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Excerpt of A Marriage For Meghan by Mary Ellis

Purchase


Wayne County #2
Harvest House Publishers
October 2011
On Sale: October 1, 2011
Featuring: Meghan Yost; Thomas Mast
306 pages
ISBN: 0736930108
EAN: 9780736930109
Kindle: B005KN9QUW
Paperback / e-Book
Add to Wish List

Inspirational Amish

Also by Mary Ellis:

100 Proof Murder, August 2021
Hardcover / e-Book
One For the Road, January 2021
Hardcover / e-Book
Island of Last Resorts, November 2019
Hardcover / e-Book
Sweet Taste of Revenge, February 2019
Hardcover / e-Book
The Amish Sweet Shop, December 2018
Trade Size / e-Book
Hiding in Plain Sight, August 2018
Hardcover / e-Book
Sunset in Old Savannah, April 2017
Trade Size / e-Book
Magnolia Moonlight, August 2016
Paperback / e-Book
What Happened on Beale Street, April 2016
Paperback / e-Book
Amish Christmas Memories, September 2015
e-Book
Midnight on the Mississippi, August 2015
Paperback / e-Book
The Last Heiress, February 2015
Paperback / e-Book
The Lady and the Officer, August 2014
Paperback / e-Book
Romance on the River, April 2014
e-Book
A Plain Man, April 2014
Paperback / e-Book
Always in My Heart, February 2014
e-Book
The Quaker and the Rebel, January 2014
Paperback / e-Book
An Amish Miracle, December 2013
Paperback / e-Book
A Little Bit of Charm, September 2013
Paperback / e-Book
Love Comes To Paradise, February 2013
Paperback / e-Book
Living In Harmony, August 2012
Paperback / e-Book
An Amish Family Reunion, February 2012
Paperback / e-Book
A Marriage For Meghan, October 2011
Paperback / e-Book
Abigail's New Hope, April 2011
Paperback
Sarah's Christmas Miracle, August 2010
Paperback
The Way To A Man's Heart, July 2010
Paperback
Never Far From Home, January 2010
Paperback
A Widow's Hope, March 2009
Paperback

Excerpt of A Marriage For Meghan by Mary Ellis

CHAPTER ONE

The day after Christmas

Meghan Yost gazed out a frosty window on a world rapidly changing from earth brown to pure white.

"If this snow keeps up, nobody will be going anywhere tomorrow," said her mamm. With her glasses perched at the tip of her nose, Ruth remained intent on finishing her basket of mending before bedtime.

"James heard on the battery radio that the snow should let up by midnight. If I can walk to the Wrights to baby–sit their two little ones, then surely I can reach the schoolhouse. It's barely a half mile farther." Meghan rubbed a dry patch in the condensation with her sleeve.

Gideon Yost released a weary sigh, indicative of a hundred–year–old man, rather than a middle–aged husband, father and bishop of their Old Order district. "Stop smearing up that glass and tell me what is so wrong with working for the Wright family." He closed his well–worn Bible in his lap to concentrate on the matter at hand. "They're nice enough folks, for Englischers."

"Nothing at all, daed." Meghan stared out into the growing darkness.

"They pay you well; they give you most Saturdays off and they would never ask you to nanny on the Lord's Day. Plus they let you snack on all the junk food and soda pop you want."

Her mother clucked her tongue with disapproval. "I can't believe you haven't fattened up like a brood sow, considering the things I see in Jennifer Wright's shopping cart at the IGA."

"I eat enough pickled cauliflower and smoked turkey breast at home to offset the sweets eaten over there." Meghan perched a hand on her still bony hipbone. "I've got a ways to go before someone thinks of taking me to the market."

Gideon rose to his feet to stoke the woodstove. "Please don't change the subject, fraa. I want Meghan to put aside these foolish notions and be grateful for the good position she already has."

"Foolish notions?" Meghan's tone lifted with unusual pique. "I have wanted to become a schoolteacher since I was a kinner myself. And I have told you that many times before. Now that Mrs. Kauffman has found herself in a family way, the perfect opportunity has opened up." She abandoned her window vigil as the snowfall increased to near blizzard conditions.

