This is going to be very short. I'll be heading off in a few minutes to the homeschool conference in Springfield with my brother and sister. It's usually a small conference, but we've been doing it for years, so we kind of hate to miss it. This will be the first time I've had all my books together on a rack. We'll see how they sell.
Hymns in the Hills
To the Work
“Ain’t sure,” Ali replied with a giggle, starting up the porch steps.
Aunt Lillian, looking more rested, came from her room shortly after the girls had sat down with the mending. “Ya ain’t got very far on them clothes if’n that’s the only thing ya’ll’s done. Kade an’ Rome come back yet?”
Stepping over to the windows, Aunt Lillian looked out, then took a step back and eyed the windows. Belle hid a smile behind her hand.
“Well, I reckon I’d rather have them windows cleaned than that mendin’ done,” was all the comment she made, but Jess’s nod told Belle her aunt was pleased. She knew it for herself later in the evening when, on pretense of “watchin’ for the boys,” her aunt went out into the yard. She did more looking at the windows than watching the slopes, Belle noticed with a satisfied feeling.
The supper table that evening was the liveliest Belle had ever been a part of. Ali, Kade, Rome and Tabby all vied over who could talk the most and the loudest. To her astonishment, no one even seemed to try and curb the chatter, but they all went on with their meal, answering a few questions or making their own comments. To Belle, the commotion was bewildering, and she longed for a few moments of peace and quiet. “It will come after supper,” she thought. “Then Uncle will have family prayers.”
All at once a new thought disturbed this happy idea. “But Uncle Benjamin doesn’t even thank the Lord for the food. Maybe he doesn’t have family prayers either.” Her face grew sober and she lowered her eyes to her almost finished meal. She didn’t feel hungry any more. An ache which had been pushed down and buried in the excitement of a new place and new family, almost choked her. How she longed to hear her beloved father pray or her mother’s gentle voice sing.
A low voice beside her whispered, “Ain’t ya hungry?”
Belle glanced over at Kade, who was looking from her unfinished meal to her and then back at the food. “No, you may have it,” she replied in equally low tones, giving her plate a little push toward her younger cousin.
Kade wasted no time in switching plates, and Belle wondered if anyone noticed, for in moments the food which had choked her, had vanished.
“Ma,” Ez broke into the lull of talk as plates were scraped clean, “I saw ya got them windows washed.”
Leaning back in her chair, Aunt Lillian shook her head. “I didn’t do any such thing, Ez. They were washed while I was takin’ a rest.”
Ez glanced at Jess but said nothing, and the silence lengthened.
At last Aunt Lillian stood up saying, “Well, girls, let’s get these dishes washed; they ain’t goin’ ta do it themselves.”
Feeling relieved to do something, Belle rose with the others and began to clear the table. It had never been a favorite chore at home, but she was grateful to wash a stack of dirty dishes now because it helped push down the homesick feeling.
“Sing that song ya sang this mornin’, Belle,” Ali begged. “I ain’t never heard it ‘fore today.”
Still fighting the lump in her throat, Belle shook hear head. “I don’t think I can sing right now,” she replied in whispered tones.
“Try it, please?”
“Ali,” Jess scolded, “Belle ain’t required ta sing. Leave her be.”
Belle caught the slight quiver of her cousin’s chin at the rebuke. “I can try, Ali,” she whispered. “I like to sing while I work. It’s just that I was–” Somehow she couldn’t bring herself to admit that she was homesick. Breathing a quick prayer for help, she began.
“To the work! to the work! we are servants of God,
Let us follow the path that our Master has trod;
With the balm of His counsel our strength to renew,
Let us do with our might what our hands find to do.”
As she sang, her courage flowed back and she smiled. She could work and hope because this was where her Master had sent her.
“To the work! to the work! let the hungry be fed;”
Well, there had certainly been plenty of hungry mouths that evening!
“To the fountain of Life let the weary be led;
In the cross and its banner our glory shall be,
While we herald the tidings, ‘Salvation is free!’
Toiling on, Toiling on,
Toiling on, Toiling on,
Let us hope, and trust,
Let us watch, and pray,
And labor till the Master comes.”
With each verse her voice grew firmer and stronger until the entire room was hushed as everyone listened to the sweet voice of the singer washing the dishes. Three times she sang the hymn through before the last dish was dried and put away in the cupboard. Only then did she notice the quietness of the room and turn to look.
Aunt Lillian, with Benny in her lap, was rocking in her chair while Sade and Si sat on their father’s knees, leaning back against his shoulders. Standing by the open doorway where the breeze was fresh, Zeke leaned against the doorpost with folded arms staring out into the gathering dusk. Seated in a nearby chair, Ez held Mattie in his arms as she happily played with her rag doll. The other children, silent and subdued, sat as though mesmerized by the tune and the singer.
The first wave of self-consciousness Belle could ever remember feeling swept over her, and she colored. “I . . . I’m sorry if I was too loud,” she murmured, looking from her aunt to her uncle. “I forget myself when I’m singing.”
“Ya weren’t too loud at all, Child,” Uncle Benjamin said, giving her a nod. “It ain’t often we get ta hear singin’, an’ it were right nice.”
Thus assured, Belle regained her usual self-possession and, going up to her uncle, asked, “What time do we need to leave for church in the morning?”
Do your younger siblings eat more than you?
What time do you leave for church?
Do you think Uncle Benjamin and Aunt Lillian go to church?