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Title: Vacation with the Tucker Twins
Author: Speed, Nell, 1878-1913
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 "Vacation with the Tucker Twins" ***

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[Illustration: Annie Pore has bloomed forth into a regular English
rose!--_Page 89_]


VACATION WITH THE TUCKER TWINS

by

NELL SPEED

Author of "At Boarding School with the Tucker Twins," "The Molly Brown
Series," etc.

With Four Half-Tone Illustrations by Arthur O. Scott



New York
Hurst & Company
Publishers

Copyright, 1916,
by
Hurst & Company



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                    PAGE
      I. THE BEACH                             5
     II. "SLEEPY"                             18
    III. OUR FIRST NIGHT AT THE BEACH         28
     IV. BUBBLES                              36
      V. BLANCHE                              45
     VI. A ROMANCE                            57
    VII. OH, YOU CHAPERONE!                   67
   VIII. LETTERS                              83
     IX. THE START                            91
      X. THE FINISH                          102
     XI. CAPE HENRY                          111
    XII. FRECKLES AND TAN                    126
   XIII. THE TURKEY-TAIL FAN                 134
    XIV. A LETTER AND ITS ANSWER             150
     XV. THE JUDGE                           158
    XVI. AN AXE TO GRIND                     175
   XVII. MR. ARTHUR PONSONBY PORE            187
  XVIII. THE MACHINATIONS OF MABEL           198
    XIX. THE WEDDING                         205
     XX. THE AFTER-MATH                      225
    XXI. SETTLING UP                         241
   XXII. GOOD-BYE TO THE BEACH               261
  XXIII. UNTIL NEXT TIME                     268
   XXIV. A BREAD-AND-BUTTER LETTER           282
    XXV. BRACKEN IN AUGUST                   285
   XXVI. THE PICNIC                          298



ILLUSTRATIONS


                                                            PAGE
  Annie Pore has bloomed forth into a regular English
      rose                                           _Frontispiece_

  A tousled head emerged and then a hot, fat, red face        19

  Peeping in, we saw the game in full swing                  145

  "Why don't you speak up, girl?"                            255



Vacation with the Tucker Twins.



CHAPTER I.

THE BEACH.


My first impression of Willoughby Beach gave me keen disappointment. It
was so sandy, so flat, and so absolutely shadeless. I longed for the
green hills far away and in my heart felt I could not stand a month of
the lonesome stretches of sand and the pitiless glare of the summer sun.
It took great self-control and some histrionic ability for me to conceal
my emotions from my enthusiastic hostesses.

The Tuckers had been coming to Willoughby for years and loved every
grain of sand on the beach. They could hardly wait for the trolley from
Norfolk to stop before they jumped out and raced down to the water's
edge just to dabble their hands in the ocean.

"My gracious me! How I hate to grow up!" exclaimed Dum. "One year ago I
would have had off my shoes and been in bliss by this time."

"Well, maybe you are too grown up to wade, but I'm not," declared Dee.
"However, since Zebedee has trusted us to come down and open up the
cottage, I fancy we had better go do it and get things ready for our
guests."

We three girls were the fore-runners of the famous beach house-party
that Mr. Jeffry Tucker, father of the "Heavenly Twins," had promised to
give us the winter before as reward of merit if we passed all of our
exams at Gresham and got through the year without any very serious
mishaps. Mishaps we had had in abundance, but not very serious ones, as
all of us were alive to tell the tale; and Mr. Tucker, with his
eternally youthful outlook on life, seemed to feel that a scrape that
turned out all right was not such a terrible matter after all.

"Just so you can look me in the eye while you are telling me your
troubles, it's all right," I have heard him say to his daughters.

The cottage proved to be very attractive. The lower floor was chiefly a
large living room with French windows that opened upon three deep, shady
verandas. A kitchen and bath rooms were in the rear. A staircase came
down into the living room from a low-hung balcony that went around the
four sides of the room. Doors from this balcony opened into dressing
rooms and they in turn led to the sleeping porches. This style of
architecture was new to me and very pleasing. There was a spaciousness
to the living room with its high, raftered ceiling that appealed to me
greatly. I have never been able to be happy in little, chopped-up rooms.
The wood-work, rafters, roof and all, were stained a dark moss green, as
were also the long mission dining table and the chairs and settles. At
one end was a great fireplace made of rough, grey boulders, with heavy
iron fire-dogs and fender. There was no attempt at ornamentation with
the exception of several old blue platters and a tea pot on the high
mantelpiece and a long runner of Japanese toweling on the table.

"Oh!" burst from us in chorus as we came through the hospitably open
door. "Isn't it lovely?"

Just then there emerged from the kitchen a woman with a pail in one hand
and broom in the other. Her long, pale face with the sandy hair drawn
tightly back into a Mrs. Wiggs knot had no trace of welcome, but rather
one of irritation.

"Well, land's sakes! You is greedy fer yo' rights. The fust of July
don't mean the fust thing in the morning. The last tenants ain't been
gone mor'n a hour an' here you come a-turn-in' up before I kin mor'n
turn 'round."

"Well, everything looks lovely," said the tactful Dee.

"Y' aint seen it yet. It's right enough in this here room where I've
done put in some licks, but that there kitchen is a mask of grease.
These June tenants was jist a passel of boys and I can tell you they
pretty near ripped things wide open. They had a triflin', no-'count
black man fer cook and if ther' is one thing I hate more'n a nigger
woman, it's a nigger man. Sometimes I think I will jist natchally refuse
to rent my house to anybody that hires niggers."

"Your house!" escaped from Dum before she could stop herself.

"Yes, Miss, my house! Did you think I'd be cleaning up after a nigger in
anybody's house but my own?"

"Then you are Mrs. Rand?" inquired Dee.

"The same! Did you think I might be Capt. Rand?"

"No'm; I--I----"

"You jist didn't expect to see a lady who owns a grand house like this
workin' like any common person. Well, you are right, young lady. But if
I didn't work like this, ther' wouldn't be no house to rent. Where's
your brother?"

"Brother?"

"Yes; him what come down last winter to see after rentin' the house. He
was a powerful likely young man. Me 'n Capt. Rand took to him from the
first minute we clapt eyes on him. I'd a-knowed you two were his sisters
anywhere; and this other young lady," indicating me, "I reckon she's his
girl, 'cause she sho ain't no kin."

The twins spluttered and I blushed but managed to put Mrs. Rand right as
to the Tucker family, explaining to her that Mr. Tucker was the father
of my friends and that I was merely a schoolmate who was invited to come
to the beach on a visit.

"Well, you may be putting something over on me, as these wild June
tenants used to call it. I can't believe that the young man who came
down here is the paw of these strapping twins any more than I could
believe that you are their maw. Maybe he sent his office boy." That made
all of us laugh.

"We've been coming here for years, Mrs. Rand," said Dee. "It is strange
we do not know each other. I can't remember ever seeing you before and
you never saw us."

"Good reason! I never come here 'til this last fall, when Capt. Rand and
I left Virginia Beach. He's been a lifesaver ever since he was a-put
inter pants, but his jints is too stiff now. The Government has
pensioned him but it looks like so long as we live near the old Life
Saving Station that every time there is any cause for gittin' out the
boats, Capt. Rand sees some good excuse why he's beholden to go 'long.
So I jist up 'n' moved him away from temptation over inter these quiet
waters. But when is that so-called paw of yourn comin'?"

"He will be along this evening with Miss Cox, our chaperone, and we want
to get everything in order before he comes," said Dum.

"Well, that bein' the case, I'd better get a hump on and finish up the
kitchen that greasy nigger left in such a state; and then I'll come
right on up to the bedrooms. This lapping and slamming of tenants is
right hard on me, but it is the only way I can get my fifteen per cent
out of my investment."

"Did you plan the house yourself, Mrs. Rand?" questioned Dum. "It is so
pretty."

"What, me? Do I look crazy? When I builds, I builds a house with a
parlor and nice, tight bedrooms. I don't 'low the builder to waste no
lumber on porches that's nothin' but snares fer lazy folks. I owns three
houses over to Virginia Beach, as snug little homes as you ever seed;
but somehow it looks like I can't git rich tenants fer 'em, in spite of
they bein' on the water front. Rich folks what is got the money to sleep
in nice, close bedrooms is all took to sleepin' out doors like tramps;
an' when they is got all the time there is to set in the parlors and
rock, they ain't content in the house but must take theyselves out in
the wind and sun 'til they look like Injuns!

"No, sirree! I had a mortgage on this house an' foreclosed. It was built
and owned by a architect from Norfolk. I had a chattel mortgage, too, so
I got all his fixin's. I felt real sorry fer him. It looked like he
loved the place as if'n it was his own flesh and blood. It is a strange,
misshapen lookin' house to me; but they do say if any of yo' children is
afflicted, you loves 'em more'n all the others. I wanted to decoration
this barn a little with some real fine pictures a lightnin' artist over
to Hampton struck off for me while I waited, but the man took on so,
jist like he thought I might a-been desecratin' the grave of his child!
And he kinder made me promise to leave this room jist as it is with that
common old blue chany on the mantel an' this strip of blue and white rag
on the table. So that's how it comes to be so bare-like."

"We don't think it is bare, Mrs. Rand, but beautiful," said Dum
reverently, and Dee took off her hat and held it just as I had seen her
father do when a funeral was passing. "May we go upstairs and see the
sleeping porches, and maybe we can help you some?"

"Snoop around all you've a mind to; but I wouldn't ask you to help. When
I rents a furnished house I sees that it is turned over to tenants in
apple-pie order, and if'n you'd 'a' come in the afternoon instid of
morning you'd 'a' found it ship-shape."

"But we'd simply adore helping," urged Dee.

"All right, if you must you must! Here's a basket of clean sheets an'
sich, an' here's clean bags fer the mattresses. I never asks one tenant
to sleep on the same tick cover that the one before it used, certainly
not when boys is been the fore-runners. These was likely boys if'n they
was a leetle harum-scarum, but boys at the best is kinder goatish. Jist
bundle up the s'iled bedclothes an' trun 'em down the steps, an then
when you've buttoned up the mattresses in their clean covers make up the
cots to suit your fancy. By that time I'll be up with my broom and
rags." And Mrs. Rand bustled out to the kitchen to clean up after her
abomination.

We could hardly wait for her to get out of the room to have a good
giggle. She was a type that was new to me. Dee declared that she was a
real out and out "po' white" if she did own three houses at Virginia
Beach and one at Willoughby, and got 15 per cent on her investments. Her
dialect was, in some instances, like the coloured people's, but her
voice was high and nasal and every sentence ended in a kind of whine.
With our coloured friends the dropping of a "g" or "d" makes their
speech soft and mellow, but with this so-called "poor white" it seemed
to make it only dry and hard. Certainly Mrs. Rand's exterior was not
very attractive, but there was a kind of frankness about her that I
rather liked. I had an idea that she was going to prove a good and just
landlady, which, after all, is very important when one is renting a
furnished house for a month at the sea shore.

"Thank goodness, we are spared the lightning artist's pictures," sighed
Dum. "Isn't this room wonderful?"

It had indeed the repose and calm of a forest. The light was soft and
subdued after the glare of sand and water. The high, vaulted,
unplastered ceiling with its heavy green beams and rafters made me think
of William Morris's description of the hall of the Nibelungs when the
eagles screamed in the roof-tree.

We carried the heavy basket of clean bed linen upstairs and made our way
through the dressing rooms, which were little more than closets, to the
spacious sleeping porches, overlooking the bay. We found the place in
very good order, considering boys had been keeping bach there for a
month, and it was not at all "goatish," as we had been led to expect to
find it. On the first porch we discovered an old checked cap on a hook,
and some discarded tennis shoes in a corner, under one pillow a wallet,
rather fat with bank bills, and under another a large gold watch.

"Aren't boys the limit, though?" exclaimed Dee as she carefully placed
the valuables in a drawer. "That means they'll be coming back for their
treasures. Maybe we had better save the old hat and shoes, too;" which
we did with as much care as we had shown the watch and wallet. We
bundled up the bed clothes according to instructions and decided to
visit the other porches and get rid of all the soiled linen before we
commenced to make up the cots. There were three large porches, with two
dressing rooms to each porch, and two small porches in the back, one of
them, we fancied, intended for the servant and the other one for some
person who preferred solitude to company, as there was room for only one
bed on it.

This porch was the last one we visited and we found it in terrible
disarray. There were clothes and shoes all over the floor and the bed
was piled high with a conglomeration of sweaters, baseball suits and
what not.

"My, what a mess!" I cried, being the first to enter. "And this is the
room of all others to get in order, as I fancy Miss Cox, our chaperone,
will occupy it."

"Yes, this would be best," said Dum. "She could have more privacy, and
then, too, she would escape the morning sun. Here, you girls, catch hold
of the corners of the sheet and let's take up all of this trash and
'trun' it down the steps and let Mrs. Rand sort it out."

We laid hold with a good will, but it proved to be very heavy, so heavy,
in fact, that just as we got it off the bed, Dee let go her end and the
contents fell to the floor with a resounding bump.



CHAPTER II.

"SLEEPY."


[Illustration: A tousled head emerged and then a hot, fat, red
face.--_Page 19_]

The mass of bed clothes and sweaters and shoes went through a great
upheaval, and an arm, encased in a striped pajama sleeve, was thrust
forth. We did what girls always do, we screamed and then we giggled.

"Gee, it's hot!" came in muffled tones. "It's hard enough to be waked
before daybreak but you fellows might at least wake me like gentlemen
and not pull me out of bed, keeping up such an infernal cackling, too,
sounding like a lot of fool girls."

Of course, the thing to do was to get out of the room, or rather off the
porch, as fast as we could, but, as Dee and I were at the foot of the
bed and the floor space was occupied by the squirming mass, we had no
chance to make a graceful exit.

"Jump!" came in a sibilant whisper from Dum, and we got ready for a
feat not very difficult for two girls as athletic as we were; but a fit
of giggles attacked us and we were powerless to do anything but cling to
each other in limp helplessness.

"I'm afraid we would step on it," I managed to squeak out through my
convulsions.

"I just dare you to!" spluttered the owner of the arm, and a tousled
head emerged and then a hot, fat, red face. It was a rather good-looking
face in spite of the fact that it was swollen with sleep and crimson
with heat and distorted with rage at having been "awakened before dawn."
I never expect again in all my life to see anything half so ludicrous as
that boy's expression when it dawned on him that the rude awakening was
not the work of his erstwhile companions, but of a lot of "fool girls."
His eyes, half shut with sleep and blinking with the glare of unexpected
daylight, were blinded for a moment, but as Dee and I still clung to
each other and giggled, the youth's eyes began to widen and the mouth,
sullen from heavy slumber, formed itself into a panic-stricken O. His
face had seemed as red as a face could get, but, no! It took on several
shades more of crimson until it was really painful to behold. He did the
wisest thing he could possibly have done under the circumstances: hid
his head and burrowed deep under the cover.

"Now, jump!" cried Dum; and jump we did, clearing the hurdle in great
shape, and then we raced down to Mrs. Rand to tell her of our ridiculous
predicament.

"Well, land's sake! Don't that beat all? And you was fixin' to gather
him up with the s'iled clothes! 'Twould 'a' served him right if'n you
had a-trunned him down the steps and let him take his chanct with the
la'ndry." And the old woman laughed until her Mrs. Wiggs knot came down
and she had to put down her scrubbing brush and twist it up. "I'm about
through here and I'll go up and 'ten' to him."

"Oh, Mrs. Rand, I am sure he is up by this time, and the poor fellow is
embarrassed enough. Don't say anything to him," begged Dee.

"I ain't so sho 'bout that. I spec it's the one they call 'Sleepy,' an'
if'n it is, he's mo'n apt to be gone back to bed," and she stalked like
a grenadier up the steps to rout out poor "Sleepy."

Two boys came up on the piazza as we turned from viewing the now
spotless kitchen, and, caps in hand, asked to see Mrs. Rand. They were
what that lady would have called a "likely pair." Both were dressed in
white flannels and had the unmistakable look of clean-living athletes.

Mrs. Rand's voice was heard from the balcony as she rapped sharply on
the dressing-room door:

"You, there! Git up! This ain't no tramps' hotel."

Then a growl came from the den as from a wounded, sore-headed bear.

"Sleepy!" gasped the boys, and they went off into roars of laughter in
which we perforce joined them. "Not up yet!"

Mrs. Rand, coming down the steps from her valiant attack on the back
sleeping porch, espied the laughing boys and renewed the offensive:

"Now what's bringing you here? This here cottage ain't yourn no longer.
If'n youse after that fat sleepy-head up thar you is welcome to him,
but what's the reason you didn't take him with you, I can't see."

"You see, Mrs. Rand, it's this way," said the taller of the two boys,
approaching Mrs. Rand with an engaging smile. "We did wake up Sleepy and
then piled all his clothes on top of him, thinking the weight and heat
of them would make it impossible for him to sleep longer. We had to go
get our tents pitched and provision our camp and we couldn't stay to see
that our scheme worked. We are mighty sorry if it has caused you any
trouble or annoyance."

"No trouble to me," and Mrs. Rand gave a snaggled-tooth smile at the
polite young man, "but it was some trouble for these young ladies; which
no doubt is the reason, these young ladies, I mean, that t'other young
fellow is so busy winking at me about, kinder specting me to hand out a
interduction. Well, as I'm what you might call chaperoon 'til their paw
comes, I'll favor you and make you acquainted;" which she did with stiff
formality. The tall boy was named James Hart, and the other one, the
winker, Stephen White, but he was never again to be known as Stephen,
or even Steve, for on and after that first day of July he was known as
"Wink." Boys are quick to give a nickname and slow to relinquish a joke
on one of their companions.

"Mrs. Rand," said Wink, (I'll begin now to call these boys by the names
we soon knew them by,) "we simply hate to be a nuisance to you and to
these young ladies but we can't provision our camp for the reason that
we have lost all our money. I was almost sure I had put the money in my
pocket, but now that I can't find it, I am hoping maybe I left it here
somewhere."

"No, you didn't, young man. Th' ain't no money loose 'round here," and
Mrs. Rand got ready for battle.

"Oh, the wallet!" we cried in chorus, and Dee rushed upstairs and came
down in a trice bearing the wallet, watch, old cap and shoes.

"My, what a relief!" sighed Wink. "I am supposed to be the careful
member of the crowd, so they intrusted me with all the funds, and this
is the way I behaved. Your watch, Jim! I fancy your great-grandfather
would turn in his grave if he knew how careless you were. And old Rags
left his cap and shoes! I am glad I wasn't the only forgetter."

"Well, I'm a-thinking, young men, that it's a good thing this here
cottage is owned by a respectable woman an' the July tenants is what
they is, or you'd be minus some prop'ty. That there Sleepy up there come
mighty near being bundled up in the s'iled linen an' sent to the
la'ndry, an' if'n these young ladies hadn't a-been what they is yo' camp
never would 'a' been provisioned. But now I must git to work an' clear
out that there upstairs," and Mrs. Rand betook herself to the regions
above.

"Please tell us about Sleepy," begged Jim Hart. "Did he get mixed up
with the laundry?" But the Tuckers and I felt that poor Sleepy had had
embarrassment enough and were mum as to our experience with him that
morning.

"Come on, Jim, let's go up and see him. Maybe he is too shy to come
out," and the two boys went up two steps at a time to rout out their
embarrassed friend.

The bird had flown. There was no trace of the poor fat boy. The clothes
which had filled the room were gone; the boy was gone; and only a hole
in the sand below gave silent witness to his manner of flight.

"Well, poor Sleepy, if he hasn't jumped off the porch and gone, bag and
baggage! He almost dug a well in the process of going. That was some
jump, I can tell you," and Jim and Wink came down in a broad grin.

"What is Sleepy's real name?" I asked.

"George Massie, a perfectly good name, and he is the best old fellow in
the world, especially when he is asleep, which he is on long stretches.
In fact, most of the time, except in football season, and then you bet
he is awake and up and doing. He is on the University Eleven and is sure
to be captain next year," answered Jim.

I was rather glad to hear of his prowess in football as it meant that
the poor, sleepy boy could take care of himself if his companions teased
him too much in their anxiety to hear what had occurred. A centre rush
on a college eleven does not have to submit to much teasing.

"We are certainly obliged to you ladies for your kindness in finding our
belongings, and when we get our camp in order we hope you will come to
see us. We understand there is to be quite a party of you," said Wink,
preparing to depart.

"Yes, besides Miss Cox, our chaperone, there are to be two more girls
with us for the whole month and our father is to bring down week-end
parties from Richmond. We are to have some boys for part of the time but
we can't stand them as steady things," blundered Dum.

"Well, come on, Jim, we don't want to get in bad the first thing. To
become popular with this young lady we must make ourselves scarce," and
they went gaily off, while we returned to assist Mrs. Rand until our
luggage arrived. When it came, we unpacked at once, and then were ready
for the lunch which we had brought with us from Richmond.

We had a busy afternoon visiting the little shops, laying in our
housekeeping supplies and interviewing the swarm of hucksters and fish
mongers that sprang up like magic the moment the word had gone forth
that a new tenant had arrived. Our cook was not to come until the next
day so we were very cautious in ordering, being well aware of our
limitations in the culinary art. Dum wanted to have baked, stuffed red
snapper the first night because Zebedee was so fond of it, but Dee and I
vetoed it and we got Spanish mackerel to broil instead.

"We simply live on fish at the beach. I hope you like it, Page," said
Dee, "because you fare pretty badly down here if you don't."

"Of course I do; and I am going to eat a lot of it so I can become fishy
and learn to swim. It is a terrible mortification to me that I can't
swim."

"Why, honey, Zebedee can teach you in one lesson, just so you are not
timid," and Dee put her arm around me. "There is certainly nothing to be
ashamed of. You could hardly have learned to swim in your grandfather's
hat-tub."



CHAPTER III.

OUR FIRST NIGHT AT THE BEACH.


By the time Mr. Tucker and Miss Cox arrived, late that evening, Tweedles
and I felt as though we had been keeping house for years. Mrs. Rand had
the cottage in apple-pie order and had taken herself off, very much
concerned for fear we were not going to have a good supper for "that
there so-called 'paw'." But we did have a very good one by careful
division of labour. Dum set the table and looked after the butter and
ice water; Dee attended to the coffee, baked potatoes and salad; and to
my lot fell the broiling of the fish and toasting of the bread.

We had had a long and eventful day and very tired and hungry were the
three of us when the trolley from Norfolk finally arrived with Miss Cox
and Mr. Tucker, also tired and hungry and very dirty after a trip on a
soft coal train. Miss Cox had come all the way from the mountains of
Albemarle on a local train and she seemed to be about all in; but she
declared that supper and bed would make her over and we must not worry
about her.

"It would be a pretty piece of business for me to come down here as a
chaperone and then be a baby," she said.

"Well, a baby is about as good a chaperone as one could want," laughed
Mr. Tucker; "and now, Jinny, I am going to insist upon your being a baby
for a few days until you get yourself all rested up. We appreciate your
coming to us more than we can tell you and one and all mean to wait on
you."

"We do, indeed, Miss Cox, and I bid to bring your breakfast up to your
room," said Dee.

"And I bid to unpack for you," put in Dum.

"And I--I--I don't know what I will do for you, but please let me help
some," I begged.

"Oh, people, people! Don't be too good to me or I'll cry," and Miss Cox
gave a wan smile. She had been tutoring all during the month of June,
beginning just as soon as her labours were over at Gresham; and having
had no rest at all she was in a state of exhaustion pitiable to behold.
I believe her nerves would have snapped if it had not been for that
timely trip to the beach.

"Well, I call this a pretty good supper for three girls just turning
sixteen to get up all by their lonesomes," said Mr. Tucker, giving a
sigh of complete satisfaction as he got out a cigar for an after-dinner
smoke.

"Page did all the real cooking," tweedled the twins.

"Why, Dee, you cooked the potatoes and the coffee, and Dum did a million
other things that are much more tedious than cooking. I love to cook but
I hate the scullery part." Then I was sorry I had said that because they
utterly refused to let me help wash the dishes and I felt like an awful
shirker.

Miss Cox was escorted to her sleeping porch which she pronounced
"Heaven." It presented a different appearance than it had in the morning
when poor Sleepy had been concealed in the soiled linen like a modern
Falstaff (not that we seemed much like the Merry Wives of Windsor).

"Now stay in bed in the morning so I can bring your breakfast up to
you," begged Dee.

"And don't dare to unpack yourself, but let me do it," demanded Dum.

"I hope the mantle of Sleepy will fall on you, Miss Cox, and you will
slumber as peacefully as he did," said I, lowering the striped awning to
keep the early morning light from waking the poor, tired lady.

"Well, good night to all of you. I only hope I can get undressed before
I fall asleep."

It was a wondrous night, and since the girls would not let me help with
the dishes, I accepted Mr. Tucker's invitation to stroll on the beach
with him while he finished his cigar. How pleasant the night was after
the terrible glare of the day! For the first time I began to feel that
the beach was going to be what I had dreamed it to be. The sun had set
but there was a soft afterglow.

          "And in the Heavens that clear obscure,
           So softly dark and darkly pure,
           Which follows the decline of day,
           As twilight melts beneath the moon away,"

quoted Mr. Tucker. "I am afraid you are pretty tired, too, Page. You do
not seem to have your usual spirits. I bet a horse I know what it is!
You are disappointed in Willoughby Beach."

