much. In their experience proper ladies engaged in limited conversation with those who waited on them. But this woman bargained for lower prices and gave her life's history to anyone who would listen. Even more peculiar was her practice of buying multiples of the same item: a dozen pairs of curtains to decorate a nonexistent home, ten pairs of gloves to remind her of presidential inaugurations, and on one occasion five yards of scarlet ribbon, perhaps to recall her years as a seductive lady of fashion. Once a purchase had been made, there followed confusing negotiations about credit as well as instructions about delivery to her hotel room. 1

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