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   Chapter 19 No.19

Amanda: A Daughter of the Mennonites By Anna Balmer Myers Characters: 7274

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


When Martin Landis entered the bank early in the afternoon of that same day he presented a different appearance from that of his departure in the morning. His head was held erect, his step determined, as he opened the swinging door of the bank and entered.

"What--Landis, you back?" Mr. Buehlor greeted him, while the quizzical eyes of the old man looked into those of the younger.

"I'm back and I'm back to get this hideous riddle solved and the slate washed clean."

"Come in, come in!" Mr. Buehlor drew him into a little room and closed the door. "Sit down, Landis."

"Well, how much is the bank short?" He looked straight into the eyes of the man who, several hours before, had dealt him such a death-blow.

"So far everything is right, right as rain! There's a mistake or a damnable dirty trick somewhere."

"Let's sift it out, Mr. Buehlor. Will you tell me who had the 'inside information' that I was taking bank's money?"

"I'll tell you! It was a farmer near your home---"

"Mr. Mertzheimer?" offered Martin.

"The same! He asked to have you watched, then changed it and insisted on having the books examined. Said your people are poor--forgive me, Landis, but I have to tell you the whole story."

"Don't mind that. That's a mere scratch after what I got this morning."

"Well, he said your father had a mortgage on his farm up to the time you came to work in the bank, then suddenly it was paid and soon after the house was painted, a new bathroom installed, electric lights put into the house and steam heat, a Victrola and an automobile bought. In fact, your people launched out as though they had found a gold mine, and that in spite of the fact that your crop of tobacco was ruined by hail and the other income from the farm products barely enough to keep things going until another harvest. He naturally thought you must have a hand in supplying the money and with your moderate salary you couldn't do half of that. He talked with several of the bank directors and an investigation was ordered. You'll admit his story sounded plausible. It looked pretty black for you."

"To you, yes! But not to him! Mr. Mertzheimer knows well enough where that money came from. My father had a legacy of ten thousand dollars this spring. You people could have found that out with very little trouble."

"We're a pack of asinine blunderers, Landis!" Mr. Buehlor looked foolish. Then he sighed relievedly. "That clears matters for you. I'm glad. I couldn't conceive of you as anything but honest, Landis. But tell me about that legacy--a pretty nice sum."

"It's a romantic little story. An old sweetheart of my father, one who must have carried under her prickly exterior a bit of tender romance and who liked to do things other people never dreamed of doing, left him ten thousand dollars. She was a queer old body. Had no direct heirs, so she left Father ten thousand dollars for a little remembrance! It was that honest money that paid for the conveniences in our house, the second-hand car Father bought and the Victrola he gave Mother because we are all crazy for music and had nothing to create any melody except an old parlor organ that sounded wheezy after nine babies had played on it."

"Landis, forgive me; we're a set of fools!" The old man extended his hand and looked humbly into the face of Martin. The two gripped hands, each feeling emotion too great for words.

After a moment's silence Mr. Buehlor spoke.

"This goes no farther. Your reputation is as safe as mine. If I have anything to say you'll be eligible for the first vacancy in the line of advancement. As for t

hat Mertzheimer, he can withdraw his account from our bank to-day for all we care. We can do business without him. But it puzzles me--what object did he have? If he knew of the legacy, and he certainly did, he must have known you were O.K. Is he an enemy of yours?"

"Not particularly. I never liked his son but we never had any real tilts."

"You don't happen to want the same girl he wants, or anything like that?"

"No--well now--why, I don't know!" A sudden revelation came to Martin. Perhaps Lyman thought he had a rival in him. That would explain much. "There's a son, as I said, and we know a girl I think he's been crazy about for years. Perhaps he thinks I'm after her, too."

"I see," chuckled the old man. "Well, if the girl's the right sort she won't have to toss a penny to decide which one to choose." He noted the embarrassment of Martin and changed the subject.

But later in the afternoon as Martin walked down the road from the trolley and drew near the Reist farmhouse the old man's words recurred to him. Why, he'd known Amanda Reist all his life! He had never dreamed she could comfort and help a man as she had done that morning in the woods. Amanda was a fine girl, a great pal, a woman with a heart.

Now Isabel--a great disgust rose in him for the sniveling, selfish little thing and her impotence in the face of his trouble. "She's just the kind to play with," he thought, "just a doll, and like the doll, has as much heart as a thing stuffed with sawdust can have. I guess it took this jolt to wake me up and know that Isabel Souders is not the type of girl for me."

When he reached the Reist home he found Amanda and her Uncle Amos on the porch.

"Oh, it's all right!" the girl cried as he came into the yard. "I can read it in your face." Gladness rang in her voice like a bell.

"It's all right," Martin told her.

"Good! I'm glad," said Uncle Amos while Amanda smiled her happiness.

"Was I right?" she asked. "Was it the work of Mertzheimers?"

"It was. They must hate me like poison."

"Ach, he's a copperhead," said Uncle Amos. "He's so pesky low and mean he can't bear to see any one else be honest. You're gettin' up too far to suit him. It's always so that when abody climbs up the ladder a little there's some settin' at the foot ready to joggle it, and the higher abody climbs the more are there to help try to shake you down. I guess there's mean people everywheres, even in this here beautiful Garden Spot. But to my notion you got to just go on doin' right and not mind 'em. They'll get what they earn some day. Nobody has yet sowed weeds and got a crop of potatoes from it."

"But," said the girl, "I can't understand it. The Mertzheimer people come from good families and they have certainly been taught to be different. I can't see where they get their mean streak. With all their money and chance to improve and opportunities for education and culture---"

"Ach, money"--said Uncle Amos--"what good does money do them if they don't have the right mind to use it? My granny used to say still you can tie a silk ribbon round a pig's neck but she'll wallow in the dirt just the same first chance she'll get. I guess some people are like that. Well, Martin, I'm goin' in to tell Millie--the women--it's all right with you. They was so upset about it. And won't Millie talk!" He chuckled at the thought of what that staunch woman would say about Mr. Mertzheimer. "Millie can hit the nail on the head pretty good, pretty good," he said as he ambled into the house.

Martin lingered on the porch with Amanda till the sound of the Landis supper bell called him home.

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