Talitha - Chapter 19

T a l i t h a

Chapter 19

   The following Monday morning Talitha arose at her usual hour, before sunrise. She had decided she would not be returning to school, much as she regretted this, and much against the wishes of her mother, who was now insisting she at least finish the remaining week of that term of school. The oral examination she was required to take would prove beneficial to her, the other thought. Only the day before had Talitha, for the first time, told John she would not be going to school any longer, giving him her reason why. She found him as hard to convince as her mother, as he pleaded with her to dismiss it all from her mind and to think only of furthering her education. "What if Mr. Radford is in love with you? Why should this keep you out of school?" John repeated over and over. Talitha tried hard and wanted so much to have John understand her feelings. Finally, John recalled how his sister had changed her mind when he had said, "If you don't go to school I doubt if I will go either." He now repeated this, hoping it would have the same effect again. Talitha straightway began insisting that John not only finish the term of free school but continue through the subscription school as well, knowing he needed the extra three months in school as well as she did. The thought of John not taking advantage of school the next three months gave her much concern. She wondered if he wasn't interested any longer. This she could not believe, because of the interest he had shown, and since John had no reason not to return to school, there was no letup to Talitha's insistence.

   Before retiring the night before, she had John's promise to attend subscription school.

   So this Monday morning, the first in weeks, John would be returning to school without her. Talitha alone in the kitchen was preparing John's lunch, turning the large slices of home-cured ham, remembering what she had often heard him say, "Make mine gravy brown," and she was doing just that with only one thought in mind.

   She was planning to walk part way with John when he left for school. When he returned to the kitchen to pick up his lunch, ready to take off for school, Talitha too was ready to carry out her plans. Although sad that she wasn't returning to school with John that morning, she did try to be in a cheerful mood. Teasing and escorting John out of the kitchen she said, "I'm thinking of walking to school with you," Laughingly John said, "Not with that apron on."

   They had only reached the gate opening on the road that led to the little one-room schoolhouse when Talitha stated her mission. She knew Mr. Radford would ask why she was absent that morning, and she hoped to fix in John's mind what to tell him without disclosing the real reason. "You could say I was needed at the store," Talitha said. "Better still, say my mother needed me at home today." "No-siree," John said, "I'm not fixing to tell a lie about a little thing like that." "Well then," Talitha said, "if you are so bent on telling the truth, don't say anything. I'm not so sure you know the truth about it after all."

   That afternoon Talitha was anxious for John's return from school, only to know if Mr. Radford did ask the reason for her absence. John, teasing, declared he didn't mention it, and not until he had had his quota of fun teasing did he confess Mr. Radford did ask about her. He also assured her he didn't say anything to lead Mr. Radford to know the reason. Mr. Radford had only asked, "Is Mrs. Davis ill today?" making it possible for John to answer with only, "No."

   Each morning that week Mr. Radford placed an absence mark by Talitha's name, and each morning he said, "John, tell Mrs. Davis I'm sorry she couldn't answer roll call this morning." Friday afternoon arrived to mark the end of the term of the free school.

   After an afternoon of recitations, songs, etc., the pupils were preparing to take home their books, some for the last time. Mr. Radford, strolling among them, handed each pupil his or her grades from the oral exams. When he handed John his grades he also handed him a folded sheet of paper and said, "Please see that Mrs. Davis receives this." John placed the note between the pages of his book and not until that night while helping Talitha with the dishes and talking of events at school did he think of the note. Together, they read the note Mr. Radford had written. He was regretting Talitha had missed the exams and assured her that her grades were sufficient for her to enter subscription school without exams.

   The following Sunday afternoon, when Mrs. Sammons and her boys were seated in her bedroom, one of the boys announced, "Here comes Mr. Radford riding Fiddle." Fiddle was a beautiful sorrel mare, Mr. Radford's pride and joy and the envy of every young man in the community. Talitha, seated in her bedroom, could not help but overhear and she wondered what had brought Mr. Radford this way. On second thought, she decided, he was only making the rounds to see how many pupils he would have in attendance at subscription school Monday morning. Not until Mrs. Sammons had greeted him and seated him in her bedroom did Talitha make her appearance. Mr. Radford was soon to state his business, and when Mrs. Sammons assured him of only one pupil, John, from her family to attend subscription school, he expressed his regrets to Talitha that she wouldn't be one of them. When Mr. Radford was preparing to leave, Mrs. Sammons, not forgetting her Southern hospitality, said, "Mr. Radford, won't you stay for the evening meal and attend church services with us tonight?" Without any persuading he gladly accepted the invitation. Talitha thought of this as being all right, yet she wished he could have seen fit to be on his way.

   When Talitha served the apple tarts with sour cream. Mr. Radford straightway wanted to know who made the delicious desert. "Talitha did," Mrs. Sammons said. Mr. Radford looked at Talitha seated across the table from him and said, "I see you are as good a cook as you are a pupil."

   When the family was preparing to go to church Mr. Radford, without Talitha's knowledge, asked John if he would ride his mare that he might have a seat in the wagon with Talitha. John was delighted to ride Fiddle and quickly let him know it would be his pleasure to do so.

   Although a winter night, it was unusually warm and balmy, and when Mrs. Sammons commented on this Mr. Radford agreed that it was a beautiful night and said, "Mrs. Davis, do you mind walking the distance home with me after the services, I would like to discuss some school work with you." Why should she mind the distance, Talitha thought. She had been walking it each school day now for three months, the church and school being on the same plot of ground. She had refused to let Mr. Radford see her to the crossroads over a period of time, and wishing to spare him the rudeness of another refusal, she now said she would not mind.

   Through the stillness of the night, still except for the rattling of the wagons loaded with church-going folks homeward bound, Talitha and Mr. Radford walked alone. In the course of conversation, Mr. Radford repeated, "Your school work has been excellent the past three months, and I feel sure you would do still better in the months to come." Talitha herself knew she had been an excellent pupil and she wished it were possible for her to continue, mentally blaming Mr. Radford for her not being able to do so. Upon his insisting, she tried to make him understand that circumstances beyond her control prevented her from resuming school. Bidding her good night, Mr. Radford asked her to reconsider and be in school the following morning if at all possible. "Why are you so interested that I continue in school?" Talitha asked. "Only because I love you," he replied.


"Talitha" may be linked but not copied to any other homepage or entity on the internet, and may not be reprinted in any form except for genealogical information, and not permitted published for financial gain in any form. All Rights Reserved.

Charlotte Curlee Ramsey

Hosted by RootsWeb