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The Amish Bride (Lancaster Courtships) Mass Market Paperback – August 18, 2015
This month's Book With Buzz: "The Lying Game" by Ruth Ware
From the instant New York Times bestselling author of blockbuster thrillers "In a Dark, Dark Wood" and "The Woman in Cabin 10" comes Ruth Ware’s chilling new novel, "The Lying Game." See more
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About the Author
Emma Miller lives quietly in her old farmhouse in rural Delaware amid fertile fields and lush woodlands. Fortunate enough to be born into a family of strong faith, she grew up on a dairy farm, surrounded by loving parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Emma was educated in local schools, and once taught in an Amish schoolhouse much like the one at Seven Poplars. When she's not caring for her large family, reading and writing are her favorite pastimes.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
It was half-past nine when Ellen Beachey halted her push scooter at the top of the steep driveway that ran from her parents' white farmhouse down to the public road. Normally, she would be at the craft shop by nine, but this had been one of her mother's bad days when her everyday tasks seemed a lot more difficult. Her mam was in her midseventies, so it wasn't surprising to Ellen that she was losing some of her vim and vigor. After milking the cow and feeding the chickens before breakfast, Ellen had remained after they'd eaten to tidy up the kitchen, finish a load of wash and pin the sheets on the line.
She didn't mind. She was devoted to her mutter, and it was a gorgeous day to hang laundry. There wasn't a cloud in the sky, the sticky heat of August had eased and there was a breeze, sweet with the aroma of ripening grapes and apples from the orchard. But with her dafs arthritis acting up, and her mam not at her best, Ellen felt the full weight of responsibility for the shop and the household. The craft store was her family's main source of income, and it was up to her to see that it made a profit.
This had been a good week at Beachey's Craft Shop. School would soon be starting, and many English families were taking advantage of the last few days of summer vacation to visit Lancaster County. Ellen had seen a steady stream of tourists all week, and the old brass cash register had hardly stopped ringing. It meant good news for Lizzie Fisher, in particular. Her king-size Center Diamond quilt, meticulously stitched with red, blue and moss-green cotton, had finally sold for the full asking price. Lizzie had worked on the piece for more than a year, and she could certainly use the money. Ellen couldn't wait to tell her the good news. One of the best things about running the shop was being able to handle so many beautifully handcrafted Amish items every day and to provide a market for the Plain craftspeople who made them.
A flash of brilliant blue caught Ellen's attention, and she glimpsed an indigo bunting flash by before the small bird vanished into the hedgerow that divided her father's farmstead from that of their neighbors', the Shetlers. Seeing the indigo bunting, still in his full summer plumage, made her smile. All her life, she'd been fascinated by birds, and this particular species was much rarer than the blue grosbeak or the common bluebird. Ellen wondered if the indigo bunting had a mate and had built a nest in the hedgerow, or was just passing through in an early migration. She scrutinized the foliage, hoping to see the bird again, but it remained hidden in the leaves of a wild cherry tree. She could hear the bird's distinctive chrrp, but it didn't reappear.
And, Ellen reminded herself, the longer she stood there watching for the bird, the later she'd be for work.
She needed to be on her way. She shifted her gaze to the steep driveway ahead of her.
Maybe this was the morning to be sensible and act like the adult she was. She could just walk her scooter to the bottom of the lane and then hop on once she reached the road. But the temptation was too great. She scanned the pavement in both directions as far as she could see for traffic. Nothing. Not a vehicle in sight. Taking pleasure in each movement, Ellen stepped onto the scooter, gripped the handles and gave a strong push with her left foot. With a cry of delight, she flew down the hill, laughing with excitement, bonnet strings flying behind her.
Ellen waited until the last possible moment before squeezing the handbrakes and leaning hard to one side, whipping the scooter around the mailbox, onto the public road. A cloud of dust flew up behind her, and pebbles scattered as she hit the pavement. The scooter fishtailed and she continued to brake, bringing it to a stop.
One of these days, Ellen thought. One of these days, you're going to come down that hill so fast that you can't stop and land smack-dab on top of the bishop's buggy. But not today.