"Don't speak of such things in mixed company, daughter," scolded mamm as her face blushed to a shade of bright pink.

Meghan chuckled inwardly. Speaking about on–the–way babies in front of daed had embarrassed her mamm, despite having borne five of her own. "Beg your pardon," she murmured.

"I hardly would describe this as the ‘perfect opportunity.' You're too young to handle a roomful of boisterous youngsters." Gideon added more split wood, closed the door, and straightened his spine one vertebra at a time. "Joanna Kauffman's husband has mentioned more than once that the students are a handful this year—two thirds of them male instead of an even fifty–fifty split as one would expect."

Meghan laughed with abandon. "I'm not afraid of a few little boys. Look how I've managed to wrap James and John around my little finger."

"Bruders are a different matter altogether. I'm sure the district can find someone else to finish out this school year. Then we'll have all next summer to find a permanent replacement—perhaps a gal who's resigned herself to spinsterhood and would welcome a steady income. You, daughter, we would have to replace before we knew it."

Meghan wheeled around to face her father. Sometimes his assumptions were exasperatingly old–fashioned, even for someone Amish. "What makes you think I won't remain single?"

The bishop laughed as he settled back into his vinyl recliner. "Because I've noticed the way Jacob Shultz stares at you at every preaching service we have. I doubt it won't be long until you two are officially courting. After all, you are nineteen already, soon to be twenty."

She shook her head at his logic. "Let me see if I follow this. I'm too young to teach school, but not too young to get married? I happen to know that Joanna Kauffman took over that classroom when she was only eighteen years old—almost two years younger than me."

"Joanna has a completely different temperament than you, daughter. We can't compare apples to oranges."

She opened her mouth to argue but Ruth held up two hands like a crossing guard stopping both lanes of traffic. "Hold on, Meghan. Why don't you go outside to see if James needs help getting the cows into the barn for the night? We don't want them out if this snow continues. Let me talk to your daed alone for a while."

Her mother smiled so sweetly, Meghan could do nothing but head to the back hall for her coat and boots. She should know better than to argue with her father. Her older sister, Catherine, was an expert with rationalization that allowed her to at least state her case. Her eldest sister, Abigail, with a sharp intellect but soft gentle words had the most success in getting her own way. But Meghan's tendency to act first and think later or to beg in a whiny voice seldom changed anyone's mind.

Pulling on her heavy wool bonnet, she picked up the battery lantern near the door and slipped outside. Despite the heavy snowfall, no sharp wind or piercing air quickened her pace toward the barn. In fact, she ambled along as though it were a balmy summer afternoon and sent up a silent prayer that her father would relent. Becoming a teacher had been her one true ambition since leaving school at age fourteen. Although she enjoyed working as a nanny, she yearned for her own classroom filled with bright shining faces, eager to learn. Hopefully, mamm can convince her father that she would be perfect for the job.

* * * * *

"Why not give the girl a chance?" asked Ruth, once she heard the kitchen door close. "Have you ever met anyone with more love and enthusiasm for children than Meghan?" She resumed darning a very large hole in the sock heel.

Gideon snorted, folding the newspaper in half. This would not be a good night to catch up with his reading. "She loves being with children because she still thinks and acts like one, most of the time. Have you forgotten some of the stunts she pulled as a student?"

Ruth peered over her half–moon glasses. "Have you heard complaints from the Wrights? Has she been unreliable or somehow irresponsible with their little ones?"

"No, no, they are safe and well tended in her care. But it might be nice if she helped Mrs. Wright with some of the housework while the kinner play. Instead, whether they're swimming, swinging or running the length of the meadow, Meghan joins in the fun." He rubbed his shoulder blade, trying to alleviate the crick in his neck. "I overheard Meghan tell a friend that she doesn't usually wash the lunch dishes until she hears Mrs. Wright's car pull into the driveway after work."

"Ach, Gideon. She has a carefree heart. Soon enough she'll be old and arthritic like us. Let her enjoy herself now."

"Fine, but that's why she should stay working where she is until marriage." He struggled to his feet, the choice an easy one as far as he was concerned.

Ruth shook her head. "Meghan has never wanted anything more than she wants this. And she has wonderful patience with little ones."

