MoboReader > Young Adult > Amanda: A Daughter of the Mennonites

   Chapter 11 No.11

Amanda: A Daughter of the Mennonites By Anna Balmer Myers Characters: 21284

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04

The Boarder

The big automobile that brought Isabel Souders to the Reist farmhouse one day early in June brought with her a trunk, a suitcase, a bag, an umbrella and a green parasol.

Aunt Rebecca was visiting there that day and she followed Amanda to the front door to receive the boarder.

"My goodness," came the exclamation as the luggage was carried in, "is that girl comin' here for good, with all that baggage? And what did you let her come here for on a Friday? That's powerful bad luck!"

"For me," thought Amanda as she went to meet Isabel.

"See," the newcomer pointed to her trunk, "I brought some of my pretties along. I'll have to make hay while the sun shines. I'll have to make the most of this opportunity to win the heart of some country youth. Amanda, dear, wouldn't I be a charming farmer's wife? Can you visualize me milking cows, for instance?"

"No," answered Amanda, "I'd say that you were cut out for a different role." There was a deeper meaning in the country girl's words than the flighty city girl could read.

"Just the same," went on the newcomer, "I'm going to have one wonderful time in the country. You are such a dear to want me here and to take me into the family. I want to do just all the exciting things one reads about as belonging to life in the country. I am eager to climb trees and chase chickens and be a regular country girl for a month."

"Then I hope you brought some old clothes," was the practical reply.

"Not old, but plain little dresses for hard wear. I knew I'd need them."

Later, as Amanda watched the city girl unpack, she smiled ruefully at the plain little dresses for hard wear. Her observant eye told her that the little dresses of gingham and linen must have cost more than her own "best dresses." It was a very lavish wardrobe Isabel had selected for her month on the farm. Silk stockings and crepe de chine underwear were matched in fineness by the crepe blouses, silk dresses, airy organdies, a suit of exquisite tailoring and three hats for as many different costumes. The whole outfit would have been adequate and appropriate for parades on the Atlantic City boardwalk or a saunter down Peacock Alley of a great hotel, but it was entirely too elaborate for a Lancaster County farmhouse.

Millie, running in to offer her services in unpacking, stood speechless at the display of clothes. "Why," she almost stammered, "what in the world do you want with all them fancy things here? Them's party clothes, ain't?"

"No." Isabel shook her head. "Some are to wear in the evening and the plainer ones are afternoon dresses, and the linen and gingham ones are for morning wear."

"Well, I be! What don't they study for society folks! A different dress for every time of the day! What would you think if you had to dress like I do, with my calico dress on all day, only when I wear my lawn for cool or in winter a woolen one for warm?"

Millie went off, puzzled at the ways of society.

"Is she just a servant?" asked Isabel when they heard her heavy tread down the stairs.

"She isn't just anything! She's a jewel! Mother couldn't do without Millie. We've had her almost twenty years. We can leave everything to her and know it will be taken care of. Why, Millie's as much a part of the family as though she really belonged to it. When Phil and I were little she was always baking us cookies in the shape of men or birds, and they always had big raisin eyes. Millie's a treasure and we all think of her as being one of the family."

"Mother says that's just the reason she won't hire any Pennsylvania Dutch girls; they always expect to be treated as one of the family. We have colored servants. You can teach them their place."

"I see. I suppose so," agreed Amanda, while she mentally appraised the girl before her and thought, "Isabel Souders, a little more democracy wouldn't be amiss for you."

Although the boarder who came to the Reist farmhouse was unlike any of the members of the family, she soon won her way into their affections. Her sweet tenderness, her apparent childlike innocence, appealed to the simple, unsuspicious country folk. Shaping her actions in accordance with the old Irish saying, "It's better to have the dogs of the street for you than against you," Isabel made friends with Millie and went so far as to pare potatoes for her at busy times. Philip and Uncle Amos were non-committal beyond a mere, "Oh, I guess she's all right. Good company, and nice to have around."

The first Sunday of the boarder's stay in the country she invited herself to accompany the family to Mennonite church. Amanda appeared in a simple white linen dress and a semi-tailored black hat, but when Isabel tripped down the stairs the daughter of the house was quite eclipsed. Isabel's dark hair was puffed out becomingly about cheeks that had added pink applied to them. In an airy orchid organdie dress and hat to match, white silk stockings and white buckskin pumps, she looked ready for a garden party. According to all the ways of human nature more than one little Mennonite maid in that meeting-house must have cast sidelong glances at the beautiful vision, and older members of the plain sect must have thought the old refrain, "Vanity, vanity, all is vanity!"

