A heavy haze dipped onto the vast cornfield and meadowlands that
Wednesday morning. It hung as thick as storm shutters and as far as the
crease in the landscape where other houses and barns had been erected
over the years for the expanding Joseph Riehl family. The May mist was
visible through the beveled windows of the Riehls' three-story
farmhouse, kept in the family for more than four generations.
At that early hour, there was no wind, a recipe for misery when mixed
with the heat and high humidity of recent days.
As it had for some years now, the spacious farmhouse felt cramped to
Sallie, especially her mother's kitchen, where Sallie stood over the gas
range frying up her father's favorite breakfast while her sister Frannie
made coffee. Sallie's day-in-day-out routine since the start of spring
had already become sheer monotony, though she and Frannie were able to
take turns making breakfast every other day. Sallie was persnickety
about her food preparation in the light of the gas lamp as she fried up
German sausage links and potatoes, both to her father's liking.
Mamm came downstairs wearing a dark green dress and matching apron, same
color as Frannie's, which made all three of them smile. Mamm rushed
about to ready the table for the family's ritual of breakfast and Bible
reading afterward. While she finished setting the table, Frannie poured
the coffee and Sallie carried the large yellow oval platter to the
table, the sausage and potatoes steaming hot from the black griddle.
Setting it down near her father's usual place, Sallie quickly returned
for a large tureen of stewed crackers in warm milk.
Dat carried his old straw hat, the color of corn silk, across the room
and hung it on one of the dark wooden pegs. Then, removing his black
work boots, he lumbered to the head of the table and lowered himself
into the chair with a gentle moan. "No sense takin' unnecessary items to
the Dawdi Haus when July comes, Anna Mae," he said, pushing his
black suspenders off his brawny shoulders.
Mamm gave him a smile. "Thought of that, too."
Sallie was surprised that such a change was coming so soon. She'd felt
sure there would be no need to vacate this house for Allen and his
family till after silo filling in the fall. But considering her father's
remark just now, it seemed he wasn't letting any grass grow beneath his
Nothing yet had been said to Sallie about staying with Cousin Essie
instead of moving next door, however. In fact, nothing had been said to
Sallie at all. What she knew had come solely from Frannie, and the bits
and pieces Sallie had overheard the day before yesterday. There was a
spare room on the second floor of the Dawdi Haus, but she wasn't
so keen on doubling up with Frannie when they'd had separate bedrooms
for a few years now. And she was certain Frannie would agree.
"What's the hurry?" Sallie asked as she took her place next to Mamm, who
folded her hands for the table blessing.
Dat promptly bowed his head for the silent prayer, then reached for his
coffee, adding more cream before responding. "Putting it bluntly, as hot
as it's bound to get this summer, I doubt I'll make it through the dog
days, workin' so many hours," he said, his bushy eyebrows knit together.
"Allen's young, Joseph," Mamm said, casting a tender look his way.
"He'll be a big help round the farm. And with his and Kate's family
expanding in September, they need more room."
Sallie appreciated Mamm's tact. No need to point out that Dat's
arthritis was worsening.
Mamm looked across the table at Frannie and nudged Sallie gently. "By
the way, your sister here has some news, too."
Delight swept through Sallie even before Frannie could open her mouth.
"I hope it's what I'm thinkin'!" Sallie exclaimed.
Frannie's pretty face suddenly went all rosy. "Jesse Stoltzfus asked me
to marry him." She bit her bottom lip. "We're planning to tie the knot
"I'm so happy for ya!" Sallie wanted to give her a hug right then and
there. "Such a nice fella, too," she added, though that went without
saying because everyone who knew Jesse thought well of him. The fine
young man was working his way up the ladder at the harness shop just
down Peach Lane.
Dat bobbed his head, gray eyes brightening. He looked rather dotingly at
small-boned Frannie, her hair the shade of newly harvested wheat.
