The Girl at Cobhurst
Frank Richard Stockton
Part 5 out of 6
myself very much in getting you lodgings, and found you a home at Mrs.
Brinkly's that I hoped you would like. If I had not done so, I think you
would have been obliged to go to the hotel, which is not pleasant and
much more expensive than a private house. I do not mention these things,
madam, because I wish to be thanked, or anything of that sort; far from
it. I did what I did because I thought it was right; but I must admit, if
you will excuse my mentioning it, that I was surprised, to say the least,
that I was not consulted, in the slightest degree, on the occasion of
your leaving the home I had secured for you."
"I am very sorry," said Mrs. Drane, "that I should appear to have been
discourteous to one who had done us a service, for which, I assure you,
we are both very much obliged, but Dr. and Mrs. Tolbridge managed the
whole affair of our removal from Mrs. Brinkly's house, and I did not
suppose there was any one, besides them and ourselves, who would take the
slightest interest in the matter."
"Oh, I find no fault," said Miss Panney. "It is not an affair of
importance, but I think you will agree, madam, that after the interest I
had shown in procuring you suitable accommodation, I might have been
spared what some people might consider the mortification of being told,
when I stated to Mrs. Tolbridge that I intended to call upon you, that
you were not then living with the lady whose consent to receive you into
her family I had obtained, after a great deal of personal solicitation
and several visits."
Upon this presentation of the matter, Mrs. Drane could not help thinking
that the old lady had been treated somewhat uncivilly, and expressed her
regret in the most suitable terms she could think of, adding that she
was sure that Miss Panney would agree that the change had been an
"Of course, of course," said Miss Panney. "For a temporary country
residence, I suppose you could not have found a better spot, though it
must be a long walk for your daughter when she goes to submit her work to
"That has not yet been necessary," said Mrs. Drane; "Mr. Haverley is
At this point Miss Panney rose. She had said all she wanted to say, and
to decline to hear anything about Ralph Haverley's having been seen
driving about with a young woman who had been engaged as Dr. Tolbridge's
secretary, was much better than speaking of it, and she took her leave
with a prim politeness.
Mrs. Drane was left in an uncomfortable state of mind. It was not
pleasant to be reminded that this delightful country house was only a
temporary home, for that implied a return to Thorbury, a town she
disliked; and although she had, of course, expected to go back there, she
had not allowed the matter to dwell in her mind at all, putting it into
the future, without consideration, as she liked to do with things that
Moreover, there was something, she could not tell exactly what, about
Miss Panney's words and manner, which put an unsatisfactory aspect upon
the obvious methods of Cicely's communications with her employer.
Mrs. Drane's mind had already been slightly disturbed on this subject,
but Miss Panney had revived and greatly increased the disturbance.
A CONFIDENTIAL ANNOUNCEMENT
Having finished her visit of ceremony, Miss Panney asked permission of
Miriam to see Molly Tooney. That woman was, in a measure, her protege,
and she had some little business with her. Declining to have the cook
sent for, Miss Panney descended to the kitchen.
She had not talked with Molly more than five minutes, and had not
approached the real subject of the interview, which concerned the social
relations between the Haverleys and the Dranes, when the Irishwoman
lifted up her hands, and opened wide her eyes.
"The Saints an' the Sinners!" she exclaimed, "if here isn't that auld
drab of a sausage, that cook of the docther's, a comin' here again to
tell me how to cook for them Dranes. Bad luck to them, they don't pay me
nothin', an' only give me trouble."
Miss Panney turned quickly, and through the window she saw La Fleur
approaching the kitchen door.
"She comes here to tell you how to cook for those people?" said Miss
"Indade she does, an' it's none of her business, nather, the meddlin'
"Molly," said Miss Panney, "go away and leave me here. I want to talk to
"Which is more than I do," said the cook, and straightway departed to the
La Fleur had come to see Mrs. Drane, but perceiving Miss Panney's phaeton
at the door, she had concluded that there was company in the house, and
had consequently betaken herself to the kitchen to make inquiries. When
she found there Miss Panney, instead of Molly Tooney, La Fleur was
surprised, but pleased, for she remembered the old lady as one who
appreciated good cookery and a good cook.
"How do you do, La Fleur," said Miss Panney. "I am glad to see you. I
suppose you still keep up your old interest in Mrs. Drane and her
daughter. Do you often find time to come out here to see them?"
"Not often, madam, but sometimes. I can always find time for what I
really want to do. If I like to be away for an hour or two, I'll sit up
late the night before, long after midnight sometimes, planning the meals
and the courses for the next day, and when I go away, I leave everything
so that I can take it right up, the minute I get back, and lose nothing
in time or in any other way."
"It is only a born chef who could do that," said Miss Panney, "and it is
very pleasant to see your affection for your former employers. Do you
suppose that they will remain here much longer?"
"Remain!" exclaimed La Fleur; "they've never said a word to me, madam,
about going away, and I don't believe they have thought of it. I am sure
Miss Panney shook her head.
"It's none of my business," she said, "but I've lived a long time in this
world, and that gives me a right to speak my mind to people who haven't
lived so long. It may have been all very well for the Dranes to have come
here for a little vacation of a week or ten days, but to stay on and on
is not the proper thing at all, and if you really have a regard for them,
La Fleur, I think it is your duty to make them understand this. You might
not care to speak plainly, of course, but you can easily make them
perceive the situation, without offending them, or saying anything which
an old servant might not say, in a case like this."
"But, madam," said La Fleur, "what's to hinder their stopping here?
There's no spot on earth that could suit them better, to my way of
"La Fleur," said Miss Panney, regarding the other with moderate severity,
"you ought to know that when people see a young woman like Miss Drane
brought to live in a house with a handsome young gentleman, who, to all
intents and purposes, is keeping a bachelor's hall,--for that girl
upstairs is entirely too young to be considered a mistress of a
house,--and when they know that the young lady's mother is a lady in
impoverished circumstances, the people are bound to say, when they talk,
that that young woman was brought here on purpose to catch the master of
the house, and I don't think, La Fleur, that you would like to hear that
said of Mrs. Drane."
As she listened, the bodily eyes of La Fleur were contracted until they
were almost shut, but her mental eyes opened wider and wider. She
suspected that there was something back of Miss Panney's words.
"If I heard anybody say that, madam, meaning it, I don't think they would
care to say it to me again. But leaving out all that and looking at the
matter with my lights, it does seem to me that if Mr. Haverley wanted a
mistress for his house, and felt inclined to marry Miss Cicely Drane, he
couldn't make a better choice."
"Choice!" repeated Miss Panney, sarcastically. "He has no choice to make.
That is settled, and that is the very reason why people will talk the
more and sharper, and nothing you can say, Madam Jane La Fleur, will stop
them. Not only does this look like a scheme to marry Mr. Haverley to a
girl who can bring him nothing, but to break off a most advantageous
match with a lady who, in social position, wealth, and in every way,
stands second to no one in this county."
"And who may that be, please?" asked La Fleur.
Miss Panney hesitated. It would be a bold thing to give the answer that
was on her tongue, but she was no coward, and this was a crisis of
importance. A proper impression made upon this woman might be productive
of more good results than if made upon any one else.
"It is Miss Dora Bannister," she said, "and of course you know all about
the Bannister family. I tell you this, because I consider that, under the
circumstances, you ought to know it, but I expect you to mention it to no
one, for the matter has not been formally announced. Now, I am sure that
a woman of your sense can easily see what the friends of Mr. Haverley,
who know all about the state of affairs, will think and say when they see
Mrs. Drane's attempt to get for her daughter what rightfully belongs to
If it had appeared to the mind of La Fleur that it was a dreadful thing
to get for one's daughter a lifelong advantage which happened to belong
to another, she might have greatly resented this imputation against Mrs.
Drane. But as she should not have hesitated to try and obtain said
advantage, if there was any chance of doing it, the imputation lost
force. She did not, therefore, get angry, but merely asked, wishing to
get as deep into the matter as possible, "And then it is all settled that
he's to marry Miss Bannister?"
"Everything is not yet arranged, of course," said Miss Panney, speaking
rapidly, for she heard approaching footsteps, "and you are not to say
anything about all this or mention me in connection with it. I only
spoke to you for the sake of the Dranes. It is your duty to get them
away from here."
She had scarcely finished speaking when Miriam entered the kitchen. La
Fleur had never seen her before, for on her previous visit it had been
Ralph who had given her permission to interview Molly Tooney, and she
regarded her with great interest. La Fleur's long years of service had
given her many opportunities of studying the characters of mistresses, in
high life as well as middle life, but never had she seen a mistress like
this school-girl, with her hair hanging down her back.
Miriam advanced toward La Fleur.
"My cook told me that you were here, and I came down, thinking that you
might want to see me."
"This is Madam La Fleur," interpolated Miss Panney, "the celebrated chef
who cooks for Dr. Tolbridge. She came, I think, to see Mrs. Drane."
"Not altogether. Oh, no, indeed," said La Fleur, humbly smiling and
bowing, with her eyes downcast and her head on one side. "I wished, very
much, also, to pay my respects to Miss Haverley. I am only a cook, and I
am much obliged to this good lady--Miss Panic, I think is the name--"
"Panney," sharply interpolated the old lady.
"Beg pardon, I am sure, Miss Panney--for what she has said about me; but
when I come to pay my respects to Mrs. Drane, I wish to do the same to
the lady of the house."
There was a gravity and sedateness in Miriam's countenance, which was not
at all school-girlish, and which pleased La Fleur; in her eyes it gave
the girl an air of distinction.
"I am glad to see you," said Miriam, and turned to Miss Panney, as if
wondering at that lady's continued stay in the kitchen. Miss Panney
understood the look.
"I am getting points from La Fleur, my dear," she said, "cooking
points,--you ought to do that. She can give you the most wonderful
information about things you ought to know. Now, La Fleur, as you want to
see Mrs. Drane, and it is time I had started for home, it will be well
for us to go upstairs and leave the kitchen to Molly Tooney."
Miss Panney was half way up the stairs when La Fleur detained Miriam by a
touch on the arm.
"I will give you all the points you want, my dear young lady," she said.
"You have brains, and that is the great thing needful in overseeing
cooking. And I will come some day on purpose to tell you how the dishes
that your brother likes, and you like, ought to be cooked to make them
delicious, and you shall be able to tell any one how they should be done,
and understand what is the matter with them if they are not done
properly. All this the lady of the house ought to know, and I can tell
you anything you ask me, for there is nothing about cooking that I do not
thoroughly understand; but I will not go upstairs now, and I will not
detain you from your visitor. I will take a turn in the grounds, and when
the lady has gone, I will ask leave to speak with Mrs. Drane."
With her head on one side, and her smile and her bow, La Fleur left the
kitchen by the outer door. She stepped quickly toward the barn, looking
right and left as she walked. She wished very much to see Mike, and
presently she had that pleasure. He had just come out of the barnyard,
and was closing the gate. She hurried toward him, for, although somewhat
porpoise-built, she was vigorous and could walk fast.
