PROGRESS AND PREJUDICE

There was a mystery connected with Richardson’s lameness that the
village gossips could never fathom. He was too important a personage to
escape comment. It was well known that he was so lame as to be compelled
to ride to school on three consecutive days; and yet Sam Waterhouse
declared he met him and talked with him at the old graveyard at three
o’clock on the morning he put his foot in the trap, and that he did not
appear to be much lame. Sam, however, was in the habit of drinking too
freely of New England rum, and always took a jug with him when on the
road; thus the majority, after a while, concluded Waterhouse had made
too free with the contents of his jug, and imagined it all.

Rich, after this, assisted in several important operations in which the
two doctors were engaged. He likewise, when he could do it and not
interfere with his school, opened sores, administered medicines, let
blood, and dressed wounds, at the request of Dr. Ryan, who lost no
opportunity of bringing him forward, and became more and more attached
to him every day.

When bones were to be set, Dr. Ryan, if the fracture was in any respect
a bad one, sent for Dr. Slaughter; but, as his own practice was large,
often relinquished the subsequent care of the fracture to Rich, and paid
him for it. In this manner, and by rigid economy, he was enabled to lay
by a considerable sum, besides purchasing some necessary instruments and
books.

The good doctor was well aware that whenever he left the care of a
patient to Rich, whether it was a case of disease, or a wound, or broken
bone, that he practised a treatment quite different from the established
method; but as the patients generally did well, he made no troublesome
inquiries, and even turned a deaf ear to the hints of Dr. Slaughter in
respect to innovations upon the good old substantial practice.

It was very hot weather, the middle of August, and a lad of seventeen
received a terrible cut in his thigh, by coming too near his father
while he was mowing oats. Dr. Ryan was away from home, attending the
funeral of a near relative in a distant town; the family instantly sent
for Rich. The wound, fortunately, was worse in appearance than reality,
as no artery was severed, though the gash presented a most formidable
appearance to inexperienced persons, and the parents were very much
alarmed.

Rich quieted their fears, stopped the bleeding, cleansed, bound up, and
dressed the wound. It was several days before the doctor returned. The
first time he rode out to visit his patients, he encountered on the road
an old acquaintance, but by no means a favorite of his, Miss Nelly
Buckminster. Miss Nelly was a spinster, lived by herself in a small
house left to her by her parents, and gained a livelihood by taking in
spinning, weaving, and plain sewing; occasionally kept house for anybody
who could endure her tongue, for she was an inveterate talker, and held
very decided opinions upon all subjects. In other respects she was an
excellent housekeeper, neat, industrious, economical, and an excellent
cook.

Miss Nelly was very religious, exceedingly so; but her piety was of the
vociferous, rather than of the introspective cast. She was the recipient
of many presents. Some gave her because they thought her a very good
though rather peculiar woman, some because they were afraid of her
tongue, others because they knew she would tell of it from Dan to
Beersheba. We think it must have been the reasons assigned that
influenced so many persons to make presents to Nelly, because there was
not the least satisfaction to be derived from the act itself, as Nelly,
in expressing her gratitude and sense of obligation–which she never
failed to do–always ignored second causes, and paid her respects to the
Most High.

This might have been–undoubtedly was–good theology, but it was of the
nutmeg-grater variety, and altogether corrosive in both quality and
operation; for when persons bestow gifts, influenced by the purest
motives, some manifestation of gratitude is pleasant, and generally
expected; but no person ever received any from Nelly; her gratitude was
ever directed over the heads of the _instrumentalities_ to the
_efficient_ cause, which was not merely sound doctrine and
_conservative_, but did away at once with all troublesome sense of
obligation or return in kind.

Squire Dresser once sent her by the hand of his son a bushel of Indian
meal. Henry knocked at the door, and gave her the bag of meal, saying,–

“Miss Buckminster, here is a bushel of flour my father sent you, and
he’ll call some time when he’s going by to mill, and get the bag.”

“No thanks to Squire Dresser; thanks to the Lord; ’twas the Lord sent
it, and not the squire.”

Henry had made the interview as brief as possible, in order to escape an
exhortation on the subject of personal piety, that Nelly was in the
habit of administering to him whenever he came to her house of an
errand, and which altogether failed of producing any good impression,
because he did not like her, and by reason of the snappish way in which
she flung it at him.

Finding he had in his haste made a mistake, he went back and said,–

“Miss Buckminster, I made a mistake. ‘Tis Indian and not wheat meal
that father sent you.”

“_Indian!_ I should like to know what he sent _Indian_ for!”

This curt reply made a good deal of sport among the neighbors.

“I don’t believe the _Lord_ will send her anything again very soon,”
said Squire Dresser.

“The old proverb is, ‘Never look a gift horse in the mouth;’ but she
presumes to find fault with the gifts of the Lord, tells what _he_
should send and what not.”

