Talitha - Chapter 10

T a l i t h a

Chapter 10

   In the back yard of the Steve Davis home stood a two-room cabin. There lived Uncle Harry, an old Negro former slave, and his wife, Aunt Sara. They were living there when Talitha and Steve first moved into the big house. Uncle Harry, having tilled some of the acreage of this farm for the past few years, now wanted to remain there with Steve, the new landlord. So Steve made an agreement with him and Aunt Sara to continue in their abode, tilling the same acreage to corn and cotton as in the past and to help with the chores around the house. Uncle Harry and Aunt Sara were kind old souls, especially Uncle Harry, who down through the years had come to know no better friends than Talitha and Steve. From the first, Uncle Harry chose to think of Talitha and Steve as only children, and took a liking to doing the chores more with a feeling that they, especially Talitha, were too young to know the "how to" of many things. Steve, feeling that a day's work in the field was plenty for the old darky without the added chores at the house, had spoken to him concerning the matter. Protesting, Uncle Harry said, "Mass' Davis, I done seed you children ain't got much gumption about doin' things. Jes' wait till you old as me, then you'll have a-plenty of gumption in that dat head of yourn. 'Spect you needs me round her' yit."

   So, with a love so great as this, it was no wonder that it was Uncle Harry, who, along with Talitha and Steve, rejoiced over the birth of each newborn baby, always regretting they weren't twins, and when he, among the first, peeped into that little bundle he never failed to say, "Jes' one, jes' one, oughta been two, shore do need dem mud pies baking in the sun 'round dis her' place."

   It was Uncle Harry who mingled his tears with those of the family at the passing of each of Talitha and Steve's children, then to say, "Mis' Davis, les' don't grieve for dat little angel. The Lord was mighty good to let us love dat little thing dis little while and we knows the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord." So, it was still no wonder that Uncle Harry found his way into the hearts of Talitha and Steve.

   Now with the added years, Talitha and Steve regretted to see Uncle Harry growing more feeble and his head bending low. Once again it would soon be time to start the plowing and planting for another crop on the Davis' rented acres. Steve was sure that in Uncle Harry's feeble condition it was best that he not set foot in the field for the purpose of making a crop, and he was trying to persuade him of this, but Uncle Harry could see it only his way. Insisting that he was able to make another crop he said, "Mass' Davis, I'se got to work. The Lord didn't put us her' jes to sit down on His good earth and do nothin' and I jes' can't go 'gainst de Lord." But Steve positively refused to give him all the acreage he had worked in the past years.

   Early spring found Uncle Harry happy, once again turning the soil and looking forward to making a good crop. Day after day around sundown, Talitha watched him returning home after another day's hard work in the field, slowly making his way to the barn to feed and put away his mule for the night. She couldn't help but think how right he must be when only recently she overheard him saying, "Ain't gwine be long 'til dis her' darky's gwine be singing with dem ban' of angels up yonder."

   One evening in the glow of a setting sun when Uncle Harry was wending his way homeward, Talitha saw him coming, headed for the barn, and she could plainly see he was very weary, his head bending lower and lower. Talitha could not restrain her concern. Meeting him near the barn she said, "Uncle Harry, hurry to feed your mule and then go to the house where you can rest." "I'se qwine to get plenty of rest, Mis' Davis," he said. "Didn't you see dat sunrise dis morning? I'se done heard your ma say what your grandma always said---'Red in the morning, sailors take warning,' and I knows by dat it shore qwine to rain."

   Early spring brought not only the turning of the soil, daisies on the hillside and the cooing of the turtle dove. It brought more happiness to Talitha than she once thought possible. She was, once again, singing lullabies to her baby. The newcomer was her daughter Clemmia (Clemmie), and the fact that she and Steve were fast adding to their savings with one purpose in mind was bringing Talitha much happiness also. They were planning to buy the house where they lived and the surrounding acres, possibly about sixty. Talitha and Steve had often expressed a desire to own this particular tract of land, and it looked as if their dream was about to come true.

   With the volume of business at the store, there was extra money to add to their savings, and with the cotton to be sold in the fall, Steve was positive there would be sufficient funds to make the payment for the acres they had dreamed of some day acquiring. Talitha was aware that Steve had buried eight hundred dollars in gold. She had helped him count it, but the whereabouts of the buried treasure didn't concern her. She thought it was a secret that should be kept by one and only one, and she trusted Steve to keep it.

   Late one evening Steve came home from the store with several hundred dollars to be added to the amount he had already buried. He talked the matter over with Talitha and they decided to find a larger container in which to hold the money, including the eight hundred. She brought to mind the large iron pot with a tight cover stored in the barn. Steve agreed this might be what they needed. Talitha could well remember the iron pot hanging in her mother's kitchen fireplace, briskly boiling, filled with fresh backbones which all the family enjoyed. Later when Talitha missed the pot she asked no questions. She was sure Steve used it for the purpose he first wanted it.

   Some time later Talitha was awakened one night to find Steve a very sick man. She called Uncle Harry to saddle his mule quickly and go for her mother, reminding him to take along an extra mule for her mother to ride back. No sooner had Mrs. Sammons arrived than she knew Steve's illness was beyond her knowledge, and she immediately advised Talitha to send for the doctor. Uncle Harry rode a distance of several miles to reach him.

   After the doctor's second or third visit to the Davis home he said, in answer to Talitha's questions, "Sure, your husband is much improved; he should be up in a few days." But Steve didn't think he was improving so fast, and when the doctor visited him the next day he said, "Doctor, I feel I'm growing weaker. If so, I want you to tell me, for I have something I must tell my wife before I die." "No," the doctor said, "I think you are improving, you'll be back in the store soon."

   Steve, conscious of his condition, found this hard to believe and asked the doctor to promise to tell him should his condition take a change for the worse. Talitha knew that Steve wanted to tell her where he had buried the money, but she too, thinking he was much improved, kept her silence.

   A few days later Steve suddenly grew worse and again Talitha sent Uncle Harry on a run for the doctor. The latter, on reaching Steve's bedside, immediately saw his condition was worse. Remembering his promise to Steve he said, "Mr. Davis, I regret very much to say, I believe you are dying." Steve reached for the hand of Talitha, standing at his bedside, and speaking his last words between short breaths he said, "Doctor, you waited too long to tell me." His lips forever sealed, Steve carried to his grave a secret he wanted so much for his wife to know. A secret his wife now wanted so much to know.


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Charlotte Curlee Ramsey

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