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Amanda: A Daughter of the Mennonites By Anna Balmer Myers Characters: 10792

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


The Heart of Millie

The Reist farmhouse, always a busy place, was soon rivaling the proverbial beehive. Mrs. Reist, to whom sentiment was ever a vital, holy thing, to be treasured and clung to throughout the years, had long ago, in Amanda's childhood, begun the preparation for the time of the girl's marriage. After the fashion of olden times the mother had begun the filling of a Hope Chest for her girl. Just as she instilled into the youthful mind the homely old-fashioned virtues of honesty, truthfulness and reverence for holy things which made Amanda, as she stood on the threshold of a new life, so richly dowered in spiritual and moral acquisitions, so had the mother laid away in the big wooden chest fine linens, useful and beautiful and symbolic of the worth of the bride whose home they were destined to enrich.

But in addition to the precious contents of the Hope Chest many things were needed for the dowry of the daughter of a prosperous Lancaster County family. So the evenings and Saturdays of that year became busy ones for Amanda. Millie helped with much of the plainer sewing and Mrs. Reist's exquisite tiny stitches enhanced many of the garments.

"Poor Aunt Rebecca," Amanda said one day, "how we miss her now!"

"Yes, ain't?" agreed Millie. "For all her scoldin' she was a good help still. If she was livin' yet she'd fuss about all the sewin' you're doin' to get married but she'd pitch right in and help do it."

Philip offered to pull basting threads, but his generosity was not appreciated. "Go on," Millie told him, "you'd be more bother than you're worth! Next you'd be pullin' out the sewin'!" He was frequently chased from the room because of his inappropriate remarks concerning the trousseau or his declaration that Amanda was spending all the family wealth by her reckless substitution of silk for muslin.

"You keep quiet," Millie often reproved him. "I guess Amanda dare have what she wants if your mom says so. If she wants them things she calls cammysoles made out of silk let her have 'em. She's gettin' married only once."

"How do you know?" he asked teasingly. "Say, Millie, I thought a camisole is a dish you make rice pudding in."

"Ach, that shows you don't know everything yet, even if you do go to Lancaster to school!" And he was driven from the room in laughing defeat.

It is usually conceded that to the prospective bride belongs the privilege of naming the day of her marriage, but it seemed to Amanda that Millie and Philip had as much to do with it as she. Each one had a favorite month. Phil's suggestion finally decided the month. "Sis, you're so keen about flowers, why don't you make it a spring wedding? About cherry blossom time would be the thing."

"So it would. We could have it in the orchard."

"On a nice rainy day in May," he said.

"Pessimist! It doesn't rain every day in May!"

There followed happy, excited times when the matter of a house was discussed. Those were wonderful hours in which the two hunted a nest that would be near enough to the city for Martin's daily commuting and yet have so much of the country about it as to boast of green grass and space for flowers. It was found at length, a little new bungalow outside the city limits in a residential section where gardens and trees beautified the entire street.

"Do you know," Mrs. Reist said to Uncle Amos one day, "there's another little house for sale in that street. If it wasn't for breakin' up the home for you and Millie I'd buy it and Philip and I could move in there. It would be nice and handy for him. I'm gettin' tired of such a big house. There I could do the work myself. There'd be room for you to come with us, but I wouldn't need Millie. I don't like to send her off to some other people. We had her so long a'ready, and she's a good, faithful worker. Ach, I guess I'll have to give up thinkin' about doin' anything like that."

"Well, well, now let me think once." Uncle Amos scratched his head. Then an inscrutable smile touched his lips. "Well, now," he said after a moment's meditation, "now I don't see why it can't be arranged some way. There's more'n one way sometimes to do things. I don't know--I don't know--but I think I can see a way we could manage that-- providin'--ach, we'll just wait once, mebbe it'll come out right."

Mrs. Reist looked at her brother. What did he mean? He stammered and smiled like a foolish schoolboy. Poor Amos, she thought, how hard he had worked all his life and how little pleasure he had seemed to get out of his days! He was growing old, too, and would soon be unable to do the work on a big farm.

But Uncle Amos seemed spry enough several days later when he and Millie entered the big market wagon to go to Lancaster with the farm products. They left the Reist farmhouse early in the morning, a cold, gray winter day.

"Say, Millie," he said soon after they began the drive, "I want to talk with you."

"Well," she answered dryly, "what's to keep you from doin' so? Here I am. Go on."

"Ach, Millie, now don't get obstreperous! Manda's mom would like to sell the farm and move to Lancaster to a little house. Then she wouldn't need me nor you."

"What? Are you sure, Amos?"

"Sure! She told me herself. That would leave us out a home. For I don't want to live in no city and set down evenings and look at houses or trolley cars. You can hire out to some

other people, of course."

"Oh, yea! Amos. What in the world--I don't want to live no place else."

