The Girl at Cobhurst
Frank Richard Stockton
Part 6 out of 6
here to look after Mike, an' was too stingy even to pay my hack fare.
She wanted me to come day before yesterday, but I couldn't get away
"Where is Miss Panney?" asked La Fleur, quickly.
"She's gone to the seashore, where the Bannisters an' Miss Miriam is. She
said she'd come here herself if it hadn't been for goin' thar."
"To look after Mike?" asked the other.
"Not 'zactly," said Phoebe, with a grin. "There's other things here she
wanted to look after."
"Upon my word!" exclaimed La Fleur, "I can't imagine what there is on
this place that Miss Panney need concern herself about."
"There isn't no place," said Phoebe, "where there isn't somethin' that
Miss Panney wants to consarn herself in."
La Fleur looked at Phoebe, and then dropped the subject.
"Don't you want a cup of tea?" she asked, a glow of hospitality suddenly
appearing on her face. "That will set you up sooner than anything else,
and perhaps I can find a piece of one of those meat pies your husband
likes so much."
Phoebe was not accustomed to being waited upon by white people, and to
have a repast prepared for her by this cook of high degree flattered her
vanity and wonderfully pleased her. Her soul warmed toward the good woman
who was warming and cheering her body.
"I say it again," remarked La Fleur, "that I cannot think what that old
lady should want to look after in this house."
"Now look here, madam," said Phoebe, "it's jes' nothin' at all. It's
jes' the most nonsensical thing that ever was. I don't mind tellin' you
about it; don't mind it a bit. She wants Mr. Hav'ley to marry Miss Dora
Bannister, an' she's on pins an' needles to know if the young woman here
is likely to ketch him. That's all there is 'bout it. She don't care two
snaps for Mike, an' I reckon he don't want no looking after anyway."
"No, indeed," answered the other; "I take the best of care of him. Miss
Panney must be dreadful afraid of our young lady, eh?"
"That's jes' what she is," said Phoebe. "I wonder she didn't take Mr.
Hav'ley along with her when she went to the seashore."
La Fleur's eyes sparkled.
"Now come, Phoebe," said she; "what on earth did she want you to do
Phoebe took a long draught of tea, and put down the cup, with a sigh
"Oh, nothin'," said she. "She jes' wanted me to spy round, an' see if Mr.
Hav'ley an' Miss Drane was fallin' in love with each other, an' then I
was to go an' tell her about it the mornin' before she started. Now I'll
have to keep it 'til she comes back, but I reckon thar ain't nothin' to
La Fleur laughed. "Nothing at all," said she. "You might stay here a week
and you wouldn't see any lovemaking between those two. They don't as much
as think of such a thing. So you need not put yourself to any trouble
about that part of Miss Panney's errand. Here comes your good Michael,
and I think you will find that he is doing very well."
About ten minutes after this, when Phoebe and Mike had gone off to talk
over their more than semi-detached domestic affairs, La Fleur took the
telegram from the drawer, replaced it in its envelope, which she closed
and fastened so neatly that no one would have supposed that it had been
opened. Then she took from a shelf a railroad time-table, which lay in
company with her cookbook and a few other well-worn volumes; for the good
cook cared for reading very much as she cared for her own mayonnaise
dressing; she wanted but little at a time, but she liked it.
"The last train to the city seems to be seven-ten," she said to herself.
"No other train after that stops at Thorbury. If he had been at home he
would have taken an early afternoon train, which was what she expected, I
suppose. It will be a great pity for him to have to go tonight, and for
no other reason than for that old trickster's telegram. If anything has
really happened, he'll get news of it in some sensible shape."
At all events, there was nothing now to be done with the telegram, so she
put it on the shelf, and set about her preparations for dinner, which had
been very much delayed.
Ralph had gone off fishing; but, before starting, he had put Mrs.
Browning to the gig and had told Cicely that as soon as her work was
finished, she must take her mother for a drive. The girl had been
delighted, and the two had gone off for a long jog through the
It was late in the afternoon when Ralph came striding homeward
across the fields. He was still a mile from Cobhurst, and on a bit of
rising ground when, on the road below him, he saw Mrs. Browning and
the gig, and to his surprise the good old mare was demurely trotting
away from Cobhurst.
"Can it be possible," he exclaimed, "that they have just started!" And
he hurried down toward the road. He now saw that there was only one
person in the gig, and very soon he was near enough to perceive that
this was Cicely.
"I expect you are wondering what I am doing here by myself, and where I
am going," she said, when she stopped and he stood by the gig. "I shall
tell you the exact truth, because I know you will not mind. We started
out a long time ago, but mother had a headache, and the motion of the gig
made it worse. She was trying to bear it so that I might have a drive,
but I insisted upon turning back. I took her as far as the orchard, where
I left her, and since then I have been driving about by myself and having
an awfully good time. Mother did not mind that, as I promised not to go
far away. But I think I have now gone far enough along this road. I like
driving ever so much! Don't you want me to drive you home?"
"Indeed I do!" said Ralph, and in he jumped.
"I expect Miriam must be enjoying this lovely evening," she said. "And
she will see the sun set from the beach, for Barport faces westward, and
I never saw a girl enjoy sunsets as she does. At this moment I expect her
face is as bright as the sky."
"And wouldn't you like to be standing by her?" asked Ralph.
Cicely shook her head. "No," she said. "To speak truly, I should rather
be here. We used to go a good deal to the seashore, but this is the first
time that I ever really lived in the country, and it is so charming I
would not lose a day of it, and there cannot be very many more days of
"Why not?" asked Ralph.
"I am now copying chapter twenty-seventh of the doctor's book, and there
are only thirty-one in all. And as to his other work, that will not
occupy me very long."
Ralph was about to ask a question, but, instead, he involuntarily grasped
one of the little gloved hands that held the reins.
"Pull that," he said quickly. "You must always turn to the right when you
meet a vehicle."
Cicely obeyed, but when they had passed a wagon, drawn by a team of oxen,
she said, "But there was more room on the other side."
"That may be," replied Ralph, with a laugh, "but when you are driving,
you must not rely too much on your reason, but must follow rules and
"If I knew as much about driving as I like it," said she, "I should be a
famous whip. Before we go, I am going to ask Miriam to take me out with
her, two or three times, and give me lessons in driving. She told me that
you had taught her a great deal."
"So you would be willing to take your tuition secondhand," said Ralph. "I
am a much better teacher than Miriam is."
"Would you like to make up a class?" she asked. "But I do not know how
the teacher and the two pupils could ride in this gig. Oh, I see. Miriam
and I could sit here, and you could walk by our side and instruct us, and
when the one who happened to be driving should make a mistake, she would
give up her seat and the reins, and go to the foot of her class."
"Class indeed!" exclaimed Ralph; "I'll have none of it. I will take you
out tomorrow and give you a lesson."
So they went gayly on till they came to a grassy hill which shut out the
"Do you think I could go through that gate," asked Cicely, "and drive
Mrs. Browning up that hill? There is going to be a grand sunset, and we
should get a fine view of it up there."
"No," said Ralph, "let us get out and walk up, and as Mrs. Browning can
see the barn, we will not worry her soul by tying her to the fence. I
shall let her go home by herself, and you will see how beautifully she
will do it."
So they got out, and Ralph having fastened the reins to the dashboard,
clicked to the old mare, who walked away by herself. Cicely was greatly
interested, and the two stood and watched the sober-minded animal as she
made her way home as quietly and properly as if she had been driven. When
she entered the gate of the barnyard, and stopped at the stable door,
Ralph remarked that she would stand there until Mike came out, and then
the two went into the field and walked up the hill.
"I once had a scolding from Miriam for doing that sort of thing," said
Ralph; "but you do not seem to object."
"I do not know enough yet," cried Cicely, who had begun to run up the
hill; "wait until I have had my lessons."
They stood together at the top of the little eminence.
"I wonder," said Cicely, "if Miriam ever comes upon this hill at sunset.
Perhaps she has never thought of it."
Ralph did not know; but the mention of Miriam's name caused him to think
how little he had missed his sister, who had seemed to live in his life
as he had lived in hers. It was strange, and he could not believe that he
would so easily adapt himself to the changed circumstances of his home
life. There was another thing of which he did not think, and that was
that he had not missed Dora Bannister. It is true that he had never seen
much of that young lady; but he had thought so much about her, and made
so many plans in regard to her, and had so often hoped that he might see
her drive up to the Cobhurst door, and had had such charming
recollections of the hours she had spent in his home, and of the travels
they had taken together by photograph, her blue eyes lifted to his as if
in truth she leaned upon his arm as they walked through palace and park,
that it was wonderful that he did not notice that for days his thoughts
had not dwelt upon her.
When the gorgeous color began to fade out of the sky, Cicely said her
mother would be wondering what had become of her, and together they went
down the hill, and along the roadside, where they stopped to pick some
tall sprays of goldenrod, and through the orchard, and around by the
barnyard, where Mike was milking, and where Ralph stopped while Cicely
went on to the house.
Phoebe was standing down by the entrance gate. She was waiting for an
oxcart, whose driver had promised to take her with him on his return to
Thorbury. She had arranged with a neighbor to prepare the minister's
supper, but she must be on hand to give him his breakfast. As there was
nothing to interest her at Cobhurst, and nothing to report, she was glad
to go, and considered this oxcart a godsend, for her plan of getting Mike
to drive her over in the spring cart had not been met with favor.
Waiting at the gateway, she had seen Ralph and Cicely walk up the hill,
and watched them standing together, ever and ever so long, looking at the
sky, and she had kept her eyes on them as they came down the hill,
stopped to pick flowers which he gave to her, and until they had
disappeared among the trees of the orchard.
"Upon my word an' honor!" ejaculated Mrs. Robinson, "if that old French
slop-cook hasn't lied to me, wus than Satan could do hisself! If them
two ain't lovers, there never was none, an' that old heathen sinner
thought she could clap a coffee bag over my head so that I couldn't see
nothin' nor tell nothin'. She might as well a' slapped me in the face,
And unable, by reason of her indignation, to stand still any longer, she
walked up the road to meet the returning oxcart, whose wheels could be
heard rumbling in the distance.
