Talitha - Chapter 8

T a l i t h a

Chapter 8

   Talitha's wedding day was a beautiful one, following several days of severe weather conditions. Nancy and Polly were on hand to help with the last-minute details, and to assist in dressing the bride. Mrs. Sammons had told Nancy and Polly she would like to rearrange Talitha's hair. She realized that young bride's two large pigtails worn down her back were to be no more, since she would no longer be thought of a child. As she stood behind Talitha, who was seated before a mirror, trying first one hairdo then another, wanting a coiffure more girlish looking than mature, she could no longer control her feelings. Once when she paused to dry her tears Talitha saw her in the mirror and said, "Ma, why are you crying? Aren't you happy? I am." Yes, Mrs. Sammons was happy---happy over Talitha's marriage to be. When she thought of herself as a dying woman she believed it to be the best thing that could possibly happen to Talitha at present.

   At least two days before the wedding, chicken and hams were in readiness and much baking of cakes and pies was in progress at the Sammons home, all in preparation for the wedding supper. Several days before the event, heavy rains had fallen, swelling all streams for miles around, causing Nancy and Polly, who were doing the baking, to think there wouldn't be many guests. "I know the streams are overflowed." Mrs. Sammons told the girls, "but streams sometimes run down overnight. I think it best for you to continue baking.

   Guests came from miles around. They came by horseback and wagon---wagon after wagon filled to capacity---all to attend the wedding of Talitha and Steve, scheduled for five o'clock in the evening. Seemingly no one forgot to bring along their best string instrument. Soon after the ceremony, with most of the kitchen furniture removed, many of the guests started dancing and feasting, which continued until into the wee hours of the morning.

   The marriage of Talitha and Steve was not to make any changes at the Sammons home. Mrs. Sammons, thinking she would be needing her youngest daughter in her last illness, had asked Steve not to take Talitha away from her. This Steve promised, also promising her the continuance of his help with the boys in making another crop.

   Several weeks had passed and Steve, the boys, and Mrs. Sammons, in her feeble condition, were making plans for the spring planting when one night Wash England, Nancy's husband, in a drunken brawl over a gambling table, cut a man almost unto death. Wash slipped to his home to tell Nancy what had happened and to make plans to cross the Louisiana border into Arkansas to escape punishment by law. He advised Nancy to go to her mother's, promising she would hear from him as soon as possible. A few hours later a posse was calling at the Sammons home, having searched Nancy's place without finding their man. When Steve answered the knock at the door and told the men that Wash England was not there, they refused to believe him. Mrs. Sammons, quickly dressing and not waiting further developments, said, "If you won't take my son-in-law's word, you may come in and search the house." Still not able to find their man, one of the posse asked Mrs. Sammons the way to the barn. Talitha led the way to the barn,, which the man searched over and over, Talitha holding the pine knot high that he might see better. Then she led him to the smokehouse, where he searched every nook and corner. Still not convinced, he said, "Are there any other buildings around?" Talitha told him of the cow barn across the Gallion. Taking a boat she rowed him across the Gallion.

   Talitha could not remember how many times she had rowed across the stream at the break of day with her mother to hold off the calves while her mother did the milking.

Down through the years Talitha had learned to handle the oars well. By now Steve and Mrs. Sammons had  missed Talitha and started a search for her and the stranger. They were relieved to find her at the door steps trying to convince the stranger there were no more buildings to search. When the posse rode away without their man, Talitha and Steve without waiting for daybreak, hastened to go to Nancy to tell her about the search.

   After weeks of anxiety, Nancy finally heard from her husband. He was at the home of a family in southeast Arkansas, having engaged to make a crop for this family. Wash knew he could not return to Louisiana and escape punishment by law, and he had made plans for Nancy to come to him. He advised her to have Steve and one of the boys help her move with his wagon and team. Nancy was eager to go to her husband, but when she thought of her mother's failing health it broke her heart to think of leaving her, well knowing if she could get her mother's consent the rest of the family would go also, including Jason and Polly.

