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Title: At Boarding School with the Tucker Twins
Author: Speed, Nell, 1878-1913
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "At Boarding School with the Tucker Twins" ***

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[Illustration: "Do you know, Miss Dum, you looked like Diana when you
stood on that rock?"--_Page 230._]



AT BOARDING SCHOOL WITH THE TUCKER TWINS

By NELL SPEED

AUTHOR OF "THE MOLLY BROWN SERIES," ETC.

_WITH FOUR HALF-TONE ILLUSTRATIONS BY ARTHUR O. SCOTT_

          NEW YORK
          HURST & COMPANY
          PUBLISHERS


          Copyright, 1915,
          BY
          HURST & COMPANY



CONTENTS


          CHAPTER                                         PAGE
              I. LEAVING HOME                                5
             II. ENTER THE TUCKERS                          23
            III. GRESHAM                                    36
             IV. MY ROOMMATES                               48
              V. LETTERS                                    60
             VI. THE FOUNDLING                              69
            VII. KITTY'S FOSTER-FATHER                      88
           VIII. ABOUT MATHEMATICS AND ME                  102
             IX. FOOTBALL                                  110
              X. BOYS                                      123
             XI. LETTERS AND SEVERAL KINDS OF FATHERS      137
            XII. ANNIE'S MOTHER                            147
           XIII. THE CONCERT                               167
            XIV. THE SPREAD                                176
             XV. HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS                     191
            XVI. A VISIT FROM THE TUCKERS                  201
           XVII. DEER HUNTING                              210
          XVIII. THE MIGHTY HUNTER                         227
            XIX. A VISIT TO RICHMOND                       241
             XX. DINNER AT COUSIN PARK'S                   259
            XXI. THE DESPERATION OF DUM                    274
           XXII. MORE LETTERS                              294
          XXIII. ZEBEDEE'S VISIT                           300



ILLUSTRATIONS


                                                              PAGE
  "Do you know, Miss Dum, you looked like Diana when you
      stood on that rock?"                             _Frontispiece_

  They made such a racket that a sad, crooked face was
      poked into the door                                     48

  "From mother," exclaimed the girl, trembling with
      excitement                                             156

  Dum looked at me aghast. "Page, you here, and Dee"         271



At Boarding School with the Tucker Twins.



CHAPTER I.

LEAVING HOME.


Leaving home to go to boarding school was bad enough, but leaving on a
damp, cold morning before dawn seemed to be about the worst thing that
could befall a girl of fifteen. I have noticed that whatever age you
happen to be seems to be the age in which hardships are the most
difficult to bear.

Anyhow, there I was, only fifteen, facing the necessity of saying early
morning farewells, the first one of all to my comfortable bed, where I
had slept off and on, principally on, for those fifteen years. And now I
and my bed must part.

"Day done bus'ed, Miss Page. The doctor is stirrin' an' you'd better
rise an' shine," and kind old Mammy Susan leaned yearningly over me. "I
hate to wake up my lamb. I knowd dis day would come when dey'd take you
'way from me, but I nebber did think 'twould be 'fo' dawn wif all de
long day 'head er me to be studyin' 'bout you. What yo' mammy goin' ter
do 'thout you, chile?"

"Well, Mammy, we'll have to grin and bear it. I'll be home Christmas,
and that isn't so far off." I jumped out of bed and pulled my hat-tub
into the middle of the floor, ready for my daily cold sponge bath.
Probably I had inherited the habit of the cold bath from my English
grandfather along with the big hat-tub.

"Law, chile, can't you leave off punishin' yo'self jes' dis onct? You
can't be to say dirty, an' dis here water is pow'ful cold."

Mammy and I had had this discussion about my cold bath every morning
since I had been old enough to bathe myself. It was only after many
battles that she had stopped sneaking warm water into my big can. That
morning I let it pass, although the water was lukewarm.

"Y'ain't mad wif yo' ole Mammy, is yer, honey chile? Looks like I didn't
have de heart to plunge my baby lamb into sho'nuf cold water on sech a
dark chilly day, wif her a-leavin' an' all. 'Tain't ter say warm now. I
jes' tempered it a leetle."

"That's all right, Mammy. 'God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb' and
you, it seems, temper the water. They say there are lots of bathrooms at
Gresham, and I can have the water as deep and cold as I want it."

"Well, don't you go drown yo'self in any er dem new-fashioned plumbin'
tubs, an' fer de lan's sake, Miss Page, don't you let yo'self be drawed
down inter none er dem was'e pipes," and Mammy Susan hurried off to
bring in the all too early breakfast.

I dressed in my usual haste, putting on my nice blue traveling suit,
ordered by mail from New York. It was quite long, well down to my shoe
tops, and I felt very stylish and grown-up. I had never given any
thought to my appearance, and no one else in my life seemed to have
except Cousin Sue Lee and Mammy. I don't know just what Cousin Sue
thought about me, but Mammy thought I was the most beautiful creature
in the world and freely told me so. That morning as I put on the little
black velvet toque, also purchased by mail, I looked at myself very
critically in the mirror.

"Page Allison, are you pretty or not? I, for one, think not. You've got
freckles on your nose and your mouth is simply huge. I'd like to say
something about your eyes to take the conceit out of you, but they look
so like Father's that I'd feel just like I was sassing him if I did.
Anyhow, I'm glad your hair curls."

I had intended to sentimentalize over leaving my room and going out into
the world, but I forgot all about it, and grabbing my ready-packed
suitcase, also a mail order, I raced downstairs as Mammy Susan rang the
breakfast bell.

Father was already in the dining-room, standing with his back to the
little wood fire that Mammy had kindled to cheer us up with. Mammy
always seemed to feel that when we were in any distress she must warm us
and feed us whether we were cold and hungry or not. That morning we were
neither, but we warmed by her fire and tried to choke down a great deal
of her batter bread and roe herring to show her we appreciated her
efforts.

Father looked up as I came in and for a moment regarded me in speechless
amazement.

"Why, honey, you almost took my breath away! You look so grown-up in the
new dress and hat. I didn't know you were so like your Mother, child,"
and he drew me to him and kissed me.

Father and I were as a rule not very demonstrative, but I clung to him
for a moment and he held me close with his long, wiry arm.

"I wish I could take you to Gresham, honey, but old Mrs. Purdy is very
low and she expects me to be with her at the end."

"That's all right, Father, don't you worry. There are certain to be
other girls on the train who are going to Gresham and I'll butt in on
them," I answered much more bravely than I felt. It did seem terribly
lonely and forlorn to be going off and installing myself in boarding
school. "I think it's fine that you can drive me over to Milton and put
me on the train. Last night when I heard such a knocking at the door I
was afraid I wouldn't see you in the morning because you'd be off on
some life or death mission. What was the matter?"

"Oh, just Sally Winn's bread pills had given out and she was afraid she
would not last through the night without them." Father always took me
into his confidence about the bread pills he administered to the
hypochondriacs.

"Do you know, Father, I believe if you charged midnight fees for those
bread-pill and pink-well-water prescriptions, that Sally Winn and some
more just like her would at least wait until morning to die."

"Oh, well, little daughter, Sally's got lots of good in her, and trying
to die is the only excitement she has ever had in her whole life."

"Well, I won't begrudge it to her but I do hate to have your rest
broken. Mammy," I said to Mammy Susan as she came in bearing a plate of
red-hot flannel cakes, "don't you let Father be too late getting into
his heavy underwear; and make a row every time he drives the colt until
he will stop it from sheer weariness. And, Father, you make Mammy take
her tonic; and don't let her go out in the wet dew waddling around
after her ducks. She will catch her death."

"Susan, you hear Miss Page? Don't dare go in anything but dry dew. A few
inches on her skirt and her curls tucked up under her bonnet make her
think she's been taking care of us all these years instead of our taking
care of her."

"Law, ain't she the spit of her Ma, Doc Allison? 'Cep fer yo' eyes.
Ain't quite so tall; but she's young yit in spite er sich a long
trailin' skirt. I's sorry to be de one to break de news, but de colt is
out dere a-prancin' an' pawin', an' ef you's a-goin' you'd better go."

I had often pictured my going away and had always seen myself with
difficulty restraining my tears; but now the time had come and the colt
was cutting up, so I forgot to cry even when I told the dogs good-by;
and just as I was giving Mammy Susan a last hug, and if tears were ever
to come they must hurry, Father called to me to jump in, for he couldn't
hold the colt another minute. And in I was and away and not crying at
all but laughing, as we turned around on one wheel and went skimming
down the drive.

The sun was all the way up at last and it wasn't a cold, damp day at
all, but promised to be fair and clear. We had a six-mile drive to the
station at Milton and the colt saw to it that we got there in plenty of
time.

"Now, Page, be certain when you make the change at Richmond, if you have
to ask any questions to ask them of a man in brass buttons."

"Yes, Father," and I smiled demurely, remembering how I always acted as
courier when we went on our trips. Father, being the most absent-minded
of men except where his profession was concerned, was not to be trusted
with a railroad ticket.

Moving away on the train at last and waving good-by to his long, sad
face, made me realize that the knot was cut. What a good father he was!
How had we ever been able to make up our minds to this boarding school
scheme? Nothing but the certainty that my education was a very one-sided
affair and that I must broaden out a bit had determined Father; and as
for me, I longed to know some girls.

I, who yearned for friends, was growing up without any. Fifteen years
old and I had never had a real chum! I couldn't remember my mother, but
I am sure she would have been my chum if she had lived. Mammy Susan did
her best and so did Father, but a little girl wants another little girl.
We had neighbors in plenty, but our county seemed to be composed of old
maids and childless widows with a sparse sprinkling of gray-bearded men.

My mother's people were English and she had no relatives on this side of
the water. Father belonged to a huge family, all of them great visitors,
but so far as I knew, no children among them. All kinds of old maids:
rich and poor, gentle and stern, soft and hard, big and little, they all
managed once a year to pay their dear cousin, Dr. Allison, a visit at
Bracken. I did not mind their coming. The soft ones seemed to have been
little girls once, which was something. I used to think when I was quite
a little thing that the hard ones must have been little boys, because
of the statement in my Mother Goose that little boys were made of "Snaps
and snails and puppy dog tails,"--not nice soft collie pups' tails,
either, but the tight, hard kind that grew on Cousin Park Garnett's pug.

Cousin Park Garnett was the rich, hard one whom I visited in Richmond
the winter before. On her annual visitation to us she had remarked to my
father:

"Cousin James, are Page's teeth sound? White teeth like that are, as a
rule, not very strong. Her mouth is so enormous you had better look to
it that her teeth are preserved," and she pursed up her own thin lips
and put on her green persimmon expression.

"Perfectly sound, I think, Cousin Park. Of course her teeth must be
preserved. As for her mouth being big, she'll grow up to it." But the
outcome of the conversation was that I had to visit Cousin Park and take
in the dentist. Think of the combination! Cousin Park took me to the
Woman's Club in the afternoon where we listened to a lecture on "The
Influence of Slavic Literature on the Culture of the Day." I was
longing for the movies but managed to keep my big mouth shut and listen
to the lecture, so I could tell Father about it and make him laugh. I
stayed in Richmond three days and did not speak to one single soul under
fifty. Even the dentist was old and tottering, so shaky that I was
afraid he would fall into my mouth.

I saw loads of nice girls my own age skating on the sidewalk or walking
arm-in-arm chattering away very happily, but Cousin Park didn't know who
they were or did know and knew nothing to their credit. I was glad to
get back to Bracken where there were no girls to know. There were at
least the dogs at Bracken that I could talk to and race over the hills
with. Even Cousin Park could not doubt their royal pedigrees.

It was dear little Cousin Sue Lee who persuaded Father and me both that
I ought to go to boarding school. Cousin Sue was the best of all
Father's female relatives. She was gentle and poor and had a job in the
Congressional Library in Washington. With all her gentleness, she was
sprightly and had plenty of what Father called "Lee spunk"; and with
all her poverty, she wore the sweetest clothes and always brought me a
lovely present every year and a nice shawl for Mammy or a black silk
waist or something or other to delight the old woman's heart. Cousin
Park never gave me anything,--not that I wanted her to. She would visit
us two weeks and then present Mammy with a dime, using all the pomp and
ceremony that a twenty-dollar gold piece would have warranted.

"Jimmy," Cousin Sue had said one day (she was the only one of all the
cousins who called Father Jimmy), "I know you and Page will think I am
an interfering old cat, but that child ought to go to school. I am not
going to say a word about her education. She has an excellent education
in some things. I have never seen a better read girl of her age. But the
time may come when she will regret knowing no French, and she tells me
she stopped arithmetic last year and never started algebra."

"Well, what good did algebra ever do you or me?" quizzed Father.

"Now, Jimmy, don't ask such foolish questions. It's just something all
of us have to have. What good does your cravat do you? None; it's not
even a thing of beauty, but you have to have one all the same."

"Oh, you women," laughed Father, "there's no downing you with argument."

"But as I was saying," continued Cousin Sue, "it is not dear little
Page's education I am thinking of. It's something much more important. I
want her to know a whole lot of girls and make a million friends. Why,
I'm the only young friend the child has, and I am getting to be nearer
fifty than forty."

And so we wrote for catalogues of schools and settled on Gresham. And
Cousin Sue sent for a bolt of nainsook and yards and yards of lace and
insertion and made up a whole lot of pretty underclothes for me.

"Girls need a lot of things in this day and generation," I heard her say
to Father. "A great deal more than they used to when I was young. I am
determined Page shall not go off to school looking like an 'Orphan
Annie.'"

"But, Sue, your holiday won't do you any good if you spend it all
sewing on the machine for my child," objected Father.

"We'll get in Miss Pinky Davis to help and in a week's time Page will
have enough clothes to last her until she gets married,--that is, if she
does not follow the traditions of the family and be an old maid."

It was a pretty well known fact that Cousin Sue had been a belle in her
day, and even now when she came back to visit in the County several
weather-beaten bachelor farmers would manage to have business at
Bracken. I have always noticed that an old maid who is so from choice
does not mind joking about it, but the others do.

A country doctor is seldom a bloated bond-holder; so Cousin Sue and I
ordered, with great care and economy, the necessary things from New
York: suit, hat, gloves, shoes, up-to-date shirt waists and plenty of
middies, a raincoat, umbrella, etc.

"Now, my dear," said my sweet cousin, "you can be perfectly sure that
your outfit is appropriate at least. Your clothes are stylish,
well-made and suitable to your age. I have always felt that young
people's clothes should be so right that they do not have to think about
them."

As I sped away on the train to Richmond, I remembered what Cousin Sue
had said before she went back to the grind in Washington, and had a
feeling of intense satisfaction that my little trunk in the baggage car
held such a complete wardrobe that I would not have to bother my head
about it any more. Up to this summer, clothes had been my abomination,
but I had at last waked up to the fact that it made some difference how
I looked; and now I was going to look all right without any trouble to
myself.

Train pulling into Richmond and still not a tear! "What is the matter
with you, Page Allison? When girls leave their childhood's home in books
they always weep suds. Don't you love your home as much as a stick of a
heroine in a book?" I knew I loved my home, but somehow it was so
delightful to be going somewhere and maybe getting to know a million
people, as Cousin Sue said I must.

An hour's wait in Richmond! I rechecked my trunk, having purchased a
ticket to Gresham; then I seated myself to possess my soul in patience
until the 10.20 train should be called. The station in Richmond was
familiar enough to me, as Father and I took some kind of a trip every
year and always had to come through Richmond. As I have said before, I
attended to tickets and baggage when I traveled with Father, so I was
not in the least nervous over doing it now.

"I must keep my eye open for girls who are likely to be going to
Gresham," I thought. "They'll all have on dark blue suits." That was a
rule of the school, the dark blue suit. "There's one now! But can she be
going?" And I thought of what Cousin Sue had said of "Orphan Annie."

The girl was seated opposite me in the waiting room. She had just come
up the steps lugging a huge telescope, stretched to its greatest
capacity, and looking nervously around had sunk on a bench. She searched
feverishly through a shabby little hand-bag she was carrying and having
satisfied herself that the ticket she had just purchased was safe she
seemed to be trying to compose herself; but one could see with half an
eye that she was nervous and frightened. She glanced uneasily at the
clock every few minutes and constantly compared with it an Ingersoll
watch which each time she had to search for in her bag. Several trains
were called and every time she got up and made a rush for the gates, but
each time came back to her seat opposite me.

Her blue dress was evidently homemade. The skirt dragged in the back and
the jacket was too short for the prevailing fashion. Her hat had been
worn as mourning and still had a little fold of crêpe around the edge,
making a suitable setting for that tear-stained face. I couldn't tell
whether she was pretty or not, her features were so swollen with
weeping. Helen of Troy herself looked homely crying, I am sure. I
noticed that her throat was milk white and that the thick plait of hair
that hung down her back, mercifully concealing somewhat the crooked
seams of the ill-made jacket, was as yellow as ripe wheat.

"Poor thing," I thought, "I believe I'll speak to her and see if I can
cheer her up some." But my philanthropic resolution was forgotten
because of the entrance into the waiting room and into my life, I am
glad to add, of the three most delightful and original persons I have
ever seen or known.



CHAPTER II.

ENTER THE TUCKERS.


Two girls about my age and a youngish man were the arrivals. The girls
were dressed in blue serge, and I felt in my bones that they were going
to Gresham. They had an independent, easy way with them, and evidently
considered the youngish man a person whom they had a right to boss.

"Let's sit here, Zebedee, and you go get the milk chocolate for me,"
exclaimed one of the girls.

"Don't forget my salted peanuts and a copy of 'Life,'" called the other,
as Zebedee hurried off to make the purchases at the newsstand in a
corner of the waiting room.

"Elder brother," thought I, "and pretty good-natured to wait on those
girls so much." What nice looking girls they were, though. At the first
glance, they looked singularly alike, but as I examined them more
closely while Zebedee was gone, I saw points of dissimilarity. "They are
twins, for sure," I said to myself, "but I believe I am going to be able
to tell them apart." The one whom her sister called Dum had red lights
in her almost black hair and her eyes were hazel, while the one who
answered to the name of Dee had blue lights in her coal black hair and
her eyes were gray. Both of them had sharply defined brows, straight
noses, and broad, laughing mouths. Dum's chin was square and determined,
but in Dee's there lurked a dimple. They were exactly the same height
and both of them had fine athletic figures.

"There you are, Tweedles," said the youngish man, addressing them both
as he pitched his purchases into their laps. "Who's going to wait on you
at boarding school, I'd like to know?"

"Well, if you will make us have a roommate, I reckon she'll have to,"
laughed Dee.

"By the way, Zebedee, that is something I want to discuss with you," and
Dum squared her chin. "You make a great mistake in forcing a roommate
on Dee and me. We are not used to it, and we are not going to stand it."

Zebedee squared his chin, too, and his blue eyes took on a stern
expression. "Not going to stand it, eh? Well, I say you are going to
stand it. We have discussed the matter threadbare already, and you must
trust me to know what is best for you sometimes."

The stern light went out of his eyes and into them came a look of
infinite tenderness as he put an arm around Dum and held her close to
him. I certainly liked the looks of Zebedee, but what a name! He, too,
had an athletic figure, but not very tall, not much taller than the
girls, who were very well grown for fifteen. He had Dum's red black
hair, also her square chin, but Dee's dimple had found a place in the
middle of that determined chin. The three mouths were so alike that they
might have belonged to triplets, but his eyes were his own; ice blue
they were in color but there was nothing cold about them. They were the
kindest, merriest eyes; they seemed to see everything and feel
everything. Just now they were feeling very sorry for Dum, and as he
hugged her, big tears gathered in them.

"Oh, Dum," exclaimed Dee, "now you have made him cry!"

"No such thing. I'm not crying," and he shamelessly blew his nose.

I afterwards learned that one of the characteristics of this delightful
trio was that they thought there was no more shame in crying than
laughing. They laughed in church if there was anything to laugh at, and
cried at a picnic or farce-comedy if anything turned up to move them to
tears. "We don't bawl," Dee said to me once, "we just leak. It is all a
matter of tear ducts. We can't help it any more than you could help
sneezing if someone shook pepper in your face."

A train was called. It was not ours, but "Orphan Annie" jumped nervously
from her seat. She dropped her shabby little hand-bag, which she had
just opened for the hundredth time to make sure her ticket was safe or
to compare her Ingersoll watch with the clock in the station, and the
contents of the bag rolled to the floor. I dived to assist her and the
person called Zebedee did the same. Of course we bumped heads, and while
we were apologizing, Dum and Dee picked up the scattered belongings and
returned them to the poor, abashed girl.

"I just knew you were going to Gresham," said Dee, handing her the
much-thumbed ticket, "and wondered how long it would take us to get to
the point of speaking to you."

"You are for Gresham, too," said Dum, turning to me. "I have been
longing to know you. I might have known that old Zebedee would end by
butting in."

Here Zebedee took off his hat and bowed to "Orphan Annie" and me as
though we were of the blood royal, and said with a most engaging manner:

"We had best introduce ourselves and then all the conventionalities will
be observed. Conventionality is a mighty important thing for boarding
school girls to observe. These are the Tucker twins, called Tweedles
when you want both of them or aren't particular which one answers. This
red-headed one is Dum; this blue-headed one, Dee. They have other
official names, but somehow I can't remember them to-day. I am Jeffry
Tucker, at your service, the father of the Heavenly Twins."

"Father! You, their father!" I gasped.

"Certainly. Whose father did you think I was?"

"James' and John's," I answered flippantly.

"That's the reason we called him Zebedee," chorused the twins. "You know
the old gag: 'Who is the father of Zebedee's children?' No one ever
believes he is really a parent."

I burst out laughing and so did "Orphan Annie." I was certainly glad to
see that she could laugh. Already the genial atmosphere that surrounded
the Tuckers had had its effect on her. The drawn expression was leaving
her countenance and the hearty laugh dispelled the mist in her eyes. The
knowledge that there were two other passengers for Gresham set her mind
at rest, and she evidently felt relieved.

"My name is Page Allison."

"Daughter of Dr. James Allison of Milton, I bet anything," ventured Mr.
Tucker. "Oh, do you know my father?" I asked joyfully.

"Of course I do. We are of the same fraternity. Your eyes are so like
his, I came mighty near slipping you the grip. He was in the class of
'85 and I was in that of '99, but we have met at many fraternity
conventions. I am certainly glad to know his daughter." And while he did
not give me the fraternity grip, he gave me some kind of a grip that
tingled all the way up to my heart.

"And won't you tell us your name?" said Dee kindly to the other
stranger.

"Annie Pore," said the girl in a voice singularly full and rich. "I have
never been anywhere alone and I am so afraid I'll miss my train. That is
the reason I dropped my bag. I am so much obliged to all of you for
picking up my things."

Her timidity seemed to disappear as she realized she was making friends.
As for me, I have never known what it was to be timid, and I felt at
home with the three Tuckers from the moment they entered the waiting
room; and from the time that Mr. Tucker and I bumped heads, I counted
them as the first three on the list of the million friends that Cousin
Sue said I must make.

"Well, since we are all going to Gresham, suppose you young ladies hand
over your tickets to me and I will be courier for the crowd," said Mr.
Tucker.

I gave him my ticket, also my reservation in the parlor car. It made no
difference how poor payments were, Father and I always traveled in
comfort. "It saves in the end to ride in a clean, comfortable coach,"
Father declared. "Saves wear and tear on clothes and nerves."

Annie Pore handed him her rumpled ticket.

"This is all you have?" he asked.

"Oh, yes, isn't that all right?" she entreated. "The man at the ticket
window assured me it was right."

"Of course it is all right. Now there are five minutes before the train
will be called, so if you young ladies will excuse me, I'll run
downstairs to see that Tweedles' trunks are safe. By the way, have you
attended to your luggage?" he asked me. "And you?" turning to Annie
Pore.

"Thank you, yes," I answered; but the other girl looked piteously at her
bursting telescope. "I haven't a trunk," she said simply.

I felt mighty sorry for Annie. The Tucker twins did, too. I could tell
by their eyes. Dee's filled and Dum turned and walked to the steps with
her father.

Dee whispered to me as she pretended to show me a picture in "Life":

"He's gone to get her a ticket in the parlor car. Just like him! Such a
thoughtful Zebedee as he is! We mustn't let him know we are on. That
would make him raging. He will carry it off perfectly naturally, and he
is fully capable of any deceit to keep Annie Pore from finding it out."

He had done exactly as Dee said he would do: got a chair in the parlor
car for "Orphan Annie." Right there I took myself to task for thinking
of the poor girl as "Orphan Annie," and I determined to control my
thoughts if possible and give her her proper name in my mind. Not that
Annie Pore sounded much more cheerful than the name I had given her.

Our train was called and our kind courier bundled up bag and baggage and
hustled us through the gates and into the chair car before Annie Pore
had time to ask about it; and then he gave the Pullman conductor our
tickets and settled us and the train started, and the girl never did
know she was being treated to a privilege her ticket did not give her.

We had a jolly trip and before it was over I knew a great deal about the
Tuckers, and they, in turn, a great deal about me, in fact, about all
there was to know. It was many a day, however, before we broke through
Annie Pore's reserve and learned that she was of English parentage, that
her mother had recently died and her father had a country store in a
lonesome little settlement on the river. No wonder the girl was so
scary. This was actually her first railroad journey. What traveling she
had done had been by boat, an occasional trip to Norfolk or Richmond
when her father went to town to buy his stock.

There was an unmistakable air of breeding about her. Her accent was pure
and her English without flaw. In spite of her timidity, she had a
certain _savoir faire_. For instance, when Mr. Tucker announced that we
were to have lunch with him and ordered the porter to bring two tables
and put them up, Annie accepted the invitation with a quiet grace that
many a society woman could not have equaled. When she took off her ugly
hat, disclosing to view a calm white forehead with heavy, ripe-wheat
hair rippling from a part, I had no doubt of the fact that Annie Pore,
if not already a beauty, was going to be one when she grew up.

It was only a buffet luncheon and there was not much on the menu to
choose from: baked beans, canned soup, potted meats, etc.

"Not much to eat here," grumbled Mr. Tucker.

"Eat what's put before you, Zebedee, and stop grouching," admonished
Dum.

"Well, it's a pretty hard state of affairs when a fellow wants to give a
party and there is nothing to eat but these canned abominations."

"I have a lunch box in my grip," I ventured; "maybe that would help out
some."

"Trot it out, do!" cried Dee.

And then Annie had the hardihood to untie the rope around her telescope
and bring out a bag of the very best and rosiest wine-sap apples I ever
tasted. She also produced a box of doughnuts she had made herself which
were greeted with enthusiasm. My lunch had been put up by kind old Mammy
Susan, and in her tenderness she had packed in enough to feed a
regiment.

"Fried chicken!" exclaimed Dee, clapping her hands.

"Columbus eggs!" shouted Dum.

"Not really country ham?" questioned Mr. Tucker. "That is too good to be
true. You must excuse Tweedles and me, but we have been living in an
apartment and eating in the café, and some real home food has just about
got us going. When I asked you young ladies to lunch, I did not dream
that I would be able to treat you so royally."

"Look, Zebedee, look! Clover-leaf rolls!" chorused the twins.

"Stop tweedling and look over the menu and see what we shall order to
supplement with." Mr. Tucker called it tweedling when the girls spoke
in chorus as was their habit.

We decided on cream of tomato soup, iced tea and butter, with Neopolitan
ice cream to top off with. I was certainly glad that, as usual, Mammy
Susan had paid no attention to my commands, and had done her own sweet
will in giving me enough lunch for half a dozen girls.

"It's bes' to err on de side er plenty, honey baby," the old woman had
said when I demurred at the size of the lunch boxes. "Even ef you is
goin' to a land flowin' wif milk an' honey, a few rolls to sop in de
honey won't go amiss an' some chicken an' ham to wash down wif de milk
won't hurt none."



CHAPTER III.

GRESHAM.


Gresham at last after a very pleasant trip! We had picked up blue-coated
girls all along the road, and by the time we reached the little town on
the outskirts of which our school was situated, the train seemed to be
running over with girls.

"There must be a million of them," I thought; but as Gresham could only
accommodate one hundred and twenty-five, I was wrong. Some of them had
mothers or fathers with them, and some of them big brothers or sisters.
Most of them had some one; at least, most of the new girls.

The old pupils hugged and kissed one another and all seemed to be glad
to get back to school. The new girls looked sad and miserable, even the
ones who had their mothers with them. And a few lonesome ones who had
brought themselves, like "Orphan Annie" (there, I slipped again and
called Annie Pore by that obnoxious name!) or me, looked like scared
rabbits. I wasn't scared a bit, and when I saw the old girls hugging and
loving one another, flaunting their intimacies, as it were, I said:

"Don't you mind, Page Allison. You are going to know all of those girls
and like a lot of them, and a lot of them are going to like you; and
they are just a few of the million friends you are going to make."

In the crowded confusion at the little station, I was separated from the
Tuckers and noticed that poor Annie was put in a bus filled with
Seniors, who looked at her rather askance. Her ungainly telescope was
piled up with the natty suitcases by the driver's seat, and I saw him
point at it and wink at the driver of the bus where I had found a seat.

The girls in the bus with me were very kind and friendly. There were
several mothers along and they looked at me cordially, and in a few
minutes I knew the names of all the passengers and they knew mine. By
the time the straining horses had pulled the heavy bus through the
crooked streets of the quaint little town, up and down the many hills
and finally up the last long hill to Gresham School, the whole load of
girls and mothers had been jolted into an enforced intimacy.

Bracken, my home, was situated in what persons from the mountains call a
flat country but which we call rolling, as it is when compared to the
tidewater counties. So the hills of Gresham seemed wonderfully steep to
me, and as we pulled to the top and stopped in front of the school, and
I realized we could actually see the mountains, I gave voice to a
long-drawn "O--h!" of delight.

We piled out of the bus, and for a moment I stood looking at the
wonderful view before I even noticed the school building.

"I am so glad you like it," said a soft voice at my side. It belonged to
a quiet-looking girl who had come up with us. She looked a little older
than the rest of the girls and certainly was much more dignified. "I
find if a new pupil notices the mountains first, she is pretty apt not
to kick because they have dessert only twice a week. One can't have
everything in this world, and a mountain view is more filling in the big
end than dessert."

"It is splendid! You have been here a long time?" I asked.

"Yes, many years; and now I am a pupil teacher. This place seems more
like home than any other in the world to me," and she took me by the
arm. "Come on with me, Page. I am going to call you Page and I do wish
you could call me Margaret, but now that I am a near teacher I have to
be called Miss Sayre. I am going to introduce you to Miss Peyton, the
principal."

"Oh, you are kind to me and I am so much obliged!"

"Give the bus driver your trunk check and in his good time he will
deliver your trunk. Come on, so you can get into the office before the
rush of Seniors."

Just then the vehicle with Annie Pore in it, looking too forlorn for
words, came rattling up. Her hat was knocked over one eye and she had
lost all of the cheerfulness that she had gained on the train with the
delightful Tuckers. No one had paid any attention to her on the ride,
except to look her up and down and make whispered jokes at her expense.
I have found out that girls can be the most cruel creatures in the
world, just from pure thoughtlessness and lack of imagination. They
don't know how to "Put yourself in his place." They don't mean to hurt,
but they do hurt all the same. I found during the ensuing year that that
same busload of Seniors included many a fine character, but not one of
them seemed to have imagination enough to know what Annie Pore was
suffering.

"Miss Sayre," I said impulsively, "please take this girl with you. I met
her on the train and she seems so forlorn."

"We'll miss our chance to reach Miss Peyton ahead of the others, unless
we hurry," she said, looking a little impatient at my request.

"I'm sorry. I think I ought to wait for her, but don't let me detain
you," and I went forward to meet poor Annie.

Of course, Miss Sayre came, too. "I might have known that a girl who
noticed the mountains first thing would have character enough to do
what she thought was right," she whispered as she followed me.

"This is Annie Pore, Miss Sayre," I said, as I helped the cramped girl
out of her uncomfortably small quarters. Miss Sayre shook her hand
cordially and I hoped Annie did not hear the titter as one of the
Seniors nudged another and said in an audible whisper: "Annie Pore, poor
Orphan Annie." I hated myself for having had the same thought.

"Where is your trunk check, Annie? Give it to the bus driver," said Miss
Sayre, kindly.

"I haven't a trunk," said Annie faintly, "just a telescope."

"By their luggage ye shall know them," said a stylish girl who was
clambering out of the vehicle. She spoke in a rasping tone with a nasal
touch.

Annie Pore made a ten strike right then and there with me and with all
of the girls who heard what she said, and those girls who did not hear
it soon heard about it. She drew herself up, no longer timid but with
what Dum Tucker afterwards called "Annie's stage presence," and in her
singularly clear, full voice, that voice that we were all to be so proud
of, said:

"Not by their luggage ye shall know them, but by their voices." And with
a dignity that a sagging skirt and crooked-seamed jacket could not
lessen, Annie Pore walked to the front of the carry-all and demanded
from the grinning driver her bursting telescope.

A shout went up from the Seniors. "Annie, Annie, 'rah, 'rah, 'rah!"

"So, Mabel Binks, she got your goat that time," laughed a
bright-looking, auburn-haired Senior.

"I don't know what you mean, Sally Coles. Orphan Annie's remark seemed
to me to be without point," and Mabel Binks haughtily demanded a very
swell new alligator bag from the front seat.

"Well, if you don't know that your voice needs greasing, it is not for
me to break it to you, Mabel." Mabel flounced off, and all her stylish
clothes, beautifully-hanging skirt, well-cut jacket, and jaunty velvet
sailor hat, did not give dignity to her.

Pandemonium reigned as we entered the spacious hall of the main
building. Girls, girls, girls! Little and big; fat and thin; pretty and
plain; laughing and crying; alone and attended, they swarmed over
everything.

