"THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FENCE"
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FENCE Susan E. Smith CHAPTER 1 A suit and a tie!? What was Papa doing coming out of the barn with his Sunday clothes on? Not twenty minutes ago he'd stomped past Nora and out the back door. She'd seen him clearly and he had been wearing his usual plaid shirt, overalls and mud-caked boots. Nora stood on tiptoe to peek out the window. Her father, tall, iron-muscled and darkly tanned from wind and sun, bent to give the crank on his old Model T a jerk. "Who are you spying on?" demanded a merry voice behind her. Nora moved one step to the side to give Nellie room to spy, too. Identical faces were pressed to the window. "Where's he going?" whispered Nellie. "He didn't say a word," said her twin. "He just sneaked into the barn and changed out of his work clothes." The black Ford sprang to life. Walter Penny threw the crank inside and fairly jumped into the driver's seat. His daughters quickly backed away from the window. "Did you see that?" Nellie gripped Nora's arm. "He had a flower in his lapel!" Nora leaned back against the icebox, her bare foot tapping the linoleum floor. "Well, he obviously isn't going to a Legion meeting, not wearing his church hat." "And he's not going to church," added Nellie. "Today's Saturday." "Have you noticed him acting strange lately?" Nora picked up a dishtowel to finish wiping the breakfast dishes she'd just washed. Nellie stuck her crutch under her arm and limped to a ladder-back kitchen chair. "Yes," she agreed. "After Mama died, he was so grumpy. But now he laughs and teases and even whistles like he used to." Nora nodded her head, setting her light brown ponytail swinging. "That's what I'm talking about. You don't suppose he's taken to drink, do you?" "No, he wouldn't do that," Nellie denied, although a little doubt crept into her blue eyes. "He has been spending a lot of evenings down at the Legion Hall. But can't you tell when somebody's been drinking? Don't they stagger around and sing real loud?" "They do in the movies; I don't know about real life." "Well, Papa doesn't do that." "He whistles." "But not when he comes home at night, just when he's getting ready to go out." Nora frowned. "I don't know how he can act so happy with Mama only three months in her grave. Doesn't he miss her?" "I sure do," said Nellie. "Me too." Nora finished the dishes in silence. Some things just didn't seem fair. At the funeral, Reverend Ferguson had said that God took Mama because He needed another soul in heaven. But, Nora wondered a little rebelliously, didn't her family here, especially Teddy, need her just as much or more than God? As if her thought woke him up, Teddy's siren went off in the bedroom. Nora threw the dishtowel over the back of a chair and ran to his rescue. Surrounded by pillows in the middle of his sisters' bed, Teddy screamed and kicked in pain. How could such a little mite have such a powerful set of lungs? Nora wondered as she stripped the offending sodden diaper from his bright red bottom. The baby's cries subsided immediately. "You poor little squirt," she sympathized. "You've been suffering too long with this stupid rash. We're going to have to do something drastic." Teddy whimpered as she wrapped a dry diaper around him and squirmed while she tried to 1 poke the giant safety pin through innumerable layers of cloth. The results were not the best; each leg hole had a definite gap and the waistline sagged significantly in front, but Teddy didn't know it could be any better and was satisfied. She took him into the kitchen, gave him to Nellie and stepped out onto the back porch. Their bathroom was an addition to the house that opened off the porch. She deposited the wet diaper in a pail that sat by the bathroom door and came back inside. "Sissy, we need to ask somebody what to do about his rash." Her sister nodded. "It isn't going away by itself, is it? We could call Mrs. Mason." "No," Nora rejected that idea. "I don't want every woman on the party line to know we're having trouble." Nellie smiled agreement. When Emily Penny had died in childbirth after delivering her late-in-life baby, the women of Armitage, Ohio, had predicted that eighteen-year-old girls, one of them crippled, the other a hopeless bookworm, would never be able to handle the heavy task of caring for the infant. Until now, they'd managed all right without crying for help. Actually, Nora's being a bookworm had served her well when the tragedy struck. The newborn had needed constant care and Nora was elected. That meant missing the last three months of her senior year. However, Nellie had brought home her own work assignments and notes from class. Nora had completed every work paper, which Nellie handed in with her own. Then they'd had a lady come to watch the baby for a day so Nora could go take her final exams. She had graduated with her class. Neighbors were unaware of the struggle the twins were having. Mama had not allowed her girls to do much in the kitchen; she'd liked to have it all to herself. So now Nora, to whom the duty fell, had to learn by trial and error--mostly error. Papa complained. Nellie and Matt, their older brother, did not. Nellie kept quiet out of sympathy for her twin; she knew how hard Nora was trying. Matt said nothing because he seldom said anything nowadays. He used to be a regular guy, something of a bully at times, but usually someone the girls could count on to back them up. However, when their mother died in March, Matt had withdrawn inside himself. Besides the cooking, Nora found herself in charge of the vegetable garden, which had to be weeded and hoed regularly; the chickens: feeding and gathering eggs; the cows: their morning and evening milking; the never-ending laundry: boiling, starching, hanging, sprinkling and ironing; the baking: mountains of bread and cakes and biscuits to keep the men fueled; and of course, the house- cleaning: dusting, mopping and waxing. She dreaded the coming weeks when her garden would produce, and later, the fruit trees out back. Then the work load would be overwhelming. She had no idea how to can things. Mama would have rows and rows of beautiful glass Mason jars lined up in the root cellar every fall, but Nora didn't know the first thing about how she did it. She had never imagined what a tremendous work load her mother had carried. Papa and Matt labored hard, too, from dawn to dusk, working the soil, sowing and harvesting, weeding and fighting pests, feeding cows and pigs, butchering when needed, staying up all night with a sick or lame animal or one giving birth. "So are you going to take Teddy to Mrs. Mason?" Nellie's question brought Nora's thoughts back to the problem at hand. She frowned. "Mrs. Mason isn't one to keep anything under her hat," she objected. "Besides their place is so- so..." she searched for a kind word. "Filthy," said Nellie bluntly. Nora grimaced in agreement. "What about Mrs. Landalt?" Nellie said carelessly, but her blue eyes were pensive. Tension suddenly entered the kitchen. Nora stood silently, feeling the tremor pass over her countenance. She took a shallow breath 2 while she thought about the suggestion. Then she slowly nodded her head. Nellie grinned. "She has a baby herself," she said. "And I know she won't gossip. You'll like her, Sissy." "Me?" Nora exclaimed in alarm. "I thought you would go see her. You're the one who knows her." "How can I lug this baby across the fields, down the hill, through the fence, across the creek, and all the way up the other side to her house?" She was right. "Couldn't we go together? I'll carry Teddy," Nora pleaded. "And what if Papa comes home? Do we leave him a note: GONE TO ENEMY LINES. BE BACK SOON? One of us has to be here to make up an alibi. And you'll admit that I'm a much better liar than you are." "But what if he finds out?" Nora blurted her fear. Nellie laughed. "So what if he does? He isn't going to kill you, you know, no matter what you do. He found out when I stayed out all night with the gang after graduation and I'm still breathing." Nora shuddered. "If Papa ever roars at me like he did at you, I'll just drop dead." "No, you won't. Besides, he's not going to find out you went to Landalts'--unless you wait around here too long. Here, take Teddy and go now. Tell Mrs. Landalt hello for me." Nora lifted the baby from her sister's arms. As she turned toward the door, Nellie snatched at the bow tied at the back of her blue jeans and pulled her apron off. "Don't forget your shoes," she said. Nora wrinkled her freckled nose at her and walked out the back door. On the enclosed porch she slipped her bare feet into the battered penny loafers by the door and set off on her errand. Shoes, she reflected, were the only items of dress that she and Nellie couldn't share. Nellie had to have specially made shoes because of her polio-misshapen left leg. That was another thing that seemed so unfair. Why had it been Nellie, the one with such a zest for life, who had been stricken with the dreaded disease? How she always longed to run and jump and dance. Why couldn't Nora have been crippled instead? She'd rather sit and read all day anyway. Nora took the cattle trail down toward the tree-lined creek. She could see the high wire fence glinting in the morning sunshine. The trail angled off to the left now, but Nora went straight. She looked for the tree Papa had used as a fencepost. It had been fun to play down here years ago before Papa had put up the fence. She remembered Matt and Nellie building a dam below that little pool over there, so it would fill up deeper and they could sit in it with water up to their chins. Now the pool was on the Landalt side of the fence. For years Nellie, in spite of Papa, had been a regular visitor at the Landalts'. As Nora reached the fencepost tree, she saw how cleverly her sister had looped the fence wires around the nailheads so they could be slipped off. She laid Teddy on the grass and looked anxiously over her shoulder. With relief she saw that a big fat blackberry bush growing over a large stump hid her from the Penny farmhouse. Nora worked the wires loose so that the fence could be pulled aside. She transferred the baby to the other side and refastened the fence. This was the first time Nora had dared to use Nellie's secret opening. She was just not an adventurous person and had no desire whatsoever to face her father's wrath. Even being in the house when her sister's brash actions caught up with her was enough to make Nora want to crawl under the bed. She stood now, indecisively, her hand on the fence. If Papa came home now, how would Nellie cover her and Teddy's absence? What if he walked this way, checking fence or something, and saw her over here on the Landalt side? Nora reached for the top wire. She was heading home right now. She had two wires loosened when Teddy started screaming. Oh, phooie, she'd forgotten to 3 bring a dry diaper. Desperately, she peeled the wet one off, tucked the bare-bottomed baby, facing out, under her arm and ran for the Landalt house. She skipped across the stones of the creek and raced through the cow-strewn meadow. In the back yard, three children stood open-mouthed and watched the spectacle of a teenaged girl with rolled-up blue jeans, a streaming brown ponytail, plaid shirttails flapping, and a half-naked baby stuffed under one arm charging up the hill. Nora arrived, puffing like a steam engine. "Got to see your mama," she announced. The tallest child, a dark-haired girl with skinny, briar-scratched legs, came to life and ran up the back steps. "Ma, somebody's here," she called. Nora felt a tug on her shirttail. A little boy with wavy light brown hair and dark brown eyes was looking up at her. "What?" she prompted. He pointed. "Did you know that baby ain't got no pants?" His voice was so deep and gruff, it made her laugh. The boy couldn't be more than six or seven. "I know," she said and held up the wet diaper. The screen door squeaked as Mrs. Landalt appeared. "Nora!" the woman exclaimed. "Dear, I haven't really met you officially, but I know who you are. Come inside." Teddy, his source of irritation gone, and the sprint up the hill taking him by surprise, had stopped crying. He now made a happy spluttering noise with his mouth and joyfully kicked his little pink feet in the air. Mrs. Landalt offered Nora a chair in the kitchen. "Would you like a glass of lemonade?" Nora accepted. While the lady opened the icebox to bring out a pitcher, she realized she'd never seen her up close before. This was not the same Mrs. Landalt Nora had known as a child, before the trouble. That one had died and Mr. Landalt had married this one around the time the fence went up. Since then she had seen the lady in town occasionally, but only from a distance. Mrs. Landalt had blue eyes and dark hair done up in a loose bun at the nape of her neck. And when she set the glass of lemonade on the table, she gave Nora a wide smile. The smile suddenly faded as she looked down. Teddy, still tucked under Nora's arm, was industriously wetting the lady's skirt. "Oh! I'm sorry!" the girl exclaimed, not knowing what to do. Mrs. Landalt quickly sidestepped and laughed away Nora's acute embarrassment. "Don't you worry," she said. "It won't hurt a thing. I see why you took that wet one off. He has quite a rash." "That's why I came, Mrs. Landalt. Nellie and I thought since you have a baby of your own, you might have had experience with this kind of thing." "Yes, I think every baby gets diaper rash sometime. You have the right idea about getting the wet diaper off immediately." "But it makes so much laundry! I can't believe how often he wets." "I know. It's really important to wash them thoroughly, too, so the clean diapers won't smell and aggravate the problem. I wash them in lye soap first and then rinse them three or four times and hang them in the sunshine." She brought a fresh diaper from the bedroom and gave it to Nora. "I'll just swap you even for your wet one," she said. The girl was tickled to see that the thing was already folded. When she got home, she and Nellie could take it apart and find out the proper way to do it. As Nora prepared to diaper her brother, Mrs. Landalt reached a box down from the cupboard. "Here, powder him with this," she suggested. "It will help the rash." Nora accepted the box of corn starch. "I don't know how to thank you," she said gratefully. "Nellie and I don't know much about babies, so we're just learning as we go." Mrs. Landalt laughed. "That's the way we all learn if we don't have our mother nearby to teach us the ropes." Her face went sober and her hand touched Nora's. "I'm so sorry about your mother, Nora. I know it was an awful shock." Nora busied herself with Teddy's diaper. "It was. Even though some of the neighbors 4 warned her that she had no business having a baby at her age, we didn't really take them seriously." "Those things happen sometimes. But it's good to know that God isn't to blame for tragedies like that." Nora caught her breath and looked up quickly. Hadn't she just been wondering about that? "What makes you say that?" she challenged. "I'll show you." Mrs. Landalt reached for a well-worn Bible on the kitchen table. She deftly located the verse she wanted and held it for Nora to see. "First John 4:8 says, 'He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is love.' Nora, do you think God loves this baby brother of yours?" "Of course, He does." The girl held the freshly diapered baby in her arms and poked him to get him laughing. "How could anybody resist loving this funny face?" Teddy's little fist was wrapped tightly around her finger. His mouth was blowing happy bubbles. "Would it be loving to deliberately take his mother away at the very time he needed her so much?" she asked. Nora looked up into Mrs. Landalt's kind face. She thought about the question. "No, it doesn't seem so." "Would it be showing love to your father to deprive him of his wife?" "No." "Would it even be a loving thing to do to your mother herself--to deny her the pleasure of cuddling and enjoying this baby she struggled so hard to bear?" Nora considered it. What a different way to look at the situation. But Mrs. Landalt was making sense. "No," she said, "I don't think Mama can be very happy in heaven when she looks down and sees what a clumsy job we're doing." "Don't sell yourself short, Nora. This boy looks healthy and strong. You must be doing something right. Anyway, from now on he'll be getting excellent care." She smiled and looked at Nora, with her eyebrows raised. "Nellie and I will do our best," she replied. Mrs. Landalt's eyes widened and her mouth opened as if she was going to say something. But then she shut it again and nodded. "I know you will," she acknowledged. "But think about what we just said. If God is love," the lady held open her right hand, palm up, " and there was no love at all involved with your mother's death," she opened her left hand, "could God be to blame for it?" The girl shook her head. "I guess not. But why did she--die?" It was still difficult to say that word and tears came unbidden to her blue eyes. "Time and chance, dear," said the lady and turned her Bible to the middle. "Here it says, 'I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.' Time and chance. Have you ever thought about how many things happen, just because a person was in the wrong place at the wrong time? When Mr. Dawson had his sneezing fit last summer, if he hadn't been fixing his roof at that moment, he wouldn't have broken his leg." Nora nodded. She had heard about their neighbor's odd accident. "So," continued the lady, "every happening isn't planned out by God for some obscure reason. Much of it is just chance occurrence." She was going to continue, but a baby started crying in the next room and Mrs. Landalt excused herself. Nora looked around the spacious, cheerful kitchen. A red and white checked oilcloth covered the table, which was surrounded by ladderback straight chairs with wicker seats. The cookstove was an old iron wood burner with a vast cooking surface. It was nice to know somebody besides the Pennys still used a wood stove instead of those shiny new oil or gas models Mr. Holyoak had displayed in his hardware store. She wondered if it would be easier to cook on those new things. In a wooden crate near the icebox she saw a pile of tiny kittens all sleeping on top of each other. She picked one up and it stretched in her palm, it's eyes not even open yet. It began nosing 5 around for something to eat. Then the back screen door screeched open and the little boy with the gruff voice strode into the kitchen. His brown eyes scanned the room and settled on Nora. "Tell her Roy sat in the mud," he said, then about- faced and marched back out the door. Nora sat a moment, then it struck her funny, and when Mrs. Landalt returned with her baby, the girl was sputtering with laughter. "What is it?" "Your little boy just came in to make the solemn announcement that Roy sat in the mud." The lady puckered her brow. "Roy says he sat in the mud?" "Which one is Roy?" "The three-year-old." "Well, he must be the one in the mud, because it was your older boy who came in." "That's Butch Frazier. I'm just keeping him while his mother..." Her face suddenly got a strange expression and she paused. "While his mother is away," she finished. "I'd better go check on Roy." Mrs. Landalt, her baby riding one hip, hurried outside. Nora puzzled over the odd looks the lady had given her. What did they mean? It was almost as if she was trying to puzzle out something about Nora. Maybe it had to do with Nellie. Sometimes people would tell things to one of the twins, then later get them mixed up. Then they'd try to continue the conversation with the wrong girl and she wouldn't have the foggiest idea what they were talking about. Nora put the kitten down on top of the heap in the box and carried Teddy over to the door. The boy Butch and the little girl stood peering around the corner of the barn. A moment later, they jumped back as Mrs. Landalt appeared. She still held the baby on one arm, but now she toted a small boy, as well. He rode backwards under her arm, the seat of his pants shiny brown with a thick layer of wet mud. She headed straight for the house. Stepping out of the way, Nora held the door open for her. The child wasn't crying, and surprisingly, his mother was grinning. She winked at Nora. "He was having a fine time. Will you watch Liddy for a minute?" "Sure," said Nora and accepted the baby. She was huge compared to Teddy. "How old is she?" "Six months," the lady answered as she whisked her son into the next room. The baby looked up at Nora with big gray eyes. Her thick dark hair was rumpled and matted down in the back from sleeping on it. She sat up straight in the crook of Nora's arm, while Teddy lay on her other arm. What a difference in weight! And Teddy would be this big just three months from now! Liddy was puckering up to cry when she suddenly caught sight of the smaller baby. She made an unintelligible sound and leaned forward with her hand outstretched to him. Nora didn't know what she had in mind, so she watched closely. The baby took Teddy's little fist and put it right into her mouth. Nora thought it was funny, then she realized this baby might have a tooth or two. Although her hands were full, she managed to pull the two babies apart enough to loosen Liddy's grip. Only a few minutes elapsed while Mrs. Landalt was gone, but Nora was ready to relinquish the baby girl when her mother returned. She'd seemed to gain weight so rapidly on Nora's arm, that she must have put on at least ten pounds in the last five minutes. "She's so heavy," the girl remarked as she handed her over. "But she's a beautiful baby." "Thank you. Holding two babies at once isn't so easy, is it? but your mother did it for you and Nellie." "That's right. She must have." Nora thought back to her mother's cheerful laugh and imagined her holding two fuzzy-headed babies in her arms. A tear misted her eye. Mrs. Landalt's hand touched her shoulder. "It's very hard to lose your mother," she said. "My own died last year, and even though she'd been sickly for a long time, it was difficult to accept 6 that she was really gone. But, Nora, I hope to see my mother again, and you can, too." "I know, when we get to heaven." "That is a possibility for some, but there's another hope, too. I look forward to having my mother back with me right here on earth--earth made into a paradise." Nora gave her a skeptical look. "I've never heard of such a thing." The lady reached for her Bible again. However at that moment Butch opened the screen door and in walked a gray tabby cat. With her came the eye-stinging aroma of fresh skunk. Before anyone could move, she strolled directly to the wooden crate and jumped in. All the kittens came to life. Their tiny legs pedaled just as fast as they could go, scrambling away from the mother cat. Mrs. Landalt shouted with laughter. "Look at those little guys go. They say, 'This is not Mom and we're not going to associate.'" She set the baby on the floor, picked up the cat and threw it outside. "You children leave the cat out until I can clean her up somehow. Whew! I'd better get the fan and air out this kitchen." When Nora offered to help, she was sent to fetch some tomato juice from the cellar. At the bottom of the cellar steps, she pulled a dangling string to switch on a bare light bulb. She immediately spotted the rows of bright colors that half-filled the shelves against the earthen wall. Here were the rich gold of peaches, deep green cucumber pickles, brown apple butter and purple jellies. The mason jars were dusty and there were rows of empties on the bottom shelves, but harvest time would be here soon and when winter set in, they would all be filled up again and ready to feed the family until next year. Nora reached for a jar of deep red and carried it upstairs. Mrs. Landalt had Liddy penned in a corner with overturned chairs, and on the front room rug, Teddy was surrounded with big fat bed pillows. The lady accepted the jar Nora handed her. "Tomato sauce, but that should do just as well. Thank you. Will you corral the other children while I douse the cat?" "I'll try. What is the older girl's name?" "That's Gracie. She'll mind what you tell her. But Roy is quick and slippery and Butch will test your authority. Don't be afraid to get tough with him." Nora had no experience with children, but it shouldn't be too hard. After all, she was bigger than they were. Mrs. Landalt opened the Mason jar and went to the door. "You children come inside for a bit," she called, "while I try to clean up the kitty." The youngsters reluctantly straggled into the kitchen. "I can help with the cat," Butch offered in his gruff voice. "No, thank you," she declined. "You mind Nora now." As she descended the back steps, all three children plastered their noses against the screen so they could watch the proceedings. Nora joined them. This might be very entertaining. But Mrs. Landalt scooped up the high-smelling cat and took it over to the hand pump in the yard, which was hidden by a corner of the house. "Aw, shucks," said Butch, voicing everybody's disappointment. "Gracie, can you see the pump from another window?" "Only from Mother and Father's room and we're not allowed to go in there," the girl answered. "Let's go," he said. "We won't touch nothin'. We'll just look out the window." The boy was already on his way to the off-limits room. Gracie hung back. "No, Butch," said Nora. "You'd better stay here." Poised in the doorway, the boy turned his dark brown eyes on her. She noticed that his hair at the back sprang up in a rooster's tail and there were freckles sprinkled across his stubby nose. "Who are you?" he challenged. 7 "I'm Nora," she answered, realizing he was now doing exactly what Mrs. Landalt had predicted: he was testing her authority. She cited her credentials, "Mrs. Landalt said for you to mind me." Butch considered this for a moment, then shrugged his shoulders. "Okay," he said. "Oh no!" exclaimed Gracie. "Roy, get down." Nora looked around to see that the three-year-old had climbed onto one of the overturned chairs that were jailing his baby sister. As she finished turning, the little boy fell forward and landed on his head with his feet sticking up in the air. Nora rushed to rescue him, but he wasn't crying. With the chair propping his legs up, he waved his feet and laughed. "Look-a me, Gwacie, I standin' on my head." The girl was picking him up before he fell over on the baby, when a blood-curdling caterwauling from outdoors set the hair on the back of her neck on end. Like a shot, Butch was across the room and out the door. Nora yelled at him, but he paid no attention. Still holding Roy, she charged outside to collar the escapee. "She's killin' it!" Butch started hollering. He hopped on one foot and pointed. "Lookit the blood! Oh man, oh man, she's killin' the kitty!" When Nora caught up with him, she saw what he meant. Mrs. Landalt desperately held onto the yowling, flailing cat. It was horribly wet and sticky with red stuff flying everywhere. "It's tomato sauce," Nora told Butch. "Get back in the house." The boy didn't move. "Go!" commanded the lady and Butch reluctantly obeyed. "Nora," she continued, as she rubbed the dripping cat, "on the counter by the kitchen sink is a long-handled wooden spoon. You know what part of that boy to use it on." She lowered the cat toward a bucket of water, but it splayed out all four legs against the top edges. She lifted it by the scruff and held it suspended for a moment. "Get his respect right now," she went on, "because you're going to need it." Suddenly she plunged the cat into the bucket. Her movement was so quick, the kitty had no time to brace itself. Roy yelled and fought to get down. "Don't kill it, Mama, don't kill the kitty!" he screamed. "Roy, baby, she's just getting a bath," the lady said and pulled the furious cat out of the water. She looked so pitiful, with her fur plastered to her body, but the look in her eye was highly indignant. Nora headed back to the house. How could Mrs. Landalt pay attention to so many things at once? She's handling a spitting, hissing bundle of claws and teeth and at the same time comforting one child, commanding another's obedience, and giving Nora advice. As to the advice, Nora didn't know whether to take it or not. She didn't know what Mrs. Frazier would think about some strange girl hitting her son. She decided to try a threat first. Nora stomped across the kitchen, picked up the spoon and lowered Roy to the floor. "Butch," she said sternly, pointing the spoon at him, "don't you leave this house until I say so. You hear?" He contemplated her threat with solemn eyes. She kept her own blue eyes on him until he shrugged again. "Okay," he agreed. Nora released her breath as the boy turned away. She checked each child in her charge to see if they were all accounted for. She hoped Mrs. Landalt would be finished soon, before something else happened in the disaster category. She pried a protesting kitten out of Roy's fist and repositioned the fence of chairs surrounding Lydia. Gracie had her face pressed against the screen door, and while Nora was busy, Butch slipped up behind the girl. Suddenly Gracie yelped, the door flew open and she stumbled down the steps. She would have sprawled full length on the ground, but her mother caught her in mid-fall. "Ma, I didn't come out on purpose," Gracie said immediately. "Butch pinched me." "Okay," said the lady. "Butch and Roy, you can all come outside now. I'm done with the kitty." The cat, sitting under a tree, vigorously washed her bedraggled body. She looked up once to 8 cast a baleful eye on the human who had so offended her dignity. Mrs. Landalt laughed. "She'll be miffed at me for awhile; but I think the scratches she gave me will last a lot longer than her wet fur." Angry red lines crisscrossed her arms and hands. "You'd better put something on those," Nora said. "I will. Thank you for helping." "I didn't do a very good job." "Everybody is still alive, aren't they? All their arms and legs are still attached. You did fine, Nora. Would you like to stay for lunch?" Nora suddenly realized she'd been here for some time. "Oh, my goodness!" she exclaimed. "I have to get home. If..." Mrs. Landalt touched her arm. "If you're worried that your father will come home and ask where you are, there's no danger." "How could you know, ma'am, when we don't even know where he went?" "It seems rather strange," she said. "But if Walter Penny hasn't chosen to tell his own family what he's doing, I'm not the one to poke my nose into it. Just rest assured, dear, that your father won't be home until tomorrow." "But I don't understand how you could know that. He won't even speak to you or your husband." Mrs. Landalt smiled. "I think you'll figure it out later. Now, don't try to pump me, because I've just gone dry." Nora saw that she meant it, so even though she was bursting with questions, she tried to mash them down inside herself. "Will you stay and eat with us?" the lady repeated her invitation. "No, thank you," she declined again. "Nellie will wonder about me. Good-bye, Mrs. Landalt, it was good to meet you." She waved and took a few steps toward home. "Nora, my name is Patsy, and I think you've forgotten something." The girl stopped, a puzzled look on her brow. "Teddy! I was going off without him!" She found her brother sound asleep on the flowered rug in the front room. He didn't wake up when she took him into her arms. So she whispered her good-byes once more and made her way home. Nora lay wide awake in bed. "Sissy," she said into the darkness, "why would Mrs. Landalt know where Papa went?" Nellie stirred next to her. "How should I know? But she was right that he wouldn't come home today." "She's a nice lady, but so many things happened, we didn't have three minutes in a row to visit." Nora had told her sister all about the stinky cat and they'd laughed all afternoon over it. "It's like that every time I go over there, too," said Nellie. "But she handles every catastrophe without batting an eye. I wish I was like that." "Does she ever read the Bible to you?" Nellie lay quietly a moment. "Why? Did she show something to you?" "A verse that says God is love and then she said that God isn't to blame for Mama's--death; that it was just time and chance. She showed me that in the Bible, too." "That makes sense," Nellie agreed. "Yes, but that isn't what Reverend Ferguson says. He said God deliberately took her to heaven." "That doesn't make sense. If God went around taking people here and there, that would mean He's killing them. That would mean He's making the war and we know it's Hitler who started the war. Is Hitler working for God?" "Of course not! Hitler is working for the Devil." 9 "Well, now, what do you have, Sissy? If God makes people die, how are you going to explain Hitler?" Nora's brain was tangled into a knot and Nellie had done it. She gave her a punch in the arm. "Don't do that to me," she protested. "How do we know, anyway, who's right and who's wrong?" "Did Reverend Ferguson show you in the Bible that God took Mama to heaven?" "No, he just said it." "Did Patsy Landalt show you where it said, 'time and chance' and 'God is love'?" "I told you she did." "Good night, Sissy." Nellie turned her back and nestled down to go to sleep. Nora continued to stare into the dark. Crickets shrilled outside the open window and a soft breeze lifted the curtains. Teddy shifted positions in his crib by the wall. And Nora's mind wheeled on--turning her questions over and over until finally sleep sneaked up and pulled her under. 10 CHAPTER 2 Walter Penny was still absent when his family woke up Sunday morning. They went to church without him. It was difficult to answer the people who inquired about him. Others made strange remarks that made no sense, or grinned and winked when they mentioned Papa. Nora had no idea what was going on with their father and neither had Matt or Nellie, but it was obvious some people did know. Mr. Millican, the pharmacist, knew; he made a comment about a big change. It must be something to do with the American Legion after all, even if Papa hadn't worn his hat or pin. Mr. Millican was a Legionnaire and so was Mr. Lester, who had winked at Matt. Maybe Papa was getting a promotion and there was some secret ceremony or initiation for it. Today was a rest day for the family, except for Nora, who had to cook dinner. But afterwards she took a book out onto the porch swing. Matt took a nap on the living room couch. Nellie sang funny songs to Teddy, who lay happily on a blanket under the oak tree. If Papa had come home now, he would have found his household peaceful, quiet and in order. He didn't. It was twilight when Walter Penny's Model T rolled into the yard. As he opened the front door, he was met by the acrid odor of burnt beans and the ear-splitting screams of his infant son, who had just wet his diaper. Everybody was scrambling: Matt, with his hands over his ears, hurrying from the room, Nora racing to get a clean diaper and the corn starch box, Nellie tackling the baby to remove his wet clothes. Nobody saw their father standing in the doorway. Nora and Matt collided as he tried to leave and she came blasting back in with the corn starch. On impact she squeezed the box and white powder erupted all over her face. Walter Penny cleared his throat. Everyone froze. Then he quietly stepped aside to usher in a tall, red-headed woman, who was holding a boy by the hand. Nora's eyes widened as she recognized that rooster tail on the back of his head. "Kate," said Papa, "these are my children: Matthew and Nora, and on the floor are Nellie and Theodore. Family, this is Kate." He paused. "Kate Penny, my wife." "I'm happy to meet all of you," she said with a warm smile, which faded as she noted the look of absolute astonishment on their faces. She touched Papa's sleeve, "Walter, you didn't tell them?" He made a brushing motion with his hand. "It was not their decision to get married; it was mine. Matt, go out to the car and bring in the luggage. Nora, go wash your face." Nora was more than thankful to leave the room, though it wasn't until she saw herself in the bathroom mirror that she found out what was wrong with her face. She mechanically removed the sprinkling of corn starch from her nose and checkered shirt. Her brain would not function; it was numb. She slowly left the bathroom, walked through the kitchen and returned to stand silently in the doorway to the front room. Papa was seating the woman in the best armchair, the one Mama had liked to use. Nellie still sat on the floor with Teddy's wet diaper in a wad on the rug. It was unreal, like an unpleasant dream, until Butch strode over, and with hands on hips, looked down at Teddy. "Ain't this baby got no clothes?" Nora gasped. The diaper--where had she left it? In the bathroom with the corn starch. As she ran for it, the terrible realization hit her that Butch had seen her at the Landalt place. He could even at this moment be blabbing it in front of Papa. She hurried back so as not to miss a word. "This," Kate was telling Nellie, "is my son, Stanley." The boy winced. "Butch," he said in his gruff voice. "You got to call me Butch." Nora dropped the diaper onto Teddy's nakedness and handed the corn starch box to Nellie. As she started to straighten up, she found herself looking right into the boy's brown eyes. He recognized her; his mouth came open. "I'm glad to meet you, Butch," she said quickly. "My name is 11 Nora. This is my sister Nellie." Nellie looked up from her business with Teddy to smile at him. The boy's eyes widened as he stared at her face, then at Nora's. "There's two of you!" he exclaimed. "Boy, am I in trouble! Ma, let's go home now." "We are home, dear," his mother said quietly. "We live here now." "Well, I don't wanna stay here." "That's too bad, boy," Papa told him in a hard, flat tone, "because I'm your father now and you live in my house." Butch looked at him with those sober brown eyes, measuring Walter Penny as he had Nora yesterday. She waited for him to shrug and say, Okay. But he said nothing. As Matt came in with the first load of luggage, Papa turned away from the boy's scrutiny. He was confident he had made his point. But Nora wasn't so sure. There was something about the set of Butch Frazier's shoulders that suggested the capacity for stiff resistance. She thought that Papa would not capture the will and obedience of this boy as easily as he had his mother's. Nora saw that Kate was watching Nellie with the baby. Her brown eyes said eloquently that she wanted to take over the job and it was with great restraint that she sat quietly in the chair. She was a strikingly handsome woman, her red hair done neatly on top of her head. Nora suddenly realized she'd seen her before; she was the clerk at Millican's Rexall. While Matt was taking the bags upstairs to Papa's bedroom, the silence in the front room became increasingly uncomfortable. They were all looking at Nellie, who was just finishing with the baby. She glanced up to see Kate hold out her arms. "May I?" the woman asked. Nellie had no choice. She picked up Teddy under the arms and lifted him. Nora saw the danger, but it was too late to stop it. The clean diaper slid right down the baby's legs and landed on the floor. Papa roared with laughter, Butch grinned and even Matt chuckled as he reappeared on the bottom step. Nora, though, saw acute dismay on her sister's face. Kate took Teddy and began to croon baby talk to him. She pointed to the diaper, so Nellie handed it to her. Then the lady deftly shook it out, refolded it and had it neatly on the baby before Papa finished laughing. "There," he said proudly, poking Teddy in the stomach, "I knew it was time to get you a real ma." "Walter Penny!" objected his bride. "These girls have done their very best with this baby. And if that's the only reason you married me, you're going to have some fancy explaining to do." Papa's surprised expression gave way to quick protest. "No, no, Kate." He patted her knee. "You know why I married you. If my son gets a mother in the bargain, then that's just a bonus." She gave him a twitch of a smile with her lips still pressed toge-ther. Her eyes twinkled, though, to show that she'd been teasing him. The twins noted this exchange with interest. Papa had not married a mouse. Nora wondered if this was the first time he had seen the fire behind Kate Penny's eyes. Nora struggled to get up to do the milking Monday morning because she and Nellie had talked in bed until the wee hours. Goodness knows, there had been enough to keep them going all night. Neither had defined her feelings yet about Kate and Butch. But Nellie was angry with their father for his actions. It was an insult to Mama for him to remarry so soon and it was an insult to his family to keep them in the dark about his plans. They were used to Papa making decisions without consulting anyone, but this was outrageous! Papa would feel the sting of Nellie's anger; she would not hide her feelings. Nora would. Nora hated to rock the boat and get people upset. She'd rather pour oil on the troubled waters that her sister stirred up. With the milking finished, Nora returned to the house to find Kate already at the kitchen 12 stove. This was a happy discovery: they now had a real cook. The girl offered to help, but after she showed the lady where things were stored, Kate said she thought she could handle it and she would call her when the meal was ready. Nora gratefully went back to bed. She didn't sleep, though, and when Nellie stirred, they started talking again. Dawn began outlining the furniture of the room. It was strange to see the blank space against the wall where Teddy's crib had been. The baby had been moved to Papa's room last night. "One good thing," commented Nora, "is that neither of us had to get up and change Teddy in the night." Nellie sat on the edge of the rumpled bed. "I hope he wet twenty times," she grumbled. "You don't mean that," Nora objected. "Just think of all the diapers we'd have to wash." "We? Not any more. Now she washes the diapers." A soft knock sounded on their bedroom door. "Breakfast is ready," announced a female voice. The girls looked at each other. Nora smiled. The family ate together in the early morning half light. Nora enjoyed it thoroughly for two reasons: she did not have to cook and serve it and everything was so good. Kate set platters of thick ham, mounds of bacon, bowls piled high with fluffy scrambled eggs and stacks of light biscuits in front of them. The coffee tasted as good as it smelled. Papa was happy. He was a ruddy man, his blond hair like a thatch of straw above a square face, a thick neck and wide muscular chest. He raved about the food, teased Kate by repeatedly untying her apron, lavishly poured honey onto Butch's biscuits and tried to joke with Matt. Nobody else said much of anything. Then as he swallowed his last bite of ham, Papa turned his attention to Nora. He pointed his knife at her. "As soon as you finish clearing up the dishes, you go dress in a nice outfit and do your hair up like Kate's here. Be ready by seven thirty." "What for?" Nellie butted in. "You going to marry her off to somebody today?" Papa ignored her. He took a swallow of coffee and announced, "Nora's got herself a job." Nora lowered her fork and stared at him in bewilderment. "Kate is taking over the household here," he went on, "so that leaves Nora with nothing to do. But Chad Millican needs a clerk to take Kate's place. I already talked to Chad and he'll hire Nora." Papa cast his blue-gray eyes on her. "So you be ready to go and I'll drive you into town." Nora came close to passing out. It seemed like the breath had gone right out of her and she couldn't get any more. Papa's face swam before her eyes and an uncontrollable quivering shuddered through her abdomen. "Papa!" Nellie spoke again. "You can't do this to her! You know how shy she is. How can you even think of Nora clerking in a store? She'll die!" "Rubbish!" he proclaimed. "She's got to do something and with two more in the family now, we can use the money. That's the end of it." Nora left the kitchen by the back door, went into the bathroom and cried. Nellie must have followed and heard her, because a minute later she was telling Papa about it, trying to work up some sympathy for her sister. He only repeated that the subject was closed. Her head in her hands, Nora knew there was no way out of this. She would have to survive somehow. But just the thought of dealing with all those people made her stomach quiver again. "Walter," came Kate's voice, "I'm going to drive Nora this morning. Since I've been working at the drug store for five years, there are some inside things I'd like to pass on to her." "What will you do with the baby?" "Nellie can watch him." "And Butch?" "You said you were going to teach him to be a farmer. You can take him with you and start today." 13 A pause, then, "All right. You can drive the Ford." Through the door, Nora listened to this amazing conversation. Kate had actually changed Papa's mind after he'd made a decision and announced it. The matter was a minor one, but it indicated that the new Mrs. Penny, not only had some influence over Mr. Penny, but she was willing to use it. Nora numbly got dressed. Her face was pale and the uneasiness in her stomach came and went in spasms. Nellie tried to reassure her, but it didn't help much. "Are you ready?" called Kate at the bedroom door. "Yes," Nora answered. "No," she whispered to Nellie. "You'll be fine," Nellie told her with confidence. Nora went into the kitchen. Papa was gone; so were Matt and Butch. Kate wore a light blue print dress that made her red hair seem to glow. She had a clutch purse in her hand. "Teddy's been fed," she said to Nellie. "I'll be back in an hour or so. Is there anything I can pick up for you in town?" "No." Nellie's tone was flat and not very civil. "Okay. Let's go, Nora." "Bye, Sissy," Nellie said. "Don't sell everything in the store on your first day." Nora sat like a statue in the passenger front seat of the Ford while Kate warmed it up. Neither said a word until they were out on the road. "Are you always so quiet?" Nora looked at the woman's profile; she had expected a mocking smile, but there was only a sincere question on her face. "I don't think you've said more than two or three sentences since I came," she continued. "I'd like to know what you're thinking, Nora." The girl stared out the side window. "Nothing and everything," she said. "My mind is like one of those kaleidoscopes you put to your eye and turn. Only the pieces aren't falling into patterns, they just fly every which way." "That's understandable," the woman replied. "You've had two tremendous shocks in the last 24 hours. It's no wonder your thoughts are confused. I want you to know, Nora, that I had no idea your father had kept our courtship from you. I thought it was strange that he never took me to meet you all, but I assumed he'd told you about it." "He didn't." "Well, it's done now. And I hope we can all make the best of it. Shall I tell you about your new job?" "Yes, please." "Mr. Millican does all the prescriptions in the back and Danny Ogilvie takes care of the soda fountain. You will be the sales clerk for the rest of the store. It's important that you get familiar with the merchandise and where to find it as quickly as you can, because customers are always asking for Mentholatum or Throat Discs or Cloverine Salve and you need to be able to locate them on the shelves. So I suggest that between customers, you walk around the store and study the items on display." She paused, but Nora said nothing, so she continued, "A good policy is to always be polite to everybody, no matter what. I had trouble with that, but I don't think you will." Nora could feel the trembling attack her insides again. She held onto her purse so tightly, her hands hurt. Kate's hand suddenly left the steering wheel and closed over the girl's fists. "It's all right, Nora, to be afraid, but never, ever, let it stop you from doing what you need to do." Nora turned and gave her a tentative smile. The lady winked at her. "The things we worry about most are the things we don't know about. When you get home tonight, you'll feel a whole lot better about this job. And by next Monday morning, I bet you'll be looking forward to going back." 14 "I hope so," Nora said uncertainly. "Have confidence in yourself," Kate went on. "From what your father has said, it sounds like you've been handling just about everything around the house for several months now. If you can do all that, you won't have any trouble with this job." However, the girl shrank back in the seat as they pulled into the alley behind Millican's Rexall. The bells jingled by the front door. Nora, standing behind the counter at the back of the store, watched anxiously to see where the customer would go. It was one o'clock, so the young man probably hadn't come in for lunch and she would have to wait on him. She gripped the edge of the counter to steady her trembling hands. Then with a sigh of relief, she saw him take off his hat and sit down on a stool at the soda fountain. "Hello, Reverend," Danny Ogilvie greeted his customer. "How's the preaching business?" "I'm not a reverend, Danny," replied the young man seriously. "Did you know that the only one referred to as `Reverend' in the Bible is Almighty God?" "Nora," said Mr. Millican behind her. She turned. "You've been on your feet all morning," continued her boss. "I'll mind the counter while you sit down and have your lunch. Ask Danny to fix you a soda pop." "Thank you, sir," Nora said. She willingly left her post and retrieved her sack lunch from under the cash register. Along the left wall, as she walked toward the front of the store, ran a long black-topped counter. A black shelf served as a footrest for those who sat on the red-covered swivel stools. Behind the counter were Danny Ogilvie and all manner of compartments from which he produced the ingredients for his wonderful concoctions. Nora took the stool farthest from the door. It wasn't until she was off them that she noticed how tired her feet were. The young man who had just come in was three stools down from her. He wore a suit and necktie and at his feet rested two large cases with handles. One was leather; the other looked like it might be wooden. "A Coke, please," he ordered. Danny, a gangly, freckled boy who had graduated from Armitage High School last year, turned to prepare the drink. "I'll get yours in a minute, Nora," he told her. She was in no hurry. It felt good to sit down. She studied the soda fountain: the ice cream freezer, the sink for washing dishes, the back counter with jars of bright red cherries, containers of chocolate and butterscotch syrups, cans of chopped nuts, peanuts, and shredded coconut and mounds of bananas. Danny poured Coca Cola syrup into the bottom of a tall glass, filled it up with soda water and stirred it before setting it in front of the young man. The soda water made her think of his greeting to Kate this morning when she had accompanied Nora into the store. "Well," he said, "with all that copper hair, you look like a brand- new penny." "Danny Ogilvie!" retorted Mrs. Penny. "Go wash out your mouth with soda water!" Mr. Millican had been happy to have Kate show Nora around. She helped her learn how to use the cash register, showed her how to find things on the price list, and located on the shelves a few of the items people asked for most often. Then she left and Nora had to face the customers, and her fears, alone. Actually this morning hadn't been too bad. She knew by name nearly everyone who had come in. Mrs. Lester had asked for rubbing alcohol and Q-tips and was very patient while Nora hunted for them. Mrs. Davison wanted a prescription filled. Kate had said Mr. Millican preferred to deal personally with every prescription customer, so Nora had gladly called the druggist to handle Mrs. Davison. Kate had also 15 advised her that the boss hated to be interrupted by trivial matters, so Nora tired to take care of the rest of the customers without asking for his help. Only once, when Mr. Aldinger got impatient with her futile efforts to locate the liniment, did she have to bother her employer. "So, Rev..." Danny addressed the man at the counter, "I mean..." "My name is MacIntyre," he said. "Okay, Mac," Danny grinned. "I was going to ask how your preaching went today." "Pretty good," Mr. MacIntyre replied. "I got to play a lecture to three different people. One lady wanted the book." "What book is that?" "It's title is Salvation." "How much?" "Twenty-five cents." "Say, that sounds like a good deal to me: you can buy salvation for two bits." The young man only smiled at Danny's joke. "It's a very good deal," he said softly. Danny stepped down the counter to Nora. "You know," he told her, "I think he means it." "I do," said Mr. MacIntyre. "The information in that book is priceless." When neither Danny nor Nora replied to his bold statement, he turned his attention to his Coca Cola and the sack lunch he had brought with him. Danny was ready for her order. She asked for a root beer to go with the thick ham sandwich Kate had packed for her. If she'd been in the market for an ice cream treat, however, the selection was endless. Danny Ogilvie was famous in Armitage for his inventive sundaes. Danny tried to chit chat with Nora while he was fixing her drink. She answered politely but briefly and he soon abandoned the effort. She was glad when he finally left her alone. His conversation made her think of this glass of root beer, sweet and full of bubbles and all foam on the top. She didn't know how to talk to him. The man with the two cases finished his lunch, laid some change on the counter and bid Danny good-bye. His farewell acknowledged Nora too, as his eyes flicked toward her. He stuck his hat on his head, hefted a case in each hand and set the bells jingling as he left the store. Matt was waiting in the truck when Nora came out of the drug store that evening. She smiled at him and he grinned back. "How did it go?" he inquired. She sighed and kicked her shoes off, while he started the truck and backed out. "I did it, Matt; I actually did it. But I'm so tired of standing up." "I'm glad you survived." "Just barely. But why are you so talkative today?" "Don't tell anybody." "I promise." "I had a talk with the Navy recruiter." "What?!" Nora shot straight up in the seat. "Did you sign up?" "Not yet. Got to think about it." "Matt, we're not in the war." "But we will be." "President Roosevelt promised we wouldn't." "I don't believe it. We'll be in up to our necks pretty soon." "You have a deferment, though, because you're needed on the farm." "You don't want me to go, Nora?" "Of course not. You could get killed and then who would I have to stick