The Girl at Cobhurst
Frank Richard Stockton
Part 2 out of 6
think of such a thing as letting her go, after all your trouble in
"If I could get her into these stables," said Ralph, "I might shut her
in, but I don't think that I shall be able to pull her through that
doorway in this fashion."
Without further ado, Miss Dora put out her right hand, in its neatly
fitting kid glove, and took hold of the mare's forelock, just above
Ralph's hand. The young man demurred an instant, and then, laughing, ran
into the stable to find a halter. His ownership of everything was so
fresh that he forgot that the lower part of the barn was occupied by the
cow stables--which the old mare did not wish to enter, or even approach.
He hurriedly rummaged here and there among the stalls, finding nothing
but some chains and rope's ends fastened to the mangers, but in his hasty
search he could not help thinking how extremely ingenuous and neighborly
was that handsome girl outside.
Dora held firmly the forelock of the mare, and patted the good animal's
head with the other hand; but, strange to say, the animal did not like
being held by the young lady, and gradually she backed, first toward the
side of the barn, and then out toward the open yard. Dora attempted to
restrain her, but in spite of all her efforts was obliged to follow the
"It's my gloves she doesn't like," she said to herself; "I know some
horses can't bear the smell of kid, but I can't take them off now, and I
will not let go. I wish he would hurry with the halter."
Little by little poor Dora was pulled forward, until she reached a spot
which was at the very end of the clean straw, and yet not very far from
the wall of the barn. Here she vigorously endeavored to make a stand,
for if she went another step forward her dainty boots would sink into
mud and dirt.
"Whoa!" she called out to the mare; "whoa, now!"
At the sound of these words, plainly uttered in trouble, Ralph, who
happened to be in a stall next to the barn wall looking over some ropes,
glanced through a little window about four feet from the ground, and saw
Miss Bannister very close to him, tottering on the edge of the straw, and
just about to let go of the mare, or step into the mire. Before he could
shape words to tell her to release her dangerous hold, or make up his
mind to rush around to the door to go to her assistance, she saw him, and
throwing out her left hand in his direction, she exclaimed:--
"Oh, hold me, please."
Instantly Ralph put out his long arm, and caught her by the hand.
"Thank you," said Miss Dora. "In another moment she would have pulled me
into the dirt. Perhaps now I can make her walk up on the clean straw.
Come, come," she continued persuasively to the mare, which, however,
obstinately declined to advance.
"Let go of her, I beg of you, Miss Bannister," cried Ralph. "It will hurt
you to be pulled on two sides in this way."
Dora was a strong young girl, and so far the pulling had not hurt her at
all. In fact, she liked it, at least on one side.
"Oh, I couldn't think of letting her go," she replied, "after all the
trouble you have had in catching her. The gate is open, and in a minute
she would be out in the field again. If she will only make a few steps
forward, I am sure I can hold her until you come out. If you would draw
me in a little bit, Mr. Haverley, perhaps she would follow."
Ralph did not in the least object to hold the smoothly gloved little hand
in his own, but he was really afraid that the girl would be hurt, if she
persisted in this attempt to make a halter of herself. If he released his
hold, he was sure she would be jerked face forward into the mire, or at
least be obliged to step into it; and as for the mare, it was plain to be
seen that she did not intend to come any nearer the shed. He therefore
doubled his entreaties that she would let the beast go, as it made no
difference whether she ran into the fields or not. He could easily catch
her again, or the man could.
"I don't want to let her go," said Dora. "Your sister would have a pretty
opinion of me when she is ready to take her drive, and finds that I have
let her horse run away; and, besides, I don't like to give up things. Do
you like to give up things? I am sure you don't, for I saw you bringing
this horse into the yard, and you were very determined about it. If I let
her go, all your determination and trouble will have been for nothing. I
should not like that. Come, come, you obstinate creature, just two steps
forward. I have some lumps of sugar in my pocket which I keep to give to
our horses, but of course I can't get it with both my hands occupied. I
wish I had thought of the sugar. By the way, the sugar is not in my
pocket; after all, it is in this little bag on my belt; I don't suppose
you could reach it."
Ralph stretched out his other hand, but he could not reach the little
leather bag with its silver clasp. If he could have jumped out of the
window, he would have done so without hesitation, but the aperture was
not large enough. He could not help being amused by the dilemma in which
he was placed by this young lady's inflexibility. He did not know a girl,
his sister not excepted, whom, under the circumstances, he would not have
left to the consequences of what he would have called her obstinacy. But
there was something about Dora--some sort of a lump of sugar--which
prevented him from letting go of her hand.
"I never saw a horse," said she, "nor, indeed, any sort of a living
thing, which was so unwilling to come to me. You are very good to hold me
so strongly, and I am sure I don't mind waiting a little longer, until
some one comes by."
"There is no one to come by," exclaimed Ralph, "and I most earnestly
beg of you--"
At this moment the horse began to back; Miss Dora's fingers nervously
clasped themselves about Ralph's hand, which pressed hers more closely
and vigorously than before. There was a strong pull, a little jerk, and
the forelock of the mare slipped out of Miss Dora's hand.
"There!" she cried; "that is exactly what I knew would happen. The wicked
creature has galloped out of the gate."
The young lady now made a step or two nearer the barn, Ralph still
holding her hand, as if to assist her to a better footing.
She did not need the assistance at all, but she looked up gratefully, as
Ralph loosened his grasp, and she gently withdrew her hand.
"Thank you ever so much," she said. "If it had not been for you, I do not
know where I should have been pulled to; but it is too bad that the horse
got off, after all."
"Don't mention it," said Ralph. "I'll have her again in no time," and
then he ran outside to join her.
"Now, sir," said she, and giving him no time to make any proposition, "I
should like very much to find your sister, and see her, for at least a
few moments before I go. Do you think she is anywhere in this glorious
old barn? Phoebe told me she was."
"Is this a girl or a woman?" thought Ralph to himself. The charming and
fashionable costume would have settled this question in the mind of a
lady, but Ralph felt a little puzzled. But be the case what it might, it
would be charming to go with her through the barn or anywhere else. As
they walked over the lower floor of the edifice toward the stairway in
the corner, Dora remarked:--
"How happy your cows ought to be, Mr. Haverley, to have such a wide, cool
place as this to live in. What kind of cows have you?"
"Indeed, I don't know," said Ralph, laughing. "I haven't had time to make
their acquaintance. I have seen them, only from a distance. They are but
a very small herd, and I am sure there are no fancy breeds among them."
"Do you know," said Dora, as they went up the broad steps, sprinkled with
straw and hayseed, "that what are called common cows are often really
better than Alderneys, or Ayrshires, and those sorts? And this is the
second story! How splendid and vast! What do you have here?"
"On the right are the horse stables," said Ralph, "and in those stalls
there should be a row of prancing chargers and ambling steeds; and on the
great empty floor, which you see over here, there should be the
carriages,--the coupe, the family carriage, the light wagon, the pony
phaeton, the top buggy, and all the other vehicles which people in the
country need. But, alas! you only see that old hay-wagon, which I am sure
would fall to pieces if horses attempted to pull it, and that affair
with two big wheels and a top. I think they call it a gig, and I believe
old Mr. Butterwood used to drive about in it."
"Indeed he did," said Dora. "I remember seeing him when I was a little
girl. It must be very comfortable. I should think your sister and you
would enjoy driving in that. In a gig, you know, you can go
anywhere--into wood-roads, and all sorts of places where you couldn't
turn around with anything with four wheels. And how nice it is that it
has a top. I've heard it said that Mr. Butterwood would always have
everything comfortable for himself. Perhaps your sister is in some of
these smaller rooms. What are they?"
"Oh, harness rooms, and I know not what," answered Ralph, and then he
"Miriam!" His voice was of a full, rich tone, and it was echoed from the
bare walls and floors.
"If my sister is in the barn at all," said Ralph, "I think she must be on
the floor above this, for there is the hay, and the hens' nests, if there
"Oh, let us go up there," said Dora; "that is just where we ought to
There was not the least affectation in Dora's delight, as she stood on
the wide upper floor of the barn. Its great haymows rose on either side,
not piled to the roof as before, but with enough hay left over from
former years to fill the air with that delightful scent of mingled
cleanliness and sweetness which belongs to haylofts. At the back was a
wide open door with a bar across it, out of which she saw a
far-stretching landscape, rich with varied colors of spring, and through
a small side door at the other end of the floor, which there was level
with the ground, came a hen, clucking to a brood of black-eyed, downy
little chicks, which she was bringing in for the night to the spacious
home she had chosen for them.
Whether or not Dora would have enjoyed all this as much had she been
alone is a point not necessary to settle, but she was a true country
girl, and had loved chickens, barns, and hay from her babyhood up. She
stepped quickly to the open door, and she and Ralph leaned upon the bar
and looked out upon the beautiful scene.
"How charming it will be," she said, "for your sister to come here and
sit with her reading or sewing. She can look out and see you, almost
wherever you happen to be on your farm."
"I don't believe Miriam will be content to sit still and watch anybody,"
replied Ralph. "I wonder where she can be;" and twice he called her, once
directing his voice up toward the haymows and once out into the open air.
Dora still leaned on the bar and looked out.
"It would be nice if we could see her walking somewhere in the fields,"
she said, and she and Ralph both swept the landscape with their eyes, but
they saw nothing like a moving girl in shade or sunshine.
Miss Bannister was not in the least embarrassed, as she stood here with
this young man whom she had met such a little time before. She did not
altogether feel that she was alone with him. The thought that any moment
the young man's sister might make one of the party, produced a sensation
not wholly unlike that of knowing she was already there.
The view of the far-off hills with the shadows across their sides and
their forest-covered tops glistening in the sunshine was very
attractive, and there was a blossomy perfume in the outside air which
mingled charmingly with the hay-scents from within; but Dora felt that
it would not do to protract her pleasure in these things, especially as
she noticed signs of a slight uneasiness on the face of her companion.
Probably he wanted to go and look for his sister, so they walked slowly
over the floor of the great hayloft, and out of the little door where
the hen and chickens had come in, and Ralph accompanied the young lady
to her carriage.