"We have lost our chance to get first at the principal, but I wouldn't
have missed seeing Annie Pore take down that common, purse-proud Mabel
Binks for a million, as poor as I am," whispered Miss Sayre. "You girls
sit here and wait for me, and as soon as there is an opening we'll slip
in."

"Oh, how could I ever have made up my mind to leave my Father and come
here?" wailed Annie, crumpling up into an ignominious heap, all her
dignity gone.

"Now look here, Annie Pore," I scolded, "anyone who could jaw back at a
Senior as you did just a moment ago has got backbone, and you have just
got to get a brace on you and cheer up."

"Oh, but you are different. You make friends so readily. I am so easily
embarrassed," and the poor thing wept anew.

"I don't make friends a bit more easily than you do. I just want to make
them, that's the difference. Haven't you made friends with me?"

"Oh, have I really?"

"Of course you have. Would I be ragging you this way if I didn't
consider myself your friend? Haven't you made friends with all three of
the Tuckers, and now with Miss Sayre?"

Annie was somewhat consoled and tried to take a more cheerful view of
life. We had completely lost sight of our traveling companions. They had
evidently been admitted among the first to the principal's office. All
of the girls who were accompanied by their parents or guardians were
given preference in having their rooms assigned them, so that their
loved ones could see where the daughters were to be placed and then take
their departure on the outgoing trains.

We were so hidden by the swarming girls, we despaired of ever being
found again by Miss Sayre; but I persuaded Annie that we would certainly
be placed by bedtime as both of us had been registered during the
summer; and in the meantime, it was rather fun to watch the girls and
try to guess where they came from and if any of them were to be in our
classes.

Mabel Binks backed up against us, talking to an overdressed girl of
about nineteen. Both were dressed in the latest style. I knew what those
styles were from the fashion books that Cousin Sue Lee had bought when
we were planning my modest wardrobe.

"I am thankful to say this is my last year at Gresham," said Mabel. "The
place has lost tone so. We came up in the bus with a most
remarkable-looking person. I am sure Mamma would not permit me to remain
if she knew Miss Peyton was allowing such ordinary girls to come here."

Annie Pore's face was crimson and she looked ready to burst into tears,
but the overdressed girl, whose name, I afterwards learned, was
Josephine Barr, and who was a thoroughly kindly person, remarked:

"Oh, yes, I heard about that girl. Sally Coles tells me she is
wonderfully pretty and quite a lady, also that she got a yell from the
Seniors for her quickness in responding to a sally from you."

I pinched Annie's arm and whispered: "What did I tell you? Two more new
friends, Sally Coles and this big girl who has just punctured Mabel
Binks' conceit."

"Come along, girls," and Miss Sayre pushed her way to our retreat. "I
think we can get into the office now. How do you do, Josephine? I am
glad to see you back," and she shook the big girl's hand cordially. "I
want to introduce you to two new girls and ask you to see that they meet
the crowd."

"All right, Margaret, what you say goes. I was a freshy myself once and
know how it feels." She gave us a cordial grip and assured us we must
call on her if we needed anything, friendly counsel or protection or
even soothing syrup.

"Jo is a fine old girl," said Miss Sayre, as she hooked one arm in mine
and the other in Annie Pore's and drew us into the office. (I noticed
that she had completely ignored Mabel Binks.) "She would fight to the
finish for her friends. Her clothes are impossible, but we mustn't judge
the poor thing by her clothes. They've got so much money, they don't
know what to do with it. I'm real sorry for her."

It seemed a queer cause for pity to Annie and me, but Miss Sayre was
introducing us to Miss Peyton and we could not ask her why riches were
to be pitied. I liked Miss Peyton from the minute I saw her and I
believe she liked me. Her countenance was a noble one, her manner frank,
and her voice sounded like music.

"I am going to put you into the room with some sisters, Page. I hope you
will get along well together. If everything is not pleasant, come
directly to me. You are No. 117 in Carter Hall. I will see all the girls
to-morrow and classify them. Miss Sayre, will you please get someone to
show Page her room? Now I will talk to Annie Pore and assign her her
roommate." And Miss Peyton went on quietly with what might have been a
confusing task, but which she managed as calmly as a Napoleon marshaling
his troops.

I found my way to 117 Carter Hall with the help of an old girl. I was
naturally quite interested to know what the sisters were to be like who
were to be my roommates for the year. The door to 117 was open and I
heard sobbing.



CHAPTER IV.

MY ROOMMATES.


[Illustration: They made such a racket that a sad, crooked face was
poked into the door.--_Page 48._]

"Heavens, I'm tired of tears!" I thought as my conductor left me with a
significant smile. "I'm actually damp from all of the weeping going on
around me."

A stormy voice was raised in the room that I was about to enter, and I
stopped in the hall, not knowing just what to do.

"Now what did I tell you?" said the stormy, sobbing voice. "Didn't I
tell you all along I was going to make myself just as disagreeable as I
could if you would put someone in with us? Aren't we going to be
miserable enough without you, without having some old stick-in-the-mud
hoisted on us from the country, to sleep in the room with us; and just
as like as not want the window shut at night; and rub her chapped face
all over with mutton-suet? Paugh, I can smell it now, the horrid stuff."

"Now, Dum, cut it out. You don't even know that your roommate gets
chapped," said a whimsical voice.

"The Tuckers!" I exclaimed, but naturally had a delicacy in entering,
after what I had heard Dum say about a roommate from the country. "Could
she know that I am the one?" I asked myself.

"Well, how are Dee and I to fight it out the way you have brought us up
to do if we have got some old mutt in here with us? We might just as
well have left our boxing gloves at home."

"Oh, Dum, you are making it hard for me," said poor Mr. Tucker.

"That's good, I want to make it hard," sobbed the wretched Dum.

"I have told you over and over that I think it best for you and Dee to
have to control yourselves more, and the only way to do it is to realize
how your tantrums affect other people. You are the best old Tweedles in
the world, but you have no self-control. I am surely sorry for your
roommate, whoever she may be."

"Well," broke in Dee, "I think it all depends on who she is. I must say
it is some lottery. Roommates ought to be carefully chosen; one should
not just trust to this grab-bag method."

"Well, how do you know Miss Peyton has not chosen someone she feels will
be suitable? I wish it would turn out to be somebody like the little
girl on the train. Don't you, Tweedles?"

"Yes, yes!" tweedled Tweedles. "But no such luck."

This reassured me and I knocked on the open door. There was perfect
silence, broken only by the sound of Dum's blowing her nose and Mr.
Tucker's clearing his throat; and then a faint little "Come in," from
both girls.

"Oh, it's you! How good of you to come look us up!" exclaimed Mr.
Tucker. "We were afraid it was the hated roommate. Tweedles are treating
me so terribly because I insist on their having a roommate so they can
broaden out a bit and learn to control themselves some, which they will
never do so long as they stay together all the time. I'll leave it to
you, Miss Page, don't you think it will be best?"

"Well, I have a delicacy in saying," laughed I. "You see, I am that
poor unfortunate, despised roommate. This is 117 Carter Hall, isn't it?"

Then all the weeping was turned to laughter and the irrepressible
Tuckers, father and all, grabbed hands and danced around me singing,
"Gayly cheer the bride." They made such a racket that a sad, crooked
face was poked into the door, evidently feeling a duty to admonish, but
Zebedee in his most Zebedeeish humor, sang out in a friendly voice:

"Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, will you join the dance? Will
you, won't you, will you, won't you, won't you join the dance?"

Then the strangest thing happened to that long, sad, crooked face. The
plain features were illuminated by a smile, the person who owned the
face came impulsively into the room, and after she had carefully shut
the door, she caught hold of hands with the crazy trio and the dance
went on; and all of us sang:

   "'Will you walk a little faster!' said a whiting to a snail,
   'There's a porpoise close behind us and he's treading on my tail.
   See how eagerly the lobsters and the turtles all advance!
   They are waiting on the shingle--will you come and join the dance?'"

Then the chorus: "Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, will you
join the dance?"

I refused to play "frog in the middle" any longer and broke into the
dance, soon dropping into the unfamiliar tune but very familiar words of
the Lobster Quadrille. We sang all four of the verses from that immortal
nonsense.

     "'What matters it how far we go?' his scaly friend replied,
    'There is another shore, you know, upon the other side.
    The farther off from England, the nearer is to France.
    Then turn not pale, beloved snail, but come and join the dance.'"

The owner of the long, sad, crooked face was also owner of a singularly
clear, true, well-trained voice, and Mr. Tucker's fresh baritone fitted
in finely, while Dum and Dee and I did the best we could with what
Nature had seen fit to endow us in the way of voices. Finally we girls
sank exhausted on the bare, uncovered beds, but Mr. Tucker and the
mysterious visitor stood clasping hands.

"Jeff Tucker, what in Heaven's name are you doing at a young ladies'
boarding school?"

"Entering my girls: Tweedles. And you, Jinny Cox, what are you doing
here?" And Mr. Tucker kept on shaking her hand.

"I teach singing here. Have been here for years. And to think of your
girls being old enough to go to boarding school! It seems only yesterday
that you and dear little Virginia were leading the germans at the
University. I haven't seen you since you married. I meant to write you
when Virginia died, but somehow I just couldn't."

"That was all right, Jinny. I knew how you felt without hearing from
you. She only lived a year, you know. Tweedles were just a few weeks old
when she died." And the dear man who a moment before had been so
cheerily singing the Lobster Quadrille, now wiped his eyes and seemed
given over to melancholy.

"I want you to know our girls. This is Virginia," indicating Dum, "and
this, Caroline," meaning Dee. I was rather amused at the fact that
earlier in the day he could not remember their official names, as he
called them. "I named this one Virginia, thinking she was going to have
her mother's eyes, but the little monkey changed them on me and in a
twinkling turned herself into a hazel-eyed monster," and poor Zebedee
forgot to cry any more and began to laugh. "This is the much dreaded
roommate, Miss Page Allison, of Milton, Virginia. The wild orgy which
you so tactfully joined was in honor of the discovery that this young
lady was the roommate."

"Well, girls, I am glad to see all of you and hope we can be great
friends. My name is Jane Cox. I can't remember any one having the
hardihood to call me Jinny for some sixteen or seventeen years. I
haven't danced for at least ten years. I don't know what the management
or the girls would think or say if they knew I had cut up this way. I
don't know what made me do it. I came to the door to stop the racket and
when I saw Jeff Tucker whirling around with three girls singing, 'Will
you, won't you, won't you, will you, will you join the dance?' my
discretion flew to the four winds. I just did have sense enough left to
shut the door. I forgot I was an old maid, teaching singing in a
boarding school."

"It was simply splendid of you to come in and help us out," exclaimed
Dee. Dee was usually the one who knew what to say and when to say it.
Some persons call it tact, but I have always thought it was just a kind
heart that made her know what people wanted her to say. Cousin Sue Lee
was the same kind of natural-born social wonder. "I think your voice is
beautiful, and how on earth did you happen to know our tune?"

"Why, child, your father and I made up that tune on a picnic once years
before you were born. Do you remember, Jeff, when we went to Monticello,
and how it rained? We composed the tune and improvised a Lobster
Quadrille to cheer up the bedraggled crowd. How Virginia did laugh! I
haven't thought of that tune for ages. Perhaps it is because I have not
been with the kind of people who would enjoy 'Alice in Wonderland.'"

"Zebedee has put us to sleep with it ever since we were born," said Dum.
"I mean the tune."

"And I have been reading Alice in Wonderland ever since I was born," I
ventured.

"Well, I'm certainly glad to meet some kindred spirits at Gresham," said
Miss Cox, "and now, girls, I'm going to ask a great favor of the three
of you. I want you to keep to yourselves that I broke loose as I did. I
have hard enough work as it is keeping order during study hour when that
task falls to me, and if the girls ever found out that I was capable of
such high-jinks, I'd lose all control of them." We promised, but I, for
one, thought that the more human you find your pastors and masters to
be, the more apt you are to want to make things easy for them. Miss Jane
Cox was much older than I, but she had yet to learn that wisdom.

"We'll all promise," we declared in unison.

"But please break loose again, sometimes, Jinny," begged Mr. Tucker.
"The idea of your calling yourself an old maid! I bet you are not
thirty-five yet. I'm only thirty-six myself, and, goodness knows, I am
nothing but a kid!"

"Teaching is a very aging occupation," sighed Miss Cox. "I don't mind
the singing, but it's teaching mathematics to the backward pupils that
adds ten years a season to my already full years. Do your girls sing,
Jeffry?"

"Not so's you can notice it. Dum, here, is going to be a great sculptor;
and Dee is uncertain whether she wants to be a trained nurse or a
veterinary surgeon."

"Vet'rinary surgeon? Surely you wouldn't let her go into such a
profession?" exclaimed Miss Cox with her twisted smile.

"Why not? I'll let my girls go into any profession that appeals to them.
Dum loves to make mud pies and Dee loves to nurse sick puppies. Both of
them rather dirty arts, but 'Every man to his taste.'"

Miss Cox had to leave us and go to attend to various duties, but before
going she assured Mr. Tucker that she would take especial care of all
three of his girls. You can fancy what it meant to me to be included. I
almost called him Zebedee, but I was afraid it might make him feel like
the father of triplets, so I refrained.

It was almost time for the train which Mr. Tucker was to catch, as he
intended to take a sleeper back to Richmond that night. I felt the
tactful thing for me to do would be to leave the girls alone with their
father, so I told him good-by and went off to see how Annie Pore was
faring.

I found her sitting in a forlorn heap in one of the neighboring rooms,
her hat and jacket still on; her disreputable telescope in the middle of
the room; and the expression on her face suited to the tragic muse.

"Who's your cellmate, Annie?" said I, bursting in on her.

"I don't know, but I know she will hate me."

"Hate you, indeed! No one could hate you. Why don't you unpack and get
your things in order? I am going to stay with you until Mr. Tucker
leaves, so Tweedles can get a chance to be alone with him for a while. I
am rooming with them, you know. Our room is quite near you and we can
all be real chummy."

The rooms were all perfectly bare and bleak-looking: white walls, white
iron beds, curtainless windows and carpetless floors. The pupils were
supposed to decorate their own rooms if they wanted them decorated.
Annie Pore had been put into a two-girl room a bit smaller than the one
assigned to the Tuckers and me, but otherwise exactly like it.

"I am dreading a roommate," sighed the girl. "I have never slept in the
room with any one in my life."

"Neither have I, but I am crazy about it. Just think what fun it will be
to have some one to talk to and giggle with."

I could not fancy giggling with Annie Pore in her present melancholy
frame of mind, but I was sure that was a phase that would pass and she
would end by being as girlish as the next. She had too keen a sense of
humor to be lost in gloom forever.



CHAPTER V.

LETTERS.


From Caroline Tucker to her father, Jeffry Tucker.


                                   Gresham, Sept. 18, 19--.

          Dearest Zebedee:

          You would have to be your own daughter to know how
          much you can be missed. After you left the other
          day, Dum and I cried so much we came mighty near
          getting sick, but Page Allison came back and was
          so ridiculous in her description of Annie Pore
          sitting up in the bus full of Seniors with her
          crêpe hat cocked on one side, that we got to
          laughing; and you know how easy it is to be
          cheerful if someone only starts the ball
          a-rolling. Page is splendid and takes the most
          interest in life of anybody I ever saw. She makes
          a lot of fun, but somehow it is never at anyone
          but always with them. She loves dogs, too, so I am
          sure to get on with her.

          I do think it was wise in you, dearest Zebedee, to
          make us have a roommate, since that roommate
          happens to be Page, because she certainly does do
          us good; and already I find I am trying to "exert
          more self-control," as you say when you are trying
          to be Mr. Tuckerish. She hates blubbering and
          never cries except when the dogs die or her father
          reads poetry to her. I tell her that we don't
          usually cry, either, that is, we don't bawl, but
          just leak a bit. She says just leaking is rather
          fascinating and shows temperament, and she wishes
          she wasn't so dry-eyed and could express her
          emotions in such a graceful way.

          Page has read a whole lot and knows reams and
          quires of history, but never has studied any
          French at all and has to go with the kids in
          mathematics. She is real spunky about it, though,
          and doesn't say a word about how humiliating it
          must be to have to sit in a class with children of
          twelve and even younger.

          She can write Latin like a house afire, but when
          she translates we can hardly keep from giggling
          outright, as she uses the funny old pronunciation
          that Grandpa Tucker does. It seems she has learned
          Latin entirely from her father. Miss Sears, the
          Latin teacher, is trying to get her out of this
          pronunciation, but she compliments her very much
          on her knowledge of English derivatives. Page says
          that is the side of Latin that interested her
          father and he consequently taught it to her.

          Dum and I have had only one serious set-to since
          you left us. I licked her. I wish you would send
          Dum a dollar box of plasticine. She is restless
          sometimes and I know she is itching to create, and
          if she had the mud she could do it. Dum is being
          awfully good about holding on to herself, and is
          just as nice and polite to Page as can be,
          although she did vow and declare that she was
          going to make it so hot for any roommate we got
          that the poor thing would have to leave. Of course
          that was before we knew it was going to be our
          luck to draw such a prize. There's the bell, so
          good-by, dear old Zebedeedlums.

                             Your own Tweedledeelums.

Virginia Tucker to her father, Jeffry Tucker.


                                Gresham, Sept. 19, 19--.

          My darling Zebedee:

          Dee wrote yesterday so I waited until to-day,
          although she declared she was not writing the kind
          of thing to you that I was going to. I don't see
          how she knew what I was going to write when I
          don't know myself.

          There is one thing I want to say and that is: "the
          old man always knows best." A roommate is a great
          institution when she is as bully as Page Allison.
          I was awfully afraid Dee was going to be rude, but
          she hasn't been a bit. As for me, I have been a
          little tin angel. You can ask Dee if I haven't.

          I am mighty sorry for Dee. She not only misses you
          just as much as I do, but she misses old Brindle
          almost as much as she does you. I don't see why
          they won't let a bulldog go to boarding school. I
          asked Dee if she gave you any more directions
          about how to take care of Brindle, and she said
          she hadn't even mentioned him she was so afraid of
          splashing on her letter.

          Your friend Miss Cox has been in to see us and was
          just as jolly as could be, but when the other
          girls are around she treats us like perfect
          strangers. The truth of the matter is she is
          afraid of girls and does not understand them, nor
          do they understand her. I got that from Page, who
          is very analytical. Page says if she would let
          herself go she would be the most popular teacher
          in school, but as it is, while she is not
          unpopular, she is not regarded at all. She is
          awfully interesting but the girls don't know it.
          They know she has a good voice and teaches with
          good method but she might as well be a phonograph
          for all the human interest they have in her. She
          is coach for the backward and wayward in Math. I
          believe Page Allison will have to have her, and I
          bet on Page for drawing her out.

          I tell you that girl has done wonders with Annie
          Pore. Every time she finds her crying she makes
          her laugh, and you know no one but old Zebedee can
          laugh and cry at the same time without going into
          hysterics. Right to her face she calls her
          "Melancholy Dane" and "Old Rain in the Face" and
          all kinds of ridiculous names, and Annie simply
          has to smile. There is one thing about Page: you
          can always know she is going to say what she's got
          to say right to your face. Usually when people are
          that way their conversation is "yea, yea, and nay,
          nay," but Page is not that way a bit.

          Dee and I have had only one bout and then Dee
          knocked me out. It was a funny thing the way I let
          down my guard, but I got to thinking about Dee's
          dimple in her chin and how some day I was going
          to make a stunning bust of her. You see Dee looks
          mighty handsome when she boxes, with her head
          thrown back, her neck like a column. I had sure
          got her going that day and she had backed way up
          in the corner, when the idea of making the bust
          took possession of me--well, Dee made a stunning
          bust of me, that's all. She tapped me on the nose
          and drew the claret.

          The row was all about you. Dee said you must be
          pretty near middle-aged and I said she was all the
          way a plumb idiot, you were no such thing and
          never would be. The fact that she tapped me does
          not prove that you are or ever will be any such
          thing. Page came in at the crucial moment and was
          somewhat shocked to see us boxing, and was broken
          up over the gore; but when she heard what the row
          was about, she sympathized with me and offered to
          put on the gloves and fight it out with Dee; but
          she decided in her amusing way to argue it out
          instead.

          She said: "If the pen is mightier than the sword,
          surely the tongue is mightier than a pair of
          boxing gloves." She proved to Dee's perfect
          satisfaction that age was a matter of temperament
          and that yours was eternal youth. Dee was
          convinced and offered the _amende honorable_,
          confessing herself beaten in argument. I begin to
          think trial by combat not such a good way of
          settling things, after all. It seems to me a quiet
          debate is much the better way.

          Write to us soon. I heard one of the Seniors say
          you were the most attractive-looking man she ever
          saw. She thought you were our big brother and
          meant for me to hear it and of course wanted me to
          repeat it to you. Good-by, my darling old
          Zebedeedidlums. I am sorry I made you cry twice on
          the day you brought us up here.

                                Your own,
                                       Dumplingdeedledums.

Annie Pore to her Father, Mr. Arthur Pore, Price's Landing, Va.


                                  Gresham, Sept. 19, 19--.

          My dear Father:

          I am writing to you at my earliest opportunity. I
          made the journey without any mishaps and in great
          comfort. I was astonished to find how luxurious
          traveling by rail is. I shall have to confess to
          you that I talked to some persons I met on the
          train. They were all of them going to Gresham and
          were very kind to me. I found myself conversing
          with them before I remembered your admonitions to
          be very careful about making acquaintances. I know
          in England it is very bad form, but I felt somehow
          it would have been much worse form to hold myself
          aloof when they were one and all so kind to me.

          The Institute of Gresham is admirable in every
          particular. My instruction has been so thorough,
          thanks to your unceasing efforts, that I find I
          can take a very good stand. I have not divulged
          that an Oxford graduate has been my teacher. I am
          well up in Algebra, Latin and French, although my
          French accent is not all that it should be.

          Miss Cox, the singing teacher, takes a great
          interest in my voice but evidently has no personal
          feeling for me. I am very grateful to you for the
          sacrifices you have made to send me to boarding
          school, and am endeavoring to take advantage of
          every opportunity to perfect my education.

                        Very respectfully,
                                 Annie de Vere Pore.

Page Allison to her father, Dr. James Allison, Milton, Va.


                                   Gresham, Sept. 19, 19--.

          My dear old Father:

          I can hardly believe it is only a few days since
          I left Bracken. It seems ages and eons. I have a
          million things to tell you. I made friends with
          some delightful people on the train, Mr. Jeffry
          Tucker and his twin daughters, Dum and Dee. Mr.
          Tucker says he knows you; and my eyes were so like
          yours he came mighty near giving me the fraternity
          grip. He is the youngest man to be grown up and
          have almost grown-up daughters I ever saw. Their
          mother is dead, too. So many mothers seem to be
          dead.

          We made friends with another girl on the train,
          Annie Pore from Price's Landing. She had never
          been on the train before, but although she seemed
          terribly shy and was dressed in a most pathetic
          get-up, still she had all the bearing and
          carriage of a _grande dame_. She is a half-orphan,
          too, and I have a kind of idea that her father is
          not to say so intimate with his daughter as some
          other fathers who shall be nameless. She has been
          writing to her paternal parent for the last hour,
          and she actually copied the letter and seemed to
          be writing with as much care as though it had to
          be handed in. You don't want me to write that way
          to you, do you?

          Gresham is splendid. It is a beautiful building,
          red brick with great white columns, giving it the
          look of a modern Parthenon. It is on top of a hill
          overlooking the little town and has a beautiful
          lawn with great chestnut trees and oaks. But best
          of all is the view of the mountains. When it is
          clear they seem quite close, almost as though we
          could walk to them, and at other times they
          disappear altogether.

          The first day or two the girls seemed to think if
          they did not do a lot of bawling and blubbering
          some one might think they did not love their
          homes. Some of them cried because they could not
          help it, but some of them, I verily believe,
          rubbed onions in their eyes like the heartless
          sisters in "Beauty and the Beast." I know no home
          could be more beautiful than Bracken and I'll
          wager anything that there isn't a dad in the world
          better or more beloved than mine. And was there
          ever a mammy like mine? I'm not even mentioning
          the dogs, although they are not the least of my
          blessings. And still, not a visible tear have I
          shed.

          The first morning when I waked up in the strange
          room and stared at the blank bare wall, it seemed
          to me as though I simply could not stand it. I was
          dreaming about Mammy Susan. I thought she was
          pouring hot water into my tub again. My roommates
          were still asleep, having wept themselves into a
          state of coma. (I haven't told you that I am
          rooming with Dum and Dee Tucker and I like it a
          lot.) Well, I got up and went to the bathroom and
          had the coldest bath I ever had in my life and
          then I dressed in a hurry. I felt as though I must
          get out before any one saw me. If I could have a
          little run, maybe I could stave off the great wave
          of homesickness that was going to swallow me up in
          a minute. I raced along the corridor.

          I got onto a covered walk connecting the dormitory
          with the main building, and there serene and
          beautiful were the mountains stretched before me.
          I didn't want to cry any more. A feeling of deep
          peace and happiness came to me. I chanted aloud:
          "I will look unto the hills from whence cometh my
          help," etc. You mustn't think I don't love you and
          Mammy Susan just as much as ever, for I do; but I
          am having a good time and am going to learn a few
          things, and am going to make loads and loads of
          friends.

          My love to all the dear dogs and please give them
          an extra bone for me. And tell dear Mammy Susan
          that all of us on the train would have starved to
          death if she hadn't put up all that good lunch.
          I'll tell you about what I am studying in my next
          letter.           Good-by,

                                           Your own Page.



CHAPTER VI.

THE FOUNDLING.


"Well, Miss Peyton is some mobilizer," sighed Dee as she snuggled down
in her bed after our first study hall had been lived through at Gresham.
"Just to think, here we are hard at work when we have been here only two
days."

"Well, I'm glad, for one," said Dum. "If they work us hard enough, we
won't get Zebedee-sick. That's what Dee and I call homesick. Wherever
Zebedee is, is home for us."

"My Father and Bracken and Mammy Susan and the dogs are so mixed up in
my mind that I can't tell what or which or whom I miss most," and I
scrambled into bed in a great hurry just as the bell rang to warn us
that lights must be out in five minutes. I had not been twenty-four
hours with other girls before I had learned many things that girls know.
One of them was that the last one up has the chores to do, such as
raising the window at the bottom and pulling it down at the top, a
mighty chilly performance when clothed in nothing but a nightgown; also,
the tardy one has the light to put out.

"Oh, you foxy creatures!" cried Dum. "I bet you haven't cleaned your
teeth, you've been in such a hurry to beat me to bed."

"'Deed we have," we declared, "while you were calling on Annie Pore."

"You haven't said your prayers, then," persisted Dum.

"I have," I said. But Dee had neglected this means of grace and had to
crawl out of her nice, warm bed; and she and Dum knelt together. There
was silence for about three minutes; then Dum bounced into bed and
pulled the covers up to her square chin. There she lay, with eyes
closed.

"Dum Tucker, you skipped something. I don't believe you said a single
thing but 'NowIlayme,'" and Dee stood over her sister like an avenging
angel.

"What's it to you?" yawned Dum. "That's a matter between me and my
conscience. Open the window; and turn out the light; and crawl into bed
before our room gets reported."

"Well, it was a matter between my conscience and me whether I said my
prayers at all; and you went and butt in on us. Now you take that
toploftical stand about you and your conscience! Well, you and your
conscience can just lie on the floor together." With which tirade, Dee
yanked Dum and all her bed clothes out on the floor. She then whisked
off the light and, quickly raising the window, jumped into bed.

I wondered what would be the outcome of this battle and if it would have
to be settled according to the Tuckers' code of honor: a duel with
boxing gloves. But just then there was a sharp rap on the door.

"Less noise, please," said a determined voice outside, "or I shall have
to report 117 to the principal."

Dum lay on the floor convulsed with giggles. "Sh-h--." I warned. "Be
careful, or we'll all have to write pages from the dictionary for two
hours."

"You won't have to, surely, when Dum and I made all the racket,"
whispered Dee.

"The teacher said '117,' and that means me, too. Can you get back into
bed? Is the foot untucked?"

"I believe I can if I don't start giggling again," and Dum began to
squirm out of the covers.

"Let me help," said the penitent Dee, and Dum was soon back in her cot
and silence reigned supreme. After a while I heard Dum whisper:

"Say, Dee, I did skip. Conscience bids me confess to thee."

"Well, Dum, I'll give it to you that you and your conscience are perfect
gentlemen," said Dee admiringly.

"Thanks awfully," yawned Dum. "I know one thing, I'm a mighty sleepy
gentleman;" and in a trice the quiet breathing from the disheveled bed
told that Dum and her conscience were at rest.

There were constant surprises in store for one who shared a room with
the Tucker twins. They certainly had the gift of infinite variety in
the kind of scrapes they could get themselves into. They usually got out
of scrapes as easily as they got into them by a certain frankness and
directness that would disarm Miss Peyton herself. They didn't break
rules, because they did things that nobody had ever thought of making
rules about. The principal at Gresham was not so farseeing as the
teacher in "Mary Had a Little Lamb," who seems to have made a rule about
lambs in school:

          It followed her to school one day,
          Which was against the rule.
          It made the children laugh and play
          To see a lamb in school.

One day when we were taking a sedate walk, the school out in full force
with two teachers to keep order along the blue-coated, black-hatted
lines, we saw by the roadside a little kitten, so young its eyes were
hardly open.

"Poor little foundling!" "I wonder where it came from!" "I'd like to
pick him up!" ejaculated several of the girls, but Dee Tucker was the
one who acted. She was bringing up the rear with Miss Sears, the Latin
teacher. As they were passing the forlorn little feline, Miss Sears
stepped forward to admonish a couple who were talking too loudly. Dee
stooped and quickly scooped into her muff the poor pussy. No one saw her
and kitty very considerately said nothing. He lay there warm and
contented, dreaming he was back with his soft, loving mother, and
forgetting the rude hand that had put him into a bag with his brothers
and sisters. The bag had had a merciful hole, and he, being the runt of
the family, had fallen through before the proposed drowning came off.

We marched on, all unconscious of the addition to our ranks. When we got
back to school and went up to our room to take off our hats, etc., I
noticed that Dee had very shining eyes and her dimple seemed to be
deeper, but she did not divulge to Dum and me what she had up her
sleeve, or rather her muff. I also noticed at supper that she swiped
some bread and very adroitly concealed it in her middy blouse. She also
very cleverly called the attention of every one at our table to the
autumn moon, that was peeping into the dining room window, and while
they were looking the other way, she filled a little vial with milk from
her glass.

Naturally I said nothing, but adopted the watchful, waiting attitude,
certain that sooner or later I'd find out what Dee was up to. And I did,
all right.

After supper we had an hour before study hall which we usually spent in
the gymnasium dancing. Dum and Dee had undertaken to teach Annie Pore
and me the new dances. All dances were new to poor Annie and me. I could
cut the pigeon wing and dance "Goin' to Church," which is a negro
classic (but the Tango and Maxixe with all of the intricate steps and
side-stepping seemed very difficult). But I must learn, and learn I did.
As for Annie, her sense of rhythm was so great that she took to dancing
as a duck does to water. She had to get over a certain self-consciousness
that was her ruling fault, but when the Victrola was started in one of
the tunes that would make a dead darkey want to get up and pat, why,
Annie would forget all about Annie and her ill-fitting clothes and
would sway to the music with the utmost abandon.

I believe I have forgotten to tell whom Annie got for a roommate. It was
none other than Josephine Barr, the good-natured, dressy Senior, for
whom Miss Sayre felt so sorry because of her great wealth. I fancy Jo,
as we soon called her, was not very well pleased at first at having to
share a room with such a seemingly dismal person; but it was either
Annie or Mabel Binks, as all the other rooms were filled and Jo had not
registered in time to have much choice.

She couldn't bear Mabel Binks; and she did feel sorry for the poor
little new girl who seemed so ready to dissolve into tears. Jo was the
best old thing in the world, with a heart as big as all outdoors and an
optimistic nature that was bound to influence Annie and make her more
cheerful; at the same time, Annie's breeding and careful speech had its
good effect on the husky Jo. Before the year was up, they were as
intimate as a Senior and Sophomore could be.

On that famous evening which was afterward known as the "Kitten
Evening," Dee kept disappearing between dances. She would come back,
flushed and a little troubled-looking, but would go on with the dance
with a do-or-die expression. Study hour in the assembly hall from eight
to ten and then half an hour to get to bed before the bell rang for
lights out: that was the order of procedure. As we studied, I noticed
how Dee kept fidgeting and twisting. Dum noticed it, too, and the
fidgets seemed to be catching. We were on our honor not to speak during
study hour, and of course that settled the matter for the Tuckers and
me. Dee could squirm herself into a bowknot and Dum and I could die of
curiosity, and still honor forbade our making a sign to find out what
was the matter.

I never spent such a long and unprofitable two hours in my life. I tried
to concentrate my attention on my lessons, but it was impossible with
Dee at the desk in front of me never still a minute.

"The bell at last!" exclaimed Dee.

"Well, your lessons have been Reeling and Writhing, Dee Tucker. I never
saw such a wiggler in my life." But Dee was off like a whirlwind,
without a word to Dum and me. She didn't even take her books with her or
gather up the scattered papers that were strewn over her desk. We
mercifully saved her some demerits by putting things in order for her.

"What do you reckon is up with Dee?" said Dum anxiously. "She is either
brewing some mischief or is already in a scrape."

We found the door to 117 carefully closed and Dee already in bed. How
she ever managed to get in so rapidly, I could not see, unless she
followed the plan of "Diddle, diddle dumpling, my son, John."

"Now, Dee Tucker, what is the matter with you?" begged Dum anxiously.

