Sid stealthily followed Jake Gibson around the mill, staying close to the back wall. He skirted the oldest part, near the water wheel which had been used for power in the old days.
He was on a mission. He must find out what Gibson was up to. Sid stepped down a bank into a nearly dry streambed just as Gibson glanced back. Sid quickly ducked behind the wheel. He stayed hidden as several workers came out the back door. Gibson moved on.
Where was he going now? The man had stopped behind a large oak. Though spring had arrived, it was still cold. There was plenty of mud and slush back here, but the path widened and stretched on through the wooded area. Sid could see tire tracks.
Then he noticed that a large automobile had approached silently. A very fancy one. Gibson opened the back door and got in. Sid, in that second, recognized another man in the backseat.
George Bethayre—a wealthy politician from the city—and if rumors were correct, a pretty dishonest one. He’d seen the man’s picture in the newspapers many times.
Sid hurriedly climbed the bank, and peered from behind the brush. The vehicle was not moving fast. He trotted down the trail, able to keep it in sight, staying in the shadows of the woods.
The rich guy would get his fancy car all muddy at this rate. Perhaps he didn’t care, since he had a chauffeur to wash it, but it seemed strange that Gibson was in the backseat hobnobbing with this man.
The boy jogged along to keep up and found it easy on this bumpy, curvy lane, for the car had to go slowly.
They finally reached two low, long buildings. They seemed very run down, with old equipment and a wagon or two nearby.
Suddenly two men came out with a large crate, and placed it in the trunk of the rich man’s car. Gibson got out, and went into the nearest building. The driver turned around in the narrow space, heading back up the muddy lane.
Upon investigation of the building a few minutes later, Sid found the least likely thing he’d been expecting.
“Whiskey,” he breathed. They were bootlegging. And Gibson was in the middle of it—plus George Bethayre! Why was he so involved when he certainly could have any number of hired hands pick up whatever was in that crate.
Sid slipped away and headed home to think this through.
Hope would have ventured out to Sunday School, even in the cold wind and against all orders from the doctor, except that she felt her long and loud bouts of coughing would disturb others.
Sid had the feeling he wouldn’t even be able to get her there unless he borrowed Ted’s old Molly for the short trip!
Sid didn’t go either—he had no reason to attend Sunday School apart from helping his sister. She was the one whose idea it had been in the first place. Now it was her favorite place to be. But he would stop over after church later to speak with Nathan. He hated telling the young man what his cousin was up to but he needed to know what was going on.
But after two hours of walking the cold, desolate creek bank, upon arriving back at the church,
he found that Nathan had left quickly, having somewhere to go. He often played piano out at some of the little churches around the countryside. Maybe one was having special meetings.
Sid drearily headed home. The wind was too sharp to stay out here all afternoon. There must be something they could do to pass the time. He wondered if the Thompsons would let them borrow their old Parcheesi game. That would cheer Hope up. Well, Hope didn’t need cheering up—but maybe it would cheer the rest of them.
As he came up upon the little house, Papa was sitting out in the cold, more depressed than ever.
But surprisingly, their disagreeable neighbor, Mrs. Thompson, suddenly came out on the stoop. And in her hands was a bowl.
“Corn beef. And some cabbage. I wondered if you could use a little—” She had always been so selfish, it seemed like she had no idea how to offer a gift.
But both Sid and his father stared at her in shock and she shrugged. “Hope has been so kind to me. And that young woman—Miss Newton.”
“Would you come over and eat with us?” Papa asked with a tiny smile. Sid hadn’t seen him smile—since Christmas! “We have little else but we do still have some jars of apples left from the fall and a little flour—Lyddie made turnovers for our dinner. She makes them like my wife used to.”
“We’ll bring the rest over then,” she said.
Sid impulsively told of his idea of borrowing her old game. “Just for something for Hope to do?” Though Hope was so weak, she’d probably just watch.
The woman smiled wider. “There’s a lot of pieces missing but….”
And for the first time ever Mr. and Mrs. Thompson and their little girl spent the afternoon at their home.
