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My name was Isaac. In my early years, when
I reflected on the meaning of my name, I was
reminded of the Old Testament, of Abraham and of
the challenge of sacrifice, and the great character
traits of humility and faith. As a consequence, I
grew up believing I must always live a good and
noble life. I wanted my children to know I believed
this principle. And I suppose it was this very fact
that led to my death.
In the year of our Lord 1837, I became aware of
a new and remarkable movement, a new religion
brought to Queen Victoria’s England by a small group
of Americans. The Latter-day Saints—Mormons.
Their message was one of power, authority, and the
parting and knowing of the heavens. Their message
made known the might and majesty of a real,
resurrected Christ, the very Son of God preparing a
kingdom on earth in preparation for His millennial
Inspired, I desired to join their church, but was
prevented from doing so when I was killed while
trying to rescue two women and a man from a
burning mill. Thus my desire for baptism was
thwarted. But, joy of joys, I came to understand
that my wish might yet be fulfilled by the living, if
my baptism could be performed by someone still in
Naturally, I considered it best that my family
do this for me. But since I was dead, the work of
guiding them into the truth presented a significant
challenge. And it was made infinitely more so. In the
wake of my passing I was accused of maliciously
starting the very fire that had taken my life. I was
therefore an arsonist, and because others had died,
I came to be known as a murderer.
My good reputation was destroyed. My name
became taboo, unspoken, my family tainted by their
association with a killer. With my memory ignored,
my wish for membership in the Lord’s kingdom was
Yet the truth was that I had become the victim of
another man’s crime, and the true story behind the
fire was kept hidden. A young girl’s identity was
made secret and my wife and children’s shame
carefully preserved, allowed to remain because it
served a valuable purpose.
Imagine again the pitiable shame of being
the murderer’s family. Imagine again my grief at
knowing this burden was borne unjustly, yet unable
to prove my innocence and another man guilty.
The misfortune might have remained forever
this way, except, at last, the grief itself created
a receptive heart in my youngest son: Ephraim
Immanuel Shaw—Manny. Thus it was that we
received our second opportunity.
Manny had been born with a remarkable
gift—a powerful spiritual talent. And even in the
aftermath of all that had happened, his gift lay
only suppressed. His was an innate and childlike
strength: the discerning of angels and ministering
There was, of course, a danger in attempting to
reach him this way.
Manny worked in Ormley Mill where the fire had
happened. He was employed by a man with whom
I had formerly been friendly—a certain Edward
Reeve. Some five years earlier, Manny had ventured
to express his regret at the suffering his father had
caused, and sought permission to apologize in public
to the men of the mill. In addition, he sought to
understand why the fire had happened at all, and
had hoped that Mr. Edward Reeve who was master
of the mill, would take pity and help him to see.
But Mr. Reeve’s wife had been lost in the fire,
and he could never be brought to speak of it. So
he flatly refused Manny’s request, saying it would
be wrong to revisit the past, wrong to speak of the
dead, and wrong to dwell on the sins of the father.
Mr. Reeve said a person must be possessed with an
evil spirit to want to speak of these sins gone with
the dead, and everyone concerned would be grateful
to him for letting it rest in the past. When Manny
protested, insisting he had a right to understand,
Mr. Reeve became angry and took up a whipping
rope and beat him for impudence.
What no one but I could see was that madness
hung over Reeve like the storm clouds that frequented
Manny stumbled away, forcing back tears. His
mam (my wife Lucy) said little, only that Mr. Reeve
had always been kind and that they relied on his
goodwill, and that Manny should learn to act like
my eldest son, the steady and loyal Will.
But Manny knew, as I did, that his brother also
struggled with the shame of their father’s crime. Will
rarely talked at length about anything personal and
often sat with his head bowed, his hands gripped
tight in his pockets as if he was clinging to the last
shreds of his dignity. So Manny humbled himself
and followed his brother’s lead, obediently burying
his need for answers, and tried to do right by his
mam all through the years after.
Unpleasant though it was for him to continue
working there, Ormley Mill was where Manny
and his brother were securely employed—in spite
of their father before them and, no doubt, for the
sake of the unfortunate widow left behind. And
though the subject of wages was rarely discussed,
the higher-than-normal pay my sons received was
generally viewed as a noble act of charity.
And thus it was, until one Monday morning,
exactly sixteen years after my passing—three days
before Manny turned one and twenty.