"The matter with me?" said Dee with feigned coolness. "Nothing on earth,
my dear sister. What should be the matter with me? I am simply sleepy
and thought I would get into bed."

"How about your teeth and your prayers?"

"Cleaned 'em and said 'em," said Dee laconically, and she turned over
rather gingerly, I noticed, and pretended to have fallen into a deep
sleep.

"She won't be able to keep it to herself very long," whispered Dum to
me. "If it is any fun, she can't be low enough not to share it; and if
it is trouble of some sort, she is sure to let us in on it. I'll take
the motto of Prosper le Gai: 'I bide my time.'"

Respecting Dee's evident desire for silence, Dum and I went very quietly
to bed and had the light out long before it was time.

A knock at the door! "Come in," called Dum. It was Annie Pore, very
apologetic at disturbing us.

"It is ten minutes before lights out bell. I had no idea you had all
gone to bed. I was worried about Dee. Is she all right? She looked so
feverish."

"Oh, yes, she's all right; just sleepy," said Dum politely. "Thank you
all the same, Annie."

Annie softly closed the door. I heard strange sounds from Dee's bed but
could not tell whether she was laughing or crying.

Another knock!

"Come in," a little wearily from Dum.

Miss Jane Cox this time!

"Oh, girls, excuse me! I did not know you were in bed, I was a little
anxious about Dee." A snore from Dee's bed, rather melodramatic in tone.
"She seemed so upset during study hour. I was on duty and I did not know
whether she needed castor oil or a demerit." The snoring stopped. The
snorer was evidently deliberating.

"I think she is all right now, Miss Cox," I ventured. "She went right
off to bed as soon as study hour was over. Maybe she won't have to have
either, demerit or oil. My private opinion is she had a flea down her
back, but she says she was just tired and sleepy." A gratified snore
from Dee and Miss Cox with a little snicker went to her room.

    "Night, Sable Goddess, from her ebon throne,
    Now stretches forth a leaden scepter o'er a slumbering world."

Lights out bell had rung, and the girls all along the corridors in
Carter Hall had gone to bed and to sleep. I had a feeling of impending
something, not necessarily evil, but excitement, at least. Dum was
breathing gently and regularly like a sleeping infant. Dee stirred every
now and then and occasionally muttered an unintelligible something. I
dozed but waked with a start.

"Mieuw--mieuw--mieuw!" came in a heart-rending wail from Dee's bed.

"Shhhh-shhhh! Poor ittle titty puss! Don't you cwy, honey child!
Shhh----"

"Mieuw--mieuw-mieuw-mieuw!!!!" More subdued endearments from Dee. Dum
slept on, but I heard a door open way down the hall! Some teacher, with
sharp ears, no doubt.

"Dee," I whispered, "put your little finger in its mouth and let it suck
until that busybody down the hall goes back into her room." There was
the sound of a door closing.

"What is your advice, Page?"

"Have you anything for it to eat?"

"Bread and milk, but it won't eat."

"Of course not, it is too little. Did you warm the milk?" I inquired.

"No, how could I with no stove?" One of the rules of the institution
was: no alcohol stoves.

"Wait a minute. I've got a candle that Mammy Susan put in my bag in case
of accidents." How I blessed the kind old woman who had thought of
everything. "Them newfangled lights may be mighty fine but if they 'cide
not to wuck some night, a good ole tallow can'le 'll come in mighty
handy, chile, also some saftest matches," she had said as she overrode
all my objections and tucked the life-saving candle and matches in my
already overworked grip.

I got up, donned slippers and dressing gown, gently closed the window,
as the night was decidedly frosty, and found the matches and candle. We
did not dare to light the electric light because of the transom over the
door. Pussy might at any moment let out another wail, and then the
wakeful teacher, seeing the light, would make for our room. In feeling
for the table, I touched Dum's foot and she waked with a start.

"What's the matter, Dee? Are you sick?" And Dum sat up in bed.

"Shhh--No, Dum, she's not sick but the little kitty is hungry," I
whispered.

"The _what_ is hungry?"

"Not so loud, Dum dear, please! It's just a poor, miserable little
foundling of a kitty puss that I simply could not leave by the roadside.
I've got it in bed with me here."

"Oh, Caroline Tucker! A nasty little cat in bed with you? What would
Zebedee say?" and Dum sniffed the air disdainfully.

"He would say just what I say, Virginia Tucker, that it is a mighty
funny thing that you, who were in line before me and must have seen the
poor little wretched kitten first, didn't feel it your duty to rescue it
from its misery. I am ashamed of you, belonging to the S. P. C. A.,
too," and Dee gave her little charge a brand new finger to suck.

Things were looking rather serious: Dum and Dee calling one another
Virginia and Caroline and that in no modulated tones; and the candle
making such a bright light that I expected every minute to hear a
teacher rapping on our door.

"Now, look here, Tweedles, both of you stop your fussing and 'tend to
the business in hand. You can fight it out to-morrow, but for Heaven's
sake, put all of your surplus energy now on getting the kitten fed and
quiet and 117 not in a deluge of demerits. Dum, get up and pin two middy
ties over the transom."

Dum obediently carried out my instructions while I warmed the milk that
Dee had purloined from the supper table over the blessed candle. I
sweetened it a little and diluted it with water. I warmed it in Dee's
silver pin-tray, as we had no pan of any sort.

"Dip your finger in here, Dee, and let the kitten taste it so it can
realize succor is near. It is lots too young to lap and will have to
suck a rag."

Dum tore up an old handkerchief for me and in a little while kitty was
tugging away for dear life, one end of the bit of cambric in its pink
flannel mouth and the other in the pin-tray of milk.

Dum was soon won over to the helpless little thing. "It is sweet, Dee, I
declare; let me hold it a minute."

Dee magnanimously handed it over to her sister who held the pin-tray
very carefully and let kitty feed as tenderly as any young mother. It
soon got its fill and curled up and purred "just like a fairy buzz-saw,"
Dum declared.

"To think of a tiny cat like that knowing how to purr!" exclaimed Dee.

"To think of a tiny cat like that having such enormous fleas on it,"
shuddered Dum. "Here, take the beastie, I'm going back to bed before I
get full of 'em."

"Yes, they are something awful," sighed Dee, "I am literally eaten
alive."

"Poor old Dee! Change your nightgown and leave your bed to the pussy and
come snuggle in with me," said Dum.

Pussy slept very well in Dee's bed, waking only about every two hours
and mewing for nourishment. Dee and I would get wearily up, warm the
milk and administer.

"Oh, who could be a cat with kittens?" sighed Dee.

Morning finally came and the problem of what to do with our adopted
child had to be faced.

"Do you know what I'd do if I were you, Dee? I'd go right to Miss Peyton
and tell her all about it. I'll go with you. She would sympathize with
you, I really believe, and help you find a home for pussy," I said.

"I'll go, too," cried Dum.

Miss Peyton was fine. She seemed to think Dee had merely been imprudent,
not at all naughty. She agreed with Dee that it was a strange thing that
the whole line of girls and teachers should have passed the little waif
by.

"Girls, I am proud and happy that you should have felt I was the person
to confide in. If all the school could only understand that I am their
friend and not just the principal and dealer in demerits. Of course you
can't keep the kitten in your room, but I will see that a good home is
found for it with someone who will take the trouble to feed it until it
can lap for itself. I think I know exactly the right person in the
village."

We went from the principal's office in very happy and exalted states of
mind.

"Isn't she wonderful?" exclaimed Dee. "Wasn't she splendid to us?"

"She was fine," enthused Dum. "I am certainly relieved."

I said to myself: "Miss Peyton was awfully nice, but it is plain to be
seen she is fond of cats. I wonder how she would have felt if it had
been an orphan snake or an abused Billy-goat!"



CHAPTER VII.

KITTY'S FOSTER-FATHER.


Tweedles and I were excused from the Gym exercises that afternoon with
the request that we meet Miss Peyton in her office at three o'clock. We
were there on time, you may be sure, and Dee had the kitty all done up
in a shoe box ready for the trip. We had christened him Oliver Twist,
because he kept on "hollering for more" all the weary night.

Miss Peyton laughed until the tears rolled down her cheeks over the
description of our trials during the night. When we found out that she
did not think it was so terribly wicked of Dee, we felt we could tell
her everything, even the middy ties over the transom and the fleas in
Dee's bed.

"You poor girls must be nearly dead, aren't you?" she asked kindly.

"Page and I feel right scrooch-eyed, but after the first feeding, Dum
slept through it all," laughed Dee. "I have more sympathy than ever for
poor Zebedee. That's what we call our Father, you know, Miss Peyton. He
had to bring up Dum and me on bottles as our little Mother died when we
were tiny babies. If one kitten could keep two girls awake most of the
night heating milk for it, don't you fancy two twins, like Dum and me,
could keep one man awake all the time?"

"Didn't you have a nurse?" I asked.

"Of course we did, all kinds and colors, but Dum and I wouldn't drink
unless Zebedee gave us the bottles. He says he was afraid the nurse
might not be sanitary and trusted no one but himself to fix the milk."

"Poor old Zebedee!" sighed Dum, her eyes filling. "I don't see how we
could have been so mean to him."

We had started on our quest for a friend for kitty, Miss Peyton leading
the way down toward the village. She seemed to be enjoying the little
outing as much as we were.

"Your Father must be very patient," she said, putting her arm in Dum's
when she saw the hazel eyes filling at the thought of her Father.

"Well, the funny part of it is, he is not one bit patient except with
Dee and me. Do you know, once he got dreadfully mad with the telephone
girl who kept on cutting him off when he was in the midst of some most
important business that could not wait, and every time he would try to
get connection again, the operator would say 'Line busy.' Now he knew
the line was not busy and the person on the other end was just as
anxious to be got as he was to get him, and, as I was saying, he got so
mad he pulled the telephone out by the roots."

"Well, that was, to say the least, impulsive," and Miss Peyton laughed
like any schoolgirl.

"You mustn't think Zebedee is bad-tempered," put in Dee. "He's got the
sweetest disposition in the world. He's just quick-tempered. He has
learned to control himself wonderfully but you know he is real young
yet."

"Yes, I know," said Miss Peyton solemnly.

"Tell us whom you are going to get to be kitty's foster father, Miss
Peyton," I said, purposely changing the subject. Not that I did not
take the keenest interest in everything pertaining to Mr. Tucker, but I
could see that the twins were both getting leaky, and it did seem a pity
to have a cloud cast over our delightful walk with Miss Peyton.

"Indeed, I will," she said, giving me an approving nod. "It is dear old
Captain Pat Leahy. I hope you girls will like him as much as I do. He is
sure to like you. Of course he may not be able to keep the little thing
and then I don't know what we will do. Anyhow, let's not borrow trouble.
I know the dear man will do it for me if he possibly can. When I first
came to Gresham as a pupil----"

"Oh, were you a pupil here?" we exclaimed in one breath.

"Yes, indeed, I came here before I went to college. Gresham had not such
a grand building then and accommodated only about fifty girls. It was
more like a home school. Captain Leahy was then conductor on the local
train and took an especial interest in the Gresham girls. I shall never
forget how good he was to me on my first trip. I was lonesome and
shy----"

"You, shy! Oh, Miss Peyton, were you, really?"

"I should say I was. Why, Annie Pore is brazen beside what I was as a
child. Captain Leahy sat by me between stations and with his ready Irish
tongue cheered me up immensely. He treated me to peanuts and made me
laugh and gave me a new outlook on life. The poor fellow lost a leg in a
railroad accident about ten years ago, and ever since then has kept the
gate where the track crosses the main street of Gresham."

"Does he like cats?" I asked.

"Oh, yes, he adores them. That is the great bond of sympathy between us.
He loves cats and he loves flowers. He also has a great fondness for
young people. Here we are," and Miss Peyton pointed out the gate-house
where her old friend lived.

It was just an ordinary little square box of a house painted the pumpkin
yellow that railroads are so partial to, but all around it were window
boxes, some of them filled with geraniums, some with Norway spruces and
English ivy. A moon flower had completely covered one side of the little
house, but the frost had touched the big leaves and they were dropping
off one by one.

A grizzled old man with a long red beard and a peg leg was digging
around the geraniums as we approached. "Captain, I have brought some of
my girls to meet you," said Miss Peyton, holding out her hand to the old
man and introducing us.

"And I am that proud to meet all of yez; and so will me cats be. The
poor critters long for some petticoats to cuddle oop to. A peg leg is
but cold comfort to a pussy when she is hankering for some women folk,"
and with a hearty laugh the old fellow stumped to the door of his little
gate-house and called to the cats. Out they came, seven in all and a
motley crew. The Captain was very democratic and not particular about
the pedigree of his friends.

"All cats are aristocratic if you just give 'em a chance," he would
declare when some cat snob would suggest that he go in for pure breeds.

Six of the cats came to him and rubbed their backs against his good leg;
but the seventh, a large gray one with a mournful look in her eyes,
began to sharpen her claws on a long strip of sand paper he had tacked
to his wooden leg. We burst out laughing. It was the most comical thing
I had ever seen.

"A little invintion of me own. There are no trees handy for the poor
critters to sharpen their claws on and I find this device saves me
furniture many a scratch." He stooped and laid his hand lovingly on the
mournful one, but she arched her back and moved over to the protection
of Dee's skirts.

"What, schtill angry wid me, poor Bett? I had to have her kittens
drowned, all but one, and she can't forgive me, not that I blame her.
But what am I to do, Miss Peyton? Me house is schmall and Bett is that
prolific she could furnish kittens for all the ould maids in Christendom
in little or no toime."

"Well, it is a problem, Captain Leahy, but I am sorry for Bett. Aren't
there enough old maids in Gresham to help you out some?" Miss Peyton
stooped down and picked up the poor bereaved mother who nestled
comfortably in her arms and began to purr loudly.

"The demand doesn't come oop to Bett's supply, niver in the world,"
laughed the old man. "But what am I thinking of keeping yez waiting out
here so long? Come in, come in!" I have never heard such a rich,
delicious voice as Captain Leahy's; and his brogue was as soft as the
purr of his cats.

"Before we go in, I might as well tell you what has brought us to you
especially, Captain," said Miss Peyton.

"What? You must schnatch me from me Fool's Paradise? I was after
thinking all the time you had come to see the ould man himself," and his
eyes twinkled mischievously.

"So we did, dear Captain. We have come to see you because you are you,
and we need your help," answered Miss Peyton with her engaging smile
that somehow made one feel that her way was the best way.

"Well, sitting is as cheap as standing and I want this peg leg to last
as long as I do. It is astonishing how fast they wear out. Come in, come
in, and tell me what it is you want me to help yez about," and he led
the way into his little house.

It did not seem so small when you got in because it was so orderly. The
lower berth from a wrecked Pullman served him as seat by day and bed by
night. The very smallest cooking stove imaginable, almost a doll baby
size, polished like the boots of a dandy, was at one side. Over it was a
shelf with some blue and white china on it, and under the shelf a few
cooking utensils and a dish pan and biscuit board.

"Sit down, sit down, and while the kittle is biling for tay, I can
listen to your trroobles." We seated ourselves on the Pullman seat while
the dear old man busied himself with the tea kettle. Bett, the bereaved
mother, still nestled in Miss Peyton's arms, but after a moment she
wriggled out and got into the box behind the stove. "You'd better look
after your baby, you ould rip. I'm thinking these ladies are that fond
of cats that they might be making off wid it."

"That's just it, Captain Leahy, these ladies are fond of cats, one of
them especially," indicating Dee. "So fond of them that yesterday when
the whole school was out on the Valley Road taking the dignified walk
that is required, what should Miss Caroline Tucker do but rescue a poor
little lost kitten, mewing by the roadside, carry it home in her muff
without teacher or fellow pupil seeing her, and actually take it to bed
with her. But, girls, you tell Captain Leahy about it yourselves," which
we did at Miss Peyton's command.

He enjoyed the prank as much as Miss Peyton and laughed until the blue
and white china danced on the little shelf.

"And now I know very well what ye have come for. Ye want me to take a
boarder."

"Oh, will you, please?" implored Dee.

Bett, having nourished her lone offspring, now carried it in her mouth
for Miss Peyton's inspection, and Dee, seeing her, jumped up in great
excitement, dropping the box she had been holding so carefully and
waking up Oliver Twist in the fall. "Look, look! Bett's kitten looks
just like Oliver! I thought it was him at first." Dee was excited and we
all excused her English. Oliver began to cry aloud and Bett tore around
like one demented.

"Well, Bett, old girl, your baby has been restored to yez. If this don't
beat all! On the Valley Road, yesterday, you say? I told that boy to be
careful of the hole in the bag, that the runt might fall through it, and
so he did. You call him Oliver, you say? Well, that is a handsome name
for such a poor mite, but maybe it will give him some ambition to grow
oop to it. There's an ould saying: 'If you escape drowning, you'll live
to be hanged.' I hope not, Oliver, I hope not."

Now Bett, having one of her babies back, forgave her master and rubbed
herself against his good leg; and then such another washing as she did
give Oliver before she considered him fit to get into the box that she
called home!

The kettle was boiling and the tea soon steeping in the pretty teapot.
The Captain put up a little table exactly like the ones on the train
and we had the merriest kind of a party.

"Your cats are so fat, Captain, what do you feed them on?" asked Dee, in
her element with two cats in her lap.

"An ould frind of mine, who is schteward on a diner saves me all the
schraps and the cats live high, higher than their master, by a long
shot. But do you know the windfall I have had lately, Miss Peyton?"

"No; do tell me. I am so glad of any good fortune that comes to you,
Captain."

"Bless your schwate heart for thim words! Well, I have always had a hard
toime about my shoes since I lost me limb. Such an accumulation of
rights as you never saw wid no one wanting of thim and no place to put
thim and feeling it was to say the least a sin to be throwing thim away,
when no doubt there was somewhere in the worrld a man who had lost his
lift leg who would give anything for thim. Well, I came on this
advertisement in a Washington paper: 'A man who has lost his left leg
would like to get into communication with one who has lost his right.
11½ E.' I knew soon as I clapped eyes on it that some poor fellow was in
exactly me own dilimma. I did get into communication wid him and now I
am no longer trying to find a place for the right shoes I have no use
for and on the other hand I have enough of the lifts to last me a
lifetime. 11½ E's too, exactly my size."

"Well, that was a windfall surely," said Miss Peyton. ("More like a
footfall," muttered Dum.) "But, Captain, I thought you were going to buy
a fine jointed leg with a foot and then you would need your own right
shoes."

"Oh, I have given oop the notion. You see my cats would miss the peg
something awful, wid no place to sharpen their little claws; and thin I
have found a poor widdy woman living down the track a piece and the
right leg of me pants do come in so handy for the poor thing to make
schuits for her little byes. It would seem a sin to use that warm cloth
to cover cork, whin some poor little lamb is shivering in the cold."

"Ah, Captain, always thinking how you can be good to children and
cats," said Miss Peyton.

Then with many thanks to the old Irishman for his hospitality and his
kindness and the good time he had given us, we took our departure. I
noticed that Dum, who had been very quiet and whose eyes had been misty
several times, especially when the Captain told of the fate of his
trouser legs, stepped back into the little house and I heard her whisper
to the old man: "Please, Captain, take this half dollar and buy some
toys for the little lambs who wear the pant legs." I happened to know it
was the whole of her week's allowance, too.



CHAPTER VIII.

ABOUT MATHEMATICS AND ME.


I was a very difficult pupil to place, having been overeducated in some
subjects and absolutely neglected in others. I might have gone with the
seniors in English and History; was normal in Latin, that is, sophomore,
where girls of my age were put; was just beginning French; and had to go
with the kids in Mathematics. I had never played a game of tennis in my
life nor even seen a game of basketball, but I was naturally athletic
from the free country life I had led, and it was soon realized in
athletic circles that I would be on the team with a little coaching.

I was glad to see that Miss Cox was to teach me Arithmetic. Miss Peyton
hoped I could get into Algebra by Christmas and then, with hard study
and earnest coaching, perhaps catch up with the class. I had a feeling
that Miss Cox and I were going to pull together if she could just let
herself go. Her manner in the class was rather wooden, but she was an
excellent teacher and the girls were quick to recognize that, so while
she was not popular, she was not disliked.

I was such a stupid in Mathematics that I was afraid she might put me
down as a dunce and lose all interest in me, but the fact that I read
"Alice in Wonderland" seemed to be in my favor.

"Page, I will not have you look upon yourself as hopeless in
Arithmetic," she said to me one day when I despaired of ever
understanding what seemed to me a very intricate problem. "Lewis Carroll
was a great mathematician and still he wrote the delicious classic that
you and I are so fond of. Now I think minds that appreciate the same
things must be similar. I believe there is a corner of your brain that
is absolutely unexplored and that corner corresponds to the great
fertile area in Lewis Carroll's. All it needs in you is working,
digging, cultivating to produce fruit."

"Oh, Miss Cox, how splendid of you to look at it that way! I am going to
try awfully hard to work my poor, little, neglected, unused plot of
brain with all my might. If I can't grow anything but green persimmons,
that would be better than nothing."

"Ambition, Distraction, Uglification and Derision are the hard things.
If you look at it right, one side of Mathematics is really romantic."

Father always said the way to control me was through my imagination and
Miss Cox had surely hit on my weakness. The result was that Mathematics
was no longer dry-as-dust to me. I found it had been a closed book
because I had never been interested enough to open it. I soon
outstripped the kids in my class and was put in a higher one. I had to
read frequent chapters of "Alice in Wonderland" to cheer me on, and Miss
Cox used to quote Lewis Carroll to me when she and I were alone. I found
the other girls in the classes looked upon her as nothing but a teacher
and she regarded them as mere pupils, to be taught conscientiously and
then dismissed.

One day I sailed safely through a problem that was noted as a regular
stumper. As soon as the class was dismissed, Miss Cox exclaimed:

"'Come to my arms, my beamish boy. You've slain the Jabberwock.' Page, I
really believe you are going to end by being a pretty good
mathematician."

I answered:

          "'He thought he saw a Garden Door
             That opened with a key:
           He looked again, and found it was
             A Double Rule of Three:
           'And all its mystery,' he said,
             'Is clear as day to me!'

If I ever understand it, it will be thanks to you and Lewis Carroll!"

The Tuckers had been to school pretty steadily all their lives, so they
were able to go into the sophomore class in everything. I bitterly
regretted that my education had been so erratic, but determined to make
the best of it. Dum helped me with my French and we tried to keep to our
rule of talking French at the table; but as we did what Mammy Susan
called our own "retching" and my vocabulary was somewhat limited, we
had to resort to English a great deal or go unfed.

I know Dum and Dee felt sorry for me for being in a kids' class in
Mathematics. I didn't really mind nearly so much as they thought I did.
The kids were nice to me and I made some mighty good friends among them.

There was one little bunchy girl named Mary Flannigan who turned out in
the end one of the best friends I ever had in my life. She was short and
stumpy, with scrambled red hair and a freckled face and the very keenest
sense of humor I had ever known. She was a year younger than I was but
very well up in her classes, and she had a genius for mimicry that was
irresistibly funny. She had some stunts that endeared her to all the
girls. She could do a dog fight or cats on the back fence; and could go
so like a mosquito that you were certain you would be bitten in a
moment. She was something of a ventriloquist, which made these
accomplishments especially delightful.

Mary and I were put into Algebra at the same time, and to our joy Miss
Cox was to teach us. Mary had found out Miss Cox, too. Tweedles and I
had religiously refrained from telling any of the girls about her mad
revel on the day of our arrival, but we had tried to make them
understand what a very good old girl she was if you could just find her
out; and our attitude toward her was having its effect on the whole
school. Miss Cox, realizing that she was really liked and understood,
had a change of expression as well as heart. Her sad, crooked face was
now a happy, crooked face and she no longer saved her jokes for Tweedles
and me, but got them off indiscriminately, and very good jokes they
were, too. The classes in voice culture became more popular, and more
and more girls wrote home begging to be allowed to "take singing."

I shall never forget Mary's and my first lesson in Algebra. Miss Cox
looked at us with her twisted smile.

"Algebra is rather a poetical-sounding name, don't you think?" she asked
us.

"Maybe it is," said Mary, "but I bet it takes it out in sounding so."

"Oh, I don't know about that," and Miss Cox opened the book at the first
page and read as follows: "'In Algebra, the operations of Arithmetic are
abridged and generalized by means of Symbols.' That appeals to the
imagination somewhat, I think. 'Symbols which represent numbers.' Just
that word 'Symbol' sets me to dreaming. Arithmetic is the prose of
Mathematics where everything is stated and nothing left to the
imagination, but Algebra is very different. 'Known Numbers are usually
represented by the first letters of the alphabet, as a, b, c. Unknown
Numbers, or those whose values are to be determined, are usually
represented by the last letters of the alphabet, as x, y, z.' The
unknown numbers,--the mysterious numbers,--for what is unknown is in a
measure mysterious and what is mysterious is romantic or poetic. That is
the way I think of it. In working your Algebra, don't just look at it as
hard, dry facts to be mastered, but let x, y, z be the Great Unknown
that you are to find. Let the problem be a plot that you are to unravel
as Poe did 'The Gold Bug.'"

You may well imagine that Mary and I set to with a will to get all we
could out of such a thrilling subject. There were times when we felt
that Miss Cox was drawing a little on her imagination to find poetry in
such an example as this, for instance:

          4x^{-2/3}-3x^{-1/3}-27=0

On the whole, though, Algebra was much more interesting than Arithmetic,
and sometimes I had the realization that it did mean a lot to me; and
Mary said she felt the same way. Anyhow, in the early spring we were
able to take the sophomore tests and go on in that class. Miss Peyton
said she considered it really wonderful that I should have progressed so
rapidly, but I told her it was all due to Miss Cox's being so certain
that Lewis Carroll and I had similar brains.



CHAPTER IX.

FOOTBALL.


None of our crowd had reached what the grown-ups call "the boy age." We
had our heroes of romance that it was difficult for any of the male
persuasion in real life to live up to. Tweedles declared that Zebedee
was boy enough for them; although Dum thought if she ever met a Prosper
le Gai she might consider him; while Dee had an idea a boy like Laurie,
in "Little Women," would be some sport and she might be willing to knock
around with him a bit. Jane Eyre's "Mr. Rochester" was my beau ideal.

"I want a dark, masterful lover who could tie the poker up in a bowknot
if he had a mind to; a rude man who could bring tears to my eyes by his
gruffness, and then, with the gentleness of a woman, soothe my aching
head."

"Oh, Page," chimed in Annie Pore, "how could you want such a ruffian? I
like Henry Esmond, so kind and courteous and dignified----"

"Yes, and as stiff as a poker. My 'Mr. Rochester' could tie him up in a
bowknot in no time----"

"And soothe your aching head with him, too, I fancy. I think a man who
is rude enough to make a woman cry and strong enough to tie up pokers
would be more than likely to beat his wife with said poker." This from
Mary Flannigan, who was in our room during the discussion of our
favorite heroes. "I want 'Charles O'Malley' or nothing. Give me a man
who is gay and rollicking, at the same time good-tempered and kindly if
quick to fight withal."

We had to laugh at Mary. She was such a little Mother Bunch, with her
crinkly red hair bushing out around her fat freckled face,--hardly a
likely person to attract a hero of romance. Mary wore as many petticoats
as Mammy Susan and all of them were tied around her waist with draw
strings. I verily believe that she and Mammy Susan were the only persons
left in the world who wore red flannel petticoats. In that day and
generation when slimiky skirts were the rage, you can fancy how Mary
looked with her gathered skirts. She also had a leaning toward deep
ruffles around her neck, which more than ever gave her the look of a
clown dog.

She had a way of breaking into the conversation very much as the clown
dog breaks into the ring, and no matter how serious she was, we simply
had to laugh at her. She was very good-natured and not the least bit
touchy. We laughed at her general bunchiness just because we couldn't
help it, but one and all liked her for her good temper and ready wit and
respected her for her excellent standing in her classes, where she was
the youngest pupil. We also envied her the delightful stunts that I
believe I have mentioned before.

"I'd rather be able to go like a dog, the way Mary can, than make the
finest statue of one that ever was done," sighed Dum.

"Nonsense, Dum. Anybody can go like a dog with a little practice, but to
make one in clay is going some. But to return to our lovers: what do
you girls say to taking in the football game over at Hill-Top? The
seniors are going, one and all, and Miss Peyton says any of us can go
who wish. Miss Cox will chaperon the sophomores."

Hill-Top was a boys' school on the other side of the village from
Gresham Academy, and young ladies from our school were always invited to
the match games there; and our school in turn sent a formal invitation
to the pupils of Hill-Top when an interesting basketball game was to be
played at Gresham.

"Oh, do come, all of you. I've never seen a game of football in my life
and I'm just wild to," I begged.

"I guess I won't go," said Annie.

"Well, I think you've got another guess coming, unless you have a
powerful good reason," I exclaimed.

"My only reason is that I am so embarrassed with boys," and poor Annie
gave her usual painful blush.

"Oh, you won't have to speak to the boys. They never notice the Sophs,
anyhow, but give all their twaddle to the Juniors and Seniors. If a
boy, old enough to walk 'loney, breaks through Mabel Binks' guard, he is
a hero for fair," laughed Dee.

So, Annie's objections overcome, we hurried her and Mary off to put on
their hats and wraps, and quickly donning our own, got downstairs just
in time to form in line with the Sophomores, who were starting under the
leadership of Miss Cox for the game at Hill-Top.

"I'm glad to see you are going, Page," said Margaret Sayre, as she
hooked her arm in mine. "I am to help Miss Cox keep order, although I
don't really think I am needed. Sophomores are never boy crazy. The
Juniors are the ones, as a rule, that need quieting. Sometimes I wonder
where all the bad Juniors go to and where all the good Seniors come
from."

"Well, I reckon the bad Juniors were once good Sophomores and they can
just as easily turn into good Seniors," I responded.

The Juniors at Gresham were a rather wild lot and they had as a leader
Mabel Binks, who, although she was a Senior, chose her friends entirely
among the Juniors. The truth of the matter was, as Mammy Susan used to
say, Mabel would rather be a "king among buzzards than a buzzard among
kings." The Seniors would have none of her leadership and among them she
had to take a back seat; while the Juniors welcomed her to their ranks
with joy, not realizing why she had chosen them, and flattered by her
notice.

The long line of girls, two abreast, wound its way through the streets
of the little town and out into the country again to the boys' school.
It was really a very pretty sight, this row of blooming, happy girls,
all ages and sizes, dressed in the universally becoming dark blue, with
their jaunty velvet sailor hats perched at every conceivable angle on
heads of hair of every conceivable color.

"Doesn't Annie Pore look pretty in her new hat?" whispered Miss Sayre.

These velvet sailors were ordered by the school and every pupil was
obliged to have one. All of us were glad that Annie was forced to
discard her forlorn-looking crêpe hat that looked for all the world
like a last year's bird's nest. The black velvet sailor was exactly
right for her, throwing into pleasing contrast her milk-white skin, and
bringing out the wonderful tints in her ripe-wheat hair. Jo Barr with
wonderful tact had managed to change the hang of her dragging skirt and
it was now even around the bottom.

"I think she is beautiful and she is really very fine in many ways. I
have grown so fond of her. All of us have. And I think Dum and Dee are
having a splendid effect on her spirits, for she is not nearly so
lugubrious."

"Dum and Dee may be having a fine effect, too," laughed Miss Sayre, "but
a girl named Page Allison is doing her part. All the faculty notice it.
I wish someone like you could be in every class, someone to leaven the
whole lump with a certain quality of camaraderie. Annie Pore was as
forlorn a specimen of humanity as ever stepped out of a 'bus that first
day here, and now look at her!"

Annie was laughing heartily as Mary Flannigan made a noise like a sick
kitten, throwing her voice, with her powers as a ventriloquist, so it
seemed to come from a clump of sumac by the roadside. Dee was peering
eagerly into the bushes before she caught on to the joke. Annie Pore
certainly did not look like the same girl. No one would think of
nicknaming her "Orphan Annie" now. The name clung to her, however, among
a certain class, thanks to Mabel Binks, who had not been able to forgive
or forget the laugh raised against her by Annie on the first day of
school.

Hill-Top was built much in the same style as Gresham, and it, too, had
the Parthenon effect with its big white pillars. The view was not quite
so fine as ours, but from the little experience I had had of boys, I
imagined they did not go in for views to any great extent.

          "A primrose by the river's brink,
           A common primrose was to him and nothing more."

For that matter, I noticed that mighty few of the girls at Gresham
appreciated the view, and as Miss Sayre said, thought more of dessert
for dinner than of the view of the mountains.

The game was just starting as we arrived, so we seated ourselves on the
benches provided for the visitors with as little stir as possible. Dum
got on the other side of me to put me on to the points of the great game
of football.

"It seems too foolish and backwoodsy for me never to have seen a game,"
I said, "but at Milton everyone is too old to do more than walk through
a set of croquet or too young to do more than bounce a rubber ball.
Father occasionally threatens to go up to Richmond for the
Virginia-Carolina game at Thanksgiving, but somebody is always coming or
going (I mean getting born or dying), and we have never made it yet."

"Never mind, honey," and Dum gave me a hug, "you'll learn all the points
of the game to-day, and some time when we are back in Richmond, Zebedee
will give us a great football party. We always go to the Thanksgiving
game. I don't see what Zebedee will do without us this year."

"Who, that good-looking pa of yours?" said Mabel Binks, who was seated
right in front of us, with the Juniors, as usual. "Why, I'll wager he
can find someone to take your place. I bet he's having a pretty good
time with you kids off his hands."

Dum's hands clinched and unclinched. Her eyes were closed and her lips
moving. I had not lived with the Tucker Twins for several weeks without
finding out what that meant. When Dum did that way, it meant she was
trying to control her temper. Her lips formed these words: "Oh, God,
make me good! Don't let me biff Mabel Binks! Don't let me biff Mabel
Binks!"

