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The Girl at Cobhurst By Frank Richard Stockton Characters: 9956

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

There were other people in and around Thorbury, who very much wanted to know something about the young man at Cobhurst, but this desire was interfered with by the fact that the young man was not yet at Cobhurst, and did not seem to be in a hurry to get there.

Cobhurst was the name of an estate a mile or so from the Witton farm, whose wide fields had lain for a half a dozen years untilled, and whose fine old mansion had been, for nearly a year, uninhabited. Its former owner, Matthias Butterwood, a bachelor, and during the greater part of his life, a man who took great pride in his farm, his stock, and his fruit trees, had been afflicted in his later years with various kinds of rheumatism, and had been led to wander about to different climates and different kinds of hot springs for the sake of physical betterment.

When at home in these latter days, old Butterwood had been content to have his garden cultivated, for he could still hobble about and look at that, and had left his fields to take care of themselves, until he should be well enough to be his own farmer, as he had always been. But old age, coming to the aid of his other complaints, had carried him off a few months before this story begins.

The only person now living at Cobhurst was a colored man named Mike, who inhabited the gardener's house and held the office of care-taker of the place.

Whenever Mike now came to town with his old wagon and horse, or when he was met on the road, he found people more and more inquisitive about the new owner of Cobhurst. Mike was not altogether a negro, having a good deal of Irish blood in his veins, and this conjunction of the two races in his individuality had had the effect upon his speech of destroying all tendency to negro dialect or Irish brogue, so that, in fact, he spoke like ordinary white people of his grade in life. The effect upon his character, however, had been somewhat different, and while the vivacity of the African and that of the Hibernian, in a degree, had neutralized each other, making him at times almost as phlegmatic as the traditional Dutchman, he would sometimes exhibit the peculiarities of a Sambo, and sometimes those of a Paddy.

Mike could give no satisfaction to his questioners; he knew nothing of the newcomer, except that he had received a postal card, directed to the man in charge of Cobhurst, and which stated that Mr. Haverley would arrive there on the fourth of April.

"More'n that," Mike would say, "I don't know nothin'. Whether he's old or young, and what family he's got, I can't tell ye. All I know is, that he don't seem in no hurry to see his place, an' he must be a reg'lar city man, or he'd know that winter's the time to come to work a farm in the spring of the year."

Other people, however, knew more about Mr. Haverley than Mike did, and Miss Panney could have informed any one that he was a young man, unmarried, and a second nephew to old Butterwood. She had faith that Dr. Tolbridge could give her some additional points, provided she could get an opportunity of properly questioning him.

Meanwhile the days passed on; the roads about Thorbury dried up and grew better; in low, sheltered places, the grass showed a greenish hue; the willows turned yellow, and people began to ponder over the catalogues of seed merchants. At last, it was the third of April, and on that day, in a large bright room of a New York boarding-house, kneeling in front of an open trunk, were Mr. Ralph Haverley and his sister Miriam.

Presently Miriam, whose years had not yet reached fifteen, vigorously pushed a pair of slippers into an unoccupied crevice in the trunk, and then, drawing back, seated herself on a stool.

"The delightful thing about this packing is," she said, "that it will never have to be done again. I am not going to any school, or any country place to board; you are not going to a hotel, not to any house kept by other people; our things do not have to be packed separately; we can put them in anywhere where they will fit; we are both going to the same place; we are going home, and there we shall stay."

"Always?" asked her brother, looking up with a smile.

"Always," answered Miriam. "When one gets a home, one stays there. At least I do."

"And you will not even go away to school?" he asked.

"By no means," said his sister, looking at him with much earnestness. "I have been to school ever since I was six years old,-nearly nine years,-and I positively declare that that is long enough for any girl. Others stay later, but then they do not begin so soon. As to finishing my education, as they call it, I shall do that at home. What a happy thought! It makes me want to skip. And you are to be my teacher, Ralph. I am sure you know everything that I shall need to know."

Ralph laughed.

