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    Chapter 16

    Spring Celebrations

    The joy of April 6th seemed to momentarily drown out all the sorrow caused by Isabel's departure. Stan gave all his attention to his new brides and to the others who were entering various marriage covenants. Jenny had arrived at Mora two days' before and had been collected by Władysław, who filled her in on what was soon to transpire.

    Jenny's sudden "baptism" into polygamous communal life had sent her spiritually reeling at first, but Stan did not regret his decision to invite her up at such short notice. And neither, for that matter, did Jenny inspite of the whirling sites and feelings that pressed upon her from every direction. With most of the adults busily occupied in the wedding preparations there was little time for them to chat with Jenny. But that was to her liking - she preferred to look and absorb. There would be time for talking later.

    What a gathering it was that evening in the temple room at Kadesh-Naphtali! Never had there been such a full program or so much excitement and activity. The children were all thoroughly excited, running in and out of the kitchens and other rooms where the preparations were being made, hoping for some leftovers from all the cakes emerging from the ovens. Children were eagerly sitting at the long kitchen table in their aprons stirring pots of icing and chocolate cream knowing they would be allowed to scrape the bowls afterwards.

    Stan decided, on this occasion, that the youngest should be given priority. This is the order in which everything took place:

    • 1. Władysław Reichshofen Królewiec betrothed to Karin Sallberg Åkerstedt (wife #1)

    • 2-3. Karl Sallberg Åkerstedt betrothed to

      Maria Reichshofen Królewieca (wife #1) & Signild Högström (wife #2)

    • 4. Björn Engström betrothed to Silvia Saarma (wife #3)

    • 5. Lars Lönnqvist Nilsson betrothed to Hilda Rätsep (wife #2)

    • 6-7. Stanisław Brandenburg-Schwedt Królewiec married to

      Elise Reifman (wife #10) & Salme Kõrge (wife #11)

    "I never thought I'd be married on the same day as my own father!" said Władysław jokingly to Stan, and everyone laughed. Władysław, normally placid and unhurried, was suddenly galvanised and enjoying the attention his fiancée Karin was showing him. And to be getting married made him feel much more grown up.

    It had been agreed that Maria would have the betrothal honeymoon first with Karl but that Signild would have the first full-marriage honeymoon in the summer. It had taken a lot of discussion to thrash the arrangement out. First, Signild felt that she should have priority because she hadn't created the sort of trouble that Maria had, and Maria felt she should have priorioty because she had known Karl and the Order longer. Karl had learned many diplomatic skills along the way but was glad finally to have the matter resolved. Still, he did wonder what the future might hold with his two wonder-women.

    Jenny Stattin was overwhelmed by what she saw around her. Though she knew she was in the twenty-first century she might well have been a passenger on Wells' Time Machine for she had suddenly found herself transported into an entirely different culture to the one she had known. All around her was order, beauty and, above all, happiness. Entering into Stan's home at the herregård had simply overwhelmed her simply because of the intensity of love that seemed to greet her no matter where she turned. The site of this Prussian noble being embraced and kissed by many women at all times of the day at first shocked and stupified her sensibilities as she tried to convince herself that what she was witnessing was no Cassanova's backroom parlour. Besides, everything was quite open here.

    The evening before the weddings they were seated at the dinner table in the herregård. The two new brides-to-be, Elise and Salme, sat next to Stan. And on this occasion Władysław's fiancée, Karin Åkerstedt, was also sitting at the family table next to a very proud Władysław.

    "Jenny and I were talking about some of our ancestors a couple of days ago," said Stan to everyone, "and especially those from the time of Frederick the Great of Prussia. Prussia was at that time a very young country on the European scene and still finding its way - a bit like us, in many ways, who are pioneering an entirely new lifestyle out in the Swedish wilderness.

    "Some of Frederick's Generals were none to bright," continued Stan, noticing how annoyed his Polish wives sometimes became whenever he talked about things German for too long. "One of them went into a bookshop in Berlin to buy some maps and became very angry when the assistant enquired, 'Does the General want local maps or general maps?' To which the General replied: 'What a question to ask! I'm a General, so I must have general maps!'"

    Everyone burst out laughing, and especially the Poles who always enjoyed a dig at the Germans. But they knew they had to be careful for Stan would not tolerate partisanship or racism of any kind.

