The Girl at Cobhurst
Frank Richard Stockton
Part 3 out of 6
and sometimes stopping to admire bits of the silver-tinted landscape,
Dora, with most interesting deftness, gave Ralph further opportunity of
knowing her. With his sister as a suggesting subject, she talked about
herself; she told him how she, too, had lost her parents early in life,
and had been obliged to be a very independent girl, for her stepmother,
although just as good as she could be, was not a person on whom she could
rely very much. As for her brother, the dearest man on earth, she had
always felt that she was more capable of taking care of him, at least in
all matters in home life, than he of her.
"But I have been very happy," she went on to say, "for I am so fond of
country life, and everything that belongs to it, that the more I have to
do with it, the better I like it, and I really begrudge the time that I
spend in the city. You do not know with what pleasure I look forward to
helping Miriam get breakfast to-morrow morning. I consider it a positive
lark. By the way, Mr. Haverley, do you like rolled omelets?"
Ralph declared that he liked everything that was good, and had no doubt
that rolled omelets were delicious.
"Then I shall make some," said Dora, "for I know how to do it. And I
think you said, Mr. Haverley, that the coffee to-night was too strong."
"A little so, perhaps," said Ralph, "but it was excellent."
"Oh, it shall be better in the morning. I am sure it will be well for one
of us to do one thing, and the other another. I will make the coffee."
"You are wonderfully kind to do anything at all," said Ralph, and as he
spoke he heard the clock in the house strike ten. It was agreeable in the
highest degree to walk in the moonlight with this charming girl, but he
felt that it was getting late; it was long past Miriam's bedtime, and he
wondered why the doctor did not come.
Dora perceived the perturbations of his mind; she knew that he thought it
was time for the little party to break up, but did not like to suggest
it. She knew that the natural and proper thing for her to do was to wake
up Miriam, and that the two should bid Ralph good-night, and leave him to
sit up and wait for the doctor as long as he felt himself called upon to
do so, but she was perfectly contented with the present circumstances,
and did not wish to change them just yet. It was a pleasure to her to
walk by this tall, broad-shouldered young fellow, who was so handsome and
so strong, and in so many ways the sort of man she liked, and to let him
know, not so much by her words, as by the incited action of his own
intelligence, that she was fond of the things he was fond of, and that
she loved the life he led.
As they still walked and talked, the thought came to Dora, and it was a
very pleasing one, that she might act another part with this young
gentleman; she had played the cook, now for a while she could play the
mistress, and she knew she could do it so gently and so wisely that he
would like it without perceiving it. She turned away her face for a
moment; she felt that her pleasure in acting the part of mistress of
Cobhurst, even for a little time, was flushing it.
"Suppose," she said, "we walk down to the road, and if we see or hear the
doctor coming, we can wait there and save him the trouble of driving in."
They went out of the Cobhurst gateway, but along the moonlighted highway
they saw no approaching spot, nor could they hear the sounds of wheels.
"I really think, Mr. Haverley," said Dora, turning toward the house,
"that I ought to go and arouse Miriam, and then we will retire. It is a
positive shame to keep her out of her bed any longer."
This suggestion much relieved Ralph, and they walked rapidly to the
porch, but when they reached it they found an empty steamer chair and no
Miriam anywhere. They looked at each other in much surprise, and
entering the house they looked in several of the rooms on the lower
floor. Ralph was about to call out for his sister, but Dora quickly
touched him on the arm.
"Hush," she said, smiling, "do not call her. Do you see that lap robe on
the table? I will tell you exactly what has happened; while we were down
at the road she awoke, at least enough to know that she ought to go to
bed, and I really believe that she was not sufficiently awake to remember
that I am here, and that she simply got up, brought the robe in with her,
and went to her room. Isn't it funny?"
Ralph was quite sure that Dora's deductions were correct, for when Miriam
happened to drop asleep in a chair in the evening, it was her habit, when
aroused, to get up and go to bed, too sleepy to think about anything
else; but he did not think it was funny now. He was mortified that Miss
Bannister should have been treated with such apparent disrespect, and he
began to apologize for his sister.
"Now, please stop, Mr. Haverley," interrupted Dora. "I am so glad to have
her act so freely and unconventionally with me, as if we had always been
friends. It makes me feel almost as if we had known each other always,
and it does not make the slightest difference to me. Miriam wanted to
give me another room, but I implored her to let me sleep with her in that
splendid high-posted bedstead, and so all that I have to do is to slip up
to her room, and, if I can possibly help it, I shall not waken her. In
the morning I do not believe she will remember a thing about having gone
to bed without me. So good-night, Mr. Haverley. I am going to be up very
early, and you shall see what a breakfast the new cook will give you. I
will light this candle, for no doubt poor Miriam has put out her lamp, if
she did not depend entirely on the moonlight. By the way, Mr. Haverley,"
she said, turning toward him, "is there anything I can do to help you in
shutting up the house? You know I am maid of all work as well as cook.
Perhaps I should go down and see if the kitchen fire is safe."
"Oh, no, no!" exclaimed Ralph; "I attend to all those things,--at least,
when we have no servant."
"But doesn't Miriam help you?" asked Dora, taking up the candle which she
"No," said he; "Miriam generally bids me good-night and goes upstairs an
hour before I do."
"Very well," said Dora; "I will say only one more thing, and that is that
if I were the lord of the manor, who had been working in the hay-field
all day, I would not sit up very long, waiting for a wandering doctor."
Ralph laughed, and as she approached the door of the stairway, he opened
it for her.
"Suppose," she said, stopping for a moment in the doorway, and shielding
the flame of the candle from a current of air with a little hand that
was so beautifully lighted that for a moment it attracted Ralph's eyes
from its owner's face, "you wait here for a minute, and I will go up and
see if she is really safe in her own room. I am sure you will be better
satisfied if you know that."
Ralph looked his thanks, and softly, but quickly, she went up the stairs.
At a little landing she stopped.
"Do you know," she whispered, looking back, with the candle throwing her
head and hair into the prettiest lights and shadows, "I think this
stairway is lovely;" and then she went on and disappeared.
In a few minutes she leaned over the upper part of the banisters and
softly spoke to him.
"She is sleeping as sweetly and as quietly as the dearest of angels. I do
not believe I shall disturb her in the least. Good-night, Mr. Haverley."
And with her face thrown into a new light,--this time by the hall lamp
below,--she smiled ever so sweetly, and then drew back her head. In half
a minute it reappeared. She was right; he was still looking up.
"I forgot to say," she whispered, "that all the windows in Miriam's room
are open. Do you think she was too sleepy to notice that, or is she
accustomed to so much night air?"
"I really do not know," said Ralph, in reply.
"Very well, then," said Dora; "I will attend to all that in my own way.
Good-night again, Mr. Haverley;" and with a little nod and a smile, she
withdrew her face from his view.
If she had come back within the next minute, she would have found him
still looking up. She felt quite sure of this, but she could think of no
good reason for another reappearance.
Ralph lighted a pipe and sat down on the piazza. He looked steadily in
front of him, but he saw no grass, no trees, no moonlighted landscape, no
sky of summer night. He saw only the face of a young girl, leaning over
and looking down at him from the top of a stairway. It was the face of a
girl who was so gentle, so thoughtful for others, so quick to perceive,
so quick to do; who was so fond of his sister, and so beautiful. He sat
and thought of the wondrous good fortune that had brought this girl
beneath his roof, and had given him these charming hours with her.
And when his pipe was out, he arose, declared to himself that, no matter
what the doctor might think of it, he would not wait another minute for
him, and went to bed,--his mind very busy with the anticipation of the
charming hours which were to come on the morrow.
MISS PANNEY IS AROUSED TO HELP AND HINDER
When Dr. Tolbridge returned from the visit to the patient who lived
beyond Cobhurst, he did not drive into the latter place, for seeing
Mike by the gate near the barn, he gave the cushions and whip to him
and went on.
As it was yet early in the evening, and bright moonlight, he concluded
to go around by the Wittons'. It was not far out of his way, and he
wanted to see Miss Panney. What he wanted to say to the old lady was not
exactly evident to his own mind, but in a general way he wished her to
know that Dora was at Cobhurst.
Dora was a great favorite with the doctor. He had known her all her life,
and considered that he knew, not only her good points, of which there
were many, but also those that were not altogether desirable, and, of
which, he believed, there were few. One of the latter was her disposition
to sometimes do as she pleased, without reference to tradition or
ordinary custom. He had seen her acting the part of cook, disguised by a
pink sunbonnet and an old-fashioned calico gown. And what pranks she and
the Haverleys--two estimable young people, but also lively and
independent--might play, no one could tell. The duration of Dora's visit
would depend on her brother Herbert, and he was a man of business, whose
time was not at all at his own disposal, and so, the doctor thought, it
would not be a bad thing if Miss Panney would call at Cobhurst the next
day, and see what those three youngsters were about.
The Wittons had gone to bed, but Miss Panney was in the parlor, reading.
"Early to bed and early to rise," was not one of her rules.
"Well, really!" she exclaimed, as she rose to greet her visitor, "this is
amazing. How many years has it been since you came to see me without
being sent for?"
"I do not keep account of years," said the doctor, "and if I choose to
stop in and have a chat with you, I shall do it without reference to
precedent. This is a purely social call, and I shall not even ask you
how you are."
"I beg you will not," said the old lady, "and that will give me a good
reason for sending for you when you ought to be informed on that point."
"This is not my first social call this evening," said he. "I took supper
at Cobhurst, where Dora Bannister waited on the table."
"What do you mean?" exclaimed Miss Panney, and then the doctor told his
tale. As the old lady listened, her spirits rose higher and higher. What
extraordinary good luck! She had never planned a match that moved with
such smoothness, such celerity, such astonishing directness as this. She
did not look upon Dora's disregard of tradition and ordinary custom as an
undesirable point in her character. She liked that sort of thing. It was
one of the points in her own character.
"I wish I could have seen her!" she exclaimed. "She must have been
"Don't you think there is danger that she may be too charming?" the
"No, I don't," promptly answered Miss Panney.
The doctor looked at her in some surprise.
"We should remember," said he, "that Dora is a girl of wealth; that
one-third of the Bannister estate belongs to her, besides the sixty
thousand dollars that came to her from her mother."
"That does not hurt her," said Miss Panney.
"And Ralph Haverley was a poor young man when he came here, and Cobhurst
will probably make him a good deal poorer."
"I do not doubt it," said Miss Panney.
