Loading...
Menu
Ebooks   ➡  Fiction  ➡  Christian  ➡  Suspense

In Straight Paths

In Straight Paths

Georgia Davenport McCain

 

 

Published by Ron McCain at Shakespir

Copyright 2016 Ron McCain

 

 

Shakespir Edition License Notes

Thank you downloading this ebook. You are welcome to share it with your friends. This book may be reproduced, copied, and distributed for non-commercial purposes, provided the book remains in its complete original form. If you enjoyed this book, please return to your favorite ebook retailer to discover other books by this author. Thanks you for your support.

 

 

Cover Art: Janice Simmons

 

Originally printed by Old Paths Tract Society, Inc., Shoals, Indiana, 47581

Dedication

 

Lovingly dedicated to the latest addition

to our family,

 

A grandson, Brian Richard Wilson.

 

Also, I would like to dedicate this little

book to all the precious young people every

where who are faithfully serving God, “in the

midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among

whom ye shine as lights in the world.”

 

Contents

 

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty One

Chapter Twenty Two

About the Author

Books By Georgia McCain

Letters from Georgia McCain Books

CHAPTER ONE

 

“Con-nie-ee! Connie Eileen Slocum, you come back here this minute,” Mrs. Slocum called at the top of her voice. But Connie was oblivious to her mother’s shrill command. Far across the meadow with kitchen broom floating over her shoulder like a banner, Connie raced on in wild pursuit of her twin brother.

 

“Humph! A lot of good that did me,” Mrs. Slocum muttered to herself, the scowl on her face deepening. She pushed back a strand of short, curly brown hair that the wind kept whipping across her face, then tucked her shirtwaist into her trim fitting slacks and, hands on hips, resigned herself to wait out the chase.

 

Thus far, Donnie had kept a few tantalizing strides ahead of his sister weaving in and out of bushes, darting behind trees, and jumping the drainage ditch. But finally, urged on by her fury, Connie closed the gap between them and gave him the full benefit of the broom across his back.

 

“Those two are going to be the death of me before I’m forty,” Mrs. Slocum sighed. She turned slowly back to the house, opened the screen door and entered the kitchen. One glance at the mess there served to renew her determination to teach Connie a lesson. She tiptoed across the wet, soapy linoleum; past the dirty dishes in the brimming sink; and perched herself on the kitchen stool to await Connie’s return.

 

Her eyes roved about the room, taking in the details of the decor while she made mental notes of work yet to be done. She had always especially liked the large framed picture of a bountiful harvest of fruit and vegetables that hung directly over the little formica-top eating table. Noticing that the picture was slightly askew, she automatically started up to straighten it, but one step on the wet floor was sufficient reminder. “Oh well,” she thought, “the glass needs a good cleaning with windex, anyway. I’ll do both later.” The usually gleaming white woodwork needed a touch-up here and there, too, she noticed. Donnie kept it soiled with shoe marks and fingerprints, exiting hastily many times a day, either from Connie’s wrath or from his mom’s switch.

 

Glancing toward the ceiling, Mrs. Slocum noticed a thin spider web. “Well! However?” she exclaimed aloud. “It must have been spun since last week’s cleaning.” Connie could have vouched for that. There was no way that her mother could have possibly overlooked something as conspicuous as a spider’s web, with the thorough inspection she always gave the twins’ completed work. Those inspections touched a sore spot with both of them. It was well and good that she demand cleanliness, they thought, but she just carried the whole thing too far. Such scrutiny seemed ridiculous to them.

 

“When you get a home of your own, you’ll be glad you were taught to keep a good house,” Mrs. Slocum often reminded Connie. But “a home of her own” seemed so far out in the future that it irritated Connie sorely to hear her mom use that argument.

 

Mrs. Slocum pulled her busy thoughts back to the present and as her eyes scanned the curtains, she saw that they were beginning to look droopy. A washing and some good thick starch would perk them up again, she concluded. But, oh, how Connie would hate that! She would argue that they looked simply wonderful to her. “It takes so much time to take them down, get them washed, starched, dried, sprinkled down, ironed, and hung back on the windows again,” Connie would moan. Mrs. Slocum smiled; she could almost hear her. It had happened so many times before. But Connie’s protests were futile; her mother always won out in the end, and the curtains were laundered at least four times a year.

 

Suddenly Mrs. Slocum’s thoughts were interrupted by the quiet opening of the screen door. Connie came sneaking in. With one look at her mother’s set face, she silently waded across the kitchen floor to the sink and plunged in an arm to let out the excess water and get on with her work, hoping to avoid the customary scolding and switching.

 

Mrs. Slocum tried to force herself to be calm. She reached for her pack of cigarettes, took her time lighting up, then spoke. “Connie Eileen, how many times have I told you not to leave the sink when the water is running? Look what a mess you’ve made—water and suds all over the kitchen floor!”

 

“But Mom, Donnie’s the cause of it,” Connie exploded furiously. “I was minding my own business, running the water to wash dishes, and he sneaked up behind me and nearly yanked my hair out by the roots. If I had taken time to turn off the spigot, I’d have never caught him.”

 

“For pity’s sake! When are you kids going to grow up? Who would ever believe that fifteen-year-olds could still be acting like babies? Now, Connie, before you wash these dishes, go get the mop and mop bucket and clean up this mess.”

 

“Me?” There was defiance in her tone. “Why do I have to clean it up? Donnie’s the cause of it. Why don’t you make him clean it up?”

 

“Donnie didn’t leave the water running after being reminded time and time again about it. Now do as I say, Connie.”

 

“Oh Mom, why did I have to be born a twin? Especially with one like my bratty brother?” She was in tears now.

 

“Now Connie, Donnie isn’t always bad. Remember when you broke your arm, how he did your work, even the dish washing? He carried your school books for you and was kind and considerate in every way. And besides, Connie, if you hadn’t been a twin, you wouldn’t have had any brothers or sisters. How would you like growing up like that? Donnie’s better than no one, isn’t he?”

 

Connie gave her mother a half smile in spite of her tears, “I guess you’re right, Mom, but I detest his teasing me all the time. I guess it’s just the boy in him, but I do wish he would be sweet to me sometimes.”

 

“Who do you wish would be sweet to you?” The screen door had slammed shut and there stood Donnie wearing that mischievous grin that Connie detested. “Do you wish Barney would be sweet to you? Or was it Jeffrey? Or—”

 

Connie lunged at him with her fist, but her feet flew out from under her in the slippery suds and she fell sprawling to the floor.

 

In a moment, Donnie was standing over her, clapping hands and howling with laughter.

 

Connie sat up very cautiously with her hand on the back of her head, pretending to be in awful pain. Then in a split second, she grabbed Donnie’s right ankle with both hands and, giving it a violent jerk, sent him tumbling down beside her. Before he could get his bearings, she was astride him, beating him with her fists.

 

“Take this and this and this,” she punctuated each blow. But the next blow was felt across her wet back. How their mother could always seem to pull a switch out of thin air, the twins never knew, but, oh, how it did smart when it would strike their sensitive flesh.

 

As the sting of the switch momentarily stunned Connie, Donnie saw his opportunity to free himself. He turned on his side, dumping Connie to the floor, and started crawling on all fours to the back door. With each foot he gained, he felt the switch cut across his back. Upon reaching the door, he jumped to his feet to make his getaway, but there his mother stood blocking his escape.

 

“Get the mop bucket, Donnie Eugene,” she always added their middle names when she was provoked—” and mop every drop of water off this floor.”

 

“Yes Mom.” Donnie knew from his mother’s tone of voice that there was no use protesting.

 

With triumphant smirk, Connie rolled up the wet legs of her jeans to her knees and turned back to her dish washing. Watching Donnie out of the corner of her eye, she saw him reluctantly start pushing the mop across the floor from one end of the kitchen to the other.

 

“Donnie Eugene, you know that’s no way to mop a floor,” Mrs. Slocum scolded. “Wring that mop out and take a little space at a time and mop that dry, then move over a bit and mop another section dry until you have gone over the whole floor.”

 

In the midst of Mrs. Slocum’s strident voiced instructions, a knock was heard at the front door. Throwing the mop down, Donnie started to answer.

 

“Donnie Eugene, you just keep right on mopping. I’ll get the door.”

 

Mrs. Slocum quickly snuffed out her cigarette in the ash tray, brushed her hair back off her forehead, and went to the door, tucking in her blouse as she went. Behind her, the twins took advantage of the opportunity to get even with each other by making ridiculous faces and hurling whispered insults.

 

“Why, hello, Ralph. Come on in. The twins are in the kitchen doing a couple of little chores. Go right on in and join them.” Did she raise her voice on purpose so they could detect the satisfaction in it that was so very noticeable? the twins wondered. Connie felt good on the inside because Ralph was going to catch Donnie doing “female” work. She knew Donnie was cringing at the thought. Looking around she saw Ralph standing in the door, a wide expressive grin on his face.

 

“Looks like your mom has really got you both busy today,” was his noncommittal remark.

 

Connie turned quickly back to the dish washing for fear of bursting into laughter. That should teach her big-bully brother a lesson, she thought with vengeance. Surely, he would think a long time before he teased her again. She could sense his hurt pride when he spoke.

 

“It’s all Connie’s fault. She let the sink run over and Mom’s making me mop it up. But I’ll be through here in a few minutes, Ralph, then we’ll go play a little game of ball.”

 

Connie’s first reaction was to defend herself and expose Donnie’s ugly behavior. But on second thought, she decided to let it go. No use starting another argument. Donnie was receiving his just punishment even if he was putting all the blame on her.

 

“Connie, you look like a wet mop, yourself,” Ralph teased. “What happened?”

 

“I slipped and fell in the suds, “ she answered, her voice under perfect control.

 

A few minutes passed in silence. Connie saw Donnie wringing out the mop for the last time. His task was completed and she was glad. Now he would get out of her sight for a while, she hoped. But just as she turned her attention back to a sticky pan, she felt the lash of the wet mop against her bare legs. Whirling around in fury, she saw Donnie turn on his heels and head for the back door. She started to give chase, but remembering her earlier fall on the wet floor, she picked up the bucket of dirty water instead and gave a mighty heave in his direction. The back door slammed and Donnie was safe. Ralph followed, bending double with laughter.

 

Without turning her head, Connie rolled her eyes toward the door that led into the living room. Just as she had expected, there stood her mother, hands on hips and an exasperated look on her face.

 

“Now what happened?” The irritation in her mother’s voice came through loud and clear.

 

“Donnie slapped me on the bare legs with that old wet, nasty mop.”

 

“Did that justify you, Connie Eileen, in losing that awful temper of yours? And what did you do, throw that bucket of mop water at him?”

 

At Connie’s not-so-meek nod, Mrs. Slocum reiterated, “And does that justify your behavior, Connie?”

 

“I felt it did, Mom.”

 

“Well, I feel it didn’t. So just as soon as you get through with the dishes, you can get some clean water in that bucket and mop this kitchen floor all over again.”

 

“But Mom, it was Donnie’s fault. Why do I always have to be punished for my bratty brother’s tricks?”

 

“Now Connie, I don’t want any argument from you. Do as I say or else.”

 

“Are you going to let Donnie off just like that?”

 

“Oh, Connie, let’s just let him go for now. This thing could go on forever. I just hope he and Ralph will get lost for the afternoon. I’ve stood about all I can stand from you two for one day.” She put her hand to her forehead. “Oh-h-h,” She moaned, “I have a splitting headache. Why in the world was I left with the responsibility of rearing you two without the help of a father? If only your dad had been a man instead of the cheat he was, and would have done me right. God only knows the misery and heartache I’ve been through.”

 

Connie started drying dishes feverishly. She hoped her mother wouldn’t get started on that subject again. She already knew all she wanted to know about it. How her dad had left her mom when she and Donnie were eighteen months old because he couldn’t stand all the fuss over “those two crying kids.” Supposedly, he couldn’t sleep at night because when one wasn’t crying, the other was. That had been his excuse for leaving them, but it all came out later that his little red-haired secretary was the real reason for his leaving his family. He married her a week after the divorce became final. But the red-head got her just dues when he left her later for another. At least that was the way Mrs. Slocum felt about it. “What goes over the devil’s back always comes under his belly,” she often quoted. Connie didn’t know exactly what that meant, but she was sure it had something to do with her dad’s little red-haired secretary getting what was coming to her for taking their dad away from them. But at least Mr. Slocum always provided well for them. Connie couldn’t help but wonder if he didn’t have some good in him if he would do that all these years. But her mother only said, “That’s nothing to him. He makes enough money to support a dozen families. I’ll dare-say he never misses what he sends us every month.

 

But even though Mr. Slocum was faithful with the support check, he seldom made any effort to see his children. Connie was getting old enough to realize that her mother’s attitude toward him probably had a lot to do with that. Mrs. Slocum always managed to get the idea across in some way that her husband wasn’t welcome even for a short visit. A few times, he had taken the twins to visit at his place, but that never worked out well either. His present wife seemed to resent their coming, so their visits with their dad had been few and far between.

 

CHAPTER TWO

 

Saturdays were always busy days at the Slocum’s. Connie was expected to help her mother give the house a thorough cleaning whether it needed it or not. And Mrs. Slocum could always find more to do than anyone could imagine. Being an immaculate housekeeper, she expected Connie to learn to be the same.

 

“But Mom, there’s not a speck of dust on this furniture,” Connie would try to convince her..

 

“Now Connie, there’s dust in the air all the time, and it has to settle somewhere. It won’t hurt to run the dust cloth over things, just in case.”

 

There was no use arguing about housecleaning chores, Connie knew from experience. “I might as well roll up my sleeves and get at it,” she would say to herself, knowing that her mother would never let her off until she had completed all the jobs assigned to her.

 

Donnie’s chores included raking the yard, mowing the lawn, cleaning the garage, washing the car, and doing the necessary repair work around the house. One of the most frequent repair jobs happened to be fixing the back screen door from which the screen was often torn loose—the result of too many careless and swift exits. And this Saturday was no exception.

 

Donnie came running through the front door, on through the living room, down the hall, and just before giving a kick and shove on the old screen door, he hissed, “Run, Connie, run!”

 

Glad for an excuse to leave her work, Connie fell in obediently behind her fleeing brother. “What’s wrong?” she asked breathlessly as soon as they were behind the garden.

 

“Miz Praise-the-Lord is coming and if you don’t want to get caught entertaining her, you’d better make yourself scarce.”

 

“Donnie Eugene!” Mom’s stern voice, coming from among the cornstalks in the garden, stopped the mischievous boy in his tracks. “How many times must I tell you to call Mrs. Flowers by her correct name? But where is she? Her car isn’t out front.”

 

“It will be in just a few minutes, Mom. I saw her round the curve.”

 

“In that case, I’d better get in and wash my hands right away,” Mrs. Slocum said, hurrying toward the kitchen door. And, sure enough, before she was hardly inside, their neighbor’s familiar blue Chevy was pulling up in front of the house.

 

Connie and Donnie flopped down on the freshly mowed grass to wait out what they hoped would be a short visit.

 

“I wonder why she comes every week to invite us to church.” Donnie voiced his irritation aloud. “Mom should put a stop to her visits one way or another.”

 

“Donnie, you know she doesn’t come every week—only about once a month. Mom can’t just tell her to stop coming. After all, as the woman says, she has our spiritual interest at heart.”

 

“Spiritual interest, I’ll bet!” Donnie spat out. “She must get some sort of reward at her church for all her work. I can just hear her.” He changed his voice into high-pitched mimicking tones and started out: “Mrs. Slocum, I don’t want to be a pest, but I just want you and the twins to know you are always welcome at our little church. My prayers are with you. God is so—o good to all of us. He has been so—o good to me and I do want to just praise the Lord and help others find the joy of serving Him. Oh, prai-s-e the lord.”

 

Connie giggled in appreciation of Donnie’s good imitation.

 

“Now what does that woman get out of all that, I’d like to know.” Donnie’s expression had suddenly become quite serious.

 

“Well, I think she is really interested in us. I honestly do,” Connie amended at Donnie’s skeptical look. “I guess we really ought to appreciate Miz Praise—uh—I mean Mrs. Flowers—”.

 

But now all seriousness was gone as Donnie fell over in the grass, laughing hysterically at Connie’s blunder.

 

“Sh-h-h, she’ll hear us and ask what we’re doing and Mom will make us go in and visit like the polite kids we aren’t,” Connie cautioned.

 

Donnie soon quieted down at that prediction. He could think of no worse fate at the moment.

 

“You know,” he said, taking a serious turn again, “If I ever do take a notion to go to church, I’m going to that cigarette-smoking preacher’s church.”

 

‘Why, Donnie Eugene Slocum! Why do you call Reverend Wyatt a cigarette-smoking preacher?”

 

“Because I saw the shape of a pack of cigarettes in his shirt pocket the one time he paid us his dutiful visit.”

 

“Now Donnie, you’re jumping to conclusions. That could have been lots of things besides cigarettes.”

 

“Like what?”

 

“Like-like, I don’t know what, Donnie, but maybe a pack of cough drops or-or-a box of bandaids—or—”.

 

“Or a pack of cigarettes,” he finished for her, very dogmatically.

 

“Have it your way, Donnie, but I just do not believe a preacher would smoke.”

 

“Oh, don’t you?” His voice dripped with sarcasm as he arose and started towards the house.

 

Connie trailed behind him, at a loss for further argument.

 

Under the living room window they listened long enough to know that their visitor was in the process of saying “good-bye” to their mother.

 

“Hey, she’s leaving,” Donnie whispered, heading for the kitchen door. “Well, praise the Lord, Connie, we can go in now.”

 

Connie stifled her laughter while they waited a few minutes longer to give Mrs. Flowers time to get to her car before they risked going in.

 

Embolded by Connie’s appreciation of his joke, Donnie entered the hallway exclaiming, “Well, praise the Lord, Mom, did she get you to promise to go to church?”

 

“Sh-h, Donnie, what if she would hear you?” Mrs. Slocum scolded.

 

Hearing a light tap at the door, the twins turned in one accord and scooted toward the kitchen to hide while Mrs. Slocum, with a very red face, turned to open the door.

 

“I’m sorry to bother you again, Mrs. Slocum,” Mrs. Flowers apologized, “but I left my head scarf. Thankfully I missed it before I got started.” Peering inside the living room, she exclaimed, “There it is, on the arm of the chair where I was sitting.”

 

Mrs. Slocum picked up the scarf and handed it to Mrs. Flowers, carefully avoiding her eyes, fearing she had surely heard Donnie’s fun-making.

 

“Thank you kindly, Mrs. Slocum,” Mrs. Flowers smiled sweetly as she threw the scarf over her head and tied it under her chin. “The wind blows my hair something awful while I’m driving and the scarf sure helps.” Her cheery face failed to reveal any sign that she had overheard Donnie’s mocking words. If she had, she most certainly knew how to conceal her feelings.

 

This time, Mrs. Slocum followed her all the way to the car and watched her drive away. She wasn’t taking any more chances; she could never tell what Donnie would come up with next.

 

Upon re-entering the house, she was met with loud laughter coming from the kitchen. With fire in her eyes, she headed in that direction. Connie saw her first and quickly warned Donnie. He tried to stop laughing, but the more he tried, the funnier it seemed to him. Mrs. Slocum stared at him silently, little daggers of anger in her eyes. Her piercing look soon dissipated his amusement.

 

“I’m sorry, Mom. I wouldn’t deliberately hurt the old lady for anything in the world. Honest I wouldn’t.”

 

“Donnie Eugene, don’t you think it’s about time you grew up?” The determination in her voice as she stood glaring at him left no doubt in his mind about the sensibleness of her proposition .

 

“Yes, Mom.”

 

“All right, let’s go into the living room. I want to talk to you.” Looking back over her shoulder as she led the way, she saw Connie standing as if rooted to the spot, her eyes wide with apprehension. “You come, too, Connie,” she added.

 

“Yes, Mom.”

 

For a few moments, no one spoke while Mrs. Slocum tapped on the chair arm with her fingers, in a nervous gesture. Connie sat with bowed head. Donnie tried to appear nonchalant as he looked out the window at a passing car. It was evident that Mrs. Slocum was searching for the right words to begin. Finally, she lit a cigarette, took a puff, wet her lips, and looking at Donnie, demanded, “Donnie, stop looking out that window and listen to me.”

 

Turning his head slowly he answered, “Yes, Mom.”

 

“Donnie, ever since you were old enough to walk and talk, you have been out of one mischief into another. My nerves are a wreck because of you. As you know, I have thrashed you, I have taken away privileges, I have punished you in every way I can think of, but you keep right on with your foolish pranks. I guess you know that tantalizing your sister doesn’t help matters either. I am at the end of my rope, Donnie, I want you to know, right now. If you don’t straighten up and behave like a fifteen-year-old should, I’m at a loss to know what will happen to this family. Your behavior today was absolutely uncalled for. It was ridiculous. Suppose that conscientious lady heard you mimicking her. How do you think it made her feel? Put yourself in her place. What if you were out trying to help someone and you caught them making light of it? How would you feel? After all, Mrs. Flowers is doing what she thinks her religion requires. How many others have called on us and invited us to church since we moved here a year ago?” She stopped long enough to take another draw off her cigarette as Donnie answered her question.

 

“There’s only been one other person to see us about going to church, the cigarette sm—uh—, I mean-uh Reverend Wyatt did come once.”

 

Mrs. Slocum chose to overlook his pretended blunder, knowing he was hoping to get her sidetracked. “You’re right. Reverend Wyatt visited us just once, and not another person has put their foot inside this door, and there are five churches within easy driving distance from here. Now don’t you think that Mrs. Flowers is an exceptional person and is to be appreciated for the interest she shows in us, whether we particularly care about going to church or not?”

 

“Yes, Mom.”

 

Mrs. Slocum sat staring at her son, at a loss to know what step to take next. Spying the little New Testament that Mrs. Flowers had just given her that day, she had an idea. She reached over and picked it up and holding it out to Donnie, pronounced his sentence: “Go to your room and stay thirty minutes and read this little book that Mrs. Flowers left with us.”

 

“Oh-h-h, no!” Donnie groaned. This was a new turn of events. “But Mom,” he pleaded, “I still have work to do. I need to rake the leaves, wash the car, and clean the garage. I wasn’t finished at all when Miz Praise—the—uh—I’m sorry, Mom, honest I am. I meant to say when Mrs. Flowers came.”

 

“Donnie Eugene Slocum, go to your room this minute. I don’t want to hear another sound out of you for thirty minutes.” She held the New Testament out to him with one hand and with her other hand she pointed toward his door.

 

He arose from his chair slowly, took the offered book reluctantly, saying, “Yes, Mom, but I hope we don’t all have to get religion just because a little woman comes along every little bit and tries to get us to come to her church.”

 

Mrs. Slocum helplessly ignored the forbidden words and after seeing that Donnie had at least gone to his room, she went back to the garden to finish her work there.

 

Oh how peaceful it was in the house as Connie finished her cleaning tasks and finally settled down in the big easy chair to watch TV. Glancing at the clock, she noticed that Donnie had been in his room for more than an hour. Maybe the book Mrs. Flowers had given them was interesting. Whatever was detaining him was giving their mother a chance to relax. She had come in from the garden, taken two aspirin and gone to her room.

 

Just as Connie was getting interested in the show, Donnie eased his door open and slipped out into the living room, rubbing his eyes as he came.

 

“You’ve been asleep,” Connie accused, speaking softly in order not to disturb their mother.

 

“I only took a cat-nap.”

 

“Oh, yeah? Did you read the book?”

 

“Don’t I usually obey Mom?”

 

“Only when it suits your fancy.”

 

“Well, for your information, little lady, after Mom’s lecture today, I have decided to turn over a new leaf and be the kind of son Mom can be proud of.”

 

“That I’ll only be able to believe when I see with my own eyes,” Connie said, trying to read the expression in her brother’s eyes. Was he really serious, or was he being sarcastic? she wondered.

 

“Tell me, what did you read in the book?” She tried another tactic.

 

“I read about some animals. But why don’t you turn off that TV if we’re going to talk? I don’t see how you and Mom stand those sticky-sweet afternoon shows.”

 

Connie hadn’t been paying attention to the show anyway, since Donnie had made his appearance, so she complied without argument, then went on with, “I suppose you mean the lions in the story about the man that was put in their den, huh?”

 

“No, it wasn’t that. I read about a lamb that opened some kind of seal with his front feet.”

 

“Aw, don’t be ridiculous, Donnie. You didn’t even read that book. You’ve been asleep.”

 

“Says who? Maybe I did sleep some, but I read for a long time, and I’ll find where I read that and show you, Miss Know-it-all! Well, maybe not about him opening it with his feet, but how else should a lamb open a seal—unless it was with his mouth, maybe.”

 

“Oh, forget it. What other kinds of animals did you read about?” Connie was becoming curious.

 

“Some beasts and some horses.”

 

“What kind of beasts?”

 

“I don’t know. All I know is that they were beasts and they could talk.”

 

“A beast that could talk? Donnie, you’re impossible. You must have been reading something besides the Bible.”

 

“Connie, you don’t believe me, do you? But, really, I’m being honest. I read about this beast that said, ‘Come and see.’ In fact there were four of these talking beasts, but all they could say was, ‘Come and see.’ I suppose someone trained them to talk, but all they could learn to say was ‘Come and see.’ “

 

“Well, was that all you read?”

 

“No, I told you I read about some horses.”

 

“Really?” Connie led him on.

 

“Yes, there was a white horse, a red horse, a black horse, and some other color. Maybe it was a brown horse, I can’t remember now.”

 

“Donnie, I know you’re just making all this up to tell Mom so she will think you read that book. I don’t believe it and I hope you don’t expect Mom to believe it either. I just can’t imagine people going to church to learn about lambs that open seals with their front feet or with their mouths, and beasts trained to say ‘Come and see,’ and horses of many colors.”

 

“I’ll prove it to you, Connie. Then you’ll know I’m not making this up.” He disappeared into his room and in a few moments he was back with the Testament. Turning page by page, he searched for the place where he had read, but to no avail, After a while he grew weary of the search, closed the little book and threw it on the coffee table.

 

I can’t find it now, but I’m telling you the truth, Connie, whether you believe it or not.”

 

I’ll never believe it until I see it.” Connie’s skeptical remark followed him as he went outside to finish his chores.

 

 

CHAPTER THREE

 

Time flew by as if on wings, and not much had changed in the lives of the twins by the time they approached high school graduation day. A short three weeks before they would be out of school, the two sat on the Slocum’s front porch, idly swinging back and forth in the porch swing, watching a lowering sky. Black clouds were gathering, and an occasional far-away streak of lightning played across the dark expanse.

 

“Maybe Mom will get that rain she has been wishing for,” Donnie remarked, eying the threatening clouds. “As for me, I would just as soon it didn’t rain so the grass wouldn’t grow.”

 

But seventeen-year-old Connie’s mind was not on the weather. “Say, Donnie,” she broke in abruptly, “who are you taking to the Junior-Senior Prom?”

 

“Oh probably Gwen, or Gaile, or maybe Lynne,” Donnie teased, evading her question.

 

“Aw, Donnie, don’t be silly. You know none of those girls would give you a second glance. What about Betsy? No one has asked her yet.”

 

“Whew! Are you kidding? I wouldn’t be caught dead with Betsy Wheeler.”

 

“You should be ashamed, Donnie. Betsy’s one of the nicest girls I know,” Connie came to the girl’s defense.

 

“And one of the most homely,” Donnie added. “No thanks, Connie, I’ll choose my own date. Let Jack take her.

 

“Don-nie!”

 

“Well, no one will go with Jack, so that should make a good match.” Donnie grinned his mischievous grin.

 

"But Jack is-- Well, he's just not Betsy's type. Betsy may not be pretty, but she's not slow to learn like Jack. It would tickle her pink for someone to ask her to the prom. Oh," Connie amended, "she puts on a front and pretends she doesn't really care, but I see the longing in her eyes when others are talking about their dates. Donnie, I just thought you could be real nice just this one time and--".

 

“Forget it, Connie. I definitely am not asking Betsy Wheeler, so you can just get off my case. Say-y!” he exclaimed, the thought suddenly striking him. “How about you? Has anyone asked my twin sister for the great and wonderful privilege of accompanying her royal highness to the prom?” He turned to face her directly, his teasing eyes fixed on her face watching her every expression.

 

Connie blushed furiously and dropped her eyes from his probing ones. “I hope you won’t laugh at me, Donnie, but I promised to go with Ralph.”

 

“Ralph!” Donnie could hardly believe he had heard right. “Are you kidding?”

 

At Connie’s affirmative nod, Donnie went on. “As much as he hangs around here and sees us arguing and fighting, I can’t imagine how you two would ever consider going together.”

 

"To be honest, Donnie-- Oh, please be serious and quit laughing. I really didn't want to go with Ralph, but after Dan asked Sheryl, I figured I might get left out altogether if I didn't go with Ralph when he asked me. Actually, he wanted to go with Karen, but someone had already asked her by the time he got around to asking."

 

‘Hm-m-m. So you two are just second choices with with each other, eh? You wanted to go with Dan, and Ralph wanted to go with Karen. Well, have a good time, Sis.” He slapped her on the shoulder and jumped up from the swing. As he reached the door to go inside, he said, “You’d better come on inside. It looks like we’re really going to have a storm. I don’t like that lightning. It’s getting closer. And in case you really want to know, I’m taking Janet Baker to the prom.”

 

A couple of weeks later, as Connie dressed for the long-awaited event, she had mixed feelings. The momentousness of the occasion couldn’t completely make up for her make-do date. But there was no recourse now. She unrolled the curlers from her hair and brushed the long blond mass of loveliness until it shone. Then after carefully pinning dainty silver barrettes in place, she cocked her head from side to side to view the effect. For once, her hair looked just right, she thought with satisfaction, not too curly and yet not too straight. She began applying mascara to her eyelashes, and then blinked as she stared at herself in the mirror. The sadness in the depths of her pensive, blue eyes didn’t help her looks at all. She tried to smile at her own image. Thinking that she must remember to keep smiling, no matter how glum she might feel, she finished applying her make-up.

 

Going to the clothes closet, she took down the long plastic bag that held her pink satin formal, selected especially for the prom. Each of the twins had received a hundred dollar bill for graduation from their father, and Connie had spent most of hers for the formal. “Shouldn’t I spend it on something I really want?” she had reasoned with her mother. And since it was a personal gift, Mrs. Slocum had let her make her own decision.

 

Connie took the dress out of the bag and carefully flared it out in the middle of the floor, arranging it so she could step into the center and pull it up, in order not to mess up her hair or mar her make-up. After her dress was on and she had gone through the contortions of crooking her arms this way and that to get the zipper up, she smoothed the skirt and stepped away from the floor-length mirror to view herself from head to toe. She was convinced in her own mind that she could hold her own with any of the other girls. Her dress was perfect, her hair hung just right, and her make-up was light and natural. “Connie Slocum,” she addressed herself in the mirror, “you should be feeling thrilled and excited by now. Whatever is wrong with you anyway?” She turned away from the mirror, disgusted with herself for feeling disappointed and unhappy on this night of all nights in a teenager’s life. Black despair washed over her. In spite of everything, she was still Connie, and to Ralph, just Donnie’s twin sister-an old friend who was willing to fill in as a sort of substitute for someone he would rather have taken. Why, Ralph would probably never notice if the dress was black or purple, she thought in disgust. He would have eyes for no one but Karen.

 

“Oh why didn’t Dan ask me?” she murmured to herself. “What did I do wrong?” He had shown her special attention at school of late, and she had been just sure he meant to ask her to the prom. But Sheryl could be a flirt and – get her way with the boys, Connie remembered. Well, no use lamenting over that now, she chided herself. She had agreed to a date with Ralph, and she would just have to make the best of it now.

 

As Connie was touching up her make-up once more, she heard her mother invite Ralph in. Swiftly, she gave her hair another quick brush on the ends, switched off her light and stepped out into the hall. As she entered the living room, Ralph gave a low whistle of approval. Connie felt the color rise in her cheeks. She had been wrong about one thing at least; he did take notice of her after all. Already her heart felt lighter.

 

She turned to kiss her mother goodnight.

 

“You look lovely, Connie,” Mrs. Slocum smiled proudIy. “Have a nice time, now.”

 

“Thanks, Mom. I just believe I might,” she said lightly, her eyes on her handsome escort.

 

“Wow!” Ralph let out his breath as soon as the door was closed behind them. “Do I have the right girl? Are you sure you’re Donnie’s twin sister?”

 

“No, Ralph, tonight I am not Donnie’s twin sister. I am Connie, your date.”

 

‘Connie!” he whispered breathlessly as he held the car door open for her. “You’re beautiful—simply beautiful.”

 

All evening Connie caught Ralph stealing glances at her as if he could not believe what his eyes were seeing. It was a bit disconcerting.

 

“Connie,” he spoke softly as they danced together, “it’s as if I’m just getting acquainted with you. These two or three years that I’ve been Donnie’s best friend, you were always just Donnie’s twin sister with your faded bluejeans and ponytail. But tonight, you’re like a Cinderella. I can’t describe how I feel.”

 

She smiled at him. He wasn’t a bad looking guy, himself. In fact, his new tan suit brought out all his best features. She had never noticed before how good-looking he was with those greenish-brown eyes and light brown hair that kept falling down on his forehead as they danced together. Strange that she had never before realized how nice a boy Ralph really was. But of course she had never seen him dressed up and practicing his good manners before. And she had never been his date before. Perhaps that was what made the real difference. Even his voice sounded different as he called her “Cinderella.” Connie realized that her depression and misgivings had completely disappeared. And when Ralph put his cheek against hers, the last time around the dance floor, she made no effort to move her head.

 

Later as they drove home, both were unusually quiet.

 

“Tired?” Ralph asked.

 

“Not really.”

 

“Happy?”

 

“I suppose.”

 

Stopping in front of her house, he got out and went around the car to open the door.

 

“I hate to let you go in,” he told her. “I’m afraid my Cinderella will disappear.”

 

Connie laughed softly, asking, “And turn into just Donnie’s twin sister again, huh?”

 

“Connie, I don’t think you will ever be just Donnie’s twin sister to me again,” he said soberly.

 

They went up the steps and stopped just outside the door.

