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Authors: Rebecca Kertz

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BOOK: Noah's Sweetheart
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She recalled suddenly how he’d looked yesterday after he’d rescued her: tall, thin but strong enough to leap onto the back of a galloping horse and hold on. He had lost his hat during his wild ride when he’d leaned low for the reins. His hair had become tousled and windswept during his efforts to take control of the runaway horse and buggy. She recalled how her heart had hammered and the relief she’d felt when he’d straightened, triumphant.

Watching him now, she felt the back of her neck tingle. What was wrong with her?
Abraham Beiler. Noah Lapp.
She frowned. Was one man any different from another? She was here as a schoolteacher. She would be content with teaching children other than her own.

Startled by her own thoughts, she glanced to see if anyone was watching her. Her gaze encountered her cousin Nancy, who rewarded her with a little smile.

“Rachel?” Noah’s voice brought her attention back to him.

“I can’t thank you enough for coming to my rescue.”

“It was my pleasure.” Noah smiled. Rachel looked well and content…and extremely appealing with flour on her nose and a dusting across the front of her apron. It was good to see that she suffered no lasting effects of her frightening experience the previous day.

“Noah!” Aunt Mae exclaimed as she came in from outside. “I thought I saw you from across the yard.”

He reluctantly drew his attention away from Rachel to grin at her aunt. “
Gut
morning, Aunt Mae. I thought to take Rachel over to see the new
schuulhaus.

“That is a wonderful idea, Noah.” Aunt Mae appeared delighted.

“What do you think, Rachel?” Noah asked. “Would you like to see your new
schuul?

“Noah and his brothers have worked hard to fix it up for you,” Charlotte said.

“That was nice of you, Noah,” Rachel said. “
Ja,
I would like to see the
schuulhaus.

“It is not far,” Nancy said. “It’s just off our property and down the road a little ways between our land and the farm belonging to Noah’s family.”

“Charlotte,” Aunt Mae said, “you can go with them. Nancy can finish these pies on her own.”

“Are you sure you do not want us to stay and finish?” Rachel asked.

Aunt Mae smiled. “We will be fine. Go and see where you’ll be spending a lot of your time soon.”

Rachel grinned. “I will enjoy this.” To Noah, she said, “I will be with you in a minute. Just let me get cleaned up.”

The relief he felt when she agreed to come made Noah realize just how eager he was to show her the
schuul.

Charlotte and Rachel went upstairs to change their aprons and wash their hands and faces of baking dust. Rachel was the first one downstairs and out the door.

When she stepped outside, she noticed the buggy parked in the yard. It was an enclosed family buggy with a gray roof. Seeing it, she sighed with relief. Two mishaps in small open buggies had made her leery of riding in one again. She and Noah were alone, waiting for Charlotte to join them.

She grinned at Noah. “Nice carriage.”

Noah grinned back, pleased by her response. “I thought after that little accident yesterday that you’d prefer riding in this.” Her smile made him feel good inside.

“Danki,”
she said.

Charlotte soon appeared, and she climbed into the front seat next to Noah, while Rachel climbed into the back.

“And I hitched old Janey. She’s twenty-five years old and you couldn’t get her out of a trot if you tried.” Noah clicked his tongue, slapped the reins, and the carriage took off down the dirt lane toward the main road.

Rachel sat behind Noah, aware of his straw-brimmed hat, his sandy-brown hair cut in the bowl-cap style that all the Old Order Amish men wore.

Charlotte turned around to smile at her. “I think you will like the schoolhouse. Samuel Lapp and his sons built a new one, large enough for all of the school-aged children in our church district. The Lapp men are good carpenters. Noah is the best, after his
vadder.

“How many brothers do you have, Noah?” Rachel asked.

“Six,” he said with his eyes still on the road. They had come to the end of the lane and he steered the buggy left onto the paved street. “Jedidiah is the eldest, then I am next.” He turned his head to flash her a quick smile before his gaze returned to the road.

“The Samuel Lapps include Samuel’s seven sons and one daughter,” Charlotte said. “Hannah is only six months old.”

“You will meet them all on Sunday,” Noah said. “It’s visiting Sunday, and some of our friends will meet at our family farm.”

