SUITING MEANS TO ENDS

The early frosts had now commenced. The glory of summer was succeeded by
the maturity of autumn, and in the valleys here and there the white
maples and ash began to assume their yellow and crimson hues. The
diseases incident to the period of the year were prevalent, and Dr. Ryan
was riding night and day.

As Richardson was passing the doctor’s house on his way from school in
the afternoon, the latter called to him, and said,–

“Mr. Richardson, I wish you would do me a favor. I am just about to step
into my gig to visit a person taken with the bilious colic, in great
distress, and a man has this moment gone from the door who wants me to
go to see Mr. Jonathan Davis, who has cut off the tendon Achillis
(heel-cord) with an adze; a clean cut. Can’t you get on the back of the
other horse, and take care of Mr. Davis?”

“Yes, sir. I’ll leave my books in your office, and be right off.”

“But you’ll want some supper.”

“I’ll eat there after I get through.”

Davis kept a good stock of tools, made his wheels, harrows, yokes, and
other farming tools, and some for his neighbors. In working with an adze
between his feet, the instrument glanced, and the corner of it severed
the tendon of his left leg.

The Achillis tendon is large, and connected with a very strong muscle,
as it sustains a great strain when the foot is thrown forward, and the
weight of the body, perhaps with the addition of some burden on the
shoulder, raised by it; and when broken or cut, the strong muscles of
which it is a prolongation, cause it to contract very much.

Farmer Davis was a member of the choir, much attached to Rich; and,
though he was somewhat disappointed at not seeing Dr. Ryan, his old
physician, yet there was probably not a person in the town to whom Rich
could have been sent upon such an errand where he would have found less
of prejudice to contend with, either in respect to his youth, lack of
experience, or any new-fangled notions he might have the reputation of
entertaining.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Davis. I am sorry for your injury, and also that
Dr. Ryan could not come. I expect you will hardly care to see so poor a
substitute; but I feared there might be some artery cut, and knew you
needed prompt attention.”

Farmer Davis was quite a different person from Miss Buckminster in many
other respects besides gender, being a most skilful mechanic, and an
intelligent, clear-headed man.

“Well, Mr. Richardson,” he replied, “you know very well you’re as
welcome to my house as flowers in May; and as for this business of the
leg, I don’t believe that Dr. Ryan, who’s doctored my family and my
father’s afore me, would have sent you if he hadn’t known you was
capable; and if he had, I don’t believe, if you hadn’t thought you knew
what was to be done and how to do it, you’d have come.”

“I have come to do the best I can, which is very little, as this is a
case where art can do but little to assist nature; but if you feel any
hesitation, say so; the horse is at the door; I’ll go get Dr.
Slaughter.”

“Won’t have him; he’s no better than a _butcher_. Go ahead, Mr.
Richardson. There must be a first time with every man. I believe the
first pair of wheels I ever made were as good and well finished up as
any I’ve made since, ’cause I took more pains; and I’ve heern old
Captain Deering say that ‘a green hand that’s just learning to steer a
vessel will oftentimes steer better’n an old sailor, ’cause the old
fellow is careless; but t’other’s scared to death all the time, and puts
his whole soul into it.'”

After examining the wound, Rich said,–

“There are two methods of treating this injury, the old method and the
new. I will explain both of them; you may then take your choice, and I
will follow your directions.”

“That’s fair. Let’s hear.”

“You see all the tendons play in a sheath, which is fixed, and the
tendons play back and forth in it.”

“Just like a spyglass, one part shoves into the other.”

“Yes. And they are all on the stretch, like a piece of rubber drawn out,
and when they are cut, the contraction of the muscles draws the two ends
apart. The muscles in the upper part of the leg have drawn one end of
this heel-cord up into its sheath, and the muscles on the forward part
of the leg, by bending the foot back, have drawn the other end down into
its sheath. Now, the old method, that which Dr. Slaughter and Dr. Ryan
both would pursue, is to search in the sheath, get hold of the ends of
the cord, and sew them together, which in your case would involve the
necessity of cutting to accomplish it.”

“I understand that. Now what is the new fashion?”

“The old physicians thought a tendon could not unite unless the ends
touched, and so used to sew them together. But it has been since proved
by experiment that although it is well to bring the ends of the tendon
as near to each other as can well be done, they will unite even if they
are half an inch or an inch apart.”

