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unhappy night there came a great storm; and when the boy was fast asleep it beat through the chinks of the log house and deluged the shelf on which this "Life of Washington" was lying. The next morning Abe discovered the book soaked and ruined! And there was not another "Life of Washington" in that part of Indiana! The poor boy took home the dilapidated book and offered to pay for it in work, since he had no money. It had been soiled and thumbed and dog's-eared when he borrowed it; but the owner took advantage of the accident and made the boy pull fodder for three days in payment. Then it became Abe's own. But later Abe in some ways "got even" with the old gentleman who had made him pay so much for the volume.
Whenever new settlers came and brought one or more volumes with them, Abe borrowed these if he could. He seemed to scent out a book as a hunter scents game. And when he borrowed, he did not return until he had read the books over and over again, and brought into use his shingle and charcoal or his wooden shovel and his notebook for the quotations he wanted to keep or the thoughts that the books inspired in him. It was good practice that he had to make his own sentences as compact as possible for lack of paper; it taught him condensation which often means power of expression.
It is interesting that Lincoln's first effort to express himself on paper at sufficient length to be considered a composition should have been called forth by his compassion for a little creature that was suffering and his indignation at his own young companions who were torturing it. For the boys had put a live coal on the back of a terrapin. When Abe saw it crawling along in the anguish of its burning, he broke out into indignant protest against the torturers for their wanton cruelty. No doubt he made a good defence; and he was always listened to, for what he said was always interesting and convincing. So, we may well believe that he saved the poor terrapin from further torture; for he was a friend to all the helpless creatures of the woods. After his plea he began to put down on his shingle, or his shovel, a part of what he had said to the boys; he added to this, until, at last, there stood in his notebook his first composition: "Cruelty to Animals." Then he perceived that he could put words on paper and make them effective.
What a long road from this first plea for kindness toward the creatures beneath us to his wonderful speech upon the battlefield of Gettysburg, a speech that, all the world over, is considered one of the most beautiful and touching in the English language! A long road it was
from one to the other; and every step of it was taken with labor, although many steps with labor that he loved; and not a few were in the sorrow of a great heart that mourned for suffering and bloodshed in our nation where men were fighting each other to the death. He had a wonderful mind as leader and guide of our people to higher truths. But his ever true and ever loving heart has taught us the better to understand the words of Longfellow:
"It is the heart, and not the brain,
It is significant that his first essay which his playmates alone heard, and, less than two years before his death, his immortal words to his country and the world should both be full of tenderness for suffering. One reproves his mates for bringing it cruelly upon a little creature. And it was this very spirit which led him on through the long years to reverencing the consecration of suffering when the cause was worthy of it.
Abraham Lincoln was an ideal American in many ways. And he was one of the builders up of a new continent in this way, that he did not study for the sake of the knowledge alone; he had not the spirit of the lonely student who hugs what he learns and loves it for itself and lives in
it and for it and wants nothing further. This in its own way brings gain in knowledge and helps the world also. But this was not what we needed at that time; it was not Abraham Lincoln's work. Life among men and power over them, noble power to lead them to good was to be his part in life; and, even when a boy, he was making himself ready for the leadership which was to be his one day.
For he not only wrote down his thoughts, he spoke them out. For the boy's mind was like a living spring, it had to bubble over. If he found no comrades to listen to his fun or his earnest and he usually did find them-but if not, then the woods, the birds, the very frogs must listen in their way; for an audience he must and would have. Year after year he went on preparing for the time when great words of his should help to sway the hearts of the nation into daring to be honest and just. For no man on the face of the earth, no matter what his name or rank, can ever be greater, or so great as the man who helps to turn the lives of other men into noble thoughts and deeds. So, Lincoln began early; and he kept at it all his life. For the man to whom the hardest work of the world is given has no time to be idle; he does not get it done by letting things come along as they will.
AMONG HIS COMRADES.
After Little Pigeon Creek became more settled, there was frequently preaching at the meeting house there. Mrs. Sally Lincoln always went, and insisted upon her husband accompanying her. When the children were left at home after their elders were out of sight, the family Bible would come down from the shelf and Abe would find a text, and when a hymn or two had been sung he would start off upon a sermon. Sometimes this was earnest enough; but, generally, it was an imitation of some traveling preacher that they had heard, and was excellent mimicry.
Abraham was not a perfect boy, and he was far from being a "goody-goody" boy. He liked fun and plenty of it, as all persons do who are capable of hard work. Some of his employers said of him that he "liked his dinner and his play better than his work." But if