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.And allows it only under the strictest of circumstances.none of which you’ve described to me.That is, as long as Margaret is speaking the truth.”Hannah steeled herself against what he would say next.She wished it were possible to close out his voice.He continued, his expression mournful.“The church cannot sanction divorce under these circumstances.”Hannah thought her heart might stop.She’d known what to expect, but to actually hear the words from the reverend’s mouth was more dreadful than she’d imagined.She looked at John—the truth penetrating her soul like a stake being driven into her heart.“What are we to do?” John demanded.“I can’t be married to two women at once.”His forehead furrowed, the reverend studied his hands, then looked at John and Hannah, his expression firm.“When you said your vows, John, you were already married, which means those vows are not binding.”4With her hands clasped tightly in her lap, Hannah sat on the wagon seat and tried not to think.John kept his eyes forward, his jaw set.Neither spoke as the wagon rolled homeward, rattling over fissures and cavities in the dry road.Raucous calls of rosellas and cockatoos fractured the stagnant, humid air.Hannah barely noticed the discordant songs.Her mind kept repeating the reverend’s words, Your vows are not binding.not binding.She would lose John.The idea sucked the breath from her.How was it possible?She could see Thomas’s sweet, trusting face as they’d left the station that morning.She’d promised him all would be well.Hannah stared through a haze of unshed tears.When Thomas had come to live with her and John months before, life had already betrayed him.How would he survive yet another injustice? The sting of tears burned and she swallowed past the tightness in her throat.Lord, what will become of him?They turned onto the drive leading to the house.Hannah fidgeted, and John rested a steadying hand over hers.“It will be all right.”“No, it won’t.It can’t be.Nothing will ever be right again.” John stared at her and said nothing.“You speak as if you believe, but your words are empty, John.There’s nothing to be done.”“We’ll find a way.”Hannah wished he’d stop pretending.It only made her feel worse.Her eyes moved to their home.She remembered the morning when their friends and neighbors had shown up with materials and with willing arms and backs to lend.In days the house had risen from the dirt.The ache in her chest became sharper.It had all been for naught.Thomas stepped onto the porch, jumped to the ground, and ran toward them.How could she tell him that, once again, his life was about to be torn asunder? And that the home and family he’d grown to love would exist no more.Blond curls fell onto a furrowed brow.“Mum? Dad?” He gazed up at them, using his hand to shield his eyes from the sun.Jackson loped toward them, his tongue hanging and tail waving.John climbed down, gave Jackson a pat, and then assisted Hannah.She couldn’t look at Thomas.He’d know.John rested a hand on the boy’s head for a moment, then without a word, he walked toward the barn, his steps heavy.Thomas stared after him, then looked at Hannah.“Mum?” She forced herself to look at him.What could she say?“What’s happened? Tell me.” His voice was strident, demanding.Hannah gently squeezed his shoulder.“We don’t know for certain.” She watched John slide open the barn door and disappear inside.Why had he left this to her?“What did Reverend Taylor say? Ye told me things would be all right.”Hannah kept her eyes on the barn.“What did he say?”She glanced at Thomas and then stared at the house, needing to avoid his gaze.“He said.” She could barely believe the reverend’s counsel; how could she repeat it? “He told us that your father and I aren’t.married.that Margaret is his wife.”“No.That can’t be.Ye had a wedding.Yer married.and.and.” He balled his hands into fists, and tears washed into his eyes.“It’s not true.Reverend Taylor’s wrong.Talk to someone else.”Jackson trotted up to Thomas and nuzzled his hand.Silent tears spilled onto the boy’s cheeks, and his chin quivered.Ignoring the dog, he shoved the toe of his boot into the dry earth.Feeling as if her heart would break, Hannah bent and pulled the boy close.If only there were a way to restore his life, his hope—her life and her hope.He buried his face against her shoulder.“What will become of us?”Hannah didn’t have an answer, at least not one she could speak of.“We’ll work out something.The Lord hasn’t forgotten us.” She caressed his hair.It felt hot and damp.Gently placing a finger under his chin, she lifted his face and smiled at him.“Now, will you be a good lad and fetch me some cheese from the springhouse?”Thomas wiped at his tears, leaving dirty smudges on his cheeks.He stood for a long moment staring at her, then with his hands in his pockets, he scuffed his way down the track leading to the river.Hannah watched, anguish permeating her soul.God, this is not justice.He deserves better than this.He’s already lost so much.How can you take another family from him?Fighting for control, she straightened and, with a glance at the barn, walked up the steps and into the house.It needed a good cleaning.Hard work had often set things to rights for Hannah.She counted on it now.She swept the floors and then scrubbed them.But this time, no matter how hard she scoured the wooden boards, there was no relief, no balm to soothe her.She scrubbed harder, determined to lift away every fragment of grime and hurt.Rather than there being a quieting in her spirit, she felt a boiling over of emotions and a rising wave of agony and fear, until it all became a flood of tears she couldn’t stop.They washed from her eyes, ran down her cheeks, and dripped from her chin, mixing with the soapy water on the floor.Sobs like great heaves of agony rose from inside Hannah.Dropping back onto her heels, she let them come.“I’ve lost him.forever [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]