For a moment the wicked wish came into my heart that she would "biff
Mabel Binks"; but when I thought of the consternation it would arouse in
Gresham and the disgrace to our class, to say nothing of poor hot-headed
Dum, I felt ashamed of myself for harboring such a militant desire. I
slipped my hand over Dum's clenched fist and in a moment I felt it
relax.

"Thank you, Page. God answered my prayer quicker than usual, thanks to
you," and Dum gave a great sigh of relief. "It seemed to me almost like
it would be wrong if I didn't hit her. Zebedee would fight for us any
day and I don't see why I can't fight for him."

"Well, when you come down to facts, Dum, Mabel Binks did not say
anything derogatory of your father. She said he was good-looking and
intimated that he was naturally popular. I fancy she would like to go to
the Thanksgiving game herself with him. There is nothing for you to
fight about. I have an idea that Mr. Tucker can take care of himself
enough not to take her to the game at least," I whispered; and Dum
laughed aloud so that Mabel turned around and asked, "What's the joke?"
And Dum had the satisfaction of saying in honeyed tones: "One of the kid
jokes that I fancy you would not appreciate."

The game of football at first impressed me as little more than a tangle
of legs, and a dog fight at Bracken had more sense to it; but as Dum
explained the points, I began to see some method in the seeming madness
of twenty-two boys lying down on one poor ball and yelling. Needless to
add, I very soon became as enthusiastic about that game as all other
games I ever had any knowledge of, and before the football season was
over I was as rabid a rooter as the Tuckers themselves.

"I believe you are a born lover of games, Page," said Miss Sayre,
smiling as my enthusiasm got the better of me and I let out a piercing
shriek in honor of a short, bow-legged boy who had seized the ball at a
crucial moment and literally dodged his way through the Seniors and made
a goal. The game was between the Seniors and Sophomores, and of course
the Sophomores of Gresham were in honor bound to root for the Sophomores
of Hill-Top.

          "Who's all right? Who's all right?
           Shorty!--Shorty! Out of sight!"

yelled the class for their bow-legged hero, and then the Seniors gave
him fifteen 'rahs. Seniors always have a special feeling for Sophomores
and a game between them is usually a very friendly bout. Of course the
Seniors do not exactly want to be beaten, but they take a great delight
in the prowess of their pet class. In spite of Shorty's good playing
and a great deal of good playing from the other ten Sophomores, the
Seniors won, which was quite meet and proper. The younger boys had put
up a good fight and were much applauded by their elders.



CHAPTER X.

BOYS.


After the football game, some of the more self-assured boys came over to
the visitors from Gresham and singled out their friends to conduct them
to the tables on the lawn where the matron was serving ice cream.

All the boys spoke to Miss Cox and seemed on the most friendly terms
with her. I remembered then that she went over to Hill-Top twice a week
for the purpose of training a chorus. She knew them all by name and
chatted with them very freely, much more freely than she did with any of
the girls, except Dum and Dee and me.

"Evidently, Miss Cox understands boys better than she does girls and
they understand her," thought I. Her manner with them was frank and
natural, exactly as it had been with Mr. Tucker.

A tall, good-looking boy was holding a laughing conversation with her
about the game. He it was who had saved the day for the Seniors when it
had looked as though the younger class would certainly win, owing to the
strategic movements of the popular Shorty.

"Didn't the kid make a fine play, though, Miss Cox? It seemed a pity to
take the game from them; but I tell you, if the Sophomores won from the
Seniors there would be no living with them. They're rather a cocky lot
as it is, bless 'em."

"Yes, they are fine boys and I wish they might have won just this once.
They worked so hard and you Seniors were playing so lazily you almost
let the game slip through your fingers. It would have been a good lesson
for your team if they had lost."

"That's just what I tell them, Miss Cox. I hate lazy playing, even if
you are up against something easy. I believe in playing the game to the
best of your ability, if it's nothing but push-pins."

I certainly liked the way that boy talked and agreed with him. I
unconsciously drew nearer to where he and Miss Cox were standing, not
with any idea of being introduced but because I was interested in what
they were saying.

"No, you don't, Miss Buttinsky," was whispered in my ear, "Seniors first
when there is a good thing in sight," and Mabel Binks crowded in front
of me and deliberately joined the group around Miss Cox. An introduction
to the handsome football player naturally followed. I drew back abashed.
One of the most hateful things about Mabel Binks was that she usually
attributed her motives to other persons. She was determined to meet this
boy and she took for granted it was what I was after, too.

I felt like employing Dum's method and praying not to "biff Mabel
Binks," but I was anxious to see what the outcome would be and if the
handsome youth, whose name I had learned was Harvie Price, would be
attracted by the charms of the stylish Mabel. Mabel was not a
bad-looking girl, rather handsome, in fact, but a trifle too vivid for
my taste. Her eyes were as black and shiny as new patent-leather shoes;
her abundant hair, coarse and curly; her lips too full and red; her
figure handsome but rather too well developed for a girl of seventeen.
She was always richly dressed and in the latest style.

The idea of the directors of Gresham in having the pupils dress in blue
suits and black hats was to do away with the custom of overdressing
common to many boarding schools. They seemed to think that a blue suit
was a blue suit. They were vastly mistaken, however, as anyone with half
an eye could see by comparing Mabel Binks with Annie Pore. Annie Pore's
appearance I have described. Mabel's suit was a costly affair of
handsome cloth combined with velvet and trimmed with fur. The skirt was
slit, showing a cerise petticoat; a cerise crêpe de Chine tie gave color
to her very V-necked blouse; and around her velvet sailor she had pinned
several large, fine ostrich plumes. The latest style of high-heeled
pumps with cut steel buckles were on her feet, making them a little too
prominent, considering their size and shape. Spotless white gloves
finished her costume; unless one might consider the strong odor of musk
perfume the finishing touch. She did look handsome and her clothes were
pretty and fine, but a little too fine for a football match.

"Oh, Mr. Price," she gushed, "your playing was just grand. All of us
were just wild about it. I said 'it,' not 'you,' you understand," and
she giggled affectedly. "I think it was real noble of you to let the
kids get any points at all."

"Yes, mighty noble," said Harvie Price, looking at his dashing admirer
rather quizzically, "so noble they came mighty near winning the whole
shooting match."

"Isn't that ice cream they are serving over there?" she hinted. "I think
ice cream is simply grand."

"Ah, Miss Binks, you praise my feeble game and ice cream with the same
words. Fortunately, ice cream is more easily taken in than I am. Hey,
you Shorty, come here," he called to the jolly-looking little Sophomore
who was trotting by. "I want to introduce you to Miss Binks. Mr. Thomas
Hawkins, Miss Binks. Shorty, she's dying for some ice cream."

"Your humble servitor, madam," and Thomas Hawkins made a low bow. "Shall
I bring it to you or take you to it?"

"Bring it here," said Mabel shortly. Just then Harvie Price saw Annie
Pore talking to Mary Flannigan and Dee.

"Tell me who that girl is over there, the one with the thick yellow
plait," he asked Mabel.

"Oh, that's 'Orphan Annie.' Isn't she a mess?"

"Is her name Annie Pore?"

"I believe it is or poor Annie, if you prefer."

"Well, by Jove! Who would have thought it!" and Harvie Price without any
apology left the dashing Mabel and going up to Annie took her by both
hands. He shook them warmly and exclaimed: "Little Annie Pore, where on
earth did you come from? I am glad to see you." And Annie, without the
least embarrassment, was equally delighted to see him.

"Oh, Harvie, I did not dream you were here. You've grown so I didn't
know you."

"Grown! And what have you been doing? Certainly not standing still. And
how is everyone at the Landing? Geewhilikins, I'd like to spend another
summer there! Just think, it is five years since I have been there."

"Everything is about the same. Your grandfather is rather more feeble
but as handsome as ever."

"Yes, I know, poor old Grandad," said Harvie soberly. Annie told me
afterward that a family row had separated old General Price from his
son, Harvie's father, and for that reason the boy had not been allowed
to come to his ancestral home at Price's Landing.

"And how is your father? As British as ever and still invisibly clothed
in blue paint?"

"Yes, about the same," blushed Annie.

"You know I like your father, Annie, and didn't mean anything," and the
boy looked very sorry that he had embarrassed his little friend.

"That's all right, Harvie, but you know----"

"Yes, I know," he said sympathetically. "Now come on and let's have some
ice cream. Who are your special friends? Introduce me and I'll take them
all."

Dum and Dee and Mary Flannigan and I were of course the chosen few, and
as soon as Shorty had arranged so Mabel Binks could "take in" the ice
cream, he joined us and a very merry time we had. We met many boys and
liked most of them. They were a healthy, wholesome lot and almost as
much fun as girls. Miss Cox joined us and let herself go with as much
abandon as she had in the Lobster Quadrille.

I have never seen anyone so happy as Annie Pore. She and Harvie Price
had been friends from the time they could walk. The boy had spent a
great deal of his time with his grandfather at Price's Landing and the
little English maid, whose father kept the country store, was the one
white child in the neighborhood whom the proud old aristocratic General
Price considered suitable to associate with his grandson.

"You ought to see Mr. Pore," Harvie confided to me. "I tell you he is a
rare one. He is about the best educated man I ever met. Grandad says he
can think in Latin. Be that as it may, he can certainly teach it. I had
some lessons from him during one summer and have been grateful to him
ever since. He is awfully English and just as strict with Annie as can
be. Mrs. Pore was a beautiful woman and it seemed strangely incongruous
to see her in the country store measuring calico and what not. Grandad
used to say she looked like a Duchess at a Charity Bazaar. Nobody at
Price's Landing ever has known what brought Mr. Pore to keeping a
country store in a little Virginia village."

"Maybe thinking in Latin wasn't nourishing," I suggested.

"I fancy that was it," he laughed, "but why should an Oxford graduate
keep a country store for a livelihood? There must have been other
avenues open to him."

"Perhaps his beautiful wife discovered she had a genius for selling at
Charity Bazaars, and when the time came to choose a profession, she
chose what she had shown talent for as an amateur," I hazarded.

"Well, I see Miss Page Allison has some imagination and if she ever has
to choose a profession it should be novel writing."

"Perhaps it will be," I said, "but I'd rather keep a country store than
do anything. You can see so many people that way, 'specially if you
have the postoffice in it."

"You like people, then?" inquired the boy.

"Like people? I should say I do. I just adore people; and I mean to know
just as many people as I can."

"Well, that is the requisite for successful novel writing, so our
professor in English tells us: 'Know people and sympathize with them,
all kinds and conditions.' But tell me something, Miss Page, does Annie
sing? Mrs. Pore's voice brought old sinners to church that had not been
for many a year. She sang in the choir at the little old Episcopal
church at Price's Landing and although I was nothing but a kid,--you see
I have not been there for five years,--I used to thrill all over when
she chanted the _Te Deum Laudamus_."

"Oh, yes, Annie's voice is splendid. Miss Cox is teaching her and I
believe she expects great things of her. We are to have a concert at
Gresham before long and then you can hear her."

I looked over at a group of girls and boys where Dum and Annie were
talking very gayly with Tom Hawkins, alias Shorty, and smiled to think
of Annie's hesitancy in coming that day because she was so afraid of
boys, and then I laughed outright when I considered how little Shorty
resembled Dum's hero, Prosper le Gai.

The ice cream that Shorty brought to Mabel Binks must have been as
bitter as gall, judging from the faces that young lady made while
devouring it, nor did it "set easy on her innards," as Mammy Susan would
put it. Could it be that she had literally turned green from jealousy
and the ice cream was innocent, after all? It must have been a bitter
pill to have the despised "Orphan Annie," with her kid friends, carry
off the most desirable young man at Hill-Top.

"Aren't you feeling well, Mabel?" said the good-natured Josephine Barr,
as Harvie Price and I passed near her on our way to join the group where
my special friends were.

"Yes, I'm just disgusted. Did you ever see such a beau grabber in your
life as that countrified Page Allison? And there's 'Orphan Annie'
actually posing as a belle! They make me sick."

I did not hear what Jo answered, but I felt that Annie and I were safe
in her hands. My cheeks were burning as though Mabel had given me a real
slap.

"Don't you mind, Miss Page. If girls only knew how fellows detest that
kind of thing! It must be awful to be a girl and not fight things out.
If a boy had insulted me as that girl did you just now, I'd either beat
him or get beaten in short order."

"Well," I said, pulling myself together as I realized that after all
Mabel Binks was not much of a lady, "you see, I have already beaten her,
although I did not know at the time I was doing it. Annie and I have got
the 'beaux,' that is, if she means you and Shorty."

"Bully for you! That's the way to talk. I see Miss Binks will not pull
off anything over you. Can Annie defend herself, too?"

So I told him of the first day at Gresham and the cheer the Seniors gave
Annie because of her come-back at Mabel Binks.

"Poor little Annie! I don't see how anyone could try to hurt her," and
the big boy looked very tenderly at his one-time playmate. "I am
certainly glad she has found such good friends at Gresham as you and
those wonderful twins, and also that nice little square Irish girl who
looks like a match for our Shorty."

That night before lights out bell rang, we had a little chat in our
room. Mary and Annie had scurried across the hall in their kimonos. Dum
was in bed and Dee and I had unearthed some slight refreshment in the
way of crackers and sweet chocolate, which we passed around.

"I bet Prosper le Gai would have played a dandy game of football," said
Dum, getting her sheets all crumby with crackers. "He always smiled in
battle. I noticed Harvie Price did, too."

"Do you know, I think Harvie Price looked a little like Laurie in
'Little Women,'" said Dee.

"I always did think so," exclaimed Annie. "When you were talking about
Laurie this morning I thought of Harvie. I never dreamed of seeing him.
I'm so glad you girls liked him."

"I tell you he's all right," said Mary, "but I wouldn't be at all
astonished if Charles O'Malley wasn't just such another boy as Shorty
when he was a kid."



CHAPTER XI.

LETTERS AND SEVERAL KINDS OF FATHERS.


          From Page Allison to Miss Sue Lee, Washington, D.
          C.

          My dearest Cousin Sue:

          You told me not to write to you until I had got
          real settled and could give you some decided
          opinions about the place and the people. I am
          settled now and feel as though I had been born and
          bred here. I just love it and am making loads and
          loads of friends.

          First thing I must tell you how right my clothes
          are. It is splendid not to have to think about
          them, but just to put them on and know that they
          are suitable. Some of the girls here are great
          dressers, in spite of the endeavors of the
          directors to put them into a kind of uniform, but
          I can't see that their fine clothes make them any
          more popular than the others. Do you know, Cousin
          Sue, I'd rather be popular than be president?

          My roommates, the Tucker twins, are awfully
          popular, but they don't care nearly so much about
          it as I do. You see, they have been knowing lots
          of people all their lives and I haven't. Sometimes
          I am afraid I'll get kind of mealy-mouthed in my
          anxiety to have people like me, and the only thing
          that saves me from it is my hatred of fools and
          snobs. I know I shouldn't hate fools because they
          can't help it, but I think snobs ought to be
          hated.

          We have become acquainted with some boys from
          Hill-Top, the academy on the other side of the
          town. They are real nice and I find I am not at
          all embarrassed with them. They are not a bit
          beauy or lovery (the Tuckers and I would hate
          that), but they are just boys and have got lots
          more sense than I expected to find in the male
          sex.

          The Juniors here at Gresham are lots of them beau
          crazy. They talk about boys from morning till
          night. I do hope when I get to be a Junior I won't
          go through that stage. Miss Sayre, a lovely girl
          and too nice to me for anything, a pupil teacher
          and at least nineteen, says she has never known
          but one girl in her life who arrived at her age
          without going through the stage of talking about
          boys all the time, and she says that poor girl was
          dumb and she took it out in making eyes. Dum and
          Dee and I told her we'd cut out our tongues before
          we'd make boys our sole topic of conversation, and
          Miss Sayre just laughed and asked us if we would
          gouge out our eyes, too.

          I am doing very well in my studies, and working
          awfully hard. You see, we have to spend a certain
          time over our books and learn in spite of
          ourselves. French is coming easy to me and I
          believe it is because Father has drilled me so
          thoroughly in Latin. I am getting on top of
          Mathematics by the hardest kind of climbing. At
          first I felt as though I'd have to remove
          mountains ever to learn a thing, but now I realize
          I don't have to remove mountains, but just climb
          them; and certainly as you climb you get an
          outlook that you never dreamed of.

          Father writes very cheerfully but I am afraid he
          is mighty lonesome. I feel very selfish to be off
          here having such a good time when I know how hard
          it is for him. I wish you would write him a nice
          long letter. Your letters always do him good.

          I like Miss Peyton, our principal, ever and ever
          so much; she is so just. All of the teachers are
          pretty nice, but I am not getting quite as much
          from the English Literature teacher as I hoped I
          would. She is a good teacher, I have no doubt, but
          not interesting. I have the feeling that she likes
          what the textbooks tell her to, and has no taste
          of her own. Her knowledge of poetry, for instance,
          stops with the age of Tennyson.

          You know Father's extravagance and relaxation is
          poetry, past, present and even future. He has been
          reading poetry to me since before I could talk,
          and a new poet is more interesting to him than a
          new disease. He had never told me that poetry had
          to arrive at a certain age, like veal or cheese,
          before it was worthy to be taken in; and I brought
          down the scorn and wrath of Miss Prince on my
          devoted head and came mighty near getting enough
          demerits to keep me in bounds a week, because I
          asked her if she did not think Masefield's poem of
          "The Dauber" had more atmosphere of the deep sea
          in it than "The Ancient Mariner." She looked at me
          very severely through her visible bi-focals and
          said: "Miss Allison, this is a class in English
          Literature; and matters foreign to the subject are
          not to be discussed."

          I rather miss the reading I have always done. We
          study so hard there is no time to read, and the
          library is one of these donated ones. It has sets
          of Dickens and Scott in such fine print that you
          can't keep your place, a few odd volumes of
          Thackeray, Milton and Pope, and the rest of the
          shelves are crowded with books that some generous
          patron evidently has had no use for himself. They
          are the kind of books that Father says are good
          enough to keep the doors open with or to put under
          a rocker when you don't want to rock.

          There is a good encyclopedia and dictionary and
          our textbooks are very complete. I believe it is
          good for me to have to confine myself to the
          textbooks for a while, but I shall be glad to be
          at Bracken again and curl up on the sofa with the
          dogs some dull old rainy day and read as long as I
          can see.

          Some day I hope you will know my friends. I have
          told them all about you and they think you are
          splendid. The Tucker twins are going to stay a few
          days at Bracken during the holidays, and I am to
          be with them for a week-end in Richmond. It will
          be a more agreeable visit than the time I spent
          with Cousin Park Garnett, I fancy. By the way,
          Cousin Park sent me a present the other day. You
          could never guess what it is: a black and purple
          crocheted shoulder shawl! I'm real glad to have it
          because we are going to have a dicker party and it
          will be the very thing to contribute.

          You don't know how much obliged I am to you for
          the huge box of marshmallows. We have not opened
          it yet, as we are saving up for a grand spread
          that Dum and Dee and I are going to give. Good-by,
          dear Cousin Sue.

                                        Yours devotedly,
                                                      PAGE.


          Mr. Jeffry Tucker to the Misses Virginia and
          Caroline Tucker.

                                       Richmond, Va.
                                            November 28, 19--

          My dearest Tweedles:

          How am I ever to get through Thanksgiving without
          you? Of course I'm going to the game to root for
          Virginia, but I'll be mighty lonesome. I've been
          invited to join several parties, but I believe
          I'll take old Brindle and go by my lonely. The
          only pleasure I take in Thanksgiving is that it is
          just a little nearer to Christmas, when I'll have
          my babies back with me for a delirious three
          weeks.

          I miss you so much that I can't remember what my
          reason was for thinking it best for you to go to
          boarding school. I must have had some good reason,
          but it is swallowed up in misery over your
          absence. Could it have been that you needed
          training and to learn to control yourselves?
          Foolish notion! When you come home you can fight
          all over the shop if you've a mind; and sass your
          pa until he crawls under the bed with Brindle; and
          get late to your meals; and go around with holes
          in your stockings; do anything, in fact, that your
          fancy dictates. All I ask of you is to come home
          the same old Tweedles, loving your poor, lonesome,
          old Zebedee as much as ever.

          I am delighted that you are making so many good
          friends. There is nothing in all the world like
          friends and the ones made in early years are worth
          all the others put together.

          Please remember me to Miss Page Allison and tell
          her I saw her father the other day, and he was
          looking mighty fit, considering he has not had her
          to take care of him for so long. He had come up to
          Richmond for a medical convention. I am glad you
          are enjoying Miss Page so much. I liked her on
          short acquaintance better than any friend you have
          ever had. I am delighted that you have invited her
          to spend some of the holidays with us. I asked Dr.
          Allison if he could spare her to us for a few
          days, and he said of course he could. You girls
          seem to have a mutual admiration society. Miss
          Page, according to Dr. Allison, is as enthusiastic
          about my girls as my girls are about his girl.

          I am intensely gratified that the three of you
          have kept up with the poor scared child we met on
          the train. Such a wholesome trio would be sure to
          be good for the timid, miserable little thing. You
          must ask her to come to see us in Richmond if you
          have not already done so.

          I am sending you a box of goodies for your
          day-after-Thanksgiving spread. I am afraid some of
          the things are contraband, but people who make
          rules would not make them unless they expected
          schoolgirls and their outrageous young fathers to
          break them. I fancy I have concealed the true
          nature of the contents of the box, and unless the
          supervision is very thorough, it will pass muster
          and the contraband articles find the way to their
          destination--your little insides. Love to Jinny
          Cox.

                                            Good-by,
                                                 ZEBEDEE.


          Dr. James Allison to Miss Page Allison.

                                     Bracken, Sunday aft.

          My dear little daughter:

          I saw young Jeffry Tucker in Richmond last week
          and what he had to tell me of my girl gratified me
          greatly. I am not going to divulge to you what he
          said, but you may know it was something pretty
          nice.

          I miss you very much, my dear Page, but poor old
          Mammy Susan is worse off than I am because she is
          at home all the time and I am off on my rounds,
          and when I am at home, thank God, I have books. I
          do not mean to say that books take the place of my
          girl, but I mean I can bury myself in them and for
          the time being be oblivious to everything else.

          Sally Winn is still trying to die, poor woman. I
          was called out in the wee small hours this morning
          to help her cross the Styx. She has been more
          determined than ever since Mrs. Purdy passed over.
          She is very jealous and said this morning: "Betty
          Purdy always was a pushing thing. She made out all
          the time she didn't want to go but that's not so,
          I know. She's been getting ahead of me all her
          life. Pretended she married Purdy because he was
          so bent on it that she had to. Everybody knows it
          was just the other way, she was so bent on it,
          Purdy had to." Of course you must have heard that
          Mr. Purdy courted Sally first. I suggested that it
          would be well if she tried to live and perhaps she
          might console the widower; and do you know, I left
          her with a much stronger pulse.

          I hope your Thanksgiving will go off finely. I
          cannot tell you how we long for you, my dear; but
          Christmas will soon be here, and in the meantime I
          am going to bury myself in a new book I got in
          Richmond last week.

          I am so glad for you to make these good friends
          you write of. The Twins sound delightful. Tucker
          is one of the best fellows I know. He is
          ridiculously young to be the father of girls as
          old as you. He is one of the cleverest newspaper
          men in the South, so clever I wonder the South
          keeps him. New York newspapers seem to suck in all
          the bright men sooner or later.

          I am so glad your friends will come to Bracken for
          a visit with you during the holidays, and I will
          of course let you go to them for a visit. I may
          run up to the city at the same time. Cousin Park
          Garnett has made me promise to stay with her the
          first time I go to Richmond, so I am afraid the
          trip will not be altogether hilarious for me.

          The dogs send love to their mistress in yaps,
          yowls and whines. Mammy says she hopes "you ain't
          done wash all de meat off'n you in dem plumbin'
          tubs."

                                 With much love,
                                              FATHER.


          From Mr. Arthur Ponsonby Pore to Miss Annie de
          Vere Pore.

                                        Price's Landing, Va.

          My dear Annie:

          I am most gratified at the account you give of the
          progress you are making in your studies. The
          authenticity of your account is verified by the
          report I have received from the principal of the
          institution.

          I am surprised and grieved that you should find
          your wardrobe not sufficient for your needs. There
          is a vulgar tendency among all Americans to
          overdress which you must avoid. Remember that in
          your veins flows the blood of Ponsonby and de Vere
          and that is more to be considered than all the
          fine clothes in the world of the _nouveau riche_.
          I will send you the box containing some old lace
          and a white dress of your Mother's. If that is not
          suitable, I think you had better not appear at
          the concert of which you write.

          I also wish to warn you against undue intimacies
          with persons of whom you know little or nothing.
          The sacrifice I am making in sending you to
          boarding school is not that you may amuse yourself
          with friends no doubt beneath you in birth and
          breeding but that you may perfect yourself in your
          studies and cultivate your voice, which may prove
          of material benefit to you.

          General Price called on me yesterday and told me
          he had received a letter from his grandson,
          Harvie, in which he had mentioned the fact that he
          had met you at a football game. I hope you are not
          wasting much of your time in such frivolous
          pursuits.

                                   Yours truly,
                                       ARTHUR PONSONBY PORE.



CHAPTER XII.

ANNIE'S MOTHER.


We were rather troubled about Annie Pore and what on earth she was going
to wear to the concert. Her wardrobe, not being extensive, was well
known to all of her friends and certainly there was nothing suitable in
it for a girl who was going to have to stand up on the stage and sing.

"If she would only not be so proud," groaned Dum; "but who could say to
Lady Clara Vere de Vere, 'Let me lend you some of my duds?' Now I
shouldn't in the least mind borrowing anything from anybody if I thought
the person cared for me. Don't I wear the Liberty scarf your Cousin Sue
sent you every time I find it idle, and if I could borrow from you,
Page, why shouldn't Annie?"

"Well, it is different, Dum, because Annie hasn't got anything. You
borrow the scarf just as a frill, but if it were a necessity I don't
believe you would." I had intense sympathy for Annie because I could
fancy what my own clothes would have been if dear Cousin Sue Lee had not
had them in charge. Miss Pinky Davis, our country dressmaker, would have
turned out just such another crooked seamed suit as Annie's if Cousin
Sue had not insisted on a mail order, and I know my shirtwaists would
have been big where they should have been little, and little where they
should have been big: and as for Middy blouses, there is no telling what
they would have looked like: rick-rack trimming on the collar, no doubt,
and ruffles around the tail. Cousin Sue did let Miss Pinky make me some
white evening dresses and they turned out all right because Cousin Sue
bridled Miss Pinky's fancy.

"Let me see," said Dee, "as far as I can remember Annie has a blue serge
skirt, two white shirtwaists, one blue poplin one and a plaid silk
blouse for Sunday. I can't bear to think of her on the stage in any of
that array. Of course it makes no difference to any of us, but think of
that nasty Mabel Binks and her following! Ugh! I tell you one thing,"
she added excitedly, "if any of them make Annie feel bad, they've got me
to fight."

"Me, too," chimed in Dum.

"Well, I can't see that that would help Annie's clothes much," I
laughed, "but it might keep you, Tweedles, from having apoplexy."

"Dee, you've got so much tact, you go see Annie and find out what she is
going to wear," suggested Dum.

"Oh, no, not me! I'm so afraid I might leak, and that would never do,"
and Dee got out a handkerchief ready for emergencies. "You see, I feel
so bad about Annie and so desperately sorry for her that I have to cry
just thinking about her, and what would it be if she should get out her
poor little blouses and ask my advice? Just think of all the clothes Jo
Barr has, simply going to waste and how old Jo would love to dress Annie
up in them! Still, we all know that Annie would be cut to the quick at
the suggestion of such a thing. Oh, dear, oh, dear! I wonder what
Zebedee would do."

"Well, I know what I am going to do," I said, uncurling myself from the
window sill where I could, by a good deal of craning of the neck, catch
a glimpse of my beloved mountains; "I'm going in and have it out with
Annie. She knows I love her and I don't believe I'll hurt her feelings.
I think she trusts us, and when you really trust people they simply
can't hurt your feelings unless you have a natural born chip on your
shoulder, which Annie hasn't."

"Oh, Page, you are just like Zebedee," tweedled the twins. "That's what
he would do."

I found Annie looking very like old Rain-in-the-Face. She was in a
forlorn heap on the floor; her eyes red; her ripe-wheat hair all
disheveled; and in her hand a crumpled letter. On the floor by her was
an unopened box which had just come by parcels post.

Her "Come in" in answer to my knock had been more like a sob than an
invitation to enter.

"What is it, dear Annie? Tweedles and I have just been talking about you
and we wonder if you know how much we love you. Do you?"

"Oh, Page, I don't see how you can!"

"Well, we do, and I said I believed you loved us enough to trust us. I
mean to understand that we could never hurt your feelings in any
possible way, just because we'd rather be boiled alive than hurt you."

Annie looked up and smiled a rather watery smile, but a smile all the
same.

"Now s'pose you trust me and tell me what is the matter. What are
friends for if you can't tell them your troubles?"

"Oh, Page, I'd like to tell you, but it would seem so disloyal to my
Father."

"You understand, Annie, that if you tell me anything it would be just
like telling it to a Father Confessor. I mean I'd never breathe a word
of it." It sounded as though I were full of curiosity, but while of
course I did want to know, my reason for pressing Annie was that I felt
she needed to let off steam, that is, her pent-up emotions.

"I know you are the best friend any girl ever had and I believe I will
tell you all about everything."

"Well, wash your face first and let me brush your hair while you talk."

So Annie got up and bathed her face, and while I combed and brushed her
thick, yellow hair, she told me the following tale:

"You see, Page, my Father is an Englishman and he is awfully proud. He
does not understand a little girl a bit nor did he understand my
beautiful Mother. He loved her, though, adored her, in fact, and I know
has never been happy one minute since she died; that's been about four
years now. He does not love me, though, I am afraid; but maybe I do him
an injustice and don't understand him. Anyhow, he is never chummy and
chatty with me like Mr. Tucker is with Tweedles."

"I bet he does love you, Annie. My Father is not so intimate with me as
Mr. Tucker is with his girls, but I know he loves me. You see, Mr.
Tucker is almost the same age as his daughters and I fancy your Father
is much older than you are, just as mine is." And I went on brushing
her hair, knowing she was becoming calmer and beginning rather to enjoy
talking about herself.

"My Father, you know, is very well born; in fact, his Father was a
baronet of very ancient stock and his elder brother now has the title
and estates. Father was educated for the church. He has an Oxford degree
and is very scholarly. However, after all his education, he did not want
to take orders. He felt that he had no vocation for the ministry, and he
and my grandfather had an awful row about it. You see, English younger
sons have to do something. Mother told me all this. Father has never
mentioned it to me. He occasionally reminds me that I am of good birth
and that is his only reference to England. Immediately after this row
with Grandfather, he met Mother and fell in love with her at first
sight. It was at a Charity Bazaar."

"Oh----!" I exclaimed involuntarily, but made out I was sneezing. I
remembered the conversation I had held with Harvie Price about Mrs. Pore
and the Charity Bazaar.

"Mother's people are noble, too. She was the daughter of a younger son
of the Earl of Garth, but she had not a penny to her name. When she met
my Father, she was visiting some very wealthy relatives who were
interested in her and preparing to launch her on the concert stage.
Mother had a wonderful voice, you know."

"Yes, Harvie Price told me that all the old sinners in your county went
to church to hear her sing."

"Well, Mother fell in love, too, and in spite of all that her rich
relatives had to say about her career, she married Father; and then what
did Grandfather, Sir Isaac Pore, do but stop Father's allowance? It was
not very much but it was enough for the young couple to live on if they
lived very simply. Sir Isaac thought he could force Father into taking
orders; but Father was opposed to doing this, feeling he was not suited
to the Church, and Mother upheld him in his resolve."

"They were right, I think. It seems an awful sin to me for a man just to
go into the ministry for a living," I ventured.

"Of course they were right. Then my parents were in a quandary. Father
had about two thousand dollars to his name and that wouldn't go very
far. They decided to come to America, he to go into some kind of
business and Mother to do something with her voice. They stayed in New
York for a year. He got some teaching, coaching boys for college, and
she sang in a church. Mother said they had a hard time. Father's manner
was proud and overbearing and he was so intolerant of Americans that he
lost pupils constantly. Then my brother was born and Mother had to give
up her position in the church."

"Oh, I did not know you had a brother!" I exclaimed.

"Yes, he died before I was born. He lived five years, I believe. I think
that is one reason Father does not love me more. You see, all of his
hopes were settled on the boy, who was in line for the title. My uncle,
the present baronet, has no boys. Well, they got on the best they could
until the boy died. They went from place to place, Father always able to
get pupils because of his talents and education and always losing them
because of his proud intolerance. Mother had lots of tact and charm and
she was always smoothing things over and pacifying Father."

[Illustration: "From Mother!" exclaimed the girl, trembling with
excitement.--_Page 156._]

"She must have loved him a whole lot not to have pacified him with a big
stick," I thought, but I did not give utterance to my reflection.

"They finally landed in Norfolk. I was born there, so you see, I am a
Virginian. While at Norfolk, Mother heard of the country store at
Price's Landing which could be bought for very little. She had come into
possession of a small legacy, and she immediately bought the store and
all the stock and we moved there and have been there ever since."

"English people are always getting small legacies. I never heard of
Americans getting them," I said as I plaited Annie's hair in the great
rope that was the envy of us all.

"We really have prospered at Price's Landing. Mother took charge of the
store a great deal and by her graciousness won customers, and when once
people get used to Father, they don't seem to mind his stiffness so
much; everybody but me; somehow, I'm always afraid of him," and Annie
looked very sadly at the crumpled letter in her lap.