He hadn’t been able to find Nathan last night. And he couldn’t find Mr. Simmons. Perhaps he should have tried Paul or Charlie but two policemen for the entire little town and surrounding farms was impossible. They were seldom able to be found either. Plus he still wasn’t that sure about trusting coppers.
It was Monday morning and he was depressed all over again, especially since Mr. Simmons wasn’t here at the mill yet! He should be in his office by now! He hoped the man hadn’t gone away again.
Things hadn’t been much better at the mill, lately. There was a lot more murmuring and grumbling than usual.
Even Ted was silent and thoughtful.
“I don’t understand it all,” said Sid, trying to get him to talk. “What’s going on now?”
“They’re talking about a strike.”
“They’ve been talking about striking for a year. They’ve been talking about the decline of textiles for longer than that.”
“Other mills are close to it. Our people are feeding off them. They talk in circles and half the men don’t even know the facts. Hope…my Penny…Tayler.”
Tayler was another who had ended up a cripple due to an accident.
“They’re taking care of Hope. They’re going to do the best they can, and I believe Mr. Simmons. He says Mr. Owens promised….”
“No one knows that, though. And they wouldn’t care if they did know. They’re taking every opportunity to cause dissension. My Penny—they weren’t fair with our settlement or your mother’s either, but that was before Mr. Simmons worked here. The bosses are trying to improve things since he came.”
“But it’s not doing any good!”
Ted nodded. “The workers aren’t giving them a chance. They need time.”
Sid noticed a group down in the corner who were paying little attention to their work as they talked and gestured furiously. Another trio of determined men were coming this way.
“Here they are again,” murmured Ted. “They want me to join them after what happened to Penny. But we’ve chosen to forgive, and she’s a happy child. She really was too little to be here anyway. Five-year-olds should not be working in the mill. Children should be in school and someday you all will be, and don’t look at me that way, Sid-it’d be better for you to get educated and learn how to make something of yourself. If you want to work in a mill all your life, that’s fine. If you want to do something else—you should have that chance. And you can’t do that without some education.”
Sid had no time to think this over, for the three men had arrived and Ted was saying, “I’m sorry, men. The answer is still no.”
“Then you may just find out you’ll be sorry,” said one, leaning into Ted’s face with a scowl.
“If you keep this up, there may be no jobs for any of us,” Ted replied, calmly.
The men whirled angrily and joined the group in the corner, but the supervisor came by, sternly admonishing people to get back to work.
Suddenly one of the men grabbed the supervisor, and both Ted and Sid gasped as it looked like someone was going to throw a punch, or worse. But more supervisors were down upon them and the group broke up. Two of the men were escorted out the door most firmly.
Ted quietly turned back to his machine.
“Ted, will we go under? Like other mills?”
He shook his head. “I don’t know.”
Sid gazed at him. “Will God take care of you?”
The man looked at Sid firmly. “Yes, God will take care of me and my family. I don’t know how, but He will. He always has.”
They went back to their work, Sid thinking hard—as usual.
“Sid….” The supervisor walked down their aisle and stopped at their machine. He jerked his head toward the other room. “They want you in the office.”
The man shrugged and walked away. Ted gave him an encouraging look and Sid went off toward the office, wondering if he’d end up fired, too—for what reason, he had no idea.
But it was Mr. Simmons who wanted him.
“Sid, we’ve liked your work. We still have no position for your older sister,” said the man, “but we wondered if this plan might help out a bit. Arnold, down at the corner machine, is retiring at the end of this year, and we’ve chosen you to work with him until that time and be one of two that will take over his machine. It would be sort of an apprenticeship. Also there would be a raise in pay.”
“A promotion?” He must have looked skeptical, but he was only in shock. What had he just been thinking lately about a miracle? Of course, this had nothing to do with Hope, but it would certainly help pay expenses.
Then another thought flashed through his mind.
The man seemed to understand. “This is not a bribe.”
Sid looked up at him. “I didn’t really think it was, sir.”
“We have another piece of business. You were influential in getting our money back. We appreciate your initiative. And there is a reward due you.”
