Grandma Bisnette came from Canada to work for the Browers. She was a big, cheerful woman, with a dialect, an amiable disposition and a swarthy, wrinkled face. She had a loose front tooth that occupied all the leisure of her tongue. When she sat at her knitting this big tooth clicked incessantly. On every stitch her tongue went in and out across it’ and I, standing often by her knees, regarded the process with great curiosity.
The reader may gather much from these frank and informing words of Grandma Bisnette. ‘When I los’ my man, Mon Dieu! I have two son. An’ when I come across I bring him with me. Abe he rough; but den he no bad man.’
Abe was the butcher of the neighbourhood — that red-handed, stony-hearted, necessary man whom the Yankee farmer in that north country hires to do the cruel things that have to be done. He wore ragged, dirty clothes and had a voice like a steam whistle. His rough, black hair fell low and mingled with his scanty beard. His hands were stained too often with the blood of some creature we loved. I always crept under the bed in Mrs Brower’s room when Abe came — he was such a terror to me with his bloody work and noisy oaths. Such men were the curse of the cleanly homes in that country. There was much to shock the ears and eyes of children in the life of the farm. It was a fashion among the help to decorate their speech with profanity for the mere sound of it’ and the foul mouthings of low-minded men spread like a pestilence in the fields.
Abe came always with an old bay horse and a rickety buckboard. His one foot on the dash, as he rode, gave the picture a dare-devil finish. The lash of his bull-whip sang around him, and his great voice sent its blasts of noise ahead. When we heard a fearful yell and rumble in the distance, we knew Abe was coming.
‘Abe he come,’ said Grandma Bisnette. ’Mon Dieu! he make de leetle rock fly.’
It was like the coming of a locomotive with roar of wheel and whistle. In my childhood, as soon as I saw the cloud of dust, I put for the bed and from its friendly cover would peek out’ often, but never venture far until the man of blood had gone.
To us children he was a marvel of wickedness. There were those who told how he had stood in the storm one night and dared the Almighty to send the lightning upon him.
The dog Fred had grown so old and infirm that one day they sent for Abe to come and put an end to his misery. Every man on the farm loved the old dog and not one of them would raise a hand to kill him. Hope and I heard what Abe was coming to do, and when the men had gone to the fields, that summer morning, we lifted Fred into the little wagon in which he had once drawn me and starting back of the barn stole away with him through the deep grass of the meadow until we came out upon the highroad far below. We had planned to take him to school and make him a nest in the woodshed where he could share our luncheon and be out of the way of peril. After a good deal of difficulty and heavy pulling we got to the road at last. The old dog, now blind and helpless, sat contentedly in the wagon while its wheels creaked and groaned beneath him. We had gone but a short way in the road when we heard the red bridge roar under rushing wheels and the familiar yell of Abe.