"I am so pleased to see you, Michael," she said. "I have brought you
something which I think you will like," and, opening a black bag which
she carried on her arm, she produced a package wrapped in brown paper.
"This," she said, opening the wrapping, "is a pie--a veal and 'am
pie--such as you would not be likely to find in this country, unless you
got me to make it for you. I baked it early this morning, intending to
come here, and being sure you would like it; and you needn't have any
scruples about taking it. I bought everything in it with my own money. I
always do that when I cook little dishes for people I like."
The pie had been brought as a present for Mrs. Drane, but, feeling that
it was highly necessary to propitiate the only person on the place who
might be of use to her, La Fleur decided to give the pie to Mike.
The face of the colored man beamed with pleasure.
"Veal and ham. Them two things ought to go together fust rate, though
I've never eat 'em in that way. An' in a pie, too; that looks mighty
good. An' how do ye eat it, Mrs.--'scuse me, ma'am, but I never can
rightly git hold of yer name."
"No wonder, no wonder," said the other; "it is a French name. My second
husband was a Frenchman. A great cook, Michael,--a Frenchman. But the
English of the name is flower, and you can call me Mrs. Flower. You can
surely remember that, Michael."
Mike grinned widely.
"Oh, yes indeed, ma'am," said he; "no trouble 'bout that, 'specially when
I think what pie crust is made of, an' that you's a cook."
"Oh, it isn't that kind of flower," said La Fleur, laughing; "but it
doesn't matter a bit,--it sounds the same. And now, Michael, you must
warm this and eat it for your dinner. Have you a fire in your house?"
"I can make one in no time," said Mike. "Then you think I'd better not
let the cook warm it for me?"
"You are quite right," said La Fleur. "I don't believe she's half as good
a cook as you are, Michael, for I've heard that all colored people have a
knack that way; and like as not she'd burn it to a crisp."
Wrapping up the pie and handing it to the delighted negro, La Fleur
proceeded to business, for she felt she had no time to lose.
"And how are you getting on, Michael?" said she. "I suppose everybody is
very busy preparing for the master's wedding."
"The what!" exclaimed Mike, his eyebrows elevating themselves to such a
degree that his hat rose.
"Mr. Haverley's marriage with Miss Dora Bannister. Isn't that to take
place very soon, Michael?"
Mike put his pie on the post of the barn gate, took off his hat, and
wiped his brow with his shirt-sleeve.
"Bless my evarlastin' soul, Mrs. Flower! who on this earth told
"Is it then such a great secret? Miss Panney told it to me not twenty
Mike put on his hat; he took his pie from the post, and held it,
first in one hand and then in the other. He seemed unable to express
what he thought.
"Look a here, Mrs. Flower," he said presently, "she told you that, did
"She really did," was the answer.
"Well, then," said Mike, "the long an' the short of it is, she lies.
'Tain't the fust time that old Miss Panney has done that sort of thing.
She comes to me one day, more than six year ago, an' says, 'Mike,' says
she, 'why don't you marry Phoebe Moxley?' ''Cause I don't want to marry
her, nor nobody else,' says I. 'But you ought to,' said she, 'for she's
a good woman an' a nice washer an' ironer, an' you'd do well together.'
'Don't want no washin' nor ironin', nor no Phoebe, neither,' says I.
But she didn't mind nothin' what I said, an' goes an' tells everybody
that me an' Phoebe was goin' to be married; an' then it was we did git
married, jest to stop people talkin' so much about it, an' now look at
us. Me never so much as gittin' a bite of corn-bread, an' she a
boardin' the minister! Jes' you take my word for it, Mrs. Flower, old
Miss Panney wants Miss Dora to marry him, an' she's goin' about tellin'
people, thinkin' that after a while they'll do it jes' 'cause everybody
'spects them to."
"But don't you think they intend to marry, Mike?" forgetting to address
him by his full name.
Mike was about to strike the pie in his right hand with his left, in
order to give emphasis to his words, but he refrained in time.
"Don't believe one cussed word of it," said he. "Mr. Haverley ain't the
man to do that sort of thing without makin' some of his 'rangements p'int
that way, an' none of his 'rangements do p'int that way. If he'd been
goin' to git married, he'd told me, you bet, an' we'd laid out the farm
work more suitable for a weddin' than it is laid out. I ain't goin' to
believe no word about no weddin' till I git it from somebody better nor
Miss Panney. If he was goin' to marry anybody, he'd be more like to marry
that purty little Miss Drane. She's right here on the spot, an' she ain't
pizen proud like them Bannisters. She's as nice as cake, an' not stuck up
a bit. Bless my soul! She don't know one thing about nothin'."
"You're very much mistaken, Michael," exclaimed La Fleur. "She is very
well educated, and has been sent to the best schools."
"Oh, I don't mean school larnin'," said Mike; "I mean 'bout cows an'
chickens. She'll come here when I'm milkin', an' ask me things about the
critters an' craps that I knowed when I was a baby. I reckon she's the
kind of a lady that knows all about what's in her line, an' don't know
nothin' 'bout what's not in her line. That's the kind of young lady I
like. No spyin' around to see what's been did, an' what's hain't been
did. I've lived with them Bannisters."
La Fleur gazed reflectively upon the ground.
"I never thought of it before," she said, "but Miss Cicely would make a
very good wife for a gentleman like Mr. Haverley. But that's neither
here nor there, and none of our business, Michael. But if you hear
anything more about this marriage between Mr. Haverley and Miss
Bannister, I wish you'd come and tell me. I've had a deal of curiosity to
know if that old lady's been trying to make a fool of me. It isn't of any
consequence, but it is natural to have a curiosity about such things, and
I shall be very thankful to you if you will bring me any news that you
may get. And when you come, Michael, you may be sure that you will not go
away hungry, be it daytime or night."
"Oh, I'll come along, you bet," said Mike, "an' I am much obleeged to
you, Mrs. Flower, for this here pie."
When the good cook had gone to speak with Mrs. Drane, Mike repaired
to the woodshed, where, picking up an axe, he stood for some moments
regarding a short, knotty log on end in front of him. His blood
"Marry that there Bannister girl," he said to himself. "A pretty piece of
business if that family was to come here with their money an' their
come-up-ence. They'd turn everythin' upside down on this place. No use
for ramshackle farmin' they'd have, an' no use for me, nuther, with their
top boots an' stovepipe hats."
Mike had been discharged from the Bannisters' service because of his
unwillingness to pay any attention to his personal appearance.
"If that durned Miss Panney," he continued, "keeps on tellin' that to the
people, things will be a cussed sight worse than me a livin' here without
decent vittles, an' Phoebe a boardin' that minister that ain't paid no
board yit. Blast them all, I say." And with that he lifted up his axe and
brought it down on the end of the upturned log with such force that it
split into two jagged portions.
THE TEABERRY GOWN IS DONNED
When Miss Panney had driven herself away from Cobhurst and Dr.
Tolbridge's cook had finished her conference with Mrs. Drane and had gone
out to the barn to look for her carriage, Miriam Haverley was left with
an impression upon her mind. This was to the effect that there was a good
deal of managing and directing going on in the house with which she had
nothing to do.
Miss Panney went into her kitchen to talk to Molly Tooney, and when she
did not want to talk to her any more she sent her upstairs, in order that
she might talk to Dr. Tolbridge's cook, which latter person had come into
her kitchen, as Molly had informed her after La Fleur's departure, for
the purpose of finding fault with the family cooking. Whether or not the
old woman had felt herself called upon to instruct Mike in regard to his
duty, she did not know, but when Miriam went into the orchard for some
apples, she had seen her talking to him at the barn gate, and when she
came out again, she saw her there still. Even Ralph took a little too
much on himself, though of course he did not mean anything by it, but he
had told Molly Tooney that she ought to have breakfast sooner in order
that Miss Drane and he might get more promptly to their work. While
considering her impression, Molly Tooney came to Miriam, her face red.
"What do you think, miss," said she, "that old bundle of a cook that was
here this mornin' has been doin'? She's been bringin' cauld vittles from
the docther's kitchen to that nager Mike, as if you an' Mr. Haverley
didn't give him enough to eat. I looked in at his winder, a wonderin'
what he wanted wid a fire in summer time, an' saw him heatin' the stuff.
It's an insult to me an' the family, miss, that's what it is." And the
irate woman rested her knuckles on her hips.
Miriam's face turned a little pink.
"I will inquire about that, Molly," she said, and her impression became a
Toward the close of the afternoon, Miriam went up to her room, and
spreading out on the bed the teaberry gown of Judith Pacewalk, she stood
looking at it. She intended to put on that gown and wear it. But it did
not fit her. It needed all sorts of alterations, and how to make these
she did not know; sewing and its kindred arts had not been taught in the
schools to which she had been sent. It is true that Miss Panney had
promised to cut and fit this gown for her, but Miriam did not wish Miss
Panney to have anything to do with it. That old lady seemed entirely too
willing to have to do with her affairs.
While Miriam thus cogitated, Cicely Drane passed the open door of her
room, and seeing the queer old-fashioned dress upon the bed, she
stopped, and asked what it was. Miriam told the whole story of Judith
Pacewalk, which greatly interested Cicely, and then she stated her desire
to alter the dress so that she could wear it. But she said nothing about
her purpose in doing this. She was growing very fond of Cicely, but she
did not feel that she knew her well enough to entirely open her heart to
her, and tell her of her fears and aspirations in regard to her position
in the home so dear to her.
"Wear it, my dear?" exclaimed Cicely. "Why, of course I would. You may
not have thought of it, but since you have told me that story, it seems
to me that the fitness of things demands that you should wear that gown.
As to the fitness of the dress itself, I'll help you about that. I can
cut, sew, and do all that sort of thing, and together we will make a
lovely gown of it for you. I do not think we ought to change the style
and fashion of it, but we can make it smaller without making it anything
but the delightful old-timey gown that it is. And then let me tell you
another thing, dear Miriam: you must really put up your hair. You will
never be treated with proper respect by your cook until you do that.
Mother and I have been talking about this, and thought that perhaps we
ought to mention it to you, because you would not be likely to think of
it yourself, but we thought we had no right to be giving you advice, and
so said nothing. But now I have spoken of it, and how angry are you?"
"Not a bit," answered Miriam; "and I shall put up my hair, if you will
show me how to do it."
So long as the Dranes admitted that they had no right to give her
advice, Miriam was willing that they should give her as much as
For several days Cicely and Miriam cut and stitched and fitted and took
in and let out, and one morning Miriam came down to breakfast attired in
the pink chintz gown, its skirt touching the floor, and with her long
brown hair tastefully done up in a knot upon her head.
"What a fine young woman has my little sister grown into!" exclaimed
Ralph. "To look at you, Miriam, it seems as if years must have passed
since yesterday. That is the pink dress that Dora Bannister wore when she
was here, isn't it?"
This remark irritated Miriam a little; Ralph saw the irritation, and was
sorry that he had made the remark. It was surprising how easily Miriam
was irritated by references to Dora.
"I lent it once," said his sister, as she took her seat at the table,
"but I shall not do it again."