La Fleur had seen the couple standing together on the little hill, but
she had thought it a pity to disturb their tete-a-tete.
CICELY READS BY MOONLIGHT
Just before Cicely reached the back piazza, La Fleur came out of the
kitchen door with the telegram in her hand.
"Do you know," she said, "if Mr. Haverley has come home, and where I can
find him? Here is a message for him, and I have been looking for him,
high and low."
"A telegram!" exclaimed Cicely. "He is at the barn. I will take it to
him. I can get there sooner than you can, La Fleur," and without further
word, she took the yellow missive and ran with it toward the barn. She
met Ralph half way, and stood by him while he read the message.
"I hope," she cried as she looked into his pale face, "that nothing has
happened to Miriam."
"Read that," he said, his voice trembling. "Do you suppose--" but he
could not utter the words that were in his mind.
Cicely seized the telegram and eagerly read it. She was on the point of
screaming, but checked herself.
"How terrible!" she exclaimed. "But what can it mean? It is from Miss
Panney. Oh! I think it is wicked to send a message like that, which does
not tell you what has happened."
"It must be Miriam," cried Ralph. "I must go instantly," and at the top
of his voice he shouted for Mike. The man soon appeared, running.
"Mike!" exclaimed Ralph, "there has been an accident, something has
happened to Miss Miriam. I must go instantly to Barport. I must take the
next train from Thorbury. Put the horse to the gig as quickly as you can.
You must go with me."
With a face expressing the deepest concern, Mike stood looking at the
"Don't stop for a minute," cried Ralph, in great excitement. "Drop
everything. Take the horse, no matter what he has been doing; he can go
faster than the mare. I shall be ready in five minutes!"
"Mr. Hav'ley," said Mike, "there ain't no down train stops at Thorbury
after the seven-ten, and it's past seven now. That train'll be gone
before I can git hitched up."
"No train tonight!" Ralph almost yelled, "that cannot be. I do not
"Now look here, Mr. Hav'ley," said Mike, "I wouldn't tell you nothin'
that wasn't so, 'specially at a time like this. But I've been driving to
Thorbury trains an' from 'em, for years and years. There's a late train
'bout ten o'clock, but it's a through express and don't stop."
"I must take that train," cried Ralph, "what is the nearest station where
it does stop?"
"There ain't none nearer than the Junction, and that's sixteen miles up,
an' a dreadful road. I once druv there in the daytime, an' it tuk me four
hours, an' if you went to-night you couldn't get there afore daylight."
"Why don't you go to Thorbury and telegraph?" asked Cicely, who was now
almost as pale as Ralph. "Then you could find out exactly what has
"Oh, I must go, I must go," said Ralph; "but I shall telegraph. I shall
go to Thorbury instantly, and get on as soon as I can."
Mike stood looking on the ground.
"Mr. Hav'ley," he said, as the young man was about to hurry to the house,
"tain't no use, the telegraph office is shet up, right after that down
"It is barbarous!" exclaimed Ralph. "I will go anyway. I will find the
"Mr. Hav'ley," said Mike, "don't you go an' do that. You is tremblin'
like a asp. You'll be struck down sick if you go on so. There's a train a
quarter of six in the mornin', an' I'll git you over to that. If you goes
to Thorbury, you won't be fit to travel in the mornin', an' you won't be
no good when you gits there."
Tears were now on Cicely's cheeks, in spite of her efforts to
"He is right, Mr. Ralph," she said. "I think it will be dreadful for you
to be in Thorbury all night, and most likely for no good. It will be a
great deal better to leave here early in the morning and go straight to
Barport. But let us go into the house and talk to mother. After all, it
may not be Miriam. You cannot tell what it is. It is a cruel message."
Mrs. Drane was greatly shocked, but she agreed with her daughter that it
would not be wise for Ralph to go to Thorbury until he could start for
Barport. La Fleur was somewhat frightened when she found that her wilful
delay of the telegram might occasion Mr. Haverley an harassing and
anxious night in Thorbury, and was urgent in her endeavors to quiet him
and persuade him to remain at home until morning. But it was not until
Cicely had put in her last plea that the young man consented to give up
his intention of going in search of the telegraph operator.
"Mr. Ralph," said she, "don't you think it would be awful if you were to
send a message and get a bad answer to it, and have to stay there by
yourself until the morning? I cannot bear to think of it; and telegraphic
messages are always so hard and cruel. If I were you, I would rather go
straight on and find out everything for myself."
Ralph looked down at her and at the tears upon her cheeks.
"I will do that," he said, and taking her hand, he pressed it thankfully.
Every preparation and arrangement was made for an early start, and Ralph
wandered in and out of the house, impatient as a wild beast to break
away and be gone. Cicely, whose soul was full of his sorrow, went out to
him on the piazza, where he stood, looking at the late moon rising above
"What a different man I should be," he said, "if I could think that
Miriam was standing on the seashore and looking at that moon."
Cicely longed to comfort him, but she could not say anything which would
seem to have reason in it. She had tried to think that it might be
possible that the despatch might not concern Miriam, but she could not
do it. If it had been necessary to send a despatch and Miriam had been
alive and well, it would have been from her that the despatch would have
come. Cicely's soul was sick with sorrow and with dread, not only for
the brother, but for herself, for she and Miriam were now fast friends.
But she controlled herself, and looking up with a smile, said, "What
time is it?"
Ralph took out his watch and held the face of it toward the moon, which
was but little past the full.
"It is a quarter to nine," he said.
"Well, then," said she, "I will ask Miriam, when I see her, if she was
looking at the moon at this time."
"Do you believe," exclaimed Ralph, turning suddenly so that they stood
face to face, "do you truly believe that we shall ever see her again?"
The question was so abrupt that Cicely was taken unawares. She raised her
face toward the eager eyes bent upon her, but the courageous words she
wished to utter would not come, and she drooped her head. With a swift
movement, Ralph put his two hands upon her cheeks and gently raised her
face. He need not have looked at her, for the warm tears ran down upon
"You do not," he said; and as he gazed down upon her, her face became
dim. For the first time since his boyhood, tears filled his eyes.
At a quick sound of hoofs and wheels, both started; and the next
moment the telegraph boy drove up close to the railing and held up a
"One dollar for delivery," said he; "that's night rates. This come jest
as the office was shetting up, and Mr. Martin said I'd got to deliver it
to-night; but I couldn't come till the moon was up."
Cicely, who was nearer, seized the telegram before Ralph could get it.
"Drive round to the back of the house," she said to the boy, "and I will
bring you the money."
She held the telegram, though Ralph had seized it.
"Don't be too quick," she said, "don't be too quick. There, you will tear
it in half. Let me open it for you."
She deftly drew the envelope from his hand, and spread the telegram on
the broad rail of the piazza, on which the moon shone full. Instantly
their heads were close together.
"I cannot read it," groaned Ralph; "my eyes are--"
"I can," interrupted Cicely, and she read aloud the message, which
"Fear news of accident may trouble you. We are all well. Have written.
Ralph started back and stood upright, as if some one had shouted to him
from the sky. He said not one word, but Cicely gave a cry of joy. Ralph
turned toward her, and as he saw her face, irradiated by the moonlight
and her sudden happiness, he looked down upon her for one moment, and
then his arms were outstretched toward her; but, quick as was his motion,
her thought was quicker, and before he could touch her, she had darted
back with the telegram in her hand.
"I will show this to mother," she cried, and was in the house in
La Fleur was in the hall, where for some time she had been quietly
standing, looking out upon the moonlight. From her position, which was
not a conspicuous one, at the door of the enclosed stairway, she had been
able to keep her eyes upon Ralph and Cicely; and held herself ready,
should she hear Mrs. Drane coming down the stairs, to go up and engage
her in a consultation in regard to domestic arrangements. She had known
of the arrival of the telegraph boy, had seen what followed, and now
listened with rapt delight to Cicely's almost breathless announcement of
the joyful news.
After the girl went upstairs, La Fleur walked away; there was no need for
her to stand guard any longer.
"It isn't only the telegram," she said to herself, "that makes her face
shine and her voice quiver like that." Then she went out to congratulate
Mr. Haverley on the news from his sister. But the young man was not
there; his soul was too full for the restraints of a house or a roof, and
he had gone out, bareheaded, into the moonlight to be alone with his
happiness and to try to understand it.
When Mrs. Drane returned to her room, having gone down at her daughter's
request to pay the telegraph messenger, she found her daughter lying on a
couch, her face wet with tears. But in ten minutes Cicely was sitting up
and chattering gayly. The good lady was rejoiced to know that there was
no foundation for the evils they had feared, but she could not understand
why her daughter, usually a cool-headed little thing and used to
self-control, should be so affected by the news. And in the morning she
was positively frightened when Cicely informed her that she had not slept
a wink all night.
Mrs. Drane had not seen Ralph's face when he stretched out his arms
toward her daughter.
When Ralph Haverley came in from his long moonlight ramble, he was so
happy that he went to bed and slept as sound as rock. But before he
closed his eyes he said to himself,--
"I will do that to-morrow; the very first thing to-morrow."
But people do not always do what they intend to do the very first thing
in the morning, and this was the case with Ralph. La Fleur, who knew that
a letter was expected, sent Mike early to the post-office, and soon after
breakfast Ralph had a letter from Miriam. It was a long one; it gave a
full account of the drowning accident and of some of her own experiences,
but it said not one word of the message sent by Miss Panney, to whom
Miriam alluded very slightly. It gave, however, the important information
that Mrs. Bannister had been so affected by the dreadful scene on the
beach that she declared she could not go into the ocean again, nor even
bear the sight of it, and that, therefore, they were all coming home on
"She will be here to-night," said Ralph, who knew the trains from
As soon as he had read the letter Ralph went to look for Cicely. She had
come down late to breakfast, and he had been surprised at her soberness
of manner. On the other hand, Mrs. Drane had been surprised at Ralph's
soberness of manner, and she found herself in the unusual position of the
liveliest person at the breakfast table.
"People who have heard such good news ought to be very happy," she
thought, but she made no remark on the subject.
