"Oh, Martin," she pressed her lips upon his bandaged head, her eyes were glowing with that "light that never was on land or sea"—"Oh, Martin, I've loved you ever since that day you saved my life by throwing me into the bean-patch and then kissed my burnt hand."
"Not your hand this time, sweetheart," he whispered, "your lips!"
"I'm glad," Amanda said after they had told each other the old, old story, "I'm so glad I kept my castles in Spain. When you went away and didn't write I almost wrecked them purposely. I thought they'd go tumbling into ashes but somehow I braced them up again. Now they're more beautiful than ever. I pity the people who own no castles in Spain, who have no dreams that won't come true exactly as they dreamed. I'll hold on to my dreams even if I know they can never come true exactly as I dream them. I wouldn't give up my castles in Spain. I'll have them till I die. But, Martin, that automobile might have killed you!"
"Nonsense. I'm just scratched a bit. I'll be out of this in no time."
"That rascal of a Lyman—you thought I could marry him?"
"I couldn't believe it, yet he said so. Some liar, isn't he?"
"Yes, but not quite so black as you thought. He is going to marry a girl named Amanda, one from his college town, and they are going to live in California."
"Yes. The engagement was announced last week while you were away. He knew you had probably not heard of it and saw a chance to make you jealous."
"I'd like to wring his neck," said Martin, grinning. "But since it turned out like this for me I'll forgive him. I don't care how many Amandas he marries if he leaves me mine."
At that point little Charlie, tiptoeing to the open door of Martin's room, saw something which caused him to widen his eyes, clap a hand over his mouth to smother an exclamation, and turn quickly down the stairs.
"Jiminy pats, Mom!" he cried excitedly as he entered the kitchen, "our Mart's holdin' Amanda's hand and she's kissin' him on the face! I seen it and heard it! Jiminy pats!"
The small boy wondered what ailed his mother, why she was not properly shocked. Why did she gather him into her arms and whisper something that sounded exactly like, "Thank God!"
"It's all right," she told him. "You mustn't tell; that's their secret."
"Oh, is it all right? Then I won't tell. Mart says I can keep a secret good."
But Martin and Amanda decided to take the mother into the happy secret. "Look at my face," the girl said. "I can't hide my happiness. We might as well tell it."
"Mother!" Martin's voice rang through the house. At the sound a happy, white-capped woman wiped her eyes again on the corner of her gingham apron and mounted the stairs to give her blessing to her boy and the girl who had crowned him with her woman's love.
The announcement of the troth was received with gladness at the Reist farmhouse. Mrs. Reist was happy in her daughter's joy and lived again in memory that hour when the same miracle had been wrought for her.
"Say," asked Philip, "I hope you two don't think you're springing a surprise? A person blind in one eye and not seeing out of the other could see which way the wind was blowing."
"Oh, Phil!" Amanda replied, but there was only love in her voice.
"It must be nice to be so happy like you are," said Millie.
"Yes, it must be," Uncle Amos nodded his head in affirmation. He looked at the hired girl, who did not appear to notice him. "I just wish I was twenty years younger," he added.
A week later Amanda and Martin were sitting in one of the big rooms of the Reist farmhouse. Through the open door came the sound of Millie and Mrs. Reist in conversation, with an occasional deeper note in Uncle Amos's slow, contented voice.
"Do you know," said Martin, "I was never much of a hand to remember poetry, but there's one verse I read at school that keeps coming to me since I know you are going to marry me. That verse about
'A perfect woman, nobly planned To warn, to comfort, and command.'"
"Oh, no, Martin! You put me on a pedestal, and that's a tottering bit of architecture."
"Not on a pedestal," he contradicted, "but right by my side, walking together, that's the way we want to go."
"That's the only way. It's the way my parents went and the way yours are still going." She rose and brought to him a little book. "Read Riley's 'Song of the Road,'" she told him.
He opened the book and read the musical verses:
"'O I will walk with you, my lad, whichever way you fare, You'll have me, too, the side o' you, with heart as light as air. No care for where the road you take's a-leadin'—anywhere,— It can but be a joyful ja'nt the whilst you journey there. The road you take's the path o' love, an' that's the bridth o' two— An' I will walk with you, my lad—O I will walk with you.'
