Amsterdam, June 1533
See that none makes a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit…Col 2:8
“There was something different about Jan Matthys,” Anna said, as they walked home in the velvet mantle of midnight. “He seems a bit…wild? Or like he is straining to hold back violence. And those eyes! They were like black fire.”
“He is just worked up because of the imminent coming of the Lord. Melchior Hoffman claims to be the new prophet, Elijah, from the Old Testament; and Jan Matthys believes himself to be Enoch. We need to listen, and help them to call the whole world to repentance, so that when the Lord returns we are ready to meet Him.”
Adriaen seemed a bit distant, and Anna swallowed her panic. She prayed he was not being misled by this fanatical man. Anna had met many God-loving, pious people who were ready to sacrifice their life rather than fight, or kill anyone, but Matthys seemed prepared to push his agenda no matter what the cost.
“What does Jacob van Campen think of this idea?” Anna plucked at Adriaen’s sleeve, trying to break past her husband’s preoccupation.
“Hmmm? Oh, Jacob. Tomorrow, some of the leaders are going to meet at his house to discuss what position we are going to take, and how we may best prepare our congregations for the coming of the Lord.”
“Can I come?”
“No, this is a meeting for the leaders only. No women will be present.”
Only by a hair did Anna stop herself from stamping her foot. Women were always left out of the most important decisions, and had to abide by whatever the men thought best. All because Eve, in the garden of Eden, broke off an apple and gave it to Adam, proving herself incapable of resisting evil.
The next day, she tried to hide her irritation when Adriaen left. What was she going to do while he was gone? She hadn’t met anyone yet except Jacob’s wife, so she decided she might as well pay her a visit. Smoldering inside and smiling outside, she entered the van Campen’s house.
“Here you are!” Aeff greeted her. “I was just ready to come and get you, and take you on a round of visits to the sick. This is a good time for you to meet some of our congregation.” She packed a woven straw basket with herbs, and liquids in dark bottles, along with some food. Cornelia should be here, Anna thought. She would have lots of healing to do here, with thousands of members.
As the two women passed the weaver’s shop, Anna happened to glance up to a window on the top floor of the building. Some movement had caught her eye; only the fragmented glimpse of a child with blonde hair, then a heavy curtain quickly pulled in place.
“Aeff, who lives here?” Anna’s heart beat faster. Was she going insane, expecting to see Trijntgen at every turn? If she did exist anywhere, it would be as a ghost. But still, it was odd that she couldn’t shake the feeling of the child’s presence nearby. She had better not tell anyone, or she’d be accused of being a witch herself.
“Just an older childless couple, who are Catholics. Why do you ask?”
“I fancied I saw a child at the upper window just now.”
“I’ve seen Maria with a fair-haired girl at the market. I think she adopted her niece a year ago or so. The little girl’s parents are dead, I believe.” Aeff shifted her basket and kept walking.
Anna wanted to stop right there and investigate the child who lived with the weavers, but she feared it was nothing but a foolish, ungrounded notion. The woman’s story about a niece might be true, just as well as not, but Anna would dearly love to see the child up close.
They reached the end of the cobbled street and Aeff turned into a muddy lane, where the rundown houses sagged in despair. Barefoot, raggedy children quarreled in the yards, while starving dogs wandered about aimlessly with noses to the ground. Through one of the leaning doorways, half covered in tangled vines, Aeff entered, and Anna followed warily.
“Here comes our angel of mercy!” a scrawny, dark-haired woman cried from a seat near the window. “Come in, come in, welcome to my humble abode.” Her dress was too faded and patched to have any particular color, and dirty bare feet peeked from beneath the hem. She stooped over a piece of rich, gold cloth in her lap, working on some fine stitching.
“How are you feeling today?” Aeff asked. “Is your back any better?”
“Oh, it’s well enough if I keep still. I just don’t see how I can care for the children, they’re just looking after themselves for now.”
“Where is Balthasar?”
Balthasar? Where have I heard that name before?
“He’s gone to look for some errands to do, trying to earn a few farthings to keep bread on the table. He’s a good boy, and does what he can.”
“Just like his poor, dead father did, then. I brought you a nice loaf of bread and some apples too, so you need not worry about feeding your children today.” She rummaged in the basket and laid her offerings on the table. “And I brought you this concoction to rub on your poor back.”
When Anna and Aeff turned to leave a short time later, a gangly young boy, possibly twelve years of age, came whistling up the walk. By the looks of it, he had grown out of his carefully-mended gray tunic and hose faster than they could be replaced. To Anna, he seemed vaguely familiar. The whistle stopped in mid-note as the boy stared at her, his eyes wide.
“Say, Anna! That is your name, isn’t it? You used to work for Simon den Kramer, and you cared for Adriaen’s children after Maeyken died, isn’t that so?” He lifted his flat cap off his dark head, smoothed his hair, then settled it down again securely.
