Marietta Holley.

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Produced by Juliet Sutherland, David Widger and PG Distributed




"Josiah Allen's Wife"

(Marietta Holley)

Part 6


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

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.


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.


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

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."


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

"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.


It wuz Deacon Garven and he wuz a close communion Baptist by
perswaision, and a good man, so fur as firm morals and a sound creed

Some things he lacked: he hadn't no immagination at all, not one speck.
And in makin' him up, it seems as if he had a leetle more justice added
to him to make up a lack of charity and pity. And he had a good deal
of sternness and resolve gin him, to make up, I spoze, for a lack of
tenderness and sweetness of nater.

A good sound man Deacon Garven wuz, a man who would cheat himself before
he would cheat a neighber. He wuz jest full of qualities that would
hender him from ever takin' a front part in a scandel and a tragedy.
Yes, if more men wuz like Deacon Garven the pages of the daily papers
would fairly suffer for rapiners, embezzlers, wife whippers, etc.

Wall, he wuz in his office when I tackled him. The hired girl asked me
if I come for visitin' purposes or business, and I told her firmly,

So she walked me into a little office one side of the hall, where I
spoze the Deacon transacted the business that come up on his farm, and
then he wuz Justice of the Peace, and trustee of varius concerns (every
one of 'em good ones).

He is a tall, bony man, with eyes a sort of a steel gray, and thin lips
ruther wide, and settin' close together. And without lookin' like one,
or, that is, without havin' the same features at all, the Deacon did
make me think of a steel trap. I spoze it wuz because he wuz so sound,
and sort o' firm. A steel trap is real firm when it lays hold and tries
to be.


Wall, I begun the subject carefully, but straight to the pint, as my way
is, by tellin' him that Ralph S. Robinson wuz a-layin' at death's door,
and his life depended on his gettin' sleep, and we wuz afraid the bells
in the mornin' would roust him up, and I had come to see if he would
omit the ringin' of 'em in the mornin'.

"Not ring the bells!" sez he, in wild amaze. "Not ring the church bells
on the Sabbath day?"

His look wuz skairful in the extreme, but I sez -

"Yes, that is what I said, we beg of you as a Christian to not ring the
bells in the mornin'."

"A Christian! A Christian! Advise me as a _Christian_ to not ring the
Sabbath bells!"

I see the idee skairt him. He wuz fairly pale with surprise and borrow.
And I told him agin', puttin' in all the perticilers it needed to make
the story straight and good, how Ralph S. Robinson had labored for
the good of others, and how his strength had gin out, and he wuz now
a-layin' at the very pint of death, and how his girl and his sister wuz
a-breakin' their hearts over him, and how we had some hopes of savin'
his life if he could get some sleep, that the doctors said his life
depended on it, and agin I begged him to do what we asked.

But the Deacon had begin to get over bein' skairt, and he looked firm as
anybody ever could, as he sez: "The bells never hurt anybody, I know,
for here I have lived right by the side of 'em for 20 years. Do I look
broke down and weak?" sez he.

"No," sez I, honestly. "No more than a grannit monument, or a steel

"Wall," sez he, "what don't hurt me won't hurt nobody else."

"But," sez I, "folks are made up different." Sez I, "The Bible sez so,
and what might not hurt you, might be the ruin of somebody else. Wuz you
ever nervous?" sez I.

"Never," sez he. And he added firmly, "I don't believe in nerves. I
never did. There hain't no use in 'm."

"It wuz a wonder they wuz made, then," sez I. "As a generel thing the
Lord don't make things there hain't no use on. Howsumever," sez I,
"there hain't no use in disputin' back and forth on a nerve. But any
way, sickness is so fur apart from health, that the conditions of one
state can't be compared to the other; as Ralph S. Robinson is now, the
sound of the bells, or any other loud noise means torture and agony to
him, and, I am afraid, death. And I wish you would give orders to not
have 'em rung in the mornin'."

"Are you a professor?" sez he.

"Yes," sez I.

"What perswaision?" sez he.

"Methodist Episcopal," sez I.

"And do you, a member of a sister church, which, although it has many
errors, is still a-gropin' after the light! Do you counsel me to set
aside the sacred and time honored rules of our church, and allow the
Sabbath to go by unregarded, have the sanctuary desecrated, the cause
of religion languish - I cannot believe it. Think of the widespread
desolation it would cause if, as the late lamented Mr. Selkirk sung:

"'The sound of the church-going bells,
These valleys and hills never heard.'"

"No church, no sanctuary, no religius observances."

"Why," sez I, "that wouldn't hinder folks from goin' to church. Folks
seem to get to theatres, lectures, and disolvin' views on time, and
better time than they do to meetin'," sez I. "In your opinin' it hain't
necessary to beat a drum and sound on a bugle as the Salvation Army duz,
to call folks to meetin'; you are dretful hard on them, so I hear."

"Yes, they make a senseless, vulgar, onnecessary racket, disturbin' and
agrivatin' to saint and sinner."

