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Title: The Devil and Daniel Webster
Author: Stephen Vincent Benet
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Language: English
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Date first posted: July 2006
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The Devil and Daniel Webster
Stephen Vincent Benet


It's a story they tell in the border country, where Massachusetts
joins Vermont and New Hampshire.

Yes, Dan'l Webster's dead--or, at least, they buried him. But every
time there's a thunder storm around Marshfield, they say you can hear
his rolling voice in the hollows of the sky. And they say that if you
go to his grave and speak loud and clear, "Dan'l Webster--Dan'l
Webster!" the ground'll begin to shiver and the trees begin to shake.
And after a while you'll hear a deep voice saying, "Neighbor, how
stands the Union?" Then you better answer the Union stands as she
stood, rock-bottomed and copper sheathed, one and indivisible, or he's
liable to rear right out of the ground. At least, that's what I was
told when I was a youngster.

You see, for a while, he was the biggest man in the country. He never
got to be President, but he was the biggest man. There were thousands
that trusted in him right next to God Almighty, and they told stories
about him and all the things that belonged to him that were like the
stories of patriarchs and such. They said, when he stood up to speak,
stars and stripes came right out in the sky, and once he spoke against
a river and made it sink into the ground. They said, when he walked
the woods with his fishing rod, Killall, the trout would jump out of
the streams right into his pockets, for they knew it was no use
putting up a fight against him; and, when he argued a case, he could
turn on the harps of the blessed and the shaking of the earth
underground. That was the kind of man he was, and his big farm up at
Marshfield was suitable to him. The chickens he raised were all white
meat down through the drumsticks, the cows were tended like children,
and the big ram he called Goliath had horns with a curl like a
morning-glory vine and could butt through an iron door. But Dan'l
wasn't one of your gentlemen farmers; he knew all the ways of the
land, and he'd be up by candlelight to see that the chores got done. A
man with a mouth like a mastiff, a brow like a mountain and eyes like
burning anthracite--that was Dan'l Webster in his prime. And the
biggest case he argued never got written down in the books, for he
argued it against the devil, nip and tuck and no holds barred. And
this is the way I used to hear it told.

There was a man named Jabez Stone, lived at Cross Corners, New
Hampshire. He wasn't a bad man to start with, but he was an unlucky
man. If he planted corn, he got borers; if he planted potatoes, he got
blight. He had good enough land, but it didn't prosper him; he had a
decent wife and children, but the more children he had, the less there
was to feed them. If stones cropped up in his neighbor's field,
boulders boiled up in his; if he had a horse with the spavins, he'd
trade it for one with the staggers and give something extra. There's
some folks bound to be like that, apparently. But one day Jabez Stone
got sick of the whole business.

He'd been plowing that morning and he'd just broke the plowshare on a
rock that he could have sworn hadn't been there yesterday. And, as he
stood looking at the plowshare, the off horse began to cough--that ropy
kind of cough that means sickness and horse doctors. There were two
children down with the measles, his wife was ailing, and he had a
whitlow on his thumb. It was about the last straw for Jabez Stone. "I
vow," he said, and he looked around him kind of desperate--"I vow it's
enough to make a man want to sell his soul to the devil. And I would,
too, for two cents!"

Then he felt a kind of queerness come over him at having said what
he'd said; though, naturally, being a New Hampshireman, he wouldn't
take it back. But, all the same, when it got to be evening and, as far
as he could see, no notice had been taken, he felt relieved in his
mind, for he was a religious man. But notice is always taken, sooner
or later, just like the Good Book says. And, sure enough, next day,
about supper time, a soft-spoken, dark-dressed stranger drove up in a
handsome buggy and asked for Jabez Stone.

Well, Jabez told his family it was a lawyer, come to see him about a
legacy. But he knew who it was. He didn't like the looks of the
stranger, nor the way he smiled with his teeth.

They were white teeth, and plentiful--some say they were filed to a
point, but I wouldn't vouch for that. And he didn't like it when the
dog took one look at the stranger and ran away howling, with his tail
between his legs. But having passed his word, more or less, he stuck
to it, and they went out behind the barn and made their bargain. Jabez
Stone had to prick his finger to sign, and the stranger lent him a
silver pin. The wound healed clean, but it left a little white scar.


