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manifested in the book. It is probable, then, that Æsop's Fables exerted a decided influence upon Abraham's character and life. The fact that he read the volume so much as to commit the larger part of it to memory adds force to this opinion.
With two new books of such absorbing interest, it was not strange that Abraham was disposed to neglect his daily labour. His father could readily discover that Æsop had more attractions for him than axe or hoe. Nor was he inclined to break the spell that bound him, until he actually feared that the books would make him “lazy."
“Come, Abe, you mustn't neglect your work; we've lots to do, and books must not interfere," was his father's gentle rebuke.
"In a minute,” answered the boy, just like most other boys of that age who are "book-worms."
“That's what makes boys lazy, waitin' to play or read when they ought to be at work,” continued his father. “All study and no work is ʼmost as bad as all work and no study."
“Only a minute, and I'll go," added Abraham, so absorbed in his book that he scarcely knew what answer he made.
" It must be a short minute," retorted his father, in a tone of injured authority.
"I'll work hard enough to make it up when I get at it,” said Abraham, still delaying.
"I don't know about that. I'm feared that your thoughts will be somewhere else; so put down the book and come on.”
With evident reluctance the young reader laid down his book, preliminary to obeying orders.
“Good boys obey at once,” continued his father; "don't have to drive 'em like cattle.”
“I only wanted to read a minute longer," answered Abraham, by way of palliating his offence.
“And I only wanted you shouldn't,” exclaimed his father angrily. “I know what is best for you. I'm willin' you should read and write, but you must work when work drives.”
It was altogether new for Abraham to exhibit so much disobedience as he did after he became enthusiastic over The Pilgrim's Progress and Æsop's Fables. Nor was he conscious of possessing a disobedient spirit, for no such spirit was in his heart. He was simply infatuated with the new books.
We must not conceal the fact that his father had been somewhat annoyed by the boy's method of improving his penmanship by writing with chalk or a charred stick upon almost any surface that came in his way. But for his paternal pride over this acquisition of his boy he might have checked him in this singular way of improvement. One incident occurred that served to reconcile his father in the main to his scrawls here and there, although he may have thought still that Abraham was carrying the matter too far.
An acquaintance came into the field where father and son were at work, when his eye was arrested by letters cut in the mellow soil.
“What's that ?” he inquired.
“Why, this writing,-it looks as if somebody had been writing on the ground.”
“Abe's work, I s'pose."
“It's my name."
“Well, 'tis, whether you believe it or not ;” and he proceeded to spell it out,—"A-B-R-A-II-A-M L-I-NC-O-L-N."
“Sure enough it is; and you certainly did it, Abe ?"
“Yes, sir ; and I will do it again, if you want to see me ;” and, without waiting for an answer, he caught up a stick and wrote his name again in the dirt.
“ There 'tis,” said Abraham. “I see it, and it's well done,” answered the neighbour.
And there, on the soil of Indiana, Abraham Lincoln wrote his name, with a stick, in large characters, -a sort of prophetic act, that students of history may love to ponder. For, since that day, he has written his name, by public acts, on the annals of every State in the Union.
From the time, however, that Abraham became absorbed in The Pilgrim's Progress and Æsop's Fables, he was subject to the charge of being "lazy.” The charge gained force, too, as he grew older, and more books and increasing thirst for knowledge controlled him. Dennis Hanks said : “ Abe was lazy, very lazy. He was always reading, scribbling, ciphering, writing poetry, and such like.” John Romine declared that “Abe was awful lazy. He worked for me; was always reading and thinking; I used to get mad at him. He worked for me pulling fodder. I say Abe was awful lazy. He would laugh and talk, and crack jokes, and tell stories all the time; didn't love work, but did dearly love his pay. He worked for me frequently, a few days only at a time. He said to me one day, that his father taught him to work, but never learned him to love it.”
Mrs. Crawford, for whose husband Abraham worked, and in whose cabin he read and told stories, said: “Abę
was no hand to pitch into work like killing snakes." At the same time Mr. Crawford could find no man to suit him as well as Abraham, when the latter was but fifteen years of age.
We protest, here and now, against this charge of laziness which some biographers have made so prominent. Nothing was ever more common than to charge studious boys and girls with laziness. A great many men and women, who know no better, bring the same charge against professional gentlemen. Any person who is not obliged to work on the farm, or at the forge, or engaged in some other manual labour, for a livelihood, they pronounce lazy and aristocratic. Through sheer ignorance, studying and literary aspirations are regarded as proof of laziness. It was so in Abraham's time. Because he possessed talents that craved knowledge as the appetite craves food, leading him to snatch fragments of time for reading, and perhaps to devote hours to the bewitching pastime that ought to have been given to hard work, careless, ignorant observers called him "lazy.” It is a base slander. There was not a lazy bone in him. The boy who will improve such bits of time as he can save from his daily toil for study, and sit up nights to read the Life of Washington, or master a problem of mathematics, is not lazy. He may love a book more than he loves chopping or threshing, just as another may love the latter more than he does the former; but he is not lazy. Laziness wastes the spare hours of the day in bringing nothing to pass, and gives the night to sleep instead of mental improvement. As many of the busiest and most cheerful workers in our country are its scholars, without a particle of the element of laziness in their composition, so many of the most industrious and noble boys are those who prefer a book to the plough, and would rather go to school than to harvesting. That was true of Abraham Lincoln. His heart was set on books; but his hands were so ready for hard work that any farmer was glad to hire him at the age of fourteen or fifteen, because he would do more work than any youth of his age. He would chop more wood in a day, lift larger logs, and “pull more fodder," boy as he was, than half the men who hired him.
True, from the time that John Baldwin, the blacksmith, came into the neighbourhood, when Abraham was about ten years old, he would steal away to the smithy's shop to listen to his stories. John was a great story-teller, and he was fond of children also, and these were attractions enough for such a precocious boy. His mind yearned for thoughts; it was desperate for entertainment; and the blacksmith's stories, and incidents of his life, supplied both thoughts and entertainInent. He spent much time with this jolly son of Vulcan before he began to tell stories himself, and, after that he exchanged them with the smutty toiler at the forge. But there was no evidence of laziness in those visits to the blacksmith's shop. And when we place this freak of a singularly bright boy, together with all his other acts that denoted laziness to the ignorant pioneers, beside the fact that in manhood, to the day of his death, Abraham Lincoln was one of the hardest workers who ever lived, both at manual and intellectual labour, ignoring all ten hour systems, and toiling fifteen, sixteen, and even eighteen hours a day, to satisfy his honourable ambition, the charge of laziness is branded as slander on the part of those who make it. “The boy is father to the man,” – the lazy boy makes the lazy man, and vice versâ. If Abraham was a lazy boy, his manhood completely belied his youth, and the old maxim is exploded.