The visit by Shelly and Emma seemed to pass at lightening speed. Stan was by this time very involved with new congregations in Asia and was absent much of the time in order to advise all the several pastors. Vistors from Norway came - an apostle and two pastors - to help Stan with the Asian challenge, knowing that out there, unlike the apathetic West, things tended to move fast. During the two weeks the Americans were with us, five more congregations had been raised by the dynamic and deeply committed evangelists in the field.
Isabel had been an invaluable helper in the practical administrative side of missions but she had gone, leaving him feeling helpless at times. He knew that Jenny would have been an invaluable help too, for she was likewise passionate about this side of ministry. He pleaded much in prayer during those days, asking the Lord to free him from this mounting burden which he alone could not manage. The Norwegians were too busy with the start of a small revival in their own country to do very much, and Elisa was constantly in need on the Internet advising the new congregations in Estonia. We were, if the truth be known, getting overworked - the ministry, the estate, and the children were slowly but surely wearing us down - either we needed more families to move in to Kadesh-Naphtali to help or we needed to expand our own family more.
Perhaps Stan's initial reluctance to have more visitors from America at this time had initially been because of all the pressures on him. What he was not keen to have was more wives who would overload the rest of us.
"If we are to add new wives to the family," he told Elisa, Andreea and I one evening after the guests had gone to bed, "we have to have ones who are dynamic, motivated, hard-working and to some degree independent. The whole dyamic of the family has changed now. We aren't what we used to be."
And he was right. Size does change things, and it changes them enormously. Though the analogy is limited, we had become more like a firm with departments and stricter divisions of labour. This meant that those who held leadership positions in the "Family Firm" were absolutely crucial - if they "went down", the whole firm would feel it.
Isabel's departure had most definitely affected us adversely. She was the family and colony treasurer and knew all the ins and outs of Swedish tax and redtape about which the rest of us were very ignorant. It had fallen on Kryztina to take over, which she hadn't liked, as she was by now very engaged in family homeschooling, having the most experience of all of us. Though she had handled finances before, she had never enjoyed the job. Those who could understand Swedish to some degree or another lent a hand as and when they could but for now had to rely on Björn, Lars and Bengt to help us out. The chain-of-command had become more spread-out and therefore less efficient, with the result that more pressure fell on Stan.
"Oh, why can't Jenny see how much she's needed here," bemoaned Stan that evening. "I need her, we need her, and I truly believe she needs us. She could do so much good here."
Nobody said anything. Nobody could. He might have asked the same about Isabel or anyone else whom we knew Yahweh had called to be gathered with us there and then.
There was a knock on Stan's door and Salme came in. Stan looked up and smiled. She glided over to him for a kiss and sat by him on the arm of his chair.
"Shelly and Emma are going in two days, darling," she said, with a pleading look in her eyes. "What are you intending to do?"
He knew what she meant. From the comments he had heard all of his wives making in the past few weeks, there wasn't much doubt that we wanted these two women in the family. And he knew that we expected him to take the "bulls by the horns" and propose to them. The half-sad reaction on his face wasn't what we wanted to see. He looked up at at, each in turn, as though hoping for a solution to what we thought was no problem at all.
"Shelly is thirty years younger than me," he pleaded, as though we would be persuaded by that excuse. And when he saw that we wouldn't support him, he sighed. This was not like him at all, but we could see he was under strain.
"Emma's invited you to go back to California with her but is too scared to ask," said Salma hopefully, knowing that Stan needed a rest and change of scene. "Both she and Shelly want to give you a holiday."
Stan felt ashamed. Here he was, having at first kept them at arm's-length, and then having had to be forced to be more positive, now being shown up. He knew he was wrong and we could see from his countenance that he was admitting it.
"How can I go with so much happening in India and Pakistan? They want me to visit there too, and I think they have a prior right, don't you?"
We couldn't argue against that. He had told us often enough that polygamy existed to serve the Kingdom of God, and not be served by it.
"Why don't you fly to India viâ the USA?" suggested Andreea.
"The travel would kill him," I protested, knowing that what Stan needed above all now was plenty of rest. The others reluctantly agreed.
Hanna appeared, beaming as usual, and joined in the conversation.
