Authors: Wanda E. Brunstetter
Tags: #Christian Books & Bibles, #Literature & Fiction, #Romance, #Amish, #United States, #Religion & Spirituality, #Fiction, #Religious & Inspirational Fiction, #Christian Fiction, #Inspirational, #Juvenile Fiction/General
Other Books by Wanda E. Brunstetter:
Daughters of Lancaster County Series
The Storekeeper’s Daughter
The Quilter’s Daughter
The Bishop’s Daughter
Brides of Lancaster County Series
A Merry Heart
Looking for a Miracle
Plain and Fancy
The Hope Chest
The Simple Life (nonfiction devotional)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Wanda E. Brunstetter enjoys writing about the Amish because they live a peaceful, simple life. Wanda’s interest in the Amish and other Plain communities began when she married her husband, Richard, who grew up in a Mennonite church in Pennsylvania. Wanda has made numerous trips to Lancaster County and has several friends and family members living near that area. She and her husband have also traveled to other parts of the country, meeting various Amish families and getting to know them personally. She hopes her readers will learn to love the wonderful Amish people as much as she does.
Wanda and her husband, Richard, have been married forty-three years. They have two grown children and six grandchildren. In her spare time, Wanda enjoys reading, ventriloquism, gardening, stamping, and having fun with her family.
Wanda has written 25 novels, as well as several stories, articles, poems, puppet scripts, gift books, and a devotional book.
To learn more about Wanda, visit her Web site at www.wandabrunstetter.com and feel free to e-mail her at [email protected].
To my daughter, Lorine, the recipient of my special hope chest.
With special thanks to my helpful editor, Rebecca Germany,
for giving me the opportunity to revise
and expand the four books in this series that
were originally part of the Lancaster Brides collection.
I also thank the following women
who willingly offered their research assistance:
Betty Yoder, Sue Miller, and Ruth Stoltzfus.
As always, I appreciate and thank my husband, Richard,
for his continued help and encouragement.
Most of all, I thank my heavenly Father,
who gives me the inspiration, strength, wisdom, and desire to write.
For thou art my hope, O Lord God:
thou art my trust from my youth.
Rachel Beachy halted under a giant birch tree. She would have recognized that distinctive sound anywhere. Shielding her eyes from the glare of the late afternoon sun, she tipped her head back and gazed at the branches overhead. Sure enough, there it was—a downy woodpecker. Its tiny claws were anchored firmly to the trunk of the tree, while its petite little head bobbed rhythmically back and forth as it pecked away at the old birch tree.
Hoping for a better look, Rachel decided to climb the tree. As she threw her leg over the first branch, she was glad she was alone and that no one could see how ridiculous she must look. She’d never really minded wearing long dresses. After all, that was what Amish girls and women were expected to wear. At times like this, however, Rachel wished she could wear a pair of men’s trousers. It certainly would make climbing trees a mite easier.
Rachel winced as a piece of bark scratched her knee, leaving a stain of blood that quickly seeped through her dress. It was worth the pain if it would allow her to get a better look at that cute little wood-tapper, though.
The woodpecker’s unusual call resonated against the trunk.
The bird returned to the pecking process.
“Such a busy little bird,” Rachel said quietly as it came into view, two branches above where she straddled the good-sized limb. She and her older sister, Anna, had gone to the river to get cooled off that afternoon, and Rachel had been the first one to head for home. Now she wished she had left the water sooner so she could spend more time studying this beautiful creature God had created and knew everything about. She was reminded of Psalm 50:11:
“I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine.”
Rachel lifted one leg in preparation to move up another limb, but a deep male voice drew her attention to the ground. She halted.
“Hey, Anna, slow down once, would you, please?”
Rachel dropped down so her stomach lay flat against the branch. When she lifted her head a bit and peeked through the leaves, she saw her older sister sprinting across the open field. Silas Swartley was following her, his long strides making Rachel think of a jackrabbit running at full speed.
With his hands cupped around his mouth, Silas yelled, “Anna! Wait up!”
Rachel knew she’d be in trouble if Anna caught her spying, so she held as still as possible and prayed that the couple would move quickly on past.
Anna stopped near the foot of the tree, and Silas joined her there. “I—I really need to talk to you, Anna,” he panted.
Rachel’s heart slammed into her chest. Why couldn’t it be her Silas wanted to talk to? If only he could see that she would be better for him than Anna.
If Silas knew how much I care for him, would it make a difference?
Rachel was keenly aware that Silas only had eyes for her big sister, but that didn’t make her love him any less. As far as she could tell, Silas had been in love with Anna ever since they were children, and Rachel had loved Silas nearly that long, as well. He was all she wanted in a man—good-looking, kindhearted, interested in birds—and he enjoyed fishing.
She was sure he had many other attributes that made him appealing, but with Silas standing right below the tree where she lay hidden, she could barely breathe, much less think of all the reasons she loved him so much.
Rachel looked down at her sister, arms folded across her chest, body held rigid as she stood like a statue facing Silas. It was as if Anna couldn’t be bothered with talking to him, which made no sense since she and Silas had been friends a long time. Silas had been coming over to their place to visit ever since Rachel could remember.
