As Amanda watched the stern, unlovely face during the critical, faultfinding conversation which followed, she thought to herself, "I just believe that Uncle Amos told the truth when he said that Aunt Rebecca's like a chestnut burr. She's all prickly on the outside but she's got a nice, smooth side to her that abody don't often get the chance to see. Mebbe now, if she'd married Martin Landis's pop she'd be by now just as nice as Mrs. Landis. It wonders me now if she would!"
Mrs. Reist's desire for a happy childhood for her children was easily realized, especially in the case of Amanda. She had the happy faculty of finding joy in little things, things commonly called insignificant. She had a way of taking to herself each beauty of nature, each joy note of the birds, the airy loveliness of the clouds, and being thrilled by them.
With Phil and Martin Landis—and the ubiquitous Landis baby—she explored every field, woods and roadside in the Crow Hill section of the county. From association with her Phil and Martin had developed an equal interest in outdoors. The Landis boy often came running into the Reist yard calling for Amanda and exclaiming excitedly, "I found a bird's nest! It's an oriole this time, the dandiest thing way out on the end of a tiny twig. Come on see it!"
Amanda was the moving spirit of that little group of nature students. Phil and Martin might have never known an oriole from a thrush if she had not led them along the path of knowledge. Sometimes some of the intermediate Landis children joined the group. At times Lyman Mertzheimer sauntered along and invited himself, but his interest was feigned and his welcome was not always cordial.
"You Lyman Mertzheimer," Amanda said to him one day, "if you want to go along to see birds' nests you got to keep quiet! You think it's smart to scare them off the nests. That poor thrasher, now, that you scared last week! You had her heart thumpin' so her throat most burst. And her with her nest right down on the ground where we could watch the babies if we kept quiet. You're awful mean!"
"Huh," he answered, "what's a bird! All this fuss about a dinky brown bird that can't do anything but flop its wings and squeal when you go near it. It was fun to see her flop all around the ground."
"Oh, you nasty mean thing, Lyman Mertzheimer"—for a moment Amanda found no words to express her contempt of him—"sometimes I just hate you!"
He went off laughing, flinging back the prediction, "But some day you'll do the reverse, Amanda Reist." He felt secure in the belief that he could win the love of any girl he chose if he exerted himself to do so.
The little country school of Crow Hill was necessarily limited in its curriculum, hence when Amanda expressed a desire to become a teacher it was decided to send her to the Normal School at Millersville. At that time she was sixteen and was grown into an attractive girl.
"I know I'm not beautiful," she told her mother one day after a long, searching survey in the mirror. "My hair is too screaming red, but then it's fluffy and I got a lot of it. Add to red hair a nose that's a little pug and a mouth that's a little too big and I guess the combination won't produce any Cleopatra or any Titian beauty."
"But you forgot the eyes," her mother said tenderly. "They are pretty brown and look—ach, I can't put it in fine words like you could, but I mean this: Your eyes are such honest eyes and always look so happy, like you could see through dark places and find the light and could look on wicked people and see the good in them and be glad about it. You keep that look in your eyes and no pretty girl will be lovelier that you are, Amanda."
"Mother," the girl cried after she had kissed the white-capped woman, "if my eyes shine it's the faith and love you taught me that's shining in them."
During the summer preceding Amanda's departure for school there was pleasant excitement at the Reist farm. Millie was proud of the fact that Amanda was "goin' to Millersville till fall" and lost no opportunity to mention it whenever a friend or neighbor dropped in for a chat.
Aunt Rebecca did not approve of too much education. "Of course," she put it, "you're spendin' your own money for this Millersville goin', but I think you'd do better if you put it to bank and give it to Amanda when she gets married, once. This here rutchin' round to school so long is all for nothin'. I guess she's smart enough to teach country school without goin' to Millersville yet."
However, her protests fell heedlessly on the ears of those most concerned and when the preparation of new clothes began Aunt Rebecca was the first to offer her help. "It's all for nothin', this school learnin', but if she's goin' anyhow I can just as well as not help with the sewin'," she announced and spent a few weeks at the Reist farm, giving valuable aid in the making of Amanda's school outfit.
Those two weeks were long ones to Philip, who had scant patience with the querulous old aunt. But Amanda, since she had glimpsed the girlhood romance of the woman, had a kindlier feeling for her and could smile at the faultfinding or at least run away from it without retort if it became too vexatious.
Crow Hill was only an hour's ride from the school at Millersville, so Amanda spent most of her weekends at home. Each time she had wonderful tales to tell, at least they seemed wonderful to the little group at the Reist farmhouse. Mrs. Reist and Uncle Amos, denied in their youth of more than a very meagre education, took just pride in the girl who was pursuing the road to knowledge. Philip, boylike, expressed no pride in his sister, but he listened attentively to her stories of how the older students played pranks on the newcomers. Millie was proud of having our Amanda away at school and did not hesitate to express her pride. She felt sure that before the girl's three years' course was completed the name of Amanda Reist would shine above all others on the pages of the Millersville Normal School records.
"Oh, I've learned a few things about human nature," said Amanda on her second visit home. "You know I told you last week how nice the older girls are to the new ones. A crowd of Seniors came into our room the other day and they were lovely! One of them told me she adored red hair and she just knew all the girls were going to love me because I have such a sweet face and I'm so dear—she emphasized every other word! I wondered what ailed her. She didn't know me well enough to talk like that. Before they left she began to talk about the Page Literary Society—'Dear, we're all Pageites, and it's the best, finest society in the school. We do have such good times. You ought to join. All the very nicest girls of the school are in it.' I promised to think it over. Well, soon after they left another bunch of girls came into our room and they were just as sweet to us. By and by one of them said, 'Dear, we're all in the Normal Literary Society. It's the best society in the school; all the very nicest girls belong to it. You should join it.'"
"Ha, electioneering, was they!" said Uncle Amos, laughing. "Well, leave it to the women. When they get the vote once we men got to pony up. But which society did you join?"
"Neither. I'm going to wait a while and while I'm waiting I'm having a glorious time. The Pageites invited me to a fudge party one night, the Normalites took me for a long walk, a Pageite treated me to icecream soda one day and a Normalite gave me some real home-made cake the same afternoon. It's great to be on the fence when both sides are coaxing you to jump their way."
"Well," said Millie, her face glowing with interest and pride in the girl, "if you ain't the funniest! I just bet them girls all want you to come their way. But what kind o' meals do you get?"
"Good, Millie. Of course, though, I haven't any cellar to go to for pie or any cooky crock filled with sand-tarts with shellbarks on the top."
"Don't you worry, Manda. I'll make you sand-tarts and lemon pie and everything you like every time you come home still."
"Millie, you good soul! With that promise to help me I'll work like a Trojan and win some honors at old M.S.N.S. Just watch me!"
Amanda did work. She brought to her studies the same whole-hearted interest and enthusiasm she evinced in her hunts for wild flowers, she applied to them the same dogged determination and untiring efforts she showed in her long search for hidden bird nests, with the inevitable result that her brain, naturally alert and brilliant, grasped with amazing celerity both the easy and the hard lessons of the Normal Training course.
Millie's prediction proved well founded—Amanda Reist stood well in her classes. In botany she was the preeminent figure of the entire school. "Ask Amanda Reist, she'll tell you," became the slogan among the students. "Yellow violets, lady-slippers, wild ginger—she'll tell you where they grow or get a specimen for you."
When the time for graduation drew near Amanda was able to carry home the glad news that she ranked third in her class and was chosen to deliver an oration at the Commencement exercises.
"That I want to hear," declared Millie, "and I'll get a new dress to wear to it, too."
On the June morning when the Commencement exercises of the First Pennsylvania State Normal School took place there were hundreds of happy, eager visitors on the campus at Millersville, and later in the great auditorium, but none was happier than Millie Hess, Reists' hired girl. The new dress, bought in Lancaster and made by Mrs. Reist and Aunt Rebecca, was a white lawn flecked with black. Millie had decided on a plain waist with high neck, the inch wide band at the throat edged with torchon lace, after the style she usually wore, the skirt made full and having above the hem, as Millie put it, "Just a few tucks, then wait a while, then tucks again." But Amanda, happening on the scene as the dress was tried on, protested at the high neck.
"Please, Millie," she coaxed, "do have the neck turned down, oh, just a little! I'd have a nice pleated ruffle of white net around it and a little V in front. You'd look fine that way."
"Me-fine! Go long with you, Amanda Reist! Ain't I got two good eyes and a lookin'-glass? But I guess I would look more like other folks if I had it made like you say. But now I don't want it too low. You dare fix it so it looks right." Displaying the same meek acquiescence in the desire of Amanda she bought a stylish hat instead of the big flat sailor with its taffeta bow she generally chose. The hat was Amanda's selection, a small, modest little thing with pale pink and gray roses misty with a covering of black tulle.
"Me with pink roses on my hat and over forty years old," said Millie wonderingly, but when she tried it on and saw the improvement in her appearance she smiled happily. "It's the prettiest hat I ever had and I'll hold it up and take good care of it so it'll last me years. I'm gettin' fixed up for sure once, only my new shoes don't have no squeak in 'em at all."
"That's out of style," Amanda informed her kindly.
"It is? Why, when I was little I remember hearin' folks tell how when they bought new shoes they always asked for a 'fib's worth of squeak' in 'em."
"And now they pay the shoemaker more than a 'fib' to put a few pegs in the shoes and take the squeak out."
"Well, well, how things get different! But then I'm glad mine don't make no noise if that's the way now."
