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The 12 Books of Abraham

    Chapter 7

    Hilda's Moment of Truth

    Hilda watched her friend Silvia's romance blossom with a mixture of joy and dread for it was not her wish to return to Estonia alone. Either Silvia must return with her, or she must find someone at Kadesh-Naphtali, she thought to herself.

    She liked Björn but did not feel comfortable with the idea of marrying him. She liked Misha and Sonja too, but again couldn't see them as sister-wives. She wondered why and how Silvia had gelled so quickly whereas nothing seemed to have happened with her? Though happy to be in Kadesh-Naphtali and appreciative of the rich fellowship, she began to increasingly feel like the odd one out.

    The only possible option for her now was Lars Nilsson. She had considered Stan again but didn't give him too much thought. She loved the family but somehow didn't feel she fitted in. "Could the problem be with me?" she thought to herself. What if she had some sort of spiritual blockage preventing her from knowing what Yahweh's will was? Why had the other three had such an easy time of it? Surely it wasn't a coincidence that God had brought these four women together and that they were all now in Sweden? She hadn't minded Elisa and Salme taking to Stan so quickly back home in Tartu but she had at least hoped that she and Silvia would find husbands at about the same time. It would have been so much neater.

    It was Hanna who had discovered Hilda's problem. It had eluded everyone else not because it was some complicated psychological distortion in her character or a demonic stronghold but because it was so very simple and obvious.

    Hanna found her on the fourth day sitting dejected in the library aimlessly flicking through one of Stan's thousands of books. She seemed pleased to see Hanna and forced a smile. Hanna sat down next to her.

    "I knew of a girl called Marianne," said Hanna with a tone of both soberness as well as a little lightness as she tried to get Hilda out of herself. "She was a Swede whom Stan met years ago in Berlin at a Patriarchal Conference. She was like you - young, beautiful, and in search of a polygamous husband. She even travelled to the States to try and find someone but somehow no-one seemed to be 'Mr.Right'.

    "I am told she visited Poland to ask Stan for some counsel. And it didn't take him long to find out what the problem was."

    Hilda looked up, wondering what Hanna was getting at. She loved this young Finnish woman who never seemed to lack the courage to meet people's needs head-on.

    "As it turns out, what Marianne had done was the same thing that tens of thousands of women around the world do all the time in their search for a husband. She had created a mental picture of Mr.Right which had evolved over the years until Mr.Right became Mr.Superb and finally Mr.Perfectly Impossible-Superman."

    Hilda laughed at the thought of a "Mr.Perfectly Impossible Superman".

    "Instead of letting the Lord lead her to Mr.Right with all his personality defects, which really only He was capable of doing, she created a fantasy image of a man who could not possibly exist, and started out on a hopeless search. Everywhere she looked she just found faults and imperfections.

    "In the end, Stan showed her that all she had done was project an image of herself, turned it into a handsome male, and endowed perfection upon him. Every man she met she tried to match to this ideal, and every man, of course, failed.

    "She came near to finding him once. He was a fantastic Christian, the dream of any godly woman, but she rejected him because he didn't look handsome enough!"

    "No!" said Hilda in disbelief. She was slowly beginning to understand her own predicament but was being sufficiently led by Hanna's flow of thought as to momentarily lose her own self-consciousness.

    "Stan put it bluntly to her and she was really shaken up," said Hanna. "He said that she was selfish and stupid, and would never find her husband until she had humbled herself and trusted God to do what was right in her life."

    "What happened?" said Hilda agog.

    "Thank goodness she repented. Stan prayed with her and together they laid her fantasy image at the foot of the cross and let it die. She went back to the States under the prompting of the Spirit, met a very ordinary looking patriarchal Christian man called Luke, fell in love, and is now happily married with two kids. She has two sister-wives and they get along just famously. Oh, and there's one other thing - Luke was twenty years older than she was, something she had earlier refused to include in her plans, for she had 'planned' that her husband should be no more than five years older than herself."

