Draw back my ivy veil & I will tell you a secret

After lunch I went right back to working on the gate and time just flew by.  Before I knew it Gus was coming around the back of the house to tell me they were leaving for the day.  “Made good time today Miss.  Bobby wants to go fishing Saturday, so we are going to do our best to wrap things up tomorrow.  We will be back around 7:30 if that is aright with you.”

“7:30 will be fine.  I will see you then.”

Once they had left, I started cleaning up all of the ivy cuttings which I had just let fall where they may all day.  It took two barrels to hold it all, but once it was all cleared away, I was amazed at how stately the gate made the wall seem.  The gate arched about 6 inches above the 5 foot wall and dropped in alternating S-curves, like rows of double helixes, down to the limestone tread.  I had cut the ivy back around the bench, but left it on the rest of the wall and allowed it to trail across the top towards the gate.  The bench itself curved out from the wall so naturally that it looked as if someone just forgot to cut that stone before adding it to the wall.

“Looks good”, Logan said stepping through the gate.  “I’m going to the butcher, thought I would grill some steaks tonight.  Interested?”

‘Sounds great.  How about some tomato and cucumber salad and salt potatoes too?”

“If you’re cooking, I’m eating,” he grinned.  “Feel free to use the shower while I’m gone.”

With my best feigned offense I said, “Are you saying I stink?”

“No.  You don’t stink at all.”  As he passed out of sight through the gate he added, “But you are very dirty.”

I’m still not sure if he was being literal or having a flirt.  Either way, I was grinning for the next ten minutes while I put everything away, cleaned off a little at the water pump and went in to start the water for the potatoes.  I grabbed my shower bucket, just like when I was in college, and went next door to shower while the potatoes did their thing.  Maybe today I could make it out of the bathroom before Logan got back.

I took a quick, but thorough, shower and made it back to my yard before I heard the sound of Logan’s ‘96 Jeep Cherokee pull in.  I put my bucket away and checked the potatoes, almost ready.  While they finished I pulled some mozzarella from the fridge to chop up and add to the salad.  While the potatoes drained and cooled, forming that thin salt crust that makes them so good, I decided to check the leggy herb garden off the kitchen porch to see if the basil was any good.  Luckily, it wasn’t bitter at all, so I grabbed some for the salad.  I packed the salad and potatoes in an old milk crate, grabbed a sixer of Honeoye Cream Ale and headed next door.

Before I was completely through the door, Logan yelled from the front porch, “How do you like yours?”  “Rare”, I hollered back.  “Good.  That’s the only way we serve ‘em.  I’ve got the table set out here.  Just come on through.”

The table was an old picnic table on which he had set two places next to each other looking out at the canal.  I emptied the crate onto the table, open a beer and passed it over to him at the grill.  He took a long pull from the bottle and said, “How did you know I was dying for one of these?”

“I saw all of those kids pile out of the mini-van earlier. Figured it couldn’t hurt.”

“The steaks are about done.  I thought we could make fun of the yuppies on the towpath while we eat.”  And that is exactly what we did; eat ‘til we were bursting, drank down every drop and made fun of middle-aged wannabe fitness nuts, sucking in their stomachs every time they jogged past someone younger and fitter, and elitist-types, on their $500 mountain bikes that they would probably never take of the smooth pavement of the towpath.

“Do you know anyone who does stone work?” I asked on my way back out onto the porch from clearing the table and grabbing some more beer from the fridge.  “Once I cleared all of the ivy I found a hole in the wall over the bench.”

Logan, arm stretched across the window sill, turned sharply and replied, “You want to fill the hole over the ‘Lover’s Bench’?  Why?  It has so much history.”

“Well fill me in on it and maybe I will change my mind.” I said, sitting back down next to him and popping open two more beers.

“About a hundred years ago now, when my great-great grandfather ran a pack boat service out of this place, some rich industrial family, the Gilberts I think, bought the place and started making all kinds of improvements.  I guess before that it was just the house sitting there, no wall, no rose garden and no gazebo.  They are also the ones who put in the park on the other side of you.  They ended up selling it to the city sometime in the ‘50s cause they couldn’t afford the taxes.

Anyway, old man Gilbert had plans to buy up this whole side of the canal, right out from under people and then lease them their own property back to continue to run their businesses.  About this time is when he put up the wall.  Since he figured on owning everything around him, he fixed matching benches in it at all four original gates around the property; one here, one to the canal, one to the park and one to the road.  The rest of the wall crumbled or was taken out ages ago and replaced with the hedgerow.

Gilbert and my great-great grandfather hated each other and fought all of the time over the boathouse.  Gilbert was unwilling to except that he could be bought off, and great-great grandfather was furious that his guy thought he could go around doing whatever he liked just cause he had money.  While they fought it out, Gilbert’s daughter, Jinny, and my great grandfather, Henry, started falling for each other.  They would meet every morning to walk to school together and every night after dinner to talk down at the water.”

Logan paused for a swig of beer.  I suddenly realized my head had found its way to his shoulder and his arm around mine.  Logan was just staring out over the porch rail, so I did too.

“Eventually the fathers got wise to it all and forbid them to have anything to do with each other.  So Henry had the idea to remove one of the smaller stones from the wall, so that they each go to the benches after dinner and whisper through the wall without their fathers catching on.  It worked for awhile.  The feud raged on between their fathers, but they kept up their whole ‘Pyramus and…”

“Thisby,” I finished, both of our gazes still trained on the sky across the canal.  “I know the story well.  So what happened to them?”

“Well, eventually they got brave enough to leave each other notes and little gifts in the hole.  Kept the whole thing secret until Henry was sent over to the war.  The day he left Jinny forgot all about her father and his rules and ran over here to say goodbye the Henry.  Her father found her wrapped in his arms bawling her eyes out on our bench.  Old man Gilbert drug her back home and locked her in her room.  The next morning, Henry was off to France and Jinny was off to finishing school in Boston.

Great grandfather was held as a POW for about a year during which he was falsely reported dead.  Jinny married some banker when she finished school.  She came back to visit once.  Brought her son Henry to meet his grandparents, who were hit hard by the Depression.  She nearly lost it when she saw great grandfather over the wall alive and well.  Her parents never told her he came home, fearing she would leave the husband who covered all of their expenses.  Jinny and her son left the next day and never came back.

That’s the end,” he sighed staring across the canal.  “Still want to fill that hole?”

“I think I will let it stay.  So your family has always been in this house?”

“At least working here.  My parents’ house is over by the reservoir, but a Branfield has run boats from this place since the canal was built.”  He looked over at me just as a horn sounded on the water below.  It seemed to make him suddenly aware of his surroundings and before I knew it his arm came from around my shoulder and he was standing up.  “Don’t know about you, but I have an early day tomorrow.  Call it a night?”

“Oh geez!! I totally forgot the roofers said they would be back at 7:30am!”  Reality had finally caught me too it seemed.  I scrambled around collecting the containers and milk crate.  “Thanks for the steak and the story.” I said as I reached for the door.

“Anytime,” he said holding the door for me as I walked out onto the stairs.

I found myself pausing at the wall a staring at it lost in thought for a moment before going through.  The story seemed more familiar than just it’s similarities to ‘Pyramus & Thisby’, but I couldn’t place it.  No time to ponder that know.  I have to get some sleep!!!