Dr. Ryan, who dearly loved good living, tempted by her unrivalled skill
as a cook, and confiding in his good temper and the soundness of his
nerves, once employed Nelly to keep house for him. She was possessed of
a very vivid imagination, and in the habit of cautioning people against
doing things they never entertained the thought of doing.

It was cold, sharp weather, and the doctor had a small dog that was very
fond of stretching out on the hearth before the andirons. One day the
doctor came in, chilled from a long ride and stood warming himself; the
dog lay stretched at full length between him and the fire.

“There! you’ll kick that dog into the fire–I know you will!” screamed
Nelly.

“So I will, then,” said the doctor, and kicked him under the forestick.

Nelly never cautioned the doctor any more.

In some respects it was difficult to reconcile her professions with her
practice: for instance, she always said in the prayer-meeting that it
was a great cross for her to rise and speak; whereas it was the settled
opinion of all who knew her that it would be a much greater cross for
her to hold her tongue, and Captain Motley said,–

“If you nailed her down to the bench with ten-penny nails, she’d rise
and take it up with her.”

She always disliked people whom everybody else loved and respected,
called it _man-worship_, therefore didn’t like Rich, couldn’t bear him.
Dr. Ryan said, it was a good thing for Richardson; he ought to have one
ill-wisher, to take the curse off.

“Doctor, good mornin’.”

“Good morning, Nelly.”

“Doctor, you never should ought to step your two feet out of this
village. Dreadful works, dreadful, since you’ve been away. Doctor, what
do you think this wicked world is comin’ to? Errors in doctrine, new
lights rampaging round, turnin’ things upside down; errors in doctorin,’
as though folks couldn’t die fast enough themselves. Destruction to soul
and body both.”

“I expect it is coming to an end, Nelly.”

“When, doctor? Any ways soon? ‘Cause we ought to be on our watch guards,
a girdin’ up our loins and preparin’.”

“O, no; I guess ’twill outlast you and me, and a good many other
people. But what is the trouble now?”

“Trouble enough. Do you know, David Ryan, what a viper yer a nourishin’
in yer buzom? Do you know it, David Ryan? ‘Cause if you don’t, it’s high
time you did. Do you know what that young snipper-snapper of a
Richardson is, that’s allowed for to lead the singin’ in the Lord’s
house? The gals is all taken with his good looks, and the men with his
‘ily tongue. But I tell you he’s a–”

Here Nelly thrust her tongue into her cheek, and looked unutterable
things.

“I know he’s a young man of true piety, most affectionate disposition,
and remarkable ability, and I won’t hear a word said against him by you
or anybody else.”

“Jist like Deacon Starkweather; he’s deceived yer both, pulled the wool
over both yer eyes. I tell you he’s a–”

“A what? Come, out with it. I don’t like this stabbing in the dark.
Speak out.”

“He’s a _new light_, a pestilent, pizen, _new light_,” shouted Nelly,
with an emphasis she expected would throw the doctor from his horse. But
he stood the shock unmoved, and merely laughed.

“It’s no laughin’ matter. There’s John Tukey’s boy cut hisself awful
with a scythe, and that snipper-snapper, don’t you think, did it up in
_cold water_, nothin’ else, instead of wrappin’ it up in new rum, or rum
and wormwood, or salve, as you would have done, and keepin’ it warm.
Enough to make him ketch his death a cold!”

“Is he not doing well enough?”

“Doin’ well enough! The awfullest sight of _proud_ flesh; it was a sight
to behold. I was there when old Granma’am Tyler put on her specs and
looked at it. She exclaimed right out. Says she, ‘That wound will never
heal in this varsal world, with all that ere _proud_ flesh in it,
Matilda,’ says she (that’s the boy’s mother). ‘Let me put on some burnt
alum, to eat out that proud flesh.’ Matilda made answer, ‘I should like
to have you, granma’am.’ Then the boy up and says, ‘No, she shan’t.’
‘Some red precipitate, then, dear, and hog’s lard.’ No, he wouldn’t have
that. ‘Some spruce gum, then.’ No, he wouldn’t have anything; nobody
should consarn with it or touch it but Mr. Richardson; he knew more than
Granny Tyler and all the old women in town.”

“I rather think the boy was right.”

“Right! That little _snipper-snapper_, that brought an ungodly _fiddle_
into the _sanctuary_ on the _Lord’s_ day, know more’n _Granny Tyler_, an
experienced woman in sickness, and that’s brought up a large family of
children! What do you s’pose he said when he came the next day, and
Matilda told him what Granny Tyler said? He jist laughed, and said all
the proud flesh there was wouldn’t hinder it from healing. Much he
knows, to say proud flesh wouldn’t hinder a cut from healing! Them’s the
very identical words he used. I’ll stan’ to it till my _dyin’ day_.”

“I have not the least doubt he said so.”

“Well, then, doctor, I hope you’ll go right in there, and put things to
rights, ’cause the old folks’ll hear to you, and the boy’ll hear to you;
and if you don’t, perhaps the proud flesh’ll grow worser and mortify;
’cause granny said a sore never would heal as long’s there was one mite
of proud flesh in it; and if the boy should die, you’ll be ‘countable,
sartainly.”

