Page images

been surpassed among the historic personages of the world. The Life of Washington, while it gave him a lofty example of patriotism, incidentally conveyed to his mind a general knowledge of American history; and the Life of Henry Clay spoke to him of a living man who had risen to political and professional eminence from circumstances almost as humble as his own.

The latter book undoubtedly did much to excite his taste for politics, to kindle his ambition, and to make him a warm admirer and partisan of Henry Clay. Abraham must have been very young when he read Weem's Life of Washington, and we catch a glimpse of his precocity in the thoughts which it excited, as revealed by himself in the speech made to the New Jersey Senate, while on his way to Washington to assume the duties of the Presidency.

Alluding to his early reading of this book, he says: "I remember all the accounts there given of the battlefields and struggles for the liberty of the country, and none fixed themselves upon my imagination so deeply as the struggle here at Trenton, New Jersey. I recollect thinking then, a boy even though I was, that there must have been something more than common that those men struggled for." Even at this age, he was not only an interested reader of the story, but a student of motives.


"The first time I ever remember seeing Abe Lin coln," is the testimony of one of his neighbors, "was when I was a small boy and had gone with my father to attend some kind of an election. One of the neigh



bors, James Larkins, was there. Larkins was a great hand to brag on anything he owned. This time it was his horse. He stepped up before Abe, who was in a crowd, and commenced talking to him, boasting all the while of his animal.

"I have got the best horse in the country,' he shouted to his young listener. 'I ran him nine miles. in exactly three minutes, and he never fetched a long breath.'

"I presume,' said Abe, rather dryly, 'he fetched a good many short ones, though.'


A country meeting-house, that was used once a month, was quite a distance from any other house.

The preacher, an old-line Baptist, was dressed in coarse linen pantaloons, and shirt of the same material. The pants, manufactured after the old fashion, with baggy legs and a flap in the front, were made to attach to his frame without the aid of suspenders. A single button held his shirt in position, and that was at the collar. He rose up in the pulpit, and with a loud voice announced his text thus: "I am the Christ whom I shall represent to-day.'

About this time a little blue lizard ran up his roomy pantaloons. The old preacher, not wishing to interrupt the steady flow of his sermon, slapped away on his leg, expecting to arrest the intruder; but his efforts were unavailing, and the little fellow kept on ascend. ing higher and higher. Continuing the sermon, the preacher loosened the central button which graced the

waistband of his pantaloons, and with a kick off came that easy fitting garment. But, meanwhile, Mr. Lizard had passed the equatorial line of the waistband, and was calmly exploring that part of the preacher's anatomy which lay underneath the back of his shirt. Things were now growing interesting, but the sermon was still grinding on. The next movement on the preacher's part was for the collar button, and with one sweep of his arm off came the tow linen shirt. The congregation sat for an instant as if dazed; at length one old lady in the rear part of the room rose up, and glancing at the excited object in the pulpit, shouted at the top of her voice, "If you represent Christ, then I'm done with the Bible."



During the year that Lincoln was in Denton Offutt's store, that gentleman, whose business was somewhat widely and unwisely spread about the country, ceased to prosper in his finances, and finally failed. The store was shut up, the mill was closed, and Abraham Lincoln was out of business. The year had been one of great advance, in many respects. He had made new and valuable acquaintances, read many books, mastered the grammar of his own tongue, won multitudes of friends, and became ready for a step stili further in advance. Those who could appreciate brains respected him, and those whose ideas of a mat related to his muscles were devoted to him. It was while he was performing the work of the store that he

« PreviousContinue »