“How can they grow together if they don’t touch?”

“A liquid substance exudes from the surrounding vessels, fills the
sheath, thickens into a jelly, then becomes a callous, grows to the two
ends, forms a bunch, and in time shrinks up and becomes just like the
rest of the tendon.”

“How did they find that out?”

“Men have broken the tendon and wouldn’t have their leg cut open to
stitch the ends together, but kept still, had splints put on, and the
ends brought as near as possible in that way, got well, and recovered
the use of the limb. If there’s no need of cutting a hole in a sound leg
to sew a tendon together, there’s no need of sewing one when a hole is
already cut, or of cutting it larger to get at it.”

“That stands to reason. So go ahead. I don’t see why there shouldn’t be
improvements in doctoring as well as in everything else. My father
winnowed his grain in a half a bushel, and had to wait for the wind. I
winnow mine when I get ready, and raise my own wind with the machine.”

Rich bent the leg on the thigh, so as to relax the muscles in the calf
of the leg as much as possible, then with his hands worked down the
calf, bringing the upper end of the tendon down, and put a bandage
around to confine the muscles and keep them from retracting; brought the
foot forward in order to bring the lower end of the tendon up, and
employed an assistant to keep it so.

In the mean time he went into Mr. Davis’s shop, where he found tools,
selected a sweeping piece of wood, and in a very few moments made a
splint of sufficient length to extend from just below the knee to the
toes, and that by its elliptical form partially filled the angle made by
the foot and leg; he then padded the space between it and the flesh,
fastened it to the leg and toes in such a manner as to keep the foot
extended and prevent the patient from involuntarily moving the muscles.
He now could feel the ends of the tendon, and ascertained, much to his
satisfaction, that they were very nearly in contact. He now said,–

“Mr. Davis, the space between the extremities of this tendon is very
small, consequently there is so much less new matter to be formed. You
will not suffer much pain, but you will sustain a great trial of your
patience, more than though your leg was broken, for then you would feel
compelled to lie still. The rapidity and thoroughness of your cure will
be in proportion to the patience you exercise, and the degree of care
you take in respect to those motions absolutely necessary. It will be
six weeks or more before this new substance I have been speaking of will
form between the ends, and many months before you can place much strain
upon the tendon.”

“Shall I have to lie in bed long?”

“No; but you must keep perfectly still for a while. You will not be able
to wear this splint long. It is only extemporized for the occasion. I’ll
make something better to-morrow.”

The second day, after school hours, Richardson visited his patient
again, and directed Mrs. Davis to make a shoe of carpeting,
slipper-fashion, leaving the toe a little open, to prevent galling, and
sewing a strap to the heel of it. This he fastened to a bandage around
the leg above the calf, which took the place of the splint, kept the
heel back, the foot forward, and the ends of the tendon in their place,
and was much more comfortable for the patient.

Farmer Davis in eight weeks was relieved from the slipper, strap, and
bandage during the night, putting them on in the daytime, and began to
walk with a cane. There was a bunch on the tendon the size of a robin’s
egg, which gradually disappeared; and in four months the limb was as
serviceable as ever.

When, a fortnight after the event, Dr. Ryan ascertained that Rich had
merely brought the ends of the tendon within half an inch, and let it go
at that, he shook his head, looked anxious, but said nothing. Dr.
Slaughter was not so reticent, and declared the parts would never unite,
but grow to the sheath, and the man be lame for life.

Richardson now pursued the even tenor of his way, without the least
interruption till the middle of the winter, when he was called to old
Mr. Avery, a shingle weaver, who had cut himself with his draw-shave.
The wound bled a great deal before Richardson arrived, and the patient
being an old man, it healed very slowly. Avery became impatient, and
thought his physician was not doing enough. Rich, unable to convince
him, as he was a very ignorant and obstinate man, that the process of
healing must necessarily be slow, on account of his age, and that nature
must do the work, called in Dr. Ryan, who confirmed the judgment of Rich
and approved his method, but the patient not convinced, fussed and
fretted, said Rich “was _doing nothing_,” and talked about “sending for
Dr. Slaughter.” Rich, at his wits’ end, and not relishing the idea of
having a patient taken out of his hands, cast about for some way of
keeping him quiet.