That day Mike was interviewed in regard to what might be called his
foreign maintenance. The ingenuous negro was amazed. His Irish and his
African temperaments struggled together for expression.
"Bless my soul, Miss Miriam," he said; "nobody in this world ever
brought me nuthin' to eat, 'cause they know'd I didn't need it, an'
gittin' the best of livin' right here in your house, Miss Miriam, an' if
they had brought it I wouldn't have took it an' swallowed the family
pride; an' what's more, the doctor's cook didn't bring that pie on
purpose for me. She just comed down here to ax me how to make real good
corn-cakes, knowin' that I was a fust-rate cook, an' could make
corn-cakes, an' she wanted to know how to do it. When I tole her jes'
how to do it,--ash-cakes, griddle-cakes, batter-cake, every kin' of
cake,--she was so mighty obligated that she took a little bit of a pie,
made of meat, out of the bag what she'd brought along to eat on the way
home, not feelin' hungry at lunch time, an' give it to me. An' not
wantin' to hurt her feelin's, I jes' took it, an' when I went to my
house I het it an' eat it, an' bless your soul, Miss Miriam, it did
taste good; for that there woman in the kitchen don't give me half
enough to eat, an' never no corn-bread an' ham fat, which is mighty
cheap, Miss Miriam, an' a long sight better for a workin' pusson than
crusts of wheat bread a week old an'--"
"You don't mean to say," interrupted Miriam, "that Molly does not give
you enough to eat? I'll speak to her about that. She ought to be ashamed
"Now look here, Miss Miriam," said Mike, speaking more earnestly, "don't
you go an' do that. If you tell her that, she'll go an' make me the
biggest corn-pone anybody ever seed, an' she'll put pizen into it. Oh,
it'd never do to say anythin' like that to Molly Tooney, if she's got me
to feed. Jes' let me tell you, Miss Miriam, don't you say nothin' to
Molly Tooney 'bout me. I never could sleep at night if I thought she was
stirrin' up pizen in my vittles. But I tell you, Miss Miriam, if you was
to say Molly, that you an' Mr. Haverley liked corn-cakes an' was always
used to 'em before you come here, an' that they 'greed with you, then in
course she'd make 'em, an' there'd be a lot left over for me, for I don't
'spect you all could eat the corn-bread she'd make, but I'd eat it, bein'
so powerful hungry for corn-meal."
"Mike," said Miriam, "you shall have corn-bread, but that is all
nonsense about Molly. I do not see how you could get such a notion into
Mike gave himself a shrug.
"Now look a here, Miss Miriam," he said; "I've heard before of red-headed
cooks, an' colored pussons as wasn't satisfied with their victuals, an'
nobody knows what they died of, an' the funerals was mighty slim, an' no
'count, the friends an' congregation thinkin' there might be somethin'
'tagious. Them red-headed kind of cooks is mighty dangerous, Miss Miriam,
an' lemme tell you, the sooner you git rid of them, the better."
Miriam's previous experiences had brought her very little into contact
with negroes, and although she did not care very much about what Mike was
saying, it interested her to hear him talk. His intonations and manner of
expressing himself pleased her fancy. She could imagine herself in the
sunny South, talking to an old family servant. This fancy was novel and
pleasant. Mike liked to talk, and was shrewd enough to see that Miriam
liked to listen to him. He determined to take advantage of this
opportunity to find out something in regard to the doleful news brought
to him by La Fleur and which, he feared, might be founded upon fact.
"Now look here, Miss Miriam," said he, lowering his voice a little, but
not enough to make him seem disrespectfully confidential, "what you want
is a first-class colored cook--not Phoebe, she's no good cook, an' won't
live in the country, an' is so mighty stuck up that she don't like
nuthin' but wheat bread, an' ain't no 'count anyway. But I got a sister,
Miss Miriam. She's a number one, fust-class cook, knows all the northen
an' southen an' easten an' westen kind of cookin', an' she's only got two
chillun, what could keep in the house all day long an' not trouble
nobody, 'side bringin' kindlin' an' runnin' errands; an' the husband,
he's dead, an' that's a good sight better, Miss Miriam, than havin' him
hangin' round, eatin' his meals here, an' bein' no use, 'cause he had
rheumatism all over him, 'cept on his appetite."
This suggestion pleased Miriam; here was a chance for another old
"I think I should like to have your sister, Mike," she said; "what is her
name? Is she working for anybody now?"
"Her name is Seraphina--Seraphina Paddock. Paddock was his name. She's
keepin' house now, an' takin' in washin', down to Bridgeport. I reckon
she's like to come here an' live, mighty well."
"I wish you'd tell her to come and see me," said Miriam. "I think it
would be a very good thing for us to have a colored cook."
"Mighty good thing. There ain't nothin' better than a colored cook; but
jus' let me tell you, Miss Miriam, my sister's mighty particular 'bout
goin' to places an' takin' her family, an' furniture, an' settin' herself
up to live when she don't know whether things is fixed an' settled
there, or whether the fust thing she knows is she's got to pull up stakes
an' git out agin."
"I am sure everything is fixed and settled here," said Miriam, in
"Well, now look a here, Miss Miriam," said Mike, "'spose you was clean
growed up, an' you're near that now, as anybody can see, an' you was
goin' to git married to somebody, or 'spose Mr. Haverley was goin' to
git married to somebody, why don' you see you'd go way with your
husband, an' your brother he'd come here with his new wife, an'
everything would be turned over an' sot upside down, an' then Seraphina,
she'd have to git up an' git, for there'd sure to be a new kin' of cook
wanted or else none, an' Seraphina, she'd fin' her house down to
Bridgeport rented to somebody who had gone way without payin' the rent,
an' had been splittin' kindlin' on the front steps an' hacking 'em all
up, and white-washin' the kitchen what she papered last winter to hide
the grease spots what they made through living like pigs, an' Seraphina,
she can't stand nothing like that."
Miriam burst out laughing.
"Mike," she cried, "nobody is going to get married here."
Mike's eyes glistened.
"That so, sure?" he said. "You see, Miss Miriam, you an' your brother is
both so 'tractive, that I sort o' 'sposed you might be thinkin' of
gittin' married, an' if that was so, I couldn't go to Seraphina, an' git
her to come here when things wasn't fixed an' settled."
"If that is all that would keep your sister from coming," said Miriam,
"she need not trouble herself."
"Now look a here, Miss Miriam," said Mike, quickly, "of course everything
in this world depends on sarcumstances, an' if it happened that Mr.
Hav'ley was the one to git married, an' he was to take some lady that was
livin' here anyway an' was used to the place, an' the ways of the house,
an' didn't want to go anywheres else an' wanted to stay here an' not to
chance nothin' an' have the same people workin' as worked before, like
Miss Drane, say, with her mother livin' here jes' the same, an' you
keepin' house jes' as you is now, an' all goin' on without no upsottin',
of course Seraphina, she wouldn't mind that. She'd like mighty well to
come, whether your brother was married or not; but supposin' he married a
lady like Miss Dora Bannister. Bless my soul, Miss Miriam, everything in
this place would be turned heels up an' heads down, an' there wouldn't be
no colored pussons wanted in this 'stablishment, Seraphina nor me nuther,
an' I reckon you wouldn't know the place in six months, Miss Miriam, with
that Miss Dora runnin' it, an' old Miss Panney with her fingers in the
pie, an' nobody can't help her doin' that when Miss Dora is concerned,
an' you kin see for yourself, Miss Miriam, that Seraphina, an' me, too,
is bound to be bounced if it was to come to that."
"I will talk to you again about your sister," said Miriam, and she went
Mike was delighted.
"It's all a cussed old lie, jes' as I thought it wuz," said he to
himself; "an' that old Miss Panney'll fin' them young uns is harder nuts
to crack than me an' Phoebe wuz. I got in some good licks fur dat purty
Miss Cicely, too."
Miriam's amusement gradually faded away as she approached the house. At
first it had seemed funny to hear any one talk about Ralph or herself
getting married, but now it did not appear so funny. On the contrary,
that part of Mike's remarks which concerned Ralph and Dora was
positively depressing. Suppose such a thing were really to happen; it
would be dreadful. She had thought her brother overfond of Dora's
society, but the matter had never appeared to her in the serious aspect
in which she saw it now.
She had intended to find Ralph, and speak to him about Mike's sister; but
now she changed her mind. She was wearing the teaberry gown, and she
would attend to her own affairs as mistress of the house. If Ralph could
be so cruel as to marry Dora, and put her at the head of everything,--and
if she were here at all, she would want to be at the head of
everything,--then she, Miriam, would take off the teaberry gown, and lock
it up in the old trunk.
"But can it be possible," she asked herself, as a tear or two began to
show themselves in her eyes, "that Ralph could be so cruel as that?"
As she reached the door of the house, Cicely Drane was coming out.
Involuntarily Miriam threw her arms around her and folded her close to
the teaberry gown.
Miriam was not in the habit of giving away to outbursts of this sort,
and as she released Cicely she said with a little apologetic blush,--
"It is so nice to have you here. I feel as if you ought not ever
to go away."
"I am sure I do not want to go, dear," said Cicely, with the smile of
good-fellowship that always went to the heart of Miriam.
MISS PANNEY FEELS SHE MUST CHANGE HER PLANS
Molly Tooney waited with some impatience the result of Miriam's interview
with Mike. If the "nager" should be discharged for taking cold victuals
like a beggar, Molly would be glad of it; it would suit her much better
to have a nice Irish boy in his place.
But when Miriam told her cook that evening that Mike had satisfactorily
explained the matter of the pie, and also remarked that in future she
would like to have bread or cakes made of corn-meal, and that she
couldn't see any reason why Mike, who was accustomed to this sort of
food, should not have it always, Molly's soul blazed within her; it would
have burst out into fiery speech; but the girl before her, although
young, was so quiet and sedate, so suggestive of respect, that Molly,
scarcely knowing why she did it, curbed herself; but she instantly gave
notice that she wished to quit the place on the next day.
When Ralph heard this, he was very angry, and wanted to go and talk to
"Don't you do anything of the kind," said Miriam. "It is not your
business to talk to cooks. I do that. And I want to go to-morrow to
Thorbury and get some one to come to us by the day until the new
cook arrives. If I can get her, I am going to engage Seraphina,
Ralph looked at her and laughed.
"Well, well, Miss Teaberry," he said, "you are getting on bravely.
Putting up your hair and letting down your skirts has done wonders. You
are the true lady of the house now."
"And what have you to say against that?" asked Miriam.
"Not a word!" he cried. "I like it, I am charmed with it, and I will
drive you into Thorbury to-morrow. And as to Mike's sister, you can have
all his relations if you like, provided they do not charge too much. If
we had a lot of darkies here, that would make us more truly ramshackle
and jolly than we are now."
"Ralph," said Miriam, with dignity, "stop pulling my ears. Don't you see
Mrs. Drane coming?"
The next day Miriam and Ralph jogged into Thorbury. Miriam, not wearing
the teaberry gown, but having its spirit upon her, had planned to inquire
of the grocer with whom she dealt, where she might find a woman such as
she needed, but Ralph did not favor this.