After that, all of a sudden, things began to pick up and prosper for
Jabez Stone. His cows got fat and his horses sleek, his crops were the
envy of the neighbourhood, and lightning might strike all over the
valley, but it wouldn't strike his barn. Pretty soon, he was one of
the prosperous people of the county; they asked him to stand for
selectman, and he stood for it; there began to be talk of running him
for state senate. All in all, you might say the Stone family was as
happy and contented as cats in a dairy. And so they were, except for
Jabez Stone.

He'd been contented enough, the first few years. It's a great thing
when bad luck turns; it drives most other things out of your head.
True, every now and then, especially in rainy weather, the little
white scar on his finger would give him a twinge. And once a year,
punctual as clockwork, the stranger with the handsome buggy would come
driving by. But the sixth year, the stranger lighted, and, after that,
his peace was over for Jabez Stone.

The stranger came up through the lower field, switching his boots with
a cane--they were handsome black boots, but Jabez Stone never liked the
look of them, particularly the toes. And, after he'd passed the time
of day, he said, "Well, Mr. Stone, you're a hummer! It's a very
pretty property you've got here, Mr. Stone."

"Well, some might favour it and others might not," said Jabez Stone,
for he was a New Hampshireman.

"Oh, no need to decry your industry!" said the stranger, very easy,
showing his teeth in a smile. "After all, we know what's been done,
and it's been according to contract and specifications. So when--ahem--the
mortgage falls due next year, you shouldn't have any regrets."

"Speaking of that mortgage, mister," said Jabez Stone, and he looked
around for help to the earth and the sky, "I'm beginning to have one
or two doubts about it."

"Doubts?" said the stranger, not quite so pleasantly.

"Why, yes," said Jabez Stone. "This being the U. S. A. and me always
having been a religious man." He cleared his throat and got bolder.

"Yes, sir," he said, "I'm beginning to have considerable doubts as to
that mortgage holding in court."

"There's courts and courts," said the stranger, clicking his teeth.
"Still, we might as well have a look at the original document." And he
hauled out a big black pocketbook, full of papers. "Sherwin, Slater,
Stevens, Stone," he muttered. "I, Jabez Stone, for a term of seven
years--Oh, it's quite in order, I think."

But Jabez Stone wasn't listening, for he saw something else flutter
out of the black pocket book. It was something that looked like a
moth, but it wasn't a moth. And as Jabez Stone stared at it, it seemed
to speak to him in a small sort of piping voice, terrible small and
thin, but terrible human.

"Neighbour Stone!" it squeaked. "Neighbour Stone! Help me! For God's
sake, help me!"

But before Jabez Stone could stir hand or foot, the stranger whipped
out a big bandanna handkerchief, caught the creature in it, just like
a butterfly, and started tying up the ends of the bandanna.

"Sorry for the interruption," he said. "As I was saying--"

But Jabez Stone was shaking all over like a scared horse.

"That's Miser Stevens' voice!" he said, in a croak. "And you've got
him in your handkerchief!"

The stranger looked a little embarrassed.

"Yes, I really should have transferred him to the collecting box," he
said with a simper, "but there were some rather unusual specimens
there and I didn't want them crowded. Well, well, these little
contretemps will occur."

"I don't know what you mean by contertan," said Jabez Stone, "but that
was Miser Stevens' voice! And he ain't dead! You can't tell me he is!
He was just as spry and mean as a woodchuck, Tuesday!"

"In the midst of life--" said the stranger, kind of pious. "Listen!"
Then a bell began to toll in the valley and Jabez Stone listened, with
the sweat running down his face. For he knew it was tolled for Miser
Stevens and that he was dead.

"These long-standing accounts," said the stranger with a sigh; "one
really hates to close them. But business is business."

He still had the bandanna in his hand, and Jabez Stone felt sick as he
saw the cloth struggle and flutter.

"Are they all as small as that?" he asked hoarsely.

