Will had no idea what time it was when he awoke. The woman were cooking a meal over the fire.
Will wondered if it was the savory aromas that had awakened him. There was stew and some fish and oatcakes so it must be close to the noon meal.
The men were still sleeping. They hadn’t fallen asleep right away after all, for when Will came back into the cave at dawn, both Peter and Father were waiting—as if they knew what had happened to him.
He had been saved from his sin and born again, as the disciple John called it in his gospel. Actually, it was Jesus who had talked of it to a very educated Pharisee named Nicodemus. The Pharisee hadn’t understood it at all but Will was starting to.
His father had been so excited—he’d been praying for this for years, he said. Will realized that his father understood a lot more about him than he’d thought.
Peter just clapped him on the back and said, “well done!”
Now as he lay there on his pallet, he sensed God with Him and he felt fresh and clean. It was all very strange—and wonderful!
Father Andrew and Davy were still sleeping on their pallets but Bridget came close and bent over him.
“Come and eat—it’s all hot.” She smiled at him. “I’m glad for your decision to follow God.”
He grinned back and popped up, unable to resist the wonderful aromas of the food another minute. “What’s happening? No one’s bothered us then?”
“Annabelle was just here. The soldiers haven’t passed by yet. But they’re on the move. It wasn’t a trick. They really are coming, just a little later than expected.”
Will gulped down some soup and gobbled an oat cake. “Then we really should have gone at dawn?”
“No. Father Andrew and Davy were sending out the pigeons and showing Annabelle how to take care of the rest of them and making sure she knew to harvest the garden when it’s ready. Then all the poor people can have the food.”
“Should we go now—before the soldiers get here? And what about our wagon? They’ll see it if they’re coming along that road.”
“No, the men prayed for a long time, asking God for wisdom. They all sensed the same thing—that we should wait,” said Angelina, handing him a goatskin of milk. He took a drink and handed it back. Seeing that his father was stirring, he rose and went over to him.
“Father, good morning. Since we can’t go yet, there’s something I must do.”
“Good morning, my son. I thought you might.”
For before he slept, he had felt a strong urging about his next step.
“Do you want me to go with you?” asked Peter, raising up from his pallet in the corner. “In case there’s trouble?”
“No. I need to do this myself. Besides I know the area, I can keep hidden better alone, I think.”
“I could go,” came Davy’s sleepy voice.
“All right. You’re small and fast.”
“I think it’s best to go in twos—one can escape and come for help if something happens,” said Father Andrew.
“We will pray for your safety,” Peter told them. “And I think I will go move the wagon into the woods and give the horse some more water.”
They went their separate ways. The boys headed through the forest. They passed Davy’s house and the lean-to where the pigeons roosted. Then the chapel where they found Annabelle weeding in Father Andrew’s garden.
“The word is they’re on their way. Whatever you do, you must do it quickly before they arrive in town. Mother asks that you send a pigeon back with news when you arrive safely.”
They waved good bye to her and went on, coming soon upon Will’s own home.
He looked in and could tell they’d been looking for the Bible. They’d overturned Father’s cot and the wash tub was thrown in a corner along with Mother’s chair.
The boys moved on and stopped at the bridge. This time Will had no desire to throw things. It seemed strange that he’d ever thought that was important.
“Keep watch,” he told Davy as he observed the town from a distance.
“Don’t be silly! I’m going with you. I promised Bridget I’d take care of you.”
Will laughed. “You did? Well come on then!”
They ran down the grassy bank from the bridge and toward the town.
Will looked back up the road from the north and heard them!
“The soldiers are coming!”
“It’ll be a while before they get here,” said Davy.
They caught a glimpse of a first line of soldiers coming towards the town some distance away.
“We have time. If we go quick. Do you have a plan?”
“I was going to see what I could find out from those girls. Let’s go!”
They raced across a meadow and down the dirt road towards town.
Coming up on the house, they slowed and watched. There was no washing going on today. But one girl was outside dumping a bucket of something into the pig’s trough.
Did he dare? But he had to find out. He just had to.
“Rosie!” he hissed. The family went to the cathedral but he’d always like Rosemary. They’d all played often at the church festivals and frolics. And the family always brought them sweets at Christmas, even after Father had separated from the Church.
She turned and dropped her bucket. “Will! Are you all right? What are you doing here? Are you daft?”
“I need to know what happened to the gold. Quick, the soldiers are coming.”
