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- Amanda - 5/40 -


"All right. Now, Millie, no cheatin'," teased Uncle Amos. "Don't you go peel yours so it'll fall into a Z, for I know that Zach Miller's been after you this long while already."

"Ach, him? He's as ugly as seven days' rainy weather."

"Ach, shoot it," said Phil, disgust written on his face as he threw a paring over his shoulder; "mine always come out an S. Guess that's the only letter you can make. S for Sadie, Susie--who wants them? That's a rotten way to tell fortunes!"

"Now look at mine, everybody!" cried Amanda as she flung her long apple paring over her shoulder.

"It's an M," shouted Phil. "Mebbe for Martin Landis. Jiminy Christmas, he's a pretty nice fellow. If you can hook him----"

"M stands for Mertzheimer," said Lyman proudly. "I guess it means me, Amanda, so you better begin to mind me now when we play at recess at school and spell on my side in the spelling matches."

"Huh," she retorted ungraciously, "Lyman Mertzheimer, you ain't the only M in Lancaster County!"

"No," he replied arrogantly, "but I guess that poor Mart Landis don't count. He's always tending one of his mom's babies--some nice beau he'd make! If he ever goes courting he'll have to take along one of the little Landis kids, I bet."

Phil laughed, but Amanda flushed in anger. "I think that's just grand of Martin to help his mom like that," she defended. "Anyhow, since she has no big girls to help her."

"He washes dishes. I saw him last week with an apron on," said Lyman, contempt in his voice.

"Wouldn't you do that for your mom if she was poor and had a lot of children and no one to help her?" asked the girl.

"Not me! I wouldn't wash dishes for no one! Men aren't made for that."

"Then _I_ don't think much of _you_, Lyman Mertzheimer!" declared Amanda with a vigorous toss of her red head.

"Come, come," Mrs. Reist interrupted, "you mustn't quarrel. Of course Lyman would help his mother if she needed him."

Amanda laughed and friendliness was once more restored.

When the last apple was snitzed Uncle Amos brought some cold cider from the spring-house, Millie fetched a dish of cookies from the cellar, and the snitzing party ended in a feast.

That night Mrs. Reist followed Amanda up the stairs to the child's bedroom. They made a pretty picture as they stood there, the mother with her plain Mennonite garb, her sweet face encircled by a white cap, and the little red-haired child, eager, active, her dark eyes glimpsing dreams as they focused on the distant castles in Spain which were a part of her legitimate heritage of childhood. The room was like a Nutting picture, with its rag carpet, old-fashioned, low cherry bed, covered with a pink and white calico patchwork quilt, its low cherry bureau, its rush-bottom chairs, its big walnut chest covered with a hand-woven coverlet gay with red roses and blue tulips. An old- fashioned room and an old-fashioned mother and daughter--the elder had seen life, knew its glories and its dangers, had tasted its sweetness and drained its cups of sorrow, but the child--in her eyes was still the star-dust of the "trailing clouds of glory."

"Mom," she asked suddenly as her mother unbraided the red hair and brushed it, "do you like Lyman Mertzheimer?"

"Why--yes---" Mrs. Reist hesitated.

"Ach, I don't mean that way, Mom," the child said wisely. "You always say abody must like everybody, but I mean like him for real, like him so you want to be near him. He's good lookin'. At school he's about the best lookin' boy there. The big girls say he's a regular Dunnis, whatever that is. But I think sometimes he ain't so pretty under the looks, the way he acts and all, Mom."

"I know what you mean, Amanda. Your pop used to say still that people are like apples, some can fool you good. Remember some we peeled to-night were specked and showed it on the outside, but some were red and pretty and when you cut in them--"

"They were full of worms or rotten!"

"Yes. It's the hearts of people that makes them beautiful."

"I see, Mom, and I'll mind to remember that. I'm gettin' to know a lot o' things now, Mom, ain't? I like when you tell me things my pop said. I'm glad I was big enough to remember him. I know yet what nice eyes he had, like they was always smilin' at you. I wish he wouldn't died, but I'm glad he's not dead for always. People don't stay dead like peepies or birds, do they?"

