All the same, it was not easy for one coming from the busy hive of London to grasp this. I have never been a waster of time and the most difficult obstacle of all which I had to over-come was to gear myself to the slow motion of these people. But it was very necessary to do so in order to win their confidence. For instance, it had always been my custom (in those days before queues) when I wanted anything in a shop, to go in and ask for it, and come out again with a brief, perhaps perfunctory, "Good morning." But this pernicious habit was almost my downfall as far as Harrington was concerned. I was blissfully unaware of the anti-social nature of my behavior until tackled one morning by Padre Le Moignan who was for these first few autumn weeks staying at Harrington before taking up his winterís station at St. Paulís River along the coast.
"Look here, doctor," said the Padre in mock horror. "What on earth have you been doing to Uncle Will?"
"Nothing," I said. "Whatís the trouble?"
"I couldnít say. But when I asked him how he got on with you, he didnít say much until I pressed him, when he just grunted ĎI donít understand him.í It seemed to me as if he has taken umbrage at you for something. What HAVE you done?"
The Padreís jovial nature got the better of him, and after a distinctly unholy emphasis on the last sentence, he burst out laughing. "Iíve only been into his store and walked out again," I protested.
"Thatís probably it," said Le Moignan, still doubled up with laughter. "I expect you moved too quickly for him."
That may or may not have been it. Anyway, I could take no chances. Uncle Will was a man who mattered. I must obviously mend my ways. A visit to his store, be it for a ball of
twine or for half a yard of canvas duck, was for the remainder of my stay a morningís ceremony. It went something like this:
"Morning, Uncle Will." This was the opening gambit as one came up the stairs.
"Good morning, doctor."
Pause while Uncle Will, a portly figure with round florid face and walrus moustache, pottered about, weighing sugar or indulging in some similar occupation.
"What do you think of the weather, Uncle Will?"
Uncle Will would take off his cap and scratch his head: "Wonderful weather it is."
There was very little need for Uncle Willís indecision. The weather at Harrington was always wonderful. "Wonderful" in Labrador jargon was an abbreviation for "wonderful bad." Yes, we certainly had wonderful weather at Harrington!
Pause for several minutes.
"Have you heard where Uncle Fred is, Uncle Will?" We have already met Uncle Fred as the mailman. His whereabouts was of prime importance; particularly when the weather became too uncertain for the North Shore to reach us.
"They say as heís waiting to Natashquan for the North Shore," said Uncle Will.
Pause again. But it was now Uncle Willís turn to make conversation.
"Howís Lizzie Chislett?"
"Not so good, Uncle Will."
"And howís Aunt Maggie?"
"A little better."
So it went on. It was not until the well-being of the hospital patients and any other sick members of the community had been discussed, the prospects for the winterís travelling gone into, with perhaps digressions concerning both Dr. Hoddís adventures and those of other Harrington doctors ranging back over the past twenty years, that one could really get down to the business in handónamely the purchase of a ball of twine, or half a yard of canvas duck, as the case might be.
Date Entered on Web: 01 October 2002