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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Girl At Cobhurst - Chapter 39. Undisturbed Lettuce
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The Girl At Cobhurst - Chapter 39. Undisturbed Lettuce Post by :ow24160 Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :May 2012 Read :1251

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The Girl At Cobhurst - Chapter 39. Undisturbed Lettuce

CHAPTER XXXIX. UNDISTURBED LETTUCE

When Ralph Haverley came in from his long moonlight ramble, he was so happy that he went to bed and slept as sound as rock. But before he closed his eyes he said to himself,--

"I will do that to-morrow; the very first thing to-morrow."

But people do not always do what they intend to do the very first thing in the morning, and this was the case with Ralph. La Fleur, who knew that a letter was expected, sent Mike early to the post-office, and soon after breakfast Ralph had a letter from Miriam. It was a long one; it gave a full account of the drowning accident and of some of her own experiences, but it said not one word of the message sent by Miss Panney, to whom Miriam alluded very slightly. It gave, however, the important information that Mrs. Bannister had been so affected by the dreadful scene on the beach that she declared she could not go into the ocean again, nor even bear the sight of it, and that, therefore, they were all coming home on the morrow.

"She will be here to-night," said Ralph, who knew the trains from Barport.

As soon as he had read the letter Ralph went to look for Cicely. She had come down late to breakfast, and he had been surprised at her soberness of manner. On the other hand, Mrs. Drane had been surprised at Ralph's soberness of manner, and she found herself in the unusual position of the liveliest person at the breakfast table.

"People who have heard such good news ought to be very happy," she thought, but she made no remark on the subject.

It was Cicely's custom to spend the brief time she allowed herself between breakfast and work, upon the lawn, or somewhere out of doors, but to-day Ralph searched in vain for her. He met La Fleur, however, and that conscientious cook, in her most respectful manner, asked him, if he happened to meet Miss Cicely, would he be so good as to give her a message?

"But I don't know where she is," said Ralph. "I have a letter to show her."

La Fleur wished very much to know what was in the letter, which, she supposed, explained the mystery of the telegrams, but at a moment like this she would not ask.

"She is in the garden, sir," she said. "I asked her to gather me some lettuce for luncheon. She does it so much more nicely than I could do it, or Mike. She selects the crispest and most tender leaves of that crimped and curled lettuce you all like so much, and I thought I would ask you, sir, if you met her, to be so very kind as to tell her that I would like a few sprigs of parsley, just a very few. I would go myself, sir, but there is something cooking which I cannot leave, and I beg your pardon for troubling you and will thank you, sir, very much if you--"

It was not worth while for her to finish her sentence, for Ralph had gone.

He found Cicely just as she stooped over the lettuce bed. She rose with a face like a peach blossom.

"I have a letter from Miriam," he said, "I will give it to you presently, and you may read the whole of it, but I must first tell you that she, with Mrs. Bannister and Dora, are coming home to-day. They will reach Thorbury late this afternoon. Isn't that glorious?"

All the delicate hues of the peach blossom went out of Cicely's face. That everlasting person had come up again, and now he called her Dora, and it was glorious to have her back! She did not have to say anything, for Ralph went rapidly on.

"But before they leave Barport," he said, "I want to send Miriam a telegram. If Mike takes it immediately to Thorbury, she will get it before her train leaves."

"A telegram!" exclaimed Cicely, but she did not look up at him.

"Yes," said he; "I want to telegraph to Miriam that you and I are engaged to be married. I want her to know it before she gets here. Shall I send it?"

She raised to him a face more brightly hued than any peach blossom--rich with the color of the ripe fruit. Ten minutes after this, two wood doves, sitting in a tree to the east of the lettuce bed, and looking westward, turned around on their twig and looked toward the east. They were sunny-minded little creatures, and did not like to be cast into the shade.

As they went out of the garden gate, Cicely said, "You have always been a very independent person and accustomed to doing very much as you please, haven't you?"

"It has been something like that," answered Ralph; "but why?"

"Only this," she said; "would you begin already to chafe and rebel if I were to ask you not to send that telegram? It would be so much nicer to tell her after she gets back."

"Chafe!" exclaimed Ralph, "I should think not. I will do exactly as you wish."

