"Oh, excuse me, Miss Kean," said Jimmy. "I thought you had had a recent bereavement."
"Here, Judy, take off that thing," exclaimed Molly, unpinning the mourning veil in the back and snatching it off Judy's glowing face.
"Molly, how can you invade on the privacy of my grief," exclaimed Judy, laughing.
"Why, it's Miss Judy Kean," exclaimed Dodo Green, coming up at that moment with Andy McLean. "Nothing has hap——"
"No," put in Molly, "it's only one of Judy's absurd notions. She's been wearing mourning for years off and on, but she's only lately gone into such heavy black."
"And you've no objection to a little fun, then?" asked Andy.
"Not a particle," answered Judy, the old bright look lighting her face. "My feelings aren't black, I assure you."
"On with the dance, then, let joy be unconfined," cried Andy. "We'll call for you at a quarter of eight, girls—at O'Reilly's, you say? I'll have to trot along now and tell the mater."
The three boys hurried off while Molly and Judy rushed home to look over their party clothes.
"Isn't life a pleasant thing, after all?" exclaimed Judy, and Molly readily agreed that it was.
Such a jolly impromptu Christmas Eve party as it was that night at the McLeans'! Mrs. McLean had a niece visiting her from Scotland, an interesting girl with snappy brown eyes and straight dark hair. She was rather strangely dressed, Molly thought, in a red merino with a high white linen collar and a black satin tie, and she looked at Molly and Judy in their pretty evening gowns with evident disapproval. Just as Jimmy Lufton and Molly had completed the glide waltz for the fifth time that evening and had sunk down on a sofa breathless, the parlor door opened and in walked Professor Edwin Green, looking as well as he had ever looked in his life, with a fine glow of color in his cheeks.
"My dear Professor!" cried Mrs. McLean.
"Ed, I thought you were going to spend Christmas in the south," exclaimed his brother.
"You are a disobedient young man," ejaculated the doctor,—all in one chorus.
"Don't scold the returned wanderer," said the Professor, glancing about the room swiftly until he caught Molly's eye, and then smiling and nodding. "It's dangerous for convalescents to be bored, and realizing that Christmas in the tropics might bring on a relapse, I decided to lose no time in getting back home."
"And glad we are to see you, lad," said the doctor, seizing his hand and shaking it warmly. "You did quite right to come back before the ennui got in its work. It's worse than the fever."
Molly left Jimmy Lufton's side to shake hands with the Professor, and then the Professor remembered the young newspaper man and greeted him cordially, and after that all the company went back into the dining-room for hot chocolate and sandwiches. And here it was that all the mischief started which came very near to breaking up the great friendship that existed between Molly and the Professor.
It was simply that the Professor overheard scraps of information that Jimmy was pouring into Molly's ready ear while she listened with glowing cheeks and a gay smile to what he had to say.
"Oh, you'll enjoy New York all right, Miss Brown, and the newspaper work won't be as hard as what you are doing now, I fancy. I'm sure they'd take you on if only for your——" he paused. "You have only to ask and I'll put in a good word, too," he added. "You can never understand what a good time you'll have until you get there—theaters until you have had enough and the opera, too. I often get tickets through our critic——"
"The grand opera," repeated Molly.
"Yes, anything you like. Lohengrin, Aida, La Boheme. Sooner or later you will see them all. Then there are the restaurants—such jolly places to get little dinners, and you are so independent. You are too busy to be lonesome and you can come and go as you like, nobody to boss you except the editor, of course, and you'll soon catch on. You have a natural knack for writing. I could tell that by your letters——"
Molly, listening to the voice of the tempter, saw a picture of New York as one might see a picture of a carnival, all lights and fun and good times.
"But I want to work, too, more than anything else," she said suddenly.
"Oh, you'll have plenty to do," laughed the careless Jimmy, who took life about as seriously as a humming-bird.
After supper the Professor drew Molly away from the crowd of young people and led her to a sofa in the hall.
"I want to talk to you," he said in a tone of authority that a teacher might use to a pupil. "I could not help overhearing what your newspaper friend was saying to you at supper, and I wish you would take my advice and not listen to a word he says. He's just a young fool!"
The Professor was quite red in the face and Molly also flushed and her eyes darkened with anger.
"I don't agree with you about that," she said.
"Is it possible you are going to put all this hard studying you have been doing for the last three and a half years into writing news items for a yellow journal? I'm disgusted."
"But I only expected to start there——" began Molly.
"And is that young idiot trying to persuade you that the sort of life he described—a wild carnival life of dissipation and restaurant dinners is the right life for you? I tell you he's mistaken. I should like to—to——"
Molly's face was burning now.
"I—I—I don't think it's any of your business," she burst out. At this astonishing speech the Professor came to himself with a start.
"I beg your pardon, Miss Brown," he said. "I realize now that I entirely overstepped the mark. Good evening."
"Miss Brown, shall we have the last dance together?" called Jimmy Lufton down the hall, and presently poor Molly, whirling in the waltz, wondered why her temples throbbed so and her throat ached.
TWO CHRISTMAS BREAKFASTS.
Early Christmas morning a slender figure in faded blue corduroy could be seen hurrying up the road that led from the village to the college grounds. The frosty wind nipped two spots of red on her cheeks and under the drooping brim of her old blue felt hat her eyes shone like patches of sky in the sunlight. Where was Molly bound for at this early hour? The church bells were ringing out the glad Christmas tidings; the ground sparkled with hoar frost; but not a moment did she linger to listen to the cheerful clanging, or even to glance at the lonely vista of hill and dale stretched around her. Hurrying across the campus, she skirted the college buildings and presently gained the pebbled path that led to the old campus in the rear, flanked by a number of old red brick houses, formerly the homes of the professors. They were now used for various purposes: the college laundry; homes for the employees about the building and grounds and rooms for bachelor professors.
Hastening along the path to the house where Professor Green was domiciled, Molly was thinking:
"Only a year ago I had to make the same apology to him. Oh, my wicked, wicked temper! I am ashamed of myself."
And now she had reached the old brick house and sounded the brass knocker with an eager rat-tat-tat. Presently she heard footsteps resound along the empty hall and the Irish housekeeper flung open the door.
"Is Professor Green up yet?" Molly demanded.
"And shure I've not an idea whether he be up or slapin'."
"But can't you see?"
"I cannot. It wouldn't be an aisy thing to do, I'm thinkin'."
"And why not, pray? It must be his breakfast time. You have only to rap on his door. And it's very important."
"And if it's so important, you'd better be after sendin' him a cable to the Bahamas, where the Professor is sunnin' himself at prisint."
"Nonsense, Mrs. Brady, the Professor got back last night. I saw him myself. He must be up in his room now. Do go and see. You haven't cooked him a bit of breakfast, I suppose?"
