IN THE BOYHOOD OF LINCOLN
A Tale of the Tunker Schoolmaster and the Times of Black Hawk
AUTHOR OF THE LOG SCHOOL-HOUSE ON THE COLUMBIA
Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith as to the end dare to do our duty. PRESIDENT LINCOLN.
NEW YORK D. APPLETON AND COMPANY 1898
COPYRIGHT, 1892, BY D. APPLETON AND COMPANY.
Abraham Lincoln has become the typical character of American institutions, and it is the purpose of this book, which is a true picture in a framework of fiction, to show how that character, which so commanded the hearts and the confidence of men, was formed. He who in youth unselfishly seeks the good of others, without fear or favor, may be ridiculed, but he makes for himself a character fit to govern others, and one that the people will one day need and honor. The secret of Abraham Lincoln's success was the "faith that right makes might." This principle the book seeks by abundant story-telling to illustrate and make clear.
In this volume, as in the "Log School-House on the Columbia," the adventures of a pioneer school-master are made to represent the early history of a newly settled country. The "Log School-House on the Columbia" gave a view of the early history of Oregon and Washington. This volume collects many of the Indian romances and cabin tales of the early settlers of Illinois, and pictures the hardships and manly struggles of one who by force of early character made himself the greatest of representative Americans.
The character of the Dunkard, or Tunker, as a wandering school-master, may be new to many readers. Such missionaries of the forests and prairies have now for the most part disappeared, but they did a useful work among the pioneer settlements on the Ohio and Illinois Rivers. In this case we present him as a disciple of Pestalozzi and a friend of Froebel, and as one who brings the German methods of story-telling into his work.
"Was there ever so good an Indian as Umatilla?" asks an accomplished reviewer of the "Log School-House on the Columbia." The chief whose heroic death in the grave of his son is recorded in that volume did not receive the full measure of credit for his devotion, for he was really buried alive in the grave of his boy. A like question may be asked in regard to the father of Waubeno in this volume. We give the story very much as Black Hawk himself related it. In Drake's History of the Indians we find it related in the following manner:
"It is related by Black Hawk, in his Life, that some time before the War of 1812 one of the Indians had killed a Frenchman at Prairie des Chiens. 'The British soon after took him prisoner, and said they would shoot him next day. His family were encamped a short distance below the mouth of the Ouisconsin. He begged permission to go and see them that night, as he was to die the next day. They permitted him to go, after promising to return the next morning by sunrise. He visited his family, which consisted of a wife and six children. I can not describe their meeting and parting to be understood by the whites, as it appears that their feelings are acted upon by certain rules laid down by their preachers!—while ours are governed only by the monitor within us. He parted from his wife and children, hurried through the prairie to the fort, and arrived in time. The soldiers were ready, and immediately marched out and shot him down!' If this were not cold-blooded, deliberate murder on the part of the whites I have no conception of what constitutes that crime. What were the circumstances of the murder we are not informed; but whatever they may have been, they can not excuse a still greater barbarity."
It belongs, like the story of so-called Umatilla in the "Log School-House on the Columbia," to a series of great legends of Indian character which the poet's pen and the artist's brush would do well to perpetuate. The examples of Indians who have valued honor more than life are many, and it is a pleasing duty to picture such scenes of native worth, as true to the spirit of the past.
We have in this volume, as in the former book, freely mingled history, tradition, and fiction, but we believe that we have in no case been untrue to the fact and spirit of the times we picture, and we have employed fiction chiefly as a framework to bring what is real more vividly into view. We have employed the interpretive imagination merely for narrative purposes. Nearly all that has distinctive worth in the volume is substantially true to history, tradition, and the general spirit of old times in the Illinois, the Sangamon, and the Chicago; to the character of the "jolly old pedagogue long ago"; and to that marvelous man who accepted in youth the lesson of lessons, that "right makes might."
28 WORCHESTER STREET, BOSTON, MASS.
II.—THOMAS LINCOLN'S FAMILY STORIES 17
III.—THE OLD BLACKSMITH'S SHOP AND THE MERRY STORY-TELLERS 33
IV.—A BOY WITH A HEART 55
V.—JASPER COBBLES FOR AUNT OLIVE.—HER QUEER STORIES 62
VI.—JASPER GIVES AN ACCOUNT OF HIS VISIT TO BLACK HAWK.—AUNT INDIANA'S WIG 75
VII.—THE EXAMINATION AT CRAWFORD'S SCHOOL 87
VIII.—THE PARABLE PREACHES IN THE WILDERNESS 100
IX.—AUNT INDIANA'S PROPHECIES 108
X.—THE INDIAN RUNNER 115
XI.—THE CABIN NEAR CHICAGO 122
XII.—THE WHITE INDIAN OF CHICAGO 133
XIII.—LAFAYETTE AT KASKASKIA.—THE STATELY MINUET 140
XIV.—WAUBENO AND YOUNG LINCOLN 156
XV.—THE DEBATING SCHOOL 166
XVI.—THE SCHOOL THAT MADE LINCOLN PRESIDENT 177
XVII.—THOMAS LINCOLN MOVES 184
XIX.—THE FOREST COLLEGE 202
XX.—MAKING LINCOLN A "SON OF MALTA" 214
XXI.—PRAIRIE ISLAND 218
XXII.—THE INDIAN PLOT 229
XXIII.—FOR LINCOLN'S SAKE 236
XXIV.—"OUR LINCOLN IS THE MAN" 251
XXV.—AT THE LAST 265
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
The rescue Frontispiece
The Tunker school-master's class in manners 14
Lines written by Lincoln on the leaf of his school-book 22
Story-telling at the smithy 35
The home of Abraham Lincoln when in his tenth year 55
Aunt Olive's wedding 68
Abraham as a peace-maker 90
Black Hawk tells the story of Waubeno 118
A queer place to write poetry 160
Sarah Bush Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln's step-mother 217
The approach of the mysterious Indian 240
The Lincoln family record 250
Abraham Lincoln, the man 262
IN THE BOYHOOD OF LINCOLN.
"Boy, are there any schools in these parts?"
"And who, my boy, is Crawford?"
"The schoolmaster, don't yer know? He's great on thrashing—on thrashing—and—and he knows everything. Everybody in these parts has heard of Crawford. He's great."
"That is all very extraordinary. 'Great on thrashing, and knows everything.' Very extraordinary! Do you raise much wheat in these parts?"
"He don't thrash wheat, mister. Old Dennis and young Dennis do that with their thrashing-flails."
"But what does he thrash, my boy—what does he thrash?"
"He just thrashes boys, don't you know."
"Extraordinary—very extraordinary. He thrashes boys."
"And teaches 'em their manners. He teaches manners, Crawford does. Didn't you never hear of Crawford? You must be a stranger in these parts."
"Yes, I am a stranger in Indiana. I have been following the timber along the creek, and looking out on the prairie islands. This is a beautiful country. Nature has covered it with grasses and flowers, and the bees will swarm here some day; I see them now; the air is all bright with them, my boy."
"I don't see any bees; it isn't the time of year for 'em. Do you cobble?"
"You don't quite understand me. I was speaking spiritually. Yes, I cobble to pay my way. Yes, my boy."
"Do you preach?"
"Yes, and teach the higher branches—like Crawford. He teaches the higher branches, does he not?"
"Don't make any odds where he gets 'em. I didn't know that he used the higher branches. He just cuts a stick anywhere, and goes at 'em, he does."
"You do not comprehend me, my boy. I teach the higher branches in new schools—Latin and singing. I do not use the higher branches of the trees."
"Latin! Then you must be a wizard."
"No, no, my boy. I am one of the Brethren—called. My new name is Jasper. I chose that name because I needed polishing. Do you see? Well, the Lord is doing his work, polishing me, and I shall shine by and by. 'They that turn many to righteousness shall shine like the stars of heaven.' They call me the Parable."
"Then you be a Tunker?"
"I am one of the wandering Brethren that they call 'Tunkers.'"
"You preach for nothin'? They do."
"Yes, my boy; the Word is free."
"Then who pays you?"
"And you teach for nothin', too, do ye?"
"Yes, my boy. Knowledge is free."
"Then who pays you?"
"It all comes back to me. He that teaches is taught."
"You don't cobble for nothin', do ye?"
"Yes—I cobble to pay my way. I am a wayfaring man, wandering to and fro in the wilderness of the world."
"You cobble to pay yourself for teachin' and preachin'! Why don't you make them pay you? I shouldn't think that you would want to preach and teach and cobble all for nothin', and travel, and travel, and sleep anywhere. Father will be proper glad to see you—and mother; we are glad to see near upon anybody. I suppose that you will hold forth down to Crawford's; in the log meetin'-'ouse, or in the school-'ouse, may be, or under the great trees over Nancy Lincoln's grave. Elkins he preached there, and the circuit-rider."
"If I follow the timber, I will come to Crawford's, my boy?"
"Yes, mister. You'll come to the school-'ouse, and the meetin'-'ouse. The school-'ouse has a low-down roof and a big chimney. Crawford will be right glad to see you, won't he now? They are great on spellin' down there—have spellin'-matches, and all the people come from far and near to hear 'em spell—hundreds of 'em. Link—he's the head speller—he could spell down anybody. It is the greatest school in all these here new parts. You will have a right good time down there; they'll treat ye right well."
"Good, my boy; you speak kindly. I shall have a good time, if the people have ears."
"Ears! They've all got ears—just like other folks. You didn't think that they didn't have any ears, did ye?"
"I mean ears for the truth. I must travel on. I am glad that I met you, my lad. Tell your father and mother that old Jasper the Parable has gone by, and that he has a message for them in his heart. God bless you, my boy—God bless you! You are a little rude in your speech, but you mean well."
The man went on, following the trail along the great trees of Pigeon Creek, and the boy stood looking after him. The water rippled under the trees, and afar lay the open prairie, like a great sun sea. The air was cool, but the light of spring was in it, and the blue-birds fluted blithely among the budding trees.
As he passed along amid these new scenes, a singular figure appeared in the way. It was a woman in a linsey-woolsey dress, corn sun-bonnet, and a huge cane. She looked at the Tunker suspiciously, yet seemed to retard her steps that he might overtake her.