"Small?" said the stranger. "Oh, I see what you mean. Why, they vary."
He measured Jabez Stone with his eyes, and his teeth showed. "Don't
worry, Mr. Stone," he said. "You'll go with a very good grade. I
wouldn't trust you outside the collecting box. Now, a man like Dan'l
Webster, of course--well, we'd have to build a special box for him, and
even at that, I imagine the wing spread would astonish you. He'd
certainly be a prize. I wish we could see our way clear to him. But,
in your case, as I was saying--"

"Put that handkerchief away!" said Jabez Stone, and he began to beg
and to pray. But the best he could get at the end was a three years'
extension, with conditions.

But till you make a bargain like that, you've got no idea of how fast
four years can run. By the last months of those years, Jabez Stone's
known all over the state and there's talk of running him for
governor--and it's dust and ashes in his mouth. For every day, when he
gets up, he thinks, "There's one more night gone," and every night
when he lies down, he thinks of the black pocketbook and the soul of
Miser Stevens, and it makes him sick at heart. Till, finally, he can't
bear it any longer, and, in the last days of the last year, he hitches
his horse and drives off to seek Dan'l Webster. For Dan'l was born in
New Hampshire, only a few miles from Cross Corners, and it's well
known that he has a particular soft spot for old neighbours.


It was early in the morning when he got to Marshfield, but Dan'l was
up already, talking Latin to the farm hands and wrestling with the
ram, Goliath, and trying out a new trotter and working up speeches to
make against John C. Calhoun. But when he heard a New Hampshire man
had come to see him, he dropped every thing else he was doing, for
that was Dan'l's way. He gave Jabez Stone a breakfast that five men
couldn't eat, went into the living history of every man and woman in
Cross Corners, and finally asked him how he could serve him.

Jabez Stone allowed that it was a kind of mortgage case.

"Well, I haven't pleaded a mortgage case in a long time, and I don't
generally plead now, except before the Supreme Court," said Dan'l,
"but if I can, I'll help you."

"Then I've got hope for the first time in ten years," said Jabez
Stone, and told him the details.

Dan'l walked up and down as he listened, hands behind his back, now
and then asking a question, now and then plunging his eyes at the
floor, as if they'd bore through it like gimlets. When Jabez Stone had
finished, Dan'l puffed out his cheeks and blew. Then he turned to
Jabez Stone and a smile broke over his face like the sunrise over

"You've certainly given yourself the devil's own row to hoe, Neighbour
Stone," he said, "but I'll take your case."

"You'll take it?" said Jabez Stone, hardly daring to believe.

"Yes," said Dan'l Webster. "I've got about seventy-five other things
to do and the Missouri Compromise to straighten out, but I'll take
your case. For if two New Hampshiremen aren't a match for the devil,
we might as well give the country back to the Indians."

Then he shook Jabez Stone by the hand and said, "Did you come down
here in a hurry?"

"Well, I admit I made time," said Jabez Stone.

"You'll go back faster," said Dan'l Webster, and he told 'em to hitch
up Constitution and Constellation to the carriage. They were matched
grays with one white forefoot, and they stepped like greased

Well, I won't describe how excited and pleased the whole Stone family
was to have the great Dan'l Webster for a guest, when they finally got
there. Jabez Stone had lost his hat on the way, blown off when they
overtook a wind, but he didn't take much account of that. But after
supper he sent the family off to bed, for he had most particular
business with Mr. Webster. Mrs. Stone wanted them to sit in the front
parlor, but Dan'l Webster knew front parlors and said he preferred the
kitchen. So it was there they sat, waiting for the stranger, with a
jug on the table between them and a bright fire on the hearth--the
stranger being scheduled to show up on the stroke of midnight,
according to specification.

Well, most men wouldn't have asked for better company than Dan'l
Webster and a jug. But with every tick of the clock Jabez Stone got
sadder and sadder. His eyes roved round, and though he sampled the jug
you could see he couldn't taste it. Finally, on the stroke of 11:30 he
reached over and grabbed Dan'l Webster by the arm.

"Mr. Webster, Mr. Webster!" he said, and his voice was shaking with
fear and a desperate courage. "For God's sake, Mr. Webster, harness
your horses and get away from this place while you can!"

