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- Amanda - 20/40 -
things up a little with it, but if you'd rather give it to Mart--"
"I would. Much rather! I used oil lamps this long and I guess I can manage with them a while yet."
"All right, but as soon as we can we'll get others. Mart's young and ought to have his chance, like you say. I don't know what for he'd rather sit over a lot o' books in some hot little office or stand in a stuffy bank and count other people's money when he could work on a farm and be out in the open air, but then we ain't all alike and I guess it's a good thing we ain't. We'll tell him he dare have time for goin' to Lancaster to school if he wants. Mebbe he'll be a lawyer or president some day, ain't, Ma?"
"Ach, Martin, I don't think that would be so much. I'd rather have my children just plain, common people like we are. Mart's gone up to Reists' this evening."
"So? To see Amanda, I guess."
"Her or that boarder from Lancaster."
"That ruffly girl we saw this morning?"
"Ach, don't you worry, Ma. Our Mart won't run after that kind of a girl! Anyhow, not for long."
At that moment the object of their discussion was approaching the Reist farmhouse. The entire household, Millie included, sat on the big front porch as the caller came down the road.
"Look," said Philip, and began to sing softly. "Here comes a beau a-courting, a-courting---"
"Phil!" chided Millie and Amanda in one breath.
"Don't worry, Sis," said the irrepressible youth, "we'll gradually efface ourselves, one by one--we're very thoughtful. I'll flip a penny to see whether Isabel stays or you. Heads you win, tails she does."
The vehement protest from his sister did not deter the boy from tossing the coin, which promptly rolled off the porch and fell into a bed of geraniums.
"See," he continued, "even the Fates are uncertain which one of you will win. I suppose the battle's to the strongest this time. Oh, hello, Martin," he said graciously as the caller turned in at the gate, "Nice day, ain't it?"
"What ails the boy?" asked Martin, laughing as he raised his hat and joined the group on the porch.
"Martin," said Amanda after he had greeted Isabel and took his place on a chair near her, "you'd do me an everlasting favor if you'd turn that brother of mine up on your knees and spank him."
"Now that I'd like to see!" spoke up Millie.
"You would, Millie? You'd like to see me get that? After all the coal I've carried out of the cellar for you, and the other ways I've helped make your burden lighter--you'd sit and see me humiliated! Ingratitude! Even Millie turns against me. I'm going away from this crowd where I'm not appreciated."
"Oh, you needn't affect such an air of martyrdom," his sister told him. "I know you have a book half read; you want to get back to that."
"Say," said Uncle Amos, "these women, if they don't beat all! They ferret all the weak spots out a man. I say it ain't right."
Later in the evening the older members of the household left the porch and the trio of eternal trouble--two girls and a man--were left alone. It was then the city girl exerted her most alluring wiles to be entertaining. The man had eyes and ears for her only. As Mrs. Landis once said, he looked past Amanda and did not see her. She sat in the shadow and bit her lip as her plumed knight paid court before the beauty and charm of another. The heart of the simple country girl ached. But Isabel smiled, flattered and charmed and did it so adeptly that instead of being obnoxious to the country boy it thrilled and held him like the voice of a Circe. They never noticed Amanda's silence. She could lean back in her chair and dream. She remembered the story of Ulysses and his wax-filled ears that saved him from the sirens; the tale of Orpheus, who drowned their alluring voices by playing on his instrument a music sweeter than theirs--ah, that was her only hope! That somewhere, deep in the heart of the man she loved was a music surpassing in sweetness the music of the shallow girl's voice which now seemed to sway him to her will. "If he is a man worth loving," she thought, "he'll see through the surface glamour of a girl like that." It was scant consolation, for she knew that only too frequently do noble men give their lives into the precarious keeping of frivolous, butterfly women.
"Why so pensive?" the voice of Isabel pierced her revery.
"Me--oh, I haven't had a chance to get a word in edgewise."
"I was telling Mr. Landis he should go on with his studies. A correspondence course would be splendid for him if he can't get away from the farm for regular college work."