Arrivals and Departures
Monday, 19 September 1853
Mr. Reeve was there, half hidden by shadow,
behind the mill window—watching, as he always
was. Manny clenched the damp iron railings and
took a long breath, clearing his mind and trying to
let go of his agitation.
He relaxed his grip on the courtyard gates and
stepped away. He wanted so much to feel better.
The desire relieved the weight in his chest just a
little. If Job could be patient, so could Manny.
He set his mind on his work. He could manage
another day’s weaving, and another, and then
another day after that. Eventually it would all
improve—he would prove a faithful hand in the end,
Mr. Reeve would see. Encouraged by this thought,
Manny glanced over at the weavers, nodding his
good morning to the late ones who hurried on
All around him, the smell of fog and river, of
moorland and wrought-iron gates, swept over the
courtyard, swirling around the burnt-brick walls of
the mill. And as he stood quietly there, a thought
caught him by surprise. It came softly but there
was no mistaking its urgency: Take up your cross
In the stillness of the morning, the idea came
into Manny’s mind with so much clarity that for a
moment he thought someone had actually spoken.
He looked around, but from his brother’s blank
expression it clearly had not been him. There was
no one else near them.
Take up your cross and leave? Manny glanced
at the mill and wondered. Leave the mill? He
looked toward the open, inviting moorland. The
impression had been so definite. Was it a warning,
He considered leaving that morning but felt
the danger of changing, and concern at the idea
of jeopardizing his mam’s well-being. He might not
find another employment. If he left the mill like
this he might never be allowed to return. Mr. Reeve
could be harsh, especially to the men he didn’t
The thump of his heart increased, the coming
unknown pounding up in his throat. No. It was
foolish to think of leaving. It was insanity to think
he could find another workplace that paid as well.
The idea was sheer desperation. True, he hated
having to work here, but how could he think of
walking away? His mam and Will depended on the
income they managed together to earn. In spite of
the permanent discomfort of being “Isaac’s sons,”
Reeve paid them well—in fact, Manny knew it
was charity, really. Except, he argued, they were
made to earn every last farthing. But he could not
avoid the reality that this decision would affect
his family for the worse. And yet he could not
explain why he knew there was so much more to
this feeling than just sheer desperation. It was
something he knew he would follow.
Take up your cross and leave. The words again,
more urgent than before.
What would Will think? Manny knew his brother
was impatiently waiting behind him at this very
moment, accustomed to this ritual lagging behind.
Despite the frequent silences between them, they
valued their friendship. Manny knew that, like him,
Will merely wished to prove loyal, different from
his father, and trustworthy. But Manny also knew
his brother believed dreaming achieved nothing. It
was sheer hard work that mattered.
And now Will stood waiting, scuffing his clogs
against the rutted highway. In this small detail there
lay a more recent point of tension: Manny wore not
clogs, but boots, a gift from the beautiful young
woman who had taught him to read, the ward of
an old yeoman farmer who lived on the edge of the
moor, just a short half-mile walk out of the village. A
girl both he and his brother had been smitten with
He heard Will clear his throat and knew what
it meant. They must go in or they’d be late. He
looked at Will’s impatient face, and his heart began
to race at the thought of the impending departure.
In his soul, Manny knew he must go far away from
this place that threatened his sanity.
The mill window was empty. Mr. Reeve had
gone. Manny knew he would have only a minute to
persuade his brother to come with him.
Take up your cross and leave.
He wondered if the pounding in his chest would
tell in his voice. “We’ve to leave, Will. I feel it.” He
gestured at his heart, then saw the shock in his
brother’s face. “We could all of us move away from
Will looked doubtful.
“I swear I’m going to do it,” Manny continued
urgently. “We could all of us make a new start.”
It was not unusual for Manny to dream, even to
be unpredictable, but this strength of resolution,
this level of conviction seemed to have taken
his brother by complete surprise. For a moment
Manny believed he was entertaining the idea. But
the hesitancy lasted too long.
Will shook his head, father-like, and walked
away toward the mill, leaving Manny standing there
alone. A final few weavers jogged away over the
courtyard and disappeared into the loom shed.
The trill of a blackbird rose over the silence.
Manny looked round to make absolutely sure Mr.
Reeve had gone, then took a sharp breath and
Early morning mist ghosted along the Orm,
trailing above the water, rising and twisting.
Wide and sleek and almost silent, the river curled
through the valley, curved almost to the doors
of the stone-terraced cottages sunk tight in the
As soon as he was beyond sight of the mill gates,
Manny ran, his step lighter, his boots crunching
against the highway. The village was quiet now,
and he could hear the faint cries of sheep on
the hillside. He felt suddenly exultant at having
acted decisively, felt the thrill of running away.