"Do you believe," said the doctor, after a moment's pause, "that it is
wise or right in a girl like Dora Bannister, accustomed to fine living,
good society, and an atmosphere of opulence, to allow a poor man like
Ralph Haverley to fall in love with her? And he will do it, just as sure
as the world turns round."
"Well, let him do it," replied the old lady. "I did not intend to give my
opinion on this subject, because, as you know, I am not fond of obtruding
my ideas into other people's affairs, but I will say, now, that Dora
Bannister will have to travel a long distance before she finds a better
man for a husband than Ralph Haverley, or a better estate on which to
spend her money than Cobhurst. I believe that money that is made in a
neighborhood like this ought to be spent here, and Thomas Bannister's
money could not be better spent than in making Cobhurst the fine estate
it used to be. I do not believe in a girl like Dora going off and
marrying some city fellow, and perhaps spending the rest of her life at
the watering-places and Paris. I want her here; don't you?"
"I certainly do, but you forget Mr. Ames."
"I do, and I intend to forget him," she replied, "and so does Dora."
The doctor shook his head. "I do not like it," he said; "young Haverley
may be all very well,--I have a high opinion of him, already, but he is
not the man for Dora. If he had any money at all, it would be different,
but he has not. Now she would not be content to live at Cobhurst as it
is, and he ought not to be content to have her do everything to make it
what she would have it."
"Doctor," said Miss Panney, "if there is anything about all this in your
medicine books, perhaps you know more than I do, and you can go on and
talk; but you know there is not, and you know, too, that I was a very
sensible middle-aged woman when you were toddling around in frocks and
running against people. I believe you are trying to run against somebody
now. Who is it?"
"Well," said the doctor, "if it is anybody, it is young Haverley."
Miss Panney smiled. "You may think so," she said, "but I want you to know
that you are also running against me, and I say to you, confidentially,
and with as much trust in you as I used to have that you would not tell
who it was who spread your bread with forbidden jam, that I have planned
a match between these two; and if they marry, I intend to make pecuniary
matters more nearly even between them, than they are now."
The doctor looked at her earnestly.
"Do you suppose," said he, "that he would take money from you?"
"What I should do for him," she answered, "could not be prevented by him
or any one else."
"But there is no reason," urged the other.
The old lady smiled, took off her glasses, wiped them with her
handkerchief, and put them on again.
"There is so little in medicine books," she said. "His grandfather was
"The one--?" asked the startled doctor.
"Yes, that very one," she answered quickly; "but he does not know it,
and now we will drop the subject. I will try to get to Cobhurst
to-morrow before Dora leaves, and I will see if I cannot help matters
along a little."
The doctor laughed. "I was going to ask you to interfere with matters."
"Well, don't," she said. "And now tell me about your cook. Is she as
good as ever?"
"As good?" said the doctor. "She is better. The more she learns about our
tastes, the more perfectly she gratifies them. Mrs. Tolbridge and I look
upon her as a household blessing, for she gives us three perfect meals a
day, and would give us more if we wanted them; the butcher reverences
her, for she knows more about meat and how to cut it than he does. Our
man and our maid either tremble at her nod or regard her with the deepest
affection, for I am told that they spend a great deal of their time
helping her, when they should be attending to their own duties. She has,
in fact, become so necessary to our domestic felicity, and I may say, to
our health, that I do not know what will become of us if we lose her."
"Is there any chance of that?" eagerly asked the old lady.
"I fear there is," was the answer.
Miss Panney sprang to her feet, her eyes flashing.
"Now look here, Dr. Tolbridge," she said, "don't tell me that that woman
is going to leave you because she wants higher wages and you will not pay
them. I beg you to remember that I got you that woman. I saw she was what
you needed, and I worked matters so that she came to you. She has proved
to be everything that I expected. You are looking better now than I have
seen you look for five years. You have been eating food that you like,
and food that agrees with you, and a chance to do that comes to very few
people in your circumstances. There is no way in which you could spend
your money better than--"
The doctor raised his hand deprecatingly.
"There is no question of money," he said. "She has not asked for higher
wages, and if she had, I should pay anything in reason. The trouble is
more serious. You may remember that when she first came to this country,
she lived with the Dranes, and she left them because they could no longer
afford to employ her. She has the greatest regard for that family, and
has lately heard that they are becoming poorer and poorer. There are only
two of them,--mother and daughter,--and on account of some sort of unwise
investment they are getting into a pretty bad way. I used to know Captain
Drane, and was slightly acquainted with his family. I heard of their
misfortune through a friend in Pennsylvania, and as I knew that La Fleur
took such an interest in the family, I mentioned it to her. The result
was disastrous; she has been in a doleful mood ever since, and yesterday
assured Mrs. Tolbridge that if it should prove that Mrs. Drane and her
daughter, who had been so good to her, had become so poor that they
could not afford to employ a servant, she must leave us and go to them.
She would ask no wages and would take no denial. She would stay with them
and serve them for the love she bore them, as long as they needed her. I
know she is in earnest, for she immediately wrote to Mrs. Drane, and
asked me to put the letter in the post-office; and, by the way, she
writes a great deal better hand than I do."
Miss Panney, who had reseated herself, gazed earnestly at the floor.
"Doctor," she said, "this is very serious. I have not yet met La Fleur,
but I very much want to. I am convinced that she is a woman of character,
and when she says she intends to do a thing, she will do it. That is,
unless somebody else of character, and of pretty strong character too,
gets in her way. I do not know what advice to give you just now, but she
must not leave you. That must be considered as settled. I am coming to
your house to-morrow afternoon, and please ask Mrs. Tolbridge to be at
home. We shall then see what is to be done."
"There is nothing to be done," said the doctor, rising. "We cannot
improve the circumstances of the Dranes, and we cannot prevent La Fleur
from going to them if her feelings prompt her to do it."
"Stuff!" said the old lady. "There is always something to be done. The
trouble is, there is not always some one to do it; but, fortunately for
some of my friends, I am alive yet."
"KEEP HER TO HELP YOU"
It was about ten o'clock the next morning when Miss Panney drove over to
Cobhurst in her phaeton. She did not go up to the house, but tied her
roan mare behind a clump of locust trees and bushes, where the animal
might stand in peace and shade. Then she walked around the house, and
hearing the clatter of crockery in the basement, she looked down through
a kitchen window, and saw Mike washing the breakfast dishes.
Going on toward the back of the house, she heard voices and laughter over
in the garden. Behind a tangled mass of raspberries, she saw a pink
sunbonnet and a straw hat with daisies in it. She knew, then, that Dora
and Miriam were picking berries, and then her eyes and ears began to
search for Ralph.
She went up on the back piazza and looked over toward the barn, which
appeared to be closed, and around and about the house, but saw nothing
of the young man. But she would wait; it was scarcely likely that he was
at work in the fields by himself. He would probably appear soon, and, if
possible, she wanted to speak to him before she saw any one else. She
went into the house, and took a seat in the hall, where, through a
narrow window by the side of the door, she had a good view of the garden
and the grounds at the back, and could also command the front entrance
of the house.
Miss Panney had been seated but a very few minutes when the two girls
emerged from the bosky intricacies of the garden.
"Upon my word!" exclaimed the old lady, "she has got on Judith Pacewalk's
teaberry gown. I could never forget that!"
At this moment there was a clatter of hoofs and a rattle of wheels, and a
brown horse, drawing a very loose-jointed wagon, with Ralph Haverley, in
a broad hat and light tennis jacket, driving, dashed up to the back door
and stopped with a jerk.
"Back so soon!" cried Miriam. "See what a lot of raspberries we have
picked. I will take them into the house, and then come out and get the
things you have brought."
As Miriam went around toward the kitchen, Ralph sprang to the ground, and
Dora approached him. Miss Panney could see her face under the sunbonnet.
It was suffused with the light of a smiling, beaming welcome.
"You did go quickly, didn't you?" she said. "You must be a good driver."
"I didn't want to lose any time," answered Ralph, "and I made Mrs.
Browning step along lively. As it was, I was afraid that your brother
might arrive before I got back and that I might find you were gone."
"It was a pity," said Dora, "that you troubled yourself to hurry back.
You may have wanted to do other things in Thorbury, and if Herbert missed
seeing you to-day he would have plenty of other opportunities."
Ralph laughed. "I should like to meet your brother," he said, "but I am
bound to say that I was thinking more of the new cook. I did not want her
to leave before I got back."
Dora raised her sunbonnet toward him. Miriam's steps were heard
"You might have felt sure," she said, "that she would not have gone
without seeing you again. You have been so kind and good to her that she
would not think of doing that." Then, as Miriam was very near, she
approached the wagon. "Did you get the snowflake flour, as I told you?"
she asked. "Yes, I see you did, and I am glad you listened to my advice,
and bought only a bag of it, for you know you may not like it."
"If it is the flour you use, I know we shall like it," said Ralph; "but
still I am bound to follow your advice."
"You would better follow me, now," said Miriam, who had taken some
parcels from the wagon, "and bring that bag into the pantry. I do not
like Mike to come into our part of the house with his boots."
Ralph shouldered the bag, and Dora stepped up to him.
"I will stay with the horse until you come out again," she said, not
speaking very loudly.
Miss Panney, who had heard all that had been said, smiled, and her black
eyes twinkled. "Truly," she said to herself, "for so short an
acquaintance, this is getting on wonderfully."
Miriam, her arms full of parcels, and her mind full of household economy,
walked rapidly by Miss Panney without seeing her at all, and, entering
the dining-room, passed through it into the pantry. But when Ralph
appeared in the open doorway, the old lady rose and confronted him, her
finger on her lip.
"I have just popped in to make a little call on your sister," she
whispered; "but I saw she was pretty well loaded as she passed, and I did
not wish to embarrass her--I do not mind embarrassing you. Don't put down
the bag, I beg. I shall step into the drawing-room, and you can say I am
there. By the way, who is that young woman standing by the horse?"
"It is Miss Bannister," answered Ralph, his face unreasonably flushing as
he spoke. "She is visiting Miriam and helping her."
When Miss Panney wished to influence a person in favor of or against
another person, she was accustomed to go about the business in a very
circumspect way, and to accommodate the matter and the manner of her
remarks to the disposition of the person addressed, and to the occasion.
