Produced by Juliet Sutherland, David Widger and PG Distributed Proofreaders
AMONG THE BRETHREN.
“Josiah Allen’s Wife”
Miss Timson’s letter wuz writ to me on the 6th day of his sickness, and Josiah and me set sail for Loontown on the follerin’ day after we got it.
I laid the case before the female Sisters of the meetin’ house, and they all counselled me to go. For, as they all said, on account of Sister Bobbet’s fallin’ on the apple parin’ we could not go on with the work of paperin’ the meetin’ house, and so the interests of Zion wouldn’t languish on account of my absence for a day or two any way. And, as the female Sisters all said, it seemed as if the work I wuz called to in Loontown wuz a fair and square case of Duty, so they all counselled me to go, every one on ’em. Though, as wuz nateral, there wuz severel divisions of opinions as to the road I should take a-goin’ there, what day I should come back, what remiedies wuz best for me to recommend when I got there, what dress I should wear, and whether I should wear a hankerchif pin or not–or a bib apron, or a plain banded one, etc., etc., etc., etc.
But, as I sez, as to my goin’ they wuz every one on ’em unanimus. They meen well, those sisters in the meetin’ house do, every one on ’em.
Josiah acted real offish at first about goin’. And he laid the case before the male brothers of the meetin’ house, for Josiah wuz fearful that the interests of the buzz saw mill would languish in his absence. One or two of the weaker brethren joined in with him, and talked kinder deprestin’ about it.
But Deacon Sypher and Deacon Henzy said they would guard his interests with eagle visions, or somethin’ to that effect, and they counselled Josiah warmly that it wuz his duty to go.
We hearn afterwards that Deacon Sypher and Deacon Henzy wanted to go into the North Woods a-fishin’ and a-huntin’ for 2 or 3 days, and it has always been spozed by me that that accounted for their religeus advice to Josiah Allen.
Howsumever, I don’t _know_ that. But I do know that they started off a-fishin’ the very day we left for Loontown, and that they come back home about the time we did, with two long strings of trout.
[Illustration: THE RETURN OF THE HUNTERS.]
And there wuz them that said that they ketched the trout, and them that said they bought ’em.
And they brung back the antlers of a deer in their game bags, and some bones of a elk. And there are them that sez that they dassent, either one of ’em, shoot off a gun, not hardly a pop gun. But I don’t know the truth of this. I know what they _said_, they _said_ the huntin’ wuz excitin’ to the last degree, and the fishin’ superb.
And there wuz them that said that they should think the huntin’ would be excitin’, a-rummagin’ round on the ground for some old bones, and they should think the fishin’ would be superb, a-dippin’ ’em out of a barell and stringin’ ’em onto their own strings.
But their stories are very large, that I know. And each one on ’em, accordin’ to their tell, ketched more trouts than the other one, and fur bigger ones, and shot more deers.
Wall, Deacon Sypher’ses advice and Deacon Henzy’s influenced Josiah a good deal, and I said quite a few words to him on the subject, and, suffice it to say, that the next day, about 10 A.M., we set out on our journey to Loontown.
[Illustration: “MISS TIMSON AND ROSY SEEMED DRETFUL GLAD TO SEE ME.”]
Miss Timson and Rosy seemed dretful glad to see me, but they wuz pale and wan, wanner fur than I expected to see ’em; but after I had been there a spell I see how it wuz. I see that Ralph wuz their hero as well as their love, and they worshipped him in every way, with their hearts and their souls and their idealized fancies.
Wall, he wuz a noble lookin’ man as I ever see, fur or near, and as good a one as they make, he wuz strong and tender, so I couldn’t blame ’em.
And though I wouldn’t want Josiah to hear me say too much about it, or mebby it would be best that he shouldn’t, before I had been there 24 hours I begun to feel some as they did.
But my feelin’s wuz strictly in a meetin’ house sense, strictly.