He explained quickly. “The pouch that I dropped that day! What happened to it?”
“Mother found it and returned it to the merchant.”
Will let out his breath in a long sigh of relief.
“Thank you, Rosie.” He turned to go.
“You’re leaving, aren’t you? All of you. Because it’s not safe?”
He didn’t know what to say. They weren’t very close friends, just neighbors, and if the soldiers asked, would they betray them?
“You look different, Will.”
“I—I’ve changed. I believe in God….”
She looked confused. “We all believe in God.”
“I mean—I love Him…He’s forgiven me…it’s by grace, Rosie!” He suddenly became excited. “Through faith in Christ, not by works!”
“My old grandmother believes that,” said Rosie, nodding toward the house. “She says we go to church because we love Him not because we have to.”
“Listen to her! Ask her! But right now we have to go. The soldiers are going to be here soon.”
“Rosemary!” came a voice from the house. “What are you doing! Who are you talking to! Come in–I need you!”
“Bye,” she waved at them both and ran to the house.
“Are we going back now.” asked Davy.
Will paused so long that Davy looked about nervously, “We should go!”
“I—wait—I think I should do something else…two things.”
Will took off at a run. Davy had known God for a long time. He would understand but Will didn’t have time to explain at the moment.
They came out onto the main square.
There didn’t seem to be that many people around. Maybe people were nervous with the
new soldiers coming.
They passed the cobbler’s shop. Will dug into his pocket and pulled out the knife. He laid
it on the shelf outside. Davy nodded his approval.
Then, not all that far away….
“William Turdey, what might you be doing here?”
He whirled around. The merchant!
Will straightened up bravely. “I was coming to see you, sir. You have your gold back?”
“I wanted to tell you that it was me. Not the fault of my father or the other Separatists. I heard what you all said that day. My father and the other Separatists in our congregation, they really are good people and don’t steal. I—uh, ask your pardon.”
“Have you changed, William? You seem different.”
“I have. I’ve been forgiven.”
“Ah. Well, I got my gold back and all is well and I thank you for speaking to me. But you probably should be going as soldiers are due soon. And I perceive that it wasn’t just you that was doing the stealing. I saw a man that didn’t look trustworthy that day and he seemed to be in the middle of it all.”
“I chose to do it but the bandit is in prison in the city.”
‘Really. That’s interesting and how do you know that—”
Suddenly several things happened at once.
Davy cried out, “Will, we’d better go!”
The businessman that had been with the merchant that day, suddenly appeared from a shop and cried, “that’s the boy that caused all the trouble! He’s one of them!”
The merchant held up his hand to his friend. “It’s all right—” he called. “All is well!”
“No! He’s a thief. Constable! Ah, here’s a soldier, too! Here’s that thief we’ve been looking for!”
“Go!” said the merchant to the boys. “Get out of here now. I do not agree with you Separatists but you’re all in danger—grave danger!”
“Thank, you sir!” Will and Davy turned and ran!
He heard the merchant call to his friend again. “It really is all right. We don’t need the constable or soldiers.”
The boys glanced back. “They’re after us!”
The merchant had not succeeded in stopping them!
Will swerved to the riverbank. “This is the way I went last time! Come on!”
“No! There’s soldiers on the bridge—the ones coming from up north! They’ll see us!” Davy swerved back to the woods “This way!”
They dashed across the meadow and into the forest and finally stopped out, of breath, in sight of Father Andrew’s little chapel. But it seemed that there were soldiers everywhere!
“They’ve gotten those new soldiers that were coming across the bridge to help them! Come on!”
Davy dived through the church doors. “They’ll search in here—come on! Up to the belfry!”
“We’ll be trapped!”
“We’ll be all right.” Davy told him.
And there was no other way. The soldiers were trooping past the chapel, some were coming in to search.
“We know you’re here! Come out!” they shouted.
The boys tiptoed up the stairs, Careful not to touch the bell, they peeked out. Will saw that Davy’s idea was a good one. Close to the belfry towered a large oak. They climbed out onto the roof and grabbed the thick branches. Clinging to the trunk, they were out of sight.
A soldier suddenly appeared in the belfry, He bumped into the bell and it bonged. He quickly went back down the stairs at the deafening noise.
“No one there,” he shouted a moment later from outside. “Let’s go!”
The boys waited for some time, watching carefully, then finally climbed down from the tree.
Something moved and Will jumped!
“Annabelle,” he said, in relief.
