Six months passed then a year, and then two. It was now June of 1914, and François was fifteen years old. Thor had gotten a good job making furniture, and he and Jeanette-Marie lived in a three bedroom house with their children. Jeanette-Marie had given birth to a baby boy last March, and was now expecting another child- from the look of her; François thought the babe would arrive in autumn. He'd not spoken to his sister since leaving her house, and had not even met his nephew. Little else had changed for François. He now worked for Salvatore Santiago, a fine Italian man who ran a store on the East side of the city. The pay was better, and the hours good. François had worked hard to rid himself of his accent, not because he was ashamed of his homeland, but the other boys his age teased him mercilessly. For the same reason he had changed his name from François Babineaux to Frank Babin, which was much more American sounding. François had one day off each week, and every Sunday. Mr. Santiago was devout Catholic, and refused to open the shop on the Sabbath so he and his employees could attend Mass. François, unlike most of his coworkers, did not go. He had no desire to. Hadn't so much as see a priest since Jeanette-Marie's wedding day, and if he ever did, it would be too soon. It still made François angry when he thought about that day. How could a man who claimed to be God's messenger possibly at best turn a blind eye to, at worst condone, such a travesty to allow a mere child to wed a perfect stranger? François was very angry at that priest- well, at the Church in general. At God too- was not all this His doing? He was mad at Thor to be sure, at Jeanette-Marie, definitely at the men who wrote the newspapers Papa had read which made him decide to come to America, at Papa and Mama themselves, though he supposed they couldn't help what had happened, and completely furious with this United States of America. It was not better here. He was still a poor Frenchman, who did not belong anywhere. He hadn't yet enough money to go home, and was looking at a ship sailing in September for Haiti, a French colony in the Caribbean Sea. François had half a mind to join the crew, but not come back. He hated to leave Jeanette-Marie and the babies because he in no way trusted Thor, but there was not future for him in America.
Monday night, François tramped back to the warehouse he lived in well after dark. He'd gone to a pool hall after work, had a few drinks and gambled a bit. By the time the evening was spent, most of his friends were drunk and he'd lost three dollars. His parents had never liked gambling or drinking, but François indulged in the formed quite regularly, hoping to win enough to sail home. As for the latter, he always knew when to quit and had never gotten drunk. François was looking at the ground instead of where he was going, and bumped into another man in the dark.
"Oh, I am sorry Monsieur," he said quickly, "I was not watching my steps as closely as I ought."
"Quite all right." a voice in the dark said, "Your voice- you are from France?"
François found talking to a perfect strange whom he couldn't see a bit peculiar, but did not say so. "Oui, Monsieur. That is, yes, sir. From Guethary."
"I see. And what is your name, boy?"
"Frank Babin, sir."
"Frank Babin! That is not a Frenchman's name."
"Yes, sir. My mother christened me François Jean-Marke Babineaux, but some of the other fellows enjoyed making fun of it, so I changed." He shrugged even though the other man was unable to see the gesture."
"I see," the stranger said, "What does your mother think of your being out so late and drinking, Frank?"
"My parents are both dead, sir; I lost them on the ship here."
"I am quite sorry to hear that, Frank. Have you any other family?"
"My sister, Jeanette-Marie, lives in the city, but we have not spoken since her husband threw me out."
"Was this because of your drinking that he evicted you?"
"Oh, no sir, it was a long time ago."
"Frank you are not old enough to have seen a long time. You must have been very young indeed."
"Oui. I was twelve, monsieur."
"Twelve!" the man exclaimed, "That is not right, my friend. I am very sorry for you. Now, come along with me to my house, and let us talk where it is more comfortable."
François followed the stranger as though he were the pied piper, not thinking how unusual this was. The man led him to a small cottage, opened the door and the stepped into a small room with a fireplace. The man proceeded to build a fire as it was a damp evening. While his host saw to the menial task, François observed him. He was likely in his middle to late twenties, with mouse brown curly hair, and fair skin. As he stood up, François guessed his height to be somewhere around five feet, ten inches, and noticed that his eyes were the same shade of blue as the ocean in the winter.