"You've brought me a long way, neighbour, to tell me you don't like my
company," said Dan'l Webster, quite peaceable, pulling at the jug.

"Miserable wretch that I am!" groaned Jabez Stone. "I've brought you a
devilish way, and now I see my folly. Let him take me if he wills. I
don't hanker after it, I must say, but I can stand it. But you're the
Union's stay and New Hampshire's pride! He mustn't get you, Mr.
Webster! He mustn't get you!"

Dan'l Webster looked at the distracted man, all gray and shaking in
the firelight, and laid a hand on his shoulder.

"I'm obliged to you, Neighbour Stone," he said gently. "It's kindly
thought of. But there's a jug on the table and a case in hand. And I
never left a jug or a case half finished in my life."

And just at that moment there was a sharp rap on the door "Ah," said
Dan'l Webster, very coolly, "I thought your clock was a trifle slow,
Neighbour Stone." He stepped to the door and opened it. "Come in," he
said. The stranger came in--very dark and tall he looked in the
firelight. He was carrying a box under his arm--a black, japanned box
with little air holes in the lid. At the sight of the box, Jabez Stone
gave a low cry and shrank into a corner of the room. "Mr. Webster, I
presume," said the stranger, very polite, but with his eyes glowing
like a fox's deep in the woods.

"Attorney of record for Jabez Stone," said Dan'l Webster, but his eyes
were glowing too. "Might I ask your name?"

"I've gone by a good many," said the stranger carelessly. "Perhaps
Scratch will do for the evening. I'm often called that in these

Then he sat down at the table and poured himself a drink from the jug.
The liquor was cold in the jug, but it came steaming into the glass.

"And now," said the stranger, smiling and showing his teeth, "I shall
call upon you, as a law-abiding citizen, to assist me in taking
possession of my property."

Well, with that the argument began--and it went hot and heavy. At
first, Jabez Stone had a flicker of hope, but when he saw Dan'l
Webster being forced back at point after point, he just sat scrunched
in his corner, with his eyes on that japanned box. For there wasn't
any doubt as to the deed or the signature--that was the worst of it.
Dan'l Webster twisted and turned and thumped his fist on the table,
but he couldn't get away from that. He offered to compromise the case;
the stranger wouldn't hear of it. He pointed out the property had
increased in value, and state senators ought to be worth more; the
stranger stuck to the letter of the law. He was a great lawyer, Dan'l
Webster, but we know who's the King of Lawyers, as the Good Book tells
us, and it seemed as if, for the first time, Dan'l Webster had met his

Finally, the stranger yawned a little. "Your spirited efforts on
behalf of your client do you credit, Mr. Webster," he said, "but if
you have no more arguments to adduce, I'm rather pressed for time--"
and Jabez Stone shuddered.

Dan'l Webster's brow looked dark as a thundercloud. "Pressed or not,
you shall not have this man," he thundered. "Mr. Stone is an
American citizen, and no American citizen may be forced into the
service of a foreign prince. We fought England for that in '12 and
we'll fight all hell for it again!"

"Foreign?" said the stranger. "And who calls me a foreigner?"

"Well, I never yet heard of the dev--of your claiming American
citizenship," said Dan'l Webster with surprise.

"And who with better right?" said the stranger, with one of his
terrible smiles. "When the first wrong was done to the first Indian, I
was there. When the first slaver put out for the Congo, I stood on her
deck. Am I not in your books and stories and beliefs, from the first
settlements on? Am I not spoken of, still, in every church in New
England? 'Tis true the North claims me for a Southerner, and the South
for a Northerner, but I am neither. I am merely an honest American
like yourself--and of the best descent--for, to tell the truth, Mr.
Webster, though I don't like to boast of it, my name is older in this
country than yours."

"Aha!" said Dan'l Webster, with the veins standing out in his
forehead. "Then I stand on the Constitution! I demand a trial for my

"The case is hardly one for an ordinary court," said the stranger, his
eyes flickering. "And, indeed, the lateness of the hour--"

"Let it be any court you choose, so it is an American judge and an
American jury!" said Dan'l Webster in his pride. "Let it be the quick
or the dead; I'll abide the issue!"

