. She froze in surprise at the sudden realisation that she had no crown! Then she understood! It is the husband who wears the crown because the husband is the woman's covering! And there she was, her head uncovered. She was husbandless!
"But I have no husband!" she cried out in protest. "I need a husband!"
And then, from behind her, came the same booming voice as she had heard in the desert, and it said:
"You have a husband. Go to him!"
Jenny woke up peacefully this time with a glow in her bosom. For she knew, in the depths of her soul, that she had a husband, but that she had turned him away. As she lay in her bed she understood how foolish she had been.
There was now not a moment to lose. Jenny hurriedly packed a bag and though it was only 5 a.m, bundled Fritz into his travelling basket and was on the street within 20 minutes and making her way down to the railway station. Within half and hour she was on a train to Stockholm.
Emma and Shelly arrived in New York and boarded a flight to London together. Time on the American Airlines trans-Atlantic Airbus flight seemed to evapourate as the two women, soon to be sister-wives, talked incessently and with great excitement at what had happened and what the future held for them. Emma and Shelly reflected on Kadesh-Naphtali and Stan's wives in great detail and were highly excitable and, though tired, were unable to rest or sleep.
American Airlines Flight 401 touched down on time at London-Heathrow Airport and the two women transfered to an SAS flight to Stockholm the next morning having spent a sleepless night at an airport hôtel. Emma, ever the diligent evangelist, had to be dragged by Shelly to catch the hôtel coach as she insisted on handing out all her Christian tracts to the teaming masses in the arrival lounge.
"Well, I can't give them out in Stockholm, can I?" she insisted.
"Why ever not?" said Shelly.
She laughed: "They're in English and in Stockholm they speak Swedish!" said Emma, laughing.
The two women giggled.
"Well, help me then," scolded Emma, "because I'm not leaving until they've all been given out. They ain't gonna be no use to me in Sweden, are they?"
The two women eventually slept on the flight to Bromma Airport in Stockholm, worn out by hours of sisterly fellowship and were awakened only by the captain announcing their arrival in Sweden.
"C'mon, Emma," said Shelly, and vigorously shook her travelling companion into wakefulness. "We've arrived!"
Leaning over another passenger's shoulders, they strained to see the Swedish capital below through the porthole. Though this was their second view of the country, they were absorbed by the excitement of it all, and behaved as though it was their first trip. Emma wondered what life would be like living permanently foreign country, even though as a young girl she had briefly lived in Belgium with her family. But that had been a very long time ago.
Asking their way, the two women eventually managed to haul their luggage onto a taxi and make their way to Järfälla railway station.
"There's the train!" shouted Shelly, as they clambered into a carriage and slumped into their seats laughing. Though still tired, the spirit of adventure had gripped them - an adventure they fully intended to enjoy to the full. It didn't take them long to realise that the more placid European Swedes were not accustomed to the noisy American joi de vivre as sometimes amused, and sometimes less amused, faces turned to meet the noise pouring out of their corner.
"Shhhh!" said Emma. "We mustn't be so noisy!" and giggled even more.
"Hey, don't forget we have to change trains at some place called Tillberga!" reminded Shelly, and once again the two scurried to the door, and almost fell off the train in their excitement.
"Where next?" Emma asked Shelly who has assumed a kind of mother-hen rôle?
"Borlänge!" she paused. "Where the heck is that?"
Emma burst out laughing and even though she couldn't pronounce Swedish herself nevertheless thought that Shelly was game for a dig in the ribs.
A blonde, blue-eyed Swede sat opposite them and was not amused, clearly annoyed at the disturbance the Americans were making. Emma, ever the social one, smiled at her but was ignored.
"Not very friendly here," she thought to herself, and her buoyancy subsided briefly. Shelly paid no attention, taking the opportunity to bite into a sandwich. But for some reason she felt drawn to this unsociable woman, and being the curious type, tried to see what she was reading. While the woman's eyes were hidden by the book, she nosily leaned forward, read the title, and missed a heart-beat:
by Stanisław Królewiec.
An invisible force seemed to send Shelly flying back into her seat causing her to let out a small cry. Emma looked startled and the woman lowered her book to see what the commotion was about. The shocked look on Shelly's face made the Swede jolt as well - everyone eyed each other, wondering what on earth was going on. Shelly was breathing heavily.
