A DAUGHTER OF THE MENNONITES
ANNA BALMER MYERS
ILLUSTRATED BY HELEN MASON GROSS
To My Sister
I. "WHILE THE HEART BEATS YOUNG" II. THE SNITZING PARTY III. BOILING APPLE BUTTER IV. A VISIT TO MARTIN'S MOTHER V. AT AUNT REBECCA'S HOUSE VI. SCHOOL DAYS VII. AMANDA REIST, TEACHER VIII. THE SPELLING BEE IX. AT THE MARKET X. PINK MOCCASINS XI. THE BOARDER XII. UNHAPPY DAYS XIII. THE TROUBLE MAKER XIV. THE COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT'S VISIT XV. "MARTIN'S GIRL" XVI. AUNT REBECCA'S WILL XVII. MARTIN'S DARK HOUR XVIII. THE COMFORTER XIX. VINDICATION XX. DINNER AT LANDIS'S XXI. BERRYING XXII. ON THE MOUNTAIN TOP XXIII. TESTS XXIV. "YOU SAVED THE WRONG ONE" XXV. THE HEART OF MILLIE XXVI. "ONE HEART MADE O'TWO"
She Still Felt the Wonder of Being Rescued From the Fire The Rhubarb Leaf Parasol "What Did Lyman Tell You? I Must Know"
"WHILE THE HEART BEATS YOUNG"
The scorching heat of a midsummer day beat mercilessly upon the earth. Travelers on the dusty roads, toilers in the fields, and others exposed to the rays of the sun, thought yearningly of cooling winds and running streams. They would have looked with envy upon the scene being enacted in one of the small streams of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. There a little red-haired girl, barefooted, her short gingham skirt tucked up unevenly here and there, was wading in the cool, shallow waters of a creek that was tree-bordered and willow-arched. Her clear, rippling laughter of sheer joy broke through the Sabbatical calm of that quiet spot and echoed up and down the meadow as she splashed about in the brook.
"Ach," she said aloud, "this here's the best fun! Abody wouldn't hardly know it's so powerful hot out to-day. All these trees round the crick makes it cool. I like wadin' and pickin' up the pebbles, some of 'em washed round and smooth like little white soup beans—ach, I got to watch me," she exclaimed, laughing, as she made a quick movement to retain her equilibrium. "The big stones are slippery from bein' in the water. Next I know I'll sit right down in the crick. Then wouldn't Phil be ready to laugh at me! It wonders me now where he is. I wish he'd come once and we'd have some fun."
As if in answer to her wish a boyish whistle rang out, followed by a long-drawn "Oo-oh, Manda, where are you?"
"Here. Wadin' in the crick," she called. "Come on in."
She splashed gleefully about as her brother came into sight and walked with mock dignity through the meadow to the stream. He held his red- crowned head high and sang teasingly, "Manda, Manda, red-headed Manda; tee-legged, toe-legged, bow-legged Manda!"
"Philip Reist," she shouted crossly, "I am not! My legs are straighter'n yours! You dare, you just dare once, to come in the crick and say that and see what you get!"
Although two years her junior he accepted the challenge and repeated the doggerel as he planted his bare feet in the water. She splashed him and he retaliated, but the boy, though smaller, was agile, and in an unguarded moment he caught the girl by the wrists and pushed her so she sat squarely in the shallow waters of the brook.
"Hey, smarty," he exulted impishly as he held her there, "you will get fresh with me, you will, huh?"
"Phil, let me up, leave me go, I'm all wet."
"Now, how did that happen, I wonder. My goodness, what will Mamma say?" he teased.
"Phil," the girl half coaxed, but he read a desire for revenge in her face.
"Jiminy Christmas, don't cry." He puckered up his lips in imitation of a whimpering girl. "Got enough?"
"Phil," the word rang crossly, "you let me be now."
"All right, cry baby." He loosened his hold on her wrists. "But because you're such a fraid cat I'll not give you what I brought for you."
"What is it?" The girl scrambled to her feet, curiosity helping her to forget momentarily the boy's tricks. "What did you bring me?"
"Something that's little and almost round and blue and I got it in a tree. Now if you're not a blockhead mebbe you can guess what it is." He moved his hand about in his pocket.
"Phil, let me see." The words were plain coaxing then.
"Here." And he drew from his pocket a robin's egg.
"Philip Reist! Where did you get that?" The girl's voice was stern and loud.
"Ach, I found the dandiest nest out on one of the cherry trees and I know you like dinky birds and thought I'd get you an egg. There's three more in the nest; I guess that's enough for any robin. Anyhow, they had young ones in that nest early in the summer."
"You bad boy! How dare you rob a bird's nest? God will punish you for that!" Her eyes blazed with wrath at the thoughtless deed of the lad.
"Ach," he answered boldly, "what's the use fussin' 'bout a dinky bird's egg? You make me sick, Manda. Cry about it now! Oh, the poor little birdie lost its egg," he whined in falsetto voice.
"You—you—I guess I won't wait for God to punish you, Philip Reist." With the words she grabbed and sat him in the water. "You need something right now to make you remember not to take eggs from nests. And here it is! When you want to do it after this just think of the day I sat you down in the crick. I'm goin' to tell Mom on you, too, that's what I am."
"Yea, tattle-tale, girls are all tattle-tales!"
He struggled to escape but the hold of his sister was vise-like.
"Will you leave nests alone?" she demanded.
"Ah, who wants to steal eggs? I just brought you one 'cause I thought you'd like it."
"Well, I don't. So let the eggs where they belong," she said as she relaxed her clasp and he rose.
"Now look at us," he began, then the funny spectacle of wet clothes sent each laughing.
"Gee," he said, "won't we get Sam Hill from Mom?"
"What's Sam Hill?" she asked. "And where do you learn such awful slang? Abody can hardly understand you half the time. Mom says you should stop it."
"Yea, that reminds me, Manda, what I come for. Mom said you're to come in and get your dresses tried on. And mebbe you'd like to know that Aunt Rebecca's here again. She just come and is helpin' to sew and if she sees our clothes wet—oh, yea!"
"Oh yea," echoed Amanda with the innocent candor of a twelve-year-old. "Aunt Rebecca—is she here again? Ach, if she wasn't so cranky I'd be glad still when she comes, but you know how she acts all the time."
"Um-uh. Uncle Amos says still she's prickly like a chestnut burr. Jiminy crickets, she's worse'n any burr I ever seen!"
"Well," the girl said thoughtfully, "but chestnut burrs are like velvet inside. Mebbe she'd be nice inside if only abody had the dare to find out."
"Ach, come on," urged the boy, impatient at the girl's philosophy. "Mom wants you to fit. Come on, get pins stuck in you and then I'll laugh. Gee, I'm glad I'm not a girl! Fittin' dresses on a day like this—whew! "
"Well," she tossed her red head proudly, "I'm glad I'm one!" A sudden thought came to her—"Come in, Phil, while I fit and then we'll set in the kitchen and count how often Aunt Rebecca says, My goodness."
"Um-uh," he agreed readily, "come on, Manda. That'll be peachy."
The children laughed in anticipation of a good time as they ran through the hot sun of the pasture lot, up the narrow path along the cornfield fence and into the back yard of their home.
The Reist farm with its fine orchards and great fields of grain was manifestly the home of prosperous, industrious farmers. From its big gardens were gathered choice vegetables to be sold in the famous markets of Lancaster, five miles distant. The farmhouse, a big square brick building of old-fashioned design, was located upon a slight elevation and commanded from its wide front porch a panoramic view of a large section of the beautiful Garden Spot of America.
The household consisted of Mrs. Reist, a widow, her two children, her brother Amos Rohrer, who was responsible for the success of the farm, and a hired girl, Millie Hess, who had served the household so long and faithfully that she seemed an integral part of the family.
Mrs. Reist was a sweet-faced, frail little woman, a member of the Mennonite Church. She wore the plain garb adopted by the women of that sect—the tight-fitting waist covered by a pointed shoulder cape, the full skirt and the white cap upon smoothly combed, parted hair. Her red-haired children were so like their father had been, that at times her heart contracted at sight of them. His had been a strong, buoyant spirit and when her hands, like Moses' of old, had required steadying, he had never failed her. At first his death left her helpless and discouraged as she faced the task of rearing without his help the two young children, children about whom they had dreamed great dreams and for whom they had planned wonderful things. But gradually the widowed mother developed new courage, and though frail in body grew brave in spirit and faced cheerfully the rearing of Amanda and Philip.
The children had inherited the father's strength, his happy cheerfulness, his quick-to-anger and quicker-to-repent propensity, but the mother's gentleness also dwelt in them. Laughing, merry, they sang their way through the days, protesting vehemently when things went contrary to their desires, but laughing the next moment in the irresponsible manner of youth the world over. That August day the promise of fun at Aunt Rebecca's expense quite compensated for the unpleasantness of her visit.
Aunt Rebecca Miller was an elder sister to Mrs. Reist, so said the inscription in the big family Bible. But it was difficult to understand how the two women could have been mothered by one person.
Millie, the hired girl, expressed her opinion freely to Amanda one day after a particularly trying time with the old woman. "How that Rebecca Miller can be your mom's sister now beats me. She's more like a wasp than anything I ever seen without wings. It's sting, sting all the time with her; nothin' anybody does or says is just right. She's faultfindin' every time she comes. It wonders me sometimes if she'll like heaven when she gets up there, or if she'll see some things she'd change if she had her way. And mostly all the plain people are so nice that abody's got to like 'em, but she's not like the others, I guess. Most every time she comes she makes me mad. She's too bossy. Why, to-day when I was fryin' doughnuts she bothered me so that I just wished the fat would spritz her good once and she'd go and leave me be."
