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Amanda: A Daughter of the Mennonites By Anna Balmer Myers Characters: 18329

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


The Snitzing Party

Apple-butter boiling on the Reist farm occurred frequently during August and September. The choice fruit of the orchard was sold at Lancaster market, but bushels of smaller, imperfect apples lay scattered about the ground, and these were salvaged for the fragrant and luscious apple butter. To Phil and Amanda fell the task of gathering the fruit from the grass, washing them in big wooden tubs near the pump and placing them in bags. Then Uncle Amos hauled the apples to the cider press, where they came forth like liquid amber that dripped into fat brown barrels.

Many pecks of pared fruit were required for the apple-butter boiling. These were pared--the Pennsylvania Dutch say snitzed--the night before the day of boiling.

"Mom," Amanda told her mother as they ate supper one night when many apples were to be pared for the next day's use, "Lyman Mertzheimer seen us pick apples to-day and he said he's comin' over to-night to the snitzin' party--d'you care?"

"No. Let him come."

"So," teased Uncle Amos. "Guess in a few years, Manda, you'll be havin' beaus. This Lyman Mertzheimer, now,--his pop's the richest farmer round here and Lyman's the only child. He'd be a good catch, mebbe."

"Ach," Amanda said in her quick way, "I ain't thinkin' of such things. Anyhow, I don't like Lyman so good. He's all the time braggin' about his pop's money and how much his mom pays for things, and at school he don't play fair at recess. Sometimes, too, he cheats in school when we have a spellin' match Friday afternoons. Then he traps head and thinks he's smart."

Uncle Amos nodded his head. "Chip o' the old block."

"Now, look here," chided Millie, "ain't you ashamed, Amos, to put such notions in a little girl's head, about beaus and such things?"

The man chuckled. "What's born in heads don't need to be put in."

Amanda wondered what he meant, but her mother and Millie laughed.

"Women's women," he added knowingly. "Some wakes up sooner than others, that's all! Millie, when you goin' to get you a man? You're gettin' along now--just about my age, so I know--abody that cooks like you do-- "

"Amos, you just keep quiet! I ain't lookin' for a man. I got a home, and if I want something to growl at me I'll go pull the dog's tail."

That evening the kitchen of the Reist farmhouse was a busy place. Baskets of apples stood on the floor. On the table were huge earthen dishes ready for the pared fruit. Equipped with a paring knife and a tin pie-plate for parings every member of the household drew near the table and began snitzing. There was much merry conversation, some in quaint Pennsylvania Dutch, then again in English tinged with the distinctive accent. There was also much laughter as Uncle Amos vied with Millie for the honor of making the thinnest parings.

"Here comes Lyman. Make place for him," cried Amanda as a boy of fifteen came to the kitchen door.

"You can't come in here unless you work," challenged Uncle Amos.

"I can do that," said the boy, though he seemed none too eager to take the knife and plate Mrs. Reist offered him.

"You dare sit beside me," Amanda offered.

Lyman smiled his appreciation of the honor, but the girl's eyes twinkled as she added, "so I can watch that you make thin peelin's."

"That's it," said Uncle Amos. "Boys, listen! Mostly always when a woman's kind to you there's something back of it."

"Ach, Amos, you're soured," said Millie.

"No, not me," he declared. "I know there's still a few good women in the world. Ach, yea," he sighed deeply and looked the incarnation of misery, "soon I'll have three to boss me, with Amanda here growin' like a weed!"

"Don't you know," Mrs. Reist reminded him, "how Granny used to say that one good boss is better than six poor workers? You don't appreciate us, Amos."

"I give up." Uncle Amos spread his hands in surrender. "I give up. When women start arguin' where's a man comin' in at?"

"I wouldn't give up," spoke out Lyman. "A man ought to have the last word every time."

"Ach, you don't know women," said Uncle Amos, chuckling.

"A man was made to be master," the youth went on, evidently quoting some recent reading. "Woman is the weaker vessel."

"Wait till you try to break one," came Uncle Amos's wise comment.