"Oh, please don't think it, Mr. Tucker----"

"I don't think it, I just know it. You must not feel bad about it.
Everybody always is disappointed in it at first, and then in a few days
wonders how he could have been anything but in love with it. You
question now how anyone could be contented without trees or grass, and
in a week's time you wonder what is the good of trees and grass, anyhow.
I know today you felt like old Regulus when his captors cut off his
eyelids and exposed him to the sun. You'll get used to the sun, too, and
even scorn a hat as Tweedles do."

I was really embarrassed at Mr. Tucker's divining my feelings as he did,
but it was no new thing, as he often seemed to be able to guess my
thoughts. I, too, often found that I had thought out something just as
he was in the act of giving voice to it. I _had_ been desperately
disappointed in the beach. The great stretches of unbroken sand, the
cloudless sky and a certain flatness everywhere had given me a sensation
of extreme heaviness and dreariness; but now that the blessed darkness
had come and I no longer had to scrooch up my eyes, I began to feel that
it was not such a stale, flat, unprofitable place after all. And it was
certainly very pleasant out there, pacing up and down on the sand with
Mr. Tucker, who treated me just like one of his daughters in a way but
at the same time gave me a feeling that he thought I was quite grown-up
enough to be talked to and listened to. He had called me "Miss Page" at
first, but now that he had dropped the "Miss" and I was just plain Page
I seemed more of a companion to him than before.

Tweedles soon came racing out, having finished the dish washing.

"We didn't wipe 'em, but scalded 'em and let 'em dreen. Dee broke two
cups--I broke a saucer!" exclaimed Dum. "It's entirely too lovely a
night to waste indoors."

"So it is, but it is also a mighty good night for sleeping and I think
all of us had better turn in pretty early," said Mr. Tucker.

"Oh, not yet, Zebedee!" tweedled the girls, "we are not a bit sleepy.
You are always wanting people to go to bed before they are ready." And
with that they flopped themselves down on the sand, Dum with her head on
my knee and Dee with hers on her father's shoulder and in one minute
they were fast asleep.

"Now what are we going to do with these babies, Page?"

"I hate to wake them but they will be sure to catch cold," I replied.
And so wake them we had to and lead them stumbling to the cottage and up
the steps to the east porch, where they were with difficulty persuaded
to go through what they considered, in their sleepy state, to be the
unnecessary formality of undressing.

I had been sleeping pretty well for almost sixteen years but after that
first night at Willoughby Beach on a sleeping-porch, I knew that I had
never really realized what sleep meant. No matter how many windows you
may have open in your bedroom, it is still a room, and no matter how
much you may protect a porch, it is still out-of-doors. We were in bed
by nine o'clock and we were asleep almost before we were in bed, and
while my sleep was perfectly dreamless I was, in a measure, conscious of
a delicious well being, _a sentiment de bien être_. All through the
night I was rocked in this feeling and I was then and there reconciled
to the beach, flatness, glare and all. A place that had such
sleep-giving powers was one to be loved and not scorned, and forthwith I
began to love it.



CHAPTER IV.

BUBBLES.


The sun finds an east porch very early in the morning and five o'clock
was late enough to sleep, anyhow, when one has gone to bed at nine.
Tweedles and I had many duties to perform and we were glad enough to be
up and doing.

"Me for a dip in the briny, before I grapple with the day!" exclaimed
Dum. That sounded good to Dee and me, so we all piled into our bathing
suits. I felt rather strange in mine and very youthful, never before
having had one on. Father and I had had several nice trips together but
we had always gone to some city and had never taken in a seaside resort.
I had a notion I was going to like the water and almost knew I would not
be afraid. I determined to look upon the ocean as just a large-sized
hat-tub.

"Hadn't we better start the kitchen fire before we go out, Dum?" I
asked.

"I'm not Dum! I'm Dee! Dum's gone to peek at Zebedee to see if he is
awake." For the first time in my acquaintance with the Tucker Twins I
found myself at a loss to tell them apart. Of course it was Dee. The
eyes were grey and there was a dimple in her chin, but the bathing cap
concealed her hair and forehead; and, after all, the colour of the
twins' hair and the way it grew on their foreheads were the chief points
of difference. Their eyes were exactly the same shape if they were of
different colours, and a difference that you had to stare at to find out
was not much of a difference after all.

Dum came back to announce that Zebedee was awake and would join us in a
moment, so we raced down to the kitchen, careful not to make any noise
and wake up poor Miss Cox. We started the fire and put on the tea kettle
and, as an afterthought, I went back and filled the Marion Harland
percolator, putting in plenty of coffee. The morning was rather chilly
and I knew that when we got back from our dip, coffee would not go
amiss.

"Front door wide open! What kind of a locker-up are you, Zebedee,
anyhow?" chided Dum.

"Well, I could have sworn I shut it last night and locked it. In fact, I
can swear it."

"Well, if we had burglars they didn't burgle any. The pure German silver
is all intact and the blue tea-pot is still on the mantelpiece. Come on,
I'll race you to the water's edge," and Dum and Zebedee were off like
two children, while Dee and I followed.

"Someone's out ahead of us," said Zebedee, pointing to a head far out in
the bay. "Some swimmer, too! Just look how fast he's going!" The swimmer
was taking long, even strokes and was shooting through the water like a
fish.

How I did envy that swimmer! I felt very slim and very shy as I walked
gingerly to the water's edge and let the waves creep up on my feet and
ankles. The Tuckers wanted to stay with me but I would not hear of it. I
knew that they were longing to get out into deep water and I have always
had a wholesome dread of being a nuisance. They plunged in and were off
like a school of porpoise, one minute under water and the next leaping
high into the air. They seemed to be truly amphibious animals while I
felt very much of an earthworm. I walked out in the bay up to my chin
and then decided that I would try to swim back, although I had no more
idea of how a body went to work to swim than to fly.

I lay down on the water and felt my feet rising to the surface and then
a panic seized me, and such another struggling and splashing and
gurgling as I was guilty of! My head went under and my feet refused to
leave the surface. I thought I would surely drown, although I knew
perfectly well I was not beyond my depth. Foolish poetry flashed into my
brain:

          "You are old, Father William," the young man said,
            "And your hair has become very white,
          And yet you incessantly stand on your head--
            Do you think, at your age, it is right?"

          "In my youth," Father William replied to his son,
            "I feared it might injure the brain;
          But now that I'm perfectly sure I have none,
            I do it again and again."

From that I went on with Clarence's dream:

          "O Lord! methought what pain it was to drown!
          What dreadful noise of waters in mine ears!
          What sights of ugly death within mine eyes!
          Methought I saw a thousand fearful wrecks;
          A thousand men that fishes gnawed upon;
          Wedges of gold, great anchors, heaps of pearl,
          Inestimable stones, unvalued jewels,
          All scattered in the bottom of the sea,
          Some lay in dead men's skulls; and in those holes
          Where eyes did once inhabit there were crept
          (As 'twere in scorn of eyes) reflecting gems,
          That wooed the slimy bottom of the deep,
          And mocked the dead bones that lay scattered by.

          . . . . but still the envious flood
          Kept in my soul and would not let it forth
          To seek the empty, vast and wandering air;
          But smothered it within my panting bulk,
          Which almost burst to belch it in the sea."

All this time that my brain was busy in this absurd way, my legs and
arms were busy, too, and just when I got to the last line, quoted above,
I felt a strong hand on the back of my bathing suit and I was pulled
from the briny deep.

"Why, Page, why are you making a little submarine of yourself? You
scared me to death, child. I was way out in the bay when I looked back
to see what you were up to and not a sign of your precious little head
could I see, nothing but bubbles to mark the spot where my dear little
friend had gone down. But oh, such big bubbles! I thought you had
ventured out beyond your depth, and here it is not much more than four
feet of water," and Zebedee held me up while I spluttered and gurgled.
Only the night before Zebedee had demanded that I should stop calling
him Mr. Tucker, so now I was to think of him and speak of him as
Zebedee. I had been thinking of him as Zebedee for a long time and it
was very easy to stop calling him by the formal name of Mr. Tucker.

"Lend me a handkerchief!" I demanded just as soon as I could stop
spluttering enough to speak, and then we both burst out laughing, as
naturally he did not have one.

"I tell you what you do, little girl, you trot on up to the house and
get into dry clothes, and I'll collect those water dogs as soon as I can
and we will join you. I don't approve of staying in the water too long
in the early morning, certainly not on the first day at the beach. The
morning swim should be nothing more than a dip."

"Well, that's all mine was," and I scrambled out. My wet suit felt very
heavy but my body felt light and there was a delicious tingle all over
me as the morning air, a little cooler than the water, struck me. I
raced to the cottage and into the downstairs bathroom--which had an
outside entrance--where we had put our bath gowns so we would be able to
drop our wet suits there. It took me only a few minutes to rub down and
get into some dry clothes (thanks to middy blouses, which were surely
invented for girls in a hurry). I was dressed and in the kitchen before
Zebedee was able to collect his water dogs. The coffee was in a state of
perfection, and glad indeed was I for a cup of the beverage which shares
with tea the quality of cheering without inebriating.

The oven to the little range was piping hot so I made so bold as to stir
up a pan of batter bread, Mammy Susan's kind with lots of eggs, and I
then proceeded to set the table for breakfast.

"See here, this is a shame for you to be slaving so!" exclaimed Zebedee.
"I simply won't have it--but gee, what a grand smell of coffee! You
don't mean you've got some all made?" and he came through the living
room and back into the kitchen in his wet suit, although he was the one
who had made the rule the night before that bathers must enter from the
rear and leave their wet suits in the bathrooms. I hadn't the heart to
remind him; besides, I knew Tweedles would take great joy in doing so. I
gave him a cup of steaming coffee and then made him hurry off to get
into his clothes by letting him have a peep at my batter bread, which
was behaving as batter bread should when it is made with plenty of eggs
and the oven is piping hot--that is, it was rising like an omelette and
a delicate brown was appearing over the surface.

"It must be eaten hot, so you had better hurry," I said as I put the
sliced bacon in the frying pan and then cracked ice for the cantaloupe.

"All right, Mammy Susan, I'll show you what a lightning change artist I
can be. I know I can beat Tweedles. They are still in the bathroom. By
the way, do you know who the swimmer was we saw out in the bay? None
other than our chaperone, Miss Jinny Cox! I just knew I had locked the
door. You see, Jinny opened it. She has decided not to let anybody wait
on her, after all. Tweedles are quite disconsolate. They have been
planning to be so unselfish and here Jinny is refusing to be ill, and
here you are, the honored guest, cooking breakfast on this, our first
morning at the beach." He started up the steps but came down again, and,
taking me impulsively by both hands, he exclaimed: "I am mighty glad you
did not succeed in drowning yourself in four feet of water, little
friend. You made very beautiful bubbles but I am going to teach you how
to swim before the week is out."



CHAPTER V.

BLANCHE.


"Who is to go over to Norfolk with me to meet the guests, also the cook
lady from Keysville?" demanded Zebedee as he scraped the very last
vestige of batter bread sticking to the sides of the pan. Annie Pore and
Mary Flannagan, our schoolmates, were to arrive on a James River boat
and our much needed cook on the train.

The cook was a great niece of Mammy Susan's dead husband, who was being
educated at an industrial school for coloured boys and girls. I had
never seen her, but Mammy Susan had been rather impressed by what she
had heard of the girl and it was because of her recommendation that the
Tuckers had determined to employ her.

"She's got good Afgan blood in her," declared Mammy, "but th' aint no
tellin' what schoolin' is done did to'ds spilin' of her."

We were willing to gamble on the good "Afgan" blood and now we were to
meet the girl, Blanche Johnson by name. I had written her telling her
exactly what train to take and to be sure to pin a red bow on her left
shoulder as a means of identification.

"Page must go because she did so much work this morning, besides getting
most drowned," and Dum got up from the devastated breakfast table and
began clearing off the dishes.

"And Miss Cox must go----"

"Why don't you all go?" put in Zebedee. "Leave these stupid old dishes
for the lily fair Blanche."

"Oh, Jeffry Tucker, never!" exclaimed Miss Cox. "If she found us with
dirty dishes she would think we like 'em dirty and give 'em to us for
the rest of the time. No, you girls go on with your irresponsible parent
and I will stay and do this little dab of dish washing. I don't want to
go to Norfolk. In fact, I never do want to go to Norfolk." I detected a
slight trembling of her lip and a painful flush on her countenance, but
as she turned away quickly I thought I was the only person who had
noticed it.

"But I can't allow you to do so much, Jinny," objected Zebedee.

"Well, we've got at least fifteen minutes before the trolley leaves.
Let's all of us turn in and get it done before the time is up," and I
set the example by grabbing the batter bread pan from Zebedee, who was
trying to find just one more crumb. "Come on and help. I'll make you
some more this evening for supper."

Such another bustling and hurrying as then went on! The dishes were
already scraped by the voracious swimmers, so there was nothing to do
but plunge them into the hot, soapy water where Miss Cox officiated with
a dish mop, and then into the rinse water. Dee was ready with a tea
towel and Dum put them away, while I put butter and milk in the
refrigerator and wiped off the table. Zebedee stood around in
everybody's way doing what he called "head work."

"If it takes one lone chaperone one hour to do the dishes, how long will
it take her to do them with the assistance of one learned gentleman and
three charming young ladies, when two of them are twins and the other
one the most famous blower of bubbles in the world? Answer, teacher!"

"Just twelve minutes by the clock, and it would have been only ten if
the learned gentleman had not made us walk around him so much," laughed
Miss Cox. "Now off with you or you'll have to run for your car. Don't
worry about me. I may go back to sleep."

The boat was in when we reached Norfolk but the girls had been
instructed to stay aboard until we got there. We could see dear old Mary
Flannagan's red head as we put foot on the pier and as soon as she saw
us she began to crow like chanticleer. What fun it was to see these
girls again!

We were a strangely assorted quintette. The Tucker twins, Annie Pore,
Mary Flannagan and I; but our very difference made us just that much
more congenial. The twins were not a bit alike in disposition.
Dum,--Virginia,--was artistic, sometimes a trifle moody, very impulsive
and hot-tempered but withal the most generous and noble-minded person I
knew, quite like her father in lots of ways. Dee,--Caroline,--was more
practical and even-tempered with a great deal of tact prompted by her
kind heart, the tenderest heart in all the world, that took in the whole
animal kingdom from elephants to ants.

Annie Pore, our little English friend, had developed so since our first
meeting that she seemed hardly the same person who had sat so forlornly
in the station in Richmond only ten short months before.

She had lost the timid, nervous look and was growing more beautiful
every day. She had had thirty days of such growing since I had last
beheld her and she had made good use of her time. I had a feeling the
minute I saw her that perhaps she had come to some more satisfactory
understanding with her father. In fact, she must have, since he had
permitted her to join the house party at Willoughby Beach.

Mary Flannagan was the same old Mary, red head, freckled face, bunchy
waist and all; but there never was a more good-natured, merry face than
Mary's. Her blue eyes had a twinkle in them that was better than mere
beauty and her frequent laughs disclosed a set of perfectly clean,
white teeth. On the whole, Mary was not so very homely and to us, her
best friends, she was almost beautiful.

As for me, Page Allison, I was just a girl, neither beautiful nor ugly,
brilliant nor stupid; but I was still as determined as I had been on
that morning in September when I started out from Bracken for boarding
school, not to rest until I had made a million friends. I had made a
pretty good start and I intended to keep it up.

"Well, we are glad to see you!" exclaimed Zebedee, shaking hands with
both girls at once as he met them on the gangway. "I hope your father is
well, Miss Annie, and is favourably considering joining us for a week
end at Willoughby."

"I don't know, Mr. Tucker, what he will do," answered Annie, smiling;
"he enjoyed seeing you so much that I shall not be astonished if he
takes you at your word and comes to visit you."

That was the most wonderful conquest ever made! Zebedee had been down to
Price's Landing and deliberately captivated the stiff, unbending
Englishman, Mr. Arthur Ponsonby Pore. I asked him to tell me about it
and he answered quite simply in the words of Cæsar: "'Veni! Vidi! Vici!'
Why, Page, the man is peculiar but he is more lonesome than anything
else. All I did was to treat him like a human being and take for granted
he would treat me the same way, and sure enough he did. And here is poor
little Annie, to show the wisdom of taking it for granted that a man is
going to be kind. I asked him to let her come to the house party as
though he would of course be delighted to give his daughter this
pleasure, and he complied with the greatest cordiality."

After seeing to the girls' trunks and transferring them to the baggage
trolley for Willoughby Beach (and this time Annie, having a neat, new
little trunk which she called a "box," was not embarrassed by the
bulging telescope she had taken to Gresham), we then went to the station
to await the arrival of the precious cook.

"S'pose she doesn't come!" wailed Dum.

"Well, if it would mean more of Page's batter bread, I shan't mind
much," declared Zebedee as the train puffed in.

"Look for a girl with a red bow on her shoulder," said I, peering at
every passenger who got out of the coloured coach. There were many as
there was an excursion to Ocean View and a picnic given by "The Sons and
Daughters of the Morning." The dusky crowd swarmed by, laden with boxes
and baskets of lunch, all of them laughing and happy and any of them
looking as though she might be a good cook, but not one of them was
Blanche. Red there was in abundance but never in the form of a bow on
the left shoulder. Red hats, red cravats, red parasols passed us by, and
even a stair-steps row of six little nigs in rough-dry white dresses
with all of their pigtails tightly "wropped" with red string and a big
red bow of ten-cent store ribbon on top of each happy, woolly head,--and
still no Blanche.

"Ah, I see visions of more and more batter bread of the Page brand,"
murmured Zebedee. "I'm going to purchase a big baking dish so you can
mix up twice as much."

"Look, there is a girl coming back! Could that be Blanche?" and Dee
pointed to a very fat, good-looking, brown-skinned girl, dressed in the
very latest and most extreme style of that summer. She wore a very tight
skirt of black and white silk with stripes about an inch and a half
broad, slit up over a flounced petticoat of royal purple. Her feet,
substantial, to say the least, were encased in white canvas shoes with
purple ties, and purple cotton stockings were stretched to their utmost
over her piano legs (I mean the old square pianos), stretched so tight,
in fact, that they took on the gloss of silk. A lavender crêpe de Chine
blouse very much open, exposing her capacious chest, and a purple straw
hat trimmed with black roses, perched on top of a towering, shiny
pompadour, completed the colour scheme. Pinned on her left shoulder was
an artificial orchid with a purple bow. In her hand she carried a huge
basket covered with a newspaper.

"Are you Blanche Johnson?" I questioned.

"I was about to propound the same inquisition to you when I seen you
approaching I," she answered with a mincing manner. "I am consigned to
the kind ospices of Mr. Tucker and Miss Page Allison, a young lady who
has been since infantry under the jurisprudence of Mrs. Susan Black, my
great arnt once removed by intermarriage."

"Well, Blanche, I am Miss Page Allison and this is Mr. Tucker, and Mr.
Tucker's daughters, Miss Virginia and Miss Caroline. We came very near
missing you as we were looking for the red bow, pinned on your left
shoulder."

"Well, now, Miss Page, it was very disappointmenting for me not to be
compliable to your requisition, but I belong to an uplifting club at my
school and one of our first and most important relegations is that the
mimbers must never do nothing nigrified. An' they have decided that the
unduly bedizenment of yourself in red garments is the first and foremost
nigrification of the race. Hence, therefore, I resolutioned to trust
that my kind frinds would indemnify me with this orchard."

"And so we have, Blanche, and now we will go take the electrics for
Willoughby," and Zebedee, his face crimson from suppressed merriment,
led the way to the car line, while Blanche kept up a steady fire of
polite talk.

"There was another reason for my abandonment of the red bow, Miss Page,
and that was that I am in kinder sicond mournin' for the disease of my
only brother's offspring."

"Oh, I am sorry, Blanche! How old was the child? Was it a boy or girl?"

"Well, it wa'nt to say any age, as the angel was borned daid, and as for
the slight differentation in sex, I was so woeful I done forgot to arsk
my po' bereaved brother whether it were the fair sex or the inversion."

"Well, if the little thing had to die, it must have been a relief for
your brother to know it had never lived."

"No'm, no'm! 'Twould a been a gret comfort if'n it had lived a while.
You see Mandy, Jo's wife, is sickly and her offspring is cosequentially
sickly and Jo always has heretoforth been able to collect a little
insuriance on his prodigy by bein' very promptitude in the compilation
of the policies. Yes! Yes! Po' Jo! I felt that it was the least I could
do to show respec' for his great bereavement by puttin' on the traps of
woefulness," and she smoothed with pride her striped skirt and looked
with evident admiration at her fearfully and wonderfully clad feet.

"How old does a child have to be to collect insurance?" I asked.

"Well, some companies is agreeable to the acceptance of infantry at a
very tinder age and will pay at their disease if the contractioning
parties can prove there ain't no poultry play."

"Poultry play?" I gasped.

"Yes'm, poultry play! That is to say, foul play. You see, Miss Page, one
of our club relegations is to use the word with the most syllabubs as we
seem to feel more upliftable. And poultry sounds much mo' elegant than
jis' foul."

I was bursting for a laugh but had to hold in, while all of those bad
girls with the disgraceful Zebedee pretended to see something in a shoe
shop window that was sufficiently funny to keep them in a gale of
mirth.



CHAPTER VI.

A ROMANCE.


As we waited for our car, a very pleasant looking man, seemingly much
older than Zebedee, glanced at our crowd rather curiously (and Blanche
was enough to make anyone glance at us curiously) and then his face lit
up as he recognized Zebedee. He hastened to his side and grasped him by
the hand, exclaiming:

"Jeffry Tucker! I'm glad to see you! What are you doing in Norfolk?"

"Well, I'm getting out of it as fast as I can on my way down to
Willoughby. Have taken a cottage down there for a month,--let me
introduce you to my girls and their friends."

The gentleman was Mr. Robert Gordon, a classmate of Zebedee's at the
University. He was not really more than a year or so older than Zebedee,
but his hair and moustache were iron grey and his fine eyes were tired
and sad looking. He had been for years teaching at a school in South
Carolina but had recently been given the chair of English at a college
in Norfolk.

"You must come over and stay with us, Bob. The girls can tell you what
heaps of room we have."

"Oh, heaps and heaps!" tweedled the twins.

"Make it this evening, Bob, and stay over Sunday. You are your own
master this time of year surely, while I have to go back to the grind on
Monday. I'll get my holiday a little later on, however. Now come on! I
want you to know my girls and my girls to know you."

"I have a great mind to take you up," and Mr. Gordon looked admiringly
at the twins. "I can hardly believe they are yours, Jeff. Yes, I'll come
this evening."

"Good boy! That's the way to talk. We will expect you before supper. By
the way," whispering, "this is our new cook we are taking out. I hope
she won't scare you off. We've got an old friend of yours out there,
too, Jinny Cox,----"

"I really think, Jeff, I had better not come this evening," stammered
Mr. Gordon, turning quite pale and showing extreme agitation. "I--I----"

"Now look here, Bob, you have accepted and we are going to expect you."
The trolley arrived just then and we hurriedly got aboard while Zebedee
shouted hospitable imprecations on the head of his old friend if he
should fail to keep his word. "That was a strange way for Bob Gordon to
behave," he said, sinking into the seat by me. "First he said he would
come and seemed delighted and then when I cracked a joke about our poor,
dear Blanche, he suddenly decided he had better not come. While poor,
dear Blanche is certainly some dresser, she is very clean looking and
has a good face, and I can't see anything about her to make a man behave
as Bob did."

Zebedee always thereafter spoke of Blanche as "poor, dear Blanche," and
there was something so ludicrous in his way of saying it that for the
entire month we were at the beach and ever after, in fact, when our
vacation of that July was mentioned, he could set all of us in a perfect
gale by his "poor, dear Blanche."

I looked at Zebedee in amazement. He really seemed to think that it was
Blanche who had made Mr. Gordon turn so pale and stammer so strangely.
Men are funny animals. Here was Zebedee, a "so-called paw" of girls as
old as I was, a man of the world and a newspaper man with a nose for
news that was unsurpassed in the South, so my father thought, and still
he had not had the intuition to see that his friend Bob had turned pale
when he found Miss Cox was with us. I could have wagered anything that
all the girls knew what was the matter, even Blanche. I said nothing to
Zebedee, feeling perhaps that it would be a little unkind to Miss Cox to
give voice to my convictions to a mere man, but I was dying to get with
one of the girls and see if the subject would not be immediately
broached.

Zebedee went out on the back platform to smoke and Dee made a dive for
his seat. "Page, I'm dying to find out if you noticed Mr. Gordon's
agitation over Miss Cox's being with us!"

"Surely I did!"

"Oh, isn't it exciting? And didn't she blush, though, when she said she
never wanted to go to Norfolk?" So Dee had noticed that, too. "Dum
thought it was because she had had some kind of love affair there three
years ago and could not bear the place and all around it, but I kind of
hoped maybe it was because the man lived there still. I wonder if he
will come and if we had better warn her. I am so afraid she will run
away if she finds out he is coming, and then the romance cannot be
completed."