Commencement day Millie could have held her own with any well-dressed city woman. Her plain face was almost beautiful as she stood ready for the great event of Amanda's life. At the last moment she thought of the big bush of shrubs in the yard—"I must get me a shrub to smell in the Commencement," she decided. So she gathered one of the queer-looking, fragrant brown blossoms, tied it in the corner of her handkerchief and bruised it gently so that the sweet perfume might be exuded. "Um-ah," she breathed in the odor, "now I'm ready for Millersville."
As she stood with Mrs. Reist and Philip on the front porch waiting for Uncle Amos she said to Mrs. Reist, "Ain't Amanda fixed me up fine? Abody'd hardly know me."
Mrs. Reist in her plain gray Mennonite dress and stiff black silk bonnet was, as usual, an attractive figure. Philip, grown to the dignity of long trousers, carried himself with all the poise of seventeen. He was now a student in the Lancaster High School and had he not learned to dress and act like city boys do! Uncle Amos, in his best Sunday suit of gray, his Mennonite hat in his hand, ambled along last as the little group went down the aisle of the Millersville chapel to see Amanda's graduation.
As Amanda marched in, her red hair parted on the side and coiled into a womanly coiffure, wearing a simple white organdie, she was just one of the hundred graduates who marched into the chapel. But later, as she stood alone on the platform and delivered her oration, "The Flowers of the Garden Spot," she held the interested attention of all in that vast audience. She knew her subject and succeeded in waking in the hearts of her hearers a desire to go out in the green fields and quiet woods and find the lovely habitants of the flower world.
After it was all over and she stood, shining-eyed and happy, among her own people in the chapel, Martin Landis joined them. He, too, had left childhood behind. The serious gravity of his new estate was deepened in his face, but the same tenderness that had soothed the numerous Landis babies also still dwelt there. One of the regrets of his heart was the fact that nature had denied him great stature. He had always dreamed of growing into a tall man, powerful in physique, like Lyman Mertzheimer. But nature was obstinate and Martin Landis reached manhood, a strong, sturdy being, but of medium height. His mother tried to assuage his disappointment by asserting that even if his stature was not great as he wished his heart was big enough to make up for it. He tried to live up to her valuation of him, but it was scant comfort as he stood in the presence of physically big men. Life had not dealt generously with him as with Amanda in the matter of education. He wanted a chance to study at some institution higher than the little school at Crow Hill but his father needed him on the farm. The elder man was subject to attacks of rheumatism and at such times the brunt of farm labor fell upon the shoulders of Martin.
Money was scarce in the Landis household, there were so many mouths to feed and it seemed to Martin that he would never have the opportunity to do anything but work in the fields from early spring to late autumn, snatch a few months for study in a business college in Lancaster, then go back again to the ploughing and arduous duties of his father's farm. He thought enviously of Lyman Mertzheimer, whose father had sent him to a well-known preparatory school and then started him in a full course in one of the leading universities of the country. If he had a chance like that! If he could only get away from the farm long enough to earn some money he knew he could work his way through school and fit himself for some position he would like better than farming. Some such thoughts ran through his brain as he went to congratulate Amanda on her graduation day.
"Oh, Martin!" she greeted him cordially. "So you got here, after all. I'm so glad!"
"So am I. I wouldn't have missed that oration for a great deal. I could smell the arbutus—say, it was great, Amanda!"
At that moment Lyman Mertzheimer joined them.
"Congratulations, Amanda," he said in his affected manner. As the good- looking son of a wealthy man he credited himself with the possession of permissible pride. "Congratulations," he repeated, ignoring the smaller man who stood by the side of the girl. "Your oration was beautifully rendered. You were very eloquent, but if you will pardon me, I'd like to remind you of one flower you forgot to mention—a very important flower of the Garden Spot."
"I did?" she said as though it were a negligible matter. "What was the flower I forgot?"
"Amanda Reist," he said, and laughed at his supposed cleverness.
"Oh," she replied, vexed at his words and his bold attitude, "I left that out purposely along with some of the weeds of the Garden Spot I might have mentioned."
"Meaning me?" He lifted his eyebrows in question. "You don't really mean that, Amanda." He spoke in winning voice. "I know you don't mean that so I won't quarrel with you."
"Well, I guess you better not!" spoke up Millie who had listened to all that was said. "You don't have to get our Amanda cross on this here day. She done fine in that speech and we're proud of her and don't want you nor no one else to go spoil it by any fuss."
"I see you have more than one champion, Amanda. I'll have to be very careful how I speak to you." He laughed but a glare of anger shone in his eyes.
A few moments later the little party broke up and Lyman went off alone. A storm raged within him—"A hired girl to speak to me like that—a common hired girl! I'll teach her her place when I marry Amanda. And Amanda was high and mighty to-day. Thought she owned the world because she graduated from Millersville! As though that's anything! She's the kind needs a strong hand, a master hand. And I'll be the master! I like her kind, the women who have spirit and fire. But she needs to be held under, subjected by a stronger spirit. That little runt of a Martin Landis was hanging round her, too. He has no show when I'm in the running. He's poor and has no education. He's just a clodhopper."
Meanwhile the clodhopper had also said good-bye to Amanda. For some reason he did not stop to analyze, the heart of Martin Landis was light as he went home from the Commencement at Millersville. He had always detested Lyman Mertzheimer, for he had felt too often the snubs and taunts of the rich boy. Amanda's rebuff of the arrogant youth pleased Martin.
"I like Amanda," he thought frankly, but he never went beyond that in the analysis of his feelings for the comrade of his childhood and young boyhood. "I like her and I'd hate to see her waste her time on a fellow like Lyman Mertzheimer. I'm glad she squelched him. Perhaps some day he'll find there are still some desirable things that money can't buy."
AMANDA REIST, TEACHER
Amanda had no desire to teach far from her home. "I want to see the whole United States if I live long enough," she declared, "but I want to travel through the distant parts of it, not settle there to live. While I have a home I want to stay near it. So I wish I could get a school in Lancaster County."
Her wish was granted. There was an opening in Crow Hill, in the little rural school in which she had received the rudiments of her education. Amanda applied for the position and was elected.
She brought to that little school several innovations. Her love and knowledge of nature helped her to make the common studies less monotonous and more interesting. A Saturday afternoon nutting party with her pupils afforded a more promising subject for Monday's original composition than the hackneyed suggestions of the grammar book's "Tell all you know about the cultivation of coffee." Later, snow forts in the school-yard impressed the children with the story of Ticonderoga more indelibly than mere reading about it could have done. During her last year at Normal, Amanda had read about a school where geography was taught by the construction of miniature islands, capes, straits, peninsulas, and so forth, in the school-yard. She directed the older children in the formation of such a landscape picture. When a blundering boy slipped and with one bare foot demolished at one stroke the cape, island and bay, there was much merriment and rivalry for the honor of rebuilding. The children were almost unanimous in their affection for the new teacher and approval of her methods of teaching. Most of them ran home with eager tales concerning the wonderful, funny, "nice" ways Miss Reist had of teaching school.
However, Crow Hill is no Eden. Some of the older boys laughed at the "silly ideas" of "that Manda Reist" and disliked the way she taught geography and made the pupils "play in the dirt and build capes and islands and the whole blamed geography business right in the school- yard."
It naturally followed that adverse criticism grew and grew, like Longfellow's pumpkin, and many curious visitors came to Crow Hill school. The patrons, taxpayers, directors were concerned and considered it their duty to drop in and observe how things were being run in that school. They found that the three R's were still taught efficiently, even if they were taught with the aid of chestnuts, autumn leaves and flowers; they were glad to discover that an island, though formed in the school-yard from dirt and water, was still being defined with the old standard definition, "An island is a body of land entirely surrounded by water."
If any other school had graduated Amanda, her position might have been a trifle precarious, but Millersville Normal School was too well known and universally approved in Lancaster County to admit of any questionable suggestions about its recent graduate. Most of the people who came to inspect came without any antagonistic feeling and they left convinced that, although some of Amanda Reist's ways were a little different, the scholars seemed to know their lessons and to progress satisfactorily.
Later in the school year she urged the children to bring dried corn husk to school, she brought brightly colored raffia, and taught them how to make baskets. The children were clamorous for more knowledge of basket making. The fascinating task of forming objects of beauty and usefulness from homely corn husk and a few gay threads of raffia was novel to them. Amanda was willing to help the children along the path of manual dexterity and eager to have them see and love the beautiful. Under her guidance they gathered and pressed weeds and grasses and the airy, elusive milkweed down, caught butterflies, and assembled the whole under glass, thus making beautiful trays and pictures.
On the whole it was a wonderful, happy year for the new teacher of the Crow Hill school. When spring came with all the alluring witchery of the Garden Spot it seemed to her she must make every one of her pupils feel the thrill of the song-sparrow's first note and the matchless loveliness of the anemone.
One day in early April, the last week of school, as she locked the door of the schoolhouse and started down the road to her home an unusual glow of satisfaction beamed on her face.
"Only two more days of school, then the big Spelling Bee to wind it up and then my first year's teaching will be over! I have enjoyed it but I'm like the children—eager for vacation."
She hummed gaily as she went along, this nineteen-year-old school teacher so near the end of her first year's work in the schoolroom. Her eyes roved over the fair panorama of Lancaster County in early spring dress. As she neared the house she saw her Uncle Amos resting under a giant sycamore tree that stood in the front yard.
"Good times," she called to him.
"Hello, Manda," he answered. "You're home early."
"Early—it's half-past four. Have you been asleep and lost track of the time?"
He took a big silver watch from a pocket and whistled as he looked at it. "Whew! It is that late! Time for me to get to work again. Your Aunt Rebecca's here."
"Dear me! And I felt so happy! Now I'll get a call-down about something or other. I'm ashamed of myself, Uncle Amos, but I think Aunt Rebecca gets worse as she grows older."