"You OK, honey?" asked a concerned Emma.
"No I'm not," gasped Shelly, never one to mince words, "definitely not!"
There was an embarrassed silence for about 5 seconds.
"Excuse me," Shelly asked the Swede without thinking, "but may I ask where you got that book?"
The Swede was by now startled, and beginning to wonder if she was being accused of theft. A meowing sound came from a covered basket next to her. She lifted the lid to comfort the animal:
"It's alright, Fritz, it's alright," she said soothingly.
Emma's head began to spin. Hadn't she heard that name mentioned somewhere before? She looked anxiously at Shelly who seemed to know more than she did.
"I've got that book!" blurted Shelly, not knowing quite what else to say to the atonished woman.
"You have?" replied Jenny, astonished, as Shelly reached up to the overhead luggage store and pulled down her suitcase, dropped it on the table between them, flung open the lid and after a brief rummage, pulled out a book triumphantly.
"There!" she cried, and while the Swede's mind raced in a momentary state of confusion, Shelly's was in full steam down the railroad of declaration.
"Hi, my name's Shelly, from San Diego, California, and I'm on my way to visit the author - oh, and this is Emma," she said pointing at them, "also from California, on the same mission."
The woman's jaw dropped at the amazing coincidence of it all.
"Well, hello, my name is Jenny, and I am on my way to the author too," she said as she raised herself slightly off her seat to offer her hand. They were all looking at each other, trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together as they shook hands and introduced themselves to one another. None dared venture any questions about marriage though everyone was thinking it.
"Do you know Stan well?" asked Shelly cautiously.
"Yes, quite well," came the even more cautious reply from Jenny.
Shelly picked up her copy of Patriarchal Destiny and opened it randomly without looking at it.
"So do you believe everything in this book?" asked Shelly quizzically, holding it up like a teacher in a classroom, still not sure how far to go. And the truth of the matter was that neither of them wanted to ask the "golden" question for fear that the other wasn't supposed to know about polygamy and so compromise Stan's family.
"I cannot fault it," said Jenny deciding that maybe she should be the one to initiate, though carefully eyeing the two Americans to make sure she wasn't confiding to the wrong kind of people.
Shelly couldn't wait any longer, and sensing that perhaps Jenny was travelling to Kadesh-Naphtali for the same reason as herself, blurted out as diplomatically as her Californian sensibility would allow:
"We've travelled from America to join Stan's family!"
And Jenny, almost relieved that the cat was out of the bag, suddenly lit up like a small child being offered candy, and exlaimed:
"So am I, so am I ...!" and after a five second hesitation, her countenance dropped, and she added, " ... if he'll still have me."
The conversation up to Borlänge was charged with excitement as the three women shared their stories with one another. This had been a gathering together they had not expected but which had had the positive effect of bonding them in a spiritual sorority even before they reached their destination. The Americans listened in wonderment as Jenny related the circumstances in which she had met Stan and also of the strange dreams she and Märta had had, and how she had refused Stan's proposal of marriage.
"You said no?!" exlaimed Emma. "You must have been crazy!"
"Yes, I was. But at least I am here now. And I don't believe this meeting was an accident."
"Me neither," said Shelly. "The Lord is good and I'm so glad we met this way - it's just another confirmation to me that what we're all doing is right."
They all nodded at one another, smiled, and then giggled.
"You wouldn't have any Christian tracts in Swedish would you by any chance, Jenny?" asked Shelly, a twinkle in her eye.
Jenny was surprised.
"Well, as a matter of fact ....." she began, but was interrupted by the conductor making an annoucement on the intercom:
"Borlänge, Borlänge ... första station, Borlänge!"
"We have to change here, sisters," said Jenny, tucking the single tract she was about to give to Shelly back into her bag.
The girls reached for their suitcases and bags and once again were scrambling off the train and onto the platform of the little provincial station at Borlänge.
"Ooooh, it's cold," complained Shelly, clapping her hands together and shocked by the huge cloud of condensed vapour coming out her mouth as she opened it. "Brrrrr, can't we go inside somewhere?", she asked, as Jenny cast her eyes about for a place of warmth.
