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torians insist that April 14, 1865,
was a night on which witches flew over Washington. Surely, they whisper, there were more things in heaven and earth that day and night than are dreamt of in any historian’s philosophy. As another example, consider the people in the box with the President and Mrs. Lincoln that night. Miss Clara Harris was the daughter of the Senator from New York. Major Henry R. Rathbone was the stepson of the same Sena tor. Miss Harris and Major Rath bone. guests of Abraham Lincoln at the theater that night, were soon to be married. They and Mrs. Lincoln flanked the President when Booth entered the box in Ford’s Theater. He came in, a shadowy pres ence. quietly closed and barred the door behind him. He had a pis tol in one hand and a dagger in the other. He walked straight up to the President, placed the pistol to the massive dark head, and fired. The Major Was Occupied Now, had Major Rathbone been paying less attention to the com edy on the stage and to his pretty fiancee, he could have prevented the crime of the century. But he was sitting next to his sweetheart and looking down at the stage. Who can blame him if his thoughts were too carefully divided between love and laughter to be spared for the sudden appearance of shadowy strangers? Immediately after the shot, he jumped up. Though a “slight, smallish man,” as the history books say. Rathbone had courage. He “threw himself upon Booth.” The two men. actor and soldier, fought in the space behind Lin coln's crumpled figure. Booth, still armed with a dagger, slashed at Rathbone and cut his arm. Kuth Ixme fell to the ground, and Booth OHcaped by vaulting over the box, jumping a dozen feet onto the stage. History has paid very little attention to Major Rathbone. Though he was not eight feet from the President when the shot was fired, though he was the man clos est to one of the great American catastrophes, his subsequent his tory is almost forgotten. So is that An Accomplished Jumper Other peculiar things happened that night, but one in particular merits the skeptic’s close atten tion: In jumping from the box to the stage, Booth broke his leg. It was quite a jump to the stage — for ordinary people. But Booth, in terms of stage experience: was an accomplished “jumper." He was one of the hellfire-and-calis thenic school of acting, a kind of Douglas Fairbanks of his day. In “Macbeth," the agile Booth used to leap to the stage from a rock 12 feet high. What then, to such a man, was a drop of a dozen feet from the box to the stage? It was nothing. Booth could have done it any day in the week, blindfolded. He knew it, and it was an integral part of his plan. What he didn’t grasp was that April 14, 1863, was not just any night of the week. It was the night on which the Presi dent and Mrs. Lincoln honored Ford’s Theater with a visit, and the management had gratefully decorated the Presidential box with bunting. of his fiancee, the “young and lovely” Miss Harris. Historians can only assume that the Major was haunted for the rest of his days by the knowledge that he was the man who might have saved Lincoln’s life. For in later years the short and smallish Major shot and killed the lovely Clara Hams, and ended his own days in an insane asylum. Omens? Dire portents? A black curse on all concerned? Tripped by a Flag Booth was wearing spurs, for he was to rush through the theater, leap on his waiting horse and ride to safety. But when he vaulted from the box. one of his spurs caught in the bunting. And that is why Booth, the experienced jump er. fell so clumsily to the stage and broke his leg. And it was because of the broken leg that he was even tually trapped in a barn, and killed. 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