Samantha Among The Bretheren

Marietta Holley

Chapter 18

Josiah's face wuz smooth and placid, he hadn't took a mite of sense of what I had been a-sayin', and I knew it. Men don't. They know at the most it is only talk, wimmen hain't got it in their power to do anything. And I s'pose they reason on it in this way - a little wind storm is soon over, it relieves old Natur and don't hurt anything.

Yes, my pardner's face wuz as calm as the figger on the outside of the almanac a-holdin' the bottle, and his axent wuz mildly wonderin' and gently sarcestickle.

"How a steeple would look a-pintin' down! That is a true woman's idee."

[Illustration: SISTER FILKINS.]

Sez I, "I would have it a-pintin' down towards the depths of darkness that wuz in that man's heart that roze it up, and the infamy of the deed that kep him in the meetin' house and turned his victim out of it."

"I d'no as she wuz his victim," sez Josiah.

Sez I, "Every one knows that in the first place Simeon Lathers wuz the man that led her astray."

"It wuzn't proved," sez Josiah, a-turnin' the almanac over and lookin' at the advertisement on the back side on't.

"And why wuzn't it proved?" sez I, "because he held a big piece of gold against the mouths of the witnesses."

"I didn't see any in front of my mouth," sez Josiah, lookin' 'shamed but some composed.

"And you know what the story wuz," sez he, "accordin' to that, he did it all to try her faith."

I wouldn't encourage Josiah by even smilin' at his words, though I knew well what the story wuz he referred to.

It wuz at a Conference meetin', when Simeon Lathers wuz jest a-beginnin' to take notice of how pretty Irene Filkins wuz.

She had gone forward to the anxious seat, with some other young females, their minds bein' wrought on, so it wuz spozed, by Deacon Lathers's eloquent exhortations, and urgin's to 'em to come forward and be saved.

And they had gone up onto the anxious seat a-sheddin' tears, and they all knelt down there, and Deacon Lathers he went right up and knelt down right by Sister Irene Filkins, and them that wuz there say, that right while he wuz a-prayin' loud and strong for 'em all, and her specially, he put his arm round her and acted in such a way that she resented it bitterly.

She wuz a good, virtuous girl then, any way.

And she resented his overtoors in such a indignant and decided way that it drawed the attention of a hull lot of brothers and sisters towards 'em.

And Deacon Lathers got right up from his knees and sez, "Bretheren and sisters, let us sing these lines:

"He did it all to try her faith."

I remembered this story, but I wuzn't goin' to encourage Josiah Allen by lettin' my attention be drawed off by any anectotes - nor I didn't smile - oh, no I But I went right on with a hull lot of burnin' indignatin in my axents, and sez I, "Josiah Allen, can you look me in the face and say that it wuzn't money and bad men's influence that keep such men as Deacon Widrig and Simeon Lathers in the meetin' house?" Sez I, "If they wuz poor men would they have been kep', or if it wuzn't for the influence of men that like hard drink?"

"Wall, as it were," sez Josiah, "I - that is - wall, it is a-gettin' bed-time, Samantha."

And he wound up the clock and went to bed.

And I set there, all rousted up in my mind, for more'n a hour - and I dropped more'n seven stitches in Josiah's heel, and didn't care if I did.

But I have episoded fearfully, and to resoom and go on.

Miss Henn wuz mad, and she wuz one of our most enterprizen' sisters, and we felt that she wuz a great loss.

Things looked dretful dark. And Sister Bobbet, who is very tender hearted, shed tears several times a-talkin' about the hard times that had come onto our meetin' house, and how Zion wuz a-languishin', etc., etc.

And I told Sister Bobbet in confidence, and also in public, that it wuz time to talk about Zion's languishin' when we had done all we could to help her up. And I didn't believe Zion would languish so much if she had a little help gin her when she needed it.

And Miss Bobbet said "she felt jest so about it, but she couldn't help bein' cast down." And so most all of the sisters said. Submit Tewksbury wept, and shed tears time and agin, a-talkin' about it, and so several of 'em did. But I sez to 'em -

"Good land!" sez I. "We have seen jest as hard times in the Methodist meetin' house before, time and agin, and we wimmen have always laid holt and worked, and laid plans, and worked, and worked, and with the Lord's help have sailed the old ship Zion through the dark waters into safety, and we can do it agin."

Though what we wuz to do we knew not, and the few male men who didn't jine in the hardness, said they couldn't see no way out of it, but what the minister would have to go, and the meetin' house be shet up for a spell.

But we female wimmen felt that we could not have it so any way. And we jined together, and met in each other's housen (not publickly, oh no! we knew our places too well as Methodist Sisters).

We didn't make no move in public, but we kinder met round to each other's housen, sort o' private like, and talked, and talked, and prayed - we all knew that wuzn't aginst the church rules, so we jest rastled in prayer, for help to pay our honest debts, and keep the Methodist meetin' house from disgrace, for the men wuz that worked up and madded, that they didn't seem to care whether the meetin' house come to nothin' or not.

