Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"God Is My Protector"
Pages 364-366
 
       Hannah Adams heard them burst open her front door. Upstairs in her curtained bed, scrunched in the fetal position, she implored her merciful Protector.
       Foremost in her entreaties was her infant daughter, Ann, asleep in Joseph’s handcrafted crib.
       She had pleaded for her husband’s and her older children’s safety; they had left the house; it was Ann now who needed her Lord’s protection!
       Her anguished husband had departed minutes ago, breaking his pledge to remain beside her.
       “Joseph, if you stay, they will kill you!” she had declared. “Go! Safeguard the children! I’m feverish, too weak. Hide in Reverend Cooke's hayloft. Go!”
       “I’ll not leave you!”
       “They’ll see I’m helpless. They’ll spare me. The Lord is with us.”
       She had watched him redirect his eyes, seen him move peculiarly his head.
       She had pressed her advantage. “You must pray for me, Joseph. Let us do what we can for ourselves and pray for the Lord’s intercession!”
       Turning his back, he had hidden his anguish.
       Watching him, she had felt a nascent resentment.
       “No time, Joseph. Do not delay! Leave! Now!”
       He had stood at the doorway, staring, a full thirty seconds. Making a choking sound, he had closed the door behind him. Listening to his footsteps on the stairway, she had beseeched again the All-Mighty Creator.
       Now her brutalizers, despoilers -- murderers? -- were ascending the stairs.
       She heard on the landing preparatory footfalls.
       The door, thrust open, slammed against the wall.
       Three soldiers rushed into the room. Heads swiveling, they inspected.
       One approached.
       Using his steel blade, he parted the curtains. He pressed the point of his bayonet against her left breast.
       “I have children!” she cried. “God is my protector! He will punish you!” She gripped the blade.
       “Damn you!”
       He glared.
       “We will not hurt the woman,” she heard a second soldier declare. “But she must leave the house. Immediately. For we shall burn it.” The soldier positioned himself at the opposite side of the bed. “Is that not the way of it, private?” he said, authoritatively.
       Muttering an oath, the first soldier stepped back.
       Hannah raised herself to a sitting position. She extricated her legs from her twisted bed sheets, placed her feet on the bare floor. Adrenaline enabled her to rise, enabled her to correct a sudden wobble. Reaching, she grasped and pulled to her chest the top blanket. Across the room, a bit dizzy, dropping the blanket, she gathered up her wailing child.
       Leaving the front door, she sank to a sitting position. Having secured every ounce of her ebbing strength, her infant clasped underneath her chest, grunting, she began the fifty-foot crawl to the door of the family corn-house.
       Reaching it, turning her body, she saw that soldiers had entered neighbor Jason Russell’s house. He, his wife, and their daughters, having had the sense to leave hours ago, were safe! Was Joseph safe? Were her children? He had sent them off to the Reverend Cooke! Had they been taken? She thought not. She was far less confident about him.
       She strained to hear the sounds of her house’s immolation. Why were they pillaging, burning, murdering?
       She heard the raised voice of her nine-year-old son Joel! Joel had returned!
       She prayed. She begged. She offered herself in his stead.
       Sensing change, she looked through the corn-house doorway. The last of the soldiers had moved beyond her house. Townspeople were following them.
       There, peering out the doorway of her house was Joel! Her impetuous Joel!
       Two men carrying buckets, heeding the gesturing boy, were hurrying to the door.