 

“Goodnight, Cinderella. Thanks for going with me tonight.”

 

“Goodnight, Ralph. And thanks for a lovely evening.”

 

“The pleasure has been mine.”

 

Taking her hand in his, he raised it to his lips and kissed the back of it and then left.

 

Later as Connie lay in bed, too excited yet to sleep, she mentally reviewed her date with Ralph. Never would she have believed that she could have enjoyed herself as she had. She had only dated Ralph because her dream prince hadn’t asked her to go with him. Now as she thought about the happy evening she had spent with Ralph, she sighed contentedly. She wondered if Ralph was laying awake thinking of her as she was of him. My! Wouldn’t Donnie tease her if he only knew how she had enjoyed going with Ralph. Well, this probably had been her first and last date with Ralph, so no use telling Donnie anything. Anyway, Donnie seemed to be having a wonderful time with Janet, so if he teased her, she would do some teasing herself.

 

She yawned and snuggled down further under the sheet. With a faint smile lingering on her face, she soon fell asleep, and pleasant memories and pleasant dreams blended into one.

 

The following Saturday, while Connie was busy scrubbing the bathroom fixtures, she was interrupted by the ringing of the telephone.

 

“Hello,” she answered gaily.

 

“Hello, Connie. This is Ralph. How are things going out your way?”

 

“Oh, just the usual. This is Saturday, you know, and Mom has us as busy as bees.” Sucking in her breath, she asked, “Did you want to speak to Donnie?”

 

“Say-y, what’s wrong? Don’t you want to talk to me?”

 

“Sure, Ralph, that’s okay, but you always ask for Donnie when you call, so I thought—”

 

“Things will be different from now on, Cinderella. Donnie will be in second place since I have discovered you.” There was a slight pause, then more diffidently Ralph went on. “I called to ask you something special, Connie. Would you go to a movie with me tonight? The Rex Theater is featuring ‘Golden Daze.’ I’d like to see it, and I would enjoy it a whole lot more if you would go with me.”

 

“I can’t answer you right now, Ralph. I’ll have to see what Mom says about it first. Could you call back a little later today?”

 

“Sure. What time?”

 

“It really doesn’t matter, but give me at least an hour.”

 

“Just as you say. What is Donnie doing today?”

 

“He’s outside washing the car right now. Do you want me to call him to the phone? I’m sure he would be glad to be called away from his work.”

 

“Aw, I don’t guess I’ll have you call him.”

 

“Aren’t you coming over to play ball today, Ralph?”

 

“No, I guess not. I have some work I need to get done. Dad asked me to help him work on the car. He’s putting in points and plugs and what have you—just a general tune-up—and wants me as his handyman. Besides that, I have the grass to mow, so there won’t be much chance to get away this afternoon.”

 

“It sounds like your dad is as good at thinking up jobs as Mom is,” Connie laughed.

 

“Say, Connie, I have something I would like to discuss with you tonight. Okay?”

 

“Remember? I haven’t gotten permission to go with you yet.”

 

“Well, I’m hoping you’ll get that permission. I want to talk to you about something important. Or, at least, it’s important to me—maybe it won’t be to you.”

 

The front screen door slammed with a bang. Connie whispered into the receiver, “Ralph, here comes Donnie. Talk to him so he won’t be teasing me about getting a phone call from you.” With these words she laid the receiver on the table and called, “Donnie, telephone.” And she went on to finish cleaning the bathroom.

 

“Who were you talking to so long on the telephone?” her mother accosted her a little later.

 

“Ralph.”

 

“Really?”

 

“Yes, he would like for me-uh-he asked me to, uh—go to the movies with him tonight. Do you mind?”

 

Mrs. Slocum couldn’t hide her surprise. “Why, of all things!”

 

With the color deepening in her cheeks, Connie hastened to explain, "Ralph and I enjoyed each other's company when we went to the prom together, Mom. I don't know how to say it-- I'd never thought of him as a guy to date before that, but he is really neat. And I'd like to go with him tonight if you don't mind."

 

“How long does the movie last?”

 

“I’m not sure, Mom, but we will come straight home as soon as it’s over.”

 

“Is Donnie going, too?”

 

“I should hope not!” Connie expressed her exasperation at the very suggestion.

 

“I guess you can go.” Mrs. Slocum’s answer was slow and thoughtful. “Ralph seems pretty level-headed. Make sure he brings you home early.”

 

“You have nothing to worry about, Mom. I promise we’ll be home as soon as the movie is over.”

 

“What movie?” Donnie had appeared on the scene.

 

“The movie at the Rex Theater,” Connie answered belligerently. “And what business is it of yours anyhow?”

 

Drawing himself up importantly, Donnie prepared himself for a good chance to vex his sister. “Since I’m the man of the house, I think I have a right to ask who is going to the movies?”

 

“It is absolutely none of your business, Mister Slocum. Now get out of here and finish your work.”

 

“Oh, so I have a new boss! Or is it a bossette? My dear Miss Slocum, I ‘ll leave just as soon as you tell me who is going to the movies.”

 

“I’m not telling.”

 

“Mom will tell me, won’t you, Mom?” Donnie tried to wheedle her.

 

“You’ll find out soon enough, Donnie. Now go finish your work.” Mrs. Slocum was not to be persuaded to take sides in the twins’ arguments.

 

“If I’ll find out soon enough, it must be you, Connie. You’re going to the movies, aren’t you?”

 

“I’m not telling,” Connie persisted.

 

“You don’t have to tell. I can see it written all over your face. I knew it was you from the beginning. And I’ll daresay it’s with some guy.” Donnie laughed in triumph as Connie’s face showed that she was nearing the explosion point.

 

“Mom told you to finish your work, and I wish you’d do it.’ she said heatedly,

 

“I’ll get my work done soon enough. I have a little puzzle to solve first, though. I know Mom wouldn’t let you go alone, and I know I haven’t been consulted. Who is it? Dan?”

 

“I haven’t even said I was going to any movie, Donnie Eugene.”

 

“But you are, aren’t you?”

 

“Mom,” Connie pleaded, her temper rising, “make Donnie get out of here and do his work, please.”

 

“Donnie and Connie, stop your arguing right now, Donnie, you trot along out that door,” her pointing finger added emphasis, “and finish your work. Connie, you get the living room furniture dusted—and I mean now.”

 

Connie breathed a sigh of relief as Donnie went out the door, even though he whispered under his breath as he went, “Just wait.”

 

 

CHAPTER FOUR

 

As Connie went about her dusting, she heard the sound of the mower as Donnie cranked it and started mowing the yard. She hoped he had work enough to last him all day. She hated to face him again and hear his incessant teasing. But all too soon the noise of the mower ceased and Donnie was back inside pestering Connie again. But she was more determined than ever that he wouldn’t find out who she was going to the movie with until evening. She turned the TV up loud and did all in her power to ignore him.

 

Soon Mrs. Slocum called them to lunch. Donnie helped himself to the tasty tuna fish sandwiches, potato chips and iced tea. And between bites he continued to pry.

 

“What time does the movie start?” he asked with assumed indifference.

 

“I don’t know.” Connie pretended to be very busy over her lunch.

 

“What’s playing?”

 

Still Connie concentrated on the food in her plate, this time ignoring his question.

 

“Okay. you’re going to a movie, but you don’t know what time it starts and I don’t believe you even know what’s playing. There’s got to be a guy involved.” Donnie paused, reflecting. “Mom’s not going is she?”

 

“Not likely,” an amused smile flickered across Connie’s face in spite of her exasperation.

 

“Is Mom going to take you to the movie in her car?”

 

“I’m not saying.” Connie was being careful not to let Donnie pin her down.

 

“You’re just being stubborn, Connie. You know I’ll find out before the day is out, so why don’t you let me in on the secret?”

 

“I’m not telling you anything, Donnie. You’re too nosy and you need to be taught a valuable lesson.” Her voice was getting louder, her words more emphatic.

 

“And I suppose you are the great and worthy teacher who is going to teach me my valuable lesson, huh?” he baited her.

 

Mrs. Slocum, sensing that the argument was reaching another unpleasant peak, jumped to her feet, snatched her switch from where it stood in the corner of the kitchen, and waved it in the air over their heads, declaring, “Connie and Donnie, I don’t want to hear another word out of either of you until you finish your lunch.” Looking at Donnie, she added, “And don’t let me hear the word ‘movie’ again today. Do you understand me?”

 

“Yes, Mom.” His face was sullen as he poured himself another glass of tea and reached for another sandwich.

 

Before Donnie had left the house, the phone rang. Donnie flew to answer it.

 

“Why, hello, Ralph,” Connie heard him say. “You again? Did you change your mind about coming over to play ball this afternoon?”

 

Connie started up guiltily, letting the magazine she had been reading drop from her lap. Turning to look at Donnie, she saw the expression on his face change from seriousness to a mischievous grin of triumph as he said, “Sure, Ralph, she’s right here.”

 

Bowing to her with a silly grin on his face, Donnie handed Connie the phone. Then cupping his hand behind his ear, he held his head over close to hers, pretending to hear all that was said. His smirking face irritated Connie. Wordlessly, she slapped at him, trying to make him leave, but he only moved in a little closer.

 

“Connie, are you there?” she heard Ralph say.

 

“Yes,” she answered soberly.

 

“Did you ask your mom?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Did she give you permission?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“What’s the matter, Connie? You sound like you are mad at somebody. Are you?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Who, me?”

 

“No.”

 

“Well, so you can say something besides ‘yes.’ I’m glad it’s not me that you are mad at. Give me three guesses, and I could guess who you are mad at, but I can’t imagine why. Listen, Connie, the movie starts at seven-thirty. What time can you be ready?”

 

Connie was silent. She didn’t want to say one word that Donnie could use to tease her.

 

“How about seven o’clock, Connie?” Ralph asked. “Is that too early or too late?”

 

“That’s fine.”

 

Ralph was beginning to get annoyed. “Connie, if you don’t want to talk, let’s forget it. Are you sorry you agreed to go with me?”

 

“No.” She was holding the phone with one hand and striking at Donnie with the other. He caught the arm she was using against him and held it.

 

“Do you want to call the whole thing off?” She heard Ralph repeating a second time.

 

“Not really.”

 

“Well, I guess I’ll say good-bye for now since you won’t talk. Will you promise to tell me tonight what is wrong?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“All right, I’ll let you go now. Bye, Connie.”

 

“Bye.”

 

After hanging up the phone, Connie flew into Donnie with her fists, but he quickly jumped out of her way and ran out the back door, chanting as he went, “Connie and Ralph, Connie and Ralph. Connie’s got a boyfriend. Connie and Ralph, Connie and Ralph.”

 

Mrs. Slocum appeared at this time, switch in hand, but Donnie had disappeared, and Connie, bursting into tears, started for her bedroom. Mrs. Slocum followed, looking distraught and helpless. “Don’t let it get you down, Connie,” she spoke in soothing tones. “He just likes to tease.” Mrs. Slocum sat on the edge of the bed close beside Connie.

 

“But Mom, he ruins everything,” Connie cried brokenly. “I don’t even want to go to the movies with Ralph now. I feel like calling him back and telling him to forget it. I guess I’ll just never date a boy again. I’ll just be an old maid, and it’s all Donnie’s fault.” Her sobs only increased when she felt the sympathetic pressure of her mother’s arm about her waist.

 

“Connie, don’t you know that if you stay home tonight you are letting Donnie win the fight? Don’t let him ruin your evening. Remember how you told him he needed to be taught a good lesson? Well, he does, and now is the time to teach it to him. Go on with Ralph; ignore Donnie as if he didn’t even exist. A few times like that and he’ll leave you alone.” Mrs. Slocum’s voice was firm and convincing. “Maybe some day he will grow up,” she added with a weary sigh.

 

“Donnie will never grow up, Mom. He’s seventeen now and will soon be eighteen, yet he would rather tease me than to eat when he’s hungry.”

 

“I’ll try to talk to him while you are gone tonight. I don’t think he realizes how much this hurts you. He can’t imagine that you could care for Ralph because he has been like a brother to you both. And sometimes I think Donnie forgets how old he actually is. I’ll make it a point to remind him tonight,” she smiled wryly. “In some ways you are growing up faster than he is, so he doesn’t understand what this means to you. Donnie doesn’t seem to be very much interested in dating yet.”

 

Giving Connie a loving hug, she said, “Come on now. Get control of yourself and wipe Donnie’s foolish teasing out of your mind. Let’s go into the living room and watch the two-thirty show together.”

 

Connie gave her mother a forced smile as she dabbed at her eyes. She went into the bathroom and washed her face, then followed her mother into the living room and sat down on the couch to watch the show. But her mind wasn’t on the TV show. She kept remembering how she had answered Ralph on the phone and wondering if he would ever ask her to go anywhere with him again. She hoped she could make it right with him that evening.

 

It seemed as if Donnie had sprouted angel wings by the time Ralph arrived at seven to pick up Connie. He was on hand to invite Ralph into the house. Then he politely knocked on Connie’s door to announce the arrival of her date. When she reluctantly pushed open the door and stepped out into the hall, Donnie looked her over approvingly and gave a low whistle. She was dressed in bluejeans and a light blue blouse that matched her blue eyes. Her beautiful long blond hair swung loosely around her shoulders and framed her pretty oval face.

 

“Say, Ralph,” he turned back toward the living room where Ralph was sitting. “Maybe you’re not crazy after all. This kid doesn’t look half bad when she’s not mad. It’s not my fault that this is the first time I’ve ever seen her anything but mad.”

 

“You quite sure about that?” Ralph quizzed good naturedly.

 

“Hey, you know, I must be good-looking,” Donnie jested, grabbing Connie’s hand in his and standing in front of Ralph. “She’s my twin, and isn’t she pretty?”

 

Connie found it hard to stay mad at Donnie when he was clowning. In spite of her efforts not to acknowledge his compliments, a brief smile flitted across her face. Ralph rose from his chair and took Connie’s other hand and looking at Donnie, said, “I agree with you on one point, she’s pretty all right, but as for her looking like you, I wouldn’t be dating her if she did.”

 

The three young people laughed together as Donnie doubled up his fist and playfully hit Ralph on the arm, saying, “You’d better watch how you talk about me if you want to go out with my twin sister.”

 

Ralph laughed again and he and Connie turned to go. Donnie opened the door and made an exaggerated bow as they left. “Have a nice time, Sis. And don’t keep her out too late, Ralph.”

 

Mrs. Slocum came to the porch to wave as they drove away .

 

Once on their way, neither Ralph nor Connie could seem to find words to start the conversation between them. It was as if they had just met instead of having known each other for several years.

 

Finally Ralph spoke what was on his mind. “Connie, you promised to tell me what was wrong. You seemed so different when we were talking on the phone. I thought it was something between you and Donnie, but I see it isn’t that. Have I done something to displease you?”

 

Connie sighed. Donnie had been so friendly tonight. She hated to tell Ralph how ornery he had been while she was talking on the phone and how he had pestered her all day. But after all, Ralph wasn’t a stranger to her brother. He had seen his pranks time and again and knew how mercilessly he tormented her at times. Still she kept quiet.

 

“One thing you’ll find out about me, Connie, is that I won’t try to make you do something you don’t want to do.” He slowed the car. “If you regret your decision to go with me tonight and want to go back home, I’ll turn around at the next corner and take you home. You’re just not the same as you were on our other date, and I won’t want you to spend a miserable evening. I know I’m just your brother’s best friend, but I thought—” He had slowed to a stop. “How about it? Shall we go back?”

 

“Not really.”

 

“Is that all you can say, Connie?” There was frustration in his voice.

 

‘I’m sorry, Ralph.” Connie looked into those greenish-brown eyes and read in the look he gave her that she was either to change moods or go back home. In that moment, Connie realized how badly she wanted to have this date with Ralph. She couldn’t explain her mixed-up feelings, but there was a warmth in her heart towards him and suddenly she smiled. The muscles in his face relaxed and he smiled back. Connie’s inner tenseness melted under the warmth of Ralph’s smile, and once again she was the happy, talkative girl of prom night. She told Ralph how Donnie had teased and tormented her all day and how he had listened while she was talking on the telephone. “I’m sorry I acted so strangely, Ralph, but he made me so mad I couldn’t act normal.”

 

“Don’t take Donnie’s teasing so seriously, Connie.” Ralph reached over and patted her hand and started up the car again now that he was at ease about Connie’s feelings for him. As they drove on to the theater, he said, “Donnie’s really a great guy underneath, and I’m sure he loves his twin sister dearly.” He chuckled softly. “I guess I’ve missed a lot in my life by not having a sister to tease.”

 

“Aw, Ralph, cut it out. Whose side are you on anyway, mine or Donnie’s?”

 

“Tonight I’m on your side, Connie. Let’s forget Donnie and have a wonderful evening together. Okay?”

 

‘Okay, Ralph. That suits me fine.”

 

And a wonderful evening they had, eating roasted peanuts, popcorn, drinking Coco-Cola, laughing together, and holding hands in the dark theater.

 

“I’ve had a great time, Ralph,” Connie told him later when they stopped in front of her house.

 

“Me, too,” he assured her. “Could we sit on the porch swing for a while, Connie? Remember I told you I wanted to talk to you about something?”

 

“Sure, Ralph. It’s not late yet.”

 

They sat swinging slowly back and forth. “Connie, I’ve been thinking a lot since graduation, and I’ve made up my mind to go on to college.”

 

“Really? I think that’s great.”

 

“Yes, and I have been discussing it with Donnie and he’s about decided to go, too.”

 

“I can’t believe it!” Connie stared at him in amazement. “Why hasn’t Donnie mentioned it to Mom and me?”

 

“Your Mom knows, but they dreaded telling you because you two have always been so close.”

 

At Connie’s bemused “Close?” Ralph went on. “Oh I know you have your little spats, but we all know, too, that this first separation won’t be easy for either of you. Donnie and your mom will be glad I broke the news to you.”

 

“They should have told me today when I was so mad at him; I would have been glad then,” Connie laughed.

 

“How about you, Connie? I wish you were going to college with us. What are your plans now that you are out of high school?”

 

“I really haven’t given it much thought,” she answered. “I’ll probably try to get a job if I can, though

that’s doubtful. Jobs are hard to come by for a girl in this neck of the woods. I certainly don’t intend to go to college, though. I’ve had enough of school to last me a lifetime.”

 

“You’ll be at a loss without Donnie around, I suppose, and I hope you’ll miss me, too.”

 

“Maybe I’ll get some relief.”

 

“Are we that bad?”

 

“I was referring to Donnie, not you. But seriously I’ll miss him an awful lot. We’ve never been separated more than a few hours. I can’t imagine what it will be like without him.”

 

“What about me, Connie? Will you miss me, too?”

 

“I think I will, Ralph,” she answered.

 

He took her hand in his and said, “I know we’ve only had two dates, and maybe we don’t know how we feel about each other yet, but I’ve really enjoyed being with you both times, and I have a feeling that I’m not going to like that part about going away to college—leaving you.”

 

“I’d better go in,” Connie reminded him.

 

“Will you go with me again next Saturday night, Connie?”

 

She was conscious of the warmth of his hand on hers. She recognized that she enjoyed being with Ralph in a special way. Looking up at him, she answered, “I would enjoy going with you again, Ralph.”

 

“Even if Donnie teases you?”

 

“I think I can take his teasing.”

 

“Then it’s a date.”

 

CHAPTER FIVE

 

Not only was it a date that next Saturday night, but the next and the next, on through the summer.

 

“Seems as if you two really have up a case,” Donnie teased Connie one afternoon while they were swinging back and forth in the porch swing as they frequently did when their work was finished.

 

“Ralph’s fun to go out with,” Connie admitted. Then a sudden thought dawned upon her. “Why don’t you get Janet and double-date with us sometimes? That would be super-special fun.” .

 

“For two reasons, Sis. First, because Janet wouldn’t go with me, and second, you and Ralph wouldn’t want me tagging along.”

 

“I wouldn’t have asked had I not wanted you to go. Why don’t we plan to go skating together Saturday night? Surely you can find someone to go with you. How about Donna? Ralph and I had a great time at the skating rink last Saturday night. It didn’t take me long to learn with Ralph’s help, and it’s lots of fun.”

 

“Well, I hope you have lots more fun this week, but I won’t be tagging along.”

 

“Then stay at home with Mom and roast your eyeballs on the TV,” she-threw back at him sarcastically.

 

“That’s just what I intend to do, Smarty.”

 

Though Donnie passed up the invitation to go with Ralph and Connie to the skating rink, yet he never passed up any opportunities to tease.

 

As Connie was settled in her favorite chair later on in the day, watching TV, she heard a loud knock at the front door. Jumping to her feet, she hurried to open it and there stood Donnie, a sly smile playing around the corners of his mouth and his hands behind his back.

 

With his voice pitched extra low, he addressed her: “I’m from the Woods’ Florists and have some flowers for a Miss Connie Slocum from Mr. Ralph Mahoney. Does Miss Slocum live here, please?”

 

Connie, embarrassed that she had been taken in again by one of his outlandish pranks, stepped back to slam the door in his face, but not before he planted his feet solidly in the way of the door and thrust a bunch of freshly-picked bitterweeds toward her.

 

“Aw Donnie, don’t try to be funny,” she chided him, turning her back to return to her seat in front of the TV.

 

Donnie reached out and caught her collar and stuffed the bitterweeds down her back. Then turning on his heels, he ran off the porch and down the steps laughing while Connie struggled to rid herself of the unwanted, smelly weeds.

 

But Connie was learning to take Donnie’s teasing in stride. She was was ready and waiting when Ralph drove up on Saturday evening, with no thought of letting Donnie hinder her good times.

 

“Hi, Ralph,” Donnie greeted and invited him into the house.

 

“Hi, Donnie, how are you?”

 

“Oh, just fine.” Then with a mischievous look in Connie’s direction as she came down the hall, he spoke again. “In case Connie forgets to mention it, I’m sure she is very appreciative of the flowers you sent this week.”

 

Ralph looked baffled. “What flowers?” he asked.

 

Connie gave her brother a withering look. “Oh, he’s trying to be funny and not doing a very good job of it, Ralph. Let’s go.”

 

Donnie winked at Ralph and laughed loudly as they went out the door.

 

“Tell me about it, Connie,” Ralph suggested as he saw the familiar perturbed look on her face. .

 

So she very reluctantly related the little incident of the bitterweeds.

 

Ralph could not suppress a smile, knowing Donnie as he did. “You’ll get that relief you wanted in just seven days now,” he reminded her. Then taking on a more serious expression, he said softly, “Connie, do you realize we have only one more week before I leave for college? I’m going to miss you terribly.”

 

“I’ll miss you, too, Ralph.”

 

They drove in silence for a while, then Ralph asked, “How about going somewhere this evening where we can be alone to talk? Did you especially want to go skating?”

 

“Whatever you want is all right with me, Ralph.”

 

“Then how about the park? We can talk there.”

 

“That’s fine with me.”

 

Later as they strolled along, hand in hand, watching families finishing up picnic suppers, boys at play on the ball field, and other couples out for a walk—some elderly and some young like themselves—Ralph suggested they find an isolated bench and sit awhile to talk.

 

“I have some things to tell you, Connie.”

 

“I’m a good listener,” she smiled back at him.

 

“Connie,” he began after they had found a secluded bench and seated themselves, “I have really enjoyed dating you this summer. We’ve had some wonderful times together. Back when I used to watch you and Donnie fighting and arguing with each other all the time, I had no idea what a sweet girl was hidden behind that fiery temper of yours.” Reaching for her hand, he continued, I don’t know exactly how to say it, but—” he paused.

 

“What are you trying to tell me, Ralph?” She smiled, encouraging him to speak his mind.

 

“I love you. That’s what I’m trying to tell you. You’re in my thoughts constantly. I think you’re the most wonderful girl I’ve ever known.”

 

Connie felt the color rising in her cheeks as he looked into her eyes. She sighed and he put his arm about her and drew her to him.

 

“I love you very much, Connie,” he whispered close to her ear. “Do you—could you—ever care for me?”

 

“I care for you lots, Ralph.”

 

‘Sweetheart!” he whispered, his lips against her hair. “My own dear sweetheart. How can I bear to go off and leave you behind? Tell me you’ll miss me, Connie?”

 

“Oh, I will miss you, Ralph. I’ll be awfully lonely without you. But we can write. That will help.”

 

“Will you write to me every day?” he asked.

 

She laughed softly. “Maybe not every day, but every week at least.”

 

“What will you do while I’m gone, Connie? With Donnie gone, too, and still no job in view, you’ll have lots of spare time on your hands. You’ll be looking for another escort for Saturday evenings, I fear.”

 

“Don’t worry. Mom will see to it that I don’t have much spare time. She’ll have me doing Donnie’s jobs as well as my own. I’ll be mowing the lawn or shoveling snow, as the case may be. Then there is always housecleaning to be done, Mom can find more to do in a house than you could ever imagine.”

 

I’ve noticed that your house is always orderly and clean,” he acknowledged, “Your mom is training a good wife for some lucky guy,” He squeezed her hand meaningfully.

 

Connie pretended not to notice the intimation. “You sound just like Mom. She thinks it is her inevitable duty to train me to be an immaculate housekeeper so that when I get a home of my own, I’ll be able to do it justice.” Standing to her feet, she said, “We’d better be going. Mom will be anxious if we are later than usual”

 

Ralph drove slowly on the way back to Connie’s home. At his suggestion, Connie moved over close to him and he placed his arm about her shoulder. When he stopped in her driveway, he asked, “May I sit with you just a few more minutes on the porch swing?”

 

Okay, but it’s getting late, and you know Mom. She’ll want me to come in soon.”

 

Listen, Connie,” he spoke entreatingly once they were seated. “About other guys—I don’t intend to date other girls at college because you are the girl I want. Will you wait for me till I get through college?”

 

With Ralph’s arm about her shoulders and her hand clasped in his, it was easy for Connie to promise she would wait for him. Four years seemed as nothing, and she felt secure in Ralph’s love and appreciation.

 

“I’ve never dated anyone else, Ralph, and I never want to. You’re the first boy I’ve ever cared for.” She lifted her eyes to meet his as she made her promise. “I will wait for you until you’re through college.”

 

“It’s almost as if we’re engaged, isn’t it, Sweetheart? I’m the luckiest guy in the whole world.” He put his cheek against hers as he whispered again, “I love you very much, Connie.”

 

“I love you, too, Ralph.”

 

The following week passed quickly. There was much to do in preparation for Donnie’s leaving for college. Mr. Slocum came for a short visit. He seemed impressed that his only son was enrolling in college. He had agreed to pay the bills, and when he was ready to leave, he handed Donnie a sizable check for extras.

 

Donnie had been on his best behavior during his last week home, but the day before he was to leave, it seemed he was about to burst to play one final trick on his poor unsuspecting sister. Kneeling before her as she sat relaxing in the big easy chair, he took her hand in his and in his high-pitched mimicking voice, he said, “I love you very much, Connie. Will you wait for me till I’m through college?”

 

Connie jerked her hand from his and with her face aflame with anger and embarrassment, she snatched a magazine from the rack and began beating him over the head.

 

“Now, now, Connie, dear, we’ll have to break our engagement if you’re going to treat me like this. I don’t want to marry a husband-beater.” He had jumped out of her way and was heading for the door.

 

“Donnie Eugene, you are simply awful,” Connie screamed at him as she gave chase. “You’re a sneak, a good-for-nothing sneak.”

 

“But Donnie, laughing hysterically, slammed the door behind him, leaving a furious Connie standing just inside the screen door waving the magazine and yelling.

 

“What’s this all about?” Mrs. Slocum had appeared on the scene, a cigarette hanging from the corner of her mouth, and brandishing a switch in the air. A teary-eyed Connie turned to face her.

 

“Oh, Mom, he’s simply terrible.” She fell on her mother’s shoulder, weeping brokenly.

 

Mrs. Slocum held Connie close, speaking soothing words to her. “Only one more day, Connie. He’s leaving tomorrow. Can’t you put up with him just one more day?”

 

“But he has been eavesdropping on Ralph and me, Mom. He repeated exactly what Ralph said to me. I’m terribly embarrassed. Why does he have to spoil absolutely everything for me?”

 

“But we’ll miss him when he’s gone, honey. This old house will be awfully empty without Donnie. Can’t you forgive him just one more time?”

 

“I’ll try, Mom, but you don’t know how he hurt me.”

 

“He’ll be gone tomorrow, Connie, and then he can’t hurt you anymore.” Her voice was choked with emotion. This made Connie really think of what it would be like without Donnie and she decided to drop the subject. Maybe Donnie deserved punishment, but it was evident there was no need of pressing her case with her mother on the day before his leaving.

 

Ralph’s father was to drive the two boys to the bus station. When Mr. Mahoney and Ralph drove up the next day to pick up Donnie, Connie had to fight back the tears. Ralph was getting out of the car to say good-bye to Connie when Donnie unexpectedly grabbed her in a brotherly embrace. Connie was amazed to feel his damp cheek against hers as he said in a husky voice, “I’m sorry, Sis, for being so mean to you. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me, especially for yesterday. Honest, I didn’t eavesdrop on you and Ralph, but I must have guessed pretty close about what he had said to you, and that was a mean trick. I didn’t realize how it would hurt you until I saw your stricken face.” He let go of her as he added, “I’m going to miss you an awful lot. Write to me sometimes.”

 

Before Connie could recover from her shock, he had turned to Mrs. Slocum and was clinging to her like a little boy. Mrs. Slocum made no effort to check her tears. Her boy was leaving home, and things would never be the same again. She wept openly.

 

“Connie, I’ll miss you terribly.” It was Ralph now facing her. He took both of her hands in his and, in a low voice meant for her ears only, he said, “Write to me often, my Cinderella, and I’ll be looking forward to Christmas vacation from this very moment.”

 

Connie smiled through her tears. “Good-bye, Ralph. Study hard and make good. I’ll be pulling for you.”

 

As the car drove away, Connie cried out, “How can we stand it Mom? Ralph means so much to me and Donnie is the sweetest brother in the whole world.” She fell into her mother’s arms and they wept together for their loss.

 

CHAPTER SIX

 

The days were even longer and lonelier than Connie had ever imagined they would be. And as the days turned into weeks, the many tears of frustration and anger she had shed over Donnie’s constant teasing turned into tears of loneliness and longing. As she went about her work, she often imagined she felt her twin brother creeping up behind her to give her hair a sudden yank, and when the shrill sound of the telephone pierced the quietness of the too-empty house, momentarily she imagined it was Ralph calling to make a date for Saturday night. Her one comfort was the letters. She watched the mail daily, hoping to hear from one or the other of the boys. The last letter received from Donnie read like this: “Dear Mom and Connie, You both are ever in my thoughts. Sometimes when I should be studying, I catch my thoughts wandering a long way off. Today being Saturday, I can see you, Mom, baking pies and doing the wash. I guess you don’t have half as much to wash now that your son is away from home. It’s quite a chore keeping my clothes up to par. (I might add here, I appreciate your teaching me how to wash and take care my clothes while I was home. The training sure comes.in handy now.) I’m thankful for the extra money Dad gave me for clothes before I left. I now have a week’s supply of clothes, and that makes it easier for me to keep them up.

 

“About the pies, Mom, I can almost smell them baking. Is it lemon today or my favorite coconut? M-m-m, how I wish I could slip in the back door and snitch a piece, even before it gets cold. Did you mind too very much, Mom, when you discovered your pesky son had cut into your pretty pies? Honestly Mom, I’m sorry I was so much trouble to you. You’re a great Mom and as you have probably guessed by now, I’m homesick to see you.

 

“And how is my twin sister? Do you miss me, Sis? Or are you enjoying my absence? It must be great to go about your work with no one around to torment you, and when it’s all done, to be able to relax. I guess I overdid the teasing, but you always fell for it so easy, and you looked so funny when you lost your temper. I guess you have the world’s worst temper. I can remember the many times you chased me through the meadow with the broom. I guess if I had ever tripped and fell, you would have beat me to death before I could have gotten up. Honestly, Sis, I’m sorry I was such a brat. Do you believe I’m really sincere? Well, I am and I hope you’ll forgive your twin brother. I miss you an awful lot. Ralph misses you, too. He droops around like a wet chicken when he expects a letter and none comes. Could it be love? Say, Sis, what does it feel like to be in love? I think maybe I am. I’ve met a sweet little girl here, and I sure enjoy being with her. Her name is Susan. Maybe you’ll get to meet her someday.

 

“Well, it’s only six more weeks until Christmas. I’m anxious to get home to see you both. Write to me often. Your letters mean a lot. Love, Donnie.”

 

Then there was a letter from Ralph. “Dear Connie, I just finished reading your last letter over for the fourth time. I’m glad you’re keeping busy, but don’t get too busy to write. If I don’t hear at least once a week, I get depressed. I get afraid someone else has stolen my girl’s heart (not really). I know you’ll be true to me because you promised and I trust you, Connie, dear.

 

“College life is difficult to keep up with, especially for me since I have to work on the side. I’m kind of envious of Donnie with his paid-up school bill and monthly allowance. His dad is really encouraging him to get a college education. Not that my dad wouldn’t do more for me if he could.

 

“You mentioned in your letter about the lady visiting you so faithfully and inviting you to church. I remember seeing her several times when I was visiting in your home. I’ll have to admit she’s quite persistent. How long has she been visiting you, anyway? Must be at least two or three years. I can see why you’re considering going to church with her. I might even go to church if someone kept after me for that long. Maybe it will keep you from being so lonely if you go to church. Anyway, you’ll have to make your own decision about that. I don’t know enough about that sort of thing to advise you.

 

“Connie, dear, I can’t close without telling you how much I love you. I’m so glad I asked you to go to the prom with me. That’s when I first saw you as my lovely Cinderella. Up until then you were just Donnie’s twin sister. Remember? I often lie in bed at night and let my mind wander back over the times when we were together. Do you recall the night we sat on the bench at the park?

 

“Darling, I love you more than words can express. I need to hear that you love me, too. That’s all that keeps me going. Write real, real soon. Yours and yours alone Ralph.”

 

Somehow, Connie felt relieved about going to church with Mrs. Flowers since Ralph hadn’t seemed to be against the idea. She purposed that if the lady came and invited them again that she would go with her. When she voiced her thoughts to her mother, she failed to receive any encouragement and wondered if she’d really have the nerve to carry out her plan.

