Authors: Jerry S. Eicher
Tags: #Christian Fiction, #Amish, #Christian, #General, #Romance, #Fiction, #Religious, #Love Stories
“I can’t believe Will would do something like that,” Betty whispered. “That was another of Jake’s wonderful sermons, and Will was completely out of line. The man ought to be rebuked and called out in front of the church for his transgression.”
“Jake asked him for his testimony,” Hannah said. “And I guess he gave it.”
Betty jerked her arm, “Don’t be trying to butter things up, and don’t you go counseling Jake to be soft on Will when Bishop John wants to deal with the man. I saw your face afterward. And did you hear Rebecca sobbing? The poor woman. Will broke her heart in pieces, and this after we thought their problems from last year were over with.”
“It’s the Mennonite meetings that are causing the problem,” Hannah said.
“I think so too,” Betty said. “It’s disturbing the life of the community.”
“That’s not the worst thing,” Hannah said. “I just had the most horrible thought after church. I was thinking, what would happen if Miriam falls for Will’s brother, Dennis? She’s coming here hoping to find someone.”
Betty’s eyes widened and she clucked her tongue. “Yes, it’s going to be a hard time ahead. I do indeed feel it in my bones, child.”
Jake drove silently, his eyes on the road ahead. Hannah glanced briefly at him as she rubbed her forehead. A pounding headache was forming and promised to burst into full bloom.
“I’m sorry it went so late,” he said. “But the ministry needed to talk.”
“How are you doing?” she asked, touching his arm.
“Okay,” he said, not looking at her.
“What does Bishop John think should be done about Will?”
“He’s going over to visit him tonight.”
“That’s better than sending you like he did last year.”
“I guess I failed in my mission.”
“You didn’t, Jake. It’s those Mennonites. They are the problem.”
“Don’t say that,” Jake said, turning to look at her. “We shouldn’t blame other people for our own failures.”
“But you didn’t fail.” Hannah squeezed his arm. “You gave Will excellent advice that night. I was there and I heard it and Will listened. You can’t carry all the weight of the world’s burdens, Jake.”
“I have to carry the ones that are my fault.”
“This wasn’t your fault, Jake. Believe me, it wasn’t.”
“I wish it were that easy. Bishop John wants to discipline Will, maybe make him do a church confession. He said we can’t have people disrespecting the ministry like that.”
“It was disrespectful. But I don’t know about discipline. That could make things worse. And poor Rebecca. She already took it hard enough the way it is.”
“I know,” Jake said. “And there are their two children to think of. I don’t think it’s good for young boys to see their fathers in trouble with the church.”
“Maybe Bishop John will accept a private apology—if you ask him to?”
“I already said that, but I guess we will have to see. Will might not even back down that far. And with that Mennonite revival coming, well, it could just pick off any of our discontented members.”
“They are the only reason Will is acting up,” Hannah said.
“Do you really think so?”
“I do. And isn’t there something that can be done about that? Can’t you go to the Mennonite leaders, whoever they are, and speak with them? Surely Ben Stoll would know who they are. You could ask them to call this meeting off.”
Jake laughed dryly. “I don’t think that would work from what I’ve heard. There’s this movement sweeping across the Mennonite communities right now, and a lot of them are into this kind of thing. I don’t think they’ll stop just because the people they want to convert object.”
“Convert? That’s sounds awful. What are we supposed to convert to?”
Jake shrugged, “It’s a good word—if what you are converting to is good.”
“You wouldn’t ever convert, would you, Jake?”
He laughed, slapping the reins. “Now, why do you ask that?”
“Well, you’re a really
preacher. My guess is they’d put you right to work preaching all over the country in a fancy new car they might even buy for you themselves!”
Jake shook his head, laughing again. “You are full of strange ideas, Hannah. But don’t worry, I’m not converting to their way of doing things.”
“Are you going to attend the meetings? You said once you wanted to see what goes on.”
“I was teasing,” Jake said, turning up their driveway. “I have no plans to go.”
“What does Bishop John say about people going? Is he going to forbid it?”
“We talked about that,” Jake said, allowing Mosey to walk up the hill toward the cabin. “He wants a rule against any attendance, and Mose feels the same way.”
“I don’t know. I’m afraid it will be perceived as too harsh and it might backfire.”
“But what if people go? From the talk today, I’d say Will is going to drag Rebecca there whether she wants to go or not.”
“It’s the end result we have to keep in mind. The summer will be over in a few months, the Mennonites will be gone, and we will have to live with ourselves.”
“So you will defy Bishop John’s opinion?” Hannah asked, her hand shaking a bit on Jake’s arm.
He turned, a weak smile on his face. “I just gave my opinion. Bishop John can do what he wants.”
“You know he wouldn’t want to go against your opinion. Can’t you tell him you’ve changed your mind? Betty thinks it’s time for harsh measures with all the trouble we’re having.”
“It’s always time to do what’s right,” Jake said, pulling to a stop in front of the barn.
Hannah climbed down and took the tugs off of her side of the buggy, holding the shafts while Jake led Mosey forward. She watched him disappear into the barn before she walked toward the house. Jake was always right and had a way of saying things that made one shut one’s mouth. Still, Betty wouldn’t be convinced, but Hannah had done her duty. She had advised Jake not to be soft on Will.
Jake was taking an awful risk in holding to a different stand than Bishop John. He could say what he wanted to, but that was what it was. If things went wrong this summer, and the worst happened with several or even a few of their members being lost to the Mennonite revival, Jake would take a lot of the blame. Word would leak out that Jake had been the one who stood in the way of dealing harshly with the ones who chose to attend the tent meetings.
