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   Chapter 19 TILLIE TELLS A LIE

Tillie: A Mennonite Maid By Helen Reimensnyder Martin Characters: 16024

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


It was eleven o'clock on the following Saturday morning, a busy hour at the hotel, and Mrs. Wackernagel and Tillie were both hard at work in the kitchen, while Eebecca and Amanda were vigorously applying their young strength to "the up-stairs work."

The teacher was lounging on the settee in the sitting-room, trying to read his Boston Transcript and divert his mind from its irritation and discontent under a condition of things which made it impossible for him to command Tillie's time whenever he wanted a companion for a walk in the woods, or for a talk in which he might unburden himself of his pent-up thoughts and feelings. The only freedom she had was in the evening; and even then she was not always at liberty. There was Amanda always ready and at hand-it kept him busy dodging her. Why was Fate so perverse in her dealings with him? Why couldn't it be Tillie instead of Amanda? Fairchilds chafed under this untoward condition of things like a fretful child-or, rather, just like a man who can't have what he wants.

Both Tillie and her aunt went about their tasks this morning with a nervousness of movement and an anxiety of countenance that told of something unwonted in the air. Fairchilds was vaguely conscious of this as he sat in the adjoining room, with the door ajar.

"Tillie!" said her aunt, with a sharpness unusual to her, as she closed the oven door with a spasmodic bang, "you put on your shawl and bonnet and go right up to Sister Jennie Hershey's for some bacon."

"Why, Aunty Em!" said Tillie, in surprise, looking up from the table where she was rolling out paste; "I can't let these pies."

"I'll finish them pies. You just go now."

"But we've got plenty of bacon."

"If we've got bacon a-plenty, then get some ponhaus. Or some mush. Hurry up and go, Tillie!"

She came to the girl's side and took the rolling-pin from her hands. "And don't hurry back. Set awhile. Now get your things on quick."

"But, Aunty Em-"

"Are you mindin' me, Tillie, or ain't you?" her aunt sharply demanded.

"But in about ten minutes father will be stopping on his way from Lancaster market," Tillie said, though obediently going toward the corner where hung her shawl and bonnet, "to get my wages and see me, Aunty Em-like what he does every Saturday still."

"Well, don't be so dumm, Tillie! That's why I'm sendin' you off!"

"Oh, Aunty Em, I don't want to go away and leave you to take all the blame for those new caps! And, anyhow, father will stop at Sister Jennie Hershey's if he don't find me here."

"I won't tell him you're there. And push them curls under your cap, or Sister Jennie'll be tellin' the meeting, and you'll be set back yet! I don't know what's come over you, Tillie, to act that vain and unregenerate!"

"Father will guess I'm at Sister Jennie's, and he'll stop to see."

"That's so, too." Aunty Em thoughtfully considered the situation. "Go out and hide in the stable, Tillie."

Tillie hesitated as she nervously twisted the strings of her bonnet. "What's the use of hiding, Aunty Em? I'd have to see him NEXT Saturday."

"He won't be so mad about it till next Saturday."

Tillie shook her head. "He'll keep getting angrier-until he has satisfied himself by punishing me in some way for spending that money without leave."

The girl's face was pale, but she spoke very quietly, and her aunt looked at her curiously.

"Tillie, ain't you afraid of your pop no more?"

"Oh, Aunty Em! YES, I am afraid of him."

"I'm all fidgety myself, thinkin' about how mad he'll be. Dear knows what YOU must feel yet, Tillie-and what all your little life you've been feelin', with his fear always hangin' over you still. Sometimes when I think how my brother Jake trains up his childern!"-indignation choked her-"I have feelin's that are un-Christlike, Tillie!"

"And yet, Aunty Em," the girl said earnestly, "father does care for me too-even though he always did think I ought to want nothing else but to work for him. But he does care for me. The couple of times I was sick already, he was concerned. I can't forget it."

"To be sure, he'd have to be a funny man if he wasn't concerned when his own child's sick, Tillie. I don't give him much for THAT."

"But it always puzzled me, Aunty Em-if father's concerned to see me sick or suffering, why will he himself deliberately make me suffer more than I ever suffered in any sickness? I never could understand that."

"He always thinks he's doin' his duty by you. That we must give him. Och, my! there's his wagon stoppin' NOW! Go on out to the stable, Tillie! Quick!"

"Aunty Em!" Tillie faltered, "I'd sooner stay and have it done with now, than wait and have it hanging over me all the week till next Saturday."

There was another reason for her standing her ground and facing it out. Ever since she had yielded to the temptation to buy the caps and let her hair curl about her face, her conscience had troubled her for her vanity; and a vague feeling that in suffering her father's displeasure she would be expiating her sin made her almost welcome his coming this morning.

There was the familiar heavy tread in the bar-room which adjoined the kitchen. Tillie flushed and paled by turns as it drew near, and her aunt rolled out the paste with a vigor and an emphasis that expressed her inward agitation. Even Fairchilds, in the next room, felt himself infected with the prevailing suspense.