"You're right, of course," admitted Stan, "I do have to do something about Emma and Shelly. We all know, I most of all, that they are called into this family, only as you know I hadn't wanted to take more than twelve wives. There are some patriarchs already accusing me of multiplying to excess."
I felt anger inside. There were always jealous polygamists accusing Stan because they couldn't get past the two or three wife barrier. Envy is such an ugly thing. Stan should have ignored them, but there were times when he was over-sensitive, and he always took criticism seriously, even when it was so obviously wrong and ill-intended.
"What do Emma and Shelly feel?" quizzed Stan. "What have they told you about their desires about marrying me - I mean, what sort of timetable do they have in mind ... if they've even got that far in their thinking, or shared that much with you?"
"Salme ... Andeea?" I said, looking at them, as the visitors seemed to have now firmly attached themselves to these two.
Andreea answered first:
"I know that Emma would marry you today, Stan, and not turn back. She's pretty well made up her mind. She's been very open with me, says she loves the family, and feels this is where God wants her to be. And she's very attracted to you, dear."
Stan's countenance didn't change. He was thinking hard.
"Shelly hasn't been that direct," butted in Salme. "She communicates more by facial expression than by words. I don't know. She loves the place and the people - I know she looks up to you, Stan, but I get the feeling she's reserving what she wants to say for the right moment. I'm not sure - she's really sweet and bubbly but doesn't seem to want to be rushed into anything."
Stan continued staring ahead and then looked up at Salme intently, almost expressionless. He didn't say a word but was intensely, if silently, earnest. There was silence for nearly a minute as we waited for him to speak. Salme put her arms around him and kissed him on the cheek.
"I'm sure you'll know what to do, darling," she said lovingly and confidently. But he didn't.
"Do you all agree that I should invite them both to be my wives?" he asked suddenly.
A chorus of "yes's" went up.
"What about the others? What do they say?"
We all glanced at one another.
"Kryztina and Kasia agree," said Hanna. "I was only talking to them about it yesterday."
"Sarah-Jane is enthusisatic," I said, "and I know Anna is dead keen."
"What about Suszana?" asked Stan.
Noone seemed to know.
Stan slowly got up, made for his door, and then stopped. He turned and addressed us:
"I can't in all good conscience go to America right now - it isn't the time."
My heart sank as I was sure he was about to give a negative answer to marrying the two women.
"I'll propose to Emma and Shelly tomorrow, after supper, after the children have all been put to bed."
Salme started hopping for joy and smiles lit up the faces of everyone in the room. Hanna darted off to tell the others.
"I'll talk to Suszana myself," added Stan, restraining Anne by the arm on her way out as he was sure she would be going to tell all the Poles and Kasia. Anna gave a smile and half-nodded, out her arms around him, and then left. We all embraced him before he could slip away.
The day passed and Stan retired to his room alone for an hour, deep in thought still. The conversation at the dinner table the day before had been cheerful but with a trace of heaviness as the guests wondered what, if anything, would happen before they left. Emma had wanted to stay longer but hadn't dared to tell anyone whereas Shelly wanted to go home at once ... not to get away from Kadesh-Naphtali, as you might be led to suppose, but because she was so sure that Stan would propose to her and wanted to break the news to her parents and friends.
Stan had Emma and Shelly seated next to him at the table this time and went into Old Word charm mode. Noticing the change and warming in his attitude towards them, both women concluded independenly that he might propose to them. Shelly was more bubbly than usual, and not a little tipsy in her speech - you'd have though she was sitting on springs as she sat up and down with everything she said.
Emma was more subdued but equally aflame within. There was a tingling sensation going around her whole body so that at odd moments her shoulders would twitch, much to her embarrassment. She had put her best dress on that evening, somehow believing that it was the right thing to do but not knowing why. When she found herself placed on Stan's left, she shuddered with a mixture of apprehension and joy. Would this be the moment? Would he propose there and then? But the proposal didn't come and her heart sank after the meal was over and nothing had been said. Yet she had noticed a sparkle in Stan's eyes when he looked at her and for the first time felt a bridge of love between them.
How different Emma and Shelly were! Emma was the epitome of the "here and now" whereas for Shelly, who was usually in wait-mode, she was already in tomorrow and beyond.
Stan rose, holding a wine glass filled with red grape juice. It wasn't often that he gave speeches but for some reason he felt he had to that night. He looked around and smiled at us individually.