At length, in a wakeful hour of the night, he bethought himself of a
means of relief, suggested by something he had read in one of the old
romances while in college, and the next day proceeded to put it in
practice.

“Mr. Avery,” he said, “I think I have discovered something that will be
just the thing you need, and answer the purpose completely.”

“Do let me know it, then, right off. I ought to be at work in the shop
this minute.”

“Do you think the draw-shave that you cut yourself with has been used
since? Because if it has, nothing can be done, and the charm will be
broken.”

“No, I know it ’tain’t; ’cause I laid it across the horse, and the
shop’s been locked up ever sence. Then you can charm; that’s something
like. There was a woman in this town could charm; but she died four year
ago; and she didn’t give her power to anybody. They say they kin, if
they like, give it to anybody else, that is, if they’re a seventh son or
darter, not without.”

“You don’t believe that nonsense, I hope.”

“Sartain sure I do. I _know_ that woman could charm. But you doctors
never believe anything you don’t do yourselves, or don’t read in a book;
but that’s nuther here nor there. What is it you’ve found out?”

“Well, Mr. Avery, the ancient wise folks, a great many hundred years
ago, had a custom of applying the rust of the weapon or tool that made
the wound to it; or, if there was no rust, of making the applications to
the instrument; and by some secret, mysterious influence, as they held,
the wound was healed.”

“There, now, that stan’s to reason. You’ve said somethin’ to the p’int
now. I believe in them ere things what’s handed down from the old
forefathers. I tell you they forgot more’n we ever knew. These things
what’s handed down, they’re sperience, they ain’t guesswork. The
Indians can cure cancers, but the white doctors can’t. Mercy Jane, you
git the key out of my westcoat pocket, and bring in that ere draw-shave;
it’s laying across the horse.”

When the draw-shave was brought; to the great satisfaction both of Rich
and his patient, considerable rust was found on the edge. Avery had
ground it the afternoon he cut himself, and only drawn a few strokes
before he inflicted the wound, and the water from the grinding, still on
the edge, caused it, after lying, to rust. Rich, carefully scraping the
rust from the tool (about enough to cover the point of a penknife),
applied it to the wound. He next produced several large plasters of
different colors, red, black, green, blue, and yellow.

“What are them plasters spread with?” said the patient.

“Indeed, Mr. Avery, that is an affair of my own.”

“I’ll warrant it. That’s allers the way with doctors.”

“Neither will I apply it, or go one step farther, unless you will
solemnly promise me that you will observe strictly my directions as to
diet, and stay in your bed or your chair, and keep the limb still.”

“Well, I will, I sartainly will. I’ll do jist zactly as you tell me to.”




“See that you don’t forget it the moment I am out of the room; if you
do, it will be the worse for you, that’s all, for those are plasters of
tremendous power, and if you do not, you will have something horribilis,
aspectu horridus, detestabilis, abominandus.”

Rich held up his hands in horror and made an awful face. They were
indeed of tremendous power, and had they been applied to his flesh
instead of to the draw-shave, would soon have put him beyond the cares
and trials of this stormy life. One, the green, was made of hog’s lard,
beef tallow, and verdigris; the blue, of beeswax, linseed oil, and
Prussian blue; the black, of the same materials, colored with lampblack;
the red, with vermilion, a mercurial compound, quicksilver, and sulphur;
and the yellow with gamboge. Rich now produced several large rolls of
bandages, and, after strewing the plasters with brick dust, applied them
to the knife, and then enveloped the whole in fold over fold of the
bandage, till the knife was as large as a man’s thigh.

“Now,” he said to Mrs. Avery, “this must be put where no rat, mouse,
cat, or any other creature can get at it.”

“I’m sure,” said she, “I don’t know of any safer place than the oven.
We’ve got two; and one I don’t use often.”

“Well, put it in the oven.”

After Rich left, Avery said,–

“Wife, Mr. Richardson knows a lot; he’ll make a great doctor.”

“I expect he will. But, husband, you must keep still, and do jist as he
told you, and mustn’t hanker after pork and beans. You know what he
said–‘if you didn’t, it would be worser for you.’ And what them awful
outlandish words meant I don’t know; but I expect they meant you’d die
right off if you didn’t do everything jist as he said.”