"Why," he exclaimed, "that's beautiful! Riley knew how to put into words the things we all feel but can't express. Let's read the rest."
Her voice blended with his and out in the adjoining room Millie heard and listened. Silently the hired girl walked to the open door. She watched the two heads bending over the little book. Her heart ached for the happy childhood and the romance she had missed. The closing words of the poem came distinctly to her;
"'Sure, I will walk with you, my lad, As love ordains me to,— To Heaven's door, and through, my lad, O I will walk with you.'"
"Say," she startled the lovers by her remark, "if that ain't the prettiest piece I ever heard!"
"Think so?" said Martin kindly. "I agree with you."
"Yes, it sounds nice but the meanin' is what abody likes."
The hired girl went back to her place in the other room. But Amanda turned to the man beside her and said, "Romance in the heart of Millie! Who would guess it?"
"There's romance everywhere," Martin told her. "Millie's heart wouldn't be the fine big thing it is if she didn't keep a space there for love and romance."
THE HEART OF MILLIE
The Reist farmhouse, always a busy place, was soon rivaling the proverbial beehive. Mrs. Reist, to whom sentiment was ever a vital, holy thing, to be treasured and clung to throughout the years, had long ago, in Amanda's childhood, begun the preparation for the time of the girl's marriage. After the fashion of olden times the mother had begun the filling of a Hope Chest for her girl. Just as she instilled into the youthful mind the homely old-fashioned virtues of honesty, truthfulness and reverence for holy things which made Amanda, as she stood on the threshold of a new life, so richly dowered in spiritual and moral acquisitions, so had the mother laid away in the big wooden chest fine linens, useful and beautiful and symbolic of the worth of the bride whose home they were destined to enrich.
But in addition to the precious contents of the Hope Chest many things were needed for the dowry of the daughter of a prosperous Lancaster County family. So the evenings and Saturdays of that year became busy ones for Amanda. Millie helped with much of the plainer sewing and Mrs. Reist's exquisite tiny stitches enhanced many of the garments.
"Poor Aunt Rebecca," Amanda said one day, "how we miss her now!"
"Yes, ain't?" agreed Millie. "For all her scoldin' she was a good help still. If she was livin' yet she'd fuss about all the sewin' you're doin' to get married but she'd pitch right in and help do it."
Philip offered to pull basting threads, but his generosity was not appreciated. "Go on," Millie told him, "you'd be more bother than you're worth! Next you'd be pullin' out the sewin'!" He was frequently chased from the room because of his inappropriate remarks concerning the trousseau or his declaration that Amanda was spending all the family wealth by her reckless substitution of silk for muslin.
"You keep quiet," Millie often reproved him. "I guess Amanda dare have what she wants if your mom says so. If she wants them things she calls cammysoles made out of silk let her have 'em. She's gettin' married only once."
"How do you know?" he asked teasingly. "Say, Millie, I thought a camisole is a dish you make rice pudding in."
"Ach, that shows you don't know everything yet, even if you do go to Lancaster to school!" And he was driven from the room in laughing defeat.
It is usually conceded that to the prospective bride belongs the privilege of naming the day of her marriage, but it seemed to Amanda that Millie and Philip had as much to do with it as she. Each one had a favorite month. Phil's suggestion finally decided the month. "Sis, you're so keen about flowers, why don't you make it a spring wedding? About cherry blossom time would be the thing."
"So it would. We could have it in the orchard."
"On a nice rainy day in May," he said.
"Pessimist! It doesn't rain every day in May!"
There followed happy, excited times when the matter of a house was discussed. Those were wonderful hours in which the two hunted a nest that would be near enough to the city for Martin's daily commuting and yet have so much of the country about it as to boast of green grass and space for flowers. It was found at length, a little new bungalow outside the city limits in a residential section where gardens and trees beautified the entire street.
"Do you know," Mrs. Reist said to Uncle Amos one day, "there's another little house for sale in that street. If it wasn't for breakin' up the home for you and Millie I'd buy it and Philip and I could move in there. It would be nice and handy for him. I'm gettin' tired of such a big house. There I could do the work myself. There'd be room for you to come with us, but I wouldn't need Millie. I don't like to send her off to some other people. We had her so long a'ready, and she's a good, faithful worker. Ach, I guess I'll have to give up thinkin' about doin' anything like that."
