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Unrest In Eden
cover design © 2011 Ardy M. Scott.

 

 

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Unrest in Eden
historical novel

 

Florence Byham Weinberg

 

 

 

 

Prologue

Ignaz Pfefferkorn, ex-S.J., Siegburg, Rhineland, 1796

I never thought I'd live this long. This century has four years left, years of violence, I have no doubt. The French Revolution is seven years old, and its glorious Army of Liberation, proclaiming Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité, has attacked and occupied the Rhineland and neighboring lands. They hope to "free" us from what they consider the Ancien régime, the old divinely-ordained succession of princes that dates back into prehistory, and they try to destroy our faith along with our government. Attempts at forced liberation bring only misery: killings, rapes, looting, hunger and destitution. I'm seventy-one and have seen enough of all that. Enough, I say!

My chronicle of our missionary work in the New World reported what we Jesuits tried to accomplish there. We converted the natives, teaching them basic skills of reading, writing and figuring, agriculture and animal husbandry. We fitted them to be competitive with the average European settler, preventing them from being taken as slaves.

But too many forces were pitted against our Society of Jesus. Commercial interests needed slaves to be worked like animals in the mines and on the vast plantations and ranches. Political interests resented the decisive influence we had on many governments, to the detriment of secular prime ministers and other advisors. And, I regret to say, our fellow religious, notably our Dominican brothers, envied us our relative freedom to teach and convert in foreign lands. They suspected our innovative ways as heretical and would gladly have burned us all at the stake. There resulted a series of expulsions in Portugal, France, and finally in Spain, which exiled us in 1767 from her own soil and from all her colonies. Most of us died; I survived to be imprisoned. Those combined forces succeeded in coercing the pope to suppress our Society in 1773. We went out of existence.

I've written a monograph about my personal view of those events: my arrest in New Spain at my mission in Cucurpe, Sonora. I described our slow destruction: starvation, the death march across New Spain, the deadly sea voyage, and years of Spanish imprisonment. Two more monographs followed, about the wonders and beauties of Sonora, its fauna, flora, and its remarkable people. These last two have just been published, but I suspect that the first monograph may never see the light of day. Its publication has been delayed, indefinitely. Who knows what will become of it? It would seem that Maximilian Franz, my Kurfürst, youngest son of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, thought there was too much to lose. His predecessor, Archbishop Max Friedrich, my prince, benefactor, and rescuer from Spanish prison, might have had the courage to publish it—I dedicated the entire work to him. But by now, Spain has become an important trading partner with Cologne, and my monograph constitutes a harsh indictment of Spain's policies and actions a quarter century ago.

I scarcely get along these days without committing my thoughts to paper, and so now, toward the end of my life, it remains for me to write about events since my release from Spanish prison: my trip on foot across France in the dead of winter, my arrival at my sister's home in Unkel on the Rhine where I'd hoped to find the earthly Paradise of childhood memory. Instead, I found a radically divided town, thanks to the seemingly never-ending battle between the Schultheiss (mayor) and the Schöffen (magistrates and tax assessors) of Unkel on the one side and the pastor, Heinrich Gressenich, on the other, a conflict inflamed by the murder of a prominent young burgher. I'd been unofficial assistant pastor of St. Pantaleon's church, soon to be named vicar, and found myself caught in a maelstrom.

Family circumstances and the threat of war drove me to give up my post in Unkel and move here to Siegburg, where the Schultheiss, Ignaz Wilhelm Saur, has been generous enough to provide me with room and board. My niece, Theresia Berntges, acting as secretary to Herr Saur, also sees that I lack nothing in the way of paper, pens and ink for my writing. The pastor of St. Servatius Church has been kind enough to allow me to say Mass from time to time. I have found excellent friends among the Benedictines of Michaelsberg Abbey, a medieval structure on the peak that dominates the town. However, my tranquility has been brief, since war has swept across this land.

But I will not succumb to bitterness; instead, by the Grace of God, I will tell my story.

 

Part One: Seeking Eden

Chapter I

Fog and Cold

I skidded on hidden ice and went sprawling. Passing coaches had cut deep tracks that last night's freeze had congealed into sharp edges. Jagged, frozen mud bit into my leg, but there was no blood, only a lump that would soon become a bruise. I lay still for the first time since I'd begun walking around ten that morning. Fog crawled landward in snaky tendrils, enveloping me, blotting out reality. The roar of Atlantic breakers on my left told me I was still facing north. An icy wind stirred the fog, shredding it into ragged wisps. Frigid rain numbed my face. Trees alongside the road heaved their branches in protest, clawing the sky like frantic prisoners of the cold. I scrambled to my feet, picked up my battered valise and shook my robe, then limped to the side of the road where coaches had not churned the surface into a thousand more traps.

Would I find shelter and a little food before nightfall? I must move quickly, else I might freeze. I wrapped my blanket tighter around me, smiling at the memory of Dom Gregorio's face as he gave it to me on my departure. Gregorio, the abbot of La Caridad Monastery near Salamanca, had befriended me, and his gift now protected my upper body, although my legs and feet were as numb as my face. His monks had packed food, but that was long gone—eaten in the coach on the first leg of the long road from Ciudad Rodrigo to Irún on the French border. Dom Gregorio had also given the coachman, Brother Porfirio, enough money to pay for lodging in the humblest inns in the cities along our route—Salamanca, Valladolid, Burgos, Vitoria—and for an overnight stay in Irún. Porfirio turned back there, leaving me to make my way as best I could across France to my home in the Rhineland.

My home: I spent my childhood in Mannheim, although my father's native city was Siegburg, where the Pfefferkorn family had distinguished itself and had deep roots. But my second and preferred home was my mother's birthplace, Unkel, a village downriver near Bonn, where I had spent most of my summers. My wealthy great uncle, Gottfried Eschenbrender, had been pastor of the church in Unkel for over thirty years. His father had built a villa with a spacious garden where my sister Isabella and I played, watched butterflies sip nectar from the flowers, curled up with our books under the lindens in the dappled sunshine, or waved at the river boats that passed within hailing distance. Those warm summers, painted in the rainbow colors of my memory, were carefree until my father's sudden death. Then hardships began for my mother, Gudula, and for us, her two youngest children. Mother only survived for three more years. I shivered, the recollection of her death bringing more cold than the weather around me. That and the strange, dark dreams I'd been having about Unkel lately.

Hardships continued now. At the French border at Hendaye, all I had to show the officials in the guardhouse was a note from the abbot, stating I was a prisoner released by His Majesty King Carlos III, asking that I be allowed to cross into France. They knew I was a priest, dressed in my black robe, black shoes and the silver crucifix my mother gave me thirty-six years ago as she lay on her death bed. My valise contained a spare robe, undergarments, my shaving equipment, my breviary and my notes for a book I hoped to write about Sonora Province in New Spain, where I'd served eleven years before being expelled and imprisoned for over ten.

