March 23, 2014
There is nothing more desirable than the Master’s ‘well done’.
I. Serving until the master returns (Matthew 25:14-18)
II. The service of the faithful servants (Matthew 25:19-23)
III. The service of the unfaithful servants (Matthew 25:24-30)
I want to do something unusual this morning. I’ve mentioned before a story, “In Memory of L.H.W.” by Dorothy Canfield Fisher. This morning I want to share that story, in sections, framing our exposition of the text. This will take a little longer than usual, which is why we skipped Children’s Corner.
“He began life characteristically, depreciated and disparaged. When he was a white, thin, big-headed baby, his mother used to inveigh her neighbors: "Wa'n't it just like that do-less Lem Warren, not even to leave me foot-free when he died, but a baby coming!" "Do-less," in the language of our valley, means a combination of shiftless and impractical, particularly scorned. Later, as he began to resemble the appearance he wore through life, her resentment kept pace with his growth. "Look at him!" she cried to all who would listen. "Ain't that Warren, all over? Did any of my folks ever look so like a born fool? Shut your mouth, Lem, and maybe you won't scare folks." Lem had a foolish, apologetic grin with which he always used to respond to these comments, hanging his head to one side, opening and shutting his big hands nervously.
The Warren’s tumble-down house was across from the school, and the school children shared Mrs. Warren's loud opinion of Lem. The ugly, overgrown boy, clad in cast-off clothes was allowed to play only if he did all the boring or hard parts of any game. As his speech was halting and indistinct he was never asked to recite or act in the school performances. He was not "smart at his books" and hardly learned to read, partly I’m sure, because the only time he ever saw a book was at school. So he chopped wood, made fires and listened in silent, grinning admiration while others spoke pieces and sang songs.
But if he was not good at book-learning he was not without achievements. He early grew large for his age, and strong, and he was the best swimmer of all those who bathed in the cold, swift mountain stream near the schoolhouse. As a result he was made to teach each succeeding generation of boys to swim and dive. Even they tyrannized over him unmercifully. Nothing made his mother more furious than what she called "Lem's meachin'ness." "Ain't you got no stand-up in ye?" she was wont to exhort him angrily. "If you don't look out for yourself in this world, you needn't think anybody else is gunto!" Her instructions in ethics were the only ones he ever knew, for, up to his fourteenth year, he never had clothes respectable enough for church, and after that he had other things to think of. Fourteen years is what we call in our State "over school age." It was a date Mrs. Warren had looked forward to; Lem would be earning wages, and she could sit back and "live decent."
It seemed more than she could bear when, that same year, she was stricken with paralysis. It was the first mishap she could not blame on her marriage, and her bitterness festered. She cannot have been a cheerful house-mate during the years Lem was growing silently to manhood. He was in demand as "help" on the farms about him, on account of his strength and faithfulness, though the farmers found him tediously slow and, when it was a question of animals, not always reliable. He was good with the horses, but never learned "how to whip the work out of their hide." It was his way, on a steep hill with a heavy load, to get out and put his own powerful shoulder to the wheel. If this failed, he unloaded part of the logs and made two trips. The impatient farmer and sawyer at the ends of his route were driven to exhaust their entire vocabulary. He was, they used to inform him, "the most do-less critter the Lord ever made!"
He was better with cows and sheep--"feller-feelin," his mother said scornfully, and he had here a fair degree of success. It was indeed the foundation of what material prosperity he ever enjoyed. A farmer, short of cash, paid him one year with three or four ewes and a ram. He worked for another farmer to pay rent of a pasture and had, as everybody admitted, almighty good luck. There were several twin lambs born that spring and every one lived. Lem used to make frequent night visits to the pasture to make sure that all was well.
