PAGE COUNT: 256
Peter and Leah Lapp move to Kentucky. Their carriage is stoned. Why? An intruder enters their locked house. How? If a belligerent neighbor resorts to maliciousness to get what he covets, what more might he do?
The Bentleys, Christian Englischer neighbors, become good friends with the Lapps. Will their Bishop approve?
Through challenging troubles, Leah relies on her faith. Her hope is undergirded by Scriptural truth.
She takes in stride the stoning, the vile threats, and endures property destruction; but her hope is sorely tried when Peter gives in to worldliness. Will he confess and conform? If not, Shunning will follow. Will Leah now have to endure a life that is worse than being alone?
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BEYOND EDEN (256 pages)
Amish Eden Series Book 4
Leah gasped as a hard object cracked against the side of their moving carriage. Her eyes wide, she clutched Peter John’s blue shirt sleeve. Another projectile smacked against the wooden frame.
“Stones!” Alarm filled Peter John Lapp’s green eyes. “Get down.”
Before she could comply, a barrage pelted the carriage. A fist-sized rock struck Jude’s right flank. Whinnying wildly the animal reared.
“Whoa!” Peter John gripped the reins and struggled to bring the horse under control.
Dust from the gravel road sifted onto Leah’s dark-blue skirt. Her heart thudded against her ribs. She peered around the brim of her black bonnet at her husband. A sharp rock ripped a hole in the black canvas; another sailed through the open door and thumped against Peter’s head. Leah screamed as he slumped forward.
“Peter!” She grabbed him to keep him from falling.
Jude pawed the air; then jerking the harness, he began to run. The buggy rocked as the metal wheels jolted in and out of ruts. Leah wondered if Jude intended to race across a newly plowed corn field. The scent of moist earth permeated the air. Tears stung her eyes as she struggled to prevent her husband’s limp body from slipping onto the floorboards. With one hand, she grappled for the dangling reins. How could she stop the frightened animal? Stones still rained against the back of the carriage. What if Peter John had been severely injured?
What if he’s dead! She longed to feel for his pulse, but her trembling hands were occupied.
“Go home!” a man bellowed, his voice raspy.
Leah cringed. She knew she should keep her head down, but curiosity enticed her to glance back. She saw a bulky form of a man vanish behind a clump of thick bushes. Where had she seen a man of that stature? Her brow furrowed. Murphy McAllister? The Englisher had called on Peter John the day they’d moved into their Kentucky farmhouse. He’d stood in the yard waving his thick arms. His large head rested on his shoulders as though he had no neck. Tendrils of unruly red hair had whipped in the March wind, and his ruddy face twisted, distorting his features.
Peter’s moan drew Leah back to the present. Cradling his head in her arm, she glanced back again and counted three more shadowy figures crouching in the brush. Their statures were small. Who were they? Murphy’s sons? They had to pass the man’s property to get home.
Leah sighed. So much for Paradise Valley.
Finally distant enough to be safe, she tugged on the reins. Jude slowed, but he continued to trot. He rounded a curve too rapidly; the carriage wheels slid into the ditch. Branches with tiny new leaves brushed the side of the canvas. Expecting the buggy to topple, Leah smothered a scream. Jude, apparently sensing the danger had passed, slowed his pace and tugged the conveyance back onto the lane. The purple blossoms of the redbud tree near a fence post emanated peace. Leah wondered what it would be like to be impervious to violence. She shook her head. If that were the case, she would be unaffected by love and kindness as well.
When the buggy was out of range of flying rocks, she halted Jude under a dogwood tree beside a hayfield. Ignoring the pinkish-white blossoms, she bent over her husband. “Peter?”
He groaned and tried to sit up.
“Be still.” Pressing his head into her lap, she brushed straight black harir from his boyish round face. When she saw blood on her fingers, a cry of alarm caught in her throat.
With another groan, Peter slowly straightened to look at her. “You all right?”
“And the baby?”
“Ja.” Resting her hand on her abdomen, she smiled. “Dank der Gut Man (God) for protecting me and our coming little one.” She eyed the gash on Peter’s temple. “Does your head hurt?”
“Ja.” Staring at her fingers, he grasped her right wrist. “Leah!”
“The blood is yours.”
“Oh.” Retrieving his handkerchief, he proffered it, gathered the reins, and clucked to the horse. The wary animal snorted, then obediently headed for home at a fast clip.
Leah bound Peter John’s head with his bloodstained handkerchief. “I think Mr. McAllister was among the ones who stoned us.”
Leah studied his perplexed expression. “Why would they stone us.?”
“Vell . . .”
Her husband’s obvious reluctance to confide in her made fright wriggle within her. She and Peter had always been open with each other. What did he know that he was hesitant to share? “Peter?”
