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- Amanda - 22/40 -
you why you must never forget that, but must keep exalted and unstained the high standards of courage and right."
Some world-old philosophical conception of the insignificance of her own joys and sorrows as compared with the magnitude of the earth and its vast solar system came to her at times.
"My life," she thought, "seems so important to me and yet it is so little a thing to weep about if my days are not as full of joy as I want them to be. I must step out from myself, detach myself and get a proper perspective. After all, my little selfish wants and yearnings are so small a portion of the whole scheme of things.
'For all that laugh, and all that weep And all that breathe are one Slight ripple on the boundless deep That moves, and all is gone.'"
Looking back over the winter months of that second year of teaching Amanda sometimes wondered how she was able to do her work in the schoolroom acceptably. But the strain of being a stoic left its marks upon her.
"My goodness," said Aunt Rebecca one day in February when a blizzard held her snowbound at the Reist farmhouse, "that girl must be doin' too much with this teachin' and basket makin' and who knows what not! She looks pale and sharp-chinned. Ain't you noticed?" she asked Mrs. Reist.
"I thought last week she looked pinched and I asked if she felt bad but she said she felt all right, she was just a little bit tired sometimes. I guess teachin' forty boys and girls ain't any too easy, Becky."
"My goodness, no! I'd rather tend hogs all day! But why don't you make a big crock of boneset tea and make her take a good swallow every day? There's nothin' like that to build abody up. She looks real bad--you don't want her to go in consumption like that Ellie Hess over near my place."
"Oh, mercy no! Becky, how you scare abody! I'll fix her up some boneset tea to-day yet. I got some on the garret that Millie dried last summer."
Amanda protested against the boneset but to please her mother she promised to swallow faithfully the doses of bitter tea. She thought whimsically as she drank it, "First time I knew that boneset tea is good for an aching heart. Boneset tea--it isn't that I want! I'm afraid I'm losing hold of my old faith in the ultimate triumph of sincerity and truth. Seems that men, even men like Martin Landis, don't want the old-fashioned virtues in a woman. They don't look for womanly qualities, but prefer to be amused and entertained and flattered and appealed to through the senses. Brains and heart don't seem to count. I wish I could be a butterfly! But I can never be like Isabel. When she is near I feel like a bump-on-a-log. My tongue is like lead while she chatters and holds the attention of Martin. She compels attention and crowds out everybody else. Oh, yea! as we youngsters used to say when things went wrong when we were little. Perhaps things will come out right some day. I'll just keep on taking that boneset tea!"
THE TROUBLE MAKER
If "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned" a man spurned in love sometimes runs a close second.
One day in March Lyman Mertzheimer came home for the week-end. His first thought was to call at the Reist home.
Amanda, outwardly improved--Millie said, "All because of that there boneset tea"--welcomed spring and its promise, but she could not extend to Lyman Mertzheimer the same degree of welcome.
"It's that Lyman again," Millie reported after she had opened the door for the caller. "He looks kinda mad about something. What's he hangin' round here for all the time every time he gets home from school when abody can easy see you don't like him to come?"
"Oh, I don't know. He just drops in. I guess because we were youngsters together."
"Um, mebbe," grunted Millie wisely to herself as Amanda went to see her visitor. "I ain't blind and neither did I come in the world yesterday. That Lyman's wantin' to be Amanda's beau and she don't want him. Guess he'll stand watchin' if he gets turned down. I never did like them Mertzheimers--all so up in the air they can hardly stand still to look at abody."
Lyman was standing at the window, looking out gloomily. He turned as Amanda came into the room.
"I had to come, Amanda--hang it, you keep a fellow on pins and needles! You wouldn't answer my letters--"
"I told you not to write."
"But why? Aren't you going to change your mind? I made up my mind long ago that I'd marry you some day and a Mertzheimer is a good deal like a bulldog when it comes to hanging on."
"Lyman, why hash the thing over so often? I don't care for you. Go find some nice girl who will care for you."
"Um," he said dejectedly, "I want you. I thought you just wanted to be coaxed, but I'm beginning to think you mean it. So you don't care for me--I suppose you'd snatch Martin Landis in a hurry if you could get him! But he's poor as a church mouse! You better tie him to your apron strings--that pretty Souders girl from Lancaster is playing her cards there--"
Amanda sprang to her feet. "Lyman," she sputtered--"you--you better go before I make you sorry you said that."