It was Cicely's custom to spend the brief time she allowed herself
between breakfast and work, upon the lawn, or somewhere out of doors,
but to-day Ralph searched in vain for her. He met La Fleur, however,
and that conscientious cook, in her most respectful manner, asked him,
if he happened to meet Miss Cicely, would he be so good as to give her
"But I don't know where she is," said Ralph. "I have a letter to
La Fleur wished very much to know what was in the letter, which, she
supposed, explained the mystery of the telegrams, but at a moment like
this she would not ask.
"She is in the garden, sir," she said. "I asked her to gather me some
lettuce for luncheon. She does it so much more nicely than I could do it,
or Mike. She selects the crispest and most tender leaves of that crimped
and curled lettuce you all like so much, and I thought I would ask you,
sir, if you met her, to be so very kind as to tell her that I would like
a few sprigs of parsley, just a very few. I would go myself, sir, but
there is something cooking which I cannot leave, and I beg your pardon
for troubling you and will thank you, sir, very much if you--"
It was not worth while for her to finish her sentence, for Ralph had
He found Cicely just as she stooped over the lettuce bed. She rose with a
face like a peach blossom.
"I have a letter from Miriam," he said, "I will give it to you presently,
and you may read the whole of it, but I must first tell you that she,
with Mrs. Bannister and Dora, are coming home to-day. They will reach
Thorbury late this afternoon. Isn't that glorious?"
All the delicate hues of the peach blossom went out of Cicely's face.
That everlasting person had come up again, and now he called her Dora,
and it was glorious to have her back! She did not have to say anything,
for Ralph went rapidly on.
"But before they leave Barport," he said, "I want to send Miriam a
telegram. If Mike takes it immediately to Thorbury, she will get it
before her train leaves."
"A telegram!" exclaimed Cicely, but she did not look up at him.
"Yes," said he; "I want to telegraph to Miriam that you and I are
engaged to be married. I want her to know it before she gets here. Shall
I send it?"
She raised to him a face more brightly hued than any peach
blossom--rich with the color of the ripe fruit. Ten minutes after this,
two wood doves, sitting in a tree to the east of the lettuce bed, and
looking westward, turned around on their twig and looked toward the
east. They were sunny-minded little creatures, and did not like to be
cast into the shade.
As they went out of the garden gate, Cicely said, "You have always been a
very independent person and accustomed to doing very much as you please,
"It has been something like that," answered Ralph; "but why?"
"Only this," she said; "would you begin already to chafe and rebel if I
were to ask you not to send that telegram? It would be so much nicer to
tell her after she gets back."
"Chafe!" exclaimed Ralph, "I should think not. I will do exactly as
"You are awfully good," said Cicely, "but you must agree with me more
prudently now that we are out here, and I will not tell mother until
A gray old chanticleer, who was leading his hens across the yard,
stopped at this moment and looked at Ralph, but it is not certain that
Ralph knew very well when people, coming from Barport, should arrive in
Thorbury, but his mind was so occupied that when he went to the barn, he
forgot so many things he should have done at the house, and he ran
backward and forward so often, and waited so long for an opportunity to
say something he had just thought of, to somebody who did not happen to
be ready to listen at the precise moment he wished to speak, that he had
just stepped into the gig to go to the station for his sister, when
Miriam arrived alone in the Bannister carriage. Not finding anybody at
the station to meet her, they had sent her on.
Mrs. Drane was not the liveliest person at the dinner table, and she
wondered much how Ralph and Cicely, who had been so extremely sober at
breakfast time, should now be so hilarious. The arrival of Miriam seemed
hardly reason enough for such intemperate gayety.
As for Miriam, she overflowed with delight. The ocean was grand, but
Cobhurst was Cobhurst. "There was nothing better about my trip than the
opportunity it gave me of coming back to my home. I never did that
before, you know, my children."
This she said loftily from her seat at the head of the table. Dinner was
late and lasted long, and Ralph had gone into the room on the lower
floor, in which he kept his cigars, and which he called his office, when
Miriam followed him. There was no unencumbered chair, and she seated
herself on the edge of the table.
"Ralph," said she, "I want to say something to you, now, while it is
fresh in my mind. I think we can sometimes understand our affairs better
when we go away from them and are not mixed up in them. I have been
thinking a great deal since I have been at Barport about our affairs
here, not only as they are but as they may be, and most likely will be,
and I have come to the conclusion that some of these days, Ralph, you
will want to be married."
"Do you mean me?" cried Ralph. "You amaze me!"
"Oh, you are only a man, and you need not be amazed," said his sister.
"This is the way I have been thinking of it: if you ever do want to get
married, I hope you will not marry Dora Bannister. I used sometimes to
think that that might be a good thing to do, though I changed my mind
very often about it, but I do not think so, now, at all. Dora is an
awfully nice girl in ever so many ways, but since I have been at Barport
with her, I am positive that I do not want you to marry her."
Ralph heaved a long sigh and put his hands in his pockets.
"Bless my soul!" he exclaimed, "this is very discouraging; if I do not
marry Dora, who is there that I can marry?"
"You goose," said his sister, "there is a girl here, under your very
nose, ever so much nicer and more suitable for you than Dora. If you
marry anybody, marry Cicely Drane. I have been thinking ever and ever so
much about her and about you, and I made up my mind to speak to you of
this as soon as I got home, so that you might have a chance to think
about it before you should see Dora. Don't you remember what you used to
tell me about the time when you were obliged to travel so much, and how,
when you had a seat to yourself in a car, and a crowd of people were
coming in, you used to make room for the first nice person you saw,
because you knew you would have to have somebody sitting alongside of
you, and you liked to choose for yourself? Now that is the way I feel
about your getting married; if you marry Cicely Drane, I shall feel safe
for the rest of my life."
"Miriam!" exclaimed Ralph, "you astonish me by the force of your
statements. Wait here one moment," and he ran into the hall through which
he had seen Cicely passing, and presently reappeared with her.
"Miss Drane," said he, "do you know that my sister thinks that I ought to
In an instant Miriam had slipped from the table to the floor.
"Good gracious, Ralph!" she cried. "What do you mean?"
"I am merely stating your advice," he answered; "and now, Miss Drane, how
does it strike you?"
"Well," said Cicely, demurely, "if your sister really thinks we should
marry, I suppose--I suppose we ought to do it."
Miriam's eyes flashed from one to the other, then there were two girlish
cries and a manly laugh, and in a moment Miriam and Cicely were in each
other's arms, while Ralph's arms were around them both.
"Now," said Cicely, when this group had separated itself into its several
parts, "I must run up and tell mother." And very soon Mrs. Drane
understood why there had been sobriety at breakfast and hilarity at
dinner. She was surprised, but felt she ought not to be; she was a little
depressed, but knew she would get over that.
La Fleur did not hear the news that night, but it was not necessary; she
had seen Ralph and Cicely coming through the garden gate without a leaf
of lettuce or a single sprig of parsley.
The ocean rolled angrily on the beach, and Miss Panney walked angrily
on the beach, a little higher up, however, than the line to which the
The old lady was angrier than the ocean, and it was much more than mere
wind that made her storm waves roll. Her indignation was directed first
against Mrs. Bannister, that silly woman, who, by cutting short her stay
at the seashore, had ruined Miss Panney's plans, and also against Ralph,
who had not come to Barport as soon as he had received the telegram. If
he had arrived, the party might have stayed a little longer for his sake.
Why he had not come she knew no more than she knew what she was going to
say to him in explanation of her message, and she cared as little for the
one as for the other.
Her own visit to Barport had been utterly useless. She had spent money
and time, she had tired herself, had been frightened and
disgusted,--all for nothing. She did not remember any of her plans that
had failed so utterly.
Meeting the bathing-master, she rolled in upon him some ireful waves,
because he did not keep a boat outside the breakers to pick up people who
might be exhausted and in danger of drowning. In vain the man protested
that ten thousand people had said that to him, before, and that the thing
could not be done, because so many swimmers would make for the boat and
hang on to its sides, just to rest themselves until they were ready to go
back. It would simply be a temptation to people to swim beyond the
breakers. She went on, in a voice that the noise of the surf could not
drown, to tell him that she hoped ten thousand more people would say the
same thing to him, and to declare that he ought to have several boats
outside during bathing hours, so that people could cling to some of them,
and so, perhaps, save themselves from exhaustion on their return, and so
that one, at least, could be kept free to succor the distressed. At last
the poor man vowed that he acted under orders, and that, if she wanted to
pitch into anybody, she ought to pitch into the proprietors of the hotel
who employed him, and who told him what he must do.
Miss Panney accepted this advice; and if the sea had broken into the
private office of that hotel, the owners and managers could not have had
a worse time than they had during the old lady's visit. It may be stated
that for the remainder of the season two or three boats might always be
seen outside the breakers during bathing hours at the Barport beach.
For the sake of appearances, Miss Panney did not leave Barport
immediately; for she did not wish her friends to think that she was a
woman who would run after the Bannisters wherever they might please to
go. But in a reasonable time she found herself in the Witton household,
and the maid who had charge of her room had some lively minutes after the
arrival of the old lady therein.
The next day she went to Thorbury to see what had happened, and chanced
to spy Phoebe resting herself on a bench at the edge of the public green.
Instantly the colored woman sprang to her feet, and began to explain to
Miss Panney why she had not made her report before the latter set out on
"You see, ma'am, I hadn't no shoes as was fit for that long walk out in
the country, an' I had to take my best ones to the shoemaker; and though
I did my best to make him hurry, it took him a whole day, an' so I had to
put off going to Cobhurst, an' I've never got over my walk out thar yit.
My j'ints has creaked ever sense."
"If you used them more, they would creak less," snapped Miss Panney. "How
are things going on at Cobhurst? What did you see there?"
"I seed a lot, an' I heard a lot," the colored woman answered. "Mike's
purty nigh starved, an' does his own washin'. An' things are in that
state in the house that would make you sick, Miss Panney, if you could
see them. What the rain doesn't wash goes dirty; an' as for that old cook
they've got, if she isn't drunk all the time, her mind's givin' way, an'
I expect she'll end by pizenin' all of them. The vittles she gave me to
eat, bein' nearly tired to death when I got thar, was sich that they give
me pains that I hain't got over yit. And what would have happened if I'd
eat a full meal, nobody knows."