 

“Better be careful, Connie,” her mother had warned. “Mrs. Flowers’ church is very->quite strict, and you will never be able to live to please them. If you wish to attend church. why not attend Reverend Wyatt’s church?”

 

“But Mom, Reverend Wyatt has invited us only once. and Mrs. Flowers has come over and over. She must be much more concerned about us than Reverend Wyatt. Besides, Donnie declares that Reverend Wyatt smokes cigarettes, and I don’t want to listen to a sermon given by a preacher who smokes cigarettes.”

 

“What’s wrong with cigarettes?” Mrs. Slocum blew smoke and knocked the ashes off the one she was smoking.

 

“Oh, Mom, it’s all right for you, but not for a preacher.”

 

“A preacher is a human being, too, Connie. He has the same rights I do.”

 

“Well, maybe you’re right, Mom, but I just want make Mrs. Flowers happy this once. She’s such a dear.”

 

“All I’ve got to say, Connie, is to be careful and don’t let Mrs. Flowers’ religion rub off on you.”

 

“Oh, you don’t have to worry about that, Mom. I’m just lonely and want something different to do for a change.”

 

Sunday morning found Connie up early. She brushed her hair until it shone, carefully applied her make-up, and pulled on her new bluejeans and blouse.

 

“How do I look, Mom?” She stood waiting for her mother’s inspection and approval.

 

Mrs. Slocum gasped. “You can’t wear jeans to church, Connie. Don’t you know better than that?”

 

Connie’s expressive face showed how her mother’s words had stung.

 

“Why can’t I wear jeans? That’s all I’ve got.”

 

“Then you’d better call Mrs. Flowers and tell her you can’t go.”

 

“But Mom, I promised. And didn’t you see how her face lit up when I told her I would go. I can’t back out now. It would be an awful let-down for her.”

 

Mrs. Slocum rose to her feet. “Hurry, Connie, let’s go through your closet. Surely there is something you can wear.”

 

With a downcast look, Connie followed her mother into the bedroom. Mrs. Slocum fumbled through the closet, inspecting each garment.

 

“Here’s a skirt, Connie. Hurry and slip it on before she gets here.”

 

“Oh, Mom, I can’t wear that. That’s two years old. I’ve outgrown it. And look, the zipper’s broken.”

 

“Dear me! Connie, run call her and tell her you’re sick. Tell her anything, just don’t let her come by to pick you up.”

 

“But I promised her, Mom.”

 

Suddenly Connie’s face lit up. “My prom dress! I can wear my prom dress.”

 

“People don’t wear such fancy dresses to church, Connie. Why can’t you call Mrs. Flowers and tell her something has come up and you can’t go? Tell her you’ll go next Sunday. I’ll try to buy you a dress this week.”

 

Connie was already unbuttoning her blouse and slipping off her jeans. Reaching for the pink satin dress, she slipped it over her head. “I’ll keep my promise in this,” she said.

 

“I’m so embarrassed I could cry,” Mrs. Slocum exclaimed as she left Connie’s room. But deep inside, Connie felt good to think that she wasn’t letting kind Mrs. Flowers down.

 

“She’s here, Connie.”

 

“Tell her I’ll be right out.” Connie’s vibrant voice contrasted sharply with her mother’s dull resignation.

 

If Mrs. Flowers was the least bit disconcerted because of Connie’s attire, she concealed it completely. She greeted Connie with a warm smile and they were soon on their way to church.

 

Never had Connie met more friendly people. It seemed that everyone who attended gave her a hearty welcome. The young people invited her to their class, and though she was the only one in a formal gown, there was no evidence that they noticed any difference. Only Connie, herself, felt ill at ease because of her party dress, and wished for a nice skirt and blouse like her newly-made friend, Debbie’s.. Maybe her mother would let her buy one before she came to church again. Connie watched the different girls in their demure dresses. Debbie’s cousin, Judy, had a lovely highnecked brown and beige flowered print, Betsy, the girl Connie had tried to get Donnie to take to the prom, had on a navy jumper and pale blue blouse. Then there was another girl who had been introduced as Mary Bartel who had on a three-tiered gathered skirt. Connie admired the way the black print contrasted with her lacy white blouse. Why, there was no end to the variety of styles in dresses, she thought as she began to look forward to her shopping trip for a proper dress to wear to church.

 

Connie sat next to Mrs. Flowers during the preaching service. Brother Morgan read from the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew and preached about the second coming of Jesus. He explained that the signs of the end of time that were foretold in the Bible were rapidly being fulfilled and that this old world was ripe for the coming of Christ. Tears coursed down his cheeks as he painted a word picture of the true church being raptured, or caught up in the air to meet Christ. He explained how wonderful it would be for those who were ready to meet their Lord and Saviour, how they could lay aside all their heartaches, burdens, and cares of this life and be clothed in the wedding garment, ready for the marriage supper of the lamb. These were all new ideas to Connie, and not entirely comprehensible. She wondered if such a fantastic thing as being caught up into the air to meet God could really happen in this prosaic world.

 

But there was another side to the story, and Brother Morgan told that side, too. He said that those who were not ready to meet the Lord would be left behind when Jesus came to rapture the church. These would have to go through great tribulation. When he explained the horrors and suffering of the time of tribulation, Connie instinctively edged over closer to Mrs. Flowers as if she could protect her from the inevitable. She felt she couldn’t be ready to go up in the rapture because she hadn’t attended church since she was a little girl and a neighbor had taken her to Sunday school.

 

Even though the loud exclamations of “amen” that came from different ones in the congregation seemed to encourage the preacher and cause him preach even more fervently, they disturbed Connie. And the message itself put a sense of fear in her. Still she was fascinated and a bit curious. She decided that if anyone invited her to come back again, she would. It was far more interesting than sitting at home with her mother just watching television. She wondered if her mother would consider going to church with her. It would be a diversion for them both. Connie decided she would ask her.

 

After the service, many of the people shook hands with Connie and invited her to return. Back home again, Connie told her mother about the service, but Mrs. Slocum tried to discourage her new interest.

 

“I’m terribly lonely having to stay here by myself,” she told her. “You’ve fulfilled your obligation to Mrs. Flowers, so now you can forget about church.”

 

“But Mom, I really enjoyed it. It was so different from the everyday humdrum around here. It’s somewhere to go and something to do. I was hoping I could get a new outfit this week to to wear next Sunday.”

 

“You have spent your allotment for jeans, Connie. We can’t afford any more clothes just now.”

 

Had her mother so soon forgotten her promise to buy her a proper dress for church? Connie couldn’t believe it, but she decided not to start an argument for fear it would make her mother angry, and Connie hated to have her mother cross with her.

 

Maybe we can cut off my formal and take off some the trim to make it a little plainer,” Connie suggested, “Then I can wear that until I get money for a new outfit.

 

Connie noticed an uneasy look cross her mother’s face as she asked gruffly, “You plan to go every week?”

 

“I think I’d like to, Mom. The young people were really friendly and made me feel wanted. I especially liked one girl called Debbie. You know I don’t have any real close friends. Now that I’m out of school, I don’t see any young people. It made me feel alive again to be with those kids. With Donnie and Ralph gone, I never get to go anywhere to see anybody.” .

 

“Well, I guess you do need young friends, but it made the morning awfully long for me. I hate to think of you going every week.”

 

“Oh, Mom, I wish you’d go with me. Brother Morgan preaches with such feeling that you know what he is saying is important. I noticed tears running down his cheeks as he preached. I’m sure you’d make friends there, too. Why don’t you try it, Mom?”

 

“I’m not going, Connie, so don’t start pestering me about it.” Mrs. Slocum’s voice was firm. With a wounded look, Connie left the room. Her mother nervously reached for her pack of cigarettes.

 

 

CHAPTER SEVEN

 

The days had begun to grow chilly, and Mrs. Slocum was fretting over her plants. “A hard freeze is predicted tonight. We’ll have to find a place to put the house plants, Connie. If we leave them on the porch, the freeze will get them. I lost some that way last year.”

 

“I think we could afford to lose some again this year,” Connie eyed her mother cautiously before going on. “Where will we ever be able to put so many plants? You must have at least a dozen more than we had last year.”

 

“Just don’t worry about that, Connie. Leave it to me and I’ll find a place for them. I’m sure not going to leave them out to die after having such good luck with my new starts.”

 

As they began to rearrange the furniture to make room for the plants, Connie mentioned that the Christmas holidays were drawing near.

 

“Ralph and Donnie will be out of school on the fourteenth. I can hardly wait,” she commented, the excitement mounting in her voice.

 

“That’s a ways off yet, Connie,” her mother reminded her.

 

But the weeks passed quickly, and in the final days Mrs. Slocum and Connie had been busy getting everything in readiness. The house was thoroughly cleaned as usual, and the last three days were reserved for grocery shopping; cooking, and baking pies, cakes, and cookies. Mr. Slocum had sent a generous Christmas allowance, so besides all the good things to eat there was plenty of gift money, too. Connie had begged to go shopping with Debbie and her mother, and Mrs. Slocum had consented. After choosing gifts for her family and Ralph, she used the rest of her money on clothes for herself. She bought a dress, two skirts, a sweater, a dressy blouse, and a pair of shoes.

 

“No jeans?” her mother asked unbelievingly, upon her return.

 

“Oh, Mom, I have loads of jeans. I need clothes to wear to church,” she answered.

 

Mrs. Slocum was noticeably provoked because of Connie’s faithful attendance to church. She didn’t like the difference it was making in Connie. But Connie was experiencing a sense of fulfillment that she had never known before in all of her life.

 

“What do you think Ralph will say about this religious binge you’re on?” Mrs. Slocum queried.

 

“I’m not sure. He doesn’t seem very excited about it in his letters.”

 

“Do you think he will agree to go to church with you? I’m sure that will be one of the first things you will ask him.”

 

“Oh, I’ve already invited him to go with me. I’ve written about it several times, but he always gives me an evasive answer. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

 

“And how about Donnie?” Mrs. Slocum questioned further. “How do you think he will react to all this church doings?”

 

“I don’t know about Donnie. He has always made fun of Mrs. Flowers and called her ‘Miz Praise-the-Lord.’ He will probably be like you, Mom.” Connie felt her temper flaring up at the thought of the ungracious attitude of the rest of the family toward Mrs. Flowers. “If you and Donnie really knew her as I do, you’d see how fine she is in spite of her peculiarities.”

 

“Oh, Connie,” Mrs. Slocum pleaded, “why don’t you just forget about church while the boys are home? Let’s just have a great time together.”

 

“I expect to have a good time while they are here, but my church attendance shouldn’t interfere,” Connie answered coldly.

 

“I hope not.” Mrs. Slocum’s voice, too, was cool.

 

A few nights later, Mrs. Slocum and Connie were waiting eagerly at the bus terminal, their arms linked together, their differences forgotten in the anticipation of seeing the boys again. They chatted with Mrs. Mahoney to pass the time. Ralph’s father was restlessly pacing the floor, giving vent to the impatience they all felt.

 

The bus station was gaily decorated with many-colored Christmas lights, and carols were being played over the speaker system for the entertainment of those who were waiting for buses.

 

Connie let the women talk while her mind raced backwards and forwards. Three and one half months was a long time to be separated from her twin brother, and from Ralph, her beloved. She snapped her finger nails together nervously and moved over to where she could see the bus better when it pulled in. Would Ralph notice her new skirt and sweater? she wondered. She remembered what a fuss he and Donnie had made over her in bluejeans. That was on their first date after the prom. Connie smiled, remembering. She knew she looked a whole lot more dressed up now than then. She was glad that the weather was unseasonably warm and she didn’t have to cover up her new outfit with a coat. Her light blue sweater did things for her blue eyes, and the matching blue plaid skirt was a perfect fit. Mrs. Winters and Debbie had good taste in clothes. They had helped her pick out what best suited her coloring and build. When Debbie saw her in this outfit, she had said: “Perfect for you. And so ladylike.”

 

Connie shifted her jacket to her other arm. Her thoughts were suddenly interrupted by the arrival of the bus. As it came to a halt, the people began to pour out. Connie motioned for her mother and the Mahoneys. Then turning back toward the bus, she kept her eyes fixed on the door for a first glimpse of the boys. There they were, Donnie first, grinning from ear to ear, and then Ralph. She hurried to meet them. Donnie grabbed her in a loving embrace. The whiff of cigarette smoke on his breath almost stifled her as he held her close for a few seconds. “Could it be?” she asked herself. “Had Donnie picked up the awful habit of smoking after the way he and she had deplored Mom’s smoking all these years?”

 

“Sis, you look great,” he complimented her and quickly released her to embrace his mother .

 

Connie turned to Ralph and held out her hand toward him, but he ignored it and caught her in his arms, whispering in her ear, “My darling! It’s been a long time.”

 

After exchanging greetings all around, Donnie was anxious to start for home and the good things waiting there. So the two families soon went their separate ways.

 

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Ralph had told Connie. “Mom and Dad expect me at home this first evening.”

 

As Donnie drove home, Mrs. Slocum pulled out a cigarette, lit it and took a long draw. Donnie, too, took one from a pack, lit it and started smoking.

 

“I see you’ve picked up a bad habit,” Mrs. Slocum remarked.

 

“All my friends smoke, Mom, even my girlfriend. I didn’t want to be a wet blanket. Besides you smoke, too, Mom, so you shouldn’t mind if I do.”

 

There was silence for a few moments. Connie couldn’t understand why she felt so strongly against Donnie’s smoking. The smoke from his and their mother’s cigarettes almost stifled her. She started coughing and rolled down the window a crack for fresh air.

 

“I see you don’t like my smoking either, Connie.”

 

“No, I don’t.”

 

“Well, let’s not spend the whole vacation fussing over my cigarettes. I’m hooked on them now and I don’t intend to give them up, so let’s change the subject.”

 

“How are you doing in college?” Connie asked after an awkward silence.

 

“Just great!” Donnie exclaimed. “My grades are much better than I ever dreamed I could make. One thing in my favor is that Susan has already had some of my courses and she’s a big help to me. You should meet Susan. She’s a year older than me, but you’d never guess it—she’s so tiny. She’s a great gal.”

 

“I’d love to meet her,” Connie assured him. Then she asked, “How is Ralph doing?”

 

“To be honest, Sis, his grades are not up to par. He has to work such long hours to help with his expenses that he really doesn’t have time to apply himself as I do. Dad has been keeping my pockets full of change, so I don’t need to work.”

 

“He ought to fill somebody’s pockets, as much money as he makes.” Mrs. Slocum’s voice was thick with sarcasm. “It wouldn’t hurt him to send a little more our way sometimes. “

 

“Now Mom, don’t start knocking Dad. He’s doing a good part by his only son. He’s even sent extra money at times when I requested it.”

 

“You mean you actually asked Dad for more money?” Connie was stunned by his audacity. .

 

“And why not? He’s got plenty of dough, and since I’ve started smoking and joined the fraternity and have to treat with drinks now and then—Well, it all takes money, and I just have to have a little more spending money.”

 

“Donnie, you can’t mean it! You don’t really drink?” Connie did not try to conceal her disappointment in him.

 

Mrs. Slocum, too, voiced her disapproval. “Donnie, is this what college has done for you? Smoking and drinking?”

 

“Now look, Mom, don’t blame the college for my bad habits. Ralph hasn’t picked up any bad habits, and he’s attending the same college. I just want to be one of the gang. All the kids I run with smoke and drink occasionally, and they’re a great bunch.”

 

“Who does Ralph run with?” Connie’s voice betrayed her anxiety.

 

Ralph has to work. He doesn’t have time or money to spend for parties and fun.” Connie breathed a sigh of relief at Donnie’s answer.

 

They pulled up to the house and Donnie jumped out.

 

“My, it’s great to be home again,” he exclaimed, going to the other side of the car. In his exuberance, he held the door for the ladies and assisted them out of the car, playing the perfect gentleman. Then he opened the trunk of the car and took out his luggage. “Here, Connie, take this bag. Whoops! Don’t drop it. There are gifts for you and Mom in there. Be careful not to break them.”

 

The disagreeable words spoken in the car were soon forgotten, at least for the moment, as Mrs. Slocum and Connie opened their gifts and helped Donnie unpack. There was a dainty music box for Connie and a lovely gray shawl for Mrs. Slocum. “How thoughtful of you to bring us gifts, Donnie!. Maybe college hasn’t been all bad influence on you.” Donnie flushed with embarrassment at his mother’s praise.

 

The following. days were almost like old times except for Donnie’s smoking and a few swear words he had picked up from his school.chums. It was hard for Connie to adjust to these things. Brother Morgan had explained that the body is the temple of God and that we shouldn’t defile God’s temple. Also, that buying cigarettes to satisfy a bad habit was wasting money and that God expects us to be good stewards of the money He allows us to have.

 

Ralph was as steady and loving as ever. He came over the day after he got home as he had promised, and he and Connie had gone for a ride and had a long talk together. There was only one flaw in their relationship, and that was their disagreement over Connie’s church attendance .

 

“I’m glad you’ve found. an outlet, Connie, but you’re taking all this church business too seriously,” he cautioned her.

 

“If you only knew the people, Ralph, you wouldn’t feel that way,” she said wistfully. “Why don’t you go to church with me Sunday and see for yourself?”

 

“I’m hardly the church-going type, Connie. Can’t we do something else together Sunday? How about a movie?”

 

“I’ll go to the movies with you Saturday night Ralph,” she said, then added hesitantly, “but Brother Morgan thinks there is too much immorality and loose living in general connected with the movies and the stars who play in them. I haven’t gone to one since you left.”

 

“Well, Connie, let’s forget the church and talk about us. I’ve surely missed you.”

 

“I’ve missed you, too, Ralph-an awful lot.”

 

He reached for her hand, saying, “That’s better. Sometimes I felt like catching the next bus home. I would get so tired of working and studying and never getting enough sleep. Then I would think of you and how I want to amount to something for your sake. Your love and your faithful letters were all that kept me going at times.”

 

“Maybe it’s good you had to work, Ralph. Look at the bad habits Donnie picked up because of extra time, extra money, and wrong associates.”

 

“I could have used the extra time and money, Connie. Also, I would have enjoyed a few more friends.”

 

“Perhaps you do need the money and the time, but please watch your associates, Ralph. I couldn’t stand it if you started smoking and drinking.”

 

“Aw now Connie, don’t be narrow minded. What harm is there in a little cigarette or an occasional drink? Everybody does it.”

 

Connie stiffened and withdrew her hand from his. He turned and looked into her eyes .

 

“What’s wrong, Connie?” His voice was a mere whisper. “Is all the good morality you’re learning at church going to separate us? Remember, Connie, we’re still living in a sinful world and we will have to partake of its sins until we leave it.”

 

There was silence between them when Ralph had finished his speech. His hazel eyes looked deep into her blue ones. Connie remembered the first time he had looked at her like that, and how she had felt inside. Tonight, the feeling was even stronger than then. She didn’t want differences to come between them. Suddenly Ralph swept her into his arms.

 

“Let’s not argue over trivial matters, Connie, my darling.” he whispered. “Our time together is going to be all too short. Let’s enjoy it to the full. Okay?”

 

“Okay, Ralph.”

 

“Tell me you love me, Connie. My heart aches to hear you say it.”

 

“Oh, I do love you, Ralph. More than ever before.”

 

CHAPTER EIGHT

 

Connie didn’t go to church that Sunday. She called Mrs. Flowers with the excuse that she was needed to help prepare the noon meal since her brother was home from college. To keep from being guilty of a lie, which Brother Morgan preached so strongly against, she joined her mother in the kitchen, and together they prepared fried chicken and gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, steamed carrots, green salad, rolls, and banana pudding. Ralph was invited to eat with them, and it was like old times except for the twinge of conscience that Connie felt when she thought of church and dear Mrs. Flowers and her Sunday school class. Had she been aware of the special prayers that were going up in her behalf, she would have been even more miserable. No doubt it was the prayers that caused the far-away look in her eyes which Ralph mentioned to her several times.

 

“Let’s go for a ride,” he suggested after they had eaten and he had helped Connie with the dishes.

 

As they drove away, Ralph pulled Connie close to him and asked, “What’s the matter, my love? You seem unhappy at times.”

 

“Oh, I’m fine, Ralph.” She tried to appear cheery. “Let’s drive down to the waterfalls. I love to hear the water roar and watch the sunlight dancing on the falls. Maybe we should have asked Donnie to join us. After all, I’ll only get to see him a couple of weeks, too.”

 

Ralph looked hurt as he slowed the car. “Shall I go back and get him?”

 

“Of course not, Ralph. It was only a passing thought. You get hurt so easily.”

 

“Do I?” She didn’t like the tone of his voice. It seemed to her that he could be more understanding and not so touchy.

 

They drove in silence until they reached the falls. Connie waited until Ralph got out and opened her door. He caught her hand and helped her out. Hand in hand, they started toward the falls. Connie longed to say something to heal the breach between them, but she could think of nothing appropriate, so they just stood and watched in silence, pulling their coats more tightly around them in the chill air.

 

After a while Ralph picked up a stick and threw it into the water. As they watched the falls taking it out of sight, he spoke. “Do you think the day would have turned out better if I had gone to church with you this morning?”

 

Connie looked up into his face, a surprised expression on her own. “Why do you ask, Ralph?”

 

“Because you’ve acted strangely all day. I presume you miss your church, your friends, and your preacher. Evidently I am a poor substitute.”

 

“I do miss going to church, Ralph. It has become part of my life. It’s not that I don’t enjoy being with you just as much as ever, but—were you serious when you mentioned going with me?”

 

“Would it help matters, Connie, if I’d promise to go with you next Sunday, the last Sunday of my vacation?”

 

“Oh, I’d love that, Ralph. When you meet those nice people, then you’ll understand how I feel.”

 

“I have my doubts about that, Connie, but if it will make you happy, I’ll go with you.”

 

“Oh, Ralph, you’re wonderful.” She flashed him her sunniest smile.

 

The rest of the day, Connie was in a good mood. After she and Ralph returned to the house, they played checkers, changing off turns with Donnie. Later they popped popcorn and made fudge and ate it over a game of dominoes which the four of them played together, Mrs. Slocum having been called in to test the fudge. Connie couldn’t help noticing how relaxed her mother looked. Did it have anything to do with her staying home from church, Connie wondered, or was she just glad that Donnie was home?

 

They watched TV together until nearly midnight. Connie walked out onto the porch to say good night to Ralph. “It’s fun having you home again, Ralph,” she said.

 

“And it’s wonderful being here, Connie. Maybe the day sort of started out wrong for us, but we’ve had a perfect evening. Thanks, Connie. It was well worth my promise to go to church with you next Sunday. Good night, dear.”

 

Connie could hardly wait for the following Sunday. All week long, she looked forward to it as the time when Ralph would begin to understand her new interest. Assured that there would be no more misunderstandings between them once he attended church with her, and at ease with her own conscience, Connie was as light and gay as even Ralph could wish when he took her to his home for a meal on Wednesday evening and to the movies on Saturday night.

 

And true to his word, Ralph was at Connie’s at 9:35 the following Sunday morning in time to pick her up for Sunday school. But Connie’s expectation that he would enjoy the services as she did was short lived. She sensed immediately that he had misgivings about coming. He was very cool toward all the cordial handshakes and hearty greetings and seemed embarrassed at the “amens” and other praises to God. She noticed him checking his watch throughout the service. His nervousness made her uneasy, too. So she was as relieved as he was when the benediction was pronounced. Ralph guided her gently toward the door the moment the last “amen” was said, and she could only smile briefly at her friends as she passed their pews. Ralph ignored every friendly advance.

 

Once inside Ralph’s car, she gave vent to her impatience with him. “Ralph Mahoney, why did you have to be rude to those dear people? I don’t see how I can ever face them again. What’s wrong with you anyway? I thought you were a gentleman.”

 

“Cool down, Connie. I just acted the way I felt. There’s no use being hypocritical.” Lowering his voice, he added, “As many churches as there are in this area, Connie Slocum, why did you choose that old-fashioned, amen-hallelujah crowd? Why, they must think God is deaf the way they say amen and praise the Lord. Honestly, Connie, can’t you choose better than that? I just don’t know what to think of my girl attending a church like that.”

 

Connie’s temper flared. “You may not know what to think of me, Ralph Mahoney, but I’m no longer your girl. I’m through with you. Take me home this minute and drop me off in front of the house and don’t bother to get out.”

 

 

 

Ralph threw back his head and laughed. “What a temper you have, my dear. It’s a good thing I know you well or I’d take you home this minute. But I know your anger doesn’t last long. I’ve seen you mad at Donnie, and before the day was out you were acting as if nothing had happened.”

 

Tears of anger and frustration clouded Connie’s blue eyes. “It’s one thing to get over a spat with my brother, but it’s another thing, altogether, to get over being humiliated before my friends at church, and by a guy I really liked.” Suddenly she realized they were not headed towards her home. “Hey, where are you taking me? This is not the way home.”

 

“Do you think I’m going to take you home and you are mad enough to bite a nail in two? What would Donnie and your mom think? We’re going for a ride until you calm down.”

 

“Ralph, I don’t care what anybody thinks, and I’m not going to calm down. Take me home!” When he still wouldn’t take her seriously, she declared, “Ralph Maloney, I’m as serious as I’ve ever been in my whole life. You and I are through. Just remember this one thing, that from now on I’m just Donnie’s twin sister to you.” Her face was flushed with anger.

 

Ralph slowed the car and looked at her intently. “Connie, I believe you really mean what you’re saying.” His words came slow and incredulous. “You’re breaking up with me, aren’t you?” The consternation and hurt on his face would have broken her resolve, except for her awful temper.

 

“I really mean it, Ralph, we’re through.”

 

“All on account of the church?”

 

“The church had nothing to do with it. You humiliated me.”

 

“Don’t you love me anymore, Connie?”

 

She wouldn’t answer.

 

“Do you think maybe after you cool off that you’ll feel differently?”

 

“I have my mind made up, Ralph. Regardless of how I feel when I get over my anger, I no longer want to be your girlfriend”

 

Ralph turned around at the next corner and headed the car in the direction of Connie’s home. Neither spoke until he stopped in front of the house.

 

“I’m sorry I made you mad, Connie,” his voice was husky. “And I’m sorry you’re calling it quits. If you change your mind, I’ll be home until Thursday. You know my phone number. I’ll be waiting.”

 

“I tell you, my mind is made up, Ralph. We could never make it the way you feel toward the people who have befriended me and are showing me a better way of life.”

 

“I could apologize about that, Connie, but it would be hypocritical. Those people are not my crowd. If they are yours, then it’s best we say good-bye.”

 

 

He got out, went around the car and opened the door for her. She raised her eyes to his to say good-bye, and for a fleeting second, as she looked into his eyes so full of love for her, she wanted to take back all her angry declarations. But she quickly dropped her eyes and with voice trembling, said, “Good-bye, Ralph. I hope you make good in college, and I hope you find-uh-the right girl for you.”

 

“Good-bye, Connie,” he said tenderly. “We’ve had some great times together—times that I will remember as long as I live. Shall we part as friends? You are my best friend’s sister, you know.”

 

Tears filled her eyes, and all her anger was gone as she reached out her hand to the one extended to her.

 

“I hope you find what you’re searching for, Connie, in your church,” Ralph said soberly. “I’m sorry it’s separated us. I wish you the best of everything in life.”

 

He raised her hand to his lips and kissed the back of it as he had on their first date. Choked with emotion he said, “Good-bye, friend. I’m going to miss you and I’ll miss your letters, but maybe you’ll be happier with me out of the picture.” He let go of her hand and started to get in the car. “I’ll be seeing you around.” He tried to say it lightly. Then he was in his car and speeding away.

 

With tears streaming down her cheeks, Connie watched him go. In spite of an aching heart, she felt relief, too. Seemingly, she and Ralph would never agree on religion, and her heart told her that religion was more important to her than anything else in the world. More important even than a man’s love. There was an acute hunger in her soul for something to satisfy, and somehow she felt she would find that hunger satisfied, not in the love of any human being, but in the love of God and in the fellowship of the people in the little church that Ralph disdained.

 

With mixed emotions, she wiped away her tears and walked toward the house to face Donnie and her mother what she had done.

 

 

CHAPTER NINE

 

The weeks dragged by slowly after Donnie and Ralph returned to college. Connie kept as busy as possible, but she was more lonely than ever. She missed Ralph more than she wanted to admit and she found herself hurrying to the mailbox after the postman passed, half expecting a letter from him. But he never wrote once, and she learned later from Donnie that he was dating a girl from the college. It hurt to think of Ralph with another girl. Connie hadn’t found anything to fill up the emptiness their breaking up had left in her. But now she knew she must forget him. Another had taken her place with Ralph.

 

Revival services had begun at the church Connie attended. Mrs. Flowers promised to furnish transportation every night if she wanted to attend. She dreaded the thought of leaving her mother alone every evening, knowing how lonely she was, too, but there was an inexplicable drawing to the revival services that she had no desire to resist.

 

“Won’t you go with me, Mom?” Connie begged. “We should be home by a little after nine, and you can still get plenty of rest.”

 

“I don’t care to go, Connie. Do you have to go every night?”

 

“I’d like to, Mom. It means a lot to me to be able to attend every service.”

 

From the very first service, the Spirit of God was manifest. Much prayer had preceded the revival because the Christians knew that God only moves as prayer ascends to the throne, and they wanted to see souls saved.

 

The first night, the evangelist read from Matthew 3:1-6, taking his text from the third verse: “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”

 

“The message that John the Baptist preached in his day was the message of repentance,” he began his sermon. “His heart’s cry was, ‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’ He was not only preaching to outright sinners, but to some of the greatest hypocrites in the world, the scribes and Pharisees. They claimed justification because of their own righteousness. They were haughty and insensible to sin, always ready to argue with the Word of God. John was sent by God to lower their high opinion of themselves, uncover their hypocrisy, and show them their sins through the power of God manifested in him.

 

“The doctrine of repentance preached by John is still just as necessary in our day as it was then. There has to be a preparation in order to make way for Christ in a person’s life. Before one can make this preparation, he must see himself as a sinner, lost and undone in the sight of God. He must be convicted of the insufficiency of his own righteousness and see self-righteousness as Isaiah 64:6 describes it—as filthy rags. As the Holy Ghost convicts him of sin, he will have to make a choice, either to repent of his sins and turn to Jesus with his whole heart, or he can choose to remain a sinner and continue to serve Satan.”

 

In concluding his message, the evangelist said, “Some of you are standing at the crossroads of your life tonight, and will be forced to make a choice. There are two paths laid out before you: the one is straight and narrow with Jesus as the guide; the other is the broad and crooked path of sin with Satan as guide. Jesus is beckoning you to repent of your sins and follow Him in this straight path which leads to Heaven. At the same time, Satan is trying to detain you on the crooked path so he can lead you to hell. It’s up to you to make the choice. We are free moral agents with a will of our own. Jesus will not force you to walk in His path; you must choose for yourself. Which path will you choose tonight? The straight path that leads to eternal life, or the crooked path that leads to eternal damnation? It’s up to you to make the choice while Jesus is talking to your heart. Let us stand and sing a song of invitation.”

 

After the first stanza, he motioned for the song-leader to wait a moment, and looking out over the congregation, he pleaded, “Jesus is dealing with hearts. I see it on your countenances. Is your heart pounding as if it would burst? That’s the Spirit of God calling you to repentance. In Luke 5:32, we read where Jesus came to call sinners to repentance. Won’t you come while He is calling? Today is the day of salvation; tomorrow may be too late. Come while we sing another verse of song.”

 

Connie was trembling. She wanted to go and kneel at the altar as the evangelist had invited, but it was all so new to her—she didn’t know how to pray, how to repent, how to come to Jesus. So she stood with bowed head and thumping heart until the service was dismissed.

 

It was a long while before Connie fell asleep that night, and amidst her tossing and turning, bits of the message kept ringing in her ears: “A crooked path with Satan as guide” and “a straight path with Jesus as guide.” Then it seemed as if she could hear the words: “Today is the day of salvation; tomorrow may be too late.”

 

She slept fitfully, fearing she had forfeited her chance of becoming a Christian. She wondered if God would call her again, if she would still have a chance to leave the devil’s crooked path and walk in the straight path with Jesus.

 

In the wee hours of the morning, she slipped out of bed and got on her knees and prayed: “Dear Jesus, please give me another chance to repent. I want to be a Christian.”

 

The next service found Connie weeping and praying at the altar as soon as the altar call was given. Mrs. Flowers was kneeling in front of her and Debbie was beside her, praying with her. Oh, how desperate Connie felt! “Oh, God, will you hear my prayer and forgive my many sins?” she pleaded.

 

After praying and repenting the best she knew how, her faith took hold and she looked up with a smile and a heavenly glow on her face. Mrs. Flowers, recognizing the signs of a newborn babe in Christ, asked joyfully, “What did Jesus do for you, Connie?”

 

Her simple answer came from the message that had spoken to her heart. “He took me off the devil’s crooked path of sin, and from here on out, I will follow Jesus in the straight path of righteousness.”

 

Brother Morgan gave Connie some brief instructions on how to walk with God. “Start each day with Bible reading and prayer,” he said. “A daily tryst with God will give you spiritual strength. And remember through the day that God is always there at any time you need Him. We’ll be praying for you. If you have questions or problems, feel free to call us.”

 

Mrs. Slocum was asleep in the big chair in front of the television when Connie got home. At the sound of the door opening, she awakened. For a moment, Connie simply looked at her and smiled. Then she said, “Mom, a wonderful thing happened to me tonight. Jesus saved me.”

 

She felt sure that when her mother heard what Jesus had done for her, she, too, would want to be a Christian. But instead, there was a disappointed look and a sort of resignation in her face and voice as she said, “I guess you’ll look and act like those people now.”

 

It was as if her mother had thrown cold water over her. Connie felt completely let down. She had imagined her mother embracing her and rejoicing with her.

 

Trying to appear undisturbed, Connie told her, “I would count it a privilege to be like some of those wonderful Christians, Mom. If you only knew them, you’d feel the same.”