"My good woman," said the latter, coming up to her, "I am not sure of my way."
"Well, I am."
"I wish to go to the Pigeon Creek—settlement—"
"Then you ought to have kept the way when you had it."
"But, my good woman, I am a stranger in these parts. A boy has directed me, but I feel uncertain. What do you do when you lose your way?"
"I don't lose it."
"But if you were—"
"I'd just turn to the right, and keep right straight ahead till I found it."
"True, true; but this is a new country to me. I am one of the Brethren."
"Ye be, be ye? I thought you were one of them land agents. One of the Brethren. I'm proper glad. Who were you lookin' for?"
"The college? Am you're goin' there? I go over there sometimes to see him wallop the boys. We must all have discipline in life, you know, and it is best to begin with the young. Crawford does. They say that Crawford teaches clear to the rule of three, whatever that may be. One added to one is more than one, according to the Scriptur'; now isn't it? One added to one is almost three. Is that what they call high mathematics? I never got further than the multiplication-table, though I am a friend to education. My name is Olive Eastman. What's yourn?"
"You don't? One of the old patriarchs, like. Well, I live this way—you go that. 'Tain't more'n half a mile to Crawford's—close to the meetin'-'ouse. Mebby you'll preach there, and I'll hear ye. Glad I met ye now, and to see who you be. They call me Aunt Olive sometimes, and sometimes Aunt Indiana. I settled Pigeon Creek, or husband and I did. He was kind o' weakly; he's gone now, and I live all alone. I'd be glad to have you come over and preach at the 'ouse, though I might not believe a word on't. I'm a Methody; most people are Baptist down here, like the Linkuns, but we is all ready to listen to a Tunker. People are only responsible for what they know; and there are some good people among the Tunkers, I've hern tell. Now don't go off into some by-path into the woods. Tom Lincoln he see a bear there the other day, but he wouldn't 'a' shot it if it had been an elephant with tusks of ivory and gold. Some folks haven't no calculation. The Lincolns hain't. Good-by."
The Tunker was a middle-aged man of probably forty-five or more years. He had a benevolent face, large, sympathetic eyes, and a patriarchal beard. His garments had hooks instead of buttons. He carried a leather bag in which were a Bible and a hymn-book, some German works of Zinzendorf, and his cobbling-tools. We can not wonder that the boy stared after him. He would have looked oddly anywhere.
My reader may not know who a Tunker was, as our wandering schoolmaster was called. A Tunker, or Dunker, was one of a sect of German Baptists or Quakers, who were formerly very numerous in Pennsylvania and Ohio. The order numbered at one time some thirty thousand souls. They called themselves Brethren, but were commonly known as "Tunkards," or "Dunkards," from a German word meaning to dip. At their baptisms they dip the body of a convert three times; and so in their own land they received the name of Tunkers, or dippers, and this name followed them into Holland and to America. A large number of the Brethren settled in Germantown, Pa. Thence they wandered into Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, preaching and teaching and doing useful work. Like the Quakers, they have now nearly disappeared.
Their doctrines were peculiar, but their lives were unselfish and pure, and their influence blameless. They believed in being led by the inner light; that the soul was a seat of divine and spiritual authority, and that the Spirit came to them as a direct revelation. They did not eat meat or drink wine. They washed each other's feet after their religious services, wore their beards long, and gave themselves new names that they might not be tempted by any worldly ambitions or rivalries. They thought it wrong to take oaths, to hold slaves, or to treat the Indians differently from other men. They would receive no payment for preaching, but held that it was the duty of all men to live by what they earned by their own labor. They traveled wherever they felt moved to go by the inward monitor. They were a peculiar people, but the prairie States owe much that was good to their influence. The new settlers were usually glad to see the old Tunker when he appeared among them, and to receive his message, and women and children felt the loss of this benevolent sympathy when he went away. He established no church, yet all people believed in his sincerity, and most people listened to him with respect and reverence. The sect closely resembled the old Jewish order of the Essenes, except that they did not wear the garment of white, but loose garments without buttons.
The scene of the Tunker's journey was in Spencer County, Indiana, near the present town of Gentryville. This county was rapidly being occupied by immigrants, and it was to this new people that Jasper the Parable believed himself to be guided by the monitor within.
Early in the afternoon he passed several clearings and cabins, where he stopped to receive directions to the school-house and meeting-house.
The country was one vast wilderness. For the most part it was covered with gigantic trees, though here and there a rich prairie opened out of the timber. There were oaks gray with centuries, and elms jacketed with moss, in whose high boughs the orioles in summer builded and sang, and under which the bluebells grew. There were black-walnut forests in places, with timber almost as hard as horn. The woods in many places were open, like colonnades, and carpeted with green moss. There were no restrictions of law here, or very few. One might pitch his tent anywhere, and live where he pleased. The land, as a rule, was common.
Jasper came at last to a clearing with a rude cabin, near which was a three-faced camp, as a house of poles with one open side was called. Spencer County was near the Kentucky border, and the climate was so warm that a family could live there in a house of poles in comfort for most of the year.
As Jasper the Parable came up to the log-house, which had neither hinged doors nor glass windows, a large, rough, good-humored-looking man came out to the gate to meet him, and stood there leaning upon a low gate-post.
"Howdy, stranger?" said the hardy pioneer. "What brings you to these parts—lookin' fer a place to settle down at?"
"No, my good friend—I'm obliged to you for speaking so kindly to a wayfarer—peace be with you—I am looking for the school-house. Can you direct me there?"
"I reckon. Then you be going to see the school? Good for ye. A great school that Crawford keeps. I've got a boy and a girl in that there school myself. The boy, if I do say it now, is the smartest fellow in all the country round—and the laziest. Smart at the top, but it don't go down. Runs all to larnin'. Just reads and studies about all the time, speaks pieces, and preaches on stumps, and makes poetry, and things. I don't know what will ever become of him. He's a queer one. My name is Linkem" (Lincoln)—"Thomas Linkem. What's yourn?"
"They call me Jasper the Parable—that is my new name. I'm one of the Brethren. No offense, I hope—just one of the Brethren."
"Oh, you be—a Tunker. Well, we'll all be proper glad to see you down here. I come from Kentuck. Where did you come from?"
"From Pennsylvania, here. I was born in Germany."
"Sho, you did? From Pennsylvany! And how far are you going?"
"I'm going to meet Black Hawk. My good friend, I stop and preach and teach and cobble along the way."
"What! Black Hawk, the chief? Is it him you're goin' to see? You're an Indian agent, perhaps, travelin' for the State or the fur-traders?"
"No, I am not a trader of any kind. I am going to meet Black Hawk at Rock River. He has promised me a young Indian guide, who will show me all these paths and act as an interpreter, and gain for me a passage among all the Indian tribes. I have met Black Hawk before."
"You've been to Illinois, have ye? Glad to hear ye say so. What kind of a kentry is that, now? I've sometimes thought of going there myself. It ain't over-healthy here. Say, stranger, come back and stop with us after you've been to the school. I haven't any great accommodations, as you see, but I will do the best I can for you, and it will make my wife and Abe and the gal proper glad to have a talk with a preacher. Ye will, won't ye, now? Say yes."
"Yes, yes, if it is so ordered, friend. Thank you, yes. I feel moved to say that I will come back. You are very good, my friend."
"Yes, yes, come back and see us all. I won't detain ye any longer now. You see that there openin'? Well, you just follow that path as the crow flies, and you'll come to the school-'ouse. Good-day, stranger—good-day."
It was early spring, a season always beautiful in southern Indiana. The buds were swelling; the woodpeckers were tapping the old trees, and the migrating birds were returning to their old homes in the tree-tops. Jasper went along singing, for his heart was happy, and he felt the cheerful influence of the vernal air. The birds to him were prophets and choirs, and the murmur of the south winds in the trees was a sermon. A right and receptive spirit sees good in everything, and so Jasper sang as he walked along the footpath.
The school-house came into view. It was built of round logs, and was scarcely higher than a tall man's head. The chimney was large, and was constructed of poles and clay, and the floor and furniture were made of puncheons, as split logs were called. The windows consisted of rough slats and oiled paper. The door was open, and Jasper came up and stood before it. How strange the new country all seemed to him!
The schoolmaster came to the door. He affected gentlemanly and almost courtly manners, and bowed low.
"Is this Mr. Crawford, may I ask?" said Jasper.
"Andrew Crawford. And whom have I the honor of meeting?"
"My new name is Jasper. I am one of the Brethren. They call me the Parable. I am on my way to Rock Island, Illinois, to meet Black Hawk, the chief, who has promised to assist me with a guide and interpreter for my missionary journeys among the new settlements and the tribes. I have come, may it please you, to visit the school. I am a teacher myself."
"You do us great honor, and I assure you that you are very welcome—very welcome. Come in."
The scholars stared, and presented a very strange appearance. The boys were dressed in buckskin breeches and linsey-woolsey shirts, and the girls in homespun gowns of most economical patterns. The furniture seemed all pegs and puncheons. The one cheerful object in the room was the enormous fireplace. The pupils delighted to keep this fed with fuel in the chilly winter days, and the very ashes had cheerful suggestions. It was all ashes now, for the sun was high, and the spring falls warm and early in the forests of southern Indiana.
It was past mid afternoon, and the slanting sun was glimmering in the tops of the gigantic forest-trees seen from the open door.
"We have nearly completed the exercises of the day," said Mr. Crawford. "I have yet to hear the spelling-class, and to conduct the exercises in manners. I teach manners. Shall I go on in the usual way?"
"Yes, yes, may it please you—yes, in the usual way—in the usual way. You are very kind."
"You do me great honor.—The class in spelling," said Mr. Crawford, turning to the school. Five boys and girls stood up, and came to an open space in front of the desk. The recitation of this class was something most odd and amusing to Jasper, and so it would seem to a teacher of to-day.
"Incompatibility" said Mr. Crawford. "You may make your manners and spell incompatibility, Sarah."