She wished very much to influence Ralph in favor of Miss Bannister, and
if she had had the opportunity of a conversation with him, she knew she
could have done this in a very easy and natural way. But there was no
time for conversation now, and she might not again have the chance of
seeing him alone, so she adopted a very different course, and with as
much readiness and quickness as Daniel Boone would have put a rifle-ball
into the head of an Indian the moment he saw it protrude from behind a
tree, so did Miss Panney concentrate all she had to say into one shot,
and deliver it quickly.
"Help Miriam, eh?" she whispered; "take my advice, my boy, and keep her
to help you." And without another word she proceeded to the drawing-room,
where she seated herself in the most comfortable chair.
Ralph stood still a minute with the bag on his shoulder. He scarcely
understood what had been said to him, but the words had been so well
aimed and sent with such force that before he reached Miriam and the
pantry his mind was illumined by the shining apparition of Dora as his
partner and helpmate. Two minutes before there had been no such
apparition. It is true that his mind had been filled with misty,
cloudlike sensations, entirely new to it, but the words of the old lady
had now condensed them into form.
When Miriam was informed of the visitor in the drawing-room, she frowned
a little, and made up a queer face, and then, taking off her long apron,
went to perform her duty as lady of the house.
Ralph returned to Dora, and as he looked at the girl who was patting the
neck of the brown mare, she seemed to have changed, not because she was
different from what she had been a few minutes before, but because he
looked upon her differently. As he approached, every word that she had
spoken to him that day crowded into his memory. The last thing she had
said was that she would wait until he returned to her, and here she was,
waiting. When he spoke, his manner had lost the free-heartedness of a
little while before; there was a slight diffidence in it.
Hearing that Miss Panney was in the house, Dora turned her bonnet
downward, and she also frowned a little.
"Why should that old person come in this very morning?" she thought.
But in an instant the front of the bonnet was raised toward Ralph, and
upon the young face under it there was not a shadow of dissatisfaction.
"Of course I must go in and see her," she said, and then, speaking as if
Ralph were one on whom she had always been accustomed to rely for
counsel, "do you think I need go upstairs and change my dress? If this is
good enough for you and Miriam, isn't it good enough for Miss Panney?"
As Ralph gazed into the blue eyes that were raised to his, it was
impossible for him to think of anything for which their owner was not
good enough. This impression upon him was so strong that he said, with
blurting awkwardness, that she looked charming as she was, and needed not
the slightest change. The value of this impulsive remark was fully
appreciated by Dora, but she gave no sign of it, and simply said that if
he were suited, she was.
They were moving toward the house when Dora suddenly laid her hand
upon his arm.
"You have forgotten the horse, Mr. Ralph," she said.
The touch and the name by which she called him for the first time made
the young man forget, for an instant, everything in the world, but the
girl who had touched and spoken.
"Have you anything to tie her with? Oh, yes, there is a chain on
As Ralph turned the horse toward the hitching-post, Dora ran before him,
and stood ready with the chain in her hand.
"Oh, no," she said, as he motioned to take it from her, "let me hook it
on her bridle. Don't you want to let me help you at all?"
As side by side Dora and Ralph entered the drawing-room, Miss Panney
declared in her soul that they looked like an engaged couple, coming to
ask for her blessing. And when Dora saluted her with a kiss, and, drawing
up a stool, took a seat at her feet, the old lady gave her her blessing,
though not audibly.
As Miss Panney was in a high good humor, she wanted everybody else to be
so, and in a few minutes even the sedate Miriam was chatting freely and
"And so that graceless Phoebe has left you," said the old lady; "to board
the minister, indeed! I will see that minister, and give him a text for a
sermon. But you cannot keep up this sort of thing, my young friends; not
even with Dora's help." And she stroked the soft hair of Miss Bannister,
from which the sunbonnet had been removed.
"I will see Mike before I go, and send him for Molly Tooney. Molly is a
good enough woman, and if I send for her, she will come to you until you
have suited yourselves with servants. And now, my dear child, where did
you find that gay dress? Upstairs in some old trunk, I suppose. Stand
over there and let me look at you. It is a good forty years since I have
seen that gown. Do you know to whom it used to belong? But of course you
do not. It was Judith Pacewalk's teaberry gown."
"And who was Judith Pacewalk?" asked Dora; "and why was it teaberry? It
is not teaberry color."
"No," said Miss Panney; "the color had nothing to do with it, but I must
say it has kept very well. Let me see," taking out her watch, "it is not
yet eleven o'clock, and if you young people have time enough, I will tell
you the story of that gown. What does the master say?"
Ralph declared that they must have the story, and that time must not be
JUDITH PACEWALK'S TEABERRY GOWN
"Judith Pacewalk," said Miss Panney, "was Matthias Butterwood's cousin.
Before Matthias got rich and built this house, he lived with his Aunt
Pacewalk on her farm. That was over at Pascalville, about thirty miles
from here. He superintended the farm, and Judith and he were very good
friends, although he never showed any signs of caring anything for her
except in the way of a cousin; but she cared for him. There was no doubt
about that. I lived in Pascalville, then, and used to be a great deal at
their house, and it was as plain as daylight to me that Judith was in
love with her cousin, although she was such a quiet girl that few people
suspected it, and I know he did not.
"The Pacewalks were poor, and always had been; and it could not be
expected that a man like Matthias Butterwood could stay long on that
little farm. He had a sharp business head, and was a money-maker, and as
soon as he was able he bought a farm of his own, and this is the farm;
but there was no house on it then, except the little one that Mike now
lives in. But Matthias had grand ideas about an estate, and in the course
of five years he built this house and the great barn, and made a fine
estate of it.
"When this was going on, he still lived with his Aunt Pacewalk. He did
not want to go to his own house until everything was finished and ready.
Of course, everybody supposed he would take a wife there, but he never
said anything about that, and gave a sniff when the subject was
mentioned. During the summer in which Cobhurst was finished--he named the
place himself--he told his aunt that in the fall he was going there to
live, and that he wanted her and Judith to come there and make him a
visit of a month. He said he intended to have his relations visit him by
turns, and that was the sort of family he would have. Now it struck me
that if Judith went there and played her cards properly, she could stay
there as mistress. Although she was a girl very much given to keeping her
own counsel, I knew very well that she had something of the same idea.
"As I said before, the Pacewalks were poor, and although they lived well
enough, money was scarce with them, and it was seldom that they were able
to spend any of it for clothes. But about this time Judith came to me--I
was visiting them at the time--and talked a little about herself, which
was uncommon. She said that if she went to Matthias' fine new house, and
sat at the head of his table,--and of course that would be her place
there, as it was at her mother's table,--she thought that she ought to
dress better than she did. 'I do not mean,' she said, 'that I want any
fine clothes for company; but I ought to have something neat and proper
for everyday wear, and I want you to help me to think of some way to buy
it.' So we talked the matter over, and came to the conclusion that the
best way to do was to try to gather teaberries enough to pay for the
material for a chintz gown.
"In those days--I don't know how it is now--Pascalville was the greatest
place for teaberries. They used them as a flavor for candy, ice-cream,
puddings, cakes, and I don't know what else. They made summer drinks of
it, and it was used as a perfume for home-made hair-washes and
tooth-powder. So Judith and I and a girl named Dorcas Stone, who was a
friend of ours, went to work gathering teaberries in the woods. We worked
early and late, and got enough to trade off at the store for the ten
yards of chintz with which that gown is made.
"As for the making of it, Judith and I did all that ourselves. Dorcas
Stone might be willing enough to go with us to pick berries, but when
she found what was to be bought with them, she drew out of the business.
She was not a girl who was particularly sharp about seeing things
herself, or keeping people from seeing through her; but she wanted to
marry Matthias Butterwood, and when she found Judith was to have a new
gown she would have nothing to do with it, which was a pity, for she was
a very fine sewer, especially as to gathers.
"We cut the gown from some patterns we got from a magazine; I fitted it,
and we both sewed. When it was done, and Judith tried it on, it was very
pretty and becoming, and she looked better in it than in the gown she
wore when she went to a party. When we had seen that everything was all
right, Judith took off the dress, folded it up, and put it away in a
drawer. 'Now,' said she, 'I shall not wear that until I go to Cobhurst.'
"Well, as everybody knows, houses are never finished at the time they are
expected to be, and that was the way with this house, and as Matthias
would not go into it until everything was quite ready, the moving was put
off and put off until it began to be cold weather, and then he said he
would not go into it until spring, for it would be uncomfortable to live
in the new house in the winter.
"I was very sorry for this, for I thought that the sooner Judith got here
the better her chance would be for staying here the rest of her life.
Judith did not say much, but I am sure she was sorry too, and Matthias
seemed a little out of spirits, as if he were getting a little tired of
living with the Pacewalks, and wanted to be in his own house. I think he
began to feel more like seeing people, and I know he visited the Stones a
"One day when I was at the Pacewalks' and we were sitting alone, he
looked at me and my clothes, and then he said, 'I wish Judith cared more
for clothes than she does. I do not mean getting herself up for high days
and holidays, but her everyday clothes. I like a woman to wear neat and
becoming things all the time.' 'I am sure,' I said, 'Judith's clothes are
always very neat!'
"'If you mean clean,' he said, 'I will agree to that, but when the color
is all washed out of a thing, or it is faded in streaks like that blue
gown she wears, the wearing of it day after day is bound to make a person
think that a young woman does not care how she looks to her own family,
and I do not like young women not to care how they look to their
families, especially when calico is only twelve cents a yard, and needles
and thread cost almost nothing.' 'Matthias,' said I, 'I expect you have
been to see Dorcas Stone, and are comparing her clothes with Judith's.
Now, Dorcas' father is a well-to-do man, and Judith hasn't any father,
and she does the best she can with the clothes she has.' 'It is not money
I am talking about,' he said, 'it is disposition. If a young woman wants
to look well in her own family, she will find some way to do it. At any
rate, she could let it be seen that she is not satisfied to look like a
dowdy.' And then he went away.
"This was the first time that Matthias had ever spoken to me about
Judith, and I knew just as well as if he had told me that it was Dorcas
Stone's clothes that had got him into that way of thinking.
"More than that, I knew he would never have taken the trouble to say that
much about Judith if he had not been taking more interest in her than he
ever had before. He was a practical, businesslike man, and I believed
then, and I believe now, that he was looking for some one to be mistress
of Cobhurst, and if Judith had suited his ideas of what such a woman
ought to be, he would have preferred her to any one else. I think that
was about as far as he was likely to go in such matters at that time,
though of course if he had gotten a loving wife, he might have become a
loving husband, for Matthias was a good fellow at bottom, though rather
hard on top.
