The Girl at Cobhurst
Frank Richard Stockton
Part 4 out of 6
There's nobody livin' there now but two young people, sort of temporary,
I guess, though the place belongs to 'em. I don't think they are any too
well off. They don't give us hack-drivers much custom, never havin' any
friends comin' or goin', or trunks or anything. He's got no other
business, they say, and don't know no more about farmin' than a potato
knows about preachin'. There's nothin' on the place that amounts to
anything except the barn. There's a wonderful barn there, that old
Butterwood spent nobody knows how much money on, and he a bachelor. You
can't see the barn from here, but I'll drive you where you can get a good
look at it."
In a few minutes, he made a turn, and whipped up his horse to a better
speed, and before Mrs. Drane and her daughter could comprehend the state
of affairs, they were rolling over a not very well kept private road, and
approaching the front of a house.
"Where are you going, driver?" exclaimed Mrs. Drane, leaning forward in
Andy turned his beaming countenance upon her, and flourished his whip.
"Oh, I'm just goin' to drive round the side of the house," he said; "at
the back there's a little knoll where we can stop, and you can see the
whole of the barn with the three ways of gittin' into it, one for each
story." At that moment they rolled past the front piazza on which were
Miriam and Ralph, gazing at them in surprise. The latter had risen when
he had heard the approaching carriage, supposing they were to have
visitors. But as the vehicle passed the door he looked at his sister in
"It can't be," said he, "that those people have come to visit Mike?"
"Or Molly Tooney?" said Miriam.
As for Mrs. Drane and Cicely, they were shocked. They had never been
in the habit of driving into private grounds for the sake of seeing
what might be there to see, and Mrs. Drane sharply ordered the
driver to stop.
"What do you mean," said she, "by bringing us in here?"
"Oh, that's nuthin'," said Andy, with a genial grin; "they won't mind
your comin' in to look at the barn. I've druv lots of people in here to
look at that barn, though, to be sure, not since these young people has
been livin' here, but they won't mind it an eighth of an inch."
"I shall get out and apologize," said Mrs. Drane, "for this shameful
intrusion, and then you must drive us out of the grounds immediately. We
do not wish to stop to look at anything," and with this she stepped from
the little phaeton and walked back to the piazza.
Stopping at the bottom of the steps, she saluted the brother and sister,
whose faces showed that they were in need of some sort of explanation of
her arrival at their domestic threshold.
In a few words she explained how the carriage had happened to enter the
grounds, and hoped that they would consider that the impropriety was due
entirely to the driver, and not to any desire on their part to intrude
themselves on private property for the sake of sight-seeing. Ralph and
Miriam were both pleased with the words and manner of this exceedingly
"I beg that you will not consider at all that you have intruded," said
Ralph. "If there is anything on our place that you would care to look at,
I hope that you will do so."
"It was only the barn," said Mrs. Drane, with a smile. "The man told us
it was a peculiar building, but I supposed we could see it without
entering your place. We will trespass no longer."
Ralph went down the steps, and Miriam followed.
"Oh, you are perfectly welcome to look at the barn as much as you wish
to," he said. "In fact, we are rather proud to find that this is anything
of a show place. If the other lady will alight, I will be pleased to have
you walk into the barn. The door of the upper floor is open, and there is
a very fine view from the back."
Mrs. Drane smiled.
"You are very good indeed," she said, "to treat intrusive strangers with
such kindness, but I shall be glad to have you know that we are not mere
tourists. We are, at present, residents of Thorbury. I am Mrs. Drane, and
my daughter is engaged in assisting Dr. Tolbridge in some literary work."
"If you are friends of Dr. Tolbridge," said Ralph, "you are more than
welcome to see whatever there is to see on this place. The doctor is one
of our best friends. If you like, I will show you the barn, and perhaps
my sister will come with us."
Miriam, who for a week or more had been beset by the very unusual desire
that she would like to see somebody and speak to somebody who did not
live at Cobhurst, willingly agreed to assist in escorting the strangers,
and Cicely having joined the group, they all walked toward the barn.
There were no self-introductions, Ralph merely acting as cicerone, and
Miriam bringing up the rear in the character of occasional commentator.
Mrs. Drane had accepted the young gentleman's invitation because she felt
that the most polite thing to do under the circumstances was to gratify
his courteous desire to put them at their ease, and, being a lover of
fine scenery, she was well rewarded by the view from the great window.
The pride of possession began to glow a little within Ralph as he pointed
out the features of this castle-like barn. Mrs. Drane agreed to his
proposition to descend to the second floor. But as these two were going
down the broad stairway, Cicely drew back, and suddenly turning,
"I have been wanting to ask a great many questions," she said, "but I
have felt ashamed to do it. I have nearly always lived in the country,
but I know hardly anything about barns and cows and stables and hay and
all that. Do the hens lay their eggs up there in your hay?"
Miriam smiled gravely.
"It is very hard to find out," she said, "where they do lay their eggs.
Some days we do not get any at all, though I suppose they lay them, just
the same. There is a henhouse, but they never go in there."
Cicely moved toward the stairway, and then she stopped; she cast her
eyes toward the mass of hay in the mow above, and then she gave a little
sigh. Miriam looked at her and understood her perfectly, moreover she
"How is it," said she as they went down the stairs, "that you lived in
the country, and do not know about country things?"
"We lived in suburbs," she said. "I think suburbs are horrible; they are
neither one thing nor the other. We had a lawn and shade trees, and a
croquet ground, and a tennis court, but we bought our milk and eggs and
most of our vegetables. There isn't any real country in all that, you
know. I was never in a haymow in my life. All I know about that sort of
thing is from books."
When, with many thanks for the courtesies offered them, Mrs. Drane and
her daughter had driven away, Miriam sat by herself on the piazza and
thought. She had a good deal of time, now, to think, for Molly Tooney was
a far more efficient servant than Phoebe had been, and although her
brother gave her as much of his time as he could, she was of necessity
left a good deal to herself.
She began by thinking what an exceedingly gentlemanly man her brother
was; in his ordinary working clothes he had been as much at his ease with
those ladies as though he had been dressed in a city costume, which,
however, would not have been nearly so becoming to him as his loose
flannel shirt and broad straw hat. She then began to regret that her mind
worked so slowly. If it had been quicker to act, she would have asked
that young lady to come some day and go up in the haymow with her. It
would be a positive charity to give a girl with longings, such as she saw
that one had, a chance of knowing what real country life was. It would
be pleasant to show things to a girl who really wanted to know about
them. From this she began to think of Dora Bannister. Dora was a nice
girl, but Miriam could not think of her as one to whom she could show or
tell very much; Dora liked to do the showing and telling herself.
"I truly believe," said Miriam to herself, and a slight flush came on her
face, "that if she could have done it, she would have liked to stay here
a week, and wear the teaberry gown all the time and direct
everything,--although, of course, I would never have allowed that." With
a little contraction of the brows, she went into the hall, where she
heard her brother's step.
THE HAVERLEY FINANCES AND MRS. ROBINSON
"It bothers the head off of me," said Molly Tooney to Mike, as she sat
eating her supper in the Cobhurst kitchen, "to try to foind out what thim
two upstairs is loike, anyway, 'specially her. I've been here nigh onto
two weeks, now, and I don't know her no betther than when I fust come.
For the life of me I can't make out whether she's a gal woman or a woman
gal. Sometimes she's one and sometimes t'other. And then there's he. Why
didn't he marry and settle before he took a house to himself? And in the
two Sundays I've been here, nather of thim's been to church. If they
knowed what was becomin' to thim, they'd behave like Christians, if they
Mike sat at a little table in the corner of the kitchen with his back to
Molly, eating his supper. He had enough of the Southern negro in him to
make him dislike to eat with white people or to turn his face toward
anybody while partaking of his meals. But he also had enough of a son of
Erin in him to make him willing to talk whenever he had a chance. Turning
his head a little, he asked, "Now look a here, Molly; if a man's a
heretic, how can he be a Christian?"
"There's two kinds of heretics," said Molly, filling her great tea-cup
for the fourth time, and holding the teapot so that the last drop of the
strong decoction should trickle into the cup; "Christian heretics and
haythen heretics. You're one of the last koind yoursilf, Mike, for you
never go nigh a church, except to whitewash the walls of it. And you'll
never git no benefit to your own sowl, from Phoebe's boardin' the
minister, nather. Take my word for that, Mike."
Mike allowed himself a sort of froggy laugh. "There's nobody gets no good
out of that, but him," said he; "but you've got it crooked about their
not goin' to church. They did go reg'lar at fust, but the gig's at the
wheelwright's gettin' new shaf's."
"Gig, indeed!" ejaculated Molly. "No kirridge, but an auld gig! There's
not much quality about thim two. I wouldn't be here working for the likes
o' thim, if it was not for me wish to oblige Miss Panney, poor old woman
as she's gittin' to be."
Mike shrewdly believed that it was due to Miss Panney's knowledge of
some of Molly's misdeeds, and not to any desire to please the old lady,
that the commands of the latter were law to the Irishwoman, but he would
not say so.
"Kerridge or no kerridge," said he, "they're good 'nough quality for me,
and I reckon I knows what quality is. They hain't got much money, that's
sure, but there's lots of quality that ain't got money; and he's got
sense, and that's better than money. When he fust come here, I jes' goes
to him, and ses I, 'How's you goin' to run this farm, sir,--ramshackle or
reg'lar?' He looked at me kinder bothered, and then I 'splained. 'Well,'
said he, 'reg'lar will cost more money than I've got, and I reckon we'll
have to run it ramshackle.' That's what we did, and we're gittin' along
fust rate. He works and I work, and what we ain't got no time to do, we
let stand jes' thar till we git time to 'tend to it. That's ramshackle.
We don't spend no time on fancy fixin's, and not much money on nuthin'."
"That's jes' what I've been thinkin' mesilf," said Molly. "I don't
see no signs of money bein' spint on this place nather for one thing
"You don't always have to spend money to get craps," said Mike; "look at
our corn and pertaters. They is fust rate, and when we sends our craps to
market, there won't be much to take for 'spenses out of what we git."
"Craps!" said Molly, with a sneer. "If you hauls your weeds to market,
it'll take more wagons than you can hire in this country, and thim's the
only craps my oi has lit on yit."
This made Mike angry. He was, in general, a good-natured man, but he had
a high opinion of himself as a farm manager, and on this point his
feelings were very sensitive. As was usual with him when he lost his
temper, he got up without a word and went out.
"Bedad!" said Molly, looking about her, "I wouldn't have sid that to him
if I'd seed there wasn't no kindlin' sphlit."
