On Distant Shores – Episode 09

Isabel stood in front of the bow-fronted building that housed the offices of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions and tried to summon the courage to enter. She’d received a note from the Board’s General Secretary, Rufus Anderson, that morning, saying he would be happy for her to call at the offices at four o’clock. It was now three minutes before that hour, and Isabel felt the flutter of nerves in her middle. Drawing a deep breath, she squared her shoulders, her fingers tightening around the handle of her reticule, and marched up the steps to the building.

Her knock was answered after a minute or two by a harried-looking young man with ink-stained fingers and a crooked cravat. Isabel eyed him with some alarm, as well as innate disapproval.

“I have an appointment with Mr Anderson,” she said, her tone turning a bit more imperious than she would have liked because of her nerves.

“Of course, you must be Miss Moore. Won’t you come in?” He stepped aside, and Isabel sailed into an unprepossessing front room with piles of books and pamphlets covering most of the chairs and the rather rickety table. She looked around in dismay, half wanting to back out already, but it was too late.

Rufus Anderson opened the door to his private study and beckoned her in.

“Miss Moore, so happy to welcome you. Please do come in.” He gestured to the clerk. “Jacob, fetch us some tea, would you, please?”

Gingerly Isabel made her way past the stacks of books into a far more comfortable room. Mr Anderson gestured for her to sit down and he returned to the other side of the desk, steepling his fingers under his chin.

“I was very pleased to receive your note,” he said, smiling, his eyes twinkling behind his spectacles. “And indeed pleased to hear of your family’s interest in missions.”

“You were?” Isabel said, startled. She frowned in uneasy confusion. “My family?”

Anderson sat back, clearly comfortable.

“Naturally I assume your interest in missions is your family’s interest, Miss Moore. Perhaps I should tell you of some of our more pressing needs, and then you might relate these to your –”

“I think you might be mistaken.” Isabel felt her cheeks warm. This was not going at all how she’d anticipated. “That is, sir, my family is not even aware of this visit.”

Anderson sat forward, frowning slightly.

“Oh? I’m afraid I’m not clear on why you have visited, Miss Moore.”

Just then Jacob knocked on the door, and Isabel was given a few moments to compose herself as he bustled in with the tea things. Once she’d taken a sip of much-needed tea, she felt she possessed the courage to speak plainly.

“I’m here, Mr Anderson, because I am interested in missions for myself. That is, to become a missionary.”

Anderson did not speak for a moment, and Isabel took another sip of tea, burning her tongue. She realised she had foolishly envisioned this to be easy. She’d imagined Rufus Anderson welcoming her into the fold with delight and gratitude. Clearly she had been reading too many romantic novels.

“I see,” he finally said, and his voice sounded regretful, and perhaps even a shade cooler. “I’m afraid I did misunderstand your intent, Miss Moore. I assumed you had requested an appointment to discuss a donation.”

“Oh.” Mortified, Isabel looked down. “I see.”

“It is my own mistake.” He smiled ruefully. “I made a wishful presumption. However,” he continued, his expression softening into regret, “I’m afraid, Miss Moore, that we do not accept unmarried women into the missions field.”

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”.