 

There was an awkward silence between them. She stood it as long as she could and then arose to her feet. “Mom, I think I’ll go on to bed,” she said. “I’m tired.”

 

“And leave me all alone? I have to stay alone every night while you run off to church. It seems the least could do is visit with me awhile after you come home.”

 

The self-pity in her voice would have been disgusting, except that Connie really did feel sorry for her. “Looks like I’m doomed for a lonely life,” she went on. “First your dad left me for someone prettier, then Donnie left me for college, and now you, Connie, are choosing a life that will separate us. Sometimes I wish I could die and end it all.”

 

Never had Connie heard her mother make such a drastic statement. It made her feel guilty and distressed. What could she say? What could she do? she wondered. As she stood helplessly in the middle of the floor, her mother got up and walked haughtily into the kitchen. Connie dropped limply back onto the couch.

 

“Oh, God,” she whispered, “help Mom to not be mad at me.

 

Things had not turned out as she had expected at home and she began to wonder if she had already lost her way on the straight path. For a few minutes she rested her head on the back of the couch, trying to recapture the joy she had felt when she arose from the altar at church. Tears oozed from her eyes and she prayed softly, “Please, Jesus, will you help me?”

 

“Connie.” Mrs. Slocum’s call from the kitchen broke into her thoughts.

 

“Yes, Mom?”

 

“Would you like a cup of hot chocolate?”

 

Connie rose from the couch and joined her mother in the kitchen. She was careful not to mention anything more about the church or her newfound joy. They talked of other things and the old harmony was somewhat restored.

 

Connie awoke early the next morning. She lay silently thinking of the events of the night before. A deep peace engulfed her soul. It was great to be a Christian, to be free from condemnation. She tiptoed softly out to the living room in search of the New Testament that Mrs. Flowers had given her mother long ago. She found it in the bookshelf and settled herself comfortably back in bed and started to read. Beginning in the first chapter of Matthew, she read on and on. Much of what she read, she was unable to comprehend, but some of the thoughts were simple and clear to her. One thing in particular which she was to recall many times was found in Matthew 10:36-38: “A man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me … he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me is not worthy of me.”

 

Connie had taken up her cross to follow Jesus in His straight path. There would be daily choices to be made. Sometimes it would mean that she would have to displease her mother in order to please Jesus, but if she did not faithfully bear her cross, she knew she would not be worthy to be called a Christian.

 

Getting out of bed, she knelt beside it and prayed a simple prayer, asking God to help her to be a good Christian like Mrs. Flowers, Debbie, the Morgans, and others whom she had learned to love and appreciate who attended the little church. She felt light-hearted and buoyant, almost as if she was walking on air as she arose from her knees and made her way to her closet for something to wear. Taking a pair of faded jeans from the hanger, she pulled them on and reached for a blouse. As she was giving her hair a thorough brushing, she heard her mother stirring in her bedroom.

 

“I’ll beat her to the kitchen this morning,” Connie whispered to the image of her happy self in the mirror. “I’ll have her coffee ready when she comes in and surprise her.”

 

She laid the brush aside, stuck her feet in her furry slippers and headed for the kitchen. Reaching for the tea kettle, she filled it with water from the spigot and put it on the stove burner to boil. Then she measured the coffee and put it in the coffee pot.

 

“I hope I can get it ready before Mom comes,” she said half aloud. But before the water began to boil, Mrs. Slocum made her appearance in the doorway in her bathrobe and slippers.

 

“Why are you up so early this morning?” she asked suspiciously.

 

“For no particular reason. I just woke up early, so I thought I’d get up and make coffee and surprise you. I meant to serve you coffee in bed.”

 

“I suppose you’re wanting a favor in return,” was her mother’s skeptical reply.

 

“No, Mom. I just wanted to be nice because I love you.”

 

Mrs. Slocum pulled out a chair, inspected it critically for dust, and sat at the breakfast table while Connie set out the things they would need for breakfast and finished making the coffee.

 

“May I make you a piece of toast, Mom?” she asked as she poured her mother a cup of coffee.

 

“Just the coffee will be fine,” Mrs. Slocum answered, her attention on the cigarette she was lighting.

 

Connie fixed herself a bowl of cereal and joined her mother at the table. The smoke from the cigarette was annoying to Connie. How she wished her mother would quit smoking.

 

“Why are you so quiet this morning, Connie?” Mrs. Slocum ventured.

 

“Oh, I was just thinking.”

 

“About what?”

 

"About church-and Brother Morgan--and about our bodies being the temple of God --"

 

“We’ve got lots to do today.” Mrs. Slocum downed the last of her coffee between sentences and snuffed out her cigarette. “Finish your cereal and let’s get busy.”

 

 

CHAPTER TEN

 

Step by step, God continued leading Connie in the ways of righteousness. After hearing Brother Morgan preach on restitution, God dealt with Connie’s heart about some things she had done. First of all, she remembered a time when she had purchased some cosmetics, and the clerk had mistakenly give her a five dollar bill instead of a one. At the time, Connie excused herself by saying that it was the clerk’s fault and her good luck. But now, with God speaking to her, she realized she was guilty of stealing since she knew she had accepted too much change and had not called the clerk’s attention to it. So the first chance she got, she confessed it to the clerk, paid what she owed, and testified to what God had done for her. When tears filled the clerk’s eyes and she murmured, “God bless you, honey. Not many people are that conscientious,” Connie felt amply rewarded for her obedience.

 

Then Connie went to her mother to confess what she had been used to calling “snitching a little change from Mom’s purse in time of need.” She confessed her wrongdoing and begged her mother to forgive her for stealing when all the while her mother had thought her trustworthy. But her mother counted it as nothing and told her she should never have mentioned such a trivial matter. She said that God didn’t consider a person a thief for taking money from your own mother’s purse. But Connie knew she had done wrong and that God was pleased with her for making restitution.

 

Each new step that Connie took with God caused a fresh outburst from her mother.Oh-h,” she groaned, “Why did you ever start going to church with Mrs. Flowers? You could have withstood her as I have and be living a normal life. As many churches as you could have chosen to go to, and you end up with that fanatical bunch. Why? Connie, why?”

 

“Mom,” Connie tried to be calm, “they’re the best people on earth. Their lives measure up to what they profess. If only you’d consent to go with me, then you’d see for yourself. “

 

“I’m not going, Connie Eileen. I’ve told you a dozen times that I am not going to that church, so don’t ask me again.”

 

Connie felt anger rise up in her heart because of her mother’s attack on her church. She smothered a desire to get back at her. It began to seem as if her mother was always riding her about something. She had tried so hard to be extra kind and patient with her, but at times like this, her patience wore thin.

 

“You’re not interested in anything anymore but church,” Mrs. Slocum retorted. “Why don’t you move in with Mrs. Flowers? She’s a widow and would probably welcome the company. Or perhaps Debbie. You seem to love them more than you do me.”

 

“Now Mom, that’s not so. Of course I do love them. They’ve been a real help to me spiritually. But you know I love you, too, Mom. No one can take that special place I have in my heart for you.”

 

“Love is more than just words, Connie. Your actions speak louder than your words.”

 

“Oh, Mom, do we have to argue all the time? I would love to please you, but I must put Jesus first.”

 

“My lands!” Mrs. Slocum snapped, standing to her feet and turning on the TV. She lit a cigarette and settled back in her chair. As Connie started to leave the room, her mother gave her a scathing look and said, “You make me tired, Connie.”

 

Connie felt her old temper begin to flare up. This time she did not try to suppress it. Looking at her mother with cheeks aflame, she lashed out, “You hardly ever give me a kind word anymore, Mom. The more I try to please you, the worse you treat me. What do you want me to do? Forget the church, give up Jesus, and sit at home with you watching TV all the time?”

 

Instantly her heart smote her and she burst into tears and fled from the room, but not before hearing her mother say, “Some Christian, to talk to her mother like that!”

 

Connie fell across the bed and cried out her heart to God. “I’m so sorry, Jesus, for acting hateful to Mom. Please forgive me and take away this awful feeling I have for her. Rid me of this anger I feel in my heart. Oh, Jesus,” she cried, “I feel so utterly defeated. Please help me.”

 

After praying and confessing her failure to God, Cornnie was quiet at last. But she knew her heart would not be at rest until she had apologized to her mother for her failure. Slowly she got up and went into the bathroom to wash her face. Then reluctantly she returned to the living room. The sight of her mother curled up in the big chair looking miserable and forlorn melted her heart. She went to her, threw her arms around her and cried out her apologies.

 

“I love you, Mom, and I’m terribly sorry for the way I acted. Will you forgive me?”

 

“It’s all right, Connie.”

 

“I’ve asked God to forgive me, too, Mom, and I don’t mean to ever be hateful to you again.”

 

But Connie had her doubts as to whether she would always be able to keep her temper under control, living under so much pressure at home. As she lay in bed that night, discouragement settled down upon her. She had so wanted to live a changed life and win her mother to God, but how could she ever win her, losing her temper as she had tonight? she wondered in despair. And even when she was able to keep her anger in check, she was often pouty, and sometimes showed a bad attitude. “What is wrong with me?” she asked herself. It hadn’t been like that when she first got saved, she reflected. There was such a drastic change in her heart at first, such an overwhelming peace, that her mother’s sarcasm hadn’t bothered her as it did now. Of late, it had been getting next to her more and more, and she found herself often doing and saying things that left her feeling defeated. These times of failure greatly distressed her.

 

“Oh God,” she prayed earnestly, “I’m sorry for these awful feelings within. Help me somehow, Lord. I do so want to live in such a way that Mom can have confidence in me.”

 

Donnie hadn’t been home since Christmas vacation, and as the time for his return home from college for the summer vacation approached, Connie had troubled thoughts. She hadn’t been a Christian before when Donnie was around, and although she was sorely vexed with his teasing and wished he would stop it, it hadn’t mattered like it would to her now that she was a Christian. Donnie was such a tease. She wondered if she would be able to endure all his pranks without losing her temper. She hoped he had grown up this past year and would treat her as he should without all the unnecessary teasing. But she knew that such change was very unlikely. She would just have to pray and trust God to help her.

 

Mrs. Slocum and Connie were excitedly waiting at home on the day of Donnie’s arrival this time. The house was shining from one end to the other. Not one thing was left undone. Even Connie’s most dreaded chore was done. The kitchen curtains had been stripped from the windows, laundered, ironed to perfection and put back in place.

 

Coconut pie, Donnie’s favorite, was baked and waiting. Mrs. Slocum had tomatoes and lettuce chopped, cheese grated, and meat browned, ready to put on taco shells as soon as Donnie arrived. Mrs. Slocum had bought special dips to go with the tacos, and there was plenty of Coca-Cola and Pepsi stored in the refrigerator.

 

“Do you suppose Ralph will drop him off soon, Mom?” Connie was watching anxiously at the window.

 

“Any time now, I suppose, if the bus got in on time,” Mrs. Slocum answered, glancing at the clock. “It’s fifteen till two now. The bus was to arrive at one-fifteen.”

 

“Too bad the battery is down on the car,” Connie lamented. “I was looking forward to meeting him at bus station.”

 

“With no men around the house, it’s awfully hard to keep everything up.” Mrs. Slocum joined Connie at the window as she talked. “I didn’t realize the battery was down until this morning. Anyway, they should be here any minute now.”

 

“There they are now.” Connie flew out the door and into Donnie’s arms as soon as he was out of the car.

 

“It’s great to see you, Sis.” He held her back for a better look. “I’ve missed you. My, I’m glad to be home again. Where’s Mom?”

 

Just then Mrs. Slocum came out and Donnie went to greet her.

 

Ralph got out of the car and offered his hand to Connie.

 

“How are you, Ralph?” Connie felt completely unnerved with her hand briefly in his once more. He was more handsome than she had remembered.

 

“Fine, Connie.” He smiled at her. “Donnie’s been telling me some interesting news about you.”

 

“Like what?”

 

“Oh, about your involvement in the church, and some of the things you’ve quit doing.”

 

Was he interested or making fun? Connie couldn’t tell which, but she decided to testify to him. “Yes, Ralph, I am quite involved in the church. God has saved me and I’m having a great time serving Him.”

 

Ralph smiled at her tolerantly as he got back into the car. “Well, I’d better be going. Be seeing you around.” Looking at Donnie, he added, “Take it easy, fellow. I’ll be getting in touch with you. Remember the good times we’ve been promising ourselves this summer, okay?”

 

Donnie grinned and winked at him. “We’ll see, Ralph. So long for now.”

 

Their good times turned out to be almost nightly revelry. Often it would be the early hours of the morning before Donnie got home, and more often than not, he was drinking heavily. Mrs. Slocum’s scolding had no effect at all, nor did Connie’s pleadings.

 

“You two get off my case,” Donnie exploded one day. “It’s my life and if I want to run around and drink, it’s my business.”

 

“But Donnie,” Connie pleaded tearfully, “I miss my my twin brother. You act almost like a stranger at times. You never tease me or have long talks with me anymore.”

 

“Connie,” his voice was gentler now, “I never thought I’d see the day when you’d admit that you miss me teasing you. I’ll try to oblige you from now on.”

 

“Oh, Donnie, you don’t understand. It’s not the teasing so much, it’s just—it’s just—” She broke into tears. Mrs. Slocum started crying with her.

 

“Now, wait a minute. Turn off the waterworks,” Donnie stormed. “You two are going to drive me to leave before before I intended to. I don’t have a chance with two women always hounding me.”

 

“Donnie,” Connie tried to regain her composure, “I’ve been praying for you for months. I had such hopes that you would attend church with me this summer. Will you go with me this coming Sunday?”

 

“I’m afraid I would be like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole, Connie. I just wouldn’t fit with Miz Praise-the-Lord and the other hallelujah-amen saints. Ralph told me all about them.

 

“Stop it this minute, Donnie Eugene Slocum. Don’t dare ridicule those good people in front of me.” Her face was flushed with anger.

 

“Sorry, Sis. I didn’t mean to get your dandruff up. It doesn’t become you to lose your temper.” He grabbed his cap and went outside.

 

Once again Connie locked herself in her room, feeling completely defeated. The devil was on hand to whisper his suggestions. “Why don’t you just give up? You always end up in failure when anyone crosses you,” he taunted. “What a poor witness for Christ you are!”

 

And this time Connie did not have the strength to resist the tempter. She acknowledged that his accusations were true. She was nothing but a failure. As she lay across the bed, self-pity took possession of her. Hadn’t, she done her best to live right? But just when she needed spiritual strength the most, it seemed she was left to herself and her old unruly temper got the best of her. How could she ever hope to win her mother and Donnie to Jesus when she was so weak and full of failure?

 

She might as well throw in the towel, quit going to church, quit being a hypocrite, and go back to living like she did before she got saved. She couldn’t hold out anymore.

 

She lay there, helpless, a mighty battle waging within, the devil torturing her mind and trying to push her to despair. Suddenly the phone rang. She made no attempt to answer it, thinking her mother would get it. But after the third ring, she went into the kitchen and picked up the receiver.

 

“Hello,” she said.

 

“Hello, Connie, this is Ralph.”

 

“Hi, Ralph. Did you want Donnie?”

 

“Yes, but may I say a few words to you first?”

 

“Sure.”

 

“What’s the matter? You sound as if you’ve been crying. Is that twin brother of yours giving you a bad time? I’ll have to take him down a notch.”

 

“Don’t bother, Ralph. He doesn’t even tease me anymore. What’s on your mind?”

 

“Just this. I know it will come as a surprise to you, but I want you to know I admire your life for Christ. I know it’s genuine. You have found the peace that most people know nothing about. It shines from your eyes and radiates from your life. Donnie and I often talk about the change in you, Connie. Both of us have said that if we ever get religion, we want the kind you have. Connie, are you there?”

 

“Yes, Ralph.” She was crying so hard she could hardly hear him.

 

“One other thing, will you please forgive me for talking about your church and the people who attend? I was wrong. They are undoubtedly wonderful folk to have had such an influence in your life. Will you forgive me, Connie?”

 

“Oh, Ralph, you don’t know what this means to me.” she sobbed into the telephone. “Of course, I forgive you.

 

“Thanks, Connie. You really did find what you were searching for, didn’t you?”

 

“Yes, Ralph, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

 

“Well, I’m glad for you. You’re a great gal,” he added tenderly. “Now please stop crying because it makes me feel bad to hear you cry like that.”

 

“I’ll try, Ralph.”

 

“I’ll talk to Donnie now if he’s handy.”

 

After she had gone to the garage to find Donnie, Connie returned to her room and, in deep contrition, she cried to God. “Oh, God, if I have to repent of my failures every day, I’ll never give up now. Forgive me, Jesus, for listening to the devil. I’m so sorry for what I almost did. Thank You, Jesus, for letting Ralph call when he did. By Your help, I’ll prove to Mom and Donnie that salvation is real.”

 

Just as she was leaving her room, Donnie hung up the phone. Throwing herself into his arms, she cried, “I’m sorry, Donnie, for getting angry with you. You’re the greatest brother in the world. I love you and want to see you saved some day.”

 

Donnie was taken aback, but he held her close and patted her gently on the back as she sobbed on his shoulder.

 

“Aw, Sis, think nothing of it. Everybody has to let off steam once in a while.” He held her off and looked into her face. “Hey, how about a date with my twin sister tonight? Let’s you, Mom, and I go somewhere and do something together. How about a picnic at the park?”

 

Do you really mean it, Donnie?” Connie smiled through her tears.

 

‘I really mean it, Sis.”

 

 

CHAPTER ELEVEN

 

The Sunday following that week of ups and downs with its severe testings, Connie entered the church much like a traveler in the desert coming upon an oasis. How glad she was to be in church again. God’s presence was near and refreshing to her battle-weary spirit. God had witnessed to her in her devotions that morning that all her sins and failures were forgiven and she was His child. A wonderful peace filled her soul. It was great to be a Christian in spite of all the battles with the arch enemy of her soul.

 

After the Sunday school hour and song service, Brother Morgan rose to speak. He opened his Bible to 1 Thessalonians, the fourth chapter and read the first eight verses, taking his text from verse three: “This is the will of God, even your sanctification.”

 

“Now for those of our new converts who may not know what the term ‘sanctification’ means,” Brother Morgan began his message, “I am going to read the definition from Webster’s dictionary: ‘The word sanctify means to make sacred or holy; to set apart to a holy religious use; to consecrate by appropriate rites, to hallow; to make free from sin, to cleanse from moral corruption and pollution; to purify.’ Now, let’s read the definition of sanctification. ‘The act of making holy. Theologically the act of God’s grace by which the affections of men are purified or alienated from sin and the world, and exalted to a supreme love to God.’

 

“Let’s lift out the words ‘to set apart’ or ‘consecrate.’ This is the part of the believer. One must make a full consecration of himself to God, a total surrender, before God can do His part, which is to free him from sin by cleansing his heart from corruption and pollution. This is what is meant by ‘sanctification.’ The Holy Spirit reveals our need by showing us the depravity of our fallen nature; we come to Jesus, confessing our need and seeking His cleansing and infilling by faith.”

 

Brother Morgan quoted several Scriptures on holiness or sanctification, such as 1 Peter 1:16, “Be ye holy, for I am holy”; and 1 Thessalonians 5:23, “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly.”

 

“I feel that I’m speaking to some of you this morning who have been having severe inner conflicts,” Brother Morgan continued. “You have a clear experience of salvation, God has given you full and free pardon from all your committed sins, and your name has been written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, yet you are not living a victorious life because of the old carnal nature spoken of in Romans 8:6, 7: ‘For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.’ This old carnal or sinful nature will give you trouble as long as it is allowed to remain in the heart. In Ephesians 4:22-24, it is spoken of as the ‘old man’ and we are admonished to get rid of it because it is corrupt. ‘Put off . . . the old man, which is corrupt . . . put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.’ “.

 

“This inbred sin that I’m speaking of this morning is inherited from the fall of Adam. The sins of the heart caused by this corrupt nature cannot be forgiven because we are not responsible for them, but this sinful nature has to be uprooted and removed from the heart in a second definite, instantaneous work of grace called ‘sanctification.’ “

 

This old carnality in the heart is the thing that causes you to go up the miff tree when things don’t go to suit you. It makes you pout around, wallowing in self-pity, and causes you to have wrong dispositions and wrong feelings in your heart. It makes you get angry and say and do things that mar your Christian influence. If our influence is to count for Jesus, our lives must be above reproach. Hebrews 12:13, 14 tells us to make straight paths for our feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way. To follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.”

 

Connie’s heart was pounding. She pondered in her heart as to whether Brother Morgan had overheard her yelling at her mother and Donnie in a fit of anger. Surely not, she thought, but how could he describe her actions so accurately if he hadn’t. She had started out to follow Jesus in this straight path that Brother Morgan had just brought to her mind again, but she wondered if she was a stumbling-block to those she hoped to win. Her heart was open to this new light that God was sending her way. She listened intently as the pastor continued.

 

“Besides anger, self-pity, and peevishness,” he was saying, “another carnal trait we will examine this morning is pride. Now, I’m not speaking of self-respect or dignity that makes one want to keep himself clean and neat, that which helps us to keep our surroundings orderly and decent. This is not the type of pride I’m preaching against. Most of us could use a little more of this type of pride. We need this sort of pride to gain the respect of the world in which we live. But the pride I’m speaking about is old carnal pride, arrogance, conceit, or haughtiness. This kind of pride makes you ashamed to take up your cross and follow Jesus. It takes the way of least resistance and shuns the reproach of Christ. But Hebrews 13:12 tells us that ‘Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.’ Pride doesn’t like to bear His reproach, but when pride is crucified, the reproach is borne gladly and cheerfully.”

 

“Another thing about pride is it loves to boast of its accomplishments, failing to give glory to God. Pride lifts up old self. It loves to be bragged on and patted on the back. It is easily puffed up.”

 

“Do you have old carnal pride in your heart? God hates it. Listen to Proverbs 16:5; ‘Everyone that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord.’ And Proverbs 21:4 declares a proud heart to be sin. James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5 tells us that God resisteth the proud but giveth grace to the humble. Pride is the exact opposite of humility, so we must let God rid us of pride if we’re to walk humbly with Him and be pleasing in His sight.”

 

“Then there’s another carnal trait called jealousy or envy. This is mentioned in the Bible along with other evils such as strife, railings, evil surmising, malice, lusts, guile, and malignity. Proverbs 14:30 tells us that envy is the rottenness of the bones.”

 

“If you have envy and jealousy in your heart, you can’t bear for another person to get ahead of you. If anyone exceeds you in talents, gets promoted to a higher position, or gets a little more attention, old jealousy crops up. You might be able to keep it covered and put on a big front as if you don’t care, but you feel its stirrings just the same. You know old jealousy is on board—old green-eyed jealousy and envy. This is one of the most weakening and debasing of all flaws in one’s Christian character. It poisons your life. It makes enemies of all who surpass you.

 

“God can deliver you from envy and jealousy if you’ll recognize you’re plagued with it and come to Him for deliverance.”

 

As each carnal trait was mentioned, Connie searched her heart. She recognized pride in her heart immediately, but jealousy was harder to detect. Just as Brother Morgan had said it could be, jealousy had been well concealed in her life; but old pride had cropped up on several occasions .

 

“Another trait I would like to mention,” Brother Morgan was saying, “is selfishness-always putting old self first. Self is set up on a pedestal in your life and all of your attention is focused right there. You are not able to help anyone spiritually because self must be pampered, entertained, and ministered to first. All your decisions are made in the light of how it will affect self. Old self loves to brag on its good works, its good name, its good reputation, and its spirituality. Selfishness! God can help you die out to old self if you will give Him a chance. He wants you to live to glorify Him, and it’s only through death to old self can this be accomplished.”

 

“Then there is covetousness. You can’t stand for anyone to have more or better than you, especially in the material realm. If neighbor Jones gets a new push mower, you just have to have a riding mower. No one can outdo you. Anytime anyone comes up with something you don’t have, your old covetous heart goes out after it. One of the Ten Commandments is ‘Thou shalt not covet.’ Covetousness is condemned over and over in the Word of God. Psalms 10:3 tells us the Lord abhorreth the covetous. In Luke 12:15, Jesus says, ‘Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.’ Are you covetous? Let God burn that covetousness out of your heart.”

 

“Another mark of an unsanctified heart is stinginess. You pay your tithes because you know if you don’t, you need not even profess to be a Christian, for all real Christians pay their tithes. But how about offerings? Malachi 3:8 says: ‘Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.’ We’re not giving God anything until we give above our tithes. The tithe belongs to God; we are just paying our rightful debt when we pay tithe. But our offerings are a gift to God. Sanctification will make you liberal. You will delight to give to God’s cause. Why not let God help you get your wallet on the altar? Amen!”

 

“Then there is touchiness. Always ready to take offense at what the preacher preaches, easily at cross-purposes with others, putting the wrong construction on what’s being said, imagining everybody is against you. You carry your feelings around on your shoulders just waiting to get them knocked off. You get hurt at the least little things. People have to handle you with kid gloves lest they offend you. Your little theology is always correct to a ‘T’ and no one can show you any discrepancies in it without your resenting it. What an awful trait of carnality is touchiness!”

 

“Thank God, when you get sick enough of all the carnal traits of sin that cause you to be defeated in your walk with God, and you get hungry enough for all God has for you, you can win the victory. Matthew 5:6 tells us, ‘Blessed are they that do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.’ How hungry are you for this experience of entire sanctification?

 

“Such great spiritual leaders as John and Charles Wesley, Charles G. Finney, and D. L. Moody experienced this work of holiness in their hearts. John Wesley was sanctified in a special love feast of the Moravian brethren, in a church service. Charles Finney was filled with the Spirit in his law office shortly after his conversion. D. L. Moody was on the streets of New York when the Holy Spirit came into his heart. The place where you are sanctified is not important. The important thing is that you experience this divine work in your heart that will enable you to live a victorious life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

“Are you hungry to have the Holy Spirit come into your life? Do you long to be rid of inbred sin? Come and consecrate your life wholly to Jesus and let Him cleanse your heart of all its impurities and fill it with His blessed Spirit. 1 Thessalonians 4:7 tells us that God hath not called us to uncleanness, but unto holiness. He’s calling you this morning if you have been born again, but have not had this infilling of the Spirit. Heed His call and let Him sanctify you wholly. Go back home today enabled by the grace of God to live victorious before those of your household. God is here. Won’t you come as we sing a song of invitation?”

 

Connie was the first to step out and make her way to the altar. With all her heart, she longed for an experience that would help her to live victorious in her home.

 

Sobbing and confessing her need to God, she made a complete consecration and, by faith, received His cleansing from inbred sin and the blessed infilling of the Holy Spirit. Connie knew in her heart that this was another very important step in the straight path that she was following.

 

 

 

CHAPTER TWELVE

 

Connie hardly knew how to witness to her mother and Donnie when she returned home from church, but as soon as she entered the door, she tried to share her new victory with the two nearest and dearest to her. She told them that her heart had been cleansed and the Holy Spirit had come in to abide.

 

“I thought you told me you joined the church months ago,” her mother said. She was busy getting dinner on the table and showed little interest.

 

“I did get saved months ago, Mom, but today I took a deeper step with God and He has sanctified me wholly.” Seeing that all this was like a foreign language to her mother, she tried to explain. “In other words, He has cleansed my heart of the carnality that I was born with, the nature that made me get angry at you and Donnie, and now He has filled me with His sweet Spirit.”

 

Seemingly annoyed, Mrs. Slocum said no more, but Donnie smiled as if trying to understand and rejoice in his sister’s happiness.

 

Connie realized that her testimony had not made much impact, but at least she had shared her experience and gained a victory over the devil, for which she was very thankful.

 

The next few days were days of victory for Connie. The aiding presence of the Holy Spirit in her soul kept the annoying pressures of the home from pressing her to the point of showing any wrong spirit or anger. In the privacy of her own room, she cried for joy as she thanked God for this new experience and the change it had made in her. Her prayer life took on more vigor, and her faith in God was strengthened. She began to apply the promises of God’s Word to her own life in a new way.

 

On Wednesday night, at the Prayer-and-Praise service, Connie was the first to testify. With tears of joy running down her cheeks, she told how God had kept her at rest in her soul in spite of all the pressures the devil had brought to bear upon her.

 

After the service, Debbie approached her and told her, “Your testimony was an inspiration to me, Connie. I’m so thankful for what God has done for you.”

 

“I’m thankful, too, Debbie.” And lest she appear to take any credit for the great change wrought in her life, she added, humbly, “If it hadn’t been for Mrs. Flowers and you dear people here at the church, I would have never known that I could have such peace and joy in serving Jesus. It’s been marvelous, especially this week. Seems like the old devil has worked overtime through my own mother, but the sweet Spirit within keeps me calm and unruffled.” She wiped tears from her eyes as she continued. “Even my twin brother’s teasing doesn’t cause me to get angry. I’ll admit I get tired of some of the things he does, but Jesus keeps me from losing my temper. This new life in Him is wonderful.”

 

“I agree one hundred percent about that, Connie.” Then placing her hand on Connie’s arm, Debbie said, “Say I’ve been thinking and praying about something.”

 

“Anything I’d be interested in?”

 

“I hope so. I tried to interest Judy, but she feels that her place is here in this community. She has a job at the nursing home, you know, and has the tiny tots’ Sunday school class, so she keeps busy here.”

 

“I’m planning to start to Bible School the first of September. Would you by any chance be interested in going with me?”

 

“Bible School! What’s that?”

 

“It’s a college where God is given preeminence, where you study the Bible and are trained for Christian service. Of course you also take courses that the state colleges offer, with some exceptions. You are taught by Christian teachers and have mostly Christian classmates.”

 

“That does sound interesting, but it must cost a pile of money.”

 

“It does cost, Connie, but you could probably get a job on the side to help pay your expenses. That’s what I intend to do. As we do our best, God will do the rest.”

 

“I’ll pray about it, Debbie, but you know I have my mother to think of. She feels practically deserted already simply because I attend church so much. She has had a hard life, and I don’t want to make it any harder for her. I’m all she has now that Donnie is away at school.”

 

“I understand, Connie. Maybe this is not for you, but while you were testifying tonight, I got to thinking that maybe Bible School would be just the thing for you at this point in your Christian walk. I hope you will think about it and pray about it. If God should lead you to go, I want you to know that your transportation will be paid for. My parents are taking me and you can ride along free of charge.”

 

“Thanks, Debbie. You make it very tempting, but I’ll just have to wait and see. I can’t imagine how Mom could get along alone. But, my, I sure will miss you if you go and I can’t. You have been a real friend since the first day I came to church here. Your consistent Christian life has inspired me many times,”

 

“You are an inspiration to me, too, Connie,” Debbie returned the compliment. “I wonder if I had been in your circumstances if I would have been true to Jesus like you have. I know it hasn’t been easy for you. And when I think of how you simply trusted God to supply your need—I’m afraid I wouldn’t have had that much faith.”

 

“You don’t know how near I came to being defeated, Debbie. If it hadn’t been for your prayers and the prayers of the other church people, I couldn’t have done what I did.”

 

“Well, anyway, Connie, you obeyed God and He sent you more clothes the very same day. You can’t imagine what a battle I went through, trying to decide whether or not to call you and offer you those clothes.” Both girls laughed as they remembered the incident. “And to think,” Debbie went on, “God was in it all. My sister was really thrilled when I told her what happened. Our God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform.”

 

Connie was all smiles when Mrs. Flowers approached her to see if she was ready to go home.

 

The next day as she went about her work Connie thought seriously about Debbie’s suggestion that they go to Bible School together. Surely her mother couldn’t expect her to stay with her all her life. Connie longed to be doing something to broaden her life and interests. Perhaps going away to school was the answer to the restlessness she felt within her. Perhaps she could find a way to do more for God, to be a greater influence for Him. Just thinking about the possibilities was exciting.

 

Looking up from her ironing, Connie looked at the calendar, a Christmas gift from the Morgans, and noticed that the page hadn’t been turned up and it was already the second day of July. She set the iron aside and hooked the June page onto the nail. The July scene was a fern-bordered pathway through a forest, and the caption read: “Lord, you make life’s journey beautiful, exciting, promising.” “How true!” Connie exclaimed softly.

 

Fearing opposition and ridicule, Connie decided against mentioning the idea of going away to Bible School to her mother. She would first pray about it and see how God led. Surely if God wanted her to go to Bible College, He would make it possible somehow.

 

One morning as Connie was reading her Bible during devotions, she burst into laughter. Jumping to her feet and flinging open the door, she called to Donnie.

 

“He’s still in bed,” Mrs. Slocum called from the kitchen. “Better not disturb him. He was out late last night.”

 

“Oh, Mom, this is too good to keep. May I go in and show him something?” She entered the kitchen with the open Bible in her hand.

 

“Can’t you show him later, Connie?”

 

“Yes, Mom, I could, but I’m just bursting to show him now. Come with me, Mom, and I’ll let you in on it.”

 

Mrs. Slocum, her curiosity aroused, followed Connie as she walked over and knocked on Donnie’s door.

 

“Who is it?” came his muffled response.

 

“It’s me, Donnie. I just found something you’ll be interested in. I can’t wait to show you. May I come in?”

 

“Come in.” He didn’t sound very happy about being awakened.

 

Connie, with her Bible in hand, pushed open the door. Bursting into laughter again, she asked, “Donnie, do you remember the day Mom sent you to your room and made you read the Bible?”

 

“Yes, Connie, it’s engraved on my memory,” he said with a contemptuous look. “What’s so funny about that?”

 

“Do you remember telling me that you read about a lamb that opened seals with its feet or mouth, and the beasts that talked, and the—”

 

“Yes, Connie,” Donnie interrupted, showing his annoyance. “I remember all about it. You didn’t believe me, but I read it just the same.”

 

“Well, I found it all right here in the book of Revelation.”

 

“Okay, Connie, so you found it. You see I wasn’t lying after all. Now, if that’s all you woke me up to tell me, will you .please make your exit so I can sleep?”

 

“Not until I tell you what it means. The Lamb spoken of here is the Lamb of God, or Jesus. I’ve heard Brother Morgan speak about the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world. So it was Jesus who opened the seals, not an animal opening a seal with its feet or mouth.” Noticing the funny expression on Donnie’s face, she could not suppress a giggle herself.

