Search      Hot    Newest Novel
HOME > Short Stories > The Queen of Farrandale > CHAPTER IV A BOBBED HEAD
Font Size:【Large】【Middle】【Small】 Add Bookmark  
 As Leonard Grimshaw’s hair gradually deserted him, he brushed it up in a more and more aggressive tuft; and as he entered the White Room now he reminded Hugh of a cockatoo, with his crest and his slender, sharp nose and shell-rimmed spectacles. “Excuse the intrusion,” he said in his most dignified and ladylike manner, and, as he gazed at the one-eyed warrior, his nostrils dilated. Cigarette smoke was curling above the immaculateness of the bed. “I come at Miss Frink’s behest to get your suit of clothes,” he added coldly.
Hugh removed his cigarette. “What you going to do with it?” he asked in a rather hollow voice. “Any needy scarecrows in Farrandale?”
The secretary did not like the stranger’s nonchalant manner and he declined to smile.
“I am to send it to your tailor to be duplicated. Miss Frink proposes to pay for it.”
“She’ll have to if anybody does,” remarked Hugh feebly. “I’m broke. Awfully good of you, Mr.—Mr.—”
“Grimshaw. I am Miss Frink’s private secretary and man of affairs.”
“Pompous little birdie,” thought Hugh, and he regarded his visitor closely with his one eye, remembering John Ogden’s reference to the pussy-footing secretary who was to be Miss Frink’s heir.
The nurse brought the suit to the bedside for Hugh to empty the pockets. There was the photograph in its worn leather case, a card, a handkerchief, some keys, a knife, but the suit being new had not accumulated the usual papers and old letters. There was a spotless pocketbook or billfold, and Hugh smiled ruefully at sight of it. He knew its contents.
“All right,” he said, and left the lot in the nurse’s hands.
The secretary continued to stare disapprovingly at the smoke-wreathed bed. As he accepted the dilapidated suit from the nurse, he spoke again:
“I feel I should tell you, Mr. Stanwood, that tobacco is very offensive to Miss Frink, especially in the form of cigarettes. Of course, you have put us under great obligation” (Hugh noted the “us”), “but I must warn you that we cannot allow the atmosphere of the house to be vitiated and made disagreeable for Miss Frink.”
Hugh smiled faintly toward the speaker. “Fine of you to look out for her,” he said. “Might shut the transom, nurse.”
The secretary’s full lips drew together and he glared at this self-possession. Insolence, he called it. Of course, the man was injured, but, in consideration of such hospitality as was being shown him, he might at least act promptly upon such information.
Leonard returned to Mrs. Lumbard flushed, and with the little crack in his voice that came with excitement.
“Lying there, smoking like a young nabob,” he reported. “I told him Miss Frink’s horror of tobacco, and he merely asked the nurse to close the transom. Such nerve!”
“Yes,” returned Adèle, interested, “we surely knew already that he had nerve: and isn’t he a beauty?”
“Oh, certainly,” returned the other, throwing down the clothes on a table with a vigor that suggested a wish that the owner was occupying them. “Head all bandaged but one eye, arm bundled up, a general wreck.”
“Let him smoke, then, poor thing, while Aunt Susanna is off showing Farrandale what she’s made of. It will be his last for one while.”
It was, indeed, Hugh’s last indulgence because[42] a high fever took possession of the young adventurer that night, and for a few days Miss Frink’s physician was a busy man. She paid scant attention to her other interests until the boy was sane again; and, although she kept to the usual hours in her study, the nurse was instructed to report to her at short intervals.
“It does seem, Miss Frink, as if we ought to send for his Aunt Sukey,” said this attractive young woman on one occasion. “He calls for her incessantly.”
Miss Frink drew her features together in the sudden grimace which sent her eyeglasses off her nose.
“How are we going to do that? You looked through that little trunk of his, I suppose, as I told you?”
“Yes. There wasn’t a scrap of paper in there, and this is all that was in his pockets.”
The nurse produced the photograph case and a business card.
Miss Frink examined them. “Yes, there’s John Ogden’s card. I could send for him, but I don’t care to have him see just what I managed to do to his protégé in a few hours. Unless the boy’s in danger, I won’t send, as yet.” Miss Frink looked long at the photograph.
“Might be his sister,” she said. “There’s a[43] resemblance. I hope it isn’t a best girl. He’s too young to be hampered.”
Leonard Grimshaw looked over her shoulder at the picture. His employer glanced at him with a humorous twist of her thin lips.
“You’ve kept free, eh, Grim?”
“I had interests which came first,” responded the secretary, with the reproving tone which he reserved for implications that he had time for any thought separate from Miss Frink’s affairs.
That lady returned the old morocco case and the card to the nurse.
“Keep careful watch,” she said, “and ask Dr. Morton to report to me at his next visit. I wish to send for Mr. Ogden if there is occasion for anxiety.”