"But," sez I, "they say they do it for the sake of religion."

"Religion hain't to be found in drum-sticks," sez he bitterly.

"No," sez I, "nor in a bell clapper."

"Oh," sez he, "that is a different thing entirely, that is to call
worshippers together, that is necessary."

Sez I, "One hain't no more necessary than the other in my opinion."

Sez he, "Look how fur back in the past the sweet bells have sounded

"Yes," sez I candidly, "and in the sweet past they wuz necessary," sez
I. "In the sweet past, there wuzn't a clock nor a watch, the houses wuz
fur apart, and they needed bells. But now there hain't a house but what
is runnin' over with clocks - everybody knows the time; they know it so
much that time is fairly a drug to 'em. Why, they time themselves right
along through the day, from breakfast to midnight. Time their meals,
their business, their pleasures, their music, their lessons, their
visits, their visitors, their pulse beats, and their dead beats. They
time their joys and their sorrows, and everything and everybody, all
through the week, and why should they stop short off Sundays? Why not
time themselves on goin' to meetin'? They do, and you know it. There
hain't no earthly need of the bells to tell the time to go to meetin',
no more than there is to tell the time to put on the tea-kettle to get
supper. If folks want to go to meetin' they will get there, bells or no
bells, and if they don't want to go, bells hain't a-goin' to get 'em

"Take a man with the Sunday _World_ jest brung in, a-layin' on a lounge,
with his feet up in a chair, and kinder lazy in the first place, bells
hain't a-goin' to start him.

"And take a woman with her curl papers not took down, and a new religeus
novel in her hand, and a miliner that disapinted her the night before,
and bells hain't a-goin' to start her. No, the great bell of Moscow
won't start 'em.

[Illustration: "BELLS HAIN'T A-GOIN' TO START HIM."]

"And take a good Christian woman, a widow, for instance, who loves
church work, and has a good handsome Christian pasture, who is in
trouble, lost his wife, mebby, or sunthin' else bad, and the lack of
bells hain't a-goin' to keep that women back, no, not if there wuzn't a
bell on earth."

"Oh, wall, wavin' off that side of the subject," sez he (I had convinced
him, I know, but he wouldn't own it, for he knew well that if folks
wanted to go they always got there, bells or no bells). "But," sez he
wavin' off that side of the subject, "the observance is so time honored,
so hallowed by tender memories and associations all through the past."

"Don't you 'spoze, Deacon Garven," sez I, "that I know every single
emotion them bells can bring to anybody, and felt all those memorys and
associations. I'll bet, or I wouldn't be afraid to bet, if I believed in
bettin', that there hain't a single emotion in the hull line of emotions
that the sound of them bells can wake up, but what I have felt, and felt
'em deep too, jest as deep as anybody ever did, and jest es many of 'em.
But it is better for me to do without a upliftin', soarin' sort of a
feelin' ruther than have other people suffer agony."

"Agony!" sez he, "talk about their causin' agony, when there hain't a
more heavenly sound on earth."


"So it has been to me," sez I candidly. "To me they have always sounded
beautiful, heavenly. Why," sez I, a-lookin' kinder fur off, beyond
Deacon Garven, and all other troubles, as thoughts of beauty and
insperation come to me borne out of the past into my very soul, by the
tender memories of the bells - thoughts of the great host of believers
who had gathered together at the sound of the bells - the great army of
the Redeemed -

'Some of the host have crossed the flood, and some
are crossin' now,'

thinks I a-lookin' way off in a almost rapped way. And then I sez to
Deacon Garven in a low soft voice, lower and more softer fur, than I had
used to him,

"Don't I know what it is to stand a-leanin' over the front gate on a
still spring mornin', the smell of the lilacs in the air, and the brier
roses. A dew sparklin' on the grass under the maples, and the sunshine
a-fleckin' the ground between 'em, and the robins a-singin' and the
hummin' birds a-hoverin' round the honeysuckles at the door. And over
all and through all, and above all clear and sweet, comin' from fur
off a-floatin' through the Sabbath stillness, the sound of the bells,
a-bringin' to us sweet Sabbath messages of love and joy. Bringin'
memories too, of other mornin's as fair and sweet, when other ears
listened with us to the sound, other eyes looked out on the summer
beauty, and smiled at the sound of the bells. Heavenly emotions, sweet
emotions come to me on the melody of the bells, peaceful thoughts,
inspirin' thoughts of the countless multitude that has flocked together
at the sound of the bells. The aged feet, the eager youthful feet, the
children's feet, all, all walkin' to the sound of the bells. Thoughts
of the happy youthful feet that set out to walk side by side, at their
ringin' sounds. Thoughts of the aged ones grown tired, and goin' to
their long dreamless sleep to their solemn sound. Thoughts of the brave
hero's who set out to protect us with their lives while the bells wuz
ringin' out their approval of such deeds. Thoughts of how they pealed
out joyfully on their return bearin' the form of Peace. Thoughts of how
the bells filled the mornin' and evenin' air, havin' throbbed and beat
with every joy and every pain of our life, till they seem a part of us
(as it were) and the old world would truly seem lonesome without 'em.