up for me when Nellie gets running me ragged?" "You're big enough to fend for yourself. You just pretend to be helpless to get me on your side." 16 "I do not." "Oh, yes, you do. I've seen you get your dander up and you can do just fine for yourself. Just like you handled yourself today." "You're deliberately getting us sidetracked," Nora objected. "We were talking about you and the Navy." "We were, but everything got said." "Don't go, Matt. We just lost Mama. I don't think I could live if we lose you, too." "Like I said, I haven't decided yet. Papa will need me for harvest, so I wouldn't sign up until after that, if I make up my mind to it." "That's not very far away, just a few months." "Remember, you promised not to tell anybody." "Yes, I did. But you promise to let me know when you finally decide--either way." "All right; I will." "How did Butch and Papa get along today?" "I was surprised how well Papa did with him. He taught him how to do simple things and kept him busy all morning. Butch is a little bulldog. He worked hard without a whimper, even when he got plumb tuck-ered. When we stopped for lunch, he fell asleep in mid-bite with a slice of bread sticking out of his mouth. When I carried him to the house, he didn't move a muscle. I think Papa was impressed with the boy." Nora was glad. Although from the encounter she'd had with him last Saturday, she knew he was a mischief-maker, she kept it to herself. Butch was part of the Penny household now. She hoped the family would learn quickly to get along with each other. Matt and Nora rode in comfortable silence the rest of the way home. Nora came out of the bathroom and walked into the kitchen. Noise assaulted her ears. Upstairs, Teddy was screaming his diaper-rash cry. In the front room, big band brass blared from the radio while angry yelling sounded a counterpoint to the music. She dropped her handbag onto the table and hurried to the scene of the argument. There, with one arm behind his back, was Butch, pinned against the wall by the end of Nellie's crutch on his chest. "Give them back!" Nellie shouted, poking him harder. "Now!" "No!" he refused. "You don't play with them." He grasped the tip of the crutch and tried to move it away from his shirt front. "How do you know? They're mine. And you stay out of my room!" Butch suddenly slid down the wall and disappeared to his left behind the couch. Nellie staggered as her crutch flipped down and sideways. Nora jumped to catch her by the arm. "Grab him!" Nellie demanded as she recovered her balance. "He stole our dominoes!" Nora stood indecisively. Nellie was so intense about this, yet the boy's offense was nothing. She could see one bold brown eye peering up at her. "Sissy, why don't you let him play with them?" she said quietly. "He won't ruin them. After all, how can you hurt a domino?" "He went right into our room without asking and took them," Nellie insisted. "Did not!" the boy shouted from behind the couch. "They was layin' right there on the table." "What's the trouble here?" With a quiet baby on her arm, Kate appeared on the stairway. Nora saw from the look on her face that she was more than capable of handling the situation. The girl sighed her relief and melted into the background. Within a minute Kate had Butch out from behind the couch, the dominoes in Nellie's hand and apologies, although grudging, from both parties. As the belligerents left the field, Kate quietly turned to face Nora. "What a delightful homecoming you've had, dear," she said. "Come into the kitchen. I'll get you a pan of cool water to soak your feet." Nora let her pass, but when she turned to follow, her eyes caught something different about 17 the wall. She looked directly at the space above the doorway to the kitchen. Her mouth dropped open, her heart lurched and a strange cold, numbness swept her body. She was staring at a large Roman Catholic crucifix. The girl stood frozen in thought and body. She could not move her eyes until the sound of an indignant sniff to her left broke through her mind-lock. In the doorway to the girl's bedroom stood Nellie, her hands on her hips and pinched-lipped anger all over her face. She had been waiting for Nora to notice the thing. Now Nellie beckoned to her sister. Nora hesitated. She had two choices: go into the bedroom and listen to Nellie unburden herself of the woes of the day or continue into the kitchen with Kate. Nora's feet won. "I'll meet you outside after while, Sissy," she said. "I've just got to sit down and rest for a few minutes." She left Nellie with a look of astonishment on her face. Nora usually did whatever Nellie wanted. Kate already had a small tub positioned in front of a kitchen chair. "Would you like to hold your brother while I draw some water?" she asked. Nora gladly accepted the baby. "Has he been good for you today?" she asked, jiggling him gently to make him smile. "He's a delight," said Kate. "He's so happy, except for that miserable diaper rash. It's starting to clear up, though. You girls were doing the right thing with the corn starch." The girl almost confided who had advised them, but closed her mouth on it when she realized that admitting her acquaintance with Mrs. Landalt could lead to complications. She sat down and untied her saddle shoes, bending sideways for each one so she wouldn't squash Teddy on her lap. Kate brought a bucket of cool water from the faucet and poured it into the tub. "You won't want it hot today," she said, "though in the wintertime, it feels wonderful to have it steaming." "How long did you work at the drug store?" Nora asked. "About five years," the lady answered. "But my feet never got used to it. How did things go today? Did you have any problems?" "I guess not, except I couldn't find the liniment." "You'll soon know that store inside out," she said. "It won't take you long." As Nora sank her aching feet into the tub of water, she was glad she'd chosen to come in here rather than hole up with Nellie in their bedroom. Later she would listen to her sister and sympathize, but for now she blocked out the trouble and thoughts of that papist thing on the wall, and let the comfort Kate offered bring peace and contentment to her tired soul. There was lemonade to drink, a baby in her arms, and an understanding ear eager to hear all the details of her day. Nora let the tiredness seep out of her bones. It was more than an hour later that the twins met under the oak tree in the front yard. Nellie was put out with her sister and Nora was concerned with Nellie's attitude. The crippled girl was normally cheerful and positive. "Why did you go with her?" Nellie demanded resentfully. Nora didn't need the particulars of this vague question spelled out to her. "Because," she said, "if I'd come into the bedroom with you right then, you would have spilled everything to me, probably in a loud enough voice for Kate to hear it all." Nellie's stormy face cleared; she smiled. "Yes, I would," she admitted, "and even Glenn Miller on the radio wouldn't have covered for me." "We're out of earshot now," said Nora quietly. Her sister frowned. "She's taking over, Sissy; she's just moved right in and acts like she owns the place." "What did she do?" "You saw that graven image she put up. She's a Catholic, a papist Roman Catholic, and she hung a graven image on our living room wall!" "Has Papa seen it yet?" 18 "No, he's been out working all day." "Why don't we wait and see what he does about it?" Nellie thought a minute and then grinned. "That just might be a show worth watching." "What else has she done? Is she treating Teddy all right?" "Yes," she admitted slowly, "she cuddles him and plays with him and changes him right away when he cries. But she's changing things around in the kitchen." "What things?" "The pots and pans. She pulled them all out of the cupboard where Mama kept them and exchanged them with the big kettles and roasters." Nora visualized the rearrangement. She didn't see what reason the lady had for moving things, but at the same time, she couldn't understand why Nellie would care. Kate was the cook now; she ought to have the kitchen the way she liked it. Probably what Nellie was objecting to was the insinuation that Mama's way of doing things was not right, that Kate thought her own way was better. Nora didn't say any of this out loud and Nellie's complaint was met with silence. As her words echoed back to her in that hollow of quiet, Nellie seemed to recognize the pettiness of her accusation. Her blue eyes went sheepish, then suddenly they sparked again. "That stinky boy!" she exclaimed. "It was fine for Papa to have him all morning, but when he came back to the house, all he did was make trouble." "Sissy," Nora said, laying a quieting hand on her sister's arm, "we really need to make friends with Butch. He was at Mrs. Landalt's house when I went over there Saturday. I don't want him saying something in front of Papa." "What was he doing at the Landalts'?" "Mrs. Landalt was looking after him while his mother was away." Realization widened Nora's eyes. "While his mother was away--getting married to Papa! She knew what Papa and Kate were up to and I didn't. No wonder I couldn't understand some of the things she said." "Like what?" "I don't remember now. But don't you see, Nellie, if Butch isn't our friend and he finds out I wasn't supposed to be over there, he could tell Papa out of spite." "Go ahead," Nellie said, "you make friends with him. I just can't, not yet. I guess I need some time to get used to this. If Papa had let us know beforehand that he was interested in Kate and brought her for a few visits, I might feel more comfortable with the changes. But it was like a bolt of lightning from out of the blue. Aren't you even a little bit resentful?" Nora thought about it. "Not resentful," she said slowly. "Surprised and a little breathless." Nellie, searching her sister's face, suddenly dropped her eyes. "You're so good, Nora. You're the one who got the worst of it: being packed off to work without having a single word to say about it. Tell me about your day." This was more like the real Nellie, Nora thought, and gratefully began. It eased her tension to relate it: her apprehension about dealing with the customers, her helplessness to answer Danny's bubbles (Nellie loved her comparison of Danny to a root beer), her weariness and aching feet by the end of the day. She wanted to share her conversation with Matt, but part of that she'd promised to keep private and the other part, about Butch's success with Papa this morning, Nellie wouldn't want to hear. So she didn't say anything about the ride home. About then the little boy came slamming out the front door of the house and took a flying leap off the porch, sailing over all three steps. He landed on his feet, but immediately turned a somersault onto the grass and rolled over and over across the lawn directly to the spot where the girls sat under the tree. He lay, grubby and grass-stained, looking up at them, an impish grin on his freckled face. Nellie grabbed her crutch and gave him a poke. "Get lost," she ordered. He didn't move. "Why?" "Go away," she said with another jab. 19 "Keep that dad-burned thing off me!" he shouted and shoved it away. Nora didn't know how to make peace between them, but their bickering disturbed her. She thought maybe the best thing to do right now would be to separate them. "Butch," she said, "I heard you worked with Papa and Matt this morning. Will you show me what you did?" It would mean a long walk on her achy feet, but that was better than listening to them fight. Unexpectedly, Nora's question brought a bright light into the child's brown eyes. He scrambled to his feet, and when she got up too, he took her hand to lead her away. Looking back at Nellie, she winked and waved. Then she concentrated on keeping up with the speed of the boy's enthusiasm. 20 CHAPTER 3 Tuesday through Saturday, Nora got up every morning and dressed for work. Kate drove her to town and Matt came for her at closing time. She liked that arrangement; it gave her a little private time with each of them. Despite Nellie's antagonism, Nora found that she liked Kate. The lady didn't push for acceptance. And although she would have to be blind and deaf not to notice Nellie's hostility, she didn't try to butter her up. She just ignored the girl's attitude. What Nora appreciated was that Kate made Papa laugh. Long before Mama's death, Walter Penny had begun to take life so seriously, he would rarely crack a smile. His family, except Nellie, took up his sober mood whenever he was around, so mealtime had been a solemn affair. However, now Papa cracked jokes at the table and tried to tease Nellie out of her sour mood. He affectionately ruffled Butch's hair and brightly asked Nora about her job. But the most astonishing thing was his reaction to the crucifix on the living room wall. "America is a land of freedom," he declared. "The constitution guarantees freedom of worship. Kate has the right to practice her religion in her own home." "But," Nellie sputtered, "but it's a graven image. It's wrong!" "No matter if it is wrong," he said firmly. "It's her way." Apparently emboldened by Papa's tacit approval of her crucifix, Kate, later in the week, added one more item to the living room: a ceramic Virgin Mary complete with halo and the Christ child in her arms. It stood about a foot high and now occupied a central spot on the bookshelves. Nellie kept her mouth shut but her eyes shunned the image. She made everyone understand her revulsion to it. Nora was puzzled. How could someone who claimed to be a Christian even think of having images around? Wasn't it clearly stated in the Ten Commandments: "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image"? And somewhere else it also said: "Little children, keep yourselves from idols." Why didn't the Roman Catholic priest tell the people those scriptures? But Kate wasn't stupid or unschooled; she could read it for herself and grasp what it said. So how could she think it was right and good to display those things in her home? our home! Will God hold it against the rest of us because we live in a house with images in it? She wanted to ask Kate some of her questions, but Nellie's antagonistic attitude had made Kate go defensive. She had erected a wall all around the subject and Nora sensed that discussion of it would not be welcome. Nellie reported that quite a few of the neighbor ladies had come by in twos or threes to welcome the new Mrs. Penny to the area. Even Mrs. Mason had brought two of her grimy, runny- nosed brats and presented Kate with a jar of peach preserves. When they were leaving Kate quietly asked Mrs. Mason if she'd forgotten to return the two silver spoons she'd borrowed. The woman turned red and babbled something incomprehensible, but she produced the two spoons she'd swiped from the table and dropped into her apron pocket during their visit. Nellie was so tickled that Kate had caught her, she giggled about it all evening. The peach preserves, Nellie confided, had been served to the pigs. Nora was glad; she had seen Mrs. Mason's kitchen. "Maybe we'd better check on the health of the pigs," she whispered. That sent Nellie off into another round of laughter. By the end of Nora's first week of work at the drug store, she was not exactly longing to go back, as Kate had predicted. But at least she no longer dreaded it. She was rapidly learning the store and it came as a surprise to her that the customers liked her. Since she knew practically everyone by name, she could address them when they walked in and make polite inquiries about their families. Since Danny discovered that Nora didn't have a comeback on the tip of her tongue for his teasing, he gradually stopped trying. He had plenty of bobby-soxers who drifted in for ice-cream 21 sodas to use his clever wit on. He never got very far trying to work up a repartee with Mr. MacIntyre either. The quiet, well-dressed young man came in every afternoon to buy a Coke and eat his sack lunch. This was without fail the time Mr. Millican released Nora to take her own lunch break. She would sit at the end of the counter and order a drink from Danny. Mr. MacIntyre would say, "Hello, Miss Penny." Nora would answer, "Hello," and that was the whole of their conversation. Danny wasn't so reticent, however; and if no other customers claimed his attention, he would try to drum up some action with "Mac." "If you're a preacher, Mac, where's your church?" And the young man would quietly say, "Jesus and his apostles preached on the streets and the doorsteps." "Do you pass the plate before or after your sermon?" "Jesus said, `Freely ye have received, freely give.'" "No plate at all?" "No plate." Nora silently ate her lunch, but she listened to every word Mr. MacIntyre said. She was impressed with his knowledge of Scripture and his quiet confidence in himself and his work. Monday morning after Papa, Matt and Butch had left the house, Kate announced to the girls that it was time she returned the calls of the neighbor ladies. Since it was too early in the season for her to have put up any preserves, she said she would just have to go without taking any gifts. Nora offered some of the jars left in the cellar from Mama's efforts last year. But Kate refused. Those were Emily's preserves that she'd done with love for her family, she said, and no one but Emily's family should have them. Nora gave her a grateful smile. "Who are you planning to visit today?" she inquired. "I want to get Mrs. Mason over with, so I'll go there first thing," said Kate. "Then I want to see Patsy Landalt. It's funny she hasn't been over here yet." The twins looked at each other. "I don't think you should expect her," said Nellie. "I don't know why not," Kate stated. "She's my friend." "It's because of Papa and Mr. Landalt," said Nora. "They had a falling-out years ago and we're not allowed to go over there any more." Kate's mouth opened without a sound while she assimilated this, then it snapped shut. "Well, I say fiddle-faddle to their silly feud. I'm not letting any man spoil my friendships." And she busied herself putting her hat in place on top of her shining red hair. Nellie stared wide-eyed at her sister, but said nothing. Kate drove Nora into town. She would do her visiting on her way home. "Nora, what was the disagreement between your father and Fred Landalt?" "I don't know," the girl admitted. "We children were all at school when it happened. Mama told us later that Mr. Landalt drove up all spiffed up like he was going courting or something. Papa invited him in and they started talking. Then something made Papa blow up and he ranted and roared and ordered Mr. Landalt off the property. Papa went out and built a fence along the line where our fields come together." "When did all this happen?" "About six years ago. Before that, we'd been really good neighbors. Mrs. Landalt was puny and she died a little while before the trouble. Mama went to her funeral, but Papa was out of town at a Legion convention. I think he would have gone if he'd been home." "Hasn't anyone ever asked him what happened and why he cut off the Landalts?" "Nellie did once. He refused to discuss it." "Maybe it's time someone spoke to him again. I intend to go visit Patsy today, but you girls needn't mention it to your father. I'll tell him myself when it's the right time." Nora sat quietly, not allowing her mind to think about the possible consequences of Kate's action. She only hoped she wouldn't be home when the yelling started. "Now I see where those pieces fit," Kate exclaimed suddenly. "I left Stanley with Patsy the 22 weekend we got married, but Walter talked me into taking him there myself the night before. Then when we came back, he made some excuse to stay in town while I drove the car and got Stanley. It didn't make sense to me because I had to drive clear back into town to retrieve Walter before coming home. He did all that just to avoid setting foot on Fred Landalt's property!" Nora glimpsed the look in Kate's eye and the set of her jaw and wondered if Papa would be doing the most yelling. However, if there was an argument, neither of the twins heard it. Papa and Kate seemed to be on the best of terms all evening and the next morning. Nora waited for the lady to bring up the subject on their morning rides to town, but she didn't and the girl hesitated to ask. She wondered though. Had Kate asked either Papa or Mrs. Landalt about the feud? Had Mrs. Landalt told her about the girls' clandestine visits? If she had, it was obvious Kate hadn't passed on the information to her husband. Nellie continued at swords' points with the new members of the family. Nora was thankful she had to be away from home most of the day. During the short time she was there after work and before Papa arrived for supper, there was a tension in the atmosphere that worried her. She got an earful every evening when the two girls went out under the tree to trade stories of the day's events. Nellie resented every change Kate made in the kitchen or the arrangement of the furniture or selection of decorations on the walls. Nora read between the lines and could see that Kate was trying to make peace. Nellie admitted that the lady invited the girl's opinions on most of these changes, but always received the grumpy reply, "It doesn't matter what I think: you'll do it anyway." And if Kate asked the girl to do anything, she would be met with, "You aren't my mother and you can't tell me what to do." Nora was shocked when Nellie confessed to her that she'd actually said those things. "Sissy, how could you be so rude?" she protested. "It's true," the girl insisted. "She isn't our mother. She has no right to order us around." "Whether it's true or not, I can't believe you actually said it to her face." "I did." "What did she do?" Nellie's face clouded. "She just said, 'We'll see about that,' and turned away. What do you think she meant?" Nora thought about it. "If she were somebody else, I might suspect she was going to tell Papa on you. But I don't think Kate would do that." "Then what?" "I guess you'll just have to wait and see. But, Nellie, I can't understand why you hate her so. She's not a wicked monster plotting to cut your heart out or making you slave away all day." Nellie quirked a little smile. "You're thinking I'm comparing her to the evil stepmother in Snow White." Last year Matt had taken his sisters all the way to Toledo to see the Walt Disney motion picture, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Nora was, in fact, intimating that Nellie had been influenced by the movie. "Are you?" she asked. "No," she denied quickly, then paused. "Well, maybe, a little bit. But the reason I can't stand Kate is because she waltzes in here and thinks she can take over right where Mama left off. And maybe she can--in the kitchen and doing the laundry and cleaning and even filling the vacancy in Papa's life and giving Teddy the love he needs. But she's never going to take Mama's place in my heart!" Tears spilled down her flushed cheeks. Nora gently laid a hand on Nellie's arm, but said nothing, letting her sister cry. Her open emotions reached out and sprung the door to Nora's own grief. Soon they were crying together, clinging to each other under the oak tree, oblivious to the small boy who stood silently on the porch and watched them. When their tears were spent, they drew apart and laughed a little in embarrassment. "You look awful," said Nora, giggling. "Your eyes are puffy and your nose is red." 23 "Same to you," her sister replied. "I don't need a mirror; I can just look at you." That started the game. Nellie crossed her eyes, Nora did too. Nellie stuck out her tongue; Nora's came out at the same moment. They were good at it, Nora reading her twin's next move and responding almost simultaneously. They played their game until they sensed an audience. Then Nora looked up to see Butch staring at them in fascination. "How do you do that?" he blurted in his gruff voice. Nellie shrugged. "Practice," she said. "Can I learn?" "Try it with me," Nora invited. "I'll make a face and you copy it as quick as you can." "Okay." He grinned in anticipation and plunked himself down in front of her. The boy was slow at first and wildly exaggerated the movements. Nellie started giggling at his efforts and soon all three of them were laughing together. "Now, you make the faces," Nellie said, "and I'll copy them." Butch was much more inventive than either of the girls and Nellie had an unexpectedly hard time following him. But Nora could see that the two of them were really having fun. It had been a relief to cry with Nellie. They'd done it before after Mama died and she'd thought she was through with her mourning. Maybe not. She understood now why Nellie so resented Kate. It wasn't Kate's fault and it was wrong for the girl to take it out on her. But maybe Kate, too, realized what was going on with Nellie. Nora didn't think her new stepmother was the kind of woman who would normally swallow such disrespectful backtalk. If Nellie continued her war, however, she was going to slip someday and blurt out her bratty remarks in Papa's hearing. Nora closed her eyes and felt her insides tighten up at the thought of her father's reaction. And whatever he did to Nellie would not solve the problem. It would probably only make the girl hate Kate more than ever. Really, Nora couldn't discern any way to remedy the situation. Kate wasn't going to leave; she belonged here. Nellie couldn't go away; she would never be able to get along on her own. And nobody could force the girl to change her feelings. There was no hope, as far as Nora could see, and the trouble made her miserable. At least Butch was getting along with just about everyone. Nellie still had problems because he'd found out how to rile her and did it regularly. But Papa was proud of the boy's quickness and willingness to learn everything he could learn about the farm. He had a good way with the animals. The most interesting thing, however, was Butch's attachment to Matt. The way he looked at his new brother, you'd think he was Superman. The boy followed him around and imitated his walk, his hair style, the way he held his fork at the table. Matt didn't seem to notice that he'd become a hero. But he liked the boy, didn't mind sharing his bedroom with him and patiently showed him how to do things. He demonstrated the way to feed a calf from a milk bottle, then watched, grinning, while boy and calf danced around the pen, trying to get the hang of it. He let him watch while he mended the farm tools and built a chest of drawers for Butch's clothes, explaining as he worked what each tool was called, what it was used for and where it was kept. Matt played with him, too, roughhousing on the living room floor or chasing him around the farmyard until he caught him and tossed him into the hay. Butch would come flailing out, yelling in pure joy, to tear after Matt and tackle him at the knees. The big brother could easily have shaken him off, but he went along with the game, collapsing on the grass and letting Butch jump and land in the middle of him. Sometimes Papa watched them with a wistful expression as if he'd like to join in the play himself. Nora finished her second week as a working woman. She gave Papa her entire paycheck and he thanked her for it. But the next morning as the family got ready for church, he rapped on the girls' bedroom door. Nora stuck her head out. Papa stood there with one hand behind his back. "Nora, I appreciate the contribution you're 24 making to the family," he said. "We really need it. But Kate thinks--and I agree--that you should keep part of your earnings. So," he pulled his hand out and extended it to Nora, "you take this and use it for whatever you want." The girl looked at the money in astonishment, but made no move to accept it. "I don't need it, Papa. What would I use it for?" "How should I know what girls use money for? But Kate says you should have it, so here. Take it." Nora found the money in her hand. "Thank you, Papa," she said, not knowing what else to do. "Good," he replied. "Go to the movies on it, if you want." He turned to walk away, then stopped and grinned at her. "Kate and I saw The Cowboy and the Lady," he said. "Gary Cooper. You'll like it." As Papa left and Nora closed the door, Nellie sat with a bounce on the bed. Her blue eyes sparkled. "Let's do it, Sissy," she said. "We'll go tonight." "All right. I'll ask Matt to drive us. Maybe he'll come, too." The girls talked to Matt that morning. They chose the time after their own Baptist church services, while they were on the way to collect Kate and Butch from the Catholic Church. "Sure, I'll go," Matt agreed. "Is it okay if I bring somebody?" Nora and Nellie smiled knowingly at each other in the back seat. "It's fine with us," said Nellie. She leaned over and whispered in Nora's ear, "Will it be Laurie or Jo?" Nora shrugged. "I say Jo," she predicted. She was pleased that her brother was coming out of his dark and silent mood. He must be better if he was starting to think about girls again. Kate cooked a big Sunday dinner for the family. Nora was surprised and pleased when the lady asked her assistance. The girl was woefully ignorant of the art of cooking, in spite of having been forced to do it for three months. It was true that she had picked up a smattering of haphazard facts from her trial and error attempts, such as, if you were going to mash the potatoes, it was best to peel them, and a few bad spots left in them would taint the whole bowlful. But for the most part, Nora was a rank amateur. Kate not only showed the girl how to do everything, but explained why, and what would happen if it wasn't done right. She didn't measure her ingredients for the biscuits like Mama had. She said she went by "feel." And they turned out light, golden brown and delicious. Nora so enjoyed helping fix the meal, she wanted to stay around afterward to clean up. Nellie went out on the front porch to read. Kate sent a protesting Butch upstairs to take a nap. Papa and Matt decided to go into town again. No stores were open on Sundays, but the Legion Hall was and the men liked to go there to shoot pool and talk. Matt probably had in mind stopping by to invite a girl to go with him to the movies tonight. She hoped it would be Jo; Nora loved to hear her laugh. While Kate and Nora washed and wiped the dishes, they talked about the drug store. "Did Mr. Millican tell you that you have free access to the soda fountain?" the lady asked. "Yes, but I didn't really know what he meant. So I tried to pay Danny for my soda pop at lunch, but he wouldn't take it." "What he means," said Kate, "is you can have anything served at that counter as often as you wish. No charge. It's Mr. Millican's way to give you a little bonus." "Really? Even ice cream sundaes and banana splits?" "That's right. But I wouldn't take full advantage of it if I were you." She winked. "We'd have to roll you up the loading ramp to get you into the store." Nora laughed. They paused a moment as they heard a masculine voice in front of the house. "The men must have forgotten something," Kate murmured. Although the person hadn't come in and was out of their sight, Nora didn't think it sounded like either Papa or Matt. But she made no comment. 25 Ten minutes later another strange voice boomed from the front porch. This one didn't sound like a man speaking in person, but more like a radio broadcast. However, the radio was inside the house, not out on the porch. Nora threw down her dishtowel and went to investigate. By standing near the window, she could see through the sheer curtains without being seen. There was a man out there, sitting on the porch rail and before him was a small phonograph with a spinning record on it. The voice came from the speaker on the side of the machine. Kate walked up behind her. "What is it?" "A young man in a dress suit, is playing a speech for Nellie on a phonograph. I don't know what the lecture is about." Kate peered over the girl's shoulder. "I've never listened to those records, but I can identify the one giving the speech. That's Judge Rutherford. He's a trouble-making preacher who used to broadcast on the radio. The church ran him off the air." The young man turned his head; Nora recognized him. "You should know that man," Nora said quietly. "He comes into the drug store every day for a Coke to drink with his lunch. His name is Mr. MacIntyre." "It seems like I've seen him before, but I never met him. I hope Nellie has sense enough to see through all that fancy speaking." "I doubt she's even listening," said Nora. "She's just being polite because there's a good- looking young man running the machine." Kate, with a chuckle, went back to the kitchen. Nora sat down on the couch. She could hear clearly every word of the lecture. The speaker certainly had a powerful voice and knew how to use it. Some of the points he made were interesting. As Nora thought about what he was saying, she realized he was actually making sense. The record ended and Mr. MacIntyre closed up the phonograph. Nora had to strain to hear him, but she made out that he was showing Nellie a book that went along with the theme of the speech he'd just played. However, before Nellie could make a reply, the truck rattled into the yard, its door slammed and Papa began to roar. In a fury he stomped onto the porch and demanded of the man 'what communist propaganda he was feeding his daughter?' When Mr. MacIntyre tried to respectfully answer, Papa bellowed at him to shut up. Nellie protested, which brought her into her father's line of fire. "You get into the house, girl," he ordered. "I'll deal with you later." Nora was on her feet, anxiously watching the action through the window. As Nellie opened the door, Papa grabbed the two cases, the leather one filled with books and records, the other with the phonograph, and hurled them both out into the driveway. Nellie came up beside her while she watched their father spin the young man around, place one boot on the seat of his pants and send him flying off the steps. Papa's language was not fit for human ears. His fury made Nora go numb all over. Nellie was frantically shaking her sister, trying to get her attention. "Sissy, Sissy," she pleaded. "What?" Nora tried to focus on her twin. "Sissy, you've got to get me that book! Did you see it--the one he showed me? You've got to get it." "Nellie, how? Papa just kicked him off the porch. Look, he's ordering him off the property." "Go out the back door and cut across the curve. You can run; I can't. You can flag him down when he's around the bend out of Papa's sight. Hurry." "I can't do that! Papa doesn't want you to have the book. You can't mistake that." "He won't have to know. Sissy, please! Please! Do it for me. Just hide it somewhere and then tell me where. Go!" Nellie's intensity overcame Nora's objections. There was no time to argue. Mr. MacIntyre 26 with his two battered cases was mounting his bicycle, and followed by a cursing Walter Penny, pedaling quickly down the drive. Any moment now Papa would be stomping back to the house to "deal with" Nellie. Spurred by the thought of the unpleasant scene that would make, Nora acquiesced. She barely noticed Kate as she whipped by her on her way out. She clattered down the back steps, ran around the side of the house and cut down over the edge of the sloping hillside into the trees. There was no real path, but Nora knew the lay of the land. It was good this was summertime and the leaves were profuse. No one would see from the house. When Nora shot out of the woods onto the dusty drive, Mr. MacIntyre was just coming around the bend. Without pausing to think about it, she stepped toward him and waved her arm up and down. The young man looked rumpled. His hat was missing and his sandy brown hair stuck up in spots. He came to a stop with surprise all over his face. "Miss Penny," he blurted, "this is really you?" She immediately became flustered. "Yes, I-I live here." "I thought at first that was you on the porch," he said, "but it wasn't." "My sister Nellie," she supplied, then remembered her mission. "She wants the book." "That's great," he said and reached for his leather case on the back of the bicycle. He made a quick glance behind him up the drive, then handed her a red volume with the word Salvation in gold leaf on the front and again on the binding. "Are you all right?" she asked hesitantly. "I mean, did Papa hurt you?" "No, just my dignity. And," he grinned, "that isn't much of a loss." She smiled, but looked at the toe of her shoe. Then her head came up with a sudden thought. "I didn't bring any money." She held the book out for him to take it back. "Give it to your sister," he said. "If she wants to contribute a quarter, I'll be coming into the drug store for lunch tomorrow. You can give it to me then." Nora nodded. "I will. Thank you. I'm sorry my father attacked you. He's probably broken all your records and your phonograph, too." "And he'll break my head if he comes driving back down this road now," he pointed out. "I'd best do like he said and get off his property. Good-bye. I'll see you tomorrow." Nora watched him mount his bicycle and ride off with a smile and a wave. She slowly and reluctantly walked into the trees toward the house. Actually she would rather not go back there at all while Papa was dealing with Nellie. His angry raised voice, even when it was not directed at her, so distressed her, it made all her insides tremble. She searched the ground and chose a shady spot at the base of a tree where there was no major ant highway. Nora sat down. Her thumb moved absently over the embossed picture on the front cover of the book in her hand. She looked at the raised figures of a young couple, with a lion and a lamb lying together in the background, but didn't open the volume. Why had Papa reacted so angrily to Mr. MacIntyre? she wondered. Had he met the young man before and had a disagreement with him? Why had he called him a communist? The fellow was a preacher. His message was religious, not political. And if Papa felt so strongly about this, whatever-it-was, why hadn't he told the rest of us? How could he blame Nellie when she didn't know anything about it? Now Nora opened the book. Maybe it was political. The title page read: "Salvation Disclosing God's provision for man's protection from disaster and salvation to life everlasting in complete happiness." That wasn't communist; they were atheists. At the bottom it said: "A text book for the Jonadabs," which meant nothing to the girl. Maybe it was a code word for something, but she didn't think so. She flipped the pages, stopping at the drawings that appeared here and there. They were depicting scenes from many familiar Bible stories she'd learned as a child. Here were Adam and Eve in the garden, Noah and his family with a rainbow behind the Ark, Israel watching Pharaoh's army 27 drown in the Red Sea. These were full color pictures and underneath it told which page of the book had the story. This was not a communist book, Nora decided. Still, she would hide it in a place where it wouldn't get ruined. After she heard what Papa had said to Nellie, she would either tell her sister where it was or return it to Mr. MacIntyre tomorrow. The sound of Papa's truck came through the trees. He was leaving again. She waited until he had turned onto the main road and the mutter of the engine faded in the distance. Then she headed home. She slid the book into the pocket of a heavy coat that was hanging just inside the back door. No one would think of using the coat in this heat. The girl slowly, cautiously, entered the front room. No one was there. The house was strangely silent. Then she caught faintly Kate's voice cooing to the baby upstairs. She approached the closed door of her bedroom and stood to listen. Little sounds told her Nellie was in there, but she didn't seem to be crying. Nora opened the door and went inside. Nellie looked up from her prone reading position on the bed. Her face brightened when she saw her sister. "Where's the book? Did you get it? Did you catch him before he got by?" "I got the book," she assured her. "It's hidden. But, Sissy, you have to tell me what happened. Why was Papa so angry?" Nellie made a sour face. "He doesn't like that religion. I really couldn't make much sense out of him, with all that swearing--on the Lord's day, too--and stomping back and forth. He says they're communists; they don't fight for their country; they don't salute the flag. And he won't have any of them on his property corrupting his daughter." "I don't think they are," Nora commented. "Are what?" "Communists. Communists don't believe in God, do they?" "No, they're against religion." "But Mr. MacIntyre's record was about God and the Bible. So is the book." "Mr. MacIntyre? You found out his name?" "He comes into the drug store. Sissy, what did Papa do to you?" Her sister shrugged. "He just yelled." She hesitated, looking away from Nora for a moment. "But I don't think he'll let me go to the picture show tonight." "Then I won't, either." "Yes you will. Just bring me my book and I'll be content holing up in here reading." "Aren't you afraid Papa will catch you?" "He doesn't barge into our room without knocking, and even if he saw it, he wouldn't know where I got it. Where did you hide it?" Nora thought about it. If Papa was mistaken about Mr. MacIntyre being a communist, maybe those other things were misimpressions, too. "If I tell you where it is, will you promise me one thing?" she said. "What?" "When you're reading it, look to see if it says anything about Papa's objections." "Okay, I can do that," Nellie agreed. "Now tell me where you stashed it." Nora did. 28 CHAPTER 4 A murmur of satisfaction rippled through the auditorium as the lights went out. On the screen before them burst the introduction for tonight's newsreel, accompanied by strident, dramatic music. Nora fished a few puffs of popcorn from the bottom of her bag and poked them into her mouth. Sharing treats with a seven-year-old brother, she discovered, meant you got to eat very little of them yourself. From the moment she and Butch had reached their seats, he'd been devouring popcorn by the fistfuls so that now when the movie was about to begin, their sack was empty. He was now starting on his jujubes. Nora didn't know exactly where in the audience Matt and Jo were seated, probably near the back. But she would be able to locate them during the movie if it was funny. Nobody in town had such a delicious laugh as Josephine Fisher. The newsreel, however, was not funny. It was war, war, war. Nazi troops seemed to be overrunning all of Europe. And nobody was stopping them. Nora shifted uneasily in her seat, thinking how all this would be affecting Matt. She had a deep down dread that he would soon be marching off to help fight the monster. The final report brought the audience back to the United States, but the scenes were little different from the chaos they'd shown in Europe. Here was an ugly mob in pursuit of a few people, who were racing to reach their automobile. Stones and vegetables flew through the air, some to find their targets on the backs of the fleeing men and women. This was happening in Texas. "Due to the Supreme Court's ruling against the Jehovah's witnesses earlier this month," the announcer explained, "mob violence has broken out across the country against these preachers, who are best known for their house-to-house ministry. Officials have cancelled the sect's use of the Ohio State Fairgrounds in Columbus for a large convention they had organized. Despite a petition containing more than two million signa-tures presented to the governor, the Ohio State Fairgrounds Association and Governor Bricker have remained firm in refusing permission for the convention. Meanwhile the government of Canada has proclaimed the Jehovah's Witness Organization to be illegal." As the newsreel ended, the audience settled down for the movie. But Nora couldn't pay attention to it for some time. The mob scene had disturbed her. Hitler and his Nazis were trampling on the rights of people, chasing them down like rabbits and America condemned the Germans for it. Now here was the same kind of action being taken right here in America. Couldn't the officials see the similarity? Nora didn't know anybody who was of that religion, but she felt it wasn't right to treat them that way. Another unsettling part of that scene was that many of the men, even the leaders, of the mob had been wearing American Legion hats. Papa had taught them that one of the purposes of the Legion was to safeguard "the principles of justice, freedom and democracy," and "to promote peace and good will on earth." Something wasn't right here. Butch didn't last very long after his last jujube. Halfway through the movie, Nora felt his head against her arm. He slept until the lights went up. Then she shook him awake and he groggily allowed himself to be propelled up the aisle. When they met up with Matt and Jo in the lobby, Matt took pity on the boy and picked him up. Butch gratefully wrapped an arm around his brother's neck and dropped his head onto his shoulder. Before they reached the car, he was asleep again. Nora sat in back so Butch could pillow his head on her lap and so Jo could ride up front next to Matt. "It's funny to see you two dragging around a little brother," Jo commented. "He really likes you." The girl was small and dainty-looking, with medium brown hair and gray eyes. It surprised people when they heard her ringing laugh for the first time. But Nora was well aware that Jo's 29 fragile looks were deceiving; she could scrap with the best of them. A year ahead of Nora in school, Jo knew how to stand up for herself against the bullies and became the defender of others, too, who were being picked on. "Butch is a pretty regular boy," Matt commented, then chuckled. "But he has Nellie tied in knots." "Nellie?" exclaimed Jo. "She's usually a good sport." "Not with Butch. He found out she's afraid of chickens, so now he comes up behind her and cackles. Sends her right through the ceiling." "Why is Nellie afraid of chickens?" "I don't know." "I do," said Nora from the back seat. "When we were little, Mama used to take us with her when she fed and gathered eggs. There were two or three mean hens who would flap their wings and peck us. I could run away from them, but Nellie couldn't. Since then she never has liked chickens or birds of any kind. But I don't understand why Butch teases her like that." "He's a boy," explained Jo, who herself had two younger brothers. "He wants to get her attention and he doesn't know how to do it nicely. Boys do the same kind of thing when they get older, too." She glanced sideways at Matt. "The only way they can think of to get a girl to notice them is to show off doing some fool thing and get their head bashed in." "Hey, now," Matt objected. "When did I do some fool thing to impress you?" Jo's giggle bubbled out. "Oh, you haven't yet, but I expect you will." "You mean like, driving with no hands?" he asked and reached back to lock his fingers together behind his head. "I knew you wouldn't disappoint me," the girl laughed and slid across the seat to nestle under his arm. He brought it down across her shoulders and took the wheel with his left hand. "If you two are going to start smooching," Nora said, "you'd better park the car first. Matt doesn't have to impress me and I don't want to land in a ditch." Matt didn't park the car until they reached Jo's house. The porch light was burning and the front windows were bright, so the couple didn't linger on their walk to the door. Then the door opened and they were ushered inside. Matt never got his kiss. A few moments later, he came whistling back to the car. "I'm stuck back here," Nora told him, indicating Butch's sleeping body. "So I guess you'll have to play my chauffeur." "Right-o," he laughed, adopting his best British accent. "Where to, mum?" "The Hotel Ritz, Jeeves, and no mucking about," she replied, rejoicing to hear the genuine good cheer in his voice. They rode along in silence for awhile. But Nora's mind did not remain on the pleasant evening; it returned to the reasons for Nellie's absence tonight. "Matt," she spoke in the darkness, "do you know why Papa exploded this afternoon?" "You were there," he countered. "I was at first, but when all the yelling started, I-I ducked out." She saw his head nod. "Well, I'll tell you what I know, then you put in what you saw and maybe we can make some sense out of it." "Okay. You first." "Papa drove us into town," Matt began. "I asked him to take me to Fishers', you know why. We talked to Jo's pa first off and after jawing for awhile, he said, 'Did that preacher boy with the phonograph get to your house yet? He come here awhile ago. I met him at the gate and run him off. He headed out your way.' When we'd come onto the road, we had seen the fellow riding a bicycle close to our turnoff. When Joseph Fisher said that, Papa swore under his breath, jumped into the truck and ripped out of there toward home." "He left you behind? You weren't in the truck when he came back?" "No. That's why you need to fill me in on that part." 30 Nora related all she'd seen and heard, except the part about getting the book for Nellie. "Papa told it just about like that," said Matt. "Although he used more colorful words when he was telling it to Mr. Fisher and he left out mentioning Nellie. He just described what he did to the fellow." "But did he say why he was so angry? What does he have against the man?" "It's nothing personal. Later at the Legion Hall, Papa and some of the men were discussing it. Evidently this fellow's religion teaches people to refuse to salute the United States' flag. The men are really worked up about it. Evidently there was something in the Toledo newspapers about them a week or two ago." "What did it say?" "They didn't explain that. I guess you'll have to ask somebody who reads the paper, if you want to find out. But I don't think it concerns us much. The man won't be coming back to our house." Nora let it go. It wouldn't do to burden Matt with her worries. But her mind wouldn't turn loose of it. She had to decide what to do about Nellie's book. When she took her lunch to the counter tomorrow, should she hand Mr. MacIntyre the book or the quarter? It was the quarter. Not because Nora had made up her mind, but because she couldn't find the book. When she came in from the movies last night, Nellie's nose was stuck in that thing. She barely acknowledged Nora's arrival. But later when Nora came back from the bathroom, no red book was visible anywhere in their room. And Nellie was ready to hear all about the movie. Nora tried to tell her sister about what Matt had said, about those people not saluting the American flag. But Nellie was unconcerned. She'd read nearly half the book already and there was nothing wrong with it. There were things she didn't understand, but if it had come out with anything against the United States' flag, she would have seen that. So when Nora sat down for lunch on Monday, she had with her a quarter and Mr. MacIntyre's hat, which she'd found on the ground next to the front steps. Since the young man hadn't come in yet and Danny's back was turned, she quietly placed the hat on the stool nearest the front door and set the coin on the narrow brim. Then she went to her regular stool at the opposite end of the counter and sat down. Danny was mixing her drink when the bells jingled at the entrance. Mr. MacIntyre, bareheaded, but still carrying his two cases, walked in and perched himself on the second stool. "Good morning, Miss Penny." "Hello," Nora replied. "Thank you," he said. "You're welcome." These additional two phrases caused Danny Ogilvie to turn around and eye his customers. But both were busy unwrapping their lunches and had nothing further to say. Danny placed Nora's drink before her and moved on down the counter. He spied the battered cases on the floor. "What happened to your bags, Mac?" he inquired. "They look like they fell off a train." "Oh, they met with unfortunate circumstances yesterday," the young man answered ambiguously without looking at Nora. "Anything broken?" "All my records and the phonograph." "So how come you're still in business today?" "I borrowed some records until I can order more for myself. And we spent all evening fixing the phonograph. It works all right now." "We? Somebody help you?" "Yes. This summer I'm staying with some friends who live a few miles out of town. They treat me like a part of their family." 