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Title: Leave it to Doris
Author: Hueston, Ethel
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Internet Archive/American Libraries.)



LEAVE IT TO DORIS


[Illustration: "I was laughing at you"]



LEAVE IT TO DORIS

BY
ETHEL HUESTON

AUTHOR OF
PRUDENCE OF THE PARSONAGE,
PRUDENCE SAYS SO, ETC.

ILLUSTRATED BY
W. B. KING

[Illustration: Decoration]

NEW YORK
GROSSET & DUNLAP
PUBLISHERS

Made in the United States of America



COPYRIGHT 1919
THE BOBBS-MERRILL COMPANY


_Printed in the United States of America_



_To_

MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS

Who with me learned the secret of riotously
happy living even in parsonage confines



CONTENTS

CHAPTER                   PAGE
   I THE GENERAL             1

  II THE PROBLEM            27

 III THE IMP                50

  IV THE BLESSING           69

   V THE WILL              100

  VI THE SERPENT           117

 VII DISCIPLINE            133

VIII THE BISHOP            149

  IX THE RUNAWAYS          165

   X MR. WIZARD            191

  XI THE PHILOSOPHER       208

 XII FINDING THE PATH      227

XIII ROSALIE'S WAY         245

XIV THE DOCTOR             261

 XV RISING TO THE MANSE    274



LEAVE IT TO DORIS



CHAPTER I

THE GENERAL


The Reverend Mr. Artman paced soberly up and down the small living-room
of his manse, as every one called the parsonage. His eyes were clouded.
The lines at the corners of his kindly lips were sternly set. Now and
then he glanced toward the bay-window where Doris sat, untroubled,
serene, her dainty fingers cleverly transforming huge rents in small
garments into triumphs of patchery. The wind, coming softly through the
peach trees outside the windows, loosened tiny tendrils of hair that
curled tenderly about her rosy ears.

Mr. Artman sighed drearily.

Doris, unperturbed, continued her darning, but bright lights were
dancing in her blue eyes.

"Hay, ho," drawled Mr. Artman suggestively.

"Isn't it lovely and cool to-day, father?" queried his daughter sweetly.

Without answering, he walked abruptly to the kitchen door, peering
anxiously into the room beyond, and closed it cautiously. The General
puckered her lips earnestly over a too-small scrap of cloth vainly
coping with a too-large rent. Her father went to the door opening upon
the porch, and closed it also. Then he walked slowly up toward his
daughter, opening his lips as though on the verge of confidence. But he
turned once more, and resumed his restless pacing.

Then Doris dropped the darning into the basket beside her and faced her
father.

"Father," and the voice, though soft, was imperious.

He started guiltily, and flushed.

"Come and sit down," she commanded. "If you do not speak up instantly
and tell me what is on your mind I shall jump up and down and scream.
You make me so nervous when you squirm around that way. What ever in
the world is the matter with you?"

Her father quickly dumped the mending basket and its contents upon
the floor, with masculine and ministerial lack of regard for things
domestic, and appropriated the chair, drawing it close to his
daughter's side.

"Hurry, hurry," came the gentle authoritative voice. "I have oceans to
do. What is it?"

"Well, it is-- Why, nothing special, child, what made you think--"

"You haven't gone and proposed to Miss Carlton, have you?" she gasped.

"No, thank Heaven," came the fervent answer.

"Careful, father. You mean it devoutly, I am sure, but Providence might
mistake it for irreverence. Providence does not know Miss Carlton as we
do, you know. Don't be afraid to tell me then--nothing else could be so
terribly bad."

"Well, dearest, I was just wondering if--don't you think, perhaps--if I
help a lot, and see that the girls do their share--don't you think we
could get along without Miss Carlton this year?"

The General considered, her curly head cocked on one side, her brows
knitted.

"I wanted to take charge right after mother died--but you were not
willing."

"You were too young then, and still in school."

"Aren't you satisfied with Miss Carlton's work?" she asked slyly.

"Her work has nothing to-- Yes, of course I am, dear. And she is a good
woman, very good. And has been a great help to us the last three years,
at a very reasonable salary."

"I have done most of the work myself, but you do not believe it," said
Doris.

"Yes, of course you have, dear. And the Problem is quite old now, and
between the two of you--between the three of us, I mean--"

"You mean, between me," said Doris frankly. "Your intentions are the
best in the world, father darling, but if you ever broke into the
kitchen you would very likely wipe dishes on sermon manuscripts--very
good manuscripts, perhaps, but you can't practise on the dishes the
Endeavor paid forty dollars for. And the Problem! But as you say,
between me, I think perhaps I could get along without Miss Carlton
nicely. She is rather hard to evade, isn't she, dearest?"

Her father flushed boyishly. "I am sure, Doris--"

"Yes, indeed, dear, so am I," she interrupted sweetly. "And I am truly
proud that you have withstood so long. Stronger men than you have
fallen in less persistent sieges. You have done well. But I hope you
will remember that I have been praying right along that you might be
given strength equal to the conquest, so don't take too much credit
yourself."

"Well, I suppose the poor thing really can't help--"

"Oh, no, belovedest, of course she can't help it. Only I haven't
noticed any married women finding you so irresistibly handsome, and
fascinating, and all that, have you? At least, they don't come telling
you about it to your face."

Then at his guilty face she laughed, and snuggled on his knee, kissing
his chin adoringly.

"You are a dear sweet darling love," she said, "and I will do my best
to make you comfortable, and keep the manse on four legs, or four
wheels, or four--what is it a manse runs on, anyhow?"

"Four girls," he said, laughing. "Mine does, anyhow."

"Er, father, when will you break it to Miss Carlton?"

He sighed heavily. "Why, General, I supposed--I thought--maybe it would
be better for you just to tell her you are old enough to take charge
yourself now, and--I think she would take it better from you."

"Oh, father, what a coward you are," she said sadly. "You call me
General, and I know I rule you with a rod of iron, but I haven't much
backbone in my army, I am sure of that. Well, then, I will break it
to Miss Carlton." She looked thoughtfully out at the branches swaying
lazily in the warm wind. "I wonder how the Problem will take it? She is
so likely to object, you know."

He cleared his throat anxiously. "Oh, you can fix it up with her some
way."

"I am to do that, too, am I?" laughed the General. "You'd better look
up that epistle about the armor, father. You need a breastplate, and
a steel helmet, and a sword of faith--and quite a lot of things. Run
along then, dearest, and don't bother me. Miss Carlton will be here in
a few minutes, and I must prepare my campaign."

Mr. Artman reached hastily for his hat. "I--I think I shall go
down-town a while--I need some fresh air-- That mean little headache
again, you know--and I must see Mr. James. Pretty sick man. I may not
be home for dinner to-night. Don't sit up for me--and don't let anybody
else."

"A good thing we have a sick member, isn't it?" she teased. "You aren't
going to get home until the storm is over, are you?" She shook her
curls at him reprovingly. "Such a good, sweet, faithful preacher you
are--and such an awful coward when it comes to us women."

"I tell you, Doris," he said sturdily, "I think it would be easier to
face a den of lions, or a howling mob of I.W.W.'s, or any number of
ordinary sinners, than one Christian woman when she wants--she makes up
her mind--I mean--"

"You mean, when she is getting you ready to propose to her, I suppose.
I do not blame you, father.--Fly, here she comes. Scoot out the back
door, and sneak through the barn. It will be over by morning. Run, you
coward, run," she cried, shooing him gaily out the back door.

Then she went back to the bay-window, and sat down with the mending,
her pretty brows puckered.

"Miss Carlton is wax in my hands," she thought. "But whatever in the
world will Rosalie say? If one only knew what to expect, it would not
be so serious. But nobody ever can predict how our lovely little old
Problem of a Rosalie will take anything."

"Still mending, dear Doris?" came a voice of studied sweetness from the
doorway.

"Yes, still at it. But I did not work all the time. I have been playing
with father. He is such a tease."

Miss Carlton looked around the wide room anxiously, hopefully.

"He is gone now--to see Mr. James, I think--somebody sick, anyhow. I
have been having a serious time with him, Miss Carlton." She dropped
the mending and looked at the older, much older woman, with frank,
straightforward, innocent eyes. "They call me General, but they never
want to do as I say."

"And what is our little General after now?" asked Miss Carlton,
smiling. "Shall I help you get it? I do not think he will refuse it, if
I ask."

"Oh, you will be like every one else; you will say it is not advisable.
But they do not call me General for nothing." Doris straightened her
slender shoulders, and looked very domineering. "I have made up my
mind. I shall have my way."

"Wouldn't your father give in?" Miss Carlton's voice was mildly
surprised. Father Artman withstood Doris very, very seldom indeed.

"Oh, yes, he gave in, of course. That is, he says I shall try it. But I
know he thinks I shall tire of it soon. He does not know me, does he? I
never give up, do I?"

"Not very often, no," admitted Miss Carlton rather grimly.

"Come and sit down, dear, and let me tell you," said Doris eagerly. "I
think it will make you happy too. I am twenty years old, and very, oh,
tremendously mature, don't you think so?"

"Well, perhaps," was the doubtful admission.

"Yes, of course. And you know how hard up we preachers always are, and
we have to economize just fearfully, especially now the Problem is a
junior in college--and somehow it takes lots more clothes for her in
college than it ever did for me. And you have been so wonderful to us
all these three years, and such a help--but now I feel that I am old
enough--and that it is my duty and my priceless opportunity to take
charge of the family, and then you can go home again and be free to
live your own life, and though you have never complained I know how
happy it will make you."

"No, indeed," came the quick protest. "I like it here. The salary is
nothing extra, but you have done quite a lot of the work, you know. Oh,
no indeed, little girl, you must not think of it. Why, it is just time
for you to have your play days now your school is over, and we older
ones can bear the burdens of life. You must not think of it."

"But I have thought of it," said Doris sweetly. "And father promised I
should try. And I am the General."

"You have been planning all these years to go to Chicago and study, and
become a missionary. You can not give up your life ambitions now."

"I have changed them," said Doris. "Father wants me, and that is
enough."

"He won't let you change them for him."

"Father is the most unselfish thing in the world, I know," smiled
Doris. "But father has forgotten that I ever even thought of such a
thing--and since he wants me here, it is settled. I shall never think
of it again."

"You won't be happy--"

"Oh, Miss Carlton," said Doris, standing up suddenly, tall and
straight. "You think I won't be happy staying where father wants me,
and filling father's need?"

"But it would be wicked to deny the call to service as--"

"I wanted to be a missionary because it appealed to me. But I hear no
call but father's voice. If a message came from Heaven, the way would
be changed for me. Right now, the path of service goes right smack into
the manse, and I do not see it going out on the other side." Doris
smiled winsomely.

"Wait till I talk things over with your father--he will see how absurd
it is."

"He promised. Father may have his faults, though I do not know what
they are, but he always keeps a promise."

"He should not have promised until he discussed things with me."

"But, Miss Carlton, _we_ are his family, you know. And I am the oldest
daughter, and very grown up. You see how it is, don't you? Of course, I
do not wish to hurry you off, but I know how anxious you must be to get
home, and you need not feel you have to linger on my account. I haven't
planned anything to do to-morrow, and can help you with your packing
the whole day long."

"I can do my own packing, thank you. And I shall do it immediately.
Your father really consented to this arrangement, did he?"

"Oh, certainly he did. He sees himself that it is the proper thing to
do, and will save quite a little money, and goodness knows we need
it. And then the responsibility will develop my character, or--or
something."

Miss Carlton flounced out of the room and up the stairs. Doris listened
intently at the door.

"She is not exactly happy about it, but I am. And father is. If I only
knew what the Problem would think of it. I wish Miss Carlton would go
right straight away--she is angry enough to do it. Then I could tackle
the Problem alone, and it would be too late to undo."

She shut her eyes very tightly and murmured softly, unintelligibly
beneath her breath. "Now to make doubly sure, I shall go and
concentrate. Every one says you get things if you concentrate hard
enough."

She listened once more at the door that led into the hall. Miss Carlton
was undoubtedly throwing her possessions violently and untenderly into
her bags and trunk.

"Concentration won't hurt, for when she remembers how handsome father
is she may change her mind," said the General soberly.

So she slipped back to the bay-window, and bent all her energies, and
all the force of her strong young will to the task of concentration.

A little later she heard Miss Carlton at the up-stairs branch of the
telephone, and though she would not dream of listening to a telephonic
conversation, she did saunter carelessly to the hall door and so
overheard Miss Carlton giving a hurried order for an expressman.

"Providence and concentration together are really irresistible," she
smiled to herself. "I suppose, after all, I could have gotten along
without the concentration, but in a crisis like this I thought it would
not hurt to try everything."

She went demurely back to her mending, and after a while the expressman
came and took away the trunk and bags, and finally Miss Carlton came to
her.

"I am going home right now, Doris," she said, "but I do not regard this
as final. We shall say I am going for a visit. And when you want me to
come back, just telephone. After all, I think it is a good move. Your
father will soon find out what a difference I made in the home. He will
be the first to want me back." She smiled without resentment. "So I
quite agree with you, little General. This just suits my purpose, and I
shall stay at home until--some one comes after me."

"I know we are going to miss you," cried Doris sincerely. "You have
always been kind to us, and we have never been able to pay you half
what you deserved. And if we find we can't get along, and you are
willing, we shall have you back in a hurry. But I am going to try, and
I never yield until I have to."

So Doris paid Miss Carlton the modest sum due her and the two parted
with cordiality, Miss Carlton leaving friendly messages for the other
members of the household.

As soon as she was quite out of sight, Doris flew to the kitchen.

"Even the Problem is amenable to a good meal," she said. "She shall
have delicious cream gravy--the little glutton--and pear preserves, and
apple dumplings."

So eagerly and so passionately did she devote her energies to the task
that she did not hear the door open behind her, and never knew her
sister was at her elbow until a soft ripply voice said suddenly:

"Well, Mr. General, is mess nearly ready for us?"

"Oh, Rosalie," cried Doris, flinging floury arms about the girl at her
side. "Oh, you dear little darling, I am so glad you came."

"Why so mushy?" demanded Rosalie in a voice so soft and gurgling
and throaty it made one think of tinkling waterfalls, and silver
moonshine, and irresistible dimples. "Don't I _always_ come? Why all
the exclamations at me?"

"Because I love you, and because I am happy, and because--you scoot to
the phone, will you, and call up Mr. James' residence and tell father
I want him to come home to dinner to-night without fail, for very extra
special reasons--apple dumplings, but you needn't tell him over the
phone--and hurry, dear, before he leaves there."

The General looked soberly after her sister as she danced lightly
out of the kitchen. Rosalie was quite too terribly lovely for
anything--that was really what made her such a Problem. And her eyes
were full of dazzling witching lights, and dangerous dark shadows, her
lips were rosy, pouty, tempting lips, her skin was a pearly pink and
white, and her voice melting melody.

"She is Problem enough now--what will she be a little later on?"
thought the General anxiously as she took a loving look at her
dumplings.

"Where is Miss Carlton?" asked Rosalie, returning promptly. "Father
says he will come immediately. Aren't the girls home yet? I suppose I
must set the table then. I think you should speak to them, Doris--they
are never here when you want them. Where is Miss Carlton? Won't she be
here for dinner?"

"No, not--"

"Goody!--Doris, do you think she--has her eye on father?"

"Why, Rosalie, whatever put such a notion as that into your head?"
Doris was all wide-eyed astonishment.

"Well, perhaps it is not nice of me to mention it, but she is always
tagging him about, and telling him how clever he is, and she is always
saying how much we need a mother-- Oh, she's all right, of course--not
my type at all, but--I am glad she won't be home for dinner. Doris,
will you ask father if we may go to the Country Club da--party next
week? They may dance, but we won't have to. I could do it though as
easy as not. This is the first time they have asked us to a strictly
town affair, and we just have to go. This is the way they dance that
new step the girls are raving about. See? Three steps this way, one,
two, three; one, two, three; hippity hip--"

"Rosalie!" gasped Doris. "Wherever did you learn that?"

"Amy taught me. She takes regular dancing lessons from a man, a dollar
a lesson, and then she teaches me. It is just like gym, you know, only
at a dance there are men. Miss Graham says I am very graceful, and
with my slender ankles and high insteps I would look lovely in dancing
slippers. Now, Doris, don't be horrified, I am not going to dance. But
you tell father we are invited, and-- You sit out the dances, you know,
if you are a preacher and can't dance--and you get behind a big fern,
and the men tell you how lovely you are, and how much nicer it is to
sit out with _you_ than to go stumbling around over other girls' toes,
getting their collars all sweated out, and how sweet and cool you look,
and--"

"Rosalie!"

"They do not mean it, Doris, they just talk that way. And I know they
do not mean it, so it does me no harm. And it is lots of fun. They all
do it."

"They do not talk that way to me," said Doris virtuously.

"No, you do not give them a chance. If a man says you have beautiful
blue eyes, you look him straight in the face and say, 'Yes, thank
goodness, I need something to make up for my pug nose.' That is no way
to talk to a man. You ought to drop your lashes like this, and then
look up suddenly, and away again quickly, and laugh a little and say,
'Oh, you talk that way to every one--you do not mean it,' and then they
say you are the only girl in the world--"

"Rosalie Artman, I think you are perfectly terrible. Where in the world
do you learn all that silly stuff?"

"I do not learn it," laughed Rosalie. "I do not have to. It was born in
me. I sort of breathe it. Tra, la, la, lalala. I can do a toe dance,
Doris. I will teach you. Does father go to the Sessions to-night? Then
we will have a lesson while he is gone. Oh, there come--"

"Rosalie, I want to ask you-- Don't you think we ought to get along
without Miss Carlton now? She is so sort of prim, and bossy--and
it costs eighteen dollars a month--and if we do you can have nicer
clothes, you know."

"Wouldn't be proper," said Rosalie lightly. "Beautiful girls must be
properly guarded. And besides, I would have to do more work, and I
don't like to work."

"Father is proper enough for anybody," said Doris with spirit. "And I
do all of the work anyhow."

"Could I have a regular evening dress, V in the back and no sleeves?"
demanded Rosalie with glittering eyes. "Isn't it funny, the less there
is to a dress, the more there is to the cost? All the girls have
evening dresses, and I have the nicest shoulders in the whole gym. But
Miss Carlton would never go. You couldn't fire her off."

"Who is the General?" demanded Doris loftily. "If I say go, she goes in
a hurry."

Rosalie looked up quickly.

"You bad General, she is gone already, isn't she?"

"Yes; do you mind?"

"Are you sure father won't go trotting after her, and marry her on the
sly?"

Doris lifted horrified eyes skyward.

"Well, I am sure I do not care. I think I am rather glad. Whenever
I got my dates mixed, and had two or three callers at once, she was
always shocked. She said the boys didn't act that way when she was a
girl. I rather suppose they didn't. But what Miss Carlton was and what
I am are two remotely different things. Why, you would hardly believe
we are both feminine, would you?"

"No," said Doris honestly. "One can't think of any two things more
different. You are such a--such--"

"Problem," laughed Rosalie. "Don't I know it? Well, you can not solve
me, Doris, so don't try. But I am just like those horrible trigonometry
nightmares--you can't figure them out to save your life, but they are
quite perfectly all right in spite of you."

Doris turned to give her sister a warm adoring look. "I know that,"
she said happily. "Only, however in the world you manage to say such
wonderful things with your eyes, Rosalie--I've tried and tried--alone,
of course," she added hastily. "I wouldn't before people for anything.
But I can't take people's breath away as you do."

Rosalie's voice rippled into mellow laughter. "You will learn. No,
you never will, Doris. You will fall in love, and marry a perfectly
adorable man, and have perfectly wonderful babies, and be as happy as
the day is long. And I will fritter along and sparkle along, and have
a hundred beaus, and Miss Carlton and I will finish up together. There
come those bad girls. Now you just scold them, General. Don't you stand
for this nonsense any more. Why, I have had to set the table every
night for a week."

The younger sisters came into the room together, as they went
everywhere together. They were very nearly of the same height, though
one was two years older.

"Are you tired, Treasure?" asked Doris quickly.

"I haven't done anything but laugh all afternoon," came the answer.
"Why should I be tired?"

Doris looked tenderly from the face of one little sister to the other.
Treasure's eyes were clear, serene and limpid. Her delicately tinted
olive face was fine and spiritual. And right by her side stood Zee, the
baby of the manse, thirteen years old, dark curls a-tangle, dark eyes
a-sparkle, red cheeks aglow.

"Oh, you little Imp!" cried Rosalie. "You look just awful."

"I do not think so," said Treasure quickly. "She looks lovely all blown
about like that."

Zee laughed at them both with charming unconcern. "Do I have to brush
myself down before dinner?" she demanded, edging toward her corner of
the table.

"Indeed you do; wash down, and brush down, and rub down, and do it
quickly, for here comes father."

Zee obediently skipped up the stairs, and Rosalie ran to the hall to
greet her father.

"And how is the Blessing of the Manse?" he asked, crossing the
room, with Rosalie still clinging to his arm, to look tenderly into
Treasure's soft fine face.

"Perfectly all right," came the even answer.

"But not very healthy," put in Zee slyly, coming back in haste. "Didn't
I do a quick job, General? Treasure is all right, but not very healthy.
That is why she is a blessing. Haven't you noticed, Rosalie, that
blessings are very, very frail? Maybe if I looked sickish you would
call me a blessing, too?"

"Is she gone, General?" came the anxious whisper as the father drew
near his oldest daughter. "And how did the Problem take it?"

"Gone, father, and the Problem is glad of it--we might have known she
would be whatever we did not expect. Now I am the General in very
truth, and supper is ready--Zee, don't rush. Just a minute, dear, the
pear preserves won't evaporate. You mustn't hurry father into the
blessing."

When the blessing had been asked on their food the father looked about
the little round table, and his face was richly satisfied.

"This is something like," he said, smiling into the faces of his four
girls.

"Yes, it is now," said Rosalie. "But you just wait till the General
gets started. She will never let us slide along and be comfortable as
Miss Carlton did. Wait till she has time to think up orders!"



CHAPTER II

THE PROBLEM


"General, did you ask father if we may go to the Country Club
da--party?" asked Rosalie, in her most irresistibly wheedlesome tone.

Doris looked very sober. "No, I didn't," she admitted slowly. "I am
afraid we--shouldn't, Rosalie. We haven't anything to wear, in the
first place. It is a regular party, you know."

"That is why I want to go. I am so tired of stupid little class
affairs, and Endeavor socials. I want a regular, honest-to-goodness
party. Please, Doris. Lots of our members belong to the Country Club.
It is very respectable."

"But they are not preachers, and we are. And we haven't any regular
party clothes."

"Use your eyes, my belovedest, and no one will notice your clothes. At
least, the men won't," said Rosalie shrewdly.

"Rosalie, that positively is not nice. You mustn't do it."

"All right, General, just as you say. But your graduating dress is very
sweet and becoming, and I can wear my pink crêpe. It is a little worn
under the arms, but my eyes-- Anyhow, as you say, the men won't pay any
attention to our clothes."

"I did not say any such thing. How _could_ we go, Rosalie? It is three
miles out, and they go in cars--we haven't one, and we can't have a
taxi, and we couldn't go alone anyhow."

"I never thought of that." Rosalie puzzled over it a moment. "I have
it! Mr. and Mrs. Andrieson will go, of course. And they have their
grand big car, and they like us very much, indeed."

"They aren't members--"

"Oh, well, there are a few quite nice people that don't belong to us.
And they are terribly proper, you know, and go everywhere."

"But we can't ask to go with them."

"Why, certainly not. We won't have to." Rosalie got up slowly. "I
think I feel like taking a stroll. I am restless to-day. I shall just
saunter down Lawn Street, and maybe Mrs. Andrieson will be on her front
porch. She always stops me, if she is in sight."

"You must not ask her--"

"Oh, Doris, I never thought of such a thing. But she is sure to invite
us to go with her when she knows we were asked. And so if father comes
in while I am gone, you'd better have it out with him. There's a sweet
little General."

So nicely did Rosalie manage her meeting with Mrs. Andrieson that in
less than an hour she was home with everything planned to her perfect
satisfaction. Mrs. Andrieson was positively yearning to take them to
the Country Club--it would be such fun to play chaperon to two pretty
young girls. To Father Artman, one party was just like another--in his
innocent eyes there was no difference between an Endeavor Social and a
Country Club da--er, party--except that he had never been to the latter
in person. And so it was entirely settled that they were to go, long
before the General herself was at all convinced as to the propriety of
it.

And when she found Rosalie before the long mirror in her room, with the
soft bands of lace at the throat of the pink dress tucked carefully
underneath and out of sight, permitting a quite generous exposure of
soft white throat and shoulder, Doris knew for sure that it was a great
mistake.

"Rosalie Problematic Artman," she said sternly. "We shall not go a step
if that is your plan."

Rosalie looked tenderly at the pink shoulder. "Doesn't it look nice,
Doris?" Reluctantly she restored the bands to their proper place. "I
look like a silly little grammar-school kid. But that is what we get
for being preachers. Never mind. I certainly have good shoulders if
ever--if ever--"

"If ever what?"

"If ever I do get a chance at the outside of the ministry," she said
blithely. "But, of course, father would faint at the bare idea, though
it is not really low even with the bands turned under--nothing at all
like the dresses other women wear."

Even Doris had to laugh at the childish fair face and the childish soft
voice of little Rosalie as she descanted on the matter of "other women."

And Rosalie smiled good-naturedly. "Shall I teach you some of the new
steps, Doris? Of course, you won't dance, but it will be more fun
looking on if you know how it is done."

Doris waved the pretty temptress away, but she laughed.

On the night of the "regular party" she stood by with motherly
solicitude while Rosalie piled her golden curls high on her head and
drew little shining rings down low before her ears.

"I suppose even we preachers can fix our hair in style," she said
in the ripply unruffled voice. For regardless of the clash of
circumstances with her personal opinions and wants, Rosalie seldom
showed real annoyance. But she fingered the bands at the throat of her
dress and glanced at Doris with speculating, shining eyes.

The General, with her soft curls drooping tenderly about her face, with
her wide frank eyes, wearing a white dress cut on simple lines, seemed
a nice and bashful child beside her younger sister, who stoutly decreed
that eyes are a talent, given one for cultivation.

When the Andriesons sounded their horn at the gate of the manse the
girls ran down-stairs together, hand in hand.

"How do we look, father?" asked Doris, standing before him, straight
and slim.

"Like a fresh white morning-glory," he said, kissing her.

"And how do I look?" dimpled Rosalie, drooping her warm eyes behind
long lashes, and smiling seductively.

"Like an enchanted poppy tossing in the wind. Don't try to practise
your blandishments on me, you little siren. Run along to your social,
and be good girls, and don't you flirt, Miss Rosalie, or you'll have to
go to an extra prayer-meeting next week."

Catching a hand of each, with Zee and Treasure shouting in the rear,
he ran down the steps with them and out the stone walk to the motor,
whirring impatiently. Then the car rolled away, and the girls sauntered
back to the house, their arms around their father.

"Rosalie is going to have the time of her life, dadsy," said Zee
wisely. "You mark my words. She wasn't practising those eyes on you for
nothing."

"Oh, Zee, give me a rest," he cried, laughing. "Rosalie has naughty
eyes, I know, but there is a lot of regular sense behind those curly
lashes."

"Rosalie isn't going to let folks know it, though, unless she has to,"
said Zee, and the subject was closed.

But Doris soon realized that charming Mrs. Andrieson was no efficient
chaperon for a butterfly like Rosalie. For as she led the girls into
the dressing-room at the club house, she said lightly:

"Now toss the manse to the winds, my dears, and frolic like the regular
buds you ought to be."

"I am going to," chirped Rosalie. "I am going to frivol just as hard as
ever I can."

She asserted her independence without delay. "I can not go down there
among all those evening gowns looking like this," she said. "Here, Mrs.
Andrieson, can't we tuck these shoulder bands back a little?"

"To be sure we can," agreed the chaperon, and laughing excitedly, she
folded back the soft lace from Rosalie's pretty shoulders.

"What a lovely throat you have, Rosalie. Can't we tuck it under a
little more? That shoulder is too beautiful to waste."

"That is plenty, thanks," cried Rosalie, laughing nervously. "If it is
too terribly awful, I won't do it, Doris," she said, looking directly
at her sister.

Doris returned the gaze with honest searching eyes. "It isn't too
terribly bad, Rosalie. And it does look lovely--and lots of our girls
wear them much lower even at the socials--but father--"

"Oh, father would never know the difference. An inch or so of skin is
nothing to us preachers, you know."

It was a lovely evening, in spite of Rosalie's naughtiness. Doris
was fascinated as she watched the lightly moving figures swaying so
rhythmically when the music said sway, and though she so many times had
to say, "I am sorry, thank you, I do not dance," she was never left
alone, and the hours were delightfully frittered with one and another
of the men--not Christian Endeavor men, who had to talk of church
things when they talked with members of the manse--but regular men, who
went places, and did things, and had their names in the paper--regular
men who talked of things that interested them. And of course that would
interest Doris, who all her life had been in training for interest in
others' lives.

