Margaret Penrose.

Dorothy Dale in the City





Ive lost time enough, growled Daddy. And that robe is spoiled. Next time I carry milk cans Ill get a freight car.

And the next time I take a milk beauty bath, said Tavia, Ill wear old clothes. But as Bob climbed in again, and Tavia assured him her furs were not injured, she thought of Dorothys prediction that she, Tavia, was about to have an adventure when she met Bob Niles.

Ill have something to tell Dorothy, she remarked aloud.

And Ill have news for Nat, slily said Bob.

CHAPTER V
DOROTHYS PROTEGE

Well, what do you think of that!

Well, what do you think of this!

It was Nat who spoke first, and Dorothy who echoed. They were both looking at letters from Tavia and from Bob.

I knew Bob would find her interesting, said Nat, with some irony in his tone.

And I knew she would finally like him, said Dorothy, significantly.

Bob has a way with girls, went on Nat, he always takes them slowly its the surest way.

But dont you think Tavia is very pretty? Everyone at school raves about her, Dorothy declared with unstinted pride, for Tavias golden brown hair, and matchless complexion, were ever a source of pride to her chum.

Of course shes pretty, Nat agreed. Wasnt it I who discovered her?

Dorothy laughed, and gave a lock of her cousins own brown hair a twist. She, as well as all their mutual friends, knew that Nat and Tavia were the sort of chums who grow up together and cement their friendship with the test of time.

Come to think of it, she replied, you always did like red-headed girls.

Now theres Mabel, he digressed, Mabel has hair that seems a misfit she has blue eyes and black hair. Isnt that an error?

Indeed, replied Dorothy, that is considered one of the very best combinations. Rare beauty, in fact.

Well, I hope she is on time for the Christmas-tree affair out at Sanderss, whatever shade her hair. I dont see, Doro, why you insist on going away out there to put things on that tree. Why not ask the Sunday School people to trim it? We gave the tree.

Because I promised, Nat, replied Dorothy, firmly, and because I just like to do it for little Emily. I got the very doll she ordered, and Aunt Winnie got me a lot of pretty things this morning.

Wish momsey would devote her charity to her poor little son, said the young man, drily. He is the one who needs it most!

Never mind, dear, and Dorothy put her arms around him, you shall have a dolly, too.

Heres Ned, he interrupted, I wonder if he got my skates sharpened? I asked him, but Ill wager he forgot.

The other brother, a few years Nats senior, pulled off his furlined coat, and entered the library, where the cousins were chatting.

Getting colder every minute, he declared. We had better take the cutter out to Sanderss that is, if Doro insists upon going.

Of course I do, Dorothy cried.

I wouldnt disappoint little Emily for anything. Funny how you boys have suddenly taken a dislike to going out there.

Now dont get peevish, teased Ned. We will take you, Coz, if we freeze by the wayside.

Did you get my skates? Nat asked.

Not done, the brother replied. Old Tom is busy enough for ten grinders. Expect we will have a fine race.

And I cant get in shape. Well, I wish I had taken them out to Wakefields. He would have had them done days ago. But if we are going to Sanderss, better get started. Ill call William to put the cutter up.

Here come Ted and Mabel now. Theyre sleighing, too, exclaimed Dorothy. Wont we have a jolly party!

Thats a neat little cutter, remarked Ned, glancing out of the window. And Mabel does look pretty in a red what do you call that Scotch cap?

Tam oShanter, Dorothy helped out. Yes, it is very becoming. But Neddie, dear? and her voice questioned.

Oh, I dont know, he replied indifferently. Mabel was always kind of witchy. I like that type.

And Ted is so considerate, Dorothy added with a mock sigh. I do wonder how Bob and Tavia are getting along?

Probably planning suicide by this time I say planning, you know, not executing. It would be so nice for a boy as good as Bob to be coerced into some wild prank by the wily Tavia.

She did not happen, however, to lead you into any, retorted Dorothy, and I take it you are a good boy.

Oh, but how hard she tried, and he feigned regret. Tavia would have taught me to feed out of her hand, had I not been so well brought up.

This bantering occupied the moments between the time Teds sleigh glided into view, and its arrival at the door of the Cedars.

Lo, lo! exclaimed Mabel, her cheeks matching the scarlet of her Tam oShanter.

Low, low! Sweet and Low! responded Nat. Also so low!

No but Milo! said Ned, with a complimentary look at Mabel. The Venus mended.

High low, went on Ted. Thats what it is. A high low and the game! To go out there to-night in this freeze!

Strange thing, Dorothy murmured, how young men freeze up sort of antagonistic convulsion.

Oh, come on, drawled Ned, when a girl wills, she will and theres an end on it.

