Once upon a time there lived a little girl in a town in New York State. I know that she was a bright and happy and delightful little girl, because now that she is growing old, she is bright and happy and delightful.
She lived with her father and her mother and brothers in a real old-fashioned, homey home where guests liked to come. One of the guests who liked to come was the great Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States. The little girl was always very happy when he came. She used to like to sit close and talk to him. She called him “Uncle Abe.” He often called her “Sissy,” though her real name was Julia.
One time when the President was visiting at Julia’s home, the family were all gathered in the sitting room in the evening. Julia was counting the money in her missionary box. Mr. Lincoln watched her.
“What are you doing over there?” he asked.
“I’m counting my missionary money, Uncle Abe,” Julia answered.
Mr. Lincoln put his hand in his pocket, pulled out a coin, and held it toward Julia. Julia drew her box back.
“Oh, no, I can’t take that, Uncle Abe. I have to earn all the money I put in this box,” she said earnestly.
“Is that so?” said Mr. Lincoln, thoughtfully. Then he put his hand back into his pocket.
The next day he was getting ready to start for the train.
“I wonder if you couldn’t walk down to the depot with me, Julia?” he said.
“Oh, yes, I’d love to!” cried Julia, and she ran for her hat.
As they started down the street together, Abraham Lincoln changed his valise [a small traveling bag] to the other hand. It was an old-fashioned valise with two handles. As he looked down from his great height at his little companion, he asked, “Do you suppose that you could help me carry my valise? It’s pretty heavy.”
Julia was a little surprised, for Mr. Lincoln had never before asked her to help him carry his valise. But she took hold of one of the handles, and they carried it between them all the way to the depot, talking gayly as they went. At the depot the President took the valise and pulled a shining coin out of his pocket, holding it out to the little girl.
“There, Julia,” he said, “now you have earned your missionary money.”
Julia was much surprised, for she had not thought of such a thing as earning money by helping her friend carry his valise. But she saw that she really had earned it.
“Oh, thank you, Uncle Abe!” she exclaimed joyfully.
Then he went away on the train, and Julia ran home with the shining coin held tightly in her hand. She thought it was the very brightest penny she had ever seen. She hurried to put it into her missionary box, where it would be safe.
The next week, when the missionary boxes were opened, Julia was called out into another room. There sat the superintendent, and there were her father and one of her brothers. And there on the table was her missionary box. Everyone looked sober.
“How much money did you have in your missionary box, Julia?” asked the superintendent.
“Eighty-two cents,” answered the little girl.
“I knew it was a mistake. It is not her box,” said her father.
“Are you sure that was all you had? Where did this come from?” she was asked, and she saw the bright penny that the President had given her.
“Oh, that’s the money Uncle Abe gave me!” she answered.
The shining coin was a five-dollar gold piece.
This is a true story. I know it is true, because the little girl, who is a little girl no longer, told me the story herself.
Cockleshells, True Education Series, Olive Vincent Marsh, 16–19.