"Mother was so gay and cheerful; I wish I could be like her. She would
sing at her work and Father would smile and look almost happy when he
would hear her voice."

"Don't you sing at your work ever?" I asked.

"No, no, I am so afraid of disturbing Father."

"I bet he'd like it. Why don't you try? Your voice must be like your
Mother's."

"Oh, I couldn't--really, Page. Well, to go on:

"Mother used to play a lovely game with me, and no one knew we were
playing it, which made it just so much more fun. We used to pretend
while we were keeping store that it was a Charity Bazaar----" (I laughed
aloud) "especially when dear old General Price came in for anything. You
see, most of the people at Price's Landing, while very kind and good,
are quite ordinary; but General Price is very aristocratic and fine, and
we could play the game with him to perfection. He had so much manner
that sometimes it almost seemed that he was playing, too." This was too
delicious, and here was I sworn to secrecy! I certainly did want to tell
Harvie Price, but a Father Confessor must keep many good things to
himself.

"Mother died when I was eleven." I made a rapid calculation how long
poor Annie must have been wearing the old crêpe hat. "Since then, Father
and I have looked after the store together and now we have a clerk,"
only Annie called it "clark." "We are not so poor as we used to be and
the books show we are making a very comfortable living, but Father saves
and saves. He started doing it before Mother died and it worried her a
lot. She said he used to be a great spender and she had to do the
saving, but when money began to come more easily he seemed to hate to
part with it. She made him promise before she died that I should go to
boarding school or I know it would never have come about. Of course he
doesn't know how girls of the day dress and how odd I look, but even if
he did know I believe he would let me be ridiculous rather than spend
money on anything that he considered unnecessary." Annie's eyes
flashed, which was an improvement on the eternal tears she seemed so
prepared to shed.

"I am going to let you read this letter from him so you can see," and
she handed me the crumpled sheet. It was the letter which is in the last
chapter.

It was certainly some letter. I could not help comparing it with the one
I had just received from my Father, and also one that Tweedles had read
me from their Zebedee. I hardly knew what to say but I knew what to
think, and that was that one of the so-called "vulgar Americans" ought
to give him a good beating!

"Well, Annie, I wouldn't mind that letter. Your Governor evidently
doesn't understand girls. Let's have a look in the box." We cut the
string and took off the outside wrapper. The box was tightly corded.

"It is just as Mother left it," sighed Annie. "He didn't even open it to
see if the things in it were of any value for me. I'm glad he didn't,
because I like to feel that I am untying her knots myself."

We didn't cut those strings, but Annie carefully and reverently picked
loose the knots. When the top was taken off the box, there was a faint
smell of dried rose leaves. The contents were carefully wrapped in blue
tissue paper. "To keep the things from turning yellow with age,"
whispered Annie.

I felt somehow as though I were at a funeral. Annie didn't cry, though,
as one might have expected, but her countenance shone with a kind of
subdued light and she looked like an angel. She shook out a soft, white,
crêpe de Chine dress made over silk. It looked as fresh as though it had
just come from the dressmaker's. In another wrapper was a lovely real
lace scarf and in yet another some white silk stockings.

"Oh, Annie, Annie!" and I jumped up and down for joy. "They are exactly
right for you! And see how carefully they have been packed! Not a
wrinkle in the dress! Here, take off your clothes and try it on."

"Mother wore it at the Charity Bazaar where she met Father. Her rich
cousin had just had it made for her," and the excited child began to
take off her shabby blouse and skirt.

"All you will need for the concert is white slippers and you will surely
wear mine just to let me know you love me," I begged.

Annie flushed and I was afraid her stubborn pride was going to master
her, but she astonished me by saying: "Yes, I will wear them if you will
lend them to me. I remember Mother told me she had to borrow slippers
from a friend that night, but she knew her friend loved her and so did
not mind."

I slipped the dress over her head, but as she pushed her arm into the
sleeve she stopped and drew her hand quickly out.

"Wait, the sleeve is pinned." So it was, and pinned through a letter
that was sealed and addressed to Annie.

"From Mother!" exclaimed the girl, trembling with excitement. "Every now
and then I find a little note from her. She knew she could not live for
a long time before she died." Out fluttered two ten-dollar bills and a
five wrapped in a tiny penciled note.

          My Darling:

          The time may come when you will wish to wear this
          dress that I have saved so carefully for you; and
          when that time comes you may also want a little
          money that perhaps you will not have, money for
          clothes, I mean. I give you this twenty-five
          dollars for your very own, to spend as your needs
          require. It is not much, but it may help you to
          look like other girls. Fathers do not always
          understand what girls need, but Mothers know. I
          earned this money myself, giving singing lessons
          to the blacksmith's daughter and you helped me by
          keeping store while I taught, so you can take
          added pleasure in spending it.

                                          MOTHER.

Something happened right here that was to say the least unexpected: I,
Page Allison, gave up and cried like a baby. I know I hadn't cried so
since old Buster, my pointer, died. And Annie Pore, instead of bawling,
which she would have been perfectly justified in doing, never shed a
tear; but with that exalted look on her face, which she had worn from
the time she opened the box, she actually comforted me by patting me on
the back and smoothing my hair.

"Page, Page, it's all right; don't be so miserable," she said as she
endeavored to soothe me. So I blew my blooming nose and made her go on
trying on the dress. It was a wonderful fit, just a little too long for
a girl of fifteen, but we hemmed it up in no time. Strange to say,
although the dress was more than twenty years old, it was not out of
style but cut very much according to the prevailing mode. The truth of
the matter is that Dame Fortune is quite like the old preacher who wrote
a barrel of sermons, and when he had preached them all, he just turned
the barrel up-side-down and began again. Fashions and styles get put in
the barrel only to appear again after so many years.

"Have you a catalogue for a mail-order house, Page? Because I want to
spend my money right off."

"Yes, I'll get it for you just as soon as my nose dies down a little. I
don't want Tweedles to know I've been crying. What are you going to
get?"

"Plenty of middy blouses and a good skirt to wear with them, some
dancing slippers and some kind of simple dress I can put on in the
evening, if the money can be stretched to it."

I was sure it could with careful ordering; and in a few minutes I
thought my nose would bear inspection, so I went back to 117 to get the
catalogue. Tweedles was out visiting, so I did not have to run the
gauntlet of their curiosity.

Annie and I soon found exactly the right things in my wonder book, and
we had the letter written ordering the things before the warning bell
rang for visiting to cease.

"I fancy Father would be awfully cut up if he could know I am spending
all of this money on my clothes; but he needn't know anything about it.
I can wear my old things during the holidays and next summer----"

"Oh, Annie," I broke in, "you are making an awful mistake if you do not
let your Father know all about this letter from your Mother, and take
him into your confidence immediately. It wouldn't be fair to him if you
didn't."

"Not fair to Father! I never thought of such a thing. I am afraid he
will be awfully angry with me."

"How could he be? Aren't you doing exactly what your Mother tells you
to? I tell you, honey, it pays every time to be perfectly frank. You try
and see if it doesn't."

The warning bell rang and I had to beat a hasty retreat, but before I
went I kissed poor little Annie and she clung to me and whispered: "I
know you are right and I'll write to Father to-morrow and send him
Mother's letter."

"That's a good girl; but, Annie, get your letter off to New York for
your things first before the Governor has time to veto it."

"Well, what ho!" exclaimed the twins as they tore in to our rooms,
undressing as they came to beat the lights out bell to bed. "Tell us all
about Annie!"

"There's nothing to tell," I declared, making the mental reservation
that there was nothing I could tell, "except that her father sent her a
pretty white crêpe de Chine dress that she is going to look charming in,
and she has consented to borrow my white slippers for the occasion."

"Oh, how splendid!" cried Dum. But Dee looked at me very solemnly and
said: "Page Allison, I know where to put my confidence. Annie Pore has
told you the story of her life and wild horses could not drag it from
you. I wouldn't have even known she had told if your precious little
freckled nose wasn't as red as a cherry." I felt awfully foolish but I
borrowed my policy from the Tar Baby "an' kep' on sayin' nothin'."

After the light was out, I gave a little audible chuckle as I lay there
going over in my mind the very exciting happenings of the evening. I
chuckled to think what Mabel Binks would say if she knew the despised
"Orphan Annie" was the granddaughter of a baronet on her father's side
and the great-granddaughter of an earl on her mother's.



CHAPTER XIII.

THE CONCERT.


The concert was a great affair. They had not only the singing and
playing from the musical pupils, but refreshments afterward and a little
reception. Many of the townspeople came and the boys from Hill-Top. Our
Assembly Hall was full to overflowing. Miss Jane Cox was in a highly
nervous state.

"I have two pupils who will sing flat," she confided to me, "and if they
do it to-night, I'll die of mortification."

"Well, Annie Pore is going to do you credit, anyhow, I feel sure," I
said, hoping Miss Cox would take a more cheerful view.

"Yes, I am looking to her to save the day. Have you seen her? She looks
beautiful."

I had seen her; in fact, I had hooked her up. My slippers fitted finely
and Annie's dress was without doubt the best-looking one on the stage
that evening.

Mabel Binks headed the programme with a flashy selection on the piano.
She was in her element, showing off. Everything about her proclaimed _le
dernier cri_ of fashion. Even her hair was the latest creation of twists
and rolls. Her hands were covered with rings and her arms had several
bracelets in the form of snakes coiling around them. These rings and
bracelets had a way of clicking ever so slightly but just enough to
accentuate the effect that her performance was a purely mechanical one.

"Pianola," whispered Dee to me. Dee and I had captured dear old Captain
Leahy and made him sit between us. The old fellow was in fine feather
and full of jokes. Miss Peyton smiled approval when she saw that we had
taken care of her old friend, who always came to the school
entertainments by her especial invitation.

"And do ye call that music? I'd rather hear 'Sweet bye and bye' played
on the whistle of an engine by a freight engineer on our line than that
rattle bang. The freight engineer puts some sowl into his worrk, some
meaning. He wants to let his frinds know he is a-cooming home, and his
wife to know that 'tis toime to put on the frying pan and get the pot to
b'iling. But that, what does that mean? Nothing but nimble fingers.
There's no heart in it,--just noise."

We heartily agreed with the old man, but at the close of Mabel's
performance there was such a storm of applause from the Juniors who were
her especial admirers that the perfunctory clapping from the rest of the
audience was completely drowned. She bowed and smiled and rattled her
bangles and then sat down and played "Annie Laurie" with her foot on the
loud pedal all the time, and with all the variations possible to weave
around the beautiful old air.

"Now isn't that too Mabel Binksy for anything?" hissed Dum in my ear.
She was right behind us sitting next to Harvie Price, who had sought us
out on his arrival at Gresham. "She knows perfectly well that Annie Pore
is to sing 'Annie Laurie,' and she chose that for her encore
deliberately and without the knowledge of Miss Cox or the piano teacher,
either. Cat!"

"And why should ye insult poor pussy so, Miss Tucker?" asked the
Captain, who had overheard Dum's remark. "I haven't a cat to me name who
would do such a trick."

Annie followed Mabel immediately. I wondered if she would be upset by
Mabel's having just played her song, but she was not a whit. She
whispered to Miss Cox, who was to play her accompaniment and they
evidently decided to change the program.

As Annie came on the stage, I verily believe half of the girls did not
at first recognize her. Her dress had that unmistakable air that a good
dressmaker can give, and twenty years had not diminished the style; but
it was Annie's walk and manner that astonished everyone, even her best
friends. Could this be the same, tearful little Annie? She wasn't really
little, but I always had thought of her as small just because she seemed
to need protection. She was quite as well grown as the Tuckers and a
little larger than I was. Her carriage had dignity, and there was a
poise and ease to her that is rare in a school girl. Miss Cox played the
opening bars to Tom Moore's beautiful and touching song, "Believe me if
all those endearing young charms," and Annie sang with the simplicity
and confidence of a great artist.

          Believe me, if all those endearing young charms,
            Which I gaze on so fondly to-day,
          Were to change by to-morrow and fleet in my arms,
            Like fairy gifts fading away,
          Thou wouldst still be adored, as this moment thou art,
            Let thy loveliness fade as it will,
          And around the dear ruin each wish of my heart
            Would entwine itself verdantly still.

          It is not while beauty and youth are thine own,
            And thy cheek unprofaned by a tear,
          That the fervor and faith of a soul may be known,
            To which time will but make thee more dear!
          No, the heart that has truly loved never forgets,
            But as truly loves on to the close,
          As the sunflower turns to her god when he sets
            The same look which she turned when he rose.

There is something in that song that touches everyone, old and young. As
Annie finished, for a moment there was perfect silence and then such an
ovation as the little English girl did have! Old Captain Leahy beat his
peg leg on the floor. "Forgetting me manners in me enthusiasm," he
declared. Annie bowed and smiled, no more flustrated than Alma Gluck
would have been.

"Did you ever see such stage presence?" whispered Dee. "Why, she is more
at home there than we are in 117 in our kimonos."

"That's because she loves to sing and knows she can do it," and at the
risk of being considered Annie's claque, I started fresh applause which
was taken up by the whole audience; and after another whispered
conference with Miss Cox, Annie sang again. This time it was "Bonnie,
sweet Bessie, the maid of Dundee." These were songs her mother had
taught her, and I could almost fancy the spirit of the mother had
entered into the daughter.

"I could almost see her mother as she sang," Harvie Price said to me
later on. "I believe Annie's voice is going to be stronger than her
mother's and it has the same note of pathos in it. Why, it was all I
could do to keep from sobbing when she sang 'Sweet Bessie.' And did you
see Shorty? Why, Shorty had his face buried in his hands, and now he
pretends he has caught a bad cold! Isn't she pretty, too? The old man
must have loosened up some to get that swell dress for her. Grandfather
wrote me the other day that Mr. Pore is so economical these days that he
won't go to church because he does not want to part with his nickel. He
says he is making money, too, on the store, since there is absolutely no
competition at the Landing."

"I am so glad you liked her dress," I answered, nearly dead to tell this
nice, sympathetic boy all about it; but keeping to my role of Father
Confessor, I naturally said nothing about how she came by it.

"I am hoping I can spend part of next summer with my grandfather,"
continued Harvey. "You know my Governor and his Father fell out about
politics and I had to stop going there, but, thank goodness, they have
made up now. Father would vote for Roosevelt, while Grandfather thinks
anybody belonging to him must be a Democrat. And not long ago Father
decided that President Wilson was, after all, about the best President
we have ever had, so he wrote to Grandfather and said he was sorry he
had ever voted for a Republican; and now the row is over and the family
is reunited. Grandfather is very arbitrary and of course it is hard to
live with him, but he is the kindest and most generous old man, and I
truly love him."

"Annie Pore says he is charming and delightful and that her mother cared
so much for him," I said, feeling that that much of Annie's talk with me
it would be all right to repeat. This conversation with Harvie was after
the concert when we were having refreshments in the Gymnasium. The
concert had gone off very well. Miss Cox was jubilant because her pupils
who would sing flat had refrained for the occasion. Miss Cox herself had
sung delightfully and had won the heart of old Captain Leahy by giving
"The Wearing of the Green" as an encore.

When the programme was all over and everyone had done the best she
could, Miss Peyton made a little speech and said that by especial
request from some of the older guests Miss Annie Pore was to sing "Annie
Laurie."

That was really the treat of the evening. We were delighted because it
made Mabel Binks so mad.

"I am some weary of that sob stuff from 'Orphan Annie,'" I heard her say
to one of the Hill-Top boys.

"Why, I think it is great!" was his unsympathetic reply. "And what a
little beauty she is, too!"

Once off the stage, Annie's shyness returned in full force, but it soon
wore off under the genial good fellowship of the Tuckers and Mary
Flannigan, and Harvie's big-brother air of pride in her success, and
Shorty's funny reproaches for making him catch such a bad cold. She
looked very happy, and not even Mabel Binks could mar her cheerfulness,
although she plainly heard Mabel say to a Junior: "I wonder who lent her
that dress. It certainly looks familiar to me and anyone could see it
was shortened for the occasion."

My stitches were not so small as they might have been!



CHAPTER XIV.

THE SPREAD.


Saturday night was a great time for spreads as there was no study hall
on that evening and the girls could come early and stay late. A grand
feast was in preparation at 117 Carter Hall. Mr. Tucker had sent a box
that had passed inspection at the office, although it was filled with
contraband articles; but as he wrote Tweedles, they wouldn't make rules
if they did not expect them to be broken.

"My, I'm glad Miss Peyton doesn't put us on our honor not to have cake
and such," said Dee as she opened up a box stamped with the name of a
well-known drygoods firm and plainly marked in a masculine hand:
"Virginia's Shoes, the fourth pair she has had since Spring and she must
be more careful and have her old ones half-soled."

"Isn't old Zebedee a peach? Look! Tango sandwiches!" (The catalogue to
Gresham plainly says: "Nothing but crackers, fruit and simple candy is
allowed to be eaten in the rooms.")

"Here are olives done up to look like shoe polish," said I, diving into
the big box. "And what is this big round parcel at the bottom?" On it I
read: "Caroline's winter hat. I think you are a very vain girl to insist
on your winter hat just to wear it home on the train for Christmas. I
hope it is not mashed but think it would serve you right for thinking so
much about your appearance." The hat proved to be a great caramel cake,
stuck all over with English walnuts, packed so carefully it was not a
bit mashed. Jars of pickle masqueraded shamelessly as Uneeda Biscuit,
being ingeniously pasted up in the original wrappers. Cream cheese and
pimento sandwiches came dressed as graham wafers; and a whole roasted
chicken had had a very comfortable journey buttoned up in Dum's old
sweater, with a note pinned over its faithful breast saying that Dum
must make out with that sweater for another season as Mr. Tucker could
not put up with her selfish extravagance.

We heard afterward that Miss Sears, whose duty it had been to inspect
this box before it was delivered to the girls, had said that she was
surprised to find that Mr. Jeffry Tucker did not spoil the twins nearly
so much as she had been led to believe. In fact, he seemed to be rather
strict with them and quite critical. For instance, an old sweater that
he expected Dum to wear through the season was not really fit to be seen
in!

There were several boxes of candy, besides all the other goodies. They
were all marked peppermint but were really candied fruit, chocolates,
nougat and what not.

"I tell you, Zebedee is some provider when he gets started," said Dee.
"I'm glad I didn't eat much dinner and I intend to eat no supper at
all."

We were taking stock of our eatables before supper bell so we could see
how many girls we could invite to the spread. It was etiquette at
Gresham to give a girl fair warning when a spread was under way, so she
could save space and not go and fill up in the dining-room. We wanted
to avoid feeling like the old countryman who had his first experience
with a table d'hôte dinner. Not knowing there was to be so much
following the first course, he ate too much of it, and afterward loudly
lamented: "Thar I sot chock full er soup."

Annie Pore was, of course, on the list and funny little Mary Flannigan
and the two Seniors, Sally Coles and Josephine Barr. They had been
especially nice to our crowd and we were anxious to show them some
attention. That made seven in all.

"We've really got food for one more or even two," declared Dee, "but
maybe we had better go easy because there is really not room for more."

117 was rather crowded with the three beds, two bureaus, three chairs
and a table, and seven girls would just about fill it to overflowing. It
did not look like the bare cell that had so appalled us on our day of
entering Gresham. We now had a scrim curtain at the window; rugs on the
floor; Tweedles had pretty Roman blankets on their beds with bright
sofa cushions; while I had a beautiful log cabin quilt that Sally Winn
had pieced for me in between her different death throes. The walls were
literally covered with pennants from many schools and colleges with a
few pictures that Dum had stuck in her trunk, purloined from their
apartment in Richmond.

"I don't believe Zebedee will ever miss them, and they mean a lot to
me," she had said when Dee had expressed astonishment on her producing
them from her trunk. "I am so constituted that I've just got to have
something beautiful to look at every now and then." The room was
pleasant and cozy but the crowded walls rather got on my nerves. Bracken
was so big and simple (some people would have called it bare) that I
could not get used to such a conglomeration in a bedroom. I kept my
taste to myself, however, as they were two to one, and no doubt my ideas
of decoration were very old-fashioned and out of date.

Sally Coles and Jo Barr, whom we sought out before supper, were glad to
accept and vowed they would eat not a bite before the feast so that
they could come perfectly empty. Of course Annie Pore and Mary Flannigan
were holding themselves in readiness for the arrival of the promised box
from Mr. Tucker, and the news of its having come safely to hand was
greeted with enthusiasm.

You get tired of any steady food except home food and sometimes you
think you are tired of that, but as a rule you are pretty glad to get
back to it. I fancy the table at Gresham was kept up about as well as
any boarding school, but we knew that as sure as Tuesday was coming,
roast veal was coming, too; and Wednesday would bring with it veal
potpie; Thursday, beefsteak; and Friday, fish; Saturday, lamb stew with
dumplings; Sunday, roast chicken; and Monday, not much of anything. This
certainty bored us, and sometimes I used to think if I couldn't find
something in the potpie besides veal, I'd scream. I had to do a lot of
looking at the mountains on Wednesday, somehow.

A spread was a godsend, and an invitation to one was not as a rule given
in vain. As Sally Coles and I fox-trotted together in the Gym after
supper, she whispered in my ear: "It's certainly good of you kids to ask
Jo and me. We're crazy about coming."

"We think it's pretty nice of you Seniors to come. You didn't even know
we are to have caramel cake, either, did you?" I answered.

"Heavens, no! I'm mighty glad we didn't accept Mabel Binks's bid to a
Welsh rarebit in her room. We fibbed and told her we had a partial
engagement. It was just with each other but we didn't tell her that, and
now you Sophomores have saved our souls by making our imaginary
engagement a real one. I hate to tell even a white lie, but I'd hate a
deal more to have to go to a spread of Mabel Binks's giving. Don't you
know the hammers will be flying to-night? Can't you hear Mabel and those
rapid Juniors she runs with knocking everything and everybody?"

"Yes, I reckon the only way to save your skin is to stay with her and
help knock. But how does she manage a rarebit when we are not allowed to
have chafing dishes?"

"Manages the same way you and the Tuckers manage to have caramel cake, I
fancy. We are not allowed to have cake, either. Of course it is easier
to hide a cake than it is a chafing dish, especially if the cake is
sliced and there are a half-dozen empty girls to help. I believe some of
the girls keep their chafing dishes under their mattresses. Did you hide
your cake well before you came down to supper? It would be the
psychological moment for some busybody to make an inspecting tour--and
then, good-by, cake!"

"Oh, you scare me to death!" and I grabbed Dee, who was whirling by,
trying a brand new step with a giddy Junior, and, whispering Sally's
warning to her, we beat a hasty retreat. Our beloved cake was on the
table covered with a napkin just as we had left it, seemingly, but on
raising the cloth we discovered that a great wedge had been cut out of
it.

"Well, of all the mean tricks!" spluttered Dee. "Who do you s'pose----?"

"Thank goodness, they only took about a fourth! What is left is enough
to give all seven of us fever blisters. Caramel cake with nuts in it
always gives me fever blisters," I laughed.

"But I don't mind. I'll take the cake, fever blisters and all, every
time."

"Me, too! Well, I hope that the thief will have a mouth full of them,"
said Dee vindictively.

"Well, honey, it's a sight better to have some mean girl take off one
fourth than some teacher in her mistaken zeal take off the whole thing
and give us demerits, besides. Here's your handkerchief," I said,
picking up a little pink crêpe de Chine one from the floor.

"Not mine, I don't possess such a thing. Don't you know Zebedee and Dum
and I use the same sized handkerchiefs? When we want a handkerchief, we
want a handkerchief, not a little pink dab. It must be yours."

"No, I haven't any crêpe de Chine ones. Here's an initial--B. It
certainly is scented up." The finishing touch to Mabel Binks's costume
on the afternoon we had seen the game at Hill-Top came back to me
suddenly: the strong odor of musk. The handkerchief smelt exactly the
same way.

"Well, Dee, I reckon it won't take a Sherlock Holmes to say who took the
cake, now. Let's not give her back her hanky until to-morrow. If we took
it to her to-night she would know that we are on to her, and she would
be just mean enough to peach on us and have our cake seized." So we
determined, like Dee and Prosper le Gai, to "bide our time."

What a spread we did have and what fun! Dum turned up with two more
girls, members of our class, and there was enough and to spare. Mr.
Tucker was as lavish as Mammy Susan herself. We had no plates or
glasses, but we had plenty of box tops for dishes and our toothbrush
mugs served as loving cups to drink the very sour lemonade Dee made in
the water pitcher. The same knife carved the chicken, then cut the cake.
The olives, always difficult to extract from the bottle, were poured
into the soap dish which I had scoured hard enough to suit the most
squeamish.

"My, what good eats!" exclaimed Jo Barr. "And how did you ever smuggle
that cake within the lines?" We showed her the wrapper it had come in
and the stern note from Mr. Tucker.

"Well, if that doesn't beat all! I tell you there is nothing like being
smart enough to keep the eleventh commandment: 'Thou shalt not get found
out.' I had a whole fruitcake taken bodaciously from me last year. I am
always breaking the eleventh." And that was so. Poor Jo always got
caught up with.

"Well, I tell you one thing," said the wise Sally, "that cake had better
skidoo until danger of inspection passes. Teachers are a suspicious
lot."

I just got it whisked under a down cushion on Dee's bed when there was a
sharp rap on the door. "Come in," we called in a chorus. It was Miss
Sears, rather astonished at our ready invitation to enter.

"Oh, girls, having a spread, are you," glancing sharply at the
innocent-looking packages of crackers and peppermint candy without
coming all the way into the room. "Well, I hope you will have a nice
time."

"Won't you join us, Miss Sears?" asked Dum sweetly.

"Oh, thank you, no. I am on inspection duty to-night," and she closed
the door, never seeing that Jo had wrapped the roasted chicken up in a
spangled scarf she was sporting. That chicken had had all kinds of
dressing in its fat, young life: first its own feathers; then the
dressing, which is really the un-dressing; then the dressing, which is
really the stuffing; then Dum's old sweater; and now Jo's fine scarf.

We proceeded then to put the good, appetizing food where nothing short
of an X-ray could inspect. So thorough were those nine girls that not a
crumb of cake nor scrap of sandwich was left to tell on us. The chicken
bones were some problem but we decided that if each girl took a bone and
disposed of it, it would simplify matters somewhat. Sally got the
wishbone and said she was going to gild it and put it on her "memory
string."

When we had eaten to repletion, we demanded stunts from those gifted
that way. Mary did a dog fight and new turn she had just mastered:
going like a mouse.

"I wish I could think it was a mouse who nibbled the cake," sighed Dum.
"It kind of hurts me all over to feel that somebody did it."

"Well, if it was a mouse, I bet it sounded like this," and Mary imitated
Mabel Binks's nasal speech until we almost had hysterics.

"Why do you fancy she took only a hunk instead of the whole cake?" I
asked. "It would have been so much more like her to take it all."

"That's the reason she only took part. She thought by behaving out of
character she would throw us off the scent," suggested Sally.

"Well, if she wanted to throw us off the scent, she shouldn't have
dropped her handkerchief," said Dee. "But let's forget it and think of
something pleasant. Annie, you sing, please," and she handed Jo's guitar
to the blushing Annie. Annie was always embarrassed when she had to sing
before a few persons. She got her "stage presence" when there was a real
audience.

"What shall it be?" asked Annie.

"Oh, something real sentimental and lovesick," demanded Sally, who was
supposed to be engaged; and with a little humorous twinkle in her
usually sad eyes, Annie sang "Sally in our Alley."

          Of all the girls that are so smart
            There's none like pretty Sally;
          She is the darling of my heart,
            And she lives in our alley.
          There is no lady in the land
            Is half so sweet as Sally;
          She is the darling of my heart,
            And she lives in our alley.

          Of all the days that's in the week
            I dearly love but one day--
          And that's the day that comes betwixt
            A Saturday and Monday;
          For then I'm dressed all in my best
            To walk abroad with Sally;
          She is the darling of my heart,
            And she lives in our alley.

Then Dum and Dee stood back to back and buttoned themselves up in their
sweaters, which they had put on hindpart-before and impersonated the
two-headed woman, Milly-Christine, singing a duet, "The mocking bird is
singing o'er her grave," in two distinct keys. That was an awfully
funny stunt and one the Tuckers had made up themselves. Before we had
half exhausted the talent of the assembled guests, the bell rang to warn
us that lights must soon be out and we had to break up.

The next morning there was a fine crop of fever blisters due to the very
rich cake. Annie Pore and Sally Coles were the only ones who escaped
with a whole skin. When I handed Mabel Binks her smelly, pink, crêpe de
Chine handkerchief, I noticed that her rather full lips were decorated
with a design similar to my own.

"Here's your handkerchief," I said. "Cake with caramel and nut filling
is awfully rough on the complexion, isn't it?" And the girl had the
decency to blush.



CHAPTER XV.

HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS.


I could hardly believe that it was I, Page Allison, who had been off to
boarding school. Bracken was so exactly as I left it and I dropped so
easily into my old habits and customs, that I felt as though I had only
dreamed I had been away. The dogs almost ate me up for joy, and Mammy
Susan had three kinds of hot bread for supper. Father and I chatted away
for dear life for a while, and then we just as naturally settled down to
a quiet evening of reading, as though I had merely been over to Milton
to mail a letter. He was vastly pleased to have me back, and every now
and then looked over his glasses at me with a very happy smile on his
dear, old, lean, weather-beaten face; and I lay curled up in a big
Sleepy-Hollow chair simply devouring the last "Saturday Evening Post"
that I had bought on the train coming from Gresham, feeling that I had
about the pleasantest home and the best father and kindest Mammy Susan
and the finest dogs on earth.

"Mr. Tucker tells me you have asked him down to hunt," I said as I
surprised a loving glance from Father.

"Yes, yes, I thought it would be nice if he could come when his girls
pay you their promised visit. He is mighty good company. I declare he
can keep a whole party in a good humor," and Father chuckled, evidently
in remembrance of some witticism of Mr. Tucker's. "We are thinking of
getting up a deer hunt over in the swamp. Jo Winn shot a good-sized buck
last month and I am told a great many persons have seen deer in the
distance lately."

This was over in a corner of our county where many small rivers and
creeks formed a perfect network, making very inaccessible, marshy land.
The hunting was as a rule pretty good and during the winter we feasted
quite royally on wild turkey, partridge and rabbit. Deer, of course,
were not so plentiful, but an occasional one was shot. It seems strange
that Virginia, the first state settled, should still be boasting big
game.

"I wish you could take us. Dum and Dee would like it a lot."

"And you, I fancy, would just go along out of politeness," he teased.

"Well, you know I'd rather get killed myself than kill anything, but the
Tuckers have their own guns and often go hunting with their father. I
believe they are very good shots."

"If you think they can stand the trip, we'll take them. I know you can
stand what I can stand, unless boarding school has made you soft. Let me
feel your arm--ah, as hard as ever."

"That's basketball and gym work. I'd have been soft, indeed, if I hadn't
gone in for athletics. I'm so glad we can go. I'll write to the twins to
bring their guns and rough clothes."

Christmas day came and went with plenty of good cheer and happiness, but
none of the hurry and bustle of the present-day Christmas in town. At
Bracken we knew nothing about white tissue paper and Christmas seals and
bolts of red and green ribbon. Our simple gifts to one another were
exchanged without much ceremony; and then Father and I got into his
buggy, with the colt ready to run twenty miles if he could get the bit
between his teeth, and distributed baskets and bags of candy, nuts and
oranges to our many poor neighbors, colored and white. We always had a
box of oranges for the holidays and simple candy and mixed nuts by
wholesale quantities.

"I'd like to take these things around on Christmas Eve and let the
little children think Santa Claus brought them, but I know the mothers
would give them their share right away and then there would be nothing
for Christmas day."

"Well, I believe they think 'Docallison' is a kind of Santy, anyhow," I
said, as we whizzed up to a particularly poor-looking cabin that seemed
to be simply running over with little nigs. The grimy window was black
with their dusky faces and the doorway was so full that the children in
front were being pushed out onto the rickety excuse for a porch.

"Howdy, Aunt Keziah! I hope you and your family are well this beautiful
morning," called Father, pulling in the colt and taking from between his
knees a large hamper literally running over with sweets.

"Chris'mus gif'! Chris'mus gif'!" came in a chorus from all the little
mouths. Aunt Keziah hobbled out, smacking the little blacks as she came
with a very horny hand; but they seemed to take it as a kind of
pleasantry and bobbed up grinning from ear to ear.

"Shet ep, yer lims er Satan! Cyarn't yer see Docallison's colt ain't
go'nter stan fer no sich yellin's? Chris'mus gif', Docallison! Chris'mus
gif', Miss Page!"

This last came with a voice as soft as the wings of a dove, while the
tone in which she had admonished the little darkies had been as rough as
a nutmeg grater. You could hardly believe the two voices had issued from
the same lips. Aunt Keziah was the neighborhood "Tender": that is, she
minded the children whose natural guardians had gone away for one reason
or another,--sometimes to work in the cities, sometimes as house
servants for the county families, where such encumbrances as offspring
were not welcome. She was paid a small sum for each child and always
spoke of them as "bo'ders."

Aunt Keziah had her charity, too, (as who has not?) and supported
several orphans. These she treated with especial kindness, and always
made the "bo'ders" wait until the objects of charity were helped to
"ash-cake an' drippin's."

Father lifted out the heavy basket and the pickaninnies swarmed like
flies around a molasses barrel.

"Git back, thar, you kinky-haided Gabe. You know you ain't nothin' but a
bo'der. You let dis here lil orphant Minnie git fust grab," and Gabe got
back and Minnie came proudly up and got her bag of candy and nuts. We
had tied the treat up in separate packages so there could be no broken
hearts. Mammy Susan had reported that Aunt Keziah had two new ones,
Milly Jourdan's twins, making fourteen in all.

