Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
A LITTLE LAD OF LONG AGO
Alice E. Allen in "Good Housekeeping."
LITTLE ABE hurried home as fast as his feet would carry
him. Perhaps if he had worn soft wool
stock-  ings and finely fitting shoes, like yours, he could have run
faster. But, instead of stockings, he wore deerskin
leggings, and pulled over these were clumsy moccasins
of bearskin that his mother had made for him.
Such a funny little figure as he was, trudging along
across the rough fields! His suit was of warm, gray
homespun. His odd-shaped cap had once been on the back
of a coon. The coon's tail flew out behind as he
walked—like a funny, furry tassel. But if you could
have looked into the honest, twinkling, blue eyes of
this little lad of long ago you would have liked him at
In one hand little Abe held something very precious.
It wasn't a purse of gold, nor a bag of gold. It was
only a book, but little Abe thought more of that book
than he would of gold or precious stones. To know just
what that book meant to little Abe, you must be very
fond of reading. You must think how it would seem to
live far away from all the schools, to have no books of
your own, and to see no books anywhere, except two or
three old ones of your mother's that you had read over
and over until you knew them by heart.
So, when a neighbor had said that little Abe might take
a book home and keep it until he had read it all
through, do you wonder that his eyes shone like stars?
A real book—a book that told about little boys and
girls and the big world! Little Abe's heart beat fast;
it seemed almost too good to be true.
Little Abe's home was built on a hillside. It was not
much like your home. It was not built of stone or
brick, not even of nice, smooth lumber, but of rough
logs. When little Abe lay in his small bed, close to
the roof, he could look through the chinks
 between the logs and see the great, white stars shining
down on him. Sometimes the great yellow moon smiled at
him as she sailed through the dark night sky. And
sometimes, too, saucy raindrops pattered down on the
little face on the coarse pillow.
To-night, after little Abe had crept up the steps to
the loft, he put his precious book in a small crack
between the logs. When the first gray light came in,
in the morning, he awoke and read until his father
called him to get up. Night after night he read, until
the book was nearly finished. Little Abe worked hard
all day long, and never a minute had he in the daytime
to peep between the covers of his beloved book.
One night he slipped the book away as usual and fell
asleep to dream of the wonderful story. He awoke very
early, but there were no golden sunbeams to peep
through the chinks and play across his pillow. The
loft was dark and little Abe could hear the wind
whistling out in the trees. He reached out his hand
for the book—and what do you think?—he put it into a
pile of something white and cold lying on his bed! His
little bed was covered with an outside blanket of soft,
He shivered and sat up, reaching again for the book.
He pulled it out. Then the poor little fellow almost
cried—for that precious book was wet from cover to
cover, and its crisp leaves were crumpled and soaked
from the heavy fall of snow. Poor little Abe! He sat
up in his cold bed and brushed off the snow as best he
could. He could scarcely keep the tears back. There
was a big lump in his throat, and a big lump in his
heart. What would the kind neighbor say?
As soon as he could, little Abe set off across the
 snowy fields to the kind neighbor's house. It
was more than a mile away, but he trudged along, not
thinking of the wind or the cold, but only of the book.
When he found the neighbor he held out the poor,
spoiled book, and, looking straight up into the man's
face, with clear, honest eyes, he told his sad little
"Well, my boy," said the man, smiling down into the
sober little face, "so my book is spoiled. Will you
work for me to pay for it?"
"I will do anything for you," said the little fellow,
"Well, then, I will ask you to pull fodder corn for me
for three days," said the man.
Little Abe looked up into his kind face.
"Then, sir," he said, wistfully, "will the book be all
"Why, yes, of course," said the man, good-naturedly,
"you may have the book; you will earn it."
So little Abe went to work for three days. He was
cold, and his back ached as he pulled corn for the
cattle, but he was too happy to mind, for was not that
precious book to be soon his very own?
What do you suppose the book was, for which little Abe
worked so long and faithfully? Was it a book of
wonderful fairy tales, like yours? No; the book was
the story of George Washington. And, long years
afterward, when little Abe had grown to be a great man
and the President of the United States, he used to tell
the story of his first book.
"That book—the story of George Washington—helped me to
become the President," he said.