    He was never short of jokes about the Poles either.

    "Did you hear about the Lufthansa flight from Berlin to Warsaw?" asked Stan with a mischievous look on his face as he peered at his beloved Poles. Anna looked annoyed. "Well, the captain came across the intercom to the passengers and said: 'Ladies and gentlemen, we are now crossing the Polish border and a time zone. Please reset your watches back 25 years!"

    Sarah-Jane hooted with laughter but there wasn't even a slight trace of a smile on the Poles' faces.

    "Zees Poles haf no sense of humour!" teased Sarah-Jane in a bad German accent as Anna's face started turning crimson.

    "There was another Prussian General who was not particularly literate and who prevented his son from gettinng promotion because of a literary slip," went on Stan. "King Frederick was shocked when the General wrote to recommend his son as being 'very cowardly' (sehr feig) when he meant to say 'very capable' (sehr fähig)!"

    "I guess we need to be careful when we speak, father!" said Władysław laughing. "Do you remember the time in Stockholm when you got your Swedish all muddled up ..."

    Stan frowned.

    "Not in front of the ladies, Władysław," said Stan looking a little sheepish. Stan had gotten the two similar Swedish words for 'browsing' and 'urinating' mixed up in a book shop when an attendant had asked him what he was looking for, and had replied, 'Nothing special - I'm just browsing.' Władysław and Karl had creased up with laughter and had to leave the shop so as not to show Stan up. The assistant, who did not know that Stan was not Swedish, was highly indignant and thought she was the butt of an unsavory joke.

    The Poles lightened up a bit. Stan never did diffuse their touchiness about German matters though he laboured long and hard to do so. And there were times when he was positively irritated by their Germanophobia. Even reminding them that their children were partly German didn't seem to make much difference.

    The conversation moved on to other things. Jenny and Suszana spoke much and seemed very much taken with each other.

    "This is both a sad as well as a happy evening for me," said Stan, now being serious, "for this is the last time that my beloved daughter Maria will sit at table in this family. Tomorrow she becomes the betrothed wife of Karl and will thereafter be his responsibility."

    He brushed away a small tear.

    "Even though I know you'll only be down the road Maria, I want you to know that I will miss you. But at the same time I am so happy that you have found, and are going to be marrying, a fine upstanding young man whom I am proud to call my son-in-law."

    Maria was stunned. Stan had never spoken affectionately about her in front of the whole family before She had never seen him react emotionally like this. It was then she suddenly understood how much her father loved her and she began to choke inside. Stan saw her reaction and did not want to embarass her, so changed the topic of conversation. His wives were nodding in agreement.

    "And I want you to know, Karin, how proud I shall be to have you as a daughter-in-law," continued Stan looking in the direction of the couple. Jenny looked Karin over carefully, trying to size her up and 'fit' Märta into the picture.

    Władysław beamed proudly and put his arm around his fiancée's shoulders. Work on both Karl's and his new home had just begun. They would be neighbours immediately opposite the road from the Åkerstedts and looking straight across at the herregård. Indeed, a great deal of construction work was now taking place on the colony including major extensions on the herregård itself as well as modifications to the Engström house. The ground was being broken opposite them to be ready for the building of a new Conference Centre and Car Park.

    Stan drifted away whilst the others chattered happily. He had never given a child away in marriage before. Suddenly it dawned on him that Maria had grown up and would now become the co-misstress in her own home. And Władysław too would now be starting up his own home. Even before the two eldest children had left the house, Stan began to keenly feel their loss. He was like that - even with a huge household, when just one of us was away, he would keenly feel the loss. It was as though, having grown up alone with few companions and no brothers or sisters, that he was trying to compensate by cramming as many people into his life as possible. And yet Stan was no extrovert - he was not naturally the gregarious type. He certainly didn't enjoy the company of strangers and detested small talk with a passion. But when he was surrounded by those he was close to, he wanted to be around them all the time. He had decided that he would never be lonely again.

    Salme took his hand under the table and brought him out of his daydream. Her youthful radiant smile momentarily dissolved every wall and obstacle in his life and he simply bathed in her countenance. Sweet, lovely Salme! He squeezed her hand tightly and she reciprocated by leaning over to kiss him on the cheek. Jenny was watching in amazement - not so much at Stan and Salme but at the positive, supportative reactions of the other wives who had noticed the gestures of affection being exchanged between the couple. She could see only too plainly that there was nothing artificial here, that nobody was putting on a front. Stan's women were their natural selves, perfectly relaxed and actually enjoying the romance between their husband and his new wife-to-be.

