Night Watches, by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps
Keturah wishes to state primarily that she is good-natured. She thinks
it necessary to make this statement, lest, after having heard her story,
you should, however polite you might be about it, in your heart of
hearts suspect her capable not only of allowing her angry passions to
rise, but of permitting them to boil over "in tempestuous fury wild and
unrestrained." If it were an orthodox remark, she would also add, from
like motives of self-defence, that she is not in the habit of swearing.
Are you accustomed, O tender-hearted reader, to spend your nights, as a
habit, with your eyes open or shut? On the answer to this question
depends her sole hope of appreciation and sympathy.
She begs you will understand that she does not mean you, the be-ribboned
and be-spangled and be-rouged frequenter of ball and soirée, with your
well-taught, drooping lashes, or wide girl's eyes untamed and wondering,
your flushing color, and your pulse up to a hundred. You are very pretty
for your pains,—O, to be sure you are very pretty! She has not the
heart to scold you, though you are dancing and singing and flirting
away your golden nights, your restful, young nights, that never come but
once,—though you are dancing and singing and flirting yourselves
merrily into your grave. She would like to put in a plea before the
eloquence of which Cicero and Demosthenes, Beecher and Sumner, should
pale like wax-lights before the sun, for the new fashion said to be
obtaining in New York, that the soirée shall give place to the
matinée, at which the guests shall assemble at four o'clock in the
afternoon, and are expected to go home at seven or eight. That would be
not only civilized, it would be millennial.
But Keturah is perfectly aware that you will do as you will. If the
excitement of the "wee sma' hours ayont the twal" prove preferable to a
quiet evening at home, and a good, Christian, healthy sleep after it,
why the "sma' hours" it will be. If you will do it, it is "none of her
funerals," as the small boy remarked. Only she particularly requests you
not to insult her by offering her your sympathy. Wait till you know what
forty-eight mortal, wide-awake, staring, whirring, unutterable hours
Listen to her mournful tale; and, while you listen, let your head become
fountains of water, and your eyes rivers of tears for her, and for all
who are doomed to reside in her immediate vicinity.
"Tired nature's sweet restorer," as the newspapers, in a sudden and
severe poetical attack, remarked of Jeff Davis, "refuses to bless"
Keturah, except as her own sweet will inclines her. They have a
continuous lover's quarrel, exceedingly bitter while it rages,
exceedingly sweet when it is made up. Keturah attends a perfectly grave
and unimpeachable lecture,—the Restorer pouts and goes off in a huff
for twenty-four hours. Keturah undertakes at seven o'clock a concert,—
announced as Mendelssohn Quintette, proving to be Gilmore's
Brassiest,—and nothing hears she of My Lady till two o'clock, A. M.
Keturah spends an hour at a prayer-meeting, on a pine bench that may
have heard of cushions, but certainly has never seen one face to face;
and comes home at eight o'clock to the pleasing discovery that the fair
enslaver has taken some doctrinal offence, and vanished utterly.
Though lost to sight she's still to memory dear, and Keturah penitently
betakes herself to the seeking of her in those ingenious ways which she
has learned at the school of a melancholy experience. A table and a
kerosene lamp are brought into requisition; also a book. If it isn't the
Dictionary, it is Cruden's Concordance. If these prove too exciting, it
is Edwards on the Will. Light reading is strictly forbidden.
Congressional Reports are sometimes efficacious, as well as Martin F.
Tupper, and somebody's "Sphere of Woman."
There is one single possibility out of ten that this treatment will
produce drowsiness. There are nine probabilities to the contrary. The
possibility is worth trying for, and trying hard for; but if it results
in the sudden flight of President Edwards across the room, a severe
banging of the "Sphere of Woman" against the wall, and the total
disappearance of Cruden's Concordance beneath the bed, Keturah is not in
the least surprised. It is altogether too familiar a result to elicit
remark. It simply occasions a fresh growth to a horrible resolution that
she has been slowly forming for years.