I remember as a little girl coming back from some village festivity one spring night and seeing a lantern twinkle far up on the mountainside. "Lem Warren out fussin' with his sheep," one of my elders remarked. Later we saw the lantern on the road ahead and stopped, country-fashion, for an exchange of salutation. Looking out from under the shawl in which I was wrapped, I saw his tall figure stooping over something held under his coat. The lantern lighted his weather-beaten face and the expression of his eyes as he looked down at the little white head against his breast. "You're foolish, Lem," said my uncle."The ewe won't own it if you take it away the first night." "I--I--know," stuttered Lem, bringing out the words with his usual difficulty; "but it's mortal cold up on the mounting for little fellers! I'll bring him up as a cosset." The incident reminded me vaguely of something I had read about, and it has remained in my memory.
In chapter 24 Jesus gave a deeply prophetic answer to the question “when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” At the end of those prophecies he told his disciples no one could know the day or the hour of his return, so they needed to be awake and alert. He told a simple parable of a man who would stay up all night if he knew a thief was coming; “You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
His next parable was about a servant who was steward of his master’s house. When the master was delayed, the steward began to abuse his fellow servants and his authority. When the master returned, he faced his wrath. The final parable prior to our text this week was about ten maidens who were part of a wedding. Their part was to wait for the bridegroom with lamps, to make festive his entry to the wedding feast. But the groom was delayed, and five of the maidens, who had not prepared well, ran out of oil. While they were getting more, the groom came and those five missed their chance to enter his wedding feast. Jesus concludes “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
Now he calls us to serve until the master returns. Matthew 25:14-18 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five more. 17So also he who had the two talents made two more. 18But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money.
The master entrusts his servants with his money. They are stewards, taking care of and using their master’s resources for his benefit and gain. They are given five, two and one talents. Remember, the Greek word talent is purely a unit of money; it has no association with skills, abilities, gifts or talents. But that doesn’t mean Jesus is only talking about being his financial stewards. I think it extends much further, to all of life. In an earlier confrontation Jesus had said to give the tax money that is Caesar’s to Caesar; his image is on it, it’s his. So in this parable the stewards are to make wise use of their master’s money because it’s his. But Jesus also said to give to God what is God’s, which is us; we are made in his image, and we are to give him all of ourselves. I think he expects us to apply this parable to all of life; we are to be his stewards and his servants with everything he has given us; money, time, and talent.
Two of these servants do; invest the money and put it to work. Most commentators believe this means they started a business or bought and sold goods. And they got a good return for their labor: they each had a 100% profit. We don’t know how long Jesus anticipates this having taken, but they must have chosen wisely and worked hard. But the third guy didn’t: he just buried his money in the ground. Now there wasn’t anything like the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation in those days. If you just wanted to keep your money safe, you hid or buried it. Some people still do. I don’t know if you read about it, but a couple in California recently found 1400 gold coins buried on their land, worth about $27,000 in face value and ten million as collectors’ items. But burying treasure does not usually yield that kind of return.
The lesson of this introduction isn’t so different from the lesson of the whole parable. When the master leaves you to steward his stuff, you do best if you put it to work and labor at it. If you take what he gives you and just bury it in the ground, it does no one, especially the master, any good. In the same way, we do no one any good and we do the kingdom no good if we take what our Lord and Master Jesus Christ has given us and do nothing with it. Instead we need to use it for the kingdom, to shine his light before others. Part two of our story:
Old Ma’am Warren, with her legs paralyzed, did little all day except revile the management of the universe, until Lem came home, made her supper, and put her to bed. Badly run as she thought the world, for a time it was favorable to her prosperity. Lem's flock of sheep grew and thrived. For years nobody in our valley did much with sheep because of dogs; Lem's neighbors told him that some morning he’d find his flock torn to pieces. They even pointed out one big collie who would likely go "sheep-mad." Lem's heavy face drew into anxious, grotesque wrinkles at this talk, and he visited his pasture frequently.
One morning, just before dawn, he came, pale and shamefaced, to the house of the collie’s owner. The family made out from his nearly incoherent speech that he was begging their pardon for having killed their dog. "I saw where he'd bit the throats out of two ewes that was due to lamb in a few days and I guess I . . I must ha' gone kind o' crazy." They peered at him in the gray light, half-afraid of the tall apparition. "How could you kill a great big dog like Jack?" they asked wonderingly. In answer he held out his great hands and huge arms, red with blood. One of the children cried out: "But I shut Jackie up in the woodshed last night!" When they opened the door the collie bounded out. Lem turned white in thankfulness, "I'm mortal glad," he said. "I felt awful bad. I knew your young ones thought a sight of Jack."
