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Tillie: A Mennonite Maid By Helen Reimensnyder Martin Characters: 10862

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

Tillie's illness, though severe while it lasted, proved to be a matter of only a few days' confinement to bed; and fortunately for her, it was while she was still too weak and ill to be called to account for her misdeed that her father discovered her deception as to the owner of "Ivanhoe." At least he found out, in talking with Elviny Dinkleberger and her father at the Lancaster market, that the girl was innocent of ever having owned or even seen the book, and that, consequently, she had of course never lent it either to Rebecca Wackernagel at the hotel or to Tillie.

Despite his rigorous dealings with his family (which, being the outcome of the Pennsylvania Dutch faith in the Divine right of the head of the house, were entirely conscientious), Jacob Getz was strongly and deeply attached to his wife and children; and his alarm at Tillie's illness, coming directly upon his severe punishment of her, had softened him sufficiently to temper his wrath at finding that she had told him what was not true.

What her object could have been in shielding the real owner of the book he could not guess. His suspicions did not turn upon the teacher, because, in the first place, he would have seen no reason why Tillie should wish to shield her, and, in the second, it was inconceivable that a teacher at William Penn should set out so to pervert the young whom trusting parents placed under her care. There never had been a novel-reading teacher at William Penn. The Board would as soon have elected an opium-eater.

WHERE HAD TILLIE OBTAINED THAT BOOK? And why had she put the blame on Elviny, who was her little friend? The Doc, evidently, was in league with Tillie! What could it mean? Jake Getz was not used to dealing with complications and mysteries. He pondered the case heavily.

When he went home from market, he did not tell Tillie of his discovery, for the doctor had ordered that she be kept quiet.

Not until a week later, when she was well enough to be out of bed, did he venture to tell her he had caught her telling a falsehood.

He could not know that the white face of terror which she turned to him was fear for Miss Margaret and not, for once, apprehension of the strap.

"I ain't whippin' you this time," he gruffly said, "if you tell me the truth whose that there book was."

Tillie did not speak. She was resting in the wooden rocking-chair by the kitchen window, a pillow at her head and a shawl over her knees. Her stepmother was busy at the table with her Saturday baking; Sammy was giving the porch its Saturday cleaning, and the other children, too little to work, were playing outdoors; even the baby, bundled up in its cart, was out on the grass-plot.

"Do you hear me, Tillie? Whose book was that there?"

Tillie's head hung low and her very lips were white. She did not answer.

"You 're goin' to act stubborn to ME!" her father incredulously exclaimed, and the woman at the table turned and stared in dull amazement at this unheard-of defiance of the head of the family. "Tillie!" he grasped her roughly by the arm and shook her. "Answer to me!"

Tillie's chest rose and fell tumultuously. Bat she kept her eyes downcast and her lips closed.

"Fur why don't you want to tell, then?"

"I-can't, pop!"

"Can't! If you wasn't sick I 'd soon learn you if you can't! Now you might as well tell me right aways, fur I'll make you tell me SOME time!"

Tillie's lips quivered and the tears rolled slowly over her white cheeks.

"Fur why did you say it was Elviny?"

"She was the only person I thought to say."

"But fur why didn't you say the person it WAS? Answer to me!" he commanded.

Tillie curved her arm over her face and sobbed. She was still too weak from her fever to bear the strain of this unequal contest of wills.

"Well," concluded her father, his anger baffled and impotent before the child's weakness, "I won't bother you with it no more NOW. But you just wait till you 're well oncet! We'll see then if you'll tell me what I ast you or no!"

"Here's the Doc," announced Mrs. Getz, as the sound of wheels was heard outside the gate.

"Well," her husband said indignantly as he rose and went to the door, "I just wonder what he's got to say fur hisself, lyin' to me like what he done!"

"Hello, Jake!" was the doctor's breezy greeting as he walked into the kitchen, followed by a brood of curious little Getzes, to whom the doctor's daily visits were an exciting episode. "Howdy-do, missus," he briskly addressed the mother of the brood, pushing his hat to the back of his head in lieu of raising it. "And how's the patient?" he inquired with a suddenly professional air and tone. "Some better, heh? HEH? Been cryin'! What fur?" he demanded, turning to Mr. Getz. "Say, Jake, you ain't been badgerin' this kid again fur somepin? She'll be havin' a RElapse if you don't leave her be!"

"It's YOU I'm wantin' to badger, Doc Weaver!" retorted Mr. Getz. "What fur did you lie to me about that there piece entitled 'Iwanhoe'?"

"You and your 'Iwanhoe' be blowed! Are you tormentin' this here kid about THAT yet? A body'd think you'd want to change that subjec', Jake Getz!"

"Not till I find from you, Doc, whose that there novel-book was, and why you tole me it was Elviny Dinkleberger's!"

"That's easy tole," responded the doctor. "That there book belonged to-"

"No, Doc, no, no!" came a pleading cry from Tillie. "Don't tell, Doc, p

lease don't tell!"

