Read CHAPTER XV - A recovery and A visit of Molly Brown's Sophomore Days , free online book, by Nell Speed, on ReadCentral.com.

Young Andy McLean was not destined to be gathered to his forefathers yet, however, and before Christmas he was able to sit up in bed and beg his mother fretfully to telephone to Exmoor and ask some of the fellows to come over.

“The doctor says you’re not to see any of the boys yet, Andy,” replied his mother firmly.

“If I can’t see boys, is there anything I can see?” he demanded with extreme irritability.

Mrs. McLean smiled and a little later dispatched a note to Queen’s Cottage. That afternoon Nance came shyly into Andy’s room and sat down in a low chair beside the white iron hospital bed which had been substituted for the big old mahogany one.

“Your mother says you are lots better, Andy,” she said.

Andy gave a happy, sheepish smile and wiggled two fingers weakly, which meant they were to shake hands.

“Mother was afraid for the fellows to come,” he said, “on account of my heart. I suppose she thinks a girl can’t affect anybody’s heart.”

“I’m so quiet, you see,” said Nance, “but I’ll go if you think it’s going to hurt you.”

“You wouldn’t like to see me cry, would you? I boohooed like a kid this morning because they wouldn’t let me have broiled ham for breakfast. I smelt it cooking. It would be just like having to give up broiled ham for breakfast to have you go, Nance. Sit down again, will you, and don’t leave me until I tell you. Since I’ve been sick I’ve learned to be a boss.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t let you boss me that night, Andy,” remarked Nance meekly. “I ought never to have coasted down the hill. I’ve wanted to apologize ever since.”

“Have you been blaming yourself?” he broke in. “It wasn’t your fault at all. It all happened because I was angry and didn’t look where I was going. I have had a lot of time to think lately, and I’ve decided that there is nothing so stupid as getting mad. You always have to pay for it somehow. Look at me: a human wreck for indulging in a fit of rage. There’s a fellow at Ex. who lost his temper in an argument over a baseball game and walked into a door and broke his nose.”

Nance laughed.

“There are other ways of curing tempers besides broken bones,” she said. “Just plain remorse is as good as a broken nose; at least I’ve found it so.”

“Did you have the remorse, Nance?” asked Andy, wiggling the fingers of his good hand again.

“Yes, awfully, Andy,” answered the young girl, slipping her hand into his. “I felt just like a murderer.”

The nurse came in presently to say that the fifteen minutes allotted for the call was up. It had slipped by on the wings of the wind, but their friendship had been re-established on the old happy basis. Andy was unusually polite to his mother and the nurse that day, and Nance went straight to the village and bought two big bunches of violets, one for Molly and one for Judy. In some way she must give expression to the rejoicing in her heart, and this was the only means she could think of.

Besides Andy McLean’s recovery, several other nice things happened before Christmas. One morning Judy burst into her friend’s room like a wild creature, waving a letter in each hand.

“They are coming,” she cried. “They have each written to tell me so. Isn’t it perfect? Isn’t it glorious?”

No need to tell Molly and Nance who “they” were. These girls were fully aware that Judy treated her mother and father exactly like two sweethearts, giving each an equal share of her abundant affections; but the others were not so well informed about Judy’s family relations. Otoyo Sen began to clap her hands and laugh joyously in sympathy.

“Is it two honorable young gentlemen who arriving come to see Mees Kean?”

“Now, Otoyo, how often have I told you not to say ‘arriving come,’” exclaimed Molly. “I know it’s a fascinating combination and difficult to forget in moments of excitement, but it’s very bad English.”

“Mees Kean, she is so happee,” replied the Japanese girl, speaking slowly and carefully. “I cannot remembering when I see so much great joy.”

“Wouldn’t you be happy, too, if your honorable mamma and papa were coming to Wellington to visit you, you cunning little sparrow-bird?” asked Judy, seizing Otoyo’s hands and dancing her wildly about the room.

“Oh, it is honorable mother and father! That is differently. It is not the same in Japan. Young Japanese girl might make great deal of noise over something new and very pretty, you see? But it is not respectful to jump-up-so about parents arriving.”

There was a great laugh at this. Otoyo was an especial pet at Queen’s with the older girls.

“She’s like a continuous performance of ‘The Mikado,’” remarked Edith Williams. “Three little maids from school rolled into one, the quaintest, most adorable little person.”

“And when do these honorable parents arriving come?” asked Margaret Wakefield.

“To-morrow afternoon,” answered Judy. “Where shall I get rooms? What shall I take them to see? Shall I give a tea and ask the girls to meet them? Don’t you think a sleighing party would be fun? And a fudge party in the evening? Papa loves fudge. Do you think it would be a good idea to have dinner up here in Molly’s and Nance’s room, or let papa give a banquet at the Inn? Do suggest, everybody.”

Judy was too excited to sit down. She was walking up and down the room, her cheeks blazing and her eyes as uncannily bright as two elfin lights on a dark night.