"Well, I think we had better keep out of it altogether and let your
respected parent put his foot in it, which he is sure to do. He thinks
Mr. Gordon held back because of Blanche's appearance."

"He doesn't! Well, of all the stupids! Got his start, too, as what he
calls 'a gum-shoe reporter' doing detective work on his paper. If I had
no more insight into human nature than that, I'd take to cracking rock
as a profession," and Dee sniffed scornfully. She agreed with me that we
would say nothing to Zebedee as it wouldn't be quite fair to our sex to
gossip with a man about a love affair.

Annie and Mary had been as quick to see the possible romance as we had
been, so we had to tell them of Miss Cox's agitation when Norfolk was
mentioned, and one and all we pitied poor Zebedee's masculine blindness.
We had always liked Miss Cox, but now we had a tenderness for her that
amounted to adoration. Our surmises were many as to the reason for her
separation from her lover.

"Maybe there was insanity in the family," suggested Mary.

"Perhaps she had a very stern father who scorned her lover," and Annie
blushed that her mind should run on stern fathers.

"I believe it was just a matter of spondulix," said the practical Dee.

"Oh, no! surely not!" exclaimed Dum. "I don't believe Miss Cox is the
kind of woman to give up a man because he is poor. I believe it was
because she thought she was so homely."

"Well, he must have been a pretty poor stick of a lover if he could not
persuade her that she was beautiful. I'd hate to think that of Mr.
Gordon. Maybe he gave her up because he was poor. School teaching is
'mighty po' pickin's,' as Mammy Susan says."

"Well, I hope they won't keep us waiting very long, because I'm simply
dying to know," sighed Dum.

This conversation was held after we got back to the beach and were
installing the guests in their quarters. We had decided to sleep, all
five of us, on one porch, as it was so much more fun. It made the cots
come rather close together but that made giggling and whispering just so
much simpler.

Miss Cox had had a pleasant morning, she declared, and had the table all
set for luncheon with tempting viands thereon. We had brought a supply
of delicacies from Schmidt's in Richmond and I had a fine ham, cooked by
Mammy Susan's own method, which I produced from my trunk as a surprise
for Zebedee, so "poor, dear Blanche" did not have to officiate at this
meal but could spend her time getting her sleeping porch in order and
unpacking her huge basket of clothes.

We had been rather concerned about how a sleeping porch would be looked
on by the cook, but she set our minds at rest with great tact.

"Yes'm, I is quite customary to air in my sleeping department. At
school the satinary relegations is very strengulous and we are taught
that germcrobes lurks in spots least inspected. And now I will take off
my begalia of travel and soon will be repaired to be renitiated into the
hysterics of domestic servitude." And we were going to have to listen to
this talk for a whole month and keep straight faces or perhaps lose the
services of "poor, dear Blanche"!

"I simply can't stand it!" exploded Dum as soon as she got out of
earshot. "It will give me apoplexy."

Luncheon was a merry meal that day as Zebedee was in an especially
delightful mood and Mary Flannagan had many funny new stories to tell.
She was an indefatigable reader of jokes and could reel them off by the
yard, but all the time our romantic souls were atremble to see how Miss
Cox would take the news of the proposed visit of her one-time lover. We
half hoped and half feared that Zebedee would mention the fact that he
had extended this invitation to Mr. Gordon, and perhaps she might faint.
We did not want her to faint, but if she did faint we hoped we would be
there to see it. We kept wondering why Zebedee did not tell her and
finally quite casually he asked:

"Where do you think we had better put Gordon, Jinny?"

"Gordon? Gordon who?"

"Why, Bob Gordon! Didn't the girls tell you he is coming out to stay
over Sunday?"

"No--we--we--you--we thought----" but no one ever found out what we did
think nor did we find out what Miss Cox thought of the return of her
supposed lover, for just at this juncture Blanche came into view ready
for the "hysterics of domestic servitude." In taking off her "begalia of
travel" she had also removed the large, shiny pompadour and disclosed to
view a woolly head covered with little tight "wropped" plaits. She had
on a blue checked long-sleeved apron made by what is known as the
bungalow pattern, her expression was quite meek and she looked very
youthful and rather pathetic. I realized that her vast amount of
assurance had come entirely from her fine clothes, and now that she had
taken them off she was nothing more nor less than a poor, overgrown
country darkey who had been sent to school and taught a lot of stuff
before she had any foundation to put it on. It turned out later that she
could neither read nor write with any ease, and all of her
high-sounding, mispronounced words she had gathered from lectures she
had attended in the school. She was suffering from this type of
schooling as I would have suffered had I gone straight from Bracken to
college without getting any training at Gresham.

The effect was so startling, to see this girl whom we had left only a
few minutes ago arrayed in all her splendor, now looking for all the
world like a picked chicken, that Miss Cox and her romance were for the
moment forgotten and all our energies were taken up in trying to compose
our countenances. Then Mary Flannagan swallowed a sardine whole and had
to be well thumped, and by that time Miss Cox was able to control her
voice (if she had ever lost control of it), and she asked, in a most
matter-of-fact way, questions about the expected guest; and if her
colour was a little heightened, it might have been Blanche who had
caused it. Were we not all of us as red as roses?



CHAPTER VII.

OH, YOU CHAPERONE!


Dum and Dee were to take turns keeping house but I had a steady job as
the Advisory Board and we hoped to manage without worrying Miss Cox. The
girls had tossed up to find out who should begin, and Dee had first go,
which meant breaking in Blanche. We were glad to see that she seemed to
understand dish washing and that she moved rapidly considering her size
and shape.

"Now, Blanche," said Dee with a certain pardonable importance, "my
father is to have a guest this evening and we want to have a very nice
supper, so you must tell us what are the dishes you can make best."

"Well, Miss Tucker, I is had great successfulness with my choclid cake
and blue mawnge."

"Oh, I did not mean dessert but the substantial part of the supper,"
gasped Dee. Blanche was always making us gasp, as she was so
unexpected.

"Well, as for that my co'se is not took up many things as yit, but I is
mastered the stuffin' of green peppers and kin make a most appetizement
dish. Up to the presence, the the'ry of domesticated silence has been
mo' intrusting to me than the practization."

Dee looked forlornly to me for help and indeed I felt it was time for
the Advisory Board to step in.

"Blanche," I said, rather sternly, "did you ever cook any before you
went to school?"

"Cook? Of co'se I did, Miss Page. I'se been a-cookin' ever sence I could
take a ask cake out'n the fire 'thout burnin' myse'f up."

"Good! Now see here, Blanche, we want you to cook for us the way you
cooked before you ever went to school. Just forget all about domestic
science and cook."

"Don't you want no choclid cake an' no blue mawnge?"

"Not tonight," said Dee gently as Blanche's countenance was so sad. "We
want some fried fish and some batter bread and perhaps some hot biscuit
or waffles. There are some beautiful tomatoes in the refrigerator and
some lettuce and we can have peaches and cream for dessert."

"'Thout no cake?"

"Well, I tell you what you can do," said the tender-hearted Dee. "You
can make us a chocolate cake for Sunday dinner if your supper turns out
well this evening."

"Oh, thank you, Miss Tucker. I is got so much sentiment fer cake. Now
which do you choose to have, biscuit or waffles?"

We thought biscuit would be best to start Blanche on and after
cautioning her to call us if she was in doubt about anything, we left
her to work her own sweet will.

Her own sweet will turned out to be a pretty good one and we were wise
to leave her to it. I did get out in the kitchen just in time to keep
her from putting sugar in the batter bread, something she had picked up
in school from her Northern teachers. I thought it best to take the
batter bread in my own hands after that, and to Zebedee's great
comfort, made it until I felt sure Blanche could do it as well as I
could.

Zebedee and I were on the porch waiting for supper and Mr. Gordon to
arrive, while Dee went out to put the finishing touch to her
housekeeping. Dum and the two other girls had strolled in the direction
of the trolley to meet the guest whom we rather expected to come on the
next car. Miss Cox had not yet made her appearance after the second dip
we had had that day.

"Have you known Mr. Gordon very long?" I queried.

"Ever since our first year at the University. He's a bully good fellow
but awfully queer in a way. Used to be very quick-tempered, but I fancy
all these years of teaching have rather toned down his temper. Jinny Cox
used to be a perfect pepper pot; but temper and teaching don't go very
well together and she is as mild as a May morning now."

"Did Miss Cox know Mr. Gordon very well in those old days?"

"Why, bless me if I remember. We all of us ran in a crowd. As well as I
can recall, it seems to me that Bob Gordon and Jinny Cox were always
rowing about one thing or another. You see I was so in love with my
little Virginia that all I can remember of those days is just what
touched us," and Zebedee wiped his eyes, which had filled with tears as
they always did when he spoke of his little wife who had lived such a
short time. "I do kind of half remember that one day we spent at
Montecello on a picnic when it rained cats and dogs, Jinny and Bob had
such a row they could not go back together although he was her escort.
That was the time Jinny and I made up the tune and danced the Lobster
Quadrille," and Zebedee was laughing before he had quite dried his
tears, as was the way with all the Tuckers. "Bob left the University
soon after that,--some financial difficulties at home because his father
had lost his fortune,--and then I believe old Bob got a job in a
district school and has been teaching ever since--Look here, Page, do
you know I believe my soul Bob and Jinny were engaged then! I have a
kind of half memory that my little Virginia told me they were, on the
way home from Montecello. Well, if I'm not an ass! Why, it was not poor,
dear Blanche, after all, that was scaring off Gordon, but Jinny Cox!
Well, well!"

I couldn't help smiling in rather a superior way and Zebedee exclaimed:

"I believe you knew it all the time," but just then the girls returned,
bringing Mr. Gordon with them and what I knew or did not know had to
keep for another time.

Mr. Gordon was very much spruced up and did not look nearly so old and
tired as he had in the morning. His light grey suit and hat were in
excellent taste, setting off his iron-grey hair and moustache, and on
the whole his appearance was so distinguished that we were more thrilled
than ever at the thought of just how Miss Cox was going to treat him.

I fancy there is no human so romantic as a sixteen-year-old girl and
here were five girls all in the neighbourhood of sixteen and all simply
bubbling over with sentimentality. Miss Cox came out on the porch and
there we stood fully prepared for any outburst. We all of us noted that
Miss Cox looked remarkably well in a blue and white lawn that showed off
her really very good figure to perfection. I had long ago found out that
Miss Cox was not so very homely, after all. To be sure her face was
rather crooked, and her smile very twisted, but her head was well set,
and her hair thick and glossy, and her figure athletic and graceful.

"Hello, Bob!"

"Hello, Jinny!" and that was all! They shook hands in quite a
matter-of-fact way.

"I believe we were mistaken," whispered Dum to me.

"Wait and see," I cautioned, "they could not fall on each other's necks
right before all of us."

"Maybe not, but they need not greet each other like long lost fish,"
grumbled Dum.

But I knew very well if they had been nothing at all to each other but
just acquaintances who had not met for about seventeen years, they would
have had some conventional remarks to make and not just said "Hello!"

At this crucial moment poor, dear Blanche appeared announcing supper:

"Your repast is reserved, Miss Tucker," and in we went to a very good
meal. Blanche had evidently found it no trouble to forget what she had
learned at school in the way of domestic science and she had cooked as
good a Virginia supper as one could wish. The Hampton spots were done to
a turn; the biscuit were light and fluffy, and as I had seen to the
batter bread, if I do say it who shouldn't, it was about perfect.

Mr. Gordon may have been suffering with lovesickness of seventeen years'
standing, but he certainly proved himself a good trencher knight.

"All of you have some excuse for appetites as I wager anything you have
been in the water twice today, but I have no excuse except that the food
is so good and I am so tired of boarding," said our guest as he helped
himself to another fluffy biscuit that poor, dear Blanche was handing
around with an elegant air like a duchess at a tea.

"Well, we did go in twice today, although it is supposed to be a bad
thing to do. Somehow I never can resist it myself and naturally I don't
expect the girls to resist what I can't myself," said Zebedee.

"How was the water; pretty warm?"

"Oh, fine this morning before breakfast but rather brillig this
afternoon," answered Dum.

"Brillig?"

"Yes, brillig! Don't you know your Alice?

          "'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
            Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
          All mimsy were the borogoves,
            And the mome raths outgrabe.'"

And then a strange thing happened. Before Dum got half through her
quotation Miss Cox's face was suffused with blushes, and Mr. Gordon
first looked pained and then determined and when he answered he spoke to
Dum but he looked at Miss Cox.

"Well, I don't know my Alice as well as I might, but I have read it and
re-read it and think it a most amusing book. I don't remember that
strange verse, however,---- Do you know, Miss Dum, I used to be such a
silly ass as to think there was nothing amusing in Alice in Wonderland,
and once a long time ago I fell out with the very best friend I ever
had in the world because I said the Lobster Quadrille was the kind of
thing that no one but a child could find anything funny in? And she
thought differently, and before we knew it we were at it hammer and
tongs, and both of us said things we did not really mean (at least I did
not mean them)----"

"Neither did I, Bob," said Miss Cox, frankly. I certainly liked Miss Cox
for the way she spoke. She was what Tweedles calls a "perfect
gentleman."

"And what is more, Jinny, the Lobster Quadrille is my favourite poem
now," and Mr. Gordon looked very boyish, "or it might be unless you
think the charming bit Miss Dum has just recited is better."

"How do you like this?" said Dum, rather bent on mischief I fancied:

          "'In winter when the fields are white,
           I sing this song for your delight--

           In spring, when woods are getting green,
           I'll try and tell you what I mean.

           In summer, when the days are long,
           Perhaps you'll understand the song.

           In autumn, when the leaves are brown,
           Take pen and ink and write it down.

           I sent a message to the fish:
           I told them, 'This is what I wish.'

           The little fishes of the sea,
            sent an answer back to me.

           The little fishes' answer was,
           'We cannot do it, Sir, because----'

           I sent to them again to say,
           'It will be better to obey.'

           The fishes answered with a grin,
           'Why, what a temper you are in!'

           I told them once, I told them twice;
           They would not listen to advice.

           I took a kettle, large and new,
           Fit for the deed I had to do.

           My heart went hop, my heart went thump;
           I filled the kettle at the pump.

           Then someone came to me and said,
           'The little fishes are in bed.'

           I said to him, I said it plain,
           'Then you must wake them up again.'

           I said it very loud and clear;
           I went and shouted in his ear.

           But he was very stiff and proud;
           He said, 'You need not shout so loud!'

           And he was very proud and stiff,
           He said, 'I'll go and wake them, if----'

           I took a corkscrew from the shelf;
           I went to wake them up myself.

           And when I found the door was locked,
           I pulled and pushed and kicked and knocked.

           And when I found the door was shut,
           I tried to turn the handle, but----'"

Dum recited this poem with fervor and great elocutionary effects and
simply convulsed the crowd. The whole thing was said directly to Mr.
Gordon and the naughty girl seemed to have some personal meaning when
she said, "My heart went hop, my heart went thump," and when she ended
up with a hopeless wail, "I tried to turn the handle, but----," Mr.
Gordon actually went to Miss Cox, as we arose from the supper table,
drew her hand within his arm and deliberately led her out on the beach,
and in plain hearing of all of us, said:

"The door isn't shut for good, is it, Jinny?"

And we heard her answer: "No, Bob, not if you 'pull and push and kick
and knock.'"

Well, Bob certainly did "pull and push and kick and knock." I have
never imagined a more persistent lover. He seemed to be trying to catch
even for all he had lost in those seventeen years. He told Zebedee that
after the foolish quarrel he and Miss Cox had had on that wet, wet
picnic, he had been called home by the financial disaster of his father,
and while he knew he had been hard-headed in the affair, he felt she had
been unreasonable, too, in demanding that he should agree with her about
the absurd poem in Alice in Wonderland; and so had left the University
without trying to right matters. Then when he had realized the
tremendous difficulty his family was in, and found that not only would
he have to go immediately to work but that his mother and sister would
be dependent on his exertions, he felt that it was on the whole best
that he and Miss Cox should separate. The engagement was already broken
and he went off to his long and up-hill work saddened and forlorn;
and Miss Cox, rather embittered by the experience, feeling that she
had been hasty and exacting but too proud to make a move towards a
reconciliation, had spent all the long years in vain regrets.

"Well, I hope they will be very happy," sighed Dum when we were
discussing the matter while we lay on our closely packed cots the first
night of Mr. Gordon's visit. "It does seem terribly unromantic for the
separation to have been caused by the Lobster Quadrille."

"It might have been a permanent separation if it had been just plain
lobster, 'specially in cans," said funny Mary Flannagan.

"Didn't Miss Cox look sweet in that blue dress? I thought she was almost
pretty but maybe it was the love-light in her eyes," sentimentalized
Annie Pore.

"Isn't it a pity they are so old?" deplored Dee. "His hair is real
grey."

"It's trouble that has done it," said Mary. "I wondered, Dum, you didn't
get off that verse on him about the voice of the lobster. Maybe that
would have been too personal:

          "'Tis the voice of the lobster, I heard him declare,
            'You have baked me too brown, I must sugar my hair.'
          As a duck with his eyelids, so he with his nose,
            Trims his belt and his buttons and turns out his toes.'

It would have been rather personal because Mr. Gordon's hair does look
rather sugared and certainly Miss Cox has baked him pretty brown."

"What do you s'pose your Cousin Park Garnett would say, Page, if she
knew that our chaperone for the house party had gone and got herself as
good as engaged the very second evening?" laughed Dee.

"I fancy with her characteristic elegance she would exclaim: 'Oh, you
chaperone!'"



CHAPTER VIII.

LETTERS.


          To Dr. James Allison from Page Allison.

                                           Willoughby Beach,
                                              July--, 191--.

          My Dearest Father:

          We are having the grandest time that ever was and
          all we want now is for you to take a little
          holiday and come down to see us. It would do you
          worlds of good and surely your patients can let
          you go for a little while. Sometimes I think you
          should get an assistant or try to persuade some
          young doctor to settle in the neighbourhood. You
          never have any fun. I feel very selfish to have
          gone off and left you and Mammy Susan when I have
          been away all winter, but I promise to come back
          the first of next month and not to budge from
          Bracken until it is time to go to school the
          middle of September. I hope Cousin Sue Lee will be
          with us then, as I should hate to miss her visit,
          one moment of it. On the other hand I devoutly
          hope that Cousin Park Garnett will pay her yearly
          visitation while I am away. I heard a rumor that a
          Mrs. Garnett was expected at the hotel here, but I
          am trusting in my hitherto lucky stars that it is
          not Cousin Park. If she comes to Willoughby, I am
          going to bury my head in the sand, like an
          ostrich, and pretend I'm somebody else.

          There is a camp of boys near us and they are just
          as nice as can be and seem to think it is their
          affair to give all of us girls a good time. They
          rented this cottage for last month and liked
          Willoughby so much that when their time was up
          they started a camp. They are James Hart, Stephen
          White, George Massie and Ben Raglan. They are
          called Jim, Wink, Sleepy and Rags, and as we have
          come to know them pretty well and they are not the
          kind of boys one stands on ceremony with, we call
          them by their nicknames, too. Wink White is
          studying medicine and so is Sleepy, when he is not
          playing foot-ball or sleeping. Wink is very clever
          and intensely interested in his work.

          Mr. Tucker (only I call him Zebedee now) is
          teaching me how to swim. He says I am a very apt
          pupil because I am not a bit afraid; although he
          teases me a great deal because one day, the very
          first time I went in, I politely went to the
          bottom, and he says I made the biggest bubbles he
          ever saw. He calls me "Sis Mud Turkle," but I
          don't mind a bit. There is some kind of joke on
          all of us, even Annie Pore, who is so touchy we
          have to be careful. But Zebedee just has to tease
          and he says he can't leave out Annie, as it might
          make her feel bad.

          Of course Mary Flannagan has a joke on everybody
          and everybody has a joke on her. She is a
          delightful person to be on a house party with,
          always so full of fun and always starting
          something.

          Dum and Dee are the same old Tweedles, the very
          most charming and agreeable persons in the world.
          I have saved up the most important to the
          last:--our chaperone, Miss Cox, has gone and got
          herself engaged! It is an old lover she used to
          have when she was a girl and he has turned up in
          the most unexpected and romantic way, and all of
          us girls are so excited over it we can hardly eat
          and sleep. We are going to miss her terribly at
          Gresham. She can make me understand mathematics,
          which is going some, and how I am to proceed into
          quadratic equations without her, I cannot see. We
          do not know when they are to be married, but
          rather think it will be soon. Zebedee bids to be
          flower girl.

          You may be sure that Miss Cox and Mr. Gordon come
          in for their share of teasing. I used to think
          Miss Cox was very old but since she got engaged
          she does not seem to be any older than we are, and
          while Mr. Gordon has very grey hair, he is really
          not old at all, not much older than Zebedee, who
          is the youngest person of my acquaintance.

          All the old girls at Willoughby run after Zebedee,
          much to Tweedles' disgust. I believe it would
          about kill the twins if their father should ever
          marry again, and indeed I think it would be hard
          on them and I hope he never will, certainly not
          any of these society girls who are down here at
          the beach. I don't believe they would any of them
          make him happy.

          Tell Mammy Susan that her great niece is doing
          very well and everyone likes her. Do not tell her
          that she is a perfect scream, using the longest,
          most ridiculous words in the world, never by any
          accident pronounced properly or in the right
          place. She is certainly proof positive of a little
          learning being a dangerous thing; but she is a
          kindly, sweet-tempered creature and as soon as we
          persuaded her to cook as she did before she went
          to school, we found her very capable.

          Good-bye, my dearest Father, and please come see
          us. We are one and all longing for you. Give my
          best love to Mammy Susan and the dogs.

                              Your devoted daughter,
                                                PAGE.


          From Blanche Johnson to Mammy Susan.

          Willerbay beech.

          Dere ant Susen--

          i Take my pen in han to enform you that this leves
          me in pore helth and hopes it finds You in the
          same. The son of the C show is very hard on my
          complexshun and i think the endsewing yer i will
          spind my vocation in the montings. the yung ladys
          my hostages is most kind and considerable to me
          and Mis page tretes me like her own sister. Our
          shapperoon is in the throws of coarting and all of
          us maidens is very rheumatic in consequince
          thereof. Mis page and the other young female ladys
          who is engaged in this visitation declares they is
          got little if no use for the opposition sect but
          that is one thing i do not give very cerus
          credentials to as our pieazzer is one mask of
          yuths who no doubt would be spry to leve if they
          did not suspicion they was welcum. My kind
          empoyerer is now taken what he designs as his
          much kneaded rest but I cannot see that he rests
          none as he keeps up with all the other boys and
          dances and frolix just like he was the parient of
          nothin. I ask Mis page if he want her bow and she
          took on so dignifidedly that i done see i ain't
          made no mistake, ennybody ken see that Mis page is
          the favoright of the party, The twinses is plum
          crazzy about her but i dont bleive they suspicion
          that they pa is so intrusted. They keeps
          theyselves quite busy shoein off some fine ladys
          what is most attentave to they pa and never seems
          to see what is under they feet, uv cose i no Mis
          page is yung yit but evy day she is making out to
          grow a little older and it looks lak mister Tucker
          is standin still or even gittin some younger. i
          bleive they will meet in this path of life (as a
          pote done said) and then proceed together. No more
          from yose at presence. Mis page has done invitided
          me to stop at Bracken to pay you a visitation
          before i return to the cemetary of learning and if
          nothin ocurs to prevint me i will take gret
          plesure in compiling with her request.

                                  your gret nease,
                                             BLANCHE JOHNSON.


          From Annie Pore to her father, Mr. Arthur
          Ponsonby Pore, of Price's Landing.

          My Dear Father:

          I should have written you immediately on my
          arrival at Willoughby Beach, but we had so many
          delightful pleasures planned for us by our kind
          host that I found very little time for
          correspondence.

          I can never thank you enough for permitting me to
          join this charming house party. Everyone is so
          very kind to me, I find myself gradually
          overcoming my habit of extreme shyness and now
          endeavour to join in the gaieties and to make
          myself as agreeable as possible, feeling that that
          is the way I can repay my friends for their
          hospitality.

          I am learning to swim but am not so quick at it as
          Page Allison. Already she is able to keep up for
          many strokes. Mr. Tucker himself is teaching us
          and his patience is wonderful. He first taught us
          to float, as he says if we are in an accident and
          can float we will surely be saved, as anyone can
          tow a floating person to safety. The Tucker twins
          and Mary Flannagan are fine swimmers and Miss Cox
          is the strongest swimmer on the beach.

          We are all quite excited over the fact that Miss
          Cox is to be married. I am very glad of her
          happiness but very sorry that she will not be at
          Gresham next year as she was so interested in my
          voice and encouraged me so kindly. Page feels
          badly, too, as Miss Cox is the only teacher she
          has ever had who could make her comprehend
          mathematics.

          Mr. Tucker sends you many messages and repeats his
          invitation for you to come to Willoughby for a
          week-end. I do sincerely hope you will do so. It
          would be a pleasant change for you and no doubt
          your assistant could take care of the shop in your
          absence. Harvie Price is to be here next week,
          also another boy who attended Hill Top, Thomas
          Hawkins. The cottage is quite roomy so there is no
          danger of crowding, and I can assure you it would
          be splendid if you could come.

