Heavin' the Project
DURING the first few years of my practice in the village of Killick Cove, I was not infrequently called in attendance upon Robert Henderson, a brother-in-law and former shipmate of my especial friend, old Skipper Job Gaskett. Though a considerably younger man than Skipper Job, Henderson was wholly incapacitated for any but the lightest kind of work, by reason of an accident which befell him on shipboard in early manhood. His dark face was still strikingly handsome, though, in view of his pitiable physical condition, it was somewhat difficult to credit the oft-repeated assertion that previous to that frightful mishap at sea Robert Henderson was generally accounted the champion athlete of Killick Cove.
As to any particulars concerning the accident, it seemed that Henderson himself, as well as his usually communicative brother-in-law, was strangely reticent. Indeed, it occurred to me more than once that this indisposition to talk of the matter even extended to the townspeople in general. At all events, for three years after my arrival at the Cove, I had never succeeded in gleaning anything further than that, through a fall from the mast-head of a fishing schooner only a short time before his marriage, Henderson was shockingly deformed, and had since been almost wholly dependent upon his wife for support.
Mrs. Henderson was a large and comely, though somewhat careworn-looking woman, with the intensely black eyes common to all the Gasketts, and much of the kindly expression of face so characteristic of her brother Job. As time wore on, my admiration steadily increased for the industry and self-sacrificing devotion constantly manifested in the care of her crippled husband. In fact, the wife’s daily line of conduct seemed to me nothing less than heroic, though perhaps many of the neighbors had grown to regard it rather too much as a matter of course.
When able, Robert Henderson appeared to occupy himself chiefly with braiding rag mats for sale, though being an acknowledged expert in the mysteries of “twine,” local fishermen sometimes brought their damaged nets to him for repairs. Still, the injury to his spine was such that for long periods he remained helplessly propped in an armchair, neither able to sit erect nor to lie upon his back with any comfort.
But the indomitable wife labored on unceasingly, rising at unheard-of hours and working often far into the night, doing washing, ironing, and sewing at her home, or housework for the villagers when her husband’s condition would admit of her leaving him. I had many times noticed old Skipper Job hard at work upon the great pile of spruce cordwood which he regularly hauled to his sister’s dooryard during the winter, and learned incidentally that this brotherly kindness was absolutely the only help, outside of desired work, which the plucky woman could be induced to accept from any source.
It was little enough that I could ever do for her husband’s relief, but my curiosity about him kept increasing. At length, alone with me in my office on a rainy autumn afternoon, Job Gaskett decided to let me into the secret of his brother-in-law’s story.
“Well, you, doctor,” he began, “I been quite a few times on the p’int of telling you in regards to all this ’ere, for it doos make out to be consid’ble of a little hist’ry, and no mistake. The thing of it is, though, sister Susy Mary May down here, she never wanted it should be made no kind of gossup-talk like, ’round amongst folks, though come to the matter of that, every one of the old seedfolks here to this Cove are knowin’ to the whole business, and have been, pretty much ever since the thing happened. But you see Susy Mary there, she’s always felt so master sore in regards to it, — she’s kind of queer made like, you know, and, well, — you could n’t never once beat it out of her head that she was all the one to blame in the fust place for Bob Henderson’s losin’ his hand-holt aboard of old Skip’ Tristam Marston that time, and staving the life outen him on deck, same’s he done.”
“She to blame for his fall! ” I exclaimed in surprise. “Why, she was n’t on board the vessel at the time, was she ?”
“No, no, not a mite of it! ” said Job. “She was right here to home, and the vessel — that’s the pink’ Heart’s Desire, that old Deacon Parkinson owned in them days — she was layin’ hove to clean off here on Le Have, in the heaviest breeze o’ wind ever I seen since the time I fust commenced to go.”
