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miles distant, he left the store in charge of a younger brother-Jack, sixteen years old.
"You may give the boys, if they come, two drinks all round, but no more," he said.
It was the evening chosen by the fellows for a lark in New Salem. "Well, boy, aren't you going to give us a treat?" they asked. "Oh yes," and they were each given a generous drink.
It is about time for another snifter, isn't it, sonny?" they said, after a while.
"Yes" and Jack served them once more.
They lounged about the store, sang songs, danced, and made themselves at home.
“Well, Jack, we reckon that it is time for another nipper," they said. "You can't have any more. Rube said I might give you two drinks, but no more."
"Oh ho! he said so, did he? We will see!" And each one of the crew went to the whiskey-barrel, took a big drink, and filled his bottle. The whiskey was doing its work - they danced and whooped like Indians.
"I'll bet the drinks I can beat you in hitting those jars," said one, seizing a weight and smashing a glass jar. Each in turn brought the jars and crockery crashing to the floor; then frying-pans, skillets, Dutch ovens, coffee-pots, tin basins, milk-pans, saucers, plates and platters, molasses-jugs, went flying through the air. The glass in the windows rattled to the ground, and the door was torn from its hinges. A little past midnight they rode whooping homeward, with cow-bells tied to their saddles.
The sun was just rising when Reuben Radford was awakened by the cow-bells and whooping, as the gang rode past the house where he was spending the night. Suspecting there might be trouble, he mounted his horse and galloped towards New Salem, passing on the way a boy of sixteen, William G. Green, who had started early in the morning with a bag of corn to be ground at Mr. Rutledge's mill. Radford reached the store, beheld the wreck and ruin, and heard Jack's story. He had no particular desire to be a merchant any longer, and was ready to sell out.
"I'll sell this store to the first person who makes me an offer," said he, as Green rode up; and added, "What will you give for it?"
The boy looked through the window and surveyed the interiorthe shattered glass and crockery, the helter-skelter of frying-pans and
broken jugs. He noticed many of the most valuable articles had not been disturbed, and without much thought, and in fun rather than in earnest, said, "I'll give you $400."
"It is a bargain."
"But I haven't any money."
"No matter; I'll take your note."
Green dismounted, entered the store, and signed a note promising to pay $400 after a specified number of days. A little later Abraham
[From a photograph by C. S. McCullough, Petersburg, Ill. Lincoln & Berry's store stood
Lincoln came, beheld the broken crockery and general confusion, and laughed as he listened to Jack Radford's account of how the Clary Grove boys danced, yelled, and smashed things. Green told the story of the purchase.
"Billy," said Lincoln, "I shouldn't be surprised if you had made a good bargain. I'll help you take an inventory." (')
Young Green, whose education had been limited, did not know just
what an inventory might be. If it was a further smashing, he said he did not care for it. Lincoln explained it was an estimate of the value of each article. "You will need it, to be able to fix prices."
The man who said this was part owner in a rival store; but he was ready to help the boy who thoughtlessly had begun as a trader. They hung the door on its hinges and nailed boards over the window. Green took his corn to the mill and Lincoln left for his breakfast. Through the day he went over the inventory with Green. The broken glass and crockery were swept out and things put in place.
"Billy, it figures up more than $1200 at St. Louis prices," said Lincoln, when the inventory was completed. Customers came, listened to the story, laughed over it, and purchased articles. During the day Green sold goods to the amount of $15.
Mr. Lincoln's partner, Berry, thought it would be a good business operation to buy out Green.
"What will you take for your bargain?" he asked.
Berry owned a good horse, which Green thought he would like to obtain. Although he was only sixteen years old, he had an eye to business, and was ready to quit being a store-keeper. Besides, he was not quite sure how his father would look upon what he was doing.
"I'll tell you what I'll do. If you will let me have your horse, saddle, and bridle, $200 cash, and you and Lincoln will give your joint notes for $200, I'll call it a bargain."
Lincoln had made the inventory, and found the property was worth $1200. Berry having $200 in silver on hand, the offer was accepted, the notes signed, and the transfer completed. With the goods of both stores put into one building, Berry and Lincoln began business on a larger scale, having a monopoly of trade in New Salem.
