Lincoln had stood with two umbrellas at an imaginary rat hole, impersonating Sam’l, the Quaker boy whose father wanted to stop the boy’s using swear words. The two umbrellas were blacksmith tongs. Sam’ls father had said, Now, Sam’l, thee will sit here until thee has a rat. If I hear thee swear, thee sit here till thee has another.’ And Sam’l had sat there for hours, snipping the tongs a few times, but no rat caught. At last one came out from the rat hole, the whiskers peering up, then the black nose, and the eyes blinking. And the two umbrella tongs snapped together in a flash. And Sam’l yelled, ‘By God, I have thee at last!’ And Lincoln with a shaking, swaying frame let out a squeal and stood holding an imaginary wriggling rat between the two umbrellas. He had told this in Illinois towns during the debates with Douglas. And Robert R. Hitt, the phonographic reporter, said he forgot himself and politics and business and nearly believed there was a live squeaking rat caught between the two umbrellas.
Emanuel Hertz, Anecdotes by & about Abraham Lincoln, p. 150.