Blind Man's Lantern
From: Blind Man's Lantern
Walking home in the dark from an evening spent in mischief, a
young man spied coming toward him down the road a person with
a lamp. When the wayfarers drew abreast, the play-boy saw that
the other traveler was the Blind Man from his village. "Blind
Man," the youngster shouted across the road, "what a fool you
be! Why, old No-Eyes, do you bear a lantern, you whose midnight
is no darker than his noonday?" The Blind Man lifted his lamp.
"It is not as a light for myself that I carry this, Boy," he
said, "it is to warn off you fools with eyes."
The Captain shook hands with the black-hatted Amishman while the woman
stood aside, not concerning herself with men's business. "It's been a
pleasure to have you and Fraa Stoltzfoos aboard, Aaron," the Captain
said. "Ship's stores are yours, my friend; if there's anything you need,
take it and welcome. You're a long way from the corner grocery."
"My Martha and I have all that's needful," Aaron Stoltzfoos said. "We
have our plow, our seed, our land. Captain, please tell your men, who
treated us strangers as honored guests, we thank them from our hearts.
We'll not soon forget their kindness."
"I'll tell them," the Captain promised. Stoltzfoos hoisted himself to
the wagon seat and reached a hand down to boost his wife up beside him.
Martha Stoltzfoos sat, blushing a bit for having displayed an accidental
inch of black stocking before the ship's officers. She smoothed down her
black skirts and apron, patted the candle-snuffer Kapp into place over
her prayer-covering, and tucked the wool cape around her arms and
shoulders. The world outside, her husband said, was a cold one.
Now in the Stoltzfoos wagon was the final lot of homestead goods with
which these two Amishers would battle the world of Murna. There was the
plow and bags of seed, two crates of nervous chickens; a huge, round
tabletop; an alcohol-burning laboratory incubator, bottles of
agar-powder, and a pressure cooker that could can vegetables as readily
as it could autoclave culture-media. There was a microscope designed to
work by lamplight, as the worldly vanity of electric light would ill
suit an Old Order bacteriologist like Martha Stoltzfoos. Walled in by
all this gear was another passenger due to debark on Murna, snuffling
and grunting with impatience. "Sei schtill, Wutzchen," Stoltzfoos
crooned. "You'll be in your home pen soon enough."
The Captain raised his hand. The Engineer punched a button to tongue the
landing ramp out to Murnan earth. Cold air rammed in from the outside
winter. The four horses stomped their hoofs on the floor-plates, their
breath spikes of steam. Wutzchen squealed dismay as the chill hit his
"We're reddi far geh, Captain," Stoltzfoos said. "My woman and I
invite you and your men to feast at our table when you're back in these
parts, five years hence. We'll stuff you fat as sausages with onion
soup and Pannhaas, Knepp and Ebbelkuche, shoo-fly pie and scharifer
cider, if the folk here grow apples fit for squeezing."
"You'll have to set up planks outdoors to feed the lot I'll be bringing,
Aaron," the Captain said. "Come five-years' springtime, when I bring
your Amish neighbors out, I'll not forget to have in my pockets a toot
of candy for the little Stoltzes I'll expect to see underfoot." Martha,
whose English was rusty, blushed none the less. Aaron grinned as he
slapped the reins over the rumps of his team. "Giddap!" The cart rumbled
across the deck and down the ramp, onto the soil of Murna. Yonnie, the
Ayrshire bull, tossed his head and sat as the rope tightened on his
noseband. He skidded stubbornly down the ramp till he felt cold earth
against his rear. Accepting fate, Yonnie scrambled up and plodded after
the wagon. As the Stoltzfooses and the last of their off-worldly goods
topped a hillock, they both turned to wave at the ship's officers. Then,
veiled by the dusty fall of snow, they disappeared.
* * * * *
"I don't envy them," the Engineer said, staring out into the wintery
"Hymie, were you born in a barn?" the Exec bellowed.
"Sorry, sir." The Engineer raised the landing ramp. Heaters hummed to
thaw the hold's air. "I was thinking about how alone those two folks are
"Hardly alone," the Captain said. "There are four million Murnans,
friendly people who consider a white skin no more than a personal
idiosyncrasy. Aaron's what his folks call a Chentelmaan, too. He'll
"Chentelmaan-schmentelmaan," the Engineer said. "Why'd he come half
across Creation to scratch out a living with a horse-drawn plow?"
"He came out here for dirt," the Captain said. "Soil is more than
seed-bed to the Amish. It feeds the Old Order they're born to. Aaron
and Martha Stoltzfoos would rather have built their barns beside the
Susquehanna, but all the land there's taken. Aaron could have taken a
job in Lancaster, too; he could have shaved off his beard, bought a
Chevie and moved to the suburbs, and settled down to read an
English-language Bible in a steepled church. Instead, he signed a
homestead-contract for a hundred acres eighty light-years from home; and
set out to plow the land like his grandpop did. He'll sweat hard for his
piece of Murna, but the Amish always pay well for their land."
"And what do we, the government, I mean, get from the deal?" the Exec
wanted to know. "This wagon of ours doesn't run on hay, like Aaron's
"Cultures skid backwards when they're transplanted," the Captain said.
"Murnan culture was lifted from Kano, a modern city by the standards of
the time; but, without tools and with a population too small to support
technology, the West African apostates from Islam who landed here four
hundred years ago slid back to the ways of their grandparents. We want
them to get up to date again. We want Murna to become a market. That's
Aaron's job. Our Amishman has got to start this planet back toward the
"Seems an odd job to give a fellow who won't drive a car or read by
electric light," the Engineer observed.
"Not so odd," the Captain said. "The Amish pretty much invented American
agriculture, you know. They've developed the finest low-energy farming
there is. Clover-growing, crop-rotation, using animal manures, those are
their inventions. Aaron, by his example, will teach the natives here
Pennsylvania farming. Before you can say Tom Malthus, there'll be steel
cities in this wilderness, filled with citizens eager to open charge
accounts for low-gravs and stereo sets."
"You expect our bearded friend to reap quite a harvest, Captain," the
Engineer said. "I just hope the natives here let him plant the seed."
"Did you get along with him, Hymie?"
"Sure," the Engineer said. "Aaron even made our smiths, those human
sharks bound for Qureysh, act friendly. For all his strange ways, he's a
"Nice guy, hell," the Captain said. "He's a genius. That
seventeenth-century un-scientist has more feeling for folkways in his
calloused left hand than you'd find in all the Colonial Survey. How do
you suppose the Old Order maintains itself in Pennsylvania, a tiny
Deitsch-speaking enclave surrounded by calico suburbs and ten-lane
highways? They mind their business and leave the neighbors to theirs.
The Amish have never been missionaries--they learned in 1600 that
missionaries are resented, and either slaughtered or absorbed."
"Sometimes digestively," the Engineer remarked.
"Since the Thirty Years' War, back when 'Hamlet' was opening in London,
these people have been breeding a man who can fit one special niche in
society. The failures were killed in the early days, or later went gay
and took the trappings of the majority. The successes stayed on the
farm, respected and left alone. Aaron has flirted with our century; he
and his wife learned some very un-Amish skills at the Homestead School.
The skill that makes Aaron worth his fare out here, though, is an Amish
skill, and the rarest one of all. He knows the Right Way to Live, and
lives it; but he knows, too, that your Truth-of-the Universe is
something different. And right, for you. He's quite a man, our Aaron
Stoltzfoos. That's why we dropped him here."