As Mike walked toward his own house, he was surprised to see, entering a
little-used gateway near the barn, a horse and carriage. It was now so
dark he could not see who occupied it, and he stood wondering why it
should enter that gateway, instead of coming by the main entrance. As he
stood there, the equipage came slowly on, and presently stopped in front
of his little house. By the time he reached it, Phoebe, his wife, had
alighted, and was waiting for him.
"Reckon you is surprised to see me," said she, and then turning to the
negro man who drove the shabby hired vehicle, she told him that he might
go over to the barn and tie his horse, for she would not be ready to go
back for some time. She then entered the house with Mike, and, a candle
having been lighted, she explained her unexpected appearance. She had met
Miss Dora Bannister, and that young lady had engaged her to go to
Cobhurst and take a note to Miss Miriam.
"She tole me," said Phoebe, "that she had wrote two times already to Miss
Miriam, and then, havin' suspected somethin', had gone to the
pos'-office and found they was still dar. Don't your boss ever sen' to
the pos'-office, Mike?"
"He went hisself every now an' then, till the gig was broke," said Mike,
"but I don't believe he ever got nuthin', and I reckon they thought it
was no use botherin' about sendin' me, special, in the wagon."
"Well, they're uncommon queer folks," said Phoebe. "I reckon they've got
nobody to write to, or git letters from. Anyway, Miss Dora wanted her
letter to git here, and so she says to me that if I'd take it, she'd pay
the hire of a hack, and so, as I wanted to see you anyway, Mike, I 'greed
Before delivering the letter with which she had been entrusted, Phoebe
proceeded to attend to some personal business, which was to ask her
husband to lend her five dollars.
"Bless my soul," said Mike, "I ain't got no five dollars. I ain't asked
for no wages yit, and don't expect to, till the craps is sold."
"I can't wait for that!" exclaimed Phoebe; "I's got to have money to
carry on the house."
"Whar's the money the preacher pays you?" asked her husband.
"Dat's a comin'," said Phoebe, "dat's a comin' all right. Thar's to be a
special c'lection next Sunday mornin', and the money's goin' to pay the
minister's board. I'm to git every cent what's owin' to me, and I reckon
it'll take it all."
"He ain't paid you nuthin' yit, thin?"
"Not yit; there was another special c'lection had to be tuk up fust, but
the next one's for me. Can't you go ask your boss for five dollars?"
"Oh, yes," said Mike, "he'll give it to me if I ask him. Look here,
Phoebe, we might's well git all the good we kin out of five dollars, and
I reckon I'll come to chu'ch next Sunday, and put the five dollars in the
c'lection. I'll git the credit of givin' a big lot of money, and that'll
set me up a long time wid the congregation, and you git the five dollars
all the same."
"Mike," said Phoebe, solemnly, "don't you go and do dat; mind, I tell
you, don't you do dat. You give me them five dollars, and jes' let that
c'lection alone. No use you wearin' youself out a walkin' to chu'ch, and
all the feedin' and milkin' to do besides."
Mike laughed. "I reckon you think five dollars in th' pahm of th' hand is
better than a whole c'lection in the bush. I'll see th' boss before you
go, and if he's got the money, he'll let me have it."
Satisfied on this point, Phoebe now declared that she must go and deliver
her letter; but she first inquired how her husband was getting on, and
how he was treated by Molly Tooney.
"I ain't got no use for that woman;" and he proceeded to tell his wife of
the insult that had been passed on his crops.
"That's brazen impidence," said Phoebe, "and jes' like her. But look
here, Mike, don't you quarrel with the cook. No matter what happens,
don't you quarrel with the cook."
"I ain't goin' to quarrel with nobody," said Mike; "but if that Molly
'spects me to grease her wagon wheels for her, she's got hold of the
wrong man. If she likes green wood for the kitchen fire, and fotchin' it
mos' times for herself, that's her business, not mine."
"If you do that, Mike, she'll leave," said Phoebe.
Mike gave himself a general shrug.
"She can't leave," said he, "till Miss Panney tells her she kin."
Phoebe laughed and rose.
"Reckon I'll go in and see Miss Miriam," she said, "and while I'm doin'
that you'd better ask the boss about the money."
Having delivered the letter, and having, with much suavity, inquired into
the health and general condition of the Cobhurst family since she had
walked off and left it to its own resources, and having given Miriam
various points of information in regard to the Bannister and the
Tolbridge families, Phoebe gracefully took leave of the young mistress of
the house and proceeded to call upon the cook.
"Hi, Phoebe!" cried Molly, who was engaged in washing dishes, "how did
you git here at this time o' night?"
"I'd have you know," said the visitor, with lofty dignity, "that my name
is Mrs. Robinson, and if you want to know how I got here, I came in a
"I didn't hear no kirridge drive up," said Molly.
"Humph!" said Mrs. Robinson, "I reckon I know which gate is proper for my
kerridge to come in, and which gate is proper for the Bannister coachman
to drive in. I suppose there is cooks that would drive up to the front
door if the governor's kerridge was standin' there."
Molly looked at the colored woman, with a grin.
"You're on your high hoss, Mrs. Robinson," said she. "That's what comes
o' boardin' the minister. That's lofty business, Mrs. Robinson, an' I
expect you're afther gittin' rich. Is it the gilt-edged butter you give
him for his ash-cakes?"
"A pusson that's pious," said Phoebe, "don't want to get rich onter a
minister of the gospel--"
"Which would be wearin' on their hopes if they did," interrupted Molly.
"But I can tell you this," continued Phoebe, more sharply, "that it isn't
as if I was a Catholic and boardin' a priest, and had to go on Wednesdays
and confess back to him all the money he paid me on Tuesdays."
Molly laughed aloud. "We don't confess money, Mrs. Robinson, we confess
sins; but perhaps you think money is a sin, and if that's so, this house
is the innocentest place I ever lived in. Sit down, Mrs. Robinson, and be
friendly. I want to ax you a question. Has thim two, upstairs, got any
money? What made you pop off so sudden? Didn't they pay your wages?"
Phoebe seated herself on the edge of a chair, and sat up very straight.
She felt that the answer to this question was a very important one. She
herself cared nothing for the Haverleys, but Mike lived with them, and
was their head man, and it was not consistent with her position among
the members of the congregation and in the various societies to which she
belonged, that her husband should be in the employ of poor and
consequently unrespected people.
"My wages was paid, every cent," she said, "and as to their money, I can
tell you one thing, that I heard him say to his sister with my own ears,
that he was goin' to build a town on them meaders, with streets and
chu'ches, and stores on the corners of the block, and a libr'y and a
bank, and she said she wouldn't object if he left the trees standin'
between the house and the meaders, so that they could see the steeples
and nothin' else. And more than that, I can tell you," said Phoebe,
warming as she spoke, "the Bannister family isn't and never was intimate
with needy and no-count families, and nobody could be more sociable and
friendly with this family than Miss Dora is, writin' to her four or five
times a week, and as I said to Mike, not ten minutes ago, if Mr. Haverley
and Miss Dora should git married, her money and his money would make this
the finest place in the county, and I tol' him to mind an' play his cards
well and stay here as butler or coachman--I didn't care which; and he
said he would like coachman best, as he was used to hosses."
Now, considering that the patience of her own coachman must be pretty
nearly worn out, and believing that what she had said would inure to her
own reputation, and probably to Mike's benefit as well, and that its
force might be impaired by any further discussion of the subject, Phoebe
arose and took a dignified leave.
Molly stood some moments in reflection.
"Bedad," she said aloud, "to-morrer I'll clane thim lamp-chimbleys and
swape the bidrooms."
THE DOCTOR'S MISSION
The letter which Phoebe brought was a long and cordial one, in which Dora
begged that Miriam would come and make her a visit of a few days. She
said, moreover, that her brother was intending to call on Mr. Haverley
and urge him to come to their house as frequently as he could during his
sister's visit. Dora said that she would enjoy having Miriam with her so
very, very much; and although the life at the dear old farm must be
always charming, she believed that Miriam would like a little change, and
she would do everything that she could to make the days pass pleasantly.
There could not have been a more cordial invitation, but its acceptance
was considered soberly and without enthusiasm.
During the past fortnight, there had been no intercourse between the
Bannister and Haverley families. Dora, it is true, had written, but her
letters had not been called for, and Ralph had not been to her house to
inquire about the dog. The reason for this was that, turning over the
matter in his mind for a day or two, he thought it well to mention it to
Miriam in a casual way, for he perceived that it would be very unwise
for him to go to Dora's house without informing his sister and giving her
his reasons for the visit. To his surprise, Miriam strenuously opposed
his going to the Bannister house on any pretence until Mr. Bannister had
called upon him, and showed so much earnest feeling on the subject that
he relinquished his intention. He could see for himself that it would not
be the proper thing to do; and so he waited, with more impatience on
rainy days than others, for Mr. Herbert Bannister to call upon him.
On nearly every morning of the two weeks, Dora asked her brother at
breakfast time if he were going that day to call at Cobhurst; and every
time she asked him, Herbert answered that he would go that day, if he
possibly could; but on each evening he informed her that at the hour he
had intended to start for Cobhurst a client or clients had come into the
office, or a client or clients had been in the office and had remained
there. A very busy man was Mr. Bannister.
Miriam's opinion on the subject had been varied. She frequently felt in
her lonely moments that it would be a joy to see Dora Bannister drive in
at the gate.
"If only," thought Miriam, with a sigh, "she would content herself to be
a visitor to me, just as I would be to her, and not go about contriving
things she thinks Ralph would like,--as if it were necessary that any
one should come here and do that! As for going to her house, that would
leave poor Ralph here all by himself, or else he would be there a good
Here a happy thought struck Miriam.
"I can't go, anyway," she said aloud, "for the gig is broken;" and, her
brother coming in at that moment, she informed him, with an air of much
relief, how the matter had settled itself.
"But I don't like matters to settle themselves in that way," said Ralph.
"The gig should certainly be in order by this time. I will go myself and
see the man about it, and if the new shafts are not finished, I can hire
a carriage for you. There is no need of your giving up a pleasant visit
for the want of means of conveyance."
"But even if the gig were all ready for us to use, you know that you
could not go until Mr. Bannister has called," said the cruel-minded
Ralph was of the opinion that there were certain features of social
etiquette which ought to be ruthlessly trodden upon, but he could think
of nothing suitable to say in regard to the point so frequently brought
up by Miriam, and, walking somewhat moodily to the front door, he saw Dr.
Tolbridge approaching in his buggy.
The good doctor had come out of his way, and on a very busy morning, to
lay before the Haverleys his project concerning Mrs. Drane and her
daughter. Having but little time, he went straight to the point, and
surprised Miriam and Ralph as much as if he had proposed to them to open
a summer hotel. But, without regard to the impression he had made, he
boldly proceeded in the statement of his case.