"She's disorganized, easily distracted, and usually late every place she goes in life."

"I can't argue with that, but everyone deserves a chance. She might just rise to the occasion and surprise us. You especially." She narrowed her gaze at him.

"As the district bishop, it will reflect on my decision making if she does poorly." He scrubbed his face with his palms as though waking from a bad dream. "What if teaching doesn't work out for Meghan, but in the meantime the Wright family finds a new nanny? She'll have nothing to fall back on."

"Goodness, ehemann, didn't you ever take a chance when you were young? Anyway, I believe she has already given Mrs. Wright her two–week notice, never anticipating the bishop, her own daed, would deny her the opportunity to fulfill a dream."

"That was impetuous—my point exactly. She never thinks things through. And I can't show my daughter special favors. It wouldn't be fair to the other women of the district."

"Has someone else stepped forward as a candidate for the position?" Ruth furrowed her forehead.

Gideon's face clouded over like the night sky beyond the window. "No, no one has, but I sent word to all the surrounding communities."

"Why not let Meghan try since Joanna agreed to stay another week to train her replacement on the job? What would it hurt?"

"A week isn't long enough to impart the necessary maturity to handle a classroom of impressionable minds." He began pacing the room.

Suddenly, Ruth straightened in the chair, while a smile turned up one corner of her mouth. "What about our Catherine? She's twenty–three, with a very level head on her shoulders. Her intended, Isaiah, will be away at that school for the deaf for at least a year. Surely, Abigail and Daniel can handle improvements to his cabin without Catherine being there. She can come back home."

The bishop pulled on his snow–white beard, perplexed. "What good would that do?"

"You can appoint Catherine as head teacher and Meghan as her assistant. You know that Catherine can handle the children, and Meghan can learn the necessary skills during the remaining term." Ruth smiled rather smugly as she returned to the sock.

His mouth gaped open. "That's a good idea. It could actually work, as long as Catherine is willing."

"I'll write to her tonight so that the letter gets to the Graber farm soon."

Gideon stopped pacing and walked to his wife's chair. He leaned down and brushed a kiss across her kapp. "I'll leave convincing Catherine up to you, fraa, as well as breaking the news to our youngest daughter. Who knows how Meghan will react to taking an assistant's position?" He ambled toward the stairs.

"Where on earth are you going? It's barely eight–thirty."

"To bed. I'll need my rest if Catherine is moving back home and those two start working together."

Ruth pondered his wisdom while she finished the sock. Recognizing sound advice when she heard it, she soon set her sewing basket aside and followed him up the steps. Besides, she had one persuasive letter to compose before climbing into bed.

* * * * *

Meghan thought she heard her name but burrowed her head deeper beneath the pillow. She hoped to return to the pleasant dream of floating on her back in the pond, on a hot summer day. It was cozy beneath the double quilt with the shades drawn against nighttime chills or an intrusive morning sun. Suddenly, she remembered today was the first day of her new job and bolted upright in bed. Springing into action, she collected her clothes and headed toward the upstairs bathroom, only to find it occupied by one of her brothers. She would have to take a sponge bath in the downstairs tub, although a quick shower would have chased away the morning cobwebs.

In the kitchen her mother handed her a cup of coffee. "Guder mariye," greeted Ruth.

"Good morning to you, mamm. I must get ready fast. Why did you let me sleep so late?" Meghan sipped the coffee black, without bothering with milk or sugar.

"I called you three times, but as usual, you turned over and went back to sleep. You need to set your wind–up alarm clock and get up when it buzzes. That's part of being a professional teacher." Ruth poured cornflakes into a bowl.

Meghan nodded. "That's true, but I don't have time to eat." She carried her coffee and clothes into the bathroom. Her mother was right—self–discipline was the mark of a good teacher, and a worthy trait to teach her students. Her students. Already they seemed like hers even though Joanna would still be around for a few more days. And due to her father's insistence, Catherine was moving home to help in the classroom. But Megan would only need her sister for a couple weeks. After all, Catherine had a cabin addition and a wedding to plan back at Abby's. Then she would be in charge—a teacher at last!

