“I wouldn’t wonder if ol’ Kate was right about our boy,” said Aunt Deel one day when she saw me with my book in the field.
I began to know then that ol’ Kate had somehow been at work in my soul—subconsciously as I would now put it. I was trying to put truth into the prophecy. As I look at the whole matter these days I can see that Mr. Grimshaw himself was a help no less important to me, for it was a sharp spur with which he continued to prod us.
MY SECOND PERIL
We always thank God for men like Purvis: we never thank them. They are without honor in their own time, but how they brighten the pages of memory! How they stimulated the cheerfulness of the old countryside and broke up its natural reticence!
Mr. Franklin Purvis was our hired man—an undersized bachelor. He had a Roman nose, a face so slim that it would command interest and attention in any company, and a serious look enhanced by a bristling mustache and a retreating chin. At first and on account of his size I had no very high opinion of Mr. Purvis. That first evening after his arrival I sat with him on the porch surveying him inside and out.
“You don’t look very stout,” I said.
“I ain’t as big as some, but I’m all gristle from my head to my heels, inside an’ out,” he answered.
I surveyed him again as he sat looking at the ledges. He was not more than a head taller than I, but if he were “all gristle” he might be entitled to respect and I was glad to learn of his hidden resources—glad and a bit apprehensive as they began to develop.
“I’m as full o’ gristle as a goose’s leg,” he went on. “God never made a man who could do more damage when he lets go of himself an’ do it faster. There ain’t no use o’ talkin’.”
There being no use of talking, our new hired man continued to talk while I listened with breathless interest and growing respect. He took a chew of tobacco and squinted his eyes and seemed to be studying the wooded rock ledges across the road as he went on:
“You’ll find me wide awake, I guess. I ain’t afraid o’ anythin’ but lightnin’—no, sir!—an’ I can hurt hard an’ do it rapid when I begin, but I can be jest as harmless as a kitten. There ain’t no man that can be more harmlesser when he wants to be an’ there’s any decent chance for it—none whatsomever! No, sir! I’d rather be harmless than not—a good deal.”
This relieved, and was no doubt calculated to relieve, a feeling of insecurity which his talk had inspired. He blew out his breath and shifted his quid as he sat with his elbows resting on his knees and took another look at the ledges as if considering how much of his strength would be required to move them.
“Have you ever hurt anybody?” I asked.
“Several,” he answered.
“Did you kill ’em?”
“No, I never let myself go too fur. Bein’ so stout, I have to be kind o’ careful.”