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Tillie: A Mennonite Maid By Helen Reimensnyder Martin Characters: 18893

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

Tillie's unhappiness, in her certainty that on Saturday night the Board would vote for the eviction of the teacher, was so great that she felt almost indifferent to her own fate, as she and the doctor started on their six-mile ride to East Donegal. But when he presently confided to her his scheme to foil her father and Absalom, she became almost hysterical with joy.

"You see, Tillie, it's this here way. Two of these here directers owes me bills. Now in drivin' you over to East Donegal I'm passin' near to the farms of both of them directers, and I'll make it suit to stop off and press 'em fur my money. They're both of 'em near as close as Jake Getz! They don't like it fur me to press 'em to pay right aways. So after while I'll say that if they wote ag'in' Jake and Nathaniel, and each of 'em gets one of the other two directers to wote with him to leave Teacher keep his job, I'll throw 'em the doctor's bill off! Adam Oberholzer he owes me about twelve dollars, and Joseph Kettering he owes me ten. I guess it ain't worth twelve dollars to Adam and ten to Joseph to run Teacher off William Penn!"

"And do you suppose that they will be able to influence the other two-John Coppenhaver and Pete Underwocht?"

"When all them dollars depends on it, I don't suppose nothin'-I know. I'll put it this here way: 'If Teacher ain't chased off, I'll throw you my doctor's bill off. If he is, you'll pay me up, and pretty damned quick, too!'"

"But, Doc," faltered Tillie, "won't it be bribery?"

"Och, Tillie, a body mustn't feel so conscientious about such little things like them. That's bein' too serious."

"Did you tell the teacher you were going to do this?" she uneasily asked.

"Well, I guess I ain't such a blamed fool! I guess I know that much, that he wouldn't of saw it the way I see it. I tole him I was goin' to bully them directers to keep him in his job-but he don't know how I'm doin' it."

"I'm glad he doesn't know," sighed Tillie.

"Yes, he darsent know till it's all over oncet."

The joy and relief she felt at the doctor's scheme, which she was quite sure would work out successfully, gave her a self-confidence in the ordeal before her that sharpened her wits almost to brilliancy. She sailed through this examination, which otherwise she would have dreaded unspeakably, with an aplomb that made her a stranger to herself. Even that bugbear of the examination labeled by the superintendent, "General Information," and regarded with suspicion by the applicants as a snare and a delusion, did not confound Tillie in her sudden and new-found courage; though the questions under this head brought forth from the applicants such astonishing statements as that Henry VIII was chiefly noted for being "a great widower"; and that the Mother of the Gracchi was "probably Mrs. Gracchi."

In her unwonted elation, Tillie even waxed a bit witty, and in the quiz on "Methods of Discipline," she gave an answer which no doubt led the superintendent to mark her high.

"What method would you pursue with a boy in your school who was addicted to swearing?" she was asked.

"I suppose I should make him swear off!" said Tillie, with actual flippancy.

A neat young woman of the class, sitting directly in front of the superintendent, and wearing spectacles and very straight, tight hair, cast a shocked and reproachful look upon Tillie, and turning to the examiner, said primly, "I would organize an anti-swearing society in the school, and reward the boys who were not profane by making them members of it, expelling those who used any profane language."

"And make every normal boy turn blasphemer in derision, I'm afraid," was the superintendent's ironical comment.

When, at four o'clock that afternoon, she drove back with the doctor through the winter twilight, bearing her precious certificate in her bosom, the brightness of her face seemed to reflect the brilliancy of the red sunset glow on snow-covered fields, frozen creek, and farm-house windows.

"Bully fur you, Matilda!" the doctor kept repeating at intervals. "Now won't Miss Margaret be tickled, though! I tell you what, wirtue like hern gits its rewards even in this here life. She'll certainly be set up to think she's made a teacher out of you unbeknownst! And mebbe it won't tickle her wonderful to think how she's beat Jake Getz!" he chuckled.

"Of course you're writin' to her to-night, Tillie, ain't you?" he asked. "I'd write her off a letter myself if writin' come handier to me."

"Of course I shall let her know at once," Tillie replied; and in her voice, for the first time in the doctor's acquaintance with her, there was a touch of gentle complacency.