“Oh well then,” I said, “your sister had urged him to go on that particular trip — ”
“No she never once! Not a mite! Not a single mite! ” the Skipper broke in vehemently. “She done every namable thing in God’s world to hender him and me too, from ever once steppin’ foot aboard the vessel, anyways. She hung right to it from the fust commencement that the old Desire was fetched, and always had been, and always would be, and seems’s though she had the rights of it, too, for it turned out there never was no such a Jonah ever went out of this Cove as what she was. Plague on the old jade, she never earnt no man a dollar, not ary once in the world, and seems’s though there would n’t be no end to the folks that kep’ gittin’ drownded and killt and all stove up aboard of her jes’ long’s she stayed atop o’ water. Yes sir, Susy Mary May had got wind of what she was, from way back; I’m tol’ble satisfied of that. Susy wa’n’t anyways scairt to up and talk it right out in meetin’ neither, as any God’s quantity ashore here can tell ye to-day. I think’s likely there was others besides her that misdoubted if the vessel wa’n’t going to be a reg’lar-built Jonah, but seems’s though Susy was about all the one that dasst up and spit it right out good and plain, them days.”
“Yet you say she felt responsible for Henderson’s accident,” I said. “This beats me all hollow. I won’t try to guess again,”
“No, doctor,” said Job, “you’d full better take and give it up right off now, for ’t ain’t anyways likely ever you’d hit it, not if you kep’ guessin’ stiddy for a month of Sundays. I cal’late now to turn to and tell you what about the whole thing, for Susy she allowed only jest this morning she did n’t know as she cared any great if you was to hear, bein’ as you’ve always tended out on Bobby so reg’lar, and then again, prob’ly would git holt of some of it sooner or later, anyways. All is, says she, while you ’re at it, take and tell him the whole of it without nothin’ skipped nor anyways changed ’round. That’s Susy all over, you know, — she always did talk it jes’ so up and down, like. Seems’s though she cal’lates the plain truth’ll make out to stand its own weight any day in the week.
“So to take and go clean away back to the fust commencement like,” the Skipper went on, with his piercing black eyes intently fixed upon mine, “Bob Henderson in them days was about the best lookin’ and the likeliest young buck ever was raised to this Cove. He stood jest six foot in his stockin’-feet, and was withey as ary wild-cat. Lord sakes, we had folks here them days that run away of the idee they was some wras’lers, till maybe they’d ketch holt of Bob Henderson, and git hove so quick they’d cal’late the devil hisself kicked ’em on end! But come to take it aboard vessel was where he’d most gin’ally cut up the greatest monkeyshines and ructions, after all. I rec’lect one little trick of hisn in pertik’ler was to take and lay a bate along of somebody aboard, how many seconts time he’d be a-going from the end of the main-boom aloft, and chock down to the bowspreetend again, that is, you know, take it when we’d be layin’ to anchor some place or other. Set-fire! He’d swarm up the topping-lift hand-over-hand like a streak; skip right acrosst the spring-stay to the foremast on the dead run, and slide down the jib-stay afore ever you’d say Jack Robinson! That’s jest how spry he was. And come to take him all togged out in his Sunday best, with his hair oiled up good and curly like, with his shirtcollar hove wide open, and a blame’ great big black silk tie streamin’ loose much as two foot long, why, you would n’t make out to scare up a smarter appearin’ young feller nowheres.
“Come to that, he was smart, too — smart’s a whip. He’d been high-line aboard vessel nigh every trip, till we come to ship aboard that plague-gone old Jonah of Deacon Parkinson’s there, and he could got a vessel of his own took up for him here to this Cove the time he was twenty year old, easy as rolling offn a log, if only he’d a mind to, and had said the word. But the way he looked at it, there was a plenty time for that ahead, and he’d lievser not git tied down sofashion yit-a-while, nor turn to and git married yit, ary one. Kind of happy-golucky, like, you see Bobby always was in them days, and I think’s prob’le that was one thing made him so ter’ble takin’ amongst the gals ashore here.
“He’d lost his mother afore there was much of any bigness to him, you un’stand, and seems’s though him and the old sir never hitched hosses to home there extry good, so’s Bobby he was pretty much on his own hook, you may say, and loved to heave his money right and left in all manner of fool-works, till the heft of the gals ashore here all cal’lated there wa’n’t nobody ’round here could hold a candle ’side of Bob Henderson.
“By spells he’d be a little grain sweet on one, and then ’t would be somebody else for a spell, — kind of touch and go like, ’round amongst ’em, without never once meaning no hurt at all to ary one on ’em, you know, but same time, fust thing ever he knowed, there was two or three of them gals commenced to git all broke up over Bob Henderson, and about the wusst off amongst the lot was my oldest sister, Susy Mary May, down here.
