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The Girl at Cobhurst By Frank Richard Stockton Characters: 5912

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

"I have spoken to Mr. Ames about it," said Dr. Tolbridge to Miss Panney, as two days later they were sitting together in his office, "and we are both agreed that teachers in Thorbury are like the vines on the gable ends of our church; they are needed there, but they do not flourish. You see, so many of our people send their children away to school, that is, when they are really old enough to learn anything."

"I would do it too, if I had children," said the old lady; "but this is a matter which rises above the ordinary points of view. I do not believe that you look at it properly, for if you did you would not sit there and talk so coolly. Do you appreciate the fact that if Miss Drane does not soon get something to do, you will be living on soggy, half-baked bread, greasy fried meat, water-soaked vegetables, and muddy coffee, and every one of your higher sentiments will be merged in dyspepsia?"

The doctor smiled. "I did not suppose it would be as bad as that," he said; "but if what you say is true, let us skip about instantly, and do something."

"That is the sort of action that I am trying to goad you into," said the old lady.

"Oh, I will do what I can," said the doctor, "but I really think there is nothing to be done here, and at this season. People do not want teachers in summer, and I see no promise of a later demand of this sort in Thorbury. We must try elsewhere."

"Not yet," said the other. "I shall not give up Thorbury yet. It is easier for us to work for Miss Drane here than anywhere else, because we are here, and we are not anywhere else. Moreover, she will like to come here, for then she will not be among strangers; so please let us exhaust Thorbury before thinking of any other place."

"Very good," said the doctor, leaning back in his chair, "and now let us exhaust Thorbury as fast as we can, before a patient comes in. I am expecting one."

"If she comes, she can wait," said Miss Panney. "You have a case here which is acute and alarming, and cannot be trifled with."

"How do you know I expect a 'she'?" asked the doctor.

"If it had been a man, he would have been here and gone," said

Miss Panney.

Miss Panney knew as well as any one that immediate employment as a teacher could be rarely obtained in summer, and for this reason she wished to confine her efforts to the immediate neighborhood, where personal persuasion and influence might be brought into action. Moreover, she had said to herself, "If we cannot get any teaching for the girl, we must get her something else to do, for the present. But whatever is to be done must be done here and now, or the old woman will be off before we know it."

She sat for a few moments with her brows knitted in thought. Suddenly she exclaimed, "Is it Susan Clopsey you expect? Very well, then, I will make an exception in her favor. She is just coming in at the gate, and I would not interfere with your practice on her for anything. She

has got money and a spinal column, and as long as they both last she is more to be depended on than government bonds. If her troubles ever get into her legs, and I have reason to believe they will, you can afford to hire a little maid for your cook. Old Daniel Clopsey, her grandfather, died at ninety-five, and he had then the same doctorable rheumatism that he had at fifty. I have something to think over, and I will come in again when she is gone."

"Depart, O mercenary being!" exclaimed the doctor, "before you abase my thoughts from sulphate of quinia to filthy lucre."

"Lucre is never filthy until you lose it," said the old lady as she went out on the back piazza, and closed the door behind her.

About twenty minutes later she burst into the doctor's office. "Mercy on us!" she exclaimed, "are you here yet, Susan Clopsey? I must see you, doctor; but don't you go, Susan. I won't keep him more than two minutes."

"Oh, don't mind me," cried Miss Clopsey, a parched maiden of twoscore. "I can wait just as well as not. Where is the pain, Miss Panney? Were you took sudden?"

"Like the pop of a jackbox. Come, doctor, I must see you in the parlor."

"Can I do anything?" asked Miss Clopsey, rising. "How dreadful! Shall I go for hot water?"

"Oh, don't be alarmed," said Miss Panney, hurrying the amazed doctor out of the room; "it is chronic. He will be back in no time."

Miss Clopsey, left alone in the office, sank back in her chair.

"Chronic by jerks," she sighed; "there can be few things worse than that; and at her age, too!"

"What can be the matter?" asked the doctor, as the two stood in the parlor.

"It is an idea," said Miss Panney; "you cannot think with what violence it seized me. Doctor, what became of that book you wrote on the 'Diagnosis of Sympathy'?"

The doctor opened his eyes in astonishment.

"Nothing has become of it. It has been in my desk for two years. I have not had time even to copy it."

"And of course your writing could not be trusted to a printer. Now what you should do is this: employ that Drane girl to copy your manuscript. She can do it here, and if she comes to a word she cannot make out, she can ask you. That will keep her going until autumn, and by that time we can get her some scholars."

"Miss Panney," said the doctor, "are you going crazy? I cannot afford charity on that scale."

"Charity!" repeated the old lady, sarcastically. "A pretty word to use. By that sort of charity you give yourself one of the greatest of earthly blessings, in the shape of La Fleur, and you get out a book which will certainly be a benefit to the world, and will, I believe, bring you fame and profit. And you are frightened by the paltry sum that will be necessary to pay the board of the girl and her mother for perhaps two months. Now do not condemn this plan until you have had time to consider it. Go back to your Clopsey; I am going to find Mrs. Tolbridge and talk to her."

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