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Amanda: A Daughter of the Mennonites By Anna Balmer Myers Characters: 12510

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


That September Amanda began her third year of teaching at Crow Hill.

"I declare," Millie said, "how quick the time goes! Here's your third year o' teachin' started a'ready. A body gets old fast."

"Yes, I'll soon be an old maid school teacher."

"Now, mebbe not!" The hired girl had lost none of her frankness. "I notice that Mart Landis sneaks round here a good bit this while past."

"Ach, Millie, he's not here often."

"No, o' course not! He just stops in in the afternoon about every other day with a book or something of excuse like that, and about every other day in the morning he's likely to happen to drop in to get the book back, and then in between that he comes and you go out for a walk after flowers or birds or something, and then between times there he comes with something his mom told him to ask or bring or something like that --no, o' course not, he don't come often! Not at all! I guess he's just neighborly, ain't, Amanda?" Millie chuckled at her own wit and Amanda could not long keep a frown upon her face.

"Of course, Millie," she said with an assumed air of indifference, "the Landis people have always been neighborly. Pennsylvania Dutch are great for that."

It was not from Millie alone that Amanda had to take teasing. Philip, always ready for amusement, was at times almost insufferable in the opinion of his sister.

"What's the matter with Mart Landis's home?" the boy asked innocently one day at the supper table.

"Why?" asked Uncle Amos. "I'll bite."

"Well, he seems to be out of it a great deal; he spends half of his time in our house. I think, Uncle Amos, as head of the house here, you should ask him what his intentions are."

"Phil!" Amanda's protest was vehement. "You make me as tired as some other people round here do. As soon as a man walks down the road with a girl the whole matter is settled--they'll surely marry soon! It would be nice if people would attend to their own affairs."

"Makes me tired too," said Philip fervently. "Last week I met that Sarah from up the road and naturally walked to the car with her. You all know what a fright she is--cross-eyed, pigeon-toed, and as brilliant mentally as a dark night in the forest. When I got into the car I heard some one say, 'Did you see Philip Reist with that girl? I wonder if he keeps company with her.' Imagine!"

"Serves you right," Amanda told him with impish delight. "I hope every cross-eyed, pigeon-toed girl in the county meets you and walks with you!"

"Feel better now, Sis?" His grin brought laughter to the crowd and Amanda's peeved feeling was soon gone.

It was true, Martin Landis spent many hours at the Reist farmhouse. He seemed filled with an insatiable desire for the companionship of Amanda. Scarcely a day passed without some glimpse of him at the Reist home.

Just what that companionship meant to the young man he did not stop to analyze at first. He knew he was happy with Amanda, enjoyed her conversation, felt a bond between them in their love for the vast outdoors, but he never went beyond that. Until one day in early November when he was walking down the lonely road after a pleasant evening with Amanda. He paused once to look up at the stars, remembering what the girl had said concerning them, how they comforted and inspired her. A sudden rush of feeling came to him as he leaned on the rail fence and looked up.... "Look here," he told himself, "it's time you take account of yourself. What's all this friendship with your old companion leading to? Do you love Amanda?" The "stars in their courses" seemed to twinkle her name, every leafless tree along the road she loved seemed to murmur it to him--Amanda! It was suddenly the sweetest name in the whole world to him!

"Oh, I know it now!" he said softly to himself under the quiet sky. "I love her! What a woman she is! What a heart she has, what a heart! I want her for my wife; she's the only one I want to have with me 'Till death us do part'--that's a fair test. Why, I've been wondering why I enjoyed each minute with her and just longed to get to see her as often as possible--fool, not to recognize love when it came to me! But I know it now! I'm as sure of it as I am sure those stars, her stars, are shining up there in the sky."

As he stood a moment silently looking into the starry heavens some portion of an old story came to him. "My love is as fair as the stars and well-nigh as remote and inaccessible." Could he win the love of a girl like Amanda Reist? She gave him her friendship freely, would she give her love also? A woman like Amanda could never be satisfied with half-gods, she would love as she did everything else--intensely, entirely! He remembered reading that propinquity often led people into mistakes, that constant companionship was liable to awaken a feeling that might masquerade as love. Well, he'd be fair to her, he'd let separation prove his love.

"That's just what I'll do," he decided. "Next week I'm to go on my vacation and I'll be gone two weeks. I'll not write to her and of course I won't see her. Perhaps 'Absence will make the heart grow fonder' with her. I hope so! It will be a long two weeks for me, but when I come back--" He flung out his arms to the night as though they could bring to him at once the form of the one he loved.

So it happened that after a very commonplace goodbye given to Amanda in the presence of the entire Reist household Martin Landis left Lancaster County a few weeks before Thanksgiving and journeyed to South Carolina to spend a quiet vacation at a mountain resort.

To Amanda Reist, pegging away in the schoolroom during the gray November days, his absence caused depression. He had said nothing about letters but she naturally expected them, friendly little notes to tell her what he was doing and how he was enjoying the glories of the famous mountains of the south. But no letters came from Martin.

