The Girl at Cobhurst
Frank Richard Stockton
Part 1 out of 6
Produced by Suzanne Shell, Beginners Projects, Mary Meehan and the
Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
THE GIRL AT COBHURST
BY FRANK R. STOCKTON
I. DR. TOLBRIDGE
II. MISS PANNEY
III. BROTHER AND SISTER
IV. THE HOME
VI. MRS. TOLBRIDGE'S CALLERS
VII. DORA BANNISTER TAKES TIME AND A MARE BY THE FORELOCK
VIII. MRS. TOLBRIDGE'S REPORT IS NOT ACCEPTED
IX. JOHN WESLEY AND LORENZO DOW AT LUNCHEON
X. A SILK GOWN AND A BOTTLE
XI. TWO GIRLS AND A CALF
XII. TO EAT WITH THE FAMILY
XIII. DORA'S NEW MIND
XV. MISS PANNEY IS AROUSED TO HELP AND HINDER
XVI. "KEEP HER TO HELP YOU"
XVII. JUDITH PACEWALK'S TEABERRY GOWN
XVIII. BLARNEY FLUFF
XIX. MISS PANNEY IS "TOOK SUDDEN"
XX. THE TEABERRY GOWN IS TOO LARGE
XXI. THE DRANES AND THEIR QUARTERS
XXII. A TRESPASS
XXIII. THE HAVERLEY FINANCES AND MRS. ROBINSON
XXIV. THE DOCTOR'S MISSION
XXV. BOMBSHELLS AND BROMIDE
XXVI. DORA COMES AND SEES
XXVII. "IT COULDN'T BE BETTER THAN THAT"
XXVIII. THE GAME IS CALLED
XXIX. HYPOTHESIS AND INNUENDO
XXX. A CONFIDENTIAL ANNOUNCEMENT
XXXI. THE TEABERRY GOWN IS DONNED
XXXII. MISS PANNEY FEELS SHE MUST CHANGE HER PLANS
XXXIII. LA FLEUR LOOKS FUTUREWARD
XXXIV. A PLAN WHICH SEEMS TO SUIT EVERYBODY
XXXV. MISS PANNEY HAS TEETH ENOUGH LEFT TO BITE WITH
XXXVI. A CRY FROM THE SEA
XXXVII. LA FLEUR ASSUMES RESPONSIBILITIES
XXXVIII. CICELY READS BY MOONLIGHT
XXXIX. UNDISTURBED LETTUCE
XL. ANGRY WAVES
XLI. PANNEYOPATHY AND THE ASH-HOLE
XLII. AN INTERVIEWER
XLIII. THE SIREN AND THE IRON
XLIV. LA FLEUR'S SOUL REVELS, AND MISS PANEY PREPARES TO MAKE A FIRE
THE GIRL AT COBHURST
It was about the middle of a March afternoon when Dr. Tolbridge, giving
his horse and buggy into the charge of his stable boy, entered the warm
hall of his house. His wife was delighted to see him; he had not been at
home since noon of the preceding day.
"Yes," said he, as he took off his gloves and overcoat, "the Pardell boy
is better, but I found him in a desperate condition."
"I knew that," said Mrs. Tolbridge, "when you told me in your note that
you would be obliged to stay with him all night."
The doctor now walked into his study, changed his overcoat for a
well-worn smoking-jacket, and seated himself in an easy chair before the
fire. His wife sat by him.
"Thank you," he said, in answer to her inquiries, "but I do not want
anything to eat. After I had gone my round this morning I went back to
the Pardells, and had my dinner there. The boy is doing very well. No, I
was not up all night. I had some hours' sleep on the big sofa."
"Which doesn't count for much," said his wife.
"It counts for some hours," he replied, "and Mrs. Pardell did not
sleep at all."
Dr. Tolbridge, a man of moderate height, and compactly built, with some
touches of gray in his full, short beard, and all the light of youth in
his blue eyes, had been for years the leading physician in and about
Thorbury. He lived on the outskirts of the little town, but the lines of
his practice extended in every direction into the surrounding country.
The doctor's wife was younger than he was; she had a high opinion of him,
and had learned to diagnose him, mentally, morally, and physically, with
considerable correctness. It may be asserted, in fact, that the doctor
seldom made a diagnosis of a patient as exact as those she made of him.
But then it must be remembered that she had only one person to exert her
skill upon, while he had many.
The Tolbridge house was one of the best in the town, but the family was
small. There was but one child, a boy of fourteen, who was now away at
school. The doctor had readjusted the logs upon the andirons, and was
just putting the tongs in their place when a maidservant came in.
"There's a boy here, sir," she said, "from Miss Panney. She's sent for
you in a hurry."
In the same instant the doctor and his wife turned in their chairs and
fixed their eyes upon the servant, but there was nothing remarkable
about her; she had delivered her message and stood waiting. The doctor's
fists were clenched and there was a glitter in his eye. He seemed on the
point of saying something in a loud voice, but he changed his mind, and
quietly said, "Tell the boy to come here," and turned back to the fire.
Then, when the girl had gone, he struck his fist upon his knee and
ejaculated, "Confound Miss Panney!"
"Harry!" exclaimed his wife, "you should not speak of your patients in
that way, but I agree with you perfectly;" and then, addressing the boy,
who had just entered, and who stood by the door, "Do you mean to say that
there is anything serious the matter with Miss Panney?" she said
severely. "Does she really want to see the doctor immediately?"
"That's what they told me, ma'am," said the boy, looking about him at the
books and the furniture. "They told me that she was took bad, and that I
must come here first to tell the doctor to come right away, and if he
wasn't at home to leave that message."
"How did you come?" asked Mrs. Tolbridge; "on horseback?"
"No, ma'am; with a wagon."
"You could have come a great deal quicker without the wagon," said she.
"Oh, yes, but then I've got to stop at the store going back."
"That will do," said Mrs. Tolbridge; "you can go now and attend to your
The doctor was quietly looking into the fire, and as his wife turned to
him he gave a little snort.
"I was just beginning to get up enough energy," he remarked, "to think of
putting on my slippers."
"Well, put them on," said she, in a very decided tone.
"No," replied the doctor, "that will not do; of course I must go to her."
"You mustn't do anything of the kind!" exclaimed Mrs. Tolbridge, her eyes
sparkling. "How many times by night and by day has that woman called you
away on a fool's errand? It is likely as not that there is nothing more
the matter with her than there is with me. She has no right to worry the
life out of you in this way. She ought to have gone to heaven long ago."
"You shouldn't talk of my patients in that way, Kitty," said the doctor;
"and in the opinion of a good many of her neighbors the old lady is not
bound for heaven."
"I don't care where she is going, but one thing is certain: you are not
going to her this afternoon. You are not fit for it."
"You must remember, Kitty," said the doctor, "that Miss Panney is an old
lady, and though she may sound many a false alarm, the true alarm is to
be expected, and I would much prefer to go by daylight than to wait until
after supper. The roads are bad, the air is raw, and she would keep me
nobody knows how late. I want to go to bed early to-night."
"And that is what you are going to do," said Mrs. Tolbridge.
He looked at her inquiringly. "Harry," said she, "you have been up
nearly all night. You have been working the greater part of this day, and
I do not intend to let you drive three miles to be nearly talked to death
by Racilia Panney. No, you needn't shake your head in that way; she is
not to be neglected. I shall go myself and see what is the matter with
her, and if it is really anything serious, I can then let you know. I do
not believe she would have sent for you at all, if she had not known the
wagon was going to town."
"But, my dear," said the doctor, "you cannot--"
"Yes, I can," interrupted his wife. "I want some fresh air and shall
enjoy the drive, and Buckskin has done nothing for two days. I shall
take the cart, Tom can get up behind, and I can go there in less than
half an hour."
"But if there really is anything the matter--" said the doctor.
"It's just as likely as not," interrupted his wife, "that what she wants
is somebody to talk to, and that a minister or a lawyer or a stranger
from foreign parts would do just as well as you. And now put on your
slippers, push the sofa up to the fire, and take your nap, and I'll go
and see how the case really stands."
The doctor smiled. "I have no more to say," said he. "There are angels
who bless us by coming, and there are angels who bless us by going. You
belong to both classes. But don't stay too long."
"In any case I shall be back before dark," she said, and with a kiss on
his forehead she left him.
Dr. Tolbridge looked into the fire and considered.
"Ought I to let her go?" he asked himself. This question, mingled with
various thoughts and recollections of former experiences with Miss
Panney, occupied the doctor's mind until he heard the swift rolling of
the dog-cart wheels as they passed his window. Then he arose, put on his
slippers, drew up the soft cushioned sofa, and lay down for a nap.
In about half an hour he was aroused by the announcement that Miss
Bannister had called to see him.
Long practice in that sort of thing made him wake in an instant, and the
young lady who was ushered into the study had no idea that she had
disturbed the nap of a tired man. She was a very pretty girl, handsomely
dressed; she had large blue eyes, and a very gentle and sweet expression,
tinged, however, by an anxious sadness.
"Who is sick, Miss Dora?" asked the doctor, quickly, as he shook
hands with her.
She did not seem to understand him. "Nobody," she said. "That is, I have
come to see you about myself."
"Oh," said he, "pray take a seat. I imagined from your face," he
continued, with a smile, "that some one of your family was in desperate
need of a doctor."
"No," said she, "it is I. For a long time I have thought of consulting
you, and to-day I felt I must come."
"And what is the matter?" he asked.
"Doctor," said she, a tear forcing itself into each of her beautiful
eyes, "I believe I am losing my mind."
"Indeed," said the doctor; "and how is your general health?"
"Oh, that's all right," answered Miss Dora. "I do not think there is the
least thing the matter with me that way. It is all my mind. It has been
failing me for a good while."
"How?" he asked. "What are the symptoms?"