It will be seen that Millie felt free to voice her opinions at all times in the Reist family. She was a plain-faced, stout little woman of thirty-five, a product of the Pennsylvania Dutch country. Orphaned at an early age she had been buffeted about sorely until the happy day she entered the Reist household. Their kindness to her won her heart and she repaid them by a staunch devotion. The Reist joys, sorrows, perplexities and anxieties were shared by her and she naturally came in for a portion of Aunt Rebecca's faultfinding.
Cross-grained and trying, Rebecca Miller was unlike the majority of the plain, unpretentious people of that rural community. In all her years she had failed to appreciate the futility of fuss, the sin of useless worry, and had never learned the invaluable lesson of minding her own business. "She means well," Mrs. Reist said in conciliatory tones when Uncle Amos or the children resented the interference of the dictatorial relative, but secretly she wondered how Rebecca could be so—so—she never finished the sentence.
"Well, my goodness, here she comes once!" Amanda heard her aunt's rasping voice as they entered the house.
Stifling an "Oh yea" the girl walked into the sitting-room.
"Hello, Aunt Rebecca," she said dutifully, then turned to her mother— "You want me?"
"My goodness, your dress is all wet in the back!" Aunt Rebecca said shrilly. "What in the world did you do?"
Before she could reply Philip turned about so his wet clothes were on view. "And you too!" cried the visitor. "My goodness, what was you two up to? Such wet blotches like you got!" "We were wadin' in the crick," Amanda said demurely, as her mother smoothed the tousled red hair back from the flushed forehead.
"My goodness! Wadin' in the crick in dog days!" exploded Aunt Rebecca.
"Now for that she'll turn into a doggie, ain't, Mom?" said the boy roguishly.
Aunt Rebecca looked over her steel-rimmed spectacles at the two children who were bubbling over with laughter. "I think," she said sternly, "people don't learn children no manners no more."
"Ach," the mother said soothingly, "you mustn't mind them. They get so full of laughin' even when we don't see what's to laugh at."
"Yes," put in Amanda, "the Bible says it's good to have a merry heart and me and Phil's got one. You like us that way, don't you, Mom?"
"Yes," the mother agreed. "Now you go put on dry things, then I want to fit your dresses. And, Philip, are you wet through?"
"Naw. These thick pants don't get wet through if I rutch in water an hour. Jiminy pats, Mom, girls are delicate, can't stand a little wettin'."
"You just wait, Phil," Amanda called to him as she ran up-stairs, "you're gettin' some good wettin' yet. I ain't done with you."
"Cracky, who's afraid?" he called.
A little later the girl appeared in dry clothes.
"Ach," she said, "I forgot to wash my hands. I better go out to the pump and clean 'em so I don't get my new dresses dirty right aways."
She ran to the pump on the side porch and jerked the handle up and down, while her brother followed and watched her, defiance in his eyes.
"Well," she said suddenly, "if you want it I'll give it to you now." With that she caught him and soused his head in the tin basin that stood in the trough. "One for duckin' me in the crick, and another for stealin' that bird's egg, and a third to learn you some sense." Before he could get his breath she had run into the house and stood before her mother ready for the fitting. "I like this goods, Mom," she told the mother as the new dress was slipped over her head. "I think the brown goes good with my red hair, and the blue gingham is pretty, too. Only don't never buy me no pink nor red."
"I won't. Not unless your hair turns brown."
"My goodness, but you spoil her," came the unsolicited opinion of Aunt Rebecca. "When I was little I wore what my mom bought me, and so did you. We would never thought of sayin', 'Don't get me this or that.'"
"But with red hair it's different. And as long as blue and brown and colors Amanda likes don't cost more than those she don't want I can't see why she shouldn't have what she wants."
"Well, abody wonders what kind o' children plain people expect to raise nowadays with such caterin' to their vanity."
Mrs. Reist bit her lips and refrained from answering. The expression of joy on the face of Amanda as she looked down at her new dress took away the sting of the older woman's words. "I want," the mother said softly, "I want my children to have a happy childhood. It belongs to them. And I want them to remember me for a kind mom."
"Ach, Mom, you are a good mom." Amanda leaned over the mother, who was pinning the hem in the new dress, and pressed a kiss on the top of the white-capped head. "When I grow up I want to be like you. And when I'm big and you're old, won't you be the nicest granny!"
Aunt Rebecca suddenly looked sad and meek. Perhaps a partial appreciation of what she missed by being childless came to her. What thrills she might have known if happy children ran to her with shouts of "Granny!" But she did not carry the thread of thought far enough to analyze her own actions and discover that, though childless, she could attract the love of other people's children if she chose. The tender moment was fleet. She looked at Amanda and Philip and saw in them only two children prone to evil, requiring stern disciplining.
"Now don't go far from the house," said Mrs. Reist later, "for your other dress is soon ready to fit. As soon as Aunt Rebecca gets the pleats basted in the skirt."
"I'll soon get them in. But it's foolishness to go to all that bother when gathers would do just as good and go faster."
Amanda turned away and a moment later she and Phil were seated on the long wooden settee in the kitchen. The boy had silently agreed to a temporary truce so that the game of counting might be played. He would pay back his sister some other time. Gee, it was easy to get her goat— just a little thing like a caterpillar dropped down her neck would make her holler!
"Gee, Manda, I thought of a bully thing!" the boy whispered. "If that old crosspatch Rebecca says 'My goodness' thirty times till four o'clock I'll fetch a tobacco worm and put it in her bonnet. If she don't say it that often you got to put one in. Huh? Manda, ain't that a peachy game to play?"
"All right," agreed the girl. "I'll get paper and pencil to keep count." She slipped into the other room and in a few minutes the two settled themselves on the settee, their ears straining to hear every word spoken by the women in the next room.
"My goodness, this thread breaks easy! They don't make nothin' no more like they used to," came through the open door.
"That's one," said Phil; "make a stroke on the paper. Jiminy Christmas, that's easy! Bet you we get that paper full of strokes!"
"My goodness, that girl's shootin' up! It wouldn't wonder me if you got to leave these dresses down till time for school. Now if I was you I'd make them plenty big and let her grow into 'em. Our mom always done that."
And so the conversation went on until there were twenty lines on the paper. The game was growing exciting and, under the stress of it, the counting on the old settee rose above the discreet whisper it was originally meant to be. "Twenty-one!" cried Amanda. Aunt Rebecca walked to the door.
"What's you two up to?" she asked. "Oh, you got the hymn-book. My goodness, what for you writin' on the hymn-book?" She turned to her sister. "Ain't you goin' to make 'em stop that? A hymn-book ain't to be wrote on!"
"Twenty-two," cried Phil, secure in the knowledge that his mother would not object to their use of the book and safely confident that the aunt could not dream what they were doing.
"What is twenty-two? Look once, Amanda," said the woman, taking the mention of the number to refer to a hymn.
The girl opened the book. "Beulah Land," she read, a sudden compunction seizing her.
"Ach, yes, Beulah Land—I sang that when I was a girl still. My goodness, abody gets old quick." She sighed and returned to her sewing.
"Twenty-three, countin' the last one," prompted Phil. "Mark it down. Gee, it's a cinch."
But Amanda looked sober. "Phil, mebbe it ain't right to make fun of her so and count after how often she says the same thing. She looked kinda teary when she said that about gettin' old quick."
"Ach, go on," said Philip, too young to appreciate the subtle shades of feelings or looks. "You can't back out of it now. Gee, what's bitin' you? It ain't four o'clock yet, and it ain't right, neither, to go back on a promise. Anyhow, if we don't go on and count up to thirty you got to put the worm in her bonnet—you said you would—girls are no good, they get cold feet."
Thus spurred, Amanda resumed the game until the coveted thirty lines were marked on the paper. Then, the goal reached, it was Phil's duty to find a tobacco worm.
Supper at the Reist farmhouse was an ample meal. By that time the hardest portion of the day's labor was completed and the relaxation from physical toil made the meal doubly enjoyable. Millie saw to it that there was always appetizing food set upon the big square table in the kitchen. Two open doors and three screened windows looking out upon green fields and orchards made the kitchen a cool refuge that hot August day.
Uncle Amos, a fat, flushed little man, upon whose shoulders rested the responsibilities of that big farm, sat at the head of the table. His tired figure sagged somewhat, but his tanned face shone from a vigorous scrubbing. Millie sat beside Mrs. Reist, for she was, as she expressed it, "Nobody's dog, to eat alone." She expected to eat with the folks where she hired. However, her presence at the table did not prevent her from waiting on the others. She made frequent trips to the other side of the big kitchen to replenish any of the depleted dishes.
That evening Amanda and Philip were restless.
"What ails you two?" demanded Millie. "Bet you're up to some tricks again, by the gigglin' of you and the rutchin' around you're doin'! I just bet you're up to something," she grumbled, but her eyes twinkled.
"Nothin' ails us," declared Phil. "We just feel like laughin'."
"Ach," said Aunt Rebecca, "this dumb laughin' is all for nothin'. Anyhow, you better not laugh too much, for you got to cry as much as you laugh before you die."
"Then I'll have to cry oceans!" Amanda admitted. "There'll be another Niagara Falls, right here in Lancaster County, I'm thinkin'."
"Ach," said Millie, "that's just another of them old superstitions."
"Yes," Aunt Rebecca said solemnly, "nobody believes them no more. But it's a lot of truth in 'em just the same. I often took notice that as high as the spiders build their webs in August so high will the snow be that winter. Nowadays people don't study the almanac or look for signs. Young ones is by far too smart. The farmers plant their seeds any time now, beans and peas in the Posey Woman sign and then they wonder why they get only flowers 'stead of peas and beans. They take up red beets in the wrong sign and wonder why the beets cook up stringy. The women make sauerkraut in Gallas week and wonder why it's bitter. I could tell them what's the matter! There's more to them old women's signs than most people know. I never yet heard a dog cry at night that I didn't hear of some one I know dyin' soon after. I wouldn't open an umbrella in the house for ten dollars—it's bad luck—yes, you laugh," she said accusingly to Philip. "But you got lots to learn yet. My goodness, when I think of all I learned since I was as old as you! Of all the new things in the world! I guess till you're as old as I am there'll be lots more."