It did not take the girls long to comply Dorothy was out with Ted, Mabel, Nat and Ned before the boys had a chance to relent.

Those bundles? questioned Ted, as Dorothy surrounded herself with the things for Emily.

Now did you ever! exclaimed Dorothy. It seems to me everything is displeasing to-day.

No offence, Im sure, Ted hastened to correct, but the fact is we boys had a sort of good time framed up for this afternoon. Not but what we are delighted to be of service

Why didnt you say so? Dorothy asked.

It seemed for the moment that the girls and boys were not to get along in their usual pleasant manner. But the wonderful sleighing, and the delightful afternoon, soon obliterated the threatening difficulties, and a happy, laughing party in each cutter glided over the road, now evenly packed with mid-winter snow.

The small boys along the way occasionally stole a ride on the back runners of the sleighs, or got a hitch with sled or bob, thus saving the walk up hill or the jaunt to the ice pond.

Oh, theres Dr. Gray! Dorothy exclaimed suddenly as a gentleman in fur coat and cap was seen hurrying along. I wonder why he is walking?

For his health, likely, Ted answered. Doctors know the sort of medicine to take for their own constitutions.

By this time they were abreast of the physician. Dorothy called out to him:

Wheres your horse, Doctor?

Laid up, replied the medical man, with a polite greeting. He slipped yesterday

Going far? Ted interrupted, drawing his horse up.

Out to Sanderss, replied the doctor.

Sanderss! repeated Dorothy. Thats where were going. Whos sick?

The baby, replied the doctor, and they asked me to hurry.

Get in with us, Ted invited, while Dorothy almost gasped. Little Emily sick! She could scarcely believe it.

Dr. Gray gladly accepted the invitation to ride, and the next cutter with Ned, Nat and Mabel, pulled up along side of Teds.

You may as well turn back, Dorothy told them. Then she explained that little Emily was sick, and likely would not want her Christmas tree trimmed.

But Ill go along, she said, I may be able to help, for her mother is sick, even if she is with her.

After all her preparations, it was a great disappointment to think the child could not enjoy the gifts. Dr. Gray told her, however, that Emily was subject to croup, and that perhaps the spell would not last.

At the house they found everything in confusion. Emilys sick mother coughed harder at every attempt she made to help the little one, while Mr. Sanders, the childs grandfather, tried vainly to get water hot on a lukewarm stove.

Pretty bad, Doc, he said with a groan, thought shed choke to death last night.

Without waiting to be directed, Dorothy threw aside her heavy coat, drew off her gloves, and was breaking bits of wood in her hands, to hurry the kettle that, being watched, had absolutely refused to boil.

You can just put that oil on to heat, Miss Dale, Dr. Gray said, he having bidden the sick woman to keep away from Emily. Well rub her up well with warm oil, and see if we can loosen up that congestion.

Emily lay on the uneven sofa, her cheeks burning, and her breath jerking in struggles and coughs.

Dorothy found a pan and had the oil hot before the doctor was ready to use it.

Quite a nurse, he said, in that pleasant way the country doctor is accustomed to use. Glad I happened to meet you.

Im glad, too, Dorothy replied sincerely. Never mind, Emily, you will have your Christmas tree, as soon as we get the naughty cold cured, she told the child.

Emilys eyes brightened a little. The tree still stood in a corner of the room. Outside, Ted was driving up and down the road in evident impatience, but Dorothy was too busy to notice him.

Soon the hot applications took effect, and Emily breathed more freely and regularly. Then the doctor attended to the other patient the mother. It was a sad Christmas time, and had a depressing effect even on the young spirits of Dorothy. She tried to speak to Emily, but her eyes wandered around at the almost bare room, and noted its untidy appearance. Dishes were piled up on the table, pans stood upon the floor, papers were littered about. How could people live that way? she wondered.

Mrs. Tripp, Emilys mother, must be a widow, Dorothy thought, and she knew old Mrs. Sanders had died the Winter before.

The doctor had finished with Mrs. Tripp. He glanced anxiously about him. To whom would he give instructions? Mr. Sanders seemed scarcely capable of giving the sick ones the proper care.

Dorothy saw the look of concern on the doctors face and she rightly interpreted it.

If we only could take them to some other place, she whispered to him. Then she stopped, as a sudden thought seized her.

Doesnt Mr. Wolters always make a Christmas gift to the sanitarium? she asked Dr. Gray.

Always, replied the doctor.

Then why cant we ask him to have little Emily and her mother taken to the sanitarium? They surely need just such care, she said quickly.

