Talitha - Chapter 22

T a l i t h a

Chapter 22

   The next few months at the Sammons home passed in the usual manner. Now, there was to be one exception to speak of.

   It was now almost two years since Steve's death, and the family which had made every effort to find the money he had buried, to no avail, was now ready to abandon the search. Talitha especially, whom it had cost endless worry and anxiety, wished to forget about it, On one occasion hope had run high. John thinking he knew the exact spot this time, he and Talitha searched around the roots of a large beech tree, the only one of its kind known throughout that whole country. When this proved fruitless Talitha was positive she was never to know Steve's secret. Thus, the search for the buried treasure was ended forever, as far as Talitha was concerned.

   September rushed in and once again many in the Dry Bayou community were thinking and talking in terms of school. Mr. Radford again had the contract to teach the three months of free school, to be followed by the usual three months of subscription school. In preparing for the opening of school, Mr. Radford knew that neither Talitha nor John would be present to answer roll call. John had taken a wife and Talitha had promised to marry him.

   Talitha had not yet told her mother of her engagement to Mr. Radford. When she and her mother were discussing the opening of school Mrs. Sammons, regretting Talitha's school days had ended, couldn't help but mention the fact. "Too bad you couldn't overlook a few things to return to school," she said. Talitha then told her mother of her engagement to Mr. Radford and their plans. Looking up from her knitting, Mrs. Sammons said, "Really, I can't truthfully say I'm surprised. I have thought for some time you were in love with Bob Radford, and when you refused to have your cup read at Jason's logrolling I was positive." "Are there any reasons why you should object?" Talitha asked her mother. "No, not in the least," Mrs. Sammons quickly replied. "I will admit for the first time,your marriage to Steve broke my heart and the scars have yet to heal, only because of your tender years, but now I promise not to shed a tear." Continuing, Mrs. Sammons said, "I think of Mr. Radford as a Southern gentleman and my richest blessings are yours."

   Their plans were to make their home with Mr. Radford's widowed father until Mr. Radford finished his terms of school, then they would move onto Mr. Radford's forty acres where he was to make his first crop that spring.

   With Mr. Radford's more frequent visits to the Sammons home, and his approaching marriage to Talitha, the family acquired the habit of addressing him as "Bob," down to the youngest member.

   One cold frosty morning, Talitha and Polly arose hours before the break of day. They would be making the trip with Jason to Grand Lake to meet the boat due from New Orleans on that date, Jason to buy merchandise to restock the store, Talitha to buy material for her wedding dress. From among the many pieces of material displayed on the boat, Talitha chose a soft shade of grey satin. Later she and her mother discussed various patterns and changes to be made, in the making of her wedding dress. Especially did Talitha want her mother's advice in this matter, realizing her superior skill and experience.

   The morning arrived when Mrs. Sammons unfolded the yards of satin, preparing to start Talitha's wedding dress. Once when Talitha had left the room and was just outside the door, she heard her mother say, "Another wedding dress for Talitha. How well I remember the first one." then add prayerfully, "Lord, if it can be Thy will, may this union be a long and happy one."

   Naturally, Talitha brought to mind her first wedding dress and in so doing she thought of the shroud her mother had made for herself at the time. She thought of the times she had tried to persuade her mother to discard the dress, still wishing it were possible. Now that everyone in the community was aware of Talitha's approaching marriage, the Sammons family had begun to notice that Levi's visits at the home were not so frequent. He came now only if a coon or 'possum hunt was in the making, although occasionally he did drop by to have a frolic with Clemmie and to tease Talitha about marrying an old bachelor.

   The longer Mrs. Sammons worked with the wedding dress, the more she liked the material, especially the color. One day when she and Talitha were sewing and the dress was nearing completion, Mrs. Sammons said, "I don't think I have worked with more beautiful material. I have always like the color of gray." This gave Talitha an idea and immediately she said, "Ma," if you like this material so much and you insist on having a shroud, why not make yourself a new dress of this material? There is plenty more material like this at the store."

   Mrs. Sammons looked at Talitha but refused to answer. By the fact her mother did not answer, Talitha was satisfied that she at last had persuaded her mother to have a new shroud, Later, when Mrs. Sammons had made the last stitch to complete the dress and she and Talitha stood together in her bedroom admiring it spread out full length on the bed, Mrs. Sammons handed Talitha the leftover material she had neatly folded and said, "Put this in your trunk," "Don't you plan to use it?" Talitha asked. "I think not," Mrs. Sammons said, "the shroud I have is good enough. All that will matter when that day comes is, am I prepared to meet my God?" Later, with Mrs. Sammons and Talitha alone over a quilting frame, the conversation drifted to Talitha's marriage and her newly completed wedding dress, Talitha, still hopeful she might change her mother's mind concerning her shroud and knowing how well her mother liked the gray satin, said, "Would it please you if I made you a shroud of the gray material?" Then and there, with tears in her eyes, Mrs. Sammons pleaded with Talitha to promise her that in event of her death she would use the shroud she had once made for the purpose. Talitha, at no time wishing to disobey her mother, gave her solemn promise to abide by her wish, if possible.

   Talitha and Bob continued to keep their Sunday night church date, and the young people continued to thrill to gather around Grandma Berry at church to ask her questions. With Talitha and Bob's marriage only a few weeks away, they now especially liked to ask her questions concerning the marriage, well remembering her attitude on the subject.

    One Sunday night those who had arrived at the church early, including Talitha and Bob, were leisurely standing around the stove talking on various topics. Grandma Berry, who was seated nearby, was the center of attraction. Many were admiring her new bonnet. When Talitha and Bob walked away to seats in a given pew, one of the younger girls, straightening the strings on Grandma's bonnet, whispered to her and said, "Did you know Talitha and Mr. Radford were to be married soon?" Sure, she well knew. Grandma Berry knew about the marriage as well as those present knew, but she, like the majority of the younger set, only wanted to hear Grandma Berry express her opinion. Grandma Berry, unable to hear the whisper, asked her to repeat it. This time the tone proved loud enough for all to hear and Grandma Berry, replying in a much louder tone, said, "They ain't married yet and there's many a slip 'twixt the cup and lip." Talitha and Bob couldn't help but overhear, and aware of the fact that Grandma Berry had doubted their marriage from the beginning, only smiled their amusement.

   Since Jason had learned of Talitha's approaching marriage, he had not pressed her for much of her time at the store, but there were days when he needed her so badly he couldn't resist the temptation to call on her, especially on Saturdays. This Saturday Talitha had had a busy day at the store, the sun was fast sinking and the weather was growing colder. Jason, with this in mind, was insisting Talitha be on her way home. When Talitha was preparing to put on her wraps Levi stepped up to assist her and said, "May I have this, my last walk home with you? I have something to tell you."

Walking along with her Levi said, "I understand your wedding day is to be very soon." When Talitha answered in the affirmative, he said, "I'm sure Mr. Radford answered your question to your satisfaction." "He did," Talitha replied, in a firm tone. "Would you mind telling me what the question was?" Levi asked."Remember," Talitha said, "I asked this of no man but the one I love and hope to marry." Levi then told Talitha of his plans to be leaving in the next few days. He planned to catch the boat at Grand Lake for New Orleans, from there he knew not where he would go. "I may not be back for years, if ever," Levi said. "I hope we are saying good-bye the best of friends, Talitha said. "Yes, we are, as far as I'm concerned," Levi said. "I shall always think of the little girl on Dry Bayou as my dearest friend." True to his word, Levi was gone for several years before he returned, then for only a short visit. But Talitha was never to see him again.


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Charlotte Curlee Ramsey

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