"I," said Lyman proudly, "I could be master of any woman I marry! And I bet, I dare to bet my pop's farm, that any girl I set out to get I can get, too. I'd just carry her off or something. 'All's fair in love and war.'"

"Them two's the same thing, sonny, but you don't know it yet," laughed Uncle Amos. "It sounds mighty strong and brave to talk like you were a giant or king, or something, and I only hope I'm livin' and here in Crow Hill so I can see how you work that game of carryin' off the girl you like. I'd like to see it, I'd sure like to see it!"

"Oh, Uncle Amos, tell us, did you ever go to see the girls?" asked Amanda eagerly.

"Did I ever go to see the girls? Um-uh, I did!" The man laughed suddenly. "I'll tell you about the first time. But now you just go on with your snitzin'. I can't be breakin' up the party with my yarns. I was just a young fellow workin' at home on the farm. Theje was a nice girl over near Manheim I thought I'd like to know better, and so one night I fixed up to try my luck and go see her. It was in fall and got dark pretty early, and by the time I was done with the farm work and dressed in my best suit and half-way over to her house, it was gettin' dusk. Now I never knew what it was to be afraid till that year my old Aunty Betz came to spend a month with us and began to tell her spook stories. She had a long list of them. One was about a big black dog that used to come in her room every night durin' full moon and put its paws on her bed. But when she tried to touch it there was nothing there, and if she'd get up and light the light it would vanish. She said she always thought he wanted to show her something, take her to where there was some gold buried, but she never could get the dog to do it, for she always lighted the light and that scared him away. Then she said one time they moved into a little house, and once when they had a lot of company she slept on a bed in the garret. She got awake at night and found the covers off the bed. She pulled 'em up and something pulled them off. Then she lighted a candle, but there wasn't a thing there. So she went back to bed and the same thing happened again; down went the covers. She got frightened and ran down the stairs and slept on the floor. But that spook was always a mystery. I used to have shivers chasin' each other up and down my back so fast I didn't know how to sit up hardly when she was tellin' them spook stories. But she had one champion one about a man she knew who was walkin' along the country road at night and something black shot up in front of him, and when he tried to catch it and ran after it, he rolled into a fence, and when he sat up, the spook was gone, but there was a great big hole by the fence-post near him, and in the hole was a box of money. She could explain that ghost; it was the spirit of the person who had buried the money, and he had to help some person find it so that he could have peace in the other world. Well, as I said, I was goin' along the road on the way to see that girl, and it was about dark when I got to the lane of her house. I was a little excited, for it was my first trial at the courtin' business. Aunty Betz's spook stories made me kinda shaky in the dark, so it's no wonder I jumped when something black ran across the road and stood by the fence as I came along. I remembered her story of the man who found the gold, and I thought I'd see whether I could have such luck, so I ran to the black thing and made a grab--and--it was a skunk! Well,"--after the laughter died down--"I didn't get any gold, but I got something! I yelled, and the girl I started to call on heard me and come to the door. I hadn't any better sense than to go up to her. But before I could explain, the skunk's weapon told the tale. 'You clear out of here,' she hollered; 'who wants such a smell in the house!' I cleared out, and when I got home Mom was in bed, but Pop was readin' the paper in the kitchen. I opened the door. 'Clear out of here,' he ordered;' who wants such a smell in the house! Go to the wood-shed and I'll get you soap and water and other clothes.' So I went to the wood-shed, and he came out with a lantern and water and clothes and I began to scrub. After I was dressed we went to the barn-yard and he held the lantern while I dug a deep hole, and the clothes, my best Sunday clothes, went down into the ground and dirt on top. And that settled courtin' for a while with me."

Uncle Amos's story had interfered with the snitzing.

"Say," said Millie, "how can abody snitz apples when you make 'em laugh till the tears run down over the face?"

"Oh, come on," cried Amanda, "I just thought of it--let's tell fortunes with the peelin's! Everybody peel an apple with the peelin' all in one piece and then throw it over the right shoulder, and whatever letter it makes on the floor is th

e initial of the person you're goin' to marry."