Rosalie, after two or three painful refusals, clenched her slim white
hands and ran to Doris.

"General," she whispered hurriedly, "you may shoot me at sunrise if you
like, but I tell you right now that I am going to dance, dance, dance
the very toes off my slippers. Yes, sir; I am. And it will be worth a
good big punishment. To stand here like a mummy and say, 'I can't'--it
is more than flesh and blood can stand--my flesh and blood, anyhow."

Doris was nothing if not honest, and she had to admit that Rosalie
did seem almost predestined for that one-two-three-skippity-skip-skip
business! But the members-- Oh, of course, the members were doing it
themselves, and Doris could see a deacon drinking something that-- Well,
Doris knew they never served it at the Endeavor socials--but things
were so different with us preachers, so very different. And it would
hurt father, that was the worst of it, and he was such a good dear
old thing-- But Doris had to sympathize with Rosalie a little. Was it
possible that Providence might have erred a tiny bit in putting such
loveliness and such naughtiness and such adorable sweetness into the
gentle environs of a manse?

So intent was Doris upon the graceful figure of her winsome Problem
that she did not see the man who had stopped at her side and was
looking down with quizzical laughing eyes into her anxious face.

"My, such a lot of trouble," he said at last, and Doris looked up
astonished.

"Oh, I beg your pardon--"

"No occasion in the world. I was laughing at you, so I must do the
apologizing. But I feel justified in laughing at you. This isn't any
place to worry. This is a party. Is your sweetheart dancing too often
and too tenderly with your lovely friend?"

"I haven't any sweetheart," she said, laughing gaily at the notion. "It
is my sister I am watching. She is such a nice, naughty little thing."

She pointed Rosalie out to him, not without pride, and flushed with
pleasure when he commented warmly on her grace and beauty.

"And how beautifully she dances."

"Yes, she does, the little sinner. And a grand time we'll have in the
morning, fixing things up with father."

"Doesn't he allow you to dance?"

"He allows us to do anything," said Doris with loyal dignity. "But we
do not do it. We are preachers."

"What, all of you?"

"Oh, no, just father, but the rest of us back him up, you know."

"Well, since the naughty sister has involved the family in disgrace,
why don't you support her, and have a good time yourself?"

"I am having a perfectly wonderful time, thank you, but I haven't
Rosalie's feet and eyes. I do not know how to dance, and I do not care
to learn. Rosalie gets those things by instinct, but I have none. She
is the butterfly of the manse, and one is plenty." Then looking into
his face gravely, she said, "I am different. Rosalie is always running
into excitement and adventure. I never did in my life. I went clear
through college, and was never even thrilled. Rosalie has thrills a
dozen times a day. Of course, I was busy. We had Miss Carlton, but I
did most of the work, and there was the church, and I studied harder
than Rosalie does--I had to. She gets her lessons by instinct, too, I
guess."

"Then very plainly now is your time for play. If excitement does not
come to you, go after it. Look for your thrills. If you do, you will
find them. If you do not stumble into romance, as your sister does, go
and find it for yourself."

She laughed brightly at that. "I do not know where to look. And if I
ran into it, very likely I should pass it by unrecognized. Rosalie says
men are the best thrillers, but they do not thrill me. She says I am
too sensible--sense and mystery go in opposite directions and never
look back." She was studying him curiously. "I beg your pardon, but I
do not recall your name. It is very stupid of me--"

"Not at all. You met so many when you first came in. It is quite
natural that you should forget a few."

Doris thought it was not natural to forget those kind quizzical eyes,
and that kind teasing voice, but she did not say so. Instead she
waited. No information was forthcoming.

She laughed at him, wonderingly. "But I still do not know your name."

"No? Then here is a bit of mystery for you. Who am I? Whence do I come?
Why am I here? I am a stranger, but you will see me again."

"You must be one of the new school-teachers or a professor in the
college," she ventured, quite tingling with the bit of novelty new to
her.

"Yes? Well, I am going to run away now and leave you to your
chaperoning. But you must not forget me, little morning-glory."

"Why, my father called me that just before I left the house."

"There you see, I am a wizard. I can read your inmost thoughts. I--"

"I hope not," said Doris quickly.

"Come and have an ice with me before I go." He led her through a quiet
hallway to a corner of the wide porch, and brought ices for her, and
cake. And all the time he kept up that boyish teasing chatter, and
always she watched him with curiosity and interest.

"You are too sensible to be inquisitive. You should say, Here is a
brand from the burning, I must sow a good seed in his heart. And you
should not even ask who, nor what, nor whither."

"I know it, but I do. If you were just ordinary, I should not care. But
I can't imagine! You haven't been here a long time, that is certain. Or
I should have seen you before. And if I had, I should remember. You are
not a college student, for you are too old--and too clever."

"The last is an open insult, and the first is only dimly veiled. Now
walk with me to the gate, Miss Morning-Glory." And at the gate he said,
in a curious, half-sad voice, quite different from the gay bantering
tone that had excited her curiosity, "You are a nice little thing," and
went away.

Doris looked after him in astonishment. "Well, can you beat that?" she
ejaculated. "Here I go through high school, and through college, and
now when I am a grown-up old woman, and the head of a house, and the
General of a mob--I get myself all mixed up in a funny business like
this. Who in the world can he be? And where in the world did he come
from? But he said I should see him again. I wonder what that bad little
Rosalie is at now?"

And though she went immediately back to her sister, she did not forget
the kind gray eyes and the kind gay voice.

"Did you have a nice time, Doris?" asked Mrs. Andrieson as they were
driving swiftly homeward.

"Wonderful," said Doris in a voice of ecstatic content.

Mrs. Andrieson looked at her curiously. "I am afraid I neglected you. I
had such a hard time keeping the boys from quarreling over Rosalie, and
I knew you would not get into mischief."

Now that it was all over, and the excitement and the thrill were gone,
Rosalie was quivering down to the very tips of her slippers. She had
disgraced the manse, she had messed things up for father--and he was
such a darling-- Oh, Doris should not have let her! People would think
it was father's fault--she had not thought of that before, now she
could think of nothing else. "He is a good man," people would say, "but
he can not control his children." And he did work so hard, and was so
patient--and so many times his eyes looked tired, and once in a while,
but not often, he would admit that his head ached a bit.

Doris was sympathetic as always, sympathetic in that unvoiced silence
that understands everything, and hurts not a single particle. She knew
by instinct that Rosalie was sick at heart. So they talked of other
things, and after they got into bed she said tenderly:

"You were lovely, Rosalie, and I was so proud of you. And though
you were very gay and lively, you were sweet, and had a sort of
Presbyterian dignity about you that made you different."

Rosalie kissed her quickly, but did not speak.

When the family met again at the breakfast table Zee was overwhelming
in her interest.

"How was the party? Did Rosalie flirt? Did all the men fall down at her
feet stone dead?"

"No, little goose, they didn't. Men don't any more. And Rosalie did not
flirt--exactly--and the party was glorious."

Doris did not glance at Rosalie, intent on the oatmeal before her.

"Were you the most beautiful ones there? Was anybody dazzled? Did the
women wear low-necked dresses? Alice Graves says they don't wear any
sleeves at all. Did they dance? Were there any members there? What did
you have to eat?"

"Oh, you little chatter-box! How can I answer so many questions?
Rosalie was dazzling--did you ever dream that I could dazzle anything?
Yes, the ladies did. Yes, they danced. Yes, there were a lot of
members. They had ices, and cakes, and coffee, and things to drink
and--"

"And father," said Rosalie suddenly, "I pinned down the lace in the
neck of my dress so it would show my shoulders."

He turned to Doris for confirmation.

"Just a little, father," she said loyally. "It did not show much, and
Rosalie looked beautiful. I did not object to it."

"And I danced."

This was nothing short of a bomb bursting upon them. Even Zee was
silenced. Doris felt all the pain of motherhood over an erring
first-born. Slowly their father rallied.

"Did you do it--well? I hope you didn't stumble, or walk on ladies'
dresses, or anything."

"She did it beautifully," said Doris meekly.

"Father, I ask you frankly, as man to man, is it wrong to dance?"

"We have been taught, Rosalie," he began slowly, but she interrupted
him.

"That isn't fair. You tell me what you think. Why should we leave it to
other men that we don't know? How can they decide? Do they know more
about it than we do? It doesn't condemn it in the Bible. That would be
decisive. But why do these other men take the privilege of deciding
things for the rest of us?"

"They were wise men, and good. We let great statesmen make our laws,
and we obey. We let great teachers tell us what and how to study that
we may become educated, and we obey them. We let great doctors tell us
how to safeguard our health, and we obey them. We let the leaders in
all other professions tell us what to do, where to go, what to eat,
what to wear--and we obey. We might trust the fathers of the church a
little, don't you think?"

"But it is such a simple thing. And so natural. Just moving to music,
that is all. Soldiers love to march to the drum, children prance to the
music of the band. It is human nature."

"My dear, if you want to move to music, let Zee here go up and down
town beating a drum for you, and you march your little head off."

Rosalie joined the laughter. "I like the other kind better. Then you
truly think it is--dangerous, or wrong, or unwise, or something?"

"I have never danced myself, dear."

"Stand up here, and let me show you. Now, you go this way. One, two,
three; one, two, three; skippity, skip, skip; one, two, three--and that
is all there is to it."

"Simple, isn't it?"

"Perfectly simple. Now is that wrong?"

"Well, Rosalie, I tell you frankly, as man to man, if I were young and
had a soft shoulder like yours against my arm, and a pretty face like
yours very close to my lips--I should probably be tempted to kiss it."

"Oh, father," cried Rosalie, joining the burst of laughter. "You would
not do it, surely."

"Not in public, no. And I may add, if I had a pretty hand like yours
in mine, I should probably squeeze it, and if I had my arm around your
waist like this--I'd probably squeeze that, too."

Merry laughter greeted the admission. Then in the silence that followed
he said slowly. "There are many things I could do, Rosalie, that would
do me no harm, and others no harm. But would I get pleasure enough out
of the doing to make it worth my while? Suppose even one person should
say, 'He is a vain and worldly man, I do not wish to go to him in my
trouble.' If one person should say that of me, I would consider I had
paid too big a price for the little amusement. It may be one of the
things we give in return for the badge of the ministry, my dear--I,
for one, am willing to give it. It is the one big talent of our
profession--the talent of giving up."

Rosalie looked at him steadily.

"And I believe that any one who is not willing to exercise that talent
does not fit into a manse."

Rosalie swallowed hard. "I--I do fit, father--I want to. I--I could
never be happy any place in the world--outside the manse." Then she
added brightly, "So I must never dance any more?"

"Ask the General," he hedged quickly. "She is the head of the family."

"Well, General, speak up, how about it?"

"What a naughty Problem you are," said the General tenderly. "Well,
then, if it is up to me, I say this: Father has put it to you squarely.
And I know this, Rosalie, that when anything is put squarely on your
own shoulders, you straighten up and carry it without flinching. You
are old enough to solve your own troubles. This is yours--find the
answer for yourself."

"Oh, you bad General," cried Rosalie, laughing. "Now I can not blame
it on any one but myself, and I did so want to sympathize with myself,
and say, 'I can dance wonderfully, but they won't let me.' Oh, well,
I should worry. And, General, by the way, I may as well confess
that I was jealous of you last night. You were so different, and so
remote--every one had to go to you, away from the whirl, back into your
corner where you stood serene. I kept thinking what a nice manse type
you are, always distinct, always different, and sweeter than anything.
So I had already decided--I just wanted to find out what you would say."

Then Rosalie was gone in a flash, chasing Zee out into the garden for a
merry frolic.



CHAPTER III

THE IMP


"Why, Zee, however did you happen to get here ahead of time?" demanded
Doris, glancing up from the potatoes she was watching so closely,
for potatoes have a most annoying way of burning if you leave them a
minute. It had taken Doris a long time to learn that.

"Um, yes, I am a little early, I guess," said Zee, in a still small
voice. She busied herself about the table without reminder from her
sister, an unwonted procedure for the Imp, but Doris was too concerned
with the meal to pay much heed.

Rosalie and Treasure came in together a few moments later, and Zee was
sent to call their father to the table.

"And don't dawdle, Babe, for things are piping hot, and we must allow
three minutes for the blessing, you know."

Zee's appetite, usually above reproach, was negligible that day, and
her gay voice, always so persistent in conversation, was quite subdued.
But when the meal was over she lifted modest eyes to her father's face.

"I hope you aren't very exceptionally busy to-day, father," she began
ingratiatingly.

"I am. I have Davison's funeral to-morrow--and it is not easy to
conduct the funeral services of a bad man in a way that will afford
comfort to his mourning relatives."

"I knew you would have a hard time of it, father," said Doris
sympathetically. "I was hoping they would get some one else-- The
Methodist minister is new here, and doesn't know Davison as we did."

"One good thing about him, father," said Rosalie, "he never killed any
one that we know of. You can come down strong on that, and sort of
glide over everything else we know about him."

"I suppose one should come out flat-footed and hold him up as a model
to other people who won't keep to the straight and narrow," said Doris
thoughtfully.

"Perhaps. But a kind Providence has made it unnecessary for us to
judge, you must remember."

"We can have our opinions, like other people, but we must not air them
in the pulpit," said Rosalie.

"But whatever will you say, father? He was everything a good
Presbyterian is not, and--"

"Doctor Burgess used to say that death blots out all evil," said
Rosalie helpfully. "Can't you play that up?"

Mr. Artman smiled at their eagerness to be of help. "I shall just
speak of the rest and sweetness of death after a life of turmoil and
confusion, and shall emphasize very strongly how blessed it is that
the soul goes direct to the presence of God, who knows all the secret
motives hidden from human eyes."

"That is downright genius," approved Doris.

"Pretty slick, I call it," smiled Rosalie.

"Will you be busy the whole afternoon, father?" asked Zee, returning
to the original subject.

"Did you want something?" He turned and looked at her, and from her
sober face he caught the underlying need. "I always have time for my
girls, you know. What can I do for you?"

"I am sorry but I am in bad at school again."

"Again," repeated Rosalie. "Don't you mean still?"

"Miss Hodges wants you to come with me--that is, she says I can not
come back until you do. She is going to ask you to give a sort of
pledge of good behavior for me, and you can't do it, for I am sure to
break over once in a while. So there you are. Don't you think Doris
could teach me at home this year?"

"But what in the world did you do, dear?" demanded Doris.

"Well, you will be horrified, of course, Doris--but it wasn't as bad
as it sounds. I did not feel well to begin with, and things went wrong
from the first. Walter Dwight had some candy, and he passed it to me,
and I was eating it--"

"In school?"

"Yes. And Miss Hodges saw me and told me to go to the window and throw
it out--a very bad and unsanitary thing, throwing candy all over the
play-grounds, but Miss Hodges makes us do it--and so I went to the
window and looked out--and--I stood there a minute or so looking around
to see what was going on in the playground, and I saw a robin sitting
in the big maple, and I squinted my eye up at him, and aimed with the
candy, and shot it at him."

Zee looked up sadly, and then lowered her eyes again. "Everybody
laughed, and Miss Hodges was not at all pleased. She said I was a
little nuisance."

A vague flickering smile passed from face to face around the table.

"What else?"

"She sent me into the science room to sit by myself half an hour and
think. Professor was not there."

"What did you do?"

"I sat there."

"Yes?"

"Well, I kept on sitting there, and it was awfully monotonous. You
know we have a skeleton in the physiology department now--I told you,
didn't I? It was stuck up on the side of the wall on long hooks. And
Professor's big amber glasses were on the desk--the girls say he wears
them for style--so I put them on the skeleton. It looked awfully funny.
And then Satan must have tempted me, for I did a terrible thing."

A long sigh went up from the table.

"The teachers' cloak-room opens from the science room."

"I see it all," said Doris solemnly.

"Go on, Zee. I don't get you, yet."

"The teachers' wraps were in the cloak-room. So I got Miss Hodges' hat
and put it on the skeleton, and it looked so comical you would have
laughed." A sad reminiscent smile flashed over the subdued but always
impish features. "So I put her coat on too--it almost made me shiver to
touch the thing, though Professor says it is very scientific, and he
disinfected it with something when they got it. And I bent up its arm,
and stuck her gloves in its fingers, and put her bag over the arm, and
it looked for all the world like Miss Hodges in a grouch, and she is
grouchy most of the time."

"Yes?"

"But I did not hear the recitation bell ring, and the door opened and
in came the physical geography class and Miss Hodges. She was not at
all pleased. So she invited father to come and talk me over with her."

"All right, I will go," said Mr. Artman quietly.

Zee sighed heavily. "I hope you understand, father, that I know it was
a perfectly repre--repre--"

"--hensible," prompted Treasure softly.

"Yes, reprehensible thing to do, and I am fearfully ashamed of it. And
it makes me sick to think I had to bother you when you are busy. But
Miss Hodges need not have been so huffy about it. She's got a little
more flesh, but her disposition isn't half as good as a skeleton's."

"Zee, you must not speak disrespectfully and flippantly of your
teachers. It is not right, and it is not kind. If Miss Hodges has a
room full of children as full of mischief as you are, it is no wonder
she is sometimes impatient and nervous."

Zee subsided.

Mr. Artman rose from the table rather wearily and Zee brought his hat
for him humbly.

"I hope you believe that I am sorry, father," she said as they set out
together.

"I think you are sorry to bother me, but I must admit that I do not
think you are sorry you annoyed Miss Hodges."

"I do think it was rather a good joke on her," admitted Zee.

"Miss Hodges is doing one good and noble thing. She is working hard,
long hours and very wearily to earn money for herself and her mother
and that little nephew who lives with them. She has to labor for
her very bread, and for theirs also. Any one who makes life harder
than need be for those who must toil for their existence is--excuse
me, dear--but any one who does that is either needlessly cruel or
criminally thoughtless. Whether she is the type of woman you like,
whether she appeals to you personally or not--that is nothing. The fact
remains that she is working for her life--and I hate to think it is my
little girl making things hard for her."

Zee marched along beside him sturdily, without speaking for a while.
Her dark merry eyes were clouded. Her rosy lips were a straight scarlet
line. Two blocks, three blocks, they traversed in silence. Then she
slipped little clinging fingers into his hand, and said softly:

"Father, I am sorry now--and I won't ever, any more. I have tried to
tease her, and I like to make the other kids laugh. But I never thought
of it the way you told me. Will you try not to be ashamed of me?"

His hand closed over hers companionably.

"And, father, you need not believe me to-day--that I am sorry. Wait and
I will prove it to you. For don't you think I see that we preachers
have to make things easier for folks, instead of harder?"

"I do believe you, of course, Baby," he said, smiling down on the sober
face.

Even he could not repress a smile when Miss Hodges came in wearing her
coat and hat, with the bag in the crook of her arm--for in his mind,
schooled to imaginative flights by a long life with merry daughters--he
could see the scientific skeleton similarly garbed.

Miss Hodges' face was grave, but not unfriendly.

"I think Zee can fix this up with you herself, Miss Hodges," he said,
holding her hand warmly in his. "I need not say how much I regret
it--but Zee and I have been talking together--and I want her to speak
for herself."

"I am sorry this time, truly--not just for playing pranks, for somehow
that never seems really bad to me--it must be the original sin, I
suppose. But I am sorry that I have just openly tried to make things
mean and hateful for you. I never thought of it that way before. I
thought it was sort of your job to put up with the mischief. I can't
promise to be an angel like Treasure, for I was not born like that.
But I am going to try very hard not to annoy you, and I'd like to be
friends, if you don't mind."

Thinking it over afterward, Father Artman felt that Zee had left many
loopholes for future escapades, but her voice had been sincere, and her
eyes honest, and Miss Hodges had accepted the apology promptly. And
knowing his girls, Mr. Artman felt confident that Zee's loyalty to the
manse would keep her from open disgrace again.

"Something just has to be done about that Zee," Rosalie said to
Doris. "And it certainly is up to you, General. Why, she gets more
scatter-brained and harum-scarum every day. Can't you steady her up a
little?"

"How? It is all right to say it is up to me--but who can take a puff of
thistledown like Zee and steady it? She does not grow that way."

"Well, this will hold her down for a week or so, but you'd better think
up some way of handling her. Something has to be done, and right away,
too. Why, she is fourteen, and in high school. I was practically a
young lady when I was in high school."

"You were practically a young lady when you were in kindergarten," said
Doris gaily. "My, what pretty airs you did put on. You always would
carry the finest handkerchiefs, and how you would scheme to get a fresh
ribbon oftener than anybody else."

It did seem that so severe a lesson as this should be sufficient even
for the Imp. Yet the very next morning Doris found herself involved
once more. Going to the girls' closet on an errand, she was surprised
to find Zee's school shoes, sensible, comfortable, roomy shoes of
enduring calf-skin. The "Sunday shoes," of nice shiny patent leather,
were not in sight. Yet Zee had gone to school.

"She is almost as problematic as Rosalie herself," said Doris.

She knew Zee's passion for the Sunday shoes, and that the calf-skin
ones were abhorred by her fastidious young soul. But that she would
openly revolt and toss all orders to the winds--Doris grieved over
it heavily. But she would not take this to father, poor soul, he had
trouble enough with her yesterday, and Davison's funeral to-day was
grief enough.

When Zee came into the dining-room at noon she wore the calf-skin
boots. Doris could hardly believe her eyes. Yet there they were--and a
serene smile on Zee's merry face.

"Miss Hodges and I got along like cooing doves this morning," she
announced triumphantly. "She said I had my lesson perfectly, and I said
her new hat was very becoming."

When the girls came to the kitchen to say good-by to Doris before
starting back to school, she left her work and followed them to
the front door. Zee still wore the heavy shoes, but she hung about
impatiently, plainly waiting till Doris should return to her work. At
last, depressed in attitude, the two girls started away, and Doris
disappeared. Just a moment later came the sound of skipping running
steps, and Zee slipped in and darted for the stairs.

"Zee!"

Zee halted abruptly, one foot poised for the step.

"Were you going up to change your shoes?"

"Y--yes."

"Don't you know you are not allowed to wear your Sunday shoes to
school?"

"Y--yes."

"Then why, please?"

"Because I hate calf-skin shoes, I hate 'em, I hate 'em. Big ugly
clumsy clod-hoppery stogies! I think they are abominable. I'll bet they
were the thorn in the flesh Peter talked about--or was it Paul? Anyhow,
I can't think of any worse kind of a thorn. I think they are downright
wicked. And I won't wear them--unless I have to," she added hastily,
noting the military firmness in the General's face.

"I am sorry, Zee, since you hate them so terribly. They are not pretty,
I know. But if you wear the Sunday ones to school, they wear out so
fast, and they are so expensive. And, oh, my dearest, we could never
afford it on father's salary, you know that. But I will compromise
with you, for I don't like to make you wear things you despise. If you
will wear these out, when they are gone, your next pair of school shoes
shall be, not patent leather, but much finer and softer than these--oh,
much finer."

"Oh, that is just ducky of you, General," said Zee gratefully. "But
mayn't I wear the others--just this afternoon?"

"No, absolutely not. You were very deceitful and disobedient, slipping
in to change them on the sly, that way, and you shall not wear the
others by any means."

But the next morning, as Doris stood at the window watching the girls
as they walked away, she noted a curious bulging under the side of
Zee's sweater.

What could it be, she wondered? Then like a flash, she ran up the
stairs. The Sunday shoes were gone--also the calf-skin ones. Grimly she
waited until Zee came home.

"Zee," she began softly, so father might not overhear, poor father,
having so much trouble with bad people who would die and require
funeral services, and good people who would live and never go to
church--certainly he should not be bothered with Zee's shoe situation.

"Did you wear your calf-skin shoes to school this morning?"

"Y--yes, I wore them to school," said Zee with an almost imperceptible
emphasis on the "to."

"Did you take the Sunday ones with you?"

"Yes. Doris, I can't bear those old stogies, and so I just wore them
to school, and then I changed them in the cloak-room, and you can see
yourself it wouldn't wear them out any--the good ones, I mean--just
wearing them inside the school-room and not walking in them."

"But you disobeyed."

"I know it," said Zee cheerfully.

"And you tried to deceive me."

"I know it."

"Now I have to punish you."

"All right, General, but let me tell you in advance that whenever I can
sneak those Sunday shoes to school, I am going to. So you'd better
make it a good punishment while you are at it, so you won't have to do
it over and over."

Doris looked at her sister soberly, and her heart swelled with pity,
for the sentence she was about to pronounce was dire indeed.

She took the fine shoes from Zee. "This is the punishment. You can
not wear the fine shoes again any place for six weeks--not to church,
nor any place--just the stogies, everywhere you go. And you shall not
have these again at all until you promise on your word of honor that
you will not wear them without permission. I know you will not break a
solemn promise."

Zee's face paled with the solemnity of it. "Oh, Doris!"

"You can talk it over with father if you like. I wanted to keep him
from worry, but go to him if you wish."

"Nothing doing," said Zee flatly. "He has that way of looking that
makes you so ashamed of yourself. I think it is an imposition
for fathers to look like that, that's what I think. Tell me one
thing--does the promise still hold good about the new shoes--that they
are to be finer and softer than these when they are worn out?"

"Yes--when these are worn out."

"These will last a year, I know."

"Oh, Baby, you know we preachers can't afford to throw away perfectly
good shoes like these."

"Can't we give 'em to the heathen? They are awfully good shoes for the
heathen, Doris. Why, they would last forever, and keep the snakes off,
and-- Shoes like that were just intended for heathen."

"I am afraid we can't, Zee. Sometimes I think there is quite a lot in
common between the heathens and us preachers--and this is another bond
of sympathy. So we will stick to the shoes ourselves."

Zee looked very sad indeed as the shiny shoes were taken up-stairs and
carefully locked in an old trunk. Then sudden determination dawned in
her dark bright face.

She raced into the yard, and began a desperate course of exercise,
jumping, running, clambering up and down. Gentle Treasure, trailing her
devotedly, was put to woeful plights. And Doris, looking out, could
hardly believe her eyes when she saw the violent performance of lazy
little Zee. Then came revelation.

"I am sorry for you, Treasure," panted Zee, pausing a moment. "But I
am going to run and jump and climb and jar the life out of these old
stogies."

For a moment Doris hesitated. Then she turned resolutely and closed the
window.

"Providence had to overlook quite a little, even in the saints in the
Bible," she said to herself excusingly. "I guess I can overlook a few
things myself. Isn't it strange," she said to Rosalie, "that somehow
the naughtier folks act the sweeter they seem?"

"I don't know what you are talking about," laughed Rosalie. "But if you
mean me, I quite agree with you."



CHAPTER IV

THE BLESSING


Oh, day of rest and gladness!

There was one hour in the week when Doris felt she could lean back and
sigh aloud in relief and contentment, with every member of her little
family before her and mischief out of the question--the hour of the
Sabbath morning worship. Father was in the pulpit, Rosalie was at her
side in the choir loft--and Rosalie in the choir loft was a changed
being, for some inner, inherent sense of fineness restrained the
naughty fairies in her witching eyes for that one hour only. And down
in the eighth pew to the right sat Treasure and Zee, very respectable,
very reverent, very austere.

Rosalie never missed one word of her father's discourses, but Doris,
strangely enough, once in a while went wandering. It was so blissful to
see the brood safe sheltered before her eyes. It really was the only
time when she could think with any degree of consistency or comfort,
without fear of violent and climactic interruption.

But one morning, just as she was getting pleasantly relaxed, and father
was nicely started in Point One--she opened her eyes wide, and leaned
forward. There in the ninth pew next to the aisle--Deacon Fenton's
pew, and how annoyed he would be when he arrived in the middle of
Point Two--right there, as sure as you're born, sat that aggravating,
infuriating, mysterious Mr. Wizard that nobody knew.

His eyes were upon her, and though his face remained properly grave
and in keeping with a Presbyterian service, gay greeting flashed from
his eyes to her, and Doris-- Well, it was more than human frailty
could stand. She smiled, and then she blushed, and could not keep
her eyes away from that serene provoking face, though she did try
desperately and was ashamed of herself all the time. Father was doing
splendidly--she was subconsciously aware of that, and was so proud of
him. It had never before been quite so imperatively necessary that
he "do well." Rosalie looked very sweet and dignified, altogether in
keeping with a manse and a church, and not a bit frivolous as she had
at the Country Club da--party--that was a comfort. She was sorry she
could not point out Treasure and Zee to him also, they did look so
spiritual and fine in their Sunday clothes--it was really once in a
lifetime to designate them as manse material. He seemed to be paying
close attention to father-- Whoever in the world could he be? And there
came Deacon Fenton, sure enough--with his usual prejudice against the
first point--and he got very red in the face, but the Exasperating
Thing smiled pleasantly and shoved along in the seat, and settled down
where he could see father when he looked at the pulpit, and could
see Doris when he looked at the choir loft, and--Doris openly and
deliberately nudged her sister.

The Exasperating Thing lowered his eyes at her reprovingly, but Doris
could not resist.

"Who is that in Deacon Fenton's pew?" she whispered.

