In a time and place where his wrongness would lead to him being stoned or burned unto his death, Ezekiel found a way to fulfil all of his duties as given to be him by God, and yet still be true to himself.
This is the story of Ezekiel's Victory.
When Charity was finally done, she lay down next to the body of her sister and wept.
The lanterns burned long into the night in Samuel's house.
In the morning, the neighbors were not surprised to see the wagon already packed high with furniture and belongings. They watched silently from a distance as Samuel and the remainder of his family haltered their cow and tied it by a lead rope to the back of the wagon. Then they climbed aboard the wagon. Samuel took up the reins and flicked the horse into action. Their audience stood still and silent as the wagon, with the cow plodding steadily after it, slowly made its way slowly down the track and then turned left and away from the village.
Some few of those watching noticed that Ezekiel's movements were a little less than manly but those who did simply turned their heads and looked away. After all, that boy had always been a little strange.
Just after turning out of sight of the village, Noah stepped out into the path of the wagon. Samuel grunted and pulled back on the reins until the horse and wagon rumbled to a halt.
Isabelle sat silently beside her husband. She had Hope sitting on her lap and playing with a string of baubles held firmly in Isabelle's hand. She looked across at Samuel with sad eyes but did not say a word.
"What would you have of us, Noah?" asked Samuel. "As you can see, we are leaving. We are not in the mood for idle conversation for we have buried one of our daughters this morning. Stand aside and let us leave in peace."
"Your daughter, Charity, is promised to me," said Noah. "With your family in disgrace, she is no longer so worthy. Perhaps if you double the dowry you promised, I shall consider taking her off your hands."
Noah peered at the wagon, but Charity and Ezekiel sat at the back behind the pile of furniture and were hidden from his view.
Samuel grunted again. "Trying to bargain like this is unworthy of you, Noah! Have you fallen so far?"
Noah did not reply but he stood firm in front of the cart with his arms folded.
Isabelle said nothing but stared long and hard at Noah – her gaze seeming to pierce through to his very soul.
"I saw you in the crowd last night, Noah, son of Mattiah," said Samuel in a calm voice. "I heard your voice shouting for my daughter's life. Even if you prostrated yourself before me in supplication and paid me all of the wealth in your family, ney, all of the wealth in this entire village, I still would not place another of my children within your reach."
"I pay you?" Noah scoffed. "I prostrate myself before you? No self-respecting man would do such a thing."
Samuel grunted. "Over the last day and night I have been thinking long and deeply about what it is to be a man. God has led me to question what a man may or may not do and still remain a man. I have found that my learning has been incomplete on this subject. Now, I know that, if God showed me the need, I would gladly prostrate myself before the lowest of the low and yet I would still remain a man. It appears that you would not do the same. What limit would you place on the sacrifices a man may make yet still remain a man?"
Noah shifted nervously. Isabelle's silent gaze was even more unsettling than Samuel's comments.
"Hand over Charity to me. You must do so or be foresworn," said Noah. "Charity is promised to me. Perhaps I will be generous and accept only that nicely carved table you have on the cart in addition to the dowry you promised me."
Samuel shook his head. "I made that table myself and it is precious to me in its own way. But nothing is more precious to me than my daughters and you will not get even a hair off Charity's head from me. As for the promises, it is too late for that. Your duty as Charity's Promised was to stand with her family in their time of need. Your duty as Charity's Promised was to stand as a man of God before wickedness. You failed in both of those duties last night and so the promise is broken. And now Charity has married another and because of that, she is beyond your grasp. This pleases me, for today you have shown that you are also lost to the sins of greed and pride. Now stand aside and let us be on our way."
"Married another?" exclaimed Noah in surprise. "Whom did she marry? And when?"
"She married my son, Ezekiel, last night in a proper hand fasting. It was done before God and witnesses. She is married and beyond your grasp."
"Charity and Ezekiel? But they are brother and sister?"
Samuel shrugged. "It is not common, but it has happened before – in particular circumstances. And these are particular circumstances."