"Sure Mike," said the boy, rather flippantly. "What's all new since you was little?" he asked his aunt.
"Telephone, them talkin' machines, sewin' machines—anyhow, they were mighty scarce then—trolleys——"
"My goodness, yes! Them awful things! They scare the life out abody. I don't go in none and I don't want no automobile hearse to haul me, neither. I'd be afraid it'd run off."
"Great horn spoon, Aunt Rebecca, but that would be a gay ride," the boy said, while Amanda giggled and Uncle Amos winked to Millie, who made a hurried trip to the stove for coffee.
"Ach," came the aunt's rebuke. "You talk too much of that slang stuff. I guess I'll take the next trolley home," she said, unconscious of the merriment she had caused. "I'd like to help with the dishes, but I want to get home before it gets so late for me. Anyhow, Amanda is big enough to help. When I was big as her I cooked and baked and worked like a woman. Why, when I was just a little thing, Mom'd tell me to go in the front room and pick the snipples off the floor and I'd get down and do it. Nobody does that now, neither. They run a sweeper over the carpets and wear 'em out."
"But the floors are full of germs," said Amanda.
"Cherms—what are them?"
"Why, dreadful things! I learned about them at school. They are little, crawly bugs with a lot of legs, and if you eat them or breathe them in you'll get scarlet fever or diphtheria."
"Ach, that's too dumb!" Aunt Rebecca was unimpressed. "I don't believe in no such things." With that emphatic remark she stalked to the sitting-room for her bonnet. She met Phil coming out, his hands in his pockets. He paused in the doorway as Amanda and her mother joined the guest.
Aunt Rebecca lifted the black silk bonnet carefully from the little table and Amanda shifted nervously from one foot to the other. If only Aunt Rebecca wouldn't hold the bonnet so the worm would fall to the floor! Then the woman gave the stiff headgear a dexterous turn and the squirming thing landed on her head.
"My goodness! My goodness!" she cried as something soft brushed her cheek. Intently inquisitive, she stooped and picked from the floor a fat, green, wriggling tobacco worm.
"One of them cherms, I guess, Amanda, ain't?" she said as she looked keenly at the child.
Amanda blushed and was silent. Philip was unable to hide his guilt. "Now, when did tobacco worms learn to live in bonnets?" she asked the boy as she eyed him reproachfully.
Mrs. Reist looked hurt. Her gentle reproof, "Children, I'm ashamed of you!" cut deeper with Amanda than the scolding of Aunt Rebecca—"You're a bad pair! Almost you spoiled me my good bonnet. If I'd squeezed that worm on my cap it would have ruined it! My goodness, you both need a good spankin', that's what. Too bad you ain't got a pop to learn you!"
"It was only for fun, Aunt Rebecca," said Amanda, truly ashamed. But Phil put his hand over his mouth to hide a grin.
"Fun—what for fun is that—to be so disrespectful to an old aunt? And you, Philip, ain't one bit ashamed. Your mom just ought to make you hunt all the worms in the whole tobacco patch. My goodness, look at that clock! Next with this dumb foolin' I'll miss that trolley yet. I must hurry myself now."
"I'm sorry, Aunt Rebecca," Amanda said softly, eager to make peace with the woman, whom she knew to be kind, though a bit severe.
"Ach, I don't hold no spite. But I think it's high time you learn to behave. Such a big girl like you ought to help her brother be good, not learn him tricks. Boys go to the bad soon enough. I'm goin' now," she addressed Mrs. Reist, "and you let me know when you boil apple butter and I'll come and help stir."
"All right, Rebecca. I hope the children will behave and not cut up like to-day. You are always so ready to help us—I can't understand why they did such a thing. I'm ashamed."
"Ach, it's all right, long as my bonnet ain't spoiled. If that had happened then there'd be a different kind o' bird pipin'."
After she left Philip proceeded to do a Comanche Indian dance—in which Amanda joined by being pulled around the room by her dress skirt—in undisguised hilarity over the departure of their grim relative. Boys have little understanding of the older person who suppresses their animal energy and skylarking happiness.
"I ain't had so much fun since Adam was a boy," Philip admitted with pretended seriousness, while the family smiled at his drollness.
THE SNITZING PARTY
Apple-butter boiling on the Reist farm occurred frequently during August and September. The choice fruit of the orchard was sold at Lancaster market, but bushels of smaller, imperfect apples lay scattered about the ground, and these were salvaged for the fragrant and luscious apple butter. To Phil and Amanda fell the task of gathering the fruit from the grass, washing them in big wooden tubs near the pump and placing them in bags. Then Uncle Amos hauled the apples to the cider press, where they came forth like liquid amber that dripped into fat brown barrels.
Many pecks of pared fruit were required for the apple-butter boiling. These were pared—the Pennsylvania Dutch say snitzed—the night before the day of boiling.
"Mom," Amanda told her mother as they ate supper one night when many apples were to be pared for the next day's use, "Lyman Mertzheimer seen us pick apples to-day and he said he's comin' over to-night to the snitzin' party—d'you care?"
"No. Let him come."
"So," teased Uncle Amos. "Guess in a few years, Manda, you'll be havin' beaus. This Lyman Mertzheimer, now,—his pop's the richest farmer round here and Lyman's the only child. He'd be a good catch, mebbe."
"Ach," Amanda said in her quick way, "I ain't thinkin' of such things. Anyhow, I don't like Lyman so good. He's all the time braggin' about his pop's money and how much his mom pays for things, and at school he don't play fair at recess. Sometimes, too, he cheats in school when we have a spellin' match Friday afternoons. Then he traps head and thinks he's smart."
Uncle Amos nodded his head. "Chip o' the old block."
"Now, look here," chided Millie, "ain't you ashamed, Amos, to put such notions in a little girl's head, about beaus and such things?"
The man chuckled. "What's born in heads don't need to be put in."
Amanda wondered what he meant, but her mother and Millie laughed.
"Women's women," he added knowingly. "Some wakes up sooner than others, that's all! Millie, when you goin' to get you a man? You're gettin' along now—just about my age, so I know—abody that cooks like you do— "
"Amos, you just keep quiet! I ain't lookin' for a man. I got a home, and if I want something to growl at me I'll go pull the dog's tail."
That evening the kitchen of the Reist farmhouse was a busy place. Baskets of apples stood on the floor. On the table were huge earthen dishes ready for the pared fruit. Equipped with a paring knife and a tin pie-plate for parings every member of the household drew near the table and began snitzing. There was much merry conversation, some in quaint Pennsylvania Dutch, then again in English tinged with the distinctive accent. There was also much laughter as Uncle Amos vied with Millie for the honor of making the thinnest parings.
"Here comes Lyman. Make place for him," cried Amanda as a boy of fifteen came to the kitchen door.
"You can't come in here unless you work," challenged Uncle Amos.
"I can do that," said the boy, though he seemed none too eager to take the knife and plate Mrs. Reist offered him.
"You dare sit beside me," Amanda offered.
Lyman smiled his appreciation of the honor, but the girl's eyes twinkled as she added, "so I can watch that you make thin peelin's."
"That's it," said Uncle Amos. "Boys, listen! Mostly always when a woman's kind to you there's something back of it."
"Ach, Amos, you're soured," said Millie.
"No, not me," he declared. "I know there's still a few good women in the world. Ach, yea," he sighed deeply and looked the incarnation of misery, "soon I'll have three to boss me, with Amanda here growin' like a weed!"
"Don't you know," Mrs. Reist reminded him, "how Granny used to say that one good boss is better than six poor workers? You don't appreciate us, Amos."
"I give up." Uncle Amos spread his hands in surrender. "I give up. When women start arguin' where's a man comin' in at?"
"I wouldn't give up," spoke out Lyman. "A man ought to have the last word every time."
"Ach, you don't know women," said Uncle Amos, chuckling.
"A man was made to be master," the youth went on, evidently quoting some recent reading. "Woman is the weaker vessel."
"Wait till you try to break one," came Uncle Amos's wise comment.
"I," said Lyman proudly, "I could be master of any woman I marry! And I bet, I dare to bet my pop's farm, that any girl I set out to get I can get, too. I'd just carry her off or something. 'All's fair in love and war.'"
"Them two's the same thing, sonny, but you don't know it yet," laughed Uncle Amos. "It sounds mighty strong and brave to talk like you were a giant or king, or something, and I only hope I'm livin' and here in Crow Hill so I can see how you work that game of carryin' off the girl you like. I'd like to see it, I'd sure like to see it!"
"Oh, Uncle Amos, tell us, did you ever go to see the girls?" asked Amanda eagerly.