"Let us first go and see Mrs. Tolbridge," he said. "She is one of our
first and best friends, and probably knows every woman in town, and if
she doesn't, the doctor does."
This last point had its effect upon Miriam. She wanted to see Dr.
Tolbridge to ask if he could not stop in and quiet the mind of Cicely,
who really wanted to see him about her work, but who did not like, as
Miriam easily conjectured, to ask Ralph to send her to town. Miriam
wished to make things as pleasant as possible for Cicely, and Mrs.
Tolbridge had not, so far, meddled in the least with her concerns. If,
inadvertently, Ralph had proposed a consultation with Mrs. Bannister,
there would have been a hubbub in the gig.
The doctor and his wife were both at home, and when the business of the
Haverleys had been stated to them, Mrs. Tolbridge clapped her hands.
"Truly," she cried, "this is a piece of rare good fortune; we will lend
them La Fleur. Do you know, my dear girl," she said to Miriam, "that the
doctor and I are going away? He will attend a medical convention at
Barport, and I will visit my mother, to whom he will come, later. It will
be a grand vacation for us, for we shall stay away from Thorbury for two
weeks, and the only thing which has troubled us is to decide what we
shall do with La Fleur while we are gone. We want to shut up the house,
and she does not want to go to her friends, and if she should do so, I am
afraid we might lose her. I am sure she would be delighted to come to
you, especially as the Dranes are with you. Shall I ask her?"
Miriam jumped to her feet, with an expression of alarm on her
countenance, which amused the doctor and her brother.
"Oh, please, Mrs. Tolbridge, don't do that!" she exclaimed. "Truly, I
could not have a great cook like La Fleur in our kitchen. I should be
frightened to death, and she would have nothing to do anything with. You
know, Mrs. Tolbridge, that we live in an awfully plain way. We are not in
the least bit rich or stylish or anything of the sort. If Cicely had not
told me that she and her mother lived in the same way, we could not have
taken them. We keep only a man and a woman, you know, and we all do a lot
of work ourselves, and Molly Tooney was always growling because there
were not enough things to cook with, and what a French cook would do in
our kitchen I really do not know. She would drive us crazy!"
"Come now," said the doctor, laughing, "don't frighten yourself in that
way, my little lady. If La Fleur consents to go to you for a couple of
weeks, she will understand the circumstances, and will be perfectly
satisfied with what she finds. She is a woman of sense. You would better
let Mrs. Tolbridge go and talk with her."
Miriam sat down in a sort of despair. Here again, her affairs were being
managed for her. Would she ever be able to maintain her independence? She
had said all she could say, and now she hoped that La Fleur would treat
the proposition with contempt.
But the great cook did nothing of the kind. In five minutes, Mrs.
Tolbridge returned with the information that La Fleur would be overjoyed
to go to Cobhurst for a fortnight. She wanted some country air; she
wanted to see the Dranes; she had a great admiration for Miss Haverley,
being perfectly able to judge, although she had met her but once, that
she was a lady born; she looked upon her brother as a most superior
gentleman; and she would be perfectly content with whatever she found in
the Cobhurst kitchen.
"She says," added Mrs. Tolbridge, "that if you give her a gridiron, a
saucepan, and a fire, she will cook a meal fit for a duke. With brains,
she says, one can make up all deficiencies."
Ralph took his sister aside.
"Do go out and see her, Miriam," he said. "If we take her, we shall
oblige our friends here, and please everybody. It will only be for a
little while, and then you can have your old colored mammy and the
pickaninnies, just as you have planned."
When Miriam came back from the kitchen, she found that the doctor had
left the house and was going to his buggy at the gate.
"Oh, Ralph!" she exclaimed, "you do not know what a nice woman she is.
She is just like an old family nurse." And then she ran out to catch the
doctor, and talk to him about Cicely.
"Your sister is a child yet," remarked Mrs. Tolbridge, with a smile.
"Indeed she is," said Ralph; "and she longs for what she never
had--old family servants, household ties, and all that sort of thing.
And I believe she would prefer a good old Southern mammy to a fine
"Of course she would," said Mrs. Tolbridge. "That would be natural to any
girl of her age, except, perhaps," she added, "one like Dora Bannister. I
believe she was in love when she was fifteen."
It seemed strange to Ralph that the mention of a thing of this sort,
which must have happened three or four years ago, and to a lady whom he
had known a very short time, should send a little pang of jealousy
through his heart, but such was the fact.
There were picnic meals at Cobhurst that day; for La Fleur was not to
arrive until the morrow, and they were all very jolly.
Mike was in a state of exuberant delight at the idea of having that good
Mrs. Flower in the place of Molly Tooney. He worked until nearly twelve
o'clock at night to scour and brighten the kitchen and its contents for
Into this region of bliss there descended, about the middle of the
afternoon, a frowning apparition. It was that of Miss Panney, to whom
Molly had gone that morning, informing her that she had been discharged
without notice by that minx of a girl, who didn't know anything more
about housekeeping than she did about blacksmithing, and wanted to put
"a dirty, hathen nager" over the head of a first-class Christian cook.
When she heard this news, the old lady was amazed and indignant; and she
soundly rated Molly for not coming to her instantly, before she left her
place. Had she known of the state of affairs, she was sure she could
have pacified Miriam, and arranged for Molly to retain her place. It was
very important for Miss Panney, though she did not say so, to have some
one in the Cobhurst family who would keep her informed of what was
happening there. If possible, Molly must go back; and anyway the old lady
determined to go to Cobhurst and look into matters.
Miss Panney was glad to find Miriam alone on the front piazza, training
some over-luxuriant vines upon the pillars; and the moment her eyes fell
upon the girl, she saw that she was dressed as a woman, and not in the
youthful costume in which she had last seen her. This strengthened the
old lady's previous impression that Ralph's sister was rapidly becoming
the real head of this house, and that it would be necessary to be very
careful in her conduct toward her. It might be difficult, even
impossible, to carry out her match-making plans if Miriam should rise up
in opposition to them.
The old lady was very cordial, and entreated that Miriam should go on
with her work, while she sat in an armchair near by. After a little
ordinary chat, Miss Panney mentioned that she had heard that Molly Tooney
had been discharged. Instantly Miriam's pride arose, and her manner
cooled. Here again was somebody meddling with her affairs. In as few
words as possible, she stated that the woman had not been discharged, but
had left of her own accord without any good reason; that she did not like
her, and was glad to get rid of her; that she had an excellent cook in
view, and that until this person could come to her, she had engaged,
temporarily, a very good woman.
All this she stated without question or remark from Miss Panney; and when
she had finished, she began again to tie the vines to their wires. Miss
Panney gazed very steadily through her spectacles at the resolute side
face of the girl, and said only that she was very glad that Miriam had
been able to make such a good arrangement. It was plain enough to her
that Molly Tooney must be dropped, but in doing this, Miss Panney would
not drop her plans. They would simply be changed to suit circumstances.
Had Miss Panney known who it was who was coming temporarily to the
Cobhurst kitchen, it is not likely that she could have glided so quietly
from the subject of household service to that of the apple prospect and
Miriam's success with hens, and from these to the Dranes.
"Do you expect to have them much longer with you?" she asked. "The
work the doctor gave the young lady must be nearly finished. When that
is done, I suppose she will go back to town to try to get something to
"Oh, they have not thought of going," said Miriam; "the doctor's book is
a very long one, and when I saw him yesterday, he told me that he had
ever so much more work for her to do, and he is going to bring it out
here before he goes to Barport. I should be very sorry indeed if Cicely
had to leave here, and I don't think I should let her do it, work or no
work. I like her better and better every day, and it is the greatest
comfort and pleasure to have her here. It almost seems as if she were my
sister, and Mrs. Drane is just as nice as she can be. She is so good and
kind, and never meddles with anything."
Miss Panney listened with great attention. She now saw how she must
change her plans. If Ralph were to marry Dora, Miriam must like Dora. As
for his own liking, there would be no trouble about that, after the Drane
girl should be got rid of. In regard to this riddance, Miss Panney had
intended to make an early move and a decided one. Now she saw that this
would not do. The Drane girl, that alien intruder, whom Dr. Tolbridge's
treachery had thrust into this household, was the great obstacle to the
old lady's schemes, but to oust her suddenly would ruin everything.
Miriam would rise up in opposition, and at present that would be fatal.
Miriam was not a girl whose grief and anger at the loss of one thing
could be pacified by the promise of another. Having lost Cicely, she
would turn her back upon Dora, and what would be worse, she would
undoubtedly turn Ralph's back in that direction.
To this genial young man, his sister was still his chief object on earth.
Later, this might not be the case.
When Miriam began to like Dora,--and this must happen, for in Miss
Panney's opinion the Bannister girl was in every way ten times more
charming than Cicely Drane,--then, cautiously, but with quick vigor, Miss
Panney would deliver the blow which would send the Dranes not only from
Cobhurst, but back to their old home. In the capacity of an elderly and
experienced woman who knew what everybody said and thought, and who was
able to make her words go to the very spinal marrow of a sensitive
person, she was sure she could do this. And when she had done it, it
would cheer her to think that she had not only furthered her plans, but
revenged herself on the treacherous doctor.
Now was heard from within, the voice of Cicely, who had come downstairs
from her work, and who, not knowing that Miriam had a visitor, was
calling to her that it was time to get dinner.
"My dear," said Miss Panney, "go in and attend to your duties, and if you
will let me, I shall like ever so much to stay and take dinner with you,
and you need not put yourself to the least trouble about me. You ought to
have very simple meals now that you are doing your own work. I very much
want to become better acquainted with your little friend Cicely and her
good mother. Now that I know that you care so much for them, I feel
greatly interested in them both, and you know, my dear, there is no way
of becoming acquainted with people which is better than sitting at table
Miriam was not altogether pleased, but said the proper things, and went
to call Mike to take the roan mare, who was standing asleep between the
shafts of her phaeton.
Miss Panney now had her cues; she did not offer to help in any way, and
made no suggestions in any direction. At luncheon she made herself
agreeable to everybody, and before the meal was over they all thought
her a most delightful old lady with a wonderful stock of good stories. On
her side Miss Panney was also greatly pleased; she found Ralph even a
better fellow than she had thought him. He had not only a sunny temper,
but a bright wit, and he knew what was being done in the world. Cicely,
too, was satisfactory. She was a most attractive little thing, pretty to
a dangerous extent, but in her treatment of Ralph there was not the least
sign of flirtation or demureness. She was as free and familiar with him
as if she had known him always.
"Men are not apt to marry the girls they have known always," said Miss
Panney to herself, "and Dora can do better than this one if she has but
the chance; and the chance she must have."
While listening with the most polite attention to a reminiscence related
by Mrs. Drane, Miss Panney earnestly considered this subject. She had
thought of many plans, some of them vague, but all of the same general
character, for bringing Dora and Miriam together and promoting a sisterly
affection between them, for her mind had been busy with the subject since
Miriam had left her alone on the piazza, but none of the plans suited
her. They were clumsy and involved too much action on the part of Dora.
