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- Amanda - 4/40 -


"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.

CHAPTER II

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."


Amanda - 4/40

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