A tall girl with a high forehead and very short dress gave a modest and abashed glance at the wandering visitor, blushed, courtesied very low, and thus began the rhythmic exercise of spelling the word in the old-time way:
"I-n, in; there's your in. C-o-m, com, incom; there's your incom; incom. P-a-t, pat, compat, incompat; there's your incompat; incompat. I-, pati, compati, incompati; there's your incompati; incompati. B-i-l, bil; ibil, patibil, compatibil, incompatibil; there's your incompatibil; incompatibil. I-, bili, patibili, compatibili, incompatibili; there's your incompatibili; incompatibili. T-y, ty, ity, bility, ibility, patibility, compatibility, incompatibility; there's your incompatibility; incompatibility."
The girl seemed dazed after this mazy effort. Mr. Crawford bowed, and Jasper the Parable looked serene, and remarked, encouragingly:
"Extraordinary! I never heard a word spelled in that way. This is an age of wonders. One meets with strange things everywhere. I should think that that girl would make a teacher one day; and the new country will soon need teachers. The girl did well."
"You do me great honor," said Mr. Crawford, bowing like a courtier. "I appreciate it, I assure you; I appreciate it, and thank you. I have aimed to make my school the best in the country. Your commendation encourages me to hope that I have not failed."
But these polite and generous compliments were exchanged a little too soon. The next word that Mr. Crawford gave out from the "Speller" was obliquity.
"Jason, make your manners and spell obliquity. Take your hands out of your pockets; that isn't manners. Take your hands out of your pockets and spell obliquity."
Jason was a tall lad, in a jean blouse and leather breeches. His hair was tangled and his ankles were bare. He seemed to have a loss of confidence, but he bobbed his head for manners, and began to spell in a very loud voice, that had in it almost the sharpness of defiance.
"O-b, ob; there's your ob; ob." He made a leer. "L-i-k, lik, oblik; there's your oblik—"
"No," said Mr. Crawford, with a look of vexation and disappointment. "Try again."
Jason took a higher key of voice.
"Wall, O-b, ob; there's your ob; ain't it? L-i-c-k, and there's your lick—"
"Take your seat!" thundered Mr. Crawford. "I'll give you a lick after school. Think of bringing obliquity upon the school in the presence of a teacher from the Old World! Next!"
But the next pupil became lost in the mazes of the improved method of spelling, and the class brought dishonor upon the really conscientious and ambitious teacher.
The exercise in manners partly redeemed the disaster.
"Abraham Lincoln, stand up."
A tall boy arose, and his head almost touched the ceiling. He was dressed in a linsey-woolsey frock, with buckskin breeches which were much too short for him. His ankles were exposed, and his feet were poorly covered. His face was dark and serious. He did not look like one whom an unseen Power had chosen to control one day the destiny of nations, to call a million men to arms, and to emancipate a race.
"Abraham Lincoln, you may go out, and come in and be introduced."
It required but a few steps to take the young giant out of the door. He presently returned, knocking.
"James Sparrow, you may go to the door," said Mr. Crawford.
The boy arose, went to the door, and bowed very properly.
"Good-afternoon, Mr. Lincoln. I am glad to see you. Come in. If it please you, I will present you to my friends."
Abraham entered, as in response to this courtly parrot-talk.
"Mr. Crawford, may I have the honor of presenting to you my friend Abraham Lincoln?—Mr. Lincoln, Mr. Crawford."
Mr. Crawford bowed slowly and condescendingly. Abraham was then introduced to each of the members of the school, and the exercise was a very creditable one, under the untoward circumstances. And this shall be our own introduction to one of the heroes of our story, and, following this odd introduction, we will here make our readers somewhat better acquainted with Jasper the Parable.
He was born in Thuringia, not far from the Baths of Liebenstein. His father was a German, but his mother was of English descent, and he had visited England with her in his youth, and so spoke the English language naturally and perfectly. He had become an advocate of the plans of Pestalozzi, the father of common-school education, in his early life. One of the most intimate friends of his youth was Froebel, afterward the founder of the kindergarten system of education. With Froebel he had entered the famous regiment of Luetzow; he had met Koerner, and sang the "Wild Hunt of Luetzow," by Von Weber, as it came from the composer's pen, the song which is said to have driven Napoleon over the Rhine. He had married, lost wife and children, become melancholy and despondent, and finally fallen under the influence of the preaching of a Tunker, and had taken the resolution to give up himself entirely, his will and desires, and to live only for others, and to follow the spiritual impression, which he believed to be the Divine will. He was simple and sincere. His friends had treated him ill on his becoming a Tunker, but he forgave them all, and said: "You reject me from your hearts and homes. I will go to the new country, and perhaps I may find there a better place for us all. If I do, I will return to you and treat you as Joseph treated his brethren. You are oppressed; you have to bear arms for years. I am left alone in the world. Something calls me over the sea."
He lived near Marienthal, the Vale of Mary. It was a lovely place, and his heart loved it and all the old German villages, with their songs and children's festivals, churches, and graves. He bade farewell to Froebel. "I am going to study life," he said, "in the wilderness of the New World." He came to Pennsylvania, and met the Brethren there who had come from Germany, and then traveled with an Indian agent to Rock Island, Illinois, where he had met Black Hawk. Here he resolved to become a traveling teacher, preacher, and missionary, after the usages of his order, and he asked Black Hawk for an interpreter and guide.
"Return to me in May," said the chief, "and I will provide you with as noble a son of the forest as ever breathed the air."
He returned to Ohio, and was now on his way to visit the old chief again.
The country was a wonder to him. Coming from middle Germany and the Rhine lands, everything seemed vast and limitless. The prairies with their bluebells, the prairie islands with their giant trees, the forests that shaded the streams, were all like a legend, a fairy story, a dream. He admired the heroic spirit of the pioneers, and he took the Indians to his heart. In this spirit he began to travel over the unbroken prairies of Indiana and Illinois.
THOMAS LINCOLN'S FAMILY STORIES.
The red sun was glimmering through the leafless boughs of the great oaks when Jasper again came to the gate of Thomas Lincoln's log cabin. Mr. Crawford had remained after school with the tall boy who had brought "obliquity" upon the spelling-class. Tradition reports that there was a great rattling of leather breeches, and expostulations, and lamentations at such solemn, private interviews. Mr. Crawford, who was "great on thrashing," no doubt did his duty as he understood it at that private session at sundown. Sticks were plenty in those days, and the will to use them strong among most pioneer schoolmasters.
Abraham Lincoln and his sister accompanied Jasper to the log-house. They heard the lusty cry for consideration and mercy in the log school-house as they were going, and stopped to listen. Jasper did not approve of this rugged discipline.
"I should not treat the boy in that way," said he philosophically.
"You wouldn't?" said Abraham. "Why? Crawford is a great teacher; he knows everything. He can cipher as far as the rule of three."
"Yes, lad, but the true purpose of education is to form character. Fear does not make true worth, but counterfeit character. If education fails to produce real character, it fails utterly. True education is a matter of the soul as much as of the mind. It should make a boy want to do right because it is the right thing to do right. Anything that fails to produce character for its own sake, and not for a selfish reason, is a mistake. But what am I doing—criticising? Now, that is wrong. I seemed to be talking with Froebel. Yes, Crawford is a great teacher, all things considered. He does well who does his best. You have a great school. It is not like the old German schools, but you do well."
Jasper began a discourse about Pestalozzi and that great thinker's views of universal education. But the words were lost on the air. The views of Pestalozzi were not much discussed in southern Indiana at this time, though the idea of common-school education prevailed everywhere.
Thomas Lincoln stood at the gate awaiting the return of Jasper.
"I'm proper glad that you've come back to see us all," said he. "Wife has been lookin' for ye. What did you think of the school? Great, isn't it? That Crawford is a big man in these parts. They say he can cipher to the rule of three, whatever that may be. Indiana is going to be great on education, in my opinion."
He was right. Indiana, with an investment of some ten million of dollars for public education, and with an army of well-trained teachers, leads the middle West in the excellence of her schools. Her model school system, which to-day would delight a Pestalozzi or a Froebel, had its rude beginning in schools like Crawford's.
"Come, come in," said Thomas Lincoln, and led the way into the log-house.
"This is my wife," said he to Jasper.
The woman had a serene and benevolent face. Her features were open and plain, but there was heart-life in them. It was a face that could have been molded only by a truly good heart. It was strong, long-suffering, sympathetic, and self-restrained. Her forehead was high and thoughtful, her eyes large and expressive, and her voice loving and cheerful. Jasper felt at once that he was in the presence of a woman of decision of character.
"Then you are a Tunker," she said. "I am a Baptist, too, but not your kind. But such things matter little if the heart is right."
"You have well said," answered Jasper. "The true life is in the soul. We both belong to the same kingdom, and shall have the same life and drink from the same fountain and eat the same bread. Have you been here long?"
"Yes," said Thomas Lincoln, "and we have seen some dark days. We lived in the half-faced camp out yonder when I first came here. My first wife died of milk-sickness here. She was Abraham's mother. Ever heard of the milk-sickness, as the fever was called? It swept away a great many of the early inhabitants. Those were dark, dark days. I shall never forget them."
"So your real mother is dead," said Jasper to Abraham.
"I try to be a mother to him, poor boy," said Mrs. Lincoln. "Abraham is good to me and to everybody; one of the best boys I ever knew, though I ought not to praise him to his face. He does the best he can."
"Awful lazy. You didn't tell that," said Thomas Lincoln; "all head and books. He is. I believe in tellin' the whole truth."
"Oh, well," said Mrs. Lincoln, "some persons work with their hands, and some with their heads, and some with their hearts. Abraham's head is always at work—he isn't like most other boys. And as far as his heart—Well, I do love that boy, and I am his step-mother, too. He's always been so good to me that I love to tell on't. His father, I'm thinkin', is rather hard on him sometimes. Abe's heart knows mine and I know his'n, and I couldn't think more on him if he was my own son. His poor mother sleeps out there under the great trees; but I mean to be such a mother to him that he will never know no difference."
"Yes," said Thomas Lincoln, "Abraham does middlin' well, considerin'. But he does provoke me sometimes. He would provoke old Job himself. Why, he will take a book with him into the corn-field, and he reads and reads, and his head gets loose and goes off into the air, and he puts the pumpkin-seeds in the wrong hills, like as not. He is great on the English Reader. I'd just like for you to hear him recite poetry out of that book. He's great on poetry; writes it himself. But that isn't neither here nor there. Come, preacher, we'll have some supper."
