Read CHAPTER IV - A tempest in a teapot of Molly Brown's Sophomore Days , free online book, by Nell Speed, on ReadCentral.com.

“Do you think those little feet of yours will be able to carry you so far, Otoyo?” asked Molly anxiously, one Saturday morning.

Otoyo gave one of her delightfully ingenuous smiles.

“My body is smally, too,” she said. “The weight is not grandly.”

“Not smally; just small, Otoyo,” admonished Molly, who was now well launched in her tutoring of the little Japanese, and had almost broken her of her participial habits. But the adverbial habit appeared to grow as the participial habit vanished.

“And you won’t get too tired?” asked Judy.

“No, no, no,” protested Otoyo, her voice rising with each no until it ended in a sweet high note like a bird’s. “You not know the Japanese when you say that. I have received training. You have heard of jiu jitsu? Some day Otoyo will teach beautiful young American lady some things.”

“Yes, but the jiu jitsu doesn’t help you when you’re tired, does it?”

“Ah, but I shall not be tired. You will see. Otoyo’s feet great bigly.”

She stuck out her funny stubby little feet for inspection and the girls all laughed. As a matter of fact, she was a sturdy little body and knew the secret of keeping her strength. She achieved marvels in her studies; was up with the dawn and the last person in the house to tumble into bed, but she was never tired, never cross and out of humor, and was always a model of cheerful politeness.

“Art ready?” asked Katherine Williams, appearing at the door in a natty brown corduroy walking suit.

“Can’st have the face to ask the question when we’ve been waiting for you ten minutes?” replied Judy.

It was a glorious September day when the walking club from Queen’s started on its first expedition. The rules of the club were few, very elastic and susceptible to changes. It met when it could, walked until it was tired and had no fixed object except that of resting the eyes from the printed page, relaxing the mind from its arduous labors and accelerating the circulation. Anyone who wanted to invite a guest could, and those who wished to remain at home were not bound to go.

“Did anybody decide where we were going?” asked Molly.

“Yes, I did,” announced Margaret. “Knob Ledge is our destination. It’s the highest point in Wellington County and commands a most wonderful view of the surrounding country-side ”

“Dear me, you sound like a guide book, Margaret,” put in Judy.

“Professor Green is the guide book,” answered Margaret. “He told me about it. You know he is the only real walker at Wellington. Twenty miles is nothing to him and Knob Ledge is one of his favorite trips.”

“I hope that isn’t twenty miles,” said Jessie anxiously.

“Oh, no, it’s barely six by the short way and ten by the road. We shall go by the short way.”

“Isn’t Molly lovely to-day?” whispered Nance to Judy, after the walking expedition had crossed the campus and started on its way in good earnest.

Molly was a picture in an old gray skirt and a long sweater and tam of “Wellington blue,” knitted by one of her devoted sisters during the summer.

“She’s a dream,” exclaimed Judy with loyal enthusiasm. “She glorifies everything she wears. Just an ordinary blue tam o’shanter, exactly the same shape and color that a hundred other Wellington girls wear, looks like a halo on a saint’s head when she wears it.”

“It’s her auburn hair that’s the halo,” said Nance.

“And her heavenly blue eyes that are saint’s eyes,” finished Judy.

Molly, all unconscious of the admiration of her friends, walked steadily along between Otoyo and Jessie, a package of sandwiches in one hand and a long staff, picked up on the road, in the other.

They were not exactly out for adventure that day, being simply a jolly party of girls off in the woods to enjoy the last sunny days in September, and they were not prepared for all the excitements which greeted them on the way.

Scarcely had they left the path along the bank of the lake and skirted the foot of “Round Head,” at the top of which Molly and her two chums had once met Professor Green and his brother, when Margaret Wakefield, well in advance of the others, gave a wild scream and rushed madly back into their midst. Trotting sedately after her came an amiable looking cow. The creature paused when she saw the girls, emitted the bovine call of the cow-mother separated from her only child, turned and trotted slowly back.