                                Your devoted daughter,
                                         ANNIE DE VERE PORE.


          Miss Josephine Barr from Miss Caroline Tucker.

                                          Willoughby Beach,
                                              July -- ----.

          My dear old Jo:

          If you only could have come! We are having such
          times and such heaps of them. In the first place,
          all five of us girls are sleeping on the same
          porch with our cots so close together the cover
          hasn't room to slip. We go in the water twice a
          day, although every day Zebedee says it must be
          the last day, but every day he is the first one in
          and the last one out. Our before-breakfast swim is
          nothing more than just in and out, and such
          appetite as it gives us! I am dying to tell you
          the great news, and Miss Cox says I may tell you.
          She is going to be married!!! A lovely man that
          used to be stuck on her ages and ages ago! I tell
          you he is stuck still, all right, all right. He
          goes by the name of Robert Gordon and looks like a
          _vrai_ hero of romance, iron-grey hair and
          moustache and the most languishing gaze you ever
          beheld. We are right silly about him because he
          certainly does know how to make love. As for Coxy,
          she is simply great and rises to the occasion in
          fine shape. She looks real young here lately and
          has given up looking as though she were trying not
          to smile. Instead of that, she laughs outright,
          which is certainly much more becoming.

          I wish you could see your little room-mate, Annie
          Pore. She has bloomed forth into a regular English
          rose! I never saw anything like the way the boys
          swarm around her, just like bees! She is not
          nearly so shy as she used to be, but she is still
          very quiet and demure and has a kind of
          sympathetic way of listening that surely fetches
          the hemales. She is really beautiful and is always
          so anxious to help and is so considerate of
          others. I fancy her selfish old father has been
          good for her disposition in a way. We are rather
          expecting Mr. Pore to come see us. I hope if he
          does come he will not cast a damper over Annie's
          spirits.

          Mary Flannagan is simply splendid. Page calls her
          our clown dog, and the name suits her to a T. She
          is the funniest girl in the world and her good
          nature is catching. She is a good swimmer and how
          she does it in the bathing suit she wears, I
          cannot see. Fancy swimming with three yards of
          heavy serge gathered around your waist! I think
          Mary and Annie will room together next year at
          Gresham since you are not to be there. They will
          be good for one another, but no one could do for
          Annie what you did.

          I have not told you anything about Page, but you
          know what Page always is--just Page. She is still
          busy making her million friends, but she never
          gives up her old friends for the new ones.

          Guess who is here at Willoughby! That Mabel
          Binks! She arrived yesterday and is stopping at
          the hotel. I hope she will keep herself to herself
          but I 'most know she won't. She is bent on getting
          in with Zebedee and he is so dead polite where
          girls are concerned that he is sure to submit. She
          is kin to one of the boys in the camp near us and
          is pushing the relationship for all it is worth.
          Poor Stephen White (Wink for short) is the cousin
          and I have an idea he is not very proud of the
          connection, but is too much of a gentleman to say
          so. Wink and Page are great friends, have been
          from the first minute they met, and I bet you a
          hat Mabel Binks butts in on that friendship and
          tries to break it up. She has had it in for Page
          ever since the time the caramel cake gave all of
          us fever blisters and Page used the blisters, of
          which Mabel boasted a huge one, as circumstantial
          evidence that Mabel had stolen a hunk of our cake.

          Good bye, dear Jo. All the girls send you lots of
          love and Dum says she will write next time.

                               Very affectionately,
                                           DEE TUCKER.



CHAPTER IX.

THE START.


"Well, I've a great mind not to go!" exclaimed Dum pettishly. "I can't
see why that old Mabel Binks always has to go where we go. We can't even
spend a month at Willoughby without her traipsing here after us."

"Yes! And for her to make out to Wink that we are her very best friends
at Gresham just so he will ask her on the sailing party! Gee, I can't
stand her. I'll stay at home if you do, Dum," and Dee began to take off
the clean middy blouse she was in the act of donning to go on a sailing
party that the boys from the camp were getting up for our benefit.

"Well, that will certainly leave Mabel with a clear field for action.
Didn't we agree last winter that the best thing to do with Mabel was to
be very polite to her? What excuse could you give the boys?" I asked,
hoping to bring Tweedles to reason.

"Tell them the truth!"

"The truth! Well, I must say it would sound fine to say to Wink: 'We
just naturally despise your cousin and since she is to be on this party
that you have been so kind as to get up for us, we will have to decline.
Besides, this cousin of yours is so dead set after our father that we
can't sit by and watch her manoeuvres, but feel that the best thing
for us to do is to leave him to her tender mer----'" I was not allowed
to finish, but Tweedles immediately saw how impossible it would be to
stay off the party. Dee put her clean middy back on and in a jiffy we
were down on the porch with the rest of the crowd.

It was irritating for Mabel Binks to come as a discordant element in our
little circle, but as for her being at Willoughby, she certainly had as
much right there as we had and it was absurd for the twins to take the
stand that she had come there because of them. Zebedee seemed to have
very little use for the dashing Mabel but the sure way to enlist his
sympathy for her was to be rude to the girl. She was very polite to all
the Tuckers but had it in for Annie Pore and me; and as for Mary
Flannagan: she simply ignored Mary's existence, much to that delightful
person's amusement. Mary could imitate her until you could declare that
Mabel was there and sometimes she would do it when you least expected
it, as on this morning while we were waiting for the boys to come for
us. They were to go by for Mabel first and then pick us up on the way to
the landing where the two boats were in readiness for us, a cat boat and
a naphtha launch. Neither boat was big enough for the whole crowd so we
had decided to divide the party.

"I have determined how we are to sit," said Mary in the coarse, nasal
tone that belonged to Mabel, "I prefer the naphtha launch, as cat boats
are so dirty. I intend that the Tuckers, especially Mr. Tucker, shall
accompany me, also Stephen White and Mr. Hart. Page and Annie and Mary
must find room in the cat boat while I will allow Sleepy and Rags to
look after them. Oh! Miss Cox! I forgot her! She can go in the cat boat,
too, but we will make room for Mr. Gordon in the launch."

We were convulsed at this remark. Mary had not only imitated her tone
but had clearly voiced the character of Mabel, who by the way had not
been told of Miss Cox's engagement and had amused all of us very much by
her endeavours to attract Mr. Gordon.

"What's the joke?" demanded Wink, arriving with Mabel and the boys while
we were still laughing at Mary's mimicry.

"Oh, the kind of joke that would lose in repetition," declared Dum.

"I bet it was something on me," said poor Sleepy, "but if it was, I'm
sure to hear of it, though. There is one thing certain, if there is a
joke on me it is obliged to come out."

"Not if you can keep it to yourself," laughed Dum. "You know perfectly
well the time you got mixed up with the laundry you told on yourself.
None of us was going to breathe a word of it."

"Well, how did I know? I thought girls always told and I was determined
that the fellows should understand exactly how it happened and so--and
so----"

"And so you will never hear the last of it. Well, next time trust the
girls a little and you will fare better."

It had taken Sleepy some time to get over his extreme embarrassment
occasioned by his natural shyness combined with the unfortunate
occurrence of our first meeting with him. He was something of a
woman-hater, anyhow, according to his friends, but we decided that he
was really more afraid of us than anything else; and when he found out
that we were not going to bite him nor yet gobble him up whole, he made
up his mind to be friends with us; and when he once made up his mind to
like us, he outdid even the courtly Jim, and the genial Wink, and the
sympathetic Rags, in his attentions. Wherever we went, the young giant
could be seen hunching along in our wake with that gait peculiar to
football players.

"It looks like old Sleepy had waked up at last," Wink said to me. "To my
certain knowledge he never said two words to a girl before and now, look
at him! I wish he would fall in love and maybe it would give him some
ambition to get ahead in his studies. You see, Sleepy's people have got
oodlums of chink and Sleepy knows that he has got a living without
making it. The old fellow has a wonderfully good mind but absolutely no
ambition, except of course to make the team and to keep up his football
record. He is supposed to be studying medicine, but I'll wager anything
he does not yet know the bones in the body."

"Maybe he is going to be an oculist and won't have to know the bones in
the human body," I ventured. "He seems to be vastly interested in
Annie's eyes lately." Indeed there was something of the clinging vine in
our little English friend that appealed to George Massie's great
strength, and he had assumed the attitude of protector and forest oak,
one singularly becoming to him.

"You had better go in the naphtha launch," I heard him say to Annie. "It
is ever so much safer, and you can't swim."

"Well, let me go wherever the rest think best. I don't want to take any
one else's place," said Annie, anxious as usual to efface herself.

She need have had no fear of being allowed to take any one else's place
with Mabel Binks the self-elected chief cook and bottle washer of the
occasion. That young woman was looking extremely handsome in a white
linen tailored suit with a red parasol, Panama hat of the latest cut,
red tie, red belt and red silk stockings. The seashore was a very
becoming place for Mabel, as sunburn brought out her good points, giving
an added glow to her rather lurid beauty. She looked really magnificent
on that morning of the sailing party and her grown-up, stylish clothes
made all of us feel rather childish in our middy blouses and khaki
shirts and hats.

Miss Cox was dressed very much as we were except that she tucked in her
middy, and Mabel's effulgence seemed to take all the colour from our
beloved chaperone, who had been seeming to us almost beautiful lately
because of the love-light in her eyes. Mabel's brilliancy outshone even
love-light. I became very conscious of the many new freckles on my nose
and Dee said afterwards hers seemed so huge to her that they actually
hurt her eyes. Dee and I always got freckled noses and it was a source
of some distress to both of us. As for Mary, the freckles had met long
ago on her turkey-egg countenance, while Dum had long streamers of
peelings hanging from her nose. She did not freckle but declared she
grew fifteen brand new skins every summer.

Annie was a great comfort to me as I took a quick inventory of my
friends, who on that day compared so unfavourably with the glowing
beauty. Annie looked as lovely as ever. She had that very fair skin that
neither tans nor freckles, and her ripe wheat hair was curling in little
tendrils around her white neck and calm forehead.

"Thank goodness my hair curls, too," I thought, "and the dampness won't
make me look too stringy," and then I took myself to task for thinking
about such foolish things, as though it made any difference what we, a
lot of kids, looked like, anyhow.

Zebedee was carrying Mabel's parasol and they seemed to be having a most
intimate conversation, certainly a very spirited one into which she
constantly drew Mr. Gordon; and as Miss Cox had hooked her arm in Mary's
and everyone else was coupled off, Mr. Gordon soon fell into step with
the gay pair.

"Disgusting!" I heard Dum mutter, but I hoped she would not let anyone
see how furious she was. I noticed she closed her eyes and I saw her
lips move and knew she was praying, "Don't let me biff Mabel Binks,
don't let me biff her," just as she had at the football match at Hill
Top the fall before. We reached the landing where the boats were
anchored and as Dum had not biffed Mabel, I suppose her prayer was
answered.

"Oh, there are the boats! What a darling little launch! Dum and Dee and
I bid to go in that. Mr. Gordon, will you please arrange those cushions
in the stern for me? Be sure and don't lose me, Mr. Tucker, and I will
finish that delicious yarn I was in the midst of. Stephen, you will run
the launch, I know, as that will give you such a good chance to be near
Dee, and, Mr. Hart, here is a nice seat for you right by Dum."

Her words were so exactly what Mary had said they would be, that we who
had heard Mary's prophetic imitation could hardly contain our merriment;
and strange to say, the twins, in a measure hypnotised by her
determination to carry out her schemes, stepped with unaccustomed
docility into the pretty launch; but the polite Mr. Gordon arranged the
cushions and then got out determined not to be separated from his
inamorata for the sail. Wink and Jim naturally complied with the
arrangement as far as being near the Tuckers was concerned, but Wink
said:

"Put me where I look best, but I think Sleepy had better run his own
launch, especially since I don't know the first thing about it."

And Sleepy thought so, too, but he quietly determined that Annie Pore
should go along. The girl was too sensitive to be willing to risk the
withering scorn of Mabel's black-eyed glance and begged to be allowed to
take a seat in the cat boat. Just as the launch was ready to start,
Zebedee, who had been stowing the bathing suits away under the seats,
made a flying leap for the landing, calling back:

"That story will have to keep, Miss Binks, as I have been promising
myself the pleasure of giving Page a sailing lesson today," and for
once in their lives I feel sure that Tweedles were glad to have their
beloved father leave them.

Mabel lay back on her cushions like a sulky Cleopatra with the
expression that the queen herself might have worn had Antony refused to
ride in the royal barge, choosing instead to paddle his own mud scow
down the Nile.



CHAPTER X.

THE FINISH.


We were a merry party in spite of this little _contretemps_. The day was
perfect and a fresh breeze gave promise of good sailing. Our destination
was Cape Henry, where we planned to have a dip in the surf and then a
fish dinner at the pavilion. The launch could make much better time than
the cat boat, so Sleepy was to run over ahead of us and give the order
for dinner. Sleepy was not greatly pleased with the arrangement of
guests and I heard him mutter something about being the goat, but his
good nature was never long under a cloud and Dum and Dee, being in a
state of extreme hilarity over the outcome of Mabel's machinations, kept
the male passengers on the launch in a roar of laughter. Jim told me
afterwards that he had never seen the twins more amusing and even the
sullen beauty finally decided that the day was too pretty to keep up
her ill humour. After all, there were other fish in the sea besides
Zebedee: namely, Mr. George Massie, alias Sleepy; so she moved her seat
from the comfortable stern and exercised her fascinations on the shy
engineer by demanding a lesson in running the motor.

Sailing was a new and exciting experience to Annie and me. I never
expect to be more thrilled until I am finally allowed to fly. The boat
was a very light one. Zebedee thought the sail was a little heavy for
the hull but we went skimming along like a swallow. Tacking was a
mysterious performance that must be explained to me and I was even
allowed to help a little. Zebedee endeavoured to make me learn the parts
of the boat but I was singularly stupid about it, having a preconceived
notion of what a sheet meant and a hazy idea of which was fore and which
aft, which starboard and which port.

Occasionally the launch circled around us and got within hailing
distance and we would exchange pleasantries, but Mabel never deigned to
notice us. She was sitting by Sleepy and seemed to have mastered the
art of running a naphtha launch. Tweedles told me afterwards that she
made a dead set at the young giant but that he seemed to be perfectly
unconscious of what she was after, and as soon as she had learned the
extremely simple engine, after warning her to keep well away from the
cat boat, he curled himself up on a pile of sweaters and went fast
asleep. They say it was too funny for anything when Mabel realized the
desertion of her teacher. She addressed a honeyed remark to him and
received no answer but a smothered snort; she turned, and there he was
lying prone on the deck, an expression on his rosy countenance like a
cherub's, while he emitted an occasional soft, purring snore.

          "There was a young lady named Fitch,
           Who heard a loud snore, at which
           She raised up her hat
           And found that her rat
           Had fallen asleep at the switch,"

sang Wink. "Hard luck, Mabel, but that is the way Sleepy always does.
You must not take it personally. He even falls asleep when Miss Page
Allison is entertaining him. The more amused he is, the quicker he is
overcome with sleep. Miss Annie Pore is the only person who can keep him
awake for any length of time, and that is because she is so quiet it is
up to him to talk; and while he may be talking in his sleep, it doesn't
sound like it."

"Awful pity we didn't insist on her coming in the launch if for no other
reason than to keep him awake," said Jim. "She is a wonderfully charming
girl and so pretty, don't you think so, Miss Binks?"

"Pretty and charming! You can't mean Orphan Annie! Why, she is the
laughing stock of Gresham,--namby, pamby cry-baby!"

"Mabel Binks, you must have forgotten that Annie is our guest and one of
our very best friends," stormed Dum.

"And no one ever laughed at her except persons with neither heart nor
breeding. I will not say who they were as I respect Wink too much to be
insulting to his guest," said Dee, tears of rage coming into her eyes.

"Oh, don't mind me!" exclaimed Wink uneasily, fearing a free fight was
imminent.

All this time the two boats were coming nearer and nearer together. We
were on the starboard tack and several times before during the morning
we had come quite close to the launch and then the faster boat had
swerved out of our way and we had gone off on a new tack, after calling
out some form of repartee to our friends.

I never did believe Mabel meant to do it, but Tweedles to this day
declares it was with malice of forethought that she deliberately held
the launch in its course, and it was only by the most lightning of
changes that Zebedee avoided a collision. The sail swung around without
the ceremony of warning us to duck, and as we realized the danger we
were in of being struck by the faster boat we instinctively crowded to
the other side of our little vessel; and what with the sudden swerving
of the heavy sail and the shifting of its human cargo and the added
swell of waves made by the launch, we turned over as neatly as Mammy
Susan could toss a flap jack.

          "Down went Maginty to the bottom of the sea,
           Dressed in his best suit of clothes."

There was no time to think, no time to grab at straws or anything else;
nothing to do but just go down as far as your weight and bulk
scientifically took you and then as passively come up again. I wasn't
nearly as scared as I had been when I went under in four feet of water,
as I just knew I could float and determined when I got to the top to lie
down on my back and do it, as Zebedee had so patiently taught me. My
khaki skirt was not quite so easy to manage as a bathing suit had been,
but it was not very heavy material and my tennis shoes were not much
heavier than bathing shoes. I spread out my limbs like a starfish and
without a single struggle found myself lying almost on top of the water
looking up into a blue, blue sky and hoping that Annie Pore would
remember just to let herself float and not struggle. Everyone else could
swim and a turnover was nothing to them. I floated so easily and felt so
buoyant, as one does always feel in very deep water, that if I had only
known that Annie was safe I would have been serenely happy. Annie was
safe because Sleepy, awakened by the screams from the women and shouts
from the men, had rolled out of the launch much more quickly than he had
ever rolled out of bed (except perhaps on that memorable occasion when
we had dumped him out), and with swift, sure strokes had reached the
spot where Annie had gone down; and when her scared face appeared above
water he was there to grab her. Wink and Jim had dived in, too, both
intent on saving me, and Zebedee was by me in a moment, praising me for
a grand floater.

Mary Flannagan was paddling around like a veritable little water spaniel
with her red head all slick with the ducking, and Miss Cox and Mr.
Gordon were gaily conversing as they tread water side by side. It did
not seem at all like an accident, but more like a pleasant tea party
that we happened to be having out in the middle of the bay.

"Look here, Dum, we are missing too much fun," declared Dee. "Come on!
Let's jump in, too. It will be low to be dry when everybody else is wet.
That is, everybody we care anything about." And those crazy girls slid
into the water, too, leaving the crestfallen Mabel to man the launch.

"Tweedles! What do you mean?" exclaimed their father. "Aren't we wet
enough without you?"

"Yes, but you seem to forget that the cat boat is going to have to be
righted and all of you men are paddling around here while the poor Goop
is slowly filling and sinking." Goop was the singularly appropriate name
for our top-heavy craft and sure enough she was in imminent danger of
going down for good.

Annie and I were helped into the launch and Sleepy took his place with
his hand on the little engine. Mabel was silently consigned to the stern
and the Cleopatra cushions, where she very humbly sat to the end of our
voyage. It did not take very long to right the Goop, and when she was
bailed out, half of the wet crowd clambered back into her and the rest
into the launch and we headed for Cape Henry, the hot sun doing its best
to dry our soaking wet clothes.

"Wasn't that grand?" exclaimed Mary. "I simply adore to swim in deep
water."

"Splendid," said Zebedee. "If I were not so modest, I should suggest a
rising vote of thanks to the person who so ably brought about this
disaster."

"Why modest?" inquired Dee. "It was certainly not your fault."

"Oh, yes it was, honey," and Zebedee looked meaningly at his daughter;
and she understood that it would be certainly pleasanter all around if
he took the blame. "I did it on purpose, too. I wanted to see if my
pupils would remember what I had told them about floating. I see Page
did remember,--or perhaps she is a born floater, just as she is a bubble
maker. I don't believe you remembered any of my instructions at all, did
you, Annie?"

"Oh, yes, sir, I did. I was just going to try to lie down on the water,
although I was terribly scared, when George came to my assistance.
I--I--was very glad to see him."

"Thank you, ma'am," and Sleepy blushed a deeper crimson than the sun had
already painted him.



CHAPTER XI.

CAPE HENRY.


We were still rather damp when we disembarked at Cape Henry and it was
decided that the best thing to do was to get into our bathing suits
immediately and spread out our clothes to dry. Bath houses were engaged
and with them a coloured maid who took charge of our wet things.

"Lawd love us! You is sho' wettish! White folks is pow'ful strange,
looks lak dey jes' tries to fall in de water. An' now you is goin' in
agin'. You must a got so-so clean out yander in de bay."

"Don't you ever go in bathing?" asked Dum.

"Who, me? No'm, not me! I hets up some water of a Sat'day night efen I
ain't too wo'out, an' I takes a good piece er lye soap an' I gibs myse'f
a scrubbin' dat I specks to las' me 'til nex' time," and with a rich
chuckle the girl added: "An' so fer it has."

"But all of us simply adore the water!" exclaimed Dum. "Don't you like
the feel of it?"

"No'm, it don't feel no way but jes' wet to me. You all what likes it is
welcome to it. I reckon it's a good thing niggers is black so de dirt
won't show an' dat white folks is fond er water, 'cause any little siled
place on 'em looms up mighty important. Yessum, I's goin' ter hab yo'
clothes good an' dry when you feel lak you is done got clean 'nuf to
come outn de ocean," and the grinning darkey carried off our damp things
to hang on a line and we joined the masculine members of our party to
take a dip in the surf.

The bathing at Willoughby is quiet, with rarely any surf, but at Cape
Henry great waves come rolling in, seemingly from the other side of the
ocean. There is a long sand bar running parallel with the beach, which
at high tide is submerged but at low tide shines out dry and white like
the back of an enormous sea monster. This bar forms a lovely little
pool, calm and clear, in strong contrast to the dashing waves outside.
As soon as the tide begins to recede, which it was doing when we emerged
from the bath houses, many little children come to play in this pool,
being as safe there as they would be in their bath tubs at home. Curious
shells are to be found there and wonderful pebbles, dear to the hearts
of children. I sometimes wonder what finally becomes of children's
treasures, the things they gather so laboriously and guard so carefully.
They always disappear in spite of the care the tots give them. I used to
think when I was a little thing that the brownies stole my treasures and
took them to the baby fairies to play with while their mothers were off
painting the flowers or mending the butterflies' wings. I hoped that the
baby fairies enjoyed my precious bits of coloured glass and the pieces
of shining mica, and wondered if they knew what little girl had owned
them, and if, some day, when they would grow up to be full-sized
fairies, they would not do something very nice for me because I had let
the brownies steal my toys.

Some of the older children had on bathing suits and were playing in the
shallow water, while the younger ones in rompers were seated on the
beach, digging for dear life in the warm, dry sand, filling their
brightly painted pails, patting down the contents and then turning out
the most wonderful and appetizing cakes. Meanwhile, their mammies
gossiped together, interfering occasionally when some childish vandal
knocked over a prize cake or made off with a purloined spade.

"'Ook, Mammy! ain' my ittle take pitty?" said a dumpling of a baby in
pink rompers and a pink beach bonnet tied on over a perfect riot of
golden curls.

"Yes, honey chile, it sho' is booful. Mammy's doll baby kin make de
pootiest cakes on dis here sand pile. Ain't you gonter gib yo' Mammy a
bite? Mammy is pow'ful fond er choclid cake." And the old woman looked
at her little charge as though she could eat her up, too, pink rompers
and all.

"I'll dive oo a ittle bit, Mammy, but oo mustn't eat much. It might make
oo sick an den baby hab to gib oo nas'y med'cine," and the little one
scooped up some of the sand cake in a shell and her old nurse pretended
to eat it with a great show of enjoyment. "Don't oo want some?" and she
held out a tempting shell full to Dee. Dee always attracted all children
and animals and was attracted by them.

"Delighted, I'm sure!" and she dropped down on the sand beside the
darling baby. For a time even the joys of surf bathing had to be
postponed while she played with her newly made conquest.

Annie Pore decided to keep in the shallow pool, having had enough of
deep water for the day, and Sleepy stayed with her as though she must be
protected from even two feet of water, which was the greatest depth of
the pool.

I found that I had learned to swim in some mysterious way. I struck
boldly out and took the waves as though I had always been surf bathing.

"Bravo!" exclaimed Zebedee, "how well you are coming on!"

"It is getting turned over that has done it," I declared. "You see, I
have found out that I can keep up and I am no longer afraid. I verily
believe I could swim over to Africa."

"Well, please don't leave us yet," begged Wink.

It was a wonderful sensation to find myself actually swimming without
the least fear. Swimming was after all nothing more than walking and
water was a medium to be used and not feared. Confidence was all that
was needed and my spill in the bay had given me that.

"I am very proud of my pupil," boasted Zebedee. "If the worst comes to
the worst and I lose my newspaper job, I'll give swimming lessons for a
living."

"Will you always employ the Venetian method and throw the babies out in
deep water and let them sink or swim?" I teased.

"Yes, and I'll take Miss Binks into partnership as an expert wrecker,"
he whispered.