"When he had gone, I went straight upstairs to Judith, and said to her,
if she knew what was good for her, she would get out that teaberry gown
and put it on for supper, and wear it regularly at meals and at all times
when it would be suitable as a house gown. 'I shall do nothing of the
sort,' she said; 'I got it to wear when I go to Cobhurst, and I shall
keep it until then. If I put it on now, it will be a poor-looking thing
by spring.' I told her that was all nonsense, and she could wear that and
get another in the spring, but she shook her head and was not to be
moved. Now, I would have been glad enough to give her the stuff to make a
new gown, but I had hinted at that sort of thing before, and did not
intend to do it again, for she was a good deal prouder than she was poor.
Nor could I think of telling her what Matthias had said, for not only
was she very sensitive, and would have been hurt that he should have
talked to me in that way about her, but she would not have consented to
dress herself on purpose to please a man's fancy.
"I could not do anything more then, but I have always been a matchmaker,
and I did not give up this match. I did everything I could to make Judith
look well in the eyes of Matthias, and I said everything I could to make
his eyes look favorably on her, but it was all of no use. Judith went to
a Christmas party, and she wore a purple silk gown that had belonged to
her mother. It was rather large for her, and a good deal heavier than
anything she had been accustomed to wear, and she got very warm in the
crowded room, and coming home in a sleigh, she caught cold, and died in
less than a month.
"So you see, my dears, Judith Pacewalk never wore her teaberry gown, in
which, I believe, she would have been mistress of Cobhurst. When her
mother died, not long afterward, everything they owned went to Matthias
and his brother Reuben. The Pacewalk farm was sold, and all the personal
property of both brothers, including that disastrous box of bones, was
brought here, where it is yet, I suppose; and so, my good young people, I
imagine you will not wonder that I was surprised to see that pink gown
again, having helped, as I did, with every seam, pleat, and gather of it.
If you will look at it closely, you will see that there is good work on
it, for Judith and I knew how to use our needles a good deal better than
most ladies do nowadays."
Miriam now spoke with much promptness.
"I am ever so glad to hear that story, Miss Panney," she said, "and as
that teaberry gown should have been worn by the mistress of Cobhurst, I
intend to wear it myself, every day, as long as it lasts, and if it does
not fit me, I can alter it."
Whether this remark, which was delivered with considerable spirit, was
occasioned by the young girl's natural pride, or whether a little
jealousy had been aroused by the evident satisfaction with which the
old lady gazed at Dora, arrayed in this significant garment, Miss
Panney could not know, but she took instant alarm. Nothing could be
more fatal to her plans than to see the sister opposed to them. She
had been delighted at the intimacy that had evidently sprung up
between her and Dora, but she knew very well that if this sedate
school-girl should resent any interference with her prerogatives, the
intimacy would be in danger.
Miss Panney had no doubt that Dora and Ralph were on the right road, and
would do very well if left to themselves, but she scarcely believed that
the young man was yet sufficiently in love to brave the opposition of his
sister, which would be all the more wild and unreasonable because she was
yet a girl, and in a position of which she was very proud.
For Dora and Ralph to marry, Dora and Miriam should be the best of
friends, so that both brother and sister should desire the alliance,
and in furtherance of this happy result, Miss Panney determined to
take Dora away with her. She had been at Cobhurst long enough to
produce a desirable impression upon Ralph, and if she stayed longer,
there was no knowing what might happen between her and Miriam. Dora, as
well as the other, was high-spirited and young, and it was as likely as
not that as she showed an inclination to continue to wear the teaberry
gown, there would be a storm in which matrimonial schemes would be
washed out of sight.
"Dora," said Miss Panney, "I am now going to drive to Thorbury, and it
will be a great deal better for you to go with me than to wait for your
brother, for it may be very late in the day before he can come for you.
And more than that, it is ten to one that by this time he has forgotten
all about you, especially if his office is full of clients. So please
get yourself ready as soon as possible. And, Miriam, if you will come
over to see me some morning, and bring that teaberry gown with you, I
will alter it to fit you, and arrange it so that you can do the sewing
yourself. It is very appropriate that the little lady of the house
should wear that gown."
Into the minds of Dora and Miss Panney there came, simultaneously, this
idea: that no matter how much or how often Miriam might wear that gown,
she would not be the first one whom it had figuratively invested with the
prerogatives of the mistress of Cobhurst.
Miss Bannister, who well knew her brother's habits, agreed to the old
lady's suggestion, and it was well she did so, for when she got home,
Herbert declared that he had been puzzling his mind to devise a plan for
sending for his sister and the broken buggy on the same afternoon. As
for going himself, it was impossible.
When Dora came downstairs arrayed in her proper costume, Ralph thought
her a great deal prettier than when she wore the pink chintz. Miss
Panney thought so, too, and she managed to leave them together, while
she went with Miriam to get pen and paper with which to write a note to
"Molly cannot read," said the old lady, "but if Mike will take that to
her, she will come to you and stay as long as you like," and then she
went on to talk about the woman until she thought that Ralph and Dora had
had about five minutes together, which she considered enough.
"You must both come and see me," cried Miss Bannister, as, leaning from
the phaeton, she stretched out her hand to Miriam.
"Indeed we shall do so," said Ralph, and as his sister relinquished the
hand of the visitor he took it himself.
Miss Panney was not one of those drivers who start off with a jerk. Had
she been such a one, Miss Bannister might have been pulled against the
side of the phaeton, for the grasp was cordial.
About three o'clock that afternoon, La Fleur, Mrs. Tolbridge's cook, sat
in the middle of her very pleasant kitchen, composing the dinner. Had she
been the chef of a princely mansion, she could not have given the
subject more earnest nor intelligent consideration. It is true the
materials at hand were not those from which a dinner for princes would
have been prepared. But what she had was sufficient for the occasion, and
this repast for a country gentleman in moderate circumstances and his
wife was planned with conscientiousness as well as skill. From the first
she had known very well that it would be fatal to her pretensions to
prepare for the Tolbridges an expensive and luxurious meal, but she had
determined that they should never sit down to any but a good one.
Her soup had been determined upon and was off her mind, and she had
prepared that morning, from some residuary viands, which would have been
wasted had she not used them in this way, the little entree which was to
follow. Her filet, which the butcher had that morning declared he never
separated from the contiguous portions for any one, but had very soon
afterward cut out for her, lay in the refrigerator, awaiting her pleasure
and convenience. The vegetables had been chosen, and her thoughts were
now intent upon a "sweet" which should harmonize with the other courses.
On a chair, by the door opening into the garden, sat George, the
doctor's man, who was coachman, groom, and gardener, and who, having
picked a basket of peas, had been requested to shell them. By an open
window, Amanda, the chambermaid, was extracting the stones from a little
dish of olives.
George was working rapidly and a little impatiently.
"Madam," said he, "do you want all these peas shelled?"
La Fleur turned and looked at him with a pleasant smile.
"I want enough to surround my filet, but whether you shell enough for us
to have any, depends entirely on your good will, George."
"Of course I'll shell as many as you want," said he, "but I've got a lot
to do this afternoon. There is the phaeton to be washed, that I don't
want the doctor to come home and find muddy yet; and I ought to have done
it this morning, madam, when I was walking about the garden with you, a
tellin' you what I had and a hearin' what I ought to have."
"I was so glad to have you go with me, and show me everything," said La
Fleur, "because I do not yet exactly understand American gardens. It is
such a nice garden, too, and you do not know how pleased I was, after you
left me and I was coming to the house, to see that fine bed of
aubergines. When will any of them be ripe, do you think, George?"
The man looked up in surprise.
"There is nothing of that sort in my garden," said he. "I never
heard of them."
"Oh, yes, you have," said La Fleur, "you call them egg-plants. You see,
I am learning your American names for things. And now, Amanda, if you
have finished the olives I'll get you to make a fine powder of those
things which I have put into the mortar. Thump and grind them well with
the pestle; they are to make the stuffing for the olives."
"But, madam, what is to become of the sewing Mrs. Tolbridge wants me to
do? I have only hemmed two of the dozen napkins she gave me to do day
"Now, Amanda," said La Fleur, "you ought to know very well, that without
a meal on the table, napkins are of no use. You might have the meals
without napkins, but it wouldn't work the other way. And I am sure those
napkins are not to be used for a week, or perhaps several weeks, and this
dinner must be eaten to-day. So you can see for yourself--"
At this moment there was a knock at the inner door of the kitchen.
"Who can that be!" exclaimed La Fleur. "Come in."
The door opened, and Miss Panney entered the kitchen. La Fleur rose from
her seat, and for a moment the two elderly women stood and looked at
"And this is La Fleur," said Miss Panney; "Mrs. Tolbridge has been
talking about you, and I asked her to let me come in and see you. I want
to speak to you for a few minutes, and I will sit down here. Don't you
La Fleur liked people to come and talk to her, provided they were the
right sort of people, and came in the right way. Miss Panney's salutation
pleased her; she had a respect for people who showed a proper recognition
of differences of position. If Miss Panney had been brought into the
kitchen by Mrs. Tolbridge and in a manner introduced to La Fleur, the
latter would have regarded her as something of an equal, and would not
have respected her. Had the old lady accosted her in a supercilious
manner, La Fleur would have disliked her, even if she had supposed she
were a person to be respected. But Miss Panney had filled all the
requirements necessary for the cook's favorable opinion. In the few words
she had spoken, she had shown that she was a friend of the mistress of
the house; that she had heard interesting things of the cook, and
therefore wished to see her; that she knew this cook was a woman of
sense, who understood what was befitting to her position, and would
therefore stand when talking to a lady, and, moreover, in consequence of
the fact that this cook was superior to her class, she would waive the
privileges of her class, and request the cook to sit, while talking to
her. To have waived this privilege without first indicating that she knew
La Fleur would acknowledge her possession of it, would have been damaging
to Miss Panney.
Upon the features of La Fleur, which were inclined to be bulbous, there
now appeared a smile, which was very different from that with which she
encouraged and soothed her conscripted assistants. It was a smile that
showed that she was pleasurably honored, and it was accompanied by a
slight bow and a downward glance. Then turning to the man and the maid,
she told them in a low voice that they might go, a permission of which
they instantly availed themselves.
Miss Panney now sat down, and La Fleur, pushing her chair a little away
from the table, availed herself of the permission to do likewise.
"I have eaten some of your cooking, La Fleur," said Miss Panney, "and I
liked it so much that I wished to ask you something about it. For one
thing, where did you get that recipe for that delicious ice, flavored
The cook smiled with a new smile--one of genuine pleasure.
