The summer was one of heat and smells. Hannah often sat by the cloth-covered windows and watched the ships in the harbor. The rank odors of the fishermen’s nets crept up to the house, overpowering the sweet smells of the lush, colorful flowers dotting the ground. Mr. Mason would occasionally come into the house holding the ends of his shirttail together cradling masses of berries which Mrs. McGrew quickly separated and placed in jars to be placed beneath the stones of the fireplace footing. Mrs. McGrew was Hannah’s adopted mother and Mr. Mason’s sister.
In the latter part of summer a young man in a broad hat visited Mason’s house. He carried several books around and while he didn’t stay with them, he did conduct meetings around the fireplace of the little house. Many others knocked on Mr. Mason’s door and asked to see the young man, some were locals, and some were strangers. Mrs. McGrew told Hannah that the man was a pastor, a term Hannah recognized and she figured he was a man of religion since he spoke of Jesus and God – names Mrs. McGrew often spoke about.
One afternoon, the young man knocked on the door. Hannah assumed her usual place near the window as Mrs. McGrew approached the door. Normally, Mrs. McGrew would not allow anyone in when Mr. Mason was gone; she seemed to trust the man called pastor.
“Good day, mum. Mr. Mason asked me to come by; I met him in the village just now. He wishes me to instruct the girl.”
Hannah could feel the hairs on her neck bristle. Mr. Mason had never allowed an adult man to speak to her directly. Though, she often watched men working while she played with the other children of Strawberry Banke. Her instruction had always been from Mrs. McGrew or one of the other village women.
“Aye, Mason told me of his idea this morning, I did not expect him to find you so soon.”
“Providence of the day, mum, I was bound for Portsmouth.”
“Come, child.” Mrs. McGrew took Hannah’s hand and drew her to the table. Hannah raised her eyes when the man approached.
“Hannah,” Mrs. McGrew said seating herself on the bench next to Hannah, “this is brother Richard, a Christian pastor. Mr. Mason has asked him to show you some parts of the Bible.”
A small tear escaped from in the corner of her eye, but Hannah spoke only to Mrs. McGrew. “I am grateful to Mr. Mason.”
Brother Richard pulled up a small bench and sat down with his books. “You can read, yes?”
Hannah nodded her head without looking at him.
“Hannah,” interrupted Mrs. McGrew, “Mr. Mason will allow you to speak to the pastor.”
Her communication with adult men had been so limited, that Hannah didn’t quite know how to react.
“I have something for you,” he said, “this is a collection we are putting together, of the Psalms, written to make them easy to sing.” He handed her a small sheaf of papers.
The pastor placed another page on the pile. “And, this is my favorite. Will you read it to me?”
Hannah took the paper and rose to stand by the window to use the morning sun, she read softly, “The Lord to me a shepherd is, want therefore shall not I. He in the folds of tender grass doth cause me down to lie” (Psalm 23. Bay Psalm Book. 1640).
“That’s beautiful, Hannah.” Mrs. McGrew placed her hand gently on Hannah’s shoulder.
Hannah could feel the tears welling in her eyes. She raised her apron to her nose and dabbed at her eyes, she didn’t like revealing such feelings.
“She reads very well, Mrs. McGrew. You have done a wonderful job with her. She will be a strong advocate for the church as God’s kingdom grows. How many years does she have now?”
Mrs. McGrew looked at Hannah. “Fourteen soon.”
“I will talk to Mr. Mason, we will baptize her into Christ’s church after her day.”
Hannah’s mind raced with questions. I will be baptized? She knew that the thrill and happiness she was feeling was somehow a gift from God.
The pastor bowed to Hannah as he departed.
Hannah’s heart felt light; the smells of summer seemed pure, and a cool breeze blew through the window opening. Then she heard herself whisper. “Thank you pastor.”
Mrs. McGrew smiled.
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