"Get out with you," cried Miss Panney. "I don't want any more of your
jealousy and spite. If that woman gave you anything to eat, I expect it
was the only decently cooked thing you ever put into your mouth. Did you
see Mr. Haverley? Were the Drane women still there? How were they all
getting on together?"
Phoebe's eyes sparkled, and her voice took in a little shrillness.
"I was goin' to git the minister to write you a letter 'bout that, Miss
Panney," said she; "but you didn't tell me whar you was goin', nor give
me no money for stamps nor nothin'. But I kin say to you now that that
woman, which some people may call a cook, but I don't, she told me,
without my askin' a word 'bout nothin', that Mr. Hav'ley an' that little
Miss Drane was to be married in the fall, an' that they was goin' away,
all of them, to the wife's mother's to live, bein' that that old farm
out thar didn't pay to run, an' never would. I reckoned they'd git sick
of it afore this, which I always said."
"Phoebe!" exclaimed Miss Panney, "I do not believe a word of all that!
How dare you tell me such a lot of lies?"
Phoebe was getting very angry, though she did not dare to show it; but
instead of taking back anything she had said, she put on more lie-power.
"You may believe me, Miss Panney, or you needn't; that's just as you
choose," she said "but I can tell you more than I have told you, and that
is, that from what I've seen and heard, I believe Mr. Hav'ley an' Miss
Drane is married already, an' that they was only waitin' for the
Tolbridges to come home to send out the cards."
Miss Panney glared at the woman. "I tell you what I believe, and that
is that you never went to Cobhurst at all. You must tell me something,
and you are making up the biggest story you can," and with this she
"I reckon the next time she sends me on an arrand," thought Phoebe,
whose face would have been very red if her natural color had not
interfered with the exhibition of such a hue, "she'll send me in a hack,
and pay me somethin' for my time. I was bound to tell her 'zactly what
she didn't want to hear, an' I reckon I done it, an' more'n that if she
gets her back up 'bout this, an' goes out to Cobhurst, that old cook'll
find herself in hot water. It was mighty plain that she was dreadful
skeered for fear anybody would think thar was somethin' goin' on 'twixt
If Phoebe had been more moderate in her doubleheaded treachery, Miss
Panney might have been much disturbed by her news, but the story she had
heard was so preposterous that she really believed that the lazy colored
woman had not gone to Cobhurst, and by the time she reached the Bannister
house her mind was cleared for the reception of fresh impressions.
She was fortunate enough to find Dora alone, and as soon as it was
prudent she asked her what news she had heard from Cobhurst. Dora was
looking her loveliest in an early autumn costume, and answered that she
had heard nothing at all, which surprised Miss Panney very much, for she
had expected that Miriam would have been to see Dora before this time.
"Common politeness would dictate that," said Miss Panney, "but I expect
that that child is so elated and excited by getting back to the head of
her household that everything else has slipped out of her mind. But if
you two are such close friends, I don't think you ought to mind that sort
of thing. If I were you, I would go out and see her. Eccentric people
must be humored."
"They needn't expect that from me," said Dora, a little sharply. "If
Miriam lived there by herself, I might go; but as it is, I shall not. It
is their duty to come here, and I shall not go there until they do."
Miss Panney drummed upon the table, but otherwise did not show her
"We can never live the life we ought in this world, my dear," she said,
"if we allow our sensitive fancies to interfere with the advancement of
"Miss Panney," cried Dora, sitting upright in her chair, "do you mean
that I ought to go out there, and try to catch Ralph Haverley, no matter
how they treat me?"
"Yes," said Miss Panney, leaning back in her chair, "that is exactly what
I mean. There is no use of our mincing matters, and as I hold that it is
the duty of every young woman to get herself well married, I think it is
your duty to marry Mr. Haverley if you can. You will never meet a man
better suited to you, and who can use your money with as much advantage
to yourself. I do not mean that you should go and make love to him, or
anything of that sort. I simply mean that you should allow him to expose
himself to your influences."
"I shall do nothing of the kind!" cried Dora, her face in a flush; "if he
wants that sort of exposure, let him come here. I don't know whether I
want him to come or not. I am too young to be thinking of marrying
anybody, and though I don't want to be disrespectful to you, Miss Panney,
I will say that I am getting dreadfully tired of your continual harping
about Ralph Haverley, and trying to make me push myself in front of him
so that his lordship may look at me. If he had been at Barport, or there
had been any chance of his coming there, I should have suspected that you
went there for the express purpose of keeping us up to the work of
becoming attached to each other. And I say plainly that I shall have no
more to do with exerting influence on him, through his sister or in any
other way. There are thousands of other men just as good as he is, and
if I have not met any of them yet, I have no doubt I shall do so."
"Dora," said Miss Panney, speaking very gently, "you are wrong when you
say that there was no chance of Ralph's coming to Barport. If some things
had not gone wrong, I have reason to believe he would have been there
before you left, and I am quite sure that if you had stayed there until
now, you would have been walking on the sands with him at this minute."
Dora looked at her in surprise, and the flush on her face subsided a
"What do you mean?" she asked. "You do not think he would have gone there
on my account?"
"Yes, I do," said Miss Panney. "That is exactly what I mean, and now, my
dear Dora, do not let--"
At this moment Mrs. Bannister walked into the room, and was very glad
to see Miss Panney, and to know that she had returned in safety from
When Dora went up to her room, after the visitor had gone, she shut the
door and sat down to think.
"After all," she said to herself, "I do not believe much in the thousand
other men. Not one of them is here, and none may ever come, and if Ralph
really did intend to come to me at the seashore, I wish we had stayed
there. It is such a good place to find out just how people feel."
In this frame of mind she sat and thought and thought, until a servant,
who had been to the post office, came up and brought her a note from
The next morning Dora Bannister, in an open carriage, drawn by the
family bays, appeared at the door of the Witton mansion. Miss Panney,
with overshoes on and a little shawl about her, for the mornings were
beginning to be cool, was walking up and down between two rows of
old-fashioned boxwood bushes. She hurried forward, for she knew very well
that Dora had not come to call on the Wittons.
"Miss Panney," said the young lady, "I am on my way to Cobhurst, and I
thought you might like to go there, and so if you choose, I shall be glad
to take you with me."
"Now, my dear girl," said Miss Panney, "you are a trump. I always thought
you were, but I will not say anything more about that. I shall be
delighted to go with you, and we can talk on the way. If you will come in
or take a seat on the piazza, I shall be ready in five minutes."
As Miss Panney busied herself preparing for the drive and the call, her
mind was a great deal more active than her rapid fingers. She had been
intending to go to Cobhurst, but did not wish to do so until she had
decided what she should say to Ralph about the telegram she had sent him.
Until that morning, this had given her very little concern, but as the
time approached when it would be absolutely necessary to speak upon the
subject, she found that she was a good deal concerned about it. She saw
that it was very important that nothing should be said to rouse Ralph
But now everything seemed bright and clear before her. After Dora,
looking perfectly lovely, as she did this morning, had shone upon Ralph
for half an hour, or even less, the old lady felt that if the young man
asked her any questions about her telegram she would not in the least
mind telling him how she came to send it, giving him, of course, a
version of her motive which would make him understand her anxious
solicitude, in case anything had happened to any one dear to him, that
his arrival should not be delayed an instant, as well as the sympathetic
delight she would have felt in witnessing the joy his presence in Barport
would cause to the dear ones, alive and well.
This somewhat complicated explanation might need policy and alteration,
but Miss Panney now felt quite ready for anything Ralph might ask about
the telegram. If any one else asked any questions, she would answer as
happened to please her.
As they drove away Miss Panney immediately began to congratulate Dora on
her return to her senses. She was in high good humor, "You ought to know,
my dear, that if the loveliest woman in the world found herself stuck in
a quagmire, it would be quite foolish for her to expect that the right
sort of man would come and pull her out. In all probability it would be
precisely the wrong sort of man who would do it. Consequently, it would
be wise in her if she saw the right sort of man going by, not only to let
him know that she was there, but to let him understand that she was worth
pulling out. All women are born in a quagmire, and some are so anxious to
get out that they take the first hand that is stretched toward them, and
some, I am sorry to say, never get out at all. But they are the wise
ones who do not leave it to chance, who shall be their liberators. Number
yourself, my dear, among this happy class. I am so glad it is cool enough
this morning for you to wear that lovely costume. It is as likely as not
that by tomorrow it will be too warm. All these little things tell, my
child, and I am glad to know that even the thermometer is your friend."
"I had a letter from Miriam yesterday afternoon," said Dora, "in which
she told me that her brother Ralph is engaged to Miss Drane."
Miss Panney turned around like a weather vane struck by a squall. She
seized the girl's arm with her bony fingers.
"What!" she exclaimed.
Ordinarily, the pain of the old lady's grasp would have made Dora wince,
but she did not seem to feel it. Without the slightest sign of emotion in
her face, she answered,--
"It is so. It happened while I was at Barport."
"Stop!" cried Miss Panney, in a voice that made the driver pull up his
horses with a jerk. In a moment she had stepped from the low carriage to
the ground, and with quick strides was walking back to the Witton house.
Dora turned in the seat, looked after her, and laughed. It was a sudden,
bitter laugh, which the circumstances made derisive.
Never before had Miss Panney's soul been so stung, burned, and
lacerated, all at once, as by this laugh. But the sound had scarcely
left Dora Bannister's lips when she bounded out of the carriage and ran
after the old lady. Throwing her arms around her neck, she kissed her
on the cheek.
"I am awfully sorry I did that," she said, "and I beg your pardon. I
don't mind the thing a bit, and won't you let me take you home in the
Dora might as well have embraced a milestone and talked to it, for
the moment she could release herself, Miss Panney stalked away
without a word.
When she was again driving toward Cobhurst, Dora took from the front of
the carriage a little hand mirror, and carefully arranged her hat, her
feathers, her laces and ribbons. Then having satisfied herself that her
features were in perfect order, she put back her glass.
