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- Tillie: A Mennonite Maid - 40/48 -


tobacco--that's some serious,' he says. Adam he used to have some notions about the Bible and religion that I did think, now, was damned unushal. Here one day when he was first took sick, before he got so deef yet, I went to see him, and the Evangelical preacher was there, readin' to him that there piece of Scripture where, you know, them that worked a short time was paid the same as them that worked all day. The preacher he sayed he thought that par'ble might fetch him 'round oncet to a death-bed conwersion. But I'm swanged if Adam didn't just up and say, when the preacher got through, he says, 'That wasn't a square deal accordin' to MY way of lookin' at things.' Yes, that's the way that there feller talked. Why, here oncet--" the doctor paused to chuckle at the recollection--"when I got there, Reverend was wrestlin' with Adam to get hisself conwerted, and it was one of Adam's days when he was at his deefest. Reverend he shouted in his ear, 'You must experience religion--and get a change of heart--and be conwerted before you die!' 'What d' you say?' Adam he ast. Then Reverend, he seen that wouldn't work, so he cut it short, and he says wery loud, 'Trust the Lord!' Now, ole Adam Oberholzer in his business dealin's and speculatin' was always darned particular who he trusted, still, so he looked up at Reverend, and he says, 'Is he a reliable party?' Well, by gum, I bu'st right out laughin'! I hadn't ought to--seein' it was Adam's death-bed--and Reverend him just sweatin' with tryin' to work in his job to get him conwerted till he passed away a'ready. But I'm swanged if I could keep in! I just HOLLERED!"

The doctor threw back his head and shouted with fresh appreciation of his story, and Fairchilds joined in sympathetically.

"Well, did he die unconverted?" he asked the doctor.

"You bet! Reverend he sayed afterwards, that in all his practice of his sacred calling he never had knew such a carnal death-bed. Now you see," concluded the doctor, "I tended ole Adam fur near two months, and that's where I have a hold on his son the school- directer."

He laughed as he rose and stretched himself.

"It will be no end of sport foiling Jake Getz!" Fairchilds said, with but a vague idea of what the doctor's scheme involved. "Well, doctor, you are our mascot--Tillie's and mine!" he added, as he, too, rose.

"What's THAT?"

"Our good luck." He held out an objectionably clean hand with its shining finger-nails. "Good night, Doc, and thank you!"

The doctor awkwardly shook it in his own grimy fist. "Good night to you, then, Teacher."

Out in the bar-room, as the doctor took his nightly glass of beer at the counter, he confided to Abe Wackernagel that somehow he did, now, "like to see Teacher use them manners of hisn. I'm 'most as stuck on 'em as missus is!" he declared.

XXIII

SUNSHINE AND SHADOW

Tillie's unhappiness, in her certainty that on Saturday night the Board would vote for the eviction of the teacher, was so great that she felt almost indifferent to her own fate, as she and the doctor started on their six-mile ride to East Donegal. But when he presently confided to her his scheme to foil her father and Absalom, she became almost hysterical with joy.

"You see, Tillie, it's this here way. Two of these here directers owes me bills. Now in drivin' you over to East Donegal I'm passin' near to the farms of both of them directers, and I'll make it suit to stop off and press 'em fur my money. They're both of 'em near as close as Jake Getz! They don't like it fur me to press 'em to pay right aways. So after while I'll say that if they wote ag'in' Jake and Nathaniel, and each of 'em gets one of the other two directers to wote with him to leave Teacher keep his job, I'll throw 'em the doctor's bill off! Adam Oberholzer he owes me about twelve dollars, and Joseph Kettering he owes me ten. I guess it ain't worth twelve dollars to Adam and ten to Joseph to run Teacher off William Penn!"

"And do you suppose that they will be able to influence the other two--John Coppenhaver and Pete Underwocht?"

"When all them dollars depends on it, I don't suppose nothin'--I know. I'll put it this here way: 'If Teacher ain't chased off, I'll throw you my doctor's bill off. If he is, you'll pay me up, and pretty damned quick, too!'"