"You couldn't find pleasanter ladies than Mrs. Drane and her daughter,"
he said. "The latter is copying some manuscript for me, which she could
do just as well here as at my house--"
"Are you talking about the two ladies who were here yesterday afternoon?"
"Here, yesterday afternoon!" cried the doctor, and now it was his turn to
When he had heard the story of the trespass on private grounds, the
doctor laughed heartily.
"Well," said he, "Mistress Fate has been ahead of me. The good lady is in
the habit of doing that sort of thing. And now that you know the parties
in question, what have you to say?"
Miriam's blood began to glow a little, and as she gazed out of the open
door without looking at anything, her eyes grew very bright. In her
loneliness, she had been wishing that Dora Bannister would drive in at
the gate, and here was a chance to have a very different sort of a girl
drive in--a girl to whom she had taken a great fancy, although she had
seen her for so short a time.
"Would they want to stay long?" she asked, without turning her head.
The doctor saw his opportunity and embraced it.
"That would be your affair entirely," he said. "If they came for only a
week, it would be to you no more than a visit from friends, and to
breathe this pure country air, for even that time, would be a great
pleasure and advantage to them both."
Miriam turned her bright eyes on her brother.
"What do you say, Ralph?" she asked.
The lord of Cobhurst, who had allowed his sister to tell of the visit of
the Dranes, had been thinking what a wonderful piece of good luck it
would have been, if, instead of these strangers, Dora Bannister and her
family had desired to find quarters in a pleasant country house for a few
summer weeks. He did not know her family, nor did he allow himself to
consider the point that said family was accustomed to an expensive style
of living and accommodation, entirely unlike anything to be found on a
ramshackle farm. He only thought how delightful it would be if it were
Dora who wanted to come to Cobhurst.
As Ralph looked upon the animated face of his sister, it was easy enough
to see that the case as presented by the doctor interested her very much,
and that she was awaiting his answer with an eagerness that somewhat
"And you, little one, would you like to have these ladies come to us?"
"Yes, I would," said Miriam, and then she stopped. There was much more
she could have said, which crowded itself into her mind so fast that she
could scarcely help saying it, but it would have been contrary to the
inborn spirit of the girl to admit that she ever felt lonely in this dear
home, or that, with a brother like Ralph, she ever craved the
companionship of a girl. But it was not necessary to say any more.
"If you want them, they shall come," said Ralph, and if it had been the
Tolbridges or Miss Panney whose society his sister desired, his assent
would have been given just as freely.
In fifteen minutes everything was settled and the doctor was driving
away. He was in good spirits over the results of his mission, for that
morning La Fleur had waylaid him as he went out and again had spoken to
him about the possibility of hiring a little house in the suburbs.
"I am sure this arrangement will suit our good cook," he thought; "but as
for its continuance, we must let time and circumstances settle that."
The doctor reached home about eleven o'clock.
"What do you think it would be better to do," he said to his wife, when
he had made his report, "to stop at Mrs. Drane's as I go out this
afternoon, or to tell Cicely about our Cobhurst scheme, and let her tell
"The thing to do," said Mrs. Tolbridge, closing her desk, at which she
was writing, "is for me to go and see Mrs. Drane immediately, and for you
to send Cicely home and give her a lot of work to do at Cobhurst. They
should go there this afternoon."
"Yes," said the doctor; "of course, the sooner the better; but it has
struck me perhaps it might be well to mention the matter to Miss Panney
before the Dranes actually leave Mrs. Brinkly. You know she was very
active in procuring that place for them."
Mrs. Tolbridge looked at her husband, gave a little sigh, and then
"What is your opinion of a bird," she asked, "who, flying to the shelter
of the woods, thinks it would be a good idea to stop for a moment and
look down the gun-barrel of a sportsman, to see what is there?"
The doctor looked at her for a moment and then, catching her point, gave
her a hearty laugh for answer, and walking to his table, took up a sheet
of manuscript and carried it to the room where Miss Drane was working.
"The passage which so puzzled you," he said, "has been deciphered by Mrs.
Tolbridge and myself, and reads thus: 'The philosophy of physiological
"Why, yes," said Cicely, looking at the paper; "now that you tell me
what it is, it is as plain as can be. I will write it in the blank space
that I have left, and here are some more words that I would like to ask
"Not now, not now," said the doctor. "I want you to stop work and run
home. As soon as I can I will talk with you about what you have written,
and give you some more of the manuscript. But no more work for to-day.
You must hurry to your mother. You will find Mrs. Tolbridge there,
talking to her about a change of quarters."
"Another holiday!" exclaimed Cicely, in surprise.
She was a girl who worked earnestly and conscientiously with the
intention of earning every cent of the money which was paid to her, and
these successive intermissions of work seemed to her unbusiness-like. But
she made no objections, and, putting away her papers, with a sigh, for
she had a list of points about which she was ready and anxious to consult
the doctor,--she went to join the consultation, which she presumed
concerned their removal from one street in Thorbury to another. But when
she discovered the heavenly prospect which had opened before her mother
and herself, her mind bounded from all thoughts of the manuscript of the
"Diagnosis of Sympathy," as if it had been a lark mounting to the sky.
BOMBSHELLS AND BROMIDE
About noon on the next day, Mrs. Tolbridge sat down at her desk to
finish the writing of the letter which had been so abruptly broken off
the day before. She had been very busy that afternoon and a part of this
morning, assisting Mrs. Drane and her daughter in their removal from a
hot street in a little town to the broad freedom and fine air of a
spacious country home.
And this change had given so much pleasure to all parties concerned that
it was natural that so good a woman as Mrs. Tolbridge should feel a glow
of satisfaction in thinking of the part she had taken in it.
She was satisfied in more ways than one: it was agreeable to her to
assist in giving pleasure to others, but besides this, she had a little
satisfaction which was peculiarly her own; she was pleased that that very
pretty and attractive Cicely would now work for the doctor, instead of
working so much with him. Of course she was willing to give up the little
room if it were needed, but it was a great deal pleasanter not to have
"It is so seldom," she thought, as she lifted the lid of her desk, "that
things can be arranged so as to please everybody."
At this moment she glanced through the open window and saw Miss Panney at
the front gate. Closing her desk, Mrs. Tolbridge pushed back her chair,
her glow of satisfaction changing into a little chill.
"Is the doctor at home?" she inquired of the servant who was passing the
door, and on receiving the negative reply, the chilly feeling increased.
Miss Panney was in a radiant humor. She seated herself in her favorite
rocking-chair; she laid her fan on the table near her and her reticule by
it, and she pushed back from her shoulders a little India shawl.
"I am treating myself," she said, "to a regular gala day; in the first
place, I intend to stay here to luncheon. People who have a La Fleur must
expect to see their friends at their table much oftener than if they had
a Biddy in the kitchen. That is one of the penalties of good fortune. I
have my cap in my bag, and as soon as I have cooled a little I will take
off my bonnet and shawl. This afternoon I am going to see the Bannisters,
and after that I intend to call on Mrs. Drane and her daughter. I put off
that until the last in order that Miss Drane may be at home. I ought to
have called on them before, considering that I did so much in getting
them established in Thorbury,--I am sure Mrs. Brinkly would not have
taken them if I had not talked her into it,--but one thing and another
has prevented my going there. But I have seen Miss Drane; I came to town
yesterday in the Witton carriage, and saw her in the street. She is
certainly a pretty little thing, and dresses with much taste. We all
thought her face was very sweet and attractive. We had a good look at
her, for she was waiting for our carriage to pass, in order to cross the
street. I told Jim, the driver, to go slowly, for I like to have a good
look at people before I know them. And by the way, Kitty, an idea comes
into my head," and as she said this, the old lady's eyes twinkled, and a
little smile stole over the lower part of her wrinkled face. "Perhaps you
may not like the doctor to have such an extremely pretty secretary.
Perhaps you may have preferred her to have a stubby nose and a freckled
face. How is that, Kitty?"
"Nonsense," said Mrs. Tolbridge. "It makes no manner of difference what
sort of a face a secretary has; her handwriting is much more important."
"Oh," said Miss Panney, "I am glad to hear that. And how does she get
"Very well indeed," was the answer; "the doctor seems satisfied with
"That is nice," said Miss Panney, "and how do they like it at Mrs.
Brinkly's? I saw their rooms, which are neatly furnished, and Mrs.
Brinkly keeps a very good table. I have taken many a meal at her house."
Had there been a column of mercury at Mrs. Tolbridge's back, it would
have gone down several degrees, as she prepared to answer Miss Panney's
question. She did not exactly hesitate, but she was so slow in beginning
to speak, that Miss Panney, who was untying her bonnet-strings, had time
to add, reflectively, "Yes, they are sure to find her a good landlady."
"The Dranes are not with Mrs. Brinkly now," said Mrs. Tolbridge. "They
left yesterday afternoon, although some of their things were not sent
away until this morning."
The old lady's hands dropped from her bonnet-strings to her lap.
"Left Mrs. Brinkly!" she exclaimed. "And where have they gone?"
"To Cobhurst, where they will board for a while, during the hot weather.
They found it very close and uncomfortable in that part of the town, with
the mercury in the eighties."
Miss Panney sat up tall and straight. Her eyes grew bigger and blacker as
with her mental vision she glared upon the situation. Presently she
spoke, and her voice sounded as if she were in a great empty cask, with
her mouth at the bunghole.
"Who did this?" she asked.
Mrs. Tolbridge was glad to talk; it suited her much better at this time
to do the talking than for her companion to do it, and she proceeded
"Oh, we all thought the change would be an excellent thing for them,
especially for Mrs. Drane, who is not strong; and as they had seen
Cobhurst and were charmed with the place, and as the Haverleys were quite
willing to take them for a little while, it seemed an excellent thing all
round. It was, however, our cook, La Fleur, who was the chief mover in
the matter. She was very much opposed to their staying with Mrs.
Brinkly,--you see she had lived with them and has quite an affection for
them,--and actually went so far as to talk of taking a house in the
country and boarding them herself. And you know, Miss Panney, how bad it
would be for the doctor to lose La Fleur."
"Did the doctor have anything to do with this?" asked Miss Panney.
Now Mrs. Tolbridge did hesitate a little.
"Yes," she said, "he spoke to the Haverleys about it; he thought it would
be an excellent thing for them."
Miss Panney rose, with her face as hard as granite. She drew her shawl
about her shoulders, and took up her fan and bag. Mrs. Tolbridge also
rose, much troubled.