"Oh, there are ever so many of them," she said; "I can't think of them
all. I have lost all interest in everything in this world. You remember
how much interest I used to take in things?"
"Indeed I do," said he.
"The world is getting to be all a blank to me," she said; "everything
"Your meals?" he asked.
"No," she said. "Of course I must eat to live."
"Oh, I sleep well enough. Indeed, I wish I could sleep all the time, so
that I could not know how the world--at least its pleasures and
affections--are passing away from me. All this is dreadful, doctor, when
you come to think of it. I have thought and thought and thought about it,
until it has become perfectly plain to me that I am losing my mind."
Dr. Tolbridge looked into the fire.
"Well," said he, presently, "I am glad to hear it."
Miss Dora sprang to her feet.
"Oh, sit down," said he, "and let me explain myself. My advice is, if you
lose your mind, don't mind the loss. It really will do you good. That
sounds hard and cruel, doesn't it? But wait a bit. It often happens that
the minds of young people are like their first teeth--what are called
milk teeth, you know. These minds and these teeth do very well for a
time, but after a while they become unable to perform the services which
will be demanded of them, and they are shed, or at least they ought to
be. Sometimes, of course, they have to be extracted."
"Nonsense, doctor," said the young lady, smiling in spite of herself,
"you cannot extract a mind."
"Well, perhaps not exactly that," he answered, "but we can help it to be
absorbed and to disappear, and so make a way for the strong, vigorous
mind of maturity, which is certain to succeed it. All this has happened
and is happening to you, Miss Dora. You have lost your milk mind, and the
sooner it is gone the better. You will be delighted with the one that
succeeds it. Now then, can you give me an idea about how angry you are?"
"I am not angry at all," she replied, "but I feel humiliated. You think
my mental sufferings are all fanciful."
"Oh, no," said the doctor; "to continue the dental simile, they are the
last aches of your youthful mentality, forced to make way for the
intellect of a woman."
Miss Bannister looked out of the window for a few moments.
"Doctor," she then said, "I do not believe there is any one else who
knows me, who would tell me that I have the mind of a child."
"Oh, no," replied Dr. Tolbridge, "for it is not likely that there is any
one else to whom you have made the fact known."
There was a quick flush on the face of Miss Dora, and a flash in her blue
eyes, and she reached out her hand toward her muff which lay on the table
beside her, but she changed her purpose and drew back her hand. The
doctor looked at her with a smile.
"You were just on the point of jumping up and leaving the room without a
word, weren't you?"
"Yes, I was," said she, "and I have a great mind to do it now, but
first I must--"
"Miss Dora," said the doctor, "I am delighted. Actually you are cutting
your new mind. Before you can realize the fact, you will have it all
full-formed and ready for use. Let me see; this is the ninth of March;
bad roads; bad weather; no walking; no driving; nothing inspiriting;
disagreeable in doors and out. I think the full change will occur within
three weeks. By the end of this month, you will not only have forgotten
that your milk mind has troubled you, but that the world was ever blank,
and that your joys and affections were ever on the point of passing away
from you. You will then be the brave-hearted, bright-spirited woman that
Nature intended you to be, after she had passed you through some of the
The flush on the face of Miss Dora gradually passed away as she listened
to this speech.
She rose. "Doctor," said she, "I like that better than what you have been
saying. Anyway, I shall not be angry, and I shall wait three weeks and
see what happens, and if everything is all wrong then, the responsibility
will rest on you."
"Very good," said he, "I agree to the terms. It is a bargain."
Now Miss Dora seemed troubled again. She took up her muff, put it down,
drew her furs about her, then let them fall again, and finally turned
toward the physician, who had also risen.
"Doctor," she said, "I don't want you to put this visit in the family
bill. I wish to--to attend to it myself. How much should I pay you?" and
she took out her little pocketbook.
Dr. Tolbridge put his hands behind him.
"This case is out of my usual line of practice," he said, "and my
ordinary schedule of fees does not apply to it. For advice such as I have
given you I never charge money. I take nothing but cats."
"What!" exclaimed Miss Dora; "what on earth do you mean?"
"I mean cats," he replied, "or rather kittens. I am very fond of kittens,
and at present we have not one in the house. So, if you have a kitten--"
"Dr. Tolbridge," cried Miss Dora, her eyes sparkling, "do you really mean
that? Would you truly like to have an Angora kitten?"
"That is exactly the breed I want," he answered.
"Why, I have five," she said; "they are only four days old, and perfect
beauties. I shall be charmed to give you one, and I will pick out the
very prettiest for you. As soon as it is old enough, I will bring it to
you, already named, and with a ribbon on its neck. What color would you
like the ribbon to be?"
"For Angoras, blue," he said; "I shall be so glad to have a kitten like
that; but remember that you must not bring it to me until its eyes are
opened, and it has--"
"Doctor," interrupted Miss Dora, raising her forefinger, "you were just
on the point of saying, 'and has shed its milk mind.' Now I am going away
before you make me angry again."
When his patient had gone, Dr. Tolbridge put another log on the fire,
shook up the cushions of the sofa, and lay down to continue his nap.
The Witton family, distant relatives of Miss Panney, with whom she had
lived for many years, resided on a farm in the hilly country above
Thorbury, and when Mrs. Tolbridge had rattled through the town, she found
the country road very rough and bad--hard and bumpy in some places, and
soft and muddy in others; but Buckskin was in fine spirits and pulled her
When she reached the Witton house she left the horse in charge of the
boy, and opening the hall door, went directly up to Miss Panney's room.
Knocking, she waited some little time for an answer, and then was told,
in a clear, high voice, to come in. The room was large and well lighted.
Against one of the walls stood a high-posted bed with a canopy, and on
one of the pillows of the bed appeared the head of an elderly woman, the
skin darkened and wrinkled by time, the nose aquiline, and the black eyes
very sharp and quick of movement. This head was surrounded by the frills
of a freshly laundered night-cap, and the smooth white coverlid was drawn
up close under its chin.
"Upon my word," exclaimed the person in the bed, "is that you, Mrs.
Tolbridge? I thought it was the doctor."
"I don't wonder at that, Miss Panney," said Mrs. Tolbridge. "At times we
have very much the same sort of knock."
"But where is the doctor?" asked the old lady.
"I hope he is at home and asleep," was the reply. "He has been working
very hard lately, and was up the greater part of last night. He was
coming here when he received your message, but I told him he should not
do it; I would come myself, and if I found it absolutely necessary that
you should see him, I would let him know. And now what is the trouble,
Miss Panney fixed her eyes steadfastly upon her visitor, who had taken a
seat by the bedside.
"Catherine Tolbridge," said she, "do you know what will happen to you, if
you don't look out? You'll lose that man."
"Lose him!" exclaimed the other.
"Yes, just that," replied the old lady; "I have seen it over and over
again. Down they drop, right in the middle of their harness. And the
stouter and sturdier they are, the worse it is for them; they think they
can do anything, and they do it. I'll back a skinny doctor against a
burly one, any day. He knows there are things he can't do. He doesn't
try, and he keeps afloat."
"That is exactly what I am trying to do," said the doctor's wife, "and if
those are your opinions, Miss Panney, don't you think that the doctor's
patients ought to have a regard for his health, and that they ought not
to make him come to them in all sorts of weather, and at all hours of the
day, unless there is something serious the matter with them? Now I don't
believe there is anything serious the matter with you today."
"There is always something serious the matter with a person of my age,"
said Miss Panney, "and as for Dr. Tolbridge's visits to me doing him any
harm, it is all stuff and nonsense. They do him good; they rest him; they
brighten him up. He's never livelier than when he is with me. He doesn't
have to hang over me all the night, giving me this and that, to keep the
breath in my body, when he ought to be taking the rest that he needs more
than any of us."
Mrs. Tolbridge laughed. "No, indeed," said she, "he never has to do
anything of that kind for you. I believe you are the healthiest
patient he has."
"That may be," said the other, "and it is much to his credit, and to
mine, too. I know when I want a doctor. I don't send for him when I am
in the last stages of anything. But we won't talk anything more about
that. I want to know all about your husband. Do you think he is really
out of health?"
"No," said Mrs. Tolbridge, "he is simply overworked, and needs rest. Just
the sort of rest I hope he is getting this afternoon."
"Nonsense," said Miss Panney; "rest is well enough, but you must give him
more than that if you do not want to see him break down. You must give
him good victuals. Rest, without the best of food, amounts to little in
"Truly, Miss Panney!" exclaimed her visitor, "I think I give my husband
as good living as any one in Thorbury has or can expect."
"Humph!" said the old lady. "He may have all that, and yet be starving
before your eyes. There isn't a man, woman, or child, in or about
Thorbury, who really lives well--excepting, perhaps, myself."
Mrs. Tolbridge smiled. "I think you do manage to live very well,
"Yes," said the other, "and I'd like to manage to have my friends live
well, too. By the way, did you ever make rum-flake for the doctor when
he comes in tired and faint?"
"I never heard of it," replied the other.
"I thought as much," said Miss Panney. "Well, you take the whites of two
eggs and beat them up, and while you are beating you sprinkle rum over
the egg, from a pepper caster, which you ought to keep clean to use for
this and nothing else. Then you should sift in sugar according to taste,
and when you have put a dry macaroon, which has been soaking in rum all
this time, in the bottom of a glass saucer, you pile the flake over it,
and it's ready for him, except that sometimes you put in,--let me see!--a
little orange juice, I think, but I've got the recipe there in my
scrap-book, and I can find it in a minute." So saying, the old lady threw
aside the coverlid, and jumped to the floor with the activity of a cat.
Mrs. Tolbridge burst out laughing.
"I declare, Miss Panney!" she exclaimed, "you have your dress on."
