Talitha - Chapter 13

T a l i t h a

Chapter 13

   A short distance from Mrs. Sammons' home, there lived with his family a young man, Levi Dorman. He was twenty-four, of medium stature, a decided blond, and regarded as the handsomest man in all those parts. He had partly grown up in the Dry Bayou community and he and his family were among the Sammonse's first acquaintances when they first moved to Arkansas. For years he had been known for his marksmanship. No one for miles around could equal his skill with a rifle, and over a period of time the older hunters had said of him, "His aim is as the crow flies, and once in the deep swamps, he never comes out empty handed." Often Steve and Talitha's table had been graced with bear meat thanks to Levi, whose custom it was after a day in the swamps to pass out cuts of bear meat to all the families in the community.

   Since moving to Arkansas, Mrs. Sammons' boys had been among Levi's ardent admirers. He spent much time in their company, and Mrs. Sammons had come to learn, on hearing the click of a gun hammer or the report of gunfire in her back yard, that it was only Levi showing her boys some of his good points in handling a gun. But later Levi was spending much of his leisure time a little further northward of Mrs. Sammons' home. He could now be found at the store, especially if he knew Talitha was there. His frequent visits had convinced Talitha's family that she was his only interest there. But Talitha refused to believe this, and could not be convinced until one evening at the store Levi, just sitting around, overheard Jason and Talitha making plans for a trip they and Polly would take the following morning to Grand Lake, a boat landing on the Mississippi River, about twenty-five miles distant. There they would meet a boat from New Orleans with cargo, including merchandise which Talitha and Jason planned to buy for the store. Levi asked if he might go also. Jason quickly replied, "Yes, I'll be glad to have you along; you can help me drive and load the merchandise." The journey would take all day and into the night, even though they would be leaving before the break of day.

   Later that afternoon when Talitha was leaving the store to go home, Levi slid off a flour barrel to walk the distance with her. Taking her arm to assist her down the store steps, he said, I'm glad you are going tomorrow; it will be nice to be with you." No doubt Talitha gave him a quick glance but one thing was certain, she made no reply, she was thinking of what her family had said and wondered if it could be true.

   The journey to Grand Lake was a delightful one and Jason and Polly returned home more convinced than ever that Levi's interest in Talitha was as they had thought, and Talitha had more reasons to believe what her family had said of him.

   Arriving at the store late at night, Levi gladly helped Jason unload the merchandise, and as they all drove homeward Levi volunteered to be on hand early the following morning to assist Jason in placing the heavier articles, such as barrels of flour, plow tools, etc., where they need be. Once at Jason's home Levi made sure he didn't say good night until he had asked Talitha if he might drive her to church Sunday. "Not this Sunday," Talitha said. "Maybe another time."

   Now that Talitha was spending more time at the store, it was noticeable that Levi was spending more of his time there also, especially on Saturdays when her hours there were longer. She had learned Levi would be there to walk her home around sundown, declaring he too was on his way home. There was seldom a Sunday that Levi didn't ask Talitha for a date, especially on Sunday nights when there were to be church services. He called for her with his horse and buggy. True, Talitha had dated him on several occasions not only because of the friendship between the families but more to keep their friendship intact. But since she had come to believe Levi to be in love with her and now pleading with her to marry him, she was trying to make up her mind not to date him any longer. She was positive she was not in love with him, and feeling she could never be, she had no intentions of encouraging him. One thing Talitha had noticed in particular, Levi was becoming very fond of Clemmie and she was returning his love twofold.

   One evening, Polly insisting she be left alone to do the dishes, Talitha took Clemmie to sit on the kitchen doorsteps to show her the moon rising over a clump of willows on the bank of Dry Bayou. Sitting there, pointing out the moon to Clemmie and talking of its beauty, she recalled the old peddler of various wares traveling through the country who had stopped at the store only recently to deliver a message from Aunt Sara. She sent word of Uncle Harry's death. Only the night before he died he had sat on the porch of his daughter's home, in the dark of the moon, it slowly drizzling rain, still faithfully waiting and watching for Steve's return. He was heard to say, "Surely Mass' Davis comes tonight, there jes' ain't qwine to be no better time."

   Sitting there in a melancholy mood, reliving memories of yesterday, Talitha was surprised when Levi seated himself beside her. Taking Clemmie from her arms he said, "I wish you loved me as this baby does and would say yes to the question I asked you." He was forcing Talitha to tell him once more what she had repeated to him a number of times before, he not wanting to believe it. Now, hoping she could make him understand more fully, she said, "I will never say yes to any man's question until he first answers my question, and to my satisfaction." "What is your question?" Levi asked. "Perhaps I can answer it to your satisfaction." "I shall ask this only of the man I love and hope to marry," Talitha said.


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