Mrs. Brady turned without a word and tiptoed up the stairs. Molly heard her breathing heavily as she moved along the hall and tapped on the Professor's door. Then came a muffled voice through the closed door.
"I'll git ye some breakfast, sir," called Mrs. Brady, and down she came.
"Shure an' you wuz right an' I wuz wrong, an' I'm obliged to you for the information. But he'll not be ready for seein' people for an hour yet, maybe longer."
"Mrs. Brady," said Molly, moved by a sudden inspiration. "Let me get his breakfast."
"But——" objected the Irish woman.
"I'm a splendid cook and I'll give you no trouble at all. Please." Molly put her hands on the Irish woman's shoulders and looked into her face appealingly.
"Shure, thim eyes is like the gals' in the old countree, Miss," remarked Mrs. Brady, visibly melting under that telling gaze. "Ye can do as you like, but if the Professor don't like his breakfast the blame be on you."
"He'll like it, I'm perfectly certain," said Molly, following Mrs. Brady back to the kitchen.
"It's a very, very funny world," said Mrs. Brady, displaying the contents of her larder to the volunteer cook.
Her resources were limited, to be sure, but Molly improvised a breakfast out of them that a king would not have scorned. There were pop-overs done to a golden brown, a perfect little omelet, bacon crisp enough to please the most fastidious palate and an old champagne glass, the spoils of some festive occasion, filled with iced orange juice. The coffee was strong and fragrant.
"He's very particular about it, Miss, an' he buys his own brand."
Then Molly set the tray. Mrs. Brady's best white linen cover she snatched from the shelf without asking leave. In a twinkling she had polished and heated the blue china dishes, placed the breakfast on them and covered them tight with hot soup plates, since there were no other covers. Then she snipped off the top of a red geranium blooming in the window sill and dropped it into a finger bowl.
"Lord love ye, Miss, but that's a beautiful tray," exclaimed Mrs. Brady, hypnotized by Molly's swift movements and skillful workmanship. "If I did not know ye wuz a lady from your looks I should say ye wuz a born cook. But Mrs. Murphy be afther tellin' me how you used to make things in her kitchen. Ye must be the same one, since it's red hair and blue eyes ye have——"
Molly had disappeared into the pantry to replace the flour sifter while Mrs. Brady was holding forth, and now through a crack in the pantry door she saw the kitchen door open and Professor Green, in a long dressing gown, stalk in.
"Don't bother about breakfast for me, Mrs. Brady," he said. "A cup of coffee quite strong—stronger than you usually make it, please—that's all I want."
Mrs. Brady, glancing at Molly hidden in the pantry, saw her shake her head and place a finger on her lips.
The Irish woman smiled broadly. It was a situation in which she saw many humorous possibilities and an amusing story to tell over the tea cups to Mrs. Murphy and Mrs. O'Reilly.
"Shure an' ye needn't eat it, sir," she said, in an injured tone, "but it's all prepared an' of the very best."
The Professor glanced at the tray.
"Why," he exclaimed, in amazement, "this is something really fine, Mrs. Brady. I didn't know you were getting up a holiday breakfast."
Visions of slopped-over trays, weak coffee and hard toast passed before him, for Mrs. Brady was not a cook to boast of.
"I'll eat it down here, if you've no objection," he continued kindly, lifting the covers and glancing curiously underneath. "By Jove, this is something like. Omelet, and what are those luscious looking things?"
"They be pop-overs, sir, if I'm not misthaken."
"Pop-overs, ahem! I've heard the name before." He sniffed the small coffee pot. "Good and strong; you've anticipated my wants this morning, Mrs. Brady."
"Why doesn't he go on and eat?" thought the red-haired cook. "The omelet will be ruined."
But the Professor had drawn up a chair to the kitchen table and was draining the orange juice at a gulp.
"You're getting very festive, Mrs. Brady. Have you been taking lessons in my absence? That orange juice was just the appetizer I needed this morning." Then he fell to on the breakfast and never stopped until he had eaten every crumb and drained the coffee pot to the dregs.
In the meantime Molly had taken a seat on the pantry floor. A weakness had invaded her knees and her head swam dizzily, since she had had no breakfast that morning.
"I suppose Judy will think I'm dead," she thought, "but it won't do her any harm to be guessing about me for once."
She hoped the Professor would leave in a moment and go to his rooms. He had filled a short briar wood pipe and was leaning back in his chair musing, but he couldn't stay forever in Mrs. Brady's kitchen.
"Mrs. Brady, that was a very dainty and delicious little meal you prepared for me," she heard him say. "I was a bit low in my mind but I feel cheered up. A cup of coffee—if it's good—as this was—is often enough to restore a man's ambition." And now the kitchen was filled with the fragrance of tobacco smoke while the Professor mused in his chair, blowing out great clouds at intervals.
"A bachelor is a poor pitiful soul, sir," answered the woman; "now, if ye had a wife to look after ye, you'd be afther havin' the like breakfasts ivery mornin'."
The Professor blew out a ring of purple smoke and watched it float lazily in the air and gradually dissipate.
"Didn't you know I was a woman hater, Mrs. Brady?"
"Indade, I should think ye might be, seein' so many of them every day and all the time," answered the housekeeper sympathetically. "Too much of a good thing, sir. But, whin old age comes to ye, you'll miss 'em, sir. You'll miss a good wife to look after your comforts then."
"I've got something better than that for my old age, Mrs. Brady. I've got a bit of land; it's an orchard on the side of a hill sloping down to a brook——"
Molly, sitting on the pantry floor, felt a sudden jolt as if some one had shaken her by the shoulder. Faintness came over her and her heart beat so fast and loud she wondered that the two in the kitchen did not hear its palpitations.
"The trees bear plenty of apples; I'll have lots of fruit in my old age. I've only to hobble out and knock them down with my cane when I get too old to climb up and shake the limbs, and where once swung a hammock in my orchard I may build a little hut."
"It's a pretty picture, sir, but lonely, I should say."
"Ah, well, Mrs. Brady, there'll be four walls to my hut and every inch of those walls will be covered with books," announced the Professor, as he strolled out of the kitchen, leaving the door ajar.
Molly, now thoroughly exhausted, amazed, and quite faint from her emotions, was pulling herself to her knees when the Professor marched swiftly back into the room and walked into the pantry.
"I wanted to see how much coffee you had left——" he began. "I'll be writing for more——" His foot encountered something soft on the floor and glancing quickly down he caught a glimpse in the shadow of a figure huddled up in the corner. The face was hidden in the curve of the elbow, but he saw the red hair, and a beam through a crack in the door cast a slanting light across the blue silk blouse.
"Why, Molly Brown, my little friend," he exclaimed. And he lifted her to her feet and half carried her to a chair near the fire. "So it was you who cooked me that delicious Christmas breakfast, and now you're half dead from fatigue and hunger. You've had no breakfast, confess?"