“Be calm, Judy,” said Molly, taking her friend by the shoulders and pushing her into a chair. “You’ll work yourself into a high fever with your excitable ways. Now, sit down there and we’ll talk it over quietly and arrange a program.”

Judy sat down obediently.

“I suppose it does seem funny to all of you, but, you see, mamma and papa and I have been brought up together ”

“You mean you brought them up?” asked Edith.

“We brought each other up. They call me ‘little sister’, and until I went off to college, because papa insisted I must have some education, life was just one beautiful lark.”

“What a jolly time you must have had!” observed Nance with a wistful smile which reminded the self-centred Judy at last that it was not exactly kind to pile it on too thickly about her delightful parents.

Not a little curiosity was felt by the Queen’s girls to see Mr. and Mrs. Kean, whom Judy had described as paragons of beauty and wit, and they assembled at Wellington station in a body to meet the distinguished pair. Judy herself was in a quiver of happy excitement and when finally the train pulled into the station, she rushed from one platform to another in her eagerness. Of course they had taken the chair car down, but she was too bewildered to remember that there was but one such coach on the Wellington train, and it was usually the rear car.

“I don’t find them. Oh, mamma! Oh, papa! You couldn’t have missed the train!” she cried, addressing the spirits of the air.

Just then a very tall, handsome man with eyes exactly like Judy’s pinioned her arms from behind.

“Well, little sister, don’t you know your own father?”

He was just as Judy had described him; and her word-picture also fitted Mrs. Kean, a dainty, pretty, little woman, with a doll-like face and flaxen hair, who would never have given the impression that she was in the habit of roughing it in engineering camps, sleeping out of doors, riding across sun-baked plains on Texas bronchos, and accompanying her husband wherever he went on his bridge and railroad-building trips.

“Judy hasn’t had much home life,” she said later to Molly. “We had to take our choice, little sister and I, between a home without papa or papa without a home, and we decided that he was ten thousand times more delightful than the most wonderful palace ever built.”

Her extravagant speeches reminded Molly of Judy; but the mother was much gentler and quieter than her excitable daughter, and perhaps not so clever.

They dined at Queen’s that night and made a tour of the entire house, except Judith Blount’s room, all apartments having been previously spruced up for inspection. Otoyo had shown her respect for the occasion by hanging a Japanese lantern from the chandelier and loading a little table with “meat-sweets,” which she offered to the guests when they paused in her room during their triumphal progress through the house.

Later Molly and Nance entertained at a fudge and stunt party and Mr. and Mrs. Kean were initiated into the secrets of life at Queen’s.

They entered into the fun like two children, and one of the stunts, a dialogue between the Williams sisters, amused Mr. Kean so much that he laughed loud and long, until his wife shook him by the shoulder and exclaimed:

“Hush, Bobbie. Remember, you’re not on the plains, but in a girls’ boarding school.”

“Yes, Robert,” said Judy, who frequently spoke to her parents by their first names, “remember that you are in a place where law and order must be maintained.”

“You shouldn’t give such laugh-provoking stunts, then,” answered Mr. Kean, “but I’ll try and remember to put on the soft pedal hereafter.”

Then Molly, accompanying herself on Judy’s guitar, sang:

“Big camp meetin’ down the swamp,
Oh, my! Hallelujah!”

Mr. Kean suddenly joined in with a deep, booming bass. He had learned that song many years before in the south, he said, and had never forgotten it.

“He never forgets anything,” said Judy proudly, laying her cheek against her father’s. “And now, what will you sing, Bobbie, to amuse the ladies?”

Mr. Kean, without the least embarrassment, took the guitar, and, looking so amazingly like Judy that they might have been twins, sang:

“Young Jeremy Jilson Johnson Jenks
Was a lad of scarce nineteen ”

It was a delightful song and the chorus so catchy that after the second verse the entire fudge and stunt party joined in with:

“‘Oh, merry-me, merry-me,’
Sang young Jeremy,
‘Merry-me, Lovely Lou ’”

Presently Mr. Kean, seizing his daughter around the waist, began dancing, and in a moment everybody was twirling to that lively tune, bumping against each other and tumbling on the divans in an effort to circle around the room. All the time. Mrs. Kean, standing on a chair in the corner, was gently remonstrating and calling out:

“Now, Bobbie, you mustn’t make so much noise. This isn’t a mining camp.”

Nobody heard her soft expostulations, and only the little lady herself heard the sharp rap on the door and noticed a piece of paper shoved under the crack. Rescuing it from under the feet of the dancers, and seeing that it was addressed to “Miss Kean,” she opened and read it.

“Oh, how very mortifying,” she exclaimed. “Now, Bobbie, I knew you would get these girls into some scrape. You are always so noisy. See here! Our own Judy being reprimanded! You must make your father explain to the President or Matron or whoever this Miss Blount is, that it was all his fault.”

“What in the world are you talking about, Julia Kean?” demanded Judy, snatching the note from her mother and reading it rapidly. “Well, of all the unexampled impudence!” she cried when she had finished. “Will you be good enough to listen to this?