Rosalie looked that way unconcernedly--she did not seem to notice how
romantic and curious and compelling he was--and shook her head. Doris
subsided then, but when she came down from the choir loft and found him
waiting for her at the side entrance, she was glad. She held out her
hand.

"Rosalie did not know you either," she said. "I asked her. Will you
come and meet father?"

"Sorry, but not to-day. It would spoil the mystery. Come along with me,
Little Seeker After Thrills, I want to walk home with you. I go your
very way."

"I usually stay and shake hands with the members, but it will be fun to
slip away for once. Then they will be gladder to see me to-night."

So they hurried away, and Doris noticed that while many nodded to her,
no one had a word of familiar friendliness for him--so she knew he was
a stranger to all. It seemed odd that he could remain unknown in such a
little town--he must live very quietly and to himself. He could not be
a teacher, she was sure of that, for teachers, like "we preachers," are
honor bound to make friends.

"Has the butterfly of the fold been in any new mischief since the
dance?"

"Call it a party. We preachers do not go to dances. No, indeed, she
hasn't. Didn't you notice how sensible she looked this morning? She is
really very good, if she only takes time to think. She decided of her
own accord and free will not to dance any more at all."

"Then since it was her own free will, I suppose you feel it was
predestined, don't you?"

"Perhaps," said Doris politely, for she never could keep that
free-will-predestination puzzle quite straight in her mind--though she
was very sure father was right about it.

"And what have you been doing since that night?"

"Washing, and ironing, and cooking, and helping the girls with their
lessons, and scolding father, and patching. What have you been doing?"

"I? Oh, I have been haunting."

"You have been--what? Now you are teasing again. I never knew any one
as grown up as you who teased so much. Do you live in this part of
town?"

"You know we haunts just live around in the air, and do our ghosting
when the ghosting's good."

"Oh, let's talk sense. I expected to see you before this."

"I have seen you frequently."

"You have! I haven't seen you once, and I have been looking for you."

"One morning I saw you digging potatoes in the garden of the manse. And
your father stuck his head out the window and scolded you."

"He doesn't approve of my digging potatoes, but he is so busy all the
time he forgets and so if I wake up early enough I sneak out and do it
to get ahead of him."

"And one morning I saw you flying down the middle of the road in a
kimono, yelling at the milk man."

"We were going to have company for luncheon, and I forgot to leave a
message in the bottle that I wanted cream," explained Doris, flushing.

"And one morning, very early, I saw you run out-of-doors in a shower,
barefooted, and your hair hanging, and you wore your father's old coat
and hat, I think, and you were gobbling tablecloths off the line."

"They did not dry, and I left them on the line over night. But the
shower came up, and I had to rush after them."

"And one morning--"

"Don't you ever sleep? How does it come that you always see me some
ghastly hour in the morning? Why don't you appear about three in the
afternoon, when I am nicely brushed and have on a fresh dress, and look
like a preacher?"

"Morning is my own particular time of day. So beware how you venture
out, for you can't escape my eyes."

"You must be a milk man."

He only laughed. "Now tell me the truth, have you thought of me once
since the da--party?"

"Yes, not being a regular sphinx, I have. I have thought of you very
often--you are the funniest thing I ever saw. But somehow I did not
expect to see you at church."

He joined her laughter.

"Come in and have dinner with us," she said warmly. "Please do. I am
a wonderful cook. Zee says my mashed potatoes taste almost exactly
like--plum pudding. Would you consider that a compliment?"

"By all means. But I can not come for dinner to-day. We wizards do not
eat, you know. Be kind now, and get into more morning difficulties so I
may laugh at you, will you?"

Doris walked into the manse with a very thoughtful air.

"I have always told Rosalie it was silly to be constantly finding
mystery in every little thing--but I see now that mystery is more fun
than anything else. The silly old thing--why he must be nearly as old
as father. But how he does laugh! He isn't a minister, that's certain.
And he isn't a doctor, for everybody knows doctors, besides they
always talk shop. And he doesn't look like a worker--I mean a hard
worker-- Isn't it ridiculous? What do I care who he is--but it is lots
of fun."

As they sat at dinner, Rosalie said suddenly, "Oh, father, you must
scold the General. She is getting very worldly. She was flirting with a
stranger in the congregation. She picked out a handsome man, and kept
looking at him, and he smiled at her, and she asked if I knew him right
in the middle of the second point."

"Could you know him in the second point if you didn't know him anywhere
else?" demanded Zee.

"There wasn't a handsome man in church except father," declared
Treasure.

"General, I am astonished," said their father with smiling eyes and
solemn face.

"Don't you believe her. He wasn't a stranger in the first place, and in
the second I only looked at him once--or twice," she finished feebly.

"Oh, what a story. He was, too, a stranger. Didn't you ask if I knew
him?"

"I can't remember his name. But I met him at the Country Club
da--party. I talked to him there quite a lot, and--"

"Oh, you dangerous girl! You know, father, these quiet modest
ones--look out! They always make trouble. No wonder you had such a
glorious time--flirting with a stranger."

"Rosalie," said Doris with intense dignity. "I did not flirt. I just
talked, and we talk to everybody, don't we--we preachers?"

"But who is he?"

This, it seemed, only Providence could tell.

"Why didn't you ask him?"

Doris hedged quickly. It was all very well to play mystery with
that Aggravating Thing, but she had a strong feeling it would sound
ridiculous to the family, and they were such laughers.

The day of rest, truly--but always a stormy one for families of
parsonage and manse.

They had not finished dinner when the superintendent of the
Sunday-school called Mr. Artman to the phone.

"Miss Munsing says she will not keep her class any longer," he
protested peevishly. "I want you to talk to her. Why, she is one of
our very best teachers, young and lively, and her girls adore her. She
says she is not capable, or some such nonsense--bright clever girl
like that. You talk to her, will you? She promised to see you this
afternoon."

Mr. Artman shook his head despairingly as he returned to the table.

"You women," he said. "You don't know how upsetting you are. I would
have sworn that Miss Munsing was more in harmony with her work than any
teacher in the school, and here she throws up her hands."

"Do you mean she is giving up the class, father?" asked Treasure
breathlessly.

"Just that. Says she is not capable, or something."

"Why, Treasure, isn't she your teacher? And you all love her, don't
you?"

"Hum, yes," said Treasure thoughtfully. "You talk her into it, father.
It would break up the class to lose her."

"What is the trouble, anyhow? Has anything gone wrong? If there has
been any mix-up, you ought to know it."

"The girls are just crazy about her, and we have the best record for
attendance in the whole school. I suppose she is giving up the class on
account of me."

"On account of you!"

This was unanimously exclamatory. Rosalie was always problematic, and
Zee was a living fount of mischief, even Doris was given to moods
and fancies. But Treasure was the serene untarnished blessing of the
family, always gentle, always friendly, tranquil and undisturbed.
Could Treasure, the sweet, cause agony to any young shepherdess of the
Sunday-school flock? The exclamation was followed by silence, long and
profound.

"D--on't you like her?" asked Doris at last, in a weak voice.

"I love her with all my heart."

"Do you cut up in Sunday-school, Treasure?" asked Zee. "I am surprised.
Miss Conroy has to shake her head at me sometimes--but I certainly am
ashamed of you. I--I didn't think it."

"Of course I do not cut up in Sunday-school. I am surprised you would
even mention such a thing."

"Well, go on, Treasure, and tell us," said Rosalie impatiently. "You
are the last person in the world one would suspect of disrupting a
religious organization."

"Yes, go on and tell it, pet," said her father gently.

"And talk fast, Treasure. You are so poky. I could tell six volumes
while you get into the introduction."

"There isn't any introduction to it," said Treasure in her gentle
voice. "You know, father, when you go over the lesson with us on
Saturday night, you bring out a lot of good points that Miss Munsing
does not think of."

"Yes."

"Of course, it would not be right for me to speak up and tell things
she does not know--it would sound smarty--as if I were trying to show
off. So I just ask questions, and sometimes she does not know the
answers. Then the whole class gets into a discussion, and then I say,
'Maybe it is this way,' and I tell what you have said, and she says,
'Yes, that is it, of course.' And sometimes I think of questions that
nobody has explained, and I ask--and she can't answer. This morning
she got rather red, and looked nervous. But she is a dear thing, and
I don't expect her to know as much as a preacher, of course. And I
hope you will make her keep the class, for we could never get another
teacher like her. I am truly sorry, father, and I will promise never to
ask another question."

Doris flushed suddenly. "But--she ought to be free to ask questions,
father. Miss Munsing should study the lessons more, and find the
answers."

"I suppose it is not just pleasant for a teacher to have her scholars
wiser than she," said their father slowly. "I can see how she feels
about it."

"But she ought to study more," insisted Doris.

"I shall never ask anything else," declared Treasure. "We can't give up
Miss Munsing. I know the rest would rather have her than some one else
who could answer the whole Bible. I think I prefer her myself."

"Finish your dinner now, girls; I shall try to think of some way to
manage," said Mr. Artman quietly.

When Miss Munsing came to the door Doris greeted her cordially. "Father
is waiting for you in the study. Mr. Andrews telephoned that you were
coming."

"I suppose you think I am just terrible to go back on my job," said
Miss Munsing, lifting troubled eyes to Doris' face.

"I never think anybody is terrible," said Doris, laughing. "I am too
well acquainted with my own self to sit in judgment on anybody else.
Treasure says the girls will never give you up. Leave it to father. He
will fix you up."

So Miss Munsing went up-stairs, and Doris and the others waited
impatiently until the front door closed behind her when the interview
was over. Then they trooped eagerly into the hall, waylaying their
father on the stairs.

"Did you persuade her?"

"Was I the trouble?" queried Treasure.

"Yes, you were the trouble sure enough," said Mr. Artman, pinching her
cheek gaily. "She felt the class should have a teacher who knew--and
she said frankly that she did not know. She had thought it quite a
simple matter to teach a class of young girls, using pretty stories to
illustrate plain points--but she said our gentle little Treasure hurt
her conscience to the point of insomnia."

"Did you tell her I promised--"

"Yes, but Miss Munsing is no quitter. She would not hear of such a
thing. She said it would be bad for you, and bad for the rest, and
worst of all for her. She would not even discuss it."

"What did you do, father? Of course you thought of something."

"I suggested what we have been trying to arrange for the last year--a
teachers' study class. We have voted on it a dozen times, but always
there was an overwhelming majority against it, because their evenings
were so full of other things. And I--although there were a few who
wanted it--I guess I was a quitter myself. I said if the teachers did
not want or need it, I had no time to waste on it."

"No one could expect you to give up a whole evening for people who were
not interested," cried Doris loyally.

"Miss Munsing and I picked out Tuesday night, and she and I are going
to have a Teachers' Study Class. The others will be invited and urged
to come. But Miss Munsing will be here, and I will be here--and we are
going to have that class if nobody else ever does show up. It was not
your fault, Treasure, and it was not Miss Munsing's fault, for she
did her best. It was really I to blame, for I should have counted the
evening well spent if it helped even one teacher in her work. Much
obliged, Treasure."

Then he went up-stairs.

"What in the world did he mean by 'Much obliged'?" puzzled Treasure.
"It was my fault, too, for now it means another evening of hard work
for him, and his evenings were so busy anyhow. And then he says 'Much
obliged.' Preachers are funny, even father."

Sunday afternoon in the manse was supposed to be comfortably quiet--not
prosy. And for the first hour after the dinner work was finished things
went smoothly indeed. The girls read their Sunday-school papers. Then
Treasure and Zee had a game of Bible Prophets--enlivening it by betting
pennies on the outcome--"Not gambling at all," insisted Zee. "Because
the pennies go into the mission box on the kitchen shelf, no matter who
wins. The only difference is, if you win, you get the credit on the
Lord's account-book, and if I win, I get it."

As long as Doris did not find out why that afternoon game of Prophets
was one of such intense and absorbing interest to the lively girls, all
went well enough.

The Sabbath never failed to bring a problem for Rosalie.

"Oh, General," she cried, dancing away from the telephone. "Our little
crowd is going for a long auto ride out to Miriam's for supper--a
nice Sunday supper of bread and jelly and milk and pie--and may I go,
darling General?"

"But Christian Endeavor--"

"Oh, Bud promised faithfully to bring me back in time for it. The
others are going to spend the evening and sing, and roast marshmallows,
but out of deference to us preachers he promised to have me home by
seven."

"Ask father," countered Doris.

"Oh, General dearest, you know father ought not to be bothered on
Sunday afternoon. It wouldn't be right."

"Rosalie, don't ask me. I want you to do whatever you want to, but--
How many are going?"

"Twelve, I suppose. Three cars full. Bud is going to take me in his
brother's runabout."

"Twelve. Then it is a regular party."

"Oh, not really, dearest. It will take an hour to get there, and
then it will be nearly suppertime, and we will have to come right
straight home afterward. You know Miriam's people are terribly
religious--not like us preachers, of course, but very particular. One
time they were dancing on Saturday night, and they sent us right home
at midnight--they said there should be no dancing in their house on
Sunday. I was there, but I did not dance." Rosalie laughed a little.
"So the next Saturday night when we were there, Miriam's Aunt Gertrude
turned the clock back an hour, to give us a little more time."

"There would not be any dancing then, that is one thing," said Doris
thoughtfully.

"Well," admitted Rosalie honestly but reluctantly, "Miriam's parents
are out of town, and Aunt Gertrude is the chaperon to-day."

Doris looked at her in exasperation. "You bad girl, you fooled me on
purpose. Run up and ask father, dear, won't you? It will only take a
minute, and he won't mind. I can't settle it for you."

"Oh, Doris, it would be mean," protested Rosalie conscientiously.

"Very well, then, Miss Rosalie, decide for yourself. I think you get
along better on your own responsibility anyhow. Puzzle it out for
yourself, go or not, just as you think best."

"Then I shall go," said Rosalie positively, and she went into the hall
for her hat. "You think it is quite all right for me to go then, Doris?"

"I do not think one single thing about it."

"But you will not object if I go?"

"I shall not even mention it."

"Everybody else goes, and they are just as good as we are--better than
Zee and I."

"Perhaps."

"Oh, you bad General, you make me so cross," cried Rosalie, tossing
her hat to the floor. "Why didn't you just say I couldn't go--I never
disobey you, do I? Or why didn't you say I could go, then if my
conscience hurt me I could say it was your fault. Now you have spoiled
the whole thing!"

Rosalie ran to the telephone and called a number in a voice unruffled
and sweet.

"I can not go, Bud. It is really quite a party, you know, and Sunday is
the Sabbath for us preachers. It was just dear of you to bother with
me--I should think you must be tired of trying to be nice to a cranky
old preachy crowd."

Then she listened a moment while he voiced fervent denials.

"Oh, that is nice of you, Bud, and I know I should have loved it, but
you see how it is, don't you?"

A moment later she gave a gleeful little cry, "Oh, truly, Bud, would
you enjoy that? I am sure it will be all right--wait a minute, till I
ask Doris. Oh, Doris, he says he does not care to go, and his brother
has given him the runabout for the rest of the day, and he wants me to
go for a quiet little drive with him, and-- Is that all right? Oh, you
darling General!"

"Of course it is all right, and ask him to come to supper here,
Rosalie, and go to Endeavor with us."

So Rosalie gurgled rapturously into the transmitter and received a
hearty acceptance, and then flung her arms around her smiling sister.

"Oh, General, I am so glad we decided it that way. I know they would
dance--a little--I would not, of course--but I do love to drive, and
I don't get a chance very often, and Bud is always so good to me. Will
you have something a little bit kind of extra nice for supper?" And
Rosalie danced off up the stairs, singing merrily.

Doris smiled and sighed in relief. "That settles Rosalie for this
afternoon. The other girls will be up and going in a minute, I suppose,
the game must be nearly over. But it is a whole lot to have Rosalie
fixed."

At that moment Treasure picked up the cards and began putting them into
the box, and Zee walked slowly but proudly to the kitchen. A second
later Doris heard the tinkling of pennies, and Zee came back into the
room.

"What were you doing, Babe?"

"Putting some pennies in the mission box," came the even answer.

"What shall we do now, Doris? We don't want to play any more."

"Haven't you something to read?"

"We've read everything in the house a dozen times. May we go over to
Grahams'?"

"Oh, not to-day, dear, they are so noisy. Wait until to-morrow."

"May we make some candy, Doris? And pop corn?"

"Oh, Zee, not on Sunday. Why don't you take a walk?"

"Too hot," objected Treasure. "Let's go and make father tell us a
story."

"You wouldn't bother him to-day, surely. He has to go to Waltons' at
three for the wedding."

"Why can't we go to the wedding with him? We are very good at weddings."

"Not this time, dear. We weren't invited. It is just a quiet wedding on
the rush--they start east this afternoon, you know."

"I don't believe in weddings on the rush--they ought to take their time
and have old shoes and rice and refreshments," insisted Zee stubbornly.

"What shall we do then, Doris? You ought to think of something."

Doris racked her brain. She had to rack her brain every Sunday
afternoon, but somehow she could not keep a supply of ideas in storage.

"Why don't you go to the meadow and pick some goldenrod?" she suggested
finally. "Bud is coming to tea with Rosalie, and think how it will
please her."

Treasure and Zee looked at each other, and as neither could think of a
plausible objection, they acted upon the plan.

When they were gone, Doris got up, luxuriously, and lifted her arms
high above her head.

"Oh, day of rest," she breathed fervently, and wandered comfortably
through the house and into the yard. Sunday was a blissful day, after
all.

Later in the afternoon she arranged the table attractively for tea,
and made a pile of dainty sandwiches. And it was in the midst of this
occupation that she was interrupted by the jingling of the telephone.

"Is this Miss Artman? Miss Doris-- Do you recognize my voice?"

"Oh, Mr. Wizard, I wish I didn't. Then you would have to tell me."

He laughed at that, and his laugh was as pleasantly aggravating by
telephone as in person.

"However did you come to call me up?" she asked.

"Sad news, my friend, sad news. Two young girls claiming to belong to
you are under arrest out here on a charge of trespassing."

Doris trembled so she nearly dropped the receiver.

"Arrest?" she faltered.

"Well, practically. You see there is a big sign up which says, 'No
trespassing,' and along came two young girls walking beside the creek,
picking flowers, and shooing birds, and chasing rabbits, as natural
as life. Out jumps a wild and angry game-keeper--so-called. He says,
'Didn't you see that sign, "No Trespassing"?' The little dark one
began to cry, but the other one said, 'We are not trespassing, we are
picking flowers.' 'They are my personal flowers,' said the game-keeper.
'Nothing of the kind, they are God's, you didn't even plant them, for
they are wild.' Then I arrive, like mercury on the wings of the wind,
and the dark one was still weeping--"

"Zee doesn't cry," wailed Doris.

"She does cry. She not only cries, she bellows. But the slender, white
one insisted they were not trespassing because they are preachers and
preachers do not trespass. What shall I do with them?"

"I do not know," faltered Doris. "Father is at a wedding, and-- Who is
the cross old bear, anyhow?"

"Search me," he said blithely. "I think maybe I can bribe him off.
At present the girls are seated comfortably on a fallen tree eating
apples, the baby has quit bellowing, and the game-keeper is gathering
some late roses for them. Holding them in sweet confinement until you
guarantee that they are yours. I guess I can fix it up with the old
man. Don't worry then, I shall give it my personal attention, and see
that your erring and trespassing--for they were trespassing beyond a
doubt, manse to the contrary notwithstanding--sisters are restored
to the shelter of the fold. Don't worry. Aren't you glad you have a
mysterious wizard flitting about to shield your--your--your--I can not
think of a word to do them justice-- Anyhow, to keep your sanctified
but erring family out of jail?"

Then he hung up the receiver before Doris could even thank him.

How agonizingly she waited--and how calmly and confidently they came at
last--the calloused little wretches--Zee bearing a bountiful armful of
goldenrod and crimson roses, and Treasure laden with luscious fruit.

"Well, for goodness' sake," exclaimed Zee when she saw Doris, white
and trembling. "Did you think they could really arrest us--preachers?
Impossible! Of course the old reprobate--I use it scripturally, so
don't get excited--of course he scared me right at first, I wept a
little, very effectively, and Treasure put her arm around me and said
she wouldn't let him hurt me. He was very cross. We call him the
Corduroy Crab, for short--and because we don't know anything else to
call him."

"You might know we would not let them arrest us, Doris," said Treasure
gently. "You should not have worried."

"Of course, he was simply foaming at the mouth. He was going to march
us home in disgrace, to report us. But Treasure sat right down, and
said we would come and report ourselves, but we would not be marched
through town in disgrace. Treasure came out like a brick; I was
surprised at her."

"What were _you_ doing all the time, Miss Zee?"

"Well," confessed Zee reluctantly, "I was behind Treasure most of the
time. And then the other fellow--I wonder who in the world he was?"

"He made me angrier than the Crab did; he thought he was so funny!"

"He was going along, and came in to see the excitement. And he laughed
at us--the hateful thing. And when we said we belonged to the manse
he laughed more than ever. He was not a farmer, I am sure--he wore a
silk shirt, did you notice that, Treasure? We call him the Curious
Cat--Curious because he was so funny, and Cat because he laughed. He
gave the old Crab some money and said he would assume responsibility
for us, and he told us to wait until he telephoned to verify us, or
something, and he asked the Crab to pick us some regular flowers to
atone for his irreverence in assaulting a manse, as it were, and
the Crab really was pretty decent after that. When the Cat went to
telephone, I asked who he was, and the Crab rolled up his eyes and
said he never laid eyes on him before. And then the Cat came back, and
brought us home in his car."

"Where was it?" asked Doris curiously.

"It was in the hickory grove, this side of the tumble-down house--I
did hear that some one had bought the place, but I did not believe it.
Every one says it is haunted. But of course haunts do not work in the
day-time, and the flowers were gorgeous. We got quite chummy with the
Corduroy Crab before we left, and asked if we might have a picnic there
some time, and he said yes."

"However did you get away out there, anyhow?"

"Oh, the Maples came along in their car and asked if we wanted a ride,
and when we got out there and saw how fine the flowers were we said we
would get a ride back easy enough."

"Here comes father!"

The girls raced down the stone walk to meet him, and Doris returned to
the kitchen.

"Did you ever hear such a thing in your life?" she thought to herself.
"How does he get every place--and how does he know everything-- Oh, I
think I'll take a walk out there myself some of these fine days--maybe
I'll get arrested, too!"



CHAPTER V

THE WILL


"Father, are you studying, or are you plain fidgeting?" asked Doris
suspiciously, pausing in the act of dusting the pile of manuscript on
her father's desk.

"Just plain fidgeting, I am afraid," he admitted. "I am nervous."

"Nervous!"

"I believe that old fellow left me something in his will," came the
sober confession.

"Davison?"

"Davison."

"But why should he leave you anything?"

"Well, for that matter, why shouldn't he? Didn't I have to preach his
funeral sermon--hardest job of my whole ministry?"

"But what makes you think--"

"Folsom called me up and asked me to be at his office at eleven
o'clock for the reading of the will. Folsom is his lawyer."

"Oh, they just want you for a witness, goosie."

"You don't witness wills when they are dead--I mean, you witness the
will when the dead person made it--before he is dead, of course."

"Oh, father, I couldn't have bungled it worse myself," she cried
gleefully. "But if he left you anything, I hope it was money. Maybe he
left you a thousand dollars. Father, if he did leave you a thousand
dollars, will you buy me a pair of two-tone gray shoes, twelve dollars?
Somehow the height of my ambition seems to be two-tone gray shoes,
twelve dollars."

"Two-tone gray shoes! Do they make shoes to music now?"

"Absolutely--and very expensive music, too--an orchestra at the very
least. A thousand dollars!"

"Don't set your heart on it. I don't think he had any money."

"What did he have?"

"A little farm, and some chickens, and some books that were handed
down to him from somebody else, and a pianola that he got by a
mortgage, and a gold-headed cane--"

"That is it, father, of course--the gold-headed cane. I am sure of it.
Of all things in the world that you can't use, and I don't want, a
gold-headed cane comes first. So that is probably what you will get. I
feel it in my prophetic soul. Cheer up, dear, I believe you can pawn
it."

"Why, General, what a pessimist you are to-day. Maybe he left us the
chickens."

"No such luck," she answered gloomily. "Didn't he have a handsome
imported Italian pipe? Maybe he left you that. Or an old English
drinking tankard--he must have had drinking tankards. Or a set of
hand-carved poker chips-- He would chuckle in his grave if he could
wish something like that on you. Don't talk to me of wills any more,
father. No wonder you are fidgety. Run along now, and if you get a
gold-headed cane don't you bring it into the manse. And if you get a
sterling beer mug, you give it to the heathens. Now scoot."

Laughing, her father scooted, and Doris smiled after him tenderly.

"It would be nice if the old sinner did end his bad life well by
leaving father something really decent. And goodness knows father
deserves it. He had to get him out of jail twice, and pray him through
delirium tremens four times."

Still she would not allow her hopes to rise too buoyantly, for she had
learned from a life of well-mixed joy and discomfort not to expect the
very greatest and grandest of all good things--and then whatever came
was welcome, because it was more than she expected.

But when along toward noon she heard the call of the telephone, she
leaped excitedly to answer it.

"Yes, yes, yes, of course it is. What did you say? What--did--you--say?
Do it again, father, and slowly." And then she repeated after him
solemnly, word for word, "The prize Jersey cow, or the red auto he was
always getting arrested for speeding. And take your choice. Mercy me!
Good-by."

Doris hung up the receiver and sat down on the floor. Of all things in
the world! A Jersey cow--or a naughty red car! And father was to take
his choice.

[Illustration: A Jersey cow--or a naughty red car!]

When the girls came clamoring in from school Mr. Artman had not
appeared, so Doris served them with hands that trembled, and finally,
when she saw that father would not come in time to break his own good
news, she said:

"Mr. Davison left a will and father gets a Jersey cow or the red
car--which?"

There was no more dinner after that--for the girls all began talking at
once--except Treasure, who looked volumes, but never had an opportunity
to break into the conversation--and how cross they were at father for
not coming home to share the excitement. But maybe he was learning to
drive the red car, or--

"Milk the cow," faltered Rosalie. "You don't suppose father would let
them talk him into taking the silly old cow, do you?"

"Absolutely not," said Doris imperturbably. "Father knows better than
to decide such a thing by himself. He will come straight home--and I
choose the car."

So the girls reluctantly went off to school again.

At one o'clock a neighbor ran in. "Well, what do you think of that? Did
you ever hear of such a thing? Would anybody but old Davison ever think
of leaving a preacher anything in his will?"

"Mr. Davison was very thoughtful in many ways," said Doris with dignity.

"Yes, I suppose so. Well, it certainly is wonderful luck for you folks.
It is a good cow, one of the best in the county. Everybody says so.
Worth two hundred dollars, and only three years old. And think of the
nice milk and cream and butter and--"

"You don't mean to say father took the cow," gasped Doris.

"Why, I don't know--I suppose so--I should think he would. Whatever
would your poor father do with that devilish little red car? Of course
he will take the cow."

"You scared me for a minute. I thought maybe father had a mental
aberration and did it! No, he will not take the cow--not by any
means. He will take the car, and take it just as fast as ever he can,
and--and--and--"

Of course, the neighbor lady was sure dear Doris was quite daft, but
Doris was tranquilly confident. Her faith in her father's wisdom
remained unshaken--he would come to her, and she had already chosen the
car. It certainly was a General's prerogative--choosing things.

At four o'clock he came, smiling, his face flushed, his eyes bright and
boyish.

"Most fun I've had in ten years," he said, mopping his brow. "I think
if the parishioners knew how much fun it is, more of them would die,
and remember me in their wills."

"You mean--"

"Never mind what I mean. I am not sure I know myself. Well, as I told
you, Davison says it is for my own personal use and pleasure, mine and
my family's--not for the church under any consideration--either the
cow or the car. Probably, he says, in his outspoken way, I shall be
fool enough to take the cow, and in that case the car is to go to his
great-grand-nephew up in New London. And great-grand-nephew greatly
prefers the car, so he took me out to show me the cow, and explain what
a bargain she is, and how easy to milk, and how creamy the milk is, and
he figured up how many pounds of milk and gallons of-- No, I mean it the
other way, gallons of milk and pounds of butter I will get per year,
at so much per gallon and per pound, and that will mean a clear profit
of--"

"Father, you poor dear, shall I call a doctor?"

"So, after seeing the cow, and she is a beauty--I said, 'How about the
car? Let's give her the once-over, too, while we are at it.' He says
it isn't much of a car, in terrible condition, would take a hundred
dollars to put it in shape, and fairly eats gasoline--gas going up,
too. And he says it is a bad car to handle, quite dangerous, in fact,
has a habit of running into telephone poles and trains and things. But
we backed her out of the garage, and great-grand-nephew and Folsom and
I had a ride. Which do you want?"

"Mercy, father, how abrupt you are. I thought it was settled long ago.
We want the car, of course."

"All right, my dear, all right, but I have a hunch that
great-grand-nephew will not be particularly pleased. Lucky he lives in
New London instead of here--Congregationalist, too, that's good. And
when I consider that I got Davison out of jail twice for speeding the
thing, I think after all it is my just deserts. All right, call Folsom
up and tell him we take the car."

