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   Chapter 24 No.24

Amanda: A Daughter of the Mennonites By Anna Balmer Myers Characters: 15385

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


"You Saved the Wrong One"

The news of the accident soon reached the Reist farmhouse. Amanda telephoned her sympathy to Mrs. Landis and asked if there was anything she could do.

"Oh, Amanda," came the reply, "I do wish you'd come over! You're such a comforting person to have around. Did you hear that it was Lyman Mertzheimer helped to bring him home? Lyman said he and Martin were walkin' along the road and were so busy talkin' that neither heard the car and it knocked Martin down. It beats me what them two could have to talk about so much in earnest that they wouldn't hear the automobile. But perhaps Lyman wanted to make up with Martin for all the mean tricks he done to him a'ready. Anyhow, we're glad it ain't worse. He's got a cut on the head and is pretty much bruised. He'll be stiff for a while but there ain't no bones broke."

"I'm so glad it isn't worse."

"Yes, ain't, abody still has something to be thankful for? Then you'll come on over, Amanda?"

"Yes, I'll be over."

As the girl walked down the road she felt a strange mingling of emotions. She couldn't refuse the plea of Mrs. Landis, but one thing was certain--she wouldn't see Martin! He'd be up-stairs and she could stay down. Perhaps she could help with the work in the kitchen-- anything but see Martin!

Mrs. Landis was excited as she drew her visitor into the warm kitchen, but the excitement was mingled with wrath. "What d'you think, Amanda," she exclaimed, "our Mart---"

"Yes, our Mart---" piped out one of the smaller children, but an older one chided him, "Now you hush, and let Mom tell about it."

"That Lyman Mertzheimer," said Mrs. Landis indignantly, "abody can't trust at all! He let me believe that he and Martin was walkin' along friendly like and that's how Mart got hurt. But here after Lyman left and the doctor had Mart all fixed up and was goin' he told me that Martin was in the side of the road and wouldn't got hurt at all if he hadn't run to the middle to pull Lyman back. He saved that mean fellow's life and gets no thanks for it from him! After all Lyman's dirty tricks this takes the cake!"

Amanda's eyes sparkled. "He--I think Martin's wonderful!" she said, her lips trembling.

"Yes," the mother agreed as she wiped her eyes with one corner of her gingham apron. "I'd rather my boy laid up in bed hurt like he is than have him like Lyman."

"Oh, Mom," little Emma came running into the room, "I looked in at Mart and he's awake. Mebbe he wants somebody to talk to him like I did when I had the measles. Dare I go set with him a little if I keep quiet?"

"Why," said Mrs. Landis, "that would be a nice job for Amanda. You go up," she addressed the girl, "and stay a little with him. He'll appreciate your comin' to see him."

Amanda's heart galloped. Her whole being was a mass of contradictions. One second she longed to fly up the steps to where the plumed knight of her girlish dreams lay, the next she wanted to flee down the country road away from him.

She stood a moment, undecided, but Mrs. Landis had taken her compliance for granted and was already busy with some of her work in the kitchen. At length Amanda turned to the stairs, followed by several eager, excited children.

"Here," called the mother, "Charlie, Emma, you just leave Amanda go up alone. It ain't good for Mart to have so much company at once. I'll leave you go up to-night." They turned reluctantly and the girl started up the stairs alone, some power seeming to urge her on against her will.

Martin Landis returned to consciousness through a shroud of enveloping shadows. What had happened? Why was a strange man winding bandages round his head? He raised an arm--it felt heavy. Then his mother's voice fell soothingly upon his ears, "You're all right, Martin."

"Yes, you're all right," repeated the doctor, "but that other fellow should have the bumps you got."

"That other fellow"--Martin thought hazily, then he remembered. The whole incident came back to him, etched upon his memory. How he had started from the car, eager to get to Amanda, then Lyman had come with his news of her engagement and the hope in his heart became stark. Where was her blue bunting with its eternal song? Ah, he had killed it with his indifference and caution and foolish blindness! He knew he stumbled along the road, grief and misery playing upon his heart strings. Then came the frantic honk of the car and Lyman in its path. Good enough for him, was the first thought of the Adam in Martin. The next second he had obeyed some powerful impulse and rushed to the help of the heedless Lyman. Then blackness and oblivion had come upon him. Blessed oblivion, he thought, as the details of the occurrence returned to him. He groaned.

"Hurt you?" asked the doctor kindly.

"No. I'm all right." He smiled between his bandages. "I think I can rest comfortably now, thank you."