The Tunker lifted his hand and said grace, after which the family sat down to the table.
"We used to eat off a puncheon when we first came to these parts," said Mr. Lincoln. "We had no beds, and we slept on a floor of pounded clay. My new wife brought all of this grand furniture to me. That beereau looks extravagant—now don't it?—for poor folks, too. I sometimes think that she ought to sell it. I am told that in a city place it would be worth as much as fifty dollars."
There were indeed a few good articles of furniture in the house.
The supper consisted of corn-bread of very rough meal, and of bacon, eggs, and coffee.
"Do you smoke?" asked Mr. Lincoln, when the meal was over.
"No," said Jasper. "I have given up everything of that kind, luxuries, and even my own name. Let us talk about our experiences. There is no news in the world like the news from the soul. A man's inner life and experience are about all that is worth talking about. It is the king that makes the crown."
But Thomas Lincoln was not a man of deep inward experiences and subjective ideas, though his first wife had been such a person, and would have delighted Jasper. Mr. Lincoln liked best to talk about his family and the country, and was more interested in the slow news that came from the new settlements than in the revelations from a higher world. His former wife, Abraham's mother, had been a mystic, but there was little sentiment in him.
"You said that you were going to meet Black Hawk," said Mr. Lincoln. "Where do you expect to find him? He's everywhere, ain't he?"
"I am going to the Sac village at Rock Island. It is a long journey, but the Voice tells me to go."
"That is away across the Illinois, on the Mississippi River, isn't it?"
"Yes, the Sac village looks down on the Mississippi. It is a beautiful place. The prairies spread around it like seas. I love to think of it. It commands a noble view. I do not wonder that the Indians love it, and made it the burial-place of their race. I would love it myself."
"You favor the Indians, do you?"
"Yes. All men are my brothers. The field is the world. I am going to try to preach and teach among the Sacs and Foxes, as soon as I can find an interpreter, and Black Hawk has promised me one. He has sent for him to come down to Rock Island and meet me. He lives at Prairie du Chien, far away in the north, I am told."
"Don't you have any antipathy against the Indians, preacher?"
"No, none at all. Do you?"
"My father was murdered by an Indian. Let me tell you about it. Not that I want to discourage you—you mean well; but I don't feel altogether as you do about the red-skins, preacher. You and Abe would agree better on the subject than you and I. Abe is tender-hearted—takes after his mother."
Thomas Lincoln filled his pipe. "Abe," as his oldest boy was called, sat in the fireplace, "the flue," as it was termed. By his side sat John Hanks, who had recently arrived from Kentucky—a rough, kindly-looking man.
"Wait a minute," said great-hearted Mrs. Lincoln—"wait a minute before you begin."
"What are you going to do, mother (wife)?"
"I'm just going to set these potatoes to roast before the fire, so we can have a little treat all by ourselves when you have got through your story. There, that is all."
The poor woman sat down by the table—she had brought the table to her husband on her marriage; he probably never owned a table—and began to knit, saying:
"Abraham, you mind the potatoes. Don't let 'em burn."
"Mother"—the word seemed to make her happy. Her face lighted. She sat knitting for an hour, silent and serene, while Thomas Lincoln talked.
THOMAS LINCOLN'S STORY.
"My father," began the old story-teller, "came to Kentucky from Virginia. His name was Abraham Lincoln. I have always thought that was a good, solid name—a worthy name—and so I gave it to my boy here, and hope that he will never bring any disgrace upon it. I never can be much in this world; Abe may.
"This was in Daniel Boone's day. On our way to Kentucky we began to hear terrible stories of the Indian attacks on the new settlers. In 1780, the year that we emigrated from Virginia, there were many murders of the settlers by the Indians, which were followed by the battle of Lower Blue Licks, in which Boone's son was wounded.
"I have heard my mother and the old settlers talk over that battle. When Daniel Boone found that his son was wounded, he tried to carry him away. There was a river near, and he lifted the boy upon his back and hurried toward it. As he came to the river, the boy grew heavy.
"'Father, I believe that I am dying,' said the boy.
"'We will be across the river soon,' said Boone. 'Hold on.'
"The boy clung to his father's neck with stiffening arms. While they were crossing the river the son died. Oh, it was a sight for pity—now, wasn't it, preacher? Boone in the river, with the dead body of his boy on his back. Our country has known few scenes like that. How that father must 'a' felt! You furriners little know these things.
"The Indians swam after him. He laid down the body of his son on the ground and struck into the forest.
"It was in this war that Boone's little daughter was carried away by the Indians. I must tell ye. I love to talk of old times.
"She was at play with two other little girls outside of the stockade at Boonesborough, on the Kentucky River. There was a canoe on the bank.
"'Let us take the canoe and go across the river,' said one of the girls, innocent-like.
"Well, they got into the boat and paddled across the running river to the opposite side. They reached shallow water, when a party of Indians, who had been watching them, cunning-like, stole out of the thick trees 'n' rushed down to the canoe 'n' drew it to the shore. The girls screamed, and their cries were heard at the fort.
"Night was falling. Three of the Indians took a little girl apiece, and, looking back to the fort in the sunset, uttered a shriek of defiance, such as would ha' made yer flesh creep, and disappeared in the timber.
"That night a party was got together at the fort to pursue the Indians and rescue the children.
"Well, near the close of the next day the party came upon these Indians, some forty miles from the fort. They approached the camp cautiously, coyote-like, 'n' saw that the girls were there.
"'Shoot carefully, now,' said the leader. 'Each man bring down an Indian, or the children will be killed before we can reach them.'
"They fired upon the Indians, picking out the three who were nearest the children. Not one of the Indians was hit, but the whole party was terribly frightened, leaped up, 'n' run like deer. The children were rescued unharmed 'n' taken back to the fort. You would think them was pretty hard times, wouldn't ye?
"There was one event that happened at the time about which I have heard the old folks tell, with staring eyes, and I will never forget it. The Indians came one night to attack a log-house in which were a man, his wife, and daughter, named Merrill. They did not wish to burn the cabin, but to enter it and make captives of the family; so they cut a hole in the door, with their hatchets, large enough to crawl through one at a time. They wounded Mr. Merrill outright.
"But Mrs. Merrill was a host in herself. Her only weapon was an axe, and there never was fought in Kentucky, or anywhere else in the world, I'm thinkin', such another battle as that.
"The leader of the Indians put his head through the hole in the door and began to crawl into the room, slowly—slowly—so—"
Mr. Lincoln put out his great arms, and moved his hands mysteriously.
"Well," he continued, "what do you suppose happened? Mrs. Merrill she dealt that Indian a death-blow on the head with the axe, just like that, and then drew him in slowly, slowly. The Indians without thought that he had crawled in himself, and another Indian followed him slowly, slowly. That Indian received his death-blow on the head, and was pulled in like the first, slowly. Another and another Indian were treated in the same way, until the dark cabin floor presented an awful scene for the morning.
"Only one or two were left without. The women felt that they were now the masters in the contest, and stood looking on what they had done. There fell a silence over the place. Still, awful still everywhere. What a silence it was! The two Indians outside listened. Why were their comrades so still? What had happened? Why was everything so still? One of them tried to look through the hole in the door into the dark and bloody room. Then the two attempted to climb down the chimney from the low roof of the cabin, but Mrs. Merrill put her bed into the fireplace and set it on fire.
"Such were some of the scenes of my father's few years of life in Kentucky; and now comes the most dreadful memory of all. Oh, it makes me wild to think o' it! Preacher, as I said, my father was killed by the Indians. You did not know that before, did you? No; well, it was so. Abraham Lincoln was shot by the red-skins. I was with him at the time, a little boy then, and I shall never forget that awful morning—never, never!—Abraham, mind the potatoes; you've heard the story a hundred times."
Young Abraham Lincoln turned the potatoes and brightened the fire. Thomas Lincoln bent over and rested his body on his knees, and held his pipe out in one hand.
"Preacher, listen. One morning father looked out of the cabin door, and said to mother:
"'I must go to the field and build a fence to-day. I will let Tommy go with me.'
"I was Tommy. I was six years old then. He loved me, and liked to have me with him. It was in the year 1784—I never shall forget the dark days of that year!—never, never.
"I had two brothers older than myself, Mordecai and Josiah. We give boys Scriptur' names in those days. They had gone to work in another field near by.
"We went to the field where the rails were to be cut and laid, and father began to work. He was a great, noble-looking man, and a true pioneer. I can see him now. I was playing near him, when suddenly there came a shot as it were out of the air. My poor father reeled over and fell down dead. What must have been his last thoughts of my mother and her five children? I have often thought of that—what must have been his last thoughts? Well, Preacher, you listen.
"A band of Indians came leaping out of the bush howling like demons. I fell upon the ground. I can sense the fright now. A tall, black Indian, with a face like a wolf, came and stood over me, and was about to seize hold of me. I could hear him breathe. There came a shot from the house, and the Indian dropped down beside me, dead. My brother Mordecai had seen father fall, 'n' ran to the house 'n' fired that shot that saved my life. Josiah had gone to the stockade for help, and he returned soon with armed men, and the Indians disappeared.
"O Preacher, those were dark days, wasn't they? Dark, dark days! You never saw such. They took up my father's body—what a sight!—and bore it into the cabin. You should have seen my poor mother then. What was to help us? Only the blue heavens were left us then. What could we do? My mother and five children alone in the wilderness full of savages!
"Preacher, I have seen dark days! I have known what it was to be poor and supperless and friendless; but I never sought revenge on the Indians, though Mordecai did. I'm glad that you're going to preach among them. I couldn't do it, with such memories as mine, perhaps; but I'm glad you can, 'n' I hope that you will go and do them good. Heaven bless those who seek to do good in this sinful world—"
"Abraham, are the potatoes done?" said a gentle voice.
"Then pass them 'round. Give the preacher one first; then your father. I do not care for any."
The tall boy passed the roasted potatoes around as directed. Jasper ate his potato in silence. The stories of the hardships of this forest family had filled his heart with sympathy, and Thomas Lincoln had acted the stories that he told in such a way as to leave a most vivid impression on his mind.
