Many years ago there lived in New Hampshire a poor farmer, whose name was Ebenezer Webster.
His little farm was among the hills, not far from the Merrimac River. It was a beautiful place to live in; but the ground was poor, and there were so many rocks that you would wonder how anything could grow among them.
Ebenezer Webster was known far and wide as a brave, wise man. When any of his neighbors were in trouble or in doubt about anything, they always said, "We will ask Captain Webster about it."
They called him Captain because he had fought the French and Indians and had been a brave soldier in the Revolutionary War. Indeed, he was one of the first men in New Hampshire to take up arms for his country.
When he heard that the British were sending soldiers to America to force the people to obey the unjust laws of the king of England, he said, "We must never submit to this."
So he went among his neighbors and persuaded them to sign a pledge to do all that they could to defend the country against the British. Then he raised a company of two hundred men and led them to Boston to join the American army.
The Revolutionary War lasted several years; and during all that time, Captain Webster was known as one of the bravest of the American patriots.
One day, at West Point, he met General Washington. The patriots were in great trouble at that time, for one of their leaders had turned traitor and had gone to help the British. The officers and soldiers were much distressed, for they did not know who might be the next to desert them.
As I have said, Captain Webster met General Washington. The general took the captain's hand, and said: "I believe that I can trust you, Captain Webster."
You may believe that this made Captain Webster feel very happy. When he went back to his humble home among the New Hampshire hills, he was never so proud as when telling his neighbors about this meeting with General Washington.
If you could have seen Captain Ebenezer Webster in those days, you would have looked at him more than once. He was a remarkable man. He was very tall and straight, with dark, glowing eyes, and hair as black as night. His face was kind, but it showed much firmness and decision.
He had never attended school; but he had tried, as well as he could, to educate himself. It was on account of his honesty and good judgment that he was looked up to as the leading man in the neighborhood.
In some way, I do not know how, he had gotten a little knowledge of the law. And at last, because of this as well as because of his sound common sense, he was appointed judge of the court in his county.
This was several years after the war was over. He was now no longer called Captain Webster, but Judge Webster.
It had been very hard for him to make a living for his large family on the stony farm among the hills. But now his office as judge would bring him three hundred or four hundred dollars a year. He had never had so much money in his life.
"Judge Webster," said one of his neighbors, "what are you going to do with the money that you get from your office? Going to build a new house?"
"Well, no," said the judge. "The old house is small, but we have lived in it a long time, and it still does very well."
"Then I suppose you are planning to buy more land?" said the neighbor.
"No, indeed, I have as much land now as I can cultivate. But I will tell you what I am going to do with my money. I am going to try to educate my boys. I would rather do this than have lands and houses."