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Lincoln's Kindness To A Young Physician

( Originally Published 1902 )

AS I was riding along a beautiful prairie road in central Illinois with Dr. Worrall, behind his Kentucky thoroughbred, I said, " Doctor, did you ever meet Mr. Lincoln ? " " Yes," he replied, " we were friends. I once took him to a festival in the church of which you are the pastor. He was timid, very bashful in society, but was exceedingly able and witty and popular. At that festival the men gathered about him and enjoyed and heartily laughed at the bright things that he said. We young men who knew him best called him ` Link.' I will tell you how I first happened to get acquainted with him. I came to this country from Kentucky, a young man, and began the practice of medicine. Soon after I opened an office, a woman who had broken her arm at the elbow called upon me to set it. The break was a very bad one, and I could not make a good job. A rival physician prompted her to sue me for malpractice, and I was threatened with professional extinction at the start of my career. I wrote to Lincoln at Springfield and asked him to undertake my case. He wrote back for me to go to the office of Leonard Swett, in my own town, and give him the facts, and that on the day of the trial he would come over and examine witnesses and make a speech. I went to Swett's office, and in the back room on a ratty lounge I saw the young man, dead drunk, asleep. I wrote to Lincoln that I would not leave my case in the hands of such a man. He wrote back to do as he told me to—leave the facts with Swett—and I did so. That young man was the late Leonard Swett, of Chicago. He reformed and became one of the leading lawyers of the country. The day of the trial came. Lincoln examined and cross-examined the witnesses with great skill, and made such a masterly speech that a verdict was rendered in my favor, and I was saved from financial and professional ruin at the very start in life. When I asked for my bill, he said : ` You are a young man just starting out upon your career. I have easily earned a hundred dollars. I am only going to charge you twenty-five, and I will donate the other seventy-five to a worthy young man who has been the subject of envy and malice.' I paid him his fee and said to him, ` When are you going home?' ` Tonight,' he replied. ` No,' said I ; ` you must stay till tomorrow.' I sent out fifty invitations, and had my friends and neighbors come and meet the kind man who had done so much for me. This act of personal kindness to me made for him hundreds of friends and thousands of dollars in McLean County."

When my companion had finished his story, I said, " Doctor, there is no wonder that Democrats like you, as well as Republicans, vie with each other in their appreciation of Lincoln's tenderness of heart and generosity of life."

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