"These stories make you sad," said Mrs. Lincoln to Jasper. "They are heart-rendin', and I sometimes think it is almost wrong to tell them. Do you think it is right to tell a story that awakens hard and rebellious feelin's? 'Evil communications corrupt good manners,' the Good Book says. I sometimes wish that folks would tell only stories that are good, and make one the better for hearin'—parables like."
"My heart feels for you all," said Jasper. "I feel for everybody. This life is all new to me."
"Let us have something more cheerful now," said Mrs. Lincoln.—"Abraham, recite to the preacher a piece from the English Reader."
"Which one, mother?"
"The Hermit—how would that do? I don't know much about poetry, but Abraham does. He makes it up. It is a queer turn of mind he has. He learns all the poetry that he can find, and makes it up himself out of his own head. He's got poetry in him, though he don't look so. How he ever does it, puzzles me. His mother was poetic like. It is a gift, like grace. Where do you suppose it comes from, and what will he ever do with it? He ain't like other boys. He's kind o' peculiar some.—Come, Abraham, recite to us The Hermit. It is a proper good piece."
The tall boy came out of "the flue" and stood before the dying fire. The old leather-covered English Reader, which he said in later life was the best book ever written, lay on the table before him. He did not open it, however. He put his hands behind him and raised his dark face as in a kind of abstraction. He began to recite slowly in a clear voice, full of a peculiar sympathy that gave color to every word. He seemed as though he felt that the experience of the poet was somehow a prophecy of his own life; and it was. He himself became a skeptical man in religious thought, but returned to the simple faith of his ancestors amid the dark scenes of war.
The poem was a beautiful one in form and soul, an old English pastoral, by Beattie. How grand it seemed, even to unpoetic Thomas Lincoln, as it flowed from the lips of his studious son!
At the close of the day, when the hamlet is still, And mortals the sweets of forgetfulness prove; When naught but the torrent is heard on the hill, And naught but the nightingale's song in the grove: 'Twas thus, by the cave of the mountain afar, While his harp rung symphonious, a hermit began; No more with himself or with Nature at war, He thought as a sage, though he felt as a man:
"Ah, why, all abandoned to darkness and woe, Why, lone Philomela, that languishing fall? For spring shall return, and a lover bestow, And sorrow no longer thy bosom inthrall. But, if pity inspire thee, renew the sad lay, Mourn, sweetest complainer, man calls thee to mourn; O soothe him whose pleasures like thine pass away: Full quickly they pass—but they never return.
"Now gliding remote, on the verge of the sky, The moon, half extinguished, her crescent displays: But lately I marked when majestic on high She shone, and the planets were lost in her blaze. Roll on, thou fair orb, and with gladness pursue The path that conducts thee to splendor again: But man's faded glory what change shall renew? Ah, fool! to exult in a glory so vain!
"'Tis night, and the landscape is lovely no more: I mourn; but, ye woodlands, I mourn not for you; For morn is approaching, your charms to restore, Perfumed with fresh fragrance, and glitt'ring with dew. Nor yet for the ravage of winter I mourn; Kind Nature the embryo blossom will save: But when shall spring visit the moldering urn? Oh, when shall day dawn on the night of the grave?
"'Twas thus by the glare of false science betrayed, That leads to bewilder, and dazzles to blind; My thoughts wont to roam, from shade onward to shade, Destruction before me, and sorrow behind. 'Oh pity, great Father of light,' then I cried, 'Thy creature who fain would not wander from thee! Lo, humbled in dust, I relinquish my pride: From doubt and from darkness thou only canst free.'
"And darkness and doubt are now flying away; No longer I roam in conjecture forlorn: So breaks on the traveler, faint and astray, The bright and the balmy effulgence of morn. See truth, love, and mercy, in triumph descending, And Nature all glowing in Eden's first bloom! On the cold cheek of death smiles and roses are blending, And beauty immortal awakes from the tomb."
Mrs. Lincoln used to listen to such recitations as this from the English Readers and Kentucky Orators with delight and wonder. She loved the boy with all her heart. In all the biographies of Lincoln there is hardly a more pathetic incident than one told by Mr. Herndon of his visit to Mrs. Lincoln after the assassination and the national funeral. Mr. Herndon was the law partner of Lincoln for many years, and we give the incident here, out of place as it is. Mrs. Lincoln said to her step-son's friend:
"Abe was a poor boy, and I can say what scarcely one woman—a mother—can say, in a thousand: Abe never gave me a cross word or look, and never refused, in fact or appearance, to do anything I requested him. I never gave him a cross word in all my life.... His mind and my mind—what little I had—seemed to run together.... He was here after he was elected President." Here she stopped, unable to proceed any further, and after her grateful emotions had spent themselves in tears, she proceeded: "He was dutiful to me always. I think he loved me truly. I had a son, John, who was raised with Abe. Both were good boys; but I must say, both being now dead, that Abe was the best boy I ever saw or ever expect to see. I wish I had died when my husband died. I did not want Abe to run for President, did not want him elected; was afraid, somehow—felt it in my heart; and when he came down to see me, after he was elected President, I felt that something would befall him, and that I should see him no more."
Equally beautiful was the scene when Lincoln visited this good woman for the last time, just before going to Washington to be inaugurated President.
"Abraham," she said, as she stood in her humble backwoods cabin, "something tells me that I shall never see you again."
He put his hand around her neck, lifted her face to heaven and said, "Mother!"
THE OLD BLACKSMITH'S SHOP AND THE MERRY STORY-TELLERS.
JOHNNIE KONGAPOD'S INCREDIBLE STORY.
The country store, in most new settlements, is the resort of story-tellers. It was not so here. There was a log blacksmith-shop by the wayside near the Gentryville store, overspread by the cool boughs of pleasant trees, and having a glowing forge and wide-open doors, which was a favorite resort of the good-humored people of Spencer County, and here anecdotes and stories used to be told which Abraham Lincoln in his political life made famous. The merry pioneers little thought that their rude stories would ever be told at great political meetings, to generals and statesmen, and help to make clear practical thought to Legislatures, senates, and councils of war. Abraham Lincoln claimed that he obtained his education by learning all that he could of any one who could teach him anything. In all the curious stories told in his hearing in this quaint Indiana smithy, he read some lesson of life.
The old blacksmith was a natural story-teller. Young Lincoln liked to warm himself by the forge in winter and sun himself in the open door in summer, and tempt this sinewy man to talk. The smithy was a common resort of Thomas Lincoln, and of John and Dennis Hanks, who belonged to the family of Abraham's mother. The schoolmaster must have liked the place, and the traveling ministers tarried long there when they brought their horses to be shod. In fact, the news-stand of that day, the literary club, the lecture platform, the place of amusement, and everything that stirred associated life, found its common center in this rude old smithy by the wayside, amid the running brooks and fanning trees.
The stories told here were the curious incidents and adventures of pioneer life, rude in fact and rough in language, but having pith and point.
Thomas Lincoln, on the afternoon of the next day, said to Jasper:
"Come, preacher, let's go over to the smithy. I want ye to see the blacksmith. We all like to see the blacksmith in these parts; he's an uncommon man."
They went to the smithy. Abraham followed them. The forge was low, and the blacksmith was hammering over old nails on the anvil.
"Hello!" said Thomas Lincoln; "not doin' much to-day. I brought the preacher over to call on you—he's a Tunker—has been to see the school—he teaches himself—thought you'd want to know him."
"Glad you come. Here, sit down in the leather chair, and make yourself at home. Been long in these new parts?"
"No, my friend; I have been to Illinois, but I have never been here before. I am glad to see you."
"What do you think of the country?" said the blacksmith. "Think it is a good place to settle in? Hope that you have come to cast your lot with us. We need a preacher; we haven't any goodness to spare. You come from foreign parts, I take it. Well, well, there's room for a world of people out here in the woods and prairies. I hope that you will like it, and get your folks to come. We'll do all we can for you. We be men of good will, if we be hard-looking and poor."
"My good friend, I believe you. You are great-hearted men, and I like you."
"Brainy, too. Let me start up the forge."
"Preacher, come here," said Thomas Lincoln. "I haven't had no edication to speak of, but I've invented a new system of book-keepin' that beats the schools. There's one of them there. The blacksmith keeps all of his accounts by it. I've got one on a puncheon at home; did you notice it? This is how it is; you may want to use it yourself. Come and look at it."
On a rough board over the forge Thomas Lincoln had drawn a number of straight lines with a coal, as are sometimes put on a blackboard by a singing-master. On the lower bars were several cloudy erasures, and at the end of these bars were initials.
"Don't understand it, do you? Well, now, it is perfectly simple. I taught it to Aunt Olive, and she don't know more than some whole families, though she thinks that she knows more than the whole creation. Seen such people, hain't ye? Yes. The woods are full of 'em. Well, that ain't neither here nor there. This is how it works: A man comes here to have his horse shod—minister, may be; short, don't pay. Nothin' to pay with but funeral sermons, and you can't collect them all the time. Well, all you have to do is just to draw your finger across one of them lines, and write his initials after it. And when he comes again, rub out another place on the same lines."
"And when you have rubbed out all the places you could along that line, how much would you be worth?" said the blacksmith.
"I call that a new way of keeping accounts," continued Thomas Lincoln, earnestly. "Did you ever see anything of the kind before? No. It's a new and original way. We do a great lot o' thinkin' down here in winter-time, when we haven't much else to do. I'm goin' to put one o' them new systems into the mill."
The meetings of the pioneers at the blacksmith's shop formed a kind of merry-go-round club. One would tell a story in his own odd way, and another would say, "That reminds me," and tell a similar story that was intended to exceed the first in point of humor. One of Thomas Lincoln's favorite stories was "GL-UK!" or, as he sometimes termed it—
"HOW ABRAHAM WENT TO MILL.
"It was a mighty curi's happenin'," he would say. "I don't know how to account for it—the human mind is a very strange thing. We go to sleep and are lost to the world entirely, and we wake up again. We die, and leave our bodies, and the soul-memory wakes again; if it have the new life and sense, it wakes again somewhere. We're curi's critters, all on us, and don't know what we are.
