“I can’t say that I like the bisniss,” said Hanks; “but I think I’ll accept this offer. Offutt is a capital feller, and I would go on such a trip for him a leetle quicker than I would for anybody else.”

“Agreed,” was John Johnston’s laconic way of saying that he would go. The fact was, Offutt had made them a very generous offer—larger pay than any one of them had ever received.

It was February 1831 when Offutt made the offer; and early in March the fortunate trio left home to meet Offutt at Springfield, according to arrangement. They proceeded down the Sangamon in a canoe to Jamestown (then known as Judy’s Ferry), five miles east of Springfield. Thence they walked to Springfield, where they met Offutt at “Elliott’s Tavern.” Offutt met Abraham with a look of surprise. He was not expecting to see a giant, although Hanks told him that his relative was the tallest man in Illinois; nor was he expecting to see a man as green as he was tall. However, they were soon on the best of terms, and Offutt said,—

“I’ve been badly disappointed; expected a boat built by this time, at the mouth of Spring Creek, but I learned yesterday that it wan’t touched; and now what’s to be done?”

“Build a boat at once,” answered Abraham, with a promptness that won Offutt’s heart.

“Can you build a boat?” asked Offutt.

“Of course I can,” replied Abraham. “We three can put the job through in three weeks.”

“We’ll have the boat, then, in short order,” responded Offutt. “Plenty of timber at Spring Creek, and we can raft it down to Sangamontown, and build the boat there.”

They repaired to Spring Creek, and spent about two weeks there cutting timber “on Congress land,” boarding a full mile from their work. While there, Abraham walked back to Judy’s Ferry, ten miles distant, and brought down the canoe which they had left there. The timber was rafted down to Sangamontown, where Abraham and his two companions erected a shanty for temporary shelter. Here they boarded themselves, Abraham playing the part of “cook,” to the entire satisfaction of the two Johns. The lumber was sawed at Kilpatrick’s mill, one mile and a half distant. With all these inconveniences, the boat was ready for the trip within four weeks, and a very substantial boat it was.

Offutt joined the party at Sangamontown, and was present during the construction of the boat. He soon learned that the long, tall, and green Abraham was a young man of rare talents. Offutt was a Whig, and so was Abraham now, although the latter was not willing to hear the former abuse Jackson. Offutt indulged his pique in this line, and Abraham met him squarely, and hot discussions followed, enlivening the camp and making merry times. Offutt was quite a politician, but Abraham was more than a match for him. His familiarity with the lives of a few of the great men of the country, and the habits, customs, and principles of their times, gave him a decided advantage over Offutt. Abraham often contributed to the merriment of the camp by reciting “prose-like orations” and quoting poetry. He also extracted a large amount of fun out of his new occupation—that of “cook.” On the whole, the two weeks at boat-building were merry ones, and they quickly sped.

While the little company were employed at Sangamontown, a juggler gave an exhibition in the upper room of John Carman’s house. Another says: “Abe went to it dressed in a suit of rough bluejeans. He had on shoes, but the trousers did not reach them by about twelve inches; and the naked shin, which had excited John Romine’s laughter years ago in Indiana, was still exposed. Between the roundabout and the waist of the trousers there was another wide space uncovered; and, considering these defects, his attire was thought to be somewhat inelegant, even in those times. His hat, however, was a great improvement on coon skins and opossum. It was woollen, broad-brimmed and low-crowned. In his hat ‘the showman cooked eggs.’ Whilst Abe was handing it up to him, after the man had long sought for a similar favour from the rest of the audience, he remarked, ‘Mister, the reason I didn’t give you my hat before was out of respect to your eggs, not care for my hat.’ ”

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