"As I told you, and told you truly, I don't believe there is a single
emotion in the hull line of emotions, fur or near, but what them bells
have rung into my very soul.

"But such emotions, beautiful and inspirin' though they are, can be
dispensed with better than justice and mercy can. Sweet and tender
sentiment is dear to me, truly, near and dear, but mercy and pity and
common sense, have also a powerful grip onto my right arm, and have to
lead me round a good deal of the time.

"Beautiful emotion, when it stands opposed to eternal justice, ort to
step gently aside and let justice have a free road. Sentiment is truly
sweet, but any one can get along without it, take it right along through
the year, better than they can without sleep.

"You see if you can't sleep you must die, while a person can worry along
a good many years without sentiment. Or, that is, I have been told they
could. I don't know by experience, for I have always had a real lot of
it. You see my experience has been such that I could keep sentiment and
comfort too. But my mind is such, that I have to think of them that
hain't so fortunate as I am.

"I have looked at the subject from my own standpoint, and have tried
also to look at it through others' eyes, which is the only way we can
get a clear, straight light on any subject. As for me, as I have said,
I would love to hear the sweet, far off sound of the bells a-tremblin'
gently over the hills to me from Jonesville; it sounds sweeter to me
than the voices of the robins and swallers, a-comin' home from the South
in the spring of the year. And I would deerly love to have it go on and
on as fur as my own feelins are concerned. But I have got to look at the
subject through the tired eyes, and feel it through the worn-out nerves
of others, who are sot down right under the wild clamor of the bells.

"What comes to me as a heavenly melody freighted full of beautiful
sentiment and holy rapture comes to them as an intolerable agony,
a-maddenin' discord, that threatens their sanity, that rouses 'em up
from their fitful sleep, that murders sleep - the bells to them seem
murderus, strikin' noisily with brazen hands, at their hearts.


"To them tossin' on beds of nervous sufferin', who lay for hours fillin'
the stillness with horror, with dread of the bells, where fear and dread
of 'em exceed the agony of the clangor of the sound when it comes at
last. Long nights full of a wakeful horror and expectency, fur worse
than the realization of their imaginin's. To them the bells are a
instrument of torture jest as tuff to bear as any of the other old thumb
screws and racks that wrung and racked our old 4 fathers in the name of

"I have to think of the great crowd of humanity huddled together right
under the loud clangor of the bells whose time of rest begins when the
sun comes up, who have toiled all night for our comfort and luxury. So
we can have our mornin' papers brought to us with our coffee. So we can
have the telegraphic messages, bringing us good news with our toast.
So's we can have some of our dear ones come to us from distant lands in
the morning. I must think of them who protect us through the night so we
can sleep in peace.

"Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of these, our helpers and
benafacters, work all night for our sakes, work and toil. The least we
can do for these is to help 'em to the great Restorer, sleep, all we

"Some things we can't do; we can't stop the creakin' sounds of the
world's work; the big roar of the wheel of business that rolls through
the week days, can't be oiled into stillness; but Sundays they might get
a little rest Sunday is the only day of rest for thousands of men and
wimmen, nervous, pale, worn by their week's hard toil.

"The creakin' of the wheels of traffic are stopped on this day. They
could get a little of the rest they need to carry on the fight of life
to help support wife, child, father, husband; but religeon is too much
for 'em - the religeon that the Bible declares is mild, peacible, tender.
It clangs and bangs and whangs at 'em till the day of rest is a torment.

"Now the Lord wouldn't approve of this. I know He wouldn't, for He was
always tender and pitiful full of compassion. I called it religeon for
oritory, but it hain't religeon, it is a relict of old Barberism who,
under the cloak of Religeon, whipped quakers and hung prophetic souls,
that the secrets of Heaven had been revealed to, secrets hidden from the
coarser, more sensual vision."

Sez Deacon Garven: "I consider the bells as missionarys. They help
spread the Gospel."

"And," sez I, for I waz full of my subject, and kep him down to it all I
could, "Ralph S. Robinson has spread the Gospel over acres and acres of
land, and brung in droves and droves of sinners into the fold without
the help of church or steeple, let alone bells, and it seems es if he
ortn't to be tortured to death now by 'em."

"Wall," he said, "he viewed 'em as Gospel means, and he couldn't, with
his present views of his duty to the Lord, omit 'em."

Sez I, "The Lord didn't use 'em. He got along without 'em."

"Wall," he said, "it wuz different times now."

Sez I, "The Lord, if He wuz here to-day, Deacon Garven, if He had bent
over that form racked with pain and sufferin' and that noise of any kind


Online LibraryMarietta HolleySamantha among the Brethren — Volume 6 → online text (page 1 of 2)