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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Story Of Waitstill Baxter - Autumn - Chapter 20. The Rod That Blossomed
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The Story Of Waitstill Baxter - Autumn - Chapter 20. The Rod That Blossomed Post by :harryhermit Category :Long Stories Author :Kate Douglas Wiggin Date :May 2012 Read :2846

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The Story Of Waitstill Baxter - Autumn - Chapter 20. The Rod That Blossomed

AUTUMN
CHAPTER XX. THE ROD THAT BLOSSOMED

IVORY BOYNTON had taken the horse and gone to the village on an errand, a rare thing for him to do after dark, so Rod was thinking, as he sat in the living-room learning his Sunday-School lesson on the same evening that the men were gossiping at the brick store. His aunt had required him, from the time when he was proficient enough to do so, to read at least a part of a chapter in the Bible every night. Beginning with Genesis he had reached Leviticus and had made up his mind that the Bible was a much more difficult book than "Scottish Chiefs," not withstanding the fact that Ivory helped him over most of the hard places. At the present juncture he was vastly interested in the subject of "rods" as unfolded in the book of Exodus, which was being studied by his Sunday-School class. What added to the excitement was the fact that his uncle's Christian name, Aaron, kept appearing in the chronicle, as frequently as that of the great lawgiver Moses himself; and there were many verses about the wonder-working rods of Moses and Aaron that had a strange effect upon the boy's ear, when he read them aloud, as he loved to do whenever he was left alone for a time. When his aunt was in the room his instinct kept him from doing this, for the mere mention of the name of Aaron, he feared, might sadden his aunt and provoke in her that dangerous vein of reminiscence that made Ivory so anxious.

"It kind o' makes me nervous to be named 'Rod,' Aunt Boynton," said the boy, looking up from the Bible. "All the rods in these Exodus chapters do such dreadful things! They become serpents, and one of them swallows up all the others: and Moses smites the waters with a rod and they become blood, and the people can't drink the water and the fish die! Then they stretch a rod across the streams and ponds and bring a plague of frogs over the land, with swarms of flies and horrible insects."

"That was to show God's power to Pharaoh, and melt his hard heart to obedience and reverence," explained Mrs. Boynton, who had known the Bible from cover to cover in her youth and could still give chapter and verse for hundreds of her favorite passages.

"It took an awful lot of melting, Pharaoh's heart!" exclaimed the boy. "Pharaoh must have been worse than Deacon Baxter! I wonder if they ever tried to make him good by being kind to him! I've read and read, but I can't find they used anything on him but plagues and famines and boils and pestilences and thunder and hail and fire!--Have I got a middle name, Aunt Boynton, for I don't like Rod very much?"

"I never heard that you had a middle name; you must ask Ivory," said his aunt abstractedly.

"Did my father name me Rod, or my mother?'

"I don't really know; perhaps it was your mother, but don't ask questions, please."

"I forgot, Aunt Boynton! Yes, I think perhaps my mother named me. Mothers 'most always name their babies, don't they? My mother wasn't like you; she looked just like the picture of Pocahontas in my History. She never knew about these Bible rods, I guess."

"When you go a little further you will find pleasanter things about rods," said his aunt, knitting, knitting, intensely, as was her habit, and talking as if her mind were a thousand miles away. "You know they were just little branches of trees, and it was only God's power that made them wonderful in any way."

"Oh! I thought they were like the singing-teacher's stick he keeps time with."

"No; if you look at your Concordance you'll finds it gives you a chapter in Numbers where there's something beautiful about rods. I have forgotten the place; it has been many years since I looked at it. Find it and read it aloud to me." The boy searched his Concordance and readily found the reference in the seventeenth chapter of Numbers.

"Stand near me and read," said Mrs. Boynton. "I like to hear the Bible read aloud!"

Rodman took his Bible and read, slowly and haltingly, but with clearness and understanding:


1. AND THE LORD SPAKE UNTO MOSES, SAYING,

2. SPEAK UNTO THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL, AND TAKE OF EVERY ONE OF THEM A ROD ACCORDING TO THE HOUSE OF THEIR FATHERS, OF ALL THEIR PRINCES ACCORDING TO THE HOUSE OF THEIR FATHERS TWELVE RODS: WRITE THOU EVERY MAN'S NAME UPON HIS ROD.


Through the boy's mind there darted the flash of a thought, a sad thought. He himself was a Rod on whom no man's name seemed to be written, orphan that he was, with no knowledge of his parents!

Suddenly he hesitated, for he had caught sight of the name of Aaron in the verse that he was about to read, and did not wish to pronounce it in his aunt's hearing.