    Though she wasn't sure, Hanna had hit the nail right on the proverbial head and identified Hilda's problem. Hilda's Mr.Perfect was so well-defined, even to hair-colour, eye-colour, height, interests, and habits that she could have searched until Doomsday and never found him.

    "I was thinking of talking to Stan about it," she said wistfully, "but you have solved my problem for me." The two prayed together and Hilda laid her fantasy idol at the foot of the cross.

    "Don't have any expectations except one," said Hanna, "and that is that the Lord will see you right."

    Hilda smiled, gave her friend a hug, and the two left the library. As they made their way to the main living room they passed Andreea who, though she had greeted the two as she passed them by, suddenly stopped and turned round.

    "Oh, Hilda," she said. We turned to see what she wanted. "The Lord has just told me that a question which is bothering you will be answered within the next five minutes."

    Hilda's jaw dropped.

    "What question???" she asked in a slight panic.

    Andreea smiled. "I have no idea, my dear, but the Lord does and so, I think, do you," and carried on her way to whatever it was she was doing.

    "Next five minutes? What did she mean?" thought Hilda to herself. Was it what she and Hanna had been discussing in the library? No, it can't have been that because that had already been sorted out. The only question that hadn't been sorted out was who she was going to marry.

    The two women entered the dining room and there, sitting together on the sofa, were Lars and Bente Nilsson holding hands. They were waiting to see Stan about some private matter.

    The sight of them nearly knocked Hilda off her feet. It was as though a terrible and wonderful revelation had slammed right into her face. She was so caught off balance that she stood in complete shock for a few seconds, not knowing what to do. The couple glanced up and smiled, and though ordinarily a vista like Hilda's would have invoked a reaction more resembling surprise or shock than peaceful happiness, they seemed utterly untaken aback by Hilda's look - a look that could only be described as "joyful horror".

    Hilda was a sea of contrary emotions as she just stared in unbelief at the couple. What she didn't know was that during the night Bente had dreamed that Hilda was a part of their family. The couple had prayerfully discussed the matter for over two hours the following morning before deciding to come to Stan for some advice. They were convinced in their own minds that she was to be married to Lars but knew nothing could be said or done before Hilda had arrived at her own conclusions. Stan had strictly warned against not sharing prophetic dreams of this nature with potential wives in case she should feel compelled to do God's will without first obtaining an independent testimony of it herself. There were many charlatans who had had false revelations, visions and dreams and had used them as psychological levers to force unwilling but trusting women into marriages not in the divine will. In addition there were those who had had such dreams which they had believed were from God but which were soulish wish-fulfilments that could do equally as much harm. Stan insisted that the women called into polygamy be called directly by God's own voice and not through intermediaries because affairs of the heart were not to be trusted to those who had, or thought they had, prophetic gifts especially when the prophet was the potential husband.

    Lars politely stood up when the two women entered the room and greeted them. He must have known that something was up with Hilda by the surprised look on her face but couldn't be certain what was happening. Though he was as excited as his wife about the dream she had had, he checked himself and said nothing. Stan entered the room a couple of minutes later.

    "Good morning, everyone - Hilda, Bente, Lars ..." and gave a slight bow as was his custom. Bente and Hilda curtsied back respectfully. He reached over to give Hanna a kiss and they all sat down.

    "Did you need to see me privately," asked Stan to Lars and Bente, "or can we talk openly here?"

    Lars looked nervously at his wife, unsure what to say. Hilda was still recoiling from the revelation that she had bumped into her future husband and sister-wife. It was so powerful that there wasn't the slightest trace of doubt in her mind. The problem lay in mentally reassembling "Mr.Right" in her own mind - of filling the vacuum left by "Mr.Impossible's" departure half-an-hour previously. A thousand questions, feelings, thoughts and images were cascading through her soul like a waterfall. Could she love this man? she was asking herself. He wasn't not handsome and they were all about the same age. She had never dreamed that her husband would look like a shaggy dog with beard and moustache as well. She had heard that many polygamous men were cultivating the "Moses-look" but had somehow always imagined that her man would be clean-shaven in the Roman way. The trouble with bearded men, she thought to herself, was that you couldn't see their faces properly - their features, wrinkles and the like. What if he looked like a dried prune underneath all the hair?