Suddenly a satisfying idea shot into the old lady's mind, and she smiled
so pleasantly that Mrs. Drane was greatly encouraged, and entered into
some details of her reminiscence which she had intended to omit, thinking
they might prove tiresome.
"If they only could go away together, somewhere," said Miss Panney to
herself, "that would be grand; that would settle everything. It would not
be long before Dora and Miriam would be the dearest of chums, and with
Ralph's sister away, that Drane girl would have to go. It would all be so
natural, so plain, so beautiful."
When Miss Panney drove home, about the middle of the afternoon, she was
still smiling complacently at this good idea, and wondering how she might
carry it out.
LA FLEUR LOOKS FUTUREWARD
According to his promise, Dr. Tolbridge came to Cobhurst on the morning
of his intended departure for Barport, bringing with him more of his
manuscript and some other copying which he wished Cicely to do. He had
never known until now how much he needed a secretary. He saw only the
ladies, Ralph having gone off to try to shoot some woodcock. The young
man was not in a good humor, for he had no dog, and his discontent was
increased by the reflection that a fine setter had been presented to him,
and he had not yet come into possession of it. He wanted the dog, Congo,
because he thought it was a good dog, and also because Dora Bannister had
given it to him, and he was impatient to carry out the plan which Dora
had proposed to get the animal to Cobhurst.
But this plan, which included a visit from Dora, in order that the dog
might come to his new home without compulsion, and which, as modified by
Ralph, included a drive or a walk through the woods with the donor in
order that the dog might learn to follow him, needed Miriam's
cooeperation. And this cooeperation he could not induce her to give. She
seemed to have all sorts of reasons for putting off the invitation for
which Miss Bannister was evidently waiting. Of course there was no reason
for waiting, but girls are queer. A word from Miriam would bring her, but
Miriam was very unresponsive to suggestions concerning said word.
"It is not only ourselves," said the doctor, in reply to some questions
from Mrs. Drane in regard to the intended journey, "who are going this
afternoon. We take with us Mrs. Bannister and Dora. This is quite a
sudden plan, only determined upon last night. They both want a little
Barport life before the season closes, and thought it would be pleasant
to go with us."
Mrs. Drane and Cicely were not very much interested in the Bannisters,
and received this news tranquilly, but Miriam felt a little touch of
remorse, and wished she had asked Dora to come out some afternoon and
bring her dog, which poor Ralph seemed so anxious to have. She asked the
doctor how long he thought the Bannisters would stay away.
"Oh, we shall pick them up as we come back," he said "and that will be in
about two weeks." And with this the busy man departed.
Since the beginning of his practice, Dr. Tolbridge had never gone away
from Thorbury for an absence of any considerable duration without first
calling on Miss Panney to see if she needed any attention from him before
he left, and on this occasion he determined not to depart from this
custom. It is true, she was very angry with him, but so far as he could
help it, he would not allow her anger to interfere with the preservation
of a life which he considered valuable.
When the old lady was told that the doctor had called and had asked for
her, she stamped her foot and vowed she would not see him. Then her
curiosity to know what brought him there triumphed over her resentment,
and she went down. Her reception of him was cold and severe, and she
answered his questions regarding her health as if he were a census-taker,
exhibiting not the slightest gratitude for his concern regarding her
physical well-being, nor the slightest hesitation in giving him
information which might enable him to further said well-being.
The doctor was as cool as was his patient; and, when he had finished his
professional remarks, informed her that the Bannisters were to go with
him to Barport. When Miss Panney heard this she sprang from her chair
with the air of an Indian of the Wild West bounding with uplifted
tomahawk upon a defenceless foe. The doctor involuntarily pushed back his
chair, but before he could make up his mind whether he ought to be
frightened or amused, Miss Panney sat down as promptly as she had risen,
and a grim smile appeared upon her face.
"How you do make me jump with your sudden announcements," she said. "I
am sure I am very glad that Dora is going away. She needed a change, and
sea air is better than anything else for her. How long will they stay?"
The slight trace of her old cordiality which showed itself in Miss
Panney's demeanor through the few remaining minutes of the interview
greatly pleased Dr. Tolbridge.
"She is a good old woman at heart," he said to himself, "and when she
gets into one of her bad tempers, the best way to bring her around is
to interest her in people she loves, and Dora Bannister is surely one
When the doctor had gone, Miss Panney gave herself up to a half minute of
unrestrained laughter, which greatly surprised old Mr. Witton, who
happened to be passing the parlor door. Then she sat down to write a
letter to Dora Bannister, which she intended that young lady to receive
soon after her arrival at Barport.
That afternoon the good La Fleur came to Cobhurst, her soul enlivened by
the determination to show what admirable meals could be prepared from the
most simple materials, and with the prospect of spending a fortnight with
Mrs. Drane and Cicely, and with that noble gentleman, the master of the
estate, and to pass these weeks in the country. She was a great lover of
things rural: she liked to see, pecking and scratching, the fowls with
which she prepared such dainty dishes. In her earlier days, the sight of
an old hen wandering near a bed of celery, with a bed of beets in the
middle distance, had suggested the salad for which she afterwards became
She knew a great deal about garden vegetables, and had been heard to
remark that brains were as necessary in the culling of fruits and roots
and leaves and stems as for their culinary transformation into
attractions for the connoisseur's palate. She was glad, too, to have the
opportunity of an occasional chat with that intelligent negro Mike, and
so far as she could judge, there were no objections to the presence of
Miriam in the house.
Ralph did not come back until after La Fleur had arrived, and he returned
hungry, and a little more out of humor than when he started away.
"I had hoped," he said to Miriam, "to get enough birds to give the new
cook a chance of showing her skill in preparing a dish of game for
dinner; but these two, which I may say I accidentally shot, are all I
brought. It is impossible to shoot without a dog, and I think I shall go
to-morrow morning to see Miss Bannister and ask her to let me take Congo
home with me. He will soon learn to know me, and the woodcock season does
not last forever."
"But Dora will not be at home," said Miriam; "she goes to Barport to-day
with the Tolbridges."
Ralph opened his mouth to speak, and then he shut it again. It was of no
use to say anything, and he contented himself with a sigh as he went to
the rack to put up his gun. Miriam sighed, too, and as she did so, she
hoped that it was the dog and not Dora that Ralph was sighing about.
The next morning there came to Cobhurst a man, bringing a black setter
and a verbal message from Miss Bannister to the effect that if Mr.
Haverley would tie up the dog and feed him himself for two or three
days and be kind to him, she had no doubt Congo would soon know him as
"Now that is the kind of a girl I like," said Ralph to his sister. "She
promises to do a thing and she does it, even if the other party is not
prompt in stepping forward to attend to his share of the affair."
There was nothing to say against this, and Miriam said nothing, but
contented herself with admiring the dog, which was worthy of all the
praise she could give him. Congo was tied up, and Mike and Mrs. Drane and
Cicely, and finally La Fleur, came to look at him and to speak well of
him. When all had gone away but the colored man and the cook, the latter
asked why Miss Bannister had been mentioned in connection with this dog.
"'Cause he was her dog," said Mike. "She got him when he was a little
puppy no bigger nor a cat, an' you'd a thought, to see her carry him
about an' put him in a little bed an' kiver him up o' night an' talk to
him like a human bein', that she loved him as much as if he'd been a
little baby brother; an' she's thought all the world of him, straight
'long until now, an' she's gone an' give him to Mr. Hav'ley."
La Fleur reflected for a moment.
"Are you sure, Mike," she asked, "that they are not engaged?"
"I'm dead sartain sure of it," he said. "His sister told me so with her
own lips. Givin' dogs don't mean nothin', Mrs. Flower. If people married
all the people they give dogs to, there'd be an awful mix in this world.
Bless my soul, I'd have about eight wives my own self."
La Fleur smiled at Mike's philosophy, and applied his information to the
comfort of her mind.
"If his sister says they are not engaged," she thought, "it's like they
are not, but it looks to me as if it were time to take the Bannister pot
off the fire."
La Fleur now retired to a seat under a tree near the kitchen door, and
applied her intellect to the consideration of the dinner, and the future
of the Drane family and herself. The present state of affairs suited her
admirably. She could desire no change in it, except that Mr. Haverley
should marry Miss Cicely in order to give security to the situation. For
herself, this was the place above all others at which she would like to
live, and a mistress such as Miss Cicely, who knew little of domestic
affairs, but appreciated everything that was well done, was the mistress
she would like to serve. She would be sorry to leave the good doctor, for
whom, as a man of intellect, she had an earnest sympathy, but he did not
live in the country, and the Dranes were nearer and dearer to her than he
was. He should not be deserted nor neglected. If she came to spend the
rest of her life on this fine old estate, she would engage for him a good
young cook, who would be carefully instructed by her in regard to the
peculiarities of his diet, and who should always be under her
supervision. She would get him one from England; she knew of several
there who had been her kitchen maids, and she would guarantee that the
one she selected would give satisfaction.
Having settled this part of her plan, she now began to ponder upon that
important feature of it which concerned the marriage of Miss Cicely with
Ralph Haverley. Why, under the circumstances, this should not take place
as a mere matter of course and as the most natural thing in the world,
she could not imagine. But in all countries young people are very odd,
and must be managed. She had not yet had any good opportunity of judging
of the relations between these two; she had noticed that they were on
very easy and friendly terms with each other, but this was not enough. It
might be a long time before people who were jolly good friends came to
look upon each other from a marrying point of view. Things ought to be
hurried up; that Miss Bannister would be away for two weeks; she, La
Fleur, would be here for two weeks. She must try what she could do; the
fire must be brightened,--the draught turned on, ashes raked out,
kindling-wood thrust in if necessary, to make things hotter. At all
events the dinner-bell must ring at the appointed time, in a fortnight,
less one day.
Ralph came striding across the lawn, and noticing La Fleur,
"I am glad to see you," he said, "for I want to tell you how much I
enjoyed your beefsteak this morning. One could not get anything
better cooked than that at Delmonico's. The dinner last night was
very good, too."
"Oh, don't mention that, sir," said La Fleur, who had risen the moment
she saw him, and now stood with her head on one side, her eyes cast
down, and a long smile on her face. "That dinner was nothing to what I
shall give you when Miss Miriam has sent for some things from the town
which I want. And as for the steak, I beg you will not judge me until I
have got for myself the cuts I want from the butcher. Then you shall see,
sir, what I can do for you. In a beautiful home like this, Mr. Haverley,
the cooking should be of the noblest and best."
"So long as you stay with us, La Fleur," he said, "I am sure Cobhurst
will have all it deserves in that respect."
"Thank you very much, sir," she said, dropping a little courtesy. Then,
raising her eyes, she cast them over the landscape and bent them again
with a little sigh.