    "Well, Jenny, what do you think of us?" ask Anna across the table to her. "Are we as bad as Stan told you in Stockholm?" She grinned that Anna grin. Anna had been carefully, though unobtrusively, watching this slender lady from Kristineholm, trying to figure out what it was that attracted Stan to her. She was much more careful in her speech and mannerisms than all the rest, doubtless because of the aristocratic training her parents and wider family had given her. Anna wanted to discover the playful Jenny under the exterior ... if there was one. She didn't want to hurt her with her occasionally pithy humour. She had noticed that Jenny was not one to woffle endlessly like so many of Stan's wives, but was terse and to the point. Anna knew that she would have to check herself.

    A flush had spread across Jenny's face for she wasn't quite sure what to make of Anna's question. She was, if she was honest with herself, slightly repelled by the Pole's anti-Prussian sentiment, as she herself was part Prussian. She gave a weak smile, and decided to ignore the question. Then it was Anna's turn to be embarassed. She had already put her foot in it and was starting to blush herself.

    "Nuts!" she said to herself, wishing she had kept her big fat mouth shut. Then she got annoyed with Jenny for being so "Prussian" and boring, as she supposed. Hanna stepped in to the rescue.

    "I understand that you and Stan are related, Jenny," she asked politely. "That sounds really exciting."

    "Yes, we are," replied Jenny, but didn't quite know how to develop the line of conversation further. Hanna glanced at Anna wondering what to say now as the conversation had dried up as quickly as it had started. Thank goodness there were lots of other conversations taking place.

    Stan was still very absorbed with Salme. The two were talking about something I couldn't make out. I was more concerned how to make Jenny feel more at home.

    "You've come at a very special time for us, Jenny," I said hesitantly, but worked up some courage to go on. "It was good that you could get away and share in with our happiness."

    Jenny warmed. "Oh, the pleasure is entirely mine. These last two days have been absolutely wonderful for me. I can't quite believe what's happening, but it's slowly sinking in."

    "Good. A positive response," I thought to myself.

    Stan rang the bell and thus saved me the difficulty of scrummaging around for more things to talk about. Stan gave the closing prayer and we began to peel off to the living room or to the kitchen to clear up after the meal. Nobody much wanted to put small children to bed. Stan invited Jenny to come and sit next to him and Elisa.

    I once asked Stan what he did when he found himself surrounded by people and didn't know what to say, and whether he experienced this often. Because Jenny was a very "private" person many in the family often did not know what to say when she was around.

    "Frequently - more frequenly than I care to admit," Stan had said. "Only God knows what is going on in our minds and hearts. And for that reason I find I must lean on His understanding more and more. If I dodn't know what to say, and there isn't time to have a formal silent prayer, then what I do is to completely forget the people who are around me and try to find a spiritual principle that the Spirit would lead me into. I try simultaneously to discover where my own heart is at that particular moment... It's hard to express in words the processes that occur because they don't even involve a thought process - there isn't time!"

    This was one such moment. Those who are trained to be formalistic tend not to be naturally spontaneous and breaking past the wall isn't easy, especially if they are self-conscious and there are many others in the room. Stan had to "sense" where everybody was at and then simply "let go" in the Spirit. And that meant living his life tuned to the Spirit. Such moments were a good test as to whether the Spirit was leading you or not.

    The front door bell rang and the other families of the Kadesh-Naphtali colony poured into the house. Karin, Maria, Signild, Silvia, Hilda, Elise and Salme began disappearing to get dressed for their betrothals and weddings which, being women of course, required a lot of preparation. Karl and Władysław looked nervous - now Lars, Björn, and Bengt had joined us, most of the women having left to help the brides prepare for their big evening, leaving us women outnumbered two-to-one, an unusuall occurance at the herregård. Apart from Jenny and myself, only Michaëla Åkerstedt was present - it was my job to answer some of the baby calls if any of the children woke up, so I was in and out a lot of the time, and sometimes popped in to see how the ladies were doing as well. Jenny and Michaëla got into a long conversation whilst the men chatted excitedly - they would leave to change into their temple clothes a little while before the ceremonies began.