"What of that?" said the old lady, opening a drawer. "A warm dress is a
good thing to wear, at least I have always found it so."
"But not with a night-cap," said the other.
"That depends on circumstances," said Miss Panney, turning over the pages
of a large scrap-book.
"And shoes," continued Mrs. Tolbridge, laughing again.
"Shoes," cried Miss Panney, pushing out one foot, and looking at it.
"Well, truly, that was an oversight; but here is the recipe;" and without
the aid of spectacles, she began to read. "It's exactly as I told you,"
she said presently, "except that some people use sponge cake instead of
macaroons. The orange juice depends on individual taste. Shall I write
that out for you, or will you remember it?"
"Oh, I can remember it," said the other; "but tell me, Miss Panney--"
"Well, then," said the old lady, "make it for him, and see how he likes
it. There is one thing, Mrs. Tolbridge, that you should never forget, and
that is that the doctor is not only your husband, but the mainstay of the
"Oh, I know that, and accept the responsibility; but you must tell me why
you are in bed with all your clothes on. I believe that you did not
expect the doctor so soon, and when you heard my knock, you clapped on
your night-cap and jumped into bed."
"Catherine," quietly remarked the old lady, "there is nothing so
discouraging to a doctor as to find a person who has sent for him out of
bed. If the patient is up and about, she mystifies him; he is apt to make
mistakes; he loses interest; he wonders if she couldn't come to him,
instead of his having to go to her; but when he finds the ailing person
in bed, the case is natural and straightforward; he feels at home, and
knows how to go to work. If you believe in a doctor, you ought to make
him believe in you. And if you are in bed, he will believe in you, and if
you are out of it, he is apt not to. More than that, Mrs. Tolbridge,
there is no greater compliment that you can pay to a physician you have
sent for, than to have him find you in bed."
The doctor's wife laughed. She thought, but she did not say so, that
probably this old lady had paid her husband a great many compliments.
"Well, Miss Panney," she said, rising, "what report shall I make?"
The old lady took off her night-cap, and replaced it with her ordinary
headgear of lace and ribbons.
"Have you heard anything," she asked, "of the young man who is coming to
"No," said Mrs. Tolbridge, "nothing at all."
"Well," continued Miss Panney, "I think the doctor knows something about
him through old Butterwood. I have an idea that I know something about
him myself, but I wanted to talk to the doctor about him. Of course this
is a mere secondary matter. My back has been troubling me a good deal
lately, but as the doctor is so pushed, I won't ask him to come here on
purpose to see me. If he's in the neighborhood, I shall be very glad to
have him call. For the present, I shall try some of the old liniments.
Dear knows, I have enough of them, dating back for years and years."
"But it will not do to make any mistakes, Miss Panney. Those old
prescriptions might not suit you now."
"Don't trouble yourself in the least about that," said the old lady,
lifting her hand impressively; "medicine never injures me. Not a drop of
it do I ever take inside of me, prescription or no prescription. But I
don't mind putting things on the outside of me--of course, I mean in
reason, for there are outside applications that would ruin the
constitution of a jack-screw."
There were very few people in the neighborhood of Thorbury who were older
than Miss Panney, and very few of any age who were as alert in both mind
and body. She had been born in this region; had left it in her youth, and
had returned about thirty years ago, when she had taken up her abode with
the Wittons, who at that time were a newly married couple. They were now
middle-aged people, but Miss Panney still lived with them, and seemed to
be much the very same old lady as she was when she arrived. She was a
woman who kept a good deal to herself, having many resources for her
active mind. With many people who were not acquainted with her socially
but knew all about her, she had the reputation of being wicked. The
principal reason for this belief was the well-known fact that she always
took her breakfast in bed. This was considered to be a French habit, and
the French were looked upon as infidels. Moreover, she never went to
church, and when questioned upon this subject, had been known to answer
that she could not listen with patience to a sermon, for she had never
heard one without thinking that she could preach on that subject a great
deal better than the man in the pulpit.
In spite of this fact, however, the rector of the Episcopal church of
Thorbury and the Methodist minister were both great friends of Miss
Panney, and although she did not come to hear them, they liked very much
to go to hear her. Mr. Hampton, the Methodist, would talk to her about
flower-gardening and the by-gone people and ways of the region, while Mr.
Ames, the rector, who was a young man, did not hesitate to assert that he
frequently got very good hints for passages in his sermons, from remarks
made by Miss Panney about things that were going on in the religious and
But although Miss Panney took pleasure in the company of clergymen and
physicians, she boldly asserted that she liked lawyers better.
"In the law," she would say, "you find things fixed and settled. A law
is a law, the same for everybody, and no matter how much people may
wrangle and dispute about it, it is there, and you can read it for
yourself. But the practice of medicine has to be shifted to suit
individual cases, and the practice of theology is shifted to suit
individual creeds, and you can't put your finger on steady principles as
you can in law. When I put my finger down, I like to be sure what is
Miss Panney had other reasons for liking lawyers, for her first real
friend had been her legal guardian, old Mr. Bannister of Thorbury. She
was one of the few people of the place who remembered this old gentleman,
and she had often told how shocked and pained she had been when summoned
from boarding-school to attend his funeral, and how she had been
impressed by the idea that the preparations for this important event
consisted mainly in beating up eggs, stemming raisins, baking cakes and
pies, and making all sorts of provision for the sumptuous entertainment
of the people who should be drawn together by the death of the principal
citizen of the town. To her mind it would have been more appropriate had
the company been fed on bread and water.
Thomas Bannister, who succeeded to his father's business, had been Miss
Panney's legal friend and counsellor for many years. But he, too, was
dead, and the office had now devolved on Herbert Bannister, the grandson
of the old gentleman, and the brother of Miss Dora.
Herbert and Miss Panney were very good friends, but not yet cronies. He
was still under thirty, and there were many events of the past of which
he knew but little, and about which he could not wholly sympathize with
her. But she believed that years would ripen him, and that the time would
come when she would get along as well with him as she had with his father
She was not supposed to be a rich woman, and she had not been much
engaged in suits at law, but it was surprising how much legal business
Miss Panney had, as well as business of many other kinds.
When Mrs. Tolbridge had left her, the old lady put away her scrap-book,
and prepared to go downstairs.
"It is a great pity," she said to herself, "that one of the bodily
ailments which is bound to show itself in the family in the course of the
spring, should not have turned up to-day. I want very much to talk to the
doctor about the young man at Cobhurst, and I cannot drive about the
country in such weather as this."
BROTHER AND SISTER
There were other people in and around Thorbury, who very much wanted to
know something about the young man at Cobhurst, but this desire was
interfered with by the fact that the young man was not yet at Cobhurst,
and did not seem to be in a hurry to get there.
Cobhurst was the name of an estate a mile or so from the Witton farm,
whose wide fields had lain for a half a dozen years untilled, and whose
fine old mansion had been, for nearly a year, uninhabited. Its former
owner, Matthias Butterwood, a bachelor, and during the greater part of
his life, a man who took great pride in his farm, his stock, and his
fruit trees, had been afflicted in his later years with various kinds of
rheumatism, and had been led to wander about to different climates and
different kinds of hot springs for the sake of physical betterment.
When at home in these latter days, old Butterwood had been content to
have his garden cultivated, for he could still hobble about and look at
that, and had left his fields to take care of themselves, until he should
be well enough to be his own farmer, as he had always been. But old age,
coming to the aid of his other complaints, had carried him off a few
months before this story begins.
The only person now living at Cobhurst was a colored man named Mike,
who inhabited the gardener's house and held the office of care-taker of
Whenever Mike now came to town with his old wagon and horse, or when he
was met on the road, he found people more and more inquisitive about the
new owner of Cobhurst. Mike was not altogether a negro, having a good
deal of Irish blood in his veins, and this conjunction of the two races
in his individuality had had the effect upon his speech of destroying all
tendency to negro dialect or Irish brogue, so that, in fact, he spoke
like ordinary white people of his grade in life. The effect upon his
character, however, had been somewhat different, and while the vivacity
of the African and that of the Hibernian, in a degree, had neutralized
each other, making him at times almost as phlegmatic as the traditional
Dutchman, he would sometimes exhibit the peculiarities of a Sambo, and
sometimes those of a Paddy.
Mike could give no satisfaction to his questioners; he knew nothing of
the newcomer, except that he had received a postal card, directed to the
man in charge of Cobhurst, and which stated that Mr. Haverley would
arrive there on the fourth of April.
"More'n that," Mike would say, "I don't know nothin'. Whether he's old or
young, and what family he's got, I can't tell ye. All I know is, that he
don't seem in no hurry to see his place, an' he must be a reg'lar city
man, or he'd know that winter's the time to come to work a farm in the
spring of the year."
Other people, however, knew more about Mr. Haverley than Mike did, and
Miss Panney could have informed any one that he was a young man,
unmarried, and a second nephew to old Butterwood. She had faith that Dr.
Tolbridge could give her some additional points, provided she could get
an opportunity of properly questioning him.
Meanwhile the days passed on; the roads about Thorbury dried up and grew
better; in low, sheltered places, the grass showed a greenish hue; the
willows turned yellow, and people began to ponder over the catalogues of
seed merchants. At last, it was the third of April, and on that day, in
a large bright room of a New York boarding-house, kneeling in front of an
open trunk, were Mr. Ralph Haverley and his sister Miriam.
Presently Miriam, whose years had not yet reached fifteen, vigorously
pushed a pair of slippers into an unoccupied crevice in the trunk, and
then, drawing back, seated herself on a stool.
"The delightful thing about this packing is," she said, "that it will
never have to be done again. I am not going to any school, or any country
place to board; you are not going to a hotel, not to any house kept by
other people; our things do not have to be packed separately; we can put
them in anywhere where they will fit; we are both going to the same
place; we are going home, and there we shall stay."