"I feel a sudden surge of happiness," he said to our surprise, as we remembered his mildly melancholic mood an hour before. Shelly's eyes lit up, in expectation. Emma looked dreamily at him, too lost in hope for thoughts, and looking for any sign of affection to stir her longing for him. He looked intently at Shelly who looked as though she would suddenly spring out of her chair and land on the chandellier above. And then Emma - Emma stared long and hard into his eyes, swallowed, and caught the beam of love she had so wanted. Her heart began to pound, her lips momentarily parting as though needing an extra intake of air for the emotional gush she expected.
"I have changed my mind," he said, and paused, leaving an atmosphere of tension in the room. Horror filled my heart I supposed he would be announcing he wouldn't be proposing to them. Everyone looked anxiously at one another. The silence was killing. There he was, standing like a tower of strength, wine glass still in his right hand. He cupped it with his left and then laid it down gently on the white lace table cloth, steadying it when he though it would tip over.
"I'm a bit of a fool at times," he said, with a slight quivver in his voice, and glanced down at the table as though in contrition, "and wish I could be more of a man for all of you lovely ladies."
Heads shook in protest.
"There have been quite a few upheavals in recent times, all of which I thought I would be able to take in my stride, like I always have done. But this time I couldn't."
Shelly grew still, the smile replaced now by a more intent and serious look.
"You have all, as always, been a wonderful support," he continued, with a slightly plaintive look on his face, "and I don't know what I would have done without you. You are all so wonderful, and I love you all so deeply."
Anna started sniffing. All gazed up at the man we had pledged ourselves to for eternity. Emma was now looking down at the table, realising that Stan was talking to his wives and not her, but still touched by the love she had felt emmanate from his eyes when he had looked so intently at her.
"The Lord our God is always bringing surprises - sometimes wonderful, sometimes not so wonderful. Sometimes we are so blind to them, though, that we don't know what's going on."
He paused again, took up his glass, and sipped.
"I said a moment ago I had changed my mind. Well, I intended to make an annoucment to you all tomorrow but I have decided to bring it forward to make it now instead ...."
My eyes widened and my heart leaped a beat.
"Emma," he said looking intently at her again, causing her to suddenly look up, "... Shelly ..." He smiled warmly at them both. They knew what was coming.
"I want to invite you two to become my wives and to join our family."
There was a deathly silence, then a sudden shriek of joy from Anna, and then the whole room was in uproar. Shelly was the first, her spring in full release, and she was on top of Stan in a bound, wrapping her arms around him like a lassoo and hopping like a yoyo, piercing the room with a scream all of her own, and then burrying her chin into his right shoulder.
Emma's eyes were moist but she remained seated. Stan extended his left hand to her and she took it, as he drew her gently into his embrace. She began to slowly sob with relief and joy that her search was all over. Neither said "yes" but everyone knew what was on their hearts. In seconds everyone had gotten up and left their seats behind, some even knocking them over in the rush to be the first to embrace the new sister-wives-to-be.
I had never seen a scene like this in the Królewiec household before and as I watched and marvelled I suddenly realised that we Americans had made a dramatic change and that neither Stan nor the family as a whole would ever be the same again. That American "zing" had been born and infected us all, Anna being the first to catch it. Even Stan was overwhelmed by it, and happily so. After a few seconds of intense hugging, crying and congratulating, everyone started dancing. Kasia rushed over to the Hi-Fi system and put on some celebratory music.
What had happened to us? The transformation was electric, quite unlike the stoic atmosphere that had prevailed earlier. And suddenly, I felt at home - really at home. The American in me was suddenly released and I was whooping like most of the rest. The laughter and happiness was infectious, the children swallowing it up and running amok. Nobody cared, all formality having been driven to the four winds. Shelly was clutching Stan's right arm for all she was worth, whilst trying to hug everyone else with her free one. Emma was holding Stan round the waste and showing no signs of ever letting go, looking intently up into Stan's face, at first lost like a little child, and then smiling and then laughing like the rest of us. And without anyone noticing it, except Stan, she lifted herself up on her toes and stole a short but intense kiss from his lips.
Kadesh-Napthali had received its American baptism and nothing would be quite like it had been before.