The luckless lover laughed, a reckless, demoniac peal. "Two can play at that game!" he told her. "You're so high and mighty that a Mertzheimer isn't good enough for you. But you better look out--we've got claws!"
The girl turned and went out of the room. A moment later she heard the front door slammed and knew that Lyman had gone. His covert threat-- what did he mean? What vengeance could he wreak on her? Oh, what a complicated riddle life had grown to be! She remembered Aunt Rebecca's warning that tears would have to balance all the laughter. How she yearned for the old, happy childhood days to come back to her! She clutched frantically at the quickly departing joy and cheerfulness of that far-off past.
"I'm going to keep my sense of humor and my faith in things in spite of anything that comes to me," she promised herself, "even if they do have to give me boneset tea to jerk me up a bit!" She laughed at Millie's faith in the boneset tea. "I hope it also takes the meanness and hate out of my heart. Why, just now I hate Lyman! If he really cared for me I'd feel sorry for him, but he doesn't love me, he just wants to marry me because long ago he decided he would do so some day."
In spite of her determination to be philosophical and cheerful, the memory of Lyman's threat returned to her at times in a baffling way. What could he mean? How could he harm her? His father was a director of the Crow Hill school, but pshaw! One director couldn't put her out of her place in the school!
Lyman Mertzheimer had only a few days to carry out the plan formulated in his angry mind as he walked home after the tilt with Amanda.
"I'll show her," he snorted, "the disagreeable thing! I'll show her what can happen when she turns down a Mertzheimer! The very name Mertzheimer means wealth and high standing! And she puts up her nose and tosses her red head at me and tells me she won't have me! She'll see what a Mertzheimer can do!"
The elder Mertzheimer, school director, was not unlike his son. When the young man came to him with an exaggerated tale of the contemptible way Amanda had treated him, thrown him over as though he were nobody, Mr. Mertzheimer, Senior, sympathized with his aggrieved son and stormed and vowed he'd see if he'd vote for that red-headed snip of a teacher next year. The Reists thought they were somebody, anyhow, and they had no more money than he had, perhaps not so much. What right had she to be ugly to Lyman when he did her the honor to ask her to marry him? The snip! He'd show her!
"But one vote won't keep her out of the school," said Lyman with diplomatic unconcern.
"Leave it to me, boy! I'll talk a few of them over. There was some complaint last year about her not doing things like other school- teachers round here, and her not being a strict enough teacher. She teaches geography with a lot of dirt and water. She has the young ones scurrying round the woods and fields with nets to catch butterflies. And she lugs in a lot of corn husk and shows them how to make a few dinky baskets and thinks she's doing some wonderful thing. For all that she draws her salary and gets away with all that tomfoolery--guess because she can smile and humbug some people--them red-headed women are all like that, boy. She's not the right teacher for Crow Hill school and I'm going to make several people see it. Then let her twiddle her thumbs till she gets a place so near home and as nice as the Crow Hill school!"
Mr. Mertzheimer, whose august dignity had been unpardonably offended, lost no time in seeing the other directors of the Crow Hill school. He mentioned nothing about the real grievance against Amanda, but played upon the slender string of her inefficiency, as talked about by the patrons. He presented the matter so tactfully that several of the men were convinced he spoke from a deep conviction that the interests of the community were involved and that in all fairness to the pupils of that rural school a new, competent teacher should be secured for the ensuing term. One director, being a man with the unfortunate addiction of being easily swayed by the opinions of others, was readily convinced by the plausible arguments of Mr. Mertzheimer that Amanda Reist was utterly unfit for the position she held.
When all the directors had been thus casually imbued with antagonism, or, at least, suspicion, Mr. Mertzheimer went home, chuckling. He felt elated at the clever method he had taken to uphold the dignity of his son and punish the person who had failed to rightly respect that dignity. In a few weeks the County Superintendent of Schools would make his annual visit to Crow Hill, and if "a bug could be put in his ear" and he be influenced to show up the flaws in the school, everything would be fine! "Fine as silk," thought Mr. Mertzheimer. He knew a girl
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