"Well, well, now let me think once." Uncle Amos scratched his head. Then an inscrutable smile touched his lips. "Well, now," he said after a moment's meditation, "now I don't see why it can't be arranged some way. There's more'n one way sometimes to do things. I don't know—I don't know—but I think I can see a way we could manage that— providin'—ach, we'll just wait once, mebbe it'll come out right."
Mrs. Reist looked at her brother. What did he mean? He stammered and smiled like a foolish schoolboy. Poor Amos, she thought, how hard he had worked all his life and how little pleasure he had seemed to get out of his days! He was growing old, too, and would soon be unable to do the work on a big farm.
But Uncle Amos seemed spry enough several days later when he and Millie entered the big market wagon to go to Lancaster with the farm products. They left the Reist farmhouse early in the morning, a cold, gray winter day.
"Say, Millie," he said soon after they began the drive, "I want to talk with you."
"Well," she answered dryly, "what's to keep you from doin' so? Here I am. Go on."
"Ach, Millie, now don't get obstreperous! Manda's mom would like to sell the farm and move to Lancaster to a little house. Then she wouldn't need me nor you."
"What? Are you sure, Amos?"
"Sure! She told me herself. That would leave us out a home. For I don't want to live in no city and set down evenings and look at houses or trolley cars. You can hire out to some other people, of course."
"Oh, yea! Amos. What in the world—I don't want to live no place else."
"Well, now, wait once, Millie. I got a plan all fixed up, something I wished long a'ready I could do, only I hated to bust up the farm for my sister. Millie—ach, don't you know what I mean? Let's me and you get married!"
Millie drew her heavy blanket shawl closer around her and pulled her black woolen cap farther over her forehead, then she turned and looked at Amos, but his face was in shadow; the feeble oil lamp of the market wagon sent scant light inside.
"Now, Amos, you say that just because you take pity for me and want to fix a home for me, ain't?"
"Ach, yammer, no!" came the vehement reply. "I liked you long a'ready, Millie, and used to think still, 'There's a girl I'd like to marry!'"
"Why, Amos," came the happy answer, "and I liked you, too, long a'ready! I used to think still to myself, 'I don't guess I'll ever get married but if I do I'd like a man like Amos.'"
Then Uncle Amos suddenly demonstrated his skill at driving one-handed and something more than the blanket-shawl was around Millie's shoulders.
"Ach, my," she said after a while, "to think of it—me, a hired girl, to get a nice, good man like you for husband!"
"And me, a fat dopple of a farmer to get a girl like you! I'll be good to you, Millie, honest! You just see once if I won't! You needn't work so hard no more. I'll buy the farm off my sister and we'll sell some of the land and stop this goin' to market. It's too hard work. We can take it easier; we're both gettin' old, ain't, Millie?" He leaned over and kissed her again.
"You know," he said blissfully, "I used to think still this here kissin' business is all soft mush, but—why—I think it's all right. Don't you?"
"Ach," she laughed as she pushed his face away gently. "They say still there ain't no fools like old ones. I guess we're some."
"All right, we don't care, long as we like it. Here," he spoke to the horse, "giddap with you! Abody'd think you was restin' 'stead of goin' to market. We'll be late for sure this morning." His mittened hands flapped the reins and the horse quickened his steps.
"Ha, ha," the man laughed, "I know what ails old Bill! The kissin' scared him. He never heard none before in this market wagon. No wonder he stands still. Here's another for good measure."
"Ach, Amos, I think that's often enough now! Anyhow for this morning once."
"Ha, ha," he laughed. "Millie, you're all right! That's what you are!"
That evening at supper Philip asked suddenly, "What ails you two, Uncle Amos, you and Millie? I see you grin every time you look at each other."
"Well, nothin' ails me except a bad case of love that's been stickin' in me this long while and now it's broke out. Millie's caught it too."
"Well, I declare!" Amanda was quick to detect his meaning. "You two darlings! I'm so glad!"
"Ach," the hired girl said, blushing rosy, "don't go make so much fuss about it. Ain't we old enough to get married?"