Molly lifted her eyes to his and shook her head. Then she lowered her gaze and blushed.
"I'm too ashamed to think of breakfast," she said.
"Mrs. Brady, put the kettle on," ordered the Professor. "Get out the eggs. Where's the bacon?"
"In the jar, sliced, sir."
"But," protested Molly.
"Don't say a word, child. Be perfectly quiet."
Then the Professor began to fly about the room, tearing into the pantry, rushing from the table to the stove and back again, rummaging in the refrigerator for oranges and butter, and upsetting two chairs that stood in his way.
All this time Mrs. Brady quietly toasted bread and broiled bacon while there hovered on her lips an enigmatic smile. Then she scrambled two eggs while the Professor tested the coffee and squeezed an orange alternately. Molly watched him in dazed silence.
"He bought the apple orchard and that is how I happen to be at Wellington this minute," she kept thinking mechanically. "He worked all summer and got into debt and caught typhoid fever in order to furnish me"—she choked—"and I spoke to him like that. No wonder he's a woman hater—no wonder he wants books——"
"Ready," announced Mrs. Brady, and the next thing Molly knew she was sitting at the table drinking orange juice while the Professor buttered toast and poured out the coffee.
Presently it was all over. Two Christmas breakfasts had been prepared in Mrs. Brady's kitchen that morning where none had been expected.
"'Twas lucky I'd laid in supplies," exclaimed the genial Irish woman. "A body can never tell what starvin' crayture's comin' to the door beggin' for a crust."
And now Molly Brown found herself, almost without realizing it, walking across the college grounds beside her Professor.
"I can never, never thank you," she was saying. "I couldn't even try."
"Don't try," he answered. "Indeed, I ought to thank you for introducing me to that lovely bit of orchard. As for the money, it was fairly crying out to be invested. I think I made a great bargain."
"But Dodo said——"
"Dodo talks too much," said the Professor, frowning. "He knows nothing about me and my affairs."
"Anyhow, you'll let me apologize for the way I answered you last night," said Molly, giving him a heavenly smile.
The Professor looked away quickly.
"The apology is accepted," he said gravely.
"And now we are friends once more, Miss Molly Brown of Kentucky, are we not?"
"Yes, indeed," cried Molly joyfully, feeling happy enough to dance at that moment.
FACING THE ENEMY.
It was a joyous day when Judy returned to college just before mid-years, after her long exile in the back room of O'Reilly's. She was made welcome by all her particular friends who killed the "potted" calf, as Edith called it, in honor of the prodigal's return.
And Judy was well content with herself and all the world. A hair-dresser in Wellington had, by some mysterious process, restored her hair to very nearly its natural shade. Thanks to Molly, chiefly, and the others, she was well up in her lessons and quite prepared to breast the mid-year wave of examinations with the class. Never had the three friends at No. 5 been more gloriously, radiantly happy than now on the verge of final examinations. And then one day, in the midst of all this serenity and peace, Adele Windsor dropped in to call on Judy. At once Nance fled from the apartment. She could not bear the sight of this sinister young woman. Molly would have gone, too, but she remained, at an imploring glance from Judy, and slipped quietly into the next room, leaving the door ajar.
"Judy knows she can call for help if she needs it," she thought rather complacently, for she was no longer afraid of that arch mischief-maker.
As for Judy, she was singularly polite, but cold in her manner, and Molly detected a certain tremulousness in her voice.
"She's scared, poor dear," thought Molly indignantly. "Now, I wonder why?"
"I haven't seen you for weeks," Adele began in her sharp, assured tone. "Where have you been? I heard you had gone home."
"I was away for some time," answered Judy evasively.
"I hope and trust she thinks I have gone out with Nance," thought Molly in the next room, feeling a good deal like a conspirator. "She'll never come to the point if she knows I'm here, and I'd just like her to show her cards for once. It will be a glorious chance to get rid of her forever more, amen."
The light of battle came into Molly's eyes. "I feel like a knight pricking o'er the plain to slay a dragon," she thought, waving an imaginary sword in the air. "When it's all over I wish I had the nerve to say, 'Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell.'"
She gathered that Adele had moved more closely to Judy, for she heard her voice from a new quarter of the room saying:
"Is it true that you were dropped?"
There was a moment's pause.
"Whatever happened, Adele, it's over now and I am installed again and forgiven."
"I thought you were being rather reckless, Judy. The rope ladder business was bad enough, but those ghost walks were really dangerous; really you went too far——"
"I beg your pardon," interrupted Judy stiffly. "You are on the wrong track. I wasn't the campus ghost."
"Now, really, Judy, my dearest friend," cried Adele, seizing both of Judy's hands and looking into her eyes with an expression of gentle toleration, "why can't you confide in me? After all our good times are you going to give me the cold shoulder? I know perfectly well that you were the ghost. Have I forgotten the night you planned the whole thing out? Anne White was there. I daresay she remembers it quite as well as I do. Of course, we thought you were enjoying yourself frightening the life out of people, but we wondered, both of us, how you dared. I remember you said how easy it would be to chase girls if they ran, and how easy to escape because you were the swiftest runner in college. Why are you trying to deceive your old partner? Especially as I happen to know that you had the rope ladder all that time. It would have been easy enough. Oh, I'm on to you, subtle, secretive Judy. You are a clever little girl, but I'm on to you."
"What does she want?" Molly breathed to herself in the next room.
"But I won't tease you any longer, dearest. I only wanted to let you know that I'm at the very bottom of the secret. I came to talk about other things."
Molly breathed a long sigh.
"Here it comes," she thought.
Judy straightened up and prepared to hear the worst.
"Have the Shakespeareans and the Olla Podridas had their yearly conclave yet about new members?"
"So it's that," Molly almost cried aloud, waving her arms over her head.
"We meet on Saturday," answered Judy doggedly.
"You have a good deal of influence in that crowd, haven't you? I mean you can command a lot of votes?"
"No, I can't command any," answered Judy.
"Blackmailer," thought Molly.
"I was thinking," went on Adele calmly, "that I would like to become a member of one or both those clubs. If I have to make a choice I would prefer the Shakespeareans, of course. Can't you fix it up?"
"I'm afraid not, Adele. I can't manage it. I doubt if I could command any votes for you. You are mistaken about my influence."
"Oh yes, you can. Now, Judy, think a minute, I'm asking you a very simple, ordinary favor. Think of what it means to me and—well, to you, too. I might as well tell you right now that I'm a good friend but a bad enemy. You promised me once to get me into one of those clubs. Do you remember?"
"Yes," said Judy.
"Well, why this sudden change? I expect you to keep your word. I am wild to be a member of the Shakespeareans," here Adele changed her manner and her voice took on a soft, persuasive tone. "You won't regret it, Judy, dearest, you'll be proud of having put me up. I have a real talent for acting. I have, indeed, and I shall be able to get stunning costumes."
