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. Judson’s enraged me beyond all control, and in a moment all the smouldering anger occasioned by his past harshness shot up as it were in a sudden blaze. I have often heard it said, and I believe with truth, that there is something almost appalling in the roused anger of one of those usually quiet and submissive natures. I have often since thought that passion rendered me partially insane for the time being; trembling with anger, I confronted my employer fearlessly, as I said “How dare you burn my book? you bad, wicked man, you are just as mean as you can be.”