Some day she will write a book. The publishers shall nap over it, and
accept it with pleasure. The drowsy printers shall set up its type with
their usual unerring exactness. The proof-readers shall correct it in
their dreams. Customers in the bookstores shall nod at the sight of its
binding. Its readers shall dose at its Preface. Sleepless old age, sharp
and unrelieved pain, youth sorrowful before the time, shall seek it out,
shall flock unto the counters of its fortunate publishers (she has three
firms in her mind's eye; one in Boston, one in New York, and one in
Philadelphia; but who the happy men are to be is not yet definitely
decided), who shall waste their inheritance in distributing it
throughout the length and breadth of a grateful continent. Physicians
from everywhere under the sun, who have proved the fickleness of
hyoscyamus, of hops, of Dover's powders, of opium, of morphine, of
laudanum, of hidden virtues of herbs of the field, and minerals from the
rock, and gases from the air; who know the secrets of all the pitying
earth, and, behold, it is vanity of vanities, shall line their
hospitals, cram their offices, stuff their bottles, with the new
universal panacea and blessing to suffering humanity.
And Keturah can keep a resolution.
Her literary occupation disposed of, in the summary manner referred to,
she runs through the roll of her reserve force, and their name is
Legion. She composes herself, in an attitude of rest, with a
handkerchief tied over her eyes to keep them shut, blows her lamp out
instead of screwing it out, strangles awhile in the gas, and begins to
repeat her alphabet, which, owing to like stern necessity, she has
fortunately never forgotten. She says it forward; she says it backward;
she begins at the middle and goes up; she begins at the middle and goes
down; she rattles it through in French, she groans it through in German,
she falters it through in Greek. She attempts the numeration-table,
flounders somewhere in the quadrillions, and forgets where she left off.
She watches an interminable flock of sheep jump over a wall till her
head spins. There always seem to be so many more where the last one came
from. She listens to oar-beats, and drum-beats, and heart-beats. She
improvises sonatas and gallopades, oratorios and mazourkas. She
perpetrates the title and first line of an epic poem, goes through the
alphabet for a rhyme, and none appearing, she repeats the first line by
way of encouragement. But all in vain.
With a silence that speaks unspeakable things, she rises solemnly, and
seeks the pantry in darkness that may be felt. At the bottom of the
stairs she steps with her whole weight flat upon something that squirms,
and is warm, and turns over, and utters a cry that makes night hideous.
O, nothing but the cat, that is all! The pantry proves to be well
stocked with bread, but not another mortal thing. Now, if there is
anything Keturah particularly dislikes, it is dry bread. Accordingly,
with a remark which is intended for Love's ear alone, she gropes her way
to the cellar door, which is unexpectedly open, pitches head-first into
the cavity, and makes the descent of half the stairs in an easy and
graceful manner, chiefly with her elbows. She reaches the ground after
an interval, steps splash into a pool of water, knocks over a mop, and
embraces a tall cider barrel with her groping arms. After a little
wandering about among ash-bins and apple-bins, reservoirs and coal-heaps
and cobwebs, she discovers the hanging-shelf which has been the ignis
fatuus of her search. Something extremely cold crossing her shoeless
feet at this crisis suggests pleasant fancies of a rat. Keturah is
ashamed to confess that she has never in all the days of the years of
her pilgrimage set eyes upon a rat. Depending solely upon her
imagination, her conception of that animal is a cross between an
alligator and a jaguar. She stands her ground manfully, however, and is
happy to state that she did not faint.
In the agitation consequent upon this incident she butters her bread
with the lard, and takes an enormous bite on the way up stairs. She
seeks no more refreshment that night.