Wall, after settin' day after day (not public settin', oh, no! we knew our places too well, and wouldn't be ketched a-settin' public till we had a right to).

After settin' and talkin' it over back and forth, we concluded the very best thing we could do wuz to give a big fair and try to sell things enough to raise some money.

It wuz a fearful tuff job we had took onto ourselves, for we had got to make all the things to sell out of what we could get holt of, for, of course, our husbands all kep the money purses in their own hands, as the way of male pardners is. But we laid out to beset 'em when they wuz cleverer than common (owin' to extra good vittles) and get enough money out of 'em to buy the materials to work with, bedquilts (crazy, and otherwise), embroidered towels, shawl straps, knit socks and suspenders, rugs, chair covers, lap robes, etc., etc., etc.

It wuz a tremendus hard undertakin' we had took onto ourselves, with all our spring's work on hand, and not one of us Sisters kep a hired girl at the time, and we had to do our own house cleanin', paintin' floors, makin' soap, spring sewin', etc., besides our common housework.

But the very worst on't wuz the meetin' house wuz in such a shape that we couldn't do a thing till that wuz fixed.

The men had undertook to fix over the meetin' house jest before the hardness commenced. The men and wimmen both had labored side by side to fix up the old house a little.

The men had said that in such church work as that wimmen had a perfect right to help, to stand side by side with the male brothers, and do half, or more than half, or even all the work. They said it wuzn't aginst the Discipline, and all the Bishops wuz in favor of it, and always had been. They said it wuz right accordin' to the Articles. But when it come to the hard and arjuous duties of drawin' salleries with 'em, or settin' up on Conferences with 'em, why there a line had to be drawed, wimmen must not be permitted to strain herself in no such ways - nor resk the tender delicacy of her nature, by settin' in a meetin' house as a delegate by the side of a man once a year. It wuz too resky. But we could lay holt and work with 'em in public, or in private, which we felt wuz indeed a privelege, for the interests of the Methodist meetin' house wuz dear to our hearts, and so wuz our pardners' approvals - and they wuz all on 'em unanimus on this pint - we could work all we wanted to.

So we had laid holt and worked right along with the men from day to day, with their full and free consents, and a little help from 'em, till we had got the work partly done. We had got the little Sabbath-school room painted and papered, and the cushions of the main room new covered, and we had engaged to have it frescoed, but the frescoer had turned out to be a perfect fraud, and, of all the lookin' things, that meetin' house wuz about the worst. The plaster, or whatever it wuz he had put on, had to be all scraped off before it could be papered, the paper wuz bought, and the scrapin' had begun.

[Illustration: "APPEARIN' IN PUBLIC."]

The young male and female church members had give a public concert together, and raised enough money to get the paper - it wuz very nice, and fifty cents a roll (double roll). These young females appearin' in public for this purpose wuz very agreeable to the hull meetin' house, and wuz right accordin' to the rules of the Methodist Meetin' House, for I remember I asked about it when the question first come up about sendin' female delegates to the Conference, and all the male members of our meetin' house wuz so horrified at the idee.

I sez, "I'll bet there wouldn't one of the delegates yell half so loud es she that wuz Mahala Gowdey at the concert. Her voice is a sulferino of the very keenest edge and highest tone, and she puts in sights and sights of quavers."

But they all said that wuz a very different thing.

And sez I, "How different? She wuz a yellin' in public for the good of the Methodist Meetin' House (it wuz her voice that drawed the big congregatin, we all know). And them wimmen delegates would only have to 'yea' and 'nay' in a still small voice for the good of the same. I can't see why it would be so much more indelicate and unbecomin' in them" - and sez I, "they would have bonnets and shawls on, and she that wuz Mahala had on a low neck and short sleeves." But they wouldn't yield, and I wouldn't nuther.

But I am a eppisodin fearful, and to resoom. Wall, as I said, the scrapin' had begun. One side of the room wuz partly cleaned so the paper could go on, and then the fuss come up, and there it wuz, as you may say, neither hay nor grass, neither frescoed nor papered nor nuthin'. And of all the lookin' sights it wuz.

Wall, of course, if we had a fair in that meetin' house, we couldn't have it in such a lookin' place to disgrace us in the eyes of Baptists and 'Piscopals.

No, that meetin' house had got to be scraped, and we wimmen had got to do the scrapin' with case knives.

It wuz a hard job. I couldn't help thinkin' quite a number of thoughts as I stood on a barell with a board acrost it, afraid as death of fallin' and a workin' for dear life, and the other female sisters a standin' round on similar barells, all a-workin' fur beyond their strengths, and all afraid of fallin', and we all a-knowin' what we had got ahead on us a paperin' and a gettin' up the fair.