“Susy she had n’t never lacked for beaus, — not a mite of it. Lord sakes, she could had her pick of dozens to keep comp’ny along of here to this Cove them days, but seems’s though Bob Henderson was all the one ever she’d look at twice, and him she’d always been kind of gone on, since the two growed to have any bigness to ’em at all.
“Bob and me was always thick as mud together, you know, and quick ’s ever I seen jest how the thing was workin’ with Susy Mary May, why I up and says to him man-fashion, like this: ‘Bob,’ ’s I, ' this ’ere won’t never do in God’s world. You got to call a halt on this pretty sudden, and no gittin’ ’round it, neither. Here’s a passel o’ them gals,’ ’s I, ‘ gittin’ to be a good deal same’s so many toads un’neath a harrow, all on account of your set-fired backin’ and fillin’; now,’ ’s I, ‘ fur’s ever Susy Mary May is concerned, I want you should jest heave to and show your colors good and plain, or else up hellum right off, and bear away hulldown to loo’ard like.’
“Well sir, Bobby he seen quick enough that I wa’n’t noways unraytionable. He was a good clever soul as ever was, and never once cal’lated to do ary one of them gals a mite of hurt, and in pertik’ler not Susy Mary May, for he let on to me this time that soon’s ever it come down to the fine thing, he sot a sight more by her than all the rest-part of ’em put together. Same time, seems’s though he did n’t feel jest like poppin’ no question to nobody jest yit-a-while, and so the amount of the story was, that kind of gradual like, at fust, he commenced to sheer off, and finally quit his coming up to our place there, pretty much altogether.
“Susy Mary May she wa’n’t never the kind to take on no great, you know; that is, not so’s folks would be like to see, anyways; but Lord! up home there we soon see the difference, now I tell ye what. The gal wa’n’t nach’ally noways bad-lookin’ them days, if I do say it, but pretty quick she commenced to show it in her face how bad she felt, same’s if she’d had a fit of sickness, till bimeby her own folks would n’t but jest reckernize her. I always rec’lect jest what father says, the time he come home from the Cape Shore right in the thick of it, and the ter’ble look of the gal struck him all aback like. ‘Set-fire! Susy Mary, you! ’ ’s he, ‘what is it ails ye? Why!
’s he, ‘your face looks to be all tide-rips and calm-slicks, the whole bigness of it! ’ That’s about how she did look, too, for it took holt of her the wusst way, and the thing of it was, she did n’t grow no better of it, by a long chalk.
“Finally, it come around that Bobby took a notion to ship aboard of old Skip’ Tris’ Marston in the Heart’s Desire, on one of them long-drawed-out salt-trips to the banks, when they cal’lated to stop till they wet all their salt, if it took a year’s time. There was quite a few of the gals ’round here that never liked the sound of that, not for a cent, but come to take Susy Mary May, and she was nerved up a sight wuss ’n ever, because she’d claimed all along that vessel was tetched from the day of her launchin’, and wa’n’t fit for no living man to go into, noways. Susy she was always extry cute about ketchin’ onto all them kind of things, you un’stand, and I guess likely it ruther runs in the blood, maybe, for I know you could n’t never learn mother nothin’ new in regards to ’em, neither.
“But Bob he fit ter’ble shy of our place right along, same’s he says to me he cal’lated to for a spell, anyways, and never once give Susy no chance to say boo to him in regards to the vessel, nor nothin’ else. She kep’ right at me, though, early and late, but there! I could n’t see as it was any great hunt of mine to take and give the vessel a bad name so quick. Old Deacon there, he’d went to work and put every cent he could rake and scrape into her, and I did n’t want to have no hand in doing the old sir no manner of hurt. Then again, I wa’n’t any too anxious for Bobby to stop to home anyways jest then; and so the long and short of it was, he stowed his dunnage aboard, and went into her on the salt-trip, though when it come to the p’int of breaking the anchor out, and filling the vessel away, be jiggered if it did n’t look for a spell some as if Susy Mary May and her old black cat was going to be too much for ’em.”
“How do you mean, Skipper?” I asked. “You’re getting too deep for me again.”
