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- Amanda - 19/40 -
The big automobile that brought Isabel Souders to the Reist farmhouse one day early in June brought with her a trunk, a suitcase, a bag, an umbrella and a green parasol.
Aunt Rebecca was visiting there that day and she followed Amanda to the front door to receive the boarder.
"My goodness," came the exclamation as the luggage was carried in, "is that girl comin' here for good, with all _that_ baggage? And what did you let her come here for on a Friday? That's powerful bad luck!"
"For me," thought Amanda as she went to meet Isabel.
"See," the newcomer pointed to her trunk, "I brought some of my pretties along. I'll have to make hay while the sun shines. I'll have to make the most of this opportunity to win the heart of some country youth. Amanda, dear, wouldn't I be a charming farmer's wife? Can you visualize me milking cows, for instance?"
"No," answered Amanda, "I'd say that you were cut out for a different role." There was a deeper meaning in the country girl's words than the flighty city girl could read.
"Just the same," went on the newcomer, "I'm going to have one wonderful time in the country. You are such a dear to want me here and to take me into the family. I want to do just all the exciting things one reads about as belonging to life in the country. I am eager to climb trees and chase chickens and be a regular country girl for a month."
"Then I hope you brought some old clothes," was the practical reply.
"Not old, but plain little dresses for hard wear. I knew I'd need them."
Later, as Amanda watched the city girl unpack, she smiled ruefully at the plain little dresses for hard wear. Her observant eye told her that the little dresses of gingham and linen must have cost more than her own "best dresses." It was a very lavish wardrobe Isabel had selected for her month on the farm. Silk stockings and crepe de chine underwear were matched in fineness by the crepe blouses, silk dresses, airy organdies, a suit of exquisite tailoring and three hats for as many different costumes. The whole outfit would have been adequate and appropriate for parades on the Atlantic City boardwalk or a saunter down Peacock Alley of a great hotel, but it was entirely too elaborate for a Lancaster County farmhouse.
Millie, running in to offer her services in unpacking, stood speechless at the display of clothes. "Why," she almost stammered, "what in the world do you want with all them fancy things here? Them's party clothes, ain't?"
"No." Isabel shook her head. "Some are to wear in the evening and the plainer ones are afternoon dresses, and the linen and gingham ones are for morning wear."
"Well, I be! What don't they study for society folks! A different dress for every time of the day! What would you think if you had to dress like I do, with my calico dress on all day, only when I wear my lawn for cool or in winter a woolen one for warm?"
Millie went off, puzzled at the ways of society.
"Is she just a servant?" asked Isabel when they heard her heavy tread down the stairs.
"She isn't _just_ anything! She's a jewel! Mother couldn't do without Millie. We've had her almost twenty years. We can leave everything to her and know it will be taken care of. Why, Millie's as much a part of the family as though she really belonged to it. When Phil and I were little she was always baking us cookies in the shape of men or birds, and they always had big raisin eyes. Millie's a treasure and we all think of her as being one of the family."
"Mother says that's just the reason she won't hire any Pennsylvania Dutch girls; they always expect to be treated as one of the family. We have colored servants. You can teach them their place."
"I see. I suppose so," agreed Amanda, while she mentally appraised the girl before her and thought, "Isabel Souders, a little more democracy wouldn't be amiss for you."
Although the boarder who came to the Reist farmhouse was unlike any of the members of the family, she soon won her way into their affections. Her sweet tenderness, her apparent childlike innocence, appealed to the simple, unsuspicious country folk. Shaping her actions in accordance with the old Irish saying, "It's better to have the dogs of the street for you than against you," Isabel made friends with Millie and went so far as to pare potatoes for her at busy times. Philip and Uncle Amos were non-committal beyond a mere, "Oh, I guess she's all right. Good company, and nice to have around."