"Always?" asked her brother, looking up with a smile.
"Always," answered Miriam. "When one gets a home, one stays there. At
least I do."
"And you will not even go away to school?" he asked.
"By no means," said his sister, looking at him with much earnestness. "I
have been to school ever since I was six years old,--nearly nine
years,--and I positively declare that that is long enough for any girl.
Others stay later, but then they do not begin so soon. As to finishing my
education, as they call it, I shall do that at home. What a happy
thought! It makes me want to skip. And you are to be my teacher, Ralph. I
am sure you know everything that I shall need to know."
"I suppose you will examine me to see what I do know," he said, as he
folded a heavy overcoat and laid it in the trunk.
Miriam sprang up and began to collect more of her effects.
"We shall see about that," she said, and then, suddenly stopping, she
turned toward her brother. "There is one thing, Ralph, about which I need
not examine you at all, and that is goodness of heart. If you had not had
a very good heart indeed, you would not have waited and waited and
waited--fairly pinching yourself, I expect--till I could get away from
school and we could both go together and look at our new home in the very
Ralph Haverley was a brown-haired, bright-eyed young fellow under thirty.
He had been educated for a profession, but the death of his parents,
before he reached his majority, made it necessary for him to go to work
at something by which he could immediately earn money enough to support
not only himself, but his little sister. At his father's death, which
occurred a month or two after that of his mother, young Haverley found
that the family resources, which had never been great, had almost
entirely disappeared. He could barely scrape together enough money to
send Miriam to a boarding-school and to keep himself alive until he could
get work. He had spent a great part of his boyhood in the country. His
tastes and disposition inclined him to an out-door life, and, had he been
able, he would have gone to the West, and established himself upon a
ranch. But this was impossible; he must do the work that was nearest at
hand, and as soon as he found it, he set himself at it with a will.
For eight long years he had struggled and labored; changing his
occupation several times, but always living in the city; always making
his home in a boardinghouse or a hotel. His pluck and energy had had its
reward, and for the past three years he had held a responsible and
well-paid position in a mercantile house. But his life and his work had
for him nothing but a passing interest; he had no sympathy with bonded
warehouses, invoices, and ledgers. All he could look forward to was a
higher position, a larger salary, and, when Miriam should graduate, a
little home somewhere where she could keep house for him. In his dreams
of this home, he would sometimes place it in the suburbs, where Sundays
and holidays spent in country air would compensate for hasty breakfasts,
early morning trains, and late ones in the afternoon. But when he
reflected that it would not do to leave his young sister alone all day in
a thinly settled, rural place, at the mercy of tramps, he was forced to
the conclusion that the thing for them to do was to live in a city
apartment. But there was nothing in either of these outlooks to create
fervent longings in the soul of Ralph Haverley.
For some legal reason, probably connected with the fact that old
Butterwood died at a health resort in Arkansas, Haverley did not learn
until late in the winter that his mother's uncle had left to him the
estate of Cobhurst. The reason for this bequest, as stated in the will,
was the old man's belief that the said Ralph Haverley was the only one of
his blood relations who seemed to be getting on in the world, and to him
he left the house, farm, and all the personal property he might find
therein and thereon, but not one cent of money. Where the testator's
money was bestowed, Ralph did not know, for he did not see the will.
When Ralph heard of his good fortune, his true life seemed to open before
him; his Butterwood blood boiled in his veins. He did not hesitate a
moment as to his course, for he was of the opinion that if a healthy
young man could not make a living out of a good farm he did not deserve
to live at all. He gave immediate notice of his intention to abandon
mercantile life, and set himself to work by day and by night to wind up
his business affairs, so that he might be free by the beginning of April.
It was this work which helped him to control his desire to run off and
take a look at Cobhurst without waiting for his sister.
Of the place which was to be their home, Miriam knew absolutely nothing,
but Ralph had heard his mother talk about her visits to her uncle, and,
in his mind, the name Cobhurst had always called up visions of wide halls
and lofty chambers, broad piazzas, sunny slopes and lawns, green meadows,
and avenues bordered with tall trees--a grand estate in fact, with woods
full of nuts, streams where a boy could fish, and horses that he might
ride. Had these ideas existed in Miriam's mind, the brother and sister
would have visited Cobhurst the day after he brought her the letter from
the lawyer; but her conceptions of the place were vague and without form,
except when she associated it with the homes of girls she had visited.
But as none of these suited her very well, she preferred to fall back
upon chaotic anticipation.
"When I think of Cobhurst," she wrote to her brother, "I smell marigolds,
and think of rather poor blackberries that you pick from bushes. Please
do not put in your letters anything that you know about it, for I would
rather see everything for myself."
It was late in the afternoon when Ralph and Miriam Haverley alighted at
the station at Thorbury. Miss Dora Bannister, who had come down to see a
friend off, noticed the two standing on the platform. She did not know
who they were, but she thought the one to be a very handsome young man,
and the other a nice-looking girl who seemed to be all eyes.
"What a queer-looking colored man!" said Miriam. "He looks mashed on
The person alluded to was getting down from a wagon drawn by a mournful
horse, and now approached the platform.
"Is you Mr. Hav'ley, sir?" he said, touching his hat. "Thought so; I'm
the man in charge o' yer place. Got any baggage, sir?"
On being informed that the travellers had brought three trunks with them,
and that some boxes would be expected on the morrow, Mike, who with his
worn felt hat pressed flat upon his head, might give one the idea of a
bottle with the cork driven in, stood for a moment in thought.
"I can take one trunk," he said, "the one ye will want the most tonight,
and ye'd better have the others hauled over tomorrow with the boxes. Ye
can both go in the wagon, if ye like. The seat can be pushed back, and I
can sit on the trunk myself, or ye can hire a kerridge."
"Of course we will take a cab," said Ralph. "How far is it to Cobhurst?"
"Well, some says three miles, and some says four. It depends a good deal
on the roads. They're pretty good today."
Having engaged the services of a country cabman, who declared that he
had known Cobhurst ever since he was born, and having arranged for
the transfer of their goods the next day, the Haverleys rattled out
of the town.
"Now," said Miriam, "we are truly going home, and I do not remember ever
doing that before. And, Ralph," she continued, after gazing right and
left from the cab windows, "one of the first things we ought to do is to
get a new man to take charge of the place. That person isn't fit. I never
saw such slouchy clothes."
Ralph laughed. "I am the man who is to have charge of the place," he
said. "What do you think of my clothes?"
Miriam gave a little pull at his hair for reply. "And there is another
thing," she continued. "If that is our horse and wagon, don't you really
think that we ought to sell them? They are awful."
"Don't be in a hurry," said Ralph. "We shall soon find out whether we own
the horse or not. He may belong to the man. He's not a bad one, either.
See, he is passing us now with that big trunk in the wagon."
"Passing us!" exclaimed Miriam. "Almost any horse could do that. Did you
ever see such an old poke as we have, and such a bouncy, jolting
rattletrap of a carriage? It squeaks all over."
"Alas," said Ralph, "I am thinking of something worse than jolts or
squeaks. I am hungry, and I am sure you must be, and I don't see what we
are going to do about supper. I am afraid I am not a very good manager,
yet. I had an idea that Cobhurst was not so far from the station, and
that we could go over and look at the house, and come back to a hotel and
stay there for the night; but now I see it will be dark before we get
there, and we shall not feel like turning round and going directly back.
Perhaps it would be better to turn now."
"Turn back, when we are going to our home!" cried Miriam. "How can you
think of such a thing, Ralph? And you needn't suppose that neither of us
is a good manager. I am housekeeper now, and I did not forget that we
shall need our supper. I have it all there in my bag, and I shall cook
it as soon as we reach the house. Of course I knew that we could not
expect anything to eat in a place with only a man to take care of it."
"What in the world have you?" asked Ralph, much amused.
"I have four breakfast rolls," she said, "six mutton chops, a package of
ground coffee, another of tea, a pound of sugar, and a good big piece of
gingerbread. I am sorry I couldn't bring any butter, but I was afraid
that might melt in a warm car, and run over everything. As for milk, we
shall have to make up our minds to do without that for one meal. I got up
early this morning, and went out and bought all these things."
Ralph was on the point of saying, "What are we going to have for
breakfast?" But he would not trouble his sister's mind with any such
"You are a good little housewife," said he; "I wish we were there, and
sitting down at the table--if there is any table."
"I have thought it all out," said Miriam, "if it is one of those large
farm-houses, with a big kitchen, where the family eat and spend their
evening, we shall eat there, too, this once. You shall build a fire,
and I'll have the coffee made in no time. There must be a coffee-pot,
or a tin cup, or something to boil in. The chops can be broiled over
"On what?" asked Ralph.
"You can get a pointed stick and toast them, if there is no other way,
sir. And you need not make fun of my supper; the chops are very nice
ones, and I have wrapped them up in oiled silk, so that they will not
grease the other things."
"Oh, don't talk any more about them," exclaimed Ralph. "It makes me too
"If it is a cottage," remarked Miriam, looking reflectively out of the
window, "I cannot get it out of mind that there will be all sorts of
kitchen things hanging around the old-fashioned fireplace. That would be
very nice and convenient, but--"
"You hope it is not a cottage?" said her brother.
"Well," answered Miriam, presently, "home is home, and I made up my mind
to be perfectly satisfied with it whatever kind of house it may be. It
seems to me that a real home ought to be like parents and relations;
we've got them, and we can't change them, and we never think of such a
thing. We love them quite as they are. But I cannot help hoping, just a
little, that it is not a cottage. The only ones I have ever been in smelt
so much of soapsuds."
It was now quite dark, and the road appeared to be growing rougher. Every
now and then they jolted over a big stone, or sunk into a deep rut. Ralph
let down the front window.
"Are we nearly there?" he asked of the driver.