The doctor slapped one hand on the other, showing that the suggestion had solved the problem. Then he motioned Dorothy out into the room across the small hall. She shivered as she entered it, for it was without stove, or other means of heating.

If I only had my horse, he said, I would go right over to Wolterss. He would do a great deal for me, and I want that child cared for to-night.

Ill ask Ted to let us take his sleigh, Dorothy offered, promptly. He could go with us to the Corners, and then you could drive.

And take you? asked Dr. Gray. I am sure you young folks have a lot to do this afternoon.

No matter about that, persisted Dorothy. If I can help, I am only too glad to do it. And Mr. Wolters is on Aunt Winnies executive board. He might listen to my appeal.

There was neither time nor opportunity for further conversation, so Dorothy hastily got into her things, and soon she was in Teds sleigh again, huddled close to Dr. Gray in his big, fur coat.

The plan was unfolded to Ted, and he, anxious to get back to his friends, willingly agreed to walk from the Corners, and there turn the cutter over to the charity workers.

But Dorothy, he objected, I know they will all claim I should have insisted on your coming back with me. They will say you will kill yourself with charity, and all that sort of thing.

Then say I will be home within an hour, Dorothy directed, as Ted jumped on the bob that a number of boys were dragging up the hill. Good-bye, and thank you for the rig.

One hour, mind, Ted called back. You can drive Bess, I know.

Of course, Dorothy shouted. Then Bess was headed for The Briars, the country home of the millionaire Wolters.

Suppose he has already made his gift, Dorothy demurred, as she wrapped the fur robe closely about her feet, and says he cant guarantee any more.

Then I guess he will have to make another, said the doctor. I would not be responsible for the life of that child out there in that shack.

If he agrees, how will you get Mrs. Tripp and Emily out to the sanitarium? Dorothy asked.

Have to phone to Lakeside, and see if we can get the ambulance, he replied. Thats the only way to move them safely.

It seemed to Dorothy that her plan was more complicated than she had imagined it would be, but it was Christmas time, and doing good for others was in the very atmosphere.

It will be a new kind of Christmas tree, observed the doctor. But shes a cunning little one she deserves to be kept alive.

Indeed she does, Dorothy said, and Im glad if I can help any.

Why I never would have thought of the plan, said the doctor. I had been thinking all the time we ought to do something, but Wolterss Christmas gift never crossed my mind. Here we are. My, but this is a great place! he finished. And the next moment Dorothy had jumped out of the cutter and was at the door of Mr. Ferdinand Wolters.

CHAPTER VI
THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS

Dorothy was scolded. There her own family father, Joe and Roger, to say nothing of dear Aunt Winnie, and the cousins Ned and Nat were waiting for her important advice about a lot of Christmas things, and she had ridden off with Dr. Gray, attending to the gloomy task of having a sick child and her mother placed in a sanitarium.

But she succeeded, and when on the following day she visited Emily and her mother, she found the nurses busy in an outer hall, fixing up the Christmas tree that Mr. Sanders had insisted upon bringing all the way from the farmhouse where Dorothy had left it for little Emily.

The very gifts that Dorothy left unopened out there, when she found the child sick, the nurses were placing on the tree, waiting to surprise Emily when she would open her eyes on the real Christmas day.

And there had been added to these a big surprise indeed, for Mr. Wolters was so pleased with the result of his charity, that he added to the hospital donation a personal check for Mrs. Tripp and her daughter. The check was placed in a tiny feed bag, from which a miniature horse (Emilys pet variety of toy) was to eat his breakfast on Christmas morning.

Major Dale did not often interfere with his daughters affairs, but this time his sister, Mrs. White, had importuned him, declaring that Dorothy would take up charity work altogether if they did not insist upon her taking her proper position in the social world. It must be admitted that the kind old major believed that more pleasure could be gotten out of Dorothys choice than that of his well-meaning, and fashionable, sister. But Winnie, he reflected, had been a mother to Dorothy for a number of years, and women, after all, knew best about such things.

It was only when Dorothy found the major alone in his little den off his sleeping rooms that the loving daughter stole up to the footstool, and, in her own childish way, told him all about it. He listened with pardonable pride, and then told Dorothy that too much charity is bad for the health of growing girls. The reprimand was so absurd that Dorothy hugged his neck until he reminded her that even the breath of a war veteran has its limitations.

So Emily was left to her surprises, and now, on the afternoon of the night before Christmas, we find Dorothy and Mabel, with Ned, Nat and Ted, busy with the decorations of the Cedars. Step ladders knocked each other down, as the enthusiastic boys tried to shift more than one to exactly the same spot in the long library. Kitchen chairs toppled over just as Dorothy or Mabel jumped to save their slippered feet, and the long strings of evergreens, with which all hands were struggling, made the room a thing of terror for Mrs. White and Major Dale.