Silas reached for Anna’s hand, but she pulled it away. “Just who do you think you are, Silas Swartley?”
“I’m your boyfriend, that’s who. Have been since we were
and you know it.”
“I don’t know any such thing, so don’t try to put words in my mouth.”
Rachel stifled a giggle.
That sister of mine ... she’s sure got herself a temper.
Silas tipped his head to one side. “I don’t get it. One minute you’re sweet as cherry pie, and the next minute you act as if you don’t care for me at all.”
Rachel knew full well that Silas spoke the truth. She’d seen with her own eyes the way her sister led that poor fellow on. Why, just a few weeks ago, Anna had let Silas bring her home from a singing. She had to feel some kind of interest in him if she was willing to accept a ride in his courting buggy.
Rachel held her breath as Silas reached out to touch the ties on Anna’s stiff, white
Anna jerked her head quickly, causing one of the ribbons to tear loose. “Now look what you’ve done.” She pulled on the edge of her covering, but in so doing, the pins holding her hair in a bun must have been knocked loose, for a cascade of tawny yellow curls fell loosely down her back.
Rachel wished she could see the look on Silas’s face. She could only imagine what he must be thinking as he reached up to scratch the back of his head and groaned. “Why, you’re prettier than a field full of fireflies at sunset, Anna.”
Rachel gulped. What she wouldn’t give to hear Silas talk to her that way. Maybe if she kept hoping. Maybe if...
Rachel thought about a verse in Psalm 71 that she had read that morning:
“But I will hope continually, and will yet praise thee more and more.”
She would gladly offer praises to God if she could win Silas’s heart. Truth be told, the verse of scripture she should call her own might best be found in the book of Job, chapter 7:
“My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and are spent without hope.”
Rachel figured she would most likely end up an old maid, while Anna would have a loving husband and a whole house full of children.
“Sometimes I wish I could wear my hair down all the time,” Anna said, pulling Rachel out of her musings. “Or maybe get it cut really short.”
“Why would you want to do that?”
“Because I might look prettier if I ... oh, never mind.”
“Are you questioning the Amish ways? Now, what would your
have to say about that?” Before Anna could answer, Silas added, “You’ve always been a bit of a rebel, haven’t you?”
Anna leaned against the trunk of the tree, and Rachel dug her fingernails into the bark of the branch she was lying on.
What will my sister say to that comment?
“My mom and dad would be upset if they knew I had mentioned cutting my hair short.” Anna sighed. “Many things about the Amish ways are good, but sometimes I wonder if I might not be happier if I were English.”
“You can’t be serious.”
Rat-a-tat-tat! Rat-a-tat-tat! Pik! Pik!
“Say, that sounds like a woodpecker to me.” Silas leaned his head back and looked into the tree where Rachel lay partially hidden.
She froze in place. If Silas should spot her instead of the bird, she’d be caught like a pig trying to get into Mom’s flower garden. Anna would sure as anything think she had climbed the tree just to spy on her and Silas.
“Forget about the dumb old woodpecker,” Anna said in an impatient tone.
Silas continued to peer into the branches. “Hmm ... I know I heard him, but I don’t see that old rascal anywhere.”
“You and your dopey bird-watching. One would think you’d never seen a woodpecker before.” Anna grunted. “Rachel’s fascinated with birds, too. I believe she’d rather watch them eat from one of the feeders in our yard than eat a meal herself.”
Silas looked away from the tree and turned to face Anna again. “Birds are interesting little creatures, but you’re right ... I can do my bird-watching some other time.” He touched her shoulder. “Now what was it you were saying about wanting to be English?”
“I didn’t exactly say I
to be English; just that I sometimes wonder if I might not be happier being English.” Anna pointed to the skirt of her long, blue dress. “Take these clothes, for example. It might be nice to enjoy the freedom of not having to wear a dress all the time.”
Rachel sucked in her breath. Where was this conversation headed? If Anna wasn’t careful, she might say something stupid and maybe get in trouble for shooting off her big mouth. Especially if the bishop or one of their deacons got wind of it. Truth was, Anna had been acting a bit strange of late—disappearing for hours at a time and saying some mighty peculiar things. Her conversation with Silas only confirmed what Rachel suspected. Anna felt some dissatisfaction with the Amish way of life. It wasn’t like Anna climbed trees and saw her dress as a hazard. No, Rachel’s prim and proper sister would never climb a tree.
Rachel knew that a lot more than wearing long dresses bothered Anna about being Amish. Not long ago, Anna had mentioned to Rachel that she wished she hadn’t been so hasty to join the church and was worried that she might have made a mistake. When Rachel questioned her sister about it, Anna had quickly changed the subject. It made no sense, because Anna had never suggested such a thing before or immediately after joining the church. Something had happened between last fall and this summer to get Anna thinking this way.
“What would you suggest women wear, then—trousers?” Silas asked, jerking Rachel’s attention back to the conversation below.