But I begun to feel with them that the middle of the world wuz there in that bedroom, and the still, white figure a-layin’ there wuz the centre, and the rest of the world wuz a-revolvin’ round him.
His face wuz worn and marked by the hand of Time and Endeaver. But every mark wuz a good one. The Soul, which is the best sculptor after all, had chiselled into his features the marks of a deathless endeavor and struggle toward goodness, which is God. Had marked it with the divine sweetness and passion of livin’ and toilin’ for the good of others.
He had gi’n his life jest as truly to seek and save them that wuz lost as ever any old prophet and martyr ever had sense the world began. But under all these heavenly expressions that a keen eye could trace in his good lookin’ face, could be seen a deathly weakness, the consumin’ fire that wuz a-consumin’ of him.
Miss Timson wept when she see me, and Rosy threw herself into my arms and sobbed. But I gently ondid her arms from round my neck and give Miss Timson to understand that I wuz there to _help_ ’em if I could.
“For,” sez I softly, “the hull future time is left for us to weep in, but the present wuz the time to try to help Ralph S. Robinson.”
Wall, I laid to, Josiah a-helpin’ me nobly, a-pickin’ burdock leaves or beet leaves, as the case might be, and a-standin’ by me nobly all through the follerin’ night (that is, when he wuz awake).
Josiah and I took care on him all that night, Miss Timson refusin’ to give him into the charge of underlin’s, and we a-offerin’ and not to be refused.
Wall, Josiah slept some, or that is, I s’poze he did. I didn’t hear much from him from 10 P.M. to 5 A.M., only once I heard him murmer in his sleep, “buzz saw mill.”
[Illustration: “DIDN’T SEE HOW FOLKS NEEDED SO MUCH SLEEP.”]
But every time I would come out into the settin’ room where he sot and roust him up to get sunthin’ for me, he would say, almost warmly–
“Samantha, that last remark of your’n wuz very powerful.” And I wouldn’t waste my time nor hisen by tellin’ him that I hadn’t made no remark, nor thought on’t. I see it would hurt his feelin’s, specilly as he would add in haste–
“That he didn’t see how folks needed so much sleep; as for him, it wuz a real treat to keep awake all night, now and then.”
No, I would let it go, and ask him for burdock or beet, as the case might be. Truly I had enugh on my mind and heart that night without disputin’ with my Josiah.
Ralph S. Robinson would lay lookin’ like a dead man some of the time, still and demute, and then he would speak out in a strange language, stranger than any I ever heard. He would preach sermons in that language, I a-knowin’ it wuz a sermen by his gestures, and also by my feelin’s. And then he would shet up his eyes and pray in that strange, strange tongue, and anon breakin’ out into our own language. And once he said:
“And now may the peace of God be with you all. Amen. The peace of God! the peace! the peace!”
His voice lingered sort o’ lovin’ly over that word, and I felt that he wuz a-thinkin’ then of the real peace, the onbroken stillness, outside and inside, that he invoked.
Rosy would steal in now and then like a sweet little shadow, and bend down and kiss her Pa, and cry a little over his thin, white hands which wuz a-lyin’ on the coverlet, or else lifted in that strange speech that sounded so curius to us, a-risin’ up out of the stillness of a Loontown spare bedroom on a calm moonlit evenin’.
Wall, Friday and Saturday he wuz crazier’n a loon, more’n half the time he wuz, but along Saturday afternoon the Doctor told us that the fever would turn sometime the latter part of the night, and if he could sleep then, and not be disturbed, there would be a chance for his life.
Wall, Miss Timson and Rosy both told me how the ringin’ of the bells seemed to roust him up and skair him (as it were) and git him all excited and crazy. And they both wuz dretful anxius about the mornin’ bells which would ring when Ralph would mebby be sleepin’. So thinkin’ it wuz a case of life and death, and findin’ out who wuz the one to tackle in the matter, I calmly tied on my bonnet and walked over and tackled him.
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