    Lars was quietly praying furiously, not knowing what to do, while Stan wondered what his hesitation was all about. Hanna had pretty well concluded the same as Hilda had done and wanted to whisper to her husband and tell him what had been happening, but she didn't dare.

    Then Lars, as though propelled by an invisible force - or better, jerked to a standing position - by a concealed angel, leaped to his feet and, moved by the Spirit, surprised himself and his wife by asking:

    "Brother Stan, Bente and I have ... um ... been talking about it and would like to invite Hilda to come and stay in our home for a few days, or for the rest of her stay here ... if she would like to, that is"

    He sat down again, looking a little dazed. Bente looked at him in barely concealed amazement. Hilda's heart was pounding like a canon firing a volley of shots, still unsure what to say or do.

    Stan looked towards her. "Well, Hilda, the Nilssons have kindly invited you over to their home to stay with them if you would like to. That's fine by me and my wives, of course."

    Now the ball was in her court and she didn't know how to play it. Was she being impetuous? Wouldn't accepting the invitation fly in the face of the great care she had always taken in making any sort of decision? Or should she now learn to respond to the Spirit in a totally different way? What possible harm could come in staying with the Nilssons? She supposed that maybe Lars was interested in her but never dreamed the Lord had spoken to his wife.

    She defied 29 years' upbringing and accepted the invitation without hesitating. Lars and Bente seemed relieved and somehow were now really sitting on the sofa and not hovering above it as though supported by an invisible cushion of tension. The atmosphere in the room distinctly lightened. Bente spoke up for the first time:

    "Well, Hilda, my dear, my husband has got a few things he wants to talk to Stan about. Would you like me to help you pack your bags and help you move over to our house?" She looked sweet and motherly and Hilda at once warmed to her. The two got up and went upstairs leaving Hanna, Lars and Stan behind.

    "Do you mind if I stay, Brother Lars?" asked Hanna. "I think I am supposed to be here with you."

    Both men looked surprised.

    "Well, yes, of course," answered Lars who immediately told Stan about his wife's dream. Hanna was hopping with excitement and told the two men what had transpired in the library. Lars' face lit up with pure joy at the sudden realisation that everything was coming together at lightening speed. The invisible cushion on Lars' sofa now seemed to acquire springs as he twitched with excitement.

    "Well, Brother Lars," said Stan smiling like a Cheshire cat, "the Lord is blessing you and your household this day. I can think of no better conclusion to this Estonian visit. I had a feeling all four would find husbands here and this is the perfect conclusion to the visit. And I have long desired that you and Bente should have another wife in the family for I have always known that you were called into polygamy."

    Lars seemed reassured. He confessed, rather embarassed, that he had suspected that Stan had wished to hoard all incoming women to the colony for himself, but now saw that his own desire was to do Yahweh's will. He asked Stan's forgiveness for thinking evil of him and was given it freely.

    "There are many new, powerful and complicated feelings for you now," said Stan seriously, "... and for Bente too. You two are going to need a lot of time to make readjustments. Be patient and come and talk to me or Björn whenever you want to."

    Lars was grateful but began to feel guilty about Bengt Åkerstedt.

    "Don't," said Stan. "He is pretty well set to live monogamy for the rest of his days. He's not fishing for another wife. You needn't feel guilty. The only thing you have the right to feel guilty about is if you rebell against Yahweh's will. That way you'll keep your feelings in proper perspective."

    Lars arose and shook Stan's hand warmly before embracing him. The two men had suddenly drawn closer together and for Stan such was always an occasion to rejoice. Time and time again he had seen how new wives entering families changed everyone's lives for the better, notwithstanding the struggles that inevitably followed, and it was already plain that Hilda was not only to find happiness herself but would bless the whole colony with her spirit from now on.

    Hanna had sat through most of the proceedings happily drinking in the warm atmosphere and quietly praising Yahweh for His goodness. Her only concern was that the men, it seemed to her, were behaving as though Hilda was already married to Lars, which she wasn't. She shared her concern with Stan afterwards.

