The Bench

Wanderlust

Now that the farming activities were under control and the inner house expertly managed, Nicholai allowed his restlessness to surface. He didn’t really know why, but he often felt like getting away. Notwithstanding the need Helena had for him, Nicholai began to plan on taking a few trips. Almost any excuse would do. Perhaps he could expand his old hobby and look for new horses. A German breed was attracting a lot of attention from other owners of fine horses. Perhaps he could see what was available in Germany?

But Germany was too far away. He wanted to make the trip with his own horses. Even Koenigsberg would be too much by horse and wagon. Odessa was closer and appeared to be a thriving seaport on the Black Sea. He heard that trading was quite vigorous in this city. Others said it was also quite worthwhile going to Kherson situated on the mouth of the Dnieper River or even Melitopol near the mouth of the Molotchna. With horse trading on his mind, Nicholai planned on Kherson as the place to go.

Evangelist

During this time Nicholai received a visit from the organizer of a traveling Revival Meeting. The preacher wanted to include Lindenau in his circuit and since Nicholai was the Schultz of Lindenau, he requested permission to set up a tent in the village square for three days starting in two weeks. Nicholai could see no harm in that. In fact, he immediately took a liking to the man and expressed curiosity in the process of saving souls. This brought on an enthusiastic response and an invitation to attend.

During the brilliant days of summer the Revival meeting commenced. The tent was filled to capacity and many souls were saved. Among them was Nicholai himself. He listened intently and realized for the first time that he had found what he thought he had missed all these years. He went to the front on call and knelt down to pray and be saved.

The next day he tried to interest his family in attending. And indeed the girls did go. The older boys however were too brutish to consider this event seriously and avoided the invitation from their father. Isaak and Gerhard complied and attended the next Revival meeting. Isaak went to the front and was saved.

Gerhard resisted. As much as he loved his father he could not convince himself of the credibility of the promise presented by the evangelist. Perhaps this was because Gerhard had just started his new year of schooling and had found many new books which opened his eyes to the world outside. He soon realized that the Bible wasn’t the only story book that told of earth’s creation and the origin of the first people to inhabit the earth. There were other stories to consider and to compare. Until he could see his own way through he wasn’t going to make any rash promises to the evangelist or to anyone else.

In a way, Nicholai respected Gerhard for this. Gerhard stood fast, holding true to his principles as he saw them from the point of view of a young man. At least Nicholai had someone to talk to now. It bonded father and son together.

For the first time Nicholas entered Helena’s bedroom smiling.

“I’m saved tonight,” he proudly announced to his wife.

“Well ,isn’t that nice,” responded Helena.

With that Nicholai promptly went to bed happy. No child was conceived that night.

After the Revivalists left town it was nearing autumn time. Nicholai wanted to get at least one trip in before the winter season began. He was determined to get away. And so he decided. The wagon was outfitted for overnight stays and loaded with feed for the horses. Food and water was packed, along with rain clothes and harness repairs should they need them. Finally Nicholai told Helena that Gerhard would come with him, since he needed someone to look after the horses. This, of course, was not the whole truth but he had to say something to Helena because Gerhard had also become a favourite son of hers.

And so it was. Father and son took off with a sturdy wagon and a fine set of horses. The autumn sun from the south warmed their faces and the northerly breezes cooled their backs. The horses set their own pace since Nicholai was in no hurry. The trip would be as interesting as the destination. They both were quiet for many hours.

“Well, what did you think of the Evangelist?” Nicholai finally started.

“Quite personable,” Gerhard replied cautiously.

“Yes.Yes. Of course. But that is not what I meant. What did you think of his message?”

“It’s Okay, I guess.”

“But you didn’t go up in answer to the call.”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“I thought it was optional.”

“Yes, Gerhard, it was. No one is forcing you to go up and be saved. But still, why didn’t you go?”

“I guess I didn’t believe enough. I couldn’t believe the process.”

“But for me, I felt then and still feel today that I need something. Something to live for. Something to tell me why I’m here. I need some answers. Why am I here on earth?”

“I don’t know, Father, but to me the evangelist’s answer was not believable.”

“But you must have faith. You cannot understand everything. You have to believe things you cannot understand.”

“Yes, so he says, but it all seems so arbitrary. It’s as if some one thought this all up. If there is a God, I cannot think that he would want us to feel guilty, so guilty that we are supposed to ask for forgiveness and look to Jesus to save our souls.”

“Mm.”

“I don’t feel guilty. So why should I worry about being saved, even if there is such a process?”

“Mm. Maybe you’re right. I have to think about this some more. Isn’t the sunset beautiful?”

“Sure is.”

The first night was spent in a stretch of woods under the stars. The hooting of the owls kept them company. The horses swatted their tails to keep off the flies.

Nicholai gently snored while Gerhard stayed awake. This was not a time to fall asleep. Could this idyllic existence continue? Would this experience ever be relived again?

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author
Ed Janzen is the editor and publisher of CANADIAN STORIES, a literary folk magazine that publishes short stories and poems from Canadian writers of every province of Canada. Story Quilt is an electronic magazine similar in content. Ed has written four memoirs. He also writes for the old car hobby and has a column in OLD AUTOS - a biweekly newspaper featuring mostly Canadians events and automotive history.
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