Noah shook his head. "Ezekiel! There is something wrong with that boy. I would be ashamed if he were my son."
Samuel stared at Noah for a long time and then softly replied.
"Then you would be a fool, and doubly so. Ezekiel is more of a man than you shall ever be. I pray God grants me the courage he has shown. When he stands for judgement before God at the end of days, Ezekiel shall not be found wanting. I cannot guarantee the same for you."
Samuel sighed and shook his head.
"Look into your heart, Noah, son of Mattiah. Do you find God there? I think you are lost and I shall pray for your soul. You were a party to murder last night for the woman you hung was innocent – more innocent than you could possibly imagine. No member of my family was responsible for the death of Symeon. At no time was Constance unfaithful to her husband. Yet you clamored for her death and stood to watch it happen because you chose to believe the lies and the rumors instead of listening to God. You are stained with the evil of that act. I pray you find God again, Noah, for you were once a good man."
Noah could not meet Samuel's gaze and dropped his eyes to the ground.
Finally Isabelle leaned forward and spoke in a clear voice.
"I pray you find God again, Noah, son of Mattiah. But the only way back to God is through His Grace and last night you all destroyed the only Grace in this cursed place. May God have mercy on your soul."
"Amen!" said Samuel.
With that, Samuel whipped the reins and his horse lurched into action. Noah quickly scrambled out of the way.
As the wagon passed, Charity and Ezekiel came into his view – they were sitting on the back of the wagon and had been hidden until that moment. As soon as Noah came into view, Charity flung her arms around Ezekiel and kissed him passionately, pushing him flat until he was all but hidden beneath her body and her long dress. Ezekiel appeared to simply lie there. Noah thought that a proper man would have chastised her for behaving so wantonly in public instead of simply lying there and allowing his wife to do that to him.
Noah watched – half in envy and half in disgust as the wagon rolled away from him. He knew Charity was doing it deliberately to taunt him but he was still appalled. Finally he shook his head and turned away.
"Perhaps it is well I am rid of her," he muttered to himself. "If she behaves in such a brazen way, she could never have made a decent wife to one such as me."
With that he walked away without looking back.
Charity continued her passionate kiss until they were over a rise and well out of Noah's sight. Then she stopped and sat up – looking around carefully to ensure they were not observed. She looked down at her sister/wife and giggled at the expression on her face. Ezekiel was blushing so brightly that she was close to bursting into flames and her eyes showed her confusion at the intensity of Charity's actions.
"It was important that Noah not look too closely at your face," said Charity with a giggle. "It came to me that in this way I could hide your face yet still leave him in no doubt that Ezekiel was here with us."
Ezekiel did not reply. She touched her fingers lightly to her lips and looked up at Charity with confusion still in her eyes.
"Come, sit up! My dear husband," said Charity. "I have something to speak about."
Ezekiel did not show any sign of moving, so Charity kept talking.
"Father spoke to me last night. He said that I should seek a path that is not the same as the one we have been taught to follow. I confess to being relieved for I was feeling despair about nearly every aspect of my life. My love for you and for our brother/sister and for our parents felt blessed by God. The rest of my life and my path into the future was barren and tasted of naught but ashes. Our brother was not the only one who felt a wrongness within him but perhaps I hid it better than he did. Now, in the midst of this sadness, I feel myself coming alive for the first time. It is as if Grace's sacrifice has set me free. I mourn for her loss but I cannot help but feel … full of joy!"
Charity caught a glimpse of someone standing in the field off to one side and quickly dived down to cover her husband with her body. She fastened her lips to Ezekiel's and kissed her again – once more letting loose all the passion she felt within her. After a moment, she popped her head up to look and giggled.
"My mistake, dear husband. It was a cow!"
"I do not think," protested Ezekiel, "that you need to kiss me so soundly every time a person is sighted in the distance. My appearance should be sufficient from a distance. It is only when someone is very close – as Noah was – that we must be more careful."
