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bowl to each. When Abraham was waited upon, by some mishap his bowl slipped and rolled over upon the floor, dashing it to pieces, and covering the floor with its contents.
“Oh dear me !” exclaimed the old lady, in great trouble ; " that was all my fault."
“Perhaps not,” said Abraham. “It surely was,” she answered. “I am so careless."
“Well, Aunt Lizzie, we'll not discuss whose fault it is," continued Abraham ; "only if it don't trouble you, it don't trouble me.”
“That's you, Abe, sure,” replied Aunt Lizzie. “You're ready to comfort a body.”
“A very good trait,” said Yates, who was both amused and enlightened by the accident.
“Never mind, Aunt Lizzie,” continued Abraham, "you have the worst of it; but I am really sorry that your bowl is broken. I don't care so much for the milk, as there is plenty more where that came from. Much worse things happen sometimes.”
By this time Aunt Lizzie had another bowl filled for Abraham, and the company proceeded to eat their dinner, while the old lady gathered up the fragments of the broken bowl, and wiped up the floor.
Here Abraham exhibited a trait of character for which he was distinguished from boyhood. He disliked to make trouble for any one, and wanted to see all persons at ease. Hence he was accommodating, never disposed to find fault, inclined to overlook the mistakes and foibles of others. Also, his readiness to assist the needy, and comfort the distressed and unfortunate, proceeded in part from this quality. It was made up of gentlemanly bearing, affability, generosity, and a true regard for the welfare and happiness of others, A rare character is this, though it is always needed, and is popular wherever it is appreciated.
We were absorbed in the discussion of Abraham and Alley about the grammar, and were interrupted by the arrival of Yates, in consequence of which the conversation was broken off. We will only add that Abraham became a very good grammarian by dint of perseverance. He did not cast aside the old grammar until he had mastered it, and it was all accomplished while he was the most faithful clerk that the store at New Salem ever had. He found time enough at odd moments during the day, and took enough out of his sleeping hours at night, within the space of a few months, to acquire all the knowledge of grammar that he ever possessed.
We should say, however, that his companion, William Green, rendered him assistance in this study. William had some knowledge of grammar, and he cheerfully aided Abraham all that he could. The latter always said that William taught him grammar, although William still affirms “that he seemed to master it, as it were, by intuition.”
It is probable that Kirkham's Grammar laid the foundation, in part, of Abraham's future character. It taught him the rudiments of his native language, and thus opened the golden gate of knowledge. There is much in his experience at this point to remind us of that of Alexander Murray, the world-renowned linguist. His father was too poor to send him to school, or to provide him with books. The Bible, and a catechism containing the alphabet, were all the volumes in the family, and the latter Alexander was not allowed to see except on the Sabbath. During the week his father would draw the letters on the back of an old wool-card “ with the black end of an extinguished heather-stem
or root, snatched from the fire.” In this way he learned the alphabet, and became a reader. At twelve years of age a friend presented him with a copy of Salmon's Grammar, which he mastered in an incredibly short period; and here commenced his progress in earnest. He borrowed a Latin grammar and mastered it. Then a French grammar was studied with success. Then the Greek was taken in hand, and thus on till all the Oriental and Northern languages were familiar to him. And the study of Salmon's Grammar laid the foundation for all this. That was the key to the vast treasures of knowledge that were opened before him. By making himself master of that, he unlocked the temple of wisdom.
And so the grammar that Abraham studied exerted a great influence upon his character and destiny.
STILL A CLERK.
THERE was a “gang” of young and middle-aged
1 men in New Salem, called the “Clary Grove Boys," who had become a terror to the people. They were never more flourishing than they were when Abraham became a citizen of the town. They prided themselves upon their strength and courage, and had an established custom of “initiating” new comers of the male sex by giving them a flogging. Perhaps they were no more malicious than a class of college students who perform similar operations upon Freshmen, though they were rougher and more immoral. Such “gangs” existed in different parts of the West at that time, a coalition of ignorance, rowdyism, and brute force. One writer says of the “Clary Grove Boys”:
“Although there never was under the sun a more generous parcel of ruffians, a stranger's introduction was likely to be the most unpleasant part of his acquaintance with them. In fact, one of the objects of their association was to 'initiate or naturalize newcomers,' as they termed the amiable proceedings which they took by way of welcoming any one am, bitious of admittance to the society of New Salem, They first bantered the gentleman to run a foot-race, jump, pitch the mall, or wrestle; and if none of these propositions seemed agreeable to him, they would ree queșt to know what he would do in case another gentleman should pull his nose or squirt tobacco-juice in his face. If he did not seem entirely decided in his views as to what should properly be done in such a contingency, perhaps he would be nailed in a hogshead and rolled down New Salem hill; perhaps his ideas would be brightened by a brief ducking in the Sangamon; or perhaps he would be scoffed, kicked, and cuffed by a number of persons in concert, until he reached the confines of the village, and then turned adrift as being unfit company for the people of that settlement. If, however, the stranger consented to engage in a tussle with one of his persecutors, it was usually arranged that there should be 'foul play,' with nameless impositions and insults, which would inevitably change the affair into a fight; and then if the subject of all these practices proved to be a man of mettle, he would be promptly received into their society, and in all probability would never have better friends on earth than the roystering fellows who had contrived his torments.”
These “ruffians” had not " initiated " Abraham for some reason. Perhaps a wholesome recollection of his strength, courage, and tact in engineering the boat over Rutledge's dam, or the extravagant statements of Offutt concerning his marvellous achievements, had restrained them. At any rate they did not molest him, until one day, when Bill Clary had a dispute with Offutt in his store, and both became exasperated. Bill exclaimed,
"Jack Armstrong can lick Abe easy as a boy knows his father.” Jack was the strongest man of the “gang," and perhaps the most ignorant.
"You don't know what you are talking about, Bill,” retorted Offutt; "he could duck the whole Clary Grove crew in the Sangamon, before Jack Armstrong could get up after he'd laid him on his back.”