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   Chapter 24 THE DOCTOR'S MISSION

The Girl at Cobhurst By Frank Richard Stockton Characters: 10304

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


The letter which Phoebe brought was a long and cordial one, in which Dora begged that Miriam would come and make her a visit of a few days. She said, moreover, that her brother was intending to call on Mr. Haverley and urge him to come to their house as frequently as he could during his sister's visit. Dora said that she would enjoy having Miriam with her so very, very much; and although the life at the dear old farm must be always charming, she believed that Miriam would like a little change, and she would do everything that she could to make the days pass pleasantly.

There could not have been a more cordial invitation, but its acceptance was considered soberly and without enthusiasm.

During the past fortnight, there had been no intercourse between the Bannister and Haverley families. Dora, it is true, had written, but her letters had not been called for, and Ralph had not been to her house to inquire about the dog. The reason for this was that, turning over the matter in his mind for a day or two, he thought it well to mention it to Miriam in a casual way, for he perceived that it would be very unwise for him to go to Dora's house without informing his sister and giving her his reasons for the visit. To his surprise, Miriam strenuously opposed his going to the Bannister house on any pretence until Mr. Bannister had called upon him, and showed so much earnest feeling on the subject that he relinquished his intention. He could see for himself that it would not be the proper thing to do; and so he waited, with more impatience on rainy days than others, for Mr. Herbert Bannister to call upon him.

On nearly every morning of the two weeks, Dora asked her brother at breakfast time if he were going that day to call at Cobhurst; and every time she asked him, Herbert answered that he would go that day, if he possibly could; but on each evening he informed her that at the hour he had intended to start for Cobhurst a client or clients had come into the office, or a client or clients had been in the office and had remained there. A very busy man was Mr. Bannister.

Miriam's opinion on the subject had been varied. She frequently felt in her lonely moments that it would be a joy to see Dora Bannister drive in at the gate.

"If only," thought Miriam, with a sigh, "she would content herself to be a visitor to me, just as I would be to her, and not go about contriving things she thinks Ralph would like,-as if it were necessary that any one should come here and do that! As for going to her house, that would leave poor Ralph here all by himself, or else he would be there a good deal, and-"

Here a happy thought struck Miriam.

"I can't go, anyway," she said aloud, "for the gig is broken;" and, her brother coming in at that moment, she informed him, with an air of much relief, how the matter had settled itself.

"But I don't like matters to settle themselves in that way," said Ralph. "The gig should certainly be in order by this time. I will go myself and see the man about it, and if the new shafts are not finished, I can hire a carriage for you. There is no need of your giving up a pleasant visit for the want of means of conveyance."

"But even if the gig were all ready for us to use, you know that you could not go until Mr. Bannister has called," said the cruel-minded sister.

Ralph was of the opinion that there were certain features of social etiquette which ought to be ruthlessly trodden upon, but he could think of nothing suitable to say in regard to the point so frequently brought up by Miriam, and, walking somewhat moodily to the front door, he saw Dr. Tolbridge approaching in his buggy.

The good doctor had come out of his way, and on a very busy morning, to lay before the Haverleys his project concerning Mrs. Drane and her daughter. Having but little time, he went straight to the point, and surprised Miriam and Ralph as much as if he had proposed to them to open a summer hotel. But, without regard to the impression he had made, he boldly proceeded in the statement of his case.

"You couldn't find pleasanter ladies than Mrs. Drane and her daughter," he said. "The latter is copying some manuscript for me, which she could do just as well here as at my house-"

"Are you talking about the two ladies who were here yesterday afternoon?" interrupted Miriam.

"Here, yesterday afternoon!" cried the doctor, and now it was his turn to be surprised.

When he had heard the story of the trespass on private grounds, the doctor laughed heartily.

"Well," said he, "Mistress Fate has been ahead of me. The good lady is in the habit of doing that sort of thing. And now that you know the parties in question, what have you to say?"

Miriam's blood began to glow a little, and as she gazed out of the open door without looking at anything, her eyes grew very bright. In her loneliness, she had been wishing that Dora Bannister would drive in at the gate, and here was a chance to have a very different sort of a girl drive in-a girl to whom she had taken a great fancy, although she had seen her for so short a time.