   She contacted Wash to see if there was farm land available at this time for all the family. On learning that there was, there was no letup to Nancy's insistence. She was having difficulty in getting an answer from her mother and the time was growing shorter for her move to Arkansas, the day Wash had set for her coming. One afternoon, sitting alone with her mother, Nancy said, "Ma, if I thought I had only a short time to live and you were being forced to move away I would go with you that you might be with me in my last illness, because I love you." Mrs. Sammons knew Nancy was pressing her for an answer. She had given the matter much thought and prayer, only for the interest of her family. She knew the move would mean the giving up of her home, the home she and her husband had worked hard together to make, the home she loved, full of memories, some of which she had long cherished. But she was willing to forgo all for the welfare of her family.

   One day Mrs. Sammons said, "If I make the move to Arkansas or if I don't, is not to concern me for long. It all depends on what Steve thinks best to do, and regardless of what he might say, I'll abide by his decision." No sooner had Nancy heard these words from her mother than she started pleading with Steve to move to Arkansas. Steve regretted that Mrs. Sammons had left the decision up to him, as he was finding it hard to know what to do, and he insisted she say what she thought best. But her only answer was, "I think it only right that you be happy in this case, Steve. It would be my decision for only a short time, but it may be yours to live with for many a day, and I think it only fair to you that you be satisfied."

   Steve and the boys had only recently finished preparing some of the soil for the spring planting, yet this would not stand in the way should the family decide to move. Although the time was quickly passing Steve knew there was time to make a crop in Arkansas. Time passed and Steve continued to ponder the move. One day when Nancy was pleading with him she burst into tears, and sobbing on Steve's shoulder she said, "Don't you care that I have to leave my dying mother, and don't you think she cares that I have to leave her in her last illness?" Steve had once confessed that a woman's tears were his weakness, and what Nancy had said gave him much concern. Sure, he knew Mrs. Sammons would like nothing better than to have all her children near her during her last  illness. He put himself in Nancy's place, knowing he would regret to leave a sick mother, probably never to see her alive again. Steve knew how much Talitha and Polly regretted to see Nancy move away, and believing the boys would be happy in Arkansas, he saw no reason why the family shouldn't move---except for one thing that concerned him more than all.

   One day when he and Mrs. Sammons were discussing Nancy's move Steve said, "I believe the move to Arkansas would be best for the happiness of us all at present, but wouldn't you be happier to spend your last days in your home?" Mrs. Sammons knew that Steve's concern was more for her, and this she did not want, and immediately she said, "Your decision is mine. Start making plans to move, we are going to Arkansas."

   In making plans to move, Steve made sure there would be plenty of farming land for the family and a house large enough to accommodate the Sammonses, including Talitha and himself, to his promise to Mrs. Sammons not to take Talitha away from her in her last illness.

   Early on the morning set for their departure, two wagons stood at the gate, loaded to capacity. Mrs. Sammons and her young sons, three daughters and two sons-in-law were ready to start the journey to their new home. Just as Nancy thought, Jason and Polly were moving along with them. Frank, the eldest son, was driving Nancy's wagon. Mrs. Sammons started out riding with Talitha and Steve, promising to take turns riding with the others before they reached their destination.

   The family, gathered around the wagon, was ready for the takeoff, Unnoticed in the general excitement, Mrs. Sammons slipped back into the house. Soon someone said, "Where is Ma?" Steve sent Talitha to find her and tell her all was ready to go. Talitha, going through the house calling, found her mother standing in the kitchen door as if in a trance, looking across the broad acres. "We are ready to go, Ma," Talitha said. Mrs. Sammons slowly closed the door and without saying a word followed Talitha back to the wagon. As they drove away from the gate all seemed in a happy mood, although they knew it was a sorrowful occasion for their mother to be leaving her home. One of the boys reminded the others to take a last look at the homestead. All did so, even Mrs. Sammons, who wished to hold back her feeling, for under no circumstances did she at any time want to make her family unhappy.

   With all the chit-chat from wagon to wagon, not one word did Mrs. Sammons say until they reached the end of the lane where Steve turned the team northward. Then, looking over her shoulder to catch a last glimpse of the old homestead, she was heard to say, "Memories, memories, only in death may I forget."


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Charlotte Curlee Ramsey

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