The only person who understood her was
Father Patrick. He was thirty and equally
restless. He felt betrayed because he had been
called to order for preaching too much about
Mathere by none other than the Bishop. He
burned with the injustice of it. Father John
must have gone behind his back and
complained about him. Father John was only a
fellow curate and didn’t have any authority
Father Patrick roamed the vast farmland that
seemed deserted, brooding. What right had
common men, the pettiest and most callous
men to try to halt God’s work for dying
people, for brothers and sisters who
desperately needed them.
If Father Patrick had any control over where
he was stationed to as a missionary priest, he
wouldn’t have been taken out of his
homeland. He would have been amongst his
own people, he would have been assisting
Father Joseph the parish priest in Mathere.
It was Father Joseph who wrote and told him
first hand of all the things to be done.
In St Peters there was a monument dedicated
to all the sons of Umuoma village who had
gone to their eternal reward. On the
monument was written the words ‘The Harvest
Is Great But The Laborers Are Few.’ There
it was written on stone but Father John was
so blind with jealousy, he couldn’t see it.
On one of those angry walks, Father Patrick
came across Nena, sitting on a tree trunk and
puzzling over a letter. He calmed himself for a
minute before he spoke, he didn’t want her
to know the depth of his rage and his
resentment at the man-made obstacles that
was put in the way of his battle to save lost
She looked startled when she saw him but
made room on the big tree stump for him to
sit down. This was the same place Mrs
Oluchi had come upon her months ago.
“Isn’t it beautiful here? You can often find
a solution to your problems here, I think.”
He grunted his reply and sat. This was the
first time they were sitting alone outside the
parish residence without a chaperone.
Somehow she seemed to understand the need
for silence. She sat peering intently at the
piece of paper in her hand and curiosity got
the better of him.
“What’s that you’re holding?”
“A letter from my betrothed,” she said with
a wan smile. “Someone I don’t know and
have never met.”
Like everyone else he’d heard of her
intending marriage to a man that did not
belong to these parts. Father John had been
sympathetic towards her when he talked about
it in the parish residence but like everyone
else had resigned himself to Ekene Agu’s
decision to ship off his niece.
A squirrel came and stopped before them,
fearlessly looking from one to the other before
he hopped away.
They laughed despite themselves, breaking the
silence in the tense atmosphere.
“When I was young and I had never seen a
live squirrel,” Father Patrick said. “Only in
picture charts in school, there was a lion on
the same page so I thought they were the
same size. I was scared of ever seeing
“You’re saying that to make me feel good
father,” she teased him smiling coyly.
“Is it working?” he asked a mischievous
glint in his eyes.
Nena burst into a peal of laughter that rang
out like sweet music to his ears. The sun rays
that glinted on her flawless skin left him
breathless as he stared at her admiringly. God
knows, she was truly beautiful and priests
were still human.
They were very much changed when they met
in church the next Sunday. They knew this
just from the briefest meeting in the church
porch after ten o’clock mass. Father Patrick
was rearranging the pamphlets that the Catholic
Truth Society published, which were on the
racks for sale, but were always mixed up
whenever he passed them by.
He saw Nena come out with Mrs Oluchi who
spent a great time chattering away with a
Their gazes locked and held, her hazel eyes
sending shivers down his spine. Father
Patrick tore away his eyes to look at Mrs
Oluchi who was still far away not to hear and
talking with her friend animatedly.
“Same place,” he said, his eyes dark and
“Four o’clock,” Nena said.
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