Martha stared down at the table. “That doesn’t prove he cut the line.”

“Toby says Luke’s been acting strange for several months,” Sadie put in. “He thinks Luke hasn’t been right in the head since he started running with some rowdy English fellows.”

Ruth was glad Luke’s mother hadn’t come today. It wouldn’t be good for her to hear such talk about her son. In fact, she didn’t think they should be having this conversation, especially not in front of Donna Larson.

Martha shot Sadie an exasperated look. “You can tell your boyfriend that he’s done some strange things, too. Does that make him a suspect?” Sadie opened her mouth as if to comment, but Cleon’s mother spoke first. “It’s not our place to judge Luke or anyone else. It might be good if we change the subject.”

“I agree.” Ruth headed back to the refrigerator for a pitcher of lemonade. “I’m taking this outside. If some of you would like to bring out the coffee and cookies, I’m sure the men would appreciate it.”

As Martin waited on the por ed God that she hadn’t been near mishap with the hammer Ruth, he thought about her hurt. He’d had an interest in Ruth for a long time—ever since they were children. Even back then, he thought she was beautiful, with her dark brown hair and matching eyes, not to mention her gentle, sweet spirit. During their teen years, when they’d first started attending singings and other young people’s functions, he’d been too shy to ask if he could give her a ride home in his buggy. Then Luke Friesen began courting Ruth, and Martin figured his chances were nil. Now that Luke was out of the picture, Martin hoped he might be able to win Ruth’s heart.

“What’s the matter, Martin? Did you get tired of crawling around on the roof?” Abe Wengerd asked as he clomped up the steps to the back porch.

Martin motioned to the house. “I came here to help Ruth get something to drink for the workers.”

Abe glanced around, then tipped his head in Martin’s direction. “Don’t see any sign of Ruth. Looks to me like you’re taking a break.”

Martin chuckled. “Guess I am at that. But just until Ruth returns from the kitchen.”

“How come you didn’t go in with her?”

“Figured I’d only be in the way.” Martin’s cheeks warmed. “Besides, she asked me to wait out here.”

“Reminds me of the way my Alma used to be.” Abe reached under his straw hat and pulled his fingers through the ends of his unruly reddish-brown hair. “That woman could get me to do most anything.” A shadow crossed his face as he stared down at his boots. “Sure do miss her.”

Martin couldn’t imagine what it must be like for Abe, losing his wife after she was struck by a lightning bolt. Now the poor fellow had six children to raise on his own. Martin wondered whether Abe would marry again—and if so, whether it would be for love or so his children could have a mother.

“Did you come up to the house for a particular reason or just to see if I was loafing off?” Martin asked.

Abe leaned against the porch railing. “From what I’ve seen of your work habits at the harness shop, I’m convinced you’re not the kind to loaf around.” He nodded toward the back door. “In answer to your question, I was heading in to use the facilities.”

“What’s wrong with the portable outhouses that were put up for the workers to use?” Roman Hostettler asked as he stepped onto the porch. “Are they too smelly for your sensitive nose?” He snickered and bumped Abe’s arm with his elbow.

Abe nudged him right back. “They were both in use. I figured you wouldn’t mind if I used the one inside.”