Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Telephone (07/17/08)
TITLE: Isaiah and the Instrument
By Mary Hackett
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Isaiah is the preacher of Willow Crick. Isaiah was a circuit-riding preacher in his young days, and Isaiah is grown old. And perhaps, in his old age, Isaiah has become a little close minded. He does not easily accept the advent of the telephone, arranged to be installed at Ferguson’s General Store. In fact, he rails against it, preaching against it in every sermon and in every conversation. When asked to give reasons for his hatred of the ‘newfangled contraption,’ Isaiah sputters too much for anyone’s understanding; and becomes apoplectic. But for the old man’s sincere goodness, piety, and sound doctrines in all else, his people forgive him his foible.
They also forgive him, for the sake of his daughter Alice. She is beautiful and beloved, the personification of gentle youth. She has no mother. Her father was bereaved during Alice’s youth, as the doctor—from a neighboring county—could not be fetched in time to save her. But back to the telephone.
There is a faction in town too strong for old Isaiah’s arguments to topple. This faction clamors for the telephone, objecting to the outcast state of their town. They will have the telephone, and they get it, too. One day, strange workmen put up poles. Another, string the wire. Another, pass the wire into the General Store denoted Ferguson’s. Another, install the telephone box, and give the proprietor thereof lessons on its use. All lookers on are enchanted, and the privileged few hold converse with Mr. Gustafson of Galston Gulch, ten miles away. The telephone does not cease to be the wonder of the town, or the object of Isaiah’s rage, for some time.
Then comes a grievous night. Alice is taken severely ill; too ill for the country doctor in attendance upon her. Isaiah is distraught. There is nothing for it but to send for a specialist. The doctor opines that it must be done at once; that the specialist must come within an hour to be of any use. He lives in Little Britain, reached in an hour on a quick horse. The neighbors whisper—Isaiah will never permit the use of the telephone—he hates it already—
Isaiah stands; comes forth from the corner where he has watched in fear and sorrow. “Use the instrumint,” he quivers, “And may God save my child.”
A messenger is dispatched at once for the general store, where the specialist is rung for immediately; within moments he is on his way, as fast as his horse will go.
Ten years ago, ten weeks ago, he could not have come in time. But he arrives, confirms the country doctor’s diagnosis, operates, and saves Alice. Isaiah’s head is bowed in thanksgiving. He nurses Alice tenderly into recovery. One Sunday morning, he addresses his congregation.
“My friends,” says Isaiah, “I have heavy on my mind a message for you all. You may recollect, partic’lary you, Jake,” nodding to storekeeper Ferguson, “Thet I was set agin the comin’ of a certain instrumint to this here town. I was agin it because I thought it was a vanity. I still think,” his eyes snapping, “Thet it can be an instrumint of evil when it’s put to the wrong use.
But friends,” softening, “It can also be an instrumint for good. My wife died for not havin’ a doctor quick enough. My daughter almost died, and would have died, if not for havin’ a doctor quick enough. He was got at quick enough by the telephone. And so my friends, I perceive thet an instrumint itself is not evil. It may afford the opportunity for evil, but it don’t follow thet the instrumint is at fault. It lies with us to use the instrumints aright. And God bless the one in Ferguson’s store,” here tears are seen to flow down the preacher’s cheeks, “ thet helped to save one dearer to me than all the wealth o’ nations.”
And so there is peace in Willow Crick; though Ferguson contemplates an automobile.
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