    "I understand what you are saying, darling," he said, and reached over to give her a warm kiss on the mouth, "but you must understand one thing. All that is happening was actually decided by the Lord millennia ago, and agreed to by the parties before they came to this earth life. What is happening is merely the script of a play that was written long ago. True, we shall not force anything. The play must unfold at its own speed. But I've been in the ministry long enough to know when the unfolding of events is inevitable."

    "But couldn't something terrible happen to upset everything?" asked Hanna, worried.

    "Only if something that is happening isn't in the Lord's will. That's often when tragedy strikes, though that is not necessarily always the reason for tragedy. Satan is constantly trying to trip up God's plans, causing lights to go off in the theatre to interrupt the play. But if we are operating in His will, the play will go on and Satan's angels will be booted out of the theatre by Yahweh's own divine messengers."

    The idea that life was somehow scripted was new to Hanna.

    "But what about free agency, darling?" she said.

    "Free agency is always present," said Stan. "Life isn't like an actor's script - fixed and bound in a single volume. The script has hundreds of alternative versions, at least from man's point-of-view. Man has genuine free choice, but Yahweh knows all the choices he will make in advance. He has known them even before man was created. But man holds many scripts in his hand. He may choose any number of the alternate scripts he wishes. When he chooses another, the other actors are faced with similar choices, and must rummage around their collection of scripts to give an appropriate response. But it's not a complete free-for-all: Yahweh sends His angels, and of course the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit), to nudge the actors in the right direction from time to time."

    "But isn't that denying them free agency - by interfering?" asked Hanna.

    "It would be if you didn't believe in a doctrine of pre-existence as we do, but this is an involved concept," said Stan.

    Hanna didn't mind. She loved the deep stuff.

    "There is no such thing as complete free-agency because we are limited in the first place by our circumstances and surroundings, and in the second by God's sovereign will. Yahweh gives us as much free-agency as is possible and good for us, but sometimes Satan challenges Yahweh's right to supposedly "meddle", as he did in the case of Job, and Yahweh must agree, up to a point, because He is bound by His own laws. A believer who has truly given His life to Christ yields considerable free-agency, allowing God to interfere as much as He wants to. His choice is to give away his sovereignty. Even so, Yahweh still gives us plenty of free choice.

    "It is my belief that much of Yahweh's pre-planned intervention - that's a better word than "meddle", isn't it? - was mutually agreed upon by us before our birth. This is admittedly speculation, and is such a vast and complicated subject that we're never going to understand the whole picture down here. But it's good to think through all the various possibilities, don't you agree?"

    She did and the discussion ended. She snuggled up to him on the sofa for a cuddle knowing that he would soon be off to be about his other duties. She did not have him long to herself as Elisa, Salme and Kryztina came into the room talking. As the wives had breaks in their daily routine, they would take the two Estonians under their wing for an hour, or however long their break was, so that they were never alone.

    Hanna invited the two women to come and sit next to Stan and moved away so that they could sit next to him. She sat by Elisa while Kryztina sat next to Salme, and told the three women what had happened with Hilda. They were thoroughly excited. It was the perfect conclusion to the day for them for the next day the two Estonians would become Stan's betrothed wives. What joy there was all round. How contagious it was!

    The morning passed quickly and suddenly the living room was filling with wives and small children. Elisa and Salme felt uneasy in embrace with the others around but Stan would not let them go and kept kissing them while the others smiled and stole the occasional kiss here and there. It was all so new for them but they were learning and adapting well. When Sarah-Jane came over and gave Stan a passionate kiss that lasted for nearly a minute, whilst still holding the two Estonians in his arms, they were a little aghast, but as soon as she had finished and gone off, he kissed each of them for nearly a minute too, until they felt more at ease. It was not often they got Stan in the living room at mid-day so his wives were all over him like bees round a hive. This was then followed by small children leaping on his lap. Rachele came and made herself comfortable on Stan's lap and wouldn't go. Elisa and Salme were enthralled by her big goggling eyes and the many questions she asked, though they did not understand her because it was in Polish for the most part.