"I am not going to let any of them see," she said, "that I mind it in
PANNEYOPATHY AND THE ASH-HOLE
Neither Ralph nor his sister nor either of the Drane ladies had the least
reason to believe that Dora minded the news contained in Miriam's note,
except that it had given her a heartfelt delight and joy, and that it had
made her unable to wait a single moment longer than was necessary to come
and tell them all how earnestly she congratulated them, and what a
capital good thing she thought it was. She caught Ralph by himself and
spoke to him so much like a sympathetic sister that he was a little,
just the least little bit in the world, pained.
As Cicely had never had any objection to Miss Bannister, excepting her
frequent appearances in Ralph's conversation, she received Dora's
felicitations with the same cordiality that she saw in her lovely eyes
and on her lips. And Mrs. Drane thought that if this girl were a sample
of the Haverleys' friends and neighbors, her daughter's lot would be even
more pleasant than she had supposed it would be. As for Miriam, she and
Dora walked together, their arms around each other's waists, up and down
in the garden, and back and forward in the orchard, until the Bannister
coachman went to sleep on his box.
During this long interview, the younger girl became impressed, not only
with the fact that Dora thought so well of the match, that, if she had
been looking for a wife for Ralph, she certainly would have selected Miss
Drane, but with the stability of Miss Bannister's affection for her,
which did not seem to be affected in the least by the changes which would
take place in the composition of the Cobhurst household. Dora had said,
indeed, that she had no doubt that she and Miriam would be more intimate
than ever, because Mr. Haverley would be so monopolized by his wife.
This was all very pleasant to Miriam, but it did not in the least cause
her to regret Ralph's choice. Dora was a lovely girl, but it was now
plainer than ever that she was also a very superior one, whereas Cicely
was just like other people and did not pretend to be anything more, and,
moreover, she would not have wished her brother to marry anyone whose
idea of matrimony was the monopoly of her husband, and she knew that
Cicely had no such idea. But Dora was the dearest of good friends, Miriam
was very sure of that.
The Bannister carriage had scarcely left the Cobhurst gates when the dog,
Congo, came bounding after it. Dora looked at him as his great brown eyes
were turned up towards her, and his tail was wagging with the joy of
following her once more, she knew that his training was so good that she
had only to tell him to go back and he would obey her, sorrowfully, with
his tail hanging down. He was Ralph's dog now, and she ought to send him
back, but would she? She looked at him for a few moments, considering the
question, and then she said,--
"Come, Congo" and with a bound he was in the carriage and at her feet.
"You were not an out and out gift, poor fellow," she said, stroking his
head. "I expected you to be partly my dog, all the same, and now we will
see if she will let him claim you."
The dog heard all this, but Dora spoke so low, the coachman could not
hear it, and she did not intend that any one else should know it unless
the dog told.
Ralph did not miss Congo until the next morning, and then, having become
convinced that the dog must have followed the Bannister carriage, he
expressed, in the presence of Cicely, his uncertainty as to whether it
would be better for him to go after the dog himself, or to send Mike.
"If I were you," said Miss Cicely, "I would not send for him at all. If
Miss Bannister really wants to get rid of him, and does not know anybody
else who would take him, she may send him back herself. But it seems to
me that a setter is not the best sort of a dog for a farm like this. I
should think you ought to have a big mastiff, or something of that sort."
"It is a great pity," said Ralph, musingly, "that he happened to be
"The more I think about it," said Cicely, "the less I like setters. They
are so intimately connected with the death of the beautiful. Did you ever
think of that?"
Ralph never had, and as a man now came up to talk to him about hay, the
dog and everything connected with it passed out of his mind.
When Miss Panney reached home after her abrupt parting from Dora
Bannister, she took a dose of the last medicine that Dr. Tolbridge had
prescribed for her. It was against her rules to use internal medicines,
but she made exceptions on important occasions, and as this was a remedy
for the effects of anger, she had taken it before and she took it now.
Then she went to bed and there she stayed until three o'clock the next
afternoon. This greatly disturbed the Wittons, for they had always
believed that this hearty old lady would not be carried off by any
disease, but when her time had come would simply take to her bed and die
there, after the manner of elderly animals.
About the middle of the afternoon Mrs. Witton came up into her room. She
did not do this often, for the old lady had always made everybody in the
house understand that this room was her castle, and when any one was
wanted there, he or she would be summoned.
"You must be feeling very badly," said the meek and anxious Mrs. Witton
"don't you think it would be better to send for a doctor?"
"There is no doctor," said Miss Panney, shortly.
"Oh yes," said the other, "there are several excellent doctors in
Thorbury, and Dr. Parker takes all of Dr. Tolbridge's practice while
he is away."
"Stuff!" remarked Miss Panney. "I spanked Dr. Parker, when he wore
little frocks, for running his tin wheelbarrow against me so that I
nearly fell over it."
"But he has learned a great deal since then," pleaded Mrs. Witton "and if
you do not want any new doctors, isn't there something I can do for you?
If you will tell me how you feel, it may be that some sort of herb
tea--or a mustard plaster--"
"Gammon and spinach!" cried Miss Panney, throwing off the bedclothes as
if she were about to spring into the middle of the floor. "I want no teas
nor plasters. I have had as much sleep as I care for, and now I am going
to get up. So trot downstairs, if you please, and tell Margaret to bring
me up some hot water."
For an hour or two before supper time, Miss Panney occupied herself in
clearing out her medicine closet. Every bottle, jar, vial, box, or
package it contained was placed upon a large table and divided into two
collections. One consisted of the lotions and medicines prescribed for
her by Dr. Tolbridge, and the other of those she herself, in the course
of many years, had ordered or compounded,--not only for her own use, but
for that of others. She had long prided herself on her skill in this sort
of thing, and was always willing to prepare almost any sort of medicine
for ailing people, asking nothing in payment but the pleasure of seeing
them take it.
When everything had been examined and placed on its appropriate end of
the table, Miss Panney called for an empty coalscuttle, into which she
tumbled, without regard to spilling or breakage, the whole mass of
medicaments which had been prepared or prescribed by herself, and she
then requested the servant to deposit the contents of the scuttle in
"After this," she said to herself, "I will get somebody else to do my
concocting," and she carefully replaced her physician's medicines on
It was three days later when Miss Panney was told that Dr. Tolbridge was
in the parlor and wished to see her.
"Well," said the old lady, as she entered the parlor, "I supposed that
after your last call here, you would not come again."
"Oh, bless my soul!" said the doctor, "I haven't any time to consider
what has happened, I must give my whole attention to what is happening or
may happen. How are you? and how have you been during my absence?"
"Oh, I had medicines enough" said she, "if I had needed them, but
"Well, I wanted to see for myself, and, besides, I was obliged to come,"
said the doctor; "I want to know what has happened since we left. We got
home late last night, and I have not seen anybody who knows anything."
"And so," said the old lady, "you will swallow an insult in order to
gratify your curiosity."
"Insult, indeed!" said he. "I have a regular rule about insults. When
anybody under thirty insults me, I give her a piece of my mind if she is
a woman, and a taste of my horsewhip if he is a man. But between thirty
and fifty, I am very careful about my resentments, because people are
then very likely to be cracked or damaged in some way or other, either in
body or mind, and unless I am very cautious, I may do more injury than I
intend. But toward folks over fifty, especially when they are old
friends, I have no resentments at all. I simply button up my coat and
turn up my collar, and let the storm pelt; and when it is fine weather
again, I generally find that I have forgotten that it ever rained."
"And when a person is in the neighborhood of seventy-five, I suppose you
thank her kindly for a good slap in the face."
The doctor laughed heartily.
"Precisely," said he. "And now tell me what has happened. You are all
right, I see. How are the Cobhurst people getting on?"
"Oh, well enough," said Miss Panney. "The young man and that Cicely Drane
of yours have agreed to marry each other, and I suppose the old lady
will live with them, and Miriam will have to get down from her high horse
and agree to play second fiddle, or go to school again. She is too young
for anything else."
The doctor stared. "You amaze me!" he cried.
"Oh, you needn't be amazed," said Miss Panney; "I did it!"
"You?" said the doctor, "I thought you wanted him to marry Dora."
"If you thought that," said Miss Panney, flashing her black eyes upon
him, "why did you lend yourself to such an underhanded piece of business
as the sending of that Drane girl there?"
"Oh, bless my soul!" exclaimed the doctor, "I did not lend myself to
anything. I did not send her there to be married. Let us drop that, and
tell me how you came to change your mind."
"I have a rule about dropping things," said the old lady, "and with
people of vigorous intellect, I never do it, but when any one is getting
on in years and a little soft-minded, so that he does what he is told to
do without being able to see the consequences of it, I pity him and drop
the subject which worries his conscience. I have not changed my mind in
the least. I still think that Dora would be the best wife young Haverley
could have, and after I found that you had added to your treacheries or
stupidities, or whatever they were, by carrying her off to Barport, I
intended to take advantage of the situation, so I got Dora to invite
Miriam there, feeling sure that the Drane women would have sense enough
to know that they then ought to leave Cobhurst; but they had not sense
enough, and they stayed there. Then I saw that the situation was
critical, and went to Barport myself, and sent the young man a telegram
that would have aroused the heart of a feather-bed and made it be with me
in three hours, but it did not rouse him and he did not come; and before
that silly Mrs. Bannister got back with the two girls, the mischief was
done, and that little Drane had taken advantage of the opportunity I had
given her to trap Mr. Ralph. Oh, she is a sharp one! and with you and me
to help her, she could do almost anything. You take off her rival, and I
send away the interfering sister; and all she has to do is to snap up the
young man, while her mother and that illustrious cook of yours stand by
and clap their hands. But I do not give you much credit. You are merely
an inconsiderate blunderer, to say no more. You did not plan anything; I
did that, and when my plans don't work one way, they do in another. This
one was like a boomerang that did not hit what it was aimed at, but came
banging and clattering back all the same. And now I will remark that I
have given up that sort of thing. I can throw as well as ever, but I am
too old to stand the back-cracks."
"You are not too old for anything," said the doctor, "and you and I will
do a lot of planning yet. But tell me one thing; do you think that this
Haverley-Drane combination is going to deprive me of La Fleur?"