"I am sure I shall find Thomas and the horses fast asleep," said she,
"for I have made a long call, or, at least, have tried to make one, and
you must tell your sister that my stay proves how much I wanted to see
her. I hope she will call on me the first time she comes to Thorbury."
"Oh, I shall drive her over on purpose," said Ralph, and, with a smile,
Miss Bannister declared that would be charming.
When the carriage had rolled upon the smooth road outside of Cobhurst,
Miss Dora drew off her left glove and looked at her wrist. "Dear me!"
said she to herself, "I thought he would have squeezed those buttons
entirely through my skin, but I wouldn't have said a word for anything. I
wonder what sort of a girl his sister is. If she resembles him, I know I
shall like her."
MRS. TOLBRIDGE'S REPORT IS NOT ACCEPTED
A few days after Miss Bannister's call at Cobhurst, it was returned by
Ralph and Miriam, who drove to Thorbury with the brown mare and the gig.
To their disappointment, they found that the young lady was not at home,
and the communicative maid informed them that she had gone to the city to
help Mrs. Tolbridge to get a new cook.
They went home by the way of the Witton house, and there they found
Miss Panney at home. The old lady was very much interested in Miriam,
whom she had not before seen out of bed. She scrutinized the girl from
hat to boots.
"What do you want me to call you, my dear?" she asked. "Don't you
honestly think you are too young to be called Miss Haverley?"
"I think it would be very well if you were to call me Miriam," said the
other, who was of the opinion that Miss Panney was old enough to call any
woman by her Christian name.
The conversation was maintained almost entirely by the old lady and
Ralph, for Miriam was silent and very solemn. Once she broke in with a
"What kind of a person is Miss Bannister?" she asked. Miss Panney gave a
"Oh, she is a charming person," she answered, "pretty, good-humored,
well educated, excellent taste in dress and almost everything, and very
lively and pleasant to talk to. I am very fond of her."
"I am afraid," said Miriam, "that she is too old and too fine for me,"
and turning to a photograph album she began to study the family
"Your sister's ideas are rather girlish as yet," said Miss Panney, "but
housekeeping at Cobhurst will change all that;" and then she went on with
her remarks concerning the Haverley and Butterwood families, a subject
upon which Ralph was not nearly so well informed as she was.
When the brother and sister had driven away, Miss Panney reflected that
the visit had given her two pieces of information. One was that the
Haverley girl was a good deal younger than she had thought her, and the
other was that Mrs. Tolbridge was really trying to get a new cook. The
first point she did not consider with satisfaction.
"It is a pity," she thought, "that Dora and his sister are not likely to
be friends. That would help wonderfully. This schoolgirl, probably
jealous of the superiority of grown-up young ladies, may be very much in
the way. I am sorry the case is not different."
In regard to the other point the old lady was very well satisfied, and
determined to go soon to see what success Mrs. Tolbridge had had.
About the middle of the next forenoon, Miss Panney tied her horse in
front of the Tolbridge house and entered unceremoniously, as she was in
the habit of doing. She found the doctor's wife standing by the
back-parlor window looking out on the garden. When the old lady had
seated herself she immediately proceeded to business.
"Well, Kitty," said she, "what sort of a time did you have yesterday?"
"A very discouraging and disagreeable one," said Mrs. Tolbridge. "I might
just as well have stayed at home."
"You don't mean to say," asked Miss Panney, "that nobody answered your
"When I reached the rooms of the Non-Resident Club, where the applicants
were to call--"
"That's the first time," interrupted Miss Panney, "that I ever heard that
that Club was of the slightest use."
"It wasn't of any use this time," said the other; "for although I found
several women there who came before the hour appointed, and at least a
dozen came in the course of the morning, not one of them would do at
all. I was just now looking out at our asparagus bed, and wondering if
any of those beautiful heads would ever be cooked properly. The woman in
our kitchen knows that she is to depart, and she is in a terribly bad
temper, and this she puts into her cooking. The doctor is almost out of
temper himself. He says that he has pretty good teeth, but that he
cannot bite spite."
Miss Panney now appeared to be getting out of temper.
"I must say, Kitty," she said, in a tone of irritation, "that I do not
understand how it was that out of the score or more of applicants, you
could not find a better cook than the good-for-nothing creature you have
now. What was the matter with them?"
"Everything, it seemed to me," answered Mrs. Tolbridge. "Now here
is Dora. She was with me yesterday, and you can ask her about the
women we saw."
Miss Panney attached no value whatever to the opinions, in regard to
domestic service, of the young lady who had just entered the room, and
she asked her no questions. Miss Bannister, however, did not seem in the
least slighted, and sat down to join the chat.
"I suppose," said Miss Panney, sarcastically, "that you tried to find
that woman that the doctor used to say he wanted: a woman who had
committed some great crime, who could find no relief from her thoughts
but in constant work, work, work."
Mrs. Tolbridge smiled.
"No, I did not look for her; nor did I try to find the person who was of
a chilly disposition and very susceptible to draughts. We used to want
one of that sort, but she should be a waitress. But, seriously, there
were objections to every one of them. Religion was a great obstacle. The
churches of Thorbury are not designed for the consciences of city
servants. There was no Lutheran Church for the Swedes; and the fact that
the Catholic Church was a mile from our house, with no street-cars,
settled the question for most of them. The truth is, none of them wanted
to come into the country, unless they could get near Newport or some
other suitable summer resort."
"But there was that funny old body in a shawl," said Dora, "who made no
objections to churches, or anything else in fact, as soon as she found
out your husband wasn't in trade."
"True," replied Mrs. Tolbridge; "she didn't object, but she was
Miss Panney was beginning to fasten her wrap about her. She had heard
quite enough, but still she deigned to snap out:--
"What was the matter with her?"
"Oh, she was entirely out of the question," said the lady of the house.
"In the first place, she was the widow of a French chef, or somebody of
that sort, and has a wonderful opinion of her abilities. She understands
all kinds of cooking,--plain or fancy."
"And even butter," said Dora; "she said she knew all about that."
"Yes; and she understood how butcher's meat should be cut, and the
choosing of poultry, and I know not what else besides."
"And only asked," cried Dora, laughing, "if your husband was in trade;
and when she heard that he was a professional man, was perfectly
willing to come."
Miss Panney turned toward Mrs. Tolbridge, sat up very straight in her
chair, and glared.
"Was not this the very woman you were looking for? Why didn't you
"Take her!" repeated Mrs. Tolbridge, with some irritation. "What could I
do with a woman like that? She would want enormous wages. She would have
to have kitchen maids, and I know not whom, besides, to wait on her; and
as for our plain style of living, she could not be expected to stand
that. She would be entirely out of place in a house like this."
"Her looks were enough to settle her case," said Dora. "You never saw
such an old witch; she would frighten the horses."
"Kitty Tolbridge," said Miss Panney, severely, "did you ask that woman if
she wanted high wages, if she required kitchen maids, if she would be
satisfied to cook for your family?"
"No, I didn't," said the other; "I knew it was of no use. It was plain to
see that she would not do at all."
"Did you get her address?"
"Yes," said Dora; "she gave me a card as we were going out, and insisted
on my taking it. It is in my bag at home."
Miss Panney was silent for a moment, and was evidently endeavoring to
cool her feelings so as to speak without indignation.
"Kitty Tolbridge," she said presently, "I think you have deliberately
turned your back on one of the greatest opportunities ever offered to a
woman with a valuable husband. There are husbands who have no value, and
who might as well be hurried to their graves by indigestion as in any
other way, but the doctor is not one of these. Now, whatever you know of
that woman proves her to be the very person who should be in your kitchen
at this moment; and whatever you have said against her is all the result
of your imagination. If I were in your place, I would take the next
train for the city; and before I closed my eyes this night, I would know
whether or not such a prize as that were in my reach. I say prize because
I never heard of such a chance being offered to a doctor's wife in a
country town. Now what are you going to do about it, Kitty? If your
regard for your husband's physical condition is not sufficient to make
you look on this matter as I do, think of his soul. If you don't believe
that true religion and good cooking go hand in hand, wait a year and then
see what sort of a husband you will have."
Mrs. Tolbridge felt that she ought to resent this speech, that she ought
to be, at least, a little angry; but when she was a small girl, Miss
Panney was an old woman who sometimes used to scold her. She had not
minded the scoldings very much then, and she could not bring herself to
mind this scolding very much now. Occasionally she had scolded Miss
Panney, and the old lady had never been angry.
"I shall not go to the city," she said, with a smile; "but I will write,
and ask all the questions. Then our consciences will be easier."
Miss Panney rose to her feet.
"Do it, I beg of you," she said, "and do it this morning. And now, Dora,
if you walked here, I will drive you home in my phaeton, for you ought to
send that address to Mrs. Tolbridge without delay."
As the old roan jogged away from the doctor's house, Miss Panney remarked
to her companion, "I needn't have hurried you off so soon, Dora, for it
is three hours before the next mail will leave; but I did want Mrs.
Tolbridge to sit down at once and write that letter without being
interrupted by anything which you might have come to tell her. Of course,
the sooner you send her the address, the better."
"The boy shall take it to her as soon as I get home," said Dora.
She very much disliked scoldings, and had not now a word to say against
the old body who would frighten the horses. Desirous of turning the
conversation in another direction without seeming to force it, "It seems
to me," she said, "that Mr. and Miss Haverley ought to have somebody
better to cook for them than old Phoebe. I have always looked upon her as
a sort of a charwoman, working about from house to house, doing anything
that people hired her to do."
"That's just what those Haverleys want," said Miss Panney. "At present,
everything is charwork at their place, and as to their food, I don't
suppose they think much about it, so that they get enough. At their age
they can eat anything."
"How old is Miss Haverley?" asked Dora.
"Miss Haverley!" repeated Miss Panney, "she's nothing but a girl, with
her hair down her back and her skirts a foot from the ground. I call
her a child."
A shadow came over the soul of Miss Bannister.
Would it be possible, she thought, to maintain, with a girl who did not
yet put up her hair or wear long skirts, the intimacy she had hoped to
maintain with Mr. Haverley's sister?
