THE CEDARS OF LEBANON
Thomas Jefferson’s twelfth summer fell in the year 1886; a year memorable in the annals of the Lebanon iron and coal region as the first of an epoch, and as the year of the great flood. But the herald of change had not yet blown his trumpet in Paradise Valley; and the world of russet and green and limestone white, spreading itself before the eyes of the boy sitting with his hands locked over his knees on the top step of the porch fronting the Gordon homestead, was the same world which, with due seasonal variations, had been his world from the beginning.
Centering in the broad, low, split-shingled house at his back, it widened in front to the old-fashioned flower garden, to the dooryard with its thick turf of uncut Bermuda grass, to the white pike splotched by the shadows of the two great poplars standing like sentinels on either side of the gate, to the wooded hills across the creek.
It was a hot July afternoon, a full month after the revival, and Thomas Jefferson was at that perilous pass where Satan is said to lurk for the purpose of providing employment for the idle. He was wondering if the shade of the hill oaks would be worth the trouble it would take to reach it, when his mother came to the open window of the living-room: a small, fair, well-preserved woman, this mother of the boy of twelve, with light brown hair graying a little at the temples, and eyes remindful of vigils, of fervent beseeching, of mighty wrestlings against principalities and powers and the rulers of the darkness of this world.
“You, Thomas Jefferson,” she said gently, but speaking as one having authority, “you’d better be studying your Sunday lesson than sitting there doing nothing.”
“Yes’m,” said the boy, but he made no move other than to hug his knees a little closer. He wished his mother would stop calling him “Thomas Jefferson.” To be sure, it was his name, or at least two-thirds of it; but he liked the “Buddy” of his father, or the “Tom-Jeff” of other people a vast deal better.
Further, the thought of studying Sunday lessons begot rebellion. At times, as during those soul-stirring revival weeks, now seemingly receding into a far-away past, he had moments of yearning to be wholly sanctified. But the miracle of transformation which he had confidently expected as the result of his “coming through” was still unwrought. When John Bates or Simeon Cantrell undertook to bully him, as aforetime, there was the same intoxicating experience of all the visible world going blood-red before his eyes—the same sinful desire to slay them, one or both. And as for Sunday lessons on a day when all outdoors was beckoning—
He stole a glance at the open window of the living-room. His mother had gone about her housework, and he could hear her singing softly, as befitted the still, warm day:
“O for a heart to praise my God!”