Will was on his way home. But he wasn’t so sure it was such a good idea.
Peter drove the wagon with the big pile of hay, the cage with the homing pigeons set on the seat beside him. The rich man they’d stayed with had been very generous!
The hay was meant to be a hiding place if Will needed to get out of sight quickly. But no one seemed to be paying any attention to them. There were lots of peasants coming and going, bent on their daily tasks.
And before they were even out of the city, Peter had found a small family that needed a ride in their direction! The mother was lame and the one of the two children was carrying an infant. The other was loaded up with their possessions. They gratefully climbed on the back, resting in the hay. Of course, Peter discovered that they’d had no breakfast so there went some of their food already.
Angelina smiled at Will. “Don’t worry. God always provides.”
He grinned back. He was starting to understand that.
They were sitting on one side of the wagon, dangling their feet. Will felt safe here knowing that he could dive into the midst of the hay if he saw anybody suspicious. The bandit was in prison but who knew what tales he might have told. The constable could come after him next.
He was glad when they finally rumbled out of the city. There were fewer travelers here but Will still ducked his head and kept his hood up when a soldier passed by.
“I think you’re fine here,” Angelina finally said, “until you get closer to your own village.”
“But that bandit is a slippery one—and he wants revenge on me for ‘betraying’ him—and he definitely thinks I know where that gold is.”
“I understand. We will continue to pray for safety. But those guards in the city prison can be—nasty. I don’t think he’ll try anything.” She pulled out her lute and strummed for a while. “Father,” she called, “I have thought of a new tune.”
“Wonderful, Daughter. We will try it out and perhaps some lyrics will come to us when we stop for the noon meal. It is quite pretty.”
They rumbled along and the clop clopping of the horse’s hooves lulled Will into a doze.
He woke when the wagon took a turn and saw that they were entering a small town. The little family dismounted.
“Thank you, sir.” said the woman. “You are a kind servant of God.”
Peter grinned down at her. “You have a place to stay?”
“My sister lives here. She’s a widow herself but she’ll take us in.”
Peter motioned to her to wait.
“We’ll sell off some of this hay. We don’t need it all.” He went over to the town stable and made an arrangement with the stablemaster. Soon he had a fistful of coins.
“Francisco gave us this hay to use as we wish. This is wiser right now then singing and playing for our meal, I think, for these people look very poor indeed. They don’t have money to give. And I also feel we must get on and get you home as soon as possible, Will. I’m not sure why I think this—perhaps it’s the Almighty’s urging.” Even as he chattered, he handed over some of the coins to the woman. “Here, this will help out you and your sister.”
She thanked him again and the children waved, and Peter was soon urging the horse on again. This time Angelina and Will sat up on the high seat with Peter. Will munched on bread and cheese. He saw that the view was much different from up here. He could look far off.
His thoughts wandered as Angelina played her song and she and her father came up with some words of worship to God.
Will wasn’t sure what he thought about getting home so soon. As much as he wanted to know how his family was doing, he wasn’t keen on appearing in town and really finding out what had happened to that gold. Peter thought he should make amends but Will was becoming more and more terrified at the thought.
He’d end up in prison too, probably He couldn’t see why anyone would let him go free if they once recognized him. Even though he did not care about God much, they didn’t know that—they thought he was one of the Separatists and they knew he had stolen gold. Both could put him in prison or worse.
He spoke suddenly, interrupting their music. “I think I might put my family in more danger by going home. And me too. We have two things against us. They think I’m a Separatist and I’ve stolen.”
“They think you’re a Separatist—that means you’re not?” asked Peter.
Oh, why had he said that? “I—well….”
But he knew he should tell the truth. Peter would see right through him. Peter already knew he was a thief.
“It’s just that—no not really. You’ve been very kind to me and I know you love God and so does Francisco but…no….” he said lamely. “I don’t care about God very much. I’d just as soon not bother with Him at all—either as a Separatist or as a member of the Church.”
“I see.” Peter took his time replying. “Well, you may not care about Him but He cares very much about you.”
That wasn’t what Will had expected.
And the next words just popped out. “It just seems like so much trouble. The Church wants us to do, do, do—and give all our money and be good—yet the priests aren’t good—except for a few.
All they talk about is sin and judgment. And I like to sin. But if you’re a Separatist then you get persecuted and thrown in prison and maybe even killed.”
“Ahh. You are in a predicament.” Peter thought for a minute as the horse clopped along. “I think it would behoove you to put all that out of your mind for a moment—and just think about the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Will stared at him perplexed. The Lord Jesus Christ? Why He was right in the middle of all this religion. Wasn’t He?
For all of Peter’s usual chatter, he said no more. In fact, he just looked off into the distance, as if quite enjoying the beautiful day.
Angelina started strumming softly again.
And in the peaceful quiet of the ride, Will’s thoughts went to the Christ.
Later when they stopped in the heat of the day for a bite more to eat and to buy some grapes and figs in a small village, they rested in the lane of a small churchyard.
“So what were you pondering on during our ride. Was it the Christ or did your thoughts wander elsewhere?”
“A little….” Will munched on a fig. “I thought of all the crucifixes and paintings of Him on the cross.”
“Always,” said Peter. “The sacrifice of our Lord is very important.”
