When Pastor Jones died, the whole settlement just about went crazy. So much had happened in the months before his death, this was like the final blow that nobody ever could have expected. People say they don’t believe in the Devil, but I tell you he’s just as real as you and me. I know what I know, and I know what I saw with my own two eyes.
It was over sixty years ago now, when I lived on the Family Islands in Sea Grape Bay. Back then I used to go to the First Apostolic Church of the Word of the Lord, Limited. Our old pastor, Reverend Rolle, had died of a heart attack. Well, he was over ninety with one foot in the grave and the other had no business anywhere else. After he was buried, they sent away for a new minister. After a couple of months while the elders and deacons tried to run the church, Pastor Jones came down from somewhere up North: Florida or Miami, or someplace like that.
Reverend Jones was one of them good old fire-and-brimstone preachers. The first Sunday he preached, three sisters got full of the Spirit and two more fell out in church! He was about fifty and his head was bald as a brass bed knob. But he was a godly man—a real saint. I never heard anybody speak a bad word about him.
Reverend Jones had a wife who came with him too. She was at least twenty years younger than him and she looked like some kind of Hollywood star or something. Man, that woman was a beauty! But she was active in community work. She led a Bible study, started a sewing circle and all that kind of thing.
It was nearly a year after they arrived that the trouble started.
Reverend and Mrs. Jones was sitting at home one Saturday night when Brother Bill come by to see them. Now Brother Bill was a pretty new member of the flock. He was a big, handsome fella from Long Island with olive skin and slick black hair. One time he was a real Hell-cat, drinking and romancing everything in a skirt. But after he met Pastor Jones and his wife, Bill started going to church real regular. One night he took off speaking in tongues, and before you know it he was saved, baptized and sanctified too. Now he was singing in the choir, studying the scriptures and collecting the offering after the service. He was best friends with Reverend Jones and his misses.
Anyhow, this night he come by and said, “Brother Jones, I hear that poor Sister Berthamae done took a turn for the worst. The sip-sip is that she won’t last till the morning.”
The minister jumped up and said he had better go see Sister Bertha before it was too late. Mind you, Sister Bertha was one of those who is always knocking at Death’s door every week but manages to turn back before they cross his threshold. Still, Reverend Jones was real concerned, so he told Brother Bill to stay and keep company with Sister Jones. Then he ran out faster than a cat with its tail on fire.
Now in those days the preachers didn’t have no fancy cars and big houses like today. Reverend Jones only had one old bicycle, so he hopped on and rode off. Berthamae lived in the next settlement, so it would take him more than an hour on foot.
Well, he was making good time but he hadn’t gone very far when he got by the shore and saw one man coming up out of the bush with a basket full of fish. The man could see the moonlight reflecting off Rev’s bald head, and he sang out loudly,
“Evenin’ Rev! Where you going in such a hurry?”
Brother Jones had already passed him by now, but he stopped quick and turned around. He was real surprised, because the fisherman was Sister Bertha’s son, Zeke.
“What you doing out fishing, Zeke?” Reverend Jones demanded, “Don’t you care that your poor old mother is so sick?”
“Who say so?” Zeke asked, just as surprised as the preacher.
“Brother Bill just told me all about it.”
“Brother Bill must be mix-up,” Zeke answered him. “My ma was doing just fine when I left her this evening. I think somebody was pulling he leg!”
It took quite a while for Zeke to convince him, but finally the older man took his bike and headed back home. He wasn’t gone more than half an hour, so he was kind of bewildered again when he stepped in the front door and didn’t see any sign of either Sister Jones or Brother Bill. Not only was the porch empty, but the sitting room was deserted too.