"Well!" was Jake Getz's greeting as he entered the kitchen. "Em!" he nodded to his sister. "Well, Tillie!"

There was a note of affection in his greeting of his daughter. Tillie realized that her father missed her presence at home almost as much as he missed the work that she did. The nature of his regard for her was a mystery that had always puzzled the girl. How could one be constantly hurting and thwarting a person whom one cared for?

Tillie went up to him dutifully and held out her hand. He took it and bent to kiss her.

"Are you well? You're lookin' some pale. And your hair's strubbly [untidy]."

"She's been sewin' too steady on them clo'es fur your childern," said Aunty Em, quickly. "It gives her such a pain in her side still to set and sew. I ain't leavin' her set up every night to sew no more! You can just take them clo'es home, Jake. They ain't done, and they won't get done here."

"Do you mebbe leave her set up readin' books or such pamp'lets, ain't?" Mr. Getz inquired.

"I make her go to bed early still," Mrs. Wackernagel said evasively, though her Mennonite conscience reproached her for such want of strict candor.

"That dude teacher you got stayin' here mebbe gives her things to read, ain't?" Mr. Getz pursued his suspicions.

"He's never gave her nothin' that I seen him," Mrs. Wackernagel affirmed.

"Well, mind you don't leave her waste time readin'. She ain't to."

"You needn't trouble, Jake!"

"Well," said Jake, "I'll leave them clo'es another week, and mebbe Tillie'll feel some better and can get 'em done. Mom won't like it when I come without 'em this mornin'. She's needin' 'em fur the childern, and she thought they'd be done till this morning a'ready."

"Why don't you hire your washin' or buy her a washin'-machine? Then she'd have time to do her own sewin'."

"Work don't hurt a body," Mr. Getz maintained. "It's healthy. What's Tillie doin' this morning?"

"She was bakin' these pies, but I want her now to redd up. Take all them pans to the dresser, Tillie."

Tillie went to the table to do as she was bid.

"Well, I must be goin' home now," said Mr. Getz. "I'll take Tillie's wages, Em."

Mrs. Wackernagel set her lips as she wiped her hands on the roller-towel and opened the dresser drawer to get her purse.

"How's her?" she inquired, referring to Mrs. Getz to gain time, as she counted out the money.

"She's old-fashioned."

"Is the childern all well?"

"Yes, they're all middlin' well. Hurry up, Em; I'm in a hurry, and you're takin' wonderful long to count out them two dollars."

"It's only one and a half this week, Jake. Tillie she had to have some new caps, and they come to fifty cents. And I took notice her underclo'es was too thin fur this cold spell, and I wanted her to buy herself a warm petticoat, but she wouldn't take the money."

An angry red dyed the swarthy neck and forehead of the man, as his keen eyes, very like his sister's, only lacking their expression of kindness, flashed from her face to the countenance of his daughter at the dresser.

"What business have you lettin' her buy anything?" he sternly demanded. "You was to give me her wages, and I was to buy her what she couldn't do without. You're not keepin' your bargain!"

"She needed them caps right away. I couldn't wait till Saturday to ast you oncet. And," she boldly added, "you ought to leave her have another fifty cents to buy herself a warm petticoat!"

"Tillie!" commanded her father, "you come here!"

The girl was very white as she obeyed him. But her eyes, as they met his, were not afraid.

"It's easy seen why you're pale! I guess it ain't no pain in your side took from settin' up sewin' fur mom that's made you pale! Now see here," he sternly said, "what did you do somepin like this fur? Spendin' fifty cents without astin' me!"

"I needed the caps," she quietly answered. "And I knew you would not let me buy them if I asked you, father."

"You're standin' up here in front of me and sayin' to my face you done somepin you knowed I wouldn't give you darst to do! And you have no business, anyhow, wearin' them New Mennonite caps! I never wanted you to take up with that blamed foolishness! Well, I'll learn you! If I had you home I'd whip you!"

"You ain't touchin' her 'round HERE!" exclaimed his sister. "You just try it, Jake, and I'll call Abe out!"

"Is she my own child or ain't she, Em Wackernagel? And can I do with my own what I please, or must I ast you and Abe Wackernagel?"

"She's too growed up fur to be punished, Jake, and you know it."

"Till she's too growed up to obey her pop, she'll get punished," he affirmed. "Where's the good of your religion, I'd like to know, Em-settin' a child on to defy her parent? And you, Tillie, you STOLE that money off of me! Your earnin's ain't yourn till you're twenty-one. Is them New Mennonite principles to take what ain't yourn? It ain't only the fifty cents I mind-it's your disobedience and your stealin'."

"Oh, father! it wasn't STEALING!"

"Of course it wasn't stealin'-takin' what you earnt yourself-whether you ARE seventeen instead of twenty-one!" her aunt warmly assured her.