"Never you mind, Tillie, THAT'S all right. Look here, Jake Getz!" The doctor turned his sharp little eyes upon the face of the father grown dark with anger at his child's undutiful interference. "You're got this here little girl worked up to the werge of a RElapse! I tole you she must be kep' quiet and not worked up still!"

"All right. I'm leavin' HER alone-till she's well oncet! You just answer fur YOURself and tell why you lied to me!"

"Well, Jake, it was this here way. That there book belonged to ME and Tillie lent it off of me. That's how! Ain't Tillie?"

Mr. Getz stared in stupefied wonder, while Mrs. Getz, too, looked on with a dull interest, as she leaned her back against the sink and dried her hands upon her apron.

As for Tillie, a great throb of relief thrilled through her as she heard the doctor utter this Napoleonic lie-only to be followed the next instant by an overwhelming sense of her own wickedness in thus conniving with fraud. Abysses of iniquity seemed to yawn at her feet, and she gazed with horror into their black depths. How could she ever again hold up her head.

But-Miss Margaret, at least, was safe from the School Board's wrath and indignation, and how unimportant, compared with that, was her own soul's salvation!

"Why didn't Tillie say it was yourn?" Mr. Getz presently found voice to ask.

"I tole her if she left it get put out I am addicted to novel readin'," said the doctor glibly, and with evident relish, "it might spoil my practice some. And Tillie she's that kind-hearted she was sorry far me!"

"And so you put her up to say it was Elviny's! You put her up to tell lies to her pop!"

"Well, I never thought you 'd foller it up any, Jake, and try to get ELVINY into trouble."

"Doc, I always knowed you was a blasPHEmer and that you didn't have no religion. But I thought you had anyhow morals. And I didn't think, now, you was a coward that way, to get behind a child and lie out of your own evil deeds!"

"I'm that much a coward and a blasPHEmer, Jake, that I 'm goin' to add the cost of that there book of mine where you burnt up, to your doctor's bill, unlest you pass me your promise you 'll drop this here subjec' and not bother Tillie with it no more."

The doctor had driven his victim into a corner. To yield a point in family discipline or to pay the price of the property he had destroyed-one of the two he must do. It was a most untoward predicament for Jacob Getz.

"You had no right to lend that there Book to Tillie, Doc, and I ain't payin' you a cent fur it!" he maintained.

"I jus' mean, Jake, I 'll make out my bill easy or stiff accordin' to the way you pass your promise."

"If my word was no more better 'n yours, Doe, my passin' my promise wouldn't help much!"

"That's all right, Jake. I don't set up to be religious and moral. I ain't sayed my prayers since I am old enough a'ready to know how likely I was, still, to kneel on a tack!"

"It's no wonder you was put off of church!" was the biting retort.

"Hold up there, Jake. I wasn't put off. I WENT off. I took myself off of church before the brethren had a chanct to PUT me off."

"Sammy!" Mr. Getz suddenly and sharply admonished his little son, who was sharpening his slate-pencil on the window-sill with a table-knife, "you stop right aways sharpenin' that pencil! You dassent sharpen your slate-pencils, do you hear? It wastes 'em so!"

Sammy hastily laid down the knife and thrust the pencil into his pocket.

Mr. Getz turned again to the doctor and inquired irritably, "What is it to YOU if I teach my own child to mind me or not, I'd like to know?"

"Because she's been bothered into a sickness with this here thing a'ready, and it 's time it stopped now!"

"It was you started it, leavin' her lend the book off of you!"

"That's why I feel fur sparin' her some more trouble, seein' I was the instrument in the hands of Providence fur gettin' her into all this here mess. See?"

"I can't be sure when TO know if you're lyin' or not," said Mr. Getz helplessly.

"Mebbe you can't, Jake. Sometimes I'm swangfid if I'm sure, still, myself. But there's one thing you KIN be cocksure of-and that's a big doctor-bill unlest you do what I sayed."

"Now that I know who she lent the book off of there ain't nothin' to bother her about," sullenly granted Mr. Getz. "And as fur punishment-she's had punishment a-plenty, I guess, in her bein' so sick."

"All right," the doctor said magnanimously. "There's one thing I 'll give you, Jake: you're a man of your word, if you ARE a Dutch hog!"

"A-WHATEVER?" Mr. Getz angrily demanded.

"And I don't see," the doctor complacently continued, rising and pulling his hat down to his eyebrows, preparatory to leaving, "where Tillie gets her fibbin' from. Certainly not from her pop."

"I don't mind her ever tellin' me no lie before."

"Och, Jake, you drive your children to lie to you, the way you bring 'em up to be afraid of you. They GOT to lie, now and again, to a feller like you! Well, well," he soothingly added as he saw the black look in the father's face at the airing of such views in the presence of his children, "never mind, Jake, it 's all in the day's work!"

He turned for a parting glance at Tillie. "She 's better. She 'll be well till a day or two, now, and back to school-IF she's kep' quiet, and her mind ain't bothered any. Now, GOOD-by to yous."

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