The officials, barely literate, made out the Spanish, inspected the valise, and allowed me to pass. Brother Porfirio had told me they normally expect a bribe, but after their search, they knew I had nothing. And now, I must beg my way with no idea whether my status as an ex-Jesuit priest and missionary would help or harm me.

The steady rain soaked me through, and the sky darkening into charcoal gray told me the day was over. My teeth chattered, and try as I might I couldn't stop that or my uncontrollable shaking. I rubbed my eyes. Was that a huddle of houses and a church spire ahead? It seemed an hour before I knocked at the first hovel.

A middle-aged housewife answered, her thin body half hidden by a shapeless, faded blue smock, her face framed in abundant gray hair. She stared with red-rimmed eyes, noting my dripping face and clothing, and nodded to indicate that she understood my Spanish, even though my delivery was hampered by stiff lips and violent tremors. I'd learned French as a child and had used it at times during my seminary years in Trier, but it was submerged by long disuse.

She shook her head. "Un prêtre sur la route par un temps si atroce? Et vous n'êtes pas espagnol. A priest on the road in such bad weather? And you're not Spanish." Seeing how my entire frame shook, she motioned me in, and blessed heat enfolded me.

"Gracias, mil gracias, Señora!"

The woman looked past me and called, "Jacob! Come see what wandered in from across the border!"

I unwrapped my blanket, my knotted muscles relaxing slowly. In the combination kitchen and dining room, a few sooty pots and pans adorned the mantle; a trestle made of two raw planks provided a work space; a fireplace open on both sides served as stove and oven on one side and heater on the other. The table in the center of the room had only one chair.

A chair creaked in the next room and an uneven tread approached. The husband was tall but stooped, one leg twisted outward. His narrow, weathered face with a beak of a nose showed no hint of a smile, but did not seem hostile.

"And what might you want on a day like this one, mon père?"

A few—very few—French words began to float up from my childhood memory. "Merci, monsieur," I began, then continued in Spanish, "for opening your door so I can warm myself a little. My name is Ygnacio Pfefferkorn and I'm a long way from home. I need to find shelter and food. I won't give you any trouble; I'll be on my way again tomorrow."

Jacob cocked his head and examined me, noticing my soaked clothing and pitiful shoes, making a puddle on his floor.

"I'm Jacob Saintange and that's my wife Judith. Take off those shoes. Your feet must be frozen, if you've walked all the way from Hendaye. Come dry yourself by the fire. We have very little food in the house but we know someone who might have more."

"Where am I?"

"Don't you know? This is Saint-Jean-de-Luz."

I nodded and slipped out of the shoes, my bare feet blue and numb.

Jacob picked up the shoes, took my elbow, and led me into the other room, the foot on his bad leg pointing outward with each step. A narrow bed without a frame or curtains occupied one corner. The small fireplace warmed the entire house. He gestured to one of the two wooden chairs, and I sat with a relieved groan while he placed the shoes on the hearth.

"Judith! Fetch that kitchen chair for yourself and give the man something hot, even it's only water."

Warming cold-numbed feet can be extremely painful. It took half an hour for circulation to begin again, and meanwhile, I suppressed my groans and rubbed my feet, hoping to increase circulation. They watched me, two pairs of large, dark eyes, full of compassion. When I at last gave a shuddering sigh and let the foot I was rubbing fall to the floor, Judith handed me a clay mug.

"Voici du bouillon, mon père. Here's some bouillon."

I raised my eyes to hers. "Mille mercis, Madame Judith!" I sipped cautiously, since the soup, just dipped out of the small black pot suspended over the fire, was scalding hot. It was thin, the essence from several meager meals. Chicken, maybe a bit of beef, made from bones that were cleaned as only the poor can clean them. I nodded in gratitude as the warmth inside my body restored me to life more than the fire at my face. They must have only enough food for two—if that.

Jacob spoke first. "Where did you come from?"

"I was a missionary in New Spain. I'm an ex-Jesuit, and all of us, all over the New World, were arrested and expelled by order of King Carlos III, years ago now. Those of us who had worked in a region called Sonora were kept prisoners indefinitely because there were gold mines there, and we were suspected of stealing or hoarding it. They interrogated us for months."

Judith's eyes had been on my face. "Is that where you got those scars, Father?"

"Yes, I was beaten many times, and the lash occasionally missed its mark."

"How terrible! Did you tell them where the gold was?"

"I'm sure if we'd known, we would have, but we had nothing to do with those mines. I was in that first prison for six years, then they transferred us singly to isolated monasteries and convents. I was sent to Nuestra Señora de la Caridad Monastery near Ciudad Rodrigo."

"Where's that?" Judith asked.

"Maybe thirty leagues west of Salamanca."

"A long way from here," Jacob said. "Surely, you didn't walk from there."

"No, only from Hendaye. In this cold, that was almost more than I could manage."

Jacob stood. "I'm sorry to seem inhospitable, but we go to bed early to conserve firewood and candles. I must get you to Saul Espinosa's house before they finish their dinner, or you may find nothing to eat there, either." He handed me my soggy shoes, steaming but still soaked.

I stood and took my hostess' hand. "I understand. Thank you for your hospitality. You restored me to life!"

Judith gave my hand a brief squeeze, then withdrew hers. She hadn't smiled once. I followed Jacob to the door, where he donned a coat and a ragged muffler, and I wrapped my damp blanket around my torso again.

The temperature had dropped as night came on, but the rain had stopped. The wind threatened to snatch away the warmth I'd accumulated in the little house. Despite his limp, Jacob's rapid march nearly left me behind. We entered the main street where the houses, built side-by-side, blocked most of the wind. He stopped before one of the larger houses and rapped with the brass knocker. Upon the third knock, the door opened a crack and an elderly man appeared.

"What do— Oh! It's you, Jacob! Out this time of night? Ah, I see, you've brought someone." He motioned us inside the vestibule. "Come in, out of that icy wind!"

"Thanks, Saul, Yes, he's an ex-Jesuit priest, just released from Spanish imprisonment near Salamanca. He walked from Hendaye and needs food and a place to lay his head tonight. We gave him a cup of bouillon—what we could spare—but he needs more. He was near frozen when he knocked on our door."

"And you, Jacob? You look as if you could use a cup of hot soup yourself."

He shook his head. "No thanks, Saul, I'll get along to my Judith. Kind of you. I'll see you on the Sabbath." He stepped back into the street and walked away with a wave.

I called after him, "Mille mercis, Jacob!" Saul closed the door against the cold. He stared at me, eyebrows raised as he took my blanket and hung it on a peg. "An ex-Jesuit priest!" He thrust out a hand. "Saul Espinosa."

"Ygnacio Pfefferkorn."

"A funny name, ‘peppercorn.' I recall that one of your ancestors was a nasty Dominican inquisitor. Not funny at all. Jewish convert, actually. I hope you're not closely related."

I understood him, but answered half in Spanish, half in French. "Possibly related, but thank God, I'm not responsible for distant relatives. Anyway, ‘Saul Thorny' isn't much better."