Charity giggled again. "But Ezekiel and Charity are newly wedded. How else should they behave but show their passion for each other at every opportunity? Our husband instructed us to show these faces to the world and to show the world that we are newlyweds. It is my duty to obey. Besides, I do not know why, but I find I am gaining much pleasure from embracing you. It is a strangeness as, despite your clothes, I know you for a woman, and more, I know you for my sister. Yet this subterfuge permits me to behave in this manner towards you and I find that it awakes a passion within me. I do not know how this can be. Perhaps this is a part of the new path that Father encouraged me to seek out."
"I worry that it is yet another sin with which we stain our souls," replied Ezekiel from where she lay flat on her back. "But I still feel God's love in my heart and I cannot deny that I am also pleased by our embraces. Your kisses and tender touches have effected me more than Symeon ever did."
"Some may describe this as a sin but that is nothing to what they would say about the act I intend to commit once we are in a safe place," said Charity with a grin.
Ezekiel lay there for a moment and touched her fingers to her lips in wonder. She was thinking that perhaps Charity was not the only one feeling more alive than ever before. Grace had done more than merely save her life. It was as if Grace, through her sacrifice, had freed her sisters from some binding spell and now they were discovering the true joy of living in God's presence.
Perhaps celebrating in this way was somewhat sinful. And perhaps even to walk abroad, dressed as she was with her hair cut short and exposed, was sinful. Yet none of it could be a sin, because she still felt God in her heart. And God's warmth flowed through her when her sister/wife kissed her so intimately. Maybe that was it – they had both been married before God to the same wonderful man. And since her husband had commanded it, it was her duty to give the seeming of a man. She had no knowledge of proper behavior between two sister/wives. If this was proper behaviour, then so be it. Who was she to deny God's will? Besides, she was now Ezekiel, and Ezekiel was newly married to Charity. And if any from the village were watching, it was important that the watchers clearly understand both of those facts in order for the family to escape with their lives.
Ezekiel reached up and pulled her sister/wife back down into her embrace. This time she returned the kiss with a passion of her own. Together, they gave thanks to Grace for the gift of their lives by celebrating their passion.
A little while later, the two lay together in the back of the wagon. Ezekiel looked to the side and saw tears begin to slide from Charity's eyes. She looked away.
"I beg you, sister," said Ezekiel in a soft voice. "Do not weep. For if you go there then I cannot help but follow after. A man weeps differently from a woman and if I were to weep my disguise would be undone. Put aside your grief, my sister, until it is safe for us to weep together."
Charity nodded and brushed the tears from her face. She looked away and gulped and then forced herself to breath deeply.
After a time, Charity spoke in a soft voice. "I am ready. Perhaps we should speak of something else for a time to keep my mind from wandering."
Ezekiel rolled over onto her side and stared down into her sister/wife's eyes.
"Very well. You spoke earlier of something that sparked my interest. What is this terrible act you intend to commit?" she asked.
"Shh!" whispered Charity.
She pulled Ezekiel down so that her mouth was close to Ezekiel's ear.
"Think of the story of Lot and his two daughters, and that will give you the right idea," whispered Charity.
Ezekiel blinked twice and then her eyes opened wide in shock.
"What are you thinking?" whispered Ezekiel. "You cannot do such a thing!"
Charity giggled. "And this from a woman who has spent the last hour being passionate with her very own sister," she replied. "I pledged to give our husband/brother a whole brood of children including at least one son so that our father's blood is carried on into the next generation. In this way I can ensure that our brother's duty to his father may be fulfilled. And given our brother's sacrifice for us, I will not break that pledge. Lot was surely loved by God. And if the daughters of Lot could lie with their father without incurring God's wrath, why should not the daughters of Samuel?"
"Lot was plied with wine by his daughters," replied Ezekiel. "He knew not what he was doing. Perhaps the lesson is that Lot was freed from guilt but the burden fell on his daughters."
"Yet God must have looked with favor on his daughters, for the sons they conceived that night each founded his own city and they both became great leaders."