"Better him than me," the Engineer said.
"Precisely," the Captain said. He turned to the Exec. "As soon as we've
lifted, ask Colonel Harris to call on me in my cabin, Gene. Our Marines
had better fresh-up their swordsmanship and cavalry tactics if they're
to help our Inad Tuaregs establish that foundry on Qureysh."
"It sometimes seems you're more Ship's Anthropologist than Captain," the
"I'm an anthro-apologist, Hymie, like Mr. Kipling," the Captain said.
"There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays.
And--every--single--one--of--them--is--right!" Bells rang, and the ship
surged. "Aaron and Martha, God keep you," the Captain said.
* * * * *
"Whoa!" Aaron shouted. He peered back toward the ship, floating up into
grayness, the cavitation of her wake stirring the snow into patterns
like fine-veined marble. "Gott saygen eich," he said, a prayer for his
His wife shivered. "It's cold enough to freeze the horns off a
mooley-cow," she said. She glanced about at the snow-drifted little
trees and clutched her black cloak tighter. "I'm feared, Stoltz. There's
naught about us now but snow and black heathen."
"It's fear that is the heathen," Aaron said. "By the word of the Lord
were the heavens made; and the host of them by the breath of His
mouth." He kissed her. "I welcome you to our new homeland, wife," he
Behind them Wutzchen--"piglet"--grunted. Martha smiled back at the giant
porker, perched amongst the cases and bags and household goods like the
victim of some bawdy chiavari. "I've never heard a pig mutter so," she
"If he knew that his business here was to flatter the local lady-pigs
with farrow, Wutzchen would hop out and run," Aaron said.
"Dummel dich, Stoltz," Martha said. "I've got to make your supper yet,
and we don't have so much as a stove lit in our tent."
Stoltzfoos slapped the team back into motion. "What we need for our
journey home are a few of the altie lieder," he said, reaching back in
the wagon for his scarred guitar. He strummed and hummed, then began
singing in his clear baritone: "In da guut alt Suumer-zeit ...
"... In da guut alt Suumer-zeit," Martha's voice joined him. As they
jolted along the path through the pine trees, heading toward
Datura-village, near which their homestead stood, they sang the other
homey songs to the music of the old guitar. "Drawk Mich Zrick zu Alt
Virginye," nostalgic for the black-garbed Plain-Folk left at home. Then
Aaron's fingers danced a livelier tune on the strings: "Ich fang 'n
neie Fashun aw," he crowed, and Martha joined in:
"A new fashion I'll begin," they sang,
"The hay I'll cut in the winter;
"When the sun-heat beats, I'll loaf in the shade.
"And feast on cherry-pie.
"I'll get us a white, smearkase cow,
"And a yard full of guinea-hen geese;
"A red-beet tree as high as the moon,
"And a patent-leather fence.
"The chickens I'll keep in the kitchen," they sang; whereupon Martha
broke down laughing.
"It's a new world, and for now a cold world; but it's God's world, with
home just up ahead," Aaron shouted. He pulled the wagon up next to the
arctic tent that was to be their temporary farmhouse, beside the wagon
loads of provision he'd brought before. He jumped down and swung Martha
to earth. "Light the stove, woman; make your little kitchen bright,
while I make our beasts feel welcome."
The Amishwoman pushed aside the entrance flap of the tent. Enclosed was
a circle some twelve feet wide. The floor was bare earth. Once warmed by
the pump-up "naptha" lantern and the gasoline hotplate, it would become
a bog. Martha went out to the wagon to get a hatchet and set out for the
nearby spinny of pines to trim off some twigs. Old Order manner forbid
decorative floor-coverings as improper worldly show; but a springy
carpet of pine-twigs could be considered as no more than a wooden floor,
keeping two Plain Folk from sinking to their knees in mud.
The pots were soon boiling atop the two-burner stove, steaming the
tent's air with onion-tangy tzvivvele Supp and the savory pork-smell
of Schnitz un Knepp, a cannibal odor that disturbed not a bit
Wutzchen, snoring behind the cookstove. Chickens, penned beneath the
bed, chuckled in their bedtime caucus. The cow stood cheek-by-jowl with
Yonnie, warming him with platonic graciousness as they shared the hay
Aaron had spread before them. Martha stirred her soup. "When the bishop
married me to you," she told Aaron, "he said naught of my having to
sleep with a pig."
"Ah, but I thought you knew that to be the purpose of Christian
marriage, woman," Aaron said, standing close.
"It's Wutz I mean," she said. "Truly, I mind not a bit living as in one
of those automobile-wagons, since it's with you, and only for a little
"I'll hire a crew of our neighbors to help with the barn tomorrow,"
Aaron said. "That done, you'll have but one pig to sleep with."
After grace, they sat on cases of tobacco to eat their meal from a table
of feed sacks covered with oilcloth. "The man in the ship's little
kitchen let me make and freeze pies, Stoltz," Martha said. "He said we'd
have a deepfreeze big as all outdoors, without electric, so use it. Eat
till it's all, Maan; there's more back."
Yonnie bumped against Aaron's eating-elbow. "No man and his wife have
eaten in such a zoo since Noah and his wife left the ark," Aaron said.
He cut a slice of Schnitz-pie and palmed it against the bull's big snout
to be snuffled up. "He likes your cooking," he said.
"So wash his face," Martha told him.
* * * * *
Outside the tent there was a clatter of horse-iron on frozen ground.
"What the die-hinker is that?" Aaron demanded. He stood and picked up
the naphtha lantern.
Outside, Aaron saw a tall black stranger, astride a horse as pale as the
little Murnan moons that lighted him. "Rankeshi dade!" the visitor
"May your life be a long one!" Aaron Stoltzfoos repeated in Hausa.
Observing that his caller was brandishing a clenched fist, the Amishman
observed the same ambiguous courtesy. "If you will enter, O Welcome
Stranger, my house will be honored."
"Mother bless thee, Bearded One," the Murnan said. He dismounted,
tossing his reins to one of the four retainers who remained on
horseback. He entered the tent after Aaron; and stared about him at the
animals, letting his dark eyes flick across Martha's unveiled face. At
the Amishman's invitation, the visitor sat himself on a tobacco case,
revealing as he crossed his legs elaborately embroidered trousers and
boot tops worked with designs that would dazzle a Texan. Martha bustled
about hiding the remains of their meal.
The Murnan's outer dress was a woolen riga, the neckless gown of his
West-African forefathers, with a blanket draped about his shoulders,
exactly as those ancestors had worn one in the season of the cold wind
called harmattan. Aaron introduced himself as Haruna, the Hausa version
of his name; and the guest made himself known as Sarki--Chief--of the
village of Datura. His given name was Kazunzumi. Wutzchen snuffled in
his sleep. The Sarki glanced at the huge pig and smiled. Aaron relaxed a
bit. The Islamic interdict on swine had been shed by the Murnans when
they'd become apostates, just as Colonial Survey had guessed.
Stoltzfoos' Hausa, learned at the Homestead School at Georgetown
University, proved adequate to its first challenge in the field, though
he discovered, with every experimenter in a new language, that his most
useful phrase was magana sanoo-sanoo: "please speak slowly." Aaron let
the Chief commence the desultory conversation that would precede talk of
consequence. Martha, ignored by the men, sat on the edge of the bed,
reading the big German-language Bible. Aaron and Kazunzumi sang on in
the heathen tongue about weather, beasts, and field-crops.