"Would they want to stay long?" she asked

, without turning her head.

The doctor saw his opportunity and embraced it.

"That would be your affair entirely," he said. "If they came for only a week, it would be to you no more than a visit from friends, and to breathe this pure country air, for even that time, would be a great pleasure and advantage to them both."

Miriam turned her bright eyes on her brother.

"What do you say, Ralph?" she asked.

The lord of Cobhurst, who had allowed his sister to tell of the visit of the Dranes, had been thinking what a wonderful piece of good luck it would have been, if, instead of these strangers, Dora Bannister and her family had desired to find quarters in a pleasant country house for a few summer weeks. He did not know her family, nor did he allow himself to consider the point that said family was accustomed to an expensive style of living and accommodation, entirely unlike anything to be found on a ramshackle farm. He only thought how delightful it would be if it were Dora who wanted to come to Cobhurst.

As Ralph looked upon the animated face of his sister, it was easy enough to see that the case as presented by the doctor interested her very much, and that she was awaiting his answer with an eagerness that somewhat surprised him.

"And you, little one, would you like to have these ladies come to us?"

"Yes, I would," said Miriam, and then she stopped. There was much more she could have said, which crowded itself into her mind so fast that she could scarcely help saying it, but it would have been contrary to the inborn spirit of the girl to admit that she ever felt lonely in this dear home, or that, with a brother like Ralph, she ever craved the companionship of a girl. But it was not necessary to say any more.

"If you want them, they shall come," said Ralph, and if it had been the Tolbridges or Miss Panney whose society his sister desired, his assent would have been given just as freely.

In fifteen minutes everything was settled and the doctor was driving away. He was in good spirits over the results of his mission, for that morning La Fleur had waylaid him as he went out and again had spoken to him about the possibility of hiring a little house in the suburbs.

"I am sure this arrangement will suit our good cook," he thought; "but as for its continuance, we must let time and circumstances settle that."

The doctor reached home about eleven o'clock.

"What do you think it would be better to do," he said to his wife, when he had made his report, "to stop at Mrs. Drane's as I go out this afternoon, or to tell Cicely about our Cobhurst scheme, and let her tell her mother?"

"The thing to do," said Mrs. Tolbridge, closing her desk, at which she was writing, "is for me to go and see Mrs. Drane immediately, and for you to send Cicely home and give her a lot of work to do at Cobhurst. They should go there this afternoon."

"Yes," said the doctor; "of course, the sooner the better; but it has struck me perhaps it might be well to mention the matter to Miss Panney before the Dranes actually leave Mrs. Brinkly. You know she was very active in procuring that place for them."

Mrs. Tolbridge looked at her husband, gave a little sigh, and then smiled.

"What is your opinion of a bird," she asked, "who, flying to the shelter of the woods, thinks it would be a good idea to stop for a moment and look down the gun-barrel of a sportsman, to see what is there?"

The doctor looked at her for a moment and then, catching her point, gave her a hearty laugh for answer, and walking to his table, took up a sheet of manuscript and carried it to the room where Miss Drane was working.

"The passage which so puzzled you," he said, "has been deciphered by Mrs. Tolbridge and myself, and reads thus: 'The philosophy of physiological contrasts grows.'"

"Why, yes," said Cicely, looking at the paper; "now that you tell me what it is, it is as plain as can be. I will write it in the blank space that I have left, and here are some more words that I would like to ask you about."

"Not now, not now," said the doctor. "I want you to stop work and run home. As soon as I can I will talk with you about what you have written, and give you some more of the manuscript. But no more work for to-day. You must hurry to your mother. You will find Mrs. Tolbridge there, talking to her about a change of quarters."

"Another holiday!" exclaimed Cicely, in surprise.

She was a girl who worked earnestly and conscientiously with the intention of earning every cent of the money which was paid to her, and these successive intermissions of work seemed to her unbusiness-like. But she made no objections, and, putting away her papers, with a sigh, for she had a list of points about which she was ready and anxious to consult the doctor,-she went to join the consultation, which she presumed concerned their removal from one street in Thorbury to another. But when she discovered the heavenly prospect which had opened before her mother and herself, her mind bounded from all thoughts of the manuscript of the "Diagnosis of Sympathy," as if it had been a lark mounting to the sky.

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