"I'll get your letter out the tree-holler to-morrow morning, then, when I go a-past-and I can stamp it and mail it fur you till noon. Then she'll get it till Monday morning yet! By gum, won't she, now, be tickled!"

"Isn't it all beautiful!" Tillie breathed ecstatically. "I've got my certificate and the teacher won't be put out! What did Adam Oberholzer and Joseph Kettering say, Doc?"

"I've got them fixed all right! Just you wait, Tillie!" he said mysteriously. "Mebbe us we ain't goin' to have the laugh on your pop and old Nathaniel Puntz! You'll see! Wait till your pop comes home and says what's happened at Board meetin' to-night! Golly! Won't he be hoppin' mad!"

"What is going to happen, Doc?"

"You wait and see! I ain't tellin' even you, Tillie. I'm savin' it fur a surprise party fur all of yous!"

"Father won't speak to me about it, you know. He won't mention Teacher's name to me."

"Then won't you find out off of him about the Board meetin'?" the doctor asked in disappointment. "Must you wait till you see me again oncet?"

"He will tell mother. I can get her to tell me," Tillie said.

"All right. Somepin's going to happen too good to wait! Now look-ahere, Tillie, is your pop to be tole about your certificate?"

"I won't tell him until I must. I don't know how he'd take it. He might not let me get a school to teach. Of course, when once I've got a school, he will have to be told. And then," she quietly added, "I shall teach, whether he forbids it or not."

"To be sure!" heartily assented the doctor. "And leave him go roll hisself, ain't! I'll keep a lookout fur you and tell you the first wacancy I hear of."

"What would I do-what should I have done in all these years, Doc-if it hadn't been for you!" smiled Tillie, with an affectionate pressure of his rough hand; and the doctor's face shone with pleasure to hear her.

"You have been a good friend to me, Doc."

"Och, that's all right, Tillie. As I sayed, wirtue has its reward even in this here life. My wirtuous acts in standin' by you has gave me as much satisfaction as I've ever had out of anything! But now, Tillie, about tellin' your pop. I don't suspicion he'd take it anyways ugly. A body'd think he'd be proud! And he hadn't none of the expense of givin' you your nice education!"

"I can't be sure how he WOULD take it, Doc, so I would rather not tell him until I must."

"All right. Just what you say. But I dare tell missus, ain't?"

"If she won't tell the girls, Doc. It would get back to father, I'm afraid, if so many knew it."

"I 'll tell her not to tell. She 'll be as pleased and proud as if it was Manda or Rebecca!"

"Poor Aunty Em! She is so good to me, and I'm afraid I've disappointed her!" Tillie humbly said; but somehow the sadness that should have expressed itself in the voice of one under suspension from meeting, when speaking of her sin, was quite lacking.

When, at length, they reached the Getz farm, Mr. Getz met them at the gate, his face harsh with displeasure at Tillie's long and unpermitted absence from home.

"Hello, Jake!" said the doctor, pleasantly, as her father lifted her down from the high buggy. "I guess missus tole you how I heard Tillie fainted away in a swoond day before yesterday, so this morning I come over to see her oncet-Aunty Em she was some oneasy. And I seen she would mebbe have another such a swoond if she didn't get a long day out in the air. It's done her wonderful much good-wonderful!"

"She hadn't no need to stay all day!" growled Mr. Getz. "Mom had all Tillie's work to do, and her own too, and she didn't get it through all."

"Well, better LET the work than have Tillie havin' any more of them dangerous swoonds. Them's dangerous, I tell you, Jake! Sometimes folks never comes to, yet!"

Mr. Getz looked at Tillie apprehensively. "You better go in and get your hot supper, Tillie," he said, not ungently.

Before this forbearance of her father, Tillie had a feeling of shame in the doctor's subterfuges, as she bade her loyal friend good night and turned to go indoors.

"You'll be over to Board meetin' to-night, ain't?" the doctor said to Mr. Getz as he picked up the reins.

"To be sure! Me and Nathaniel Puntz has a statement to make to the Board that'll chase that tony dude teacher off his job so quick he won't have time to pack his trunk!"

