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The Girl at Cobhurst By Frank Richard Stockton Characters: 12589

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

"It bothers the head off of me," said Molly Tooney to Mike, as she sat eating her supper in the Cobhurst kitchen, "to try to foind out what thim two upstairs is loike, anyway, 'specially her. I've been here nigh onto two weeks, now, and I don't know her no betther than when I fust come. For the life of me I can't make out whether she's a gal woman or a woman gal. Sometimes she's one and sometimes t'other. And then there's he. Why didn't he marry and settle before he took a house to himself? And in the two Sundays I've been here, nather of thim's been to church. If they knowed what was becomin' to thim, they'd behave like Christians, if they are heretics."

Mike sat at a little table in the corner of the kitchen with his back to Molly, eating his supper. He had enough of the Southern negro in him to make him dislike to eat with white people or to turn his face toward anybody while partaking of his meals. But he also had enough of a son of Erin in him to make him willing to talk whenever he had a chance. Turning his head a little, he asked, "Now look a here, Molly; if a man's a heretic, how can he be a Christian?"

"There's two kinds of heretics," said Molly, filling her great tea-cup for the fourth time, and holding the teapot so that the last drop of the strong decoction should trickle into the cup; "Christian heretics and haythen heretics. You're one of the last koind yoursilf, Mike, for you never go nigh a church, except to whitewash the walls of it. And you'll never git no benefit to your own sowl, from Phoebe's boardin' the minister, nather. Take my word for that, Mike."

Mike allowed himself a sort of froggy laugh. "There's nobody gets no good out of that, but him," said he; "but you've got it crooked about their not goin' to church. They did go reg'lar at fust, but the gig's at the wheelwright's gettin' new shaf's."

"Gig, indeed!" ejaculated Molly. "No kirridge, but an auld gig! There's not much quality about thim two. I wouldn't be here working for the likes o' thim, if it was not for me wish to oblige Miss Panney, poor old woman as she's gittin' to be."

Mike shrewdly believed that it was due to Miss Panney's knowledge of some of Molly's misdeeds, and not to any desire to please the old lady, that the commands of the latter were law to the Irishwoman, but he would not say so.

"Kerridge or no kerridge," said he, "they're good 'nough quality for me, and I reckon I knows what quality is. They hain't got much money, that's sure, but there's lots of quality that ain't got money; and he's got sense, and that's better than money. When he fust come here, I jes' goes to him, and ses I, 'How's you goin' to run this farm, sir,-ramshackle or reg'lar?' He looked at me kinder bothered, and then I 'splained. 'Well,' said he, 'reg'lar will cost more money than I've got, and I reckon we'll have to run it ramshackle.' That's what we did, and we're gittin' along fust rate. He works and I work, and what we ain't got no time to do, we let stand jes' thar till we git time to 'tend to it. That's ramshackle. We don't spend no time on fancy fixin's, and not much money on nuthin'."

"That's jes' what I've been thinkin' mesilf," said Molly. "I don't see no signs of money bein' spint on this place nather for one thing or anuther."

"You don't always have to spend money to get craps," said Mike; "look at our corn and pertaters. They is fust rate, and when we sends our craps to market, there won't be much to take for 'spenses out of what we git."

"Craps!" said Molly, with a sneer. "If you hauls your weeds to market, it'll take more wagons than you can hire in this country, and thim's the only craps my oi has lit on yit."

This made Mike angry. He was, in general, a good-natured man, but he had a high opinion of himself as a farm manager, and on this point his feelings were very sensitive. As was usual with him when he lost his temper, he got up without a word and went out.

"Bedad!" said Molly, looking about her, "I wouldn't have sid that to him if I'd seed there wasn't no kindlin' sphlit."

As Mike walked toward his own house, he was surprised to see, entering a little-used gateway near the barn, a horse and carriage. It was now so dark he could not see who occupied it, and he stood wondering why it should enter that gateway, instead of coming by the main entrance. As he stood there, the equipage came slowly on, and presently stopped in front of his little house. By the time he reached it, Phoebe, his wife, had alighted, and was waiting for him.

"Reckon you is surprised to see me," said she, and then turning to the negro man who drove the shabby hired vehicle, she told him that he might go over to the barn and tie his horse, for she would not be ready to go back for some time. She then entered the house with Mike, and, a candle having been lighted, she explained her unexpected appearance. She had met Miss Dora Bannister, and that young lady had engaged her to go to Cobhurst and take a note to Miss Miriam.

"She tole me," said Phoebe, "that she had wrote two times already to Miss Miriam, and then, havin' suspected somethin', had gone to the pos'-office and found they was still dar. Don't your boss ever sen' to the pos'-office, Mike?"

"He went hisself every now an' then, till the gig was broke," said Mike, "but I don't believe he ever got nuthin', and I reckon they thought it was no use botherin' about sendin' me, special, in the wagon."

"Well, they're uncommon queer folks," said Phoebe. "I reckon they've got nobody to write to, or git letters from. Anyway, Miss Dora wanted her letter to git here, and so she says to me that if I'd take it, she'd pay the hire of a hack, and so, as I wanted to see you anyway, Mike, I 'greed quick enough."

Before delivering the letter with which she had been entrusted, Phoebe proceeded to attend to some personal business, which was to ask her husband to lend her five dollars.

"Bless my soul," said Mike, "I ain't got no five dollars. I ain't asked for no wages yit, and don't expect to, till the craps is sold."

"I can't wait for that!" exclaimed Phoebe; "I's got to have money to carry on the house."

"Whar's the money the preacher pays you?" asked her husband.