Sid was so in shock that he almost forgot that he needed to talk to Mr. Simmons—or anybody—about Gibson. When he finally did remember and told what he’d seen, Mr. Simmons immediately called the police station. He also promised to break the news to Nathan.
“He’ll be so disappointed but not all that surprised. But good job, Sid. And those old warehouses are on our property so again, we’re very grateful to you.”
Mr. Simmons suggested that he would keep the $50.00 safely in his office, and bring it over himself to Sid’s house.
Sid agreed. And as he left the office and saw a few men and women looking at him suspiciously, he realized that Mr. Simmons was probably right. He didn’t want to walk home with $50.00 in his pocket. Plus, they didn’t know what had transpired in the office and they might think he was a “company man.” That could be dangerous right now.
It was the middle of the night. Alarms wailed and the warning bells rang as the entire household woke. Neighbors were peering out their windows or running down the street, even though it was past midnight.
“Bank’s been hit,” someone reported, excitedly.
A terrible sinking feeling went through Sid.
Not necessarily. There were plenty of other crooks around.
He put on his coat and walked to town himself, mingling with the crowd. He didn’t find out much more information, but someone said the safe had been cleaned out.
A while later, Sid headed back, thoughtfully. He looked at the dark, silent church and thought about Nathan and how upset he would be. He went around the corner and on toward home, turning to look again as a police car came by. It was Charlie. He was moving right along and didn’t see him wave.
He glanced up and as his gaze passed over the steeple, he suddenly froze. Was that movement up there? Of course not. But wait, was that a light?
He stood still, turned toward home, then back again. He was feeling foolish, for it could have been just the movement of a cloud and the reflection of the gas street lamp. He finally walked down in back of the building, staying in the shadows. He circled the church, checking windows. The doors were secure. He finally shrugged and with one last look at the now dark steeple, went on home.
“Well, it’s a good thing we didn’t put our money in the bank,” was Papa’s assessment.
The reward money was nearly gone, actually. Lyddie had paid the grocer’s bill and bought a large amount of food—meat in tins, crackers, flour, and beans that would keep. The cupboards were full, and that always made her happier. They’d bought a new blanket for Hope’s bed and a new pair of trousers for Papa, whose clothes were ancient. They’d filled the coal bin.
Then the doctor had suggested a different treatment, and they’d agreed to do it. It hadn’t seemed to help at all, and they all felt that the money had been wasted.
The rest was in Mama’s locked bureau drawer in her handkerchief box. They would save it until all the food was gone. It was good to have a little extra—as long as there weren’t any emergencies.
Yes, it was a very good thing they hadn’t put it in the bank.
“What are we going to do?” Sid asked his friend one evening, as they left the church together. “She’s worse after this breathing treatment that the doctor did. She’s so brave and cares for everyone else. Every night she prays. Not for herself but for everyone else—the neighbors and the workers at the mill. Even for me. I hear her.”
“That’s what Christians do. And we’re all praying for her,” Nathan told him.
But Sid still thought nothing would ever change when it came to his sister.
But the very next day, he didn’t know that things were starting to happen quite unexpectedly at home. Mr. Simmons had stopped in at the little house, and the doctor happened to be there, sitting at the table with a cup of coffee.
“She really should be moved to a hospital,” the doctor was saying.
“We can never afford that,” Papa waved a hand and Lyddie laughed contemptuously.
Mr. Simmons removed his hat. “I have some news to tell you.”
“What is it now? Has Sid lost his job or something?”
“No, not at all. Mr. Owens wants to do what’s right for Hope. They’re going to help her.”
“Help Hope?” He brightened then slumped again. “Listen to her. She can hardly breathe in there. She can’t even get up anymore.”
He flung his hand in that usual gesture, meaning that nothing would ever change.
“Listen to me, man!” Mr. Simmons went over and gripped the man’s shoulders, as if to shake him out of his despair. But then he let go and sat down in a chair, leaning forward. “They’re willing to send her away to a place I know. It’s actually a miracle of God that I found out about it. South Bridge Memorial Hospital in Baltimore.”