"'Fraid so," the man agreed soberly. "Well, we can't all be alike. Too bad, now, she don't take after me, eh, Amanda?"
"It surely is! You're the nicest man I know!"
"Hold on now," he said; "next you make me blush. I ain't used to gettin' compliments."
"But I mean it. I don't see how she can be your sister and Mother's! I think the fairies must have mixed babies when she was little. I can see many good qualities in her, but there's no need of her being so contrary and critical. I remember how I used to be half afraid of her when I was little. She tried to make Mother dress me in a plain dress and a Mennonite bonnet, but Mother said she'd dress me like a little girl and if I chose I could wear the plain dress and bonnet when I was old enough to know what it means. Oh, Mother's wonderful! If I had Aunt Rebecca for a mother—but perhaps she'd be different then. Oh, Uncle Amos, do you remember the howl she raised when we had our house wired for electricity?"
"Glory, yes! She was scared to death to come here for a while."
"And Phil wickedly suggested we scare her again! But she was afraid of it. She was sure the house would be struck by lightning the first thunder-storm we'd have. And when we put the bath tub into the house— whew! Didn't she give us lectures then! She has no use for 'swimmin' tubs' to this day. If folks can't wash clean out of a basin they must be powerful dirty! That's her opinion."
Both laughed at the remembrance of the old woman's words. Then the girl asked, "What did she have to say to you to-day? Did she iron any wrinkles out of you?"
"Oh, I got it a'ready." The man chuckled. "I was plantin' potatoes till my back was near broke and I came in to rest a little and get a drink. She told me it's funny people got to rest so often in these days when they do a little work. She worked in the fields often and she could stand more yet than a lot o' lazy men. I didn't answer her but I came out here and got my rest just the same. She ain't bossin' her brother Amos yet! But now I got to work faster for this doin' nothin' under the tree."
When Amanda entered the kitchen she found her mother and the visitor cutting carpet rags. Old clothes were falling under the snip of the shears into a peach basket, ready to be sewn together, wound into balls and woven into rag carpet by the local carpet weaver on his hand loom.
"Hello," said the girl as she laid a few books on the kitchen table.
"Books again," sniffed Aunt Rebecca. "I wonder now how much money gets spent for books that ain't necessary."
"Oh, lots of it," answered the girl cheerfully.
"Umph, did you buy those?"
"Yes, when I went to Millersville."
"My goodness, what a lot o' money goes for such things these days! There's books about everything, somebody told me. There's even some wrote about the Pennsylvania Dutch and about that there Stiegel glass some folks make such a fuss about. I don't see nothin' in that Stiegel glass to make it so dear. Why, I had a little white glass pitcher, crooked it was, too, and nothin' extra to look at. But along come one of them anteak men, so they call themselves, the men that buy up old things. Anyhow, he offered to give me a dollar for that little pitcher. Ach, I didn't care much for it, though it was Jonas's granny's still. I sold it to that man quick before he'd change his mind and mebbe only give me fifty cents."
"You sold it?" asked Amanda. "And was it this shape?"
She made a swift, crude sketch of the well-known Stiegel pitcher shape.
"My goodness, you drawed one just like it! It looked like that."
"Then, Aunt Rebecca, you gave that man a bargain. That was a real Stiegel pitcher and worth much more than a dollar!"
"My goodness, what did I do now! You mean it was worth more than that?" The woman was incredulous.
"You might have gotten five, perhaps ten, dollars for it in the city. You know Stiegel glass was some of the first to be made in this country, made in Manheim, Pennsylvania, way back in 1760, or some such early date as that. It was crude as to shape, almost all the pieces are a little crooked, but it was wonderfully made in some ways, for it has a ring like a bell, and the loveliest fluting, and some of it is in beautiful blue, green and amethyst. Stiegel glass is rare and valuable so if you have any more hold on to it and I'll buy it from you."
"Well, I guess! I wouldn't leave you pay five dollars for a glass pitcher! But I wish I had that one back. It spites me now I sold it. My goodness, abody can't watch out enough so you won't get cheated. Where did you learn so much about that old glass?"
"Oh, I read about it in a book last year," came the ready answer.
Aunt Rebecca looked at the girl, but Amanda's face bore so innocent an expression that the woman could not think her guilty of emphasizing the word purposely.
"So," the visitor said, "they did put something worth in a book once! Well, I guess it's time you learn something that'll help you save money. All the books you got to read! And Philip's still goin' to school, too. Why don't he help Amos on the farm instead of runnin' to Lancaster to school?"
"He wants to be a lawyer," said Mrs. Reist. "I think still that as long as he has a good head for learnin' and wants to go to school I should leave him go till he's satisfied. I think his pop would say so if he was livin'. Not everybody takes to farmin' and it is awful hard work. Amos works that hard."
"Poof," said Aunt Rebecca, "I ain't heard tell yet of any man workin' himself to death! It wouldn't hurt Philip to be a farmer. The trouble is it don't sound tony enough for the young ones these days. Lawyer— what does he want to be a lawyer for? I heard a'ready that they are all liars. You're by far too easy!"
"Oh, Aunt Rebecca," said Amanda, "not all lawyers are liars. Abraham Lincoln was a lawyer."
"Ach, I guess he was no different from others, only he's dead so abody shouldn't talk about him."
Amanda sighed and turned to her mother. "Mother, I'm going up to put on an old dress and when Phil comes we're going over to the woods for arbutus."
But the aunt did not consider it all right. "Why don't you help cut carpet rags?" she asked. "That would be more sense than runnin' out after flowers that wither right aways."
"If we find any, Millie is going to take them to market to-morrow and sell them. Some people asked for them last week. It's rather early but we may find some on the sunny side of the woods."
"Oh," the woman was mollified, "if you're goin' to sell 'em that's different. Ain't it funny anybody buys flowers? But then some people don't know how to spend their money and will buy anything, just so it's buyin'!"
But Amanda was off to the wide stairs, beyond the sound of the haranguing voice.
"Glory!" she said to herself when she reached her room. "If my red hair didn't bristle! What a life we'd have if Mother were like that! If I ever think I have nothing to be thankful for I'm going to remember that!"
A little while later she went down the stairs, out through the yard and down the country road to meet her brother. She listened for his whistle. In childhood he had begun the habit of whistling a strain from the old song, "Soldier's Farewell" and, like many habits of early years, it had clung to him. So when Amanda heard the plaintive melody, "How can I leave thee, how can I from thee part," she knew that her brother was either arriving or leaving.
As she walked down the road in the April sunshine the old whistle floated to her. She hastened her steps and in a bend in the road came face to face with the boy.
At sight of her he stopped whistling, whipped off his cap and greeted her, "Hello, Sis. I thought that would bring you if you were about. Oh, don't look so tickled over my politeness—I just took off my hat because I'm hot. This walk from the trolley on a day like this warms you up."
His words brought a light push from the girl as she took her place beside him and they walked on.
"That's a mournful whistle for a home-coming," Amanda told him. "Can't you find a more appropriate one?"
"My repertoire is limited, sister—I learned that big word in English class to-day and had to try it out on some one."
"Phil, you're crazy!" was the uncomplimentary answer, but her eyes smiled with pride upon the tall, red-haired boy beside her. "I see it's one of your giddy days so I'll sober you up a bit—Aunt Rebecca's at the house."
"Oh, yea!" He held his side in mock agony.
"Again? What's the row now? Any curtain lectures?"
"Be comforted, Phil. She's going home to-night if you'll drive her to Landisville."
"Won't I though!" he said, with the average High School boy's disregard of pure English. "Surest thing you know, Sis, I'll drive her home or anywhere else. What's she doing?"
"Helping Mother cut carpet rags."
"Well, that's the only redeeming feature about her. She does help Mother. Aunt Rebecca isn't lazy. I'm glad to be able to say one nice thing about her. Apart from that she's generally as Millie says, 'actin' like she ate wasps.' But she can't scare me. All her ranting goes in one ear and out the other."
"Nothing there to stop it, eh, Phil?"
"Amanda! That from you! Now I know how Caesar felt when he saw Brutus with the mob."
"It's a case of 'Cheer up, the worst is yet to come,' I suppose, so you might as well smile."
In this manner they bantered until they reached the Reist farmhouse. There the boy greeted the visitor politely, as his sister had done.
"My goodness," was the aunt's greeting to him, "you got an armful of books, too!"
"Yes. I'm going to be a lawyer, but I have to do a lot of hard studying before I get that far."
"Umph, that's nothin' to brag about. I'd think more of you if you stayed home and helped Amos plant corn and potatoes or tobacco."
"I'd never plant tobacco. Chewing and smoking are filthy habits and I'd never have the stuff grow on any farm I owned."
"But the money, Philip, just think once of the money tobacco brings! But, ach, it's for no use talkin' farm to you. You got nothin' but books in your head. How do you suppose this place is goin' to be run about ten years from now if Amanda teaches and you turn lawyer? Amos is soon too old to work it and you can't depend on hired help. Then what?"
"Search me," said the boy inelegantly. "But I'm not worrying about it. We may not want to live here ten years from now. But, Mother," he veered suddenly, "got any pie left from dinner? I'm hungry. May I forage?"
"Help yourself, Philip. There's a piece of cherry pie and a slice of chocolate cake in the cellar."
"Hurray, Mother! I'm going to see that you get an extra star in your crown some day for feeding the hungry."
"But you spoil him," said Aunt Rebecca as Phil went off to the cellar. "And if that boy ain't always after pie! I mind how he used to eat pie when he was little and you brought him to see us. Not that I grudged him the pie, but I remember how he always took two pieces if he got it. And pie ain't good for him, neither, between meals."