    "Would you like one of your other wives to take my place?" asked Elisa considerately, not wishing to hog Stan's affections.

    "You're very thoughtful, darling, but no. This is your day - your time - your betrothal. They want you to be with me."

    We overheard and came over to hug and kiss them both. Elisa was so overwhelmed that she began to softly cry.

    "There is so much love here," she said smiling between the tears, "you're all so wonderful. Thank you! Thank you!"

    Even Salme was swept away in her emotions, unable to comprehend how so much affection could so spontaneously flow. Kasia came and sat down at Stan's feet, one of her favourite places, while Anna stood behind him and began to massage his head. Kryztina stood next to her, her arms around Elise's neck, and Andreea stood on Anna's other side, behind Salme, and draped her arms around her neck too.

    I brought Tom over to Stan once Rachele had had enough and went off to play with one of her siblings. Sarah-Jane gave her Shallum to Elisa who looked lovingly into the little boy's eyes. Finally, Isabel brought her Benoni and placed him on Salme's lap so that there were three little boys being cuddled by a proud father and two women to be shortly betrothed to him.

    Kasia began to sing a song of praise to Yah'shua and everyone joined in until the whole room was full of song. How wonderful these spontaneous moment were. Everyone was holding someone making the sense of oneness wonderful. I held Isabel's hand, and Isabel held Suszana, and so on, until we were all linked in one great big chain, small children and babies included. The voices rose in chorus and the music of worship seemed to fill the whole house. Elisa was still crying, hardly able to sing at all, as she was so overwhelmed by emotion. Lunch was late that day but nobody cared much. There were times for spontaneity and times for order, but this was time for the former.


    Maria was the only one who had not come to the living room, but even if she had wanted to sing with us, she couldn't have, because her voice still hadn't returned. She was determined to hold out against polygamy until the last minute even if that meant not being able to speak or sing. And Karl would not yield on the polygamy issue.

    There is, Stan has told me, a suicidal element in human nature, especially amongst the most stubborn. Even though all reason dictates they should yield over an issue, the flesh seems determined to pursue its doom to the bitter end. The flesh knows that one day it must die, but it does not want to, and if it is stronger than the spirit, then it will accelerate that process of self-annihilation simply to avoid surrendering to the legitimate power.

    "The flesh is a terrible as well as an extraordinarily stupid task-master," he once said to us in one of our evening Bible classes. "Throughout history we see its blind death-wish in action. The Japanese suicide bombers of World War Two, the drugged soldiers of the Chinese Empire, the young nazi Werewolves of 1945 - and my favourite example, the Picts from ancient Caledonia or Scotland during the Roman period. They would hurl themselves onto the Roman spears and swords, thus making their enemy momentarily defenseless, so that the next wave of Picts could overwhelm them. They didn't do this out of love for their tribe or heroics but because they were utterly demonised. And that's the point I want to make - the spirit of suicide isn't an entirely fleshy thing because basically even the flesh wants to live. But demons exploit the insanity of suicidal feelings and push humans over the edge.

    "I knew a very intelligent Mormon to whom I plainly showed the errors of his religion so that he could not deny what lay before his eyes. But instead of doing the only honest thing, the flesh made an appeal to misguided loyalty, and so he stuck it out. In the end the Mormons threw him out of their Church for criticising many of their errors but he would not let go of Mormonism - he was determined to reform it. I showed him the impossibility of this but he persisted. He died unsaved because of his stubbornness and stupidity.

    "You see the same mentality in bad marriages sometimes. A wife will be loyal to her adulterous and violent husband even though he may wish her dead. No doubt some of this loyalty is impelled by noble sentiments but much of it is insane, especially if her children are being abused and their lives threatened. She has become a slave, and has come to love her slavery as a kind of masochism. She thinks that the more she suffers that eventually her husband will be moved to pity and start loving her again and being decent. Finally, she gets a kind of perverse pleasure from it."