The doctor slapped his knee excitedly. “Doctor Jonathan Howard!”
“What’s this about?” asked Papa, frustrated at their enthusiasm. “Another doctor?”
“A very distinguished and brilliant man. He’s got a new treatment!”
“We tried a new treatment,” Papa glared at the doctor.
“That could have worked, but she’s too far along,” the doctor defended. “But this is very expensive and brand new. It’s really experimental but worth it at this point…it’s her only hope.”
“The treatment you did was very expensive.”
Both the doctor and Mr. Simmons stared at him, astonished that he didn’t comprehend.
Mr. Simmons took a deep breath. “This is far more than any of us could afford, but the company will pay for it.”
“I’m not believing that. Their bank nearly closed.”
“They have the money and they want to do this. Mr. Owens if very impressed with Sid’s help lately. There are new processes to clean the air in mills. He’s planning to implement them. He’s sorry about your wife and all the others and he’s trying to do better. He thinks it’s only right to try this new treatment in Baltimore.”
But Papa was beyond understanding what he was saying. All he could reply was, “They want to take Hope away?”
“If this works, she’ll be well,” said the doctor firmly.
Then the men glanced at each other and Mr. Simmons finally said, “I have to be honest. This is more than a treatment—it’s surgery.”
Papa rose up, then slumped. “An operation—those sometimes don’t work that well. How do you know….”
“But they’ve come up with a new method—it’s much better….” Mr. Simmons stopped hopelessly, and glanced at the doctor again for his input.
“Take her away from me?” Papa gazed at them, but didn’t seem to see them.
But finally, he got up slowly from his chair. He walked into Hope’s room.
“They want you to go away. There may be a way to make you better.”
Hope took his hand. “I heard. I’m ready to go to heaven, but if there’s a way and it’s what God wants, then I want to live and be with you.”
He turned to the men. “All right, but we don’t even have money for traveling. Lyddie won’t know what to do even if we did.…”
“Miss Newton and I will accompany Hope,” said Mr. Simmons. “It really is a miracle how I found out about this man. Come, let me tell you.”
“We have no money. We only have $8.00 left from the reward. That’s nothing compared to what a trip to Baltimore would cost.”
“The Newtons have offered to pay all traveling expenses.”
Papa finally seemed to take it all in. He shook his head. “Why would they do that for us? Why would any of you?”
“We want to see Hope well. And it’s the right thing to do.”
They talked a long time, Papa finally getting more interested.
At last, when the men were ready to leave, Papa rose and shook their hands. “Thank you,” he said. “Thank you for helping my little girl.”
So when Sid arrived home late that afternoon, he found the family in quite a state!
Lyddie had packed Hope’s few belongings in Mama’s old satchel. The Newton Ford was parked outside.
Charlotte was exclaiming with delight on how soon they’d been able to get tickets, and the fact that the great doctor was willing to take Hope’s case. She was figuring how to work everything out.
Mr. Simmons had telephoned the doctor, rather than having to wait for telegrams to go back and forth. They could leave in the morning.
“We can’t quite make connections in New York, but we’ll stay in a hotel and go on the next day,” said Charlotte.
Sid was as much in a fog as his father had been.
“The Lord has it all in His control, that’s for certain,” Charlotte exulted. “We know what a time Mr. Simmons had on his way home. The first blizzard, and then more storms along the way. But listen to what happened. A minor accident made them have to stop and change engines, but because some of the people were flung about a bit, they were taken over to the hospital. Anyway, this man, this great doctor, was very busy.
He didn’t have time to go out and get his dinner, so he had it brought in, and he was just picking it up at Receiving when he saw them all. He sat down to talk with them all while he ate. He told about some of the new methods, and off he went to the next operation. That’s more than coincidence! That’s God’s plan!”
And the next morning, Charlotte and Hope were off bright and early. Sid helped carry their luggage onto the train before hurrying off to work, though he had Mr. Simmons permission to be a little late.
As Hope waved from the window, he knew that God had given them that miracle that everyone had been praying for. And he couldn’t wait to find out if the operation would work!
To be continued….