Isabel, Stanisław and Benoni sat huddled in the corner of the waiting room at Borlänge Station. They had been there two hours already and still had a long wait for the local train that would take them to Leksand and the end of the line. Isabel still had no idea what she would do when she got there as she didn't even have money to make a 'phone call to the herrgård, even assuming that her pride would allow her to take that step. But it was cold and dark, and a snow storm was building up. The road to Kadesh-Naphtali, if she dared take it, wasn't like the road between Frankfurt and Rzepin where it had been both light, flat and tolerably warm by comparison. This was a mountainous country road in winter where the traffic would be next to zero after the nearby villages of Västanvik and Siljansnäs. Thereafter it would be a 20 km wilderness walk in pitch black with no street lights at all in winter weather.
"Mother, I'm hungry," said Stanisław, Jr., who had eaten the last of the biscuits two or three hours before. Isabel began to cry a little but did her best to conceal it from the boys.
"We'll soon be home and then you can eat as much as you want, Stanisław," but wondered if they would really get back at all. They still had to get to Leksand. She would focus on that and let the Lord take care of the rest.
The Americans and Jenny came into the waiting room. Isabel wiped her eyes and looked up, thinking it strange that tourists should be in this part of the world in the middle of nowhere and in the heart of winter, but thought nothing more about it. Though the little room was warm, it was still freezing cold compared to San Diego. Tiredness had caught up with them and no-one much wanted to say anything. Some locals came in and positioned themselves between so they couldn't see one another. The light was dim and cast a dreary atmosphere in the place inspite of the brighter lights outside.
Shelly shivvered in her new winter coat while Jenny set off in search of a warm drink.
"Everything's closed," she said dolefully. "Sorry," and sat down next to Emma.
An hour passed in almost total silence save for the chatter of the locals which was, to the Americans, another world. It was all very alien, and in odd moments after her mind drifted a while, she found herself back in reality, and suddenly felt out of place and alone. But the presence of her two new sister-wives-to-be quickly comforted and assured her that she was, in truth, home.
When the announcement for the local train to Djurås, Gagnet and Leksand was made, everyone was half asleep making the embarkation more like a sleep walk. They made for the train and collaped into their seats. Isabel and the two children were at the opposite end of the little one-carriage electric train and did not see Jenny's party.
The travellers settled again into a half-sleep for the remaining 30 km journey. It was an old, clattery train, and rather hot and stuffy, and hardly the romantic picture Shelly and Emma had previously conjured up in their minds for the last part of their journey. Somehow they had imagined that all trains would be modern and comfortable in this part Europe. Shelly was aching all over and could only think of flinging herself down onto a warm and soft bed when she came to journey's end. She peered out into the inky blackness occasionally broken by the dim light of a farm but mostly all she could see was the snow racing past the train in streaks of white. At least the train was warm.
Nobody spoke on the train, not even the locals, save the conductor who walked up and down the aisle each time people boarded and asked to see their tickets.
Jenny nudged Emma.
"We'll be in Leksand in two minutes," she said, and Emma told Shelly.
The snowstorm had subsided but it had been sufficiently vigorous to leave about six inches of snow on the platform at Leksand. Isabel disembarked, saw that the storm was over and that there was a full moon, and made the decision to press on on foot. She was already out of the station and heading towards Yttermo at the southern end of Österviken lake. Stanisław protested, wanting only to sleep, as it was by now almost midnight, but his mother's mind was made up. Benoni was fast sleep in his pram.
Stan and Kryztina arrived two minutes after Isabel left Leksand. When three women appeared on the platform instead of the expected two, Stan was bewildered.
"Jenny ... ?" he said incredulously, but before he could collect himself, she had fallen into his arms and was hugging him tightly.
"Emma! ... Shelly!" cried Kryztina and welcomed the two new sister-wives-to-be. Though she had been as surprised as Stan to see Jenny, she could see that Stan was momentarily occupied and didn't want the others to feel left out.
"Hi Kryztina!" shouted Shelly, as the three women all embraced and kissed each other, and then made their way to Stan.
"Welcome, my loves," said Stan to the two Americans, and hugged and kissed each of them in turn.
