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   Chapter 9 No.9

Amanda: A Daughter of the Mennonites By Anna Balmer Myers Characters: 10140

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


At the Market

The words of Lyman Mertzheimer lingered with Amanda for many days. He had seemed so confident, so arrogantly sure, of her ultimate surrender to his desire to marry her. Soon after the Spelling Bee he returned to his college and the girl sighed in relief that his presence was not annoying her. But she reckoned without the efficient United States mail service. The rejected lover wrote lengthy, friendly letters which she answered at long intervals by short, impersonal little notes.

"Oh, yea," she said to herself one day, "why does it have to be Lyman Mertzheimer that falls in love with me? But he might as well fall out as soon as he can. I'll never marry him. I read somewhere that one girl said, 'I'd rather love what I cannot have, than have what I cannot love,' and that's just the way I feel about it. I won't marry Lyman Mertzheimer if I have to die Amanda Reist!"

As soon as her school term was ended Amanda entered into the work of the farm. She helped Millie as much as possible in a determined effort to forget all about the man who wanted her and whom she did not want, and, more than that, to think less about her knight, her Sir Galahad, who evidently had no time to waste on girls.

Millie appreciated Amanda's help. "There's one thing sure," she said proudly to Mrs. Reist, "our Amanda ain't lazy. It seems to abody she's workin' more'n ever this here spring. I guess mebbe she thinks she better get all the ins and outs o' housework so as she can do it right till she gets married once."

"Ach, I guess Amanda ain't thinkin' of marryin' yet," said the mother.

"You fool yourself," was Millie's wise answer. "Is there ever a woman born that don't think 'bout it? Women ain't made that way. There ain't one so ugly nor poor, nor dumb, that don't hanker about it sometimes, even if she knows it ain't for her."

Here the entrance of Amanda cut short the discussion.

"Millie," asked the girl, "shall I go to market with you this week?"

"Why, yes. I'd be glad for you. Of course, you always help get things ready here and your Uncle Amos drives me in and helps to get the baskets emptied and the things on the counters, but I could use you in sellin'."

"Then I'll come. This lovely spring weather makes me want to go. I like to see the people come in to buy flowers and early vegetables. It's like reading a page out of a romance to see the expressions on the faces of the city people as they buy the products of the country."

"Ach, I don't know what you mean. I guess you got too much fine learnin' for me. But all I can see in market is people runnin' up one aisle and down the other to see where the onions or radishes is the cheapest."

Amanda laughed. "That's part of the romance. It proves they are human."

The following Saturday Amanda accompanied Millie to the Lancaster market to help dispose of the assortment of farm products the Reist stall always carried.

Going to market in Lancaster is an interesting experience. In addition to the famous street markets, where farmers display their produce along the busy central streets of the city, there are indoor markets where crowds move up and down and buy butter, eggs and vegetables, and such Pennsylvania Dutch specialties as mince meat, cup cheese, sauerkraut, pannhaus, apple butter, fresh sausage and smear cheese. While lovers of flowers choose from the many old-fashioned varieties--straw flowers, zinnias, dahlias.

The Reist stall was one of the prominent stalls of the market. Twice every week Millie "tended market" there. On the day before market several members of the Reist household were kept busy preparing all the produce, and the next day before dawn Uncle Amos hitched the horse to the big covered wagon and he and Millie, sometimes Amanda and Philip, drove over the dark country roads to the city.

Amanda enjoyed the work. She arranged the glistening domes of cup cheese, placed the fresh eggs in small baskets, uncovered one of the bags of dried corn untied the cloth cover from a gray earthen crock of apple butter, and then stood and looked about the market house. She felt the human interest it never failed to waken in her. Behind many stalls stood women in the quaint garb of the Church of the Brethren or Mennonite. But quaintest of all were the Amish.

The Amish are the plainest and quaintest of the plain sects that flourish in Lancaster County. Unlike their kindred sects, who wear plain garb, they are partial to gay colors in dress. So it is no unusual sight to see Amish women wearing dresses of such colors as forest green, royal purple, king's blue or garnet. But the gay dress is always plainly made, after the model of their sect, generally partially subdued by a great black apron, a black pointed cape over the shoulders and a big black bonnet which almost hides the face of its wearer and necessitates a full-face gaze to disclose the identity of the woman. The strings of the thick white lawn cap are invariably tied in a flat bow that lies low on the chest.