Very much the same idea was in the mind of Miss Panney, but she thought
it well to speak encouragingly. "I wish, for her brother's sake, the girl
were older," said she: "but housekeeping will help to mature her much
more quickly than if she had remained at school. And as for school," she
added, "it strikes me it would be a good thing for her to go back
Dora thought this a good opinion, but before she could say anything on
the subject, she lifted her eyes, and beheld Ralph Haverley walking down
the street toward them. He was striding along at a fine pace, and looked
as if he enjoyed it.
"I declare," ejaculated Miss Bannister, "here he is himself. We shall
"He? who?" and Miss Panney looked from side to side of the road, and the
moment she saw the young man, she smiled.
It pleased her that Dora should speak of him as "he," showing that the
brother was in her mind when they had been talking of the sister.
Miss Panney drew up to the sidewalk, and Ralph stopped.
He was greatly pleased with the cordial greeting he received from
the two ladies. These Thorbury people were certainly very sociable
and kind-hearted. The sunlight was on Dora's soul now, and it
sparkled in her eyes.
"It was my other hand that I gave you when I met you before," she said,
with a charming smile.
"Yes," said Ralph, also with a smile, "and I think I held it an
uncommonly long time."
"Indeed you did," said Dora; and they both laughed.
Miss Panney listened in surprise.
"You two seem to know each other better than I supposed," she said. "When
did you become acquainted?"
"We have met but once before," replied Dora, "but that was rather a
peculiar meeting." And then she told the story of her call at Cobhurst,
and of the mare's forelock, and the old lady was delighted with the
narration. She had never planned a match which had begun so auspiciously.
These young people must be truly congenial, for already a spirit of
comradeship seemed to have sprung up between them. But of course that
sort of thing could not be kept up to the desirable point without the
assistance of the sister. In some way or other, that girl must be
managed. Miss Panney determined to give her mind to it.
With Ralph standing close by the side of the phaeton, the reins lying
loose on the back of the drowsy roan, and Dora leaning forward from her
seat, so as to speak better with the young man, the interview was one of
considerable length, and no one seemed to think it necessary that it
should be brought to a close. Ralph had come to attend to some business
in the town, and had preferred to walk rather than drive the brown mare.
"Did you ever catch that delightfully obstinate creature?" cried Dora.
"And did you give your sister a drive in the gig?"
"Oh, yes," said Ralph, "I easily caught her again, and I curried and
polished her up myself, and trimmed her mane and tail and fetlocks, and
since she has been having good meals of oats, you can hardly imagine
what a sleek-looking beast she has become. We drove her into Thorbury
when Miriam returned your call. I am sorry you were not at home, so that
you might have seen what a change had come over Mrs. Browning."
Dora looked inquiringly.
"That is the name that Miriam has given to the mare."
"If Mrs. Browning is one of your sister's favorite poets," she said,
"that will be a bond between us, for I like her poems better than I do
her husband's, at least I understand them better. I wonder if your sister
will ever ask me to take a drive with her in the gig? I could show her so
many pretty places."
"Indeed she will," said Ralph; "but you mustn't think we are going to
confine ourselves to that sedate conveyance and the old mare. The colts
are old enough to be broken, and when they are ready to drive we shall
have a spanking team."
"That will be splendid," exclaimed Dora. "I cannot imagine anything more
inspiriting than driving with a pair of freshly broken horses."
Miss Panney gave a little sniff.
"That sort of thing," she said, "sometimes exalts one's spirit so high
that it is never again burdened by the body; but all horses have to be
broken, and people continue to live."
She smiled as she thought that the pair of young colts which she had
taken in hand seemed to give promise of driving together most
beautifully. But it would not do to stop here all the morning, and as
there was no sign that Dora would tire of asking questions or Ralph of
answering them, the old lady gathered up the reins.
"You mustn't be surprised, Mr. Haverley," she said, "if the ladies of
Thorbury come a good deal to Cobhurst. We have more time than the
gentlemen, and we all want to get well acquainted with your sister, and
help her in every way that we can. Miss Bannister is going to drive over
very soon and stop for me on the way, so that we shall call on her
When the young man had bowed and departed, and the old roan was
jogging on, Dora leaned back in the phaeton and said to herself, that,
without knowing it, Miss Panney was an angel. When they should go
together to Cobhurst, the old lady would be sure to spend her time
talking to the girl.
JOHN WESLEY AND LORENZO DOW AT LUNCHEON
Two days after her lecture to Mrs. Tolbridge, Miss Panney was again in
Thorbury, and, having finished the shopping which brought her there, she
determined to go to see the doctor's wife, and find out if that lady had
acted on the advice given her. She had known Mrs. Tolbridge nearly all
that lady's life, and had always suspected in her a tendency to neglect
advice which she did not like, after the adviser was out of the way. She
did not wish to be over-inquisitive, but she intended, in some quiet way,
to find out whether or not the letter about which she had spoken so
strongly had been written. If it had not, she would take time to make up
her mind what she should do. Kitty Tolbridge and she had scolded each
other often enough, and had had many differences, but they had never yet
seriously quarrelled. Miss Panney did not intend to quarrel now, but if
she found things as she feared they were, she intended to interfere in a
way that might make Kitty uncomfortable, and perhaps produce the same
effect on herself and the doctor; but let that be as it might, she
assured herself there were some things that ought to be done, no matter
who felt badly about it.
She found the doctor's wife in a state of annoyance and disquiet, and was
greatly surprised to be told that this condition had been caused by a
note which had just been brought to her from her husband, stating that he
had been called away to a distant patient, and would not be able to come
home to luncheon.
"My dear Kitty!" exclaimed Miss Panney, "I should have thought you were
thoroughly used to that sort of thing. I supposed a country doctor would
miss his mid-day meal about half the time."
"And so he does," said Mrs. Tolbridge; "but I was particularly anxious
that he should lunch at home to-day, and he promised me that he would."
"Well," said the old lady, "you will have to bear up under it as well
as you can, and I hope they will give him something to eat wherever he
Mrs. Tolbridge seemed occupied, and did not answer.
"Miss Panney," she said suddenly, "will you stay and take lunch with me?
I should like it ever so much."
"Are you going to have strawberries?" asked Miss Panney.
Mrs. Tolbridge hesitated a little, and then replied, "Yes, we shall
"Very well, then, I'll stay. The Witton strawberries are small and sour
this year; and I haven't tasted a good one yet."
During the half hour which intervened before luncheon was announced, Miss
Panney discovered nothing regarding the matter which brought her there.
She would ask no questions, for it was Kitty Tolbridge's duty to
introduce the subject, and she would give her a chance; but if she did
not do it in a reasonable time, Miss Panney would not only ask questions,
but state her opinion.
When she sat down at the pretty round table, arranged for two persons,
Miss Panney was surprised at the scanty supply of eatables. There was the
tea-tray, bread and butter, and some radishes. Her soul rose in anger.
"Slops and fruit," she said to herself. "She isn't worthy to have any
sort of a husband, much less such a one as she has."
There was a vase of flowers in the centre of the table; but although Miss
Panney liked flowers, at meal-times she preferred good honest food.
"Shall I give you a cup of tea?" asked her hostess.
The old lady did not care for tea, but as she considered that she could
not eat strawberries on an empty stomach, she took some, and was just
about to cast a critical eye on the bread, when a maid entered, bearing a
dish containing two little square pieces of fish, covered with a greenish
white sauce, and decorated with bits of water-cress.
As soon as Miss Panney's eyes fell upon this dish, she understood the
situation--Mrs. Tolbridge had actually fallen back upon Kipper. Kipper
was a caterer in Thorbury, and a good one. He was patronized by the
citizens on extraordinary festive occasions, but depended for his custom
principally upon certain families who came to the village for a few
months in the summer, and who did not care to trouble themselves with
much domestic machinery.
"Kipper, indeed," thought the old lady; "that is the last peg. A
caterer's tid-bit for a hard-working man. If she would have her fish
cooked properly in her own house, she could give him six times as much
for half the money. And positively," she continued, in inward speech, as
the maid presented the bread and butter, "Kipper's biscuit! I suppose she
is going to let him provide her with everything, just as he does for
those rich people on Maple Avenue."
The fish was very good, and Miss Panney ate every morsel of it, but made
no remark concerning it. Instead of speaking of food, she talked of the
doings of the Methodist congregation in Thorbury, who were planning to
build a new church, far more expensive than she believed they could
afford. She was engaged in berating Mr. Hampton, the minister, who, she
declared, was actually encouraging his flock in their proposed
extravagance, when the maid gave her a clean plate, and handed her a dish
of sweetbread, tastefully garnished with clover blossoms and leaves. Miss
Panney stopped talking, gazed at the dish for a minute, and then helped
herself to a goodly portion of its contents.
"Feathers," she said to herself; "no more than froth and feathers to a
man who has been working hard half a day, and as to the extravagance of
such flimsy victuals--" She could keep quiet no longer, she was obliged
to speak out, and she burst into a tirade against people who called
themselves pious, and yet, wilfully shutting their eyes, were about to
plunge into wicked wastefulness. She ate as she talked, however, and she
had brought up John Wesley, and was about to give her notion of what he
would have had to say about a fancy church for a Thorbury congregation,
when the plates were again changed, and a dainty dish of sirloin steak,
with mushrooms, and thin slices of delicately browned potatoes, was put
"Well!" inwardly ejaculated the old lady, "something substantial at last.
But what money this meal must have cost!"
As she cut into the thick, juicy piece of steak, which had been broiled
until it was cooked enough, and not a minute more, Miss Panney's mind
dropped from the consideration of congregational finances into that of
domestic calculation. She knew Kipper's charges; she knew everybody's
"That dish of fish," she said to herself, "was not less than sixty cents;
the sweetbreads cost a dollar, if they cost a cent; this sirloin, with
mushrooms, was seventy-five cents; that, with the French biscuit, is two
dollars and a half for a family lunch for two people."
Miss Panney did not let her steak get cold, for she could talk and eat at
the same time, and the founder of Methodism never delivered so scorching
a tirade against pomp and show in professors of religion as she gave
forth in his name.
