Signild read the whole site, staying up until after four o'clock in the morning yet again. But she didn't feel guilty as she hadn't promised Karl anything. She grinned at her victory - about the only fleshy one she'd had that evening.
Signild Högström was to tell everyone later that her whole life had been changed in two nights. On the first, she had had much of her Seventh-Day Adventist faith demolished before her eyes, and on the second, she had been converted to the doctrine of Christian polygamy. And Karl was to bless the Lord for inspiring him to bring along the two booklets and the CD-ROM which he had nearly left behind.
The couple travelled up to Kopparberg by train together and both were in the seventh heaven. He had telephoned home from town to tell them that he would be bringing a visitor with him if his father would give his permission. Once he had heard Karl's story, Bengt was in no doubt as to the appropriateness of the visit, but had to seek Stan's permission too, who asked to speak to Karl himself. When Stan was satisfied, the green light was given. Karl was over the moon.
It did not take Maria long to hear the news of the forthcoming visit and she was almost besides herself with grief. But Stan was not too sympathetic.
"I warned you not to mess around with the Lord, and I told you that His day of grace wouldn't last forever," said Stan sternly. "Now you can see the truth for what it really is. Karl has found a wife so if you still want him you're going to have to accept both of them now. He will not become a monogamy-only husband. It's too late for that now."
The tears lasted a short while and then she angrily scribbled a note: "It won't last - I know it won't!!"
Stan threw up his hands in exasperation and complained to Suszana:
"Never have I met such a stubborn foolish girl in all my life, and it happens to be someone born of my own loins! She will have to be taken to the very brink before she comes to her senses. May the day of grace not be too short."
For Suszana, a complaint against Maria was a complaint against herself, because she knew she was partly responsible for the mess that Maria was inside. She knew that much of the stubborn temprement was her own for she too had tried to hold out against the truth for so many years until the inevitable truth had to be painted on a wall in front of her nose in big bright letters. Stan regretted that he had complained in front of her when he saw her sorrow, and comforted her.
Bengt and and Michäela were besides themselves with joy when they heard that their son had at last found a mate, and picked the couple up at Mora railway station. For a week Signild was shown around Kadesh-Naphtali and met all the colonists. She was overwhelmed by the welcome and the love that was showered on her, and was even more amazed to see polygamy in action. The only person who would not greet her was Maria who kept right out of her way, peering out of her room to get a glimpse of her new enemy. She stayed in her room on the Friday evening during the Sabbath meal when the whole colony gathered together.
She would not have anyone visit her or try to console her. She knew what everybody would tell her and she didn't want to hear the truth again. She now wanted to hate Karl but knew that if she took that step that Satan might seize her for good, and she was afraid of that. She would remain concealed for the whole week until her hated competition had gone and then, she convinced herself, Karl would come crawling for her. But she could not see how spiritually repulsive she had become, and how she might as well have been at the opposite side of the universe to Karl and in the midst of the largest black hole, for compared to the light that Signild was radiating, she was worse than dead. But she could not see it still, for carnal illusion still held her in its foul and merciless grip.
If only another man would come along, then she'd show Karl! But none did, and she was too afraid to leave the security of her parents, perhaps the only ones who could understand her and whom she knew loved her in spite of herself.
Karl and Signild were dedicated before the whole community the day before she returned to Jönköping. It was January 8th and the betrothal had been set for April 6th at the same time that Hilda and Silvia were returning to be betrothed themselves and to settle permanently in the colony. Spring would be a happy time for Kadesh-biyqah for not only would there be three betrothals but two full marriages as well - of Elisa and Salme to Stan.
The perennial and tiresome question of whom and how much to tell rose its irritating head once more. What should Signild tell her parents? They would be sure to want to come and visit Kopparberg to see their daughter and to attend any wedding. That was inevitable since they lived so close. That Karl's parents were monogamous helped considerably for the Högströms would naturally be their hosts. They would not be invited to the betrothal, when too many other weddings would be taking place, but to the full marriage the following July, which simplified matters a little.