“Why, Margaret, I didn’t know you were such a coward,” began Jessie reproachfully.

“Coward, indeed,” answered the other indignantly. “I don’t believe Queen Boadicea herself in a red sweater would have passed that animal. Listen to the creature. She’s begun mooing like a foghorn. I suppose she held me personally responsible for her loss. Anyhow, she began chasing me and I wasn’t going to be gored to death in the flower of my youth.”

There was no arguing this fact, and several daring spirits, creeping along the path until it curved around the hill, hid behind a clump of trees and took in the prospect. There stood the cow with ears erect and quivering nostrils. She had a suspicious look in her lustrous eyes and at intervals she let out a deep bellow that had a hint of disaster in it for all who passed that way.

The brave spirits went back again.

“What are we to do?” exclaimed Katherine. “If it got out in college that an old cow kept ten sophomores from having a picnic, we’d never hear the last of it.”

“Unless we behave like Indian scouts and creep along one at a time, I don’t see what we are to do,” said Molly. “If we went further up the hill, she’d see us just the same and if we crossed the brook and took to the meadow, we’d get stuck in the swamp.”

“Suppose we make a run for it,” suggested Judy with high courage. “Just dash past until we reach that group of trees over there.”

“Not me,” exclaimed Jessie, shaking her head vigorously. “Excuse me, if you please.”

There was another conference in low voices behind the protecting clump of alder bushes. At last the cow began to ease her mental suffering by nibbling at the damp green turf on the bank of the little brook.

“She’s forgotten all about us. Let’s make a break for it,” cried Molly. There was a certain stubbornness in her nature that made her want to finish anything she began no matter whether it was a task or a pleasure.

The cow flicked a fly from her flank with her tail and went on placidly cropping grass. Apparently, creature comforts had restored her equanimity.

“One, two, three, run!” shouted Judy, and the ten students began the race of their lives.

Not once did the flower and wit of 19 pause to look back, and so closely did they stick together, the strong helping the weak, that to the watchers on the hill and, alas! there were several of them they resembled all together an enormous animal of the imagination with ten pairs of legs and a coat of many colors. At last they fell down, one on top of the other, in a laughing, tumbling heap, in the protecting grove of pine trees, and pausing to look back beheld the ferocious cow amiably swishing her tail as she cropped the luscious turf on the bank of the little stream.

“Asinine old thing,” cried Margaret. “She’s just an alarmist of the worst kind.”

“Who was the alarmist, did you say, Margaret?” asked Edith, with a wicked smile. But Margaret made no answer, because, as her close friends well knew, she never could stand being teased.

And now the watchers on the hill, having witnessed the entire episode from behind a granite boulder and enjoyed it to the limit of their natures, proceeded to return to Wellington with the story that was too good to keep, and Queen’s girls went on their way rejoicing as the strong man who runs a race and wins.

At two o’clock, after a long, hard climb, they reached the ledges. To Molly and Judy, the leading spirits of the expedition, the beautiful view amply repaid their efforts, but there were those who were too weary to enjoy the scenery. Jessie was one of these.

“I’m not meant for hard work,” she groaned, as she reposed on one of the flat rocks which gave the place its name and pillowed her head on Margaret’s lap.

They opened the packages of luncheon and ate with ravenous appetites, finishing off with fudge and cheese sticks. Then they spread themselves on the table rocks and regarded the scenery pensively. Having climbed up at great expense of strength and effort, it was now necessary to retrace their footsteps. The thought was disconcerting.

Edith, who never moved without a book, pulled a small edition of Keats from her pocket and began to read aloud:

“My heart aches and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk ”

A short laugh interrupted this scene of intellectual repose. Edith paused and looked up, annoyed.

“I see nothing to laugh at,” she said. But the faces of her classmates were quite serious.

“No one laughed,” said Molly.

“A rudely person did laugh,” announced Otoyo decisively. “But not of us. Another hidden behind the rock.”