He lifted a shoulder, grinning. "Come, we were just finishing dinner." He led the way down a short hall and into a dining room furnished with a heavy mahogany table and matching chairs. Several tureens steamed on a sideboard. Two women sat at the table, one Saul's age, the other, a plain youngish person around thirty, her dark hair pulled back into a bun. "Father Ygnacio Pfefferkorn, my wife, Naomi, and my spinster daughter Ruth. Father Ygnacio speaks mainly Spanish."

I paused and bowed. "I'm honored to meet you Mesdames."

They nodded, observing me with a mixture of amusement and compassion, while Saul crossed the room to shout toward the kitchen. "Sarah! We have a guest! Bring a plate and serve him some food before it gets cold!"

Naomi, still handsome, her lively round face framed by white hair, gestured to a chair next to hers. She wore a black gown with a white lace ruffle around the neck and down the front of the bodice; her hair was gathered into a lacy snood. "Please sit down, mon père! Where are you from? And why are you out on such a brutal night?"

The room, like Jacob and Judith's, was warmed by a fireplace. On the mantle stood a seven-branched candlestick and near it lay a vellum-bound book with a Star of David on the spine. However, over the mantle hung a handsome wooden crucifix.

"I'll answer your questions if you'll answer mine, madame. I'm originally from the Rhineland, born in Mannheim. Like all of us non-Spanish Jesuits who served in Sonora Province in the New World, I was kept a prisoner of the king of Spain, in my case for over ten years, on a trumped-up charge of treason. The Royal Council's letter releasing me was written a few days ago, on Christmas Eve. I'm on my way home. I traveled by coach as far as Hendaye, from there on foot. I thank God I've found compassionate people now that I've reached St. Jean de Luz."

"You only raise more questions, mon père. But what are yours?"

"I'd guess from your names that I've stumbled into the homes of Jewish burghers. But I see a crucifix over your mantelpiece. How is that?"

"Quite right. We're a small colony of Spanish and Portuguese Jews expelled after 1492. We didn't go far, just across the border, as you see. There are several more families here in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, and many more to the north in Bayonne. Shortly after our ancestors arrived, they were baptized. In Spanish, they were called conversos or marranos if they were suspected of practicing Judaism secretly. You may have heard the terms. They practiced both religions for something over two hundred years, one openly, the other secretly. But lately we've become tolerated enough to profess our Judaism without fear of persecution. Some of us still go to Mass." She gave a gentle laugh. "After all, Christian morals—when they're observed—come from us Jews."

I nodded. "Yes, including the two greatest commandments: Love God with all your heart, mind, and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself."

Sarah bustled in with a plate, a bowl, and cutlery. From one of the tureens, she quickly filled the bowl with a hearty soup of beef broth, turnips and carrots, and set it before me. I picked up the spoon, my hand shaking.

"Please excuse me… I'm famished."

Saul and Naomi chorused, "Eat, mon père, eat!"

Ruth glanced at the serving girl with annoyance. "Sarah, you should have heated that soup; surely it must be cold by now."

I waved away the comment. "Thank you for the thought, mademoiselle, but it's warm enough to taste delicious!" I thanked God for my hosts and their soup and wolfed it, and Sarah, standing by the sideboard, filled my plate with boiled beef, a ladle of gravy, leeks, and a large chunk of crusty white bread. This, too, disappeared in seconds.

"Wonderful food! I feel my strength returning already." I smiled at my three hosts. "You're observing those two commandments we just spoke of."

Naomi leaned forward, her face eager. "We try. Now, tell us your story. Why on earth were you a prisoner of the Spanish king?"

I repeated what I'd told Jacob and Judith, but mid-story, I yawned.

Naomi called the maid. "Sarah! Light the fire in the spare bedroom and fill a pitcher with warm water. Put some coals in the bed-warmer and warm that bed—it's been months since anyone slept in there and it might be musty as well as ice-cold." She turned to me. "We'll have that room ready in a few minutes, mon père."

* * *

I left the next morning with a bundle of food, wearing a pair of Saul's woolen socks and old boots that actually fit. He'd applied a handful of grease to keep out moisture. The next leg of my journey would be much easier.

I reached Bayonne at sundown, and found the largest church in town. A Mass was in progress, so I sat through it, then followed the priest into the sacristy. A small man, slight, with a narrow face, he would have been handsome but for the close-set, black eyes. I surprised him as he hung up his vestments with rapid, jerky movements.

"Mon père, may I speak to you for a moment?"

He half-turned, sweeping me with those beady eyes. "What do you want? Not confession, I hope!" His tone hesitated between impatience and exasperation. "Who are you, anyhow? A beggar priest? Spanish?"

"No, Father: a priest but not Spanish. I'm on my way north. I need advice—help of some sort—about transportation from here to Bordeaux."

"I can't stop now. I'm on my way to dinner with His Grace, Bishop Ithurri. I'll be assisting him on the trip to Bordeaux for a convocation. We leave tomorrow and… and I'm leaving now."

"Do you mind if I walk with you, at least as far as the Episcopal palace?"

He made an exasperated click of his tongue as he thrust his arms into the sleeves of a warm black coat. "Come along, if you can keep up with me."

I wrapped my blanket around me as we stepped out the back entrance into the twilight. He locked the door, every gesture impatient. "If you're not a poor Spanish country priest, who are you, then? Why Bordeaux?"

"I'm an ex-Jesuit missionary from the New World, detained in Spain for ten years, and now finally released, but without a sou to my name. I'm begging my way across France."

"Then that accounts for your run-down appearance." Crusts of ice crunched with each footstep. "A Jesuit, eh? I thought non-Spanish Jesuits were released long ago. A bunch did come through here years ago, and a sorry-looking lot they were. King Louis didn't want them in France, so I suppose they went on to northern countries. Later, after your Society was suppressed, no one feared you any more."

"Feared us?"

"Yes, there were all sorts of rumors about you. They died down, of course. You're not news any more."

"That's a great blessing. Since I'm begging, do you think I might hitch a ride on one of the coaches heading to Bordeaux?"

"I have no idea. I doubt it, but you can ask; you seem good at that."

We paused before an imposing residence, silhouetted against the moonrise, set back from other buildings behind geometrical plantings surrounding a fountain, its water frozen in mid-flow into fantastic shapes. I gazed while my companion opened a gate in the black iron fence.

"Go around to the servants' entrance and tell them Father Ángeru said you are to be fed and allowed to sleep somewhere warm. Maybe His Grace will let you come with us to Bordeaux."

"A thousand thanks, Father Ángeru. You're most gracious." I succeeded in keeping the irony out of my voice. The trampled, icy path led to a rear door. I knocked several times before a chubby woman flung it open.

"What is it? We're trying to serve dinner for His Grace!"

"Forgive me, but Father Ángeru asks that you give me food and a place to sleep tonight—a warm place, he said. I'm sorry to interrupt."

