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Tillie: A Mennonite Maid By Helen Reimensnyder Martin Characters: 20446

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

At half-past seven o'clock on Saturday evening, the School Board once more convened in the hotel parlor, for the purpose of electing Fairchilds's successor.

"Up till now," Mr. Getz had remarked at the supper-table, "I ain't been tole of no candidate applyin' fur William Penn, and here to-night we meet to elect him-or her if she's a female."

Tillie's heart had jumped to her throat as she heard him, wondering how he would take it when they announced to him that the applicant was none other than his own daughter-whether he would be angry at her long deception, or gratified at the prospect of her earning so much money-for, of course, it would never occur to him that she would dare refuse to give him every cent she received.

There was unwonted animation in the usually stolid faces of the School Board to-night; for the members were roused to a lively appreciation of the situation as it related to Jake Getz. The doctor had taken each and every one of them into his confidence, and had graphically related to them the story of how Tillie had "come by" her certificate, and the tale had elicited their partizanship for Tillie, as for the heroine of a drama. Even Nathaniel Puntz was enjoying the fact that he was to-night on the side of the majority. With Tillie, they were in doubt as to how Jake Getz would receive the news.

"Is they a' applicant?" he inquired on his arrival.

"Why, to be sure," said Nathaniel Puntz. "What fur would it be worth while to waste time meetin' to elect her if they ain't none?"

"Then she's a female, is she?"

"Well, she ain't no male, anyways, nor no Harvard gradyate, neither. If she was, I wouldn't wote fur her!"

"What might her name be?"

"It's some such a French name," answered the doctor, who had carried in the lamp and was lingering a minute. "It would, now, surprise you, Jake, if you heard it oncet."

"Is she such a foreigner yet?" Getz asked suspiciously. "I mistrust 'em when they're foreigners."

"Well," spoke Adam Oberholzer, as the doctor reluctantly went out, "it ain't ten mile from here she was raised."

"Is she a gradyate? We hadn't ought to take none but a Normal. We had enough trouble!"

"No, she ain't a Normal, but she's got her certificate off the superintendent."

"Has any of yous saw her?"

"Och, yes, she's familiar with us," replied Joseph Kettering, the Amishman, who was president of the Board.

"Why ain't she familiar with me, then?" Getz inquired, looking bewildered, as the president opened the ink-bottle that stood on the table about which they sat, and distributed slips of paper.

"Well, that's some different again, too," facetiously answered Joseph Kettering.

"Won't she be here to-night to leave us see her oncet?"

"She won't, but her pop will," answered Nathaniel Puntz; and Mr. Getz vaguely realized in the expressions about him that something unusual was in the air.

"What do we want with her pop?" he asked.

"We want his wote!" answered Adam Oberholzer-which sally brought forth hilarious laughter.

"What you mean?" demanded Getz, impatient of all this mystery.

"It's the daughter of one of this here Board that we're wotin' fur!"

Mr. Getz's eyes moved about the table. "Why, none of yous ain't got a growed-up daughter that's been to school long enough to get a certificate."

"It seems there's ways of gettin' a certificate without goin' to school. Some girls can learn theirselves at home without even a teacher, and workin' all the time at farm-work, still, and even livin' out!" said Mr. Puntz. "I say a girl with inDUStry like that would make any feller a good wife."

Getz stared at him in bewilderment.

"The members of this Board," said Mr. Kettering, solemnly, "and the risin' generation of the future, can point this here applicant out to their childern as a shinin' example of what can be did by inDUStry, without money and without price-and it'll be fur a spur to 'em to go thou and do likewise."

"Are you so dumm, Jake, you don't know YET who we mean?" Nathaniel asked.

"Why, to be sure, don't I! None of yous has got such a daughter where lived out."

"Except yourself, Jake!"

The eyes of the Board were fixed upon Mr. Getz in excited expectation. But he was still heavily uncomprehending. Then the president, rising, made his formal announcement, impressively and with dignity.

"Members of Canaan Township School Board: We will now proceed to wote fur the applicant fur William Penn. She is not unknownst to this here Board. She is a worthy and wirtuous female, and has a good moral character. We think she's been well learnt how to manage childern, fur she's been raised in a family where childern was never scarce. The applicant," continued the speaker, "is-as I stated a couple minutes back-a shining example of inDUStry to the rising generations of the future, fur she's got her certificate to teach-and wery high marks on it-and done it all by her own unaided efforts and inDUStry. Members of Canaan Township School Board, we are now ready to wote fur Matilda Maria Getz."