 

“The four talking beasts, as you called them,” she continued, “are around God’s throne. Right here in verse eight, chapter four, it says, ‘They rest not day or night, saying, Holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty, which was and is and is to come.’ “

 

“Donnie, you tried to make me believe that someone had these four beasts as pets and they taught them to say, ‘Come and see.’ I’ve wondered all these years if you made that up, but here in chapter six, it speaks of the beasts saying, ‘Come and see.’ But no one trained them, Donnie. They were heavenly beasts.”

 

A dry smile appeared on Donnie’s face as Connie continued again, “And here is all about the horses you told me about. They are horses that are carrying out a divine commission. Oh, Donnie, it’s so funny.when I think of how serious you were that day, telling me all about the animals you read about in the Bible. I was sure you were making it all up.”

 

Suddenly Connie’s face turned serious. “Oh, I guess maybe I shouldn’t have been laughing like that. This is God’s Holy Word, and a very serious portion of it at that. But I didn’t mean to be laughing about the Bible, only your interpretation of it.”

 

Had Connie been more familiar with God’s Word, she would have understood why Donnie interpreted it as he did and why she was now able to grasp it. For the mysteries of the gospel are hid from the wise and prudent and revealed unto babes. Connie, as a new-born child of God, was reading and comprehending His Word.

 

“Now that you’ve had your laugh for the day, you’re excused,” Donnie ungraciously invited her to leave. “I’ll try to get up in time for lunch.”

 

Connie returned to her room to continue her devotions. But the interruption made it difficult for her to get into the spirit of worship. “Perhaps I should have let it pass and not have made such a big issue out of it,” she mused soberly. But then the imaginary picture of a little lamb laboring with his feet to break open a seal, and four trained beasts saying, ‘Come and see,’ caused a fresh smile to break forth on her face.

 

Falling on her knees, she prayed from a tender heart, “Oh, God, forgive me for laughing so much. Make me serious and sober-minded as I continue to read and pray. I don’t want to grieve Your Spirit in any way. I’m sorry if I’ve grieved You already. I love You, dear Jesus, and am so grateful that You saved me and sanctified me.”

 

As the sweet Holy Spirit settled down once more, Connie wept tears of joy because of God’s great love and understanding.

 

Two weeks passed before Connie decided to approach her mother about going to Bible College. She had prayed earnestly every day concerning God’s will in this important matter. She wanted to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the right course to pursue, realizing that much hinged on her decision.

 

On this particular morning, God had spoken to her heart from Isaiah 45:2, 3: “I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron: and I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the Lord, which call thee by thy name, am . . . God.”

 

“Oh thank You, Lord,” she cried as she read these words that the Spirit blessed to her heart. She felt that God was promising to go before her and straighten out all the crooked places—the problems and misunderstandings her desire to leave home would cause—and to give her hidden riches of secret places to pay her expenses. Especially had she been concerned about the money to pay her way through school, but now she sensed that this was God’s promise that He would provide.

 

Connie was completely overcome with emotion. She dropped to her knees to send up her praise and thanksgiving to her wonderful Lord and Saviour.

 

 

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

 

Connie joined her mother at the breakfast table, but in her anxiety to broach the subject on her mind, she didn’t feel the least bit hungry. They chatted casually during the meal, then as Mrs. Slocum poured herself a second cup of coffee and lit a cigarette, Connie began cautiously.

 

“Mom, I know this will come as quite a shock to you, but Debbie is going away to Bible College, and she thought I might be interested in going also, so she talked with me about it. I haven’t been hasty to make a decision, but have waited and prayed earnestly about it. This morning I felt God spoke to me, revealing to my seeking heart that it is His divine will that I go. My greatest dread is to leave you alone, Mom.” The tears slid down her cheeks as she added that last sentence.

 

Mrs. Slocum sat quietly sipping her coffee and smoking her cigarette.

 

“What do you think, Mom? Can you possibly make it without me?”

 

Mrs. Slocum merely snuffed out her cigarette, stood to her feet. and went over to the sink and started running water to wash the breakfast dishes. Her silence was too much for Connie.

 

“Mom, I honestly hate to leave you, but I feel that God is definitely leading me to go. Please don’t feel so bad. I know it must be a terrible shock.”

 

Mrs. Slocum slowly turned around and faced Connie. Her face was drained of all color, and her slender frame trembled with emotion as she spoke. The sight tore at Connie’s heart.

 

“Connie, I’ve been aware that you were going to Bible College for two weeks,” she told her.

 

“But how could you have known, Mom? Nobody knows it. I haven’t even told Debbie, yet.”

 

“I heard you praying about it two weeks ago, Connie. You thought I was weeding my flowers, but I came in for a drink of water, and when I heard you praying so earnestly. I stopped to listen. I knew that day that you would end up going. At first I thought I couldn’t bear it, but I made up my mind that I’d be the last to stand in your way. Because you and Donnie have been deprived of a father, except for occasional visits, you’ve missed out on a lot of things, and I realize how hard it’s been on both of you. Now that you’ve found a course in life that you wish to pursue, a way that has brought you happiness, I won’t put a straw in your way. I don’t know how it will work out, but if it fails, I won’t be to blame.” She turned back to her dishes.

 

Connie sat speechless. Tears of admiration coursed down her cheeks as she thought of the marvelous workings of the God with whom she had so recently become acquainted. He had spoken to her heart that very morning, through His Word, and promised to go before her. Her greatest dread had been to break the news to her mother, but God had truly gone before and prepared the way. If He could take care of the very hardest part of her going, would He not take care of everything else? she reasoned. Quite overcome, Connie walked over to where her mother stood by the sink, and slipped an arm around her waist. Resting her head on her shoulder, she spoke from her heart. “Mom, you’ll never know what this means to me. You’re a wonderful mom. I love you very, very dearly. I’m going to miss you terribly when I’m away at school.

 

Mrs. Slocum didn’t speak, but as Connie turned to go tell Donnie about her new plans, she heard her mother sniff and saw her reach for a paper towel.

 

Surprisingly, Donnie, too, was most generous and kindly.

 

“Best of luck to you, Sis,” he said. “Mom will make it. You know she’s never been afraid to stay alone. It will just be the awful loneliness, but you must think of your own future. You can’t stay with her forever.”

 

Connie fell over on his shoulder and gave vent to her feelings. Donnie patted her awkwardly.

 

“My little twin sister that chased me through the meadow with her ponytail flying in the breeze and a broom in her hand has at last grown up,” he chuckled. “Connie, do you remember the many times Mom wished we would grow up? Well, we’re grown up now, so our dear mom should be very happy.”

 

But could they have seen their mother at that moment, they would have both known that she was most unhappy.

 

Donnie and Connie decided to pay their father a short visit before going off to college. It had been a year since they had visited with him except for occasional chats over the phone. He called them at least once a month when Donnie was home, but his calls were less frequent when Donnie was gone.

 

Though Mrs. Slocum was very reluctant about letting the twins have the car to drive the ninety miles to see him, she finally consented to let them go.

 

“The car is old, Donnie,” she went over the same old line every time Donnie wanted to use the car; “the tires could blow out any time. We’re long overdue for a new set, but you can’t buy without money.”

 

“We’ll drive slow and be careful, Mom,” Donnie assured her. “You don’t need to worry at all.”

 

But the car was not Mrs. Slocum’s only worry. She never wanted the twins to visit her former husband, and she found various excuses to discourage them from going. “He’s so busy making money that it might waste his precious time to visit with his children,” she said, her voice dripping with sarcasm. “Besides, his latest love might resent sharing her beloved with his offspring by another marriage. “

 

These were no new arguments, so in spite of their mother’s disapproval, the twins felt they were doing the right thing. They started out early on a Saturday morning. They had called ahead, so Mr. Slocum was expecting them. He rose from the glider on the veranda when they pulled up in the driveway.

 

“Hello, Twins,” he greeted them with a wide smile, his hand extended. He had never embraced them, it was always just a handshake. But something about that handshake and smile made Connie wonder if their dad didn’t have a special feeling for them, even though their mother had always led them to believe otherwise.

 

“How are you, Dad?” Donnie greeted.

 

Who could help but be proud of a fine son like Donnie? Connie thought as she watched Donnie standing straight and tall before his father.

 

“I’m doing fine, Donnie. Both of you are looking so grown up. It’s hard to believe you are my kids. But you look less like twins every time I see you.”

 

Donnie caused them all to laugh by remarking, “I’m sure Connie is glad she’s not an identical twin with me. She’d never be able to get a boyfriend with my poor looks.”

 

“I think he’s fishing for a compliment, Dad,” Connie rejoined. “He probably wants me to deny what he’s owned up to and say how I would just love to look like my handsome brother, but I’m going to leave it just as it is.”

 

Their laughter relieved the tension that usually prevailed over their visits with their dad. He motioned for them to be seated in the comfortable lounge chairs.

 

After conversing for a while about Donnie’s college work, Mr. Slocum excused himself and went inside. Upon his return, he explained, “I thought you might enjoy some refreshments after your trip.”

 

Shortly afterwards the maid came out and served them dainty sandwiches and cake and punch. Smiling politely, she commented about what fine children Mr. Slocum had. “Your son is the spittin’ image of you, Mr. Slocum,” she drawled.

 

Connie couldn’t help noticing the pleased expression on her father’s face. And she wondered if he missed them more than they supposed.

 

The current Mrs. Slocum did not show herself, nor was she mentioned. The few times the twins had seen her, they “weren’t at all impressed” as Donnie put it.

 

After the refreshments and more casual conversation, Donnie stood to his feet. “Guess we’d better go, Connie,” he smiled at her.

 

Connie’s heart was pounding. She wanted to witness to her dad, but it was so hard to know what to say. Still she felt she couldn’t leave without testifying for Christ.

 

“Dad,” she looked at him squarely, “I’m not the same Connie you saw last summer.”

 

“Really?” Mr. Slocum gave her a scrutinizing look.

 

“You see, Dad, I’ve been attending that little church near home, and I have been saved and filled with the Holy Spirit.”

 

“Really?” He dropped his eyes from her earnest gaze.

 

“I plan to leave for a Bible College in a couple of weeks to train for Christian service,” she informed him.

 

“Really?”

 

“Yes, Dad, I thought you might be interested in knowing my plans.”

 

“Sure, Connie, I appreciate you letting me know what you are doing. How do you propose to pay for your schooling?”

 

Connie suddenly felt flustered. She knew her father would not understand if she told him that God had promised to pay her bills by giving her hidden riches in secret places. She cleared her throat and coughed nervously before answering.

 

“I intend to get work, if possible, and pay what I can. Then after I’ve done all I can, I will trust God to do the rest.”

 

“Hm-m, very interesting,” he mused aloud. Looking at Donnie, he questioned, “I suppose you plan to go back to college soon, too?”

 

“Yes, Dad, I’m leaving next week.”

 

Turning his attention to Connie again, Mr. Slocum asked, “How does your uh—mom—feel about this?”

 

“She is not opposed to my going.”

 

“Well, I wish you both luck.” He extended his hand to each of them in turn. “Drop me a card sometimes and let me know how you are getting along.”

 

Donnie blushed. The times he had dropped a card were when he needed more money. They started toward the car.

 

“Just a minute,” Mr. Slocum called after them. He disappeared into the house and came back with his checkbook.

 

“My business is booming lately. I’d like to give you each a little extra money to get started on. Buy you some new clothes, and if there’s any left, you can pay it on your school bill.” He was writing the check as he talked.

 

“Here.” He handed the check to Donnie. “Give your mom a couple hundred dollars. I see this old car really needs a set of tires. Divide the rest with Connie.”

 

Donnie thanked him heartily and put the check in his shirt pocket without looking at it. As they said good-bye and drove away, Connie reached over, with a mischievous twinkle in her eye, and took the check out of Donnie’s pocket. Opening it up, she exclaimed, “Wow! Can you believe it, Donnie?”

 

“I’ll believe it if you’ll tell me how much it is.” Donnie couldn’t conceal his eagerness.

 

“Twelve hundred dollars,” she announced. “Let’s see! That will be five hundred each after we give Mom her two hundred. Oh, thank the Lord! This is some of the hidden riches God promised me. I can buy new shoes, a coat, two or three outfits, and still have some to pay on my first semester’s bill. Praise the Lord!” Connie’s face was beaming.

 

“I say ‘Praise the Lord,’ too, Connie,” Donnie echoed, though less sincerely. “I can certainly use a spot of cash, and this five hundred dollars is a mighty good beginning. Good old Dad. I’m sure glad we decided to go visit him.”

 

“Me, too, but not just because we got this money. Somehow today he seemed different. He was so glad to see us. I enjoyed visiting with him more than I ever have before.”

 

“Maybe it was because Mom wasn’t around. She can’t give Dad a peaceful word. It’s no wonder he seems uncomfortable when he comes to visit us at home.”

 

“Perhaps you’re right, Donnie. Whatever the reason, he acted more interested in us today, and I feel it’s been a profitable trip.”

 

“Yeah, in more ways than one,” Donnie grinned.

 

 

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

 

Even though Connie had been making preparations to go to Bible College because of the clear leadership of God, yet she did not receive official notice that her application had been accepted by the school until the day before Donnie was to leave to return to college.

 

It seemed harder for Donnie to leave home this time than it had the year before because Connie would soon be leaving, too, and their mother would be left alone. He and Connie had discussed their mother’s plight on several occasions, and though they had each tried to console the other that she had lots of spunk and would make it fine, they both had misgivings about leaving her. They wondered how she could possibly manage without them.

 

The last Saturday Connie was home, she helped her mother give the old house a thorough cleaning from front to back. Then they tackled the yard and the garage. By dark, they both were exhausted.

 

“I’m glad tomorrow is Sunday,” Connie declared as she put her hand over her mouth to stifle a yawn. “It will give me a chance to rest. Say, Mom,” she approached the forbidden subject hesitantly, “since this is my last Sunday to be home, would you consider attending church with me? Just this once,” she begged with an eager look in her expressive eyes. “I don’t know of anything that would make me any happier.”

 

Mrs. Slocum was silent for a few seconds as if giving Connie’s invitation some consideration. Connie was praying inwardly, “Please, Jesus, help her to say yes.”

 

Eventually Mrs. Slocum looked up. “I guess I could go with you this once, since it’s your last Sunday at home. At least, you won’t be pestering me anymore for a long time. I guess one time won’t hurt me.”

 

Connie felt like shouting for joy. She could hardly contain herself. But somehow she succeeded in remaining calm as she said, “Thank you so very much, Mom. This will be your going-away gift to me, and nothing could please me more.”

 

That night, Connie could hardly sleep for the joy in her heart. Her mother had criticized her, scolded her, scoffed at her and discouraged her in every step she had taken in the straight path that she was following, but the grace of God had enabled Connie to stand the test. And now her mother had agreed to go to church with her. There were no words to describe the happiness she felt as she lay wide awake in the stillness of the night.

 

Mrs. Slocum and Connie were up early that Sunday morning, eating breakfast and getting dressed for church. Mrs. Slocum looked trim and neat in the new dress that Connie had paid for with part of the money her dad had given her. Even though it had meant that she would have one less outfit for herself, she had wanted her mother to have an appropriate dress to wear to church in case she ever decided to go. This morning as she looked her mother over approvingly, Connie was so thankful she had put one of the dresses she had chosen for herself back on the rack, the day she and her mother had gone shopping together, and that she had insisted that her mother buy the pretty lavender one hanging nearby. Now her mother wouldn’t have to feel self-conscious her first time to a new church, Connie thought, remembering her own embarrassment. She had often thought of what a spectacle she must have been that morning, wearing her long, pink satin formal. She would always appreciate the kindness and friendliness of those people. Had they snubbed her, she probably never would have gone back. But because they had made her feel so welcome, she had kept going back until the gospel seed found lodging in her heart and she became a new creature in Christ Jesus.

 

“Call Mrs. Flowers,” Mrs. Slocum was saying, “and tell her we will drive ourselves this morning. With four new tires, I’m no longer afraid to get out on the highway.”

 

Connie could not hide her excitement as she dialed Mrs. Flower’s number.

 

“Hello, Mrs. Flowers. This is Connie.”

 

“You’re not sick, are you, Connie?” Mrs. Flowers expressed her concern.

 

“No, I’m not sick, but I’m very excited and happy.”

 

“You must have good news then, Connie. Let’s hear it.”

 

“Mom is going to church with me today. You won’t need to come by to pick us up. We will drive today in our car.”

 

“Praise the Lord, Connie,” Mrs. Flowers was jubilant. “God is working. Keep holding on in prayer and believing God.”

 

“I intend to, Mrs. Flowers, by God’s help. Bye for now. I’ll see you at church.”

 

The presence of God was very real in the service that morning. Mrs. Slocum sat erect and still on the pew beside Connie. Connie was somewhat self-conscious because of the loud exclamations of amen. Remembering how Ralph had criticized this part of the worship service so severely, she wondered what her mother’s reaction would be. But to make sure the devil didn’t get the upperhand and make her ashamed of praises to God, she said “amen” aloud several times herself.

 

The hearty handshakes and welcoming remarks of “God bless you, so glad to have you with us” were accepted cordially by Mrs. Slocum. She did not seem to resent the friendly people as Ralph had. Connie felt she was almost walking on air as they made their way out of the little sanctuary that beautiful Sunday morning and started for home. She lifted her heart to God in silent praises. “Oh thank You, God. Thank You for letting me have this happy and sacred memory to take to Bible College with me.”

 

The actual parting with her mother was harder than Connie had anticipated. After her luggage was loaded in Debbie’s parents’ car and they were ready to leave, Connie turned to say good-bye to her mother. She could have held back the Niagara Falls as easily as she could have held back her tears when she saw the tears falling like rain down her mother’s face. They clung to each other as Debbie and her parents got into the car.

 

“I love you, Mom. I’ll miss you more than you’ll ever know,” she cried. “I’ll pray for you every day and I’ll write to you often.”

 

“Connie,” Mrs. Slocum was trying to speak in spite of the sobs that were wracking her thin frame, “I’m sorry I made it so hard on you when you were doing your best to follow your religion. I want to know I’m forgiven before you leave me.”

 

Connie could hardly speak for crying so hard, but she held her mother a little tighter, saying, “I don’t hold a thing against you, Mom. All is forgiven.” .

 

Loosening her arms from around her mother, Connie turned toward the waiting car. “I’ll write to you as soon as I get to school, Mom,” she promised, trying to smile through her tears. “Bye now.”

 

Stumbling blindly to the car, Connie opened the door and took her place beside Debbie. Mr. Winters started the car and Connie rolled the window down to wave as long as she could see her mother. Never had Connie seen her mother look more frail and lonely. When the car had rounded the curve and Connie could no longer see the lone figure of her mother standing bravely waving, she fell over against Debbie’s shoulder and sobbed as if her heart would break. Debbie’s eyes were wet with tears of sympathy, realizing it wouldn’t be long until she would be saying good-bye to those she loved, too.

 

“God will work everything out for His glory and honor, Connie” Mrs. Winters tried to console her. “It’s hard now, but God has it all in hand. He has led you definitely to go to Bible School so leave it to Him to take care of your dear mother. The church people will stand by her. I’ll try to get by to see her at least once a week, and I know Mrs. Flowers will go regularly. And Brother and Sister Morgan will call on her, I’m sure. Don’t worry about your mother, Connie. Just pray and commit her to God.”

 

“Let’s pray now,” suggested Mr. Winters. “Mother, you pray.”

 

“Dear Lord,” Mrs. Winters prayed, her heart tender with concern “Thou dost see how hard this separation is for Connie and her dear mother. We’re beseeching Thee to reach underneath with Thine everlasting arms of mercy and love, and give courage and strength to both of them. Help Connie to commit her mother to Thee. And Lord, we ask Thee to use this separation to draw Mrs. Slocum to Thy wounded, bleeding side. Get glory to Thy name out of this venture. Help Connie and Debbie to adjust to Bible College. May their lives be trained and molded for Thy service, Give us traveling protection today. Again we ask Thee to touch Connie and her mother. In Thy name we pray, Amen.”

 

From the very first day, Connie enjoyed being in Bible College. Each school day was started with a chapel service in which the president of the college presided. Usually he gave a helpful talk based on God’s Word. Other times there were guest speakers. At times the power of God was so manifest that the chapel service would continue on into the first class period. One day the spirit of praise led to a time of confessing among the students, and the chapel service lasted until noon. Many of the students received definite help from God that memorable morning. Teachers and students alike counted the spiritual blessing of more importance than the classes missed, realizing that without spiritual life there could be no real Christian training, and the education would be in vain.

 

Besides the daily chapel services, there was mid-week prayer meeting and regular Sunday morning and evening services. Also, Connie soon discovered that there were scheduled week-end revivals, a missionary convention, and camp meeting during the school year.

 

Each class was begun with prayer. Sometimes, the teacher led in prayer, and, at other times, the students were called upon to pray. How different from the state colleges and public schools! Connie reflected. All of the teachers at the Bible College professed to be Christians, and the majority of the students were there either training for some special place in God’s harvest fields, or, like Connie, seeking God’s will for their lives. Connie was overjoyed to have such a wholesome environment in which to attend college. She compared it in her mind with the college Donnie was attending. By his own acknowledgment, he had started smoking and drinking because he didn’t want to be different from his college associates. But smoking and drinking were not allowed on the Bible School campus. Neither was profanity or any looseness in general tolerated. Modesty in dress was required of all.

 

Another feature of the Bible College, especially outstanding to Connie, was its social standards. The sight, so prevalent in the public high schools and college, of couples pairing off, holding hands and making love in public was absent from this school. Couples, seventeen or older, were allowed two evenings a week for social privileges, and even then, their dates were under supervision. Although this went against the grain for those who had been free to go out on dates as they pleased back home, yet they were obliged to abide by the rules of the school while enrolled there.

 

When Connie and Debbie were granted permission to room together, they were delighted. They spent the extra time between registration and the starting of classes in fixing up their room. Connie, being trained from early childhood to keep an immaculate house, suggested they try to get permission to paint their room. With permission granted, they pooled their money and bought paint, curtains, matching bedspreads to fit the two single beds in the room, and two posters to decorate the walls. After a day of hard work, their room was the envy of the dorm.

 

“I’m afraid I’m not the housekeeper you are, Connie,” Debbie apologized. “Our home always managed to have a lived-in look. I’ll do my best, though, to keep up my part so I’ll not be a burden to you.”

 

But try as she would, Connie was constantly coming behind Debbie, shining, polishing, waxing, dusting, and cleaning in general. She could spot dust and dirt that would take a magnifying glass for Debbie to see. And her cleanliness included such absurd things as the heat pipes and the light bulbs in the ceiling. Even if Debbie would slip off her shoes for a few minutes’ relaxation, Connie was on hand to pick them up and put them in the shoe bag which hung on the back of the closet door. The bedspreads had to he spread with perfection, and not one wrinkle in the sheets would Connie tolerate. If Debbie pushed the curtains back to catch a breeze, Connie was soon pulling them back into place. Rooming with a perfectionist caused Debbie some sore trials, and Debbie’s “slothfulness,” as Connie playfully called it, was a cross to Connie. But in spite of their differences, Connie and Debbie were closest of friends. Their love and respect for each other, coupled with God’s sanctifying grace, enabled them to room together, overlooking faults and enduring weaknesses that each noticed in the other.

 

In the course of time, Debbie learned to make a joke of Connie’s cleanliness. After making a bed or finishing a cleaning job, she would turn to Connie, “It’s ready for your inspection, Sarge.” When she would slip off her shoes, she would say, “You can put my shoes up, maid. I’m resting.”

 

With a knowing smile, Connie would do what was expected of her, and once satisfied that all was orderly, she would join Debbie and they would relax together.

 

Connie’s curriculum included Orientation, English Composition, History of Civilization, New Testament Survey, Math, and Music. Since Debbie was taking the same subjects, the two girls frequently studied together at night. When they were able to complete their assignments during the study hall hour, they had the evenings free to do other things. Sometimes they kept busy, writing letters, washing and ironing their clothes, or washing their hair. Other times they visited with some of the other girls in the dorm. Word passed around quickly when someone received a box of goodies from home. Then there would be an impromptu party in that girl’s room. Connie and Debbie enjoyed dorm life immensely, and their homesickness soon faded into the background.

 

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

 

Connie was thrilled when she received her first letter from home. Eagerly, she tore it open and read: “Dear Connie, I was so glad to receive your letter, giving me your correct address, and I am answering right back.”

 

“Yes, it was awfully hard to see you leave. I cried the rest of the day, and only slept about an hour that first night. But folk have been very kind to me and that surely helps. Debbie’s parents came by the day after they returned home and had coffee with me and reported on their trip. They told me that you and Debbie were getting to room together. I was glad about that. I know it will make it easier on you and keep you from getting so homesick. Debbie’s folks are very nice. I certainly appreciate them coming by and spending a little time with me.”

 

“Mrs. Flowers came by Saturday. I have been provoked so many times in the past when I would see her car stop out front, but believe me, I wasn’t provoked this time. When you live all alone, anybody looks good to you. Actually, I never realized how nice Mrs. Flowers really is. We must have visited for two hours. I insisted she eat lunch with me. It’s so lonely eating all alone. She knows what it is to be lonely, for she’s a widow and lives alone all the time. But you don’t think of Mrs. Flowers as being lonely. She’s always on the go, trying to get people to go to her church. Oh, that reminds me, you’ll be interested to know that I promised her I would go to church with her Sunday. It will help pass off the day. She insisted on picking me up in her car and invited me to go home with her to eat lunch after church. It will be something to do, so I told her I would go.

 

“Donnie called after you left. He’s worried about me being alone, but I’m adjusting better than I supposed I would. I keep real busy, and now that a few people are dropping by, it really helps. Oh, yes, the preacher and his wife visited me, too. I served them ice cream and some of that sour cream pound cake that I keep in the freezing compartment of the refrigerator. She liked my plants. I showed her all I had and gave her a few cuttings. She said when she waters them it will be a reminder to pray for me.

 

“Connie, dear, I can’t tell you how badly I miss you. I hope you’re making good and enjoying life there. Did you find a job yet? I’m thinking of trying to get a job as a sitter in the hospital. I think I could handle something like that, and I could certainly use the money. I never did feel right about working as long as you and Donnie were home. Since you were deprived of your dad, I wanted to try to make up for it the best I could.

 

“I love you, Connie. Write me a long letter telling me all the news. I watch for the postman every day now. I’m enclosing some stamps. Love, Mom.”

 

Connie hugged the letter to her breast as she wiped the tears from her eyes. She was amazed at God’s workings. She had thought her leaving would be hard on her mother, but it began to look as if it was going to be a blessing instead. She was delighted about her mother’s acceptance of the church people, and thrilled that she had promised Mrs. Flowers to go to church with her. And to think that she was even considering a sitter’s job! That would be an ideal situation for her, Connie thought. It would help her to mix with people and keep her from being lonely. Connie could hardly believe what she had read. Her little reserved mom was bursting out of her shell at last. Oh, how glad Connie was that she had obeyed God in coming to Bible College even though leaving her mother was the hardest thing she had ever done in her life. With a happy heart, she went in search of her friend, Debbie, to share the good news.

 

Later Connie received a letter from Donnie. Tears of joy filled her eyes as she read:

 

“Dear Sis, Hope this finds you well-adjusted and happy in your new environment. It’s hard to realize that for over seventeen years my twin sister and I were inseparable, and now we’re so very far apart. Would you think I’m a softie if I say I miss you terribly, Sis? I know Mom misses you, too, but she is really adjusting lots better than I ever thought possible. I’m proud of our little mom for taking everything in stride as she has. I was worried she would become depressed after we both left, but instead, she’s making new friends and talking about getting a job. Are you as surprised as I am, Connie?

 

“School is even rougher this year than last. I just can’t seem to buckle down to my studies. There are so many distractions, or maybe I should say ‘attractions,’ namely a little gal called Susan. I’m surprised, after being away from her all summer, that I’m still able to get a date with her. She’s a popular little lady. I don’t know how you would like her, Connie, because she’s certainly not your type, with her smoking and drinking, but I’ve certainly got a big crush on her. She’s about the cutest little thing you’ve ever laid eyes on, but I’ll have to admit, she’s pretty fiery at times. She reminds me of you when you lose your temper. But say, I just remembered that you don’t lose your temper anymore. The last few weeks I was home, I purposely tried to make you mad, but I never could get you stirred up. What happened, Connie? Did your religion do that for you?”

 

“Ralph just came in and said to tell you ‘hi’ and to say a prayer for him sometimes.”

 

“Well, I’d better sign off. I can’t think of anything else to write with Ralph standing over me.”

 

“Be good, Sis, and write me real soon. I’m anxious to know how you are doing in school. Love from your twin brother, Donnie.”

 

Connie especially rejoiced over the remark about her temper. How Donnie had tried to provoke her! She had recognized it at the time. But God’s grace had kept her sweet in her soul. Bowing her head in reverence, she whispered, “Thank You, Jesus, for Thy sanctifying grace.”

 

Connie discovered that finding a job wasn’t as easy as she had imagined. There was the matter of transportation to and from a job, once she secured it, besides having to fit it into her school schedule. Some of the girls owned cars and were willing to furnish transportation in return for help on their gas expense, but Connie’s schedule didn’t always coincide with that of the car owners. Now what was she going to do? She had come to school trusting God to help her pay her school bill, but after several weeks of earnest but futile effort to find work, Connie was quite discouraged. Would she be forced to drop out of college and return home?

 

All one afternoon she battled with the enemy of her soul over this problem, and on into the night she pondered the situation, trying to figure out a way where there was no way. She did her best to pray and trust God through it all, but the pressure from the devil was so strong that the darkness nearly overwhelmed her. After all her declarations of faith to her mother and Donnie, and even to her dad, was she to be defeated after all?

 

Around midnight, being totally unable to sleep, she reached for her Bible and slipping out of bed noiselessly, in order not to awaken Debbie or disturb others, she quietly opened the door and tiptoed down the hall to the prayer room. Getting on her knees, she began to call on God.

 

“Dear Jesus,” she prayed softly but desperately, “I have come to Bible College because of Thy leading. You know how I have been battling for hours because I have no money to pay my school bill and no job in sight. Thou knowest that a payment is due tomorrow, Lord, and I want to be prompt in paying for Thy name’s sake. But I’m helpless, Jesus, with nowhere to go and nobody to turn to but Thee, O Lord. Wilt Thou please come to my rescue and give me the money somehow? If not, Lord, I have no alternative but to quit and go home. And, Jesus, I feel that would bring reproach to Thee. Please help me in this midnight hour—of the night and of my soul.”

 

Tears trickled down her cheeks as she waited before God. She flipped on the light and opened her Bible to the book of Acts. Her eyes fell on these words in chapter sixteen, verse twenty-five: “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises unto God.”

 

She did not read any further, but slowly reread the same words again and again. And suddenly, she began to laugh softly through her tears. She put both hands over her mouth, but she couldn’t be silent. She didn’t understand what had taken place in her heart, but somehow all the darkness, the pressure, the doubts had disappeared. Joy welled up in her heart and she was spontaneously praising God at midnight just as Paul and Silas had done.

 

“Forgive me, Lord, for doubting Thee,” she cried and laughed at the same time. “In all my distress, I failed to claim the promise You gave me about the hidden riches to pay my bills. I don’t know where Your hidden riches are, Jesus, but I’m believing You to give me some of them. I know You will supply my need. I feel it in the very depths of my being.”

 

Connie returned to her room, still whispering praises to God and laughing softly. Debbie raised up in bed, rubbing sleep from her eyes and looking astounded. Connie sat on the edge of her bed and threw her arms around her.

 

“Forgive me, Debbie, for awakening you, but I couldn’t keep quiet any more than Paul and Silas could. You remember the Bible says they sang praises at midnight and prisoners heard them.”

 

“What are you talking about, Connie?” Debbie was wide awake now.

 

“Do you remember me asking you to help me pray about my school bill?”

 

“Yes, Connie, I’ve been praying faithfully about it.”

 

“Well, the devil has just about defeated me over it. I’ve been fighting a terrible spiritual battle all afternoon and tonight, But a few moments ago, while I was on my knees in the prayer room, God assured me afresh and anew that He has the situation in hand. I believe He will help me pay my bill whether I get a job or not. Maybe I’ll get a letter in the mail tomorrow from—from—Dad or someone,” she stammered, then finished lamely, “My monthly note is due tomorrow.”

 

“God won’t let you down, Connie.”

 

“It was the wee hours of the morning before Connie finally fell asleep. The alarm failed to awaken her at six, but Debbie gently shook her awake. She sat up on the side of the bed, yawning.

 

“It seems I just dozed off,” she said. “How will I ever make it through the day?”

 

“In the strength of the Lord,” Debbie assured her. “After the help He gave you last night, surely you will sprout wings and fly through the day.”

 

“I’m anxious to see how God will answer prayer,” Connie smiled expectantly.

 

Immediately after third period class, Connie hurried to the post office, but there was no mail in her box. She could hardly believe it. Approaching the postmistress, she asked, “Could it be possible you overlooked a letter for me? I’m expecting some important mail.”

 

Making a quick check, the postmistress smiled understandingly at Connie, saying, “Sorry, there’s nothing for you. Maybe it will arrive tomorrow.”

 

Connie turned and, with lagging steps, left the post office.

 

“See!” the devil derided her. “It wasn’t as you expected. Now, where are you going to get your money by this afternoon to pay your school bill?”

 

At first, Connie was discouraged, but then she remembered God’s promise and His assurance in the midnight hour, and she was able to resist the devil.

 

“I don’t know where the money is coming from, but I believe that God will give it to me before the business office closes at five.”

 

Connie walked over to the cafeteria and got in the lunch line, but she didn’t feel very hungry.

 

“Hi, Connie. How are you?” It was Larry. He could always manage to get in line about the same time she did. Sometimes she wondered where he came from. Today she wished he wasn’t there. She didn’t feel like talking. She wondered if perhaps she should slip out of line and fast the noon meal. But a second thought came on the heels of the first. “Why fast? Believe God.”

 

Giving Larry a belated smile, she answered, “I’m fine, Larry, except I’m going through a faith battle today. But I’m believing God to answer prayer.”

