I thought of the Burkhammers, whose little son lay among the dead beside me. I had tended him in his last illness and prepared his body for burial. They were German tenants of Judge Wilkins and to reach their house I must pass through the dark valley over which now lay a new pall. There were lights in the house as I passed, and Tom rattled his chain and gave forth one of those shrieks which pierced the air for a mile. I was glad to know that he was not loose, and that it was only my phantom which crouched in every available place, ready to spring. The bears bellowed a response to his shriek, but I did not hasten. The stream, so loud and angry on that night of my first entrance into this vale of tears, was now low, and sang a lullaby of angelic music as I crossed it on stepping stones. On the hillside it was almost as dark as that night when Father Olever stopped and felt for the bank with his whip.
The Burkhammers asked no questions, and I went to sleep without giving any account of my strange visit, but about midnight I awoke myself and the whole family by my sobs. They gathered around my bed, and I must tell. What I said I do not know, but the old man interrupted me with:
“Oh tamm Jim. You stay here mit us. My old woman und me, we has blenty. We dakes care of you. Nopody never said nodding bad about you. Everypody likes you, caus you is bleasant mit everypody.”
As he talked he drew his sleeve across his eyes, while his wife and daughter comforted me. I would board there and finish my school, then go to Butler and take the seminary, or a place in the common school.
I saw no one as I passed my late home next morning. In school the first exercise was bible, reading verse about with the pupils. The xxv (25) chapter of Matthew came in order, and while reading its account of the final judgment, I saw as by a revelation why this trouble had been sent to me, and a great flood of light seemed thrown across my path before me.
Christ’s little ones were sick and in prison, and I had not visited them! Old Martha, standing before her judges, rose up to upbraid me! I was to have followed the Lamb, and had been making butter to add to an estate larger now than the owner could use. No wonder she thought I stole the money. I, who had failed to rebuke man-stealing, might steal anything. That meeting-house which I had been helping to build by entertaining its builders and aiding them about subscriptions, it and they were a part of a great man-thieving machine. I had been false to every principle of justice; had been decorating parlors when I should have been tearing down prisons! I, helping Black Gagites build a church!
“When thou a thief
Thou join’st with him in sin."’