"But what dog did you kill?" they asked. Some of the men went up with him and found, torn in pieces and scattered wide in bloody fragments, the body of a big gray wolf. The hard-headed farmers who looked on that savage scene drew back from the shambling man beside them in the only impulse of respect they ever felt for him. It was the one act of his life to secure the admiration of his fellow-men; it was one he himself always spoke in horror and shame.
Certainly his marriage aroused no admiration. It was universally regarded as addle-pated and imbecile from beginning to end. One of the girls who worked at the hotel "got into trouble," as our vernacular runs. Everyone knew her and was talking about the scandal. Old Ma'am Warren spiritedly expressed that "Lottie was a fool not to make that drummer marry her. She could have, if she'd gone the right way to work." But the drummer remained persistently absent.
One evening Lem, starting for his sheep-pasture, heard someone crying ahead on the bridge, and then, as he paused to listen, a splash. He dove in without stopping to set down his lantern, knowing well the swiftness of the water, and caught the poor cowardly thing struggling and gasping in the current. He took her home and gave her dry clothes of his mother's. Then leaving the scared and repentant child by his hearth, he set out on foot for the minister's house and dragged him back over the rough country roads. When Ma'am Warren awoke the next morning, Lem did not instantly answer her imperious call. Instead, a red-eyed girl in one of Mrs. Warren's own nightgowns came to the door and said shrinkingly: "Lem slept in the barn last night. He give his bed to me.” Ma'am Warren stared, transfixed with a premonition of irremediable evil. "What you doin' here?" she demanded. The girl held down her head. "Lem and I were married last night," she said. Then Mrs. Warren found her voice.
When Lem came in it was to a scene of the furious wrangling which was henceforth to fill his house. "... to saddle himself with such trash as you!" his mother was raging. His wife answered in kind, her vanity stung beyond endurance. "Well, you can be sure he'd never have got him a wife any other way! Nobody but a girl hard put to it would take up with a drivel-headed fool like Lem Warren!"
When the baby came, Lottie was very sick. Lem took care of his mother, his wife, and the new baby for weeks and weeks. It was at lambing-time, and his flock suffered. He ran in debt, for he couldn’t take work. The neighbors helped out, but it was no cheerful morning's work to care for the vitriolic old lady, and only Lem could comfort Lottie. We did pass the baby from house to house, but at haying-time when everyone was more than busy, she was sent back.
Lottie lingered for about a year, then died, Lem holding her hand in his. She tried to say something to him that last night, so the neighbors reported, but her breath failed her and she could only lie staring at him from eyes that seemed to look from the other side of the grave. He was deep in debt when he was thus left with a year-old child not his own, but he gave Lottie a decent funeral and put up a gravestone saying she was "Charlotte, loved wife of Lemuel Warren." He used to take the little girl and put flowers on the grave, I remember.
In the middle of the parable Jesus describes what happens to the two who put their stewardship to work. Verses 19-23 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ 21His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’
22And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ 23His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’
It was a long time before the master came back. This is the third parable in a row with that feature. I really think Jesus was trying to tell his disciples, and by extension us, that he, their master, was going to go away for a long time, and that the culmination of things that he described was going to be delayed. None of them knew how long the delay would be, just as we don’t. But they needed to be expectant and at work while they waited. And so do we.
Because when the master does return, he settles accounts with the servants. It wasn’t their money to use as they wished, and Jesus has already told a parable or two about what happens to those who treat their master’s goods as their own. In the same way our lives are not our own: you are not your own, Paul says, for you were bought with a price. When Jesus died for us to win us back from the power of sin and death, he purchased us with his blood. Therefore our lives are no longer ours to squander and waste; they are his to use. Whether he uses us to win millions or to serve a few, to achieve much or seemingly little, if we are serving him faithfully even in the little things, he rejoices.
