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Amanda: A Daughter of the Mennonites By Anna Balmer Myers Characters: 11413

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


The Trouble Maker

If "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned" a man spurned in love sometimes runs a close second.

One day in March Lyman Mertzheimer came home for the week-end. His first thought was to call at the Reist home.

Amanda, outwardly improved--Millie said, "All because of that there boneset tea"--welcomed spring and its promise, but she could not extend to Lyman Mertzheimer the same degree of welcome.

"It's that Lyman again," Millie reported after she had opened the door for the caller. "He looks kinda mad about something. What's he hangin' round here for all the time every time he gets home from school when abody can easy see you don't like him to come?"

"Oh, I don't know. He just drops in. I guess because we were youngsters together."

"Um, mebbe," grunted Millie wisely to herself as Amanda went to see her visitor. "I ain't blind and neither did I come in the world yesterday. That Lyman's wantin' to be Amanda's beau and she don't want him. Guess he'll stand watchin' if he gets turned down. I never did like them Mertzheimers--all so up in the air they can hardly stand still to look at abody."

Lyman was standing at the window, looking out gloomily. He turned as Amanda came into the room.

"I had to come, Amanda--hang it, you keep a fellow on pins and needles! You wouldn't answer my letters--"

"I told you not to write."

"But why? Aren't you going to change your mind? I made up my mind long ago that I'd marry you some day and a Mertzheimer is a good deal like a bulldog when it comes to hanging on."

"Lyman, why hash the thing over so often? I don't care for you. Go find some nice girl who will care for you."

"Um," he said dejectedly, "I want you. I thought you just wanted to be coaxed, but I'm beginning to think you mean it. So you don't care for me--I suppose you'd snatch Martin Landis in a hurry if you could get him! But he's poor as a church mouse! You better tie him to your apron strings--that pretty Souders girl from Lancaster is playing her cards there--"

Amanda sprang to her feet. "Lyman," she sputtered--"you--you better go before I make you sorry you said that."

The luckless lover laughed, a reckless, demoniac peal. "Two can play at that game!" he told her. "You're so high and mighty that a Mertzheimer isn't good enough for you. But you better look out--we've got claws!"

The girl turned and went out of the room. A moment later she heard the front door slammed and knew that Lyman had gone. His covert threat-- what did he mean? What vengeance could he wreak on her? Oh, what a complicated riddle life had grown to be! She remembered Aunt Rebecca's warning that tears would have to balance all the laughter. How she yearned for the old, happy childhood days to come back to her! She clutched frantically at the quickly departing joy and cheerfulness of that far-off past.

"I'm going to keep my sense of humor and my faith in things in spite of anything that comes to me," she promised herself, "even if they do have to give me boneset tea to jerk me up a bit!" She laughed at Millie's faith in the boneset tea. "I hope it also takes the meanness and hate out of my heart. Why, just now I hate Lyman! If he really cared for me I'd feel sorry for him, but he doesn't love me, he just wants to marry me because long ago he decided he would do so some day."

In spite of her determination to be philosophical and cheerful, the memory of Lyman's threat returned to her at times in a baffling way. What could he mean? How could he harm her? His father was a director of the Crow Hill school, but pshaw! One director couldn't put her out of her place in the school!

Lyman Mertzheimer had only a few days to carry out the plan formulated in his angry mind as he walked home after the tilt with Amanda.

"I'll show her," he snorted, "the disagreeable thing! I'll show her what can happen when she turns down a Mertzheimer! The very name Mertzheimer means wealth and high standing! And she puts up her nose and tosses her red head at me and tells me she won't have me! She'll see what a Mertzheimer can do!"

The elder Mertzheimer, school director, was not unlike his son. When the young man came to him with an exaggerated tale of the contemptible way Amanda had treated him, thrown him over as though he were nobody, Mr. Mertzheimer, Senior, sympathized with his aggrieved son and stormed and vowed he'd see if he'd vote for that red-headed snip of a teacher next year. The Reists thought they were somebody, anyhow, and they had no more money than he had, perhaps not so much. What right had she to be ugly to Lyman when he did her the honor to ask her to marry him? The snip! He'd show her!

"But one vote won't keep her out of the school," said Lyman with diplomatic unconcern.

"Leave it to me, boy! I'll talk a few of them over. There was some complaint last year about her not doing things like other school-teachers round here, and her not being a strict enough teacher. She teaches geography with a lot of dirt and water. She has the young ones scurrying round the woods and fields with nets to catch butterflies. And she lugs in a lot of corn husk and shows them how to make a few dinky baskets and thinks she's doing some wonderful thing. For all that she draws her salary and gets away with all that tomfoolery--guess because she can smile and humbug some people--them red-headed women are all like that, boy. She's not the right teacher for Crow Hill school and I'm going to make several people see it. Then let her twiddle her thumbs till she gets a place so near home and as nice as the Crow Hill school!"