"Yes, sir," said the man; "we are on the place now."
"You don't mean," exclaimed Miriam, "that this is our road!"
"It's a good deal washed just here," said the man, "by the heavy rains."
Presently the road became smoother and in a few minutes the
"I am trembling all over," said Miriam, "with thinking of being at home,
and with not an idea of what it is like."
In a moment they were standing on a broad flagstone. Although it was
dark, they could see the outline of the house before them.
"Ralph," whispered Miriam, drawing close to her brother, "it is not a
cottage." Without waiting for a reply she went on: "Ralph," she said, her
hands trembling as they held his arm, "it is lordly."
"I had some sort of an idea like that myself," he answered; "but, my
dear, don't you think it will be well to keep this man until we go inside
and see what sort of accommodations we shall find? Perhaps we may be
obliged to go back to the town."
Miriam immediately began to ascend the broad steps of the piazza.
"Come on, Ralph," she said, "and please don't talk like that."
Her brother laughed, paid the driver and dismissed him.
"Now, little girl," he cried, "we have burned our ships, and must take
what we shall find."
"Oh, Ralph," cried Miriam, "I couldn't have gone back. If there are
floors to the rooms, they will do to sleep on for to-night."
At this moment a wide front door opened, revealing a colored woman
holding a lamp.
"Good evenin'," said she; "walk in."
When Ralph and Miriam had entered, the woman looked out the open door.
"Is you all?" she asked.
"Oh, yes," said Ralph.
The woman hesitated a moment, looked out again, and then closed the door.
"Would you like to go to your rooms afore supper?" she asked.
The brother and sister were so absorbed in gazing about them, that they
did not hear the question. The lamp, still in the woman's hand, gave a
poor and vacillating light, but they could see a wide, long hall, tall
doors opening on each side, some high-backed chairs, and other
"Yer rooms is ready," continued the woman; "ye can take yer pick of them.
Supper'll be on the table the minute ye come down. Ye'd better take this
lamp, sir, and thar's another one in the upper hall. I expect ye two is
brother and sister. Ye're alike as two pins of different sizes."
"You're right," said Ralph, holding up the lamp, and looking about him;
"but please tell me, where are the stairs?"
"Oh, yer open that glass door right in front of ye," said the woman. "I'd
go with yer, but I smell somethin' bilin' over now."
Opening the glass door, they saw before them a narrow staircase in
"Stairs shut up in a room of their own," said Ralph, as they ascended.
"Did you ever see anything like this before?"
"I never saw anything like anything before," said Miriam, in a low,
On the floor above they found another wide hall, and four or five
"There is your lamp," said Ralph to his sister; "take the first room you
come to, and to-morrow we will pick and choose."
"Who would have thought," said Miriam, "that a woman--"
"Don't let us think or talk of her now," interrupted her brother. "To
hurry down to supper is our present business."
When the two went downstairs, they found the colored woman standing by an
open door in the rear of the hall.
"Supper's ready, sir," said she, and they entered the dining-room.
It was a large and rather sparely furnished room, but Miriam and Ralph
took no note of anything except the table, which stood in the middle of
the floor, lighted by a hanging lamp. It was a large table and arranged
for eight people with chairs at every place. The woman gave a little
laugh, as she said:--
"I reckon you all may think this is a pretty big table for two people,
an' one not growed up, but you see I didn't know nothin' about the size
of the family, an' Mike he didn't know nothin' either. I'm Phoebe, Mike's
wife, an' I ain't got nothin' in the world to do with this house, for
mostly I go out to service in the town, but I'm here now; and of course
we didn't want you all to come an' find nothin' to eat, an' no beds made,
an' as you didn't write no orders, sir, we had just to do the best we
could accordin' to our own lights. I reckoned there would be the gem'en
and his wife, an' perhaps two growed-up sons, though Mike, he was
doubtful about the growed-up sons, especially as to thar bein' two of
them. Then I reckoned thar'd be a darter, just about your age, Miss, an'
then there'd be two younger chillen, one a boy an' one a girl, an' a
gov'ness for these two. Of course I didn't know whether the gov'ness was
in the habit of eatin' at your table or not, but I reckoned that this
time, comin' so late, you'd all eat at the same table, an' I put a plate
an' a cheer for her. An' Mike went ter town, an' got groc'ries an' things
enough for to-night and tomorrow, an' as everything was ready I just left
everything as it was. I reckoned you wouldn't want ter wait until I'd sot
the whole table over again."
"By no means," cried Ralph, and down they sat, Ralph at one end of the
long table, and Miriam at the other. It was a good supper; beefsteak, an
omelet, hot rolls, fried potatoes, coffee, tea, preserved fruit, and all
on the scale suited to a family of eight.
When Phoebe had retired to the kitchen, presumably for additional
supplies, Miriam stretched her arms over the table.
"Think of it, Ralph," she said, "this is our supper. The first meal we
ever truly owned."
They had not been long at the table when they were startled by the loud
ringing of the door-bell.
"'Pon my word," ejaculated Phoebe, "it's a long time since that bell's
been rung," and getting down a plate of hotter biscuit, with which she
had been offering temptations, she left the room. Presently she returned,
ushering in Dr. Tolbridge.
Briefly introducing himself, the doctor welcomed the brother and sister
to the neighborhood of Thorbury, and apologized for the extreme
promptness of his call.
"I heard you had arrived," he said, "from a hackman I met on the road,
and having made a visit near by I thought I would look in on you. It
might be days before I should again have a chance. But don't let me
disturb your supper; I beg that you will sit down again."
"And I beg you, sir," said Ralph, "to sit down with us."
"Well," said the doctor, smiling, "I am hungry, and my own supper-time is
passed. You seem to have plenty of room for a guest."
"Oh, yes, indeed, sir," said Miriam, who had already taken a fancy to the
doctor's genial face. "Phoebe thought we were a large family, and you can
take the seat of one of the grown-up sons, or the daughter's chair, or
the place that was intended for either the little boy or little girl, or
perhaps you would like the governess' seat."
At this Phoebe turned her face to the wall and giggled.
"A fine imagination," said the doctor, "and what is better, a bountiful
meal. Please consider me, for the present, the smallest boy, who might
naturally be supposed to have the biggest appetite."
"It would have been funnier," said Miriam, gravely, "if you had been the
The supper was a lively one; the three appetites were excellent; the
doctor was in his jolliest mood, and Ralph and Miriam were delighted with
him. On his part, he could not help looking upon it in the light of a
joke--an agreeable one, however--that these two young people, one of them
a mere child, should constitute the new Cobhurst family. He had known
that the property had gone to an unmarried man who was in business, and
had not thought of his coming here to live.
"And now," said the doctor, as they rose from the table, "I must go. My
wife will call on you very soon, and in the meantime, what is there that
I can do for you?"
"I think," answered Miriam, looking about her to see that Phoebe was not
in the room, "that it would be very nice if you could get us a new man.
We like the woman well enough, but the man is awful."
The doctor looked at her, astonished.
"Do you mean Mike?" he asked, "the faithful Mike, who has been in charge
here ever since Mr. Butterwood took to travelling about for the good of
his rheumatisms? Why, my dear young lady, the whole country looks upon
Mike as a pattern man-of-all-work. He may be getting a little cranky and
independent in his notions, for he has been pretty much his own master
for years, but I am sure you could find no one to take his place who
would be more trustworthy or so generally useful."
Ralph was about to explain that it was only the appearance of the man to
which his sister objected, but she spoke for herself.
"Of course, we oughtn't always to judge people by their looks," she said,
"but in my thoughts about our home, I never connected it with such a very
shabby person. But then, if he is an old family servant, he may be the
very kind of a man the place needs."
"Oh, I advise you to stick to Mike, by all means," said the doctor, "and
to Phoebe, too, if she will stay with you. But I think she prefers the
town to this somewhat secluded place."
"A good omen," said Ralph, as he closed the door after the doctor. "As a
neighbor, I believe that man is at the head of his class, and I am very
glad that he happened to be the first one who came to see us."
"Well," said Miriam, "we haven't seen the others yet, and I am glad that
we don't know whether this doctor is homeopathic or allopathic, so that
we can get started in liking him before we know whether we approve of his
medicines or not."
"Upon my word," cried Ralph, "I never knew that you had opinions about
the different medical schools. Did they teach you that sort of thing at
"I suppose I can have opinions without having them taught to me, can't
I?" she answered. "I saw a lot of sickness among the girls, and I am
"Stuff," exclaimed Ralph, "I don't believe you ever took any medicine in
"I have not taken much," answered Miriam, "but I have taken enough to
settle it in my mind that I am never going to take any more of the
"And they were not little sugar pills?"
"No, indeed they were not," said Miriam, very decidedly.
"I've made a fire in the parlor," said Phoebe, coming in, "if you all
want to sit there afore you go to bed."
"I don't want to sit anywhere," cried Miriam, "and I am crazy to get a
peep out of doors. Come on, Ralph, just for a minute."
Ralph followed her out on the piazza.
"It's awfully dark," said Miriam, "but if we walk carefully, I think we
can get far enough away from the house to look up at it, and find out a
little what it looks like."
They groped their way across the driveway, and on to the grass beyond.
"We can see a good deal of it against the sky!" exclaimed Miriam. "What
tall pillars! It looks like a Greek temple in front. And from what I can
make out, it's pretty much all front."
"I suppose it is a regular old-fashioned house," said her brother,
"with a Grecian portico front, and perhaps another at the back. But you
must come in now, for you have on neither hat nor wrap." And he took
her by the hand.
"It isn't cold," said Miriam, "and oh, Ralph, look up at the stars. Those
are our stars, every one of them."
Ralph laughed, as he led her into the house.
