Eight-year-old Joseph leaned toward his brother as they slipped onto their chairs for the evening meal. "Father has a surprise for someone. See his eyes twinkle," he whispered.
Daniel looked at his father and nodded his head as a smile tugged at the corner of his mouth. Quickly he looked at his hands. He had learned the hard way. Anyone who came to the Yoder table with hands that were not clean was expected to wash the dishes. Father had said even a five-year-old should be responsible to see that his hands and face were clean and his hair combed.
Big brother Allen quietly took his place.
Mother tied a bib on Baby Joel and sat down.
Father laid his hand on Joel's little hands. "Close your eyes, Joel. Let's pray."
Daniel could hardly wait to hear what Father had to say, but he knew Father would not tell until everyone had food on his plate.
Finally Father looked up and asked, "How would my family like to move to the country?"
"Oh, Father, could we!" exclaimed Joseph, leaning forward in his eagerness. "I'd really like that."
"I heard of a place today that sounds just right for us. Mother and I have always wanted to live in the country. Even though this is only a small village, it is not the best place to raise a family."
Turning to Mother he asked, "Would you like to go and look at the place on Saturday?"
"Yes, I would," agreed Mother.
"May we all go along?" asked Joseph.
"Yes, you may all go along." Turning to Mother again, he said, "This place has three bedrooms, a bathroom, a large kitchen, and a good-sized living room, besides another small room. The name of the place is Lilac Hill."
"Oh, my favorite flower!" exclaimed Mother joyfully.
"I thought of you as soon as I heard the name," laughed Father.
"It is near enough that I could still work for Uncle John at the feed and Hardware Supply Store. Allen could still stop in after school and help in the stockroom and in sweeping up. Then he could come home with me," he explained.
"Oh, good!" exclaimed fourteen-year-old Allen. "I'd really miss helping Uncle John. I like being busy. Uncle John always seems to appreciate what I do, and that makes it seem worthwhile."
Father smiled, "Yes, helping others is worthwhile, and while you are helping, you are also gaining some valuable experience that will likely be a big help when it comes time to look for a job.
"Joseph could ride home from school with Robert Brown and walk the rest of the way. One rainy days we could perhaps arrange for him to stay with Robert until I come to get him," continued Father.
"Good. I like Robert. He is a nice boy," remarked Joseph.
"Of course, all this depends on whether we do buy the place," Father added.
"I can hardly wait to see it. I'm so glad this is Thursday. Only one more day." Joseph wiggled excitedly.
"You do have things rather well planned." Mother smiled at Father.
"I've been doing a bit of thinking. I;m almost as excited as Joseph," chuckled Father.
Saturday morning dawned bright and clear. Excitement ran high. In spite of the fact that everyone was laughing and getting in everyone else's way, chores were done in record time.
"Are we finished? Can we go now?" wondered Joseph.
As they drove away Mother observed, "The trees are already showing signs of spring. See how swelled the buds are?"
"Here we are," announced Father, stopping in front of a lovely, old, white house.
"Just a minute," he said, as Joseph opened the car door.
"Let's start by looking from the car first, then outdoors, and later we will all go into the ;house together. Remember, this property belongs to others. We did not buy it yet. We need to respect the property of others."
"I see three lilac bushes. I wonder what color they are," observed Mother.
They inspected the place from the car, each adding comments of special interest. Then they got out of the car and walked toward the house.
"Something is coming up in the flower beds." Allen's finger indicated the area.
"Daffodils! Isn't that lovely. Oh, and crocuses too! It will be fun waiting to see what comes up. Spring is such an interesting time of the year. We'll have to be real careful in cleaning up. We don't want to destroy something beautiful." Mother's eyes shone.
Joseph and Daniel walked to the back of the house, then came dashing back. "Father! Mother! There are swings behind the house. Will they stay?" panted Joseph.
"Maybe. The man said he'd sell them if we want them. I said we probably would. Of course, we want to see them first."
Father went to examine the swings. "Yes, if we buy this place, the swings will stay."
"May we swing now?" both boys asked at the same time.
"Better wait. They are not really ours yet. Let's see what else we can find."
"Here are two more lilac bushes," observed Mother.
"There's a chicken house." Allen walked over to the building. "Needs a good cleaning and a bit of repair," he commented. "Look, Mother! Here is another lilac bush. NO wonder they named it "Lilac Hill.'"
"Here's the garage," said Joseph.
Father scrutinized it carefully and concluded, "It's in fairly good shape."
"It's a lovely old place. It's been neglected and needs a lot of cleaning up, and the bushes need trimming. Oh! Here's a rose bush. Poor thing. It needs some help," sympathized Mother. "My fingers just itch to get busy."
"Yes," agreed Father, "an older couple lived here last. They couldn't do the outdoor work. But no one has been living here recently. That is why everything looks so neglected. The owner lives in another state and can't look after it."
"Here's a nice place for a big garden. Looks like it may have been a garden at one time," remarked Allen still looking about. "And this old building could be fixed up for a dandy shop. Oh, I'd like it here." His eyes sparkled in delighted anticipation. "I do hope we move here. And soon!"
Father chuckled. "Now let's look inside the house," he suggested. "I'm sure Mother is anxious to see what it is like inside."
"Yes, I really am," she agreed.
After a tour of the house, the family stopped in the kitchen. Mother remarked, "It really is in fairly good condition. Some good, hard scrubbing will take care of most of it. Can I get some help?" she looked at the boys.
"Sure, I can scrub," volunteered Allen.
"I think I could," offered Joseph.
"I could take care of Joel. Would that help?" asked Daniel.
"Indeed it would help," Mother said, patting Daniel on the shoulder. "With all these willing helpers, we could soon have it nice and clean."
"If you are ready, I'll tell the man that we'll take it, and we'll take possession of it as soon as the necessary papers can be finished," Father agreed.
Chapter 1 of Adventures on Lilac Hill
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