Doris ecstatically did, and the lawyer said he would deliver the car at
their door in person the next morning at nine o'clock.

"Can't you make it eight?" pleaded Doris. "I think the children ought
to be here, and they are in school, you know."

Very obligingly Mr. Folsom consented to the change of time, and the
entire family sat up until eleven o'clock that night figuring out how
to make motor bonnets of left-over coats and planning vacation motor
trips for ten years in advance.

At five-thirty the next morning Treasure and Zee made a tour of the
house, wakening every member of the family in no idle manner.

"Going to sleep all day?" Zee demanded in a peevish voice when she had
shaken Rosalie four times. "Get up, so you'll be ready for the car."

"Zee Artman, you go right back to bed, and let me sleep," protested
Rosalie. "Do I have to sit up all night just because the car is coming
to-morrow?"

"You get out, or we'll pull you out. Treasure and I are all dressed.
We're not going to have things held up at the last minute because
somebody isn't down yet. Are you going to get up-- Have you got the
water, Treasure?"

In the face of such persistence the others were helpless, so they
rushed down and had a feverish breakfast, with Zee dashing away from
the table every three minutes to see if the car had come, and at
seven-thirty they were grouped impatiently at the front window.

"Keep behind the curtains," Rosalie urged, "or he will think we never
had a car before in our lives."

"We must call it the machine," said Zee. "Machine sounds so
unconcerned."

"Motor, you little goose," said Rosalie. "Machine is what the business
men call it. The highbrows say, 'The motor will be here at six.'"

"We must give it a name," said Treasure. "Let's call it the Shooting
Star."

"Let's call it the Divine Spark-- It is the only divine thing old
Davison ever did."

"Girls," said Doris firmly, "don't you ever let me hear you speak
disrespectfully of poor Mr. Davison again. He certainly had a kind and
generous heart and he must have sympathized with dear father, walking
all over town in all kinds of weather, and--"

"Pretty good sort, after all, wasn't he, Doris?" laughed Mr. Artman.
"One post-mortem virtue like this will cover a lifetime of delirium
tremens, won't it?"

"Here she comes," shouted Zee, and the family forgot its ministerial
dignity and rushed pell-mell down the stone walk.

It was a pretty car, giddy and gaudy as to color, which fascinated
Zee, with a softly whirring motor that reminded Treasure of a happy
little kitten, and with long low lines that Rosalie declared were very
smart indeed.

"Get in, folks," said Mr. Folsom gaily, "we must give her a trial run."

So the three older girls stepped loftily into the tonneau, and Zee
snuggled up between her father and Mr. Folsom in front--there may have
been bigger, more wonderful, more luxurious cars--but the Artmans could
not be convinced of it, and Mr. Davison improved steadily with every
turn of the motor.

Mr. Folsom, enjoying their passionate delight, volunteered to spend the
morning giving the minister his first lesson, and a near panic ensued.

"Oh, Doris!"

"Do we have to go to school?"

"Oh, dear, sweet, darling General, it never happened before since we
were born."

"What do you think, father?" said Doris slowly.

"You are the General," came the quick response.

"Then," said Doris, in a clear triumphant voice, "step on it! What do
we care for school, and work, and mending, and dishes, and-- Begin, Mr.
Folsom. We'll see the morning through."

It was lovely to see precious old father take that gay young interest
in bolts and screws--how readily his laughter sounded--how deep and
pleased his voice rang out. Poor, dear Mr. Davison--well, we preachers
are only to lead, and not to judge, and Doris was very, very sure the
angels in Heaven must know many good and tender things about the man
who did this kindness to her father.

Some of the people of the fold thought the family had mentally run
amuck. Whoever heard of an impecunious minister taking an expensive
auto in preference to a money-making cow? It was incomprehensible. But
even those who wondered, smiled with loving sympathy when the family
bundled joyously into the motor "just to have a good time for an hour."

"But wherever in the world we are going to scare up money for gas is
more than I can figure out," said Mr. Artman, looking at the girls
with sober eyes. "We've got the car--but it won't run itself. It costs
twenty-five cents a gallon, and we only get about eighteen miles to the
gallon--"

"Don't do figures, father, it makes my head ache," pleaded Doris. "We
must concentrate. Where is the money for gas? Everybody think now."

After a painful silence Treasure came forward with the first sacrifice.
"I will give half of my allowance--but it is only a dollar."

Zee frowned at her. "That's a poor idea," she said. "Now I have to live
up to your precedent, and give half of mine. That is another dollar."
And then, with a truly herculean effort she added, "And, Doris, I will
go ahead wearing stogies to school, and you can have the price of the
fine shoes for gas, too."

"That is just fine for a starter," said Doris. "And since you little
ones have set the example, I know I can cut down on the expense of
cooking--we must use less butter, and less sugar, and other rich
things. I am sure I can save a few dollars every month, and you will
never notice the difference. It will take a little more planning, and a
little more work preparing the food--but I am willing to do that. Put
me down for at least three dollars."

Rosalie sighed. "What can I do? I have my winter clothes already, and
my allowance--I can't give it up, for if I haven't any money the other
girls will pay my share of things, and I can not sponge on my friends,
you know." Then she added slowly, "But father gave me the money to join
the Golf Club--and I only wanted to join because it is so smart--I get
plenty of exercise without it. It is five dollars to join and two-fifty
a month. That goes into the gas."

"Rosalie, that is lovely--and so sweet and unselfish. Now we can use
the car with clear consciences, and we will enjoy it all the more
because we are making a sacrifice to pay for our pleasure."

"How can I help?" asked their father suddenly. "I should like to follow
your lead. Is there anything I can give up, or go without? How do men
economize, anyhow? I shave and shine myself already. Cigars--I never
use. Theater tickets--never even saw them. What can I give up?"

"Oh, father, I never thought of that. You do not have any money
for yourself at all, do you? You always turn it right over to me.
Are--we--as poor as that?"

There was tragedy in the young voice, and she broke over the words.

"Why, Doris, I did not mean it that way. I have everything I want, of
course. Fortunately, a minister's clothes do not go out of style--and
it saves me trouble and worry to let you spend the family fund instead
of doing it myself."

"Then you shall be treasurer of the gasoline money. It will make you
feel like a millionaire, you poor old soul." She ran to her desk and
brought out the box of household funds. "Here is my three dollars-- And
don't you get reckless and spend it for tires and rugs and things."

Laughing gaily, the other girls brought out their hoarded dollars and
thrust them into his hands.

"I have not felt so affluent for lo, these many years," he declared.
"Let's go out for a spin in the motor, shall we? And we'd better run by
the garage and fill her up--the tank is nearly empty."



CHAPTER VI

THE SERPENT


Mr. Artman looked up from his mail, frowning gently, and Doris, always
quick to note his changing moods even in the midst of directing
Treasure about the proper distance from the table for her chair, and
admonishing Zee to eat her oatmeal from the side of her spoon, was
prompt to voice a query.

"Don't frown, father, it isn't ministerial. Has somebody else left you
a will?"

"No such luck. I was not frowning at the letter--I have a headache."

"Oh, father," cried Zee. "It is because the girls make such a racket.
Go to bed, won't you, and I myself will stand on guard and keep peace
in the family."

"Zee's spirit is willing to be quiet, but her voice and her heels give
it no support," smiled Rosalie.

"It is not the noise. I like to hear the incessant chatter and chase
below stairs when I am working. This fellow--"

"Fellow, father?"

"Minister," he amended quickly. "He is a minister, but he is tired of
pastoral work and wants to try his skill in evangelism, and insists
on coming here to practise on us during his vacation. But we aren't
ready for evangelistic meetings--and personally I should prefer
another-- Anyhow--" he frowned gently at the letter again.

"Tell him so," advised Doris.

"I did. But he says he is coming for a visit anyhow, and he insists it
is a direct guidance of Providence."

"Direct guidance of his bank-account, probably," said Rosalie. "Don't
let him work you, father."

He shook his head at her reprovingly. "If it should really prove a
guidance-- Anyhow, as he says, he is coming and will be with us a few
days to think it over."

"Then I can not go to the country to-morrow," said Doris. "Rosalie is
no fit person to cook dinner for a visiting minister."

"I am sorry, dear."

"Yes, of course you are. I can see quite plainly that you do not
want him any more than I do. But never mind. The country will remain
forever, but--"

"Some visiting ministers do, too, if they get a chance," chimed Rosalie.

"Rosalie! I dare say he is very nice, and we shall all enjoy him
immensely. Shan't we, father?"

"I hope so--I think so. He is--I do not know him very well."

"Evidently he did not make a special hit with you," said Zee shrewdly.

"Oh, girls, how prying you are. He is very active and enthusiastic.
That I was not personally drawn to him is rather my fault than his, no
doubt."

"We are going to be very nice to him," said Doris. "And Rosalie can
take him in hand, so he won't bother you every minute."

"Oh, he is married. And I must say his wife is nice enough to make up
for--"

"Father!"

"Excuse me, dear, I mean his wife is--very nice indeed."

So the visiting minister came, the Reverend Andrew Boltman, a nervous
energetic man with dark eyes, and hair just tinged with gray, and he
settled down for a visit in the manse, trying, meanwhile, to effect
arrangements for the services, which Mr. Artman still insisted were not
desirable at the time.

On the second day of his visit, when Mr. Artman announced his intention
of going to a lecture at the college, Mr. Boltman said he preferred
to stay quietly at home and read if he might be excused, and his host
went away alone, seeming almost relieved to be free to follow his own
desires for the afternoon. Doris went serenely about her housework, and
Mr. Boltman picked out a comfortable corner in the living-room with his
book.

But late in the afternoon, when her father returned, he found Doris
alone at the window, impatiently tapping her foot on the floor.

"Where is Mr. Boltman?"

"Gone down-town. Something is wrong with Rosalie. She is up-stairs,
crying. It must be pretty bad, for she would not tell me about it."

So Mr. Artman went up-stairs to Rosalie, slowly but without delay,
feeling that vague helplessness that comes to men when there is trouble
in the family.

She was lying face down on the bed, rigid, her hands clenched tightly,
but her shoulders rose and fell with heavy sobs.

Something in her attitude told him that this was vital, not just a
little tempestuous outburst that could be readily brushed aside. He sat
down close by her on the bed, and laid his arm across her shoulders
tenderly.

"Rosalie," he whispered, and as she flung herself upon him he caught
a glimpse of a white face and stormy eyes, quickly hidden from his
searching gaze.

Very gently he caressed her, asking no question, patting and fondling
her as he would have done to a little hurt or frightened child. And
then when the sobs came more easily, she stood up away from him
suddenly and looked straight into his face, and her eyes were hard.

"I do not intend to be a Christian any more--not ever any more. It
is all over. I hate them. I think they are horrible. Christianity is
nothing--it is a cheat--and ministers are the worst of all."

"Rosalie, my little girl, have I--done something?" he cried in a
startled voice, for this was new even to him, who had coped with the
moods of daughters for many years.

"Oh, father, not you--how can you think that? Listen. It is that
wicked, abominable old married Boltman. What do you suppose he did?
I came in from school, and Doris was at the store. He said I was the
loveliest thing he had ever seen, and I said, 'Thanks,' very curtly,
for I thought it was downright impudence, that's what I thought. And
before I could even dream of such a thing, he put his arms around me
and kissed me twice--kissed me--right on the lips. He did."

She had spoken in a low voice, but every word fell so clearly, so
distinctly, that it was almost as if she had shouted aloud.

"Rosalie!" said her father in a hoarse whisper, and Rosalie could see
that his hands shook.

"He did. He kissed me--twice. Is that all the ministry stands for? And
he is married, and has children of his own--and he is in our home, and
I--why, I am only a kid."

"And can one--man--kill your faith in the sanctity of the ministry--one
man, Rosalie?"

"There may be some other decent ones besides you--but how can I tell
which ones they are? How can anybody tell?" she wailed. "They all come
praying, and saying sweet and gentle things--how can you tell which
ones are true and which ones--are like Boltman?"

"We have always had the wolves inside the fold, dear. And of old, you
know, they had their false prophets teaching error."

Rosalie drooped her head against his arm, and did not speak. The
gentle, so dearly loved voice, seemed to comfort her.

"I had hoped--I have tried--to keep my life so clean before you girls
that if ever a time should come, like this, when your faith was put to
the test, you could look at me and say, 'But there is father.' I have
always felt it was a part of fatherhood, to be a living proof before
the children of the home. I must have failed you some time."

Rosalie clung to him, shaking her head in violent denial.

"He ought to be put out of the church," she whispered.

"We are human, Rosalie, as well as ministers. And human flesh is not
invincible. God is very, very reasonable with us. David betrayed his
trust, but God forgave him. Peter denied his Lord, but was restored to
favor. I think that God forgives us when we fail Him even yet--even we
ministers--if we go to Him for purging."

"But, father, if the ministry can't keep a man good--what can?"

"Nothing but the spirit of the Lord, working in us, nothing else,
Rosalie. And have you lost all confidence in the ministry?"

Rosalie squirmed. "Not in you, dearest. Just in the rest of it."

"Oh, Rosalie, is your faith so small? People on whom I counted have
failed me many times, yet I trust the next one just the same."

"You have more trust to begin with than I have. And he looked so--ugly,
father--in his eyes. I hate to think that women have to sit in the
church and look up to him in the pulpit--God's pulpit, that is sacred."

"Rosalie, I want to talk to you just a minute, and then I shall go down
and leave you alone to think it over by yourself. Of all the ministers
we have had in our home, he is the first to betray our trust. Only one,
out of the dozens we have had. I put it to your sense of justice, to
your belief in fair play. Your finger is pricked by the thorn on the
stem of the rose, but you do not turn your eyes from all the lovely
roses forever after. The dog goes mad and bites the hand that has
petted him, but you do not say all dogs must suffer death. One girl
who has been your friend is false to the friendship and betrays your
confidence, but you do not deny yourself the friendship of other girls
on that account. Many a woman has been deceived by her lover, but she
does not shut her heart to love and truth the rest of her life because
of that. And many parents have been cut to the quick by the ingratitude
and the disloyalty of a much-loved child, but they do not turn deaf
ears to the claims of other children. It may be _consistent_, Rosalie,
to say that if one of a species betrays you none of that species can be
trusted--it may be consistent, but it is not generous, it is not kind,
it is not womanly. Think it over, dearest, and I shall come to you
again after while."

Then he went down-stairs, and stood grimly at the window waiting until
Mr. Boltman turned in at the gate of the manse, and went out the stone
walk to meet him.

"Have you decided about the meetings yet, Brother?" asked Mr. Boltman
eagerly, not noting the white lines on the face of his host.

"Yes, I have decided. I am going out to the garage--come along, will
you?"

After a while Rosalie came down-stairs looking for her father, and she
hovered close to Doris as if enjoying the protection of her nearness,
but offering no explanations, and Doris asked no questions. So the two
were together when the kitchen door banged open, and Zee and Treasure,
trembling and pallid, rushed in upon them.

"What is it?" cried Doris nervously. "What is the matter? Did something
happen?"

"Oh, awful," cried Zee, quivering. "Father and Mr. Boltman had a fight."

"What?"

"They came into the barn--we were in the haymow, and father asked if
he was going to explain something, and Boltman laughed kind of funny
and said, 'Oh, be reasonable, Artman, you know we are all human.' And
father said, and his voice sounded very grim and--like an archangel,
or something, and he said, 'Yes, thank God, we are, but some of us have
manhood enough to make us good to children and loyal to our friends.'
And father said, 'There is something in the Bible about the man who
puts a stumbling block in the way of one of His little ones-- And you
have put a block in the path of faith for one of the children of the
church.' And Boltman said, 'Won't you pray with me, Brother?' And
father said, 'Yes, in a minute. But first I have to let you know what
I think of you.' And father knocked him down-- He did that very thing,
we were peeking through the cracks, and Boltman's nose bled something
awful. Then father got a piece of waste out of the car, and wet it at
the hydrant and gave it to Boltman to wipe the blood off, and then he
said, 'Now we will pray.' And they knelt down-- What did father say in
his prayer, Treasure? I was so scared I couldn't hear good."

"He said, 'Oh, God, wash the heart of this man who professes to be
thy minister, and teach him loyalty, teach him tenderness, teach him
purity!' or something like that. And he said, 'And, dear God, help me
to remove that stumbling block from the path of Thy little one.' And
then father said, 'Now get out. I will pack your bag and send it to the
train for you.'"

"And father struck out through the meadow as fast as he could go, and
Boltman wiped the rest of the blood off, and went toward town, and--"

"Whatever in the world do you suppose--"

"We must not ask any questions, girls," said Doris quickly, without
glancing at Rosalie's face. "It is something connected with the
ministry, and you know those things are sacred to father. So we must
not ask about it, but let it pass."

Rosalie's eyes were suddenly very bright, and she turned and ran
breathlessly up the stairs. She knew that when her father was ready,
he would come to her. And after a time, came father, with a little of
shame in his eyes, and a flush on his face.

"And how is the Problem now?" he asked gently.

"All solved," she cried. "A fatherly blow from a strong right arm was
the answer."

"I--You--How--"

"The girls were in the haymow, but they do not know what it is all
about, and Doris said we preachers must not ask questions in a case
like that."

"Rosalie," he said, "some people say that God does not watch over us,
and guard us. Yet Providence certainly kept that man out of the house
when you first told me,--I am afraid I could have killed him--there
was hate in my heart--not now, dear. And believe this, dear, I did
not strike him in anger. I thought it over carefully and decided it
would do him good. But I did not hit him furiously, or wildly--it was
deliberate."

"Then you do not always believe in--turning the other cheek?"

"I do not believe in carrying it to the point of offering another
daughter to the man who offends," he said quickly.

"I think," she said thoughtfully--"I believe--a false prophet was
probably the Serpent in the Garden of Eden. They are very upsetting,
you know--I am sure it was nothing less than a bad minister that
overcame Eve's scruples."

"Perhaps." And then he added wistfully, "Do you still have that feeling
of abhorrence for--us preachers?"

"Oh, father, nobody could lose confidence in the ministry when you
emphasize your argument with your muscle. It is all over. Isn't it a
good thing I know you? For you could cancel a dozen bad preachers,
for me at least. I'm sorry for the way I talked. It was very foolish,
and very wicked. Why, do you know, for a while, I actually held God
responsible for that creature? I thought, 'How can God allow such a
monster to go about preaching His gospel?' And then, after you talked
to me, I saw that he was only the serpent trying to despoil God's
vineyard."

"Oh, Rosalie, how many of us do that very thing. Instead of thanking
God for the lovely vineyard He has given us, we blame Him for the
serpent curling at the roots. Yet the serpent is not all powerful--even
we have strength to drive him away--God saw to that. But no, instead
of using our strength as it was intended, we say, 'God should not allow
the serpent in the vineyard!' Then it is all over, and you are still
glad and proud to be one of 'Us Preachers,' are you?"

"Gladder and prouder than ever," she said warmly, but her father saw in
her eyes a little dark shadow of disillusionment that had never been in
Rosalie's bright eyes before.



CHAPTER VII

DISCIPLINE


"Oh, we had a perfectly glorious time, Doris," cried Rosalie, skipping
into the manse with her face fairly glowing. "It is such a lovely
crowd, and we have such laughing times together--and we got whole sacks
full of hickory nuts, and Bert gave me his share, too. Is supper ready?
I am so hungry. We thought we had twice too much lunch, but we ate it
all, and were tempted to raid the orchards coming home, we were so
ravenous. Do hurry along, there's a nice General. Do we have to wait
for anybody?"

"Oh, Rosalie, how young you are when you are hungry," cried Doris
affectionately. "It isn't nearly time for dinner, but we'll eat as soon
as the girls come. Father won't be here to-night, and we only have
cream potato soup, but you love it, and I made heaps. Aren't the girls
in sight? They promised to come early and--"

"Yes, here they come. You dish up the soup, and I'll carry it in."

So with a great deal of chattering and laughter, and endless running
back and forth, Rosalie pulled up the chairs and carried the plates
of soup to the table, waltzing Doris to her place just as the younger
girls came in.

"Hurry, hurry," begged Rosalie. "Father isn't here to-night, so you
needn't take time to brush. For once I am glad we don't have to wait
for the blessing."

So the girls rushed to the table, and when Rosalie was happily immersed
in her soup, Doris said, rather shyly:

"I am glad you spoke of the blessing, Rosalie, for--I want to say
something about that myself, and I haven't had the nerve, though I
have been thinking of it for quite a while. I think it is a shame for
us preachers to sit down and eat without giving thanks, just because
father is not here to do the talking for us."

Rosalie paused, spoon lifted in mid-air. "Mercy, General, are you brave
enough to tackle that?"

"I agree with you, Doris," said Zee promptly. "I feel like a heathen
when we eat without the blessing. And I think you and Rosalie ought to
be ashamed of yourselves."

"I am willing to take my turn," said Treasure, "if you won't be
critical."

"Why, Treasure, you dear little thing. Then is it all settled that we
take turns giving thanks when father is away? For I believe father
thinks we do it right along, and I should be ashamed to let him know we
don't."

"I can't--I am too young," said Zee bashfully.

"You aren't too young to thank father when he gives you a nickel."

"Well, I will try it once, but I speak for the last turn. And if
Rosalie so much as smiles I'll never do it--"

"Say, do you think I am an infidel?" demanded Rosalie indignantly. "Of
course I shall not smile. Go ahead, then, General, begin." She dropped
her spoon and shut her eyes.

"Maybe--shall we--do you think I ought to--"

"Let's draw cuts to see who takes the first plunge," cried Zee. "I'll
hold the straws while the rest of you draw."

"Zee, sit down. I am surprised at you. We must not draw cuts about
the blessing. I will begin." Doris looked anxiously about the table,
scanning her sisters' faces for signs of amusement, but they were
preternaturally grave and earnest.

So in a meek and lowly voice, in a manner that spoke of anything but a
pharisaical blasting of trumpets, Doris asked a blessing on their food.
And the girls sighed with satisfaction when she said Amen, proclaiming
their comfort in having conformed to the ministerial proprieties, and
kept the sanctity of the manse intact.

"We had a perfectly ducky time to-day," said Rosalie, while Doris was
refilling her plate with soup. "We got a half a bushel of nuts apiece,
and Bert gave me his besides, on condition that I invite him to help
eat them once a week."

"By the way, who went nutting to-day, anyhow?" asked Zee suddenly.

"We did--our college bunch."

"It was not your Sunday-school class, was it?"

Rosalie flashed a questioning look at her sister. "No, it was not the
class--exactly," she said reluctantly. "The girls are in my class,
though."

"Was it the whole class?" persisted Zee.

"Why are you asking so many questions? What difference does it make
to you who went? Whatever made you think of the Sunday-school class
anyhow?"

"We met little Nora Gordon on the street to-day, and she asked if you
went nutting, and who went along, and I said Mabel and Frances and
Gloria and Annabelle and Sara and the college boys. And she said, 'Then
it was their Sunday-school class, and they didn't invite my sister and
she feels awful.'"

"Oh, mercy," said Rosalie, "we tried to keep it from her--that is, we
didn't suppose she would find out--anyhow, it was a college crowd, and
Alicia Gordon does not go to college."

"Did all the rest of the class go except Alicia?" asked Doris.

"Well, yes, it isn't a very big class, you know, and we all go to
college, except Alicia. She works. But is was a regular college
crowd--and the boys don't like Alicia, she never has a date with
anybody. She is kind of poky."

"You knew it would hurt her feelings if she found it out, didn't you?"

"Well, perhaps, but we didn't intend she should find it out. I wonder
who told her? It was a nasty little trick, and if you did it, Miss
Zee--"

"I didn't. What did I know about your old picnic? And when I saw how
Nora felt, I told her over and over it was a college affair, didn't I,
Treasure?"

"Yes, but their feelings are hurt, anyhow."

"Now, of course, you are blaming me, Doris, but we couldn't take her
along. The boys don't care for her, and she can't expect us to make
dates for her."

"What is the matter with her?"

"Nothing, but she sits around like a stick and never says boo. Boys
make her nervous. I like her well enough myself, though she never says
much and clams up completely when a man heaves in sight. A pretty
enough girl, and dresses well--but what could we do with her on a
nutting party?"

"I think it was a very un-manse-like thing to do, and I am sorry."

"I am sorry she found it out myself. But I hardly know her."

"Why don't you know her, if she is in your class?"

"She never goes where we go, and--you just can't get acquainted with
her."

"Did you ever try?"

"Um, not very hard, I suppose. She ought to meet one half-way."

"Some people can't, and you know it. That is why they have us
preachers, to go the whole way to meet those who can't, or won't, come
a step toward us. I'm afraid--you ought to be disciplined, Rosalie."

Zee leaped up, clapping her hands. "Good. Whip her, Doris. Go on, give
her a good one, for once, the bad thing."

"Oh, Zee, Doris can't whip a big thing like Rosalie," protested
Treasure anxiously.

"Don't be silly, girls," said Rosalie. "I see what you mean, Doris, and
I am quite willing. Pronounce the sentence, General."

"Well, Alicia works on Saturday morning, but she is off in the
afternoon, isn't she? So the punishment is that you must have her
come and spend the afternoon and stay for supper and all night and go
to Sunday-school with us the next morning. Then you will have a good
chance to get regularly acquainted with her."

Rosalie went directly to the telephone. "Well, now is the-- Oh, Doris,
not this week. We are going to stay all night at Adele's you know, and
make taffy."

"I am sorry," said Doris gently.

Rosalie soberly searched her sister's face a moment, then without
comment, called the number, and asked for Alicia. She gave the
invitation in a friendly cordial voice, showing no hint of perturbation
or coercion, and after a moment's pause, Alicia accepted.

"But whatever in the world we are going to do with that solemn Alicia
Gordon for eighteen hours, I do not know. You'll have to do most of the
talking, Doris."

"Oh, no, indeed; she is your guest. We put her in your hands absolutely
and you alone will be responsible for her comfort."

"But, General--"

"If she is my company, you won't get much punishment out of it, will
you?"

Rosalie sighed heavily. "Eighteen hours--she will come right from
work--that means luncheon. Oh, Doris, you do not know what a blow she
is. And a nice enough girl, too--but whatever can we talk about for
eighteen hours?"

Doris had no suggestions forthcoming, and to make the affliction
greater, on Saturday she made unexpected arrangements to drive to the
country with her father.

"And you can get lunch for yourself and the girls, can't you, Rosalie
dear?"

"But Alicia Gordon--"

"Oh, she won't mind. I'll be home in time to have a nice dinner for
you. Bye, Rosalie; good luck."

Alicia arrived from her work almost as soon as Rosalie came in from a
business meeting of the Literary Society, and a heated discussion of
menus was immediately in progress.

"You must help us, Alicia. We are trying to get up a fashionable
company luncheon in your honor, and we can't think of anything
fashionable that I have brains enough to cook."

Zee watched closely, but Alicia never so much as smiled, though any one
might know Rosalie had meant to be funny.

"Let's not be fashionable," she said evenly. "Let's figure out what is
easiest to prepare, and have it."

"Wouldn't be proper," insisted Rosalie. "Doris always wants us to be
proper when we have company."

"French fried potatoes are fashionable," said Zee.

"Too much work."

"Corn fritters are nice," said Treasure.

"I do not like corn," said Alicia.

They looked at one another soberly. "I tell you what," said Rosalie at
last. "Let's go to the pantry and see what we can find."

The four ran pell-mell to the pantry, and looked over the shelves
hastily, but with thoroughness.

"A custard pie, thank goodness," said Rosalie. "That settles the
dessert."

"I am going to have this apple sauce and bread and butter," said
Treasure suddenly. "You folks can get what you like."

"Oh, I'm going to have toast and milk," cried Zee. "I'll toast it
myself--and--"

"I'd like a fried egg sandwich," said Alicia, "if you do not mind. And
I want to fix it myself. I just love them, and mother never has time to
make them for our big family."

"I'll have one, too," decided Rosalie. "Suppose you fix mine when you
do yours, and I'll be making hot chocolate for all of us. And we'll
have some sweet pickles if Zee will bring them from the cellar."

In the confusion of getting four separate luncheons on one gas stove
at the same minute, one could not find time for much formality. Zee
stepped on Alicia's toes, and Alicia splashed hot butter on Treasure's
hand, and Rosalie let the chocolate boil over on the eggs. But finally
they were seated companionably about the table, and by that time they
were fairly well acquainted.

When luncheon was over, Zee and Treasure set about the dishes, and
Rosalie and Alicia disappeared. But when Rosalie came into the kitchen
on an errand a little later, Zee said:

"She seems all right, I think. I bet she needs a beau."

"What makes you think that?"

"Well, you say you need them to keep your soul in--to--to--I forgot
just what you do say, but anyhow you always declare you can't be normal
without a beau. And I guess all girls are alike, so Alicia needs one,
too."

Rosalie went out of the kitchen, thinking hard. "I wonder--" she said.
"I believe I can--" She went directly to the telephone, and called
Bert.