Aunt Rebecca was at church that morning and came to the Reist home for dinner. She sought out Millie in the kitchen and gave her unsolicited, frank opinion--"My goodness, I don't think much of that there Isabel from Lancaster! She's too much stuck up. Such a get-up for a Sunday and church like she has on to-day! She looks like a regular peacock. It'll go good if she don't spoil our Amanda yet till she goes home."

"Ach, I guess not. She's a little fancier than I like to see girls, but then she's a nice girl and can't do Amanda no hurt."

"She means herself too big, that's what! And them folks ain't the right kind for Amanda to know. It might spite you all yet for takin' her in to board. Next thing she'll be playin' round with some of the country boys here, and mebbe take one that Amanda would liked to get. There's no trustin' such gay dressers. I found that out long a'ready."

"Ach," said Millie, "I guess Amanda don't like none of the boys round here in Crow Hill."

"How do you know? Guess Amanda ain't no different from the rest of us in petticoats. You just wait once and see how long it goes till the boys commence to hang round this fancy Isabel."

Millie hadn't long to wait. Through Mrs. Landis, who had been to Mennonite church and noticed a stranger with the Reist family, Martin Landis soon knew of the boarder. That same evening he dressed in his best clothes. He had not forgotten the dark eyes of Isabel smiling to him over the pink azaleas.

"Where you goin', Mart?" asked his mother. "Over to Landisville to church?"

"No--just out for a little while."

"Take me with," coaxed the littlest Landis, now five years old and the ninth in line.

"Ach, go on!" spoke up an older Landis boy, "what d'you think Mart wants with you? He's goin' to see his girl. Na, ah!" he cried gleefully and clapped his hands, "I guessed it! Look at him blushin', Mom!"

Martin made a grab for the boy and shook him. "You've got too much romantic nonsense in your head," he told the teasing brother. "Next thing you know you'll be a poet!" He released the squirming boy and rubbed a finger round the top of his collar as he turned to his mother.

"I'm just going down to Reists' a while. I met Miss Souders a few weeks ago and thought it would be all right for me to call. The country must seem quiet to her after living in the city."

"Of course it's all right, Martin," agreed his mother. "Just you go ahead."

But after he left, Mrs. Landis sat a long while on the porch, thinking about her eldest boy, her first-born. "He's goin' to see that doll right as soon as she comes near, and yet Amanda he don't go to see when she's alone, not unless he wants her to go for a walk or something like that. If only he'd take to Amanda! She's the nicest girl in Lancaster County, I bet! But he looks right by her. This pretty girl, in her fancy clothes and with her flippy ways--I know she's flippy, I watched her in church--she takes his eye, and if she matches her dress she'll go to his head like hard cider. Ach, sometimes abody feels like puttin' blinders on your boys till you get 'em past some women."

A little later the troubled mother walked back to the side porch, where her husband was enjoying the June twilight while he kept an eye on four of the younger members of the family as they were quietly engaged in their Sabbath recreation of piecing together picture puzzles.

"Martin," she said as she sat beside the man, "I've been thinkin' about our Mart."

"Yes? What?"

"Why, I feel we ain't doin' just right by him. You know he don't like farmin' at all. He's anxious to get more schoolin' but he ain't complainin'. He wants to fit himself so he can get in some office or bank in the city and yet here he works on the farm helpin' us like he really liked to do that kind of work. Now he's of age, and since Walter and Joe are big enough to help you good and we're gettin' on our feet a little since the nine babies are out of the dirt, as they say still, why don't we give Martin a chance once?"

"Well, why not? I'm agreed, Ma. He's been workin' double, and when I'm laid up with that old rheumatism he runs things good as I could. We got the mortgage paid off now. How'd it be if we let him have the tobacco money? I was thinkin' of puttin' in the electric lights and fixin' things up a little with it, but if you'd rather give it to Mart--"

"I would. Much rather! I used oil lamps this long and I guess I can manage with them a while yet."

"All right, but as soon as we can we'll get others. Mart's young and ought to have his chance, like you say. I don't know what for he'd rather sit over a lot o' books in some hot little office or stand in a stuffy bank and count other people's money when he could work on a farm and be out in the open air, but then we ain't all alike and I guess it's a good thing we ain't. We'll tell him he dare have time for goin' to Lancaster to school if he wants. Mebbe he'll be a lawyer or president some day, ain't, Ma?"

"Ach, Martin, I don't think that would be so much. I'd rather have my children just plain, common people like we are. Mart's gone up to Reists' this evening."

"So? To see Amanda, I guess."