"When I first came to Indiana I made a mill of my own—Abe and I did. 'Twas just a big stone attached to a heavy pole like a well-sweep, so as to pound heavy, up and down, up and down. You can see it now, though it is all out of gear and kilter.
"Then, they built a mill 'way down on the river, and I used to send Abe there on horseback. Took him all day to go and come: used to start early in the mornin', and, as he had to wait his turn at the mill, he didn't use to get back until sundown. Then came Gordon and built his mill almost right here among us—a horse-mill with a windlass, all mighty handy: just hitch the horse to a windlass and pole, and he goes round and round, and never gets nowhere, but he grinds the corn and wheat. Something like me: I go round and round, and never seem to get anywhere, but something will come of it, you may depend.
"Well, one day I says to Abraham:
"You must hitch up the horse and go to Gordon's to mill. The meal-tub is low, and there's a storm a-brewin'.'
"So Abe hitched up the horse and started. That horse is a mighty steady animal—goes around just like a machine; hasn't any capers nor antics—just as sober as a minister. I should have no more thought of his kickin' than I should have thought of the millstones a-hoppin' out of the hopper. 'Twas a mighty curi's affair.
"Well, Abe went to Gordon's, and his turn come to grind. He hitched the horse to the pole, and said, as always, 'Get up, you old jade!' I always say that, so Abe does. He didn't mean any disrespect to the horse, who always maintained a very respectable-like character up to that day.
"The horse went round and round, round and round, just as steady as clock-work, until the grist was nearly out, and the sound of the grindin' was low, when he began to lag, sleepy-like. Abe he run up behind him, and said, 'Get up, you old jade!' then puckered up his mouth, so, to say 'Gluck.' 'Tis a word I taught him to use. Every one has his own horse-talk.
"He waved his stick, and said 'Gl—'
"Was the horse bewildered? He never did such a thing before. In an instant, like a thunder-clap when the sun was shinin', he h'isted up his heels and kicked Abraham in the head, and knocked him over on the ground, and then stopped as though to think on what he had done.
"The mill-hands ran to Abraham. There the boy lay stretched out on the ground just as though he was dead. They thought he was dead. They got some water, and worked over him a spell. They could see that he breathed, but they thought that every breath would be his last.
"'He's done for this world,' said Gordon. 'He'll never come to his senses again. Thomas Lincoln would be proper sorry.' And so I should have been had Abraham died. Sometimes I think like it was the Evil One that possessed that horse. It don't seem to me that he'd 'a' ever ha' kicked Abe of his own self—right in the head, too. You can see the scar on him now.
"Well, almost an hour passed, when Abe came to himself—consciousness they call it—all at once, in an instant. And what do you think was the first thing he said? Just this—'uk!'
"He finished the word just where he left it when the horse kicked him, and looked around wild-like, and there was the critter standin' still as the mill-stun.' Now, where do you think the soul of Abe was between 'Gl—' and 'uk'? I'd like to have ye tell me that."
A long discussion would follow such a question. Abraham Lincoln himself once discussed the same curious incident with his law-partner Herndon, and made it a subject of the continuance of mental consciousness after death.
It was a warm afternoon. A dark cloud hung in the northern sky, and grew slowly over the arch of serene and sunny blue.
"Goin' to have a storm," said the blacksmith. "Shouldn't wonder if it were a tempest. We generally get a tempest about this time of year, when winter finally breaks up into spring. Well, I declare! there comes Johnnie Kongapod, the Kickapoo Indian from Illinois—he and his dogs."
A tall Indian was seen coming toward the smithy, followed by two dogs. The men watched him as he approached. He was a kind of chief, and had accepted the teachings of the early missionaries. He used to wander about among the new settlements, and was very proud of himself and his own tribe and race. He had an honest heart. He once composed an epitaph for himself, which was well meant but read oddly, and which Abraham Lincoln sometimes used to quote in his professional career:
"Here lies poor Johnnie Kongapod, Have mercy on him, gracious God, As he would do if he was God, And you were Johnnie Kongapod."
The Indian sat down on the log sill of the blacksmith's shop, and watched the gathering cloud as it slowly shut out the sky.
"Storm," said he. "Lay down, Jack; lay down, Jim."
Jack and Jim were his two dogs. They eyed the flaming forge. One of them seemed tired, and lay down beside his master, but the other made himself troublesome.
"That reminds me," said Dennis Hanks; and he related a curious story of a troublesome dog, perhaps the one which in its evolutions became known as "SYKES'S DOG," though this may be a later New Salem story. It was an odd and a coarse bit of humor. Lincoln himself is represented as telling this, or a like story, to General Grant after the Vicksburg campaign, something as follows:
"'Your enemies were constantly coming to me with their criticisms while the siege was in progress, and they did not cease their ill opinions after the city fell. I thought that the time had come to put an end to this kind of criticism, so one day, when a delegation called to see me and had spent a half-hour, and tried to show me the great mistake that you had made in paroling Pemberton's army, I thought I could get rid of them best by telling the story of Sykes's dog.
"'Have you ever heard the story of Sykes's dog?' I said to the spokesman of the delegation.
"'Well, I must tell it to you. Sykes had a yellow dog that he set great store by; but there were a lot of small boys around the village, and the dog became very unpopular among them. His eye was so keen on his master's interests that there arose prejudice against him. The boys counseled how to get rid of him. They finally fixed up a cartridge with a long fuse, and put the cartridge in a piece of meat, and then sat down on a fence and called the dog, one of them holding the fuse in his hand. The dog swallowed the meat, cartridge and all, and stood choking, when one of them touched off the fuse. There was a loud report. Sykes came out of the house, and found the ground was strewed with pieces of the dog. He picked up the biggest piece that he could find—a portion of the back with the tail still hanging to it—and said:
"'Well, I guess that will never be of much account again—as a dog.'—'I guess that Pemberton's forces will never amount to much again—as an army.' By this time the delegation were looking for their hats."
Like stories followed among the merry foresters. One of them told another "That reminds me"—how that two boys had been pursued by a small but vicious dog, and one of them had caught and held him by the tail while the other ran up a tree. At last the boy who was holding the dog became tired and knew not what to do, and cried out:
"To help me let go of the dog."
This story, also, whatever may have been the date of it, President Lincoln used to tell amid the perplexities of the war. In the darkest times of his life at the White House his mind used to return for illustration to the stories told at this backwoods smithy, and at the country stores that he afterward came to visit at Gentryville, Indiana, and New Salem, Illinois.
He delighted in the blacksmith's own stories and jokes. The man's name was John Baldwin. He was the Homer of Gentryville, as the village portion of this vast unsettled portion of country was called. Dennis Hanks, Abraham Lincoln's cousin, who frequented the smithy, was also a natural story-teller. The stories which had their origin here evolved and grew, and became known in all the rude cabins. Then, when Abraham Lincoln became President, his mind went back to the quaint smithy in the cool, free woods, and to the country stores, and he told these stories all over again. It seemed restful to his mind to wander back to old Indiana and Illinois.
The cloud grew. The air darkened. There was an occasional rustle of wind in the tree-tops.
"It's comin'," said the blacksmith. "Now, Johnnie Kongapod, you tell us the story. Tell us how Aunt Olive frightened ye when you went to pilot her off to the camp-meetin'."
"No," said Johnnie Kongapod. "It thunders. You must get Aunt Olive to tell you that story."
"When you come to meet her," said the blacksmith to Jasper. "Kongapod would tell it to you, but he's afraid of the cloud. No wonder."
A vivid flash of lightning forked the sky. There followed an appalling crash of thunder, a light wind, a few drops of rain, a darker air, and all was still. The men looked out as the cloud passed over.
"You will have to stay here now," said the blacksmith, "until the cloud has passed. Our stories may seem rather rough to you, edicated as you are over the sea. Tell us a story—a German story. Let me put the old leather chair up here before the fire. If you will tell us one of those German stories, may be I'll tell you how Johnnie Kongapod here and Aunt Olive went to the camp-meetin', and what happened to them on the way."
There was a long silence on the dark air. The blacksmith enlivened the fire, which lit up the shop. Jasper sat down in the leather chair, and said:
"Those Indian dogs remind me of scenes and stories unlike anything here. The life of the dog has its lesson true, and there is nothing truer in this world than the heart of a shepherd's dog. I am a shepherd's dog. I am speaking in parable; you will understand me better by and by.
"Let me tell you the story of 'THE SHEPHERD DOG,' and the story will also tell a story, as do all stories that have a soul; and it is only stories that have souls that live. The true story gathers a soul from the one who tells it, else it is no story at all.
"There once lived on the borders of the Black Forest, Germany, an old couple who were very poor. Their name was Gragstein. The old man kept a shepherd dog that had been faithful to him for many years, and that loved him more than it did its own life, and he came to call him Faithful.
"One day, as the old couple were seated by the fire, Frau Gragstein said:
"'Hear the wind blow! There is a hard winter comin', and we have less in our crib than we ever had before. We must live snugger than ever. We shall hardly have enough to keep us two. It will be a long time before the birds sing again. You must be more savin', and begin now. Hear the wind howl. It is a warning.'
"'What would you have me do?' asked Gragstein.
"'There are three of us, and we have hardly store for two.'
"'But what would you have me do with him? He is old, and I could not sell him, or give him away.'
"'Then I would take him away into the forest and shoot him, and run and leave him. I know it is hard, but the pinch of poverty is hard, and it has come.'
"'Shoot Faithful! Shoot old Faithful! Take him out into the forest and shoot him! Why, a man's last friends are his God, his mother, and his dog. Would you have me shoot old Faithful? How could I?'
"At the words 'Shoot old Faithful,' the great dog had started up as though he understood. He bent his large eyes on the old woman and whined, then wheeled around once and sank down at his master's feet.
"'He acts as though he understood what you were saying.'
"'No, he don't,' said the old woman. 'You set too much store by the dog, and imagine such things. He's too old to ever be of service to us any more, and he eats a deal. The storm will be over by morning. Hear the showers of the leaves! The fall wind is rending the forest. 'Tis seventy falls that we have seen, and we will not see many more. We must live while we do live, and the dog must be put out of the way. You must take Faithful out into the forest in the morning and kill him.'
