The Intrusion of Jimmy/Chapter 4

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CHAPTER IV


MOLLY


"WHY, Molly," said the policeman, "what are you doing out of bed? I thought you were asleep."

He placed a huge arm around her, and drew her to his lap. As she sat there, his great bulk made her seem smaller than she really was. With her hair down and her little red slippers dangling half a yard from the floor, she seemed a child. McEachern, looking at her, found it hard to realize that nineteen years had passed since the moment when the doctor's raised eyebrows had reproved him for his monosyllabic reception of the news that the baby was a girl.

"Do you know what the time is?" he said. "Two o'clock."

"Much too late for you to be sitting here smoking," said Molly, severely. "How many cigars do you smoke a day? Suppose you had married someone who wouldn't let you smoke!"

"Never stop your husband smoking, my dear. That's a bit of advice for you when you're married."

"I'm never going to marry. I'm going to stop at home, and darn your socks."

"I wish you could," he said, drawing her closer to him. "But one of these days you're going to marry a prince. And now run back to bed. It's much too late—"

"It's no good, father dear. I couldn't get to sleep. I've been trying hard for hours. I've counted sheep till I nearly screamed. It's Rastus' fault. He snores so!"

Mr. McEachern regarded the erring bull-dog sternly.

"Why do you have the brutes in your room?"

"Why, to keep the boogaboos from getting me, of course. Aren't you afraid of the boogaboos getting you? But you're so big, you wouldn't mind. You'd just hit them. And they're not brutes—are you, darlings? You're angels, and you nearly burst yourselves with joy because auntie had come back from England, didn't you? Father, did they miss me when I was gone? Did they pine away?"

"They got like skeletons. We all did."

"You?"

"I should say so."

"Then, why did you send me away to England?"

"I wanted you to see the country. Did you like it?"

"I hated being away from you."

"But you liked the country?"

"I loved it."

McEachern drew a breath of relief. The only possible obstacle to the great change did not exist.

"How would you like to go back to England, Molly?"

"To England! When I've just come home?"

"If I went, too?"

Molly twisted around so that she could see his face better.

"There's something the matter with you, father. You're trying to say something, and I want to know what it is. Tell me quick, or I'll make Rastus bite you!"

"It won't take long, dear. I've been lucky in some investments while you were away, and I'm going to leave the force, and take you over to England, and find a prince for you to marry—if you think you would like it."

"Father! It'll be perfectly splendid!"

"We'll start fair in England, Molly. I'll just be John McEachern, from America, and, if anybody wants to know anything about me, I'm a man who has made money on Wall Street—and that's no lie—and has come over to England to spend it."

Molly gave his arm a squeeze. Her eyes were wet.

"Father, dear," she whispered, "I believe you've been doing it all for me. You've been slaving away for me ever since I was born, stinting yourself and saving money just so that I could have a good time later on."

"No, no!"

"It's true," she said. She turned on him with a tremulous laugh. "I don't believe you've had enough to eat for years. I believe you're all skin and bone. Never mind. To-morrow, I'll take you out and buy you the best dinner you've ever had, out of my own money. We'll go to Sherry's, and you shall start at the top of the menu, and go straight down it till you've had enough."

"That will make up for everything. And, now, don't you think you ought to be going to bed? You'll be losing all that color you got on the ship."

"Soon—not just yet. I haven't seen you for such ages!" She pointed at the bull-terrier. "Look at Tommy, standing there and staring. He can't believe I've really come back. Father, there was a man on the Lusitania with eyes exactly like Tommy's—all brown and bright—and he used to stand and stare just like Tommy's doing."

"If I had been there," said her father wrathfully, "I'd have knocked his head off."

"No, you wouldn't, because I'm sure he was really a very nice young man. He had a chin rather like yours, father. Besides, you couldn't have got at him to knock his head off, because he was traveling second-class."

"Second-class? Then, you didn't talk with him?"

"We couldn't. You wouldn't expect him to shout at me across the railing! Only, whenever I walked round the deck, he seemed to be there."

"Staring!"

"He may not have been staring at me. Probably, he was just looking the way the ship was going, and thinking of some girl in New York. I don't think you can make much of a romance out of it, father."

"I don't want to, my dear. Princes don't travel in the second-cabin."

"He may have been a prince in disguise."

"More likely a drummer," grunted Mr. McEachern.

"Drummers are often quite nice, aren't they?"

"Princes are nicer."

"Well, I'll go to bed and dream of the nicest one I can think of. Come along, dogs. Stop biting my slipper, Tommy. Why can't you behave, like Rastus? Still, you don't snore, do you? Aren't you going to bed soon, father? I believe you've been sitting up late and getting into all sorts of bad habits while I've been away. I'm sure you have been smoking too much. When you've finished that cigar, you're not even to think of another till to-morrow. Promise!"

"Not one?"

"Not one. I'm not going to have my father getting like the people you read about in the magazine advertisements. You don't want to feel sudden shooting pains, do you?"

"No, my dear."

"And have to take some awful medicine?"

"No."

"Then, promise."

"Very well, my dear. I promise."

As the door closed, the captain threw away the stump he was smoking, and remained for a moment in thought. Then, he drew another cigar from his case, lighted it, and resumed the study of the little note-book. It was past three o'clock when he went to his bedroom.