"Did I ever go to see the girls? Um-uh, I did!" The man laughed suddenly. "I'll tell you about the first time. But now you just go on with your snitzin'. I can't be breakin' up the party with my yarns. I was just a young fellow workin' at home on the farm. Theje was a nice girl over near Manheim I thought I'd like to know better, and so one night I fixed up to try my luck and go see her. It was in fall and got dark pretty early, and by the time I was done with the farm work and dressed in my best suit and half-way over to her house, it was gettin' dusk. Now I never knew what it was to be afraid till that year my old Aunty Betz came to spend a month with us and began to tell her spook stories. She had a long list of them. One was about a big black dog that used to come in her room every night durin' full moon and put its paws on her bed. But when she tried to touch it there was nothing there, and if she'd get up and light the light it would vanish. She said she always thought he wanted to show her something, take her to where there was some gold buried, but she never could get the dog to do it, for she always lighted the light and that scared him away. Then she said one time they moved into a little house, and once when they had a lot of company she slept on a bed in the garret. She got awake at night and found the covers off the bed. She pulled 'em up and something pulled them off. Then she lighted a candle, but there wasn't a thing there. So she went back to bed and the same thing happened again; down went the covers. She got frightened and ran down the stairs and slept on the floor. But that spook was always a mystery. I used to have shivers chasin' each other up and down my back so fast I didn't know how to sit up hardly when she was tellin' them spook stories. But she had one champion one about a man she knew who was walkin' along the country road at night and something black shot up in front of him, and when he tried to catch it and ran after it, he rolled into a fence, and when he sat up, the spook was gone, but there was a great big hole by the fence-post near him, and in the hole was a box of money. She could explain that ghost; it was the spirit of the person who had buried the money, and he had to help some person find it so that he could have peace in the other world. Well, as I said, I was goin' along the road on the way to see that girl, and it was about dark when I got to the lane of her house. I was a little excited, for it was my first trial at the courtin' business. Aunty Betz's spook stories made me kinda shaky in the dark, so it's no wonder I jumped when something black ran across the road and stood by the fence as I came along. I remembered her story of the man who found the gold, and I thought I'd see whether I could have such luck, so I ran to the black thing and made a grab—and—it was a skunk! Well,"—after the laughter died down—"I didn't get any gold, but I got something! I yelled, and the girl I started to call on heard me and come to the door. I hadn't any better sense than to go up to her. But before I could explain, the skunk's weapon told the tale. 'You clear out of here,' she hollered; 'who wants such a smell in the house!' I cleared out, and when I got home Mom was in bed, but Pop was readin' the paper in the kitchen. I opened the door. 'Clear out of here,' he ordered;' who wants such a smell in the house! Go to the wood-shed and I'll get you soap and water and other clothes.' So I went to the wood-shed, and he came out with a lantern and water and clothes and I began to scrub. After I was dressed we went to the barn-yard and he held the lantern while I dug a deep hole, and the clothes, my best Sunday clothes, went down into the ground and dirt on top. And that settled courtin' for a while with me."
Uncle Amos's story had interfered with the snitzing.
"Say," said Millie, "how can abody snitz apples when you make 'em laugh till the tears run down over the face?"
"Oh, come on," cried Amanda, "I just thought of it—let's tell fortunes with the peelin's! Everybody peel an apple with the peelin' all in one piece and then throw it over the right shoulder, and whatever letter it makes on the floor is the initial of the person you're goin' to marry."
"All right. Now, Millie, no cheatin'," teased Uncle Amos. "Don't you go peel yours so it'll fall into a Z, for I know that Zach Miller's been after you this long while already."
"Ach, him? He's as ugly as seven days' rainy weather."
"Ach, shoot it," said Phil, disgust written on his face as he threw a paring over his shoulder; "mine always come out an S. Guess that's the only letter you can make. S for Sadie, Susie—who wants them? That's a rotten way to tell fortunes!"
"Now look at mine, everybody!" cried Amanda as she flung her long apple paring over her shoulder.
"It's an M," shouted Phil. "Mebbe for Martin Landis. Jiminy Christmas, he's a pretty nice fellow. If you can hook him——"
"M stands for Mertzheimer," said Lyman proudly. "I guess it means me, Amanda, so you better begin to mind me now when we play at recess at school and spell on my side in the spelling matches."
"Huh," she retorted ungraciously, "Lyman Mertzheimer, you ain't the only M in Lancaster County!"
"No," he replied arrogantly, "but I guess that poor Mart Landis don't count. He's always tending one of his mom's babies—some nice beau he'd make! If he ever goes courting he'll have to take along one of the little Landis kids, I bet."
Phil laughed, but Amanda flushed in anger. "I think that's just grand of Martin to help his mom like that," she defended. "Anyhow, since she has no big girls to help her."
"He washes dishes. I saw him last week with an apron on," said Lyman, contempt in his voice.
"Wouldn't you do that for your mom if she was poor and had a lot of children and no one to help her?" asked the girl.
"Not me! I wouldn't wash dishes for no one! Men aren't made for that."
"Then I don't think much of you, Lyman Mertzheimer!" declared Amanda with a vigorous toss of her red head.
"Come, come," Mrs. Reist interrupted, "you mustn't quarrel. Of course Lyman would help his mother if she needed him."
Amanda laughed and friendliness was once more restored.
When the last apple was snitzed Uncle Amos brought some cold cider from the spring-house, Millie fetched a dish of cookies from the cellar, and the snitzing party ended in a feast.
That night Mrs. Reist followed Amanda up the stairs to the child's bedroom. They made a pretty picture as they stood there, the mother with her plain Mennonite garb, her sweet face encircled by a white cap, and the little red-haired child, eager, active, her dark eyes glimpsing dreams as they focused on the distant castles in Spain which were a part of her legitimate heritage of childhood. The room was like a Nutting picture, with its rag carpet, old-fashioned, low cherry bed, covered with a pink and white calico patchwork quilt, its low cherry bureau, its rush-bottom chairs, its big walnut chest covered with a hand-woven coverlet gay with red roses and blue tulips. An old- fashioned room and an old-fashioned mother and daughter—the elder had seen life, knew its glories and its dangers, had tasted its sweetness and drained its cups of sorrow, but the child—in her eyes was still the star-dust of the "trailing clouds of glory."
"Mom," she asked suddenly as her mother unbraided the red hair and brushed it, "do you like Lyman Mertzheimer?"
"Why—yes—-" Mrs. Reist hesitated.
"Ach, I don't mean that way, Mom," the child said wisely. "You always say abody must like everybody, but I mean like him for real, like him so you want to be near him. He's good lookin'. At school he's about the best lookin' boy there. The big girls say he's a regular Dunnis, whatever that is. But I think sometimes he ain't so pretty under the looks, the way he acts and all, Mom."
"I know what you mean, Amanda. Your pop used to say still that people are like apples, some can fool you good. Remember some we peeled to-night were specked and showed it on the outside, but some were red and pretty and when you cut in them—"
"They were full of worms or rotten!"
"Yes. It's the hearts of people that makes them beautiful."
"I see, Mom, and I'll mind to remember that. I'm gettin' to know a lot o' things now, Mom, ain't? I like when you tell me things my pop said. I'm glad I was big enough to remember him. I know yet what nice eyes he had, like they was always smilin' at you. I wish he wouldn't died, but I'm glad he's not dead for always. People don't stay dead like peepies or birds, do they?"
"No, they'll live again some day." The mother's voice was low, but a divine trust shone in her eyes. "Life would be nothing if it could end for us like it does for the birds."
"Millie says the souls of people can't die. That it's with people just like it's with the apple trees. In winter they look dead and like all they're good for was to chop down and burn, then in spring they get green and the flowers come on them and they're alive, and we know they're alive. I'm glad people are like that, ain't you?"
"Yes." She gathered the child to her arms and kissed the sensitive, eager little face. Neither Mrs. Reist nor Amanda, as yet, had read Locksley Hall, but the truth expressed there was echoing in their souls:
"Gone forever! Ever? no—for since our dying race began, Ever, ever, and forever was the leading light of man. Indian warriors dream of ampler hunting grounds beyond the night; Even the black Australian dying hopes he shall return, a white. Truth for truth, and good for good! The good, the true, the pure, the just— Take the charm 'Forever' from them, and they crumble into dust."
"Ach, Mom," the child asked a few moments later, "do you mind that Christmas and the big doll?" An eager light dwelt in the little girl's eyes as she thought back to the happy time when her big, laughing father had made one in the family circle.
"Yes." The mother smiled a bit sadly. But Amanda prattled on gaily.
"That was the best Christmas ever I had! You mind how we went to market in Lancaster, Pop and you and I, near Christmas, and in a window of a store we saw a great, grand, big doll. She was bigger'n me and had light hair and blue eyes. I wanted her, and I told you and Pop and coaxed for you to buy her. Next week when we went to market and passed the store she was still in the window. Then one day Pop went to Lancaster alone and when he came home I asked if the doll was still there, and he said she wasn't in the window. I cried, and was so disappointed and you said to Pop, 'That's a shame, Philip.' And I thought, too, it was a shame he let somebody else buy that doll when I wanted it so. Then on Christmas morning—what do you think—I came down-stairs and ran for my presents, and there was that same big doll settin' on the table in the room! Millie and you had dressed her in a blue dress. Course she wasn't in the window when I asked Pop, for he had bought her! He laughed, and we all laughed, and we had the best Christmas. I sat on my little rocking-chair and rocked her, and then I'd sit her on the sofa and look at her—I was that proud of her."
"That's five, six years ago, Amanda."
"Yes, I was little then. I mind a story about that little rockin'-chair, too, Mom. It's up in the garret now; I'm too big for it. But when I first got it I thought it was wonderful fine. Once Katie Hiestand came here with her mom, and we were playin' with our dolls and not thinkin' of the chair, and then Katie saw it and sat in it. And right aways I wanted to set in it, too, and I made her get off. But you saw it and you told me I must not be selfish, but must be polite and let her set in it. My, I remember lots of things."
"I'm glad, Amanda, if you remember such things, for I want you to grow up into a nice, good woman."
"Like you and Millie, ain't? I'm goin' to. I ain't forgot, neither, that once when I laughed at Katie for saying the Dutch word for calendar and gettin' all her English mixed with Dutch, you told me it's not nice to laugh at people. But I forgot it the other day, Mom, when we laughed at Aunt Rebecca and treated her mean. But she's so cranky and—and—-"
"And she helped sew on your dresses," added the mother.
"Now that was ugly for us to act so! Why, ain't it funny, Mom, it sounds so easy to say abody should be kind and yet sometimes it's so hard to do it. When Aunt Rebecca comes next time I'm just goin' to see once if I can't be nice to her."