31 "Where you from? Are you here on vacation?" "I was raised by my grandparents in Toledo. But now that I've chosen the ministry as my career, I decided to go where the workers are few. I plan to spend the summer in this area, then in the fall and winter, I'll move down south." "How much you get paid for this?" "Nothing," he said. "It's a volunteer work." "Then how do you live? How do you pay for your Coke every day?" "I have free lodging with my friends and they supply my meals. I can contribute some by splitting wood and other chores around the place and sometimes the people I preach to give me eggs or produce that I can add to the menu. My grandmother sends me pocket change." "What about those books you sell?" "I use the donations to order more literature." "Doesn't sound like you'll be getting rich off this career," Danny observed with a shake of his head. "There are more important things than getting rich," he said. And Danny dropped the conversation. Nora itched to ask him about the flag salute thing, but she didn't want to offend him if it wasn't true. So she just ate her lunch and slid off the stool to go back to work. That evening Nellie announced she had finished reading her book. But when Nora asked her about Papa's accusations, she was evasive. It absolutely was not communist, she said. And it was full of stories from the Bible; it was very strong about Jesus and the ransom." "What's that?" Nora asked. "Jesus gave his life for us. That's the ransom," Nellie explained. "Oh." "But, Sissy," Nellie continued, "I never paid that boy for the book!" "Don't worry. I did." "You had money with you when you chased him down?" "No. He eats lunch at the soda fountain every day," she explained. "Today I returned his hat that had fallen off our porch rail and gave him twenty-five cents." "Every day? You see him every day?" Nellie questioned her excitedly. "Yes, why?" Nora asked with caution. "Because there are a lot of things in the book I don't understand. I plan to read it again, slowly this time, and check all the scripture texts it gives. But when I come up with a question, could you ask him for me?" Nora flushed all over. "Oh no," she refused. "I couldn't." "But you know him." "Not really. All we ever do is say hello. I could never ask him things, especially in front of Danny." Nellie could see that her sister really meant it; just the thought of talking to the young man put her whole being in distress. She backed off. However, Nellie's desire to get her questions answered was too compelling to abandon. Later in the evening she came up with an alternate plan. "Sissy," she said in their bedroom that night, "if I write out my questions on a sheet of paper, would you be willing to just hand them to him? You wouldn't have to say anything." Nora thought about it. She supposed she could do that. But already she was in complicity with Nellie in something their father highly disapproved. This would only submerge her deeper. And she didn't want to be involved with this, if it really was against the American flag. Nellie was so insistent, though, that Nora finally gave in. She would simply deliver the paper and that would end it. Tuesday morning in the car Kate asked Nora about the book. She had witnessed Nellie begging her to chase after the young man and get it for her. "Did you do it?" 32 Nora couldn't lie. She raised her eyes to Kate's. "Are you going to tell Papa?" "Only if it's necessary," the lady said firmly. "Have you been reading it?" "Oh no, but Nellie says it's full of stories from the Bible and about Jesus' giving His life for us." "She stayed in her room all Sunday evening and all day yesterday," Kate commented. "I assume she was reading." Nora waited. "Do you know how strongly your father feels about that religion?" The girl nodded. "I heard what he said to Mr. MacIntyre and saw what he did to him." "You were gone, though, when he talked to Nellie. Did she tell you what he said?" "Some of it." "Did she mention that he threatened to take a strap to her if she listened to those people again?" Nora gasped. "I don't think Papa has ever struck Nellie in his life!" "Then you can see how adamant he is about this." Kate paused to let her think about it. "Nora, your sister can be headstrong, can't she? And sometimes she doesn't see how much trouble she's making." "That's true," Nora agreed. "Do you think you could talk her into returning that book?" "Never. She's too caught up in it." "Then is there some way you might sneak it out and give it back to the fellow yourself? It would make Nellie angry for awhile, but it would really be in her best interests." The girl didn't say anything to that suggestion and Kate decided not to pursue it further. But the idea stayed with Nora. She wondered what Mr. MacIntyre would say if one day he found his book lying on the end stool. She considered Nellie's possible reactions. She couldn't call it theft, since Nora had paid for it. But she certainly would be hard to live with for awhile. That afternoon Nora discovered in the back stockroom of the store a stack of Toledo newspapers. Mr. Millican brought his old ones in to cushion bottles of medicine in the packing cases. She riffled through the pile until she came to the first week of June, 1940. It would take too long to read through all of them, but maybe between customers she could scan the bold headings. She might spot the article about the flag salute thing. When the twins met under their oak tree Tuesday evening, Nellie confided that she'd started her list of questions for Mr. MacIntyre. "Sissy," Nora said slowly, "are you sure you want to go against Papa in this?" "He won't know anything about it." "Kate knows." "How? Oh, she was there when I asked you to get the book. Did she bring it up? Is she going to tell?" A note of anxiety crept into her voice. "I don't know. But she did say that Papa threatened you." Nellie fell silent and stared at the corner of the blanket they were seated on. "Why didn't you tell me?" Nora asked. "You have to give it back." "Did Kate say that, that I have to give it back?" "She thinks it would be the right thing to do, and I do, too." "Sissy, I'll tell you why Kate is against it. She's a Roman Catholic, isn't she? Well, see what it says here." Nellie pulled the red book out of a deep pocket in her skirt. She flipped some pages while Nora looked guiltily over her shoulder to see if anyone was watching. "Here it is," Nellie announced and pointed to a passage. "Kate doesn't like it because it calls religionists, led by the Roman Catholic Hierarchy, 'the Devil's chief instrument on earth.' Did you know that both Mussolini and Hitler are supported by the Roman Catholic Hierarchy?" "They are? Are you sure?" Nora blurted in amazement. "You mean, the Catholic Church actually approves of all those horrible crimes they're committing?" 33 "That's right. And this book exposes all that. Is it any wonder Catholics, like Kate, are against it?" "But Papa's against it and he's no Catholic." "Papa is a patriotic American and he can't understand why anyone would refuse to pledge allegiance to the flag." "They really won't salute?" Nellie nodded, but held up a finger. "Before you say anything, you need to hear the other side of the question. In the second half of the book, I found the explanation. Let me read it to you." And without a word, yea or nay, from Nora, she plunged right in with her reading. It started out discussing God's view of image worship. Nellie paused after a quotation from the Ten Commandments to say she'd like to read that part to Kate. Then it went on to say that it was wrong to salute a dictator, like Hitler. So far, Nora agreed completely. Then it got to flags. There were references to different sources, saying that the flag was being worshiped, like an image, whenever someone saluted it. "It's just the same as bowing down to it," Nellie interjected. "Now listen carefully to this: 'If the flag is a symbol of a free people, then to compel a person to salute it flatly contradicts that claim.'" Nellie read the sentence again, then completed the section. Nora's face paled. She recognized that the argument was sound. She asked to see the book. Nellie showed her where she'd started reading, then got up and limped away. Nora sat for an hour under the tree, the book on her knees and her heart in her throat. If it hadn't been for Butch, Papa would have come along and caught Nora right out in the open in possession of forbidden material. But the boy came sneaking up behind her and clapped both hands over her eyes. "Guess who," he said in a falsetto that made Nora giggle. "Oh, let's see," she said, good-naturedly playing along. "You must be Nellie. You sound just like her when she's been eating sour cherries." Amidst a series of wheezy breaths, that must be suppressed laughing, the high voice squeaked, "No, guess again." "Well, I don't think it's Matt. His hands smell like cow about this time of day. These hands smell of," she sniffed, "mud. And little boys just love mud. This must be Teddy." "No-o-o," Butch's naturally gruff voice broke loose. "It's me." He came around in front of her. "Teddy can't even talk yet." "Yes, you're right," Nora agreed. "Why didn't I think of that?" "You like that book?" Nora hastily closed it. "I don't know. I just started looking at it." "Nellie reads it all day. Will you read it to me?" "No. I don't think your mother would like that. We'll find another book to read together." "I like this one." He snatched it from her lap and flipped some pages. "Here, this one. Read me this part." Nora looked at the page under his finger. It was a drawing of young David holding Goliath's severed head by the hair. Leave it to a boy to choose the goriest picture in the book. Nora closed it again. "I'll tell you what. Tonight, if your mother says it's all right, I'll read you a story about this boy. But she and Papa don't like this red book. So I'll read it to you from a different book, called The Holy Bible. They like the Bible." "It's the same story?" he wanted to make sure. "It's gonna have the head in it?" "Yes, but if you tell them anything about this red book, I won't read you any story at all." "It's a deal," he said, holding out his hand to shake on it. Nora realized she had given the boy some choice ammunition, if he thought of using it against her or Nellie. But he'd seen both of them reading the book and without some caution against it, he probably would have broadcast the fact indiscriminately. She'd had to take a chance on him. Kate was surprisingly reluctant to allow Nora to read the Bible to Butch. "I could read from your own Bible, if you want," Nora offered. 34 "I don't have one." "You don't?" "The Church doesn't recommend that we read the Bible ourselves," Kate explained. "It's too difficult and we might get the wrong meaning from it. Our priest explains it to us." "On Sundays?" "No, that's when he says Mass and that's all in Latin." "When does he explain the Bible?" "I suppose he would if we made an appointment to go and ask him." Nora was quiet for a little, then she continued. "Does your church believe in the Bible?" "Oh, yes." "Well, so does ours and we read from it every Sunday. Even the children are taught lessons from it in Sunday School. I never thought it was too hard to understand." "All right, Nora; you can read to Stanley, but do you mind doing it in the front room so I can hear it, too?" That night Nora read the story of David and Goliath. It turned into a family thing. Papa switched off the radio to listen and Matt came in to quietly sit on the floor. Nellie emerged from her bedroom. And Kate sat with Teddy in her arms. When it was over, Butch, of course, wanted to hear what came next, so Nora said she would read that tomorrow. Unintentionally, she had started something. The evening reading from the Bible would continue once or twice a week through the coming months. Nora realized that Kate wanted the reading to her son done in her presence, so she could monitor what he was being taught. But the lady would find she was getting a bonus: for the first time in her life, she herself would be hearing what was in the Bible. Nellie's' questions were delivered to Mr. MacIntyre on Wednesday. On Thursday, he brought an envelope addressed to Nellie and slipped it to Nora as he left the counter. Following her lead, he made sure Danny's back was turned and passed it to her without a word, just a smile. At home, the girls sat on the porch and opened the envelope to find a page of handwritten answers to the questions. There were many references to Scripture texts so Nora went to fetch their Bible. "The book repeatedly refers to Almighty God by the name 'Jehovah,'" Nellie had written. "Is that in the Bible? Does that have something to do with the name of your religion?" His answer referred her to four different verses. When she looked them up, she found the name 'Jehovah' in each one. "This is the best one," Nellie told Nora. "Psalm 83:18. It says,: 'That men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the Most High over all the earth.' Look how the name 'Jehovah' is all in large letters in every one of these verses. Why didn't I ever see that before?" "I never noticed it either," Nora admitted. She was impressed by seeing the name there in the Bible. For the second part of the question, he sent them to Isaiah 43:10-12. Here it didn't come right out and say the name but it talked about being witnesses for the Lord. Mr. MacIntyre explained that "Jehovah's witnesses" was more of a description of their work than a title. Then he wrote out the reasons why their church was not a religion. Religion, he said misleads people and milks them of their money. Nellie was pleased with his answers. She went inside to write out some more questions. Nora was left sitting on the porch swing and pondering the things she'd just learned. For some reason she felt a desire to read Nellie's red book from cover to cover. Fear of her father gave her a quiver of anxiety, but she realized she was going to read it anyway. Friday in the stockroom Nora located the article she'd been hunting for in the newspaper. It said that the U.S. Supreme Court on June 3,1940 had ruled in favor of the Minersville, Pennsylvania, school board. The school had expelled two Jehovah's witness children, William and Lillian Gobitis, 35 because they refused to salute the flag. There wasn't much more to the article. It didn't explain why saluting the flag was a requirement for going to school. Or why they were picking on children. Or how these children were supposed to get an education. Suddenly she connected this situation with the mob scene she'd seen in the newsreel last Sunday. The victims of that violence were the same reli--uh, church who were being denied their freedom of worship in the Pennsylvania schools. That mob had been led by men from the American Legion. Papa belonged to the American Legion and he had kicked Mr. MacIntyre, a Jehovah's witness, down the steps. Nora added her various pieces of information to each other and came up with a coherent picture. The picture was disturbing: American citizens were being persecuted by American patriots and American institutions because of their beliefs. This was wrong. Nora asked Mr. Millican for permission to take the old newspaper home. She wanted to show this to Nellie. 36 CHAPTER 5 Mid-July was hot. Everybody said they couldn't remember it ever being so hot before. Sweet corn was ready and they picked it while it was tender. Mounds of corn on the cob graced the table each evening and corn appeared in various forms at every meal, even corn fritters for breakfast. Kate got out Mama's canning pots and jars and lids and tongs. She sent Butch out to help Nora pick vegetables from her garden before work in the morning, and when the girl returned each afternoon, brightly-colored jars of corn, string beans, carrots, pickles, beets, tomatoes or corn relish would line the kitchen counter. When Kate helped Papa and Matt with the hay binding during the day, everyone ate cold leftovers for supper. The twins had moved their afternoon meeting place from under the oak tree to the front porch swing. They decided they needed an electric fan blowing on them to make life bearable, but the cord wouldn't reach across the yard. Nellie was concerned that Kate might hear them discussing the latest they'd learned from the red book or their letters from Mr. MacIntyre. But Nora pointed out that the lady had too much going on in the kitchen for her to have time to eavesdrop. Besides this fan was pretty rattly and made plenty of noise to cover their conversation. Kate hadn't brought up to Nora the matter of the red book since that one time last month. The girls had taken care to keep it out of sight, so maybe she thought it was gone. However, it most definitely was not gone. By now Nora had read it herself and was very interested in the explanations Mr. MacIntyre wrote them. She understood thoroughly the reasons for not saluting the flag, any flag, of any nation, not just the U.S. flag. She wondered what she would do if she were still in school. Sunday morning at breakfast, Kate was happy and light-hearted. But later when the family picked her up after church, her eyes were smoldering and her lips were pressed together in silent anger. Papa tried to cajole her into telling him the problem, but she wouldn't speak a word to anyone, just stared out the side window all the way home. Nora helped the lady prepare dinner, as had become her custom, but it wasn't fun today. Kate slammed things around and even broke a plate. At that Nora laid a hand on her arm. "Kate, have I done something to make you angry?" "No," she replied shortly. "Do you want to talk about it?" "No," she repeated, "I can't. It makes me so mad, I can't put words to it. Yes, I can. That-- that Maude Mason..." She stopped, as if unable to continue. She grabbed the broom to sweep up the broken plate, but instead took it in both hands and landed it with a mighty whack against the doorjamb, sending out a puff of dust. "That's for Maude Mason!" she exclaimed. "What did she do?" Nora knew Mrs. Mason was not a Catholic, so where had Kate met up with her this morning? "Ethel Millican told me," Kate finally found her words, "that Maude Mason is spreading the story all over town that I..." she almost strangled on the sentence, "that I stole two silver spoons from her kitchen when I visited her." "What?" Nora exploded. "You stole...? She's the one who stole the spoons!" "She's a mean-minded, little shriveled-up, dirty-faced," a pause as she searched her vocabulary, "drizzle puss!" Nora's eyes widened. "Where did you get that word?" she demanded, on the verge of giggling. "Danny Ogilvie, who else? It isn't adequate, but anything truly appropriate would send me to hell." Nora felt an almost overwhelming desire to tell Kate that the doctrine of hellfire was a lie of 37 the agents of the Devil. But she swallowed it just in time and instead sympathized with the lady over the assault on her character. Sharing her hurt with Nora helped Kate get enough control of herself to finish preparing dinner with no more casualties. However afterward when Butch balked about taking his nap, she told him sternly she would hear no arguments. She grabbed the flyswatter and dusted the seat of his britches clear to the foot of the stairs. He bellowed all the way up, but he went, and a minute later all was quiet above. Papa and Matt, realizing Kate was in no mood to be crossed, lit a shuck out of her domain, the truck rapidly vanishing down the drive. Nellie vacated, too, but Nora stuck with it until the dishes were all put away and the kitchen was spotless. Moisture streamed from their faces in the hot room, the fire burning low in the great iron stove while a clunky metal fan tried it's best to bring a little comfort. Kate stripped off her apron. "Thank you for helping me," she said. "Now I'm going to change my clothes and pay a call on Maude Mason." Her eyes blazed again and her words had an ominous tone. Nora stepped out of her way. As Kate walked into the living room, she glanced to her right where the door of the girls' room stood open. A flash of annoyance crossed her face, and suddenly without warning, she marched directly into the bedroom. Nellie lay sprawled across the four-poster, her head propped on her hands as she pored over her well-read Salvation book. Kate stomped around the bed and snatched the book from under Nellie's nose. "I should have done this a long time ago," she announced, as she strode out of the room, followed by Nellie's outcries of protest. Nora was caught unawares. She watched with her mouth open as Kate went into the kitchen, opened the fire box in the stove, and after tearing out one section after another, fed the entire book to the fire. Flames shot up as the paper was devoured. Kate threw in the now empty red cover and closed the box with a clang. She turned to face the girls in the doorway. "You two have been deceiving your father long enough. Now that's the end of it. Just be glad I didn't tell him." Nora felt Nellie's whole body tremble with rage. As soon as she caught her breath, it would be bad. Nora quickly clamped a hand hard over her sister's mouth. "Don't," she warned, "don't say it!" "You'd better listen to her," Kate admonished Nellie. "I've had enough of your lip." She sailed past them and went upstairs. Nellie's anger sapped her strength. Her back against the doorframe, she slid to the floor and slumped in a huddle on the floor. Nellie's rage against Kate was every bit as intense and Kate's against Mrs. Mason. Nora guessed the best thing she could do right now was to leave Nellie alone for awhile. She went out back to the barn; there was some dank coolness in there. But it was still oppressive. Then she thought of the creek. The water level would be low but it would still be running. Minutes later Nora was sitting on a stone in the shade with her bare feet dangling in the cool water. The rippling sound of the water soothed, not only her feet, but her feelings as well. Nellie was not the only one who felt angry at Kate. She understood why the woman had destroyed Nellie's book and it wasn't out of spite. She knew Papa's opinion and evidently agreed with it. Today her ill temper because of Mrs. Mason was just enough to push her over the edge. Nora heard the car drive away. Mrs. Mason had better hide in the outhouse. It would have to be there, because Masons had never installed indoor plumbing. She visualized Mrs. Mason standing in their outhouse with her eye to a crack, waiting for Kate Penny with her flaming hair and equally 38 flaming temper to give up and go away. Nora heard hoofbeats and a happy shout. She looked up and across Papa's fence onto the Landalt property. A man was riding one of Mr. Landalt's huge Belgian horses and he had a little girl behind him, her arms wrapped around his waist, her dark pigtails flying. As they rode closer, she noted that they had no saddle and the man's legs flopped up and down in rhythm with the horse's gait. The man was not Mr. Landalt; but someone younger and slimmer, more boyish. He wore bib overalls over a blue checked shirt and no hat. Suddenly Nora recognized Mr. MacIntyre. And the child behind him was little Gracie Landalt. Neither saw Nora as they galloped, whooping and laughing, along the fence line and over a rise. Nora's head whirled. She'd had no inkling that the young man was acquainted with, obviously very acquainted with, her back-door neighbors. Could he be related to them? Or were they the friends he was living with this summer? If there was a connection between the Landalts and the young man, what about his church? Might Fred Landalt have received from Papa the same reception Mr. MacIntyre had, for the same reasons? Was religion the cause of the feud? Bemused, Nora wandered back to the house. Everything seemed quiet. Butch must still be asleep. She dreaded meeting Nellie. There was no telling what state she would be in. Then as she climbed the back steps, she heard Butch's voice. "You're in for it, you know. You're gonna get sizzled and smoked!" "The Bible says there's no such thing as hellfire," came Nellie's reply. "I ain't talkin' about hellfire," the boy said. "I'm talkin' about Ma and what she's gonna do to you." "I don't care," Nellie stated staunchly. Nora hurried inside to see what they were up to. In the doorway between the kitchen and living room stood Nellie. Her right arm was extended upward with her crutch high over her head. She was concentrating on something above her. But before Nora could say a word, Nellie swung herself out of the doorway just as an object crashed to the floor. Nora stared at the broken pieces of Kate's crucifix. As Nellie's figure reappeared, she spotted her sister frozen in shock. They locked eyes. Nellie found her voice first. "Don't jump on me, Sissy. This was my idea and I won't involve you. Just go back outside, so you won't be tempted to either help or hinder me." Butch suddenly forced his way past Nellie, his shoes crunching on pieces of ceramic. "Hey, Nora, come on," he shouted with excitement, and grabbed her hand, whirling her around and dragging her toward the back door. "You got to see what she did to the Virgin. Whopped her head right off with the ax. Just like Goliath." The boy came to a halt by the old tree stump the men used as a block for splitting wood. What had once been the image on the bookshelves was now nothing more than a pile of shattered chunks, none bigger than a hen's egg. Butch was absolutely right: Nellie was in big trouble! "Nellie and I had a run-in today," Kate told Papa. The two were sharing the front porch swing, presumably out of earshot of the rest of the family. Nellie was confined to her bedroom and Matt was somewhere on the property, chasing or being chased by Butch. However, Nora was seated on the front room sofa, her ears keenly tuned in to the adults' conversation. When Kate had returned from her "visit" with Mrs. Mason, she'd been quite happy. Neither girl mentioned anything about the demise of her images and it might have taken some time before she noticed their absence, since Nellie had filled in both empty spots with other objects. But Butch couldn't control his eyes and Kate followed them to the bookshelves. In place of her Mary statue was a hand-painted vase and on the wall over the kitchen doorway hung a small landscape painting. 39 There was no mistaking the perpetrator; Nellie's chin was up, her blue eyes defiant. "Tit for tat," she said. Kate fought her temper. Finally she was able to speak a few words, "You'd better get out of my sight." Nellie complied and went toward her room. In the doorway she paused to say, "Nora had absolutely nothing to do with this." Then she closed the door. She had remained in the bedroom, out of Kate's sight, for hours now. Nora took her an electric fan to make the place endurable, but there was little else she could do for her. At least now she might be able to overhear what doom was about to descend upon the girl's head. "What kind of run-in?" Papa asked. "Did she sass you again?" "You know what an ugly temper I was in after church. It was because I found out Mrs. Mason has been spreading gossip about me. I went over there after you and Matt left and gave her a piece of my mind." Papa chuckled. "I'll bet you did." "But before I left, I caught Nellie with a book a young girl has no business reading. I burned it." "Good for you," he approved. "But I'm sure she didn't thank you kindly." "No, while I was at Mrs. Mason's, she took my Madonna and my crucifix from the front room and smashed them into a hundred pieces." Kate's voice caught. "Walter, I scrimped and saved my money to buy that statue and the crucifix has been in our family for four generations." "I'm sorry, dear. I'm sure she didn't know how much they meant to you." "Oh, yes, she did. But even if she didn't, she had no right to destroy them." "Of course not. I'll go in there now and..." "Wait, please," Kate halted him. "I want to handle this myself. From the day I set foot in this house, Nellie has backtalked me and defied me at every turn. I need to get her respect, Walter, and your yelling at her isn't going to do it." "So what do you want to do?" "I'm going to deal out her punishment myself, but I need you to stand behind me, very firm and rock solid. Otherwise it won't work." "All right. How are you going to punish her?" "I'll have her work to pay off the damages. She can wash dishes, make bread, dust the furniture, all kinds of things." "But, Kate, the child is crippled!" "Her legs are, but people don't normally use their legs to wash dishes. If she managed to take down a statue and remove a crucifix from high over her head on the wall, carry them outside and swing the flat of an axhead to crush them, I figure that girl is capable of a lot more than people think she is." Papa was silent for a few swings. Nora could hear the chains creaking. "Okay, Kate, go ahead with it. As long as you're reasonable, I'll back you up and make sure she obeys. But this is not going to make her like you." "I realize that, but right now I'll settle for some respect." "You certainly deserve that. You know, don't you, that you already have mine?" She murmured something, while the chains stopped creaking. Then Papa said softly, "No matter what your church says, dear, Nellie is right on one thing: having images is wrong." This was met by silence. Moments later Kate said, "I have to start supper." There was a rattling of the chains and Nora came off the sofa like she'd been shot from a cannon. Before Kate got the front door open, she was safe in her bedroom. When her heart stopped hammering, she gave Nellie a full report. "What did I tell you weeks ago?" Nellie said. "It was just a matter of time before her true 40 colors showed. The evil stepmother." "Don't be silly," Nora objected. "If you could see both sides of this, you'd agree that she's justified." "Justified? Sissy, she burned my book! Are you on her side?" "Nellie, please, don't make sides out of it. I liked the book, too. But even though Kate told Papa she had destroyed your book, she didn't tell him what the book was." That made Nellie pause. "That's true. She could have really spilled it and then I'd be locked in this room until my hair grew as long as Rapunzel's." "You really didn't think you'd get away with smashing her things, did you? It was-it was- audacious." Nellie grinned. "Good word. But actually I didn't even think about the consequences. I was just bent on paying her back." "Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord." "I know. I may be sorry someday that I did it, but I'm not yet. It was so satisfying to feel those graven images crunch." Kate delivered her sentence on Nellie directly after supper that evening. The girl would do chores around the house until the damages were paid off. "How long is that?" the girl asked. "Until I say so," Kate said firmly. "You can start by cleaning up the kitchen tonight." "What about the movies?" "If you're finished when Matt and Nora are ready to leave, you may go. And, Nora," a warning finger was aimed at her, "don't you dare help her." Nora was dismayed. She had already decided she would find ways of secretly helping her sister. Now that little scheme was denied her. Nellie would never be done in time tonight, so she would either have to take Butch or sit by herself. Neither prospect was appealing. The Sunday evening picture show had become a weekly event. The twins would go along to chaperon Matt and Jo, but that was just in the car before and after the movie. Nobody complained about the arrangement; after all, the girls were getting to see more movies than they ever would have on their own. Nora's "pocket lettuce," as Danny Ogilvie would call it, was more than enough for their two tickets plus popcorn, Cokes and Tootsie Rolls. Nora would much rather sit through a movie with Nellie, than with Butch any day. The picture was wasted on him since he slept through most of it. But she and Nellie could nudge each other in the romantic scenes, lean against the other in the scarey parts and giggle themselves sick at the comedy. "May I just sit here in the kitchen," Nora asked Kate, "so we can talk?" "That's fine. Then you can also tell Nellie where things go." It was more difficult than Nora imagined to sit and watch her sister struggle with her assignment. Nellie had to remove things from the table one-handed, because of the crutch in her other hand. But she was methodical and got everything transferred to the counter. She asked Nora the simplest things, like "What do I do with these scraps on Butch's plate?" At one point she brushed a bowl off the counter. It landed with a crash. "I'm really getting good at this 'breaking things' business," Nellie muttered, looking at the mess. Nora stood up to fetch the broom, but a voice came from the front room, "Nora, don't help." "I'm sorry, Sissy," she apologized as she sat down again. Nellie did her best. Nora told her how to cover the leftovers and put them in the icebox, where the slop bucket was for scraps to take to the pigs and how to dip hot water from the reservoir in the stove to heat the dishwater. She reminded her to rinse the soap off after washing and to wipe the crumbs from the table and counter, catching them in her hand so she wouldn't have to sweep the floor. At least Nellie didn't mind all the coaching. She actually kept a fairly positive disposition the whole time. 41 But she didn't finish in time. When Matt announced he was ready to leave, half the dishes remained to be wiped and put away. Kate appeared in the doorway and surveyed the room. "This looks really good, Nellie," she pronounced. "Why don't you go on to the movies? The rest of those will air dry while you're gone and when you get home, you can put them up." Nora could have hugged the lady. She didn't, but her "thank you" was especially warm. Even Nellie thanked her for the reprieve. Both girls had a wonderful time at the pictures. They saw "The Flying Deuces" with Laurel and Hardy. Even Butch would have stayed awake for this one. Nora whispered that Matt wasn't doing much kissing; Jo's laugh hadn't missed a single punch line. Nellie's explosive response shot a piece of popcorn out of her mouth. It bounced off the back of the man's head in front of them. The girls dissolved in giggles until Nora had to wipe her streaming eyes to see the movie. On the way home, Nellie teased Matt and Jo mercilessly until Matt threatened to dump her out alongside the road and not come back for her until morning. Nora thought how much more fun everything was when Nellie came along. Monday afternoon as one o'clock approached, Nora felt her body tighten with apprehension. Any minute now Mr. MacIntyre would be coming through the door and today she was going to have to swallow her shyness. She sat on her stool, her sandwich untouched before her on the counter, while Danny prepared a ginger ale for her. Although her ears had been waiting for it, when the bells jingled, she jumped. But the customer wasn't the young man she expected; it was Mrs. Landalt. Right away the lady saw Nora at the counter. It was almost as if she knew the girl would be there. "Hello, Nora; it's nice to see you," she said and climbed onto the stool right next to her. "How have you been?" "Fine." "And the baby? How's the rash?" "It's cleared up now. Kate says it was the corn starch did it. Thank you for telling us about it." "No trouble at all." She set her pocketbook on the counter and looked up at Danny. "I'd like a big, fat chocolate ice cream soda, please." She winked at Nora. "It's been years since I could have one of those all to myself without having to give half of it to the children." "Where are they now?" "Ned's watching them at home. He has a bad cold and I made him stay in today." "Ned?" "Ned MacIntyre. I know you know him. He sent these papers for you." "Oh, I never heard his first name before. Does he live with you?" "For the summer. His grandparents took me in years ago when my father evicted me and I had no place to stay. Ned was in his early teens then, but we've kept in touch." "Your father evicted you?" "Well, that's another story. But Ned has told us about Nellie's interest in the Bible. I've seen some of the questions she's come up with. She's quite a thinker." "Are you and Mr. Landalt of the same faith as Mr. MacIntyre?" "Oh, yes. We go from house-to-house, usually on Sundays when Fred can get away from the farm. Thank you," she told Danny, as he placed a tall, mouth-watering confection before her. The boy stayed close, not saying anything for a change. He puttered here and there, straightening bottles and wiping down the containers. Nora wished he would move on down the counter. She didn't know where he stood on churches and flags. But she had to ask her question. "Your church," she said quietly, "does that have something to do with the fence?" 42 "Yes," said the lady. "It went up right after my husband became a Witness." "Now things are starting to fit together," Nora murmured thoughtfully. "I guess your father hasn't changed his feelings over the years." "No, but Nellie and I don't share his opinion on that." "Does he know?" "Not yet. But Kate does. She hasn't told Papa, but she did burn our red book. Could you tell Mr. MacIntyre we need a new one?" Mrs. Landalt paused and searched Nora's face. "Are you sure?" Nora set her chin, refused to think of the consequences and nodded her head. "Now that I've started to learn, for some reason, I can't let go." "I know what you mean. It affected me that way, too. My pop was opposed, but somehow I wanted to please my heavenly Father more than my earthly father." "Is that why he evicted you?" She smiled and took a swallow of her drink. "He said he wouldn't have a jailbird living in his house. I had volunteered to help out in towns where the brothers were getting harassed by the authorities. We landed in jail quite often in those days. It was exciting and we had more fun!" "Fun? I think it would be horrible to be put in jail!" "Oh, it wasn't so bad. See, Nora, we were arrested because we were doing the right thing. There was no shame in it at all. When you're persecuted for your obedience to Jehovah God, you can endure anything." The girl sat for awhile, thinking about that, while Patsy Landalt finished her soda. "That was wonderful," said the lady and placed some coins on the counter. "I'll have to do this more often." She climbed down from the stool and placed a hand on Nora's arm. "I'll have Ned bring your book tomorrow. I think by then he'll have enough of being sick at home with three children." "Thank you. And thank you for bringing the papers." All afternoon Nora fidgeted. She had so much to tell Nellie, and it was torture to have to wait. Her sister would be excited to hear all about their neighbors and that Nora had placed a request for another red book. She could just imagine the fire of anticipation that would flash in Nellie's blue eyes and the grin that would spread across her face and sink the dimple into her right cheek. If it weren't for Nellie's limp, people would have told the twins apart by the location of that dimple. Nellie's was dead center in her cheek; Nora's was just above the right corner of her mouth. As Matt braked the truck to a halt in the yard, Nora was out the door and up the back steps before the dust settled. Kate, predictably, was in the kitchen. There was a mountain of fresh, sun- dried clean clothes stacked on the table. The lady plucked a snowy white diaper from the mound and deftly folded it this way and that until it was just Teddy's size. It landed atop a neat pile of others on the seat of a chair. "Hi, Nora," Kate cheerfully greeted her. "Sit down and take a load off your feet." "Thank you, but I think I'll skip the foot bath today. Do you know where Nellie is?" Kate silently pointed at the mound of clothes. Nora knit her brow. Then there was a movement of the pile, and as she stepped closer, she saw her sister seated on the other side of it. Nellie's mouth was set in a sour frown. She didn't look up at Nora, but just kept on with her folding and sorting. "We have the sprinkling to do now," said Kate. "It's easy and it goes fast. Then we'll be finished." Kate took the piles of folded clothes into the front room, leaving on the table just the items that were to be ironed tomorrow. Nora decided to watch for awhile. She liked to smell the fresh air scent that rose from a garment when the water hit it. Kate spread out one of Matt's church shirts. Mama's old sprinkler was a Coke bottle full of water with a rubber stopper that squeezed down tightly into the opening and had a tin sprinkler head 43 on it. The lady shook water on one cuff, then up that sleeve, across the collar, down one half of the front, up the other half and down the other sleeve to the cuff. Then she pulled the sleeves over the front, and sprinkling every dry surface along the way, folded the whole shirt in two down the front opening, and starting at the collar, rolled it into a neat, tight roll. Then she handed the bottle to Nellie and coached her through the next shirt. The girl caught on immediately and did it just about as quickly as Kate had. So after showing her how to do trousers and dresses, she left her to finish the pile. Nellie ended with a stack of rolled clothes that looked like a miniature wood pile. As if on cue, Kate bustled back into the room. "I'll finish up here," she said. "Nellie, you're free until after supper. Thank you for all your help today." The girl didn't acknowledge the thanks, but she stood up quickly enough, grabbed her crutch and was out of that kitchen before the lady could change her mind. Nora's excitement was squashed by Nellie's attitude. She had the feeling that her sister had been acting like a brat all day. Kate had remarkable self-restraint in not giving the girl a well- deserved smack in the face. Nora felt like not even telling her sister about Mrs. Landalt. And the way it worked out, she never had a chance. Nellie sat next to her on the porch swing and poured out her woes. Kate had not only made her clean up the kitchen after both breakfast and lunch, but she'd required her to help with the laundry: sorting, scrubbing spots and shirt cuffs and collars, and feeding nearly every garment through the wringer. Kate had handled the pails of hot water and the heavy baskets of wet clothes; she'd hung the clothes on the line and later taken the dry ones down and carried them inside to dump on the table for Nellie to sort and fold. As Nora listened, she thought of the days when she herself had done all that. It hadn't occurred to her then that Nellie was capable of helping her. Of course, the crippled girl couldn't carry a bushel basket full of wet overalls, but there were quite a few things she could handle. Kate had discerned which tasks the girl could do sitting in a chair or propped against something solid and had taught her how. Nora let her sister finish relating her troubles and tried to say a few words of sympathy. But really she didn't think Nellie had been as worked to death as she claimed. Privately she thought that Kate's punishment just might do her a world of good. After supper Nellie was once again ordered to clean up the kitchen. Nora sat at the table to keep her company. "I wonder how long she's going to keep this up," said Nellie. "It looks like it might be forever, since she had Matt make this high stool for me." "When did he do that?" "He knocked it together this afternoon. He's going to work on it more tomorrow." "It does look a little rough around the edges." "He'll sand it down and maybe even paint it." "Have you tried it out yet?" "No. I was done wringing the clothes before he brought it to me. I had to do that leaning against the wall and with my crutch under one arm." She paused with a platter full of silverware in one hand. A little light went on in her eyes. "But I did it, Sissy. I didn't think I could, but I stood there and put every blasted diaper and dress through that wringer. And I didn't squash any fingers." Nora grinned at her. "You're better than I am. Remember that day I caught my shirttail in it?" Nellie laughed. "I never have figured out how you did that." "Neither have I. But I know my brain froze when it happened, and if it hadn't been for you and your fast thinking, I would have been a pancake." "No, but it sure would have eaten the shirt right off your back." Nellie, in a vastly better mood, took her load to the sink. The girls continued chattering pleasantly. Nora thought about relating her news about the neighbors, but there was a danger someone else might hear, so she clamped a lid on it till they were 44 in a safer place. As Nellie, perched on her new stool, started washing the dishes, Nora excused herself and went out the back door to the bathroom. When she emerged, she noticed a strange structure next to the house. The porch did not extend across the entire back of the house. On the other side of the door from the bathroom sat the wringer washer and two large metal laundry tubs on a stand. There the porch ended and the rest of the outside wall was fringed at the bottom by a little flowerbed, a big patch of gooshy mud and a rain barrel at the corner of the house. However, now a number of wooden crates and boxes were stacked under the kitchen window. As Nora started to wonder about it, Butch Frazier came tiptoing around the corner and began to carefully climb the boxes. This was tricky, not only because his scaffold was wobbly in places, but also because he had a chicken in his arms. What in the world was that boy up to? She opened her mouth to shout at him but thought better of it. If she startled him, there could be a catastrophe. Instead she went down the steps. Her intention was to assist him safely off the pile. However, Butch had other things on his mind. Attaining the summit, he reached to grab the windowsill and steady himself on his precarious perch. Then holding the hapless hen by both legs, he shoved her high above his head and gave her a shake. The chicken opened her beak wide, gave a terrified squawk and desperately flapped her wings. From inside the kitchen came an answering shriek, followed by the crash of breaking glass. Butch lost his balance as his boxes gave way under him. He released the hen as he tumbled to the ground, landing face down in the squishy mud. One of the flying boxes flipped the cover off the rain barrel. The hen clung to the windowsill for a few moments, then launched herself to flap furiously over to the safety of the rain barrel lid. It wasn't there. Down she went with a gabble of squawks into the water. Nora paused for an indecisive split second. Should she go to Nellie, to Butch or to the rescue of that ridiculous chicken? The hen seemed to be in the most distress at the moment so she ran to the barrel and fished out the wet bird by the neck. Releasing the hen to her own devices, she now turned to the little boy sprawled at her feet. He rolled over and looked up at her with two brown eyes set in a thick mask of mud. Although there had been no rain for some time, the barrel leaked and the ground around it was thoroughly soaked. The entire front of the boy's shirt was plastered, and of course, now that he had rolled in it, so was his back. "Are you hurt?" Nora asked, her eyes dancing and the dimple appearing at the corner of her mouth. He flexed his arms and legs, then sat up. He spat mud from his mouth. "Nope, not yet." Then she tuned in to the sounds from the kitchen. Nellie was wailing, Papa was shouting and purposeful footsteps stomped toward the door. "Not yet" was right. Nora assumed there would be no Bible reading tonight, since Butch had been spanked, scrubbed and sent to bed early. But everyone else drifted in and sat waiting expectantly, so she picked up the Bible and began reading. Although weeks ago she'd started reading some of the adventures of David, last night she had skipped over to the book of Matthew. Here was Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. The words seemed to have a calming effect on the family. Nellie, her eyes red rimmed from crying, hadn't quite recovered from her traumatic experience; but now a peaceful look stole over her face. Nora, though, had to concentrate on the passage she was reading, because when her mind strayed to Butch's prank, she could feel the giggles rising in her. "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you," Nora read. She wondered if Nellie would ever forgive Butch his trespass. "But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." She couldn't resist a glance at Nellie. But her sister was studying the tassels on the lamp shade. 45 Nora finished the chapter and paused. Nellie took a deep breath. "Kate," she said, "what is that string of black beads you keep in your pocket? I never see you wear it around your neck." "Those are my rosary beads. It isn't a necklace. I use it to pray," Kate replied warily. "But how? Isn't a prayer something you say?" Nellie's face was bland innocence. But everyone knew she was leading up to something. "Yes," said Kate. "The beads just help you keep track of where you are." "Where you are?" The lady drew the beads from her apron pocket. "You start at the cross and work this way. First you recite the Apostle's Creed, then you go on with a series of Ave Marias and Our Fathers and Praises to God. The beads help because when you get into the Ave Marias, there are so many in a row, it's hard to remember how many you've done." "You mean, you repeat the same prayer over and over?" "Yes. The Our Father is the one Nora just read right out of the Bible." "But didn't she also read, 'When ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathens do?'" The question was met with silence. After an uncomfortable minute, Papa said, "Nellie, don't try to tear down another's faith." "I just repeated what Jesus Christ himself said." "Well, I think that's enough for tonight," he announced and stood up to stretch. "I'm going up now." Kate gathered her mending and followed him to the stairway. "Will you girls make sure the lights are out?" "Yes, ma'am," said Nora. The lady paused with one foot on the bottom step. "Nellie, you made an interesting point. I'll have to think about that." And she climbed out of sight up the stairs. The girls exchanged a look of surprise. Did this mean their stepmother was open to reason? 