"Her or that boarder from Lancaster."

"That ruffly girl we saw this morning?"


"Ach, don't you worry, Ma. Our Mart won't run after that kind of

a girl! Anyhow, not for long."

At that moment the object of their discussion was approaching the Reist farmhouse. The entire household, Millie included, sat on the big front porch as the caller came down the road.

"Look," said Philip, and began to sing softly. "Here comes a beau a-courting, a-courting---"

"Phil!" chided Millie and Amanda in one breath.

"Don't worry, Sis," said the irrepressible youth, "we'll gradually efface ourselves, one by one--we're very thoughtful. I'll flip a penny to see whether Isabel stays or you. Heads you win, tails she does."


The vehement protest from his sister did not deter the boy from tossing the coin, which promptly rolled off the porch and fell into a bed of geraniums.

"See," he continued, "even the Fates are uncertain which one of you will win. I suppose the battle's to the strongest this time. Oh, hello, Martin," he said graciously as the caller turned in at the gate, "Nice day, ain't it?"

"What ails the boy?" asked Martin, laughing as he raised his hat and joined the group on the porch.

"Martin," said Amanda after he had greeted Isabel and took his place on a chair near her, "you'd do me an everlasting favor if you'd turn that brother of mine up on your knees and spank him."

"Now that I'd like to see!" spoke up Millie.

"You would, Millie? You'd like to see me get that? After all the coal I've carried out of the cellar for you, and the other ways I've helped make your burden lighter--you'd sit and see me humiliated! Ingratitude! Even Millie turns against me. I'm going away from this crowd where I'm not appreciated."

"Oh, you needn't affect such an air of martyrdom," his sister told him. "I know you have a book half read; you want to get back to that."

"Say," said Uncle Amos, "these women, if they don't beat all! They ferret all the weak spots out a man. I say it ain't right."

Later in the evening the older members of the household left the porch and the trio of eternal trouble--two girls and a man--were left alone. It was then the city girl exerted her most alluring wiles to be entertaining. The man had eyes and ears for her only. As Mrs. Landis once said, he looked past Amanda and did not see her. She sat in the shadow and bit her lip as her plumed knight paid court before the beauty and charm of another. The heart of the simple country girl ached. But Isabel smiled, flattered and charmed and did it so adeptly that instead of being obnoxious to the country boy it thrilled and held him like the voice of a Circe. They never noticed Amanda's silence. She could lean back in her chair and dream. She remembered the story of Ulysses and his wax-filled ears that saved him from the sirens; the tale of Orpheus, who drowned their alluring voices by playing on his instrument a music sweeter than theirs--ah, that was her only hope! That somewhere, deep in the heart of the man she loved was a music surpassing in sweetness the music of the shallow girl's voice which now seemed to sway him to her will. "If he is a man worth loving," she thought, "he'll see through the surface glamour of a girl like that." It was scant consolation, for she knew that only too frequently do noble men give their lives into the precarious keeping of frivolous, butterfly women.

"Why so pensive?" the voice of Isabel pierced her revery.

"Me--oh, I haven't had a chance to get a word in edgewise."

"I was telling Mr. Landis he should go on with his studies. A correspondence course would be splendid for him if he can't get away from the farm for regular college work."

"I'm going to write about that course right away," Martin said. "I'm glad I had this talk with you, Miss Souders. I'll do as you suggest-- study nights for a time and then try to get into a bank in Lancaster. It is so kind of you to offer to see your father about a position. I'd feel in my element if I ever held a position in a real bank. I'll be indebted to you for life."

"Oh," she disclaimed any credit, "your own merits would cause you to make good in the position. I am sure Father will be glad to help you. He has helped several young men to find places. All he asks in return is that they make good. I know you'd do that."

When Martin Landis said good-night his earnest, "May I come again-- soon?" was addressed to Isabel. She magnanimously put an arm about Amanda before she replied, "Certainly. We'll be glad to have you."

"Oh," thought Amanda, "I'll be hating her pretty soon and then how will I ever endure having her around for a whole month! I'm a mean, jealous cat! Let Martin Landis choose whom he wants--I should worry!"

She said good-night with a stoical attempt at indifference, thereby laying the first block of the hard, high barricade she meant to build about her heart. She would be no child to cry for the moon, the unattainable. If her heart bled what need to make a public exhibition of it! From that hour on the front porch she turned her back on her gay, merry, laughing girlhood and began the journey in the realm of womanhood, where smiles hide sorrows and the true feelings of the heart are often masked.