“Oh well there! Black cats is cur’ous creatur’s, you know,” replied Job, with a slight laugh. “Take it in them days, folks ashore here would turn to and clap a black cat un’neath of a washtub over night, so’s to hender ary vessel from sailing next day, whatever the reason might be. ’T was always and forever a great notion with the gals here to this Cove, to keep their beaus to home if they wanted, though come right to the truth of the matter, there was precious few that knowed jest the ins and outs of the thing so’s to work it in proper good shape, but still I guess it was seldom ever a vessel set out to get her anchor in them days, without somebody ashore had n’t went to work and shoved a black cat un’neath a tub the night before. Sometimes it would act complete, and then again it would n’t appear to be no great account anyways, but they always kep’ tryin’ of it on right along stiddy, jest the same.
“Take this pertik’ler time I’m speaking about, though, and come to heave short aboard the vessel early in the mornin’ they cal’lated to make a start, why be jiggered if the anchor had n’t ketched afoul of something master heavy on bottom, and all the way in God’s world ever they got clear of it was to heave in every blame’ inch they was good for on the win’lass, and then jest set down and wait for the flood-tide to break it out in the afternoon, someways. Come to find out, blowed if they did n’t finally fetch up a great big water-soaken chunk of the old brig President Adams, that was scuttled right here in 1812, for fear the British was going to gobble her up one time. The crown of the anchor was bent up clean agin the shank with the set-fired strain on it, so’s they was risin’ three days’ time gittin’ ready for another start.”
“You’re pretty sure the delay was owing to the black cat and the tub?” I ventured to inquire.
“Well, black cats has always been called consid’ble cur’ous creatur’s, you know,” the Skipper answered, perhaps a little evasively. “I’ve seen some awful queer works all along of them style o’ cats, and I guess likely it pays in the long run not to take too much chances with ’em. Them that has, has wisht they never, to my own knowin’, afore this. But it wanted something besides a black cat to hold Bob Henderson to home that time, and I says to Susy Mary there was no good her tryin’ of it over again. She might make out to hender him some consid’ble, and put folks to no end of trouble about making a start, for she was cute in regards to all them kind of things, and there’s no gittin’ ’round it; but Bob cal’lated to go that time any old how, and that’s all there was to it. ’What is, is, and what was, was,' as I heard a preacher say one time, and it’s all the way there is to look at it, too.
“But you take Susy Mary May that time, and seems ’s though she could n’t see it in no such a light. After the vessel once left, she appeared to calm down some consid’ble, but our folks took good notice she commenced slippin’ up to Aunt Polly Belknap’s place on the Neck ro’d there, every chance she could git, and they soon see very plain there was something in the wind betwixt them two.
“This ’ere Aunt Polly that you’ve heard tell of already, she was one of them cur’ous old ancient style womenfolks we always used to have ’round here them days, — older ’n the North-Star, the whole batch on ’em was, I cal’late. There was old Sairy Binney, — she was jest afore my time, Sairy was, but one o’ them reg’lar-built old fly-by-nights, and chock to her eyes in some dev’lish works or other, the heft of the time. Awful spiteful and mean actin’ like, accordin’ to all tell. Lord sakes! I ’ve heard say she was mean enough to up and steal dough offn a blind chicken, if she once took a notion that way. Then there was old Hetty Moye, that lived up Moye’s Lane only a short piece; she was a good clever old soul as a rule, without she happened to git down on ye too bad for something or other, and them times, you best stand from under. Then right next to her come old Aunt Polly, and her I rec’lect all about, plain’s can be. Some on ’em here now’days pretends to say she was the very last one of them old ancient women-folks same’s we used to have ; but Godfrey mighty! I dunno of anything that riles me up same’s it doos to hear ’em take and talk such rubbidge.
