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.For months, Henry had written letters requesting, nearly pleading, for Derek to return home for the holidays.Your presence would cheer your mother greatly, he had penned in his most recent note.It appeared his persuasive efforts had paid off famously; their wayward son was seated at his mother’s Christmas table of lace and fine china as Henry said a traditional grace, offering thanks for the bounty with which they had been blessed this year.When Henry raised his head, he noticed Derek had neither closed his eyes nor bowed his head, and his hand held the fork, poised to dig in.Has he learned nothing from his time in the military? Henry wondered.For a moment he wished he might have saved his time, ink, and stationery.But as the day wore on, things seemed to lighten up and Henry had a change of heart and mind, especially as he observed Lorraine smiling and even laughing from time to time, less in her hostess mode than usual and more relaxed overall.In fact, Henry observed, the day almost seemed as pleasant as many Christmases before it—this as they sat together exchanging gifts in the shadow of the fine Christmas tree ablaze with lights.From the radio, Bing Crosby crooned “Here Comes Santa Claus,” backed up by the Andrews Sisters.After gifts were opened and bows and wrapping paper lay scattered on the floor, Lorraine spoke softly, saying she wished to share a short reading.“From the New Testament.Luke’s account of the birth of my Lord and Savior.”Henry happened to catch Derek’s dismayed look.The boy stood abruptly and, without excusing himself, left the room.Heavy footsteps were heard echoing from the hall, and when the back door slammed, Lorraine jumped.Robert pulled out a pocket Testament from his sports coat.“Here, Mother,” he said.“Don’t worry over Derek.I have an idea the Lord is at work where his heart’s concerned.”More ill at ease than he had been in some years, Henry braced himself for the Scripture verses Lorraine appeared determined to share.Until this moment, Mary Ruth wouldn’t have admitted to missing her parents and sisters dreadfully during the past weeks, but she felt an overwhelming sadness as she helped redd up the kitchen for Dottie.She felt sluggish this Christmas Day, slow to gather up scraps of wrapping paper and odds and ends of boxes from the front room.“I’d be happy to take the trash out,” she called to Dottie, who was putting Carl down for his afternoon nap.Meanwhile, Dan was out back gathering up dry cut wood from the timber box to add to the embers in the front room fireplace as Mary Ruth headed for the front door.Scarcely had she tossed the rubbish and closed the top on the trash receptacle than she heard a pounding of feet on the road.Looking up, she noticed a darkheaded young man running in a military uniform of some sort, though she couldn’t be sure, as she’d never before seen a soldier.She wouldn’t have stood there watching, but the young man’s angry movements caught her attention— the fierce way he swung his arms as he ran, as if ready for a fighting match.Mary Ruth felt so curious beholding this peculiar sight, she didn’t catch the sneeze that crept up on her, calling attention to her, and for that she was perturbed.Immediately the stranger halted in his tracks, his dark, dark eyes inching together as he frowned hard.When he spoke, she instinctively stepped back.“Hey.I know you, don’t I?” The frown faded and a smile took its place.“Aren’t you Sadie’s little sister?”At once she was no longer startled, because she recognized him as the boy who’d stopped by the vegetable and fruit stand years back; this same fancy fellow with the handsome features had handed her a letter for Sadie on that day.Just why was he carrying on like a madman out there on the road, and on Christmas Day yet?“Jah, I’m Mary Ruth.” She took a step forward to show her confidence.“And who are you?”He blinked his eyes, holding her gaze.“An old friend of Sadie’s.”She shook her head.“If you say your name, I might just recognize it.”“Name’s not important.Truth is, I’m home for the holidays—a wounded soldier.” Here he leaned down and began to roll up his left pant leg.“Let me show you—” “No, no, I believe you.” She noticed his short hair cut on the side above his ears, beneath his uniformstyle hat, so what he’d said was probably true.“Sorry you got yourself hurt.”“Maybe you could help me.so I won’t have to go all the way down the road to visit Sadie, after all.” He pushed his trouser leg back down where it belonged and leaned hard on the other good leg, his right hand on his hip now.“Just what did you have in mind?” She stood her ground, no longer frightened by him, though she still wondered what business he had with Sadie.“I’ve been thinking.wondering how she’s doing.That’s all.Is she well?”His question sounded strange.How would I know? “My sister’s not ill, far as I know.” The words popped right off her tongue.Besides, if Sadie were still living here in Gobbler’s Knob, what would she want with a fancy Englisher.and on Christmas?“Well, I haven’t seen her in a while.Thought I might catch her outdoors milking cows, maybe.present myself to her as a sort of surprise.”She sighed.“Oh, well, if it’s my sister you’re after, you best be savin’ your steps, ’cause she’s married out in Ohio.”He ran his hand straight down the middle of his hat, smiling at her in a way that suddenly made her feel uncomfortable.“Isn’t that a pity.She was the prettiest Amish girl I ever laid eyes on.” Then, stepping back, he added, “But now that I’m here talking to you, I think you’ve got my Sadie beat all to pieces.”My Sadie.Something sprang up in her that instant, and she felt she best return to the house.“I oughta be goin’ now.” She turned to leave.But he followed on her heels.“Wait! No need to be afraid.Don’t you know who I am, Mary Ruth?”She stopped walking and turned around and looked him over.Now that she was beginning to put two and two together, this was probably the boy who’d put her big sister in the family way—the young father of Sadie’s dead baby.He limped toward her a bit.“You mean to say she never told you about me?”Her mind leaped to a final conclusion.“So.you must be.?”“That’s right.I’m the old man, and I mean to lay eyes on my son or daughter.” He breathed in and rubbed his knuckles against his chest, displaying a sickening conceit.“Boy or girl, which is it?”Silently she prayed; she felt she needed God’s help lest this man standing before her begin to thrash his arms yet again, directing his anger toward her.And, come to think of it, his limping was downright deceitful, because she had seen him running to beat the band before she’d ever let out her sneeze.“I take it.you must not know what happened.Oh, it’s awful sad, really.”“Well.what?” Filling her lungs with air, she told him.“Sadie’s baby died ’fore it ever had a chance to live.”“Stillborn, you say?” To this he appeared rather stunned, but gradually his surprise turned to obvious relief.Without so much as a good-bye, he walked away, leaving Mary Ruth standing there.Ach, what a wretched soul! How on earth did Sadie ever fall in love with such a boy? she wondered.She could not comprehend in the slightest.Encountering him as she had, she hoped and prayed the Lord had heard her sister’s cries of repentance.Surely by now dear Sadie had called out to God for help and forgiveness [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]