"The dog started up again. 'Take Faithful and kill him!' He seemed to comprehend. He looked into his master's face and gave a piteous howl, and went to the door and pawed.
"'Let him go out,' said the old woman. 'What possesses him to go out to-night into the storm? But let him go, and then I can talk easier about the matter. Did you see his eyes—as if he knew? He haunts me! Let him go out.'
"The old man opened the door, and the dog disappeared in the darkness, uttering another piteous howl.
"Then the old couple sat down and talked over the matter, and Gragstein promised his wife that he would shoot the dog in the morning.
"'It is hard,' said the old woman, 'but Providence wills it, and we must.'
"The wind lulled, and there was heard a wild, pitiful howl far away in the forest.
"'What is that?' asked the old woman, starting.
"'It was Faithful.'
"'So far away!'
"'The poor dog acted strange. There it is again, farther away.'
"The morning came, but the dog did not return. He had never stayed away from the old hut before. The next day he did not come, nor the next. The old couple missed him, and the old man bitterly reproached his wife for what she had advised him to do.
"Winter came, with pitiless storms and cold, and the old man would go forth to hunt alone, wishing Faithful was with him.
"'It is not safe for me to go alone,' said he. 'I wish that the dog would come back.'
"'He will never come back,' said the old woman. 'He is dead. I can hear him howl nights, far away on the hill. He haunts me. Every night, when I put out the light, I can hear him howl out in the forest. 'Tis my tender heart that troubles me. 'Tis a troubled conscience that makes ghosts.'
"The old man tottered away with his gun. It was a cold morning after a snow. The old woman watched him from the frosty window as he disappeared, and muttered:
"'It is hard to be old and poor. God pity us all!'
"Night came, but the old man did not return. The old woman was in great distress, and knew not what to do. She set the candle in the window, and went to the door and called a hundred times, and listened, but no answer came. The silent stars filled the sky, and the moon rose over the snow, but no answer came.
"The next morning she alarmed the neighbors, and a company gathered to search for Gragstein. The men followed his tracks into the forests, over a cliff, and down to a stream of running water. They came to some thin ice, which had been weakened by the rush of the current, and there the tracks were lost.
"'He attempted to cross,' said one, 'and fell in. We will find his body in the spring. I pity his poor old wife. What shall we tell her?—What was that?'
"There was heard a pitiful howl on the other side of the stream.
"'Look!' said another.
"Just across the stream a great, lean shepherd dog came out of the snow tents of firs. His voice was weak, but he howled pitifully, as though calling the men.
"'We must cross the stream!' said they all.
"The men made a bridge by pushing logs and fallen trees across the ice. The dog met them joyfully, and they followed him.
"Under the tents of firs they found Gragstein, ready to perish with cold and hunger.
"'Take me home!' said he. 'I can not last long. Take me home, and call home the dog!'
"'What has happened?' asked the men.
"'I fell in. I called for help, and—the dog came—Faithful. He rescued me, but I was numb. He lay down on me and warmed me, and kept me alive. Faithful! Call home the dog!'
"The men took up the old man and rubbed him, and gave him food. Then they called the dog and gave him food, but he would not eat.
"They returned as fast as they could to the cottage. Frau Gragstein came out to meet them. The dog saw her and stopped and howled, dived into the forest, and disappeared.
"The old man died that night. They buried him in a few days. The old woman was left all alone. The night after the funeral, when she put out the light, she thought that she heard a feeble howl in the still air, and stopped and listened. But she never heard that sound again. The next morning she opened the door and looked out. There, under a bench where his master had often caressed him in the summer evenings of many years, lay the body of old Faithful, dead. He had never ceased to watch the house, and had died true. 'Tis the best thing that we can say of any living creature, man or dog, he was true-hearted.
"Remember the story. It will make you better. The storm is clearing."
The cloud had passed over, leaving behind the blue sky of spring.
"That was an awful good dog to have," said John Hanks. "There are human folks wouldn't 'a' done like that."
"I wouldn't," said one of the men. "But here, I declare, comes the old woman. Been out neighborin', and got caught in the storm, and gone back to Pigeon Creek. We won't have to tell that there story about her and the wig, and Johnnie Kongapod here. She'll tell it to you herself, elder—she'll tell it to you herself. She's a master-hand to go to meetin', and sing, and tell stories, she is.—Here, elder—this is Aunt Olive."
The same woman that Jasper had met on his way to Pigeon Creek came into the blacksmith's shop, and held her hands over the warm fire.
"Proper smart rain—spring tempest," said she. "Winter has broke, and we shall have steady weather.—Found your way, elder, didn't you? Well, I'm glad. It's a mighty poor sign for an elder to lose his way. You took my advice, didn't you?—turned to the right and kept straight ahead, and you got there. Well, that's what I tell 'em in conference-meetin's—turn to the right and keep straight ahead, and they'll get there; and then I sing out, and shout, 'I'm bound for the kingdom!' Come over and see me, elder. I'm good to everybody except lazy people.—Abraham Lincoln, what are you lazing around here for?—And Johnnie Kongapod! This ain't any place for men in the spring of the year! I've been neighborin'. I have to do it just to see if folks are doin' as they oughter. There are a great many people who don't do as they oughter in this world. Now I am goin' straight home between the drops."
The woman hurried away and disappeared under the trees.
The cloud broke in two dark, billowy masses, and red sunset, like a sea, spread over the prairie, the light heightening amid glimmerings of pearly rain.
Jasper went back to Pigeon Creek with Abraham.
"Isn't that woman a little queer?" he asked—"a little touched in mind, may be?"
"She does not like me," said the boy; "though most people like me. I seem to have a bent for study, and father thinks that the time I spend in study is wasted, and Aunt Olive calls me lazy, and so do the Crawfords—I don't mean the master. Most people like me, but there are some here that don't think much of me. I am not lazy. I long for learning! I will have it. I learn everything I can from every one, and I do all I can for every one. She calls me lazy, though I have been good to her. They say I am a lively boy, and I like to be thought well of here, and when I hear such things as that it makes me feel down in the mouth. Do you ever feel down in the mouth? I do. I wonder what will become of me? Whatever happens, or folks may say, elder, I mean to make the best of life, and be true to the best that is in me. Something will come of it. Don't you think so, elder?"
They came to Thomas Lincoln's cabin, and the serene face of Mrs. Lincoln met them at the door. A beautiful evening followed the tempest gust, and the Lincolns and the old Tunker sat down to a humble meal.
The mild spring evening that followed drew together another group of people to the lowly home of Thomas Lincoln. Among them came Aunt Olive, whose missionary work among her neighbors was as untiring as her tongue. And last among the callers there came stealing into the light of the pine fire, like a shadow, the tall, brown form of Johnnie Kongapod, or Konapod.
The pioneer story-telling here began again, and ended in an episode that left a strange, mysterious impression, like a prophecy, on nearly every mind.
"Let me tell you the story of my courtship," said Thomas Lincoln.
"Thomas!" said a mild, firm voice.
"Oh, don't speak in that tone to me," said the backwoodsman to his wife, who had sought to check him.—"Sally don't like to hear that story, though I do think it is to her credit, if simple honesty is a thing to be respected. Sally is an honest woman. I don't believe that there is an honester creatur' in all these parts, unless it was that Injun that Johnnie Kongapod tells about."
A loud laugh arose, and the dusky figure of Johnnie Kongapod retreated silently back into a deep shadow near the open door. His feelings had been wounded. Young Abraham Lincoln saw the Indian's movement, and he went out and stood in the shadow in silent sympathy.
"Well, good folks, Sally and I used to know each other before I removed from Kentuck' to Indiany. After my first wife died of the milk-fever I was lonesome-like with two young children, and about as poor as I was lonesome, although I did have a little beforehand. Well, Sally was a widder, and used to imagine that she must be lonesome, too; and I thought at last, after that there view of the case had haunted me, that I would just go up to Kentucky and see. Souls kind o' draw each other a long way apart; it goes in the air. So I hitched up and went, and I found Sally at home, and all alone.
"'Sally,' said I, 'do you remember me?'
"'Yes,' said she, 'I remember you well. You are Tommy Linken. What has brought you back to Kentuck'?'
"'Well, Sally,' said I, 'my wife is dead.'
"'Is that so,' said she, all attention.
"'Yes; wife died more than a year ago, and a good wife she was; and I've just come back to look for another.'
"She sat like a statue, Sally did, and never spoke a word. So I said:
"'Do you like me, Sally Johnson?'
"'Yes, Tommy Linken.'
"'Yes, Tommy Linken, I like you well enough to marry you, but I could never think of such a thing—at least not now.'
"'Because I'm in debt, and I would never ask a man who had offered to marry me to pay my debts.'
"'Let me hear all about it,' said I.
"She brought me her account-book from the cupboard. Well, good folks, how much do you suppose Sally owed? Twelve dollars! It was a heap of money for a woman to owe in those days.
"Well, I put that account-book straight into my pocket and run. When I came back, all of her debts were paid. I told her so.
"'Will you marry me now?' said I.
"'Yes,' said she.
"And, good folks all, the next morning at nine o'clock we were married, and we packed up all her things and started on our weddin' tour to Indiany, and here we be now. Now that is what I call an honest woman.—Johnnie Kongapod, can you beat that? Come, now, Johnnie Kongapod."
The Indian still stood in the shadow, with young Abraham beside him. He did not answer.
"Johnnie is great on telling stories of good Injuns," said Mr. Lincoln, "and we think that kind o' Injuns have about all gone up to the moonlit huntin'-grounds."
The tall form of the Indian moved into the light of the doorway. His eyes gleamed.
"Thomas Linken, that story that I told you was true."
"What! that an Injun up to Prairie du Chien was condemned to die, and that he asked to go home and see his family all alone, and promised to return on his honor?"
"Yes, Thomas Linken."
"And that they let him go home all alone, and that he spent his night with his family in weepin' and wailin', and returned the next mornin' to be shot?"
"Yes, Thomas Linken."
"And that they shot him?"
"Yes, Thomas Linken."
"Well, Johnnie, if I could believe that, I could believe anything."