That young woman was looking even finer than before in a very handsome
black silk bathing suit, slashed and piped in crimson. She had restored
herself to good humour and was having a very pleasant time with some
acquaintances she had met on the beach. We hoped her good humour would
last until she got safely back to Willoughby, as that meant more or less
good manners, too, and all we wanted from the belligerent Mabel was
peace at any price. At least, that was all I wanted and surely all
Annie Pore wanted. Tweedles were ready to give battle at any moment and
Mary Flannagan looked full of mischief.

"Do you s'pose Mabel is going to content herself with a sand bath?"
whispered Mary to me. "Maybe her suit is too fine to get wet."

"She certainly looks very stunning under that red parasol, posing up
there on the beach," said Dum, riding a wave and landing almost on top
of me. "I can't abide her but I must confess she is very paintable,
especially the red parasol. I'll never cease to regret that I did not
hook my foot in the handle and drag it overboard with me when I dived
off the launch. I thought about it while I was slipping off my shoes and
it would have been as easy as dirt to make out it was an accident; but
it would have been too Mabelesque an act and I could not quite make up
my mind to do it."

"I should say not, but if it could have happened and been a real
accident it would certainly have been fun," I exclaimed. "I can see you
leaping into the air with your toe hitched to the parasol like a kind
of a parachute. Who are her friends?"

"Search me! but I notice she does not see fit to introduce them. I
wonder whether she is ashamed of them or ashamed of us."

          "'Mother dear, may I go swim?'
           'Yes, my darling daughter,
           Hang your clothes on a hickory limb
           But don't go near the water,'"

sang Mary, throwing her voice so it seemed to come from behind Mabel.
Then we dived under the water and our giggles came up in the form of my
specialty, bubbles. Mabel never did wet her suit, however.

When we had had all the swim we wanted, we raced back to the bath houses
and found the humorous maid had our clothes all nicely dried. The effect
was rather rough-dried, but we were not in a position to be choosy.

"Well, here you is back agin! I can't sees dat you look no cleaner dan
you did befo'. I low all dat soakin' will draw de suption outn yo' bones
an' dey ain't nuf strength lef' in you to make a pot er soup."

And the truth was, I did feel a little feeble from the two swims and
realized that I was only fit for _soupe maigre_ or some very weak broth.
Food was what I needed; and as soon as we got into our rumpled clothes,
dinner was ready. What a dinner it was! Clam chowder first, with
everything in it that the proprietor could find, and seasoned to a
king's taste; then soft shell crabs with tartar sauce; then baked
blue-fish with roasted corn and creamed potatoes; then tomato salad;
then any kind of pie your fancy dictated.

"All I ask of you is not to eat ice cream," begged Zebedee; "it is fatal
along with crabs." And so we refrained, although it did seem to me with
all the layers of food between the crabs and dessert, it would have been
safe.

Dinner over, we determined to explore the Cape. It was a tremendously
interesting spot. In the first place it was at Cape Henry that the
English first disembarked in 1607. A stone tablet now supplants the old
wooden cross raised by the first settlers to mark the spot where the
adventurers landed on American soil. It is a bleak place with little
vegetation of any sort, nothing but the beach grass and a few stunted
oaks that look as though they had bowed their heads to invincible storms
from the moment that their little lives had burst from the acorns.

"They remind me of poor little factory children trying to grow to
manhood," I said to Zebedee who was showing us the sights. "When I think
of the oaks at Bracken and see these, it is difficult to realize that
they are all trees and all sprung from acorns. It is like a little
factory child by the side of George Massie, for instance." Zebedee the
sympathetic wiped his eyes at the thought of all the little mill hands
that we seemed to be powerless to help.

The old light-house built in 1690 was thrilling and I could hardly tear
myself away from it to go view the modern, up-to-date one that was open
for inspection. The wireless telegraph station, the first I had ever
seen, was not far from the old light-house, and it seemed strange to
think of the tremendous strides science had made since those sturdy
pioneers had built that picturesque old tower.

The sand dunes at Cape Henry are famous. They over-topped the cottages
in places and the little church was almost buried at one end. They say
this loose sand drifts like snow and the big wind storms in winter pile
it up into great hills so that the cottagers, returning for their summer
holidays, often have to dig out their homes before they can get to
housekeeping.

We had great larks sliding down these dunes and we got so dusty we were
ashamed to face the maid who had dried our clothes, knowing she would
have some invidious remarks to make about the uselessness of our having
washed, as she designated our sea bathing.

And now it was time to go home. We bade the grinning maid farewell, much
richer from our visit, as she was handsomely tipped by Wink, the
purse-bearer from the camp, and Zebedee, the ever lavish.

"When you gits dirty agin they's always plinty er water here," she
called out.

We changed places going back, as it was deemed not quite safe for Annie
and me to travel in the cat boat again. "Even if you can swim to
Africa," said Jim.

Annie was glad enough to get into the safer boat, but I enjoyed sailing
more than motoring, although that was delightful enough. Miss Cox and
Mr. Gordon came with us and Mary and Rags. Sleepy ran the boat and
although we were very quiet on the trip, everyone feeling a little tired
and very peaceful, I noticed that Sleepy did not go to sleep; when he
was not running the engine, he seemed to be taken up with looking after
Annie's comfort.

Once when our craft came close to the cat boat, Dum called out:

"Sing, Annie, sing!" and all of the rest, with the exception of Mabel,
joined in the request. And Annie sang:

          "'Sweet and low, sweet and low,
             Wind of the western sea,
           Low, low, breathe and blow,
             Wind of the western sea!
           Over the rolling waters go,
             Come from the dying moon and blow,
           Blow him again to me;
             While my little one, while my pretty one, sleeps.

          "'Sleep and rest, sleep and rest,
             Father will come to thee soon:
           Rest, rest, on mother's breast,
             Father will come to thee soon;
           Father will come to his babe in the nest,
             Silver sails all out of the west
           Under the silver moon:
             Sleep my little one, sleep my pretty one, sleep.'"

"Ah, ha, Miss Page Allison!" broke in Mabel's strident voice as we
disembarked at Willoughby, after the very smooth, peaceful journey,
"'The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong.'"

"That's so, but why this remark?" I asked. "What race has there been and
what battle?" The men were making all ship-shape in the boats while we
girls strolled on ahead. I had not the slightest idea what Mabel was
talking about.

"Why, I got your middle-aged beau, all right, all right! I fancy he was
glad enough to get away from you bread-and-butter school girls and have
some sensible conversation with a grown-up." I could not help smiling at
this, having often listened entranced to Mabel's methods of entertaining
men. If that was what she called sensible conversation, Zebedee must
have been truly edified.

"Well, it was a good thing Mr. Tucker, if that is the middle-aged beau
in question, was wise enough to take his bread-and-butter first before
he indulged in the rich and heavy mental food that you fed him on. If he
had taken it on an empty head, as it were, it might have seriously
impaired his mental digestion." I fired this back at Mabel, angered in
spite of myself.

"And so, Miss, you say Mr. Tucker has an empty head! How should you like
for me to tell him you said so?"

"Tell him what you choose," I answered, confident of Zebedee's knowing
me too well to believe I said anything of the sort. "And how would you
like me to tell Mr. Tucker you called him middle-aged?" and I left the
ill-natured girl with her mouth wide open. I wanted peace, but if Mabel
wanted battle then I was not one to run away. No one had heard her
remark and I felt embarrassed at the thought of repeating it. I could
hardly tell Tweedles that Mabel called their father "my middle-aged
beau," and certainly I could not repeat such a thing to Zebedee
himself. Mabel was evidently bent on mischief but I felt pretty sure
that in a battle of wits I could come out victorious. All I feared was
that she would do something underhand. Certainly she was not above it.
Like most deceitful persons, she was fully capable of thinking others
were as deceitful as herself.



CHAPTER XII.

FRECKLES AND TAN.


The next day we were lazy after the excitement of the sail to Cape
Henry. All of us slept late and when we did wake, we seemed to be not
able to get dressed.

"Let's have a kimono day," yawned Dee. "Zebedee and Miss Cox have gone
to Norfolk and there is not a piece of a hemale or grown-up around, so
s'pose we just loaf all day."

"That will be fine, not to dress at all until time to go to the hop!" we
exclaimed in chorus. There was to be a hop that night at the hotel, to
which we were looking forward with great enthusiasm. Zebedee was to meet
Harvie Price and Thomas Hawkins (alias Shorty) in Norfolk and bring them
back to Willoughby, where they expected to stay for several days. These
were the two boys we had liked so much at Hill Top, the boys' school
near Gresham, and Zebedee had taken a great fancy to both of them.

"I do wish my hateful, little, old nose wasn't so freckled," I moaned.
"I know I got a dozen new ones yesterday,--freckles, not noses. I'd like
to get a new nose, all right."

"Me, too!" chimed in Dee. "What are we going to look like at a ball with
these noses and necks?"

"Thank goodness, my freckles all run together," laughed Mary, "and the
more freckled I get the more beautiful I am," and she made such a
comical face that we burst out laughing.

"But look how I am peeling!" said Dum, examining her countenance in a
hand mirror. "Now freckles look healthy but these great peelings
streaming from my nose make me look as though I were just recovering
from scarlet fever. I do wish I could pull them all off before night."

Annie was the only one of us neither tanned nor freckled. Miss Cox had
taken on a healthy brown, which was rather becoming to her.

"If you young ladies is begrievin' over the condition of yo' cutlecles,
I is in a persition to reform you of a simple remedy that will instore
yo' complictions to they prinstine frishness," said Blanche who, coming
upstairs with the mail, had overheard our jeremiads on the subject of
our appearances.

"What is it! What is it!"

"You must first bedizen yo' count'nances in buttermilk, which will be
most soothing to the imbrasions, an' then you must have some nice dough,
made of the best flour an' lard, with yeast and seas'ning same as for
light rolls; an' this must be rolled out thin like, with holes cut fer
the nostrums fer the purpose of exiling. Then you must lie down fer
several hours and whin you remove this masquerade, you will find the
yeast is done drawed the freckles an' sun burn, an' all of you will be
as beautiful as the dawning."

"Oh, Blanche, please mix us up some dough right off! And is there any
buttermilk here?" asked Dum.

"Yes, Miss Dum, we've been gittin' it reg'lar fer waffles an' sich. I'll
bring up a little bucket of it fer yo' absolutions an' then I'll mix up
the dough."

"Be sure and make plenty, Blanche! I want to put it on my neck, too,"
said Dee.

"Well, we is mos' out er flour but I'll stretch it bes' I kin. The
impersonal 'pearance of female ladies is of more importation than
economics, an' I'm sure yo' paw will not be the one to infuse to buy
another bag of flour for the beautyfaction of his twinses an' they lady
guests."

Well, we washed and washed in buttermilk until we smelled like old
churns. Then we lay down while Blanche placed tenderly on each burning
countenance a dough mask. Annie did not need it, but she must have one,
too, even though it was in a measure "gilding the lily."

"Let me have a mouth hole instead of one for my nostrils," I demanded.
"I can breathe through my mouth for a while and I don't want to do
anything to keep the dough from doing its perfect work on my poor nose."

We must have presented a ridiculous appearance, lying stretched out on
our cots, each girl with her countenance supporting what looked like a
great hoe cake.

"Well, I tell you, one has to suffer to be beautiful!" exclaimed Mary.

"I don't mind it as much on my face as my neck," declared Dee. "It feels
like a great boa constrictor throttling me, but it would never do to
have my face as fair as a lily and my neck as red as a rose."

The air was fresh and soothing and we were tired anyhow; our masks were
not conducive to conversation, so one by one we dropped off to sleep
while the dough was getting in its perfect work. We slept for hours I
think, and while the dough was busy, the yeast was not idle but
responded readily to the warmth occasioned by our poor faces. The
air-holes, seemingly too large in the beginning, gradually began to
close in as the little leaven leavened the whole lump. Lying on your
back is sure to make you snore at any rate, and lying on your back with
almost all air cut off from you will cause stertorious breathing fearful
to hear.

I do not know how long we had been lying there, but I know I was having
a terrible dream. I dreamed I was under water, and the water was hot. I
was trying to get to the top, knowing I could float if I could only get
to the top, but every time I would come to the surface Mabel Binks would
sit on my face and down I would sink again. I was struggling and
clutching wildly at the air and trying to call Zebedee, and then Zebedee
pulled Mabel off me and I floated into the pure air. Incidentally I
opened my eyes to find the real Zebedee bending over me simply convulsed
with laughter, while Miss Cox pulled the mask off of Mary, who was
making a noise like a little tug trying to get a great steamer out of
harbour. Dum and Dee were sitting up rubbing their eyes and Annie was
blinking at the light and wondering where she was and what it was all
about.

"Well, it is a good thing we came home when we did or our whole house
party would have broken up in asphyxiation. When we opened the door down
stairs there was no sign of Blanche, but such noise as was issuing from
this sleeping porch! Sawing gourds was sweet music compared to it What
on earth do you mean by this peculiar performance?" and Zebedee burst
out into renewed peals of laughter and Miss Cox sank helpless on the
foot of my cot.

"If you could have seen yourselves!" she gasped. "Five girls in kimonos,
lying prone, and each one, in the place of a head, sporting a great
dumpling."

We looked woefully at our prized masks and to be sure each one had risen
to three times its original bulk. Little wonder breathing had been
difficult.

Dee still had the remedy around her neck, puffed out like an enormous
goitre, her chin resting comfortably on it. All of us felt as foolish as
we looked and that was saying a good deal.

"You certainly smell like a dairy lunch up here," sniffed Zebedee.
"Please tell me if you were assisting poor, dear Blanche and raising her
dough for her. Is this the method you housekeepers have employed all
summer to have such good bread? I wondered how you did it. But don't I
smell buttermilk, too?" We knew we were in for a good teasing and we got
it, although Miss Cox did her best to make Zebedee call a halt. "Is all
of this beautifying for the benefit of Harvie and Shorty, who by the
way are coming out in about an hour? I feel sad that you did not think I
was worth making yourselves pretty for, but maybe you knew that I like
freckles. If you did, I feel sadder than ever that you should have taken
away what I consider so charming."

I don't believe one single freckle was removed by our torture; but our
skin felt soft and satiny, and Dum's peelings all came off with her
mask. Then the long sleep had rested all of us so, after all, there was
no harm done except that all the flour was used up. That night we had no
bread but batter bread for supper, but since Blanche had mastered the
mixing of that dish, dear to the heart of all Virginians, we none of us
minded, just so she made enough of it, which she did.



CHAPTER XIII.

THE TURKEY-TAIL FAN.


Harvie and Shorty arrived in due time and very glad we were to see them.
Mary and Shorty rushed together like long lost brother and sister. They
made a pony team it was hard to beat.

"Gee, I'm glad to see you!" exclaimed the boy. "You and I don't have to
be grown up, do we, Mary?"

"Not on your life! No one will expect the impossible of us. The boys we
know here are real grown-ups, lots older than Harvie Price, real college
men. They are very nice but I feel like an awful kid with them. Of
course Mr. Tucker is as young as any of us."

"Of course!" echoed Shorty. "Isn't he just great?"

"You bet."

When we were all dressed for the hop, Zebedee declared we looked pretty
well in spite of our tan and freckles. He kept us on needles and pins
all the time, threatening to tell the boys of our dough masks. At supper
he repeatedly asked Blanche for hot rolls, insisting that she must have
them.

"I certainly smelled hot rolls when I got back from Norfolk and it seems
to me I saw batch after batch rising. Couldn't you spare me just one,
Blanche?" And when the girl rushed from the room to explode in the
kitchen, he said in a tone of the greatest concern: "Why, what is the
matter with poor, dear Blanche? Do you think perhaps she has eaten them
all herself?"

"Mr. Tucker come mighty near infectin' my irresistibles," Blanche said
to us after supper was over. "I tell you a kersplosion was eminent!
'Twas all I could do to keep from bringing disgracement on us all, in
fact, to speak in vulgar langige, I was nigh to bus'in'. I certainly do
think you young ladies looks sweet an' whin you puts a little talcim on
yo' prebosseses the sunburn won't be to say notificationable. I'll be
bound that ev'y las' one of you will be the belledom of the ball." All
we hoped for was not to be wall flowers.

A hop was quite an event to most of us. Annie and I had never been to
one in our lives, not a real hop. The dance at the Country Club when I
visited the Tuckers in Richmond was the nearest I had ever come to a
hop, and if this was to come up to that, I was expecting a pretty good
time. Annie was very nervous as her dancing had all been done at Gresham
and with girls, but we assured her that she was sure to do finely. The
Tucker twins had been going to hops ever since they could hop, almost
ever since they could crawl, so they were not very excited, but Mary was
jumping around like a hen on a hot griddle, trying new steps all the
time I was tying her sash. You may know that Mary would wear a great
bulging sash, instead of a neat girdle or belt. Chunky persons with
thick waists always seem to have a leaning towards sashes with huge
bows. Mary looked very nice, although her dress did have about twice as
much material in it as was necessary and she had put on an extra
petticoat for luck and style. Since it was the summer of very narrow
skirts, the effect was rather voluminous. She looked like the hollyhock
babies I used to make for my fairy lands, only their heads were green
while Mary's was red; but Mary's looks were the least thing about her.
It was her good cheerful disposition and her ready, kindly wit and
humour that counted with her friends.

Annie was lovely in the beautiful white crêpe de Chine, the dress that
had been her mother's and that she had worn at the musicale at Gresham
where she had charmed the audience with her old ballads. It was a pity
for her to wear this dress to dance in on a hot night as it was really
very handsome though so simple, but poor Annie had very few clothes and
her father seemed to think that a girl her age needed none at all.

The Tuckers were appropriately dressed in white muslin, Dum with a pink
girdle, Dee with a blue.

"Not that I should wear pink," grumbled Dum, "nor that Dee should wear
blue, as I look better in blue and Dee looks better in pink; but Zebedee
cuts up so when we go anywhere with him and don't dress in the colours
we were born in, that to keep the peace we have to do as he wants us
to. They tied pink ribbons on me and blue ribbons on Dee to tell us
apart, and Zebedee declares he still has to have something tied on us to
tell, which is perfectly absurd, as we do not look the least alike."

"You never have looked much alike to me, but I took such a good look at
you the first time I saw you that I never have got you mixed up except
once when I first saw you in bathing caps. I really do not think you
look as much like each other as you both look like your father. Now he
has Dee's dimple in his chin; and his hair grows on his forehead just
like Dum's, in a little widow's peak; and all three of you have exactly
the same shoulders."

"Well, all I know is I can tell myself from Dum on the darkest night."
With which Irish bull, Dee, having hooked on the offending blue girdle,
hustled us downstairs where the boys from the camp were awaiting our
coming.

"Let me see, eight escorts for six ladies!" exclaimed Zebedee. "That
means a good time all around!" And that is just what we had, a good time
all around.

The ballroom at the hotel was quite large with a splendid floor, and if
there was a breeze to be caught, it caught it. Seated on chairs ranged
around the wall were what Zebedee called the non-combatants, many old
ladies: maids, wives and widows, some with critical eyes, some with
kindly, but one and all bent on seeing and commenting on everything that
was doing.

The first person I beheld on entering the ballroom was no other than
Cousin Park Garnett, sitting very stiff and straight in a tight
bombazine basque, at least, I fancy it must have been bombazine--not
that I know what bombazine is; but bombazine basque sounds just like
Cousin Park looked. With majestic sweeps she fanned herself with a
turkey-tail fan, and her general expression was one of conscious
superiority to her surroundings. How I longed for a magic cap so that I
might become invisible to my relative! All sparkle went out of the scene
for me. I felt that it would not be much fun to dance with the critical
eye of Mrs. Garnett watching my every step and her unnecessarily frank
tongue ready to inform me of my many defects. If I could only dissemble
and pretend not to see her maybe she would not recognize me! But
conscience whispered:

"Page Allison, aren't you ashamed of yourself? You know perfectly well
what your father would say: 'She is our kinswoman, daughter, and proper
respect must be shown her.' Go up and speak to her and give her no real
cause for criticism." So, in the words of somebody or other, "I seen my
duty and done it."

"How burned and freckled you are, child!" was her cheerful greeting, as
she presented a hard, uncompromising cheek for me to peck.

"Yes, I've been on the water a good deal," I ventured meekly. "When did
you come?"

"I have been here only a few hours but I have heard already of the very
irregular household in which you are visiting."

"Irregular! Why, we have our meals exactly on time. Who said we didn't?"

"I was not referring to meals but morals," and the bombazine basque
creaked anew as she once more took up the task of cooling herself with
the turkey-tail fan. I felt myself getting very hot with a heat that a
turkey-tail fan could not allay.

"Morals, Cousin Park! Why, Blanche is a very respectable coloured girl
highly recommended by the president of her industrial school and Mammy
Susan, besides."

"Blanche! I know nothing of Mr. Tucker's domestic arrangements. What I
mean is that I hear from Miss Binks that you are absolutely unchaperoned
and I consider that highly immoral."

"Unchaperoned! How ridiculous! Miss Jane Cox is our chaperone and there
never was a lovelier one. Mabel Binks knows perfectly well Miss Cox is
there with us and she herself would give her eyes to be one of the
party," and then I bit my lip to keep from saying anything else about
the mischief-making girl.

"I understood from Miss Binks that there were only five young girls in
the cottage and that a camp of boys spent most of their time there and
that the carryings on were something disgraceful. She had some tale to
tell of your going up to wake one of the boys yourselves and dragging
him out of bed."

And so Mabel had distorted the truth about Sleepy to suit her own ends.
I flushed painfully and to the best of my ability told the story, but it
sounded very flat and stupid recounted to the unsympathetic, unhumorous
ears of Mrs. Garnett. I brought up Miss Cox and introduced her to the
turkey-tail fan, and our chaperone's quiet manner and dignity did much
to reassure my strict relative. I was laughing in my boots when I
realized that Mabel did not know of Miss Cox's engagement and so had not
told Cousin Park of it, or that irate dame would have considered our
chaperone not much of a chaperone, after all.

Zebedee claimed the first dance with me, speaking cordially to Cousin
Park, but she gave him a curt nod and turned with unexpected amiability
and condescension to converse with a faded little gentlewoman at her
side who had up to that time been overshadowed by that lady's conscious
superiority.

"Oh, my whole evening is ruined!" I wailed in Zebedee's ear. "It won't
be a bit of fun to dance, no matter how many or how few partners I may
get, while Cousin Park sits there and watches my every step, making
mental notes of the disagreeable truths she will get off to me or poor
Father the first time she gets a chance at him."

"Why, you poor little girl! Do you think I am going to let your first
hop be a failure? I am going to get that old Harpie out of this room if
I have to carry her out myself and propose to her in the bargain."

When the dance was over, Zebedee might have been seen eagerly looking
around the hotel as if in search of someone, on the porches, in the
lobby and finally in the smoking room, and then to pounce on a certain
old Judge Grayson of Kentucky, who was there poring over the afternoon
paper and smoking a very bad cigar. Judge Grayson was judge by courtesy
and custom, as Zebedee afterwards told me. He had never been on any
bench but the anxious bench of the grand stand, being a great judge of
horses.

"Ha, Judge, I am glad to see you! Have a cigar." The Judge accepted with
alacrity, first carefully extinguishing the light on the poor one he was
engaged in consuming and economically putting it back into his cigar
case, quoting in a pleasant, high old voice: "'For though on pleasure
she was bent, she had a frugal mind.' How are you, Tucker? Gad, I'm glad
to see you, boy! Dull hole this!"

[Illustration: Peeping in, we saw the game in full swing--_Page 145_]

"Do you find it so? Why don't you get up a game of auction? I wish I
could join you, but I've got my daughters and some of their young
friends here and dancing is the order of the evening for me."

"Gad, I'd like a game but don't know a soul. Fool to come to such a
place. I'll be off to Virginia Beach tomorrow."

"Now don't do that; you come see us tomorrow. I'll be bound you will
fall in love with all my girls and no doubt they will fight over you."

"Why, that would be nice, Tucker. No doubt this place is all right but I
have been lonesome," and the old fellow beamed on Zebedee.

"Of course you have. Come on, I'll introduce you to some ladies and you
can have a good game of auction bridge;" and before the Judge could find
any objection, Zebedee had steered him across the ballroom floor and had
him bowing and scraping in front of the haughty Mrs. Garnett. She
unbent at his courtly, old-fashioned compliments, and I distinctly saw
her tap him playfully with her turkey-tail fan. The faded gentlewoman
was next introduced and readily joined in the proposed game. A fourth
was easily found and before the next dance was over, Zebedee was beaming
on me, as I danced around with Wink, delighted as he afterwards declared
in having got the Harpie out of the room without having either to carry
her out or propose to her himself. The rest of the evening I could enjoy
to my heart's content with no hypercritical glances following me around.
Cousin Park had a good time, too. Auction bridge was her dissipation and
I have heard she played a masterly game. So Zebedee felt he had been a
real all 'round philanthropist.

Once between dances Zebedee and I were out on the porch getting a breath
of air and our steps took us near the window of the card room. Peeping
in, we saw the game in full swing. Cousin Park had just made a little
slam and she looked quite complacent and cheerful. The courtly Judge was
dealing compliments with the cards, there was a flush of pleasure on the
cheeks of the faded gentlewoman, and Cousin Park wielded her fan with
almost a coquettish air, announcing her bids with elephantine
playfulness.

