Abraham Lincoln: A story and a Play/Scene One
Lend eye and ear, my children dear;
I, History, will now bring near
The one whose wisdom, great and true,
Did save this land beloved by you.
Here now the backwoods boy behold,
Unlettered, rough, but for truth ever bold.
Place,—Interior of a log house at Pigeon Creek, Indiana.
Abraham Lincoln, His Stepmother, and Matilda, his stepsister. (Lincoln is stretched on the floor, working out a problem on a big wooden shovel with a bit of charcoal. At the same time he is eating his breakfast of corncake. His stepmother and sister are cleaning off the table.
Matilda,—Mother, did you hear about the spelling match at the school house?
Mother,—No, did the children do well?
Matilda,—Why, you see, the class was poorer than usual and one after another failed until the schoolmaster began to get angry. You know he has a terrible temper. He gave out the word, defied. My, but you oughter have heard the way the class went down on that! The first one spelled it, d-e-f-y-e-d, the next said, d-e-f-i-d-e, and so on. But nobody hit it right. "Next, next," the schoolmaster kept saying and he was gittin' madder and madder every minute. At last he began to jump up and down while he shouted, "The school shall not be dismissed till that word is spelled right."
After that he sorter caught his breath and called on Kate Roby. She's an awful pretty girl, you know, and I guess Abe likes her powerful well. My, but she was scared though! She didn't know any better than the rest of us. She began, d-e-f-, and everybody knew by the shape of her mouth she was going to say y.
Just then she happened to look at Abe. He was standing opposite her in the line, and he was grinning. Quick as a wink he lifted his hand up and pointed to his eye. Of course Kate guessed what he wanted to tell her. She went on, and finished without any trouble. I reckon she's thankful to Abe for gettin1 her out of her trouble. And the class, too, for that matter!
Mother (smiling),—That is just like Abe, always ready to help someone that is in trouble. (Turning now to Abe, who has been so busy that he didn't hear the conversation.) Abe!
Abe (starting at hearing his name called),— What is it, mother?
Mother,—Abe, come, come, take your axe and start for the woodland.
Abe (laying down his charcoal and swallowthe last bit of corn-cake),—Yes, mother. (He jumps up, takes down the ax which hangs against the side of the wall, and with long strides leaves the hut and goes down the path towards the woods.)
Matilda,—I'm going with Abe, mother. I like to watch him cut down the trees.
Mother,—No, you can't go to-day. You must help me. Now don't pout, my child. Those beans should be picked. I have a hundred things to do myself. After the housework is finished, I must sew for the children.
Matilda (scowling, takes a pail and goes out of the hut, talking to herself),—I don't care. I'm going with Abe, anyway. If I hurry, I can catch up with him yet. (Matilda runs and catches up with Abe, who is whistling as he strides along. She makes a sudden spring, and lands on her brother's shoulders. Pressing her knees against his back she pulls him down upon the ground. His ax falls and makes a sharp cut in her knee.)
Matilda (screaming),—Oh, Oh, Oh!
Abe,—Shi there! there! don't be scared. I'll have it all right in a minute. (He tears off a strip of cloth from his ragged shirt sleeve, and binds it about the girl's knee.)
Matilda (still crying),—Oh, Oh, Oh!
Abe,—'Tilda, how could you? I am astonished. To think that you should disobey your mother.
Matilda (rocking herself to and fro),—Oh, Oh, Oh!
Abe (sternly now),—What will you tell mother? How will you explain about getting hurt?
Matilda,—I'll tell her that I did it with the ax. Isn't that the truth?
Abe,—Yes, Tilda, it is the truth, but it isn't the whole truth. Be a brave girl when you go home. Tell your mother the whole truth, and leave the rest to her.
Matilda (looking up into her brother's kind but firm face),—Yes, Abe, I reckon you are right. I'll do what you say. (She limps away).
Abe (talking to himself),—Poor Tilda! it is hard to be brave, even in little things. (He sighs.) I must be brave, too, but in a different way. I long for book-learning, and to know the great world far away from this rough home of ours, but I must plod on day after day and keep cheerful for mother's sake. I will be a great man yet, though, unlikely as it seems. I feel it. Yes, I know it.
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