"I have a friend spending the night with me," she said. "A town girl.
You know I told you I was busy and could not keep our date. But I
wonder if you can't get another man and come and help us make candy?"

Bert was desolated, but since Rosalie had said she was busy, he had
made other arrangements--he didn't care two cents about the girl they
picked out for him--wasn't it beastly luck-- He would break the date,
that's what he'd do.

Rosalie would not hear of it, and she stopped the conversation abruptly
and looked at Alicia.

"Men are all alike, aren't they? Here he has been telling me for two
months that I am the only girl in college--I shall get even with him.
I'll just have a senior, and that will make him wild. Bob Harton is
always asking me for dates, but is always just too late. So I can
ask him perfectly all right, and we'll have him bring--let me see--I
know--Arthur Gooding, a 'post'--and terribly sensible."

So she ran to the telephone again, in spite of Alicia's protests, and
called the second number.

"Oh, Bob," she began, "this is Rosalie Artman. I am always taken when
you try to make a date with me, so I thought I would try my hand on
you. I have a town girl staying all night, and we want you to come and
help us celebrate. And can't you ask Arthur Gooding to come? I do not
know him very well myself, but he is so sensible, and this is a very
sensible girl, so they ought to get on wonderfully. Will you see? Oh,
that is just lovely."

"I do not know how to talk to men, Rosalie, I never had a date in my
life. I can't think of things to say."

"Leave it to me," cried Rosalie blithely. "I can do most of the
talking. And Arthur is so sensible you won't have to talk. Just sit
back and look wise, and he will think you are wonderful. And Bob is
lots of fun, and--oh, it will be easy."

The rest of the afternoon passed comfortably enough getting ready for
the evening, and the girls had told the boys good night, and gone
up-stairs before Rosalie remembered that Alicia was a bore.

When they went into their room for the night, she turned Alicia's face
to the light and scrutinized the bright quiet eyes, and the flushed but
still placid face.

"Marvels will never cease," she said solemnly. "I am not sensible, I
don't want to be sensible, I don't even believe in sense, and I talk
all the time, and the silliest talk I can think of--but that perfectly
dignified sober Arthur Gooding, who is a 'post,' fell for me like a
flash, head over heels. And he was invited for you! And you sat back in
a corner saying as near nothing as possible, but that irrepressible Bob
Harton could not keep three feet away from you all evening, and never
took his eyes off your face once. Come now, 'fess up. Did he make a
date with you?"

"Three--one for to-morrow, and two for next week," admitted Alicia,
smiling softly. "Isn't he funny and bright?"

Rosalie turned her back, and stared up at the ceiling. "Well," she said
at last, "I always have thought you quiet girls were dangerous, if you
ever get started."

Alicia came over to her suddenly, and said, "Thank you for getting me
started. I had a lovely time. I thought you did not like me, Rosalie.
You'll forgive me, won't you?"

Rosalie flung her arms impulsively around Alicia's shoulders. "I had
a lovely time myself. And I do like you--but I shall try to forgive
you, if you never do it again," she said virtuously. But as they were
getting into bed, she said suddenly, "Isn't that Zee the shrewd one,
though?" And Alicia wondered what Zee had to do with the question in
hand.



CHAPTER VIII

THE BISHOP


Doris went to bed very early in the first place, a thing she firmly
resolved never to do again under any circumstances. Zee and Treasure
were soundly and sweetly sleeping. Father had gone, in the car, to some
very formal and dignified affair where there were to be two college
presidents and a Methodist bishop, and no one ever knows when to expect
folks home if there is a bishop in it. Rosalie was spending the evening
with one of her friends, and just an hour ago had telephoned that she
was going to spend the night, and Doris should not wait up for her.

So in the face of all that, there was nothing for Doris to do but go
to bed. But she could not sleep. She tossed and tumbled, and finally,
after counting both sheep and stars long and persistently, and after
repeating to herself all the soothing and sleep-provoking poetry she
could think of, she did fall into a troubled slumber.

A long time afterward she became conscious of vague unrest. It must be
terribly late, yet Doris was acutely certain that some one was moving
around--doing something--things evidently were not right.

She slipped out of bed, and drew her flannel kimono about her. In the
next room, her younger sisters were sleeping heavily. Her father's door
was ajar, and she peered in, noting the humpy outlines of the beautiful
blue and white Ladies' Aid quilt over the tall figure. Then a sudden
glance from the hall window beside her sent a chill to her very heart.

The door of the barn--the "garage" now, by grace of dear Mr. Davison's
red car--was slowly, softly opening. A man stepped out from the shadow
and passed inside, the door swinging wide behind him. Then came the
whirr of the engine, as he stepped on the starter.

Like a flash Doris leaped into her father's room, and clutched his
shoulders.

"Run, run," she shouted lustily. "Run for your life. Some one is
stealing the car. Father!"

Under the exertion of her strong arms, the figure rose quickly in the
bed, and a long shaft of moonshine rested across his face--and it was
a stranger. Doris stared at him in amazement, holding the flannel robe
about her throat more tightly, and then she sank back away from him,
still staring.

"Who--are--you?"

"I am the bishop, my dear," he answered, too startled to remember he
wasn't the only bishop in the world. "Your father brought me home with
him to spend the night.--Isn't he here? Why, where is he? He came to
bed with me."

"Good night," said Doris, with icy dignity, and she arose and swept
haughtily from the room.

At the hall window she heard again the spin of the motor, and the low
purr as the engine leaped into action, and the car rolled out of the
garage. It was father, of course--and bareheaded, too, in the middle
of the night--an idiotic thing for a minister to do, going off for
a midnight joy-ride leaving a bishop in his bed-- Well, Doris should
worry! If a preacher couldn't take care of himself, who could?

She went resolutely back to bed, but not to sleep. Where in the world
had father gone? Why had he brought a bishop into their home, and put
him to bed, and then sneaked off and left him there? And by every
conceivable stretch of the imagination that fellow in father's bed was
too young to do any respectable bishoping, she was sure of that. Maybe
he had only pretended to be a bishop, and father had discovered the
deception, and gone for the sheriff--or--oh, dear!

If he was a bishop, Doris knew that no one on earth but the Methodists
would have such a young one. The Presbyterians did not approve of
bishops in the first place, but if they did, they would have old ones
with gray hair and wrinkles.

When she heard the car run into the garage again she leaped from her
bed and hurried down-stairs. Her father and Rosalie were coming in
together, laughing as unconcernedly as though bishops were every-day
occurrences.

"Oh, Doris, father was so excited about the bishop he forgot me,"
giggled Rosalie.

"You said you were not coming home," said Doris indignantly.

"I changed my mind. I have a class at eight in the morning, and I was
afraid I might not make it. So I just phoned father to call for me in
the car, and he told me to wait until he got there, and I did, but he
forgot me."

"The bishop came home with me, and--"

"Don't I know it?" interrupted Doris hotly.

"And I forgot Rosalie, and then when we got to bed I remembered. And
the bishop was asleep so I slipped out, and--"

"Good night," said Doris curtly, and stalked up the stairs like an
offended Lady Macbeth.

"Isn't she dramatic?" laughed Rosalie. "Would it shock the church if we
put her on the stage?"

"I wonder what happened? Well, let's go to bed, she'll be all right in
the morning."

"Aren't you hungry, 'fath'? Let's raid the pantry, shall we? That will
be a good joke on Doris, to pay her for her airs."

After the lunch they crept softly up-stairs to bed, and Rosalie kept
up a pleasant chattering conversation which Doris met with unfriendly
silence. What in the world would the bishop think of her? Whatever were
they going to have for breakfast? Of course, father had always been
free to bring people whenever he liked--but a bishop! Oh, well!

The next morning she ran down-stairs very early, and took stock of
the stores in the pantry. For the first time she almost wished she
had chosen the cow instead of the car--real cream would cover so many
breakfast shortages. Fortunately there was one can of peaches in the
cellar--they were being saved for a special occasion, but nothing
could be any more special than a bishop. They could not have oatmeal,
for Rosalie and father had finished off the milk. There were three
eggs--she might cook them for the bishop, and tell him the family was
on diet--ridiculous! She might make pancakes--that would be ample
excuse for Doris to remain in the kitchen, too, and although she was a
social soul, she did not yearn to appear before that bishop, in spite
of wondering whether he could truly be as young as he had looked in the
moonlight in the middle of the night.

She stirred up the batter with commendable zeal.

"Doris," came an imperative call from Zee at the head of the stairs.
"Oh, Doris!" And Zee's voice was shrill and penetrating. "Do--ris! Make
Rosalie give back my blue ribbon--she borrowed it--and she can't!"

"Ummmmmm," muttered Doris grimly. "Wouldn't that be sure to happen on a
bishop morning?" She ran to the bottom of the stairs.

"Rosalie, you can't borrow it if Zee won't lend it," she said softly,
but in a determined voice. "But I am surprised that Zee would refuse--"

"I didn't refuse," protested Zee. "I am always willing to lend things.
But she did not ask. She just snitched it."

"Zee, you must not say snitched."

"She may borrow it, if she asks, and says please," said Zee.

Then Rosalie flashed into the hall and dropped on her knees, both hands
outstretched, and cried, "Oh, sweet young sister, for the sake of my
immortal beauty, may I--"

"Rosalie!"

"'Scuse me, General. Please, fair Zee, may I borrow this bonny blue
ribbon to wear in my golden locks? And you'd better say yes, for I'm
going to borrow it anyhow."

Zee promptly pushed her over backward, and Rosalie leaped up and
made a whirling rush at Zee, who tore into her own room, where Doris
could hear them bouncing into the middle of the bed with a resounding
spring--and then came stifled laughter, and squeals, and--

Doris ran breathlessly up the stairs. She looked soberly at the flushed
and laughing girls, all tangled up in the bed-clothes on the floor, and
then she closed the door.

"Rosalie, what will the bishop think?"

"Oh, mercy, I forgot the bishop," cried Rosalie. "Zee Artman, you bad
thing, see what you've done. You've shocked a bishop, and now he will
say we Presbyterians are not orthodox. It was all your fault--"

"Bishop? What bishop? Where's he at? Where'd we get him? You don't mean
to say father brought a bishop here without a week's notice? Isn't that
like a preacher?"

"Oh, girls, please get dressed and come and help me. The house is a
sight. Treasure left that sticky stuff--"

"Papier-mâché," said Treasure with dignity. "It is very scholastic, we
use it to make maps with. I guess it won't shock a bishop. But don't
call it sticky stuff--say papier-mâché."

"I do not care what it is called, dear, it must not be left all over
the chairs in the dining-room--not when there is a bishop in the state."

"It is a shame, General, that's what it is," said Rosalie penitently.
"We'll just fly now, and help like good preachers. You run back to your
pancakes, and don't worry."

They made so much haste after that to atone for their mischief
that almost immediately they were down-stairs. Treasure hurriedly
straightened the living-room, Rosalie set the table most
irreproachably, and Zee slipped into the back yard and picked some
golden glow.

"Oh, the roots were on the Davis side of the fence, but what I picked
was on our side," she declared when Doris frowned at her. So Rosalie
arranged the flowers in a big blue bowl on the table, and when the
bishop and their father came down-stairs laughing agreeably, everything
was lovely, and the girls were spotlessly clean, soft as to voice,
and gentle as to manner. And although the bishop's eyes twinkled a
little, his face was properly grave. He was not even as old as their
father--think of that now--and a bishop--and he had a way of telling
stories which was quite attractive in regular preachers but seemed a
little out of harmony in a bishop--and in a few minutes they were all
good friends.

"Is this the whole family?" asked the bishop, smiling on the three
girls with approval.

"My oldest daughter, Doris, is getting breakfast. As a special treat,
she is giving us pancakes and maple sirup, and she feels they require
her constant presence. She will be in presently, however."

Doris, listening at the door, could have blessed her father for the
words. He had spoken of the pancakes as a favor instead of dire
necessity--and perhaps the bishop would think that ordinarily they had
common things like bacon and eggs, and hot muffins, and strawberry
preserves, and grapefruit. More than that, he had offered a half
apology for her absence, and Doris flatly refused to appear. She would
cook for the bishop, she would wash his dishes and make his bed--but
look him in the face she could not.

Presently they went out to the table, and Zee carefully carried the
platter of cakes to the table, and later took it back to the kitchen
for refilling. And Rosalie chattered, and smiled into the bishop's
eyes--for practise, she said afterward, not because she really hoped to
dazzle a bishop, and the breakfast went smoothly on.

Doris, in the kitchen, flapped the cakes over, and pulled the griddles
back and forth with a fury none the less real because it perforce was
silent, for in spite of her resentment not one sound would she permit
to reach the ears of the bishop in her dining-room. And the heat of the
stove made her cheeks crimson, and her bad disposition made her eyes
like bright sweet stars.

When breakfast was over the bishop seated himself comfortably with a
paper in a far corner of the living-room where he was out of the way,
and Rosalie ran off to college. After doing up the dishes, the younger
girls also hurried to school, and Mr. Artman went out to the garage
to look over the motor--not that he knew anything about motors, but
because all conscientious owners of autos do it.

Doris was very much ashamed of her childish temper by this time, but
after so long an absence she had not the heart to appear properly and
humbly before the bishop to welcome him to the manse, and she stuck
resolutely to the kitchen getting things ready for dinner. Still the
bishop rocked comfortably in the living-room, the door open between him
and the dining-room through which Doris must pass to reach the other
part of the house. And there was so much to be done up-stairs--maybe
she could slip out to the barn and make father take the odious bishop
for a ride.

Well, did you ever! There came a sudden light knock on the kitchen
door, and before Doris had time to slip off the table where she had
been swinging her heels in perplexity it opened, and the bishop's
friendly face appeared.

"Good morning. May I come in? How busy you are to-day. I am afraid I
have caused you extra work. You are Miss Doris, aren't you? I shall
never forget the hand that is responsible for those delicious pancakes."

"Can you ever forget the hand that jerked you out of dreamland in the
middle of the night?" she asked, laughing, the last trace of her anger
vanishing forever.

Then they were friends, and since any one could see plainly there was
nothing in the house that needed her particular attention, she took
the bishop into the yard and they walked under the bare branches of
the maples, dragging their feet through the crinkly fallen leaves,
and then they visited father in the garage, teasing him for his motor
madness. And it was lunch time before one could realize that breakfast
was entirely a thing of the past.

Doris could have apologized for her rudeness very easily, for the
bishop had a way of helping one to speak. But she knew it was not
necessary, for the bishop also had a way of understanding even when
words were left unsaid. And Doris wondered how he ever came to be a
Methodist!

As Rosalie said afterward, "You ought to know better than to feed a man
such pancakes if you want to be enemies with him."

And as Zee pointed out very plainly, "His age has nothing to do with
it. He was married once, and you could not expect them to un-bishop him
just because his wife died--I suppose bishops' wives can die if they
want to, like anybody else."

And as Treasure insisted, "Doris is a lovely thing, in spite of being a
general, and why shouldn't the bishop enjoy a manse for a change?"

At all events, the bishop tore himself away from the manse with the
most utter and apparent reluctance, and kept coming back now and again
in a way that was flattering, as well as unprecedented. And Mr. Artman
began to look at his oldest daughter with puzzled wondering eyes, with
something of pain in them--and the pancakes got better right along.

"Isn't it funny how regular bishops are, when you get to know them?"
Doris said to Rosalie. "Why, I don't see any objection to them at
all--we Presbyterians might have a few of our own." Then she said, "But
between you and me, I think it is lots more fun to talk to people you
don't understand, and do not know, and--perfect strangers, you know,
who are very friendly. It is so much more thrilling."

"But how could one be a perfect stranger and still be very friendly?"
laughed Rosalie.

"Why, very easily indeed. You don't know him, who he is, or where he
lives, or anything--but when you are together you are great friends."

"Who are you talking about?"

"Why, anybody. Just any stranger that you do not know, but who has a
way of being very intimate."

"Doris, you are dreaming," cried Rosalie. "Whoever heard of such
a thing? If you are intimate, he can't be a stranger. If you are
intimate, you've _got_ to know each other."

"Oh, not necessarily. Not by any means."

"Well, for my part, I prefer people I know and like--people who sit
down in the big chair and read the paper and act human."

Doris laughed gleefully. "I don't," she said. "For once you are more
sensible than I am. I like perfect strangers that I do not know a thing
about--but can tell from their eyes that they are good--I like people
who just flit around, and come and go--like wizards."



CHAPTER IX

THE RUNAWAYS


Treasure and Zee were in the garage, studying history in the roomy back
seat of the red car.

"Father is very pettish about some things," said Zee, suddenly banging
the covers of the history together. "Why in the world does he always
say we are too young to drive? He taught Doris, and she grips the wheel
like mad--a very unprofessional thing to do, everybody says so. And he
taught Rosalie, and she goes tearing along, smiling here and nodding
there, and nearly runs over dogs and wagons and-- But he says we are too
young, though you are very cautious, and I am smart for my age. I know
perfectly well how she goes."

They dropped their books on the floor and clambered over into the front
seat, Zee at the wheel.

"First you turn this little business, and then you put this sparker
thing here, and bang down with your heel on that, and push out with
your left foot, and pull this thing back into low, and give it the gas,
and away you go, tralalalala."

"That is right," said Treasure. "You do know, sure enough. I have
watched them hundreds of times."

"So have I," said Zee in a discontented voice. "But that's all the
good it does. They won't let us, though we know how, perfectly well.
Treasure, don't you think maybe father would let us drive if we could
prove to him that we know how? He says we are too young to learn, but
if we show him we have learned already he certainly wouldn't have much
argument left."

"Father is rather particular."

"But think how useful it would be if we knew how--then if anybody
should get sick, or die in a hurry, we could rush after father in the
car, and--I am sure he would not object, if we could just show him.
Let's practise by ourselves a little, and then he won't say a word.
Think how surprised he will be."

"Maybe you could not stop it."

"Why, you just turn the key, that's all. It is perfectly simple. A
child could do it. Look out and see if there is any one around, will
you? I know I can do it."

[Illustration: "Why, you just turn the key, that's all"]

Treasure dutifully looked, and no one was in sight.

"How surprised they will be. Won't we have the laugh on them when we
come driving up to the door?"

So Treasure opened the door of the garage and got in beside her sister
again. Zee sat up very straight, and pursed her lips together.

"First, turn the key."

"Yes."

Zee turned the key.

"Now put the sparker business down in the middle."

"Yes."

Zee put it down.

"Step on the starter."

"Yes."

Zee stepped on it.

This produced a low aimless whirr, quite powerless.

"Pull up that little flooder thing," said Treasure. "Father always does
that."

Zee pulled it to the tiptop, and banged her heel on the starter again.
This time the enticing tug told her the engine had caught, and was
ready for action.

"Push with the left foot and put her in low," said Zee, between her
teeth.

She found it took quite a vicious pull on the gears to "put her in
low." And the instant it clicked into place, the car shot forward out
of the garage with a violent pull that dashed them against the seat
and took their breath away. And there was a tearing and crashing of
wood--the garage door was none too wide--

"Father's fault," shouted Zee, pulling on the wheel for dear life.
"Just splintered a little."

"Slow up," cried Treasure.

The car was in the main road now, swerving over the corner to the
right, which fortunately was a low grassy bank with no curbing. Zee,
rocking dizzily in her seat, moved the wheel from side to side at such
a furious pace that she kept the car almost inside the road, and clear
of the ditches on either side.

"Go slow," begged Treasure.

"I can't," cried Zee. "She must be leaking."

After two blocks of riotously dangerous riding, Zee remembered that
if she shoved with her left foot it did something to stop it--and she
shoved, and the engine lifted, and the car slowed down.

She turned a white anxious face toward Treasure.

"That was some speed," she gasped.

"Watch the road, Zee. You had the gas thing in the middle instead of
the sparker thing--"

"Oh, sure enough, wasn't that silly?" Zee put the hand feeder in its
proper place and prepared to start again.

"I know how to drive this car--I know how, and I will do it," she said
between her teeth.

She put it into low again, and started once more, very slowly.

"Put it into second now," suggested Treasure.

Zee shoved the gear shift grimly forward--into reverse--and there was
a grinding of wheels and a curious sound of stripping gears that would
have broken the heart of an older driver.

Zee discovered her mistake, and remedied it quickly, pulling the gear
into low once more, ready for a fresh start.

"Oh, Zee, let me drive," begged Treasure. "I am sure I can do it."

By rare good fortune, Zee succeeded in getting it into second gear, and
finally, with a tearing racket, into high, and leaned back in her seat.

"This is something like, now," she panted, releasing her scarlet lip
from between her teeth.

"The fender is all bent," mourned Treasure.

"Oh, father'll fix it. See how well we're going now."

Treasure said nothing. They were not yet home, and there was a wagon
coming toward them.

Zee swung the car to the right to pass the wagon--too far--she was
fairly in the ditch at the side--with a wild turn of the wheel they
bumped into the road again, the fender banging the back wheel of the
wagon.

"Hay, you blithering--" shouted the man angrily, and then, seeing their
predicament, he pulled off to the side of the road and turned about in
his seat staring after them.

Zee, panic-stricken at the collision, lost her wits completely, and
couldn't remember how to stop it--but kept jamming desperately on the
gas feeder, harder and harder, swinging along the road, swaying from
side to side, while Treasure, with one long cry of agony slid into the
bottom of the car and clasped her hands over her ears.

The car dashed madly on, and between bursts Zee pulled everything
in sight and pushed everything she could find--but that car was a
demon--it went over hills and through ditches like a thing possessed.
It swung around wagons, and ran down a flock of chickens, and--oh,
kindly Providence, which watches over straying preacher bodies--of
its own free will, though guided, of course, by a friendly
predestination--the car went slower, and slower, with a funny choking
powerless sound quite unlike its natural brisk chug, and presently
Zee's scattered wits returned to her. She turned the key, and the car
stopped.

Treasure, sobbing pitifully, untangled herself from the gears, and
stumbled out of the car.

"I--drove--it," quivered Zee, and she opened the door and stepped
out--falling limply on the ground.

Treasure, forgetting her own plight, ran to Zee's assistance.

"Nothing at all's the matter," stammered Zee, smiling pluckily. "Just
wobbly, that's all--can't stand on myself."

So Treasure sat down beside her in the road, and they had a
heart-restoring cry in each other's tender arms, the dust of the road
mingling with their bitter tears and leaving tell-tale tracks upon
their sorry faces. Zee recovered first.

"Crazy old thing," she said with a vicious little kick at the bent
fender. "I always said Doris should have chosen the cow."

"What shall we do now?" asked Treasure helplessly.

"I am going to sit right here until father comes and finds us. Oh,
Treasure, you'd better drive it off to the side of the road--and--"

"Who--me? Not on your life. I won't touch it. It is bewitched."

"Somebody will run into it then. Let's push it."

Treasure had serious objections even to that form of locomotion, for
she felt in her inmost soul that the only way to keep that red demon
stopped was never to give it a start. But as Zee was insistent, she
finally consented to get behind and give a grudging push. Due, however,
to the fact that it was still in gear, and the brakes were set, they
could not budge it. So they went off to the side of the road where it
could not fall on them if anybody did run into it and waited.

After a time a car came along, passed by, slowed up and stopped. The
driver leaned over the door of his car and asked pleasantly:

"Are you in trouble, girls? Can I help you?"

"Oh, no, thank you, we are waiting for father," said Zee primly.

The driver regarded them curiously. "Don't you think you'd better pull
off to the side of the road a little? Pretty narrow passing there."

The girls looked at the road in surprise. "Why, so it is. Isn't that
too bad?"

"Can you drive off to the side?"

"No, indeed, father does not allow us to drive."

"I'll give you a push," he said very obligingly, and came at once to
their assistance. He frowned a little when he saw the car in gear, and
the brakes set, but he released them without comment, and the girls
helping bravely, the disgraced red car was moved out of the main road.

"Shall I tow you back to town?"

The girls winced visibly. Be towed home in disgrace--rather would they
sit there and freeze and starve and die of hunger and thirst forever.

"Oh, no, thank you. We'll just wait for father."

"Where is your father?"

"He isn't here just now," said Zee faintly.

So the man drove slowly away, looking back now and then. The girls,
in spite of the dust, did not sit in the car. They would not trust
themselves alone in that car under any circumstances. Instead they went
soberly up the bank and sat down again, side by side. Once in a while
Zee wiped her pale brow wearily.

"Such a life," she muttered once.

"Here comes something now," said Treasure, looking hopefully down the
road toward town. "Maybe it is father."

"Horseback rider."

"I hope he does not offer to tow us home."

"If he does, I shall tell him to mind his own business."

As the rider drew near, the girls leaned forward and studied his
features.

"He will laugh at us," said Treasure sadly. "That is worse than
offering to tow us home. It is that horribly sarcastic Curious Cat that
kept the Crab from arresting us when we trespassed on his ugly old
ditch."

Zee flipped over on the ground and buried her face in her hands. "I
will not look at him. Tell him I am dead, tell him-- Tell him anything,
but I can not let that hateful old thing look at me and grin."

"Zee," begged Treasure, "sit up and be decent. I can't talk to him. Sit
up, and help me."

Zee was obdurate. So Treasure, determined not to face the Curious Cat
without support, turned her back to the road and gazed off over the
landscape.

The rider drew up beside the car, and stopped his horse. He looked
intently at the two girls, who saw him not--except from the very
tip tails of their eyes. Then he examined the car, whistling
cheerfully--and his whistle was more aggravating than his laughter, if
such a thing could be. He got off his horse presently and slipped the
bridle over a fence post. Then he carefully inspected the bent fenders,
and looked at the engine. And then--wasn't he the most infuriating
thing you ever saw in your life?--from the pocket of his riding coat
he pulled a package of milk chocolate, and sauntered over to the bank
where the girls still sat, oblivious of his presence. He flung himself
on the ground near them and began nibbling the chocolate.

Treasure's lips trembled with the shame of it. Zee twisted the toes
of her shoes into the ground in impotent fury. The Curious Cat ate
deliberately, soulfully, complacently, and tossed his hat to the
ground, laying his head comfortably on his arm, his face toward the
girls.

And to add to the insult of his presence he began humming that idiotic
little ditty about "two babes in the woods" in a soft sentimental tone.

Zee stood it as long as she could. Then she sat up, seeming to blink
the sleep from her bright eyes.

"Why, Treasure-- Why, I _did_ go to sleep, didn't I?" Then she saw him,
apparently for the first time. "Why, how do you do?" she said brightly.
"Where did you come from? I drove and drove until I was so tired--I
couldn't stand it, and so we stopped to rest."

She held out a cordial hand, and he took it gravely. Then Treasure
turned upon them, and said, "Why, you here? I was--enjoying
that--beautiful view."

"Yes, I noticed that you were wrapped up in it. Had you a pleasant
ride?"

"Oh, lovely. But I am not used to driving, and I got so tired. I don't
believe I can ever get the thing home."

"Maybe your sister can--"

"Oh, Treasure will not drive. She is afraid of motors."

"Maybe I can take you home."

"Oh, we want to walk. We are so stiff from riding. But won't you please
take the car in--we feel like walking ourselves--it will do us good."

He looked at them keenly. "Do you want some chocolate?"

The girls accepted it gratefully.

"Suppose we go on to the Haunted House, and let the old grouch give us
some tea? I feel rather weak. Don't you?" he suggested finally.

"Very," they said with sincerity.

"But father will find out--I mean--they will worry about us. We have
been gone--quite a while," protested Treasure.

"He will not worry. He knows nobody would hurt nice little preacher
girls like you. I am willing--more than willing--to take the car home,
but I've got to find a place to leave my horse, and I've got to have
some tea. Is it a bargain or not? You come with me for tea, I take you
home--and I will try to sneak you in the back way so your father will
not catch you. But no tea, no sneak."

Zee stood up. "Treasure, you may sit here and be ministerial if you
like. I want some tea."

"That is something like. Now, you drive the car down the road to the
rustic gate, and--"

"Who, me? I am tired of driving. I guess I won't go after all."

"Well, then you girls must sit in the back seat and lead the horse. I
shall drive slowly."

"I feel more like walking. I do not want to ride."

"It is a mile and a half, and you've got to get home some time. Don't
be silly. I know how to handle a car."

So in quivering fear the girls stepped in and he gave Zee the bridle.
Then he started the car--the treacherous, ungrateful thing!--it went
off as smoothly and gently as a perfect lady. How tenderly Zee thought
at that moment of the Jersey they did not choose. Down the road they
went very slowly, then up a long winding trail among the trees by the
creek to the Haunted House, an old-fashioned rambling building with
vines and flowers running riot in every direction.

"Maybe he will not like it. He has a terrible disposition, you know."

"We shall charm him. He and the house are haunted, but fifty cents will
enslave them both."

"Fifty cents would buy two gallons of gas," whispered Zee, shocked at
the recklessness, but even her frankness did not extend to the point
of protesting at the extravagance of a stranger--especially when she
needed tea.

The Corduroy Crab greeted them as unconcernedly as though they came by
invitation, and took the bridle from Zee's hand.