"All right. Now, Millie, no cheatin'," teased Uncle Amos. "Don't you go peel yours so it'll fall into a Z, for I know that Zach Miller's been after you this long while already."

"Ach, him? He's as ugly as seven days' rainy weather."

"Ach, shoot it," said Phil, disgust written on his face as he threw a paring over his shoulder; "mine always come out an S. Guess that's the only letter you can make. S for Sadie, Susie--who wants them? That's a rotten way to tell fortunes!"

"Now look at mine, everybody!" cried Amanda as she flung her long apple paring over her shoulder.

"It's an M," shouted Phil. "Mebbe for Martin Landis. Jiminy Christmas, he's a pretty nice fellow. If you can hook him----"

"M stands for Mertzheimer," said Lyman proudly. "I guess it means me, Amanda, so you better begin to mind me now when we play at recess at school and spell on my side in the spelling matches."

"Huh," she retorted ungraciously, "Lyman Mertzheimer, you ain't the only M in Lancaster County!"

"No," he replied arrogantly, "but I guess that poor Mart Landis don't count. He's always tending one of his mom's babies--some nice beau he'd make! If he ever goes courting he'll have to take along one of the little Landis kids, I bet."

Phil laughed, but Amanda flushed in anger. "I think that's just grand of Martin to help his mom like that," she defended. "Anyhow, since she has no big girls to help her."

"He washes dishes. I saw him last week with an apron on," said Lyman, contempt in his voice.

"Wouldn't you do that for your mom if she was poor and had a lot of children and no one to help her?" asked the girl.

"Not me! I wouldn't wash dishes for no one! Men aren't made for that."

"Then I don't think much of you, Lyman Mertzheimer!" declared Amanda with a vigorous toss of her red head.

"Come, come," Mrs. Reist interrupted, "you mustn't quarrel. Of course Lyman would help his mother if she needed him."

Amanda laughed and friendliness was once more restored.

When the last apple was snitzed Uncle Amos brought some cold cider from the spring-house, Millie fetched a dish of cookies from the cellar, and the snitzing party ended in a feast.

That night Mrs. Reist followed Amanda up the stairs to the child's bedroom. They made a pretty picture as they stood there, the mother with her plain Mennonite garb, her sweet face encircled by a white cap, and the little red-haired child, eager, active, her dark eyes glimpsing dreams as they focused on the distant castles in Spain which were a part of her legitimate heritage of childhood. The room was like a Nutting picture, with its rag carpet, old-fashioned, low cherry bed, covered with a pink and white calico patchwork quilt, its low cherry bureau, its rush-bottom chairs, its big walnut chest covered with a hand-woven coverlet gay with red roses and blue tulips. An old-fashioned room and an old-fashioned mother and daughter--the elder had seen life, knew its glories and its dangers, had tasted its sweetness and drained its cups of sorrow, but the child--in her eyes was still the star-dust of the "trailing clouds of glory."

"Mom," she asked suddenly as her mother unbraided the red hair and brushed it, "do you like Lyman Mertzheimer?"

"Why--yes---" Mrs. Reist hesitated.

"Ach, I don't mean that way, Mom," the child said wisely. "You always say abody must like everybody, but I mean like him for real, like him so you want to be near him. He's good lookin'. At school he's about the best lookin' boy there. The big girls say he's a regular Dunnis, whatever that is. But I think sometimes he ain't so pretty under the looks, the way he acts and all, Mom."

"I know what you mean, Amanda. Your pop used to say still that people are like apples, some can fool you good. Remember some we peeled to-night were specked and showed it on the outside, but some were red and pretty and when you cut in them--"

"They were full of worms or rotten!"

"Yes. It's the hearts of people that makes them beautiful."

"I see, Mom, and I'll mind to remember that. I'm gettin' to know a lot o' things now, Mom, ain't? I like when you tell me things my pop said. I'm glad I was big enough to remember him. I know yet what nice eyes he had, like they was always smilin' at you. I wish he wouldn't died, but I'm glad he's not dead for always. People don't stay dead like peepies or birds, do they?"