"To make that ice," she answered, "one must have more than a recipe: one
must be educated. Tolati, my first husband, invented that ice, and no
chef in Europe could make it but himself. But he taught me, and I make it
for Dr. and Mrs. Tolbridge. It has a quality of cream, though there is no
cream in it."
"I never tasted anything of the kind so good," said Miss Panney, "and
I am a judge, for I have lived long and eaten meals prepared by the
"French, perhaps," said La Fleur.
"Oh, yes," was the reply, "and those of other nations. I have travelled."
"I could see that," said La Fleur, "by your appreciation of my work.
French cooking is the best in the world, and if you have an English cook
to do it, then there is nothing more to be desired. It is like the French
china, with the English designs, which they make now. I once visited
their works, and was very proud of my countrymen."
"The conceited old body," thought Miss Panney; but she said, "Very
true, very true. It is delightful to me to think that my friends here
have a cook who can prepare meals which are truly fit, not only to
nourish the body without doing it any harm, but to gratify the most
intelligent taste. I have noticed, La Fleur, that there is always
something about your dishes that pleases the eye as well as the palate.
When we say that cooking is thoroughly wholesome, delicious, and
artistic, we can say no more."
"You do me proud," said La Fleur, "and I hope, madam, that you may eat
many a meal of my cooking. I want to say this, too: I could not cook for
Dr. and Mrs. Tolbridge as I do, if I did not feel that they appreciate my
work. I know they do, and so I am encouraged to do my best."
"Not only does the doctor appreciate you," said Miss Panney, "but his
health depends upon you. He is a man who is peculiarly sensitive to bad
cooking. I have known him all his life, and known him well. He was
getting in a bad way, La Fleur, when you came here, and you are already
making a new man of him."
"I like to hear that," said La Fleur. "I have a high opinion of Dr.
Tolbridge. I know what he is and what he needs. I often sit up late at
night, thinking of things that will be good for him, and which he will
like. We all work here: every one of the household is industrious, but
the doctor and I are the only ones who must work with our brains. The
others simply work with their bodies and hands."
Miss Panney fixed her black eyes on the bulbous-faced cook.
"The word conceit," she thought, "is imbecile in this case."
"I am glad you are both so well able to do it," she said aloud. "And you
like it here? The place suits you?"
"Oh, yes, madam," replied La Fleur; "it suits me very well. It is not
what I am accustomed to, but I gave up all that of my own accord. Life in
great houses has its advantages and its pleasures, and its ambitions,
too; but I am getting on in years, and I am tired of the worry and bustle
of large households. I came to this country to visit my relatives, and to
rest and enjoy myself; but I soon found that I could not live without
cooking. You might as well expect Dr. Tolbridge to live without reading."
"That is very true, La Fleur," said Miss Panney; "and it seems to me that
you are in the very home where you can spend the rest of your days most
profitably to others, and most happily to yourself. And yet I hear that
you are considering the possibility of not staying here."
"Yes," answered La Fleur, "I am considering that; but it is not because I
am dissatisfied with anything here. It is altogether a different
question. I am very much attached to the family I first lived with in
this country. They are in trouble now, and I think they may need me. If
they do, I shall go to them. I have quite settled all that in my mind. I
am now waiting for an answer to a letter I have written to Mrs. Drane."
"La Fleur," said Miss Panney, "if you leave Dr. Tolbridge, I think it
will be a great mistake; and, although I do not want to hurt your
feelings, I feel bound to say that it will be almost a crime."
The cook's face assumed an expression of firmness.
"All that may be," she said, "but it makes no difference. If they need
me, I shall go to them."
"But cannot somebody else be found to go to them? You are not as
necessary there as you are here, nor so highly prized. They let you go of
their own accord."
"No one else will go to them for nothing," said La Fleur, "and I
shall do that."
Miss Panney sat with her brows knit.
"If the Dranes have become poor," she said presently, "it is natural that
you should want to help them; but it may not be at all necessary that you
should go to them. In fact, by doing that, you might embarrass them very
much. There are only two of them, I believe,--mother and daughter. Do
they do anything to support themselves?"
"Miss Cicely is trying to get a situation as teacher. If she can do that,
she can support her mother. At present they are doing nothing, and I fear
have nothing to live on. I know my going to them would not embarrass
them. I can help them in ways you do not think of."
"La Fleur," said Miss Panney, "your feelings are highly honorable to
you, but you are not going about this business in the right way. I have
heard of the Drane family, and know what sort of people they are. They
would not have you work for them for nothing, and perhaps buy with your
own money the food you cook. What should be done is to help them to
help themselves. If Miss Drane wishes a position as teacher, one should
be got for her."
"That is out of my line," said La Fleur, shaking her head, "out of my
line. I can cook for them, but I can't help them to be teachers."
"But perhaps I can, and I am going to try. What you have told me
encourages me very much. To get a position as teacher for Miss Drane
ought to be easy enough. To get Dr. Tolbridge a cook who could take your
place would be impossible."
La Fleur smiled. "I believe that," she said.
"Now what I do is for the sake of the doctor," continued Miss Panney. "I
do not know the Dranes personally, but I have no objection to benefit
them if I can. But for the sake of a friend whom I have known all his
days, I wish to keep you in this kitchen. I am not afraid to say this to
you, because I know you are not a person who would take advantage of the
opinion in which you are held, to make demands upon the family which they
could not satisfy."
"You need not say anything about that, madam," replied La Fleur. "Nobody
can tell me anything about my work and value which I did not know before,
and as for my salary, I fixed that myself, and there shall be no change."
Miss Panney rose. "La Fleur," she said, "I am very glad I came here to
talk to you. I did not suppose that I should meet with such a sensible
woman, and I shall ask a favor of you; please do not take any steps in
this matter without consulting me. I am going to work immediately to see
what I can do for Miss Drane, and if I succeed it will be far better for
her and her mother than if you went to them. Don't you see that?"
"Yes," said La Fleur, "that is reasonable enough, but I must admit that I
should like to see them."
Miss Panney ignored the latter remark.
"Now do not forget, La Fleur," she said, "to send me word when you get a
letter, and then I may write to Miss Drane, but I shall go to work for
her immediately. And now I will leave you to go on with your dinner. I
shall dine here to-day, and I shall enjoy the meal so much better because
I know the chef who prepared it."
La Fleur resumed her seat and the consideration of her "sweet."
"She is a wheedling old body," she said to herself, "but I suppose I
ought to give her something extra for that speech."
The next morning Mrs. Tolbridge came into the kitchen. "La Fleur," said
she, "what is the name of that delicious dessert you gave us last night?"
The cook sighed. "She will always call the 'sweet' a dessert," she
thought; and then she answered, "That was Blarney Fluff, ma'am, with
Mrs. Tolbridge laughed. "Whatever is its name," she said, "we all thought
it was the sweetest and softest, most delightful thing of the kind we had
ever tasted. Miss Panney was particularly pleased with it."
"I hoped she would be," said La Fleur.
MISS PANNEY IS "TOOK SUDDEN"
"I have spoken to Mr. Ames about it," said Dr. Tolbridge to Miss Panney,
as two days later they were sitting together in his office, "and we are
both agreed that teachers in Thorbury are like the vines on the gable
ends of our church; they are needed there, but they do not flourish. You
see, so many of our people send their children away to school, that is,
when they are really old enough to learn anything."
"I would do it too, if I had children," said the old lady; "but this is a
matter which rises above the ordinary points of view. I do not believe
that you look at it properly, for if you did you would not sit there and
talk so coolly. Do you appreciate the fact that if Miss Drane does not
soon get something to do, you will be living on soggy, half-baked bread,
greasy fried meat, water-soaked vegetables, and muddy coffee, and every
one of your higher sentiments will be merged in dyspepsia?"
The doctor smiled. "I did not suppose it would be as bad as that," he
said; "but if what you say is true, let us skip about instantly, and do
"That is the sort of action that I am trying to goad you into," said
the old lady.
"Oh, I will do what I can," said the doctor, "but I really think there is
nothing to be done here, and at this season. People do not want teachers
in summer, and I see no promise of a later demand of this sort in
Thorbury. We must try elsewhere."
"Not yet," said the other. "I shall not give up Thorbury yet. It is
easier for us to work for Miss Drane here than anywhere else, because we
are here, and we are not anywhere else. Moreover, she will like to come
here, for then she will not be among strangers; so please let us exhaust
Thorbury before thinking of any other place."
"Very good," said the doctor, leaning back in his chair, "and now let us
exhaust Thorbury as fast as we can, before a patient comes in. I am
"If she comes, she can wait," said Miss Panney. "You have a case here
which is acute and alarming, and cannot be trifled with."
"How do you know I expect a 'she'?" asked the doctor.
"If it had been a man, he would have been here and gone," said
Miss Panney knew as well as any one that immediate employment as a
teacher could be rarely obtained in summer, and for this reason she
wished to confine her efforts to the immediate neighborhood, where
personal persuasion and influence might be brought into action.
Moreover, she had said to herself, "If we cannot get any teaching for
the girl, we must get her something else to do, for the present. But
whatever is to be done must be done here and now, or the old woman will
be off before we know it."
She sat for a few moments with her brows knitted in thought. Suddenly
she exclaimed, "Is it Susan Clopsey you expect? Very well, then, I will
make an exception in her favor. She is just coming in at the gate, and I
would not interfere with your practice on her for anything. She has got
money and a spinal column, and as long as they both last she is more to
be depended on than government bonds. If her troubles ever get into her
legs, and I have reason to believe they will, you can afford to hire a
little maid for your cook. Old Daniel Clopsey, her grandfather, died at
ninety-five, and he had then the same doctorable rheumatism that he had
at fifty. I have something to think over, and I will come in again when
she is gone."
"Depart, O mercenary being!" exclaimed the doctor, "before you abase my
thoughts from sulphate of quinia to filthy lucre."
"Lucre is never filthy until you lose it," said the old lady as she went
out on the back piazza, and closed the door behind her.
About twenty minutes later she burst into the doctor's office. "Mercy on
us!" she exclaimed, "are you here yet, Susan Clopsey? I must see you,
doctor; but don't you go, Susan. I won't keep him more than two minutes."
"Oh, don't mind me," cried Miss Clopsey, a parched maiden of twoscore. "I
can wait just as well as not. Where is the pain, Miss Panney? Were you
"Like the pop of a jackbox. Come, doctor, I must see you in the parlor."
