ON a farm among the hills of New Hampshire there once lived a little boy whose name was Daniel Webster. He was a tiny fellow for one of his age. His hair was jet black, and his eyes were so dark and wonderful that nobody who once saw them could ever forget them.
He was not strong enough to help much on the farm; and so he spent much of his time in playing in the woods and fields. Unlike many farmers’ boys, he had a very gentle heart. He loved the trees and flowers and the harmless wild creatures that made their homes among them.
But he did not play all the time. Long before he was old enough to go to school, he learned to read; and he read so well that everybody liked to hear him and never grew tired of listening. The neighbors, when driving past his father’s house, would stop their horses and call for Dannie Webster to come out and read to them.
At that time there were no children’s books such as you have now. Indeed, there were but very few books of any kind in the homes of the New Hampshire farmers. But Daniel read such books as he could get; and he read them over and over again till he knew all that was in them. In this way he learned a great deal of the Bible so well that he could repeat verse after verse without making a mistake; and these verses he remembered as long as he lived.
Daniel’s father was not only a farmer, but he was a judge in the county court. He had a great love for the law, and he hoped that Daniel when he became a man would be a lawyer.
It happened one summer that a woodchuck made its burrow in the side of a hill near Mr. Webster’s house. On warm, dark nights it would come down into the garden and eat the tender leaves of the cabbages and other plants that were growing there. Nobody knew how much harm it might do in the end.
Daniel and his elder brother Ezekiel made up their minds to catch the little thief. They tried this thing and that, but for a long time he was too cunning for them. Then they built a strong trap where the woodchuck would be sure to walk into it; and the next morning, there he was.
“We have him at last!” cried Ezekiel. “Now, Mr. Woodchuck, you’ve done mischief enough, and I’m going to kill you.”
But Daniel pitied the little animal. “No, don’t hurt him,” he said. “Let us carry him over the hills, far into the woods, and let him go.”
Ezekiel, however, would not agree to this. His heart was not so tender as his little brother’s. He was bent on killing the woodchuck, and laughed at the thought of letting it go.
“Let us ask father about it,” said Daniel.
“All right,” said Ezekiel; “I know what the judge will decide.”