Aunt Mary's Memory

THERE are conflicting stories about Dan’el and his Gap. But for many years we have cut the timber and built our houses, cultivated our fields and berry patches, on the green mountainsides of Dan’els Gap. We have a post office and a store, but our pride is in our little Union church.

Aunt Mary Crawford lives alone opposite the church, and I believe it is the church that has kept her old heart beating. Her memory stalls sometimes, but her conscience still hits on all cylinders.

One Sunday at the Bible Class, Grandpa Walker felt it his duty to reprove with gentleness Aunt Mary for having written a note to Sister Moss designating Grandpa Walker as ‘a heeritic and a traitor.’ It was about some obscure doctrinal point — I think taxation, which has caused many a lapse of memory; though, as a matter of fact, Grandpa Walker was sound on the amount of tax money in the fish’s mouth.

For a moment Aunt Mary was stunned. Then she rose and cried, ‘It’s a lie! I never writ no note to Sister Moss!’

Grandpa Walker said no more, though he held the signed note in his trembling old hand.

Aunt Mary crossed the road to her pretty cottage and indignantly threw her immaculate white sunbonnet on the neat stand table. She recoiled with horror! There lay the first draft of the note she had laboriously penned to Sister Moss. Memory came with a rush and struck her like a blow. She had written the note. She had lied — and lied in the house of God. She fell on her knees beside the bed, and for the first time she missed Brother Porter’s evening sermon.

The next morning she borrowed the key to the church and, kneeling on the bare floor, prayed for forgiveness. Without, the rain beat on the roof, and the pines thrashed their arms in the chill wind. At last the western sun shone feebly through the dusty windows of the little church, and Aunt Mary felt herself forgiven. She rose with difficulty from her rheumatic old knees and set out across the wet pasture to ask forgiveness of Grandpa Walker, which she obtained in much less time than it had taken her to realize the forgiveness of God.

But Aunt Mary felt that never again could she face the congregation or enter a church which she had defiled with a lie. She would sell her home to a man at Cedar Hill who had long coveted it, and go and live at the county seat, where she could worship in a church never profaned by a lie. All her life she had lived round Dan’els Gap, and she hated and feared all towns. But sacrifice was her portion. She would atone.

When she climbed on the bus for the county seat her heart was dead within her. But on the bus she met old neighbors also on the way to town. They took her to the wonderful park and to a most amazing dinner at a hotel. She had a vague idea that she must go to the courthouse; but she had quite forgotten the name of the man to whom she meant to sell, and, by a special dispensation of Providence, she had forgotten why she wanted to sell.

Arrived home that evening, she described the glories of her visit to Grandpa Walker, whom she met at the post office.

When the man who had coveted Aunt Mary’s home questioned her she answered sharply, ‘The idee! You know I allers tol’ you I’d niver sell my place!’

Now we never speak of ‘heeritics’ or traitors or notes in Aunt Mary’s presence, and Grandpa Walker has resigned as Superintendent of the Bible Class for fear the sight of him might induce a recrudescence of Aunt Mary’s memory.

For although we may sincerely call each other names, as in all families, and for the moment resent calumny, we really love each other at Dan’els Gap.