“It’s as still as a graveyard,” Harry whispered when they had climbed the bluff by the mill long after midnight and were near the little village.
“They’re all buried in sleep,” said Abe. “We’ll get Rutledge out of bed. He’ll give us a shake-down somewhere.”
His loud rap on the door of the tavern signalized more than a desire for rest in the weary travelers, for just then a cycle of their lives had ended.
IN WHICH ABE AND SAMSON WRESTLE AND SOME RAIDERS COME TO BURN AND STAY TO REPENT
Within a week after their return the election came off and Abe was defeated, although in his precinct two hundred and twenty-seven out of a total of three hundred votes had been cast for him. He began to consider which way to turn. He thought seriously of the trade of the blacksmith which many advised. Burns and Shakespeare, who had been with him in recent vicissitudes seemed to disagree with him. Jack Kelso, who had welcomed the returning warriors in the cheery fashion of old, vigorously opposed his trying “to force the gates of fortune with the strong arm.” They were far more likely to yield, he said, to a well trained intellect of which mighty sinews were a poor tool but a good setting. Moreover, Major John T. Stuart—a lawyer of Springfield—who had been his comrade in the “war” had encouraged him to study law and, further, had offered to lend him books. So he looked for an occupation which would give him leisure for study. Offut, his former employer, had failed and cleared out. The young giant regarded thoughtfully the scanty opportunities of the village. He could hurl his great strength into the ax-head and make a good living but he had learned that such a use of it gave him a better appetite for sleep than study.
John McNeil, who for a short time had shared his military adventures, had become a partner of Samuel Hill in a store larger and better stocked than any the village had known. But Hill and McNeil had no need of a clerk. Rowan Herndon and William Berry—he of the morning-glory shirt—had opened a general store. Mr. Herndon offered to sell his interest to Abe and take notes for his pay. It was not a proposition that promised anything but loss. The community was small and there were three other stores and there was no other “Bill” Berry, who was given to drink and dreams as Abe knew. He was never offensive. Drink begat in Bill Berry a benevolent form of intemperance. It imparted to him a feeling of pity for the human race and a deep sense of obligation to it. In his cups he acquired a notable generosity and politeness. In the words of Jack Kelso he was then “as placid as a mill pond and as full of reflection.” He had many friends and no one had questioned his honesty.
Abe Lincoln had not been trained to weigh the consequences of a business enterprise. The store would give him leisure for study and New Salem could offer him nothing else save consuming toil with the axe or the saw. He could not think of leaving the little cabin village. There were Ann Rutledge and Jack Kelso and Samson Traylor and Harry Needles. Every ladder climber in the village and on the plain around it was his friend.