Judy twisted and squirmed and shrunk away like a bird being gradually hypnotized by a serpent—at least so it seemed to Molly peeping through a crack in the door.
"I tell you it will be impossible," Judy was saying, after a pause, when Adele burst out with:
"Those are unlucky words, Judy Kean. I'll make you sorry you ever spoke——" she stopped short off as Molly appeared in one door and Nance in the other, followed by Otoyo, Margaret and Jessie and the Williams sisters. Nance had evidently gone forth and gathered in the clan for Judy's protection. Molly was almost sorry they had come. It had been a good opportunity to say what had been seething in her mind for some time, and, on the whole, she decided she would say it anyhow.
With a bold spirit and a scornful eye, she marched into the room and stood before the astonished Adele.
"Miss Windsor," she said, and she hardly recognized her own voice, so deep and vibrant were its tones, "did you ever hear of snakey-noodles? Snakey-noodles! snakey-noodles! snakey-noodles!" she repeated three times like a magic incantation.
Judy must have thought that she had suddenly lost her mind, for she glanced at her with a frightened look and the other girls with difficulty concealed their smiles. Edith, whose keen perceptions at once informed her that something was up, took a seat by the window where she could command a good view of the entire proceedings.
Adele, looking into Molly's honest, stern eyes, shrank a little and started to rise.
"No, I shan't let you go until I have finished," said Molly. "Whenever the spirit moves you to ask a favor of Judy again, just say the word snakey-noodles over several times to yourself and then I think you'll leave Judy alone. Now, you may go, and remember that people who tell malicious, wicked stories, who impersonate ghosts, steal luncheons and get other girls into trouble are not welcome at Wellington. This is not that kind of a college."
It was, of course, a random shot about the campus ghost, but Molly put it in, feeling fairly certain that none but the daring Adele would have attempted that escapade.
"Remember, too," she added, as a parting shot, "that girls don't get into clubs here by blackmail. Even if Judy had put you up, you wouldn't have had the ghost of a chance."
Nobody was more interested than Edith in wondering what the strange Adele would do now. "Will she defend herself or will she fly?" Edith asked herself. But Adele did the most surprising thing yet. She burst into tears.
"You have no right to speak to me as you did," she wept into a scented and hand-embroidered handkerchief.
"Haven't I?" said Molly, drawing her gently but firmly to the door. "Well, go to your room and think about it a while and see if you don't change your mind." And with that she quietly thrust Adele into the hall, closed the door and locked it.
Then, such a burst of subdued laughter rose within No. 5 as was never heard before. Molly collapsed on the sofa while the girls gathered around her. Judy sat on the floor, her head resting on Molly's shoulder.
"It was as good as a play," cried Edith. "I never saw anything finer. Molly, you're certainly full of surprises. But what did you mean by snakey-noodles? Wasn't it beautiful?"
Then Molly explained to them about the snakey-noodle box.
"Of course, the rest was just wild guessing, but from the way she took it I'm pretty sure I'm right."
"It was better than jiu-jitsu," said Otoyo. "It was, I think, the jiu-jitsu of language."
They all laughed at this quaint notion, and Molly relaxed on the couch like a very tired young warrior after the battle.
"Judy, you're foolish to be afraid of that girl," said Margaret sternly.
"I'm not exactly afraid of her," answered Judy, "but you see it would have gone particularly hard with me just now to have her go to Miss Walker with that story about the ghost. It was true that one evening, in a wicked humor, I planned the whole thing with her and that little Anne who is just as afraid of her as I suppose I am. I don't think Miss Walker would have given me another chance. Everything would have been against me, the rope ladder and all the things I had said."
"But then you could have proved an alibi," said Nance. "You were up here the night the ghost chased Molly and me."
"So I could," Judy exclaimed. "I was so scared I forgot all about that night. There's something about Adele that makes you lose your senses. She leans over you and looks at you and talks to you in a hot, rapid sort of way. I just saw myself, after all the trouble everybody had taken with me, being sent away in disgrace. I didn't believe I could prove anything when she began talking. I just went under."
"Well, don't you ever do it again," put in Nance.
"Say 'snakey-noodles' the next time she comes at you," said Edith. "Oh, dear, that exquisite name," she continued, leaning back in her chair so as to indulge in a fit of silent laughter.
"I can tell you another interesting bit about this Miss Windsor," here put in pretty Jessie. "Do you remember that shabby little woman in black who came down on the same train with Molly's Mr. Lufton?"
"Nonsense," broke in Molly.
"I remember her," said Judy. "Adele said she was a dressmaker, I believe."
"Well, she told the truth for once. She is a dressmaker, but she happens to be Adele's mother, too."
"Her mother," they gasped in chorus.
"Yes. When Mama and I were in New York for the Christmas holidays, we were recommended to go to a French place called 'Annette's' for some clothes. There was a French woman named Annette who came out and showed us things, but the head of the establishment was Mrs. Windsor. And we saw Adele hanging around several times. We also saw Adele's father, very dressy with a flower in his buttonhole and yellow gloves. He smiled sweetly at me in the hall. The fitter told us secretly that Mrs. Windsor spent everything she made on Adele and Mr. Windsor."
"What a shame," cried Judy, "and Adele throws money around like water."
"No wonder she wears such fine clothes. I suppose Annette makes all of them."
"Thank heavens, we're rid of her forever," exclaimed Molly. "It's not difficult to find a spot of good in the worst of people. There were Minerva Higgins and Judith Blount and Frances Andrews. I never did feel hopeless about them, but this Adele, who doesn't recognize her own mother—well——"
"Ah, well," broke in Otoyo. "She is what we call in Japan 'evil spirit,' or 'black spirit.' She will not remain because there are so many good spirits. She will fly away."
"On a broomstick," put in Edith.
"But Minerva Higgins, there is some greatly big news about her. You have not heard?"
"No," they cried. Otoyo had become quite a little news body among her friends.
"She will not finish the course. She will be married in June to learned gentleman, a professor of languages of death——"
"You mean dead languages," put in Molly, laughing.
"Ah, well, it is the same."
"That is why Minerva looks so gay and blushing," said Jessie. "I saw her this morning reading a letter on one of the corridor benches. I might have guessed it was a love letter from her expression of supreme joy."
"I wonder if it was written in Sanskrit."
"I suppose after they marry they will have Latin for breakfast, Greek for dinner and ancient Hebrew for supper," observed Katherine.
"But the gold medals, what of them?"
"They will be saved for Pallas Athene, and Socrates, and Alcibiades Plato, of course," said Edith.
"Who are they?"
"Why, the children, goosie," and the party broke up with a laugh.
Molly Brown, in a state of wild excitement, rushed into No. 5 one morning waving a slip of yellow paper in her hand.