Before his dazed wits could recover from the shock of this announcement, Jake Getz's daughter had become the unanimously elected teacher of William Penn.

The ruling passion of the soul of Jacob Getz manifested itself conspicuously in his reception of the revelation that his daughter, through deliberate and systematic disobedience, carried on through all the years of her girlhood, had succeeded in obtaining a certificate from the county superintendent, and was now the teacher-elect at William Penn. The father's satisfaction in the possession of a child capable of earning forty dollars a month, his greedy joy in the prospect of this addition to his income, entirely overshadowed and dissipated the rage he would otherwise have felt. The pathos of his child's courageous persistency in the face of his dreaded severity, of her pitiful struggle with all the adverse conditions of her life,-this did not enter at all into his consideration of the case. It was obvious to Tillie, as it had been to the School Board on Saturday night, that he felt an added satisfaction in the fact that this wonder had been accomplished without any loss to him either of money or of his child's labor.

Somehow, her father's reception of her triumph filled her heart with more bitterness than she had ever felt toward him in all the years of her hard endeavor. It was on the eve of her first day of teaching that his unusually affectionate attitude to her at the supper-table suddenly roused in her a passion of hot resentment such as her gentle heart had not often experienced.

"I owe YOU no thanks, father, for what education I have!" she burst forth. "You always did everything in your power to hinder me!"

If a bomb had exploded in the midst of them, Mr. and Mrs. Getz could not have been more confounded. Mrs. Getz looked to see her husband order Tillie from the table, or rise from his place to shake her and box her ears. But he did neither. In amazement he stared at her for a moment-then answered with a mildness that amazed his wife even more than Tillie's "sassiness" had done.

"I'd of LEFT you study if I'd knowed you could come to anything like this by it. But I always thought you'd have to go to the Normal to be fit fur a teacher yet. And you can't say you don't owe me no thanks-ain't I always kep' you?"

"Kept me!" answered Tillie, with a scorn that widened her father's stare and made her stepmother drop her knife on her plate; "I never worked half so hard at Aunty Em's as I have done here every day of my life since I was nine years old-and SHE thought my work worth not only my 'keep,' but two dollars a week besides. When do you ever spend two dollars on me? You never gave me a dollar that I hadn't earned ten times over! You owe me back wages!"

Jake Getz laid down his knife, with a look on his face that made his other children quail. His countenance was livid with anger.

"OWE YOU BACK WAGES!" he choked. "Ain't you my child, then, where I begat and raised? Don't I own you? What's a child FUR? To grow up to be no use to them that raised it? You talk like that to me!" he roared. "You tell me I OWE you back money! Now listen here! I was a-goin' to leave you keep five dollars every month out of your forty. Yes, I conceited I'd leave you have all that-five a month! Now fur sassin' me like what you done, I ain't leavin' you have NONE the first month!"

"And what," Tillie wondered, a strange calm suddenly following her outburst, as she sat back in her chair, white and silent, "what will he do and say when I refuse to give him more than the price of my board?"

Her school-work, which began nest day, diverted her mind somewhat from its deep yearning for him who had become to her the very breath of her life.

It was on the Sunday night after her first week of teaching that she told Absalom, with all the firmness she could command, that he must not come to see her any more, for she was resolved not to marry him.

"Who are you goin' to marry, then?" he inquired, unconvinced.

"No one."

"Do you mean it fur really, that you'd ruther be a' ole maid?"

"I'd rather be SIX old maids than the wife of a Dutchman!"

"What fur kind of a man do you WANT, then?"

"Not the kind that grows in this township."

"Would you, mebbe," Absalom sarcastically inquired, "like such a dude like what-"

"Absalom!" Tillie flashed her beautiful eyes upon him. "You are unworthy to mention his name to me! Don't dare to speak to me of him-or I shall leave you and go up-stairs RIGHT AWAY!"

Absalom sullenly subsided.

When, later, he left her, she saw that her firm refusal to marry him had in no wise baffled him.

This impression was confirmed when on the next Sunday night, in spite of her prohibition, he again presented himself.

Tillie was mortally weary that night. Her letter had not come, and her nervous waiting, together with the strain of her unwonted work of teaching, had told on her endurance. So poor Absalom's reception at her hands was even colder than her father's greeting at the kitchen door; for since Tillie's election to William Penn, Mr. Getz was more opposed than ever to he

r marriage, and he did not at all relish the young man's persistency in coming to see her in the face of his own repeated warning.

