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   Chapter 20 No.20

Amanda: A Daughter of the Mennonites By Anna Balmer Myers Characters: 9469

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


Dinner at Landis's

The following afternoon little Katie Landis came running down the road and in at the Reist gate. She greeted Amanda with, "Mom says you got to come to our place for supper."

"To-day?"

"Yes. She's goin' to kill two chickens and have a big time and she wants you to come."

"Anybody coming? Any company?"

"No, just you."

"All right. Tell Mother I said thank you and I'll be glad to come."

"All right, I'll run and tell her. I'm in a hurry, for me and Emma's playin' house and I got to get back to my children before they miss me and set up a howlin'." She looked very serious as she ran off down the lane, Amanda smiling after her.

Later, as the girl went down the road to the Landis home she wondered whose birthday it might be, or what the cause of celebration. The child had been in such great haste--but what matter the significance of the festivity so long as she was asked to enjoy it!

"Here's Amanda!" shouted several of the children gleefully, very boldly dropping the Miss they were obliged to use during school hours.

The guest found Mrs. Landis stirring up a blackberry pone, the three youngest Landis children watching the progress of it.

"Oh, hello, Amanda. I'm glad you got here early. Look at these children, all waitin' for the dish to lick. Don't it beat all how children like raw dough! I used to, but I wouldn't eat it now if you paid me."

"So did I. Millie chased me many a time."

"Well, people's tastes change in more than one way when they get older. I guess it's a good thing. Here, Katie, take that doll off of that chair so Amanda can find a place to sit down. You got every chair in the house littered up with things. Ach, Amanda, I scold still about their things laying round but I guess folks that ain't got children would sometimes be glad if they could see toys and things round the place. They get big soon enough and the dolls are put away. My, this will be an awful lonely house when the children all grow up! I'd rather see it this way, with their things scattered all around. But the boys are worse than the girls. What Charlie don't have in his pants pocket ain't in the 'cyclopedia. Martin was that way, too. He had an old box in the wood-shed and it was stuffed with all the twine and wire and nails he could find. But now, Amanda, ain't it good he got that all made right at the bank so they know he ain't a thief?

My, that was an awful sin for Mr. Mertzheimer to make our Mart out a thief! I just wonder how he could be so mean and ugly. I guess you wonder why I asked you up to-night. It ain't nothin' special, just a little good time because Martin got proved honest again. I just said to Mister this morning that I'm so glad for Martin I feel like makin' something extra for supper and ask you up for you ain't been here for a meal for long."

"It's grand to ask me to it."

"Ach, we don't mind you. You're just like one of the family, abody might say. We won't fix like for company, eat in the room or anything like that."

"Well, I hope not. I'm no company. Let's eat in the kitchen and have everything just as you do when the family's alone."

"Yes," agreed Mrs. Landis. "That will be more homelike."

Mary helped to set the table in the big kitchen.

"Shall I lay the spoons on the table-cloth like we did when Isabel was here?" she asked her mother.

"Better put them in the spoon-holder," Amanda told her. "I'm no company."

"I'm glad you ain't. I don't like tony company like that girl was. She put on too much when she talked. And she had the funniest cheeks! Once she wiped her face when it was hot and pink came off on her handkerchief."

Amanda laughed and kept smiling as she helped the child set the table for supper. Later she offered her services to Mrs. Landis. Martin, coming in from the dusty road, found her before the stove, one of his mother's gingham aprons tied around her waist, and turning sweet potatoes in a big iron pan.

"Why, hello!" he said, pleasure written in his face. "Katie ran to meet me and said I couldn't guess who was here for supper. Has Mother got you working? Um," he sniffed, "smells awful much like chicken!"

"Ach," his mother told him, "you just hold your nose shut a while! You and your pop can smell chicken off a mile. But you dare ring the supper bell, Martin, before you go up-stairs to wash, so your pop and the boys can come in now and get ready, too."

Soon the savory, smoking dishes were all placed on the big table in the kitchen and the family with their guest gathered for the meal.

"Ain't I dare keep my coat off, Mom?" asked Mr. Landis, his face flushed from a long hot day in the fields.