"They're coming," she cried ecstatically but vaguely.
"Who?" demanded her two bosom friends from the floor where they were engaged in fitting a paper pattern to a strip of velvet much too narrow.
"My brother and sister, Minnie and Kent. Isn't it glorious? They get here to-morrow morning to stay for the Jubilee. Oh, I'm so happy, I am so happy," she sang.
"I'm so glad," said the two friends in one breath.
"I'm getting rooms for them at O'Reilly's and they will arrive on the ten train. Isn't it lucky Mrs. O'Reilly is our bright, particular friend? We never could have got the rooms. Everything in the village is taken."
The crowds had indeed come pouring into Wellington for the great Jubilee celebration for which every student at the college had been working for months past. And now, almost the first of May, everything was in readiness, the pageants, the costumes, the plays—all the splendid and complicated arrangements for an Old English May Day Festival. Judy, as she had planned on the opening night of college all those long months ago, was to be a gentleman of the court and was now engaged in constructing a velvet cape with Nance's assistance. Furthermore all the girls were to take part in the senior outdoor play to be given on the afternoon of the Jubilee celebration, and Molly, wonderful as it seemed to her afterward, had won for herself by excellent recitation the part of Rosalind. There had been many Rosalind competitors but Professor Green and the professional who had come down to coach chose Molly from them all.
How they had practiced and rehearsed and worked over that play not one of the senior cast will ever forget. But now it was ready and the time was ripe for the grand performance. In two days it was to take place.
The next morning, in response to the telegram, the three friends met Molly's brother and sister at the station. They were a good looking pair, as Nance pronounced them, but not the least like Molly. Minnie or Mildred Brown was as pretty as Molly in her way. She had an aquiline nose that spoke of family, brown hair curling bewitchingly about her face and a beautifully modeled mouth and chin. Kent was different, too—tall with gravely humorous gray eyes, his mouth rather large and shapely, his nose a little small—but he was very handsome and his manners were perfection. He took to Judy at once. She amused and mystified him and she volunteered after lunch to show him all the sights of Wellington. Another visitor at Wellington was Jimmy Lufton, who had come down to see the celebration regardless of work and expenses, and ordered Molly a beautiful bouquet of narcissus to be handed to her when she appeared as Rosalind.
Molly introduced him to Kent and Minnie and the three were soon good friends and looking for the best places along the campus to see the sights, while Molly rushed off to attire herself for the morning as a Maypole dancer. Old Wellington presented a strange and unusual aspect on that beautiful May morning. Far back under the trees gathered the people of the pageant waiting for the cue to start the march. Carts drawn by yokes of oxen rumbled along the avenue, filled with rustics from the country, mostly freshmen dressed in all manner of early English costumes. There were shepherds and shepherdesses, maids of low and high degree. Gentlemen of the court and plow boys in smock frocks elbowed each other on the green. Booths had been set up of a seventeenth century pattern, where anachronisms in the form of modern refreshments were sold.
Bands of singers and rustic dancers trooped by, jesters in cap and bells, page boys and trumpeters. A more animated and brilliantly colored scene would be difficult to imagine.
Providence had smiled on Wellington's Jubilee and sent a glorious day for the May Day Festival. It was an early spring and everything that could do honor to the day had burst into blossom: daffodils that bordered the lawns of the campus houses nodded their delicate yellow heads in the morning sunlight; clumps of lilac bushes formed bouquets of purple and white and from an occasional old apple tree showers of pink petals fell softly on the grass.
"It's almost as beautiful as Kentucky, Kent," observed Mildred Brown, and Jimmy Lufton laughed joyfully.
"Almost, but not quite," he said. "In Kentucky there would be twice as much of everything, and, besides the elms, there would be beech trees and maples with a good sprinkling of walnut and locust."
"Twice as many Mildreds, too," observed Kent. "But for my part I think the young ladies I have seen here are quite as pretty as the girls at home."
"I think you'd have a hard time finding two to match Miss Molly and Miss Mildred," put in Jimmy, looking with admiration at the charming Mildred, dressed in a cool white linen, a broad brimmed straw hat trimmed with pink roses shading her face.
"There's Miss Judy Kean," argued Kent.
What would this young man have thought if at that moment he could have had a glimpse of the fair Judy dressed as a court gentleman in lavender satin knickers, a long cape of purple velvet, an immense cavalier hat with a great plume and over her shapely mouth a flaring yellow mustachio?
And all of our other friends, how strange and unnatural they seemed. Their most intimate friends would scarcely have recognized them. Margaret was a fat, jolly Falstaff, stuffed out to immense proportions. Edith was entirely disguised as a jester and enjoyed her own quips immensely when she tapped a visitor on the shoulder with her bauble and said, "Good morrow, fair maid, art looking for a swain?"
And now four little heralds advanced down the campus bearing long trumpets, antique in shape, on which the sun sparkled brilliantly. At the center of the campus they paused and blew four long resonant blasts and then cried in one voice:
"Make way for their Majesties, the King and Queen, and all the Royal Court." And the pageant began to unwind its sinuous length along the campus lawn, and all the rustic players who formed the rabble fell in behind the royal personages and their brilliant train.
It was really a wonderfully beautiful picture, one to be remembered always with pride by Wellingtonians and with pleasure by outsiders who had gathered by the hundreds on the lawn. After the pageant came the May pole dancers and the wandering musicians, the Morality Play and the rustic dances.
There were hundreds of things to see. Mildred Brown, rushing from one charming performance to another, felt almost as if it really was an old English May Day Festival. The spirit of the actor rustics pervaded her and she was full of excitement and wonder at the whole marvelous performance.
At last the entire company gathered in front of the now historic site of Queen's Cottage and there amid the shrubbery and the tall old forest trees the seniors gave their performance of "As You Like It."
"I don't believe Marlowe and Sothern could do it a bit better," exclaimed Mildred proudly. "Aren't they wonderful?"
"Isn't Miss Molly wonderful?" said Jimmy Lufton.
"Yes, indeed, I am proud of my little sister to-day, prouder than ever of her."
A man in a gray suit fanning himself with a straw hat turned around and looked at Mildred curiously. His face was lined with fatigue, for nobody had worked harder than he over the Festival. But he was not too tired to be interested in Mildred Brown.
"So they are the brother and sister," he said to himself. "And a very good-looking pair they are. I must try and meet them to-morrow. Ask them to tea in the Quadrangle. Miss Molly would like that, I think. But not that young Lufton," he added half angrily. "Not that young buccaneering newspaper fellow."
"Professor Green," said Mrs. McLean, standing next to him, "I think we owe most of the success of this day to you. But how about that charming Rosalind? Did you train her to act so prettily?"
"No," he replied, "I couldn't do that. It's in her already. One has only to bring it out."