"You have said it," said the stranger, and pointed his finger at the
door. And with that, and all of a sudden, there was a rushing of wind
outside and a noise of footsteps. They came, clear and distinct,
through the night. And yet, they were not like the footsteps of living

"In God's name, who comes by so late?" cried Jabez Stone, in an ague
of fear.

"The jury Mr. Webster demands," said the stranger, sipping at his
boiling glass. "You must pardon the rough appearance of one or two;
they will have come a long way."


And with that the fire burned blue and the door blew open and twelve
men entered, one by one.

If Jabez Stone had been sick with terror before, he was blind with
terror now. For there was Walter Butler, the loyalist, who spread fire
and horror through the Mohawk Valley in the times of the Revolution;
and there was Simon Girty, the renegade, who saw white men burned at
the stake and whooped with the Indians to see them burn. His eyes were
green, like a catamount's, and the stains on his hunting shirt did not
come from the blood of the deer. King Philip was there, wild and proud
as he had been in life, with the great gash in his head that gave him
his death wound, and cruel Governor Dale, who broke men on the wheel.
There was Morton of Merry Mount, who so vexed the Plymouth Colony,
with his flushed, loose, handsome face and his hate of the godly.
There was Teach, the bloody pirate, with his black beard curling on
his breast. The Reverend John Smeet, with his strangler's hands and
his Geneva gown, walked as daintily as he had to the gallows. The red
print of the rope was still around his neck, but he carried a perfumed
handkerchief in one hand. One and all, they came into the room with
the fires of hell still upon them, and the stranger named their names
and their deeds as they came, till the tale of twelve was told. Yet
the stranger had told the truth--they had all played a part in America.

"Are you satisfied with the jury, Mr. Webster?" said the stranger
mockingly, when they had taken their places.

The sweat stood upon Dan'l Webster's brow, but his voice was clear.

"Quite satisfied," he said. "Though I miss General Arnold from the

"Benedict Arnold is engaged upon other business," said the stranger,
with a glower. "Ah, you asked for a justice, I believe."

He pointed his finger once more, and a tall man, soberly clad in
Puritan garb, with the burning gaze of the fanatic, stalked into the
room and took his judge's place.

"Justice Hathorne is a jurist of experience," said the stranger. "He
presided at certain witch trials once held in Salem. There were others
who repented of the business later, but not he."

"Repent of such notable wonders and undertakings?" said the stern old
justice. "Nay, hang them--hang them all!" And he muttered to himself in
a way that struck ice into the soul of Jabez Stone.

Then the trial began, and, as you might expect, it didn't look anyways
good for the defense. And Jabez Stone didn't make much of a witness in
his own behalf. He took one look at Simon Girty and screeched, and
they had to put him back in his corner in a kind of swoon.

It didn't halt the trial, though; the trial went on, as trials do.
Dan'l Webster had faced some hard juries and hanging judges in his
time, but this was the hardest he'd ever faced, and he knew it. They
sat there with a kind of glitter in their eyes, and the stranger's
smooth voice went on and on. Every time he'd raise an objection, it'd
be "Objection sustained," but whenever Dan'l objected, it'd be
"Objection denied." Well, you couldn't expect fair play from a fellow
like this Mr. Scratch.

It got to Dan'l in the end, and he began to heat, like iron in the
forge. When he got up to speak he was going to flay that stranger with
every trick known to the law, and the judge and jury too. He didn't
care if it was contempt of court or what would happen to him for it.
He didn't care any more what happened to Jabez Stone. He just got
madder and madder, thinking of what he'd say. And yet, curiously
enough, the more he thought about it, the less he was able to arrange
his speech in his mind. Till, finally, it was time for him to get up
on his feet, and he did so, all ready to bust out with lightnings and
denunciations. But before he started he looked over the judge and jury
for a moment, such being his custom. And he noticed the glitter in
their eyes was twice as strong as before, and they all leaned forward.
Like hounds just before they get the fox, they looked, and the blue
mist of evil in the room thickened as he watched them. Then he saw
what he'd been about to do, and he wiped his forehead, as a man might
who's just escaped falling into a pit in the dark.