"Can I do anything?" asked Miss Clopsey, rising. "How dreadful! Shall I
go for hot water?"
"Oh, don't be alarmed," said Miss Panney, hurrying the amazed doctor out
of the room; "it is chronic. He will be back in no time."
Miss Clopsey, left alone in the office, sank back in her chair.
"Chronic by jerks," she sighed; "there can be few things worse than that;
and at her age, too!"
"What can be the matter?" asked the doctor, as the two stood in
"It is an idea," said Miss Panney; "you cannot think with what violence
it seized me. Doctor, what became of that book you wrote on the
'Diagnosis of Sympathy'?"
The doctor opened his eyes in astonishment.
"Nothing has become of it. It has been in my desk for two years. I have
not had time even to copy it."
"And of course your writing could not be trusted to a printer. Now what
you should do is this: employ that Drane girl to copy your manuscript.
She can do it here, and if she comes to a word she cannot make out, she
can ask you. That will keep her going until autumn, and by that time we
can get her some scholars."
"Miss Panney," said the doctor, "are you going crazy? I cannot afford
charity on that scale."
"Charity!" repeated the old lady, sarcastically. "A pretty word to use.
By that sort of charity you give yourself one of the greatest of
earthly blessings, in the shape of La Fleur, and you get out a book
which will certainly be a benefit to the world, and will, I believe,
bring you fame and profit. And you are frightened by the paltry sum
that will be necessary to pay the board of the girl and her mother for
perhaps two months. Now do not condemn this plan until you have had
time to consider it. Go back to your Clopsey; I am going to find Mrs.
Tolbridge and talk to her."
THE TEABERRY GOWN IS TOO LARGE
When Dora Bannister had gone away in Miss Panney's phaeton, Miriam walked
gravely into the house, followed by her brother.
"Now," said she, "I must go to work in earnest."
"Work!" exclaimed Ralph. "I think you have been working a good deal
harder than you ought to work, and certainly a good deal harder than I
intend you to work. As soon as he has had his dinner, Mike shall take the
wagon, and go after the woman Miss Panney told us of."
"Of course I have been working," said Miriam, "but while Dora Bannister
was here, what we did was not like straightforward work; it all seemed to
mean something that was not just plain housekeeping. For one thing, the
dough I intended to bake into bread was nearly all used up in making
those rolls that Dora worked up into such pretty shapes; and now, if the
new woman comes, I shall not have another chance to try my hand at
making bread until she leaves us, for I am not going to do anything of
the sort with a servant watching me. And there are all those raspberries
we picked this morning. I am sure I do not know what to do with them, for
there are ever so many more than we shall want to eat with cream. What
was it, Ralph, that you said you liked, made of raspberries?"
Ralph looked a little puzzled.
"I think," he said, "it must have been something of the tart order. What
did I tell you?"
"You did not tell me anything," said Miriam, "and I do not believe that
tarts are ever made of raspberries. Dora Bannister said she wanted to
cook something for you that you told her you liked, but as you have
forgotten what it was, I suppose it does not make much difference now."
Ralph had said so many things to Dora that he could not remember what
remark he had made about cooked raspberries; but it delighted him to
think that, whatever it was, Dora had wished to make it for him.
After dinner Miriam went up to her room, where upon the bed lay Judith
Pacewalk's teaberry gown. She took off her own school-girl dress, and put
on the pink gown. It was the first time she had ever worn the clothes of
a woman. When she had attired herself in the silken robe which had been
so fatal to the fortunes and life of Judith Pacewalk, it had been slipped
on in masquerade fashion, debased from its high position to a mere
protection from spilt milk. Miriam had thought of the purple silk when
Miss Panney was telling her story, and had said to herself that if the
stall in the cow-stable had been ever so much darker and dirtier, and if
the milk stains had been more and bigger, the career of that robe would
have ended all the more justly.
The teaberry gown was too long for Miriam, and too large in every way.
She knew that for herself; but hearing Ralph's footsteps outside, she had
a longing to know what he would say on the subject, so, holding up her
skirt to keep herself from tripping, she ran downstairs and called him
into the big hall.
"How do you like me in the teaberry gown?" she asked.
Without a thought of any figurative significance connected with the
dress, Ralph only saw that it was as unsuitable to his sister as it had
been well suited to Dora.
"You will have to grow a good deal bigger and older before you are able
to fill that gown, my little one," he said.
"That is not the way I do things," said Miriam, severely. "I shall make
the gown fit me."
Ralph was about to say that it would be a pity to cut down and alter that
picturesque piece of old-fashioned attire into an ordinary garment, and
that it would be well to keep it as a family relic, or to give it away to
some one who could wear it as it was, but Miriam's manner assured him
that she was extremely sensitive on the subject of this gown, and he
considered it wise to offer no further opinion about it. So he went about
his affairs, and Miriam, having resumed her ordinary dress, went out with
her cook-book to a bench under a tree on the lawn. She never stayed in
the house when it was possible to be out of doors.
"I wish I could find out," she said to herself, "what Dora Bannister
intended to make for Ralph out of raspberries. Whatever it is, I know I
can make it just as well, and I want to do it all myself before the new
cook comes. It could not have been jam," she said, as she turned over
the leaves; "for Ralph does not care much for jam, and he would not have
told her he liked that. And then there is jelly; but it must take a long
time to make jelly, and I do not believe she would undertake to give him
that for dinner, made from raspberries picked this morning. Besides, I
cannot imagine Ralph saying he wanted jelly for his dinner. Well, well!"
she exclaimed aloud, as she stopped to read a recipe, "they do make
tarts out of raspberries! That must have been it, for Ralph is
desperately fond of every kind of pastry. I will go into the house this
minute, and make him some raspberry tarts. We shall have them for
supper, even if they give him the nightmare. I am not going to have him
say again that he wished the new cook, as he kept calling Dora
Bannister, had stayed a little longer."
Alas! at dinner time Ralph had been guilty of that indiscretion. Without
exactly knowing it, he had missed in the meal a certain very pleasant
element, which had been put into the supper and breakfast by Dora's
desire to gratify his especial tastes. While he missed their visitor in
many other ways, he alluded to her premature departure only in connection
with their domestic affairs.
But so far as Miriam was concerned, he could have done nothing worse
than this. To have heard her brother say that Dora Bannister was the most
lovely girl he had ever seen, and that he was filled with grief at losing
the delights of her society, might have been disagreeable to her, or it
might not. But to have him even in the lightest way intimate that her
housekeeping was preferable to that of his own sister nettled her
"I will show him," she said, "that he is mistaken."
In the pleasant coolness of the great barn, Ralph stretched himself on a
pile of new-made hay to think. He was a farmer, and he intended to try
to be a good farmer, and he knew that good farmers, during working
hours, do not lie down on piles of hay to think. But notwithstanding
that, in this hay-scented solitude, looking out of the great door upon
the quiet landscape with the white clouds floating over it, he thought
of Dora. He had been thinking of her in all sorts of irregular and
disjointed ways ever since he had risen in the morning; but now he
wished to think definitely, and lay down here for that purpose. One
cannot think definitely and single-mindedly when engaged in farm work,
especially if he sometimes finds himself a little awkward at said work
and is bothered by it.
Whenever he could do it, Ralph Haverley liked to get things clear and
straightforward in his mind. He had applied this rule to all matters of
his former business, and he now applied it to the affairs of his present
estate. But how much more important was it to apply the rules to Dora
Bannister! Nothing had ever put his mind into a condition less clear and
straightforward than the visit of that young lady. The main point to be
decided upon was: what should he do about seeing her again? He was filled
by an all-pervading desire to do that; but how should he set about it?
The simplest plan would be to go and see her; but if he did so, he knew
he ought to take his sister with him, and he had no reason to believe
that Miriam would be in any hurry to return Miss Bannister's visit. If he
had been acquainted with the brother, the case would have been different,
but that gentleman had not yet called upon him.
Having thought some time on this subject, Ralph sat upright, and
rearranged his reflections.
"Why is it," he said to himself, "that I am so anxious to see her again,
and to see her as soon as possible?"
To the solution of this question, Ralph applied the full force of his
intellectual powers. The conclusion that came to him after about six
seconds of deliberation was not well defined, but it indicated that if
almost any young man had had in his house--actually living with him and
taking part in his household affairs--an unusually handsome young woman,
who, not only by her appearance, but by her gentle and thoughtful desire
to adapt herself to the tastes and circumstances of himself and his
sister, seemed to belong in the place into which she had so suddenly
dropped, that young man would naturally want to see that young woman just
as soon as he could. This would be so in any similar case, and there was
no use in trying to find out why it was so in this case.
He rose to his feet, and at that moment he heard Miriam calling to him.
"Ralph," she said, running into the barn, "I have been looking all over
for you. The new woman cannot come to-day."
"I do not see why you should appear so delighted about it," said Ralph;
"I am very sorry to hear it."
"And I am not," replied Miriam. "There are some things I want to do
before she comes, and I am very glad to have the chance. Mike brought
back word from her that if you send the wagon in the cool of the morning,
she will come over with her trunk."
"You are a funny girl," said Ralph, "to be actually pleased at the
prospect of cooking and doing housework a little longer." And as he said
that, he congratulated himself that his sister had not had the chance of
thinking him a funny fellow for lying stretched on the hay when he ought
to have been at work.
Miriam was now in good spirits again. She walked to the great open
window, and, leaning on the bar, looked out.
"What a lovely air," she said, and then she turned to her brother. "It is
nice to have visitors, and to have plenty of people to do your work, but
it is a hundred times jollier for just us two to be here by ourselves.
Don't you think so, Ralph?" And, without waiting for her brother's
answer, she went on. "You see, we can do whatever we please. We can be
as free as anything--as free as cats. Here, puss, puss," she called to
the gray barn cat in the yard below. "No, she will not even look at me.
Cats are the freest creatures in the world; they will not come to you if
they do not want to. If you call your dog, he feels that he has to come
to you. Ralph, do you know I think it is the most absurd thing in the
world that in a place like this we should have no dog."
"I have been waiting for somebody to give me one," said Ralph, taking up
a pitchfork and preparing to throw some hay into the stable below.
"That will be the nicest way of getting one," said Miriam, as she came
and stood by him, and watched him thrust the hay into the yawning hole.
"We do not want a dog that people are willing to sell. We want one that
is the friend of the family, and which the owners are obliged to part
with because they are going to Europe, or something of that sort. Such a
dog we should prize. Don't you think so, Ralph?"