“Don’t go back to the cave! They’re gone. Mother sent me with food and they were carrying your father out. They knew that would take a while. It’s safe—all the soldiers went off that way.” She pointed in the opposite direction from the chapel.
“Thank you, Annabelle. Take good care of the pigeons. We’ll send one when we get to Francisco’s,” Will told her.
“Good bye, Davy. Good bye, Will.”
It was much quicker not to have to go all the way to the cave. They ran as fast as they could across the wooded area, crossed the river at a narrow place and soon came out to the road.
They finally reached the grove where the wagon had been hidden the night before. They followed the muddy wheel tracks. The wagon was in a meadow, with everyone safe and sound, ready to hide under the hay at a moment’s notice.
But Father was coughing a lot. What they would do about that if they had to hide, no one knew.
“Your mission was successful?” asked Father.
“Yes. But the soldiers are searching the forest already.”
Peter urged the horse on. A bumpy ride over the meadow and through the grove followed. Finally, they came out on the road. There someone was waiting for them.
“You’ll be safe, I think. All of our soldiers are over on the other side of the forest right now. The others that are going to the city have moved on. I suggest that you take the road that loops around to avoid them completely.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“God be with you,’ he turned and with a wave, rode off toward town.
They traveled on, taking his suggestion later in the afternoon when they reached the side road he’d mentioned. It was just as well for the main road had many travelers by then, coming and going.
At dusk they reached Father Andrew’s friends, who opened their large home to them for the night.
Davy showed Will how to send his second pigeon off with a note to Francisco that they were safely on their way. Then he took the pigeon which had arrived at their friends’ dwelling and placed him in the cage.
“He’s the one I’ll use to send Annabelle the message that we’ve arrived safely at the city. Then he’ll know how to get back and we can keep in touch with her.”
“Homing pigeons are such a marvel,” said Father. “God is indeed good to us.”
They had to go slow for Father’s sake. The next day, at their noontime stop, they were nearly out of money. Peter sold off a good part of the hay.
“There’s still enough to hide in, if need be, but now we have plenty of money for lodging and supper tonight.”
By the next day they were safely at Francisco’s.
He and his wife welcomed them for as long as they needed to stay.
” And,” he said, turning to Will’s father, “My wife is quite good with herbs and medicines and may be able to help your cough. And we have a doctor friend who will be coming to look at your leg. He may be able to ease your pain. Perhaps you’ll even to be able to walk again, though you’ll probably always have a limp.”
Will could not believe this news!
The first night when Peter and Angelina brought their instruments out, Father told Will to bring the Bible from their pack.
Francisco and his wife looked at it with astonishment and awe.
A Bible! They stared at Peter, who was beaming. Francisco grinned at him. “This is the surprise you mentioned in the message you sent?”
Peter had told Will how precious it was to actually handle and read his father’s Bible. And how excited Francisco would be. Will had hardly been able to believe that rich people couldn’t get a Bible.
“Here in the city they were all burned,” Francisco explained. “I have money but there are just no Bibles to buy.”
“It’s been so long,” His wife touched it lovingly.
“You shall read it any time you wish,” Father told them.
The pastor and his wife and Davy left a few days later to go on to their family. But he took one of Francisco’s pigeons so that they could keep in touch.
But the best part was when Francisco finally had the time to take him to his studio. He started teaching Will how to draw and paint. And while Francisco was working at the cathedral, he learned the art of sculpting.
“My father was a potter,” Lavinia told him. “I learned many things from him—but especially about God.”
“Yes—the potter and the clay. We are the clay and God is the potter.”
“I’ve never heard such a thing.”
Lavinia urged him to bring the Bible up to her studio and she found the place. “My father always said that God forms us the way He wants us. Just like I’m doing with this clay. Sometimes I don’t like what has happened to it so I start again until it’s comes out the way I want it—into one of these beautiful pots or vases.”
“You are God’s workmanship, Will. Now come on—here’s your own lump of clay to start with—and someday, you’ll go on to other things besides clay. You’ll.be making things as beautiful as these porcelain birds and flowers.”
Peter and Angelina came up to watch him. As Will pressed his fingers into the clay, he realized that drawing and painting and working with clay was what he wanted to do most in the whole world.
“Thank you, Peter. If you hadn’t given me a chance and helped me, who knows where I’d be.”
Peter clapped his big hand on his shoulder and gave a laugh.
“I knew there was something special about you, Will. But then, to God, there’s something special about every one of us.”