On Distant Shores – Episode 08

Isabel felt a flutter of fear for her brother, as well as a shaft of sympathy for her sister-in-law. She laid a gloved hand on Margaret’s arm.

“I shall pray for him,” she said, and Margaret flashed her a grateful smile.

“Thank you. I’m sure Mr Judson shall banish my self-pity. He has had a worse time of it than you or me. A widower, with seven children to feed.”

Just then Dr Sharp ascended the pulpit to introduce Adoniram Judson. The crowd hushed. Isabel listened to Dr Sharp with only half an ear, her mind still mulling over Margaret’s news. Henry going all the way to China! It was so very far, and yet Adoniram had gone all the way to Burma, and brought his wife there as well.

She turned back to the pulpit as Judson began to speak, suppressing her expression of shock at his awkward manner of speech and husky whisper. She’d heard that a pulmonary condition kept him from speaking at a normal volume. In fact, it was so difficult to understand him that a third party had to translate, repeating his utterances in a booming voice to the crowd at large.

Despite this difficulty, Isabel was entranced by the words he communicated to his audience. He was an unprepossessing figure, in his mid-fifties and in exceedingly delicate heath,
yet there could be no denying the passion that shone in his eyes.

“Through the mercy of God I am permitted to stand before you this evening, a pensioner of your bounty,” Adoniram’s aide intoned. “I desire to thank you for all your sympathy and aid, and I pray God’s blessing to rest upon you. All that has been done in Burma has been by the churches, through the feeble and unworthy instrumentality of myself and my brethren.”

As he spoke of his trials in Burma, and all that he had accomplished there, Isabel found herself transported to a place far from the stifling confines of Boston society. Imagine travelling so far on a ship, and seeing so many wondrous and even terrible things! Fancy having the freedom to undertake such an essential and eternal work, far more important than her own feeble undertaking at the First School.

For one fierce moment, Isabel envied her brother and Adoniram, and all the men and women who had adventured far beyond Boston and her own experience. They at least saw
and did things she never would. They could make their own choices, be captains of their own souls.

The crowd began to applaud, and with a ripple of discomfort Isabel realised Mr Judson’s address was over, and she’d only heard half of it.

“That was quite stirring,” Margaret said as she gathered her reticule. “The poor man has been beaten down by this life, yet he is still triumphant. May we all have his fortitude!”

“Quite so,” Isabel murmured. Her mind was still spinning, and she felt herself cast into further disarray when a missionary worker at the doors of the church thrust a pamphlet towards her.

She read the large type: Support Missions. Instinctively she reached for her reticule, where she had a few coins, only to check herself at the next line: Give your Time, Talent and Treasure: Become A Missionary.

A strange sensation passed over her, making her heart leap within her chest in a most peculiar way.

“The man really is a saint,” Margaret murmured. “They do call him the Saint of Burma.” She glanced at Isabel, then touched her sleeve. “My dear, are you feeling well? You’ve gone quite pale.”

Isabel’s fingers clenched the pamphlet and she quickly slipped it into her reticule, nodding mechanically at Margaret.

As they moved out into the cool night air, the queer, shivery feeling did not leave Isabel. Reaching into her reticule to touch the hidden pamphlet, she wondered if she had discovered a way to escape her life in Boston after all.

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.