The Sarki leaned forward to examine Aaron's beard and shaven upper lip,
once; and smiled. The Murnan does not wear such. He looked at Martha
more casually now, seeing that the husband was not disgraced by his
wife's naked face; and remarked on the whiteness of her skin in the same
tones he'd mentioned Wutzchen's remarkable girth.
Aaron asked when the snows would cease, when the earth would thaw. The
Sarki told him, and said that the land here was as rich as manure.
Gradually the talk worked round to problems involving carpenters, nails,
lumber, hinges--and money. Aaron was pleased to discover that the
natives thought nothing of digging a cellar and raising a barn in
midwinter, and that workers could be easily hired.
Suddenly Sarki Kazunzumi stood and slapped his palms together. The tent
flap was shoved open. Bowed servants, who'd shivered outside for over an
hour, placed their master's presents on the sack table, on the twig
floor, even beside Martha on the bed. There were iron knives, a roast
kid, a basket of peanuts, a sack of roasted coffee beans, a string of
dried fruit, and a tiny earthware flask of perfume. There was even a
woolen riga for Aaron, black, suggesting that the Survey had said a bit
to the natives about Amish custom; and there were bolts of
bright-patterned cloth too worldly for aught but quilts and
infant-dresses, brightening Martha's eyes.
Aaron stood to accept the guest gifts with elaborate thanks. Sarki
Kazunzumi as elaborately bemeaned his offerings. "Musa the carpenter
will appear on tomorrow's tomorrow," he said. "You will, the Mother
willing, visit me in Datura tomorrow. We will together purchase lumber
worthy of my friend-neighbor's barn-making. May the Mother give you
strength to farm, Haruna! May the Mother grant you the light of
"Sannu, sannu!" Stoltzfoos responded. He stood at the door of his
tent, holding his lantern high to watch the Sarki and his servants ride
off into the darkness.
* * * * *
"Er iss en groesie Fisch, nee?" Martha asked.
"The biggest fish in these parts," Aaron agreed. "Did you understand our
"The heathen speech is hard for me to learn, Stoltz," Martha admitted,
speaking in the dialect they'd both been reared to. "While you had only
the alien speech to study, I spent my time learning to grow the buglets
and tell the various sorts apart. Besides, unser guutie Deitschie
Schproech, asz unser Erlayser schwetzt, iss guut genunk fa mier." (Our
honest German tongue, that our Saviour spoke, is good enough for me).
Aaron laughed. "So altfashuned a Maedel I married," he said. "Woman,
you must learn the Hausa, too. We must be friends to these Schwotzers,
as we were friends with the English-speakers back in the United
Schtayts." He pushed aside the bolt of Murnan cloth to sit beside his
wife, and leafed through the pages of their Familien-Bibel, pages
lovingly worn by his father's fingers, and his grandfather's. "Listen,"
"For the Lord thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks
of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills;
a land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates;
a land of oil olive, and honey; a land wherein thou shalt eat bread
without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it; a land whose
stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass. When thou
hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the Lord they God for the
good land which He hath given thee." Aaron closed the big book
reverently. "Awmen," he said.
"Awmen," the woman echoed. "Aaron, with you beside me, I am not
"And with the Lord above us, I fear not in a strange land," Aaron said.
He bent to scrape a handful of earth from beneath Martha's pine-twig
carpet. "Guuter Gruundt," he said. "This will grow tall corn. Tobacco,
too; the folk here relish our leaf. There will be deep grasses for the
beasts when the snow melts. We will prosper here, wife."
The next morning was cold, but the snowfall had ceased for a spell. The
Stoltzfooses had risen well before the dawn; Martha to feed herself, her
husband, and the chickens; Aaron to ready the horse and wagon for a trip
into Datura. He counted out the hoard of golden cowries he'd been loaned
as grubstake, did some arithmetic, and allowed his wife to pour him a
second cup of coffee for the road. "You may expect the Sarki's wives to
visit while I'm gone," he remarked.
"I'd be scared half to death!" Martha Stoltzfoos said. Her hands went to
the back of her head, behind the lace prayer covering. "My hair's all
strooby, this place is untidy as an auction yard; besides, how can I
talk with those dark and heathen women? Them all decked out in golden
bangles and silken clothes, most likely, like the bad lady of Babylon?
Aaron Stoltz, I would admire a pretty to ride into town with you."
"Haggling for hired-help is man's Bissiniss." he said. "When
Kazunzumi's women come, feed them pie and peaches from the can. You'll
find a way to talk, or women are not sisters. I'll be back home in time
for evening chores."
* * * * *
Bumping along the trail into Datura, Aaron Stoltzfoos studied the land.
A world that could allow so much well-drained black soil to go unfarmed
was fortunate indeed, he mused. He thought of his father's farm, which
would be his elder brother's, squeezed between railroad tracks and a
three-lane highway, pressed from the west by an Armstrong Cork plant,
the very cornstalks humming in harmony with the electric lines strung
across the fields. This land was what the old folks had sought in
America so long ago: a wilderness ripe for the plow.
The wagon rumbled along the hoof-pocked frozen clay. Aaron analyzed the
contours of the hills for watershed and signs of erosion. He studied the
patterns of the barren winter fields, fall-plowed and showing here and
there the stubble of a crop he didn't recognize. When the clouds scudded
for a moment off the sun, he grinned up, and looked back blinded to the
road. Good tilth and friendship were promised here, gifts to balance
loneliness. Five years from spring, other Amish folk would come to
homestead--what a barn-raising they'd have! For now, though, he and
Martha, come from a society so close-knit that each had always known the
yield-per-acre of their remotest cousin-german, were in a land as
strange as the New York City Aaron, stopping in for a phone-call to the
vet had once glimpsed on the screen of a gay-German neighbor's
Datura looked to Aaron like a city from the Bible, giving it a certain
vicarious familiarity. The great wall was a block of sunbaked mud, fifty
feet tall at the battlements, forty feet thick at its base; with bright,
meaningless flags spotted on either side of the entrance tower. The
cowhide-shielded gate was open. Birds popped out of mud nests glued to
the mud wall and chattered at Aaron. Small boys wearing too little to be
warm appeared at the opening like flies at a hog-slaughtering to add to
the din, buzzing and hopping about and waving their arms as they called
companions to view the black-bearded stranger.
Aaron whoaed his horse and took a handful of anenes, copper
tenth-penny bits, to rattle between his hands. "Zonang!" he shouted:
"Come here! Is there a boy amongst you brave enough to ride with an
off-worlder to the Sarki's house, pointing him the way?"
One of the boys laughed at Aaron's slow, careful Hausa. "Let Black-Hat's
whiskers point him the way!" the boy yelled.
"Uwaka! Ubaka!" Damning both parents of the rude one, another
youngster trotted up to Aaron's wagon and raised a skinny brown fist in
greeting. "Sir Off-Worlder, I who am named Waziri, Musa-the-Carpenter's
son, would be honored to direct you to the house of Sarki Kazunzumi."
"The honor, young man, is mine," Stoltzfoos assured the lad, raising his
own fist gravely. "My name is Haruna, son of Levi," he said, reaching
down to hoist the boy up beside him on the wagon's seat. "Your friends
have ill manners." He giddapped the horse.