The clip-clop of the horse’s hooves was the only sound in the buggy for a time, allowing Rachel to digest what she had learned. Noah pulled the carriage off the blacktop and onto a dirt drive that ran next to a white building with a front porch.

“The
schuulhaus,
” Charlotte announced.

Charlotte got out on the right side of the vehicle. Noah climbed down and offered his hand to Rachel. “Welcome to your new
schuul.

Conscious of Noah’s relationship with Charlotte, Rachel smiled as she ignored his hand and stepped out of the buggy on her own. She studied the building with excitement. This was her school! Soon, it would be filled with her students!

“It is very nice,” she said sincerely. “The nicest
schuulhaus
I’ve ever seen.”

Noah looked pleased. “Let’s go inside.”

They heard hammering as they approached. “Jedidiah or
Dat
is finishing up,” Noah said.

The door swung in easily, and Rachel and Charlotte followed Noah inside. An older man with hammer in hand was bent low over a floorboard.
“Dat,”
Noah greeted.

“Noah, you have brought our new schoolteacher.”


Ja,
this is Rachel Hostetler,” Noah introduced. “Rachel, my
vadder—
Samuel Lapp.”

Rachel nodded. “It is nice to meet you. You have done a
gut
job with this school. I am happy to see it.”

Samuel’s eyes sparkled in a face that was an older version of his son Noah’s, except for the beard that edged his chin. As in Rachel’s Ohio Amish community, married men wore beards along their chins, but not on their upper lips. “Come in. Come in and look about. There is much for you to see.”

The interior of the one-room schoolhouse was white and smelled of fresh paint and newly varnished wood. Someone had been thoughtful enough to hang posters of the alphabet printed on lines like those on primary writing paper. There were also numbers from one to ten. Beside the schoolroom door, there were built-in glass-fronted cabinets. The community or school board had been kind enough to fill the shelves with books.

Noah and Charlotte talked with Samuel while Rachel wandered about, studying her surroundings.

What captured her heart the most were the rows of student desks—five rows of eight, all newly crafted, stained and varnished and ready for use. Her heart gave a little leap as Rachel saw the teacher’s desk at the front of the class. It was a beautiful piece of furniture, made with care. She approached the desk and ran her fingers over the smooth, varnished surface.

“You like the desk?” Noah asked, suddenly beside her.

Rachel had sensed him instantly. She glanced over at him and nodded. “It is a wonderful desk.” Her gaze flashed briefly to the other side of the room and Charlotte, who was grinning at something Noah’s father had said. Her attention returned to Noah standing next to her. “It is beautiful.”

“I’m glad you like it. I made it.”

“You did?” She was impressed. “You are not only a carpenter but a cabinetmaker as well?”

Noah shrugged, downplaying his enjoyment of creating something wonderful from a few blocks of wood, of running his fingers over the smooth, polished surface as he eyed the finished product. “I like making furniture. My
grossdaddi
makes wonderful furniture. Many come from miles around to buy his chairs and tables.”

“A fine craft he has—as do you.” She awarded him a smile. “I will enjoy the desk.”

Noah felt a rush of pleasure. He didn’t know what it was about Rachel, but he was feeling things he’d never felt before. He became aware of a sudden desire to confide in her, to tell her about his dream of opening his own furniture shop someday. “Rachel—” he began, but stopped at Charlotte’s approach.

“Do you like the new school?” Charlotte asked.


Ja.
It will be a good place to teach the children.” She eyed the number of desks. “Are there that many children who will attend school?”

Charlotte chuckled. “Not yet, but the bishop wanted to make sure that there would be room for more in the future.”

Rachel felt a sigh of relief. “There are forty desks.”


Ja,
but only thirty-one children,” Charlotte said and then laughed when she saw her cousin’s astonished expression.

“It is a good thing we have the room, then,” Rachel agreed.
Thirty-one children!
It was going to be an interesting school year, she thought.

“Rachel,” Noah said. “Let us show you where your house will be.”

She turned to Noah’s father. “It is a wonderful
schuulhaus,
Samuel. I appreciate all that you and your sons have done.”