"I guess it won't hurt him," said Mrs. Reist; "the boy's growin' and he has just a lunch at noon, so he gets hungry till he walks in from the trolley. Boys like pie. His father was a great hand for pie."
"Well," said the aunt decisively, "I would never spoiled children if I had any. But I had none."
"Thank goodness!" Amanda breathed to herself as she went out to the porch to wait for her brother.
"Um, that pie was good," was his verdict as he joined her. "But say, Sis, didn't you hear the squirrels chatter in there?"
"Come on." Amanda laughed as she swung the basket to her arm and pulled eagerly at the sleeve of the boy's coat. "Let's go after the flowers and forget all about her."
Along the Crow Hill schoolhouse runs a long spur of wooded hills skirting the country road for a quarter of a mile and stretching away into denser timberland. In those woods were the familiar paths Amanda and Phil loved to traverse in search of flowers. In April, when the first warm, sunshiny days came, the ground under the dead leaves of the overshadowing oaks was carpeted with arbutus. Eager children soon found those near the crude rail fence, but Amanda and Phil followed the narrow trails to the secluded sheltered spots where the May flowers had not been touched that spring.
"No roots, Phil!" warned the girl as they knelt in the brown leaves and pushed away the covering from the fragrant blossoms.
"Sure thing not, Sis! We don't want to exterminate the trailing arbutus in Crow Hill. Say, I passed two kids this morning as I was going to the trolley. They had a bunch of arbutus, roots and all. Believe me, I acted up like Aunt Rebecca for about two minutes. But it's a shame to take the roots. I almost hate to pick the flowers—seems as if they're at home here in the woods—belong here, in a way."
"I know what you're thinking about, Phil; that little verse:
'Hast thou named all the birds without a gun? Loved the wood-rose and left it on its stalk? Oh, be my friend, and teach me to be thine.'
I agree with the first half of the requirement, but the latter half can't always be followed. At any rate, the wild rose is better left on the stem, for it withers when plucked. But with arbutus it's different. Why, Phil, some of the people who come to market and buy our wild flowers would never see any if they could not buy them in the city. Imagine, if you can, yourself living in a big city, far away from Crow Hill, where the Mayflowers grow—Philadelphia or New York, or some such formidable-sounding place. The city might engross your attention so you'd be happy for months. But along comes spring with its call to the woods and meadows. Still the city and its demands grip you like a vise, and you can't run away to where the wild green things are pushing to the light. Suppose you saw a flower-stand and a tiny bunch of arbutus—"
"I'd pay my last dollar for them!" declared Philip. "Guess you're right. According to your reasoning, we're as good as missionaries when we find wild flowers and take or send them to the city market to sell. Aunt Rebecca wouldn't see that. She'd see the money end of it. Poor soul! I'm glad I'm not like her."
"Pharisee," chided his sister.
"Well, do you know, Manda, sometimes I think there's something to be said in favor of the Pharisee."
The girl gave him a quizzical look.
The serious and the light were so strangely mingled in the boy's nature. Amanda caught many glimpses into the recesses of his heart, recesses he knew she would not try to explore deeper than he wished. For the natures of brother and sister were strongly similar—light- hearted and happy, laughing and gay, keen to enjoy life, but reading some part of its mysteries, understanding some of its sorrows and showing at times evidences of searching thought and grave retrospect.
"How many dollars' worth do we have?" the boy asked in imitation of Aunt Rebecca's mercenary way.
"Oh, Phil! You're dreadful! But I bet the flowers will be gone in no time when Millie puts them out."
"I'd wager they'd go faster if you sold them," he replied, looking admiringly at the girl. "You'd be a pretty fair peddler of flowers, Sis."
"Oh, Phil, be sensible."
"I mean it, Amanda. You're not so bad looking. Your hair isn't common red, it's Titian. And it's fluffy. Then your eyes are good and your complexion lacks the freckles you ought to have. Your nose isn't Grecian, but it'll do—we'll call it retrouss, for that sounds nicer than pug. And your mouth—well, it's not exactly a rosebud one, but it doesn't mar the general landscape like some mouths do. Altogether, you're real good-looking, even if you are my sister."
"Philip Reist, you're impertinent! But I suppose you are truthful. That's a doubtful compliment you're giving me, but I'm glad to say your veracity augurs well for your success as a lawyer. If you are always as honest as in that little speech you just delivered, you'll do."
"Oh, I'll make grand old Abe Lincoln look to his laurels."
And so, with comradely teasing, threaded with a more serious vein, an hour passed and the two returned home with their baskets filled with the lovely pink and white, delicately fragrant, trailing arbutus.
They found the supper ready, Uncle Amos washed and combed, and waiting on the back porch for the summons to the meal.
Mrs. Reist peeped into the basket and exclaimed in joy as she breathed in the sweet perfume of the fresh flowers. Millie paused in the act of pouring coffee into big blue cups to "get a sniff of the smell," but Aunt Rebecca was impatient at the momentary delay. "My goodness, but you poke around. I like to get the supper out before it gets cold."
There was no perceptible hurry at her words, but a few minutes later all were seated about the big table in the kitchen with a hearty supper spread before them.
Uncle Amos was of a jovial, teasing disposition, prone to occasional shrewd thrusts at the idiosyncrasies of his acquaintances, but he held sacred things sacred and rendered to reverent things their due reverence. It was his acknowledged privilege to say grace, at the meals served in the Reist home.
That April evening, after he said, "Amen," Philip turned to Amanda and said, "Polly wants some too."
The girl burst into gay laughter. Everybody at the table looked at her in surprise.
"What's funny?" asked Aunt Rebecca.
"I'll tell you," Phil offered. "Last Saturday we were back at Harnly's. They have two parrots on the porch, and all morning we tried to get those birds to talk. They just sat and blinked at us, looked wise, but said not a word. I forgot all about them when we went in to dinner, but we had just sat down and bowed our heads for grace when those birds began to talk. They went at it as though some person had wound them up. 'Polly wants some dinner; Polly wants some, too. Give Polly some too.' Well, it struck me funny. Their voices were so shrill and it was such a surprise after they refused to say a word, that I got to laughing. I gave Amanda a nudge, and she got the giggles."
"It was awful," said Amanda. "If Phil hadn't nudged me I could have weathered through by biting my lips."
"I don't see anything to laugh about when two parrots talk," was Aunt Rebecca's remark. "Anyhow, that was no time to laugh. I guess you'll remember what I tell you, some day when you got to cry for all this laughin' you do now."
"Ach," said the mother, "let 'em laugh. I guess we were that way too once."
"Bully for you, Mother," cried the boy; "you're as young as any of us."
"That's what," chimed in Millie.
"Oh, say, Millie," asked Philip, "did you make that cherry pie I finished up after school to-day?"
"Yes. Was it good?"
"Good? It melted in my mouth. When I marry, Millie, I'm going to borrow you for a while to come teach my wife how to make such pies."
"Listen at him now! Ain't it a wonder he wouldn't think to get a wife that knows how to cook and bake? But, Philip Reist, you needn't think I'll ever leave your mom unless she sends me off."
"Wouldn't you, now, Millie?" asked Uncle Amos.
"Why, be sure, not! I ain't forgettin' how nice she was to me a'ready. I had hard enough to make through before I came here to work. I had a place to live out in Readin' where I was to get big money, but when I got there I found I was to go in the back way always, even on Sunday, and was to eat alone in the kitchen after they eat, and I was to go to my room and not set with the folks at all. I just wouldn't live like that, so I come back to Lancaster County and heard about you people wantin' a girl, and here I am."
Amanda looked at the hired girl. In her calico dress and gingham apron, her hair combed back plain from her homely face, she was certainly not beautiful, and yet the girl who looked at her thought she appeared really attractive as the gratitude of her loyal heart shone on her countenance.
"Millie's a jewel," thought Amanda. "And Mother's another. I hope I shall be like them as I grow older."
After the supper dishes were washed, Aunt Rebecca decided it was time for her to go home.
"Wouldn't you like to go in the automobile this time?" suggested Philip. "It would go so much faster and is easier riding than the carriage."
"Faster! Well, I guess that horse of yourn can get me anywhere I want to go fast enough to suit me. I got no time for all these new-fangled things, like wagons that run without horses, and lights you put on and off with a button. It goes good if you don't get killed yet with that automobile."
"Then I'll hitch up Bill," said the boy as he went out, an amused smile on his face.
Amanda was thoughtful as she bunched the arbutus for the market next day. "I wonder how Uncle Jonas could live with Aunt Rebecca," she questioned. Ah, that was an enlightening test. "Am I an easy, pleasant person to live with?" Making full allowance for differences in temperament and dispositions, there was still, the girl thought, a possible compatibility that could be cultivated so that family life might be harmonious and happy.
"It's that I am going to consider when I get married, if I ever do," she decided that day. "I won't marry a man who would 'jaw' like Aunt Rebecca. I'm fiery-tempered myself, and I'll have to learn to control my anger better. Goodness knows I've had enough striking examples of how scolding sounds! But I won't want to squabble with the man I really care for—Martin Landis, for instance—" Her thoughts went off to her castles in Spain as she gathered the arbutus into little bunches and tied them. "He offered to help me fix my schoolroom for the Spelling Bee on Saturday. He's got a big heart, my Sir Galahad of childhood." She smiled as she thought of her burned hand and his innocent kiss. "Poor Martin—he's working like a man these ten years. I'd like to see him have a chance at education like Lyman Mertzheimer has. I know he'd accomplish something in the world then! At any rate, Martin's a gentleman and Lyman's a—ugh, I hate the very thought of him. I'm glad he's not at home to come to my Spelling Bee."