"Yes, indeed," she insisted, "we own all the way down, and all the way
"Now then," said Miriam, when they had closed the door behind them, "how
shall we explore the house? Shall we each take a lamp, or will candles
"Little girl!" exclaimed her brother, "I had no idea that you were such a
bunch of watch springs. It is nearly nine o'clock, and after the day's
work that you have done, it is time you were in bed. House exploring can
be done to-morrow."
"Yes, indeed, Miss," said Phoebe, who stood by, anxious to shut up the
house and retire to her own domicile, "and I will go up into your room
with you and show you about things."
Half an hour after this, Miriam came out of her bedroom, holding a bit of
lighted candle in her hand. She was dressed, with the exception of her
shoes. Softly she advanced to the foot of the stairs which led to the
"They are partly my stairs," she said to herself, as she paused for a
moment at the bottom of the step. "Ralph told me that he considered the
place as much mine as his, and I have a right to go up. I cannot go to
sleep without seeing what is up here. I never imagined such a third floor
as this one."
In less than a minute, Miriam was slowly creeping along the next floor of
the house, which was indeed an odd one. For it was nothing more than a
gallery, broader at the ends than the sides, with a railed open space,
through which one could look down to the floor below. Some of the doors
were open and she peeped into the rooms, but saw nothing which induced
her to enter them. Having made the circuit of the gallery, she reached a
narrow staircase which wound still higher upward.
"I must go up," she said; "I cannot help it."
Arrived at the top of these stairs, Miriam held up her candle and looked
about her. She was in a great, wide, magnificent, glorious garret! Her
soul swelled. To own such a garret was almost too much joy! It was the
realization of a thousand dreams.
Slowly advancing, she beheld fascinations on every side. Here were old
trunks, doubtless filled with family antiquities; there was a door
fastened with a chain and a padlock--there must be a key to that, or the
lock could be broken; in the dim light at the other end of the garret,
she could see what appeared to be a piled-up collection of boxes, chests,
cases, little and big, and all sorts of old-fashioned articles of use and
ornament, doubtless every one of them a treasure. A long musket, its
stock upon the floor, reclined against a little trunk covered with
horse-hair, from under the lid of which protruded the ends of some dusty
"Oh, how I wish Ralph were here, and that we had a lamp. I could spend
the night here, looking at everything; but I can't do it now with this
little candle end."
At her feet was a wooden box, the lid of which was evidently unfastened,
for it lay at an angle across the top.
"I will look into this one box," she said, "and then I will go down."
She knelt down, and with the candle in her right hand, pushed aside the
lid with her left. From the box there grinned at her a human skull,
surrounded by its bones. She started back.
"Uncle Butterwood," she gasped and tried to rise, but her strength and
senses left her, and she fell over unconscious, upon the floor. The
candle dropped from her hand, and, fortunately, went out.
About ten o'clock the next morning, Mike, in his little wagon, rattled up
to the door of Dr. Tolbridge.
The doctor was not at home, but his wife came out.
"That young girl!" she exclaimed. "Why, what can be the matter with her?"
"I dunno, ma'am," answered Mike. "Phoebe told me just as the wagon got
there with the boxes an' trunks, an' nobody but me to help the man
upstairs with 'em, an' said I must get away to the doctor's jes' as fast
as I could drive. She said somethin' about her sleepin' in the garret and
ketchin' cold, but she wouldn't let me stop to ax no questions. She said
the doctor was wanted straight off."
"I am very sorry," said Mrs. Tolbridge, "that he is not here, but he
said he was going to stop and see Miss Panney. I can't tell you any
other place to which he was going. If you drive back by the Witton road,
you may find him, or, if he has not yet arrived, it might be well to
wait for him."
Arrived at the Witton house, Mike saw Miss Panney, wrapped in a heavy
shawl and wearing a hood, taking her morning exercise on the piazza.
"They want the doctor already!" she exclaimed in answer to Mike's
inquiries. "Who could have thought that? And he left here nearly half
an hour ago. His wife will send him when he gets home, but there is no
knowing when that will be. However, she must have somebody to attend
to her. Mike, I will go myself. I will go with you in your wagon. Wait
Into the house popped Miss Panney, and in a very short time returned,
carrying with her an umbrella and a large reticule made of brown plush,
and adorned with her monogram in yellow. One of the Witton girls came
with her, and assisted her to the seat, by the side of Mike.
"Now then," said she, "get along as fast as you can. I shall not mind
"Phoebe," said Miss Panney, as she entered the Cobhurst door, "it's a
long time since I have seen you, and I have not been in this house for
eight years. I hope you will be able to tell me something about this
sudden sickness, for Mike is as stupid as a stone post, and knows
nothing at all."
"Now, Miss Panney," said Phoebe, speaking very earnestly, but in a low
voice, "I can't say that I can really give you the true head and tail of
it, for it's mighty hard to find out what did happen to that young gal.
All I know is that she didn't come down to breakfast, and that Mr.
Haverley went up to her room hisself, and he knocked and he knocked, and
then he pushed the door open and went in, and, bless my soul, Miss
Panney, she wasn't there. Then he hollered, and me and him, we sarched
and sarched the house. He went up into the garret by hisself, for you may
be sure I wouldn't go there, but he was just wild, and didn't care where
he went, and there he found her dead asleep on the floor, and a livin'
skeleton a sittin' watchin' her."
"Nonsense!" exclaimed Miss Panney; "he never told you that."
"That's the pint of what I got out of him, and you know, Miss Panney,
that that garret's hanted."
Miss Panney wasted no words in attempting to disprove this assertion.
"He found her asleep on the floor?" said she.
"Yes, Miss Panney," answered Phoebe, "dead asleep, or more likely, to my
mind, in a dead faint, among all the drafts and chills of that garret,
and in her stockin' feet. She had tuk up a candle with her, but I'spect
the skeleton blowed it out. And now she's got an awful cold, so she can
scarcely breathe, and a fever hot enough to roast an egg."
At this moment Ralph appeared in the hall. The visitor immediately went
up to him.
"Mr. Haverley, I suppose. I am Miss Panney. I am a neighbor, and I came
to see if I could do anything for your sister before the doctor arrives.
I am a good nurse, and know all about sicknesses;" and she explained why
she had come and the doctor had not.
When Miriam turned her head and saw the black eyes of Miss Panney gazing
down upon her, she pushed herself back in the bed, and exclaimed,--
"Are you his wife?"
"No, indeed," said Miss Panney, "I wouldn't marry him for a thousand
pounds. I am your nurse. I am going to give you something nice to make
you feel better. Put your hand in mine. There, that will do. Keep
yourself covered up, even if you are a little warm, and I will come back
presently with the nicest kind of a cup of tea."
"It's a cold and a fever," she said to Ralph, outside the chamber door.
"The commonest thing in the world. But I'll make her a hot drink that
will do her more good than anything else that could be given her, and
when the doctor comes, he'll tell you so. He knows me, and what I can do
for sick people. I brought everything that's needed in my bag, and I am
going down to the kitchen myself. But how in the world did she come to
stay on the garret floor all night? She couldn't have been in a swoon all
"No," answered Ralph; "she told me she came to her senses, she didn't
know when, but that everything was pitch dark about her, and feeling
dreadfully tired and weak, she put her head down on her arm, and tried
to think why she was lying on such a hard floor, and then she must
have dropped into the heavy sleep in which I found her. She was tired
out with her journey and the excitement. Do you think she is in danger,
"Don't believe it," said the old lady. "She looks strong, and these young
things get well before you know it."
"Now, my young lady," said Miss Panney, as she stood by Miriam's bedside,
with a steaming bowl, "you may drink the whole of this, but you mustn't
ask me for any more, and then you may go to sleep, and to-morrow morning
you can get up and skip around and see what sort of a place Cobhurst is
"I can't wait until to-morrow for that," said Miriam, "and is that tea or
"It's both, my dear; sit up and drink it off."
Miriam still eyed the bowl. "Is it homeopathic or allopathic?" she asked.
"Neither the one or the other," was the discreet reply; "it is
Panneyopathic, and just the thing for a girl who wants to get out of bed
as soon as she can."
Miriam looked full into the bright black eyes, and then took the bowl,
and drank every drop of the contents.
"Thank you," she said. "It is perfectly horrid, but I must get up."
"Now you take a good long nap, and then I hope you will feel quite able
to go down and begin to keep house for your brother."
"The first thing to do," said Miriam, as Miss Panney carefully adjusted
the bedclothes about her shoulders, "is to see what sort a house we have
got, and then I will know how I am to keep it."
When her young patient had dropped asleep, Miss Panney went downstairs.
In the lower hall she found Ralph walking up and down.
"There is no earthly need of your worrying yourself about your sister. I
am sure the doctor would say she is in no danger at all," said the old
lady. "And now, if you don't mind, I would like very much to go up into
the garret and see what frightened your sister."
"It was apparently a box of human bones," he said, "but I barely glanced
at it. You are perfectly welcome to go up and examine."
It was a quarter of an hour before Miss Panney came down from the
"I studied anatomy on those bones," she said. "Every one of them is
marked in ink with its name. I had forgotten all about them. Mathias'
brother Reuben was a scientific man, and he used the skeleton. That is,
he studied all sorts of things, though he never did anything worth
notice. I took a look round the garret," she continued, "and I tell you,
sir, that if you care anything for family relics and records, you have
them to your heart's content. I expect there are things up there that
have not been touched for fifty years."
"I should suppose," said Ralph, "that the servants of the house would
have had some curiosity about such objects, if no one else had."
Miss Panney laughed.
"There hasn't been a servant in that garret for many a long year," said
she. "You evidently don't know that this house is considered haunted,
particularly the garret; and I suppose that box of bones had a good deal
to do with the notion."
"Well," said Ralph, "no doubt the ghosts have been a great protection to
our family treasures."
"And to your whole house," said the old lady; "watch-dogs would be
nothing to them."
