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in all probability would never have better friends on earth than the roystering fellows who had contrived his torments.
Thus far Abe had managed to escape "initiation" at the hands of Jack and his associates. They were disposed to like him, and to take him on faith, or at least to require no further evidence of his manhood than that which rumor had already brought them. Offutt, with his busy tongue, had spread wide the report of his wondrous doings on the river; and, better still, all New Salem, including many of the "Clary's Grove boys," had witnessed his extraordinary feats of strength and ingenuity at Rutledge's mill-dam. It was clear that no particular person was "spoiling" for a collision with him; and an exception to the rule might have been made in his favor, but for the offensive zeal and confidence of his employer.
The example of Offutt and Clary was followed by all the "boys;" and money, knives, whiskey, and all manner of things, were staked on the result of the wrestle. The little community was excited throughout, and Jack's partisans were present in great numbers; while Offutt and Bill Green were about the only persons upon whom Abe could rely if the contest should take the usual turn, and end in a fight. For these, and many other reasons, he longed to be safely and honorably out of the scrape; but Offutt's folly had made it impossible for him to evade the conflict without incurring the imputation, and suffering the penalties, of cowardice. He said, "I never tussle and scuffle, and I will not: I don't like this wooling and pulling." But these scruples only served to aggravate his case; and he was at last forced to take hold of Jack, which he did with a will and power that amazed the fellows who had at last baited him to the point of indignation. They took "side holds," and stood struggling, each with tremendous but equal strength, for several minutes, without any perceptible advantage to either. New trips or unexpected twists were of no avail between two such experienced wrestlers as these. Presently Abe profited by his height and the length of his arms to lift Jack clear off the ground, and, swinging him about, thought to land him on his
back; but this feat was as futile as the rest, and left Jack standing as square and as firm as ever. "Now, Jack," said Abe, "let's quit: you can't throw me, and I can't throw you." But Jack's partisans, regarding this overture as a signal of the enemy's distress, and being covetous of jackknives, whiskey, and "smooth quarters," cheered him on to greater exertions. Rendered desperate by these expectations of his friends, and now enraged at meeting more than his match, Jack resolved on "a foul," and, breaking holds, he essayed the unfair and disreputable expedient of “legging." But at this Abe's prudence deserted him, and righteous wrath rose to the ascendent. The astonished spectators saw him take their great bully by the throat, and, holding him out at arm's-length, shake him like a child. Then a score or two of the boys cried "Fight!" Bill Clary claimed the stakes, and Offutt, in the fright and confusion, was about to yield them; but "Lincoln said they had not won the money, and they should not have it; and, although he was opposed to fighting, if nothing else would do them, he would fight Armstrong, Clary, or any of the set." Just at this juncture James Rutledge, the original proprietor of New Salem, and a man of some authority, "rushed into the crowd," and exerted himself to maintain the peace. He succeeded; but for a few moments a general fight was impending, and Abe was seen with his back against Offutt's store "undismayed" and "resolute," although surrounded by enemies.1
Jack Armstrong was no bad fellow, after all. A sort of Western John Browdie, stout and rough, but great-hearted, honest, and true: his big hand, his cabin, his table, and his purse were all at the disposal of a friend in need. He possessed a rude sense of justice, and felt an incredible respect for a man who would stand single-handed, stanch, and defiant, in the midst of persecutors and foes. He had never disliked Abe, and had, in fact, looked for very clever things from him, even before his title to respectability had been made so
1 of the fight and what followed, we have the particulars from many persons who were witnesses.
incontestably clear; but his exhibition of pluck and muscle on this occasion excited Jack to a degree of admiration far beyond his power to conceal it. Abe's hand was hardly removed from his throat, when he was ready to grasp it in friendship, and swear brotherhood and peace between them. He declared him, on the spot, "the best fellow that ever broke into their settlement;" and henceforth the empire was divided, and Jack and Abe reigned like two friendly Cæsars over the roughs and bullies of New Salem. If there were ever any dissensions between them, it was because Jack, in the abundance of his animal spirits, was sometimes inclined to be an oppressor, whilst Abe was ever merciful and kind; because Jack would occasionally incite the "boys" to handle a stranger, a witless braggart, or a poor drunkard with a harshness that shocked the just and humane temper of his friend, who was always found on the side of the weak and the unfortunate. On the whole, however, the harmony that subsisted between them was wonderful. Wherever Lincoln worked, Jack "did his loafing;" and, when Lincoln was out of work, he spent days and weeks together at Jack's cabin, where Jack's jolly wife, "old Hannah," stuffed him with bread and honey, laughed at his ugliness, and loved him for his goodness.
