Lost? Welcome to the club. Oh… you mean lost in this manuscript? Well, you can find the most recent version here.

Four o’clock and the minister has not yet arrived. Bad weather in the pass, the oldtimers say.

Five o’clock, and he doesn’t appear.

The men are milling around the house now, all of them. Sniffing at the air like a pack of wolves that’s scented game.

“Give the good man another hour,” Mrs. Nowak says. She’s already informed me that he’ll be eating first thing, as soon as he arrives. Fine by me. She can delay the ceremony for the space of a hundred dinners if it pleases her.

The men protest, by Mrs. Nowak silences them with a glare. “You won’t starve,” she says.

They won’t starve, but they have nothing to do while they wait but order me here and there, while I all the time listen for the knock. I’m listening so hard I think my ears might stretch. The minister. The ceremony only an hour or two away, now. Mrs. Marcus Baeker. The name sounds impossible.

At seven o’clock, we feed the men — only after laying aside a plentiful plate for God’s servant, as Mrs. Nowak calls the minister. The man have no sympathy for his absence. If I had thought they fell upon regular meals like wild animals… well, now it seems best to stand as far from them as possible, in case they devour the meat and find themselves still hungry.

At eight o’clock, when the supper’s finished and the edges of God’s man’s plate have gone dry with crusted gravy, and the snakes in my belly have almost, finally, calmed with the thought that the minister is surely not coming… there’s a knock at the door.

I drop the plate I’m washing and watch it fall through the air, as slowly as a leaf might fall from a branch. I don’t move.

Mrs. Nowak raises an eyebrow at me. “You think I’m running a china factory?” she says, but not unkindly. “Go. Go and answer the door and meet your minister. I’ll clean up.”

I hesitate, my eyes darting to the broom in the corner. I’d rather be the one to stay.

“Go,” she orders.

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