"Oh, botheration! Well, don't just stand there. Get inside!" She took hold of my blanket and tugged me through the door, closing it firmly behind me. I pulled the blanket off my shoulders and crumpled it to my chest. Like everyone else on this trip, she looked me up and down. "A beggar priest. You'll have to wait till we're done with the serving. You can eat from whatever leftovers we have." She pointed. "Sit by the fireplace and keep out of our way."

"Merci, Madame."

She shook a large spoon in my face. "I'm no ‘Madame'! My name is Lucienne. Go sit!"

I obeyed, curious to know what would be served and how, and from my place by the fire watched three servants ladle steaming bouillon. Three boiled fowl, a chicken, a duck and a guinea were lined up on a platter surrounded by boiled carrots and onions. Another servant carved the birds, severing legs and wings, slicing the breasts. Relays of servants carried away the bouillon on trays. My stomach growled; the food from the Espinosa household had sustained me all day, but exertion and cold had brought a return of hunger.

Platters heaped with oysters, cockles, crabs, and shrimp trailed the soup, and then the came the fowl. The main course, roast beef and pork, followed, accompanied by boiled greens, and finally, individual fancy puddings. Lucienne ignored me until the servants began to stream back with cold leftovers.

"Anything that's still edible is on the side table over there. The rest is slop for the hogs. Here's a plate and cutlery for you, so go and choose what you wish."

"Thank you, Lucienne. Father Ángeru said I was to sleep somewhere warm and go with the bishop and his entourage tomorrow. I'm on my way to Bordeaux, you see." By now, I was speaking more French, as the language slowly returned.

"Then you'd better sleep with the stable hands. They hitch the horses to the coaches, so they'll wake you in plenty of time. Eat, and I'll take you to the coach house."

Bittor, the head groom, scowled when Lucienne presented me, but Father Ángeru's name got me inside the door. A stable hand was home caring for his sick mother, so I was assigned his empty bed. The straw mattress and blankets were none too clean, but I wrapped myself in my own blanket and piled the others on top. The bunkhouse, directly over the stables, was heated by the rising warmth of the horses below, keeping the room above freezing. Physical exhaustion is the best sleeping potion, and my fantasies of Unkel on the Rhine soon blended into profound sleep. No nightmares plagued me that night.

Bittor shook my shoulder. "There's a pitcher of cold water and a basin over there. Wash if you wish. We'll harness the horses."

I was instantly awake. "Is there room on the coachman's bench for me?"

"Two coaches are going, and we have only one spare coachman, so I'd say yes. Can you drive a coach?"

"I drove wagons in New Spain, so I could manage."

"Good. You'll relieve the driver of the second coach, then."

He clattered down the stairs with the others. I shaved as best I could and descended the stairs. I mounted beside the second coachman without his permission. He drove into the courtyard to await the prelates and priests who would travel that day.

Bittor handed up a ragged but heavy quilted jacket. "Put this on. You can't manage the horses with that blanket wrapped around you. Keep the jacket. It's worn out anyway."

"Mille mercis, Bittor!" It was shiny with dirt and the elbows were out, the cuffs frayed, but I felt warmer, especially once I wrapped the blanket around my legs and feet.

* * *

I relieved the coach driver, Imanol, on both days of our trip, but as we approached Bordeaux, he took the reins from me. The city astounded me with the imposing architecture of vast new buildings and the bustle of its trade. I was doubly thankful not to be controlling the team, since I could enjoy the sights without worry. We entered through a medieval gate surmounted by towers and found ourselves in dark, cobbled streets between tall buildings. We circled the magnificent thirteenth-century Cathedral of St. Andrew that raked the sky with soaring spires above intricately carved entrances. A free-standing bell-tower was topped with a statue of the Blessed Virgin holding the baby Jesus, and a couple of smaller structures were joined to the main building by stone foot-bridges suspended high in the air. We halted behind the church, at the entrance to the archiepiscopal palace.

The archiepiscopal party welcomed the bishop and his entourage with due ceremony as they descended from the coaches. After all were safely inside, we drove to the stables, where we parked the coaches, unhitched, fed, watered and stabled the horses. I led the last horse to his stable, then retrieved my blanket from the drivers' seat and stuffed it into my valise. Before leaving, I thanked Imanol and said goodbye to the drivers and footmen, who wished me God speed. By evening, I was well away from the city.

* * *

The soles of Saul's boots were worn through by the time I arrived in Périgueux. The tower clock struck one as I limped toward the domed cathedral of St. Front, hoping to find help among my fellow clergy. So far, I had found more compassion among the poor, who willingly shared what little they had, while the well-to-do, including my brother priests, often begrudged me even a few left-overs.

I was near the center of town, following a narrow cobbled street, when a burly young man, almost running, collided with me and spun me half-way around. He mumbled something I took for apology and hurried past. I'd seen that his canvas trousers were spattered with red, one hand holding a blood-soaked rag wrapped around the other. I could smell the blood. There was no way I could help; he had already disappeared. I continued until the street widened into a plaza, where the church and its courtyard stood on one side, a row of houses on the other. Two carpenters stood outside a large stone house not far from the church, part of it fire-gutted, beside a pile of half-charred timbers. The taller of the two men held a chisel and a maul and stared up the street where the injured worker had passed me. The other, short with a mop of tow-colored hair, crowbar in hand, faced his companion. I was close enough to hear the tall man's words.

"Pierre, we can't possibly finish the job today. Alex cut his hand to the bone. He won't be able to work for a week or more. Monsieur Le Maistre insists that we have the new timbers in place by sundown."

"There's no one to replace him, Jacques. All the carpenters in town are working on other projects today. We'll just have to explain the accident to Monsieur Le Maistre."

"You know how he is. He'll fire us."

I'd done rough carpentry at my missions in New Spain. Perhaps their need would be great enough to accept me, and I could earn enough to pay for new boot soles. My French had been improving along the way—heavily accented, Germanic French with some Spanish words thrown in, but obviously intelligible.

"Excuse me, Monsieur Jacques, but I couldn't help but overhear what you said. I have carpentry experience and could remove burned timbers so you can get on with replacing them."

They turned with a jerk, their eyes wide—one pair hazel, the other gray. Pierre spoke first.

"But… but you're a priest!"

"True, a priest with practical skills. I was a missionary in the New World. I ran three missions there, and today I need my boots resoled."

Jacques spoke first. "Wait here." He took Pierre's sleeve and drew him several paces away. The two discussed my offer, pointing in my direction, gesturing toward the house, and when Pierre shrugged and raised his hands in the air, they beckoned me over.

Jacques issued a second order. "Show us your hands."

I knew they would reject anyone with smooth palms. Fortunately, I'd been gardening at La Caridad Monastery, and my hands were hard and callused. I stretched out my arms, palms upward. "I work with my hands, and I can work for you. You need me."

"We'll give you a try. Here's a crowbar and a maul. See what you can do."

I entered the shell of the house, where two other workers paused to stare in obvious disbelief. One had been prying and hammering at a charred timber; the other waiting with its replacement. I set to work at once on the timber nearest the one they were working on, inserted the crowbar and attempted to separate the timber from the wall. It gave half an inch, but the crowbar embedded itself in the charred wood. I gave the timber a blow with my maul, and it loosened still more. When the timber lay on the floor, I continued to the next one. By that time, the team behind me had finished placing the new beam and was fixing another in the place where my timber had fallen.