"Upon my word!" cried the old lady, springing to her feet, "never did I
see a man so steeped in selfishness. Not a word of sympathy for me! In
all this unfortunate affair, you think of nothing but the danger of
losing your cook! Well, I am happy to say you are going to lose her. That
will be your punishment, and well you deserve it. She will no more think
of staying with you, after the Dranes set up housekeeping at Cobhurst,
than I would think of coming to cook for you. And so you may go back to
your soggy bread, and your greasy fries, and your dishwater coffee, and
get yellow and green in the face, thin in the legs, and weak in the
stomach, and have good reason to say to yourself that if you had let Miss
Panney alone, and let her work out that excellent plan she had confided
to you, you would have lived to a healthy old age, with the best cook in
this part of the country making you happy three times a day, and
satisfied with the world between meals."
"Deal gently with the erring," said the doctor. "Don't crush me. I want
to go to Cobhurst this morning, to see them all, and find out my fate.
Wouldn't you like to go with me? I have a visit to make, two or three
miles above here, but I shall be back soon, and will drive you over. What
do you say?"
"Very good," said Miss Panney. "I have been thinking of calling on the
As soon as the doctor had departed Miss Panney ordered her phaeton.
"I intended going to Cobhurst to-day," she said to herself, "but I do not
propose to go with him. I shall get there first and see how the land
lies, before he comes to muddle up things with his sordid anxieties about
his future victuals and drink."
The roan mare travelled well that morning, and Miss Panney was at
Cobhurst before the doctor reached his patient's house. To her regret
she found that Mrs. Drane and Miriam had driven to Thorbury. Miss
Drane was upstairs at her work, and Mr. Haverley was somewhere on the
place, but could easily be found. All this she learned from Mike, whom
she saw outside.
"And where is the cook?"
"She's in the kitchen," said Mike.
"A good place for her," replied the old lady; "let her stay there. I will
see Mr. Haverley, and I will see him out here. Go and find him and tell
him I am sitting under that tree."
Ralph arrived, bright-eyed.
"Well, sir," cried the old lady, "and so you have decided to take a wife
to yourself, eh?"
"Indeed I have," said he, with the air of one who had conquered a
continent, and giving Miss Panney's outstretched hand a hearty shake.
"Sit down here," said she, "and tell me all about it. I suppose your soul
is hungering for congratulations."
"Oh yes," he said, laughing; "they are the collateral delights which are
next best to the main happiness."
"Now," said Miss Panney, "I suppose you feel quite certain that Miss
Drane is a young woman who will suit your temperament and your general
"Indeed I do," cried Ralph. "She suits me in every possible way."
"And you have thoroughly investigated her character, and know that she
has the well-balanced mind which will be very much wanted here, and that
she has cut off and swept away all remnants of former attachments to
other young men?"
Ralph twisted himself around impatiently.
"One moment," said Miss Panney, raising her hand. "And you are quite
positive that she would have been willing to marry you if you had not
owned this big farm; and that if you had had a dozen other girls to
choose from, you still would have chosen her; and that you really think
such a small person will appear well by the side of a tall fellow like
you; and you are entirely convinced that you will never look around on
other men's wives and wish that your wife was more like this one or that
one; and that--"
"Miss Panney!" cried Ralph, "do you suppose there was ever a man in the
world who thought about all those things when he really loved a woman?"
"No," said she, "I do not suppose there ever was one, and it was in the
hope that such a one had at last appeared on earth that I put my
questions to you."
"Well, I can answer them all in a bunch," said he; "she is exactly the
wife I want, and nobody in the world would suit me as well. And if there
is any one who does not think so--"
"Stop!" exclaimed Miss Panney; "your face is getting red. Never jump over
a wall when there is a bottomless ditch on the other side. You might miss
the ditch, but it is not likely. You are in love, and when people are
that way, the straight back of a saw is parallel to every line of its
teeth. Don't quarrel, and I will go on with my congratulations."
"Very queer ones they are so far, I am sure," replied Ralph, his face
still flushed a little.
"Oh yes," said Miss Panney, rising, "there are a lot of queer things in
this world, and I may be one of them. Now I will go and see your young
lady. I do not know her very well yet, and I must make her better
"Miss Panney," said Ralph, quickly, "if you are going to stir her up with
questions such as you put to me, I beg you will not see her."
"Boy, boy," said the old lady, "don't bubble and boil. I have a great
regard for you, and care a great deal more for you than I do for her, and
it is only people that I care a great deal for that I stir up. Go back to
your grindstone, or whatever you were at work at, and do not worry your
mind about your little Cicely. It may be that I shall like her enough to
wish that I had made the match."
When Cicely accidentally met Ralph in the garden, a few hours later, she
said to him that she could not have imagined that Miss Panney was such a
dear old lady.
"Why, Ralph," said the girl, looking up at him with moistened eyes, "she
talked to me so sweetly and gave me such good advice that I actually
cried. And never before, dear Ralph, did good advice make me feel so
happy that I had to cry."
And at this point the two wood doves, who had become regular detectives,
actually pecked at each other in their despair of emulation.
Miss Panney's interview with Cicely had not been very long, because the
old lady was anxious to see La Fleur before the doctor got there, and she
went down into the kitchen, where, although she did not know it, the cook
was expecting her. La Fleur's soul was in a state of turbulent triumph,
but her expression was as soft as a dish of jelly.
Miss Panney sat down on the chair offered her, while the cook
"I came down to ask you," said the old lady, "if you have heard whether
Dr. Tolbridge and his wife have returned. I suppose you will be going
back to them immediately."
"Oh no," said La Fleur, her eyes humbly directed toward the floor as she
spoke, "at least not for a permanency. I shall get the doctor a good
cook. I shall make it my business to see that she is a person fully
capable of filling the position. I have my eyes on such a one. As for me,
I shall stay here with my dear Miss Cicely."
"Good heavens, woman!" exclaimed Miss Panney, "your Miss Cicely isn't
head of this house. What do you mean by talking in that way? Miss
Haverley is mistress of this establishment. Haven't you sense enough to
know that you are in her service, and that Miss Drane and her mother are
Not a quiver or a shake was seen on the surface of the gentle jelly.
"Oh, of course," said La Fleur, with her head on one side, and her
smile at its angle of humility, "I meant that I would come to her when
she is settled here as Mrs. Haverley, and her dear mother is living
with her, and when Miss Miriam has gone to finish her education at
whatever seminary is decided on. Then this house will seem like my true
home, and begging your pardon, madam, you cannot imagine how happy I am
going to be."
"You!" exclaimed Miss Panney. "What earthly difference does it make to
anybody whether you are happy or not?"
The jelly seemed to grow softer and more transparent.
"I am only a cook," said La Fleur, "but I can be as happy as persons of
the highest quality, and I understand their natures very well, having
lived with them. And words cannot tell you, madam, how it gladdens my old
heart to think that I had so much to do myself with the good fortunes of
us all, for the Dranes and me are a happy family now, and I hope may long
be so, and hold together. I am sure I did everything that my humble mind
could conceive, to give those two every chance of being together, and to
keep other people away by discussing household matters whenever needed;
for I had made up my mind that Miss Cicely and Mr. Haverley were born for
each other, and if I could help them get each other, I would do it. When
your telegram came, madam, it disturbed me, for I saw that it might spoil
everything, by taking him away just at the time when they had nobody but
each other for company, and when he was beginning to forget that he had
ever been engaged to Miss Bannister, as you told me he was, madam, though
I think you must have been a little mistaken, as we are all apt to be
through thinking that things are as we want them to be. But I couldn't
help feeling thankful that nobody but me was home when the telegram was
brought without any envelope on it, and I had no chance to give it to him
until it was too late to take a train that night; for the trouble the
poor gentleman was in on account of his sister, being sure, of course,
that something had happened to her, put him into such a doleful way that
Miss Cicely gave herself up, heart and soul, to comfort him. And when a
beautiful young woman does that for a young man, their hearts are sure to
run together, like two eggs broken into one bowl. Now that's exactly what
theirs did that night, for being so anxious about them I watched them and
kept Mrs. Drane away. The very next morning when I asked her to go into
the garden and pick some lettuce, and then told him where she was, he
offered himself and was accepted. So you see, madam, that without
boasting, or exalting myself above others, I may really claim that I made
this match that I set my heart on. Although, to be sure--for I don't
take away rightful credit from anybody--some of the credit is yours for
having softened up their hearts with your telegram, just at the very
moment when that sort of softening could be of the most use."
Miss Panney sat up very cold and severe.
"La Fleur," said she, "I thought you were a cook who prided herself on
attending to her business. Since I have been sitting here, listening to
your twaddle, the cat has been making herself comfortable in that pan of
bread dough that you set by the fire to rise."
La Fleur turned around; her impulse was to seize a poker and rush at
the cat. But she stood where she was and infused more benignity into
"Poor thing," said she, "she doesn't do any harm. There's a thick
towel over the pan, and I should be ashamed of my yeast if it couldn't
lift a cat."
When Miss Panney went upstairs she laughed. She did not want to laugh,
but she could not help it. She had scarcely driven out of the gate when
she met Dr. Tolbridge.
"A pretty trick you have played me!" he cried.
"Yes, indeed, a very pretty one," replied the old lady, pulling up her
mare. "I thought you knew me better than to think that I would come here
to look into this engagement business with you or anybody else. Or that I
would let you get ahead of me, either. Well, I have got all the points I
want, and more too, and now you can go along, and Mr. Ralph will tell you
that he is the happiest man in the world, and your secretary will tell
you that she is the happiest young woman, and the cook you are going to
lose will vow that she is the happiest old woman, and if you stay until
Mrs. Drane and Miriam come back, the one will tell you that she is the
happiest middle-aged woman, and the other that she is the happiest girl,
and if you give Mike a half dollar, he will tell you that he is the
happiest negro in the world. Click!"
The doctor went on to Cobhurst, where Mrs. Drane and Miriam soon arrived,
and he heard everything that Miss Panney told him he would hear.