"Buzzard-heads!" Waziri shouted back at his whilom companions.
"Peace, Waziri!" Aaron protested. "You'll frighten my poor horse into
conniptions. Do you work for your father, the carpenter?"
"To, honorable Haruna," the boy said. "Yes." The empty wagon thumped
over the wheel-cut streets like a wooden drum. "By the Mother, sir, I
have great knowledge of planing and joining; of all the various sorts of
wood, and the curing of them; all the tools my father uses are as
familiar to me as my own left hand."
"Carpentry is a skillful trade," Aaron said. "Myself, I am but a
"By Mother's light! So am I!" Waziri said, dazzled by this coincidence.
"I can cultivate a field free of all its noxious weeds and touch never a
food-plant. I can steer a plow straight as a snapped chalk-string, grade
seed with a sure eye; I can spread manure--"
"I'm sure you can, Waziri," Aaron said. "I need a man of just those rare
qualifications to work for me. Know you such a paragon?"
"Mother's name! Myself, your Honor!"
Aaron Stoltzfoos shook the hand of his hired man, an alien convention
that much impressed Waziri. The boy was to draw three hundred anenes a
day, some thirty-five cents, well above the local minimum-wage
conventions; and he would get his bed and meals. Aaron's confidence that
the boastful lad would make a farmer was bolstered by Waziri's loud
calculations: "Three hundred coppers a day make, in ten day's work, a
bronze cowrie; ten big bronzes make a silver cowrie, the price of an
acre of land. Haruna, will you teach me your off-world farming? Will you
allow me to buy land that neighbors yours?"
"Sei schtill, Buu," Aaron said, laughing. "Before you reap your first
crop, you must find me the Sarki."
"We are here, Master Haruna."
* * * * *
The Sarki's house was no larger than its neighbors, Moorish-styled and
domed-roofed like the others; but it wore on its streetside walls
designs cut into the stucco, scrolls and arabesques. Just above the
doorway, which opened spang onto the broadway of Datura, a grinning
face peered down upon the visitors, its eyes ruby-colored glass.
Waziri pounded the door for Aaron, and stepped aside to let his new
employer do the speaking. They were admitted to the house by a thin, old
man wearing a pink turban. As they followed this butler down a hallway,
Aaron and Waziri heard the shrieks and giggles of feminine consternation
that told of women being herded into the zenana. The Amishman glimpsed
one of the ladies, perhaps Sarki Kazunzumi's most junior wife, dashing
toward the female sanctuary. Her eyes were lozenges of antimony; her
hands, dipped in henna, seemed clad in pale kid gloves. Aaron, recalling
pointers on Murnan etiquette he'd received at Georgetown, elaborately
did not see the lady. He removed his hat as the turbaned butler bowed
him to a plush-covered sofa. Waziri was cuffed to a mat beside the door.
"Rankeshi dade!" the Sarki said. "May the Mother bring you the light
"Light and long life, O Sarki," Stoltzfoos said, standing up.
"Will the guest who honors my roof-cup taste coffee with his fortunate
host?" the Sarki asked.
"The lucky guest will be ever the Sarki's servant if your Honor allows
him to share his pleasure with his fellow-farmer and employee, Waziri
the son of Musa," Aaron said.
"You'd better have hired mice to guard your stored grain, O Haruna; and
blowflies to curry your cattle, than to have engaged the son of Musa as
a farmer," Kazunzumi growled. "Waziri has little light of understanding.
He will try to win from the soil what only honest sweat and Mother's
grace can cause to grow. This boy will gray your beard, Haruna."
"Perhaps the sun that warms the soil will light his brains to
understanding," Aaron suggested.
"Better that your hand should leave the plowhandle from time to time to
warm his lazy fundament," the Sarki said.
"Just so, O Sarki," the Amishman said. "If Waziri does not serve me
well, I have an enormous boar who will, if kept long enough from
wholesomer food, rid me of a lazy farm-hand." Waziri grinned at all the
attention he was getting from the two most important men in town, and
sat expectantly as the turbaned elder brought in coffee.
Stoltzfoos watched the Sarki, and aped his actions. Water was served
with the coffee; this was to rinse the mouth that the beverage could be
tasted with fresh taste buds. The coffee was brown as floodwater silt,
heavy with sugar, and very hot; and the cups had no handles. "You are
the first European I have seen for many years, friend Haruna," the Sarki
said. "It is five years gone that the white off-worlders came, and with
a black man as their voice purchased with silver the land you now
"They bought well," Aaron said; "the seller sold justly. When the fist
of winter loosens, the soil will prove as rich as butter."
"When the first green breaks through, and you may break the soil without
offense, you will do well," Kazunzumi said. "You are a man who loves the
"My fathers have flourished with the soil for twenty generations," the
Amishman said. "I pray another twenty may live to inherit my good
"Haruna," the Sarki said, "I see that you are a man of the book, that
volume of which Mother in her grace turns over a fresh page each spring.
Though your skin is as pale as the flesh of my palm, though you have but
one wife, though you speak throat-deep and strangely, yet you and I are
more alike than different. The Mother has given you light, Haruna, her
"I thank the Sarki for his words," Aaron said. "Sir, my good and only
wife--I am a poor man, and bound by another law than that of the
fortunate Kazunzumi--adds her thanks to mine for the rich gifts the
Chief of Datura presented us, his servants. In simple thanks, I have
some poor things to tender our benefactor."
Waziri, perceiving the tenor of Aaron's talk, sprang to his feet and
hastened out to the wagon for the bundles he'd seen under the seat. He
returned, staggering under a seventy-pound bale of long-leaf tobacco,
product of Aaron's father's farm. He went back for a bolt of scarlet
silk for the Sarki's paramount wife, and strings of candy for the great
man's children. He puffed in with one last brown-wrapped parcel, which
he unpacked to display a leather saddle. This confection was embossed
with a hundred intricate designs, rich with silver; un-Amish as a
Christmas tree. Judging from the Sarki's dazzled thanks, the saddle was
just the thing for a Murnan Chief.
As soon as Kazunzumi had delivered his pyrotechnic speech of thanks, and
had directed that Aaron's gifts be placed on a velvet-draped dais at the
end of the room, a roast kid was brought in. Waziri, half drunk with the
elegance of it all, fell to like any other adolescent boy, and was soon
grease to the armpits. Aaron, more careful, referred his actions to the
Sarki's. The bread must be broken, not cut; and it was eaten with the
right hand only, the left lying in the lap as though broken. Belching
seemed to be de rigueur as a tribute to the cuisine, so Aaron belched
his stomach flat.
Business could now be discussed. Aaron, having no pencil, traced with a
greasy finger on the tile floor the outlines of the barn and farmhouse
he envisaged. The Sarki from time to time demanded of young Waziri such
facts as a carpenter's son might be expected to know, and added
lumber-prices in his head as Aaron's bank-barn and two-story farmhouse
took form in his imagination. Finally he told the Amishman what the two
buildings would cost. Better pleased by this figure than he'd expected
to be, Aaron initiated the long-drawn ceremony required to discharge
himself from Kazunzumi's hospitality.