"No, they'll live again some day." The mother's voice was low, but a divine trust shone in her eyes. "Life would be nothing if it could end for us like it does for the birds."

"Millie says the souls of people can't die. That it's with people just like it's with the apple trees. In winter they look dead and like all they're good for was to chop down and burn, then in spring they get green and the flowers come on them and they're alive, and we know they're alive. I'm glad people are like that, ain't you?"

"Yes." She gathered the child to her arms and kissed the sensitive, eager little face. Neither Mrs. Reist nor Amanda, as yet, had read Locksley Hall, but the truth expressed there was echoing in their souls:

"Gone forever! Ever? no--for since our dying race began,

Ever, ever, and forever was the leading light of man.

Indian warriors dream of ampler hunting grounds beyond the night;

Even the black Australian dying hopes he shall return, a white.

Truth for truth, and good for good! The good, the true, the pure, the

just--

Take the charm 'Forever' from them, and they crumble into dust."

"Ach, Mom," the child asked a few moments later, "do you mind that Christmas and the big doll?" An eager light dwelt in the little girl's eyes as she thought back to the happy time when her big, laughing father had made one in the family circle.

"Yes." The mother smiled a bit sadly. But Amanda prattled on gaily.

"That was the best Christmas ever I had! You mind how we went to market in Lancaster, Pop and you and I, near Christmas, and in a window of a store we saw a great, grand, big doll. She was bigger'n me and had light hair and blue eyes. I wanted her, and I told you and Pop and coaxed for you to buy her. Next week when we went to market and passed the store she was still in the window. Then one day Pop went to Lancaster alone and when he came home I asked if the doll was still there, and he said she wasn't in the window. I cried, and was so disappointed and you said to Pop, 'That's a shame, Philip.' And I thought, too, it was a shame he let somebody else buy that doll when I wanted it so. Then on Christmas morning--what do you think--I came down-stairs and ran for my presents, and there was that same big doll settin' on the table in the room! Millie and you had dressed her in a blue dress. Course she wasn't in the window when I asked Pop, for he had bought her! He laughed, and we all laughed, and we had the best Christmas. I sat on my little rocking-chair and rocked her, and then I'd sit her on the sofa and look at her--I was that proud of her."

"That's five, six years ago, Amanda."

"Yes, I was little then. I mind a story about that little rockin'-chair, too, Mom. It's up in the garret now; I'm too big for it. But when I first got it I thought it was wonderful fine. Once Katie Hiestand came here with her mom, and we were playin' with our dolls and not thinkin' of the chair, and then Katie saw it and sat in it. And right aways I wanted to set in it, too, and I made her get off. But you saw it and you told me I must not be selfish, but must be polite and let her set in it. My, I remember lots of things."

"I'm glad, Amanda, if you remember such things, for I want you to grow up into a nice, good woman."

"Like you and Millie, ain't? I'm goin' to. I ain't forgot, neither, that once when I laughed at Katie for saying the Dutch word for calendar and gettin' all her English mixed with Dutch, you told me it's not nice to laugh at people. But I forgot it the other day, Mom, when we laughed at Aunt Rebecca and treated her mean. But she's so cranky and--and---"

"And she helped sew on your dresses," added the mother.

"Now that was ugly for us to act so! Why, ain't it funny, Mom, it sounds so easy to say abody should be kind and yet sometimes it's so hard to do it. When Aunt Rebecca comes next time I'm just goin' to see once if I can't be nice to her."

"Of course you are. She's comin' to-morrow to help with the apple butter. But now you must go to sleep or you can't get up early to see Millie put the cider on. Philip, he's asleep this long while already."

A few minutes later the child was in bed and called a last good-night to the mother, who stood in the hall, a little lighted lamp in her hand. Amanda had an eye for beauty and the picture of her mother pleased her.

"Ach, Mom," she called, "just stand that way a little once, right there."

"Why?"

"Ach, you look wonderful like a picture I saw once, in that gray dress and the lamp in your hand. It's pretty."

"Now, now," chided the mother gently, "you go to sleep now. Good-night."

"Good-night," Amanda called after the retreating figure.

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