Talitha - Chapter 9

T a l i t h a

Chapter 9

   Some years had passed since the Sammons family first set foot on Arkansas soil in a community known as Dry Bayou, deriving its name from a small bayou coursing its way through many acres, often to run dry in places. In this length of time there had been many changes. Mrs. Sammons, whose health was so much improved that neither she nor her family any longer expected her untimely death, had along with two of her sons homesteaded a tract of land and built a house. Here she and the boys were living and farming. Jason and Polly, Wash and Nancy, were living near by, while Steve and Talitha were continuing to live on the rented acres where all the family first lived when they came to Arkansas. Steve, in connection with his farming interest, had acquired a store near his home and was doing a good business in general merchandise.


As far as was known, there were no regrets on the part of any member of the Sammons family for leaving their Louisiana home. Everyone was content and happy, except Talitha.

   There were three little mounds in a neighboring cemetery and another one nearer, Steve and Talitha had only recently put away their fourth and only child. Talitha, in her sorrow, forgetting the hardships she had known during the Civil War and Reconstruction days and remembering only her childhood happiness, and thinking she might recapture some of the happiness she once knew there, was pleading with Steve to go back to the old homestead to live. One evening at the store Talitha was sitting on the steps of the store porch, seriously thinking. When Steve joined her there she said, "Steve, wouldn't you rather have happiness than anything else?" When Steve answered in the affirmative she quickly said, "Then let's go back to Louisiana where happiness is waiting for us."

   Steve had no desire to return to Louisiana, and feeling that time would heal Talitha's sorrow, had been trying over a period of weeks to make her understand that moving back to the homestead would not alone bring her happiness. "Should we go back to your old home, have you thought of the many times you would wish to see your mother and how far away from her you would be?" Steve asked. No, Talitha had not thought of that. She had pictured only the happiness of her childhood days with her sisters and brothers always near. But, still believing happiness awaited her there, Talitha was persistent. This caused Steve to go to Mrs. Sammons for advice. The fact Talitha wanted to return to the old home came as a complete surprise to Mrs. Sammons. Talitha had not even hinted this to her mother. "Steve, I prefer not to say a word concerning this incident," Mrs. Sammons said. "This is a matter I think you should decide alone. I think of Talitha as being still too young to make a decision of this nature."

   Mrs. Sammons worried over Talitha's actions and wondered why her daughter hadn't mentioned the move she anticipated to her. But no doubt she was glad she hadn't, for, as she had told Steve, she didn't care to have a word to say.

   Later, alone with her mother, Talitha said, "Ma, wouldn't it make you happy to go back to the old home?" Mrs. Sammons knew exactly what Talitha had in mind, and still not wishing to say a word, looked at Talitha, slowly shaking her head. Talitha had learned years before that the shaking of her mother's head to a question one might ask expressed her exact feeling, and once it was no it meant no.

   Talitha began thinking more of what Steve had told her regarding the move back. Yes, she believed she would miss her family and be unhappy without them near, and she believed Steve to be right when he said she wouldn't  find the happiness there she once knew as a child. Realizing these facts more and more she was now waiting for an opportunity to tell Steve she no longer wished to return to the old home.  Steve had noticed that for several days now Talitha had ceased to talk to him about moving back to Louisiana, and he in turn, hoping she had become reconciled, was careful not to bring up the subject.

   One day a man of the community dropped into the store. He had heard Steve's business would probably be for sale and he wanted to buy--- offering him corn and cattle as part payment. True, Steve had approached several people on the subject of selling his stock of merchandise, for he knew that if Talitha kept insisting on going back to the old home, he, for her sake, would take her back.

   That evening at supper Steve remarked, "I had a chance to sell the store this afternoon." Surprised, Talitha asked, "Do you want to sell?" "I don't know," Steve said. "It all depends on, er-ah." Talitha, realizing what he had in mind, interrupted to say, "Of course we don't want to sell, our business is too good." Steve looked at Talitha and smiled, then she was sure he understood---all the more so when he arose from the table and said, "Talitha, we will find happiness here in our love for each other."

   One afternoon a few days later Talitha hurried through her chores to walk the distance of possibly a mile and a half to visit her mother for a few hours. On her way she stopped by the store to remind Steve where she was going. Talitha didn't know Steve had told her mother of her unhappiness and desire to return to Louisiana, and Steve, feeling Mrs. Sammons would be as relieved as he to know Talitha's decision, called to her when she went on her way and said, "Tell your mother you'll be 'round to help her pick the geese."

   As Talitha made her way down the crooked turned rows through the fields to her mother's house she was thinking, why would Steve say what he did to her? Why? Hastening on she continued to wonder why. Finally, she thought she knew the answer. Yes, she was sure Steve had told her mother all. And if he had told her mother, she wanted to see her now more than ever to talk to her concerning the move and tell her she no longer wanted to go. But she felt a little reluctant as she hadn't confided in her before now. But before Talitha reached her mother's home she was confident she would tell her all from the very beginning.

   At the doorstep of her mother's home Talitha paused to look over some clothing her mother had put there to sun. Recognizing one of the articles as the dress her mother had made for her shroud. Talitha burst into tears. The loud cry brought her mother running to the porch. Sitting down beside her on the steps Mrs. Sammons insisted she tell her why the tears. Talitha had not seen the dress since the day her mother finished it and put it in the trunk, and since it had never been discussed she had almost forgotten it. Finally, sobbing between her tears, Talitha said, "Ma, why should you want to keep that dress? Let's rip the seams and use it for another purpose." "No," Mrs. Sammons firmly said, "I hope it will be used one day for the purpose it was made."

   Tearfully returning home Talitha remembered she had forgotten to tell her mother that she no longer desired to move back to Louisiana.

   That night Steve, concerned for Mrs. Sammons' happiness, asked Talitha whether she had told her mother about having changed her mind. Talitha admitted she had not, and again in tears she told Steve of the ordeal she encountered at her mother's home that afternoon. Then, feeling that she never again could make up her mind to tell her mother of her decision and yet wanting her to know, she said, "Steve, won't you tell Ma we are not going back to Louisiana?"

   On learning Steve had told her mother all, Talitha was hoping her mother would bring up the subject so she might make amends for not confiding in her. But neither of them was ever to mention the subject again.


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Charlotte Curlee Ramsey

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