"You are a gentleman of feeling, Mr. Haverley," she said, "and can
understand the feelings of another, even if she be an old woman and a
cook, and I know you can comprehend my sentiments when I find myself
again serving my most gracious former mistress Mrs. Drane, and her lovely
daughter, whose beautiful qualities of mind and soul it does not become
me to speak of to you, sir. They were most kind to me when I first came
to this country, she and her daughter, two angels, sir, whom I would
serve forever. Do not think, sir, that I would not gladly serve you and
your lady sister, but they are above all. It was last night, sir, as I
sat looking out of my window at the beautiful trees in the moonlight, and
I have not seen such trees in the moonlight since I lived in the Isle of
Wight at Lord Monkley's country house there; La Fleur was his chef, and I
was only there on a visit, because at that time I was attending to the
education of my boy, who died a year afterward; and I thought then, sir,
looking out at the moonlight, that I would go with the Dranes wherever
they might go, and I would live with them wherever they might live; that
I would serve them always with the best I could do, and that none could
do better. But I beg your pardon, sir, for standing here, and talking in
this way, sir," and with a little courtesy and with her head more on one
side and more bowed down, she shuffled away.
"Now then," said she to herself, as she entered the kitchen, "if I have
given him a notion of a wife with a first-class cook attached, it is a
good bit of work to begin with."
A PLAN WHICH SEEMS TO SUIT EVERYBODY
Since her drive home from Thorbury with Ralph Haverley, Cicely Drane had
not ceased to consider the hypothesis which had been suggested to her
that day by La Fleur; but this consideration was accompanied by no plan
of action, no defined hopes, no fears, no suspicions, and no change in
her manner toward the young man, except that in accordance with her
mother's prudential notions, which had been indicated to her in a
somewhat general way, she had restricted herself in the matter of
tete-a-tetes and dual rambles.
She looked upon the relations between Ralph and herself in the most
simple and natural manner possible. She was enjoying life at Cobhurst. It
delighted her to see her mother so contented and so well. She was greatly
interested in her work, for she was a girl of keen intelligence, and
thoroughly appreciated and enjoyed the novel theories and reflections of
Dr. Tolbridge. She thought it the jolliest thing in the world to have La
Fleur here with them. She was growing extremely fond of Miriam, who,
although a good deal younger than herself, appeared to be growing older
with wonderful rapidity, and every day to be growing nearer and dearer to
her, and she liked Ralph better than any man she had ever met. She knew
but little of Dora Bannister and had no reason to suppose that any
matrimonial connection between her and Mr. Haverley had ever been thought
of; in fact, in the sincerity and naturalness of her disposition, she
could see no reason why she should not continue to like Mr. Haverley, to
like him better and better, if he gave her reason to do so, and more than
that, not to forget the hypothesis regarding him.
La Fleur was not capable of comprehending the situation with the sagacity
and insight of Miss Panney, but she was a woman of sense, and was now
well convinced that it would never do to speak again to Miss Cicely in
the way she had spoken to her in Dr. Tolbridge's hall. In her affection
and enthusiasm, she had gone too far that time, and she knew that any
further suggestions of the sort would be apt to make the girl fly away
like a startled bird. Whatever was to be done must be done without the
cooeperation of the young lady.
Miss Panney's letter to Dora Bannister contained some mild reproaches
for the latter's departure from Thorbury without notice to her oldest
friend, but her scolding was not severe, and there was as much pleasant
information and inquiry as the writer could think of. Moreover, the
epistle contained the suggestion that Dora should invite Miriam
Haverley to come down and spend some time with her while she was at the
seashore. This suggestion none but a very old friend would be likely to
make, but Miss Panney was old enough for anything, in friendship or in
any other way.
"My mind was on Miriam Haverley," the old lady wrote, "at the moment I
heard that you had gone to Barport, and it struck me that a trip of the
sort is exactly what that young person needs. She is shut up in the
narrowest place in which a girl can be put, with responsibilities
entirely beyond her years, and which help to cramp her mind and her
ideas. She should have a total change; she should see how the world,
outside of her school and her country home, lives and acts--in fact, she
needs exactly what Barport and you and Mrs. Bannister can give her. I do
not believe that you can bestow a greater benefit upon a fellow-being
than to ask Miriam to pay you a visit while you are at the seaside. Think
of this, I beg of you, my dear Dora."
This letter was read and re-read with earnest attention. Dora was fond
of Miriam in a way, and would be very glad to give her a glimpse of
seaside life. Moreover, Miriam's companionship would be desirable; for
although Miss Bannister did not expect to lack acquaintances, there
would be times when she could not call upon these, and Miriam could
always be called upon.
After a consultation with Mrs. Bannister, who was pleased with the idea
of having some one to go about with Dora, when she did not feel like
it,--which was almost all the time,--Dora wrote to Miriam, asking her to
come and visit her during the rest of her stay at Barport. While
writing, Dora was not at all annoyed by the thought which made her stop
for a few minutes and look out of the window,--that possibly Miriam
might not like to make the journey alone, and that her brother might
come with her. She did not, however, mention this contingency, but
smiled as she went on writing.
Miriam, attired in her teaberry gown, came up from the Cobhurst kitchen,
and walked out toward the garden. She was not in good spirits. She had
already found that La Fleur was a woman superior to influences from any
power derived from the wearing of Judith Pacewalk's pink chintz dress.
She was convinced that at this moment that eminent cook was preparing a
dinner for the benefit of the Dranes, without any thought of the tastes
or desires of the mistress of the house or its master. And yet she could
find nothing to say in opposition to this; consequently, she had walked
away unprotesting, and that act was so contrary to her disposition that
it saddened her. If she had supposed that a bad meal would be the result
of the bland autocracy she had just encountered, she would have been
better satisfied; but, as she knew the case would be quite otherwise, her
spirits continued to fall. Even the meat, that morning, had been ordered
without consultation with her.
As Miriam walked dolefully toward the garden gate, Ralph came riding from
Thorbury with the mail-bag, and in it was the letter from Dora.
"Oh, Ralph!" cried Miriam, when, with her young soul glowing in her face,
she thrust the open letter into her brother's hand, "may I go? I never
saw the sea!"
Of Ralph's decision there could be no question, and the Cobhurst family
was instantly in a flurry. Mrs. Drane, Cicely, and Miriam gave all their
thoughts and every available moment of time to the work necessary on the
simple outfit that was all that Miriam needed or desired; and in two days
she was ready for the journey. Ralph was glad to do anything he could to
help in the good work, but, as this was little, he was obliged to content
himself with encomiums upon the noble character of Dora Bannister. That
she should even think of offering such an inexpressible delight and
benefit to his sister was sufficient proof of Miss Bannister's solid
worth and tender, gracious nature. These remarks made to the ladies in
general really did help in the good work, for, while Ralph was talking in
this way, Cicely bent more earnestly over her sewing and stitched faster.
Until now, she had never thought much about Miss Bannister; but, without
intending it, or in the least desiring it, she began to think a good deal
about her, even when Ralph was not there.
Miriam herself settled the manner of her journey. She had thought for a
moment of Ralph as an escort, but this would cause him trouble and loss
of time, which was not at all necessary, and--what was very
important--would at least double the expenses of the trip; so she wrote
to Miss Pender, the head teacher in her late school, begging that she
might come to her and be shipped to Barport. Miss Pender had great skill
and experience in the shipping of girls from the school to destinations
in all parts of the country. Despatched by Miss Pender, the wildest or
the vaguest school-girl would go safely to her home, or to whatever spot
she might be sent.
As this was vacation, and she happened to be resting idly at school,
Miss Pender gladly undertook the congenial task offered her; and
welcomed Miriam, and then shipped her to Barport with even more than her
When the dear girl had gone, everybody greatly missed her,--even La
Fleur, for of certain sweets the child had eaten twice as much as any one
else in the house. But all were happy over her great pleasure, including
the cook, who hated to have even the nicest girls come into her kitchen.
Thus far Miss Panney's plan worked admirably, but one idea she had in
regard to Miriam's departure never came into the mind of any one at
Cobhurst. That the Dranes should go away because Miriam, as mistress
of the establishment, was gone, was not thought of for an instant.
With La Fleur and Mrs. Drane in the house, was there any reason why
domestic and all other affairs should not go on as usual during
Miriam's brief absence?
Everything did indeed go on pretty much as it had gone on before,
although it might have been thought that Ralph was now living with the
Dranes. La Fleur expanded herself into all departments of the household,
and insisted upon doing many little things that Cicely had been in the
habit of doing for herself and her mother; and, with the assistance of
Mike, who was always glad to help the good Mrs. Flower whenever she
wanted him--which was always--and did it whenever he had a chance--which
was often--the household wheels moved smoothly.
In one feature of the life at Cobhurst there was a change. The absence of
Miriam threw Cicely and Ralph much more together. For instance, they
breakfasted by themselves, for Mrs. Drane had always been late in coming
down in the morning, and it was difficult for her to change her habits.
Moreover, it now happened frequently that Cicely and Ralph found that
each must be the sole companion of the other; and in this regard more
than in any other was Miriam missed. But to say that in this regard more
than any other her absence was regretted would be inaccurate.
Cicely felt that she ought to regret it, but she did not. To be so much
with Ralph was contrary to her own plans of action, and to what she
believed to be her mother's notions on the subject; but she could not
help it without being rude to the young man, and this she did not intend
to be. He was lonely and wanted a companion; and in truth, she was glad
to fill the position. If he had not talked to her so much about Dora
Bannister's great goodness, she would have been better pleased. But she
could nearly always turn this sort of conversation upon Miriam's virtues,
and on that subject the two were in perfect accord.
Mrs. Drane intended now to get up sooner in the morning, but she did not
do it; and she resolved that she would not drop asleep in her chair early
in the evening, as she had felt perfectly free to do when Miriam was with
them; but she calmly dozed all the same.
There was another obstacle to Mrs. Drane's good intentions, of which she
knew nothing. This was the craft of La Fleur, who frequently made it a
point to call upon the good lady for advice or consultation, and who was
most apt to do this at times when her interview with Mrs. Drane would
leave Ralph and Cicely together. It was wonderful how skilfully this
accomplished culinary artist planned some of these situations.
Ralph was surprised to find that he could so well bear the absence of
his sister. He would not have believed it had he been told it in
advance. He considered it a great piece of luck that Miriam should be
able to go to the seashore, but it was also wonderful luck that Miss
Drane should happen to be here while Miriam was away. Had both gone, he
would have had a doleful time of it. As it was, his time was not at all
doleful. All the chickens, hens, cats, calves, and flowers that Miriam
had had under her especial care were now attended to most sedulously by
Cicely, and in these good works Ralph gave willing and constant
assistance. In fact, he found that he could do a great deal more for
Cicely than Miriam had been willing he should do for her. This
cooeperation was very pleasing to him, for Cicely was a girl who knew
little about things rural but wanted to know much, and Ralph was a young
fellow who liked to teach such girls as Cicely.
MISS PANNEY HAS TEETH ENOUGH LEFT TO BITE WITH
After her recent quick pull and strong pull, Miss Panney rested
placidly on her oars. She knew that Miriam had gone, but she had not
yet heard whether the Dranes had returned to their former lodging in
Thorbury, or had left the neighborhood altogether. She presumed,
however, that they were in the town; for the young woman's work for Dr.
Tolbridge was probably not completed. She intended to call on Mrs.
Brinkly and find out about this; and she also determined to drop in at
Cobhurst, and see how poor Ralph was getting on by himself. But for
these things there was no hurry.
