Read CHAPTER XVIII - Breaking the news of Molly Brown's Sophomore Days , free online book, by Nell Speed, on ReadCentral.com.

Mrs. Markham had received due notice that Molly Brown of Kentucky would be obliged to give up her half of the big room on the third floor at Queen’s. The matron was very sorry. Miss Blount also was moving to other quarters, she said; but she was too accustomed to the transitory tenants of Queen’s to feel any real grief over sudden departures.

“It only remains to break the news to the others,” thought Molly, but she mercifully determined to wait until after the mid-year examinations. She was very modest regarding her popularity, but she was pretty sure that Judy’s highly emotional temperament might work itself into a fever from such a shock. Remembering her last year’s experience at mid-years, Molly guarded her secret carefully until after the great crisis.

At last, however, the fateful moment came. All the Queen’s circle was gathered in that center of hospitality in which Molly had spent so many happy months. The walls never looked so serenely blue as on that bright Sunday morning in January, nor the Japanese scroll more alluring and ornamental. A ray of sunlight filtering through the white dimity curtains cast a checkered shadow on the antique rug. Even the imperfections of the old room were dear to Molly’s heart now that she must leave them forever; the spot in the ceiling where the roof had leaked; the worn place in the carpet where they had sat around the register, and the mischievous chair with the “game leg” which precipitated people to the floor unexpectedly.

Everybody was in a good humor.

“There are no shipwrecks on the strand this year,” Margaret Wakefield was saying. “Everybody’s safe in harbor, glory be.”

“Even me,” put in Jessie meekly. “I never thought I’d pull through in that awful chemistry exam., and I was morally certain I’d flunk in math., too. I’m so afraid of Miss Bowles that my hair stands on end whenever she speaks to me.”

“She is rather formidable,” said Edith Williams. “Why is it that Higher Mathematics seems to freeze a body’s soul and turn one into an early Puritan?”

“It simply trains the mind to be exact,” said Margaret, who always defended the study of mathematics in these discussions. “And exactness means sticking to facts, and that’s an excellent quality in a woman.”

“Meaning to say,” broke in Katherine Williams, “that all un-mathematical minds are untruthful ”

“Nothing of the sort,” cried Margaret hotly. “I never made any such statement. Did I, girls? I said ”

There was a bumping, tumbling noise in the hall. Judy, the ever-curious, opened the door.

“The trunks are here, Miss,” called Mr. Murphy, “and sorry we are to lose you, the old woman and I.”

“Thank you, Mr. Murphy,” answered Molly.

“Well, for the love of Mike,” cried Judy, turning around and facing Molly. “What are you talking about?”

“I’m not talking about anything,” answered Molly, trying to keep her voice steady.

“Did you flunk in any of the exams., Molly Brown?” asked Edith in a whisper.

“No,” whispered Molly in reply. It was going to be even worse than she had pictured to herself. “No,” she repeated. A pulse throbbed in her throat and made her voice sound all tremolo like a beginner’s in singing. “I waited to tell you until after mid-years. I’m not going very far away only to O’Reilly’s.”

Nance, who had been sitting on the floor with her head against Molly’s knee, began softly to weep. It was certainly one of the most desolating experiences of Molly’s life.

“O’Reilly’s?” they cried in one loud protesting shriek.

“Yes, you see, we we’ve lost some money and I have to move,” began Molly apologetically. “We can be friends just the same, only I won’t see quite as much of you it it will be harder on me than on you ”

It would have been gratifying if it had not been so sad, this circle of tear-stained faces and every tear shed on her account.

“We simply can’t do without you, Molly,” cried pretty, affectionate Jessie Lynch. “You belong to the ‘body corporate’ of Queen’s, as Margaret calls it, to such an extent that if you leave us, we’ll well, we’ll just fall to pieces, that’s all.”

It remained for Judy Kean, however, that creature of impulse and emotion, to prove the depths of her affection. When she rushed blindly from the room, her friends had judged that she wished to be alone. Molly had once been a witness to the awful struggle of Judy in tears and she knew that weeping was not a surface emotion with her.

For some time, Molly went on quietly explaining and talking, answering their questions and assuring them that there would be many meetings at O’Reilly’s of Queen’s girls.

“I expect you’ll have to move into Judith Blount’s singleton, Nance,” she continued, patting her friend’s cheek. “That is, unless you can arrange to get someone to share this one with you.”

“Don’t, don’t,” sobbed Nance. “I can’t bear it.”