"Yes," said he, and went on taking up forkloads of hay and thrusting them
into the hole. He was wondering if this were a good time to tell Miriam
that that very morning Dora Bannister had been talking about there being
no dog at Cobhurst, and had asked him if he would like to have one; for
if he would, she had a very handsome black setter, which had been given
to her when it was a little puppy, and of which she was very fond, but
which had now grown too big and lively to be cooped up in the yard of
their house. He had said that he would be charmed to have the dog, and
had intended to tell Miriam about it, but now a most excellent
opportunity had come to do so, he hesitated. Miriam's soul did not seem
to incline toward their late visitor, and perhaps she might not care for
a gift from her. It might be better to wait awhile. Then there came a
happy thought to Ralph; here was a good reason for going to see Dora. It
would be no more than polite to take an interest in the animal which had
been offered him, and even if he did not immediately bring it to
Cobhurst, he could go and look at it. Miriam now returned to the house,
leaving her brother pondering over the question whether or not the next
morning would be too soon to go and look at the dog.
The sun had set, and Ralph, having finished his day's work, and having
helped his sister as much as she and Mike would let him, sat on the
piazza, gazing between the tall pillars upon the evening landscape, and
still trying to decide whether or not it would be out of the way to go
the next morning to Dora Bannister. The evening light grew less and less,
and Ralph's healthy instincts drew his mind from thoughts of Dora to
thoughts of supper. It certainly was very late for the evening meal, but
he would not worry Miriam with any signs of impatience. That would be
unkind indeed, when she was slaving away in the kitchen, while he sat
here enjoying the evening coolness.
In a few minutes he heard his sister's step in the hall, and then a sob.
He had scarcely time to turn, when Miriam ran out, and threw herself down
on the wide seat beside him. Her face, as he could see it in the dim
light, was one of despair, and as sob after sob broke from her, tears ran
down her cheeks. Tenderly he put his arm around her and urged her to tell
him what had happened.
"Oh, Ralph," she sobbed, "it is very hard, but I know it is true. I have
been just filled with vanity and pride, and after all I am nothing like
as good as she is, nor as good as anybody, and the best I can do is to go
back to school."
"What is the matter?" exclaimed Ralph. "You poor little thing, how came
you to be so troubled?"
Miriam gave a long sigh and dropped her head on her brother's shoulder.
"Oh, Ralph," she said, "they are six inches high."
"What are?" cried Ralph, in great amazement.
"The tarts," she said; "the raspberry tarts I was making for you, because
you like them, and because Dora Bannister was going to make them for you,
and I determined that I could do it just as well as she could, and that I
would do it and that you would not have to miss her for anything. But it
is of no use; I cannot do things as well as she can, and those tarts are
not like tarts at all; they are like chimneys."
"I expect they are very good indeed. Now do not drop another tear, and
let us go in and eat them."
"No," said Miriam, "they are not good. I know what is the matter with
them. I have found out that I have no more idea of making pie crust than
I have about the nebulous part of astronomy, and that I never could
comprehend. I wanted to make the lightest, puffiest pastry that was
possible, and I used some self-raising flour, the kind that has the yeast
ground up with it, and when I put those tarts in the oven to bake, they
just rose up, and rose up, until I thought they would reach up the
chimney. They are perfectly horrid."
Ralph sprang to his feet, and lifted his sister from her seat. "Come
along, little one," he cried, "and I shall judge for myself what sort of
a pastry-cook you are."
"The pigs shall judge that," said Miriam, who had now dried her eyes,
"but fortunately there are other things to eat."
The tarts, indeed, were wonderful things to look at, resembling, as
Miriam had said, a plateful of little chimneys, with a sort of swallow's
nest of jam at the top, but Ralph did not laugh at them.
"Wait until their turn comes," said Ralph, "and I will give my opinion
When he had finished the substantial part of the meal, he drew the plate
of tarts toward him.
"I will show you how to eat the Cobhurst tart. You cut it down from top
to bottom: then you lay the two sections on their rounded sides: then you
get a lot more of jam, which I see you have on the side table, and you
spread the cut surfaces with it: then you put it together as it was
before, and slice it along its shorter diameter. Good?" said he; "they
Miriam took a piece. "It is good enough," she said, "but it is not a
tart. If Dora Bannister had made them, they would have been real tarts."
"It is very well I said nothing about the dog," thought Ralph; and then
he said aloud, "It is not Dora Bannister that we have to consider; it is
Molly Tooney. She is to save you from the tears and perplexities of flour
and yeast, and to make you the happy little lady of the house that you
were before the wicked Phoebe went away. But one thing I insist upon: I
want the rest of those tarts for my breakfast."
Miriam looked at her brother with a smile that showed her storm was over.
"You are eating those things, dear Ralph," she said, "because I made
them, and that is the only good thing about them."
THE DRANES AND THEIR QUARTERS
In a small room at the back of Dr. Tolbridge's house there sat a young
woman by the window, writing. This was Cicely Drane; and although it was
not yet ten days since Miss Panney broached her plan of the employment of
Miss Drane as the doctor's secretary, or rather copyist, here she was,
hard at work, and she had been for two days.
The window opened upon the garden, and in the beds were a great many
bright and interesting flowers, but paying no heed to these, Cicely gave
her whole attention to her task, which, indeed, was not an easy one. With
knitted brows she bent over the manuscript of the "Diagnosis of
Sympathy," and having deciphered a line or two, she wrote the words in a
fair hand on a broad sheet before her. Then she returned to the study of
the doctor's caligraphy, and copied a little more of it, but the
proportion of the time she gave to the deciphering of the original
manuscript to that occupied in writing the words in her own hand was
about as ten is to one. An hour had elapsed since she had begun to write
on the page, which she had not yet filled.
Miss Cicely Drane was a small person, nearing her twenty-second year. She
had handsome gray eyes, tastefully arranged brown hair, and a vivacious
and pleasing face. Her hands were small, her feet were small, and she did
not look as if she weighed a hundred pounds, although, in fact, her
weight was considerably more than that. Her dress was a simple one, on
which a great deal of thought had been employed to make it becoming.
For a longer time than usual she now bent over the doctor's manuscript,
endeavoring to resolve a portion of it into comprehensible words. Then
she held up the page to the light, replaced it on the table, stood up and
looked at it, and finally sat down again, her elbows on the paper, and
her tapering fingers in the little brown curls at the sides of her head.
Presently she raised her head, with a sigh. "It is of no use," she said.
"I must go and ask him what this means; that is, if he is at home."
With the page in her hand, she went to the office door, and knocked.
"Come in," said Dr. Tolbridge.
Miss Drane entered; the doctor was alone, but he had his hat in his hand
and was just going out.
"I am glad I caught you," said she, "for there is a part of this page in
which I can see no meaning."
"What is it?" said the doctor. "Read it."
Slowly and distinctly she read:--
"'The cropsticks of flamingo bicrastus quack.'"
The doctor frowned, laid his hat on the table, and seating himself took
the paper from Cicely Drane.
"This is strange," said he. "It does seem to be 'cropsticks of flamingo,'
but what can that mean?"
"That is what I came to ask you," said she. "I have been puzzling over it
a good while, and I supposed, of course, you would know what it is."
"But I do not," said the doctor. "It is often very hard for me to read my
own writing, and this was written two years ago. You can leave this sheet
with me, and this evening I will look over it and try to make something
out of it."
Cicely Drane was methodical in her ways; she could not properly go on
with the rest of her work without this page, and so she told the doctor.
"Oh, never mind any more work for today," said he. "It is after four
o'clock now, and you ought to go out and get a little of this pleasant
sunshine. By the way, how do you like this new business?"
"I should like it very well," said Cicely, as she stood by the table, "if
I could get on faster with it, but I work so very, very slowly. I made a
calculation this morning, that if I work at the same rate that I have
been working since I came here, it will take me thirteen years and eleven
months to copy your manuscript."
The doctor laughed. "If a child should walk to school," he said, "at the
same rate of speed that he takes his first toddling step on the nursery
floor, it might take him about thirteen years to get there. That is, if
his school were at the average distance. You will get on fast enough when
you become acquainted with my writing."
She was on the point of saying that surely he had had time to get
acquainted with it, and yet he could not read it; but she considered that
she did not yet know the doctor well enough for that.
The doctor rose and took up his hat; then he suddenly turned toward Miss
Drane and said, "La Fleur, our cook, came to speak to me this morning
about your mother. She says she thinks that you are not well lodged; that
the street is in the hottest part of the town, and that Mrs. Drane's
health will suffer if you stay there. Does your mother object to your
Cicely, who had been half way to the door, now came back and stood by
"Mother never objects to anything," she said. "She thinks our rooms are
very neat and comfortable, and that Mrs. Brinkly is a kind landlady,
but she has complained a great deal of the heat. You know our house was
"I am sorry," said the doctor, "that Mrs. Brinkly's house is not likely
to prove pleasant. It is in a closely built portion of the town, but it
seemed the only place where we could find suitable accommodations for
your mother and you."
"Oh, it is a nice place," exclaimed Cicely, "and I am sure we shall like
it, except in hot weather, such as we are having now. I have no doubt we
shall get used to it after a little while."
"La Fleur does not think so," said the doctor. "She is very much
dissatisfied with the Brinkly establishment. I think I saw signs of
mental disturbance in our luncheon to-day."
Cicely laughed. She was a girl who was pleasant to look at when she
laughed, for her features accommodated themselves so naturally to
"It is almost funny," she said, "to see how fond La Fleur is of mother.
She lived with us less than a year, and yet one might suppose she had
always been a servant of the family. I think one reason for her feeling
is that mother never does anything. You know she has never been used to
do anything, and of late years she has not been well enough. La Fleur
likes all that; she thinks it is a mark of high degree. She told me once
that my mother was a lady who was born to be served, and who ought not to
be allowed to serve herself."
"She does not seem to object to your working," remarked the doctor.
"I am sure she does not like that, but then she considers it a thing that
cannot be helped. You know," continued Cicely, with a smile, "she is not
so particular about me, for I have some trade blood. Father's father was
"So you are only a grade aristocrat," said the doctor; "but I must go. I
will talk to Mrs. Tolbridge about this affair of lodgings."
That evening Mrs. Tolbridge and the doctor held a conference in regard to
the quarters of the Dranes.
"I think La Fleur concerns herself entirely too much in the matter," said
the lady. "She first came to me, and then she went to you. You have done
a good deal for Mrs. Drane in giving her daughter employment, and we
cannot be expected to attend to her every need. I do not consider Mrs.