These two in the parable are serving faithfully. The first one says “Master, you gave me five talents; here I have made five more.” The second says ‘Master, you gave me two talents; here I have made two more.’ The amount you’re given doesn’t matter: it’s what you do with it that counts. The master says the same thing to both: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’
“Well done, good and faithful servant.” I’ve been a believer nearly forty-five years, and I can’t tell you when that phrase first struck me, but I know that for most of my life one of my ambitions has been to hear my Savior say ‘well done.’ Sadly I know that if he took notice of the details of my life he’d find a ton of things that have not been well done, a ton of selfishness, a ton of sin, a ton of ineffectiveness. But I hope he’ll also find a heart that by grace has been trying to serve him and hands that by grace have worked, and a head that by grace has been trying to put his word into words. I hope that overlooking the rest by grace, he will say “well done mostly good and occasionally faithful servant.”
Andrew Peterson touches on this in his song “Just as I am” “Well it's time now to harvest what little that grew. This man they call Jesus, who planted the seeds, has come for the fruit. And the best that I've got isn't nearly enough; He's glad for the crop, but it's me that He loves.”
At the end of the verse Jesus says ‘enter into the joy of your master.’ It’s not just enter into joy, but his joy, a joy he’s already feeling. Jesus rejoices in those who serve him. Just as we rejoice to see a four year old trying to help mommy or a seventeen year old making choices to put Jesus first, so Jesus’ heart rejoices in us. Jesus will give his ‘well done’ to a life that pours itself out for others. A life that endures suffering and pain. A life that trusts when fear is the right response and hopes when despair is the right response. He rejoices when we point to him in words and deeds, giving him glory as the Savior and Sustainer. He rejoices when we persevere in drudgery and take risk in trust. He rejoices when we turn from sin and step toward obedience. He rejoices when we look around us for something to do and someone to love. He rejoices when we rejoice in silent praise over his creation. Each of these things and many more allow his servants to bring joy to Jesus’ heart.
“In memory of L.H.W.” Then he went to work again. His sandy hair was streaked with gray, though he was but thirty. The doctor said it was because of the great strain of his year of nursing; and indeed throughout that period no one knew when he slept. Late at night we could look across and see his light still burning and know he was rubbing Lottie's back or feeding little Susie. But she was a healthy child, and now she slept through the night in a crib by her stepfather's corded bed, and in the daytime went where he did. She napped in a horse blanket while he worked in the barn and he carried her up in a little sling to his pasture. Old Ma'am Warren disliked the pretty, laughing child bitterly, and for the first time he asserted himself against his mother, bidding her, when she began to berate the child to "be still!" with strange and unexpected authority.
Susie adored her stepfather at first, but when she came of school age and mixed with other children, the devouring egotism of childhood made her ashamed of him, his uncouth gait, his sagging mouth, his stammering speech. Though he was prospering again, owned the pasture and his house, and had even built on another room, he spent little on himself. It all went for pretty clothes for Susie, books and pictures for Susie, tickets for her to go to the circus. Susie knew this and loved him by stealth for it, but the intolerably sensitive vanity of her twelve years made her wretched to be seen in public with him. Divining this, he ceased going with her to school-picnics and Sunday-school parties, instead dressing her in her best with his big calloused hands, and watching her go off from the window. His mother predicted savagely that his "spoilin' that bad-blooded young one would bring her no good end," and when, at fifteen, Susie began to grow very pretty, saucy and willful, the old woman exulted openly over Lem's helpless anxiety. He was quite gray now, though not yet forty-five, and so stooped he passed for an old man. But he owned a little farm, his flock was the largest around, and Susie, it was hoped, would make a good marriage.
And then Frank Gridley's oldest son, Ed, came back from business college with store clothes, city hats and polished tan shoes, and began calling on the girls. From the first, he and Susie ran together like two drops of water. Bronson Perkins, a big, silent lad who had long hung about Susie, stood no show at all. One night in county-fair week, Susie, who had gone off with a crowd, did not come home with rest. Lem, waiting in his doorway, heard the laughing, singing hay wagon in which she had gone pass right by his gate. He called after it and was told "Ed Gridley and she went to the hotel to get supper. He said he'd bring her home later." Lem hitched up the faster of his two plow-horses and drove to Woodville, eight miles up-hill, in 45 minutes. The hotel clerk told him the two had had supper served in a private room. Lem broke the door in with one heave of his shoulders and Susie sprang up from the table and ran to him like a frightened child, crying out that Ed scared her so! "It's all right, Susie," he said, not looking at the man. "Poppa's come to take you home."