One resort alone is left. With a despairing sigh she turns the great
faucet of the bath-tub and holds her head under it till she is upon the
verge of a watery grave. This experiment is her forlorn hope. Perhaps
about three or four o'clock she falls into a series of jerky naps, and
dreams that she is editor of a popular Hebrew magazine, wandering
frantically through a warehouse full of aspirant MSS. (chiefly from the
junior classes of theological seminaries) of which she cannot translate
Of the tenth of Keturah's unearthly experiences,—of the number of times
she has been taken for a robber, and chased by the entire roused and
bewildered family, with loaded guns; of the pans of milk she has upset,
the crockery whose hopes she has untimely shattered, the skulls she has
cracked against open doors, the rocking-chairs she has stumbled over and
apostrophized in her own meek way; of the neighbors she has frightened
out of town by her perambulations; of the alarms of fire she has raised,
pacing the wood-shed with a lantern for exercise stormy nights; of all
the possible and impossible corners and crevices in which she has sought
repose, (she has slept on every sofa in every room in the house, and
once she spent a whole night on a closet shelf); of the amiable
condition of her mornings, and the terror she is fast becoming to
family. Church, and State, the time would fail her to tell. Were she to
"let slip the dogs of war," and relate a modicum of the agonies she
undergoes,—how the stamping of a neighbor's horse on a barn floor will
drive every solitary wink of sleep from her eyes and slumber from her
eyelids; the nibbling of a mouse in some un-get-at-able place in the
wall prove torture; the rattling of a pane of glass, ticking of a clock,
or pattering of rain-drops, as effective as a cannon; a guest in the
"spare room" with a musical "love of a baby," something far different
from a blessing, and a tolerably windy night, one lengthened vigil long
drawn out,—the liberal public would cry, "Forbear!" It becomes really
an interesting science to learn how slight a thing will utterly deprive
an unfortunate creature of the great necessity of life; but this article
not being a scientific treatise, that must be left to the sympathizing
Keturah feels compelled, however, to relate the story of two memorable
nights, of which the only wonder is that she has lived to tell the tale.
Every incident is stamped indelibly upon her brain. It is wrought in
letters of fire. "While memory holds a seat in this distracted globe,"
it shall not, cannot be forgotten.
It was a night in June,—sultry, gasping, fearful. Keturah went to her
own room, as is her custom, at the Puritanic hour of nine. Sleep, for a
couple of hours, being out of the question, she threw wide her doors
and windows, and betook herself to her writing-desk. A story for a
magazine, which it was imperative should be finished to-morrow, appealed
to her already partially stupefied brain. She forced her unwilling pen
into the service, whisked the table round into the draught, and began.
In about five minutes the sibyl caught the inspiration of her god, and
heat and sleeplessness were alike forgotten. This sounds very poetic,
but it wasn't at all. Keturah regrets to say that she had on a very
unbecoming green wrapper, and several ink-spots on her fingers.
It was a very thrilling and original story, and it came, as all
thrilling and original stories must come, to a crisis. Seraphina found
Theodore kissing the hand of Celeste in the woods. Keturah became
"'O Theodore!' whispered the unhappy maiden to the moaning trees. 'O
Whir! buzz! swosh! came something through the window into the lamp, and
down squirming into the ink-bottle. Keturah jumped. If you have half the
horror of those great June beetles that she has, you will know how she
jumped. She emptied the entire contents of the ink-bottle out of the
window, closed her blinds, and began again.
"'Theodore,' said Seraphina.