 

“Faith is the key to victory, Connie. Don’t let go of your faith.”

 

“I’m holding on with all my might.” She spoke with assurance.

 

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

 

After classes had ended for the day, Connie joined some of her classmates in the study hall to work on a homework assignment. Glancing at the clock, she noticed that it was 3:30. Once again the devil accosted her: “You have only an hour and a half left before the business office closes. Where’s the money for your bill?”

 

Trying to muster all the faith she had, she whispered, “I believe God.” Then she said it aloud. Noticing several heads turn in her direction, she stood to her feet and, with great boldness, declared loud enough for everyone in the study hall to hear, “God assured me at midnight last night that He was going to answer prayer for me today regarding a certain very important matter. The devil just reminded me that it is 3:30 and my prayer hasn’t been answered yet. I want to acknowledge openly that I believe God to answer prayer today as He promised, in spite of the devil and all the powers of hell.”

 

“Amens” were heard all over the study hall. As Connie took her seat, another girl arose and with tears streaming down her cheeks, she testified, “I have been fighting an awful battle today, but Connie’s declaration of faith has given me courage and faith to believe God. I, too, want to publicly announce that I’m believing God to defeat the devil and give me victory over this thing I’m praying about.” She was overcome with emotion as she took her seat again.

 

One after another, the students stood to their feet and testified, expressing faith in God to supply their needs. Some were crying, some were rejoicing and some were going to the improvised altar that had hastily been erected with chairs when one had expressed a spiritual need.

 

In the midst of this outpouring of God’s Spirit, the study hall door swung open and Debbie entered breathlessly, her face flushed with excitement. Scanning the faces before her, she located Connie and quickly made her way to her.

 

“It’s come, Connie,” she whispered. “The money for your school bill has come. God sent it in the nick of time.”

 

“Tell me about it, Debbie.” Connie was trembling with excitement.

 

“I was late picking up my mail today, and when I went to get it, there was this letter from Mother with this check enclosed. The little church back home has taken a special love offering for you and me, Connie, and Mother sent it in her letter. Would you believe that your half is the exact amount you owe on this month’s school bill? Isn’t God wonderful?” Debbie was bubbling over with happiness.

 

Connie rose to speak to the group, her face like the sun shining through rain. “Debbie just brought me word that my prayer is answered,” she reported. “God has fulfilled His promise.”

 

What rejoicing took place because of Connie’s testimony and because of other victories won during what was supposed to have been the study hour!

 

Connie had to tear herself away in order to get to the business office before it closed.

 

This experience was conclusive evidence that God was calling Connie to a life of faith. As she had heeded the other divine calls in her life, so once again she bowed to divine sovereignty, and promised God that from that day hence, she would live by faith in His promises as she continued following Him in straight paths.

 

So life went on at the school and the weeks turned into months and soon the Thanksgiving season was approaching. The main topic of conversation in the girls’ dorm at this time was who would be taking whom to the Thanksgiving Banquet. It brought back memories to Connie of the time she and Donnie sat on the porch swing discussing who they were going with to the Junior-Senior Prom. Along with the memories came a touch of nostalgia. How Connie wished she could see her twin brother and have a good long talk with him.

 

And her dear mother-how she missed her! Her last letter told of her new job at the hospital, not as a sitter, but in the office. Mrs. Slocum had written, “I would have had to work on Sundays if I had taken the sitter’s job, and would not have been able to attend church.” As it was, she was working from eight until five and was off on Saturdays and Sundays. Mrs. Slocum was now attending church regularly and has asked Connie to pray for her. She enclosed a check to help pay Connie’s school bill—some more of God’s hidden riches.

 

Connie’s reverie was interrupted by Debbie’s question, “What are you wearing to the banquet?”

 

“I have a light blue dress on lay-away at King’s Department Store. I will just wait and let you see it instead of trying to describe it to you, Debbie. After I clean Mrs. Mitchell’s house tomorrow, I’ll have enough money to pay it off.”

 

Connie had picked up a few housecleaning jobs which paid well. This was a great help, not only on her school payments, but in buying other necessary items. It seemed that she was always needing one thing or another—toothpaste, shampoo, washing powder, soap, deodorant. If it wasn’t one thing it was another. She hadn’t realized how much it would cost just to keep neat and clean. She was grateful to God that she had found the cleaning jobs that not only supplied the needs, but made it possible for her to have a new dress for the banquet.

 

The Thanksgiving banquet would be quite different from the high school prom that Connie had attended. There would be no dancing, no smoking, and no drinks out behind the cars. Rather, there would be clean, wholesome entertainment plus a scrumptous Thanksgiving feast. As the time drew nearer, the excitement in the girls’ dorm mounted. Some were still waiting to be asked by the guy of their dreams for a date to the banquet. Connie, though, was not among this number.

 

“Larry asked me to the banquet today,” she shared the news with Debbie as she patted her hair dry with a big towel.

 

“I knew he would,” Debbie smiled. “I think that guy has a crush on you, Connie.”

 

“Well, he may get crushed if he falls too hard. I sure haven’t felt myself falling in his direction yet.”

 

“I can’t understand you, Connie. He’s one of the best looking guys in the freshman class.”

 

“I know, but I’m just not interested in any guy right now.”

 

“You’re a strange person. Most every girl is interested in guys. God made us that way.”

 

Connie couldn’t understand her own lack of interest in her banquet date. As she lay in bed that night, after she and Debbie had stopped talking, her thoughts turned to Larry. Who would want a nicer guy than Larry for a boyfriend, she quizzed herself. He was good-looking, neat, friendly, and spiritual. Maybe she would feel differently after their date, she thought as her mind went back to her courtship with Ralph. She remembered how he was nothing to her but Donnie’s best friend until after their first date. From then on, he had been someone very special in her life—that is, until he scorned her church friends. After that she had wanted no more to do with him.

 

Again her thoughts turned to Larry. There was no harm in going to the banquet with him, even if she didn’t care for him. If it drew them together, then that would be fine, but if not, it was still all right. It was just a banquet date. She had plenty of time before becoming serious about guys. God would help her find the right one when it was time, she trusted.

 

Two weeks later, as the girls dressed for the banquet, Connie was perturbed to recognize the familiar sense of trepidation she had felt on prom night. It had been so long since she’d had a date, she wondered if she would know how to act. And she wondered if she would enjoy going with Larry. “I’ll have to snap out of this mood or he’ll be sorry he asked me,” she told herself.

 

Debbie was all excited and had talked about nothing else for a week. Her date, Ron Stephens, was president of the sophomore class and she was thrilled that he had asked her to accompany him to the banquet.

 

“Do you have time to fix my hair, Connie? You can make it look so much nicer than I can.”

 

“I’ll just take time, Debbie. By all means you must look your very best for Prince Charming. Come sit in this chair in front of the mirror.”

 

There was a last minute flurry of pinning on corsages and, finally, they were ready to go. Together they walked to the dorm parlor where their dates were waiting to escort them to the banquet.

 

“You really look lovely,” Larry complimented her as they walked together along the sidewalk leading to the dining room. “I’m so glad you accepted my invitation to go with me tonight. I’ve been wanting a chance to get better acquainted with you.”

 

“It was kind of you to ask me, Larry. I would have hated to go alone.”

 

“No worry there,” he assured her. “Had I not asked you, I know at least two others that would have.”

 

“Oh, you’re just trying to make me feel good,” she said, laughing.

 

“No, Connie, that’s the truth.”

 

Connie hated it that she could blush so easily. She hurriedly changed the subject.

 

In the dining hall, Larry held Connie’s chair while she was being seated. Connie glanced up to smile her thanks as Larry pulled out his own chair and was seated. Noticing his neatly-pressed navy blue suit, his blond hair and slim tallness, she realized she must be the envy of many of the girls who had ended up without dates. Along with his good looks, Larry had an easy friendliness that made him a great favorite on campus.

 

After the banquet was served and the planned entertainment was over, the couples had opportunity to get better acquainted. They were paired off here and there as the evening progressed, engaged in private conversations.

 

“How long have you been a Christian, Connie?” Larry asked, adding, “I really appreciate your spiritual life.”

 

“I’ve been saved less than a year.”

 

“You’re kidding!”

 

“No, I’m serious. I was saved in February of this year and sanctified during the summer.”

 

“I suppose you’ve been in a church all your life, then?”

 

“No, actually I’ve only been attending church about a year. My parents are not Christians.”

 

“That’s amazing. I thought you probably had been saved for years.”

 

“How about you, Larry? How long have you been a Christian?”

 

“My parents have had me in church all my life, but I wasn’t really settled in my Christian experience until about a year ago. And I was sanctified just recently.”

 

“How recent? Since you’ve been here at school?”

 

“Yes, as a matter of fact, it was the day you stood up in study hall and declared your faith in God concerning a prayer you were expecting Him to answer. Remember?”

 

“Yes, I well remember. That was a milestone in my life, the time when God definitely called me to a life of faith, promising me He would always supply my needs. And I have proven Him true to His promise.”

 

“It was a milestone in my life, too, Connie. When the Holy Spirit settled down and the kids started testifying and praising God, I saw the true condition of my heart and realized that I did not have what some of the rest of you had. I sought God that afternoon for a pure heart and He met my need.”

 

“That’s wonderful,” Connie commented.

 

“I’m glad you obeyed God, that day, Connie.” Larry looked at her with admiration in his eyes.

 

“Well, I had to to keep victory myself. I didn’t realize it would help others, too. God’s ways are marvelous.” Connie’s eyes were shining. Her self-consciousness had disappeared, and her worries about how she would feel about Larry were forgotten as they shared their joy in the Lord.

 

Walking back to the dorm later under the star-lit sky, Larry expressed his appreciation to Connie. “I’ve enjoyed the evening thoroughly, Connie.” Then more diffidently, he asked, “Would you consider dating me again, say for Friday night activities?”

 

“Maybe sometimes, Larry,” she answered with her eyes down. They had stopped on the sidewalk in front of the dorm entrance. She glanced up briefly and smiled, saying, “Thanks for the beautiful corsage and a very lovely evening.”

 

“I’m glad you enjoyed it, too. You had me wondering there for a minute,” he said as he held the door open for her.

 

 

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

 

On Monday morning before school, Connie heard a light tap on the door, and a moment later Kaye, the assistant dean of women, stuck her head in.

 

“Long distance call for Connie.”

 

“Long distance! For me?” Connie hastily stuck her bare feet in her slippers and started for the phone. Upon reaching the parlor, she breathlessly picked up the receiver.

 

“Hello, this is Connie Slocum.”

 

“Connie, this is Mom. How are you?”

 

“Mom, what’s wrong?” Connie could only imagine bad news would cause her mother to make a long distance phone call.

 

“Nothing’s wrong, Connie, but something’s right at long last. God saved me last night. Now I’m a Christian like you, Connie.”

 

“Oh, Mom!” Connie burst into tears of joy. “Praise the Lord! Oh, praise the Lord! That’s wonderful – marvelous – Oh, Mom, I’m overjoyed. I don’t know what to say.”

 

“All we can say, Connie, is ‘praise the Lord.’ “

 

“Tell me about it.”

 

“I won’t go into detail now because it would run my bill up too high, but it can be told in a few words. I just got so hungry to find real satisfaction that I repented of my sins and found God. I’ll tell you all about it when you come home for the Christmas holidays. Oh, I was miserable until I yielded to God.” A sob caught in her throat. “I didn’t think I could ever give up smoking. But for the joy I have in my heart right now, I’d give up anything. And God is really helping me to hold out against the cigarette habit. Last night I burned what I had left so they wouldn’t be lying around to tempt me.” In her joy, she was forgetting her resolve not to run up the phone bill. “Here I am forgetting myself,” she said. “Oh, I’m so happy and it’s amazing how God is helping me. I didn’t know it would be like this.”

 

“Oh, Mom, I’m too happy for words. I wish I could give you a big hug.”

 

“You’ll be able to in just three more weeks. I can hardly wait, myself. And, Connie, Debbie’s mother told me they wouldn’t be able to drive up to bring you girls home for the holidays, so I’m mailing you a check for bus fare.”

 

“Thanks, Mom.”

 

“Pray for Donnie, Connie, I’m worried about him. I’m afraid he’s not doing very well in school this year. He’s in with the wrong crowd.”

 

“I am praying, Mom. I have wondered why I haven’t heard from him.”

 

“I must go now. I’ll have a terrific phone bill.”

 

“I’m so glad you called, Mom. It’s made my day.”

 

“I couldn’t wait to tell you, Connie. Postal service is much too slow for news like this. Bye now. I love you, dear.”

 

“I love you, too, Mom. See you in three weeks.”

 

On the way back to her room, Connie walked on a cloud of pure joy, stopping everyone she met to say, “I’ve just gotten word my mom got saved.” Truly, such news was too good to keep. Many of Connie’s friends had prayed for her unsaved mother, and now they rejoiced together in answered prayer, taking new courage to hold on in prayer for other needs.

 

As the Christmas holidays drew near, Connie became more and more excited over the prospect of going home. It was hard to imagine what it would be like to have a mother who would pray and read the Bible with her. And they would attend the church services together! Connie’s heart rejoiced to think of it. She kept thanking God for what He had done for them. She wondered how Donnie would fit into the new situation.

 

Classes were out at noon on the Thursday school was dismissed for the holidays. Lunch was a hurried affair since many of the students were catching afternoon buses for home. Connie and Debbie had packed early that morning and were impatient to get going. Kaye had agreed to deliver them at the bus station on her way out of town. They wanted to be there in plenty of time for their two o’clock departure.

 

Since Donnie was to get home the day before Connie’s arrival, he and Mrs. Slocum were planning to meet Connie at the bus station when she arrived home. In spite of the twenty-hour trip ahead of them, Connie was exuberant and thinking about the end of the trip while she and Debbie were boarding the bus. They found seats together and set:led down for the long trip.

 

“I’m sure God will give her extra grace while Donnie is home,” Debbie tried to encourage her friend. “Don’t worry about it, Connie.”

 

“Really, I’m more worried about Donnie than Mom, Debbie, And not about the cigarettes either. Mom seemed pretty upset about him. In her last letter she said he had called her and was so intoxicated he could hardly talk. I guess he’s gone to drinking more and more. Also, he has bought a car and she can’t understand where all his money is coming from because he isn’t even working.”

 

“Maybe your dad let him have it. You’ve mentioned how he seems to be so proud of Donnie. Maybe he even bought him the car.”

 

“Could be, but I think Mom is afraid he is into dope. I guess there is big money in that racket.”

 

“Let’s not borrow trouble, Connie. Maybe there is a legitimate answer for the car. Donnie will probably explain when you see him.”

 

“I hope so.” Connie sighed uneasily.

 

They lapsed into silence. Both of them were exhausted from being up late the night before. The girls in the dorm had exchanged gifts, played games, and had refreshments. The dean had been lenient with them because of the holday season, not requiring “lights out” until midnight. Then they were up early in order to pack before going to classes. Debbie was soon dozing. Connie tried to sleep, too, but she felt a strange heaviness settling down upon her. In her tense uneasiness, she turned to the Lord in prayer.

 

“Dear Jesus, I’m troubled and I don’t know why. But, Lord. You know all about it. Keep Your hand upon this bus and help us to make it home safely. Take care of Mom and Donnie. Help all the kids who are traveling home from school. Give traveling protection to each one. Help us all to be obedient in everything You show us. I love You, dear Jesus. I’m depending on You for help.”

 

She rested her head against the back of the seat and closed her eyes. Her thoughts turned to home and her mother and her twin brother. She wondered if they were as full of anticipation as she was. She could visualize her mom bustling about the kitchen preparing their favorite foods. And oh, the pies and cakes! “Dear Mom!” she thought. Just a few more hours and she could be clasped in her arms. And Donnie—her precious twin brother. How she had prayed for God to get to his heart, but it seemed he was getting farther from God all the time. Again she purposed to be faithful and keep praying for him regardless of the circumstances. The circumstances certainly hadn’t appeared favorable for her mother’s conversion. but God had gotten to her heart, so He could get to Donnie’s also, she assured herself.

 

With a deep sigh. Connie slowly began to relax and was soon dozing along with Debbie. Later she awoke with a start, wondering where she was. She sat up and looked around her. Then she remembered. She was on her way home for Christmas vacation. It had grown dark. She got out of her seat and made her way to the bathroom. Upon returning to her seat, she tried to go back to sleep, but she felt restless and hungry and wished they’d stop for supper. Her wish was granted about an hour later when the bus stopped at another bus terminal.

 

“We will be here thirty minutes,” the driver announced. “All who want to get off may do so, but we must be loaded and ready to leave in exactly thirty minutes. We’re already running ten minutes late.”

 

Debbie had awakened at the sound of the announcement, and she and Connie got off along with the others. There was a small cafeteria connected with the terminal. The girls each ordered a hamburger, French fries. and a Coke.

 

Once the bus was loaded again and on its way, the girls settled down cozily, thinking they would sleep the night through now that their hunger was satisfied. But the excitement of going home for their first vacation from college, along with the many stops and starts, kept them dozing and waking most of the night.

 

At 9:55 the next morning, the bus pulled into the terminal in the girls’ home town. Excitedly, Connie strained her eves for a glimpse of her mother and Donnie. Debbie’s parents were there, but Mrs. Slocum and Donnie were nowhere to be seen. At first, Connie supposed the battery was down on the old car. That had happened the day Donnie was to arrive last summer. For a moment, she was reassured, but then she realized that was unlikely since her mother used the car every day to go to work now. Maybe, she was working today since it was Friday, Connie thought. Yes, that would be the reason. Why hadn’t she thought of that before? But no, Donnie would have dropped her mother off at work and would have been at the bus station waiting. With that conclusion, Connie decided something was wrong. Her heart was pounding so loudly that she feared others would hear it.

 

The bus came to a halt and Connie stood up, reaching overhead for their coats and overnight bags. Debbie caught sight of her parents and was smiling and waving. Connie stepped back to let Debbie go first since her parents were waiting for her.

 

With great effort, Connie held back her tears of disappointment while she watched her friend receive a loving welcome from both of her parents. Then Mrs. Winters turned and embraced Connie.

 

“Have you heard anything from Mom and Donnie?” Connie’s face was bleak with disappointment. “I was expecting them to pick me up.”

 

”Yes”, your mother asked us to pick you up,” Mrs. Winters answered in a carefully controlled voice.

 

“Will you please drop me off at the hospital?” Connie requested. “I’m so anxious to see Mom.”

 

“Then you know?” Debbie’s parents looked at each other as if wondering how she could have heard the awful news. But Connie didn’t notice.

 

Yes, I knew Mom was working at the hospital. She told me some time ago. I suppose she couldn’t get off work to pick me up. But I wonder why Donnie—” She left the sentence unfinished.

 

After a few moments of strained silence, Mrs. Winters laid a trembling hand on Connie’s arm.

 

“There’s been an accident, Connie. That’s why your mom wasn’t here to pick you up.”

 

“An accident? Who? Mom or Donnie? Tell me.” Her face was drained of all color.

 

“Donnie and Ralph were involved in a wreck yesterday about twenty-five miles from here. They were on their way home from college, you know. The ambulance brought them here to the hospital because of the better facilities.

 

“Oh-h-h,” Connie moaned, “is it that bad?” She swayed uncertainly and Debbie put an arm about her waist to steady her.

 

“Take me to the hospital, please.”

 

Connie’s heart-rending sobs were all the urging Mr. Winters needed to drive as quickly as possible across town to the hospital. Debbie and Mrs. Winters tried to comfort Connie, but she was inconsolable. At the hospital, they accompanied her to Donnie’s room, but discreetly stood outside while Connie, trembling noticeably, eased the door open and cautiously slipped in. Mrs. Slocum was standing by Donnie’s bed. She raised her grief-stricken eyes and met Connie’s tearful gaze. Without a word they fell into each other’s arms.

 

“I’m so glad you’re here at last, Connie,” her mother cried quietly. “I don’t think I could have stood it much longer alone.”

 

“How bad—is he—Mom?”

 

“He is listed ‘critical’. That’s about all I know. He was in the intensive care unit until an hour ago. There was another wreck with five critically injured. I think they had to move Donnie to make room for them. He hasn’t been conscious at all. The doctors won’t say much about his prospects yet.”

 

“Oh Mom! And he isn’t even saved.”

 

“Maybe it’s not too late yet, Connie. We can pray. God hears and answers prayer.”

 

“Dear Mom!” Connie murmured in gratitude as she recognized the difference in her former self-pitying little mother. With her heart breaking with grief, she was still trying to encourage and console another.

 

“Have you tried to talk to him, Mom?”

 

“No, dear, He has been so lifeless, I hadn’t thought of trying.” They were talking in subdued tones to each other.

 

“I’d like to try to talk to him. Maybe, he would arouse if he knew I was here.”

 

“You can always try, dear. Perhaps he may be able to hear even though he can’t respond.” .

 

Just then, there was a knock at the door. Mrs. Slocum went to the door. It was the Winters letting them know they were leaving. Mrs. Slocum stepped out into the hall to thank them for coming and bringing Connie.

 

While Mrs. Slocum was out of the room, Connie stepped over to the bed. The tears trickled down her cheeks. She held onto the bedrail to steady herself. Donnie looked more dead than alive and Connie couldn’t stop herself from thinking of what it would be like to have him gone from them forever. She bent over and kissed his cheek. Her head felt dizzy. She wondered for a moment if she was going to faint.

 

“Donnie, Donnie,” she called softly, taking his hand in hers. “Oh Donnie, I wish you could talk to me. If you hear me, give your heart to Jesus while there is still time.”

 

Although he showed no signs of hearing, Connie went on. “This is Connie, your twin sister who loves you. Can you hear me, Donnie?”

 

Donnie’s eyelids flickered. Connie felt her knees buckling under her. She grasped the bedrail, but the room continued to spin until a soft blackness enveloped her.

 

 

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

 

When Connie revived, Mrs. Slocum was kneeling beside her, bathing her face. A nurse was administering an injection, and an intern was standing nearby.

 

“Oh, Mom,” Connie moaned, “I can’t stand it.”

 

“Just lie still for a few minutes, and you’ll be all right, I shouldn’t have left you alone while the shock was so new.”

 

“That’s all right, Mom. Did Debbie and her parents leave?”

 

“Yes, they went on home since there is nothing they can do here for the present.”

 

Taking Connie under the arm and motioning for Mrs. Slocum to take her other arm, the nurse said, “Here, let us help you to your feet and over to a chair.”

 

When she was seated, the intern addressed her. “Now you just stay put for a while, young lady, and you’ll soon feel more like yourself.” He turned to go, holding the door for the nurse as they both left the room.

 

Connie sat quietly, her head against the back of the upholstered arm chair. Soon she dozed off under the influence of the sedative. When she awoke, she felt better and stood gingerly to her feet. Finding she was no longer dizzy. she walked over to stand by her mother at Donnie’s bedside.

 

After some time she asked quietly, “How’s Ralph?”

 

“He is getting along much better than Donnie. He’s right next door in 424. Why don’t you go see him, if you feel like it now? It might even cheer you a little.”

 

Connie took her advice and walked the short distance down the hall and knocked at Ralph’s door.

 

Upon hearing his call to “Come in,” she pushed open the door and entered.

 

“Hi, Ralph,” she greeted him. “How are you making it?”

 

“Hi, Connie. I’m glad you got here. Your mom really needs you now.”

 

“Yes, I know. But I don’t guess I’ve been much help so far.”

 

“Yeah, I heard you conked out. I’m sorry you had to come home to such a mess, Connie.”

 

“I’ll get ahold of myself after a bit. But how about yourself? How are you feeling, Ralph?”

 

“Everything considered, I’m doing fine. I have some not-so-serious internal injuries, a slight concussion, and a few bad bruises, but nothing at all in comparison with Donnie. Tears filled his eyes as he said, “I’ll never be able to forgive myself for this, Connie.”

 

“It’s not your fault, Ralph.”

 

“But it is,” he answered. “I was the one driving.” The pathetic look on his face caused Connie to reach over and pat his hand.

 

“Accidents happen even with the best of drivers, Ralph. Don’t condemn yourself.”

 

Ralph didn’t answer her, but the look of agony on his face made Connie realize that he was taking all the blame for the wreck upon himself, and that he was deeply depressed over it.

 

“May I pray with you before I go back to Donnie’s room?” Connie asked .

 

“I wish you would.” He tried to blink back the moisture that would come into his eyes in spite of his efforts to restrain it.

 

Connie bowed her head. Her heart felt as if it were breaking. Her dear brother’s body was crushed, and he didn’t even know he was in the world. And Ralph, who had been like a brother to both of them, was taking all the blame for Donnie’s condition.

 

Dear Jesus,” she prayed brokenly, “we come to Thee with aching and bleeding hearts, asking for Thy help. Wilt Thou touch Ralph in a special way, physically and spiritually? Help him, also, mentally, Lord, that he might not not blame himself for what couldn’t be helped. Touch Donnie some way, somehow. Don’t let him go out into eternity, lost without God. Touch dear Mom and give her extra strength to bear up under this heavy load. Help me, Lord, to have the strength and grace to stand by. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

 

Giving Ralph a sympathetic look, she told him, “I must go now. I’ll drop in now and then.”

 

“No, Connie, don’t go—not until I make a confession. It’s killing me.”

 

Connie stared at him wide-eyed, wondering what he had to confess to her.

 

“You prayed that I wouldn’t blame myself for what couldn’t be helped; but Connie, it could have been helped. I was drinking and am being charged with DWI. That’s why I wrecked the car and Donnie is in the condition he’s in. I wasn’t fit to be driving.” His eyes dropped in shame under Connie’s unbelieving stare.

 

“Don’t look at me like that, Connie. I had to tell you. You and Donnie have been my best friends for too many years for me not to be wholly truthful with you. I know you warned me not to go this way. But I did it anyway. I’m truly sorry now, but at the time, it seemed smart to go along with the crowd. If I can get out of this mess, I promise you, Connie, I’ll never touch another drop.”

 

Connie still had not spoken. Her grief was too great for words. Turning slowly toward the door, she said quietly, “I’ll be seeing you, Ralph.”

 

“Please do, Connie. Please visit me now and then. And don’t hate me for what I’ve done. I’m suffering enough without losing your friendship.”

 

She opened the door, went out and closed it behind her. With drooping shoulders, lagging steps, and tear-blinded eyes, Connie walked down the hall, trying to get a hold on herself before she re-entered Donnie’s room. She stood in the solarium at the end of the hall, praying silently for strength to go on. If Ralph was drinking, that meant that Donnie was, too. It was almost more than she could bear.

 

“Oh-h-h, God,” she moaned. “Help me to be able to stand up under this.”

 

A gentle, white-haired lady patted her on the arm. “God will help you, honey. God will help you. Make no mistake about that.”

 

“Even if your twin brother is dying because of his best friend’s drunken driving?” she couldn’t resist asking. The lady seemed so understanding and wise.

 

“Yes, dearie. In every circumstance, God is sufficient.” The lady’s eyes shone with faith.

 

“But I’ll dare say you don’t know what it is to lose a twin brother—and so unnecessarily,” Connie countered in deep despair.

 

“No, but honey, just a year ago today, my boy lost his sweet wife, the mother of five fine children—and one just born—because a nurse gave her the wrong blood transfusion. And through this year, we have learned that God is sufficient.”

 

“Oh, I’m sorry,” was all the humbled Connie could say.

 

“The baby has a defective heart and is having surgery today,” the gentle voice of the lady continued.

 

“Thanks for sharing with me,” Connie whispered in awe, and turned back to go to Donnie’s room.

 

As Connie sank into a chair, her mother asked, “How did you find Ralph?”

 

‘Pretty good, I guess,” Connie said shortly, still tom between her harsh judgment of Ralph and the gentle lady’s forgiving spirit.

 

“The wreck has mellowed him, I believe,” Mrs. Slocum remarked. He. breaks down and cries every time I go in.”

 

“He has reason.”

 

“He’s suffering, too, you know,” Mrs. Slocum spoke tenderly. “He needs love and understanding right now.”

 

Connie looked up into her mother’s face. Did she know about Ralph? Connie wondered. Yes, she was sure she did, and yet she was speaking of loving him. Oh, how her mom was changed! Connie reached over and squeezed her mother’s work-worn hand as she smiled a sad but understanding smile.

 

Mrs. Slocum asked for a cot to be put in Donnie’s room for her and Connie; and while one rested, the other kept guard over Donnie. On the second day he was still holding his own. The doctors were expecting a change one way or the other within the next twenty-four hours. Many prayers were going up for Donnie from the saints who attended the little church. And Mrs. Slocum’s and Connie’s waking thoughts were filled with petitions. Surely God would intervene.

 

‘Did you let Dad know?” Connie inquired as they stood by Donnie’s bed, watching anxiously.

 

“Yes, I called his office and left word. He was out of town.”

 

Donnie had begun tossing earlier in the day, and as the evening came on, he became more restless. It took both Mrs. Slocum and Connie to watch him lest he pull out the needles and tubes. A nurse was on constant call and was back and forth checking him regularly.

 

Brother and Sister Morgan came and offered to stay awhile so Mrs. Slocum and Connie could eat and rest.

 

“If you could just stay until we could run home to bathe and change clothes, we would be so grateful,” Mrs. Slocum told them.

 

“We’ll be glad to stay. Just take your time and we’ll take good care of him until you return,” Brother Morgan assured them.

 

A little while later, when Mrs. Slocum stopped the car in front of their house, she burst into tears.

 

“Please don’t cry, Mom,” Connie tried to comfort her.

 

“But just think, Connie, this was to have been the best Christmas we’ve ever had because we have found the Christ of Christmas, but now—”

 

“God has a purpose in it all.” Connie spoke bravely though she did not feel as courageous as her words implied.

 

They walked up to the house as they talked. When Mrs. Slocum unlocked the door, the first thing that met Connie’s eyes was a Christmas tree, beautifully decorated, with gifts underneath. This time, it was she who burst into tears. Mrs. Slocum placed her arms about her and they wept together. What a contrast to their happy anticipations. Christmas day would not be a time of joyous reunion, a delicious meal, and the exchanging of gifts. Instead, there would be a lonely vigil at the bedside of the one they both loved so dearly.

 

Back at the hospital later, Mrs. Slocum asked Brother Morgan, “Would you please drop by Ralph’s room and pray with him? He seems tender since the accident.” Connie was amazed to note not one trace of bitterness in her mother’s attitude toward Ralph, but only loving concern.

 

Just then there was a knock at the door.

 

“We’ll go,” Brother Morgan offered graciously, “and make room for others.”

 

Connie walked over to open the door, and there stood her dad. He looked so forlorn that before she realized what she was doing, she threw herself into his arms, and for the first time, they embraced. His strong arms held her close, and Connie could hear the wild beating of his heart.

 

“How is he?” Mr. Slocum whispered.

 

‘I don’t really know, Dad, but from the look on the doctors’ and nurses’ faces, I’m afraid he isn’t doing very well.”

 

They entered the room as the Morgans slipped out quietly with a polite nod to Mr. Slocum.

 

When her parents faced each other, Connie almost held her breath, waiting for the tension she always sensed when they were together. But her mother spoke up congenially, “How have you been, Spencer?”

 

In all Connie’s life, she had never heard her mother speak so kindly to her dad. She fought back the tears of thankfulness as once again she was made aware of the great change that had transpired in her mother.

 

Mr. Slocum walked over to Donnie’s bedside. He was viisibly shaken as he stood for a few moments looking silently down at his only son. Turning to Mrs. Slocum, he asked, “Would you like for me to stay with him tonight?”

 

“I can’t leave him until I know he’s out of danger, Spencer, but I appreciate your offering just the same.”

 

Again Connie stood amazed at her mother’s kind response.

 

Mr. Slocum pulled a card out of his pocket. “Here’s my number, Elaine. Call me any time, night or day. He’s my boy, too, and I want to know how he is getting along. I would have come sooner, but I just got the message today.”

 

He laid his hand on Donnie’s for a few seconds, then turned to leave, motioning for Connie to step out into the hall with him.

 

“How did it happen?” he asked, a worried frown on his face.

 

“I don’t know the details, Dad.”

 

“Was he drinking?”

 

“I can’t answer that for sure, but I have reason to believe he was, Dad.”

 

Mr. Slocum dropped his head. “I was afraid of this. I’ve been suspicious that he was drinking too much.” He shook his head sadly.

 

“I’d like to stay around if I could be any help,” he went on. “But if your mother is determined to stay with him, I’d just be in the way.” He took out his wallet and pressed some bills into Connie’s hand. “For you and your mother,” he explained. “And do call collect if there is the least change or you need me in any way. I’ll be dropping in every now and then.”

 

“Okay, Dad. And thanks for the money.” Connie looked after the retreating figure of her father, wishing she could have said something to lighten the sadness about him and raise his drooping shoulders.

 

All that night, Mrs. Slocum and Connie kept vigil. At different intervals, one or the other would lead out in prayer. The nurse came in regularly, checking his pulse, his blood pressure and temperature.

 

“Any change?” Mrs. Slocum would ask anxiously and the nurse would patiently shake her head and smile sympathetically.

 

Around four in the morning, the nurse gave them encouraging words.

 

“His blood pressure seems to have stabilized. Keep your fingers crossed,” she said.

 

“Thank the Lord,” Mrs. Slocum breathed.

 

“Why don’t you rest awhile, Mom?” Connie suggested after the nurse had gone.

 

“I can’t rest, Connie. You try to rest and I’ll watch.”

 

Connie stretched out on the cot, but her nerves were taut and her brain felt numb. “Oh, God,” she prayed. “You see how exhausted I am, and how I need sleep. Please help me to relax. Give Mom strength. Help Donnie some way, somehow.” Just where she left off in her prayer, Connie never knew. She slept soundly until the commotion of nurses and aides, busy with their morning duties, aroused her.

 

In the early afternoon, Mrs. Slocum suggested that Connie should visit with Ralph again. “You’ve only seen him once since you’ve been home,” she said.

 

“I guess I should.” Connie was a bit reluctant, but she knew her mother was right. Slowly she made her way next door and rapped softly.

 

“Come in,” Ralph called.

 

As she entered the room, Ralph’s face lit up with a pleased smile. “Hi, Connie. I thought you were mad at me,” he said.