As the Stoltzfoos wagon jolted out the gate of Datura, bearing the cot
and clothes trunk of Waziri together with the owner of those chattels,
the boys who'd jeered before now stared with respect. The black-hatted
Turawa had been to visit the Sarki; this established him as no safe
man to mock. Waziri gave his late playmates no notice beyond sitting
rather straighter on the wagon seat than was comfortable.
* * * * *
There was light enough left when they got back to the farm for Aaron and
Waziri to pace out the dimensions of the barn and house. The bank-barn
would go up first, of course. No Christian owner of beasts could consent
to being well-housed while his animals steamed and shivered in a
cloth-sided tent. Waziri pounded stakes into the frozen ground to mark
the corners of the barn. Aaron pointed out the drainage-line that would
have to be ditched, and explained how the removed earth would be packed,
with the clay dug for the cellar, into a ramp leading to the barn's
second story in the back. Come next fall, the hayladder could be pulled
right up that driveway to be unloaded above the stalls. Aaron took the
boy to the frozen-solid creek to show him where a wheel could be placed
to lift water to a spillway for the upper fields. He introduced his new
helper to Wutzchen, and was pleased to hear Waziri speak wistfully of
pork chops. Waziri didn't want to meet Martha yet, though. As a proper
Murnan boy, he was not eager to be introduced to the boss' barefaced
wife, though she bribed him with a fat wedge of applecake.
When Waziri set out with the lantern to tend to the final outdoor
chores, Aaron inquired of his wife's day. The Sarki's Paramount Wife,
with two servants, had indeed visited, bringing more gifts of food and
clothing. Somehow the four of them had managed to breach the
Hausa-Pennsylfawnisch Deitsch curtain. "What in the world did
you talk about?" Aaron asked.
"First, not knowing what to say, I showed the ladies a drop of vinegar
under the microscope," Martha said. "They screamed when they saw all the
wriggly worms, and I was put to it to keep them from bundling back home.
Then we talked about you, Stoltz, and about the farm; and when would I
be giving you Kinner to help with all the work," she said. Martha
fiddled with the cloak she was sewing for her husband. "It was largely
their heathen speech we used, so I understood only what they pointed at;
but they ate hearty of anything without vinegar in it, and I laughed
with them like with friends at a quilting-bee. My, Stoltz! Those
Nay-yer women are lovely, all jeweled like queens, even the servant
girls; even though they have no proper understanding of Christian
"Did they make you feel welcome, then?" Aaron asked.
"Ach, ja! They pitied me, I thought," Martha said. "They said you must
be poor, to have but one wife to comfort you; but they said that if the
crops be good, you can earn a second woman by next winter. Chuudes
"I hope you told the Sarki's woman we've been married only since
haying-time," Aaron said, "and it's a bit previous for you to be giving
me little farmhands."
"I did that," Martha said. "I told them, too, that by the time the oak
leaves are the size of squirrel's ears--if this place has oaks, indeed,
or squirrels--we'd have a youngling squalling in our house, loud as any
of the Sarki's."
Waziri, crouched near the tent to pick up such talk as might pass inside
concerning himself, was at first dismayed by Aaron's whoops of joy. Then
Martha joined her husband in happy laughter. Since her tiny-garments
line had been delivered in Low Dutch, the young Murnan chose to believe
that the enthusiastic sounds he heard within the tent reflected joy at
* * * * *
It was cold the week the barn was raised, and the mattocks had heavy
work gouging out frozen earth to be heaped into the bank leading up the
back. The Murnan laborers seemed to think midwinter as appropriate as
any other time for building; they said the Mother slept, and would not
be disturbed. Martha served coffee and buttermilk-pop at break-time, and
presided over noontime feasts, served in several sittings, in the tent.
Before the workers left in the evening, Aaron would give each a drink
out back, scharifer cider, feeling that they'd steamed hard enough to
earn a sip of something volatile. There are matters, he mused, in which
common sense can blink at a bishop; as in secretly trimming one's beard
a bit, for example, to keep it out of one's soup; or plucking a guitar
to raise the spirits.
When the fortnight's cold work was done, the Stoltzfoos Farm was like
nothing seen before on Murna. The bank-barn was forty feet high. On its
lee side, Aaron had nailed thin, horizontal strips of wood about a foot
apart, hoping to encourage the mud-daubing birds he'd seen on the wall
at Datura to plaster their nests onto his barn, and shop for insects in
his fields. Lacking concrete, he'd constructed a roofless stone hut
abutting the barn to serve as his manure shed. The farmhouse itself was
a bit gay, having an inside toilet to cheat the Murnan winters and a
sunporch for Martha's bacteriological equipment. As the nearest Amish
Volle Diener--Congregational Bishop--was eighty light-years off, and
as the circumstances were unusual, Aaron felt that he and Martha were
safe from the shunning--Meidung--that was the Old Order's manner of
punishing Amischers guilty of "going gay" by breaking the church rules
against worldly show.
A third outbuilding puzzled the Murnan carpenters even more than the
two-storied wooden house and the enormous barn. This shed had hinged
sidings that could be propped out to let breezes sweep through the
building. Aaron explained to Musa the function of this tobacco shed,
where he would hang his lathes of long-leafed tobacco to cure from
August through November. The tobacco seedlings were already sprouting in
Mason jars on the sunporch window-sills. The bank-barn's basement was
also dedicated to tobacco. Here, in midwinter, Aaron and Martha and
Waziri would strip, size, and grade the dry leaves for sale in Datura.
Tobacco had always been a prime cash-crop for Levi, Aaron's father.
After testing the bitter native leaf, Aaron knew that his Pennsylvania
Type 41 would sell better here than anything else he could grow.
Martha Stoltzfoos was as busy in her new farmhouse as Aaron and Waziri
were in the barn. Her kitchen stove burned all day. Nothing ever seen in
Lancaster County, this stove was built of fireclay and brick; but the
food it heated was honest Deitsch. There were pickled eggs and red
beets, ginger tomatoes canned back home, spiced peaches, pickled pears,
mustard pickles and chowchow, pickled red cabbage, Schnitz un Knepp,
shoo-fly pie, vanilla pie, rhubarb sauce, Cheddar cheeses the size of
Waziri's head, haystacks of sauerkraut, slices off the great slab of
home-preserved chipped beef, milk by the gallon, stewed chicken, popcorn
soup, rashers of bacon, rivers of coffee. In the evenings, protecting
her fingers from the sin of idleness, Martha quilted and cross-stitched
by lamplight. Already her parlor wall boasted a framed motto that
reduced to half a dozen German words, the Amish philosophy of life:
"What One Likes Doing is No Work."
For all the chill of the late-winter winds, Aaron kept himself and his
young helper in a sweat. Martha's cooking and the heavy work were
slabbing muscle onto Waziri's lean, brown frame. Aaron's farming
methods, so much different to Murnan routines, puzzled and intrigued the
boy. Aaron was equally bemused by the local taboos. Why, for example,
did all the politer Murnans eat with the right hand only? Why did the
women veil themselves in his presence? And what was this Mother-goddess
worship that seemed to require no more of its adherents than the
inclusion of their deity's name in every curse, formal and profane?
"Think what you please, but not too loud," Aaron cautioned himself, and
carefully commenced to copy those Murnan speech-forms, gestures, and
attitudes that did not conflict with his own deep convictions.
