Another robbery! What was going on in in this town? And who would steal from a church!
Sid had a hunch who was responsible but didn’t know what to do or who to tell. The money he had found last fall was still hidden in the tree.
Mr. Simmons, the only person he wanted to tell about it-the only man he could trust-was still away. He’d gone on a long business trip in the west and still wasn’t home.
So Sid just kept his mouth shut about what he suspected.
The snowfall they’d had earlier in the week had not lasted and the weather warmed up, unusual for January in New England. He’d even been able to take Hope over to the waterfall to sit for a while.
But it was freezing now and there would be plenty of snow by tomorrow morning in the little village of Hope. At least that’s what Farmer Jones said—and he always seemed to know. Something about his knee hurting when bad weather was coming.
Right now Sid was indulging Hope in her whims again. He was waiting around but his sister refused to leave yet. The little church on the corner also housed the town library on its lower floor. And Hope had insisted on stopping in on the way home from the mill. She loved to read and now she loved to talk to Miss Annabelle, the librarian.
The elderly lady knew lots about all the books in her library, and especially about the Bible. She and Hope had long chats about God.
Sid sometimes wished Miss Annabelle hadn’t asked them to come to Sunday School—but it was nice and warm in the church and the ladies made really good cookies for the Sunday School children. Plus, Hope had made some friends.
But he really didn’t understand the decision Hope had made to ask Jesus into her life. He had no idea what that meant and didn’t care to know.
But it did make her happy—and there wasn’t much to be happy about in this little mill town.
Oh, there was Nathan! Sid could hear the majestic organ music.
He usually wandered around the church until Hope was ready to leave. He didn’t know much about music—had never thought he cared about it—but he rather liked to be here on Thursday evening when the young man came in to practice.
The music was amazing and he liked to watch the man’s feet going on the peddles and his fingers racing up and down the keyboards! Even on the radio Sid had never heard such glorious music.
Nathan didn’t mind if he sat in the back and listened. He even said that maybe Sid would like to try an instrument himself.
“I have a feeling you’re a trumpet or sax man,” he’d said once.
Sid had doubled over laughing—like he’d ever have the time or money—poverty-stricken as he was. And he certainly wasn’t smart enough to learn such a thing. But his new friend was quite serious.
“We’ll see, some day,” the man told Sid, with a grin.
Right now, Sid headed up the narrow, steep stairs of the little church to talk to his friend.
Tonight, Nathan was up and down the keyboard with the liveliest tunes Sid had ever heard. It must be some of the new “Sunday School” songs, as they were called.
When Mama was alive, she talked about this new music that some didn’t think should be played in church. But she liked it. She told them that some of the songs had been written for children in New York City mission schools. Then they had become popular in the Sunday Schools around the country and at revival meetings.
He’d never really known what she meant by all that but words suddenly floated through his mind. He somehow knew they went with this music that Nathan was playing….
Standing on the promises of Christ my King,
Through eternal ages let the angels sing;
Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
Standing on the promises of God.
Mama used to sing that….
Sid suddenly jumped, startled! The door latch was rattling. Someone stomped in, and closed the door. Sid moved toward the top of the stairs and peeked into the little entranceway.
It was Gibson, the supervisor from the mill! He was the one who had buried that money last fall! The man he suspected of the robberies around town!
What could he be doing in church?
In spite of the rousing music, the organist seemed to know someone had come into his church. He stopped playing abruptly.
Sid shrank into his shadowy corner at the top of the stairs, as the organist rose from his stool and peered toward the door.
“What are you doing here?”
Gibson’s angrily went to meet him. “You know what I’m here for.”
“I’m different now.”
“Nobody ‘round these parts knows what you really are,” Gibson said, with a threatening tone.
Sid leaned back, astonished. What could they be talking about!
“Pastor Eldridge and the other men are aware of my past life. I’ve told them everything.” A pause. “I know you’re involved in the robberies. I can’t believe you would come right into my church and do such a thing.”
Sid had heard that more petty thefts had been going on around town this very week. One right here in the church!