"But, Doc," faltered Tillie, "won't it be bribery?"

"Och, Tillie, a body mustn't feel so conscientious about such little things like them. That's bein' too serious."

"Did you tell the teacher you were going to do this?" she uneasily asked.

"Well, I guess I ain't such a blamed fool! I guess I know that much, that he wouldn't of saw it the way _I_ see it. I tole him I was goin' to bully them directers to keep him in his job--but he don't know how I'm doin' it."

"I'm glad he doesn't know," sighed Tillie.

"Yes, he darsent know till it's all over oncet."

The joy and relief she felt at the doctor's scheme, which she was quite sure would work out successfully, gave her a self-confidence in the ordeal before her that sharpened her wits almost to brilliancy. She sailed through this examination, which otherwise she would have dreaded unspeakably, with an aplomb that made her a stranger to herself. Even that bugbear of the examination labeled by the superintendent, "General Information," and regarded with suspicion by the applicants as a snare and a delusion, did not confound Tillie in her sudden and new-found courage; though the questions under this head brought forth from the applicants such astonishing statements as that Henry VIII was chiefly noted for being "a great widower"; and that the Mother of the Gracchi was "probably Mrs. Gracchi."

In her unwonted elation, Tillie even waxed a bit witty, and in the quiz on "Methods of Discipline," she gave an answer which no doubt led the superintendent to mark her high.

"What method would you pursue with a boy in your school who was addicted to swearing?" she was asked.

"I suppose I should make him swear off!" said Tillie, with actual flippancy.

A neat young woman of the class, sitting directly in front of the superintendent, and wearing spectacles and very straight, tight hair, cast a shocked and reproachful look upon Tillie, and turning to the examiner, said primly, "_I_ would organize an anti-swearing society in the school, and reward the boys who were not profane by making them members of it, expelling those who used any profane language."

"And make every normal boy turn blasphemer in derision, I'm afraid," was the superintendent's ironical comment.

When, at four o'clock that afternoon, she drove back with the doctor through the winter twilight, bearing her precious certificate in her bosom, the brightness of her face seemed to reflect the brilliancy of the red sunset glow on snow-covered fields, frozen creek, and farm-house windows.

"Bully fur you, Matilda!" the doctor kept repeating at intervals. "Now won't Miss Margaret be tickled, though! I tell you what, wirtue like hern gits its rewards even in this here life. She'll certainly be set up to think she's made a teacher out of you unbeknownst! And mebbe it won't tickle her wonderful to think how she's beat Jake Getz!" he chuckled.

"Of course you're writin' to her to-night, Tillie, ain't you?" he asked. "I'd write her off a letter myself if writin' come handier to me."

"Of course I shall let her know at once," Tillie replied; and in her voice, for the first time in the doctor's acquaintance with her, there was a touch of gentle complacency.

"I'll get your letter out the tree-holler to-morrow morning, then, when I go a-past--and I can stamp it and mail it fur you till noon. Then she'll get it till Monday morning yet! By gum, won't she, now, be tickled!"

"Isn't it all beautiful!" Tillie breathed ecstatically. "I've got my certificate and the teacher won't be put out! What did Adam Oberholzer and Joseph Kettering say, Doc?"

"I've got them fixed all right! Just you wait, Tillie!" he said mysteriously. "Mebbe us we ain't goin' to have the laugh on your pop and old Nathaniel Puntz! You'll see! Wait till your pop comes home and says what's happened at Board meetin' to-night! Golly! "Won't he be hoppin' mad!"

"What is going to happen, Doc?"

"You wait and see! I ain't tellin' even you, Tillie. I'm savin' it fur a surprise party fur all of yous!"

"Father won't speak to me about it, you know. He won't mention Teacher's name to me."

"Then won't you find out off of him about the Board meetin'?" the doctor asked in disappointment. "Must you wait till you see me again oncet?"

"He will tell mother. I can get her to tell me," Tillie said.

"All right. Somepin's going to happen too good to wait! Now look- ahere, Tillie, is your pop to be tole about your certificate?"


Tillie: A Mennonite Maid - 40/48

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