"I'm glad, Millie," Mrs. Reist told her. "Amos just needs a wife like you. He worried me long a'ready, goin' on all alone. Now I know he'll have some one to look out for him."
"Finis! You're done for!" Phil said. "Lay down your arms and surrender. But say, that makes it bully for Mother and me. We can move to Lancaster now. May we run out to the farm and visit you, Millie?"
"Me? Don't ask me. It's Amos's."
"Millie, you goose," the man said happily, "when you marry me everything I have will be yours, too."
"Well, did I ever! I don't believe I'll know how to think about it that way. This nice big house won't seem like part mine."
"It'll be ours" Uncle Amos said, smiling at the word.
And so it happened that the preparation of another wedding outfit was begun in the Reist farmhouse.
"I don't need fancy things like Amanda," declared the hired girl. "I wear the old style o' clothes yet. And for top things, why, I made up my mind I'm goin' to wear myself plain and be a Mennonite."
"Plain," said Mrs. Reist. "Won't Amos be glad! He likes you no matter what clothes you wear, but it's so much nicer when you can both go to the same church. He'll be glad if you turn a Mennonite."
"Well, I'm goin' to be one. So I won't want much for my weddin' in clothes, just some plain suits and bonnets and shawl. But I got no chest ready like Amanda has. I never thought I'd need a Hope Chest. When I was little I got knocked around, but as soon as I could earn money I saved a little all the time and now I got a pretty good bit laid in the bank. I can take that and get me some things I need."
Mrs. Reist laid her hands on the shoulders of the faithful hired girl. "Never mind, Millie, you'll have your chest! We'll go to Lancaster and buy what you want. Amos got his share of our mother's things when we divided them and he has a big chest on the garret all filled with homespun linen and quilts and things that you can use. That will all be yours."
"Mine? I can't hardly believe it. You couldn't be nicer to me if you was my own mom. And I ain't forgettin' it neither! I said to Amos we won't get married till after Amanda and when you and Phil are all fixed in your new house. Then we'll go to the preacher and get it done. We don't want no fuss, just so we get married, that's all we want. It needn't be done fancy."
"ONE HEART MADE O' TWO"
Amanda married Martin that May, when the cherry blossoms transformed the orchard into a sea of white.
To the rear of the farmhouse stood a plot of ground planted with cherry trees. Low grass under the trees and little paths worn into it led like aisles up and down. There, near the centre of the plot, Amanda and Martin chose the place for the ceremony. The march to and from that spot would lead through a white-arched aisle sweet with the breath of thousands of cherry blossoms.
Amanda selected for her wedding a dress of white silk. "I do want a wedding dress I can pack away in an old box on the attic and keep for fifty years and take out and look at when it's yellow and old," she said, romance still burning in her heart.
"Uh," said practical Millie. "Why, there ain't no attic in that house you're goin' to! Them bungalows ain't the kind I like. I like a real house."
"Well, there's no garret like ours, but there is a little raftered room with a slanting ceiling and little windows and I intend to put trunks and boxes in it and take my spinning-wheel that Granny gave me and put it there."
"A spinning-wheel! What under the sun will you do with that?"
"Look at it," was the strange reply, at which Millie shook her head and went off to her work.
"Are you going to carry flowers, and have a real wedding?" Philip asked his sister the day before the wedding.
"I don't need any, with the whole outdoors a mass of bloom. If the pink moccasins were blooming I'd carry some."
"Pink—with your red hair!" The boy exercised his brotherly prerogative of frankness.
"Yes, pink! Whose wedding is this? I'd carry pink moccasins and wear my red hair if they—if the two curdled! But I'll have to find some other wild flowers."
He laughed. "Then I'll help you pick them."
"Martin and I are going for them, thanks."
"Oh, don't mention it! I wouldn't spoil that party!" He began whistling his old greeting whistle. He had forgotten it for several years but some chord of memory flashed it back to him at that moment.
At the sound of the old melody Amanda stepped closer to the boy. "Phil," she said tenderly, "you make me awful mad sometimes but I like you a lot. I hope you'll be as happy as I am some day."
"Ah," he blinked, half ashamed of any outward show of emotion. "You're all right, Sis. When I find a girl like you I'll do the wedding ring stunt, too. Now, since we've thrown bouquets at each other let's get to work. What may I do if I'm debarred from the flower hunt?"