“I know it for a fact, doctor, there’s a woman alive right here to this Cove at this very day o’ the world that can turn to and heave a project full better ’n what ever Aunt Polly Belknap could! Still, that ain’t neither here nor there, jest now. Aunt Polly, she was always mostly in cohoots with the young fry here to home, and in pertik’ler with us young chaps that went fishin’ them days. You could frog it out here to her place on the old Neck ro’d with your little batty of tea, or tobacco, or snuff, and buy a good run of luck for a fishin’ trip to the Cape Shore in the spring o’ the year, or to the Bay, or clean to Labrador, if only you worked it so’s to git the right side of her in proper good shape. Then she’d turn to and mix ye up a love-potion any time you wanted; but after all, givin’ full fares and mod’rate weather on them fishin’ trips was always counted Aunt Polly’s best holt. That’s how she’d got her name up the most, anyways, and you can bate there was few here to this Cove them days that missed tryin’ to fix things all tanto along of old Aunt Polly, afore ever they’d dasst p’int a vessel’s nose out past the Neck in the spring o’ the year.
“But soon’s ever it come to heavin’ a project, I dunno as she was so much to home. I kind of misdoubt if she was, though off and on she must done quite a little of it, too; but seems’s though she went to work and made a ter’ble old mess of it the time she un’took to heave one for Susy Mary May. Susy Mary, she was always a little grain chummy like along of Aunt Polly, same’s mother was too, and so you see finally, after the Heart’s Desire had been gone a fortni’t’s time or more, seems’s though the old lady was coaxed into layin’ in with the gal to heave a project after her.”
“Hold on just a minute. Skipper!” I interrupted. “You’re talking Greek to me now. I can’t follow your story at all till you explain a little what this ’project’ business was.”
“Well, well,” said Job, “that’s jest what I’m comin’ at, fast as ever I can git ’round to it. Still, them projects was master cur’ous workin’ things, and I ain’t so sure as I can give ye no great shakes of an idee in regards to ’em; but we’ll say that you was clean gone on some gal or other, you know; or maybe that the gal was kind of mopin’ ’round after you, — it don’t make no great odds which, as I know of. One or the other of ye finally takes and goes down to Aunt Polly’s little place there, and says to her like this: ‘ I want you should turn to and rig it for me so’s this gal, or this ’ere feller, whichever it is, will commence to git real soft on me, double-quick time, savvy ? The cal’lation was to have them projects work a good deal same’s a lovepotion done, only they ’most always take holt a sight more, and cost consid’ble high, and besides, there was certain times when you could n’t never coax the old lady to try one on anyways, not for no price.
“I rec’lect for one thing, it had always got to be on a growin’ moon, or else she would n’t once look at ye; but then there was quite a few other things too, that had to be jes’ so at the time, or else it was no go. She was square as a brick about it, old Aunt Polly always was; if things wa’n’t workin’ just right for no project, she would n’t hesitate a secont to up and tell anybody so, right out spango. But if everything seemed to be workin’ same’s she wanted it should, why then you’d got to take and turn your stockings wrong side out seven nights a-runnin’, and you’d got to cut seven notches into a stick offn a witch-hazel, and turn yourself around seven times to the right for every notch you cut, a-wishin’ your wish all the time, you un’stand, hard as ever you could. Same time Aunt Polly never cal’lated to set stock still with her hands folded, by consid’ble. She was going through her rinktums too, of course, but jest what they was, she always took plaguey good care never to let anybody find out. She was consid’ble sly, you know, same’s all the rest-part of them old fly-by-nights always was, and never cal’lated to give away none of the tricks of her trade, and wa’n’t noways to blame for that, neither, as I can see.
“Where I always claimed Aunt Polly was to blame, and done wrong that time, was her never once letting on to Susy Mary May jest how them projects was liable to work on some folks, by spells, — that is, I mean the set-fired start they was apt to give anybody sometimes, soon’s ever they fust commenced to take a holt in good shape.”
Here Skipper Gaskett extended his brown left hand towards me, and called attention to a scar which extended nearly across the palm.
“The time I was twenty year old,” he said, “a woman that don’t live so very fur away from this house to-day, turned to and hove a project at me when I was aboard of old Skip’ Tommy Goodsoe. ’T was jest my luck to be to work on deck throatin’ codfish this very time, and quick’s ever that dod-blowed project took holt of me, I fetched a jump like, and made out to shove that big doubleaidged throater plumb into my hand here, so’s I was crippled-up with it for a month’s time. That’s how I’m knowin’ to it myself jest the way them things was liable to work. They would n’t always act jes’ so, of course, for I’ve heard tell of folks that never once knowed jest when the project was hove; but Aunt Polly must knowed what about ’em fast enough, and seems’s though she’d ought to told a young thing same’s Susy Mary May was, to be a little grain careful like.
