Knowing that the army had intended to move north, into Pennsylvania, Gideon had loaded his family and a few possessions into the wagon and set out for the west. To the large Amish communities in Ohio. There, they would be safe. There, Lovinia could recover from this sickness. There, they could be a family again.
But would he...could he...fulfill his calling as a minister again? Would God use a broken man?
Gideon rocked Daniel in his arms until the baby fell asleep, and he laid him on the cot next to Lovinia. Roseanna and Sophia were bent over in the middle of the meadow along the road, looking at something on the ground. He climbed out of the wagon, careful not to wake Lovinia.
"Daed." Roseanna waved to him. "Look what we found!"
She held something in her hand. Something shiny and metal. Gideon broke into a jog.
"What do you have there?"
He tried to keep his voice light, but he could see what they had found. Buttons. Two round, brass buttons.
"Aren't they pretty?" Sophia held hers up to show him. The US eagle molded into the surface was clear enough for anyone to see.
"We found them here, on the ground," Roseanna said, crouching to push the blades of grass aside. "We found two. Do you think there might be more?"
Gideon stood, scanning the quiet crossroads. An army had been here once, and they could come again. His heart pounded in his ears. How long ago were they here? How long did they stay?
"I think you need to leave those here," he said, ignoring his daughters' disappointed faces. "Whoever lost them might come back to look for them."
"What are they?" Sophia asked.
"They are buttons," Roseanna said, then she held hers up to Gideon again. "Why is there a bird on the front?"
"It belongs to an army officer." Gideon pushed them back toward the wagon. "He'll be back to look for them, for sure. And it's time for us to move on."
Gideon picked Ezra up and glanced around again, knowing it was foolish to think an army might be close. Those buttons were soiled. They had been here for a long time, a year maybe.
But he still listened for the roll of drums.
Once they returned to the wagon, the horses had rested enough to continue. Gideon walked to relieve some of the wagon's weight, leading the team as the road sloped upward, away from the creek. They passed a lane leading to a house as they reached the crest of the slope, then Gideon stopped. In front of him, the valley spread out. The road they were on went down to meet the creek again, then followed it along the bottom of the valley. Beyond a wood, a large barn and farmhouse settled into the landscape on the far side of the creek. From there, the road swung to the right, away from the creek and past another farmhouse to disappear up the rise beyond.
Unbidden, a verse from the book of Matthew came to him: "For I was hungry, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in."
Gideon bowed his head. Pride ate at him, rejecting that he and his family were in need. Refugees from the war they had left behind.
Mein Herr, you are teaching me humility. Once more. Help me to humble myself before you.
Gideon glanced behind them, still uneasy. The war couldn't follow them here. Ohio was a safe place.
"Is this where we're going, Daed?" Roseanna's voice called, laced with longing.
I was a stranger...
"I hope so, daughter." He climbed back on the wagon seat before driving down the slope to the creek.
As they passed another farm lane, one that disappeared into a stand of pine trees on the right, a young woman met them, striding down the lane with an unhurried gait that would fit better on a man. She wore a proper kapp, but no bonnet, and wild strands of red hair framed her face. Gideon's gaze met hers for a second, long enough to watch the coffee-brown eyes narrow and then shift to the wagon and the children watching her.