"Now look-ahere, Em! If yous are goin' to get her so spoilt fur me, over here, she ain't stayin' here. I'll take her home!"

"Well, take her!" diplomatically answered his sister. "I can get Abe's niece over to East Donegal fur one-seventy-five. She'd be glad to come!"

Mr. Getz at this drew in his sails a bit. "I'll give her one more chancet," he compromised. "But I ain't givin' her no second chancet if she does somepin again where she ain't got darst to do. Next time I hear of her disobeyin' me, home she comes. I'd sooner lose the money than have her spoilt fur me. Now look-ahere, Tillie, you go get them new caps and bring 'em here."

Tillie turned away to obey.

"Now, Jake, what are you up to?" his sister demanded as the girl left the room.

"Do you suppose I'd leave her KEEP them caps she stole the money off of me to buy?" Getz retorted.

"She earnt the money!" maintained Mrs. Wackernagel.

"The money wasn't hern, and I'd sooner throw them caps in the rag-bag than leave her wear 'em when she disobeyed me to buy 'em."

"Jake Getz, you're a reg'lar tyrant! You mind me of Herod yet-and of Punshus Palate!"

"Ain't I followin' Scripture when I train up my child to obey to her parent?" he wanted to know.

"Now look-ahere, Jake; I'll give you them fifty cents and make a present to Tillie of them caps if you'll leave her keep 'em."

But in spite of his yearning for the fifty cents, Mr. Getz firmly refused this offer. Paternal discipline must be maintained even at a financial loss. Then, too, penurious and saving as he was, he was strictly honest, and he would not have thought it right to let his sister pay for his child's necessary wearing-apparel.

"No, Tillie's got to be punished. When I want her to have new caps, I'll buy 'em fur her."

Tillie reentered the room with the precious bits of linen tenderly wrapped up in tissue paper. Her pallor was now gone, and her eyes were red with crying. She came to her father's side and handed him the soft bundle.

"These here caps," he said to her, "mom can use fur night-caps, or what. When you buy somepin unknownst to me, Tillie, I ain't leavin' you KEEP it! Now go 'long back to your dishes. And next Saturday, when I come, I want to find them clo'es done, do you understand?"

Tillie's eyes followed the parcel as it was crushed ruthlessly into her father's coat pocket-and she did not heed his question.

"Do you hear me, Tillie?" he demanded.

"Yes," she answered, looking up at him with brimming eyes.

His sister, watching them from across the room, saw in the man's face the working of conflicting feelings-his stern displeasure warring with his affection. Mrs. Wackernagel had realized, ever since Tillie had come to live with her, that "Jake's" brief weekly visits to his daughter were a pleasure to the hard man; and not only because of the two dollars which he came to collect. Just now, she could see how he hated to part from her in anger. Justice having been meted out in the form of the crushed and forfeited caps in his pocket, he would fain take leave of the girl with some expression of his kindlier feelings toward her.

"Now are you behavin' yourself-like a good girl-till I come again?" he asked, laying his hand upon her shoulder.

"Yes," she said dully.

"Then give me good-b'y." She held up her face and submitted to his kiss.

"Good-by, Em. And mind you stop spoilin' my girl fur me!"

He opened the door and went away.

And Fairchilds, an unwilling witness to the father's brutality, felt every nerve in his body tingle with a longing first to break the head of that brutal Dutchman, and then to go and take little Tillie in his arms and kiss her. To work off his feelings, he sprang up from the settee, put on his hat, and flung out of the house to walk down to "the krik."

"Never you mind, Tillie," her aunt consoled her. "I'm goin' in town next Wednesday, and I'm buyin' you some caps myself fur a present."

"Oh, Aunty Em, but maybe you'd better not be so good to me!" Tillie said, dashing away the tears as she industriously rubbed her pans. "It was my vanity made me want new caps. And father's taking them was maybe the Lord punishing my vanity."

"You needed new caps-your old ones was wore out. AND DON'T YOU BE JUDGIN' THE LORD BY YOUR POP! Don't try to stop me-I'm buyin' you some caps."

Now Tillie knew how becoming the new caps were to her, and her soul yearned for them even as (she told herself) Israel of old yearned after the flesh-pots of Egypt. To lose them was really a bitter disappointment to her.

But Aunty Em would spare her that grief! A sudden passionate impulse of gratitude and love toward her aunt made her do a most unwonted thing. Taking her hands from her dish-water, she dried them hastily, went over to Mrs. Wackernagel, threw her arms about her neck, and kissed her.

"Oh, Aunty Em, I love you like I've never loved any one-except Miss Margaret and-"

She stopped short as she buried her face in her aunt's motherly bosom and clung to her.

"And who else, Tillie?" Mrs. Wackernagel asked, patting the girl's shoulder, her face beaming with pleasure at her niece's affectionate demonstration.

"No one else, Aunty Em."

Tillie drew herself away and again returned to her work at the dresser.

But all the rest of that day her conscience tortured her that she should have told this lie.

For there was some one else.

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