"You are awfully good," said Cicely, "but you must agree with me more prudently now that we are out here, and I will not tell mother until Miriam knows."

A gray old chanticleer, who was leading his hens across the yard, stopped at this moment and looked at Ralph, but it is not certain that he sniffed.

Ralph knew very well when people, coming from Barport, should arrive in Thorbury, but his mind was so occupied that when he went to the barn, he forgot so many things he should have done at the house, and he ran backward and forward so often, and waited so long for an opportunity to say something he had just thought of, to somebody who did not happen to be ready to listen at the precise moment he wished to speak, that he had just stepped into the gig to go to the station for his sister, when Miriam arrived alone in the Bannister carriage. Not finding anybody at the station to meet her, they had sent her on.

Mrs. Drane was not the liveliest person at the dinner table, and she wondered much how Ralph and Cicely, who had been so extremely sober at breakfast time, should now be so hilarious. The arrival of Miriam seemed hardly reason enough for such intemperate gayety.

As for Miriam, she overflowed with delight. The ocean was grand, but Cobhurst was Cobhurst. "There was nothing better about my trip than the opportunity it gave me of coming back to my home. I never did that before, you know, my children."

This she said loftily from her seat at the head of the table. Dinner was late and lasted long, and Ralph had gone into the room on the lower floor, in which he kept his cigars, and which he called his office, when Miriam followed him. There was no unencumbered chair, and she seated herself on the edge of the table.

"Ralph," said she, "I want to say something to you, now, while it is fresh in my mind. I think we can sometimes understand our affairs better when we go away from them and are not mixed up in them. I have been thinking a great deal since I have been at Barport about our affairs here, not only as they are but as they may be, and most likely will be, and I have come to the conclusion that some of these days, Ralph, you will want to be married."

"Do you mean me?" cried Ralph. "You amaze me!"

"Oh, you are only a man, and you need not be amazed," said his sister. "This is the way I have been thinking of it: if you ever do want to get married, I hope you will not marry Dora Bannister. I used sometimes to think that that might be a good thing to do, though I changed my mind very often about it, but I do not think so, now, at all. Dora is an awfully nice girl in ever so many ways, but since I have been at Barport with her, I am positive that I do not want you to marry her."

Ralph heaved a long sigh and put his hands in his pockets.

"Bless my soul!" he exclaimed, "this is very discouraging; if I do not marry Dora, who is there that I can marry?"

"You goose," said his sister, "there is a girl here, under your very nose, ever so much nicer and more suitable for you than Dora. If you marry anybody, marry Cicely Drane. I have been thinking ever and ever so much about her and about you, and I made up my mind to speak to you of this as soon as I got home, so that you might have a chance to think about it before you should see Dora. Don't you remember what you used to tell me about the time when you were obliged to travel so much, and how, when you had a seat to yourself in a car, and a crowd of people were coming in, you used to make room for the first nice person you saw, because you knew you would have to have somebody sitting alongside of you, and you liked to choose for yourself? Now that is the way I feel about your getting married; if you marry Cicely Drane, I shall feel safe for the rest of my life."

"Miriam!" exclaimed Ralph, "you astonish me by the force of your statements. Wait here one moment," and he ran into the hall through which he had seen Cicely passing, and presently reappeared with her.

"Miss Drane," said he, "do you know that my sister thinks that I ought to marry you?"

In an instant Miriam had slipped from the table to the floor.

"Good gracious, Ralph!" she cried. "What do you mean?"

"I am merely stating your advice," he answered; "and now, Miss Drane, how does it strike you?"

"Well," said Cicely, demurely, "if your sister really thinks we should marry, I suppose--I suppose we ought to do it."

Miriam's eyes flashed from one to the other, then there were two girlish cries and a manly laugh, and in a moment Miriam and Cicely were in each other's arms, while Ralph's arms were around them both.

"Now," said Cicely, when this group had separated itself into its several parts, "I must run up and tell mother." And very soon Mrs. Drane understood why there had been sobriety at breakfast and hilarity at dinner. She was surprised, but felt she ought not to be; she was a little depressed, but knew she would get over that.

La Fleur did not hear the news that night, but it was not necessary; she had seen Ralph and Cicely coming through the garden gate without a leaf of lettuce or a single sprig of parsley.

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