Shadows (Scruples on the Line) | Evie Yoder Miller

Shadows (Scruples on the Line)

The following is an excerpt from Shadows (Scruples on the Line) by Evie Yoder Miller. It’s a featured Speakeasy selection, and there are still limited review copies available for qualified reviewers.

Esther — Shenandoah Valley, June 1861
Now they’ve come to our church. Two men with their heavy gear. I’ve never heard boots so loud. Clomping. Their gray uniforms, their badges. I first heard a clatter through the women’s door of our log building; I half turned. Some claimed they’d heard horses nickering in the oak grove and knew something was afoot. The visitors sat at the back until the service was almost over. I fidgeted while Samuel finished his message. No ruffling of intent, but he must have wondered at the men’s.

He reminded us about God’s Kingdom—from John somewhere: “if my Kingdom were of this world”—his words trailed off—“then would my servants fight.” He cleared his throat and repeated in a stronger voice: “If . . . then would my servants fight.” Samuel is now our bishop, only thirty-nine, one year younger than I, ordained last month. Any Scripture carries weight when he says it.

Martin Burkholder, our beloved former bishop, passed from this earth in December of last year. His widow still wears the black and lives with her four surviving children in the brick house he built—blessed to dwell there only six short years. He’d started our Weavers school several years ago and kept up with his shoemaking also. But so soon gone—only forty-three. Twenty years younger than his father, Peter, at his demise. We’re much bereft. Our only comfort: Martin was spared more of this world’s sorrow. No one dares criticize him now; those voices stilled that thought him too progressive—preaching in English as well as German.

With the same suddenness as death, those two officers sat in our church, revolvers on their hips. When we prepared to sing our closing hymn, “Blest Be the Tie That Binds,” the men marched right up to the front without being invited. One of them spoke with a loud bark, like we were hard of hearing. “An order from the Confederate States of America to which the state of Virginia adheres. All able-bodied men in this Weavers church between the ages of eighteen”—he consulted his paper—“eighteen and forty-five, must report to the nearest militia office one week hence.”

I don’t know what else—he kept wiping with his thumb at the corner of his greasy-looking mustache—or even if those were his exact words. He sounded official—no meddling. By the end of his speech I reached for my handkerchief in the folds of my dress and used it to dab. The room was stifling with early heat and the flood of sniffles. Mary Grace, my eleven-year-old, put her head on my shoulder and worked an arm inside mine. I pulled her to my bosom.

My thought was for Andrew, my firstborn. He’s eighteen, three months from nineteen. Simon, of course, is included in the call-up. He’s returned to his morose condition. A month ago he had turned inside himself and would not speak, except for the barest of instructions to the boys. I could only guess at the provocation, knowing when the silence began. There was much talk about men being hassled to change their votes. I didn’t know if Simon had been spit upon or reviled in some other manner. Nothing could be gained from plying him with questions. He turned his back in bed.

Finally on a Monday night, he said, “I did a terrible thing.”

My eyes jumped to the shotgun above the mantel. It told no tales.

Praise for Shadows (Scruples on the Line)

“In Shadows, Miller illuminates a little-known perspective on the Civil War while deftly bringing to life highly individualized characters caught in the crucible of war. Here we meet the people with scruples who struggle to follow their faith when God’s words conflict with orders from their government. How can they follow Jesus while marching to war against fellow citizens? Such complex, nuanced insights into our American history are embedded in this riveting story.”
Marilyn Durham, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater

“Through the contrasting points of view of her protagonists, Evie Yoder Miller marvelously calls to life the mounting uncertainties that emerged for peace church people in a nation descending in Civil War. Along with military and political perils, there is family tumult, church conflict, and neighborhood tension. An evocative portrait of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.”
Steven Nolt, co-author of Mennonites, Amish, and the American Civil War

About the Author

Evie Yoder Miller

Evie Yoder Miller is retired from teaching, most recently at UW-Whitewater in Wisconsin. Her new trilogy carries elements of her previous fiction: historical, Eyes at the Window (2003), and literary, Everyday Mercies (2014).


No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.