Read CHAPTER II - Otoyo of Molly Brown's Sophomore Days , free online book, by Nell Speed, on

Molly and Nance were very busy that night arranging their belongings. Molly’s tastes were simple and Nance’s were what might be called complicated. Molly had been reared all her life in large spaces, big, airy rooms, and broad halls, and the few pieces of heavy old mahogany in them were of the kind that cannot be bought for a song. Nance had been reared in an atmosphere of oiled walnut and boarding house bric-a-brac. She was learning because she had an exceedingly observing and intelligent mind, but she had not learned.

Therefore, that night, when Molly hung the white muslin curtains, and spread out the beautiful blue antique rug left by Frances Andrews, she devoutly hoped that Nance would “go easy” with the pictures and ornaments.

“What we want to try to do this year, Nance,” she announced from the top of the step ladder, “is to keep things empty. We got fairly messy last winter after Christmas. I’m going to keep all those banners and things packed this year.”

“Perhaps I’d better not get out those passe-partouted Gibson pictures,” began Nance a little doubtfully.

“Just as you like, Nance, dear,” said Molly.

She would rather have hung the wall with bill posters than have hurt her friend’s feelings.

“Honestly, you aren’t fond of them, are you?” asked Nance.

“Oh, it isn’t that,” apologized Molly. “But I think so many small pictures scattered over a big wall space are well, rather tiring to the optic nerves.”

Nance looked sad, but she had unbounded faith in Molly’s opinions.

“What shall we do with this big empty wall space, then?” she asked, pausing in her unpacking to regard a sea of blue-gray cartridge paper with a critical eye.

At this juncture there came a light, timid tap, so faint, indeed, that it might have been the swish of a mouse’s tail as he brushed past the door.

Molly paused in her contemplation of blank walls and listened.

“Did you hear anything, Nance?” she asked. “I thought I heard a tapping at our chamber door.”

“Come in,” called Nance briskly.

The door opened first a mere crack. Then the space widened and there stood on the threshold the diminutive figure of a little Japanese girl who by subsequent measurements proved to be exactly five feet one-half an inch in height. She was dressed “like white people,” to quote Molly, that is, in a neat cloth suit and a straw turban, and her slanting black eyes were like highly polished pieces of ebony.

“I beg the honorable pardon of the young ladies,” she began with a prim, funny accent. “I arrive this moment which have passing at the honorable home of young ladies. I not find no one save serving girl who have informing me of room of sleeping in. Honorable lady of the house, her you calling ‘matronly,’ not in at present passing moment. I feeling little frighting. You will forgive poor Otoyo?”

With an almost superhuman effort Molly controlled her face and choked back the laughter that bubbled up irrepressibly. Nance had buried her head in her trunk until she could regain her composure.

“Indeed I do forgive you, poor dear. You must feel strange and lonely. Just wait until I get down from the ladder and I’ll show you your bedroom. It used to be the room of one of my best friends, so I happen to know it very well.”

Molly crawled down from the heights of the step ladder and took the little Japanese girl’s brown hand in hers. “Shall we not shake hands and be friends?” she said. “We are such near neighbors. You are just down there at the end of the hall, you see. My name is Brown, Molly Brown, and this is my roommate, Nance Oldham.”

“I with much pleasure feel to making acquaintance of beautiful young ladies,” said the Japanese girl, smiling charmingly and showing two rows of teeth as pointed and white as a spaniel’s.

Nance had also risen to the occasion by this time, and now shook Miss Otoyo Sen’s hand with a great show of cordiality, to make up for her crimson face and mouth still unsteady with laughter. They conducted the Japanese girl to her room and turned on the lights. There were two new-looking American trunks in the room and two cases covered with matting and inscribed with mystic Japanese hieroglyphics. Wired to the cord wrapping was an express tag with “Miss O. Sen, Queen’s Cottage, Wellington,” written across it in plain handwriting.

“Oh,” exclaimed Miss Otoyo, clasping her hands with timid pleasure, “my estates have unto this place arriving come.”

Nance turned and rushed from the room and Molly opened the closet door.

“You can hang all your things in here,” she said unsteadily, “and of course lay some of them in the bureau drawers. Better unpack to-night, because to-morrow will be a busy day for you. It’s the opening day, you know. If we can help you, don’t hesitate to ask.”

“I am with gratitude much filled up,” said the little Japanese, making a low, ceremonious bow.

“Don’t mention it,” replied Molly, hastening back to her room.

She found Nance giving vent to noiseless laughter in the Morris chair. Tears were rolling down her cheeks and her face was purple with suppressed amusement. Molly often said that, when Nance did laugh, she was like the pig who died in clover. When he died, he died all over. When Nance succumbed to laughter, her entire being was given over to merriment.

“Wasn’t it beautiful?” she exclaimed in a low voice. “Did you ever imagine such ludicrous English? It was all participles. How do you suppose she ever made the entrance examinations?”

“Oh, she’s probably good enough at writing. It’s just speaking that stumps her. But wasn’t she killingly funny? When she said ’my estates have unto this place arriving come,’ I thought I should have to departing go along with you. But it would have been rude beyond words. What a dear little thing she is! I think I’ll go over later and see how she is. America must be polite to her visitors.”

But Japan, always beforehand in ceremonious politeness, was again ahead of America in this respect. Just before ten o’clock the mouse’s tail once more brushed their door and Nance’s sharp ears catching the faint sound, she called, “Come in.”

Miss Otoyo Sen entered, this time less timidly, but with the same deprecating smile on her diminutive face.

“Begging honorable pardon of beautiful young ladies,” she began, “will condescendingly to accept unworthy gift from Otoyo in gratitude of favors receiving?”

Then she produced a beautiful Japanese scroll at least four feet in length. In the background loomed up the snow-capped peak of the ever-present sacred mountain, Fujiyama, and the foreground disclosed a pleasing combination of sky-blue waters dotted with picturesque little islands connected with graceful curving bridges, and here and there were cherry trees aglow with delicate pink blossoms.

“Oh, how perfectly sweet,” exclaimed the girls, delighted.

“And just the place on this bare wall space!” continued Molly. “It’s really a heaven-sent gift, Miss Sen, because we were wishing for something really beautiful to hang over that divan. But aren’t you robbing yourself?”

“No, no. I beg you assurance. Otoyo have many suchly. It is nothing. Beautiful young ladies do honor by accepting humbly gift.”

“Let’s hang it at once,” suggested Molly, “while the step ladder is yet with us. Queen’s step ladder is so much in demand that it’s very much like the snowfall in the river, ‘a moment there, then gone forever.’”

The two girls moved the homely but coveted ladder across the room, and, with much careful shifting and after several suggestions timidly made by Otoyo, finally hung up the scroll. It really glorified the whole room and made a framed lithograph of a tea-drinking lady in a boudoir costume and a kitten that trifled with a ball of yarn on the floor, Nance’s possession, appear so commonplace that she shamefacedly removed it from its tack and put it back in her trunk, to Molly’s secret relief.

“Won’t you sit down and talk to us a few minutes?” asked Nance. “We still have a quarter of an hour before bed time.”

Otoyo timidly took a seat on a corner of one of the divans. The girls could not help noticing another small package which she had not yet proffered for their acceptance. But she now placed it in Nance’s hand.

“A little of what American lady call ‘meat-sweet,’” she said apologetically. “It all way from Japan have coming. Will beautiful ladies accept so humbly gift?”

The box contained candied ginger and was much appreciated by young American ladies, the humble giver of this delightful confection being far too shy to eat any of it herself.

By dint of some questioning, it came out that Otoyo’s father was a merchant of Tokio. She had been sent to an American school in Japan for two years and had also studied under an English governess. She could read English perfectly and, strange to say, could write it fairly accurately, but, when it came to speaking it, she clung to her early participial-adverbial faults, although she trusted to overcome them in a very little while. She had several conditions to work off before Thanksgiving, but she was cheerful and her ambition was to be “beautiful American young lady.”

She was, indeed, the most charming little doll-like creature the girls had ever seen, so unreal and different from themselves, that they could hardly credit her with the feelings and sensibilities of a human being. So correctly polite was she with such formal, stiff little manners that she seemed almost an automaton wound up to bow and nod at the proper moment. But Otoyo Sen was a creature of feeling, as they were to find out before very long.

“Did many girls come down on the train with you to-night, Miss Sen?” asked Nance, by way of making conversation.

Several young ladies had come, Miss Sen replied in her best participial manner. All had been kind to Otoyo but one, who had frightened poor Japanese very, very much. One very kind American gentleman had been commissioned to bring little Japanese down from big city to University. He had look after her all day and brought her sandwiches. He friend of her father and most, most kindly. He had receiving letters from her honorable father to look after little Japanese girl.

Across the aisle from Otoyo had sat a “beeg young American lady, beeg as kindly young lady there with peenk hair,” indicating Molly. The “beeg” young American lady, it seems, had great “beeg” eyes, so: Otoyo made two circles with her thumbs and forefingers to indicate size of young American lady’s optics. She called Otoyo “Yum-Yum” and she made to laugh at humble Japanese girl, but Otoyo could see that young American lady with beeg eyes feeling great anger toward little strange girl.

“But for what reason?” asked Molly, slipping her arm around Otoyo’s plump waist. “How could she be unkind to sweet little Japanese stranger?”

“Young great-eyed lady laugh at me mostly and I very uncomfortably.” She brought out the big word with proud effort.

“But how cruel! Why did she do it?” exclaimed Nance.

Here Otoyo gave a delicious melodious laugh for the first time that evening.

“She not like kindly gentlemanly friend to be attentionly to humble Japanese.”

“What was the gentleman’s name, Otoyo?” asked Molly; and somewhat to her surprise Otoyo, who, as they were to learn later, never forgot a name, came out patly with:

“Professor Edwin Green, kindly friend of honorable father.”

“Did the young lady call him ’Cousin’?” asked Nance in the tone of one who knows what the answer will be beforehand.

“Yes,” answered Otoyo Sen.

“The same old Judith Blount,” laughed Molly.

And Nance recalled Judy’s prophetic speech on the last day of college in June: “Can the lé-o-pard change his spots?”

Then the first stroke of the tower clock began to chime the hour of ten and they promptly conducted Otoyo to her bedroom with the caution that all lights must be out at ten, a rule she followed thereafter with implicit obedience.

The next morning, Molly and Nance took Otoyo under their especial care. They introduced her to all the girls at Queen’s, placed her between them at Chapel, showed her how to register and finally took her on a sight-seeing expedition.

It turned out that through Professor Green her room had been engaged since early the winter before. Why he should have chosen Queen’s they hardly knew, since Otoyo appeared to have plenty of money and might have lived in more expensive quarters. But Queen’s he had selected, and that very evening he called on Mrs. Markham to see that his little charge was comfortably settled. Molly caught a glimpse of him as he followed the maid through the hall to Mrs. Markham’s sitting room, and made him a polite bow. She felt somewhat in awe of the Professor of English Literature this winter, since she was to be in one of his classes, Lit. II, and was very fearful that he might consider her a perfect dunce. But Professor Green would not pass Molly with a bow. He paused at the door of the living room and held out his hand.

“I’m glad to see you back and looking so well,” he said. “My sister asked to be remembered to you. I saw her only yesterday.”

The Professor looked well, also. His brown eyes were as clear as two brown pools in the forest and there was a healthy glow on his face; but Molly could not help noticing that he was growing bald about the temples.

“Too bad he’s so old,” she thought, “because sometimes he’s really handsome.”

“I am commissioned,” he continued, “to find a tutor for a young Japanese girl boarding here, and I wondered if you would like to undertake the work. She needs lessons in English chiefly, but she has several conditions to work off and it would be a steady position for anyone who has time to take it. Her father is a rich man and willing to pay more than the usual price if he can get someone specially interested who will take pains with his daughter’s education.”

“I’m willing to do all that,” said Molly, “but it goes with the job, don’t you think? I have no right to ask more than is usually asked.”

“Oh, yes, you have,” answered the Professor quickly. “What you can give her means everything to the child. She is naturally very timid and strange. If you are willing to give up several hours to her, say four times a week, I will arrange about salary with her father and the lessons may begin immediately.”

It was impossible for Molly to disguise her feelings of relief and joy at this windfall. Her lack of funds was, as usual, an ever-present shadow in the background of her mind, although, through some fine investments which Mrs. Brown had been able to make that summer, the Brown family hoped to be relieved by another year of the pressure of poverty.