You may recall the story of Uncle Uriah Henstridge. Evidently it’s a favourite of many readers, and one of mine, as well. Therefore, I will give you all a New Year’s bonus by telling it again.
I believe it to be true because I knew the people involved while this story was taking place. I didn’t hear the final outcome until I was an adult, although the whole thing was taking place when I was a small boy.
Don’t, by the way, get it confused with a similar story of an old gentleman with one leg and a crutch. I collect these things. Entertaining little hobby.
Uncle Uriah was a handsome, robust man for a man in his early 60s, and could still hunt and fish with the best of them. He was married to a lady some years his junior and still a pretty woman in her own right, but rather frail, especially when compared with Uncle Uriah.
As the years progressed, the differences in their respective physical capabilities became more pronounced. As might be expected, this was more of a problem for Uncle Uriah than for Lucinda. He was probably the reason for her frailty, because he made strong demands on her while he could, and until she could no longer satisfy them.
Then, as it so often does, fate intervened. The old doctor who was serving the island had a stroke and passed away, probably from overwork. In his place there arrived a somewhat younger man still in his late 40s and looking for a nice, rural place to eventually retire.
Dr. Morgan’s wife, Bernice, was as different from the good doctor as day is from night. He was a somewhat dignified man who enjoyed reading Shakespeare and Voltaire and listening to Mozart. She was of a more earthy nature with somewhat less sophisticated tastes, especially in men.
They had gotten married while he was still in medical school and she was dancing around a pole in a nightclub. Over the course of three wild nights in a local hotel room, he had gotten her pregnant and, being a decent fellow, insisted on marrying her. It hadn’t been a particularly happy marriage for either of them. But he didn’t believe in divorce and she enjoyed his money and social status too much to leave him.
Now, here they were in Branson on Nineteen Mile Island. He was perfectly content and she most unhappy to be stuck in a small outport without the kind of distractions available in a much larger centre.
Inevitably, Uncle Uriah and Bernice ran into each other at a Fireman’s Ball. Practically everybody danced with everybody else at those things, which Bernice found extremely boring. And then she found herself dancing with the decade-older Uriah and discovered him to be as delightfully earthy and physical as she was herself.
From then on, they found little ways of meeting up with each other until their mutual attraction became mutual knowledge and they contrived to get together in a much more meaningful way.
The good doctor always took a walk at 10 each night for precisely an hour before going to bed. From then on, each Wednesday and Sunday night, Uncle Uriah went to the doctor’s house by a circuitous route. Then he waited until the front door closed before being let in the back by Bernice.
It was a wonderful arrangement. The doctor never returned early so they stopped worrying about it, like you would.
Then, one night, well into their relationship, Uncle Uriah developed a most uncharacteristic pain in his lower back. It forced him to aquit himself of the voluptuous Bernice before they were halfway through their considerable efforts. He tried to make the 20-minute walk back to his house while he was still able, and was practically to his gate when he saw a figure emerge from his front door.
To his amazement, the light over the door showed the man to be Dr. Morgan! Uncle Uriah quickly drew back into the shadows — there were no streetlights in Branson — and the doctor passed by almost close enough to touch.
But what was he doing in Uriah’s house at that hour of the night? And then it struck him with the force of a blow.
Lucinda had been acting differently lately. Without doubt, she was deteriorating and was deliberately having the doctor visit on those nights when Uriah had taken to having a walk himself. She knew Uriah would be most upset if he knew she was getting sicker and this was her way of keeping it all from him!
As Uriah thought about it, and later explained it to Bernice, it was all working out beautifully.
Much more beautifully than Uriah imagined. As Lucinda explained in a deathbed confession some 20 years later, she and the doctor had fallen in love only a few months after his arrival and a few visits to the clinic. They had kept it all a secret, meeting Wednesday and Sunday nights when Uriah went for his walk. Unfortunately, the doctor himself passed on after 10 years.
Now, being free and still having both the doctor’s status and money, Bernice immediately left the island. Lucinda had figured out what was going on between Bernice and Uriah long before, but that arrangement kept Bernice off their backs and Lucinda allowed it to continue until the doctor’s death.
Then one night, she mixed some rat poison in with Uriah’s turnip greens and watched her husband die a most unpleasant death with a most unpleasant smile on her face.
Lucinda had been waiting to do away with Uriah for a long time. As far as he was concerned, she was neither the loving nor the forgiving wife. He was buried without an autopsy, as was the custom in those days on isolated islands.
What’s sauce for the goose isn’t necessarily sauce for the gander.
Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.