The Project Gutenberg eBook, Sunny Slopes, by Ethel Hueston, Illustratedby Arthur William Brown
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Title: Sunny Slopes
Author: Ethel Hueston
Release Date: May 20, 2006 [eBook #18426]
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1
***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK SUNNY SLOPES***
E-text prepared by Al Haines
[Frontispiece: "A minister's wife! You look more like a little girl's baby doll."]
PRUDENCE OF THE PARSONAGE,
PRUDENCE SAYS SO, ETC.
ARTHUR WILLIAM BROWN
GROSSET & DUNLAP
PUBLISHERS ———— NEW YORK
THE BOBBS-MERRILL COMPANY
Is Written in Memory of My Husband
Eager in Service, Patient in Illness
Unfaltering in Death, and
Is Dedicated to
The St. Louis Presbytery
To Which I Owe a Debt of Interest
Of Sympathy and of Unfailing Friendship
I Can Ever Hope to Pay
|III||A BABY IN BUSINESS|
|IV||A WOMAN IN THE CHURCH|
|V||A MINISTER'S SON|
|VI||THE HEAVY YOKE|
|VII||THE FIRST STEP|
|X||WHERE HEALTH BEGINS|
|XI||THE OLD TEACHER|
|XII||THE LAND O' LUNGERS|
|XIII||OLD HOPES AND NEW|
|XIV||NEPTUNE'S SECOND DAUGHTER|
|XV||THE SECOND STEP|
|XXIII||THE SUNNY SLOPE|
Back and forth, back and forth, over the net, spun the little whiteball, driven by the quick, sure strokes of the players. There was nosound save the bounding of the ball against the racquets, and the thudof rubber soles on the hard ground. Then—a sudden twirl of a supplewrist, and—
"Deuce!" cried the girl, triumphantly brandishing her racquet in theair.
The man on the other side of the net laughed as he gathered up theballs for a new serve.
Back and forth, back and forth, once more,—close to the net, away backto the line, now to the right, now to the left,—and then—
"Ad out, I am beating you, David," warned the girl, leaping lightlyinto the air to catch the ball he tossed her.
"Here is a beauty," she said, as the ball spun away from her racquet.
The two, white-clad, nimble figures flashed from side to side of thecourt. He sprang into the air to meet her ball, and drove it into thefarthest corner, but she caught it with a backward gesture. Still hewas ready for it, cutting it low across the net,—yes, she was there,she got it,—but the stroke was hard,—and the ball was light.
"Was it good?" she gasped, clasping the racquet in both hands andtilting dangerously forward on tiptoe to look.
"Good enough,—and your game."
With one accord they ran forward to the net, pausing a second to glanceabout enquiringly, and then, one impulse guiding, kissed each otherecstatically.
"The very first time I have beaten you, David," exulted the girl."Isn't everything glorious?" she demanded, with all of youth'senthusiasm.
"Just glorious," came the ready answer, with all of mature manhood'sresponse to girlish youth. Clasping the slender hands more tightly, headded, laughing, "And I kiss the fingers that defeated me."
"Oh, David," the buoyant voice dropped to a reverent whisper. "I loveyou,—I love you,—I—I am just crazy about you."
"Careful, Carol, remember the manse," he cautioned gaily.
"But this is honeymooning, and the manse hasn't gloomed on my horizonyet. I'll be careful when I get installed. I am really a Methodistyet, and Methodists are expected to shout and be enthusiastic. When wemove into our manse, and the honeymoon is ended, I'll just say, 'I amvery fond of you, Mr. Duke.'" The voice lengthened into prim and prosysolemnity.
"But our honeymoon isn't to end. Didn't we promise that it should lastforever?"
"Of course it will." She dimpled up at him, snuggling herself in thearm that still encircled her shoulders. "Of course it will." Shebalanced her racquet on the top of his head as he bent adoringly overher. "Of course it will,—unless your grim old Presbyterians manse allthe life out of me."
"If it ever begins, tell me," he begged, "and we'll join the SalvationArmy. There's life enough even for you."
"I beat you," she teased, irrelevantly. "I am surprised,—a great bigman like you."
"And to-morrow we'll be in St. Louis."
"Yes," she assented, weakening swiftly. "And the mansers will have mein their deadly clutch."
"The only manser who will clutch you is myself." He drew her closer inhis arm as he spoke. "And you like it."
"Yes, I love it. And I like the mansers already. I hope they like me.I am improving, you know. I am getting more dignified every day.Maybe they will think I am a born Presbyterian if you don't give meaway. Have you noticed how serious I am getting?" She pinchedthoughtfully at his chin. "David Duke, we have been married two wholeweeks, and it is the most delicious, and breathless, and amazing thingin the world. It is life—real life—all there is to life, really,isn't it?"
"Yes, life is love, they say, so this is life. All the future must belike this."