"Well, now, wait once, Millie. I got a plan all fixed up, something I wished long a'ready I could do, only I hated to bust up the farm for my sister. Millie--ach, don't you know what I mean? Let's me and you get married!"

Millie drew her heavy blanket shawl closer around her and pulled her black woolen cap farther over her forehead, then she turned and looked at Amos, but his face was in shadow; the feeble oil lamp of the market wagon sent scant light inside.

"Now, Amos, you say that just because you take pity for me and want to fix a home for me, ain't?"

"Ach, yammer, no!" came the vehement reply. "I liked you long a'ready, Millie, and used to think still, 'There's a girl I'd like to marry!'"

"Why, Amos," came the happy answer, "and I liked you, too, long a'ready! I used to think still to myself, 'I don't guess I'll ever get married but if I do I'd like a man like Amos.'"

Then Uncle Amos suddenly demonstrated his skill at driving one-handed and something more than the blanket-shawl was around Millie's shoulders.

"Ach, my," she said after a while, "to think of it--me, a hired girl, to get a nice, good man like you for husband!"

"And me, a fat dopple of a farmer to get a girl like you! I'll be good to you, Millie, honest! You just see once if I won't! You needn't work so hard no more. I'll buy the farm off my sister and we'll sell some of the land and stop this goin' to market. It's too hard work. We can take it easier; we're both gettin' old, ain't, Millie?" He leaned over and kissed her again.

"You know," he said blissfully, "I used to think still this here kissin' business is all soft mush, but--why--I think it's all right. Don't you?"

"Ach," she laughed as she pushed his face away gently. "They say still there ain't no fools like old ones. I guess we're some."

"All right, we don't care, long as we like it. Here," he spoke to the horse, "giddap with you! Abody'd think you was restin' 'stead of goin' to market. We'll be late for sure this morning." His mittened hands flapped the reins and the horse quickened his steps.

"Ha, ha," the man laughed, "I know what ails old Bill! The kissin' scared him. He never heard none before in this market wagon. No wonder he stands still. Here's another for good measure."

"Ach, Amos, I think that's often enough now! Anyhow for this morning once."

"Ha, ha," he laughed. "Millie, you're all right! That's what you are!"

That evening at supper Philip asked suddenly, "What ails you two, Uncle Amos, you and Millie? I see you grin every time you look at each other."

"Well, nothin' ails me except a bad case of love that's been stickin' in me this long while and now it's broke out. Millie's caught it too."

"Well, I declare!" Amanda was quick to detect his meaning. "You two darlings! I'm so glad!"

"Ach," the hired girl said, blushing rosy, "don't go make so much fuss about it. Ain't we old enough to get married?"

"I'm glad, Millie," Mrs. Reist told her. "Amos just needs a wife like you. He worried me long a'ready, goin' on all alone. Now I know he'll have some one to look out for him."

"Finis! You're done for!" Phil said. "Lay down your arms and surrender. But say, that makes it bully for Mother and me. We can move to Lancaster now. May we run out to the farm and visit you, Millie?"

"Me? Don't ask me. It's Amos's."

"Millie, you goose," the man said happily, "when you marry me everything I have will be yours, too."

"Well, did I ever! I don't believe I'll know how to think about it that way. This nice big house won't seem like part mine."

"It'll be ours" Uncle Amos said, smiling at the word.

And so it happened that the preparation of another wedding outfit was begun in the Reist farmhouse.

"I don't need fancy things like Amanda," declared the hired girl. "I wear the old style o' clothes yet. And for top things, why, I made up my mind I'm goin' to wear myself plain and be a Mennonite."

"Plain," said Mrs. Reist. "Won't Amos be glad! He likes you no matter what clothes you wear, but it's so much nicer when you can both go to the same church. He'll be glad if you turn a Mennonite."

"Well, I'm goin' to be one. So I won't want much for my weddin' in clothes, just some plain suits and bonnets and shawl. But I got no chest ready like Amanda has. I never thought I'd need a Hope Chest. When I was little I got knocked around, but as soon as I could earn money I saved a little all the time and now I got a pretty good bit laid in the bank. I can take that and get me some things I need."

Mrs. Reist laid her hands on the shoulders of the faithful hired girl. "Never mind, Millie, you'll have your chest! We'll go to Lancaster and buy what you want. Amos got his share of our mother's things when we divided them and he has a big chest on the garret all filled with homespun linen and quilts and things that you can use. That will all be yours."

"Mine? I can't hardly believe it. You couldn't be nicer to me if you was my own mom. And I ain't forgettin' it neither! I said to Amos we won't get married till after Amanda and when you and Phil are all fixed in your new house. Then we'll go to the preacher and get it done. We don't want no fuss, just so we get married, that's all we want. It needn't be done fancy."

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