46 CHAPTER 6 It wasn't until after work Tuesday that Nora got to tell Nellie about the Landalts being Jehovah's Witnesses. First, she handed her sister the new Salvation book she'd bought from Ned MacIntyre that afternoon. Then she related her whole conversation with Patsy Landalt. Nellie was elated. Now she knew why some of the Bible explanations she'd read in the book had sounded familiar. They'd been things she and Mrs. Landalt had discussed during her clandestine visits. The girl wasn't as tired today. Tuesday was for ironing and Kate had shown her how to press a pillowcase, a dress and a shirt. But Nellie had taken so long to finish the pieces, they dried out and had to be sprinkled over. It was a good thing, though, because they had come from her attentions with little folds and creases pressed into them in places there weren't supposed to be. So except for the after-meal clean up, Nellie had been free for the day. Wednesday would be bread baking in the morning and clothes mending in the afternoon. Nora had a feeling her sister would be busy all day. So she enjoyed their relaxed conversation now, realizing that tomorrow Nellie would be too tired and grouchy. However, when Nora entered the kitchen that Wednesday afternoon, nobody was there. The table was covered with fresh loaves of bread under linen dishtowels to protect them from flies. She wandered into the vacant living room; not even the radio made a sound. "Nellie! Kate!" she called. No answer. A thorough search revealed that everyone, including Teddy, was gone. How strange. Then she heard the back screen door squeak and bang. Kate came in with the baby on her hip. "Nell...," she began in exasperation as she caught sight of Nora, "oh, Nora. I've been hunting everywhere for your sister and I can't find her. Stanley is gone too." "When did you miss them?" "Nellie disappeared after she finished the lunch dishes. I was going to teach her to darn socks. I didn't discover Stanley gone until about an hour ago. I'd sent him upstairs for his nap and I thought he was in his bedroom. But he stayed so long, I went up to check on him. He was gone." Kate's irritation was beginning to turn into worry. "Where did you look?" "I searched the house from attic to under the porch. I looked in the barn and every outbuilding. I even went out to the fields to see if they were with Walter." "How about the root cellar?" "Yes, that too." "Down by the creek?" "No." "I'll go check. Just let me change clothes." Nora had an ulterior motive as she went into her bedroom. She checked the hiding place Nellie had chosen for her red book. It was missing. And the Bible was gone too. She figured out that Nellie had sneaked away to make a visit on Patsy Landalt. But she didn't have a clue where Butch was. The girl, clad in blue jeans, blouse and sneakers, ran quickly past Kate in the kitchen. "I'll be back in a few minutes," she promised over her shoulder. She didn't want the woman to come with her. Her tired feet felt good in the rubber-soled shoes. She thought it would be nice if she could wear sneakers to work. But the picture that made brought a giggle that jiggled as she ran. Nora went to the creek first to make sure nobody was there, then she headed for the secret opening in the fence. On her way she debated whether to go through it in search of her sister or not. But she was spared the decision. Nellie was approaching from the other side, and racing circles around her like a playful puppy, was Butch. Minus shirt and shoes, he was wearing only bib overalls. The girl paused now 47 and then to swing her crutch at him in annoyance but she never connected. Nora anxiously waited for them at the fence, occasionally glancing behind her for fear Kate had followed her. "Hurry," she whispered and with her hands urged them to move faster. "What's the matter?" Nellie called out. "Shh!" she warned. As Butch and her sister approached, Nora loosened the fence for them. "Kate may be coming any minute; she's been hunting all over the farm for you." "She wouldn't be so worried if Butch hadn't sneaked out and followed me," said Nellie. "I couldn't get him to go home." "How are you going to explain things?" Nora challenged. "I know, I know," shouted Butch. "Don't even think of lying," Nora said firmly. "I don't never lie. Come on, Nellie." He grabbed her hand and tugged. Nora jumped quickly toward her sister to catch her when she stumbled. But the boy hadn't pulled Nellie off balance. Whether thoughtfully or accidentally, he released her in time and raced off toward the creek. The twins looked at each other in puzzlement. Then Nellie shrugged. "We might as well see what his idea is. My brain can't come up with any good alibi." Nora wasn't too sure about this; she had seen some of this boy's bright ideas in operation. But she was curious, so she went with the two through the woods to the edge of the softly murmuring stream. Nora loved the fresh, wet fragrance of moss and soggy leaves. "See?" Butch announced. "We can tell Ma we been down at the crik." "Will she believe that? Why would we be doing anything together?" "We wasn't," he explained. "Here, sit on this rock." He led her gently and helped her down. "You was just sittin' here mindin' your own business. And I snuck up behind." He went around a tree at her back. Since Nellie couldn't see him now, she watched the water, while waiting for him to further explain. He lurked there for half a minute as everything grew quiet. Then with a blood-curdling Indian war whoop, he crashed through the brush and launched himself off the bank right next to Nellie. He hit the water with a terrific splash, spraying water all over the girl, especially her face. Nellie exploded in sputtering anger. She scrambled to her feet faster than Nora had ever seen her move. Butch sat fully clothed in the middle of the creek, a delighted grin all over his freckled face. The splattered girl was helpless to do anything to him. He was out of reach of her crutch and splashing him back would only make him happy. So she had to settle for yelling at him. He continued to sit there, singing, "Coo-ool, clee-ur, waa-ter." Nora hated to have people angry. "Come on, Sissy," she urged. "Let's go back to the house." Nellie didn't hear her. But she heard Butch. Abruptly she stopped hollering and snickered. "You look ridiculous," she said. "You look hot," he replied. "Come on in." "Don't be silly." "It's cool in here," he coaxed. "Coo-ool waa-ter. Keep a movin', Dan; Don't you listen to him, Dan..." "He's right," Nellie said suddenly. "Come on, Sissy. Let's at least take our shoes off." She sat on her rock and started untying her laces. "You go ahead," Nora told her. "I'll go back to the house and tell Kate you're both in the creek. But don't play too long. I want to hear what you learned at Mrs. Landalt's." "Okay. I'll come up in a few minutes." As Nora walked away, she was followed by the mingled laughter of her sister and brother. When she informed Kate where she'd left the two, she put the lady on notice to expect a wringing wet little boy. However, both Kate and Nora were astonished when Nellie showed up just as dripping as Butch. Even more amazing was her good humor about it. She and the boy couldn't stop giggling, as 48 if they shared a huge joke. From disjointed statements, Nora deciphered that Nellie had been wading when a stone had rolled under her good foot and she'd taken a dive. Kate did not cross-examine either of them about their whereabouts all afternoon and she wasn't too put out with Butch for slipping out. Nellie changed into dry clothes and met her sister on the front porch swing. "How did you know where I'd be?" she asked. "It didn't take a genius," Nora replied. "I knew you'd be dying to talk to Mrs. Landalt as soon as you could. So, what happened?" "She agreed to help me learn the Bible. She has a little book called Model Study or something. It's like a school course, only it's for Bible study. First she plays a speech on a phonograph, then she asks me questions to see if I got the point. I'm going to sneak over there whenever I can, so she can teach me more." Nora pushed her foot against the porch rail to make the swing go. She didn't say anything. "What's the matter?" Nellie probed. "Oh, I just wish I could go with you." "I do too, but you have to work all week and after you get home, there's only a little time before milking." "Maybe you could teach me," Nora ventured. "If you learn and remember everything you can, then you can explain it to me." "That might work," Nellie murmured thoughtfully. "I could try, but what if I don't get it straight and I explain it all wrong?" "You won't." "Okay, I'll try." July and August kept everyone busy on the farm. Wheat, and then oats, ripened. Papa drove the tractor to pull the combine. Matt sat on back and bagged the grain, while Kate and Butch raked up the straw that blew out the back. Then Papa and Matt loaded the bags in the truck and took them to be sold at the grain elevator. Meanwhile peaches ripened and the garden produced a profusion of vegetables for Kate and Nellie to can in the steamy hot kitchen. Nora continued to help Matt feed and milk the cows morning and evening and Butch went out with her every morning to pick whatever was ripe in the garden. Although Papa and Matt cut wood and kept the woodshed stocked, Butch's responsibility was to keep his mother's kitchen woodbox filled. Since Nellie had such a prejudice against chickens, the boy also inherited the egg gathering. This turned out to be a good assignment for him. Butch enthusiastically took on the challenge of outwitting the hens when they hid their nests. He was so successful that Nellie started teasing him about being able to think like a chicken. In mid-July Nellie came home from Mrs. Landalt's with a brand new booklet, Judge Rutherford Uncovers Fifth Column. Nora didn't even know what a fifth column was, but she'd heard people use it as a derogatory term in connection with Jehovah's Witnesses. She read the booklet. "Fifth column" referred to a group of people that were secretly in favor of their country's enemies. Judge Rutherford showed that it was not Jehovah's Witnesses who were against the United States, but the clergy, who were really the fifth column. Then in late July, Mr. MacIntyre was absent from the soda fountain for a week. When he returned, he told Danny Ogilvie all about his trip to Detroit for a convention. Nellie got another book, Religion, with a green cover embossed with a crowd of people from many nationalities. Immediately she began disappearing for great lengths of time. Nora knew she was down at the creek with her feet in the water and her nose in the book. As the especially hot summer of 1940 passed, Nellie's feud with Butch unaccountably cooled off and petered out. Nora was perplexed because the boy continued to do the same things that used to bother Nellie. But now the girl reacted with amused tolerance instead of anger, and teased him 49 back. Nellie had finished serving her time at hard labor. Kate had been right about the effect of her discipline on the girl: she had stopped showing disrespect for her, at least outwardly. Now Nellie was required to take a regular turn with the chores just like Nora. The three women each had two nights of dishes a week. Sundays they all pitched in. Nellie, now that she knew how to do the work, accepted her assignment peacefully. One late afternoon in early September after Butch had started back to school, Nora went into the barn to milk. At that moment, Matt was herding the cows in from the field. Nora entered the first stall, dumped silage into the trough and waited for Daisy to put her head in the stanchion. She met the brown and white cow with a pat on her neck as she closed the stanchion. Daisy was happy to munch the corn silage and wait patiently to be relieved of her milk. Nora quickly moved down the line to Marigold, Buttercup and Daffy. Matt met her as he worked from the other end. There were eight fresh cows in all and the girl was glad she didn't have to milk them all herself. Nora grabbed a shining clean bucket and hunkered down on the stool next to Daisy. She would get a head start on Matt, because he couldn't begin milking till he fed Dido and Rowdy, their black Belgian draft horses, who had come in from the pasture with the cows. Papa still used the horses to cultivate the corn field in early summer before the plants grew too high. They also pulled the corn binder when the field corn was ready to harvest in October. The blacks earned their oats during haying time, too. In between times, they grazed the pasture. Matt loved to ride them and Butch was rapidly learning how to keep his seat on Rowdy's broad back. Nora had a good rhythm going in the milk bucket when an insistent mewing caught her ear. There was one of the barn cats, an orange striped kitten, begging for a mouthful of milk. She shot a stream at him, splatting it all over his face. Happily, he got his tongue and paw busy to clean it off. "Hey!" exclaimed Butch from the barn door. "How'd you do that?" "Hi, Butch," she said. "Has anybody ever showed you how to milk?" "No. I betcha can't hit another cat." "Bet I can." He disappeared for a few seconds, then came back carrying a gray tabby around the middle with both ends dragging the floor. Setting it down, he repeated his challenge, "Betcha can't hit..." Before his words were out, the gray tabby was drenched. Butch contemplated the dripping cat. "Betcha can't hit my mouth," he said, opening it wide. "No, I can't," she said. "You're too tall." She was working the left quarters now. Daisy's body was blocking the way. "Meow," said Butch. She glanced up to see him down on all fours. His tongue against the roof of his mouth, he blew air past it, to make a rough purring sound. "Meow," he said again. Nora aimed for his freckled nose. "Me...owp!" he sputtered in surprise. "Ha!" chuckled Matt, as he walked in on the scene. "Betcha can't hit..." His face was out of reach, but Nora drenched his pantleg at the knee. At Matt's yelp of surprise, Butch collapsed giggling on the floor. Matt bent down and lifted the boy up to his shoulder. Milk still dripped off his chin as he tried to rub it off his face with grimy hands. The result was mud streaks. Nora just smiled. She stripped the teats and went to empty the milk into a ten-gallon can. Marigold was next. "I wanna milk her," Butch was insisting down at the other end of the stalls. "Teach me how, Matt." "Not today," he said. "Nora's too far ahead already. But you can help me another way. Sit here on Rosie's back and sing to her. If you keep her distracted, maybe she won't put her foot in the bucket." 50 "She don't buck, does she?" "No, I've never seen her buck, and she can't go anywhere with her head in the stanchion." "Okay. What do I sing?" "Rosie don't care." "Oh, I'm back in the saddle again," Butch warbled. "Out where a friend is a friend. Hey, Matt." "Huh." "What's a hippycrip?" "A hypocrite?" "Yeah. Like them guys Nora read about last night." "That's somebody who talks loud about doing good when all the while he's doing bad himself." "Ridin' the range once more. Totin' my ole forty-four. Jimmy James' pa whupped him for smokin' corn silks in the john and Jimmy James' pa smokes a pipe hisself." Matt made no comment. Butch resumed singing. "Whoopie ti-yi-yo. Rockin' to and fro Back in the saddle again. Hey, Matt." "Huh." "Jesus said, don't call anybody `Father,' cuz God is your Father." "Right." "How come Father Shawn let's people call him `Father?'" "I don't know." "Is Father Shawn a hippycrip?" "Don't ask me," Matt muttered. "Ole Faithful," Butch switched songs. "We rode the range together. Ole Faithful. What's your priest's name?" "Reverend Ferguson." "What's `reverend' mean?" "Ask your ma." "Ole Faithful, in every kind of weather. I ain't gonna call Father Shawn `Father' no more." "What will you call him?" "Mister Shawn." "You might get in trouble for it." "Jesus said," Butch replied shortly. "Ole Faithful..." Nora listened in silence to the boy's questions. She opened her mouth once when he asked what "reverend" meant, but closed it before anything came out. "The only one referred to as `reverend' in the Bible is Almighty God." Where had she heard that? No matter. The significance struck her now. Pastor Ferguson was not God and nobody had any business calling him "Reverend." What did that mean for Nora Penny? She visualized herself greeting the minister after church on Sunday and calling him "Mister Ferguson." Her insides tensed up and sent a tremor through her. Her palms broke out in a clammy sweat. She had to dry them on her pantleg. This was fear and Nora had lived with it all her life. Usually she tried to avoid the situations that triggered it. But could she sidestep this one? Nora worried about Sunday all week. She wondered if Butch thought about it as much as she did. But not a word was said by either of them. By the dreaded day, Nora had come to a firm decision not to say "reverend." Butch was right; if Jesus said not to do something, that was that! If Jesus commanded us not to call someone "Father," he surely wouldn't approve of calling somebody "Reverend." Nora didn't hear any of the sermon that Sunday morning. Nellie sat next to her with her Bible open on her lap. She wasn't paying attention either, but Nellie had been doing this for the past few weeks. She completely tuned out the preacher's voice and just read her Bible. Nora fought her 51 nerves. She prayed for courage and swallowed the lump that rose in her throat every few minutes. Then the service ended. She mechanically nodded and smiled to the people who greeted her by name. They all used to speak to the family by addressing Papa. But since Nora had been working in the drug store, many now talked to her directly. She wished they wouldn't. Slowly the aisle cleared and Papa led the girls out of the pew. Matt had sat with Jo's family today and he was already outside. Kate had taken Teddy with her and Butch to the Catholic Church. Papa shook the pastor's hand and spoke a few words to him. Nora was directly behind him, her heart thumping mercilessly, her breathing fast and shallow. She prayed again for courage. "Good morning, Nora," said the preacher, nodding his head. "Are you all right? You seemed a little restless during the sermon." "I'm fine..." she said, thinking wildly that she could let it go at that. But that would be cowardly. "...Mister Ferguson," she ended in a faint voice. She looked quickly away and went down the steps to follow Papa. But she'd caught the odd look that flashed over his face at her words. She knew Papa hadn't heard; he would already be demanding an explanation if he had. Her heart was still racing when Nellie caught up. "Sissy," she said, "did you really say..." Nora gave her a warning look. "Tell you later," she whispered and climbed into the car. Nellie got in beside her, but her silence was bristling with questions. She was in extreme danger of erupting at any moment. "Matt is going over to Fishers' for Sunday dinner," Papa announced, with his head stuck through the driver's window opening, "so we don't have to wait for him." He went up front to crank the car. "What did you call him?" Nellie blurted in a hissing whisper. "`Mister.' I called him `Mister Ferguson.' Now be quiet! I'll explain later." Papa climbed into the front seat and off they went, two blocks down Park Street, to the Catholic church. Kate was standing on the sidewalk. She had Teddy on one arm, Butch by the other hand and a thunderstorm all over her face. She let go the boy's hand to open the door, but then she seized him by the back of the collar and hoisted him roughly into the front seat. Nora noticed the top of his ear was bright red as if it had recently been used as a handle. "You in trouble, son?" Papa murmured. "Yep," he said. "This child," Kate began, as they drove on down the street, "called the Father, `Mister Shawn!' Very loudly in front of half a dozen people. And he refused to correct it when I told him to." "How come?" Papa asked. "I don't know," she stated in exasperation. "Ask him." "Why didn't you call him `Father?'" he questioned the boy. His tone was surprisingly gentle. "Because Jesus said." "Jesus said what?" "Don't call nobody `Father.'" No one said a word as the car passed the town limits and headed down a country road. Nellie was squeezing Nora's arm until her fingers made bruises. Nora barely noticed; she held her breath, her heart hammering. "What can you say to that, Kate?" Papa said. "We all heard it right out of the Bible. Jesus said." Kate made no reply, Nora breathed, and the family rode in silence the rest of the way home. That afternoon, as they sat by the creek, Nora was the recipient of Nellie's unconcealed admiration. "You did the right thing, Sissy. Now that you've explained it to me, I see how wrong it is to give titles to men, especially to teachers of religion. You were so brave to stand there and say `Mister' to his face." "Not as brave as Butch. I almost whispered it, but he blasted it out for everybody to hear. 52 And he's the one who understood the issue in the first place." "I'll tell you a secret," Nellie murmured, leaning close. "Before school started, Butch sneaked out and went with me to Mrs. Landalt's whenever I had my Bible lessons." "Neither of you got caught?" "Once Kate saw us come through the fence and I thought the jig was up. But she looked straight at Butch and asked, `Has Mister Penny ever told you not to go over there?' Butch said, `Nope.' And she said, `If he ever does, you'll have to obey him, you know.' She didn't ask me; she didn't even look at me. But she was warning us to be careful not to let Papa catch us." "Kate doesn't have anything against the Landalts. I guess she doesn't mind Butch going over to play with the kids." Nellie giggled. "What she doesn't know is, Butch didn't go to play. He sat in on the lessons. And now that he can't go with me anymore, he makes me tell him everything after school, just like you do." Understanding flickered through Nora's mind. So that was why Nellie and Butch had become friends. And that was why Butch wanted Nora to read the Bible to him. Their new little brother was not all dirty face and horseplay; he had hidden depths. "Sissy," Nellie said thoughtfully. "I really want to go to one of the Jehovah's Witness meetings." "They have a church in town?" Nora exclaimed in surprise. "It's not a real church. They meet in a room over the barber shop. They call it a `Kingdom Hall' instead of a church." "I didn't know that. When are their services?" "Wednesday nights and Sunday nights." "Not Sunday morning?" "No, they go out and preach during the day." "How are you going to get there?" "You're going to take me." "I am!" "So you've got to learn to drive the car." Nora just stared, flabbergasted, at her sister. Nellie went on. "Don't tell anybody why you want to drive, just ask Matt to teach you. Then you and I can get Papa's permission to borrow the car and we'll go into town for the meeting." "But, but, Sissy," Nora sputtered. "Don't worry. I have it all figured out." Nora moaned. But she reluctantly agreed to bring up the subject this evening at the supper table. However, other matters took everyone's attention during supper that night. Matt had brought Jo home with him to eat with the family. After everyone had filled their plates, Matt cleared his throat, glanced at Jo, then Papa and said, "I'd like to talk to you all about something." When they lowered their forks and looked at him, he reached down to take Jo's hand. "Jo and I are going to get married." "Whoopie!" Butch exploded, which expressed everybody's reaction. An excited chatter broke out around the table until Matt quelled it with a "Let me finish." "What we would like to do," he continued, "is to have the wedding next Friday. The oats are in and we won't be planting wheat until after the 21st. We could have next weekend to go away for a honeymoon. Then I'd be back to help cut the corn for silage." Papa nodded. "I see no problem with that." Obviously Matt had already talked to him about his plans. "Where you gonna live?" Butch asked anxiously. "You ain't moving away, are you?" "They're going to live right here with us," said Papa. "Until I build a house for us," added Matt. 53 "Where you gonna build the house?" Butch persisted. "Not far away," his brother promised. "Papa says we can have a piece of the farm acreage. But we need to find out how the rest of you feel about this. It's going to uproot Butch from my bedroom." "I'll sleep on the floor," the boy volunteered. "We'll make a place for you, son," Papa told him. "You won't wind up on the floor." "But I like to sleep on the floor," he insisted. They let it drop. "Kate," said Jo, "what do you think about having another mouth in the house?" "I think it will be wonderful. That mouth of yours, dear, puts out the most delightful laugh in the state of Ohio." Jo covered her mouth and ducked her head in embarrassment, but bubbles of her famous laugh leaked out from behind her hand. "Nellie, Nora," said Matt. "We haven't heard your opinion." "I'm for it," Nellie replied immediately. Her blue eyes twinkled with mischief. "We can always use another pair of hands in the dishwater." "Oh, I wouldn't want to deprive you of your enjoyment," Jo teased. "I plan to just sit and listen to the radio and have you all wait on me hand and foot. And every night Matt and I will go out dancing or to the picture show." Amid the laughter, Nellie snapped her fingers. "Speaking of the pictures, we'd better get a move on or we'll be late tonight." "Jo and I," said Matt, "have a lot of things to talk about. We won't be going tonight." "But how will Sissy and I get there?" Nellie objected. "I'll drive you there and come back for you when it's over," he said. "You're going to have to teach Sissy to drive the car," Nellie suggested. Nora had forgotten all about that; her stomach knotted up. Matt was looking at her appraisingly, then he turned to Papa. "What do you think of that idea?" Papa pointed his fork at Nora. "Do you want to learn to drive?" "I guess so," she said uncertainly. "Do you think you can?" "Of course, she can," Kate asserted. "Any woman can operate an automobile just as well as any man." Matt and Papa hooted at that. "Well, if she wants to learn, go ahead and teach her," Walter Penny decided. "But while you're at it, be sure you show her how to fix a flat tire. Kate, do you know how to fix a flat?" "No." "Matt, you'd better teach Kate while you're at it. How about you, Jo?" "My pa taught me. I help him with it all the time. I can drive horses and tractors, too." Papa grinned. "Welcome to the family, daughter." Nora had her first driving lesson that very evening. Matt put her in the driver's seat when they were ready to go into town. She'd watched others drive and it looked easy enough, but she quickly discovered it wasn't so simple. The Model T went galloping out of the yard with Butch, who was with them, shouting in delight. Everybody but Nora was laughing when she pulled up in front of the movie house. Neglecting the clutch pedal, she braked to a smooth stop and killed the engine with a huge jerk. She covered her face and leaned her forehead against the steering wheel in utter humiliation. "Quit laughing, everyone," Jo commanded. "Nora, you did fine for your first time. I did worse; I drove Pa's truck into the hog pen. It hit a big old sow and made a dent in the front bumper. Then all the little piggies ran out the hole in the fence and we spent two hours rounding them up. Pa wouldn't let me touch the truck again for a whole year." 54 "You don't have pigs at your house," Butch said. "Not at this house in town," Jo explained. "But we've only lived here for about a year. Before Pa hurt his back, we had a farm like you do." "With horses and cows and cats and..." the boy elaborated. "Yes, with all those," she said. "Now, if you don't jump out pretty soon, you'll miss the cartoon." Butch and the twins stepped out on the sidewalk. "We'll be at Jo's house until the movie lets out," said Matt, as he slid into the driver's seat. "If I'm not here when you come out, wait for me." "Okay," said Nellie, "but if you're too late, we'll be frozen." September days were still warm, but it was turning chilly at night now. Although the girls had brought sweaters, Butch had only the shirt on his back. "I'll be here," Matt promised and drove off. Nora, Nellie and Butch did not see a movie that Sunday night. As Nora stepped up to the ticket booth, Nellie grabbed her arm and swung her around. "Sissy, look," she whispered and pointed catty-corner across the street. "What?" All Nora saw was the barber shop, closed and dark, the red and blue striped pole guarding the door. Then her eyes traveled upward to the soft yellow glow coming from the windows upstairs. The room above the barber shop--that was where Nellie said Jehovah's Witnesses held their meetings. This was Sunday night. "What?" Butch asked. "What is it, Nellie-belly?" "Shut up, dope," she retorted. "It's the Kingdom Hall. I'm going over there. Sissy, you and Sta-an-leee can go see the movie. I'll meet you here when you come out." "Wait a minute," Butch objected. "I'm going with you. I want to go to the meeting." "Okay, then, don't stand there with a hole in your head. Let's go." Nora stood in indecision as they started across the street. What if Matt came back too soon? Would he tell Papa? She shuddered and turned back to the ticket booth. Then she closed her pocketbook with a snap and took off running to catch up with her brother and sister. The trio were not found out that evening. They were all waiting innocently in front of the movie house when Matt came for them. He made Nora, under protest, drive the truck home. This time she remembered to push in the clutch when they got into the yard. And she did not run into the hog pen. Every day the next week Kate had Nora drive the car into town in the morning and Matt put her behind the wheel of the truck on the way home. Besides some near misses and quite a bit of hopping due to mismanagement of the clutch, she did fairly well. Nellie hoped her sister would get the hang of it well enough by Sunday to be entrusted with a vehicle to go to the movies. Nora herself didn't entertain any such ambition, especially when Butch started calling the car "Frog." There was no way Nora could concentrate on driving while carrying on a conversation, so Tuesday when Matt came for her at work, she sat for a few minutes without putting the car in gear. "Matt," she said, "I'm really happy for you and Jo." "Thank you." "And I'm glad you decided to get married instead of joining the Navy." He paused before making his reply. "It may not be one or the other, Nora. If America gets into this war, I'll go. I've talked it over with Jo and she understands." "You'd just abandon her?" "She'll wait. But until the President officially declares war, I'll stay and start working on our house. I hope it will be finished before I have to go. But if not, it will wait, too." "Is the war that important to you?" "Hitler has to be stopped." Matt had definitely made up his mind. With a sad heart, Nora shifted into reverse and let out the clutch. Friday evening the Penny family, decked out in their church clothes, congregated in Joseph 55 Fisher's front room. There the Baptist preacher, Mister Ferguson, performed the simple ceremony that made Matt and Jo husband and wife. Nora was touched when Jo asked her to be her maid of honor. Jo's brother Buddy stood up with Matt. Afterward they sat around and had cake and punch. Butch and Oliver and Henry Fisher discovered how hilarious it was to offer each other "punch" and then use it as a verb. Mrs. Fisher didn't try to stop the game; she just told them to go outside. She tried to look happy for the occasion, but it was hard on her to lose her only daughter. When Matt carried Jo's suitcase out to the truck, he caught the little boys tying a string of tin cans to the back bumper. He came inside with the confiscated decoration, plus a crookedly-lettered sign that said, "JUST MARRED." Papa and Joseph Fisher guffawed and hooted. But Matt took his bride's hand and hurried out the door. They drove off with a fearful clatter of tin cans. The boys had attached two lines, and in the dark, Matt hadn't seen the other one. The youngsters jumped up and down with laughter as they saw the truck pull over to the curb and Matt climb out with his jackknife. His threat to hang them up by their ears when he got home just added to their happiness. "Just wait," muttered Oliver, "till they see what I put in Jo's bag." The other boys giggled themselves right down to the sidewalk. The adults on the porch evidently didn't hear Oliver's ominous statement, but Nora did. Later she tried to get Butch to reveal what booby trap Oliver had planted in his sister's suitcase, but he wouldn't tell. So the newlyweds were off on their honeymoon. Kate and Nora spent all day Saturday cleaning Matt's bedroom from ceiling to floor. Butch's clothes and personal treasures were put into two crates and moved into a crawl space in his parents' room. He would be sleeping on the davenport downstairs until the family could figure out some other arrangement. However, Saturday night after the twins had turned off their light and they lay talking in the dark, a little tapping at their door made them pause. The tapping came again. "Who's there?" Nellie challenged. "It's me," came Butch's gruff voice. "What do you want?" "Can I come in?" "What for?" "I need to ask you something." "What?" "Come in, Butch," Nora intervened. "And switch on the light." He did. He stood with a pillow in one hand and the corner of a blanket in the other. Although Matt and Jo weren't back yet, Kate had put clean linen on Matt's bed. So Butch had been ousted from his room a day early. His eyes blinked now in the sudden light. "Can I sleep in here, please? I don't snore." "What's wrong with the couch?" Nellie demanded. "I ain't never slept in a room by myself before." "It won't do any harm, Sissy," Nora said, her heart touched with sympathy. "We don't have room for any more bodies in this bed." "I don't need a bed," said Butch. "I like to sleep on the floor." "Well, okay," Nellie agreed. "You'd better go get your other blanket," Nora suggested. "It gets cold on the floor." "What I really need is a dog," said Butch. "He'd keep me warm and I wouldn't get lonesome." The boy went to get his blanket. He arranged his bedding on the throw rug at the end of their footboard and contentedly went to sleep. Nora just hoped she would remember him in the morning and not kick him on her way out to milk. Something would have to be done about this right away. She and Nellie couldn't have a 56 seven-year-old boy permanently sharing their bedroom. 57 CHAPTER 7 Something unusual was going on. Nobody said anything about it, but as soon as the Pennys arrived at the Baptist church Sunday morning, Nora sensed things weren't normal. The men huddled together in small groups outside; their voice tones, gestures and the way they stood radiated agitation. The women seemed strangely quiet. Nora and Nellie sat down in their pew to wait for the services to start. Papa, a hard, determined look on his face, appeared in the aisle beside them. He leaned over and said, "I have something important to take care of this morning. Here are the car keys. After church, Nora, you drive the car down to get Kate and you all go on home. I'll have someone bring me home later." "But, Papa..." Nellie protested. "Don't ask questions," he said firmly. "Just do what I say." He straightened up and strode back down the aisle. "What in the world is going on?" Nellie exclaimed. The girls turned in their seats to see other men giving instructions to their families and leaving. "It sounds like Papa won't be back all morning," observed Nellie. "He must be going somewhere with one of his friends." "Well, if he isn't here to watch us, I'm not going to sit through this religious service. It's all lies, anyway." Nellie started to get up. Nora pulled her back down. "Sissy, all these people will see you leave. Somebody is bound to tell Papa." Nellie knit her brow and thought about it. Then her chin came up. "It's time I took my stand for Jehovah. I can't be true to Him when I'm a member of a church full of lies. Sissy, I'm walking out today and nobody will ever be able to make me come back." Nora saw the set purpose in her sister's face. Her insides went hollow. Nellie was going to bring their father's fury down on her head. If she herself allowed her mind to think about Nellie's reasons, she knew she would agree with them. But the consequences loomed over her like the blade of a guillotine and she couldn't face them. She pushed away her sister's words and threw up a wall so they wouldn't plague her. Nora sat and watched her twin get up and limp down the aisle, out of the Baptist church. However, disquieting thoughts jumped over her wall and interfered with Nora's attention to the sermon. What lies? Well, Nellie had shown her in the Bible that Jesus was not Almighty God; Jehovah was. Jesus was the Son of God and the reigning King of the Kingdom in heaven. She had also come to see that there was no burning hellfire for the bad people. This lie was especially disturbing because it painted God as a sadistic torturer. She contrasted the service she was now attending to the meeting they'd gone to last Sunday evening. Here the preacher took one scripture text and expounded on it for an hour. There they had an organized group study of a WatchTower article. The audience had a share in the discussion and various verses were read, not just one. And there had been no collection plate, she thought as the Baptist plate passed in front of her. The only thing Nora could remember of today's sermon was a lot of railing against Communists and Nazis. But Nellie had shown her scriptures that said Christians were not to be part of the world, so it was wrong to preach politics. They were supposed to be neutral. Even the final prayer asked God to "lay in ruins the abomination of the Nazi party" and "annihilate the communists." Nora did not say Amen. People came up and asked a lot of questions after the services. Was Nellie feeling all right? Was her father sick? Nora had a difficult time not lying. Nellie was fine as far as she knew. So was Papa. No, she didn't know where he'd gone; he didn't say. No, Nellie hadn't said where she was going, either. "Hello, Rev...Mister Ferguson," she said, not shaking his hand. This time she looked 58 him in the eye when she spoke. "Why did you say that?" he asked. "Jesus said it's wrong to give titles to men. The only one referred to as 'reverend' in the Bible is Almighty God." As she repeated the sentence, Nora remembered who had said it: Ned MacIntyre on the day she had started work at the drug store. "I'd like you to show me that sometime," Mr. Ferguson challenged. He clearly was not happy with her statement. Nora couldn't promise to show it to him; she didn't know where it was herself. So she just ducked her head and went down the steps. Nellie was waiting in the car. Nora pulled out Papa's keys. She had never started the Model T before; Kate or Matt had done it. She fished out the crank and went to the front of the car. Then she realized she didn't know which way to turn it. It didn't seem to want to go either way. She left the crank in position and went back to Nellie. "I don't know how to start it," she confessed. "I'll have to walk down and get Kate." "Ask somebody here," Nellie suggested. "Ask the preacher." "No, he's mad at me because I called him 'Mister.'" "You did it again?" Nellie grinned, her blue eyes sparkling. "Yes, and this time I told him why." "Good for you." "Hey, Nora!" someone shouted. She looked up to see Buddy Fisher, Jo's older brother. "You need a crank on this puddlebuster?" he asked. "Yes, please," she said. "Okay, hop in. I'll give it a whirl." A minute later, with the engine running smoothly, they were ready to go. Nora eased the clutch out while stepping on the gas. Without a single hop, the car moved from the curb and sailed down Park Street. Nellie was praising her enthusiastically when they approached the Catholic church. People stood on the front steps, but Kate and Butch weren't among them. Nora knew she couldn't stop for long in the middle of the street; she would have to park or drive around the block. She drove around the block. Now a big long space was available along the curb opposite the church. Nora aimed for it. Parking there looked so easy, but when she finished, the two right tires were up on the sidewalk. The car stalled. She would have to leave it like this until Kate came. Nora got out and climbed into the back seat with Nellie. Sitting at such an angle gave them the giggles. Then they saw Kate coming across the street. Her eyebrows went up as she noted the peculiar slant of the car and the empty front seat. "Where's your father?" she asked. "We don't know," Nellie reported. "He got into a car with a bunch of other men and they drove away. Most of them were wearing their American Legion hats. He said he'd be home later." "So Nora drove the car?" she assumed. "I tried," said Nora. Butch cranked the car while Kate handed the baby to Nellie and climbed uphill into the driver's seat. "Where do you suppose the men went?" Kate asked as they headed home. "You don't have any clues?" Nellie inquired. "No, Walter didn't say a word about it to me this morning." "I think it was something he didn't know about until we got to church," commented Nora. "Come to think of it," Kate said, "several men at our church who are usually there every Sunday were missing today. I hope it isn't something serious, something about the war. When we get home, we'll see if the radio news says anything." 59 However, there were no news broadcasts at that time, just big band music and advertisements. Papa didn't get home for dinner. It was strange to eat a meal with their men absent. While the three women were doing up the dishes, Kate went to answer the telephone. Nellie was talking to her sister, but suddenly Nora cut her off. Kate was saying, "Oh, hello, Patsy. What a nice surprise... Yes, everyone's healthy here...They sure did. They're off on their honeymoon right now...They'll be living with us for awhile...You do? How thoughtful...I will. Right away. Thank you...Good-bye." Kate returned to the kitchen. "That was Patsy Landalt," she announced. "She heard about Matt and Jo and she has a wedding gift for them. Will one of you go out to the fence and get it? She says she'll meet you there." "Go ahead, Sissy," Nellie said. "You can get there faster." Kate untied Nora's apron and pulled it off. Nora slipped into her loafers and slammed out the back door. Butch caught sight of her, and there was nothing for it, he had to go, too. Nora had no inkling there was a problem until she saw Patsy Landalt's face. It was drawn with worry lines, her eyes darkly serious, as she handed a package to Nora over the fence. "Thank you," the girl murmured. "Is there some trouble?" she ventured. "Yes," said the neighbor lady, "there's big trouble and I really don't know if you can help. My husband and Ned went to Cottage Grove this morning to do some street work, handing out WatchTowers and Consolations. About an hour ago they came home and Ned is a mess. A mob of American Legion men attacked them and some other Witnesses. Everyone escaped, except poor Ned." "What happened to him?" Butch asked. "First, they beat him with sticks and a baseball bat. He's a mass of bruises. Then they," her voice broke and she took a deep breath, "they tarred and feathered him." "What?" Nora exclaimed in horror. "They actually did that?" "Yes. Thank goodness they left his underwear on. But his arms and legs and face are covered with burns from the hot tar. We got most of the tar off, but he's in a lot of pain." Nora felt tears well up in her eyes. She couldn't say a word. "Then some in the mob started shouting to lynch him." "What's lynch?" asked Butch. "Hang," said Patsy. "They wanted to hang the boy for preaching the gospel of the Kingdom. In the confusion, Fred took off his coat and tie, sneaked back into the crowd and dragged Ned into the brush. Somehow he got him out of there and carried him home. But the mob is out looking for Ned. We received word that the home of every Witness in Cottage Grove has been ransacked. And they're moving this way." "We got to hide him!" Butch shouted. "We got to hide him fast!" "Our place will be searched for sure," Patsy said. "And probably the Kingdom Hall and all the other Witnesses' homes. I know this is asking a lot, Nora, but is there some place on your property he could hide? Your father is in the American Legion and they would never look for Ned on Walter Penny's farm." "The haymow!" said Butch. "No," Nora objected, thinking hard. "Matt will go up there in the morning to fork fresh bedding down for the stock." "The woodshed is full," Butch muttered. "Do you have an attic room or a basement?" Patsy asked. "No, but there's the root cellar. Kate goes out there now and then, but one of us could offer to go for her. I can take some blankets out there and Butch can bring clean straw to put under them." "Good. Why don't you hurry on back and get things ready. When it's time to bring him, send Butch to the fence to wave to us. You'll need to do it as fast as possible. We don't know how 60 quickly the mob will get here or when your father will get home." "Papa," Nora gasped. "Was he with the mob?" "Yes, Fred said he was." The girl's face went white. But she had no time to think much about it. There was action needed, and now! "Butch, take Mrs. Landalt down the fence line and show her where the opening is. But don't start hauling straw until we get your mother out of the way." Nora turned and ran toward the house, her mind racing faster than her feet. How could they get Ned into the root cellar without Kate seeing? The door of it was clearly visible from the kitchen window. Could one of them invent an errand in town? Could Butch pretend to be sick so she'd have to take him to the doctor? As she approached the house, she had to make herself slow down and act like nothing was wrong. Kate and Nellie were on the last of the dishes. Nora absently laid the package on the kitchen table. "What is it?" Nellie asked. "Did she tell you?" "No, she didn't say." "Didn't you peek?" "No! It belongs to Matt and Jo. Are you done? Come on. Let's go outside." "Would you girls keep an eye on Stanley?" Kate asked. "I want to lie down for a nap." "Sure," agreed Nora. "Do you want him to sleep, too?" "Not unless you can't stand him any more. We'll put him to bed early in our room tonight. I'm sure you two don't want him in with you again." Nora was elated that Kate had solved their major problem. Her bedroom windows faced the front of the house. As long as the rest of them worked quietly, she shouldn't get her suspicions up. Nora hustled Nellie out the back door and quickly explained what was going on. By the time she finished, Butch was back. "I'll go inside," Nellie volunteered, "and listen under Papa's bedroom. I'll hear when the bedsprings creak and we'll know she's safely out of the way. Where are the extra blankets?" "In Papa's room," Nora replied. "We'll use the two off our bed for now. We can manage without them if we need to." "He can use mine," Butch offered. "No, you're sleeping in your mother's room tonight and she would notice," Nora said. "I think it's safe to get the straw now." Nellie went inside, Butch raced for the barn, Nora went to the pantry to get something for Ned to eat. He would need water, and what about light? Papa had been intending to string a wire and install an electric light bulb in the root cellar, but he'd never got to it. When the women had to go down there to get something, they would leave both doors open so they could see. Maybe she could find a candle. Nora was still rummaging when Nellie appeared to announce that the coast was clear. Together they took the blankets from their bed and Nora carried them outside, while Nellie straightened the bedspread. The root cellar had been dug deep into the side of a mound of earth. The outside door opened onto a flight of wooden steps that led down to the inner door. Inside the cellar, shelves lined the back wall and beds of straw hid potatoes, carrots and beets. At this time of year on the shelves, rows and rows of full canning jars sparkled in the sunlight that found its way through both open doors. Nora liked the cool, earthy smell of the cellar. Butch showed up with a wheelbarrow full of clean straw and a pitchfork. He efficiently forked the straw down the stairs. "That's good," Nora approved. "I'll fix his bed now. You go give the signal." The boy disappeared in the blink of an eye. Nora arranged the straw, and rearranged, and arranged it again. It wasn't going to be very comfortable no matter how she did it. When she heard voices nearing the opening, she quickly 61 spread out one of the blankets and hurried up the steps. The sight of Ned MacIntyre in Mr. Landalt's arms was appalling. He was wearing a loose- fitting night shirt. The blanket that had obviously started out on top of him, now trailed on the ground. His hair was gone; they'd had to shave it off to get the tar out. His face and the backs of his hands were red and angry-looking and some yellowish stuff clung to his skin. His eyes were closed. The girl snatched the trailing blanket and stepped aside for Mr. Landalt. He was a big man and strong, or he couldn't have carried the young man so far. He lowered him gently to the straw bed and stood up, in a stooped position so he wouldn't bump his head. "This stuff," he said, fishing a jar and a bottle from his pocket, "is for his burns. It's sulphur mixed with unsalted butter. Patsy says to give him aspirin for the pain. Here's all we had at the house. You'll never know how grateful we are to you folks. We'll move him out as soon as it's safe." The man dropped to one knee beside Ned. "Neddy, boy," he said, "you're in Walter Penny's root cellar, but he don't know it. Nora, Nellie and Butch are going to look out for you and try to keep you hid. We'll bring you home as soon as we can." "Thanks, Fred," whispered the young man. "Thank you for saving my life." "You're going to be okay," the man reassured him. "Remember all this came on you because you are one of Jehovah's servants. He saw it all and He's proud of you, son. So are all the rest of us. Would you like me to say a prayer?" "Would you, please?" So there in the root cellar, Fred Landalt knelt and prayed out loud. Nora had never heard such a moving prayer. It was spoken like a child pleading with his father for protection. He asked God to give Ned strength to get well and to carry on in His service. He prayed for all of them to use wisdom in dealing with the situation. But the thing that impressed her most was that Mr. Landalt was talking to Jehovah, addressing Almighty God by His personal name. When the man rose and said good-bye, Nora had to wipe the tears from her face. He took her hand in both of his big ones. "Thank you again. We all realize what a risk you're taking here. We'll never forget it. And neither will Jehovah. In Hebrews we're told that God will not 'forget your work and the love, which ye showed toward his name, in that ye ministered unto the saints.' Neddy isn't exactly a saint; but he's a pretty good fellow." "We'll do our best for him," Nora promised. "I'd better get out of here before your father comes home," he said and made his departure. Nora stood looking down at Ned. She didn't know what to do now. Then Nellie came to the outside door. "Is he here?" "Yes." She started down the steps one at a time. Nora bent to spread a blanket over him. "Are you hungry?" she asked. "No, just thirsty," he murmured. It was a major undertaking to give him a drink. Any movement of his body was painful to him. But they got him propped up a bit, so he could drink from a tin cup. He claimed the taste of the water was worth the discomfort. Nora said tomorrow she would bring home a straw from the soda fountain. "Ned," Nellie questioned soberly, "was our father part of the mob that did this to you?" He paused a long while before answering. "Yes," he said slowly, "he was there. I didn't see him swing anything at me, but it was pretty confusing. I want you to know, though, that he was among the men who objected to lynching me. He said loud and clear that they were going too far. Somebody called him a 'commie lover' and he punched the guy in the kisser. That started a general brawl. It was during the big fight that Fred got me out of there." Suddenly without any warning, a shadow blocked the sunlight. The three of them looked up and saw, to their dismay, the form of Kate Penny in the doorway. All the unthinkable consequences of their actions rushed in on Nora. Every dreaded thought 62 that she'd pushed out of her mind now stared her in the face: Papa's roaring, his threat of physical punishment, his rage at the Landalts, the danger to them, and especially to Ned MacIntyre. Nora passed a hand over her eyes; she felt sick to her stomach and giddy, as if she might faint. "What is this?" Kate demanded. She descended the steps and moved out of the sunbeam so she could see them. The light fell on Ned's burned and battered face. "What is this?" she repeated, only this time in puzzled amazement. "Who is this? And what happened to him?" She knelt in the straw, touched his blistered forehead, then turned and grabbed Nora by the arm. "Answer me, Nora," she hissed, giving her a shake. "Tell me now; what's going on?" Nora started to cry. She couldn't help it. Although she tried, no words would come out. "I'll tell you," Nellie said. "Please, let go of her." Kate relaxed her grip. "All right, Nellie. You tell me." So Nellie did. She left out nothing, not even Papa's part in it. When she finished, Kate looked down at Ned. "You are a Jehovah's Witness?" she asked. "Yes, ma'am. But I'm not a communist like they accused us. Jehovah's Witnesses are persecuted by the communists because they say we're capitalists. We aren't either one; we're Christians." "That's a pretty eloquent explanation for a man in your shape," she said. "What's this yellow stuff? Never mind, I have a nose; it's sulphur. Has someone given you something for the pain?" "Patsy gave me aspirin." "Good. But I think cool wet cloths might help the burns. Nellie, will you go check on the baby? Nora, go get the rag box and tell Stanley to bring us a pail of water." Bewildered, Nora got to her feet. "Does this mean you're going to help us?" "I may be a Roman Catholic, but I'm still a human being. I'm not going to contribute to this young man's capture, even if he is a Jehovah's Witness. Now, go on and do what I said." Kate's discovery of the secret turned out to be a real blessing. First, she saw to Ned's comfort and care. Then she coordinated the conspirators into a rotating nursing team. Even Butch was shown how to give Ned a drink and make him more comfortable. "We'll all take turns checking on him every half hour until bedtime. Then Nora and Nellie will each go out once during the night. I hope each of you realizes what a great risk we're taking here," she warned them. "If your father finds out, every one of us will suffer. And that young man in there could lose his life. We can't afford a moment of careless-ness. We can't slip even once, with a word or even an expression on our faces. We have to keep our mouths shut!" She looked significantly at Butch when she said this. But Nora didn't worry about him; he knew how to keep a secret. "Since we don't know how Matt or Jo would react if they got suspicious, we'll have to consider them just as dangerous as your father. Here's what we'll do: when Matt and Jo get here, Stanley, you watch Matt, but pretend like you aren't. Just keep track of where he is at all times. Nellie, you take Jo. I'll keep my eye on Walter. Nora is our back-up. If it's Nellie's turn to check on Ned, Nora will watch Jo while Nellie is gone. We have to keep them from seeing us go through that root cellar door." "But what if Matt decides to go out to the barn?" Butch asked. "You'll go with him. If any of them get into a position where they can see the cellar door, one of us will create a diversion." "What's that?" asked Butch. "Trip over a chair and make a big clatter or knock a dish onto the floor, anything that will pull their attention away from the root cellar." "All right!" the boy agreed enthusiastically. "I bet I can do real good versions." "I bet you can," agreed his mother, rumpling his hair. "Matt and Jo's room overlooks the root cellar," Nellie pointed out. "Jo is sure to go in there and I won't have any way to know if she's looking out." 63 "Hmm," Kate thought about the problem. "Nora, run up to Matt's room. Open the window a little and stand there awhile." Nora did as instructed. Butch, with his own set of orders, charged up the stairs after her, but he ducked into Papa's room. She got the window up about six inches and set the handy block of wood on the sill to hold it. A minute later Kate appeared in the yard. She had a blanket in her arms, which she took to the clothesline. Nora saw that the lines were very close to the root cellar door. Kate draped the blanket over one line and turned toward the house. "Can you see the door now?" she called to Nora. "Yes," Nora replied. "Move the blanket away from the pole about two feet. A little more. Now the lower half of the door is blocked but I can still see the top part." Kate went for a prop pole. She set it at one end of the blanket and lifted the line as high as it would go. "Does that help?" she asked. "It almost covers it. Try another pole at the other end of the blanket. That's good. Only a little bit of the door shows now." Nora ran downstairs and helped Kate put up another blanket that would block the view from the kitchen window. They worked out a schedule for who would check on their patient at what time. The twins had to be assigned night duty because theirs was the only bedroom on the ground floor. Butch was immediately sent to play in the front yard so he could alert the women when he saw Papa coming. Their plans had been completed just in time. No sooner had Butch run to the front of the house, than he raced right back. "Mr. Penny is walkin' up the drive right now!" he announced. It was the most difficult evening of Nora's life. She had to pretend that everything was normal, refrain from exchanging any significant looks with another member of the team and conquer her fear every time one of them was in the root cellar. At least they didn't have to make conversation with Papa. He made no attempt to explain his absence today. Sour and taciturn, he wanted to be left alone with his unhappy thoughts. In his dark mood, he was oblivious to the activities of his family. Nora wondered what he was thinking. Was he proud of what he'd done today? Or was he ashamed of his part in the crime they'd committed? Did he feel that it was right to beat and torture a man for his beliefs? Had he helped the mob break into the Witnesses' homes to search for Ned? Had he approved or even helped tear his clothes off and smear hot tar on his body? What would he have done if it had been one of his friends or a member of his own family they were attacking? Would he have done the same? It was Nora's turn to check on Ned. Papa was in the front room with his nose buried in the Sunday paper. Near him Kate quietly sat and darned socks. Butch was playing lookout again--this time for the arrival of the newlyweds. Nora slipped out the back door with a pitcher of fresh water. She ducked behind the blankets on the line and opened the cellar door. Stepping down, she pulled it shut behind her and carefully felt her way down the stairs in the dark. As the inner door creaked open, a wave of sulphur assaulted her nose. "Who is it?" Ned's voice came from the floor. "It's Nora," she said. "Papa's home, so we can't leave the outside door open anymore. We'll have to use the lamp now." Earlier Kate had brought down a coal oil lamp and a box of matches. She'd put them on an upper shelf. Now if Nora could just find them in the dark, without stepping on Ned. "What did your father say?" asked the young man. "Nothing," she replied. Her hand connected with the cool glass of the lamp base. Next to it on the shelf was the match box. "Do you think he suspects anything?" "No." 64 "Do you have to hurry right back?" She considered. "No, I think he'll be reading the paper for awhile." He paused. "Would you mind not lighting the lamp for a few minutes?" "I can't see how to help you." "Just wait on that a little. I want you to tell me what will happen to you and your family if your father discovers me here." "I don't know." "I think it would be pretty serious," he said. "So why are you doing this for me?" "Because what they did to you was wrong. You didn't harm them; all you did was tell the truth. They're doing the Devil's work." It was easier to talk with him in the dark. She didn't feel so shy. Was he aware of that? Was that why he'd asked her not to light the lamp? Ned was silent for a few breaths. "What did you think about the meeting you came to last Sunday?" "I enjoyed it." "Would you like to have a Bible study?" "I already do. Nellie teaches me everything Mrs. Landalt teaches her." "Do you believe it's true?" "It has to be. It's just what the Bible says." "I hope you'll find a way to attend the meetings often." "I don't see how." "If you really want to, you can pray about it. Jesus said, 'Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.'" "Yes, he did." "I'll pray about it, too," he promised. "I guess you can help me now." Nora lit the lamp. It cast a dim glow on the upper part of the cellar but left Ned in deep shadow. She was acutely aware of the fire danger of putting the lamp on the straw-covered floor. Instead she cleared Mason jars off a lower shelf. Once the lamp was in place, she could now see to minister to the young man's needs. There wasn't much she could do for him. Kate was in charge of changing bandages and any embarrassing services that needed to be performed. That left feeding him and giving him a drink. So far, he hadn't been hungry. The only spots on Ned's body they could hold onto were his upper arms. His back was a mass of deep bruises from the beating. His lower arms and hands were swathed in bandages because of the burns. But his underclothes had protected his upper arms and legs and his torso from the hot tar. Nora placed a hand on each arm and helped pull him into a sitting position. She admired his fortitude; he made no sound of anguish, although the procedure must have hurt him considerably. He sat up straight and drank from the cup she put to his mouth. Both of them laughed when she tipped it too far and water ran down his chin. "I know I talk a lot," he sputtered after he swallowed, "but my mouth isn't that big!" "I'm sorry." He was still chuckling, but a little moan escaped him now. "What?" she asked. "Even laughing hurts. Patsy says I don't have any broken ribs, though one or two might be cracked." He gave another little laugh. "If they weren't cracked before she checked me over, they probably are now." "What did she do?" "It wasn't her fault. Fred laid me on the back porch, so I wouldn't get tar and feathers all over the house. She was kneeling beside me when Roy came charging out the back door and plastered himself on her back. She lost her balance and fell on me. One elbow jabbed me in the ribs. I sure let out a bellow with that." He was laughing again. 