"Of course you are. She's comin' to-morrow to help with the apple butter. But now you must go to sleep or you can't get up early to see Millie put the cider on. Philip, he's asleep this long while already."
A few minutes later the child was in bed and called a last good-night to the mother, who stood in the hall, a little lighted lamp in her hand. Amanda had an eye for beauty and the picture of her mother pleased her.
"Ach, Mom," she called, "just stand that way a little once, right there."
"Ach, you look wonderful like a picture I saw once, in that gray dress and the lamp in your hand. It's pretty."
"Now, now," chided the mother gently, "you go to sleep now. Good-night."
"Good-night," Amanda called after the retreating figure.
BOILING APPLE BUTTER
Amanda rose early the next morning. Apple-butter boiling day was always a happy one for her. She liked to watch the fire under the big copper kettle, to help with the ceaseless stirring with a long-handled stirrer. She thrilled at the breathless moment when her mother tested the thick, dark contents of the kettle and announced, "It's done."
At dawn she went up the stairs with Uncle Amos to the big attic and opened and closed doors for him as he carried the heavy copper kettle down to the yard. Then she made the same trip with Millie and helped to carry from the attic heavy stone crocks in which to store the apple butter.
After breakfast she went out to the grassy spot in the rear of the garden where an iron tripod stood and began to gather shavings and paper in readiness for the fire. She watched Millie scour the great copper kettle until its interior shone, then it was lifted on the tripod, the cider poured into it, and the fire started. Logs were fed to the flames until a roaring fire was in blast. Several times Millie skimmed the foam from the cider.
"This is one time when signs don't work," the hired girl confided to the child. "Your Aunt Rebecca says that if you cook apple butter in the up-sign of the almanac it boils over easy, but it's the down-sign to-day, and yet this cider boils up all the time."
"I guess it'll all burn in the bottom," said Amanda, "if it's the down-sign."
"Not if you stir it good when the snitz are in. That's the time the work begins. Here's your mom and Philip."
"Ach, Mom,"—Amanda ran to meet her mother—"this here's awful much fun! I wish we'd boil apple butter every few days."
"Just wait once," said Millie, "till you're a little bigger and want to go off to picnics or somewhere and got to stay home and help to stir apple butter. Then you'll not like it so well. Why, Mrs. Hershey was tellin' me last week how mad her girls get still if the apple butter's got to be boiled in the hind part of the week when they want to be done and dressed and off to visit or to Lancaster instead of gettin' their eyes full of smoke stirrin' apple butter."
Mrs. Reist laughed.
"But," Amanda said with a tender glance at the hired girl, "I guess Hershey's ain't got no Millie like we to help."
"Ach, pack off now with you," Millie said, trying to frown. "I got to stop this spoilin' you. You don't think I'd stand in the hot sun and stir apple butter while you go off on a picnic or so when you're big enough to help good?"
"But that's just what you would do! I know you! Didn't you spend almost your whole Christmas savin' fund on me and Phil last year?"
"Ach, you talk too much! Let me be, now, I got to boil apple butter."
Philip ran for several boxes and old chairs and put them under a spreading cherry tree. "We take turns stirrin'," he explained, "so those that don't stir can take it easy while they wait their turn. Jiminy Christmas, guess we'll have a regular party to-day. All of us are in it, and Aunt Rebecca's comin', and Lyman Mertzheimer, and I guess Martin Landis, and mebbe some of the little Landis ones and the whole Crow Hill will be here. Here comes Millie with the snitz!"
The pared apples were put into the kettle, then the stirring commenced. A long wooden stirrer, with a handle ten feet long, was used, the big handle permitting the stirrer to stand a comfortable distance from the smoke and fire.
The boiling was well under way when Aunt Rebecca arrived.
"My goodness, Philip," she began as soon as she neared the fire, "you just stir half! You must do it all around the bottom of the kettle or the butter'll burn fast till it's done. Here, let me do it once." She took the handle from his hands and began to stir vigorously.
"Good!" cried the boy. "Now we can roast apples. Here, comes Lyman up the road, and Martin Landis and the baby. Now we'll have some fun!" He pointed to the toad, where Martin Landis, a neighbor boy, drew near with his two-year-old brother on his arm.
"But you keep away from the fire," ordered Aunt Rebecca.
The children ran off to the yard to greet the newcomers and soon came back joined by Lyman and Martin and the ubiquitous baby.
"I told you," Lyman said with mocking smiles, "that Martin would have to bring the baby along."
Martin Landis was fifteen, but hard work and much responsibility had added to him wisdom and understanding beyond his years. His frank, serious face could at times assume the look of a man of ripened experience. At Lyman's words it burned scarlet. "Ach, go on," he said quietly; "it'd do you good if you had a few to carry around; mebbe then you wouldn't be such a dude."
That brought the laugh at the expense of the other boy, who turned disdainfully away and walked to Aunt Rebecca with an offer to stir the apple butter.
"No, I'll do it," she said in a determined voice.
"Give me the baby," said Mrs. Reist, "then you children can go play." The little tot ran to her outstretched arms and was soon laughing at her soft whispers about young chickens to feed and ducks to see.
"Now," Amanda cried happily, "since Mom keeps the baby we'll roast corn and apples under the kettle."
In spite of Aunt Rebecca's protest, green corn and ripe apples were soon encased in thick layers of mud and poked upon the glowing bed under the kettle.
"Abody'd think none o' you had breakfast," she said sternly.
"Ach," said Mrs. Reist, "these just taste better because they're wrapped in mud. I used to do that at home when I was little."
"Well, I never did. They'll get burned yet with their foolin' round the fire."
Her prophecy came perilously close to fulfilment later in the day. Amanda, bending near the fire to turn a mud-coated apple, drew too close to the lurking flames. Her gingham dress was ready fuel for the fire. Suddenly a streak of flame leaped up the hem of it. Aunt Rebecca screamed. Lyman cried wildly, "Where's some water?" But before Mrs. Reist could come to the rescue Martin Landis had caught the frightened child and thrown her flat into a dense bed of bean vines near by, smothering the flames.
Then he raised her gently. Much handling of his younger sisters and brothers had made him adept with frightened children.
"Come, Manda," he said soothingly, "you're not hurt. Just your dress is burned a little."
"My hand—it's burned, I guess," she faltered.
Again force of habit swayed Martin. He bent over and kissed the few red marks on her fingers as he often kissed the bumped heads and scratched fingers of the little Landis children.
"Ach—" Amanda's hand fluttered under the kiss.
Then a realization of what he had done came to the boy. "Why," he stammered, "I didn't mean—I guess I oughtn't done that—I wasn't thinking, Manda."
"Ach, Martin, it's all right. You didn't hurt it none." She misunderstood him. "See, it ain't hurt bad at all. But, Martin, you scared me when you threw me in that bean patch! But it put the fire out. You're smart to think of that so quick."
"Oh, yes," Mrs. Reist found her voice, and the color crept back to her cheeks again. "Martin, I can't thank you enough."
"Um," Lyman said sneeringly, "now I suppose Martin's a hero."
"So he is!" said the little girl with decision. "He saved my life, and I ain't forgettin' it neither." Then she sat down by her mother's side and began to play with the baby.
"Well, guess the fun's over," said Lyman. "You went and spoiled it by catching fire." He went off in sulky mood.
"My goodness," exclaimed Aunt Rebecca, "mebbe now you'll keep away from this fire once."
Amanda kept away. The fun of the apple-butter boiling was ended for her. She sat quietly under the tree while Millie and Aunt Rebecca and Phil took turns at stirring. She watched passively while Millie poured pounds of sugar into the boiling mass. She even missed the customary thrill as some of the odorous contents of the kettle were tested and the verdict came, "It's done!" The thrills of apple-butter boiling were as nothing to her now. She still felt the wonder of being rescued from the fire, rescued by a nice boy with a strong arm and a gentle voice— what if it was only a boy she had known all her life!—her heart enshrined its first hero that day.
She forgot the terror that had seized her as the flames licked up her dress, the scorching touch on her hand was obliterated from her memory and only the healing gentleness of the kiss remained.
"He kissed my hand," she thought that night as she lay under her patchwork quilt. "It was just like the stories we read about in school about the 'knights of old that were brave and bold.'"
She thought of the picture on the schoolhouse wall. Sir Galahad, the teacher had called it, and read those lovely lines that Amanda remembered and liked—"My strength is as the strength of ten because my heart is pure."
Martin was like that!
A VISIT TO MARTIN'S MOTHER
When Amanda awoke the next morning her first thought was of the burnt hand and its healing kiss. "Why, Martin—ach, Martin—he kissed my hand," she said softly to herself. "Just like they do in the stories about knights—knights always kiss their ladies' hands. Ach, I know what I'll do! I'll play Martin Landis is my knight and I'm his lady grand. Wish Mom was here, then I'd ask her if she knows anything about what knights do and how the ladies ought to act to them. But she's in Lancaster. Mebbe Millie would know. I'll go ask her once."
Millie was baking pies when the girl sought her for the information.
"Ach, what?" The hired girl brushed the flour from her bare arms and turned to look at Amanda. "Now I know what you want—you smell the pies and you want a half-moon sample to eat before it's right cold and get your stomach upset and your face all pimply. Ain't?"
"No," began the child, then added diplomatically, "why, yes, I do want that, but that ain't what I come for."
Millie laughed. "Then what? But don't bother me for long. I got lots to do yet. I want to get the pies all done till your mom gets back."
"Why, Millie, I wondered, do you know anything about knights?"
"Not me. I sleep nights."
"Ach, Millie—knights—the kind you read about, the men that wear plumes in their hats."
"Feathers, you mean? Why, the only man I ever heard of wearin' a feather in his hat was Yankee Doodle."
