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Humphrey Bold

Posted by ploymeesin in Books & Reference | March 30, 2013 | 0 Comments

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Mr. Ellery, a bachelor, as I have said, adopted me when my own father and mother died, which happened when I was still an infant and, mercifully, too young to understand my loss. My father, as I called him, was a substantial yeoman whose farm and holding lay some three miles on the English side of Shrewsbury. He was well on in years when he adopted me, and dwells in my memory as a strong, silent man who, when his day’s work was done, would sit in the inglenook with a book upon his knees. This taste for reading marked him out from the neighboring farmers, with whom, indeed, he had little in common in any way, so that he was rather respected than liked by them. But he was wonderfully kind to me, and if my love for him was qualified with awe, it was from reverence, and not from fear.

My frail appearance, on which the neighbors jested, caused my father to look on me sometimes with an anxious eye, and he would question the housekeeper and the maids about my appetite, and whether I slept well o’ nights. On these matters he need not have had any concern, since I ate four hearty meals a day, with perhaps an apple or a hunk of bread in between; while as for sleeping, Mistress Pennyquick was wont to declare, five out of the seven mornings in the week, when she woke me, that she knew I would sleep my brains away. This prediction scarcely troubled me, and since the motherly creature never disturbed me until I had slept a good nine hours by the clock, I do not think she was really distressed on this score.

Until I reached my eleventh birthday I did not go to school, being taught to read and write and cipher by my father himself. But one day he set me before him on his horse and rode into Shrewsbury, where, after a solemn interview with Mr. Lloyd, the master, I was put into the accidence class at King Edward’s famous school. As we rode back, I remember that my father, who was generally so silent, talked to me more than ever before, about school, and work, and the great men who had been in past time pupils in the same school, notably Sir Phillip Sidney. And from that day I used to trudge every morning, barring holidays, into the town, and say my hic, haec, hoc as well, I verily believe, as the rest of my schoolfellows.

But with the opening of my school days I began to know what misery was. My lessons gave me little trouble, and the masters were kind enough; but among the boys there were two who, before long, kept me in a constant state of terror. They were older than I by some four or five years, and in school I never saw them; but outside they used to waylay me, tormenting me in many ingenious ways. Looking back now I see that much of my terror was needless. They seldom ill-treated me in act; but knowing, I suppose, that the imagination is often very apprehensive in weakly bodies like mine, they took a delight in threatening me, conjuring up all manner of imaginary horrors, and so working on me that my sleep was disturbed by hideous nightmares. I told nobody of what I suffered, and when Mistress Pennyquick noticed that I was pale and heavy-eyed sometimes in the morning, she did but suppose it was due to a closer application to books than I had known formerly, and forthwith increased my daily allowance of milk.

My father, if he had known of these doings, would doubtless have taken strong measures to put a stop to them, for the older, though not the worse, of the two bullies was a nephew of his own.

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