Ezekiel saw the determination in her sister's eyes and recognized the futility of arguing further. She thought for a moment and then quietly nodded and lay down beside her sister. They draped an arm around each other and gazed silently up at the passing clouds.
Earlier, at the front of the wagon, Samuel and Isabelle were not oblivious to what was going on behind them.
Samuel grunted as another peal of girlish laughter drifted to them from the back of the wagon.
"I do not know how they can be so full of cheer," grumbled Samuel. "Have they set aside the loss of their sister so quickly?"
Isabelle sighed and shook her head. "No, my husband. They will grieve when the time is right for grieving – as shall we. I can glean a little of what they are feeling for I feel some of it myself. I feel that I have escaped from a dark cave and for the first time I walk in sunlight. Whereas before, I felt the warmth of God's love, now I feel His love as a heat that reaches into my very bones. The further we travel from that cursed place, the more I feel it. I can barely restrain myself from leaping to my feet and singing psalms to the cows as we pass them that they may know of God's love."
Samuel grunted and flipped the reins gently. For a time they did not speak. They sat together on the bench in silence. The only sounds were the steady clop of the horses hooves and the relentless grind of the wagon wheels turning and the occasional babbling from Hope where she sat on Isabelle's lap.
Then Samuel grunted again.
"I have been thinking of Noah. I fear you are correct in what you said last night. Noah may be beyond redemption. I shall pray for his soul but he will not be the one to find what we have left and thus be led back to God." Samuel sighed. "And he was such a good man before he wandered into the darkness."
Isabelle nodded. "It will be Abigail. I told you that I saw her at the back of the mob last night. She covered her face but I am certain that she wept even then for what she had done. I cannot condemn her for her words. I do not believe she meant for matters to go this far. She will find her way back to God, I am sure of it. It will not be soon, but God is patient and He will welcome her when she returns to Him."
Samuel nodded. "Amen."
They rode in silent contemplation for a little further.
A fresh burst of giggles wafted forward, followed by the faint sounds of passionate kissing.
Samuel grunted again. "Our daughters are embracing in a way that is not seemly for two grown women to embrace. I should go back and chastise them but I cannot find it in my heart to do so."
Isabelle shook her head. "Sister/wives share their husbands bed and therefore it is not unknown for them to lie with each other. It is not the same as when a husband lies with his wife, but the wives may certainly seek solace in each other's arms when the husband is absent. It is true that it is not seemly to behave in this way before strangers but I do not think the creatures in the fields will be offended. I have an idea where their passion is coming from. It is a woman thing and it would be better if I speak to them."
Isabelle paused and teased Hope with the baubles in her hand. "Hope will need feeding soon. We are approaching a village. Once we are past it, watch for a copse of trees or an outcrop of rocks that we may hide within. For I cannot feed Hope and neither can Charity. Any passing farmers or tradesmen might find it strange to see our son, Ezekiel, feeding a babe at his breast so we must stop in a private place. While we are stopped, I will speak to our daughters about their behavior."
A short time later, Samuel steered the wagon away from the track and into a small copse of trees. It had clearly been used as a campsite in the past but being late in the morning, the area was deserted. Samuel stopped the wagon next to a clump of bushes and they all climbed down from the wagon. Samuel untied a stool from the pile of furniture in the wagon and placed it on the ground between the wagon and the bushes so that the occupant would be completely hidden. Then he went and spent time caring for the horse and the cow so that the women may have some privacy.
Ezekiel seated herself on the stool, then Charity and Isabelle helped her to untie her shirt and unbind her breasts. Soon Hope was suckling happily and the women were free to talk.
"You are not being as discreet with your affections as you should be," scolded Isabelle.
"I am sorry, Mother," said Ezekiel. "I know not why I am behaving in this way."
"I mourn my brother/sister but despite that, I feel so full of the joy of life that I can barely contain it," added Charity.