“But Father says there are many other things about Jesus. That He’s our Shepherd.
I thought of that when we passed the shepherdess out with her sheep. And He was there at Creation-the hills and and trees reminded me of that.
But I’m afraid. The Christ always brings peaceful feelings to Father. And for you two—it brings joy and singing.”
Peter pulled another loaf from his bag and took a gulp of milk from his goatskin. He pointed past the church. “You see the graveyard? God is a good God and His Son is all that you’ve said. There are lots of good and also lots of very serious things to think about God and life. That some day we will die and where we will spend eternity.”
Will knew where this was going. “And that we must be ready.”
“Yes. I perceive that you already know the way. You say you like to sin. We all do. But our gracious God gives us new life and new thoughts when we receive Him. As well as an eternity with Him. Perhaps, boy, you have been thinking about all the problems instead of the whole big picture.”
His hand waved at the forest and hills and fields and little church and graveyard. “Ah, come, let us move on. I’d like to camp by the stream tonight and have fresh water and some nice roasted fish. Wouldn’t you like that, boy?”
Wil nodded eagerly. Then he sighed. That would mean they’d be home by tomorrow noon. And then what would he do?
Suddenly they all heard it! A horse galloping towards them. They looked back and it was a soldier on horseback. Will wished he was below and could dive under the hay. Oh, why had he sat up here?
The soldier came on! Why was he slowing? But he kept going, though as he passed, he gazed right up at them. He stared at Will and looked startled.
Will realized that the soldier recognized him! But the soldier urged his horse on and disappeared over the next hill.
“He knows me!”
“I saw that,” replied Peter, quite concerned.
“What do we do, Father?” asked Angelina.
“I’m not sure. We shall pray on it.”
In Will’s opinion, they needed to do more than pray!
At the next village, Peter decided to get off the main road. “It will take longer but perhaps that’s all right.”
Will thought he might sell the wagon and hay so they could move faster. Perhaps even buy or rent another cheap horse with the money….
But Peter seemed reluctant to do that quite yet. “I have a notion we might need this as a hiding place yet.”
“But Peter, they’ll be looking for a hay wagon.”
“Let’s just wait a bit. The Almighty will show us—but sometimes it’s one small step at a time.”
That was one thing that Will didn’t like about belief in God. Father always said things like that, too. Will liked to move! Do something! Plan!
“Calm down, Will. We’ll be all right,” said Peter complacently, leaning back on the seat and letting the horse clop clop along.
Will sighed. Peter could be stubborn when he wanted to–but after all, the man had chosen to take all this trouble to help him.
Unless…in the night—perhaps he could sneak away. But Peter had been so kind to him. It wouldn’t be right to run off and go his own way again—at least not yet.
So they moved closer and closer toward home.
That night the gurgling stream that had widened into a river kept Will awake. He was happy and full—Peter had caught several fish and cooked them over an open fire.
Now the man was snoring and his daughter was peacefully sleeping, as well.
Suddenly a stick crackled…something rustled the brush.
He froze and listened. A black, shadowy form against the moonlight glowing through the tree branches…. Was it that bandit—escaped from prison? Could it be soldiers?
Suddenly— “You there! Wake up! Will, are you there?”
The voice was soft but still it startled Will out of his wits—and suddenly Peter was on his feet—looming big and strong. Will knew how well he could fight.
“Who is it! Show yourself!” Peter roared.
“Shhhh! I mean you no harm. Is William Turdey there, by chance?”
“Father Andrew! It’s Father Andrew, Peter! It’s all right! I think….” Was the monk on his side—he always had been before.
“Yes, it’s me, boy.” Suddenly a light! A lantern had been lit and the man in his flowing dark robes appeared.
Peter relaxed. “What do you mean, coming upon us this way?” He lowered his staff which he’d grabbed as he burst to his feet a moment before.
“News. And I didn’t want you to come into town.”
“How did you know I was here?”
“I think I’d like to know that, too.,” said Peter.
“The Lord sent me.”
“The Lord—what?” exclaimed Will in confusion.
But Peter really did relax when he heard that. And Angelina was rising sleepily. “Well, then Father, do stir up the fire and let him sit. Perhaps he’d like a cup of water.”
“Yes, do come closer sir, and tell us why God gave you such leading to find us.”
“You’re sure nobody saw me and told it around town?”
“No Will. I was in my bed and the Lord pressed upon me to find you. I somehow knew you were coming. But now, quickly—I know you must be worried about your family. They’re safe but not all that comfortable. But you know your father, always cheerful.”
Will sank down in relief.
Peter was saying aloud, “praise be to God, then. They’re alive, Will—and I perceive not in a dungeon somewhere.”
“They’re free but almost as bad—they’re in a cave deep in the forest. We did have to get them away quickly, and some of the other Separatists, as well. But Davy’s been taking food and supplies to them.”
“Thank you,” said Will, humbly. He realized how much trouble he’d caused everyone.
Suddenly, out of the darkness— “who goes there—come out so I can see you!”
“I know I wasn’t followed,” whispered Father Andrew.
They knew it was true. The rough voice was coming from the opposite direction than Father Andrew had come.
But who was it?
Just then, in the opening of the grove, a soldier appeared, sword drawn!
To be continued….