Mrs. Tolbridge had been very quiet during the course of the meal, but
she was now constrained to declare that she had nothing to do with the
plans for the new Methodist church, and, in fact, she knew very little
"Some things concern all of us," retorted Miss Panney. "Suppose Bishop
White, when he was ordained and came back to this country, had found a
Her remarks were stopped by a dish of salad. The young and tender leaves
of lettuce were half concealed by a mayonnaise dressing.
"This makes three dollars," thought Miss Panney, as she helped herself,
"for Kipper never makes any difference, even if you send your own lettuce
to be dressed." And then she went on talking about Bishop White, and what
he would have thought of a little cathedral in every country town.
"But the Methodists do not have cathedrals," said Mrs. Tolbridge.
"Which makes it all the worse when they try to build their
meeting-houses to look like them," replied the old lady.
It was a long time since Miss Panney had tasted any mayonnaise dressing
as good as this. But she remembered that the strawberries were to come,
and did not help herself again to salad.
"If one of the old Methodist circuit-riders," she said, "after toiling
over miles of weary road in the rain or scorching sun, and preaching
sometimes in a log meeting-house, sometimes in a barn, and often in a
private house, should suddenly come upon--"
The imaginary progress of the circuit-rider was brought to a stop by the
arrival of the last course of the luncheon. From a pretty glass dish
uprose a wondrous structure. Within an encircling wall of delicate,
candied tracery was heaped a little mound of creamy frost, the sides of
great strawberries showing here and there among the veins and specks of
Miss Panney raised her eyes from this creation to the face of her
"Kitty," said she, "is this the doctor's birthday?"
"No," answered Mrs. Tolbridge, with a smile; "he was born in January."
"Yours then, perhaps?"
Mrs. Tolbridge shook her head.
"A dollar and a half," thought the old lady, "and perhaps more. Five
dollars at the very least for the meal. If the doctor makes that much
between meals, day in and day out, she ought to be thankful."
The dainty concoction to which the blazing-eyed old lady now applied
herself was something she had never before tasted, and she became of the
opinion that Kipper would not get up a dish of that sort, and so much of
it, for less than two dollars.
"There was a Methodist preacher," she said, spoonful after spoonful of
the cold and fruity concoction melting in her mouth as she spoke, "a
regular apostle of the poor, named Lorenzo Dow. How I would like to have
him here. He was a man who would let people know in trumpet tones, by day
and by night, what he thought of wicked, wasteful prodigality, no matter
how pleasant it might be, how easy it might be, or how proper in people
who could afford it. Is there to be anything more, Kitty Tolbridge?"
The doctor's wife could not restrain a little laugh.
"No," she said, "there is to be nothing more, unless you will take a
Miss Panney pushed back her chair and looked at her hostess. "Tea after a
meal like that! I should think not. If you had had champagne during the
luncheon, and coffee afterwards, I shouldn't have been surprised."
"I did not order coffee," said Mrs. Tolbridge, "because we don't take it
in the middle of the day, but--"
"You ordered quite enough," said her visitor, severely; "and I will say
this for Kipper, that he never got up a better meal, although--"
"Kipper!" interrupted Mrs. Tolbridge. "Kipper had nothing to do with this
luncheon. It was prepared by my new cook. It is the first meal she has
given us, and I am so sorry the doctor could not be here to eat it."
Miss Panney rose from her chair, and gazed earnestly at Mrs. Tolbridge.
"What cook?" she asked, in her deepest tones.
"Jane La Fleur," was the reply; "the woman you urged me to write to. I
sent the letter that afternoon. Yesterday she came to see me, and I
engaged her. And while we were at breakfast this morning, she arrived
with her boxes, and went to work."
"And she cooked that meal? She herself made all those things?"
"Yes," said Mrs. Tolbridge, "she even churned the butter and made the
biscuit. She says she is going to do a great deal better than this when
she gets things in order."
"Better than this!" ejaculated Miss Panney. "Do you mean to say, Kitty
Tolbridge, that this sort of thing is going to happen three times a day?
What have you done? What sort of a creature is she? Tell me all about it
this very minute."
Mrs. Tolbridge led the way to the parlor, and the two sat down.
"Now," said the doctor's wife, "suppose you finish what you were saying
about the Methodist church, then--"
Miss Panney stamped her foot.
"Don't mention them!" she cried. "Let them build tower on tower, spire on
spire, crypts, picture galleries, altars, confessionals, if they like.
Tell me about your new cook."
"It will take a long time to tell you all about her, at least all she
told me," said Mrs. Tolbridge, "for she talked to me more than an hour
this morning, working away all the time. Her name is Jane La Fleur, but
she does not wish any one to call her Jane. She would like the family to
use her last name, and the servants can do the same, or call her 'madam.'
She is the widow of two chefs, one a Florentine, named Tolati, and the
other a Frenchman, La Fleur. She acted as 'second' to each of these, and
in that way has thoroughly learned the art of Italian cooking, as well as
the French methods. She herself is English, and she has told me about
some of the great families she and her husbands lived with."
"Kitty," said Miss Panney, "I should think she was trying to impose upon
you with a made-up story; but after that luncheon I will believe anything
she says about her opportunities. How in the world did you get such a
woman to come to you?"
"Oh, the whole business of engaging her was very simple," answered
Mrs. Tolbridge. "Her last husband left her some money, and she came to
this country on a visit to relatives, but she loved her art so much,
"Did she call it art?" asked Miss Panney.
"Yes, she did--that she felt she must cook, and she lived for some time
with a family named Drane, in Pennsylvania, with whom the doctor used
to be acquainted. She had a letter from them which fully satisfied me.
On her part she said she would be content with the salary I paid my
"Did she call it salary?" exclaimed the old lady.
"That was the word she used," answered Mrs. Tolbridge, "and as I said
before, the only question she asked was whether or not my husband was
"What did that matter?" asked the other.
"It seemed to matter a great deal. She said she had never yet lived with
a tradesman, and never intended to. She was with Mrs. Drane, the widow of
a college professor, for several months, and when the family found they
could no longer afford to keep a servant who could do nothing but cook,
La Fleur returned to her relatives, and looked for another position; but
not until I came, she said, had any one applied who was not in trade."
"She must be an odd creature," said Miss Panney.
"She is odder than odd," was the answer. At this moment the maid came in
and told Mrs. Tolbridge that the madam cook wanted to see her. The lady
of the house excused herself, and in a few minutes returned, smiling.
"She wished to tell me," 'said she, "before my visitor left, that the
name of the 'sweet' which she gave us at luncheon is _la promesse_, being
merely a promise of what she is going to do, when she gets about her
everything she wants."
"Kitty Tolbridge," said Miss Panney, solemnly, "whatever happens, don't
mind that woman's oddity. Keep your mind on her cooking, and don't
consider anything else. She is an angel, and she belongs to the very
smallest class of angels that visit human beings. You may find, by the
dozen, philanthropists, kind friends, helpers and counsellors, the most
loving and generous; but a cook like that in a Thorbury family is as rare
as--as--as--I can't think of anything so rare. I came here, Kitty, to
find out if you had written to that woman, and now to discover that the
whole matter has been settled in two days, and that the doors of Paradise
have been opened to Dr. Tolbridge--for you know, Kitty, that the Garden
of Eden was truly Paradise until they began to eat the wrong things--I
feel as if I had been assisting at a miracle."
A SILK GOWN AND A BOTTLE
It was toward the end of June that Miss Dora Bannister returned from a
fortnight's visit to some friends at the seashore, and she had been home
a very little while, when she became convinced that her most important
duty was to go to see that young girl at Cobhurst. It seemed very
strange that so long a time had passed since the arrival of the
Haverleys into the neighborhood, and she had never yet seen his sister.
In Miss Bannister's mind there was a central point, about which
clustered everything connected with Cobhurst: that point was a young
man, and the house was his house, and the fields were his fields, and
the girl was his sister.
It so happened, the very next day, that Herbert Bannister found it
necessary to visit a lady client, who lived about four miles beyond
Cobhurst, and when Dora heard this she was delighted. Her brother should
take her as far as Cobhurst with him; they should start early enough to
give him time to stop and call on Ralph Haverley, which he most certainly
ought to do, and then he could go on and attend to his business, leaving
her at Cobhurst. Even if neither the brother nor the sister were at home,
she would not mind being left at that charming old place. She would take
a book with her, for there were so many shady spots where she could sit
and read until Herbert came back.
Herbert Bannister, whose mind was devoted to business and the happiness
of his sister, was well pleased with this arrangement, and about three
o'clock in the afternoon the buggy containing the two stopped in front of
the Cobhurst portico.
The front door was open, and they could see through the hall and the open
back door into the garden beyond.
Dora laughed as she said, "This is just what happened when I came here
before,--everything wide open, as though there were no flies nor dogs nor
Herbert got out and rang the bell: he rang it twice, but no one came.
Dora beckoned him to her.
"It is of no use," she said; "that also happened when I came before.
They don't live in the house, at least in the daytime. But Herbert,
there is a man."
At this moment, the negro Mike was seen at a little distance, hurrying
along with a tin pitcher in his hand. Herbert advanced, and called to
him, and Mike, with his pitcher, approached.
"The boss," he said, in response to their inquiries, "is down in the big
meadow, helpin' me get in the hay. We tried to git extry help, but
everybody's busy this time o' year, an' he an' me has got to step along
pretty sharp to git that hay in before it rains. No, Miss, I dunno where
the young lady is. She was down in the hay-field this mornin', rakin',
but I 'spects she is doin' some sort of housework jes' now, or perhaps
she's in the garden. I'd go an' look her up, but beggin' your pardon, I
ain't got one minute to spare, the boss is waitin' for me now," and,
touching his shabby old hat, Mike departed.
"What shall we do?" asked Herbert, standing by the buggy.
"I think," said Dora, slowly and decisively, as if she had fully
considered the matter, "that you may as well go on, for I don't suppose
it would do to disturb Mr. Haverley now. I know that when people are
making hay, they can't stop for anything."
"You are right," said her brother, with a smile; "hay-making the will of
a rich man on his death-bed; it must be done promptly, if it is done at
all. I shall go on, of course, and you will go with me?"
"No, indeed," said Dora, preparing to get down from the buggy; "I would
not want to wait for you in that tiresome old horse-hair parlor of the
Dudleys. I should ever so much rather sit here, by myself, until you come
back. But of course I shall see her before long. Isn't it funny, Herbert?