Among the flowers which were handed over the row of potted cedars to Molly after that charming performance was a big bunch of yellow daffodils, and tied to the yellow ribbon was a large yellow apple.
"You've won your second golden apple to-day, Miss Molly, and I am proud of my pupil," read the card attached.
The rest of the time until graduation was like a dream to Molly and her friends whose hearts were filled with a sort of two-pronged homesickness; homesickness for home and for Wellington, which now they were about to leave forever more.
A great many things happened in the space that intervened between the first of May and the eighteenth of June, when graduation occurred. There were dances at Exmoor and dances at Wellington and the senior reception to the juniors. Then there were long quiet evenings when the old crowd gathered in No. 5 and talked of the future.
It was on one of these warm summer nights that they were draped as usual about the couches in the mellow glimmer of one Japanese lantern. Judy, thrumming on the guitar, sang:
"'When all the world is young, lad, And all the trees are green; And every goose a swan, lad, And every lass a queen; Then hey for boot and horse, lad, And round the world away; Young blood must have its course, lad, And every dog his day.
"'When all the world is old, lad, And all the trees are brown; And all the sport is stale, lad, And all the wheels run down; Creep home and take your place there, The spent and maimed among: God grant you find one face there, You loved when all was young.'"
"My, that makes me sad," said Jessie. "I feel that I've already lived my life and am coming back to old Wellington to die with a lot of other decrepit old persons who used to be young and beautiful."
"Thanks for the compliment about looks," said Edith. "But I don't feel that way. I'm going forth to conquer. I am going to write books and books before I come home to die."
"I'm going to write books, too," announced Molly meekly, "but I feel that I'm not ready to begin yet——"
"You can't begin too young," interrupted Edith.
"I know, but I'm coming back for a post grad. course in"—Molly hesitated, she hardly knew why—"in English and—and a few other things. I've got no style——"
"What, are you really coming back?" they cried.
"Nance and I have decided to return," replied Molly. "We are not ready to join the ranks yet, are we, Nance? Dear Nance is going to polish up her French literature. I'll be busy enough. I expect to do a lot of tutoring and other profitable work."
"What shall I do?" groaned Judy. "I don't want to study any more, and, yet, how can I bear for you two to be at Wellington without me to bother you."
Molly looked at her and smiled.
"Remember, you are to come home with me this summer, Judy, and maybe you'll like Kentucky so well you'll want to stay there."
Molly was well aware that her brother Kent had fallen in love with Judy at first sight, and it didn't occur to her that anybody could resist the charms of her favorite brother.
"Margaret, why don't you come back?" asked Nance.
"Not me," answered Margaret. "I hear the voice of suffrage calling!"
"We all of us hear voices calling," broke in Katherine. "And each is a different voice according to our natures. Now Margaret's voice is soprano, but Jessie hears a deep baritone——"
"Nothing of the sort," cried Jessie.
"'Fess up, now, Jessie, when is it to be?"
The girls all gathered around pretty Jessie and at last, hard pressed, she said:
"When it does come off you'll have to assemble from the four quarters of the globe to act as bridesmaids, but the day's not set yet."
"Have you decided on the man?" asked Edith.
"Edith, how can you?" answered Jessie, laughing.
"What are you going to do, Katherine?" asked Molly, when the excitement had quieted down.
"Teach," answered Katherine bluntly. "I loathe the thing, but a place awaits me, so I suppose next winter will find me sitting behind a little table, ringing a bell sharply, and saying, 'Now, girls, pay attention, please.'" She turned her large melancholy eyes on her sister. "Edith thinks she's the only writer in the family, but in the intervals of teaching I intend to surprise her. I've already had one short story accepted by an obscure but bona fide magazine which hasn't sent me a check yet."
"Have you heard the joke on Katherine?" put in Edith.
"Do tell," they cried, while Katherine said fiercely: "Now, Edith, you promised to keep that a secret."
"It's too good to keep. She chose for the subject of her graduating essay 'The Juvenile Delinquent,' and got it all written and then it occurred to her that Miss Walker would announce 'The Juvenile Delinquent, Katherine Williams,' and she could not stand the implication."
"Poor Katherine," they cried, laughing joyously.
And now Molly was handing around nut cake and cloud bursts, it seemed almost for the last time, and after that these bright spirits in kimonos flitted away to their rooms.
A little later, after darkness and quiet had descended, an ecstatic little giggle broke from Judy, lying alone and staring at the dim outline of her window. It was too soft a sound to disturb the tired sleepers in the adjoining rooms, but it meant that Judy had an idea,—an idea that she could see already realized by the aid of her remarkable imagination.
Her mind had been reviewing the talk of the evening and revolving about each of the girls in turn;—Edith and Katherine and Molly, literary and ambitious; Nance, serious and studious; Jessie, pretty, romantic and destined for marriage; and Margaret, the able and willing champion of suffrage. And Judy had smiled as she began to recall certain hours when Margaret's enthusiasm had waxed high, even so far back as Freshman year, and her first class presidency. That thought had started others, and as Judy remembered various amusing incidents of the four years, her "idea" had flashed upon her. It was then that Judy had hugged herself and laughed aloud, but it was several nights later that she shared with the other girls her inspiration.
They had gathered in Otoyo's little room that night,—just the eight close friends who now grasped every opportunity for one more good time together. They were a little inclined to sadness, for they had all been busy with those extra duties that point directly to the closing days of college life.
Some had posed before the class photographer's camera, some had borne the weariness of having gowns fitted, and at least two had practiced their parts for the commencement exercises.
Margaret and Jessie were humming the chorus of one of the Senior class songs and Otoyo was just beginning to make the tea, when Judy slipped out of the room with a word of excuse and a promise to return.
Molly turned lazily to Nance who sat close beside her on the couch and whispered, "Judy is as nervous as a witch these days. She has probably thought of something to add to her list!"
"Oh, that list!" returned Nance. "She has everything on it now from white gloves to a trunk strap, and still it grows!"
"'Seniors, seniors, seniors,'" chanted Margaret and Jessie dreamily, watching Otoyo as she deftly arranged her dainty cups and saucers on beautiful lacquered trays.
Edith and Katherine were quietly disputing some point about the class program and absent-mindedly accepting lemon for their tea, when the door opened and a woman draped closely in black stepped into the room.
"Ah, ha, young ladies," she cried in a high, weird voice that startled them into instant silence, "so you would pierce the mysterious veil of the future and read in your teacups the fortune that awaits you? Could you but possess my occult vision, you would not need to employ such puerile methods."
Here the somber figure raised two black-gloved arms and held before her eyes a pair of plain black opera glasses. She had reversed their usual position and now gazed steadily about the room through the large end of the glasses.