Bertil and Carin Högström received the news of the engagement of their daughter with mixed feelings, partly because they knew so little about Karl's own faith except that he was sabbatarian like, they supposed, themselves, and this meant a lot to Adventists, and this was therefore a definite plus in his favour. (They did not at this stage know that New Covenant Christian seventh-day sabbatarianism was based on the biblical Creation Calendar and not the Roman Gregorian one). It would be up to Signild to map out New Covenant theology for them, leaving out the polygamy part that would create a storm. As a matter of principle Karl sought out the elder Högströms' consent and blessing on the marriage, which was expected in the patriarchal community wherever humanly possible, which he had little alternative but to give. He did like Karl but had understandably felt that the dice had gone in the wrong direction so that instead of winning a backslidden son-in-law back to Adventism, he had instead lost his only daughter from the faith. But he figured it could have been a lot worse - she might have become a Mormon, Catholic, or member of one of the other cults. He believed that he might still win the couple back to his faith.
But if the truth be known he thought it unlikely, Stockholm had never replied to him and he could find no-one to explain Karl's two scriptures which were like a pair of grenades with the pins pulled out ready to go off in his hand to demolish his belief system.
For Signild and Karl there was really only one problem they hadn't sorted out, and that was Signild's education. Her course would finish in the summer, just before the scheduled marriage, but in order to finish it she would need to continue attending college in Jönköping. Commuting at weekends to Kopparberg was out of the question economically. Karl couldn't very well live with the Högströms in Jönköping for whom betrothal had no meaning. Transferring her course to a nearby college seemed impractical for only three months though she would try to complete it at Börlange rather than live away from Karl during the bethrothal period. Neither wanted her to abandon the course which would give her useful qualifications for schooling the small children at Kadesh-Naphtali.
In the end, the College agreed only to transfer her course to Börlange if she would begin the new semester there immediately. The Högströms were none to happy with the suggestion but had little to say in the matter. Within ten days the matter had been sorted out and Signild was back with her beloved Karl at least at weekends, much to Maria's chagrin. The breather she had wanted had been rudely snatched away from her and she was faced with the possibility of having to miss every Sabbath dinner in order not to see Signild or be seen by her. She felt trapped like a rat in a cage.
Poor Maria. She felt as though the world had caved in on her, yet it was her own fault, and she knew it. Now she would really have to crawl in order to be accepted by Karl who was now completely and unreservedly in love with another.
Karl knew what was happening to Maria but his love for Sighild had not made him indifferent or cold towards her.
One day he came to see her at the herregård. Suszana came to tell Maria that she had a visitor but she didn't know what to do. She wanted to run in both directions, both to him and away.
"Karl is waiting for you in the hall," Suszana reminded Maria. "What do you want me to say to him?"
She said nothing.
"He says it is very important."
Maria's ears pricked up - perhaps he had come to his senses. Maybe the engagement to Sighild had been cancelled! Foolish child, so drowned in her illusions; but it enabled Karl to make his one last plea to her.
The two went into the library and sat opposite each other at a large table. It was too provocative for Karl - too confrontational, but he dared not sit with her on a sofa.
She was a pitiable site, her hair unkempt and clearly not washed for days. He could not imagine why he was there, but the Spirit had spoken to him and he had a message to deliver to her. He wanted to ask her how she was but he knew the question would practically be an affront.
"Have you made your decision as to what you want to do?" asked Karl, skipping the pleasantries.
Maria remained silent and looked straight past him at a shelf full of books.
"As you know," he continued, "Signild and I are getting married in July. We are to be betrothed in April. She accepts the principle of plural marriage and I am sure to expand my family when the Lord calls me to."
"How nice for you both," she said sarcastically.