"Ach, Millie, you make me mad! But I guess you don't know. Well, tell me this—if somebody did something for you and you wanted to show you 'preciated it, what would you do?"
"That's an easy one! I'd be nice to them and do things for them or for their people. Now you run and let me be. 'Bout half an hour from now you dare come in for your half-moon pie. Ach, I most forgot! Your mom said you shall take a little crock of the new apple butter down to Mrs. Landis."
"A little crock won't go far with all them children."
"Ach, yes. It'll smear a lot o' bread. I'll pack it in a basket so you can carry it easy. Better put on your sunbonnet so your hair won't burn red."
"Redder, you mean, ain't? But I won't need a bonnet. I'll take my new parasol."
"Parasol," echoed Millie. "Now what—-"
But Amanda ran away, laughing, and returned in a few minutes holding a giant rhubarb leaf over her head. "Does the green silk of my parasol look good with my hair?" she asked with an exaggerated air of grandeur.
"Go on, now," Millie said, laughing, "and don't spill that apple butter or you'll get parasol."
With a merry good-bye Amanda set off, the basket upon her arm, one hand grasping the red stem of the rhubarb parasol while the great green leaf flopped up and down upon her head in cool ministration.
Down the sunny road she trudged, spasmodically singing bits of gay songs, then again talking to herself. "This here is a dandy parasol. Cooler'n a real one and lots nicer'n a bonnet or a hat. Only I wish it was bigger, so my arms would be covered, for it's hot out to-day."
When she reached the little red brick country schoolhouse, half-way between her home and the Landis farm, she paused in the shade of a great oak that grew in the school-yard.
"Guess I'll rest the apple butter a while in this shade," she said to herself, "and pick a bouquet for my knight's mom." From the grassy roadside she gathered yellow and gold butter-and-eggs, blue spikes of false dragon's head, and edged them with a lacy ruffle of wild carrot flowers.
"There, that's grand!" she said as she held the bouquet at arm's length and surveyed it carefully. "I'll hold it out, just so, and I'll say to Mrs. Landis, 'Mother of my knight, I salute you!' I know she'll be surprised. Mebbe I might tell her just how brave her Martin is and how I made him a knight. She'll be glad. It must be a satisfaction to have a boy a knight." She smiled in happy anticipation of the wonderful message she was going to bring Mrs. Landis. Then she replaced the rhubarb parasol over her head, picked up the basket, and went down the country road to the Landis farm.
"It's good Landis's don't live far from our place," she thought. "My parasol's wiltin'."
Like the majority of houses in the Crow Hill section of country, the Landis house was set in a frame of green trees and old-fashioned flower gardens. It flaunted in the face of the passer-by an old-time front yard. The wide brick walk that led straight from the gate to the big front porch was edged on both sides with a row of bricks placed corners up. On either side of the walk were bushes, long since placed without the discriminating eye of a landscape gardener but holding in their very randomness a charm unrivaled by any precise planting. Mock-orange bushes and lilacs towered above the low deutzias, while masses of zinnias, petunias, four-o'clocks, and a score of other old-fashioned posies crowded against each other in the long beds that edged the walks and in the smaller round beds that were dotted here and there in the grass. Jaded motorists from the city drove their cars slowly past the glory of the Landis riot of blossoms.
As Amanda neared the place she looked ruefully at her knot of wild flowers. "She's got so many pretty ones," she thought. "But, ach, I guess she'll like these here, too, long as they're a present."
Two of the Landis children ran to greet Amanda as she opened the gate and entered the yard.
"I'll lay my parasol by the gate," she said. "Where's your mom?"
"In the kitchen, cannin' blackberries," said little Henry.
As Amanda rounded the corner of the house, the two children clinging to her arm, Mrs. Landis came to the kitchen door.
"Mother of my knight, I salute you," said Amanda, making as low a bow as the two barnacle children, the bouquet and the basket with its crock of apple butter, would allow.
"What," laughed Mrs. Landis. "Now what was that you said? The children make so much noise I can't hear sometimes. Henry, don't hang so on Amanda's arm, it's too hot."
"I said—why, I said—I have some apple butter for you that Mom sent and I picked a bouquet for you," the child replied, her courage suddenly gone from her.
"Now, ain't that nice! Come right in." The woman held the screen door open for the visitor.
Mrs. Landis, mother of the imaginary knight and of six other children, was a sturdy, well-built woman, genial and good-natured, as stout people are reputed to be. In spite of hard work she retained a look of youthfulness about her which her plain Mennonite dress and white cap accentuated. An artist with an appreciative eye might have said that the face of that mother was like a composite picture of all the Madonnas of the old masters—tender, love-lighted yet far-seeing and reverent.
Amanda had always loved Mrs. Landis and spent many hours in her home, attracted by the baby—there always was one, either in arms or just wobbling about on chubby little legs.
"Now ain't it nice of your mom to send us that new apple butter! And for you to pick the flowers for me! Sattie for both. I say still that the wild flowers beat the ones on the garden beds. And how pretty you fixed them!"
"Mom, Mom," whispered little Henry, "dare I smear me a piece of bread?"
"Yes, if you don't make crumbs."
"Oh, Mom," cried Mary Landis, who came running in from the yard. "What d'you think? Manda left her green parasol out by the front gate and Henry's chewed the handle off of it!"
"Chewed the handle off a parasol—what—how?" said the surprised mother.
Amanda laughed. "But don't you worry about it, Mrs. Landis," she said, "for it was a rhubarb parasol."
"Oh!" A merry laugh followed the announcement about the edible parasol handle and Mrs. Landis went back to spreading thick slices of bread with apple butter while three pairs of eager hands were reaching out to her.
A tiny wail which soon grew in volume sounded from a room in the front of the house.
"The baby's awake," said Amanda. "Dare I fetch him?"
"Yes. Go right in."
Amanda went through two rooms and came to a semi-darkened side room where the smallest Landis was putting forth a loud protest at his fancied neglect.
"Come on, Johnny, don't cry no more. Manda's goin' to take you—see!" She raised the baby, who changed from crying to laughter.
"Ain't he dear!" Amanda said as she brought the baby into the kitchen. "And so bright he is for not quite six months old. I remember how old he is because it was on my mom's last birthday in March that Millie said you had another baby and I remember, too, that Aunt Rebecca was there and she said, 'What, them Landis's got another baby! Poor thing!' I asked Mom why she said that and she thought Aunt Rebecca meant that babies make so much work for you."
"Ach, abody works anyhow, might as well work tendin' babies. Put your cheek against Johnny's face once, Amanda."
Amanda bent her head and touched the soft cheek of the child. "Why," she said, "ain't it soft, now! Ain't babies just too dear and sweet! I guess Aunt Rebecca don't know how nice they are."
"Poor thing," said Mrs. Landis.
"Poor—she ain't poor!" Amanda corrected her. "She owns two farms and got lots of money besides."
"But no children—poor thing," repeated Mrs. Landis.
Amanda looked at her, wondering.
"Amanda," said the white-capped mother as she wiped some blackberry juice from little Henry's fingers, "abody can have lots of money and yet be poor, and others can have hardly any money and yet be rich. It's all in what abody means by rich and what kind of treasures you set store by. I wouldn't change places with your rich Aunt Rebecca for all the farms in Lancaster County."
"Well, I guess not!" Amanda could understand her attitude. "And Mom and Millie say still you got such nice children. But Martin now," she said with assumed seriousness as she saw him step on the porch to enter the kitchen—"your Martin pushed me in a bean patch yesterday and I fell down flat on my face."
"Martin!" his mother began sternly. "What for did you act so?"
"Amanda, don't you tell!" the boy commanded, his face flushing. "Don't you dare tell!"
"I got to now, I started it. Ach, Mrs. Landis, you dare be proud of him! My dress caught fire and none of us had sense but him. He smothered it by throwin' me in the bean patch and he—he's a hero!"
"A hero!" cried little Henry. "Mart's a hero!" while the mother smiled proudly.
"Manda Reist," Martin spoke quickly as he edged to the door. "Amanda Reist, next time—next time I'll—darn it, I'll just let you burn up!" He ran from the room and disappeared round the corner of the house.
"Why"—Amanda's lips trembled—"ain't he mean! I just wanted to be nice to him and he got mad."
"Don't mind him," soothed the mother. "Boys are funny. He's not mad at you, he just don't like too much fuss made over what he done. But all the time he's tickled all over to have you call him a hero."
"Oh—are boys like that? Phil's not. But he ain't a knight. I guess knights like to pretend they're very modest even if they're full of pride." Mrs. Landis was too busy putting blackberries into the jars to catch the import of the child's words. The word knight escaped her hearing.
"Well, I must go now," said the small visitor. "I'll come again."
"All right, do, Amanda."
She put the baby in its coach, took up the empty basket, and after numerous good-byes to the children went down the road to her home. The rhubarb parasol gone, the sun beat upon her uncovered head but she was unmindful of the intense heat. Her brain was wholly occupied with thoughts of Martin Landis and his strange behavior.
"Umph," she decided finally, "men are funny things! I'm just findin' it out. And I guess knights are queerer'n others yet! Wonder if Millie kept my half-moon pie or if Phil sneaked it. Abody's just got to watch out for these men folks!"
AT AUNT REBECCA'S HOUSE
Several weeks after the eventful apple-butter boiling at the Reist farm, Aunt Rebecca invited the Reist family to spend a Sunday at her home.
"I ain't goin', Mom," Philip announced. "I don't like it there. Dare I stay home with Millie?"
"Mebbe Millie wants to come along," suggested his mother.
"Ach, I guess not this time. Just you go and Phil and I'll stay and tend the house and feed the chickens and look after things."
"Well, I'm goin'!" spoke up Amanda. "Aunt Rebecca's funny and bossy but I like to go to her house, it's so little and cute, everything."