"What did you name the twins, your new boarders, Aunt Keziah?" I asked.

Aunt Keziah demanded one thing from her patrons and that was that she
be allowed to name her charges. No matter what their names had been up
to the time they entered her domain, they had to be rechristened. A big
boy who had been called Bill for eight winters was now known as
Clarence. Mary Banks was Chrystobel and Mump Davis, a raw-boned,
fiery-looking boy, part Indian, seethed and chafed under the _nom de
guerre_ of Fermentation. The charity orphans kept the names their
mothers had seen fit to give them, out of respect for the departed.

"Well, Miss Page, I studied a long time 'bout them thar twins. Naming is
moughty important fer boys special, sence matrimony cyarn't in no way
improve 'em, an' I done decided to call 'em Postle Peter an' Pistle
Paul."

"Capital, capital!" laughed Father. "I hope Postle Peter and Pistle Paul
are healthy. You raise the strongest children in the county, Aunt
Keziah."

"Yassir, Docallison," said the old woman with a toothless grin. "They's
a right likely pair. The reason my bo'ders an' all is so healthy is
'cause I make 'em wash theyselves. An' ev'y las' one er 'em is gotter
have two shuts or shifts to they backs er I won't tend 'em. An' what
they ain't a wearin', I puts in a pot an' biles. De boys gits a big
washin' on Chusdays an' Fridays, an' de gals on Wednesdays an' Sat'days.
Sometimes whin de lil gals all gits washed of a Sat'day night, it looks
like it's a kinder pity to was'e all them hot suds what ain't ter say
dirty, so I picks out a boy er so dat done got siled some, and makes him
take a extra scrub, jist fer luck. As fer eatin's, dey don't git nothin'
but corn braid an' drippin's wif lasses on Sunday ef I kin make out to
have 'em, but dey gits a plenty of what dey do git and de victuals
'grees wif 'em, an' I don't never have a nigger a month 'fo he's as fat
as a possum."

"Well, Aunt Keziah, you are doing a fine work, raising healthy citizens.
I hope you will have a happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year. There
are toys enough to go around in the bottom of the basket and here's a
pound of tea for you and some tobacco for your pipe and some chocolate
drops that are easy to chew."

"Thank yer, thank yer. Docallison, specially fer de sof' candy. I always
did useter have a sweet tooth but now I ain't got nothin' but a sweet
gum, but I's got dat all right."

Just then the colt, tired of standing, made a bolt and all we could do
was to wave good-by to the funny old woman and her fourteen charges.

"Old Aunt Keziah is bringing up those children according to the
teachings of modern science, even to sterilizing their shirts and
shifts, and she doesn't know there is such a word as germ. I fancy the
many cracks in the cabin wall where you can see daylight are partly
responsible for the health of the 'bo'ders.' I find more sickness among
the colored people where their cabins are better built and airtight.
Ventilation is avoided like the plague," said Father as he got the colt
under control and we went spinning off to some more "pensioners," as he
called them.

The doctor's buggy was finally emptied of its load and we skimmed back
home with the colt as fresh as ever, agreeing that we would not give up
horses for all the automobiles under the sun. There is an exhilaration
that comes from driving a good horse that I do not believe a car can
give one, no matter how fine the car or expert the driver.

Mammy Susan had a dinner for us that was fit for kings and queens. It
seemed a pity to cook so much for just Father and me, but some of that
dinner found its way to many a cabin where Father felt it was most
needed; and then on Christmas Day the dogs were given extra rations and
not limited to their one big feeding of corn meal and salt, scalded and
baked in a great pan until it was crisp. On this day of days they had a
bone apiece and all kinds of good scrapings.

After dinner we settled ourselves to enjoy the Christmas books, of which
there were many, as our tastes were well known. Father's patients were
considerate enough not to send for him all afternoon. Not a soul got
sick on this happy Christmas day. Even poor Sally Winn did not try to
die.



CHAPTER XVI.

A VISIT FROM THE TUCKERS.


The Tuckers arrived, and Tucker-like, neither at the time nor by the
route expected. I was just calling Sam to hitch Peg (short for Pegasus)
to the surrey to drive to Milton to meet them, when the unaccustomed
toot of an automobile attracted my attention. It was tearing down our
avenue at breakneck speed. Dee was at the wheel with Mr. Tucker beside
her, and Dum was bouncing around alone on the back seat.

"Beat the train! By Jove, I thought we could!" exclaimed Mr. Tucker,
when he spied me at the yard gate. "We were so afraid you might have
started for Milton. That's the reason we were violating the speed
limit," and they all piled out, the girls hugging me and kissing me and
Mr. Tucker almost hugging me and not quite kissing me.

"It was such a grand day we couldn't resist coming in the car," tweedled
the twins, "but if you had started for Milton before we got here, we
would have died of mortification."

When I told them I had not even had Peg hitched up yet, they were
delighted.

"A mounted policeman chased us just as we were leaving Manchester, but
we dusted him so Tweedles and I are hoping he did not get our number,"
said Mr. Tucker.

I called Sam to bring in the grips and rugs.

"I am sorry he can't take your steed around to the stable, Mr. Tucker,
but we don't know a thing about automobiles at Bracken."

"Leave it where it is, maybe we can have a spin later on."

We went into the house, where the open wood fires made everything bright
and cheerful, although not very warm for persons who are accustomed to
steam heat. Mammy Susan in a stiffly starched purple calico dress with a
gay bandanna handkerchief on her head was ready to greet the guests.

"Well, bress the Lord, an' you done come all the way from town in that
there fire wagon. I hearn the horn a tootin' and a rushin' like mighty
wings, and I says, says I: 'Susan Collins, 'tis the Angel Gabr'el a
comin' fer you.' So I clap on my clean head hankcher an' a starched
apron tow be ready fer the Resrection."

"Mammy Susan, we've heard a lot about you. Page talks about you all the
time at school," said the twins, shaking the old woman warmly by the
hand.

"Well, now, does she? Mammy's baby don't fergit her any more'n Mammy
fergits her baby. An' is this your pa? Well, save us, ef you don't look
more like somebody's great-grandson than anybody's pa."

"Well, they do treat me like a stepson, sometimes, Mammy," laughed Mr.
Tucker. "If I could only take on the looks of years without the years,
I'd be glad, and maybe I could command more respect."

"Why don't you grow some whiskers, then? They ain't nothin' so ageyfying
as whiskers on a young man."

"I'll do it, I'll do it!" exclaimed Mr. Tucker.

"Yes, and you do and we'll pull 'em out," Tweedles declared.

"Well, here am I a-gassin' when I ought to be settin' a little lunch fer
the travelers."

"Oh, we had lunch on the way," the three of them declared. "We were not
going to be any trouble to you by coming so much earlier than we were
expected."

"Oh, now, you must be hungry," I said. "It won't take Mammy Susan a
minute."

"Cose they's hungry, child. Can't I tell hungry folks soon as I claps
eyes on 'em? Maybe they did eat a snack in that there chariot of fire,
but the way they come down the abenue was enough to jolt down a
Christmus dinner, plum puddin' an' all, an' plum puddin' takes a heap er
joltin'," and Mammy Susan hastened out to "set a little lunch,"--which
the Tuckers later declared was a feast.

They were hungry and cold, in spite of their protestations to the
contrary, and cold turkey and country ham with the delicious little
cornmeal cakes that Mammy could stir up and bake in half a minute
disappeared like magic.

"Such coffee!" and Mr. Tucker rolled up his eyes in ecstasy. "And real
cow cream! I tell you, Tweedles, as soon as you finish getting this much
needed education, we've got to get out of an apartment and into a house
where we can do some real housekeeping and have some home cooking."

"You ought to be made to eat at Gresham for a month or so, Zebedee, and
you would think the café is pretty fine," said Dee. "The grub at Gresham
is not so bad, but there is such a deadly sameness to it."

"Well, the grub may be tejus," broke in Mammy, who had just come in with
a heaped-up plate of corn cakes, "but it must hab suption in it, 'cause
lil Miss Page is growd in width as well as wisdom, and you two young
twin ladies is got cheeks like wine-saps."

"You are right, Mammy, the food must be pretty good to keep them so fat
and rosy," said Mr. Tucker, helping himself plentifully to the dainty
little cakes.

"Yassir," and Mammy had a sly twinkle in her kind old eyes, "an' that
there caffy whar you gits yo' victuals mus' be dishin' out some
nourishment, too, 'cause you ain't to say peaked lookin'."

How we did laugh at Zebedee, and as for him, he got up and gave Mammy a
little hug. The Tuckers all knew how to take jokes on themselves.

"She certainly did get you, Zebedee," teased Dum. "You were trying to be
so Mr. Tuckerish, too, admonishing Dee and me for complaining about the
food at Gresham."

Father came in soon from his rounds and greeted the visitors in his
kindly hospitable way. Mr. Tucker was to have several days' holiday from
his newspaper and Father said the neighborhood was in an extremely
healthy condition, owing to the clear, cold weather, and he did not
expect to be overworked; so the gentlemen began immediately to plan
their hunts. Dum and Dee were wild at the prospect of going on the deer
hunt.

"I saw Jo Winn this morning, daughter," said Father, "and he will go
with us. He has a cousin from New York who is visiting him and he wants
to take him."

"Well, if the cousin has no more conversation than Jo he certainly will
not bore us with his chatter," I said. "Now, how about lunch, Father? We
must give Mammy some warning, because she gets flustrated if we come at
her too suddenly."

"To-morrow suits Jo and his kinsman, and it will suit us, too, I think.
Tell Mammy how many of us there are and tell her to put up twice as much
lunch as you think she should. That ought to be 'most enough. We'll want
the big camping coffee pot and a skillet and some salt; also some sliced
bacon, ground coffee and sugar, and a little flour to roll the rabbits
in. We may make a fire and cook some if we get cold and have good luck
in the morning."

I went out to the kitchen to interview Mammy, Tweedles following me, and
then we had to go see the dogs. Dee approved of them and they heartily
approved of her. Dum did not have the passion for them that Dee and I
had, but she liked them well enough. The dogs licked her hand
respectfully and then jumped up on Dee and knocked her down and had a
big romp.

How delightful it was to have some companions of my own age at my
beloved Bracken! The Tuckers wanted to see everything and go everywhere.
We visited the horses in the stable and the cows in the pen and climbed
up in the hay loft to hunt for eggs that a sly old blue hen refused to
lay in the proper place.

"It's just like Grandpa Tucker's, only nicer," declared Dum. "Grandpa
treats us as though we were about two years old and treats Zebedee as
though he had just arrived in his teens, so when we go there, while we
have splendid times, we are being told what not to do from morning till
night."

"Well, nobody ever has told me not to do things," I said. "Mammy Susan
grumbles when she thinks I am too venturesome, but she has always ended
by letting me have my own way; and Father says he thinks my way is about
as good as anybody's way."

"Well, isn't it funny you are not spoiled?" tweedled the girls.

"I believe I used to be spoiled when I was a tiny thing; but Father says
if people grow up spoiled, it is because they lack sense, and he always
said he knew I had sense enough to live down the spoiling that he and
Mammy Susan just couldn't help giving me."

"I believe Dr. Allison is right, Dee," said Dum very solemnly, "and when
we are unruly with Zebedee I know it is not the fault of our early
training that we love to lay it on, but just plain lack of sense."

"Well, I'm going to try to be mighty good, then," exclaimed Dee. "If
there is anything in the world I hate, it's stupidity."



CHAPTER XVII.

DEER HUNTING.


It was a glorious morning. Of course we had to get up before the sun
thought of such a thing. Indeed, there was a crazy, old, lop-sided,
dissipated-looking, gibbous moon still hanging on to life when we came
piling out of the warm, lighted house and climbed into the two vehicles
waiting for us. Father and Mr. Tucker were to go in Father's buggy, and
the girls and I were very snug, three on the seat of the runabout, with
the lunch and coffee pot bouncing around in the back, and the Tuckers'
guns carefully stowed under the seat.

Jo Winn joined us at Milton, the New York cousin in the buggy with him.
We were curious to see the cousin, whom Father had reported as being
"quite likely." Jo was as good as gold and perfectly intelligent with a
keen sense of humor, but he was as silent as the tomb. His sister Sally
was the greatest chatterbox in the world, I am sure. She simply never
stopped talking except on those occasions when she was doing her best to
"shuffle off this mortal coil," and then she seemed to be not able to
stop talking long enough to die thoroughly. Just when the grave was
yawning for her (or maybe because of her) she would think of something
she simply had to talk about and come back to life.

The Winns were F. F. V.'s, in that they were among the first families in
Virginia, if not of Virginia. They were not aristocrats, certainly. They
came of good pioneer stock who were tillers of the soil in the
seventeenth century and still were in the twentieth. They had lived on
the same tract of land for two centuries and a half, and in America that
should stand for aristocracy, but somehow with the Winns it never had.
They had no desire to be considered great folk and so they never were.
The war between the states had left them as it had found them, in fairly
prosperous circumstances. Never having owned slaves, the emancipation of
the negroes did not affect them one way or the other. Having always
done their own sowing and reaping, they could still do it. The family
had never been much on marrying, and now there were none left but the
hypochondriacal old maid Sally and her younger brother Jo.

I had given the twins a history of the Winns as we spun over to Milton.
Pegasus was in fine feather, which seems a strange thing to say of a
horse, but of one whose name suggests wings, perhaps it is appropriate.

"I fancy Jo is so silent because Sally talks so much," suggested Dum.

"Maybe it is the other way and Sally talks so much to make up for Jo's
silence," I said; "but I hope the cousin from New York will strike a
happy medium."

"A 'cousin from New York' always sounds so exciting and just as like as
not he'll come from Hoboken. Dr. Allison says he is about twenty-five,
so I reckon he'll not notice us kids, anyhow. It won't break our hearts,
that's sure," and Dee tossed her blue-black head in disdain of all
males.

Jo and the cousin were waiting for us at the crossroads. The cousin was
a good-looking young man with blue eyes and light hair, very picturesque
in a brand new hunting suit, leggins and all.

"They won't stay new long," I whispered to the girls, "with Jo's hounds
flopping all over them."

Jo was forced to open his mouth and speak, as it was up to him to
introduce the cousin, but he did it in as few words as possible.

"Mr. Kent--Miss Allison." And then an appealing glance at me gave me to
understand that the matter was in my hands, so I took up the social
burden and introduced Jo and Mr. Kent to the Tuckers. Mr. Reginald
Kent,--that was the picturesque name that went with the picturesque
corduroy suit,--proved himself to be a young man of resources. He had no
idea of taking the long drive to the spot of the possible deer alone
with the silent Jo, the hounds wallowing all over his new clothes.

"See here," he exclaimed, "I think one of us fellows ought to get in
with the young ladies. They might need some protection on the trip." Jo
looked very much amused at my needing protection and the twins certainly
looked buxom enough to take care of themselves without the help of Mr.
Reginald Kent.

"Well, sort yourselves in a hurry," called Father. "The colt won't stand
another minute and I don't want to get too far ahead of the rest of
you."

"Let me get in with Mr. Winn," begged Dee. "I'm crazy to ride with the
dogs." Jo's dogs were the only ones going, although the pack at Bracken
plead piteously to be allowed to join the party. It seemed best not to
take too many, and Jo's dogs were so well trained that the men had
decided on them.

Mr. Reginald Kent squeezed his new corduroys between Dum and me, and Dee
jumped into the buggy with the grinning Jo. Dee declared later that Jo
talked as much as most men and was a very agreeable person; but I fancy
the real truth of the matter was that Dee chattered away at her usual
rate, and that Jo was such an eloquent listener Dee never did discover
that she was doing all the talking. Certainly they found a topic of
interest to both of them in the dogs, and as talking about the dogs
meant patting the dogs, the dogs naturally were pleased.

Our cavalier proved to be very cheerful and very complimentary. He was
evidently much pleased to escape the silent Jo. We liked him in spite of
his fulsome compliments, and when we gave him to understand that
flattery was not the way to curry favor with us, he became more natural
and we had a very amusing time with him. It turned out that he did not
live in Hoboken as Dee had predicted, but in the heart of New York City.
He was employed by an advertising firm, not only as a writer of
advertisements, but also as illustrator.

"Of course there is no pleasant way of making a living," he said, "but I
long to get out of this commercial art and into regular illustrating."

"But I adore ads," exclaimed Dum. "Dee and Zebedee and I always read
every word of them and Zebedee says you can find more pure fiction in
them than in the magazine proper--or improper."

"Well, after this I shall do my work more enthusiastically and more
conscientiously, knowing there is a chance of its coming under such
eyes," and Mr. Kent's glance of admiration into Dum's hazel eyes gave
her to understand he was speaking of those particular eyes and not Dee's
and Zebedee's. I rather expected to see Dum give him a back-hander, but
instead she blushed in rather a pleased way, just as any young girl
should on receiving such a compliment from a handsome young man from New
York.

The roads in our county are much improved, thanks to the automobilists
who have worked such reforms throughout the whole country. On that
morning they were hard and dry, even dusty, and we went spinning along
through the frosty air, Father ahead with the colt behaving as though it
were a hurry call and every moment counted. I was next in line and Peg
was giving me all I could do to hold her in. She seemed to want to let
us all see that an upstartish colt could trot no faster than she could.
I was rather glad that Mr. Reginald Kent had taken a fancy to hazel eyes
instead of gray, as I needed my gray eyes to pick a smooth road for
Peg. Jo Winn and Dee were just far enough behind us to keep out of our
dust, and occasionally we could hear Dee's ringing laugh and an unusual
guffaw from the silent Jo.

"You see now why we couldn't come in your automobile, as Mr. Tucker
wanted," I said to Dum, as Father wheeled the colt sharply to the left
into a forest of pines where scrub oaks and chinquepins almost concealed
a very poor excuse for a road.

"Come on, Daughter," Father called back to me; "we'll keep close
together through the woods, as there is no dust."

I really believe that the road through that pine forest is the very
worst road in Virginia, and that is saying a good deal, as my beloved
state has only recently awakened to the fact that it reflects on her
standing to be noted as having the worst roads in the Union. That
particular road had great granite bowlders; ruts that threatened to
swallow us; gnarled tree roots that stretched across the path as though
they meant to trip us up; and sometimes even a fallen trunk over which
we would have to bounce, testing the springs of our vehicles to their
utmost endurance.

"Well, I reckon little Henry Ford" (that is what the Tuckers called
their car), "would have been ditched long before this," gasped Dum, as
one wheel took a bowlder and the other a deep rut.

"Miss Allison, I haven't asked you to let me assist you in driving, just
because I know you can do it so much better than I can," said Mr. Kent.
"I'd have turned over there as sure as I'm born."

"Well, I came mighty near doing it," I laughed. "If Dum's hat had not
been on the side and tilted toward the bowlder, we would have landed in
the ditch, I know. We had just about an ounce's weight in our favor."

"I guess it's a good thing I part my hair in the middle in these
hairbreadth escapes. Just think, suppose it had been parted on the left
side and had counterbalanced Miss Dum's hat tipped toward the right!
Over we would have gone."

Just then a Molly Cotton-tail jumped up out of the bracken and the dogs
set up a fearful howling. It was all Jo Winn and Dee could do to hold
them in their places. Mr. Tucker and Dum looked longingly at their guns
but the colt would not stand for shooting going on so close to him, and,
besides, when people go out for deer they do not want to begin on
rabbits. So little Miss Molly got off for that time at least.

I was glad. There is something in my make-up that recoils from killing
anything. To be sure, I am fond of a rabbit's hind leg, about as good
eating as one can find, but when I am picking on one of those hind legs
I have to close my mind carefully to the fact that that same hind leg
has helped to carry some Bre'r Rabbit through many a briar patch. If the
image comes to me of a perky little white tail scurrying through the
bushes with the eager dogs in pursuit, I simply have to give up eating
the delectable morsel and Mammy Susan has to broil me some bacon.

"Hi, there, Uncle Peter," called Father to an old negro man approaching
on a mule, a great sack of corn balanced on his pommel, "don't tell me
you are not at home when we are coming to see you."

"Well, Docallison, I done tech bottom in de meal bag dis very mawnin',
an' I was jes' a takin' some cawn to de mill; but efn de quality folks
is a comin' ter see me, I kin sho make out wif de scrapin's till anudder
day."

"We are going to try our luck with the deer, Uncle Peter, and I thought
we would leave our teams at your cabin and get you to bring our
provisions over to Falling Water in your wheelbarrow."

"'Visions, you say? Well, efn you's goin' ter have 'visions, dey ain't
no us'n my goin' ter de mill fer days ter come. 'Visions from Bracken
means dat Mammy Susan done had her say-so, and dat ole nigger 'oman is
sho a amplified perfider. They'll be 'nuf leavins ter feed de multitude
on Mount Aryrat." And Uncle Peter turned his willing mule's head around
and led the way to his cabin.

Click! Click! went Mr. Kent's pocket camera. "Exactly the type I am
looking for! Now, Miss Dum, when you look through the advertisements
several months from now, be sure to notice a certain molasses that is to
be put on the market. Uncle Peter will be there taking his corn to the
mill so he can have a 'pone to sop in de 'lasses.' Oh, look at the
cabin! Isn't it charming?"

It was indeed a typical log cabin. It was old, very old, but Uncle Peter
kept it in good repair, patching the mortar in the chinks from time to
time and propping up the great stone chimney that stood at about the
angle of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. On the door and walls were tacked
many coon skins. That is the method employed for curing the skins, and
Uncle Peter made quite a little money selling coon skins. He had only a
small clearing around his cabin but a good cornfield down in the creek
bottom.

"'Light, 'light," said Uncle Peter, "Rosana will be that proud ter
'ceive you. She been throwing rocks all mornin' at that ole Shanghai
rooster who would crow fer comp'ny. Co'se Rosana didn't know de comp'ny
was a goin' ter be white folks. She done' low it would be some er dem
low-down niggers tother side er de swamp what is always a-comin' empty
and gwine away full."

Aunt Rosana squeezed herself sideways through the cabin door. She was a
mountain of flesh, with about as much shape as a football. Indeed, she
looked very like the potato babies Mammy Susan used to make me: a big
potato for the body; a little potato for a head, stuck on with a match;
feet and arms of peanuts; and a face scratched on with a kitchen fork.
Her voice sounded like hot mashed potato as she bade us welcome.

"Well, efn I won't hab ter gib dat ole Shanghai rooster a extry handful
er wheat! Here I been a-was'in' time all mornin' tryin' ter make him
shet up his 'nostigatin' fer comp'ny, not thinkin' he was a-crowin' fer
quality. I mought a-knowed he wouldn't er crowed so loud an' clear fer
nuthin' but niggers, an' swamp niggers, at dat," and a laugh shook her
huge body, reminding me of the "bowl full of jelly."

We were glad to stretch ourselves after the long drive, and Aunt Rosana
took us into her cabin while the men of the party attended to
unhitching the horses. The cabin was spotless, although the one room it
boasted was kitchen, parlor and bedroom in one. A great fireplace almost
the entire length of one side of the room was really the kitchen. Aunt
Rosana scorned iron stoves and still did her cooking with pot-hooks and
Dutch ovens. Even now, hanging from one hook, was a singing black iron
kettle and from another a covered pot from which issued an aroma that
told me that Uncle Peter was going to have cabbage for dinner. Homemade
rag rugs covered the floor almost entirely, but wherever a spot of oak
flooring showed, it was gleaming white with much scrubbing.

A great four-poster had the place of honor opposite the fireplace. It
was a bed fit for the slumbers of kings and princes. Many families in
Virginia will exhibit just such beds and proudly tell you that in those
beds Lafayette and Washington had slept. I don't know how Uncle Peter
and Aunt Rosana happened to have it, but I know that the beautiful old
bed had never harbored a more worthy couple. The patchwork quilt, with
its intricate rising-sun pattern, was Aunt Rosana's handiwork. The
walls were decorated with brilliant chromos, calendars dating back into
the 'seventies and on up to date.

The twins were charmed with the place and their interest was most
flattering to Aunt Rosana. She showed them all her treasures, even her
photograph album.

"And who are all of these people?" asked Dum, who was politely looking
at every photograph.

"Lor', chile, I dunno. Peter bought dat ere album at a sale ober in de
nex' county. Ev'ybody in de book is white, an' dey looks like quality
ter me; but dese days yer can't tell. Some er de quality is lookin'
moughty stringy an' de oberseer class is pickin' up so dey is kinder
mergin' inter great folks."

"What's this up your chimney?" queried Dee, peering up the great flue.

"Oh, dat's whar I smokes my meat. They's some shoulders up dar; an' some
sides er baking wif a streak er fat an' a streak er lean as pretty as
any you kin buy in de city. An' them's my little chany valuebowles what
I been collecking of sence I was a baby," said Aunt Rosana to Dum, who
was examining a great array of little china ornaments on top of a large
old highboy.

There were little china girls kissing little china boys; little baskets
with turtle doves on the handles; pink puppies and green cats, some of
them meant for match safes and some of them purely ornamental; little
cups and saucers of every shape and hue; little pitchers with big ears
and some with no ears at all. I have never been in a cabin of
self-respecting colored people where there was not a chest of drawers or
a table filled with similar treasures. I know Aunt Rosana thought as
much of her "chany valuebowles" as Father did of his books, and her
sensations when Dum almost dropped a little shell-covered box was just
what Father's would have been if he had seen a careless reader turn down
a page in one of his beloved books, or bend back the covers of one of
his first editions.

"Do look at this," begged Dum of Mr. Kent, who had just entered the
cabin. She held up in her hand a china cow of a decidedly lavender hue
with horns and hoofs of gilt, and quoted:

          "'I never saw a purple cow;
           I never hope to see one;
           But I can tell you, anyhow,
           I'd rather see than be one.'"

          "'Ah, yes, I wrote the "Purple Cow"--
           I'm sorry now I wrote it!
           But I can tell you, anyhow,
           I'll kill you if you quote it!'"

laughed Mr. Kent, taking the fearful and wonderful animal in his hands
and examining it with great interest. "Isn't this place delightful? If I
had only brought my sketching things instead of my gun, I'd stay here
and paint. I'm going to ask Aunt Rosana to let me take some time
exposures of the interior of her cabin. Just look at that bed and that
fireplace! Thank goodness, I've got my camera with a perfectly new film
good for twelve exposures."

"Well, Gawd be praised dat ole Shanghai gib me warnin' of comp'ny comin'
an' I done stirred my stumps an' straightened up some, efn my room's
goin' ter git its Dager'type took," and Aunt Rosana's flesh quivered
with delight.



CHAPTER XVIII.

THE MIGHTY HUNTER.


The pictures were soon taken and we were on our way to the low country.
Everyone carried a gun but me. Uncle Peter brought up the rear with a
wheelbarrow laden with the "'visions."

It was a long walk but such a delightful one that we never once thought
of getting tired. Our way lay through a pine forest and was up hill and
down dale. Tweedles and I were as well able to take the walk as any of
the male persuasion, although it took some time to make Mr. Kent
understand that we could get along without his assistance. He would help
Dum over a worm fence, much to Dee's and my amusement, as we knew that
Dum could vault it with one hand, just as we did.

"I never saw such independent young ladies as you three," he confessed
after a daring leap we had made over a gulch. "The girls I know in New
York expect to be assisted over every gutter."

"Maybe that's their town manner, and if they were turned loose in the
country they might help themselves as well as we can," I suggested. "To
tell the truth, it makes me fall down if anyone helps me."

"Do you know," whispered Dee to me, "I verily believe that Reginald Kent
person is getting stuck on Dum? I hope he won't shoot her. I don't
believe he ever carried a gun before in his life. He handles it like a
walking stick."

"He's real nice, don't you think?" I asked.

"Oh, yes, nice enough, but I can't see why Dum lets him boost her over
every stick and stone. She's perfectly able-bodied. She looks to me as
though she rather liked to be treated like a boneless vertebrate," and
Dee looked very disgusted. The fact was that Dum was taking the helping
just as she was taking the compliments: in a perfectly natural, girlish
way.

"Fond of the country?" asked Mr. Tucker, glancing with an amused
twinkle at Mr. Kent's nonchalant manner of holding his gun.

"Oh, yes, fond enough, what I know of it. I've had to stick pretty close
to Broadway all my life. I spent a summer down here with the Winns once
when I was a kid and that's about the only country I've known."

"Haven't you hunted before?" questioned Dum, jumping back from the
barrel of Mr. Kent's new gun that was pointing ominously at her.

"Well, I've shot the 'shoots' at Coney Island, and have practiced at
hitting the bull's-eye in the galleries at that gay resort until I can
ring the bell every time, but that is the extent of my experience," and
Mr. Kent looked a little wistful. "I'd be mighty glad of some pointers
from any of you that have had more."

"Well, point your gun, barrel down," tweedled the twins.

"Ah, so, I see," he said, grasping his gun in a more sportsmanlike
manner, and all of us breathed a sigh of relief. I had been in terror
for fear he might ring a b-e-l-l-e or hit some eye not in a bull ever
since we left Aunt Rosana's cabin. "I'm awfully green," continued the
young man, modestly. "I cut a poorer figure turned loose here in the
country than old Uncle Peter would on the Great White Way."

"Not a bit of it," said Mr. Tucker kindly. He seemed rather impressed by
Mr. Kent's frankness and modesty. Indeed, the young New Yorker could not
cut a poor figure anywhere. He was well grown and sturdy and had an
athletic swing to his walk due not only to much work in a gymnasium but
to the "magnificent distances" he had been compelled to walk in New
York.

I have noticed that town-bred persons as a rule walk much better than
country-bred. When they get on rough ground they walk as though it were
smooth, while country people when they strike pavements look as though
they were still getting over plowed ground. Reginald Kent, if he did not
know how to carry a gun, knew how to carry himself. With shoulders back,
chin in and head well up, he stepped along like a West Pointer; while
Jo Winn slouched with shoulders bent and head forward.

We chatted away very merrily until we came to the creek where the party
was to separate. There was not much chance of any game, big or little,
with such a crowd tramping through the woods. It was agreed that Father,
Mr. Tucker and Jo Winn should cross the creek and go on to the river,
where they were to take a skiff, owned by old Uncle Peter and kept
moored at a certain spot, known to Father; from there they were to go
into the marshes; and, later on, come down the river and join us at the
mouth of the creek. We were to keep on straight down the creek with
Uncle Peter and Mr. Kent, who earnestly desired to stay and "take care"
of the ladies.

"I'm going to change my loads for rabbits," said Dee, suiting the action
to the word. "This big shot would tear a rabbit all to pieces and I
believe we are more apt to see rabbits than deer."

Mr. Kent followed suit but Dum kept "loaded fur b'ar," as she expressed
it. Dee soon got a rabbit, which she wept over.

"She always does that," explained Dum. "She shoots things for the love
of shooting and then bawls because she has taken an innocent life."

We had one of Jo's dogs with us. The other two had gone with the three
men to stalk the possible deer. Our dog started up several rabbits and
Mr. Kent joyously got two of them.

"Gee, this beats clay pigeons and shooting galleries," he declared. "I
feel like a man-eating lion now; since I have tasted blood, I'll never
be content to go back to my quiet, uneventful life."

We pitched camp near the mouth of the creek on a cliff overlooking the
river. Uncle Peter and I made a fire and skinned the rabbits, while the
Tuckers and the cavalier went off in search of more game. Under a great
ledge of rock we found some snow left from a storm we had before
Christmas, and after washing the rabbits well and letting them stand in
cold water long enough to get out the animal heat, we buried them in the
snow: "Ter git the fraishness out'n em," explained Uncle Peter.

I always loved to mess around a campfire, and Uncle Peter proved a most
delightful companion.

"I like this a lot better than killing things, Uncle Peter," I said.

"Sho, child, so do I. I've been a-huntin' all my life, but it ain't been
fer pleasure. I hunts fer a livin' an' I wouldn't shoot nothin' fer the
love er killin' any mor'n I'd go dig taters fer exercise. I digs taters
fer taters. I done tuck de libbuty of bringin' some sweet taters I made
dis year fer ter roas' fer you-alls dinner," and the old man pulled a
bag from the wheelbarrow that held great sweet potatoes almost as big as
my head.

"They's nothin' so 'lectable as sweet taters what is roasted in de
cam'fire. Jes' put 'em down in de ashes and kiver 'em over an' den
fergit 'em, jes' fergit 'em. Dey can't cook too long 'kase de mo' de
outside burns de mealier de inside is go'nter git," and Uncle Peter
piled on more brushwood and raked the hot ashes over the yams.

Every now and then we heard a shot off in the direction of the Amazons
and their so-called protector. I did hope the girls were having good
luck and would come back with game of some sort. Uncle Peter and I got
out the "'visions" and began to prepare for the hunters who, experience
told us, would come along soon, hungry as wolves.

"Killin's a mighty ap'tizin' spo't," laughed Uncle Peter, "an' victuals
cooked in de open seems ter be mo' tasty-like dan de ones in kitchens."

First we fried the bacon and then put it in a covered pan to keep hot,
and used the bacon grease to fry the rabbits, which we had seasoned very
highly and rolled in flour. I filled the coffee pot with fresh water
from a bubbling spring near by, and, resting it on two stones about six
inches apart, I raked out hot coals, and soon it began to heat up. I had
just completed this culinary feat when Uncle Peter whispered to me:

"Look, chile, down yander by the ribber!"