Then he reasoned with himself that he wasn’t
so much running away as running to something
else—something better—running away to take
charge of his future. He was improving his station
in life, looking for work of his choosing. Even the
imminent rain was exciting.
Now at the age of almost one and twenty he
wanted to prove himself able, for her sake—the
old farmer’s ward, the young woman they called
Hope. He wanted to give her more than a lifetime
of dour, unchanging Ormley. He felt suddenly
reckless, free as the gulls wheeling high in the sky
above. He knew she aspired to become a teacher,
and he wished at least to be her equal. Through
the years since Mr. Reeve’s whipping, Manny had
slowly, relentlessly been made into something he
wished not to be. But he knew now that he could
and must change himself for Hope.
She had always made him feel he could
be a different man than his father had been.
Manny was grateful and humbled by her faith
in him. And lately, he had been even more so.
In the last few weeks, Hope had discovered she
was adopted. Her guardian had been unwilling
to speak of the circumstances, and Hope, still
struggling with the shock of the discovery, had
not yet pressed him for details. And so neither
had Manny pressed her.
He resolved to try Northwood first. The market
town was only a short journey from the village,
and there were mills and factories all around
the outskirts. It wouldn’t take him long to reach
them if he ran. There were two roads he could
take: the main highway, a simple, rutted road
that followed the river; or a higher, less-used
road—a narrow, untended hill track. He thought
of taking the latter to avoid being seen, and then
decided against it. He’d soon be out of the village
Maybe if he had no luck in Northwood he’d
try Manchester, or Stoke, or even London. In any
event there must be no going back to the Ormley
Mill. Manny unclenched his fists. The breeze felt
cool against his skin, and he brushed the palm of
his hand against the dry-stone wall beside him.
One thing was already certain. He felt happier.
It was at the outskirts of the village that he saw
the man—a stranger, walking carefully down the
bridle path from the moorland and approaching
slowly from the other side of the river. The stranger
stepped nearer, a cloth bag slung across his back,
a brown book in his hand. It was something about
his manner that made Manny stop. The man was
tall, and his eyes burned like the sun. Manny
wanted to move on, yet felt impressed to stay where
he was. The man paused at the bridge. Then he
hitched his bag higher on his shoulder, narrowed
his eyes, and gazed around at the village as if he
were puzzled by it. Their eyes met, and his face
filled Manny with light. Then the man turned and
Manny was so surprised at the intensity of this
vision that for a moment he forgot why he was
leaving the village. He ran, calling for the man
to wait. But the stranger strode faster as if he
regretted being seen.
“Wait!” Manny called again.
The man stopped abruptly and looked back,
seeming anxious not to linger.
“Who are you?” Manny asked quietly. Somehow
he could not escape an overwhelming sense of
“They call me an elder.” The voice was soft
and possessed an unusual lilt, and Manny
realized with a start that the stranger was an
American. “I’m Mormon, a missionary,” the man
explained. He looked unsure about saying more.
Then his face softened. “See here, young feller,
I’m preaching later, down over in Northwood—
aside the Orm, at the railway bridge on the east
of town. My name’s Armitage. Why don’t you
come and listen?”
For a moment Manny didn’t know what to say.
The prompting he’d experienced earlier had urged
him away, and straightaway he’d met this man.
The man had filled him with such an intensity
of light. And then, though the encounter lasted
barely a minute, a feeling of such warmth came
over Manny that he knew he must agree quickly.
“I’ll come,” he said. “I know the place you mean.”
All notions of finding work had left him.
Another rather unexpected idea began to form.
Perhaps sooner rather than later, he and Hope could
emigrate. Yet regardless of this, he knew she must
be informed of the elder’s arrival, and quickly.
They were just outside Northwood, as the elder
had said. Manny knew the place well and watched
the man preparing to address the crowd. Strangers
sometimes came through these parts, but this
American had gained more attention than travelers
usually did. The missionary’s strange aura was
still noticeable, though not quite as bright as it
had been in Ormley. Manny calculated that close
to a hundred people had come to listen—perhaps
a couple of dozen men, a lot more women, and at
least two dozen children. Some people stood on a
footbridge; others straggled along the river’s edge.