"Is that so?" the doctor said in feigned surprise. "Well, he certainly is some tony-that I must give him, Jake. Well, good night to yous! Be careful of Tillie's health!"

Getz went into the house and the doctor, chuckling to himself, drove away.

Tillie was in bed, but sleep was far from her eyes, when, late that night, she heard her father return from the Board meeting. Long she lay in her

bed, listening with tense nerves to his suppressed tones as he talked to his wife in the room across the hall, but she could not hear what he said. Not even his tone of voice was sufficiently enlightening as to how affairs had gone.

In her wakefulness the night was agonizingly long; for though she was hopeful of the success of the doctor's plot, she knew that possibly there might have been some fatal hitch.

At the breakfast-table, next morning, her father looked almost sick, and Tillie's heart throbbed with unfilial joy in the significance of this. His manner to her was curt and his face betrayed sullen anger; he talked but little, and did not once refer to the Board meeting in her presence.

It was not until ten o'clock, when he had gone with some of the children to the Evangelical church, that she found her longed-for opportunity to question her stepmother.

"Well," she began, with assumed indifference, as she and her mother worked together in the kitchen preparing the big Sunday dinner, "did they put the teacher out?"

"If they put him out?" exclaimed Mrs. Getz, slightly roused from her customary apathy. "Well, I think they didn't! What do you think they done yet?"

"I'm sure," said Tillie, evidently greatly interested in the turnips she was paring, "I don't know."

"They raised his salary five a month!"

The turnips dropped into the pan, and Tillie raised her eyes to gaze incredulously into the face of her stepmother, who, with hands on her hips, stood looking down upon her.

"Yes," went on Mrs. Getz, "that's what they done! A dumm thing like that! And after pop and Nathaniel Puntz they had spoke their speeches where they had ready, how Teacher he wasn't fit fur William Penn! And after they tole how he had up and sassed pop, and him a directer yet! And Nathaniel he tole how Absalom had heard off the Doc how Teacher he was a' UNbeliever and says musin' is the same to him as prayin'! Now think! Such conwictions as them! And then, when the wote was took, here it come out that only pop and Nathaniel Puntz woted ag'in' Teacher, and the other four they woted FUR! And they woted to raise his salary five a month yet!"

Tillie's eyes dropped from her mother's face, her chin quivered, she bit her lip, and suddenly, unable to control herself, she broke into wild, helpless laughter.

Mrs. Getz stared at her almost in consternation. Never before in her life had she seen Tillie laugh with such abandon.

"What ails you?" she asked wonderingly.

Tillie could find no voice to answer, her slight frame shaking convulsively.

"What you laughin' at, anyhow?" Mrs. Getz repeated, now quite frightened.

"That-that Wyandotte hen jumped up on the sill!" Tillie murmured-then went off into a perfect peal of mirth. It seemed as though all the pent-up joy and gaiety of her childhood had burst forth in that moment.

"I don't see nothin' in that that's anyways comical-a Wyandotte hen on the window-sill!" said Mrs. Getz, in stupid wonder.

"She looked so-so-oh!" Tillie gasped, and wiped her eyes with a corner of her apron.

"You don't take no int'rust in what I tole you all!" Mrs. Getz complained, sitting down near her stepdaughter to pick the chickens for dinner. "I'd think it would make you ashamed fur the way you stood up fur Teacher ag'in' your own pop here last Thursday-fur them four directers to go ag'in' pop like this here!"

"What reasons did they give for voting for the teacher?" Tillie asked, her hysterics subsiding.

"They didn't give no reasons till they had him elected a'ready. Then Adam Oberholzer he got up and he spoke how Teacher learned the scholars so good and got along without lickin' 'em any (pop he had brung that up AG'IN' Teacher, but Adam he sayed it was FUR), and that they better mebbe give him five extry a month to make sure to keep such a kind man to their childern, and one that learnt 'em so good."

Tillie showed signs, for an instant, of going off into another fit of laughter.

"What's ailin' you?" her mother asked in mystification. "I never seen you act so funny! You better go take a drink."

Tillie repressed herself and went on with her work.