Isabelle leaned forward and placed her hands on the slight swell in Ezekiel's belly. "Does the babe within trouble you?"
"No, Mother," replied Ezekiel. "I have not had the sickness in the mornings for several weeks. The babe is yet too small to kick. It lies quietly within me."
Isabelle nodded. "Each time I was with child, at about the time my belly swelled in this way I found myself more than eager to carry out my wifely duties to my husband. Were you similar when you bore Hope?"
Ezekiels's eyes widened. "Yes, indeed!" she exclaimed and then she giggled. "When Hope was this big within me, I fear I was so eager to fulfil my wifely duties that I came near to exhausting poor Symeon, may he rest in peace."
"It seems to me that this babe is also stirring your passions," said Isabelle. "But without a husband, that passion is being directed at your sister."
"She is not my sister but my wife," said Ezekiel. "I am Ezekiel, her husband and it is proper for me to show passion for my wife." With that she looked down and carefully moved Hope to her other breast.
Isabelle did not reply but pressed her lips together in disapproval.
After a moment, Ezekiel sighed. "I think you have the right of it, Mother. The babe within me has awoken my passion and we are not being as discreet as we should be. I know it for a sin but my earthly body betrays me."
"It is not so much of a sin for the two of you to embrace for you are both wives to the same husband. A woman may even kiss another woman without sin. But to do more than that would be unnatural. And to be seen acting wantonly could result in you being whipped, or worse."
Ezekiel nodded and bowed her head.
"But what of me?" asked Charity. "I know that I am not with child for I have never lain with a man, yet I am also overcome with passion – perhaps even more so than my sister/wife."
Isabelle sighed. "You have always been one to do all things in full measure. Did not your father say to you that he saw your light shining more brightly than any other? Being with child is not the only time our bodies can betray us. When I was the same age as you are, Charity, in the year before I married, one of my brothers died from being kicked by a horse. I very much adored him and his death near broke my heart. My sister and I sought to console each other in our grief and we experienced something akin to what you are experiencing. If my sister were a little less strict with herself, perhaps we would have done what are you are doing today. I certainly felt the desire to do so."
Charity nodded. "There is no doubt that the death of Grace has effected me. But there is more. I feel the desire to lie with my sister as woman would lie with a man. I do not even know how that is possible but I feel the desire within me. I know it is unnatural but my body betrays me, also."
"What would you have done if all of this did not happen?" asked Ezekiel. "You were to marry Noah."
Charity shrugged. "I know the duties of a wife. I would have lain with my husband as is my duty. Noah was a good man and if he hadn't abandoned God in the way he did, perhaps I could have lived as his wife without falling into despair. But now that my eyes have been opened, I know that I would have missed much."
They helped Ezekiel rebind her breasts and adjust her shirt for Hope had finished suckling and now slept. Then they worked together to remove Hope's nappies and clean her before re-dressing her in clean clothes. During all of this, they continued their conversation.
"You are not the first woman to feel such a desire for another woman," said Isabelle. "You are expected to bind that desire within you and behave like every other woman. God expects you to marry and bear children. That is your duty to God and you cannot shirk it."
"But I have married Ezekiel and I will find a way to bear his children so in that I will fulfil my duty to God," replied Charity. "I just feel that there is more for me than that."
Isabelle sighed. "God's will can be difficult to decipher. For now, I will not condemn you for seeking solace in your sister/wife's arms. Neither will your father. Others, however, may not be as forgiving."
"Yet what is there to forgive?" asked Ezekiel. "For all they will see is a man and his wife together."
"Indeed!" replied Isabelle. "But even newlyweds would show a little more restraint while outside of their house than you have done this morning. We do not need to draw attention to ourselves by behaving wantonly."
"Yes, Mother!" they both replied together.
"Perhaps it would help if we kept busy," suggested Charity. "We are unused to this idleness and that has not assisted our cause. I think Ezekiel should drive the wagon for a while and I shall sit next to her and tend to Hope. It will give you and Father a chance to rest for a while in the back of the wagon for I know that neither of you slept last night."