"This chapter is most too hard for me to read out loud, Aunt Boynton," he stammered. "Can I study it by myself and read it to Ivory first?" "Go on, go on, you read very sweetly; I can not remember what comes and I wish to hear it."

The boy continued, but without raising his eyes from the Bible.


3. AND THOU SHALT WRITE AARON'S NAME UPON THE ROD OF LEVI: FOR ONE ROD SHALL BE FOR THE HEAD OF THE HOUSE OF THEIR FATHERS.

4. AND THOU SHALT LAY THEM UP IN THE TABERNACLE OF THE CONGREGATION BEFORE THE TESTIMONY, WHERE I WILL MEET WITH YOU.

5. AND IT SHALL COME TO PASS THAT THE MAN'S ROD, WHOM I SHALL CHOOSE, SHALL BLOSSOM: AND I WILL MAKE TO CEASE FROM ME THE MURMURINGS OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL, WHEREBY THEY MURMUR AGAINST YOU.


Rodman had read on, absorbed in the story and the picture it presented to his imagination. He liked the idea of all the princes having a rod according to the house of their fathers; he liked to think of the little branches being laid on the altar in the tabernacle, and above all he thought of the longing of each of the princes to have his own rod chosen for the blossoming.


6. AND MOSES SPOKE UNTO THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL, AND EVERY ONE OF THEIR PRINCES GAVE HIM A ROD A PIECE, FOR EACH PRINCE ONE, ACCORDING TO THEIR FATHER'S HOUSES, EVEN TWELVE RODS; AND THE ROD OF AARON WAS AMONG THEIR RODS.


Oh! how the boy hoped that Aaron's branch would be the one chosen to blossom! He felt that his aunt would be pleased, too; but he read on steadily, with eyes that glowed and breath that came and went in a very palpitation of interest.


7. AND MOSES LAID UP THE RODS BEFORE THE LORD IN THE TABERNACLE OF WITNESS.

8. AND IT CAME TO PASS, THAT ON THE MORROW MOSES WENT INTO THE TABERNACLE OF WITNESS; AND, BEHOLD, THE ROD OF AARON WAS BUDDED AND BROUGHT FORTH BUDS, AND BLOOMED BLOSSOMS, AND YIELDED ALMONDS.


It was Aaron's rod, then, and was an almond branch! How beautiful, for the blossoms would have been pink; and how the people must have marvelled to see the lovely blooming thing on the dark altar; first budding, then blossoming, then bearing nuts! And what was the rod chosen for? He hurried on to the next verse.


9. AND MOSES BROUGHT OUT ALL THE RODS FROM BEFORE THE LORD UNTO ALL THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL: AND THEY LOOKED, AND TOOK EVERY MAN HIS ROD.

10. AND THE LORD SAID UNTO MOSES, BRING AARON'S ROD AGAIN BEFORE THE TESTIMONY TO BE KEPT FOR A TOKEN AGAINST THE REBELS; AND THOU SHALT QUITE TAKE AWAY THEIR MURMURINGS FROM ME, THAT THEY DIE NOT.


"Oh! Aunt Boynton!" cried the boy, "I love my name after I've heard about the almond rod! Aren't you proud that it's Uncle's name that was written on the one that blossomed?"

He turned swiftly to find that his aunt's knitting had slipped on the floor; her nerveless hands drooped by her side as if there were no life in them, and her head had fallen against the back of her chair. The boy was paralyzed with fear at the sight of her closed eyes and the deathly pallor of her face. He had never seen her like this before, and Ivory was away. He flew for a bottle of spirit, always kept in the kitchen cupboard for emergencies, and throwing wood on the fire in passing, he swung the crane so that the tea-kettle was over the flame. He knew only the humble remedies that he had seen used here or there in illness, and tried them timidly, praying every moment that he might hear Ivory's step. He warmed a soapstone in the embers, and taking off Mrs. Boynton's shoes, put it under her cold feet. He chafed her hands and gently poured a spoonful of brandy between her pale lips. Then sprinkling camphor on a handkerchief he held it to her nostrils and to his joy she stirred in her chair; before many minutes her lids fluttered, her lips moved, and she put her hand to her heart.

"Are you better, Aunt dear?" Rod asked in a very wavering and tearful voice.

She did not answer; she only opened her eyes and looked at him. At length she whispered faintly, "I want Ivory; I want my son."

"He's out, Aunt dear. Shall I help you to bed the way Ivory does? If you'll let me, then I'll run to the bridge 'cross lots, like lightning, and bring him back."