"'Seraphina,' said Theodore." Jump the second! There he was,—not
Theodore, but the beetle,—whirring round the lamp, and buzzing down
into her lap. Hadn't he been burned in the light, drowned in the ink,
speared with the pen, and crushed by falling from the window? Yet there
he was, or the ghost of him, fluttering his inky wings into her very
eyes, and walking leisurely across the smooth, fair page that waited to
be inscribed with Seraphina's woe. Nerved by despair, Keturah did a
horrible thing. Never before or since has she been known to accomplish
it. She put him down on the floor and stepped on him. She repented of
the act in dust and ashes. Before she could get across the room to close
the window ten more had come to his funeral. To describe the horrors of
the ensuing hour she has no words. She put them out of the window,—they
came directly back. She drowned them in the wash-bowl,—they fluttered,
and sputtered, and buzzed up into the air. She killed them in
corners,—they came to life under her very eyes. She caught them in her
handkerchief and tied them up tight,—they crawled out before she could
get them in. She shut the cover of the wash-stand down on them,—she
looked in awhile after and there was not one to be seen. All ten of the
great blundering creatures were knocking their brains out against the
ceiling. After the endurance of terrors that came very near turning her
hair gray, she had pushed the last one out on the balcony, shut the
window, and was gasping away in the airless room, her first momentary
sense of security, when there struck upon her agonized ear a fiendish
buzzing, and three of them came whirling back through a crack about as
large as a knitting-needle. No mortal beetle could have come through
it. Keturah turned pale and let them alone.
The clock was striking eleven when quiet was at last restored, and the
exhausted sufferer began to think of sleep. At this moment she heard a
sound before which her heart sank like lead. You must know that Keturah
has a very near neighbor, Miss Humdrum by name. Miss Humdrum is a—well,
a very excellent and pious old lady, who keeps a one-eyed servant and
three cats; and the sound which Keturah heard was Miss Humdrum's cats.
Keturah descended to the wood-shed, armed herself with a huge oaken log,
and sallied out into the garden, with a horrible sang-froid that only
long familiarity with her errand could have engendered. It was Egyptian
darkness; but her practised eye discerned, or thought it discerned, a
white cat upon the top of the high wooden fence. Keturah smiled a
ghastly smile, and fired. Now she never yet in her life threw anything
anywhere, under any circumstances, that did not go exactly in the
opposite direction from what she wanted to have it. This occasion proved
no exception. The cat jumped, and sprang over, and disappeared. The
stick went exactly into the middle of the fence. Keturah cannot suppose
that the last trump will be capable of making a louder noise. She stood
transfixed. One cry alone broke the hideous silence.
"O Lord!" in an unmistakably Irish, half-wakened howl, from the open
window of the one-eyed servant's room. "Only that, and nothing more."
Keturah returned to her apartment, a sadder if not a wiser woman. Marius
among the ruins of Carthage, Napoleon at St. Helena, M'Clellan in
Europe, have henceforth and forever her sympathy.
She thinks it was precisely five minutes after her return, during
which the happy stillness that seemed to rest upon nature without and
nature within had whispered faint promises of coming rest, that there
suddenly broke upon it a hoarse, deep, unearthly breathing. So hoarse,
so deep, so unearthly, and so directly underneath her window, that for
about ten seconds Keturah sat paralyzed. There was but one thing it
could be. A travelling menagerie in town had lost its Polish wolf that
very day. This was the Polish wolf.
The horrible panting, like the panting of a famished creature, came
nearer, grew louder, grew hoarser. The animal had found a bone in the
grass, and was crunching it in his ghastly way. Then she could hear him
sniffing at the door.
And Amram's room was on the lower story! Perhaps wolves climbed in at
The awful thought roused Keturah from the stupor of her terror. She was
no coward. She would face the fearful sight. She would call and warn him
at any risk. She faltered out upon the balcony. She leaned over the
railing. She gazed breathlessly down into the darkness.
Keturah sat down on the window-sill in the calm of despair.
It was succeeded by a storm. She concludes that she was about five
seconds on the passage from her room to the garden. With "hair flotant,
and arms disclosed," like the harpies of heraldic device, she rushed up
to the invaders—and stopped. Exactly what was to be done? Three great
stupid, browsing, contented cows versus one lone, lorn woman. For
about one minute Keturah would not have wagered her fortune on the
woman. But it is not her custom to "say die," and after some reflection
she ventured on a manful command.
