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   Chapter 4 No.4

Amanda: A Daughter of the Mennonites By Anna Balmer Myers Characters: 11985

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04

A Visit to Martin's Mother

When Amanda awoke the next morning her first thought was of the burnt hand and its healing kiss. "Why, Martin--ach, Martin--he kissed my hand," she said softly to herself. "Just like they do in the stories about knights--knights always kiss their ladies' hands. Ach, I know what I'll do! I'll play Martin Landis is my knight and I'm his lady grand. Wish Mom was here, then I'd ask her if she knows anything about what knights do and how the ladies ought to act to them. But she's in Lancaster. Mebbe Millie would know. I'll go ask her once."

Millie was baking pies when the girl sought her for the information.

"Say, Millie!"

"Ach, what?" The hired girl brushed the flour from her bare arms and turned to look at Amanda. "Now I know what you want--you smell the pies and you want a half-moon sample to eat before it's right cold and get your stomach upset and your face all pimply. Ain't?"

"No," began the child, then added diplomatically, "why, yes, I do want that, but that ain't what I come for."

Millie laughed. "Then what? But don't bother me for long. I got lots to do yet. I want to get the pies all done till your mom gets back."

"Why, Millie, I wondered, do you know anything about knights?"

"Not me. I sleep nights."

"Ach, Millie--knights--the kind you read about, the men that wear plumes in their hats."

"Feathers, you mean? Why, the only man I ever heard of wearin' a feather in his hat was Yankee Doodle."

"Ach, Millie, you make me mad! But I guess you don't know. Well, tell me this--if somebody did something for you and you wanted to show you 'preciated it, what would you do?"

"That's an easy one! I'd be nice to them and do things for them or for their people. Now you run and let me be. 'Bout half an hour from now you dare come in for your half-moon pie. Ach, I most forgot! Your mom said you shall take a little crock of the new apple butter down to Mrs. Landis."

"A little crock won't go far with all them children."

"Ach, yes. It'll smear a lot o' bread. I'll pack it in a basket so you can carry it easy. Better put on your sunbonnet so your hair won't burn red."

The rhubarb leaf parasol

"Redder, you mean, ain't? But I won't need a bonnet. I'll take my new parasol."

"Parasol," echoed Millie. "Now what---"

But Amanda ran away, laughing, and returned in a few minutes holding a giant rhubarb leaf over her head. "Does the green silk of my parasol look good with my hair?" she asked with an exaggerated air of grandeur.

"Go on, now," Millie said, laughing, "and don't spill that apple butter or you'll get parasol."

With a merry good-bye Amanda set off, the basket upon her arm, one hand grasping the red stem of the rhubarb parasol while the great green leaf flopped up and down upon her head in cool ministration.

Down the sunny road she trudged, spasmodically singing bits of gay songs, then again talking to herself. "This here is a dandy parasol. Cooler'n a real one and lots nicer'n a bonnet or a hat. Only I wish it was bigger, so my arms would be covered, for it's hot out to-day."

When she reached the little red brick country schoolhouse, half-way between her home and the Landis farm, she paused in the shade of a great oak that grew in the school-yard.

"Guess I'll rest the apple butter a while in this shade," she said to herself, "and pick a bouquet for my knight's mom." From the grassy roadside she gathered yellow and gold butter-and-eggs, blue spikes of false dragon's head, and edged them with a lacy ruffle of wild carrot flowers.

"There, that's grand!" she said as she held the bouquet at arm's length and surveyed it carefully. "I'll hold it out, just so, and I'll say to Mrs. Landis, 'Mother of my knight, I salute you!' I know she'll be surprised. Mebbe I might tell her just how brave her Martin is and how I made him a knight. She'll be glad. It must be a satisfaction to have a boy a knight." She smiled in happy anticipation of the wonderful message she was going to bring Mrs. Landis. Then she replaced the rhubarb parasol over her head, picked up the basket, and went down the country road to the Landis farm.

"It's good Landis's don't live far from our place," she thought. "My parasol's wiltin'."

Like the majority of houses in the Crow Hill section of country, the Landis house was set in a frame of green trees and old-fashioned flower gardens. It flaunted in the face of the passer-by an old-time front yard. The wide brick walk that led straight from the gate to the big front porch was edged on both sides with a row of bricks placed corners up. On either side of the walk were bushes, long since placed without the discriminating eye of a landscape gardener but holding in their very randomness a charm unrivaled by any precise planting. Mock-orange bushes and lilacs towered above the low deutzias, while masses of zinnias, petunias, four-o'clocks, and a score of other old-fashioned posies crowded against each other in the long beds that edged the walks and in the smaller round beds that were dotted here and there in the grass. Jaded motorists from the city drove their cars slowly past the glory of the Landis riot of blossoms.

As Amanda neared the place she looked ruefully at her knot of wild flowers. "She's got so many pretty ones," she thought. "But, ach, I guess she'll like these here, too, long as they're a present."

Two of the Landis children ran to greet Amanda as she opened the gate and entered the yard.

"I'll lay my parasol by the gate," she said. "Where's your mom?"

"In the kitchen, cannin' blackberries," said little Henry.

As Amanda rounded the corner of the house, the two children clinging to her arm, Mrs. Landis came to the kitchen door.

"Mother of my knight, I salute you," said Amanda, making as low a bow as the two barnacle children, the bouquet and the basket with its crock of apple butter, would allow.