Brinkly's house a very pleasant one in hot weather, and I would be glad
to do anything I could to establish them more pleasantly, but I know of
nothing to do, at least at present; and then you say they have not
complained. From what I have seen of Mrs. Drane, I think she is a very
sensible woman, and under the circumstances probably expects some
"But that is not all that is to be considered," said her husband. "La
Fleur's dissatisfaction, which is very evident, must be taken into the
question. She has a scheming mind. Before she left this morning she asked
me if I thought a little house could be gotten outside the town, for a
moderate rent. I believe she would not hesitate to take such a house, and
board and lodge the Dranes herself."
"Doctor!" exclaimed Mrs. Tolbridge, "whatever happens, I hope we are not
going to be the slaves of a cook."
The doctor laughed.
"Whatever happens," he said, "we are always that. All we can do is to try
and be the slaves of a good one."
"I am not altogether sure that that is the right way to look at it,"
said Mrs. Tolbridge; and then she went on with her sewing, not caring to
expatiate on the subject. Her husband appreciated only the advantages of
La Fleur, but she knew something of her disadvantages. The work on which
she was engaged at that moment would have been done by the maid, had not
that young woman's services been so frequently required of late by the
autocrat of the kitchen.
The doctor sat silent for a few minutes. He had a kindly feeling for Mrs.
Drane, and was willing to do all he could for her, but his thoughts were
now principally occupied with plans for the continuance of good living in
his own home.
"I suppose it would not be practicable," he said presently, "to invite
them to stay with us during the heated term."
Mrs. Tolbridge dropped her work into her lap.
"That is not to be thought of for a moment," she said. "We have no
room for them, unless we give up having any more friends this summer;
and besides that, you would see La Fleur, with the other servants at
her heels, devoting herself to the gratification of every want and
notion of Mrs. Drane, and thinking no more of me than if I were a
chair in a corner."
"We shall not have that," said the doctor, rising, and placing his hand
on his wife's head. "You may be sure we shall not have that. And now I
will go and get a bit of my handwriting, and see if you can help me
He left the room, but in an instant returned.
"A happy thought has just struck me!" he exclaimed. "I wonder if those
young Haverley people would take Mrs. Drane into their house for the rest
of the summer? It would be an excellent thing for them, for their
household needs the presence of an elderly person, and I am sure that no
one could be quieter, or more pleasant, and less troublesome, than Mrs.
Drane would be. What do you think of that idea?"
Mrs. Tolbridge looked up approvingly.
"It is not a bad one," she said; "but what would the daughter do? She
could not come into town every day to do your work. It is too long a walk
for her, and she could not afford a conveyance."
"No," said the doctor, "of course she could not go back and forwards
every day, but it would not be necessary. She could take the work out
there and do it as well as here, and she could come in now and then, when
a chance offered, and ask me about the hard words, for which she could
leave blanks. Or, if I happen to be in the neighborhood, I could stop in
there and see how she was getting on. I would much rather arrange the
business in that way, than have her pop into my office at any moment to
ask me about my illegible words."
"I should think the work could be done just as well out of the house as
in it," said the doctor's wife, who would be willing to have again the
use of the little room that she had cheerfully given up to the copyist of
her husband's book, which she, quite as earnestly as Miss Panney, desired
to be given to the world.
"The first thing to do," said she, "is to make them acquainted. At first
the Haverleys would not be likely to favor the plan. They no doubt
consider themselves sufficient company for each other, and although a
slight addition to their income would probably be of advantage, I think
they are too young and unpractical to care much about that."
"How would it do to have the Dranes and the Haverleys here, and give them
a first-class La Fleur dinner?" asked the doctor.
"I do not like that," said his wife. "The intention would be too obvious.
The thing should be done more naturally."
"Well," said the doctor, "I wish we had Miss Panney here. She has a great
capacity for rearranging and simplifying the circumstances of a
Mrs. Tolbridge made no answer, but very intently examined her sewing.
"But if we can think of no deeply ingenious plan," continued the doctor,
"we will go about it in a straightforward way. I will see Ralph Haverley,
and if I can win him over to the idea I will let him talk to his sister.
He can do it better than we can. If they utterly reject the whole scheme,
we will wait a week or so, and propose it again, just as if we had never
done it before. I have found this plan work very well with persons who,
on account of youth, or some other reason, are given to resentment of
suggestions and to quick decisions. When a rejected proposition is laid
before them a second time, the disposition to resent has lost its force,
and they are as likely to accept it as not."
"You are right," said Mrs. Tolbridge, "for I have tried that plan
The doctor looked at her and laughed.
"It is astonishing," he exclaimed, "what coincidences we meet with in
this world," and with that he left the room.
As soon as her husband had gone, Mrs. Tolbridge leaned back in her chair
and laughed quietly.
"To think of asking Miss Panney to aid in a plan like that!" she said to
herself. "Why, when the old lady hears of it she will blaze like fury. To
send that pretty Cicely to live in the house for which she herself has
selected a mistress, will seem to her like high treason. But the
arrangement suits me perfectly, and I can only hope that Miss Panney may
not hear of it until everything is settled."
The more Dr. Tolbridge thought of the plan to establish Mrs. and Miss
Drane, for a time, at Cobhurst, the better he liked it. Not only did he
think the arrangement would be a desirable one on the Drane side, but
also on the Haverley side. From the first, he had taken a lively interest
in Miriam, and he considered that her life of responsibility and
independence in that lonely household was as likely to warp her mind in
some directions as it was to expand it in others. Suitable companionship
would be a great advantage to her in this regard, and he fancied that
Cicely Drane would be as congenial and helpful a chum, and Mrs. Drane as
unobjectionable a matronly adviser, as could be found. If the plan suited
all concerned, it might perhaps be continued beyond the summer. He would
see Ralph as soon as possible.
Having received permission to stop work at four o'clock on a beautiful
summer afternoon, Cicely Drane put away her papers and walked rapidly
home. She found her mother on Mrs. Brinkly's front piazza, fanning
herself vigorously and watching some children, who, on the other side of
the narrow street, were feeding a tethered goat with clippings from a
After a few words to explain her early return, Cicely went up to her own
room, and took from a drawer a little pocketbook, and opening it,
examined the money contained therein. Apparently satisfied with the
result, she went downstairs, wallet in hand.
"Mother," said she, "you must find it dreadfully hot and stupid here, and
as this is a bit of a holiday, I intend we shall take a drive."
Mrs. Drane was about to offer some sort of economic objection, but before
she could do so, Cicely was out of the little front yard, and hurrying
toward the station, where there were always vehicles to be hired.
She engaged the man who had the best-looking horse, and in a little open
phaeton, a good deal the worse for wear, she returned to her mother.
Andy Griffing, the driver, was a grizzled little man with twinkling eyes
and a cheery air that seemed to indicate that an afternoon drive was as
much a novelty and pleasure to him as it could possibly be to any two
ladies; which was odd, considering that for the last forty years Andy had
been almost constantly engaged in taking morning, afternoon, evening, and
The only direction given him by Cicely was to take them along the
prettiest country roads that he knew of, and this suited him well, for he
not only considered himself a good judge of scenery, but he knew which
roads were easiest for his horse.
As they travelled leisurely along, the ladies enjoying the air, the
fields, the sweet summer smells, the stretches of woods, the blue and
white sky, and everything that goes to make a perfect summer afternoon.
Andy endeavored to add to their pleasure by giving them information
regarding the inhabitants of the various dwellings they passed.
"That whitish house back there among the trees," said he, "with the green
blinds, is called the Witton place. The Wittons themselves are nuthin'
out o' the common; but there's an old lady lives there with 'em, who if
you ever meet, you'll know agin, if you see her agin. Her name's
Panney,--Miss Panney,--and she's a one-er. What she don't know about me,
I don't know, and what she won't know about you, three days after she
gits acquainted with you, you don't know. That's the kind of a person
Miss Panney is. There's a lot of very nice people, some rich and some
poor, and some queer and some not quite so queer, that lives in and
around Thorbury, and if you like it at Mrs. Brinkly's and conclude to
stay there any length of time, I don't doubt you'll git acquainted with a
good many of 'em; but take my word for it, you'll never meet anybody who
can go ahead of Miss Panney in the way of turnin' up unexpected. I once
had a sick hoss, who couldn't do much more than stand up, but I had to
drive him one day, 'cause my other one was hired out. 'Now' says I, as I
drew out the stable, 'if I can get around town this mornin' without
meetin' Miss Panney, I think old Bob can do my work, and to-morrow I'll
turn him out to grass.' And as I went around the first corner, there was
Miss Panney a drivin' her roan mare. She pulled up when she seed me, and
she calls out, 'Andy, what's the matter with that hoss?' I told her he
was a little under the weather, but I had to use him that day, 'cause my
other hoss was out. Then she got straight out of that phaeton she drives
in, and come up to my hoss, and says she, 'Andy, you ought to be ashamed
of yourself to make a hoss work when he is in a condition like that. Take
him right back to your stable, or I'll have you up before a justice.'
'Now look here, Miss Panney,' says I, 'which is the best, for a hoss to
jog a little round town when he ain't feeling quite well, or for a man to
sit idle on his front doorstep and see his family starve?' 'Now, Andy,'
says she, 'is that the case with you?' and havin' brought up the pint
myself, I was obliged to say that it was. 'Very good, then,' said she,
and she took her roan mare by the head and led it up to the curbstone.
'Now then,' said she, 'you can take your hoss out of the cab and put this
hoss in, and you can drive her till your hoss gets well, and durin' that
time I'll walk.'
"Well, of course I didn't do that, and I took my hoss back to the stable,
and my family didn't starve nuther; but I just tell you this to show you
what sort of a woman Miss Panney is."
"I should think she was a very estimable person," said Mrs. Drane.
"Oh, there's nothin' the matter with her estimation," said Andy. "That's
level enough. I only told you that to show you how you can always expect
her to turn up unexpected."
"Mrs. Brinkly spoke of Miss Panney," said Cicely; "she said that she was
the first one to come and see her about rooms for us."
"That was certainly very kind," said Mrs. Drane, "considering that she
does not know us at all, except through Dr. Tolbridge. I remember his
speaking of her."
"That place over there," said Andy, "you can jest see the tops of the
chimneys, that's called Cobhurst; that's where old Matthias Butterwood
used to live. It was an awful big house for one man, but he was queer.
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