I have had a scene on my mind from my new book. Sometimes, that’s the way things come to you as a writer. You have an idea that sparks into something larger.
Here is the scene, where the heroine, Mrs. Anna Barton, comes upon her neighbor, Mr. Caleb Strong (I changed this. The name I had for him sounded too much like her name) in prayer.
Anna passed by the window to Caleb’s shop, and noted no one was there. He must’ve stepped away for a moment. She wanted to ask him to teach her son Joshua to shoot her husband’s flintlock. He had shown no interest in showing the boy how, and since she and Joshua were alone, she felt they needed to protect themselves.
She passed by another window, the back room where he kept his supplies and the window was ajar. She saw that Caleb was kneeling on the floor by a bench, and then she heard him intoning a prayer. She felt like she was intruding, but couldn’t help being drawn by his low, strong voice pouring himself out to God. Then she realized, with a flush, what he was praying for.
“Father”, he pled, “help me to know your will. Your word says that it is not good for man to dwell alone, and Lord, I have been alone these many years. I know I am not as pleasing to the eye as many others, that young ladies are not drawn to me. Lord, send me a wife. Send me a God-fearing woman to be my companion. Lord, if you would…” It was not overemotional, nor was it weak, but the heartfelt desire of a lonely man. Anna could not help be moved, remembering the many lonely nights she had spent since Jonah died.
Her feet seemed fastened to the place where she stood as he continued, his prayer turning to groaning as he laid his head on the bench. The sound resonated within her own soul, as his prayer turned to fervent words, of beautiful cadence but unknown to her. She felt the power of the Spirit as he prayed, and tears began to stream down her face. She leaned against the building and prayed also, not knowing really what she was praying for, except that she felt it was in unison with him.
Then she realized he had stopped, and the Spirit subsided. She brought a corner of her apron to her face to wipe away the tears. She took a deep breath to calm herself before entering the shop.
“Mr. Strong, are you here?” she called out and he emerged from the back room, his face slightly flushed with the emotion of his prayers. He didn’t say anything at first, but she could tell she had surprised him.
“Oh, Mrs. Barton. Is there something I can help you with, ma’am?”
“Mr. Strong, I did not mean to disturb you, sir, but I wondered if I could beg a favor of you?” She offered him a friendly smile, feeling a sudden sympathy for the man.
He felt more at ease, and returned her smile, which brought a softness to the plainness of his features. She thought momentarily how beautiful his smile was, and sensed despite his occasional gravity that he was at heart a kind man.
“What would that be, missus?” He wiped his hands and gave her his attention.
“Mr. Strong, it’s a matter of protection. As you know, Joshua and I have been alone since Jonah’s death.”
“Ma’am? Is there something I can help you with in that area?” He lifted a brow, and she realized he may have mistaken her meaning.
“Mr. Strong”, she went on, suddenly flushed, realizing he was staring intently at her. He realized his lack of manners, and broke his gaze. “Sir, I merely meant that one of us should learn to use a flintlock. My husband never felt the need to teach us how. I wondered whether you would teach my son? He is twelve now, and a quick learner.”
He looked at her again, and for a moment, his deep, brown eyes met hers. “I would be most happy to help you, ma’am. There are many dangers for a woman and child living alone, and whatever I can do to assist you. Mrs. Barton, please don’t hesitate to call on me…for anything…should you need assistance.”
“Thank you, Mr. Strong. You are most kind”, she responded, breaking his gaze. He was a pleasant man, even if he wasn’t attractive, and she suddenly felt at ease with him.
“My pleasure, ma’am”, he said, and gave her a courtly bow.
She turned and went out, headed down the road toward her home. She was suddenly finding that she liked Mr. Strong. While they had known each other for years, she had always found him aloof and wondered whether it was just that he was not socially skilled. Though a successful tradesman, he didn’t mingle with many families, but kept to himself except for church. She knew there were a couple of times he had nearly married, but she did not know why no marriage had occurred.
She sensed that women found him unattractive; his face was kind, but not at all fine-featured. He had the straight, angular features that more resembled a schoolmaster, and though his deep brown eyes were intelligent, his serious, quiet nature didn’t lend itself to the conversation that would hold a lady’s interest.