Ester Ried Part 12

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As for Ester she was almost inclined not to believe her ears. Had her cousin Abbie actually "spoken in meeting?" She was about to sink into a reverie over this, but hadn't time, for at this point the leader arose.

"I am sorry," said he, "to cut the thread that binds us, but the hour is gone. Another week will soon pa.s.s, though, and, G.o.d willing, we shall take up the story--sing." And a soft, sweet chant stole through the room: "Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting of my hands as evening sacrifice." Then the little company moved with a quiet cheerfulness toward the door.

"Have you enjoyed the evening?" Abbie asked in an eager tone, as they pa.s.sed down the aisle.

"Why, yes, I believe so; only it was rather queer."

"Queer, was it? How?"

"Oh, I'll tell you when we get home. Your minister is exactly behind us, Abbie, and I guess he wants to speak with you."

There was a bright flush on Abbie's face, and a little sparkle in her eye, as she turned and gave her hand to the minister, and then said in a demure and softly tone: "Cousin Ester, let me make you acquainted with my friend, Mr. Foster."

CHAPTER XI.

THE NEW BOARDER.

"I don't know what to decide, really," Mrs. Ried said thoughtfully, standing, with an irresolute air, beside the pantry door. "Sadie, hadn't I better make these pies?"

"Is that the momentous question which you can't decide, mother?"

Mrs. Ried laughed. "Not quite; it is about the new boarder. We have room enough for another certainly, and seven dollars a week is quite an item just now. If Ester were at home, I shouldn't hesitate."

"Mother, if I weren't the meekest and most enduring of mortals, I should be hopelessly vexed by this time at the constancy with which your thoughts turn to Ester; it is positively insulting, as if I were not doing remarkably. Do you put anything else in apple-pies? I never mean to have one, by the way, in my house. I think they're horrid; crust--apples--nutmeg--little lumps of b.u.t.ter all over it. Is there anything else, mother, before I put the top on?"

"Sometimes I sweeten mine a little," Mrs. Ried answered demurely.

"Oh, sure enough; it was that new boarder that took all thoughts of sweetness out of me. How much sugar, mother? Do let him come. We are such a stupid family now, it is time we had a new element in it; besides, you know I broke the largest platter yesterday, and his seven dollars will help buy another. I wish he was anything but a doctor, though; one ingredient of that kind is enough in a family, especially of the stamp which we have at present."

"Sadie," said Mrs. Ried gravely and reprovingly; "I never knew a young man for whom I have a greater respect than I have for Dr. Van Anden."

"Yes, ma'am," answered Sadie, with equal gravity; "I have an immense respect for him I a.s.sure you, and so I have for the President, and I feel about as intimate with the one as the other. I hope Dr. Dougla.s.s will be delightfully wild and wicked. How will Dr. Van Anden enjoy the idea of a rival?"

"I spoke of it to him yesterday. I told him we would't give the matter another thought if it would be in any way unpleasant to him. I thought we owed him that consideration in return for all his kindness to us; but he a.s.sured me that it could make not the slightest difference to him."

"Do let him come, then. I believe I need another bed to make; I'm growing thin for want of exercise, and, by the way, that suggests an item in his favor; being a doctor, he will be out all night occasionally, perhaps, and the bed won't need making so often. Mother, I do believe I didn't put a speck of soda in that cake I made this morning. What will that do to it? or, more properly speaking, what will it _not_ do, inasmuch as it is not there to _do_? As for Ester, I shall consider it a personal insult if you refer to her again, when I am so magnificently filling her place."

And this much enduring mother laughed and groaned at nearly the same time. Poor Ester never forgot the soda, nor indeed anything else, in her life; but then Sadie was so overflowing with sparkle and good humor.

Finally the question was decided, and the new boarder came, and was duly installed in the family; and thence commenced a new era in Sadie's life. Merry clerks and schoolboys she counted among her acquaintances by the score. Grave, dignified, slightly taciturn men of the Dr. Van Anden stamp she numbered also among her friends; but never one quite like Dr. Dougla.s.s. This easy, graceful, courteous gentleman, who seemed always to have just the right thing to say or do, at just the right moment; who was neither wild nor sober; who seemed the furthest possible remove from wicked, yet who was never by any chance disagreeably good. His acquaintance with Sadie progressed rapidly. A new element had come to mix in with her life. The golden days wherein the two sisters had been much together, wherein the Christian sister might have planted much seed for the Master in Sadie's bright young heart, had all gone by. Perchance that sleeping Christian, nestled so cosily among the cus.h.i.+ons in Cousin Abbie's morning-room, might have been startled and aroused, could she have realized that days like those would never come back to her; that being misspent they had pa.s.sed away; that a new worker had come to drop seed into the unoccupied heart; that never again would Sadie be as fresh, and as guileless, and as easily won, as in those days which she had let slip in idle, aye, worse than idle, slumber.