I had to look for her when I came here before, and I suppose I shall
always have to look for her whenever I come."
Her brother admitted that it was funny, and accepting her arrangement,
he drove away. Dora rang the bell, and stepped into the hall. "I will
wait here a little while," she said to herself, "then I will go to
Phoebe's house, and ask her where she is. If she does not know, I do not
in the least mind walking over to the hay-field, and calling to Mr.
Haverley. It would not take him three minutes to come and tell me where I
would better go to look for his sister."
At this Miss Bannister smiled a little. She would be really glad to know
if Mr. Haverley would be willing to leave that important hay, and make
everything wait until he came to speak to her. As she stood, she looked
about her; on a table by the wall lay a straw hat trimmed with flowers,
and a pair of long gloves, a good deal soiled and worn. Dora's eyes
passed carelessly over these, and rested on another pair of gloves,
larger and heavier.
"He hasn't driven much, yet," she said to herself, "for they look almost
new. I wonder when he will break his colts. Then, I suppose, he will
drive a good deal."
Dora was a girl who noticed things, and turning to the other side of the
hall, she saw a larger table, and on it lay a powder-horn and a
shot-flask, while in the angle of the table and the wall there stood a
double-barrelled fowling-piece. This sight made her eyes sparkle; he must
like to hunt and shoot. That pleased her very much. Herbert never cared
for those things, but she thought a young man should be fond of guns and
dogs and horses, and although she had never thought of it before, she
now considered it a manly thing to be able to go out into the hay-field
and work, if it happened to be necessary.
She went to the back door, and stood, looking out. There was nobody
stirring about Phoebe's house, and she asked herself if it would be worth
while to go over to it. Perhaps it might be as well to stroll toward the
hay-field. She knew where the great meadow was, because she had looked
over it when she had stood at the wide barn window with Mr. Haverley. He
had pointed out a good many things to her, and she remembered them all.
But she did not go to the hay-field. Just as she was about to step out
upon the back porch, she heard a door open behind her, and turning, saw,
emerging from the closed apartment which contained the staircase, a
strange figure. The head was that of a young girl about fourteen, with
large, astonished blue eyes, and light brown hair hanging in a long plait
down her back, while her form was attired in a plum-colored silk gown,
very much worn, torn in some places, with several great stains in the
front of the skirt, and a long and tattered train. The shoulders were
ever so much too wide, the waist was ever so much too big, and the long
sleeves were turned back and rolled up. In her hand the figure held a
large glass bottle, from the mouth of which hung a short rubber tube,
ending in a bulbous mouth-piece.
Dora could not suppress a start and an expression of surprise, but she
knew this must be Miriam Haverley, and advanced toward her. In a moment
she had recovered her self-possession sufficiently to introduce herself
and explain the situation. Miriam took the bottle in her left hand, and
held out her right to Dora.
"I have been expecting you would call," she said, "but I had no idea you
were here now. The door-bell is in the basement, and I have been
upstairs, trying to get dough off my hands. I have been making bread, and
I had no idea it was so troublesome to get your hands clean afterwards;
but I expect my dough is stickier than it ought to be, and after that I
was busy getting myself ready to go out and feed a calf. Will you walk
into the parlor?"
"Oh, no," cried Dora, "let me go with you to feed the calf; I shall like
that ever so much better."
"It can wait just as well as not," said Miriam; "we can sit in the hall,
if you like," and she moved toward an old-fashioned sofa which stood
against the wall; as she did so, she stepped on the front of her
voluminous silk gown, and came near falling.
"The horrid old thing!" she exclaimed; "I am always tripping over it,"
and as she glanced at Dora the two girls broke into a laugh. "I expect
you think I look like a perfect guy," she said, as they seated
themselves, "and so I do, but you see the calf is not much more than a
week old, and its mother has entirely deserted it, and kicks and horns at
it if it comes near her. It got to be so weak it could scarcely stand up,
and I have adopted it, and feed it out of this bottle. The first time I
did it I nearly ruined the dress I had on, and so I went to the garret
and got this old gown, which covers me up very well, though it looks
dreadfully, and is awfully awkward."
"To whom did it belong?" asked Dora. "It is made in such a queer
way,--not like really old-fashioned things."
"I am sure I don't know to whom it belonged," said Miriam. "There are
all sorts of things in our garret,--except things that are good for some
particular purpose,--and this old gown was the best I could find to
cover me up. It looks funny, but then the whole of it is
funny,--calf-feeding and all."
"Why do you have to make your own bread?" asked Dora. "Don't
Phoebe do that?"
"Oh, Phoebe isn't here now. She went away nearly a week ago, and I do all
the work. I went to Thorbury and engaged a woman to come here; but, as
that was three days ago and she has not come yet, I think she must have
changed her mind."
"But why did Phoebe leave you?" exclaimed Miss Bannister. "She ought to
be ashamed of herself, to leave you without any one to help you."
"Well," replied Miriam "she said she wasn't regularly employed, anyway,
and there were plenty of cooks in the town that I could get, and that she
was obliged to go. You see, the colored church in Thorbury has just got a
new minister, and he has to board somewhere; and as soon as Phoebe heard
that, she made up her mind to take a house and board him; and she did it
before anybody else could get the chance. Mike, her husband, who works
for us, talked to her and we talked to her, but it wasn't of any use. I
think she considers it one of the greatest honors in the world to board a
minister. Mike does not believe in that sort of business, but he says
that Phoebe has always been in the habit of doing what she wants to, and
he is getting used to it."
"But it is impossible for you to do all the work," said Dora.
"Oh, well," replied Miriam, "some of it doesn't get done, and some of it
I am helped with. Mike does ever so much; he makes the fires, and carries
the heavy things, and sometimes even cooks. My brother Ralph helps, too,
when there is anything he can do, which is not often; but just now they
are so busy with their hay that it is harder upon me than it was before.
We have had soda biscuit and all that sort of thing, but I saw that Ralph
was getting tired of them; and to-day I thought I would try and make some
real bread,--though how it is going to turn out, I don't know."
"Come, let us go out and feed the calf," said Dora; "I really want to see
how you do it. I have come to make you a good long call, you must know;"
and then she explained how her brother had left her, while he went on to
attend to his business.
At this Miriam was much relieved. She had been thinking that perhaps she
would better go upstairs and take off that ridiculous silk dress, and
entertain her visitor properly during the rest of her call; but if Miss
Bannister was going to stay a good while, and if there was no coachman
outside to see her and her train, there was no reason why she should not
go and feed the calf, and then come back and put herself into the proper
trim for the reception of visitors. It seemed strange to her, but she was
positively sure that she would not have felt so much at ease with this
handsomely dressed young lady, if she herself had been attired in her
best clothes; but now they had met without its being possible for either
Miss Bannister or herself to make any comparisons of attire. The old,
draggled silk gown did not count one way or the other. It was simply a
covering to keep one's clothes clean when one fed a calf. When they
should return to the house, and she took off her old gown, she and her
visitor would be better acquainted, and their comparative opinions of
each other would not depend so much on clothes. Miriam was accustomed to
making philosophical reflections concerning her relations with the rest
of the world; and in regard to these relations she was at times very
TWO GIRLS AND A CALF
Having gone to the kitchen to fill the bottle with milk, which she had
set to warm, Miriam accompanied her guest to the barn. As she walked by
the side of Dora, with the bottle in one hand and the other holding up
her voluminous silk robe, it was well for her peace of mind that no
stately coachman sat upon a box and looked at her.
In a corner of the lower floor of the barn they found the calf,
lying upon a bed of hay, and covered by a large piece of mosquito
netting, which Miriam had fastened above and around him. Dora
laughed as she saw this.
"It isn't every calf," she said, "that sleeps so luxuriously."
"The flies worried the poor thing dreadfully," said Miriam, "but I take
it off when I feed it."
She proceeded to remove the netting, but she had scarcely done so, when
she gave an exclamation that was almost a scream.
"Oh, dear, oh, dear!" she cried; "I believe it is dead," and down she sat
upon the floor close to the calf, which lay motionless, with its head and
neck extended. Down also sat Dora. She did not need to consider the
hay-strewn floor and her clothes; for although she wore a very tasteful
and becoming costume, it was one she had selected with reference to barn
explorations, field strolls, and anything rural and dusty which any one
else might be doing, or might propose. No one could tell what dusty and
delightful occupation might turn up during an afternoon at Cobhurst.
"Its eye does look as if it were dead," she exclaimed. "What a pity!"
"Oh, you can't tell by that eye," said Miriam, over whose cheeks a few
tears were now running. "Dr. Tolbridge says it has infantile ophthalmia
in that eye, but that as soon as it gets strong enough, he can cure it.
We must turn up its other eye."
She took the little creature's head in her lap, with the practicable eye
uppermost. This slowly rolled in its socket, as she bent over it.
"There is life in it yet," she cried; "give me the bottle." The calf
slowly rolled its eye to the position from which it had just moved, and
declined to consider food.
"Oh, it must drink; we must make it drink," said Miriam. "If I open its
mouth, will you put in the end of that tube? If it gets a taste of the
milk, it may want more. We must not let it die. But you must be careful,"
she continued. "That bottle leaks all round the cork. Spread part of my
skirt over you."
Dora followed this advice, for she had not considered a milk-stained lap
among the contingent circumstances of the afternoon. Holding the bottle
over the listless animal, she managed to get some drops on its tongue.
"Now," said Miriam, "we will put that in its mouth, and shut its
jaws, and perhaps it may begin to suck. It will be perfectly dreadful
if it dies."
The two girls sat close together, their eyes fixed upon the apparently
lifeless head of the bovine infant.
"See!" cried Miriam, presently, "its throat moves; I believe it is
sucking the milk."
Dora leaned over and gazed. It was indeed true; the calf was beginning to
take an interest in food. The interest increased; the girls could see the
milk slowly diminishing in the bottle. Before long the creature gave its
head a little wobble. Miriam was delighted.
"That is the way it always does, when its appetite is good. We must let
it drink every drop, if it will."