“Well, I mean to keep as still as a mouse. You must tell me when I
don’t.”

When Rich again visited his patient, he said,–

“Mr. Avery, there has been a very marked improvement in your leg, and it
will soon be well, if you continue to follow implicitly my directions.”

“I knew that would do the business. It begun to feel better the minute
you put them ere plasters on to the draw-shave.”

In a short time it was well; and, lest our young readers should
attribute the cure to the wrong means, we would say that, Mr. Avery
being in years, his flesh healed slowly, and, as he was of a nervous
temperament, kept irritating his wound all the time by motion, and
refused to govern his appetite. This conduct aggravated the difficulty.
Whereas his faith in the strange remedy appealing to the superstitious
sentiments of his nature, and fear of the terrible consequences couched
under the Latin of Rich, kept him quiet, and effected the cure by giving
nature time to operate.

Rich had now accumulated a little money, and resolved to visit his
patients, attend medical lectures at Brunswick, and see Morton on his
way. He accordingly employed Perk to finish out the term, as part of the
period of his absence would be during the vacation. As his funds were by
no means excessive, he made the journey on foot, with the exception of a
few miles of the first part of the way, over which he was carried by Dan
Clemens.

It was near night on the second day, and Rich, weary, hungry, and
foot-sore, had been for some time expecting to come in sight of a
village where was a tavern; but none appeared. At length his patience
was exhausted, and arriving at a substantial-looking farm-house, he
knocked, and inquired of the farmer, who came at the summons, how far it
was to the next tavern.

“Well, ’tis good three miles; yes, strong that.” But noticing the
disappointed look of Rich, said, “Young man, you look tired. If you’ll
stop with me, you shall be welcome to such as we have.”

Rich gladly accepted the invitation, and was ushered into the kitchen,
where he found the farmer’s family, consisting of his wife, two sons,
and two daughters. One of the daughters immediately rose, pulled the
table into the floor, put on the tea-kettle, and, as Rich thought (who
was very hungry, for he had eaten since morning only a luncheon),
provided a meal about as speedily as he had ever seen it done in his
life.

“My mother,” thought he, “couldn’t do better than that.”

Rich was at first surprised that neither the mother nor elder sister
gave any assistance to this young woman in preparing an extra meal, but
continued their sewing. He afterwards, however, ascertained that the
thrifty mother brought up her daughters to take their week around in the
kitchen doing the cooking; and that it was this daughter’s week. After
making ready for Rich, she began to iron at a table in the corner of the
room, and when he finished, cleared away the dishes, and resumed her
ironing. He was very much struck with the domestic accomplishments of
the young woman, and thought her extremely good-looking; but this might
be owing to the fact, that, being very hungry, he felt grateful for a
bountiful meal so speedily provided; his habits of thought as a
physician also led him to notice that she was well-formed and in fine
health.

His boots off, seated before a cheerful fire, and well fed, Rich forgot
his fatigue, and passed a most pleasant evening. He endeavored several
times to draw into conversation Miss Caroline; but she stuck to her
ironing, and merely replied to his questions politely.

At bed-time he said to the farmer,–

“Mr. Conant, I will settle with you before I go to bed, as I mean to
start by sunrise.”

“But you will not start on a day’s walk without breakfast.”

“I will get my breakfast at the next village. That will divide the
forenoon about right; and after walking three miles I shall be ‘sharp
set’ for eating.”

“Mr. Richardson, I can contrive better than that. I shan’t take a cent
for your keeping, and William will put the horse in the sleigh and take
you to the village. He was going to start early to carry something to
market there. You will have your breakfast, and be well started on your
journey, and when you come back, make it in your way to call here. We
shall be right pleased to see you. I’ll give you a lift on your way.”

The next morning Rich was up by break of day, and found that William had
harnessed the horse, and Caroline had the breakfast ready. He now found
her rather less reserved, and went away with a most favorable impression
of her intelligence.

After a very delightful visit at home, where he found everything
pleasant and prosperous, his parents on the original homestead, with
every prospect of soon owning it, seeing Morton and enjoying a glorious
time with him, by some singular combination of circumstances he was
again overtaken by night at farmer Conant’s door when it never looked
more like a storm, which indeed came that night, and Rich was obliged to
stay there two days, which, however, passed very pleasantly.