Chapter 5 (pages 66-72)
Sunday came all too soon. Reverend Stone raked his fingers through his hair. The parishioners had already started to fill the pews. He felt disoriented and unprepared. The Reverend took a deep breath, making brief eye contact with Miss Hampton, shuffling the sheets of paper he had laid out over the pulpit. Notes he had scribbled in haste just an hour before. He had put the sermon together in less than half an hour, taking from older talks and creating a new one.
He sighed, staring at Miss Hampton. The events of the previous week had rattled him, and it was difficult for him to focus on anything else. Miss Hampton urged him on with a simple hand gesture. He nodded in response as if he and she were the only ones in the chapel. He smiled at her and she smiled back. A murmur rose amongst the parishioners, the younger ones smiled while the older ones shook their heads in dismay. Reverend Stone pulled at his collar. His face and neck reddened, and he quickly turned to face the congregation clearing his throat. He couldn’t help it, couldn’t ignore her. She looked so pretty, dressed in her Sunday best, with a full-skirted gown of mauve and pink trim. The Reverend struggled for composure. Everybody knew how he felt about Sarah Hampton. Emma Franklin laughed out loud, she sat next to Miss Hampton, elbowing her.
The choir began to sing, their voices like a heavenly chorus resounding against the wood-paneled walls. The words resounded in his ears, taking the Reverend’s thoughts to the day the good doctor had disappeared. His chest tightened. Someone sang first, louder than the others, a solo, after a few beats and the others joined in filling the chapel with their voices. “How sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.” He sang along with them. Tears pricked at his eyes. Why had he lived? Why had the darkness swallowed Monastersky? Taken Tom, and not him?
Reverend Stone adjusted his stole and straightened. The organ player hit the last note, and the organ echoed, sending a haunting sound across the small chapel. Reverend Stone cleared his throat.
“This has been a difficult week.” He looked out at the sea of anxious faces. “The good doctor has played an important role this community for years. Each one of us is indebted to him for one reason or another. “Mothers,” he lifted his gaze, “he has delivered your children. Soldiers,” he turned to the young men enlisted in the Union army, “the lot of you are alive today, because of him.” He paused, stopping to catch his breath. “It is only just that we repay his kindness. In this life we are remembered by our actions.” His brows furrowed. “Today we will delve into the parable of the sower. Open your bibles to Luke eight, verses four through eight.” He saw Miss Hampton pull out her small leather-bound bible. she thumbed through it as if trying to discover the reason behind what had happened at school-house. The Reverend began to read from the Good Book.
“And when a great multitude had gathered, and they had come to Him from every city, He spoke by parable: “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold.” When He had said these things He cried, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” What was he not hearing? Not seeing? He closed his bible and placed it down on the pulpit. He liked to think that he had cast out seeds upon good ground. But of course, he knew that his words only occasionally yielded a healthy crop.
Of course, there were many presents who would not hear their story. Who refused to believe it. And there were those who did. Who witnessed and saw. “Our good doctor has cast out handfuls of seed and they have indeed fallen upon fertile ground.” He smiled. “We will hold a vigil today, tonight,” he corrected, “for both Dr. Monastersky and for our dear friend Thomas William Lewis.” He bowed his head.
“Let us pray.” The congregation bowed their heads and began to recite “Our Father.”
Reverend Stone loved the monotone sound of their words as they spoke the prayer out loud. The way it seemed to unite them. The feeling of community and oneness was palpable.
* * *
After the service parishioners lingered, all of them making plans for the evening vigil. Abigail and Emma remained inside the sanctuary with Miss Hampton.
“Shall I bring more candles?” Abigail offered. “How many do you think we’ll need?”
“Ten … twenty.” Reverend Stone shrugged, gathering song books and Bibles left on the pews and stacking them up in the pile next to the door.
Abigail nodded. “I should have at least twenty left over from Christmas.”
“And I have at least twenty in the schoolhouse.” Miss Hampton offered, “and father has more.”
“That will be plenty, I think.” Reverend Stone smiled. His blue eyes twinkled. He was glad for his friends. He had made many friends in Philadelphia. But also there were those that had begun to question his sense of judgement, with all that had happened recently, the disappearance of both the doctor and Thomas did little to add to his credibility.
