Chapter 1

Bam! Bam! Bam!

"Anna! Are you in?" Lydia recognized the booming voice of Brother Jacob. She sprung to the door and tore it open revealing a large man with broad shoulders, black hair, and a long black beard. She was quickly joined by her three sisters and her little brother, Peter, who was too small to work in the fields. "Lydia," Brother Jacob panted, "Is your mother home?"

Anna Fischer pulled the door open further, revealing her pale features. Though the day was warm despite it being early in the Spring, she wore a quilt wrapped around her shoulders like a shawl. "Yes, Brother Jacob, I am here. What is it?"

"There's been an accident. One of the oxen caught his foot in a groundhog hole. The plow went over, it fell onto Elias's leg. It's badly broken. Michael and Elder Weber should be here with him soon."

"Oh no!" Lydia gasped. Deborah began to cry, holding tightly to Hannah.

Peter tugged on Lydia's dress. "What happened?"

"Father's broken his leg."

Anna's pale face grew stoic, her chin lifted slightly. "Yes, my dears. We must make ready for your father when he comes home. Deborah, dry your tears. Father will not want to see sad faces when he arrives. Lydia, make up the bed, good and soft." Lydia ran to the chest and grabbed armfuls of thick, down filled blankets.

"Will father be well?" Lydia heard Esther, her eight year old sister ask.

"Of course, little mouse," Lydia's mother stroked Esther's flaxen hair. "God is the great physician, He will heal your father."

As Lydia was folding the final blanket on the bed to form a little hill for her father's leg to rest upon, she heard a great commotion from the other room. "Amos! Take him to the bedroom." In a moment, Lydia's brother, Michael, came in with Elder Amos Weber on his right side, the broad shoulders of her father, Elias Fischer, between them as a yoke, his legs trailing behind.

Lydia gasped as she saw the torn trouser leg, the blood. She had hoped there would be no blood. Blood meant death. It meant the break would become infected. A finger might be survived, but she had seen many fine men, younger and stronger than her father, succumb to a broken leg when there had been blood.

"Michael! Bring him over here!" she ordered. Her brother and the elder moved her father to the bed where he lay, his brow ruddy, his breathing shallow. Her father's leg lay on the cushion she had made for it, the lower part lying almost beside itself.

"Lydia, fetch water. We need to clean the break." Lydia did as she was told. When the doctor arrived she was ordered to draw more water and boil it with white oak bark to make a bitter smelling tea. She cut onions and garlic. She gathered the large leaves of the broadleaf plantain and watched as the doctor crushed these together with the tea into a poultice and wrapped them around the leg. She was glad she had been outside scouring the ground for plantain leaves when the doctor had set it. In truth, she had fled the room the moment the doctor told her father to bite on a leather strap. She knew what was coming and she could not bear to see it.

Now her father lay in the bed, his leg bound in a splint, his breathing had returned to normal, though he winced whenever he turned. Seeing no more danger for the time being, the doctor left with orders that he should be contacted if anything were to change for the worse. Michael sat in a chair across from the bed wringing his hands. Her mother sat beside father, dipping a cloth in the bowl of water and wiping his brow while Lydia sat with he back against the door, listening to her mother's soothing voice. Though she was eighteen years old, and such things were certainly childish, she found, in this moment, she desperately needed to hear the soft, whispery words of her mother answered by her father's own strong tones.

"What of the ox?" Mother asked.

Father turned his head away. "He broke his leg in the hole. Brother Jacob did what was needed quickly."

"How will we finish the harvest with but one ox and one man?"

"Brother Jacob will fetch cousin Egon when he goes to Reading tomorrow. He will help. The others will help too, once their work is done. Michael can manage until then."

"For now, but old Dan is a cart horse, not a plow horse," Michael said. "We'll need an ox."

"We do not have the money for an ox and mother's medicine," Father said, grimly.

"I can go without," Mother said. "We need an ox."

"No." Father said finally, "Without that medicine you will only become sicker and die."

"Without an ox to finish the planting, we will all die."

Lydia ran to her room, fighting back the hot tears that stung her eyes. She ran to the cedar chest at the foot of the bed she shared with her sisters. Throwing open the heavy lid, she thrust both her hands in and pulled out a stack of thick, colorful, blankets. Lydia pressed her face into the soft linen, breathing in the scent of the goose down. She lifted her head from the flying birds spiraling around the carefully stitched square, two wet spots were left where her eyes had been. She took a deep breath and rushed from the room. She burst through the doorway to her parent's bedroom. "Sell my quilts!" she panted. "We will be able to make more than enough from them to pay for mother's medicine. Then we can buy the ox as well."

"But those are your wedding quilts, we cannot sell them. You've spent years sewing them."

Lydia's heart sank as she recalled every hour she spent stitching the fine quilts while her father read from the Good Book. Every stitch of thread a hope set in the Word of the Lord. She had sewn her very heart into the soft fabric of the quilts. Chosen each pattern to bless her and her future family. She had glowed with pride as her friends adored them, tracing the patterns with their fingers, rubbing the soft fabric against their cheeks. Special fabric, woven by her grandmother before she died for Lydia to use, the finest in their town, now almost all in these quilts. Lydia set her jaw. "I made these, I can make others."

Her father sighed, then winced in pain. "It matters not. There is no one to go to the market in Lancaster. Michael must finish the planting and you are too ill."

"Perhaps Jacob could take them to Reading and see if he might find a buyer?" Mother suggested.

"I could not impose on him like that. He has enough worries of his own without ours."

"What about me?" Lydia asked. "I could go. I've been many times with you and Michael and mother."

"It is a fair bit different to go with family than to go alone."

"I won't be alone, though. Uncle Hezekiah and Aunt Sarah are there with the cousins. They will let me share their stall. Brother Jacob can leave me off with them."

"If you are certain," Father said, with no small waiver in his voice.

"I am. Send me with all our wares and, God willing, I will have them sold by the time Cousin Egon arrives."

"Come here," he said. She did as she was asked. He stroked her hair, then placed a hand on her forehead. "My brave child. Go with God's blessing. And be careful of those strange to you, do not speak to them except to sell them something. There are many who will see a face as pretty as yours and wish to do you harm." He sighed again. "And who knows, perhaps God has been preparing you for such a time as this."

"Father, you are thinking of Esther," Lydia managed to smile through her tears.

Her father grimaced as he pulled himself up to kiss her brow. "You are correct, as always," he forced a pained smile which did not travel to his eyes where his smiles usual sat in miniature shelves beside his eyes, "Lydia was a successful cloth merchant, and so to will you be, for you do it out of sacrifice and love. If there is one thing our Lord understands, it is that."