She rubbed her forehead again. Thankfully her threatening headache had subsided. It must have been the conversation with Jake. He could do that for her, and soon they would be able to comfort each other as a family. Wouldn’t that be wonderfully
? They could sit around the gas lantern at night, the baby playing in the crib, and be a happy and complete family regardless of what people thought of Jake.
Hannah opened the cabin door, and walked in, hanging her shawl on the rocker before taking off her bonnet. She needed to start supper soon. At this hour it would need to be warmed-over casserole from last night and the blueberry pie she had made yesterday. That would still leave enough pie for Jake’s lunch tomorrow. She would do additional baking then.
While starting the fire in the stove, the cabin door opened and she glanced into the living room. Jake tossed his hat on the floor and lowered himself on the couch, his face streaked with weariness.
“I’ll have supper soon,” Hannah said. “It’s already quite late.”
“That would be
as I’m starving.”
While the casserole warmed, she made a batch of popcorn and brought it to Jake. A smile spread over his face as he took the bowl Hannah gave him.
“Don’t eat too much,” she said, “or you won’t have room for supper.”
“I can always find room for your delicious food,” he said.
“Thanks, and I’m glad you like my food. But you haven’t gotten fat yet.”
“Am I supposed to get fat?” he asked, laughing.
“Well, some men do once they get married. But I guess you work too hard. And then there’s the church work.”
He smiled halfheartedly. “It would keep anyone thin.”
“I don’t want you fat anyway,” Hannah said, nibbling from her own bowl of popcorn.
Jake sat upright suddenly, listening. “There’s a buggy coming up the lane.”
“Oh no,” Hannah gasped, standing up so fast her bowl tipped over, spilling the white kernels across the floor. “I hope it’s not trouble. We can’t stand any more of that tonight.”
His face shadowed, Jake gave her a quick look. “I’m sorry this is so hard on you. But I don’t know what to do about it.”
“You can’t do anything. It’s not your fault.”
He ran his fingers gently down her cheek. He stood up, went to the cabin door, opened it, and stepped out onto the porch.
Hannah quickly swept the spilled popcorn into a pile with her hands and deposited it into the wastebasket. She could at least present a clean house to whomever was coming.
Voices reached her from the front porch—muffled sounds of laughter.
Who would be laughing when the visit has to be a serious one?
She watched as the door swung open and Jake held it while Betty and Steve walked inside.
“Hannah!” Betty said, coming toward her with open arms. “We had to come over and comfort you poor people. I can’t imagine how hard this has been on both of you.”
“You came to visit us?” Hannah asked, tears forming again.
Betty wrapped her in a big hug.
“You poor things,” Betty said. “And to think I gave you all that advice after church when I should have been comforting you. Thank
that Steve got me straightened out. He insisted we come over right away and spend the evening with both of you.”
“You are such dears,” Hannah said, wiping her eyes. “But I don’t even have supper for all of us. I only have enough casserole for Jake and me.”
“Don’t worry,” Betty said, a smile flooding her face. “I brought supper along. Well, meatballs and baked beans. No dessert though, but perhaps we can live without dessert tonight.”
“I have some pie. Maybe we can cut it into small pieces,” Hannah said, smiling through her tears. “I’d like to save one piece for Jake’s lunch tomorrow.”
“I’m sorry for what happened today,” Steve said, nodding toward Hannah. “I was just telling Jake that I think everything will be handled correctly. I have a lot of confidence in Bishop John.”
“I hope so,” Hannah said, her smile shaky. Steve obviously hadn’t been told about Jake’s advice to Bishop John, and she wasn’t about to tell him. Steve would only say something that would likely contribute to Jake’s unease.
“Let’s get this warmed up a bit,” Betty said, taking the covers off her pan of meatballs and leading the way into Hannah’s kitchen. “It shouldn’t take much.”
“My casserole should be about done,” Hannah said, opening the oven door to check and then placing the casserole on the top rack. “It’ll stay warm here until yours is done.”
Betty set the table while Hannah sliced the bread.
Fifteen minutes later Betty called into the living room, “Come and get it!”
Jake and Steve came at once, Jake motioning for Steve to sit down first. When they were seated, Jake led out in prayer, his voice strong. It sounded
to hear him pray like that, especially after what he had been through in church.
“Now for a solution to our big problem,” Betty said, passing her meatballs around.
“Like what?” Jake said. “We already talked about the church problems we’re having.”
“That’s not what I meant,” Betty said. “I’m talking about Miriam coming. It’s next week, isn’t it? How are we going to keep her away from Will’s brother? The more I think about what Hannah told me, the more certain I am that she will fall head over heels in love with him. I can feel it deep in my bones. We can’t just stand by and do nothing.”
“Hannah told you?” Jake asked, raising his eyebrows.
“I just thought of the possibility,” Hannah said, meeting his eyes. “Maybe it will never happen.”
“Like you two are going to stop love,” Steve said with a laugh.
“That’s what I was thinking,” Jake said.
“That’s not a very good thing for a preacher to be saying,” Betty said. “And Miriam’s your sister-in-law.”
“I faintly remember that,” Jake said, and Steve laughed again.
“This is not a laughing matter,” Betty said. “It’s very serious.”
“I agree,” Hannah said. “And what can we do about it?”
“We have to come up with a plan,” Betty said. “Some way of keeping Miriam away from Dennis.”
Jake cleared his throat and glanced at Hannah.
“What?” Hannah asked him. “Did I say something wrong?”
“No,” Jake shook his head. “I was just thinking about how Betty’s plans for you went awry when we were dating.”
“Jake,” Hannah said, “Betty was trying to help. And I didn’t do much to help her either. We all did things wrong.”
“That’s right,” Betty said. “And this time we must be smarter in our planning.”
“I think you’d better not do
planning,” Steve said. “Things can get a little out of control when you women start planning. I expect the more you tell Miriam not to notice Dennis, the more she’s going to notice him.”