Miss Panney and Ralph ate dinner together. The old lady would not leave
until the doctor had come; and the conversation was an education to young
Haverley in regard to the Butterwood family and the Thorbury
neighborhood. At the conclusion of the meal, Phoebe came into the room.
"I went upstairs to see how she was gettin' on, sir," she said; "an' she
was awake, an' she made me get a pencil an' paper out of her bag, an' she
sent you this note."
On a half-sheet of note-paper, he read the following: "Dear Ralph, I went
upstairs and looked at the third floor and a good deal of the garret,
without you being with me. I really want to be perfectly fair, and so you
must not stop altogether from looking at things until I am able to go
with you. I think good things to look at by yourself would be stables and
barnyards, and the lower part of barns. Please do not go into haylofts,
nor into the chicken-yard, if there is one. You might keep your eyes on
the ground until you get to these places and then look up. If there are
horses and cows, don't tell me anything about them when you see me.
Don't tell me anything. I think I shall be well to-morrow, perhaps
Ralph laughed heartily, and read the note aloud.
"I should say," said Miss Panney, "that that girl has a good deal more
conscience than fever. She ought to have slept longer, but as she is
awake I will go up and take a look at her; while you can blindfold
yourself, if you like, and go out to the barns."
The doctor did not arrive until late in the afternoon, and it was
nearly half an hour after he had gone up to his patient before he
reported to Ralph.
"She is all right," said he, "but I am not."
The young man looked puzzled.
"By which I mean," continued the other, "that Miss Panney's concoction
and the girl's vigorous young nature have thrown off the effects of her
nap in the haunted garret, and that I am an allopathist, whereas I ought
to be a homeopathist. The young lady and I have had a long conversation
on that subject and others. I find that she is a Nonconformist."
"What?" asked Ralph.
"I use the word in its political and social, as well as its religious
meaning. That is a sister worth taking care of, sir. Lock her up in her
room, if she inclines to any more midnight wanderings."
"And now, having finished with the young patient," said Miss Panney, who
was waiting with her bonnet and shawl on, "you can take up an old one,
and I will get you to drive me home on your way back to Thorbury."
The doctor had been very much interested in Miriam, and talked about
her to Miss Panney as he drove her to the Witton house, which, by the
way, was a mile and a half out of his direct road. The old lady
listened with interest, but did not wish to listen very much; she
wished to talk of Ralph.
"I like him," she said; "he has pluck. I have had a good deal of talk
with him, and he told me frankly that he could not afford to put money
into the place and farm it as it ought to be farmed. But he was born a
country man, and he has the heart of a country man; and he is going to
see if he can make a living out of it for himself and his sister."
"Which may result," said the doctor, "in his becoming a mere farm laborer
and putting an end to his sister's education."
"Nonsense!" exclaimed the old lady. "Young fellows--college men--go out
on ranches in the West and do that sort of thing, and it lowers them in
nobody's estimation. Let young Haverley call his farm a ranch and rough
it. It would be the same thing. I've backed him up strongly. It's a manly
choice of a manly life. As for his sister, she has been so long at school
that it will do her more good to stop than to go on."
"It will be hard scratching," said the doctor, "to get a living out of
Cobhurst, and I hope these young people will not come to grief while they
are making the experiment."
Miss Panney smiled without looking at her companion.
"Don't be afraid of that," she said presently; "I have pretty good
reason to think that he will get on well enough."
That evening Miriam sat up in bed with a shawl about her shoulders and
discoursed to her brother.
"Now, Ralph," said she, "you must have seen a lot of things about our
place, because, when I came to think of it, it was plain enough that you
couldn't help it. I am crazy to see what you saw, but you mustn't tell me
anything except what I ask you. Please be particular about that."
"Go on," said Ralph. "You shall not have a word more or less than
"Well, then, is your bed comfortable?"
"Perfectly," he answered.
"And have you pillows enough?"
"More than I want," said Ralph.
"And are the doors and windows all fastened and locked downstairs?"
He laughed. "You needn't bother yourself about that sort of thing. I will
attend to the locking up."
She slightly knitted her brows in reflection. "Now then, Ralph," said
she, "I am coming to it, and mind, not a word more than I ask for. Have
we any horses?"
"We have," he replied.
Miriam clasped her hands and looked at her brother with sparkling eyes.
"Oh!" she exclaimed, "four horses!"
"Two of them," he began, but she stopped him in an instant.
"Don't tell me another thing," she cried; "I don't want to know what
color they are, or anything about them. To-morrow I shall see them for
myself. Oh, Ralph, isn't it perfectly wonderful that we should have four
horses? I can't stand anything more just now, so please kiss me
About an hour afterwards Ralph was awakened by a knock at his door.
"Who is there?" he cried.
The door opened a very little way.
"Ralph," said Miriam, through the crack, "is there one of our horses
which can be ridden by a lady?"
Ralph's first impulse was to throw a pillow at the door, but he
remembered that sisters were different from fellows at school.
"Can't say anything about that until we try," said he; "and now, Miriam,
please go to bed and to sleep."
Miriam shut the door and went away, but in her dreams she rode a prancing
charger into Miss Stone's schoolyard, and afterwards drove all the girls
in a tally-ho.
MRS. TOLBRIDGE'S CALLERS
The next day was a very fine one, and as the roads were now good, and the
air mild, Miss Panney thought it was quite time that she should begin to
go about and see her friends without depending on the vehicles of other
people, so she ordered her little phaeton and her old roan mare, and
drove herself to Thorbury to see Mrs. Tolbridge.
"The doctor tells me," said that good lady, "that you take great interest
in those young people at Cobhurst."
"Indeed I do," said Miss Panney, sitting up as straight in her easy chair
as if it had been a wooden bench with no back; "I have been thinking
about him all the morning. He ought to be married."
Mrs. Tolbridge laughed.
"Dear me, Miss Panney," said she, "it is too soon to begin thinking of a
wife for the poor fellow. He has not had time to feel himself at home."
"My motto is that it is never too soon to begin, but we won't talk about
that. Kitty, you are the worst matchmaker I ever saw."
"I think I made a pretty good match for myself," said the other.
"No, you didn't. The doctor made that, and I helped. You had nothing to
do with the preliminary work, which is really the most important."
Mrs. Tolbridge smiled. "I am sure I am very much obliged," she said.
"You ought to be. And now while we are on the subject, let me ask you:
Have you a new cook?"
"I have," replied the other, "but she is worse than the last one."
Miss Panney rose to her feet, and walked across the room.
"Kitty Tolbridge!" she exclaimed, "this is too bad. You're trifling
with the greatest treasure a woman can have on this earth--the life of a
"But what am I to do?" asked Mrs. Tolbridge. "I have tried everywhere,
and I can get no one better."
"Everywhere," repeated Miss Panney. "You mean everywhere in Thorbury. You
oughtn't to expect to get a decent cook in this little town. You should
go to the city and get one. What you want is to keep the doctor well, no
matter what it costs. He doesn't look well, and I don't see how he can be
well, on the kind of cooking you can get in Thorbury."
Mrs. Tolbridge flushed a little.
"I am sure," she said, "that Thorbury people, for generations and
generations, have lived on Thorbury cooking, and they have been just as
healthy as any other people."
"Ah, Kitty, Kitty!" exclaimed the old lady, "you forget how things have
changed. In times gone by the ladies of the household superintended all
the cooking, and did a good deal of it besides; and they brought
something into the kitchen that seldom gets into it now, and that is
brains. A cook with a complete set of brains might be pretty hard to get,
and would cost a good deal of money. But it is your duty, Kitty, to get
as good a one as you can. If she has only a tea-cup full of brains, it
will be better than none at all. Don't mind the cost. If you have to do
it, spend more on cooking, and less on raw material."
This was all Miss Panney had to say on the subject, and shortly
After brief stops at the post-office and one or two shops, she drove to
the abode of the Bannisters. Miss Panney tied her roan to the
hitching-post by the sidewalk, and went up the smooth gravel path to the
handsome old house, which she had so often visited, to confer on her own
affairs and those of the world at large with the father and the
grandfather of the present Bannister, attorney-at-law.
She and the house were all that were left of those old days. Even the
widow was the second wife, who had come into the family while Miss Panney
was away from Thorbury.
Mrs. Bannister was not at home, but Miss Dora was, and that entirely
satisfied the visitor. When the blooming daughter of the house came
hurrying into the parlor, Miss Panney, who had previously raised two of
the window shades, gazed at her earnestly as she saluted her, and nodded
her head approvingly. Then the two sat down to talk.
They talked of several things, and very soon of the Cobhurst people.
"Oh, have you seen them?" exclaimed Dora. "I have, but only for a minute
at the station, and then I didn't know who they were, though I was told
afterward. They seemed to be very nice."
"They are," said Miss Panney. "The girl is bright, and young Mr. Haverley
is an exceedingly agreeable gentleman, just the sort of man who should be
the owner of Cobhurst. He is handsome, well educated, and spirited. I saw
a good deal of him, for I spent the best part of yesterday there. I
should say that your brother would find him a most congenial neighbor.
There are so few young men hereabout who are worth anything."
"That is true," replied Dora, with a degree of earnestness, "and I know
Herbert will be delighted. I am sure he would call if he were here, but
he is away, and doesn't expect to be back for a week."
It crossed Miss Panney's mind that a week's delay in a matter of
this sort would not be considered a breach of courtesy, but she did
not say so.
"It would be friendly if Mrs. Bannister and you were to call on the
sister, before long," she remarked.
"Of course we will do it," said Dora, with animation. "I should think a
young lady would be dreadfully lonely in that great house, at least at
first, and perhaps we can do something for her."
Although Miss Panney had seen Miriam only in bed, she had a strong
conviction that she was not yet a young lady, but this, like the other
reflection, was not put into words.