"Sir, we had a sad accident," said the Curious Cat in a respectful
voice. "We are thirsty, tired, and--much wiser. May we have a cup of
tea on the porch in a hurry?" He slipped a half-dollar into the man's
willing hand as he spoke.

The Corduroy Crab seemed not at all surprised. "Of course," he said
briefly, and led the horse away.

"Now there's a gentleman," said the Curious Cat appreciatively. "Took
my money like a--preacher."

"What do you mean--like a preacher?" demanded Zee resentfully.

But the Curious Cat did not seem to hear, for he was piling soft
cushions into wide porch chairs where the girls might sit in comfort.

A little later a black serving man came out and pulled a small table
from a corner of the porch, arranging it deftly with doilies, and in
less than five minutes the girls were eating chicken sandwiches and
drinking tea--to be sure, they were not allowed to drink tea at home,
but Zee said truly that their nerves required something out of the
ordinary. And there was a small silver basket of chocolates on the
table--

"Isn't that lucky?" said the Curious Cat, eying the candy greedily.
"It is my one and only weakness. Apart from chocolate I am free from
worldly affectations. But chocolate--I eat it with every meal, and
take a piece to bed at night. Without it I am become as a ravening
wolf and a--a thirsting camel. It does seem rather a refined and
ladylike accomplishment for one as rough and rude as I--one of the
eccentricities of Nature, who played me many pranks."

"Yes," said Treasure politely.

"However do you suppose the Corduroy Crab--"

"Zee!"

"The what?"

"Oh, excuse me-- He won't tell, Treasure. We call him the Corduroy Crab
because he was so disagreeable, you know. I was just--"

"Pardon the interruption--but do you mind telling me by what
particular form of endearment you designate me?"

"The--the Curious Cat," said Zee, though Treasure kicked her smartly
under the table. "Because you were so cattish to us, making fun of us,
and laughing. Very catty thing to do. And we added the Curious because
you really are awfully--queer, you know."

"And what were you wondering about the Crab?"

"I was just wondering how he comes to have things fixed so lovely?
It is wonderful here. It used to be all tumbly and crazy, and things
growing everywhere, and little funny animals and bugs shooting around
in every direction--it was awful. Father brought us once because we had
to write a theme in school--and we couldn't sleep for two nights."

"It still looks wild," said Treasure softly. "But it is such a lovely
wildness--all the ugly grime is gone, and the beauty of it is more
beautiful than ever. And it doesn't make you shiver now--it only makes
you sad."

"It does not make me sad," said Zee. "I am never sad when there are
chicken sandwiches. And this china-- Well, I know it is better than
ours at the manse, and it was given to us by our last Christian
Endeavor, so you may know it is very nice indeed--but this is better
still--and I believe to goodness these are regular silver spoons. And
do you suppose the colored man is his servant? And hasn't he any wife?
And do you think he bought this place? I wonder where he got the money?
And why does he stay out of sight--he ought to come and eat with us,
since we are company?"

The Curious Cat waved his arms helplessly. "I am trying to bring a
spirit from the air to answer your questions. But it does not work. I
am afraid I ate too many sandwiches. I never can do my enchantments
when I eat more than six sandwiches at a sitting."

"I think we ought to go," said Treasure. "I am afraid we are not just
welcome. Wouldn't it be lovely to lie around here a whole day, Zee? But
we have to go."

"Can you truly sneak us in without any one catching us?"

"We are going to try."

So they drove hurriedly home to the manse again, and the girls said
good-by to their Curious Cat and felt that after all he had his good
points. He did not say a word about the shattered door of the barn, and
the girls did not wonder until he had lifted his hat and disappeared
how he was going to get back to his horse again.

They closed the doors of the barn sadly and went into the house.

How quiet and cool and beautiful the manse was that afternoon. They
walked slowly, appreciatively through every room. Doris, sitting in
the bay-window with the eternal mending, was like a glorious madonna,
and they put their arms around her and kissed her tenderly, as girls
returned from a long absence. But she took it very placidly. They saw
Rosalie lying on her bed up-stairs, reading, and eating an apple. How
pretty and dear Rosalie was. They stood in the doorway and looked at
her almost worshipfully. Outside their father's study they stood a
long time, thinking, but went at last to their own room and closed the
door.

A little later they heard their father at the telephone, asking
questions--but it was aimless conversation, they could make nothing of
it. How strange it was that they had not been missed. Such wonderful
things had happened, life had been spared to them by less than a
fraction of an inch--and here were their loved ones, Doris mending,
Rosalie eating apples, father writing a sermon--as serenely as though
two dear young daughters had not just been returned to them from the
shadow of the grave.

They sat in their room, waiting, talking not at all. After a while
Doris called them to supper, and they took their places in subdued
silence. What a wonderful way father had of asking the blessing--why,
every word of it seemed to call down a benediction on every one at the
table. And how good the dinner was--they were not hungry, but it was
delicious food, unbelievably well cooked. And Doris in the big kitchen
apron was exquisite.

When they reached dessert, Zee rose to the height of public confession.

"Father, Treasure and I--and principally I, for I did it--were very
naughty. We took the car out of the garage, and smashed the door
getting it out, and we drove into the country and nearly killed horses
and wagons and autos and ran into ditches and bent the fenders and ran
down a lot of chickens, and got stuck, and a man brought us home. We
are very sorry."

How calmly they took it!--a climactic, criminal thing like that--after
all, they were rather a sordid family.

Father looked at the girls soberly, noted their pale faces, the dark
circles under their weary eyes.

"I know it," he said at last gravely.

"Oh, father, you knew it--and you didn't try to find us?" There was
pain and reproach in Treasure's voice.

"I knew all that was happening," he said quickly, with a reassuring
smile at Treasure. "Mr. Smelton telephoned that he helped you to the
side of the road--that was the first we knew of it. And a little later
some one else--I did not just get the name--but he telephoned that he
was giving you some tea, and you were quite safe, and he was going to
bring you home."

"It was that Curious Cat-- You know, Doris, the one who made the
Corduroy Crab be good to us--"

"The Curious Cat? Oh, father, what was his name?" cried Doris, leaning
way over the table in her eagerness.

"It sounded like--Saunders--something like Saunders--"

"Saunders, nothing," cried Zee. "Saunders is the Corduroy Crab--we
heard that. Oh, it must have been him who phoned--"

"He."

"Yes, he. Because the Curious Cat was not away long enough--he just
left a minute--to see about the horse."

"And then he told Saunders to telephone--"

"Yes, of course."

Doris sat back. "The old torment. How can anybody find out about such a
curious old--Curious Cat?" she wondered to herself.

In answer to her questions, the girls could tell little.

"He does not live at the Haunted House, just the Corduroy Crab--and
the--the--"

"The Courteous Coon," cried Zee. "Let's stick to our harmony."

"They live there, and the Curious Cat lives somewhere very near--and
things are lovely at the Haunted House, there are flowers on the porch,
and pictures, and curtains--did you ever hear of such a thing? Soft
brown curtains of silk rubbery stuff--and it is lovely. And the vines
are all red and gold, and the ground is a mass of fallen leaves."

"Father, please tell us the punishment. It gives you such an--empty
feeling to have--unknown punishments hanging over your head."

"Oh, the punishment," he said, and started promptly for the door.
"That is why we have a General. Leave it to her."

The girls turned appealing faces toward Doris. "Tell us, General," they
said, in the tone of martyrdom.

"You can not ride in the car again for three whole weeks. When the rest
of us drive, you two must walk. And that is all--for you have had quite
a little punishment already."

The girls thanked her warmly, and went out. In the hall they looked at
each other lovingly, and smiled.

"Isn't that ducky?" said Zee. "It is not any punishment at all. Somehow
since this afternoon the smell of the engine makes me seasick."

Treasure quivered. "Ducky? Oh, Zee, it is delicious. Suppose she had
made us ride all day to-morrow. I couldn't have stood it."

"Anyhow, I guess I proved that I can drive the car," said Zee stoutly.
"Only, of course, since father does not wish me to, I shall never think
of doing it until I am older."



CHAPTER X

MR. WIZARD


Doris had taken a sudden and unaccountable predilection for morning
strolls. The family did not understand it, for she had always been
partial to her final morning nap. She did not neglect her work, no
indeed, she was getting up early, very ridiculously early--at five
o'clock!--and then going around for a jaunt all by herself wherever
fancy prompted.

To herself Doris admitted candidly that she wanted to see that awfully
aggravating Curious Cat, as she called him to herself, though she
reproved the twins very seriously for the disrespectfulness of it. But
she did not see him. She walked east, west, north and south, but he
remained hidden from view.

She did not forget that twice he had appeared to the girls in the
neighborhood of the erstwhile Haunted House. But it was too far--she
could not walk there, however much she wished to do so. Then came a
sudden idea. She would take a morning drive, instead of a stroll--and
she might, if necessary, walk along the creek herself in search of wild
flowers-- Of course, it was too late for wild flowers, far too late--but
anyhow one never could tell what one might find.

So the very next morning, dimply with the delight of it, she took the
car and drove gleefully out to the lovely hickory grove, and ran the
car deliberately up beside the road, and waited. No Mr. Wizard gloomed
on the horizon. Not even a Corduroy Crab came crashing through the
fallen leaves which blanketed the ground around her. So she got out of
the car, climbed through the fence, and sauntered comfortably along by
the creek, under the big bare trees. Still no angry keeper dashed out
upon her. She took small pebbles and tossed them into the trees to see
the squirrels go scampering--nobody minded in the least. It was very
annoying--like everything else connected with that Curious Cat.

She was very near the Haunted House now, so near she could not go any
farther. Even a wilful and deliberate trespasser could not walk right
into the very doors of an irate proprietor.

She was quite vexed. Why did he claim to be a wizard, and boast of
fairy powers, if he could not see there was a damsel out in search of
him? She turned and walked briskly back down the creek toward the road.
Putting her hands on the top rail of the low fence, she vaulted lightly
over, and cried out in surprise and fear.--The car was gone.

She had left it there, not fifteen minutes ago. She could not be
dreaming--there were the broad smooth tracks in the dust. Some one had
stolen the dear, darling little car.

"Now every one will say I should have chosen the cow," she thought
bitterly.

Doris was several miles from home, and it was breakfast time. They
would know that she was out for her silly morning walk--and when father
found the car gone it would be apparent she had gone for a drive
instead. Oh, dear--it was a long way, and very hot, and dusty--and
she was so unhappy. And it was only natural to blame it all on that
perfectly disgusting Curious Cat, who should have been there, and was
not.

Because she was angry, the first mile passed quickly. But neither anger
nor grief shortened the second mile, nor the third, nor the fourth.
Then she got a ride with a friendly farmer, who openly marveled at
her being in the country so early in the morning. But Doris was not
communicative. They were preachers, of course, but if they wanted to be
in the country, they could be--and the whole neighborhood did not need
to know the wherefore. At eight o'clock she marched grimly into the
manse, and found the family at breakfast.

"Oh, you runaway," laughed Rosalie. "I had a terrible time getting
breakfast. Aren't you a good housekeeper--not a bit of flour in the
house and the cream sour."

"Give me coffee," said Doris, sitting down wearily and resting her
elbows on the table. "Black coffee, strong coffee, lots of it, no sugar
and no cream."

"Why, you poor dear, you are tired," said Rosalie in her softest, most
gurgly voice. "Let me make some fresh toast."

"No toast--just coffee--but lots of it."

"I always said it was silly, walking around without breakfast. I told
you that before. You look positively yellow."

"Dust."

"At the least, you should choose a cool and shady street," said her
father. "You look jaded, dear. I am afraid it is too much for you."

"I _am_ jaded. Father, my poor dear father, be prepared for a bitter
blow."

"What is it?"

"The car, the beautiful red car that dear Mr. Davison left you, is
stolen."

"Stolen!"

"The car?"

"Oh, Doris, I'll bet you had a wreck."

"What happened?"

"I went for a drive instead of a walk, and I left the car just to walk
through the woods a little--and when I came back it was gone."

"Gone!"

"Oh, Doris! You would not let us ride for three weeks, and now it is
gone and we can never ride again--the dear darling precious little car."

"Never mind, girls, if it is gone, no use to worry."

"Every one said we were foolish not to take the cow in the first place."

"Oh, Rosalie, please don't throw that up to me," said Doris tearfully.
"I loved it too much, I was just crazy about it, I thought of it day
and night. Maybe it is a punishment, I suppose it is. And it is all my
fault, for I did adore it."

"Oh, no, Doris. I am sure that had nothing to do with it. You know we
preachers do not have many of these physical, sensational joys--and the
car has been an ecstasy for every one of us. I am sure an understanding
Providence has rejoiced in our pleasure, and not begrudged us a second
of it."

"Why should _our_ car be stolen?" wailed Zee. "Why couldn't it have
been a banker's, who could buy another? Or a bad man's, who did not
deserve one anyhow? Or a sick man's, who couldn't enjoy it? Why is it
always we preachers who get the raw deal?"

"Oh, Zee!"

"I had several perfectly lovely things I wanted to do with the car,"
said Rosalie regretfully. "I am sorry I put them off from day to day."

Treasure slipped away from the table and out of the room. She had
uttered no protest. She had made no complaint. But she crept sadly out
to the garage--she wanted to sit down in the dust where the dear red
car had been of yore, and weep over the spot, as at the passing of a
dear companion.

She opened the door with hands that trembled--and stopped aghast. Her
lips parted several times, and she uttered a curious sputtering gasp.
The red car was right there where it belonged--it was not stolen at
all. Doris was out of her mind!

She walked slowly, dimly back to the manse, her eyes swimming. Poor
Doris--she had walked too far and too fast. Treasure entered the
dining-room, pale, with eyes still clouded.

"I am so sorry," Doris was saying. "I know you are all very angry at
me, and I do not blame you."

"Where did you leave the car?"

Doris blushed. She could not admit to keen-witted Zee that she had
deliberately gone to their Haunted House in the hickory grove.

"Oh, out in the country about six miles--along the Emery Road."

Treasure threw out both hands, and her lips parted spasmodically.

"She is having a nightmare," said Zee, staring at her sister.

"Is the garage gone, too?" demanded Rosalie.

Treasure's lips parted again, but no sound came.

"Shake her, father. She is having a spell or something."

"Out of her mind," said Treasure, at last, with a violent effort.

The family gazed upon her, speechless.

"Car's in the garage," she stammered. "Isn't gone--at all."

With one accord they arose from their chairs and made a united dash on
the garage. It was quite true, the car was there, shiny and serene, in
its accustomed place. They gazed on it silently as Treasure had done,
and then they turned to Doris, wide-eyed and horrified.

"You're off," said Zee succinctly.

"It was a dream, dearest," said Rosalie, slipping a tender arm around
her sister's shoulders. "You haven't been well lately."

"Never mind, Doris. It must have been a dream."

"It was not a dream. I was away out in the country by the hickory
grove of the twins' Haunted House--I left the car and walked along the
creek--"

"Did you see the Corduroy Crab?" asked Treasure eagerly.

"Maybe he lammed her on the head," said Zee, touching her own curly
brow suggestively.

"I did not see any one. And I went right back to the road-- You know I
couldn't go way out there on foot, father."

"You must have been walking in your sleep, dear," said Rosalie. "Maybe
you only dreamed you were there. You are home now, anyhow, and the car
is here, and everything is all right."

"Rosalie, do you think I am out of my head?" demanded Doris sharply.

"I think it was a bad dream, dearest."

"Come on back to the house," said their father pleasantly. "Be glad the
car is here."

"I'll bet the old place _is_ haunted, and they've put a spell on Doris.
Maybe it was the Curious Cat--he says he can put charms," suggested Zee.

Doris smiled at that. As far as she could see, it was the only
explanation possible--the Curious Cat had certainly put his charm upon
her.

She was very cross at Rosalie--for Rosalie insisted that Doris lie
down, and she herself stayed at home from school to do the work, and
father sat by the cot all morning--it was perfectly infuriating. They
looked at her with tender solicitude, and Rosalie made more hot
coffee for her, and bathed her brow every few minutes, and Doris fumed
impotently. For she was helpless. Father had said, "I think you'd
better, dearest," and when father said things in that quiet settled
voice even the General refrained from argument.

But to lie there like an invalid--when she had only been on the trail
of mystery and-- She had found mystery, though! She could swear by her
life's blood that she had driven the car out to the hickory grove. And
she had certainly walked home. But how in the world came the car safely
back in the manse garage? It was more than Doris could understand.

When the girls came home to lunch they kissed Doris tenderly and spoke
to her in a softly soothing way that made her long to shake them. When
they were eating their lunch Zee was called to the telephone, and she
crossed the room on tiptoes, and whispered "Yes," very softly, and then
she gave a little scream.

"You--did?--Mercy! Well, thank goodness! Oh, you horrible thing, won't
Doris rage?--Why, no, Mr. Curious Cat, your charm did not work worth
a cent. It was not Treasure and I at all. It was Doris, and the poor
thing had to walk all the way home, and she is in bed, and we thought
she was out of her mind, and she said the car was stolen." She hung up
the receiver abruptly, and did not hear the sharp exclamations at the
other end of the wire.

Doris rose from the cot, and the family rushed from the table.

"Tell it, and talk fast," commanded the General.

Zee flung herself into a big chair and rocked and screamed with
laughter. "Oh, Treasure, we are even with the Curious Cat at last."
Then wiping her eyes, and between bursts of laughter, she explained.
"He began talking in that sarcastic smart little way he has, and he
said, 'Say, Miss Zee, the next time I find that red car of yours stuck
in front of my house I am going to take it as a gift from Heaven, and
keep it. But this time, just to be friendly and keep you out of a
scrape, I drove it home for you and left it in your garage. I suppose
you were playing hooky, and got stuck. Did I save you? I shall never do
it again.'"

How they all laughed, even Doris, and how heartily she ate of the
luncheon Rosalie had prepared, and what a splendid joke it was-- Only
Doris did wish she had just remained in the car instead of strolling up
the creek--he was such a funny Curious Cat--maybe--Oh, then he did own
the Haunted House, after all!

"He was teasing you girls again," she cried. "The Crab and the
Courteous Coon must be his servants, for he said you left the car in
front of _his_ house."

Then the girls were freshly indignant--pretending he was getting tea
from the Crab, when it was his own tea, and he could give it away if he
wished! But it was funny anyhow, and now he was a more Curious Cat than
ever.

That afternoon, when the girls had gone to school, deciding that Doris
could safely be left alone now--and when father had gone calling,
Doris hurried up-stairs and arranged her hair in most enticing little
curls around her forehead, and put on her very daintiest, bluest,
floweriest dress--because he was in honor bound to call her up and
make apology. Oh, of course, he would not see the enticing curls,
and the dainty blue flowery dress--but it was a great moral support
to know that she looked irreproachable, even when none was there
to see. And she wanted to be very clever and interesting over the
telephone--because--he really had done a very disagreeable thing, and
she wanted to make him sorry.

And then he did not telephone at all. He came himself--in person--and
Doris knew some kindly angel had been guiding her actions that
day. When she heard the ring she went to the door so lightly, so
unconcernedly, sure it was something trivial and some one unimportant.
And there he stood, smiling at her, regret in his eyes.

"I brought my apology with me. May I come in and deliver it?"

"Yes, please do. I know where you live, and that is a beginning, isn't
it?"

"How did you learn that?"

"You said the car was in front of your house. And it was the Haunted
House," she cried gleefully.

"Did you really have to walk home?"

"Four miles and a half." Somehow it did not seem half so long and weary
a way now as it had been seeming all the day. "And I was sure the car
was stolen. And when we found it in the garage they thought I was ill
and put me to bed, and Rosalie stayed home from school to nurse me."

"I am sorry. It was terribly stupid of me. I was sure the girls were in
another scrape, and when the car stuck on them had got a ride back to
school. It was a terrible blunder."

"I am glad of it now, because it brought you to visit me."

And he seemed in not the least bit of hurry, but settled back and
talked, and he had a wonderful basket of fruit, apples and grapes
and golden pears, and he hoped Doris would accept them in token of
forgiveness.

"But when you tell your father, will he ask who brought them?"

"I shall just say the Curious Cat brought them to apologize--and father
is not a bit inquisitive. He will think it is quite all right--he has
the dearest way of thinking things are quite all right."

Doris did long to know how old he was--of course she could not ask--he
surely was not nearly so old as father, yet he did not look young. The
college men of Rosalie's favor looked like children beside him. And he
talked like a man who knew things. But he could not be old--he laughed
so readily, and teased so constantly, and his eyes were so friendly and
warm. Father was forty-three, and forty-three is very terribly old when
one is twenty.

They had tea together--on the Endeavor china. He was much more fun
than the bishop. And in spite of the very-close-to-gray-hairs at
his temples, he had a dear boyish way of settling back in a chair
and getting himself comfortable and happy. And when you see another
thoroughly comfortable and happy right at your side, you are bound to
feel the same way yourself. And Doris did.

After she had watched his departure from the shelter of the front
window, she came back into the room, and there on the card tray--how in
the world it got there she could not imagine--but she knew instantly it
was his card--and she pounced upon it eagerly.

"Mr. Daniel Amberton MacCammon."

After all, the name meant nothing. And there was so much she wished to
know. His age, and who he was, and why he came there, and what in the
world he was doing in the Haunted House, and--oh, a thousand things.

But Doris looked at the card in a friendly companionable way, and said,
in her softest and chummiest voice:

"Honestly, I like you."



CHAPTER XI

THE PHILOSOPHER


"Now, Doris," began Rosalie briskly, "you must help decide my life
career. They gave us a fine talk at chapel this morning, urging us to
spot our high ambitions for guiding stars to work toward. Of course, we
can change our minds later on if we like, we are not to be irrevocably
bound to what we say, but no student 'can plan most wisely and most
surely for the future, without a pole star ever shining in his mind's
eye,'" she quoted patly. "Now, what are my ambitions?"

"Mercy, Rosalie, you know your ambitions better than I do," said
Doris, as earnestly as though the same subject had not been discussed
regularly ever since Rosalie was a freshman.

"I think I was born for the stage, barring the one accident of the
ministry. But since that avenue of fame is closed, what shall I
do? Shall I be a teacher--and if so, a teacher of what? I am not
particularly clever, you know."

"You are very clever, indeed, and I think you would be a wonderful
teacher."

"Thanks, but I have neither patience nor dignity, and all authorities
agree that they are prime requisites."

"You can be as patient and dignified as anybody if you want to. And
you are tactful and pleasant, both good teaching qualities. I suppose
you do not feel particularly drawn to any religious work, missionary,
or--or pastor's assistant, or anything like that?"

"I am interested in gymnasium work," said Rosalie. "It seems my
only forte. I am very good at all outdoor sports, and I have a fine
physique, and adore exercise."

"That would be nice."

"Some places I might have to teach dancing. I could handle it as one
form of physical development, and if the naughty things took it into
the ballroom it wouldn't be my fault, would it?"

"Not--exactly--I suppose."

"But I ought to have an extra year for special study somewhere after I
finish college. Do you suppose we could manage it, father?"

Mr. Artman looked up from his mail absently. "Yes, dear, what? I am
afraid I was not paying attention." His eyes wandered back to the
letter in his hand.

Rosalie promptly deposited herself on his knee, pulling his arms around
her.

"Doris has just decided that I would be a lovely athletic director
for girls if I could have a year of special training after college.
Prospects, please?"

"Maybe we could arrange it--I hope so. It would be fine. But--things
might interfere."

"Always granted, of course, dearest, but am I justified in saying it is
my present plan if things do not interfere?"

"Yes, to be sure, but--remember--plans have a way of going astray,
dear."

"Why, father, that does not sound like you."

"I know, forgive me, but I do not feel like myself to-day. Look ahead
to it, Rosalie, by all means, and count on it, and if it is right for
you, it will come."

"That is the way for a preacher to talk," said Rosalie. "Then it is all
settled, isn't it?"

She ran back to her chair, and her father turned anxious eyes on the
letter again. He did not notice that his girls looked at him often,
and very wonderingly. Presently he went to the telephone and put in a
long-distance call to Chicago. Two years previous he had taken a course
of study at the seminary in Chicago, and ever since had made frequent
appointments with Doctor Hancock necessitating hurried trips to the
city.

"Some old 'prof' at the seminary, I suppose," Doris said lightly.
"They won't let us preachers settle down and preach and be comfortable
nowadays. They keep us up and coming every minute, studying this and
studying that, and then practising what we study on the public. It is
no easy matter being a preacher any more."

And so, although the Chicago trips had grown more and more frequent,
Doris gave them small heed.

But after her father had left the house the next morning, she walked
soberly up-stairs to where Rosalie was dressing for school and said,
"Rosalie, I hate to push my worries on to you, but--does--father act
funny some way? Or do I imagine it? He seems so serious and anxious."

"He has been rather quiet lately," said Rosalie slowly.

"I am sure he is not well. I wish he did not take these Chicago trips
so often. I think they expect entirely too much of us preachers. He is
always tired and worried when he gets home. If we had a bishop, I think
I should report it."

Rosalie said nothing.

Both girls watched their father closely when he returned home late that
night. He was tired indeed, and his eyes were darkly circled. He did
not laugh so freely as usual at their merry chatter, and though he was
tender with them as always, he seemed distrait and absent-minded, which
was not like him. And Doris pondered over it anxiously.

The next morning he came down-stairs wearing wide amber glasses,
"which," he explained apologetically, "I am not wearing for style, I
assure you, but the light seems rather too much for me. I think it
causes the headaches."

The girls had great fun with the amber glasses, shaking their heads
sadly over his worldliness, for every one knew that amber glasses were
fashionable. But after that, he always wore them except when he went
into the pulpit.

Two days later, when he came in to lunch, his face was as bright and
smiling as it had been in the olden days when his laughter had been as
spontaneous as Rosalie's or Zee's. He began talking, boyishly, before
he reached his chair at the table, and the girls smiled happily at his
cheerfulness.

"I met a very clever man down-town to-day, and had quite a talk with
him. He is an author--a psychologist and philosopher--he wrote all
those books I have been so interested in lately. Very entertaining
fellow, and so I invited him to dinner to-night."

"Good night, nurse," gasped Doris. "You invited an author and a
psychologist and a philosopher to dinner to-night?"

"Only one, Doris," he explained patiently.

"Father, there is something the matter with you. First you
flash a bishop on us in the middle of the night, and now a
psychologist-philosopher combination. Whatever in the world do you
suppose he eats?"

"Cheer up," said Rosalie. "He is a philosopher, remember, so he will be
satisfied with what he gets. Food, nowadays, is the greatest test of
human philosophy."

"Oh, he is all right. I am sure he eats regular things. He has bought a
place out here to do his work--close to his publishers in Chicago, and
far enough out to be isolated when he is on a book. It will be a great
treat for me to have him here." He looked at Doris reflectively. "Let's
have a good dinner, regardless of the cost, and, Doris, I hope you--I
mean, I hope all of you--will look your very sweetest and act your very
dearest."

"Is he married?" demanded Zee. "I believe on my soul you have a scheme
to marry one of us off to him. Doris, I suppose, for I am too young,
and Treasure is too good, and Rosalie is too frivolous."

"Does he write fairy stories, or--"

"He does not write fairy stories, but I believe he tells them
sometimes," laughed their father. "And I have no matrimonial designs on
him, I assure you, but I want him to be our friend. It will be a great
pleasure to me, and a great help--and I need both."

Doris and Rosalie looked swiftly at each other at that, but neither
made any comment. When Mr. Artman had gone up-stairs, still laughing
with satisfaction, the four of them put their heads together.

"Let's think up a dinner fit for a--fit for a--"

"A pope," suggested Zee.

"Zee, I am surprised at you. Fit for a president."

"Since father said spare no expense, I say fried chicken, and I want
the wishbone."

"A good idea. We'll have fried chicken. Now what else?"

"Let's do it up in style, and have courses. Treasure can wait on the
table without spilling things, and then come quietly to her place
without banging chairs. Soup--"

"Yes."

"Then chicken, mashed potatoes, and--"

"Corn fritters--I've been asking for corn fritters for six weeks."

"Well, corn fritters. Salad--"

"Olives are easy, and--"

"No, let's have a salad like regular folks. Mrs. Andrieson makes lovely
thousand island dressing, and I have only one recitation this afternoon
so I'll just run down after class and get her to show me how. Then
we'll have head lettuce with the dressing, and--"

"And coffee with whipped cream, and--"

"For dessert--"

"Ice-cream. If I do any baking I'll be too hot to look nice. Treasure,
you run over to Wilcot's and get a quart of milk and a pint of cream
and a half pint of whipping cream, and Rosalie you call up the ice
company and have them leave a dime's worth of ice on the first
delivery without fail, and I'll freeze it first thing. And, Rosalie, I
leave the salad entirely to you."

"I will go to Benson's after school and get some flowers," said
Treasure. "Mrs. Benson is always glad to give me the carnations that
are not fresh enough to sell, but too good to throw away. And we can
pick out the best ones."

"Isn't that grand? Won't father be pleased?"

"And what shall we wear?"

