September-Sunday silence… sunshine peeks thru the trees bathing Hare Hollow Woods with a golden wash… tints of reds and oranges even brighter this early morning in the first kiss of sunshine.
It’s a bit chilly this morning, but refreshingly so. Wrapped snuggly in my long fluffy robe, I nurse the second cuppa with gratitude for so many things… solitude, security and comfort to name a few, but more importantly, sweet anticipation of a quiet hour of worship on this precious day—God’s day—a day of rest and restoration.
Little Tina however is still missing. Miss Winklesnout is positively bereft! She even had to leave the classroom on Friday because she was weeping so hard as she considered Tina’s empty desk. Betina had to be called in to substitute for the day. Her mom, Fivelina is always at-the-ready to babysit the babies—all four of them—whenever Betina needs to help at the school.
The Village folk have been all astir too over the strange disappearance. Mr. Mosley attested that indeed she’d been at Underground Warehouse that morning, and had bartered for the bag of thistledown.
“She did leave in a hurry…” he remarked when one of the investigators questioned him.
“Did you see which direction she went?” they asked.
“Well, no sir. You see there were many customers here that day and well… once folks leave that doorway there, I couldn’t possibly see where they go.”
Tina, meanwhile, has been traveling for a couple of days, trying to find her way back to the Village. She spent a day taking shelter from the stormy weather, but as soon as it cleared the next day, she started out. After she saw the same landmarks the third time, she realized she was merely traveling in a big circle and getting nowhere nearer to Miss Winklesnout’s cottage.
“Oh if only I could be back with Miss Winklesnout…” she lamented. “She was so good to me. I was always warm and well-fed, taken care of in every way…and I was safe there. I didn’t have to worry about the enemy grabbing me in the dark. I had a nice soft bed to sleep in and I was loved; why, oh why did I leave?!”
Tears spilled over again.
“I don’t deserve such kindness," she berated. "She probably won’t want me back again. I’ve hurt her so badly… and oh dear… what will I do now?”
She sat under a large fern clump, her back against a stem, hugging her knees and sobbing into the dirty, now-torn sleeves of her dress. Weary beyond telling, and hungry for something more substantial than berries, she wept uncontrollably. Lonely desperation and deep regret weighed heavy on her wee heart.
After a time, it came to her that perhaps she could leave a trail as she walked, and that way she’d see as she looked back now and then, if she was walking in a straight line, or in circles again. So she gathered some pine cones, pulling their woody pieces from the cone, gathering as many of the little pieces as she could carry in the fold of her pinafore. And she began walking again in the direction she hoped was towards The Village. Even if Miss Winklesnout turned her away, she knew there was hope and protection there, and it was her only hope.
It was the sound of the school-bell tolling for folks to gather on this Sunday morning, faint, but delightedly familiar, that filled her heart with gladness. You see, the school house is used both for educating the children, as well as for the Villagers to gather for Sunday morning worship. Sir Fivel and several other elderly gentlemen take turns ringing the bell on Sundays. Of course Miss Winklesnout rings it on school days.
“The bell!” Tina whispered excitedly. “That's the school bell! I heard the bell! I’m going in the right direction.”
Hope is a wonderful thing. I’m grateful for it too—today and every day.