I worked hard enough to keep the cold at bay, and had time to contemplate the exotic beauty of the domed cathedral, perhaps inspired by Turkish churches. At sundown, Jacques approached me and counted out seven sous into my soot-blackened hand.

"This should buy you supper and new soles for your boots. You saved us today: without you, we'd surely have been fired."

"I'm happy to have been of service." I picked up the shabby quilted jacket and crossed to the cathedral, circling it until I found an open door. A sacristan was trimming and straightening candles. He turned and stared.

"Monsieur, I need a place to sleep. Is there a warm corner somewhere in the church or the rectory where I could spend the night?"

His gaze was not friendly. "And, I suppose, food for tonight and tomorrow as well?"

"No, I can pay for food. I have a blanket and this jacket, so shelter is all I need."

"If you leave when the first bells ring for early Mass, you can sleep in the vestry. There's no heat, of course."

"But a roof and walls will help. How long is the church open? I must eat supper before I retire for the night."

"I lock the doors at midnight. I'll check to see if you're in the vestry, then lock up. I open again before six in the morning."

I nodded. "God bless you!"

In the labyrinth of streets, a fountain still trickled water amid fantastic floes of ice. I scrubbed my hands until I could see the color of my skin and dried them on my robe where black wouldn't show. Cooking smells drew me to a street with several smoky taverns, disgorging boisterous and belligerent groups of men. I was famished, but unwilling to risk a physical confrontation. L'Aigle volant seemed comparatively clean and quiet. I crossed the sawdust-covered floor and sat on a bench at one of the long tables, my stomach growling loud enough to cause two customers, hunched over food or wine, to raise their heads. The short verses carved into the pine table were—most of them—obscene. The bartender came my way.

"How much for an andouillette, bread and a glass of red wine?"

"Three sous, Monsieur l'abbé."

"And the andouillette will be sautéed and hot?"

"Straight from the pan, Monsieur. And the bread was fresh this morning."

"And the wine?"

"A good Bordeaux vintage, Monsieur l'abbé."

I laid out the coins to reassure him. He nodded and returned to the kitchen, where I could hear the clatter of pans. I waited, my mouth watering. The bread was fresh enough, soft inside with a crunchy crust. The andouillette, hot as promised, was crisp and brown on the outside, succulent within, its juices soaking into the bread with every bite. The hearty red wine was a perfect complement. I could have eaten twice as much, but contented myself with that morsel, making it last.

I found it almost impossible to sleep in the icy vestry that night. My jacket and blanket were inadequate to keep me warm, and the vestments that I could have wrapped myself in had been locked away. When I finally drifted off to sleep, a vivid dream assaulted me.

Unkel lies bleak in grays and blacks under cloudy night skies. Dark figures hurry through the streets. In the intermittent glimmer of sinister moonlight, a knife flashes; the dark shapes scatter. I creep forward, my back against the stone wall, making noise in spite of myself. I lean forward and catch a glimpse of a vague form lying on the ground, shrouded in shadow. I cover my mouth to keep from crying out. I can almost see the victim clearly, now.

My heart gave a powerful leap and I sat bolt upright, gasping for breath. Who was it? Could it be Isabella? Why should I have such dreams when I had never experienced anything unpleasant in the village?

The sacristan unlocked the door at six, and I stepped out into the frigid dawn. I left Périgueux with new boot soles but a raw throat.

Chapter II

Kind Hearts

The two-week journey to Lyon became increasingly arduous. My resoled boots made walking less painful, but the sore throat progressed rapidly to a feverish cold that clogged my head, robbed me of my voice, and became a racking cough. I had little resistance to the icy weather and several times, before I could continue my day's walk, I crept into barns to warm myself near the cows penned there. At last, the road descended from the hills into the region of the Saône and Rhône rivers, where, although close to exhaustion, I admired the beautiful city of Lyon, with its gates in remnants of city walls; beyond them its churches and busy thoroughfares.

I followed the Saône to the Cathedral of Saint-Jean and was appalled by the war damage. The stone statues had been destroyed by cannon fire, the original windows smashed, the decorative stonework disfigured. I'd heard that such things had happened during the Wars of Religion over a century ago and was now seeing the reality. At least, this cathedral was still standing. I drew a parallel between this building and my own situation. The abstract "edifice" of the Society of Jesus, destroyed by order of the pope, was no longer standing. God gives man religion, but see how he distorts it!

Short of breath and near collapse, I entered the church to rest. The massive interior clock, rising from the floor of the nave like a tower, was striking two. In an exhausted trance, I sank onto a bench nearby and observed the clock in action. There was God the Father, blessing me with three gestures; the Blessed Virgin turned toward the Angel Gabriel. Other automats, angels and saints, moved in other symbolic ways, making the whole structure come alive. The size and intricacy of the clock confused and awed me. It displayed every aspect of time: minute, hour, day, week, year, astronomical facts and astrological signs. It made me dizzy. To ferret out all the information on the faces of the dials would take a clear head hours and my head was far from clear. Every inch contained its secrets, three-hundred-year-old secrets.

When the clock was still again, I struggled to my feet, knowing that I must take care of immediate—not eternal—concerns. I must beg for help, even though I expected the usual rough, unwelcoming reception. I found the rectory, knocked on the paneled door and entered. Beyond the antechamber, through another door, I saw a youngish priest hunched over a desk, writing. He had not heard me.

"Bonjour, monsieur le curé," I ventured.

He straightened, startled, laying his quill pen aside. "May I help you?" He rose and beckoned me forward. "Come into the light so I can see you. I'm Father Jean Tallier."

I had removed my dirty, ragged jacket, and only hoped my bedraggled appearance would not ruin my chances. I began to speak, relieved that my voice had recovered enough to be heard. "I'm an ex-Jesuit priest, Ignaz Pfefferkorn, recently released from Spanish detention. I'm walking across France to reach my home in the Rhineland. Unfortunately, I am destitute and have a bad cold… but I'd be happy to do clerical work to earn a meal and a place to sleep."

Father Tallier was thin, of medium height, with a broad, pleasant face and blue eyes. His shoulders were rounded, doubtless from long hours of study and writing at his desk. "An ex-Jesuit, you say? But your order was suppressed five years ago! You should have been home long since. Detention, you say? What for? Come! Sit down, sit down!"

I obeyed him, but was seized by a fit of coughing. When I glanced at my balled and dirty handkerchief, I noticed a few flecks of blood. I cleared my throat. "I was a missionary in the Sonora Desert in New Spain for eleven years. Gold was discovered there, and we Jesuits were suspected of having stolen it. Those of us from Sonora have been imprisoned indefinitely. I'm not sure why I was freed, but the release-order from the Royal Council was dated on Christmas Eve."

"Have you eaten today?"