"No, they'll live again some day." The mother's voice was low, but a divine trust shone in her eyes. "Life would be nothing if it could end for us like it does for the birds."

"Millie says the souls of people can't die. That it's with people just like it's with the apple trees. In winter they look dead and like all they're good for was to chop down and burn, then in spring they get green and the flowers come on them and they're alive, and we know they're alive. I'm glad people are like that, ain't you?"

"Yes." She gathered the child to her arms and kissed the sensitive, eager little face. Neither Mrs. Reist nor Amanda, as yet, had read Locksley Hall, but the truth expressed there was echoing in their souls:

"Gone forever! Ever? no--for since our dying race began, Ever, ever, and forever was the leading light of man. Indian warriors dream of ampler hunting grounds beyond the night; Even the black Australian dying hopes he shall return, a white. Truth for truth, and good for good! The good, the true, the pure, the just-- Take the charm 'Forever' from them, and they crumble into dust."

"Ach, Mom," the child asked a few moments later, "do you mind that Christmas and the big doll?" An eager light dwelt in the little girl's eyes as she thought back to the happy time when her big, laughing father had made one in the family circle.

"Yes." The mother smiled a bit sadly. But Amanda prattled on gaily.

"That was the best Christmas ever I had! You mind how we went to market in Lancaster, Pop and you and I, near Christmas, and in a window of a store we saw a great, grand, big doll. She was bigger'n me and had light hair and blue eyes. I wanted her, and I told you and Pop and coaxed for you to buy her. Next week when we went to market and passed the store she was still in the window. Then one day Pop went to Lancaster alone and when he came home I asked if the doll was still there, and he said she wasn't in the window. I cried, and was so disappointed and you said to Pop, 'That's a shame, Philip.' And I thought, too, it was a shame he let somebody else buy that doll when I wanted it so. Then on Christmas morning--what do you think--I came down-stairs and ran for my presents, and there was that same big doll settin' on the table in the room! Millie and you had dressed her in a blue dress. Course she wasn't in the window when I asked Pop, for he had bought her! He laughed, and we all laughed, and we had the best Christmas. I sat on my little rocking-chair and rocked her, and then I'd sit her on the sofa and look at her--I was that proud of her."

"That's five, six years ago, Amanda."

"Yes, I was _little_ then. I mind a story about that little rockin'-chair, too, Mom. It's up in the garret now; I'm too big for it. But when I first got it I thought it was wonderful fine. Once Katie Hiestand came here with her mom, and we were playin' with our dolls and not thinkin' of the chair, and then Katie saw it and sat in it. And right aways I wanted to set in it, too, and I made her get off. But you saw it and you told me I must not be selfish, but must be polite and let her set in it. My, I remember lots of things."

"I'm glad, Amanda, if you remember such things, for I want you to grow up into a nice, good woman."

"Like you and Millie, ain't? I'm goin' to. I ain't forgot, neither, that once when I laughed at Katie for saying the Dutch word for calendar and gettin' all her English mixed with Dutch, you told me it's not nice to laugh at people. But I forgot it the other day, Mom, when we laughed at Aunt Rebecca and treated her mean. But she's so cranky and--and---"

"And she helped sew on your dresses," added the mother.

"Now that was ugly for us to act so! Why, ain't it funny, Mom, it sounds so easy to say abody should be kind and yet sometimes it's so hard to do it. When Aunt Rebecca comes next time I'm just goin' to see once if I can't be nice to her."

"Of course you are. She's comin' to-morrow to help with the apple butter. But now you must go to sleep or you can't get up early to see Millie put the cider on. Philip, he's asleep this long while already."

A few minutes later the child was in bed and called a last good-night to the mother, who stood in the hall, a little lighted lamp in her hand. Amanda had an eye for beauty and the picture of her mother pleased her.

"Ach, Mom," she called, "just stand that way a little once, right there."

"Why?"

"Ach, you look wonderful like a picture I saw once, in that gray dress and the lamp in your hand. It's pretty."

"Now, now," chided the mother gently, "you go to sleep now. Good-night."

"Good-night," Amanda called after the retreating figure.

CHAPTER III

BOILING APPLE BUTTER


Amanda - 5/40

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