65 "How can you be so cheerful about this?" she asked, perplexed. "Because this is persecution for bearing Jehovah's name and preaching the Kingdom of Christ. It proves to me that I'm doing the right thing. Second Timothy says that 'all that would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.' And Jesus himself said, 'Blessed are they that have been persecuted for righteousness' sake,' and that we should 'rejoice, and be exceedingly glad.'" "What will you do if you get away from here safely?" "I think Fred will take me to my grandmother's in Toledo until I get well. Then I'll ask for an assignment down south for the winter." "But if you do that, this could happen to you again!" she exclaimed in alarm. "Yes, it might. But we can't let fear of man stop our preaching. That's what the Devil wants; that's why he instigates this kind of mob violence. He's trying to intimidate us into hiding and discontinuing the preaching work. He doesn't want the message broadcast; he doesn't want the people to hear the truth." "I see," said Nora. "But weren't you afraid?" "When the trouble was shaping up, I got a little jittery. But when things really started happening, I felt calm. I'm sure Jehovah was helping me to endure." His voice was getting weaker and his shoulders slumped. "I think I'd better lie down now," he murmured. She fluffed up his straw mattress and lowered him gently onto the blanket. "I'm sorry we have to leave you in the dark now," she apologized. "That's all right," he said. "I'm not afraid of monsters. I know that keeping the lamp burning would be a fire hazard. And someone might notice if the outer door was ajar." "I'll leave the inner door open though," she promised, "so you'll get a little light through the cracks." "Thank you, Nora," he said softly, as she mounted the stairs. "You're welcome," she replied and closed the outer door. A warm flush came to her face. He had never addressed her by her first name before. Matt and Jo arrived in time for milking. Nora had already gone to round up the stock, and when she came in sight of the barn, there was the truck just pulling in. At that moment Nellie was emerging from the root cellar. The space was wide open between the truck and the opening door. Diversion, Nora thought wildly; how could she create a diversion? The thought was barely formed in her brain when out the back door of the house burst Butch. With his blood-curdling Indian war whoop, he launched himself off the top step, his legs and arms windmilling the air. He landed and crumpled into a motionless heap. Matt and Jo piled out of the truck. Matt reached the boy first and with concern bent over his inert form. Suddenly Butch jumped up in his brother's face, throwing his arms around his neck and laughing at his own wonderful joke. Matt straightened up with Butch draped over his shoulder and gave his pants a whack that raised a small cloud of dust. The boy shouted with joy. "Give him four or five more for me," said Jo. "I'll bet a nickle he's the one who put the mouse in my suitcase." "No, I didn't!" Butch protested from his vulnerable position. "I swear on a stack of Bibles, I didn't do it!" "If you aren't guilty, it must be Oliver," she said. "Henry's too squeamish to pick up a mouse. I'll fix him next time I go home." Matt lowered Butch to the ground. No one doubted the boy's word; Butch Frazier wasn't one to tell lies. Nora opened the gate to let the cows into the barn. Dido and Rowdy were already waiting at their feed bin. Matt told Jo he'd be in after the chores were done, and with Butch swinging on his left arm, he headed toward the barn. During the boy's diversion, nobody noticed Nellie come out of the root cellar and slip quietly up to the back porch. 66 That was the closest call they had all evening. Because the bathroom door was out on the back porch, nobody thought it strange for one person or another to walk out the kitchen door. Although Matt and Jo's happiness predominated, Papa's heavy spirits continued and he took little notice of what the family was doing. Nora had the alarm clock under her pillow to wake her at 11 PM. She got up and wrapped her fuzzy robe around her, picked up her loafers and tiptoed to the back door. The house was dark and silent, except for the little creakings and cracks it always made. Out on the bottom step of the porch, she put her shoes on and let her eyes get used to the starlit night. The blankets were no longer on the line; they were now wrapped around Butch's small form on the floor of his mother's room. She could see quite clearly where she was going and walked directly to the root cellar door. It took only a minute to ask Ned if he needed anything, and getting a mumbled negative reply, retreat back up the steps. When she got back, she reset the alarm clock to 2 AM and slid it under Nellie's pillow. Nora went to work in the morning and Butch was off to school. Papa and Matt would be cutting corn for silage all day. So that would leave Kate and Nellie to keep an eye on Jo. Before Mr. Millican unlocked the front door this morning, he paused at the soda fountain and addressed Danny Ogilvie in a serious tone. "You know that fellow who comes in here every day about one o'clock?" "The preacher with the two cases?" "That's him. I don't want you to serve him anymore. If he comes in, you tell him he isn't welcome in this store and ask him to leave." Danny was astonished. "Why, sir, I've never known you to refuse service to a white man. What's wrong with this guy?" "He's a communist." "A communist? Where did you hear that? Mac is no communist." Mr. Millican bristled. "I have it on good authority. He's a Jehovah's Witness, isn't he?" "Well, yes, but I thought communists are all atheists. Mac slings scriptures around like I sling ice cream scoops." "He must be hoodwinking you," the man insisted. "They probably weren't real scriptures from the Bible." "Yes, sir, they were," Nora burst out. Both men looked at her. "Jehovah's Witnesses aren't communists," she added, anger rising in her. "They're Christians. More Christian than the hoodlums who tarred and feathered an honest man yesterday just because they didn't agree with his way of worshipping God." She turned and stalked to the back of the store. Already she regretted her rash words; they could lead to trouble. She didn't know what had gotten into her. Mr. Millican followed her. "Where did you hear about that?" he questioned. She would have to be very careful now. "It wasn't done in secret," she said. "Word gets around." Mollified by her vague answer, he went to unlock the front door. Although she knew Ned MacIntyre would probably never again darken his door, she felt very upset with Mr. Millican's decision to refuse him service. However, the man's introduction of the subject alerted her to the opportunities she might have today to overhear some more details of yesterday's events. She kept her ears open all day and was rewarded with one conversation between Mr. David Turner and Danny Ogilvie. It was while she ate lunch at the counter, so she had a good reason for staying near the speakers. "Heard about the ruckus up to Cottage Grove?" asked Mr. Turner. "Was that the tar and feathering?" "It was. Give that commie a good beating too. I got in two or three licks myself." "What was he doing?" "Marching around with a sign on that said 'Down with Religion' or some such. There were four or five of them, but the others got away. This one was helping everyone else into the getaway 67 car first. We grabbed him off the running board as they were picking up speed out of town. We brought out a flag and told him to salute it. He wouldn't open his mouth. So we let him have it." "You really tarred and feathered him?" "Sure did. He was a sight. Then some said we should string him up, but others didn't think so. A big fight started and the fellow sneaked away in the free-for-all." "Well, it sounds like he'd had enough by that time." "Yeah, but ten or twelve men went hunting him. They broke into the houses of every JW in Cottage Grove. When they didn't find him there, they headed for Armitage. They would have kept on except they showed up at Fred Landalt's." David Turner laughed. "Were you there? What happened?" "No, I'd gone home after the commie got away. But I heard it from Milt Hancock; he was there." "The commie," Danny repeated. "Who was it? Are you talking about that MacIntyre preacher?" "That's the man. He's been living out to Landalts', so the men figured they would find him there. But Landalt met them face to face; you know how big Fred is. Well, he stood there on the bottom step to his front porch." "With a shotgun?" "No, sir, not a weapon in his hands. But on that step he towered over all of them. 'If you're here to make trouble,' he says, 'I'm asking you to turn around and get in your cars.'" "Did they?" "No, they demanded to search the house. Landalt said, No, if they all came in, they'd be a danger to his family. Then Paul Munsey yelled that they should rush him and he led the charge. Ole Fred landed a haymaker on Munsey's jaw that knocked him cold." "One punch?" "Just one. It stopped everybody dead in their tracks. They picked up Paul and all went home." Danny grinned. "So where were the police during all this?" "I didn't see a one. But the Catholic priest over to Cottage Grove was the one who started the whole shebang. He was in there with a baseball bat and I saw him siding with the men who wanted a hanging. Between you and me, son," Mr. Turner confided. "I'm glad the fellow got away." "So am I," Danny agreed. "I liked him." Nora was anxious to repeat the conversation to Nellie. But when she got home, her sister and Jo were busy folding clothes on the kitchen table. The clothesline was full. Something had put them behind with the laundry. There would be more folding and sorting, and then sprinkling, to do as the clothes dried. Butch had arrived home an hour ago, but he and Kate were nowhere to be seen. Nora didn't ask. Maybe they were in the root cellar. She sat by the table and kicked her shoes off. "Well, Jo, I see they've already put you to work," she commented. "Yes," said her sister-in-law, "but it's fair play, since I monopolized them most of the morning." "Jo and I went to her house," reported Nellie, "and packed up a lot of her things. Then when we got them here, Jo and Kate moved them into Matt's room and rearranged everything in there." "It must have been hard to find places to put things," Nora said. "It was. There's still a stack of crates in the corner," Jo replied. "But we'll manage. When Matt gets done with the chores this evening, we're going to pick out the location for our house." Nora smiled because Jo's eyes were sparkling with excitement and happiness. Thumps on the back steps announced that someone was coming. Kate opened the door and held it for Butch, who was toting a bushel basket loaded with dry clothes. As the boy and his mother 68 entered the kitchen, they brought with them the strong odor of sulphur. The two had obviously been changing Ned's bandages. "Whew!" Jo exclaimed, waving her hand in front of her nose. "What stinks?" The women froze, unable to think of an explanation. "Oops!" said Butch. "Excuse me." Jo, Nora and Nellie broke out laughing. Kate feigned annoyance, shook her finger at him and said, "You go use the bathroom, young man." Butch ducked outside, but the odor lingered in the air behind him. Nora knew the sulphur was not on the boy; it was on Kate. However, the lady realized it, too. She went immediately to wash her hands at the kitchen sink and the smell faded. "Did you catch up with the culprit who put the mouse in your suitcase?" Nora inquired of Jo. "Yes, I did. The boys were at school all morning, but just before we left the house, they came home for lunch," she said grimly. Nellie snickered. "It wasn't funny," Jo objected. "The thing gnawed holes in every one of my new clothes. They're all ruined." "It was alive?" Nora exclaimed. "I thought it was a dead mouse." "It is now," said Jo. "And Oliver claims he thought it was dead when he planted it there. He got it from the cat." "What did you do to him?" "She sat on him," reported Nellie happily, "and just about wore a hole in his britches." "Whose britches?" asked Butch, as he reappeared in the kitchen. "Oliver's," Kate told him. "So you'd better remember that Jo knows what to do with mischievous little brothers who play mean tricks." "Well, I don't have to worry about that," he said breezily. "I don't never play mean tricks." Nellie erupted with a coughing fit, while everyone else laughed. Pleased with the general response to his joke, he charged out the back door once more, leaving the door wide open and letting the screen slam. "He's going to make me feel right at home," predicted Jo with a contented smile. Nora took her turn caring for Ned that afternoon and evening. He was in a lot of pain, but he listened eagerly to her account of the conversation at the soda fountain and accepted the drinking straw she brought him. Once more she delayed lighting the lamp and found that she was more comfortable talking to him in the dark. Papa was more in tune with his surroundings today. A day of hard labor in the cornfield had worked out some of his gloomy mood. But Kate didn't take the last load of clothes off the line until after dark and no one noticed the regular visits to the root cellar. Nora went out at 11 again that night and found their patient sleeping. She was awakened briefly when the alarm clock went off under Nellie's pillow and her sister's warmth left the bed. But she had dozed off again by the time Nellie came back. "Sissy!" Nellie shook her. "Sissy, he's gone!" Nora woke with a start. "Gone?" "Yes. Our blankets are still there, all folded in a neat pile, but Ned and the blanket he brought and the burn medicine are gone." Nora lay and looked at the ceiling in the dark. "I think it's okay, Sissy. If someone had taken him to do harm, they wouldn't have folded the blankets. I'm sure he's safe over at Landalts'." "You're right," Nellie agreed. "It just scared me for a minute and I couldn't think straight." "Come back to bed," Nora said. "I'm freezing." Nellie laid her robe across the foot of the bed and climbed in. Nora cuddled close to her sister's back and draped one arm over her. Nellie's cold hand clasped Nora's. They were asleep before the chill had left her fingers. 69 70 CHAPTER 8 Kate made an ambiguous phone call the next morning to Patsy Landalt. She thanked her for sending the wedding gift to Matt and Jo and asked if Patsy had safely received back what Kate had borrowed from her. This vague reference to Ned was not just because Jo was in earshot, but because of the party line. Anyone could be listening. By her response to Patsy's answer, the twins discerned that Ned was all right. Wednesday was one of Nellie's Bible study days. After the baking was finished in the morning, she would wander off toward the creek and end up in Landalts' kitchen. Friday was her other day. Nora looked forward to coming home from work on those days and learning all the things her sister had been taught. It would be Nellie's second recitation of the day, because Butch arrived home from school an hour and a half before Nora came, and he had to hear it first. This Wednesday Nellie had more than Bible facts; she was full of "Ned quotes." Ned was well enough to sit propped up with pillows on the living room couch. He had joined their Bible study. So it was, 'Ned said this' and 'Ned said that' until Nora teased her, "Didn't Mrs. Landalt say anything?" The same thing happened Friday. Nora was glad to hear that the young man was recuperating quickly. Sunday morning at breakfast, Nellie, still in her nightgown and robe, announced she wasn't going to church. Nora went white; she'd completely forgotten her sister's statement when she'd walked out last Sunday. She looked at Papa. Everybody looked at Papa. "I'd like to know why not," he demanded belligerently. "Papa, pretend you were born and raised in Germany," Nellie said. "You belong to the Nazi party because everyone else does and you never really thought about its ways. But now you notice that the party leaders are telling lies and they're misleading the people. Would you stay a member of the Nazi party?" "What kind of question is that?" Papa said, his face red. "Do you think I'm a total nincompoop!?" "No, Papa," Nellie answered calmly. "I think you would love truth enough to resign and never go to their political meetings again." "What are you getting at?" "I think the Baptist church and Mister Ferguson are not telling us the truth and I don't want to be a member anymore." "What do you mean, 'not telling the truth?' And what's this Mister business?" "I thought Butch explained it very well when he told us Jesus said not to give titles to men. Mister Ferguson doesn't deserve to be called 'reverend;' only God does." "So call him 'Mister,'" said Papa. "But that doesn't mean you're going to resign from the church." "That's only one lie," she persisted. "There are others, like the collection plate. When Jesus sent his disciples to preach, he told them, 'Freely ye have received, freely give.' True preachers of God's Word would never charge people to hear the message." "Sounds like a flimsy excuse to me," proclaimed Papa. "I think you just want to sleep in on Sunday mornings." "No, sir," insisted Nellie. "It is not a flimsy excuse. The Baptist church teaches lies. It says God tortures people forever and ever in hellfire. The Bible says the dead are unconscious. The Baptists say Jesus is God; Jesus says he is God's Son. They say the earth will one day be burned up. The Bible says it will become a paradise. Papa, I can't belong to a church that tells lies about God!" Walter Penny set his jaw. "The Penny family has always attended church on Sundays and it's not going to change now. You'll be going with us, girl." "No, sir," said Nellie. 71 Papa raised his eyebrows, then pointed his fork. "You'll be dressed, miss, when we're ready to leave. Or you'll go in your nightclothes. I don't want to hear another word about it." The meal was completed in uncomfortable silence. "Sissy," Nora protested in the bedroom afterward, "aren't you going to get dressed?" Nellie was sitting on the bed, both pillows behind her against the headboard, her Bible open on her lap. "No, I'm not," she said firmly. "I said I'll never go to the Baptist church again and I won't." Nora saw a battle ahead. Both Papa and Nellie were as stubborn as mules. Kate, Butch, Nora and Papa were dressed and waiting in the car with the motor running. Matt and Jo had already left in the pickup. They would be spending the day with the Fishers after church. Nellie did not appear. Nora bit at the ball of her thumb, expecting action at any moment. Papa had already tooted the horn at intervals three times. He wouldn't wait much longer. "Kate," he said, "come hold Nellie's door open until I get back." He stepped out of the car, slammed his door and stomped toward the house. Nora sat helplessly, sick at what Papa could be doing to her sister. Tears coursed down her cheeks. Then she remembered to pray. It was an incoherent prayer, but she addressed it to Jehovah God and asked him to help Nellie. Moments later Papa appeared with Nellie in his arms. The girl still wore her nightgown, robe and slippers. He came carefully down the back steps and across the yard and placed her on the back seat of the car. Nellie wasn't fighting him, and when he put her into the car, she didn't try to get out. She just sat quietly while he closed her door and got into the driver's seat. Nora couldn't believe Papa was doing this. Would he really take her all the way into town in her nightclothes? Would he take her into church? What would people say? The party lines would buzz and it would be all over the county by nightfall. Nellie must be dying of embarrassment, although she didn't look it. She sat with her hands folded in her lap and looked out the side window. When they parked near the church, Nora got out but Nellie didn't. Papa said nothing to the girl in the back seat. He just took Nora's arm and escorted her up the steps into the church. Nora stewed about it all morning. Nellie was right to take her stand on this, but she was also brave. Nora wanted to be out of here. She winced when she detected false reasoning in the sermon; she declined to drop even one copper penny into the collection plate; and she "mistered" the preacher again. But the thought of facing Papa, like Nellie had, gave her the trembles. Then as Nora walked toward the car, Walter Penny turned in his tracks and blocked her path. "I heard you say 'Mister' to the reverend just now," he said. Nora looked straight into his face. She felt her nerves ease and the words came to her tongue. "Nellie's right, Papa. You said so yourself when Butch wouldn't call the priest 'Father.'" He scrutinized her face; then he grinned. "That little rascal sure nailed it," he admitted. "If that youngster and my Nora here can get up the nerve to say 'Mister,' go right ahead and say it." Papa reached out and tweaked Nora's hair before he opened the car door for her. Nellie was still there, sitting primly in her nightgown in front of the Baptist church in the middle of town. Since Papa had been present, no one had asked Nora about her sister. But as she climbed into the car, she could see knots of women whispering together as they made furtive side glances at the Pennys. What were they saying? Could they tell that Nellie was wearing her bathrobe? Papa must have felt that he had won his point. He didn't lecture, roar at or threaten the girl again. He assumed the humiliation his daughter had experienced today was enough to bring her around. However, that night, when Matt and Jo again forwent the movies, Butch and the twins spent 72 their evening at the WatchTower study. Nora drove them into town and Nellie directed her to the house the Witnesses were meeting in. Because of the violence last Sunday, the Witnesses had decided to be cautious and not use their meeting hall this week. Nellie found out from Mrs. Landalt where the group would be gathering. The home belonged to a married couple named Brickman. Nora recognized the lady from the drug store. She was surprised to see several Armitage residents she hadn't known were Witnesses. Although the Pennys had attended a meeting two weeks ago, at that time Nora had been so nervous, she hadn't really seen any faces. Tonight was better. Here was old Mitch Edwards, looking strange in a suit and tie, since he'd been a farmer all his life and Nora had only seen him in overalls before. And young Wesley and Thelma Derikson were here with their new baby. Mrs. Collins seemed to be alone, though Nora knew there was a Mr. Collins. Maybe he didn't share her beliefs. The meeting did a lot for Nora. She got her attitude adjusted about Nellie's humiliating experience. In the first place, Nellie herself wasn't ashamed in the least. And the Witnesses expressed their high regard for her determination to do right. Secondly, she looked up several scriptures they referred to on the subject. The one that stuck with her was 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, where Christians were commanded to come out from among the false worshipers. Ned MacIntyre was present at the meeting. He walked stiffly and his face and hands were still bandaged. But he commented freely during the study and seemed to be in a bright, happy mood. Nellie talked with him for a long time after the services. Nora wondered if she was getting sweet on him. Later that week her idea was strengthened when Nellie tried to tell her sister about her Bible studies with Mrs. Landalt. The girl couldn't utter two sentences in a row without saying "Ned." Nora would have laughed if the situation wasn't so sad. Ned would soon be leaving and they would likely never see him again. If Nellie set her heart on him, it would just get broken. The Bible chapters Nora read to the family that week were the final ones in Matthew. The ordeal Jesus was put through and his quiet courage made an impact on her. Even the Lord didn't rely on his own strength to endure; he leaned on his Father. And no matter what they did to him, he wouldn't back down. He even spoke boldly to Pontius Pilate, witnessing about the truth. "Fear of man"--that was what Ned said the Devil was trying to use to make the Witnesses shut up, to make them water down the truth, to compromise with the enemy. And fear of man was Nora's big problem, particularly fear of one man: Walter Penny. This was serious. If Papa were out of the picture, what would Nora be doing about her new Bible knowledge? She'd be attending the Bible studies with Nellie, going to the Witnesses' meetings every Sunday and Wednesday night and quitting the Baptist church. It was time Nora Penny started looking to Jehovah God for the courage she needed. It was easier to decide this than it was to put it into practice. Once Nora made up her mind to stand with Nellie on the church issue, her stomach refused to behave itself. She knew it was nerves, but that didn't keep the food down. Her only relief from the inner trembling that plagued her was to pray for peace of mind and then try to think about something else. However Sunday arrived, and when Walter Penny sat down at the breakfast table, he saw that both daughters this time were clad in bathrobes. He stared at them for a full minute. "I can carry two out to the car," he said without raising his voice. "And I can carry both of you into the church." Nothing else was said about it while the family ate. Nora just poked the food around on her plate and hoped desperately that she would not disgrace herself by having to run to the bathroom. She made it successfully through the meal. But in their room fifteen minutes later, it was Nellie who was in a stew. "I can't let him carry me into the church!" she protested. "I said I'd never go back." "If he takes you," Nora reasoned, "you're not going back. For you to go back, you'd have to walk in of your own volition." 73 "No, I won't go at all." "How can you stop him?" Nellie started turning over ideas in her mind and rejecting them as they surfaced. "Lock myself in here; he'd break the door. Hide; that would be running away from it. Get out of the car when he stops for Kate at the Catholic church; it would look like I was going with her. Lock the car doors as soon as he gets out; he would have his key. If only he couldn't lift me, if I were too heavy... I could... Wait a minute." Nellie retreated into her mind for awhile. She had forgotten all about Nora. "Sissy, what are you doing?" Nellie suddenly exclaimed. "Are you giving in?" "No," said Nora, "but if Papa plans to carry me into church, I would rather be dressed." She threw some clothes onto the bed. "Just so he doesn't think I'm willing, I'll wear these." Soon she was dressed in a long-sleeved checked shirt, blue jeans, heavy socks and sneakers. Nellie grinned and yanked her blue jeans out of the drawer. However, after she dressed, Nellie slipped out of the room and didn't come back for a long time. Nora's nerves tightened up again. Every time her mind pictured herself being carried like a baby into the church, she broke out in a cold sweat. The only way she could deal with it was to try to block the image out. She said a prayer, asking God to keep the disquieting thoughts away. Nellie slammed in. "Okay, it just might work." "What?" Nora asked. Her sister divulged her preparations and plan. Nora was doubtful, but agreed to do her part. "Do you want me to fix it for you too, Sissy?" Nellie inquired, as if she'd just thought of it. "No," she declined. "I don't want any part of the church anymore. But I haven't made a promise, like you have. If Papa carries me in, I'll just go quietly. But I won't listen to the sermon!" Kate tapped on their door. "It's time to leave now," she announced. "Good-bye," said Nellie. Both girls put on heavy pullover sweaters and sat down on the bed to wait for Papa. It wasn't more than a minute. The door flew open and hit the wall. Papa wore a fierce scowl with his Sunday suit. "Nora Penny!" he roared. "You march outside and get into the car. Now!" It took every fiber of will power in her body to keep from moving. But Nora sat. He stepped up to her, grabbed her chin and lifted her face to his. "I said Go!" he commanded. "I'm not going, Papa." Her voice was a tiny thread. He stood and looked thunderously at her. Being forced, by his fingers under her chin, to face him, she felt her insides shrivel and tears sprang to her eyes. But she sat. He released her, turned to glare at Nellie, then suddenly scooped up the crippled girl and stomped out the door. Nora took some deep breaths and wiped her face. He was not through with her yet. She waited, deliberately focusing on the toe of her left sneaker and nothing else. The screen door slammed and his footsteps approached. She braced herself for more roaring. However, when he appeared in the doorway, he just stood contemplating her. "What's got into you, girl?" he asked finally. "You have never defied me like this before." All at once, Nora's trembling disappeared. "Nellie's right about the Baptist church," she said. He frowned. "How are you getting all this from a chapter or two of the Bible every week?" "We...we read it other times...by ourselves," she admitted cautiously. "And you found all those things your sister was ranting about last week?" "Yes, Papa. I've seen where it says the dead know not any thing. Jesus really did say, 'The Father is greater than I.' It also says, 'The earth abideth for ever.' The Bible is true; the Baptist teachings have to be wrong." He thought about that, then shook his head. "God don't care where we worship. He hears 74 Baptist prayers as well as anybody else's. Come on. We're going to church." "I'm not going, Papa." "Oh, yes, you are," he said. Unexpectedly he pulled her to her feet and bent over. When he straightened up, Nora was draped over his shoulder like a bag of seed. The ride out to the car was uncomfortable, but mostly it was humiliating. Nora was crying when he dumped her into the seat and shut the door. "Sissy," Nellie whispered, as Papa circled the car to his side, "are you all right? Did he hurt you?" Nora shook her head, but couldn't speak. Kate turned around. "Is she okay?" "I think so," Nellie said. There was no more time to discuss it. Papa was getting in. Nellie held her sister's hand until they reached the main road. By then Nora had stopped crying. She was fighting to regain the calm confidence she'd felt while she was explaining the truth to Papa. When she remembered to pray about it now, her feelings of distress subsided. Nora remembered her part of the plan. She poked Nellie on the knee and motioned with her hand. Her sister leaned forward and Nora slid her hand behind her. Buckled around Nellie's waist and hidden under her loose-fitting sweater was a leather belt. The two ends of another belt protruded from the gap between the car seat and the back rest. Somehow Nellie had secured that belt to something under the seat. Nora's job was to loop it around the one her sister was wearing and buckle it. It took her almost the entire trip to accomplish it, but when Kate and Butch got out at the Catholic church, the job was done. Personally Nora didn't think the idea would work. What was to stop Papa from just unbuckling the belt? But she didn't waste much time worrying about Nellie's contraption. What Nora had to concentrate on was her own situation. She knew she was afraid. If Papa carried them in his arms into the church, it would be bad enough. But if he slung her over his shoulder again, she would just shrink down to a little blob of jelly. Wait, what was that? Nora took a deep breath. It was wrong to think this way. She remembered Ned and the humiliating things that had been done to him. And Jesus--he held up his head even when there was spit on his face. They weren't ashamed of what they had suffered. That was because the issue was bigger than they were. The point was to defy the Devil and be faithful to Jehovah God. And that's exactly why Nora Penny was sitting here in her blue jeans and sneakers. She was going to obey God's command to separate from religion. It was God's enemy and she wanted no part of it. Papa parked along the curb, across the street from the church. People were arriving in twos and threes, most of them on foot since they lived here in town. Nora knew them all by name and many of them by their ailments. The women often confided to her all their health problems, as if by working in a drug store, she would know how to treat them. She listened politely and made no comment, but they liked that, especially since she never passed it on to anybody. Mrs. Holmes smiled at Nora and nodded as she walked past the car. The girl nodded back. Her eyes were on the lady, but her ears were tuned to Papa. He was out of the car. He had opened Nellie's door. "You're going in now," he stated, "either one way or the other." "I'm not a Baptist anymore, Papa," Nellie said. She sat quietly with her hands folded in her lap, her eyes on the front windshield. "I'm not arguing that," he replied. "I'm giving you to the count of three to get out of this car and walk into that church. One...two... three." He slid one arm under her knees, the other behind her back and lifted. Nellie's knees came up, but her body didn't. He lifted again, in vain. "Got some trouble, Walt?" a man inquired from behind him. Papa didn't turn to face him. "No, Earl, thanks. You go on." 75 "You sure you don't need a hand?" The man kept standing there. "No, I don't." Papa gave lifting Nellie another try. He was angry now, not only at Nellie, but at Earl, who hovered at his back and wouldn't go away. Suddenly he straightened up, stepped back and slammed the door shut. "Blamed stubborn women," he exclaimed and strode across the street, up the steps and into the church. Earl tapped on the window. "You comin'?" "No, sir," said Nellie, cranking it down a little. "I'm not a Baptist anymore." "Oh," he said, nodding as if he understood. But his face wore a puzzled look as he walked away. "You did it, Sissy!" Nora exclaimed in amazement. "I didn't think it would work." "Neither did I," Nellie confessed. "Papa probably would have figured it out in another minute if it hadn't been for old Earl. Help me get loose now." Nora unbuckled her sister and Nellie slipped the belt out from behind the seat. She didn't want Papa to find it there later and discover how she had thwarted him. "I might need to use it again," she said. After church services were well under way, Nora and Nellie took a walk. Nellie's crutch had been left at home, so she had to use her sister as a substitute. They strolled up Park Street and took a left turn to go around the block. Neat, well-kept houses stood sedately along Henry Street. Dry yellow lawns sloped down from the empty flower beds to the sidewalk. The driveways were muddy, except for a few that had been paved with brick. "Sissy, look!" Nellie said suddenly. "At that next house. Do you recognize who are standing on the doorstep?" "Aren't they some ladies we met at the Brickmans' last Sunday?" "I think so. And they're out preaching from door to door. Did you know that Jehovah's Witnesses have fought legally for their rights to preach, even in the Supreme Court?" "Did Mrs. Landalt tell you that?" "Ned did. He said that when local police interfere with the Witnesses' preaching and meetings, they're going against the United States' constitution. So all these patriotic Legionnaires who harass and mob the Witnesses are the ones who are really against the government." "How can this be happening, Sissy?" Nora wondered. "America stands for freedom and justice." "Those are noble-sounding words," said Nellie, "but they aren't true in real life. Who is the prince of the world?" "The Devil." "Doesn't that mean he's controlling the world governments?" "Yes." "Isn't Washington, D.C., the seat of one of the world governments?" Nora paused to think about it. "Yes, it is. I see, if the Devil is behind the American government, it can't really stand for freedom and justice." "Right. It just pretends to. Who gives us true freedom and justice?" "Jesus." "And his Father, Jehovah." The two Witness ladies had finished their conversation with the woman in the house and were now walking back to the sidewalk. The Penny twins waited for them. "Hello," the ladies greeted them. "What are you two doing this morning?" "Playing hooky from the Baptist church," said Nellie. Nora knew both of the ladies by their names: Esther Collins and Clara Addison. She'd waited on them regularly at the drug store. "Good for you," said Clara. "It won't be long and you'll be joining us at the doors." Nellie grinned. "That's a good idea. If we aren't going to be sitting in a pew on Sunday 76 mornings, we could be out preaching." "You would be welcome to come with us now," invited Esther. "But you'd need to put on more appropriate clothes." "I guess we'll have to do it another time," Nellie said reluctantly. "We wouldn't be able to go home now, change and get back before Papa comes out of church." "Maybe next week," said Clara. "Will we see you at meeting tonight?" "I hope so," Nellie replied. If we aren't dead, thought Nora. Papa was furious when he left them in the car. He would undoubtedly still be angry when he came back. The girls were in position when church let out. They had not discussed what Papa might do. They'd altogether avoided the subject and talked about everything else under the sun. Nora appreciated that; it had kept her mind too occupied to let worries grow. She saw when Walter Penny appeared and spoke to the preacher. Was he explaining his daughters' absence? What reason would he give? "They don't want to come anymore because you teach lies." Nora almost smiled at her imagined scene. But her face was entirely sober when Papa approached the car, got it started and climbed in. Although they expected roaring, he didn't say anything. He didn't even look at them or acknowledge their presence all the way home. Kate must have instructed Butch to keep his mouth shut, because he didn't ask what had happened. Nora knew he was bursting to know; he had it all over his face when he got into the car. Once they were home, though, and Papa went upstairs to change clothes, the boy pounced on Nellie and got the story. He was unhappy that she wouldn't divulge why Papa couldn't lift her, but the picture in his mind of Papa trying, tickled him to pieces. He laughed and hopped on one foot and wanted like crazy to race out to the kitchen to tell his mother. Nellie practically had to sit on him to subdue him until Papa left the house. Nora washed up and volunteered to help Kate with dinner. "You can peel potatoes," said the lady. "How many?" "Six or seven regular sized." Nora took a half-bushel basket off the back porch and went out to the root cellar. All was set to rights in there, although traces of sulphur smell lingered. As she dug potatoes out of the straw, she thought about Ned MacIntyre. From now on, every time she came down here, she would remember him. When Nora got back to the kitchen, Papa was disappearing into the barn and Butch was regaling his mother with Nellie's story. Kate didn't laugh. She turned to Nora with a deep crease between her eyebrows. "Are you sure you want to cross swords with your father on this?" she asked. "Walter seems like a determined man." "We don't want to defy Papa," said Nora. "We just can't be Baptist anymore. 'We must obey God rather than men.'" "Do you understand that this could have very serious consequences?" Nora nodded. "Papa was with the mob in Cottage Grove," she said quietly. Kate placed a hand on the girl's arm and gave it a squeeze. It was hard to know where Kate stood in all this. When the time came for the twins to declare openly their association with and support of Jehovah's Witnesses, what direction would she go? An hour later the table was laden with steaming, delicious-looking food. Butch, still damp around the edges from washing up, slid into his chair and eyeballed his favorite dishes. Nellie limped in from the front room, leaned her crutch against the wall and sat. Nora and Kate set the last of the serving dishes in place. Everyone quietly waited for Papa, who was cleaning up in the bathroom. He walked into the kitchen. Every eye was on the heavy leather harness strap he carried in 77 his hand. He deliberately laid the strap on the table next to his plate and sat down. Since he had the attention of his family, he drew out their suspense by fixing, first Nellie, then Nora with a scowl. "This," he said finally, laying his hand on the strap, "is to warn you about next Sunday. I am not going to carry anybody anywhere. You will dress in your good clothes and be in the car when it's time to leave. And when we get into town, you will walk under your own power into the church. Have I made myself clear?" Nellie opened her mouth, but Nora's hand clutched her knee and she closed it again. Nora said, "Yes, sir." Kate murmured something that no one could hear. But she quelled the impulse to speak her mind out loud and the girls still didn't know where she stood. Papa's threat had an unexpected effect on Nora. Walter Penny had erected a fence, not just the one along Fred Landalt's property line. He had built a wall of his own opinions that he expected his entire family to live within. He would allow them outside the fence only by special permission. It was by his word that Kate and Butch were exempted from Baptist church attendance. However, Nellie had climbed Papa's fence. She was outside his limits. Nora was sitting on top looking out, not completely sure about which way to go. But now Papa's heavy-handed effort to reinforce his barrier pushed Nora off and she came down--on the other side of the fence. It solidified her timid stand into fierce determination. "He's bluffing," Nellie asserted when the two were alone that afternoon. "He's just trying to scare us into doing what he says." "Even if he's serious," said Nora, "I'm not going to do it. Look what Ned went through for the truth. And he's not quitting. For once in our lives, Sissy, Papa is wrong and we're right. We can't back down." Nellie grinned at her. "Are you ready to take this all the way?" "All the way where?" "To wherever the Lord leads us. And it may be a very rough road." "I'm ready to try," said Nora. And she meant it. Now that she'd made a firm decision, Nora was anxious to study more and attend the Jehovah's Witness meetings. She fretted about the movie that evening, because Matt and Jo had decided to go and the girls wouldn't be able to sneak away to the Kingdom Hall. However, Nellie came up with a daring plan and Nora adopted it with enthusiasm. Butch was not included tonight; because of school tomorrow, he was sent to bed early. Nora sneaked out to the car and hid a parcel on the floor of the back seat. Later when they all went into the theater, Nellie casually notified their brother that she was going to sit close to the ladies' room tonight and chose seats near the back wall. Nora sat next to her while Matt and Jo went down about six rows. The twins waited impatiently for the newsreel to start. Then under cover of darkness, they stood up and left the theater. Retrieving their parcel from the car, Nora and Nellie went to the Kingdom Hall. There, in the restroom, they unwrapped their skirts and Bibles, changed out of their jeans and enjoyed the meeting. Ned MacIntyre and the Landalts were absent tonight. Mrs. Brickman said they had gone to Toledo for Ned to move in with his grandmother. Nora thought the meetings would seem a little shorthanded from now on; Ned had always contributed freely to the discussions. The WatchTower study took an hour; the movie, with cartoon and newsreel, lasted almost two hours. They both started at the same time. So by the time the girls got across the street and Nellie negotiated the stairs, they missed the first ten minutes or so of the meeting. Afterward, though, they could take a little time to visit before changing clothes once more, and with their ticket stubs in hand, sneaking back into the theater. When the movie ended, they were sitting in the back row where Matt and Jo had left them. Nellie was tickled that the plot had worked so well. She said they could do this every week. But Nora had reservations. Sooner or later they would have to be open about their association with Jehovah's Witnesses. This sneaking around business was bound to get found out sometime. 78 That sometime was sooner than she expected. Tuesday afternoon, it was Jo who drove the truck into town to collect Nora from the drug store. She didn't move out of the driver's seat, like Matt had been doing lately. She asked how Nora's day had gone, then looked quietly ahead at the road as they passed the outskirts of town. "Nora, there are some strange things going on in your family and I can't figure them out." Nora's heart thumped loudly. Warning lights flashed in her mind. "What things?" she asked cautiously. "First of all, what is this with Nellie, and now you, refusing to go to church?" "We don't believe in the Baptists anymore." "But couldn't you go just to please your papa?" "He doesn't make Kate go." "Does that mean you're converting to Roman Catholic?" "No." Jo dropped the conversation for a mile or so. "What about all these sneakings off?" "Sneakings off?" "Nellie sneaks off two or three afternoons during the week and doesn't explain where she's going. Kate takes you to work every morning, but sometimes she doesn't come straight back. She stays gone all morning, and when she comes home, she's so irritable, everybody has to leave her alone for hours. And where did you and Nellie disappear to during the movie Sunday night?" "During the movie?" Nora repeated innocently. "I know you were gone because I went back to the restroom. You weren't in there, either." Nora sat silently while her mind raced. "Are you interested in some boy?" Jo asked suddenly. "I'm not." "Ohh," Jo said slowly, as though she understood something significant. During the rest of the ride home, a little smile kept quirking the corners of her mouth. Nora hadn't intended to mislead her sister-in-law, but as long as Jo didn't ask anything specific that would call for a straight-out lie, she saw no need to correct her. Nellie was using the dust mop on the wood floor in the front room. She had learned to hold the handle and wedge it in her elbow somehow, so she could swing it one-handed. Kate had also shown her how to use the carpet sweeper and change the bed linens and dust the furniture. No one had ever bothered to teach her such things before. They'd just assumed she couldn't do anything because of her handicap. Nora signalled to her sister that she needed to talk to her. But Nellie shook her head. She cast a surreptitious glance toward the kitchen doorway and leaned close to Nora's ear. "Kate's in a big grump. If I don't finish these floors, she'll have a rag baby." As Nora tuned in to the noises from the kitchen, she noticed that Kate was being rather heavy handed with the pots and pans. She hadn't spoken to Nora as she'd passed through the room a minute ago. Jo had hurried upstairs to her room. Butch seemed to be lying low. Nora decided it might be a good idea to follow their example and stay out of Kate's way. She went into her room to change clothes. By dawdling, she managed to prolong the process until Nellie came in. "All finished?" she asked. "Until Kate sees me doing nothing and gives me another job." "Why is she so grouchy?" "I don't know. She was out of sorts a couple of times last week, but not as bad as this." "Jo commented on it. She thinks it has something to do with Kate staying in town all morning." "It probably does," Nellie agreed. "Today she didn't come home until close to noon. Then she jumped all over Jo and me because we hadn't started the ironing. But she hadn't told us to do it without her. Sissy, Kate has been strict with me and I can understand why. I was awful to her. But 79 she's never scolded and been sharp. If her delays in town have something to do with it, I wonder what she does all morning." Nora pondered the question. "Maybe...maybe she's seeing the doctor." The girls stared at each other with widening blue eyes. "Do you think she's...in a...family way?" Nellie breathed. "That might explain her short temper." Nellie sank the dimple in her cheek. "You just might have the answer, Sissy." Nora and Nellie were quick to cooperate with Kate all evening. They took her irritable mood with perfect good humor, hugging to themselves the secret they had discovered. Nellie was also tickled that Jo thought she had a boyfriend. She immediately saw that the mistake could be put to good use. From now on, she assumed, Jo would cover for them when they sneaked out of the movies to go to meeting. On Wednesday, when Butch came home from school, he had a surprise waiting for him. Tied to the back porch was a floppy-eared beagle with a whirly-gig tail and a long wet tongue. Papa had bought it from a farmer down the road and it now belonged to Butch. Silly with excitement, boy and dog charged out of the farmyard and were not seen again until suppertime. Butch announced that he had named his dog George. Jo opened her mouth to protest, but Matt stopped her with a gesture. George's gender was not important right now. That evening Butch moved out of his parents' bedroom, and with George curled up on his feet, happily went to sleep on the front room couch. As the days of the week marched on inexorably toward Sunday, Nora's apprehension grew. Each morning and afternoon, as she poured fresh milk into the big milk cans, her eyes came to rest on the horses' harnesses hanging from nails on the barn wall. And Papa's unspoken promise to use one of the straps on the girls brought a sickening dread to her belly. Then she'd have to remember what Jesus had gone through and the abuse Ned had endured. And her determination would return. On Saturday afternoon, Kate knocked on the twins' bedroom door. Her pleasant disposition had gradually returned during the last few days. The family sighed in relief. Now Nora admitted the lady to their room. She closed the door behind her. "I'm sure you both are aware that tomorrow is Sunday," she said. The girls looked at each other, then at her. "Yes," said Nellie. "What do you plan to do about your father's ultimatum?" "We won't go to church," Nora stated emphatically. "Is it that important to you?" she inquired. "Yes," said Nellie. "And if he carries through with his threat?" "Ned survived worse," Nora answered. Kate surveyed the identical faces before her, one with a grimly determined set to her mouth, the other with timid apprehension in her eyes but her chin held high. "You'll be wearing your nightclothes to the breakfast table?" "Yes," Nellie said and Nora nodded. Kate reached for the doorknob. "All right, I just wanted to know where you stand." "Are you going to tell Papa?" Nora asked. "Would that make any difference in your decision?" "No," said Nora. Kate nodded. "I'll leave it to you to tell him." When the lady let herself out of the room, Nellie poked her sister. "What did she come in here for?" "She said she wanted to know where we stand." "Well, she knows where we stand, but what about her? Where does she stand?" "With Papa, of course," Nora assumed. "She burned your Salvation book, didn't she?" "Yes, but she also helped us hide Ned." 80 "She held the car door open for Papa the first time he carried you out to the car." "But she didn't help him one bit last Sunday." Nellie shook her head. "The evidence seems about equal. I guess we'll just have to see what she does next. I wish she was on our side all the time. I don't think we could have taken care of Ned without her." "You don't hate her so much anymore, do you, Sissy?" Nora asked. "Not since she helped with Ned. But still, her ways are not like Mama's. When we had Mama, you and I didn't have to work." "No, Mama did it all. But now we can understand what a hard worker she was. Remember when we were about six and we got those ugly long skirts for Christmas?" Nellie nodded. "We hated them so much, we deliberately sat in the mud to get them too stained and filthy to ever wear again." "Did you realize then how much work Mama had to do to get those skirts clean again?" "No, but you're right, now that I've learned how to do laundry, I see how hard it is to get mud out." "And what about canning?" "Whew! What a job!" Nellie exclaimed. "I thought we'd never see the end of it." "Mama did it every year, all by herself." "Sometimes it seems she's been gone such a long time," Nellie said wistfully. "But other times I catch myself wanting to go into the kitchen to tell her something." "Me, too," Nora agreed. "But we're going to see her again, Sissy. We're going to be in the paradise waiting for her when she comes back." "If...," Nellie said, "if we make it through tomorrow." "We'll make it," Nora said confidently. "We don't know if Kate is on our side, but we do know that Jehovah is." Sunday began with a steady rain. Nora woke in the morning, hearing the drumbeat on the tin roof of the bathroom. She slipped from the warm bed and dressed in the dark. But before leaving the room, she knelt on the rag rug beside the bed and prayed fervently for courage to meet this day. Matt and Nora milked without conversation in the predawn hours. The barn cats were ready to start their day and some came by for a squirt. Nora obliged them automatically. Her mind was on other matters. At one point Nora waited with a full bucket for her brother to empty his. As he finished and reached for hers, he caught her eyes on the harness. Touching her hand, Matt broke the silence. "Don't worry," he said. Nora gave him a thank-you with her eyes. Brother and sister filled the milk can and Matt set it in the cooler. There it would wait in the cold water until Mr. Stamper would come and take it to the dairy. Now and then Kate would have Nora skim some of the thick cream for a special dish, like whipped cream on gingerbread. And whatever milk she requested for the day, Matt would take straight to the house and fill her jars with fresh warm milk right out of the bucket. A pitcher of milk was a part of the table setting for every meal. Nora dashed through the rain to the house. Kate was up now, getting the fire going in the stove. The girl hurried into her bedroom, peeled off her wet clothes and got back into her nightgown. She crawled under the covers to snuggle close to Nellie and get warm. An hour later Nellie and Nora Penny, in nightgowns and robes, presented themselves at the breakfast table, but as the rest of the family showed up, the girls stared at them in astonishment. Kate and Jo were also wearing their gowns and robes. Here came Butch in his nightshirt; then Matt entered, similarly clad. Kate and Matt had been dressed earlier; they had deliberately gone back upstairs to change. Neither twin had recovered enough from her surprise to ask what was going on when Papa stomped the mud off his boots outside the back door. They heard him slap his wet hat against the porch pole. Then he came inside. Nora noted immediately that he had the harness strap in his hand. However, as Papa approached the table, his eyes flicked from one family member to the next. 81 As he sat down, the strap disappeared under the table. Throughout the meal, not a word was said by anyone about their attire or about church. Afterward, Papa went upstairs to change into his church clothes, but nobody else did. When he came down again, his family, in their nightclothes, were all seated in the front room, studiously reading various sections of the newspaper. Walter Penny slammed out the back door and drove off to church by himself. 