A few bystanders, their voices dissenting and
mocking, heckled the man on account of his being
American, but the elder seemed unperturbed and
The iron underside of a railway bridge rattled as
a train leaving Northwood thundered overhead, its
shrill whistle piercing the air. A layer of dust and
dirt shook loose from the girders, and the clack of
freight carriages faded as the train steamed into
The missionary looked up, his face suddenly
serious, as if he was ready to speak. The crowd
was silent. Somewhere a baby cried out, and then
it was hushed.
“Brothers and sisters,” Elder Armitage called
boldly. His voice echoed back from across the
river. “My brothers and sisters, I come to preach
a message of peace, of prophets, of a living Christ,
of a kingdom of God that can save you. I invite
you to be baptized, for it will change you—” He
stopped as though interrupted by a sudden
thought. “But before I speak of this . . . I feel to tell
you that forgiveness springs from understanding.
Understanding does not mean approving, nor
does it mean granting permission for injustice to
continue, but it does allow us to have compassion.
In understanding we find freedom, the strength to
abandon resentment. Forgiveness grants us the
power to possess and then be consumed by our
Savior’s compassion. And His compassion, my
brothers and sisters, is freedom—a freedom from
anger, a freedom from hate, and, in the end, the
only perfect freedom.”
The same thrill of warmth Manny had felt in
Ormley washed over him again. He looked around,
wondering if anyone else felt as he did. He could
see from Hope’s face that she was also moved by
the elder’s words. She stood with her head held
high, dressed as she so often was in a high-necked
gray calico dress, her black hair pulled back into
a neat bun. A few loose strands of hair lay gently
against her cheek, her pale skin contrasting the
blue of her eyes. Manny felt his heart leap and
then guiltily averted his gaze.
She’d seemed just as excited as he’d been by
the elder’s arrival, and Manny had felt an intense
pleasure at inviting her to come with him to the
town. He looked at her once more and noticed a
tinge of pink on her cheeks. The same light he’d
seen in Elder Armitage was beginning to emanate
from Hope as well. A sense of peace filled Manny,
and he reached out to take hold of her hand. He
knew they would both be baptized.
Elder Armitage stood waist-deep in the river,
close to the edge where the water was calmest.
Manny slid down the embankment toward him,
his hands catching against briars. The river was
swollen, and driftwood tumbled past in the froth.
He made a silent pledge. This baptism would
signify a new beginning. He would strive to become
a man of peace. “‘Blessed are the peacemakers,’”
he thought, “‘for they shall be called the children
It was enough. He was ready to commit.
The cold water pushed at Manny’s legs and
then his belly. He grinned and shivered. The crowd
had gathered above him, on the footbridge—some
smiling, others frowning and turning away, shaking
Elder Armitage raised his arm and spoke slowly.
“Ephraim Immanuel Shaw . . .”
All became silent as Manny sank under the
water, his heart pounding. The river sealed above
him, closed over his face. For a moment he lay
in the elder’s grip, immersed in the thundering
water. He felt the current beat at the riverbed,
rushing and humming all about his head and
arms and legs, his old life rushing away. Then
Hope was still smiling as she too emerged from
the river. Her face flushed as she climbed up the
embankment toward Manny, and he felt a surge
of pride at seeing her so happy, so alive. Gentle
clapping broke out behind them, and the crowd
rippled as people moved away.
Manny handed Hope his coat, then helped her
wrap it around her shoulders. It was good being
so close to her. Even though he was shivering, he
felt warm, confident, renewed. He thought of the
marriage plans they had laughed at so many times,
imagined the bite of salty sea air on the deck of a
schooner, the captain performing the wedding.
Now was the time to ask. Gently, Manny took
hold of Hope’s hand. “Will you . . .” But his heart
was racing and he stalled. He couldn’t tell whether
she knew his intent, but she blushed as she looked
up at him, and he saw tears welling in her eyes,
her face alight with anticipation.
He wanted to say something more profound,
something more eloquent. The words he had
prepared seemed awkward, inadequate. “I’d like to
ask your guardian a question.”
He felt a hand on his shoulder. It was the elder.
He was holding a Bible and smiling. “We need to
confirm you now,” he said, “and bestow upon you
a gift—the Holy Ghost.”
Manny looked at Hope and saw in her eyes a
mixture of disappointment and excitement.
“Come, come with me before you catch your
death of cold,” Elder Armitage urged. “Come and
meet Sister Aitkin.” He gestured toward a woman
who stood smiling down on them from the bridge.
“She owns the lodging house where I’ve been
boarding, and while we’re there we can find new
clothes for the both of you.” He held up his Bible.