But the soil was his employment, not socializing. Aaron wormed his
swine, inspected his horse-powered plow and harrow, gazed at the sun,
palpated the soil, and prayed for an early spring to a God who
understood German. Each day, to keep mold from strangling the moist
morsels, he shook the jars of tobacco seed, whose hair-fine sprouts were
just splitting the hulls.
The rations packaged in Pennsylvania were shrinking. The Stoltzfoos
stake of silver and gold cowries was wasting away. Each night, bruised
with fatigue, Aaron brought his little household into the parlor while
he read from the Book that had bound his folk to the soil. Waziri bowed,
honoring his master's God in his master's manner, but understood nothing
of the hard High German: "For the Lord God will help me: therefore
shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint,
and I know I shall not be ashamed. Awmen."
"Awmen," said Martha.
"Awmen," said Waziri, fisting his hand in respect to his friend's
* * * * *
The Murnan neighbors, to whom late winter was the slackest season in the
farm-year, visited often to observe and comment on the off-worlder's
work. Aaron Stoltzfoos privately regarded the endless conversations as
too much of a good thing; but he realized that his answering the
Murnan's questions helped work off the obligation he owed the government
for the eighty light-years' transportation it had given him, the
opportunity he'd been given to earn this hundred acres with five years'
work, and the interest-free loans that had put up his barn and
With Waziri hovering near, Aaron's proud lieutenant, the neighbors would
stuff their pipes with native tobacco, a leaf that would have gagged one
of Sir Walter Raleigh's Indian friends, while the Amishman lit a stogie
in self-defense. Why, the neighbor farmers demanded, did Aaron propose
to dust his bean-seeds with a powder that looked like soot? Martha's
microscope, a wonder, introduced the Murnans to bacteria; and Aaron
tediously translated his knowledge of the nitrogen-fixing symbiotes into
Hausa. But there were other questions. What was the purpose of the brush
stacked on top of the smooth-raked beds where Aaron proposed to plant
his tobacco-seedlings? He explained that fire, second best to steaming,
would kill the weed-seeds in the soil, and give the tobacco uncrowded
beds to prosper in.
Those needles with which he punctured the flanks of his swine and
cattle: what devils did they exorcise? Back to the microscope for an
explanation of the disease-process, a sophistication the Murnans had
lost in the years since they'd left Kano. What were the bits of blue and
pink paper Aaron pressed into mudballs picked up in the various
precincts of his property? Why did those slips oftentime change color,
from blue to pink, or pink-to-blue? What was in those sacks of stuff--no
dung of animals, but a sort of flour--that he intended to work into his
soil? Aaron answered each question as best he could, Waziri
supplying--and often inventing--Hausa words for concepts like
phosphorous, ascarid worms, and litmus.
Aaron had as much to learn from his brown-skinned neighbors as he had to
teach them. He was persuaded to lay in a supply of seed-yams,
guaranteeing a crop that would bring bronze cowries next fall in Datura,
the price of next year's oil and cloth and tools. The peanut, a legume
Aaron had no experience of beyond purchasing an occasional tooth-ful at
the grocery-store, won half a dozen acres from Korean lespedeza, the
crop he'd at first selected as his soil-improver there. He got
acquainted with a plant no Amishman before him had ever sown, a
crabgrass called fonio, a staple cereal and source of beer-malt on
Murna, imported with the first Nigerian colonists.
Aaron refused to plant any lalle, the henna-shrub from which the Murnans
made the dye to stain their women's hands, feeling that it would be
improper for him to contribute to such a vanity. Bulrush millet, another
native crop, was ill suited to Aaron's well-drained fields. He planned
to grow corn, though, the stuff his people called Welschkarn--alien
corn. Though American enough, maize had been a foreigner to the first
Amish farmers, and still carried history in its name. This crop was
chiefly for Wutzchen, whose bloodlines, Aaron was confident, would lead
to a crop of pork of a quality these heretics from Islam had never
* * * * *
Work wasn't everything. One Sunday, after he and Martha had sung
together from the Ausbund, and Aaron had read from the Schrift and
the Martyr's Mirror, there was time to play.
Sarki Kazunzumi and several other gentlemen who enjoyed City Hall or
Chamber of Commerce standing in Datura had come to visit the
Stoltzfooses after lunch; as had Musa the carpenter and his older son,
Dauda, Waziri's brother. Also on the premises were about a dozen of the
local farmers and craftsmen, inspecting the curious architecture the
off-worlder had introduced to their planet. Aaron, observing that the
two classes of his guests were maintaining a polite fiction, each that
the other was not present, had an idea. He'd seen Murnans in town at the
midwinter festival, their status-consciousness forgotten in mutual
quaffs of fonio-beer or barley-brandy, betting together at horse-races
and wheels-of-fortune. "My friends," the Amishman addressed the Murnans
gathered in his barn, inspecting Wutzchen, "let's play a game of ball."
Kazunzumi looked interested. As the local Chief of State, the Sarki's
approval guaranteed the enthusiasm of all the lesser ranks.
Aaron explained the game he had in mind. It wasn't baseball, an
"English" sport foreign to Amishmen, who can get through their teens
without having heard of either Comiskey Park or the World Series. Their
game, Mosch Balle, fits a barnyard better.
In lieu of the regulation softball used in the game of Corner Ball,
Martha had stitched together a sort of large beanbag. The playing-field
Aaron set up with the help of his visitors was a square some twelve
yards on a side, fence-rails being propped up to mark its boundaries and
fresh straw forked onto it six inches deep as footing.
Aaron's eight-man team was chosen from the working-stiffs. The opposing
eight were the Brass. To start the game, four of the proletarians stood
at the corners of the square; and two men of Kazunzumi's team waited
Aaron commenced to explain the game. To say that the object of Mosch
Balle is for a member of the outer, offensive, team to strike an inner,
defensive man with the ball is inadequate; such an explanation is as
lacking as to explain baseball as the pitcher's effort to throw a ball
so well that it's hittable, and so very well that it yet goes unhit.
Both games have their finer points.
"Now," Aaron told his guests on the field, "we four on the corners will
toss the ball back and forth amongst ourselves, shouting Hah,Oh,Tay,
with each pitch. Whoever has the ball on Tay has to fling it at one of
the two men inside the square. If he misses, he's Out; and one of the
other men on our team takes his place. If he hits his target-man, the
target's Out, and will be replaced by another man from the Sarki's team.
The team with the last man left on the straw wins the first half. Des
iss der Weeg wie mir's diehne, O.K.?"
"Afuwo!" the Sarki yelled, a woman's call, grinning, crouched to
spring aside. "Hah!" Aaron shouted, and tossed the ball to Waziri's
older brother, Dauda. "Oh!" Dauda yelled, and threw the ball to the
shoemaker. "Tay!" the cobbler exulted, and slammed the ball at the
lower-ranking of the two men within the square, the village banker. The
shoemaker missed, and was retired.
The Daturans were soon stripped down to trousers and boots, their black
torsos steaming in the cold air. Aaron removed his shirt--but not his
hat--and so far forgot his Hausa in the excitement that he not only
rooted for his teammates in Pennsylfawnisch Deitsch, but even
punctuated several clumsy plays with raw Fadomm's.
Aaron's skill won the first half for his team. Blooded, the Chamber of
Commerce Eight fought through to win the second half. A tie. The
play-off saw the Working-Man's League pummeled to a standstill by the
C-of-C, who took the laurels with a final slam that knocked Waziri into
the straw, protesting that it was an accident.