Once Judge Grayson picked up the fan and, looking sentimentally at it,
began to quote in his high, refined old voice the following poem. It was
between rubbers so the card devotees listened with polite attention, but
Zebedee and I were indeed thrilled:

          "'It owned not a colour that vanity dons
             Or slender wits choose for display;
           Its beautiful tint was a delicate bronze,
             A brown softly blended with gray.
           From her waist to her chin, spreading out without break,
             'Twas built on a generous plan:
           The pride of the forest was slaughtered to make
             My grandmother's turkey-tail fan.

          "'For common occasions it never was meant:
             In a chest between two silken cloths
           'Twas kept safely hidden with careful intent
             In camphor to keep out the moths.
           'Twas famed far and wide through the whole country side,
             From Beersheba e'en unto Dan;
           And often at meeting with envy 'twas eyed,
             My grandmother's turkey-tail fan.

          "'A fig for the fans that are made nowadays,
             Suited only to frivolous mirth!
           A different thing is the fan that I praise,
             Yet it scorned not the good things of earth.
           At bees and at quiltings 'twas aye to be seen.
             The best of the gossip began
           When in at the doorway had entered serene
             My grandmother's turkey-tail fan.'"

Zebedee clapped a vociferous but silent applause and I wiped a tiny tear
from my eye. Poetry is the only thing that ever makes me weep but there
is something about verse, recited in a certain way, that always makes me
leak a little. The Judge knew how to recite that way and while there was
nothing in "My Grandmother's Turkey-tail Fan" to make one want to weep,
still that one little tear did find its way out. The faded gentlewoman
was affected the same way and even Cousin Park's bombazine basque unbent
a bit.

"Isn't he a sweet old man?" I exclaimed.

"Just the sweetest in the country. I have known the Judge for many years
and I have never seen him anything but a perfect, courtly gentleman. He
is to have luncheon with us tomorrow."

"Oh, won't that be fine! Maybe he will recite some poetry for us."

"I haven't a doubt but that he will, and sing you some songs, too."

"Well, he has my undying gratitude for taking Cousin Park out of the
ballroom;" and just then Harvie came to hunt for me to claim his dance.

I danced every single dance that evening except one that I sat out with
Wink, and hardly ever got through a dance without having to change
partners several times. They say it is a southern custom, this thing of
breaking in on a dance. It is all very well if you happen to be dancing
with a poor dancer and a good one takes you away, but it is pretty sad
if it happens to be the other way. Sometimes I would feel as you might
if an over-zealous butler snatched your plate from under your nose
before you had finished, and you saw him bearing off some favourite
delectable morsel and in its place had to choke down stewed prunes or
mashed turnips or something else you just naturally could not abide. As
a rule, however, the "delectable morsel" would not go away for good,
but hover around and break in again in time to let you finish the dance
with some pleasure and at least get the taste of stewed prunes or mashed
turnip out of your mouth.



CHAPTER XIV.

A LETTER AND ITS ANSWER.


          Miss Sue Lee, Congressional Library, Washington,
          D. C., from Page Allison.

          Dearest Cousin Sue:

          I can hardly believe that July is more than half
          over and I have not written you. I have thought
          about you a lot, my dear cousin, and often wished
          for you. We have had just about the best time
          girls ever did have and more things have happened!
          I have learned to swim; we have been upset in a
          cat boat called the Goop, right out in the middle
          of Chesapeake Bay; our chaperone, Miss Cox, has
          become engaged and expects to be married in a few
          weeks; and last and most exciting of all (at least
          most exciting to me), I have had a proposal; I,
          little, freckled-nosed, countrified Page Allison!
          It was the greatest shock of my life, as I wasn't
          expecting anything like that ever to happen to me,
          at least not for years and years.

          You see, it was this way: We went to a hop last
          night, the very first hop of my life, and we
          naturally dressed up for it in our best white
          muslins, low necks, short sleeves, silk stockings,
          tucked-up hair and all, and we looked quite
          grown-up. All of us are sixteen, except Mary
          Flannagan, who is just fifteen. We went with a
          goodly number of escorts: Harvie Price and Shorty
          Hawkins, who are staying in the house with us; Mr.
          Tucker and Mr. Gordon, who is Miss Cox's lover;
          and four boys from a camp near us who have been
          very nice to us since we have been at Willoughby.

          One of these boys, Stephen White (Wink for short),
          is studying medicine at the University. He is very
          good looking and has lots of sense. He and I have
          had a great many very pleasant times together, but
          it never entered my head that he thought of me as
          anything but a kid. In fact, I thought he was in
          love with a girl in Charlottesville; Mabel Binks,
          his cousin, told me he was. I also thought that
          Dee was his favourite among all of us girls. I
          know Dee likes him a lot. You see, Dee is so
          interested in sick kittens and babies and
          physiology that she just naturally takes to
          medical students. But last night Wink gave me what
          might be termed a rush. He broke in dances and
          claimed dances and did all kinds of things that
          were rather astonishing. He is not a very good
          dancer and as Mr. Tucker (I call him Zebedee now)
          is a splendid one I did not relish Wink's
          constantly taking me away from him nor did Zebedee
          seem overjoyed to lose me. I thought all the time
          Wink was doing it to tease Mabel Binks, who just
          naturally despises me and of course would not like
          to see her good looking cousin paying me too much
          attention. He asked me to sit out a dance with him
          and as he is a much better talker than dancer I
          was glad to do it, although I must confess I could
          not keep my feet still all the time he was
          talking to me. He took me to a nice corner of the
          porch looking out over the water and began. I hope
          you don't think it is wrong of me to tell you
          this, Cousin Sue. You see I would bite out my
          tongue before I would tell any of the other girls,
          but I feel as though I would simply have to tell
          some one or--well, bust! He started this way:

          "What do you think of long engagements?" and I
          said:

          "I don't think at all; but I heard one of Father's
          old maid cousins say once when someone was
          discussing long engagements, 'Hope deferred maketh
          the heart sick.'"

          And then Wink went on telling me of his prospects
          and his ambitions. He seems to have little
          prospects and big ambitions, which after all is
          the best thing for a young man, I believe. He
          asked me if I thought it was too much to ask a
          girl to wait, say, five years. I thought of course
          he was talking about the Charlottesville girl, who
          turns out to be a myth, and I said that I did not
          suppose true love would set any limit on waiting.
          He said he was almost twenty and had one more year
          at the University and expected to have a year in a
          New York hospital, and then his ambition was to
          become a first class up-to-date country doctor.

          He loves the country and says he has never yet
          seen a good country doctor who was not overworked.
          I agreed with him there and said that my father
          was certainly overworked. I also told him that I
          had in a measure suggested him to my father as a
          possible assistant. That pleased him so much that
          he impulsively seized my hand. I thought of course
          he was still thinking of the Charlottesville girl
          and wondered if she would be a pleasant addition
          to our neighbourhood, when Wink began to pour
          forth such an impassioned appeal that I could no
          longer think he was talking about the
          Charlottesville girl but was actually addressing
          me. I felt mighty bad and very foolish. When I
          told him he had known me but a little over two
          weeks he said that made no difference, that there
          was such a thing as "love at first sight."

          "But," I said, "you did not love me at first
          sight."

          "Yes I did, but I did not realize it until tonight
          when I saw you for the first time with your hair
          tucked up, and dressed in an evening dress."

          "Well, when I let it down tomorrow and get back
          into a middy you will find out what a mistake you
          have made."

          "Oh, Page, please don't tease me! It makes no
          difference now what you wear or how you do your
          hair, I am going to love you forever and forever.
          Don't you love me just a little?" And a spirit of
          mischief still prompting me, I answered:

          "I can't tell until I see you with a moustache."
          And then, Cousin Sue, I realized that I was not
          being my true self but was doing something that I
          had never expected to do in my whole life:
          flirting outrageously. So I up and told Wink that
          I did not care for him except as a friend (I came
          mighty near saying "brother," but it sounded too
          bromidic). I said I was nothing but a kid and had
          no business thinking about lovers for years to
          come. I said a lot of things that sound too silly
          to write and he said a lot of things, or rather he
          said the same thing over and over.

          I never saw such a long dance. I thought the music
          would never stop. Wink wanted to hold my hand all
          the time he was talking, but I just shook hands
          with him and thought that was enough. It seemed to
          me to be too sudden to be very serious. Of course
          in books people do that way, Romeo and Juliet, for
          instance, but in real life my idea of falling in
          love is first to know someone very well, well
          enough to be able to talk to him without any
          restraint at all and then gradually to feel that
          that person is the one of all others for you. The
          idea of knowing a girl two weeks and then seeing
          her with her hair done up like a grown-up and
          deciding between dances that life could not be
          lived without her! Of course Wink thinks he is in
          dead earnest and it hurts just as bad for a while
          as though he were, but it won't last much longer
          than it did for him to make up his mind. He will
          be like a man who has had a nightmare: very trying
          while it lasts but not so bad but that he can eat
          a good breakfast the next morning and forget all
          about it, only wondering what made him have such a
          bad dream and what was it all about, anyhow!

          Goodness, I was glad to see Zebedee when he came
          around the corner of the porch looking for me to
          dance a particular one-step that he and I had
          evolved together. I believe Zebedee (Mr. Tucker)
          knew what had been going on, because Wink was
          looking so sullen and I, I don't know how I was
          looking, but I was certainly feeling very foolish.
          He tucked my arm in his and looked at me rather
          sadly just as he had at Dum last winter when Mr.
          Reginald Kent, the young artist from New York,
          asked her for a lock of her hair. I know Zebedee
          hates for any of us to grow up, me as well as the
          twins. I wanted awfully to tell him it was all
          right but I did not know how to do it without
          giving Wink away, so I just said nothing. I did
          not see Wink again last night and the boys tell me
          he has gone over to Newport News today with Mabel
          Binks to call on their relatives.

          I have written a terribly long letter and still
          have not told you that Cousin Park Garnett is
          stopping at the hotel here in Willoughby. She is
          the same Cousin Park, only a little more tightly
          upholstered, if possible. I wish I could like her
          better, but she always makes me feel all mouth and
          freckles.

          Good-bye, Cousin Sue, and if I should not have
          told you all of this nonsense about Wink and me,
          please forgive me. Lots of girls would tell other
          girls if they got a proposal, but I would never do
          that; but you have been so like my mother to me
          that somehow I do not feel it is indelicate to
          tell you.

                                   With best love,
                                               PAGE.


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

          My Dearest Little Page:

          I was overjoyed to get your very interesting
          letter and I hasten to answer it and to tell you
          that you must always feel at perfect liberty to
          tell me anything and everything that comes up in
          your life. I am a little sorry for Wink, but you
          were right not to encourage him. Do not be too
          sure, however, that he will get over this malady
          as quickly as he took it. Shakespeare was a very
          wise and true artist and you may be sure that when
          he made Romeo fall in love with Juliet as he did
          without a moment's warning,--and already in love
          with someone else, as Romeo thought he was,--such
          a thing can come to pass. We find as much truth in
          fiction as in fact, everlasting truths. But then,
          I am a sentimental old maid and you must not take
          me too seriously.

          I want to know your friends, the Tuckers, very
          much indeed. I hope to spend August at Bracken and
          perhaps I can meet them then. Washington is very
          hot and I am quite tired out and will be glad of
          the quiet and peace of Bracken as well as the
          sane, delightful talks with your dear father. I
          hope Cousin Park will not choose the same time to
          make her visit. If she makes you feel all mouth
          and freckles, she makes me feel all nose and
          wrinkles. She told me once that she was confident
          my nose was the cause of my spinsterhood. As my
          nose is a perfectly good Lee nose, and as
          spinsterhood is as much a mark of my family as my
          nose, I shouldn't mind her remark, but somehow I
          do.

          I am sending you a pair of blue silk stockings and
          a tie to match, to wear with white duck skirts and
          lingerie waists. No doubt you will be so
          captivating in this colour that proposals will
          come pouring in. Please tell me about them if
          they do. Don't grow up yet, little Cousin Page!
          There is time enough for lovers and such like, and
          sixteen is o'er young for taking things very
          seriously. I am glad indeed that you sent poor
          Wink about his business and hope he will grow a
          moustache and a flowing beard before he addresses
          you again.

                                   With much love,
                                              COUSIN SUE.



CHAPTER XV.

THE JUDGE.


The morning after the hop we slept late. Of course we did not go to
sleep as soon as we got into bed, as the best part of going to a dance
is talking it over with the girls afterwards. We had much to tell and I
for one had much that I couldn't tell. One and all we pronounced it a
very delightful and successful party. Had we not, everyone of us danced
every dance, except the fatal one that I sat out? Did we not have "trade
lasts" enough to last 'til morning if sleep had not overtaken us? Hadn't
Annie been freely spoken of as the prettiest girl there; the twins as
the most popular; Mary as by all odds the brightest and funniest; and
had not I overheard someone say that I had a nameless charm that was
irresistible? Altogether, we were well pleased with ourselves and one
another and slept the sleep of the just and healthy until late in the
morning, when we heard Miss Cox singing at our door:

          "'Kathleen Mavourneen! the gray dawn is breaking,
             The horn of the hunter is heard on the hill;
           The lark from her light wing the bright dew is shaking,--
             Kathleen Mavourneen! what, slumbering still?
           Oh, hast thou forgotten how soon we must sever?
             Oh, hast thou forgotten this day we must part?
           It may be for years and it may be forever!
             Oh, why art thou silent, thou voice of my heart?
           Oh, why art thou silent, Kathleen Mavourneen?

          "'Kathleen Mavourneen, awake from thy slumbers!
             The blue mountains glow in the sun's golden light;
           Ah, where is the spell that once hung on my numbers?
            Arise in thy beauty, thou star of my night!
           Mavourneen, Mavourneen, my sad tears are falling,
             To think that from Erin and thee I must part!
           It may be for years and it may be forever!
             Then why art thou silent, thou voice of my heart?
           Then why art thou silent, Kathleen Mavourneen?'"

There was a storm of applause from our porch and a great clapping of
hands from down stairs as Zebedee entered with old Judge Grayson. Miss
Cox had an excellent voice and a singularly true one.

"Well, all of us Kathleens had better rise and shine after that appeal,"
yawned Dum. "It must be almost time for luncheon." And so it was. We
just had time for a hasty dip in the briny and a hastier toilet in the
way of middies and khaki skirts, when Blanche appeared to announce that
our repast was reserved.

"Well, Gawd love us!" she exclaimed, when she beheld us dressed in our
customary girlish middies. "Ef'n the butterflies ain't chrystalized agin
into plain grubs! When I beholden you last night in all the begalia of
sassioty I ruminated to myself that our young misses had done flew the
coop, hair turned up and waistes turned down, an' here you is nothin'
but gals agin. I'll be bound ef'n the beau lovers of the evenin'
recently relapsed could see you now they would wonder how come they felt
so warmed to'ds you. Not that you ain't as sweet as sugar now," she
hastily added, fearing for our feelings, "but you is jes' sugar 'thout
the proper ingredients to make you what you might call intoxicational."

Every single girl except Mary looked a little conscious while Blanche
was talking, and I could not help wondering if there had not been others
besides myself who had been the recipient of tender nothings. Zebedee
overheard Blanche's remarks and I saw him go into the kitchen and a
little later the girl came forth beaming, tying into the corner of her
handkerchief a shiny new half dollar.

"Every time poor, dear Blanche opens her mouth diamonds and pearls of
wisdom come forth," he whispered to me. "It seems a shame to buy such
priceless gems for fifty cents. I would not take anything for what she
has just handed to all of my girls."

The Judge proved to be a delightful old man and all of us were charmed
with his courtly manners and compliments. He seemed to think we were
lovely and quite grown-up in spite of what Blanche had just "handed" us.
He quoted poetry to us with an old world grace and seemed to have a
verse ready for every occasion. Even Blanche came in for her share of
poetry as the Judge helped himself to another and yet another popover:

          "'My mother bore me in the southern wild,
           And I am black, but oh, my soul is white!'"

Blanche smiled on him as though at last she had found someone who really
understood her.

After luncheon we repaired to the piazza where Zebedee and the Judge
could enjoy their cigars and the family guitar was produced at the
instigation of the host, hoping to persuade the Judge to give us some of
his fine old ballads. The Tucker guitar was something of a joke, as none
of them could really play on it; but it was always kept in perfect order
if not in perfect tune and placed in a conspicuous place. "Ready for an
emergency if one should arise in anyone else," explained Dum. Dee could
thrum out an accompaniment, if it happened to be a very simple one with
only one or two changes. Dum knew part of the Spanish Fandango, learned
from a teacher who had struggled with the family once when they had
determined that a musical education was necessary. Zebedee, who had a
very good voice and a true ear, could tell when the guitar was out of
tune but never could tune it to his satisfaction; but when someone else
got it in tune he could put up a very good imitation of following
himself in his favourite song of "Danny Deever."

The Judge jumped to the instrument as a trout to a fly and held it with
a loving embrace.

"Gad, Tucker, but this is a good guitar!" and with a practiced hand and
ear he quickly had it in tune.

"Sing, do sing!" we pleaded.

"All right, I'll sing to all of you five girls if you will excuse an old
man's faults. My voice is not what it used to be, but the heart is the
same and

          "'No matter what you do if your heart be true,
           And his heart was true to Poll.'

"This song I am going to sing is one I have always loved and it seems to
be singularly appropriate for all of you young ladies, who, last night
as I peeped into the ballroom, showed promise of what you might be. But
this morning I find you back 'Where the brook and river meet.' I can't
tell whether it is because of the absence of the gallant swains or a
mere matter of rearrangement of tresses."

Harvie and Shorty had gone to the camp for luncheon and to go crabbing
with the boys, which was rather a relief, as Dum declared we could not
have boys all the time without getting bored. Certainly on the morning
after the hop we were glad just to be little girls again and not have to
play "lady come to see" for a while at least. Dear old Judge Grayson and
Zebedee were singularly restful after the friskings of the youths, and
Miss Cox very calming as she sat on the piazza, an exalted expression on
her good face, stitching, stitching on wedding clothes. All of us had
undertaken to help her but mighty botches I am afraid we made of it, all
except Annie Pore. She could take tiny stitches if shown exactly where
to put them, but she was afraid to take the initiative even in sewing.
Dum could design patterns for embroidery and Dee could tie wonderful
bows; Mary was great on button-holes; I could not even sew carpet rags
together well enough to pass muster, but I was very willing and did my
poor best.

In his high, sweet old tenor the Judge began to sing:

          "'My love she's but a lassie yet,
           A lightsome, lovely lassie yet;
               It scarce wad do
              To sit and woo
           Down by the stream sae glassy yet.

          "'But there's a braw time coming yet,
           When we may gang a-roaming yet;
               An' hint wi' glee
               O' joys to be,
           When fa's the modest gloaming yet.

          "'She's neither proud nor saucy yet,
           She's neither plump nor gaucy yet;
               But just a jinking,
               Bonny blinking,
           Hilty-skilty lassie yet.

          "'But O, her artless smile's mair sweet
           Then hinny or than marmalete;
               An' right or wrang,
               Ere it be lang,
           I'll bring her to a parley yet.

          "'I'm jealous o' what blesses her,
           The very breeze that kisses her,
               The flowery beds
               On which she treads,
           Though wae for ane that misses her.

          "'Then O, to meet my lassie yet
           Up in yon glen sae grassy yet;
               For all I see
               Are naught to me,
           Save her that's but a lassie yet.'"

All of us sat very quietly as the old man finished his quaint, sweet
song. Zebedee looked very shiny-eyed and I rather guessed he was
thinking of his Tweedles, although he did look at me. I fancy he knew
that I understood him and his anxiety about his dear girls. It is no
joke to be the father of sixteen-year-old twins and only about
thirty-six yourself. Dum and Dee were developing very rapidly and they
had looked so grown-up at the hop and had conducted themselves so like
young ladies that their anxious parent was troubled for fear their
womanhood was upon him. He would rather see them romping hoydens than
the sedate young ladies they seemed to be turning into. No wonder he had
tipped Blanche with the shiny fifty-cent piece. Had she not put his mind
at rest for the time being at least? They were certainly girlish enough
looking on that day, even boyish looking as they crowded each other out
of the hammock, both intent on getting the middle.

"That's fine, Judge, give us another!" begged Zebedee, but the bard
insisted upon Miss Cox's putting down her sewing and singing; and then
Annie Pore must give us Annie Laurie; and so the lazy afternoon passed
with songs and many good stories drawn from our guest by the tactful
Zebedee.

Judge Grayson just naturally loved horses and next to being with them
was talking about them. He had many delightful stories to tell of horses
he had known and horses he had owned. He insisted that no horse was
naturally vicious but always ruined in some way by its trainer, and no
horse was irretrievably ruined if just the right person could get hold
of it and by kindness bring it to reason. I had always felt that and of
course this theory appealed to Dee, who thought much worse of humanity
than animality, as she called it.

"The first horse I ever owned was the first horse I ever loved and he
was in a way the best horse I ever owned," said the Judge, addressing
his remarks to Dee who was all attention. "Dobbin was the very ordinary
name for a very extraordinary horse. My father gave him to me when I was
six years old. I say gave him to me but what really occurred was that I
was presented to Dobbin. For if ever man was owned by an animal, Dobbin
owned me. He was an old circus horse and his intelligence was far beyond
that of the average human. He was milk white with pink nostrils and
eyes, a real Albino, in fact. His legs were perfectly formed, his head
small and very well shaped, his back broad and flat as though especially
made for bare-back riding. If you fell off him it was your own fault,
and no more was he to be blamed than a bed that you happen to roll out
of. Indeed his gaits were so smooth that you might easily go to sleep on
him. His temper was perfect and his character very decided and firm. He
knew exactly what he wanted to do and he also knew that his judgment was
much better than a child's. I shall never forget the first time I got on
his back. My father was going to have me taught to ride by our old
coachman, but in the meantime I was given the duty and pleasure of
feeding my horse myself. I had only owned him a day and already I would
have foundered him on oats if it had not been for his own superior
intelligence and judgment. He ate what he considered proper and then
deliberately turned over the bucket and puffed and blew and pawed until
even the chickens had a hard time pecking up the scattered grain."

And here the old man laughed and took another cigar Zebedee offered him,
pausing in his narrative while he bit off the end and lit it.

"But how about the first time you rode him?" demanded Dee.

"I'm coming to that. He was a very high horse, was Dobbin, so high that
it was a tall mount for a grown man and of course it was seemingly
impossible for a little boy to climb up on such a mountain, but get up I
did. My father came out on the gallery and there I was as proud as Punch
perched on the broad back of my snow-white steed. 'You rascal!' he
shouted. 'Who put you up there?' 'Dobbin put me here,' I answered, and
so he had, but my father could not believe it until Dobbin and I
demonstrated the fact for him. I slid down the shapely leg of my circus
horse and then he lowered his head and I nimbly climbed up his neck and
landed safely on his back. I can still hear my father laugh and then all
the household was called out to witness this great feat, and my mother
brought out sugar to feed my pet. She pulled down his head and whispered
in his ear, 'Be careful of my boy, Dobbin! I am going to trust him to
you, do you understand?' and Dobbin whinnied an answer and blew in my
mother's hair with his pink nostrils. After that he felt that he was a
kind of nurse for me and he certainly did make me walk chalk," and the
old man chuckled in delighted memory.

"Tell us more about him," pleaded Dee. "He must have been darling."

"Well, sometimes he was right annoying. For instance, he saw to it that
I minded my black mammy. One of Mammy's rules was that I could play in
the mud all I wanted to in the morning, but in the afternoon when I was
dressed in my clean linen shirt and little white piquet pants, I had to
keep clean. The mud attracted me as much in the afternoon as morning,
and sometimes I would lose track of time and would begin to mix my
delectable pies in spite of my spotless attire. Do you know that old
horse many and many a time has come up behind me and gently but firmly
caught me by my collar or the seat of my breeches, whichever presented
itself handiest, and after giving me a little shake put me out of
temptation? He never was known to do it in the morning when I was in my
blue jean jumpers. Why, that horse knew morning from afternoon and jeans
from white linen. He was a great disciplinarian, I can tell you. My
mother would let me go anywhere just so Dobbin was of the party. She
knew perfectly well he would take care of me. Had he not told her so as
plainly as a horse could speak, and that is pretty plain to those who
understand horse talk."

Dee nodded approval and muttered: "Dog talk, too!"

"We had an old basket phaeton with a rumble (they don't make them
now-a-days) and in the afternoon in summer my sister and I would hitch
up old Dobbin and go off for a picnic in the beech woods. Sam, my body
servant and private property, perched in the rumble and Dilsey, my
sister's maid, crouched at our feet. Dobbin would jog along until he
found what he considered a suitable spot for a picnic and then he would
stop, and no matter how we felt about it, out we had to get. Nothing
would budge Dobbin. He would look at us and whinny as much as to say
that he had forgotten more about picnic places than we could ever hope
to know and no doubt he was right.

