For a year and a half, young Daniel Webster stayed in the office of Mr. Thompson. He had now fully made up his mind as to what profession he would follow; and so he was a much better student than he had been before.
He read many law books with care. He read Hume's History of England, and spent a good deal of time with the Latin classics.
"At this period of my life," he afterwards said, "I passed a great deal of time alone.
"My amusements were fishing and shooting and riding, and all these were without a companion. I loved this solitude then, and have loved it ever since, and love it still."
The Webster family were still very poor. Judge Webster was now too old to do much work of any kind. The farm had been mortgaged for all that it was worth. It was hard to find money enough to keep Daniel at his law studies and Ezekiel in college.
At last it became necessary for one of the young men to do something that would help matters along. Ezekiel decided that he would leave college for a time and try to earn enough money to meet the present needs of the family. Through some of his friends he obtained a small private school in Boston.
There were very few pupils in Ezekiel Webster's school. But there were so many branches to be taught that he could not find time to hear all the recitations. So, at last, he sent word to Daniel to come down and help him. If Daniel would teach an hour and a half each day, he should have enough money to pay his board.
Daniel was pleased with the offer. He had long wanted to study law in Boston, and here was his opportunity. And so, early in March, 1804, he joined his brother in that city, and was soon doing what he could to help him in his little school.
There was in Boston, at that time, a famous lawyer whose name was Christopher Gore. While Daniel Webster was wondering how he could best carry on his studies in the city, he heard that Mr. Gore had no clerk in his office.
"How I should like to read law with Mr. Gore!" he said to Ezekiel.
"Yes," said Ezekiel. "You could not want a better tutor."
"I mean to see him to-day and apply for a place in his office," said Daniel. It was with many misgivings that the young man went into the presence of the great lawyer. We will let him tell the story in his own words:
"I was from the country, I said;—had studied law for two years; had come to Boston to study a year more; had heard that he had no clerk; thought it possible he would receive one.
"I told him that I came to Boston to work, not to play; was most desirous, on all accounts, to be his pupil; and all I ventured to ask at present was, that he would keep a place for me in his office, till I could write to New Hampshire for proper letters showing me worthy of it."
Mr. Gore listened to this speech very kindly, and then bade Daniel be seated while he should have a short talk with him.
When at last the young man rose to go, Mr. Gore said: "My young friend, you look as if you might be trusted. You say you came to study and not to waste time. I will take you at your word. You may as well hang up your hat at once."
And this was the beginning of Daniel Webster's career in Boston.
He must have done well in Mr. Gore's office; for, in a few months, he was admitted to the practice of law in the Court of Common Pleas in Boston.
It was at some time during this same winter that Daniel was offered the position of clerk in the County Court at home. His father, as you will remember, was one of the judges in this court, and he was very much delighted at the thought that his son would be with him.
The salary would be about fifteen hundred dollars a year—and that was a great sum to Daniel as well as to his father. The mortgage on the farm could be paid off; Ezekiel could finish his course in college; and life would be made easier for them all.
At first Daniel was as highly pleased as his father. But after he had talked with Mr. Gore, he decided not to accept the offered position.
"Your prospects as a lawyer," said Mr. Gore, "are good enough to encourage you to go on. Go on, and finish your studies. You are poor enough, but there are greater evils than poverty. Live on no man's favor. Pursue your profession; make yourself useful to your friends and a little formidable to your enemies, and you have nothing to fear."
A few days after that, Daniel paid a visit to his father. The judge received him very kindly, but he was greatly disappointed when the young man told him that he had made up his mind not to take the place.
With his deep-set, flashing eyes, he looked at his son for a moment as though in anger. Then he said, very slowly:
"Well, my son, your mother has always said that you would come to something or nothing—she was not sure which. I think you are now about settling that doubt for her."
A few weeks after this, Daniel, as I have already told you, was admitted to the bar in Boston. But he did not think it best to begin his practice there.
He knew how anxious his father was that he should be near him. He wanted to do all that he could to cheer and comfort the declining years of the noble man who had sacrificed everything for him. And so, in the spring of 1805, he settled in the town of Boscawen, six miles from home, and put up at his office door this sign:
D. WEBSTER, ATTORNEY.