The girls looked around them uneasily. There was no one in sight, apparently, and yet there had been a laugh from somewhere close by. Coming to think of it, they had all heard it.

“I think we’d better be going,” said Margaret, rising hastily. “We can see the view on the other side some other day.”

Twice that day Margaret, the coming suffragette, had proved herself lacking in a certain courage generally attributed to the new and independent woman.

“Come on,” she continued, irritably. “Don’t stop to gather up those sandwiches. We must hurry.”

Perhaps they were all of them a little frightened, but nobody was quite so openly and shamelessly scared as President Wakefield. They had seized their sweaters and were about to follow her down the steep path, when another laugh was heard, and suddenly a strange man rushed from behind one of the large boulders and seized Margaret by the arm.

The President gave one long, despairing shriek that waked the echoes, while the other girls, too frightened to move, crouched together in a trembling group.

Then the little Japanese bounded from their midst with the most surprising agility, seized the man by his thumb and with a lightning movement of the arm struck him under the chin.

With a cry of intense pain, the tramp, for such he appeared to be, fell back against the rock, his black slouch hat fell off, and a quantity of dark hair tumbled down on his shoulders. Judith Blount, looking exceedingly ludicrous in a heavy black mustache, stood before them.

“Oh, how you hurt me,” she cried, turning angrily on Otoyo.

Otoyo shrank back in amazement.

“Pardon,” she said timidly. “I did not know the rudely man was a woman.”

The girls were now treated to the rare spectacle of Margaret Wakefield in a rage. The Goddess of War herself could not have been more majestic in her anger, and her choice of words was wonderful as she emptied the vials of her wrath on the head of the luckless Judith. The Williams sisters sat down on a rock, prepared to enjoy the splendid exhibition and the discomfiture of Judith Blount, who for once had gone too far in her practical joking. Molly withdrew somewhat from the scene. Anger always frightened her, but she felt that Margaret was quite justified in what she said.

“How dare you masquerade in those disreputable clothes and frighten us?” Margaret thundered out. “Do you think such behavior will be tolerated for a moment at a college of the standing of Wellington University? Are you aware that some of us might have been seriously injured by what you would call, I suppose, a practical joke? Is this your idea of amusement? It is not mine. Do you get any enjoyment from such a farce?”

At last Margaret paused for breath, but for once Judith had nothing to say. She hung her head shamefacedly and the girls who were with her, whoever they were, hung back as if they would feign have their share in the affair kept secret.

“I’m sorry,” said Judith with unusual humility. “I didn’t realize it was going to frighten you so much. You see, I don’t look much like a man in my gymnasium suit. Of course the mackintosh and hat did look rather realistic, I’ll admit. When we saw you run from the cow this morning, it was so perfectly ludicrous, we decided to have some fun. I put on these togs and we got a vehicle and drove around by the Exmoor road. I’m sorry if you were scared, but I think I came out the worst. My thumb is sprained and I know my neck will be black and blue by to-morrow.”

“I advise you to give up playing practical jokes hereafter,” said the unrelenting Goddess of War. “If your thumb is sprained, it’s your own fault.”

Judith flashed a black glance at her.

“When I lower myself to make you an apology,” she ejaculated, “I should think you’d have the courtesy to accept it,” and with that she walked swiftly around the edge of the rock, where she joined her confederates, while the Queen’s girls demurely took their way down the side of the hill.

“Was my deed wrongly, then?” asked Otoyo, innocently, feeling somehow that she had been the cause of the great outburst.

“No, indeed, child, your deed was rightly,” laughed Margaret. “And I’m going to take jiu jitsu lessons from you right away. If I could twirl a robber around the thumb like that and hit a cow under her chin, I don’t think I’d be such a coward.”

Everybody burst out laughing and Molly felt greatly relieved that harmony was once more established. The walk ended happily, and by the time they had reached home, Judith Blount had been relegated to an unimportant place in their minds.