    Kryztina poked her head around the door.

    "All right, brethren, we're nearly done - you can go and change now! I'll take over from you, Hélène if you'll take Jenny along to change."

    This was the first time that an "outsider" had been admitted to one of the Order's plural weddings and she knew she was privileged. I took her along to the ladies' changing room and explained what was going to happen.

    "There are going to be five betrothals and two full marriages this evening," I explained. "We'll be starting with the betrothals. Oh, and by the way, we've never done so many at one time in the past, so this is almost as new for us as it is for you!" I said half jokingly.

    Jenny gave a small smile. She felt both excitment and slight apprehension, as though she was an intruder of sorts. Yet she felt privileged to have been invited. Stan would never have dreamed of allowing someone outside the Order's covenants to attend had he not been absolutely sure that Jenny would soon become a part of us. Andreea and Kryztina had both been a little apprehensive and had taken some persuading to be convinced that this was the right thing to do, but had yielded in favour of Stan's better judgment.

    I have always liked the temple at Kadesh-Naphtali. It consists of a large elongated room painted white with five tall windows on the left covered in creamy-coloured silk curtains. In front and behind are large mirrors covering both walls from floor to ceiling making the room appear ten times as long as it really is, as well as conveying a sense of eternity. Between the silken curtains are paintings of beautiful tranquil gardens and landscapes subjects, with similar subject material on the right-hand wall. We had wanted pictures of Christ at first but Stan had insisted that there be no representations of divinity anywhere in the temple room.

    "What exactly is your temple?" asked Jenny. "Has it anything to do with the Old Testament temples?"

    "Almost nothing at all," I explained. "Solomon's Temple, like the others than came later, all contained sacred objects like the Ark of the Covenant, special altars, and other things, that were all pointers to Christ. The only thing that our temple has in common with Solomon's is that we regard it as sacred space and so we ensure that nothing unclean or impure comes into it. It's really just a meeting room but one which symbolises the highest heavenly ideal."

    "Oh," replied Jenny interested. "So really it's your bit of heaven on earth."

    "Something like that," I continued. "It's a place where we are always 100% focussed on the Lord and where we perform our most sacred ordinances like Chrism, partake of the Lord's Supper, ordain men and women to priestly service, and conduct marriage ceremonies. We often come in here to meditate, read the scriptures, and pray. It's the one place we can be guaranteed complete silence, something we treasure highly what with so many adults and children around the place, although we have the forest for that as well."

    "Do you do deliverance ministry in the temple?" asked Jenny, knowing how important this aspect of the ministry was to us.

    "No, absolutely not. Never. We do that in the chapel over the road, or sometimes in a room in our own homes. We never let the devil get a foothold in the temple - ever!"

    Jenny remained silent for a moment and thought deeply as she waited for me to catch up changing. I straightened my headpiece and waited for her to continue, for I could see she had more she wanted to ask.

    "In the Bible it says that when Solomon dedicated the temple that the glory of the Lord was upon it so that nobody could get in or near it. Has anything like that ever happened here?" asked Jenny.

    She looked intently into my eyes. Now I was flummoxed for she was treading on sacred ground as far as I was concerned. Many miraculous things had happened in the temple since we consecrated it shortly after redecorating it. Jenny noticed my hesitation and her natural sensitivity made her wonder if she had stepped over the mark.

    "You know, Jenny, some things are hard to talk about, and others we aren't supposed to share without the Lord's permission. When Yah'shua went up to the Mount of Transfiguration, and Moses and Elijah appeared, He only took three apostles with Him - the others were't allowed. We know some of what happened there - at least the basic outline - but not everything. Some things Christ reserved for His faithful - those He knew would not depart from Him. I don't know how much Stan has shared with you about the different callings of these three apostles - I'm not sure I can explain it as well as he can ..."

    Jenny now understood that I did not want to go on and by the look on her face and subtle gestures indicated that she respected my wish not to share any more. In any case, it was a smiling Suszana's turn to poke her head around the door and tell us that the ceremonies were about to begin.