82 CHAPTER 9 Kate was the one who had organized the family to support the girls. It was not necessarily because they all agreed with the twins' decision, but because Papa had gone too far in his threats. Jo reported that Kate had earlier tried to reason with Papa. Nora and Nellie were not children anymore, she told him, and they needed to start making their own decisions about things. The twins were deeply grateful, not only to Kate and Butch, Matt and Jo; but especially they gave thanks to Jehovah. They realized that this was only the beginning of their fight for the truth, but it gave them confidence to look forward to the next step. When Walter Penny came home for dinner that Sunday, he said nothing to the girls. Since he couldn't punish the whole family, he seemed to have abandoned the idea completely. According to Nellie's observations, Kate made no mysterious long stays in town this week, although her disposition was not the best. The girls wondered how long it would be before the lady made her announcement to the family. Nellie had a new plot. Next Sunday morning, while the family was at church, she was going to accompany Patsy Landalt in door-to-door preaching. Nora could come along if she liked. Nora's head whirled. This was going faster than she had expected. They'd barely finished jumping the not-going-to-church hurdle and were already attending the Sunday evening meetings at the Kingdom Hall. Where was this leading? She sat down and thought it through. Do Jehovah's Witnesses have the true understanding of the Bible? Yes. In every point of basic beliefs their teaching was just what the Scriptures said. Do Jehovah's Witnesses live their lives by the Bible? Yes. More than any other people she'd ever met, they obey the commandments, even the difficult ones. They don't just say they believe in Jesus, they go out and preach, like he told them to. They keep their faith in spite of persecution. And that's another proof: Jehovah's Witnesses are persecuted for their beliefs. She knew of no religion in all the world that was so lied about and persecuted by Nazis, communists and capitalists alike. So what would it mean for Nora Penny to become one of Jehovah's Witnesses? She would need to attend, not only Sunday meetings, but Wednesday evenings, too. She'd have to learn to preach: to wear a placard denouncing religion, to carry a phonograph from door to door, to hand out tracts or Consolation magazines on the street corners, to teach the Model Study course to people. She would need to stand firm on not saluting the flag and not participating in the holiday celebrations, including birthdays. Now, how could she arrange all this? It was impossible to do it without Papa's knowledge. He had not backed down on the church issue until he'd been hopelessly outnumbered. There was no chance that he would graciously allow his daughters to become Jehovah's Witnesses, the faith that he had openly declared his hatred for. Her recent experiences, however, reassured her that, if she went ahead with her decision to serve Jehovah, somehow He would open a door. Wednesday afternoon Nellie brought home from Landalts' a letter from Ned MacIntyre. It was addressed to both Nora and Nellie Penny and had been discreetly sent inside an envelope addressed to Fred Landalt. The girls opened and read it together. Ned reported that he was still in Toledo and would probably stay all winter. His grandmother was getting up in years and needed his help to earn a living for Ned's five younger brothers. Wilfred was out of school now and had taken a job, so between him and Ned, they should be able to feed the family and let Granny stay home. Ned now had a morning milk delivery route. He would finish work early in the day and have the rest of his time for preaching. He said his burns were healing without too many scars. His face still felt stiff and there was one spot the size of a quarter that he no longer had to shave. Ned couched this item in humor; but it sent a pang through Nora. He was just being brave about it. Would his face be disfigured? 83 How were Nellie and Nora doing with their studies, he inquired. Were they still able to use the movies as a ruse to get to meetings? He thought they were very courageous to carry on despite their father's opposition. Jehovah would bless them. Nora wanted to hold the letter after it was read, to read it again and put it under her pillow. But of course, it really was Nellie's. Nora's name on it was just for politeness. Nevertheless, she watched her sister place the envelope inside the front cover of her Bible. Later, when Nellie was busy somewhere, Nora would know where to find it. That evening the girls miraculously got away from the house, because of Jo's intervention. Thinking that Nellie had a date with a mysterious boyfriend and Nora was going along as chaperone, Jo made up some errand for them in town. This kind of good fortune was not going to last, Nora thought. Some day, and soon, all their clandestine activities would be exposed and the world would come crashing down around their ears. Nellie didn't seem concerned about it. She continued to blithely make plans for their step onto the world stage, or at least, the Armitage stage, on Sunday morning. As the day dawned, the twins were still not entirely sure Papa had conceded the church attendance issue. Nora, in her shirt and jeans, sat down to breakfast with an eye out for the harness strap. It was absent. The plan was to wait until the family left for church. Then the girls would quickly change into skirts and walk out to the main road. The Landalts, in their roomy new Buick, would stop for them on their way into town. However, when Papa drove away that morning, only Matt and Jo accompanied him in the car. Kate, in housedress and apron, was working in the kitchen. Teddy crept across the linoleum and reached up to tug on her hemline. "Kate, aren't you feeling well?" Nora inquired, wondering about morning sickness. Mama had been afflicted with that when she was expecting Teddy. "I'm all right," said the lady, as she swept the baby into her arms. "Why are you staying home? Papa hasn't threatened us again." "This is not about you and your father this week, Nora. It's something I have to work out for myself." The girl saw that Kate was cutting off any further questioning, so she dropped the subject and went to confer with Nellie. "What can we do now?" she challenged. "How can we get out of the house?" Nellie pondered it. "Walk," she decided. "What will we tell Kate?" "Nothing. She didn't tell us her business; we don't have to tell ours." "You're right, Sissy. She can't hold us here." "We'll just walk right past her." And that's what they did. Kate saw them as they went toward the front door. She noted their good clothes and the Bibles they carried. "Where are you off to?" she asked. "It's something we have to work out for ourselves," Nora replied, paraphrasing the lady's own words. Kate digested this. "Will you be home for dinner?" "We plan to be," said Nellie. The lady nodded and turned back to the kitchen. "See?" Nellie said, as they proceeded down the drive. "She couldn't stop us." "Sissy, she didn't even try. Do you think she's coming over on our side?" "No, I don't." But Nellie didn't get to elaborate on her answer. Butch came pounding up behind them, George frisking and barking at his heels. "Hey, where you goin', Nellie-belly? I wanna go with you." "You can't," said Nellie, poking at him with her crutch. "We're riding into town with the 84 Landalts. We're going to preach from house to house." "Let me, let me!" he insisted. "I can carry stuff for you." Nora placed a hand on his shoulder to stop his hopping. "Butch, listen. You don't have time to change clothes before the Landalts come. And besides, we can't take you along without your mother's permission." "Aw shucks!" he grumbled, knowing the door was closed to him. "We'll tell you all about it," Nellie promised. They left boy and dog standing sadly in the drive. But the dejected pose lasted only half a minute. Then George jumped up and licked the boy in the face. Butch whooped, snatched up a stick and threw it. Then he raced the dog to fetch it. He would be all right. Nora thoroughly enjoyed her morning. She and seven-year-old Gracie Landalt accompanied Esther Collins as they took a phonograph to all the houses on Peach Street. Nellie and Patsy Landalt took baby Lydia and Fred had little Roy by the hand. Esther showed Nora how to work her phonograph. The crank was on the right side of the box from the handle. They cranked it up tight before approaching each house and used a little switch on the left to hold the turntable still until they were ready to use it. When the householder consented to listen, Esther opened the lid, moved the crank out of the way and slid the record in from the right side. Then she released the catch, letting the turntable spin and carefully set the needle onto the disk. Nora admired the bright silver-colored arm that elegantly curved up to the head that held the needle. There was a little catch to secure the arm while the machine was being carried. She listened more attentively than the lady at the door as a man introduced the main speaker, Judge Joseph F. Rutherford. When the speech was over, Esther offered a book to the lady. But she politely declined. Most of the people they talked to that morning were polite, although they did meet a man Nora knew was an American Legion member, who shouted lies at them. They didn't try to argue with him, but just backed off and went to the next house. She looked across the street to see how Nellie was faring. Patsy had figured out very well how to handle the whole project. Lydia was bundled up and sitting in a large carriage. Beside her were the phonograph and her mother's bag of books. Nellie's crutch protruded from the buggy, while Nellie herself held the handle and pushed. The buggy had large wheels, so they could tip it up to climb a step or two if necessary, to get onto the porches. Except for going up and down steps, Patsy didn't need to help the girl much; she could just concentrate on giving the message. She did have to take the phonograph out of the buggy whenever she was ready to use it so the baby wouldn't grab it. "Why, Nora Penny!" exclaimed the woman behind the screen door. "What are you doing on my doorstep? I thought you were a Baptist!" The girl blinked in surprise. She recognized Mrs. Slocum, a staunch Baptist, who had innumerable ailments, so quite often patronized Millican's Rexall. "I'm not a Baptist anymore, Mrs. Slocum," she replied, when she finally found her voice. "I've been reading the Bible and I feel that Jehovah's Witnesses are the ones who are really following the teachings of Jesus. They go out to preach, like the Lord told us to. Baptists don't." The woman seemed not to take in what Nora was saying. She puckered her brow. "Does your father know what you're doing?" "No, ma'am, not yet," Nora admitted. "Well, he's going to have something to say about this!" "Yes, I'm sure he will." "But Nora won't stop," piped up little Gracie, "no matter what her papa does. Because she loves Jehovah and Jehovah is stronger than papas." "Jehovah is stronger than papas." Nora would have to remember that. If Walter Penny had gone back into town that Sunday afternoon, he would have heard about his daughters' activities. It was all over town. Matt and Jo learned of it when they went to visit her 85 family. Kate got it on the party line. But Papa was the last to know. Jo came for Nora after work Monday. She had a lot on her mind. "We had a big scene at the house this morning," she reported. "Kate had a visit from the priest." "He came to our house?" Nora asked in amazement. "Yes. He was there to chew Kate out for missing church." "Really? That must have been interesting. I can't see Kate taking that graciously." Jo's delicious laugh bubbled out. "No, she sure didn't. I heard it all, Nora. Evidently for some time she's been trying to get him to explain the Bible to her." "Did he?" "No, not according to Kate. Today she told him that she was through with him and with the whole Roman Catholic Church. She said she knew more about the Bible than he did. He got huffy and challenged that. So she asked him a question about hellfire and he started explaining but she demanded that he show her the answer in the Bible. He didn't have one with him. So Kate got the one you read from in the evenings and handed it to him. He didn't know where to look in it. She took it back and found a verse that contradicted his explanation." "How did she do that?" Nora exclaimed. "Kate told me she's never read the Bible." "I don't know about that. But she did the same thing to him on two or three other questions," Jo said. "Finally he just got up and left. After that Kate was in such a good mood, she baked three pies." Nora smiled. She didn't know what to make of this development. However, Jo had more on her mind. "Did you know," she asked, "that you and Nellie are the main topic of gossip on the party line?" "What for?" "You should know. You and she marched up and down the streets of Armitage with those Witnesses yesterday morning. You can't deny it, Nora; Nellie admitted the whole thing. Matt and I heard it from Mama yesterday afternoon but we didn't say anything until we could ask you about it." "So you haven't told Papa and Kate?" "Kate knows; she had at least six phone calls from different ladies asking her for details." "What about Papa?" "He obviously hadn't heard it by breakfast time this morning or he would have said so. Matt and he are cutting corn all day. I helped them shock for part of the morning; Kate's out there this afternoon. Unless she tells him, he won't hear anything." "Matt won't tell?" "Matt is very disappointed in both of you, but especially you, Nora. He thought you had more sense than to fall for that malarkey." "It isn't, Jo. You and Matt would agree, if you'd look into it yourselves." "Oh, no. Those people are very unpopular." "Popularity doesn't have anything to do with being right or wrong," Nora reasoned. "The Christians in Jesus' day were very unpopular, but they were right and the rest of the world was wrong." "But the Witnesses won't salute the flag." "They won't heil Hitler either. They're neutral on worldly governments. We support the Kingdom of God in heaven." "We?" Nora hadn't realized she'd used that pronoun. But it was correct. "Yes, we," she repeated. "Does that mean you've converted?" "Yes." Jo dropped her objections and drove home in silence. Nellie and Teddy were alone in the house when Nora came in. Butch had gone out to the cornfield after school to help his mother gather the freshly cut stalks into shocks. Nellie and Jo had been assigned to finish the laundry and Nora was to cook supper, so Nellie reported. 86 Nora, anxious to confer in private with her sister, helped bring in clothes and sort and fold them. Between Jo and the twins, they got everything done, even the sprinkling, in record time. Nora and Nellie escaped to the crisp chill of the outdoors. Nellie gave a recap of the day's events. They discussed Kate's interview with the priest and tried in vain to figure out how she knew all those scriptures. Then they talked about their own predicament. Nora was anxious about when and how Papa would find out what the whole town already knew. Nellie didn't seem that concerned. Someone soon would spill the beans and then they would have to face the music. But until then, they'd just carry on like they had been. What was Nora going to cook for supper tonight? Maybe Nellie was right. What good did it do to get worked up into a stew? They knew Papa would explode and they were just as sure they would not back down. It was no use trying to imagine what would happen. They should just keep their chins up and remember that Jehovah was on their side. Nora saw Matt coming with the stock and went to open the gates. Her brother didn't smile and wave to her today. He attempted no conversation at all while they fed and milked. This wasn't unusual, but Nora felt something heavy in the air between them that made Matt's silence uncomfortable. However, she couldn't bring herself to break it. When the last bucket was poured in, Matt lifted the can. But before he took a step, he looked directly at his sister's face. "Stand right there till I get back," he said. His tone brooked no argument. Nora stood riveted while he submerged the milk can in the cooler. Her mind was racing wildly this way and that. Was Matt just as strong as Papa against Jehovah's Witnesses? Were she and Nellie going to have to stand up to him too? and Jo? and possibly Kate? Matt returned. His face was red, his eyes angry. "Nora Penny," he said severely, "what I want to do right now is turn you over my knee!" Her ears turned scarlet. "What?" she exclaimed. "Don't play innocent with me," he went on. "It's practically written on the front page of the Armitage Gazette what you and Nellie have been up to." Nora's nerves calmed. "Don't we have the right to choose our way of worship?" "I'm not talking about how you worship. I supported you last week when you refused to go to church. But that was because I thought you were being open and up-front about your opinions. You and Nellie both explained your reasons to Papa in a quiet, sincere way. I respected that." His finger came up. "But if I'd known then that you were sneaking around behind his back, I would never have been a party to it. And what really tics me off is you two using the movies as a smoke screen for you to go to that church." "Matt," she replied soberly, "I understand why you're angry. And you're right: we never should have sneaked." "I'm glad you see it," he said, "because now you're going to tell Papa." Her head came up in alarm; her breath drew in sharply with a gasp. "Tell him...me?" "Yes, you. And you're going to do it today, before he hears it from anyone else." Nora's heart began hammering and she couldn't seem to get a good breath, just rapid, shallow pants. "He'll--he'll kill me, Matt." "No, I don't think so. Whatever he does will be unpleasant; I think we can count on that. But he's going to find out anyway. It's better that you be the one who tells him." The logical part of her mind agreed with him. But her fear was not rational and it threatened to overwhelm her with cowardice. Matt could see her shrinking within herself. He lifted her chin, so her wide-open blue eyes met his. "You're going to give up this religion thing, aren't you?" It took a few moments for his question to penetrate. But as it registered, her eyes narrowed and the fog of fear dissipated. "No, I'm not going to give it up. It's the truth," she stated. He shook his head. "I wish you'd been open about this from the start. We would have been able to help you before you got so thoroughly brainwashed." 87 "I'm not brainwashed. If the Bible is true, then Jehovah's Witnesses are true. Our beliefs are just what the Bible says." Matt noted the spark of zeal ignited in her face and he backed up a step. "I don't want to hear it," he said firmly. "But Papa does. You're going to tell him." At Matt's response, Nora felt disappointment well up in her throat. "I guess I have no choice," she murmured, feeling hot tears behind her eyelids. "That's right, you don't," he said. As she started to walk away, he took her shoulder and turned her to face him again. His other hand came up with his finger pointed. "I promise you right now, Nora, that if you ever again use me or my wife in a scheme to fool Papa, I will warm your britches just as if you were Butch. I mean it." "I'm sorry, Matt," she said contritely. He let her go. Nora climbed into the haymow and cried in earnest. It wasn't from fear, she realized; it was from heartsick dismay at Matt's flat refusal to listen to the truth. She couldn't indulge her tears for long, though. She had to compose herself and turn her attention to cooking supper. There were only a few stolen minutes for Nora to draw Nellie aside and apprise her of the situation. Nellie volunteered to take Nora's place in breaking the news to Papa. It was a tremendously brave offer, but Nora shook her head. "Matt said I had to do it." "Can you, Sissy?" Nellie asked with concern. "Not on my own," said Nora. "But Jehovah is stronger than papas." They discussed the timing of the announcement and decided it would be best to do it in the presence of the whole family. Matt wanted this out in the open, so that would please him. Also Papa would be less likely to hit her in the heat of his anger. Nora thought after supper would be the time. Papa would be settled down in his chair, his stomach full, his muscles relaxing after a good day's work. Now Nora's job was to make supper as pleasant as possible. In her heart she thanked Kate for teaching her the basics. Even Nellie now knew more about cooking than Nora had after her months of trial and error last spring. Kate and Butch came in from the field while Nora was busy in the kitchen, but the lady didn't linger to help or even supervise. She headed straight for the bathroom to take a long, hot bath. Nora had done her share of corn shocking in other harvests and understood completely. On her own, the girl put together a hearty meal. As the family ate, even Nora was satisfied with the results of her efforts. While Nellie cleared, Jo washed and Nora dried the dishes, disjointed thoughts and phrases chased each other around in Nora's head. How could she coherently explain things to Papa? Her first few sentences would be crucial because they would set him roaring and she'd probably never get to say anything else. Fibber Magee and Molly were on the radio. Butch sat tucked under his mother's arm on the sofa, his brown eyes sleepy, his feet resting on a sleeping George. Teddy in his long dress was trying valiantly to creep to Papa, but he was stuck with his chubby knees pinning his skirt to the rug. He rocked back and forth on his hands and knees until he flattened himself on his tummy and energetically whacked the floor with his fists. Then he sat up and held out one arm to Papa. The appeal on his face and the reaching of his little fingers were more than his father could resist. He picked up the baby, sat back down and started to bounce him on his knee. Now that the dishes were done, Jo came in and sat on Matt's lap. His arms around her, she laid her cheek against his head and closed her eyes. The scene was one of happy contentment. Nora hated to disturb it. She waited until the program was over and Kate turned the radio off. By now Teddy was tired of bouncing and was busy poking Papa's face. A little finger pushed his nose, then his eye, which quickly closed in defense and delighted the baby. 88 "Before everyone goes off to bed," Nora began, her words squeezed out around the huge lump in her throat, "Nellie and I have something we want to explain to you." Jo's head came up; Kate, Butch and Matt turned their attention to her. Papa glanced at her in mild surprise and then winced as Teddy's finger went home in his eye. "We want you to know," Nora went on, "that our determination not to go to church anymore doesn't mean we've lost our faith in God. It's really the opposite. We really want to please God with our worship. We've investigated and feel that we've found the true way to serve God. Nellie and I have decided to become Jehovah's Witnesses." Only Papa was shocked. His eyebrows flew up. "Wha..." he started to say, but the word was cut off when the baby's entire hand entered his mouth. If terrible doom had not now loomed over Nora's head, she would have laughed. But her face was white, her lips set firmly, her fists clenched with tension, as Papa unceremoniously plopped Teddy onto the floor. He was on his feet now, his anger building by the second. He faced Nellie. "I told you never to talk to those people again," he roared. "Where did you get this? Who infected you with this disease? Have you been on the other side of the fence?" Nellie didn't cringe. She faced him with her chin up. "Yes, sir." "Landalt! That no-good snake!" Sudden determination gleamed in his eyes. He stomped into the kitchen and slammed open a closet door. "Flim-flam my daughters," he ranted. "Blow...to Kingdom come!" Nora stood up to stare in astonishment at the kitchen doorway. She caught a full view of Papa as he charged out the back door with his shotgun in his hand. "Matt!" she screamed. "Stop him. He has his gun!" Jo was roughly dumped off her husband's lap. Matt ran to the back door. Papa had chosen the truck, which had a starter button inside the cab. He already had it running when Matt reached it. "Papa, stop!" he yelled and grabbed for the door handle. But Papa gunned it and tore out of the yard in a spray of gravel. Gasping for breath, Matt came back to the house. "I'll call the sheriff," he said. "First you'd better warn Fred Landalt," said Kate, who was among the crowd that had poured out the back door. Nora couldn't bear it. There was no way she could wait here in ignorance of the havoc her words had begun. She ran. Only one person saw her slip into the darkness. She heard footsteps echoing behind her and turned to see Butch and George tearing after her. "Go back," she told him, not pausing in her haste. "No," he said and kept coming. Nora didn't want to fight with him, so she let him come. It was a good thing. She had used the secret opening in the fence only one time, and in the dark, she might not have found it. But blindfolded, Butch could have located it. Normally, cutting through the back way would have given them plenty of time to get to Landalts' before Papa did. He had to drive several miles by road to reach their front entrance. But by the furious haste with which he left the Penny yard, Nora figured he might even arrive before she did. The harvest moon began rising in the east, flooding the landscape with beautiful golden light. She could see just fine now and made no misstep in her footing. The downstairs of Landalts' house was ablaze with lights. Matt must have called to alert them. Nora slowed down as a dog barked, but Butch whistled softly and called it by name. "Here, Rover; come here, boy." A moment later the black and white mongrel was licking the boy's face, then frisking with George. Headlights bounced up and down on the barn wall. They could hear the strain of the engine in Papa's truck as he barrelled into the yard. Leaving the motor running and the lights on, he leaped from the truck and slammed the door. "Fred Landalt, you skulking hound dog! Come out here and look me in the face!" he yelled. 89 The shotgun was aimed at Landalts' front door. Nora had wild thoughts of racing onto the porch and standing between Mr. Landalt and the gun. "Hello, Walt," shouted a hearty voice. It came, not from the house, but from the board fence attached to the barn. Mr. Landalt's large frame was hidden in the shadows. "Did you come to pay a visit?" He walked slowly into the light beside his new Buick. "Come in and set. I'll have the wife put on a pot of coffee." "You polecat!" Papa snarled, swiveling the muzzle of his gun toward Fred. "You've been mucking around with my girls' brains. Their thinking is all upside down and they're giving me no end of grief. You've bamboozled them with your fancy talkin'. And you're not going to do it anymore." The hammer clicked into cocked position and Papa raised the gun. "Papa, no!" Nora screamed, racing from the shadows toward him. Fred Landalt dove behind the barn wall, but the gun swung away from him. BLAM! Papa blasted a shell into Fred Landalt's radiator. He shook Nora off his left arm, raised the gun again and emptied the other barrel through the car's front windshield. He reached into his pocket for more cartridges, while Nora scrambled back to him and clung this time to his right arm. "Don't do this, Papa," she pleaded. "It's wrong." BLAM! A charge went off behind them. In shock Nora and Papa whirled to see Patsy Landalt in the moonlight with her husband's shotgun pointed at the sky. "Your quarrel, Walter Penny," she said, "is with me, not Fred. I've been teaching your girls the truth from God's Word." "Patsy," ordered her husband, "put that gun down and go in the house." She lowered the weapon and leaned it against the porch rail. Without a word, she opened the door and disappeared inside. "You'd better go, Walt," Fred advised quietly, his hand now closed around the muzzle of Papa's gun. "You'll be hearing from the sheriff tonight." The man towered over Papa, and although he made no threatening moves, Walter Penny backed up. The shotgun remained in Fred Landalt's fist. Papa turned, grabbed Nora by her shirt collar and fairly threw her into the truck. She huddled in the farthest corner away from him all the way home. He said not a word but death and destruction hung in the air. When they came to a halt in their own yard, Nora bailed out of the truck and fled into the night. An hour later Kate found her down by the creek. She was a wreck, her face bloated from crying, her hair sticking out wildly from the base of her ponytail and her body thoroughly chilled. Kate took off her own sweater and put it on her. She gently coaxed her to come home now. Papa wasn't there, she assured her. The sheriff had come and arrested him. He had taken him to jail. Nora didn't get warm until she'd soaked for a long time in the bathtub. Nellie sat on the john lid and got her to tell the story. For the past hour, she'd locked inside the terror of the evening. It helped her nerves to relate it all now, and Nellie, having heard the account already from Butch, helped her to see it in perspective. Papa hadn't killed anybody; he hadn't really tried to. He had shot Fred Landalt's car and he would have to pay the damages. But maybe now he would be more cautious about turning his anger loose uncontrolled. "Before the sheriff came," Nellie said soberly, "Papa laid some laws on us." "What?" Nora asked. "No more movies on Sunday nights and you are forbidden to drive either of his vehicles," Nellie ticked them off on her fingers. "We're forbidden to speak to a Witness, to set foot in their meetings or to talk to anybody about their beliefs. I think that's all," she concluded. Nora giggled. "That's all? You mean we're still allowed to eat and sleep and breathe?" Nellie flashed a big grin. "Thank goodness!" she sighed. "You're okay." She got up. "When you're done here, we'll hole up in bed and figure out what to do next." 90 "Close that door fast when you go out," Nora said, submerging up to her chin. Contrary to their expectations, the twins' day did not end after they climbed under the covers. They snuggled together to get warm. "Now," said Nellie, "let's plan. How are we going to get to the meetings?" "Maybe we could ride with Landalts." "In what? Their Buick has been shot dead." "I don't suppose they'll have it fixed by Wednesday night," Nora murmured. A sharp rapping on their bedroom door startled them. They both jumped. "Nora, Nellie," called Kate, "get your robes on and come out to the kitchen." "Now?" Nellie objected. "Yes. The time has come." Her footsteps crackled across the floorboards toward the kitchen. "What does she mean by that?" Nora muttered, swinging her still-cold feet out of bed. "The time has come," Nellie repeated ominously. "She's waited for everyone else to go to bed so she can murder us without witnesses." "There you go with that wicked stepmother thing again," Nora objected. "Don't be silly." She tied her robe around her waist and slid her feet into her slippers. Despite her put-down of Nellie's statement, Nora felt a quiver of uncertainty in her middle. The girls cautiously entered the kitchen. Kate, her red hair cascading loose down her back, was stoking the fire in the cook stove. "Sit down," she said with a glance over her shoulder. "I'll make us some Ovaltine." She placed a saucepan on the stove and went to the icebox for the milk jar. Nora sank into a chair. "Wicked stepmother?" she mouthed silently at Nellie. "Poisoned Ovaltine," her sister shot back. Nora smothered a giggle. Nellie made a sour face. Nora copied it. Nellie snickered. Kate whirled. "What are you laughing at?" she demanded with a scowl. "Nora," said Nellie. "Nellie," said Nora. Kate shook her head and let a half smile twitch her mouth. "I'm glad to see you haven't lost your spirit," she said. "I think you're going to need it." "Is that a threat?" asked Nellie outright. Nora slapped at her to hush up. "A threat!?" Kate exclaimed, amazement written all over her face. "Of course, it's not a threat! Do you think I'm on your father's side in this?" "We don't know," said Nora. "We can't figure you out." Kate sat down and gazed at each of them in turn. "Well, the time has come for you to find out. You two haven't been the only ones sneaking around. I've done quite a bit of it myself. Nellie, you sneak off every Wednesday and Friday to study the Bible at Patsy Landalt's. When Butch gets home from school, he makes you repeat everything you learned. When Nora comes in from work, you go over it again for her. I know because I've been listening." "You have?" Nellie exclaimed. "How? I thought we stayed out of earshot." "In warm weather, you had your conferences on the front porch. I made sure a window was open so I could sit inside and hear it all. But lately, it's been too chilly for you to sit outside, so you go into your room. I haven't been able to hear anything for two weeks now." She got up to stir the milk on the stove and add the chocolate mixture to it. "But, why?" Nellie asked. "Were you gathering information to use against us?" "Sissy, can't you see?" Nora objected. "Kate is interested in learning the truth, too. Am I right?" she asked the lady. "Yes, Nora," she admitted. "At first I was just curious, but you two are really learning the Bible. And I want in on it." "What about the Catholic church?" asked Nora. "I wash my hands of it," said the lady bluntly. "Two weeks ago, I asked Fa...Mister Shawn to teach me the Bible. He said to come to his office on such and such a day. So I did and he kept me 91 waiting for two hours. When he did see me, I couldn't get a straight answer out of him. He hedged and shilly-shallied around; he threw long, complicated words at me that I'd never heard before and didn't make a lick of sense." In relating her frustrating experience, Kate's eyes flickered with brown fire. "I tried again, twice," she continued. "The same thing happened. He couldn't answer the simplest question. I knew more...Butch knows more than he does!" "That's what you were doing in town those mornings?" Nellie asked. "Yes." "You weren't...at the doctor's?" "What do you mean? Why would I be at the doctor's?" "So your bad moods weren't from..." Nellie broke off. "Nellie Penny, what are you talking about?" she demanded. "We thought," said Nora, "that maybe you were...expecting." Astonishment washed over her face, then her eyes crinkled up and she started laughing. "No, no, no," she sputtered. "That's wonderful! You thought I was grouchy because I was pregnant and all the time I was just mad as blazes at my priest!" When the three got over their laugh, Kate was included in the girls' plans. Nora may have been restricted from driving, but Kate wasn't. On Nellie's study days, she proposed that, instead of going with the girl through the fence, she would drive her over to Landalts' in the car. Then both of them could study with Patsy. "What about meetings?" Nora inquired. Kate wasn't quite ready to take that step, but she said she would back the girls any way she could, if they could find a way to go. "And Butch?" asked Nellie. "He wants to go in the worst way." She thought about that, then nodded. "He's my son. He has my permission to go with you. But I can't guarantee that I can shield him, or you, from Walter's punishment." "I think Butch will take anything Papa dishes out," said Nellie. "That boy is rock solid for the truth." "Just like his big sisters," Kate murmured with a warm smile. She got up to pour the Ovaltine. 92 CHAPTER 10 A subdued Walter Penny came home the next morning. His shotgun had been returned and the only reparation Fred Landalt wanted was for Papa to pay the repairs on his Buick. Nellie's animosity for Kate had vanished in the night. Jo, reporting on this when she got Nora from work Tuesday, couldn't figure out why. Nellie had never been so pleasant and cooperative. Nora just smiled out the side window. She got tickled again the next afternoon when Nellie reported on her Bible study with Mrs. Landalt. Kate, she said, had practically drowned the lady with questions. The answer to each one would open up several new avenues to explore. They had never got to their usual study material although they had stayed two solid hours. Nellie was excited because she had known the answers to most of Kate's questions herself and had helped Patsy explain them. "We can ride into town with Landalts' tonight to go to meeting," Nellie said. "The Buick isn't fixed yet, so we'll have to go in the farm truck. Patsy says to dress warm because some will have to ride in the back." "We'll wear our boots and coats," Nora planned. "Does Butch want to go?" Nellie laughed. "You should have seen him when Kate told him he could. He did his Indian war whoop and scared the chickens into next week. He and George are out rounding them up now." "I'm sure George will be a big help." Nora grinned, then sobered. "Do you think Papa will let us out the door?" "We'll sneak out the back." Nora thought of Matt's warning. "No," she said, "we're going to tell Papa to his face." Nellie's mouth fell open. "Sissy, that's just inviting trouble." "I know, but when he finds out about our sneaking, it'll mean more trouble. Matt's right; we need to be open about it." "We'll never get out of the house." Nellie's prediction was probably true, and as the hour approached, Nora began to doubt the wisdom of her decision. Papa was never going to stop opposing their activities. How would they be able to do it all when he knew about it? The time came, though, and Butch joined the twins in their room. Nora brought their heavy coats and they put them on, with neck scarves and mittens stuffed in the pockets for later. They would walk out together, presenting a solid front. "Say a prayer for us, Nellie," Butch suggested, his eyes bright with anticipation. Nellie looked at her sister, who nodded. So the three bowed their heads and Butch whipped off his wool cap, leaving his hair standing on end. Nellie asked Jehovah to make them brave and open a way for them to do His will. Butch's cap went back on. "Who's gonna tell him?" he asked. "I will," said Nora reluctantly. It had been her decision; she felt responsible. "Last time you told him," Nellie objected, "he went out and shot a car." Butch snorted. "Okay, I don't want to do it anyway. You can," Nora gladly abdicated. Nellie's face puckered as if she'd bitten into a lemon. Butch and Nora immediately imitated it. So they were all laughing and nobody knew who was going to talk as they marched into the front room. Papa looked up from his newspaper. A scowl creased his forehead. "And where do you think you're going?" he demanded. "Wednesday is one of our meeting nights," Nellie said. "What meeting?" He stood up and strode ahead of them to the front door. 93 "We're on our way to the Kingdom Hall," Nora contributed. Papa blocked the exit with his body and folded his arms. "Not in my car, you aren't." "No, sir," said Nora. The three stood uncertainly in the middle of the flowered living room rug. "Someone will be giving us a ride." "They'll wait all night," he decreed. "I've forbidden you to go to those meetings. So you just turn around and take those coats off. You're going nowhere." Nora had no further argument. Nellie and Butch beside her didn't say anything either, but none of them retreated a step. There were several long moments of silence. Then Nellie touched Nora's arm. "Come on; we'll go out the back door," she said. Papa raised a threatening hand. "You just try it and I'll..." "Walter," Kate's voice interrupted. She stepped between the opposing sides. "Can you state for us the American Legion's main objection to Jehovah's Witnesses?" He glowered at her for a moment. "They're anti-American. They refuse to salute the American flag." "So you and the Legion believe in America and what it stands for?" "You know that. What are you trying to do, Kate?" "Just hear me out, please," she persisted. "What does America stand for?" "Liberty and justice for all," he quoted. "Two of those liberties, according to the Bill of Rights, are freedom of worship and freedom of assembly. Walter, when I came into your home and I put Catholic images up on these walls, do you remember what you told Nellie when she objected?" "What?" "You said, 'America is a land of freedom. The constitution guarantees freedom of worship.' Do you still believe that?" He scowled thunderously, but gave no answer. "If you intend to uphold the ideals of America, you'll not only allow these young women to worship as they please, you'll defend their right to do so." Suddenly Papa focused on his wife's face. Suspicion flickered, then ignited. "Are you involved with this, too?" he demanded. Kate stood facing him. "Before I married you, dear, and came into this house, I had never seen the inside of a Bible. Now I have and I can never be a Catholic again. I can't be a Baptist, either. Right now, I'm nowhere. But Nora and Nellie know what they're doing and where they stand. I feel they deserve the same freedom you gave me." He considered her words with his eyes on her face. Then he looked hard at his daughters. "You do not have my permission. You are going against my will." He stepped away from the door. "You will not use my car!" "Yes, sir," said Nora, as the trio headed for the door. It was all Nora could do to pass Kate by without giving her a huge hug. But it was important to get out of the house before Papa changed his mind and blocked their way again. Light was fading fast as they proceeded down the drive. Nellie walked almost as fast as her sister. But Butch couldn't be held to less than a trot. He galloped ahead until he was out of sight, then came racing back and circled the girls. However, after his second scouting mission the boy came flying back to them, hollering at the top of his lungs. They couldn't figure out a single word. He performed some unusual gymnastic maneuvers in front of them before they caught enough of his message to partially understand. "Don and Prince...the farm wagon with hay! We're going to meeting with horses!" And he was off like a shot. Mystified, Nora and Nellie rounded the last bend before the road. Butch was right. Standing patiently in full harness were Don and Prince, the Landalts' work horses. They were hitched to a wagon bedded with hay. Patsy and her children sat on blankets spread over the hay. 94 As Fred handed Nora onto a mounting block and into the wagon, Patsy explained that the truck had chosen today to expire. Mr. Landalt had not been able to get it running in time, so they'd decided to call on real horsepower. Fred lifted Nellie up. Butch was placed on the driver's seat up front. This move, Patsy confided quietly to the girls, was to prevent 'hay hair.' Youngsters, boys in particular, often had an overpowering compulsion to throw hay on their companions, especially when their victims were girls and likely to protest. After their party presented a respectable appearance at meeting tonight, Butch would be allowed to sit back here on the way home. Patsy Landalt had arranged matters with remarkable foresight. Later as the horses clip- clopped down the street and out of town, a fine hay fight broke out in the wagon. The older Landalts and baby Lydia now sat on the seat up front and were safely out of the reach of the combatants. But Nora and Nellie joyfully joined in the fun. Next morning Kate would demand where this trail of straw came from that led from the front door to the back and up the stairs. For days the twins would find wisps of it in their hair, their clothes, their rag rug and even in their bed. They were disappointed, though, when the repaired Buick was waiting for them Sunday evening. After discussing their meeting attendance with Kate and informing her of Matt's objection to secrecy, the girls decided to be a little more discreet with Papa about their activities. They wouldn't hide them from him, but neither would they poke them under his nose. So Sunday after Matt and Jo drove off to the movies, Butch and the girls quietly made their exit by the back door. If Papa heard them, he made no issue of it. Now that the potatoes were dug and stored, the corn crib was full to the top and the milk herd contentedly grazed in the stubble of the cornfield, there was time for the men to spend on the new house. Slowly the basement was dug, instead of a root cellar out in the yard; and the two-story framework rose into the air. Papa and Matt worked on it during all the daylight hours, except to perform their regular chores and take a noon meal. Jo wasn't as much help around the old house now; she wanted to be on the building site to watch and help wherever she could. The family made no objection. After all, it was her house; she would probably live in it the rest of her life. As autumn marched solemnly into winter, Nora and Nellie became regular in attending all the meetings of Jehovah's Witnesses. Nellie and Kate studied with Patsy Landalt and brought home a copy of either The Watchtower or Consolation every week. It fell to Nora to read the magazines and put the thoughts into words and phrases simple enough for Butch. Although at first it was a struggle, she soon found that the exercise really helped her understand the message better herself. In September the U.S. Congress had passed the Selective Training and Service Act. Because Jehovah's Witnesses would not serve in the military, they were concerned that this provision for drafting young men would make trouble for thousands of brothers. Nora wondered how Ned MacIntyre would fare. Since Papa held to his prohibition of the movies, Nora started saving the money she was allowed to keep from her paychecks. She had in mind buying a phonograph so she and Nellie wouldn't have to borrow one for field service. However, something much more important appeared on the horizon. They learned of a special event that would take place in late December. A zone assembly was scheduled to be held in Toledo. During the assembly, provisions would be made for those who wanted to be baptized. Nellie and Nora did. All through high school, Nora had agonized over what to do with her life. She wanted it to count for something. She'd thought of nursing, but that held no appeal. Teaching school would be interesting and could make a difference in some child's life. Marriage and raising a family was an option. But nothing had really seized her heart. Now something had. Jehovah had a work He wanted done: preaching the gospel of the Kingdom in all the world. It was a tremendous undertaking and every willing volunteer was needed. The message was life- saving, even more so than medicine or secular learning. This was the work that set Nora's heart aglow. In prayer she disowned herself and put her entire life in Jehovah's hands. Now she must be 95 baptized. Nellie evidently felt the same, because she started to think of some way the two of them could get to that assembly. Landalts offered transportation. However lodging would be a problem. Could Nora get time off from work? How would they get past Papa? As November passed and December brought cold and snow, the twins' plans heated up and began to cook. Fred's sister and her husband would be giving accommodations to the Landalts, but a friend of theirs ran a boarding house and would have a room available for the Penny girls. Mr. Millican gave Nora the entire week of Christmas off. Nora had her savings to use for their food, and unexpectedly, her boss included a bonus in with her last paycheck before the vacation. That would pay for their room and part of the gasoline. Kate had begun attending the Sunday meetings, and at hog killing time, she'd taken a stand against using the blood. But she hadn't built up enough enthusiasm yet to buck Papa on a three-day convention. Butch would have to stay home this time. The boy was terribly disappointed. He wheedled and fussed and argued until Kate said, if she heard another word about it, she'd stuff a sock in his mouth. When he happened to forget on laundry day, she made good her threat. Nora walked into the kitchen after work to see Butch with an astonished look on his face and red sock hanging out of his mouth. Nora and Nellie didn't know what Kate intended to do about Christmas, but they and Butch notified the family they would not be exchanging gifts this year. Since the Pennys had never been big on Christmas, this announcement didn't have much effect on Papa or Matt. But Jo was scandalized. Her family believed in celebrating to the hilt. She couldn't understand why her sisters- in-law refused to "honor Jesus." "How is giving gifts to your family, honoring Jesus?" Nellie countered. "The magi did. We follow their example," Jo answered. She and Nellie were washing dishes after Sunday dinner. "The magi gave gifts to Jesus, not to each other," said Nellie. "The magi were on the side of the bad guys," Butch put in. "They almost got Jesus killed." He had been just passing through, but catching the scent of battle, he entrenched himself backwards on a kitchen chair. "The shepherds were the good guys," Nellie continued. "And they didn't bring gifts. They just glorified God." Jo, finding her left flank outgunned, tried a feint to the right. "Don't you care about your family?" "That's silly," Nellie scoffed. "Buying a present doesn't prove you care. Remember how Mrs. Hopkins of the fourth grade used to have everybody draw a name out of a hat and then we had to give that person a Christmas gift?" "Yes, I remember. What about it?" "I drew Eddie Roe." Jo hooted. "You never!" "Yes, I did." "What did you give him?" "I don't remember, but whatever it was, that present didn't prove I cared about him." Jo's wonderful laugh rippled over the surface of the battlefield. Butch's demands of "Who was Eddie Roe?" were ignored as the dust of the quarrel settled. Nora, a silent observer from the sidelines, remembered the ugly, mean-mouthed little Roe boy who had driven Nellie to distraction. It was Jo herself who had come to the crippled girl's rescue by challenging him to fight and proceeding to contribute toward his unpleasant appearance by breaking his stubby nose. Jo didn't renew her attack on Nellie, but the next day when she was driving Nora home from the drug store, she renewed her questions, only on a less-militant note. "Nora, I really don't understand about this Christmas thing." 