The cliff where we had pitched our little camp overlooked the river, and
about a hundred yards from the base of our cliff was a graveled ford,
or shallows. The scrub growth was close down to the water's edge but
stretching out into the stream was a little sandy beach. Beyond the
scrub growth rose the dark pines, and an occasional oak with its great
bare branches towered above all meaner trees. From the underbrush had
stepped a young buck. He was picking his way daintily across the pebbles
to the water's edge. How beautiful he was! I wanted our guests to have
good sport, but I longed with a longing that was almost a prayer that no
one with a gun was seeing what Uncle Peter and I were seeing. What wind
there was came from his direction so he got no scent of us, and he drank
his fill with unconcern, as though he lived in the "forest primeval."
Then he proudly raised his antlered head and stood a moment sniffing the
air.

"Bang!" rang out a shot, whizzing close to my ear, and "Bang!" came the
echo from the cliff. The young buck stood a moment as though sculptured,
and not until the echo answered did he drop. It almost seemed that the
echo had been the good shot that had laid low this possible future
leader of herds.

"Oh, the pity of it! The pity of it!" my heart cried out. Turning, I saw
my friends on a ledge of rock farther down the river; Dum, with her
smoking gun still raised to her shoulder, an exalted look on her face
and her black hair with the coppery lights tumbling all about her, an
Amazon, indeed; Dee, crumpled up in a little heap, her hands over her
face.

"Hurrah!" shouted Reginald Kent, beside himself with excitement.

Dee jumped up from her crumpled heap and clambered down the cliff, tears
streaming down her face and great sobs shaking her body. She fortunately
had on waterproof boots, because she thought no more of water than she
did of land. She splashed right across the shallow ford and, kneeling
down by the poor deer, she buried her tear-stained face on his twitching
shoulder.

Just then the skiff with Mr. Tucker, Father and Jo Winn came round a
bend in the river.

"Hello! What's this?" called Mr. Tucker in some alarm, seeing his
daughter kneeling on the sand by an expiring stag. "Where's Dum? What's
happened?"

"It's just Dee, deedling," called out Dum. "I shot the deer and now
Dee's breaking her heart."

"O--h, O--h, but he recognized me just before he died!" sobbed Dee. "I
could tell by the way he looked at me."

"It was a good thing he did 'recognize' you," grinned Jo Winn. "If he
had not, he might have gored you. An injured buck is a right dangerous
thing to fool with."

We comforted Dee as best we could and praised Dum for her shot. Soon we
were gathered around our campfire, and then Uncle Peter and I came in
for our share of praise for the good dinner we had cooked.

"We'll feast on venison to-morrow," said Father.

"Ah, never!" shuddered Dee. "I couldn't, not after he recognized me."

"Maybe Molly Cottontail, whose hind leg you seem to be enjoying so,
would have recognized you, too, if she had ever seen you before,"
teased Mr. Tucker. "Now, Miss Page, here, has such a tender heart she
can't eat rabbit that she has seen running in the woods but contents
herself with bacon."

"Have you no pity, then, for the poor faithful hogs?" asked Father.
"They no doubt enjoy life as much as the deer or Bre'r Rabbit. That is
perhaps bacon from one of old Sally's offspring; and, Page, you used to
play with those pigs when they were little as though they were kittens.
I have no doubt all of the litter would recognize you. When we begin to
sentimentalize about our food, we had better 'open our mouths and shut
our eyes,' as there is no telling to what lengths it may lead us."

"But, Doctor, you know 'Pigs is pigs,'" broke in Mr. Tucker, and the
discussion ended with a laugh.

After dinner the gentlemen made another excursion across the river but
came back without having seen even a deer track. They got a few
partridges, however, and some rabbits and were content. We started home
through the pine forest a very happy, merry party.

Mr. Reginald Kent stuck closer than a brother to Dum's side, and Mr.
Tucker, who was walking with me, and I overheard this conversation
between the infatuated young New Yorker and the ingenuous Dum:

"Do you know, Miss Dum, you looked like Diana when you stood on that
rock and aimed at the deer? I wanted to paint you awfully bad and did
click the camera on you. I hope you don't mind."

"Oh, no, I don't mind if it will help you any in your advertising. Are
you going to put me in the 'lasses ad, too?"

"Oh, now, Miss Dum, quit your kidding! You know I didn't mean I wanted
to paint you for advertising, I meant for myself." And then Dum blushed.

Mr. Tucker frowned. He evidently did not relish his girls getting old
enough to be talked to that way.

"Miss Dum, will you do me a great favor?" continued Mr. Kent. "I want
more than anything in the world a lock of your hair. It is the most
wonderful hair I have ever seen. Sometimes it looks black, and then in
another light it is almost red. When it came down while you were aiming
at the deer, it was like copper in the sun. Please give me just a little
lock to take back to New York with me."

"I am afraid Zebedee would not like for me to cut my hair," answered Dum
primly. "But I tell you," she added generously, "I can save you the
combings, if you would like them."

Mr. Reginald Kent looked rather nonplused and Mr. Tucker handed me his
gun to hold while he rolled in the leaves for very joy. As we were
bringing up the rear, nobody saw this pantomime but me, and I was as
glad as Dum's father that she was not going to be grown up for a while
yet.

Mr. Kent was to go back to New York on the following day; in a little
more than a week Dum would be in boarding school; and it would of
necessity be many a day before the two could meet again. Perhaps the
next time they do meet, Dum will have grown to the age when she will
know that to offer a young man combings in lieu of a lock is not
conducive to romance.



CHAPTER XIX.

A VISIT TO RICHMOND.


Those were certainly three mad, merry days I spent in Richmond with the
Tuckers. Poor Father had to go to Cousin Park Garnett's and he just
hated it. But he had promised her that the first time he went to
Richmond he would stay at her house, and stay he had to.

The Tuckers met us at the station in little Henry Ford. It had been only
a few days since they had been with us at Bracken, but we had much to
talk about and a great deal of news to exchange.

"Father is having the deer skin tanned to make a rug for our room at
Gresham, and the antlers are to be mounted for a hat-rack," exclaimed
Dum.

"Sally Winn tried to die last night, and I drove over to Milton with
Father, and Jo told me he thought you, Dee, were the most sensible lady
he had ever met," I managed to get in.

"He promised me a pointer pup; I hope he won't forget it. Brindle had a
fight yesterday and is all bunged up from it. I know you are dying to
meet Brindle," said Dee.

"No doubt she is pining away for that honor," teased Mr. Tucker, "but
don't you think she could wait until after luncheon? How about it, Miss
Page?"

"Well, if Brindle can stand it, I fancy I can," said I. And so we went
to a delightful restaurant, where we had a scrumptious luncheon (I know
no other word to express it): Lynhaven oysters on the deep shell;
Hampton spots so beautifully cooked that it must have made them glad to
be caught and fried; shoestring potatoes vying with the fish in charm;
Waldorf salad, with everything in it but the kitchen stove, as Dee
declared.

Cousin Park was not expecting Father until the afternoon, so he was
spared to us for a little while, much to his delight and ours.

"Now, what shall we have for dessert?" asked our genial host. "Tweedles
always wants pie,--cocoanut, as a rule."

"Pink ice cream for me," said Father. "Did you ever see a country Jake
that didn't want pink ice cream as soon as he hit the city?"

"What seasoning?" laughed Mr. Tucker.

"I don't care, just so it's pink."

"I believe I'll have what Father has. I like it pink, too."

"Well, cocoanut pie for mine," ordered Dum.

"And lemon meringue for mine," ordered Dee.

"You are not like the young man who never ate lemon meringue pie because
it messed up his ears so, are you, Dee?" said Mr. Tucker; and so our gay
little luncheon proceeded.

"My, how I hate to go to Cousin Park's!" sighed Father. "She is kind in
a way, but so--so--ponderous."

"Poor Father!" and I patted his knee under the table, "I do wish you
didn't have to go."

"Well, I have plenty of engagements that will keep me busy, and I won't
have to do much more than eat and sleep there. But it is her long formal
dinners that bore me so."

"Well, you have simply got to have dinner with us to-morrow, Saturday,
evening at the Country Club, and no doubt these girls will have you
fox-trotting before the evening is over," and Mr. Tucker would not take
"No" for an answer,--not that Father was very persistent in his refusal.
We dropped the dear man at Cousin Park's great, dark house and he had
the look of "Give up all hope ye who enter here."

The Tuckers had a very attractive apartment in a large, new, up-to-date
building, but I could fancy the havoc that Dum and Dee caused whenever
they resorted to the gloves to settle their disputes. The place was so
full of nicknacks that one could hardly turn around. There were really
enough of what Mammy Susan called "doodads" to decorate a mansion, and
all of these things were crowded into a not very large apartment. Some
of the things were very beautiful and all of them were interesting, but
if they belonged to me I would pack about half of them away in storage.

I thought of a colored woman in the country who lived in a very small
cabin with six little children falling over her feet all the time, and
she used to pray fervently, "Oh, Gawd, gimme grace not ter git so
pestered dat I'll throw ary one er dem out do's." I am afraid I would
have been so pestered with all of the doodads that I would surely have
thrown some of them outdoors.

"Miss Page, I have been trying to persuade Tweedles to help me to get
rid of some of the mess in these rooms," said Mr. Tucker, almost as
though he had read my mind. "I feel the stuffiness of it even more since
our visit at Bracken." That was it, the simplicity of Bracken had
spoiled me for overcrowded rooms.

"But Zebedee, everything we want to get rid of is just the thing you
think most of, and the things that you think superfluous are our special
treasures," complained Dum.

"Well, I am afraid we'll have to wait until you get some kind of
education, and then, if stocks is riz, we'll move into a house big
enough to spread out in."

Their rugs were beautiful and their pictures I have since found out were
very fine. At that time, however, they did not seem very good to me.
The taste in art of a fifteen-year-old girl who has seen next to no
pictures is not to be relied upon; and no doubt my taste was abominable.

Brindle took me to his heart and made me perfectly at home. He was a
bow-legged, brindle bull with undershot jaw and eyes like damson jam.
Dee loved him next to Zebedee and Dum; and I know cried herself to sleep
many a night at boarding school, longing for her pet. He was certainly a
very human person, or rather dog, I should say, and ruled the Tuckers
with a rod of iron. He actually made Mr. Tucker get out of a chair that
he, Brindle, had taken a fancy to, and he curled himself up on the seat
with a haughty sniff that made us scream with laughter, until Dee
insisted that we control our merriment, as Brindle did not like to be
laughed at.

"It is his one fault," she said; "he has not a very keen sense of
humor."

"He has one other, Dee," said Mr. Tucker; "he does smell like a dog, you
must admit." Dee had to admit it, but declared she thought a dog should
smell like a dog and not like a tuberose; so the discussion ended.

We took in the movies that afternoon. I don't know how many of them, but
it was great fun.

"Zebedee won't usually let us go without him," said Dee, "but he thinks
you are dignified enough to hold us down."

"Me--dignified? Why, father thinks I am as wild as a March hare!"

"Well, Zebedee says you know when to be quiet. Zebedee likes you a lot,
Page," declared Dum. "If you weren't exactly what you are, Dee and I
would be awfully jealous of you. What you blushing about?" Such a
double-barreled compliment would make an old pair of leather saddle bags
blush; and a girl of my thin skin naturally took on a rosy hue, that Dee
declared put me out of the chaperone class.

That evening we went to a vaudeville performance. Mr. Tucker's newspaper
connection gave him the _entrée_ anywhere in the house, so we were very
grand in box seats. A particularly amusing black-faced artist was giving
a song-and-dance when Dee exclaimed:

"Look up there in the balcony!" And what should we see but Father's dear
old lean, solemn face convulsed with merriment. Zebedee--I mean Mr.
Tucker--went up and made him join us.

"How did you escape Cousin Park?" I asked.

"Oh, she thinks I am in solemn conclave with some of my professional
brethren! I didn't exactly tell a lie, but I acted one. It was either
that or burst a blood vessel. You know my Cousin Park, do you not, Mr.
Tucker?"

"Y-e-s, I know her, but she never seems to know me. With Mrs. Garnett,
one must have either plenty of very blue blood or more than plenty of
very yellow gold. I've got blue blood to burn, but no yellow gold, as
you know. There must be something radically wrong with me in her eyes.
What it is, I don't know; nor do I much care. I was very fond of her
husband. Major Peyton Garnett was a good friend to me. I admired him
immensely."

"Yes, the Major was a fine old gentleman," said father. He afterward
told me that one reason he had to escape from Cousin Park's presence or
break a blood vessel was that she had so many unkind things to say of
Mr. Jeffry Tucker, the old croaker that she was! "I am sorry for you,
Page, but you are in for a Sunday dinner at Cousin Park's." I groaned in
agonized anticipation. "I couldn't get out of it for you, my child, she
made such a point of it. She is our kinswoman, and we have to show her
some respect."

"Well, thank goodness, this time I don't have to go to the dentist's,
too! The combination of Cousin Park and the dentist is a strong one, I
can tell you. If you can stand her, Father, I reckon I can."

"That's my good girl," said Father, patting my shoulder, and Mr. Tucker
gave me a warm and friendly glance and said:

"Tweedles and I will see that you get there late and come away early."

It seems to me I laughed more at that vaudeville performance than
anybody in the theater. I had seen very few shows in my life, and
everything was new and fresh to me. I was not bored even by the strong
man who seemed to be so tiresome to the audience, and no joke was too
much of a chestnut to be scorned by me. To have Father with us, too,
made my cup of happiness full to the brim.

The next evening, Saturday, we had dinner at the Country Club, and
stayed for the dance afterward. The Country Club was a beautiful
building with spacious grounds, golf links, tennis courts, and a view of
the James River that appealed to me very much. The dinner was fine, and
Father and I had a splendid time.

"I am glad to escape all the meals I can at the apartment house café,"
confessed Mr. Tucker. "When Tweedles are away, I eat anywhere but at
home."

"You are an extravagant piece," said Dee.

"But I have my regular meals served for Brindle," laughed Mr. Tucker.

"Oh, that alters the case, then!" exclaimed Dee. "Brindle should have
just as good food as people, with a variety of vegetables."

What a ballroom floor they had at that clubhouse! I had never danced, as
I said before, until I went to school, but I had been an apt pupil
because I was such an eager one, and now knew enough of the modern
dances to get along very well. I had never in my life danced with a man.
At school we took turns guiding, and I was much sought after because of
my being so untiring.

"Miss Page, you are the guest of honor and I am the host, so it is in
order that you give me this first dance." And Mr. Jeffry Tucker bowed in
front of me as though I were a great society belle.

The Tuckers were all born dancers, and as I glided away with Mr. Tucker,
I remembered what Miss Jane Cox had said about his leading the germans
at the University with his little sweetheart Virginia, afterward his
wife. A great wave of pity for the poor little dead wife swept over me,
and I came very near missing step in a rather intricate dance we were
attempting. It must have been so sad to die and leave such a delightful
husband and the twins, who were such charming girls that they must have
been cunning little babies. What a vigorous presence was Jeffry
Tucker's! He must have been a lover that any girl would have been happy
with. I hoped if I ever did have a lover that he would be the kind that
I fancied Mr. Tucker must have been. Something made me blush as my
thoughts dwelt on my ever having a lover.

"My, what a color dancing gives you!" exclaimed my partner. "A minute
ago you looked so sad I wondered what you were thinking of, and now you
are as rosy as the dawn."

"'It is darkest just before dawn,' you know," I answered. I wondered
what he would have said had he known what I was thinking of when I
looked so sad. And then a strange thing happened, and the kind of thing
has happened very often in my life when I have been with Mr. Tucker: he
took up my thoughts almost as though he had read them and said:

"I was thinking of my little girl wife, Virginia. I so often think of
her when I dance. She and I danced our youth away. She was a wonderful
dancer. She had the same smooth glide that you have. I hate a hoppy
dancer," and with his usual disregard of appearances he wiped his eyes
in which the big tears had gathered. I did feel so sorry for him, I
actually had the hardihood to pat him on the shoulder where my left hand
rested, but I could not say anything to him, I felt so choky. The sun
came out in a very few moments, however, and he smiled into my eyes, and
we finished the dance without ever losing a step. I know Mr. Jeffry
Tucker is the only person in the world who could cry and dance at the
same time. His tears were sincere, too, quite as sincere as his dancing,
and he certainly put his whole soul into every step he took.

"Miss Page, you have been mighty good to Tweedles. I don't know how to
thank you for it," he said, as the music stopped and left us stranded
across the ballroom from Father and the twins, also, who had been
dancing with some college boys, home for the holidays.

"Me good to them! Why, they are good to me, as good as gold!"

"Oh, I know what you have done for them. They control themselves so much
better than they used to and are so much more considerate in every way.
I see your influence at every turn. They haven't had a fight since they
came home and actually listen when I talk, whether I have anything to
say or not." I had to laugh at this. I had really made the girls come to
their senses about fighting when they disagreed. Even with gloves on, it
was a very boisterous way of settling disputes; and we had a rule at 117
Carter Hall, instituted by me, that a fine of one penny was imposed when
any of us interrupted, unless the speaker had had the floor out of all
reason.

We found the girls enthusiastic over the dancing, and Father having as
good a time as any of us. It was his first experience in seeing the much
written and talked-of new dances, and he was greatly interested.

"Why, daughter, you dance beautifully!" he said fondly, as I squeezed in
by him. "If you have learned as much Latin and French at Gresham as you
have dancing, you will be a highly-educated young woman."

"Well, I can't promise that," I laughed; "but I know how to conjugate
'to dance' both in Latin and French."

"Well, to be able to conjugate as well as dance means you are becoming
very erudite. That is a very pretty step that Dum has been taking. Is
that the fox-trot? It looks easy, too."

"It is easy, Doctor Allison," answered Dum, "and now they are going to
dance it again. Come on and try!" And to the delight and astonishment of
all of us, Father was on the floor with Dum fox-trotting with a
precision that made us know he had been watching the dancers very
carefully and had been mentally dancing for some time. I know he had not
danced for at least sixteen years, but, like Miss Jane Cox, once a
dancer, always a dancer.

"This is more fun than Gresham," whispered Dee to me, when we stopped to
rest a minute between dances. The college students had been very
attentive and the twins and I had danced every dance. Who should come
rushing up to us at this moment but Mabel Binks! She embraced us
noisily, and one would have thought we were her long-lost sisters. We
were coldly polite, but she overlooked our want of cordiality and
fastened herself on to us. There was nothing for us but to introduce her
to Father and Mr. Tucker and the young men who had been dancing
attendance on us. That was what she wanted, and the dead set she made at
Mr. Tucker showed what she considered big game. The festive Mabel, who
lived in Newport News, was stopping in Richmond for a few days on her
way back to Gresham. She was visiting an old cousin who, she volubly
explained, was too selfish to do anything for her pleasure. She had with
difficulty persuaded her to bring her to the Country Club, and now they
were there the cousin either wouldn't or couldn't introduce her to any
men.

"I can just shift for myself, I'll let her know!" the dashing girl
exclaimed. "The wall is not meant for me to hold up, and if no one will
ask me to dance, I'll get out and do a _pas seul_!"

"I should like to see that _pas seul_, but first will you do me the
extreme honor to dance this with me?" said Mr. Tucker, with mock
grandiloquence.

"Dee-lighted!" gushed Mabel, and was soon engaged in a boisterous
hopping match with Mr. Tucker.

"I could kill Zebedee!" said Dum through clenched teeth. "I believe that
Binks thing came through Richmond with the hope of meeting him, and here
he tumbles at the first shot and goes off dancing with her as though
it---- Oh, I can't talk about it, it makes me so furious. Look how they
are romping, too! I dare Dee or me to romp that way."

I could but recall the views Mr. Tucker had so recently expressed to me
about dancers who hopped, and here he was jumping around like a hen on a
hot griddle, and as far as I could see, enjoying himself very much. I
sympathized with Dum; while I did not feel called upon to get into a
rage and clench my teeth, I was a little disappointed in my kind host. I
felt very young and shy all of a sudden. Mabel, as she triumphantly bore
off the prize, had in a most condescending way tossed me her
handkerchief and gloves with a "Here, child, hold these for me!" That I
would not do. The heavy smell of musk that hung around all of Mabel's
belongings sickened me; and why should she make a catch-all of me,
anyhow? I put them down disdainfully on a chair, meeting with Dum's
hearty approval by my act, and then had a nice quiet dance with Father,
who proved to be as good a partner as one could want.



CHAPTER XX.

DINNER AT COUSIN PARK'S.


Sunday dawned and with it the consciousness that I had to go through the
ordeal of dinner with Cousin Park. Oh, how I hated the thought of it! We
had slept late after the unusual hours we had kept the night before, and
Mr. Tucker had kindly had our breakfast sent up from the café.

"That's to make up for treating us the way he did last night," said Dum,
buttering her cakes as she sat up in bed.

"Treating us what way?" inquired Dee.

"Dancing with that Binks abomination. He knew he had no business to do
it."

"Why, Dum," I said, determined to cool her down if possible, "I don't
really see how Mr. Tucker could have done otherwise. A schoolmate who
from all appearances is devoted to his daughters, joins our group and
lets it be known that she is dying to dance, indeed is thinking of
dancing alone. Why, there was no way for a gentleman to behave than just
exactly as Zeb--I mean Mr. Tucker--did behave. I would have been pleased
if my Father had done exactly as yours did, and I believe Father would
if her innuendos had been addressed to him."

"Well, Doctor Allison would never have hopped as Zebedee did. What I
hate to think about is the way that girl is going to tell all the girls
at school about our handsome young Father and how he devoted himself to
her. I bet she comes here to-day on some pretext or other."

"Well, I'll sic Brindle on her if she does. He can't stand cats!" hissed
Dee, who was becoming worked up by Dum's evident passion.

"Well, I'll tell you one thing: the ruder you are to Mabel the more
polite your Father will be; and the more polite you are, the more
indifferent Mr. Tucker will be," I admonished.

"How did you get so wise, old Solomon?" asked Dum, in rather muffled
tones through a mouthful of flannel cakes.

"Why, Mammy Susan says, 'Men folks an' mules is moughty sim'lar; jes'
nachally contrary-wise. Ef yer want 'em ter go ter de mill, make out
dey's got ter stay in de parsture, an' jes' ter spite yer dey'll run all
de way ter de mill.'"

"Well, we'll make out Zebedee has got to go to the mill and he'll want
to stay in the pasture. Mabel Binks is more like a mill than a pasture,"
said Dum, rather taken with my philosophy.

"Yes, and 'All is grist that comes to her mill,' too," declared Dee. "I
am going to try the plan on Zebedee this minute," and she bounced up and
donning slippers and kimono went in to the living room where Mr. Tucker
was deep in the Sunday paper. She left the door slightly ajar and Dum
and I could plainly hear the conversation.

"Good morning, Zebedee," and the sound of a hearty kiss. "It was awfully
good of you to have breakfast sent up to us. We did not mean to
oversleep."

"Glad to do it, Tweedledeedles. I thought all of you would be tired
after tripping the light fantastic toe almost into Sunday morning."

"Say, Zebedee, Page has to go to her Cousin Park's to dinner to-day, so
don't you think it would be nice to have Mabel Binks to dinner with
us?"

Dum gasped and started to rush into the sitting room, without the
formality of a kimono, but I grabbed her and with a warning finger
quieted her.

"Oh, come now, Dee, I should think you and Dum would be content to spend
your last Sunday at home quietly with your poor old lonesome Zebedee. I
can't see what you want with Miss Binks. She is much older than you,
Tweedles, and not a bit the kind of person I should encourage you to
have as an intimate. I get the names of your schoolmates mixed, but
wasn't she the girl you wrote me was so purse-proud and unfeeling in her
treatment of that nice ladylike little girl from Price's Landing?"

"Ye--s, but I thought you liked her pretty well last night."

"Why, I never gave her a thought! She so plainly asked me to dance with
her that I had to do it; but that was all. She is showily handsome and
amusing enough in the daring way in which she talks, but nay, nay, not
for me!"

More sounds of kissing, and then: "Now run on and all of you get dressed
in a hurry so we can take a nice spin with Henry Ford and go to church
before Miss Page has to be delivered over to the Dragon."

"What's that smell, Zebedee? The hall is reeking with a terrible odor,"
asked Dee, sniffing suspiciously.

"I can't imagine. I was afraid you and Dum and Miss Page had gone in for
musk. The whole apartment is permeated with it." Dee went out into the
little hall connecting the girls' bedroom with the living room and poked
around the hatrack, where the odor seemed to be strongest.

"Here it is," she cried, "in your overcoat pocket!"

"Oh, that wretched girl's gloves! She asked me to hold them for her just
before we left the club, and I must have put them in my pocket. Hang 'em
outside the bathroom window. That smell is enough to make all of us
faint. Please turn my pocket inside out, so it can air."

"What did I tell you?" and Dee burst into the bedroom, waving the
smelly gloves as she came; "the minx made Zebedee keep her gloves just
so she could get around here. We'd better dress in a hurry so we can be
ready to receive her. She might eat up poor Zebedee without his knowing
what got him," and she scornfully hung the offensive kids out the
bathroom window.

Mabel Binks did come before Dum and I were quite dressed, but Dee was
installed in the living room waiting for her with Brindle at her side
ready to sic on Mabel if she showed signs of walking off with the
handsome young father.

"Oh, you naughty man, I am almost sure you purloined my gloves last
night!" we heard her say, in her loud and strident tones. "I thought I
would stop in on the way to church to get them."

"Yes, he did hook them from you," said Dum, making her appearance like a
whirlwind. "Zebedee is great on that. He steals girls' gloves all the
time and gives them to Dee and me. We never have to buy any. All the
girls get him to hold their gloves for them and then he brings them home
to us and we divide them up. Here yours are. Zebedee did not know whose
they were, but we recognized the perfume you are so fond of. They are
too big for us, so we were not going to row over them." Mr. Tucker sat
dumfounded during this tirade of Dum's, and as for me, I had to dive
back in the room from which I was emerging to get my countenance
straightened out.

Dee buried her nose in Brindle's neck and made such a funny little noise
trying to keep back her laughter that Brindle growled and wrinkled up
his neck in a most ominous manner. Mabel took the gloves, and for once
her aplomb deserted her. She beat a hasty retreat with good-bys that
were scarcely audible.

I fully expected that Mr. Tucker would admonish Dum for the ridiculous
fabrication of which she had been guilty, but he seemed to forget all
about the behavior befitting a parent, and caught us by the hand and in
a moment we were dancing the Lobster Quadrille and singing lustily,
"Will you, won't you, won't you, will you, will you join the dance?"

"Now hurry up and get on your hats and jackets and we will speed little
Henry Ford to church." And off we went in a Christian frame of mind and
at peace with the whole world, especially Dum, who had scored heavily
over the detested Mabel.

The hour for dinner at Cousin Park's had at last come. How slowly I
walked up the broad stone steps leading to her fine house! The same
lugubrious butler opened the door that had performed that office when I
visited Cousin Park on that other memorable occasion. He had the air of
one who is letting in the mourners. I involuntarily glanced at the door
bell to see if by any chance crêpe could be hanging from it.

This butler's appropriate name was Jeremiah, and he was what is known as
"a blue-gum nigger." I smiled when I greeted him, and for a moment he
showed his blue gums in a vain attempt at cheerfulness, but he quickly
subsided into his habitual gloom. I recalled what Mammy Susan had said
to me many a time. "Be mighty keerful, honey; don' nebber cross a
blue-gum nigger, fer de bite er one is rank pizen and sho death."

Cousin Park was seated in state in her ugly, handsome, oiled-walnut
parlor. The room was of noble proportions and might have been pretty,
but Cousin Park had happened to marry the genial Major at the period
when oiled walnut was the prevailing style, and her whole life had been
built on the oiled-walnut basis ever since. Her costly velvet carpets
still came right to the edge of the floor and were snugly tacked close
to the baseboard. No hardwood floors and rugs for her.

The heavy furniture was deeply carved, and if the unwary visitor forgot
himself for a moment and attempted to lounge in his chair he was quickly
brought to a sense of propriety by a carved pineapple getting him
between his shoulders or maybe a bunch of grapes striking him in the
small of his back. I usually tried to sit on the horsehair sofa. Long
practice in riding bareback had given me a poise that enabled me to be
very comfortable seated thus without sliding off. The pictures were hung
close up to the ceiling according to the style in vogue in times gone
by. They were mostly dark portraits in heavy gilt frames and they
glared down at you as though they resented your intrusion into their
mausoleum.

Father was seated forward in his chair, trying to avoid the pineapple,
and on his face was an expression like that of a little boy who has been
taken to church and fears every minute to be questioned as to the text.
I rather expected our stern relative to tell him to go wash his hands
for dinner. He jumped up and hugged me enthusiastically, and I felt
ashamed that I had hated so to come. Cousin Park gave me an upholstered
embrace and I made for the horsehair sofa, that seemed friendly and
yielding in comparison with Cousin Park.

"Well, so you have torn yourself away from those Tuckers long enough to
do your duty, have you?" I scented a battle from afar, but determined to
be good and not say anything to make my cousin angry. No doubt she was
hungry and would be more agreeable as soon as dinner was announced.

"It is kind of you to ask me to dinner, Cousin Park, and I am glad to
come," I meekly replied. And thinking maybe it would be tactful to
change the subject, I said to Father: "How do you feel after dancing
last night?"

"Fine, daughter; I never had such a good time in my life."

"Cousin James! You--dancing! You are surely jesting--you--you--a man of
your age!"

"Oh, I'm not so awfully old, Cousin Park! There were men on the floor
ten years older than I am--bank presidents, eminent surgeons, and
several judges, all dancing the new dances with the utmost abandon."

"Well, where on earth did you learn the new dances, Cousin James?"

"Well, I never saw them danced before, so it must have been by a
correspondence course." And Father winked at me.

The sepulchral butler came in to announce dinner just at this crucial
moment when his irate mistress looked as though she would burst her
tight black satin basque in which she had been so compactly hooked. He
quavered in a sad voice: "Dinner is served," but his tone reminded me of
Jeremiah, Chapter IX, first verse: "Oh, that my head were waters and
mine eyes a fountain of tears that I might weep day and night!"

[Illustration: Dum looked at me aghast. "Page, you here, and
Dee!"--_Page 271._]

The dining room was one degree more cheerful than the parlor, as instead
of the portraits there were Audubon prints and the Marriage of
Pocahontas. A heavy walnut sideboard laden with massive silver almost
filled one side of the room. The table was precisely set and the food
may have been good, but everything was so ponderous, including the
hostess, that when we got through with the long tiresome courses I felt
like the old wolf that Mammy Susan used to tell about. He swallowed
seven little kids whole and then, while he slept by the water's edge,
the Widow Goat came and ripped him open, took out the dear little kids
and put in their place seven huge stones. The old wolf was naturally
thirsty after this surgical operation, and so was I when I had packed in
and hammered down roast chicken, boiled hominy, mashed potatoes, baked
rice, macaroni and I don't know what besides, except that we topped off
with a plum pudding that was the last straw.

I longed for sleep with an intensity that was truly painful, and I could
see that poor dear Father was desperate. The conversation at the table
was as heavy and starchy as the food. Father and I could not help
comparing it to the gay little dinner we had enjoyed the night before at
the Country Club.

Cousin Park's manner was always dictatorial, even when she was the
visitor instead of the hostess, and on that day she seemed to think she
was born to boss the Universe. She picked on me most of the time and I
let her do it, knowing Father must have had his share of correction, but
when she began on my friends, the darling Tuckers, I got a little
restive. Mammy Susan always told me: "Don't sass old folks till dey fust
sass you," and I began to feel that old folks were sassing me
considerably. I smiled to myself, remembering that Mr. Tucker had told
me that when the Major died, at his funeral they sang "Peace, perfect
peace," and the pall bearers themselves could hardly keep from grinning
to think what a far from peaceful time the poor Major had had on earth.

Father came to my rescue when our masterful cousin finally sprung this
mine on us: "I am astonished, Cousin James, that you should have no more
sense of propriety than to let Page visit that Jeffry Tucker without a
chaperon."

"Why, Cousin Park, you astonish me! Page is visiting Mr. Tucker's
daughters, her schoolmates. They are all three very young to have a
question of propriety brought up."

"I don't care, a woman is never too young or too old to be made the
subject of gossip," and Cousin Park creaked ominously.

"Well, that being the case, I think it is highly improper and imprudent
for me to be visiting you, unless we can look upon Jeremiah as a
chaperon."

And Cousin Park, knowing herself to be worsted, sighed a great, heaving
sigh and looked sadly at the Major's portrait, as though if he had been
alive he would have protected her.

How glad we were to hear the toot of Henry Ford and to know that our
time in purgatory was over. The fresh air took away that awful
drowsiness, and the cheerful talk of the Tuckers as we spun out into
the country made us forget the deadly conversation we had been forced to
be a party to. Father had an engagement for supper with a medical
brother, and he was to go back to Bracken the next day.

"Blood may be thicker than water," he said. "In fact, to-day it was so
thick you couldn't stir it, but never again do I intend to make a visit
at Cousin Park Garnett's. Why, I feel as though that blue-gum nigger had
bitten me."



CHAPTER XXI.

THE DESPERATION OF DUM.


Back at Gresham and trying to get into harness! Some of us kicked over
the traces, feeling our oats, as it were; and Dum got the bit between
her teeth and came very near running all the way home before we could
stop her.

It was hard to get into what Mr. Mantilini calls "the demnition grind"
after three weeks of untrammeled freedom. The whole school seemed
restive and the teachers were not much better than the pupils. Miss
Peyton had to drive her coach very carefully. Her infinite tact showed
itself constantly. A word of warning here, a slight tightening of the
reins there, just a little tap to the ones who seemed inclined to
laziness, and soon we were trotting along the road of knowledge just as
though we had not been kicking up our heels in the green pastures. All
but Dum, she could not get back to work.

"If the year were only half over, but it's only the middle of January
now! We've got months and months to wait before we see Zebedee again.
When we once get into February, I can stand it better. I can't and won't
study, and as for demerits--let 'em give me all they want to. Let 'em
put me in bounds. I don't want to go off of the old place. What fun is
it to walk down into that dinky little village keeping step like
convicts? I'd rather have striped clothes like convicts than these old
stupid blue things. There is some variety in stripes but this eternal,
and everlasting dark blue--ugh! I hate it!"