"That is better, is it not?" the man said, "Now, I have been unforgivably rude. I have asked a great many questions of you; Frank, but you do not even know my name. I am sorry for my breach. I am Hiram Davidson, and I am very glad to have met you tonight, Frank."
"And I believe the pleasure is mutual, Monsieur."
"Oh, do let's dispense with the formalities. We are friends, are we not? Now, you were telling me about this brother-in-law of yours. He sounds like a real character."
"Thor, he is…" François, hesitated to speak ill of his elder. "I do not know him well. I met him only two weeks before our parting. He did not wish me to be there, this I do know. He told Jeanette-Marie I was old enough to fend for myself."
Hiram shook his head, "That is wrong. He will someday regret being so hasty."
François shrugged, "You know what they say. Everything is better in America." François had grown so accustomed to repeating the adage to himself, that it did not occur to him that another person might find it peculiar.
"I beg your pardon?" his friend said, "What you mean, they say?
"Oh, Hiram, haven't you read the newspapers? Everyone around the world is reading about how much better things are for Americans! My father, he read of how much prosperity there was here, and he had to bring us to this paradise across the ocean. Look at me now!" he ranted, forgetting decorum. "I am an orphan, I cannot see my sister or my nephew, and I live in a warehouse, and work as a clerk in a grocery store. There is a girl I like, but can I court her? No! Even if I had the money, her parents say I am not good enough. Had we stayed in France I would still have my family, we would live in our home, and I would be now an assistant to Pierre DuPont, a master shipbuilder." François finally stopped to take a breath, almost able to feel the rage emanating from him. It had been bound up for a long time, and it felt good to let off some steam.
Hiram didn't seem fazed by François' tirade. "You are very angry about this, eh Frank?"
"Who would not be? Of course I am angry!"
"Your anger, my friend, it is not good. Not at all."
"What do you mean, not good?" François demanded, "I should think it perfectly normal. Let's us switch places for a while, and see how long it is before you're angry."
"Have you ever had a splinter in your finger, Frank?" Hiram asked slowly. "Have you noticed that if you do not pull it out straightaway it will become infected, and the wound will fester, and ooze pus? So it is with anger. If you do not forgive right away, it will become hatred and bitterness festering in your soul, and oozing out into your life. Have not you noticed it happening to you, Frank? Very slowly, this bitterness, seeps out, perhaps effecting how you treat your friends, maybe clouding your judgment at the tavern…"
"Come now, I hardly think we know one another well enough to talk of such, Hiram." François said. He was thoroughly uncomfortable with the conversation because Hiram was right about him.
"You see what I mean, don't you, Frank?" he asked, "You have trusted me tonight to tell me things I suspect you reveal to no one. I am honored. But there is another I think you should tell. Forgiveness is good, my friend. It is very good for you. You should speak with God about this matter, He will-"
"God?" Frank spat the name back in Hiram's face, "I think I do not wish to speak with Him. Do I really want to know the One who occasioned the death of my Father and Mother, leaving me and my sister alone in the world? I do not. Do I want to grow close to He whose messenger, a priest of the Holy Church wed my sister to a man she did not know when she was but fifteen? I should say not!"
"I do not believe God was responsible for your parents' decease. I expect that some illness was to blame." Hiram said, "As to what the priest who married your sister was thinking, I know not. It was assuredly a lapse in judgment. I confess I do not count them the Lord's messengers any more than you- I am not Catholic, but I think you should consider, my friend, this is the same God who brought you and I together tonight- I cannot help but believe to the end that we might talk so, and that I might tell you about the way through which you can meet him. I said you need to forgive those who have wronged you. Yes, you do. But now I want to talk to you about the God who can forgive you. You have blamed Him for wrongs not on His part, Frank. You have broken His laws and thereby grieved His heart. For all of this He is still willing to wash your sins away, my friend. He is good, and ready to forgive you. All that awaits is for you to trust in Him and none other…"
François did not know what the time was when he left Hiram's house that night. Only of one thing was he certain. That through a series of circumstances he did not choose, and could not reverse, and because of what One Man did one day nineteen hundred years before, miles away, one thing was better in America. Because it was here he had met with That Man, through the glorious Gospel, and nothing could ever be the same again.