There they sat on the hard, hay-strewn floor, one entirely, and the other
almost entirely covered with purple silk, their eyes fixed upon the
bottle and the feeding calf. After a time the latter declined to take any
more milk, and raised its head from Miriam's lap.
"There," she cried; "see, it can hold up its own head. I expect it was
only faint from want of food. After this I will feed it oftener. It was
the bread-making that made me forget it this time."
"Let us wait a minute," said Dora, who was now taking an earnest and
womanly interest in the welfare of this weakling. "Perhaps after a while
it may want some more." And so they continued to sit. Every motion of the
calf's head, and every effort it made to bend its legs, or change its
position, sent sparkles of delight into Miriam's eyes, and brightened
Dora's beautiful face with sympathetic smiles.
Dora had taken up the bottle, and was about to give the calf an
opportunity to continue its repast, when suddenly she stopped and sat
motionless. Outside the barn, approaching footsteps could be plainly
heard. They were heavy, apparently those of a man. Dora dropped the
bottle, letting it roll unheeded upon the floor; then pushing Miriam's
skirt from her lap, she sprang to her feet, and stepped backwards and
away from the little group so quickly, that she nearly stumbled over some
inequalities in the floor. Miriam looked up in astonishment.
"You needn't be frightened," she said. "How red you are! I suppose it is
"I was afraid it was," said Dora, in a low voice, as she shook out her
skirts. "I wouldn't have had him see me that way for anything."
Now Miriam was angry. There was nothing to be ashamed of, that she could
see, and it was certainly very rude in Miss Bannister to drop her
bottle, and nearly push her over in her haste to get away from her and
her poor calf.
The person who had been approaching the barn now entered, but it was
not Ralph Haverley. It was a shorter and a stouter young man, with
"Why, Herbert!" exclaimed Dora, in a tone of surprise and disappointment,
"have you got back already?"
Her brother smiled. "I haven't got back," he said, "for I haven't been
anywhere yet. I had not gone a mile before one of the springs of the
buggy broke, and it keeled over so far that I came near tumbling out. It
happened at a place where there were no houses near, so I drew the buggy
to the roadside, took out the horse, and led him back. I heard voices in
here, and I came in. I must go and look for Mr. Haverley, and ask him to
lend me a vehicle in which we may return home."
Dora stood annoyed; she did not want to return home; at least, not so
soon. She had calculated on Herbert making a long stay with Mrs. Dudley.
"I suppose so," she replied, in an injured tone; "but before we say
anything else, Herbert, let me introduce you to Miss Haverley."
She turned, but in the corner to which she directed her eyes, she saw
only a calf; there was no young person in silk attire. The moment that
Miriam perceived that the man who came in was not her brother, but the
brother of some one else, her face had crimsoned, she had pushed away the
unfortunate calf, and, springing to her feet, had darted into the shadows
of an adjoining stall. From this, before Dora had recovered from her
surprise at not seeing her, Miriam emerged in the costume of a neatly
dressed school-girl, with her skirts just reaching to the tops of her
boots. It had been an easy matter to slip off that expansive silk gown.
She advanced with the air of defensive gravity with which she generally
greeted strangers, and made the acquaintance of Mr. Bannister.
"I am sure," she said, when she had heard what had happened, "that my
brother will be very glad to lend you the gig. That is the only thing we
have at present which runs properly."
"A gig will do very well, indeed," said Mr. Bannister. "We could not want
anything better than that; although," he continued, "I am not sure that
my harness will suit a two-wheeled vehicle."
"Oh, we have gig harness," said Miriam, "and we will lend you a horse,
too, if you like."
Dora now thought it was time to say something. She was irritated because
Herbert had returned so soon, and because he was going to take her away
before she was ready to go; and although she would have been delighted to
have a drive in the Cobhurst gig, provided the proper person drove her,
she did not at all wish to return to Thorbury in that ridiculous old
vehicle with Herbert. In the one case, she could imagine a delightful
excursion in she knew not what romantic by-roads and shaded lanes; but in
the other, she saw only the jogging old gig, and all the neighbors asking
what had happened to them.
"I think," she said, "it will be well to see Mr. Haverley as soon as
possible. Perhaps he knows of a blacksmith's shop, where the buggy can
Herbert smiled. "Repairs of that sort," he said, "require a good deal of
time. If we waited for the buggy to be put in travelling condition, we
would certainly have to stay here all night, and probably the greater
part of tomorrow."
In the sudden emotions which had caused her to act almost exactly as Dora
had acted, Miriam had entirely forgotten her resentment toward her
"Why can't you stay?" she asked. "We have plenty of room, you know."
The man of business shook his head.
"Thank you very much," he replied, "but I must be in my office this
evening. I think I shall be obliged to borrow your gig. I will walk over
to the field--"
"Oh, you need not take the trouble to do that," said Miriam. "They are
way over there at the end of the meadow beyond the hill. The gig is here
in the barn, and I can lend it to you just as well as he can."
"You are very kind," said Herbert, "and I will accept your amendment. It
will be the better plan, because if I saw your brother, I should
certainly interfere with his work. He might insist upon coming to help
me, which is not at all necessary. Where can I find the gig, Miss
Miriam led her visitors to the second floor.
"There it is," she said, "but of course you must have the harness
belonging to it, for your buggy harness will not hold up the shafts
properly. It is in the harness room, but I do not know which it is. There
is a lot of harness there, but it is mostly old and worn out."
"I will go and look," said Herbert. "I think it is only part of it that I
During this conversation Dora had said nothing. Now as she stood by the
old gig, toppling forward with its shafts resting upon the floor, she
thought she had never seen such a horrible, antediluvian old trap in her
life. Nothing could add so much to her disappointment in going so soon,
as going in that thing. If there had been anything to say which might
prevent her brother from carrying out his intention, she would have said
it, but so far there had been nothing.
She followed the others into the harness room, and as her eyes glanced
around the walls, they rested upon a saddle hanging on its peg. Instantly
she thought of something to say.
"Herbert," she remarked, not too earnestly, "I think we shall be putting
our friends to a great inconvenience by borrowing the gig. You will never
be able to find the right harness and put it on so that there will not be
an accident on the road, and Mr. Haverley or the man will have to be
sent for. And, besides, there will be the trouble of getting the gig back
again. Now, don't you think it will be a great deal better for you to put
that saddle on the horse, and ride him home, and then send the carriage
for me? That would be very simple, and no trouble at all."
Mr. Bannister turned his admiring eyes upon his sister.
"I declare, Dora," he said, "that is a good practical suggestion. If Miss
Haverley will allow me, I will borrow the saddle and the bridle and ride
home; I shall like that."
"Of course you are welcome to the saddle, if you wish it," said Miriam;
"but you need not send for your sister. Why can't she stay with me
to-night? I think it would be splendid to have a girl spend the night
with me. Perhaps I oughtn't to call you a girl, Miss Bannister."
Dora's eyes sparkled. "But I am a girl, just as you are," she exclaimed,
"and I should be delighted to stay. You are very good to propose it.
Herbert is an awfully slow rider (I believe he always walks his horse),
and I am sure it would be after dark before the carriage would get here."
"Do let her stay," cried Miriam, seizing Dora's arm, as if they had been
old friends; "I shall be so glad to have her."
Mr. Bannister laughed.
"It is not for me to say what Dora shall do," he replied. "You two must
decide that, and if I go home to report our safety, it will be all
right. It is now too late for me to go to Mrs. Dudley's, especially as I
ride so slowly; but I will drive there to-morrow, and stop for Dora on
"Settled!" cried Miriam; and Dora gazed at her with radiant face. It was
delightful to be able to bestow such pleasure.
In two minutes Mr. Bannister had brought in his horse. In the next minute
all three of the party were busy unbuckling his harness; in ten minutes
more it had been taken off, the saddle and bridle substituted, and Mr.
Bannister was riding to Thorbury.
Dora of the sparkling eyes drew close to Miriam.
"Would you mind my kissing you?" she asked.
There was nothing in the warm young soul of the other girl which in the
least objected to this token of a new-born friendship.
As Dora and Miriam, each with an arm around the waist of the other,
walked out of the barn and passed the lower story, the calf, who had been
the main instrument in bringing about the cordial relations between the
two, raised his head and gazed at them with his good eye. Then perceiving
that they had forgotten him, and were going away without even arranging
his mosquito net for the night, he slowly turned his clouded visual organ
in their direction, and composed himself to rest.
TO EAT WITH THE FAMILY
As the two girls entered the house, Miriam clapped her hands.
"What a surprise this will be for Ralph!" she exclaimed. "He hasn't the
slightest idea that you are here, or that anybody is going to spend the
night with us. If Mike said anything about you and your brother,--which I
doubt, for he is awfully anxious to get in that hay,--Ralph thought, of
course, that you were both gone long ago."
The situation suited Dora's fancy admirably.
"Let us make it a regular surprise," she said. "I am going to help you to
get supper, and to do whatever you have to do. Suppose you don't tell
your brother that I am here, and let him find it out by degrees. Don't
you think that will be fun?"
"Indeed it will," cried the other; "and if you don't mind helping a
little about the cooking, I think that will be fun too. Perhaps you can
tell me some things I don't know."
"Let us begin," exclaimed Dora, "for everything ought to be ready before
he comes in. Can you lend me a big apron?"
"I have only one," said Miriam, "and it is not very big; I intended to
make some more, but I haven't had time. But you needn't do anything, you
know. You can just give me advice and keep me company."
"Oh, I want to do things. I want to work," cried Dora; "it would be cruel
to keep me from the fun of helping you get supper. Haven't you something
I can slip on instead of this dress? It is not very fine, but I don't
want to spatter or burn it."
"None of my clothes are long enough for you," said Miriam; "but perhaps I
might find something in the garret. There are all sorts of clothes up
there. If you choose, we can go up and look."
In the next minute the two girls were in the great garret, kneeling in
front of a trunk, in which Miriam had found the silk robe, which now lay
tumbled up in a corner of a stall in the cow-stable. Article after
article of female attire was drawn out and tossed on the floor. Dora was
delighted; she was fond of old-fashioned things, and here were clothes of
various eras. Some colonial, perhaps, and none that had been worn since
these two girls had come into the world. There was a calico dress with
large pink figures in it which caught Dora's eye; she sprang to her feet,
shook it out, and held it up before her.
