'Tis said that as a man declines towards old age his mind dwells ever more and more on the events of his childhood. Whether that be true of all men or not, certain it is that my memory of things that happened fifty years ago is very clear and bright, and the little incidents of my boyhood are more to me, because they touch me more nearly, than such great matters as the late rebellion against His Majesty King George, whom God preserve.
Especially does my thought run back to a day, fifty-six years ago this very summer, when by mere chance, as it would appear to men's eyes, my fortunes became linked with those of Joe Punchard, who is now at this moment, I warrant, smoking his pipe in the lodge at my park gates. I was eleven years old, a thin slip of a boy, small for my age, and giving no promise, to be sure, of my present stature and girth. The neighbors shook their heads sometimes as they looked at me, and wondered why Mr. John Ellery, if he must adopt a boy--a strange thing, they thought, for a bachelor to do--did not choose one of a sturdier make than poor little Humphrey Bold. They even joked about my name, averring that names assuredly must go by contraries, for I was Bold by name, and timid by nature. The joke seemed to me, even then, a very poor one, for a boy must have the name he is born with, and I have known very delicate and white-handed folk of the name of Smith.
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.
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