"He usually stopped at a very nice spot where there was plenty of shade
and a spring and maybe some luscious blue grass for him to nibble at. He
was never tied but allowed to roam at his own sweet will. When the
shadows lengthened, he would turn the phaeton around, with his nose
headed for home, and as the sun touched the horizon he would send forth
a warning neigh, gentle at first but if his voice was not hearkened to,
more peremptory and then quite sharp. He would give us about five
minutes and then he would start for home. I tell you there would be
scrambling then to get in the phaeton, as none of us relished the
thought of walking home, getting in late to supper and making the
necessary explanations to the grown-ups. One time Dilsey almost got
left, having loitered behind in a fit of stubbornness. 'I's plum wo' out
wif dis here brute beas' a bossin' er me!' she panted as she clambered
over the wheel and sank on the floor of the phaeton. 'Ef'n he was mine
I'd lay him out.' With that ole Dobbin turned his head around in the
shafts, looked sternly at the girl, and deliberately switched her with
his tail until she cried out for mercy, 'Lawsamussy, Marse Dobbin, I's
jes a foolin',' and then that old horse gave a whinny more like laughing
than anything you ever heard and trotted peacefully home."

The old man stopped and shook the ashes from his cigar. "Yes, yes, I
loved that old horse as much as I did Mammy, and God knows Mammy was
next to my parents in my affection. Not have souls! Why, I as firmly
believe I am going to meet Dobbin when I cross the river as I am Mammy."

At that, Dee Tucker got up out of the hammock and went over and hugged
and kissed the old Judge, and Zebedee and Dum both wiped the tears from
their eyes. I felt like it, too, but then tears are not mine to command
as they are the Tuckers'.

Certainly the Judge had touched us all with his story. I wanted to ask
him more about Dobbin but I was afraid the next thing would be Dobbin's
death, as he must have been old when he was presented to the little boy,
and somehow I felt none of us could bear up over the dear old horse's
death. It must have been more than sixty years since those picnics in
the beech woods, but you felt that in Judge Grayson's mind it was but as
yesterday.



CHAPTER XVI.

AN AXE TO GRIND.


Harvie and Shorty came in that afternoon with a great basket of crabs
for supper and countenances like boiled lobsters. Sunburn is as much a
part of the seashore as sand and water, and sometimes it is even more in
evidence. You can escape from the sand and water by going indoors and
pulling down the blinds, but your sunburned nose you have to take with
you.

The boys also brought the mail, a letter for Annie and one for me. My
letter contained the bad news that my dear father could not come to the
beach, after all, as Sally Winn was trying in dead earnest to die, and
could not do it without Dr. Allison. Annie's letter had, I am ashamed to
say, not such very good news, either, as it said that Mr. Pore had
decided to come to Willoughby for a few days. We girls secretly dreaded
this visit. We could not help knowing that Mr. Pore was very stiff and
strait-laced, and we feared the effect he might have on poor little
Annie. Annie was having such a good time and it did seem a pity to
interrupt it.

"I do wish Zebedee would not be so promiscuous with his invitations,"
stormed Dum, who was escorting me as far as the hotel where I was going
to pay a duty call on Cousin Park. "He was certainly not called on to
ask this old dried-up Englishman down here. He could have been polite
without being so effusive. It is going to ruin things for Annie, I just
know."

"Maybe it won't," I suggested, speaking for moderation that I did not
feel. "Harvie Price says he is a very cultivated, interesting man."

"Oh, yes, I know the kind! I bet you he says position for job; and
rabble for mob; retires when he goes to bed; and arises when he gets up;
calls girls, maidens; women, females; ladies, gentlewomen; birds,
feathered songsters; and dogs, canines. Ugh! I just know he is going to
be a wet blanket."

"Well, Dum, your father got on with him and seemed to like him very
much. Maybe we can hit it off with him, too."

"Oh, that's nothing! Zebedee can get on with human oysters and clams and
make animated pokers unbend. Why, that young father of ours is such a
mixer he could even make ice cream and crabs agree. But that's no sign
that Annie's paternal parent is not going to be a difficult guest. If it
only had been dear Dr. Allison coming instead!"

I agreed with her there, but I tried to make impulsive, hot-headed Dum
feel that the best thing we could do was to try to see the good in Mr.
Pore for Annie's sake if not for his own. I was dying to tell her of the
interesting things that Annie had divulged to me about her family, but a
confidence is a confidence and must be respected as such. For my part,
it seemed foolish to keep such an item as being kin to the nobility so
strictly a secret. I don't believe that many Virginians would feel that
being granddaughter to a baronet and great-granddaughter to an earl,
something to be hid under a bushel. I fancy that Annie felt her clothes
and general manner of living to be rather incongruous to such
greatness.

We found Cousin Park ensconsed on the porch in a steamer chair, knitting
an ugly grey shawl with purple scallops, while Mabel Binks, who had
returned from her expedition to Newport News with Wink, danced
attendance on the pompous lady.

"I bet she's got an axe to grind!" muttered Dum. "What do you fancy
Mabel wants to get out of your cousin?"

"I can't imagine, but I'll take my hat off to her if she gets it," I
laughed. "Please come on and call with me. I can't face Mabel and Cousin
Park at the same time," I begged Dum, and she good-naturedly complied,
although I know she hated it.

Cousin Park greeted us with what was meant to be a cordial manner, and
Mabel was almost effusive as she got us chairs and took upon herself to
do the honours of the hotel porch.

"I rather expected you this morning, Page," said Cousin Park, looking
over her spectacles at me. This habit of my relative of looking over
her spectacles at you would have made a person as mild as a May morning
appear fierce, and its effect on Cousin Park's far from mild countenance
was disconcerting in the extreme; but I did not feel nearly so
uncomfortable with her as I had heretofore. Had I not seen her tap Judge
Grayson with her turkey-tail fan, and listen with a pleasure that seemed
almost human to the old man's recitation of the poem?

"We slept so late after the dance that there was no time to do anything
this morning, and then Judge Grayson came to luncheon and that kept us
all the early part of the afternoon. I also had a letter to write
today."

"Ah, a very pleasant, well-mannered man, the Judge," said Cousin Park.
"The legal profession should be proud of such a representative." Dum and
I smothered a giggle at this, as Zebedee had confided to us that our
charming old friend was only judge by courtesy. We said nothing,
however. Far be it from us to lessen his dignity by one jot or tittle.

"We are to have another guest tomorrow," broke in Dum, in order to
change the subject from Judge Grayson's doubtful legal rights. "Mr.
Pore, Annie's father, is coming to visit us."

Mrs. Garnett snorted and Mabel's lip curled, but they said nothing to
Dum. However, the minute my friend left us, which she did after a moment
to speak to an acquaintance she spied at the other end of the long
porch, their eloquence was opened up on me.

"I can't see why Jeffry Tucker should ask such a man to stay in the
house with an Allison. I am told he is nothing but a little country
store-keeper, just the commonest kind of Englishman, lower middle class,
no doubt. It is bad enough to have his daughter, although she is very
pretty and seems well mannered; but such acquaintances that cannot be
continued in later life should be discouraged. I never did approve of
your going to Gresham, but Sue Lee, with the democratic notions that she
has picked up in Washington, insisted that it would be best for you to
make a wide acquaintance. I thought a select home school where there
were accommodations for very few girls would be much more desirable. One
would at least know who the persons were you were meeting and you would
be spared such embarrassing situations as you are now finding yourself
in. I think you had better excuse yourself and come to the hotel and
visit me. I could take you in my room without much inconvenience to
myself."

"Thank you, Cousin Park! I would not inconvenience you even a little bit
for the world, nor would I leave my friends until my visit with them is
finished. Annie Pore is as much my friend as she is the Tuckers', and I
love her dearly and have found her a perfect lady on all occasions. Mr.
Tucker is acquainted with Mr. Pore and his judgment as to who is a
suitable person to introduce to us is to be relied on implicitly. Mr.
Pore is not a common Englishman at all but a very cultivated,
highly-educated gentleman." How I did long to spring Sir Isaac Pore and
the Earl of Garth on them! There are times when I wish I did not have
such a keen sense of honour. It certainly does restrict your actions and
words at very inconvenient moments.

"He may be educated but hardly a gentleman," said Cousin Park, dropping
stitches in her indignation. "One would hardly find a gentleman
weighing out lard and drawing kerosene from a barrel for his darkey
customers, and that is what Miss Binks tells me this Pore is accustomed
to do."

"Ah!" I thought, "I fancied I could see Mabel Binks' fine Italian hand
in this. She has never forgiven Annie since the Seniors gave her a cheer
when she arrived at Gresham, all because the shy little English girl
stood up for herself and downed the dashing Mabel with the retort
courteous."

"I quite agree with you, Mrs. Garnett, about Gresham's being entirely
too democratic. My mother was shocked when I told her of some of the
ordinary looking, badly dressed girls Miss Peyton had allowed to enter.
It used to be quite select. I am glad I am through. I am dying to come
out this next winter," continued Mabel. "Richmond society is so
charming. I envy these girls who can come out there. I have a cousin who
lives there but she is not one bit sociable and it is not very much fun
to visit her." I was beginning to see Mabel's axe as her grinding was
quite evident.

"I shall be glad to have you visit me," said Cousin Park. "I have not
chaperoned a girl for some years, but no doubt I could make you have a
very nice time."

"Oh, how lovely of you!" and Mabel's expression was indeed triumphant as
she picked up Cousin Park's ball of purple yarn and restored it to that
lady's rather precarious lap. I could have told Mabel that it was not
such a sweet boon as she fancied: to visit the grand Garnett mansion. I
thought of Jeremiah, the blue-gummed butler, with his solemn air of
officiating at a funeral; of the oiled walnut furniture with its heavy
uncomfortable carving, sure to hit you in the small of the back if you
sought repose in one of the stiff hair cloth covered chairs, or to find
a tender place on your shins when you passed a bureau or bed. I thought
of the interminable, heavy dinners: roast mutton and starchy vegetables
topped off with plum pudding or something equally rich and filling. I
could fancy the line of family portraits, hung high against the ceiling,
looking their disapproval at the far from dignified Mabel and plainly
showing their wonderment that she should have found her way into their
august presence.

Those old portraits will little dream how much Mabel had fetched and
carried for that invitation; how many cushions she had arranged and
rearranged behind the plump back of the present owner of the portraits;
how many tiresome moments she had spent holding the skeins of grey and
purple yarn for Mrs. Garnett to wind her fat knitting balls. She had
also gathered bits of pleasing gossip to retail to the willing ear of my
relative. Cousin Park was the type ever ready and delighted to be
scandalized. The day after the sail that we had spent in dough masks,
Mabel had evidently spent in the mask of a lively, agreeable, obliging
girl, doing everything in her power to make herself attractive to her
possible hostess. Success was hers! A long visit in Richmond in her
debutante winter with one of the wealthiest members of society meant a
good deal to that young lady. Mabel's mother belonged to a very good
family but her father's name, Binks, is enough to show that at least he
was not of the F. F. V's. Wink White, who was a cousin of Mrs. Binks,
had confided to me that he rather preferred Mr. Binks to Mrs.

"The fact that she married old Binks for his money and now is ashamed of
him shows about what kind Cousin Florence is," he had said.

Having said all I could say in defense of Mr. Pore, and having played so
well into Mabel's hands that, by giving her a chance to agree so readily
and heartily with Cousin Park, her invitation had come much more easily
than she had dared to hope, I felt sure, I now took my departure with
Dum. It should have made no difference to me how many visits Mabel Binks
would pay in Richmond, but it did. I well knew what her game was there:
she was determined to attract Mr. Jeffry Tucker, and had been from the
moment she had seen him at Gresham, when he took Tweedles there to enter
them at school. I well knew that Zebedee gave her not a moment's
thought, but if she pursued him enough he might change his mind about
her. She was certainly handsome and quite bright and entertaining.
Tweedles would not be there to protect their young father and he was but
human, very human, in fact. I felt depressed on the way back to our
cottage, so much so that Dum noticed it and begged me to cheer up.

"Your cousin is enough to make you blue, but remember that everyone has
some scrubby kin. Just think of poor Annie and what oceans of spirits we
will have to produce to drown her sorrow and depression when her
respected parent arrives!"

I threw off my gloom the best I could and let Dum go on thinking it was
Cousin Park who had cast the spell over me. I knew quite well that if I
even hinted at Mabel and her machinations, Tweedles would refuse to go
back to Gresham but stay in Richmond all winter to guard their precious
Zebedee.



CHAPTER XVII.

MR. ARTHUR PONSONBY PORE.


Mr. Pore was much more attractive than we had expected. Things in this
life hardly ever come up to your expectations, either good or bad, which
sounds as though I were still brooding over Mabel's proposed visit to
Cousin Park and the possible enthralling of Zebedee. I remind myself of
the Irishman who had raised a particularly fat pig from which he
expected to realize great wealth. He took it to town on market day to
sell. On the way home he met a neighbour who genially inquired:

"And how mooch did your pig be after weighing, Paddy?"

"Not as mooch as I thart it would,--and I thart it wouldn't," added
Paddy pessimistically.

In the first place, Mr. Pore was handsome. He had a stately dignity and
an aristocratic bearing that all the weighing of lard and drawing of
molasses in the world could not lessen. His forehead was intellectual;
his eyes piercing; his nose aquiline and rather haughty; his mouth a
little petulant with a pathetic droop at the corners; and his chin
(rather indicative of his character, I fancy, and explaining why he was
keeping a country store at Price's Landing instead of taking that place
in the world to which by birth and education he was entitled), his chin
decidedly receded. In doing so, however, it gave you to understand that
it retreated in good order and was unconvinced. I mean that it had that
stubborn look that receding chins sometimes do have. After all,
stubbornness was the key-note of Mr. Pore's character, rather than
weakness. I had gathered that much from what Annie had divulged to me
that night at Gresham when she had opened the box with her dead mother's
dress in it and found the note from her mother, with the twenty-five
dollars pinned in the sleeve.

He was dressed in what books call decent black. Certainly there was
nothing about him to make anyone doubt he was a perfect gentleman, even
had they been unaware of the fact that only one life stood between him
and a title. He was so excessively English that it was hard to believe
that he had spent the last fifteen years in a little settlement on the
James River, never hearing his native tongue in all that time, perhaps.
Our spoken language was very different from his, although I have heard
it said that Virginians and Kentuckians and Bostonians come nearer to
speaking the real English than any other Americans. We may come nearer
than others but we are still far off from the kind of English that Mr.
Arthur Ponsonby Pore spoke. I thought of Cousin Park and her "lower
middle class" to which she had consigned the gentleman, and wished that
he might just once look at her and Mabel through the gold _pince nez_
that straddled his aristocratic, aquiline nose!

Zebedee had gone over to Norfolk to meet his guest, and under his genial
influence I fancy Mr. Pore had somewhat melted; but his demeanor was
still rather icy. He went through the introduction to Miss Cox and all
of us girls as though it had been a court ceremony, and then turning to
Annie, he gave her a little Arthur Ponsonby peck in lieu of a kiss.
Shaking his hand, Dee declared was like grasping an old pump handle when
the sucker is worn out. You take hold thinking you are to meet with some
resistance, but instead, the handle flies up and you find yourself
foolishly shaking it up and down with no chance of getting any returns
for your trouble. The Tuckers were famous hand-shakers, as all their
friends knew, but doubtless Mr. Pore was unprepared for such a vigorous
grasp from young ladies.

I found nothing to complain of in his manner of greeting me. Not being
such a hearty hand-shaker as Tweedles, I put my hand in his and left him
to do the shaking. This he did not do, but he gave my hand a slight
pressure and gazed earnestly into my eyes. So earnest and burning was
his glance that I felt almost confused, but I thought that no doubt
Annie had told him of her confiding in me about her birth and he felt
some interest because of her affection for me.

As we took our seats on the porch, Mr. Pore's chair was by mine and
still he gazed at me with his piercing, melancholy eyes.

"Did I hear your name aright? Was it not Miss Page Allison?"

"Yes, sir! I am Annie's friend from Gresham. We have been intimate from
the day we entered school."

"Yes, yes! I know much of you and your courtesy. But tell me, Miss
Allison, are you American?" (His American was so different from ours one
could almost spell it A-m-e-h-r-i-k-e-n.)

"Yes, Mr. Pore, I am American, but my mother was English."

"Ah! I thought as much. Her name was Lucy Page, was it not?"

"Yes," I answered, wondering at his knowledge of my mother's name.

"Oh, Page! Page! Only think of it!" exclaimed Annie impulsively. "Lucy
Page was my mother's little friend, the one who lent her the slippers to
wear to the Charity Bazaar," and her enthusiasm went unrebuked by her
father. Indeed, he seemed almost as excited as Annie. The poor man had
been a long time away from persons who knew him and whom he knew and he
had the absurd notion that very few "Amehrikens" were his social equal;
now he found that his daughter had made friends with the child of his
wife's old friend.

"To think of it, to think of it! My word, but it is strange! I knew the
moment I saw you that I had seen either you or your counterpart before.
Tell me, child, all about your mother, and your grandfather, Major Page.
What a fine old soldier he was!"

And so I sat on the porch by this strange, stiff Englishman, no longer
stiff, but positively limber, Dum declared, and told all I knew of my
poor little mother and the fine old soldier, her father. They had come
to America to look up some investments made by the retired Army officer,
had settled near Warrenton and there had met my father,--and the
marriage had ensued.

"All I have left of my old English grandfather is his hat-tub, which I
still use when I am at Bracken," I said.

"My word, how I should like to own one! I have not seen a hat-tub for
twenty years," he sighed. "But tell me, Miss Allison, do you never see
nor hear from your mother's family in England?"

"I think all correspondence with them died a natural death many years
ago. Father used to write once a year to a great-aunt, Gwendoline was
her name, but she died; after that some of her daughters wrote once or
twice and then stopped. I don't even know whether they are alive and I
fancy they neither know nor care whether I am."

"I have never seen a more striking likeness than you have to your
mother. She was much younger than my wife when I knew her. We had all
been visiting at the home of the Earl of Garth, my wife's uncle. Little
Lucy Page was really not old enough to be out of the nursery, certainly
should have been in charge of a governess; but Major Page had his own
ideas about such things and took his daughter wherever he went. She was
about sixteen, I fancy."

"Just your age!" tweedled the Tuckers, who had been listening, with open
mouths and eyes, in speechless silence to Mr. Pore's revelations. When
he spoke of the Earl of Garth as his wife's uncle they looked, as poor
dear Blanche expressed it, "fittin' to bust." And then when in the most
casual manner he let drop that his own father was a baronet, I know it
was a relief to them that the hammock rope broke at the crucial moment
and they were precipitated to the floor with Mary Flannagan who was
between them.

"If something had not happened and happened pretty quick 'a kersplosion
was eminent,'" whispered Dee to me. "And now I am going to beat it to
the hotel as fast as my legs can carry me and let that hateful Mabel
Binks know that she has been nasty to the nobility. Oh, I am going to be
tactful and not let her know I came for the express purpose. I am going
to ask her to tea and be generally sweet, and then just casually let it
drop that Mr. Pore knew your mother while all of them were visiting at
an earl's, and that said earl was Mrs. Pore's uncle. I'll rub in that it
means that our modest, little English friend, called by Mabel and her
ilk Orphan Annie, is the great-granddaughter of an earl on her mother's
side and the granddaughter of a baronet on her father's."

All this Dee whispered to me while the hammock was being tied up more
securely by Zebedee. The solemn Englishman was evidently much amused by
the mishap, as he laughed in a manner almost hilarious for one so
dignified and sober. I have always heard an accident like that spoken of
as an English joke, and truly it did seem to strike him as very funny.

Harvie Price and Shorty made their appearance soon after. Harvie greeted
Mr. Pore with great respect and in a few moments they were conversing
most affably about Harvie's grandfather, General Price, and news of the
settlement.

Mr. Pore seemed to like the boy and Harvie evidently liked him. Once he
had told me that he admired Mr. Pore greatly as one who could think in
Latin.

It was easy to see that Mr. Pore was not going to be such a difficult
visitor, after all. He had evidently decided that we were good enough
socially for him, because of my mother's having been at the Earl of
Garth's. He had already admitted Harvie to his exclusive circle since he
had permitted Annie to play with him when they were children. He liked
Zebedee and Zebedee's cigars and Zebedee's children, who cracked such
delicious jokes in falling out of hammocks. Altogether he intended to
have a very pleasant weekend. I fancied he was a little sorry that he
had spoken of his connections, as it was a subject he evidently had not
touched on to strangers, but it had slipped out in his delight in
meeting someone he considered of his world, that world that he had
turned his back on so many years before but the world to which he still
belonged. He had never identified himself with his "Amehriken"
neighbours and had always held himself as an alien among them.

Annie looked a little startled and very happy. This was a new father to
her, a genial gentleman who actually talked to her friends and admitted
having titled connections in the old country. He had not censured her
once and now he was talking to Harvie with actual affability.

"Oh, Page," she whispered to me, "how glad I am I accepted your slippers
that night of the musicale at Gresham. You remember I said to you that
my mother had borrowed slippers, too, when she had worn that dress, and
that she did not mind borrowing them because she knew her friend loved
her. To think of that friend's being your mother! Oh, Page, I am so
happy!"



CHAPTER XVIII.

THE MACHINATIONS OF MABEL.


Dee must have laid it on rather thick with Mabel Binks, as anything like
that young woman's change of manner towards Annie could not have been
brought about by a light touch. I am afraid Dee represented Mr. Pore's
brother, the present baronet, as in the last stages of some wasting
disease, and by some juggling of facts in regard to English titles gave
the impression that Annie was in a fair way to become the Duchess of
Marlborough or at least the Honourable Anne. She afterwards told Dum and
me when we accused her of not having drawn it mild, that she had
neglected to tell Mabel the exact connection with the earl, but had
hinted that it was very close and one likely to lead to untold honours
to our little friend.

"I saw to it that your haughty relative, Mrs. Garnett, was informed of
the coincidence of Annie's mother and your mother being friends and of
their being at the house party of the big bugs together. Mrs. Garnett
was duly impressed and somewhat astonished, intimating that her cousin,
Dr. Allison, had picked up an English wife with no connections to speak
of. She will evidently have a higher opinion of you now that she knows
that your mother and grandfather were on visiting terms with an earl."

Dee pretended to be in jest about Cousin Park, but it was the truth that
she had always rather looked down on my mother for not being Virginian.
She never lost the chance to inform any stranger when I was introduced
that my name was not the Virginia Pages. With her, F. F. V's were the
first and last and only families worth considering in the Union or out
of it. Of course, English nobility was in a way admirable, since it had
given birth to F. F. V.dom, but the claim of inhabitants of any other
state to aristocracy was brushed aside with scornful disdain.

I remember a story my father used to tell of an old gentleman who said
he considered it very bad taste to ask any man where he came from. "If
he is a Virginian, he is sure to let you know it without your asking,
and if he is not, there is no use in rubbing it in on the poor fellow by
making him own up to it."

Mabel's being invited to supper was a question that had been discussed
up and down by the Tuckers, principally down; but they had finally
determined that it was on the whole up to them. Dee had been appointed
inviter as being the tactful member of the team, and Mabel naturally
jumped at the chance, overlooking the fact that she did not consider us
properly chaperoned.

Her politeness and cordiality to Annie were entirely unlooked for by
that shy maiden, who almost fainted from astonishment; and she actually
gushed over Mr. Pore. He looked at her for a moment through his ultra
gold glasses and then, deciding that she was nothing but a vulgar
"Amehriken," he never seemed to see her again, although he was forced to
hear her very often. She addressed many remarks to him and tried in
every way to make him notice her, but an "Aw, reahly!" was about all she
could get from him.

"I simply adore the English!" she exclaimed. "They have so much
reserve. Do you know, my grandfather Binks was English, and indeed he
never lost his accent although he lived in this country for a great many
years. I remember so well how he dropped his aitches and put them on in
the most unexpected places."

"Aw, reahly now!"

"Aren't you and your sweet daughter going back to England soon? You
don't know how we dote on your little Annie," and so on and so on, until
it was indeed sickening. It was easy to see that Miss Binks was as
anxious to get an invitation to England as she had been to Richmond,
while Mr. Pore was entirely unconscious of what she was driving at. He
looked upon her as some kind of escaped lunatic and Annie sat in
open-eyed wonderment, expecting every moment to be insulted as of yore.

They did not dream of Dee's having turned the tables on Mabel Binks as
she had done. Mr. Pore was still the country store-keeper and Annie was
the same shy girl with her wardrobe as limited as ever, but the wily Dee
had turned them into dukes and duchesses in Mabel's eyes, and the
snobbish creature was grovelling at the feet of the nobility. I have
never seen two persons have as much fun as Tweedles did that evening.
They were very quiet but spent the time "sicking Mabel on," as Dee
expressed it.

I was pleased to see that Annie did not unbend in the least to her
one-time persecutor. In spite of Annie's shyness she had a dignity that
was most admirable; and while she was perfectly polite to Mabel, she
permitted no advances. Getting invitations to England to visit in grand
country houses that still belong to older brothers was certainly up-hill
work. Winding purple and grey yarn for Mrs. Garnett and fetching and
carrying for her, even agreeing with her at every point, was child's
play to this thing of flattering a middle-aged Englishman who seemed to
have no conversation at his command but "Aw, reahly!" or "My word!" and
trying to undo the work of the last year and make a little English girl
forget all the rudeness she had suffered at the hands of her persistent
tormentor.

I kept wondering how about the lard and molasses that the middle-aged
Englishman would perhaps spend the rest of his life weighing out and
drawing from the barrel for his negro customers as well as white; also
if Mrs. Binks would still think Gresham too democratic in the class of
pupils it enrolled. I so naturally hate a snob that I did not have a
pleasant evening at all, and I could not quite see the fun in it that
Tweedles did.

