Abraham Lincoln: A story and a Play/Scene Two
Now older grown our hero see,
A kind and tender heart has he.
E'en though his life is far from bright
Yet strong his will is towards the right,
While deep within is purpose strong
To rise to greatness and belong
Among the few, whose deeds shall bring
The whole wide world to wondering.
Place,—Grocery store in Gentryville, a town near Lincoln's home. (A crowd of farmers about the door.)
First Farmer,—Went huntin' yesterday.
Second Farmer,—What d'ye get?
First Farmer,—Two good fat deer and a turkey. The turkey was a buster, I tell ye. My woman got him on the spit bright and early this morning.
Second Farmer,—Where d'ye go? Down in that stretch of woods to the south?
First Farmer,—Yes, that's the best huntin' place in these parts now. Plenty of panthers there, too! A panther could have jumped down on me any minute, for it was so dark that I couldn't see my hand in front of my face. I was late gettin' home, and the screams of the critters sent the shivers running down my back.
Second Farmer (half to himself),—It's queer that Abe Linkern never goes huntin'. He'd be a good one at it, too! A surer hand I never knew.
Third Farmer,—Did ye ever hear that story about him when he was a little feller?
(The men gather round and speak together.)
No, what is it?
Third Farmer,—Why, ye see, it was this way. He was in the cabin and happened to look out just as a flock of turkeys was comin' into sight. Quick as a flash he run to the wall and took down his father's rifle. Then he run over to a big crack in the logs. Steady now! He took good aim. Crack goes the rifle, and down falls the best bird in the whole flock. Ye'd a thought that with such a beginning he'd a took to huntin' with a zest.
Fourth Farmer,—No, no, he's too softhearted. Can't bear to make even a dumb critter suffer. He'll wrastle with the best of us, and beat us every time when it comes to splittin' rails or cuttin' logs. But huntin' don't seem to be in his dictionary.
First Farmer,—I saw him do a stunt this very mornin'. Three of us was gettin' ready to move a chicken house. We was all takin' long breaths before the start, for it weighed three hundred or more. 'Long comes Abe just about that time. "What are ye waiting fer?" says he. "Waiting fer?" says I. "We're only gettin' ready." At that he give a long chuckle down in his throat, stepped over to the chicken house, lifted it like it was a feather, and walked off with it. He's a tough one, I tell ye.
The Crowd,—Ha, ha, ha! Good for Abe!
Third Farmer,—That's no better than I see him do last week. My neighbor an' I had some posts to move. They was so big, we couldn't budge 'em. "Fetch some sticks," says I, "and call those men over in that field to come and help us." Then along comes Abe. "What's the matter, boys?" says he, laughing like. "Show me where you want them posts." I pointed out the places. With that, he lifts one of the logs up on to his shoulder, easy like, and walks off with it. An' he kep' on till the last one was moved.
(John Baldwin, the blacksmith, enters the store.)
Baldwin,—Did you hear about Abe and that drunken feller the other night?
First Farmer,—Yes, Dave told me.
The Rest,—No, tell us.
Baldwin,—Why, Dave and Abe had been threshin' wheat all day, and in the evening they stopped here on their way home. They stayed till it was pretty late. Then they started off down through that lonely stretch of country. They had gone quite a spell, when Abe says, sudden like, "What's that?" and he pointed to a heap lyin' side of a mud puddle.
The two went up and found that it was a man they both knew,—a good fellow, too, but somehow or other, he'd been and got drunk. There he lay still as death,—didn't know it even when they rolled him over. "He can't stay here," sez Abe. "The night's too cold, and he might freeze before morning."
"Let him lay in the bed that he's made for himself," sez the other, "I'm going home."
But Abe wouldn't hear to it. Leave a helpless man there to freeze to death! That warn't in Abe's makeup. Without saying anythin' more, he bent over and lifted the man up with them long arms of his, and started off with him. He didn't drop him, either, till he reached Dennis Hanks' cabin. Then he built a fire, and set to work rubbin' and warmin' the man up. It was mornin' before he dared to leave him alone. I'm proud to call Abe Linkern a friend of mine.
The Crowd,—Three cheers for honest Abe! Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!
First Farmer,—How the women folks do like the rail splitter! They say he's the handiest man they ever see. Allus ready to help, from bringing in a pile of wood to rockin' a baby. An' then he's so honest! He wouldn't cheat a chicken out of a pin feather.
Second Farmer,—I reckon they like him all the better because he never touches strong drink. Ye can't get him to. Tain't cause he ain't got spirit, neither. He just won't and that's all there is to it.
Third Farmer,—He's got some queer notions, Abe has. He says that he is goin' to be President of these here U-nited States. Solemn as an owl about it, too!
Fourth Farmer,—They might go better and fare worse. Abe's got a powerful long head on them young shoulders.
The Crowd,—Thet he has.
First Farmer,—There he comes now (calling to him.) Hurry up, Abe, we want one of your stories to warm us up this cold night.
(One after another, as Abe appears.) Evenin', Abe.
First Farmer,—Heerd you was playing speaker down in Crawford's field the other day, Abe. They say as how everybody stopped and gathered round to hear you take off the law argiments that ye heerd down to the county seat. Then old Crawford came out and sent the workmen about their business.
The Crowd,-Ha, Ha, Ha!
(Lincoln rolls his eyes and makes up a face.)
Second Farmer,—Let's have thet song o' yours about Crawford's blue nose. An' don't leave out a single pimple on the ugly old stub.
The Crowd,—Ha, Ha, Ha!
Abe (smiling),—I reckon Crawford would give me his life of Washington if he could change that nose. It was a bad thing for him when he made me work three days for him to pay for that book I had borrowed. To be sure it was hurt a good deal in the rain that beat in through the rafters by my bed, but I meant to be careful of it.
Baldwin,—But a song! not the one about Crawford,—you've sung that enough; let's have the one about Jackson. We're all Jackson men here to-night.
(Lincoln sings in a queer cracked voice.)
"Let auld acquaintance be forgot
And never brought to mind
And Jackson be our President
And Adams left behind."
Second Farmer,—Let's have "Poor Old Ned," Abe. You can do that better. (Laughter again, for everyone knows that Abe cannot keep to a tune.)
"There was an old darky
And his name was Ned—
(Captain Larkin, a little fat man, and a great boaster, enters the store.)
Larkins (in a blustering voice),—Fellers, I've got the fastest and best horse in this here town.
The men laugh.
Larkins,—I tell ye, I have the best and fastest horse in this here town. (He sees Lincoln winking at his friends. He steps up in front of him and shouts in a loud voice): I have the best horse in this country. I ran him three miles in nine minutes, and he never drew a long breath.
Abe (looking at him),—Well, Larkins, why don't you tell us how many short breaths he drew?
The crowd laughs.
Larkins (doubling up his fists and jumping around),—I'd fight you, Abe Lincoln, if you wasn't so all-fired big.
Abe (very quietly),—Now, Larkins, if you don't keep still, I'll throw you into that water.
(Larkins gets red in the face and slinks out of the store.)
Abe turns to one of his friends and speaks in a low voice. I'm going to cut work and go over to the county seat again to-morrow, for court is going on there. I'm bound to be a lawyer, Ben, and a great one. After that, who knows what will happen?
(His friend smiles.)
Lincoln,—It seems funny, does it? Abe Lincoln, the rail splitter, one of the big men of this country! Well, watch and see, old man.
(He taps his friend on the shoulder and goes out.)