    Jenny was stunned and momentarily froze in wonderment when she emerged into the corridor and saw all the women arrayed in white, and especially the seven brides with their long flowing veils. The dresses of the brides were not dissimilar from those of a typical bride from a century ago though without the long train and no bridesmaids to carry it. Laced veils covered their whole faces and hung loosly down their backs, held in place on their heads by white silken headbands. There was no way of telling apart those who were to be betrothed and those to be fully married except for silk waste bands which were of different colours, and even then those only distinguished between their priestly callings and not the type of marriage they were entering into. Those who had none wore plain white. All this Jenny absorbed with wrapt attention. In addition to the new brides, there were the former brides, who were being "remarried" to Stan as his new brides.

    The men were nowhere to be seen, having entered the temple shortly beforehand. The women were usshered into two lines by Suszana, Kasia and Kryztina who were acting as deaconesses, the brides standing in front. I stood at the back with Jenny, taking her hand, like all the others in front of us, so that we all walked in as pairs. Nobody spoke a word. The only sounds that could be heard was the slightly anxious breathing of the new brides and the rustle of wedding dresses as they fidgeted nervously waiting for the snow-white column to be called in.

    -----------

    Jenny lay on her bed thinking over all that happened that evening in the temple. She knew that Stan would be lying with his new bride, Elise, and be enwrapped in the ecstacy of their union. And as honeymoons invariably took place at home, Stan would not be seen very much in the evenings for the next month, first with Elise and then Salme. She wondered yet again how she, Jenny Stattin, could be getting involved in a lifestyle so utterly alien to her upbringing. She knew she couldn't argue that polygamy was "unaristocratic" because Stan had earlier that day told her that all Christians were aristocrats because they belonged to the privileged class of the saved... and ought to behave as such too.

    "But unlike worldly aristocrats, we aren't born into the faith," Stan had told her. "We aren't born with silver spoons in our mouths. Yahweh's aristocrats are like Christ - servant-kings - willing to do the most menial of tasks."

    He looked at Jenny quizzically: "The Gospel gives a whole new meaning to aristocracy, doesn't it?" and smiled at her. Yes, Jenny knew that she would have to change her thinking about a lot of things.

    What had supposed to be only a visit of a few days dragged out into a week and then two as Jenny found it difficult to return to her own world outside the colony. In spite of the huge spectrum of different personalities at Kadesh-biyqah, they all seemed to effortlessly blend together ... so long as Stan didn't go on about German virtues for too long when the Poles were around.

    ------------

    One day Jenny found Stan sitting alone in the main living room listening to some classical music.

    "Schubert, isn't it?" asked Jenny and came and sat next to Stan at his beckoning.

    "Yes, it's beautiful isn't it?"

    "Mmmm, I love Rosamunde," said Jenny and gave one of her rare spontaneous smiles, forgetting momentarily her poise. "It reminds me of Beethoven's Für Elise", not noticing that Stan's newest wife had the same name. "Do you think Rosamunde was a real person like Elise?"

    Stan lookied up at the ceiling.

    "It would be nice to think so, but no, Rosamund wasn't a real person -- at least not the name. No, Schubert was asked to write incidental music to a four-act romantic play by Helmina von Chézy in 1823 called Rosamunde, die Fürstin von Cypern. Interestingly, the play was lost so all we have is the music now. But, you know, I'm sure he had a woman in his mind's eye when he wrote the music ... I don't think any real artist can create something about a person without drawing on actual people ..."

    Jenny looked at Stan who was again lost in the music. Elisa came into the room without them noticing and without warning bent over her husband and gave him a deep kiss. Jenny was a little embarrassed at first but settled again when Elisa gave her a kiss on the cheek afterwards. Elise settled on the other side of her husband.

    "Tell me what you see, my love," said Stan turning to Elisa as the fourth movement of the piece began.

    Elisa closed her eyes a moment as she merged with the music.

    "Lambs dancing in a field," she replied and smiled as though transported to a beautiful rural scene.

    "What do you see, Jenny?" asked Stan.

    She didn't know what to say.

    "You have a senstivity, dearest Elisa. Schubert wrote this to portray the shepherdess Rosamunde with her sheep in a pastoral setting in von Chézy's play. I agree with you. Little lambs running around on a beautiful summer's day ... absolutely."

    The two drifted off into the realms of their imagination while Jenny, who considered herself an expert in classical music, ticked herself off for not being sensitive enough to pick up Schubert's musical intent. And when Stan and Elisa fell asleep in each other's arms she quietly removed herself to her room to have another think about marriage, the universe, and the meaning of life.

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