As she stepped off the scooter, her heart still pounded. Her knees were weak, and her prayer kapp was hanging off her head from a single bobby pin. She was definitely too old to be doing this. What would the community say if they saw John Beachey's spinster daughter, a fully baptized member of the church and long past her rumspringa years, sailing down her father's driveway on her lime-green push scooter? Although most Plain people were accepting of small eccentricities within the community, it would almost certainly be cause for a scandal. The deacon would be calling on her father out of concern for her mental, spiritual and physical health.
Chuckling at the thought, Ellen pinned up her kapp and shook the dust off her apron. She moved to the crown of the road and began to make her way toward the village of Honeysuckle. However, she'd no sooner rounded the first wooded bend when she saw a familiar gray-bearded figure sitting on the side of the road.
"Simeon!" she called, pushing the scooter faster. "Vas is? Are you all right?" Simeon Shetler, a widower and a member of her church district, lived next door with his two grown sons and two grandsons. Ellen had known him since she was a child.
"Hallo!" He waved one of his metal crutches. "Jah, I am fine." He gestured with the other crutch. "It's Butterscotch who's in trouble."
Ellen glanced at the far side of the road to see Simeon's pony nibbling grass fifty feet away. The pony was hitched to the two-wheeled cart that her one-legged neighbor used for transportation. "What happened?" she asked as she hurried to help Simeon to his feet. "Did you fall out of the cart?"
"Nay, I'm not so foolish as that. I may be getting old, but I'm not dotty-headed." They spoke, as most Amish did when they were among their own kind, in Deitsch, a dialect that the English called Pennsylvania Dutch. "But I will admit, seeing your pretty face coming down the road was a welcome sight."
"Have you been like this long?" she asked, taking no offense at his compliment, which might have seemed out of place coming from most Amish men. Simeon was known as something of a flirt, and he always had a pleasant word for the women, young or old. But he was a kind man, a devout member of the community and would never cross any lines of propriety.
"Long enough, I can tell you. It took me ten minutes to climb back out of that ditch."
As a young man, Simeon had had a leg amputated just below the knee. Although he had a prosthetic leg and had gone to physical therapy to learn how to walk with it, he never wore it. For as long as Ellen could remember, the molded plastic and titanium prosthetic had hung on a peg on his kitchen wall. Usually, Simeon made out fine with his crutches, which extended from his forearms to the ground, but when he fell, he wasn't able to get back on his feet without a steady object like a fence post, or the aid of a friendly hand.
Simeon grinned. "Some fool Englisher threw a bag of trash from one of those food-fast places into the ditch. I thought I could pick it up if I got down out of the cart. I would have been able to, but I slipped in the grass, fell and slid into the ditch. And then by the time I crawled back out, that beast" he shook his crutch again at the grazing pony "trotted away." He chuckled and shrugged. "So, as you can see, I was stuck here until a Good Samaritan came along to rescue me."
"Are you sure you're all right?" she asked, looking him over.
"I'm fine. Catch the pony before he takes off for town," Simeon urged. "Then we need to have a talk, you and me. I think maybe it was God's plan this happened this morning. I have something important to discuss with you."
"With me?" Ellen looked at him quizzically. Simeon was an elder in their church, but she couldn't think of anything that she'd done wrong that would cause concern. And if she was in trouble for some transgression, it should have been the deacon who'd come to speak to her and her parents to remind her of her duties to the faith community. Unless
Was it possible that Simeon or one of his sons had recently seen her antics on the push scooter? She didn't think so. She was careful about when and where she gave in to her weakness for thrilling downhill rides. And Bishop Harvey had approved the bright color of her push scooter, once she'd explained that she'd gotten it secondhand as a trade for a wooden baby cradle.
The unusually bright, lime-green push scooter was an expensive one from a respected manufacturer in Intercourse. She could have had it repainted, but that would cost money and time, even if she did it herself. Bishop Harvey was a wise leader and a practical man. He understood that, with Ellen's father owning only one horse, she needed a dependable way to get back and forth to the craft shop without leaving her parents stranded. And if the fluorescent color on the push scooter was brighter than what was customarily acceptable, the safety factor made up for the fancy paint.