"Go ask Millie."
"Gee, Sis, have a heart! She's been love struck, too. Regular epidemic at Reists'!" But he went off to offer his services to the hired girl.
As Amanda dressed in her white silk gown she wished she were beautiful. "Every girl ought to have beauty once in her life," she thought. "Even for just one hour on her wedding day it would be a boon. But then, love is supposed to be blind, so perhaps Martin will think I am beautiful to-day."
She was not beautiful, but her eyes shone soft and her face was expressive of the joy in her heart as she stood ready for the ceremony which was the consummation of her love for the knight of her girlhood's dreams.
It would be impossible to find a more beautiful setting for a wedding than the Reist cherry orchard that May day. There were rows of trees, with their fresh young green and their canopies of lacy bloom through which the warm May sunshine trickled like gold. As Amanda and Martin stood before the waiting clergyman and in the presence of relatives, friends and neighbors, faint breezes stirred the branches and fugitive little petals loosened from the hearts of the blossoms and fell upon the happy people gathered under the white glory of the orchard.
Several robins with nests already built on broad crotches of the cherry trees hovered about, their black eyes peering questioningly down at the unwonted visitors to the place. Once during the marriage service a Baltimore oriole flashed into a tree near by, his golden plumage made more intense against the white blossoms. With proud assurance he demonstrated his appreciation of the orchard and perched fearlessly on an outer bough while he whistled his insistent, imperious, "Here, here, come here!"
As the words, "Until death do us part"—the old, inadequate mortal expression for love that is deathless—sounded in that white-arched temple Amanda thought of Riley's "Song of the Road" and its
"To Heaven's door, and through, my lad, O I will walk with you."
After the ceremony the strains of a Wedding March fell upon the ears of the people gathered in the orchard.
Amanda's lips parted in pleasure. "That's Phil's work!" she cried and ran behind the clump of bushes from where the music seemed to come. Philip was stooping to grind the motor of Landis's Victrola.
"Phil, you dear!"
"Aren't I though!" he said frivolously. "I had the heck of a time getting this thing here while you were dressing and keeping it hidden. I had to bribe little Charlie twice to keep him from telling you. He was so sure you'd want to know all about it."
"It's just the last touch we needed to make this perfect."
"Leave it to your devoted brother. Now go back and receive the best wishes or congratulations or whatever it is they give the bride."
Later there was supper out under the trees. A supper at which Millie, trim in her new gray Mennonite garb and white cap, was able to show her affection for the bride, but at which the bride was so riotously happy that she scarcely knew what she was eating.
Of course there was a real bride's cake with white icing. Amanda had to cut it and hand out pieces for the young people to dream upon.
After a while the bride slipped away, took off her white dress and put on a dark suit. Then she and Martin dodged rice and were whirled away in a big automobile.
The other members of the household had much to occupy their hands for the next hour, setting things to rights, as Millie said, the while their hearts and thoughts were speeding after the two who had smiled and looked as though no other mortals had ever known such love.
When the place was once more in order and the Landis family, the last guests, had gone off in the darkness, the children flinging back loud good-nights, Mrs. Reist, Philip, Millie and Uncle Amos sat alone on the porch and talked things over.
"It was some wedding, Mother," was the opinion of the boy.
"Yes." "Prettiest thing I ever seen," said the hired girl.
"Yes, so it was," Uncle Amos agreed. "But say, Millie, it's dandy and moonlight. What d'you say to a little walk down the road? Or are you too tired?"
"Ach, I'm not tired." And the two went off in the soft spring night for a stroll along the lane, Millie in her gray Mennonite dress, Uncle Amos in his plain suit of the faith. The two on the porch saw her homely face transfigured by a smile as she looked up into the countenance of the man who had brought romance into her life, then they saw Uncle Amos draw the hand of Millie through his arm and in that fashion they walked along in the moonlight, the man, contented and happy, holding the hand of the woman warmly in his grasp. To them, no less than to the youthful lovers, was given the promise of happiness and in their hearts was ringing Amanda's and Martin's pledge:
"Sure, I will walk with you, my lad, As love ordains me to,— To Heaven's door, and through, my lad, O I will walk with you."