This brought forth a prolonged and heated discussion of ribbons and
gowns, for father had said to look their sweetest and act their
dearest--and being girls, they knew the latter was impossible except
when the former had been accomplished. Finally all was arranged, and
the dresses were laid out nicely on their various beds, and Treasure
was given a quarter to buy a new blue ribbon because she got oil on
the old one sticking her head under the car to see what father was
doing. And the girls rushed excitedly to school, to tell their friends
carelessly that they had to hurry home to-night and could not stop to
study Latin en masse, for "Father has invited a perfectly enormous
author and psychologist and all that to dinner." And although none of
them had a very clear idea what kind of a psychologist he was, or what
he did, or why he was so perfectly enormous, the very meagerness of
their information added luster to his halo.

The table that night was a dream of loveliness, and the girls had
everything ready and were up-stairs taking a last final reconnoiter
of their physical charms when they heard their father greeting the
perfectly enormous guest.

They filed down breathlessly, eyes bright with anticipation, their
hearts palpitating with the unwonted glory of it. And then--

"Why, it is only the Curious Cat," ejaculated Zee.

"Mr. Wizard," gasped Doris. "Father, you knew it all the time."

"Well, I am glad my girls have been encroaching on your hospitality,
Mr. MacCammon, for otherwise we might not have the privilege of
extending ours to you now."

Mr. MacCammon held Doris' hand warmly in his. "I hope the charm has
not all gone with the mystery," he said. "I was ashamed to conceal my
identity any longer, and besides I wished to see more of you, and I
wanted to know your father. But if you have lost all interest in me
now, I know I shall wish I had not come at all."

"I haven't--it isn't--not by any means," stammered Doris nervously, and
hurried away to the kitchen to look after the dinner.

Oh, but wasn't she glad father had stipulated they should spare no
expense? It was a wonderful, delicious dinner, and when he turned from
gay banter with Rosalie and Zee, to real intense discussion with her
father, and always bending warm and friendly eyes on her--really, it
was too good to be true.

"But I always said I liked him," she told herself, comfortably.

After that he came often to the manse, and many times he took them all
out to the Haunted House, where Mr. Artman was immediately lost in the
depths of huge volumes, and where Treasure and Zee wandered off to
look for baby rabbits with the Corduroy Crab, who wasn't a bit crabbish
any more, and where Rosalie flung herself into a big hammock with a
plate of fruit and a chatty story--and what could he do, as host, but
entertain Doris, who was left without other form of amusement?

"Oh, but you wait till the bishop comes," Rosalie whispered to Doris,
when they were safe in the manse again. "What will he say to these
carryings on? Your very own bishop--"

"He is not my very own bishop. And if he is, I will not have him. And
it certainly is nothing to the bishop if father has a friend."

"I do not imagine the dear bishop cares two cents how many friends
father has. But what your bishop will say to you is more than I can
imagine. And who but a serious sensible girl would ever dream of
bandying with a bishop? Frivolous and all as I am, General, I should
never be guilty of trifling with a bishop's affections."

"He hasn't any."

"Oh, yes, he has. He has oceans of them. But what difference does it
make to you how many affections he has?"

"No difference at all," admitted Doris, laughing. And she added,
flushing a little, but still laughing, "But I should really like to
know whether--father's friend--has any."

And then she ran away, before Rosalie could catch and shake her.

The Chicago trips were very frequent now, and in spite of his evident
pleasure in the new and brilliant friend, Mr. Artman grew more
preoccupied. Sometimes Doris could hear him pacing up and down his room
at night, when he should have been asleep. And very often he pushed his
plate away from him at the table, and could not eat, although Doris
had patiently and painstakingly prepared the dishes he loved best. And
every day he spoke of little headaches, and kept the blinds lowered in
his room, working with the amber glasses. And many times, when they
thought he was working, he was sitting at his desk with his head in his
arms.

"Oh, Rosalie, I can't stand it," Doris cried at last. "I know there is
something wrong with father. But some way--I can't ask him. I am afraid
to. I know he is sick."

"No, he is not sick, Doris. I know what it is."

"Rosalie!"

"One day I got a Chicago city directory--oh, long ago, when he first
began making these trips to see Doctor Hancock--I got a directory, and
looked the doctor up. He is not a minister, as you thought. He is an
oculist."

"Father's eyes!"

"Yes. And last week I wrote to the doctor myself, and told him we
were worried about father, and asked him to tell me. He says father's
eyes are very bad, and he must have an operation as soon as possible.
It should have been done some time ago, but father has been putting
it off. And the doctor says by all means he should rest his eyes for
several months, a year if possible, without using them one little bit."

For a moment all the bright room went swimming before Doris. Then she
cried out, in pain and self-reproach.

"Oh Rosalie, I was happy myself, and I forgot to look after father. It
was you who thought of him."

"That is nothing. Do you remember, Doris, away last fall, when you said
I must begin to solve my problems for myself? I have been trying to,
that is all. And father is one of them. Somehow, as long as I could
throw my worries off on you and father, I was glad to do it, and did
not care what came of it. But when you put things squarely up to me,
I found to my surprise that I had a sort of personal pride that kept
pulling me up to the mark. You were pretty slick, General. And so I
have been sort of looking ahead, and trying to help plan for father."

"I am going to have it out with him right now. He shan't bear it alone
any longer."

She went softly up-stairs, and into her father's room, which was always
in shadow now, although Doris in her happiness had thought nothing of
it, and crept very quietly into her father's arms.

"Let's talk it over, father. How soon do you plan to have the operation
on your eyes? Is Doctor Hancock the very best you can get? Tell me
what arrangements you have made."

[Illustration: "Let's talk it over, father"]

"Oh, Doris," he cried brokenly, dropping his head on her arm and
holding her very close, "do you know? I have tried so hard to tell
you--but I hadn't the heart. Yes, let's talk it over." And then, in
quick broken sentences, without a trace of bitterness, he told her how
his eyes had been growing constantly weaker and weaker, and how the
doctor had tried in every way to strengthen them and to arrest the
trouble, but now the operation was unavoidable and could not be put
off long, and it would mean so many months of idleness--and how could
he preach without his eyes? And he was too young to be "supered"--how
could he step aside for the rest of his life? And how could he rest,
with four young girls to keep going?

Talking it over was a comfort. His voice grew gradually firmer and his
face brighter. Now that he had the bright eyes of Doris beside him,
blindness seemed more remote, and more impossible. New strength came to
him from her vivid warm vitality. And in trying to buoy her with hope,
hope came to him also. Two hours they sat there, just talking, saying
again and again that there was a way, only they did not see it--not
just yet.

"I am going to tell the girls, father. They are old enough--and it
will hurt them to be shut out of what touches you so closely. And
Rosalie--father, Rosalie is coming out just fine."

Quickly she told him of Rosalie's way of finding out, and of her quiet
confident facing of facts--so unlike the problematic butterfly they had
worried over so many, many times.

"Send her up to me, will you? I think she will do me good." And while
Rosalie was with her father Doris told Treasure and Zee.

"Just be quiet about it to-night. After a while it will come natural.
But we must not talk much, for father feels very badly. Just let him
see that we are sorry--and we must all be very positive there is a
grand way out for us, and we must find it."

There had never been such sweet and tender harmony in the manse as on
that night--the sorrow falling on each one alike drew them very close
together. And when they went to bed at last, each one in characteristic
way thanked God that there were five to bear the hurt, for grief
divided by five, after all, is only one-fifth a grief.



CHAPTER XII

FINDING THE PATH


That Mr. MacCammon had suspected the trouble long before he was told of
it did not surprise them at all. Somehow they always expected the most
unexpected things of him. And he entered into their plans naturally and
helpfully, as became one who boasted fairy powers.

"I have a grand idea," announced Doris. "I thought of it just as Mr.
MacCammon came in. Not that he has anything to do with it--but the
sight of him inspired me."

"Yes, and what is the grand idea?" urged her father, who knew from of
old that her ideas were always well worth considering.

"There is only one month of school before vacation, and then we will be
a united family to handle you--and fathers take a lot of handling, you
know. Now, I think you should ask for your vacation right away--on full
pay, you understand--and go to Chicago and have the operation at once.
Then by the time school is out the worst will be over. It will be quite
easy to fill the pulpit now, because the town will be full of ministers
here for commencement, and the trustees' meeting, and such things, and
they will be glad to preach when they find how father is taking his
vacation."

"A good idea, as you say. And it will be a relief to have it over.
Maybe I can arrange--"

"You needn't arrange anything. Leave it to me. I shall go to the
president of the college, and put up a scheme with him--when ministers
come visiting he will tip me off, and I shall personally invite them to
preach. Leave it to me."

"But suppose you should miss a meeting?"

"If she does, I shall give them a lecture on the psychology of
religion. I can tell them a few things that are not mentioned in the
Bible, but can help to make them better Christians none the less,"
offered Mr. MacCammon.

"You should not suppose such things anyhow, father, it isn't
ministerial. But since you hesitate to trust me alone, maybe you can
let Providence and me together assume the responsibility with Mr.
MacCammon to back us up."

"That puts it on a firm foundation, at least. In the meantime I shall
use my eyes as little as possible--"

"Not at all! Rest them absolutely," said Mr. MacCammon quickly. "Get
them in good shape for the operation. Wear the biggest, blackest
glasses you can get, and do not look at a paper or book. Do not even
touch your Bible."

"I know my Bible pretty well, and I can _think_ my Scripture. But I
shall miss the head-lines."

"Oh, father, let me read the paper to you every morning. I am a
good reader," cried Rosalie. "I come out strong on the right words,
everybody says so."

"The problem will be afterward. How can I preach those weeks when I can
not study?"

"Oh, father, we've been scheming," cried Doris. "Rosalie and I got out
the barrel of old sermons you had at Delta before we came here, and we
sorted over the outlines and picked out a lot of good ones, and--you
can preach from those this summer. You tell the rest, Rosalie--it is
your contribution."

"Well, father," she said shyly, "when I knew about your eyes I began to
get ready to help. For I knew Doris would have the family to manage,
and that I was the proper one to stand with you. And so I took a lot of
special courses in Bible study and practical Christianity and social
service stuff, and I can look up references as quick as a wink, and
really I know a lot. So I shall be your pastor's assistant, and furnish
the eyes while your own are resting."

"Why, Rosalie, you little--Problem," he said brokenly.

"I wanted to surprise you, father. And all the time I was talking of my
career--I knew that my career would be--right here with you and Doris,
backing up the manse."

He held her hands very closely in his, and did not speak for a while.
"Every one is taking hold," he said at last. "I have worked all my
life--every day crowded full to overflowing-- Now everything is going,
and-- How shall I fill the days?"

"There is where I come in," said Mr. MacCammon quickly. "I have to
begin some very important proof-reading on my newest philosophy,
my very best work and the most pretentious. And I was wondering if
you wouldn't come out and loaf with me most of the time--and let me
proof-read aloud to you--I really need some expert opinion as I go
along. Maybe it would help you with the time--I know it would help me
with the book."

Mr. Artman sat silent again for a while. "Girls," he began finally,
"I am ashamed to say I was puzzled. I could not see the way. Now it
is opening up, step after step--and the rest will come in its proper
time. I shall never worry again. And to-morrow night I will ask for my
vacation at once."

"Have you got the money, father?" asked Zee.

"We may have to squeeze a little," he said, smiling. "The board will
advance my June salary, I know, and the household bills can run for a
while. There is a little in the bank--I do not know just how much--"

"Forty-two dollars and eighty-six cents," said Doris practically. "But
the bills for this month are paid--I can see the hand of a tender
Providence in that. For it is mighty seldom we have the bills paid and
forty-two dollars and eighty-six cents besides."

"The forty-two dollars will run you here at home, and the June salary
will see me through at Chicago."

"Just as I am always trying to show you," said Zee. "We preachers have
our troubles, but there is always a plain path made for us."

"When we get to it, yes. The trouble is that some of us have a habit of
wanting to see the path before we get there. I like to use a telescope
on it, miles ahead, I am afraid," her father admitted.

How simply and naturally things worked out, after all the months of
anxious fear. The vacation was arranged without the slightest trouble.
The June salary was paid in advance with no dissenting voice. And one
elder, the dearest of them all, said gently:

"And there are a few of us who wish to make up a little purse--oh,
not much--just a little word of appreciation, you know--we'll get it
together and put it into the bank for you--it may help a little."

Mr. Artman's conscience kept him awake hours that night, for he had
been worrying about money, too--worrying in spite of the fact that
every step had been cleared when the time for stepping came--and he had
worried about the bills there would be when the operation was over and
he was at home again. For his expenses in Chicago would be heavy, even
though he went to the Presbyterian hospital where "they do ministers
for nothing." And Doctor Hancock had arranged with the surgeon that the
expense of the operation could wait till a convenient time. The girls'
expenses would be much lighter when school was out, and they would not
use the car quite so often, only now and then when they could not
resist the luring call of it.

"I want you to come for a drive with me in my car to-night, Doris," Mr.
MacCammon said one evening. "You have taken me in yours several times
and you are always so concerned with speedometers and gears that you
pay no attention to my conversation. To-night you go joy-riding on my
gas."

"Thank you, I shall be glad to," said Doris in her very politest
manner, for to go joy-riding on some other person's gas was a great
treat, and to go joy-riding on Mr. MacCammon's gas was the greatest
treat of all. So she put on the charming blue motor hat--home-made out
of old veils and scraps of velvet, but which, as Rosalie said, was just
as flirtatious as though it had cost forty-two dollars and eighty-six
cents at Marshall Field's. Mr. MacCammon helped her into the car very
formally, and Rosalie from the front porch waved them away.

"Father," she said to him when the car had disappeared, "I hope your
eyes have not affected your mental vision. I suppose you realize that
your perfectly wonderfully philosophical psychologist or whatever he
is, is quite humanly and commonplacely and every-dayly in love with
your darling Doris."

"Oh, Rosalie, don't give me anything more to worry about. I do not care
how perfectly wonderfully philosophical and psychological he is, he
shall not come upsetting my household, that is certain."

But Mr. Artman smiled. After all, Doris was a dear girl, and Mr.
MacCammon was--even more than Rosalie had said. And it was one
opportunity in ten thousand, in his private opinion. And wasn't it just
like Providence to give that opportunity to one of the sweet simple
girls of the manse, rather than to some of the more pretentious, more
expectant girls of the little town?

"What I particularly wished to say to you is this," Mr. MacCammon was
saying to Doris--"if you can get your eyes off the mileage long enough
to listen."

Doris turned around sidewise in the seat and snuggled back among the
cushions and looked at him so directly that his mind went wandering on
the instant, and they were silent a while.

"A penny for them," he offered suddenly.

"I was just wondering how old you really are. It has bothered me
so long. And you need not give me the penny, I much prefer the
information."

"I am thirty-six. And I was going to say this--are you planning to go
to Chicago with your father?"

"Now I know you are truly a wizard. I have thought of that every minute
of the whole day. I am afraid we can't. We wanted to, Rosalie and I
both, but we just have to save the pennies. So I think we shall hand
him over to Providence when he gets on the train."

"It does not cost a great deal--"

"Six dollars per round trip--and it costs a fortune to stay in Chicago
even a few days. We can not afford it." She sighed a little. Once in a
while it really hurts to be poor.

"I think I told you, didn't I, that I have to go to Chicago myself
this week to arrange for the publishing of the new book? What, didn't I
tell you? Stupid of me to forget it."

"You did not tell me, and I know you are just going to watch over
father, and I think you are wonderful."

She caught his hand and kissed it with girlish gratitude, while he
smiled on her with tender eyes.

"Of course, you do not care if _my_ car is smashed," he said
whimsically. "I notice you keep both hands on the wheel every minute
when you have that precious little red thing of yours out. But my car
is different."

"Oh, excuse me," she smiled brightly, winking back the tears.

"Well, let me finish. I have a small apartment in Chicago--not much of
a place, but a cozy corner out by the lake where I can sneak off and
work when I wish and nobody else can find me. It has a little kitchen
and some stuff where Bangs can fix me up a meal, or I can do it myself
if he is not with me. I keep the apartment all the time, to be ready
for a hurry order, but I have a friend in the city, too, and when I
just run in for a couple of nights or so, with no special work to do,
I bunk with him, to be sociable. So why couldn't you and Rosalie go up
and take my apartment for a week, and I can stay with Johnson? It would
be easier for you to stand it there than here--and I think your father
would like it."

"Oh, that is just-- But the fare-- Still, it wouldn't be-- Oh, dear me,
now I don't know what," cried Doris desperately.

"Of course, I will excuse you for interrupting me, since you ask it,"
he said evenly. "But I was far from through. I am going to drive up
to Chicago in my car. I have a lot of running around to do, out to
Evanston and to the University, and all over town. I haven't the time
to bother with street-cars, nor the patience to bother with taxis. So
I shall take my own locomotion with me. It is a good road all the way,
and I can make the run in a few hours. Of course, your father could
not drive up in the wind, but you and Rosalie seem fairly healthy, and
I have a back seat. So if you feel any desire to go with me, why, I
think--"

Doris put her head in her arm on the back of the seat and sobbed. Then
she sat up quickly and patted his arm as warmly as she dared with any
degree of safety to the steering, and said:

"Mr. Wizard, please wake me up. You have me under the spell of your
charm, and I am dreaming things."

"I hope you are under the spell of my charm, and I wouldn't wake you up
for a thousand dollars," he said explosively, and although of course it
was only a joke, Doris blushed and began making plans for the trip very
hurriedly.

"What shall we do with the little girls?" she asked, confident of his
ability to do something.

"I had not reached that portion of the family yet. Let me see--they can
have Bangs to take care of them."

"Wouldn't they love that? No, we'll get Miss Carlton. She has been
hinting to come for a visit for quite a while, and now is just the
time. It will shock her to find father gone--but she is fine in an
emergency, and this is one. Now let's hurry home and tell father."

When Rosalie heard of this new and wonderful dispensation of Providence
in the person of the enormous philosopher, she looked at him very
steadily and said in her softest voice:

"Mr. MacCammon, you haven't a brother, have you, a younger brother who
looks like you--or a son?"

"No," he said, staring at her in surprise. "I haven't anybody. Why?"

"I wanted to put in an application for him, that is all."

"Why, Rosalie." Suddenly he laughed aloud, and drew her away to a
remote corner of the room. "Then I take it that my efforts along this
line do not meet with your disapproval?"

"Quite the contrary."

"Can you assure me of success?" he asked, still smiling, but Rosalie
observed that his eyes were very bright and very earnest.

"No," she said slowly. "One can not quite do that, you know."

He looked suddenly startled. "You don't mean--is there anybody-- There
can't be any one--"

"Has she told you about the bishop?"

"No, she hasn't mentioned the bishop--or anybody," he said in a voice
quite changed.

"Why, Mr. MacCammon, you would not want to win your heart's desire too
easily, would you? Think what a satisfaction it will be later on to
know that you outclassed a bishop!"

"Yes, but suppose I don't. These--excuse me, these--bishops, you
know--something about the cloth--the glamour of the church-- But it
helps to have your blessing. I thought you hadn't noticed."

"You thought I hadn't noticed? Mercy! What ails the man? Thought I
hadn't noticed-- Why, how could I help it?"

"I don't know. Hang that bishop! Oh, shucks, what is a bishop? Come on,
congratulate me--do it right now, to spur me on and just to prove that
we don't care two cents for the bishop."

Rosalie held out her hand. "I congratulate you with all my heart. You
are not good enough for her, but if she is satisfied, I should worry.
On behalf of the manse, I welcome you."

"Thanks. Now it is all settled. I feel better." And they laughed
together gaily.

"What in the world are you two doing, whispering back there in the
corner?" asked Doris curiously. "Mercy, are you holding hands?"

"We are sealing a solemn pact," he answered blithely. "Rosalie has a
way of making me very happy sometimes."

Doris caught her breath suddenly, and crushed her fingers against her
lips. A dark shadow came into her eyes, and she looked searchingly into
Rosalie's laughing face. Then she crossed the room and stood by her
father, her fingers gripping his sleeve, and very soon she slipped away
up the stairs and went to bed. When Rosalie came to find her, she said
she was tired and nervous-- Wouldn't Rosalie say good night for her, and
tell him how kind he had been?

When Rosalie repeated the message to Mr. MacCammon he looked perturbed.

"Isn't she coming down at all?"

"Seems not. But she is nervous, really, and worried about father--and
your kindness has upset her."

"I'll bet she is thinking of that bishop," he said grimly. "You run
up-stairs and talk about me, will you? Tell her how nice I am, and how
handsome, and what a good husband I will make--put it on pretty thick,
you know how it is done. A lovely diamond ring for your pains, young
lady, if you play it right. There's a nice little girl."

So Rosalie obediently ran up and sat beside Doris on the bed, stroking
the hot hand, and saying over and over how charming and clever and
thoughtful dear Mr. MacCammon was, and how much more attractive than
that stupid bishop, and how wonderfully good she was sure he would be
to any girl who became his very own.

And Doris lay on the bed quivering, too loyal to her sister to voice
a protest, but lacking the moral courage to speak agreement. And
Doris did not sleep that night--although she hated herself for being
so sorry over such a little thing as-- Well, as what? Anyhow, she
was surprised, that was all--but was ashamed even to think of such a
trifle, in the face of father's so much greater grief. And when she
wept softly into the pillow she had to tell herself over and over again
that every tear was for father, and every sob, and every bit of ache
that was in her heart.



CHAPTER XIII

ROSALIE'S WAY


As the days passed, and the plans for the future matured, Rosalie kept
shrewd eyes on her sister's face.

"She is worried about father, of course, but so are the rest of us,
and we don't act like that," she thought soberly. "It can't be Mr.
MacCammon, surely, for he does not try to hide what he thinks. And
anybody can see what she feels toward him--anybody but Mr. MacCammon,
for he really is fussed about the bishop." And Rosalie laughed
gleefully, for she solemnly believed that no lover had any right to win
his heart's desire without a few sharp pangs of jealousy.

Doris was pale and gentle to an unwonted degree, but she shirked no
whit of her responsibility. She arranged with the president of the
college for filling the pulpit during her father's absence, and he
acceded to her request with hearty good will.

"If I can't get anybody else, I'll do it myself. So get that off your
mind right away. As a matter of fact, I have quite a few things I'd
like to tell the people in this town, but I never had the courage to
do it with your father's kindly eyes upon me. But with him out of the
road, I surely will relieve my feelings."

Miss Carlton promised not only freely, but fulsomely, to come and
chaperon the younger girls during the week the others were in Chicago.
And Mr. Artman was argued into accepting their friend's kindly offer in
a way that was scientific to the highest degree.

On the morning he took train for Chicago Doris and Rosalie, with their
shabby bags, were tucked into MacCammon's car among his portfolios and
manuscripts. Curiously enough, Doris insisted on sitting in the back
seat alone.

"Please," she said, when MacCammon and Rosalie both protested. "I am
so tired and fidgety. When I am in front I sit up straight and watch
the road every minute. But in the back I can settle down and rest. Let
Rosalie sit in front, she likes to watch the road and get excited, and
squeal when you spin on the corners."

Rosalie and MacCammon eyed each other grimly when Doris slipped into
her chosen place without waiting for the help of a friendly hand.

"The bishop," whispered MacCammon ominously.

"The bishop your grandmother," thought Rosalie, turning around to
squint thoughtfully at her sister.

The first twenty-five miles were traversed in absolute silence,
MacCammon driving with grim and rigid energy, Rosalie looking through
half-closed lids reflectively into space, Doris crouching in the corner
of the back seat alone.

Thirty-five miles--and then MacCammon laughed suddenly.

"Hang the bishop," he said in a low voice.

Rosalie laughed with him. "You can't hang him--it isn't orthodox."

"Burn him at the stake then. She hasn't-- Anyhow, I don't--I am not
going to get cold feet yet-- That-- There is no reason--"

"Faint heart," scoffed Rosalie.

"All right, I am game. Suppose you drive a while." Turning to Doris,
he said, "Rosalie is going to drive a while, and I am coming back to
help hold down the back seat. Don't argue. You know very well the back
seat is too bumpy for one little light girl by herself. You need not
hurry, Rosalie," he said, surrendering the wheel. "Doris is cross, and
I have to reason with her. It takes time. You need not listen unless
you particularly wish."

He got into the back seat serenely enough, and looked astonished when
Doris withdrew to the farthest corner of the roomy seat.

"What is the matter? Does the seat slope over to that corner? That is a
shame, I must have it fixed." And he sat down very comfortably in the
middle of the seat, where Doris could not possibly keep the hem of her
gown from touching him, nor even her rigid elbow, though it plainly was
her desire.

Rosalie drove with a nicety of concentration that was most commendable,
but Doris was stiffly mute to his overtures. And in spite of his
persistent and determined tender chaffing, he was really calling down
anathemas on the head of the offending bishop by the time they reached
Aurora.

"Let's find a place to eat. I am hungry. I have done a hard day's work.
Digging ditches has nothing on that," he said to Rosalie.

She nodded sympathetically. "Think well before it is too late," she
warned. "Women are always like that--they go by spells. Sometimes they
are and then sometimes they are not."

"Chiefly they are not, I perceive," he said doggedly. "She liked me
well enough while I remained a mystery."

"Well, of course--"

"If you say bishop to me again I'll stone you," He cried, and Rosalie
only laughed.

By this time Doris had finished patting her hair before the small
mirror in her bag, and joined them quietly. But she was not hungry,
she drank two cups of very strong coffee--and Mr. MacCammon suddenly
was not hungry either. Rosalie munched comfortably through six courses
and when she reached her ice-cream and macaroons she told MacCammon he
might run along and get the gas if he liked while she was finishing,
which he promptly did. As soon as he was gone she looked at her sister
slyly.

"General--I--may I confide something--in you?"

Doris stiffened instantly, and turned a frigid face that way. "Yes,"
she said somberly, "go on, let's get it over with. I have been
expecting it for some time."

A mischievous smile darted to Rosalie's eyes, but the shielding lashes
hid it. "I--Do you think I am too young to fall in love?"

"No," said Doris desperately, "I do not. I don't think anybody is too
young, or too old, or--anything."

"Age has nothing to do with love, has it?"

"No, age hasn't, nor brains, nor sense, nor dignity, nor--sometimes I
think even _religion_ hasn't anything to do with love."

"Of course I may be mistaken--"

"No chance."

"But he is so dear and nice, and though he has not proposed--still I
know he is infatuated with me--and when he finishes school--he is a
senior now, you know, and then he can marry if he likes."

Doris looked up, a sudden shining through the clouds. "He--what?"

"He graduates this year. He is a senior. But we are not engaged, not by
any means. Only sometimes I think maybe I am not too young to fall in
love. Bob Alden, you know."

Doris leaned weakly back in her chair.

"Are you joking?" she whispered with dry lips.

"Oh, Doris, I wouldn't do such a thing."

"Am I just imagining things or--"

"Yes, I think you are."

"Oh, Rosalie, you bad little girl, what have you done? I really
believe Mr. MacCammon likes you."

"Likes me! Ye gods, aren't some folks blind? I can always tell when men
are stuck on me long before they can tell it themselves, but some folks
are so slow. You are a stupid girl, Doris, I have no patience with you.
Poor dear Mr. MacCammon and the bishop, too--both of them--I think it
is downright reprehensible, to dangle a bishop and a psychological
philosopher at the same time. I wouldn't do such a thing."

Doris glimmered softly, the old Doris struggling weakly but jubilantly
back to her own again.

"Oh, Rosalie, don't talk about the bishop," she said.

MacCammon was waiting for them at the car, with several magazines and
boxes of candy on hand to help give the car a professionally touring
appearance. And after the chill fog of the last week, Doris came to
him, gleaming and glowing.

"I am all rested now," she said, smiling tremulously. "Please, Mr.
Wizard, may I ride in front?"

He looked at her in astonishment more utterly blank than ever. Then he
looked helplessly at Rosalie, humming brightly to herself as she picked
out the largest box of candy to take with her into the back seat.

"Can you beat that? They are, and then they aren't. And when you just
about get your mind made up that they aren't, and no use to talk about
it, all of a sudden they are. And nobody ever knows why, or how it
happened."

"What are you talking about?" asked Doris curiously.

"Psychology, dear Doris. Please get in quickly--yes, here in front--oh,
this seat slopes toward the middle, does it? Fine! Well, as I was
saying, do you think I'd better tie you in before you decide you
aren't? And as for psychology, there is no such thing--not in a world
that has women."

It did seem rather heartless to be so ecstatically happy when
poor dear father was having such trouble, but then, Doris thought
philosophically, that is what religion is for--to make us happy even
in spite of our grief.

The rest of the ride was wonderful, through such gloriously beautiful
country, and as for the dust--it was nothing, and the car ran like
velvet, and almost before they knew it they were settled in their
little borrowed apartment, laughing at the tininess of it, and getting
ready for MacCammon, who had gone to break his presence to his friend.

He came for them at six o'clock and took them out to dinner with him,
ordering the dishes so carefully and with such sweet regard for their
youthful appetites--but after all, they could not eat, for the shadow
of the operation was settling upon them. Yet how much better it was to
be here in the big city within reach of father's kindly hand than to be
away off in the manse quivering with the anxiety of what they did not
know and could not guess, with only telegraph wires to link them each
to each?

