His heart sank right at the beginning.

“As I was preparing my talk for this morning,” the preacher began, “I was moved to speak to you on the subject of prayer. I had for years an immense difficulty with this matter, which I only resolved when I went on a holiday I had arranged in a beautiful place I had long wanted to visit. As I sat upon the mountain top outside the cabin I had taken for the fortnight, I . . .”

Eb thought he might be able to bear it if he concentrated on counting the number of times the preacher said “I”.

He shifted slightly, moving his weight to ease the uncompromising lumbar ache that had settled in, zoning in and out of the torrential flow of words.

“Is it because I am too sinful? No, for God has forgiven me? Is it because I am an ordinary man? No, for we all know that God calls ordinary people, yes even men such as me! Is it because I am basically a man of action? No, because Jacob was a man of action, and so was Abraham and Moses and Isaac and King David and…”

Eb thought perhaps if he leaned forward, his head slightly turned and resting on his hand, he could appear deep in contemplation and catch a glimpse of Florence sitting with Dorcas on the other side of the barn.