"You must not imagine for a minute, Miss Panney," she said, "that the
doctor had the slightest idea that this removal would annoy you. In fact,
he spoke about consulting you in regard to it, and had he seen you before
the affair was settled, I am sure he would have done so. And you must not
think, either, that the doctor urged the Haverleys to take these ladies,
simply because he wished to keep La Fleur. He values her most highly, but
he thought of others than himself. He spoke particularly of the admirable
influence Mrs. Drane would have on Miriam."
The old lady turned her flashing eyes on Mrs. Tolbridge, and, slightly
lowering her head, she almost screamed these words: "Blow to the top of
the sky Mrs. Drane's influence on Miriam! That is not what I care for."
Then she turned and walked out of the parlor, followed by Mrs. Tolbridge.
At the front door she stopped and turned her wrathful and inexorable
countenance upon the doctor's wife; then she deliberately shook her
skirts, stamped her feet, and went out of the door.
When Dr. Tolbridge heard what had happened, he was sorely troubled. "I
must go to see her," he said. "I cannot allow her to remain in that state
of mind. I think I can explain the affair and make her look at it more as
we do, although, I must admit, now that I recall some things she recently
said to me, that she may have some grave objections to Cicely's residence
at Cobhurst. But I shall see her, and I think I can pacify her."
Mrs. Tolbridge was not so hopeful as her husband; he had not seen Miss
Panney at the front door. But she could not bring herself to regret the
advice she had given him when he proposed consulting Miss Panney in
regard to the Dranes' removal.
"I shall never object to La Fleur," she said to herself. "I will bear all
her impositions and queernesses for the sake of his health and pleasure,
but I cannot give up my little room to Cicely Drane."
And that very hour she caused to be replaced in the said room the desk
and other appurtenances which had been taken out when the room had been
arranged for the secretary.
These changes had hardly been made, when Dora Bannister called.
"Miss Panney was at our house to-day," said the girl, "and I cannot
imagine what was the matter with her. I never saw anybody in such a
state of mind."
"What did she say?" asked Mrs. Tolbridge.
"She said very little, and that was one of the strangest things about
her. But she sat and stared and stared and stared at me, as if I were
some sort of curiosity on exhibition, and did not answer anything I said
to her. I was awfully nervous, though I knew from the few words she had
said that she was not angry with me; but she kept on staring and staring
and staring, and then she suddenly leaned forward and put her arms around
me and kissed me. Then she sat back in her chair again, slapped her two
hands upon her knees, and said, speaking to herself, 'It shall be done. I
am a fool to have a doubt about it.' And then she went without another
word. Now was not that simply amazing? Did she come here, and did she act
in that way?"
"She was here," said Mrs. Tolbridge, "but she did not do anything so
funny as that."
"Well, I suppose I shall find out some day what she means," said Dora.
"And now, Mrs. Tolbridge, I did not come altogether to see you this
afternoon. I hope Miss Drane has not gone home yet, for I thought it
would be nice to meet her here. Mother and I are going to call on them,
but I do not know when that will be; and I have heard so much about the
doctor's secretary that I am perishing to see her. They say she is very
pretty and bright. I wanted mother to go there to-day, but we have had a
long drive this morning, and to-morrow she and I and Herbert are going
to call at Cobhurst; and you know mother will never consent to crowd
things. And so I thought I would come here this afternoon by myself. It
won't be like a call, you know."
"Miss Drane is not here," said Mrs. Tolbridge; "but if you want to see
her, you can do it to-morrow, if you go to Cobhurst. She and her mother
are now living there, boarding with the Haverleys."
"Living at Cobhurst!" exclaimed Dora; and as she uttered these words, the
girl turned pale.
"Heavens!" mentally ejaculated the doctor's wife. "I do nothing this day
but explode bombshells."
In a moment Dora recovered nearly all her color, and laughed.
"It is so funny," she said, "that all sorts of things happen in this town
without our knowing it. Is she still going to be the doctor's secretary?"
"Yes, she can do her work out there as well as here."
Dora looked out of the window as if she saw something in the garden, and
Mrs. Tolbridge charitably took her out to show her some new dahlias.
Early the next morning, Dr. Tolbridge drove into the Witton yard. No
matter who waited for him, he would not delay this visit. When he asked
for Miss Panney, he had a strong idea that the old lady would refuse to
see him. But in an astonishingly short space of time, she marched into
the parlor, every war-flag flying, and closed the door behind her.
Without shaking hands or offering the visitor any sort of salutation, she
seated herself in a chair in the middle of the room. "Now," said she,
"don't lose any time in saying what you have got to say."
Not encouraged by this reception, the doctor could not instantly arrange
what he had to say. But he shortly got his ideas into order, and
proceeded to lay the case in its most favorable light before the old
lady, dwelling particularly on the reasons why she had not been consulted
in the affair.
Miss Panney heard him to the end without a change in the rigidity of her
face and attitude. "Very well, then," she said, when he had finished, "I
see exactly what you have done. You have thrown me aside for a cook."
"Not at all!" exclaimed the doctor. "I had no idea of throwing you aside.
In fact, Miss Panney, I never thought of you in the matter at all."
"Exactly, exactly," said the old lady, with emphatic sharpness; "you
never thought of me at all. That is the sum and substance of what you
have done. I gave you my confidence. I told you my intentions, my hopes,
the plan which was to crown and finish the work of my life. I told you I
would make the grandson of the only man I ever loved my heir, and I would
do this, because I wished him to marry the daughter of the man who was my
best friend on earth. The marriage of these two and the union of the
estate of Cobhurst with the wealth of the Bannisters was a project which,
as I told you, had grown dear to my heart, and for which I was thinking
and dreaming and working. All this you knew, and without a word to me,
and if you speak the truth, all for the sake of your wretched stomach,
you clap into Cobhurst a girl who will be engaged to Ralph Haverley in
less than a month."
The doctor moved impatiently in his chair.
"Nonsense, Miss Panney. Cicely Drane will not harm your plans. She is a
sensible, industrious girl, who attends to her own business, and--"
"Precisely," said Miss Panney; "and her own business will be to settle
for life at Cobhurst. She may not be courting young Haverley to-day,
but she will begin to-morrow. She will do it, and what is more, she
would be a fool if she did not. It does not matter what sort of a girl
she is;" and now Miss Panney began to speak louder, and stood up; "it
does not matter if she had five legs and two heads; you have no right
to thrust any intruder into a household which I had taken into my
charge, and for which I had my plans, all of which you knew. You are a
false friend, Dr. Tolbridge, and at your doorstep I have shaken the
dust from my skirts and my feet." And with a quick step and a high
head, she marched out of the room.
The doctor took a little book out of his pocket, and on a blank leaf
wrote the following:--
Potass. Bromid. 3iij
Tr. Dig. Natis. m. xxx
Tr. Lavand. Comp. ad 3iij
M.S. teaspoonful every three hours.
Having sent this to Miss Panney by a servant, he went his way. Driving
along, his conscience stung him a little when he thought of the fable his
wife had told him; but the moral of the fable had made but little
impression upon him, and as an antidote to the sting he applied his
conviction that matchmaking was a bad business, and that in love affairs,
as well as in many diseases, the very best thing to do was to let nature
take its course.
When Miss Panney read the paper which had been sent to her, her eyes
flashed, and then she laughed.
"The wretch!" she exclaimed; "it is just like him." And in the afternoon
she sent to her apothecary in Thorbury for the medicine prescribed. "If
it cools me down," she said to herself, "I shall be able to work better."
DORA COMES AND SEES
The call by the Bannisters at Cobhurst was made as planned. Had storm or
sudden war prevented Mrs. Bannister and Herbert from going, Dora would
have gone by herself. She did not appear to be in her usual state of
health that day, and Mrs. Bannister, noticing this, and attributing it to
Dora's great fondness for fruit at this season and neglect of more solid
food, had suggested that perhaps it might be well for her not to take a
long drive that afternoon. But this remark was added to the thousand
suggestions made by the elder lady and not accepted by the younger.
Miriam was in the great hall when the Bannister family drove up, and she
greeted her visitors with a well-poised affability which rather surprised
Mrs. Bannister. Dora instantly noticed that she was better dressed than
she had yet seen her.
When they were seated in the parlor, Mrs. Bannister announced that their
call was intended to include Mrs. Drane and her daughter, and Herbert
hoped that this time he would be able to see Mr. Haverley.
Mrs. Drane was sent for, but Miriam did not know where her brother and
Miss Drane should be looked for. She had seen them walk by the back
piazza, but did not notice in what direction they had gone. At this
moment there ran through Dora a sensation similar to that occasioned by a
mild galvanic shock, but as she was looking out of the open door, the
rest of the company saw no signs of this.
"Excuse me," said Mrs. Bannister, in a low voice, and speaking rather
rapidly, "but I thought that Miss Drane was working for Dr. Tolbridge,
copying, or something of that kind."
"She is," answered Miriam, "but she has her regular hours, and stops at
five o'clock, just as she did when she was in the doctor's house."
When Mrs. Drane had appeared and the visitors had been presented, Miriam
said that she would go herself and look for Ralph and Miss Drane. She
thought now that it was very likely they were in the orchard.
"Let me go with, you," exclaimed Dora, springing to her feet, and in a
moment she and Miriam had left the house.
"I heard her say," said Miriam, "that she wanted some summer apples,
fresh from the tree, and that is the reason why I suppose they are in the
orchard. You never knew anybody so wild about country things as Miss
Drane is. And she knows so little about them too."
"Do you like her?" asked Dora.
"Ever so much. I think she is as nice as can be. She is a good deal older
than I am, but sometimes it seems as if it were the other way. I suppose
one reason is that she wants to know so much, and I think I must like to
tell people things--nice people, I mean."
Dora's mind was in a state of lively receptivity, and it received an
impression from Miriam's words that might be of use hereafter. But now
they had reached the orchard, and there, standing on a low branch of a
tree, was Ralph, and below was Miss Drane. Her laughing face was turned
upward, and she was holding her straw hat to catch an apple, but it was
plain that she was not skilled in that sort of exercise, and when the
apple dropped, it barely touched the rim of the hat and rolled upon the
ground, and then they both laughed as if they had known each other for
"What a little thing," said Miss Bannister.
"She is small," answered Miriam, "but isn't she pretty and graceful? And
her clothes fit her so beautifully. I am sure you will like her."
Ralph came down from the tree, the straw hat was replaced on the head of
Miss Drane, and then came introduction and greeting. Never before had
Dora Bannister found it so hard to meet any one as she found it to meet
these two. She was only eighteen, and had had no experience in comporting
herself in an ordinary way when her every impulse prompted her to do or
say something quite extraordinary. But she was a girl who could control
herself, and she now controlled herself so well, that had Miss Panney or
Mrs. Tolbridge been there they would instantly have suspected what was
meant by so much self-control. She greeted Miss Drane with much suavity,
and asked her if she liked apples.