THE SIREN AND THE IRON
The summer, the Dranes, La Fleur, and Miriam had all left Cobhurst. The
summer had gone south for an eight months' stay; the Dranes had gone to
their old Pennsylvania home to settle up their affairs, and prepare for
the marriage of the younger lady, which was to take place early in the
coming spring; La Fleur had returned to the Tolbridges' to remain until
the new Cobhurst household should be organized; and Miriam, whose
association with Dora and Cicely had aroused her somewhat dormant
aspirations in an educational direction, had gone to Mrs. Stone's school
for the winter term.
November had come to Cobhurst, and there Ralph remained to get his farm
ready for the winter, and his house in order for the bride who would come
with the first young leaves. He did not regret this period of solitary
bachelorhood, for not having very much money, he required a good deal of
time to do what was to be done.
He had planned a good deal of refitting for the house, although not so
much as to deprive it of any of those characteristics which made it dear
old Cobhurst. And there were endless things to do on the farm, the most
important of which, in his eyes, was the breaking of the pair of colts,
which task he intended to take into his own hands. Mrs. Browning and the
gig were very well in their places, but something more would be needed
when the green leaves came.
Seraphina, Mike's sister, now ruled in the kitchen, but Ralph's thoughts
had acquired such a habit of leaving the subject on which he was engaged
and flying southward, that even when he took a meal with the Tolbridges,
which happened not infrequently, he scarcely noticed the difference
between their table and his own. Nothing stronger than this could be said
regarding his present power of abstracting his mind from surrounding
His income was a limited one, although it had been a good deal helped by
the products of his farm, and he had to do a great deal of calculating
with his pencil before he dared to order work which would oblige him to
draw a check with his pen. But by thus giving two dollars' worth of
thought to every dollar of expenditure, he made his money go a long way,
and the lively and personal interest he took in every little improvement,
made a garden fence to him of as much importance and satisfaction as a
new post-office would have been to the people of Thorbury.
One day he went into a hardware store of the town to buy some nails, and
there he met Miss Panney, who had just purchased a corkscrew.
"A thing you will not want for some time," she said, "for you do not look
as if you needed anything to cheer your soul. Now tell me, young man, is
it really the engagement rapture that has lasted all this time?"
"Oh, yes," said Ralph, laughing, "and besides that I have had all sorts
of good fortune. For instance, one of my hens, setting unbeknown to
anybody in a warm corner of the barn, has hatched out a dozen little
chicks. Think of that at this season! I have put them in a warm room, and
by the time we begin housekeeping we shall have spring chickens to eat
before anybody else. And then there is that black colt, Dom Pedro. I had
great doubts about him, because he showed such decided symptoms of free
will, but now he is behaving beautifully. He has become thoroughly
reconciled to a haycart. I have driven him in a light wagon with his
sister, and he is just as good as she is, and yesterday I drove him
single, and find that he has made up his mind to learn everything I can
teach him. Now isn't that a fine thing?"
"Oh, yes," said Miss Panney, "it must be such things as those that make
your eyes sparkle! But of course it warms your heart to give her delicate
eating when she first comes to you, and to have a fine pair of horses for
her to drive behind. If your face beams as it does now while she is
away, it will serve as an electric light when she comes back. Good
fortune! Oh, yes, of course, you consider that you have it in full
measure. But we are sometimes apt to look on our friends' good fortune in
an odd way. Now, if I had wanted you to go to Boston to get rich, and
instead of that you had insisted on going to Nantucket, and had become
rich there, I suppose that I should have been satisfied as long as you
were prosperous, but I do not believe I would have been; at least, not
entirely so. In this world we do want people to do what we think they
ought to do."
"Yes," said Ralph, knowingly, "I see. But now, Miss Panney, don't you
really think that Boston would have been too rich a place for me? That it
would have expected too much of me, and that perhaps it would have done
too much for me? Boston is a good enough place, but if you only knew how
much lovelier Nantucket is--"
"Stop, stop, boy!" said the old lady. "I am getting so old now, that I am
obliged to stop happy people and disappointed people from talking to me.
If I listened to all they had to say, I should have no time for anything
else. By the way, have you heard any news from the Bannister family? That
sedate Herbert is going to be married, and he intends to live with his
wife in the Bannister mansion."
"And how will his sister like that?" asked Ralph.
"She won't like it at all. She has told me she is going away."
"I am sorry for that," he said. "That is too bad."
"Not at all. She could not do better. A girl like that in a town such as
Thorbury, with nobody to marry her but the rector, is as much out of
place as a canary bird in a poultry yard. I have advised her to visit her
relatives in town, and go with them to Europe, where I hope she will
marry a prince. Good conscience! Look at her! Imagine that girl in a
sweeping velvet robe with one great diamond blazing on her breast."
Ralph turned quickly, and as his eyes fell upon Dora, as she entered the
store, it struck him that no royal gowns could make her more beautiful
than she was at that moment.
"Now, my dear," said Miss Panney, "what did you come here for? Do you
want a saw or a pitchfork?"
"I came," said Dora, with her most charming smile, "because I saw you two
in here, and I wanted to speak to you. It is a funny place for this sort
of thing, but I do not see either of you very often, now, and I thought I
would like to tell you, before you heard it from any one else, of my
"To whom?" cried Miss Panney, in a voice that made the ox-chains rattle.
Dora looked around anxiously, but there was no one in the front part of
"To Mr. Ames," she replied.
"The rector!" exclaimed Ralph.
"Yes," said Dora; "I want to write to Miriam about it, and do you know I
have lost her address."
"Dora Bannister," interrupted Miss Panney, "it may be a little early to
make bridal presents, but I want to give you this corkscrew. It is a
very good one, and I think that after a while you will have need of it.
When the old lady had abruptly departed, the two young people laughed,
and Ralph offered his congratulations.
"I do not know Mr. Ames very well," he said, "but I have heard no end of
good of him. But this is very surprising. It seems--"
"Seems what?" asked Dora.
"Well, since you ask me," Ralph answered, hesitating a little, "it seems
odd, not, perhaps, that you should marry the rector, but that you should
marry anybody. You appear to me too young to marry."
"Oh, indeed!" said Dora; "you think that?"
"I do not know that you understand me," said Ralph, "but I mean that you
are so full of youth--and all that, and enjoy life so much, that it is
a pity that you should not have more of youthful enjoyment before you
begin any other kind."
"Truly," said she, "I never looked at the matter in that light. Perhaps I
ought to have done so. You think me too young, and if you had had a
chance, perhaps you would have warned me! You are so kind and so
considerate, but don't you think you ought to speak to Mr. Ames about it?
He does not know you very well, but he has heard no end of good of you,
and perhaps what you say might make him reflect."
As she spoke she looked at him with her eyes not quite so wide open as
usual. Ralph returned her gaze steadfastly.
"I know what you are thinking of," he said. "You are thinking of a fable
with an animal in it and some fruit, and the animal was a small one, and
the fruit was on a high trellis."
"Oh, dear," said Dora. "It must be very nice to have read as much as you
have, and to know fables and all sorts of things to refer to. But my life
hasn't been long enough for all that."
The more Ralph's mind dwelt upon the matter, the more dissatisfied did he
feel that this beautiful young creature should marry the rector. If, in
truth, she applied the fable to him, this was all the more reason why he
should feel sorry for her. If anything of all this showed itself in his
eyes, he did not know it, but Dora's eyes opened to their full width, and
"I expect I surprise you," she said, "by talking to you of these things,
but I have so few friends to confide in. Herbert is wrapped up in his
own engagement, and Mrs. Bannister is entirely apart from me. Almost
ever since I have known you two, I have felt that Miriam and you were
friends with whom I could talk freely, and I am now going to tell you,
and I know you will never mention it, that I do not believe I shall ever
marry Mr. Ames."
"What!" exclaimed Ralph. "Didn't you say you were engaged to him?"
"Of course I said so; and I am, and I was very glad to be able to say it
to Miss Panney, for she is always bothering me about such things; but
the engagement is a peculiar one. Mr. Ames has been coming to see me for
a long time, and I think it was because he heard that I was planning to
go away that he decided to declare himself at once, before he lost his
opportunity. I told him that I had never thought of anything of the sort;
but he was very insistent, and at last I consented, provided the
engagement should be a long one, and that, if after I had seen more of
the world and knew myself better, I should decide to change my mind, I
must be allowed to do so. He fought terribly against this, but there was
nothing for him to do but agree, and so now we are engaged on
approbation, as it were. This is a great relief to me in various ways,
because I feel as if I were safely anchored, and not drifting about
whichever way the wind blows, while other people are sailing where they
want to; and yet, whenever I please, I can loosen my anchor, and spread
my sails, and skim away over the beautiful sea."
It is seldom that a siren, leaning lightly against a bright new
hay-cutter, with a background of iron rakes and hoes and spades, sings
her soft song. But it was so now, and Dora, her heart beating quickly,
looked from under her long lashes to note the effect of her words.
"If he will drop the little Drane," she said to herself, "I will drop
But Ralph stood looking past her. It was as plain as could be that he was
not approaching the rocks; that he did not like the song; and that he was
thinking what he should say about it.
"Oh, dear," said Dora, suddenly starting. "I have ever so much to do
this morning, and it must be nearly noon. I wonder what made that queer
Miss Panney think of giving me this corkscrew."
Ralph knew very well that the old lady meant the little implement as a
figurative auxiliary of consolation, but he merely remarked that Miss
Panney did and gave very queer things. He opened the door for her, and
she bade him good-by and went out.
She crossed the street, and when on the opposite sidewalk, she turned her
luminous eyes back upon the glass doors she had passed through.
But there was no one looking out after her. Ralph was standing at the
counter, buying nails.
LA FLEUR'S SOUL REVELS, AND MISS PANNEY PREPARES TO MAKE A FIRE
Cobhurst never looked more lovely than in the early June of the following
year. With the beauty of the trees, the grass, the flowers, the vines,
and all things natural, it possessed the added attractiveness of a
certain personal equation. To all the happy dwellers therein, the dear
old house appeared like one in which good people had always lived.
Although they used to think that it was as charming as could be, they now
perceived that the old mansion and all its surroundings had shown strong
evidences of that system of management which Mike called ramshackle. No
one said a word against any of the changes that Ralph had made, for in
spite of them Cobhurst was still Cobhurst.
On a bench under a tree by the side of the house sat La Fleur, shelling
some early spring peas, a tin basin of which she held in her lap. Mrs.