Samuel graciously accepted Rachel’s thanks. “I will see you on Sunday, Rachel, if not before.”

“Ja,”
she said with a nod. “I will see you on Sunday.”

Then she followed Noah and Charlotte outside and they headed farther down the dirt lane in the opposite direction from where they had parked the buggy.

Chapter Three

T
hey walked in silence; the only sounds were the crunch of their shoes against dirt and gravel, the distant tapping of a hammer coming from inside the school, and the sweet chirping of a robin redbreast.

Rachel, pleased with the schoolhouse, could hardly wait to see where she would live as the teacher. She wasn’t expecting anything fancy. She needed only the basics to make a home. Whatever her family district provided, she’d be grateful for.

They’d not gone far when she’d spied the building. She gasped in wonder. It was a small cottage, slightly bigger than the schoolhouse with white siding, working dark blue window shutters and a matching blue door. She couldn’t help the silly grin that spread to her lips. “This is the teacher’s house?”

“Ja.”
Noah gazed at her with a smile. “Do you like it?”

Rachel nodded, still grinning. “It is lovely.” It was unusual for the school board to build a house for the teacher. Usually the teacher was selected from among the members of the community, but Rachel was from Millersburg, Ohio, far away. Was that why she would have her own house as long as she continued to teach here?
Lord, thank You for Your blessings.

“It will be the right size for you,
ja?
” Charlotte said. Rachel saw that her cousin looked happy for her.

“It is perfect,” Rachel agreed. She was eager to get a closer look. “Is it safe to go inside?”


Ja,
we can go in and look around,” Noah said, “but I don’t want you to be disappointed. The outside is finished, but the inside is not.”

As she stepped into the interior of the house, Rachel felt a sense of home. There were only wooden studs where the walls would be, but she could see the size of each room and the opening of each doorway. Her imagination finished the rest for her.

“I’m sorry it is not done yet,” Noah apologized.

Rachel met his gaze. “I’m not,” she said sincerely. “I will enjoy watching each stage of construction.” And she could help. She wasn’t afraid of hard work.


Dat
thought it would be best to get the
schuulhaus
finished first,” Noah said as he led the way to the back of the house and into a room that, Rachel decided after judging its size, must be the kitchen. “The old
schuulhaus
burned to the ground last summer.” He waited for Charlotte, who had stopped to gaze out a window, to catch up. Once she joined them, he continued on. “We will work on the house next. We have been busy planting, but we will do our best to get it done for you soon.”

“I’m grateful.” Rachel rewarded her cousin with a smile. “As long as Charlotte doesn’t mind sharing, I don’t mind waiting for the house. It is fun to spend time with my Lancaster County family.”

Charlotte grinned back. “And we like having our cousin stay with us.”

Noah gave the two cousins a guided tour and then showed them the yard out back. “You will be able to plant a vegetable garden here. There is plenty of room. I’ll be glad to come over and plow an area for you. And look—” He pointed to two spreading, flowering trees with white blossoms, not far from the back door. “You will have your own apple trees. They are Braeburn.”

“A
gut
all-around apple.” Rachel went to examine them more closely. “I will enjoy having apple trees. I can share fresh, crisp apples with the
kinner.
They can eat them during recess.”

“And you can make apple pies,” Charlotte said. “You make delicious pies.”

“I would like a piece of Rachel’s apple pie,” Noah told Charlotte in a low, teasing undertone.

“I heard that!” Rachel’s voice held a hint of laughter.

“You would keep pie from one of the builders of your new house?” Noah said, feigning sadness.

Rachel sighed…loudly. “All right. You can have a piece of my apple pie.” Noah’s face lit up with eagerness, and Rachel caught her breath at how handsome he looked. Fighting the feeling, she added, “As long as you get my house done before apple season.”

“It will be done in a month,” Noah promised.

“If he says it will be done, it will be done,” Charlotte said when Rachel was skeptical. “The Lapp men are good carpenters.”

“Men of many talents,” Rachel said softly, thinking of Noah, recalling his skill with her rescue and the desk he’d made for the teacher.

“It is getting late,” Noah said. “Aunt Mae will be wondering why I kept you so long.”

BOOK: Noah's Sweetheart
4.3Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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