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- Amanda - 10/40 -
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.
As Amanda watched the stern, unlovely face during the critical, faultfinding conversation which followed, she thought to herself, "I just believe that Uncle Amos told the truth when he said that Aunt Rebecca's like a chestnut burr. She's all prickly on the outside but she's got a nice, smooth side to her that abody don't often get the chance to see. Mebbe now, if she'd married Martin Landis's pop she'd be by now just as nice as Mrs. Landis. It wonders me now if she would!"
Mrs. Reist's desire for a happy childhood for her children was easily realized, especially in the case of Amanda. She had the happy faculty of finding joy in little things, things commonly called insignificant. She had a way of taking to herself each beauty of nature, each joy note of the birds, the airy loveliness of the clouds, and being thrilled by them.
With Phil and Martin Landis--and the ubiquitous Landis baby--she explored every field, woods and roadside in the Crow Hill section of the county. From association with her Phil and Martin had developed an equal interest in outdoors. The Landis boy often came running into the Reist yard calling for Amanda and exclaiming excitedly, "I found a bird's nest! It's an oriole this time, the dandiest thing way out on the end of a tiny twig. Come on see it!"
Amanda was the moving spirit of that little group of nature students. Phil and Martin might have never known an oriole from a thrush if she had not led them along the path of knowledge. Sometimes some of the intermediate Landis children joined the group. At times Lyman Mertzheimer sauntered along and invited himself, but his interest was feigned and his welcome was not always cordial.
"You Lyman Mertzheimer," Amanda said to him one day, "if you want to go along to see birds' nests you got to keep quiet! You think it's smart to scare them off the nests. That poor thrasher, now, that you scared last week! You had her heart thumpin' so her throat most burst. And her with her nest right down on the ground where we could watch the babies if we kept quiet. You're awful mean!"
"Huh," he answered, "what's a bird! All this fuss about a dinky brown bird that can't do anything but flop its wings and squeal when you go near it. It was fun to see her flop all around the ground."
"Oh, you nasty mean thing, Lyman Mertzheimer"--for a moment Amanda found no words to express her contempt of him--"sometimes I just hate you!"
He went off laughing, flinging back the prediction, "But some day you'll do the reverse, Amanda Reist." He felt secure in the belief that he could win the love of any girl he chose if he exerted himself to do so.
The little country school of Crow Hill was necessarily limited in its curriculum, hence when Amanda expressed a desire to become a teacher it was decided to send her to the Normal School at Millersville. At that
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