“Yes,” Anna said. “But…how do you know?” Where had she seen this boy’s face before?
“Don’t you remember when I found Janneken for you? And you gave me a nut cake by the ice just before Christ’s Mass day?”
“You!” Anna exclaimed. “Now I remember. I didn’t think I would ever lay eyes on you again.”
The mother by the window looked up in surprise. “So you were the one who was the answer to our prayers at Christmas last. I told the children that God never fails to care for His own, though we didn’t know where our next meal would come from. Then Gerritt came home with this most wonderful nut cake, and I must say, I’ve never tasted anything quite so delicious.”
Anna blushed. “I’m glad you enjoyed it.”
“Did you ever meet up with Adriaen?” Gerritt asked, “That mean little servant who spoke to you on the ice that day is a spy for the Council of Holland; and besides spying, he makes people as miserable as possible by spreading lies. Did he tell you Adriaen is dead or in a deep, terrible dungeon?”
“He told me he was in a dungeon and would be executed. Thankfully, it wasn’t true. But Gerritt, you won’t believe this. I have been married to Adriaen for an entire year now!” She smiled at his astonishment. “And now we’re your neighbors.”
There was a general rejoicing all around and promises given to visit each other often. Anna and Aeff spent the rest of the day ministering to more of the poor and the sick, and by evening, Anna thought the soles of her feet must be half worn through. Wearily she climbed the long stairs to the apartment, collapsed onto the hard, little bed, falling asleep on top of the covers.
She awoke several hours later, to the tantalizing smell of hot meat pies, which Adriaen had purchased at the market.
“A special treat for my tired wife,” he smiled, as he offered her one.
“I certainly am tired, and this smells wonderful.”
They sat side by side on the bed and devoured the pies to the last crumb, licking their fingers clean.
“So, am I allowed to know what you men talked about today, or will it be too much for my feeble brain?”
Adriaen chuckled. “I wouldn’t call you feeble-minded, wife. You had enough sense to marry me.”
Anna swatted him with a handful of apron. “I almost married Jan, you know.”
“I’m glad you came to your senses in time.”
“So am I. Now, how did the meeting go?”
Adriaen sobered. “Jan Matthys is sending out twelve apostles, whom he selected, throughout Christendom to spread the news of the Lord’s return. Instead of in Strasbourg, as Melchior Hoffman first prophesied, the New Jerusalem will be in Munster.”
Anna blanched. “You are not one of these apostles, surely?”
“No, I’m not going. But Jacob van Campen is leaving next week, as soon as he takes care of some business matters, and I will lead the congregation here in Amsterdam while he’s gone.” Adriaen was bent forward, with his hands clasped between his knees, and his head slumped.
“When is he predicting the Lord’s return?” Anna asked.
“As soon as the 144,000 chosen ones have gathered in the New Jerusalem. We are going to Munster to await his coming for as long as it takes, but probably in 1534.”
“We? Did you say we? I don’t know if this is a good idea.”
“Anna.” He turned to face her with a stern look in his dark eyes, which she had never seen before. “Isn’t it time you surrendered your will to the Lord, and let Him rule your life? The Scriptures say a woman is to be obedient to her husband in all things, without complaint. I want you to be still and accept my authority in this.”
Anna stared at him, as tears welled in her eyes. She hardly recognized her husband in this mood. Did it have anything to do with the meeting with Jan Matthys? The man was unsettling, but perhaps that, too, was just a foolish woman’s opinion.
“What would you have me do?”
“I want you to be ready at all times for when we are summoned to Munster, and we will join the chosen ones there. This could be in a few weeks, months or even years. We will wait for the Lord’s instructions through the prophets Elijah and Enoch.”
This news sounded unlike anything Anna had heard from the Anabaptists. She desired to be a true believer and have a part in the Kingdom of Heaven when she died, but this idea of going to Munster seemed fantastical. Why did they need to go there to meet the Lord?
“Are you sure these men are prophets? Doesn’t the Testament say to beware of false prophets?” They had barely settled down in Amsterdam, and now Adriaen was speaking of moving again. She had a hard time keeping more of her woman’s opinions to herself. Even when she did speak up, no man would listen to her, including her own dear husband.
“I don’t want to go.”
“Anna! That is like saying you don’t want to go to Heaven!”
“Jan Matthys has really got you hooked, hasn’t he?” she retorted. “Isn’t he just a vain, self-proclaimed baker-turned-prophet?”
“Can you prove that he is not a prophet? Jesus had humble beginnings too.”
“Jan Matthys doesn’t look like a prophet. Nor does he act humble and loving, like Jesus did.”
“I thought his words made perfect sense.”
How could it be that she and Adriaen were arguing about this? Anna had always looked up to Adriaen when it came to matters of faith, and trusted him to show her the way of the Anabaptists. But this was carrying things a little too far. Call it women’s intuition, or women’s weakness, but she had no intention of following Jan Matthys to Muster.