"Go away! Go! go!" The stentorian remark caused a result for which she
was, to say the least, unprepared. The creatures coolly turned about and
walked directly up to her. To be sure. Why not? Is it not a part of our
outrageous Yankee nomenclature to teach cows to come to you when you
tell them to go away? How Keturah, country born and bred, could have
even momentarily forgotten so clear and simple a principle of philology,
remains a mystery to this day. A little reflection convinced her of the
only logical way of ridding herself of her guests. Accordingly, she
walked a little way behind them and tried again.
"Come here, sir! Come, good fellow! Wh-e-e! come here!"
Three great wooden heads lifted themselves slowly, and three pairs of
soft, sleepy eyes looked at her, and the beasts returned to their clover
and stood stock-still.
What was to be done? You could go behind and push them. Or you could go
in front and pull them by the horns.
Neither of these methods exactly striking Keturah's fancy, she took up a
little chip and threw at them; also a piece of coal and a handful of
pebbles. These gigantic efforts proving to be fruitless, she sat down on
the grass and looked at them. The heartless creatures resisted even that
At this crisis of her woes one of Keturah's many brilliant thoughts came
to her relief. She hastened upon the wings of the wind to her infallible
resort, the wood-shed, and filled her arms up to the chin with pine
knots. Thus equipped, she started afresh to the conflict. It is recorded
that out of twenty of those sticks, thrown with savage and direful
intent, only one hit. It is, however, recorded that the enemy dispersed,
after being valiantly pursued around the house, out of the front gate
(where one stuck, and got through with the greatest difficulty), and for
a quarter of a mile down the street. In the course of the rout Keturah
tripped on her dress only six times, and fell flat but four. One
pleasing little incident gave delightful variety to the scene. A
particularly frisky and clover-loving white cow, whose heart yearned
after the apples of Sodom, turned about in the road without any warning
whatever and showed fight. Keturah adopted a sudden resolution to return
home "across lots," and climbed the nearest stone-wall with considerable
empressement. Exactly half-way over she was surprised to find herself
gasping among the low-hanging boughs of a butternut-tree, where she hung
like Absalom of old, between heaven and earth. She would like to state,
in this connection, that she always had too much vanity to wear a
waterfall; so she still retains a portion of her original hair.
However, she returned victorious over the silent dew-laden fields and
down into the garden paths, where she paced for two hours back and forth
among the aromatic perfumes of the great yellow June lilies. There might
have been a bit of poetry in it under other circumstances, but Keturah
was not poetically inclined on that occasion. The events of the night
had so roused her soul within her, that exercise unto exhaustion was her
sole remaining hope of sleep.
At about two o'clock she crawled faintly upstairs again, and had just
fallen asleep with her head on the window-sill, when a wandering dog had
to come directly under the window, and sit there and bark for half an
hour at a rake-handle.
Keturah made no other effort to fight her destiny. Determined to meet
it heroically, she put a chair precisely into the middle of the room,
and sat up straight in it, till she heard the birds sing. Somewhere
about that epoch she fell into a doze with one eye open, when a terrific
peal of thunder started her to her feet. It was Patsy knocking at the
door to announce that her breakfast was cold.
In the ghastly condition of the following day the story was finished and
sent off. It was on this occasion that the patient and long-enduring
editor ventured mildly to suggest, that when, by a thrilling and
horrible mischance, Seraphina's lovely hand came between a log of wood
and the full force of Theodore's hatchet, the result might have been
more disastrous than the loss of a finger-nail. Alas! even his editorial
omniscience did not know—how could it?—the story of that night.
Keturah forgave him.
It is perhaps worthy of mention that Miss Humdrum appeared promptly at
eight o'clock the next morning, with her handkerchief at her eyes.
"My Star-spangled Banner has met with her decease, Ketury."
"Indeed! How very sad!"
"Yes. She has met with her decease. Under very peculiar circumstances,
"Oh!" said Ketury, hunting for her own handkerchief; finding three in
her pocket, she brought them all into requisition.
"And I feel it my duty to inquire," said Miss Humdrum, "whether it may
happen that you know anything about the event, Ketury."
"I?" said Keturah, weeping, "I didn't know she was dead even! Dear Miss
Humdrum, you are indeed afflicted."
"But I feel compelled to say," pursued Miss Humdrum, eying this wretched
hypocrite severely, "that my girl Jemimy did hear somebody fire a gun
or a cannon or something out in your garden last night, and she scar't
out of her wits, and my poor cat found cold under the hogshead this
"Miss Humdrum," said Keturah, "I cannot, in justice to myself, answer
such insinuations, further than to say that Amram never allows the gun
to go out of his own room. The cannon we keep in the cellar."
"Oh!" said Miss Humdrum, with horrible suspicion in her eyes. "Well, I
hope you haven't it on your conscience, I'm sure. Good morning."
It had been the ambition of Keturah's life to see a burglar. The second
of the memorable nights referred to crowned this ambition by not only
one burglar, but two. She it was who discovered them, she who frightened
them away, and nobody but she ever saw them. She confesses to a natural
and unconquerable pride in them. It came about on this wise:—
It was one of Keturah's wide-awake nights, and she had been wandering
off into the fields at the foot of the garden, where it was safe and
still. There is, by the way, a peculiar awe in the utter hush of the
earliest morning hours, of which no one can know who has not
familiarized himself with it in all its moods. A solitary walk in a
solitary place, with the great world sleeping about you, and the great
skies throbbing above you, and the long unrest of the panting summer
night, fading into the cool of dews, and pure gray dawns, has in it
something of what Mr. Robertson calls "God's silence."
Once, on one of these lonely rambles, Keturah found away in the fields,
under the shadow of an old stone-wall, a baby's grave. It had no
headstone to tell its story, and the weeds and brambles of many years
had overgrown it. Keturah is not of a romantic disposition, especially
on her midnight tramps, but she sat down by the little nameless thing,
and looked from it to the arch of eternal stars that, summer and winter,
seed-time and harvest, kept steadfast watch over it, and was very still.
It is one of the standing grievances of her life that Amram, while never
taking the trouble to go and look, insists upon it that was nothing but
somebody's pet dog. She knows better.
On this particular night, Keturah, in coming up from the garden to
return to the house, had a dim impression that something crossed the
walk in front of her and disappeared among the rustling trees. The
impression was sufficiently strong to keep her sitting up for half an
hour at her window, under the feeling that an ounce of prevention was
worth a pound of cure. She has indeed been asked why she did not
reconnoitre the rustling trees upon the spot. She considers that would
have been an exceedingly poor stroke of policy, and of an impolitic
thing Keturah is not capable. She sees far and plans deep. Supposing she
had gone and been shot through the head, where would have been the fun
of her burglars? To yield a life-long aspiration at the very moment that
it is within grasp, was too much to ask even of Keturah.
Words cannot describe the sensations of the moment, when that half-hour
was rewarded by the sight of two stealthy, cat-like figures, creeping
out from among the trees. A tall man and a little man, and both with
very unbanditti-like straw-hats on.
Now, if Keturah has a horror in this world, it is that delicate play of
the emotions commonly known as "woman's nonsense." And therefore did she
sit still for three mortal minutes, with her burglars making tracks for
the kitchen window under her very eyes, in order to prove to herself and
an incredulous public, beyond all shadow of doubt or suspicion, that
they were robbers and not dreams; actual flesh and blood, not
nightmares; unmistakable hats and coats in a place where hats and coats
ought not to be, not clothes-lines and pumps. She tried hard to make
Amram and the Paterfamilias out of them. Who knew but they also, by some
unheard-of revolution in all the laws of nature, were on an exploring
expedition after truant sleep? She struggled manfully after the
conviction that they were innocent and unimpeachable neighbors, cutting
the short way home across the fields from some remarkably late
prayer-meeting. She agonized after the belief that they were two of
Patsy's sweethearts, come for the commendable purpose of serenading her.