"Ah, ha," she began again, fixing her roving attention upon Margaret, who returned her gaze easily, "I see far, far away, through a vista of crowded seats, a huge platform adorned with distinguished figures. A pretty woman stunningly gowned is introducing to a breathlessly expectant audience a tall, striking person. The plaudits of the multitude drown the sound of her name as it is announced, but our keen sight enables us to recognize the famous Miss Wakefield! To those who have long known her, it will not be surprising to learn that her companion is none other than her college satellite, now Miss Jessie,—but I cannot quite pronounce the unfamiliar name."
As the voice stopped for a moment, Jessie started toward the strange figure, but Margaret pulled her back and drew her blushing face down upon her own shoulder.
At the same time Molly cried, "Where have I seen those shabby old glasses before?"
And Nance added, "My old bird glasses, or I'm blind!"
Nothing daunted, the prophetess went on in the same weird key, "I see the gray towers of Wellington looming grandly against a wild autumnal sky. I see troops of girls crowding across the campus and into recitation rooms. I see a single figure walking beside the white-haired President as though discussing the schedule of lectures and the merits of students, and the figure is that of Miss Oldham,—dear old Nance!" And the voice of the soothsayer broke suddenly as she turned the glasses on Nance and Molly.
Then she hurried on, "By forcing my keen vision to its utmost capacity, I am able to read upon certain profound text books the names of their joint compilers, Edith and Katherine Williams, the world-famed writers!"
Again the voice paused as the glasses were leveled at the friendly disputants, long since quieted by the eloquence of the seer.
All this time Otoyo had stood spellbound beside her teapot. Now she started slightly as the glasses glimmered in her direction.
"Oh, no, no, no," she cried in real distress. "Don't tell me, please, Mees Kean!"
At that, Judy flung the draperies back from her hair, the glasses to Nance, and her arms about Otoyo, exclaiming at the same moment:
"You precious child, I don't know any more than your little Buddha does about your future, but the gods will be good to you and we'll leave it to them."
THE FINAL DAYS.
Now as suddenly as she had tossed aside her head coverings, Judy dropped her long loose cloak upon the floor and stood revealed clad in motley raiment indeed. In an instant all that she had said was forgotten as the girls crowded around examining her curiously.
"Why, Judy Kean, where did you find that old necktie?" cried Molly, as she spied a long familiar article fastened at Judy's throat.
"And my Russian princess muff!" exclaimed Nance. "It was hidden with my treasures at the very bottom of my trunk!"
"And do I not behold my favorite Shelley?" chimed in Edith, seizing a book that dangled by a cord from Judy's waist.
"And I—surelee it is my veree ancient kimono that hangs behind?" inquired Otoyo curiously.
"I have it," announced judicial Margaret "Judy Kean is now a symbol. She represents us. Upon her noble person she carries the intimate souvenirs of our various stages of collegiate growth. Yea, verily, I recognize mine own."
With that, Margaret tried to claim a gorgeous yellow pennant that flaunted its aggressive motto in a panel-like arrangement on Judy's dress.
Judy dodged Margaret's attempt and lifting her hand dramatically exclaimed in oratorical tones:
"You have guessed. I am indeed the spirit of our college days. I represent History, and the tokens that I wear mark the incidents of humor, pathos, and tragedy that were the crises in our young careers. You will pardon me, I know, when I tell you that I have rummaged reverently among your personal 'estates,' as Otoyo used to say, seeing, touching, disturbing none but the significant articles before you. Behold the history of these departing years!"
As Judy swung slowly about before their interested eyes, something chinked and clinked gently, like glass meeting glass. Molly's long arm shot out and grasped the jingling articles. A not-to-be-suppressed shout broke forth as she displayed a china pig and a small bottle of blue-black fluid labeled "Hair-dye,—black."
"Oh, Judy, Judy," cried Molly, "if you haven't discovered another Martin Luther, the ghost of the hero of my Junior days! Give him to me and I will feed him faithfully next year,—by the slow earnings of my pen, I will!"
Meanwhile, Jessie was laughing over the tell-tale bottle of hair-dye, and secretly every one was rejoicing that Judy, too, could look back upon that supremely foolish escapade and laugh as heartily as any of them at her own expense.
And now Nance claimed her muff,—the one survivor of the three cotton-batting masterpieces made for the skating carnival of Sophomore year,—and as she thrust her hands inside, they encountered a long, hard object. She drew it out and with a flourish waved above her head a clean, meatless but unmistakable ham bone!
The laugh was directed toward Molly now, and to turn it again she exclaimed, "What do I see gleaming upon your finger, Judy Kean? Verily, upon the third finger of your left hand?"
Immediately the girls joined in the cry, chanted like a deep-toned school yell, "Tell us! Tell us! Tell us!"
"'Well, it was lent to me. It's not mine. I simply promised to wear it for a few months,'" quoted Judy, imitating Jessie's own protesting explanation so cleverly that even Otoyo recognized the source. "But it is only a five-cent diamond!" added Judy, shaking her head solemnly. "I might lose it, you know, and it would take more than a steely inspector to locate it in a man's deep coat pocket!"
The girls cast sly glances at Molly, but she was intent on another discovery. Hanging under Edith's shabby copy of Shelley was her own beloved Rossetti! Instantly she forgot the girls and their fun and saw for one fleeting moment a series of quickly moving mental pictures. First there flashed before her that Christmas when Professor Green had given her the little volume. Then she saw herself in the cloisters lost in the beauty of "The blessed damozel," when he had appeared so unexpectedly. And finally she realized suddenly how much she loved the little worn volume and how she should always keep it to comfort and inspire her.
"'Come—back—to me, Sweetheart,'" sang Judy teasingly, and Molly came back with a start, only just realizing that she had been day-dreaming.
"What is this spiky thing that pricks through the folds of my aged sweater?" asked Katherine, who had recognized an old blue sweater that Judy wore draped from her waist like a pannier.
"This," replied Judy, "is a bud that grew on a twig that grew on a bush that grew from the ground that marks the resting place of the ashes of Queen's, and to you, Katherine, as true historian of our noble class, do I present it."
"In the name of futurity, I accept it," replied Katherine, not to be outdone in formality.
"And now to appease the cravings of the inner man, permit me to share with you the contents of this hamper," continued Judy, opening a small basket that she carried on her arm. "Although not the original, lost-but-not-forgotten snakey-noodles, these are the best imitations that Madeleine Petit could make. And Molly the cook has contributed once more some of her justly famed cloud bursts, an indispensable exhibit in this unequaled historical collection!"
Warm and breathless, Judy sat down and began to remove her borrowed plumes, while the girls, each holding aloft a snakey-noodle and a cloud burst, chanted appreciatively, "What's the matter with Julia Kean? She's all right!"
* * * * *
Graduation at Wellington was old-fashioned and conventional. The girl graduates in white dresses filed onto the platform and took their seats in a semi-circle. Those who were so fortunate as to have relatives and friends in the large audience searched for their intimate features in the sea of upturned, interested faces. As glances met, smiles were fleetingly exchanged but quickly subdued on the part of the girls as the dignity of the day was borne in upon them anew.
