MoboReader > Literature > Tillie: A Mennonite Maid

   Chapter 17 THE TEACHER MEETS ABSALOM

Tillie: A Mennonite Maid By Helen Reimensnyder Martin Characters: 12580

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


Only a short time had the sitting-room been abandoned to them when Tillie was forced to put a check upon her lover's ardor.

"Now, Absalom," she firmly said, moving away from his encircling arm, "unless you leave me be, I'm not sitting on the settee alongside you at all. You MUST NOT kiss me or hold my hand-or even touch me. Never again. I told you so last Sunday night."

"But why?" Absalom asked, genuinely puzzled. "Is it that I kreistle you, Tillie?"

"N-no," she hesitated. An affirmative reply, she knew, would be regarded as a cold-blooded insult. In fact, Tillie herself did not understand her own repugnance to Absalom's caresses.

"You act like as if I made you feel repulsive to me, Tillie," he complained.

"N-no. I don't want to be touched. That's all."

"Well, I'd like to know what fun you think there is in settin' up with a girl that won't leave a feller kiss her or hug her!"

"I'm sure I don't know what you do see in it, Absalom. I told you not to come."

"If I ain't to hold your hand or kiss yon, what are we to do to pass the time?" he reasoned.

"I'll tell you, Absalom. Let me read to you. Then we wouldn't be wasting the evening."

"I ain't much fur readin'. I ain't like Teacher." He frowned and looked at her darkly. "I've took notice how much fur books you are that way. Last Sunday night, too, you sayed, 'Let me read somepin to you.' Mebbe you and Teacher will be settin' up readin' together. And mebbe the Doc wasn't just jokin' when he sayed Teacher might cut me out!"

"Please, Absalom," Tillie implored him, "don't talk so loud!"

"I don't care! I hope he hears me sayin' that if he ever comes tryin' to get my girl off me, I 'll get pop to have him put off his job!"

"None of you know what you are talking about," Tillie indignantly whispered. "You can't understand. The teacher is a man that wouldn't any more keep company with one of us country girls than you would keep company, Absalom, with a gipsy. He's ABOVE us!"

"Well, I guess if you're good enough fur me, Tillie Getz, you're good enough fur anybody else-leastways fur a man that gets his job off the wotes of your pop and mine!"

"The teacher is a-a gentleman, Absalom."

Absalom did not understand. "Well, I guess I know he ain't a lady. I guess I know what his sek is!"

Tillie sighed in despair, and sank back on the settee. For a few minutes they sat in strained silence.

"I never seen a girl like what you are! You're wonderful different to the other girls I've knew a'ready."

Tillie did not reply.

"Where d'you come by them books you read?"

"The Doc gets them for me."

"Well, Tillie, look-ahere. I spoke somepin to the Doc how I wanted to fetch you somepin along when I come over sometime, and I ast him what, now, he thought you would mebbe like. And he sayed a book. So I got Cousin Sally Puntz to fetch one along fur me from the Methodist Sunday-school li-bry, and here I brung it over to you."

He produced a small volume from his coat pocket.

"I was 'most ashamed to bring it, it's so wonderful little. I tole Cousin Sally, 'Why didn't you bring me a bigger book?' And she sayed she did try to get a bigger one, but they was all. There's one in that li-bry with four hunderd pages. I tole her, now, she's to try to get me that there one next Sunday before it's took by somebody. This one's 'most too little."

Tillie smiled as she took it from him. "Thank you, Absalom. I don't care if it's LITTLE, so long as it's interesting-and instructive," she spoke primly.

"The Bible's such a big book, I thought the bigger the book was, the nearer it was like the Bible," said Absalom.

"But there's the dictionary, Absalom. It's as big as the Bible."

"Don't the size make nothin'?" Absalom asked.

Tillie shook her head, still smiling. She glanced down and read aloud the title of the book she held: "'What a Young Husband Ought to Know.'"

"But, Absalom!" she faltered.

"Well? What?"

She looked up into his heavy, blank face, and suddenly a faint sense of humor seemed born in her-and she laughed.

The laugh illumined her face, and it was too much for Absalom. He seized her and kissed her, with resounding emphasis, squarely on the mouth.

Instantly Tillie wrenched herself away from him and stood up. Her face was flushed and her eyes sparkled. And yet, she was not indignant with him in the sense that a less unsophisticated girl would have been. Absalom, according to New Canaan standards, was not exceeding his rights under the circumstances. But an instinct, subtle, undefined, incomprehensible to herself, contradicted, indeed, by every convention of the neighborhood in which she had been reared, made Tillie feel that in yielding her lips to this man for whom she did not care, and whom, if she could hold out against him, she did not intend to marry, she was desecrating her womanhood. Vague and obscure as her feeling was, it was strong enough to control her.

"I meant what I said, Absalom. If you won't leave me be, I won't stay here with you. You'll have to go home, for now I'm going right up-stairs."

She spoke with a firmness that made the dull youth suddenly realize a thing of which he had never dreamed, that however slightly Tillie resembled her father in other respects, she did have a bit of his determination.

She took a step toward the stairs, but Absalom seized her skirts and pulled her back. "You needn't think I'm leavin' you act like that to me, Tillie!" he muttered, his ardor whetted by the difficulties of his courting. "Now I'll learn you!" and holding her slight form in his burly grasp he kissed her again and again.

"Leave me go!" she cried. "I'll call out if you don't! Stop it, Absalom!"

Absalom laughed aloud, his eyes glittering as he felt her womanly helplessness in his strong clasp.

"What you goin' to do about it, Tillie? You can't help yourself-you got to get kissed if you want to or no!" And again his articulate caresses sounded upon her shrinking lips, and he roared with laughter in his own satisfaction and in his enjoyment of her predicament. "You can't help yourself," he said, crushing her against him in a bearish hug.