The man felt his dignity wounded. He began to protest, declaring that he was ready to marry the girl "now, this instant, if you choose!" Lem put one arm about Susie. "I didn't come to make you marry her. I come to keep you from it," he said, speaking clearly for once. "Susie shan't marry a hound that'd do this." And as the other advanced threateningly he struck him a great blow across the mouth that sent him unconscious to the ground. Then Lem went out, paid for the broken lock, and drove home with Susie behind the foundered plow-horse.
In the spring her engagement to Bronson Perkins was announced, though everyone said they didn't see what use it was to get engaged when you couldn't marry. Bronson's father was daft, not enough to send him to the asylum, but so that he had to be watched. He had a horrid way, I remember, of holding lit matches up to his bared arm until the smell of burning flesh went sickeningly through the house. It was out of the question to bring a young bride to such a home.
As a matter of fact, they were married that fall. Lem took old Mr. Perkins into the room Susie left vacant. "'Twon't be much more trouble taking care of two old people than one," he explained. Ma'am Warren's comments on this action have been embalmed forever in the delighted memories of our people. We have a taste for picturesque and forceful speech. From that time we always saw the lunatic and the bent shepherd together. The old man grew quieter under Lem's care than he had been for years, and if he felt one of his insane impulses, ran totteringly to grasp his protector's arm until he was himself again. Lem used to take him up to the sheep-pasture for the day sometimes. He reported with pride that the old man talked as sensible as anybody, "get him off where it's quiet." Indeed, when Mr. Perkins died, six years later, he had known many happy, lucid hours with his grandchildren.
Jesus ends his parable with the sad case of the one who did not do well and serve faithfully. Verses 24 to 30 “He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
We may not see a huge difference between the two who were faithful and the one who was not but the master does. The faithful two went and took risk with the master’s money and worked hard at making it grow. They seem to have had a sense that their master would rejoice in their effort. They don’t see the master as ‘a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed.’ But the third servant did. He saw the master as hard and unjust and one to take unfair advantage. So, this servant says, he was afraid and decided to take the course of least risk. He hid the money in the ground.
Now there are two ways to understand this in terms of our own lives. At one level we need to take seriously the master’s evaluation: you wicked, lazy servant. So often in our lives we find ways to make excuses for simple laziness or even sinful disobedience. We somehow make it someone else’s fault. ‘I would have finished my homework, but Jason distracted me.’ ‘I was on my way to help, but had to stop to help Heather.’ ‘I would have gotten back to you on that but I’ve had a dozen people calling me.’ ‘I would like to help, but I’ve got so much to do: a dozen cat videos to watch on youtube; fourteen selfies to post to facebook.’ As we examine ourselves to see where we fall on the scale of selfless service to the Lord, we need to be very sensitive to discern when we are making excuses to allow ourselves to indulge sin, selfishness or sloth.
On the other hand I want to take the servants words seriously; even our excuses have some basis in reality, and I think on some level he must have really felt his master was hard, cruel and grasping. That would make a huge difference in his willingness to put his master’s money to work. In the same way, I think our view of God makes a huge difference in our willingness to serve him.
If our basic view of God is that he is a cruel taskmaster who reaps where he hasn’t sown, a vindictive list keeping God who measures in the scales every word, motive and action, and punishes us cruelly when we even think of stepping out of line, we are not going to have any desire to be good faithful servants. But if our basic view of God is a loving Lord who only desires to reap from our lives for our good and because he has already made the ultimate sacrifice, sown the seed of his own son’s life to make us his fruit, if that is the God we serve we may very well be willing to serve sacrificially.