She assented, and leaning heavily on his slender shoulder, walked feebly into her bedroom off the living-room. Rod was as gentle as a mother and he was familiar with all the little offices that could be of any comfort; the soapstone warmed again for her feet, the bringing of her nightgown from the closet, and when she was in bed, another spoonful of brandy in hot milk; then the camphor by her side, an extra homespun blanket over her, and the door left open so that she could see the open fire that he made into a cheerful huddles contrived so that it would not snap and throw out dangerous sparks in his absence.

All the while he was doing this Mrs. Boynton lay quietly in the bed talking to herself fitfully, in the faint murmuring tone that was habitual to her. He could distinguish scarcely anything, only enough to guess that her mind was still on the Bible story that he was reading to her when she fainted. "THE ROD OF AARON WAS AMONG THE OTHER RODS," he heard her say; and, a moment later, "BRING AARON'S ROD AGAIN BEFORE THE TESTIMONY."

Was it his uncle's name that had so affected her, wondered the boy, almost sick with remorse, although he had tried his best to evade her command to read the chapter aloud? What would Ivory, his hero, his pattern and example, say? It had always seen Rod's pride to carry his little share of every burden that fell to Ivory, to be faithful and helpful in every task given to him. He could walk through fire without flinching, he thought, if Ivory told him to, and he only prayed that he might not be held responsible for this new calamity.

"I want Ivory!" came in a feeble voice from the bedroom.

"Does your side ache worse?" Rod asked, tip-toeing to the door.

"No, I am quite free from pain."

"Would you be afraid to stay alone just for a while if I lock both doors and run to find Ivory and bring him back?"

"No, I will sleep," she whispered, closing her eyes. "Bring him quickly before I forget what I want to say to him."

Rod sped down the lane and over the fields to the brick store where Ivory usually bought his groceries. His cousin was not there, but one of the men came out and offered to take his horse and drive over the bridge to see if he were at one of the neighbors' on that side of the river. Not a word did Rod breathe of his aunt's illness; he simply said that she was lonesome for Ivory, and so he came to find him. In five minutes they saw the Boynton horse hitched to a tree by the road-side, and in a trice Rod called him and, thanking Mr. Bixby, got into Ivory's wagon to wait for him. He tried his best to explain the situation as they drove along, but finally concluded by saying: "Aunt really made me read the chapter to her, Ivory. I tried not to when I saw Uncle's name in most every verse, but I couldn't help it."

"Of course you couldn't! Now you jump out and hitch the horse while I run in and see that nothing has happened while she's been left alone. Perhaps you'll have to go for Dr. Perry."

Ivory went in with fear and trembling, for there was no sound save the ticking of the tall clock. The fire burned low upon the hearth, and the door was open into his mother's room. He lifted a candle that Rod had left ready on the table and stole softly to her bedside. She was sleeping like a child, but exhaustion showed itself in every line of her face. He felt her hands and feet and found the soapstone in the bed; saw the brandy bottle and the remains of a cup of milk on the light-stand; noted the handkerchief, still strong of camphor on the counterpane, and the blanket spread carefully over her knees, and then turned approvingly to meet Rod stealing into the room on tiptoe, his eyes big with fear.

"We won't wake her, Rod. I'll watch a while, then sleep on the sitting-room lounge."

"Let me watch, Ivory! I'd feel better if you'd let me, honest I would!"

The boy's face was drawn with anxiety. Ivory's attention was attracted by the wistful eyes and the beauty of the forehead under the dark hair. He seemed something more than the child of yesterday--a care and responsibility and expense, for all his loving obedience; he seemed all at once different to-night; older, more dependable, more trustworthy; in fact, a positive comfort and help in time of trouble.

"I did the best I knew how; was anything wrong?" asked the boy, as Ivory stood regarding him with a friendly smile.

"Nothing wrong, Rod! Dr. Perry couldn't have done any better with what you had on hand. I don't know how I should get along without you, boy!" Here Ivory patted Rod's shoulder. "You're not a child any longer, Rod; you're a man and a brother, that's what you are; and to prove it I'll take the first watch and call you up at one o'clock to take the second, so that I can be ready for my school work to-morrow! How does that suit you?"

"Tip-top!" said the boy, flushing with pride. "I'll lie down with my clothes on; it's only nine o'clock and I'll get four hours' sleep; that's a lot more than Napoleon used to have!"

He carried the Bible upstairs and just before he blew out his candle he looked again at the chapter in Numbers, thinking he would show it to Ivory privately next day. Again the story enchanted him, and again, like a child, he put his own name and his living self among the rods in the tabernacle.

"Ivory would be the prince of our house," he thought. "Oh! how I'd like to be Ivory's rod and have it be the one that was chosen to blossom and keep the rebels from murmuring!"

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