It was nearly midnight when Green, riding the horse obtained from Berry, and leading the other with the bag of meal on its back, reached home. Having put the horses in the stable, he lifted the latch and entered the house. His father and mother were in bed. They had heard what had been going on at New Salem : the wreck done by the Clary Grove boys, and the purchase by their son.
"Well, boy," said his father, "you think you can be a store-keeper, do you? I'll teach you a lesson not to buy a store when I send you to mill. Go to bed, you rascal, and be prepared for a threshing in the morning!"
"Hold on, father!" said the son, raking open the coals in the fireplace and throwing on a stick of wood. He seated himself on the floor
and began to toss shillings, quarters, and half dollars on the hearth, which rang as they fell. The father heard the jingling, and sat up in bed, gazing with astonishment at the growing pile.
"Wife, give me a chaw of tobacco," he said. He took the quid, sat more erect, spat at the fire, and gazed at the shining pieces of silver.
"There is $215.12. Besides this, I have got Berry's horse, saddle, and bridle in the stable, and his and Lincoln's notes for $200," said the
"Wife, get up! Billy must have some supper-the best you can get. Billy, I won't thresh you in the morning. You are a good boy-good boy!" (*)
It was a dull winter for trade. Although Berry and Lincoln were the only store-keepers in New Salem, they were not making much headway in business. The farmers had little produce to sell, consequently could not purchase many goods. Berry, the while, was drinking whiskey, and Lincoln was thinking of what was going on in South Carolina and in Congress rather than how to increase trade. South Carolina was proposing to pass a law to nullify the acts of Congress, because a tariff was to be collected on goods brought from other countries. In Congress Daniel Webster, of Massachusetts, made a speech. on the Constitution and the Union which electrified the country; President Jackson uttered a solemn oath that the Union should be preserved. All of which was interesting reading to Lincoln.
The partners thought they might make money by keeping a tavern, and took out a license, which prescribed the prices they might charge per pint for liquors: French brandy, 25 cents; peach brandy, 183 cents; apple brandy, 12 cents; Holland gin, 183 cents; wine, 25 cents; rum, 183 cents; whiskey, 12 cents. Meals, 25 cents each; lodging, 12 cents. Horse for the night, 25 cents. Breakfast, dinner, or supper for passengers in the stage, 374 cents.
The project of keeping a tavern was not carried out. The store was sold to Trent Brothers. They had no money, but gave their notes. Lincoln and Berry had given their own notes-first to the Herndons, then to Green. From the beginning the transactions were pretty much in notes. No one seemed to look forward to the time when they would become due, or made any preparation for such an event. The Trents probably had no thought of ever paying. They would get what they could for the goods and leave town. Berry became a loathsome sot and died. Abraham Lincoln found himself held on the joint notes which had been given to the Herndons and to Green. He could not
pay them, but did not repudiate them. He had put in no capital. If the creditors would not harass him he would do his best to pay them. Years went by, the debts hanging like a millstone about his neck, but were paid finally, principal and interest, to the last cent. He would not have been true to himself, would not have been Abraham Lincoln, had he not done so.
The little money he had when the Trents took the store was soon gone. His board bill at Rutledge's tavern was due. He would like to spend his time in reading; but there was no chafing of spirit as he shouldered his axe and went down the hill-side to the woods along the river, chopping down trees in order to obtain splints, which he carried to a shanty, where his evenings were spent reseating chairs.
He was twenty-four years old, without an occupation, and did not know for what he was fitted. He would like to be a lawyer. He had not forgotten the plea of lawyer Breckenridge in Indiana. He had come in contact with the prominent lawyers of Springfield: Stephen T. Logan and Major John T. Stuart. The last named served with him in the war with the Indians. His old comrade was very kind, and loaned him a law-book. The people of New Salem sometimes saw him stretched upon the ground beneath an oak-tree studying it. Russell Godby wanted a hand to help harvest his corn and gave him work. He was astonished to see his new hand, when resting, seated on a stump reading a book. Never before had he beheld a fellow with a book in the field.
"What are you reading, Abe?"
"I am not reading; I am studying."