It caused a rift amongst the community. The Reverend claiming to have seen the gates of hell swing open and beasts come out of earth taking their friends did not help the situation, although he had many eyewitnesses to back him up.
Reverend Stone had heard the Marshal saying that he believed the men had fallen into quick sand or perhaps simply gone away, joined the union army or something along those lines. He said he could not take into consideration the account of a handful of children and women, and he didn’t understand why a man of Reverend Stone’s stature would back them up.
Reverend Stone closed the door behind him and stepped outside the church. The women had gathered on the steps, waiting. Abigail looked up. “You both are welcome to join us for dinner,” she said, smiling.
“Of course,” the Reverend said. He knew she was playing cupid, but he didn’t care, he welcomed all the help he could get.
Miss Hampton blushed, and Emma laughed.
“We’ll be serving boiled mutton and vegetables,” Abigail announced, “And Mr. Franklin is cooking up some lemon custard and plum pudding.”
“Sounds delightful.” Miss Hampton said, stealing a glance at the Reverend. And with that the four of them started for the Franklin home on Hanover street.
* * *
After dinner the Franklins, Miss Hampton, and Reverend Stone set out on horseback to the old church house. Each one with a pack of thick white candles together numbering about sixty, more than enough for their gathering that night. The sun was a brilliant orange-red plastered against a blue cloudless sky. The paved road seemed to simmer from a distance. Emma and Miss Hampton rode at a steady pace.
Emma felt her heart sink. Each one of them was connected to Tom or the doctor in some way. Miss Hampton was Tom’s cousin, her father his uncle, and Emma would have been his bride someday, that would make her and Miss Hampton cousins. Emma wanted to tell them, they weren’t dead, that it wasn’t the Devil that had taken them. But how could she explain what had happened to them, and that it had happened to her as well? She smiled at her mom as she rode past them, still finding it hard to believe she was back.
But if Tom and the good doctor weren’t dead, where were they? And if her mother was alive, how long would she stay so? Emma was itching to go back to the white oak and find out. She had to see Olive and Mystery. Emma was no expert in time travel, but she knew she and the girls had altered the future by removing the artifact. She had to get it from them, destroy it, so her parents would never find it.
“They’re coming!” Abigail pointed at a group approaching the church. Emma looked up, pulling on Tulip’s reins and veering her to the left so as to let them pass. The night would be filled with stories of the two men. Emma dismounted and looked back at her parents. Abigail seemed pleased with the show of people.
“This way!” The Reverend waved as more people came. There was a barn behind the church, a good-sized barn, but not large enough to house the number of horses that had shown up. It would be a long night. Emma sighed and followed her friend into the chapel. There were wood-paneled walls on either side and glass stained widows depicting some part of Jesus’ short life, from his birth to the crucifixion. A large wooden cross hung on the back wall behind the altar. It was bare and bore three nail heads, one on top and one on either side.
Before they even had a chance to take their seats, Emma could see that the sanctuary was packed. Every seat in the house taken, people in the back had to stand. This community loved Tom and the good doctor. Emma lowered her head, she could feel their eyes upon her. She opened her pack and pulled out a candle. Miss Hampton took the pack and her own and passed out the remaining candles.
People rose one by one, each one walking to the center aisle and lighting a candle, leaving a note or prayer on the altar. Abigail had picked fresh flowers from their garden and place them there too. Soon the night would come upon them and the light would become a brilliant glow. This was a good way to bring the community together in a non-violent way, Emma thought.
Reverend Stone began to speak. “We come to commemorate and honor our friends and to offer our prayers,” he said.
Emma could feel the tears begin to swell and burn in her eyes. She could hear Tom’s voice, his laughter. She let herself weep for the first time. Allowed herself to grieve the friend she had lost. She could hear the Reverend’s words but not quite make out what he said. Abigail held her, and she felt like a little girl again, both vulnerable and weak. She didn’t like being weak. But she felt loved and safe in her mother’s arms, and she let herself feel the pain she had pushed aside for months.
Emma cried. Miss Hampton and her father cried, and even Mr. Franklin shed a tear. Then as darkness swallowed the village and the glimmer of a hundred candles lit the chapel, a quiet mourning ensued and lingered, and out of it shadows emerged. Painted against the wood-paneled walls, images of men flickered and disappeared. The candlelight grew to engulf them, the entire congregation, until all there was, was light.