"Why, yes, if Amanda don't care."

"Why should I?

Look at my cool dress! Take your coat off, Martin. I never could see why men should roast while we keep comfortable."

As Martin stripped the serge coat off he thought of that other dinner when coats were kept on and dinner eaten in "the room" because of the presence of one who might take offense if she were expected to share the plain, every-day ways of the family. What a fool he had been! Their best efforts at style and convention must have looked very amateurish and incomplete to her--what a fool he had been!

"Ah, that looks good!" Mr. Landis said after he had said grace and everybody waited for the food to be passed. "Now we'll just hand the platter around and let everybody help themselves, not so, Mom?"

"Yes, that's all right. Start the potatoes once, Martin. Now you must eat, Amanda. Just make yourself right at home."

"Martin, you must eat hearty, too,", said the father. "Your mom made this supper for you."

"For me? What's the idea? Feeding the prodigal? Fatted calf and all that, Mother?" the boy asked, smiling,

"Calf--nothing!" exclaimed little Charlie. "It's them two roosters Mom said long a'ready she's goin' to kill once and cook and here they are!"

Charlie wondered why everybody laughed at that but he soon forgot about it as his mother handed him a plate piled high with food.

Amanda scarcely knew what she was eating that day. Each mouthful had the taste of nectar and ambrosia to her. If she could belong to a family like that! She adored her own people and felt certain that no one could wish for a finer family than the one in which she had been placed, but it seemed, by comparison with the Landis one, a very small, quiet family. She wished she could be a part of both, make the twelfth in that charming circle in which she sat that day.

After supper Mrs. Landis turned to Amanda--"Now you stay a while and hear our new pieces on the Victrola."

"I'll help you with the dishes," she offered.

"Ach, no, it ain't necessary. Mary and I will get them done up in no time. You just go in the room and enjoy yourself."

With little Katie leading the way and Martin following Amanda went to the sitting-room and sat down while Martin opened the Victrola.

"What do you like?" he asked. "Something lively? Or do you like soft music better?"

"I like both. What are your new pieces?"

"McCormack singing 'Mother Machree---'"

"Oh, I like that! Play that!"

As the soft, haunting melody of "Mother Machree" sounded in the room Mrs. Landis came to the door of the sitting-room, dish towel in hand.

"Ach," she said after the last verse, "I got that record most wore out a'ready. Ain't it the prettiest song? When I hear that I think still that if only one of my nine children feels that way about me I'm more than paid for any bother I had with them."

"Then, Mother," said Martin, "you should feel more than nine times paid, for we all feel that way about you."

"Listen, now!" The mother's eyes were misty as she looked at her first-born. "Ach, play it again. I only hope poor Becky knows how much good her money's doin' us!"

Later Martin walked with Amanda up the moonlit road to her home. "I've had a lovely time, Martin," she told him. "You do have the nicest, lively family! I wish we had a tableful like that!"

"You wouldn't wish it at dish-washing time, I bet! But they are a lively bunch. I wonder sometimes how Mother escapes nerves. If she feels irritable or tired she seldom shows it. I believe six of us can ask her questions at once and she knows how to answer each in its turn. But Mother never does much useless worrying. That keeps her youthful and calm. She has often said to us, 'What's the use of worrying? Worrying never gets you anywhere except into hot water--so what's the use of it?' That's a pet philosophy of hers."

"I remember that. I've heard her say it. Your mother's wonderful!"

"She thinks the same about you, Amanda, for she said so the other day."

"Me?" The girl turned her face from him so that the moonlight might not reveal her joy.

"You," he said happily, laughing in boyish contentment. "We think Amanda Reist is all right."

The girl was glad they had reached the gate of her home. She fumbled with the latch and escaped an answer to the man's words. Then they spoke commonplace good-nights and parted.

That night as she brushed her hair she stood a long time before the mirror. "Amanda Reist," she said to the image in the glass, "you better take care--next thing you know you'll be falling in love!" She leaned closer to the glass. "Oh, I'll have to keep that shine from my eyes! It's there just because Martin walked home with me and was kind. I don't look as though I need any boneset tea now!"

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