By the time the lad was seventeen he could write a good hand, do hard examples in long division, and spell better than any one else in the county. Once in a while he wrote a little piece of his own about something which interested him; when the neighbors heard it read, they would say, "The world can't beat it." At nineteen Abraham Lincoln had reached his full height. He stood nearly six feet four inches, barefooted. He was a kind of good-natured giant. No one in the neighborhood could strike an axe as deep into a tree as he could, and few, if any, were equal to him in strength. It takes a powerful man to put a barrel of flour into a wagon without help, and there is not one in a hundred who can lift a barrel of cider off the ground; but it is said that young Lincoln could stoop down, lift a barrel on to his knees, and drink from the bung-hole.
At this time a neighbor hired Abraham to go with his son to New Orleans. The two young men were to take a flat-boat loaded with corn and other produce down the Ohio and the Mississippi. It was called a voyage of about eighteen hundred miles, and it would take between three and four weeks. Young Lincoln was greatly pleased with the thought of making such a trip. He had never been away any distance from home, and, as he told his father, he felt that he wanted to see something more of the world. His father made no objection, but, as he bade his son good by, he said, Take care that in trying to see the world you don't see the bottom of the Mississippi. The two young men managed to get the boat through safely. But one night a gang of negroes came on board, intending to rob them of part of their cargo. Lincoln soon showed the robbers he could handle a club as vigorously as he could an axe, and the rascals, bruised and bleeding, were glad to get off with their lives.
Not long after young Lincoln's return, his father moved to Illinois. It was a two weeks' journey through the woods with ox-teams. Abraham helped his father build a comfortable log cabin; then he and a man named John Hanks split walnut rails, and fenced in fifteen acres of land for a cornfield. That part of the country had but few settlers, and it was still full of wild beasts. When the men got tired of work and wanted a frolic, they had a grand wolf-hunt. First, a tall pole was set up in a clearing; next, the hunters in the woods formed a great circle of perhaps ten miles in extent. Then they began to move nearer and nearer together, beating the bushes and yelling with all their might. The frightened wolves, deer, and other wild creatures inside of the circle of hunters were driven to the pole in the clearing; there they were shot down in heaps. Young Lincoln was not much of a hunter, but he always tried to do his part. Yet, after all, he liked the axe better than he did the rifle. He would start off before light in the morning and walk to his work in the woods, five or six miles away. There he would chop steadily all day. The neighbors knew, when they hired him, that he wouldn't sit down on the first log he came to and fall asleep. Once when he needed a new pair of trousers, he made a bargain for them with a Mrs. Nancy Miller. She agreed to make him a certain number of yards of tow cloth,[a kind of coarse, cheap, but very strong cloth, made of flax or hemp.] and dye it brown with walnut bark. For every yard she made, Lincoln bound himself to split four hundred good fence-rails for her. In this way he made his axe pay for all his clothes.
The year after young Lincoln came of age he hired out to tend a grocery and variety store in New Salem, Illinois. There was a gang of young ruffians in that neighborhood who made it a point to pick a fight with every stranger. Sometimes they mauled him black and blue; sometimes they amused themselves with nailing him up in a hogshead and rolling him down a hill. The leader of this gang was a fellow named Jack Armstrong. He made up his mind that he would try his hand on "Tall Abe," as Lincoln was called. He attacked Lincoln, and he was so astonished at what happened to him that he never wanted to try it again. From that time Abraham Lincoln had no better friends than young Armstrong and the Armstrong family. Later on we shall see what he was able to do for them.
In his work in the store Lincoln soon won everybody's respect and confidence. He was faithful in little things, and in that way he made himself able to deal with great ones. Once a woman made a mistake in paying for something she had bought, and gave the young man six cents too much. He did not notice it at the time, but after his customer had gone he saw that she had overpaid him. That night, after the store was closed, Lincoln walked to the woman's house, some five or six miles out of the village, and paid her back the six cents. It was such things as this that first made the people give him the name of "Honest Abe."
Directions: Answer the following multiple choice questions. Also, answer the following questions on a sheet of paper: