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Title: Molly Brown's Post-Graduate Days
Author: Speed, Nell, 1878-1913
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Molly Brown's Post-Graduate Days" ***

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[Illustration: “Oh, Miss Molly, let’s stay in the ‘beechwood period’
forever.”—Page 113.]



MOLLY BROWN’S POST-GRADUATE DAYS

BY

NELL SPEED

  AUTHOR OF “MOLLY BROWN’S FRESHMAN DAYS,” “MOLLY BROWN’S
  SOPHOMORE DAYS,” “MOLLY BROWN’S JUNIOR DAYS,”
  “MOLLY BROWN’S SENIOR DAYS,” ETC., ETC.

WITH FOUR HALF-TONE ILLUSTRATIONS BY CHARLES L. WRENN

NEW YORK

HURST & COMPANY

PUBLISHERS



Copyright, 1914

BY

HURST & COMPANY



                                CONTENTS

                                BOOK I.
              I. The Arrival                                   5
             II. My Old Kentucky Home                         22
            III. Wedding Preparations and Confidences         36
             IV. Burglars                                     51
              V. The Wedding                                  62
             VI. Buttermilk Tact                              77
            VII. Pictures on Memory’s Wall                   100
           VIII. All Kinds of Weather                        114
             IX. Jimmy                                       143
              X. Aunt Clay Makes a Mistake                   154

                                BOOK II.
              I. Wellington Again                            170
             II. Levity in the Leaven                        189
            III. History Repeats Itself                      208
             IV. A Barrel from Home                          223
              V. Dodo’s Surprise Party                       241
             VI. More Surprises                              261
            VII. Dreams and Realities                        269
           VIII. The Old Queen’s Crowd                       288



ILLUSTRATIONS

                                                               PAGE

  “Oh, Miss Molly, let’s stay in the ‘beechwood
  period’ forever”                                     Frontispiece

  “Hello, girls,” exclaimed Kent, hugging Molly, on
  one side, and shaking hands with Judy, on the other            10

  “Read me the poem yourself. Would you mind?”                  218

  The two Kentucky girls made a wonderfully charming picture    252



                   MOLLY BROWN’S POST-GRADUATE DAYS.

                                BOOK I.



CHAPTER I.—THE ARRIVAL.


“Oh, Judy, almost home! I wonder who will meet us,” cried Molly Brown.
“I feel in my bones that you and my family will be as good friends as
you and I have always been. You are sure to get on well with the boys.”

Judy responded with a hug, thinking, with a happy twinkle in her large,
gray eyes, that, if by any chance the rest of the Brown boys could be as
attractive as Molly’s brother, Kent, and should find her as fascinating
as Kent had seemed to, when she met him in the spring before the college
pageant, she bade fair to have an exciting visit in Kentucky.

Molly Brown and Julia Kean (Judy for short), after four busy years of
college life, had just graduated at Wellington, and were on their way to
Molly’s home in Kentucky, where Judy was to pay a long visit. As Molly
had been looking forward to the time when she could have some of her
college chums know her numerous and beloved family, she was very happy
at the prospect. Judy, who was ever ready for an adventure, was bubbling
over with anticipation.

The girls sat gazing out on the beautiful rolling fields of blue grass
and tasseling corn, which Molly knowingly remarked promised an excellent
crop. Molly’s blue eyes were misty when she thought of dear old
Wellington College, the four years of hard work and play, and the many
friends she had made and left, some of them, perhaps, never to see
again. Her mind dwelt a long time on Professor Green, the delightful
old, young man, who had opened up a new world to her in literature; who
had been so very kind to her through the whole college course, often
coming to her rescue when in difficulties, and always sympathizing with
her when she most needed sympathy; and who had, finally, proved to be
her real benefactor, when she discovered that he was the purchaser of
those acres of perfectly good orchard that had to be sold to keep Molly
at college. On bidding him good-by, she had extended to him an
invitation from her mother to make them a visit in Kentucky, and she had
already speculated much as to whether the young, old man would accept.
Molly never could decide whether to think of him as an old, young man,
or a young, old man. Professor Green was in reality about thirty, but,
when one is under twenty, over thirty seems very old.

Molly smiled when she thought of her parting scene with him, and made a
mental note that that was one of the things she must be sure to confess
to mother. The smile was enough to dispel the mist that was in her eyes,
and her mind turned to Chatsworth, her dear home. She thought of her
mother, her brothers and sisters; the decrepit old cook, Aunt Mary
Morton; Shep and Gyp, the dogs; her horse, President, no longer young,
having lived through four administrations, but still having more go in
him than many a colt, showing his fine racing blood and the “mettle of
his pasture.”

“Only two miles more,” breathed Molly jubilantly. “We must get our
numerous packages together.”

The girls had planned to have no bundles to carry on the train, nothing
but two highly respectable suitcases; but the fates were against
anything so unheard of as two females going on a journey with no extras.
They had seven boxes of candy presented at parting by various friends. A
large basket of fruit was added to their cares, put on the Pullman in
New York by the resourceful Jimmy Lufton, with instructions to the
porter to give it to the two prettiest girls who got on at Wellington,
with through sleeper to Kentucky. There were the inevitable shirtwaists
found in Molly’s bottom drawer; books and what not, lent to various
girls and returned too late to pack; and some belated laundry that Molly
had not had the heart to worry her old friend, Mrs. Murphy,
about—collars, jabots, and the muslin sash curtains from her room at
college that Molly could not make up her mind to put in her trunk in
their dusty state. These things were put in a bulging box and labeled by
Judy, quoting the immortal Mr. Venus, “Bones Warious.”

“I wish we could forget it and leave it on the train,” said Molly. “The
things in it are all mine, and, now I come to think of it, I believe
there is nothing there of any real value except the jabots Nance made
me—those that Mrs. Murphy called my ‘jawbones.’ I could not bear to lose
them, and we have not time to dig them out. If Kent meets us he is sure
to tease me, and you know how badly I take a teasing. He says he is
lopsided now from carrying his sisters’ clothes that they have forgotten
to pack in their trunks.”

“Let me call the ‘foul, hunch-backed toad’ of a bundle mine,” offered
Judy. “Your brother does not know me well enough to tease me.”

“Don’t you believe it! Besides, you can’t fool Kent. He knows me and my
bundles too well. Here we are,” added Molly hastily, “and there is Kent
to meet us, driving the colts, if you please. It is a good thing you are
not Nance Oldham. She will not consent to ride behind any colt younger
than ten years old!”

The train stopped just long enough for the girls to jump off, the porter
depositing their numerous belongings in a heap on the platform.

[Illustration: “Hello, girls,” exclaimed Kent, hugging Molly, on one
side, and shaking hands with Judy, on the other.—Page 10.]

“Hello, girls,” exclaimed Kent, hugging Molly, on one side, and shaking
hands with Judy, on the other, while a diminutive darkey swung on to the
colts’ bits, occasionally leaping into the air as the restive horses
tossed their proud heads. “My, it is good to see you! And your train on
time, too! That is such a rare occurrence that I have an idea it may be
yesterday’s train. You don’t mean to say that this is all of the
emergency baggage you are carrying?” grabbing the two highly respectable
suitcases and stowing them in the back of the trim, red-wheeled Jersey
wagon. The girls giggled, and Kent discovered the conglomerate
collection of packages that the porter had hastily dumped by the side of
the track.

Molly beat a hasty retreat into the station, declaring that she must
speak to Mrs. Woodsmall, the postmistress, thus hoping to avoid the
inevitable teasing from her big brother. Judy, with the spirit and
somewhat the expression of a Christian martyr, picked up the aforesaid
despised, bumpy, bulging bundle, and, with a sweet smile, said: “This is
mine, Mr. Brown. Will you please take it? The rest of the things are
boxes of candy and parting gifts from various friends.”

Kent took the disreputable looking package, which was not at all
improved by its long trip on the Pullman and the many disdainful kicks
the girls had given it. Now, in the last hasty handling, the porter had
loosened the much knotted string, the paper had burst, and from the
yawning gash there had crept a bit of blue ribbon, Molly’s own blue.
Judy, with her ever-ready imagination, had been heard to call it “the
blue of chivalry and romance, the blue of distant mountains and deep
seas.”

Kent took the package, smiling his quizzical smile; the smile that from
the beginning had made Judy decide that he was very likable; a smile all
from the eyes, with a grave mouth. In fact, the young lady had been so
taken with it that she had practiced the expression before her mirror
for half an hour and then held it until she could try it on the first
person passing by. That person happened to be Edith Williams, who had
remarked: “Gracious me, Judy, what is the matter? I feel as though you
were some one in a hogshead looking through the bunghole at me.” Judy
was delighted. It was exactly the expression she was aiming for, but she
was sorry that she had not thought of the apt description herself.

“Now, Miss Judy, I have known for four years from Molly’s letters what a
bully good chum you are, and have observed before now how charming and
beautiful, but this rôle of Christian martyr is a new one on me. Don’t
you know you can’t fool me about a Brown bundle? I could pick one out of
the hold of an ocean liner in the dark, just by the lumpy, bumpy feel of
it. Besides”—pointing to the bit of blue ribbon spilling through the
widening tear—“there are Molly’s honest old eyes peeping out, telling me
that this little subterfuge of yours is just an act of true friendship
on your part, to keep me from teasing her about her slipshod method of
packing. I tell you what I will do, Miss Judy, if you will do something
for me. I’ll make a compact with you, and promise to go the whole of
this day without teasing Molly.”

“Well, what am I to do?”

“Oh, it’s easy enough. Don’t call me Mr. Brown any more. Kent, from your
lips, would sound good to me. You see, there are four male Browns, and
every time you say ‘Mr. Brown’ we are liable to fall over one another
answering you or doing your bidding.”

“All right; ‘Kent’ it shall be for this day and every day that you don’t
tease Molly.”

“I meant just for the one day. The strain of never teasing Molly again
would shatter my constitution.”

“Very well, Mr. Brown; just as you choose about that.”

“Oh, well, I give up.”

“All right, Kent.”

Molly emerged from the postoffice, with Mrs. Woodsmall following her.
Such a stream of conversation poured from the latter’s lips that Judy
felt her head swim.

“Glad to meet you, Miss Kean. I have long wanted to see some of Molly’s
correspondents. What beautiful postals you sent her last year from
Maine; the summer before from Yellowstone Park; and those Eyetalian ones
were grand; one year, even from Californy. You are the most traveled of
all her friends, I believe, but Miss Oldham can say more on a postal
than any of you, and such a eligible hand, too. Now-a-days all of you
young folks write so much alike, since the round style come in, I can
hardly tell your writin’ apart. It makes it very hard on a lonesome
postmistress whose only way of gitting news is from the mail she
handles. And now, since Uncle Sam has started this fool Rural Free
Delivery, I don’t git time to more than half sort the mail before here
comes Bud Woodsmall and snatches it from under my nose with irrevalent
remarks about cur’osity and cats. Gimme the good old days when the
neighbors come a-drivin’ up for their mail, and you could pass the time
o’ day with them and git what news out of them you ain’t been able to
git off of the postals, or make out through the thin ornvelopes, or
guess from the postmarks. Anyhow, I gits ahead of Woodsmall lots of
times. Jest yistiddy I ‘phoned over to Mrs. Brown that Molly would be in
on this two train. To be sure, Woodsmall had the letter in his auto, but
he has to go a long way round, and he’s sech a man for stopping and
gassin’, and Molly’s ornvelope was some thinner than usual, and I could
see mighty plain the time she expected to come. Said I to myself, said
I, ’Now, ain’t Mrs. Brown nothing but a mother, and don’t she want the
earliest news of her child she can git? And ain’t I the owner of that
news, and should I not desiccate it if I can? It so happened that
Woodsmall had a blow-out, and didn’t git yistiddy’s mail delivered until
to-day. Now, tell me, wasn’t I right to git ahead of him?” She did not
pause for a reply, but plunged into the stream of conversation again.

“I don’t care if he is my own husband. He asked my sister first, and I
never would have had him if there had been a chance of anything better
offering. I wouldn’t have had him at all if I had foresaw that he was
going to fly in my face by gitting app’inted to R. F. D., and then fly
in the face of Providence by trying to run one of them artemobes.”

Kent stopped the flow of words by saying: “Now, Mrs. Woodsmall, you are
giving Miss Kean an entirely wrong idea of you and Bud. She will think
you do not love him, and I am sure there is not a man in the county who
fares better than your husband, or who shows his keep as well.”

The thin, hard face of the postmistress broke into a pleasant smile, and
Judy thought: “After all, Kent and Molly are very much alike in
understanding the human heart and in trying to make all around them feel
as happy as possible.”

“Well, you see, Kent Brown, it’s this way: I jest natchally love to
cook, and Bud he jest natchally loves to eat, and I’ve got the
triflingest, no-count stomic that ever was seed. What’s the use of
cooking up a lot of victuals for myself, when I can’t eat more’n a
mouthful? And so,” she somewhat lamely concluded, “I jest cook ’em up
for Bud.”

The colts could not be persuaded to stand still another minute, so they
had to call a hasty good-by to the voluble Mrs. Woodsmall. Then the
girls gave their attention to holding on their hats and keeping their
seats, while the lively pair of young horses pranced and cavorted until
Kent gave them their heads and allowed them to race their fill for a
mile or more of macadamized road.

Judy was hardly prepared for such a trim turnout as the Jersey wagon,
and such wonderful horses, to say nothing of the road. She had yet to
learn that Mrs. Brown would have good, well-kept vehicles on her place;
that all the Browns would have good horses; and that all Kentuckians
insist on good roads. The number of limestone quarries throughout the
state make good macadamized roads a comparatively easy matter.

What a beautiful country it was: the fields of blue grass, with herds of
grazing cattle, knee deep in June; an occasional clump of trees,
reminding one rather of English landscapes; and then the fields of corn,
proudly waving their tassels and shaking their pennant-like leaves, as
much as to say, “roasting ears for all.”

“News for you, Molly,” said Kent, as soon as he could get the colts down
to a conversation permitting trot. “Mildred is to be married in two
weeks.”

“Oh, Kent, why didn’t they write me?”

“Mother thought it would be fun to surprise you.”

Judy’s glowing face saddened. “Why, I should not be here at such a time.
I know I shall be in the way. I must write to papa to come for me
sooner.”

“Now, Miss Judy, ‘the cat is out of the bag.’ You have hit on the real
reason why mother would not let any of us write Molly of the approaching
nuptials in the family. She was so afraid that you might fear you would
be de trop and want to postpone your visit to us, and she has been
determined that nothing should happen to keep her from making your
acquaintance, and that at the earliest. You see, poor mother has had not
only to listen to Molly’s ravings on the subject of Miss Julia Kean for
the last four years, but now she has to give ear to Mildred and me,
since we met you at Wellington, and she thinks the only way to silence
us is to have something to say about you herself.”

Judy laughed, reassured. “You and Molly are exactly alike, and both of
you must ‘favor your ma.’ Well, I’ll try not to be in the way, and maybe
I can help.”

“Of course you can,” said Molly, squeezing her. “You always help where
there is any planning or arranging or beautifying to be done. But, Kent,
tell me, why is Milly in such a rush?”

“Why, Molly, I am surprised at you, laying it on Mildred. It happens to
be old ‘Silence and Fun’ who is so precipitate.”

“Who is ‘Silence and Fun’?” asked Judy.

“Oh, he is Milly’s fiancé, but the Brown boys call him that ridiculous
name. He has a fine name of his own, Crittenden Rutledge. But, Kent,
please tell me, why this haste?”

“Well, you see Crit has been ordered out to Iowa by his steel
construction company, on a bridge-building debauch, and he thought Milly
might just as well go on with him and hold the nails while he wields the
hammer. Here we are, so put your hat on straight, and look your
prettiest, Miss Judy. I should hate for mother to think that we had been
misleading her.”



CHAPTER II.—MY OLD KENTUCKY HOME.


They turned into an avenue through a gate opened from the wagon by means
of a rope pulled by the driver.

“How is that for a gate, Molly? I began my holiday by getting the thing
in order. It works beautifully now, but the least bit of rough handling
gets it off its trolley.”

“It is fine, Kent. But tell me, are you to have your holiday now?”

“Yes; you see I can help with the harvesting this week, and next week
the wedding bells have to be rung. And I thought any spare time I have I
could take Miss Judy off your hands.”

“I am afraid that your holiday will be a very busy one,” laughed Judy;
“but maybe I can help ring the wedding bells, and, if I can’t do much
toward harvesting, I can at least carry water to the thirsty laborers.”

Kent Brown was in an architect’s office in Louisville, working very hard
to master his profession, for which he had a fondness amounting to a
passion. Mrs. Brown had secretly hoped that one of her boys would want
to become a farmer, but they one and all looked upon Chatsworth as a
beloved home, but not a place to make a living. Their earnest endeavor,
however, was to keep up the place, and often their hard-earned and
harder-saved earnings went toward much needed repairs or farm machinery.
Mrs. Brown had to confess that a little ready money earned irrespective
of the farm was very acceptable; and, since her four boys were on their
feet and beginning to walk alone, and stretch out willing, helpful hands
to her, she found life much easier.

Not that money or the lack of money had much to do with Mrs. Brown’s
happiness. She was a woman of strong character and deep feelings, with a
love for her children that her sister, Mrs. Clay, said was like that of
a lioness for her cubs. But that remark was called forth when Mrs. Clay,
Sister Sarah, one morning found Mrs. Brown making two pairs of new
stockings out of four pairs of old ones, after a pattern clipped from
the woman’s page of a newspaper. With her accustomed bluntness, she had
said: “Well, Mildred Carmichael, if you had only three and a half
children, instead of seven, you would not have to be guilty of such
absurd makeshifts.”

Mrs. Brown had risen up in her wrath and given her such a talk that,
although ten years had elapsed since that memorable morning, Sister
Sarah still avoided the subject of stockings with Sister Mildred.

Mrs. Brown was a great reader, and loved old books and old poetry. One
of Molly’s earliest remembrances was lying on the otter-skin rug in
front of the great open fire, with brothers and sisters curled up by her
or seated close to the big brass fender, while mother read Dickens
aloud, or the Idyls of the King, or something else equally delightful.
One by one the younger children would drop to sleep; and then Mammy
would come and do what she called “walk ’em to baid,” muttering to
herself, “I hope to Gawd that these chilluns won’t be a dreamin’ all
night about that stuff Miss Mildred done packed in they haids.”

Just now, however, Molly’s memories were merged in anticipations, and
she watched eagerly for the first signs of welcome.

As they approached the house, the colts neighed, and were greeted by
answering whinnies from two mares grazing in a paddock. The mares ran to
the white-washed picket fence and stretched their necks as far over as
they could, gazing fondly on their handsome offspring, trotting gaily
by, tossing their manes and tails.

“The mothers are all coming out to meet their babies, and there is
mine!” cried Molly.

It was mother. Oh, that beloved face; that familiar, spirited walk and
bearing of the head; those wide, clear, far-seeing gray eyes, and that
fine patrician nose, with the mouth ever ready to laugh in spite of a
certain sadness that lurked there! She folded Molly in her arms, but did
not forget to keep a hand free to clasp Judy’s, and, before Molly was
half through her hug, the older woman drew the young visitor to her, and
kissed her fondly. Then, with an arm around each girl, she said: “I am
truly glad to know my Molly’s friend, and gratified, indeed, to have her
with us.”

“It means a great deal to me, too, Mrs. Brown, to see Molly’s mother and
home.” Judy feared that it would be forward to say what she had in her
mind, and that was “such a beautiful mother and home.”

The house was of white-washed brick, with a sloping gray shingled roof
and green shutters, and a general air of roominess and comfort. A long,
deep gallery or porch ran across the front, which Architect Kent
explained to Judy was not quite in keeping with the style of
architecture, but had been added by a comfort-loving Brown to the
delectation of all who came after him. The lines of the old house were
so good that the addition of a mere porch could not ruin it, and
certainly added to its charm and comfort. To the left, in the rear, well
off from the house, were the barn-yard and stables, chicken houses,
smokehouse, and servants’ quarters; to the right, a tan-bark walk led to
the garden. Down that path came Mildred, by her side a young man who
seemed to be so amused by her lively chatter that he could hardly
contain himself.

“Molly, Molly, I’m so glad to see you, and so is Crit, although he has
no words to tell you how glad he is. And, Miss Kean, Judy! It is
splendid for you to come just now. I am certain that Kent could not keep
the news, and you know by this time that Crit and I are to be married
the last of next week. Mr. Rutledge, let me introduce you to Miss Kean.”

Although Crittenden had never uttered a word, he seemed to be able to
let Molly understand that he, too, was glad to see her, as he was
vigorously hugging her and two-stepping with her over the short,
well-kept grass. But, at Mildred’s call, he suddenly stopped, made a low
and courtly bow to his partner, and turned to Judy, clasping her hand in
a warm and friendly grasp, and giving her such a smile as she had never
before beheld. In it he made her feel that she was welcome to Kentucky;
that he intended to like her and have her like him; and had his heart
not been already engaged, he would lay it at her feet. Never a word did
he utter. He was tall, rather soldierly in bearing, with the most
beaming countenance Judy had ever seen, and such perfect teeth she
almost had her doubts about them.

“Where is Sue, mother?” said Molly. “And Aunt Mary and Ca’line? Of
course the other boys are not home so early.”

“Sue has gone over to Aunt Sarah Clay’s. She sent for her in a great
hurry. Sue was loath to go, fearing she could not get back before you
arrived, but you know your Aunt Clay and how autocratic she is. Sue
seems to be in great favor just now. Here is Aunt Mary, however.”

Molly ran to meet the decrepit old darkey, embracing her with almost as
much fervor as she had her mother. Aunt Mary Morton was surely of the
old school: very short and fat, dressed in a starched purple calico,
with a white “neckercher” and a voluminous gingham apron, her head tied
up in a gorgeous bandanna handkerchief.

“Oh, my chile, I’m glad to see you. I hope you done learned ‘nuf to stay
at home a while. Yo’ ma’s so lonesome ‘thout you, with Mr. Ernest ‘way
out West surveyin’ the landscape.” (Ernest, the oldest of the Brown
boys, was employed by the government on the geological survey.) “Mr.
Paul so took up wif sassiety in Lou’ville he can’t hardly walk straight,
and jes’ come home long ‘nuf to snatch a moufful—but I done tuck
’ticular notice he do manage to eat at home in spite er all his gran’
frien’s. And now, Miss Milly gwine to step off; an’ ‘mos’ fo’ we git
time to cook up any mo’ victuals, Miss Sue’ll be walkin’ off. Praise be,
she ain’t a-goin’ fur. How she eber made up her min’ to gib her promise
to a man what lib up sech a muddy lane, beats me; an’ Miss Sue, the mos’
‘ticular of all yo’ ma’s chilluns ‘bout her shoes an’ skirts an’
comp’ny! Now Mr. John ain’t been a full-fleshed doctor mo’n two weeks
befo’ he so took up wif a young lady’s tongue what stayin’ over to Miss
Sarah Clay’s, and so anxious ‘bout feelin’ her pulse, dat yo’ ma an’ I
don’ neber see nothin’ of him. He jes’ come home from dat doctor’s
office in town long ‘nuf to shave and mess up a lot er crivats an’ peck
a little eatin’s, an’ off he goes. My ‘pinion is, dat’s what Miss Sarah
done sent for Miss Sue in sech a hurry ‘bout, but you’ ma say fer me to
hesh up, no sich a thing, she jes’ wan’ to talk ‘bout a suit’ble weddin’
presen’ for little Miss Milly.”

“Oh, Aunt Mary, isn’t it exciting to have a wedding in the family? You
always said Milly would be the first to get married, if Sue was the
first to get born,” said Molly, giving the old woman another hug for
luck. “Now I want you to shake hands with my dear friend, Miss Judy
Kean.”

Aunt Mary made a bobbing curtsey to Judy, then gave her a friendly
handshake, looking keenly in her face the while. Then she nodded her
head, until the ends of the bright bandanna, tied in a bow on top of her
head, quivered, and said: “I don’ know but what that there Kent was
right.”

“Aunt Mary, I am truly glad to meet you. If you could hear the blessings
that are showered on your head when Molly gets a box from home, and
could see how hard it is for all of those hungry girls to be polite when
the time comes for snakey noodles, you would know how honored I feel
that I am the first to make your acquaintance.”

“Well, honey, what makes all of you go ‘way from yo’ homes to sech
outlandish places as collidges where the eatin’s is so scurse? Can’t you
learn what little you don’ know right by yo’ own fi’side?”

“Maybe we could, Aunt Mary, but you see I haven’t any real fireside of
my own.”

“What! did yo’ folks git burned out?”

“Oh, no; but you see my father is an engineer, and mamma travels with
him, and stays wherever he stays; and, when I am not at school or
college, I knock around with them. Of course, I’d like to have a home
like Chatsworth, but it is lots of fun to go to new places all the time
and meet all kinds of people.”

“Well, they ain’t but two kin’s, quality an’ po’ white trash, an’ I’ll
be boun’ you don’t neber take up wid any ob dat kin’, so you an’ yo’ ma
‘n’ pa mought jes’ as well stay in one place.”

While the girls were up in Molly’s room, which Judy was to share,
getting ready for a belated dinner, they heard the sound of a piano,
cracked but sweet, like the notes of an old spinnet, then a male voice,
wonderful in its power and intensity, and at the same time so sweet and
full of feeling that Judy, ever emotional where art was concerned, felt
her eyes filling.

  “Shed no tear, oh, shed no tear!
  The flower will bloom another year.
  Weep no more! Oh, weep no more!
  Young buds sleep in the root’s white core.
  Dry your eyes, oh, dry your eyes!
  For I was taught in Paradise
  To ease my breast of melodies,
                              Shed no tear.

  “Overhead—look overhead
  ’Mong the blossoms white and red.
  Look up, look up! I flutter now
  On this flush pomegranate bough.
  See me! ’tis this silvery bill
  Ever cures the good man’s ill.
  Shed no tear, oh, shed no tear!
  The flower will bloom another year.
  Adieu, adieu—I fly. Adieu,
  I vanish in the heaven’s blue,
                              Adieu, adieu!”

“Oh, Molly, Molly, who is that?” cried Judy, weeping copiously, in spite
of the repeated request of the singer to “shed no tear.”

“Why, that is Crit. Isn’t his voice wonderful?”

“Do you really mean it is Mr. Rutledge? I thought he was dumb, and have
been feeling so sorry for Mildred.”

“Dumb, indeed! He has the most beautiful voice in Kentucky, and can make
such an eloquent speech when roused that we have been afraid he would go
into politics. But, so far as passing the time of day is concerned, and
the little chit-chat that fills up life, he is indeed as dumb as a fish.
When he was a little boy he stammered and got into the habit of
expressing his feelings in silence, and he can still do it. He had a
teacher who cured him of stammering, but nothing will ever cure him of
silence, unless he has something important to say, and then nothing can
stop him. Mother tells of a man who stammered in talking but not in
singing. One day he was passing a friend’s house, and saw that the roof
was in a blaze, the inmates perfectly unconscious of the conflagration.
He rushed in, tried to speak, could only stutter, and then in
desperation burst into song. To the tune of ‘The Campbells Are Coming,’
he sang, ‘Your house is on fire, tra-la, tra-la!’ Kent declares that
Crit proposed to Milly in song, but Milly herself is dumb about how that
came about.”

“Well, anyhow, I have never heard such scintillating silence as his, and
I think that Milly ought to be a very proud and happy girl.”



CHAPTER III.—WEDDING PREPARATIONS AND CONFIDENCES.


The next two weeks were busy ones for all the Brown household: first and
foremost, the ever-crying need of clothes to be answered; second, the
old house to be put in apple-pie order; all the furniture rubbed and
rubbed some more; the beautiful old floors waxed and polished until they
shone and reflected the newly scrubbed white paint in a way Judy thought
most romantic. (But Judy thought everything was romantic those days.)
She was “itching to help,” and help she did in many ways. Molly would
not let her rub furniture or wax floors, but she had the pleasure of
hanging the freshly laundered curtains all over the house, and she was
received with joy in the sewing room by Miss Lizzie Monday, the
neighborhood seamstress. Miss Lizzie was of the opinion that the Browns
thought entirely too much about food and not nearly enough about
clothes. Indeed it was a failing of the mother, if failing she had, to
have good food, no matter at what cost, and then, since strict economy
had to be practiced somewhere, to practice it on the clothes.

Miss Lizzie had once been present when they were packing a box to send
to Molly at Wellington, and had sadly remarked: “In these hard times,
with the price of food what it is, poor little raggedy Molly could have
had an entire new outfit from the contents of that box.” Mrs. Brown had
indignantly denied that she was spending any money at all on the box,
but the fact remained in Miss Lizzie’s mind that the food in the
delightful box, so eagerly looked for by the hungry college girls,
represented so much money that had much better be put on Molly’s outside
than her inside.

“Not that much of it goes on her own inside. I know Molly too well,
bless her heart. Can’t I just see her handing out that good old ham and
hickory-nut cake and Rosemary pickle to those Yankees? And they, raised
on pale, pink, ready-cooked ham and doughnuts and corner grocery dill
pickles, don’t know what they are getting. Molly, in her same old blue
that I have made over twice for her!—and that ham would have bought the
stuff for a new one (not that I would have had it anything but blue).
The half gallon of Rosemary pickle would have trimmed it nicely, and the
hickory-nut cake would have made her at least two new shirtwaists, and
the express on the box would more than pay me for making the things.”

Judy loved to hear Miss Lizzie talk, and used to encourage her to praise
her friend, while she sat helping to whip lace or planning the
bridesmaids’ dresses for Molly and Sue. These dresses were flowered
French organdies. Molly’s was covered with a feathery blue flower, that
never was on land or sea, but it was the right color, which was the
important thing; and Sue’s bore the same design in pink. The bride’s
dress, a lovely simple gown of the finest Paris muslin, was all done and
pressed and neatly folded in a box by the careful Miss Lizzie, with one
of her own sandy hairs secretly sewed in the hem, which is supposed to
bring good luck, and a “soon husband” to the owner of the hair.

There was some doubt and much talk about how the bridal party was to
enter the parlor and where the minister was to stand. The parlor at
Chatsworth was not very suitable for an effective wedding, as it was in
the wing of the house and opened only into the hall, giving, when all
was considered, not much room for the growing list of guests. Although
it was a very large room, having only one entrance made it rather
awkward. It was only a few days before the wedding and this important
subject was still under discussion.

“I can count at least ninety-eight persons who are sure to come,” said
Mrs. Brown, “all of them kin or close friends, and how they are to get
in this room and leave an aisle for the wedding party, goodness only
knows; and if the hall and porch are full, it will be very
uncomfortable.”

Judy and Kent were pretending to be the bride and groom, grave Sue was
the minister, John and Paul, flower girls, and Molly, boss. Mildred and
Crittenden were not allowed to practice for their own wedding, as Miss
Lizzie said it was bad luck, and Miss Lizzie was authority on all such
subjects. So the two most interested were seated at the piano,
pretending to be the musicians doing “Chopsticks” to wedding march time.

“Crit, I believe you will have to give Milly up. There is no way to have
a decently stylish wedding in this joint,” said Paul. “Let’s stop the
festive preparations and all of us go to Jeffersonville. It would make a
grand story for my paper.”

Judy had been very quiet for some minutes and her face wore what Molly
called her “flashed upon that inward eye” expression. Suddenly she
cried, “I have it. Come on and let’s get married out of doors.” She
seized Kent by the hand and dragged him out on the lawn, the rest
following in a daze.

“Look at that natural place to be married in: the guests under the
trees; room for everybody; a living altar of shrubs and flowers at the
end of the tan-bark walk; minister entering from the grass walk on one
side and Mr. Rutledge with his best man from the other; down the steps
Mildred on Ernest’s arm, followed by Molly and Sue. Can’t you see them
coming up the tan-bark walk? Just at sunset, the people in their light
festive clothes, your mother beautiful in her black crêpe de Chine, with
Paul and John and Kent standing by her making a dark note near the
bride? Oh, why, oh, why did they not have holly-hocks up this garden
walk instead of by the chicken yard fence? It would have made the color
scheme simply perfect.”

Judy paused for breath. She had carried the crowd by her eloquence, and
so perfectly had she visualized the whole thing that each one was able
to see what she meant, and absolute and unanimous approval was given the
scheme. Kent, with his artistic eye, was in for it heart and soul, and
began to plan Japanese lanterns to be lit after the ceremony in the
rustic summer-house beyond, where supper was to be served, observing
that their color might somewhat take the place of the holly-hocks that
were in the wrong place.

“Just where did you want the holly-hocks, Miss Judy? We might do better
another year if we knew just what your orders were.”

“On both sides of the tan-bark walk, just beyond the intersection of the
grass walk. Can’t you see how fine and stately they would look, and what
a wonderful mass of color?”

“Right, as usual. What an architect you would make! That power of
‘seein’ things’ is what an architect needs above everything. Any one can
learn to make it, but it is the one who sees it who is the great man or
woman, as in the present case.”

Things had been humming so since Molly’s return that she had had no time
for the confidential talk with her mother that both were hungering for.
The Browns always had much company, but at this season there seemed to
be no end to the comings and goings of guests, principally comings: many
parting calls being paid to Mildred by old and young; Molly’s friends
hastening to greet her after the eight months’ absence at college; a
steady following of young men calling on Sue, in spite of her suspected
preference for Cyrus Clay, the nephew of Aunt Sarah Clay’s deceased
husband, and the one Aunt Mary objected to because of his living up such
a muddy lane. Presents were pouring in for the bride; notes had to be
answered; trains to be met; express packages to be fetched from the
station; and poor little Mrs. Woodsmall kept in a state of constant
misery over the Parcel Post business Bud was doing, and she with “never
a chanst to take so much as a peep.”

Molly, ever mindful of others, hitched up President one off day and
drove over to the postoffice and got the poor thing. Then she let her
see every single present; and feel the weight of every bit of silver;
and hunt for the price mark on the bottom of the cut-glass; read all the
cards; and even go into the sewing-room where Miss Lizzie Monday proudly
showed her the clothes, and let her take a good look at the wedding
dress all folded up in its box. But when Mrs. Woodsmall began to pick at
the hem where her sharp eyes discovered an end of the stiff sandy hair,
sewed in to bring a “soon husband,” Miss Lizzie snapped on the top and
told her sharply to stop rumpling up Miss Milly’s dress.

The night after Judy had solved the problem of where the wedding was to
be, Molly felt that she must have her talk with her mother. Judy was
tired and a little distrait, visualizing again no doubt; seeing the
wedding in her mind’s eye; regretting the holly-hocks; wondering if she
really did have the power that Kent attributed to her, that of a
creative artist. If she did have it, what should she do about it? Was it
not up to her to make something of herself if she had such a gift? Was
she willing to work, as work she would have to, if she really expected
to do something? At the back of it all was the thought, “Would Kent like
her so much if she should turn out to be a woman with a purpose?” Judy
was obliged to confess to herself as she dozed off that what Kent Brown
thought of her made a good deal of difference to her, more than she had
thought that any man’s opinion could make.

Molly waited until she thought Judy was asleep and then crept softly
downstairs to her mother’s room. Mrs. Brown was awake and glad indeed to
see her “old red head,” as she sometimes lovingly called Molly, coming
to have a good talk. It is funny what a difference it makes who calls
one a red head. Now that horrid girl at college, Adele Windsor, had
enraged Molly into forgetting what Aunt Mary called her “raisin’” by
calling her a red head, and yet when mother called her the same thing it
sounded like sweet music in her ears.

Mother had some things to tell Molly, too. She did not altogether
approve of John’s inamorata, the girl visiting Aunt Clay. It was a case
of Dr. Fell with her.

  “I do not love thee, Dr. Fell.
  The reason why I cannot tell;
  But this I know, and know full well,
  I do not love thee, Dr. Fell.”

Then she did think if Sue intended to marry Cyrus Clay she should not
lead on the other two young men, who seemed quite serious in their
attentions. She hated to say anything, because Sue was so dignified.

“Now if it were you or Mildred, I would speak out, but you know Sue
always did scare me a little, Molly.”

And Molly and her mother giggled like school girls over this confession.
Sue was very handsome and lovely and good, but she was certainly a
little superior, and Mrs. Brown found that, if she had any talking over
of things to do, she wanted either Molly or Mildred, who were “not too
pure or good for human nature’s daily food.”

Molly was eager to know what her mother thought of Judy, and was
delighted at her frank liking for her friend. Then Molly had to tell her
mother of her hopes and ambitions; of her triumphs and disappointments
at college; and of her growing friendship for Jimmy Lufton, the clever
young journalist from New York who was trying to persuade Molly to go
into newspaper work; of his liking for her that she did not want to
ripen into anything more serious, but his last letters were certainly
growing more and more fervent.

“Don’t flirt, little girl, don’t flirt. It would not be my Molly if she
deceived any one. Have all the fun you can and as many friends as
possible and enjoy life while you are young. You are sure to be popular
with every one, men and women, boys and girls, but don’t be a coquette.”

“Mother, I don’t mean to be ever, and really and truly I have done
nothing to mislead Mr. Lufton, and maybe I am mistaken and conceited
about his feeling for me, and I truly hope I am. I have never done
anything but be my natural self with him.”

Mrs. Brown smiled, well knowing that just being her natural self was
where Molly did the damage, if damage had been done.

“Mother, there is something else.” Mrs. Brown knew there was, and was
patiently waiting. “You know Professor Green? Well, I gave him your
invitation to come to Kentucky.”

“And what did he say?”

“He said, ‘Thank you.’”

“Is he coming?”

“I don’t know.” Molly found talking to her mother about Professor Green
more difficult than she had imagined it would be. “When you wrote me two
years ago that some eccentric person had bought the orchard and I could
finish my college course, I told Professor Green about it, and also told
him I should like to meet the old man who had saved me from premature
school-teaching. And when he asked me what I’d do if I should happen to
meet him, I told him I would give him a good hug.” Molly faltered.
“Well, mother, when I told him good-by and gave him your invitation, I
went back and—I just gave him a good hug.”

Mrs. Brown sat up so vigorously that Molly, sitting by her side, was
almost jolted off the bed.

“Why, Molly Brown! And what did Professor Green do?”

“He? Oh, he took it very philosophically and bowed his head ’til the
storm was over.”

Mrs. Brown gave a gasp of relief.

“He must be a good old gentleman, indeed. About how old is he, Molly?”

“The girls say every day of thirty-two.”

“Why, the poor old thing! Do you think he could take the trip out here
to Kentucky all by himself?”

“Mother, please don’t tease. There is something else. Jimmy Lufton wrote
a little note which I found in the bottom of the basket of fruit he had
put on the train for us. It was wrapped around a lemon and said, ‘Here
is a lemon you can hand me if, when I come to Kentucky this summer, you
don’t want me to stay.’”

“Oh! The plot thickens! So he is coming, too.”

“Yes, but he lives in Lexington, and is coming out to see his family,
anyhow.”

“Well, Molly, darling, you must go to bed now, but before you go tell me
one thing: do you want Professor Green to come to Chatsworth?”

“Yes, mother, I think I do,” and giving her mother a hug that made that
lady gasp again and say, “Molly, what a hugger you are,” she flew from
the room and raced upstairs two steps at a time.



CHAPTER IV.—BURGLARS.


Judy was sitting up in bed, the moon lighting her enough for Molly to
see a wild, startled look on her face.

“Molly, Molly, I hear something!”

“You hear me making more noise than I have any business to at this time
o’ night. I have been having a good old talk with muddy.”

“Oh, no, it wasn’t that. I knew you were downstairs. I haven’t been
truly asleep. I was ’possuming.’ It is out by the chicken yard, and I am
so afraid it is burglars after the pullets Aunt Mary told me she was
saving for chicken salad for the wedding supper. Lewis was to kill them
to-morrow.”

Judy had entered so intensely into the Browns’ household affairs that
Molly herself was no more interested in the festive preparations than
was her guest. Molly drew cautiously to the window and peeped out; she
beckoned Judy, and the excited girls saw a sight to freeze the marrow in
their chicken-salad-loving bones: the thief had a wheelbarrow, and some
great gunny sacks over his arm, and was in the act of boldly opening the
chicken-yard gate.

“If we call he will get away, and how else can we let the boys know? The
wretch may have those sacks full of chickens even now,” moaned Molly.

There was a three-room cottage or “office,” as they called it, on the
side of the house next the garden where all of the young men slept in
summer. The girls feared that, in trying to let them know of the
burglar, if they went out of the front door they would startle Mrs.
Brown. And if they should try to go out the back door, in getting to the
cottage they would have to run across a broad streak of moonlight in
plain view of the thief, and thus give him ample time to get away with
his booty before they could arouse the boys.

“Why shouldn’t we take the matter in our own hands and make him drop his
sacks and run?” said Molly. “I am not afraid, are you?”

“Me afraid? Bless your soul, no. I am only afraid he will get off with
the chickens,” replied the intrepid Judy. “I have my little revolver in
the tray of my trunk, the one papa gave me when we were camping in
Arizona. I can load it in a jiffy. But what weapon will you take?”

“I don’t see anything but my tennis racket. I’ll take that and some
balls, too, in case I have to hit at long range. There is really no
danger for us, as a chicken thief has never been known to go armed with
anything more dangerous than a bag.”

They slipped on their raincoats, as they were darker than their kimonos,
and crept softly down the back stairs, out on the back porch, and down
the steps into the yard, keeping close in the shadow of the house until
they came to an althea hedge. Skirting this, still in the shadow, they
got near enough to the chicken-yard gate to have a good look at the
burglar. That burly ruffian, instead of bagging the pullets that were
peacefully roosting in a dog-wood tree, totally unconscious that they
were sleeping the last sleep of the condemned, had taken a spade from
his wheelbarrow, carefully spread out his gunny sacks and was digging
with great care around the holly-hocks, digging so deep and so far from
the roots that he soon got up a great sod without injuring the plants.
This he placed with great care in the barrow, and as he stepped into the
broad moonlight the girls recognized Kent. They clutched each other and
were silent, except for a little choking noise from Judy which might
easily have come from one of the condemned, having premonitory dreams of
the morrow.

Kent worked on until his wheelbarrow was full of the lovely flowers.
Then he stuck in the spade and trundled it away toward the garden, the
girls silently following, still keeping as well in the shadow as was
possible, and holding tight to their weapons, although they no longer
had any use for them. On reaching the garden, they realized that Kent
must have been working many hours. He had already moved dozens of the
stately plants, and they now stood in the garden where they belonged, no
doubt glad of the transplanting from their former homely surroundings.
So deeply and well had Kent dug that they were uninjured by the move,
and he completed the job by dousing them plentifully with water from a
great tub that he had filled at the cistern.

The effect was wonderful, as Judy had known that it would be, but her
surprise and pleasure that Kent should be so anxious to gratify her
every wish was great. She felt her cheeks glowing with excitement and
her heart pit-a-patting as it would not have done, even had Kent proved
to be the chicken thief they had imagined him to be.

That young man finished his job, cleaned his spade, shook out the gunny
sacks, raked the débris from the walk, and then, giving a tired yawn and
stretching himself until he looked even taller than the six feet one he
measured in his stocking feet, he said out loud in a perfectly
conversational tone:

“Now, Miss Judy, you may have the master mind that can imagine things
and see beforehand how they are going to look, but I’ll have you know it
takes work to create and drudgery to accomplish; and only by the sweat
of the brow can we ‘give to airy nothing a local habitation and a name.’
You and Molly can step out of the bushes and view the landscape.”

“Oh, Kent, did you know we were there all the time?”

“Certainly, little Sister, from the time Miss Judy went like a chicken
with the gapes, I have known you were with me; but you seemed to be
having such a good time I hated to break it up. You might have stepped
in and helped a fellow, though.”

“Oh, we were doing the head work,” retaliated Judy.

Kent laughed, and then he had to tease them about their adventure and
their weapons, especially Molly’s racket and balls.

“We had better crawl into the hay now, however. It is getting mighty
late at night, or, rather, mighty early in the morning, and where will
our beauty be if we don’t get to sleep? I’ll see you to the back door.”

“You needn’t,” said Molly. “You must be dead tired, and here is the
office door open for you. There is no use in your coming any farther. We
can slip around the front way and be in the house in no time.”

“Well, good morning. I am dead tired, and such brave ladies as you are
need no escort. Better luck to you next time you go burglar hunting.”

It was a wonderful night, or rather morning, as Kent had indicated. The
moon hung low on the horizon ready for bed, as an example to all up-late
young ladies. The stars, with their rival retiring, were doing their
best to get in a little shine before daylight. Everything was very
still. The tree frogs and crickets and Katy-dids had suddenly ceased
their incessant noise. There was a feel in the air that meant dawn.

What was it that greeted the ears of the tired Kent? Old tennis player
that he was, it sounded to him like the twang of a racket in the hands
of a determined server who means to drive a ball that the champion
himself could not return. Then came the dull thud of the ball, a groan,
a scream; then the sharp crack of a pistol, more screams from inside the
house; lights, doors opening, all the household awake, and Paul and John
and Crit, who had spent the night at Chatsworth, tumbling out of the
office almost before Kent could get around the house. There he found
Judy fallen in a little heap on the grass, and Molly carefully and
coolly aiming a second tennis ball, this time at a real burglar.

The man climbing from the upper gallery of the house had been surprised
by the girls as they came from the garden. At Molly’s first ball he had
dropped to the ground, and Judy had caught him on the fly, as it were.
The second tennis ball got him square on the jaw, but he was already
down and out. Kent declared afterward, when the smoke of battle had
cleared away, that it was not like Molly to hit a fellow when he was
down. She had always been a good sport until now.

Mrs. Woodsmall, it seems, had talked too much about the weight of
Mildred’s silver, and had dwelt too long on the recklessness of the
Browns in having all of those fine things in the little hall room with
the window opening on the upper gallery, where anybody with any
limberness could climb up that twisted wisteria vine and get away with
anything he had a mind to. A tramp, hanging around the postoffice
window, had overheard her and, having more limberness than any other
commodity, had endeavored to help himself.

Dr. John came with first aid to the injured, and found the man more
scared than hurt. It was hard to tell which ball had done most damage;
certainly Molly’s was the more effective in appearance. Her first she
had served straight at his nose, so disfiguring that member that the
rogues’ gallery officials would have had difficulty in identifying him.
The second found his jaw and gave him so much pain that John feared a
fracture. Judy’s little pistol had done good work. A flesh wound on the
arm was the verdict for her.

The ground was strewn with silver in every kind of fancy novelty that a
bride is supposed by her dear friends to need—or why else do they give
them to her?

Then Crittenden Rutledge opened his mouth and spoke. As usual when he
did such a thing it was worth getting up before dawn to hear him.

“Don’t you think, Mildred, darling, we might give the poor fellow three
or four cheese scoops and several butter knives and a card tray or two?
A young couple could easily make out for a while with one of each, and
if he will promise to go back to Indiana and stay—— You did come from
Indiana, didn’t you?” The man gave a grin and nodded. “Well, if you
promise to go back and never put your foot in Kentucky again, I’ll go
wrap up Aunt Clay’s vases for you.”

Mrs. Brown, thankful that her brood was safe and no more damage done the
poor, wicked tramp than a sore shoulder, a swollen nose and a fractured
jaw, sent them all to bed with instructions to sleep late, and told
Molly and Judy to stay in bed for breakfast. The burglar was put in the
smokehouse for safekeeping until sun-up, when John and Paul expected to
take him to Louisville, swear out a warrant against him and land him in
jail. When the time came, however, to transfer their prisoner from
smokehouse to jail, they found the door open, the man gone and a fine
old ham missing.

“An’ they ain’t a single pusson in the whole er Indianny what knows how
ter cook a ham, either,” bewailed Aunt Mary.

“To think the ungrateful wretch went off without Aunt Clay’s vases,”
muttered Crittenden Rutledge.



CHAPTER V.—THE WEDDING.


The wedding came off so exactly as Judy had planned it that it seemed to
her to be a proof of the theory of transmigration of the soul, and that
in a previous incarnation she had been to just such a wedding. The
eldest brother, Ernest, arrived from the far West just in time to change
his clothes and give the bride away. There were three understudies for
his part, so there was not much concern over his non-arrival until he
got there with a blood-curdling tale of wrecks and wash-outs that had
delayed him twenty-four hours. Then all of them got very much concerned
and Mrs. Brown reproached herself for being so taken up with Mildred’s
wedding that she had forgotten to worry about the absent one for the
time being. Ernest resembled Sue more than any of the rest of them, and
had a good deal of her poise and dignity. “But I’ll wager that he is not
as serious as he seems,” thought Judy, detecting a twinkle in the corner
of his sober eyes.

Mildred looked lovely, and she had such a sweet, trusting look in her
eyes as she came down the steps and up the tan-bark walk on Ernest’s
arm, that Crittenden Rutledge, waiting for her at the end of the walk,
broke away from his best man and went forward several yards to meet his
bride. Sue and Molly brought up the rear; Sue, composed and calm with
her sweet dignity; but Molly, so deeply moved by this beloved sister’s
marriage and the break in their ranks, the very first, that she felt her
knees trembling and wondered if it could be possible that she was going
to ruin everything and burst into tears or fall in a faint or do
something terrible. But she didn’t. The familiar voice of their old
minister in the opening lines of the Episcopal marriage service brought
her to her senses, and she was able to follow the ritual in her mind,
but she dared not trust herself to look up. She kept her eyes glued to
her bouquet of “love-in-the-mist,” that Miss Lizzie Monday had brought
her that morning, picked from her own old-fashioned garden.

“I know the groom will send the bridesmaids flowers, but somehow, Molly,
I don’t want you to carry hothouse flowers. These ‘love-in-the-mists’
will look just right with your dress and your eyes and your ways.”

So Molly carried Miss Lizzie’s “bokay” and put the flowers that the
groom sent her in a vase in the parlor. But Molly was not thinking of
her dress or her eyes, except to try to keep the tears in them, since
come they would, and not let them run out on her cheeks. Mildred’s
responses were inaudible except to dear old Dr. Peters, the minister,
but Crittenden’s were so loud and clear and resonant that it was almost
like chanting, and Judy had to smile when she could not help thinking of
the stammering man’s “Your house is on fire, tra la, tra la.”

“I pronounce you man and wife.”

All is over. Molly can let the tears fall now if she wants to, but,
strange to say, she does not seem to want to any more. Such a rejoicing
is going on. Everybody seems to be kissing everybody else. Aren’t they
all more or less kin? Mildred and Kent, the center of a gay crowd, are
fondly kissing the ones they should merely shake hands with, and
formally shaking hands with their nearest and dearest, just as in a fire
people have been known to carry carefully the pillows downstairs and
throw the bowls and pitchers out of the window. Kent has his wits about
him, however, and kisses Judy, declaring it is all in the day’s work.

A stranger standing on the outskirts of the crowd during the whole
ceremony seemed much more interested in the bridesmaid dressed in blue
than in the bride herself, and when this same bridesmaid felt herself
swaying a little as though her emotion might get the better of her, if
one had not been so taken up with the central figures on the stage he
might have noticed the stranger start forward as though to go to her
assistance. But he, too, was brought to his senses by the calm voice of
Dr. Peters in the opening words of the service, and saw with evident
relief that the bridesmaid had gained control of herself. He was a tall
young man with kind brown eyes and light hair, a little thin at the
temples, giving him more years perhaps than he was entitled to.

When the service was over and the general confusion ensued, he made his
way swiftly to where Molly stood, and without saying one word of
greeting he put his arm around her and tenderly kissed her. Molly was so
overcome with astonishment that she could only gasp, “Professor Green!
What are you doing here?”

“I am having a very pleasant time, thank you, Miss Molly. I got your
mother’s kind invitation to attend your sister’s wedding, and—here I am.
Didn’t your brother Paul tell you that I had come?”

“No, we have been so occupied, I believe I have not seen Paul to-day.”

“I went to his newspaper office in Louisville to find out something
about how to get here, and he asked me to drive out with him. Are you
sorry I came, Miss Molly?”

“Sorry? Oh, Professor Green, you must know how glad I am to see you!
But, you see, I was a little startled, not expecting you and thinking of
you as still at Wellington.”

“If you were thinking of me as being anywhere at all, I feel better.
Were you really thinking of me?”

“Yes,” said the candid Molly, “and wasn’t it strange that I was thinking
of you just as you came up—and—and——” but, remembering his manner of
greeting her, she blushed painfully.

“You are not angry with me, are you, my dear child? I felt so lonesome.
You see everybody seemed to know everybody else, and there was such a
handshaking and so forth going on that before I knew it I was in the
swim.”

“Almost every one here is kin or near-kin, and weddings in Kentucky seem
to give a great deal of license,” said Molly, recovering her equanimity.
“Of course I am not angry with you. I could not get angry with any one
on Mildred’s wedding day.”

But Molly felt that in a way Edwin Green had paid her back for the hug
she had given him. She had hugged him because he was so old that she
could do so with impunity, and he in turn had kissed her because he felt
lonesome, forsooth, and she was so young that it made no great
difference. His “My dear child” had been a kind of humiliation to Molly.
What is the use of being a senior and graduating at college if a man
very little over thirty thinks you are nothing but a kid?

“Professor Green is not so very much older than Ernest,” thought Molly,
“and I wager he will not treat Judy with that
old-enough-to-be-your-father air! Here am I getting mad on Mildred’s
wedding day when I just said I could not! And, after all, Professor
Green has been very kind to me and means to be now, I know.” Turning to
him with one of “Molly’s own,” as Edith Williams termed her smile, she
said, “Now you must meet my mother and all the rest of them.”

Mrs. Brown looked keenly and rather sadly at the young professor. This
coming of men for her daughters was growing wearisome, so the poor lady
thought; but she liked Edwin Green’s expression and found herself
trusting him before he got through explaining his sudden appearance in
Kentucky.

“After all, maybe he is only thinking of Molly as one of his pupils. His
buying the orchard meant an interest in her college course and nothing
else.”

Mrs. Brown introduced him to the relatives and friends near her, and
Molly had to leave him and make herself useful, as usual, in seeing that
the refreshments were forthcoming.

When they had decided to have the wedding out of doors, it had seemed
best to have the supper al fresco, and now brisk and very polite colored
waiters were busy bringing tables and chairs from a side porch and
placing them on the lawn. An odor of coffee and broiled sweetbreads,
mingling with that of chicken salad and hot beaten biscuit, began to
rival the fragrance of the orange flowers and roses.

The crowd around the bride thinning out a little to find seats at the
tables, Professor Green was able to make his way to Mildred and
Crittenden. After greeting them, he espied Judy talking sweetly to a
stern-looking woman with a hard face and a soft figure, who was dressed
severely in a stiff black silk, with most uncompromising linen collar
and cuffs. Her iron-gray hair was tightly coiled in a fashion that
emphasized her hawk-like expression, but with all she looked enough like
Mrs. Brown to establish an undeniable claim to relationship with that
charming lady. Mrs. Brown herself, in a soft black crêpe de Chine and
old lace collar and cuffs, with her wavy chestnut hair, was more
beautiful than any of her daughters, the bride herself having to take a
second place.

Judy was delighted to see the professor, and not nearly so astonished as
Molly had been, the truth being that Paul had told that young lady of
Edwin Green’s arrival, with the expectation that she would inform Molly.
But Judy, realizing the state of excitement that Molly was in,
determined to keep the news to herself and not give Molly anything more
to feel just then, even if in doing so she, Judy, would appear to be
careless and forgetful. Judy understood the regard that Molly had for
Professor Green—better than Molly herself did. She remembered Molly’s
expression and misery when little Otoyo, their Japanese friend at
Wellington, had told them of his being so dangerously ill with typhoid,
and how Molly had lost weight and could neither sleep nor eat until the
crisis had passed.

“Did you ever see such a beautiful wedding in your life?” said Judy.

“Never, and I am told it was all your plan, even to the holly-hock
background.”

“Well, you see the idea was floating around in the air, and I was just
the one who had her idea-net ready and caught it. Ideas are like
butterflies, anyhow—all flying around waiting to be pounced on—but the
thing is to have your net ready.”

“Yes, and another thing, not to handle the butterfly idea too roughly.
Many an idea, beautiful in itself, is ruined in the working out,” said
her companion.

“That is where taste comes in.”

Judy would have liked to chase the metaphor much farther with the
agreeable young man, but she remembered that she had set out to
fascinate Aunt Clay, and it was Aunt Sarah Clay to whom she had been
talking when Professor Green had come up. She introduced him, and Mrs.
Clay immediately pounced on him with a tirade against innovations of all
kinds.

Looking very much as we are led by the cartoonists to expect a
suffragist to look, Mrs. Clay was the most ardent “anti.” Opposed to all
progress and innovations, and constantly at war on the subject of higher
education of women, she carried her conservatism even to the point of
having her grain cut with a scythe instead of using the up-to-date
machinery. Professor Green was her natural enemy, for was he not
instructor in a girls’ school where, she was led to understand, belief
in equal suffrage was as necessary for entrance as the knowledge of
Latin or mathematics?

Professor Green, ignorant of the antagonism she felt for him and his
calling, endeavored to make himself as agreeable as possible to Molly’s
aunt. He listened with seeming respect to her attack on modernism and
then turned the subject to the wedding, her pretty nieces and
fine-looking nephews.

“I never heard of any one getting married out of doors before in my
life, and had I known they were contemplating such a thing I certainly
should not have set my foot on the place, nor would I have sent them the
handsome wedding present I did. I shall not be at all astonished if the
bishop reprimands that sentimental old Dr. Peters for allowing anything
so undignified in connection with the church ritual. They had much
better jump over a broomstick like Gypsies and not desecrate our prayer
book in such a manner. Mildred Carmichael has brought all her children
up to have their own way. The idea of none of those boys being willing
to stay on the farm where their forefathers managed to make a living,
and a very good one! They, forsooth, must go as clerks or reporters or
what not into cities and let their farm go to rack and ruin, already
mortgaged until it is top-heavy. Then when they do make a little, they
must squander it in this absurd new-fangled machinery, labor-saving
devices that I have no use for in the world. And now Molly, not content
with four years wasted at college, to say nothing of the money, says she
wants to go back to fit herself more thoroughly for making her living.
Living, indeed! Where are her brothers that she need feel the necessity
of making her living?”

“But, Mrs. Clay,” Judy here broke in, “my father says that there are
only three male relatives that a woman should expect to support her: her
father, her husband and her son. Since Molly has none of these, she, of
course, wants to do something for herself. Even with a father, unless
the father is very well off, it seems to me a girl ought to help after a
lot has been spent on her education. I certainly mean to do something,
but the trouble is, the only thing I can do will mean more money spent
before I can accomplish anything.”

“And what does such a charming person as Miss Kean expect to do?” asked
the irascible old lady.

“I want to go to Paris and study to become a decorator.” This was too
much for Mrs. Clay. Without saying a word, she turned and stalked across
the lawn where the waiters were carrying trays of food.

“Hateful old thing! I hope food will improve her temper. It would
certainly be acceptable to me. See, here comes Kent with a table! I’ll
find Molly and we can have a fine foursome, and you shall taste Aunt
Mary’s beaten biscuit, hot from the oven. No wonder Molly is such an
angel. If, as the cereal ads. say, we are what our food makes us, any
one raised on Aunt Mary’s cooking would have to be good. Goodness knows
what Aunt Clay eats! It must be thistles and green persimmons!”



CHAPTER VI.—BUTTERMILK TACT.


Mildred, dressed in her pretty brown traveling suit, off to Iowa; the
last slipper and handful of rice thrown; the last lingering guest
departed; daylight passed and the moon well up; and at last Mrs. Brown
and Judy and Molly were free to sink on a settle on the porch, realizing
for the first time how tired and footsore they were.

“Oh, my dears, I feel as though I could never get up again! It is a good
thing I am so tired, for now I shall have to sleep and can’t grieve for
Mildred all night. I begged Professor Green to stay, but he had to go
back to Louisville. However, he is coming out to Chatsworth to-morrow to
pay us the promised visit. We shall have to pack the presents in the
morning to send to Iowa, and glad I’ll be to get them out of the house.
Did I tell you, Molly, that Aunt Mary, Ca’line and Lewis are all going
off to-morrow to Jim Jourdan’s basket funeral? We shall be alone, you
and Judy and I. Sue goes to your Aunt Clay’s for a few days, and Kent
starts back to work, the dear boy. Such a comfort as he has been! Ernest
has to look up some friends in town, but will be out in time for supper.
I fancy he will drive Professor Green out from Louisville. Good night,
my dear girls, I know you are dead tired.”

So they were, so tired that Judy overslept in the morning, but Molly was
up betimes to help the servants get off on their gruesome spree.

“Now ain’t that jes’ like my Molly baby? She don’ never fergit to be
he’pful. Th’ ain’t no cookin’ fer you to do to-day, honey; they’s plenty
of bis’it lef’ from the jamboree las’ night; they’s a ham bone wif ‘nuf
on it fer you and yo’ ma an’ Miss Judy to pick on; they’s a big bowl er
chick’n salid in the ‘frigerater that I jes’ bodaciously tuck away from
that black Lewis. I done tol’ him that awlive ile my’naise ain’t no
eatin’s fer niggers. If his insides needs a greasin’ he kin take a good
swaller er castor ile. Tell yo’ ma I made that lazy Ca’line churn fo’
sun-up ’cause they wa’nt a drap er butter in the house, an’ the
buttermilk is in the big jar in the da’ry. They’s a pot er cabbage
simperin’ on the back er the stove, but that ain’t meant fer the white
folks, but jes’ in case we needs some comfort when we gits back from the
funeral. I tried to save some ice cream fer my honey baby from las’
night an’ had it all packed good fer keepin’, but looked like in the
night I took sech a cravin’ fer some mo’ I couldn’ sleep ‘thout I had
some, an’ by the time I opened up the freezer an’ et some, it looked
like the res’ of it jes’ melted away somehow.”

“Well, Aunt Mary, I am so glad you got some more. Have a good time and
don’t worry about us. We shall get along all right. You see there are no
men on the place to-day, and women can eat anything the day after a
party. You know my teacher, Professor Green, is going to be here for a
visit. He is coming this evening in time for supper, and I do hope you
won’t be too tired after the basket funeral to make him some waffles.”

“What, me tired? I ain’t a-goin’ to be doin’ nothin’ all day but enjyin’
of myself; and if I won’t have the stren’th myself to stir up a few
waffles fer my baby’s frien’s, I’s still survigerous ’nuf to make that
Ca’line do it. I allus has a good time at funerals an’ a basket funeral
is the mos’ enjyble of all entertainments.”

Judy came on the scene just then and begged to be enlightened as to the
nature of a basket funeral.

“Well, you see, honey, when a member dies at a onseasonable time, or at
the beginning of the week an’ you can’t keep him ‘til Sunday, or in
harvestin’ time when ev’ybody is busy an’ the hosses is all workin’, why
then we jes’ bury the corpse quiet like. And then when work gits slack
an’ there is some chanst to borrow the white folks’ teams, we gits
together an’ ev’ybody takes a big lunch an’ we impair to the seminary
an’ have a preachment over the grave and then a big jamboree.” The old
woman stopped to chuckle, and such a contagious chuckle she had that you
found yourself laughing with her before you knew what the joke was.

“I ‘member moughty well when this here same Jim Jourdan, what is to be
preached over an’ prayed over an’ et over to-day, was doin’ the same by
his second wife Suky Jourdan, an’ that was after I had buried my Cyrus
an’ befo’ I took up wif my Albert. It was a hot day in July when
fryin’-size chick’ns was jes’ about comin’ on good an’ fat, an’ I had a
scrumptious lot of victuals good ‘nuf fer white folks. Jim looked so
ferlorn that I as’t him to sit down an’ try to worry down some eatin’s
with us. He was vas’ly pleased to do so, an’ look like he couldn’ praise
my cookin’ ‘nuf; an’ befo’ we got to the pie, he up an’ ast me to come
occupy Suky’s place in his cabin. I never said one word, but I got up
an’ fetched a big pa’m leaf fan out’n the waggin an han’ it to him.
‘What’s this fer, Sis Mary?’ sez he, an’ sez I, ‘You jes’ take this here
fan an’ fan you’ secon’ ‘til she’s col’, and then come a seekin’ yo’
third.’”

The girls laughed until the tears rolled down their cheeks over Aunt
Mary’s unique courtship. The red-wheeled wagon came up driven by Lewis
with Ca’line sitting beside him, dressed within an inch of her life.
Molly got a box for Aunt Mary to step on to climb into the vehicle, but
the old woman refused to budge until Lewis took out the back seat and
got a rocking chair for her to sit in.

“You know moughty well, you fergitful nigger, that I allus goes to
baskit funerals a-settin’ in a rockin’ cheer! Go git the one offen the
back po’ch, the red one with the arms to it. Sho as I go a-settin’ on a
back seat some lazy pusson what can’t borrow a team will come a-astin’
fer to ride longside er me, an’ I don’ want nobody a-rumplin’ me up, an’
’sides ole Miss never lent this waggin fer all the niggers in Jeff’son
County to come a-crowdin’ in an ben’in’ the springs. Then when we gits
to the buryin’ groun’, I’ll have a cheer to sit in an’ not have to go
squattin’ ‘roun’ on grabe stones.”

“Good-by, Aunt Mary, good-by, Ca’line and Lewis.”

The girls waved until they were out of sight and then went laughing into
the quiet house. It seemed quiet, indeed, after the hub-bub of the day
before.

“Everything certainly stayed clean with all of the guests out of doors.
I have never had an entertainment with so little to do when it was
over,” said Mrs. Brown. “It was a good day for the servants to go away,
with the house in such good order and enough left-overs from the wedding
supper for three lone women to feed on for several meals. I wonder how
your Aunt Clay is getting on with her harvesting? She is so headstrong
not to borrow my cutting machine! Why does she insist that flour made
from wheat cut with a scythe makes better bread than that cut with
modern machinery?”

“She declared yesterday, mother, that she was not going to feed her
hands until they got through mowing, if it took them until nightfall.
She says you spoil all darkeys that come near you, and she is going to
show them who is boss on her place. Kent infuriated her by telling her
she would get herself into trouble if she did not look out; that her
wheat was already overripe, and if she attempted to make her hands work
over dinner hour they would leave it half cut; but advice to Aunt Clay
always sends her in the opposite direction.”

“I wish I had not let Sue go over there. Most of those harvesters are
strangers from another county, and they might do something desperate if
Sarah antagonized them.”

“Don’t worry, mother, Cyrus Clay is over there, and he is sure to take
good care of Sue.”

The morning was spent with much gay talk as they packed the presents.
Mrs. Brown was the kind of woman who could enter into the feelings of
young people. She seemed to be of their generation and was never shocked
or astonished when in their talk she realized that things had changed
since her day. She usually made the best of it and put it down to
“progress” of some sort. They worked faithfully, and by twelve o’clock
had tied up and labeled the last parcel to go in the last barrel.

“Come on, girls, let’s have an early lunch and then we can have our much
needed and hard-earned rest. A good nap all around will make us feel
like ourselves again.”

How good that lunch did taste! Molly had been so excited that she could
not swallow food the evening before, and Mrs. Brown had been so busy
looking after guests that she had forgotten to eat. Judy was the only
one who had done justice to the supper, but, having tested it, she was
more than willing to try the chicken salad again.

“Never mind washing the dishes; put them in a dish-pan for Ca’line. Get
into your kimonos and take a good nap. I am sick for sleep,” yawned Mrs.
Brown.

In five minutes they were dead to the world, lost in that midsummer
afternoon sleep, the heaviest of all slumber. Everything was perfectly
still except the bees, buzzing around the honey-suckle. A venturesome
vine had made its way through Molly’s window, ever open in summer, and
as Judy lay, half asleep, she amused herself by watching a great bumble
bee sip honey from the fragrant flowers, and his humming was the last
sound that she was conscious of hearing. It seemed like a minute, so
heavily had she slept—it was really several hours—when she was awakened
with a nightmare that the bee was as big as a horse and his humming was
that of a thousand bees.

“Molly, Molly, listen, what is that noise?”

Molly, ever a light sleeper, was out of bed in a trice and at the front
window. What a sight met her eyes! Coming up the avenue was a crowd of
at least forty negroes, all of them carrying scythes and whetstones, the
sweat pouring from their black faces and bared necks and hairy chests,
their white teeth flashing and eyeballs rolling, the sun glinting on the
sharp steel of their scythes, menace and fury darkening the face of
every man and coming from them a mutter and hum truly like the buzzing
of a thousand bees.

Judy, although she was weak with fear, could not help thinking, “That is
the noise on the stage that a mob tries to make.”

“Aunt Clay’s hands have struck work, and to think there is not a man on
this place! I believe the blackguards know it! Load your pistol, Judy,
and let us go to mother.”

Mother was already up, hastily gowned in her wrapper, and opening the
front door when the girls came down the stairs. The intrepid lady walked
out on the porch with seemingly no more fear than she had had the day
before when she came forward to meet the wedding guests. Head erect,
eyes steady and piercing, with a voice clear and composed, she said,
“Why, boys, you look very tired and hot, and I know you are hungry. Sit
down in the shade, on the porch steps and under the trees, and I will
see what we can find for you to eat. Molly, go get that buttermilk out
of the dairy. The jar is too heavy for you to lift, so take Buck and let
him carry it for you.”

Mrs. Brown, with all of her courage, was never more scared in her life.
All the time she was talking she had been looking in the crowd of black
faces for a familiar one, and was glad to recognize Buck Jourdan, a
good-natured, good-for-nothing nephew of Aunt Mary’s. At her command
Buck stepped forward, and then a dozen more of the men came to the
front, unconsciously separating themselves from the rest. Mrs. Brown saw
that they were all negroes belonging in her neighborhood. At her calming
words and proffer of food such a change came over the faces of the mob
that they hardly seemed to be the same men. Their teeth showed now in
grins instead of sinister snarls; they stacked their murderous looking
weapons against the paulownia tree and sat down in the shade with
expressions as peaceful as the wedding guests themselves had worn.

Molly and the stalwart Buck were back in an incredibly short time with
the five-gallon jar of buttermilk and a tray of glasses not yet put away
from yesterday’s feast. Mrs. Brown herself dipped out the smooth,
luscious beverage, seeing that each man was plentifully served, while
Molly went into the house to bring out all the cooked provisions she
could find. Mrs. Brown beckoned the trembling and wondering Judy to her
and whispered, “Go ring the farm bell as loud as you can. All danger is
over now, I feel sure, but it is well to let the neighbors know that we
are in some difficulty; and I fancy I heard a horse trotting on the
turnpike, and whoever it is might hasten to us at the sound of a farm
bell at this unusual hour.”

Judy flew to the great bell, hung on a high post in the back yard. She
seized the rope, and then such a ding-dong as pealed forth! The bell was
a very heavy brass one, and at every pull Judy, who was something of a
lightweight, leaped into the air, reciting as she jumped, “Curfew shall
not ring to-night.”

“That is enough, my dear. There is no use in getting help from an
adjacent county, and I fancy every one in Jefferson County has heard the
bell by this time,” said Mrs. Brown, stopping her before she had quite
finished the last stanza, which Judy said was like interrupting a good
sneeze.

Molly had found all kinds of food for the hungry laborers, who were more
sinned against than sinning. They had gone in all good faith to the Clay
farm to harvest the wheat according to the antiquated methods of the
mistress, with scythes and cradles. When twelve o’clock, the dinner hour
everywhere, came, they were told that they could not eat until they had
finished. They had worked on until two, and then, infuriated with hunger
and goaded on by the thought of the injustice done them, they had struck
in a body and gone to the mansion to try to force Mrs. Clay to feed
them; but they had been held back at the point of a pistol, by that lady
herself. Then they had determined to get food where they could find it.

Mrs. Brown gathered this much from the men as, their hunger assuaged,
they talked more connectedly.

“Th’ ain’t nothin’ like buttermilk to ease yo’ heart,” said Buck Jasper.
“Mis’ Mildred Carmichael kin git mo’ outen her niggers fillin’ ’em full
er buttermilk than her sister Mis’ Sary kin fillin’ ’em full er
buckshot.”

Mrs. Brown was right; she had heard a horse trotting on the turnpike.
The men were wiping their mouths on the backs of their hands and coming
up one at a time to thank the gracious lady for her kindness in feeding
them, when Ernest and Edwin Green came driving into the avenue.

“Mother! What does this mean? I thought I heard the farm bell when I was
about two miles from home, and now I find the yard full of negro men.
Have you had a fire?”

Mrs. Brown explained that Aunt Clay had made things pretty hot for her
hands, but so far there had been no other fire. She welcomed Professor
Green to Chatsworth and called the grinning Buck to take his suitcase to
the cottage porch. Judy wondered at her calm manner and at her saying
nothing to Ernest about their being so frightened, not realizing that
one hint of the trouble would have sent Ernest off into a rage, when he
might have reprimanded the negroes and all the good work of the
buttermilk have been undone. Molly was pale and Professor Green, ever
watchful of her, asked Judy to give him an account of the matter, which
she did in such a graphic manner that he, too, turned pale to think of
the danger those dear ladies had been in. He made himself at home by
making himself useful, and helped Molly to carry back into the kitchen
the empty glasses and plates from the feast of the hungry darkeys. She
laughingly handed him a great, iron pot in which cabbage had been
cooked.

“I am wondering what Aunt Mary will say about her cabbage. Mother sent
me into the house to get all available food, when she realized that the
hands were simply hungry and that food would be the best thing to quell
their rage. Aunt Mary had this huge pot of cabbage on the back of the
range; she said in case Lewis jolted down the lunch she was going to eat
at the basket funeral she would have it cooked in readiness. The poor
dogs will have to go hungry, too, or have some more corn bread cooked
for them. I found this big pan full of what we call dog-bread, made from
scalded meal and salt and bacon drippings, baked until it is crisp. The
men were crazy about it with pot liquor poured over it. You can see for
yourself how they licked their platters clean.”

“The Saxon word ‘lady’ means bread-giver, but I think that you and your
mother have given it a new significance, and the dictionaries will have
to add, ‘Dispenser of cabbage and buttermilk and dog-bread.’”

More wheels, and Aunt Mary and Lewis, with Ca’line much rumpled and
asleep on the front seat, her shoes and stockings in her lap and her
bare feet propped gracefully on the dashboard, had returned. Aunt Mary
was much excited.

“What’s all dis doin’? Who was all dem niggers I seen a-streakin’ crost
the fiel’s? Buck Jourdan, ain’t that you I see hidin’ behine that tree?
I thought I hearn the farm bell as we roun’ed the Pint, but Lewis lowed
’twas over to Miss Sary Clay’s. Come here, Buck, an’ he’p me out’n dis
here waggin. You needn’t think you kin hide from me, when I kin see the
patch on yo’ pants made outen the selfsame goods I gib yo’ ma to make
some waistes out’n, two years ago come next Febuway.” Buck came
sheepishily forward to help his old aunt out of the vehicle. “Nex’ time
you wan’ ter hide from me you’d better make out to grow a leettle
leaner, or fin’ a tree what’s made out to grow some wider so’s you won’t
stick out beyant it. What you been doing, and who’s been a-mashin’ down
ole Miss’s grass, and what’s my little Miss Molly baby a-doin’ workin’
herself to death ag’in to-day?”

Buck endeavored to explain his appearance, and told the story of the
strike at Mrs. Clay’s and how they were just passing through Mrs.
Brown’s yard when she had come out and invited them all to dinner. His
story was so plausible and his voice so soft and manner so wheedling,
that Professor Green, who overheard the conversation, was much amused,
and had he not already got the incident from Judy might have believed
Buck, so convincing were his words and manner. Not so Aunt Mary, who had
partly raised the worthless Buck and knew better than anyone how he
could use his silver tongue to lie as well as tell the truth, but
preferred the former method.

“Now, look here, you Buck Jourdan, you ain’t no count on Gawd’s green
yearth ‘cep to play the banjo. What you been doin’ hirin’ yo’self out to
Miss Sary Clay, jes’ like you ain’t never know’d that none of our fambly
don’ never work fer none er hern? Yo’ ma befo’ you an’ yo’ gran’ma befo’
her done tried it. Meanin’ no disrespect to the rest er the Carmichaels,
der’s the ole sayin’, ‘What kin you expec’ from a hog but a grunt?’ I
knows ‘thout goin’ in my kitchen that Miss Molly done gib all you
triflin’ niggers my pot er cabbage an’ the dog-bread I baked fer those
houn’s an’ bird dogs what ain’t no mo’ count than you is, ‘cept’n they
can’t play the banjo.”

“Buck Jourdan, is that you?” said Ernest, coming forward and
interrupting Aunt Mary’s tirade. “I am going to get Miss Molly’s banjo
and you can sit down and give us some music. I haven’t heard a good tune
since I went West.”

Buck, glad to escape any farther tongue lashing from his relative, and
always pleased to play and sing, tuned the banjo and began:

  “‘Hi,’ said the ’possum as he shook the ‘simmon tree,
  ‘Golly,’ said the rabbit; ‘you shake ’em all on me.’
  An’ they went in wif they claws, an’ they licked they li’l paws,
  An’ they took whole heaps home to they maws.”

After several stanzas sung in a soft melodious voice, Buck, at Molly’s
request, gave them, to a chanting recitative the following song,
composed by a friend of Buck’s, and worthy to be incorporated in
American folk-lore, so Professor Green laughingly assured Mrs. Brown.

  THE MURDER OF THE RATTAN FAMILY.

  “One evening in September, in eighteen ninety-three,
  Jim Stone committed a murder, as cruel as it could be.
  ’Twas on the Rattan family, while they were preparing for their bed.
  Jim Stone, he rapped upon the door, complaining of his head.
  The first was young Mrs. Rattan. She come to let him in.
  He slew her with his corn knife—that’s where his crime begin.
  The next was old Mrs. Rattan. Old soul was feeble and gray.
  Truly she fought Jim Stone a battle till her strength it give way.
  The next was the little baby. When he, Jim Stone did see,
  He raised up in his cradle. ‘Oh! Jim Stone, don’t murder me!’
  Next morning when he was arrested—wasn’t sure that he was the one.
  Till only a few weeks later he confessed to the crime he done.
  They took him to Southern Prison, which they thought was the
    safetes’ place.
  When they marched him out for trial, he had a smile upon his face.
  And after he was sentenced, oh! how he did mourn and cry.
  One day he received a letter, saying his daughter was bound to die.
  Next morning he answered the letter and in it he did say,
  ‘Tell her I’ll meet her there in Heaven, on the sixteenth of Februway.’
  They led him upon the scaffold with the black cap over his head.
  And he hung there sixteen minutes ‘fore the doctors pronounced
    him dead.
  Now wouldn’t it have been much better if he’d stayed at home
    with his wife,
  Instead of keeping late hours, and taking that family’s life?”



CHAPTER VII.—PICTURES ON MEMORY’S WALL.


The next week was a very quiet and peaceful one at Chatsworth. There had
been so many excitements, with burglars and negro uprisings and what
not, that Molly was afraid her visitors would think Kentucky deserved
the meaning the Indians attached to it—“the dark and bloody
battle-ground.”

Ernest, home for a vacation from his labors in the West, endeavored to
keep Judy from missing the attentions of Kent, who was back at his grind
in Louisville in the architect’s office, and did not get home each day
until time for a late supper. Judy liked Ernest very well, as she did
all of the Browns, but Kent and Molly were her favorites still, and the
evenings were the best of all when Kent came home and, as he put it,
“relieved Ernest.”

Molly found herself on easier terms with Professor Green than she had
ever imagined possible. If he did not consider her quite an old lady,
she at least was beginning to look upon him as not such a very old
gentleman. He played what Kent designated as a “cracker-jack” game of
tennis, and turned out to be as good a horseman as the Brown boys
themselves.

“If he only had a little more hair on his forehead,” thought Molly, “he
would look right young.”

Aunt Mary was the unconscious means of consoling her for his lack of
hair. “Honey, I likes yo’ teacher mo’n any Yankee I ever seed. He’d
oughter rub onions on his haid to stimilate the roots. Not but what he
ain’t han’some, baldish haid an’ all, with them hones’ eyes an’ that
upstandin’ look. I done took notice that brains don’ make the best sile
to grow ha’r on an’ lots er smart folks is baldish. Mindjer, I wouldn’
go so fer as to say bald haided folks is all smart. It looks like some
er them is so hard-haided the ha’r can’t break th’ough the scalp.”

Of course, the first day at Chatsworth he had to be taken out to view
his possessions, the two acres of orchard land. It was a possession for
any man to be proud of. It lay on the side of a gently sloping hill
covered with blue grass and noble, venerable, twisted apple trees, that
Molly said reminded her of fine old hands that showed hard, useful work.

“And these trees always have done good work. You know my father called
these his lucky acres. He was always certain of an income from these
apples. The trees have been taken care of and trimmed and not allowed to
rot away as some of the old orchards around here have, Aunt Clay’s, for
instance. She is so afraid of doing something modern that she refused to
spray her trees when the country was full of San José scale, and in
consequence lost her whole peach orchard and most of her apples. This is
where our ‘castle’ used to be.”

They were in a grassy space near the middle of the orchard, where a
stump of an old tree was still standing. The land, showing a beautiful
soft contour, sloped to the worm fence at the foot of the hill, where
the grass changed its green to a brighter hue and a beautiful little
stream sparkled in the sun.

“All of us, even Sue, who is not given to such things, cried when in a
big wind storm our beloved castle was twisted off of its roots. It was a
tree made for children to play in, with low spreading branches and great
crotches, the limbs all twisted and bent and one of them curving down so
low you could sit in it and touch your feet to the ground. We had our
regular apartments in that tree and kept our treasures in a hole too
high up for thieves to have any suspicion of it. It was so shady and
cool and breezy that on the hottest day we were comfortable and often
had lunch here. We played every kind of game known to children and made
up a lot more. ‘Swiss Family Robinson’ when they went to live up the
tree was our best game. I remember once Kent gathered a lot of
peach-tree gum and ruined my slippers trying to make rubber boots out of
them as the father in Swiss Family Robinson did. Our castle had
wonderful apples on it, too. They grew to an enormous size, and if any
of them were ever allowed to get really ripe they turned pure gold and
tasted—oh, how good they did taste.”

Edwin Green listened, enchanted at Molly’s description of her childhood
and the beloved play-house. He half shut his eyes and tried to picture
her as a little girl in a blue sun-bonnet—of course she must have had a
blue bonnet—climbing nimbly up the old apple tree, entering as eagerly
into the game of Swiss Family Robinson as she was now playing the game
of life, even letting her best little slippers be gummed over to play
the game true. He had a feeling of almost bitter regret that he hadn’t
known Molly as a little girl. “She must have been such a bully little
girl,” thought that highly educated teacher of English.

“Miss Molly, do you think that this would be the best place to build my
bungalow? Place it right here where your castle stood? Maybe I could
catch some of the breezes that you used to enjoy; and perhaps some of
the happiness that you found here was spilled over and I might pick it
up. It could not be so beautiful as your tree castle, but it is my
‘Castle in the Air.’ If I put it here I should not have to sacrifice any
of the other trees; there is room enough where your old friend stood for
my modest wants. Would it hurt your feelings to have me build a little
house where your childish mansion stood?”

“Why, Professor Green, the idea of such a thing! It would give me the
greatest happiness to have your bungalow right on this site. I would not
be a dog in the manger about it, anyhow. Are you really and truly going
to build?”

“I hope to. Of course, I shall have to ask your mother if she would mind
having such a close neighbor.”

“Well, I hardly think mother would expect to sell a lot and then not let
the purchaser build. She may have to sell some more of the place. I wish
it could be that old stony strip over by Aunt Clay’s. You know our home,
Chatsworth, is a Brown inheritance, and the Carmichael place adjoining
belonged to mother’s people. They call it the Clay place now, but until
grandfather died it was known as the Carmichael place. Aunt Clay married
and lived there and somehow got hold of grandfather and made him appoint
her administratrix and executrix to his estate. She managed things so
well for herself that she got the house with everything in it and the
improved, cleared land, giving mother acres and acres of poor land where
even blackberries don’t flourish and the cows won’t graze. The sheep
won’t drink the water, but they do condescend to keep down the weeds. I
really believe that Aunt Clay is the only person in the world that I
can’t like even a little bit. I fancy it is because she has been so mean
to mother. I believe I could get over her being cross and critical with
me, but somehow I can’t forgive the way she has always treated mother.”

“I found her a very trying companion at your sister’s wedding, and she
looks as though she had brains, too. But how anyone with sense could be
anything but kind to your mother I cannot see.”

Molly beamed with pleasure. “Ah, you see how wonderful mother is. I
thought you would appreciate her. She likes you, too, Professor Green.
Mother says she believes she understands boys better than girls and can
enter into their feelings more.”

“Oh, what am I saying?” thought Molly. “I wonder what the Wellington
girls would say if they could know I forgot and as good as called their
Professor of English a boy! Well, he does look quite boyish out of
doors, with his hat on.”

They strolled on down toward the brook, Molly patting each tree as they
passed and telling some little incident of her childhood.

“I truly believe you love every one of these trees. You touch them as
lovingly as you do President or the dogs, and look at them as fondly as
you do at old Aunt Mary.”

“Indeed, I do; and, as for this little stream, it makes to me the
sweetest music in the world.”

“Miss Molly, when I build my little bungalow, will you come and have
lunch with me as you used to with your brothers in the old castle? I’ll
promise you not to let you eat at the second table as you did when you
took breakfast with me last Christmas.”

They both laughed at the thought of that morning; and Molly remembered
that it was then that she had overheard Professor Green tell his
housekeeper of his apple orchard out in Kentucky, and had realized for
the first time that it was he who had bought the orchard at Chatsworth.

“Indeed, I will take lunch with you, and would like to cook it, too, as
I did your breakfast that cold morning. Do you know, when you came
downstairs and I peeped at you through the crack in the pantry door, you
looked and sounded almost as fierce as the mob of colored men who came
hungry from Aunt Clay’s last week? The nice breakfast I fixed for you
seemed to soften your temper just as mother’s buttermilk did the
darkies’. Aunt Mary says, ‘White men and black men is all the same on
the inside, and all of them is Hungarians.’”

Edwin Green laughed, as he always did when Molly got on the subject of
Aunt Mary. The old woman was a never failing source of wonder and
amusement to him; and Molly mimicked her so well that you could almost
see her short, fat figure with her head tied up in a bandanna
handkerchief, vigorously nodding to punctuate each epigram.

“Next winter I hope to have my sister with me at Wellington, and she
will see that this ‘Hungarian’ is fed better than my housekeeper has.
You will come to us a great deal, I hope. I am overjoyed that you are to
take the postgraduate course. That was the one pleasant thing your aunt,
Mrs. Clay, had to tell me when I conversed with her at the wedding, and
she little dreamed how pleasant it was, or I doubt her giving me that
joy.”

“I am truly glad. I hated to give up right now. It seemed to me as
though I could see the open door of culture but had not reached it, and
had a lot of things to learn before I had any right to consider myself
fit to pass through it. Mother and Kent together decided it must be
managed for me. They are both bricks, anyhow.”

The young people had come to the little purling brook during this
conversation, and at Molly’s instigation had turned down the stream and
entered, through a break in the worm fence, a beautiful bit of woods.
The beech woods in Kentucky are, when all is told, about the most
beautiful woods in the world. No shade is so dense, no trees more noble,
not even oaks. With the grace of an aspen and the dignity of an oak, the
beech to my mind is first among trees.

  “Of all the beautiful pictures
    That hang on Memory’s wall,
  Is one of a dim old forest
    That seemeth the best of all.

  “Not for the gnarled oaks olden,
    Dark with the mistletoe,
  Not for the violets golden
    That sprinkle the vale below.

  “Not for the milk-white lilies
    Leaning o’er the hedge,
  Coquetting all day with the sunbeams
    And stealing their golden edge.”

Molly quoted the verses in her soft, clear voice, adding:

“I say ‘gnarled oaks olden’ for euphony, but I always think ‘beech.’ I
don’t know what Miss Alice or Phœbe Gary, whichever one it was who wrote
those lovely verses, would think of my taking such a liberty, even in my
mind.”

“No doubt if Miss Alice or Phœbe Cary could have seen this wood, she
would have searched about in her mind for a line to fit beeches and let
oaks go hang. This is really a wonderful spot. Can’t we sit down a
while? I hope your mother will let me have right of way through these
woods when I build my nest in the orchard. This makes my lot more
valuable than I thought. I have never seen such beech trees; why, in the
East a beech is not such a wonderful tree! We have an occasional big
one, but here are acres and acres of genuine first growth. You must love
it here even more than in the orchard, don’t you?”

“Well, you see the orchard period is what might be known as my early
manner; while the beech woods is my romantic era. I used to come here
after I got old enough to roam around by myself, and a certain mystery
and gloom I felt in the air would so fill my soul with rapture that (I
know you think this is silly) I would sit right where we are sitting now
and cry and cry just for the pure joy of having tears to shed, I
suppose! I know of no other reason.”

Professor Green smiled, but his eyes had a mist in them as he looked at
the young girl, little more than a child now, with her sweet, wistful
expression, already looking back on her childhood as a thing of the past
and her “romantic era” as though she had finished with it.

“Oh, Miss Molly, let’s stay in the ‘beech wood period’ forever! None of
us can afford to give up romance or the dear delight of tears for tears’
sake. I love to think of you as a little child playing in the apple
orchard, and as a beautiful girl wandering in the woods. But do you
know, a still more beautiful picture comes to my inward eye, and that is
an old Molly with white hair sitting where you are now, still in the
‘romantic era,’ still in the beech woods; and, God willing, I’ll be
beside you, only,” he whimsically added, “I am afraid I’ll be
bald-headed instead of white-haired!”



CHAPTER VIII.—ALL KINDS OF WEATHER.


The days went dreamily on. Edwin Green lengthened his stay in Kentucky
until he really became touchy on the subject, and one day when some one
spoke of the old Virginia gentleman who came in out of the rain and
stayed six years, he told Mrs. Brown that he felt very like that old
man. She was hospitality itself, and made him understand that he was
more than welcome, and, every time he set a date for his departure, some
form of entertainment was immediately on foot where his presence seemed
both desirable and necessary, and his going away was postponed again.
Once it was a coon hunt with Ernest and John and Lewis, the colored
gardener; once it was a moonlight picnic at a wonderful spot called
Black Rock.

On that occasion they drove in a hay wagon over a road that was a
disgrace to Kentucky, and then up a dry creek bed until they came to the
great black boulder that stood at least twenty feet in the air; there
they made their temporary camp. Kent confided to Professor Green that
they never dared to come up that creek bed unless they were sure of
clear weather, as it had been known to fill so quickly with a big rain
that it drowned a man and horse. It was innocent enough then, with only
a thin stream of water trickling along the rocks, sometimes forming a
pool where the horses would go in almost to their knees; but, as a rule,
they went dry shod along the bed. It was rough riding, but no one
minded. There was plenty of hay in the wagon for young bones, and Mrs.
Brown, who was chaperoning, had a pillow to sit on and one to lean
against. When they got to the sylvan spot every one agreed it was worth
the bumping they had undergone.

“Oh, it looks like the Doone Valley,” said Judy.

And so it did, except that the stream of water was not quite so big as
the one John Ridd had to climb up.

There were sixteen in the party, which filled the big wagon comfortably
so that no one had room to bounce out. Paul and Ernest had invited two
girls from Louisville, who turned out to be very pleasant and attractive
and in for a good time. The only person who was not very agreeable was
John’s friend, the girl visiting Aunt Clay, a Miss Hunt from Tennessee.
She was fussy and particular and afraid of spoiling her dress, a chiffon
thing, entirely inappropriate for a hay ride. She complained of a
headache, and, besides, as Molly said, “she didn’t sit fair.” That is a
very important thing to do on a hay ride. One person doubling up or
lolling can upset the comfort of a whole wagon load. You must sit with
your feet stretched out, making what quilt makers call “the every other
one pattern.”

“I am glad she acts this way,” whispered Mrs. Brown to Molly. “I know
now why I can’t abide her. I couldn’t tell before.”

Miss Hunt’s selfishness did not seem to worry her admirers any. John was
all devotion, as were the two other young men who came along in her
train. They were sorry about her headache and wanted to make room in the
wagon for her to lie down; but Mrs. Brown was firm there and said it was
a pity for her to suffer, but she thought it might injure her back
unless she sat up going over the rough road. That lady had no patience
with the headache, and thought the girl would much better have stayed at
home if she were too ill to sit up. She did not much believe in the
headache, anyhow, and was irritated to see poor Molly with her long legs
doubled up under her trying to make room for the lolling little beauty.

“She is pretty, no doubt of that,” said Edwin Green to Mrs. Brown, whom
he had elected to sit by and look after for the ride, “as pretty as a
brunette can be. I like a blonde as a rule. But it looks to me as though
Miss Molly is getting the hot end of it, as far as comfort goes.”

He would have offered to change places with Molly, but had a big reason
for refraining. That was that no other than Jimmy Lufton, Molly’s New
York newspaper friend, was occupying the seat next to Molly, and
Professor Green was determined to do nothing to show his misery at that
young man’s proximity. Jimmy had arrived quite unexpectedly that
afternoon and seemed to be as intimate with the whole Brown family in
two hours as he, Edwin Green, was after weeks of close companionship. He
tried not to feel bitter, and, next to sitting by Molly, he was sure he
would rather sit by her mother than any one in the world, certainly than
anyone in the wagon.

Jimmy was easily the life of the party. He had a good tenor voice and
knew all the new songs “hot off of the bat” from New York. He told the
funniest stories, and at the same time was so good-natured and kindly
and modest withal that you had to like him. He was not the typical funny
man. Edwin Green felt that he could not have stood Molly’s preferring a
typical funny man to him. She did prefer Jimmy, he felt almost sure, and
now he was trying to steel himself to take his medicine like a man. He
was determined not to whine and not to make Molly unhappy. He had seen
the meeting between Molly and Jimmy, and it was the flood of color that
had suffused Molly’s face and her almost painful agitation that had
convinced him of her regard for that brilliant young journalist. Had he
heard the conversation as well as seen the meeting, he might have been
spared some of his unhappiness. Jimmy had said, “Where’s my lemon?” and
Molly had answered, “Done et up.”

They piled out of the wagon. John, the woodsman of the crowd, busied
himself making a fire, demanding that the two “extra men” should come
and chop wood, determined that they should not get in too many words
with the beautiful Miss Hunt while he was working. Miss Hunt then
exercised her fascinations on Jimmy Lufton, on whom she had had her eye
ever since they left Chatsworth. Jimmy was polite, but had a
“nothing-doing” expression which quite baffled the practiced flirt. Poor
Molly’s foot had gone so fast asleep that she was forced to hop around
for at least five minutes before she could get out of the wagon and
begin to make herself useful. Kent, who had driven, with Judy on the
front seat with him, was busy taking out the four horses to let them
rest for the heavy pull home. The other young men were occupied in
various ways, lifting the hampers out of the wagon and getting water
from the beautiful spring at the foot of the huge black rock. Professor
Green came to Molly’s assistance.

“I was afraid your foot would go to sleep. You are too good to let that
girl crowd you so. She was the most deliberately selfish person I ever
saw.”

“Oh, there is always somebody like that on a hay ride. I have never been
on one yet that there wasn’t some girl along with a headache who took up
more than her share of room. I am too long to double up; but it is all
right now. The tingle has stopped, and I can bear my weight on it, I
see.”

“Did you ever see anything more beautiful than this valley? How clever
Miss Kean is in hitting off a description! I haven’t thought of the
Doone Valley for years, and now I can’t get it out of my head; these
overhanging cliffs and this green grass, green even by moonlight; and
the sensation of being in an impenetrable fortress! And the great black
rock might be Carver Doone petrified and very much magnified, left here
forever for his sins. It must be a magnificent sight when the creek is
full.”

“So it is; but I hope we shall not see that sight to-night. Lorna Doone
in the big snow was in a safe place to what we would be in a big freshet
up this valley with no way to get back but by the creek bed,” said
Molly, jumping out of the hay wagon and beginning to make ready the
supper.

Such a supper it was, with appetites to match after the long ride and
good jolting! Mrs. Brown was an old hand at picnic suppers and knew
exactly what to put in and how to pack the baskets in the most
appetizing way. There were different kinds of sandwiches, thin bread and
butter, all kinds of pickles, apple turnovers and cheese cakes; but the
crowning success of one of these camp picnics was always the hot coffee
and bacon cooked on John’s fire. The Browns kept a skillet and big
coffee pot to use only on such occasions. The cloth was soon spread and
the cold lunch arranged on it, and then in an incredibly short time the
coffee was boiling and the bacon sizzling.

“Oh, what a smell is this?” said Jimmy Lufton, emerging from behind
Black Rock, where Miss Hunt had been doing her best to captivate him.
(Kent said he bet on Jimmy to give her as good as he got.) “Mark Twain
says, ‘Bacon would improve the flavor of an angel,’ and so it would.”

“Well, I’m no angel, but I certainly do smell like bacon,” said Molly
with flushed face and rumpled hair as she knelt over the fire with a
long stick turning the luscious morsels. “Sue and Cyrus are responsible
for the coffee and the bacon is my affair.”

“As Todger’s boy says, ‘Wittles is up,’” called Jimmy to the strolling
couples, who lost no time in hurrying to the feast. Mrs. Brown was
installed at the head of the cloth, but not allowed to wait on any one.
“For once, you shall be a guest at your own table,” said Kent, taking
the coffee pot out of her hands. “Miss Judy, don’t you think we can
serve this?”

“Mostly cream for me and very little coffee,” drawled Miss Hunt.

“If you have such a bad headache you had better take it black,” said
Judy, who was aware of that young lady’s selfish behavior on the trip.
“The people who want a great deal of cream will have to wait until the
rest are served, as some of the cream got spilled; and, while there is
enough for reasonable helps, there is not enough for exorbitant
demands.”

John and the two “extras” offered their shares to the spoiled beauty,
but Judy was adamant.

“Those sandwiches with olives and mayonnaise are very rich for any one
with a liver,” said Judy later on as Miss Hunt was preparing to help
herself plentifully to the delectable food; “these plain
bread-and-butter ones would be much more wholesome for you, my dear.
What, cheese cakes for any one who is too ill to sit up straight!
Goodness gracious, Miss Hunt, do be careful! Your demise would grieve so
many it is really selfish of you not to take better care of yourself.”

“You seem to be very much concerned about my health, Miss Kean. I wonder
that you knew I did not feel well; you seemed to be fully occupied on
the journey with Mr. Kent Brown,” snapped Miss Hunt.

“So I was,” answered Judy, nothing daunted. “But whenever Kent had to
turn his attentions to the four horses when we came to rough spots in
the road and he was trying not to jolt the ambulance too much, then I
could turn around and get a good bird’s-eye view of the passengers, and
you always seemed to be on the point of fainting.”

“I know you are better now,” said Molly, who could not bear for even
Miss Hunt, who was certainly not her style of girl, to be teased. “I
know these apple turnovers won’t hurt you, and Aunt Mary makes such good
ones. Do have one, and here is some more cream if you want it in your
coffee.”

“What a sweet girl your sister is,” said Miss Hunt in an audible
whisper. “I can’t see what she finds in that Miss Kean to want her to
make her such an interminable visit.”

The ill-natured remark was heard by every one. For did you ever notice
that the way to make yourself heard in a crowd of noisy talkers is to
whisper? Molly looked ready for tears, and Kent bit his lips in rage,
but Judy, as spunky as usual, and feeling that she deserved a rebuke
from Miss Hunt, but rather shocked at the ill-bred way of delivering it,
spoke out: “Mrs. Brown, when we were laughing the other day over your
story of the old Virginia gentleman who came in out of the rain and
stayed six years, I had another one to tell, but something happened to
interrupt me. Might I tell it now?”

Mrs. Brown gave a smiling consent. She was not so tender-hearted as
Molly and, while she felt it a mistake to wrangle, she was rather
curious to see who would get ahead in this trial of wits.

“I bet my bottom dollar on Miss Judy, don’t you, mother?” said Kent in
an undertone.

“I certainly do,” whispered his mother.

“A little Southern girl we knew at college, Madeline Pettit, told in all
seriousness about a neighbor of hers who was invited to go on a visit.
She accepted, but they had to sell the cow for her to go on, and then
she had to prolong her visit for the calf to get big enough for her to
come home on. I am afraid our calf is almost big enough and papa may
come riding in on it any day and carry me off.” There was a general roar
of laughter, and then the picnickers, having eaten all that they
uncomfortably could, made a general movement toward adjournment.

“Where is the moon?” they all exclaimed at once. While they were eating
and drinking and making themselves generally merry, the proverbial
cloud, no bigger than a man’s hand, had grown and spread and now the
moon was put out of business. The cliffs were so high that a storm had
come up out of the west without any one dreaming of it.

“This creek can fill in such a hurry when a big rain comes we had better
start,” said Kent.

“Oh, don’t be such a croaker, Kent. It can’t rain. The sky was as clear
as a bell when we left home,” said Mrs. Brown, as eager as any of the
young people to prolong the good times.

“All right, mother, just as you think best, but I am going to get the
horses hitched up in case you change your mind.”

Change her mind she did in a very few minutes, as large drops of rain
began to fall. The crowd came pell-mell and scrambled into the wagon.
Mrs. Brown noticed in the confusion that she had lost her cavalier and
that Professor Green had attached himself to Molly. She was pleased to
see it, as she had felt sorry for the young man. He was evidently so
miserable, and yet at the same time so determined to make himself
agreeable to her that he had been really very charming. She loved to
talk about books, and, as she said, seldom had the chance, for the
people who knew about books and cared for them never seemed to realize
that a busy mother and housekeeper could have similar tastes.

“I get so tired of swapping recipes for pickles and talking about how to
raise children. Aunt Mary makes the pickle and my children are all
raised,” she had confided to Edwin Green. “We had a very interesting
guest on one occasion, a woman who had done a great many delightful
things and knew many delightful literary people, and I hoped to have a
real good talk with her about books; but she seemed to feel she must
stick to the obvious when she conversed with me. I often laugh when I
think of Aunt Mary’s retort courteous to this same lady. She was
constantly asking me how we made this and what we did to have that so
much better than other people, and I would always refer her to Aunt
Mary.

“Once it was bread that was under discussion. You know how difficult it
is to get a recipe from a darkey, as they never really know how they do
the things they do best. Aunt Mary told her to the best of her ability
what she did, but the woman was not satisfied. ‘Now, tell me exactly how
many cups of flour you use.’ ‘Why, bless you, we done stop dolin’ out
flour with a cup long ago an’ uses a ole broken pitcher.’ Another time
it was coffee. ‘Now, you have told me about the freshly roasted and
ground coffee, please tell me how much water.’ Aunt Mary gave a scornful
sniff. ‘You mus’ think we are stingy folks ef you think we measure
water!’ At another time she said, ‘Aunt Mary, you must have told me
wrong, because I did exactly what you said and my popovers were complete
failures.’ ‘Laws a mussy, I did fergit to tell you one thing, an’ that
is that you mus’ stir in some gumption wif ev’y aig.’”

  “De rain kep’ a-drappin’ in draps so mighty heavy;
  De ribber kep’ a-risin’ an’ bus’ed froo de levvy,
  Ring, ring de banjo, how I lub dat good ole song,
  Come, come, my true love, oh, whar you been so long?”

It was Jimmy who broke into this rollicking song, and when all of the
Brown boys, who had had an experience with this old dry creek bed once
on a ’possum hunt, heard him, they felt that the song was singularly
appropriate. They also thanked their stars that they had with them some
one who would “whoop things up” and keep the crowd cheerful, and perhaps
the ladies would not realize the danger they were in. This wet-weather
creek was fed by innumerable small branches, all of them dry now from
something of a drought that had been prevalent, and John, the woodsman,
noticed that before they had much rainfall in the valley those small
branches had begun to flow, showing that there had already been a great
storm to the west of them.

“If the rain were merely local, old Stony Creek could not do much damage
in itself, but it is the help of all of these wet-weather springs and
branches that makes it play such havoc,” whispered John to Jimmy Lufton.
“I have known it in two hours’ time to rise four feet, which sounds
incredible; and then in two hours more subside two feet, and in a day be
almost dry again. I spent four hours up on top of Black Rock once in a
sudden freshet. I would have scaled the hills, but I had some young dogs
hunting, and they were so panic-stricken and I was so afraid they would
fall down the cliffs in the creek, that I just took them up on top of
the rock; and there we sat huddled up in the driving rain until the
water subsided enough for us to wade home. Swimming is out of the
question for more than a few strokes, the current is so swift; and as
for keeping your feet and walking, you simply can’t do it.”

“We have a creek up near Lexington that goes on just such unexpected
sprees,” said Jimmy. “It will be a perfectly respectable citizen and
every one will forget its bad behavior, when suddenly it will break
loose and get so full it disgraces itself and brings shame on its family
of branches.”

By this time the whole crowd was fairly damp, but they made a joke of
it, with the exception of Miss Hunt, who was much irritated at the
damage done her pretty dress. Although she was covered up with three
coats, she clamored for more, but no more were offered her. Professor
Green took off his coat and, folding it carefully, put it under the seat
in the lunch hamper.

“I fancy you think this is a funny thing to do, but I have seen a wet
crowd almost freeze after a storm like this, and it is a great mistake
to get all of the wraps wet. It is much better to take the rain and get
wet yourself, and keep the coats dry; and then, when the rain is over,
have something warm and comfortable to put on.”

“That is a fine scheme,” said Paul, and all of the men followed Edwin
Green’s example, and Molly and Judy, who had prudently brought their
college sweaters, did the same.

“I think it is rather fun to get wet when you have on clothes that won’t
get ruined,” said Judy.

“I am glad you like it,” answered Miss Hunt, still sore over her bout
with Judy, “but I must say it is hard on me with this chiffon dress.
What will it look like after this?”

“Well, you know, chiffon is French for rag so I fancy it will look like
a Paris creation,” called back Judy from the front seat, where she was
still installed by Kent. “I’ll bet anything her hair will come out of
curl,” she whispered to her companion, “and I should not be astonished
to see some of her beauty wash off.”

“Eany, meany,” laughed Kent. “You are already way ahead of her, Miss
Judy. Do leave her her hair and complexion.”

“Well, I’ll try to be good,” said penitent Judy. “You and Molly are so
alike, it is right amusing. And the worst of it is your goodness rubs
off on everybody you come in contact with. Do you realize I have been in
Kentucky for weeks and that Miss Hunt is the first person I have had a
scrap with, and so far I have not got myself in a single ‘Julia Kean’
scrape? I have been in so many, that the girls at college have named the
particular kind of scrape I get in after me, just as though I were a
famous physician who had discovered a disease.”

“Just what kind of scrape do you usually get in?”

“The kind of scrape I get in is always one I can get out of, and usually
one that I fall in from not looking ahead enough at the consequences.”

“Well, I pray God that this will be a ‘Julia Kean’ scrape we are in
to-night. Certainly, lack of foresight got us in. I’d like to get that
weather man and throw him in this creek. ‘Generally fair and variable
winds,’ much!” said Kent with such a serious expression that Judy began
to realize that this was not simply a case of a good wetting, but might
mean something more.

The horses were knee deep in water now, but splashing bravely on. Molly
noticed that in hitching up for the homeward trip Kent had put President
in the lead.

“That is because old President has so much sense and will know how to
pick his way and keep his feet when the other horses would get scared
and begin to struggle and pull down the whole team,” said Molly to
Professor Green. Molly was fully aware of the danger they were in, but
was keeping her knowledge to herself for fear of starting a panic among
the girls. “There is no real danger of drowning,” she whispered to her
companion, “so long as we stay in the wagon. But the banks are so steep
that if we should get out we might slip into the creek and then it would
be about impossible to keep our feet. Look at the water now, up to the
hubs of the wheels! I am sorry for the horses, and what an awful
responsibility for Kent! But he is equal to it. Do you know, I really
believe Kent is equal to anything!”

It was, of course, pitch dark now, except for frequent flashes of
lightning that illuminated the raging torrents, so all were forced to
realize the grave situation.

“The horses are behaving wonderfully well, and so far all the passengers
are. I hope it will keep up,” muttered Kent. “It is awfully hard to keep
your head when you are driving if any one screams.”

“The water is in the wagon bed now. I can tell by my feet. Don’t you
think your mother ought to come on the front seat, where she can be out
of it somewhat?” suggested Judy.

“You are right. Mother, come on up here and help me drive. There is
plenty of room for three of us, and I believe you would be more
comfortable.”

Mrs. Brown got up, glad to change her position. She was more frightened
than she cared to own, and was anxious to find out just how Kent felt
about the matter.

“I am going on the front seat, too,” said the bedraggled Miss Hunt. “It
seems to me Miss Julia Kean has had the best of everything long enough.
I see no reason why she should sit high and dry during the whole drive,
while here I am absolutely and actually sitting in the water.”

Kent bit his lips in fury, but held his horses and his tongue while the
change was being made. Judy showed her breeding in a way that made Molly
proud.

“High I may be, but not dry,” said Judy, playfully shaking herself on
the already drenched Molly as she sank by her side on the soggy hay. “I
am going to see how long our fair friend will stay up there. It is
really the scariest place I ever got in. Down here you feel the water
without seeing it, but up there every flash of lightning reveals terrors
that down here are undreamed of.”

“Sit in the middle, mother, and Miss Hunt and I can take better care of
you.”

“Oh, I am afraid to sit on the outside! Mrs. Brown is much larger than I
am and could hold me in better than I could her,” said the selfish girl.

She squeezed in between mother and son, as Kent said afterward, taking
up more room then any little person that he ever saw.

  “Noah he did build an ark, one wide river to cross.
  Built it out of hickory bark, one wide river to cross.
  One wide river, and that wide river was Jordan,
  One wide river, and that wide river to cross.”

“All join in the chorus,” demanded Jimmy.

There were many verses to the time-honored song, and before they got all
the animals in the ark the moon suddenly came out from behind a very
black cloud, and the rain was over, but not the flood.

“It took many days and nights for the water to subside for old Noah, and
we may expect the same delay in our case,” said the happy and
irrepressible Jimmy.

Kent was glad indeed for the light of the moon. He had really had to
leave it to President to take the proper road, or, rather, channel. That
brave old horse had gone sturdily on, and, when one of the younger
horses had begun to struggle and pull back, he had turned solemnly
around and given him a soft little bite.

“Mother, did you see that? And look at that off horse now! I bet he will
behave after this.”

Sure enough, the admonished animal was pulling as steadily as President
himself, and they had no more trouble with him.

There were many large holes in the creek bed, and, of course, the wheels
often went into them. Once it looked for a moment as though they might
have a turnover to add to their disasters. The wagon toppled, but
righted itself in a moment. Miss Hunt, as Judy had said, on the front
seat was able to see the danger as she could not down in the wagon, and
when the wheels went down that particularly deep hole she let out a
piercing scream and tried to seize the reins from Kent.

Kent pulled up his horses as soon as the wagon was on a level and called
to John, “John, will you please help Miss Hunt back into the seat she
has just vacated? She finds she is not comfortable here.”

At that Miss Hunt very humbly crawled back, and, like the Heathen
Chinee, “subsequent proceedings interested her no more.”

As dawn was breaking they drove into the avenue at Chatsworth, not
really very much the worse for wear. The warm, dry wraps produced from
under the seat after the moon came out had been wonderfully comforting.
Edwin Green had made Mrs. Brown take his coat, and as he folded it
around her he had whispered, “Kentucky women are very remarkable. They
meet danger as though it were a partner at a ball.”

“Yes,” said Kent, who had overheard him, “I could never have come
through the deep waters if it had not been for the brave women. You saw
how the one scream unnerved me, to say nothing of that little vixen
grabbing my reins. Here, Ernest, we are on the pike at last, and I am
just about all in. I wouldn’t give up until we got through, but take the
reins. Maybe Miss Hunt would like to drive,” he had slyly added, but a
low moan from under the wet coats was all the proud beauty could utter.

Aunt Mary greeted them at Chatsworth with much delight.

“The sto’m here been somethin’ turrible. I ain’t seed sich a wind sence
the chilluns’ castle blowed down. All of yer had better come back to the
kitchen whar it’s warm and eat somethin’. I got a big pot er hot coffee
and pitchers er hot milk an’ a pan er quick yeast biscuit. I done notice
ef you eat somethin’ when you is cold an’ wet, somehow you fergits ter
catch cold.”

They all came trooping back to the warm old kitchen, “ev’y spot in it as
clean as a bisc’it board,” and there they ate the hot buttered biscuit
and drank the coffee and milk. It was noticed that John let the “extras”
take care of Miss Hunt, and he devoted himself to his mother. Just as
they were separating for the morning he hugged his mother and whispered
to her, “You need not have any more uneasiness about me, mumsy. I don’t
believe there is a Brown living who could go on loving a woman who has
no more sense than to grab the reins.”



CHAPTER IX.—JIMMY.


“Judy, Mrs. Woodsmall has just ‘phoned over that her hated R. F. D.
Woodsmall is bringing you a letter from your father. She says she could
only make out it was from him, but could not decipher anything else. She
has an idea he is on his way, as the postmark showed it was mailed on
the train somewhere in Kansas. Isn’t she too funny? She makes some of
the neighbors furious, but we always laugh at her little idiosyncrasy.
After all, it is perfectly harmless. She really is as kind a little soul
as there is in the county. Her life has been so narrow. If she could
have been a real worker in a big city she might have grown into a very
remarkable person. What a detective she would have made!”

Judy yawned and stretched and sat up as Molly came in bearing a tray of
lunch for her tired friend as well as the news of a letter from Mr.
Kean, somewhere on the road, and to be delivered some time that day if
Bud Woodsmall’s automobile behaved.

“Oh, Molly, I am tired! Are you the only one of the crowd to be up and
doing after last night?”

“I have persuaded mother to stay in bed and get a good rest. The boys
took a late train into town, and Miss Hunt never did go to bed. Aunt
Mary said she came down early this morning and ’phoned over to Aunt
Clay’s coachman to come for her immediately, and off she went without
saying ‘boo to a goose.’ I wish you could have heard Aunt Mary’s
description of her!

“‘Yo’ Aunt Clay’s comp’ny sho ain’t no wet weather beauty. Her ha’r was
so flat her haid looked jes’ like a buckeye; and her dress ‘min’ me of a
las’ year’s crow’s nes’. She was so shamefaced like she resem’led that
ole peacock when Shep done pull out his tail.’”

Judy laughed. “Oh, I do love Aunt Mary! But, Molly, won’t it be fine to
see mamma and papa? Do you suppose they are really on their way?”

“It will be fine to see them, but it will be pretty sad to have them
take off my Judy. I am mighty afraid that is what they are going to do.
Go back to sleep now and I will bring you your letter as soon as Bud
puts in his appearance. I am going to have a hard game of tennis with
Jimmy Lufton against Ernest and that nice Miss Rogers. Weren’t those
girls spunky last night? An experience like that will make you know
people better than years of plain, everyday life. Professor Green has
struck up quite an acquaintance with Miss Ormsby. It seems they have
many mutual friends, both of them having summered many times at
‘Sconset.’”

Molly spoke quietly, but there was a slight tremor of lip and a
deepening of color that the sharp Judy saw and noted, but nothing would
have made her let Molly know that she had betrayed herself in the least.

“Molly was perfectly unconscious of what she was doing last night,”
thought Judy, “but all the same she was making poor Professor Green live
up to his name with jealousy. I don’t know but it might make Molly open
her childlike old eyes if the patient professor should kick up his staid
heels and jump the fence and go grazing in another paddock for a while.”
And then aloud she said, “All right, honey, I’ll take forty winks and
then get up and come down to the tennis court.”

Mr. Kean’s letter arrived in due time and, sure enough, Mrs. Woodsmall’s
surmises were correct. He was on the way to Kentucky with Mrs. Kean, and
expected to be in Louisville the next day at a hotel, and would motor
out to Chatsworth in the afternoon.

“Your father and mother must not think of stopping at a hotel, Judy,”
declared Mrs. Brown. “We have an abundance of room. Miss Rogers and Miss
Ormsby are going in town after supper to-night with Ernest and Professor
Green. Mr. Lufton expects to go back to Lexington to-morrow, and
Professor Green is only waiting for some mail and will take his
departure, too. We shall be forlorn, indeed, when all of them go. I’ll
make Kent look up what train Mr. Kean will come in on and he will meet
it and send them both right out here.”

“Oh, Mrs. Brown, you are so good. I would love for mamma and papa to be
here and to know all of you and have you know them. They are as
wonderful in their way as you are in yours, and your meeting would be a
grand combination.”

Molly rather dreaded the coming of evening. She had promised Jimmy to
take a walk with him by moonlight, and she had a terrible feeling that
he might bring up the subject of “lemons” again. She was not prepared
for the question that she felt almost sure he was going to ask her.

“I am nothing but a kid, after all,” moaned Molly to herself. “Professor
Green was right in calling me ‘dear child.’ Mother was married when she
was my age, but somehow I can’t seem to grow up. Jimmy is so nice, and I
do like him so much, but as for spending the rest of my life with
him—oh, I just simply can’t contemplate it. Why, why doesn’t he see how
it is without having to talk it over? I wish none of them would ever get
sentimental over me.” And then she blushed and told herself that she was
a big story teller and sentimentality from some one who should be
nameless would not be so trying, after all.

Supper was over, Professor Green and Ernest had gone gaily off, driving
Miss Rogers and Miss Ormsby to Louisville, Judy and Kent were making a
long-talked-of duty call on Aunt Clay, “just to show Miss Hunt there is
no hard feeling,” laughed Judy. And now it was time to take the promised
walk with Jimmy Lufton.

“You look a little tired, Miss Molly. Maybe you would rather not go. You
must not let me bore you,” said Jimmy, a little wistfully.

“Oh, no, I’m all right. I fancy it will take all of us a few days to get
over last night. I have wanted to tell you how fine you were and what it
meant to all of us to have you so cheerful and tactful. The boys can’t
say enough in your praise. We had to have some safety valve, and if we
had not been laughing we might have been crying.”

“Oh, I’m a cheerful idiot, all right, all right. I have such a short
upper lip and such an eternal grin on me that no one ever seems to think
I have any feelings. I get no more sympathy than a fat man. I wish I
could make people understand that I am as serious as the next, but
somehow me Irish grandmither comes popping out in me and I have to joke
if I am to die the next minute.”

“I think your disposition is most enviable,” said Molly kindly, “and, as
for the dash of Irish, I always think that is what makes our mother so
charming. It was almost a fad with our professor of English at college
to find the Irish mother or grandmother for almost all of the great
poets or essayists.” Molly could not quite trust herself to say
Professor Green’s name, the picture of the seemingly ecstatic Edwin
driving off with Miss Ormsby was too fresh in her mind, and she could
not help smiling at herself for her formal “our professor of English.”

Their footsteps led them into the garden and then through the apple
orchard down by the little stream, and on to the beech woods.

“I wonder why we are coming this way,” thought Molly, trying to keep her
mind off another walk she had taken over that same ground not so long
ago.

“Let’s sit down here,” said Jimmy, stopping under the great beech tree
where Molly and Edwin had sat on that memorable day when he had spoken
of his vision of the white-haired Molly, and then had stopped himself so
suddenly with a joke about his own possible baldness.

“Oh, not right here,” said Molly hurriedly. “I know a nice rock a little
farther on.”

“Molly, Miss Molly, Miss Brown!——Oh, Molly, darling, there is no use in
going any farther because I know you know that I have brought you out
here to tell you that I——”

“Jimmy, please don’t say anything more. It ’most kills me to hurt you.”

“Is there no hope for me? I’ll wait a week, oh, I don’t mean a week,
I’ll wait forever if there is a chance for me. I know this is a low
question to ask you, but is there any one else?”

Honest Molly hung her head. “Not exactly.”

That “not exactly” was enough for Jimmy. He smiled a wan little smile
that would have put his Irish grandmother to shame.

“Well, don’t you mind, Miss Molly. I wouldn’t have you feel blue about
me for a million. You never did lead me on one little bit, and I was
almost sure when I came to Kentucky that there would be nothing doing
for yours truly; but somehow men are made so they have to make sure
about such things. You and I have too much sense of the ridiculous to do
any spiel about the brother and sister business, but I’ll tell you one
thing, I am your friend forever, and you must know that, and understand
that as long as I live I’ll hold myself in readiness to do your
bidding.”

“Oh, Jimmy, you are so good and generous,” holding out her hand to him,
“I am your friend forever, and I hope we shall always see a lot of each
other.”

Jimmy took her hand and for a moment bowed his curly black head over it.
Molly put her other hand on his head, feeling somehow that it was like
comforting Kent.

“You are sure, Molly?”

“Yes, Jimmy.”

“Well, le’s go home. I know you are tired.

  “‘If no one ever marries me
    I sha’n’t mind very much;
  I shall buy a squirrel in a cage,
    And a little rabbit-hutch,’”

sang the irrepressible.

When Judy got back to Chatsworth she found Molly weeping her soul out on
the pillow, and she had noticed as they passed the office porch that for
once Jimmy Lufton was whistling in the minor.



CHAPTER X.—AUNT CLAY MAKES A MISTAKE.


“Sister Ann, do you see any dust arising?” called Molly to Judy, who had
actually climbed up on the gate post, hoping to see a little farther up
the road, expecting the automobile from Louisville with her beloveds in
it.

“I see a little cloud and I hear a little buzzing. Oh, Molly, I believe
it’s them.”

“Is it, oh, Wellington graduate? Get your cases straight before they
come or your father will think that diploma is a fake.”

“Grammar go hang,” said Judy, performing a dangerous pas seul on the
gate post and then jumping lightly down and racing up the avenue to meet
the incoming automobile. Molly followed more slowly, never having been
the sprinter that Judy was. Mr. Kean sprang from the car and lifted Judy
off her feet in a regular bear hug.

“Save a little for me, Bobby,” piped the little lady mother. “Judy,
Judy, it is too good to be true that we have got you at last, and I mean
to keep you forever now, you slippery thing.” And then they all of them
got into the car and had a three-cornered hug. Molly came up with only
enough breath to give them a cordial greeting, welcoming them to
Chatsworth.

“That is a very fine young man, your brother, who met us at the station,
Miss Molly. Kent is his name? He recognized us by my likeness to you,
Judy, so make your best bow and look pleased.” In looking pleased, Judy
did a great deal of unnecessary blushing which her mother noticed, but,
mothers being different from fathers, said nothing about it.

Mrs. Brown came hurrying down the walk to meet her guests. She was
amused to see how much Judy resembled both her parents, although Mrs.
Kean was so small and Mr. Kean so large. Mother and daughter were alike
in their quick, extravagant speech, and a certain bird-like poise of the
head, but father and daughter had eyes that might have been cut out of
the same piece of gray and by the same pattern.

“Where is your baggage? Surely Kent gave you my message and you are
going to visit us?”

“You have been so kind to my girl that I see no way but to let you be
kind to us, too, and if we will not inconvenience you we will accept
your invitation,” said Mr. Kean. “As for baggage: Mrs. Kean is a dressy
soul, but she only carries a doll trunk which holds all of her little
frocks and fixings and even leaves a tiny tray for my belongings.”

He assisted his smiling wife to alight and then from the bottom of the
car produced a wicker trunk that was really no bigger than a large
suitcase, but much more dignified looking.

“She says a trunk gives her a little more permanent feeling than a bag
and makes a hotel room seem more homelike,” went on Mr. Kean. Mrs. Brown
thought that she had never heard such a pleasant voice and jolly laugh.

“Judy, show your mother and father their room. I know they are tired and
will want to rest before dinner.”

“Tired! Bless your soul, what have we done to be tired? We have been on
a Pullman four nights, and that is when we get in rest enough for months
to come. I know Julia will want to get at her doll trunk and change her
traveling dress, but, if you will permit me, I shall stay down here with
you. What a beautiful farm you have! How many acres in it?”

“I have three hundred acres in all; two hundred under cultivation and in
grass, fifty in woodland, and fifty that are not worth anything. It is a
strange barren strip of land that my father had to take as a bad debt
and I inherited from him. We graze some forlorn sheep on it, but they
won’t drink the water, and it is almost more trouble than they are worth
to drive them to water on another part of the place.”

Mr. Kean listened intently. “I should like to see your farm, Mrs. Brown.
Did you ever have the water on the barren strip analyzed?”

“No, Mr. Brown thought of looking into it but never did, and I have had
so many problems to solve and expenses to meet with my large and growing
family that I have never thought of it any more.”

Mrs. Kean and Judy came down to join the others in a very short time,
considering that Mrs. Kean had unpacked her tiny trunk and shaken out
her little frocks and changed into a dainty pink gingham that looked as
though it had just come from the laundry, showing no signs of having
been packed for weeks.

“What have you done to my Judy, Mrs. Brown? I have never seen her
looking so well.”

“Fried chicken and candied sweet potatoes are the chief of my diet, and
who would have the ingratitude not to show such keep?” laughed the
daughter, pulling the little mother down on her lap and holding her as
tenderly as though their relationship were reversed. “Robert and Julia,
are you aware of the fact that your lady daughter has been a perfect
lady since she came to these parts, and has got herself into no bad
scrapes, and has not been saucy but once, and that was necessary? Wasn’t
it, Mrs. Brown?”

“It certainly was. My old mammy used to tell me, ‘Don’ sass ole folks
‘til they fust sass you’; and Saint Paul says, ‘Live peaceably with all
men, as much as lieth in you.’ When Judy felt called upon to speak out
to Miss Hunt she had the gratitude of almost every one present.”

Professor Green joined them and, having made the Keans’ acquaintance at
Wellington, introductions were not necessary. That young man was in a
very happy frame of mind as his hated rival that he had to like in spite
of himself had taken an early train to Lexington; and there had been a
dejected look to his back as he got into the buggy that Edwin Green
decided could not belong to an accepted lover. Molly had a soft, sad
look about her blue eyes, but certainly none of the elation of the newly
engaged. He had held a cryptic conversation with Mrs. Brown that morning
on the porch, in which he had gathered that the dear lady considered
Molly singularly undeveloped for a girl her age; that any thought of her
becoming engaged for at least a year was very distasteful to her mother;
that her mind should be left free for the postgraduate course she was so
soon to enter upon. But she very delicately gave him to understand that
she liked him and that Molly also liked him more than any friend she
had. The conversation left him slightly dazed, but also very calm and
happy, liking Mrs. Brown even better than before and admiring her for
her delicate tact and frankness that does not often combine with such
diplomacy. His mail had come and he had no excuse for further delay, and
had determined to go home on the following day.

“Professor Green, I have been so long on the train that I feel the need
of stretching my legs. Could you tear yourself away from these ladies
long enough to show me around the farm?”

“Indeed, I could; but maybe the ladies would like to come.”

“No, indeed,” answered Mrs. Kean. “I know Bobbie’s leg-stretching walks
too well to have any desire to try to keep up with him. It is so
pleasant and restful here, and Mrs. Brown, Molly, Judy and I can have a
nice talk.”

The two gentlemen started off at a good pace.

“Professor, I should like to see this barren strip of land Mrs. Brown
tells me of. It sounds rather interesting to me. You know where it is,
do you not?”

“Yes; and, do you know, I was going to ask you to look at it and give
your opinion about it. It has the look to me of possible oil fields. I
haven’t said anything to any of the family about it, as they are such a
sanguine lot I was afraid of raising their hopes when nothing might come
of it, but I had determined to have a talk with Kent before I left. He
is the most level-headed member of the family, and would not fly off
half-cocked. Miss Molly tells me they are contemplating selling this
wonderful bit of beech woods. They have a good offer for it, but it is
like selling members of the family to part with these trees.”

The two men walked on, discovering many things to talk about and finding
each other vastly agreeable. Their walk led them through the beech
woods, then through a growth of scrub pines and stunted oaks and
blackberry bushes, until they gradually emerged into a hard stony valley
sparsely covered with grass and broomsedge.

“About as forlorn a spot as you can find in the whole of Kentucky, I
fancy,” said the younger man. “Its contrast with the beech woods we have
just passed is about as great as that between Mrs. Brown and her sister,
Mrs. Clay, who, with all due respect, is as rocky as this strip of
barren land and as unattractive. She is the only person of whom I have
ever heard Miss Molly and her brother Kent say anything unkind, and they
cannot conceal their feeling against her. It seems that Mrs. Clay had
the settling of her father’s estate, and arranged matters so well for
herself that Mrs. Brown’s share turned out to be this stony strip. Mrs.
Brown accepted it and refused to make a row, declaring that she would
never have a disagreement with any member of her family about ‘things.’
She is a wonderful woman,” added the professor, thinking of his talk of
the morning.

Mr. Kean stopped at the banks of a lonesome tarn, filled with black
water with a greasy looking slime over it.

“Look at those bubbles over there! Could they be caused by turtles? No,
turtles could not live in this Dead Sea. Look, look! More and more of
them. Watch that big one break! See the greasy ring he made!”

He was so excited that Edwin Green smiled to see how alike father and
daughter were, and was amused at himself for speaking of the Browns as
being people who went off half-cocked to this man who was a hair trigger
if ever there was one.

Mr. Kean stooped over and scooped up some of the water in his hand. “‘If
my old nose don’t tell no lies, seems like I smell custard pies.’ Why,
Green, smell this! It’s simply reeking of petroleum! I bet that old Mrs.
Clay will come to wish she had made a different division of her father’s
estate. Come on, let’s go break the news to the Browns.”

“But are you certain enough? They may be disappointed,” said the more
cautious Edwin.

“I am sure enough to want to send to Louisville immediately for a drill
to test it. I have had a lot of experience with oil in various places
and I am a regular oil wizard. You have heard of a water witch? My
friends say that my nose has never played me false, and I can smell out
oil lands that they would buy on the say-so of my scent as quickly as
with the proof of a drill and pump. My, I’m glad for this good luck to
come to these people who have been so good to my little girl.”

The two men were very much excited as they made their way back to the
house.

“It is funny the way oil crops up in unexpected places,” said Mr. Kean.
“There is very little of it in this belt, and for that reason Mrs. Brown
should get a very good price for her land. I think it best for her to
sell to the Trust as soon as possible. There is no use in fighting them.
They are obliged to win out. They will be pretty square with her if she
does not try to fight them. What a fine young fellow that Kent is! And
as for Miss Molly, she is a corker! She has got my poor little wild
Indian of a Judy out of dozens of scrapes at college. Judy always ends
by telling us all about the terrible things that almost happened to her.
She seems to me to be a little tamer, but maybe it is a strangeness from
not seeing us for so long.”

Edwin Green had his own opinion about the reason for that seeming
tameness, but he held his peace. He could not help seeing Kent’s
partiality for Miss Julia Kean, and had no reason to believe otherwise
than that the young lady reciprocated. Love, or the possibility of
loving, might be a great tamer for Judy. He was really not far from the
mark. Judy was interested in Kent, very much so, but it was ambition
that was steadying her and a determination to do something with the
artistic talent that she was almost sure she possessed. Paris was her
Mecca, and she was preparing herself to talk it out with her parents.
They, poor grown-up children that they were, had no plans for their
daughter’s future. College had solved the problem for four years, but,
now that that was over, what to do with her next? They loved to have her
with them and had looked forward eagerly to the time when she could be
with them, but after all was a railway camp the best place for a girl of
Judy’s stamp?

“Mrs. Brown, what will you take for that barren strip of land over
there?” said Mr. Kean, sinking into a chair on the porch where the
ladies were still having their quiet talk.

“Well, Mr. Kean, since it is not worth anything, and I have to pay taxes
on it, I think I would give it away to any one who would promise to keep
up the fences.”

“Can you get right-of-way through the adjoining place to the road behind
you, where I see that a narrow-gauge railroad runs?”

Mrs. Brown flushed and hesitated. “There is a lane connecting these two
turnpikes older than the turnpikes themselves. My place does not go
through to this narrow-gauge railroad that you saw this morning, but my
father’s old place, the Carmichael farm, now owned by my sister, Mrs.
Clay, borders on both roads. This lane divides the two places as far as
mine goes and then cuts through her place to the road behind. She has
lately closed that lane, fenced it off and put it in corn.”

“Rather high-handed proceedings,” growled Mr. Kean. “Did you protest?”

“The boys went to see her about it, as it blocks their short cut to the
Ohio River, where they go swimming, but she was so insulted at what she
called their interference that I insisted upon their letting the matter
drop. Paul, who always has insisted on his rights, went so far as to see
a lawyer about it. His opinion was that Sister Sarah had no more right
to fence off that lane than she would have to build a house in the
middle of Main Street. But, if you knew my Sister Sarah, you would
understand that if she decided to build a house in the middle of Main
Street she would do it.”

“Perhaps she would if the Law were as ladylike as you are, Mrs. Brown,”
laughed Mr. Kean, “but the Law happens to be not even much of a
gentleman. What I wanted to get at was whether or not you had
right-of-way, not way. You have the right if not the way. Now I am going
to come to business with you. Did you know, my dear lady, that that
despised strip of land is worth more than all of your fruitful acres put
together, beech woods and apple orchard thrown in?” He jumped up from
his chair, able to contain himself no longer, and in clarion tones
literally shouted, “Lady, lady, you’ve struck oil, you’ve struck oil!”



                                BOOK II.



CHAPTER I.—WELLINGTON AGAIN.


“Wellington! Wellington!”

Molly waked from her reverie with a start. It seemed only yesterday that
she was coming to Wellington for the first time, “a greeny from
Greenville, Green County,” as she had been scornfully designated by a
superior sophomore. She could vividly recall her arrival, a poor, tired,
timid little girl in a shabby brown dress, with soot on her face and
seemingly not a friend on earth. She smiled when she thought of how many
friends she had made that first day, friends who had really stuck. First
of all there had been dear old Nance Oldham; then Mary Stewart, who had
taken her under her wing and looked after her like a veritable anxious
hen-mother during the whole of her freshman year; then the vivid,
scintillating Julia Kean, her own Judy; then Professor Green, who
certainly had proved a friend. On looking back, it seemed that every one
with whom she had come in contact on that day had done something nice
for her and tried to help her. Mother had always told her that friends
were already made for persons who really wanted them, made and ready
with hands outstretched, and all you had to do was reach out and find
your friend.

Now, as before, the trainload of girls piled out at the pretty, trim
little station, and there was dear old Mr. Murphy ready to look after
the baggage, no easy job, as he declared, there being as many different
kinds of trunks as there were young ladies. Molly shook his hand warmly,
for, after all, he was really the very first friend she had made at
Wellington. Her trunk being shabby had had no effect on his manner to
her as a Freshman, but he noticed now that she had a new one and
remarked on its elegance.

“I simply had to have a new one, Mr. Murphy, ‘the good old wagon done
broke down.’ It was old when I started in at Wellington, and four round
trips have done for it.”

Next to Molly’s big new trunk,—and this time it was a big one, as she
had some new clothes and enough of them for about the first time in her
life, and had bought a trunk with plenty of trays so as to pack them
properly,—and snuggled up close to it as though for protection, was the
strangest little trunk Molly had ever seen: calf-skin with the hair on
it, spotted red and white, a little moth eaten in spots, with wrought
iron hinges and a lock of great strength but of a simple, fine
design—oak leaves with the key hole shaped like an acorn. A rope was
tied tightly around it, reminding Molly of a halter dragging the poor
little calf to slaughter.

“Well, well, I haven’t seen such a trunk as this since I left the ould
counthry,” said the baggage master, putting his hand fondly on the
strange-looking trunk. “I’ll bet the owner of this, Miss Molly, will
have many a knock from some of the high-falutin’ young ladies of
Wellington. They haven’t seen it yet, because it is hiding behind your
grand new big one. I pray the Blessed Virgin that the poor little maid
will find a strong friend to get behind and to look after her.”

Molly smiled at the old man’s imagery, and thought, “What a race the
Irish are! I am glad I have some of their blood.”

She turned at the sound of laughter and saw coming toward her as strange
a figure as Wellington Station had ever sheltered, she was sure. A tall
girl of about twenty years was approaching, dressed in a stiff blue
homespun dress with a very wide gathered skirt and a tight basque (about
the fashion of the early eighties), and a cheap sailor hat. In her hand
she carried a bundle done up in a large, flowered, knotted handkerchief.
Her hair was black and straight and coming down, but when your eyes once
got to her face her clothes paled into insignificance, and Molly, for
one, never gave them another thought. Imagine the oval of a Holbein
Madonna; a clear olive skin; hazel eyes wide and dreamy; a broad low
forehead with strongly marked brows; a nose of unusual beauty (there are
so few beautiful noses in real life); and a determined mouth with a “do
or die” expression. She came down the platform, head well up and an easy
swinging walk, no more regarding the amused titter of the crowd of
girls, separating to let her pass, than a St. Bernard dog would have
noticed the yap of some toy poodles. On espying her trunk—of course it
was hers, the little hair trunk with the wrought iron hinges and
lock—she quickened her gait, as though to meet a friend, stooped over,
picked it up, and swung it to her broad fine shoulder, more as though it
had been a kitten than a calf. Turning to the astonished Molly, she said
in a voice so sweet and full that it suggested the low notes of a
‘cello, “Kin you’uns tell me’uns whar—no, no, I mean—can you tell me
where I can find the president?”

“Indeed, I can,” answered Molly. “I am going to see her myself just as
soon as I get settled in my quarters in the Quadrangle, and if you will
tell me where you are to be I will take you to your room and then come
for you to go and see President Walker. Mr. Murphy, the baggage master,
will attend to your trunk. You will see to this young lady’s trunk soon,
won’t you, Mr. Murphy?”

“The Saints be praised for answering the prayers of an ould man in such
a hurry! Of course I will, Miss Molly; and where shall I be after
sinding the little trunk, miss?”

“I don’t know until I see the president. I think I’ll just keep my box
with me. I can carry it myself. ’Tain’t much to tote.”

“Oh, no, I wouldn’t do that,” said Molly, hardly able to keep back the
laugh that she was afraid would come bubbling out in spite of her. “I
tell you what you do: let Mr. Murphy keep your trunk until you find out
where your room is to be, and in the meantime you come to my place; then
as soon as you are located we can ‘phone for it.” The girl looked at her
new-found friend with eyes for all the world like a trusting collie’s,
and silently followed her to the ’bus.

“My name is Molly Brown, of Kentucky. Please tell me yours.”

“Kaintucky? Oh, I might have known it. I am Melissa Hathaway, and am
pleased to make your acquaintance, Molly Brown of Kaintucky. I come from
near Catlettsburg, Kaintucky, myself.”

“Well, we are from the same state and must be friends, mustn’t we?”

There were many curious glances cast at Molly’s new friend, but the
giggling at her strange clothes had stopped and the spell of her
countenance had in a measure taken hold of the girls. Molly spoke to
many friends, but she missed her intimates and wondered where Nance was,
and if any of the others were coming back for the postgraduate course.
At the thought of Nance she smiled, knowing just how she would take her
befriending this mountain girl. She would be cold at first and perhaps a
bit scornful in her ladylike way, and end by being as good as gold to
her, and perhaps even making her some proper clothes.

The door at No. 5 Quadrangle was ajar and Molly could see Nance flitting
back and forth getting things to rights. What a busy soul she was and
how good it was to know she was already there! The girls were soon
locked in each other’s arms, so overjoyed to be together again that
Molly for a moment forgot her guest; and Nance did not see her as she
stood in the doorway, a silent witness to the enthusiastic meeting of
the chums.

“Oh, Melissa, what am I thinking of, leaving you standing there so long?
You must excuse me. Nance Oldham and I always behave this way when we
get back in the fall; and now I want to introduce you two. Miss Oldham,
this is my new friend, Miss Hathaway, also of Kentucky.”

Nance shook hands with the quaint-looking new friend and awaited an
explanation, which she knew would be forthcoming from Molly as soon as
she could get a chance. Melissa was quiet and composed, taking in
everything in the room. Her eyes lingered hungrily on the books that
Nance had already arranged on the shelves, and then rested in a kind of
trance on the pictures that Nance had unpacked and hung.

“Nance, I have some biscuit and fudge in my grip, if you could scare up
some tea. I am awfully hungry, and I fancy Miss Hathaway could eat a
little something before we go to look up the president. She does not
know where her room is to be, and I asked her to come with us until she
is located.”

“You are very kind to me, and your treating me so well makes me feel as
though I were back in the mountains. We-uns—I mean we always try to be
good to strangers, back where I come from.”

Nance was drawn to the girl as Molly had been.

“She knows how to sit still, and waits until she has something to say
before she says anything,” thought the analytical Nance. “I believe I am
going to like Molly’s ‘lame duck’ this time; and, goodness me, how
beautiful she is!”

Melissa was glad to get her tea, having been in a day coach all night
with nothing but a cold lunch to keep body and soul together until she
got to Wellington. Nance noticed that she knew how to hold her cup
properly and ate like a lady; her English, too, was good as a rule, with
occasional lapses into the mountain vernacular. The girls were curious
about her, but did not like to question her, and she said nothing about
herself.

Tea over, they went to call on the president, leaving Nance to go on
with her “feminine touches,” as Judy used to call her arrangements.

Miss Walker was very glad to see Molly, kissing her fondly and calling
her “Molly.” “It is good, indeed, to have you back. Every Wellington
girl who comes back for the postgraduate course gives me a compliment
better than a gift of jewels. And this is Miss Melissa Hathaway? I have
been expecting you, and to think that you should have fallen to the care
of Molly Brown on your very first day at college! You are to be
congratulated, Miss Hathaway. Molly Brown’s friendship keeps one from
all harm, like the kiss of a good fairy on one’s brow. Molly, if you
will excuse me, I shall take Miss Hathaway into my office first and have
a talk with her and shall see you later.”

Molly was blushing with pleasure over the praise from Prexy, and was
glad to sit in the quiet room awaiting her turn.

Melissa was closeted for some time with the president, and in the
meantime the waiting-room began to fill with students, some of them
newcomers tremblingly awaiting the ordeal of an interview with the
august head of Wellington; others, like Molly, looking forward with
pleasure to a chat with an old friend. Melissa came back alone with a
message for Molly to come in to Miss Walker, and told her that she was
to wait, as the president wished Molly to show the stranger her room.

“Molly Brown, how did you happen to be the one to look after this girl?
It seems providential.”

“Well, Mr. Murphy attributes it to himself, and declares it is the
direct answer to his prayers,” laughed Molly, and told Miss Walker of
the little calf trunk and the old baggage master’s sentimentality about
it.

“I am going to read you part of a letter concerning Melissa Hathaway,
and that will explain her and her being at Wellington better than any
words of mine. This letter is from an old graduate, a splendid woman who
has for years been doing a kind of social settlement work in the
mountains of Virginia and Kentucky.

  “‘I am sending you the first ripe fruit from the orchard that I
  planted at least ten years ago in this mountain soil. You must not
  think it is a century plant I am tending. I gather flowers every day
  that fully repay me for my labor here, but, alas, flowers do not
  always come to fruit. Melissa Hathaway is without doubt one of the
  most remarkable young women I have ever known, and has repaid me for
  the infinite pains I have taken with her, and will repay every one
  by being a success. She comes from surroundings that the people of
  cities could hardly dream of, in spite of the slums that are, of
  course, worse because of their crowded condition and lack of air.
  But in these mountain cabins you find a desolation and ignorance
  that is appalling, but at the same time a rectitude and intelligence
  that astonish you; and unbounded hospitality.

  “‘A generation ago the Hathaways were rather well-to-do, for the
  mountains; that is, they owned a cow and some hogs and chickens and
  did not sleep in the kitchen, but had a second room and some twenty
  beautiful home-made quilts. A feud wiped almost the whole family off
  the face of the earth. Melissa’s father, grandfather and three
  uncles were killed in a raid by their mortal enemies, the Sydneys,
  and the grandmother and Melissa were the only ones left to tell the
  tale. (Her young mother died in giving birth to Melissa.) Melissa
  was eight years old at the time of the wholesale tragedy, which
  occurred a few days before I came here to take up my life work. I
  went to old Mrs. Hathaway’s cabin as soon as I could make my way
  across the mountain. The old woman received me with dignity and
  reserve, but some suspicion. I asked her to let Melissa come to
  school. She was rather eager for her to learn, since she was nothing
  but a miserable girl. She was bitter on the subject of Melissa’s
  sex. “Ter think of my bringing forth man-child after man-child, and
  here in my old age not a thing but this puny little gal ter look to,
  ter shoot down those dogs of Sydneys!”

  “‘This child of eight (Melissa is now eighteen, but looks older),
  came to school every day rain or shine, walking three miles over the
  worst trail you have ever imagined. Her eagerness for knowledge was
  something pathetic. I realized from the beginning that she had a
  very remarkable intellect and gave her every chance for cultivation
  and preparation for college, determined that my Alma Mater should
  have the final hand in her education if it could be managed. And
  now, managed it is by a scholarship presented to my now flourishing
  school by the Mountain Educational Association. I am sorry her
  clothes are not quite what my beautiful Melissa should have, but she
  would not accept a penny for clothes from any of the funds that I
  sometimes have at my disposal. “Money for my education is
  different,” she said. “I mean to bring all of that back to the
  mountains and give it to my people, but I cannot let any one spend
  money on clothes for me. They would burn my back unless I earned
  them myself.” She was that way from the time she first came to me. I
  remember she had a green skirt and an old black basque of her
  grandmother’s, belted in on her slim little figure. I wanted all of
  my pupils to have a change of clothing, as from the first I was
  trying to teach cleanliness and hygiene along with the three R’s. I
  asked the children one day to let me know if they had two of
  everything. Melissa stood up and proudly raised her hand. “Please,
  Miss Teacher, we’uns is got two dresses; one ain’t got no waist and
  one ain’t got no skirt, but they is two dresses.”

  “‘I know that my dear Miss Walker will do her best to place my girl
  where she can make some friends and not get too homesick for her
  mountains. I wish she had clothes more like other people, but, since
  she is what she is, I fancy the clothes in the long run will not
  make much difference.’

“That is all of interest to you,” concluded Miss Walker. “Miss Hathaway
is, to say the least, a very remarkable young woman. Her entrance
examination was unconditioned. And now to get her into a suitable room!
I had expected to put her in one over the postoffice, but she would be
so isolated there. I wish she could have the singleton near you in the
Quadrangle. I, too, have some funds at my disposal that would enable me
to give her one of these more expensive rooms, but do you think she
would accept it?”

Molly, rather amused at being asked by Prexy herself to decide what to
do with this proud girl, smilingly answered, “I am proud myself, but
lots of things have been done for me without my knowing about it, and
when I do find out I am not hurt but pleased to feel that my friends
want to help me. I can’t remember being insulted yet.”

“Well, my child, if I have your sanction about a little mild deceit, I
think I’ll put Miss Hathaway in the singleton near you. I believe she is
going to be a credit to Wellington. Kentucky has been good to us,
indeed.”

“I’ll do all I can to help Melissa,” said Molly, her eyes still misty
over the letter concerning the childhood of the mountain girl. “She
interests me deeply.”

Then Molly and Miss Walker plunged into a talk about what Molly was to
study. English Literature and Composition were of course the big things,
but she was also anxious to take up some special work in Domestic
Science, a new and very complete equipment having been recently
installed at Wellington and a highly recommended teacher, a graduate
from the Boston school, being in charge.

“Miss Hathaway is to do work on that line, too, and I fancy you will be
put into the same division. She is preparing herself to help her
mountain people, and I think they need domestic science even more than
they do higher mathematics.”

Molly escorted Melissa to her small room in the Quadrangle, where she
was duly and gratefully installed. Her shyness was passing off with
Nance and Molly, and now they noticed that she never made the slips into
the mountain vernacular. But on meeting strangers, or when embarrassed
in any way, she would unconsciously drop into it, and then become more
embarrassed. She never let herself off, but always bit her lip and
quickly repeated her remark in the proper English.

“She is really almost as foreign as little Otoyo Sen,” said Nance.



CHAPTER II.—LEVITY IN THE LEAVEN.


“Molly, do you know you are a grown-up lady?” asked Nance a few days
after they had settled themselves and were back in the grind of work. “I
have been seeing it in all kinds of ways; firstly, you have gained in
weight.”

“Only three pounds, and that could not show much, spread over such a
large area,” laughed Molly.

“Well, you look more rounded, somehow. Then I notice you keep your pumps
on and don’t kick them off every time you sit down; and when you do sit
down you don’t always lie down as you used to do. Now, I have always
been a grown-up little old lady, but you were a child when you left
college last June, and now you are a beautiful, dignified woman.”

“Nonsense, Nance, I am exactly the same. I don’t kick off my pumps
because I might have a hole in the toe of my stocking, and I don’t lie
down when I sit down because of my good tailored skirt. You are just
fancying things. I am the same old kid. It is thanks to Judy that I have
the tailor-made dress and the other things that make me feel grown-up.
You see, my family have always had an idea that I did not care for
clothes just because I wore the old ones without complaining. One day
Kent spoke of my indifference to clothes to Judy, and she fired up and
told him I did love clothes and would like to have pretty ones more than
any girl she knew of; that I pretended to be indifferent just to carry
off the old ones with grace. Kent was very much astonished and the dear
boy insisted on my going into Louisville before Judy left and having a
good tailor make me two dresses, this blue one for every day and my
lovely best gray. I was so afraid of hurting Miss Lizzie Monday’s
feelings (she is the little old seamstress who has made my clothes ever
since I was born); but Kent fixed that up by going to see Miss Lizzie
himself, asking her advice and requesting her company into Louisville,
where we did the shopping and interviewed the tailor, had lunch at the
Watterson and took in a show in the afternoon. Miss Lizzie had the time
of her life and was as much pleased over my having some good clothes as
I am myself. Dear old Kent had to draw on his savings that he is putting
by with a view to taking a finishing course on architecture, but mother
says she is going to reimburse him just as soon as there is a settlement
made for the oil lands we are selling.”

“Do you know, Molly, when I got your letter telling me about Mr. Kean’s
nosing out oil on your place, I was so happy and excited that I began to
cry and got my nose so red I had to skip a lecture at Chautauqua, which
shocked my mother greatly. To think of your dear mother having an income
that will make her comfortable and independent!”

“Mother does not seem to be greatly elated over it. She is very glad to
pay off the mortgage on Chatsworth; relieved that we shall not have to
sell our beautiful beech woods; but money means less to my mother than
any one in the world, I do believe. Why, talking about my being a kid, I
was born more grown-up than my mother, in some ways. It’s the Irish in
her. The Irish are all children.”

Molly had very cleverly got Nance off of the subject of there being a
change in her, but Nance was right. Molly was older, and she felt it
herself. The summer had been an eventful one for her and had left her
older and wiser. Mildred’s marriage; Jimmy Lufton’s proposal, or near
proposal; the family’s change of fortune; Professor Green’s evident
preference for her society; all these things had combined to sober her
in a way.

“I am as limber as ever, and don’t feel my age in my ‘jints,’ but I am
getting on,” thought Molly. “Nance sees it, and I wonder if Professor
Green notices it. He seemed a little stiff with me, but seeing him for
the first time in class might account for that.”

The class in Domestic Science was proving of tremendous interest both to
Molly and Melissa. Melissa had much to learn and Molly much to un-learn.
It was a special course, and for that reason girls from all classes were
mixed in it. There were quite a number of Juniors, and Molly was sorry
to see Anne White among them, as she had been on the platform at
Wellington when Melissa arrived, and, in the quiet way for which she was
famous in making trouble, had been the one to start the titter that had
grown, as that seemingly unconscious young goddess made her way down the
platform, into a wave of laughter. Melissa had been fully aware of the
amusement she had caused, but she had borne no malice against the
thoughtless girls.

“I reckon I was a figure of fun to these rich girls,” Melissa said to
Molly, “but I know they did not mean to be unkind; and if they knew what
it means to me to come to college perhaps they would look at me
differently. Anyhow, you were so nice to me from the very minute I spoke
to you; and even before I spoke, Molly, dear, because I saw your sweet
eyes taking me in as I came up the platform between the rows of grinning
students. And I said to myself, ‘All these are just second-growth timber
and don’t count for much. That girl with the blue eyes and the pretty
red hair looking at me so kindly is the only tree here that is worth
much.’ And somehow I have been resting in the shade of your branches
ever since.”

This little conversation was held one morning as the girls were getting
their materials ready for some experimental bread-making. A tremendously
interesting lecture on yeast had preceded it, and now was to be followed
by various chemical experiments. The lecturer had not arrived, but had
appointed certain students to get the materials in order.

Anne White was one of the monitors, and was moving around in a demure
way, daintily setting out the little bowls of flour and portions of
yeast. Anne White was a small, mousy-looking, brown-haired young woman
who looked as though butter would not melt in her mouth, but who was in
reality often the ring-leader in many foolish escapades. She was a great
practical joker, and when all is told a practical joker is a very trying
person, and very often a person lacking in true humor. As she placed the
bowls of yeast, she sang the following song with many sly looks at Molly
and her friend:

  “The first time I saw Melissa,
  She was sitting in the cellar,
  Sitting in the cellar shelling peas.
  And when I stooped to kiss her,
  She said she’d tell her mother,
  For she was such an awful little tease.
    Oh, wasn’t she sweet? You bet she was,
  She couldn’t have been any sweeter.
    Oh, wasn’t she cute? You bet she was,
  She couldn’t have been any cuter.
  For when I stooped to kiss her,
  She said she’d tell her mother,
  For she was such an awful little tease.”

The singing was so evidently done for Melissa’s benefit that Molly felt
indignant.

“I can’t stand teasing, and certainly not such silly teasing as Anne
White delights in. She is a slippery little thing, and I have an idea
means mischief for my Melissa. I wish Judy were here to circumvent her,
but since she is not I shall have to keep my eye open.” So thought
Molly, and accordingly opened her eyes just in time to see Anne White
raise the cover of Melissa’s bowl of flour and drop in something. The
instructor came in just then and the class came to order.

“It can’t do any real harm,” thought Molly, “because we don’t have to
eat our messes, but if it is something to embarrass Melissa I shall have
a talk with Anne White that she will remember all her days. She knows
Melissa and I are not the kind to blab on her, the reason she is
presuming in this way.”

Miss Morse, the Domestic Science teacher, was so exactly like the
advertisements in the magazines of various foodstuffs that one was
forced to smile. She was always dressed in immaculate linen, and, as she
would stand at her desk and hold out a sample of material with which she
was going to demonstrate, her smile and expression were always those of
the lady who says, “Use this and no other.” She was thoroughly in
earnest, however, and scientific, and her lectures on Domestic Economy
were really thrilling to Molly, who always took an interest in household
affairs and was astonished to find out what a waste was going on in all
American homes. Melissa listened to every word, and felt that the
knowledge she was gaining in this branch of college work was perhaps the
most necessary of all to take back to her mountain people.

Miss Morse had the most wonderful and capable hands that were ever seen.
She was never known to spill anything or slop over; she used her scales
and measures with the precision of an analytical chemist; and, no matter
how complicated the experiment, there were no extra, useless utensils.
This in itself is worth coming to college to learn, as I have never
known a girl make a plate of fudge without getting every pan in the
kitchen dirty. Later on in the course of lectures this wonderful woman
actually killed a fowl and picked and dressed it right before the eyes
of the astonished girls, without making a spot on her dress or on the
cloth spread on her desk, and she did not even turn back her linen
cuffs.

“I wish Ca’line could see that,” thought Molly on that occasion, a
picture of the chicken pickin’ in the back yard at Chatsworth coming
before her mind’s eye, with feathers flying hither and yon and Ca’line
herself covered with gore.

“Now, young ladies,” said the precise Miss Morse, “enough flour is given
each one for a small loaf of bread; the right amount of water is
measured out; salt and sugar; lard and yeast. You have the correct
material for a perfect loaf. This is a demonstration of yesterday’s
lecture. Remember, salt retards the action of yeast and must not be put
in until the yeast plant has begun to grow. Sugar promotes the growth
and can be placed in the warm water with the yeast.”

The students went eagerly to work like so many children with their mud
pies. In due course of time each little loaf was made out and put at
exactly the right temperature to rise. Miss Morse explained to them the
different methods of bread-making and the fallacy of thinking that good
bread-making is due to luck. Molly smiled in remembering what dear old
Aunt Mary had said about remembering to put the gumption in.

While the bread was rising and baking the girls were allowed to work on
their Domestic Science problem, a pretty difficult one requiring all
their faculties: it was how to feed a family consisting of five, mother
and father and three children, on ten dollars for one week. The market
price of food was given and their menus were to be worked out with
regard to the amount of nourishment to be gained as well as the
suitability of food. Miss Morse told them they would have to study
pretty hard to do it, but it was splendid practice. Poor Melissa was
having a hard time. In the first place, she knew so little about food,
having been brought up so very simply, and then, she confided to Molly,
she was very much worried about her loaf of bread because it didn’t do
just right.

Finally the time was up, and the bread, too, according to science,
should have been up and ready to bake. The monitors were requested to
place the loaves in the gas ovens, already tested and proved to be of
proper temperature. The problems, meantime, must be completed at once
and handed in.

A wail from Melissa on the aside to Molly: “Oh, Molly, Molly, I have got
my family all fed for six days, and I forgot Sunday. Not a cent of money
left from all of that ten dollars, and I have known whole families live
for a month on less in the mountains! What shall I do?”

“I tell you,” said Molly, stopping a minute to think, “have them all
invited out to Sunday dinner and let them eat no breakfast in
anticipation of the good things they are expecting; and let the dinner
be so delicious and plentiful that they can’t possibly want any supper.”

“Good,” said Melissa, ever appreciative of Molly’s suggestions, “I’ll do
that very thing.” And so she did; and Miss Morse was so amused that she
let it pass as a very good paper, as indeed it was.

All of the little loaves were baked and placed in front of the girls,
the pans being numbered so that each loaf returned to its trembling
maker. It was strange that in spite of science the loaves did not look
exactly alike. Molly’s was beautiful, but had she not had her hand in
Aunt Mary’s dough ever since she could climb up to the table and cut out
little “bis’it wif a thimble”? Some of them looked bumpy and some
stringy, but poor Melissa’s was a strange dark color and had not risen.

“Miss Hathaway, did you follow the directions in your experiment?”

“Yes, Miss Morse, to the best of my ability,” answered Melissa. And,
then flushing and becoming excited, she dropped into her familiar
mountain speech. “Some low-down sneak has drapped some sody in we’un’s
pannikin. I mean, oh, I mean, some ill-bred person has put saleratus in
my little bowl. I have been raised on too much saleratus in the bread,
and I know it.” And the proud mountain girl, who had not minded the
laughter caused by her appearance, burst into tears over the failure of
her bread-making and fled from the room.

Miss Morse was shocked and sorry that such a scene should have occurred
in her class, but was determined to investigate the matter. She
dismissed the class without a word; but, as Molly was leaving the room,
she requested her to stop a moment.

“Miss Brown, this is a very unfortunate thing to have occurred in this
class. Domestic Science seems to be an easy prey to the practical joke,
and when once it is started it is a difficult matter to weed out. I am
particularly sorry for it to have been played on Miss Hathaway, who is
so earnest and anxious to learn. Miss Walker has told me much about her,
and the girl’s appearance alone is fine enough to interest one. I could
not help seeing by your countenance, which is a very speaking one, my
dear, that you knew something about this so-called joke. Now, Miss
Brown, I ask you as a friend to tell me what you know, and, if you are
not willing, I demand it of you as an instructor and member of the
faculty of Wellington.”

Molly, who had been as pale as death ever since Melissa’s mortification
and outbreak, now flushed crimson, held her breath a minute to get
control of her voice, and then answered with as much composure as she
could muster: “Miss Morse, I have gone through four years at Wellington
and have happened to know of a great many scrapes the different students
have got themselves in, but never yet have I been known to tell tales,
and I could hardly start now. I do know who did the dastardly trick, and
am glad that Melissa had recourse to her native dialect to express her
feelings about the person who was mean enough to do it; ‘low-down sneak’
is exactly what she was.”

“Very well, Miss Brown, if you refuse to divulge the name of the joker,
I shall be forced to take the matter up with the president. I hoped we
could settle it in the class. This department being a new one at
Wellington, and also my first experience at teaching, I naturally have
some feeling about making it go as smoothly as possible.” This time Miss
Morse was flushed and her lip trembling.

Molly felt truly sorry for her, and suddenly realized that Miss Morse,
with all of her assurance, was little more than a girl herself. As for
taking it up with the president, Molly smiled when she remembered the
time Miss Walker had tried to make her tell, and when she had refused
how Miss Walker had hugged her.

“Oh, Miss Morse, I am so sorry for you, and wish, almost wish, some one
had seen the offence besides myself, some one who would not mind
telling; but I truly can’t tell, somehow I am not made that way. There
is something I can do, though, and that is, go call on the person myself
and put it up to her to refrain from any more jokes in your class. I
meant to see her, anyhow, and warn her to let my Melissa alone.”

“Would you do that? I think that would be all that is necessary, and I
need not inform the president. I thank you, Miss Brown. You do not know
how this has disturbed me.”

“Too much ‘sody’ in the bread is a very disturbing thing,” laughed
Molly. “I remember a story they tell on my grandfather. He had an old
cook who was very fond of making buttermilk biscuit, and equally fond of
putting too much soda in them. He stood it for some time, but one
morning when they were brought to breakfast as green as poor Melissa’s
loaf, grandpa sent for the cook and made her eat the whole panful.
Needless to add, she was cured of the soda habit. It would be a great
way to cure the would-be joker if we made her eat Melissa’s sad loaf.”

Molly did see Anne White that very afternoon, making a formal call on
her and giving that mousy young woman a talk that made her cry and
promise to play no more jokes in Domestic Science class, and to
apologize to Melissa for the mortification she had caused her. Molly
told her something about Melissa and the struggle and sacrifices she had
made to get her education, and before she had finished Anne White was as
much interested in the mountain girl and as anxious for her to succeed
as Molly herself. She promised to help her all she could, and a Junior
can do a great deal to help a Freshman. Molly was astonished to find
that Anne White was really rather likable. She had a mistaken sense of
fun, but was not really unkind.

Melissa had too much to do to brood long over her outbreak, and laughed
and let the matter drop out of her mind when the following apology was
poked under her door:

  “My Dear Miss Hathaway: I am truly sorry to have caused you so much
  mortification in the Domestic Science class. It was a very foolish,
  thoughtless act, and I hope you will accept my apology. I wish I had
  found such a friend in my freshman year as you have in Molly Brown.

                                                   “Sincerely yours,
                                               “‘A Low-Down Sneak.’”



CHAPTER III.—HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF.


Molly and Nance were very busy with their special courses, Nance working
at French literature as though she had no other interest in the world,
and Molly at English and Domestic Science.

“Thank goodness, I shall not have to tutor! Since we ‘struck ile’ I am
saved that,” said Molly one day to her roommate, who was as usual
occupied, in spite of its being “blind man’s holiday,” too early to
light the gas and too late to see without it. “Nance, you will put out
your eyes with that mending. I never saw such a busy bee as you are.
Melissa tells me you are going to help her with a dress, too.”

“Yes, I am so glad she will let me. I told her how we made the Empire
gown for you in your Freshman year, and she seemed to feel that if her
dear Molly allowed that much to be done for her, it was not for her to
object to a similar favor. I know you will laugh when I tell you that I
am going to get a one-piece dress and an extra skirt for shirtwaists out
of the blue homespun. It is beautiful material, spun with an
old-fashioned spinning wheel and woven on a hand loom by Melissa’s
grandmother. Did you ever see so much goods in one dress? It seems that
the dear woman who has taught her everything she knows has not had any
new clothes herself for ten years, and could not give her much idea of
the prevailing fashion; and Melissa made this dress herself from a
pattern her mother had used for her wedding dress. I hate to cut it up.
It seems a kind of desecration, but Melissa has a splendid figure and if
her clothes were not quite so voluminous she would be as stylish as any
one. She improves every day in many ways and seems to be less shy.”

“She has an instinct for good literature. Professor Green tells me her
taste is unerring. He says it is because her preference is for the
simple, and the simple is always the best. Little Otoyo has the same
feeling for the best in poetry. Haven’t we missed that little Jap,
though? I’ll be so glad to have her back. I fancy I shall have some
tutoring to do in spite of myself to get Otoyo Sen up with her class.”

Otoyo Sen, the little Japanese girl who had played such a close part in
the college life of our girls, had been back in Japan, and had not been
able to reach America in time for the opening weeks of college, due to
some business engagements of her father. But she was trusting to Molly
and her own industry to catch up with her class, and was hurrying back
to Wellington as fast as the San Francisco Limited could bring her.

Molly had been writing every moment that she could spare from her hard
reading, and now she had two things she really wanted to show Professor
Green—a story she had worked on for weeks until it seemed to be part of
her, and a poem. She had sent the poem to a magazine and it had been
rejected, accompanied by a letter which she could not understand. At all
times in earlier days she had gone frankly to the professor’s study to
ask him for advice, but this year she could hardly make up her mind to
do it.

“He is as kind as ever to me, but somehow I can’t make up my mind to run
in on him as I used to,” said Molly to herself. “I know I am a silly
goose—or is it perhaps because I am so grown up? It is only five o’clock
this minute, it gets dark so early in November, and I have half a mind
to go now.” The temperament that goes with Molly’s coloring usually
means quick action following the thought, so in a moment Molly had on
her jacket and hat. “Nance, I am going to see Professor Green about some
things I have been writing. I won’t be late, but don’t wait tea for me.
Melissa may be in to see us, but you will take care of her, I know.”

There was a rather tired-sounding, “Come in,” at Molly’s knock on
Professor Green’s study door.

“Oh, dear, now I am going to bore him!” thought the girl. “I have half a
mind to run back through the passage and get out into the Cloister
before he has a chance to open the door and see who was knocking. But
that would be too foolish for a postgraduate! I’d better run the risk of
boring him rather than have him think I am some one playing a foolish
Sophomore joke, or even a timid little Freshman, afraid to call her soul
her own.”

“Come in, come in. Is any one there?” called the voice rather briskly
for the usually gentle professor. And before Molly could open the door
it was actually jerked open. “Dearest Molly!—I mean, Miss Molly—I
thought you were going to be some one else. The fact is, I have had a
regular visitation from would-be poets this afternoon, and, as it never
rains but it pours, I had a terrible feeling that it was another one. I
am so glad to see you; not just because you are not what I feared you
were, but because you are you.”

Molly blushed crimson and tried to hide the little roll of manuscript
behind her, but the young man saw it and kicked himself mentally for a
rash, talking idiot.

“I can’t come in, thank you. I just stopped by to—to——I just thought I’d
ask you when your sister was coming.”

“Oh, Molly Brown, what a poor prevaricator you do make! You know
perfectly well you have written something you want me to see; and you
also know, or ought to know, that I want to see what you have written
above everything; and what I said about would-be poets had nothing to do
with you and me. The fact is, I am a would-be myself and have been
working on a sonnet this afternoon instead of looking over the thousand
themes that I must have finished before to-morrow’s lecture. I had just
got the eighth line completed when you knocked, and the six others will
be easy. Please come in and take off your hat, and I’ll get Mrs. Brady
to make us some tea; and while the kettle is boiling you can show me
what you have been doing, and when I get my other six lines to my sonnet
done I’ll show it to you.”

Molly of course had to comply with a request made with so much
kindliness and sincerity. Mrs. Brady came, in answer to the professor’s
bell which connected his study with his house, and was delighted to see
Molly, remembering with great pleasure the Christmas breakfast the young
girl had cooked for Professor Green the year before. Molly had a way
with her that appealed to old people as well as young, and she had won
Mrs. Brady’s heart on that memorable morning by telling her that she,
too, boasted of Irish blood.

“And I might have known it, from the sweet tongue in your head,” Mrs.
Brady had replied.

The old woman hastened off to make the tea, and Molly reluctantly
unrolled her manuscript.

“Professor Green, I want you to think of me as some one you do not know
or like when you read my stuff.”

“That is a very difficult task you have set me, and I am afraid one that
I am unequal to; but I do promise to be unbiased and to give you my real
opinion, and you must not be discouraged if it is not favorable,
because, after all, it is worth very little.”

“I think it is worth a lot. This first thing is something I have been
working on very hard. It is called ‘The Basket Funeral.’ I remembered
what you told me about trying to write about familiar things, and then,
on reading the ‘Life and Letters of Jane Austen,’ I came on her advice
to a niece who was contemplating a literary career. It was, ‘Send your
characters where you have never been yourself, but never take them.’ I
had never been out of Kentucky, except to row across the Ohio River to
Indiana, when I came to Wellington, and so I put my story in Kentucky
with Aunt Mary as my heroine. Now be as hard on me as you want to. I can
stand it.”

There was perfect silence in the pleasant study while Edwin Green
carefully perused the well-written manuscript. An occasional involuntary
chuckle was all that broke the quiet when one of Aunt Mary’s witticisms
brought back the figure of the old darkey to his mind. When he had
finished, which was in a very few minutes, as the sketch was a short
one, he carefully rolled the paper and remained silent. Molly felt as
though she would scream if he did not say something, but not a word did
he utter, only sat and rolled the manuscript and smiled an inscrutable
smile. Finally she could stand it no longer.

“I am sorry to have bothered you, Professor Green. I know it is hard for
you to have to tell me the truth, so I won’t ask you.” She reached for
the roll of paper, her hand shaking a little with excitement.

“Oh, please excuse me. Do you know, I took you at your word and forgot I
knew you, and forgot how much I liked you; forgot everything in fact but
Aunt Mary and the ‘Basket Funeral.’ My dear girl, you have done a
wonderful little bit of writing, simple, natural, sincere. I
congratulate you and envy you.”

And what should Molly do, great, big, grown-up postgraduate that she
was, but behave exactly as the little Freshman had four years before
when this same august professor had rescued her from the locked
Cloisters: she burst into tears. At that crucial moment the rattle of
tea cups was heard as Mrs. Brady came lumbering down the hall, and Molly
had to compose herself and make out she had a bad cold.

“Have some hot soup,” said the young man, and both of them laughed.

“It was natural for me to blubber, after all,” said Molly, after Mrs.
Brady had taken her departure. “When you sat there so still, with your
lips so tightly closed, I felt exactly as I did four years ago, shut out
in the cold with all the doors locked; and when you finally spoke it was
like coming into your warm pleasant study again with you being kind to
me just as you were to the little scared Freshman. Do you know, I like
my picture of Aunt Mary, too, and when I thought you didn’t like it I
felt forlorn indeed.”

“I notice one thing, Miss Molly Brown of Kentucky doesn’t cry until
everything is over. The little Freshman didn’t blubber while she was
locked out, but waited until she got into the pleasant study, and now
the ancient postgrad is able to restrain her tears until the awful ogre
of a critic praises her work. Now let’s have another cup of tea all
around and show me what else you have brought.”

“I hesitate to show you this more than the other thing, after your
cutting remarks about would-bes. But I want you to read this so you can
tell me what this letter means that I got from the editor of a magazine,
when he politely returned my rejected poem.”

“Read me the poem yourself. Would you mind? Poetry should always be read
aloud, I think; and afterward I will see what I think the editor meant.”

[Illustration: “Read me the poem yourself. Would you mind?”—Page 218.]

“All right, but I am afraid it is getting late and Nance will worry
about me.”

The study was cosy indeed with its rows and rows of books, its
comfortable chairs and the cheerful open grate. This was his one
extravagance in a land of furnace heat and drum stoves, so Edwin Green
declared. “But somehow the glow of the fire makes me think better,” he
said in self-defence.

Molly read any poetry well, her voice with its musical quality being
peculiarly adapted to it. This was her poem:

  “My thoughts like gentle steeds to-day
  Rest quiet in the paddock fold,
  Munching their food contentedly.
  Was it last night? When up—away!
  Through spaces limitless, untold,
  Like storm clouds lashed before the wind,
  Nor strength, nor will could check nor hold,
  Manes flying—through the night they dashed
  ‘Til the first glimmering sun’s ray flashed
  Its blessed light; ‘til the first sigh
  Of dawn’s awak’ning stirred the leaves.
  Then back to quiet fold—the night was done—
  Bend patient necks—the yoke—and day’s begun.”

“Let me see it. Your voice would make ‘Eany, meany, miney, mo’ sound
like music. I should have read it first to myself to be able to pass on
it without prejudice.”

He took the poem and read it very carefully. “Miss Molly, you are aware
of the fact that you may become a real writer? How old are you?”

“Almost twenty.”

“Well, I consider that a pretty good poem for almost twenty. I bet I
know what that saphead of an editor had to say without reading his
letter. Didn’t he say something about your having only thirteen lines?”

“Oh, is that what he meant? I have puzzled my brains out over his note.
I didn’t even know I had only thirteen lines. Of course I knew it wasn’t
exactly sonnet form, but somehow I started out to make fourteen lines
and thought I had done it. Here is his cryptic note.”

  “Dear M. B.: We are sorry to say we are too superstitious to print
  your poem. Are the poor horses too tired to go a few more feet? If
  you can urge them on, even if you should lame them a bit, we might
  reconsider and accept your verses.

                                                  “The Editor of ——”

“Fools, fools, all of them are fools! Don’t you change it for the whole
of the silly magazine. It is a good poem, and its having thirteen lines
is none of his business. Haven’t you as much right to create a form of
verse as Villon or Alfred Tennyson? That editor would have rejected
‘Tears, idle tears,’ because it hasn’t a rhyme in it and looks as though
it might have.”

The professor was so excited that Molly had to laugh.

“You are certainly kind to me and my efforts. I must go now. Please give
my love to Mrs. Brady and thank her for her tea. You never did tell me
when you expect your sister.”

“Bless my soul,” said Edwin Green, looking at his watch, “she will be
here in a few minutes now!”

“Don’t forget to let me see your sonnet, and please put all the lines
in. I am so glad your sister is to be with you, and hope to see her
often.”

And Molly flew away, happy as a bird that her writing was coming on, and
that she felt at home again with the most interesting man she had ever
met.



CHAPTER IV.—A BARREL FROM HOME.


Christmas was upon our girls almost before they had unpacked and settled
down to work. Mid-year exams. had no terrors for our two post-graduates,
but they were working just as hard as they ever had in their collegiate
course.

“I don’t know what it is that drives us so, Nance, unless it is that we
are getting ready for the final examination at Judgment Day,” said
Molly. “I am so interested, I never seem to get tired these days; and I
don’t even mind the tutoring that has been thrust upon me. Now that I
shall not have to teach for a living, I really believe I should not mind
it very much.”

Otoyo Sen was safely sailing under Molly’s tutelage through her senior
year. She spoke the most correct and precise English unless she was
embarrassed or upset in some way, and then, like Melissa Hathaway, she
spoke from the heart, and little Otoyo’s heart seemed to beat in adverbs
and participles. She and Melissa had struck up the closest friendship.

“We might have known they would,” said the analytical Nance. “They are
strangely alike to be so different.”

“Now, Nance, how Bostonesque we are becoming! I have never asked a
Bostonian a question that I have not been answered in this way, ‘It is
and it isn’t,’” teased Molly.

“Well, they are alike in being foreign, for Melissa is as foreign from
us as is Otoyo. Then they are both scrupulously courteous until their
amour propre is stepped on, and then you realize that they are both
medieval. They are certainly alike in pride and in fortitude and
perseverance and family feeling. You know perfectly well that the real
Melissa that is so covered up by this educated Melissa would take a gun
and shoot every living Sydney she could get at if her grandmother told
her to! I hope to goodness modernism will never get to the old woman and
she will learn that women can do anything men can, or she will make
Melissa take the place of the sons she mourns. On the other hand, little
Otoyo would commit hara-kiri without winking an eyelash if
honorable-father told her to.”

“You have so convinced me of their similarity that I see no room for
difference. They will look to me exactly like twins after this,” laughed
Molly; and both the girls could hardly restrain their merriment, for at
that moment the so-called twins came in to call: Melissa, tall and
stately as “the lonesome pine,” with all doubts as to her fine figure
removed now, thanks to Nance’s skillful reformation of the blue
homespun; and little Otoyo looking more like a mechanical toy than ever,
since she had taken on a little more of the desirable flesh, according
to the taste of her countrymen.

“Melissa and I have determined to move into a suite together,” said
Otoyo, as they entered. “Miss Walker said it is not usually for a
Freshman and Senior to be so intimately, but since there is a suite
vacant in the Quadrangle and more visits for singletons than suites, she
is willing.”

“You are excited over it, I know, you dear little Otoyo,” said her
tutor, “or you would not be so adverbial, and you must mean ‘calls for
singletons’ instead of ‘visits.’”

“Oh, you English and your language, made for what you call puns!”

“I am glad you call them puns instead of visiting them on us,” said
Nance, dodging a soft cushion hurled by Molly. “Did you girls hear the
news? I am to stay at Wellington for Christmas and my father is coming
down here to spend it with me. I can’t think when father has taken a
holiday before, and I am as excited about it as can be. He needs a rest,
and he needs some fun. I wish he could have come last year before the
old guard disbanded.”

“But listen to me,” put in Molly. “I have some news, too, that I was
trying to keep for a surprise, but I am a sieve where news is concerned:
Judy Kean is to be here for Christmas, too. She writes that as her
mother and father are in Turkey she will have to have some turkey in
her, and she can think of no place that she would rather have that
turkey than at Wellington with us. Dear old Judy, won’t it be fun? And
she will help to whoop things up for your father, Nance. She expected to
be studying art in Paris by now, but Mr. Kean insisted on a year of
drawing in New York before Paris, and that makes her in easy reach of
us. We shall have to stop work and go to playing. I declare I have grown
so used to work—I don’t believe I know how to play.”

“Mees Grace Green is going to have an astonishment party for her
brother, the young student medical,” said Otoyo, the ever-ready news
monger.

“A surprise party for Dodo,” shrieked the girls with delight. “Otoyo,
Otoyo, you are too delicious.”

“Also, Mr. Andy McLean will be home with his honorable parents for
making holiday, having done much proud work in the law school at Harvard
University.”

Nance smiled. Her private opinion was that Mr. Andrew McLean and his
proud work were the cause of Otoyo’s very mixed English.

“Also,” continued Otoyo, “Mr. Andrew McLean will bring with him
honorable young Japanese gentleman, who has hugged the Christian faith
and is muchly studying to live in this country, whereas his honorable
father has a wonderful shop of beautiful Japanese prints in Boston. My
honorable father is familiar with his honorable father, namely, Mr.
Seshu.”

“Oh ho, and that is the reason of the many mistakes,” said Molly, in an
aside to Nance. “I thought at first it was Andy’s return, but I bet the
little thing is contemplating something in connection with the honorable
Mr. Seshu. I wonder if her father has written her about this young Jap.”

During all this chit-chat Melissa had sat perfectly quiet, but her quiet
was never heavy nor depressing. She looked calmly and interestedly on
and listened and smiled and sometimes gave a low laugh, showing that her
humor was keen and ready. Otoyo was a never-failing source of delight to
her, and when the little thing spoke of hugging the Christian faith a
real hearty laugh came bubbling up. But she put her arm affectionately
around her little friend and smothered her laugh in Otoyo’s smooth black
hair, that always had a look of having just been brushed, no matter how
modern and American was the arrangement.

And very modern and American were all of Otoyo’s arrangements now. Her
clothes bore the stamp of the best New York shops, with the most
up-to-date shoes and hats, and she endeavored in every way to be as
American as possible. She even tried to use the slang she heard around
her, but her attempts in that direction were very laughable.

In due time the holidays arrived, and with them came our own Judy full
of enthusiasm for her work at the art school; came young Andy with his
Japanese friend from the law school. Andy looking older and broader and
more robust, not half so raw-boned as he used to be, and the young
Japanese gentleman, on first sight, so like Otoyo that it was funny—but,
on further acquaintance, it proved to be a racial likeness only; came
Nance’s father, a staid, quiet gentleman with his daughter’s merry brown
eyes and a general look of one to be depended on; came George Theodore
Green, familiarly known as Dodo, no longer so shy, but with much more
assurance of manner, as befitted a medical student from Johns Hopkins.

Miss Grace Green had secretly sent out invitations for the surprise
party for Christmas Eve, and all the girls were very busy getting their
best bibs and tuckers in order to do honor to the occasion. Molly had
seen a good deal of Miss Green since she came to Wellington to keep
house for her brother, and they had become fast friends. Miss Green
often asked her to come in to afternoon tea, and then they would have
the most delightful talks in the professor’s study, and he would read to
them. Sometimes Molly would be prevailed upon to read some of her
sketches, always of Kentucky and the familiar things of her childhood.
She lost her shyness in doing this, and felt that it rather helped her
and gave her new ideas for more things to write about.

“Judy, please help me unpack this barrel from home,” called Molly the
day before Christmas. “I know you will want to help carry some of the
things to the Greens for me. I almost wish I had sent the barrel there,
as so many of the things are to go to them. We shall be laden down, I am
sure.”

Judy, all excitement, began to knock off the top hoop and then with much
hacking and prying they finally got off the head of the
formidable-looking barrel and began to unpack the goodies: a ham for the
professor of English cooked by Aunt Mary; a fruit cake for Molly, black
and rich, with an odor to it that Judy said reminded her of the feast in
St. Agnes Eve; a jar of Rosemary pickles; one of brandy peaches; a box
of beaten biscuit; a roasted turkey, stuffed with chestnuts, and a
wonderful bunch of mistletoe full of berries, growing to a knobby
stunted branch of a walnut tree, which Kent had sawed off with great
care and then packed so well with tissue paper that not one berry or
leaf was misplaced.

“This is for Miss Green’s party. I asked Kent to get it for me. You know
her party is to be an old English one, and it would not be complete
without mistletoe. What is this little note hitched to it?

  “’Dearest Molly:

  “‘I almost broke my neck getting this, and hope it is what you want.
  Tell Miss Judy Kean, who, I hear, is to spend Christmas with you,
  not to get under this until I get there.

                                                            “’Kent.’

“What can he mean? Judy Kean, is Kent coming here for Christmas? Answer
me.”

But Judy only buried her crimson face in the big turkey’s bosom and
giggled.

“Answer me, Judy Kean.”

“How do I know? Am I your brother’s keeper?”

“He couldn’t be coming or mother would have written me! I see he means
for you to wait for him until he ‘arrives’ in his profession. Oh, Judy,
Judy, I do hope you will! But come on now, we must take these things to
the Greens. Miss Grace is very busy with her preparations, while Dodo is
off for the day with young Andy and his Jap friend, revisiting their old
college, Exmoor. We must get the mistletoe hung; and the ham is to be
part of the party, I fancy. I am going to take them some of these
pickles, too, and half of my fruit cake. It is so big that it will take
us months to devour it, besides ruining our complexions.”

The girls, weighed down with their heavy contributions—ham, pickle,
fruit cake and mistletoe—rang the bell at Professor Green’s house,
fronting on the campus. The door was quickly opened by Miss Alice Fern.
She eyed them haughtily and coldly, hardly responding to Molly’s
greeting and barely acknowledging the introduction to Judy, whom she
already knew, but refused to remember.

“My cousin, Miss Green, is very busy and regrets she cannot speak to you
just now.”

“Oh, I am sorry not to see her! I have some mistletoe that my brother
sent her from Kentucky, and Miss Kean and I were going to ask her to let
us hang it for her.”

“You are very kind, but I am decorating the house for my cousins, and
can do it very well without any assistance from outside.”

“Molly, we had better leave our packages and make a chastened
departure,” said Judy, the irrepressible. “We have some interior
decorations besides the mistletoe, Miss Fern, in the way of an old ham
and a fruit cake, and some Rosemary pickles. Are you also chairman of
the committee on that kind of interior decorations? If you are not, I
should think it were best for us to interview the secretary of the
interior, if we are not allowed to see the head of the department.”

At that moment who should come bounding up the steps but Edwin Green
himself.

“Good morning to both of you! I am so glad to see you back in
Wellington, Miss Kean. I have just come from the Quadrangle, where I
went to call on you, but saw Miss Oldham, who told me you and Miss Molly
were on your way to see my sister. Why don’t you come in? Grace is in
the pantry, preparing for the ‘astonishment party,’ as I am told Miss
Sen calls it. I will call her directly.”

“Grace has asked to be excused to callers, Edwin,” said the stately Miss
Fern.

“Nonsense, Alice, she was expecting Miss Brown to decorate the parlors,
and Miss Kean is not a stranger to any of us. Come in, come in,” and the
indignant professor ushered them into the parlor and went to call his
sister, confiding to her, as she hastened to greet the girls, that if
Alice Fern did not stop trying to run their affairs he was going to do
something desperate.

“I am afraid you brought it on us by being too nice to her two years ago
when she first came home from abroad,” teased his sister; and he
remembered that he had been rather attentive to his fair cousin at a
time when Miss Molly Brown of Kentucky had had a little misunderstanding
with him.

“How good of you, you dear, sweet girl, to have this mistletoe sent all
the way from Kentucky for our party, and what a wonderful piece of
walnut it is growing to, this great, knotted, knobby branch! But, Alice,
don’t break any of it off! You will ruin it.” Miss Green stopped Alice
just in time, as she had begun with rapid tugs to pull the mistletoe
from the branch that Kent had sawed off with such care, and to stick it
in vases among the holly, where it did not show to any advantage. “Of
course, it must be hung from the chandelier just as it is.”

“Oh, very well, Cousin Grace; but it seems to me to be a very heavy
looking decoration.” And the young woman flounced off, leaving Molly and
Judy feeling very much mystified, to say the least.

“Aunt Mary sent you a ham, Professor Green. I brought it to-day,
thinking maybe your sister would like it for part of the night’s
festivities.”

“Not a bit of it. That ham is to be brought out when there are not so
many to devour it. I am not usually a greedy glutton, but beech-nut fed,
home-cured ham is too good for the rabble, and I am going to hide it
before Grace casts her eagle eye on it.” He accordingly picked it up and
pretended to conceal it from his smiling sister.

“Well, anyhow, Miss Green, you will use my fruit cake for the party,
will you not?” begged Molly.

“Oh, please don’t ask me to. I know there is nothing in the world so
good as fruit cake, and Edwin has told me of the wonders that come from
Aunt Mary’s kitchen. So if you don’t mind, Molly, I am going to keep my
cake for our private consumption. It would disappear like magic before
the young people to-night, and Edwin and I could have it for many nights
to come. Do you think I am as greedy as Edwin is with his ham?”

Molly was very much amused, but her amusement was turned to
embarrassment when she heard Miss Fern say to her Cousin Edwin: “Miss
Brown seems to be trying very hard to give the party.”

She did not hear Edwin’s answer, but noticed that he hugged his ham even
more fervently, it being, fortunately for him and his coat, well wrapped
in waxed paper. She also noticed that he went around and took out of the
vases the few pieces of mistletoe that his cousin had pulled from the
big bunch, and carefully wired them where they belonged on the walnut
branch, and then got a step ladder and tied the beautiful decoration to
the chandelier, while Judy, ignoring the stately Alice, bossed the job.

“Miss Molly, did you know that Dicky Blount will be here to-night?”
asked the professor. “We can have some good music, which will be a
welcome addition to the program, I think.”

“That is fine; but please give him a slice of ham. I feel as though some
were coming to him. Five pounds of Huyler’s was too much for the old ham
bone he got that memorable evening at Judith’s dinner. By the way,
Professor Green, I want to ask a favor of you and your sister.”

“Granted before asked, as far as I am concerned, and Grace is usually
very amiable where you are in question,” said the eager Edwin.

“Oh, it isn’t so much of a favor, and I have an idea I am doing you one
to ask it of you. My dear friend Melissa Hathaway has a most wonderful
voice, but no one ever knows it, as she is so reserved. I thought, maybe
to-night, you might persuade her to sing. She has some ballads that are
splendid for an Old English celebration.”

“I should say we will ask her, and be too glad to! I am so pleased that
she is coming. She seemed rather doubtful whether she could or not.”

“Oh, that was just clothes, and clever Nance solved the problem for her
just as she often has for me by making something out of nothing. When
you see our Melissa and realize that her dress is made of eight yards of
Seco silk at twenty cents a yard, you will think Nance is pretty
clever.”



CHAPTER V.—DODO’S SURPRISE PARTY.


The old red brick house, where Professor Green had his bachelor
quarters, had been put in good order for his sister’s régime, and with
the furniture that had been in storage for many years since the death of
their parents was made most attractive. It was designed for parties,
seemingly, as the whole lower floor could be turned practically into one
room. It had begun to snow, which made the glowing fire in the big hall
even more cheerful by contrast.

“Whew! aren’t we festive?” exclaimed Dodo, bursting in at the front door
with Lawrence Upton, whom he had picked up at Exmoor. “Looks to me like
a ball, with all of this holly and the bare floors ready for dancing.
Andy and his little Jap are coming around this evening to see you,
Gracey, and I wish we could get some girls to have a bit of a dance. I
have been learning to dance along with my other arduous tasks at the
University, and I’d like to trip the light fantastic toe with some real
flesh and blood. I have had nothing but a rocking chair to practice with
for ever so long. I’ve got a little broken sofa that is great to ‘turkey
trot’ with.”

“How about the old tune, ‘Waltzing ’Round with Sophy, Sophy Just
Seventeen,’ for that dance of yours?” laughed his older brother. “I
declare, Dodo, we ought to do better than that for you at a girls’
college, even in holiday time. Let’s wait and see if young Andy comes,
and then with his help maybe we can scare up a girl or so.”

Miss Grace thanked Edwin with an appreciative pat for keeping up the
game of surprise party. Just then Richard Blount came blowing in from
New York, and they all went in to supper, where the greedy Edwin
permitted them to have a try at his ham.

“What a girl that Miss Brown is!” declared Dicky. “She seems to me to be
the most attractive blonde I have ever seen.” Richard, being very fair,
of course, had a leaning toward brunettes. “We were talking about her
the other evening at the Stewarts’, and we agreed that when all was told
she was about the best bred person we knew.”

Miss Fern, to whom praise of Molly seemed to be bitterness and gall,
gave a sniff of her aristocratic nose and remarked: “There must have
been some question of Miss Brown’s breeding for you to have been
discussing it. I have always thought breeding was something taken for
granted.”

“So it should be,” said Professor Green, laconically.

“Do you know, it is a strange thing to me, but the only two persons in
the world that I know of who don’t like Miss Molly Brown of Kentucky are
our two cousins on different sides of the house—Judith Blount and you,
Cousin Alice.”

This from Dodo, enfant terrible. Edwin turned the color of his old ham
and looked sternly at Dodo, who was entirely unconscious of having said
anything amiss. Miss Grace and Lawrence Upton giggled shamefully, while
Richard Blount hastened to say, “I think you are mistaken about Judith.
On the contrary, she now speaks very highly of Miss Brown, and looks
upon her as a very good friend.”

“As for me,” said Alice, “I have never given Miss Brown a thought one
way or the other. I do not know her well enough to dislike her. She
impresses me as being rather pushing.”

At this Miss Grace made a sign for them to rise, as she was anxious to
get the dining-room in readiness for the entertainment.

“All of you boys had better put on your dress suits if there is a chance
of scaring up some dancers,” she tactfully suggested, so there was a
general rush for their rooms, and she was left in peace to get
everything ready for the surprise party.

The guests, as had been agreed upon, arrived together. The old house was
suddenly filled with dancers enough to satisfy the eager Dodo, and dear
Mrs. McLean, ready to play dance music until they dropped. Dodo was
astonished enough to delight his sister, and the fun began.

Dr. McLean and Mr. Oldham found much to talk about, so Nance felt that
her father was going to have a pleasant evening, and with a glad sigh
gave herself up to having a good time with the rest. Young Andy was not
long in attaching himself to her side, and they picked up conversation
where they had dropped it the year before and seemed to find each other
as agreeable as ever.

All the girls looked lovely, as girls should when they have an evening
of fun ahead of them and plenty of partners to make things lively.
Several more young men came over from Exmoor, in response to a secret
invitation sent by Miss Grace through young Andy, so, as Judy put it,
“There were beaux to burn.”

Judy was going in very much for the picturesque in dress, as is the
usual thing with art students, so she was very æsthetically attired in a
clinging green Liberty silk. Molly wore her bridesmaid blue organdy,
which was very becoming. Nance,—who always had the proper thing to wear
on every occasion without having to scrape around and take stitches and
let down hems, and find a petticoat to match, and for that reason had
time to do those necessary things for the other girls,—wore a pretty
little evening gown of white chiffon, and she looked so pretty herself
that Dr. McLean whispered to his wife that he took it all back about
young Andy’s having picked out a plain lassie. Little Otoyo had on the
handsomest dress of the evening, a rose pink silk embroidered in cherry
blossoms. The clever child had bought the dress in New York at a swell
shop and taken it to Japan with her, and there had the wonderful
embroidery put on it. Melissa was a revelation to herself and her
friends. The black Seco silk fitted her so well that Nance was really
elated over her success as a mantuamaker. Melissa had never gone
décolleté in her life, and at first the girls could hardly persuade her
to wear the low-necked dress; but when she saw Molly she was content.

“Whatever Molly does is always right, and if she wears low neck then I
will, too,” said the artless girl.

Her hair was rolled at the sides and done in a low knot on her neck. As
she came into the parlor Richard Blount, who was going over some music
at the piano, did not see her at first. Looking up to speak to Edwin
about a song he was to sing, he was struck dumb by her beauty. Clutching
Edwin he managed to gasp out, “Great Cæsar! who is she?”

“She is not Medusa, my dear Dick. Don’t stand as though you had turned
to stone. It is Miss Hathaway, a friend of Miss Brown’s, and a very
interesting and original young woman, also from Kentucky, but from the
mountains. I will introduce you with pleasure.”

Edwin Green did introduce him, and if Richard Blount took his eyes from
Melissa once during the evening he did it when no one was looking.

Mr. Seshu, young Andy’s friend, proved to be a charming, educated young
man, who understood English perfectly and spoke with only an occasional
blunder. He made himself very agreeable to Molly, who was eager to talk
with him, hoping to find out if he were worthy of their little Otoyo.
The girls were almost certain that he had come to Wellington with the
idea of viewing Otoyo and passing on her as a possible wife. Otoyo had
let drop two or three remarks that made them feel that this was the
case. She was very much excited, and her little hands were like ice when
Molly took them in hers to tell her how sweet she looked and how
beautiful and becoming her dress was. It was a trying ordeal for any
girl, and Molly wondered that the little thing could go through with it,
but honorable father had thus decreed it and it must be borne.

“I fancy it is better than having the marriage broker putting his finger
in, which is what would have happened if the Sens and Seshus had not
‘hugged the Christian faith’ and come to America,” whispered Molly to
Nance as they took off their wraps.

“I’d see myself being pranced out like a colt, honorable father or not,”
said Nance. “I fancy he is very nice, however, or Andy would not be so
chummy with him.”

Molly was amused at the farce of telling Mr. Seshu that one of his
country women was a student at Wellington, and she hoped to have the
pleasure of introducing them. He received the information with a polite
bow, and no more expression than a stone image, but with volubly
expressed thanks and eagerness for the introduction.

“Our little Otoyo is very precious to us,” said Molly, “and we are very
proud of her progress in her studies. She takes a fine place with her
class, and will graduate this year with flying colors. She writes
perfect English, but there are times in conversation when adverbs are
too many for her. She is excited to-night over coming to a dance, having
but recently added dancing to her many accomplishments, and her adverbs
may get the better of her.” Molly was determined that the seeker for a
wife should not take the poor little thing’s excitement to himself.

Mr. Seshu seemed more anxious to talk about Otoyo than to meet her.

“And so you are trying to pump me about my little friend, are you, you
wily young Jap? Well, you have come to the right corner. I’ll tell you
all I can, and you shall hear such good things of Otoyo that you will
think I am a veritable marriage broker,” said Molly to herself.

“Is Mees Sen of kindly heart and temper good, you say?”

“She has the kindest heart in the world and a good temper, but she is
well able to stand up for herself when it is necessary.”

“He shall not think he is getting nothing but a good family horse, but I
am going to try to let him understand that our little Otoyo has a high
spirit and is fit for something besides the plow,” added Molly to
herself.

After much talk, in which Molly felt that she had been most diplomatic,
Mr. Seshu was finally presented to Miss Sen. Poor little Otoyo was not
as embarrassed as she would have been had she not learned to converse
with honorable gentlemen quite like American maidens. The practice she
had had with young Andy and Professor Green came in very well now, and
her anxious friends were delighted to see that she was holding her own
with her polished countryman, and that he seemed much interested in her
chatter. At the instigation of Molly and Nance, Andy McLean soon came up
and claimed Otoyo for a dance. She looked very coquettishly at her
Japanese suitor and immediately accepted, and Mr. Seshu was as
disconsolate as any other young man would have been to have a pleasant
companion snatched from him.

“We’ll teach him a thing or two,” said our girls. “And just look how
well Otoyo is ‘step twoing,’ as she calls it, with Andy!”

“While the dancers are resting we will have some music,” said the
gracious hostess. “I am going to ask you, Miss Hathaway, to sing for
us.”

Melissa looked astonished that she should be chosen, but, with that
poise and dignity that years in society cannot give some persons, she
agreed to sing what she could if Molly would accompany her on the
guitar.

“Sing ‘Lord Ronald and Fair Eleanor,’” whispered Molly. “I want
Professor Green to hear it.”

[Illustration: The two Kentucky girls made a wonderfully charming
picture.—Page 252.]

The two Kentucky girls made a wonderfully charming picture as they took
their places to do their part toward entertaining the guests—Molly so
fair and slender in her pretty blue dress, with her hair “making
sunshine in a shady place,” seated with the guitar, while Melissa, tall
and stately, with figure more developed, in her clinging black dress
stood near her. Judy was so overcome at the picturesque effect that she
began to make rapid sketching movements in the air as was her wont.

“Oh, what don’t we see when we haven’t got a gun! I’d give anything for
a piece of charcoal and some paper.”

“I don’t know all of this song, but I shall sing all I do. I learned it
from my grandmother, and she learned it from hers. This is all Granny
knows, but she says her grandmother had many more verses,” said Melissa
as Molly struck the opening chords of the accompaniment.

  “So she dressed herself in scarlet red,
    And she dressed her maid in green,
  And every town that they went through
    They took her to be some queen, queen, queen,
    They took her to be some queen.

  “‘Lord Ronald, Lord Ronald, is this your bride
    That seems so plaguey brown?
  And you might have married as fair skinned a girl
    As ever the sun shone on, on, on,
    As ever the sun shone on.’

  “The little brown girl, she had a penknife,
    It was both long and sharp;
  She stuck it in fair Eleanor’s side
    And it entered at the heart, heart, heart,
    It entered at the heart.

  “Lord Ronald, he took her by her little brown hand
    And led her across the hall;
  And with his sword cut off her head,
    And kicked it against the wall, wall, wall,
    And kicked it against the wall.

  “‘Mother, dear mother, come dig my grave;
    Dig it both wide and deep.
  By my side fair Eleanor put,
    And the little brown girl at my feet, feet, feet,
    And the little brown girl at my feet.’”

                   *       *       *       *       *

As the beautiful girl finished the plaintive air there was absolute
stillness for a few seconds. The audience was too deeply moved to speak.
Melissa’s voice was sweet and full and came with no more effort than the
song of the mocking bird heard in her own valleys at dawn. She took high
note or low with the same ease that she had stooped and lifted her
little hair trunk at Wellington station.

                   *       *       *       *       *

The song in itself was very remarkable, being one of the few original
ballads evidently brought to America by an early settler, and handed
down from mother to daughter through the centuries. Edwin Green
recognized it, and noted the changes from the original from time to
time. Richard Blount was the first to find his tongue, although he was
the one most deeply moved by the performance.

“My, that was fine!” was all he could say, but he broke the spell of
silence, and there was a storm of applause. Melissa bowed and smiled,
pleased that she met with their approval, but with no airs or
affectation.

“She has the stage manner of a great artist who is above caring for what
the gallery thinks, but has sung for Art’s sake, and, as an artist,
knows her work is good,” said Richard to Professor Green. “Miss
Hathaway, you will sing again for us, please. I can’t remember having
such a treat as you have just given us, and I have been to every opera
in New York for six years.”

The demand was general, so Melissa graciously complied. This time she
gave “The Mistletoe Bough.”

  “The mistletoe hung in the castle hall,
  And the holly branch shone on the old oak wall;
  And all within were blithe and gay,
  Keeping their Christmas holiday.
        Oh, the mistletoe bough,
        Oh, the mistletoe bough.”

And so on, through the many stanzas of the fine old ballad, telling of
the bride who cried, “I’ll hide, I’ll hide,” and then of the search and
how they never found the beautiful bride until years had passed away,
and then, on opening the old chest in the attic, her bones were
discovered and the wedding veil.

When the applause subsided, Miss Grace asked Richard Blount to sing.

“I’ll do it, Cousin Grace, but I have never felt more modest about my
little accomplishments. Miss Hathaway has taken all the wind out of my
sails. I am going to sing a little thing that I clipped out of a
newspaper and put to music. ‘It is a poor thing, but mine own.’ I think
it is appropriate for this party, and hope you will agree with me.”

“Now, Dicky, you know we love your singing, and because Miss Hathaway
has charmed us is no reason why you cannot charm us all over. Caruso can
sing, as well as Sembrich,” said Miss Grace.

Richard Blount had a good baritone voice, and sang with a great deal of
taste; and he played on the piano with real genius. With a few brilliant
runs he settled down to the simple, sweet air he had composed for the
little bit of fugitive verse, and then began to sing:

  “The holly is a soldier bold,
    Arrayed in tunic green,
  His slender sword is never sheathed,
    But always bared and keen.
  He stands amid the winter snows
    A sentry in the wood,—
  The scarlet berries on his boughs
    Are drops of frozen blood.

  “The mistletoe’s a maiden fair,
    Enchanted by the oak,
  Who holds her in his hoary arms,
    And hides her in his cloak.
  She knows her soldier lover waits
    Among the leafless trees,
  And, weeping in the bitter cold,
    Her tears to jewels freeze.

  “But at the holy Christmas-tide,
    Blessed time of all the year,
  The evil spirits lose their power,
    And angels reappear.
  They meet beside some friendly hearth,
    While softly falls the snow—
  The soldier Holly and his bride,
    The mystic Mistletoe.”

Richard had been delighted by Melissa’s performance, and now she
returned the compliment by being so carried away by his singing and the
song that she forgot all shyness and reserve and openly congratulated
him, praising his music with so much real appreciation and fervor that
the young man was persuaded to sing again. He sang the beautiful Indian
song of Cadman’s, “The Moon Hangs Low,” and was beginning the opening
chords to “The Land of Sky-blue Water,” when there came a sharp ringing
of the bell, followed by some confusion in the hall as the door was
opened and a gust of wind blew in the fast falling snow. Then a man’s
voice was heard inquiring for Professor Green.



CHAPTER VI.—MORE SURPRISES.


“Whose voice is that?” exclaimed Molly and Judy in unison; and without
waiting to be answered they rushed into the hall to find Kent Brown
being warmly greeted by Professor Green. Before he had time to shake the
snow from his broad shoulders, Molly seized him and he seized Judy, and
they had a good old three-cornered Christmas hug.

“Did you get my note tied to the mistletoe?”

“Yes, you goose; but we did not know you were really coming. I thought
you were speaking in parables,” said Molly, but Judy only blushed.

“Well, it is powerful fine to get here. My train is four hours late.”

“I know you are tired and hungry,” said Miss Green, who was as cordial
as her brother in her reception of the young Kentuckian. “But where is
your grip, Mr. Brown?”

“Oh, I left it at the inn in the village. I could not think of piling in
on you in this way without any warning.”

“Well, Edwin will ‘phone for it immediately. You Southern people think
you are the only ones who can put yourselves out for guests. It would be
a pretty thing for one of Mrs. Brown’s sons to be in Wellington and not
at our house.”

So Kent was taken into the Greens’ house with as much cordiality and
hospitality as Chatsworth itself could have shown. The odor of coffee
soon began to invade the hall and parlors, and in a little while the
dining-room doors were thrown open and the feasting began. Miss Green
was an excellent housekeeper, and knew how to cater to young people’s
tastes as well as Mrs. Brown herself, so the food was plentiful and
delicious. Molly noticed with a smile that some of the precious ham was
smuggled to the plates of Dr. and Mrs. McLean and Mr. Oldham, where it
was duly appreciated, and that later on the favored three were regaled
with slices of the fruit cake.

Kent found a cozy seat for Judy by the hall fire, and soon joined her
with trays of supper.

“Oh, Miss Judy, it has been years since last July. I have worked as hard
as a man could, hoping to make the time fly, but it hasn’t done much
good,—except that it made my firm suggest that I let up for a few days
at Christmas, and here I am! I am working awfully hard trying to learn
to do water coloring of the architectural drawings. I wish I had you to
help me, you are so clever. I am hoping to get to New York or Paris some
day to learn the tricks of the trade, but in the meantime there are lots
of things to learn in Louisville; and I am getting more money for my
work than I did. Did Molly give you my message tied to the mistletoe?”

“Yes, Kent.”

“Will you wait? I was speaking in parables. I think somehow that I must
arrive a little more, before I can catch you under the mistletoe; and
you must do your work, too. Oh, Judy, it is hard to be so wise and
circumspect! But will you wait?”

“Yes, Kent. I am working hard, too, harder than I have ever worked in my
life. I was terribly disappointed when papa would not let me go to Paris
this winter, but insisted on the year of hard drawing in New York, to
test myself and find myself, as it were, and I have been determined to
make good. I am drawing all the time, and you know that is virtuous when
I am simply demented on the subject of color. I let myself work in color
on Saturday in Central Park, but the rest of the time it is charcoal
from the antique or from life, with classes in composition and design.
There is no use in talking about being a decorator if you can’t draw. I
hope to be in Paris next year, and then I shall reap my reward and
simply wallow in color.”

When supper was over, they were all called on to stand up for the
Virginia Reel, which Mrs. McLean played with such spirit that Mr. Oldham
and Dr. McLean could not keep their feet still; and before the
astonished eyes of Edwin Green and Andy McLean, who had other plans, Mr.
Oldham seized Molly and Dr. McLean Nance, and they danced down the
middle and back again with as much spirit as they had ever shown in
their youth.

“It takes the old timers to dance the old dances, hey, Mr. Oldham?” said
the panting doctor as he came up the middle smiling and cutting pigeon
wings, while Nance arose to the occasion and “chasseed” to his steps
like any belle of the sixties. Even Miss Alice Fern forgot her dignity
and romped, but she was very gay, as Edwin had sought her out when Molly
danced off with Mr. Oldham. He had remembered that he had been rather
remiss in his attentions to his fair cousin.

How they did dance!—and all of the extra men danced with each other, so
there were no wall flowers. Richard Blount claimed Melissa as a partner,
and they delighted the crowd by singing as they danced a song that
Melissa had taught Richard, as she told him of some of the mountain
dance games, the words fitting themselves to Mrs. McLean’s lively tunes.

  “‘Old man, old man, let me have your daughter?’
  ‘Yes, young man, for a dollar and a quarter.
  Pick up her duds and pitch ’em up behind her.’
  ‘Here’s your money, old man, I’ve got your daughter.’”

After the dance they drew around the open fire in the hall and roasted
chestnuts and popped corn and told stories, and had a very merry
old-fashioned time capping quotations. And finally the one thing
wanting, as Molly thought, came to pass, and Professor Green read
Dickens’ Christmas Carol just as he had three years before, when he and
his sister gave Molly the surprise party at Queen’s in her Sophomore
year.

“At the risk of making myself verra unpopular, I am afraid I shall have
to say it is time for all of us to be in bed,” said Mrs. McLean, when
the professor closed the worn old copy of Dickens.

“Oh, not ’til we have had a little more dancing, please, dear Mrs.
McLean,” came in a chorus from the young people; and Professor Green
told her that it would be a pity to throw Dodo back on a rocking chair
for a partner before he had had a little more practice with flesh and
blood. So up they all sprang, and with Miss Grace at the piano, to
relieve the good-natured Mrs. McLean, who had thrummed her fingers sore,
off they went into more waltzes and two-steps, even the shy Melissa
dancing with Richard Blount as though she had been at balls every night
of her life. Otoyo and Mr. Seshu hopped around together as though
“step-twoing” and “dance-rounding” were the national dances of Japan.

And so ended the delightful surprise party. Before they departed, Dr.
McLean drew his wife under the mistletoe and kissed her.

“Just to show you bashful young fellows how it is done,” said the jovial
doctor.

“And I will give the lassies a lesson in how to accept such public
demonstration,” said his blushing wife, and she suited the action to the
word by giving him a playful slap, whereupon he kissed her again, but
instead of another slap she hugged him in return, and there was a
general laugh.

“I did that just to show the indignant lassies that they must not hold
with their anger too long. A kiss under the mistletoe has never yet been
offered as an insult, and the forward miss is not the one to get the
kiss.”



CHAPTER VII.—DREAMS AND REALITIES.


The holidays were all too soon over. Much feasting went on, what with
Molly’s big turkey and her fruit cake and Rosemary pickles; and the
invitations to Mrs. McLean’s and Miss Walker’s; and Otoyo’s Japanese
spread, where she and Melissa charmed the company with the beautifully
arranged rooms and the dainty, delicious refreshments. Mr. Seshu,
throughout, was very attentive to his little countrywoman, and the girls
decided that he was in love with her just like any ordinary American
might be.

“I am so glad it is coming about this way,” said Molly. “Just think how
hard it might have been for our little Otoyo, now that she has been in
this country long enough to see how we do such things, had she been
compelled, by filial feeling, to marry some one whom she did not love
and who did not love her. I think she is all over the sentimental
attachment she used to have for the unconscious Andy, don’t you, Nance?”

“I fancy she is,” said the far from unconscious Nance, who always had a
heightened color when young Andy’s name got into the conversation. “I
don’t think she ever really cared for Andy. He was just the first and
only young man who was ever nice to her, and it went to her head. Andy
is so kind and good natured.”

“You forget Professor Green. He was always careful and attentive, and
Otoyo would chatter like a magpie with him.”

“Oh, but he is so much older!” And then Nance wished she had bitten out
her tongue, as Molly looked hurt and sad.

“Professor Green is not so terribly old! I think he is much more
agreeable than callow youths who have no conversation beyond their own
affairs.”

“Now, Molly Brown, I didn’t mean to say a thing to hurt your feelings or
to imply that Professor Green was anything but perfection. He is not too
old for y—us, I mean; but Otoyo is like a child.”

“I am ashamed of myself, Nance, but I do get kind of tired of
everybody’s taking the stand that Professor Green is so old. He is the
best man friend I ever had, and—and——” But Nance kissed her fondly, and
she did not have to go on with her sentence, which was lucky, as she did
not know how she was going to finish it without committing herself.

Kent had to fly back to Louisville to work at his chosen profession and
try to learn how to do water color renderings of the architectural
elevations; Judy back to New York to dig at her charcoal drawings and
dream of swimming in color, with Kent striking out beside her; Dodo
again at Johns Hopkins, learning much about medicine and how to “turkey
trot” with a broken sofa; young Andy and Mr. Seshu at Harvard, studying
the laws of their country, for was not Mr. Seshu fast becoming an
American? They had their dreams, too, these two young men. Andy was
looking forward to the day when he would not have to stop talking to
Nance just at the most interesting turn of the argument, but could stay
right along with her forever and ever,—and sure he was that they would
never talk out! Mr. Seshu’s dreams—but, after all, what do we know of
his dreams? Certain we are that he looked favorably on the little Miss
Sen, and that honorable Father Sen and honorable Father Seshu had a long
and satisfactory talk in the shop in Boston with the beautiful Japanese
prints hanging all around them, representing in themselves money enough
to make the prospective young couple very wealthy.

Mr. Oldham went back to Vermont, also dreaming that the day might come
when his little Nance would keep house for him, and he could leave the
hated boarding house, and have a real home. Richard Blount returned to
New York, dreaming, too, and his dream was of the beautiful mountain
girl with the dignity and poise of a queen, eyes like the clear brown
pools of autumn and a purposeful look on her young face that showed even
a casual observer that she had a mission in life.

Mid-year examinations came and went. Melissa and Otoyo came through
without a scratch, which made Molly rejoice as though it had been her
own ordeal.

Domestic Science grew more thrilling; so interesting, indeed, that Molly
could not decide for a whole day whether she would rather be a
scientific cook or a great literary success. But a note from a magazine
editor accepting her “Basket Funeral” and asking for more similar
stories decided her in favor of literature. And on the same day, too,
Professor Edwin Green said to her, “Please, Miss Molly, don’t learn how
to cook so well that you forget how to make popovers. I am afraid all of
these scientific rules you are learning will upset the natural-born
knowledge that you already possess, and your spontaneous genius will be
choked by an academic style of cooking that would be truly deplorable.”

Molly laughingly confided in the professor that she would not give one
of Aunt Mary’s hot turnovers for all of Miss Morse’s scientifically made
bread.

“I know her bread is perfect, but it lacks a certain taste and life, and
is to the real thing what a marble statue is to flesh and blood. Judy
described it, in speaking of the food at a lunchroom for self-supporting
women that she occasionally goes to in New York, as being ‘too chaste.’”

“That is exactly it, too chaste,” agreed Professor Green.

“Of course, cooking is a small part of what we learn in Domestic
Science,—food values, economic housekeeping, etc. It really is a very
broad and far-reaching science.”

They were in the professor’s study, where Molly had come to tell him the
good news about her story, and to ask his advice concerning what other
of her character sketches she should send to the magazine. She was
wearing her cap and gown, as she was just returning from a formal
college function. When the young man greeted her, he had quickly rolled
up something, looking a little shamefaced. But as they talked, he rolled
and unrolled and finally determined to show the papers to her.

“Miss Molly, Kent has sent me the plans for my bungalow that I
commissioned him at Christmas to get busy on. I wonder if you would care
to see them.”

“Of course I’d be charmed to, Professor Green. There is nothing in the
world that is more interesting to me than plans of a house. Kent and I
have been drawing them ever since we could hold pencils. Kent was the
master hand at outside effects, and I was the housekeeper, who must have
the proper pantry arrangements and conveniences.”

“Well, please pass on these. The outside effects seem lovely to me, but
I cannot tell about the interior.”

Molly seated herself and pored over the prints, soon mastering the
details with a practiced eye, noting dimensions and windows and doors.

“I think it is splendid, but do you really want my criticism?”

“I certainly do, more than any one’s.”

“Well, there is waste space here that should be put in the store room.
This little passage from dining-room to kitchen is entirely unnecessary
and should be incorporated in the butler’s pantry. These twin doors in
the hall, one leading to the attic and one to the cellar, are no doubt
very pretty, but they are not wide enough. An attic is for trunks, and
how could one larger than a steamer trunk get through such a narrow
door? A cellar is certainly for barrels and the like, and I am sure it
would be a tug to pull a barrel through this little crack of a door. I’d
allow at least nine inches more on each door, and that means a foot and
a half off something. Let me see. It seems a pity to take it off of the
living-room, and rather inhospitable to rob the guest chamber.

“Aunt Clay always puts the new towels in the guest chamber for the
company to break in. She says company can’t kick about the slick
stiffness of them, and somehow it would seem rather Aunt Clayish to take
that eighteen inches off of the poor unsuspecting guests, whoever they
may be.”

Molly sat a long time studying the plans, and she looked so sweet and so
earnest that Edwin Green thought with regret of the tacit promise he had
made Mrs. Brown: to let Molly stay a child for another year. How he
longed to know his fate! How simple it would be while she was showing
her interest in his little bungalow to ask her to tell him if she
thought she could ever make it her little home, too! Was she the child
her mother thought her? Did she think he was a “laggard in love,” and
despise him for a “faint heart”? Or could it be that she thought of him
only as an old and trusted friend, too ancient to contemplate as
anything but a professor of literature, and, at that, one who was
building a home in which to spend his rapidly declining years?

“Time will tell,” sighed the poor, conscientious young man, “but if I am
letting my happiness slip through my fingers from a mistaken sense of
duty, then I don’t deserve anything but ‘single blessedness’.”

“I have it!” exclaimed Molly. “Have the cellar entrance outside by the
kitchen door with a gourd pergola over both, and take this inside space
where the cellar door and steps were to be for a large closet in the
poor guests’ room, to make up to them for coming so near to losing a
foot and a half off of their room.”

“That suits me, if it suits you. Is there anything else?”

“If you won’t tell Kent it is my suggestion, I do think the bathroom
door ought to open in and not out. He and I have disagreed about doors
ever since we were children.

“Do you know what plan Kent is making for mother and me? He wants us to
go abroad next winter. Sue is to be married to her Cyrus in June, muddy
lane and all; Paul and John are in Louisville most of the time, now that
Paul is on a morning paper and has to work at night, and John is
building up his practice and has to be on the spot; Kent hopes to be
able to take a course at the Beaux Arts next winter if he can save
enough money, and that would leave no one at Chatsworth but mother and
me. There is no reason why we should not go, and you know I am excited
about it; and, as for mother, she says she is like our country cousin
who came to the exposition in Louisville and said in a grandiloquent
tone, ‘I am desirous to go elsewhere and view likewise.’ Mother and I
have never traveled anywhere, and it would be splendid for us. Don’t you
think so?”

“I certainly do, especially as next year is my sabbatical year of
teaching, and I expect to have a holiday myself and do some traveling. I
have something to dream of now, and that is to meet you and your mother
in Europe and ‘go elsewhere and view likewise’ in your company!”

“Oh, Mother and I will be so glad to see you,” exclaimed Molly. “I have
brought a letter from Mildred to read to you, Professor Green. It is so
like Mildred and tells so much of her life in Iowa that I thought it
might interest you.”

“Indeed it will. I have thought so often of that delightful young couple
and the wonderful wedding in the garden.”

So Molly began:

  “‘Dearest Sister:—You complain of having only second-hand letters
  from me and you are quite right. There is nothing more irritating
  than letters written to other people and handed down. Your letters
  should belong to you, and you only, just as much as your
  tooth-brush. You remember how mad it used to make Ernest to have his
  letters sent to Aunt Clay, and how he would put in bad words just to
  keep Mother from handing them on.

  ‘Crit and I are more and more pleased with our little home out here
  in this Western town (not that they call themselves Western, and on
  the map they are really more Eastern than Western). The people are
  lovely, and so neighborly and hospitable. It is a good thing for
  Southern people to get away from home occasionally and come to the
  realization that they have not got a corner on hospitality.
  Entertaining out here really means trouble to the hostess, as there
  are no servants and the ladies of the house have all the work to do;
  and still they entertain a great deal and do it very well, too.

  ‘I have never seen anything like the system the women have evolved
  for their work. For instance: they wash on Monday morning and have a
  “biled dinner.” When washing is over, they are too tired to do any
  more work, so they usually go calling or have club meetings or some
  form of amusement to rest up for Tuesday, ironing day. Wednesday,
  they bake. Thursday is the great day for teas and parties. Friday is
  thorough cleaning day, and I came very near making myself very
  unpopular because in my ignorance, when I first came here, I
  returned some calls on that fateful day. I was greeted by irate
  dames at every door, their heads tied up in towels and their faces
  very dirty. I could hardly believe they were the same elegant ladies
  I had met at the Thursday reception, beautifully gowned and showing
  no marks of toil. On Saturday they bake again and get ready for
  Sunday, and on Sunday no one ever thinks of staying away from church
  because of cooking or house work.

  ‘I am so glad our mother taught us how to work some, at least not to
  be afraid of work, but I do wish I had been as fond of the kitchen
  as you always were and had learned how to cook from Aunt Mary. My
  sole culinary accomplishment was cloudbursts, and if Crit is an
  angel he has to have something to go on besides cloudbursts. The
  restaurants and hotels here are impossible and there are no boarding
  houses. There are only twenty servants in the whole town and they
  already have a waiting list of persons who want them when the
  present employers are through with them, which only death or removal
  from the town would make possible, so you see we have to keep house.
  I am learning to cook, and simply adore Friday when I can tie up my
  head and pull the house to pieces and make the dust fly. Crit calls
  me a Sunbonnet Baby because I am so afraid of not keeping to the
  schedule set down for me by my neighbors. Crit has bought me every
  patent convenience on the market to make the work easy: washing
  machine, electric iron and toaster, fancy mop wringer, and a dust
  pan that can stand up by itself and let you sweep the dirt in
  without stooping, vacuum carpet cleaner (but no carpets as yet),
  window washer and dustless dusters, fireless cooker and a steamer
  that can cook five things at once and blows a little whistle when
  the water gets low in the bottom vessel. I have no excuse for not
  being a good cook except that I lack the genius that you have. I
  thought I never should learn how to make bread but I have mastered
  it at last and can turn out a right good loaf and really lovely
  turnovers.

  ‘Thank you so much for your hints from your Domestic Science class.
  I really got a lot from them. I had an awfully funny time with some
  bread last week. You see, having once learned how to make it, it was
  terribly mortifying to mix up a big batch and have it simply refuse
  to rise. I didn’t want Crit to see it, so I took it out in the
  backyard and buried it in some sand the plasterers had left there.
  Crit came home to dinner and went out in the yard to see if his
  radishes were up and came in much excited: said he had found a new
  mushroom growth (you remember he was always interested in mushrooms
  and knew all kinds of edible varieties that we had never heard of).
  Sure enough there was a brand new variety. That hateful old dough
  had come up at last! The hot sand had been too much for it and it
  was rising to beat the band. I was strangely unsympathetic with Crit
  and his mushroom cult, so he came in to dinner. As soon as Crit went
  back to work, I went out and covered up the disgraceful failure with
  a lot more sand, hammered it down well and put a chicken coop on it,
  determined to get rid of it; but surely murder must be like yeast
  and it will out. When Crit came back to supper that old leaven had
  found its way through the cracks under the chicken coop and a little
  spot was appearing to the side of the sand pile. Crit was awfully
  excited and began to pull off pieces to send to Washington for the
  Government to look into the specimens, and I had to give in and tell
  him the truth. He almost died laughing and decided to send some
  anyhow, just to see what Uncle Sam would make out of it. The report
  has not come yet. I have lots more things to tell you about my
  housekeeping but I must stop now. I am so sorry I can not come home
  to Sue’s wedding, but it is such an expensive trip out here that I
  do not see how Crit and I can manage it just now. Of course Crit
  could not come anyhow as the bridge would surely fall down if he
  were not here to hold it up, and even if we could afford it I should
  hate to leave him more than I can tell you. Oh, Molly, he is so
  precious! We have been married almost a year now and when I was
  cross about his mushrooms was the nearest we have ever come to a
  misunderstanding. That is doing pretty well for me who am a born
  pepper pot. It is all Crit, who is an angel, as I believe I remarked
  before. Please write to me all about your class reunion, and give my
  love to that adorable Julia Kean, and also remember me to that nice
  Professor Green.

                                              ‘Your ’special sister,
                                           Mildred Brown Rutledge.’”

“What a delightful letter and how happy they are,” said the professor,
fingering his roll of blue prints with a sad smile. “It was good of her
to remember me. Please give her my love when you write.”

“I did not tell you quite all she said,” confessed Molly, opening the
letter again and reading. “She says, ‘remember me to that nice Professor
Green, who is almost as lovely as Crit,’” and Molly beat a hasty
retreat.



CHAPTER VIII.—THE OLD QUEEN’S CROWD.


“Nance, do you fancy this has really been such a quiet, uneventful
college year, or are we just so old and settled that we don’t know
excitement when we see it? It has been a very happy time, and I feel
that I have got hold of myself somehow, and am able to make use of the
hard studying I have done at college. I know you will laugh when I tell
you that one reason I have been so happy is that I have not had to
bother myself over Math. No one can ever know how I did hate and despise
that subject.”

“You poor old Molly, I know it was hard on you. You were in good
company, anyhow, in your hatred of it. You remember Lord Macauley hated
it, too, but for that very reason was determined ‘to take no second
place’ in it. You always managed to get good marks after that first
condition in our Freshman year. I often laugh when I think of you with
your feet in hot water and your head tied up in a cold wet towel, trying
to cure a cold and at the same time grasp higher mathematics,” answered
the sympathetic Nance, looking lovingly at her roommate. The girls found
themselves looking at each other very often with sad, loving glances.
Their partnership was rapidly approaching its close. They could not be
room-mates forever and college must end some time.

“The funny thing about me and Math. is that I never did really and truly
understand it,” laughed Molly. “I learned how to work one example as
another was worked, but it was never with any real comprehension.
Nothing but memory got me through. I remember so well when I was a
little girl, going to the district school. I came home in tears because
division of decimals had stumped me. My father found me weeping my soul
out with a sticky slate and pencil grasped to my panting breast. ‘What’s
the matter, little daughter?’ he said. ‘Oh, father, I can’t see how a
great big number can go into a little bits of number and make a bigger
number still.’ ‘Well, you poor lamb, don’t bother your little red head
about it any more, but run and get yourself dressed and come drive to
town with me. I am going to take you to see Jo Jefferson play “Cricket
on the Hearth.”’ I shall never forget that play, but I never have really
understood decimals; and you may know what higher mathematics meant to
me.”

“Speaking of a quiet year, Molly, I have an idea one reason it has been
so uneventful is that our dear old Judy has not been here to get herself
into hot water, sometimes pulling in her devoted friends after her when
they tried to fish her out. Won’t it be splendid to see all the old
Queen’s crowd again: Judy and Katherine and Edith, Margaret and Jessie?
I wonder if they have changed much! I am so glad they are coming to the
meeting of the alumnæ this year, and that we are here without having to
come!”

“I do hope my box from home will get here in time for the first night of
the gathering of the clan. I know it will seem more natural to them if
we can get up a little feast. I want all of the girls to know Melissa.
Isn’t she happy at the prospect of her dear teacher’s coming? Do you
know the lady’s name? I never can remember to ask Melissa, who always
speaks of her with clasped hands and a rapt expression as ‘teacher’.”

“Yes,” answered Nance. “She has a wonderful name for one who is giving
up her life working for mankind: Dorothea Allfriend, all-friendly gift
of God. I believe her name must have influenced her from the beginning.”

“We must ask her to our spread on Melissa’s account,” cried the
impetuously hospitable Molly. “That makes ten, counting the eight
Queen’s girls, and while we are about it, let’s have——”

“Molly Brown, stop right there. If you ask a lot of outsiders, how can
we have the intimate old talk that we are all of us hungering for? Of
course we can’t leave Melissa out, as she has been too close to us all
winter to do anything without her, and her friend must come, too; but in
the name of old Queen’s, let that suffice.”

“Right, as usual, Nance, but inviting is such a habit with all of my
family that it almost amounts to a vice. Of course we don’t want
outsiders, and I shall hold a tight rein on my inclination to entertain
until after the fourth of June. If there are any scraps left, I might
give another party.”

“There won’t be any, unless all of us have fallen in love and lost our
appetites.”

The fourth came at last, and with it our five old friends: the Williams
sisters, Katherine and Edith, as amusing as ever, still squabbling over
small matters but agreeing on fundamentals, which they had long ago
decided was the only thing that mattered; Margaret Wakefield, with the
added poise and gracious manner that a winter in Washington society
would be apt to give one; Jessie Lynch, as pretty as ever but still
Jessie Lynch, not having married the owner of the ring, as we had rather
expected her to do when she left college; and our dear Judy, in the
seventh heaven of bliss because The American Artists’ exhibition had
accepted and actually hung, not very far above the line, a small picture
done in Central Park at dusk.

The meeting at No. 5, Quadrangle, was a joyous one. Everybody talked at
once, except of course little Otoyo, whose manners were still so good
that she never talked when any one else had the floor; but her smile was
so beaming that Edith declared it was positively deafening.

“Silence, silence!” and Margaret, the one-time class president, rapped
for order. “I am so afraid I will miss something and I can’t hear a
thing. Let’s get the budget of news and find out where we stand, and
then we can go on with the uproar.”

“Well, what is the matter with refreshments?” inquired the ever-ready
Molly. “That will quiet some of us at least. But before we begin, I must
ask you, Otoyo, where Melissa is. She and her friend Miss Allfriend
understood the time, did they not?”

“Yes, they understood and send you most respectful greetings, but my
dearly friend, Melissa, says she well understands that the meeting of
these eight old friends is equally to her meeting of her one friend, and
she will not intrusive be until we our confidences have bartered, and
then she will bring Miss Allfriend to meet the companions of Miss Brown
and Miss Oldham.”

“I haven’t heard who Melissa is, but she must be fine to show so much
tact,” exclaimed Katherine. “I am truly glad we are alone. I am bursting
with news and drying up for news, and any outsider would spoil it all.”

Nance gave a triumphant glance in Molly’s direction, and Molly stopped
carving the ham long enough to give an humble bow to Nance before
remarking, “You girls are sure to adore my Melissa, but if Katherine is
already bursting with news, suppose she begins before I get the ham
carved. What is it, Kate? A big novel already accepted?”

“No, but a good job as reader for a publisher, and two magazine stories
in current numbers, and an order for some college notes for a big Sunday
sheet. Isn’t that going some for the homeliest one of the Williams
sisters? But that is nothing. My news is as naught to what is to come.
Have none of you noticed the blushing Edith? Look at her fluffy
pompadour, her stylish sleeves, her manicured nails. Compare them with
those of the old Edith. Remember her lank hair and out-of-date blouses
and finger nails gnawed down to the quick. Note the change and guess and
guess again.”

“Edith, Edith! Oh, you fraud!” in chorus from the astonished girls.

“Is it a man?”

“Who is he?”

“When is it to be?”

They certainly guessed right the very first time. Edith Williams was to
be the first of the old guard to marry, and she was certainly the last
to expect such a thing. She took the astonishment of her friends very
coolly and accepted their congratulations without the least
embarrassment.

“I can’t see what you are making such a fuss about. You must have known
all the time that my hatred of the male sex was a pose, just adopted
because I had a notion that no man in his senses could ever see anything
in me to care for; or if one did, he would be such a poor thing that I
could not care for him. But,” with a complacent smile, “I find I was
mistaken.”

“Tell us all about him, do please, Edith. I know he is splendid or you
would not want him,” said Molly, handing Edith the first plate piled
with all dainties.

“I can’t eat and talk, too, so I’ll cut my love affair short. His name
is plain James Wilson, but he is not plain, at all. He is very tall,
very good looking and very clever. He is dramatic critic on a big New
York paper and has written a play that is to be produced in the fall.
Oh, girls, I can’t keep it up any longer! I mean, this seeming coldness.
He is splendid and I am very happy!” With which outburst, she attempted
to hide her blushes in her plate, but Katherine rescued it, saying
sternly, “Don’t ruin the food, but effuse on your napkin,” which made
them laugh and restored Edith’s equanimity. Then the girls learned that
she was to be married in two weeks and go to Nova Scotia on her
honeymoon.

“Next!” rapped Margaret. “How about you, my Jessica, and what have you
done with your winter?”

Pretty Jessie blushed and held up her fingers, bare of rings. “Not even
any borrowed ones?” laughed Judy. “Why, Jessie, I believe you have
sought the safety that lies in numbers, and have so many beaux you can’t
decide among them.”

“I have had a glorious debutante winter and do not feel much like
settling down as yet,” confessed the little beauty. “There is lots of
time for serious thoughts like matrimony later on.”

“So there is, my child, but don’t do like the poor princess who was so
choosey that she ended by having to take the crooked stick. My Jessica
must have the best stick in the forest, if she must have any at all,”
said Margaret, putting her arm around her friend. “For my part, I have
had a busy winter and haven’t felt the need of a stick, straight or
crooked. What with entertaining for my father and keeping up the social
end necessary for a public man, and a general welfare movement I am
interested in, and the Suffrage League, I have often wished I had an
astral body to help me out. Mind you, I am not opposed to matrimony, but
I am just not interested in it for myself.”

“That is a dangerous sentiment to express,” teased Judy. “I find that a
statement like that from a handsome young woman usually means she is
taking notice. Come now, Margaret, if, instead of having an astral body
to do part of the work you are planning for yourself, you had been born
triplets, you would have let one of you get married, wouldn’t you? Now
‘fess up. Margaret could attend the suffrage meetings, and Maggie could
look after the child’s welfare, while dear, handsome, wholesome Peggy
could be the beloved wife of some promising public man. I don’t believe
Margaret or Maggie would mind at all if Peggy had to hurry home from the
meetings to have the house attractive for a brilliant young Senator from
the western states whom we shall call ‘the Baby of the Senate’ just for
euphony, and who would come dashing up to the door in his limousine
whistling ‘Peg o’ my Heart’ in joyful anticipation of his welcome.”

Margaret, the stately and composed, was blushing furiously at Judy’s
nonsense.

“Judy Kean, who has been telling you things?”

“No one, I declare, Margaret. I was just visualizing. I wouldn’t have
presumed to hit the nail on the head had I realized I was doing it. You
must forgive me, dear, but I am rather proud of being able to predict,
and if I ever meet the ‘Baby of the Senate’ I shall tell him to ‘try,
try again’.”

Molly interfered at this point and stopped Judy’s naughty mouth with a
beaten biscuit. “Aren’t you ashamed, Judy? How should you like to be
teased as you have teased Margaret?”

“Shouldn’t mind in the least. If in a moment of ambitious dreaming I
have said ‘nay, nay’ to any handsome young western senators, Margaret
has my permission to tell them to ‘try, try again,’ that I was just
a-fooling. I am perfectly frank about my intentions in regard to the
husband question. I am wedded to my art, but it is merely a temporary
arrangement, and I may get a divorce any day if more attractive
inducements are offered than my art can furnish. It is fine, though, to
get my picture accepted and almost well hung by The American Artists. I
have an idea its size had something to do with the judges taking it. It
would have been cruel to refuse such a little thing; and then it is so
easy to hang a tiny picture, and there are so many gaps in galleries
that have to be filled in somehow.”

“What a rattler you are, Judy,” broke in Edith. “Your picture is lovely,
and it made me proud to tell James, who took me to the exhibition, that
you were my classmate and one of the immortal eight.”

“Three more to report,” rapped Margaret, “Molly and Nance and Otoyo.
Otoyo first, to punish her for being so noisy,” and Margaret drew the
little Japanese to her side with an affectionate smile.

“It is not for humble Japanese maidens to bare lay their heart
throbbings, so my beloved friends will have to excuse the little Otoyo.”

And it spoke well for the breeding of the other seven that they
respected the reticence of their little foreign friend and did not try
to force her confidence, although they were none of them ignorant of the
intentions of the wily Mr. Seshu.

“Otoyo is right,” declared Nance. “I have nothing to confess, but if I
had, I should be Japanesque and keep it to myself.”

“Oh, you ‘copy cat’,” sang Judy. “I’ll wager anything that Nance has
more up her sleeve than any of us. Look, look! It has gone all the way
up her sleeve and is crawling out at her neck.”

Nance made a wild grab at her neck, where, sure enough, the sharp eyes
of Judy had discovered a tiny gold chain that Nance had not meant to
show above her neat collar. She clutched it so forcibly that the
delicate fastening broke, and a small gold locket was hurled across the
room right into Molly’s lap. Molly caught it up and handed it back to
the crimson and confused Nance amid the shrieks of the girls.

“I reckon a girl has a right to carry her father’s picture around her
neck if she has a mind to,” said Molly.

Just then there was a knock at the door and Melissa and Miss Allfriend
were ushered in, much to the relief of Molly, who by their coming had
escaped the ordeal of the teasing from her friends that she knew was
drawing near; and it also gave Nance the chance to compose herself.

Miss Allfriend proved to be delightful. She was overjoyed to be back at
her Alma Mater and eager to know Melissa’s friends and to thank them for
their kindness to her protégée. Personalities were dropped and the
program for the entertainment of the alumnæ was soon under discussion.
Miss Allfriend had been president of her class and she and Margaret
found many subjects of mutual interest. Melissa was anxious to know the
old Queen’s girls, having heard so much of them from Otoyo, and the
girls were equally anxious to know the interesting mountain girl. The
party was a great success, and Nance was delighted to see that there
were no “scraps” left for Molly to give another, as there were many
things on foot for the alumnæ meeting for the next week and Nance felt
sure Molly would have enough to do without any more entertaining.

                   *       *       *       *       *

And now we will leave our girls. Their postgraduate year is over. A very
happy one it has been, with little excitement but much good, hard work.
Nance is to go to Vermont and rescue her long-suffering father from the
boarding house, and give the poor man the taste of home life that he has
never known. Mrs. Oldham cannot keep house in Vermont and make speeches,
now at the International Peace Conference at The Hague, and then at a
Biennial of Woman’s Clubs in San Francisco, with a stop over in New York
to address the Equal Suffrage League between boat and train!

Molly is going back to Kentucky to assist at her sister’s wedding, this
wedding a formal affair in a church, to suit the notions of the
formidable Aunt Clay. Molly has many plots in her head to work out. Her
little success with “The Basket Funeral” has fired her ambition, and she
is longing for time to write more. French must be studied hard all
summer if they are to go abroad, and Kent must be coached, as he is very
rusty in his French and must rub up on it for lectures at the Beaux
Arts. She has promised Edwin Green to write to him, and he has offered
to criticize her stories, which will be a great help to her. The place
of meeting in Europe has not been decided on, but Professor Green is
determined that meeting there shall be.

Melissa will go back to her beloved mountains and try to give out during
her well-earned vacation some of the precious knowledge she has gained
in her freshman year to the less fortunate children of her county. She
will in a measure repay the noble woman who has spent her life in the
mountain mission work for all the care and labor she has expended on
her, and will go back to Wellington for the sophomore course with her
purpose stronger and deeper: to help her people and uplift them as she
herself has become uplifted.

One more incident only we must record before this volume ends. After
Molly got home she received by express a box wrapped in Japanese paper,
so carefully and wonderfully done up that it seemed a pity to break the
fastenings. In the box was the most beautiful little stunted tree in a
pot that looked as though it had come out of a museum. The tree had all
the characteristics of a “gnarled oak olden,” with thick twisted
branches and one limb that looked as though little children might have
had a swing on it, so low did it sag. And this tiny tree, with all the
dignity of a great “father of the forest,” was, pot and all, only eight
inches high! With it, came the following letter:

“Will the honorably and kindly graciously Miss Brown be so stoopingly as
to accept this humble gift from the father of Otoyo Sen, who has by the
most graciously help of Miss Brown passed her difficulty examinations at
Wellington College and now is to become the humble wife of honorable
Japanese gentleman, Mr. Seshu? The honorable gentleman gave greatly
praise to graciously Miss Brown for her so kindly words about humble
Japanese maiden and is gratefully that his humble wife is the friend of
so kindly lady.”

With this little note, it seemed to Molly that the last ties that bound
her to the precious life at Wellington and the old, complete Queen’s
group had suddenly snapped. Little Otoyo had outstripped them all! She
was quietly entering the school of Life, while the rest were only
standing at the threshold.

Molly, knowing the serene satisfaction with which the Japanese maiden
awaited the new bonds, and remembering the transforming happiness of
Edith Williams in anticipation of a similar experience, thoughtfully
pondered upon her own future.

She had the eye of faith but she was not a seer; and she could not
travel in advance those devious paths by which Destiny was to lead her.

How she finally came to her own and fulfilled the promise of college
days, it remains for “Molly Brown’s Orchard Home” to disclose.

                                The End.





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