As the party started for the house, Dora, who was a quick walker, was not
so quick as usual, and Ralph naturally slackened his pace a little. In a
few moments Miriam and Miss Drane were hurrying toward the house,
considerably in advance of the others.
"It is so nice," said Dora, "for your sister to have ladies in the house
with her. I have been wanting to see her ever so much, and was afraid
something was the matter with her, especially as you did not come for
As Ralph was explaining his apparent ungraciousness, Dora's soul was
roughly shaken. She was angry with him and wanted to show it, but she saw
clearly that this would be unsafe. Her hold upon him was very slight, and
a few unwise words now might make him no more than a mere acquaintance.
She did not wish to say words that would do that, but if she held him by
a cord ever so slender, she would obey the promptings of her soul and
endeavor to draw him a little toward her. She would take the risks of
that, for if he drifted away from her, the cord would be as likely to
break as if she drew upon it.
"Oh yes," she said, "I knew all the time why you and Miriam did not come
to make a regular society call, but I did suppose that you would drop in
to see about Congo. As soon as I got home, after I promised him to you, I
began to educate him to cease to care for me, and to care for you. If you
had been there, all this would have been easy enough, but as it was, I
had to get Herbert or the coachman to take him out walking at the times I
used to take him, and when he was tied up I kept away from his little
house altogether, so that he should become accustomed to do without me. I
stopped feeding him, and made Herbert do that whenever he had time, and I
insisted that he should wear a big straw hat, which he does not like, but
which is a good deal like the one you wear, and which I thought might
have an influence on the mind of Congo."
This touched Ralph, and he did not wish that Miss Bannister should
suppose that he thought so little of a gift of which she thought so much.
And in order to entirely remove any suspicion of ungratefulness, he
endeavored to make her understand that he had wished very much to go to
see the dog, but wished much more to go to see her.
"I hate a great many of these social rules," he said, "and although I did
not know any of the rest of your family, I knew you, and felt very much
inclined to call on you and let the customs take care of themselves."
"I wish you had!" exclaimed Dora; "I like to see people brave enough to
trample on customs."
Her spirits were rising, and she walked still slower. This tete-a-tete
was very delightful to Ralph, but he had no desire to trample on all
social customs, and his feelings of courteous hospitality urged him to go
as rapidly as possible to greet the special visitor who was waiting for
him; but to desert that gentleman's sister, or make her walk quickly when
she did not wish to, was equally opposed to his ideas of courtesy, and so
it happened that Dora and Ralph entered the parlor so much later than the
others that a decided impression was made on the minds of Mrs. and Miss
Drane. And this was what Dora wished. She felt that it would be a very
good thing in this case to assert some sort of a preemption claim. It
could do no harm, and might be of great service.
After the manner of the country gentlemen who in mixed society are apt to
prefer their own sex for purposes of converse, Herbert Bannister
monopolized Ralph. His sister talked with Cicely Drane, and in spite of
her natural courage and the reasons for self-confidence which she had
just received, Dora's spirits steadily fell as she conversed with this
merry, attractive girl, who knew so well how to make herself
entertaining, even to other girls, and who was actually living in Ralph
Dora made the visit shorter than it otherwise would have been. She had
come, she had seen, and she wanted to go home and think about the rest of
the business. The drive home was, in a degree, pleasant because Herbert
had a great deal to say about Mr. Haverley, whom he had found most
agreeable, and because Mrs. Bannister spoke in praise of Ralph's manly
beauty, but it would depend upon future circumstances whether or not
remarks of this kind could be considered entirely satisfactory.
That evening, in her own room, in a loose dressing-gown, and with her
hair hanging over her shoulders, Dora devoted herself to an earnest
consideration of her relations with Ralph Haverley. At first sight it
seemed odd that there should be any relations at all, for she had known
him but a short time, and he had made few or no advances toward her--not
half so many or such pronounced ones as other men had made, during her
few visits to fashionable resorts. But she settled this part of the
question very promptly.
"I like him better than anybody I have ever seen," she said to herself.
"In fact, I love him, and now--" and then she went on to consider the
rest of the matter, which was not so easy to settle.
Cicely Drane was terribly hard to settle. There was that girl,--all the
more dangerous because, being charming and little, a man would be more
apt to treat her as a good comrade than if she were charming and
tall,--who was with him all the time. And how she would be with him,
Dora's imagination readily perceived, because she knew how she herself
would be with him under the circumstances. Before breakfast in the dewy
grass, gathering apples; during work hours, talking through the open
window as he chanced to pass; after five o'clock, walks in the orchard,
walks over the farm, in the woods everywhere, and always those two
together, because there were four of them. How much worse it was that
there were four of them! And the evenings, moonlight, starlight; on the
piazza; good-night on the stairs--it was maddening to think of.
But, nevertheless, she thought of it hour after hour, with no other
result than to become more and more convinced that she was truly in love
with a man who had never given any sign that he loved her, and that there
was every reason to believe that when he gave a sign that he loved, it
would be to another woman, and not to her.
She rose and looked out of the window. A piece of the moon, far gone in
the third quarter, was rising above a mass of evergreens. She had a
courageous young soul, and the waning brightness of the lovers' orb did
not affect her as a disheartening sign.
"It is not right," she said to herself. "I will not do it. I will not
hang like an apple on a tree for any one to pick who chooses, or if
nobody chooses, to drop down to the chickens and pigs. A woman has as
much right to try to do the best for herself as a man has to try to do
the best for himself. I can't really trample on customs as a man can, but
I can do it in my mind, and I do it now. I love him, and I will get him
if I can."
With this Dora sat down, and left the bit of moon to shed what
luminousness it could over the landscape.
Her resolution shed a certain luminousness over Dora's soul. To
determine to do a thing is nearly always inspiriting.
"Yes," she thought, "I will do what I can. He has promised to come very
soon, and he shall not have Congo the first time he comes. He shall come,
and I shall go, and I shall be great friends with Miriam. There will be
nothing false in that, for I like her ever so much, and I shall remember
to think more of what she likes. No one shall see me break down any
customs of society,--especially, he shall not,--but out of my mind they
are swept and utterly gone."
Having thus shaped her course, Dora thought she would go to bed. But
suddenly an idea struck her, and she stood and pondered.
"I believe," she said, speaking aloud in her earnestness, "I believe
that that is what Miss Panney meant. She has spoken so well of him to
me; she has heard about that girl, and she said, yes, she certainly did
say, 'It shall be done.' She wants it, I truly believe; she wants me to
For a few minutes she stood gazing at her ring, and then she said,--
"I will go to her; I will tell her everything. It will be a great thing
to have Miss Panney on my side. She does not care for customs, and she
will never breathe a word to a soul."
Dr. Tolbridge was not mistaken in his estimate of the sort of mind Dora
Bannister would have when she should shed her old one.
"IT COULDN'T BE BETTER THAN THAT"
The Haverleys could not expect that the people of Thorbury would feel any
general and urgent desire to recognize them as neighbors. They did not
live in the town, and moreover newcomers, even to the town itself, were
usually looked upon as "summer people," until they had proved that they
were to be permanent residents, and the leading families of Thorbury made
it a rule not to call on summer people.
But the example of the Tolbridges and Bannisters had a certain effect on
Thorbury society, and people now began to drive out to Cobhurst; not very
many of them, but some of them representative people. Mr. Ames, the
rector of Grace Church, came early because the Haverleys had been to his
church several times, and Mr. Torry, the Presbyterian minister, came
afterwards because the Haverleys had stopped going to Grace Church, and
he did not know that it was on account of the gig shafts.
Mr. Hampton, the Methodist, who was a pedestrian, walked out to Cobhurst
one day, but as neither the brother or sister could be found, he
good-humoredly resolved to postpone a future call until cooler weather.
Lately, when a lady had called, it happened that there had been no one to
receive her but Mrs. Drane; and although there could be no doubt that
that lady performed the duties of hostess most admirably, Miriam
resolved that that thing should never happen again. She did not wish the
people to think that there was a regent in rule at Cobhurst, and she now
determined to make it a point to be within call during ordinary visiting
hours. Or, if she felt strongly moved to a late afternoon ramble, she
would invite the other ladies to accompany her. She still wore her hair
down her back, and her dresses did not quite touch the tops of her boots,
and it was therefore necessary to be careful in regard to her
prerogatives as mistress of the house.
Early one afternoon, much sooner than there was reason to expect
visitors, a carriage came in at the Cobhurst gate, driven by our friend
Andy Griffing. Miriam happened to be at a front window, and regarded
with some surprise the shabby equipage. It came with a flourish to the
front of the house, and stopped. But instead of alighting, its occupant
seemed to be expostulating with the driver. Andy shook his head a great
deal, but finally drove round at the back, when an elderly woman got
out, and came to the hall door. Miriam, who supposed, of course, that
she would be wanted, was there to meet her, and there was no necessity
for ringing or knocking.
"My name," said the visitor, "is La Fleur, if you please. I came to see
Mrs. Drane and Miss Drane, if you please. Thank you very much, I will
come in. I will wait here, or, if you will be so good as to tell me where
I can find Mrs. Drane, I will go to her. I used to live with her: I was
Miriam had been gazing with much interest on the puffy face and
shawl-enwrapped body of the old woman who addressed her with a smiling
obsequiousness to which she was not at all accustomed.
The thought struck her that with servants like this woman, it would be
easy to feel herself a mistress. She had heard from the Dranes a great
deal about their famous cook, and she was glad of the opportunity to look
upon this learned professor of kitchen lore.
"What would she have said to my tall raspberry tarts?" involuntarily
thought the girl.
But it was when La Fleur had gone to Mrs. Drane's room, and Cicely,
wildly delighted when informed who had come to see them, had run to meet
the dear old woman, that Miriam pondered most seriously upon this visit
from a cook. She had not known anything of the ties between families and
old family servants. At school, servants had been no more than machines;
she was nothing to them, and they were nothing to her; and now she felt
that the ignorance of these ties was one of the deprivations of her life.
That old woman upstairs had not lived very long with the Dranes, and yet
she regarded them with a positive affection. Miriam knew this from what
she had heard. If they were in trouble, and needed her, she would come to
them and serve them wherever they were. This she had told them often. How
different was such a woman from Phoebe or Molly Tooney! How happy would
she be if there had been such a one in her mother's family, and were she
with her now!
"But I have only Ralph," thought Miriam; "no one else in the world."