“We can talk more comfortably there as well.
Besides, I have a doctrine I’m longing to share,
something that will help you in the future.”
Storm clouds rolled in over the moorland,
making the late afternoon seem like evening. Will
swung his fist again, smashing it against Manny’s
mouth. “Where have you been, lad?” he spat.
“You’ve been gone all day.”
Blood trickled down Manny’s chin. He was
grateful Hope was not here with him, that he’d
agreed to her request that she wait in Ormley.
This was not a spectacle he would have wanted
her to witness. He wiped his mouth, trying to stop
the blood dripping onto the shirt Elder Armitage
had lent him. As Will looked disdainfully at
the new clothes, Manny swallowed, his breath
punctuated by his heartbeat, his knuckles red
The brothers stood alone on the rutted highway,
just outside the village. Manny clenched his fists,
his jaw tight. He’d been surprised that Will had
come looking for him, but even more surprised at
his brother’s response.
“We’ve done right,” Manny insisted. The shock
he’d felt at Will’s reaction was turning to anger.
“We’ve found peace. And no one, most of all you, is
going to take it from us.”
His brother laughed and then stared at him
scornfully. “You’ve been tricked, lad. You should
never have left.”
“No, you’re wrong. I won’t go back on this.”
“You’re sick in the head, lad—that’s all there is
They circled each other in silence, stepping
over the ruts and stones in the road. Behind them,
the storm moved over the village. Thunder volleyed
across the moorland, and the cloud split, spewing
rain into the valley.
The rain swept over them, drenching the highway.
Manny held up his hand to shield his eyes. “Maybe
you don’t care who lives or dies here, Will. But I
swear Hope and I do.” He turned, bowing his head
against the rain, and hurried toward the village.
Will rushed up behind him and yanked him
back. They tripped and fell heavily. “You and
Hope?” Will demanded. “You ain’t right. Have you
no pity for your mam, or me?”
Pushing and pulling at each other, they scraped
over stones, slipped in the mud. They had never
fought like this, and Manny felt sick to his stomach.
“What’s happened to you, Will?”
Shaking, he leaned in close, and Manny could
smell his stale breath. “It’s not what’s happened
to me, lad. It’s what’s happened to you,” Will
whispered. “But you can’t run away from who we
Manny tried to wriggle loose, but his brother
had him pinned.
“You’re scared, Will, that’s all. You’re scared of
what I’ve done. But it could be for the best. And
one day, you’ll regret you didn’t come.”
Will looked suddenly weary, resigned, as if
overwhelmed by a weight he would never divulge.
He turned his head away for a moment and then
looked back, determination to hold his family
together etched into his face again. “I swear I’ll hurt
you worse than this if you don’t do as I say. Now
just you think about our mam. Remember her,
will you? And by the way, Mr. Reeve said he’d even
increase your wages if you stay. Don’t forget it.”
Will stood up awkwardly, spat on the ground,
and hobbled away.
Manny watched his brother go and grimaced at
the throbbing in his mouth. The rain fell heavier,
stinging his face. He didn’t move even though
mud seeped slowly into his clothes. Then the rain
ceased as abruptly as it had begun, and the clouds
pushed on toward the moorland.
There was the sound of horse hooves and carriage
wheels splashing through puddles. It could only be
Mr. Reeve; no one else in the village could afford
such transport. Manny took a deep breath as he
tried to put the turmoil out of his mind and prepare
for the inevitable interview. The mill owner’s black
coach drew closer, and the driver pulled back on
the reins. The horses shook their heads, snorting,
pawing at the ground. Mr. Reeve leaned out of the
window, looking amused. But Manny thought the
man also seemed disconcerted.
“Whatever’s the matter?” Mr. Reeve asked. “Do
you need help?”
Manny winced, pushing himself up, and
managed a rueful smile. “No, sir, it’s nothing.”
Mr. Reeve stared at him. It was clear he did not
believe this response, and he looked as if he was
trying to read more into the answer. But he only
declared, “I’ll say no more about it then. And I’ll
not inquire into the matter of your disappearance
this morning. I trust you’ve seen your brother and
that he’s conveyed to you my offer?” It was more of
a statement than a question and was immediately
followed by another. “Do you know if your mother’s
“I expect she will be, sir.”
Mr. Reeve touched his hat and smiled. “Then
I’ll leave you.” He looked toward the driver. “Stop
at The Fold.”
The driver flicked the whip, and the horsesclipped away.
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