Drane, in a rustic chair near by, was sewing, and Miriam, who had come
laden with blossoms from the orchard, had stopped in the pleasant shade.
Mike, absolutely picturesque in a broad new straw hat, was out in the
sunshine raking some grass he had cut, and Seraphina, who remained in the
household as general assistant, could be seen through the open window of
"As I told you before, madam," said La Fleur, "I don't think you need
feel the least fear about the young horses. Their master has a steady
hand, and they know his voice, and as for Mrs. Haverley, she's no more
afraid of them than if they were two sheep. As they drove off this
afternoon, I had a feeling as if I were living with some of those great
families in the old country in whose service I have been. For, said I to
myself, 'Here is the young master of the house, actually going to drive
out with his handsome wife and his spirited horses, and that in the very
middle of the working day, and without the prospect of making a penny of
profit.' You don't see that often in this country, except, perhaps, among
the very, very rich who don't have to work. But it is a good sign when a
gentleman like Mr. Haverley sets such an upper-toned example to his
fellow young men.
"I spoke of that to Dr. Tolbridge once. 'Begging your pardon, sir,' said
I, 'it seems to me that you never drive out except when you have to.'
'Which is true,' said he, 'because I have to do it so much.' 'You will
excuse me, sir, for saying so,' said I, 'but if you did things for
pleasure sometimes, your mind would be rested, and you would feel more
like comprehending the deliciousness of some of my special dishes, which
I notice you now and again say nothing about, because you are so hungry
when you eat them, you don't notice their savoriness.'"
"La Fleur," said Mrs. Drane, "I am surprised that you should have spoken
to the doctor in that way."
"Oh, I have a mind," said La Fleur, "and I must speak it. My mind is like
a young horse--if I don't use it, it gets out of condition; and I don't
fear to speak to the doctor. He has brains, and he knows I have brains,
and he understands me. He said something like that when I left him, and I
am sure I never could have had a night's rest since if I hadn't put a
good woman there in my place. With what Mary Woodyard knows already, and
with me to pop in on her whenever I can coax Michael to drive me to town,
the doctor should never have need for any of his own medicines, so far as
"Don't you think," interpolated Miriam, "that there is a great deal more
said and done about eating than the subject is worth?"
Mrs. Drane looked a little anxiously at La Fleur, but the cook did not in
the least resent the remark.
"You are young yet, Miss Miriam," she said; "but when you are older, you
will think more of the higher branches of education, the very topmost of
which is cookery. But it's not only young people, but a good many older
ones, and some of them of high station, too, who think that cooking is
not a fit matter for the intellect to work on. When I lived with Lady
Hartleberry, she said over and over to my lord, and me too, that she
objected to the art works I sent up to the table, because she said that
the human soul ought to have something better to do than to give itself
up to the preparation of dishes that were no better to sustain the body
than if they had been as plain as a pike-staff. But I didn't mind her;
and everything that Tolati or La Fleur ever taught me, and everything I
invented for myself, I did in that house. My lady was an awfully serious
woman, and very particular about public worship: and on Sunday morning
she used to send the butler around to every servant with a little book,
and in that he put down what church each one was going to, and at what
time of day they would go. But when he came to me, I always said, 'La
Fleur goes to church when she likes and where she chooses.' And the
butler, being a man of brains, set down any church and time that happened
to suit his fancy, and my lady was never the wiser; and if I felt like
going to church, I went, and if I didn't, I didn't. But when the family
went to their seat in Scotland, they did not take their butler with them,
and the piper was sent round on Sunday morning to find out about the
servants going to church. And when he came to me, I said the same thing
I had always said, and do you know that pink-headed Scotchman put it down
in the book and carried it to my lady. And when she read it, she was in a
great rage, to be sure, and sent for me and wanted to know what I meant
by such a message. Then I told her I meant no offence by it, and that I
didn't think the idiot would put it down, but that I was too old to
change my ways, and that if her ladyship wasn't willing that I should
keep on in them, she would have to dismiss me. And then I curtsied and
left her; and my lord, when he heard of it, got a new piper. 'For,' said
he, 'a fool's a dangerous thing to have in the house,' and I stayed on
two years. So you see, Miss Miriam, that we are getting to the
point,--even my strait-laced lady made her opinions about church-going
give way before high art in her cook. For, as much as she might say
against my creations and compositions, she had gotten so used to 'em,
she couldn't do without 'em."
"Well," said Miriam, "I suppose when the time comes I do not like
everything as I do now, I shall care more for some things. But I mustn't
sit here; I must go up to my sewing."
"Miriam!" exclaimed Mrs. Drane, "what on earth are you working at?
Shutting yourself up, day after day, in your room, and at hours, too,
when everything is so pleasant outside. Cannot you bring out here what
you are doing?"
"No," said Miriam, "because it is a secret; but it is nearly finished,
and as I shall have to tell you about it very soon, I may as well do it
now: I have been altering Judith Pacewalk's teaberry gown for Cicely. It
was altered once for me, and that makes it all the harder to make it fit
her now. I am not very good at that sort of thing, and so it has taken me
a long time. I expected to have it ready for her when she came back from
the wedding trip, but I could not do it. I shall finish it to-day,
however, and to-morrow I am going to invest her with it. She is now the
head of the house, and it is she who should wear the teaberry gown. Don't
tell her, please, until to-morrow; I thought it would be nice to have a
little ceremony about it, and in that case I shall have to have some one
to help me."
"It is very good of you, my dear," said Mrs. Drane, "to think of such a
thing, and Cicely and your brother will be delighted, I know, to find out
what you think of this change of administration. Ralph said to me the
other day that he was afraid you were not altogether happy in yielding
your place to another. He had noticed that you had gotten into the habit
of going off by yourself."
"Just wait until he hears the beautiful speech I am going to make
to-morrow, and then he will see what a wise fellow he is."
"Mrs. Drane! Miss Miriam!" exclaimed La Fleur, her face beginning to glow
with emotion; "let me help to make this a grand occasion. Let me get up a
beautiful lunch. There isn't much time, it is true, but I can do it. I'll
make Michael drive me to town early in the morning, and I'll have
everything ready in time. A dinner would be all very well, but a
luncheon gives so much better chance to the imagination and the
intellect. There're some things you have to have at a dinner, but at a
lunch there is nothing you are obliged to have, and nothing you may not
have if you want it. And if you don't mind, I'd like you to ask old Miss
Panney. I've been a good deal at odds with her since I have known her,
but I'm satisfied now, and if there is anything I can do to make her
satisfied, I'm more than ready. Besides, when I do get up anything
extraordinary in the way of a meal, I like to have people at the table
who can appreciate it. And as for that, I haven't met anybody in this
country who is as well grounded in good eating as that old lady is."
Her proposition gladly agreed to, La Fleur rose to a high heaven of
excited delight. She had had no chance to show her skill in a wedding
breakfast, for the young couple had been married very quietly in
Pennsylvania, and she was now elated with the idea of exhibiting her
highest abilities in an Investiture Luncheon.
She handed the basin of peas through the open window to Seraphina, and
retired to her room, to study, to plan, and to revel in flights of
"Mike," said Seraphina to her brother, who was now raking the grass near
the kitchen window, "did you hear dat ar ole cook a talkin' jes' now?"
"No," said Mike, "I hain't got no time to harken to people talkin', 'cept
they're talkin' to me, an' it 'pends on who they is whether I listens
then or not."
"That fool thinks she made this world," said Seraphina. "I've been
thinkin' she had some notion like dat. She do put on such a'rs."
"Git out," said Mike. "You never heard her say nothing like that."
"I didn't hear all she said," replied the colored woman, "but I heard
more'n 'nough, an' I heard her talkin' about her creation. Her creation
indeed! I'll let her know one thing; she didn't make me."
"Now look a here, Seraphiny," said Mike; "the more you shet up now, now
you's in the prime of life, the gooder you'll feel when you gits old. An'
so long as Mrs. Flower makes them thar three-inch-deep pies for me, I
don't care who she thinks she made, an' who she thinks she didn't make.
Thar now, that's my opinion."
* * * * *
The Investiture Luncheon, at which the Tolbridges and Miss Panney were
present, was truly a grand and beautiful affair, to which Dora would
certainly have been invited had she not been absent on her bridal trip
with Mr. Ames. Seldom had La Fleur or either of her husbands prepared for
prince, ambassador, or titled gourmand a meal which better satisfied the
loftiest outreaches of the soul in the truest interests of the palate.
Cicely appeared in the teaberry gown, and if the spirit of Judith
Pacewalk hovered o'er the scene, and allowed its gaze to wander from the
charming bride, over the happy faces of the rest of the company, to the
half-open door of the dining-room, where shone the radiant face of the
proudest cook in the world, it must have been as well satisfied with the
fate of the pink garment as it could possibly expect to be.
It was late in the afternoon when the luncheon party broke up, and
although Miss Panney was the last guest to leave, she did not go home,
but drove herself to Thorbury, and tied her roan mare in front of the
office of Mr. Herbert Bannister. When the young lawyer looked up and
perceived his visitor, he heaved a sigh, for he had expected in a few
moments to lock up his desk, and stop, on his way home, at the house of
his lady love. But the presence of Miss Panney at his office meant
business, and business with her meant a protracted session. Miss Panney
did not notice the sigh, and if she had, it would not have affected
her. Her soul had been satisfied this day, and no trifle could disturb
"Now what I want," said she, after a good deal of prefatory remark, "is
for you to give me my will. I want to alter it."
"But, madam," said young Bannister, when he had heard the alterations
desired by Miss Panney, "is not this a little quixotic? Excuse me for
saying so. Mr. Haverley is not even related to you, and you are bestowing
"Herbert Bannister," said the old lady, "if you were your father instead
of yourself, you would know that this young man ought to have been my
grandson. He isn't; but I choose to consider him as such, and as such I
shall leave him what will make him a worthy lord of Cobhurst. Bring me
the new will as soon as it is ready and bring also the old one, with all
the papers I have given you, from time to time, regarding the disposition
of my property. I shall burn them, every one, and although it may set the
Wittons' chimney on fire the conflagration will make me happy."
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