Thursday, January 29, 2015

Notes From My Knapsack 2-5-15

Notes From My Knapsack 2-5-15
Jeff Gill
A Body in the Well: Feb. 1816

"Call for Hezekiah Mirk! Call for Hezekiah Mirk!"
The boy's shouts echoed off the slope of Sugar Loaf to the east, caroming faintly from Prospect Hill to the north and back west from Orchard Hill, blocking the already risen sun from the main intersection of Granville.
To the south, the valley of the Pataskala River opened out, down the slope past the Burying Ground. Hezekiah Mirk sat looking out over the valley, on the end of Mr. Gavit's tavern porch, sliding a blade across his sharpening stone with a steady whishh, whishh, whishh.
"Mister Mirk, I believe someone is calling for you," said Sarah Gavit from inside the door, over near the fireplace where she'd been walking an armload of wood in from the other end of the porch. She came back and began to close the heavy timbered door, leaning out enough to stare quizzically at his back. Whishh, whishh, whishh.
As if he saw her clearly and knew her thoughts as well, without looking up from his task Hezekiah said "He will get here soon enough at that rate."
She leaned back and began to close the door, then realized the patter of booted feet down Broad Street was what he referred to; the day's chill was not quite enough to keep her from not quite pulling the door shut, and listening at the opening.
"Mister Mirk, Mister Mirk, there's a body in the well!" So shouted a young lad, tall and lank, out of breath but with enough energy to leap onto the porch without taking the two steps, nearly falling across the pile of wood the Honorable Mister Gavit had piled at the street end the night before.
"Sit yourself down, take a breath while you still have one," said Hezekiah, standing and turning in one easy motion from his seat on the other end of the alarmingly creaking porch. "Whose well?"
"Mister Avery's well, beyond Sugar Loaf," the boy replied, gasping his way to more regular breath with admirable rapidity. "His wife found it this morning when she went to draw water." Sarah Gavit snorted just inside the front door, making the lad jump, turn, bow, and then go on. "He and his hired man pulled the body out, and it's no one they know from here."
"And newly arrived in Granville, they expect me to know him?" asked Hezekiah beneath bristling eyebrows. His already dark and ruddy face beneath a cap of thick black curls furrowed in a not-unusual frown, not unfriendly, either, but the worried look that people in the village were already learning meant thinking more than disliking.
"No, sir," answered the lad, "but since you've come from the wars and all, sir, they hoped you would know a bit more about how he . . . why it is that . . . "
"How he died? They take me as an expert on that subject, do they?"
The lad nodded glumly. Peters' boy, he suddenly remembered.
"Well, I expect I am. Not the only man in this place familiar with life's end, but with more knowledge of it than I might wish. Let me get my coat."
Sarah Gavit stepped back, holding open the door for him, to which he offered a courteous and sardonic bow, and then swiftly walked into the long room in the front of the tavern, plucked his well-worn Army coat off a peg near the fire, and made a slighter bow to the house's mistress as he went back out onto the porch. She closed the door behind him, and went back to her chores, questions set aside like a task whose time has not yet arrived.
Outside, fastening up his brass buttons, the boy asked Hezekiah "Do y'think he was murdered, Mister Mirk?"
With a short laugh that was more of a bark, he replied "That, or he was uncommonly clumsy. Come, show me the way."

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him what you'd like to learn about Granville history at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

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