Didn't the two little Wrights smile each day she showed up to work? Didn't their mother describe her as a "natural" with children? Soon she would make her parents proud and herself content, since no calling was more noble than teaching young scholars skills that would serve them a lifetime.

For now, Meghan concentrated on getting ready for work. After bathing with mostly cold water—thanks to her brothers—she downed a second cup of coffee and hurried out the door, nearly forgetting her scarf and hat. Since she didn't know the current teacher very well, she hadn't a clue what supplies to bring, but assumed a positive attitude would be all an apprentice would need for a while.

Halfway down their driveway, her upbeat mood faltered when she slipped on an icy patch and fell on her backside. Unfortunately, the ground hadn't frozen solid yet. By the time she scrambled to her feet, her skirt had become both damp and muddy. For a moment she considered returning to the house to change, but decided against the idea. A tardy arrival would make a poor first impression. Anyway, her skirt would probably dry before she reached school.

Just as Meghan passed the neighbors' house, her former employer stepped onto the front porch and hollered. "Meghan! I'm so glad to see you. The woman I hired to replace you has a dead battery. At least, her car does," she added with a laugh. "I don't dare call in sick because our department is already shorthanded." The woman's voice carried in the crisp air as though she used a megaphone.

Dread churned Meghan's stomach along with the black coffee as she turned to face her. "I can't baby–sit, Mrs. Wright," she called. "I'm training today at the schoolhouse. The teacher is expecting me."

"Oh, dear. Who can I get to watch my children?" A look of panic etched the woman's features.

Meghan dug her hands into her coat pockets and glanced longingly up the road. "I'm sure my mamm will help out. Are they dressed and ready to go? I'll walk them home so you can leave for work." She ran full speed up the Wright driveway before she could change her mind.

"Oh, bless you, child. They'll be ready in a jiffy." True to her word, Mrs. Wright bundled her two little ones up and packed a bag of toys and snacks quickly.

By the time Meghan took them home, explained the situation to her mother and restarted for school—in the same muddy skirt—she'd lost half an hour. But at least the snow stopped and the sun reflected blindingly off the fields and rolling hills.

When she arrived at the white clapboard schoolhouse, she saw no stragglers lingering on the teeter–totter. No cluster of little girls whispered behind upraised mittens at the swings. Inside the double doors, Meghan found no one on the benches in the outer hallway empty. On the left side the boys' black jackets and felt hats had been hung on the row of wooden pegs, while the girls' navy blue coats and bonnets were neatly lined up on the right. Not a bonnet string dangled askew. With no pegs left, Meghan hooked her coat and outer bonnet atop another and quietly pulled open the inner door.

But not quite quietly enough. Thirty–five pairs of curious eyes turned in her direction, while the thirty–sixth pair appeared more piqued than curious. Joanna eyes scanned Meghan from the bottom of her soiled skirt up to her reddened nose, which unfortunately had begun to run.

"Meghan Yost, I presume?" Joanna stepped away from the chalkboard as boys in the back row began to chatter. Joanna clapped her hands and the chatter ceased. "Please leave your boots in the outer hallway. You'll find a box of tissues on the windowsill, and then take a seat in the last row. Today, you'll just observe. Children, this is Meghan. She might be your new teacher, but for now let's return to what we were doing." Joanna turned back to the chalkboard.

Meghan would have preferred blowing her nose before her official introduction, but it was too late to worry about that. Some of the older boys smirked, while several girls giggled. One girl—an eighth grader, judging by her size—stared at her skirt as though she'd never seen mud before. But at least she scooted over on the bench when Meghan approached, bootless and clutching a wad of tissues.

"What happened to you?" the girl whispered, not looking up from her paper.

"I slipped and fell on my way here," Meghan answered. The girl nodded and then refocused on her assignment, leaving Meghan to sit and peruse her surroundings.

The first graders occupied the first rows on either side, the still kappless girls looking so tiny, fresh and innocent compared with the mature scholars in the back. Joanna was instructing at the blackboard with a group of mid–range children who clustered along her like ducklings. The rest of the pupils appeared to be working on math problems, except for three boys who seemed to do nothing except stare out the window.

"How could you become our teacher?" asked the girl on her left, breaking Meghan's woolgathering. "You're not even as big as me." She had taken a break from copying multiplication problems from a textbook to compare Meghan's size with her own.