THE SPELLING BEE
The old-fashioned Spelling Bee has never wholly died out in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Each year readers of certain small-town papers will find numerous news-titles headed something like this: "The Bees Will Buzz," and under them an urgent invitation to attend a Spelling Bee at a certain rural schoolhouse. "A Good Time Promised"—"Classes for All"—"Come One, Come All"—the advertisements never fail. Many persons walk or ride to the little schoolhouse. The narrow seats, the benches along the wall, and all extra chairs that can be brought to the place are taken long before the hour set for the bees to buzz. The munificent charge is generally fifteen cents, and where in this whole United States of America can so much real enjoyment be secured for fifteen cents as is given at an old-fashioned Spelling Bee?
That April evening of Amanda's Bee the Crow Hill schoolhouse was filled at an early hour. The scholars, splendid in their Sunday clothes, occupied front seats. Parents, friends and interested visitors from near-by towns crowded into the room.
Amanda, dressed in white, came upon the platform and announced that the scholars had prepared a simple program which would be interspersed through the spelling classes.
Vehement clapping of hands greeted her words and then the audience became silent as the littlest scholar of the school rose and delivered the address of welcome. There followed music and more recitations, all amateurish, but they brought feelings of pride to many mothers and fathers who listened, smiling, to "Our John" or "Our Mary" do his or her best.
But the real excitement began with the spelling classes. The first was open to all children under fourteen. At the invitation, boys and girls walked bravely to the front and joined the line till it reached from one side of the room to the opposite. A teacher from a neighboring town gave out the words. The weeding-out process soon began. Some fell down on simple words, others handled difficult ones with ease and spelled glibly through some which many of the older people present had forgotten existed. Soon the class narrowed down to two. Back and forth, back and forth the words rolled until the teacher pronounced one of the old standby catch-words. One of the contestants shook his head, puzzled, and surrendered.
There was more music, several recitations by the children, a spelling class for older people, more music, then a General Information class, whose participants were asked such questions as, "Who is State Superintendent of Schools?" "How many legs has a fly?" "How many teeth has a cow?" "Which color is at the top of the rainbow arch?" The amazed, puzzled expressions on the faces of the questioned afforded much merriment for the others. It was frequently necessary to wait a moment until the laughter was suppressed before other questions could be asked.
A geographical class was equally interesting. "How many counties has Pennsylvania?" sent five persons to their seats before it was answered correctly. Others succeeded in locating such queer names as Popocatepetl, Martinique, Ashtabula, Rhodesia, Orkney, Comanche.
A little later the last spelling class was held. It was open to everybody. The line was already stretched across the schoolroom when Lyman Mertzheimer, home for a few days of vacation, entered the schoolhouse.
"Oh, dear," thought Amanda, "what does he want here? I'd rather do without his fifteen cents! He expects to make a show and win the prize from every one else."
Lyman, indeed, swaggered down the room and entered the line, bearing the old air of superiority. "I'll show them how to spell," he thought as he took his place. Spelling had been his strong forte in the old days of school, and it was soon evident that he retained his former ability. The letters of the most confusing words fell from his lips as though the very pages of the spelling-book were engraved upon his brain. He held his place until the contest had ruled out all but two beside himself. Then he looked smilingly at Amanda and reared his head in new dignity and determination.
"Stelliform, the shape of a star," submitted the teacher. The word fell to Lyman. He was visibly hesitant. Was it stelli or stella?
Bringing his knowledge of Latin into service, he was inclined to think it was stella. He began, "S-t-e-l-l—"
He looked uncertainly at one of his friends who was seated in the front seat. He, also, was a champion speller.
"Oh, if Joe would only help me!" thought the speller.
As if telepathy were possible, Joe raised the forefinger of his left hand to his eye, looked at Lyman with a meaning glance that told him what he craved to know.
"Iform," finished Lyman in sure tones.
"That was clever of Joe," thought the cheat as the teacher gave out a word to one of the three contestants. "I just caught his sign in time. Nobody noticed it."
But he reckoned without the observant teacher of Crow Hill school. Amanda, seated in the front of the room and placed so she half faced the audience and with one little turn of her head could view the spellers, had seen the cheating process and understood its significance. The same trick had been attempted by some of her pupils several times during the monthly spelling tests she held for the training of her classes.
"The cheat! The big cheat!" she thought, her face flushing with anger. "How I hope he falls down on the next word he gets!"
However, the punishment he deserved was not meted out to him. Lyman Mertzheimer outspelled his opponents and stood alone on the platform, a smiling victor.
"The cheat! The contemptible cheat!" hammered in Amanda's brain.
After the distribution of prizes, cheap reprint editions of well-known books, an auctioneer stepped on the platform and drew from a corner a bushel basket of packages of various sizes and shapes.
"Oyez, Oyez," he called in true auctioneer style, "we have here a bushel of good things, all to be sold, sight unseen, to the highest bidder. I understand each package contains something good to eat, packed and contributed by the pupils of this school. The proceeds of the sale are to be used to purchase good books for the school library for the pupils to read. So, folks, bid lively and don't be afraid to run a little risk. You'll get more fun from the package you buy than you've had for a long time, I'll warrant."
With much talk and gesticulation the spirited bidding was kept up until every package was sold. Shouts of joy came from the. country boys when one opened a box filled with ten candy suckers and distributed them among the crowd. Other bidders won candy, cake, sandwiches, and loud was the laughter when a shoe-box was sold for a dollar, opened and found to contain a dozen raw sweet potatoes.
After the fun of the auction had died down all rose and sang "The Star- Spangled Banner," and the Spelling Bee was over.
The audience soon began to leave. Laughing girls and boys started down the dark country roads. Carriages and automobiles carried many away until a mere handful of people were left in the little schoolhouse.
Lyman Mertzheimer lingered. He approached Amanda, exchanged greetings with her and asked, "May I walk home with you? I have something to tell you."
"Oh, I suppose so," she replied, not very graciously. The dishonest method of gaining a prize still rankled in her. Lyman walked about the room impatiently, looking idly at the drawings and other work of the children displayed above the blackboards.
A moment later Martin Landis came up to Amanda. He had been setting chairs in their places, gathering singing-books and putting the room in order.
"Well, Manda," he said, "it was a grand success! Everything went off fine, lots of fun for all. And I heard Hershey, the director, tell his wife that you certainly know how to conduct a Spelling Bee."
"Oh, did he say that?" The news pleased her. "But I'm glad it's over."
"I guess you are. There, we're all fixed up now. I'll send one of the boys over next week with the team to take back the borrowed chairs. I'll walk home with you, Manda. What's Lyman Mertzheimer hanging around for? Soon as those people by the door leave, we can lock up and go."
"Why—Martin—thank you—but Lyman asked to walk home with me."
"Oh! All right," came the calm reply. "I'll see you again. Good-night, Amanda."
She looked after him as he walked away, the plumed knight of her castles in Spain. She had knighted him that day long ago when he had put out the fire and kissed her hand, and during the interval of years that childish affection had grown in her heart. In her thoughts he was still "My Martin." But the object of that long-abiding affection showed all too plainly that he was not cognizant of what was in the heart of his childhood's friend. To him she was still "Just Amanda," good comrade, sincere friend.
Fortunately love and hope are inseparable. Amanda thought frequently of the verse, "God above is great to grant as mighty to make, and creates the love to reward the love." It was not always so, she knew, but she hoped it would be so for her. Martin Landis, unselfish, devoted to his people, honest as a dollar, true as steel—dear Martin, how she wanted to walk home with him that night of the Spelling Bee instead of going with Lyman Mertzheimer!
The voice of the latter roused her from her revery. "I say, Amanda, are we going to stay here all night? Why in thunder can't those fools go home so you can lock the door and go! And I say, Amanda, don't you think Martin Landis is letting himself grow shabby and seedy? He's certainly settling into a regular clodhopper. He shuffled along like a hecker to-night. I don't believe he ever has his clothes pressed."
"Martin's tired to-night," she defended, her eyes flashing fire. "He worked in the fields all day, helping his father. Then he and one of his brothers took their team and went after some chairs I wanted to borrow for the Spelling Bee. They arranged the room for me, too."
"Oh, I see. Poor fellow! It must be the very devil to be poor!"
The words angered the girl. "Well," she flared out, "if you want to talk about Martin Landis, you go home. I'll get home without you."
"Now, Amanda," he pleaded sweetly, "don't get huffy, please! I want you in a good humor. I have something great to tell you. Can't you take a bit of joshing? Of course, it's fine in you to defend your old friends. But I didn't really mean to say anything mean about Martin. You do get hot so easily."
"It must be my red-hair-temper," she said, laughing. "I do fly off the handle, as Phil says, far too soon."
"Shall we go now?" Lyman asked as the last lingering visitors left the room.
The lights were put out, the schoolhouse door locked, and Amanda and Lyman started off on the dark country road. Peals of merry laughter floated back to them occasionally from a gay crowd of young people who were also going home from the Spelling Bee. But there were none near enough to hear what most wonderful thing Lyman had to say to Amanda.
"Amanda," he lost no time in broaching the subject, "I said I have something to tell you. I meant, to ask you."
"Yes? What is it?"
"Will you marry me?"
Before the astonished girl could answer, he put his arms about her and drew her near, as though there could be no possibility of an unfavorable reply.
She flung away from him, indignant. "Lyman," she said, with hot anger in her voice, "you better wait once till I say yes before you try that!"
