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sion of pain were usually enough to bring the culprit to his senses and his obedience. A young man bred in Springfield speaks of a vision that has clung to his memory very vividly, of Mr. Lincoln as he appeared in those days. His way to school led by the lawyer's door. On almost any fair summer morning, he could find Mr. Lincoln on the sidewalk, in front of his house, drawing a child backward and forward, in a child's gig. Without hat or coat, and wearing a pair of rough shoes, his hands behind him holding to the tongue of the gig, and his tall form bent forward to accommodate himself to the service, he paced up and down the walk, forgetful of everything around him, and intent only on some subject that absorbed his mind. The young man says he remembers wondering, in his boyish way, how so rough and plain a man should happen to live in so respectable a house.
The habit of mental absorption-absent mindedness, as it is called—was common with him always, but particularly during the formative periods of his life. The New Salem people, it will be remembered, thought him crazy, because he passed his best friends in the street without seeing them. At the table, in his own family, he often sat down without knowing or realizing where he was, and ate his food mechanically. When he “came to himself,” it was a trick with him to break the silence by the quotation of some verse of poetry from a favorite author. It relieved the awkwardness of “the situation,” served as a blind to the thoughts which had possessed him, and started conversation in a channel that led as far as possible from the subject that he had set aside.
Mr. Lincoln's lack of early advantages and the limited character of his education were constant subjects of regret with him. His intercourse with members of Congress and with the cultivated society of Washington had, without doubt, made him feel his deficiencies more keenly than ever before. There is no doubt that his successes were a constant surprise to him. He felt that his acquisitions were very humble, and that the estimate which the public placed upon him was, in some respects, a blind and mistaken one. It was at this period
that he undertook to improve himself somewhat by attention to mathematics, and actually mastered the first six books of Euclid. In speaking of this new acquisition to a friend, he said that, in debates, he had frequently heard the word “demonstration” used, and he determined to ascertain for himself what it meant. After his mastery of geometry, he had no further uncertainty on the subject.
Allusion has been made to Mr. Lincoln's mechanical genius. That he had enough of this to make him a good mechanic, there is no doubt. With such rude tools as were at his command he had made cabins and flat-boats; and after his mind had become absorbed in public and professional affairs he often recurred to his mechanical dreams for amusement. One of his dreams took form, and he endeavored to make a practical matter of it. He had had experience in the early navigation of the Western rivers. One of the most serious hinderances to this navigation was low water, and the lodgment of the various craft on the shifting shoals and bars with which these rivers abound. He undertook to contrive an apparatus which, folded to the hull of a boat like a bellows, might be inflated on occasion, and, by its levity, lift it over any obstruction upon which it might rest. On this contrivance, illustrated by a model whittled out by himself, and now preserved in the patent office at Washington, he secured letters patent; but it is certain that the navigation of the Western rivers was not revolutionized by it.
Mr. Lincoln never made his profession lucrative to himself. It was very difficult for him to charge a heavy fee to anybody, and still more difficult for him to charge his friends anything at all for professional services. To a poor client, he was quite
a as apt to give money as to take it from him. He never encouraged the spirit of litigation. Henry McHenry, one of his old clients, says that he went to Mr. Lincoln with a case to prosecute, and that Mr. Lincoln refused to have anything to do with it, because he was not strictly in the right. “You can give the other party a great deal of trouble,” said the lawyer, "and perhaps beat him, but you had better let the suit alone.”
Mr. Lincoln had on hand a case for this same gentleman for three years, and took it through three courts to the Supreme Court, and charged him for his services only seventy-five dollars. His wants were not large. He had no expensive vices, took no delight in fine clothing, and had no strong desire to accumulate money. Indeed, after all his years of practice, which closed only with his election to the presidency, he had accumulated, as the sum total of all his gold and goods, only the estimated value of sixteen thousand dollars.
Some incidents illustrating his practice, and the motives which controlled him in it, may with propriety be stated here, although they are not all of them associated with this period of his life. An old woman of seventy-five years, the widow of a revolutionary pensioner, came tottering into his office one day, and, taking a seat, told him that a certain pension agent had charged her the exorbitant fee of two hundred dollars for collecting her claim. Mr. Lincoln was satisfied by her representations that she had been swindled, and finding that she was not a resident of the town, and that she was poor, gave her money, and set about the work of procuring restitution. He immediately entered suit against the agent to recover a portion of his ill-gotten money. The suit was entirely successful, and Mr. Lincoln's address to the jury before which the case was tried is remembered to have been peculiarly touching in its allusions to the poverty of the widow, and the patriotism of the husband she had sacrificed to secure the nation's independence. He had the gratification of paying back to her a hundred dollars, and sending her home rejoicing.
One afternoon an old negro woman came into the office of Lincoln & Herndon,* and told the story of her trouble, to which both lawyers listened. It appeared that she artd her offspring were born slaves in Kentucky, and that her owner, one Hinkle, had brought the whole family into Illinois, and given them their freedom. Her son had gone down the Mississippi as a waiter or deck hand, on a steamboat: Arriv
* William II. Herndon, who became Mr. Lincoln's partner after he dissolved his association with Judge Logan.