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- Tillie: A Mennonite Maid - 1/48 -


Robert Rowe, Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.

TILLIE A MENNONITE MAID

A STORY OF THE PENNSYLVANIA DUTCH

BY HELEN REIMENSNYDER MARTIN

CONTENTS

I "OH, I LOVE HER! I LOVE HER!" II "I'M GOING TO LEARN YOU ONCE!" III "WHAT'S HURTIN' YOU, TILLIE?" IV "THE DOC" COMBINES BUSINESS AND PLEASURE V "NOVELS AIN'T MORAL, DOC!" VI JAKE GETZ IN A QUANDARY VII "THE LAST DAYS OF PUMP-EYE" VIII MISS MARGARET'S ERRAND IX "I'LL DO MY DARN BEST, TEACHER!" X ADAM SCHUNK'S FUNERAL XI "POP! I FEEL TO BE PLAIN" XII ABSALOM KEEPS COMPANY XIII EZRA HERR, PEDAGOGUE XIV THE HARVARD GRADUATE XV THE WACKERNAGELS AT HOME XVI THE WACKERNAGELS "CONVERSE" XVII THE TEACHER MEETS ABSALOM XVIII TILLIE REVEALS HERSELF XIX TILLIE TELLS A LIE XX TILLIE IS "SET BACK" XXI "I'LL MARRY HIM TO-MORROW!" XXII THE DOC CONCOCTS A PLOT XXIII SUNSHINE AND SHADOW XXIV THE REVOLT OF TILLIE XXV GETZ "LEARNS" TILLIE XXVI TILLIE'S LAST FIGHT

TILLIE A MENNONITE MAID

A STORY OF THE PENNSYLVANIA DUTCH

I

"OH, I LOVE HER! I LOVE HER!"

Tillie's slender little body thrilled with a peculiar ecstasy as she stepped upon the platform and felt her close proximity to the teacher--so close that she could catch the sweet, wonderful fragrance of her clothes and see the heave and fall of her bosom. Once Tillie's head had rested against that motherly bosom. She had fainted in school one morning after a day and evening of hard, hard work in her father's celery-beds, followed by a chastisement for being caught with a "story-book"; and she had come out of her faint to find herself in the heaven of sitting on Miss Margaret's lap, her head against her breast and Miss Margaret's soft hand smoothing her cheek and hair. And it was in that blissful moment that Tillie had discovered, for the first time in her young existence, that life could be worth while. Not within her memory had any one ever caressed her before, or spoken to her tenderly, and in that fascinating tone of anxious concern.

Afterward, Tillie often tried to faint again in school; but, such is Nature's perversity, she never could succeed.

School had just been called after the noon recess, and Miss Margaret was standing before her desk with a watchful eye on the troops of children crowding in from the playground to their seats, when the little girl stepped to her side on the platform.

This country school-house was a dingy little building in the heart of Lancaster County, the home of the Pennsylvania Dutch. Miss Margaret had been the teacher only a few months, and having come from Kentucky and not being "a Millersville Normal," she differed quite radically from any teacher they had ever had in New Canaan. Indeed, she was so wholly different from any one Tillie had ever seen in her life, that to the child's adoring heart she was nothing less than a miracle. Surely no one but Cinderella had ever been so beautiful! And how different, too, were her clothes from those of the other young ladies of New Canaan, and, oh, so much prettier--though not nearly so fancy; and she didn't "speak her words" as other people of Tillie's acquaintance spoke. To Tillie it was celestial music to hear Miss Margaret say, for instance, "buttah" when she meant butter-r-r, and "windo" for windah. "It gives her such a nice sound when she talks," thought Tillie.

Sometimes Miss Margaret's ignorance of the dialect of the neighborhood led to complications, as in her conversation just now with Tillie.

"Well?" she inquired, lifting the little girl's chin with her forefinger as Tillie stood at her side and thereby causing that small worshiper to blush with radiant pleasure. "What is it, honey?"

Miss Margaret always made Tillie feel that she LIKED her. Tillie wondered how Miss Margaret could like HER! What was there to like? No one had ever liked her before.

"It wonders me!" Tillie often whispered to herself with throbbing heart.

"Please, Miss Margaret," said the child, "pop says to ast you will you give me the darst to go home till half-past three this after?"

"If you go home till half-past three, you need not come back, honey--it wouldn't be worth while, when school closes at four."

"But I don't mean," said Tillie, in puzzled surprise, "that I want to go home and come back. I sayed whether I have the darst to go home till half-past three. Pop he's went to Lancaster, and he'll be back till half-past three a'ready, and he says then I got to be home to help him in the celery-beds."

Miss Margaret held her pretty head on one side, considering, as she looked down into the little girl's upturned face. "Is this a conundrum, Tillie? How your father be in Lancaster now and yet be home until half-past three? It's uncanny. Unless," she added, a ray of light coming to her,--"unless 'till' means BY. Your father will be home BY half-past three and wants you then?"

"Yes, ma'am. I can't talk just so right," said Tillie apologetically, "like what you can. Yes, sometimes I say my we's like my w's, yet!"

Miss Margaret laughed. "Bless your little heart!" she said, running her fingers through Tillie's hair. "But you would rather stay in school until four, wouldn't you, than go home to help your father in the celery-beds?"

"Oh, yes, ma'am," said Tillie wistfully, "but pop he has to get them beds through till Saturday market a'ready, and so we got to get 'em done behind Thursday or Friday yet."

"If I say you can't go home?"

Tillie colored all over her sensitive little face as, instead of answering, she nervously worked her toe into a crack in the platform.

"But your father can't blame YOU, honey, if I won't let you go home."

"He wouldn't stop to ast me was it my fault, Miss Margaret. If I wasn't there on time, he'd just--"

"All right, dear, you may go at half-past three, then," Miss Margaret gently said, patting the child's shoulder. "As soon as you have written your composition."

"Yes, ma'am, Miss Margaret."

It was hard for Tillie, as she sat at her desk that afternoon, to fix her wandering attention upon the writing of her composition, so fascinating was it just to revel idly in the sense of the touch of that loved hand that had stroked her hair, and the tone of that caressing voice that had called her "honey."

Miss Margaret always said to the composition classes, "Just try to write simply of what you see or feel, and then you will be sure to write a good 'composition.'"

Tillie was moved this afternoon to pour out on paper all that she "felt" about her divinity. But she had some misgivings as to the fitness of this.

She dwelt upon the thought of it, however, dreamily gazing out of the window near which she sat, into the blue sky of the October afternoon--until presently her ear was caught by the sound of Miss Margaret's voice speaking to Absalom Puntz, who stood at the foot of the composition class, now before her on the platform.

"You may read your composition, Absalom."

Absalom was one of "the big boys," but though he was sixteen years old and large for his age, his slowness in learning classed him with the children of twelve or thirteen. However, as learning was considered in New Canaan a superfluous and wholly unnecessary adjunct to the means of living, Absalom's want of agility in imbibing erudition never troubled him, nor did it in the least call forth the pity or contempt of his schoolmates.


Tillie: A Mennonite Maid - 1/48

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