Darker Days

Hungry for Knowledge—Wants other Books than Bible—The “Milk-Disease”—Mr. and Mrs. Sparrow sick—Nursing them—Their Death and Burial—Mrs. Lincoln's Brief Sickness—Neighbour's Sympathy and Skill—Her Speedy Death—Buried on the Knoll—Abe's Letter to Parson Elkins—His first Letter—Neighbours surprised—Writing Letters for them—Parson Elkins comes—His Welcome—His Funeral Sermon—Impression upon Abraham—Character and Power of Pioneer Preachers—A Remarkable Example—These Preachers and Abraham's Early Life.

Abraham continued to peruse the three books of the family library,—the Bible, Catechism, and spelling- book. There was no prospect that another book of any sort would be added to the number. The thirst for knowledge begotten in his soul already was forced to find its aliment in this narrow compass. The result was that he knew the spelling-book and Catechism by heart; and he could repeat much of the Bible. His mind was hungry for knowledge, but could not find enough to eat. It was daily put upon “short allowance.”

In these circumstances he longed for other books. He began to tire of the Bible. “I don’t want to read the Bible all the time,” he often remarked; “I wish I could have some other book to read.” He did not know what other books were in existence. His parents were not wiser than he in that respect. But his mind was ravenous, and would have accepted almost any sort of a literary dish, good, bad, or indifferent. It pleaded for books.

While he was in this famishing intellectual state a fearful disease broke out among the settlers, called “the milk disease.” Cows that gave the milk, and the people who drank it, became sick, suffered, and died. The first case was fifteen or twenty miles away, but near enough to create alarm in the Lincoln cabin. It was not long, however, before the dreaded visitor came to their door. Mr. and Mrs. Sparrow were stricken down by the disease nearly at the same time. It was in the summer of 1818. Consternation now turned the attention of Abraham from books to the perils of the hour. His longing for other books was exchanged for fear of sudden death.

The Sparrows were very sick, and no doctor within thirty or forty miles. Mr. Lincoln and his wife, together with other settlers, rendered all the assistance in their power to the ill-fated couple. Week after week their sufferings were prolonged, sometimes worse, sometimes better, hope rising or waning accordingly.

“We must remove them into our cabin,” said Mrs. Lincoln to her husband; “they must have better quarters and care.” Mr. and Mrs. Sparrow were as father and mother to Mrs. Lincoln, and her love for them was like that of a daughter.

“Perhaps it will be best; they can’t live long anywhere in my opinion,” Mr. Lincoln replied.

“I can look after them much better here,” continued Mrs. Lincoln; “and whether they live or die, we shall have the satisfaction of knowing that we did everything in our power for them.”

The sick couple were removed into the Lincoln cabin in September, and no one was more rejoiced over the event than Dennis Hanks, to whom, also, the Sparrows were as father and mother. Dennis emphasized his joy over the removal by saying he was glad “to get out of the darned little half-face camp.”

The removal brought no relief to the sinking patients. In a few days both of them died, spreading gloom over the neighbourhood, and creating the saddest experience Abraham and Dennis ever knew.

A spot was selected for the burial-place of the dead, about one half mile from the cabin, on a beautiful knoll that nestled under the shadow of mammoth trees. Mr. Lincoln was the only settler in the vicinity capable of making a coffin; and he set about the sorrowful work, making them out of “green lumber, cut with a whipsaw.” They were rough and heavy, like everything else connected with pioneer life; but answered their purpose well. Without funeral ceremonies, the neighbours gathered from far and near, and tearfully committed their deceased friends to the dust.

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.