"Absalom!" the girl's voice rang out sharply in pain and fear.

Then of a sudden Absalom's wrists were seized

in a strong grip, and the young giant found his arms pinned behind him.

"Now, then, Absalom, you let this little girl alone. Do you understand?" said Fairchilds, coolly, as he let go his hold on the youth and stepped round to his side.

Absalom's face turned white with fury as he realized who had dared to interfere. He opened his lips, but speech would not come to him. Clenching his fingers, he drew back his arm, but his heavy fist, coming swiftly forward, was caught easily in Fairchilds's palm-and held there.

"Come, come," he said soothingly, "it isn't worth while to row, you know. And in the presence of the lady!"

"You mind to your OWN business!" spluttered Absalom, struggling to free his hand, and, to his own surprise, failing. Quickly he drew back his left fist and again tried to strike, only to find it too caught and held, with no apparent effort on the part of the teacher. Tillie, at first pale with fright at what had promised to be so unequal a contest in view of the teacher's slight frame and the brawny, muscular strength of Absalom, felt her pulses bound with a thrill of admiration for this cool, quiet force which could render the other's fury so helpless; while at the same time she felt sick with shame.

"Blame you!" cried Absalom, wildly. "Le' me be! It don't make nothin' to you if I kiss my girl! I don't owe YOU nothin'! You le' me be!"

"Certainly," returned Fairchilds, cheerfully. "Just stop annoying Miss Tillie, that's all I want."'

He dropped the fellow's hands and deliberately drew out his handkerchief to wipe his own.

A third time Absalom made a furious dash at him, to find his two wrists caught in the vise-like grip of his antagonist.

"Tut, tut, Absalom, this is quite enough. Behave yourself, or I shall be obliged to hurt you."

"YOU-you white-faced, woman-faced mackerel! YOU think you kin hurt me! You-"

"Now then," Fairchilds again dropped Absalom's hands and picked up from the settee the book which the youth had presented to Tillie. "Here, Absalom, take your 'What a Young Husband Ought to Know' and go home."

Something in the teacher's quiet, confident tone cowed Absalom completely-for the time being, at least. He was conquered. It was very bewildering. The man before him was not half his weight and was not in the least ruffled. How had he so easily "licked" him? Absalom, by reason of his stalwart physique and the fact that his father was a director, had, during most of his school life, found pleasing diversion in keeping the various teachers of William Penn cowed before him. He now saw his supremacy in that quarter at an end-physically speaking at least. There might be a moral point of attack.

"Look-ahere!" he blustered. "Do you know my pop's Nathaniel Puntz, the director?"

"You are a credit to him, Absalom. By the way, will you take a message to him from me? Tell him, please, that the lock on the school-room door is broken, and I'd be greatly obliged if he would send up a lock-smith to mend it."

Absalom looked discouraged. A Harvard graduate was, manifestly, a freak of nature-invulnerable at all points.

"If pop gets down on you, you won't be long at William Penn!" he bullied. "You'll soon get chased off your job!"

"My job at breaking you in? Well, well, I might be spending my time more profitably, that's so."

"You go on out of here and le' me alone with my girl!" quavered Absalom, blinking away tears of rage.

"That will be as she says. How is it, Miss Tillie? Do you want him to go?"

Now Tillie knew that if she allowed Absalom Puntz to leave her in his present state of baffled anger, Fairchilds would not remain in New Canaan a month. Absalom was his father's only child, and Nathaniel Puntz was known to be both suspicious and vindictive. "Clothed in a little brief authority," as school director, he never missed an opportunity to wield his precious power.

With quick insight, Tillie realized that the teacher would think meanly of her if, after her outcry at Absalom's amorous behavior, she now inconsistently ask that he remain with her for the rest of the evening. But what the teacher might think about HER did not matter so much as that he should be saved from the wrath of Absalom.

"Please leave him stay," she answered in a low voice.

Fairchilds gazed in surprise upon the girl's sweet, troubled face. "Let him stay?"

"Yes."

"Then perhaps my interference was unwelcome?"

"I thank you, but-I want him to stay."

"Yes? I beg pardon for my intrusion. Good night."

He turned away somewhat abruptly and left the room.

And Tillie was again alone with Absalom.

IN his chamber, getting ready for bed, Fairchilds's thoughts idly dwelt upon the strange contradictions he seemed to see in the character of the little Mennonite maiden. He had thought that he recognized in her a difference from the rest of this household-a difference in speech, in feature, in countenance, in her whole personality. And yet she could allow the amorous attentions of that coarse, stupid cub; and her protestations against the fellow's liberties with her had been mere coquetry. Well, he would be careful, another time, how he played the part of a Don Quixote.

Meantime Tillie, with suddenly developed histrionic skill, was, by a Spartan self-sacrifice in submitting to Absalom's love-making, overcoming his wrath against the teacher. Absalom never suspected how he was being played upon, or what a mere tool he was in the hands of this gentle little girl, when, somewhat to his own surprise, he found himself half promising that the teacher should not be complained of to his father. The infinite tact and scheming it required on Tillie's part to elicit this assurance without further arousing his jealousy left her, at the end of his prolonged sitting-up, utterly exhausted.

Yet when at last her weary head found her pillow, it was not to rest or sleep. A haunting, fearful certainty possessed her. "Dumm" as he was, Absalom, in his invulnerable persistency, had become to the tired, tortured girl simply an irresistible force of Nature. And Tillie felt that, struggle as she might against him, there would come a day when she could fight no longer, and so at last she must fall a victim to this incarnation of Dutch determination.

(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares