Evelyn Raymond.

Dorothy's House Party





Surely a man must be out of his mind to fasten such names on two such innocents! But they must be taken elsewhere. Deerhurst must not become a receptacle for all the cast-off burdens of humanity. I must go ask Bryan all he knows about the case, said Mr. Seth, as soon as he had recovered his gravity.

But Dorothy nodded toward the great clock and with a frown he observed the hour. If they were to make ready for their long drive to church, yet be in time for the beginning of the service, they must be making ready, so he consented:

I dont suppose any great mischief can be done by their remaining here till we get back; but

Why not take them with us, Teacher? asked Alfaretta. We could take one in the lander with us. Her tone was as complacent as if the vehicle in question were her own and her head was tossed as she waited for his reply.

But it was Dorothy who forestalled him and her decision was so sensible he did not oppose it:

Beg pardon, Mr. Seth, but I think we would better take them. If we leave them they may get into mischief and the servants have enough to do without worrying with them. Theyre so little we can tuck them into the big wagon with us and it wont hurt even babies to go to church. But I wonder which is which! Now theyve moved around and changed places I cant tell which is Ananias and which Sapphira! Poor little kiddies, to be named after liars!

I know. This one has a kink in its hair the other one hasnt. I think it was Sapphira. Or was it Ananias? Baby, which are you?

Neither child replied. They clung each to the other and stared at this too inquisitive Molly Breckenridge with the disconcerting stare of childhood, till she turned away and gathering a handful of biscuits from the table bade them sit down and eat. She forbade them to drop a single crumb and they were obedient even to absurdity.

A half-hour later the three vehicles were at the door and the happy guests made haste to take the places allotted them; the big wagon following last, with Luna smilingly, yet in a half-frightened clutch of Dorothy, sitting on the comfortable back seat. Mr. Seth had lifted her bodily into the wagon and she had submitted without realizing what was happening to her till the wagon began to move. Then she screamed, as if in terror, and hid her face on Dollys shoulder.

Doan take he. Peahs lak shes done afeered o ridin. Nebah min, Miss Dothy. Some yo lads jes han he down to Dinah and shell be tooken ca ob, scusin dey is a big dinnah in de way an half de heps Sunday out. Han er down!

However, without physical force this was not to be done. When Jim strove to lift her, as he might easily have done in his strong arms, she clung the closer to her little hostess and screamed afresh. So he gave up the attempt and turned his attention to the twins, the last arriving members of this famous House Party.

There was no reluctance about them not the slightest.

They were fairly dancing with impatience and Ananias or was it Sapphira? was already attempting to enter the wagging by way of climbing up the nigh horses leg, while her or his mate clung to the spokes of the forward wheel, wholly ready to be whirled around and around with its forward progress.

Evidently, these babies arent afraid to ride! cried Dorothy, laughing yet half-frightened over the little creatures boldness. Please set them right on the bottom, between your knees and Littlejohns, Mr. Seth! Then theyll be safe. And there, Luna dear, poor Luna, you see were off at last and isnt it just lovely?

Luna made no more response than usual but her hidden face sank lower and more heavily upon Dorothys shoulder, till, presently, she was sound asleep. Then Mike Martin climbed back over the seats to the spot and deftly placed his own cushion behind the sleepers head. Dolly thanked him with a smile but wondered to see him stare at the sleepers face with that puzzled expression on his own. Then he scratched his head and asked in a whisper:

Can you tell who she looks like? Terrible familiar, somehow, but cant guess. Can you?

Dorothy shook her head.

No, Ive never seen another like her. I hope I never will.

If we could think, we might find her folks and you could get rid of her, continued the lad.

I dont know as Im so anxious to be rid of her. I do believe shes happy happier than when she came and Look out! If the wagon goes over another thank-ye-ma-am and youre still standing up youll likely be pitched over into the road. My! But the horses are in fine fettle this morning!

A fresh jolt made Mike cling fast to escape the accident she suggested and he returned to his place, riding on the uncushioned seat as cheerfully as any knight errant of old. Dorothy was his ideal of a girl. She had taught him the difference between bravery and bullying and she had been his inspiration in the task to which he had pledged himself to be a peacemaker on the mountain. Once, her coolness and courage had saved his life, and on that day he had promised to fulfil her desire, to bridge the enmity between south-side and north-side. His methods had not always been such as Dorothy would have approved but the result was satisfactory. In school and out of it, peace prevailed on the Heights, and Mike Martin was a nobler boy himself because of his efforts to make others noble.

There was a little stir of excitement in the small country church when Seth Winters and his following of young folks entered it, and by mere force of numbers so impressing the ushers that the very front pews were vacated in their behalf, although the farrier protested against this. However, he wasnt sorry to have his company all together, and motioned Dorothy into the same pew with himself, and to a place directly under the pulpit. Into this, also, they led the still drowsy Luna, Dorothy gently settling her in the corner with her head resting upon the pews back, and here she slept on during most of the service. Here, also, they settled the twins, but could not avoid seeing the curious and amused glances cast upon this odd pair as they trotted up the aisle in Dorothys wake.

Two peas in a pod, whispered one farmers wife to her seat neighbor.

Whered they pick up two such little owls? Theyre all eyes and solemn as the parson himself, but them ridiculous clothes! My heart! What wont fashionable folks do next, to make their youngsters look different from ours! returned the other. Nobody guessed that the funny little creatures were an accidental addition to the House Party; and after the strangers were settled nobody was further concerned with them.

The service began and duly proceeded. The singing was congregational and in it all the young people joined, making the familiar hymns seem uncommonly beautiful to the hearers; and it was not till the sermon was well under way that anything unusual happened to divert attention. Then there came a soft yet heavy patter on the uncarpeted aisle and two black animals stalked majestically forward and seated themselves upon their haunches directly beneath the pulpit. With an air of profound interest they fixed their eyes upon the speaker therein and, for an instant, disconcerted even that self-possessed orator.

Ponce and Peter! Aunt Bettys Great Danes! However has this happened! thought poor Dorothy, unable quite to control a smile yet wofully anxious lest the dogs should create a disturbance. However, nothing happened. The Danes might have been regular worshipers in the place for all notice was accorded them by the well trained congregation; and after they were tired of watching the minister the animals quietly stretched themselves to sleep.

Their movement and the prodigious yawn of one had bad results. The twins had been having their own peaceful naps upon the kneeling bench at Mr. Seths feet, but, now, with the suddenness native to them, awoke, discovered the dogs, and leaped out of the pew into the aisle. There they flung themselves upon the dogs with shrieks of delight. It was as if they had found old friends and playmates as later developments proved to be true.

Poor Mr. Winters stared in consternation. He detested a scene but saw one imminent; and how to get both dogs and babies out of that sacred place without great trouble he could not guess. But Dorothy put her hand on his arm and gently patted it. She, too, was frightened but she trusted the animals instincts; she was right. After a moments sniffing of the twins, they quietly lay down again and the twins did likewise! and though they did not go to sleep again they behaved well enough, until growing impassioned with his own eloquence the speaker lifted his voice loudly and imploringly.

That was a sound they knew. Up sprang one and shouted: Amen! and up sprang the other and echoed him!

The minister flushed, stammered, and valiantly went on; but he never reached the climax of that sermon. Those continually interrupting groans and Amens! uttered in that childish treble, were too much for him. A suppressed titter ran over the whole congregation, in which all the Deerhurst party joined though they strove not to do so; and amid that subdued mirth the clergyman brought his discourse to a sudden end.

The benediction spoken there was a rush for the door, in which the Great Danes and the twins led; riotously tumbling over one another, barking and squealing, while the outpouring congregation stepped aside to give them way.

Happy-hearted Seth Winters had rarely felt so annoyed or mortified, while Dorothys face was scarlet even though her lips twitched with laughter. These two lingered in their places till the clergyman descended from his pulpit and prepared to leave the church. Then they advanced and offered what apologies they could; the farrier relating in few words the story of the morning and disclaiming any knowledge as to the identity of the twins or how the dogs had been set loose.

Dont mention it. Of course, I could see that it was accidental, and it isnt of the slightest consequence. Doubtless I had preached as long as was good for my hearers and I wish you good morning, said the minister, smiling but rather hastily moving away.

Mr. Winters also bowed and followed his party out of doors. But he wasnt smiling, not in the least; and it was a timid touch Dorothy laid upon his arm as she came to the big wagon to take her place for the drive home. He looked down at her, and at sight of tears in her eyes, his anger melted.

There, there, child, dont fret! It was one of those unavoidable annoyances that really amount to nothing yet are so hard to bear. Here, let me swing you up. But we must get rid of those youngsters! Sabbath day or not I shall make it my business so to do at the earliest possible moment. By the way, where are they now?

For a moment nobody could say, though the Deerhurst wagons waited while the lads searched and all the regular congregation departed to their homes. Then called Mabel from her seat of honor in the landau:

Dolly Doodles, whilst were waiting we might as well eat our lunch.

For once Mabels greediness served her neighbors a good purpose. Mr. Seth promptly replied, with something like a wink in Dorothys direction:

Couldnt do better. Theres the church well, too, a famous one, from which to quench our thirst. Theres an old saying that Meal time brings all rogues home and likely the presence of food may attract our little runaways. Indeed, Ive half a mind to leave them behind, any way. Pass them on to the world at large as that old man passed them on to us.

To this there was protest from every side, even Alfaretta declaring she had never heard of such a heartless thing! But she need not have feared, and Dorothy certainly did not. She knew the big heart of her old friend too well; and producing the basket of sandwiches she went about offering them to all.

Nobody declined although Monty triumphantly exclaimed:

We havent any right to be so hungry for an hour yet, cause if the dogs hadnt come to church wed have been kept in that much longer. Then still munching a sandwich he set about to bring water for all, in the one tin dipper that hung by the well, the other lads relieving him from time to time.

They were all so merry, so innocently happy under the great trees which bordered the church grounds, that the Master grew happy, too, watching and listening to them and forgot the untoward incident of the service; even forgot, for a moment, that either twins or dogs existed. Then, after both fruit and sandwich baskets had been wholly emptied and all had declared they wanted no more water, the cavalcade prepared to move; Dorothy begging:

Can Luna and I sit on the front seat, with Littlejohn driving, going back? See, shes no longer afraid and I always do love to ride close to the horses.

Very well. Here goes then, answered Mr. Seth gently lifting Luna wholly unresisting now and placidly smiling to the place desired while Dolly swiftly sprang after. Then the others seated themselves and Ephraim cracked his whip, the landau leading as befitted its grandeur.

Then there were shrieks for delay. From Molly Breckenridge at first, echoed by piping little tongues as the lost twinses came into sight. Over the stone wall bordering the road leaped Ponce and Peter, dripping wet and shaking their great bodies vigorously, the while they yelped and barked in sheer delight. Behind them Ananias and Sapphira, equally wet, equally noisy, equally rapturous, and beginning at once to climb into the richly cushioned landau as fast as their funny little legs would permit.

Then came another shriek as, rather than let her beautiful clothes be smirched by contact with the drenched children, Mabel Bruce drew her skirts about her, gave one headlong leap to the ground, and fell prone.

CHAPTER VIII
CONCERNING VARIOUS MATTERS

The laughter which rose to the lips of some of the observers was promptly checked as they saw that the girl lay perfectly still in the dust where she had fallen, making no effort to rise, and unconscious of her injured finery.

Shed better have kep still an let em wet her, said Alfy, nudging Jane Potter.

She aint gettin up because she cant, answered Jane and sprang out of the landau, to kneel beside the prostrate girl; then to look up and cry out: Shes hurt! Shes dreadful hurt!

Unhappy Mr. Winters set his teeth and his lips were grim. If ever Im so misguided as to engineer another young folks House Party, I hope

He didnt express this hope but stooped and with utmost tenderness lifted Mabel to her feet. She had begun to rally from the shock of her fall and opened her eyes again, while the pallor that had banished her usual rosiness began to yield to the returning circulation. Already many hands were outstretched to help, some with the dipper from the well, others with dripping wooden plates whereon their luncheon had been packed. Mabel pushed the plates aside, fretfully, explaining as soon as she could speak:

If that gets on my clothes theyre so dusty Oh! what made me Oh! oh! A-ah!

Then she began to laugh and cry alternately, as the misfortune and its absurdity fully appeared, and Helena saw that the girl was fast becoming hysterical. Evidently, in their wearers eyes, the beautiful frock now so badly smirched and the white gloves which had split asunder in her fall were treasures beyond compute, and Helena herself loved pretty clothes. She felt a keen sympathy in that and another respect she had suffered from hysteria and always went prepared for an emergency. Stepping quietly to Mabels side, she waved aside the other eager helpers, saying:

Im going to ride back in the landau, Alfy, please take my place in the cart. Here, Mabel, swallow a drop of this medicine. Twill set you right at once.

Her movements and words were as decided as they were quiet and Mabel unconsciously obeyed. She submitted to be helped back into the carriage and as Helena took the empty seat beside her, Ephraim drove swiftly away.

Thus ignored the dripping twins stared ruefully after the vanishing vehicle and Mr. Seth looked as ruefully at them. But Molly begged:

Let them go in the cart with us. Alfys frock and mine will wash, even if they soil us. One can ride between Jim and me and Melvin and Alfy must look after the other. Lets choose. I take Ananias. I just love boys!

Be sure youve chosen one then, laughed Jim as he rather gingerly picked up one infant and placed it behind the dashboard. He had on his own Sunday attire and realized the cost of it, so objected almost as strongly as Mabel had done to contact with this well-soused youngster. Say, sonny, what made you tumble in the brook? Dont you know this is Sunday?

Yep. Didnt tumble, just went. Im no sonny; Im sissy. S-a-p sap, p-h-i began the little one, glibly and distinctly.

You cant be! You surely are Ananias! Your hair is cut exactly like a boys and you wear boys panties! Youre spelling the wrong name. Look out! What next? cried Molly anxiously, as the active baby suddenly climbed over the back of that seat to join her mate behind. There master Ananias or was it really Sapphira? cuddled down on the rug in the bottom of the cart and settled himself herself for sleep.

Neither Alfy nor Melvin interfered with these too-close small neighbors; but withdrawing to the extreme edges of the seat left them to sleep and get dry at their leisure. After that the homeward drive proceeded in peace; only Herbert calling out now and then from his place in the big wagon to make Melvin admire some particular beauty of the scene, challenging the Provincial to beat it if he could in that far away Markland of his own.

But you havent the sea! retorted Melvin, proudly.

We dont need it. We have the HUDSON RIVER! came as swiftly back; and as they had come just then to a turn in the road where an ancient building stood beneath a canopy of trees, he asked: Hold up the horses a minute, will you, Littlejohn? Id like our English friend to say if he ever saw anything more picturesque than this.

This was a more than century-old Friends meeting-house. Unpainted and shingled all over its outward surface. Old shingle-sides was its local name, and a lovelier location could not have been chosen even by a less austere body of worshipers.

Meeting had been prolonged that First Day. The hand clasp of neighbor with neighbor which signaled its close had just been given. From the doorways on either side, the mens and the womens, these silent worshipers were now issuing; the men to seek the vehicles waiting beneath the long shed and the women to gossip a moment of neighborhood affairs.

Mr. Winters was willing to rest and breathe the horses for a little, the day being warm and the drive long, and to observe with interest the decorous home-going of these Plain People; and it so chanced that the big wagon, where Dorothy sat on the front seat with Luna resting against her, halted just beside the entrance to the meeting-house grounds. From her place she watched the departing congregation with the keen interest she brought to everything; and among them she recognized the familiar outlines of George Fox, the millers fine horse; and, holding the reins over its back, Oliver Sands, the miller himself. So close he drove to the big wagon that George Foxs nose touched Littlejohns leader, and the boy pulled back a little.

Huh! Thats old Oliver in his First Day grays! But hes in the grumps. Guess the Spirit hasnt moved him to anything pleasant, by the look, he remarked to Dorothy beside him.

He does look as if he were in trouble. I dont like him. I never did. He wasnt well, nice to Father John once. But Im sorry hes unhappy. Nobody ought to be on such a heavenly day.

If Oliver saw those watching beside the gate he made no sign. His fat shoulders, commonly so erect, were bowed as if he had suddenly grown old. His face had lost its unctuous smile and was haggard with care; and for once he paid no heed to George Foxs un-Quakerlike gambols, fraught with danger to the open buggy he drew. A pale-faced woman in the orthodox attire of the birthright Friends sat beside the miller and clung to him in evident terror at the horses behavior. It was she who saw how close the contact between their own and the Deerhurst team, and her eye fell anxiously upon the two girlish figures upon the front seat of the wagon. For a girl the unknown Luna seemed, clad in the scarlet frock and hat that Dorothy had given; while Dolly, herself, clasping the little creature close lest she should be frightened looked even younger than she was.

Sisters, thought Dorcas Sands, yet not alike. Then casting a second, critical glance upon Luna she uttered a strange cry and clutched her husbands arm.

Dorcas, thee is too old for foolishness, was all the heed he paid to her gesture, and drove stolidly on, unseeing aught but his own inward perturbation which had found no solace in that mornings Meeting.





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