Ralph was good,--no human being could be better; but he was only one
person, and knew nothing of many things she wanted to know, and could not
help her in many ways in which she needed to be helped.
With a feeling that from certain points of view she was rather solitary
and somewhat forsaken, she went to look for her brother. It would be
better to talk to what she had than to think about what she had not.
As she walked toward the barn and pasture fields, Ralph came up from the
cornfield by the woods on the other side of the house. As he went in he
met Mrs. Drane and La Fleur, who had just come downstairs. Cicely had
already retired to her work. At the sight of the gentleman, who, she was
informed, was the master of the house, La Fleur bowed her head, cast down
her eyes, smiled and courtesied.
Mrs. Drane drew Ralph aside.
"That is La Fleur, who used to be our cook. She is a kind old body, who
takes the greatest interest in our welfare. She is greatly pleased to
find us in such delightful quarters, but she has queer notions, and now
she wants very much to call on your cook. I don't know that this is the
right thing, and I have been looking for your sister, to ask her if she
objects to it, but I think she is not in the house."
"Oh, bless me!" exclaimed Ralph, "she will not mind in the least. Let the
good woman go down and see Molly Tooney, and if she can give her some
points about cooking, I am sure we shall all be delighted."
"Oh, she would not do that," said Mrs. Drane. "She is a very considerate
person; but I suppose, in any house, her instincts would naturally draw
her toward the cook."
When Ralph turned to La Fleur, and assured her that his sister would be
glad to have her visit the kitchen, the old woman, who had not taken her
eyes from him for an instant, thanked him with great unction, again
bowed, courtesied, smiled, and, being shown the way to the kitchen,
Molly Tooney, who was sitting on a low stool, paring potatoes, looked up
in amazement at the person who entered her kitchen. It was not an
obsequious old woman she saw, but a sedate, dignified, elderly person,
with her brows somewhat knitted. Throwing about her a glance, which was
not one of admiration, La Fleur remarked,--
"I suppose you are the cook of the house."
"Indade, an' I am," said Molly, still upon the stool, with a knife in one
hand, and a potato, with a long paring hanging from it, in the other;
"an' the washer-woman, an' the chambermaid, an' the butler, too, as loike
as may be. An' who may you be, an' which do you want to see?"
"I am Madame La Fleur," said the other, with a stateliness that none of
her mistresses ever supposed that she possessed. "I came to see Mrs.
Drane, in whose service I was formerly engaged, and I wish to know for
myself what sort of a person was cooking for the ladies whose meals I
used to prepare."
Molly put down her knife and her half-pared potato, and arose. She had
heard of La Fleur, whose fame had spread through and about Thorbury.
"Sit down, mum," said she. "This isn't much of a kitchen, for I
haven't had time to clane it up, an' as for me, I'm not much of a
cook, nather; for when ye have to be iverything, ye can't be anything
to no great ixtent."
La Fleur, still standing, looked at her severely.
"How often do you bake?" she asked.
"Three times a week," answered Molly, lying.
"The ladies upstairs," said La Fleur, "have been accustomed to fresh
rolls every morning for their breakfast."
"An' afther this, they shall have 'em," said Molly, "Sundays an' weekday,
an' sorry I am that I didn't know before that they was used to have 'em."
"How do you make your coffee?" asked La Fleur.
Molly looked at her hesitatingly.
"I am very keerful about that," she said. "I niver let it bile too
"Ugh!" exclaimed La Fleur, raising her hand. "Tell your mistress to get
you a French coffee-pot, and if you don't know how to use it, I'll come
and teach you. I shall be here off and on as long as Mrs. Drane stops in
this house." And then, seating herself, La Fleur proceeded to put Molly
through an elementary domestic service examination.
"Well," said the examiner, when she had finished, "I think you must be
the worst cook in this part of the country."
"No, mum, I'm not," said Molly. "There was one here afore me, a nager
woman named Phoebe, that must have been worse, from what I'm told."
"Where I have lived," said La Fleur, "they have such women to cook for the
"Beggin' your pardon, mum," said Molly, "that's what they are here, or
th' same thing. Mr. Haverley, he works on the farm with a pitchfork, jest
like the nager man."
"Don't talk to me like that!" exclaimed La Fleur. "Mr. Haverley is a
gentleman. I have lived enough among gentlemen to know them when I see
them, and they can work and they can play and they can do what they
please, and they are gentlemen still. Don't you ever speak that way,
again, of your master."
"I thought I had heard, mum," said Molly, "that you looked down on
tradespeople and the loike."
"Tradespeople!" said the other, scornfully. "A gentleman farmer is very
different from a person in trade; but I can't expect anything better from
a woman who boils coffee, and never heard of bouillon. But remember the
things I have told you, and thank your stars that a cook as high up in
the profession as I am is willing to tell you anything. Are you the only
servant in this house?"
"There's a man by the name of Mike," said Molly, "a nager, though you
wouldn't think it from his name. He helps me sometimes, an' he helps
iverybody else other times."
"Is that the man?" said La Fleur, looking out of the window.
"That's him, mum," said Molly; "he's jest goin' to the woodpile
with his axe."
"I wish to speak to him," said La Fleur, and with a very slight nod of
the head she left the kitchen by the door that led into the grounds.
Looking after her, Molly exclaimed,--
"Drat you, for a stuck-up, cross-grained, meddlin', bumble-bee-backed
old hag of a soup-slopper; to come stickin' yer big nose into other
people's kitchens! If there was a rale misthress to the house instead
of the little gal upstairs, you'd be rowled down the front steps afore
you'd been let come into my kitchen." And with this she returned to
La Fleur stopped at the woodpile, as if in passing she had happened to
notice a good man splitting logs. In her blandest voice she accosted Mike
and bade him good-day.
"I think you must be Michael," she said. "The cook has been speaking of
you to me. My name is La Fleur."
Mike, who had struck his axe into a log, touched his flattened hat.
"Yes, mum," he said; "Mr. Griffing has been tellin' me that. Are you
lookin' for any of the folks?"
"Oh no, no," said La Fleur; "I am just walking about to see a little of
this beautiful place. You don't mind that, do you, Michael? You keep
everything in such nice order. I haven't seen your garden, but I know it
is a fine one, because I saw some of the vegetables that came out of it."
Mike grinned. "I reckon it ain't the same kind of a garden that you've
been used to, mum. I've heerd that you cooked for Queen Victoria."
"Oh no, no," said La Fleur, dropping her head on one side so that her
smile made a slight angle with the horizon; "I never cooked for the
queen, no indeed; but I have lived with high families, lords, ladies, and
ambassadors, and I don't remember that any of them had better potatoes
than I saw to-day. Is this a large farm, Michael?"
"It's considerable over a hundred acres, though I don't 'xactly know how
much. Not what you'd call big, and not what you'd call little."
"But you grow beautiful crops on it, I don't doubt," remarked La Fleur.
"Can't say about that," said Mike, shaking his head a little. "I 'spects
we'll git good 'nough craps for what we do for 'em. This ain't the kind
of farm your lords and ladies has got. It's ramshackle, you know."
"Ramshackle?" repeated La Fleur. "Is that a sort of sheep farm?"
Mike grinned. "Law, no, we ain't got no sheep, and I'm glad of it.
Ramshackle farmin' means takin' things as you find 'em, an' makin' 'em
do, an' what you git you've got, but with tother kind of farmin' most
times what you git, ye have to pay out, an' then you ain't got nuthin'."
This was more than La Fleur could comprehend, but she inferred in a
general way that Mr. Haverley's farm was a profitable one.
"All so pretty, so pretty," she said, looking from side to side; "such a
grand barn, and such broad acres. Is it the estate as far as I can see?"
"Yes, mum," said Mike, "an' a good deal furder. The woods cuts it off
"It is a lordly place," said La Fleur, "and it does you honor, Michael,
for the cook told me you were Mr. Haverley's head man."
"I reckon she's about right there," said Mike.
"And I am very glad indeed," continued the old woman, "that Mrs. and Miss
Drane are living here. And now, Michael, if either of them is ever taken
ill, and you're sent for the doctor, I want you to come straight to me,
and I'll see that he goes to them. If you knock at the back door of the
kitchen, I'll hear you, whether I am awake or asleep. And when you are
coming to town, Michael, you must drop in and see me. I can give you a
nice bit of a lunch, any day. I daresay you like good things to eat as
well as any-body."
Mike stood silent for a moment, and his eyes began to brighten.
"Indeed I do, mum," said he. "If I was to carry in a punkin to you when
they're ripe, I wonder if you'd be willin' to make me a punkin pie, same
kind as Queen Victoria has in the fall of the year."
La Fleur beamed on him most graciously.
"I will do that gladly, Michael: you may count on me to do that. And I
will give you other things that you like. Wait till we see, wait till we
see. Good-day, Michael; I must be going now, or the doctor will be kept
waiting for his dinner. Where's my cabby?"
"Mr. Griffing has drove round to the front of the house, mum," said Mike.
"Just like the stupid American," muttered the old woman as she hurried
away, "as if I'd get in at the front of the house."
Andy Griffing talked a good deal on the drive back to Thorbury, but La
Fleur heard little and answered less. She was in a state of great mental
satisfaction, and during her driver's long descriptions of persons and
places, she kept saying to herself, "It couldn't be better than that. It
couldn't be better than that."
This mental expression she applied to Mr. Haverley, whom she considered
an extraordinarily fine-looking young man; to the broad acres and fine
barn; to the fact that the Dranes were living with him; to the
probability that he would fall in love with the charming Miss Cicely, and
make her mistress of the estate; and to the strong possibility, that
should this thing happen, she herself would be the cook of Cobhurst, and
help her young mistress put the establishment on the footing that her
"It couldn't be better than that," she muttered over and over again as
she busied herself about the Tolbridge dinner, and she even repeated the
expression two or three times after she went to bed.
THE GAME IS CALLED
In her notions and schemes regarding the person and estate of Ralph
Haverley, the good cook, La Fleur, lacked one great advantage possessed
by her rival planner and schemer Miss Panney; for she whose cause was
espoused by the latter old woman was herself eager for the fray and
desirous of victory, whereas Cicely Drane had not yet thought of marrying
anybody, and outside of working hours was devoting herself to getting all
the pleasure she could out of life, not regarding much whether it was her
mother or Miriam or Mr. Haverley who helped her get it. Moreover, the
advantages of co-residence, which La Fleur naturally counted upon, were
not so great as might have been expected; for Mrs. Drane, having
perceived that Ralph was fond of the society of young ladies to a degree
which might easily grow beyond her ideas of decorous companionship
between a gentleman of the house and a lady boarder, gently interfered
with the dual apple gatherings and recreations of that nature. For this,
had she been aware of it, Dora Bannister would have been most grateful.
