Chapter IV. School and Books
Not very long after this, the people of
the neighborhood made up their
minds that they must have a school-house. And so, one day after
harvest, the men met together and chopped down trees, and built
low-roofed log cabin to serve for that purpose.
If you could see that cabin you would think it a queer kind
school-house. There was no floor. There was only one window,
and in it
were strips of greased paper pasted across, instead of glass.
no desks, but only rough benches made of logs split in halves.
end of the room was a huge fireplace - at the other end was
The first teacher was a man whose name was Azel Dorsey. The
school was very short - for the settlers could not afford to
much. It was in mid-winter, for then there was no work for
the big boys
to do at home.
And the big boys, as well as the girls and the smaller boys,
around, came in to learn what they could from Azel Dorsey.
The most of
the children studied only spelling - but some of the larger
reading and writing and arithmetic.
There were not very many scholars, for the houses in that
settlement were few and far apart. School began at an early
hour in the
morning, and did not close until the sun was down.
Just how Abraham Lincoln stood in his classes I do not know -
but I must
believe that he studied hard and did everything as well as
he could. In
the arithmetic which he used, he wrote these lines:
His hand and pen,
He will be good,
But God knows when."
In a few weeks, Azel Dorsey's school came to a close - and
Lincoln was again as busy as ever about his father's farm.
After that he
attended school only two or three short terms. If all his school-days
were put together they would not make a twelve-month.
But he kept on reading and studying at home. His step-mother
him: "He read everything he could lay his hands on. When
he came across
a passage that struck him, he would write it down on boards,
if he had
no paper, and keep it until he had got paper. Then he would
look at it, commit it to memory, and repeat it."
Among the books that he read were the Bible, the Pilgrims
and the poems of Robert Burns. One day he walked a long distance
borrow a book of a farmer. This book was Weems's Life of Washington.
He read as much as he could while walking home.
By that time it was dark, and so he sat down by the chimney
and read by
firelight until bedtime. Then he took the book to bed with
him in the
loft, and read by the light of a tallow candle.
In an hour the candle burned out. He laid the book in a crevice
two of the logs of the cabin, so that he might begin reading
soon as it was daylight.
But in the night a storm came up. The rain was blown in, and
was wet through and through.
In the morning, when Abraham awoke, he saw what had happened.
the leaves as well as he could, and then finished reading the
As soon as he had eaten his breakfast, he hurried to carry
the book to
its owner. He explained how the accident had happened.
"Mr. Crawford," he said, "I
am willing to pay you for the book. I have
no money - but, if you will let me, I will work for you until
I have made
Mr. Crawford thought that the book was worth seventy-five
that Abraham's work would be worth about twenty-five cents
a day. And so
the lad helped the farmer gather corn for three days, and thus
the owner of the delightful book.
He read the story of Washington many times over. He carried
with him to the field, and read it while he was following the
From that time, Washington was the one great hero whom he
could not he model his own life after that of Washington? Why
he also be a doer of great things for his country?