"See, there he goes." Simeon pointed as the pony moved forward, taking the cart with him. "Headed for Honeysuckle, trying to make a bigger fool of me than I already am. We'll be lucky if you catch him."
"Oh, I'll catch him, all right." Ellen reached for the lunch box tied securely in her scooter basket on the steering column. She unfastened it, removed a red apple and walked down the road toward the pony. "Look what I have!" she called. "Come here, boy."
Butterscotch raised his head and peered at her from under a thick forelock. His ears went up and then twitched.
Ellen whistled softly. "Nice pony."
He pawed the dirt with one small hoof, took a few steps and the cart rolled forward, away from her.
"Easy," Ellen coaxed. "Look what I have." She held up the apple. "Whoa, easy, now."
The pony wrinkled his nose and snorted, sidestepping in the harness, making the cart shift one way and then the other. Ellen walked around in front of him and took a bite out of the apple before she offered it again. Butterscotch sniffed the air and stared at the apple. "Goot boy," she crooned, knowing he was anything but a good boy.
The palomino was a legend in the neighborhood. For all his beauty, he was not the obedient pony a man like Simeon needed. This was not the first time Butterscotch had left his owner stranded. And Butterscotch didn't stay put in his pasture, either. He was a master of escape: opening locked gates, squeezing through gaps in fences and jumping ditches to wander off into someone's orchard or garden to feast on forbidden fruit. He'd been known to nip and kick at other horses, and more than once he'd run away while hitched, overturning the cart. Ellen couldn't imagine why the Shetlers kept him. He certainly wasn't safe for Simeon's grandsons to ride or drive. A clever pony like him was a handful for anyone to manage, let alone a one-legged man in his sixties.
Cautiously, Ellen took a few steps closer to the pony. Butterscotch tossed his head and moved six feet farther down the road. "So that's the way it will be," she said. The sound of a vehicle alerted her to an approaching car. The driver, coming from the direction of Honeysuckle, slowed. The pony stood and watched as the sedan passed. He wasn't traffic shy, which was the one good thing that Ellen could say about him.
When the car had disappeared behind her, Ellen took another bite of the apple, turned her back on Butterscotch and retraced her steps toward Simeon. She heard the creak of the harness and the rattle of wheels behind her, but she kept walking. She kept going until she was almost even with Simeon, then stopped and waited. It wasn't long before she felt the nudge of a soft nose on her arm. Without making eye contact, she held out the remainder of the apple. Butterscotch sunk his teeth into the piece of fruit, sending rivulets of juice dripping down Ellen's arm. Swiftly, she reached back and took hold of the pony's bridle.
"Gotcha," she murmured in triumph.
Once Simeon was safely on the seat of the cart, reins in hand, with the cart turned toward Honeysuckle again, he waved to her scooter. "Why don't you put that in the back? Ride with me. We can talk on the way."
Curious and a little apprehensive, Ellen lifted her scooter into the back. He offered his hand. She put a foot into the iron bracket and stepped up into the cart. "Have I done something wrong?" she asked.
She couldn't imagine what. She hadn't been roller skating at the local rink in months, and she took care to always dress modestly in public, even if she did wear a safety helmet when she used her scooter in high-traffic areas.
"Of course not." Simeon shook the reins. "Walk on." Butterscotch moved forward and the cart rolled along. "You're an excellent example for our younger girls, Ellen," he said, turning to favor her with a smile. "You're devout and hardworking."
Now he really had her attention. The familiar sound of horse's hooves alerted her to a horse and buggy coming up behind them. Ellen glanced over her shoulder; the driver was Joseph Lapp. She and Simeon waved as Joseph swung around, passing the pony cart. He waved back and quickly moved on ahead of them.
"Wonder if we'll start tongues clucking, riding together," Simeon remarked.
Ellen looked at him, hoping he was joking. Simeon wasn't going to ask if he could come courting, was he? It seemed like once a month he was asking someone permission to courta matter that kept the women of the community, from age eighteen to eighty, chuckling. But the twinkle in his faded blue eyes told her that he was teasing, and she relaxed a little.