"Cute," scoffed the boy. "Everything's cute to a girl. You dare go, I won't! Last time I was there I picked a few of her honeysuckle flowers and pulled that stem out o' them to get the drop of honey that's in each one, and she caught me and slapped my hand—mind you! Guess next she'll be puttin' up some scare-bees to keep the bees off her flowers. But say, Manda, if she gives you any of them little red and white striped peppermint candies like she does still, sneak me a few."
"Humph! You don't go to see her but you want her candy! I'd be ashamed, Philip Reist!"
"Hush, hush," warned Mrs. Reist. "Next you two'll be fightin', and on a Sunday, too."
The girl laughed. "Ach, Mom, guess we both got the tempers that goes with red hair. But it's Sunday, so I'll be good. I'm glad we're goin' to Aunt Rebecca. That's a nice drive."
Aunt Rebecca lived alone in a cottage at the edge of Landisville, a beautiful little town several miles from the Reist farm at Crow Hill. During her husband's life they lived on one of the big farms of Lancaster County, where she slaved in the manual labor of the great fields. Many were the hours she spent in the hot sun of the tobacco fields, riding the planter in the early spring, later hoeing the rich black soil close to the little young plants, in midsummer finding and killing the big green tobacco worms and topping and suckering the plants so that added value might be given the broad, strong leaves. Then later in the summer she helped the men to thread the harvested stalks on laths and hang them in the long open shed to dry.
Aunt Rebecca had married Jonas Miller, a rich man. All the years of their life together on the farm seemed a visible verification of the old saying, "To him that hath shall be given." A special Providence seemed to hover over their acres of tobacco. Storms and destructive hail appeared to roam in a swath just outside their farm. The Jonas Miller tobacco fields were reputed to be the finest in the whole Garden Spot county, and the Jonas Miller bank account grew correspondingly fast. But the bank account, however quickly it increased, failed to give Jonas Miller and his wife full pleasure, unless, as some say, the mere knowledge of possession of wealth can bring pleasure to miserly hearts. For Jonas Miller was, in the vernacular of the Pennsylvania Dutch, "almighty close." Millie, Reists' hired girl, said," That there Jonas is too stingy to buy long enough pants for himself. I bet he gets boys' size because they're cheaper, for the legs o' them always just come to the top o' his shoes. Whoever lays him out when he's dead once will have to put pockets in his shroud for sure! And he's made poor Becky just like him. It ain't in her family to be so near; why, Mrs. Reist is always givin' somebody something! But mebbe when he dies once and his wife gets the money in her hand she'll let it fly."
However, when Jonas Miller died and left the hoarded money to his wife she did not let it fly. She rented the big farm and moved to the little old-fashioned house in Landisville—a little house whose outward appearance might have easily proclaimed its tenant poor. There she lived alone, with occasional visits and visitors to break the monotony of her existence.
That Sunday morning of the Reist visit, Uncle Amos hitched the horse to the carriage, tied it by the front fence of the farm, then he went up-stairs and donned his Sunday suit of gray cloth. Later he brought out his broad-brimmed Mennonite hat and called to Amanda and her mother, "I'm ready. Come along!"
Mrs. Reist wore a black cashmere shawl pinned over her plain gray lawn dress and a stiff black silk bonnet was tied under her chin. Amanda skipped out to the yard, wearing a white dress with a wide buff sash. A matching ribbon was tied on her red hair.
"Jiminy," whistled Uncle Amos as she ran to him and swung her leghorn hat on its elastic. "Jiminy, you're pretty—-"
"Oh, am I, Uncle Amos?" She smiled radiantly. "Am I really pretty?"
"Hold on, here!" He tried to look very sober. "If you ain't growin' up for sure! Lookin' for compliments a'ready, same as all the rest. I was goin' to say that you're pretty fancy dressed for havin' a Mennonite mom."
"Oh, Uncle Amos!" Amanda laughed and tossed her head so the yellow bow danced like a butterfly. "I don't believe you at all! You're too good to be findin' fault like that! Millie says so, too."
"She does, eh? She does? Just what does Millie say about me now?"
"Why, she said yesterday that you're the nicest man and have the biggest heart of any person she knows."
"Um—so! And Millie says that, does she? Um—so! well, well"—a glow of joy spread in his face and stained his neck and ears. Fortunately, for his future peace of mind, the child did not notice the flush. A swallowtail butterfly had flitted among the zinnias and attracted the attention of Amanda so it was diverted from her uncle. But he still smiled as Millie opened the front door and she and Mrs. Reist stepped on the porch.
Millie, in her blue gingham dress and her checked apron, her straight hair drawn back from her plain face, was certainly no vision to cause the heart of the average man to pump faster. But as Amos looked at her he saw suddenly something lovelier than her face. She walked to the gate, smoothing the shawl of Mrs. Reist, patting the buff sash of the little girl.
"Big heart," thought Amos, "it's her got the big heart!"
"Good-bye, safe journey," the hired girl called after them as they started down the road. "Don't worry about us. Me and Phil can manage alone. Good-bye."
The road to Landisville led past green fields of tobacco and corn, large farmhouses where old-fashioned flowers made a vivid picture in the gardens, orchards and woodland tracts, their green shade calling invitingly. Once they crossed a wandering little creek whose shallow waters flowed through lovely meadows where boneset plants were white with bloom and giant eupatorium lifted its rosy heads. A red-headed flicker flew screaming from a field as they passed, and a fussy wren scolded at them from a fence corner.
"She'll have a big job," said Uncle Amos, "if she's goin' to scold every team and automobile that passes here this mornin'. Such a little thing to be so sassy!"
As they came to Landisville and drove into the big churchyard there were already many carriages standing in the shade of the long open shed and numerous automobiles parked in the sunny yard.
A few minutes later they entered the big brick meeting-house and sat down in the calm of the sanctuary. The whispers of newcomers drifted through the open windows, steps sounded on the bare floor of the church, but finally all had entered and quiet fell upon the place.
The simple service of the Mennonite Church is always appealing and helpful. The music of voices, without any accompaniment of musical instrument, the simple prayers and sermons, are all devoid of ostentation or ornamentation. Amanda liked to join in the singing and did so lustily that morning. But during the sermon she often fell to dreaming. The quiet meeting-house where only the calm voice of the preacher was heard invited the building of wonderful castles in Spain. Their golden spires reared high in the blue of heaven... she would be a lady in a trailing, silken gown, Martin would come, a plumed and belted knight, riding on a pure white steed like that in the Sir Galahad picture at school, and he'd repeat to her those beautiful words, "My strength is as the strength of ten because my heart is pure." Was there really any truth in that poem? Could one be strong as ten because the heart was pure? Of course! It had to be true! Martin could be like that. He'd lift her to the saddle on the pure white horse and they'd ride away together to one of those beautiful castles in Spain, high up on the mountains, so high they seemed above the clouds...
Then she came back to earth suddenly. The meeting was over and Aunt Rebecca stood ready to take them to her home.
The country roads were filled with carriages and automobiles; the occupants of the former nodded a cordial how-de-do, though most of them were strangers, but the riders in the motors sped past without a sign of friendliness.
"My goodness," said Aunt Rebecca, "since them automobiles is so common abody don't get many how-de-dos no more as you travel along the country roads. Used to be everybody'd speak to everybody else they'd meet on the road—here, Amos," she laid a restraining hand upon the reins. "Stop once! I see a horseshoe layin' in the road and it's got two nails in it, too. That's powerful good luck! Stop once and let me get it."
Amos chuckled and with a loud "Whoa" brought the horse to a standstill. Aunt Rebecca climbed from the carriage, picked up the trophy of good luck and then took her seat beside her brother again, a smile upon her lined old face.
"That's three horseshoes I have now. I never let one lay. I pick up all I find and take them home and hang them on the old peach tree in the back yard. I know they bring good luck. Mebbe if I hadn't picked up all them three a lot o' trouble would come to me."
"Have it your way," conceded Uncle Amos. "They don't do you no hurt, anyhow. But, Rebecca," he said as they came within sight of her little house, "you ought to get your place painted once."
"Ach, my goodness, what for? When it's me here alone. I think the house looks nice. My flowers are real pretty this year, once. Course, I don't fool with them like you do. I have the kind that don't take much tendin' and come up every year without bein' planted. Calico flowers and larkspur and lady-slippers are my kind. This plantin' and hoein' at flowers is all for nothin'. It's all right to work so at beans and potatoes and things you can eat when they grow, but what good are flowers but to look at! I done my share of hoein' and diggin' and workin' in the ground. I near killed myself when Jonas lived yet, in them tobacco patches. I used to say to him still, we needn't work so hard and slave like that after we had so much money put away, but he was for workin' as long as we could, and so we kept on till he went. He used to say money gets all if you begin to spend it and don't earn more. Jonas was savin'."
"He sure was, that he was," seconded Uncle Amos with a twinkle in his eyes. "Savin' for you and now you're savin' for somebody that'll make it fly when you go, I bet. Some day you'll lay down and die and your money'll be scattered. If you leave me any, Becky," he teased her, "I'll put it all in an automobile."
"What, them wild things! Road-hogs, I heard somebody call 'em, and I think it's a good name. My goodness, abody ain't safe no more since they come on the streets. They go toot, toot, and you got to hop off to one side in the mud or the ditch, it don't matter to them. I hate them things! Only don't never take me to the graveyard in one of them."
"By that time," said Uncle Amos, "they'll have flyin' machine hearses; they'll go faster."
"My goodness, Amos, how you talk! Ain't you ashamed to make fun at your old sister that way! But Mom always said when you was little that you seemed a little simple, so I guess you can't help it."
"Na-ha," exulted Amanda, with impish delight. "That's one on you. Aunt Rebecca ain't so dumb like she lets on sometimes."
