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   Chapter 6 MRS. TOLBRIDGE'S CALLERS

The Girl at Cobhurst By Frank Richard Stockton Characters: 8112

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


The next day was a very fine one, and as the roads were now good, and the air mild, Miss Panney thought it was quite time that she should begin to go about and see her friends without depending on the vehicles of other people, so she ordered her little phaeton and her old roan mare, and drove herself to Thorbury to see Mrs. Tolbridge.

"The doctor tells me," said that good lady, "that you take great interest in those young people at Cobhurst."

"Indeed I do," said Miss Panney, sitting up as straight in her easy chair as if it had been a wooden bench with no back; "I have been thinking about him all the morning. He ought to be married."

Mrs. Tolbridge laughed.

"Dear me, Miss Panney," said she, "it is too soon to begin thinking of a wife for the poor fellow. He has not had time to feel himself at home."

"My motto is that it is never too soon to begin, but we won't talk about that. Kitty, you are the worst matchmaker I ever saw."

"I think I made a pretty good match for myself," said the other.

"No, you didn't. The doctor made that, and I helped. You had nothing to do with the preliminary work, which is really the most important."

Mrs. Tolbridge smiled. "I am sure I am very much obliged," she said.

"You ought to be. And now while we are on the subject, let me ask you:

Have you a new cook?"

"I have," replied the other, "but she is worse than the last one."

Miss Panney rose to her feet, and walked across the room.

"Kitty Tolbridge!" she exclaimed, "this is too bad. You're trifling with the greatest treasure a woman can have on this earth-the life of a good husband."

"But what am I to do?" asked Mrs. Tolbridge. "I have tried everywhere, and I can get no one better."

"Everywhere," repeated Miss Panney. "You mean everywhere in Thorbury. You oughtn't to expect to get a decent cook in this little town. You should go to the city and get one. What you want is to keep the doctor well, no matter what it costs. He doesn't look well, and I don't see how he can be well, on the kind of cooking you can get in Thorbury."

Mrs. Tolbridge flushed a little.

"I am sure," she said, "that Thorbury people, for generations and generations, have lived on Thorbury cooking, and they have been just as healthy as any other people."

"Ah, Kitty, Kitty!" exclaimed the old lady, "you forget how things have changed. In times gone by the ladies of the household superintended all the cooking, and did a good deal of it besides; and they brought something into the kitchen that seldom gets into it now, and that is brains. A cook with a complete set of brains might be pretty hard to get, and would cost a good deal of money. But it is your duty, Kitty, to get as good a one as you can. If she has only a tea-cup full of brains, it will be better than none at all. Don't mind the cost. If you have to do it, spend more on cooking, and less on raw material."

This was all Miss Panney had to say on the subject, and shortly she departed.

After brief stops at the post-office and one or two shops, she drove to the abode of the Bannisters. Miss Panney tied her roan to the hitching-post by the sidewalk, and went up the smooth gravel path to the handsome old house, which she had so often visited, to confer on her own affairs and those of the world at large with the father and the grandfather of the present Bannister, attorney-at-law.

She and the house were all that were left of those old days. Even the widow was the second wife, who had come into the family while Miss Panney was away from Thorbury.

Mrs. Bannister was not at home, but Miss Dora was, and that entirely satisfied the visitor. When the blooming daughter of the house came hurrying into the parlor, Miss Panney, who had previously raised two of the window shades, gazed at her earnestly as she saluted her, and nodded her head approvingly. Then the two sat down to talk.

They talked of several things, and very soon of the Cobhurst people.

"Oh, have you seen them?" exclaimed Dora. "I have, but only for a minute at the

station, and then I didn't know who they were, though I was told afterward. They seemed to be very nice."

"They are," said Miss Panney. "The girl is bright, and young Mr. Haverley is an exceedingly agreeable gentleman, just the sort of man who should be the owner of Cobhurst. He is handsome, well educated, and spirited. I saw a good deal of him, for I spent the best part of yesterday there. I should say that your brother would find him a most congenial neighbor. There are so few young men hereabout who are worth anything."

"That is true," replied Dora, with a degree of earnestness, "and I know Herbert will be delighted. I am sure he would call if he were here, but he is away, and doesn't expect to be back for a week."

It crossed Miss Panney's mind that a week's delay in a matter of this sort would not be considered a breach of courtesy, but she did not say so.

"It would be friendly if Mrs. Bannister and you were to call on the sister, before long," she remarked.

"Of course we will do it," said Dora, with animation. "I should think a young lady would be dreadfully lonely in that great house, at least at first, and perhaps we can do something for her."

Although Miss Panney had seen Miriam only in bed, she had a strong conviction that she was not yet a young lady, but this, like the other reflection, was not put into words.

It was not noon when Miss Panney left the Bannister house, and the mind of Miss Dora, which had been renewing itself within her with all the vigor and freshness which Dr. Tolbridge had predicted, was at a loss how to occupy itself until dinner-time, which, with the Bannisters and most of the gentlefolk of Thorbury, was at two o'clock.

Dora put on her prettiest hat and her wrap and went out. She wanted to call on somebody and to talk, and suddenly it struck her that she would go and inquire about the kitten she had given Dr. Tolbridge, and carry it a fresh ribbon. She bought the ribbon, and found Mrs. Tolbridge and the kitten at home.

When the ornament had been properly adjusted, Miss Dora put the kitten upon the floor and remarked: "Now there is some comfort in doing a thing like that for Dr. Tolbridge, because he will be sure to notice it. There are some gentlemen who hardly ever notice things you do for them. Herbert is often that way."

"Yes, my dear," said Mrs. Tolbridge, who had turned toward a desk at which she had been writing. "The doctor is a man I can recommend, and I hope you may get a husband as good as he is. And by the way, if you ever do get such a one, I also hope you will be able to find some one who will cook his meals properly. I find that I cannot do that in Thorbury, and I am going to try to get one in the city. I am now writing an advertisement which I shall put into several of the papers, and day after to-morrow I shall go down to see the people who answer."

"Oh, that will be fun," cried Dora; "I wish I could go with you."

"And why not?"

"Why not, indeed?" replied the young lady, and the matter was immediately arranged.

"And while we are talking about servants," said Dora, whose ebullient mind now found a chance to bring in the subject which was most prominent within it, "I should think that the new people at Cobhurst would find it troublesome to get the right sort of service."

"Perhaps so," replied Mrs. Tolbridge, "although I have a fancy they are going to have a very independent household, at least for a time. It is a great pity that the young girl was taken sick just as she entered into her new home."

"Sick!" exclaimed Dora; "I never heard of that."

"Oh, it wasn't anything serious," said the other, her thoughts turning to the advertisement, which she wished to get into the post-office before dinner, "and I have no doubt she is quite well now, but still it was a pity."

"Indeed it was!" exclaimed Dora, in tones of the most earnest sympathy and commiseration. "It was the greatest kind of a pity, and I think I really ought to call on her very soon." And in this mood she went home to dinner.

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