"I suppose you will examine me to see what I do know," he said, as he folded a heavy overcoat and laid it in the trunk.

Miriam sprang up and began to collect mor

e of her effects.

"We shall see about that," she said, and then, suddenly stopping, she turned toward her brother. "There is one thing, Ralph, about which I need not examine you at all, and that is goodness of heart. If you had not had a very good heart indeed, you would not have waited and waited and waited-fairly pinching yourself, I expect-till I could get away from school and we could both go together and look at our new home in the very same instant."

Ralph Haverley was a brown-haired, bright-eyed young fellow under thirty. He had been educated for a profession, but the death of his parents, before he reached his majority, made it necessary for him to go to work at something by which he could immediately earn money enough to support not only himself, but his little sister. At his father's death, which occurred a month or two after that of his mother, young Haverley found that the family resources, which had never been great, had almost entirely disappeared. He could barely scrape together enough money to send Miriam to a boarding-school and to keep himself alive until he could get work. He had spent a great part of his boyhood in the country. His tastes and disposition inclined him to an out-door life, and, had he been able, he would have gone to the West, and established himself upon a ranch. But this was impossible; he must do the work that was nearest at hand, and as soon as he found it, he set himself at it with a will.

For eight long years he had struggled and labored; changing his occupation several times, but always living in the city; always making his home in a boardinghouse or a hotel. His pluck and energy had had its reward, and for the past three years he had held a responsible and well-paid position in a mercantile house. But his life and his work had for him nothing but a passing interest; he had no sympathy with bonded warehouses, invoices, and ledgers. All he could look forward to was a higher position, a larger salary, and, when Miriam should graduate, a little home somewhere where she could keep house for him. In his dreams of this home, he would sometimes place it in the suburbs, where Sundays and holidays spent in country air would compensate for hasty breakfasts, early morning trains, and late ones in the afternoon. But when he reflected that it would not do to leave his young sister alone all day in a thinly settled, rural place, at the mercy of tramps, he was forced to the conclusion that the thing for them to do was to live in a city apartment. But there was nothing in either of these outlooks to create fervent longings in the soul of Ralph Haverley.

For some legal reason, probably connected with the fact that old Butterwood died at a health resort in Arkansas, Haverley did not learn until late in the winter that his mother's uncle had left to him the estate of Cobhurst. The reason for this bequest, as stated in the will, was the old man's belief that the said Ralph Haverley was the only one of his blood relations who seemed to be getting on in the world, and to him he left the house, farm, and all the personal property he might find therein and thereon, but not one cent of money. Where the testator's money was bestowed, Ralph did not know, for he did not see the will.

When Ralph heard of his good fortune, his true life seemed to open before him; his Butterwood blood boiled in his veins. He did not hesitate a moment as to his course, for he was of the opinion that if a healthy young man could not make a living out of a good farm he did not deserve to live at all. He gave immediate notice of his intention to abandon mercantile life, and set himself to work by day and by night to wind up his business affairs, so that he might be free by the beginning of April. It was this work which helped him to control his desire to run off and take a look at Cobhurst without waiting for his sister.

Of the place which was to be their home, Miriam knew absolutely nothing, but Ralph had heard his mother talk about her visits to her uncle, and, in his mind, the name Cobhurst had always called up visions of wide halls and lofty chambers, broad piazzas, sunny slopes and lawns, green meadows, and avenues bordered with tall trees-a grand estate in fact, with woods full of nuts, streams where a boy could fish, and horses that he might ride. Had these ideas existed in Miriam's mind, the brother and sister would have visited Cobhurst the day after he brought her the letter from the lawyer; but her conceptions of the place were vague and without form, except when she associated it with the homes of girls she had visited. But as none of these suited her very well, she preferred to fall back upon chaotic anticipation.

"When I think of Cobhurst," she wrote to her brother, "I smell marigolds, and think of rather poor blackberries that you pick from bushes. Please do not put in your letters anything that you know about it, for I would rather see everything for myself."

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