"Why, Amanda! Now, sweetheart, none of that temper! You can't get cross when I ask you anything like that! I want to marry you. I've always wanted it. I picked you for my sweetheart when we were both children. I've always thought you're the dandiest girl I could find. Ever since we were kids I've planned of the time when we were old enough to marry. I just thought to-night, when I saw several fellows looking at you as though they'd like to have you, I better get busy and ask you before some other chap turns your head. I'll be good to you and treat you right, Amanda. Of course, I'm in college yet, but I'll soon be through, and then I expect to get a good position, probably in some big city. We'll get out of this slow country section and live where there's some life and excitement. You know I'll be rich some day, and then you'll have everything you want. Come on, honey, tell me, are we engaged?"
"Well, I should say not!" the girl returned with cruel frankness. "You talk as though I were a piece of furniture you could just walk into a store and select and buy and then own! You've been taking immeasurably much for granted if you have been thinking all those things you just spoke about."
"But what don't you like about me?" The young man was unable to grasp the fact that his loyal love could be unrequited. "I'm decent."
"Well, that's very important, but there's more than that necessary when two persons think of marrying. You asked me,—I'll tell you—I never cared for you. I don't like your principles, your way of sneering at poor people, your laxity in many things—"
"For instance?" he asked.
"For instance: the way you spelled stelliform to-night and won a prize for it."
"Oh, that!" He laughed as though discovered in a huge joke. "Did you see that? Why, that was nothing. It was only a cheap book I got for the prize. I'll give the book back to you if that will square me in your eyes."
"But don't you see, can't you see, it wasn't the cheap book that mattered? It's the thought that you'd be dishonest, a cheat."
"Well," he snatched at the least straw, "here's your chance to reform me. If you marry me I'll be a different person. I'd do anything for you. You know love is a great miracle worker. Won't you give me a chance to show you how nearly I can live up to your standards and ideals?"
Amanda, moved by woman's quick compassion, spurred by sympathy, and feeling the exaltation such an appeal always carries, felt her heart soften toward the man beside her. But her innate wisdom and her own strong hold on her emotions prevented her from doing any rash or foolish thing. Her voice was gentle as she answered, but there was a finality in it that the man should have noted.
"I'm sorry, Lyman, but I can't do as you say. We can't will whom we will love. I know you and I would never be happy together."
"But perhaps it will come to you." He was no easy loser. "I'll just keep on hoping that some day you'll care for me."
"Don't do that. I'm positive, sure, that I'll never love you. You and I were never made for each other."
But he refused to accept her answer as final. "Who knows, Amanda," he said lightly, yet with all the feeling he was capable of at that time, "perhaps you'll love and marry Lyman Mertzheimer yet! Stranger things than that have happened. I'm sorry about that word. It seemed just like a good joke to catch on to the right spelling that way and beat the others in the match. You are too strict, Amanda, too closely bound by the Lancaster County ideas of right and wrong. They are too narrow for these days."
"Oh, no!" she said quickly. "Dishonesty is never right!"
"Well," he laughed, "have it your way! See how docile I have become already! You'll reform me yet, I bet!"
At the door of her home he bade her good-night and went off whistling, feeling only a slight unhappiness at her refusal to marry him. It was, he felt, but a temporary rebuff. She would capitulate some day. His consummate egotism buoyed his spirits and he went down the road dreaming of the day he'd marry Amanda Reist and of the wonderful gowns and jewels he would lavish upon her.
AT THE MARKET
The words of Lyman Mertzheimer lingered with Amanda for many days. He had seemed so confident, so arrogantly sure, of her ultimate surrender to his desire to marry her. Soon after the Spelling Bee he returned to his college and the girl sighed in relief that his presence was not annoying her. But she reckoned without the efficient United States mail service. The rejected lover wrote lengthy, friendly letters which she answered at long intervals by short, impersonal little notes.
"Oh, yea," she said to herself one day, "why does it have to be Lyman Mertzheimer that falls in love with me? But he might as well fall out as soon as he can. I'll never marry him. I read somewhere that one girl said, 'I'd rather love what I cannot have, than have what I cannot love,' and that's just the way I feel about it. I won't marry Lyman Mertzheimer if I have to die Amanda Reist!"
As soon as her school term was ended Amanda entered into the work of the farm. She helped Millie as much as possible in a determined effort to forget all about the man who wanted her and whom she did not want, and, more than that, to think less about her knight, her Sir Galahad, who evidently had no time to waste on girls.
Millie appreciated Amanda's help. "There's one thing sure," she said proudly to Mrs. Reist, "our Amanda ain't lazy. It seems to abody she's workin' more'n ever this here spring. I guess mebbe she thinks she better get all the ins and outs o' housework so as she can do it right till she gets married once."
"Ach, I guess Amanda ain't thinkin' of marryin' yet," said the mother.
"You fool yourself," was Millie's wise answer. "Is there ever a woman born that don't think 'bout it? Women ain't made that way. There ain't one so ugly nor poor, nor dumb, that don't hanker about it sometimes, even if she knows it ain't for her."
Here the entrance of Amanda cut short the discussion.
"Millie," asked the girl, "shall I go to market with you this week?"
"Why, yes. I'd be glad for you. Of course, you always help get things ready here and your Uncle Amos drives me in and helps to get the baskets emptied and the things on the counters, but I could use you in sellin'."
"Then I'll come. This lovely spring weather makes me want to go. I like to see the people come in to buy flowers and early vegetables. It's like reading a page out of a romance to see the expressions on the faces of the city people as they buy the products of the country."
"Ach, I don't know what you mean. I guess you got too much fine learnin' for me. But all I can see in market is people runnin' up one aisle and down the other to see where the onions or radishes is the cheapest."
Amanda laughed. "That's part of the romance. It proves they are human."
The following Saturday Amanda accompanied Millie to the Lancaster market to help dispose of the assortment of farm products the Reist stall always carried.
Going to market in Lancaster is an interesting experience. In addition to the famous street markets, where farmers display their produce along the busy central streets of the city, there are indoor markets where crowds move up and down and buy butter, eggs and vegetables, and such Pennsylvania Dutch specialties as mince meat, cup cheese, sauerkraut, pannhaus, apple butter, fresh sausage and smear cheese. While lovers of flowers choose from the many old-fashioned varieties—straw flowers, zinnias, dahlias.
The Reist stall was one of the prominent stalls of the market. Twice every week Millie "tended market" there. On the day before market several members of the Reist household were kept busy preparing all the produce, and the next day before dawn Uncle Amos hitched the horse to the big covered wagon and he and Millie, sometimes Amanda and Philip, drove over the dark country roads to the city.
Amanda enjoyed the work. She arranged the glistening domes of cup cheese, placed the fresh eggs in small baskets, uncovered one of the bags of dried corn untied the cloth cover from a gray earthen crock of apple butter, and then stood and looked about the market house. She felt the human interest it never failed to waken in her. Behind many stalls stood women in the quaint garb of the Church of the Brethren or Mennonite. But quaintest of all were the Amish.
The Amish are the plainest and quaintest of the plain sects that flourish in Lancaster County. Unlike their kindred sects, who wear plain garb, they are partial to gay colors in dress. So it is no unusual sight to see Amish women wearing dresses of such colors as forest green, royal purple, king's blue or garnet. But the gay dress is always plainly made, after the model of their sect, generally partially subdued by a great black apron, a black pointed cape over the shoulders and a big black bonnet which almost hides the face of its wearer and necessitates a full-face gaze to disclose the identity of the woman. The strings of the thick white lawn cap are invariably tied in a flat bow that lies low on the chest.
The Amish men are equally interesting in appearance. They wear broad- brimmed hats with low crowns. Their clothes are so extremely plain that buttons, universally deemed indispensable, are taboo and their place is filled by the inconspicuous hook-and-eye, which style has brought upon them the sobriquet, "Hook-and-eye people."
However, interesting as the men and women of the Amish faith are in their dress, they are eclipsed in that aspect by the Amish children. These are invariably dressed as exact replicas of their parents. Little boys, mere children of three and four years, wear long trousers, tight jackets, blocked hair and broad-brimmed, low-crowned hats. Little girls of tender years wear brightly colored woolen dresses, one-piece aprons of black sateen or colored chambray, and the picturesque big stiff bonnets of the faith.
A stranger in Lancaster County seeing an Amish family group might easily wonder if he had not been magically transported to some secluded spot of Europe, far from the beaten paths of modernity. But in the cosmopolitan population of Lancaster the Amish awakes a mere moment's interest to the majority of observers. If a bit of envy steals into the heart of the little Amish girl who stands at the Square and sees a child in white organdie and pink sash tripping along with her feet in silk socks and white slippers, of what avail is it? The hold of family customs is strong among them and the world and its allurements and vanities are things to be left stringently alone.
To Amanda Reist, the Amish children made strong appeal. Their presence was one of the reasons she enjoyed tending market. Many stories she wove in her imagination about the little lads in their long trousers and the tiny girls in their big bonnets.
But when the marketing was in full swing Amanda had scant time for any weaving of imaginary stories. Purchasers stopped at the stall and in a short time the produce was sold, with the exception of cheese and eggs which had been ordered the previous week.
"Ach," complained Millie, "now if these people would fetch this cheese and the eggs we'd be done and could go home. Our baskets are all empty but them. But it seems like some of these here city folks can't get to market till eight o'clock. They have to sleep till seven."
She was interrupted by the approach of a young girl, fashionably dressed.
"Why," exclaimed Amanda, "here comes Isabel Souders, one of the Millersville girls."
Isabel Souders was a girl of the butterfly type, made for sunshine, beauty, but not intended, apparently, for much practical use. Like the butterfly, her excuse for being was her beauty. Pretty, with dark hair, Amanda sometimes had envied her during days at the Normal School. Well dressed, petted and spoiled by well-to-do parents who catered to her whims, she seemed, nevertheless, an attractive girl in manner as well as in appearance. At school something like friendship had sprung up between Amanda and the city girl, no doubt each attracted to the other by the very directness of their opposite personalities and tastes.
