Prairie Storm

Prairie Storm by Catherine Palmer Read Free Book Online

Book: Prairie Storm by Catherine Palmer Read Free Book Online
Authors: Catherine Palmer
Tags: Ebook

    â€œLemme see what you got there, Brother Elijah,” Mother Margaret said as she and her family joined their guests outside on the front porch after the sumptuous meal. “You got the biggest, fattest Bible I ever did see. And what is that other book?”
    Elijah showed the old woman the Holy Bible he had purchased right after his call to preach the gospel. He had traded his life’s savings for the leather-bound volume, and he considered it a treasure. But the small hymnal he now placed in Mother Margaret’s hand ran a close second. His mother had once owned the slender book of music, and she had sung the hymns to him as he sat on her lap. Elijah had found it in her trunk many years after her death. Even before he came to understand the message in the Bible, he had read those songs again and again. Their words had lit his path.
    â€œThat’s my hymnbook,” he said. “I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, but I know every song by heart.”
    The old woman turned through the worn pages one by one. Her son, Ben, leaned over and examined the book with his mother. Elijah pushed back in his chair, hooked one boot over the other, and locked his hands behind his head. He could see Lily Nolan three chairs down on the porch, rocking the baby and humming some little tune. Maybe this was going to work out all right after all, though he never would have believed it.
    That woman sure brought out the worst in him. She seemed to know exactly how to pull the anger right up out of his chest. Before he could stop himself he had been hollering at her, shouting in her face, and scaring the living daylights out of her. He’d never felt such shame in his life as when he saw her cowering in the grass, her arms over her head and her body sheltering the baby. As though he would hit her!
    Sure, in his old saloon days, Elijah had been a rough and rowdy fellow, but he’d never touched a woman with a harsh hand. Now that he was walking in Christ’s footsteps, he’d surrendered his old notion of “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” He was working hard on turning the other cheek.
    â€œThis songbook ought to go to somebody who can use it right,” Mother Margaret said. “Here, Miss Lily, you take it.”
    Elijah sat up straight. Lily stopped rocking the baby. Everyone in the gathering turned to the preacher as if awaiting his response. Ben Hanks, a strapping man with arms like tree limbs, gazed at him with soulful brown eyes. His wife, Eva, looked up from her darning. Mother Margaret just grinned as she held out the precious hymnbook.
    â€œMiss Lily,” she said, “you have the voice of an angel. Take this book, and keep it. You sing the baby every song in there, and he’ll grow up right.”
    â€œMother Margaret,” Lily said, “the hymnbook belongs to the preacher.”
    â€œHe don’t need it. Can’t carry a tune in a bucket; he said so himself. Take it, girl. And sing us somethin’, would you? Sing the first song in the book. What’s it called? You know, I can’t read worth beans. Can’t even sign my name.”
    Lily took the hymnbook and opened it. Elijah swallowed. That was his mother’s book, his only memento of her. He didn’t want some no-account actress—he caught himself and took a deep breath.
    â€œHoly, holy, holy!” Lily began to sing.
    â€œLord God Almighty!
    Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
    Holy, holy, holy! merciful and mighty!
    God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!”
    â€œMmm,” Mother Margaret said. “Ain’t that the prettiest voice you ever heard, Ben?”
    â€œYes’m,” her son agreed.
    â€œSounded like a funeral dirge to me,” put in his wife.
    â€œWell, it did. Miss Lily, sing the verse about the darkness. Here we are out under the stars, and I can just feel the presence of the Lord. Sing it, Miss

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