 

“No, Ralph, I’m not mad at you. It just took me awhile to get my bearings after what you told me. It was a real blow, but I freely forgive you for any part you have had in our suffering. I’m sure Donnie is as much to blame as you are, although he was not driving at the time.”

 

“It helps to hear you say that, Connie. I’ll always blame myself for being such a fool, but it means a lot to know you don’t hold it against me.”

 

Connie shrugged her shoulders as if to dismiss the subject and asked, “How are you getting along, Ralph?”

 

“I am being discharged tomorrow, so the doctor must think I’m doing fine. I don’t feel very spry yet, though,” he admitted.

 

“I’m glad you are doing so well.” Connie was able to say sincerely.

 

An awkward silence ensued. Connie fumbled with the buttons on her sweater and Ralph coughed nervously. Finally, Ralph asked, “How is Donnie?”

 

“He seems a little better. The doctors can’t tell which way it will go yet.”

 

Again there was silence. Connie arose to go.

 

“I’ll be seeing you around, Ralph. Take care of yourself when you get home.”

 

“Don’t leave so soon, Connie. You just got here.”

 

“We don’t seem to have much to say to each other, Ralph. I thought it would be best if I’d leave.” Connie was frank in her reply.

 

“Tell me about your college,” he invited.

 

“There’s really not much you’d be interested in. It’s a fantastic school for Christians, but you never cared much church, so you wouldn’t think much of my school, either.”

 

“I suppose you’ve found a good church-going boyfriend by now?” Ralph quizzed.

 

“Well, I’ve been dating a fellow who is a fine Christian.”

 

Another silence followed this bit of information.

 

Connie’s thoughts went back to the days when Ralph and Donnie had been her constant companions. She remembered how much fun they had before the boys began drinking and keeping bad company. She looked up to see Ralph watching her every expression. “Ralph, why oh why, did you and Donnie ever start drinking?” she spoke up with animation and a spark of exasperation in her clear blue eyes. “I just can’t understand it. You were both moral, upright kids when you left home. Why did you pick up such awful habits? Look where it has landed you. Oh-h-h,” she moaned, and tears came to her eyes as the reality of it all again struck her full force. “Look at my precious brother, unconscious and fighting for life.” She stood up and walked to Ralph’s bedside. “You see that sin does not pay. Oh, Ralph, don’t you see that the devil has you and Donnie in his trap and now he’s laughing while you both suffer. If only you had listened to God’s messenger at the church instead of taking offense at the people! Why don’t you give God a chance in your life? Repent of your sins and ask Jesus to save you.”

 

Her words were spoken with power. And by the look on Ralph’s face, it appeared they had hit home.

 

CHAPTER NINETEEN

 

Ralph’s voice was choked with emotion as he answered, “Believe me, Connie, I’m sorry I ever took up drinking. And I never intend to put another drop of the stuff in my mouth.”

 

“I trust you mean it, Ralph, but the devil doesn’t give up easily. You might weaken when you go back to college and get with the same old crowd.”

 

“I’m not going back next semester, Connie.”

 

“Why not?”

 

“The main reason is Donnie.” Tears filled his eyes again and slid down his cheeks. “Donnie is the best friend I’ve ever had, in spite of his weaknesses. I hate to tell you this, Connie, but it was Donnie’s influence that caused me to start drinking. Not to excuse myself for what I have done, Donnie really is to blame in part for the accident. I think I could have withstood the others because I’m not that close to any of them. But Donnie and I are so close that I didn’t want to be left out of the things he was doing. Believe me, Connie, I know I am to blame for my own failure. He didn’t pour it down me. In fact, he never did overly persuade me, but I wanted to run with him and be in his crowd.”

 

Connie sat silently, her heart crushed by Ralph’s acknowledgement. It was just as she had thought. Her own dear brother, now at the point of death, had been used by Satan to influence his dear friend on the crooked path of sin.

 

“I can’t go back to college and leave Donnie here,” Ralph continued. “Besides, I have a financial problem. I’ll have to work awhile and get caught up.”

 

After another silence, heavy with thought, Connie spoke, “I guess I won’t be going back either, Ralph. At least not this semester. If Donnie lives—and I’m trusting God to give my twin another chance to repent—his recuperation will probably take a long time and Mom will need my help. If—Well, either way, Mom will need me here.”

 

“I’ve really made a mess of things, haven’t I, Connie?” He fought to control his emotions, but in spite of all he could do, great sobs racked his body.

 

Connie stood quietly, helplessly, waiting for Ralph to calm down.

 

Soon he spoke again, “I’ll do anything, even to moving in with Donnie and your mom to help care for him, if only you’ll promise to go back to your Christian school. I don’t think I can bear it if I hinder you, Connie.”

 

“I appreciate your concern, Ralph, but Mom will need me. Not only will she need a girl’s help in the house, but she will need the moral support I can give. Perhaps by next September, I can go back to school.”

 

There was a loud knock on the door, and before anyone could answer, Mrs. Slocum pushed the door open, calling frantically, “Come quickly, Connie. Donnie’s dying.”

 

“Oh no!” Connie fairly screamed as she flew around her mother, out the door, and into Donnie’s room. Three nurses stood over him working feverishly. His breath was coming in gasps and there was a queer gurgling sound in his throat.

 

Connie dropped to her knees at the foot of the bed and began to call on the One who had never failed her in time of need. “Oh, God,” she prayed in earnest but subdued tones, “please, please come to our rescue. Please don’t take Donnie from us, out into eternity, lost without God. Hold onto him, some way, Lord. Don’t let him slip through our fingers.”

 

Feeling a gentle touch on her arm, she opened her eyes to see her mother kneeling beside her.

 

“Let’s keep praying, Mom,” she whispered. “I can’t stand it if Donnie goes out into eternity without another chance to repent. Oh, if only he were saved!”

 

Together they united their voices and hearts in prayer, not caring what the nurses thought. They were desperate. As they prayed, one of the nurses tapped Connie on the shoulder.

 

“Excuse us, please,” she said, indicating that they were blocking the way of the emergency equipment and two doctors who had just entered.

 

They arose and stood helplessly at one side near the foot of the bed. Sensing someone behind them, Connie turned to see Ralph standing there in his robe and slippers, a crushed, broken-spirited boy.

 

“If God will let him live,” he vowed fervently, “I’ll start going to your church, Connie, and change my way of living.”

 

Mrs. Slocum threw her arms around the boy who had been like a second son to her. They sobbed quietly in each other’s arms. Connie gripped the railing of the bed to brace herself, waiting—expecting—

 

She watched the doctor loosen the arm band on the blood pressure kit and straighten his back. There was a look of relief on his face. He checked Donnie’s heart again. Glancing at Connie, he gave her a reassuring smile. To the nurse beside him he said, “His blood pressure is coming up and the heartbeat is stabilizing. Just keep a close check on him for the next few hours.”

 

When all had left the room except the one nurse, she turned to Connie and said, “I never did believe much in prayer, but it looks like God answered your prayers this time. None of us had any hope there for a while.”

 

The next few weeks were spent almost altogether at the hospital with Donnie. Mrs. Slocum and Connie left only when it was essential to go home to bathe and change clothes and get some unbroken rest. And then they would change off one at a time with their church friends because they soon found that it was upsetting to Donnie to wake up and find both of them gone. Sometimes they called on Ralph to stay since Donnie didn’t mind being left with him. A few times Mr. Slocum stayed through the night, but it was impossible for him to come often because of his work.

 

Donnie kept improving steadily, but he became very moody and impatient during his convalescence. The pain from his broken bones and other injuries caused him to moan and groan throughout the day and night. Once he asked Ralph for a pack of cigarettes; but when he smoked one, he became nauseated, so he never asked for another. Connie felt this was an answer to prayer. Later she threw the remainder of the pack in the waste basket.

 

Christmas had come and gone without the expected celebration at the Slocum house. Friends from the church brought a delicious meal to the hospital for Mrs. Slocum and Connie. Mr. Slocum came by in the afternoon and left a generous check and also told Mrs. Slocum that he had checked with the insurance company, and there would be no worry about Donnie’s hospital bill. Otherwise, there was nothing significant about the day. But Mrs. Slocum and Connie rejoiced in the knowledge that it was the day commemorated because of the birth of the Saviour whom they both had so recently come to love and serve.

 

They decided to leave the Christmas tree up with the gifts underneath until they could all be home together.

 

Debbie came to the hospital to visit the day before she was to leave to go back to school.

 

“It’s so hard to leave you, Connie. I’ll be awfully lonely without you,” she told her with tears in her eyes. Then smiling mischievously through her tears, she asked, “How will I ever be able to keep my room in order without my inspector?’

 

Connie fought back the tears as she and Debbie stood just outside the door to Donnie’s room. She longed to go back to school with all her heart, but she knew it was impossible at this time.

 

“God does all things well, Debbie,” she said, trying to appear cheerful. “I’m expecting to return to school in September. Tell all my friends ‘hello’ for me.”

 

“How about Larry?” Debbie asked. “Any special message for him?”

 

“Just tell him I said ‘hi.’ “

 

“Is that all?” Debbie was disappointed with the brief message, and she felt sure Larry would be, too.

 

“Well—if he ever asks you for my address, give it to him. But don’t tell him I said to. And don’t do any hinting, please, Debbie.”

 

Connie walked down the hall to the restroom after Debbie left. She sobbed convulsively until she could gain control again. Then she washed her face and went back to Donnie’s room.

 

As she stood looking out the window, the tears not quite dry in her eyes, she felt her mother’s familiar touch as her arm slipped about her waist.

 

“I know it’s hard, Connie, but God will make it up to you for your sacrifice of love. I don’t know how, but He surely will. Time will pass swiftly and you will be able to go back in September.”

 

Connie leaned her head against her mother’s shoulder. It was great to have an understanding Christian mother with a strong shoulder to lean on.

 

“Connie,” Mrs. Slocum continued, “I realize there are lots of things that you and I don’t understand, but it’s wonderful to have a God who does. All through this ordeal, I’ve felt God’s arms underneath me. I haven’t had a chance before now, or at least I haven’t felt it was the opportune time to tell you, but do you remember the day you came home from church and witnessed about being sanctified?”

 

“Yes, Mom.” Connie raised her head from her mother’s shoulder and waited for her to finish.

 

“Well, after that is when I really began to get hungry for what you had. When you got saved, there was a remarkable change in your life, but after you were filled with God’s Spirit, there was something that radiated from your life that made me want what you had. You were so happy, so kind and even-tempered—I can’t explain it. But as I watched your daily life, there sprang to life something within me hungering after God. Well, I said all that to say this. I didn’t rest after I got saved until I was sanctified wholly. It was just three weeks later that this wonderful work was wrought in my heart, and because of it, I have been enabled to stand this awful test and trial.”

 

“Oh, Mom,” Connie exclaimed joyfully, “I have noticed the fruits of the Spirit in your life. At times you put me to shame. You held no bitterness toward Ralph when he was to blame, or at least partially so, and you’ve been so kind to Dad—and so patient with Donnie’s complainings, and so full of faith and courage. You’ve shown no bitterness toward God for allowing this to happen. Mom, it’s wonderful—marvelous what the sanctifying power of God can do.”

 

“Praise the Lord, Connie, it is wonderful—simply wonderful.”

 

Connie took new courage from her mother’s testimony and purposed to make the best of her situation until the way opened for her to go back to school. Perhaps, God had ordained that she and her mother should be together for a few months to enjoy their blessed experience together.

 

At last the day came for Donnie’s discharge from the hospital. He was now able to get around on crutches well enough to be taken home and cared for there. But it would be months before he would be completely well.

 

An ambulance was standing by, and Donnie was soon loaded in and on his way home. Connie rode in the ambulance with Donnie. Once at home and settled in his own room, Donnie’s spirits brightened perceptibly. Mrs Slocum and Connie did all in their power to make him comfortable and happy.

 

But, soon, in spite of all the loving care and patient efforts, in the days that followed Donnie became restless and irritable. He hated to be confined and he missed his college friends, especially Susan. She wrote him regularly for a while, and even called him several times, but eventually her letters slacked off until Donnie seldom heard from her. Connie found herself watching for the postman, hoping for a letter from Susan to cheer up Donnie.

 

But instead of a letter from Susan for Donnie, there was one to her from Larry. With trembling fingers, she tore it open and read: Dear Connie, I know you will be surprised to hear from me, but I felt a longing to write. I was terribly disappointed when I heard that you couldn’t come back to school this semester. But I admire you for staying home to help your mother care for your brother. Debbie told me about the wreck. I’m awfully sorry. I know it must really be hard on you, not only to be tied down at home, but also to see your twin brother suffering so much. I want you to know that my prayers are with you daily.

 

“I won’t tire you with a long letter, but I just wanted you to know I’m thinking of you and missing you. Please write me. I would like to hear from you. As ever, Larry.”

 

Connie folded the letter neatly and put it back in the envelope. It was good to hear from Larry. She hadn’t really expected him to write. There had been only three Friday night activities between Thanksgiving Banquet and the Christmas vacation. So with a total of four dates, he certainly was under no obligation to write to her, or wait for her. No doubt he meant to encourage her in this trial she was going through, and she must not consider his letter in any way a lover’s letter. After all, they hardly knew each other, she chided herself. At school she had taken his friendship very casually. Why should it seem so important to her now? she wondered. Could loneliness make her wish for someone she wasn’t even sure she cared about? Connie determined to let none of this new interest she felt show through in her reply. She appreciated his prayers for them in their time of trial, and she would answer briefly, thanking him for his concern.

 

Ralph came over almost every night after work and during the day on Saturdays and Sundays to keep Donnie company. It was the best therapy Donnie could have received, Ralph could cheer Donnie up on his worst days, and they spent hours playing games.

 

For a few weeks, Ralph kept his word about going to church. He even went to the altar once, according to Brother Morgan, but then he started slacking off on his church attendance, finally dropping out altogether. Mrs. Slocum and Connie were especially concerned for him on account of the vow he had made to God the night Donnie almost died. The one time Connie got an opportunity, she talked to Ralph about it.

 

“Connie, I intend to go back to church when you and our mom can go regularly. It’s hard for me to go alone among strangers. Besides, Connie, I just can’t live like you do. I tried it and it just doesn’t work for me.”

 

“Don’t give up, Ralph. God will help you as long as you will do your part.”

 

“Pray for me, Connie. I’ll start back one of these days.”

 

Connie felt she had to remind him of his vow to God. “But Donnie might not be living if you had not promised God you would go to church and change your ways, Ralph. It’s serious business to make a vow to God and then break it.”

 

“I honestly tried, Connie, but I’m a failure at religion like I am at everything else. Just keep praying for me.”

 

Connie did pray for him daily in her private devotions, and each morning as she and her mother prayed together, they called Ralph’s name in prayer, asking God to get to and save his soul.

 

Mrs, Slocum and Connie had tried to include Donnie in their family devotions, but he showed such resentment that they thought it best to not push him into something he wasn’t ready for. So they simply prayed for him instead, asking God to soften his heart. Their attempts to talk to him about his soul and how near he had come to eternity had also been a failure. He appeared unconcerned and unmoved.

 

“It would seem that after all Donnie has been through that he would be more tender,” Connie expressed her concern to her mother.

 

“One would think so, Connie, but as we keep praying, the Spirit can get to his heart as He did to yours and mine.”

 

CHAPTER TWENTY

 

Spring passed, and the hot summer months were upon them. Donnie had improved until, with great care, he could get around without his crutches. Hearing the steady creaking rhythm of the old porch swing, he made his way out the front door, and as Connie held the swing to steady it, Donnie sat down.

 

“It’s great to be sitting here again with my twin brother,” she commented in a cheery tone. “I remember once at school when I was so homesick that this was one of the things I remembered, you and me sitting in the porch swing discussing the prom and who we were going with.”

 

If this had been before the accident, Donnie would have answered Connie with some wisecrack about her going to the prom with his best friend, but this time he didn’t bother to answer at all for a few minutes. When he did, he was sullen. “A lot of water has run under the bridge since then,” was his dull comment.

 

“Yes, I know.” Connie wished she could think of something to talk about that would cheer her brother up, but it was evident that he was inclined to go over the sad events of the past few months.

 

“My accident disrupted everything, didn’t it, Connie? Mom had to quit her job that she liked so well, you had to drop out of your school, and Ralph and I are both out of school with no hope of going this fall. And if that’s not enough, I lost my girlfriend in the deal.” He sounded especially bitter about this last. “May I ask you a question, Connie? Why did your God permit all this to happen?”

 

“I don’t know all the answers, Donnie. I just trust God about the things I don’t understand. He plans all things well for our lives.”

 

“How can you say a broken, bruised, mangled, pain-racked body can be well-planned, besides all the other inconveniences that go along with it?”

 

“Maybe God is trying to get to your heart, Donnie,” she ventured.

 

“Well, He’s going at it the wrong way if that is what He is after. This kind of ill treatment certainly won’t get to my heart.”

 

Connie was at a loss to know what to say further, so they sat in silence, thinking their separate thoughts. Seeing Ralph’s car pull up, Connie jumped up and started into the house.

 

“Wait a minute, Sis. Why are you always evading my friend? Ralph’s a super guy.”

 

“I agree with you entirely, Donnie. Ralph is a really nice guy, but three’s a crowd. I’ll go help Mom.” Before he could protest further, she had disappeared into the house.

 

Connie felt constrained to stay away from Ralph as much as possible. Several times, she had caught him looking at her with longing in his eyes. And the very tone of his voice when he addressed her made Connie aware that he would like to renew their old relationship. It was getting increasingly difficult to keep her own feelings in check with Ralph around so much of the time. How she cried to God for help and strength. She did not want to be caught in a snare. Ralph was not for her. She was going back to Bible College to prepare for a life of Christian service, and Ralph was going back to college to prepare for—she knew not what.

 

If Larry had kept on writing, perhaps this situation with Ralph would never have developed, but after two letters, Larry had quit writing. Evidently, Connie’s cool replies had killed any interest he might have had. Through Debbie, Connie had heard that Larry wasn’t dating anyone regularly, but had taken Pam to the spring banquet. Well, they would make a good match—settled spiritually, contrasting light and dark in looks. She wished the best for both of them.

 

On a Saturday, three weeks before Connie was to leave for Bible College, Mrs. Slocum asked Ralph to come over and sit with Donnie so she and Connie could go shopping for the things Connie would need for school.

 

It was so good to be able to get out of the house for a change. Connie always enjoyed a shopping trip with her mother. They had been shut in so long that Connie felt like a bird out of a cage. She and Mrs. Slocum went from store to store, making selections, laughing together at insignificant things, enjoying their freedom from care for a few short hours. For lunch, they ordered hamburgers and milk shakes, and sat chatting together like two girlfriends while they ate.

 

“Mom, I dread to leave you,” Connie finally brought up the subject that had hidden just behind their laughter all morning. “We’ve been closer together these last few months than we’ve ever been before. The fellowship has been wonderful.”

 

“Yes, I know, Connie. I regret that tragic circumstances have kept us together these months, but I can truthfully say that, in spite of all we’ve gone through with Donnie, I’ll always cherish this portion of our lives together. Some of our long talks will be forever engraved on my memory. When you are far away, I will have these precious memories to keep me happy.”

 

“No doubt God knew that we needed this time together, Mom, and though we would never have chosen the hard places He has allowed us to go through, yet, looking back, I am made to realize that God does all things well. I’ve learned some valuable lessons in patience and trust these eight months that will help me tremendously when I get back to school.”

 

“You and I are not the only ones who are profiting from this time of trouble, Connie. It seems that this interruption in Donnie’s’ and Ralph’s schooling may be just what they needed. Donnie has quit smoking and neither of the boys have had liquor of any kind since the wreck. In fact, Ralph vowed he would never drink again. It begins to look like he means to keep that promise. Maybe it shook both of them up enough to wake them up so that they see where they were headed.”

 

“I hope so, Mom. Donnie still seems awfully hard, but we never know what is going on inside.”

 

“That’s right, Connie. Had you known what was going on inside of me before you left for school, you would have had reason to rejoice. But somehow, the devil causes people to act meaner and seem harder when they’re under the most conviction. So we will just keep on praying for Ralph and Donnie and believe that God is working in their lives whether we can recognize it or not.”

 

Connie smiled at her mother as she finished her hamburger. “You’re a great Mom,” she told her. “I love you.”

 

“And I love you,” her mother smiled back.

 

Since Donnie would not be able to return to college in September, Ralph had decided to stay home also. Mrs. Slocum would be able to get along without Connie now that Donnie could take care of himself fairly well. And Ralph was always willing to help when needed. Both boys hoped to return to school in January.

 

“Just two more weeks at home,” Connie thought as she sat on the porch swing on a Saturday afternoon after the housework was done. Donnie was taking his afternoon nap, and Mrs. Slocum had gone grocery shopping.

 

Glancing toward the driveway, Connie saw Ralph’s car stopping. Before she could decide what to do, he had seen her and was smiling broadly. She wondered what she should do, but before she could collect her wits, Ralph had seated himself in the swing beside her.

 

“Hi, Connie,” he greeted her. “This is my lucky day. Like old times, isn’t it?”

 

Connie didn’t answer except to say, “Hi, Ralph. Donnie’s taking a nap, but I will go wake him up. He won’t mind.”

 

“I would rather talk to you, Connie.”

 

His simple straightforward reply left her speechless.

 

“Connie, why do you always hold me at arms’ length, or just disappear when I come to visit? I’ve wanted to talk with you for a long time, but you never give me an opportunity.”

 

“Aw, Ralph, you know Donnie wouldn’t like it if I would infringe on his time with you,” she evaded. “Your visits really keep up his morale.”

 

Ralph turned and faced her. “Is that the real reason, Connie?”

 

Connie did not want to be dishonest, and since she was at a loss for words, she remained silent.

 

“Connie, mind if I ask you a personal question?” He was still looking at her in a way that made Connie self-conscious.

 

“What do you want to know, Ralph?”

 

“That guy you mentioned. Do you think a great deal of him?”

 

“He’s a fine Christian fellow, Ralph.”

 

“That’s not what I asked you. Is there an understanding between you and this guy?”

 

Connie dropped her eyes from his earnest gaze. How she wished she could truthfully answer in the affirmative, but instead she said quietly, “No, Ralph, he’s just a friend.”

 

Connie was sorry to hear a relieved sigh escape his lips as he spoke again. “This will probably be my only chance to talk to you alone before you leave, and I’ve got something on my heart that I want to get off.”

 

“Please, Ralph—”

 

“Connie,” Ralph was not to be silenced, “do you remember what I told you the time we had the argument about your church?”

 

When she did not answer, he continued, “I told you that if you changed your mind, I would be waiting. I just want you to know that I still feel the same, that I’m still waiting if you ever change your mind about me.”

 

Her head was still bowed, so he put his hand under her chin and made her look up. “I love you very much, Connie, and have never stopped loving you since you were my beautiful Cinderella at the prom.”

 

Connie’s heart was beating wildly. She gently removed his hand and dropped her eyes. What could she say? she wondered. What should she do? What she had suspected about Ralph’s love for her was now out in the open. She remembered the first time he had told her he loved her and how she felt. She recognized within herself that she could care for Ralph. And she was getting “old.” Lots of the girls in her high school senior class were already married. Larry had lost interest in her. If others at the Bible School had been interested, it had just as quickly been “out of sight, out of mind.” Maybe Ralph would get saved if she encouraged him more. Maybe that was God’s will for her. Surely He didn’t mean for her to go through life all alone. Perhaps she should accept one date with Ralph—to church—and see how she felt about it then.

 

Ralph was still looking at her, waiting for her to say something.

 

“Ralph, I—uh—”

 

Donnie suddenly appeared in the doorway. “Well, hi, Ralph,” he greeted jovially. “I thought I heard somebody out here gabbing. Why didn’t you wake me up?”

 

Connie looked up in time to catch the perturbed look on Ralph’s face and hear his sigh of disappointment as he answered Donnie, “I was enjoying a visit with your sister. How are you, Donnie?” He got up to let Donnie sit down. Connie jumped up quickly.

 

“You can have my place,” she offered. “I’m going in.” And before Ralph could protest, she was gone.

 

Connie locked herself in her room and sobbed out her heart to God.

 

“Dear Jesus, I’m so confused. Please help me. I want to obey Thee, whatever the cost. Even if it means being single all my life. Thank You for sending Donnie out at that precise moment. Dear God, I know that Thou hast said in Thy Word that a believer is not to be unequally yoked with an unbeliever, and I’m sure this means dating, also. Dear God, I intend to be obedient to Thee, but if I must go alone, give me some fulfilling work to do for Thee so I won’t have time to think of my aloneness.”

 

For the next two weeks, Connie would not even so much as answer the phone for fear it would be Ralph. She successfully evaded him until the day she was to leave. After saying good-bye to Donnie, she was loading the luggage in the car when Ralph drove up. He was to stay with Donnie while Mrs. Slocum drove Connie to the bus station. Connie stayed close to her mother until they were ready to leave. As she got into the car, she called cheerily, “Take it easy, Ralph, and take good care of Donnie. Thanks for all your help. I’ll see you at Christmas.”

 

With a detaining hand on her arm, Ralph said in an undertone, “How about writing me once in awhile, Cinderella?”

 

“Can’t,” she shook her head. “There’s a law against it, Ralph. You might call it a spiritual law.”

 

“What do you mean?” He hardly knew if she was teasing or serious.

 

Connie was in the car now. Noticing a pen in his shirt pocket, she answered quietly, “Jot this Scripture down, Ralph.” She handed him a slip of paper as she continued, 2 Corinthians 6:14. Read it carefully and if you don’t understand, I’m sure Brother Morgan will be glad to explain it to you. You’ll be seeing him around for he visits Donnie often.”

 

“But Connie,” he started to protest, then added tenderly, “Cinderella –”.

 

Connie reached over and turned on the ignition for her mother, then turned and looked Ralph in the eye. “Forget Cinderella, Ralph. Just remember Donnie’s twin sister,” she whispered so as not to be heard by her mother.

 

The wounded look on Ralph’s face tore at Connie’s heart but, with a brave smile, she motioned for her mother to drive off. A tear slid down her cheek as she lifted her hand to wave good-bye to Ralph, but she was convinced in her heart that she had done the thing that was pleasing to God.

 

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

 

Connie wasn’t very talkative on the trip back to school. Debbie chatted gaily for a while, but sensing Connie’s melancholy mood, she pulled a book from her bag and settled down to read.

 

Connie’s mind was going back over her parting with Ralph. She hoped he would look up the Scripture and understand. Ralph was a good friend and it grieved her that she had to hurt him, but she had purposed in her heart to obey God and keep Him first place in her life. Therefore, she had to be firm with Ralph and not leave him with any hope that their previous relationship would ever be renewed.

 

Taking her Bible from her purse, she turned to 2 Corinthians 6:14 and read: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?”

 

This Scripture seemed so plain to Connie. Surely, as Ralph read it, he would understand that it was wrong for Christians to date non-Christians, If he couldn’t understand, she hoped he would take her advice and seek Brother Morgan’s help. She felt sure he would give him a satisfying explanation. Silently, she prayed for God to work everything out for His Glory concerning Ralph. Most of all, that He would deal with his heart and save his eternity-bound soul.

 

After praying and committing Ralph to God, Connie’s thoughts turned to her dear mother. It had not been quite as difficult to leave her this time as it had been a year before. Even though she knew she would miss her terribly, especially the long talks and the sweet times of fellowship they had enjoyed together. But, at least, she did not have to leave home with the torturing thoughts of her mother being left all alone since Donnie would be with her during the first semester, anyway.

 

Connie’s thoughts turned to her brother. She cherished the fond memories of her parting with him. He had been so callous, so obstinate and bitter ever since the wreck, but when Connie went into his room a little while before she left to make one final effort to talk to him about his soul, she found him quite subdued and humble.

 

“I want to change my way of living, Sis,” he had told her with a meekness altogether new for Donnie. “One thing I purpose to change is the way I’ve been draining Dad. Nothing but a no-good son would keep taking money from his dad and never try to find work to help himself.” He hung his head in shame, but it was evident that he felt better for having declared himself. Connie was glad to know that Donnie’s conscience was bothering him concerning this matter. It had been terribly humiliating to her, and to their mother, too, the way Donnie sponged off his dad.

 

“Then I have some connections at the college that I hope my being away all this time will free me from. I won’t tell you all I’ve been into, Sis. You’ve had enough to bear because of me. Just pray for me that I won’t get tangled up in the same old crowd when I go back to college.”

 

“I will, Donnie. You don’t need to tell me everything, but I wish you would tell God and ask His forgiveness. That is the only way you can change. You’ll find you are too weak in your own strength.”

 

Donnie sighed. “I’ve had lots of time to think lately, Sis. I really do want to change, but I’m not sure your way is the answer for me. You know I’ve been pretty bitter about all that God has let happen to me. I still can’t understand how a loving God could be in any of it. Maybe He wants to punish me because I’ve been so sinful, but you and Mom have suffered, too, and you don’t deserve it.”

 

“Don’t worry about Mom and me, Donnie. These months at home have been very precious to me. It has hurt us to see you suffer, and we may not understand all of God’s workings, but you shouldn’t blame God for what sin caused. If you and Ralph hadn’t been drinking, there wouldn’t have been an accident.”

 

“I guess you are right about that,” Donnie replied thoughtfully.

 

They sat for a while in silence. When Donnie spoke again, it was to thank Connie for her sacrifice for him. “I owe you a big debt, Sis, for staying out of school and helping take care of me. Maybe someday I will be able to repay you in some way.” A tear trembled on his eyelash and he wiped it away with the corner of the sheet. It had been many years since Connie had seen a tear in Donnie’s eyes. It touched her heart deeply, and she reached over and took his hand in both of hers.

 

“Donnie, if the tragedy had been reversed, I know you would have done the same for me,” she said quietly. “Because we are twins, I suppose we are especially special to each other.”

 

Donnie smiled at her wording of their relationship. “You’re right, Sis—in both cases. I would do anything for you if you needed me. And I think the world of you.”

 

“Donnie—” Connie started again, hesitantly, “I hope you will go to church with Mom just as soon as you are able. And do try to influence Ralph to go, too. God was so merciful in sparing your life. We prayed that God would let you live to have another chance to get right with Him. God has done His part. Why don’t you do yours and spend the remainder of your life serving Him?”

 

Donnie didn’t answer her, but for once, Connie felt no resentment, so she felt constrained to press her advantage. “God has wonderfully changed Mom and her outlook in life. And I know you have seen a great change in me. He has given me peace and joy I never dreamed possible in this life. He can do the same for you, Donnie. He can make your life worth living if you’ll only give Him a chance.”

 

“I’m doing some serious thinking, Connie. I don’t have any desire to go back to the life I was living before the wreck. That’s not for me anymore. I was trying to fit into a society in which I did not belong.”

 

“You would find a whole new way of living if you’d only give yourself completely to God, Donnie. I wish I could some way explain it better to you, but you just have to experience it yourself to understand. Why don’t you try God? He is waiting to receive you.”

 

Donnie smiled at his sister through the tears in his eyes.

 

“Maybe I will some day. Just pray for me, Sis. I honestly want to change my way of living.”

 

“May I pray now, Donnie?” she entreated him. “I’ll be leaving in a few minutes.”

 

“Sure, Sis. Go ahead and pray.”

 

She prayed earnestly, asking God to deepen the conviction on Donnie’s heart and help him to yield to the Spirit’s wooings. She prayed for his complete recovery and for God’s watch-care over him and their mother. By the time she had finished, they both were crying.

 

“Won’t you let Jesus save you right now, Donnie?”

 

“I don’t understand enough about religion yet, Sis. But keep praying for me. I intend to surrender. I want to be like you and Mom. You have found happiness and peace, and I want to find something that will satisfy me, too.”

 

Throwing herself into Donnie’s arms, Connie had assured him that she would pray for him every day. Tearfully, she had torn herself away and gone out to the car to help her mother finish loading the luggage.

 

All the way back to school, Connie was unusually quiet. Part of the time, she was praying silently. Her prayers were mixed with the scenes of parting and other happenings of the recent months. Debbie respected her friend’s reflective mood and did not try to force an unwanted conversation on her. Occasionally, Connie would feel ashamed of herself for being such poor company and would endeavor to chat a while, but soon she would lapse into silent thought again. At times she and Debbie would doze with their heads resting against the back of the seat. Once during their long, tiresome journey, Debbie remarked that they should have chosen a school closer home, but Connie conceded that the trip was well worth the good spiritual school they had chosen. When at last they reached their destination, they called the school and asked for someone to come to the bus station to pick them up .

 

What a joy it was to Connie to be back on campus once more! She watched the streams of students on their way to classes, to dining hall, to chapel, and to the dorms; drinking in the sight and reminding herself that it wasn’t a dream, but that she was actually back after the long months of self-denial. She wondered—casually she thought—if Larry would be enrolled again this year.

 

It was the day after her arrival, as she walked across the campus that she heard her name called. There was no mistaking the voice. Turning, she saw Larry taking long strides to catch up with her.

 

“Connie!” he exclaimed, his eyes smiling his pleasure. “My, it’s good to see you again. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a blond head in the crowd and thought it was you, only to be sadly disappointed. I’m mighty glad you are back.” His face literally shone as he looked at her.

 

Connie smiled at him, thinking how handsome he was. She hadn’t really remembered he was so outstanding. Funny how you could never quite visualize a face when away from a person, she thought whimsically.

 

But these thoughts flashed through her mind in a matter of seconds and she was quick to answer, “Hi, Larry. It’s good to see you, too. I’m glad to be back at school.”

 

“How’s your brother?” There was genuine concern in Larry’s voice.

 

“Much better, thank you.”

 

“I’ve prayed for him daily, Connie, as well as for you.”

 

“Thanks, Larry. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that. Had it not been for prayer and the great mercy of God, he would never have made it.”

 

They entered the chapel door together, separating at the entrance to find their places on opposite sides of the building. But Connie knew she would see him again. She felt sure he would be asking for a date soon.

 

While Ralph was still fresh on her mind, Connie did some comparing and came to terms with herself. She knew now that she could never settle for Ralph under any circumstances, even if God saved him. And as for Larry? She was sure she would like to be his steady date if he should choose to ask her, and that was enough to make her a very contented girl for the present. She chose not to think any farther out into the future.