"Dat's a comin'," said Phoebe, "dat's a comin' all right. T

har's to be a special c'lection next Sunday mornin', and the money's goin' to pay the minister's board. I'm to git every cent what's owin' to me, and I reckon it'll take it all."

"He ain't paid you nuthin' yit, thin?"

"Not yit; there was another special c'lection had to be tuk up fust, but the next one's for me. Can't you go ask your boss for five dollars?"

"Oh, yes," said Mike, "he'll give it to me if I ask him. Look here, Phoebe, we might's well git all the good we kin out of five dollars, and I reckon I'll come to chu'ch next Sunday, and put the five dollars in the c'lection. I'll git the credit of givin' a big lot of money, and that'll set me up a long time wid the congregation, and you git the five dollars all the same."

"Mike," said Phoebe, solemnly, "don't you go and do dat; mind, I tell you, don't you do dat. You give me them five dollars, and jes' let that c'lection alone. No use you wearin' youself out a walkin' to chu'ch, and all the feedin' and milkin' to do besides."

Mike laughed. "I reckon you think five dollars in th' pahm of th' hand is better than a whole c'lection in the bush. I'll see th' boss before you go, and if he's got the money, he'll let me have it."

Satisfied on this point, Phoebe now declared that she must go and deliver her letter; but she first inquired how her husband was getting on, and how he was treated by Molly Tooney.

"I ain't got no use for that woman;" and he proceeded to tell his wife of the insult that had been passed on his crops.

"That's brazen impidence," said Phoebe, "and jes' like her. But look here, Mike, don't you quarrel with the cook. No matter what happens, don't you quarrel with the cook."

"I ain't goin' to quarrel with nobody," said Mike; "but if that Molly 'spects me to grease her wagon wheels for her, she's got hold of the wrong man. If she likes green wood for the kitchen fire, and fotchin' it mos' times for herself, that's her business, not mine."

"If you do that, Mike, she'll leave," said Phoebe.

Mike gave himself a general shrug.

"She can't leave," said he, "till Miss Panney tells her she kin."

Phoebe laughed and rose.

"Reckon I'll go in and see Miss Miriam," she said, "and while I'm doin' that you'd better ask the boss about the money."

Having delivered the letter, and having, with much suavity, inquired into the health and general condition of the Cobhurst family since she had walked off and left it to its own resources, and having given Miriam various points of information in regard to the Bannister and the Tolbridge families, Phoebe gracefully took leave of the young mistress of the house and proceeded to call upon the cook.

"Hi, Phoebe!" cried Molly, who was engaged in washing dishes, "how did you git here at this time o' night?"

"I'd have you know," said the visitor, with lofty dignity, "that my name is Mrs. Robinson, and if you want to know how I got here, I came in a kerridge."

"I didn't hear no kirridge drive up," said Molly.

"Humph!" said Mrs. Robinson, "I reckon I know which gate is proper for my kerridge to come in, and which gate is proper for the Bannister coachman to drive in. I suppose there is cooks that would drive up to the front door if the governor's kerridge was standin' there."

Molly looked at the colored woman, with a grin.

"You're on your high hoss, Mrs. Robinson," said she. "That's what comes o' boardin' the minister. That's lofty business, Mrs. Robinson, an' I expect you're afther gittin' rich. Is it the gilt-edged butter you give him for his ash-cakes?"

"A pusson that's pious," said Phoebe, "don't want to get rich onter a minister of the gospel-"

"Which would be wearin' on their hopes if they did," interrupted Molly.

"But I can tell you this," continued Phoebe, more sharply, "that it isn't as if I was a Catholic and boardin' a priest, and had to go on Wednesdays and confess back to him all the money he paid me on Tuesdays."

Molly laughed aloud. "We don't confess money, Mrs. Robinson, we confess sins; but perhaps you think money is a sin, and if that's so, this house is the innocentest place I ever lived in. Sit down, Mrs. Robinson, and be friendly. I want to ax you a question. Has thim two, upstairs, got any money? What made you pop off so sudden? Didn't they pay your wages?"

Phoebe seated herself on the edge of a chair, and sat up very straight. She felt that the answer to this question was a very important one. She herself cared nothing for the Haverleys, but Mike lived with them, and was their head man, and it was not consistent with her position among the members of the congregation and in the various societies to which she belonged, that her husband should be in the employ of poor and consequently unrespected people.

"My wages was paid, every cent," she said, "and as to their money, I can tell you one thing, that I heard him say to his sister with my own ears, that he was goin' to build a town on them meaders, with streets and chu'ches, and stores on the corners of the block, and a libr'y and a bank, and she said she wouldn't object if he left the trees standin' between the house and the meaders, so that they could see the steeples and nothin' else. And more than that, I can tell you," said Phoebe, warming as she spoke, "the Bannister family isn't and never was intimate with needy and no-count families, and nobody could be more sociable and friendly with this family than Miss Dora is, writin' to her four or five times a week, and as I said to Mike, not ten minutes ago, if Mr. Haverley and Miss Dora should git married, her money and his money would make this the finest place in the county, and I tol' him to mind an' play his cards well and stay here as butler or coachman-I didn't care which; and he said he would like coachman best, as he was used to hosses."

Now, considering that the patience of her own coachman must be pretty nearly worn out, and believing that what she had said would inure to her own reputation, and probably to Mike's benefit as well, and that its force might be impaired by any further discussion of the subject, Phoebe arose and took a dignified leave.

Molly stood some moments in reflection.

"Bedad," she said aloud, "to-morrer I'll clane thim lamp-chimbleys and swape the bidrooms."

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