The first Sunday of the boarder's stay in the country she invited herself to accompany the family to Mennonite church. Amanda appeared in a simple white linen dress and a semi-tailored black hat, but when Isabel tripped down the stairs the daughter of the house was quite eclipsed. Isabel's dark hair was puffed out becomingly about cheeks that had added pink applied to them. In an airy orchid organdie dress and hat to match, white silk stockings and white buckskin pumps, she looked ready for a garden party. According to all the ways of human nature more than one little Mennonite maid in that meeting-house must have cast sidelong glances at the beautiful vision, and older members of the plain sect must have thought the old refrain, "Vanity, vanity, all is vanity!"
Aunt Rebecca was at church that morning and came to the Reist home for dinner. She sought out Millie in the kitchen and gave her unsolicited, frank opinion--"My goodness, I don't think much of that there Isabel from Lancaster! She's too much stuck up. Such a get-up for a Sunday and church like she has on to-day! She looks like a regular peacock. It'll go good if she don't spoil our Amanda yet till she goes home."
"Ach, I guess not. She's a little fancier than I like to see girls, but then she's a nice girl and can't do Amanda no hurt."
"She means herself too big, that's what! And them folks ain't the right kind for Amanda to know. It might spite you all yet for takin' her in to board. Next thing she'll be playin' round with some of the country boys here, and mebbe take one that Amanda would liked to get. There's no trustin' such gay dressers. I found that out long a'ready."
"Ach," said Millie, "I guess Amanda don't like none of the boys round here in Crow Hill."
"How do you know? Guess Amanda ain't no different from the rest of us in petticoats. You just wait once and see how long it goes till the boys commence to hang round this fancy Isabel."
Millie hadn't long to wait. Through Mrs. Landis, who had been to Mennonite church and noticed a stranger with the Reist family, Martin Landis soon knew of the boarder. That same evening he dressed in his best clothes. He had not forgotten the dark eyes of Isabel smiling to him over the pink azaleas.
"Where you goin', Mart?" asked his mother. "Over to Landisville to church?"
"No--just out for a little while."
"Take me with," coaxed the littlest Landis, now five years old and the ninth in line.
"Ach, go on!" spoke up an older Landis boy, "what d'you think Mart wants with you? He's goin' to see his girl. Na, ah!" he cried gleefully and clapped his hands, "I guessed it! Look at him blushin', Mom!"
Martin made a grab for the boy and shook him. "You've got too much romantic nonsense in your head," he told the teasing brother. "Next thing you know you'll be a poet!" He released the squirming boy and rubbed a finger round the top of his collar as he turned to his mother.
"I'm just going down to Reists' a while. I met Miss Souders a few weeks ago and thought it would be all right for me to call. The country must seem quiet to her after living in the city."
"Of course it's all right, Martin," agreed his mother. "Just you go ahead."
But after he left, Mrs. Landis sat a long while on the porch, thinking about her eldest boy, her first-born. "He's goin' to see that doll right as soon as she comes near, and yet Amanda he don't go to see when she's alone, not unless he wants her to go for a walk or something like that. If only he'd take to Amanda! She's the nicest girl in Lancaster County, I bet! But he looks right by her. This pretty girl, in her fancy clothes and with her flippy ways--I know she's flippy, I watched her in church--she takes his eye, and if she matches her dress she'll go to his head like hard cider. Ach, sometimes abody feels like puttin' blinders on your boys till you get 'em past some women."
A little later the troubled mother walked back to the side porch, where her husband was enjoying the June twilight while he kept an eye on four of the younger members of the family as they were quietly engaged in their Sabbath recreation of piecing together picture puzzles.
"Martin," she said as she sat beside the man, "I've been thinkin' about our Mart."
"Why, I feel we ain't doin' just right by him. You know he don't like farmin' at all. He's anxious to get more schoolin' but he ain't complainin'. He wants to fit himself so he can get in some office or bank in the city and yet here he works on the farm helpin' us like he really liked to do that kind of work. Now he's of age, and since Walter and Joe are big enough to help you good and we're gettin' on our feet a little since the nine babies are out of the dirt, as they say still, why don't we give Martin a chance once?"
"Well, why not? I'm agreed, Ma. He's been workin' double, and when I'm laid up with that old rheumatism he runs things good as I could. We got the mortgage paid off now. How'd it be if we let him have the tobacco money? I was thinkin' of puttin' in the electric lights and fixin'
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