“But there! Seems’s though she never once yipped. She and Susy Mary fixed it all up betwixt ’em there, and hove it slam-bang after the vessel, — hardest fend off. Now jes’ see how like the very mischeef the plaguey thing worked that time. That very same night it blowed a livin’ gale o’ wind clean off-shore there on the tail of Le Have, jest where the Heart’s Desire was layin’ hove to under close-reefed fores’l, and jumpin’ into it endways for God’s sakes. The plaguegone contrairy old jade never would lay nowheres nigh the wind when she was hove to, you see, — she’d always want to lay broad-off, and waller in the seas same’s a blame’ hog-trough would; but this time in pertik’ler ’t was rough as a grater out there, and seems’s though she was having one of her wusst spells. Bimeby the gaff-tops’l commenced to slat adrift up on the mainmast-head (for ’t was blowin’ like a man, and breezenin’ on every minute jest fair scand’lous), till Bob Henderson he un’took to shin aloft and stop the thing down into shape again.
“Nobody else aboard wouldn’t fetch of it, you see, bein’ as it wa’n’t no fool of a job to git aloft and stick there jest then, leave alone stowing no tops’ls, — still I know well Bobby would been all tanto, and would done up the work complete, but where the trouble come in was, jest at this very same minute be jiggered if them two women-folks in home here did n’t turn to and let her go with that set-fired project! We reckoned it all up afterwards, and’t was jest eggsactly that same time o’ night, to a dot. Wa’n’t that some horrid, you?”
“Then you believe that Aunt Polly knew how hard it was storming out at sea at the time ? ” I asked.
“Knowed it? ’Course she knowed all about it!” Job answered decisively. “You leave alone of her, soon’s ever it come to keepin’ tabs on the weather! The thing of it was, she never once stopped to think! She was extry good friends to Bobby them days, and would n’t done him no manner of hurt for the world, — all is, she never once stopped to give it no secont thought that time, or else she never half knowed her business fur’s ever them projects was concerned. Anyways, pore Bobby he lost his handholt by reason of it, and come down on deck hell-bent, jest be-aft the scuttlebutt.— Lord sakes! They said he like to have went chock through the deck altogether! ’T was an unrighteous old clip he struck it, and his hip-bone, they cal’lated it must been, jabbed a hole in them deck-plank that they used to take and show to folks jes’ long’s the vessel was owned here to this Cove.
“Well, they took and picked the pore devil up, and lugged him below for dead, but seems’s though he come to next morning a little dite, and so they give it to her straight for home, wearin’ every sol’tary rag of sail the schooner would stivver under, and still stay atop o’ water.
“Come to find out, Bob Henderson was all stove up so bad that every one of them three doctors allowed they never once see no such hard-lookin’ sight in all their born days! There wa’n’t ary one on ’em but said he was spoke for inside a few hours’ time at the furtherest, but they turned to and lugged him off down home to his father’s place there, cal’latin’ to see him git through ’most any minute on the ways down along. All the “womenfolks there was to home there was Bobby’s old Aunt Marshy, that kep’ house for the old sir them days, and the heft of the time she was all crippled-up with the rheumatiz so’s she couldn’t but jest wag.
“But Lord A’mighty! Quick’s ever Susy Mary May once got wind of what was up, she lep’ out of the house same’s a wild creatur’, and streaked it straight down acrosst them fields right plumb into the room where the pore feller was layin’ to; and by fire, doctor! she never once come out through the front gate again for goin’ on two months’ time! No sir, you could n’t do nothin’ with her noways; she allowed she never cared no more for the speech o’ people than for jes’ so much wind in amongst the fartrees up back of the house. ’T was much as ever she’d leave another soul come anigh Bobby to do a livin’ thing for him in any way, shape, nor manner, and so she jest took and stopped right there, and nussed him, and tended out on him, and done for him morning, noon, and night-times, till she like to have killt herself dead at the job.