For it was him they'd come for, not only Jabez Stone. He read it in
the glitter of their eyes and in the way the stranger hid his mouth
with one hand. And if he fought them with their own weapons, he'd fall
into their power; he knew that, though he couldn't have told you how.
It was his own anger and horror that burned in their eyes; and he'd
have to wipe that out or the case was lost. He stood there for a
moment, his black eyes burning like anthracite. And then he began to

He started off in a low voice, though you could hear every word. They
say he could call on the harps of the blessed when he chose. And this
was just as simple and easy as a man could talk. But he didn't start
out by condemning or reviling. He was talking about the things that
make a country a country, and a man a man.

And he began with the simple things that everybody's known and
felt--the freshness of a fine morning when you're young, and the taste of
food when you're hungry, and the new day that's every day when you're
a child. He took them up and he turned them in his hands. They were
good things for any man. But without freedom, they sickened. And when
he talked of those enslaved, and the sorrows of slavery, his voice got
like a big bell. He talked of the early days of America and the men
who had made those days. It wasn't a spread-eagle speech, but he made
you see it. He admitted all the wrong that had ever been done. But he
showed how, out of the wrong and the right, the suffering and the
starvations, something new had come. And everybody had played a part
in it, even the traitors.

Then he turned to Jabez Stone and showed him as he was--an ordinary man
who'd had hard luck and wanted to change it. And, because he'd wanted
to change it, now he was going to be punished for all eternity. And
yet there was good in Jabez Stone, and he showed that good. He was
hard and mean, in some ways, but he was a man. There was sadness in
being a man, but it was a proud thing too. And he showed what the
pride of it was till you couldn't help feeling it. Yes, even in hell,
if a man was a man, you'd know it. And he wasn't pleading for any one
person any more, though his voice rang like an organ. He was telling
the story and the failures and the endless journey of mankind. They
got tricked and trapped and bamboozled, but it was a great journey.
And no demon that was ever foaled could know the inwardness of it--it
took a man to do that.


The fire began to die on the hearth and the wind before morning to
blow. The light was getting gray in the room when Dan'l Webster
finished. And his words came back at the end to New Hampshire ground,
and the one spot of land that each man loves and clings to. He painted
a picture of that, and to each one of that jury he spoke of things
long forgotten. For his voice could search the heart, and that was his
gift and his strength. And to one, his voice was like the forest and
its secrecy, and to another like the sea and the storms of the sea;
and one heard the cry of his lost nation in it, and another saw a
little harmless scene he hadn't remembered for years. But each saw
something. And when Dan'l Webster finished he didn't know whether or
not he'd saved Jabez Stone. But he knew he'd done a miracle. For the
glitter was gone from the eyes of judge and jury, and, for the moment,
they were men again, and knew they were men.

"The defense rests," said Dan'l Webster, and stood there like a
mountain. His ears were still ringing with his speech, and he didn't
hear any thing else till he heard Judge Hathorne say, "The jury will
retire to consider its verdict."

Walter Butler rose in his place and his face had a dark, gay pride on
it. "The jury has considered its verdict," he said, and looked the
stranger full in the eye. "We find for the defendant, Jabez Stone."

With that, the smile left the stranger's face, but Walter Butler did
not flinch.

"Perhaps 'tis not strictly in accordance with the evidence," he said,
"but even the damned may salute the eloquence of Mr. Webster."

With that, the long crow of a rooster split the gray morning sky, and
judge and jury were gone from the room like a puff of smoke and as if
they had never been there. The stranger turned to Dan'l Webster,
smiling wryly. "Major Butler was always a bold man," he said. "I had
not thought him quite so bold. Nevertheless, my congratulations, as
between two gentlemen."

"I'll have that paper first, if you please," said Dan'l Webster, and
he took it and tore it into four pieces. It was queerly warm to the
touch. "And now," he said, "I'll have you!" and his hand came down
like a bear trap on the stranger's arm. For he knew that once you
bested anybody like Mr. Scratch in fair fight, his power on you was
gone. And he could see that Mr. Scratch knew it too.