The determination to meet events with dignity and poise came to her aid innumerable times during the days that followed. When Martin came to the Reist farmhouse with the news that his father was going to give him money for a course in a Business School in Lancaster it was to Isabel he told the tidings and from her he received the loudest handclaps.

The city girl, rosy and pretty in her morning dresses, ensconced herself each day on the big couch hammock of the front porch to wave to Martin Landis as he passed on his way to the trolley that took him to his studies in the city. Sometimes she ran to the gate and tossed him a rose for his buttonhole. Later in the day she was at her post again, ready to ask pleasantly as he passed, "Well, how did school go to-day?" Such seemingly spontaneous interest spurred the young man to greater things ahead.

Many evenings Martin sat on the Reist porch and he and Isabel laughed and chatted and sometimes half-absent-mindedly referred a question to Amanda. Frequently that young lady felt herself to be a fifth wheel and sought some diversion. Excuses were easy to find; the most palpable one was accepted with calm credulity by the infatuated young people.

One day, when three weeks of the boarder's stay were gone, Lyman Mertzheimer came home from college, bringing with him a green roadster, the gift of his wealthy, indulgent father.

He drew up to the Reist house and tooted his horn until Amanda ran into the yard to discover what the noise meant.

"Good-morning, Lady Fair!" he called, laughing at her expression of surprise. "I thought I could make you come! Bump of curiosity is still working, I see. Wait, I'm coming in," he called after her as she turned indignantly and moved toward the house.

"Please!" He called again as she halted, ashamed to be so lacking in cordiality. "I want to see you. That's a cold, cruel way to greet a fellow who's just come home from college and rushes over to see you first thing."

He entered the yard and Amanda bade him, "Come up. Sit down," as she took a chair on the porch. "So you're back for the summer, Lyman."

"Yes. Aren't you delighted?" He smiled at her teasingly. "I'm back to the 'sauerkraut patch' again. Glory, I wish Dad would sell out and move to some decent place."

"Um," she grunted, refraining from speech.

"Yes. I loathe this Dutch, poky old place. The only reason I'm glad to ever see it again is because you live here. That's the only excuse I have to be glad to see Lancaster County. And that reminds me, Amanda, have you forgotten what I told you at the Spelling Bee? Do you still feel you don't want to tackle the job of reforming me? Come, now," he pleaded, "give a fellow a bit of hope to go on."

"I told you no, Lyman. I don't change my mind so easily."

"Oh, you naughty girl!" came Isabel's sweet voice as she drifted to the porch. "I looked all over the house for you, Amanda, and here I find you entertaining a charming young man."

Isabel was lovely as usual. Amanda introduced Lyman to her and as the honeyed words fell from the lips of the city girl the country girl stood contemplating the pair before her. "That's the first time," she thought, "I was glad to hear that voice. I do wish those two would be attracted to each other. They match in many ways."

Lyman Mertzheimer was not seriously attracted to Isabel, but he was at times a keen strategist and the moment he saw the city girl an idea lodged in his brain. Here was a pretty girl who could, no doubt, easily be made to accept attentions from him. By Jove, he'd make Amanda jealous! He'd play with Isabel, shower attentions upon her until Amanda would see what she missed by snubbing a Mertzheimer!

The following week was a busy one for Isabel. Lyman danced attendance every day. He developed a sudden affection for Lancaster County and took Isabel over the lovely roads of that Garden Spot. They visited the Cloister at Ephrata, the museum of antiques at Manheim, the beautiful Springs Park at Lititz, the interesting, old-fashioned towns scattered along the road. Over state highways they sped along in his green roadster, generally going like Jehu, furiously. The girl enjoyed the riding more than the society of the man. He was exulting in the thought that he must be peeving Amanda.

Nevertheless, at the end of Isabel's visit, Lyman was obliged to acknowledge to himself, "All my fooling round with the other girl never phased Amanda! Kick me for a fool! I'll have to think up some other way to make her take notice of me."

Martin Landis came in for the small portion those days. How could he really enjoy his evenings at the Reist house when Lyman Mertzheimer sat there like an evil presence with his smirking smile and his watchful eyes ever open! Some of the zest went out of Martin's actions. His exuberance decreased. It was a relief to him when the boarder's parents returned from their trip and the girl went home. He had her invitation to call at her home in Lancaster. Surely, there Lyman would not sit like the black raven of Poe's poem! Isabel would not forget him even when she was once more in the city! Martin Landis was beginning to think the world a fine old place, after all. He was going to school, had prospects of securing a position after his own desires, thanks to Isabel Souders, he had the friendship of a talented, charming city girl--what added bliss the future held for him he did not often dream about. The present held enough joy for him.

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