"This will do," she said. "The length is all right, and it does not
matter about the rest of the fit."
"Of course not," said Miriam; "and now let us go down. We need not wait
to put the rest of the things back."
As Dora was about to go, her eyes fell on an old-fashioned pink
"If you don't mind," she said, "I will take that, too. I shall be
awfully awkward, and I don't want to get cinders or flour in my hair."
When Dora had arrayed herself in the calico dress with pink flowers, she
stood for a moment before the large mirror in Miriam's room. The dress
was very short as to waist, and very perpendicular as to skirt, and the
sleeves were puffy at the elbows and tight about the wrists, but pink was
a color that became her, the quaint cut of the gown was well suited to
her blooming face, and altogether she was pleased with the picture in the
glass. As for the sunbonnet, that was simply hideous, but it could be
taken off when she chose, and the wearing of it would help her very much
in making herself known to Mr. Ralph Haverley.
For half an hour the girls worked bravely in the kitchen. Dora had some
knowledge of the principles of cookery, though her practice had been
small, and Miriam possessed an undaunted courage in culinary enterprises.
However, they planned nothing difficult, and got on very well. Dora made
up some of Miriam's dough into little rolls.
"I wish I could make these as the Tolbridges' new cook makes them. They
say that every morning she sends in a plate of breakfast rolls, each one
a different shape, and some of them ever so pretty."
"I don't suppose they taste any better for that," remarked Miriam.
"Perhaps not," said the other, "but I like to see things to eat look
pretty." And she did her best to shape the little rolls into such
forms that they might please the eye of Mr. Ralph as well as satisfy
Miriam went up to the dining-room to arrange the table. While doing this
she saw Ralph approaching from the barn. In the kitchen, below, Dora,
glancing out of the window, also saw him coming, and pulling her
sunbonnet well forward, she applied herself more earnestly to her work.
Ralph came in, tired and warm, and threw himself down on a long
horse-hair sofa in the hall.
"Heigh ho, Miriam," he cried; "hay-making is a jolly thing, all the world
over, but I have had enough of it for to-day. How are you getting on,
little one? Don't put yourself to too much trouble about my supper. Only
give me enough of whatever you have; that is all I ask."
"Ralph," said Miriam, standing gravely by him, "I did not have to get
supper all by myself; there is a new girl in the kitchen."
"Good," cried Ralph; "I am very glad to hear that. When did she come?"
"This afternoon," said Miriam, "and she is cooking supper now. But,
Ralph," she continued, "there is hardly any wood in the kitchen. We
have--she has used up nearly all that was brought in this morning."
"Well," said Ralph, "there is plenty of it cut, in the woodhouse."
"But, Ralph," said Miriam, "I don't like to ask her to go after the wood,
herself, and some is needed now."
"Mike is just as busy as he can be down at the barn," said her brother,
"and I cannot call him now. If you show her the woodhouse, she can get
what she wants with very little trouble, and Mike will bring in a lot of
"But, Ralph," persisted his sister, "I don't want to ask her to stop her
cooking and go out and get wood. It does not look like good management,
for one thing, and for other reasons I do not want to do it. Don't you
think you could bring her some wood? Just a little basketful of short
sticks will do."
Ralph sat up and knitted his brows. "Miriam," said he, "if your new cook
is the right sort of a woman, she ought to be able to help herself in
emergencies of this kind, with the woodhouse not a dozen yards from the
kitchen. But as she is a stranger to the place, and I don't want to
discourage anybody who comes to help you, I will get some wood for her,
but I must say that it does not look very well for the lord of the manor
to be carrying fuel to the cook."
"It isn't the lord of the manor," cried Miriam; "it is the head
hay-maker, and when you dress yourself for supper, she will never think
of you as the man who brought in the wood."
Dora, from the kitchen window, saw Ralph go out to the woodhouse, and she
saw him returning with an arm-load of small sticks. Then she turned her
back to the kitchen door, and bent her head over a beefsteak she was
preparing for the gridiron.
Ralph came in with the wood, and put it down by the side of the great
stove. As he glanced at the slight form in the pink gown, it struck him
that this woman would not be equal to the hard work which would be
sometimes necessary here.
"I suppose this wood will be as much as you will want for the present,"
he said, as he turned toward the door, "and the man will fill this box
to-night, but if you need any more before he does so, there is the
woodhouse just across the yard, where you can easily get a few sticks."
Dora half turned herself in the direction of the woodhouse, and murmured,
"Miriam," said Ralph, as he went into the dining-room, where his sister
was putting the knives and forks upon the supper table, "do you think
that woman is strong enough to wash, iron, and do all the things that
Phoebe used to do when she was here? How old is she?"
"I don't know, exactly," answered Miriam, going to a cupboard for some
glasses; "and as to rough work, I can't tell what she can do, until
When Ralph had made his toilet and come downstairs, attired in a very
becoming summer suit, his sister complimented him.
"Hay-making makes you ever so much handsomer," she said; "you look as if
you had been on a yachting cruise. There is one thing I forgot to say to
you, but I do not suppose it will make any difference, as we are real
country people now: our new cook is accustomed to eating at the table
with the family."
Ralph's face flushed. "Upon my word!" he exclaimed, staring at his
sister. "Well," he continued, "I don't care what she is accustomed to,
but she cannot eat at our table. I may carry wood for cooks, but I do
not eat with them."
"But, Ralph," said Miriam, "you ought to consider the circumstances. She
is not a common Irishwoman, or German. She is an American, and has always
taken her meals with the family in which she lived. I could not ask her
to eat in the kitchen. You know, Mike takes his meals there since Phoebe
has gone. Indeed, Ralph, I cannot expect her to do a thing that she has
never done in her life, before. Do you really think you would mind it?
You work with Mike in the field, and you don't mind that, and this girl
is very respectable, I assure you."
Ralph stood silent. He had supposed his sister, young as she was, knew
more of the world than to make an arrangement with a servant which would
put her, in many respects, on an equality with themselves. He was very
much annoyed, but he would not be angry with Miriam, if he could help it,
nor would he put her in the embarrassing position of revoking the
agreement with this American woman, probably a farmer's daughter, and, in
her own opinion, as good as anybody. But, although he might yield at
present, he determined to take the important matter of engaging domestic
servants into his own hands. His sister had not yet the necessary
judgment for that sort of thing.
"Miriam," said he, "for how long have you engaged this woman?"
"Nothing at all has been said about time," she answered.
"Very well, then," said he, "she can come to the table to-night and
to-morrow morning, for, I suppose, if I object, she will go off and leave
you again without anybody, but to-morrow she must be told that she cannot
eat with us; and if she does not like that, she must leave, and I will go
to the city and get you a proper servant. The hay is in now, and there is
no more important work to which I could give a day. Now do not be angry,
little one, because I object to your domestic arrangements. We all have
to make mistakes, you know, when we begin."
"Thank you, Ralph," said Miriam. "I really am ever so much obliged to
you," and going up to her brother, she lifted her face to his. Ralph
stooped to kiss her, but suddenly stopped.
"Who, in the name of common sense, is that!" he exclaimed. The sound of
wheels was plainly heard upon the driveway, and turning, they saw a buggy
stop at the door.
"It is Dr. Tolbridge!" cried Miriam.
Through the open front door Ralph saw that it was the doctor, preparing
"Miriam," said he, quickly, "we must ask the doctor to stay to supper,
and if he does, that cook must not come to the table. It will not do at
all, as you can see for yourself. We cannot ask our friends and neighbors
to sit down with servants."
"I will see," said Miriam. "I think that can be made all right," and they
both went to the door to meet their visitor.
The doctor shook hands with them most cordially.
"Glad to see you both so ruddy; Cobhurst air must agree with you. And
now, before we say anything else, let me ask you a question: Have you had
"No," answered Ralph, "and I hope you have not."
"Your hopes are realized. I have not, and if you do not mind letting me
sup with you, I will do it."
The brother and sister, who both liked the hearty doctor, assured him
that they would be delighted to have him stay.
"The reason of my extending an invitation to myself is this: I have been
making a visit in the country, where I was detained much longer than I
expected, and as I drove homeward, I said to myself, 'Good sir, you are
hungry, and where are you going to get your evening meal? You cannot
reach home until long after the dinner hour, and moreover you have a
patient beyond Cobhurst, whom you ought to see this evening. It would be
a great pity to drive all the way to Thorbury, and then back again,
to-night. Now there are those young Cobhurst people, who, you know, have
supper at the end of the day, instead of dinner, like the regular farmers
that they are, and as you want to see them, anyway, and find out how they
are getting on, it will be well to stop there, and ten to one, you will
find that they have not yet sat down to the table.'"
"A most excellent conclusion," said Ralph, "and I will call Mike, and
have him take your horse."
Having left the doctor in the charge of her brother, Miriam hurried
downstairs to apprise Dora of the state of affairs.
"I am sorry," she said, "but we will have to give up the trick we were
going to play on Ralph, for Dr. Tolbridge has come, and will stay to
supper, and so, while you go upstairs and put on your own dress, I will
finish getting these things ready. I will see Ralph before we sit down,
and tell him all about it."
Dora made no movement toward the stairs.
"I knew it was the doctor," she said, "for I went out and looked around
the corner of the house, and saw his horse. But I do not see why we
should give up our trick. Let us play it on the doctor as well as on
Miriam stood silent a few moments.
"I do not know how that would do," she said. "That is a very different
thing. And besides, I do not believe Ralph would let you come to the
table. You ought to have seen how angry he was when I told him the new
cook must eat with us."
"Oh, that was splendid!" cried Dora. "I will not come to the table. That
will make it all the funnier when we tell him. I can eat my supper
anywhere, and I will go upstairs and wait on you, which will be better
sport than sitting down at the table with you."
"But I do not like that," said Miriam. "I will not have you go without
your supper until we have finished."
