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Fifty Famous People by  James Baldwin


 

 

THE LAD WHO RODE SIDESADDLE

WHEN Daniel Webster was a child he lived in the country, far from any city. He was not strong enough to work on the farm like his brothers; but he loved books and study.

He was very young when he was first sent to school. The schoolhouse was two or three miles from home, but he did not mind the long walk through the woods and over the hills.

He soon learned all that his teacher could teach; for he was bright and quick, and had a good memory.

[79] His father hoped that Daniel would grow up to be a wise and famous man. "But," said he, "no man can rightly succeed without an education."

So it was decided that the boy should go to some school where he might be prepared for college.

One evening his father said to him, "Daniel, you must be up early in the morning. You are going to Exeter with me."

"To Exeter, father!" said Daniel.

"Yes, to Exeter. I am going to put you in the academy there."

The academy at Exeter was a famous school for preparing boys for college. It is still a famous school. But Daniel's father did not say anything about college.

There were no railroads at that time, and Exeter was nearly fifty miles away. Daniel and his father would ride there on horseback.

Early in the morning two horses were brought to the door. One was Mr. Webster's horse; the other was an old gray nag with a lady's sidesaddle on its back.

"Who is going to ride that nag?" asked Daniel.

"Young Dan Webster," answered his father.

"But I don't want a sidesaddle. I'm not a lady."

"I understand," said Mr. Webster. "But our neigh- [80] bor, Johnson, is sending the nag to Exeter for the use of a lady who is to ride back with me. He does me a favor by allowing you to ride on the animal, and I do him a favor by taking care of it."

"But won't it look rather funny for me to ride to Exeter on a sidesaddle?"

"Well, if a lady can ride on it, perhaps Dan Webster can do as much."

And so they set out on their journey to Exeter. Mr. Webster rode in front, and Daniel, on the old gray nag, followed behind. The roads were muddy, and they went slowly. It took them two days to reach Exeter.

The people whom they met gazed at them and wondered who they could be. They scarcely noticed the sidesaddle; they noticed only the boy's dark eyes and his strong, noble face.

His clothes were of homemade stuff; his shoes were coarse and heavy; he had no gloves on his hands; he was awkward and bashful.

Yet there was something in his manner and voice that caused everybody to admire him.


Daniel Webster lived to become a famous orator and a great statesman. He was honored at home and abroad.


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