Sweating, laughing, social status for the moment forgotten, the teams
and their mobs of fans surged into the farmhouse to demand of Martha
wedges of raisin pie and big cups of strong coffee. As the guests put
their rigas and their white caps back on, and assumed therewith their
game-discarded rank of class, they assured Aaron that the afternoon at
the ball game had been a large success.
* * * * *
The next day was crisp and cold. With nothing more to be done till the
soil thawed, Aaron took Waziri down to the creek to investigate his
project of irrigating the hilltop acres. The flow of water was so feeble
that the little stream was ice to its channel. "Do you have hereabouts a
digger-of-waterholes?" Aaron asked the boy. Waziri nodded, and supplied
the Hausa phrase for this skill. "Good. Wonn's Gottes wille iss, I
will find a spot for them to dig, smelling out the water as can my
cousin Blue Ball Benjamin Blank," Aaron said. "Go get from the barn the
pliers, the hand-tool that pinches."
Waziri trotted off and brought back the pliers. "What are you up to,
Haruna-boss?" he asked. Aaron was holding the bulldog pliers out before
him, one handle in each hand, parallel to the ground.
"I am smelling for the well-place," the Amishman said, pacing
deliberately across the field. The boy scampered along beside him. "We
will need at least one well to be safe from August draught. Cousin
Benjamin found the wet depths in this fashion; perhaps it will work for
me." Aaron walked, arms outstretched, for half an hour before his face
grew taut. He slowed his walking and began to work toward the center of
a spiral. Waziri could see the sweat springing up on the young farmer's
brow and fingers, despite the cold breeze that blew. The bulldog pliers
trembled as though responding to the throbbing of an engine. Suddenly,
as though about to be jerked from Aaron's hands, the pliers tugged
downward so forceably that he had to lift his elbows and flex his wrists
to hold onto them. "Put a little pile of stones here, Waziri," he said.
"We'll have the diggers visit as soon as the ground thaws."
Waziri shook his head. "Haruna, they will not touch soft earth until the
first grass sprouts," he said.
"Time enough," Aaron said. He looked up to satisfy himself that his
prospective well-site was high enough to avoid drainage from his
pig-yard, then left the Murnan boy to pile up a cairn for the diggers.
It would be good to have a windmill within ear-shot of the house, he
mused; its squeaking would ease Martha with a homey sound.
Alone for a few minutes, Aaron retired to the workshop in the cellar of
the barn. He planed and sanded boards of a native lumber very like to
tulipwood. Into the headboard of the cradle he was making, he
keyhole-sawed the same sort of broad Dutch heart that had marked his own
cradle, and the cradles of all his family back to the days in the
Rhineland, before they'd been driven to America.
Martha Stoltzfoos was speaking Hausa better than she'd spoken English
since grade-school days, and she kept busy in the little bacteriological
laboratory on her sunporch, keeping fresh the skills she'd learned at
Georgetown and might some day need in earnest; but she still grew
homesick as her child-coming day drew nearer. It was wrong, she told
Aaron, for an Amishwoman to have heathen midwives at her lying-in. For
all their kindness, the Murnan women could never be as reassuring as the
prayer-covered, black-aproned matrons who'd have attended Martha back
home. "Ach, Stoltz," she told her husband, "if only a few other of
unser sart Leit could have come here with us."
"Don't worry, Love," Aaron said. "I've eased calves and colts enough
into the world; man-children can't come so different."
"You talk like a man," Martha accused him. "I wish my Mem was just down
the road a piece, ready to come a-running when my time came," she said.
She put one hand on her apron. "Chuudes Paste! The little rascal is
wild as a colt, indeed. Feel him, Stoltz!"
Aaron dutifully placed his hand to sense the child's quickening. "He'll
be of help on the farm, so strong as he is," he remarked. Then, tugging
his hat down tight, Aaron went outdoors, bashful before this mystery.
The little creek had thawed, and the light of the sun on a man's face
almost gave back the heat the air extorted. Waziri had gone to town
today for some sort of Murnan spring-festival, eager to celebrate his
hard-earned wealth on his first day off in months. The place seemed
deserted, Aaron felt, without the boy; without the visitors he'd played
ball and talked crops with, striding up in their scarlet-trimmed rigas
to gossip with their friend Haruna.
Between the roadway and the house, Aaron knelt to rake up with his
fingers a handful of the new-thawed soil. He squeezed it. The clod in
his hand broke apart of its own weight: it was not too wet to work.
Festival-day though it was to his Schwotzer neighbors, he was eager to
spear this virgin soil with his plow blade.
Aaron strode back to the barn. He hitched Rosina--the dappled mare,
named "Raisin" for her spots--to the plow and slapped her into motion.
Sleek with her winter's idleness, Rosina was at first unenthusiastic
about the plow; but the spring sun and honest exercise warmed her
quickly. Within half an hour she was earning her keep. Though Aaron was
plowing shallow, the compact soil broke hard. Rosina leaned into the
traces, leaving hoofprints three inches deep. No gasoline tractor, Aaron
mused, could ever pull itself through soil so rich and damp.
Geilsgrefte, horsepower, was best exerted by a horse, he thought.
The brown earth-smells were good. Aaron kicked apart the larger clods,
fat with a planet-life of weather and rich decay. This land would take a
good deal of disking to get it into shape. His neighbors, who'd done
their heavy plowing just after last fall's first frost, were already
well ahead of him. He stabled Rosina at sundown, and went in to sneak a
well-earned glass of hard cider past Martha's teetotaling eye.
* * * * *
Musa the carpenter brought his son home well after dark. Waziri had had
adventures, the old man said; dancing, gambling on the Fool's Wheel,
sampling fonio-beer, celebrating his own young life's springtime with
the earth's. Both the old man and the boy were barefoot, Aaron noticed;
but said nothing: perhaps shoelessness was part of their
Waziri a bit geschwepst with the beer, tottered off to bed. "Thanks to
you, friend Haruna, that boy became a man today," the carpenter said. He
accepted a glass of Aaron's cider. "Today Waziri's wallet jingled with
bronze and copper earned by his own sweat, a manful sound to a lad of
fifteen summers. I ask pardon for having returned your laborer in so
damaged a condition, brother Haruna; but you may be consoled with the
thought that the Mother's festival comes but once in the twelve-month."
"No harm was done, brother Musa," Aaron said, offering his visitor
tobacco. "In my own youth, I sometimes danced with beer-light feet to
the music of worldly guitars; and yet I reached a man's estate."
Offered a refill for his pipe, Musa raised a hand in polite refusal.
"Tomorrow's sun will not wait on our conversation, and much must be
done, in the manner of racers waiting the signal, before the first blade
breaks the soil," he said. "Good night, brother Haruna; and may Mother
grant you light!"
"Mother keep you, brother Musa," Aaron murmured the heathen phrase
without embarrassment. "I'll guide your feet to your wagon, if I may."
Aaron, carrying the naphtha lantern, led the way across the strip of
new-plowed soil. Set by frost into plastic mounds and ridges, the earth
bent beneath his shoes and the carpenter's bare feet. Aaron swung Musa's
picket-iron, the little anchor to which his horse was tethered, into the
wagon, noticing that it had been curiously padded with layers of quilted
cloth. "May you journey home in good health, brother Musa," he said.
"Uwaka!" Musa shouted, staring at the plow-cuts.