"I plan to grow taller before I assume full responsibility of the class."

To Meghan's horror, the girl broke into loud peels of laughter.

Joanna rapped a ruler on her desktop. "Annabeth, don't distract the class with your foolishness." Unfortunately, the teacher aimed her glare at the short person on Annabeth's right.

Meghan felt her cheeks blush as she swallowed hard. She turned away from the easily distracted Annabeth to admire the artwork around the room. Sets of mimeographed pictures with various levels of coloring ability hung in seasonal clusters on the walls. In the fall grouping, leaves blazed on an oak tree next to an Englischer's red barn, while a horse and buggy trotted by on the road. All of the horses were brown; all autumn leaves had been colored gold. Plain kinner were taught uniformity and conformity—no one was prettier, smarter, or more gifted than the next person in the eyes of the community...or the Lord. The final grouping, a summer scene, depicted green fields of gold–tasseled corn beneath a cloudless aqua sky.

She then studied the teacher's domain—a raised platform in the front of the room. Joanna sat at a carved desk holding a rack of teacher manuals, grade and attendance books, a bowl with a dozen sharpened pencils, and a tray of papers to be graded. Her chair rolled on little wheels to two bookcases of textbooks. The classroom was arranged in six rows, six desks per row. The fold–top desks had wrought iron legs and long wooden benches. As her daed had warned, two–thirds of the pupils were male, creating a center aisle decidedly off–center. Most of the little boys were hard at work, same as the girls. Except for three eighth graders who continued to steal glances and then smirk, whenever the great outdoors failed to hold their attention. The biggest of the three kept staring at her with unusual boldness.

"Let's get to work on the math, Owen," ordered Joanna. The rap on the desktop had been unnecessary, since her voice alone caused Owen...and Meghan to jump in their seats. The former focused on his math, while the latter felt a little light–headed. She should have eaten some cereal as mamm had suggested.

For the rest of the morning, the teacher called various groups to her desk or the chalkboard for specific instruction at their level. Afterward, older kinner would sit next to younger ones for additional one–on–one help. Joanna enunciated two different sets of spelling words from the board. The students knew which words to recite and then copy down to practice, depending on their grade. Meghan marveled how fluidly Joanna moved from one task to the next, never consulting a list or daily plan. The classroom operated like a well–oiled clock. Even students that needed to use the outdoor facilities did so without interruption, always one at a time.

Before long, Joanna rang a small brass bell on her desktop. "Lunch and recess," she announced. In orderly fashion, first the girls and then the boys went row–by–row to retrieve lunch boxes from the back table. Once they'd washed their hands, they returned to their desks to eat. "Meghan, you may join me up here."

Annabeth offered a shy smile as Meghan scrambled to her feet and walked to the front of the room. Joanna carried a folding chair from the corner and set it beside her desk. "We eat outdoors during nice weather, but today is much too cold and windy," she explained, pulling a sandwich, apple, bag of chips, and bottle of water from her cloth totebag.

"Jah, but at least the sun is shining." A very loud stomach grumble nearly drowned out Meghan's comment.

"Was that you?" Joanna laughed as she spread wax paper out as a placemat. "You had better eat something. That growl sounded serious."

Meghan felt herself blush for the third time. "No, danki. I'm perfectly fine."

"Didn't you bring a lunch?" Joanna seemed shocked. "Were you expecting a cafeteria with plenty of choices like in a big–city English school?" This time her laughter drew amused glances from the front row.

"No, I just left in a rush. I wasn't thinking at all." Meghan spoke close to Joanna's ear. "Then I ran into the woman I baby–sat for and she needed my help. That's why I was late."

"And your muddy clothes? What's the story behind them? " One blonde eyebrow arched over Joanna's crystal blue eyes.

Meghan exhaled slowly. "Since I was hurrying, I fell in the driveway."

"Of course," agreed Joanna with a warm smile. "That's what always happens when we try to make a good first impression."

Meghan didn't dare ask what kind of impression she'd made so far. Instead she folded her hands primly in her lap.

Joanna placed half of her sandwich on a napkin and pushed it across the desk, along with the bag of chips. "Here, no one goes hungry in my classroom."