It was not noon when Miss Panney left the Bannister house, and the mind
of Miss Dora, which had been renewing itself within her with all the
vigor and freshness which Dr. Tolbridge had predicted, was at a loss how
to occupy itself until dinner-time, which, with the Bannisters and most
of the gentlefolk of Thorbury, was at two o'clock.
Dora put on her prettiest hat and her wrap and went out. She wanted to
call on somebody and to talk, and suddenly it struck her that she would
go and inquire about the kitten she had given Dr. Tolbridge, and carry
it a fresh ribbon. She bought the ribbon, and found Mrs. Tolbridge and
the kitten at home.
When the ornament had been properly adjusted, Miss Dora put the kitten
upon the floor and remarked: "Now there is some comfort in doing a thing
like that for Dr. Tolbridge, because he will be sure to notice it. There
are some gentlemen who hardly ever notice things you do for them. Herbert
is often that way."
"Yes, my dear," said Mrs. Tolbridge, who had turned toward a desk at
which she had been writing. "The doctor is a man I can recommend, and I
hope you may get a husband as good as he is. And by the way, if you ever
do get such a one, I also hope you will be able to find some one who will
cook his meals properly. I find that I cannot do that in Thorbury, and I
am going to try to get one in the city. I am now writing an advertisement
which I shall put into several of the papers, and day after to-morrow I
shall go down to see the people who answer."
"Oh, that will be fun," cried Dora; "I wish I could go with you."
"And why not?"
"Why not, indeed?" replied the young lady, and the matter was
"And while we are talking about servants," said Dora, whose ebullient
mind now found a chance to bring in the subject which was most prominent
within it, "I should think that the new people at Cobhurst would find it
troublesome to get the right sort of service."
"Perhaps so," replied Mrs. Tolbridge, "although I have a fancy they are
going to have a very independent household, at least for a time. It is a
great pity that the young girl was taken sick just as she entered into
her new home."
"Sick!" exclaimed Dora; "I never heard of that."
"Oh, it wasn't anything serious," said the other, her thoughts turning
to the advertisement, which she wished to get into the post-office
before dinner, "and I have no doubt she is quite well now, but still it
was a pity."
"Indeed it was!" exclaimed Dora, in tones of the most earnest sympathy
and commiseration. "It was the greatest kind of a pity, and I think I
really ought to call on her very soon." And in this mood she went home
DORA BANNISTER TAKES TIME AND A MARE BY THE FORELOCK
Very early that afternoon Miss Dora Bannister was driven to Cobhurst to
call upon the young lady who had been taken sick, and who ought not to be
neglected by the ladies of Thorbury. Dora had asked her stepmother to
accompany her, but as that good lady seldom made calls, and disliked long
drives, and could not see why it was at all necessary for her to go, Dora
When the open carriage with its pair of handsome grays had bumped over
the rough entrance to the Cobhurst estate, and had drawn up to the front
of the house, Miss Dora skipped lightly out, and rang the door-bell. She
rang twice, and as no one came, and as the front door was wide open, she
stepped inside to see if she could find any one. She had never been in
that great wide hall before, and she was delighted with it, although it
appeared to be in some disorder. Two boxes and a trunk were still
standing where they had been placed when they were brought from the
station. She looked through the open door of the parlor, but there was no
one there, and then she knocked on the door of a closed room.
No answer came, and she went to the back door of the long hall and looked
out, but not a soul could she see. This was discouraging, but she was not
a girl who would willingly turn back, after having set out on an errand
of mercy. There was a door which seemed to lead to the basement, and on
this she knocked, but to no purpose.
"This is an awfully funny house," she said to herself. "If I could see
any stairs, I might go up a little way and call. Surely there must be
somebody alive somewhere." Then the thought suddenly came into her mind
that perhaps want of life in the particular person she had come to see
might be the reason of this dreadful stillness and desertion, and without
a moment's hesitation she stepped out of the back door into the open air.
She could not stay in that house another second until she knew. Surely
there must be some one on the place who could tell her what had happened.
Approaching the gardener's house, she met Phoebe just coming out
of the door.
"Bless my soul!" exclaimed the woman of color. "Is that you, Miss Dora?
Mike hollered to me that a kirridge had come, and I was a-hurryin' up to
the house to see who it was."
"I came to call on Miss Haverley," said Dora. "How is she, Phoebe, and
can I see her?"
"Oh, she's well enough, and you can see her if you can find her; but to
save my soul, Miss Dora, I couldn't tell you where she is at this minute.
You never did in all your life see anybody like that Miss Miriam is. Why,
true as I speak, the very sparrers in the trees isn't as wild as she is.
From sunrise this morning she has been on the steady go. You'd think, to
see her, that the hens and the cows and the colts and even the old apple
trees was all silver and gold and diamonds in her eyes, she takes on so
about 'em. I can't keep up with her, I can't. The last time I see her,
she was goin' into the barn, and I reckon she's thar yit, huntin' hens'
nests. If you like, I'll go look for her, Miss Dora."
Phoebe had often worked for the Bannister family, and Dora knew her to be
one of the slowest movers among mankind; besides, the idea of calling
upon a young lady who was engaged in looking for hens' nests in a barn
was an exceedingly attractive one. It had not been long since Dora had
taken much delight in that sort of thing herself.
"You needn't trouble yourself, Phoebe," she said; "I will walk over to
the barn. I would a great deal rather do that than wait in the house. If
I don't see her there, I will come back and leave our cards."
"You might as well do that," said Phoebe, laughing, "for if she isn't
thar, she's as like as not at the other end of the farm in the field
where the colts is."
The Cobhurst barn was an unusual, and, indeed, a remarkable structure. It
was not as old as the house, although it had been built many years ago by
Mathias Butterwood, in a fashion to suit his own ideas of what a barn
It was an enormous structure, a great deal larger than the house, and
built of stone. It stood against a high bluff, and there was an entrance
on the level to the vast lower story, planned to accommodate Mr.
Butterwood's herd of fine cattle. A little higher up, a wide causeway,
supported by an arch, led into the second story, devoted to horses and
all kinds of vehicles, and still higher, almost on a level with the
house, there was a road, walled on each side, by which the loaded
haywagons could be driven in upon the great third floor of the barn.
When Dora Bannister reached this barn, having followed a path which led
to the lower story, she looked in at an open door, and received the
impression of vast extent, emptiness, and the scent of hay. She entered,
looking about from side to side. At the opposite end of the great room,
was an open door through which the sun shone, and as she approached it,
she heard a voice and the cracking of cornstalks outside.
Standing in the doorway, she looked out, and saw a large barnyard, the
ground near the door covered with fresh straw which seemed to have been
recently strewn there. The yard beyond was a neglected and bad-looking
expanse, into which no young lady would be likely to penetrate, and from
which Dora would have turned away instantly, had she not seen, crossing
it, a young man and a horse.
The young man was leading the horse by its forelock, and was walking
in a sidewise fashion, with his back toward Dora. The horse, a
rough-looking creature, seemed reluctant to approach the barn, and its
leader frequently spoke to it encouragingly, and patted its neck, as
he moved on.
This young man was tall and broad-shouldered. He wore a light soft hat,
which well suited his somewhat curling brown hair. A corduroy suit and
high top boots, in which he strode fearlessly through the debris and
dirt of the yard, gave him, in Dora's eyes, a manly air, and she longed
for him to turn his face toward her, that she might speak to him, and
ask him where she would be apt to find his sister--for of course this
must be Mr. Haverley.
But he did not turn; instead of that he now backed himself toward the
stable door, pulling the horse after him. Dora was pleased to stand and
look at him; his movements struck her as athletic and graceful. He was
now so near that she felt she ought to make her presence known. She
stepped out upon the fresh straw, intending to move a little out of his
way and then accost him, but he spoke first.
"Good," he said; "don't you want to take hold of this mare by the
forelock, as I am doing, and keep her here until I get a halter?" And as
he spoke he turned toward Miss Bannister.
His face was a handsome one, fully equal in quality to his height, his
shoulders, and his grace of movement. His blue eyes opened wide at the
sight of the young lady in gray hat and ostrich plumes, fashionable
driving costume edged with fur, for the spring air was yet cool, and
bright silk parasol, for the spring sun was beginning to be warm. With
almost a stammer, he said:--
"I beg your pardon, I thought it was my sister I heard behind me."
"Oh, it doesn't matter in the least," said Dora, with a charming smile;
"I am Miss Bannister. I live in Thorbury, and I came to call on your
sister. Phoebe told me she thought she was out here, and so I came to
look for her myself. A barn is so charming to me, especially a great one
like this, that I would rather make a call in it than in the house."
"I will go and look for her," said Ralph. "She cannot be far away." And
then he glanced at the horse, as if he were in doubt what to do with it
at this juncture.
"Oh, let me hold your horse," cried Dora, putting down the parasol by the
side of the barn and approaching; "I mean while you go and get its
halter. I am ever so fond of horses, and like to hold them and feed them
and pet them. Is this one gentle?"
"I don't know much about her," said Ralph, laughing, "for we have just
taken possession of the place, and are only beginning to find out what
animals we own, and what they are like. This old mare seems gentle
enough, though rather obstinate. I have just brought her in out of the
fields, where she has been grazing ever since the season opened."
"She looks like a very good horse, indeed," said Dora, patting the
tangled hair on the creature's neck.
"I brought her in," said Ralph, "thinking I might rub her down, and get
her into proper trim for use. My sister is much disappointed to find that
out of our four horses, two are unbroken colts, and one is in constant
use by the man. I think if I can give her a drive, even if it is behind a
jogging old mare, it will set up her spirits again."
"You must let me hold her," said Dora, "while you get the halter, and
then you can tie her, while we go and look for your sister. Don't
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