During the remainder of that day, and, indeed, through all the week that followed, she struggled to conceal from her father the exultation of her spirits. She feared he would interpret it as a rejoicing over his defeat, and there was really no such feeling in the girl's gentle heart. She was even moved to some faint-it must be confessed, very faint-pangs of pity for him as she saw, from day to day, how hard he took his defeat. Apparently, it was to him a sickening blow to have his "authority" as school director defied by a penniless young man who was partly dependent upon his vote for daily bread. He suffered keenly in his conviction that the teacher was as deeply exultant in his victory as Getz had expected to be.

In these days, Tillie walked on air, and to Mrs. Getz and the children she seemed almost another girl, with that happy vibration in her usually sad voice, and that light of gladness in her soft pensive eyes. The glorious consciousness was ever with her that the teacher was always near-though she saw him but seldom. This, and the possession of the precious certificate, her talisman to freedom, hidden always in her bosom, made her daily drudgery easy to her and her hours full of hope and happiness.

Deep as was Tillie's impression of the steadiness of purpose in Absalom's character, she was nevertheless rather taken aback when, on the Sunday night after that horrible experience in the woods, her suitor stolidly presented himself at the farm-house, attired in his best clothes, his whole aspect and bearing eloquent of the fact that recent defeat had but made him more doggedly determined to win in the end.

Tillie wondered if she might not be safe now in dismissing him emphatically and finally; but she decided there was still danger lest Absalom might wreak his vengeance in some dreadful way upon the teacher.

Her heart was so full of happiness that she could tolerate even Absalom.

Only two short weeks of this brightness and glory, and then the blow fell-the blow which blackened the sun in the heavens. The teacher suddenly, and most mysteriously, resigned and went away.

No one knew why. Whether it was to take a better position, or for what other possible reason, not a soul in the township could tell-not even the Doc.

Strange to say, Fairchilds's going, instead of pleasing Mr. Getz, was only an added offense to both him and Absalom. They had thirsted for vengeance; they had longed to humiliate this "high-minded dude"; and now not only was the opportunity lost to them, but the "job" they had determined to wrest from him was indifferently hurled back in their faces-he DIDN'T WANT IT! Absalom and Getz writhed in their helpless spleen.

Tillie's undiscerning family did not for an instant attribute to its true cause her sudden change from radiant happiness to the weakness and lassitude that tell of mental anguish. They were not given to seeing anything that was not entirely on the surface and perfectly obvious.

Three days had passed since Fairchilds's departure-three days of utter blackness to Tillie; and on the third day she went to pay her weekly visit to the tree-hollow in the woods where she was wont to place Miss Margaret's letters.

On this day she found, to her amazement, two letters. Her knees shook as she recognized the teacher's handwriting on one of them.

There was no stamp and no post-mark on the envelop. He had evidently written the letter before leaving, and had left it with the doctor to be delivered to her.

Tillie had always been obliged to maneuver skilfully in order to get away from the house long enough to pay these weekly visits to the tree-hollow; and she nearly always read her letter from Miss Margaret at night by a candle, when the household was asleep.

But now, heedless of consequences, she sat down on a snow-covered log and opened Fairchilds's letter, her teeth chattering with more than cold.

It was only a note, written in great haste and evidently under some excitement. It told her of his immediate departure for Cambridge to accept a rather profitable private tutorship to a rich man's son. He would write to Tillie, later, when he could. Meanwhile, God bless her-and he was always her friend. That was all. He gave her no address and did not speak of her writing to him.

Tillie walked home in a dream. All that evening, she was so "dopplig" as finally to call forth a sharp rebuke from her father, to which she paid not the slightest heed.

Would she ever see him again, her heart kept asking? Would he really write to her again? Where was he at this moment, and what was he doing? Did he send one thought to her, so far away, so desolate? Did he have in any least degree the desire, the yearning, for her that she had for him?

Tillie felt a pang of remorse for her disloyalty to Miss Margaret when she realized that she had almost forgotten that always precious letter. When, a little past midnight, she took it from her dress pocket she noticed what had before escaped her-some erratic writing in lead on the back of the envelop. It was in the doctor's strenuous hand.

"Willyam Pens as good as yoorn ive got them all promist but your pop to wote for you at the bored meating saterdy its to be a surprize party for your pop."

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