It seemed MacCammon would never be done with that sickening apple
pie, but after an endless time they were really tripping softly,
breathlessly, along the hall of the hospital in the wake of the
"rubber-soled nurse," as Rosalie naughtily christened her. And there
was father sitting alone in a white room, his eyes bandaged closely. He
knew they were there before they spoke, and held out his hands to them,
warmly impulsive. And they sat on the arms of his chair and petted the
opposite sides of his head, and talked quietly and sensibly, as if the
operation were nothing at all.

But almost immediately the door opened again, and a man-- Yes, a
minister-- That blessed bishop, of course--MacCammon glared at him-- How
long the fellow was holding Doris' hand!-- Right before her father--and
Doris was letting him!-- Well, couldn't he see that Rosalie was there,
too--and a stranger?

"Your father said you would be here, so I stayed to speak to you."

"Yes, and I came, too, Bishop," said Rosalie brightly. "You must not
overlook me."

MacCammon blessed her for the words. For the bishop dropped Doris' hand
hurriedly and turned to her-- What in the world could the church be
thinking of, to have bishops as young as that?

"I do not believe he's as old as I am, and I am not old at all,"
thought MacCammon resentfully. "And they call him a father in the
church. What are we coming to, anyhow?"

Doris was back at her father's side now, where she belonged, and
MacCammon was being introduced to the bishop. They sized each other up
very frankly.

"I'll bet he resents me as much as I do him, that's some satisfaction,"
MacCammon thought with boyish relish. "And I brought her up, too, all
that long way--that will cut."

They did not stay very long--a gentle movement of the rubber-soled
one's eyebrow hurried their departure.

The bishop could not accept MacCammon's invitation to come with them
in the car, because he had his own little runabout. But wouldn't Miss
Doris come with him for a run through the park, and along the lake
front? MacCammon held his breath. Would she?

Doris put out her hand, quietly but cordially. "I know you will excuse
me to-night, Bishop. I do not feel like talking, or--anything--just
like going home quietly with Rosalie to think."

Never had MacCammon loved her as he did at that moment. The bishop
walked down with her to the car and opened the back door for the girls.

"But it is my turn to sit in front," said Doris, smiling faintly. "We
think it would be unfair to let Mr. MacCammon sit alone when he is
driving us. And Rosalie and I always have each other, you know."

So the bishop had to help her into the car--MacCammon's car--and into
the front seat with MacCammon himself, and the bishop had to stand on
the curb while they drove off. No wonder MacCammon was whistling softly
to himself. With Doris out of the question, the bishop was a nice
enough fellow, clean, clear-cut, straightforward--but with Doris in
the question he was an eternal nuisance and a bore. And MacCammon could
never get Doris out of his questions any more.

"Will you come up?" she asked as they drew up beside the apartment.

"Not to-night," he said softly. "But thank you for asking." She had
not asked the bishop. "To-night you girls must run straight to bed
and rest, and I will come for you to go with me in the morning. No,
you must not try to cook until the operation is over. I will eat with
you after that to even up. I know a grand place for hot cakes and
sirup--very close. Good night, Rosalie, you are a good little scout,"
he called, as she started up the stairs. Then he drew Doris into a
shadowy corner and said, "You must not worry, Doris. Rosalie is taking
this better than you are. Hasn't your religion taught you that things
work out just right for--men--like your father--who are whole-souled
and pure-minded?"

"Christians, you mean," said Doris, smiling at his evident desire to
avoid the tone of preaching. "Yes, I know. I do believe that things
will come right eventually, and I do not worry--much. But father is too
good to suffer, and be hurt. It should have been some one else."

"Oh, Doris, don't you know that your father will have more tenderness
and more gentleness for all sickness and all suffering, after he
himself has suffered? Before this, he has _spoken_ kindness. Now
he will _live_ it. It takes the ultimate caress of pain to give us
understanding."

Doris moved her hands softly in his.

"Yes, you must go." He put his arms around her, and her face fell
against his shoulder. "Go, dear Doris, and dream of sweet and lovely
things--your father strong and well and tenderer than ever--and dream
of me, not very good, I know, but--very fond of you. And please forget
the bishop."

Doris laughed at that, quickly, breathlessly. "I will, just for
to-night," she promised.

"No, for all the nights."

He kissed her hair where it curled beneath the blue motor hat, warmly,
tenderly--for somehow he felt that this night of her anxious sorrow
was not the time to press the kiss of love upon her lips, though he
knew in his heart it would not have been denied him.



CHAPTER XIV

THE DOCTOR


It seemed very terrible to the two girls to stay there quietly waiting
in their father's painfully bright room at the hospital until he was
brought back to them on the wheeled table from the operating-room. They
could not speak. Doris sat with her hands clenched tightly in her lap,
with Rosalie on the arm of the chair, leaning against her. MacCammon
stood beside the window, coming to the girls now and then to give
them reassuring pats and smiles, and then going back to the window.
Presently a nurse came in, carefully darkened the room, and put water
bottles and flannels in the bed. She smiled encouragingly at the girls,
who tried very hard to twist their lips into a semblance of good cheer
in return.

Then the table was wheeled in again, and father was slipped deftly
back into the bed, and the doctor was talking to them brightly, and
smiling.

"Just fine. Worked like a charm. Why, when I think of how that man
must have suffered for the last months-- Why, it is preposterous-- It is
downright-- Anyhow, it is over now."

The girls did not speak.

"Come on down-stairs and let's beg some coffee. It does not seem
particularly cold to-day, but you folks give me a chilly sensation."

"And leave father?" gasped Doris.

"Why not? And why do you whisper? Your father, my dear, will have a
nice quiet rest for an hour or so, and there is no reason why we should
sit here in the dark and hear him breathe. Come on, MacCammon, don't
you need a tonic?"

"Are you sure he is all right?" asked Doris, looking closely at her
father's face, showing grim and rigid in the darkened room. "He looks
very sick."

"He looks sick, my dear, but he is all right. The operation was
absolutely successful to the minutest degree. You do not think he is
going to die, do you?"

"Doctors are strange," said Rosalie in a hushed voice. "How do you know
he will come out from the anesthetic?"

"Because he is out from the danger of it now. Only he does not know it
yet. His heart is pumping away, and he is breathing normally, and in a
few hours he will be wide awake. Come now, don't argue with me. Your
father has spoiled you, I see that. I would never allow any argument,
if I had girls of my own. But I haven't any."

"Are you married?" asked Doris with some interest.

"No, I am not married. But I know how I would rear my daughters."

"Sure you do," laughed MacCammon. "So do I. All of us unmarried fellows
know all about rearing daughters. Come on, girls, we may as well go
quietly and try to live at peace with this quarrelsome creature your
father has pushed on to us."

The girls passed slowly from the room, but their faces brightened a
little when one of the nurses said:

"Don't worry. The doctor is right. The danger is all over. We do not
know yet just how fine the eyes will be--but the danger is gone. Run
along and get your coffee. Your father will sleep a long time."

"Then may we wire the girls now--that he is all right? I know they will
be anxious."

"Yes, indeed, wire them at once. Tell them there is no danger, and we
are sure the eyes will be infinitely better--certainly there will be no
more headaches and pain. And cheer up."

After the telegram was safely on its way it seemed quite natural for
the four of them to sit at a small table in the nurses' dining-room,
sipping the hot coffee, realizing that after all they were alive, and
father was nearly all right, and things were going on just the same as
before he had kissed them good-by and gone into the grim white room
that held so many terrors for them.

After their coffee the doctor took them around the hospital with him,
introducing them to ministers here and there. They smiled at a few
whom the doctor frankly pronounced cases of chronic grouch, and were
smiled at by other, very sick ones, who, the doctor declared, were
endowed with an abundant and all-pervading Christianity that kept their
dispositions riotously pleasant in spite of physical pain. And then he
invited them to come with him in his car to call on another patient of
his down the road a way--"one of the greatest living testimonies to the
efficacy of the Christian religion, because he has the most pronounced
absence of it of any one I have ever seen."

The girls hesitated, wanting to get back to their father, but he would
brook no opposition.

"He will not know you are there. He will be laughing or crying or
making love to the nurse, maybe using a little strong language on the
side, and it will be no pleasure to him to have a witness, and no
pleasure to you--and you will be a pleasure to me, so that settles it.
Come along, while you have the chance, for I shall not have time to
bother with you after to-day."

And he crowded them into his small car and carried them off to inspect
the "awfully un-Christian patient," who looked at them sharply when the
doctor presented them.

"If he told you I am an infidel, he is a liar," said the old man,
looking suspiciously at the doctor's placid face. "I was the treasurer
of a church--"

"Yes, he was," said the doctor, sniffing. "He was treasurer of a
church for three years, and now he is a millionaire. Draw your own
conclusions."

"I have been a church-member all my life."

"Yes, he has," snorted the doctor. "To the everlasting disgrace of the
church, I must admit it."

"I have contributed--"

"You have contributed to the unhappiness of more poor people than
anybody else in Chicago, and you know it," said the doctor curtly.

"If you weren't the best doctor in town I would discharge you."

"If I did not intend to bleed you out of half your fortune before you
die I would not 'tend to you another day," snapped the doctor.

The girls looked on in silent horror. MacCammon smiled appreciatively.
The patient was lying helpless under the doctor's skilful hands,
obeying his orders with child-like confidence, and the doctor
was ministering to the physical needs of the old man with tender
professional touches. But all the while the patient glared venomously
up into the doctor's face and the doctor glowered back.

"Turn over," said the doctor sharply.

"Ain't he polite?" sneered the old man. "Ain't he a perfect gentleman?"
But he did not hesitate to obey the doctor's word.

"Now turn back. I did not want anything. Just wanted to see if it would
hurt you to move. There's nothing the matter with you anyhow but an
overdose of devil germs. You've bulldozed and browbeaten so many people
for so many years that you've got a calloused heart and a calloused
soul. It gives you indigestion. That's all that ails you--spiritual
indigestion."

Doris came forward with gentle sympathy and laid a slender hand on the
man's shoulder.

"He is a bad doctor. This is no time to throw up your weaknesses, is
it?"

"Well," admitted the old man, "he is a fiend, but he is a good doctor.
All the rest gave me up to die--and he came, and operated--it was a
terrible operation on the brain--and I am nearly well. He is a good
doctor--but he is a fiend. But then, if it comes to that, I haven't
been an angel myself."

Doris could not help laughing.

"An angel. I am surprised you know the word," scoffed the doctor. "You
wouldn't recognize an angel if you ran into one. Your eyes are blind to
everything but the dollar-mark. If you ever get to Heaven, your crown
will be made up of dollar bills instead of diamonds."

"If you ever get to Heaven you won't have any crown at all. Just a
hypodermic needle to go around sticking into poor angels that trust
you, and you'll have crutches to play on 'stead of a harp."

"Well, come on, girls. You have had enough. Don't let him soak into
your dispositions."

The girls put out soft and timid hands to say good-by, and the old man
took them bashfully, blushing beneath their friendly eyes.

"If you are still alive, I shall see you Wednesday, but I have hopes,"
said the doctor.

"It would be a pleasure to die just to get away from you," shouted the
old man after him.

"Doctor, that was terrible," said Doris. "How could you do it? The poor
sick old man!"

The doctor only laughed.

"You may as well make up your mind to sitting with me," he said to
Rosalie, helping her into the front seat. "You do not seem absolutely
essential to their happiness, do you?"

"Not absolutely, no. But I tell you right now if you begin on me as you
talked to the old man, I shall fall right out and get run over. Like
him, I think death is preferable."

"Sometimes I feel that I missed my calling," said the doctor in a
genial tone. "I believe in my heart I should have been a minister."

"Oh, mercy!" gasped Rosalie.

"Why, my dear little girl, do you think I was hard on the old bird? Not
a bit of it. He told you the truth--he would have died except for me. I
have simply goaded him into strength. He lives to spite me. And I not
only brace him up physically, I am helping his soul." The doctor said
this complacently, and was greeted by derisive laughter.

"Fact, for all you may laugh. Twice since I have had him he has
extended mortgages. First time he ever did such a thing in his life.
His lawyers think he is in his dotage. The trouble with him is that he
never caught the connection between religion and business--he practised
them both, separately, and consistently. But when it came to religion
he never used his brains--he gave to everything the minister advised,
whether it was sensible or not, just because the minister advised
it--and he sat around and prayed to any old mutt of a preacher, just
because he was a reverend. No business sense about it. And then when
it came to business, he did not let his religion interfere. I am the
connecting link between his religion and his business--and I expect
to make a man of him. I think in time I shall work out his soul's
salvation. Quite seriously, I believe I would have made a cracking good
minister."

Then he took them back to the hospital and up to their father's room.
Doris stepped quickly to the bedside.

"Doris? Is it my little girl?"

"Yes, you dear father, Doris and Rosalie are here."

They sat beside the bed, one on either side, and stroked his hands
tenderly, glad tears streaming down their faces. After a time, when he
thought he could control his voice, he said:

"Girls, I am sorry--but I am quite blind. I can hear you, but I see
nothing."

"Oh, dearest," cried Doris brokenly, "of course you can't. Your eyes
are bandaged. You are not supposed to see yet. You must wait. The
operation was a perfect success."

"Why, my dear old fellow," said the doctor in an annoyed tone, "do you
think I am a miracle man? You are not supposed to step right out of the
ether into the broad light. You are a dandy, sure enough. Aren't these
preachers the limit? Growling because he can't see when he is plastered
up in ten inches of cotton."

The minister laughed, softly, happily. "It was foolish. I see it now,
of course. But it gave me a terrible jar. I was sure I was blind."

So while the girls sat beside him the doctor and MacCammon went away to
leave them alone for a while.

"The real tug will come when he gets home," said the doctor. "He has no
business to use his eyes for at least six months. He ought to play for
fully half a year. But he does not know how to play. That is the worst
of these preachers--they get so used to the grind, grind, grind, that
they can't let up. What we'll do with him for the next six months is
more than I can figure out."

"The girls will think of something. They are wonderful girls."

"Yes, very. Rosalie in particular," said the doctor.

"Doris in particular also," supplemented MacCammon quickly. "He can
preach, can't he? I imagine he will need the money."

"Yes, he can preach if he's got it in his head. He can't do any
reading."

"It will not be easy. But we can leave it to Doris all right."

"That Rosalie is a lovely girl--a beautiful girl," said the doctor
warmly.

"They both are," came quickly.

"Oh, get out. Can't you take anything impersonally? Don't come mooning
around to me. I have troubles enough of my own. I say that Rosalie
is lovelier than your Doris, has a better figure, finer hair, more
attractive features, and infinitely better eyes, and if you don't like
it, go to thunder," and the doctor went out quickly, laughing, and
slammed the door behind him.



CHAPTER XV

RISING TO THE MANSE


In answer to intense and persistent pleading on the part of Treasure
and Zee, the girls decided to remain in Chicago until their father also
returned home. It did not seem at all expensive living in the big city,
thanks partly, of course, to the continued hospitality of MacCammon
and the bishop, and the doctor, and other friends of the Presbyterian
fold. And since school was practically out anyhow, Rosalie knew she
was missing nothing except good times, and there never was a time good
enough to tempt her away from her father when he so evidently enjoyed
her presence.

It was very surprising, of course, that those unaccountable little
mischiefs at home were so happy in the presence of Miss Carlton, whom
they had never particularly admired. But since they insisted, and
since father did say it was sweet to have them with him, and since
MacCammon had developed a strange partiality for the young girls at
home, strongly seconding every suggestion they made, Doris and Rosalie
lingered in Chicago. Their father's strength returned rapidly, and
although he was kept in constant heavy shadow, there were many good and
rollicking times for all of them. And in spite of the doctor's open
declaration that he would never have time to bother with them after the
first day, he did find many, many hours to while away in their gentle
but merry presence.

"You are sure you have time? You are sure there is nobody clamoring for
you to come and cut them to pieces?" Rosalie would say sweetly.

And the doctor was always comfortably and confidently sure.

And when at last the day came for getting ready to return home he hung
around the little apartment sitting on things they wished to pack and
getting in the way of suit-cases and bags that needed to be moved,
seeming quite to forget that he was a famous surgeon and that people
were waiting patiently for him to wield his knife.

"If anybody urged me particularly I think I'd take a day off and go
home with you. Your father may need attention when he gets there, and I
need a vacation, and I could come back on the night train. But nobody
thinks of inviting me, of course."

"Please come," said Doris promptly.

"I won't invite you," said MacCammon pointedly. "The girls think you
are responsible for saving their father's eyes--though anybody else
could have done it just as well--and when you are around nobody pays
any attention to me at all. So I think you'd better stay in Chicago,
where you belong."

"There you are--isn't that gratitude for you?"

"Don't mind him," said Doris. "I am the General. Do as I say."

He looked hopefully at Rosalie.

"They sit in the front seat and entertain themselves," she said, "and
never bother about me alone in the rear. I invite you to come and sit
with me, and let's not say a word to them all the way home."

He accepted that invitation immediately and rushed off to make
arrangements to keep his patients alive until his return.

Zee had insisted most strongly that the whole family should arrive
home at the same identical minute, and not come stringing in all day,
keeping them upset, and MacCammon, with his usual loyalty to her, said
flatly it must be done.

"It can't be done," protested Doris. "The doctor will not let father go
in the car, and how can we get there the same minute?"

"We shall start early in the morning, and your father will go on
the noon train. Then we shall plan to get to town just exactly at
two-twenty-seven, meet the train, pick your father up bodily, and carry
him home in triumph."

"It can't be done."

"If Zee says, 'Do it,' it shall be done," said MacCammon decidedly.
"Her confidence in me must not be shattered. We leave this town at
eight-thirty to-morrow--allowing time for blowouts and quarrels en
route. And if we see we are getting in early, we'll stop beneath a big
tree outside of town and point out the scenery to the doctor, who does
not know anything about any kind of scenery except bones and skin."

"But father--"

"Oh, the bishop can get him on the train and start him home. That's all
bishops are good for," said MacCammon imperturbably. And he made the
arrangement himself to the intense delight of Rosalie, who giggled at
his elbow all the time he was discussing the plan with the bishop.

Then came the long lovely ride home, Doris and MacCammon blissfully
content in the front seat, and the doctor taking a most unprofessional
interest in Rosalie's softness and girlishness and gurgliness in the
tonneau.

"Oh, Rosalie," Doris said to her teasingly when they were in the
dressing-room at the hotel "smoothening up" for luncheon. "Oh, Rosalie,
dear, do you still--er--wonder if you are too young to fall in
love--with a senior?"

Rosalie laughed brightly. "I have decided, Mr. General, that I am not
too young to fall in love with--anybody." And then she added, "But I
know now that seniors are quite too awfully young to be fallen in love
with--Bob Alden, for instance--why, he is a perfect infant!"

Surely enough, they had a long wait under the maples just outside of
town, and MacCammon persisted in pointing out the different grains
coming up in the fields around them, and the different birds flitting
in the branches, and the different flowers nodding by the roadside--to
the intense annoyance of the doctor, who said openly he did not care
two cents about grains and birds and flowers, and very much preferred
to concentrate on other things that interested him more.

Then came the last flying rush to the station, where father was met and
welcomed as though he had not been seen only a few hours before, and
they sped quickly to the manse.

"Do hurry," Doris begged. "I know they have a surprise for us, and I
can't wait."

The surprise was evident as soon as they entered the door. For all the
manse was softly, sweetly shaded, with silky green and rose-colored
curtains before every window. Every light was covered with dainty
shades of the same soft colors. There was no glare, no bright splashes
of light, no gleam, from any corner.

The doctor himself removed the heavy goggle glasses from their father's
eyes.

"This can't hurt anybody," he declared. "It is charming. Look around,
man."

"Why, you dear little girls," said Mr. Artman. "Did you do this for me?"

"For all of us," said Treasure. "We knew it would make us all happy if
you could be right in the home with us, and comfortable, not shut up by
yourself in a dark room alone up-stairs, and so we did it for the whole
family."

"Where is Miss Carlton?" asked Doris.

"She left yesterday," said Zee. "We wanted to have the house to
ourselves."

"But wherever did you get the money?" wondered Doris.

"Ladies' Aid," they shouted triumphantly. "We were going to do it with
cheaper stuff out of our allowance--but when they heard about it they
chipped in--and, oh, how we have worked." Zee danced about on joyous
toes. "And the house cleaning is all done--and come up-stairs and see
father's room."

There was not even a white coverlet on the bed in his room, only the
very palest and softest of colors--and upholstering on the chairs in
deep green tones--even the paper on the wall was changed.

"Whoever in the world--" gasped Doris.

"Bangs and the Corduroy Crab," exulted Zee. "They worked and worked,
and made the whole room over. Isn't the Curious Cat a darling not to
tell you? He knew it all the time."

Doris held out her hand to him impulsively, and he took it, and kept it
in his.

"And that isn't all--sit down, everybody," cried Zee nervously. "We
haven't half shown you everything. Sit down, and-- You tell it,
Treasure, your part comes next."

"You tell it, Zee, you talk more--I mean better, than I do."

"Well," began Zee, nothing loath, perching herself on her father's
knee and beaming around on them like a fairy godmother, "you see when
we first knew about father's eyes, and Doris and Rosalie were doing
everything for father, we felt just terribly badly, because we couldn't
do anything, and we felt so useless, we just hated to be alive. And so
we talked to our nice old Cat--"

"Zee!"

"It is a compliment, Mr. MacCammon," she said, smiling on him warmly.
"And between the three of us we figured and schemed--for we were
determined to do our share, and--and--come up to the manse, you know.
We wanted to rise to the--the occasion with the rest of you, even if we
are young and usually in trouble. And so guess what Treasure did."

"Tell us," begged Doris.

"Nobody can ever tell what either of you ever did," said Rosalie.

"Well, she began going to domestic science classes, hours and hours and
hours. And when Miss Carlton was here, they worked every minute, both
of them, like--like dogs--cooking and baking, and learning stuff, and
Treasure is a perfectly wonderful cook--better than Doris herself. She
can cook anything in the world, and bake bread, and--she can cook the
whole meal, all by herself, and she loves it, and she is going to do it
all the time after this, so Doris will have more time for father, and
to help with the church, and to--entertain Mr. MacCammon, and so forth."

"Honestly?"

"Wait till dinner, and you shall see."

"And, father," began Treasure gently, "you know I do not care for
school much, and now I have finished high school, I thought maybe you
would not make me go to college. I can't teach or anything. I am too
afraid to get up before folks, and--won't you please let me stay at
home and be your cook, and just study music, and a few little things
like that?"

"Why, Treasure!"

"Well, think it over," said Zee. "It is open for consideration anyhow."

"Tell about your part, Zee."

"Oh, mine is not important," said Zee, "the cooking is the big job."

"It is, too, important," cried Treasure indignantly. "Poor little Zee
has been darning and mending every minute for the last month--and her
fingers are all pricked up, and she got so tired of it--but she can do
it just fine, and she is going to all the rest of the time--and she
and I have been making beds and sweeping, and we are awfully smart at
it--if we do say so ourselves--and so, Miss General, you are out of a
job. Zee and I take the whole house."

"But what am I to do?" asked Doris dazedly.

MacCammon squeezed her fingers suggestively, but Doris could not or
would not get the message.

"You are to play with father, and call on the sick," said Zee glibly.
"We've got it all figured out. You and father and Rosalie are to play
all summer, go camping, and fishing and hunting--and go driving around
the country to conventions and chautauquas, and--and--everything."

"Oh, that blessed car," said Doris. "Oh, dear Mr. Davison, how good and
kind he was."

"Doris will have Mr. Davison haloed before long. He has grown
constantly better since the day of his death."

"It taught me a lesson, Rosalie. I never believed there was any good in
that man at all--but now I know there must have been a divine spark in
him all the time, and maybe if we had not been so sure he was no good,
we might have fanned the spark a little before he died. I feel guilty
about Mr. Davison--my conscience hurts."

"But, girls, you are so young--" protested Mr. Artman.

"Just try us, father, that is all. We've got the goods--you watch us
deliver," cried Zee, and for once Doris did not reprove her for the
slang.

"There does not seem much need for a minister here, then," he said,
laughing. "With Rosalie taking my Sunday-school class, and Doris
selecting my sermons, and both of them looking up references--what is
the use of having a preacher?"

"You must still listen to the troubles, and weep with the sad, and
rejoice with the gay--and you must still do the marrying and the
burying and the baptizing," said Rosalie quickly.

Treasure and Zee nudged each other, and giggled ecstatically. For they
knew what the others did not--that in all the loyal little church there
was a covenant of joy passing around from one to another. "Let's go to
him in gladness, rather than in complaint," was the new byword. And the
people were storing up bits of happiness to take to him from day to
day, little triumphs of business, spicy portions of humor and fun--and
the daily annoyances and the petty grievances were being pushed aside
and forgotten. For in time of stress and calamity, the heart of the
church beats true. Of course, when sorrow comes, it is the minister's
portion to enter into the innermost recesses of the soul, for that
is his inalienable right, as pastor of human hearts, and no physical
weakness of his own can weaken his fount of sympathy and tenderness.

But because they loved him, all the church was learning to look up,
and laugh. And somehow it made worship sweeter when there was joy and
gratitude and faith among them and they were lifted out of the narrow
circle of self.

No wonder, then, that Mr. Artman, in the soft light of the room that
had been his sanctuary for years, with his baby girls in his arms, and
with the two strong radiant daughters standing near him, felt that the
manse was a place of benediction and of peace.

"I used to wonder--if I could rear my girls alone," he said, smiling,
though his voice was tremulous. "There were so many problems--and it
was hard to see if we were coming out just right--I used to wonder if I
knew enough to handle it."

Zee patted his shoulder reassuringly. "We never doubted it, father,"
she said, in a most maternal voice.

"Of course, we had lots of trouble, father, getting grown up," said
Treasure. "But you might know that when the time came--we would be--"

"There with the goods," put in Zee impishly.

"We just naturally rose to the standard of the manse," said the General
grandly.

MacCammon had not released his hold of Doris' hand, and now he drew her
outside the room and closed the door.

"Doris," he said, "I can't wait any longer. I am afraid the bishop
might send a telegram, or come flying in by aeroplane. And I want
to make sure of belonging to this family right away. You are
wonderful--all of you--the whole family."

"It is the manse," said Doris, smiling. "It keeps us up, and coming. We
have to live up to it."

"It is the manse, partly, perhaps," he said, "but it is mostly--"

"I know--it is mostly father. Nobody could doubt that. Did you ever see
a father like him?"

"I never did, and I never saw a Doris like you. Please excuse me,
dearest, for making you think of me, when your heart is full of your
father, and your sisters, and your manse--but I love you very much.
When your father's eyes are strong and well, and when Rosalie has
finished college, and when Treasure is really ready for promotion to a
captaincy--then will you come and make me happy?"

Doris flushed warmly, and lifted her eyes to his face, looking steadily
at him.

"Do not think it is just selfishness, dearest, my trying to intrude on
your sacred hour of coming home, but--"

"You could not intrude," she said softly. "For you belong in the
home-coming. It would not be coming home at all if you were not here."

Her lips were quivering, and the tears rushed to her eyes as he put his
arms around her.

After a time, Zee opened the door and whirled out upon them.

"Mercy!" she said. "I was coming after you. Father wants everybody to
be right there every minute."

"I know now there never was any chance for the bishop," said MacCammon,
smiling. "Oh, the poor bishop! That bad little Rosalie was just scaring
me."

"That bad little Rosalie is turning out to be a great and glorious
girl," said Doris proudly. "Isn't she? And to think we used to call
her the awful Problem of the manse."

"That bad little Rosalie is turning out a perfectly grand and glorious
girl because she had a sweet wise sister to solve the awful problems
for her. I know, for she told me herself."

Zee, leaning patiently against the wall, held up a respectful hand as
though to a teacher in school.

"May I speak now, please? Father wants his General to take charge."

"Zee, I hope you approve of me for a brother-in-law, for it won't do
any good if you do not. It is all settled, and you may as well be
pleased."

"Oh, Doris," wailed Zee, suddenly tearful. "Not really."

"Why, Zee," cried Doris, shocked at her intensity of grief. "Why, Baby!
I will be here a long, long time yet--and never far away."

"Oh, and I haven't a cent to my name. I spent all I had, and all I
could borrow, on those curtains in father's room."

"Oh, cheer up--you won't need to buy a wedding present yet a while. We
won't hurry you. Your I.O.U. is good with us."

"It is not that, goosie," said Zee with lofty scorn. "But Treasure and
I bet a dollar on it--and I picked the bishop--I never dreamed that
Doris would go back on us preachers--and now I haven't got the dollar."

"Serves you right," said MacCammon grimly. "I am glad you lost. And
you can't get a loan out of me. If you had bet on me, I'd give you the
dollar and tickled to death."

"Come on back to father," said Zee, struggling heroically to rise to
the heights required. "This is father's day. I may be bankrupt, and
ruined, and facing degradation, and all that--but I can still scare up
a smile for him."


THE END



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