"No, monsieur le curé. Not since noon yesterday."

"Ah-h-h. Well, it's only 2:00 o'clock, still in good time for a midday meal. Come. I haven't eaten yet, either. You must tell me your story over dinner." He pushed back his chair and rose. "Let's go. Leave your things here by my desk. I'll find you a place to sleep tonight."

"Thank you! You're most kind!" I followed him.

We crossed the nearest bridge and came to a busy street with many restaurants. He chose a small, quiet bouchon, a traditional restaurant called La Grenouille bleue. While he ordered, I gathered enough breath in my lungs to begin my story.

Over the salade lyonnaise, a green salad with bacon and a warm egg yolk, I told him how I'd joined the Jesuits and my joy at becoming a missionary. Between bites of the quenelles de brochet, pike dumplings mixed with semolina and butter, I related some of my adventures as a missionary in three different missions in Sonora. Over the tarte à la praline, a custard tart topped with chopped, toasted nuts in a glaze, I relived my arrest, the death march with my brothers from Sonora and Sinaloa across New Spain and the dreadful sea voyage that followed. While enjoying crusty bread spread with cervelle de canut, soft cheese with herbs, I recounted my years in prison, first in Puerto de Santa María near Cádiz, and the last two in La Caridad. The well-chosen côtes-du-Rhône red wine helped keep my throat clear.

Father Jean had remained silent, eating but attentive during the recital, asking an occasional question. "I'm astounded that you survived, are rational, still able to walk and talk. You must stay with us for a while to recover your strength and health before you go on."

"Only if I can do some clerical work for you. I don't want to be a burden, and I'm anxious to get home. I'm sure you understand. My brother Johannes died while I was still in the New World, and I don't know if my sister Isabella is still alive; I pray so! I long to hear my native language once again."

"Understood. But please let us leave one pleasant memory among that collection of horrors. I'm sure we can find work—in Latin, of course—French might be a problem. But I doubt that your health would allow you to continue your journey right away."

"My memories make a mixed picture, many of them dark, it's true, but I had kind and true friends at the monastery, Nuestra Señora de La Caridad. Especially the scribe, Brother Eugenio, and Abbot Dom Gregorio. And I'm extremely grateful for your generosity!"

Church bells chimed four o'clock, and we returned to the cathedral.

I went to work putting order in the cathedral's archive of correspondence, neglected for decades, letters between the Holy See and the cathedral and other churches in the region. Meanwhile, Father Jean supplied new shoes, two new cassocks, one of his cast-off black coats, underwear and several handkerchiefs that I badly needed. The racking cough—occasionally spotting those handkerchiefs with blood—persisted, as did my lack of energy. Regular meals and rest in a warm guest room in the rectory helped, and I gained a little weight.

Daydreams of Unkel and of my sister Isabella continued as before: mild, colorful summer daydreams of us strolling through the town or along the Rhine, of boating trips, memories of my mother and of attending the beautiful church of St. Pantaleon, where we paid more attention to the artistic treasures than to the homily. But at night, dark dreams of murder and evil in my paradise filled me with horror, and each time I woke before I could identify the victim. There were other times—in Guevavi Mission in Sonora, in La Caridad Monastery in Spain—when similar presentiments had proven to be true. I must get home.

By the second week in February, I felt strong enough to announce my departure.

Jean was doubtful. "Are you sure you're well enough? Your face turns the color of ashes every time you have a coughing fit, and you lose your breath when we walk together."

"I'm better," I assured him. "I must go home to my family—if there's anyone left. Being so close to my goal is tormenting me."

"You're not that close… but if you insist, I know of a silk merchant who trades between here and Dijon. He usually has an extra place."

The merchant agreed to take me along, and Jean saw me off on the last day. I embraced him. "You've been a true friend, Jean. I'll never forget you… or Lyon."

* * *

Monsieur Jules Prud'homme, young and self-assured, wore black silk breeches and white stockings above highly polished shoes with silver buckles. His open jacket revealed a glowing yellow-and-red patterned silken waistcoat. His brown hair curled over his ears and ended in a braid tied with a red silk ribbon. The contrast with my severe black cassock and short cropped hair could not have been greater. He eyed me with a crease between his brows and a lifted nose, then relented and made room for me.

He soon began to show me his wares. The finest silks were Chinese. Their intense colors glowed with inner light: jewel-like royal blues, orange-reds, crimsons, purples, greens both chartreuse and the color of shaded forest trees. The yellows reflected their brilliance on the ceiling of the coach. I fingered one or two: they were smoother than baby's skin, lighter than butterfly wings.

"The farther from Lyon I go, the more I can get for these fabrics," he told me. "This time, I have only enough silk for my customers in Dijon, but even so, I expect to make a handsome profit."

Father Tallier had given me money to pay for meals and lodging as far as Dijon, so I was spared the embarrassment of begging. Jules' company became trying, since he could speak of nothing but profits, but I was filled with gratitude for the ride, which shortened my trip by a week at least.

The roofs of large buildings in Dijon were tiled in glazed patterns of black, red and green against a yellow background, something I'd seen nowhere else. The coach stopped in the center of the city, where medieval half-timbered houses hemmed in narrow streets. I said goodbye to Jules and smiled at the familiar architectural style that told me I was coming nearer my homeland. My next thought was to go to the cathedral, hoping to find another priest as charitable as Father Jean Tallier.

Like my cathedral in Cologne, the church had been built in stages and was trimmed with an amazing host of gargoyles. As I neared the entrance, a dirty and ragged urchin confronted me.

"Father, you look like you could use some luck. Do you want to rub the chouette?"

"Rub the owl? What do you mean, son?"

"I'll show you for a sou."

I fished in my pocket and produced one of my last sous. "Very well, show me what you mean."

His hand closed over the coin faster than the eye could follow, then he took me by the sleeve. La chouette is here on this corner of the cathedral. See?"

"And what do I do now?"

"You must rub her with your left hand and make a wish, mon père. Don't forget, make a wish while you rub her, or it won't come true."

With that, he scampered away. I followed orders, placed my left hand on the life-size stone image of an owl carved about chest high into the corner pillar, squeezed my eyes shut and wished very hard to be home, to find my sister Isabella well, and to embrace her once more.

In three days, doing odd jobs for the priests, I earned enough money to continue my journey. I began on foot, stopping at the least prosperous inns and sometimes sleeping in barns where the animals could keep me warm. My cold worsened. I coughed spatters of blood with nearly every spasm, and the fits came more and more often. Exhaustion and lack of breath forced me to cut my walks short, even as the days lengthened. My right chest, heavy and congested, stabbed me with pain when I coughed with a deep, wheezing, rattling sound. At times I became dizzy as I continued my march toward Strasbourg.

* * *

I must have been a pitiful sight when I entered the city, foot-sore, gasping for breath, shivering, penniless and hungry. Thanks to Father Jean, I was at least respectably dressed. If I'd been well, I would have rejoiced at hearing the native dialect—Allemanisch—reminiscent of Rhenish, my dialect of German spoken along the Rhine. But concerns for my immediate survival pushed all else into the background.