"I want to discuss with you a problem that's been worrying me in my household." He tugged at his full gray beard thoughtfully. "As you know, ours is a bachelor houseone grandfather, two grown sons and two small boys. And we're sorely in need of a woman's hand. Oh, we cook and clean and try to keep things in order, but everyone knows a good woman is the heart of any home."
Unconsciously, she clasped her hands together and tried to think of what she would say if he asked to walk out with her. A few months ago, he'd asked her twenty-nine-year-old widowed friend, Ruthie.
"You're what, Ellen? Two and thirty?"
"Thirty-three," she said softly.
"Jah, thirty-three. Almost three years younger than my Neziah." He fixed her with a level gaze. "You should have married long ago, girl. You should be a mother with a home of your own."
"My parents " she mumbled. "They've needed help, and"
"Your devotion to your mother and father is admirable," he interrupted. "But in time, they'll both be gathered to the Lord, and you'll be left alone. And if you wait too long, you'll have no children to care for you in your old age."
Her mouth went dry. What Simeon was saying was true. A truth she tried not to think about. It wasn't that she hadn't once dreamed of having a husband and children, simply that the time had never been right and the right man had never asked her. She'd had her courting days once, but her father had gotten ill and then there was the fire and the years had simply gotten away from her. She believed that God had a plan for her, but her life seemed whole and happy as it was. If she never married, would it be such a tragedy?
"I've long prayed over my own sons' dilemma," Simeon confided as he loosened the reins and flicked them over Butterscotch's back to urge him on faster. "Neither one is married now, and both would be the happier if they were. So I've prayed and waited for an answer, and it seems to me that the Lord has made clear to me what must be done."
Ellen turned to him. "He has?"
Simeon turned the full force of his winning smile on her. "You should marry one of them." He didn't wait for her to respond. "It makes perfect sense. My land and your father's are side by side. Most of his is wooded with fine old hardwood, and we make our living by the lumber mill. I've known you since you were a babe in arms, and there's no young woman I'd more willingly welcome into our family."
She, who never was at a loss for words, was almost speechless. "I " She stopped and started again. She couldn't help but stare at Simeon. "You think I should marry Neziah or Micah?"
"Not only think it, but am certain of it. I already told them both at breakfast this morning." He narrowed his gaze. "Now I expect you to be honest with me, Ellen. Do you have any objection to either of them for reason of character or religious faith?"
She shook her head as the images of handsome, young, blond Micah and serious, dark-haired Neziah rose in her mind's eye. "Nay, of course not. They're both men of solid faith, but"
"Goot," he pronounced, "because I don't know which the Lord intends for you. I've told both of my sons that I expect each of them to pay court to you and make a match as soon as may be decently arranged. The choice between them will be yours, Ellen. Steady Neziah and his children or my rascally, young Micah." He gazed out over the pony with a sly smile. "And I care not which one you take."
It was an hour later at the craft store when Ellen was finally able to share her morning adventure with Dinah Plank, the widow who helped in the shop and lived in the apartment upstairs. Dinah, a plump, five-foot-nothing whirlwind of gray-haired energy, was a dear friend, and Ellen valued her opinion.
"So, Simeon came right out and told you that you should marry one of his sons?" Dinah paused in rearranging the display of organic cotton baby clothing and looked at her intently through wire-framed eyeglasses. "Acting as his sons' go-between, is he?"
"So it seems." Ellen stood with an empty cardboard box under each arm. She had two orders to pack for mailing, and she wanted to get them ready for UPS.
"What did you tell him?" The older woman shook out a tiny white infant's cap and carefully brushed the wrinkles out of it. Light poured in through the ninepaned windows, laying patterns of sunlight across the wide-plank floor of the display room and bouncing off the whitewashed plaster walls.
"Nothing, really. I was so surprised, I didn't know what to say." She put the mailing boxes on the counter and reached underneath for a couple of pieces of brown-paper wrapping. "I didn't want to hurt his feelings. They've been such goot neighbors, and of course, my dat and Simeon are fast friends."