"What," laughed Mrs. Landis. "Now what was that you said? The c

hildren make so much noise I can't hear sometimes. Henry, don't hang so on Amanda's arm, it's too hot."

"I said--why, I said--I have some apple butter for you that Mom sent and I picked a bouquet for you," the child replied, her courage suddenly gone from her.

"Now, ain't that nice! Come right in." The woman held the screen door open for the visitor.

Mrs. Landis, mother of the imaginary knight and of six other children, was a sturdy, well-built woman, genial and good-natured, as stout people are reputed to be. In spite of hard work she retained a look of youthfulness about her which her plain Mennonite dress and white cap accentuated. An artist with an appreciative eye might have said that the face of that mother was like a composite picture of all the Madonnas of the old masters--tender, love-lighted yet far-seeing and reverent.

Amanda had always loved Mrs. Landis and spent many hours in her home, attracted by the baby--there always was one, either in arms or just wobbling about on chubby little legs.

"Now ain't it nice of your mom to send us that new apple butter! And for you to pick the flowers for me! Sattie for both. I say still that the wild flowers beat the ones on the garden beds. And how pretty you fixed them!"

"Mom, Mom," whispered little Henry, "dare I smear me a piece of bread?"

"Yes, if you don't make crumbs."

"Oh, Mom," cried Mary Landis, who came running in from the yard. "What d'you think? Manda left her green parasol out by the front gate and Henry's chewed the handle off of it!"

"Chewed the handle off a parasol--what--how?" said the surprised mother.

Amanda laughed. "But don't you worry about it, Mrs. Landis," she said, "for it was a rhubarb parasol."

"Oh!" A merry laugh followed the announcement about the edible parasol handle and Mrs. Landis went back to spreading thick slices of bread with apple butter while three pairs of eager hands were reaching out to her.

A tiny wail which soon grew in volume sounded from a room in the front of the house.

"The baby's awake," said Amanda. "Dare I fetch him?"

"Yes. Go right in."

Amanda went through two rooms and came to a semi-darkened side room where the smallest Landis was putting forth a loud protest at his fancied neglect.

"Come on, Johnny, don't cry no more. Manda's goin' to take you--see!" She raised the baby, who changed from crying to laughter.

"Ain't he dear!" Amanda said as she brought the baby into the kitchen. "And so bright he is for not quite six months old. I remember how old he is because it was on my mom's last birthday in March that Millie said you had another baby and I remember, too, that Aunt Rebecca was there and she said, 'What, them Landis's got another baby! Poor thing!' I asked Mom why she said that and she thought Aunt Rebecca meant that babies make so much work for you."

"Ach, abody works anyhow, might as well work tendin' babies. Put your cheek against Johnny's face once, Amanda."

Amanda bent her head and touched the soft cheek of the child. "Why," she said, "ain't it soft, now! Ain't babies just too dear and sweet! I guess Aunt Rebecca don't know how nice they are."

"Poor thing," said Mrs. Landis.

"Poor--she ain't poor!" Amanda corrected her. "She owns two farms and got lots of money besides."

"But no children--poor thing," repeated Mrs. Landis.

Amanda looked at her, wondering.

"Amanda," said the white-capped mother as she wiped some blackberry juice from little Henry's fingers, "abody can have lots of money and yet be poor, and others can have hardly any money and yet be rich. It's all in what abody means by rich and what kind of treasures you set store by. I wouldn't change places with your rich Aunt Rebecca for all the farms in Lancaster County."

"Well, I guess not!" Amanda could understand her attitude. "And Mom and Millie say still you got such nice children. But Martin now," she said with assumed seriousness as she saw him step on the porch to enter the kitchen--"your Martin pushed me in a bean patch yesterday and I fell down flat on my face."

"Martin!" his mother began sternly. "What for did you act so?"

"Amanda, don't you tell!" the boy commanded, his face flushing. "Don't you dare tell!"

"I got to now, I started it. Ach, Mrs. Landis, you dare be proud of him! My dress caught fire and none of us had sense but him. He smothered it by throwin' me in the bean patch and he--he's a hero!"

"A hero!" cried little Henry. "Mart's a hero!" while the mother smiled proudly.

"Manda Reist," Martin spoke quickly as he edged to the door. "Amanda Reist, next time--next time I'll--darn it, I'll just let you burn up!" He ran from the room and disappeared round the corner of the house.

"Why"--Amanda's lips trembled--"ain't he mean! I just wanted to be nice to him and he got mad."

"Don't mind him," soothed the mother. "Boys are funny. He's not mad at you, he just don't like too much fuss made over what he done. But all the time he's tickled all over to have you call him a hero."

"Oh--are boys like that? Phil's not. But he ain't a knight. I guess knights like to pretend they're very modest even if they're full of pride." Mrs. Landis was too busy putting blackberries into the jars to catch the import of the child's words. The word knight escaped her hearing.

"Well, I must go now," said the small visitor. "I'll come again."

"All right, do, Amanda."

She put the baby in its coach, took up the empty basket, and after numerous good-byes to the children went down the road to her home. The rhubarb parasol gone, the sun beat upon her uncovered head but she was unmindful of the intense heat. Her brain was wholly occupied with thoughts of Martin Landis and his strange behavior.

"Umph," she decided finally, "men are funny things! I'm just findin' it out. And I guess knights are queerer'n others yet! Wonder if Millie kept my half-moon pie or if Phil sneaked it. Abody's just got to watch out for these men folks!"

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