As always, I headed for the cathedral, praying to find help. The rays of the declining sun heightened the rosy color of its sandstone and exaggerated its enormous size. I struggled to reach it before dusk. The church had a single completed tower that raised its spire to heaven, unlike my cathedral of Cologne that had remained without spires for three centuries. The main entrance was surrounded by elaborate carvings in the same pink sandstone that, enhanced by the sunset, seemed almost to breathe with life.

The stained glass windows glowed, their colors still intense after four centuries. I raised my eyes to the rose window at the moment of its highest beauty, the sun's rays setting it ablaze and painting the floor in brilliant patterns of red, green, yellow, and shades of blue. While I stood transfixed by the changing festival of colors, the magnificent organ began to sound, high on the north wall of the nave. I turned my head to see the bank of silver pipes as the bass notes vibrated the very stones under my feet, but so much beauty of sight and sound must have overwhelmed me, weak as I was. Flashes of silver from the pipes, streaks of color from the rose window swirled around me, and the shock as my head struck the stone floor came as a surprise.

Hurrying footsteps approached. "Oh, Monsieur le curé! Are you hurt? You fainted."

I raised myself on one elbow, shaking my head to clear it. "Forgive me! I was contemplating the window… organ music… dizzy… I must have been overcome by beauty."

"Hmph! Overcome by beauty? You look sick to me!" She turned toward the altar. "Paul! Come help!"

A tall young man in dark clothing came toward us. "What is it, Eveline? Oh!..."

They hauled me to my feet. Still dizzy, I leaned on Paul, then doubled over in a coughing fit.

Eveline spoke across my back. "Let's get him home."

They looped my arms across their shoulders and walked me out of the church. Paul thought to bring my valise. I had no distinct impression of my rescuers except that the young man was strong and dark-haired and the woman blonde and buxom, the flesh of her shoulders soft under layers of cloth.

"Home," along a street lined with half-timbered buildings, was a wine-tavern, its sign displaying a rearing golden horse, Le Cheval d'or. Eveline pushed open the door, and warmth, savory cooking aromas, and sparkling cleanliness greeted me. The many clients stopped and stared as I was helped inside.

"A sick friend," Eveline told them. "We're taking him upstairs." She lifted a candle from one of the tables.

I met a number of eyes, hoping my manner would show them I was not a drunken derelict. I did my best to climb the staircase, but needed help. Paul, climbing beside me, half lifted me up the last few steps. Eveline preceded us, carrying the candle, and lit the oil lamp on the mantelpiece of the first room.

"Sit here, mon père. I'll get the guest room ready so you can lie down until you feel better. Paul, build up the fire."

I sank on the sofa, wheezing, while Paul followed orders, lit the kindling and squatted by the fireplace until tiny flames began to lick at the logs. He blew on them, adding wood as a real fire started.

I began to breathe more easily. Next to the sofa were two comfortable chairs and a small table with an open book lying face-down on it—someone was an avid reader. The bookcase against the wall opposite the fireplace proved it: crammed with books, some stuffed horizontally atop the rows. It was the only untidy area in a room that was comfortable and inviting, though still cold.

Paul glanced at the guest room door. The snap of a sheet, then the familiar sound of a feather comforter shaken and fluffed told me that Eveline was making the bed. She soon reappeared, and spoke to me in allemanish.

"Before you lie down, Pater, tell me if you could eat something. How about a chicken soup and Spätzle—dumplings?" She used my German title.

I answered in Rhenish, my voice hoarse and weak. "That would be more than kind! I haven't eaten for a day… maybe more. One of my problems… I'm starving." The words set me coughing, and I smothered the noise in my handkerchief.

"Could you eat more than just soup?"

I cleared my throat. "By morning, perhaps. Right now, I'll just take the soup and Spätzle and then I'll rest. I'm so grateful for your hospitality."

Eveline turned to the young man. "Bring up the soup, Paul. Or, better yet, tell Annelise to bring it. I know she won't spill it on the stairs." Paul clattered down to street level. My hostess sat in the chair beside the sofa.

"My name is Eveline Beck, and the young man is Paul Dohms. Who are you? What is your business in Strasbourg?"

I closed my eyes for a moment. "My name is Ignaz Pfefferkorn, and I'm a Rhinelander, as you probably could tell from my speech, Frau Eveline. Excuse me if I don't tell my story yet… perhaps after I've had the soup and gained a little strength.…" I paused to cough. "I need… I must get home to Unkel. I've dreamed of going home for more than twenty years. My older brother died since I left. I have a sister… I don't know how she is. I'm afraid something bad has happened there… is happening. I've had dreams—"

"Unkel? Where is that, Pater Ignaz?"

"It's not far south of Cologne; very close to Bonn."

"I know Cologne, of course. It would take a river boat two weeks, perhaps more, to get you there."

"That's right. I was hoping to be strong enough to find work and earn my passage home."

"Well, you're not strong enough. There! I hear Annelise coming up the stairs."

She rose and opened the door. A young woman in dirndl and braids, a costume sure to please the customers, appeared, carrying a tray. She set it on the table beside the open book, curtsied to me and turned to Eveline. "Here's the soup and the Spätzle, Madame. I brought some bread and butter, too, and some milk. Paul said monsieur le curé was ill."

"Thank you, Annelise. How many customers are downstairs? Have you been able to keep up?"

"There must be a dozen still, Madame Eveline. Yes, Eléonore and I have served them all, and Paul is helping, too."

"Good. I'll stay here and make our guest comfortable." Eveline gave a nod, and the girl returned downstairs.

I reached for the ladle to serve myself some soup, but Eveline quickly laid out knife, fork and spoon, and dipped steaming soup into a bowl. I suppressed the tremor that had become chronic and began guzzling the soup, blowing on each hot mouthful. The Spätzle were light and flavorful. When I had devoured everything, I leaned back against the sofa cushions with a sigh of satisfaction.

"Do you own this wine bar, Frau Eveline?"

"Just call me Eveline. Yes, when my husband died seven years ago, I kept it going. It may even be more popular now than when he was alive."

"If all the food is as good as the soup and the Spätzle, I can see why."

She smiled, and I noticed dimples in her cheeks. She could be a woman from my home. I judged her to be around forty. Her large blue eyes lingered on my face.

"You've obviously been through some sort of ordeal. You speak like a man of culture and learning, and yet you're dirty and travel-worn. Your face is scarred as if you'd been in a knife fight in the gutter, and yet you retain a certain air of nobility. You're a knot of contradictions. So, tell me about yourself."

I took a deep breath and exhaled in a gust that by some miracle did not bring on a cough. "That's a tall order. This could take all night, but I'll be brief." I told her the bare bones of it. The release order was written on Christmas Eve last year, and I've been traveling toward home ever since the order arrived at the abbey."

"But… it's March now. How did you get here?"

"They took me to the French border by coach and dropped me there. I've walked the rest of the way… most of it."