"Ach, no," Aunt Rebecca said, laughing. "'A blind pig sometimes finds an acorn, too.'"
Aunt Rebecca's table, though not lavishly laden as are those of most of the Pennsylvania Dutch, was amply filled with good, substantial food. The fried sausage was browned just right, the potatoes and lima beans well-cooked, the cold slaw, with its dash of red peppers, was tasty and the snitz pie—Uncle Amos's favorite—was thick with cinnamon, its crust flaky and brown.
After the dishes were washed Aunt Rebecca said, "Now then, we'll go in the parlor."
"Oh, in the parlor!" exclaimed Amanda. "Why, abody'd think we was company. You don't often take us in the parlor."
"Ach, well, you won't make no dirt and I just thought to-day, once, I'd take you in the parlor to sit a while. It don't get used hardly. Wait till I open the shutters."
She led the way through a little hall to the front room. As she opened the door a musty odor came to the hall.
"It smells close," said Aunt Rebecca, sniffing. "But it'll be all right till I get some screens in." She pulled the tasseled cords of the green shades, opened the slatted shutters, and a flood of summer light entered the room. "Ach," she said impatiently as she hammered at one window, "I can hardly get this one open still, it sticks itself so." But after repeated thumps on the frame she succeeded in raising it and placing an old-fashioned sliding screen.
"Now sit down and take it good," she invited.
Uncle Amos sank into an old-fashioned rocker with high back and curved arms, built throughout for the solid comfort of its occupants. Mrs. Reist chose an old hickory Windsor chair, Aunt Rebecca selected, with a sigh of relief, a fancy reed rocker, given in exchange for a book of trading stamps.
"This here's the best chair in the house and it didn't cost a cent," she announced as she rocked in it.
Amanda roamed around the room. "I ain't been in here for long. I want to look around a little. I like these dishes. I wish we had some like them." She tiptoed before a corner cupboard filled with antiques.
"Ach, yes," her aunt answered, "mebbe it looks funny, ain't, to have a glass cupboard in the parlor, but I had no other room for it, the house is so little. If I didn't think so much of them dishes I'd sold them a'ready. That little glass with the rim round the bottom of it I used to drink out of it at my granny's house when I was little. Them dark shiny dishes like copper were Jonas's mom's. And I like to keep the pewter, too, for abody can't buy it these days."
Amanda looked up. On the top shelf of the cupboard was a silver lustre pitcher, a teapot of rose lustre, a huge willow platter with its quaint blue design, several pewter bowls, a plate with a crude peacock in bright colors—an array of antiques that would have awakened covetousness in the heart of a connoisseur.
A walnut pie-crust tilt top table stood in one corner of the room, a mahogany gateleg occupied the centre, its beauty largely concealed by a cover of yellow and white checked homespun linen, upon which rested a glass oil lamp with a green paper shade, a wide glass dish filled with pictures, an old leather-bound album with heavy brass clasps and hinges. A rag carpet, covered in places with hooked rugs, added a proper note of harmony, while the old walnut chairs melted into the whole like trees in a woodland scene. The whitewashed walls were bare save for a large square mirror with a wide mahogany frame, a picture holder made from a palm leaf fan and a piece of blue velvet briar stitched in yellow, and a cross-stitch canvas sampler framed with a narrow braid of horsehair from the tail of a dead favorite of long ago.
"What's pewter made of, Aunt Rebecca?" asked the child.
"Why, of tin and lead. And it's a pity they don't make it and use lots of it like they used to long ago. For you can use pewter spoons in vinegar and they don't turn black like some of these things that look like silver but ain't. Pewter is good ware and I think sometimes that the people that lived when it was used so much were way ahead of the people to-day. Pewter's the same all through, no thin coatin' of something shiny that can wear off and spoil the spoons or dishes. It's old style now but it's good and pretty."
"Yes, that's so," agreed Amanda. It was surprising to the little girl that the acidulous old aunt could, so unexpectedly, utter beautiful, suggestive thoughts. Oh, Aunt Rebecca's house was a wonderful place. She must see more of the treasures in the parlor.
Finally her activity annoyed Aunt Rebecca. "My goodness," came the command, "you sit down once! Here, look at the album. Mebbe that will keep you quiet for a while."
Amanda sat on a low footstool and took the old album on her knees. She uttered many delighted squeals of surprise and merriment as she turned the thick pages and looked at the pictures of several generations ago. A little girl with ruffled pantalets showing below her full skirt and a fat little boy with full trousers reaching half-way between his knees and his shoetops sent Amanda into a gale of laughter. "Oh, I wish Phil was here. What funny people!"
"Let me see once," asked Aunt Rebecca. "Why, that's Amos and your mom."
Mrs. Reist smiled and Uncle Amos chuckled. "We're peaches there, ain't? I guess if abody thinks back right you see there were as many crazy styles in olden times as there is now."
Tintypes of men and women in peculiar dress of Aunt Rebecca's youth called forth much comment and many questions from the interested Amanda. "Are there no pictures in here of you?" she asked her aunt.
"Yes, I guess so. On the last page or near there. That one," she said as the child found it, a tintype of a young man seated on a vine- covered seat and a comely young woman standing beside him, one hand laid upon his shoulder.
"And is that Uncle Jonas?"
"No—my goodness, no! That's Martin Landis."
"Martin Landis? Not my—not the Martin Landis's pop that lives near us?"
"Yes, that one."
"Why"—Amanda was wide-eyed and curious—"what were you doin' with your hand on his shoulder so and your picture taken with him?"
Aunt Rebecca laughed. "Ach, I had dare to do that for we was promised then, engaged they say now."
"You were goin' to marry Martin Landis's pop once?" The girl could not quite believe it.
"Yes. But he was poor and along came Jonas Miller and he was rich and I took him. But the money never done me no good. Mebbe abody shouldn't say it, since he's dead, but Jonas was stingy. He'd squeeze a dollar till the eagle'd holler. He made me pinch and save till I got so I didn't feel right when I spent money. Now, since he's gone, I don't know how. I act so dumb it makes me mad at myself sometimes. If I go to Lancaster and buy me a whole plate of ice-cream it kinda bothers me. I keep wonderin' what Jonas'd think, for he used to say that half a plate of cream's enough for any woman. But mebbe it was to be that I married Jonas instead of Martin Landis. Martin is a good man but all them children—my goodness! I guess I got it good alone in my little house long side of Mrs. Landis with all her children to take care of."
Amanda remembered the glory on the face of Mrs. Landis as she had said, "Abody can have lots of money and yet be poor and others can have hardly any money and yet be rich. It's all in what abody means by rich and what kind of treasures you set store by. I wouldn't change places with your rich Aunt Rebecca for all the farms in Lancaster County." Poor Aunt Rebecca, she pitied her! Then she remembered the words of the memory gem they had analyzed in school last year, "Where ignorance is bliss 'tis folly to be wise." She could understand it now! So long as Aunt Rebecca didn't see what she missed it was all right. But if she ever woke up and really felt what her life might have been if she had married the poor man she loved—poor Aunt Rebecca! A halo of purest romance hung about the old woman as the child looked up at her.
"My goodness," the woman broke the spell, "it's funny how old pictures make abody think back. That old polonaise dress, now," she went on in reminiscent strain, "had the nicest buttons on. I got some of 'em yet on my charm string."
"Charm string—what's a charm string?"
"Wait once. I'll show you."
The woman left the room. They heard her tramp about up-stairs and soon she returned with a long string of buttons threaded closely together and forming a heavy cable.
"Oh, let me see! Ain't that nice!" exclaimed Amanda. "Where did you ever get so many buttons and all different?"
"We used to beg them. When I was a girl everybody mostly had a charm string. I kept puttin' buttons on mine till I was well up in my twenties, then the string was full and big so I stopped. I used to hang it over the looking glass in the parlor and everybody that came looked at it."
Amanda fingered the charm string interestedly. Antique buttons, iridescent, golden, glimmering, some with carved flowers, others globules of colored glass, many of them with quaint filigree brass mounting over colored background, a few G. A. R. buttons from old uniforms, speckled china ones like portions of bird eggs—all strung together and each one having a history to the little old eccentric woman who had cherished them through many years.
"This one Martin Landis give me for the string and this one is from Jonas' wedding jacket and this pretty blue glass one a girl gave me that's dead this long a'ready."
"Oh"—Amanda's eyes shone. She turned to her mother, "Did you ever have a charm string, Mom?"
"Yes. A pretty one. But I let you play with it when you were a baby and the string got broke and the buttons put in the box or lost."
"Ach, but that spites me. I'd like to see it and have you tell where the buttons come from. I like old things like that, I do."
"Then mebbe you'd like to see my friendship cane," said Aunt Rebecca.
"Oh, yes! What's that?" Amanda rose from her chair, eager to see what a friendship cane could be.
"My goodness, sit down! You get me all hoodled up when you act so jumpy," said the aunt. Then she walked to a corner of the parlor, reached behind the big cupboard and drew out a cane upon which were tied some thirty ribbon bows of various colors.
"And is that a friendship cane?" asked Amanda. "What's it for?"
"Ach, it was just such a style, good for nothin' but for the girls of my day to have a little pleasure with. We got boys and girls to give us pretty ribbons and we exchanged with some and then we tied 'em on the cane. See, they're all old kinds o' ribbons yet. Some are double-faced satin and some with them little scallops at the edge, and they're pretty colors, too. I could tell the name of every person who give me a ribbon for that cane. My goodness, lots o' them boys and girls been dead long a'ready. I guess abody shouldn't hold up such old things so long, it just makes you feel bad still when you rake 'em out and look at 'em. Here now, let me put it away, that's enough lookin' for one day." She spoke brusquely and put the cane into its hiding-place behind the glass cupboard.