In fact they were almost in the house before this remarkable female was
prepared to trust the evidence of her own senses.
But when suspense gloomed into certainty, Keturah is happy to say that
she was grandly equal to the occasion. She slammed open her blinds with
an emphasis, and lighted her lamp with a burnt match.
The men jumped, and dodged, and ran, and hid behind the trees, in the
most approved manner of burglars, who flee when no woman pursueth; and
Keturah, being of far too generous a disposition to enjoy the pleasure
of their capture unshared, lost no time in hammering at Amram's door.
"Oh! Ugh! Who—"
"Amram, wake up! Come out here—quick!"
"O-o-oh, yes. Who's there?"
"Amram, be quick, or we shall all have our throats cut! There are some
men in the garden."
"Men in the garden!"
"In the garden!"
Keturah can bear a great deal, but there comes a limit even to her
proverbial patience. She burst open the door without ceremony, and is
under the impression that Amram received a shaking such as even his
tender youth was a stranger to. It effectually woke him to
consciousness, as well as to the gasping and particularly senseless
remark, "What on earth was she wringing his neck for?" As if he mightn't
have known! She has the satisfaction of remembering that he was asked in
return, "Did he expect a solitary unprotected female to keep all his
murderers away from him, as well as those wolves she drove off the other
However, there was no time to be wasted in tender words, and before a
woman could have winked, Amram made his appearance dressed and armed and
sarcastically incredulous. Keturah grasped the pistol, and followed him
at a respectful distance. Stay in the house and hold the light? Catch
her! She would take the light with her, and the house too, if necessary,
but she would be in at the death.
She wishes Mr. Darley were on hand, to immortalize the picture they
made, scouring the premises after those disobliging burglars,—especially
Keturah, in the green wrapper, with her hair rolled all up in a huge knob
on top of her head, to keep it out of the way, and her pistol held out at
arm's-length, pointed falteringly, directly at the stars. She will inform
the reader confidentially—tell it not in Gath—of a humiliating discovery
she made exactly four weeks afterward, and which she has never before
imparted to a human creature,—it wasn't loaded.
Well, they peered behind every door, they glared into every shadow, they
squeezed into every crack, they dashed into every corner, they listened
at every cranny and crevice, step and turn. But not a burglar! Of course
not. A regiment might have run away while Amram was waking up.
Keturah thinks it will hardly be credited that this hopeful person dared
to suggest and dares to maintain that it was Cats!
But she must draw the story of her afflictions to a close. And lest her
"solid" reader's eyes reject the rambling recital as utterly unworthy
the honor of their notice, she is tempted to whittle it down to a moral
before saying farewell. For you must know that Keturah has learned
several things from her mournful experience.
1. That every individual of her acquaintance, male and female, aged and
youthful, orthodox and heretical, who sleeps regularly nine hours out of
the twenty-four, has his or her own especial specimen recipe of a
"perfectly harmless anodyne" to offer, with advice thrown in.
2. That nothing ever yet put her to sleep but a merciful Providence.
3. A great respect for Job.
4. That the notion commonly and conscientiously received by very
excellent people, that wakeful nights can and should be spent in prayer,
religious meditation, and general spiritual growth, is all they know
about it. Hours of the extremest bodily and mental exhaustion, when
every nerve is quivering as if laid bare, and the surface of the brain
burning and whirling to agony, with the reins of control let loose on
every rebellious and every senseless thought, are not the times most
likely to be chosen for the purest communion with God. To be sure. King
David "remembered Him upon his bed, and meditated upon Him in the
night-watches." Keturah does not undertake to contradict Scripture, but
she has come to the conclusion that David was either a very good man,
or he didn't lie awake very often.
But, over and above all, haec fabula docet:
5. That people who can sleep when they want to should keep Thanksgiving
every day in the year.