 

Betty Jowers, a shy little girl from Tennessee, was Connie’s new roommate. Connie had wanted to room with Debbie again, but the dean of women thought it best that she room with another freshman. Even though Connie was disappointed, she accepted with a sweet spirit what she could not change.

 

As a roommate, Betty was much more organized than Debbie had been. Still Connie found herself straightening up after her and polishing, cleaning, and dusting as usual. It was an obsession with Connie to have everything in perfect condition. If Betty resented it, she kept her feelings well concealed. In the course of time, Connie and Betty became the best of friends.

 

Several weeks passed and Larry still had not asked Connie for a date. She just could not understand it. All evidences caused her to be fully convinced that Larry cared for her. He almost always managed to get in the lunch line with her, and he often stopped to chat with her. A time or two when Connie had glanced up to meet his eyes as they talked, she had glimpsed unfathomable depths of something unspoken, something that set her heart to beating wildly. Why, she puzzled the matter over in her mind, did he not want to date her if he cared for her? Especially since he wasn’t dating anyone else. It was indeed a mystery to her. She began to feel a bit chagrined that she had admitted, even to herself, that she wanted to date him.

 

It was only a few weeks after Connie was back in school that she received an exciting letter from her mother. “Dear Connie,” it read, “I am bursting with glad tidings. Ralph was gloriously saved tonight. He came to church this morning for the first time since you left. He looked so forlorn and miserable that my heart felt like it was bleeding for him. (Oh, I forgot to tell you that I can leave Donnie alone now long enough to attend the worship service. I wait until after Sunday school so I don’t have to leave him too long.) Anyway, this afternoon Ralph came to see Donnie and invited him to go along to church with him. Even though Donnie wouldn’t go with him, Ralph went back to church again, and the minute the altar call was given, he responded. He really prayed and confessed his sins. When he prayed through, his face fairly beamed. I wish you could have seen him. He hugged me as if I was his own mother and thanked me for praying for him. When he testified, he said it was because of the life you lived that he was led to God. He said he has been miserable ever since he made the vow to God when Donnie was so low. It was a wonderful service. I am so thankful God allowed me to be there and witness such a great manifestation of His power. Ralph said to tell you hi and thanks for your prayers and that he really means business with God this time.

 

“I could go on and on because I’m so wound up and happy. I’m so thankful for this Christian way, and especially for the way of holiness. Thank you, Connie, dear, for showing me a better way of life. I don’t see how you held out when I made it so hard for you, but I thank God you did. If you had given up, I probably never would have gotten saved. Forgive me again, dear, for how I treated you. Keep praying for Donnie. I’m grateful to see a change in his attitude. I believe God is dealing with him. Pray for all of us. I pray for you every day. Love, Mom.”

 

Connie stared into space transfixed. Another sheaf had been gathered for the Master. Another mighty miracle had been wrought in answer to prayer. Ralph, her dear friend, had actually been saved. How thrilled she was. She humbly bowed her head and praised God for this wonderful answer to prayer, and purposed afresh and anew to hold on in Donnie’s behalf.

 

Later, after Connie had retired for the night, she lay awake thinking of the wonderful news concerning Ralph. Though she rejoiced with joy unspeakable, yet she felt no desire to renew her former relationship with him. She had to admit to herself that someone else was utmost in her thoughts, even though he had never even asked her for a date. Maybe this very thing had made him seem even more attractive to her than ever. How it would ever turn out, she could only hope and pray.

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

 

Thanksgiving season was approaching again, and with it came that all-important event to the college students, the Thanksgiving Banquet, the first big social occasion of the school year. Jerry Bennett, a junior she hardly knew, had asked Connie to the banquet, but she declined as graciously as she could, thinking Larry would soon be asking her. Although Larry was as friendly as ever and even intimated that he would like to take her to the banquet, Connie finally learned by the way of the dorm grapevine that he had asked Pam instead. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back as far as Connie was concerned. She felt heartsick when she found out what he had done. Unfortunately, she happened to get in lunch line with Jerry that day. Hoping to save her pride, she asked if he had a date for the banquet yet. And to her utter embarrassment, he informed her that he had asked a junior classmate. Somehow Connie got through the line, refusing nearly everything offered, and hurried back to the dorm.

 

Locking herself in her room in the afternoon while Betty was working, she cried out her heart to God. “I just don’t understand it, Lord,” she sobbed. “I’m so mixed up. If I’m to be an old maid, help me to accept it and forget about Larry and Jerry and Ralph and everyone else who comes along.” After sobbing and praying until she couldn’t pray any more, she was at last quieted. With a new determination, she decided to plunge into her school work a little harder, trust God through everything and forget guys for good.

 

Her next letter from her mother set her mind at ease about Ralph. It read in part: “Ralph is still growing spiritually. I think it is beginning to influence Donnie. He seems more and more subdued. He even let me read the Bible to him last night. I read the twenty-seventh chapter of Matthew, about the crucifixion of Jesus. He listened intently, and when I finished he said, ‘They really treated Jesus rough, didn’t they?’

 

“It might interest you to know that Ralph is dating Debbie’s cousin, Judy, and has been for several weeks now. He even brought her to our house last Sunday afternoon to visit with Donnie. They seem quite fond of each other. I haven’t mentioned this before now because Ralph confided in me once how much he cared for you, and I had great hopes that you and he would get back together after he got saved. But evidently, it must not have been God’s will. Don’t misunderstand me, Connie. I’m not trying to choose for you, but since Ralph is a home boy and fits so well into our family, I just had thoughts that maybe things would work out for you two. But above everything, I want God’s will for your life.”

 

“Thank you, Lord, for taking care of Ralph,” Connie whispered as she folded the letter and put it back into the envelope.

 

Much to her surprise, Connie received another invitation to the banquet, and although Stan Collins was a freshman, a year younger than Connie, and could not boast of any good looks, Connie accepted, determining to make the best of the situation and to ignore Larry to her heart’s content.

 

Stan was quite witty, and Connie caught herself laughing merrily from time to time at his clever expressions and gestures. All in all, she had an enjoyable evening and was glad she didn’t give in to what she had felt like doing, which was to leave her lovely pink dress in the closet and stay away from the banquet altogether.

 

The first of December, the Bible College had scheduled a missionary convention with different speakers from various fields of labor. Classes were dismissed early so the students would be able to get their homework assignments finished and be free to attend the services at night.

 

Each evening a different speaker delivered a stirring message concerning the need of his or her particular field. One speaker in particular got through to Connie. He was a black man, small in stature, from New Guinea. In his broken English, he told how the churches in New Guinea had raised money to send him to America to try to stir up the Americans to send missionaries to his native land.

 

From a burdened heart, he poured out his plea, telling how souls in his country are steeped in heathen darkness, how some have never even heard the name of Jesus. Then he told of the great need of workers in areas where the gospel had penetrated. “But many have heard,” he said, “because some Christians have heeded the call of God and caught the vision and have sacrificed their easy lives in America for the gospel’s sake in New Guinea. There are many areas now open to the gospel where the people are begging for missionaries,” he continued, “but we have none to send. We have schools where our young people are being trained in the Christian way, but the few dedicated teachers are overworked. We need several teachers who will hear the call to New Guinea. We need nurses to help staff the clinics that have been opened by Christian missionaries. We need finances to carry on the gospel work there. Who will hear the call, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ and say, ‘Here am I; send me.’ I trust that God is speaking to hearts here today. The fields are ripe unto harvest, but the laborers are few. Who will be willing to go and labor for Jesus in a poverty stricken land, leaving your comfort and ease, your relatives and friends, your home—your all—for Jesus’ sake? Millions in foreign lands have not yet heard the gospel. Will you answer the call today? Can you hear my brothers and sisters calling you from New Guinea? Won’t you heed their call? If God is calling you, you will never regret following Christ to New Guinea; He bas promised to go with you, even unto the end of the world. He will never fail or forsake.”

 

Connie’s heart was pounding. Questions filled her mind. Would she be willing to go? To leave her dear mom and Donnie and the little frame house that was “home” to her? “No,” she answered her own heart’s inquiry. “Mom needs me. I’ll work in the little church back home. I’ll be a missionary in my own neighborhood like Mrs. Flowers. I’ll win souls at home. Haven’t I helped to win Mom and Ralph already? I can’t leave poor Mom all alone in the world and go off to a foreign field of service. I’m sure God wouldn’t even expect it of me.”

 

“Then it’s settled?” a voice deep in her heart questioned.

 

“Yes, it’s settled,” she answered. “I can’t go. Circumstances are against my being a missionary.”

 

Connie’s heart felt icy cold as she sat through the remainder of the service. She did not enjoy the missionary from New Guinea who added some insights from the missionary’s viewpoint. She caught her mind wandering from time to time, thinking of her mother, of Donnie, of home and all the good times she had had there since childhood. Never were the memories any more vivid than they were that night as she sat in that missionary service trying to listen to the dedicated missionary pouring out his heart to the audience, trying to stir them for service.

 

At last the speaker was finished and the director of the missionary services rose to speak.

 

“I wonder how many of our young people would like to come to the altar tonight and dedicate your lives for missionary service should God see fit to call you.”

 

From all over the tabernacle, Connie saw her friends stepping out into the aisle and making their way to the altar, but she made no move to go. She had already settled it in her heart that she could not go, so she saw no reason to go to the altar. She wished they would dismiss the service so she could go on to her room. She was shivering with a chill and wondered if she was going to be sick. Surely they would dismiss soon, she thought, feeling very uncomfortable. But, no, the director was speaking again.

 

“I’m thankful for all these fine young people who are coming from all over this tabernacle, but I feel strongly that someone is holding back on God. Someone is afraid to come for fear God will call them, or else they’ve already settled it that they won’t go, regardless. Is God speaking to someone like that here tonight, someone who did not come to the altar to dedicate your life to God?”

 

Connie’s heart beat wildly. She had promised God when He had saved her that she would follow Him in straight paths. When He sanctified her, she had promised to go anywhere He led, and now, here she stood telling God she could not go. The tears coursed down her cheeks as she gripped the back of the pew in front of her. In her mind’s eye, she could see her mother standing by the side of the road, all alone, the day she first left for Bible College, waving her thin hand and crying her heart out. Connie remembered how it tore her up and how she had promised herself that she would go back home to stay as soon as she finished her education. She couldn’t let her mom down, she felt. .

 

But God was dealing with her heart, “Are you willing to go, my child? Can’t you trust me to take care of your mother? Haven’t I taken care of her since you’ve been here at Bible School? Wasn’t your coming the means of her salvation? Commit your mother to me, dear child.”

 

Again Connie visualized her mother. This time it was different. She was talking faith and love to Connie when Connie’s faith and love was being tested to the core. What would her courageous mother tell her now if she knew about the battle raging in her breast? She could almost hear her. “Obey God, Connie, and He will work everything out for His honor and glory.”

 

“God has His hand on someone here tonight. He is dealing in an unusual way,” the director was saying. “Let us all pray that God will have His way, and put a missionary burden on the church as never before. Pray, young people. Lay your all on the altar. Obey God’s call if He is speaking to you.”

 

Connie let go her grip on the seat back and started for the altar. As she did so, something happened in her heart. Sobbing brokenly at the altar, she prayed, “I’m so sorry I drew back from the cross, Lord. I’ll go anywhere you want to send me. Here am I, send me.” Raising her hands heavenward, she cried, “Yes, Lord, I’ll go to the mission field. I can hear the black people in New Guinea calling for a missionary. I’ll be that missionary. Open the way, Lord, and I’ll go.” Still sobbing her heart out, she said, “I put Mom in Your hands afresh and anew, Lord. I know that You will take care of her in the future just as you have in the past. I’m trusting You fully.”

 

Several testimonies were given at the close of the service. Some spoke of willingness to go if God called, but others testified to specific calls to the mission field. As Connie arose to give her testimony, God opened the windows of Heaven and poured out a blessing upon her. It was then that she realized the full joy of surrender. She shouted and cried as she committed herself publicly. “I have heard God’s call to New Guinea. From here on out, my life will be spent in preparation and fulfilling of that call.”

 

As she stood near the spot where she had settled it to answer the call, the stocky little black man worked his way through the crowd and stood before Connie. With tears flowing, he grasped her hand and said, “Your testimony was worth my trip to America. I can go back now and tell my people that God is working, and help will be coming soon.”

 

The next day Connie stopped by the water fountain and bent down for a drink. Her mind was completely taken up with her experience of the evening before, and her heart was so light, it was as if she was floating on air. While she was drinking, she heard someone approach and stand waiting beside the fountain. As she straightened up and turned to go, she found herself face to face with Larry. His face was aglow with happiness and suppressed excitement. They looked into each other’s eyes, and this time Connie felt no abashment. She knew that what she read there was written by God to be read by her eyes alone.

 

“Connie, I heard your testimony last night about your call to New Guinea.” Larry’s words nearly tumbled over each other in his excitement. “I can’t express how I felt then and how I feel yet today . You have been such an inspiration to me because you are always so prompt to mind God.”

 

“But Larry—” she stopped. She wouldn’t need to tell how near she had come to not minding God because, by God’s grace, it hadn’t happened. She had obeyed with all her heart.

 

“And Connie,” he went on breathlessly, “I want to share something with you.”

 

“What is it, Larry?”

 

“I, too, have a call to the mission field, and last night while the dear brother from New Guinea was speaking, God showed me that New Guinea is the field to which He is calling me to labor.”

 

“Oh, Larry,” Connie exclaimed, just catching herself from saying, “How wonderful,” lest she be taking too much for granted. But she did ask, “Why haven’t you told me before that you were called to the mission field?”

 

“I had my reasons for keeping it from you, Connie. But I’ll tell you all about it if you will be my date this Friday night.”

 

“You mean after all this time you’re asking me for a date?” She could have bit her tongue for being that sarcastic to the guy she most wanted to date. But he didn’t seem to notice, and his answer was music to her ears.

 

“Yes, Connie, and not just for Friday night, but for every Friday and Saturday night for the rest of the year. I don’t know if you will oblige me or not but I’m asking you anyway.”

 

Before Connie could answer him, another thought dimned her happiness. “But you’ve been dating Pam,” she answered soberly. “What about her?”

 

“I’ve dated her a few times because she, too, has a call to the mission field. I thought perhaps—” He left the sentence unfinished. “But nothing could ever come of that with this blond vision of loveliness always floating before my eyes.” He smiled into her eyes and seeing the questionable look she gave him, he hastened to explain further. “Connie, anyone with a missionary call should be very careful who they date because—uh—their relationship could become serious—and a guy shouldn’t ask a girl to go where God called him to go, especially to a foreign field, and live the sacrificial life he would be living, unless, of course, God asked it of her first. Connie,” he added tenderly, “I have longed to date you and it has been a tremendous battle to try and keep my emotions under control, but—but—”. Giving her a helpless look, he asked, “You do understand, don’t you, Connie?”

 

Connie gave him a reassuring smile. “Yes, Larry, I understand now all the mysteries that have had me baffled, and I want you to know that I appreciate you more than ever now.”

 

“Then what about that date for Friday night?”

 

“I would be delighted to be your date, Larry.”

 

Looking into his eyes again, she read his love for her which caused a warm glow to encircle her heart and move up into her cheeks. From that message of love she could spell out that this was the beginning of a wonderful relationship, a life-long relationship of walking in straight paths together with God.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Georgia Davenport McCain

 

Mrs. McCain died from injuries sustained in an automobile accident at age 87 on December 9, 2013. She maintained her Christian commitment and ministry, as well as her writing skills, until the time of her unfortunate death.

 

At the time of her death, many of her books were out of print. To preserve the books and allow many new readers to enjoy, the books are being converted to e-books by her family. To increase relevancy and impact to a more contemporary and international audience, minor edits to the original text have been made to some of the books.

 

The following article was published in the Cenla Focus in October 2012 prior to Mrs. McCain’s death, and provides a synopsis of Mrs. McCain’s life as an author. It was authored by Holly Jo Linzay

 

Georgia McCain, an author of 10 published books, recalls the day she felt the Lord Jesus lead her to start writing. “I was standing in the kitchen, and God asked me, ‘What is that in your hand?” McCain remembers, and answered, “‘Only a pen, Lord.’ Then He asked me if I would use the pen for his honor and glory, and I said, ‘Yes, Lord, as you direct me, I will write for the glory and honor of God.”

 

That very night, her first short novel unfolded completely from beginning to end. “The Lord gave me the name of the book and just opened up the story for me from the first page to the last,” notes McCain about her first book, Through Troubled Waters, which was published more than 40 years ago. Her first book is a work of fiction interwoven with Biblical truths. McCain has sold thousands of copies, and has received letters from people all over the world expressing how the book touched their hearts. “I never dreamed about writing a book, let alone getting one published,’ McCain notes.

 

As a child, McCain wrote poems and made up short stories. In the ninth grade, as her teacher was passing out Christmas gifts to the class, she called McCain to the front of the classroom. She told the class that Georgia had a gift for all her classmates. Stunned, McCain realized her teacher had made copies of a story she had written and shared it with the class. From time to time, she would write another short story. Later, she was asked by a preacher to write a story that would continue and develop in a religious paper. ‘I told him that I couldn’t just sit down and write a story. God had to give me the thoughts: McCain recalls, remembering it was later that night that she heard God question her about writing. When her son, Danny, came home from college, he read her story, Through Troubled Waters, and encouraged McCain to get it published. “Everything I write, I want it to honor God,’ McCain says with conviction.

 

The 84-year-old author is a woman of prayer, and has lived a life in pursuit of holiness. Growing up as one of 14 children In the rural community of Rigolette, McCain graduated from Tioga High School. At 19 years old, she met and started dating a young man named Carl McCain. He worked as a lineman for South Central Bell and she was working as a telephone operator. After a whirlwind courtship, the two were married on July 1, 1946.

 

The young couple made their home in Rigolette and raised their seven children—Ronald, Danny, Kenny, Randy, Barry, Donna and Jackie. The family attended Tioga Wesleyan Methodist Church, where Georgia and Carl served in every ministry they could. They have 19 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. The two were married for 62 years before Carl passed away. Her home is a testament to a close-knit family with photographs vying for space on shelves stocked full with mementoes from the grandchildren. A legacy of love is showcased with framed drawings from the kids alongside epic poems written by McCain about her family.

 

In between her serving at her church and raising seven children, McCain found time to write more books. Her second book, Trials and Triumphs, is non-fiction and retates many of her personal experiences, including the loss of her four-month-old grandson, Nathaniel, to meningitis. Her third book, a fictional novel, Shattered Shackles, deals with alcoholism and its affect on a family. “My daddy was an alcoholic, who would say he was tapering off when he was trying to quit. Later, he did sober up,” McCain says, adding that her real-life experience probably played a role in the book.

 

Another of her books, God’s Little Lambs, is a compilation of stories written for children that can be read as bedtime stories or for family devotions. At one time, McCain says she felt impressed to write a novel about some twins. In Straight Paths, the story of fiery-tempered “Connie Slocum” unwinds as she struggles with heartaches, persecution, separation and loneliness. In the book’s sequel, Plucked Out ofthe Net, Connie’s twin brother, “Donnie Slocum,” is featured in a story of redemption.

 

Three of McCain’s books have dealt with prayer and answers to “prevailing” prayer. “It is absolutely amazing that God has spoken to me over and over, and keeps giving me books to write. He has faithfully led me all the way,” notes McCain. In all, she has written 10 books, and family and friends are after her to write a book of poems. She has written long poems with clever rhymes marking nearly every milestone in her and her family’s life.

 

It does not take long to get caught up reading one of McCain’s books, and believing the incredible stories of faith in the non-fiction books. Written In such honest prose, her words flow from her heart and from a life seeking after holiness. If her books inspire and encourage or cause someone to “seek the Lord,” then McCain says the books have served their purpose. “God deserves all the glory for anything accomplished through the writing or reading of these books,” she emphasizes.

 

A woman of faith, McCain has taught Sunday School and Bible studies in just about every ministry at her church. In addition, for the last 34 years, she has taught three different Bible study groups at three different nursing homes. McCain has been honored and received numerous awards for her volunteer service from Ball Senior Citizens Center and various nursing homes. In 2001, she was named the Volunteer of the Year of Tioga Manor and named “Most Faithful” volunteer at two other nursing homes.

 

When her husband Carl served for a number of years on the Rapides Parish Police Jury, McCain supported him by participating in a variety of ways in the community. Known as a great cook by her family and friends, her daughter, Donna, presented her with a cookbook of the family recipes on her 50th wedding anniversary. Besides serving the Lord, McCain says her most important role in life has been as a wife and mother. She said all her children are “successful and love the Lord,” and that they never gave her a “lick of trouble” beceuse she kept them in church and a “switch on their behinds”, if needed. Her son, Danny, who is a missionary in Nigeria, even calls her every day.

 

McCain says she is “blessed beyond measure by the Lord” with family and friends. Some have called her a “prayer warrior,” in seeking God’s will in her life. One piece of advice she freely gives out to all who will listen is the same encouragement she offers in her last book, Walking with God for Over 50 Years, “Sometimes when we can’t seem to pray our way through, we can often times praise our way through to God. Try it.”

 

 

Books by Georgia McCain

 

Trials and Triumphs

Shattered Shackles

In Straight Paths

Plucked Out of the Net

Through Troubled Waters

Remarkable Incidents & Answers to Prayers

Amazing Answers to Prevailing Prayers

God’s Little Lambs

Walking With God for Over 50 Years

Celebration of Life, Family, and Faith – Collection of Poems, Tributes, and Stories

In addition, many of her family recipes are provided in the following book, compiled by her daughter, Donna McCain Wilson, on the occasion of her 60^th^ wedding anniversary:

Stilll Cooking After Sixty Years

Plans are to make all available via ebooks. Stay tuned.

 

Letters from Readers of Georgia McCain Books

 

The following are excerpts from some of the many letters I have received from my readers from different parts of the country from as far away as Alaska. Also, God has seen fit to place my books in several foreign countries, namely Haiti, the Bahamas, Republic of South Africa, New Guinea, Nigeria, Ghana, Taiwan, England, and South America. I have been encouraged time and again upon receiving letters from people relating how God used one of my books to help them spiritually. Some have been saved, some sanctified, some edified, strengthened, and encouraged. Again, I say, “all glory to Jesus!” He, it is that gives me a nudge when it’s time to write another book. And though I’m a very busy person in the work of the Lord, plus all my other duties as a housewife, when I feel God leading, I let many things go undone and busy myself with my writing, which I enjoy as God helps. I’ve often thought that if only one person would walk up to me in Heaven and say “It was your book that helped me to turn to Jesus and helped to enlighten my way to Heaven,” it would be worth all the time and effort put forth in writing them. One soul is worth everything.

 

I have a son who is a missionary to Africa. A few years back, he visited a man in jail named Olusegun Obasanjo, and gave him one of my books entitled, Amazing Answers to Prevailing Prayer. Later Mr. Obasanjo got saved, straightened out his life, and ran for president of Nigeria and was elected. Whether or not my book had anything at all to do with Mr. Obasanjo’s salvation, I know not, but later after he became president, my son visited him, and he told my son that his mother’s book was veryinspirational. Later, the president wrote a book entitled Women of Virtue: Stories of Outstanding Women in the Bible, and my son brought me a copy on one of his trips home. So one never knows how far their works for Christ will reach when we put it in God’s hands and take our hands off. It will take eternity to tell any good my writing for God’s Glory alone has accomplished.

 

Trust you enjoy the following letters from my readers.

 

I have just become a Christian and your books have helped me so much. I have four and am wondering if you have written anymore. I really like In Straight Paths and Through Troubled Waters. Will you pray for me? I need more help spiritually.

 

Your six books arrived for the Stephen D. Herron Memorial Library, and we feel honored to place them in the memorial room. I trust that the people who use the room for study and prayer will profit greatly from reading them. You have always been a great blessing to each of us.

 

We appreciate reading good holiness books. I’m glad for the way you brought holiness out in your books. There’s none like them. May God bless you.

 

I cried most of the time while reading your book Shattered Shackles because many happenings had been a reality in my life. I’ve had lots of heartaches.

 

I am a young person who likes to read but am quite selective in what I read. So many of these so-called Christian novels are so aimless and mushy, it’s disgusting, but I would recommend your books to anyone. The explanation of holiness is very good. How I wish there were more Holiness novels.

 

I am so happy to know we have dedicated writers such as you who are willing to do the hard work of hammering out a good clean book for people to read. May God bless you as you use your talent for Him. We may never write best sellers but as long as we keep His smile upon our work, it is a best seller. Keep up the good work. (From another writer)

 

A note to say thanks for the books. Couldn’t put them down. Now that’s what I call talent. They were really enlightening. Thanks a million.

 

I read your book, which was a great inspiration to me. I never dreamed anyone could even imagine or dream up so much adversity and heartache as I have been through. Your book lifted my spirits in a very dark and lonely period of my life.

 

I’ve read two of your books in two days, as I couldn’t lay them down after I started. I will pass them around and I’m sure others will enjoy them, too.

 

I was happy when I came across your book entitled Through Troubled Waters. I read part of it, but the owner took it away before I finished it. My troubles are so great that at times I feel it may be I have sinned. I do not know what to do. The portion of your book I read inspired me greatly. Could you send me a copy and any other that will help me solve my problems. (This came from Ghana, West Africa, and I sent him a copy)

 

I just finished reading your book, Trials and Triumphs. and felt real impressed to write and tell you how much it encouraged me. I have been asking the Lord to give me more faith and this book helped me so much. Thank you so much for writing it,

 

A dear sister gave me two of your books, and I really enjoyed both of them. I feel they have helped me spiritually. I really crave good reading that will draw me closer to God.

 

Just finished your book, In Straight Paths, and it was such an inspiration to me. I was encouraged and excited when I finished reading it. I received your book at church as a Mother’s Day gift for being the youngest mother. It’s a real life book where I really feel like I can see me at times. It is indeed wonderful and makes me feel that God will help me, as I need it. Pray for me! God bless you.

 

Your book answers a need out in the public for explaining what real heart holiness is. There is much confusion at this point.

 

Have read your book, Through Troubled Waters, over and over. Very good.

 

I believe your book, Through Troubled Waters, is the best book I’ve ever read and the most spiritual for religious fiction. Keep writing books as they help many people.

 

Thank God for the old-fashioned way of salvation and holiness and for people like you who can write beautiful stories that holds high its banner. May God richly bless you.

 

Thanks so very much for your books. I read In Straight Paths once again and am now reading the sequel, Plucked out of the Net. I enjoy them so much. Praise God for blessing you with this gift! I pray it will always glorify Him.

 

I am writing to you in regards to your books I purchased in Findley, Ohio. I gave one to a lady who wasn’t saved, who was new around holiness. I later sent the other book, Shattered Shackles, to her. She has read them, and they have been a help to her. She has gotten saved and doing her best to walk in the light.

 

Hope you will write more books. I really appreciate how the Lord has helped you to entwine the gospel in your stories.

 

Enclosed is a money order for your book, Plucked out of the Net. Sure appreciate your writings. So good and stay close to holiness emphasis. So much today that is called Christian fiction isn’t Christian at all. May the Lord bless you is our prayer.

 

I’m happy to have the opportunity to receive another book of yours. They have all been excellent and wife and I have read and reread them during the long winter evenings.

 

I’ve enjoyed your books much and have shared them with others. In fact, they are all out now. I would like to order your latest one. We need more good Christian books for our young people. Also, us older ones enjoy them.

 

A friend of mine loaned me two of your books. I enjoyed them so much that I would like to send them to my brother who is in jail in North Carolina. One of the books reminds me of him. I appreciate the good holiness way in your books.

 

I am so happy to have your books where interested and hungry souls can get them. I’m sure your writings are blessing many. The book Through Troubled Waters has been mentioned several times at church illustrating truths of the message given.

 

I thought you might like to hear of one incident where a young man was kept home from church because of illness in his family. Someone had loaned him your book, Through Troubled Waters, and he read it. The next week he testified how God had mightily dealt with his heart. The church prayed for him until he felt a clear witness.

 

I’m writing to see if you have written another book. I just read one and think it is wonderful. It has been a real blessing to me. I praise God for people like you that can write such a book, especially the teaching on holiness. If you have written another book, let me know.

 

The book, Through Troubled Waters, has been such a help to me in many ways. I wish I had what the nurse in the story had. I would gladly give all I had. She is so pure and good. Would that this old world had more like her. Wish I could talk to someone like the nurse but I’m afraid it’s too late. I’m not young anymore. I’m 37 and 1/2. (Thank God, there’s help for anyone who truly wants God in their life. I contacted the lady and did my best to help her. Author.)

 

Your book came yesterday. I read the inside information but haven’t read the contents yet, but will and also, will let others read it. Your talent came from your sixth grade teacher. ha (He was my sixth grade teacher.) I’m sending a contribution to help with your good work. Keep in touch!

 

God sure did inspire you as you wrote the book, Through Troubled Waters. Everything that you tucked away here and there as you wrote was amazing. How anyone could think of so much to fit into a story!! I was very much pleased with the way God helped you to use the Scriptures to teach sanctification. There are many who will read it in your book that never would study along that line any other way. I feel that this was the main reason God helped you to get this needful book out. I feel that souls will make it to Heaven because of it—souls that you would never have come into contact with, otherwise.

 

It usually takes me a week or ten days before I finish a book but finished yours in three evenings. The clear guidance into sanctification is the best I’ve ever read and helped me a lot. The story is so true to life. It holds you completely in suspense all the time. Thank you very much for the book.

 

We never dreamed we would get to see the author of that wonderful book, Through Troubled Waters. I have wanted to get a copy to send to a real good friend in South America and now I have it. So your good book will perhaps go around the globe.

 

My family and I have really enjoyed your first four books. The holiness movement needs more writers like you.

 

Your book, Shattered Shackles, is so touching. After reading some in your book this morning, I was so moved on by the Spirit to pray for those that are so shackled by drink or drugs. God can surely move on their heart to bring them to Christ.

 

I am fifteen years old and am writing to compliment you on your book, Through Troubled Waters. I am reading it the second time. I’m going to write a book report on it for school. I’m sure your book has helped many people.

 

I think you are brave to address the divorce and remarriage issue in your book, Plucked out of the Net. Our young people need that. Lots of people are getting awfully lenient about it. My husband and daughter read the book and really liked it. I think we all agree that it is the best yet. The message is real good.

 

We wanted to thank you for the privilege of reading your lovely little book. Our youngest daughter in California has just read hers and found it very profitable reading. We did, too. Of course, unless you truly loved the Saviour, you couldn’t have done such a book.

 

I praise the Lord for giving you such a beautiful gift of writing and for your willingness to share it.

 

I sat right down and read your book and I truly enjoyed it. We all have our problems and I am no exception. Your book came to me at a time when I was depressed and so unhappy. I received a real blessing from it. You have a wonderful talent in telling of God’s love through stories of life as we live it every day. Thanks!

 

I would like to tell the world what God and your book has done for me. Praise the Lord! It made me stop and realize there is a God and He truly loves me, regardless of the sins I had committed and the wrong I had done. God was calling me for one of His children. Before I read the book, I had so much hatred and bitterness in my heart. At times I even hated myself. Just as I put the book down, I had a strong urge to fall on my knees and ask the Lord to forgive my sins and to take the hatred and bitterness out of my heart. Praise the Lord! He immediately answered my prayer.

 

Believe the Lord has ordained the writing of this book for his people who are in troubled waters.

 

Enjoyed your book thoroughly. I want five more copies.

 

We all have our problems and I am no exception. Your book came to me at a time when I was so depressed and so unhappy. I received a real blessing from it.

 

Surprised and happy to receive your book. The Lord certainly used you in writing it. It is interesting, emotional and evangelistic, very well written, and I’m sure it is a blessing to all who read it. I am interested in ordering some more copies. .

 

We agreed to use your book for a part of our yearly youth Reading Course. Each year we recommend four or five books for the spiritual edification of our youth and sell them as a package to each youth society. I am heartily recommending it to our youth for two reasons, one is the danger of not obtaining holiness of heart and the other is the need of more personal workers on a one-to-one basis. The book is well written and I’m sure will continue to bless many lives.

 

Finished reading your fine book. It has an evangelistic message that is up to date and practical. Its message is desperately needed by thousands today, a 10,000 or more circulation among the various holiness churches.

 

The story is so true to life. It holds you in suspense all the time. I really enjoyed reading it. The clear guidance into sanctification is the best I’ve ever read and helped me a lot. My copy will be passed on to others as the Lord guides, and pray with me that many will be brought to a better understanding and to the blessing of sanctification.

 

I read your beautiful book and was truly blessed by it.

 

Magnificent! It really inspired my mind as well as my heart.Thank you! I will pass this wonderful book on, for truly it’s a soul winner.

 

If possible, we sure could use more books in this place.

 

A wonderful message for both young and old. Sure it will be a blessing to many people.

 

My grandmother taught me you could live above sin in this life. Your book has enlightened me in this matter

 

Have read your book and found it very enlightening.

 

May God continue to bless you. (This letter is from the Louisiana State Prison at Angola. I sent more books.)

 

May God bless those who have taken time to write to me over the years concerning my books. I deeply appreciate it. There are more, but we will sign off for this time. (Author)

 

 

 


In Straight Paths

Fiery-tempered Connie Slocum is unrelentingly teased by her mischievous twin brother during their growing-up years. Their mother is often frustrated in her attempt to control the constant bickerings and blames her troubles on their father, who left her when the twins were babies. Embittered by the reverses and heartaches of life, Mrs. Slocum rears her children entirely apart from any church affiliation. But the faithful witnessing of a lay member of a small church in their community causes Connie to become interested in spiritual things. Connie's new interest cause conflicts in her home and with her special friend, Ralph. She soon finds that the straight path of righteousness leads through trials, tests, heartache, persecution, separation, and loneliness. But, on the other hand, in this realistic story written especially for young people, you will discover with Connie that the way to full surrender to God is the only path to true joy, peace, satisfaction and a useful, happy life.

  • ISBN: 9781370033812
  • Author: Georgia McCain
  • Published: 2016-11-02 01:35:16
  • Words: 58704
In Straight Paths In Straight Paths