Isabel Souders was a year younger than Amanda. She lacked all of the latter's ambition. Music and Art and having a good time were the things that engrossed her attention. At Millersville she had devoted her time to the pursuit of the three. Professors and hall teachers knew that the moving spirit of many harmless pranks was Isabel, but she had a way of glossing things, shedding blame without causing innocent ones to suffer, that somehow endeared her to students and teachers alike.
That market day she came laughing down the market aisle to greet Amanda.
"Hello, Amanda! What do you think of me, here at this early hour of the day? Pin a medal on me! But it was so glorious a day I felt like doing something out of the ordinary. I promised one of the Lancaster girls who is at school now that I'd ask you about the pink moccasins. Are they out yet?"
"Just out. Why?"
"This girl wants one for her collection. I remembered you had a perfect one in your lot of flowers at school and I said I'd see you about them."
"They'll be at their best next Saturday."
"Next Saturday—dear, Helen's going home over the week-end. Oh, could I come out and get one for her?"
"Yes. I'll be glad to take you where they grow. I have a special haunt. If no botanizers or flower hunters find my spot, we'll get a beauty for your friend."
"You're the same old darling, Amanda," said the girl sweetly. "Then I'll be out to your house Saturday afternoon. How do I get there?"
"Take the car to Oyster Point, then walk till you find a mail-box with our name on it, and there I'll be found."
"Thank you, Amanda, you are a dear! I'll be there for the pink moccasin. Won't it be romantic to hunt for such lovely things as they are? You're perfectly sweet to bother about it and offer to take me."
"Oh, I don't mind doing that. I'll enjoy it. Finding the wild pink lady-slipper is a real joy."
Unselfish Amanda, she could not dream of what would come out of that little hunt for the pink moccasin!
The pink moccasin, the largest of our native orchids, is easily the queen of the rare woodland spot in which it grows. Its flower of bright rose pink, veined with red, is held with the stalwart erectness of an Indian, whose love of solitude and quiet woods it shares.
To Amanda it was one of the loveliest flowers of the woods. She always counted the days as the time drew near when the moccasins bloomed.
When Isabel Souders arrived at the Reist farmhouse she found Amanda ready with basket and trowel for the lady-slipper hunt. Amanda had put on a simple white dress and green-and-white sun hat. She looked with bewilderment at the city girl's attire, but said nothing just then. They stopped long enough for Isabel to meet the mistress of the home and then they went down the road to the Crow Hill schoolhouse.
Suddenly Isabel stood still and panted. "Oh—Manda—you can run! Have compassion on me. My hair will be all tumbled after such mad walking, and my organdie torn."
"Hair!" echoed the country girl with a laugh. "Who thinks about hair on a moccasin hunt? You should not go flower hunting in city clothes. With your pink and white dress and lovely Dresden sash, silk stockings and low shoes, you look more fit for a dance than a ramble after deep woods flowers, such as moccasins. But we might as well go on now."
She led the way across the school-yard, climbed nimbly over the rail fence and laughed at Isabel's clumsy imitation of her. Pink azaleas grew in great bushes of bloom throughout the woods. Isabel would have stopped to pick some but Amanda said, "That withers easily. Better pick them when we come back."
They followed a narrow path, so narrow that later the summer luxuriant growth of underbrush would almost obliterate it. But Amanda knew the way to her spot. Deeper into the woods they delved, past bowers of pink azalea and closely growing branches of trees whose tender green foliage was breaking into summer growth. The bright May sunshine dripped through the green and dappled the ground in little discs of gold.
Suddenly the path led up-hill in a steep grade. Amanda stopped and leaned against a slender sapling.
"Stand here and look up," she invited.
Isabel obeyed, her gaze traveling searchingly along the steep trail.
"Oh, the beauties!" she cried as she discovered the pink flowers. "The beauties! Oh, there are more of them! And still more! Oh, Amanda!"
Before them was Amanda's haunt of the pink moccasin. From the low underbrush of spring growth rose several dozen gorgeously beautiful pink lady-slippers, each alone on a thick stem with two broad leaves spreading their green beauty near the base. What miracle had brought the rare shy plants so near the dusty road where rattling wagons and gliding automobiles sped on their busy way?
"May I pick them?" asked the city girl.
"Yes, but only one root. I'll dig that up with the trowel. That's for your friend's botany specimen. The rest we'll pull up gently and we'll get flower, stem and leaves and leave the roots in the ground for other years. I never pick all of the flowers. I leave some here in the woods —it seems they belong here and I can't bring myself to walk off with every last one of them in my arms and leave the hill desolate."
"You are a queer girl!" was the frank statement of the city girl. "But you're a dear, just the same."
They picked a number of the largest flowers.
"That's enough," Amanda declared.
Isabel laughed. "I'd take every one if it were my haunt."
"And then other people might come here after some and find the place robbed of all its blooms."
"Oh," said the other girl easily, "I look out for Isabel. Now, please, may I pick some of that pretty wild azalea?" she asked teasingly as they came down the hill.
"Help yourself. That isn't rare. You couldn't take all of that if you tried."
So Isabel gathered branches of the pink bloom until her arms were filled with it and the six moccasins in her hand almost overshadowed.
As the two girls reached the edge of the woods and climbed over the fence into the school-yard Martin Landis came walking down the road.
"Hello," he called gaily. "Been robbing the woods, Amanda?"
"Aren't they lovely?" she asked. Then when he drew near she introduced him to the girl beside her.
Martin Landis was not a blind man. A pretty girl, dark-eyed and dusky- haired, her arms full of pink azaleas, her lips parted in a smile above the flowers, and that smile given to him—it was too pretty a picture to fail in making an impression upon him.
Amanda saw the look of keen interest in the eyes of the girl and her heart felt heavy. What fortune had brought the two together? Had the Fates designed the meeting of Isabel and Martin? "Oh, now I've done it!" thought Amanda. "Isabel wants what she wants and generally gets it. Pray heaven, she won't want 'My Martin!'"
Similar thoughts disturbed her as they stepped on the sunny road once more and stood there talking. With a gay laugh Isabel took the finest pink moccasin from her bunch and handed it to Martin. "Here, I'll be generous," she said in friendly tones.
"Thank you, Miss Souders." The reply was accompanied with a smile of pleasure.
A low laugh rippled from the girl's red lips. Amanda's ears tingled so she did not understand the exchange of light talk. The fear and jealousy in her heart dulled her senses to all save them, but she laughed, said good-bye, and hid her feelings as she and Isabel went down the road to the Reist farmhouse.
"Amanda," the other girl said effusively, "what a fine young man! Is he your beau?"
"No. Certainly not! I have no beau. I've known Martin Landis ever since I was born, almost. He lives down the road a piece. He's a nice chap."
"Splendid! Fine! Such eyes, such wonderfully expressive gray eyes I have never seen. And he has such a strong face. Of course, his clothes are a bit shabby. He'd be great if he fixed up."
"Yes," Amanda agreed mechanically. She was ill-pleased with the dissection of her knight.
Mrs. Reist, with true rural, Pennsylvania Dutch hospitality, invited Isabel to have supper with them, an invitation readily accepted. At the close of the meal Isabel said suddenly to Mrs. Reist, "How would you like to have me board with you for a few weeks—a month, probably?"
"Why, I don't know. All right, I guess, if Millie, here, don't think it makes too much work. Poor Millie's got the worst of all the work to do. I ain't so strong, and there's much always to do. Of course, Amanda helps, but none of us do as much as Millie."
"But me, don't I get paid for it, and paid good?" asked the hired girl, sending a loving glance at Mrs. Reist. "Far as I go it's all right to have Isabel come for a while. Mebbe she can help, too, sometimes with the work."
"I wouldn't be much help, I'm afraid. I never peeled a potato in my life."
Millie looked at the girl with slightly concealed disfavor. "Why, that's a funny way, now, to bring up a girl! I guess it's time you learn such things once! You dare come, and I'll show you how to do a little work. But why do you want to board when your folks live just in Lancaster?"
"Father and Mother are going to the Elks' Convention and to California. They expect to be gone about a month. I was going to stay in Lancaster with my aunt, but I just thought how much nicer it would be to spend that time in the country."
"Well, I guess, too!" Millie was quick to understand how one would naturally prefer the country to the city.
So it was settled that Isabel Souders was to spend June at the Reist farmhouse. Everybody concerned appeared well pleased with the arrangement. But Amanda's heart hurt. "Why did I take her for those moccasins?" she thought drearily after Isabel had gone back to the city with her precious flowers. "I know Martin will fall in love with her and she with him. Oh, I'm a mean, detestable thing! But I wish she'd go to the coast with her parents!"
The big automobile that brought Isabel Souders to the Reist farmhouse one day early in June brought with her a trunk, a suitcase, a bag, an umbrella and a green parasol.
Aunt Rebecca was visiting there that day and she followed Amanda to the front door to receive the boarder.
"My goodness," came the exclamation as the luggage was carried in, "is that girl comin' here for good, with all that baggage? And what did you let her come here for on a Friday? That's powerful bad luck!"
"For me," thought Amanda as she went to meet Isabel.
"See," the newcomer pointed to her trunk, "I brought some of my pretties along. I'll have to make hay while the sun shines. I'll have to make the most of this opportunity to win the heart of some country youth. Amanda, dear, wouldn't I be a charming farmer's wife? Can you visualize me milking cows, for instance?"