“’Miss Kean: You and your family are a little too noisy for the comfort of the other tenants in this house. Those of us who wish to study and rest cannot do so. This is not a dance hall nor a mining camp. Will you kindly arrange to entertain more quietly? The singing is especially obnoxious.

“‘JudithBlount.’”

Judy was in such a white heat of rage when she finished reading the note, that her mother was obliged to quiet her by smoothing her forehead and saying over and over:

“There, there, my darling, don’t mind it so much. No doubt the young person was quite right.”

Mr. Kean was intensely amused over the letter. He read it to himself twice; then laughed and slapped his knee, exclaiming:

“By Jove, Judy, my love, it takes a woman to write a note like that.”

“A woman? A cat!” broke in Judy.

Mrs. Kean put her hand over her daughter’s mouth and looked shocked.

“Oh, Judy, my dearest, you mustn’t say such unladylike things,” she cried.

“It’s just because she wasn’t invited,” continued Judy. “I wouldn’t let the girls ask her this time. She usually is invited and makes as much racket as any of us.”

“It was rather mean to leave her out,” observed Molly. “I suppose she’s sore about it. But we didn’t ask all the girls at Queen’s. Sallie Marks and two freshmen were not invited, and if we had gone outside, we’d have invited Mary Stewart and Mabel Hinton.”

“Still,” said Mr. Kean, “there’s nothing meaner than the ‘left-out’ feeling. It cuts deep. Suppose we smooth things over by asking her to our next party. Let me see. Will all of you give Mrs. Kean and me the pleasure of having you dine with us to-morrow evening at the Inn? Now, may I borrow some writing materials?” he added, after a chorus of acceptances had been raised.

Nance conducted him to her writing desk, which was always the acme of neatness, and well stocked with stationery. Here is the letter that Mr. Kean wrote to Judith Blount, which Judy, looking over her father’s shoulder, read aloud as it evolved:

“‘Dear Miss Blount:’ (Blount, did you say her name was? Humph!) ’You were quite right to scold Mr. Kean and me for making so much noise. It was inconsiderate of us ’”

“But, Bobbie,” protested Mrs. Kean, “it isn’t fair to lay the blame on me and make me write the letter, too.”

“Be quiet, my love,” answered her husband.

“’Will you not give us the pleasure of your company at dinner to-morrow evening at the Inn? We are anxious to show you what really quiet, law-abiding people we are, and Mr. Kean and I will be much disappointed if you do not allow us the opportunity to prove it to you.’”

Judy’s father paused, his pen suspended, while he asked:

“Didn’t I see bill posters at the station announcing a performance at the Opera House?”

“Yes,” cried Judy. “They’re giving ‘The Silver King.’”

“‘Dinner will be a little early,’” he wrote, “’because Mr. Kean is planning to take us all to the play afterwards. He will call for you in’ what shall I call for you in?”

“The bus,” promptly answered every girl in the room.

“’ the bus at six fifteen. Anticipating much pleasure in having you with us to-morrow, believe me,

Most cordially yours,
Julia S. Kean.’”

“Now, Julia, my love, sit down and copy what I’ve written in your best handwriting, and we’ll try to smooth down this fiery young person’s ruffled feathers.”

Mrs. Kean obediently copied the note. After all, it wasn’t an unkind revenge, and Otoyo delivered it at Judith’s door while the others chatted quietly and absorbed quantities of hot fudge and crackers.

Presently Otoyo stole softly back into the room.

“What did she say, little one?” asked Judy.

“She was very stilly,” answered Otoyo shyly. “She spoke nothing whatever. I thought it more wisely to departing go.”

The laugh that was raised at this lucid report restored good humor in the company.

A vehicle called for Mr. and Mrs. Kean at a quarter before ten to take them down into the village, and it was not long before every light was out in Queen’s Cottage but one in a small single room in an upper story. Here, in front of the mirror over the dressing table, sat a black-eyed girl in a red silk dressing gown.

“Judith,” she said fiercely to her image in the glass, “can’t you remember that you are too poor to insult people any longer?”

Then she rolled up Mrs. Kean’s note into a little ball and flung it across the room with such force that it hit the other wall and bounded back again to her feet, and she ground it under her heel. After this exhibition of impotent rage, she put out her light and flung herself into the bed, where she tossed about uneasily and exclaimed to herself:

“I won’t be poor! I won’t work. I hate this hideous little room and I loathe Queen’s Cottage. I wish I had never been born.”

Nevertheless, Judith Blount did humble herself next day to accept Mrs. Kean’s invitation. At the dinner she was sullen and quiet, but she could not hide her enjoyment of the melodrama later.

The one taste which she had in common with her brother Richard was an affection for the theatre, no matter how crude the acting, nor how hackneyed the play.

But the insulting letter that she had sent to Judy Kean widened the breach between her and the Queen’s girls, and no amount of effort on her part after that could bridge it over.