"I never particularly yearned to be dead," she said, wrinkling herbrows thoughtfully, "but I never even dreamed that I could be so happy.I am awfully glad I didn't die before I found it out."
"You are happy, aren't you, sweetheart?"
She turned herself slowly in his arm and lifted puckering lips to his.
"Hey, wake up, are you playing tennis, or staging Shakespeare? We wantthe court if you don't need it."
Mr. and Mrs. Duke, honeymooners, gazed speechlessly at the group ofyoung men standing motionless forty feet away, then Carol wheeled aboutand ran swiftly across the velvety grass, over the hill and out ofsight, her husband in close pursuit.
Once she paused.
"If the mansers could have seen us then!" she ejaculated, with awe inher voice.
The introduction of Mrs. David Arnold Duke, nťe Methodist, to themembers of her husband's Presbyterian flock, was, for the most part,consummated with grace and dignity. Only one untoward incidentlingered in her memory to cloud her lovely face with annoyance.
In honor of his very first honeymoon, hence his first opportunity toescort a beautiful and blushing bride to the cozy little manse he hadso painstakingly prepared for her reception, the Reverend Davidindulged in the unwonted luxury of a taxicab. And happy in theconsciousness of being absolutely correct as to detail, they weredriven slowly down the beautifully shaded avenues of the Heights, oneof the many charming suburbs of St. Louis,—aware of the scrutiny ofinterested eyes from the sheltering curtains of many windows.
Being born and bred in the ministry, Carol acquitted herself properlybefore the public eye. But once inside the guarding doors of thedarling manse, secure from the condemning witness of even the least ofthe fold, she danced and sang and exulted as the very young, and veryglad, must do to find expression.
Their first dinner in the manse was more of a social triumph than aculinary success. The coffee was nectar, though a trifle overboiled.The gravy was sweet as honey, but rather inclined to be lumpy. And thesteak tasted like fried chicken, though Carol had peppered it twice andsalted it not at all. It wasn't her fault, however, for the salt andpepper shakers in her "perfectly irresistible" kitchen cabinet wereexactly alike,—and how was she to know she was getting the same onetwice?
Anyhow, although they started very properly with plates on oppositesides of the round table, by the time they reached dessert their chairswere just half way round from where they began the meal, and the saladdishes were so close together that half the time they ate from one andhalf the time from the other. And when it was all over, they pushedthe dishes back and clasped their hands promiscuously together andtalked with youthful passion of what they were going to do, and howwonderful their opportunity for service was, and what revolutions theywere going to work in the lives of the nice, but no doubt prosymansers, and how desperately they loved each other. And it was goingto last forever and ever and ever.
So far they were just Everybride and Everygroom. Their hearts sang andthe manse was more gorgeous than any mansion on earth, and all theworld was good and sweet, and they couldn't possibly ever make any kindof a mistake or blunder, for love was guiding them,—and could purelove lead astray?
David at last looked at his watch and said, rather hurriedly:
"By the way, I imagine a few of our young people will drop in to-nightfor a first smile from the manse lady."
Carol leaped from her chair, jerked off the big kitchen apron, and flewup the stairs with never a word. When David followed more slowly, hefound her already painstakingly dusting her matchless skin with velvetypowder.
"I got a brand new box of powder, David, the very last thing I did,"she began, as he entered the room. "When this is gone, I'll resort tocheaper kinds. You see, father's had such a lot of experience withgirls and complexions that he just naturally expects them to beexpensive—and would very likely be confused and hurt if things werechanged. But I can imagine what a shock it would be to you right atthe start."
David assured her that any powder which added to the wonder of thatmost wonderful complexion was well worth any price. But Carol shookher head sagely.
"It's a dollar a box, my dear, and very tiny boxes at that. Now don'ttalk any more for I must fix my hair and dress, and—I want to lookperfectly darling or they won't like me, and then they will not putanything in the collections and the heathens and we will starvetogether. Oh, will you buckle my slippers? Thanks. Here's half akiss for your kindness. Oh, David, dear, do run along and don't botherme, for suppose some one should get here before I am all fixed, and—Shall I wear this little gray thing? It makes me look very, verysensible, you know, and—er—well, pretty, too. One can be pretty aswell as sensible, and I think it's a Christian duty to do it. David, Ishall never be ready. I can not be talked to, and make myselfbeautiful all at once. Dear, please go and say your prayers, and askGod to make them love me, will you? For it is very important, and—If I act old, and dignified, they will think I am appropriate at least,won't they? Oh, this horrible dress, I never can reach the hooks.Will you try, David, there's my nice old boy. Oh, are you going down?Well, I suppose one of us ought to be ready for them,—run along,—it'slonesome without you,—but I have to powder my face, and— Oh, thatwas just the preliminary. The conclusion is always the same. Bye,dearest." Then, solemnly, to her mirror, she said, "Isn't he theblessedest old thing that ever was? My, I am glad Prudence got marriedso long ago, or he might have