"Tillie," Absalom began when they were alone together after the family had gone to bed, "I thought it over oncet, and I come to say I'd ruther have you 'round, even if you didn't do nothin' but set and knit mottos and play the organ, than any other woman where could do all my housework fur me. I'll HIRE fur you, Tillie-and you can just set and enjoy yourself musin', like what Doc says book-learnt people likes to do."

Tillie's eyes rested on him with a softer and a kindlier light in them than she had ever shown him before; for such a magnanimous offer as this, she thought, could spring only from the fact that Absalom was really deeply in love, and she was not a little touched.

She contemplated him earnestly as he sat before her, looking so utterly unnatural in his Sunday clothes. A feeling of compassion for him began to steal into her heart.

"If I am not careful," she thought in consternation, "I shall be saying, 'Yes,' out of pity."

But a doubt quickly crept into her heart. Was it really that he loved her so very much, or was it that his obstinacy was stronger than his prudence, and that if he could not get her as he wanted her,-as his housekeeper and the mother of numberless children,-he would take her on her own conditions? Only so he got her-that was the point. He had made up his mind to have her-it must be accomplished.

"Absalom," she said, "I am not going to let you waste any more of your time. You must never come to see me again after to-night. I won't ever marry you, and I won't let you go on like this, with your false hope. If you come again, I won't see you. I'll go up-stairs!"

One would have thought that this had no uncertain ring. But again Tillie knew, when Absalom left her, that his resolution not only was not shaken,-it was not even jarred.

The weeks moved on, and the longed-for letter did not come. Tillie tried to gather courage to question the doctor as to whether Fairchilds had made any arrangement with him for the delivery of a letter to her. But an instinct of maidenly reserve and pride which, she could not conquer kept her lips closed on the subject.

Had it not been for this all-consuming desire for a letter, she would more keenly have felt her enforced alienation from her aunt, of whom she was so fond; and at the same time have taken really great pleasure in her new work and in having reached at last her long-anticipated goal.

In the meantime, while her secret sorrow-like Sir Hudibras's rusting sword that had nothing else to feed upon and so hacked upon itself-seemed eating out her very heart, the letter which would have been to her as manna in the wilderness had fallen into her father's hands, and after being laboriously conned by him, to his utter confusion as to its meaning, had been consigned to the kitchen fire.

Mr. Getz's reasons for withholding the letter from his daughter and burning it were several. In the first place, Fairchilds was "an UNbeliever," and therefore his influence was baneful; he was Jacob Getz's enemy, and therefore no fit person to be writing friendly letters to his daughter; he asked Tillie, in his letter, to write to him, and this would involve the buying of stationery and wasting of time that might be better spent; and finally, he and Tillie, as he painfully gathered from the letter, were "making up" to a degree that might end in her wanting to marry the fellow.

Mr. Getz meant to tell Tillie that he had received this letter; but somehow, every time he opened his lips to speak the words, the memory of her wild-cat behavior in defense of the teacher that afternoon in the woods, and her horribly death-like appearance when she had lain unconscious in the teacher's arms, recurred to him with a vividness that effectually checked him, and eventually led him to decide that it were best not to risk another such outbreak. So she remained in ignorance of the fact that Fairchilds had again written to her.

Carlyle's "Gospel of Work" was indeed Tillie's salvation in these days; for in spite of her restless yearning and loneliness, she was deeply interested and even fascinated with her teaching, and greatly pleased and encouraged with her success in it.

At last, with the end of her first month at William Penn, came the rather dreaded "pay-day"; for she knew that it would mean the hardest battle of her life.

The forty dollars was handed to her in her schoolroom on Friday afternoon, at the close of the session. It seemed untold wealth to Tillie, who never before in her life had owned a dollar.

She' did not risk carrying it all home with her. The larger part of the sum she intrusted to the doctor to deposit for her in a Lancaster bank.

When, at five o'clock, she reached home and walked into the kitchen, her father's eagerness for her return, that he might lay his itching palms on her earnings, was perfectly manifest to her in his unduly affectionate, "Well, Tillie!"

She was pale, but outwardly composed. It was to be one of those supreme crises in life which one is apt to meet with a courage and a serenity that are not forthcoming in the smaller irritations and trials of daily experience.

