Talitha - Chapter 7

T a l i t h a

Chapter 7

   It was over two years since Steve first made the decision to continue his abode at the Sammons homestead, and Mrs. Sammons could still point with appreciation to many projects which, through his efforts, had made better living for the family as a whole.

   Nancy was now married to Wash England. She and her husband were living on a farm about five miles from her mother's home.

   Polly was married to Jason Hill and they, too, were farming and living not too far away. Mrs. Sammons, who was ill, had been told by her physician that she probably had less than a year to live. The Civil War, the death of her husband, and Reconstruction days had all brought sorrow and hardship, which Mrs. Sammons now blamed for her failing health. The fact that her days were numbered caused her no grave concern for herself. She had once said she was prepared to meet her Maker, and was ready to go when it was the Lord's will. Her only concern was for Talitha, soon to be fourteen. Certainly she had given much thought to the welfare of her three sons, but they, being boys, could shift for themselves better than Talitha, she thought. Of course, she knew either Nancy or Polly would give Talitha a home. But would this be satisfactory to all concerned? Mrs. Sammons often wondered about this. Talitha, and Talitha alone, gave her much thought and worry.

   One evening in midwinter, Mrs. Sammons was seated by the fire in her bedroom, smoking her pipe, a habit she had acquired during her sleepless nights of the Civil War. She had left Talitha in the kitchen to do the dishes. As time passed she wondered what was keeping the girl so long, and she made her way to the kitchen. As she emerged from the second bedroom through the half-open kitchen door, she froze in her tracks, shocked. There, side by side on a bench, before a glowing fire in the kitchen fireplace, were Steve and Talitha. Steve, pledging his love for Talitha, reminded her of the time he carved the two hearts on the holly tree and said, "My love for you is as great as it was then for Jane. If you love me as you say, won't you go with me to the holly tree tomorrow and let me entwine your heart in mine?" Mrs. Sammons, on hearing Talitha give Steve her solemn promise to do so, slipped quietly back to her bedroom and easy chair. "How stupid of me," she pondered. "How stupid of me not to have known before now that Steve and Talitha are in love."

   She recalled the many times she had heard Steve ask Talitha to walk to the range with him to drive home the cows, the many times she had seen them sitting on a log in the Gallion fishing, only now to know they didn't care if the fish didn't bite. She remembered the times they chopped cotton in rows next to each other, Steve always helping Talitha chop out her row. Sitting there alone, she refilled her pipe, and as she lighted it with a pine splinter from the fire, she couldn't help but think how rightfully her pipe could be called a peace pipe, for now the first time in months she knew her mind to be more at peace.

   Talitha's marriage would solve her only problem of facing death. She thought of Talitha's tender age of fourteen and remembered she had often said she would never consent to the marriage of either of her daughters until they were eighteen. Now, she would be consenting to Talitha's marriage and she yet so young. But Mrs. Sammons justified herself by the fact that under no circumstances other than her expected death soon would she give her consent to this marriage. Steve was twenty-three years of age and she knew him to be a good man. She also knew he had been a kind and devoted husband to her daughter Jane, and she knew of no one with whom she would rather trust Talitha's welfare and happiness than Steve Davis. She brought to mind the words she had often heard coming from her mother's lips, "He that findeth peace, findeth all."

   Several days had passed and neither Talitha nor Steve had mentioned their intended marriage. Mrs. Sammons especially wanted to talk to Talitha to make sure she understood what step she was taking in planning to marry Steve. There were times when she thought of approaching them on the subject, but no, she would wait and let them tell her of their plans. Knowing Steve as she did, she knew he would talk the matter over with her at the first opportunity.

   Young as she was, Talitha was giving her forthcoming marriage serious thought. She had loved Steve from the day he married Jane and came to live in her home. She recalled it was Steve who always found the needle and thread to set a ripped seam in her rag doll. It was Steve who had taught her and John to smoke a rabbit out of a hollow in such a way that, along with their dog Mitt,


they never failed to get their prey. It was Steve who taught them how to make the deadfalls she and John set up and down the Gallion, trapping many quail for the family table. She recalled that long before she was twelve she could distinguish the tracks of every wild animal that roamed the swamps near her home, and she knew the whereabouts of every deer stand for miles around---thanks to Steve.

   Yes, she had loved Steve for several years, but she knew her love for him now was different than when she thought of herself as a mere child.

   In the days that passed Mrs. Sammons gave much thought to Talitha's approaching marriage. In fact, she knew exactly what her answer to Steve would be when he asked for Talitha's hand. She wanted Steve to know that under no circumstances other than her expectation of dying soon would she consent to so early a marriage for Talitha. But in telling him, she realized, she would be revealing the secret she had guarded for a period of months---the diagnosis of her doctor. Mrs. Sammons had hoped she might spare her family the knowledge of her approaching death, at least until the fatal day drew nearer. But now she knew she would be forced to tell them if the family, especially Steve, were to know why she was consenting to Talitha's marriage at this time.

   One afternoon, a beautiful one for a winter day, Steve was keeping busy as usual doing odd jobs around the house. Mrs. Sammons put aside her knitting and, finding her bonnet, made her way to the wash place near the house on the Gallion. There, sitting alone on the wash bench, enjoying the warmth of a winter's sun, she had only one purpose in mind. She was hoping Steve would see her and take advantage of this opportunity to tell her of his plans to marry Talitha. Soon, she heard Steve say, "Mrs. Sammons, you remind me of the turtles when they have found a place to sun." Laughingly, Mrs. Sammons replied, "Maybe the turtles and I are alike in one respect, we don't want moss to grow on our backs." Steve seated himself on the bench by his mother-in-law and finally got around to saying, "Mrs. Sammons, I'm in love with Talitha. I believe her to be in love with me and I have asked her to marry me. I hope you are not going to ask me to wait till she's  eighteen." "No," said Mrs. Sammons, "I'm giving my consent now and with it goes my blessing. My only request is that you and Talitha marry before it is too late for me to know."

   Just as Mrs. Sammons had expected, her last words caused Steve to ask many questions, forcing her to disclose the secret she once thought she might never reveal.

   While Talitha and Steve were making plans for their marriage a few weeks hence, Mrs. Sammons was, for the first time, discussing with her family her impending death. With her family's interest still at heart, she arose early one morning to drive a distance of several miles with Steve, Talitha, Nancy and Polly. She had two objects in view; she would be helping Talitha purchase material for her wedding dress, and second, she planned to purchase material for her shroud.

   At the store when the clerk had unfolded several patterns of material on the counter from which they might make their choice, Mrs. Sammons said, "Talitha, which of these materials do you like? Talitha chose a soft white material, her mother, along with Nancy and Polly, agreeing it was beautiful. When the amount of yardage was decided and the package neatly wrapped, Mrs. Sammons said to the clerk as she examined another piece of material unfolded on the counter, "I'll take several yards of this piece." The girls knew at once what their mother had in mind and they all protested, especially Talitha who said, "Ma, please don't do this." "I'm only doing what I think best for you girls." Mrs. Sammons replied.

   After Talitha's wedding dress was carefully planned and finished, Mrs. Sammons set to work making her shroud, it, too, a soft white material, working on it only when the last member of her family was asleep. When the shroud was finished Mrs.. Sammons placed it in the bottom of her trunk, telling only Talitha where it could be found when needed.


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Charlotte Curlee Ramsey

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