“Hum?” He studied the profuse yellow dandelions along the edge of a hayfield as though he didn’t wish to meet her gaze.
Reaching out, she gently grasped his chin and turned his face toward her. When she read the concern in his green eyes, she swallowed. “What is it, Peter?”
“Vell . . .” His sigh sounded more like a groan. “Murphy wants our farm bad enough to . . .” He clamped his lips shut.
She studied his face. “To what?”
“I don’t know.”
“We could find another place.”
The muscles across his cheekbones jerked as though in a spasm. “If we Amish gave in every time we met with resistance, we could be run off our land like the Indians were.”
“Ach. No one stoned us in Landcaster.”
“Ja, but . . .” His brow furrowed. “We have our rights. We bought this farm, and we’re staying.”
As they past Murphy’s home, Leah looked for the Englisher’s blue pickup. It was in the driveway. Could that mean he had not been the one to stone them? She sighed. She wanted to stay in Kentucky, but not at the price of Peter’s being injured. Besides, there were better farms.
They rounded the last bend in the lane, and the house came into view. The clump of rhubarb at the side of the house was up three inches. The dwelling was like the ceramic of “My Old Kentucky Home” that she had seen in a gift shop. Instead of the house roofing stopping at the eaves, it continued down and swooped to form the roof of the porch. This house had been quaint, many years ago, but now it needed repair.
The day after she and Peter had moved in, Old Order Amish and Buggy-Mennonite neighbors had come to help. So far, their only furnishings were appliances and a table and chairs in the kitchen, a bench and wooden rocker in the living room and a spring and mattress on the bedoom floor.
Halting the carriage at the side of their listing shed, he grinned at her expression.
Leah’s eyes traveled over the splintering gray wood of the building; then her focus rested on the door that swung on one rusty hinge.
“Levi Miller said he’d help me straighten this building.”
“He’d better hurry!” Leah giggled. “It’s about to heave a sigh and give up!”
She focused on the trickle of blood that had dried on the side of his face.
Reaching out, he tucked a renegade golden curl back under her black bonnet, then cupped her sweet round face with one hand. Grinning, he touched her cheek where one of her dimples hid. “Was is letz?”
She sighed. “Building a life here is our dream, but it isn’t worth your getting hurt.”
“Ach. Murphy is only trying to scare us off. When he sees how determined we are, he’ll give up.”
“I pray so.” She strode to the back of the carriage and lifted a bag of groceries. “I don’t understand why he is so reactive.”
“Vell, he purchased the land that borders our property on three sides. He intended to buy this spread to create one large farm.”
“Why didn’t he?”
“The price was too high for his liking. He bickered too long.” Peter glanced at the two flats of garden plants, but grabbed the other bag of groceries and headed for the house. “Apparently, Murphy believed the previous owner would not sell to someone else.”
“How far do you think McAllister will go to try to run us off?”
“He isn’t going to run us off. Will I have time to hitch the team and turn a few furrows in the corn field before supper?”
“Ja, but first, I’m going to clean and bandage that gash.”
Inside, he removed the bloody handkerchief and winced. “Dank der gut Man that rock hit me instead of you.”
Leah sighed. “Vell, ja, for the baby’s sake.” She was five months along in her pregnancy, and envisioned rocking the coming little one.
While acting as Peter’s nurse, Leah thought about fixing their home. The bishop had decreed, in this new district, all colors used in the decor must be earthen tones of rocks or soil. Leah pictured the drabness and wrinkled her nose; however, she knew the Englisher’s purple bedroom walls , canary-yellow kitchen, and bright green living room would have to be changed anyway. Peter had purchased white undercoat to cover the brilliant hues. Now, all I have to do is decide between a light or brown topcoat. She sighed.
“Wass is letz?”
“Colors. I don’t want a house that’s all tones of brown.”
When the bandage was in place, Leah handed her husband his straw hat. “I’ll get the painting started. Maybe we’ll have a late supper tonight.”
“That will be good.” He plopped his hat on his head and headed for the door.
As Leah changed into her painting dress, she pondered how far Murphy might go to get what he covets.
Shaking her head, she gripped the bail of a gallon can of white base-coat and went to the living room.
“Ach!” Her eyes widened as she stared at the message scrawled across the wall with yellow paint. Her lips moved as she pronounced the words, “Go home!”
A bench, the only piece of furniture in the room, creaked as she slumped to it. Was this Murphy’s handiwork, too–or was someone else trying to get rid of them?
Ten minutes later, Leah was still trembling; but now there was a set to her jaw. Peter was determined to stay. “They’re not running me off either!”
The house was getting a bit chilly, so she headed for the bedroom to get her black sweater. At the doorway, she stopped with a jolt. “No!”