“You see from the very fust, she’d run away of the idee that the dod-blowed project was at the bottom of it all, and seems’s though the notion growed on her stiddy like, till she would n’t give ear to nothin’ else. ‘ ’T was me that done it! ’T was me that done it!' —that’s the most you’d git out of her them days, and come to that, she ain’t never felt a mite different since, not for a minute’s time.
“Them doctors they see right off there was no good to butt agin her in the matter, not a mite. They see that Bobby wanted she should do for him right along, in room of nobody else, and prob’ly figgered they might jes’ soon humor the pore creatur’ till he come to git through, being as nary one on ’em ever once dremp’ but what he was as good as un’neath four foot of cold sod already. Well sir, the amount of the story was, though, that bimeby Bob Henderson commenced to pick up a little dite, — ter’ble gradual like, at fust, you know, but still makin’ out to stem the tide with jest a grain or so to spare, till finally all them three old doctors had to give in he was on the mendin’ hand, and no gitting ’round it, but every soul here to this Cove that was anyways knowin’ to the matter allowed that Susy Mary May was all the one that saved Bobby Henderson’s life that time. Anyways soon’s ever he got so’s to be up and ’round the least little mite, she jest claimed him for hern, huffs, horns, and hide, and nothin’ would n’t do but that the pair of ’em should turn to and git married right away off. I rec’lect the Sunday that Susy Mary appeared bride down to the Corner meetin’-house here happened to fall on the very day she was twenty year old, too.
“Bobby he always hung to it like a good one that he had n’t no business to ever once think of such a thing as gittin’ married, being as he was all crippled-up so awful bad; but Lord love ye! Susy Mary was sot as the hills in regards to that ’ere. She give it out there to home right up and down, that unlessn she could marry Bob Henderson right away, so’s to do for him all the rest-part of his life, same’s she has, she’d take and heave herself chock offn the w’arft the fust thing ever she done, and she’d kep’ her word too, sure’s ever the sun riz.
“Finally our folks come to see plain enough they’d full better jest hands-off, and give the gal all the slack line she wanted in the whole business. Doin’ for Bobby, and tendin’ out on him same’s if he was a baby like, was all the comfort the creatur’ could take them days, and that’s all ever she has got out of it since, doctor. Of course Bob he’s been so’s to earn a dollar by spells, you know, and always was ter’ble anxious to do what little he could, but same time it always looked a good deal to me as though Susy Mary May never wanted he should lift a hand. Seems’s though the more she done herself all soul alone, the better off she felt, and as fur as takin’ help from outside was concerned, why she never would hearken to it for a secont’s time.
“ T wa’n’t only yesterday she up and says to me she ’most knowed God A’mighty would hold it ag’in her for what come of heavin’ the project after Bobby Henderson that time; but I told her I could n’t noways see as there was the least mite of call to look at it like that. I done my very dingdest to soothe her down like, for the pore creatur’ was commencing to take on consid’ble bad, — that is, for her, you know.
“Finally, I jest up and says to her like this: ‘Susy Mary May,’ ’s I, ‘you wa’n’t nothin’ only a little young gal the time you took and hove that plague-gone project, and for the life of me I can’t see as you was so ter’ble weeked for never once realizin’ the resk there was in them kind of things, bein’ as nobody never took the trouble to post ye up in regards to ’em. But there!’ ’s I, ‘even s’posin’ you done wrong that time, why Godfrey mighty! jest only look at what you done since, — that’s what always makes out to git me, — only once take and look at what you done since! Why, quick’s ever you seen jest how bad Bobby was disenabled that time, you turned to right away and give him your best tow-line astern, and fair or foul, blow high and blow low, you’ve stood by him ever since in proper good shape, — there’s no two ways about that part of it. The pair of ye,’ ’s I, ‘have made a master long, hard drag of it in comp’ny for goin’ on fifty years’ time now, and seems’s though you won’t never let go of him till you see him all safe to anchor where nary wind that blows can’t do him no hurt. Now,’ ’s I, ‘come to take it atop of all that, it don’t look to me anyways likely that the Old Scholar up there ever once cal’lates to take and blame that project onto you any great, not at this day o’ the world. That ’ere,’ ’s I, ’right on the face of it, don’t look to me noways raytionable like.’ — What do you cal’late yourself, doctor; be I so very fur out the way?”