Abe Stoltzfus, Jesse's father, and Dat had been mighty good friends
since boyhood. When Frannie and Jesse began courting, Sallie had
wondered if Dat and Abe hadn't put their heads together about the
romantic match. But time had made it clear that Jesse and Frannie were
Sallie honestly couldn't say if she'd ever been smitten, but she
figured if you had to wonder about it, you probably weren't. She had
never had a beau, though she had gone on dates here and there, most
recently with good-natured Perry Zook. Their two or three wintertime
outings had always been as part of a group, however.
Still, Sallie didn't lament not having a beau. It had left her more time
to work at the restaurant so that she wouldn't come up short for her
"You'll be one of my bridesmaids, won't ya, Sallie?" Frannie asked, eyes
questioning, though she didn't have to plead.
"Well, I'd be downright befuddled if ya didn't ask."
Frannie nodded. "If Laura was still single, I'd ask her, too." Their
older sister had married more than two years ago and was a busy mother
to three-month-old twin boys.
"Don't forget Cousin Essie," Sallie suggested, laughing.
"Girls ... girls," Mamm said, waving her hand.
Frannie shrugged dramatically. Likely she didn't agree with Mamm's
disapproval. Certainly Sallie didn't, knowing Essie was remarkably young
at heart. Even so, it was true that single young people were the only
ones expected to be chosen as Old Order Amish wedding attendants, or
"I daresay you'll be baptized by the time I marry." Frannie brightened
all the more. "Surely this September."
Even Dat perked up and looked Sallie's way, hope on his countenance.
"Jah," Sallie said. "I'll be back home in plenty of time."
"Back from where?" Dat asked.
"Australia," Sallie reminded him softly. "If everything works out."
"So, it's Australia you've decided on?" he said.
Her face and neck grew warm. "It's been Australia awhile now."
"Not Ireland or the Bahamas or —"
"Ireland was years ago," Frannie piped up.
Sallie sighed. At least they were having fun with it. "It'll just be for
two weeks," she added, "once I get word." Her travel agent had expected
to hear of an opening anytime now. Hopefully I'll have my last few
dollars by then.
"Gone two weeks?" Dat exhaled as hard as when he pitched hay in the
barn. At that moment, his face had an unexpectedly vulnerable look to
He's afraid I won't return, Sallie thought, taking a drink.
"Such a distance away, too," Frannie said.
"Oodles of hours in the air ... ach!" Mamm shook her head.
Thirty hours with flight changes, Sallie thought, but not even
that somewhat daunting prospect was enough to dampen her enthusiasm.
At such times, Sallie wished her parents were less given to fretting.
Still, she knew their concern was evidence of their love.
"You like bein' Amish, don't ya, daughter?" Dat asked.
Sallie paused. There was no question in her mind about eventually
settling down and following the Plain ways. What else was there?
But her fear of losing the opportunity to travel had an almost panicky
effect on her. "I love being Amish." She glanced at Mamm, who was
studying her. "This is just something I need to do."
Frannie smiled and affectionately tilted her head at her. "Goodness ...
not sure I'd see it thataway, but I'll be glad to hear all about your
Neither of her parents had anything to add to that. Dat took a final sip
of his coffee. "We all have work to do, ain't so?"
"Well, Sallie's excused from redding up the kitchen this mornin'," Mamm
announced, getting up and going to the sink, where she turned on the
spigot, glancing back at Sallie. "She made a very tasty breakfast, after
Sallie's relief blended with her frustration, and she wished she could
soothe her family's swirling worries. Joining church before she had a
chance to see the moon rise over a white sandy beach or the sun set over
a lagoon populated with lively dolphins would surely be a mistake.
Two weeks in Australia in return for a lifetime as an Amishwoman
seems a fair trade, she thought. Why is it so difficult for them
Excerpted from "The Ebb Tide" by Beverly Lewis. Copyright © 2013 by Beverly Lewis. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.