"An Injun has honor as well as a white man, Thomas Linken."
"Who taught it to him?"
"His own heart—here. The Great Spirit's voice is in every man's heart; his will is born in all men; his love and care are over us all. You may laugh at my poetry, but the Great Spirit will do by Johnnie Kongapod as he would have Johnnie Kongapod do by him if Johnnie Kongapod held the heavens. That story was true, and I know it to be true, and the Great Spirit knows it to be true. Johnnie Kongapod is an honest Injun."
"Then we have two honest folks here," said Aunt Olive. "Three, mebby—only Tom Linken owes me a dollar and a half. So, Jasper, you see that you have come to good parts. You'll see some strange things in your travels, way off to Rock River. Likely you'll see the Pictured Rocks on the Mississippi—dragons there. Who painted 'em? Or Starved Rock on the Illinois, where a whole tribe died with the water sparklin' under their eyes. But if you ever come across any of the family of that Indian that went home on his honor all alone to see his family, and came back to be shot or hung, you just let us know. I'd like to adopt one of his boys. That would be something to begin a Sunday-school with!"
The company burst into another loud laugh.
Johnnie Kongapod raised his long arm and stood silent. Aunt Olive stepped before him and looked him in the face. The Indian's red face glowed, and he said vehemently: "Woman, that story is true!"
Sally Lincoln arose and rested her hand on the Indian's shoulder. "Johnny Kongapod, I can believe you—Abraham can."
There was a deep silence in the cabin, broken only by Aunt Olive, who arose indignantly and hurried away, and flung back on the mild air the sharp words "I don't!"
The story of the Indian who held honor to be more than life, as related by Johnnie Kongapod, had often been told by the Indians at their camp-fires, and by traveling preachers and missionaries who had faith in Indian character. Among those settlers who held all Indians to be bad it was treated as a joke. Old Jasper asked Johnnie Kongapod many questions about it, and at last laid his hand on the dusky poet's shoulder, and said:
"My brother, I hope that it is true. I believe it, and I honor you for believing it. It is a good heart that believes what is best in life."
How strange all this new life seemed to Jasper! How unlike the old castles and cottages of Germany, and the cities of the Rhine! And yet, for the tall boy by that cabin fire new America had an opportunity that Germany could offer to no peasant's son. Jasper little thought that that boy, so lively, so rude, so anxious to succeed, was an uncrowned king; yet so it was.
And the legend? A true story has a soul, and a peculiar atmosphere and influence. Jasper saw what the Indian's story was, though he had heard it only indirectly and in outline. It haunted him. He carried it with him into his dreams.
A BOY WITH A HEART.
Spring came early to the forests and prairies of southern Indiana. In March the maples began to burn, and the tops of the timber to change, and to take on new hues in the high sun and lengthening days. The birds were on the wing, and the banks of the streams were beginning to look like gardens, as indeed Nature's gardens they were.
The woodland ponds were full of turtles or terrapins, and these began to travel about in the warm spring air.
There was a great fireplace in Crawford's school, and, as fuel cost nothing, it was, as we have said, well fed with logs, and was kept almost continually glowing.
It was one of the cruel sports of the boys, at the noonings and recesses of the school, to put coals of fire on the backs of wandering terrapins, and to joke at the struggles of the poor creatures to get to their homes in the ponds.
Abraham Lincoln from a boy had a tender heart, a horror of cruelty and of everything that would cause any creature pain. He was merciful to every one but the unmerciful, and charitable to every one but the uncharitable, and kind to everyone but the unkind. But his nature made war at once on any one who sought to injure another, and he was especially severe on any one who was so mean and cowardly as to disregard the natural rights of a dumb animal or reptile. He had in this respect the sensitiveness of a Burns. All great natures, as biography everywhere attests, have fine instincts—this chivalrous sympathy for the brute creation.
Lincoln's nature was that of a champion for the right. He was a born knight, and, strangely enough, his first battles in life were in defense of the turtles or terrapins. He was a boy of powerful strength, and he used it roughly to maintain his cause. He is said to have once exclaimed that the turtles were his brothers.
The early days of spring in the old forests are full of life. The Sun seems to be calling forth his children. The ponds become margined with green, and new creatures everywhere stir the earth and the waters. Life and matter become, as it were, a new creation, and one can believe anything when he sees how many forms life and matter can assume under the mellowing rays of the sun. The clod becomes a flower; the egg a reptile, fish, or bird. The cunning woodchuck, that looks out of his hole on the awakening earth and blue sky, seems almost to have a sense of the miracle that has been wrought. The boy who throws a stone at him, to drive him back into the earth, seems less sensible of nature than he. It is a pleasing sight to see the little creature, as he stands on his haunches, wondering, and the brain of a young Webster would naturally seek to let such a groundling have all his right of birth.
One day, when the blue spring skies were beginning to glow, Abraham went out to play with his companions. It was one of his favorite amusements to declaim from a stump. He would sometimes in this way recite long selections from the school Reader and Speaker.
He had written a composition at school on the defense of the rights of dumb animals, and there was one piece in the school Reader in which he must have found a sympathetic chord, and which was probably one of those that he loved to recite. It was written by the sad poet Cowper, and began thus:
"I would not enter on my list of friends (Though graced with polished manners and fine sense, Yet wanting sensibility) the man Who needlessly sets foot upon a worm. An inadvertent step may crush the snail, That crawls at evening in the public path; But he that has humanity, forewarned, Will tread aside, and let the reptile live."
As Abraham and his companions were playing in the warm sun, one said:
"Make a speech for us, Abe. Hip, hurrah! You've only to nibble a pen to make poetry, and only to mount a stump to be a speaker. Now, Abe, speak for the cause of the people, or anybody's cause. Give it to us strong, and we will do the cheering."
Abraham mounted a stump in the school-grounds, on which he had often declaimed before. He felt something stirring within him, half-fledged wings of his soul, that waited a cause. He would imitate the few preachers and speakers that he had heard—even an old Kentucky preacher named Elkins, whom his own mother had loved, and whose teachings the good woman had followed in her short and melancholy life.
He began his speech, throwing up his long arms, and lifting at proper periods his coon-skin cap. The scholars cheered as he waxed earnest. In the midst of the speech a turtle came creeping into the grounds.
"Hello!" said one of the boys, "here's another turtle come to school! He, too, has seen the need of learning."
The terrapin crawled along awkwardly toward the house, his head protruding from his shell, and his tail moving to and fro.
At this point young Abraham grew loud and dramatic. The boys raised a shout, and the girls waved their hoods.
In the midst of the enthusiasm, one of the boys seized the turtle by the tail and slung it around his head, as an evidence of his delight at the ardor of the speaker.
"Throw it at him," said one of the scholars. "Johnson once threw a turtle at him, when he was preachin' to his sister, and it set him to runnin' on like a minister."
Abraham was accustomed to preach to the young members of his family. He would do the preaching, and his sister the weeping; and he sometimes became so much affected by his own discourses that he would weep with her, and they would have a very "moving service," as such a scene was called.
The boy swung the turtle over his head again, and at last let go of it in the air, so as to project it toward Abraham.
The poor reptile fell crushed at the foot of the stump and writhed in pain.
Abraham ceased to speak. He looked down on the pitiful sight of suffering, and his heart yearned over the helpless creature, and then his brain became fired, and his eyes flashed with rage.
"Who did that?" he exclaimed. "Brute! coward! wretch!" He looked down again, and saw the reptile trying to move away with its broken shell. His anger turned to pity. He began to expostulate against all such heartlessness to the animal world as the scene exhibited before him. The poor turtle again tried to move away, his head just protruding, looking for some way out of the world that would deny him his right to the sunshine and the streams. The young orator saw it all; his lip curled bitterly, and his words burned. He awakened such a sympathy for the reptile, and such a feeling of resentment against the hand which had ruined this little life, that the offender shrank away from the scene, calling out defiantly:
"Come away, and let him talk. He's only chicken-hearted."
The scholars knew that there was no cowardice in the heart of Lincoln. They felt the force of the scene. The boys and girls of Andrew Crawford's school never forgot the pleas that Abraham used to make for the animals and reptiles of the woods and streams.
Nearly every youth exhibits his leading trait or characteristic in his school-days.
"The tenor of our whole lives," said an English poet, "is what we make it in the first five years after we become our masters"; and a wiser than he has said, "The thing that has been is, and God requireth the past." Columbus on the quays of Genoa; Zinzendorf forming among his little companions the order of the "Grain of Mustard-Seed"; the poets who "lisped in numbers"; the boy statesmanship of Cromwell; and the early aspiration of nearly every great leader of mankind—all showed the current of the life-stream, and it is the current alone that knows and prophesies the future. When Abraham Lincoln fell, the world uncovered its head. Thrones were sorrowful, and humanity wept. Yet his earliest rostrum was a stump, and his cause the natural rights of the voiceless inhabitants of the woods and streams. The heart that throbbed for humanity, and that won the heart of the world, found its first utterance in defense of the principles of the birds'-nest commandment. It was a beginning of self-education worthy of the thought of a Pestalozzi. It was a prophecy.
As the young advocate of the rights and feelings of the dumb creation was ending his fiery discourse, the buttonless Tunker, himself a disciple of Pestalozzi, came into the school-grounds and read the meaning of the scene. Jasper saw the soul of things, and turned always from the outward expressions of life to the inward motive. He read the true character of the boy in buckskin breeches, human heart, and fluent tongue. He sat down on the log step of the school-house in silence, and Mr. Crawford presently came out with a quill pen behind his ear, and sat down beside him.
"That boy has been teaching what you and I ought first to teach," said Jasper.
"What is that?" asked Mr. Crawford.
"The heart! What is head-learning worth, if the heart is left uneducated? As Pestalozzi used to say, The soul is the true end of all education. Religion itself is a failure, without right character."
"But you wouldn't teach morals as a science, would you?"
"I would train the heart to feel, and the soul to love to be just and do right, and make obedience to the moral sense the habit of life. This can best be done at the school age, and I tell you that this is the highest education. A boy who can spell all the words in the spelling-book, and bound all the countries in the world, and repeat all the dates of history, and yet who could have the heart to crush a turtle, has not been properly educated."