Again there was a noise outside of trunks being carried upstairs and dumped down in the hall.

“There go poor Judith’s trunks,” observed Molly. “It will be harder on her than on me because she takes it so hard. She’s ”

Molly broke off and opened the door. Judy’s voice was heard outside giving directions.

“Just pull them inside for me, will you, Mr. Murphy? I know they fill up the room, but I like to pack all at once. Will you see about the room for me at Mrs. O’Reilly’s as you go down to the station? I’ll notify the registrar and Mrs. Markham. And Mr. Murphy, get a room next to Miss Brown’s, if possible. I don’t care whether it’s little or big.”

Nance pushed Molly aside and rushed into the hall.

“Why hadn’t I thought of that?” she cried. “Mr. Murphy, I want a room at O’Reilly’s. Will you engage one for me as near Miss Brown’s as you can, and before you go bring up my trunks, please?”

“Now, may the saints defind us,” cried the distracted Mr. Murphy. “It looks as if the whole of Queen’s was movin’ down to the village. You’re a foine lot of young ladies, Miss, and loyalty ain’t so usual a trait in a woman, either.”

“But Nance, but Judy!” protested Molly. “I can’t you mustn’t ”

“Don’t say another word,” put in Judy as if she were scolding a bad child. “Nance and I would rather live at O’Reilly’s with you than at Queen’s without you, that’s all. We mean no reflection on the others, but I suppose you all understand. Edith and Katherine wouldn’t be separated, and Jessie and Margaret wouldn’t. Well, it’s the same with us.”

“You’ll be sorry,” cried Molly. “Oh, Judy, I know you’ll regret it the very first day. It will be very different from Queen’s. We’ll have to get our own breakfasts, and take meals at the place next door, and the rooms are plain with ugly wall paper, and there isn’t any white woodwork, and it’s a big empty old place. It used to be a small hotel, you know, and Mrs. O’Reilly is trying to sell it. The only recommendation it has, is that it’s very cheap.”

“Why didn’t you go over to the post-office, Molly?” asked Margaret.

“They are nicer rooms,” admitted Molly, “but ”

“Judith Blount is going there,” put in Judy.

“That wasn’t the only reason. I really had arranged about O’Reilly’s before I knew Judith Blount was going to leave here.”

The girls looked puzzled.

“I know,” said Edith. “There’s a young person with a soft cooing voice at the post-office who talks a mile a minute.”

“She’s a very nice girl,” broke in Molly, “and works so hard. I really like her ever so much. She’s very clever, but I have a sort of bewildered feeling when I am with her.”

“I know,” said Edith. “It’s like standing on the banks of a rushing river. There’s no way to stop it and there’s no way to get across. You might as well retreat to O’Reilly’s in good order.”

“O’Reilly’s it is,” cried Judy with the gallant air of one about to go forth in search of adventure.

It was in vain that Molly protested. Her friends had made up their minds and nothing could swerve them. By good luck, the checks in payment for board and lodging at Queen’s for the new quarter had not arrived, and the two girls were free to move if they chose.

Together the three friends, more closely united than ever by the sacrifice of two of them, walked down into the village that afternoon to have a look at O’Reilly’s, and they were obliged to confess that they were not impressed with its possibilities as a home. But it was a dark, cold day when even cheerful, pretty rooms would not have looked their best.

“These two back rooms will be rather nice when the spring comes,” observed Nance, with a forced gaiety. “They look over the garden, you see. Perhaps Mrs. O’Reilly will let us plant some seeds in March.”

“It won’t be nice,” Molly cried. “It will be miserable. I’ve known it all along myself, but I wouldn’t admit it until now. Girls, I implore you to stay at Queen’s. You never will be happy here, and I shall be twice as unhappy.”

“Now, don’t say another word, Molly Brown,” said Judy. “We’re going to follow you if it’s to the Inferno.”

“Think how you’ll miss the others.”

“Think how we’d miss you.”

“We’d better go back and pack our things, then,” sighed Molly, feeling very much like a culprit who had drawn her friends into mischief.

That night they packed their belongings, and not once by the blink of an eyelash did Judy or Nance show what they felt about leaving Queen’s forever. At last with walls cleared of pictures, curtains neatly folded, books piled into boxes and rugs rolled up, the three girls went to bed, worn out with the day’s labors and emotions.

In the night, Nance, shivering, crawled into Molly’s bed and brought all her covering with her. Under a double layer of comforts they snuggled while the thermometer went down, down until it reached ten degrees below zero.