"No," answered Amanda, "I'd say that you were cut out for a different role." There was a deeper meaning in the country girl's words than the flighty city girl could read.
"Just the same," went on the newcomer, "I'm going to have one wonderful time in the country. You are such a dear to want me here and to take me into the family. I want to do just all the exciting things one reads about as belonging to life in the country. I am eager to climb trees and chase chickens and be a regular country girl for a month."
"Then I hope you brought some old clothes," was the practical reply.
"Not old, but plain little dresses for hard wear. I knew I'd need them."
Later, as Amanda watched the city girl unpack, she smiled ruefully at the plain little dresses for hard wear. Her observant eye told her that the little dresses of gingham and linen must have cost more than her own "best dresses." It was a very lavish wardrobe Isabel had selected for her month on the farm. Silk stockings and crepe de chine underwear were matched in fineness by the crepe blouses, silk dresses, airy organdies, a suit of exquisite tailoring and three hats for as many different costumes. The whole outfit would have been adequate and appropriate for parades on the Atlantic City boardwalk or a saunter down Peacock Alley of a great hotel, but it was entirely too elaborate for a Lancaster County farmhouse.
Millie, running in to offer her services in unpacking, stood speechless at the display of clothes. "Why," she almost stammered, "what in the world do you want with all them fancy things here? Them's party clothes, ain't?"
"No." Isabel shook her head. "Some are to wear in the evening and the plainer ones are afternoon dresses, and the linen and gingham ones are for morning wear."
"Well, I be! What don't they study for society folks! A different dress for every time of the day! What would you think if you had to dress like I do, with my calico dress on all day, only when I wear my lawn for cool or in winter a woolen one for warm?"
Millie went off, puzzled at the ways of society.
"Is she just a servant?" asked Isabel when they heard her heavy tread down the stairs.
"She isn't just anything! She's a jewel! Mother couldn't do without Millie. We've had her almost twenty years. We can leave everything to her and know it will be taken care of. Why, Millie's as much a part of the family as though she really belonged to it. When Phil and I were little she was always baking us cookies in the shape of men or birds, and they always had big raisin eyes. Millie's a treasure and we all think of her as being one of the family."
"Mother says that's just the reason she won't hire any Pennsylvania Dutch girls; they always expect to be treated as one of the family. We have colored servants. You can teach them their place."
"I see. I suppose so," agreed Amanda, while she mentally appraised the girl before her and thought, "Isabel Souders, a little more democracy wouldn't be amiss for you."
Although the boarder who came to the Reist farmhouse was unlike any of the members of the family, she soon won her way into their affections. Her sweet tenderness, her apparent childlike innocence, appealed to the simple, unsuspicious country folk. Shaping her actions in accordance with the old Irish saying, "It's better to have the dogs of the street for you than against you," Isabel made friends with Millie and went so far as to pare potatoes for her at busy times. Philip and Uncle Amos were non-committal beyond a mere, "Oh, I guess she's all right. Good company, and nice to have around."
The first Sunday of the boarder's stay in the country she invited herself to accompany the family to Mennonite church. Amanda appeared in a simple white linen dress and a semi-tailored black hat, but when Isabel tripped down the stairs the daughter of the house was quite eclipsed. Isabel's dark hair was puffed out becomingly about cheeks that had added pink applied to them. In an airy orchid organdie dress and hat to match, white silk stockings and white buckskin pumps, she looked ready for a garden party. According to all the ways of human nature more than one little Mennonite maid in that meeting-house must have cast sidelong glances at the beautiful vision, and older members of the plain sect must have thought the old refrain, "Vanity, vanity, all is vanity!"
Aunt Rebecca was at church that morning and came to the Reist home for dinner. She sought out Millie in the kitchen and gave her unsolicited, frank opinion—"My goodness, I don't think much of that there Isabel from Lancaster! She's too much stuck up. Such a get-up for a Sunday and church like she has on to-day! She looks like a regular peacock. It'll go good if she don't spoil our Amanda yet till she goes home."
"Ach, I guess not. She's a little fancier than I like to see girls, but then she's a nice girl and can't do Amanda no hurt."
"She means herself too big, that's what! And them folks ain't the right kind for Amanda to know. It might spite you all yet for takin' her in to board. Next thing she'll be playin' round with some of the country boys here, and mebbe take one that Amanda would liked to get. There's no trustin' such gay dressers. I found that out long a'ready."
"Ach," said Millie, "I guess Amanda don't like none of the boys round here in Crow Hill."
"How do you know? Guess Amanda ain't no different from the rest of us in petticoats. You just wait once and see how long it goes till the boys commence to hang round this fancy Isabel."
Millie hadn't long to wait. Through Mrs. Landis, who had been to Mennonite church and noticed a stranger with the Reist family, Martin Landis soon knew of the boarder. That same evening he dressed in his best clothes. He had not forgotten the dark eyes of Isabel smiling to him over the pink azaleas.
"Where you goin', Mart?" asked his mother. "Over to Landisville to church?"
"No—just out for a little while."
"Take me with," coaxed the littlest Landis, now five years old and the ninth in line.
"Ach, go on!" spoke up an older Landis boy, "what d'you think Mart wants with you? He's goin' to see his girl. Na, ah!" he cried gleefully and clapped his hands, "I guessed it! Look at him blushin', Mom!"
Martin made a grab for the boy and shook him. "You've got too much romantic nonsense in your head," he told the teasing brother. "Next thing you know you'll be a poet!" He released the squirming boy and rubbed a finger round the top of his collar as he turned to his mother.
"I'm just going down to Reists' a while. I met Miss Souders a few weeks ago and thought it would be all right for me to call. The country must seem quiet to her after living in the city."
"Of course it's all right, Martin," agreed his mother. "Just you go ahead."
But after he left, Mrs. Landis sat a long while on the porch, thinking about her eldest boy, her first-born. "He's goin' to see that doll right as soon as she comes near, and yet Amanda he don't go to see when she's alone, not unless he wants her to go for a walk or something like that. If only he'd take to Amanda! She's the nicest girl in Lancaster County, I bet! But he looks right by her. This pretty girl, in her fancy clothes and with her flippy ways—I know she's flippy, I watched her in church—she takes his eye, and if she matches her dress she'll go to his head like hard cider. Ach, sometimes abody feels like puttin' blinders on your boys till you get 'em past some women."
A little later the troubled mother walked back to the side porch, where her husband was enjoying the June twilight while he kept an eye on four of the younger members of the family as they were quietly engaged in their Sabbath recreation of piecing together picture puzzles.
"Martin," she said as she sat beside the man, "I've been thinkin' about our Mart."
"Why, I feel we ain't doin' just right by him. You know he don't like farmin' at all. He's anxious to get more schoolin' but he ain't complainin'. He wants to fit himself so he can get in some office or bank in the city and yet here he works on the farm helpin' us like he really liked to do that kind of work. Now he's of age, and since Walter and Joe are big enough to help you good and we're gettin' on our feet a little since the nine babies are out of the dirt, as they say still, why don't we give Martin a chance once?"
"Well, why not? I'm agreed, Ma. He's been workin' double, and when I'm laid up with that old rheumatism he runs things good as I could. We got the mortgage paid off now. How'd it be if we let him have the tobacco money? I was thinkin' of puttin' in the electric lights and fixin' things up a little with it, but if you'd rather give it to Mart—"
"I would. Much rather! I used oil lamps this long and I guess I can manage with them a while yet."
"All right, but as soon as we can we'll get others. Mart's young and ought to have his chance, like you say. I don't know what for he'd rather sit over a lot o' books in some hot little office or stand in a stuffy bank and count other people's money when he could work on a farm and be out in the open air, but then we ain't all alike and I guess it's a good thing we ain't. We'll tell him he dare have time for goin' to Lancaster to school if he wants. Mebbe he'll be a lawyer or president some day, ain't, Ma?"
"Ach, Martin, I don't think that would be so much. I'd rather have my children just plain, common people like we are. Mart's gone up to Reists' this evening."
"So? To see Amanda, I guess."
"Her or that boarder from Lancaster."
"That ruffly girl we saw this morning?"
"Ach, don't you worry, Ma. Our Mart won't run after that kind of a girl! Anyhow, not for long."
At that moment the object of their discussion was approaching the Reist farmhouse. The entire household, Millie included, sat on the big front porch as the caller came down the road.
"Look," said Philip, and began to sing softly. "Here comes a beau a-courting, a-courting—-"
"Phil!" chided Millie and Amanda in one breath.
"Don't worry, Sis," said the irrepressible youth, "we'll gradually efface ourselves, one by one—we're very thoughtful. I'll flip a penny to see whether Isabel stays or you. Heads you win, tails she does."
The vehement protest from his sister did not deter the boy from tossing the coin, which promptly rolled off the porch and fell into a bed of geraniums.
"See," he continued, "even the Fates are uncertain which one of you will win. I suppose the battle's to the strongest this time. Oh, hello, Martin," he said graciously as the caller turned in at the gate, "Nice day, ain't it?"
"What ails the boy?" asked Martin, laughing as he raised his hat and joined the group on the porch.
"Martin," said Amanda after he had greeted Isabel and took his place on a chair near her, "you'd do me an everlasting favor if you'd turn that brother of mine up on your knees and spank him."
"Now that I'd like to see!" spoke up Millie.
"You would, Millie? You'd like to see me get that? After all the coal I've carried out of the cellar for you, and the other ways I've helped make your burden lighter—you'd sit and see me humiliated! Ingratitude! Even Millie turns against me. I'm going away from this crowd where I'm not appreciated."
"Oh, you needn't affect such an air of martyrdom," his sister told him. "I know you have a book half read; you want to get back to that."