    As I thought about Maria's behaviour, I began to see some of the symptoms Stan was describing. And then I realised that we all have this tendency to differing degrees. Maria was playing a fleshy game, largely without knowing what was going on, and could not see where it was leading her. It was beyond all reason, and when someone gets into such a state, it is usually only a shock that can bring them out of it. You don't reason with a drunk but wait for him to get sober. But this particular psychological problem is not something you 'come out of' the next day. It persists day after day until either fulfilled by death or some jolt brings the victim into the world of reality.

    I shuddered at the thought of so many stupid people being blindly led to their own self-destruction. That spirit of murder is in all of us - whether murder of others or of self - suicide. That ugly spirit manifested itself in me after I left Raj for the first time, when all common sense deserted me, when all Christian decency was thrown to the wind, and all I wanted was a terrible revenge against those who loved me. Insane! Yet there is was. That is the legacy of the flesh and we're foolish if we think any good comes of it.

    Maria's struggle threw mirrors up at all of us, I think, for we remembered our own struggles, not just with polygamy, but with human nature itself. We agreed that until you put that nature under your spiritual feet that you are under a death sentence of sorts. Polygamy just happens to put that nature under the spotlight, especially for us women.

    "Polygamy is my purifying angel," said Anna to me once.

    And she was right. Polygamy not only cleans you out but, if you embrace it in love, leaves you clean.

    "How would you define polygamy?" I asked Sarah-Jane.

    She grinned, as she so often does when that mischievous spirit comes over her. But she saw I was being serious and paused to think through my question carefully.

    "I think it's like a large torch - you know, the kind they used to use before electricity, in the old days. Polygamy's like that, I reckon."

    I was puzzled. You couldn't know where Sarah-Jane's thought-train would lead her, and in that respect, she was a bit like Hanna. She saw my puzzled look and grinned again.

    "If you hold the torch out in front of you, you can see the way. But if you sit on it, it burns your ass."

    Anna and Kryztina shrieked with laughter, and some of the others were trying hard not to laugh, including Isabel.

    "Yeah, well," she continued. "the only way to hide the light of polygamy is to put it under your butt. That's why hardly anyone's ever neutral about it, don't you think?"

    "I think it's like a boomerang," said Kasia. "If you try to throw it away, it comes straight back and hits you in the face!"

    Everyone laughed. Then it was Andreea's turn to reveal the comical side of her nature.

    "Do you remember when Galileo climbed up a tower in Italy and threw off a feather and an iron ball?"

    There were some blank faces as we struggled to remember our physics lessons from school days long ago. Obviously they paid better attention in Romanian schools.

    "What did he do that for?" asked Anna. "Was he bored?"

    Someone giggled - Sarah-Jane, I think - who else?

    Andreea was mildly irritated.

    "Well," she continued, trying with difficulty to regain the right atmosphere. "If you threw a kilo of iron balls off the tower, and a kilo of feathers, which would hit the ground first?"

    Sarah-Jane fell for it. "The iron balls, of course."

    "Why?" asked Andreea.

    "Because feathers are lighter than iron balls, dummy!" answered Sarah-Jane cheekily.

    Isabel giggled - it wasn't often Sarah-Jane put her foot into it. Everyone was smiling, shaking their heads at Sarah-Jane. Then she blushed - realising how stupid she had been.

    "The way I see it," continued Andreea, regaining the moral momentum, "is that the world looks at polygamy like heavy, unattractive iron balls, and monogamy like feathers. But in God's eyes they have the same weighting, because He has blessed both. Polygamy by volume may be the "heavier" marriage but because the world is divided up into those who are called into monogamy and those who are called into polygamy, for God they are the same. You need a lot more feathers to make a kilo in weight than you do iron balls just as there are always more living monogamy than polygamy. But they balance each other out, as it were, and hit the ground of reality in the same way. That's what I think, at any rate."

    Heads nodded appreciatively for Andreea's little insight. Sarah-Jane was still recovering from her boob1 and stayed quiet for a bit, her erstwhile ally Anna joing the 'opposition' on this occasion.

    "I think polygamy's like an icecream," broke in Suszana unexpectedly, for she usually avoided light hearted banter like this, perhaps because she was the eldest. "If you don't eat it right away, it melts all over your fingers and leaves a sticky mess."

