Samantha Among The Bretheren

Marietta Holley

Chapter 24


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 goes.

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, "business!"

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.

[Illustration: "THE DEACON DID MAKE ME THINK OF A STEEL TRAP."]

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 trap."

"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 out."

"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 started.

"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."

[Illustration: "A-LEANIN' OVER THE FRONT GATE ON A STILL SPRING MORNIN'."]

"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.

[Illustration: "TOSSIN' ON BEDS OF NERVOUS SUFFERIN'."]

"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 Religion.

"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 can.

"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 is murderous to, He would help him, I know He would, for He wuz good to the sick, and tender hearted always."

"Wall, I will help him," sez Deacon Garven, "I will watch, and I will pray, and I will work for him."

Sez I, "Will you promise me not to ring the bells to-morrow mornin'; if he gets into any sleep at all durin' the 24 hours, it is along in the mornin', and I think if we could keep him asleep, say all the forenoon, there would be a chance for him. Will you promise me?"

"Wall," sez he kinder meltin' down a little, "I will talk with the bretheren."

Sez I, "Promise me, Deacon Eben Garven, before you see 'em."

Sez he, "I would, but I am so afraid of bringin' the Cause of Religeon into contempt. And I dread meddlin' with the old established rules of the church."

Sez I, "Mercy and justice and pity wuz set up on earth before bells wuz, and I believe it is safe to foller 'em."

But he wouldn't promise me no further than to talk with the bretheren, and I had to leave him with that promise. As things turned out afterwuds, I wuz sorry, sorry es a dog that I didn't shet up Deacon Garven in his own smoke house, or cause him to be shet, and mount a guard over him, armed nearly to the teeth with clubs.

But I didn't, and I relied some on the bretheren.

Ralph wuz dretful wild all the forepart of the night. He'd lay still for a few minutes, and then he would get all rousted up, and he would set up in bed and call out some words in that strange tongue. And he would lift up his poor weak right arm, strong then in his fever, and preach long sermons in that same strange curius language. He would preach his sermon right through, earnest and fervent as any sermon ever wuz. I would know it by the looks of his face. And then he would sometimes sing a little in that same singular language, and then he would lay down for a spell.

But along towards mornin' I see a change, his fever seemed to abate and go down some - very gradual, till just about the break of day, he fell into a troubled sleep - or it wuz a troubled sleep at first - but growin' deeper and more peaceful every minute. And along about eight o'clock he wuz a-sleepin' sweet for the first time durin' his sickness; it wuz a quiet restful sleep, and some drops of presperation and sweat could be seen on his softened features.

We all wuz as still, almost, as if we wuz automatoes, we wuz so afraid of makin' a speck of noise to disturb him. We kep almost breathless, in our anxiety to keep every mite of noise out of his room. But I did whisper to Rosy in a low still voice -

[Illustration: "THE LORD BE PRAISED, WE SHALL PULL HIM THROUGH."]

"Your father is saved, the Lord be praised, we shall pull him through."

She jest dropped onto her knees, and laid her head in my lap and cried and wept, but soft and quiet so's it wouldn't disturb a mice.

Miss Timson wuz a-prayin', I could see that. She wuz a-returnin' thanks to the Lord for his mercy.

As for me, I sot demute, in that hushed and darkened room, a-watchin' every shadow of a change that might come to his features, with a teaspoon ready to my hand, to give him nourishment at the right time if he needed it, or medicine.

When all of a sudden - slam! bang! rush! roar! slam! slam! ding! dong! bang!!! come right over our heads the wild, deafening clamor of the bells.

Ralph started up wilder than ever because of his momentary repose. He never knew us, nor anything, from that time on, and after sufferin' for another 24 hours, sufferin' that made us all willin' to have it stop, he died.

And so he who had devoted his hull life to religeon wuz killed by it. He who had gin his hull life for the true, wuz murdered by the false.

[Illustration: "AND I THOUGHT HE WUZ PRONOUNCIN' A BENEDICTION ON THE SAVAGES."]

His last move wuz to spread out his hands, and utter a few of them strange words, as if in benediction over a kneelin' multitude. And I thought then, and I think still, that he wuz pronouncin' a benediction on the savages. And I have always hoped that the mercy he besought from on High at that last hour brought down God's pity and forgiveness on all benighted savages, and bigoted ones, Deacon Garven, and the hull on 'em.