The nurse left the room, and the secretary turned adoring eyes upon his employer.
“If you ever thought of yourself, Miss Frink, you would see Dr. Morton on your own account. After the shock you have endured, and the heroism with which you returned to the excitement of the banquet, it stands to reason that your nerves should have a tonic.”
“Fiddlesticks, Grim. I’m all right. All the tonic I need is to know that I haven’t killed that boy upstairs.”
“Don’t worry about him,” said the secretary,[44] looking severely through his dark-rimmed spectacles. “Other husky men have survived a broken arm and a bumped head, and I dare say he will. I feel that I ought to warn you that he is a person of no delicacy.”
Miss Frink regarded the speaker with narrowed eyes.
“I rather suspected that,” she said slowly, “by the way he grabbed my horses’ heads.”
The secretary flushed, but continued indomitably: “Physical bravery is often allied with a thick-skinned mentality. I think for your own protection you should know what I found when I went to the White Room to get his suit.” He paused dramatically.
Miss Frink winked off her glasses again and returned the spectacled gaze with deep interest. “He was kissing the nurse, perhaps,” she said. “She is a sweet thing.”
“Miss Frink!” The exclamation was scandalized as her secretary regarded his lady of the old school with real amazement. “No. He was not kissing the nurse, but he was doing what would affect your comfort far more. He was smoking cigarettes.”
Miss Frink surprised her companion still further by laughing.
“Didn’t you hear him ask me for one in the[45] motor? Now, I say he was clever, with only one arm and one eye, and laid low in bed, to manage to get cigarettes.”
Grimshaw stared. “It must have been Dr. Morton,” he said after a pause; “but the point is that, when I told him you detested them, he didn’t stop.”
“He smiled, perhaps?” Miss Frink did, herself.
“I don’t remember; but I wasn’t going to stand for that, you may be sure, and I told him we couldn’t have the atmosphere of this house—your house, vitiated.”
“Vitiated,” repeated Miss Frink musingly, “Fine word, Vitiated.”
“Growing childish, upon my soul,” thought the secretary. “The first break!”
“The point is,” he declared with dignity, “the significant point is, that he did not stop smoking. He asked the nurse to close the transom.”
“Poor boy, he needn’t have done that,” said Miss Frink; “and, by the way, Dr. Morton didn’t give him the cigarettes.”
“I suppose he got around the nurse, then.”
“No. She isn’t guilty either; and, Grim”—Miss Frink paused and put back her eyeglasses through which she regarded the faithful one[46] steadily—“I am entirely prepared to go around wearing a gas-mask if necessary. I might be needing one now for brimstone if it wasn’t for that boy, and he is going to have any plaything it occurs to him to want. Now, let’s get at these letters.”
Her secretary blinked, and put one hand to his temporarily whirling head, while with the other he automatically gathered up the mail.
When, toward the close of that eventful gala day at Farrandale, Miss Frink had courageously returned to the scene of the festivities, two girls witnessed the burst of applause which greeted her as she stepped from her secretary’s motor.
One of them, a typical flapper, her hair and her skirt equally bobbed, gazed balefully at the apparition of the lady of the old school as she bowed in response to the plaudits of her townspeople. The other, a gentle-looking, blonde girl, smiled unconsciously at the black satin figure, as she joined in the applause.
The eyes of the flapper snapped. “You shan’t do it, Millicent,” she said, pulling her friend’s clapping hands apart.
“I must,” laughed Millicent. “I’m a loyal Ross-Grahamite.”
They were sitting in that part of the grandstand which had not embarrassed Rex and Regina by falling.
“You can’t be loyal to her and to me, too. She fired me yesterday.”
“Oh, Damaris,” said the blonde girl sympathetically. “What happened?”
“This,” said Damaris indicating her dark short locks.
“Just because you had your hair bobbed? But you ought to have known. She won’t allow any clerk in the store with bobbed hair.”
“It’s a wonder she doesn’t insist that all the men let theirs grow in a braid,” said Damaris scornfully. “Powdered hair and a queue would just suit her, I’ll bet.”
“I’m very sorry you lost the position,” said Millicent. “You really liked reading to her.”
“Well, yes, in a way. I liked the salary; but it cramped my style awfully to go near the woman. I was always deadly afraid I’d say something that wasn’t in the book, and I used to repeat ‘prunes and prisms’ all the way from my house to her gate to get ready. I’ll never look at a prune again, nor go near a prism.”
“Wasn’t she agreeable to work for? I never spoke to her, but she comes through the store quite often to look things over, and I think[48] she’s wonderful. You can feel her power—something like Queen Elizabeth. Just think of her grit coming back here this afternoon. Everybody says she had a miraculous escape. It must have been an awful shock.”
“I take a little comfort out of that,” remarked Damaris coolly. “You may be sure it was the man that was nearly killed. She’s indestructible, all right.”