But jogging into town one morning, she was amazed to meet Ralph and Mrs.
Drane returning to Cobhurst in the gig. Both vehicles stopped, and Ralph
immediately began to tell the old lady of Miriam's good fortune. He told,
also, of his own good fortune in having Mrs. Drane and her daughter to
run the house during Miriam's absence, and was in high good spirits and
glad to talk.
Miss Panney listened with rigid attention; but when Ralph had finished,
she asked Mrs. Drane if she had left her daughter alone at Cobhurst,
while she and Mr. Haverley came to town.
"Oh, yes," answered the other lady; "Cicely is there, and hard at work;
but she is not alone. You know our good La Fleur is with us, and will
remain as long as the doctor and Mrs. Tolbridge are away."
When Miss Panney received this last bit of information, she gazed
intently at Mrs. Drane and then at Ralph, after which she bade them good
morning, and drove off.
"The old lady is not in such jolly good humor as when she lunched with us
the other day," said Ralph.
"That is true," said Mrs. Drane; "but I have noticed that very elderly
people are apt to be moody."
Twice in the course of a year Miss Panney allowed herself to swear, if
there happened to be occasion for it. In her young days a lady of fashion
would sometimes swear with great effect; and Miss Panney did not entirely
give up any old fashion that she liked. Now, there being good reason for
it, and no one in sight, she swore, and directed her abjurations against
herself. Then her mind, somewhat relieved from the strain upon it, took
in the humorous points of the situation, and she laughed outright.
"If the Dranes had hired some sharp-witted rogue to help them carry out
their designs, he could not have done it better than I have done it. I
have simply put the whole game into their hands; I have given them
everything they want."
But before she reached Thorbury, she saw that the situation was not
hopeless. There was one thing that might be done, and that successfully
accomplished the game would be in her hands. Ralph must be made to go to
Barport. A few days with Dora at the seaside, with some astute person
there to manage the affair, would settle the fate of Mr. Ralph Haverley.
At this thought her eyes sparkled, and she began to feel hungry. At this
important moment she did not wish to occupy her mind with prattle and
chat, and therefore departed from her usual custom of lunching with a
friend or acquaintance. Hitching her roan mare in front of a
confectionery shop, she entered for refreshment.
Seated at a little table in the back room, with a cup of tea and some
sandwiches before her, Miss Panney took more time over her slight meal
than any previous customer had ever occupied in disposing of a similar
repast, at least so the girl at the counter believed and averred to the
colored man who did outside errands. The girl thought that the old lady's
deliberate method of eating proceeded from her want of teeth; but the man
who had waited at dinners where Miss Panney was a guest contemptuously
repudiated this assumption.
"I've seen her eat," said he, "and she's never behind nobody. She's got
all the teeth she wants for bitin'."
"Then why doesn't she get through?" asked the girl. "When is she ever
going to leave that table?"
"When she gits ready," answered the man; "that's the time Miss Panney
Sipping her tea and nibbling her sandwich, Miss Panney considered the
situation. It would be, of course, a difficult thing to get that young
man to visit his sister at Barport. It would cost money, and there would
seem to be no good reason for his going. Of course no such influence
could be brought to bear upon him at this end of the line. Whatever
inducement was offered, must be offered from Barport. And there was no
one there who could do it, at least with the proper effect. The girls
would be glad to have him there, but nothing that either of them could,
with propriety, be prompted to say, would draw him into such extravagant
self-gratification. But if she were at Barport, she knew that she could
send him such an invitation, or sound such a call to him, that he would
be sure to come.
Accordingly Miss Panney determined to go to Barport without loss of time;
and although she did hot know what sort of summons she should issue to
Ralph after she got there, she did not in the least doubt that
circumstances would indicate the right thing to do. In fact, she would
arrange circumstances in such a way that they should so indicate.
Having arrived at this conclusion, Miss Panney finished eating her
sandwich with an earnestness and rapidity which convinced the astonished
girl at the counter that she had all the teeth she needed to bite with;
and then she went forth to convince other people of the same thing. On
the sidewalk she met Phoebe.
"How d'ye do, Miss Panney?" said that single-minded colored woman. "I
hain't seen you for a long time."
Miss Panney returned the salutation, and stood for a moment in thought.
"Phoebe," said she, "when did you last see Mike?"
"Well, now, really, Miss Panney, I can't say, but it's been a mighty long
time. He don't come into town to see me, and I's too busy to go way out
thar. I does the minister's wash now, besides boardin' him an' keepin'
his clothes mended. An' then it's four or five miles out to that farm. I
can't 'ford to hire no carriage, an' Mike ain't no right to expect me to
walk that fur."
"Phoebe," said Miss Panney, "you are a lazy woman and an undutiful wife.
It is not four miles to Cobhurst, and you walk two or three times that
distance every day, gadding about town. You ought to go out there and
attend to Mike's clothes, and see that he is comfortable, instead of
giving up the little time you do work to that minister, and everybody
knows that the reason you have taken him to board is that you want to set
yourself up above the rest of the congregation."
"Good laws, Miss Panney!" exclaimed Phoebe, "I don't see as how anybody
can think that!"
"Well, I do," replied the old lady, "and plenty of other people besides.
But as you won't go out to Cobhurst to attend to your own duty, I want
you to go there to attend to something for me. I was going myself, but I
start for the seashore to-morrow, and have not time. I want to know how
that poor Mr. Ralph is getting along. Molly Tooney has left, and his
sister is away, and of course those two Drane women are temporary
boarders and take no care of him or his clothes. To be sure, there is a
woman there, but she is that English-French creature who gives all her
time to fancy dishes, and I suppose never made a bed or washed a shirt in
"That's so, Miss Panney," said Phoebe, eagerly, "an' I reckon it's a lot
of slops he has to eat now. 'Tain't like the good wholesome meals I gave
him when I cooked thar. An' as fur washin', if there's any of that done,
I reckon Mike does it."
"I should not wonder," said the old lady. "And, Phoebe, I want you to go
out there this afternoon, and look over Mr. Haverley's linen, and see
what ought to be washed or mended, and take general notice of how things
are going on. I shall see his sister, and I want to report the state of
affairs at her home. For all I know, those Dranes and their cook may pack
up and clear out to-morrow if the notion takes them. Then you must meet
me at the station at nine o'clock to-morrow morning, and tell me what you
find out. If things are going all wrong, Mr. Haverley will never write to
his sister to disturb her mind. Start for Cobhurst as soon as you can,
and I will pay your carriage hire--no, I will not do that, for I want
you to make a good long stay, and it will cost too much to keep a hack
waiting. You can walk just as well as not, and it will do you good. And
while you are there, Phoebe, you might take notice of Miss Drane. If she
has finished the work she was doing for the doctor, and is just sitting
about idly or strolling around the place, it is likely they will soon
leave, for if the young woman does not work they cannot afford to stay
there. And that is a thing Miss Miriam ought to know all about."
"Seems to me, Miss Panney," said the colored woman, "that 'twould be a
mighty good thing for Mr. Hav'ley to get married. An' thar's that Miss
Drane right thar already."
"What stupid nonsense!" exclaimed Miss Panney. "I thought you had more
sense than to imagine such a thing as that. She is not in any way
suitable for him. She is a poor little thing who has to earn her own
living, and her mother's too. She is not in the least fit to be the
mistress of that place."
"Don't see whar he'll get a wife, then," said Phoebe. "He never goes
nowhar, and never sees nobody, except p'r'aps Miss Dora Bannister; an'
she's too high an' mighty for him."
"Phoebe, you are stupider than I thought you were. No lady is too high
and mighty for Mr. Haverley. And if he should happen to fancy Miss Dora,
it will be a capital match. What he needs is to marry a woman of position
and means. But that is not my business, or yours either, and by the way,
Phoebe, since you are here, I will get you to take a letter to the
post-office for me. I will go back into this shop and write it. You can
take these two cents and buy an envelope and a sheet of paper, and bring
them in to me."
With this Miss Panney walked into the shop, and having asked the loan of
pen and ink, horrified the girl at the counter by proceeding to the table
she had left, which, in a corner favored by all customers, had just been
prepared for the next comer, and, having pushed aside a knife and fork
and plate, made herself ready to write her letter, which was to a friend
in Barport, informing her that the writer intended making her a visit.
"I shall get there," she thought, "about as soon as it does, but it looks
better to write."
Before the letter was finished, Phoebe was nearly as angry as the
shop-girl; but at last, with exactly two cents with which to buy a stamp,
she departed for the post-office.
"The stingy old thing!" she said to herself as she left the shop; "not a
cent for myself, and makes me walk all the way out to that Cobhurst, too!
I see what that old woman is up to. She's afraid he'll marry the young
lady what's out thar, an' she wants him to marry Miss Dora, an' git a lot
of the Bannister money to fix up his old house, an' then she expects to
go out thar an' board with 'em, for I reckon she's gittin' mighty tired
of the way them Wittons live. She's always patchin' up marriages so she
can go an' live with the people when they first begins housekeepin', an'
things is bran-new an' fresh. She did that with young Mr. Witton, but
their furniture is gittin' pretty old an' worn out now. If she tries it
with Mr. Hav'ley an' Dora Bannister, I reckon she'll make as big a botch
of it as she did with Mike an' me."
A CRY FROM THE SEA
Miss Panney left Thorbury the next morning, but she had to go without
seeing Phoebe, who did not appear at the station. She arrived at Barport
in the afternoon, and went directly to the house of the friend to whom
she had written, and who, it is to be hoped, was glad to see her. She
deferred making her presence known to the Bannister party until the next
morning. When she called at their hotel about ten o'clock, she was
informed that they had all gone down to the beach; and as they could not
be expected to return very soon, Miss Panney betook herself to the
ocean's edge to look for them.
She found a wide stretch of sand crowded with bathers and spectators. It
had been a long time since she had visited the seashore, and she
discovered that seaside customs and costumes had changed very much. She
was surprised, amused, and at times indignant; but, as she had come to
look for the Bannisters, she confined herself to that business,
postponing reflections and judgments.
Her search proved to be a difficult one. She walked up and down the beach
until she assured herself that the Bannisters and Miriam were not among
those who had come as lookers-on, or merely to breathe the salt air and
enjoy the ocean view. When she came to scrutinize the bathers, whether
they were disporting themselves in the sea or standing or lying about on
the sand, she found it would be almost impossible to recognize anybody in
that motley crowd.
"I can scarcely make out," she said to herself, "whether they are men or
women, much less whether I know them or not. But if the Bannisters and
Miriam are among those water-monkeys, I shall know them when I see their
faces, and then I shall take the first chance I get to tell them what I
think of them."
It was not long before Miss Panney began to grow tired. She was not used
to trudging through soft sand, and she had walked a good deal before she
reached the beach. She concluded, therefore, to look for a place where
she might sit down and rest, and if her friends did not show themselves
in a reasonable time she would go back to their hotel and wait for them
there; but she saw no chairs nor benches, and as for imitating the
hundreds of well-dressed people who were sitting down in the dirt,--for
to Miss Panney sand was as much dirt as any other pulverized portion of
the earth's surface,--she had never done such a thing, and she did not
Approaching a boat which was drawn up high and dry, she seated herself
upon, or rather leaned against, its side. The bathing-master, a burly
fellow in a bathing-costume, turned to her and informed her courteously
but decidedly that she must not sit upon that boat.
