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首页 » 英文短篇小说 » Leave it to Doris » CHAPTER VIII THE BISHOP
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 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 [Pg 150]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.
[Pg 151]
"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.
"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[Pg 152] 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.
[Pg 153]
"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."
[Pg 154]
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[Pg 155] 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.
[Pg 156]
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—"
"'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[Pg 157] 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-maché," 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-maché."
"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 [Pg 158]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[Pg 159] 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[Pg 160] 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[Pg 161] 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[Pg 162] 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?"
[Pg 163]
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?"
[Pg 164]
"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."


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