Isabelle nodded. "I think that is wise. I will suggest it to Samuel."
She looked up into the sky and saw that it was past noon. "We should eat something now before resuming our journey."
The women prepared a simple lunch and the family ate together while Hope slept in a small basket. Samuel protested that it was not proper for his daughter to drive the wagon while he was fit and able, but the women explained that it would be his son, Ezekiel, driving the wagon and that was proper. Samuel grumbled but accepted that having Ezekiel driving would assist in the subterfuge.
So they resumed their journey with Ezekiel driving the wagon and Charity sitting next to her on the bench with Hope still sleeping in her basket. In the back of the wagon, Samuel and Isabelle lay back side by side in the small space available to them and rested.
After a time, Isabelle sighed. "I see what my daughters meant. I am not used to such idleness. The wagon jerks and bumps too much to sew or do any other such task."
"I am also unused to such idleness. I should be working in the fields at this time," said Samuel.
"Embrace me, my husband, for I am sorely in need of consoling," said Isabelle. "That is a task you can complete."
And so Samuel and Isabelle, in between short periods of sleep, found a way to pass the time which, though more subdued, was not greatly dissimilar to the way their daughters had passed the time that morning.
That evening, the family stopped beside a stream and set up a simple camp. Charity and Ezekiel lifted a small canvas bag from the back of the wagon. Then together the three women disappeared behind a small clump of bushes while Samuel got a fire going.
A short time later, Charity and Constance and Isabelle emerged – all wearing their formal black dresses as a sign of mourning. Isabelle wore her bonnet but Charity and Constance had their hair unbound and hanging loose. For Constance, that was not saying a great deal for it was cut short like a man's, but Charity's hair was newly brushed and hung loosely down her back to her hips. Isabelle led the two girls over to where Samuel sat on the fallen trunk of a tree having milked the cow and lit the fire. He saw them coming and rose to his feet.
"Samuel, my husband," said Isabelle. "I present to you the widowed wives of your son Ezekiel. The duty now falls on you to guard and watch over and protect your daughters-in-law."
"Before God and with the creatures of the fields as my witness, I accept this duty in the name of my son. He lives now within the Grace of God. And I mean that in both ways. We who are left behind must go on and build new lives. But, as always, we should hold God in our hearts."
"Amen!" said all of the others.
Then Constance sat down on the log next to where Samuel had been sitting.
"Come, Father, and sit. Hold your granddaughter."
Samuel did as he was told and gently took Hope into his arms.
His eyebrows shot up when Constance, sitting next to him, immediately started unlacing the top of her dress to expose her breasts. He looked around nervously, wondering if he should stop her from undressing in the open.
"Father! With the creatures of the fields as our witness, you said. The creatures of the fields certainly know what it takes for a mother to feed her babe. And this babe has not fed for a number of hours. We are fortunate that she is old enough not to need feeding even more frequently. Now you may avert your eyes if you wish, but I beg you to watch and share this with me. Do not feel shame, for I am your daughter and this is your granddaughter and you have pledged to watch over us and protect us. I refuse to believe there is any shame in what I am doing – despite what we were taught and what you were taught. Grace sacrificed her own life that I might live and I don’t intend to spend that life hiding myself away. Indeed my husband commanded me to stand in the light and not hide myself away in the darkness and it is my joyful duty to obey him. So watch and rejoice with me that I am alive and here to give sustenance to your granddaughter."
Samuel grunted and frowned and grunted again. Then he shuffled sideways until he was right up against his daughter's side. He wrapped an arm around Constance's waist and kissed her head.
"It seems that God is determined to teach me new things," muttered Samuel. "I was taught to avert my eyes when a woman fed her child – even if it were my wife. Yet God gave a woman breasts for just this purpose. I have been given much cause to question my teaching over the last few days. I shall do as you ask and watch God's purpose unfold."
He shook his head as if to shake away some cobwebs and then he gazed down with awe and wonder as his granddaughter suckled at his daughter's breast.
