SERIAL NOVEL: The Black Mennonite (Chapter 16) by Daniel Whyte III with Meriqua Whyte

Chapter 16

Kassie, the Strange Black Woman

Jacob smiled as he pulled back on the reins to come to a stop in front of a two-story house painted light blue with dark blue shutters. He dropped off the two chests of drawers and the Noah’s Ark collection. His heart swelled with joy when he saw the look of awe on the little boy’s face as his mother presented him with the Ark and the animals. “Can you paint them for me?” he asked.

“Sure,” Jacob said. “Tell you what: I’ll come by on an evening that is okay with your mamm, and we can paint them together. How does that sound?”

“That sounds great!” the little boy said.

That’s what it’s all about, Jacob thought; Putting a smile on someone’s face.

Jacob had a busy day at the hardware store, but it was a happy day as he had learned to make any task he was involved in challenging and fun. He made it just in time to Mrs. Rothchild’s store as she was about to lock up for the night. He picked up two spools of colorful thread for Eva which he placed on the counter while Mrs. Rothchild helped him select some bright material for his wife.

“I’ll need enough material for my wife. She’s about five feet four inches tall, petite—about the same size as your helper,” Jacob said pointing to the young black woman who was dusting the shelves with a feather duster and straightening the items on the shelves. “And also enough to sew a dress for a one month old baby.”

As Mrs. Rothchild measured the material, Jacob continued in conversation. “My wife, Eva, is the lady from the Mennonite community who sews the quilts and pillowcases and other things for you,” he said.

“I thought you looked familiar,” Mrs. Rothchild said. “How’s Eva doing?”

“She’s doing quite well. I want to surprise her with this material for a new dress.”

“She’s going to love it. It is bright but not overpowering. You can notice the faint seashells in the background as if woven into the fabric. It reminds me of the ocean—calm. This fits her.”

As Mrs. Rothchild cut the material, Jacob added, “Don’t forget to cut enough for a dress for a baby.”

“Oh, I didn’t know you all had a baby,” Englischer Rothchild said, surprised.

“Well, yes and no,” Jacob said as he shared with her how Kezia came to be a part of their family.

The young black woman let out a noticeable gasp.

“Are you alright, Kassie?” Mrs. Rothchild asked.

Kassie nodded her head in the affirmative. She threw a quick glance at Jacob.

“Have you heard anyone inquiring about a ‘missing’ baby or say anything about that strange occurrence?” Jacob asked Mrs. Rothchild as she placed his purchase in a bag.

“No, I haven’t heard anything. But I’ll be sure to let you or your wife know if I do,” Mrs. Rothchild said. “By the way I was wondering if your wife would be interested in coming in three days out of the week starting out to help with some mending. I’ll pay her. She’ll be working with Kassie. There are two other women I could hire, but your wife’s my first choice. She produces quality work, plus I love her spirit and that means a lot to me.”

“I’m sure she would love to, but with the baby I don’t know. I’ll ask her and we’ll get back with you on that,” Jacob said.

“She can bring the baby along as she’ll be working in the back room. Tell her to give me an answer as soon as she can.”

“I will and thank you,” Jacob said as he picked up his purchase and bid the ladies a safe evening.

It was dusk when Jacob pulled into the yard. Eva, who had been anxiously awaiting his return, hurried outside to help him unhitch the horse while he shared with her the events of his day.

“Denke you so much,” Eva said for a second time as she slid her hand over the material. “It’s so pretty and so soft.”

“There’s plenty more where it came from,” Jacob said. “You’re my wife and I want you to have beautiful, colorful things. I’m convinced more and more that there’s nothing wrong with having beautiful things. Gott made this world very beautiful and colorful and I am convinced He wants us to enjoy that beauty and color. Even the priests in the Old Testament wore rich garments. It’s your heart that matters.”

They conversed more as they ate their supper.

“Ahm, Jacob,” Eva said quietly, “my new dress will be going against the church ordnungs. It’s definitely going to cause a stir among the folks and especially with your daed.”

“For something like this, I don’t mind going against the church ordnungs. The Bible says for women to dress modestly. Modest dress can come in any color and any style. Our Mennonite dress code is man-made,” Jacob said. “Now, is there anything wrong with my wanting you, my wife, to wear a pretty dress instead of the drab ones you all wear? It expresses no individuality at all. Frankly, after visiting in town and seeing all those ladies in such colorful attire, I want to see you dressed just as beautifully as they are dressed. You express your uniqueness, instead of looking like a clone.”

Eva laughed.

“Don’t you worry about a thing,” Jacob said. “When I go back to town tomorrow, what do you want me to tell Mrs. Rothchild as far as you working for her?”

“Tell her I’d love to,” Eva said excitedly.

* * * * *

“Kassie, I’m sure you overheard Mr. Stoltzfus and me talking. Have you heard anything about this strange occurrence, a missing baby, or anything along those lines?” Mrs. Rothchild asked.

Shifting her gaze to the floor, Kassie shook her head no.

“Look at me, Kassie. Are you sure about that?”

Kassie drew her lips together tighter as she nodded yes.

“As you can probably tell by the way he was dressed, Mr. Stoltzfus and his wife are Mennonites. She’s the lady who has been hand sewing the quilts and pillowcases. You’ve seen her drop them off before. She has a sweet spirit so I think you’ll love working with her. I’ll have her show you how to do the quilting. You are already gifted in that area, so you’ll catch on fast. Those quilt sets have sold quite well. I have customers asking about them.”

Kassie smiled and pretended to brush away some dust with the feather duster.

“You can call it a day, Kassie. Have a good evening, and I’ll see you here tomorrow morning at 8:30,” Mrs. Rothchild said.

Kassie smiled as she left for home.

She’s a strange one, Mrs. Rothchild thought as she locked up for the night. She hardly ever talks, but she’s a good worker. I wonder what her family life is like.