"Come on, let's get into the minibus," said Stan shivvering. "It's perishing out here!"
With their luggage safely aboard, the happy crowd sallied forth into the mountains. There was no sign of Isabel and the boys, nor were they looking for them, for none of them even knew they were in Sweden. The minibus was filled with excited chatter, giggling, and laughing as the Americans and Jenny retold their stories. Stan was quiet, concentrating on the driving on the slippery road, but aglow and happy within.
Isabel had gotten no farther than crossing the Österdalälven, the river linking Österviken with Borlänge to the south-east, when a couple in a van on their way to Mångberg - a mere 5 km from Kadesh-biyqah - had stopped and asked her if she wanted a lift. She praised God, not expecting to get further than Siljansnäs, and gratefully accepted. Though the couple asked her if she wanted to be taken anywhere special, she had told them that Mångberg would be just fine, as she did not have to go much further. But they were persistant and expected to drive her to the doorstep of her home. They didn't ask her what she was doing walking all the way from Leksand - the locals in this part of Sweden are not nosey or inquisitive in the least.
Isabel sat quiety and just praised Yahweh within her heart for this blessing, taking it as yet one more confirmation that He wanted her home, and this time for good. She remembered how Hagar had run away from home and how the angel had told her to return and subject herself to her mistress. For Isabel this was a final settling of the ghosts of the past - a time to really put her roots down for good and to stop running. She wasn't afraid now as she had been before but was actually looking forward to seeing the surprise on her husband's face. She imagined him being overjoyed and crying to see her back again - yes, she hoped it would be a real drama. She wanted to feel really special this time.
She glanced down at her two boys ... they were fast asleep. What a long and exhausting journey this had been for them. Never, she vowed, would she rip them away from their father and the rest of the family again.
While she daydreamed, Stan and the three new wives, about whom she knew absolutely nothing, had arrived at the herrgård and were being serenaded by the others who had stayed up late. Everyone was as overjoyed about Jenny's arrival as Stan and Kryztina had been when they bumped into her at Leksand railway station. Who would have thought that their joy would be made yet fuller still?
Noone saw or heard the little white van deposit Isabel, Stanisław and Benoni in the crisp white snow outside the front door of the herrgård. The outside lights had been turned off in anticipation of the night's sleep so that the only illumination was from the the full moon above. None of the lights were on in the front of the house either for everyone was at the back in the main living room. For all she knew the household was fast asleep.
Her heart pounded as she climbed the stairs to the huge oak front door. She hesitated to press the bell, half terrified all of a sudden, and half overwhelmed by the joy of anticipated reunion. But, suddenly feeling the cold, she overcame her hesitation then pressed the doorbell.
Not a stir in the house. Half a minute, a minute - nothing. She rang the bell again. Still nothing. By now becoming a little worried, she pressed and held the bell as though needing to wake the dead, for her whole heart was by now ready to explode with all the wound up tension and anticipation of days of longing for home.
The light in the hallway went on and the door suddenly swung open revealing her husband. Stan froze, too shocked to speak, his eyes and mouth wide open in momentary disbelief. She struggled to smile but couldn't, bursting out in tears from the emotional relief of seeing the object of her goal. She impulsively pulled the pram and Stanisław, Jr. in out of the freezing cold and closed the door.
Stan was still standing in shock. Stanisław, Jr, broke the impasse and rushed up to his father's arms, crying: "Oh Pappa, Pappa!" Isabel was still crying, but now for the joy of seeing father and son reunited. Her own carefully planned drama seemed to have fallen by the wayside and she was just moving in the reality of the moment.
Stan, still holding his son, looked up at his wife. A fresh smile broke over his face. She saw the moisture in his eyes - it was all she was looking for ... to know that she was really wanted and loved. Inhibitions were banished and Stanisław's mother joined him in the fervent embrace.
Was this how prisoners of the Soviet Gulag felt after they had been released from concentration camps, never having seen their family for years? The seconds marched into minutes as the three just stood silently in the warmth of love. Behind them the rest of the family began appearing, wondering who had been ringing on the door so late at night. And when they saw, they shouted, and cried, and embraced, and kissed.
Isabel and the two boys were home for ever and the family was one.