Isabelle and Charity watched the entire incident in silence. Isabelle had tears sliding silently down her cheeks as she watched her husband and her daughter and her granddaughter together. Everything was so new and so wonderful. Isabelle sometimes felt lost as her family threw away rules they had followed for generations. But standing there in that moment, she could feel God's hand guiding them to something new.
When they were finished. Samuel looked over at Charity while Constance adjusted her clothing.
"Charity, my daughter, why is your hair unbound and uncovered? I should ask Constance the same question since she has clearly stopped giving the seeming of Ezekiel."
"Our husband commanded us to uncover our hair and let it fall freely before he would even marry us," replied Charity. "As with my sister/wife, it is my joyful duty to obey my husband. This is our home for this night and when we are in our home, I shall do as my husband commanded and unbind my hair."
"We bind and cover our hair to express our modesty," said Isabelle quietly. "Would you have people think you immodest?"
"There are no people here but my family," said Charity. "I would hope your opinion of me is not based on something as little as whether or not you can see my hair. I was taught the sight of my hair would inflame a man's lust. But Father is the only man here and he does not seem to have become inflamed. When we travel, or meet strangers, I shall do as my husband bid and as I have been taught and cover my hair so that they will think me modest."
"In this matter, I agree with my sister," said Constance. "I shall also honor my husband by following his commands."
Samuel sighed and shrugged. "I cannot see any harm in this when we are alone. And I respect your willingness to obey your husband."
Isabelle stared at Samuel and then back at her daughters. She thought deeply for a moment and then seemed to come to a decision. She stepped forward until she stood before Samuel.
"Well?" said Isabelle. "Do you not have something to say to me?"
Samuel looked up at her with a puzzled expression on his face.
"What would you have me say?"
"My hair is also long," she replied. "Though not as long as Charity's."
Samuel stared at his wife and she stared back at him. He blinked and lifted an eyebrow slightly. She replied with the slightest of nods. Samuel sighed and leaned back.
"Very well, as with your daughters, so it shall be with you. Uncover your hair, my wife, unbind it and let if fall freely. I would see my wife's hair hang freely, just as my son asked to see the hair of his wives. By all means, preserve your modesty before strangers but do as you will within our home."
Samuel grunted and looked around. "Mind you," he muttered to himself, "I believe it is stretching the truth to describe a temporary campsite as a home."
Isabelle untied and removed her bonnet. Then she removed the combs from her hair and let it fall. Charity came to her with a brush and helped her brush it out until it fell neatly to just above her waist.
Shortly after, Isabelle and her daughters tied aprons over their dresses and prepared the evening meal while Samuel held Hope in his lap. She was now awake and chuckled gleefully as she played with the ties on his shirt. Samuel watched her play in his lap and tried hard to conceal the joy he felt while doing so.
Isabelle and Charity quickly discovered the disadvantage of unbound hair while trying to cook over an open fire. Constance with her short hair had no such trouble but the other two finally decided to braid their hair into a single rope that draped down their back while they cooked.
After the meal had been served and eaten, they sat around the small fire and shared stories of their brother, Ezekiel, and their sister, Grace. That night they finally allowed themselves to grieve for their lost son and daughter and brother and sister and husband.
They wept and they spoke their memories and then they wept some more.
They marvelled again that incidents they recalled from Ezekiel as a child and as a youth, that had seemed a strangeness at the time, had simply been Grace shining through and did not seem so strange anymore. They pledged to each other that they would keep alive the memory of Ezekiel and Grace within their family and that his sacrifices and her sacrifices would be honored and remembered and passed down to the next generations.
Then they prayed. They prayed for Grace that she may rest in peace. They prayed for themselves that God may guide them safely through this time of uncertainty and change. And finally they prayed for Abigail and Noah and the other villagers that God may forgive them for what was done and lead them back into the light.
Eventually they changed out of their good black dresses, spread their blankets beneath the wagon and they slept.
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