"Oh," she bit her lip after a week had gone and he was still silent. "I won't care! He writes home; the children tell me he says the scenery is so wonderful where he is--why can't he send me just one little note? But I'm not going to care. I've been a fool long enough. I should know by this time that it's a case of 'Ou

t of sight, out of mind.' I'm about done with castles in Spain! All my sentimental dreams about my knight, all my rosy visions are, after all, of that substance of which all dreams are made. I suppose if I had been practical and sensible like other girls I could have made myself like Lyman Mertzheimer or some other ordinary country boy and settled down into a contented woman on a farm. Why couldn't I long ago have put away my girlish illusions about knights and castles in Spain? I wonder if, after all, gold eagles are better and more to be desired than the golden roofs of our dream castles? If an automobile like Lyman Mertzheimer drives is not to be preferred to Sir Galahad's pure white steed! I've clung to my romanticism and what has it brought me? It might have been wiser to let go my dreams, sweep the illusions from my eyes and settle down to a sordid, everyday existence as the wife of some man, like Lyman Mertzheimer, who has no eye for the beauties of nature but who has two eyes for me."

Poor Amanda, destruction of her dream castles was perilously imminent! The golden turrets were tottering and the substance of which her dreams were made was becoming less ethereal. If Lyman Mertzheimer came to her then and renewed his suit would she give him a more encouraging answer than those she had given in former times? Amanda's hour of weakness and despair was upon her. It was a propitious moment for the awakening of the forces of her lower nature which lay quiescent in her, as it dwells in us all--very few escape the Jekyll-Hyde combination.

When Martin Landis returned to Lancaster County he had a vagrant idea of what the South Carolina mountains are like. He would have told you that the trees there all murmur the name of Amanda, that the birds sing her name, the waterfalls cry it aloud! During his two weeks of absence from her his conviction was affirmed--he knew without a shadow of doubt that he loved her madly. All of Mrs. Browning's tests he had applied--

"Unless you can muse in a crowd all day,

On the absent face that fixed you;

Unless you can love, as the angels may,

With the breadth of heaven betwixt you;

Unless you can dream that his faith is fast,

Through behoving and unbehoving;

Unless you can die when the dream is past--

Oh, never call it loving!"

Amanda was enthroned in his heart, he knew it at last! How blind he had been! He knew now what his mother had meant one day when she told him, "Some of you men are blinder'n bats! Bats do see at night!"

As he rode from Lancaster on the little crowded trolley his thoughts were all of Amanda--would she give him the answer he desired? Could he waken in her heart something stronger than the old feeling of friendship, which was not now enough?

He stepped from the car--now he would be with her soon. He meant to stop in at the Reist farmhouse and ask her the great question. He could wait no longer.

"Hello, Landis," a voice greeted him as he alighted from the car. He turned and faced Lyman Mertzheimer, a smiling, visibly happy Lyman.

"Oh, hello," Martin said, not cordially, for he had no love for the trouble-maker. "I see you're in Lancaster County for your vacation again."

"Yes, home from college for Thanksgiving. I hear you've been away for several weeks."

The college boy fell into step beside Martin, who would have turned and gone in another direction if he had not been so eager to see Amanda.

"Yes, Landis," continued the unwelcome companion. "I'm home for Thanksgiving. It'll be a great day for me this year. By the way, I saw Amanda Reist a number of times since I'm here. Perhaps you'll be interested to know that Amanda's promised to marry me--congratulate me!"

"To marry you! Amanda?" Martin's face blanched and his heart seemed turned to lead.

"Why not?" The other laughed softly. "I'm not as black as I'm painted, you know."

"I--I hope not," Martin managed to say, his body suddenly seeming to be rooted in the ground. His feet dragged as he walked along. Amanda to marry Lvman Mertzheimer! What a crazv world it was all of a sudden. What a slow, poky idiot he had been not to try for the prize before it was snatched from him!

Lyman, rejoicing over the misery so plainly written in the face of Martin, walked boldly down the middle of the road, while Martin's feet lagged so he could not keep pace with the man who had imparted the bewildering news. Martin kept along the side of the road, scuffing along in the grass, thinking bitter thoughts about the arrogant youth who walked in the middle of the road. The honk, honk of a speeding automobile fell heedlessly upon the ears of both, till Martin looked back in sudden alarm. His startled eyes saw a car tearing down the road like a huge demon on wheels, its driver evidently trusting to the common sense of the man in the way to get out of the path of danger in time. But Lyman walked on in serene preoccupation, gloating over the unlucky, unhappy man who was following. With a cry of warning Martin rushed to the side of the other man and pushed him from the path of the car, but when the big machine came to a standstill Martin Landis lay in the dusty road, his eyes closed, a thin red stream of blood trickling down his face.

The driver was concerned. "He's knocked out," he said as he bent over the still form. "I'm a doctor and I'll take him home and fix him up. He's a plucky chap, all right! He kept you from cashing in, probably. Say, young fellow, are you deaf? I honked loud enough to be heard a mile. Only for him you'd be in the dust there and you'd have caught it full. The car just grazed him. It's merely a scalp wound," he said in relief as he examined the prostrate figure. "Know where he lives?"

"Yes, just a little distance beyond the schoolhouse down this road."

"Good. I'll take him home. I can't say how sorry I am it happened. Give me a lift, will you? You sit in the back seat and hold him while I drive."

Lyman did not relish the task assigned to him but the doctor's tones admitted of no refusal. Martin Landis was taken to his home and in his semiconscious condition he did not know that his head with its handkerchief binding leaned against the rascally breast of Lyman Mertzheimer.

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