"Oh, no, I couldn't take your meal. Not considering the condition you're in." As soon as she spoke the words, Meghan knew she'd made a horrible error. Pregnancies were seldom mentioned even among sisters, thus two strangers would never discuss them.

"And what condition would that be?" asked Joanna slyly, cocking her head.

Meghan's brain stretched to its limit. "Considering the challenge you'll face this afternoon motivating those three boys to finish their work. They seemed determined to stare out the window."

Joanna's smile bloomed across her face. "That will be an undertaking, but I intend to enlist your help. So eat up, young lady. You'll need your strength if you want to become the teacher of this class." She pointed at the napkin with the sandwich. "Especially if you plan to grow taller by the time you take charge." She rested a hand on her slightly rounded belly.

"You heard me?" Meghan gasped. "You were all the way in the front of the room."

"Exceptionally acute hearing is a helpful ability for a teacher to develop. With it, you'd be surprised how often you can nip trouble in the bud."

Meghan stared at the amazing woman while they ate lunch and later as they monitored the students in the schoolyard. Some of the boys tried to throw a football around, but they were slipping and sliding too much to catch the ball. During the afternoon lessons, Joanna continued to impress the novice with her smooth handling of both students and subject matter. Per Joanna's suggestion, Meghan moved closer to the boys' benches whenever they began daydreaming. And it actually worked to a certain extent. At the end of the day, Joanna dismissed the children by rows to the outer hallway to get their hats and coats. Then the two women stood smiling in the doorway as the children filed out.

Tying her bonnet strings beneath her chin, Joanna gazed down on her. "You did fine for your first day. I hope you'll come back tomorrow for another go–round." After a bright smile, she walked down the steps, heading home in the opposite direction. The woman didn't even seem tired.

Meghan stood there transfixed, filled with anticipation and a sense of wonder...until she spotted Jacob Schultz's buggy parked near the road. She marched toward him at a brisk pace.

"Hullo, Meg," shouted Jacob while still thirty feet away. "How did your first day of school go?" His ruddy, clean–shaven face glowed from the brisk temperatures.

"What are you doing here?" she demanded, tightening the scarf around her neck.

"Your daed told me where you'd be when I stopped by to sharpen his cutting blades today. Bet you're glad to get this teaching job for a while."

She silently wished her father wouldn't sic Jacob on her like a watchdog going after a burglar. "But why did you come?"

"To drive you home, of course. With this changeable weather, there's no reason you should walk when I was out doing errands. Climb up here. I've got some warm bricks to rest your feet on." He lifted the plaid lap robe so she could snuggle next to him on the bench seat.

Meghan glanced left and right. Joanna and the students had already hurried off. No one was around to witness her accept the ride and draw incorrect conclusions about their relationship. "All right, danki. That would be nice. I'm eager to get home and tell mamm how well things went. Joanna put me in charge of watching these three problem boys. On my very first day!" Pride rang out in her words.

"Good for you, but you just let me know if those boys give you any trouble. I'll be happy to meet them on their way home, for a special little talking–to." He winked one of his large green eyes knowingly.

"You'll do no such thing! This is my job, and I need to learn to how handle students just like Joanna. I didn't notice her husband standing by the window with a switch, in case someone gave his fraa any grief." He grinned with pleasure, while she could have bitten her tongue in half. Why in the world had she made such an analogy since she didn't want Jacob getting any wrong ideas about their future?

"Sure, I meant in case of an emergency. I'm sure you'll be the best teacher in Shreve before long." He shook the reins over the horse's back and the buggy rolled onto the road.

She settled back and tried to relax. With everything she learned swimming through her head, she barely heard his small talk about weather forecasts, local gossip and the upcoming social events. Jacob was a nice enough boy—a man really, at twenty–three—and he was rather handsome. He lived on a nearby farm that he would someday take over when his daed retired, with a lucrative side business fixing farm equipment as a blacksmith. But Meghan happened to know he was in the market for a wife. And with her future opening up like a banquet buffet, marriage or even serious courting was the last thing on her mind.

Excerpt from A Marriage For Meghan by Mary Ellis
All rights reserved by publisher and author

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