The girls glanced down at the seat of honor where Miss Frink was enthroned during the last speech of the afternoon, preluding adjournment of the leading citizens to the banquet.
“How did you get the position, Damaris?”
“Through my unbearable cousin, Leonard Grimshaw. He’s her secretary.”
“Well, you’re an ungrateful rascal!” laughed Millicent. “I’ve seen Mr. Grimshaw often in the store”—the speaker caught her breath and turned grave. “He calls for grandpa’s rent, too.”
“That nose of his,” said Damaris, “got its shape entirely from poking into other people’s affairs.”
“Who is the pretty lady with white hair who is with him so often?”
“Adèle Lumbard, a divorcée; no relation of Miss Frink’s, but calls her ‘Aunt.’ Think of[49] the lady of the old school having to house a divorcée! It seems that Mrs. Lumbard’s grandmother was Miss Frink’s best friend, the only person, I guess, she ever loved in her life. So, when this girl’s marriage turned out unhappily, I rather think Miss Frink guessed the fault wasn’t all on one side, and I’m just sure Miss Frink took Mrs. Lumbard in as an offering to her friend who died long ago. I’m just sure of it because it’s so plain the old woman doesn’t love her any more than she does anybody else; only I think she wants to know where Adèle is, evenings.”
“Why, Damaris! How imaginative you are. Why doesn’t Mrs. Lumbard read to her, then?”
“Yes, why doesn’t she? Just because Adèle’s reading is one of the 157 varieties of things Miss Frink doesn’t like.”
“And she liked yours,” said Millicent, her gentle voice sympathetic again.
“Yes; Leonard got her to try me, and though she didn’t throw me any bouquets she engaged me; but she informed me yesterday when we went to the mat, that my skirts had always distressed her by being so short, and now my hair settled it.” The speaker shook her fluffy mane. “I met Leonard when I went into the house, and he looked me over with his owl-eyes, and[50] said: ‘You little fool, you’ve done for yourself now.’ And I had, you see.”
“Is he always so affectionate?”
“Yes, as affectionate as a snapping turtle; but Mother looks up to him as a great man because he’s closest to Miss Frink of anybody, and everybody believes he’ll be her heir.”
“Will he help you again?”
Damaris shrugged her shoulders. “I suppose not. Why don’t you and I open a Beauty Parlor?”
“One reason is that we haven’t any money.”
“Would you if we had?”
Millicent shook her head. “I can’t take any chances, Damaris, you know that. My best plan is not to bob my hair and stick close to Ross-Graham. Grandfather’s pension is so small, and our house is old and we have to keep it in repair, and that costs. Mr. Grimshaw says our rent is so small he can’t do anything; but not a day passes that we don’t remember to be thankful for the ground being big enough for Grandpa’s garden. We’re very happy.”
Damaris looked curiously into the hazel eyes regarding her, so full of the warmth of sincerity.
“You’d be a wonderful partner, Millicent. Even at school I used to feel there was a sort of—well,[51] a sort of perfume around where you were.”
Millicent laughed. “Damaris, is that a compliment?”
“Well, sweetness, anyway. You’d get around the customers every time. You’d really like them. I would, too, if I could make ’em look pretty. I’d like to have Miss Frink come in! Wouldn’t I do her up! Gosh, what she’d look like when she got out of the chair. Leonard, too. Wouldn’t I like to give Leonard scalp massage!” The speaker made a threatening gesture.
“Don’t swear, dear. Say, you haven’t told me how snappy I look. ‘Chick’s’ the word, isn’t it?”
Millicent looked at the dark, sparkling face. “Yes, but I wish you hadn’t done it, dear.”
“Well,” Damaris sighed. “I can’t put it back. Mother wept, but I bet I’ll get something just as good. Mother felt it was so refined to go to that grand house every day and get Miss Frink to sleep.”
“To sleep?”
“Yes, I read to her after lunch every day, and I always left her asleep. That was my job.”
Applause for the speech sounded, and Miss Frink rose.
“There she goes,” said Millicent as they watched the tall black satin figure rise and take the arm of the Mayor. “Wonderful! She’s wonderful!”
“Yes,” said Damaris. “They say the man that stopped the runaway was awfully hurt. He may be dead by this time, but what cares she? She’s back on her job, Queen of Farrandale.”
“But she took him to her own home,” said Millicent.
“Yes,” Damaris smiled. “In Leonard’s car, they say. I’ll bet he writhed. Good enough for him. I hope—”
“No, you don’t. Now, stop, Damaris. Let us get your mother, and both of you come home with me to supper.”
“Well, that would be awfully nice, Millicent,” returned the girl more gently. “You smell sweeter than usual.” The bobbed head was somewhat lowered. “You can comfort Mother if anybody can.”

All The Data From The Network AND User Upload, If Infringement, Please Contact Us To Delete! Contact Us
About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Tag List | Recent Search  
©2010-2018, All Rights Reserved