Andy saw him coming down the dusty road. He just knew the man would stop at their house.
“Look, Mom!” Andy exclaimed, leaning on his hoe handle. “Er kummt (He comes)!”
“Wer kummt (Who comes)?” asked Lizzie.
“Why, a drifter. See, he’s just now crossing the bridge.”
Lizzie squinted her eyes and peered through the sun’s bright rays. She had married a fine young Amish boy, Jacob Maust. As the years passed, their family had grown to number seven children. There were three boys and four girls, including one set of twin girls.
Andy was the youngest son. He and his mother were in the garden hoeing the corn. It was midafternoon, and they had been working together for about two hours.
Lizzie straightened her back and sighed. She wiped sweat from her face with her apron. “Ya (Yes), I see him now. I hope he doesn’t stop here unless it’s just for a bite to eat. I won’t send anyone away hungry.”
“Ach (Oh), how I wish your dad were here. These drifters always seem to come when he is not around.”
“Are you afraid of him, Mom?” Andy asked.
“No, I’m not afraid. I know God will protect us. It’s just that they often ask for work, and I don’t know what to say.”
“Would Dad give him work, do you think?”
“I’m almost sure he would. He usually does,” Lizzie replied.
“Well then, why don’t we?”
“Oh, no, I don’t make those decisions, Andy. I leave that up to your dad. He knows best. Anyhow, we’d better get on with our hoeing.”
Sure enough, the wayfaring man came close to the garden fence. He stopped and called out, “You, there: could you spare a meal for a tired, hungry man?”
Lizzie looked up from her work. She did not like the looks of this man. He had a long, dark mustache and beady, steel-gray eyes. His hat was pulled down just above the eyebrows. A large, dirty cloth pack was slung over one shoulder.
“Well,” responded Lizzie, “I’ve never yet refused food to a hungry soul. Come up to the porch and wait there, or, if you like, you can sit under that maple tree. It’s sure warm today.”
“That it is, that it is,” the man agreed. He wiped his brow. “Hotter’n blazes!”
Lizzie didn’t care for that kind of talk. She hurried inside and noticed how cool it felt in the house. The windows were open, and huge trees shaded it from the scorching sun.
The twins were busy. Annie was making homemade noodles in the summer kitchen. Fannie was ironing dresses with one flatiron as another was heating on the cookstove.
“Who is der Fremder (the stranger) out in the yard?” Annie wondered.
“Ach, some drifter who wants something to eat,” said her mother. Many wanderers came to the family’s home these days, looking for food or a place to sleep. The country was still recovering from the Great Depression, and many people were out of work.
“Where did he come from?” Fannie wondered as she peered out.
“I don’t know. I didn’t ask him,” Lizzie replied as she hustled to heat up some leftovers.
“Maybe I’ll ask him what he has in that pack he carries on his back,” Andy murmured. He had come inside and was looking out the window, watching the stranger resting under a maple tree in the yard.
“You’ll do no such thing!” Lizzie stated flatly. “It’s none of our business, and maybe we’re better off if we don’t know.”
“Maybe he’ll want to show us,” Andy mused hopefully.
“If he wants to, he’ll just have to do it without us asking,” Annie said, trying to appear wise.
“Here, Andy,” called Lizzie, “help me carry his lunch out for him. And mind you don’t ask about that big bundle.”
“You are too much of a Gwunnerich Naas (Wonder Nose),” Fannie told him, looking up from her ironing.
“I am not,” Andy declared, picking up a tin cup and pitcher of iced tea. He held the screen door for his mother, then let it close with a bang as he followed her onto the back porch.
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Mary Christner Borntrager first published the Ellie’s People series of novels in the late 1980s and early 1990s by Herald Press. Most of the books in the series are being republished for a new generation of youth fiction readers, which also appeal to women of all ages. The Ellie’s People series chronicles the family and friends of the protagonist of book 1, Ellie Maust, across several generations.While fictional, the series focuses on real issues young people face within the context of an Amish life. Books from the series have sold over half a million copies.
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