    People looked at one another. We tried to figure out what she meant but she didn't offer any explanation. Perhaps it was a reference to the fact that she had denied it earlier in her life and it had left her life all messed up.

    Stan came in and we pressed him for a humourous definition.

    "Mmmm," he thought for a moment, and then smiled. "Polygamy is like nine lazy women who had nothing better to do than to crack silly jokes when there was a mountain of work that needed doing around the house."

    Some looked crestfallen.

    "But then," he continued, realising they had taken it the wrong way, "a naughty patriarch who was tired of working came in and thought to himself, 'I think I'll tickle them all and see which one I can get to squeal the loudest ...'".

    Women started leaping out of their chairs with a view to escaping for they knew what was coming. Stan was in one of his schoolboyish moods and there was nothing stopping him. All at once there was a scurrying around as Stan set off in hot pursuit. Kryztina was the first he bagged and soon she was squealing something terrible on the floor because she was the most ticklish of us all. For the next few minutes there was shouting, squealing and laughing as women fled in all directions followed by the mad patriarch. The small children were giggling out of control. Tytus and Stanisław, Jr. joined in enthusiastically and went after their own mothers, and then their outnumbered father.

    Elisa and Salme watched the whole scene incredulously and made the fatal mistake of standing still. Before they could say 'Jack Robin' Stan had floored them on the living-room carpet and tickled them mercilessly, and two more squealers joined the family orchestration. And, as usual, if we felt that Stan had one of us to her disadvantage, we pounced on him and took our revenge on him. Anna was the first, leaping on to his back like a cowboy mounting her steed and set to work on his armpits. Soon the squealing was replaced by masculine roaring which hotted up Sarah-Jane's blood so that she quickly joined the fray. Tytus did not like it one bit and began to start pulling Anna off. After three minutes there was a great pile of bodies, young and old, writhing around on the floor laughing themselves senseless. Stan was no match for eleven women, even with Tytus and Stanis&%322aw, Jr. as allies. Dorcas joined the women, of course. All we wanted was to hear Stan's unconditional surrender for we had a silly custom that whenever he he yielded to us after such a feigned fracas that one of us had the right to ask him whatever she wanted and he was obliged to do it - within righteous boundaries, of course. And it was the one who forced the surrender who got the right, which on this occasion was Anna.

    The victorious wife had the responsibility of pulling her husband up off the floor, whispering her wish into his ear, and then marching him off to wherever she wanted him to go. The rest of us would then burst out into applause and spend the rest of the day trying to guess what concession the victorious sister-wife had obtained. (She was always forced to share what it was within 24 hours!) As I am sure you will have guessed, Anna led Stan to his room and spent the next hour alone with him - most of us wanted that, though some would ask for chocolate, or something like that. Once Kasia had asked him to do the washing up for her after supper that day which he was not amused by, but he did it all the same! Thereafter Stan stubbornly fought against yielding to Kasia to avoid that punishment again!!

    The reader must not think this happened too often, for it did not. But it was sufficiently frequent (about once a month) to making it something we secretly looked forward to, made all the more exciting by the fact that we never knew when Stan would strike next and we always knew that we would win! The kids loved it ... of course! Only one or two of them occasionally got carried away, especially the boys, and tickled the girls a little too much, leading to tears sometimes.

    I'm not sure what Elisa and Salme's initial reaction was or what they made of it but they subsequently joined in the fun the next time Stan had one of his bouts. They gave such voice on the following occasion that Stan called them the family's Meistersingers2.

    Of course, he was mindful enough not to chase pregnant women, or those who were otherwise under the weather. Isabel and Suszana would often retreat to their rooms and hide behind their doors until it was all over. Anticipating this once, Stan hid himself in Suszana's cupboard and pounced on her when she had locked her door. But Stan was kind - he gave her a long five minute kiss before setting off after the rest of us.

    Otherwise life was more or less quite placid at Kadesh-Naphtali ... thank goodness.

    1 Mistake, error

    2 After a Wagnerian opera

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    Last updated on 5 March 2009

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