He was grateful they left him alone then, he wanted to think. Countless thoughts were racing through his tortured brain. How could Amanda marry Lyman Mertzheimer? Did she love him? Would he make her happy? Why had he, Martin, been so blind? What did life hold for him if Amanda went out of it? The thoughts were maddening and after a while a merciful Providence turned them away from him and he fell to dreaming tenderly of the girl, the Amanda of his boyhood, the gay, laughing comrade of his walks in the woods. Tender, understanding Amanda of his hours of unhappiness--Amanda--the vision of her danced before his eyes and lingered by his side--Amanda---

"Martin"--the voice of her broke in upon his dreaming! She stood in the doorway and he wondered if that, too, was a part of his dream.

"Martin," she said again, a little timidly. Then she came into the room, a familiar little figure in her brown suit and little brown hat pulled over her red hair.

"Oh, hello," he answered, "come in if you care to."

"I am in." She laughed nervously, a strange way for her to be laughing, but the man did not take heed of it. Had she come to laugh at him for being a fool? he thought.

"Sit down," he invited coolly. She sat on the chair by his bed, her coat buttoned and unbuttoned by her restless fingers as she stole glances at the bandaged head of the man.

"It's good of you to come," he began. At that she turned and began to speak rapidly.

"Martin, I must tell you! You must let me tell you! I know what you did, how you saved Lyman. I think it was wonderful of you, just wonderful!"

"Ach." He turned his flushed face toward her then. "There's noticing wonderful about that."

"I think there is," she insisted, scarcely knowing what to say. She remembered his old aversion to being lionized.

"Tell me why you did it," she asked suddenly. She had to say something!

The man lay silent for a moment, then a rush of emotion, struggling for expression, swayed him and he spoke, while his eyes were turned resolutely from her.

"I'll tell you, Amanda! I've been a fool not to recognize the fact long ago that I love you."

"Oh!" There was a quick cry from the girl. But the man went on, impelled by the pain of losing her.

"I see now that I have always loved you, even while I was infatuated by the other girl. You were still you, right there when I needed you, ready to give your comfort and help. I must have loved you in the days we ran barefooted down the hills and looked for flowers or birds. I've been asleep, blind--call it what you will! Perhaps I could have taught you to love me if I had read my own heart in time. I took so much for granted, that you'd always be right there for me--now I've found out the truth too late. Lyman told me--I hope he'll make you

happy. Perhaps you better go now. I'm tired."

"What did Lyman tell you? I must know"

But the request fell on deaf ears.

"Lyman told you--just what did he tell you?" she asked.

"Oh," the man groaned. "There's a limit to human endurance. I wish you'd go, dear, and leave me alone for a while."

"What did Lyman tell you?" she asked again. "I must know."

"What's the use of threshing it over? It brings neither of us happiness. Of course he told me about the engagement, that you are going to marry him."

"Oh!" Another little cry, not of joy this time, of anger, rather. There was silence then for a space, while the man turned his face to the wall and the girl tried to still the beating of her heart and control herself sufficiently to be able to speak.

"Then, Martin," she whispered, "you saved Lyman for me, because you thought I loved him?"

He lifted a protesting hand as if pleading for silence.

She went on haltingly, "Why, Martin, you saved the wrong one!"

He raised his head from the pillow then; a strangling sound came from his lips.

The girl's face burned with blushes but her eyes looked fearlessly into his as she said again, "You saved the wrong one. Why, Martin--Martin-- if you wanted to save the man I love--you--you should have saved yourself!"

He read the truth in her eyes; his arms reached out for her then and her lips moved to his as steel to a magnet.

When he spoke she marveled at the tenderness in his voice; she never dreamed, even in her brightest romantic dreams, that a man's voice could hold so much tenderness. "Amanda, I began to read my own heart that day you found me in the woods and helped and comforted me."

"Oh, Martin," she pressed her lips upon his bandaged head, her eyes were glowing with that "light that never was on land or sea"--"Oh, Martin, I've loved you ever since that day you saved my life by throwing me into the bean-patch and then kissed my burnt hand."

"Not your hand this time, sweetheart," he whispered, "your lips!"

"I'm glad," Amanda said after they had told each other the old, old story, "I'm so glad I kept my castles in Spain. When you went away and didn't write I almost wrecked them purposely. I thought they'd go tumbling into ashes but somehow I braced them up again. Now they're more beautiful than ever. I pity the people who own no castles in Spain, who have no dreams that won't come true exactly as they dreamed. I'll hold on to my dreams even if I know they can never come true exactly as I dream them. I wouldn't give up my castles in Spain. I'll have them till I die. But, Martin, that automobile might have killed you!"

