The record of the boyhood of our Lincoln has been told in dozens of forms and in hundreds of monographs. We know of the simplicity, of the penury, of the family life in the little one-roomed log hut that formed the home for the first ten years of Abraham’s life. We know of his little group of books collected with toil and self-sacrifice. The series, after some years of strenuous labour, comprised the Bible, Aesop’s Fables, a tattered copy of Euclid’s Geometry, and Weems’s Life of Washington. The Euclid he had secured as a great prize from the son of a neighbouring farmer. Abraham had asked the boy the meaning of the word “demonstrate.” His friend said that he did not himself know, but that he knew the word was in a book which he had at school, and he hunted up the Euclid. After some bargaining, the Euclid came into Abraham’s possession. In accordance with his practice, the whole contents were learned by heart. Abraham’s later opponents at the Bar or in political discussion came to realise that he understood the meaning of the word “demonstrate.” In fact, references to specific problems of Euclid occurred in some of his earlier speeches at the Bar.
A year or more later, when the Lincoln family had crossed the river to Indiana, there was added to the “library” a copy of the revised Statutes of the State. The Weems’s Washington had been borrowed by Lincoln from a neighbouring farmer. The boy kept it at night under his pillow, and on the occasion of a storm, the water blew in through the chinks of the logs that formed the wall of the cabin, drenching the pillow and the head of the boy (a small matter in itself) and wetting and almost spoiling the book. This was a grave misfortune. Lincoln took his damaged volume to the owner and asked how he could make payment for the loss. It was arranged that the boy should put in three days’ work shucking corn on the farm. “Will that work pay for the book or only for the damage?” asked the boy. It was agreed that the labour of three days should be considered sufficient for the purchase of the book.