Ralph had gone twice to see Congo, and to talk to Miss Bannister about
him, but he had not taken the dog home. Dora said she would take him to
Cobhurst the first time she drove over there to see Miriam. Congo would
follow her and the carriage anywhere, and this would be so much
pleasanter than to have him forced away like a prisoner.
The gig shafts had now been repaired, and Ralph urged his sister to go
with him to Thorbury and attend to her social duties; but Miriam disliked
the little town and loved Cobhurst. As to social duties, she thought they
ought to be attended to, of course, but saw no need to be in a hurry
about them; so Ralph, one day, having business in Thorbury, prepared to
go in again by himself. He had been lately riding Mrs. Browning, who was
still his only available horse for family use; but she was not very
agreeable under the saddle, and he now proposed to take the gig. He had
thought it might be a good idea to take a little drive out of the town,
and see if Congo would follow him. Perhaps Miss Bannister would accompany
him, for she was very anxious that the dog should become used to Ralph
before leaving his present home; and her presence would help very much in
teaching the animal to follow.
But although Miriam declined to go with her brother, she took much
interest in his expedition, and came out to the barn to see him harness
"Are you going to Dora Bannister's again?" she asked.
"Yes," said Ralph; "at least I think I shall stop in to see the dog. You
know the oftener I do that, the better."
"I think it is a shame," said Miriam, "that you should be driving to town
alone, when there are other people who wish so much to go, and you have
no use at all for that empty seat."
"Who wants to go?" asked Ralph, quickly.
"Cicely Drane does. She has got into trouble over the doctor's
manuscript, and says she can't go on properly without seeing him. She has
been expecting him here every day, but it seems as if he never intended
to come. She asked me this morning how far it was to Thorbury, and I
think she intends to walk in, if he does not come to-day."
"Why didn't you tell me this before?" asked Ralph. "I would have sent her
into town or taken her."
"I had not formulated it in my mind," said Miriam. "Will you take her
with you to-day? I know that she has made up her mind she cannot wait any
longer for the doctor to come."
"Of course I will take her," said Ralph. "Will you ask her to get ready?
Tell her I shall be at the door in ten or fifteen minutes."
Ralph's tone was perfectly good-humored, but Miriam fancied that she
perceived a trace of disappointment in it. She was sorry for this, for
she could not imagine why any man should object to have Cicely Drane as a
companion on a drive, unless his mind was entirely occupied by some other
girl; and if Ralph's mind was thus occupied, it must be by Dora
Bannister, and that did not please her. So she resolutely put aside all
Cicely's suggestions that it might be inconvenient for Mr. Haverley to
take her with him, and deftly overcame Mrs. Drane's one or two impromptu,
and therefore not very well constructed, objections to the acceptance of
the invitation; and in the gig Cicely went with Ralph to Thorbury.
After having left the secretary to attend to her business at the
doctor's house, Ralph drove to the Bannister's; but Dora would not see
him, and technically was not at home. Alas! She had seen him driving past
with Miss Drane, and she was angry. This was contrary to the plan of
action she had adopted; but her eighteen-year-old spirit rebelled, and
she could not help it. A more hideous trap than that old gig could not be
imagined, but she had planned a drive in it with Ralph on some of the
quiet country roads beyond Cobhurst. They would take Congo with them, and
that would be such a capital plan to teach the dog to follow his new
master. And now it was the Drane girl who was driving with him in his
gig. She could not go down and see him and meet him in the way she liked
to meet him.
Miss Panney, on the other side of the street, had been passing the
Tolbridge house at the moment when Ralph and Cicely drove up. She
stopped for a moment, her feelings absolutely outraged. It was not
uncommon for her to pass places at times when people were doing things
in those places which she thought they ought not to do; but this was a
case which roused her anger in an unusual manner. Whatever else might
happen at Cobhurst, she did not believe that that girl would begin so
soon to go out driving with him.
She had left her phaeton at a livery stable, and was on her way to the
Bannister house to have a talk with Dora on a subject in which they were
now both so much interested. She had been very much surprised when the
girl had come to her and freely avowed her feelings and hopes, but she
had been delighted. She liked a spirit of that sort, and it was a joy to
her to work with one who possessed it. But she knew human nature, and she
was very much afraid that Dora's purpose might weaken. It was quite
natural that a young person, in a moment of excitement and pique, should
figuratively raise her sword in air and vow a vow; but it was also quite
natural, when the excitement and pique had cooled down, that the young
person should experience what might be called a "vow-fright," and feel
unable to go through with her part. In a case such as Dora's, this was
very possible indeed, and all that Miss Panney had planned to say on her
present visit was intended to inspire the girl, if it should be needed,
with some of her own matured inflexibility and fixedness of purpose. But
if the man were doing this sort of thing already and Dora should know it,
she would have a right to be discouraged.
Before the old lady reached the Bannisters' gate, she saw Mr. Haverley,
in his gig, drive away. This brightened her up a little.
"He comes here, anyway," she thought; "what a pity Dora is not in."
Nevertheless, she went on to the Bannister house; and when she found Dora
was in, she began to scold her.
"This will never do, will never do," she said. "Get angry with him if you
choose, but don't show it. If you do that, you may crash him too low or
bounce him too high, and, in either case, he may be off before you know
it. It is too early in the game to show him that he has made you angry."
"But if he doesn't want me, I don't want him," said Dora, sulkily.
"If you think that way, my dear," said Miss Panney, "you may as well make
up your mind to make a bad match, or die an old maid. The right man very
seldom comes of his own accord; it is nearly always the wrong one. If you
happen to meet the right man, you should help him to know that he ought
to come. That is the way to look at it. That young Haverley does not know
yet who it is that he cares for. He is just floating along, waiting for
some one to thrust out a boat-hook and pull him in."
"I shall marry no floating log," said Dora, stiffly.
The old lady laughed.
"Perhaps that was not a very good figure of speech," she said; "but
really, my dear, you must not interfere with your own happiness by
showing temper; and if you look at the affair in its proper light, you
will see it is not so bad, after all. Ten to one, he brought her to town
because she wanted to come with him,--probably on some patched-up errand;
but he came here because he wanted to come. There could be no other
reason; and, instead of being angry with him, you should have given him
an extraordinary welcome. For the very reason that she has so many
advantages over you, being so much with him, you should be very careful
to make use of the advantages you have over her. And your advantages are
that you are ten times better fitted to be his wife than she is; and the
great thing necessary to be done is to let him see it. But her chances
must come to an end. Those Dranes must be got away from Cobhurst."
"I don't like that way of looking at it," said Dora, leaning back in her
chair, with a sigh. "It's the same thing as fishing for a man, though I
suppose it might have been well to see him when he came."
Now Miss Panney felt encouraged; her patient was showing good symptoms.
Let her keep in that state of mind, and she would see that the lover
came. She had made a mistake in speaking so bluntly about getting the
Dranes out of Cobhurst. Although she would not say anything more to Dora
about that important piece of work, she would do it all the same.
This little visit had been an important one to Miss Panney; it had
enabled her to understand Dora's character much better than she had
understood it before; and she perceived that in this case of matchmaking
she must not only do a great deal of the work herself, but she must do it
without Dora's knowing anything about it. She liked this, for she was not
much given to consulting with people.
Miss Panney had another call to pay in the neighborhood, and she had
intended, for form's sake, to spend a little time with Mrs. Bannister;
but she did neither. She went back by the way she had come, wishing to
learn all she could about the movements of the Cobhurst gig.
Approaching the Tolbridge house, she saw that vehicle standing before
the door, with the sleepy Mrs. Browning tied to a post, and as she drew
nearer, she perceived Ralph Haverley sitting alone on the vine-shaded
piazza. The old lady would not enter the Tolbridge gate, but she stood on
the other side of the street, and beckoned to Ralph, who, as soon as he
saw her, ran over to her.
Ralph walked a little way with Miss Panney, and after answering her most
friendly inquiries about Miriam, he explained how he happened to be
sitting alone on the piazza; the doctor and Miss Drane, whom he had
brought to town, were at work at some manuscript, and he had preferred to
wait outside instead of indoors.
"I called on Miss Bannister," he said, "but she was not at home, so I
came back here."
"It is a pity she was out," said Miss Panney, carelessly, "and now that
you have mentioned Miss Bannister, I would like to ask you something; why
does not your sister return her visits? I saw Dora not very long ago, and
found that her feelings had been a little hurt--not much, perhaps, but a
little--by Miriam's apparent indifference to her. Dora is a very
sensitive girl, and is slow to make friends among other girls. I never
knew any friendship so quick and lively as that she showed for Miriam.
You know that Dora is still young; it has not been long since she left
school; there is not a girl in Thorbury that she cares anything about,
and her life at home must necessarily be a lonely one. Her brother is
busy, even in the evenings, and Mrs. Bannister is no companion for a
lively young girl."
"I had thought," said Ralph, "that Miss Bannister went a good deal
"Oh, no," answered Miss Panney; "she sometimes visits her relatives, who
are society people; but in years and disposition she is too young for
that sort of thing. Society women and society men would simply bore her.
At heart she is a true country girl, and I think it was because Miriam
had country tastes, and loved that sort of life, that Dora's affections
went out so quickly to her. I wish your sister had the same feelings
"Oh, Miriam likes her very much," exclaimed Ralph, "and is always
delighted to see her; but my little sister is wonderfully fond of staying
at home. I have told her over and over again that she ought to return
Miss Bannister's calls."
"Make her do it," said the old lady. "It is her duty, and I assure you,
it will be greatly to her advantage. Miriam is a most lovely girl, but
her character has not hardened itself into what it is going to be, and
association with a thoroughbred girl, such as Dora Bannister, admirably
educated, who has seen something of the world, with an intelligence and
wit such as I have never known in any one of her age, and more than all
with a soul as beautiful as her face, cannot fail to be an inestimable
benefit to your sister. What Miriam most needs, at this stage of her
life, is proper companionship of her own age and sex."
Ralph assented. "But," said he, "she is not without that, you know. Miss
Drane, who with her mother now lives with us, is a most--"
Miss Panney's face grew very hard.