"But, Dum," I expostulated, "if you get so many demerits you will not
only be in bounds but you'll have to write pages and pages of
dictionary."

"I'll see 'em make me. 'You can lead a horse to water but you cannot
make him drink.' They can tell me to write the dictionary all they want
to, but I've yet to see the man, woman, or child who can make me write
anything. I just won't and that's an end of it."

"But what will your Father think?" I asked, hoping to get on her better
side by appealing to her love for her adored Zebedee.

"Think? 'He can think like young niggers think: buckeyes is biscuit.'"

This made me roar, as it was a saying I had told the twins that Mammy
Susan had taught me when I was a child. There was no persuading the
headstrong Dum. She had the bit between her teeth and she was rushing
straight to destruction. She got zero in her classes during the day, and
that night in study hall she spent the time making cunning little
brownies out of the colored clay she had brought in her pocket. She did
not open a book except for the purpose of propping it up on her desk to
conceal the little lifelike figures she was so busy modeling.

Dee gazed at her with an agonized expression on her face and I gave her
many an appealing glance, but she merely made a face at me and went on
with her sculpture. Where was it to end? Zero for that day's lessons and
many preceding days; and not a single one prepared for next day. She
seemed perfectly careless of the teacher who was keeping study hall, as
though she invited reproval; but it so happened that Miss Sears, who was
on duty that night, did not seem to notice Dum's behavior. When the
study hall was over, the reckless girl picked up all her brownies and
carried them carefully on her open book up to her room, right under Miss
Sears's nose.

"She must be crazy," whispered Dee to me, "and Miss Sears must be in
love or blind or something. She didn't see how Dum was cutting up."

"Well, Dum was certainly reckless. I thought every minute she was going
to be called down. You've got to be either good or careful, and Dum was
certainly neither."

Miss Sears beckoned to me and I fell back, and the Tuckers went on to
117.

"Page," said Miss Sears, "Miss Peyton is rather worried over Virginia
Tucker. Of course I saw how she was conducting herself during study
hall, but Miss Peyton has decided the best way to get hold of Dum is to
let her alone for a while. The rest of the school is back in working
order, but she is as wild as a deer. Miss Peyton asked me to take you
into our confidence and see if you can help us some. Will you keep a
pretty sharp eye on Dum?"

"You mean tell on her if she gets into scrapes?" I asked, flushing
painfully.

"My dear girl, no. You would not be the kind we would go to if we wanted
an informer. We want you to try to influence Dum to quiet down, and let
her realize that she must get to work. Demerits seem to have no effect
on her. I verily believe she enjoys getting as many as she can. You have
lots of influence with those girls, and I believe a talk from you would
do her more good than being brought up before the faculty," and Miss
Sears looked at me very kindly.

"Well, I'll do my best but I can't promise that Dum will listen to me."
I did not like to say that I had already done what I could, but I
determined to try, try again.

Dum had her brownies ranged in a line on the bureau and under each she
had tucked one of her visiting cards, on which she had written
something. Dee looked sad and Dum defiant.

"I was just telling Dum," began Dee.

"Never mind what you were telling Dum," interrupted the outrageous girl.
"It's none of your business nor is it Page Allison's if I get into
scrapes. I reckon I'm old enough to take care of myself without the
assistance of persons no older nor wiser than I am."

"So you are, but you owe a penny for interrupting Dee; that's
twenty-five cents since the holidays," I said sternly.

"I don't care if I do. I don't intend to pay it. I need my money for
other things besides this foolishness."

I looked at Dum in amazement. She and Dee often were rude to each other
but in the three months that I had known them, neither one of them had
been anything but scrupulously polite to me. I realized that silence
would be the better part of valor in this encounter, so I prepared for
bed without saying a word. I gave a warning glance at Dee, and she, ever
tactful, held her peace. Dum was evidently disappointed, as she was
simply "sp'iling for a fight."

We got to bed as lights out bell rang and in a moment everything was
perfectly quiet. I did not go to sleep immediately but pondered over
what Miss Sears had said. "How can I best help Dum?" I asked myself. I
must keep an eye on her and still not let her know it. It was hard to
take her rudeness without giving her as good as she sent, but I felt
that a real loss of temper on my part would mean an equal loss of
influence. I dropped off to sleep with Dum on my mind.

It must have been a little after midnight when I awakened, and something
prompted me to glance at Dum's bed. It was a bright night, the moon not
full, but big enough to make everything in the room visible. A light
snow was on the ground, which aided the lighting powers of the moon by
reflection.

Dum's bed was empty. Her nightgown was on the floor and her clothes
which I had seen her throw on the chair near her bed were gone. I got up
in an excitement that made my heart go like a trip hammer and found her
hat and jacket gone, too. "Dee, Dee," I said in as quiet a voice as I
could command, "Dum is gone!"

"Gone! Gone where?" said poor sleepy Dee.

"I don't know, but it is up to us to find out. Get into your clothes as
fast as you can. I don't believe she has been gone long, her bed is so
warm."

I had felt it as soon as I jumped out of mine. Dee shuddered at this
announcement of mine. She said afterward it sounded like the report of a
coroner's inquest.

Fire engine horses could not have sprung into their harness quicker than
Dee and I did into our clothes. In a twinkling we were wrapped in our
warm sweaters and had donned hats and rubbers, the last not only because
of the snow but to deaden our footsteps down the long corridors. I got
ready a moment sooner than Dee and I struck a match and read one of the
cards Dum had stuck under the little clay brownies: "To Miss Peyton as a
parting token of appreciation of her discipline." I gasped with
astonishment. Dum was crazy surely, perfectly daft.

"What is on the card?" asked Dee anxiously.

"Oh, just some of Dum's nonsense! Hurry!" I did not think I had better
tell Dee. It sounded like a last farewell.

We found the front door unlocked. She had certainly gone out recently,
as the watchman made his rounds every hour and it was then 12:20 by the
big clock in the hall. I know the wisest thing for us to have done would
have been to warn the watchman and let Miss Peyton know, but somehow I
felt that we could cope with Dum by ourselves; and I also knew that the
offense that Dum was guilty of was a very serious one and might mean
that she would be expelled from Gresham.

          "The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
           Gave a luster of midday to objects below."

So, thank goodness, the prints of Dum's tennis shoes were quite plain to
us. I was relieved to see that they went toward the village. I had had a
nameless fear of the lake. On we sped! Once we saw where poor Dum had
evidently paused and then turned back for a few yards. That encouraged
me more than anything we had found out yet. She was softening and
relenting.

"What do you suppose she means to do, Page?" panted Dee.

"She is trying to make that 12:40 train to Richmond. There she is!"

We had turned a sharp corner and there about a hundred yards ahead of us
was Dum. She had almost reached the crossing where Captain Leahy had his
unique abode. One minute more would land her at the station, and already
we could hear the far-off whizzing of the approaching express. There was
a light in the little gatehouse and just at that moment the dear old man
emerged and began to let down his gate.

"Well, Saints preserve us! And what maid travels so late? Why, if she
isn't one of the sponsors of Oliver." Dum stopped stockstill in the
road.

"Captain Leahy, I'm going to take that midnight train to Richmond. Will
you flag it for me?"

"And sure I'll do anything to please the ladies, but aren't ye young
and tinder to be after taking such a thrip at this toime o' night?"

"But I have to go. I could never go back to Gresham now, and it would be
best for me to go straight to my Father."

Dee and I had advanced silently, thanks to our rubber shoes, and we now
came up behind the old Irishman and Dum.

"Come on, Dum, you can get back to Gresham before the watchman makes his
one o'clock rounds if you hurry."

Dum looked at me aghast. "Page, you here, and Dee!"

"Where should I be but with my twin? We have never spent a night apart
yet, Dumplingdeedledums." Dee's tact had won the day. That was Mr.
Tucker's pet name for Dum, and Dee using it at such a time brought Dum
to her senses. "What would Zebedee think and say of this escapade?" was
what came to Dum's mind.

"Good-night, Captain, I reckon I won't go to Richmond to-night. We'll
have to hurry to get in before one. That's the 12:40 now whistling for
the crossing." And before the old man could get his breath, we had
scurried away over the light fall of snow like so many rabbits.

It was uphill most of the way back to Gresham, but we made short work of
it. If I had not been so desperately afraid the watchman would discover
that the front door was unlocked before we got back and perhaps raise an
alarm, I would have enjoyed our run immensely. The moon went behind a
great black cloud, but we knew our way well enough not to be dependent
on her light. Not one word did we speak, but saved our breath for this
real fox-trot.

At the school at last! I tried the great door, almost afraid to breathe.
It yielded to my push and we were in the dark hall. I had just sense
enough left to lock the door, and then we flew up the steps and were
safe in our room without having encountered the watchman.

"Quick work!" I gasped, falling on my bed. "Down to the station and back
in forty minutes!"

But safety was not ours yet. We heard a door open down the corridor and
light-slippered steps approaching 117.

"In bed with you, quick!" exclaimed Dum; and without the formality of
night dresses, we jumped into bed, only taking the precaution to remove
our hats. Diving under the covers with only our noses sticking out, we
were to all appearances as lost to the world as the seven sleepers.

It was a teacher who had evidently heard a suspicious noise and had come
out to investigate. She stopped a minute in front of our door and then
gently turned the knob. "All quiet along the Potomac!" She stood a
minute listening to Dum's "gently taken breath" and Dee's lifelike
snore, and then quietly retired on tiptoe; and in a moment we heard her
door close at the end of the corridor. If we got dressed like engine
horses going to a fire, we got undressed like boys seeing who can get
into the swimming hole first.

Dum kissed us both good-night, or rather good-morning, but said never a
word about what her intentions had been nor the reasons for her
flitting. We were asleep in a minute and the next morning I had to pinch
myself to see if it had not been a dream. Our damp skirts and overshoes
and each girl's hat under her bed was all that made me realize that we
had been on that mad chase at midnight after the irrepressible Dum.

"Girls, you are both bricks!" exclaimed Dum, rubbing her eyes as the
relentless rising bell tolled out. "Just think! If you had not come for
me, I would have been in Richmond by this time and poor old Zebedee
disgraced for life. There is nothing I can do to make it up to you----"

"Yes, there is," chorused Dee and me, "get to work again."

"I wasn't quite through what I was saying, but I am not going to impose
the fine that you owe for interrupting, and I am going to pay my fine
that amounts to a quarter now. I was awfully ashamed of not paying it
last night, but you see I just did have enough money to get me to
Richmond if I traveled on a day coach, so I had to let my debts of honor
slide. I have been a bad, rude, unreasonable girl and I am just as sorry
as I can be. I deserve to be expelled. I don't know what has been the
matter with me but I believe I have been getting ready to go to the home
for the criminally insane. I hated the school; I hated the teachers; I
hated lessons and rules; I just wanted Zebedee. He was the only person I
wanted and I wanted him so bad I was just going to have him." Dum got
out one of the gentlemen's handkerchiefs that she and Dee used and wept
copiously. "Do you reckon we'll be found out?"

"Not a bit of it," I reassured her. "The blessed snow that was in that
black cloud hiding the moon last night has covered up all our rabbit
tracks, and when we take our walk this afternoon I am going to slip out
of line long enough to warn Captain Leahy not to tell on us. Now, Dum,
you get back to bed and stay there all day. I am going to tell Miss
Peyton you don't feel quite up to snuff, which is certainly so. You jump
in and study all your back lessons that you have missed and catch up
with your classes. It will take a day of diligent work to do it because
you have loafed ever since we got back to school, and by to-morrow
morning you will feel reconciled to life and take your place again."

"Well, that would be kind of pleasant, but bring me up enough breakfast,
'cause I am not too ill to eat; and before you go down, hand me those
brownies I made last night," and Dum reduced the inoffensive little
works of art to Limbo with one squeeze of her hand. "I was leaving one
of them for each teacher. I wanted to make them into devils but thought
maybe that would be a little too sassy. I don't feel a bit that way now.
I may model some angels to-day if I can get time after I have mastered
all my back work."

Miss Peyton was easily persuaded by me that a day in bed would restore
Dum to health and reason. She said she had hoped I could do something
with the refractory twin and she was going to trust to me, since I was a
doctor's daughter and no doubt had inherited some skill as a healer.

That afternoon, when we took our walk, Dee and I got permission from the
teacher in charge to stop a moment at the crossing, presumably to call
on Oliver and see how much he had grown.

"Captain Leahy," I cried, "you won't tell anyone about our being down
here last night, will you?"

"And phwat do ye take me for?" he asked. "Didn't I see that ye were
after saving the little twinlet and that she was crazy with
homesickness? I mind too well the time many years ago when I got off of
that very express just as Miss Peyton, then a wee slip of a maid, was
after boarding it; and I took her by the hand and led her back to
Gresham, she weeping bitterly all the toime. She was half mad for the
sight of her folks and had run away from school."

"Miss Peyton!" we exclaimed in one breath. "Not Miss Peyton, the
principal?"

"The same," he answered; "and this is the first toime, so help me, that
I have mintioned it to a livin' sowl."

"Well, we'll never tell, Captain," I said, grasping his hand.

"And don't I know that? Would I be divulging the loiks to ye if I did
not know the stoof ye are made of? I just tell ye so ye can know that
I'll keep the little twinlet's secret as long as I have Miss Peyton's.
If I iver tell it, it will be when she cannot be hurt by it, and some
other poor little lamb can be oop-lifted."

"You want us to tell Dum, don't you?" asked Dee.

"For sure! And all of you come have tea with me soon and bring Miss
Peyton."

We joined the line of blue-coated girls after a sharp run and then had
to make up things to say about Oliver, because we had forgot even to ask
about him.

Miss Cox spoke to me on the way to supper that evening. She looked
worried and her face was crookeder than ever, but her eyes had a very
kind light in them.

"Did I wake you last night, Page, when I opened your door?"

"Oh, was that you?" I involuntarily exclaimed.

"I had an idea some of you were awake," and the kindly woman smiled at
my ingenuous acknowledgment. "I was afraid to knock, hoping you were
asleep, so I tried the door and peeped in. I did not mean to be spying,
but I have been very uneasy about Dum lately. I was afraid she needed
some friendly advice. I had been writing late and had not been able to
get to sleep, and I was almost certain I heard the front door open and
shut. I simply could not rest without making sure that you three girls
were safe in your downies. I had thought I heard something some forty
minutes before but tried to make myself think I was just a foolish,
nervous old maid."

I felt very foolish during this talk and could hardly look kind Miss Cox
in the eye, but I did not consider it to be my secret and I said
nothing. Mammy Susan always said: "The saftest thing in fly time is ter
keep yo' mouf shet," and I felt that this was fly time for me.

"I have written to Mr. Tucker," Miss Cox continued. "I don't want the
twins to know it, but I felt it was my duty as an old friend of both
their parents to let him know how miserable Dum is."

"Oh, I have written, too!" I cried. "I wish I could stop my letter now,
but it is too late. Poor Mr. Tucker will think things are in a terrible
way with Dum. I believe she is herself again now after a day in bed, but
I just felt I must let him know that an early visit from him would be
advisable. I wouldn't let Tweedles find out for a million that I have
done it."

"Well, you keep my secret and I'll keep yours. I am glad the Tuckers,
father and daughters, have such a wholesome friend as you," and Miss Cox
pressed my hand warmly.



CHAPTER XXII.

MORE LETTERS.


          From Miss Jane Cox to Mr. Jeffry Tucker.

          My dear Jeff:

          I feel it my duty to write you in regard to your
          daughter Virginia. I told you I would look after
          your girls and I have tried to, but since the
          holidays Dum has been very difficult and the
          teachers hardly know how to cope with her. My
          private opinion is that the child is longing so
          for you that she is in a fair way to be made sick
          by it. A vacation of three weeks seems to be very
          upsetting and a great many of the pupils find it
          hard to get back into line, but Dum does not even
          want to, so far as I can see.

          I do not mean to complain of Dum. You surely
          understand that, but I want to let you know the
          state of affairs. I am writing entirely on my own
          hook as your friend and the friend of the other
          little Virginia, companion of my youth. I fancy
          Miss Peyton would not approve of my doing it, as
          she feels able to master poor Dum by kindness; but
          I have studied her closely and feel that I
          understand her temperament better than our beloved
          principal. I have been afraid the child might take
          it into her head to run away from school. It is
          not that she does not like Gresham. I believe she
          likes it very much. She is popular with the whole
          school and has many friends. She is a good student
          and has done well up to the time she returned from
          Richmond. Since that time her marks have been
          zero.

          Page Allison, who has a very good influence on all
          the girls with whom she comes in contact, is
          looking after her and she may be able to bring her
          to reason; but in the meantime, my dear Jeff, I
          want you to write to Dum very often,--of course
          not mentioning the fact that you have heard from
          me,--and give her hopes of a visit from you in the
          near future. That would mean everything to her.

          Of course, an attempt to run away from school
          would be a very serious fault if discovered,
          because of the effect on the rest of the pupils. I
          don't want to alarm you, but I feel that I would
          be a poor friend indeed if I did not let you know
          of the trouble your little daughter is in a fair
          way to get herself into. Dee is back at work and
          doing finely, although as a rule she is not a
          better student than Dum. I am told that during
          study hall this evening Dum made no effort to
          concentrate on her lessons, but spent the whole
          time modeling grotesque little figures in colored
          clay.

          Hoping you will take this information as it is
          meant, not thinking that I am a "tattle tale tit,"
          but that I have the welfare of the children of my
          old friends very much at heart, and that it would
          be a cowardly and selfish act for me to hold back
          for fear of being misunderstood, I am,

          Your sincere friend,
                  JINNY COX.


          From Mr. Jeffry Tucker to Miss Jane Cox.

          Jinny dear:

          You always were a trump, and I can never express
          to you the gratitude I feel for the letter you
          have written me about my poor little headstrong
          Dum. She was particularly docile about returning
          to school, but as I told her good-by at the
          station she had a kind of smoldering look in her
          eyes that bodest no good. She has the most
          generous and kind heart in the world, but has
          always been the more difficult of the twins to
          manage. The matter is she has an artistic
          temperament, but I have been trying to conceal
          this fact from her all her life, as I think when a
          person once discovers he has an artistic
          temperament, he can commit any crime in the name
          of his temperament and feel that the world must
          forgive him. I want my little Virginia to
          understand that it is up to her to behave just as
          well as the ordinary folks who have no temperament
          to speak of. I am writing to her by this mail, but
          of course she is never to know you wrote to me. I
          am coming up to Gresham for a little visit just as
          soon as my strenuous duties will permit, and then
          I hope we can have another Lobster Quadrille.

          I am very thankful that Tweedles has such a
          delightful companion as Miss Page Allison. She has
          improved them more than all the schooling in the
          world would. I am also thankful beyond measure
          that they have found such a friend as you are,
          dear Jinny. Keep on being good to them and if Dum
          shows further signs of insubordination, please
          telegraph me. I'll come, if no newspaper is
          published from this office for a month! Thanking
          you again, dear friend, in my name and also for
          the little Virginia, companion of your youth,

                                 Very truly yours,
                                           JEFFRY TUCKER.


          From Page Allison to Mr. Jeffry Tucker.

          Dear Mr. Tucker:

          I can't bear to worry you, but I think you ought
          to know that Dum wants to see you mighty bad. She
          has been very restless since we got back to
          Gresham; and while she is quieter now and says she
          is going to study hard and be a model pupil
          henceforth, I am afraid she will break down
          because she has so many demerits to work off. Miss
          Peyton has been very kind and patient, but of
          course it would not be fair to the other students
          to let up on Dum; and I believe she has enough
          demerits to keep her in bounds for about three
          weeks.

          Now please don't think I am bossy, but if you
          could write her and tell her that you think you
          might get up to Gresham in about three weeks, that
          would give her some ambition to work off those
          marks and not get any others. You see, if she is
          in bounds when you come, she can't see much of
          you.

          I don't want Tweedles to know I am writing this to
          you, but if you should mention having got a letter
          from me, you can call it a "bread and butter
          letter."

          You were so kind to me on my visit to the girls. I
          had about the gayest and best time I ever had in
          my life, and I do want to thank you for it.

                                 Very sincerely,
                                           PAGE ALLISON.


          Miss Page Allison, from Mr. Jeffry Tucker.

          My dear Miss Page:

          Your word is law! In three weeks' time I will be
          in Gresham. I don't consider you a bit bossy but
          very sweet and kind and wise. Thank God, my poor
          little Dum has made such a friend. I wish I could
          flatter myself that I could call you friend as my
          girls can. I thank you from my soul for your
          interest in Tweedles.

                              Most gratefully,
                                      JEFFRY TUCKER.


          Mr. Jeffry Tucker to his daughters, Virginia and
          Caroline.

          Dearest and best beloved Tweedles:

          Surely "'tis an ill wind that blows nobody any
          good!" Know you that there has been a big
          shooting scrape up in the mountains, and it is of
          such importance that I have decided to cover the
          trial myself instead of sending a reporter. This
          trial comes off in a little over three weeks, and
          as Gresham is on the way, I am going to stop off
          to see my babies, and hope they will be glad to
          have their old Zebedee with them for a day or so.
          I'll manage to get there on Saturday afternoon and
          stay until Monday night. Be good girls until then,
          so you will not have any hateful demerits to work
          off.

          I miss you so much, more than I did at first, but
          I'm trying to be a very good boy and stick to
          business. I can hardly wait to see you. Give my
          kindest regards to Miss Page, and tell her not to
          get any demerits between now and the time of my
          visit, as she must do whatever the Tuckers do on
          that visit.

                                      YOUR OWN ZEBEDEE.



CHAPTER XXIII.

ZEBEDEE'S VISIT.


Mr. Tucker's promise of a visit did all that I knew it would for Dum.
She worked off her demerits without a murmur; studied her lessons
diligently; soon caught up in her classes; and was altogether an
exemplary Dum.

If his promise of a visit worked such wonders, his visit completed the
miracle. We had already come through our mid-year examinations, some
with flying colors and some with tattered banners like the poor
Confederate flags that you see in the Valentine Museum in Richmond,--but
the thing was that we were through and none of our little crowd of
cronies had failed. Annie Pore carried off the honors in Latin, thanks
to the drilling she had been brought up on by the severe Oxford
graduate. Dum was easily first in mathematics. Dee seemed to know the
physiology off by heart. History was Mary Flannigan's forte and not a
date from Noah's flood to the San Francisco earthquake could stump her.
Literature was what most interested me, and it would have been silly not
to get an honor when it did seem so easy.

We were rather proud of our achievements as a coterie of chums, and Miss
Peyton, as a reward of merit, let all of us go to the station to meet
Mr. Tucker, accompanied by Miss Cox.

How good it was to see him! I believe I was almost as glad as Tweedles.
He looked very boyish indeed as he swung off the Pullman, a suitcase in
one hand and a great basket, neatly covered with purple paper, in the
other.

"I know what that purple paper means," cried Dee from afar. "He's been
to Schmidt's and that basket's full of goodies."

So he had, and, Zebedee like, had a proposition for pleasure. I have
seldom seen Mr. Tucker that he did not have some scheme on hand for
amusement for someone, and the best thing about it was that he usually
was ready to partake of the fun himself; and his partaking of it meant
there was twice as much fun as there would have been without him.

"There's skating on the lake surely?" he asked.

"Yes! Yes!" in chorus.

"Well, come along, and I'll get permission from your Lord High
Executioner to take all of you skating, and we'll have supper on the
bank. What do you say to that, Jinny?"

"Splendid! I haven't skated for years, though."

"Have you got your skates?"

"Oh, yes; you see this is all the home I have, so I've got everything I
possess here."

"And you girls? All of you have skates that fit and shoes to skate in?"

"Yes! Yes!" And off we went, the gayest crowd imaginable. Of course Miss
Peyton let us go. No one had ever refused Mr. Tucker anything in reason,
I am sure, nor had he ever asked for anything out of reason.

"Will you have enough food for such a crowd? Had you not better come
back to Gresham to supper?" asked Miss Peyton.

"Never fear. I have food enough for a dozen boys. I'll take good care of
all of them and bring them back at bedtime."

There was another crowd on the lake when we got there: a party of
Greshamites, Juniors and Seniors, and some boys from Hill-Top. The ice
was perfect, and while the air was cold, it was not cutting but dry and
invigorating. We put our basket in a safe place; that is, a place where
everyone could see it. Mr. Tucker said the way to lose things,
especially food, was to hide it. So he placed it on top of a little
hillock overlooking the lake, where it looked like a great bunch of
violets against the patches of snow.

Our skates did fit and our shoes were suitable, so we were on the ice in
no time. One of the most irritating things under Heaven is to go skating
with persons whose skates don't fit or whose heels are too high or soles
too thin. I had learned to skate on the duck pond at home; and while on
the duck pond my stroke had been necessarily limited, I found when I got
on the broad lake I could hold my own very well.

Annie Pore was timid and faltering if she tried to skate alone but did
very well if she had a partner. Mary Flannigan, singularly ungraceful
but a real racer, with flapping arms and bowed legs, could get over the
ice faster than the fleetest boy from Hill-Top. The twins skated well,
as they did everything in the way of athletics, and wonderfully handsome
they looked skimming over the lake arm in arm.

Miss Cox was a revelation to us all. She had not skated for years but
her stroke was as sure as it had ever been and in five minutes she and
Mr. Tucker were doing the double Dutch roll together, now frontward, now
backward, with all kinds of intricate strokes. I suddenly realized that
with all of her crooked homeliness, Miss Cox was far from plain. Her
figure was singularly graceful and her head very well set.

The boys cheered as they approached the far bank, where the ice was a
little better.

          "Who's all right? Who's all right?
           Miss Cox, Miss Cox! Out of sight!"

I was supporting Annie Pore, so was necessarily going slowly, and I
heard one of the Juniors say to Mabel Binks, who was looking very
handsome in a red silk sweater and cap to match: "Who's the man with
Miss Cox? They are some skaters, for sure."

"Oh, hello!" exclaimed Mabel. "If that ain't my beau from Richmond!"

I did not hear any more, but I felt amused a little and indignant a good
deal. Harvie Price was among the boys and he immediately skated up and
got in between Annie and me. He was a strong skater and soon we found
ourselves doing stunts with him that we had not dreamed possible.

"That Dutch roll is not so hard when you get the hang of it. See, like
this--raise your right foot, not too high--strike out with your left, a
good long stroke, and then down with your right, crossing the left. Just
look at us! We are not quite up to Mr. Tucker and Miss Cox, but we
surely are good enough to have some notice taken of us." And so we were.

"Pride goeth before a fall," however, and just as we were getting the
hang of the stroke, we ran plump into Mary Flannigan and Shorty, who
were having a race backward, and the five of us fell into an
ignominious heap. Nobody was hurt, not even feelings! Mr. Tucker picked
me up and skated off with me.

"Who was that good-looking young fellow you were skating with?"

"Oh, that was Harvie Price. He's a mighty nice boy, and an old friend of
Annie Pore's."

"And that little runty boy with the bright face, the cause of your
recent disaster, who was he?"

"Tommy Hawkins,--Shorty! Isn't he nice-looking?"

"Yes, very! I'm going to ask these boys to stay and have supper with us.
You introduce me, and then I'll make myself known to the teacher I see
over there; and if I include him in the invitation, maybe I can get
permission for the boys to stay."

Of course the boys were delighted and with a great deal of finesse, Mr.
Tucker ingratiated himself into the affections of the teacher who had
them in charge, a Mr. Anderson, and he accepted for himself with
alacrity and gave the boys permission.

"I wish I had grub enough for the whole ship's crew of them," sighed Mr.
Tucker. "If there is anything in the world I like, it is to give a boy a
treat. But seven of us and Mr. Anderson and the two boys will just about
clean up my basket. I wanted to ask four boys so we could 'balance all,'
but I was so afraid of running short."

Mabel Binks had been circling around us, determined to attract Mr.
Tucker's attention. He had given her a polite bow but held tightly to my
hands and skated on by her. She was a good skater and her red sweater
showed off her figure to great advantage. Dum and Dee came racing up to
us and we all caught hold of hands and went the length of the lake
together.

"Don't we four get on well together, Zebedee?" exclaimed Dee.

"We certainly do," he answered heartily. "Miss Page seems to be just the
oil needed to make us, salt, pepper, vinegar, hot Tuckers into a
palatable dressing."

"Look here, Zebedee, it is up to you to skate with that despicable
thing, Mabel Binks," and Dum looked sternly at her parent.

"I don't see it that way," he answered coolly.

"Well, you see she has gone around claiming you as her Richmond beau who
came up to Gresham to see her, and now she says that I won't let you
skate with her."

"Too bad, that," he laughed. "Well, honey, you can tell her that you
have no influence over me at all. You could not keep me from skating
with her nor can you make me do it."

The machinations of Mabel, however, were beyond our ken. She came
bearing down on us, all sails spread as it were. We tacked as best we
could, but the determined girl turned at that moment and skated backward
right into our line. Dee, who was next to me, broke and avoided her, but
I got the collision full force and went down with an awful whack, with
Mabel's hundred and fifty pounds right on top of me.

          "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men,
           Gang aft a-gley."

Mabel had meant to occupy the center of the stage herself, and here was
I, Page Allison, knocked senseless for a moment by the fall, while
Mabel was simply pulled off me by the infuriated Zebedee and left to
shift for herself. Dum said she looked awfully silly as she got unaided
to her feet. Of course I could see nothing, as I was so dazed by the
fall that at first I lay with my eyes closed. In a moment the crowd of
skaters had gathered, and Dee told me it was like a dog fight, everybody
trying to see at once.

"Page, little Page, are you dead?" were the first words that I heard,
and Mr. Tucker's face the first one I saw.

"Dead? I should say not! I'm not even hurt. Let me get up," and I caught
hold of his ready hand and struggled to my feet.

"She's not hurt! She's all right!" he called to the anxious Tweedles who
had been pushed back by the curious crowd, and he wiped the ever-ready
tears from his eyes. Then the boys from Hill-Top gave me a yell, our
especial yell that we sophomores used at moments of supreme victory:

          "Ice cream--soda water--ginger ale, pop!
           Sophomores! Sophomores! Always on top!"

"I wish I had been," I said ruefully; and there was a general laugh.

A whistle from Gresham warned the girls that it was time to go back to
the school, and in a short time the Hill-Top boys had to leave, all but
Harvie and Shorty and the tutor, Mr. Anderson.

We piled more brush on the fire that had been started to warm toes by,
and in a little while we had a blaze that, as dusk came on, lighted up
the whole lake and made up for the lack of a moon.

I never saw such a wonderful lunch as Mr. Tucker had brought. There were
sandwiches of all kinds; cream cheese and pimento, chicken, ham, tongue
and lettuce. There was a great jar of chicken salad, beaten biscuit,
cheese straws, olives, pickles and salted almonds, and a chocolate cake
even larger than Dum's so-called best hat that Mr. Tucker had sent for
the Thanksgiving spread.

  "Bleat, my little goat, bleat,
   Cover the table with something to eat," sang
Dum. "Zebedee, you seem to me to be working magic. I don't see how all
those things could have been packed in that basket."

"If yours had been the task to 'tote' it this far, you would have
thought there was more than that in it," he answered.

"Well, ours will be the task to help 'tote' it back," said Dee in tones
muffled by cream cheese.

The crowning wonder of the repast was some great thermos bottles that
finally emerged from the bottom of the capacious basket. One was filled
with hot coffee and the other with hot chocolate, and lying snugly by
them was a jar of whipped cream.

"Well, by the great jumping jingo, what next?" said Shorty. And then
funny Mary Flannigan used her ventriloquist's powers and made a noise
exactly like a puppy trying to get out of something, and Shorty bit. He
dived into the basket to the assistance of the imaginary canine!

The coffee and chocolate were smoking hot, in spite of the long journey
they had taken. Mr. Tucker had made a clever calculation, also, as to
the number of guests, so the drinkables just did go around.

"I thought I heard Miss Binks say she was going to have supper with
you," said Harvie Price to Dum.

"Ah, indeed! I fancy she did intend to, but after she made a hole in the
ice with poor little Page, I reckon she forgot to wait for her
invitation."

We ate up every crumb of that supper and the little birds who hoped to
feast on what we left must have had but poor pickings.

    "We shan't have to say:
    'Bleat, bleat, my little goat, I pray,
   And take the table quite away,'" laughed Mr. Tucker. "If I had been
twins instead of Tweedles, I'd have brought twice that much."

We had had enough, and much gayety and good-humored repartee had made it
a very delightful party. Mr. Anderson proved very agreeable and made
himself pleasant to everybody. Miss Cox was happy and full of fun, and
even Annie Pore forgot to be shy and actually rolled Shorty in a patch
of snow because he stole a piece of chocolate cake, all icing, that she
was saving for the last mouthful.

Everything must have an end, even skating parties and books--but there
will be more skating parties and more books, too.

On the way back to Gresham, Mr. Tucker divulged to us that he had a
scheme for pleasure, and if we girls, one and all, studied hard, and if
Miss Cox would promise to be as blind to our faults as she honorably
could, we were all of us included in the scheme! He had engaged a
cottage at Willoughby Beach for the month of July and there we were to
camp out and live the simple life.

"Oh, how grand!" we gasped together.

We had something to look forward to now and knew that the last half of
the year would fly by. We could hardly wait for the camping time to
come,--and I just hope my readers are as anxious to hear about my
"Vacation with the Tucker Twins" as I am anxious to tell them about it!


THE END.

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Notes:

Obvious punctuation errors repaired.

Varied hyphenation was retained. This includes words such as Cotton-tail
and Cottontail; gatehouse and gate-house.





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