"I'm going to write about that course right away," Martin said. "I'm glad I had this talk with you, Miss Souders. I'll do as you suggest-- study nights for a time and then try to get into a bank in Lancaster. It is so kind of you to offer to see your father about a position. I'd feel in my element if I ever held a position in a real bank. I'll be indebted to you for life."
"Oh," she disclaimed any credit, "your own merits would cause you to make good in the position. I am sure Father will be glad to help you. He has helped several young men to find places. All he asks in return is that they make good. I know you'd do that."
When Martin Landis said good-night his earnest, "May I come again-- soon?" was addressed to Isabel. She magnanimously put an arm about Amanda before she replied, "Certainly. We'll be glad to have you."
"Oh," thought Amanda, "I'll be hating her pretty soon and then how will I ever endure having her around for a whole month! I'm a mean, jealous cat! Let Martin Landis choose whom he wants--I should worry!"
She said good-night with a stoical attempt at indifference, thereby laying the first block of the hard, high barricade she meant to build about her heart. She would be no child to cry for the moon, the unattainable. If her heart bled what need to make a public exhibition of it! From that hour on the front porch she turned her back on her gay, merry, laughing girlhood and began the journey in the realm of womanhood, where smiles hide sorrows and the true feelings of the heart are often masked.
The determination to meet events with dignity and poise came to her aid innumerable times during the days that followed. When Martin came to the Reist farmhouse with the news that his father was going to give him money for a course in a Business School in Lancaster it was to Isabel he told the tidings and from her he received the loudest handclaps.
The city girl, rosy and pretty in her morning dresses, ensconced herself each day on the big couch hammock of the front porch to wave to Martin Landis as he passed on his way to the trolley that took him to his studies in the city. Sometimes she ran to the gate and tossed him a rose for his buttonhole. Later in the day she was at her post again, ready to ask pleasantly as he passed, "Well, how did school go to-day?" Such seemingly spontaneous interest spurred the young man to greater things ahead.
Many evenings Martin sat on the Reist porch and he and Isabel laughed and chatted and sometimes half-absent-mindedly referred a question to Amanda. Frequently that young lady felt herself to be a fifth wheel and sought some diversion. Excuses were easy to find; the most palpable one was accepted with calm credulity by the infatuated young people.
One day, when three weeks of the boarder's stay were gone, Lyman Mertzheimer came home from college, bringing with him a green roadster, the gift of his wealthy, indulgent father.
He drew up to the Reist house and tooted his horn until Amanda ran into the yard to discover what the noise meant.
"Good-morning, Lady Fair!" he called, laughing at her expression of surprise. "I thought I could make you come! Bump of curiosity is still working, I see. Wait, I'm coming in," he called after her as she turned indignantly and moved toward the house.
"Please!" He called again as she halted, ashamed to be so lacking in cordiality. "I want to see you. That's a cold, cruel way to greet a fellow who's just come home from college and rushes over to see you first thing."
He entered the yard and Amanda bade him, "Come up. Sit down," as she took a chair on the porch. "So you're back for the summer, Lyman."
"Yes. Aren't you delighted?" He smiled at her teasingly. "I'm back to the 'sauerkraut patch' again. Glory, I wish Dad would sell out and move to some decent place."
"Um," she grunted, refraining from speech.
"Yes. I loathe this Dutch, poky old place. The only reason I'm glad to ever see it again is because you live here. That's the only excuse I have to be glad to see Lancaster County. And that reminds me, Amanda, have you forgotten what I told you at the Spelling Bee? Do you still feel you don't want to tackle the job of reforming me? Come, now," he pleaded, "give a fellow a bit of hope to go on."
"I told you no, Lyman. I don't change my mind so easily."
"Oh, you naughty girl!" came Isabel's sweet voice as she drifted to the porch. "I looked all over the house for you, Amanda, and here I find you entertaining a charming young man."
Isabel was lovely as usual. Amanda introduced Lyman to her and as the honeyed words fell from the lips of the city girl the country girl stood contemplating the pair before her. "That's the first time," she thought, "I was glad to hear that voice. I do wish those two would be attracted to each other. They match in many ways."
Lyman Mertzheimer was not seriously attracted to Isabel, but he was at
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