Friday, 23 November 1849.
The lettuce sat in its brown bag, wilting in the unseasonable warmth. By the time that the grocer Paul Holland had got up the courage to investigate the bag’s contents, the damage had been done. The leaves had gone flabby, pale and dry. He took the bag from the counter and set it on a cool shelf at the back of the store in the hope that it might freshen into resurrection. Such a sorry waste and so unlike Dr Parkman! He glanced at the wall clock: five o’clock, three hours since he had marched in, in his brisk, clockwork fashion. The pleasantries had been, as usual, sparse, and about the weather. Sugar (thirty-two pounds) and butter (six pounds) had been ordered for delivery to his house on Walnut Street. The lettuce (bought elsewhere and dearly, for a salad in November was an extravagance) was set down on the counter. He would be back ‘in a few minutes’ he had said, a few minutes. What Dr Parkman said, he meant, as many a tenant of his had cause to recall. And regular: my goodness you could set your watch by him; there never was such a man for promptness.
He had left the store, on the corner of Blossom Street, and walked smartly in the direction of the Harvard Medical College, the hulking square red-brick building that squatted on North Grove Street, with its rear against the mudflats of the Charles River. A number of people had seen him on the way, his angular, sternly dressed body leaning forward as though his torso were impatient with his legs for not keeping pace. Two schoolboys were trading twelve-year-old confidences on the street as the doctor flew by. This would have been ten to two, Martha Moore surmised at the trial, since she had leaned out of her window and told her young George and his friend Dwight to get themselves to afternoon school sharpish. They had scurried off across the street and up Beacon Hill, arriving just a minute before the sentence of ‘tardy’ was recorded in the roll. Just seventy feet away from the college door, a delivery cart full of pig-iron castings was being unloaded and weighed by the Fuller brothers in front of their West Boston Foundry. In the midst of their clattering and heaving they too remembered seeing the doctor pass swiftly by up North Grove Street.