Abe rapidly grew in favor with the people in and around New Salem, until nearly everybody thought quite as much of him as Mr. Offutt did. He was decidedly the most popular man that ever lived there. He could do more to quell a riot, compromise a feud; and keep peace among the neighbors generally, than any one else; and these were of the class of duties which it appears to have been the most agreeable for him to perform. One day a strange man came into the settlement, and was straightway beset by the same fellows who had meditated a drubbing for Abe himself. Jack Armstrong, of course," had a difficulty with him ; " "called him a liar, coward," and various other names not proper for print; but the man, finding himself taken at a disadvantage, "backed up to a woodpile," got a stick, and "struck Jack a blow
that brought him to the ground." Being "as strong as two men, Jack wanted to whip the man badly," but Abe interfered, and, managing to have himself made "arbitrator,” compromised the difficulty by a practical application of the golden rule. "Well, Jack," said he, "what did you say to the man?" Whereupon Jack repeated his words. "Well, Jack," replied Abe, "if you were a stranger in a strange place, as this man is, and you were called a d-d liar, &c., what would you do?"-"Whip him, by God!"-"Then this man has done no more to you than you would have done to him.”—“Well, Abe,” said the honest bruiser, "it's all right,” and, taking his opponent by the hand, forgave him heartily, and "treated." Jack always treated his victim when he thought he had been too hard upon him.
Abe's duties in Offutt's store were not of a character to monopolize the whole of his time,1 and he soon began to think that here was a fine opportunity to remedy some of the defects in his education. He could read, write, and cipher as well as most men; but as his popularity was growing daily, and his ambition keeping pace, he feared that he might shortly be called to act in some public capacity which would require him to speak his own language with some regard to the rules of the grammar, of which, according to his own confession, he knew nothing at all. He carried his troubles to the schoolmaster, saying, "I have a notion to study English grammar." —“If you expect to go before the public in any capacity,' replied Mr. Graham, "I think it the best thing you can do."— "If I had a grammar," replied Abe, "I'would commence now." There was no grammar to be had about New Salem ; but the schoolmaster, having kept the run of that species of property, gladdened Abe's heart by telling him that he knew where there was one. Abe rose from the breakfast at which he was sitting, and learning that the book was at Vaner's, only
1 "During the time he was working for Offutt, and hands being scarce, Lincoln turned in and cut down trees, and split enough rails for Offutt to make a pen sufficiently large to contain a thousand hogs. The pen was built under New-Salem hill, close to the mill. . . . I know where those rails are now; are sound to-day."-Minter GrahaM.
six miles distant, set off after it as hard as he could tramp. It seemed to Mr. Graham a very little while until he returned and announced, with great pleasure, that he had it. "He then turned his immediate and most undivided attention" to the study of it. Sometimes, when business was not particularly brisk, he would lie under a shade-tree in front of the store, and pore over the book; at other times a customer would find him stretched on the counter intently engaged in the same way. But the store was a bad place for study; and he was often seen quietly slipping out of the village, as if he wished to avoid observation, when, if successful in getting off alone, he would spend hours in the woods, "mastering a book," or in a state of profound abstraction. He kept up his old habit of sitting up late at night; but, as lights were as necessary to his purpose as they were expensive, the village cooper permitted him to sit in his shop, where he burnt the shavings, and kept a blazing fire to read by, when every one else was in bed. The Greens lent him books; the schoolmaster gave him instructions in the store, on the road, or in the meadows: every visitor to New Salem who made the least pretension to scholarship was waylaid by Abe, and required to explain something which he could not understand. The result of it all was, that the village and the surrounding country wondered at his growth in knowledge, and he soon became as famous for the goodness of his understanding as for the muscular power of his body, and the unfailing humor of his talk.
Early in the spring of 1832, some enterprising gentlemen at Springfield determined to try whether the Sangamon was a navigable stream or not. It was a momentous question to the dwellers along the banks; and, when the steamboat "Talisman" was chartered to make the experiment, the popular excitement was intense, and her passage up and down was witnessed by great concourses of people on either bank. was thought that Abe's experience on this particular river would render his assistance very valuable; and, in company with some others, he was sent down to Beardstown, to meet