Imágenes de páginas

the boy, as we have said, and gave him an impulse, onward and upward, that he never ceased to feel. Here he first attempted the rôle of poet, as well as essayist; and, also, played the part of orator. He possessed a remarkable memory, and could repeat long paragraphs from the books he had read and the sermons he had heard. He was wont to recite these for the amusement of his companions; and, one day, he was displaying his oratorical powers upon a stump, when one of the boys threw a terrapin against a tree near the speaker, crushing the poor animal so cruelly that he writhed upon the ground, exciting the tender sympathies of Abraham, and causing him to strike out upon an oration or sermon (whatever we may call it) against cruelty to animals, denouncing the act as inhuman, and holding up the boy who did it to scorn until he writhed under the scorching rebuke well nigh as much as the terrapin did through his thoughtless act.

At another time he became the counsel for a terrapin on whose back the boys were putting coals of fire.

"Don't!” exclaimed Abraham, as if he felt the burning coals upon his own back.

“Don't what?” responded a boy, at the same time giving the terrapin a punch with a stick.

"Don't be so cruel,” continued Abraham ; “how would you like to have coals put on your own back ? "

“ Try it, and see," shouted one.

“Well, it is cruel to treat him so—and mean, too,” persisted Abraham.

“Why, Abe, it's nothin' but a terrapin," interjected a boy.

“Don't terrapins have feelings ?” responded our hero.

“I don't know whether they do or not,” replied the first-named boy, at the same time adding another coal of fire to the animal's back.

You shan't do it, Nat, unless you are stronger than I am," exclaimed Abraham, knocking the last coal from the animal's back, and pushing the boy with the stick aside.

“You're a chicken-hearted feller, Abe, as ever lived," continued Nat. “I should think the terrapin was your brother."

“Whether he is or not, you won't burn him any more while I'm 'round.”

“That's it,” said Dave Turnham, who stood looking on. “I go in for Abe. He wouldn't hurt a fly.”

“He would if he trod on it," retorted Nat, aiming to be funny.

Mr. Crawford had witnessed a part of this scene, and he came out at this stage of the affair, and rebuked the cruelty 'of the boys who were torturing the terrapin, while he commended Abraham for his tenderness.

"We are coming to the Rule of Three now," said Mr. Crawford to Abraham, “and that will be all you can learn of me."

"Is it hard ?” asked the boy.

“It won't be for you. I think you can get through it by the time your father wants you this spring.”

“Why is it called the Rule of Three?”

“I hardly know. Some call it Simple Proportion, and that is the true name for it. You will see a reason for it, too, when you come to master it.”

“What if I don't master it?"

" I'll risk you on that. It won't be of so much use to you as what you have been over already. Some people don' it."

“My father never studied arithmetic," said Abraham.

“Nor mine. Not half the folks about here have studied it."

“Father never had a chance to study it when he was a boy.”

“ That's the case with a good many."

“Well, I can cipher now in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division."

“Yes, you understand these rules well, and you will always find use for them."

Encouraged by his instructor, Abraham grappled with the so-called “Rule of Three." It was somewhat more difficult for him to comprehend this rule than it was the previous ones; yet he was not discouraged. His discriminating mind and patient labour did the work for him, and he enjoyed the happiness of understanding Proportion by the time his school-days were over. We do not mean that he comprehended it fully, so as to be complete master of it, but he understood it, as we are wont to say that pupils understand the rules they have been over at school. At least, he made such progress that he was prepared to become master of all the rules he had studied by devoting his leisure moments to them thereafter.

We must stop here to relate another incident of those school-days, because it illustrates a trait of character for which Abraham was well known in his youth. We often find the key to a boy's character by observing his intercourse with companions at school.

It was near the end of his term of school at Crawford's. Several boys were on their way home at the close of school in company with Abraham, when a difficulty arose between two of them about spelling a word.

“You didn't spell it right,” said John.

“Yes, I did spell it right,” replied Daniel. “I spelt it just as Mr. Crawford did.”

“He said you didn't spell it so."

“I know he said so, but he didn't understand me. I spelt it just as he did.”

are a

“I know you didn't," continued John.

"And I know I did," retorted Daniel. “You are a liar if you say so."

“Don't call me a liar !” exclaimed John, doubling up his fist. “You'll get it if you say that again!”

"I stump you to do it, old madpiece!” said Daniel, putting himself in an attitude of defiance.

“Come, Dan, don't,” said Abraham, throwing one of his arms over his neck.

“Let him come, if he wants to,” said John, in a great rage; “I'll give it to him : he's a great coward.”

“What's the use, John ?” interrupted Abraham, throwing his other arm round John's shoulders, so as to bring himself between the two wrathy boys; "that ain't worth fighting about."

“Yes, it is, too,” answered John. “You wouldn't be called a liar by anybody, I know, and I won't nuther.” Abraham was now walking along between the two boys, with his arms over their shoulders.

“Yes, I would, too; and I shouldn't care, neither, if it wasn't true.”

“Nobody would think of calling you a liar,” added John.

“They wouldn't call you so, if you didn't care anything about it," answered Abraham ; and there was much truth in the remark.

By this time the two combatants had cooled off considerably, and Daniel put out the last spark of fire by adding, “I'll take it back, John.”

“That's a good fellow," said Abraham, while John was mute. Five minutes thereafter the two vexed boys were on good terms, their difficulties having been adjusted by Abraham, " the peace-maker," as he was often called. He could not endure to see broils among his companions, and he often taxed all his kind feelings and ingenuity to settle them. This trait of character was prominent through all his life. Last, though not least, we had an exhibition of it when, at the outbreak of the Rebellion in 1861, he put his arms around the neck of both North and South, and attempted to reconcile them. But his effort proved less successful than it did in the case of John and Daniel ; for the southern combatant was fully determined to fight.

Abraham was by far the best speller in Crawford's school. It was not expected by teacher or pupils that he would miss a word. More than that, he sometimes taxed his ingenuity to help others out of difficulty in their spelling classes. One day a class was spelling, and Crawford put out the word DEFIED. The girl to whom the word was given spelled it d-e-f-i-d-e. The next one, d-e-f-y-d; the third, d-e-f-y-d-e; the fourth, d-e-f-y-e-d; and soon, not one spelling the word correctly, Crawford became angry.

“What !” he bawled out, “these big boys and girls not able to spell the simple word defied! There shan't one of you go home to-night if you don't spell it, you lazy, ignorant louts!"

Just then a girl in the class, by the name of Roby, to whom Abraham was somewhat partial, looked up, and took a valuable hint from his smiling face. To use her own language, as she described the scene many years thereafter :

“I saw Abe at the window; he had his finger in his eye, and a smile on his face. I immediately took the hint that I must change the letter y into an i. Hence I spelled the word,—the class was let out. I felt grateful to Abe for this simple thing."

Notwithstanding Crawford's was a "pioneer college," he taught “manners.” He rather prided himself on teaching his pupils etiquette, at least as far as he

« AnteriorContinuar »