American Book of Golden Deeds - James Baldwin

Ezekiel and Daniel

Two boys once lived on a hilly little farm in New Hampshire. They were brothers. The name of the elder was Ezekiel, and that of the younger was Daniel.

The father of these boys was anxious that both should be well educated, for he believed that education was necessary to fit any person for success in life. But he was a poor man and had not the means to send both to good schools.

Ezekiel had many good qualities. He was sturdy and manly and industrious. He would, no doubt, succeed well with whatever he should undertake to do.

But Daniel was not strong. He was a slender child and very delicate. It was thought that he would never be able to make his living by hard work. Yet his mind was wonderfully bright and he was very quick to learn.

"Boys," said the father, "there is nothing in the world that I wish so much to do as to give you both a fine education. But I shall never have enough money to send you to college. You shall have to stop short of that."

"Then let Daniel be the scholar," said Ezekiel, "and I will help you on the farm."

Daniel was the pet of the family and a great lover of books. His brother was always ready to give up anything that he possessed in order to make him happy. And now he was ready to give up his chances of a fair schooling if he could help Daniel to a better education.

The father thought of the matter in this way: Would it not be better to give one of the boys a thorough education, than to limit both to just a little schooling? And if he could send only one to college, why should it not be that one which gave the greatest promise of success?

It was decided, therefore, that Daniel should be the scholar. And Ezekiel, without a murmur, went to work with a will to help earn the money to pay his brother's expenses at college.

Every one in the family was pleased with the arrangement. Daniel was sent to a preparatory school, and in due time was admitted to Dartmouth College. To his father, his mother, his brother, no sacrifice seemed too great if only they could help him to gain that education which they felt would be of so much use to him.

During all this time, however, the one thing that troubled Daniel was the thought of his brother toiling at home. He knew that Ezekiel had great abilities. He knew that he was not fond of farm work, and that he was anxious to study for a profession. This brother had given up all his dearest plans in order that Daniel might be favored; and Daniel, although very grateful, was pained to think of it.

Once, when Daniel was at home on a vacation, he said, "Zeke, this thing is all wrong. Father has mortgaged the farm to money to pay my expenses at school, and you are making a slave of yourself to pay off the mortgage. It isn't right for me to let you do this."

Ezekiel said, "Brother Dan, I am stronger than you are, and if one of us has to stay on a farm, of course I am the one."

"But I want you to go to college," answered Daniel. "An education will do you as much good as me."

"I don't know about that," said Ezekiel.

"Well, I know about it, and I will see father about it this very day," said Daniel.

He did see him.

"I told my father," said Daniel afterward, "that I was unhappy at my brother's prospects. For myself, I saw my way to knowledge, respectability, and self-protection. But as for Ezekiel, all looked the other way. I said that I would keep school, and get along as well as I could—that I would be more than four years in getting through college, if necessary, provided that he also could be sent to study."

The matter was referred to Daniel's mother, and she and his father talked it all over. They knew that it would take all the property they had to educate both the boys. They knew that they would be obliged to do without many comforts, and that they would have a hard struggle for a living while the boys were studying. But the mother said, "I will trust Ezekiel and Daniel."

It was settled, therefore, that the elder brother also should have a chance to make his mark in the world.

He was now a grown-up man. He was tall and strong and ambitious. He entered college the very year that Daniel graduated.

As for Daniel—well, if it had not been for his brother's generous self-sacrifice, his history might have been quite different from what it was. And Ezekiel Webster's golden deed made him forever a sharer of Daniel Webster's fame.