Mr. Mertzheimer, whose august dignity had been unpardonably offended, lost

no time in seeing the other directors of the Crow Hill school. He mentioned nothing about the real grievance against Amanda, but played upon the slender string of her inefficiency, as talked about by the patrons. He presented the matter so tactfully that several of the men were convinced he spoke from a deep conviction that the interests of the community were involved and that in all fairness to the pupils of that rural school a new, competent teacher should be secured for the ensuing term. One director, being a man with the unfortunate addiction of being easily swayed by the opinions of others, was readily convinced by the plausible arguments of Mr. Mertzheimer that Amanda Reist was utterly unfit for the position she held.

When all the directors had been thus casually imbued with antagonism, or, at least, suspicion, Mr. Mertzheimer went home, chuckling. He felt elated at the clever method he had taken to uphold the dignity of his son and punish the person who had failed to rightly respect that dignity. In a few weeks the County Superintendent of Schools would make his annual visit to Crow Hill, and if "a bug could be put in his ear" and he be influenced to show up the flaws in the school, everything would be fine! "Fine as silk," thought Mr. Mertzheimer. He knew a girl near Landisville who was a senior at Millersville and would be glad to teach a school like Crow Hill. He'd tell her to apply for the position. It would take about five minutes to put out that independent Amanda Reist and vote in the other girl--it just takes some people to plan! He, Mr. Mertzheimer, had planned it! Probably in his limited education he had never read that sententious line regarding what often happens to the best laid plans of mice and men!

The Saturday following Mr. Mertzheimer's perfection of his plans Millie came home from market greatly excited.

"Manda, Manda, come here once!" she called as she set her empty baskets on the kitchen table. "Just listen," she said to the girl, who came running. "I heard something to-day! That old Mertzheimer--he--he--oh, yea, why daren't I swear just this once! I'm that mad! That old Mertzheimer and the young one ought to be tarred and feathered!"

"Why, Millie!" said Amanda, smiling at the unwonted agitation of the hired girl. "What's happened?"

"Well, this mornin' two girls came to my stall and while they was standin' there and I waited on some other lady, they talked. One asked the other if she was goin' to teach next year, and what do you think she said--that a Mr. Mertzheimer had told her to apply for the Crow Hill school, that they wanted a new teacher there for another year! I didn't say nothin' to them or let on that I know the teacher of that school, but I thought a heap. So, you see, that sneakin' man is goin' to put you out if he at all can do it. And just because you won't take up with that pretty boy of his! Them Mertzheimer people think they own whole Crow Hill and can run everybody in it to suit themselves."

"Yes--I see." Amanda's face was troubled. "That's Lyman's work." The injustice of the thing hurt her. "Of course, I can get another school, but I like Crow Hill, I know the children and we get along so well, and it's near home----"

"Well," came Millie's spirited question, "surely you ain't goin' to let Mertzheimers do like they want? I don't believe in this foldin' hands and lookin' meek and leavin' people use you for a shoe mat! Here, come in once till I tell you somethin'," she called as Mrs. Reist, Philip and Uncle Amos came through the yard. She repeated her account of the news the strangers had unwittingly imparted to her at market.

"The skunk," said Philip.

"Skunk?" repeated Uncle Amos. "I wouldn't insult the little black and white furry fellow like that! A skunk'll trot off and mind his own business if you leave him alone, and, anyhow, he'll put up his tail for a danger signal so you know what's comin' if you hang around."

"Well, then," said the boy, "call him a snake, a rattlesnake."

"And that's not quite hittin' the mark, either. A rattlesnake rattles before he strikes. I say mean people are more like the copperhead, that hides in the grass and leaves that are like its own color, and when you ain't expectin' it and without any warnin', he'll up and strike you with his poison fangs. What are you goin' to do about it, Amanda?"

"Do? I'll do nothing. What can I do?"

"You might go round and see the directors and ask them to vote for you," suggested Millie. "I wouldn't let them people get the best of me --just for spite now I wouldn't!"

"I won't ask for one vote!" Amanda was decided in that. "The men on the board have had a chance to see how the school is run, and if it doesn't please them, or if they are going to have one man rule them and tell them how to vote--let them go! I'll hand in my application, that's all I'll do."

"What for need you be so stiff-headed?" asked Millie sadly. "It'll spite us all if they put you out and you go off somewheres to teach. Ach, abody wonders sometimes why some people got to be so mean in this world."

"It is always that way," said Mrs. Reist gently. "There are weeds everywhere, even in this Garden Spot. Why, I found a stalk of deadly nightshade in my rose-bed last summer."

"Wheat and chaff, I guess," was Uncle Amos's comment.

"But, Amanda," asked Millie, "ain't there some person over the directors, boss over them?"

"Just the County Superintendent, and he's not really boss over them. He comes round to the schools every year and the directors come with him and, of course, if he blames a teacher they hear it, and if he praises one they hear it."

"Um--so--I see," said Millie.

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