Gideon pulled the team to a halt, leaning on the brake handle. "We're trying to find the Weaver's Creek community—"
"You've found it!" The red haired woman broke into his question as she halted and crossed her arms. He had spoken Englisch, unsure if he was in the Amish community yet, but she answered in Deitsch, his own language. "I'm Ruby Weaver, and my father's farm is across the stone bridge there."
A smile crept over her face as she looked back at the children and then at Gideon again. He blinked to keep himself from staring at her. So forward! Perhaps they shouldn't stop at Weaver's Creek but go farther into Holmes County instead. Perhaps the Good Lord might lead him to a more conservative community where the women acted more like women than men.
Then he glanced at Lovinia, asleep with Ezra and Daniel napping on either side of her cot, her raspy breath audible in the afternoon quiet. She couldn't travel any farther. They had to stop here, at least until Lovinia was better.
"Is there a place we could stay?" Gideon looked back at the young woman. "My wife is very ill."
"Ja, for sure. If you drive on to the house, we can ask my father where he thinks would be best."
"Daed, can she ride with us?" Roseanna didn't stop staring at the stranger. "She doesn't have to walk if we're going the same way, does she?"
"Ach, ne." The woman's laugh bubbled, a sound Gideon hadn't heard an adult utter in more months than he could count. The girls grinned. "I'll run on ahead and tell Mamm you're coming. She'll want to make sure you have a good supper."
Ruby Weaver ran toward the stone bridge as Gideon stared after her. When she had said she would run on ahead, he thought she had been using a figure of speech. But ne, she ran as if she were Roseanna's age rather than a grown woman. Roseanna and Sophia stood in the wagon bed, their heads on either side of him.
"I like her laugh," Sophia said.
"What do you think, Roseanna?" Gideon waited for his oldest daughter's answer.
Roseanna glanced down at Lovinia, then back at him. "I think she could make Mamm feel better just by smiling at her."
Gideon caught Roseanna's narrow chin in his hand and stroked her cheek with his thumb, thinking of the way the red haired woman's presence had brightened the afternoon, even with her forward ways. "I think you're right, daughter. Shall we go meet the rest of the Weavers?"
Both girls nodded as Gideon started the horses down the gentle slope. The road followed the creek at the bottom of the valley, then went to the right while Gideon turned the horses into the farm lane on the left and across the stone bridge.
Ruby had disappeared into the large white farmhouse ahead of them, and as Gideon pulled the team to a halt by the porch, an older man stepped out.
"Welcome, stranger. Welcome." He tied the horses to the hitching rail. "I'm Abraham Weaver. My wife, Lydia, is inside. She'll have a meal ready for you soon, but she's already pouring glasses of fresh buttermilk for the children."
"You don't have to—"
"For sure, we don't have to, but I can't stop Lydia when it comes to spoiling little ones." He lifted Sophia to the ground, then reached for Roseanna. "Ruby is making up the bed in Jonas's room." He peered over the side of the wagon where Lovinia and the boys slept. "We'll put your wife there and Lydia will take good care of her."
Gideon jumped from the wagon seat. "I'm Gideon Fischer, and my wife is Lovinia. I'm afraid she is quite ill. The trip has been hard on her."
Abraham glanced into the wagon again, his face grim. Gideon knew what he saw. No supplies. A sick woman. Poverty.
"Where have you come from?" Abraham asked, turning his gaze back to Gideon.
"From Maryland, just south of the Mason- Dixon line."
"Did you see anything of the war?"
"That is why we left our home. The armies ravaged our farms, scattered the families of our community, and left us with nothing." Gideon swallowed, pushing past the pride. "We need refuge. Just until we can get back on our feet. Then I can pay you back."
"'I was a stranger and ye took me in.'" Abraham smiled. "The Good Book only asks us to give, not to expect repayment. We have a place in our home for all of you, and you will stay with us as long as you need to. Perhaps you will find a new home for your family here in Weaver's Creek."
Gideon pulled his girls close as he glanced around the Weaver farm. "Perhaps we will."
This excerpt is from the paperback edition.
Monday we begin the book I've Seen the End of You by W. Lee Warren, MD.