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We have seen that they who called him lazy coupled the charge with the statement that he was always "reading and thinking,” evidently considering that his love of books was proof of a disposition to shirk labour. Their ignorance is the explanation of, and excuse for, their charge.
We have made this digression, at this point, in order to direct the attention of the reader to an important element of Lincoln's character, that will find ample support in the sequel.
Now that we are speaking of Abraham's books, we may record the facts about two other volumes, that came into his hands within two years after Æsop's Fables. They were Ramsay's Life of Washington, and Robinson Crusoe..
Dennis Hanks came home one day and said to Abraham,
“Don't you want to read the life of Washington ?”
“Of course I do," was his reply. “What do you ask me that for ?”
“Because I've seen one."
Dennis told him, adding, “He offered to lend it to me.”
“Then I can borrow it?" “Any time you are there; there's no doubt of it.”
Without recording the details of this affair, it will answer our purpose to say that Abraham embraced the first opportunity to secure the loan of that valuable biography. He knew that Washington was called the “father of his country"—that he was Commander-in-chief of the army in the American Revolution. He had been told, also, of the part his
grandfather took in the “war of independence.” This was all he knew of the illustrious statesman whose life he purposed to read; but this was quite enough to awaken his enthusiasm over the volume. It was read and re-read with the deepest interest, and its contents discussed with his father and Dennis, both of whom learned more about Washington and his times from Abraham than they ever knew before.
It is not known how he came into possession of Robinson Crusoe. Doubtless the book was borrowed ; and it proved a source of genuine satisfaction to him. Once reading it only created the desire to read it a second time, and even a third time. There was a kind of witchery about the book to his active mind, different from that exerted over him even by The Pilgrim's Progress. He could scarcely command language to express his admiration of the volume.
A NEW MOTHER AND SCHOOLS.
R. LINCOLN remained a widower until DecemIVT ber 1819. During this time his only housekeeper was his daughter Sarah. Abraham was a “handy boy” about the cabin, and often rendered timely aid to his sister in her daily work. He became so expert in household matters that, a few years later, when he “worked out” among the farmers, their wives pronounced him the “best hand,” because he was so “handy," and was willing to make fires, bring wood and water, or tend the baby. It was evidently a good school for him, since his manhood was characterized by being “handy about the house." A dweller in Springfield, Illinois, where Abraham commenced his public life, a citizen, remembers how he “used to draw the baby back and forth in front of his house, early in the summer morning, while his wife was getting breakfast, at the same time reading a book that he held in one hand.”
But Thomas Lincoln needed a wife, and his son needed a mother. Household affairs had been left “at loose ends," as they are likely to be where there is no mother to superintend. There was not that neatness and order necessary to make even a cabin home attractive ; and what clothes the children had were in a very dilapidated condition. It was both wise and necessary for Lincoln to go in search of a wife..
He remembered Sally Bush, of Elizabethtown, Kentucky, to whom he once proposed, but who preferred another, one Johnson by name. She married the latter instead of Lincoln. Her husband died three years before Mrs. Lincoln did, and Thomas Lincoln knew that she was a widow. Where would he be so much inclined to go as there for a good wife? Where could he go with more hope of success ?
Lincoln posted away to Kentucky, found Widow Johnson, proposed, and was accepted. On the following day they were married. Mrs. Johnson possessed a good supply of furniture for that day, so much as to require a four-horse team to remove it to Indiana. She owned a bureau that cost forty dollars, a clothes-chest, table and six chairs, together with a quantity of bedding, crockery, tin-ware, and iron-ware. Ralph Browne, Mr. Lincoln's cousin, removed both goods and bride, with her three children-John, Sarah, and Matilda-to Indiana. With this rather large accession for one'match, Thomas Lincoln numbered eight souls in his household—all to dwell in a cabin with a single room and loft. Still it was, on the whole, as the sequel will show, the best bargain that Thomas Lincoln ever made.
Abraham was filled with wonder on the arrival of his new mother and her goods. Such a quantity of "household stuff” his eyes never beheld before ; and he could scarcely believe that his home would boast, henceforth, a “bureau, clothes-chest, and real chairs." His stepmother, too, won his heart at once. He thought she was just the woman to own such a bureau-the latter was a fitting accompaniment to the former.
The second Mrs. Lincoln was better educated than the first. She could not only read and write, but she was reared in girlhood under more favourable circumstances than Nancy Hanks. In her teens she was rather the belle of the town, or, at least, she was one of them. One person said “she was the best and proudest of the Bushes." She dressed better, was more tidy and brighter than most of the girls around her. The girl was mother to the woman, so that Thomas Lincoln found he had a wife in her who was ambitious for personal appearance and comfort. One of the first things she set her husband about, after settling in Indiana, was to make a floor to the cabin. Then she posted him away to the only place where he could buy window-sashes and doors, twenty or thirty miles distant, for these indispensable articles. When the Lincoln cabin had a floor, a real door and real windows, and was furnished with a veritable bed, bureau, chairs, crockery, etc., it presented quite a respectable appearance. It was certainly a much neater, more orderly and attractive abode than it ever was before. The change which Mrs. Lincoln wrought in the habitation, in a very short time, was indicative of a smart, enterprising woman, possessing much executive ability.
It was a glorious day for Abraham when a faithful and intelligent stepmother was installed over his dreary home. Her advent brought such cheerfulness to him as he had not known since his own mother was laid in her grave. He gave her a hearty welcome, and a large place in his heart. Her son and daughters, too, he received as a true brother. They were better clad than himself, and more tidy ; but soon, under his good stepmother's care, he was made as neat and prim as they. The two families of children became as one family soon, and no discord ever rose among them. Abraham became strongly attached to the two Johnson girls, who were bright and social ; and they came to regard him, not only as a brother, but also as a prodigy. Their coming lifted Abraham into a higher plane of social life.
Dennis Hanks, who was a member of the family at