A Journeyman-Printer Tells How He First Met Lincoln
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
KNOWING that Captain Gilbert J. Greene was a life-long friend of Lincoln, I once asked him how he first happened to meet the martyred President, and of this incident he gave the following interesting account :
" I was tramping the State of Illinois, from south to north, when I came upon the farmhouse of Jacob Strauss, who owned forty thousand acres of land in the centre of the State. Finding that I was going to pass through Springfield the next day, Mr. Strauss told me he would keep me over night if I would carry some papers to a lawyer in the capital. He said the lawyer's name was ` Abe' Lincoln, `a very smart man.' I started next morning at sunrise. The road to Springfield was straight, and the country so level that I could see the sun reflected from the State-house dome, thirty-five miles away. There was snow on the ground, and the weather was biting cold. I reached a little, unimportant office, at nightfall, and saw the legend, ` A. Lincoln, attorney,' on a plain strip of black tin on the door. I knocked, and a voice replied, ` Come in.' Entering, I found Lincoln sitting on an old-fashioned, splint-bottomed chair, before a great wood fire, with feet against the mantel, higher than his head, and reading a copy of the Louisville Journal. I handed him the papers. Taking them, he said : I didn't think the old codger would send a horse out such a day as this.' Finding that I had no money, he took a five-dollar bill out of his pocket and gave it to me, saying he would charge it up to his client, as it was worth ten dollars to bring the papers in such weather. Then, taking up the newspaper he had laid down, he wrote on the white margin, ` Mr. Wilson, take care of this boy until to-morrow, or longer, if the weather is bad, and send the bill to me. A. Lincoln.' Tearing this off and handing it to me, he pointed through the window to a hotel across the square, and told me to go there and remain until I was able to resume my journey. As I was leaving the hotel the next morning, to continue my journey, a man brought a note from Mr. Lincoln, which read as follows :
" ` MR. WALLACE, Peoria :
" ` Dear Sir:—This boy wants to reach the Rock River country, somewhere near Beloit. If he needs any assistance, and you can help him in any way, it will be appreciated, and I will be responsible.
" `Yours, A. LINCOLN.'
" When I arrived at my destination, I wrote a letter of thanks to the homely, kindly lawyer who had befriended me; and a personal correspondence was begun with him, which ended only with his death. He got a place for me in a printing office at Springfield, where I, though only a boy, was permitted to enjoy his intimate companionship.
" Lincoln was one of the largest-hearted and most unselfish men who ever lived. He had an especial fondness for young men, and never allowed an opportunity to befriend them to pass by unimproved."
No one can calculate the new hopes that may be enkindled, or the mighty destinies that may be affected by a little kindly sympathy, offered even in the most modest way, to some young man or woman, struggling to get a start in life.