Sadie sealed and directed a letter to Ester and ran with it down stairs. Dr. Dougla.s.s stood in the doorway, hat in hand.

"Shall I have the pleasure of being your carrier?" he said courteously.

"Do you suppose you are to be trusted?" Sadie questioned, as she quietly deposited the letter in his hat.

"That depends in a great measure on whether you repose trust in me.

The world is safer in general than we are inclined to think it. Who lives in that little birdsnest of a cottage just across the way?"

"A dear old gentleman, Mr. Vane," Sadie answered, her voice taking a tender tone, as it always did when any chance word reminded her of Florence. "That is he standing in the gateway. Doesn't he look like a grand old patriarch?"

As they looked Dr. Van Anden drove suddenly from around the corner, and reined in his horses in front of the opposite gateway. They could hear his words distinctly.

"Mr. Vane, let me advise you to avoid this evening breeze; it is blowing up strongly from the river."

"Is Dr. Van Anden the old gentleman's nurse, or guardian, or what?"

questioned Sadie's companion.

"Physician," was her brief reply. Then, after a moment, she laughed mischievously. "You don't like Dr. Van Anden, Dr. Dougla.s.s?"

"I! Oh, yes, I like him; the trouble is, he doesn't like me, for which he is not to blame, to be sure. Probably he can not help it. I have in some way succeeded in gaining his ill-will. Why do you think I am not one of his admirers?"

"Oh," answered this rude and lawless girl, "I thought it would be very natural for you to be slightly jealous of him, professionally, you know."

If her object was to embarra.s.s or annoy Dr. Dougla.s.s, apparently she did not gain her point. He laughed good humoredly as he replied:

"Professionally, he is certainly worthy of envy; I regard him as a very skillful physician, Miss Ried."

Ere Sadie could reply the horses were stopped before the door, and Dr.

Van Anden addressed her:

"Sadie, do you want to take a ride?"

Now, although Sadie had no special interest in, or friends.h.i.+p for, Dr.

Van Anden, she did exceedingly like his horses, and cultivated their acquaintance whenever she had an opportunity. So within five minutes after this invitation was received she was skimming over the road in a high state of glee. Sadie marked that night afterward as the last one in which she rode after those black ponies for many a day. The Doctor seemed more at leisure than usual, and in a much more talkative mood; so it was quite a merry ride, until he broke a moment's silence by an abrupt question:

"Sadie, haven't your mother and you always considered me a sincere friend to your family?"

Sadie's reply was prompt and to the point.

"Certainly, Dr. Van Anden; I a.s.sure you I have as much respect for, and confidence in, you as I should have had for my grandfather, if I had ever known him."

"That being the case," continued the Doctor, gravely, "you will give me credit for sincerity and earnestness in what I am about to say. I want to give you a word of warning concerning Dr. Dougla.s.s. He is not a man whom _I_ can respect; not a man with whom I should like to see my sister on terms of friends.h.i.+p. I have known him well and long, Sadie; therefore I speak."

Sadie Ried was never fretful, never petulant, and very rarely angry; but when she was, it was a genuine case of unrestrained rage, and woe to the individual who fell a victim to her blazing eyes and sarcastic tongue. To-night Dr. Van Anden was that victim. What right had he to arraign her before him, and say with whom she should, or should not, a.s.sociate, as if he were indeed her very grandfather! What business had he to think that she was too friendly with Dr. Dougla.s.s!

With the usual honesty belonging to very angry people, it had not once occurred to her that Dr. Van Anden had said and done none of these things. When she felt that her voice was sufficiently steady, she spoke:

"I am happy to be able to rea.s.sure you, Dr. Van Anden, you are _very_ kind--extremely so; but as yet I really feel myself in no danger from Dr. Dougla.s.s' fascinations, however remarkable they may be. My mother and I enjoy excellent health at present, so you need have no anxiety as regards our choice of physicians, although it is but natural that you should feel nervous, perhaps; but you will pardon me for saying that I consider your interference with my affairs unwarrantable and uncalled for."

If Dr. Van Anden desired to reply to this insulting harangue, there was no opportunity, for at this moment they whirled around the corner and were at home.

Sadie flung aside her hat with an angry vehemence, and, seating herself at the piano, literally stormed the keys, while the Doctor re-entered his carriage and quietly proceeded to his evening round of calls.

Ester Ried Part 12

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Ester Ried Part 12 summary

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