"I do not see why," said Miss Panney, sharply, as she rose "for it is
not of any use in any other way, lying up here on the sand."
She had scarcely finished speaking when the bathing master sprang to his
feet so suddenly that it made Miss Panney jump. For a moment the man
stood listening, and then ran rapidly down the beach. Now Miss Panney
heard, coming from the sea, a cry of "Help! Help!"
Other people heard it, too, and began hurrying after the bathing master.
The cry, which was repeated again and again, came from a group of bathers
who were swimming far from shore, opposite a point on the beach a hundred
yards or more from where Miss Panney was standing. The spectators now
became greatly excited, and crowds of them began to run along the beach,
while many people came out of the sea and joined the hurrying throng.
Still the cries came from the ocean, but they were feebler. Those
experienced in such matters saw what had happened, a party of four
bathers, swimming out beyond the breakers, had been caught in what is
called a "seapuss," an eccentric current, too powerful for them to
overcome, and they were unable to reach the shore.
As he ran, the bathing master shouted to some men to bring him the
lifeline, and this, which was coiled in a box near the boat, was soon
seized by two swift runners and carried out to the man.
"Fool!" exclaimed Miss Panney, who, with flushed face, was hurrying after
the rest, "why didn't he take it with him?"
When the bathing master reached a point opposite the imperilled
swimmers, he was obliged to wait a little for the life-line, but as soon
as it reached him he tied one end of it around his waist and plunged into
the surf. The men who had brought the line did not uncoil it nor even
take it out of the box, and very soon it was seen that the bathing-master
was not only making his way bravely through the breakers, but was towing
after him the coil of rope, and the box in which it had been entangled.
As soon as he perceived this, the man stopped for an instant, jerked the
line from his waist and swam away without it.
Meanwhile a party of men had seized the life-boat, and had pushed it over
the sand to the water's edge, where they launched it, and with much
difficulty kept it from grounding until four young men, all bathers,
jumped in and manned the oars. But before the excited oarsmen had begun
to pull together, an incoming wave caught the bow of the boat, turned it
broadside to the sea, and rolled it over. A dozen men, however, seized
the boat and quickly righted her; again the oarsmen sprang in, and having
been pushed out until the water reached the necks of the men who ran
beside her, she was vigorously pulled beyond the breakers.
The excitement was now intense, not only on the beach, but in the hotels
near the spot, and the shore was black with people. The cries had
entirely ceased, but now the bathing-master was seen making his way
toward the shore, and supporting a helpless form; before he could touch
bottom, however, he was relieved of his burden by some of the men who
were swimming out after him, and he turned back toward a floating head
which could just be seen above the water. He was a powerful swimmer, but
without a line by which he and any one he might rescue could be pulled to
shore, his task was laborious and dangerous.
The boat had now pulled to the bather who, though farthest out to sea,
was the best swimmer, and he, just as his strength was giving way, was
hauled on board. The lifeline had been rescued and disentangled, and the
shore end of it having been taken into proper charge, a man, with the
other end about him, swam to the assistance of the bathing master.
Between these two another lifeless helpless body was borne in.
As might have been supposed, Miss Panney was now in a state of intense
agitation. Not only did she share in the general excitement, but she was
filled with a horrible dread. In ordinary cases of sickness and danger,
it had been her custom to offer her services without hesitation, but then
she knew who were in trouble and what she must do. Now there was a
sickening mystery hanging over what was happening. She was actually
afraid to go near the two lifeless figures stretched upon the sand, each
surrounded by a crowd of people eager to do something or see something.
But her anxious questioning of the people who were scattered about
relieved her, for she found that the two unfortunate persons who had
been brought in were men. Nobody knew whether they were alive or not,
but everything possible was being done to revive them. Several doctors
had made their appearance, and messengers were running to the hotels
for brandy, blankets, and other things needed. In obedience to an
excited entreaty from a physician, one of the groups surged outward and
scattered a little, and Miss Panney saw the form of a strongly built man
lying on his back on the sand, with men kneeling around him, some
working his arms backward and forward to induce respiration, and others
rubbing him vigorously. It was difficult for her to restrain herself
from giving help or advice, for she was familiar with, and took a great
interest in, all sorts of physical distress, but now she turned away and
hurried toward the sea.
She had heard the people say there was another one out there, and her
sickening feeling returned. She walked but a little way, and then she
stopped and eagerly watched what was going on. The bathing-master had
been nearly exhausted when he reached the shore the second time, but he
had rallied his strength and had swum out to the boat which was pulling
about the place where the unfortunate bathers had been swimming. Suddenly
the oarsmen gave a quick pull, they had seen something, a man jumped
overboard, there was bustling on the boat, something was pulled in, then
the boat was rapidly rowed shoreward, the man in the water holding to the
stern until his feet touched ground.
The people crowded to the water's edge so that Miss Panney could scarcely
see the boat when it reached shore, but presently the crowd parted, and
three men appeared, carrying what seemed to be a very light burden.
"Oh, dear," said a woman standing by, "that one was in the water a long
time. I wonder if it is a girl or a boy."
Miss Panney said nothing, but made a few quick steps in the direction of
the limp figure which the crowd was following up the beach; then she
stopped. Her nature prompted her to go on; her present feelings
restrained her. She could not help wondering at this, and said to herself
that she must be aging faster than she thought. Her distant vision was
excellent, and she knew that the inanimate form which was now being laid
on the dry sand was not a boy.
She turned and looked out over the sea, but she could not stand still;
she must do something. On occasions like this it was absolutely necessary
for Miss Panney to do something. She walked up the beach, but not toward
the ring of people that had now formed around the fourth unfortunate. She
must quiet herself a little first.
Suddenly the old lady raised her hands and clasped them. It was a usual
gesture when she thought of something she ought to do.
"If it is one of them," she said to herself, "he ought to know it
instantly! And even if it isn't, he ought to know. They will be in a
terrible state; somebody should be here, and Herbert has gone to the
mountains. There is no one else." She now began to walk more rapidly.
"Yes," she said, speaking aloud in the intensity of her emotion, "he
ought to come, anyway. I can't be left here to take any chances. And if
he does not know immediately, he cannot get here today."
She now directed her steps toward one of the hotels, where she knew there
was a telegraph office.
"No matter what has happened, or what has not happened," she said to
herself as she hurried along, "he ought to be here, and he must come!"
The old lady's hand trembled a good deal as she wrote a telegram to Ralph
Haverley, but the operator at the window could read it. It ran: "A
dreadful disaster here. Come on immediately."
When she had finished this business, Miss Panney stood for a few moments
on the broad piazza of the hotel, which was deserted, for almost
everybody was on the beach. In spite of her agitation a grim smile came
over her face.
"Perhaps that was a little strong," she thought, "but it has gone now.
And no matter how he finds things, I can prove to him he is needed. I do
not believe he will be too much frightened; men never are, and I will see
to it that he has a blessed change in his feelings when he gets here."
Miss Panney was now allowing to enter her mind the conviction, previously
denied admittance, that no one of her three friends would be likely to be
swimming far from shore with a party of men. And, having thus restored
herself to something of her usual composure, she went down to the beach
to find out who had been drowned. On the way she met Mrs. Bannister and
the two girls, and from them she got her information that two of the
persons were believed to be beyond any power of resuscitation, and one of
these was a young lady from Boston.
LA FLEUR ASSUMES RESPONSIBILITIES
It was toward the middle of the afternoon that the good La Fleur sat
upon a bench under a tree by the side of the noble mansion of
Cobhurst. She was enjoying the scene and allowing her mind to revel in
the future she had planned for herself. She was not even thinking of
the dinner. Presently there drove into the grounds a boy in a
bowl-shaped trotting-wagon, bringing a telegram for Mr. Haverley. La
Fleur went to meet him.
"He is not at home," she said.
"Well," said the boy, "there is seventy-five cents to pay, and perhaps
there is an answer."
"Are you sure the message was not prepaid?" asked La Fleur, suspiciously.
"Oh, the seventy-five cents is for delivery," said the boy. "We deliver
free in town, but we can't come way out here in the country for nothing.
Isn't there somebody here who can 'tend to it?"
La Fleur drew a wallet from her pocket. "I will pay you," she said;
"but if there is an answer you should take it back with you. Can't you
wait a bit?"
"No," said the boy, "I can't. I shall be away from the office too long
as it is."
La Fleur was in a quandary; there was no one at home but herself; a
telegram is always important; very likely an immediate answer was
required; and here was an opportunity to send one. If the message were
from his sister, there might be something which she could answer. At any
rate, it was an affair that must not be neglected, and Mr. Haverley had
gone off with his fishing-rod, and no one knew when he would get back.
"Wait one minute," she said to the boy, and she hurried into the kitchen
with the telegram. She put on her spectacles and looked at it; the
envelope was very slightly fastened. No doubt this was something that
needed attention, and the boy would not wait. Telegrams were not like
private letters, anyway, and she would take the risk. So she opened the
envelope without tearing it, and read the message. First she was
frightened, and then she was puzzled.
"Well, I can't answer that," she said, "and I suppose he will go as soon
as he gets it."
She laid the telegram on the kitchen table and went out to the impatient
boy, and told him there was no answer. Whereupon he departed at the top
of his pony's speed.
La Fleur returned to the kitchen and reread the telegram. The signature
was not very legible, and in her first hasty reading she had not made it
out, but now she deciphered it.
"Panney!" she exclaimed, "R. Panney! I believe it is from that tricky old
woman!" And with her elbows on the table she gave herself up to the study
of the telegram. "I never saw anything like it," she thought. "It looks
exactly as if she wanted to frighten him without telling him what has
happened. It could not be worse than it is, even if his sister is dead,
and if that were so, anybody would telegraph that she was very ill, so as
not to let it come on him too sudden. Nothing can be more dreadful than
what he'll think when he reads this. One thing is certain: she meant him
to go when he got it. Yes, indeed!" And a smile came upon her face as she
thought. "She wants him there; that is as plain as daylight."
At this moment a step was heard outside, and the telegram was slipped
into the table drawer. La Fleur arose and approached the open door; there
she saw Phoebe.
"How d'ye do, ma'am?" said that individual. "Do let me come in an' sit
down, for I'm nearly tired to death, an' so cross that I'd like to
fight a cat."
"What has happened to you?" asked La Fleur, when she and her visitor had
"Nothin'," replied Phoebe, "except that I've been sent on a fool's
errand, an' made to walk all the way from Thorbury, here, an' a longer
an' a dirtier an' a rockier road I never went over. I thought two or
three times that I should just drop. If I'd knowed how stiff my j'ints
would be, I wouldn't 'a' come, no matter what she said."
"She said," repeated La Fleur. "Who?"
"That old Miss Panney!" said Phoebe, with a snap. "She sent me out
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