Nathan was descending the steps from the platform rapidly. The two men met halfway down the aisle.
“Jake,” he said, “You need to get right with God.”
Startled at the words, Sid realized he’d heard them somewhere in the past, perhaps from Mama. Yes, that was it. Mama hadn’t spoken them—to him—but to—Papa….
Gibson suddenly sprang at the organist, and poked his finger into the young man’s chest. “You know what I want, and you can get it for me a lot easier than me breaking in. I want part of the money that comes in every week. You can do it!”
“You’re a fool if you think I’d do that!” exclaimed Nathan.
“How dare you argue with me! You may not count the money or take it to the bank, but you know where they keep it. And don’t tell me they take it home until the bank opens Monday morning. I know better. I know the old treasurer’s sick, and doesn’t want to be responsible for it. I know the pastor lives in that dinky little house in the worst neighborhood, and doesn’t dare keep it there. I know it’s here!”
Nathan had been opening his mouth throughout this tirade, trying to get a word in.
“I will not!” he finally spluttered. “You do not control me any longer, Jake!”
Gibson grabbed the organist by the shoulders and shook him, knocking him against a pew. Sid sprang forward to go to his friend’s rescue, but apparently the young man could hold his own. Nathan shook himself free.
“Get out of here or I will tell the police, whether I have proof or not.”
“You’d do that to me? After all we’ve been through? I’m your best friend. Your cousin. We helped our fathers sell liquor and—and everything else that we pulled. We had fun—adventure!”
Sid’s mouth gaped open as he heard this. Nathan? The organist of the church?
“You never did anything for me, Jake. You and your father got me on the path to ruin. My father, as bad as he was, didn’t really want me into all that. I’m not blaming you totally. It was my own choice, but it’s only God’s grace that I’m out of that life. Pastor Eldridge got me on a decent path and it can be for you, too. Our fathers suffered all their lives with the consequences of what they did! But we have another chance.”
“No thanks!” Gibson interrupted.
“I care about you, Jake.” The organist’s hand rested on the man’s shoulder. “You need the Lord.”
“Get away from me, Nathan! Just do what I say, and get me what I want—or you’ll be sorry!”
Gibson stomped back up the aisle and left, slamming the door behind him.
The young man leaned against the pew for a long time. Then, to Sid’s surprise, he returned to the platform, and knelt, his head in his hands.
Now was Sid’s chance to get away. But he lingered curiously, watching the man as he prayed. Finally, Nathan rose from his knees and soon there was the quiet, sweet music. Sid recognized it from Mama’s humming, but he didn’t know the words.
For some reason, he wished he did.
And he snuck away, tiptoeing down the stairs. Perhaps it was best that his new friend didn’t know he had heard.
Lyddie was furious!
“Keeping her out all this time in this freezing cold? Are you that foolish?”
It was true that Hope was coughing and panting for breath after fighting the sharp wind. But as they came through the door of their tiny house, Sid realized it was almost as cold in here as outside.
“Lyddie, stop!” Hope said when she got her breath. “It’s not Sid’s fault. I wanted to stop at the library. Look at all the wonderful books I have.”
Lyddie still glared at Sid.
“Well, it’s warmer there than here,” he shouted at her. “I thought you were going to get some coal!”
“Well, I couldn’t, could I! The doctor showed up, wanting his money! And he wouldn’t leave until I gave it to him. Why don’t you ask one of those rich church friends of yours to give us some money for coal!”
Then came the father’s voice, as he stood in the dark corner near his old chair. “We will not ask for charity. If they offer, it’s one thing but we have some pride left, I should hope.”
He sat back down, discouraged as always.
“Come and get your supper while it’s hot,” Lyddie said, grumpily. “there’s not much of that either!”
Sid was glad that Hope at least had the coat he’d gotten her, back last fall. She kept it on as they all sat around the table, but she insisted on thanking the Lord for their meagre supper.
But Sid wondered what was going to happen next as he looked out the window and saw snow starting to fall. They still had a long winter ahead.
To be continued…
Standing on the Promises by Russel Kelso Carter 1886 Pubic Domain