"Excuse me," she interrupted, "I know all about that. Of course the
Dranes are very estimable people, and there are many things, especially
in the way of housekeeping, which Mrs. Drane could teach Miriam, if she
chose to take the trouble. But while I respect the daughter's efforts to
support herself and her mother, it must be admitted that she is a
working-girl--nothing more or less--and must continue to be such. Her
present business, of course, can only last for a little while, and she
will have to adopt some regular calling. This life she expects, and is
preparing herself for it. But a mind such as hers is, or must speedily
become, is not the one from which Miriam's young mind should receive its
impressions. The two will move in very different spheres, and neither can
be of any benefit to the other. More than that I will not say; but I will
say that your sister can never find any friend so eager to love her, and
so willing to help and be helped by her in so many ways in which girls
can help each other, as my dear Dora. Now bestir yourself, Mr. Haverley,
and make Miriam look at this thing as she ought to. I don't pretend to
deny that I have spoken to you very much for Dora's sake, for whom I have
an almost motherly feeling; but you should act for your sister's sake.
And please don't forget what I have said, young man, and give Miriam my
When Ralph walked back to the Tolbridge piazza he found the working-girl
sitting there, waiting for him. His mind was not in an altogether
satisfactory condition; some things Miss Panney had said had pleased and
even excited him, but there were other things that he resented. If she
had not been such an old lady, and if she had not talked so rapidly, he
might have shown this resentment. But he had not done so, and now the
more he thought about it, the stronger the feeling grew.
As for Cicely Drane, she was a great deal more quiet during the drive
home, than she had been when going to Thorbury. Her mind was in an
unsatisfactory condition, and this had been occasioned by an interview
with La Fleur, who had waylaid her in the hall as she came out of the
The good cook had been in a state of enthusiastic delight, since, looking
out of the kitchen window where she had been sitting, with a manuscript
book of recipes in her lap, planning the luncheon and dinner, she had
seen the lord of Cobhurst drive up to the gate with dear Miss Cicely. It
was a joy like that of listening to a party of dinner guests, who were
eating her favorite ice. With intense impatience she had awaited the
appearance of Cicely from the doctor's office; and, having drawn her to
one side, she hastily imparted her sentiments.
"It's a shabby gig, Miss Cicely," she said, "such as the farmers use in
the old country, but it's his own, and not hired, and the big house is
his own, and all the broad acres. And he's a gentleman from head to heel,
living on his own estate, and as fine a built man as ever rode in the
Queen's army. Oh, Miss Cicely, your star is at the top of the heavens
this time, and I want you to let me know if there is anything you want in
the way of hats or wraps or clothes, or anything of that kind. It
doesn't make the least difference to me, you know, just now, and we'll
settle it all after a while. It is the Christian duty for every young
lady to look the smartest, especially at a time like this."
Cicely, her face flushed, drew herself away.
"La Fleur," she said, speaking quickly and in a low voice, "you ought to
be ashamed of yourself." And she hurried away, fearing that Mr. Haverley
was waiting for her.
La Fleur was not a bit ashamed of herself; she chuckled as she went back
to the kitchen.
"She's a young thing of brains and beauty," said she to herself, "and I
don't doubt that she had the notion in her own mind. But if it wasn't
there, I have put it there, and if it was there, I've dished it and
dressed it, and it will be like another thing to her. As for the rest of
it, he'll attend to that. I haven't a doubt that he is the curly-headed,
brave fellow to do that; and I'll find out from her mother if she needs
anything, and not hurt her pride neither."
HYPOTHESIS AND INNUENDO
To say that Cicely Drane had not thought of Ralph Haverley as an
exceedingly agreeable young man would be an injustice to her young
womanly nature, but it would be quite correct to state that she had not
thought him a whit more agreeable than Miriam. She was charmed with them
both; they had taken her into their home circle as if they had adopted
her as a sister. It was not until her mother began to put a gentle
pressure upon her in order to prevent her gathering too many apples, and
joining in too many other rural recreations with Mr. Haverley, that she
thought of him as one who was not to be considered in the light of a
brother. There could be no doubt that she would have come to the same
conclusion if left to herself, but she would not have reached it so soon.
But the effect that her mother's precautionary disposition had had upon
her was nothing compared to that produced by the words of La Fleur. For
the first time she looked upon Ralph as one on whom other persons looked
as her lover, and to sit by the side of the said young man, immediately
after being informed of said fact, was not conducive to a free and
tranquil flow of remark.
Her own sentiments on the subject, so far as she had put them into
shape,--and it was quite natural that she should immediately begin to
do this,--were neither embarrassing nor disagreeable. She liked him
very much, and there was no reason why she should object to his liking
her very much, and if they should ever do more than this, she should
not be ashamed of it, and perhaps should be glad of it. But she was
sorry that before either of them had thought of this, some one else
should have done so.
This might prove to be embarrassing, and the only comfort she could give
herself was that La Fleur was such an affectionate old body, always
talking of some bit of good fortune for her, that if she had seen her in
company with a king or an emperor, she would immediately set herself to
find some sort of throne-covering which would suit her hair and
The definite result of her reflections, made between desultory questions
and answers, was that she regarded the young gentleman by her side in a
light very different from that in which she had viewed him before she had
met La Fleur in the doctor's hall. It was not that she looked upon him as
a possible lover--she had sense enough to know that almost any man might
be that--he was a hypothetic lover, and in view of the assumption it
behooved her to give careful observation to everything in him, herself,
or others, which might bear upon the ensuing argument.
As for Ralph, it angered him to look at the young lady by his side, who
was as handsome, as well educated and cultured, as tastefully dressed, as
intelligent and witty, of as gentle, kind, and winning a disposition,
and, judging from what the doctor had told him when he first spoke of the
Dranes, of as good blood, family, and position, as any one within the
circle of his acquaintance, and then to remember that she had been called
a working-girl, and spoken of in a manner that was almost contemptuous.
Ralph always took the side of the man who was down, and, consequently,
very often put himself on the wrong side; and although he did not
consider that Miss Drane was down, he saw that Miss Panney had tried to
put her down, and therefore he became her champion.
"There could not be any one," he said to himself, "better fitted to be
the friend and companion of Miriam than Cicely Drane is, and the next
time I see that old lady, I shall tell her so. I have nothing to say
against Miss Bannister, but I shall stand up for this one."
And now, feeling that it was not polite to treat a young lady with
seeming inattention, because he happened to be earnestly thinking about
her, he began to talk to Cicely in his liveliest and gayest manner, and
she, not wishing him to think that she thought that there was anything
out of the way in this, or in his previous preoccupation, responded
just as gayly.
Ralph delivered Miss Panney's message to his sister, and Miriam, giving
much more weight to the advice and opinion of the old lady, whom she knew
very slightly and cared for very little, than to that of her brother,
whom she loved dearly, said she would go to see Miss Bannister the next
afternoon if it happened to be clear.
It was clear, and she went, and Ralph drove her there in the gig, and
Dora was overwhelmed with joy to see her, and scolded Ralph in the most
charming way for not bringing her before; Miriam was taken to see Congo,
because Dora wanted her to begin to love him, and they were shown into
the library, because Dora said that she knew they both loved books, and
her father had gathered together so many. In ten minutes, Miriam was in
the window seat, dipping, which ended in her swimming, far beyond her
depth in Don Quixote, which she had so often read of and never seen, and
Dora and Ralph sat, heads together, over a portfolio of photographs of
foreign places where the Bannisters had been.
There were very few books at Cobhurst, and Miriam had read all of them
she cared for, and consequently it was an absorbing delight to follow the
adventures of the Knight of La Mancha.
Ralph had not travelled in Europe, and there were very few pictures at
Cobhurst, and he was greatly interested in the photographs, but this
interest soon waned in the increasing delight of having Dora seated so
close to him, of seeing her fair fingers point out the things he should
look at, and listening to her sweet voice, as she talked to him about the
scenes and buildings. There was an element of gentle and sympathetic
interest in Dora's manner, which reminded him of her visit to Cobhurst,
and the good-night on the stairs, and this had a very charming effect
upon Ralph, and made him wish that the portfolio were at least double its
The Haverleys stayed so long that Mrs. Bannister, upstairs, began to
be nervous, and wondered if Dora had asked those young people to
remain to tea.
On the way home Ralph was in unusually good spirits, and talked much
about Dora. She must have seen a great deal of the world, he said, for
one so young, and she talked in such an interesting and appreciative way
about what she had seen, that he felt almost as if he had been to the
With this for a text, he dilated upon the subject of Dora and foreign
travel, but Miriam was not a responsive hearer.
"I wish you knew Mr. Bannister better," she said in a pause in her
brother's remarks. "He must have been everywhere that his sister has
been, and probably saw a great deal more."
"No doubt," said Ralph, carelessly, "and probably has forgotten most of
it; men generally do that. A girl's mind is not crammed with business and
all that sort of stuff, and she can keep it free for things that are
Miriam did not immediately answer, but presently she said, speaking with
a certain air of severity:--
"If my soul ached for the company of anybody as Miss Panney told you Dora
Bannister's soul ached for my company, I think I should have a little
more to say to her when she came to see me, than Dora Bannister had to
say to me to-day."
"My dear child!" exclaimed Ralph, "that was because you were so busy with
your book. She saw you were completely wrapped up in it, and so let you
take your own pleasure in your own way. I think that is one of her good
points. She tries to find out what pleases people."
"Bother her good points!" snapped Miriam. "You will make a regular
porcupine of her if you keep on. I wish Mr. Bannister had given
you the dog."
Ralph was very much disturbed; it was seldom that his sister snapped at
him. He could see, now that he considered the matter, that Miriam had
been somewhat neglected. She was young and a little touchy, and this
ought to be considered. He thought it might be well, the next time he saw
Miss Bannister by herself, to explain this to her. He believed he could
do it without making it appear a matter of any great importance. It was
important, however, for he should very much dislike to see ill will grow
up between Miriam and Miss Bannister. What Miss Panney had said about
this young lady was very, very true, although, of course, it did not
follow that any one else need be disparaged.
Early in the forenoon of the next day, Miss Panney drove to Cobhurst. She
had come, she informed Miriam, not only to see her, dear girl, but to
make a formal call upon the Dranes.
The call was very formal; Miss Drane left her work to meet the visitor,
but having been loftily set aside by that lady during a stiff
conversation with her mother about old residents in the neighborhood in
which they had lived, she excused herself, after a time, and went back to
her table and her manuscripts.
Then Miss Panney changed the conversational scene, and began to talk
"I do not know, madam," she said, "that you are aware that I was the
cause of your coming to this neighborhood."
Mrs. Drane was a quiet lady, and the previous remarks of her visitor had
been calculated to render her more quiet, but this roused her.
"I certainly did not," she said. "We came on the invitation and through
the kindness of Dr. Tolbridge, my old friend."
"Yes, yes, yes," said Miss Panney, "that is all true enough, but I told
him to send for you. In fact, I insisted upon it. I did it, of course,
for his sake; for I knew that the arrangement would be of advantage to
him in various ways, but I was also glad to be of service to your
daughter, of whom I had heard a good report. Furthermore, I interested
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