In the last few verses Jesus steps back from the inside of the story and applies it to the lives of those of his listeners who have rejected his lordship and his love. He says “So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ We’ve heard Jesus speak this way before about those who are rejecting him. He clearly sees that the good news of the kingdom is being taken away from the Jewish leaders, and anyone who will not embrace it, and given to those who will, who thus serve Jesus fruitfully.
Susie and Bronson had two boys--sturdy, hearty children, in whom Lem took the deepest, shyest pride. He loved to take them off into the woods with him and exulted in their quick intelligence and strong little bodies. It was Lem who first took alarm about the fall little Frank had, down the cellar stairs. He hurt his spine somehow, but as he only limped a little, nobody thought much of it. Then he began to have difficulty walking. Lem sent for a doctor from Rutland who, as soon as he examined the child, stuck out his lower lip ominously. He called the trouble by a long name, and said Frank would be a hopeless cripple if it wasn’t cured soon. There was, he said, a celebrated surgeon from Europe traveling in this country who had an effective, but expensive new treatment.
"What did the foreign doctor ask?" queried Bronson, and, being informed, fell back hopeless. Susie, her pretty, childish face grieved into a wan beauty, put her arms about her little son and looked at her stepfather. He had never failed her. He did not fail her now. He sold the land he had accumulated field by field; he sold the great flock of sheep, every one of which he could call by name; he mortgaged the house over the protesting head of his now bedridden mother; he sold the horse and cow, the very sticks of furniture. Little Frank was taken to New York to have the great surgeon operate on him--he is there yet, almost completely recovered. Back in Hillsboro, Lem began all over again, hiring out to his neighbors, only asking enough free time to care for his mother.
Three weeks ago she had her last stroke of paralysis and, after lying speechless for a few days, passed away, grim to the last. The day after her funeral Lem did not come to work as he was expected. We went over to his house and found, him in bed. "Be ye sick, Lem?" asked my uncle. He looked over the bedclothes with his old foolish, apologetic smile. "Kind o' lazy, I guess," he whispered. The doctor was put out by the irregularity of the case. "I can't make out anything really the trouble!" he said. "Only the wheels don't go round as fast as they ought. Call it a failing heart if you want a label." The wheels ran more and more slowly until it was apparent that before long they would stop altogether. Susie and Bronson were in New York with little Frank, so Lem's care fell on the haphazard services of the neighbors.
He was out of his head most of the time, though never violent, driving his ox-team, skidding logs, plowing in stony ground, planting, hoeing, tending his sheep, and teaching obstinate lambs to drink. He used quaint, coaxing names for these, such as a mother uses for her baby. He was up in the mountain-pasture a good deal, we gathered, and at night; he often mentioned how bright the stars shone. Sometimes, when he was in evident pain, his delusion took the form that Susie, or the little boys, had gone up and got lost in the woods.
I was on duty the night he died. He had lain silent all day, and we hoped he would come to himself when he awoke. Near midnight he began to talk again, and I could not make out whether he was still wandering or not. When I spoke to him he gave a great start and tried to sit up. "Yes, mother; coming!" he called hoarsely, and then looked at me with his own eyes. "I must ha' forgot about mother's bein' gone," he apologized sheepishly. I took advantage of this lucid interval to try to give him some medicine. "Take a swallow of this." "What's it for?" he asked. "It's a heart stimulant." His face drew together in grotesque lines of anxiety. "Little Frank worse?" "Oh, no, he's doing finely." "Susie all right?" "Why, yes," I said wonderingly. "Nothing the matter with her other boy?" "No, no," I told him. "Everybody's all right. Here, just take this down."
He turned away his head on the pillow and murmured something. When I asked what he said, he smiled feebly as in deprecation of his well-known ridiculous ways. "I'm obliged to you," he said, "but if everybody's all right, I guess I won't have any medicine." He looked at me earnestly. "I . I'm real tired." It came out in one great breath--apparently his last, for he did not move after that, and his ugly, slack-mouthed face was at once quite still. Its expression made me think of the time I had seen it as a child, by lantern-light, as he looked down at the new-born lamb on his breast.