"Nonsense. I'm just scratched a bit. I'll be out of this in no time."

"That rascal of a Lyman--you thought I could marry him?"

"I couldn't believe it, yet he said so. Some liar, isn't he?"

"Yes, but not quite so black as you thought. He is going to marry a girl named Amanda, one from his college town, and they are going to live in California."

"Good riddance!"

"Yes. The engagement was announced last week while you were away. He knew you had probably not heard of it and saw a chance to make you jealous."

"I'd like to wring his neck," said Martin, grinning. "But since it turned out like this for me I'll forgive him. I don't care how many Amandas he marries if he leaves me mine."

At that point little Charlie, tiptoeing to the open door of Martin's room, saw something which caused him to widen his eyes, clap a hand over his mouth to smother an exclamation, and turn quickly down the stairs.

"Jiminy pats, Mom!" he cried excitedly as he entered the kitchen, "our Mart's holdin' Amanda's hand and she's kissin' him on the face! I seen it and heard it! Jiminy pats!"

The small boy wondered what ailed his mother, why she was not properly shocked. Why did she gather him into her arms and whisper something that sounded exactly like, "Thank God!"

"It's all right," she told him. "You mustn't tell; that's their secret."

"Oh, is it all right? Then I won't tell. Mart says I can keep a secret good."

But Martin and Amanda decided to take the mother into the happy secret. "Look at my face," the girl said. "I can't hide my happiness. We might as well tell it."

"Mother!" Martin's voice rang through the house. At the sound a happy, white-capped woman wiped her eyes again on the corner of her gingham apron and mounted the stairs to give her blessing to her boy and the girl who had crowned him with her woman's love.

The announcement of the troth was received with gladness at the Reist farmhouse. Mrs. Reist was happy in her daughter's joy and lived again in memory that hour when the same miracle had been wrought for her.

"Say," asked Philip, "I hope you two don't think you're springing a surprise? A person blind in one eye and not seeing out of the other could see which way the wind was blowing."

"Oh, Phil!" Amanda replied, but there was only love in her voice.

"It must be nice to be so happy like you are," said Millie.

"Yes, it must be," Uncle Amos nodded his head in affirmation. He looked at the hired girl, who did not appear to notice him. "I just wish I was twenty years younger," he added.

A week later Amanda and Martin were sitting in one of the big rooms of the Reist farmhouse. Through the open door came the sound of Millie and Mrs. Reist in conversation, with an occasional deeper note in Uncle Amos's slow, contented voice.

"Do you know," said Martin, "I was never much of a hand to remember poetry, but there's one verse I read at school that keeps coming to me since I know you are going to marry me. That verse about

'A perfect woman, nobly planned

To warn, to comfort, and command.'"

"Oh, no, Martin! You put me on a pedestal, and that's a tottering bit of architecture."

"Not on a pedestal," he contradicted, "but right by my side, walking together, that's the way we want to go."

"That's the only way. It's the way my parents went and the way yours are still going." She rose and brought to him a little book. "Read Riley's 'Song of the Road,'" she told him.

He opened the book and read the musical verses:

"'O I will walk with you, my lad, whichever way you fare,

You'll have me, too, the side o' you, with heart as light as air.

No care for where the road you take's a-leadin'--anywhere,--

It can but be a joyful ja'nt the whilst you journey there.

The road you take's the path o' love, an' that's the bridth o' two--

An' I will walk with you, my lad--O I will walk with you.'

"Why," he exclaimed, "that's beautiful! Riley knew how to put into words the things we all feel but can't express. Let's read the rest."

Her voice blended with his and out in the adjoining room Millie heard and listened. Silently the hired girl walked to the open door. She watched the two heads bending over the little book. Her heart ached for the happy childhood and the romance she had missed. The closing words of the poem came distinctly to her;

"'Sure, I will walk with you, my lad,

As love ordains me to,--

To Heaven's door, and through, my lad,

O I will walk with you.'"

"Say," she startled the lovers by her remark, "if that ain't the prettiest piece I ever heard!"

"Think so?" said Martin kindly. "I agree with you."

"Yes, it sounds nice but the meanin' is what abody likes."

The hired girl went back to her place in the other room. But Amanda turned to the man beside her and said, "Romance in the heart of Millie! Who would guess it?"

"There's romance everywhere," Martin told her. "Millie's heart wouldn't be the fine big thing it is if she didn't keep a space there for love and romance."

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