"My dear Miriam!" exclaimed Dora, "what is a supper in comparison with
such a jolly bit of fun as this? Let me go on as the new cook. And now
we must hurry and get these things on the table. It will make things a
great deal easier for me, if they can eat before it is time to light
When Miriam went to call the gentlemen to supper, the doctor said to
"Your brother has told me that you have a new servant, and that she is so
preposterous as to wish to take her meals with you, but that he does not
intend to allow it. Now, I say to you, as I said to him, that if she
expected to sit at the table before I came, she must do it now. I am used
to that sort of thing, and do not mind it a bit. In the families of the
farmers about here, with whom I often take a meal, it is the custom for
the daughter of the family to cook, to wait on the table, and then sit
down with whomever may be there, kings or cobblers. I beg that you will
not let my coming make trouble in your household."
Miriam looked at her brother.
"All right," said Ralph, with a smile, "if the doctor does not mind, I
shall not. And now, do let us have something to eat."
DORA'S NEW MIND
When Ralph Haverley made up his mind to agree to anything, he did it with
his whole soul, and if he had had any previous prejudices against it, he
dismissed them; so as he sat at supper with the doctor and his sister he
was very much amused at being waited upon by a woman in a pink sunbonnet.
That she should wear such a head-covering in the house was funny enough
in itself, but the rest of her dress was also extremely odd, and she kept
the front of her dark projecting bonnet turned downward or away, as if
she had never served gentlemen before, and was very much overpowered by
bashfulness. But for all that she waited very well, and with a light
quickness of movement unusual in a servant.
"I am afraid, doctor," said Miriam, when the pink figure had gone
downstairs to replenish the plate of rolls, "that you will miss your
dinner. I have heard that you have a most wonderful cook."
"She is indeed a mistress of her art," replied the doctor; "but you do
very well here, I am sure. That new cook of yours beats Phoebe utterly. I
know Phoebe's cooking."
"But you must not give her all the credit," exclaimed Miriam; "I made
that bread, although she shaped it into rolls. And I helped with the
beefsteak, the potatoes, and the coffee."
"Which latter," said Ralph, "is as strong as if six or seven women had
made it, although it is very good."
The meal went on until the two hungry men were satisfied, Miriam being so
absorbed in Dora's skilful management of herself that she scarcely
thought about eating. There was a place for the woman in pink, if she
chose to take it, but she evidently did not wish to sit down. Whenever
she was not occupied in waiting upon those at the table, she bethought
herself of some errand in the kitchen.
"Well," said Ralph, "those rolls are made up so prettily, and look so
tempting, that I wish I had not finished my supper."
"You are right," said the doctor, "they are aesthetic enough for La
Fleur," and then pushing back his chair a little, he looked steadfastly,
with a slight smile on his face, at the figure, with bowed sunbonnet,
which was standing on the other side of the table.
"Well, young woman," he said, "how is your mind by this time?"
For a moment there was silence, and then from out of the sunbonnet there
came, clearly and distinctly, the words:--
"That is very well. How is your kitten?"
At this interchange of remarks, Ralph sat up straight in his chair,
amazement in his countenance, while Miriam, ready to burst into a roar of
laughter, waited convulsively to see what would happen next. Turning
suddenly toward Ralph, Dora tore off her sunbonnet and dashed it to the
floor. Standing there with her dishevelled hair, her flushed cheeks, her
sparkling eyes and her quaint gown, Ralph thought her the most beautiful
creature he had ever gazed upon.
"How do you do, Mr. Haverley?" said Dora, advancing and extending her
hand; "I know you are not willing to eat with cooks, but I do not believe
you will object to shaking hands with one, now and then."
Ralph arose, and took her hand, but she gave him no opportunity to
"Your sister and I got up this little bit of deception for you, Mr.
Haverley," she continued, "and we intended to carry it on a good deal
further, but that gentleman has spoiled it all, and I want you to know
that I stopped here to see your sister, and finding she had not a soul to
help her, I would not leave her in such a plight, and we had a royal good
time, getting the supper, and were going to do ever so many more
things--I should like to know, doctor, how you knew me. I am sure I did
not look a bit like myself."
"You did not look like yourself, but you walked like yourself," replied
Dr. Tolbridge. "I watched you when you first tried to toddle alone, and I
have seen you nearly every day since, and I know your way of stepping
about as well as I know anything. But I must really apologize for having
spoiled the fun. I discovered you, Dora, before we had half finished
supper, but I thought the trick was being played on me alone. I had no
idea that Mr. Haverley thought you were the new cook."
"I certainly did think so," cried Ralph, "and what is more, I intended to
discharge you to-morrow morning."
There was a lively time for a few minutes, after which Dora explained
what had been said about her mind and a kitten.
"He was just twitting me with having once changed my mind--every one
does that," she said; "and then I gave him a kitten. That is all. And
now, before I change my dress, I will go and get some wood for the
kitchen fire. I think you said, Mr. Haverley, that the woodhouse was not
"Wood!" cried Ralph; "don't you think of it!"
Miriam burst into a laugh.
"Oh, you ought to have heard the lord of the manor declare that he would
not carry fuel for the cook," she cried.
Ralph joined in the laugh that rose against him, but insisted that Dora
should not change her dress.
"You could not wear anything more becoming," he said, "and you do not
know how much I want to treat the new cook as one of the family."
"I will wear whatever the lord of the manor chooses," said Dora,
demurely, and was about to make reference to his concluding remark, but
When the two girls joined the gentlemen on the porch, which they did with
much promptness, having delegated the greater part of their household
duties to Mike, who could take a hand at almost any kind of work, Dr.
Tolbridge announced that he must proceed to visit his patient.
"Are you coming back this way, doctor?" asked Dora. "Because if you are,
would it be too much trouble for you to look for our buggy on the side of
the road, and to bring back the cushions and the whip with you? Herbert
may think that in this part of the country the people are so honest that
they would not steal anything out of a deserted buggy, but I do not
believe it is safe to put too much trust in people."
"A fine, practicable mind," said the doctor; "cuts clean and sharp. I
will bring the cushions and the whip, if they have not been stolen before
I reach them. And now I will go to the barn and get my horse. We need
not disturb the industrious Mike."
"If you are going to the barn, doctor," cried Miriam, seizing her hat, "I
will go with you and put the mosquito net over my calf, which I entirely
forgot to do. Perhaps, if it is light enough, you will look at its eye."
The doctor laughed, and the two went off together, leaving Dora and Ralph
on the piazza.
Dora could not help thinking of herself as a very lucky girl. When she
had started that afternoon to make a little visit at Cobhurst, she had
had no imaginable reason to suppose that in the course of a very few
hours she would be sitting alone with Mr. Haverley in the early
moonlight, without even his sister with them. She had expected to see
Ralph and to have a chat with him, but she had counted on Miriam's
presence as a matter of course; so this tete-a-tete in the quiet beauty
of the night was as delightful as it was unanticipated. More than that,
it was an opportunity that ought not to be disregarded.
The new mind of Miss Dora Bannister was clear and quick in its
perceptions, and prompt and independent in action. It not only showed
what she wanted, but indicated pretty clearly how she might get it. Since
she had been making use of this fresh intellect, she had been impressed
very strongly by the belief that in the matter of matrimonial alliance, a
girl should not neglect her interest by depending too much upon the
option of other people. Her own right of option she looked upon as a
sacred right, and one that it was her duty to herself to exercise, and
that promptly. She had just come from the seaside, where she had met some
earnest young men, one or two of whom she expected to see shortly at
Thorbury. Also Mr. Ames, their young rector, was a very persevering
person, and a great friend of her brother.
Of course it behooved her to act with tact, but for all that she must be
prompt. It was easy to see that Ralph Haverley could not be expected to
go very soon into the society of Thorbury, to visit ladies there, and as
she wanted him to learn to know her as rapidly as possible, she resolved
to give him every opportunity.
Miriam was gone a long time, because when she reached the barn, the calf
was not to be found where she had left it, and she had been obliged to go
for Mike and a lantern. After anxious search the little fellow had been
found reclining under an apple tree, having gained sufficient strength
from the ministrations of its fair attendants to go through the open
stable door and to find out what sort of a world it had been born into.
It required time to get the truant back, secure it in its stall, and make
all the arrangements for its comfort which Miriam thought necessary.
Therefore, before she returned to the piazza, Miss Bannister and Ralph
had had a long conversation, in which the latter had learned a great deal
about the disposition and tastes of his fair companion, and had been much
interested in what he learned.
When the three young people had been sitting for half an hour on the wide
piazza of Cobhurst, enjoying the moonlight effects and waiting for the
return of Dr. Tolbridge, Miriam, who was reclining in a steamer chair,
ceased making remarks, but very soon after she became silent she was
heard again, not speaking, however, but breathing audibly and with great
regularity. Ralph and Dora turned toward her and smiled.
"Poor little thing," said the latter in a low voice; "she must be
"Yes," said Ralph, also speaking in an undertone, "she was up very early
this morning, and has been at some sort of work ever since. I do not
intend that this shall happen again. You must excuse her, Miss
Bannister,--she is a girl yet, you know."
"And a sweet one, too," said Dora, "with a perfect right to go to sleep
if she chooses. I should be ashamed of myself if I felt in the least
degree offended. Do not let us disturb her until the doctor comes; the
nap will do her good."
"Suppose, then," said Ralph, "that we take a little turn in the
moonlight. Then we need not trouble ourselves to lower our voices."
"That will be very well," said Dora, "but I am afraid she may take cold,
although the night air is so soft. I think I saw a lap robe on a table
in the hall; I will spread that over her."
Ralph whispered that he would get the robe, but motioning him back, and
having tiptoed into the hall and back again, Dora laid the light covering
over the sleeping girl so gently that the regular breathing was not in
the least interrupted. Then they both went quietly down the steps, and
out upon the lawn.
"She is such a dear girl," said Dora, as they slowly moved away, "and
although we only met to-day, I am really growing very fond of her, and I
like her the better because there is still so much of the child left in
her. Do not you like her the better for that, Mr. Haverley?"
Ralph did agree most heartily, and it made him happy to agree on any
subject with a girl who was even more beautiful by moonlight than by
day; who was so kind, and tended to his sister, and whose generous
disposition could overlook little breaches of etiquette when there was
reason to do so.
As they walked backward and forward, not very far away from the piazza,
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