"How did you eat? Where did you sleep? And in the dead of winter, too! No wonder you're sick!"

"I begged, Frau Eveline."

"Well, you don't have to beg here! You're welcome to stay and recuperate. So, you were a Jesuit. You're dressed in a French diocesan priest's cassock, though. How did that happen?"

"One of the priests in Lyon replaced my rags with a pair of new cassocks. They've been a help on my way. French people are more apt to be charitable if they think you're one of their own."

"Yes, also here in Strasbourg. The city is divided between Catholics and Lutherans. It's good you weren't recognized as a Jesuit. You know how hated your Society is here in Strasbourg by the Lutheran majority, no?"

"I know we led a vigorous campaign against them and the Calvinists—that much I remember from my formation. But beyond that, I don't know much about local battles. I taught classical literature and oratory for a while—Seneca and Cicero and how to adapt them to our purposes—at our university in Koblenz, but all my ambitions were directed toward missionary work, you see."

"So, you left there with high hopes, and then had to confront the real world. Poor Pater Ignaz."

I smiled at the cadence of her dialect, but yawned in spite of myself.

"You're exhausted and sick, Pater. The guest room should be warm by now. There's a ewer of water, a basin, soap and towels on the table if you want to wash off the dust of your travels. I'll show you to your room."

The little bedroom had just enough space for the single bed, a wardrobe, and a table where a candle burned inside a globe. I sat on the bed.

"Thank you, Eveline. This is nicer than any accommodation I've seen for… for… since I left home at seventeen. I've been in more luxurious bedrooms, but none so like home." I patted the down comforter. "A Federbett! I may never wake up!"

She smiled. "Get in bed, Pater, then call and I'll blow out your candle."

"I'll call you, Eveline."

She left, and I stripped off my cassock and shoes, wincing at an oncoming headache. I washed myself, especially my dirty feet, and dried on one of the snowy towels. Then I snuggled under the down comforter, the Federbett.

"I'm ready, Eveline!" I was a child again, summoning my mother to kiss me goodnight. She returned at once, and instead of blowing out the candle, sat on the edge of the bed.

She stroked my face gently, running her fingers across my forehead, down my cheeks and under my chin. Startled, I flinched away.

"Don't worry; I'm not trying to seduce you. This is what my mother used to do when we children were cold and exhausted, sick, lonely or sad. It healed us, and could help you, too."

I believed her, and as she continued, my resistance melted and the headache seemed to recede.

She began to murmur. "Relax. Relax completely. Think of your mother. She's here with you now, using my hands. She tells you to forget your suffering and your hardships and remember her gentle touch. Remember how she loved you, and how safe you felt with her. You feel that now."

Almost in a trance, I pictured my beloved mother, taken from me far too soon. The spreading warmth of the comforter and Eveline's fingertips lulled me. My tense muscles relaxed, and I sank deeper into the mattress, feeling the corners of my mouth lift in a beatific smile. She continued, including the hand and arm that lay on top the comforter. I was nearly asleep when she spoke, her voice a throaty murmur.

"Sleep, now; you're completely safe. I'll wake you in the morning."

Soft lips pressed my brow, and the mattress regained its original level as she rose. I heard a quick ‘whoosh!' of breath as she blew out the candle, and the room went dark.

 

 

Unrest in Eden Copyright © 2011. Florence Byham Weinberg. All rights reserved by the author. Please do not copy without permission.

 

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Author Bio

Born in the high desert country of New Mexico, Florence loved exploring the wilderness on foot and horseback. Those grandiose landscapes formed her sensibility. Hidden pockets of unexpected greenery tucked away near springs in folds of barren mountainsides spoke to her of gentleness and beauty in an otherwise harsh world. She published her first poem in a children's magazine shortly after she learned to read at age four; wrote her first 'novel' at age six, entitled Ywain, King of All Cats. She illustrated the 'book' herself.

Before settling in San Antonio, Texas, she traveled extensively with her military family during World War II. With her husband, the brilliant scholar and teacher Kurt Weinberg, she worked and traveled in Canada, Germany, France, and Spain. After earning her PhD, she taught for twenty-two years at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY, and for ten at Trinity University in San Antonio. She published four scholarly books, many articles and book reviews, doing research in the U.S. and abroad.

When, after retiring in 1999, she was freed from academe to devote herself to writing fiction, she produced ten novels, ranging from fantasy to historical romance and mystery. Seven are in print: one historical romance about the French Renaissance, published in France in French translation, two historical novels, one about the founding of San Antonio, the other about the second expedition up the Rio Grande in 1581, forty years after Coronado. In addition, she has published four historical mysteries, starring the eighteenth-century Jesuit missionary Fr. Ignaz (Ygnacio) Pfefferkorn, two set in the Sonora Desert, one in an ancient monastery in Spain, and the latest one, Unrest in Eden, the fourth volume of the Pfefferkorn mystery series, recounting events in Fr. Ignaz' life after his release from imprisonment in the Spanish monastery.

Her favorite animals are horses—an intense love affair over many years—and cats, her constant companions. She enjoys music, traveling, hiking, biking, gardening, riding and swimming.

TTB titles: Apache Lance, Franciscan Cross
Seven Cities of Mud
Sonora Moonlight
Sonora Wind
The Storks of La Caridad
Unrest in Eden

El jesuita y el brujo
El jesuita y la tormenta
El jesuita y La Caridad

Author web site.

 

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  Author News

Florence Byham Weinberg, author of several award-winning historical mystery novels, is holding an Open House/bithday party/celebration and book sale on Dec. 7th, 1-8 PM in San Antonio Texas. Florence is celebrating a milestone: her 1984 Mercedes-Benz has been driven 500k miles with its original parts intact, her 80th birthday and the release of her metaphysical suspense novel, Anselm: a Metamorphosis.

Apache Lance, Franciscan Cross by Florence Byham Weinberg has been selected as a 2006 WILLA Literary Award finalist in the category of historical fiction. The WILLA Literary Awards are chosen by a distinguished panel of twenty-one professional librarians.

Apache Lance, Franciscan Cross by Florence Byham Weinberg has also been selected as the featured book for the Las Misiones Capital Campaign. A portion of the proceeds from the sales of Apache Lance, Franciscan Cross will be donated to the restoration and preservation of San Antonio's five historical Franciscan missions (established between 1718 and 1731). For more information, or to make a donation, please visit http://www.lasmisiones.com/.

Seven Cities of Mud by Florence Byham Weinberg was an Award-Winning Finalist for the 2008 New Mexico Book Awards in the category of Best Historical Fiction.

Sonora Moonlight was a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Literary Award in Historical Fiction for 2009.

Sonora Wind by Florence Weinberg was a winner in the 2010 New Mexico Book Awards in Historical Fiction and a finalist in the category of Mystery/Suspense and also was a finalist for the Next Generation Indy Book Award for 2010.

Unrest in Eden was a winner of the Pinnacle Book Achievement Award for 2012 in Historical Fiction and a finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Award for 2012.

 

 

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