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Walter Harland Or, Memories of the Past

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Left entirely alone on a quiet afternoon, the unbroken stillness which surrounded me, as well as the soft haze which floats upon the atmosphere, in that most delightful of all seasons, the glorious "Indian Summer" of Eastern Canada, caused my thoughts to wander far away into the dreamy regions of the past, and many scenes long past, and almost forgotten, passed in review before my mind's eye on that quiet afternoon. While thus musing the idea occurred to me that there are few individuals, however humble or obscure, whose life-history (if noted down) would prove wholly without interest to others, in the form of a book; and this thought caused me to form the idea of noting down some passages from my own life—as they were on that day recalled to my mind. Like the boy who dreamed a most remarkable dream and, when asked to relate it, "didn't know where to begin," so was I puzzled as to how I should make a beginning for my story. But the incidents of one particular day when I was about thirteen years old were so vividly brought back to my mind, that I have decided upon that day as a starting-point; and now to my story.

"Where alive has that lazy, good-for-nothing boy taken, himself off to now, I wonder, and the weeds I left him to pull in the garden not half done yet; but it's just like him, as soon's my back's turned to skulk off in this way. I'll put a stop to this work one of these days, see if I don't. Its likely he's hiding in some out-of-the-way corner with a book in his hand as usual." These and many other angry words came harshly to my ears, on that June afternoon now so long ago. I was seated in the small room over the kitchen which was appropriated to my use in the dwelling of Farmer Judson, where I was employed as "chore boy," or, in other words, the boy of all work.

"Walter, Walter Harland, come down here this minute, I say."

I started up, trembling with fear, for the angry tones of the farmer made me aware that he had come home in one of his worst tempers, and his best were usually bad enough; and, more than this, I knew myself to be slightly in the fault. Before leaving home that morning Mr. Judson had ordered me to clear the weeds from a certain number of beds in the garden before his return. I worked steadily during the forenoon, and for a portion of the afternoon, when, feeling tired and heated, I stole up to my room, thinking to rest for a short time and then again resume my labors. I was very fond of study, and, as my Algebra lay before me upon the table, I could not resist the temptation to open it, and I soon became so deeply absorbed in the solution of a difficult problem that I heeded not the lapse of time till the harsh voice of my employer fell upon my ear. I had learned by past experience to fear the angry moods of Mr. Judson. In my hurry and confusion I forgot to lay aside my book, and went downstairs with it in my hand. I stood silent before the angry man, and listened to the storm of abuse which he continued to pour upon me, until sheer exhaustion compelled him to stop.

"And now," said he (by way of conclusion) "be off to your work, and don't be seen in the house again till the last weed is pulled from them air beds." This was even better than I had dared to hope, for, on more than one former occasion, I had borne blows from Mr. Judson when his anger was excited. As I turned to leave the room the quick eye of the farmer fell upon the book which before had escaped his notice. Stepping hastily toward me he said:

"I see how it is, your head is so filled with the crankums you get out o' them books, that you are good for nothing else, but I'll stop this work once for all;" and, ere I was aware of his intention, he snatched the book from my hand, and threw it upon the wood-fire which burned in the kitchen fire-place. I sprang forward to rescue my book from the flames, but, before I could reach it, it was burned to ashes. As I have before stated I was then about thirteen years old, tall and strong for my age. I was usually quiet and respectful, but for all this I possessed a high spirit. I could easily be controlled by kindness and mild persuasion, but never by harsh and unkind treatment, and this act of Mr....