President Walker, never more sweet and womanly than in the formal attire demanded by her position, unconsciously inspired them all to imitate her fine simplicity and grace of manner. Tears sprang to the eyes of many girls as they looked at her and realized as never before that she had been the real center of all that had been best and most lasting in their college life. The girls who were to read essays, resolved that for the President's sake they would do well in spite of trembly knees and shaky hands. And of course they did, because in their determination to please Miss Walker and to reflect credit upon her and dear old Wellington they quite lost their paralyzing self-consciousness. The little buzz of pleased conversation that followed each number of the program as the applause died down was gratifying without doubt, but the students cared more deeply for the President's brief nod and smile of satisfaction. After the exercises came the diplomas, those strips of sheepskin for which our girls had striven so long and valiantly. It was almost a shock to clasp at last that precious token that had seemed so difficult of achievement in the far-away Freshman days. If to Molly it meant among other things value received for "two perfectly good acres of orchard," to Nance it marked a milestone of happy progress; to Margaret, Edith and Katharine it represented an interesting bit of current history; and to Judy and Jessie it signified a safe haven after many narrow escapes from shipwreck.
After the exciting day was over, came the class supper and then everybody did stunts. Edith read the class poem and Katherine was historian. Then the oldest girl and the prettiest girl and the class baby made speeches, and at the end came three cheers for Molly Brown, the most beloved in 19—; and Molly, trembling and blushing, rose and thanked them all and assured them that it was the greatest honor she had ever known; and they made her sit on the table while they danced in a circle around it, singing:
"Here's to Molly Brown, Drink her down, drink her down, drink her down."
Thus the four years at Wellington came to an end as all good things must, and the day for the parting arrived. The "Primavera" and the prayer rug were packed away in a box and shipped to Kentucky, because, after all, Molly might not return to Wellington. Who could tell what the fates had in store? Then came the good-byes. There were tears in their eyes and little choky sounds in their voices as they kissed and hugged and kissed again.
Otoyo at that last meeting gave a present to each of the old crowd. She was smiling bravely, since it is not correct for a young Japanese lady to weep, and she kept reiterating:
"I shall mees you, greatlee, muchlee. It will not be the same at Wellington."
With Molly's gift, a little carved ivory box, Otoyo handed a letter.
"I promised to deliver it on the last day," she said.
"That sounds a good deal like the Judgment Day," said Molly, laughing, as she tore open the envelope. The letter read:
"The Campus Ghost and the Thief of Lunches has learned from you what nobody ever told her before: that honesty's the best policy. I suppose I always enjoyed the other way because I never was found out. But being found out is different. Honest people who have nothing to conceal are the happiest. I know that now, and henceforth the open and above-board for me.
"Yours, ADELE WINDSOR."
Molly rolled the paper into a little ball and threw it away. Certainly the note of repentance did not sound very strong in Adele's letter. But perhaps it was only her way of putting it, and to be honest for any reason, no matter how remote from the right one, was something.
"Anyhow, I hope she will think it's best policy to be nice to her poor, hard-working mother," she thought indignantly.
But Adele had already passed out of the lives of the Wellington girls and none of them ever saw her again. She did not return to college to finish out the senior course, and the hoodoo suite was dismantled forever of her fine trappings and furniture.
"I have one more good-bye to say, girls," said Molly to her friends a little while before train time. "I'll meet you at the archway."
"You'll miss the train," called Nance.
"And that would just spoil everything," cried Judy.
The three friends had planned to travel as far as Philadelphia together. There Nance would leave them to join her father, and Molly and Judy would continue their journey toward Kentucky.
But Molly was already running down the corridor, suitcase in one hand and jacket in the other.
Down the steps she flew and out into the court toward the little door which opened into the cloisters. Another dash and she was knocking on Professor Green's door.
"Come in," he called, and she flew into the room breathlessly.
"I came to say good-bye again," she said. "I've only five minutes."
"Sit down," he said, drawing up a chair.
"I wanted to ask you," she went on, "if you wouldn't come to Kentucky to visit us this summer and—and see your property."
"How do you know it would be convenient for your mother to have me?"
"Because it is always convenient for mother to entertain friends, and this is really her very own suggestion. Our house is big and besides that we have an office outside with three bedrooms for overflow."
The Professor looked thoughtful. Perhaps he was already forming a picture in his mind of the hammock beside the brook and the shady orchard, his orchard.
"You will promise to come, won't you?" persisted Molly.
"Do you really want me?" he asked.
"Indeed, indeed I do."
"Perhaps," he answered.
"Good-bye, then," she said, "or rather au revoir," and they clasped hands while the Professor looked down into Molly's eyes and smiled.
He moved to the door like a sleep-walker and held it open for her as she hurried out. Then he went back to his desk and sat down in a sort of trance. The next instant the door was flung open again, footsteps hurried across the room and two arms slipped over his shoulders.
"Do you remember what I said I was going to do some time to that old gentleman who bought the orchard?" said Molly's voice over his head. "I said I'd just give him a good hug."
For one instant the arms held him tightly, a cheek was laid lightly on his thin reddish hair and then she was gone, flying down the corridor.
"I suppose she regards me as an old gentleman," he said resignedly, laying his hand softly on the spot where her cheek had touched.
As for Molly, she had a sudden thought that almost stopped her headlong course:
"What would Miss Alice Fern think if she knew!"
The girls were calling impatiently when Molly reached the arch, and in three minutes the crowded bus moved down the avenue.
"Good-bye! Good-bye!" called many voices.
"Good-bye! Good-bye!" echoed the few students who were going to take a later train.
Good-bye to Wellington and the old happy days! Good-bye to the Quadrangle and the Cloisters! Good-bye to all the dear familiar haunts and faces.
Every one of the girls felt the hour of parting keenly, but to two of Molly's friends at least there came an additional pang. They had known no happier home; no other place held for them such close associations. Nance, pale and silent, and Judy, feverish and excited, turned their eyes lingeringly toward the twin gray towers. But Molly, her face transfigured by some secret happy thought, looked southward down the avenue toward Kentucky and home!
* * * * *
The class prophecy which Judy had extemporized on the evening of her appearance as "History" may have had some promise of fulfillment, but it will be remembered that Otoyo's timely interruption saved her from guessing at the most puzzling future of all. It remains, therefore, for "Molly Brown's Post-Graduate Days" to reveal what Dame Fortune had in store for the girl of many possibilities, Molly Brown of Wellington and Kentucky.
Transcriber's Note: The illustration with the caption "Molly Glanced Back. Sure Enough, the Phantom ... was Running Behind Them Page 198." was not available for inclusion in this ebook.