Aaron Stoltzfoos dropped the lantern to his side, amazed that the
dignified old man could be guilty of such an obscenity. Perhaps he'd
misheard. "Haruna, you have damned yourself!" Musa bellowed. "Cursed be
this farm! Cursed be thy farming! May thy seedlings rot, may thy corn
sprout worms for tassles, may your cattle stink and make early bones!"
"Brother Musa!" Aaron said.
"I am no sib to you, O Bearded One," Musa said. "Nor will I help you
carry the curse you have brought upon yourself by today's ill-doing." He
darted back to the farmhouse, where he ordered half-wakened Waziri to
pad barefoot after him to the wagon, rubbing his eyes. "Come, son," Musa
said. "We must flee these ill-omened fields." Without another word to
his host, the carpenter hoisted his boy into the wagon, mounted, and set
off into the night. The hoofs of his horse padded softly against the
dirt road, unshod.
Martha met the bewildered Aaron at the door, wakened by Musa's shouting.
"Wass gibt, Stoltz?" she asked. "What for was all the carry-on?"
Aaron tugged at his beard. "I don't know, woman," he admitted. "Musa the
carpenter took one look at the plowing I did today, then cursed me as
though he'd caught me spitting in his well. He got Waziri up from bed
and took him home." He took his wife's hand. "I'm sorry he woke you up,
"It was not so much the angry carpenter who waked me as the little jack
rabbit you're father to," Martha said. "As you say, a Bun who can kick
so hard, and barefoot, too, will be a strong one once he's born."
Aaron was staring out the window onto the dark road. "Farwas hot Musa
sell gehuh?" he asked himself. "What for did Musa do such a thing? He
knows that our ways are different to his. If I did aught wrong, Musa
must know it was done not for want to harm. I will go to the village
tomorrow; Musa must forgive me and explain."
"He will, Stoltz." Martha said. "Kuum, schloef. You'll be getting up
"How can I sleep, not knowing how I have hurt my friend?" Aaron asked.
"You must," Martha urged him. "Let your cares rest for the night,
In the morning, Stoltzfoos prepared for his trip into Datura by donning
his Sunday-best. He clipped a black patent-leather bow tie, a wedding
gift, onto his white shirt: and fastened up his best broadfall trousers
with his dress suspenders. Over this, Aaron put his Mutzi, the tailed
frock coat that fastened with hooks-and-eyes. When he'd exchanged his
broad-brimmed black felt working-hat for another just the same, but
unsweated, Aaron was dressed as he'd be on his way to a House-Amish
Sunday meeting back home. "I expect no trouble here, Martha," he said,
tucking a box of stogies under his arm as a little guest-gift for the
"Hurry home, Stoltz; I feel wonderful busy about the middle," Martha
said. There was a noise out on the road. "Listen!" she said. "Go look
the window out, now; someone is coming the yard in!"
Aaron hastened to lift the green roller-blind over the parlor window.
"Ach; it is the groesie Fisch, Sarki Kazunzumi, with half the folk
from town," he said. "Stay here, woman. I will out and talk with them."
The Sarki sat astride his white pony, staring as Aaron approached him.
Behind their chief, on lesser beasts, sat Kazunzumi's retainers, each
with a bundle in his arms. "Welcome, O Sarki!" Aaron said, raising his
Kazunzumi did not return the Amishman's salute. "I return your gifts,
Lightless One," he announced. "They are tainted with your blasphemy." He
nodded, and his servants dismounted to stack at the side of the road
Aaron's guest-gifts of months before. The bale of tobacco was set down,
the bolt of scarlet silk, the chains of candy, the silver-filigreed
saddle. "Now that I owe you naught, Bearded One, we have no further
business with one another." He reined his horse around. "I go in
sadness, Haruna," he said.
"What did I do, Kazunzumi?" Aaron asked. "What am I to make of your
"You have failed us, who was my friend," the Sarki said. "You will leave
this place, taking your woman and your beasts and your sharp-shod
"Sir, where am I to go?"
"Whence came you, Haruna?" the Sarki asked. "Return to your own
black-garbed folk, and injure the Mother no longer with your lack of
"Sarki Kazunzumi, I know not how I erred," Stoltzfoos said. "As for
returning to my own country, that I cannot. The off-world vessel that
brought us here is star-far away; and it will not return until we are
all five summers older. My Martha is besides with child, and cannot
safely travel. My land is ripe for seeding. How can I go now?"
"There is wilderness to the south, where no son of the Mother lives,"
the Sarki said. "Go there. I care not for heathen who are out of my
"Sir, show us mercy," Aaron said.
Kazunzumi danced his shoeless horse around to face Aaron. "Haruna, who
was my friend, whom I thought to stand with me in Mother's light, I
would be merciful; but I cannot be weak. It is not me whom you must
beseech, but the Mother who feeds us all. Make amends to Her, then Sarki
Kazunzumi will give his ear to your pleas. Without amends, Haruna, you
must go from here within the week." Kazunzumi waved his arm and galloped
off toward Datura. His servants followed quickly. On the roadside lay
the gifts, dusted from the dirt raised by the horses.
* * * * *
The Amishman turned toward the house. Martha's face was at the parlor
window, quizzical under her prayer-covering, impatient to hear what had
happened. Aaron plodded back to the house with the evil news, stumbling
over a clod of earth in the new-turned furrows near the road. Martha met
him at the door. "Waas will er?" she demanded.
"He says we must leave our farm."
"Why for?" she asked.
"Somehow, I have offended their fadommt Mum-god," Aaron said. "The
Sarki has granted us a week to make ready to go into the wilderness." He
sat on a coffee-colored kitchen chair, his head bowed and his big hands
limp between his knees.
"Stoltz, where can we go?" Martha asked. "We have no Freindschaft, no
kin, in all this place."
Aaron tightened his hands into fists. "We will not go!" he vowed. "I
will find a way for us to stay." He broke open the box of cigars that
had been meant as a gift for Musa and clamped one of the black stogies
between his teeth. "What is their heidisch secret?" he demanded. "What
does the Mother want of me?"
"Aaron Stoltz," Martha said vigorously, "I'll have no man of mine
offering dignity to a heathen god. The Schrift orders us to cut down
the groves of the alien gods, to smash their false images; not to bow
before them. Will you make a golden calf here, as did your namesake
Aaron of Egypt, for whose sin the Children of Israel were plagued?"
"Woman, I'll not have you preach to me like a servant of the Book,"
Aaron said. "It is not for you to cite Scripture." He stared through the
window. "What does the Mother want of me?"
"As you shout, do not forget that I am a mother, too," Martha said. She
dabbed a finger at her eye.
"Fagep mir, Liebling," Aaron said. He walked behind the chair where
his wife sat. Tenderly, he kneaded the muscles at the back of her neck.
"I am trying to get inside Musa's head, and Kazunzumi's; I am trying to
see their world through their eyes. It is not an easy thing to do,
Martha. Though I lived for a spell among the 'English,' my head is still
House-Amish; a fat, Dutch cheese."
"It is a good head," Martha said, relaxing under his massage, "and if
there be cheese-heads hereabouts, it's these blackfolk that wear them,
and not my man."
"If I knew what the die-hinker our neighbors mean by their Mother-talk,
it might be I could see myself through Murnan eyes, as I can hear a bit
with Hausa ears," Aaron sa
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