"You don't look so hearty," her father said, as she quietly hung up her shawl and hood in the kitchen cupboard. "A body'd think you'd pick up and get fat, now you don't have to work nothin', except mornings and evenings."

"There is no harder work in the world, father, than teaching-even when you like it."

"It ain't no work," he impatiently retorted, "to set and hear off lessons."

Tillie did not dispute the point, as she tied a gingham apron over her dress.

Her father was sitting in a corner of the room, shelling corn, with Sammy and Sally at his side helping him. He stopped short in his work and glanced at Tillie in surprise, as she immediately set about assisting her mother in setting the supper-table.

"You was paid to-day, wasn't you?"


"Well, why don't you gimme the money, then? Where have you got it?"

Tillie drew a roll of bills from her pocket and came up to him.

He held out his hand. "You know, Tillie, I tole you I ain't givin' you none of your wages this month, fur sassin' me like what you done. But next month, if you're good-behaved till then, I'll give you mebbe five dollars. Gimme here," he said, reaching for the money across the heads of the children in front of him.

But she did not obey. She looked at him steadily as she stood before him, and spoke deliberately, though every nerve in her body was jumping.

"Aunty Em charged the teacher fifteen dollars a month for board. That included his washing and ironing. I really earn my board by the work I do here Saturdays and Sundays, and in the mornings and evenings before and after school. But I will pay you twelve dollars a month for my board."

She laid on his palm two five-dollar bills and two ones, and calmly walked back to the table.

Getz sat as one suddenly turned to stone. Sammy and Sally dropped their corn-cobs into their laps and stared in frightened wonder. Mrs. Getz stopped cutting the bread and gazed stupidly from her husband to her stepdaughter. Tillie alone went on with her work, no sign in her white, still face of the passion of terror in her heart at her own unspeakable boldness.

Suddenly two resounding slaps on the ears of Sammy and Sally, followed by their sharp screams of pain and fright, broke the tense stillness.

"Who tole you to stop workin', heh?" demanded their father, fiercely. "Leave me see you at it, do you hear? You stop another time to gape around and I 'll lick you good! Stop your bawlin' now, this minute!"

He rose from his chair and strode over to the table. Seizing Tillie by the shoulder, he drew her in froet of him.

"Gimme every dollar of them forty!"

"I have given you all I have."

"Where are you got the others hid?"

"I have deposited my money in a Lancaster bank."

Jacob Getz's face turned apoplectic with rage.

"Who took it to Lancaster fur you?"

"I sent it."

"What fur bank?"

"I prefer not to tell you that."

"You PERFER! I'll learn you PERFER! Who took it in fur you-and what fur bank? Answer to me!"

"Father, the money is mine."

"It's no such thing! You ain't but seventeen. And I don't care if you're eighteen or even twenty-one! You're my child and you 'll obey to me and do what I tell you!"

"Father, I will not submit to your robbing me, You can't force me to give you my earnings. If you could, I wouldn't teach at all!"

"You won't submit! And I darsent rob you!" he spluttered. "Don't you know I can collect your wages off the secretary of the Board myself?"

"Before next pay-day I shall be eighteen. Then you can't legally do that. If you could, I would resign. Then you wouldn't even get your twelve dollars a month for my board. That's four dollars more than I can earn living out at Aunty Em's."

Beside himself with his fury, Getz drew her a few steps to the closet where his strap hung, and jerking it from its nail, he swung out his arm.

But Tillie, with a strength born of a sudden fury almost matching his own, and feeling in her awakened womanhood a new sense of outrage and ignominy in such treatment, wrenched herself free, sprang to the middle of the room, and faced him with blazing eyes.

"Dare to touch me-ever again so long as you live!-and I'll kill you, I'll KILL you!"

Such madness of speech, to ears accustomed to the carefully tempered converse of Mennonites, Amish, and Dunkards, was in itself a wickedness almost as great as the deed threatened. The family, from the father down to six-year-old Zephaniah, trembled to hear the awful words.

"Ever dare to touch me again so long as we both live-and I'll stab you dead!"

Mrs. Getz shrieked. Sally and Sammy clung to each other whimpering in terror, and the younger children about the room took up the chorus.

"Tillie!" gasped her father.

The girl tottered, her eyes suddenly rolled back in her head, she stretched out her hands, and fell over on the floor. Once more Tillie had fainted.

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