The stranger twisted and wriggled, but he couldn't get out of that
grip. "Come, come, Mr. Webster," he said, smiling palely. "This sort
of thing is ridic--ouch!--is ridiculous. If you're worried about the
costs of the case, naturally, I'd be glad to pay--"

"And so you shall!" said Dan'l Webster, shaking him till his teeth
rattled. "For you'll sit right down at that table and draw up a
document, promising never to bother Jabez Stone nor his heirs or
assigns nor any other New Hampshire man till doomsday! For any Hades
we want to raise in this state, we can raise ourselves, without
assistance from strangers."

"Ouch!" said the stranger. "Ouch! Well, they never did run very big to
the barrel, but--ouch!--I agree!"

So he sat down and drew up the document. But Dan'l Webster kept his
hand on his coat collar all the time.

"And, now, may I go?" said the stranger, quite humble, when Dan'l 'd
seen the document was in proper and legal form.

"Go?" said Dan'l, giving him another shake. "I'm still trying to
figure out what I'll do with you. For you've settled the costs of the
case, but you haven't settled with me. I think I'll take you back to
Marshfield," he said, kind of reflective. "I've got a ram there named
Goliath that can butt through an iron door. I'd kind of like to turn
you loose in his field and see what he'd do."

Well, with that the stranger began to beg and to plead. And he begged
and he pled so humble that finally Dan'l, who was naturally kind
hearted, agreed to let him go. The stranger seemed terrible grateful
for that and said, just to show they were friends, he'd tell Dan'l's
fortune before leaving. So Dan'l agreed to that, though he didn't
take much stock in fortunetellers ordinarily.

But, naturally, the stranger was a little different. Well, he pried
and he peered at the line in Dan'l's hands. And he told him one thing
and another that was quite remarkable. But they were all in the past.

"Yes, all that's true, and it happened," said Dan'l Webster. "But
what's to come in the future?"

The stranger grinned, kind of happily, and shook his head. "The
future's not as you think it," he said. "It's dark. You have a great
ambition, Mr. Webster."

"I have," said Dan'l firmly, for everybody knew he wanted to be

"It seems almost within your grasp," said the stranger, "but you will
not attain it. Lesser men will be made President and you will be
passed over."

"And, if I am, I'll still be Daniel Webster," said Dan'l. "Say on."

"You have two strong sons," said the stranger, shaking his head. "You
look to found a line. But each will die in war and neither reach

"Live or die, they are still my sons," said Dan'l Webster. "Say on."

"You have made great speeches," said the stranger. "You will make

"Ah," said Dan'l Webster.

"But the last great speech you make will turn many of your own against
you," said the stranger. "They will call you Ichabod; they will call
you by other names. Even in New England some will say you have turned
your coat and sold your country, and their voices will be loud against
you till you die."

"So it is an honest speech, it does not matter what men say," said
Dan'l Webster. Then he looked at the stranger and their glances
locked. "One question," he said. "I have fought for the Union all my
life. Will I see that fight won against those who would tear it

"Not while you live," said the stranger, grimly, "but it will be won.
And after you are dead, there are thousands who will fight for your
cause, because of words that you spoke."

"Why, then, you long-barreled, slab-sided, lantern-jawed, fortune-telling
note shaver!" said Dan'l Webster, with a great roar of laughter,
"be off with you to your own place before I put my mark on
you! For, by the thirteen original colonies, I'd go to the Pit itself
to save the Union!"

And with that he drew back his foot for a kick that would have stunned
a horse. It was only the tip of his shoe that caught the stranger, but
he went flying out of the door with his collecting box under his arm.

"And now," said Dan'l Webster, seeing Jabez Stone beginning to rouse
from his swoon, "let's see what's left in the jug, for it's dry work
talking all night. I hope there's pie for breakfast, Neighbour Stone."

But they say that whenever the devil comes near Marshfield, even now,
he gives it a wide berth. And he hasn't been seen in the state of New
Hampshire from that day to this. I'm not talking about Massachusetts
or Vermont.


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