"You think Simeon has already said something to your father?"
"I can't imagine he did." She lined the first cardboard box with two pieces of brown paper. "Dat would have certainly said something."
Dinah propped up a cloth Amish doll, sewn in the old-fashioned way, without facial features. The doll was dressed for Sunday services with a black bonnet and cape, long black stockings and conservative leather shoes. "Well, you're not averse to marrying, are you?"
"Nay. Of course not." She reached for the stack of patchwork-quilt-style placemats she was shipping. "I'm just waiting for the man God wants for me."
"And you'll know him how?" She rested one hand on her hip. "Will this man knock on your door?"
Ellen frowned and added another layer of brown paper to the box before adding eight cloth napkins.
"My marriage to Mose was arranged by my uncle, and it worked out well for both of us." Dinah tilted her head to one side in a way she had about her when she was trying to convey some meaning that she didn't want to state outright. "We each had a few burrs that needed rubbing off by time and trial and error, but we started with respect and a common need. I wanted a home and marriage with a man of my faith, and Mose needed sons to help on his farm."
Ellen nodded. She'd heard this story more than once, how Dinah and Mose had married after only meeting twice, and how she'd left Ohio to come to Lancaster County with him. The marriage had lasted thirty-four years, and Dinah had given him four sons and three daughters. Most lived nearby, and any of her children would have welcomed Dinah into their home. But she liked her independence and chose to live alone here in the apartment in Honeysuckle, and earn a living helping with the craft shop.
"I was an orphan without land or dowry," Dinah continued, fiddling with the doll's black bonnet. "And few ever called me fair of face. But I was strong, and God had given me health and ambition. I knew that I could learn to love the man I married. Mose was no looker, either, but he owned fifty acres of rich ground and was a respected farrier. Together, with the help of neighbors, we built a house with our own hands and backs."
"And were you happy?"
Dinah smiled, a little sadly. "Jah, we were very happy together. Mose was an able provider and he worked hard. Respect became friendship and then partnership, and somewhere along the way, we fell in love." She tapped the shelf with her hand. "So my point of this long story is that Mose didn't come knocking on my door. Our marriage was more or less arranged."
Ellen sighed and smoothed the denim blue napkins. "But it sounds so much like a business transaction Simeon deciding that his sons need wives and then telling them who they should court. Me living next door, so I'm the nearest solution. If one of them wanted to walk out with me, why didn't he say so, instead of waiting for their father to make the suggestion?"
Ellen sank onto a three-legged wooden stool carved and painted with a pattern of intertwined hearts and vines. She glanced around the room, thinking as she always did, how much she loved this old building. It had started life nearly two hundred years earlier as a private home and had been in turn a tavern, a general store, a bakery and now Beachey's Craft Shop.
"Maybe you should have married when you had the chance."
"I wasn't ready," she said. "And you know there were other reasons, things we couldn't work out."
"With Neziah, you mean?" Dinah passed.
Ellen nodded. She was as shocked by Simeon's idea that she should consider Neziah again, as she was by the whole idea that he should tell her or his boys who they should marry.
"That was years ago, girl. You were hardly out of your teens, and as hardheaded as Neziah. Are you certain you're not looking for someone that you've dreamed up in your head, a make-believe man instead of a flesh-and-blood one?" The sleigh bells over the front door jingled, indicating a visitor.
Dinah waved her away. "I'll see to her. You finish up packaging those orders. Then you might put the kettle on. If it's pondering you need, there's nothing like a cup of tea to make the studying on it easier."
Top customer reviews
This story is a good read and very interesting in how two brothers approach dating the same gal. I would most definitely recommend reading this story.
Even though it is a novel, it was believable that it could be true. It was a hard book to put down, and I LOVE the way that Emma writes!
She kept me leaning one way and then the other, until near the end! She wraps the story up nicely.....wonder if she could write a sequel?
I purchased this book when it came out....I knew it would be a good read!!! (I wish I could say that I was given the book, but that DID NOT HAPPEN!) Glad that I purchased it....hope you do too!