Karl did not want to go on. Why should she? She was impossible and utterly unattractive. He would rather marry a vegetable than the apology of a women who sat opposite him who was so wrapped up in her own self-inflicted misery.
"I have a message to you from the Lord ... "
She glanced at him and returned her gaze to the books. A red one caught her attention and she focussed on that, trying not to listen too hard and hoping to create a dramatic picture of superior indifference.
"You have until April 6th to make up your mind whether you want to marry me polygamously under the terms I gave you. Thereafter the offer is closed. If nothing happens by then, and you choose to carry on the way you are, I am absolved of my responsibility to you."
It didn't sound the way he had wanted it to, but it was hard to feel warmth for the ice-cold statue of a person who sat across the table. He felt like the prophet who was commanded by Yahweh to marry a prostitute. How could he make a proposal of marriage when he felt so utterly repelled? What little faith he had had in Maria was fast disappearing. Then he remembered her mother and father who were besides themselves with worry for her, and the first rays of compassion began to well up inside him. Why couldn't he love her as Christ loved her? He knew he should. Didn't Christ love him, a part of the unworthy bride? He rebelled inside, for he was being asked to give more than brotherly compassion - he was being asked to give his body and soul to her, and his spirit simply recoiled at the thought. But he would be obedient.
Maria didn't answer him but got up and left. What did she care any more? She was dangerously close to the point of no return and sensed it. It would require a herculean effort of will to steer away from it and save her soul from the abyss whose jaws lay gaping in front of her. They would have closed if she had rejected Karl but she stubbornly persisted in her impossible demands.
She had a nightmare that evening and dreamed she was standing at a cross roads. Ahead of her lay a great, yawning pit and from it she heard the most terrible cries. Her blood curdled. To the left there was a man whom she had never seen before, who appeared quite plain. He looked dull and not particularly attractive. There was a small solitary girl standing behind him, as though playing hide-and-seek. To the right stood Karl dressed in long white robes. On his right side was Signild, and behind him were half-a-dozen6 other women whom she had never seen before. All were dressed in white robes and all were bathed in white light. Behind them were many children which she could not count.
She awoke in a sweat, shaking. The Lord had shown her the three choices she faced. To carry on as she was and fall into the pit of hell, or reject Karl and turn to the left to a husband and one child, or to the right to Karl and his wives and children. She had been standing at the very cross roads itself and had to make the choice, there and then.
She got out of bed and started walking around the room, wringing her hands in despair. She just didn't want to choose, and yet she was now compelled to. Once she had made the choice, she knew that there was no turning back. What it was that guided her choice she never really knew herself. Perhaps it was the unattractiveness of the plain man, or maybe it was the glory that seemed to surround Karl and his family. She knew she could not go to hell - she had to surrender her own terms. She had to yield sovereignty of her life to the Lord and crucify her stubborn will. But even thinking about it evoked visions of excruciating pain. Wasn't she in enough of that already? Could she bear yet more?
Stan had awakened and been led by the Spirit into intercessory prayer. He did not disturb Isabel who was lying beside him. The moment he did, Maria had silenely covenanted with the Lord to accept Karl and his wife, and a great peace descended upon her.
She knelt at the foot of the bed astonished that the inner turmoil had suddenly been lifted like a curtain in a theatre revealing a new scene. She almost dared to be happy but couldn't see how she could be. Yes, she had won a victory of sorts, but was already counting the cost of her sacrifice.
It was early evening and she had unknowingly missed supper. Who should she tell first? How should she break the news to Karl? How would Karl react? She knew that he already despised her and felt filthy and unworthy of him. But at least she wasn't at war anymore. Two of the roads were sealed and she had made a sharp right-turn. It was all new, and she was afraid to walk further. It was one thing to change direction, but quite another to continue the journey. Her feet seemed to freeze to the ground, her legs grew heavy. Yes, she was very tired now, weary from the hopeless battle she had been fighting. No, she would go to sleep and face the new road in the morning.
Illicit sexual behaviour
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