96 The girl paused to collect her thoughts. "Jesus isn't dead anymore," she said. "He's alive up in heaven." Jo waited a moment, then agreed, "Yes, I guess he is." "So he watches what we humans do." "Yes." "How important to Jesus is truth?" "Truth?" "Didn't he say, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life..." "...no man cometh unto the Father, but by me," Jo finished the verse. "John 14:6." Nora nodded. "And, 'For this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.'" "I guess truth was really important to him," Jo agreed. "So how does he feel when people celebrate his birthday by telling lies to children?" "Lies?" "Santa Claus is a big one." Jo's brow furrowed. "But that's just for fun." "How did you feel when you found out Santa Claus wasn't real?" There was silence for a minute. "I was mad," she finally admitted. "I sneaked downstairs on Christmas eve and saw my parents putting the gifts under the tree and eating the cookies we'd put out for Santa Claus. I guess I threw a royal hissy fit, because Dad tanned my tail and forbade me to tell my younger brothers. It rankled all the way until Easter. My birthday landed on the same day as Easter that year. I remember when Mom put my birthday cake in front of me, I was muttering, 'Yeah, and there probably isn't any Easter Bunny, either.' We have a snapshot of that cake and me sitting by it with a scowl on my face and livid finger marks on my cheek where Mom smacked me." Nora didn't comment on the story. But Jo went quiet after that. Hopefully she was thinking about how her experience had made Nora's point. A mile or so later Jo spoke again, however, it was on a completely different subject. "Matt told me some time ago that you and Nellie weren't really going into town to see Nellie's boyfriend. So I thought there wasn't any boy. But today I saw a page of a letter she had lying on her bed. It was from somebody named Ned." Nora nodded. "I wasn't lying to you, Jo. There is a boy. But he's moved to Toledo now and he writes secretly every week." Jo's eyes lit up. "How long has this been going on?" "Since last summer. He moved to the city soon after you and Matt got married. We...Nellie hasn't seen him since then." "Is it serious?" "I don't know. But really, how can it be when they can't talk or be together?" "Nellie should go visit him. Not by herself, of course. You should go with her." Nora's brain snapped into gear. "We've been invited to go with friends to Toledo next weekend. We haven't talked to Papa yet. He'll probably say No." "You're putting it off till the last minute, aren't you?" "Yes." "Ask him tonight," she urged. "I guess we should." The girls did bring up the subject at the supper table that evening. Unexpectedly Jo sided with them, saying that a weekend in the city would be a good thing. They would see new things, go shopping in the big stores, meet people. Kate's eyebrows went up at Jo's enthusiasm, but she commented that it sounded like a good idea. Butch grumbled in his plate. Papa asked questions. How would they get there? A family had offered them a ride. Both girls held their breath. If he asked Who, they were sunk. He didn't. Where would they stay? A 97 respectable boarding house had been recommended. What would they do there? Nora and Nellie tiptoed around that one. Go downtown, maybe ride the streetcar, visit a friend who had moved there from Armitage. Again they hoped he would let that pass. But he asked, What friend? Suddenly, Jo interrupted, chattering about the things she and Matt had seen when they'd gone to Toledo on their honeymoon trip. Nora knew she was deliberately diverting Papa's attention. It worked. When the family left the table, the twins had not obtained Papa's permission in words, but he hadn't denied them their weekend in the city. So early Thursday afternoon, Nora lugged one large suitcase down the driveway to the Buick that was waiting at the road. Nellie, her crutch in one hand, her handbag heavy with Bibles, songbooks and notebooks, nearly dragging the ground from the other hand. Nora's excitement fizzed and foamed until she felt like hopping around on one foot, like Butch. Poor Butch was in bed at home, as penalty for making tactless remarks about Jo's Christmas decorations. Personally, Nora thought his observations hit the nail right on the head, but she had enough sense to keep her opinions to herself. She wanted nothing to hinder their escape from the farm today. Yesterday had been one of the most unpleasant Christmas days she'd ever known. It was not because she, Butch and Nellie had sat apart watching Jo ramrod the show without them. And it wasn't necessarily the presence of the Fisher family, who had come to join the festivities. But this year she saw the down side: the greedy attitude that it encouraged in the children, the bad feelings because someone else had got a better gift, the ingratitude for all the things they received. The women grew short-tempered as they cleaned up the mess. The men just went outside and left them to it. From the sound of the rough language and laughter out back, she suspected Mr. Fisher had brought a whiskey flask and was passing it around. Nora had been prepared to feel sorry for Butch, since he had decided to stand with the twins on Jehovah's side and denied himself all Christmas gifts. But he didn't need sympathy. He played dominoes with the girls in their room while the gifts were being opened and the three took a long walk with George in the crisp, cold air during the Christmas carolling. The girls were disappointed that Kate had participated in the celebration. She had exchanged gifts with her own family and the Fishers. Nellie pointed out, though, that it took spiritual strength to swim against the current and Kate hadn't been a meeting attender for very long. That was where Jehovah's spirit was concentrated and you could get charged up to withstand the pressures. Besides, did Nora notice that Kate had left all the decorating to Jo? Even the placement of the tree, which Pennys had never before bothered with, had been Jo's decision. Kate also kept herself busy in the kitchen during the singing. Maybe by next year she would be ready to let it go completely. Now Fred Landalt took the suitcase from Nora. While he tried to figure out how to stash it among all the other luggage, the girls got into the car. Roy in the front seat and Gracie in back were bouncing with exuberance, while baby Lydia pumped up and down on her mother's lap. Nora's eyes shone and Nellie couldn't wipe the grin from her face. Nora knew that in years to come, she would never forget the joy and excitement of this day. The trip into the city seemed long because they rarely went there. But soon the Buick pulled up to a two-story frame house that displayed a sign, "Wests' Boarding House." "You'll enjoy these folks," Patsy predicted. "They have two little girls. We'll come get you for supper tonight." Nora felt her insides constrict, but this time it was not from fear. It was because Nellie was going to see Ned MacIntyre. The young man had invited the entire Armitage group to eat at his grandmother's house this evening. The assembly program wouldn't start until Friday evening, but Landalts had so many friends and family in Toledo, they'd decided to come a day early so they could visit. That was fine with Nora and Nellie. It got them out of their own home, where Jo's reproachful eyes followed them around. She felt their nonparticipation in the Christmas activities 98 was a breach of love for the family. None of their explanations were acceptable to her. Now the twins followed Fred Landalt onto the front porch of the boarding house. They were welcomed by "Brother West," a tall young man with a genuine smile, who conducted them directly to their room on the ground floor. Nora suspected this accommodation had been deliberately planned out of regard for Nellie's handicap. If so, it had been very considerate. They had an hour or so to wait before their friends would return for them. The girls washed up and changed clothes. Then they went out to sit in the parlor. There they met some of the other Wests. Brother West's mother entered and welcomed them. She held two little girls by the hand. Nora noted that the smaller one stood shyly, her little hand resting willingly in her grandmother's grasp. However, the older girl was leaning away from the lady so that their arms were stretched taut. Sister West's fingers were white as she tried to hold the would-be escapee. These, the lady introduced the children, were Dee, who was seven and Annie, five. The little one said, "How do you do," very politely. Dee suddenly stopped pulling away and openly stared at the visitors. "You're the same lady twice!" she exclaimed. Nellie grinned. "You're the same age as our brother Butch," she said. "I'll bet you like to climb trees." Nora, too, had noticed the scruffy-kneed blue jeans she wore and the little scratches on her hands and face. "Yeah," the child said slowly. "Where do you live?" "On a farm," Nellie answered. "If you ever come to visit us, you could play in the creek and ride the horses and hunt for new kittens in the hay mow. And we have lots of trees to climb." Dee's eyes lighted up for a moment. "I'd like the trees and the kitties," she said. "But not horses. Horses are mean." Nellie's eyebrows went up in amazement. "I've never heard anybody say that before. Why do you think horses are mean, Dee?" The child plunked herself down on the floor to sit cross-legged at Nellie's feet. Her brow puckered. "Because Davey Holt's horse bit my hair and wouldn't let me go." Sister West sat down in a rocker and chuckled. "It's a Shetland that pulls a pony cart," she explained and twitched the girl's left pigtail. "But I don't blame him a bit. If you'd tried to hang on my tail, missy, I would probably have done the same." "Our horses are nice," Nellie said. "Even though they're about three times bigger than that pony, they're so gentle, Butch can ride all over the farm without even using a switch." Nellie went on talking to the children and soon she was relating a story from the Bible. The little girls were captivated. Nora had never heard her sister explain things to a child. Butch got his lessons before Nora came home from work. But because of the depth of their brother's understanding, she realized Nellie must be very good at it. Listening now, Nora was impressed. When the story was finished and the girls scampered off, Sister West highly praised Nellie. "There's only one other person I've ever heard tell a story that well. You'll be meeting her tonight." "Who's that?" "Gracie Wagner. She's Fred Landalt's sister. She used to do advertisements and an occasional bit part in radio programs. But after she married, she and her husband went pioneering all over the South and Midwest." "Did they come back for the assembly?" asked Nora. "No; they live here now," she said vaguely, then changed the subject. "I understand you're planning to be baptized." "Yes, we are," said Nellie. She smiled. "It's the best thing you'll ever do in your lives. There's no career in this whole world that could be more worthwhile than preaching the Kingdom message. It's a comforting feeling to know that when you're serving Jehovah, you're always doing the right thing." "Have you been a pioneer?" Nora inquired. 99 "No." She shook her head wistfully. "But I love to be out there preaching. I intend to be in on the information march Sunday morning." The Penny girls hadn't heard that a march was planned. They were pumping the lady for details when Fred appeared to take them away. Nora felt as if she was suffocating with excitement as the Buick pulled up before a cozy little house. Lights shone from all the windows and muted voices sounded through the walls. Then the door flew open and Ned MacIntyre came out to meet them. His eyes were sparkling, his face wreathed with smiles. It wasn't until they all went inside that Nora got a good look at his face. Her dread subsided; his burns had not disfigur-ed him. There were a few smooth, pink scars, but they would not draw people's attention. That worry disposed of, she forgot about it and gave herself to enjoying the evening. Sixteen people were stuffed into that little house to eat and visit. Ned presented his grandmother, Sister Dorris, a stout, bustling lady with her gray hair drawn into a bun at the back. Then came his five brothers. Wilfred was eighteen and the others uniformly dropped in age by two years each until they got to Woody, who was ten. The other two people to be introduced were Ralph and Gracie Wagner. The Pennys already knew that Gracie was Fred's sister, but now they learned that Ralph was Patsy's brother. The couple would soon be having a baby. After a sumptuous meal, the group sat around the small front room. Boys sprawled all over the floor with little Gracie and Roy sitting on their prone bodies. Here Patsy primed the pump by telling a funny story from her old pioneering days. It started a flow of experiences that didn't run dry all evening. Ned told about his partner last winter, a dapper old gentleman who wore a bowler hat. "He's been preaching since before the turn of the century," he said with admiration, "back when pioneers were called 'colporteurs.' We went out in field service in his ancient truck that had a cracked windshield and no floor. The metal had been all eaten away and crumbled, so he'd put in a couple of wooden slats. As we drove along, there was the road whizzing by under our feet. We had to beware of puddles because the mud would splash up our pantlegs." Ned was grinning with the memory. "But that brother knew the Scriptures and how to explain them. He would go from Point One to Point Two to Point Three and there would be the whole picture laid out in front of you, so simple, a five-year-old could understand. I hope some day I'll be able to do half that well." Ned, Ralph and Gracie took turns reminiscing for awhile, then Ned clammed up and let the Wagners go ahead. They'd been pioneering much longer, five years as a married couple, as well as what they'd done separately before their marriage. They'd recently been serving in Texas, where mob violence was especially bad. They didn't seem too perturbed by it, though. "Sometimes the mobs actually helped us out," Gracie said cheerfully. "We'd get really low on food and wonder where we would find our next meal. Then in service that day, we'd get chased out of town by people throwing things at us. By some odd chance, the things they threw were edible: potatoes, turnips, cabbages. We'd take it all home and put it in the pot." "It isn't always the mob that throws things," Ralph added. "We heard of some brothers who were being run out of town by men bent on real violence. The brothers entrenched themselves behind a pile of used tires at a gas station and fended off the mob by throwing empty pop bottles at them." Ralph had built a house trailer, which he'd mounted on wheels and pulled with the car. That way they always had a bed to sleep in and shelter from storms and cold. "In some towns," Gracie said, "we had great fun keeping one step ahead of the police. Ralph would leave the trailer hitched to the car at the outskirts of town in case we needed a quick getaway. Then we'd walk downtown. We'd introduce ourselves to the businessmen and explain our work. That way, if there was trouble later, sometimes one or two of those business people would speak up for us." Although the couple had seen the inside of many a jail cell, (in fact, they had first met each 100 other in jail) they seemed to feel like Patsy did, that there was no shame or stigma attached to being arrested for preaching. They regarded it as a privilege to be persecuted for doing the Lord's work. Nora listened avidly to all the stories. She felt excitement build in her and a keen desire to have a part in all this. The message was urgent; the end of the old world was so close. Sounding forth that message was the most important thing she could ever do with her life. When Ned invited the twins to go in the house-to-house work tomorrow morning, Nora nearly jumped out of her chair with enthusiasm. Friday morning was spent in the company of four MacIntyre boys, as well as Gracie Wagner and Patsy. The two women paired up since they wanted to relive the days they'd pioneered together before marriage pulled them apart. That left Nora and Nellie to be squired by the boys. Nora went to the doors with each MacIntyre in turn. Wilfred was shy, so during her time with him, no more than two or three words were exchanged between them. She was perfectly comfortable with that. However Adrian and Herman, who were sixteen and fourteen, had to show off. Nora was amused by their silliness, but did not play back, so it didn't get out of hand. Nellie, though, could be seen across the street, laughing so hard with Herman that she had to sit down on the porch swing to recover. Unfortunately a woman answered the door at that point. And when Herman dropped the record and broke it, Nora couldn't stand to watch anymore. Nora was with Ned at the time. He shook his head. "That boy has some growing up to do," he commented. "But I can remember doing things like that myself." "Trying to impress the girls?" Nora teased. He grinned at her. "I guess I've never outgrown that." With his eyes on her, he stepped too close to the curb. His foot slipped off and plunged ankle-deep into a puddle on the road. Nora giggled. "Very nice," she said. Ned pulled his boot out of the water and ruefully examined his wet pantleg. "It wasn't one of my better efforts," he said, grinning at her. "I'll try to do better next time." Although today she was not speaking with him in the darkness of the root cellar, Nora realized that she was at ease with him. That was good. Because of his interest in Nellie, the girls were sure to see much more of him in the future. Friday evening the assembly program began. Nora took copious notes on the lectures. Next morning, Saturday, December 28, 1940, Nora and Nellie Penny were baptized. Fred Landalt had teased them that a hole would be cut in the ice on the river, for the baptism. As it turned out, they were immersed in something unusual: a horse trough. A large metal trough was set up inside the rented meeting hall. The girls, along with the other women candidates, changed in the ladies room and stood in line for their turn in the water. The brothers doing the baptizing did their part by standing beside the trough and leaning over the edge. Nora was helped into the water and instructed to sit down. Then one brother leaned her backward until her upper body was submerged. Another made sure her feet and knees didn't pop above the surface. When she climbed out, Patsy Landalt was there to meet her with a towel and a big hug. Nora, shivering, waited with the spectators to see her twin be baptized. Nellie emerged with such a joyous grin, Nora ran up and hugged her before she even got out of the horse trough. There was more assembly program that evening. But the main talk would be delivered early Sunday afternoon. The public would be invited by a publicity campaign. Already fliers were posted in the windows of many small businesses downtown. And Sunday morning many of the Witnesses would participate in a sandwich sign march to advertise the lecture. The Pennys decided to join. At 9 AM, having been organized at the assembly hall, a large group gathered at a city park near the business district. Placards were handed out and those who had done this kind of thing before, now helped the new ones to tie them on. Ned's and Nora's read, "Serve God and Christ the King." Nellie's was the bold statement, "Religion is a Snare and a Racket." Gracie Wagner had the title of the lecture, as did the older Sister West. Nora thought Ned was a very courageous man. It had been this kind of activity that had sparked the assault on him in Cottage Grove. But here he was doing it again. When she mentioned 101 it to Gracie, the lady agreed. "Facing a mob can be terrifying, but you usually don't think that much about it right then. It's later, after it's all over, that fear can be a problem. For me, the real test with persecution is to go to the next house. I figure, if I continue on with the work, Satan hasn't won. His persecution hasn't stopped me. In fact, I feel it makes a person stronger." "Stronger?" "Yes, if you stayed loyal under one test, it proves that, with Jehovah's help, you can stand up to others. With that assurance in your mind, you'll be stronger for the next test." "I see," Nora said. "Has Ned been in a march like this since he was mobbed?" "I don't think so," Gracie commented. "It's important for him to do this today. He'll be facing his fears head on and conquering them." With Gracie's words in her mind, Nora quietly observed Ned as he smiled and laughed brightly. Despite his outward expressions, she noted a furrow of anxiety that now and then appeared on his brow. She wanted to squeeze his hand. But she didn't. She hoped he remembered that December was designated the "Courage" Testimony Period. The group was lined up, ready to go. The marchers were arranged so their different signs would be staggered. Nellie was behind Gracie, who followed Ned. Nora walked behind her sister. Each marcher was equipped with a handful of printed invitations to the lecture. They would be passing them out to onlookers. Nora became aware of the attention the parade was attracting. People in coats, hats and boots paused on their way to church to read the signs and some accepted invitations. Mostly they were polite. Although no mob violence had happened so far in Toledo and no one expected any today, she had felt some apprehension about this activity. The march proceeded for several blocks without incident. Nora relaxed and began to enjoy herself. This was the work Jehovah wanted done, and she, Nora Penny, now a dedicated, baptized witness of Jehovah, was having a part in it. This was what she wanted to do with her life. There was no room for fear of man. Nora noticed a disquieting sound. It wasn't loud at first and she couldn't identify just what it was. But it made her uneasy. If the other Witnesses heard it, they gave no sign. Everyone kept marching. They passed a Rexall drug store. Nora looked in to see the familiar comic book rack, featuring Tarzan, Mickey Mouse and Flash Gordon. She caught a glimpse of the soda fountain and shelves of Vicks Vaporub, Gilette Blue Blades and Lydia Pinkham's pink pills. Then her eyes focused on the window and the reflection of angry men advancing. She turned her head toward the street just as a missile flew past her nose and splatted onto the glass. It was an egg. Her step faltered, but only for a moment. The other marchers were continuing, while one brother stepped out of line to speak to the men. Nora had heard so many stories of mobs led by Catholic priests, but none seemed to be present in this group. She did note a few American Legion hats, though. The brother who had stopped was talking as Nora passed him. She heard only a sentence or two. "What you're doing here is a violation of the law," he told the men. "To interfere with these peaceful people is to show contempt for the flag and that for which it stands." Then she was out of earshot. Those had been some powerful statements; the brother was being very bold. She heard a shout and a chorus of raucous laughter. Then the men began yelling things at the marchers, cursing and even using Jehovah's name in their catcalls. Eggs began flying. The marchers stopped and got out of line, the brothers trying to shield the sisters from the barrage. Nora, standing with Nellie behind Ned, noticed a curious action up the street. Wilfred MacIntyre was catching the eggs in mid-air and handing them to Sister West. The lady would hurl them back at the mob and she seemed to find a face with each throw. Nellie got hit on one shoulder, but no one was getting hurt. Even if the ammunition had been rocks, the Witnesses were well-insulated with heavy coats because of the cold weather. Gracie nudged Nora. "Here come the police. If they hadn't come, we probably would have 102 had to quit and go home." However, the police were no help at all. Instead of dispersing the mob, they ordered the Witnesses off the street. When the spokesman brother showed them his ID card and tried to reason with them, he was arrested. At that, the mob howled and hooted. "Look at the disturbance you're causing!" a policeman shouted at the Witnesses. And they placed the entire group under arrest. Nora found herself in the back seat of a police car with Nellie and Gracie Wagner. Rather than hanging her head in shame, Nora was surprised to find herself grinning with happiness. Not even baptized for 24 hours, here she was being honored to be persecuted for Jehovah's name. The others seemed to feel the same. And as the caravan of police cars and a paddy wagon moved out from the curb, Nellie pulled off her placard and plastered it against the side window. Nora gave her sign to Gracie to put in the other window. So the police drove all the way to the station with their own car advertising that "Religion is a Snare and a Racket" and to "Serve God and Christ the King." That Sunday morning Nora Penny felt the calming spirit of Jehovah God. She had not suffered a moment of doubt, or even anxiety, all during the attack, her arrest and the hours of imprisonment that followed. Things had happened so quickly she hadn't thought to utter a prayer, but Jehovah had supplied her with courage anyway. Her hands on the cell bars, she bowed her head against them, closed her eyes and said thank you from her heart. 103 CHAPTER 11 The twins had a difficult time containing themselves when they got home late Sunday night. They'd had so much fun on the way home, singing, "Write me a letter; send it by mail; send it in care of Toledo jail." Fortunately most of the family were in bed when the girls came practi-cally dragging their suitcase up the drive. Only Kate had waited up for them and she had to shush their exuberance for fear of waking the family. The hour was late and Nora had to go to work in the morning, but she lay in bed with her eyes wide open. She and Nellie quietly rehashed their entire weekend until finally they wound down enough to go to sleep. Papa never found out that they had attended the assembly. Jo read in the paper about the information march arrests and commented to Nellie, "You shouldn't be around those people. This could have happened to you." Nellie had to leave the room to keep from laughing. Butch heard the whole story and for days he could be heard whistling, "Down in the Valley." In mid-January Kate privately faced down Papa and began attending Wednesday night meetings. Papa never tried any strong-arm tactics with her. Maybe he realized that, if he couldn't control his own daughters, he would never win against a determined wife, especially when that wife was red-headed Kate Penny. Two weeks later she and Butch accompanied Patsy Landalt and the twins in the house-to-house work. When Butch came home that day from his first time in field service, he was surprised that George was not there to meet him. Without even changing clothes, he started hunting, calling and whistling. "We'd better keep our coats on," Kate warned the girls. "He'll be dragging us out there any minute." "Do you think it's time?" Nora asked. "Yes, she's ready." Sure enough, Butch suddenly burst into the kitchen. His woolen cap was lopsided, his cheeks flamed red from the cold, his brown eyes danced in rhythm with his hopping body. "George is a ma!" he announced breathlessly. They all had to follow him to the barn. There in a bed of straw lay George, with four blind puppies nursing for dear life. "George is a she, Ma!" Butch said in wonder. "And I never even knew it." Nellie reached down and picked up a squeaking pup. "Look," she said. "Three of these puppies look just like Rover." Kate laughed. "I guess we aren't the only ones who've been on the other side of the fence." George and her babies were carefully transferred to a bed in the kitchen. That night Butch was delighted when the dog jumped into her usual spot on the couch, then left and returned three more times. The boy slept happily with all five dogs on his feet. Nora was becoming unhappy with her job. It wasn't the work itself; any job with the same hours would have made her impatient. She wanted to spend her days in the preaching work and the only time she had free was Sunday. Then one afternoon, Mrs. Brady was lamenting that her grandchildren seemed to take turns being sick all winter long every year. "Won't it be nice," Nora commented, "when nobody will be sick anymore?" The lady stared at her in surprise, "Why, whatever are you talking about, Nora?" "When the Lord's Kingdom takes over, He's going to do away with all pain." "Does it say that in the Bible?" Mrs. Brady asked with real interest. "Yes, ma'am. At Revelation 21, verse 4." "Revelation 21, verse 4," the lady repeated, as if trying to imprint it on her memory. 104 The next time Mrs. Brady came to the drug store, she confided to Nora. "I found that verse you told me about and it really does say there will be no pain. I never knew that was there. Are there other verses that say more about it?" Nora felt a thrill and her blue eyes glowed. "Yes, ma'am, there are, but I don't know where they're located. I'll find them for you, if you like, and write them down." "I'd really appreciate that," she said. Encouraged by such a positive response, Nora began dropping her 'no more sickness' line on just about everyone who came in the store. In her lunch sack she brought a booklet and gave it to Mrs. Brady when she returned. Nora felt much better about her job now. But it wasn't to last. For the first time in her life, Nora Penny's mouth got her in trouble. "Hey, Squeak," Danny Ogilvie addressed her one afternoon. She sat alone at the counter and Danny spoke in a near-whisper. "Don't tell the boss I said anything, but he's thinking about canning you." Nora's eyes widened. "Why?" "Two or three customers griped to him about you and your religious stuff. So if you want to keep your job, sugar puss, you'd better ax the gab." "Thanks, Danny," she responded. Although her reply was in keeping with the nickname Danny had dubbed her, Nora's thoughts were definitely not as quiet as a mouse. She nearly choked on her next swallow of malted. If Mr. Millican was unhappy about her witnessing to the customers, why didn't he tell her so to her face? And why was he so upset over a couple of grumblers? Didn't he regularly get complaints over other things? She wasn't doing any harm. But then she remembered that he belonged to the American Legion. They were definitely opposed to Jehovah's Witnesses. Did Mr. Millican know that she'd become one? He had told Danny not to serve Ned anymore; was he now looking for an excuse to get rid of her? Nora stewed about it the rest of the day. At home she told Nellie and Kate. Nellie was just as incensed as Nora about the injustice. But Kate settled them down. "Even though the law guarantees freedom of speech, common sense should regulate how we use it," she said. "Nellie, would you try to explain in detail how to make bread to somebody in the middle of a picture show?" "No, of course not." "Nora, what would Mr. Millican think if Danny started singing to all the customers?" She giggled. "Danny has a terrible voice. He'd drive everybody away. I see what you mean. There's a time and a place for everything." "The drug store belongs to Mr. Millican," Kate continued. "He has a right to restrict his employees from certain behavior." "But he never even told Sissy!" Nellie objected. "It isn't fair to fire her without warning." "That's true, but we can be glad Danny saw fit to slip a word to Nora." "So you think I should stop witnessing in the store?" Nora asked. "What do you think?" Nora nodded reluctantly. "I suppose I should keep quiet. But it won't be easy. I was having such a good time with it." It wasn't easy. Every day there were so many wonderful openings for a word about the Kingdom, her tongue got sore from biting it. Mr. Millican said nothing more about firing her and Danny winked at her, giving her a signal that the danger had blown over. But Nellie got to share in the preaching work at least one morning during each week, as well as Saturdays. Nora felt left out. She was able to go on Sundays, though. She called on Mrs. Brady at her home and thoroughly enjoyed the lady's enthusiasm over the booklet Nora had given her. The girl promised to return to answer the lady's questions. On Wednesday, February 5, when Matt came for her after work, Nora had no foreboding of 105 any trouble. But when she walked through the back door, she immediately sensed that something had happened. Kate's back was ramrod straight as she stood at the kitchen counter; her manner prohibited questions. Jo immediately ran outside to go off with Matt to their house; she didn't speak either. So Nora was relieved that Nellie seemed anxious to talk. As they went into their room, she noted George sitting at the foot of the stairs, her head cocked sideways, her puppies ignored. "Is Butch upstairs?" Nora asked. "Yes, he's in bed." "Is he sick?" Nellie shook her head. "I'll tell you all I know. Kate stayed in town to shop this morning after she dropped you off. So she wasn't home when the school called. The principal, Mr. Hopkins, said Butch was in trouble and his mother had to come in right away. Jo decided to go tell Papa. He got in the truck, brought Butch home and sent him up to bed for the rest of the day. When Kate came, she couldn't get a word out of Butch, and at lunch, Papa wouldn't talk about it, either." "Did you find out yet? Did he pull some trick on the teacher?" "Nothing like that, at all," said Nellie. "When Kate and I went over to Patsy's this afternoon, we found out the facts. Gracie and Butch had not been saluting the flag for a long time, but Miss Woods, their teacher, never made a big thing over it. This morning, though, Mr. Hopkins happened to be in her classroom when the salute was done. He saw the two who had their arms down and he made a ruckus. When he couldn't get them to do it, he sent them to his office. Then he went around to every classroom and had each class do the ceremony so he could watch. He nabbed Polly Addison and Simon Hayes." "He didn't whip them, did he?" Nora asked anxiously. "Mr. Hopkins didn't. He called all their parents to come get them because they were expelled from school." "So it's come to Armitage," Nora murmured. "And Butch took his stand." "I'll say he did! Patsy says she got there about the same time Papa did. He ordered Butch to salute the flag in the principal's office, but Butch just said, 'No, sir.' So Papa grabbed Mr. Hopkins' paddle and took him outside. When they came in, Papa told him again to salute and Butch said, 'No, sir.' Sissy, Papa whipped him three times and Butch wouldn't do it! So he brought him home." Nora had tears in her eyes. "What a strong, brave little boy!" she said. "He sure is," Nellie agreed. "But Kate is livid. She came home and went straight upstairs to give Butch as much comfort as she could. I don't know what's going to happen when Papa shows up." It turned out that the family was not witness to Kate's confrontation with Papa. She maintained rigid silence all through the evening meal and afterward the two went out to the barn to talk privately. The dishes were all washed, wiped and put away when they came back in the house. Papa sat down in the front room but he didn't pick up the newspaper. Kate went directly upstairs. Nora noticed that both of them wore a pucker between their eyebrows. When Jo went to turn the radio on, Papa stopped her. "Wait a few minutes," he said. Then the stairs creaked and Kate reappeared, followed by Butch in his nightshirt. George, in her joy to see him, nearly tied herself in a knot. But the boy laid a quieting hand on her head and she immediately calmed down to sit at his feet. "Did you want to see me, sir?" Butch asked Papa. "Butch, you've made a good record with me," said Papa. From his seated position, he was eye level with the boy. Ignoring Teddy who sat squealing happily on the rug with four puppies assaulting him, his attention was focused totally on Butch. "Until today, I've found you to be willing to do whatever I've asked you. Your mother has given me her reasons for your disobedience this morning. Now I want you to tell me yours." Butch nodded solemnly. "Yes, sir. You see, there once was a king. He ordered the people 106 to bow down to a special image but three boys wouldn't do it. So the king got mad and said they had to. But the boys said, 'No, sir, we can only bow down to our God.' The king got madder and said if they didn't bow down, they would get thrown in the fire. But they said their God could save 'em if He wanted to, but if He didn't want to, it didn't matter, 'cause they still wouldn't bow down. The king got really, really mad and said to make the fire seven times hotter and they threw 'em in." Papa, listening quietly until now, waited a moment for Butch to continue. When he didn't, he said, "Well, so the boys got burnt up, did they?" Nora could tell by his tone that he already knew the answer, he was just testing Butch. "Nope," he answered. "They walked right out, big as life. Not one single hair was burnt off their heads." Papa nodded. "I remember the story and you told it fine, son. But what does that have to do with your refusal to salute the flag?" "That graven image was what they was usin' for a flag back then," said Butch. His father thought about it. "No," he decided, "it isn't the same. Nobody has asked you to bow down to the flag." "If the king had told 'em to put their hands on their hearts and say, 'I pledge allegiance to the image,' do you think them boys woulda done it?" "It isn't the same," Papa insisted. "You're not being asked to pledge allegiance to the flag..." He broke off, realizing what he'd just said. He sat back in his chair. Butch stood there, waiting. "Look, son," Papa went on, changing directions, "you can't be a good American if you don't salute the American flag." "Remember when Jimmy James snuck out of church and stole the hubcaps off all the cars outside?" "Yes, I do. The little crook took them to his old man's garage so his father could sell them back to us." Papa scowled at the memory. "Jimmy James salutes the flag," said Butch. Walter Penny rubbed the back of his head, unable to find an answer to the boy's simple logic. "Well, look," he said finally, "if you don't salute, you can't go to school. They expelled you. So what are we going to do?" "I don't know, Papa," Butch said. "I don't want to make no trouble. I just can't salute." His brow furrowed, he looked genuinely concerned about the problem. Nora saw her father's face soften. This was the first time she'd ever heard Butch call him Papa. She knew Papa liked him. He enjoyed hearing about his pranks and was always teaching him something new. He was amazingly patient with him, praising him up when he got something right. Now he studied the youngster for several long moments. "I'm not sure yet what I'm going to do about this," he said slowly. "I need to think some more on it. But we've talked about it enough for now. Come here, son. Somebody turn on the radio." He reached for the boy and drew him onto his lap. As the radio played and the family listened and laughed, Butch went to sleep in Papa's arms. When the time came to go to bed, Kate brought down his blankets and spread them on the couch. When she straightened up and turned from her task, Papa, holding Butch, was standing right there. "I don't approve of what you're teaching him," said her husband. "But, Kate Penny, you have one fine boy." Butch didn't go to school the rest of the week. Evidently Papa had not finished thinking about it because he didn't announce any decision. However, the matter of education for expelled Witness children was not being left to chance. The other parents notified the proper brothers and arrangements were quickly made to continue their schooling. Patsy Landalt talked to Nellie and Kate on Friday when they went for their Bible study. Nellie could hardly contain herself until Nora got home. She practically dragged her into their bedroom and told her she could soak her feet later. 107 "All right," Nora said. "Tell me whatever it is, before you burst." "First of all, about Butch: Children of Jehovah's Witnesses in Toledo are being expelled, too. So the brothers have organized their own school. A sister who is a qualified teacher has volunteered to teach the children and the parents are putting in the money for books and other supplies. Butch and Gracie and the other two youngsters from Armitage have been invited to attend the school." "But...that would mean he'd have to go all the way to Toledo!" Nora exclaimed. "Right. Someone will drive them over early Monday morning and then go back and get them Friday afternoon. Different Witness families in the city have offered to board the children from out of town. Ned wants Butch to stay at his house." "You mean, it's already decided?" Nora sat down hard on the bed. The thought of sending Butch away for most of every week gave her a sad, empty feeling. "Almost," said Nellie. "Kate approves and Butch loves the idea. We just need to get it past Papa." Nora quietly sat, thinking about the idea. "That isn't all, Sissy," Nellie said softly and waited for Nora to tune in again. "I've been offered a job." "You have?!" Nora's blue eyes widened in amazement. "Where? Doing what?" "I've been asked to help the teacher at the Witness school." It took a moment for Nora to realize what her sister was saying. "In Toledo!?" she exclaimed. Nellie nodded soberly. She knew what stomach-wrenching effect this was having on her twin. "I'm not qualified to be a teacher myself, but there are plenty of things I can do to help her. Sister West at the boarding house told the brothers I was good with children, so they asked for me." Nellie talked along without pause, trying to let Nora absorb the impact and come to grips with it. "I'll ride into the city with the children Monday morning and come back home on weekends, like Butch. Little Gracie and I will be staying together at the Wests' boarding house. We'll take our meals there, too. I won't get paid anything, although my room and board will be furnished. But, Sissy, I have to do this," she said intensely, leaning forward and squeezing Nora's arm. "If I work with the teacher, my labor will be in exchange for Butch's tuition." Nora couldn't say anything for awhile after Nellie stopped talking. She saw the picture her sister had painted. It was all going to work out. Papa couldn't object too much when Butch's expenses would be paid by Nellie. And Nellie wanted to do this; she wanted it very much. What an opportunity for her, not only to contribute something to her family, but to Jehovah, as well. And she would be near Ned. Despite all the positive aspects she listed in her mind, Nora felt the tears brim in her eyes. Sissy was talking about separation. Eventually, she knew, the twins would go off to each lead her own life. The splitting-up process had started when Mama died and Nellie continued attending school while Nora stayed home. Then the situation was reversed when Nora went to work at the drug store. This new development was just another step away from each other. She should be glad that their separation was happening gradually, a little at a time, rather than a sudden, total wrenching of them apart. After all, Nellie would be home on weekends, and this would just be until the school year ended. But Nora would be lonely. Monday morning, long before the sun rose, the Penny family waved good-bye to Nellie and Butch as they disappeared down the drive in Sister Addison's car. George, sensing something amiss, whined and watched the red taillights fade in the darkness, while Matt restrained her from following the car. Nora sympathized with the dog. But remembering the excited faces of her brother and sister as they jumped into the car, she couldn't feel too badly about their departure. That evening, however, when George and the puppies decided to move in with Nora, she made no objection. The girls had a custom of "filling-in." Whenever they'd been pursuing their separate 108 activities during the day, that evening each would recite all the events and conversations the other had missed. This was not only comforting, but was often useful. Despite Nellie's handicap, people occasionally mistook one twin for the other. So when Jo asked Nora, "Nellie, did the Fuller Brush man come while I was out?", Nora could just say, "Yes, he has your order." Although Nora had been at work when the man showed up, Nellie had told her all about it--and the booklet she'd placed with him. But now, Monday through Thursday, Nora had nobody to tell about her day. It felt like each day wasn't quite completed. On Wednesday Kate came to get Nora at the store. As the girl climbed into the car, the lady held out an envelope. Nora thought it might be from Nellie, but she was surprised to see Ned's handwriting. The letter was addressed to Kate and Nora Penny. It had not been opened. "Did this come to Landalts'?" she asked. "Yes. Patsy gave it to me when I went for my model study today. Why don't you open it and read it to me on the way home?" The twins had been receiving a letter from Ned every week since he'd returned to Toledo. The news was always about his family and friends and experiences he'd had in the preaching work. Nora personally answered each one, posting them from the drug store. She assumed Nellie sent her own through the Landalts', though Nora had never seen her sister writing one. Since Nellie's letters would be of a personal nature, she would naturally write them while Nora was away at work. This letter from Ned was light and breezy, as usual. He reported on Butch's acceptable behavior while staying with the MacIntyres. "I don't know if he's naturally such a good boy," Ned wrote, "or if Woody warned him about Granny. She is notorious for her quick-draw with a wooden spoon. She has never been known to miss a body part she was aiming for." Kate laughed. "Now I know Stanley is in good hands." "Ned's grandparents raised those six boys very well," said Nora. "Their mother died and their father ran off. So the old folks did their best with them. All of them have really good manners." "Are both the grandparents Jehovah's Witnesses?" "Yes, but the grandfather died about a year ago. I understand he was practically immobile from arthritis. The boys speak of him with deep respect and a lot of affection." Nora finished reading the letter. When they got to the house, she offered it to Kate. But the lady told her to keep it. Nora put it under her pillow. Friday evening Butch and Nellie came home. The girls sequestered themselves in their room and talked on top of each other for a solid hour. Butch and George had a glorious reunion that sent them racing off across the fields together, the puppies unable to waddle fast enough to keep up. Nellie reported on the school, which was held in someone's large parlor. Included with the normal school subjects was a class in Bible instruction, and two afternoons each week, the whole class went out in field service. She loved staying with the Wests and little Gracie Landalt was okay as a roommate. But the only times she saw Butch were at school and meetings. She kind of missed the little rascal. Nora listened for her sister to say something about Ned. There was nothing, at least, not specifically about him. She just spoke about the MacIntyre boys as a group. It was frustrating for Nora to go to work Saturday morning. She knew Nellie and Kate planned to go in the preaching work. They came by the store to say hello when they were done and Mr. Millican said she could sit and have a cup of cocoa with them. So she was able to hear all about their morning while the experiences were hot off the grill. Sunday, Nora went out. She and some others did street witnessing in front of the churches for awhile. Then she decided to make a back call on Mrs. Brady. The woman's interest was still burning, so Nora placed a Salvation book with her. She made sure she included with it a bookmark that listed the times of the meetings. It was Wednesday afternoon when she saw Mrs. Brady again. Looking up from the sales slip 109 she had just impaled on the spindle, Nora came face to face with the beaming little lady. "Nora, Nora," the woman bubbled, her dark eyes shining, "I stayed up nearly all night last night and finished the book." Her hand grasped the girl's. "It's just wonderful! The things it says are really true. I remember how the government restricted our crops and destroyed animals to make money. And then when the dust storms and heat and grasshoppers came in, the church said it was a punishment from God because we didn't put enough in the collection plate. I remember all that, Nora, and it was just like the book said." Nora couldn't help but be warmed by the lady's enthusiasm. But they were standing near the back of the store and Mr. Millican was filling prescriptions just behind that wall. The girl smiled, but said nothing. "I have some questions, though," Mrs. Brady continued. "How do you know that Jesus was made King of the Kingdom in 1914?" "Write it down, Mrs. Brady," said Nora. "I'll come by your house on Sunday and we'll talk about it then." "But how can I wait?" the lady stewed. "I want to know about the war in heaven and what is God's organization? It says that's the only place of safety. I need to know what it is." "I promise I'll see you Sunday, all right?" Nora insisted. "Well, I suppose that will have to do," she agreed reluctantly. "But don't you forget. I'll be waiting." "I'll be there," she repeated. And the lady left the store. No sooner had the bell tinkled and the door clicked shut, than Mr. Millican appeared from behind the partition. His forehead was deeply creased with a frown. "Nora, I heard your conversation with Mrs. Brady there. And I'm afraid that was the last straw. I can't have my employees preaching religion to the customers, especially a religion I despise. I'm going to have to let you go." Nora's belly felt like it had turned to stone. "Sir, I..." He cut her off. "You may finish out the week, but after Saturday, you'll no longer work here." He turned his back and walked away, permitting no argument or explanation. All afternoon Nora wrestled with her emotions. Over and over her mind came up with things she could have said or should have said, and also other things that were better left unsaid. She mentally argued and pleaded and told him off. But by the time Matt showed up to take her home, she had come to the realization that the loss of her position was solely from Mr. Millican's prejudice against the Truth. She'd done her job well, and when she found out the boss objected to her preaching, she had stopped. The conversation he'd overheard had been all one-sided; Nora had not preached. She didn't tell Matt what had happened. They were quiet all the way home, which was not unusual for them. Nora was glad she had some time to think, because she needed to decide how to tell Papa. The old fear welled up in her insides. It was strange, this fear of man. She had conquered it enough to walk up to the house of a stranger, knock on the door and speak to any person who answered, to stand on a public streetcorner and offer WatchTowers to passersby, to march with sandwich signs into the teeth of a mob and proudly submit to being fingerprinted as a lawbreaker. But facing Walter Penny still made her palms go damp and clammy and her breath go rapid and shallow. Nora had successfully stood up to Papa several times in the recent past, but today she would be doing it without Nellie at her side. News of her dismissal would make him angry, there was no doubt of that. But what he would do with his anger was unpredictable. "Is Papa out at the new house?" Nora asked her brother. "Should be. He's waiting for this load of boards I picked up at the lumber yard." "Why don't you drive straight out there? I need to see him for a few minutes." 