The Amish men are equally interesti

ng in appearance. They wear broad-brimmed hats with low crowns. Their clothes are so extremely plain that buttons, universally deemed indispensable, are taboo and their place is filled by the inconspicuous hook-and-eye, which style has brought upon them the sobriquet, "Hook-and-eye people."

However, interesting as the men and women of the Amish faith are in their dress, they are eclipsed in that aspect by the Amish children. These are invariably dressed as exact replicas of their parents. Little boys, mere children of three and four years, wear long trousers, tight jackets, blocked hair and broad-brimmed, low-crowned hats. Little girls of tender years wear brightly colored woolen dresses, one-piece aprons of black sateen or colored chambray, and the picturesque big stiff bonnets of the faith.

A stranger in Lancaster County seeing an Amish family group might easily wonder if he had not been magically transported to some secluded spot of Europe, far from the beaten paths of modernity. But in the cosmopolitan population of Lancaster the Amish awakes a mere moment's interest to the majority of observers. If a bit of envy steals into the heart of the little Amish girl who stands at the Square and sees a child in white organdie and pink sash tripping along with her feet in silk socks and white slippers, of what avail is it? The hold of family customs is strong among them and the world and its allurements and vanities are things to be left stringently alone.

To Amanda Reist, the Amish children made strong appeal. Their presence was one of the reasons she enjoyed tending market. Many stories she wove in her imagination about the little lads in their long trousers and the tiny girls in their big bonnets.

But when the marketing was in full swing Amanda had scant time for any weaving of imaginary stories. Purchasers stopped at the stall and in a short time the produce was sold, with the exception of cheese and eggs which had been ordered the previous week.

"Ach," complained Millie, "now if these people would fetch this cheese and the eggs we'd be done and could go home. Our baskets are all empty but them. But it seems like some of these here city folks can't get to market till eight o'clock. They have to sleep till seven."

She was interrupted by the approach of a young girl, fashionably dressed.

"Why," exclaimed Amanda, "here comes Isabel Souders, one of the Millersville girls."

Isabel Souders was a girl of the butterfly type, made for sunshine, beauty, but not intended, apparently, for much practical use. Like the butterfly, her excuse for being was her beauty. Pretty, with dark hair, Amanda sometimes had envied her during days at the Normal School. Well dressed, petted and spoiled by well-to-do parents who catered to her whims, she seemed, nevertheless, an attractive girl in manner as well as in appearance. At school something like friendship had sprung up between Amanda and the city girl, no doubt each attracted to the other by the very directness of their opposite personalities and tastes.

Isabel Souders was a year younger than Amanda. She lacked all of the latter's ambition. Music and Art and having a good time were the things that engrossed her attention. At Millersville she had devoted her time to the pursuit of the three. Professors and hall teachers knew that the moving spirit of many harmless pranks was Isabel, but she had a way of glossing things, shedding blame without causing innocent ones to suffer, that somehow endeared her to students and teachers alike.

That market day she came laughing down the market aisle to greet Amanda.

"Hello, Amanda! What do you think of me, here at this early hour of the day? Pin a medal on me! But it was so glorious a day I felt like doing something out of the ordinary. I promised one of the Lancaster girls who is at school now that I'd ask you about the pink moccasins. Are they out yet?"

"Just out. Why?"

"This girl wants one for her collection. I remembered you had a perfect one in your lot of flowers at school and I said I'd see you about them."

"They'll be at their best next Saturday."

"Next Saturday--dear, Helen's going home over the week-end. Oh, could I come out and get one for her?"

"Yes. I'll be glad to take you where they grow. I have a special haunt. If no botanizers or flower hunters find my spot, we'll get a beauty for your friend."

"You're the same old darling, Amanda," said the girl sweetly. "Then I'll be out to your house Saturday afternoon. How do I get there?"

"Take the car to Oyster Point, then walk till you find a mail-box with our name on it, and there I'll be found."

"Thank you, Amanda, you are a dear! I'll be there for the pink moccasin. Won't it be romantic to hunt for such lovely things as they are? You're perfectly sweet to bother about it and offer to take me."

"Oh, I don't mind doing that. I'll enjoy it. Finding the wild pink lady-slipper is a real joy."

Unselfish Amanda, she could not dream of what would come out of that little hunt for the pink moccasin!

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