“I can’t go in; I’ve a long ride to another part of the town before me.”

“Well, you’ll see, mark my word for it, there’ll be trouble grow out of
this.”

The doctor had lost, in the course of his practice, several patients
from gangrene occasioned by the load of poultices, ointments, and
bandages it was then customary to apply, and he had some suspicions
whether there might not be some mistake in the old practice, and
resolved to permit Rich to manage matters as he thought best, having so
much confidence in his judgment and discretion that he felt sure he
would come to him for advice and consultation if the wound was
manifesting any unfavorable symptoms.

We have no doubt our young readers share to the full the confidence of
the doctor in both the ability and discretion of Rich; still it seems as
though it were well to say a few words in his behalf, and in
explanation.

Clean cuts, when the two sides of the wound can be brought together
directly, sometimes heal without any inflammation or suppuration; as it
were, stick right together. But when the parts cannot be brought
together at once, and are exposed to the external air, even if bandaged,
there will be inflammation, and then the wound heals by a natural
process, called by physicians “granulation.”




It was thus in the present instance. The boy and his father had taken a
field of oats to mow and harvest, a long distance from home, and the
wound had been some time exposed to the air, and by reason of the part
of the body in which it was situated could not be brought together so
closely as to cause it thus to heal by what surgeons call the “first
intention,” and adhesive inflammation occurred, as is always the case
when wounded surfaces are not brought in contact at once.

The process is this. In consequence of the inflammation which then takes
place, a yellow jelly-like substance is effused, covering the surfaces
of the wound, called fibrin; veins and arteries from the sound flesh
shoot into this, it becomes organized, another layer is thrown out,
which in its turn passes through the same process; but now begins
another step in the progress. From this organized fibrin spring
innumerable little pointed cones, similar to the kernels of rice corn,
at first of a pale red, becoming more florid as they increase in age,
into which arteries and veins thrust themselves. These are the
granulations. They have nerves and blood-vessels, are therefore alive,
and when healthy, sensitive; and they likewise possess a disposition to
unite, and when the two surfaces of a wound covered with granulations
come in contact, the blood-vessels of one penetrate the other, they
amalgamate and form flesh.

As they increase they contract, thus both filling the cavity and drawing
the lips of the wound together, till, when it heals, the scar occupies
much less space than the original cut. This process takes place when the
granulations are healthy, and almost, but not completely, fill the
wound, being a grain lower than the surface of the skin, and manifesting
a disposition to glaze over.

At other times they are coarse, of large size, the points blunt, are
spongy, pale, or blue, show no tendency to skin over, and puff up above
the surface of the sound flesh, which swells and is inflamed. Physicians
denominate these granulations fungus, it being found from experience
that whenever granulations rise higher than the level of the surrounding
surface they are not likely to form skin. This, among people in general,
from the appearance, probably, goes by the name of _proud_ flesh.

The old matrons cherished a mortal dread of proud flesh. They would put
on their spectacles, look carefully at the wound, hold up both hands,
and exclaim with alarm, “_Proud_ flesh!” often times when only the
proper amount of granulations was present, and they had numerous
specifics for its removal–spruce gum, burnt alum, the ashes of oak
bark, nutgalls, and red precipitate. But in their zeal to extirpate
proud flesh, and, as they termed it, _do_ something, they sometimes used
little discrimination, and made war upon healthy material.

The particular thing that seemed to lie with the greatest weight upon
the minds of the ancient dames and Miss Buckminster was, that, according
to them, Rich was _doing nothing_ for the poor lad. He was neither
bleeding him, physicking him, putting on salves and heavy bandages, nor
anything to kill the _proud_ flesh. They made such a fuss that at last
the boy, who had hitherto reposed the greatest confidence in his young
physician, became a little _nervous_, and told Rich what the matrons
said.

“My dear boy,” said he, “there is very little _to_ be _done_. What these
good women call _proud_ flesh is a _healthy_ growth, the rudiments of
new flesh, and without it your wound would _never_ heal. It is no more
in my power, or that of any other person, to heal your flesh than to
make one hair white or black. Nature and time will do that. The
inflammation has passed off, and the wound is healing. All that can be
done is to keep the parts cool, defend them from the air, sustain your
strength by a proper diet, and keep you quiet. The less you move, the
faster your leg will heal; and as for bleeding, you have lost too much
blood already from the cut.”

The lad, after this, dismissing his anxieties, concerned himself no more
about the proud flesh or the fears and prognostications of the matrons.

The patient in due time recovered, greatly to the satisfaction of Dr.
Ryan. It also increased the reputation of Rich, though Miss Buckminster
declared that “the boy should ought to have died of mortification or
lockjaw, but the _Lord_ overruled it and spared him for some good end,
spite of the new-fangled doctor.”

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