The scheme was to run the greens in a perfect network across the beamed ceiling, not in the usual chandelier-corner fashion, but latticed after the style of the Spanish serenade legend.

At intervals little red paper bells dangled, and a prettier idea for decoration could scarcely be conceived. To say that Dorothy had invented it would not do justice to Mabel, but however that may be, all credit, except stepladder episodes, was accorded the girls.

Let me hang the big bell, begged Ted, if there is one thing I have longed for all my life it was that to hang a big belle.

He aimed his stepladder for the middle of the room, but Nat held the bell.

Shes my belle, insisted Nat, and shes not going to be hanged shell be hung first, and he caressed the paper ornament.

If you boys do not hurry we will never get done, Dorothy reminded them. Its almost dark now.

Almost, but not quite, teased Ted. Dorothy, between this and dark, there are more things to happen than would fill a hundred stockings. By the way, where do we hang the hose?

We dont, she replied. Stockings are picturesque in a kitchen, but absurd in such a bower as this.

Right, Coz, agreed Ned, deliberately sitting down with a wreath of greens about his neck. Cut out the laundry, ma would not pay my little red chop-suey menu last week, and I may have to wear a kerchief on Yule day.

Oh, dont you think that sweet! exulted Mabel, making a true lovers knot of the end of her long rope of green that Nat had succeeded in intertwining with Dorothys cross town line.

Delicious, declared Ned, jumping up and placing his arms about her neck.

Stop, she cried. I meant the bow.

Whos running this show, any way? asked Ted. Do you see the time, Frats?

The mantle clock chimed six. Ned and Nat jumped up, and shook themselves loose from the stickery holly leaves as if they had been so many feathers.

We must eat, declared Ned, dramatically, for to-morrow we die!

We cannot have tea until everything is finished, Dorothy objected. Do you think we girls can clean up this room?

Call the maids in, Ned advised, foolishly, for the housemaids at the Cedars were not expected to clean up after the festooners.

Dorothy frowned her reply, and continued to gather up the ends of everything. Mabel did not desert either, but before the girls realized it, the boys had run off to the dining room where a hasty meal, none the less enjoyable, was ready to be eaten.

What do you suppose they are up to? Mabel asked.

There is something going on when they are in such a hurry. What do you say if we follow them? It is not dark, and they cant be going far, answered Dorothy.

Mabel gladly agreed, and, a half hour later, the two girls cautiously made their way along the white road, almost in the shadow of three jolly youths. Occasionally they could hear the remarks that the boys made.

They are going to the wedding! Dorothy exclaimed. The seven oclock wedding at Winters!

Mabel did not reply. The boys had turned around, and she clutched Dorothys arm nervously. Instinctively both girls slowed their pace.

They did not see us, Dorothy whispered, presently. But they are turning into Soddens!

Soddens was the home of one of the boys chums Gus Sodden by name. He was younger than the others, and had the reputation of being the most reckless chap in North Birchland.

But, mused Mabel, the wedding is to be at the haunted house! I should be afraid

Mabel! Dorothy exclaimed, you do not mean to say that you believe in ghosts!

Oh no, breathed Mabel, but you know the idea is so creepy.

That is why, Dorothy said with a light laugh, we have to creep along now. Look at Ned. He must feel our presence near.

The boys now were well along the path to the Sodden home. It was situated far down in a grove, to which led a path through the hemlock trees. These trees were heavy with the snow that they seemed to love, for other sorts of foliage had days before shed the fall that had so gently stolen upon them like a caress from a white world of love.

My, it is dark! demurred Mabel, again.

Mabel Blake! accused Dorothy. I do believe you are a coward!

It was lonely along the way. Everyone being busy with Christmas at home, left the roads deserted.

What do you suppose they are going in there for? Mabel finally whispered.

We will have to wait and find out, replied Dorothy. When one starts out spying on boys she must be prepared for all sorts of surprises.

Oh, there comes Gus! Look! Mabel pointed to a figure making tracks through the snow along the path.

And there are the others. It did not take them long to make up. They are Christmas Imps. Such make-ups! Dorothy finished, as she beheld the boys, in something that might have been taken, or mistaken, for stray circus baggage.

Even in their disguise it was easy to recognize the boys. Ned wore a kimono bright red. On his head was the tall sort of cap that clowns and the old-fashioned school dunce wore. Nat was cute in somebodys short skirt and a shorter jacket. He wore also a worsted cap that was really, in the dim light, almost becoming. Ted matched up Nat, the inference being that they were to be Christmas attendants on Santa Claus.





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