110 Matt gave her a speculative look, but didn't ask for details. He passed the regular drive that led to the Pennys' house and turned in at an opening in the board fence a quarter of a mile down the road. Their progress up the new track was painfully slow and Nora had to hang on to keep from being jounced off the seat. Her prayer for courage was disjointed but none the less heartfelt. After a short spurt to the top of a rise, they emerged from the trees into a littered clearing. Here was Matthew Penny's house, already enclosed and roofed, but with vacant spaces for windows and doors. Large stones served for the front steps onto a porch that graced the entire length of the house. Papa, hearing the truck climb the hill, poked his head out through the front doorway. "Did you get the lumber?" he called. For answer, Matt turned the truck around and backed it up to the porch. Papa immediately began unloading. Nora waited for the men to finish before she got out. It didn't look like Jo was here right now. That was good. Nora didn't know what to expect from her father and she would rather not have Jo be witness to any humiliation she might be subjected to. BANG! a hand slapped a rear fender. "Nora," Papa's voice shouted, "move the truck out." Surprised that he was ordering her to break his own rule forbidding her to drive, she obediently got into the driver's seat and pulled the truck away from the house. But now was the time. She had to face him. As she stepped down from the cab, she saw him turn toward the house. "Papa," she called. Her throat was so tight, the word came out in a little squeak. He didn't hear. She tried again. "Papa, may I have a minute?" From the porch Walter Penny looked down at her. "What is it?" "Papa," she said, "I lost my job." The expression that came to his face was one of bewilderment. "Lost your job? Chad Millican fired you?" He stepped down and sat on the edge of the porch. "Yes, sir." "I don't understand," he said. "You're the steady one, the responsible, dependable one. If it was Nellie, she might do some fool thing and get herself canned. But, Nora... Did he tell you why?" "I was witnessing to the customers." "Witnessing?" "Speaking to them about Jehovah God and the Kingdom." Immediately his face flushed and anger ignited in his eyes. "Fool thing, all right!" he exploded. "That blasted religion again! Ain't it enough for you to parade up and down the streets with it, pushing it in people's faces? Now you got to badger honest folks who come to the Rexall to buy a bottle of iodine!" Nora waited quietly for him to stop roaring. For some reason, today she didn't quail before his shouting. She carried no guilt. She had not disobeyed her father; she had not disobeyed her employer. She hadn't done anything wrong. So whatever action Papa took against her would be outright persecution. And her enduring persecution would please Jehovah. Walter Penny saw something different in his daughter's face. Without a trace of trembling, she was calmly looking him in the eye. Slowly his verbal abuse ran down and he sat silently regarding her. "May I tell the rest?" she asked quietly. At his nod, she explained why she had discontinued her witnessing in the store. Then she related today's events. Without further interruption, Papa listened to the end of her story. Then he asked, "Have you had enough now?" "Enough?" "Enough trouble from messing around with those Witnesses?" "Papa, I am one of those Witnesses. The world is under the Devil's control, so until Armageddon, there will always be trouble for Jehovah's people." "Shut up!" he snapped, grabbing her arm and giving her a shake. "Just quit preaching to me. 111 I don't want to hear it." "Yes, sir," she said meekly. "You said Chad gave you to the end of the week. Do you plan to keep bothering his customers with that malarkey?" His hand still grasped her arm, and as he spoke, his fingers tightened painfully. "No, sir, not on his time and in his store." "Get in the truck," he ordered abruptly, propelling her away from him. Nora kept both her balance and her poise. Chin up, she walked obediently to the truck and sat on the passenger side. Although she had no idea what her father was going to do, she was resolved to stoically endure. Butch had taken three whippings in a row without compromising. If a little seven-year-old child could stand for Jehovah through all that, surely Nora Penny could do the same. She refused to let her mind dwell on the possibilities and concentrated on praying for strength. As Papa started the pickup down the dirt track, Nora was thinking of the night he had shot Fred Landalt's Buick. During that terrible ride home, he had been silent in his fury. Today he was eloquent. She made no attempt to argue with his diatribe against Jehovah's Witnesses. She just kept her eyes straight ahead and prayed silently. He wasn't asking her opinion, so she could safely tune out his words. The truck rattled and bounced down the roughly-cleared drive. They reached the main road and turned toward home. But Papa didn't slow down as they came near their own driveway; he sped right past it. Nora was puzzled. She had fully expected him to take her home for whatever he was going to do to her. She didn't find out his intentions until they reached town. He drove up and parked alongside a neat white house with a small American flag displayed near the front door. "Stay here," Papa ordered and walked over to the porch. Because the truck was pulled up next to the house, Nora couldn't see her father standing at the front door. The corner of the house blocked her view. But when she rolled down her window, she could hear him knock. "Hello, Walt," said the voice of her employer. "Guess you're here about Nora." "That's right. She says you fired her." "I been gettin' complaints about her. I had to let her go." "She been taking money from the till, Chad?" "Oh no, nothing like that." "Is she rude to the customers?" "No, they like her fine." "Did she smart off to you?" "No, Walt." "Well, she must be lazy, then. Does she sit at the soda fountain all day?" "You know she don't," Mr. Millican objected. "But she's mixed up with them blamed Witnesses." "You're telling me!" "She's been preaching to my customers and they don't like it. I don't like it." "When did you hear her preaching?" "Today, I did." "Are you sure it was Nora, or was it the customer doing the talking?" There was a pause. "Well, now," Mr. Millican murmured, "I can't swear to it, but it could have been Mrs. Brady doing most of it." "If my girl quits preaching on the job, would you keep her on?" "She won't." "Yes, she will." "How can you be so sure, Walt?" 112 "Because she gave me her word. And when my Nora promises something, she keeps it." "Let me think about it. If I decide to let her stay, I'll tell her tomorrow." "Thanks, Chad." When Papa climbed into the truck, Nora was facing front as if she hadn't heard a word of the conversation. But she didn't look at him for fear he would read it all in her eyes. He backed onto the street and shifted into first. "You have your job back," he announced quietly. "I do?" she feigned surprise. "How did you do that?" "Made him see what a good little employee you are. And I told him you will keep your mouth shut, so you'd better remember that, girl. I don't want to hear of you blabbing your foolishness in that store ever again. You hear me?" "Yes, sir, I know what you mean, Papa. But it isn't foolishness. It's the most sensible explanation of the world and the future I've ever heard." "Don't start that again." Nora fell silent. For the first time today, tears burned in her eyes. She realized with surprise, that through this entire afternoon, she hadn't even felt like crying. While Papa was scolding and threatening, her nerves had been steady. Maybe her love for and trust in Jehovah was beginning to win over her fear. The tears that now made her vision swim were from a different reason. She had heard Papa praise her to Chad Millican; he'd expressed confidence in her. And he'd called her "my Nora." In spite of his opposition to her newly-chosen way of worship, Walter Penny still loved her. And she cried because he would not listen to the Truth. She didn't realize it then, but as the weeks went by, it became evident that she'd reached the top of her personal mountain. Papa's roaring no longer held any terror for her. She could face it now with the same unconcern that Nellie had always shown. Nora started a model study with Mrs. Brady. The lady was a widow with grown children who lived in town. The son had no objection to his mother's interest in Jehovah's Witnesses. But the daughter was unhappy about it. However, Mrs. Brady knew of Nora and Nellie's situation with their father. "If you girls can face down the likes of Walter Penny," she declared, "I certainly am not going to let my own daughter intimidate me." And she was true to her word. One day when the young woman showed up at the front door during her mother's study and tried to interfere, Nora overheard the lady tell her to go home and mind her own business. Now Nora had another pleasure to anticipate on the weekends. She saved up her news for five days and deluged Nellie with it when she came home Friday nights. She looked forward to the whirlwind of happy mischief that burst through the door with Butch's return. On Saturdays Kate, Nellie and Butch, fresh from their morning of preaching, came to the drug store, and during Nora's lunch period, ate sack lunches and drank Coke with her at the counter. Then Sunday was her own chance to declare Jehovah's message, study with Mrs. Brady and attend the meeting that evening. 113 CHAPTER 12 By March Teddy was walking without hanging onto anything. He was a year old now. Papa wouldn't let Kate take him to the Kingdom Hall with her. He kept him home on meeting nights and relied on Jo to take care of him. Kate wondered whether or not he would stick to his restriction after Matt and Jo moved into their own house and only Papa would be on hand to watch the baby. As the calendar drifted into April, the soggy earth lay waiting under the cold. Laden with seeds and well rested through the winter, it was ready to burst with life at the first hint of spring. Kate had trays of tomato, green pepper and cabbage sets sprouting on the kitchen counter. And there were new calves and piglets in the barn. World news, however, was ominous and disquieting. Hitler and his German troops seemed to be literally overrunning Europe. They had sent waves of blitzkrieg bombers over England, causing terrible destruction of property and loss of life. France had been conquered and now Yugoslavia was in grave danger. Sketchy reports had been coming in revealing that Jehovah's Witnesses in all the Nazi- dominated countries were suffering extreme persecution. Likewise, brothers in Britain were being imprisoned for their neutral stand. Meanwhile, the expelling of children from school, arrests and harassment of the Witnesses continued across the United States and Canada. The WatchTower Society had designated February the "Ehud's Sword" Testimony Period. For the first time people were being offered the opportunity to subscribe to The WatchTower and Consolation. The campaign continued all the way through April. Mrs. Brady signed up. In March a letter from the Society was read at the meeting, encouraging as many as possible to enter the pioneer service. Nora listened attentively. She felt that this was what she really wanted to do. But how? She couldn't even come close to the 60-hour-a-month goal for company publishers. How would she ever reach 150? Her back calls were under the publisher goal of 12; the pioneer's goal of 50 seemed impossible. Maybe for now she needed to concentrate on just 60 hours and 12 back calls and ask Jehovah to somehow, some day open the door. On Friday, April 11, Nellie and Butch arrived home early. School had let out at noon so everyone would have time to get ready for the Memorial that night. Nellie whispered to Nora that there would be a surprise at the Kingdom Hall, but neither she nor Butch could be persuaded to divulge what it was. So Nora was completely mystified until she walked in the door. The room was already filling up, but among the crowd she immediately spotted Ned MacIntyre. Nellie stood there, grinning at her surprise. "Hello, Miss Penny," said Ned. "Hello," she answered. "Have you come to stay?" "Just for the weekend. Wilfred is taking my milk route and I couldn't talk him into doing any more days. He's afraid of losing his beauty sleep." There wasn't much more opportunity to visit before the meeting. But afterward, when the Pennys left the Kingdom Hall, Ned mentioned that he would see them tomorrow. Nora rode home beside Butch in the back seat of the Ford, her face turned to the dark roadside. Nellie chattered to Kate in the front seat while Butch repeatedly whacked his foot against the door and sang a cowboy song to the rhythm. It would be more appropriate, Nora thought, if he would sing a Kingdom song tonight. This was the first time any of the Pennys had attended the Memorial of Christ's death. Nora was moved by the simple dignity of the celebration. She noticed that fewer people partook of the bread and wine than those who just passed them on. Here was one more thing that convinced her Jehovah's Witnesses had the Truth. People normally shoot for the top, aspiring to be better than everybody else. If Jehovah's Witnesses were not the Lord's organization, everyone in it would be 114 claiming to have the heavenly hope. After all, the chosen ones would one day be reigning as kings. But here in Armitage was a group of humble servants of Jehovah, who were willing to be used by Him however He saw fit, either in heaven, like the Brickmans, who partook, or on earth, like the Landalts, who did not. Ned MacIntyre, she noticed, had the earthly hope. Nora tuned in to Kate and Nellie's conversation in the front, but they weren't talking about Ned. So she retreated into her own quiet thoughts. It wasn't until mid-morning Saturday that Nora added together two pieces of information that put her into a state of agitation. First, Ned told the Pennys last night that he would see them today. That meant he planned to go in field service. If he did that, chances were he'd follow his old custom of showing up at the soda fountain for a Coke. Second, Danny Ogilvie had orders to refuse him service. She was sure she'd told Ned about that, but would he remember? Would Danny remember? Just before one o'clock she heard the bell tinkle. From her position behind the counter at the back of the store, with dismay she saw Ned MacIntyre enter and walk up to the soda fountain. She couldn't hear what was said, but she watched Danny greet him with a welcoming hand-shake. Then their expressions went serious as they talked in low tones. Nora felt an ache in her throat from holding back tears, as Ned turned to wave at her, then walked out of the store. If she had only remembered Mr. Millican's decree when she'd seen Ned last night, she could have reminded him and saved him the humiliation of being thrown out. A few minutes later when the boss came to relieve her for lunch, Nora didn't trust herself to speak to him. She took her brown bag from under the counter and walked away from the man. But when she prepared to climb onto the black swivel stool, Danny stopped her with a gesture. He leaned close, and in a near-whisper, said, "Get your wing ding, Squeak. There's a gator from Decatur outside waitin' for you." "You mean, Mr. MacIntyre?" she whispered back. "That's your man." "I saw you tell him to leave." "Me?" he exclaimed, almost aloud. "I didn't have to. He didn't want a Coke. He just asked me to send out that snazzy doll who hangs around the back of the store." "Danny! He didn't say any such thing!" Nora's ears went red. The young man winked. "Maybe not with his words, but his eyes say he thinks you're zingo!" Nora assumed a pose, batted her eyes at him and said, "Mr. Ugly-vee, that's perfectly ridiculous." Danny whooped out loud, causing Mr. Millican to look in their direction. Nora, without fetching her hat, hurried out the front door, leaving the soda jerk chuckling at her unexpected silliness. She didn't know why she'd done that. She just felt kind of giddy all of a sudden. She wanted to sing loud or sit on one of those stools and spin it till she fell off or some crazy thing. But there stood Ned, his hat in one hand, his bookbag in the other and his battered phonograph at his feet. His face was aglow, like a little boy anticipating an ice cream cone. He must have had some really good service experiences this morning. "Hi, Nora. I'm glad you could come out," he said. "Would you like to eat your lunch with me on a park bench?" "Yes," she responded immediately, "but let me go inside and bring us some drinks." "I thought we might walk down to the gas station and get some pop from the cooler." Nora grinned. "Good. Mr. Millican doesn't deserve our business." Ned winked at her. "That's what I was thinking." He plopped his hat on his head and reached for his phonograph. They hadn't taken two steps down the street before a young voice hollered from behind, "Hey, you two, where are you off to?" Butch, his necktie flipped over his shoulder and the tail of his dress shirt hanging out the back of his pants, raced around them and came to a screeching stop to block their path. He was accompanied, at a more dignified pace, by his mother and Nellie. 115 "Were you sneaking off without us?" Butch challenged, his hands on his hips. "If we were really sneaking," Ned told him, "you wouldn't have caught us." Kate deflated the youngster's menacing stance when she straightened his tie and turned him around to tuck in his shirt tail. Nora felt guilty because she had totally forgotten about her family. Their custom was to eat with her on Saturdays and here she was going off without giving them a thought. Ned quickly informed the group of their plans. Kate declared that Mr. Millican's patriotism had cost him some business this day. And they all walked down to Mr. James' gas station. Butch examined the tall thin gas pump with its round glass globe displaying the Amoco Gas Co. star on top. Ned went directly to the bright red cooler with Coca Cola emblazoned on the side. He fished in the ice, and one at a time, brought out five bottles of Coke, then went inside the garage to tell the greasy man under the truck that he was leaving a quarter for the pop on top of the cash register. Ned wouldn't let any of the group pay for their own; he said he was a working man now and could afford to splurge now and then. They strolled to the small park where beds of daffodils were nodding their yellow heads and tiny spears of grass were venturing to peek above the damp earth. Ned, Kate and Nellie regaled Nora with a spirited account of their morning's activities. The highlight, according to Butch, was when Sister Landalt got the heel of her shoe caught in a grate. The shoe came off and she stepped smack into a dog pile. Nora's half hour was gone before she noticed. Ned insisted on walking her back to the drug store. "But I have to move fast to get there on time," she objected. "Nellie won't be able to keep up." "So I'll run with you to the store, and then run back here so I can walk with the others," he laughed. They didn't exactly run, but when they reached the Rexall, Nora was out of breath from their fast pace. "Nora, before you go in..." Ned said at the door. "Would you--and Nellie like to go to the pictures with me tonight?" "I'd love to," she said immediately. "But Papa hasn't allowed us to go to the movies since we told him about the meetings." "Oh, when he found out you weren't going to the theater on Sunday nights," he grinned. "But that was back in September, wasn't it? --when he shot Fred's car?" "Yes." "Maybe he isn't so upset about it anymore." "I'll ask." "Okay. Meet me at the hole in the fence an hour after you get off work. It's safer than talking over the phone." "All right. I'll see you then." Nora's afternoon was passed in a fog. Customers had to repeat themselves, sometimes twice, before she comprehended what they wanted. She wasn't sick, but she didn't feel entirely well, either. Maybe it was something she ate. Ned was waiting at the fence when Nora hurried around the blackberry bush that afternoon. He had the loops off the nails, so it was easy for her to step through onto Landalt property. "Papa said Yes," she announced. "Hot dog!" he exclaimed. "He even said we could take the car." "How can he be sure you aren't going to use it for some communist spying?" "I gave him my word that we really are going to the movies. So, you'd better not have any funny business planned." 116 Nora was teasing, but he didn't come back with more. His face took on an odd expression that she couldn't read. Then his back was to her as he re-fastened the fence. "What are you doing?" she asked, suddenly realizing she was on forbidden ground. "I have to go back through there." He straightened up. "I was hoping you'd walk with me a little before you go." Without waiting for her answer, he strolled leisurely away from the fence. She hesitantly followed. Neither said a word as they fell into step. It was pleasant and relaxing. The pasture was beginning to show green and the air had a fresh, clean scent. Landalts' work horses pricked up their ears when they saw the two walking. After making sure that the humans were not intending to catch them, Don and Prince began following them, sometimes close enough to nudge either Ned or Nora in the back. The couple stopped to scratch the horses' ears. With Prince's head between them, Ned broke the silence. "Nora, I came to Armitage this weekend especially to see you." She made no reply for a moment. "What about Nellie?" "What about her?" Nora stopped in confusion. Something didn't make sense here; they were not communicating. Since she wasn't saying anything, he continued, "I don't know what Nellie has to do with it. But, Nora, I've come to really care about you and I need to know how you feel." Prince took a step forward so they couldn't see each other at all. Nora was glad. She had some mental rearranging to do very quickly. Ned wasn't sweet on Nellie, he was interested in Nora. But how could that be? What about all the letters he'd written to Nellie? He stepped around Prince to face her, his expression anxious. "I thought--I thought," she stammered, "it was Nellie. You wrote to her every week." "No, no, I wrote to you every week," he said. "I just put her name on them, and later Kate's, because I was afraid if I addressed them to just you, I'd scare you away. Nora, I've cared about you since you jumped out of the trees that day to ask me for a Salvation book." "I didn't know." Prince's head came between them again. Ned tried to push it away, but the horse wouldn't budge. "Let's walk some more," he suggested. They started off, the horses right on their heels. Then Ned laughed. "They're pretty good chaperones, aren't they?" She didn't reply. "Nora, please, tell me what you're thinking," he pleaded. "If you weren't interested in Nellie, what did you think of her letters to you? Didn't you know by the things she said that she was sweet on you?" "Nellie never wrote me a letter in her life." "What? Are you sure?" Nora was remembering that she'd never actually seen her sister write to Ned. "I've not received a one from her," he stated. "But I've saved every one you wrote me." This threw a completely different light on the matter. Was Nellie's interest in Ned only Nora's imagination? "I can see," he said thoughtfully, "that this idea you've had about Nellie and me has affected how you think of me. If you thought I belonged to Nellie, your loyalty wouldn't let you consider your own feelings. Nora, you don't realize how special you are." "But, Ned," she protested, "I'm not! I did think of my feelings, when I let my guard down. I sleep with your latest letter under my pillow. I can't wait to come home from work on Wednesdays because I know Kate will have the next one there for me. And I hate to read it out loud to her. I just want to take it into my room and keep it all to myself." Ned's face lit up with joy. His hand gently touched her cheek. Then Prince's nose hit Nora's back with a powerful nudge and knocked her right into Ned's arms. He quickly capitalized on the moment by stealing a kiss. 117 "Nellie! Nellie Penny!" bellowed an angry voice across the pasture. Ned released her quickly. They looked in the direction of the voice and saw Matt standing at the fence. Jo was beside him. Although he had the name wrong, Matt was hollering at Nora to come over to him. "It's my brother," Nora murmured. "Well, I'd like to meet him," said Ned. The two, accompanied by their equine escorts, walked toward the fence. By the time they got there, Matt knew which twin he was dealing with. "Nora, what's the big idea? Who is this man?" he asked. Ned stepped forward and thrust out his hand. "Ned MacIntyre from Toledo." Matt took it reluctantly. "Ned, this is my brother Matt Penny and his wife Jo," Nora introduced them. In spite of Jo's hostile glare, Ned smiled at her. "I'm happy to meet you," he said. "What do you mean," Jo demanded, "taking advantage of our Nora?" Ned, his eyes wide, turned to Nora. "Taking advantage? Did I take advantage of you, darling?" Nora giggled. "You certainly did." She turned to Jo. "And you can just mind your own business." Matt chuckled at his wife's shocked expression. She pointed a finger at Ned. "Is he one of those Witnesses?" "Of course, he is," Nora stated. "Do you think I'd look twice at a Baptist?" She was so angry at Jo, she wanted to spit. "I want to be above board about this," Ned told Matt. "I intend to ask your father for permission to call on Nora." "Of all the gall!" Jo shouted. "Matt, go over there and beat him up!" Matt laid a calming hand on her shoulder. "Now, don't get worked up, sweetheart." She flung his hand off and gave him a push toward the fence. "Beat him up!" she insisted. And when Matt didn't budge, she charged the fence herself. "All right, then, I will!" Ned and Nora backed away. Matt caught Jo as she was about to swing her leg over the top strand. He draped her over his shoulder and held her there. Her feet and fists drummed his body and she yelled for him to put her down. But Matt stood impervious to it all and motioned for Ned to come up to the fence again. "Aren't you the fellow Papa kicked off the porch last year?" "Yes, I am," Ned admitted. "And you plan to ask his permission to court his daughter?" "This is an entirely different matter." Matt shook his head. "Don't do it, buddy. I don't exactly approve of Nora getting mixed up with you, but if you want to have any chance at all with her, don't speak to Papa. He'll forbid it solely on the grounds that you're a Witness. After that, if you continue to pursue her, you'll be asking her to disobey her own father." "I see what you mean," Ned agreed. "Why don't you approve of Ned?" Nora asked her brother. "Because he's a Witness?" "Yes." "If that's the case, you'll have to object to any man I take an interest in. Because I'll never care about someone who isn't a witness of Jehovah." Matt thought about that. Then he sized up Ned once more. "What do you do for a living?" "I deliver milk for Cloverleaf Dairy in Toledo." "What's your draft classification?" "Four-D." "What's that?" "I'm a minister." 118 "Exempted from active duty?" "That's right." Matt went on asking him things about his family and his habits, his views on marriage and divorce and his previous work experience. Ned answered everything. Both Nora and Ned recognized Matt's questioning as the same grilling Papa would have put him through. He seemed not to notice his wife's furious pounding and hollering. But after a few minutes, he paused his interrogation. "Jo," he said, "I'll put you down..." She stopped yelling. "...if you quit pitching a fit and you promise not to climb the fence." Nora hoped he would smack her before he let her go, but he didn't. When Jo's feet touched the ground, in frustration she swung around and whacked him. Then she stomped off toward the house. "I guess I didn't make much of an impression on Mrs. Penny," Ned commented. "It wasn't you personally," said Matt. "Jo has ambitions of converting Nora back to the Baptists. She sees you as a huge roadblock." "Well, she certainly made a good display of Christian virtues today," Nora said caustically. "I'm so impressed, I'm going to go right back to the Baptist Church so I can learn how to throw a proper hissy fit." Matt grinned. "She sure did rile you, Nora. But I don't want to be picking up pieces of you off the floor, so don't say that to her face. I'll do my best to calm her down, but if she gives you a hard time anyway, I'm counting on you to keep the peace." "All right, Matt." "Ned." He stuck out his hand. "Keep it honorable, but keep it quiet." Ned shook his hand. "Thanks, Matt." "Come on, Nora; we've got milking to do." Not wanting to reveal the secret entrance, Nora climbed over the fence. Ned and Nora followed Matt's advice and were discreet about their courtship. He continued to write in care of Fred Landalt, only now his letters were addressed solely to Nora. And there were more of them. The U.S. Mail was extra busy that spring and summer as it carried their letters daily, sometimes even twice a day. Nora became certain of Nellie's lack of interest in Ned when she asked her sister where she had stashed all his letters with Nellie's name on them. Her sister said carelessly that she'd thrown them away. Ned visited the Landalts every other weekend, eating lunch with Nora on Saturdays and taking her, and Nellie as chaperon, to the movies or out for a drive on Saturday nights. Then the two would work together in field service all day Sunday. Kate, Butch, and of course, Nellie soon caught on to the romance. Matt kept mum about it and had evidently ordered Jo to stay off the subject when the family was present. However, any time Nora found herself alone with Jo, she knew she was in for a lecture. She behaved herself, though, and kept her tongue between her teeth at those times. So the tension between them never erupted into open warfare. It helped to know what Jo's motive was, that she was really concerned about the saving of Nora's soul. Two of George's puppies moved to Toledo to live with Ned's brothers and the Wests. Matt laid claim to one of the others and Butch convinced Papa to let him keep the remaining one. So they now had three dogs on the place. Butch gloried in his romps with them on the weekends, chasing the new little piggies and racing out to the fields to see how the oat planting was coming along. Matt's new house was finished, but not yet furnished. So he and Jo were not moved in. When the wheat crop sold, they planned to take a trip to the city to buy enough furniture to make the place liveable. Matt dug up the garden plot, not only at the old house, but he also put in one for Jo behind 119 their own house. Kate, Nora and Jo planted radishes, lettuce, beets, sweet corn, cucumbers, green beans, squash and carrots. Kate divided her tomato and cabbage sets with Jo and they put them out. Spring melted into a busy summer. Nellie and Butch finished school and came home for good. They were put right to work on the farm. Butch and Nora resumed their early morning forays to the garden to pick whatever was ripe. Nellie and Kate got out the canning jars. There was a special urgency to the canning this year. On August 6-10, 1941, there was to be a Theocratic Convention in St. Louis, Missouri. Kate intended to go. But that was right in the midst of the canning season. Peaches would be ripening, as well as sweet corn and tomatoes and countless other garden truck. The men would be toiling in the fields, harvesting the wheat and then the oats. Nevertheless, Kate quietly planned ahead so as to leave the least amount of work possible for Jo to do. Nora asked Mr. Millican for the first week in August as her vacation time this year. He said he would think about it. She didn't worry; her mind was filled with other things. However, on August 5, Nora Penny stood by the highway just outside Vandalia, Illinois, without a job--and without a home. Seeing a car approach with a man and woman in it, she smiled and waved at the driver. He slowed to a stop and Nora picked up her bag. She paused, though, before getting into the car. "Thank you folks for stopping, but I don't have any money. So if you'd rather not give me a ride, that's all right." "Where are you going, honey?" asked the lady. "St. Louis, ma'am." "So are we. Hop in," invited the man. Nora settled into the comfortable back seat. First, the people would ask her all kinds of questions, then she would witness to them. But she was so tired, and before the first inquiry reached her, she was asleep. Kate, Nellie and Butch had left for the assembly last week. They'd gone with the Brickmans, who wanted to be there early to do a little pre-convention work. But Nora had stayed to work at the drug store and help Jo at home. Mr. Millican had promised her the convention week, but not the week before it. So she planned to catch a bus Monday morning and arrive at the convention on Tuesday. Papa and Matt had been working hard cutting wheat and Sunday afternoon Papa was cranky because Kate was gone and Teddy kept crying and Jo couldn't keep him quiet. So when he saw Nora packing her bag, he blew up and left the house. Half an hour later the telephone rang. Jo called Nora to the phone. It was Mr. Millican cancelling her vacation. "I'm sorry, sir, but my plans are made," she told him. "If you don't come in Monday, don't bother to come back at all," he said. So that was the end of her job. Nora went on packing. When Papa came home, he looked very satisfied with himself until he saw what Nora was doing. He roared for an hour, but it didn't make a dent. So he demanded that she hand over every cent she had. There went her bus fare. But Nora was determined, so she prayed about it that evening. And early next morning, she picked up her suitcase and walked out the door. Desperate to have control, Walter Penny made a big mistake. "If you leave town today," he told her, "you don't live in my house anymore." Homeless, unemployed and penniless, Nora went out to the road and hitched her first ride toward St. Louis. Nora woke up sopping wet. The heat in the car's back seat was unbearable. It would be so much more comfortable to travel in rolled-up blue jeans and a short-sleeved white blouse, instead of a hat, a dress and nylon stockings. But she was more likely to get rides this way and it was more 120 appropriate attire for the witnessing she'd been doing along the way. "Excuse me," she said to the people in the front seat, "do you mind if I roll my window down?" "Oh, you woke up," said the lady. "Go right ahead, dear. It's terribly hot. Horace, why don't we stop at the next town for a soda pop?" "Good idea. Why is a young lady like you going to St. Louis?" began the interrogation. Well, she'd get right to the point. "I'm planning to attend a convention of Jehovah's Witnesses." "You are?" the lady exclaimed. "So are we! See the WatchTower in our back window? We're Horace and Myrtle Avery from the Terre Haute, Indiana, company." "I'm Nora Penny, from Armitage, Ohio." There were more questions, which Nora answered briefly. She didn't tell them her situation, just that her family had gone early to the convention city, but she'd lost her bus fare. They insisted on buying her a pop. She accepted gratefully, not mentioning that she'd had nothing to eat since yesterday morning. But Nora was contented. This was the last ride she'd have to hitch because Brother Avery said he would drop her off at The Arena where the convention was being set up. Every time she thought about her uncertain future and panic threatened, Nora recited in her mind Matthew 6:31-34. She knew it by heart from the American Standard Version, the Bible that was most popular with the Witnesses because it freely used Jehovah's name. "Be not therefore anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? For after these things do the Gentiles seek; for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Be not therefore anxious for the morrow: for the morrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." Up till now, whenever Nora had wanted to do more for Jehovah and there seemed to be an insurmountable wall in the way, a door had opened up. Sometimes she and Nellie had needed to prove their determination by running directly at the barrier, but so far Jehovah had helped them over, under, around or through whatever had blocked their path. This time, though, Nora hadn't tried to scale a wall; she felt more like she'd jumped off a cliff. She'd given up the safety and security of a home, a family and a job. But she wasn't falling yet. For the next five days, she would be wrapped in a mantle of love as she immersed herself in the theocratic brotherhood. Already she knew Jehovah was listening to her prayers: here she was in St. Louis. She'd come more than 450 miles without a cent in her pocketbook. All the rest of the week she would keep her eyes and ears open. Maybe by Sunday night she would know which way to turn. As they stopped in the parking lot of the huge Arena that had been rented for the convention, Brother and Sister Avery expressed concern about turning Nora loose. "Look at the people!" Myrtle exclaimed. "There must be thousands here already. How will you find your family? They could be anywhere." Nora laughed. "I'll just look for my stepmother's red hair. Don't worry. I won't come to any harm here with Jehovah's people. Thank you so much for bringing me." "You're more than welcome," said Horace. "Maybe we'll see you again." Nora was with her family within half an hour, because Butch spotted her and led her right to his mother. "Nora!" Kate sighed with relief. "We met your bus, but you weren't on it. What happened?" "Papa took my money. I hitchhiked." "Sissy!" Nellie said, squeezing her arm. "You really did that? All the way?" So Nora had to relate her great adventure. She deliberately failed to mention the loss of her job and Papa's final ultimatum. That news could wait until they'd all enjoyed the assembly. After telling her own story, Nora questioned them about their week. 121 "This, what you see here," said Nellie enthusiastically, "is a flat-out miracle. Satan is really trying to stop this convention. For one thing, the Catholic churches passed out leaflets with lies about us to try to prevent their women from renting rooms to the delegates. Nuns went house to house to tell the people who had already signed up to cancel their reservations. The three of us lost our room. The first two nights we were here, we slept on the lawn right over there." "Really? Do you have a room now?" "Yes," Nellie said. "One of the papers ran a photo of a sister and her little one sleeping on the grass. Then offers of rooms flooded the rooming department." "Would you believe," said Kate, "that the Chamber of Commerce didn't notify the businessmen that 75,000 people were coming to the city? We've had to go around and tell them ourselves." "Were they unpleasant to you?" "The businessmen? No, they were very nice and most let us put posters in their front windows." "Hey, Nora," Butch said, "betcha you're awful hungry." A startled look crossed Kate's face. "Walter took all your money?" Nora nodded. "So you haven't eaten much since you left home. Come on, they opened the cafeteria yesterday because so many thousands were already here." Butch led the way to the lines of wooden tables set up outside the main building. As Nora gratefully stood with a full meal on her tray, the others waited quietly while she thanked Jehovah. Kate had handed her the coins she needed to buy her meal ticket. However, most of the money the family was using these two weeks had originally been supplied by Nora herself. Kate had put in her egg money and Butch had earned a little by doing errands for Mr. Holyoak at the hardware store. But Nora had contributed all her savings to the Penny's Convention Fund. Papa hadn't taken a fraction of it when he'd robbed Nora on Sunday. Most of it was here with Kate. As soon as Nora raised her head from praying, Butch started in again. "Ned made these tables," he announced. "All of them? All by himself?" Nora exclaimed, teasing the boy. "Well, some other guys helped. Willie and Ade and Lennie were there." "The unions wouldn't allow the brothers to put the tables together here on The Arena grounds," Kate explained. "So a man of good will offered his farm and a big group of brothers, including..." She tweaked her son's hair. "...the four oldest MacIntyre boys, built them and trucked them over here." "See this brown paper?" Nellie brushed a hand over the tabletop. "The decorators' union said we couldn't tack the paper on, because that was 'decorating' and union people had to do it. Can you believe how ridiculous they are?" "It sounds to me like the opposition was getting desperate," Nora commented and poked a forkful of food into her mouth. It was delicious. Nellie laughed. "They should be desperate by now. We've had a lot of trouble with the electricians' union and the plumbers' union, too, but everything got done in spite of them." "How do you know about all this?" "Nellie's been helping out with paperwork in the Administration Department," said Kate. "Nora, this past week has been unbelievable to me. The spirit of love and cooperation between the brothers is something I never knew existed in the world." "It doesn't--in the world," Nellie said. "That's just the point, Kate. This is not the world; it's the New World Society." Nora plunged into the work. There was still much to do, with food preparation and serving, advertising the convention and inviting the public to attend. Wednesday morning found Ned and Nora, clad in cardboard signs, marching up and down 122 the streets of St. Louis. Their placards announced the public lectures, "Comfort All That Mourn" to be delivered Saturday, and "Children of the King" for Sunday morning. They also carried stacks of handbills, which they passed out to everyone walking by. Ned had the brilliant idea of manning a street corner that had a traffic cop. Then when the cars were stopped, he could hand invitations to the people through their open windows. City newspapers and radio stations pretty much ignored the convention, even though the number of delegates was the biggest the city of St. Louis had ever seen. But the brothers were getting the word out by other means. "Look, Ned!" Nora said excitedly. "There's another bus with a placard. I think every bus and streetcar in the city has them." "Nellie says all the weekly passes sold by the streetcar line this week advertise the two main talks." "That's wonderful. I wonder how many they usually sell?" "She said it could be over a hundred thousand. Jehovah is really directing things." She waved at the occupants of a car that sported a great big colorful sign in the back window. They were Witnesses, using their own vehicle as a moving advertisement for the assembly. They waved back and the brother tooted his horn. Ned and Nora returned to The Arena for the noon meal at the cafeteria. While they stood to eat at the wooden tables in the hot sun, they overheard one lady say, "There's a sister from Arizona who was wearing a dress made from that polyester material that doesn't wrinkle. She told me her dress melted from the heat." Nora believed it. Ned went off to find his grandmother and brothers. Nora made her way inside the main building to the four seats the Pennys had reserved. Although it was only one o'clock and the session wouldn't start for two hours, the auditorium was already getting crowded. If more people came, where would they sit? Many people didn't sit. By two o'clock it was standing room only. Butch fidgeted in his wooden seat because he needed to use the restroom, but he was afraid to leave his seat vacant. Kate told him to hurry up and go before the session started. Sure enough, when he got back, a redheaded young woman was occupying his seat. He put on a scowl. Kate pulled him to her. "Stanley, this is Eleanor," she said, indicating the usurper. "She's planning to be baptized at this convention, like me. I offered her your chair. You wouldn't want her to stand up for the whole afternoon, would you?" "No, but..." he admitted grudgingly. "You can sit on me," said his mother. "Aw, Ma." "You'll be able to see better," Nora pointed out. He thought about it. "Okay," he agreed and jumped with unnecessary gusto onto his mother's lap, crushing the paper fan she'd been using and kicking the brother in the row ahead. Nora mentally predicted a long afternoon of pinching and poking to keep her brother still, but Butch had spent all morning working house to house, and half an hour into the first talk, he was sound asleep. That talk, "Integrity," by J.F. Rutherford, was spoken straight to Nora Penny. There was a tremendous issue before the world: Universal Domination. Although Satan the Devil and his worldly organizations would stir up hatred and try to stop them from proclaiming Jehovah's Supreme Sovereignty, Jehovah's Witnesses, like Job, would keep integrity and carry the message right down to the finish. When at the end of the talk, Kingdom News No. 9 was released, Nora was ready to jump up right then to go distribute it. Ned had volunteered to help cook in the kitchen Thursday morning, so Nora joined Kate, Butch and the Landalts in the door-to-door work. They invited householders to attend the convention and placed copies of the brand new Kingdom News tract, "Victories in Your Defense." 123 Friday, they did magazine street work. Nora wanted to use every chance that came her way to get out there and preach. Even her enjoyment of being near Ned took a back seat to the thrill she got from witnessing about Jehovah. Each day of convention talks built up her enthusiasm more and more. On Saturday afternoon, the Pennys sat on the lawn outside the building because there was absolutely no room inside. This was the main talk of the whole convention, "Comfort All That Mourn." They held newspapers over their heads to shade their faces from the scorching sun and fanned themselves non-stop. But the lecture was riveting. Daniel chapter eleven was discussed at length. By the end of the talk, the atmosphere was electric! Brother Rutherford then announced that this entire lecture in booklet form was available immediately after the session. Since the news media couldn't be counted on to report the message correctly, would the 105,000 brethren here assembled be willing to distribute copies of the lecture to the people of St. Louis right now this very afternoon? Even Nellie joined the throng. They lined up at the book counter, which was one city block long, to receive their copies and hurried off to the territory desk for an assignment. Somewhere that afternoon, between one house and another, Nora made up her mind. She knew positively what she was going to do with the rest of her life. By a coincidence, the Pennys ran into Ralph and Gracie Wagner that afternoon. Gracie had her baby boy on one arm and a bookbag on the other. Nora signaled her to step to the side with her. "Gracie," Nora spoke quietly, "is there any way you and I could have a little time together this evening? I need to ask you some things." "Of course," she responded. "In fact, why don't you come with us now. Ralph can drive you to your rooms after we finish talking." The Wagners were staying eleven miles away from the convention site at a trailer camp that had been set up for the brothers. Nora's mouth fell open as she saw, not only trailers from states all over the country, but tents, trucks and buses, all lined up in perfect order with named streets in between. "This is unbelievable!" Nora exclaimed. "Isn't it something?" Ralph agreed. "There are over fifteen thousand Witnesses staying here." "We have bathrooms, electricity, running water, a cafeteria and even loudspeakers that broadcast everything that's said on the program," Gracie added. "We don't have to leave the trailer to attend the sessions. It's really nice for us because Ralph rigged up an awning and little Freddie can sleep in the shade whenever he's sleepy." They pulled up to a strange-looking homemade trailer. It was worn and rusty in spots and patched with tin here and there. But Nora knew it had an honorable history. This was the trailer Ralph and Gracie had lived in during their pioneer days. Ralph rolled up his shirt sleeves and grabbed two metal buckets from under the trailer. "I'm off to the water spigot," he said cheerfully. "This son of mine uses more water than a baby elephant." Whistling a Kingdom song, he sauntered off down the street. "I guess Ralph is giving us some time to talk," said Gracie. "Is it confidential?" "Not really," Nora answered. "I've come to the point in my life, Gracie, that I want to use it to the full for Jehovah. I'm going to become a pioneer." "That's wonderful! How can I help?" "You can tell me how you did it before you were married. How did you manage to eat when you didn't have a job? And where did you live? How did you get from one place to another?" So Gracie explained how she and Patsy had ridden bicycles for transportation or just walked, how they'd traded literature for food and stayed at the homes of people of good will in the territory. "How did you and Patsy get to be partners?" "We belonged to the same company in Toledo. When we got arrested once and had to spend some time in jail, I lost my job and Patsy's father kicked her out of the house. So we just signed up to pioneer together." 124 Nora gave her a peculiar look. Did Gracie know? No, she hadn't told anybody yet about her own situation. "Patsy's father threw her out because of the Truth?" she asked. "Yes, he never did accept the fact that she and Ralph were Witnesses. It hurt her, but she didn't let on. She was a really fun partner." "I can imagine," Nora grinned. Then she sighed wistfully. "I wish Nellie could be my partner. But she loves working at the school so much, she wants to become a bona fide teacher." Gracie put her hand on her arm. "Nora, you'll find a partner. I'll even be willing to guess that one will turn up for you before the convention is over." "Oh no," Nora doubted, "not that quick. I only just decided this afternoon that I'm going to pioneer." "We'll see," said Gracie. "Would you like to see the inside of the trailer?" Early Sunday morning Kate Penny, along with almost four thousand others, was baptized. But that day was special for Butch, too. The printed program said about the talk to be given at 11 AM: "All children of consecrated parents between the ages of 5 and 18 and having reserved seat tickets will assemble in the main arena directly in front of platform." Earlier in the week Kate had registered her son at the Children's Registration booth and had kept his ticket safe in her pocketbook. She had to produce it at regular intervals, though, to prove to Butch she still had it. But now was the time to bring it out for the real thing. She looked a little doubtful about entrusting it to his hot little hand. "Aw, let him carry it," advised Wilfred MacIntyre. "He won't lose it." "You just make sure he doesn't," said Sister Dorris, who was sending five of her six grandsons inside to the lecture. "And keep your eye on Woody, too. If any one of you boys makes any trouble whatsoever in there, I'll give you the whackin' of your life!" "We won't, Granny," Woody, the youngest, promised. "We'll be good as gold." "All right, then. But see this sign? When it's all over, you come wait for me right here under this sign. Now, off you go." The boys, from eighteen-year-old Wilfred down to eight-year-old Butch, filed into the auditorium where fully half the seating was reserved for the children. Nellie sighed. "Well, Sissy, we missed it by one year." "And Ned's too old, too," Nora added. "But Butch is going to remember this day for the rest of his life." As it turned out, nobody present would ever forget that day. Brother Rutherford addressed 15,000 children about the paradise, as 100,000 other delegates listened attentively for an hour. At the end of the lecture, he asked the children to stand up. Then he announced in a dramatic voice, "Behold, more than 15,000 new witnesses to the Kingdom!" There was great applause. Then he asked 'all who would tell others about the Kingdom' to say "Aye." Even those outside who were listening to the program on the PA system could hear the children shout "Aye!" The feeling was indescribable. Brothers and sisters had tears of joy streaming down their faces. They squeezed each other's hands. The speaker now announced the release of the new book, entitled Children. A gift copy would be handed to every child seated in the special sections. The applause was thunderous. It was a long time before Butch and the MacIntyre boys appeared under the designated sign. But when they did, they were each clutching a sky blue book with gold lettering that read Children. After giving Butch a hug, which he pretended to disdain, Nora made arrangements with Kate to meet her later. There was something she had to do now. Nora had spotted the booth earlier, so she knew right where to go. She passed by a line of cafeteria tables. There were a little boy and girl, each with a brand new blue book, waiting in the shade underneath a table for their parents to find them. But the table Nora wanted was beyond the cafeteria. She spotted the sign. Here was the 125 place she would make her application to become a pioneer. She spoke to the brother manning the booth, then took pen and paper to write what he said was necessary. Nora was happy, so happy she couldn't seem to write fast enough. And then she was finished. She prayed about it once more and signed her name. When she looked up from the page, there was Ned. He, too, had an application, all written and signed, in his hand. "I thought you already are a pioneer," she said. "I am," he said. "But this is to request a new assignment and to change my status." "Your status?" "As a single man." He held up a wire paper clip. "Nora, what do you say to this?" A ray of sunshine spread over her face, sinking the dimple beside her smile. She handed him her application. "I say Yes." He put the two applications together and slipped on the paper clip. Ned and Nora were married in Toledo on Saturday, August 24, 1941, in his back yard. Except for Papa, all the Pennys, including Jo, were present. The Landalts were there, as well as the Wagners and the West family, who owned the boarding house where Nellie had stayed all winter. Granny, Gracie and Sigrid West had collaborated on a huge meal of picnic food that could be eaten out in the yard. Kate and Jo had made the wedding cake. Nora, a brand new gold band on her left hand, sat in the best metal lawn chair under a tree, a plate of food on her lap, and scanned the yard. There was Jo Penny, standing shoulder to shoulder with a whole crowd of Jehovah's Witnesses as she served food to the older Sister Eden West. When the Pennys had come home from St. Louis, Nora accompanied them to collect her possessions. But Kate had taken Papa out to the barn and talked him into withdrawing his eviction decree. So Nora had been thankful to have two last weeks of close association with her family. Matt and Jo bought their furniture and one day, when Nora went up to the new house to help her sister-in-law arrange things, the two found themselves alone. "Nora," said Jo, "I want to apologize for the way I behaved when you introduced us to your Ned that day. I've thought about it a lot and I know now that you're really set in your beliefs. You aren't about to come back to the Baptist Church." "You're right about that," Nora agreed. "Well, I put myself in your shoes and thought, 'what if Matt had been a Roman Catholic?' My family would have kicked and screamed about it, but I know I would have married him anyway. Nora, I hope you'll have all the happiness with Ned that I'm having in my marriage." "Thank you, Jo. I hope you'll get to like him." "I will. Matt already does. He says Ned has some things going for him that Matt admires in a man. One is his courage to stand by his convictions." "Ned has that, all right." "So do you. I've never seen anything like the way you stood up to your father that weekend you left home." "That wasn't me, Jo. It was 'the exceeding greatness of the power of God.' If Papa had been raging at me for doing something wrong, I would have been a little bowl of jelly. But serving Jehovah is the right thing to do and the Lord gives his people the strength to stick with it." Jo was not interested in pursuing this line of thought, so the conversation took a different direction after that. But Nora was glad that Jo had cleared the air between them. It was much more satisfying to have Jo as a friend. Nora let her eyes move past the laden table to the back porch, where half a dozen children sat clustered around Nellie's feet. She wore a smile that sprang from deep joy. Although the twins had cried together about their coming separation, neither would ever regret the choices she'd made. She was going to miss Kate, too. Although that lady had been a Penny for only a little more than a year, she'd found a very special place in Nora's heart. Often when the door had seemed to be 126 locked in Nora's face, Kate had calmly stepped forward and opened it. She'd been a good teacher of the womanly skills the girls' own mother had failed to show them. And now she was their spiritual sister. It wasn't going to be easy for her to be one of Jehovah's Witnesses and Mrs. Walter Penny at the same time. But Nora had no doubts that Kate would handle it. A hand closed on her shoulder. Nora looked up into Ned's dear face. "Hello, Mrs. MacIntyre," he said. "Hello," she replied. "They say it's time to cut the cake." "All right, but, Ned, do you see those three boys around the side of the house?" "Looks like two of my brothers and Butch." "By the way they're hanging onto each other and laughing, I'd say they're up to something." "I'll check the car for booby traps," he volunteered. "And I'll check our bags. Are they in the trailer?" "Yes." Nora scooted out to the street. Parked and waiting for the newlyweds was Ralph and Gracie's homemade trailer. How could Nora have known that day at the convention when Gracie had shown it to her, that this was going to be her home? But Gracie had known it because Ned had discussed his intentions with Ralph, and the Wagners had offered the trailer to him to use as his pioneer home. Today Ned and Nora would start their honeymoon in it, and later, when their assignment arrived from the Society, they would be all ready to head out. Nora cautiously inspected her suitcase. No mouse or other crawling thing was scrambling around in it. Then she opened Ned's. Every single garment was fastened to the others with hundreds of little gold-colored safety pins. Nora laughed out loud. She closed the bag without disturbing the contents. Ned would love it. "Sissy," she heard Nellie call. "Sissy, are you in there?" Nora stepped down and closed the door behind her. "What's the matter?" "Everybody's looking for you. It's time to cut the cake. Are you ready?" Ready--to cut her wedding cake? to kiss her friends and family good-bye? to embark with her husband into a lifetime of danger and delight in Jehovah's service? "Yes, Sissy," said Nora. "I'm ready." THE END 127