I was glad when it was over and we could stretch out on our cots with
the pure sea air blowing on us, and, lulled by the soothing sound of the
waves lapping the shore, sleep the sleep of the just. We could be
thankful, at least, that Mabel Binks was, after all, none of us and when
we left Willoughby Beach we might never have to see her again.

As we lay side by side, all of us so quiet that one would have thought
sleep held us fast, there was a sudden upheaval from Mary's cot and a
sound that might have been sobbing.

"Mary! Mary! What is it?" we demanded. "Are you ill?" And then the
possible sobs turned into unmistakable giggles.

"Oh! Oh! Oh! I can't get to sleep for thinking of Mr. Pore's
countenance when Mabel told him of her Binks grandfather who dropped his
aitches." Then we all went off into shrieks of laughter that very little
would have turned into hysterics, if Zebedee had not knocked sternly on
our dressing-room door and bade us remember that we had other guests. Of
course he meant we must not do anything to make Mr. Pore think we were
not perfect ladies, so we subsided with only an occasional upheaval and
a smothered snicker.

And while we lay there I thought of a title for a short story and almost
got a plot worked out; but I went to sleep before it was quite clear.
The title was: "The Machinations of Mabel."



CHAPTER XIX.

THE WEDDING.


July was almost over and it seemed but yesterday since we had come to
the Beach and taken possession of Mrs. Rand's cottage and made
preparations for the continuous house-party. So many pleasures and
excitements had been crowded into that month that really might have been
spread over six months and still not have been stupid! It seems a pity
that pleasant happenings make time pass quickly and sad and boresome
things make it drag. How much better if it could only be the other way.
I know Miss Cox felt that the month had gone very quickly and would have
been glad of a few more weeks to give to preparations for matrimony, but
Mr. Robert Gordon had got the bit between his teeth and there was no
holding him in.

"Haven't I been waiting for years and years? Isn't my hair white with
waiting?" he would say, shaking his exceedingly becoming, iron-grey
locks.

We girls privately thought that he might have spunked up a little sooner
instead of spending all those weary years in growing grey, no matter how
becoming it had proven to be; but Zebedee told me he rather felt that
Miss Cox and Mr. Gordon were more suited to each other than they had
been in their youth. The years of separation had taught them a lesson
they might never have learned together: how to control their tempers and
bridle their tongues.

I have never seen a couple who seemed to be in greater accord and
harmony. It was a harmony of the soul and one that would last through
eternity, not just a superficial agreement caused by the "glamor of the
amour." Perhaps Zebedee was right and their happiness was more certain
now that suffering and experience had instilled in their hearts the
wisdom of moderation and self-control.

It was to be a very quiet wedding at old St. Paul's in Norfolk, but we
girls were in a state of excitement that made Miss Cox appear calm in
contrast. The boys from the camp were invited and a half dozen of Mr.
Gordon's most intimate friends.

Miss Cox was singularly alone in the world except for some very dear
friends who were not getatable. Mr. Gordon's mother was dead and his
sister married and living in California, so we were, after all, the
nearest thing to a family they could scrape up. The groom wanted Zebedee
for his best man but Miss Cox had to have him to give her away and a
next best man must needs be chosen.

Blanche, of course, had to be included in the wedding party, and it was
with a great deal of finesse that we persuaded her not to wear the
fearful and wonderful costume she had arrived in. Zebedee solved the
problem of how to do it by presenting her with a very large new black
mohair skirt and a plain, tailored linen shirt waist and a black sailor
hat.

"If poor, dear Blanche has a hankering for her gorgeous finery, tell her
that she must wear this sober costume to please me. I know she would not
hurt my feelings for anything. Also tell her that it would be perfectly
_au fait_ for her to go to this gay function after the recent
bereavement in her family, the untimely death of the brother's baby,
provided she is suitably attired. There is a new white apron, too," said
Zebedee, handing the box to Dum.

"For goodness' sake, don't ask me to do it!" exclaimed Dum. "Dee is the
diplomat and is fully capable of soft-soaping Blanche into thinking that
her striped skirt and purple waist are too fine to wear to a mere
wedding but must be saved for funerals. I'd do it all wrong and make a
mess of it." So Dee consented to be the fashion dictator to the cook if
I would go with her and uphold her in her arguments.

"Well, now the generositiness of my employerer is well nigh
asphyxiating!" cried the girl. "I have always heard a simplifaction of
costumery was the quintillion of excellency. But would it not be more
respectful like to Miss Cox if we female maidens adorned of ourselves in
more gorgeous affectations?"

"Oh, no! Not at all!" declared Dee quickly. "You see--you see--Miss Cox
is going to wear a very simple gown herself--just a traveling
dress--and it would not be fair for any of us to dress too finely
and--and--attract attention to ourselves when all eyes should be drawn
to the bride."

This was a knock-down argument and with a sigh Blanche put away her
finery. Donning the plain and appropriate clothes Zebedee had purchased,
she made herself ready for what she designated as "the wedding corsage."

I had been to very few weddings, as I believe I have said before. Our
part of the country was like the Hereafter in that the inhabitants
neither married nor gave in marriage, being composed chiefly of
bachelors and old maids, with a sprinkling of widowers and widows who
seemed to have found once enough. This wedding was even more exciting to
me than my first hop. All of us were nervous except Miss Cox, who was
singularly composed. Blanche forgot to put any salt in the batter bread
that morning, and Dum came down to breakfast in odd stockings, one black
and one tan. As for Zebedee, anyone would think it was his own wedding,
he was so upset.

"I don't see why they don't have undertakers for weddings as well as
funerals," he exclaimed. "Someone to take all the responsibility and not
leave the matter to amateurs! Here I am scared to death for fear the
sexton won't remember to open the church in time; that the preacher
won't come; that I might lose the ring--by Jove! I have lost it! I told
Bob to keep it himself!" and he slapped his pockets frantically and
began to turn them inside out. Of course it was in the particular place
it should have been, safe in his pocket book; but I know I saw him at
least a dozen times go through exactly the same search during the
morning, his eyes big with fright and his hands trembling.

I don't know what there is about a wedding to make the masculine gender
so panic-stricken, but I am told that there never was a man living who
could go through a ceremony (whether it be his own or another's) without
showing the white feather. Maybe Brigham Young and Solomon got so used
to it they could at least assume composure, but I have my doubts about
even those much-married gentlemen.

The trolley was not considered good enough by Mr. Gordon and Zebedee for
the wedding party, so we were conveyed to Norfolk in automobiles; and in
spite of our host's lugubrious prognostications that we were going to be
very late and the preacher would be gone, we arrived many minutes before
we were due.

There were a few persons in the church attracted by curiosity and the
rumour of a wedding, and Mr. Gordon was waiting for us with his next
best man, who had just arrived from South Carolina.

"Gee whiz, I'm glad to see that man!" breathed Zebedee, looking as
though a great weight had fallen from him. "Now he can take charge of
this confounded ring. This is not in my jurisdiction, anyhow. Whoever
heard of the father of the bride having to take care of the ring?" Then
he began his usual search for the offending little circlet of gold,
crying nervously: "I've lost it! I've lost it this time for sure!" But I
reminded him of the pocket book and with a relieved sigh he handed the
ring over to the next best man, who assumed the expression of Hercules
when Atlas got him to hold the world for a while.

As the bells rang out high noon, we seated ourselves sedately in the
front pews. The minister took his stand in the pulpit and the organ
pealed forth the wedding march. A little stir in the back and an almost
inaudible titter from the strangers who were scattered about the church,
caused us to turn to see what was going on, and who should be marching
up the aisle, the observed of all observers, but poor, dear Blanche,
heading the "wedding corsage"! Only a few yards behind her was Miss Cox
on the arm of Zebedee. It was awfully funny, but we were too taken up
with the serious matter in hand to know how funny it was until
afterwards. "Thank goodness, she hasn't got on her 'costumery'!"
whispered Dee.

Mr. Gordon was standing at the altar waiting for his bride, and the best
man produced the ring at the proper time without much fumbling. Zebedee
gave the bride away with an air of great generosity and then wept
shamelessly as was his habit. Miss Cox kept her composure even until
she was Mrs. Robert Gordon. The groom shook like an aspen leaf but
managed to make his responses in a loud, determined voice.

Over at last, the knot safely tied and Miss Jane Cox no more! By a word
from the minister she had been miraculously turned into Mrs. Gordon. She
looked very happy as she came down the aisle on the arm of her beaming
husband, who had stopped trembling and had begun to prance, at least
that is what Dee declared he was doing. Zebedee had stopped weeping and
was now in a broad grin, and the next best man was evidently overjoyed
to have shifted the burden of the ring to the rightful owner.

How pretty the table was in the private room at the Montecello Hotel
where Zebedee gave the wedding breakfast! We all suddenly discovered we
had eaten next to no breakfast, and now did our best to make up for lost
time. There never were such brisk and attentive and omnipresent waiters
anywhere before, I am sure. In addition, now and then we could see the
delighted countenance of Blanche, peeping in from an adjoining room
where she had assumed the office of ladies' maid to help us off with
our imaginary wraps. She felt that at last she was moving in high
society and I think bitterly regretted the tabooed finery, especially
when she saw the gleaming shirt fronts and Tuxedos of the waiters.

The breakfast was perfect. Had not Tweedles and I spent days going over
the menu to be sure we forgot nothing and had everything we should and
nothing we shouldn't? Dum came very near spoiling the whole effect
because she insisted upon having cakes and molasses.

"You know Zebedee and I like them better than anything and always order
them when we eat at hotels. I can't see that it would not be perfectly
appropriate. The Montecello hotel would not have them on its menu if it
wasn't elegant," she declared as we pored over the printed bill of fare
that Zebedee had brought to Willoughby several days before the wedding.

"But, Dum," we explained, "this is not a real breakfast, just a wedding
breakfast. It is to be luncheon instead of breakfast."

"All right then, let's have pan-cakes instead of plain cakes! They have
those on the luncheon menu."

It took much persuading and arguing to convince Dum that even pan-cakes
would not do at a wedding breakfast. I thought once she and Dee would
have to resort to trial by combat, a measure they had not had to employ
for a long time. They still practiced with the boxing gloves but had not
put them on to settle disputes for many a month. They finally appealed
to Zebedee, who confessed himself to be no Ladies' Home Advisor as to
the proper food to be eaten on such occasions, but said:

"What does Page think?"

"Well, I think that there is nothing in the world better than plain
cakes and molasses except maybe pan-cakes and syrup, but somehow it does
not seem to me to be very romantic eating for a wedding breakfast."

"The ultimatum is delivered," laughed Zebedee. "If you must have
pan-cakes, Dum, for a wedding breakfast you will have to wait until you
get a bridegroom of your own,--and I hope that will be many a day,
honey."

"All right, if you are all against me," sighed Dum, "I'll give in; but I
can't see that broiled chicken and English peas are any more romantic
than cakes and molasses,--not as much so, in fact. What could be more
romantic than a nice passionate hot cake all smothered in sweet, sticky,
loving molasses?"

What we did agree to have was canteloupe, then filet de sole with Parker
House rolls, then broiled chicken and peas with pop-overs, a fruit salad
with mayonnaise, and last but not least, a great cake with all of the
things baked in it that are usual to wedding cakes, and wonderful ice
cream in molds appropriate for the occasion.

If anyone felt like kicking, his or her feelings were carefully
concealed. Even the bride and groom ate, and as for the boys from the
camp,--you would suppose they had been living on hard tack from the way
they devoured that wedding breakfast.

Just before the cake was to be cut, the head waiter himself came in, a
broad grin on his good-natured countenance and in his hands a great tray
laden with orders of hot pan-cakes, a surprise and joke of Zebedee's.
It wasn't such a joke, after all, as every last one of those steaming
cakes disappeared as if by magic. One would have thought that the guests
had had enough, more than enough, in fact, but as Sleepy said, no doubt
voicing the sentiment of the crowd:

"When there is no room in me for pan-cakes, then you fellows had better
get ready for a funeral. It would be a sure indication of the last
stages of a wasting disease."

"Consumption!" suggested Wink. "Consumption of food!"

Zebedee told me he had ordered the cakes because he hated to see Dum
disappointed; and then, too, he had a terrible fear that she might get
married some time just so she could have pan-cakes at a wedding
breakfast.

"I want to keep my girls with me as long as I can, and certainly don't
want one of them to marry for the sake of a hot cake. Dum is fully
capable of going any lengths to carry her point. Did you see how she
squared her chin when you and Dee talked her down?" I hadn't seen it,
but I knew full well that when Dum did square her chin she meant
business.

Pan-cakes and all were finally cleared away and the cake was cut, with
many jests and much laughter. Dee got the ring, Annie the piece of money
and Wink the thimble, thereby causing many a merry bit of banter from
his friends. He came very near swallowing it, not expecting to find
anything in his slice of cake as usually, by some miraculous juggling,
the females get the things in the wedding cake.

I had not seen Wink since the night of the hop. He had absented himself
from Willoughby, visiting various friends in Suffolk and on the Eastern
Shore, and only getting back to the camp in time for the wedding. His
absence had been somewhat of a relief to me. I did not know just how he
would behave nor was I certain what my attitude should be. I felt that I
must treat him as though nothing had happened; but if he was going to
show hurt feelings or be silly, I knew I would get embarrassed and
stiff.

I had not had a good look at him until we were seated at the table.
Then, to my dismay, he was placed next to me. I knew it was up to me to
be pleasant, so I waltzed in to be agreeable but not too charming. If
only I could make Wink feel as I did! He looked different, somehow, but
for a moment I could not account for it; and then it suddenly came over
me that Wink was growing a moustache!

I felt like crawling under the table but instead I turned to the
gentleman seated on my other side, no other than the next best man, and
I am sure that Mabel Binks herself could not have got off a greater fire
of small talk than I managed to pour forth. When I told Wink that he
would have to grow a moustache before I could be sure of the state of my
feelings towards him, I was not in real earnest and he might have known
it! I was quite sure at that wedding breakfast what my feelings were:
decided resentment. Why could he not realize that I was nothing but a
little girl who occasionally played lady?

At any rate I was not going to let a little old moustache composed of a
few struggling hairs spoil either my pleasure or my appetite. The next
best man proved to be most agreeable and very easy to talk to, and the
breakfast was good enough to occupy one without conversation had it been
necessary to give your attention only to the matter in hand.

Wink looked rather ruefully at the thimble.

"You'll be darning your own socks 'til Kingdom Come," laughed Sleepy,
glad that the joke for once was not on him. Wink sadly acquiesced, and
then Zebedee kindly added:

"Maybe that means the kind of thimble Wendy gave Peter Pan, Wink. You
remember in that delightful fantasy a thimble was a kiss."

"Well, anyhow, one can't wear a thimble and a mitten at the same time,"
muttered Wink so that no one heard him but me; and to my dying day I
shall hate myself for the way I blushed. It was one of those blushes
that hurt. I had a feeling that even my eyes were red. I had just taken
the first mouthful of a wonderful molded ice: a pair of white
turtle-doves billing and cooing, perched in the heart of a great
raspberry sherbet rose. I choked (it must have been on the billing and
cooing) and the next best man had to beat me in the back until I could
get my breath. I was thankful for the choke and hoped no one had
noticed that my crimson countenance had preceded the accident.

And now the toasts were in order. Everyone had to say something no
matter how bromidic. "Long life and happiness!" "May your shadows never
grow less!" And Dum blurted out: "May you have many more wedding
breakfasts!" which caused a perfect storm of applause, as it sounded
very much as though she meant marriages for the newly wedded couple.
Mary Flannagan got off an impromptu limerick that amused us Gresham
girls very much, because we were well aware of the fact that Miss Cox
was very unconventional in her ideas and always irritated by narrowness
in religion or anything else:

          "There was a young lady named Coxy,
           Who wished to be married by proxy.
             When asked why this wuz,
             She said: 'Oh, becuz
           I never could stand orthodoxy.'"

Then Wink, who was very clever at everything but growing moustaches,
came back very quickly with:

          "The groom then he swore and he cust;
           'I hate to begin saying "must,"
               But I know my dear Jane
               Will surely be sane
           And be married in church, or I'll bust.'"

There had been some discussion about where they were to be married, Miss
Cox rather leaning towards going to some friends in Albemarle, but we
had joined Mr. Gordon in talking her out of it.

Zebedee made a wonderful toast master, encouraging the bashful members
of the party with so much tact and kindliness that even the timid Annie
actually got upon her feet and made a very graceful little speech before
she seemed to be aware of the fact that she was really doing it.

Then Sleepy, feeling that if Annie did, he must, too, raised his bulky
form, and very much in the tone of a schoolboy saying his piece, almost
choking with embarrassment, managed to get out the following:

          "May joy and happiness be your lot,
           As down the path of life you trot."

We expressed ourselves in various ways, but we were all sincere in
wishing well for the Gordons. I, for one, regretted exceedingly that
the one person who had ever made me comprehend mathematics was no longer
to teach me. I dreaded the coming year, certain that I would have a
terrible time with that bug-bear of a subject.

Zebedee's speech was: "There are many kinds of toasts I have always
known, dry toast, milk toast, French toast and buttered toast, and these
may be hot or cold,--but bless me if we haven't more variety of toasts
at this nuptial banquet than were ever dreamed of in my philosophy. One
thing I can assert: No one has offered a dry toast nor proffered a cold
one. Each has been buttered and piping hot, and the best thing I can
wish my two dear friends is that their toast may always be buttered and
piping hot!" And he added feelingly: "May you always eat it together!"

Then Mr. Gordon made a very graceful little concession: he actually
quoted "Alice in the Looking Glass," substituting Jinny for Alice. This
was pretty nice of him, considering that their early and lasting
disagreement had been all because of Lewis Carroll's nonsense verses.

          "'Then fill up the glasses as quick as you can,
           And sprinkle the table with buttons and bran;
           Put cats in the coffee, and mice in the tea--
           And welcome Queen Jinny with thirty-times-three.

          "'Then fill up your glasses with treacle and ink,
           Or anything else that is pleasant to drink;
           Mix sand with the cider and wool with the wine--
           And welcome Queen Jinny with ninety-times-nine!'"

Then Miss Cox arose to answer the toast, and one would have supposed it
was some great sonnet in her honour that her new husband had composed,
so graciously did she accept the tribute paid her.

          "'O Looking Glass creatures,' quoth Jinny, 'draw near!
           'Tis an honour to see me, a favour to hear;
           'Tis a privilege high to have dinner and tea
           Along with the Red Queen, the White Queen, and me!'"



CHAPTER XX.

THE AFTER-MATH.


They took a steamer to New York, that Mecca of the newly-wed, and we all
adjourned to the pier to wish them God-speed. As the vessel pulled out,
Rags produced from his pocket the self-same old tennis shoes that we had
found the morning we took possession of Mrs. Rand's cottage, and threw
them after the departing couple. They looked very comical as they
floated along for a moment like veritable gun-boats and then filled and
sank.

"_Requiescat in Pace!_" muttered Wink. "At least you can't forget them
again."

The boys were breaking camp next day, and the day after we were to get
ready to turn over the cottage to Mrs. Rand's next tenants. Zebedee
bitterly regretted that he had not taken the place for two months, but
it was too late now. Besides, his holiday was over and we all well knew
that Willoughby would not be quite the same thing with our kind host not
there, the boys no longer in their camp, and good Miss Cox married and
gone.

Zebedee had to go back to Richmond that night, ready for harness the
next morning.

"My, but I dread it!" he exclaimed as he took us over to the trolley to
start us back to Willoughby Beach. "I almost wish I had never had a
holiday, it is so hard to go back to work. What are stupid old
newspapers for, anyhow? Who wants to read them?" This made us smile, as
Zebedee is like a raging lion until he gets the morning paper, and then
goes through the same rampageous humour later in the day until the
afternoon paper appears to assuage his agony. "We journalists get no
thanks, anyhow. I agree with the Frenchman who says that a journalist's
efforts are no more appreciated than a cook's; no one remembers what he
had for yesterday's dinner or what was in yesterday's newspaper."

Blanche listened to Mr. Tucker's words with rapt attention. She always
stood at a respectful distance but within easy ear-shot of the
conversation, which she eagerly drank in and then commented on later to
Tweedles and me. But this too nearly touched her heart for her to wait
until we were alone to make her original and characteristic comments.

"Oh, Mr. Tucker, it is so considerable of you to find a symbolarity
between the chosen professions of master and handymaiden! Sense I have
been conductoring of the curlinary apartment of your enstablishment, I
have so often felt the infutility of my labours. What I do is enjoyed
only for the momentariness of its consumption, and is never more thought
of unless it is to say too rich or something; and then, if it disagrees,
poor Blanche is remembered again, and then not to say agree'bly.
Sometimes whin I have been placin' clean papers on the kitchen shelves,
the same sentimentality has occurred to me that you so apely quotetioned
a moment ago, Mr. Tucker; namely, in relation to journalists and cooks.
I see all that pretty printin' going to was'e jes as a restin' place for
pots 'n pans, and then in the garbage pail I see the cold waffles that
was once as fresh and hot as the next, one no more considered than the
other, and I could weep for both of us. Our electrocution teacher used
to say a piece about 'Impervious Cæsar, dead and turned to clay doth
stop the crack to keep the wind away.'"

We stood aghast during this speech. Dum looked as though she would
welcome Death, the Deliverer, with joy, anything to relieve the strain
she was on to keep from exploding with laughter; but Zebedee did not
seem to think it was funny at all. He listened with the greatest
courtesy and when she had finished with her quotation (which we
afterwards agreed was singularly appropriate, since Cæsar had been made
"impervious" enough to keep out water as well as wind), he answered her
very kindly:

"I thank you, Blanche, for understanding me so well. I can tell you that
I, for one, will always remember your waffles; and had I known at the
time that there was any more batter, there would not have been any cold
ones to find their last ignominious resting place in the garbage pail."

"I also have saved some of your writings, Mr. Tucker,--an editorial that
Miss Dum said you had written before you came for your holiday,--and I
will put it in my mem'ry book as an epitaph of you."

Then Dum did explode. She made out that she was sneezing and even
insisted upon purchasing a menthol inhaler before she went back to
Willoughby, declaring she felt a head cold coming on.

The Beach seemed stale, flat and unprofitable somehow when we got back.
We missed Miss Cox and above all we missed Zebedee.

"I'm glad we couldn't get the cottage for another month," yawned Dum.
"Old Zebedeelums couldn't be here more than once or twice in that time
and it would surely be stupid without him;" and all of us agreed with
her in our hearts.

The cottage was in a terrible state of disorder. We had been too excited
in the morning to do our chores. Beds were unmade, the living-room messy
and untidy with sweaters on chairs, crumbs on the table and floor and
shades some up, and some down, and some crooked (nothing to my mind
gives a room a more forlorn look than window shades at sixes and
sevens); the kitchen, usually in the pink of perfection, just as
Blanche had left it after cooking what she had termed, a somewhat
"forgetable" breakfast.

"Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow," said Dee. "Let's
leave this mess and take a dip before supper. We will have fifteen
minutes at least before Blanche can get the funeral baked meats on the
table."

We were to have a very simple repast and we told Blanche just to put it
on the table and we would wait on ourselves. The girl was as tired as we
were and we felt we must spare her. We determined to get the cottage in
perfect order the next day and just to "live keerless" for that evening
and night, as Blanche expressed it.

Five hats and five pairs of gloves, dropped where the owners happened to
fancy, did not help to make the living-room look any more orderly. Dum
took off her white kid pumps, that had been pinching a little all day,
and left them in the middle of the floor. The morning paper, despised of
Zebedee but eagerly devoured nevertheless, was scattered all over the
divan and floor, and a bag of bananas Blanche had been intrusted with
was in a state of dishabille on the crummy table. It was surely a place
to flee from and flee we did.

Such a swim as we had! It seemed the best of the whole month. The water
was perfect, just a little cooler than the air, and the setting sun
turned it to liquid gold.

"Why, look at Annie! She is swimming, really swimming!" called out Mary
Flannagan. And sure enough there was Annie staying on top of the water
and calmly paddling around like a beautiful white swan.

"Of course I can swim in golden water! Who couldn't? I do wish Mr.
Tucker could see me. Isn't it too bad after all his patience with me
that I wait until he is gone to show what I can do? Somehow this seems
like a dream, and the water is fairy water."

"Let's all catch hold of hands and lie on our backs and float," I
suggested.

"If you won't leave me when the tide comes, to turn over and swim in,"
pleaded Annie.

"I will stay with you until your shoulders grate against the shore,"
promised Mary.

And so we lay all in a row on top of the water, faces upturned to the
wonderful evening sky, our bodies as light as air and our hearts even
lighter.

"Gee, Dee! I am glad you suggested this!" sighed Dum. "I never felt more
peaceful in my life than I do this minute, and I know I never felt more
forlorn than I did when we first got back to the cottage."

"Me too! Me too!" we chorused.

"Let's float to Spain and never come back," suggested Annie.

"And this from a little lady who has been afraid to get her toes wet all
month! Well, I'm game if the rest of you are," and Mary gave a few
vigorous kicks that sent the line some distance from shore; and still
Annie with her white-swan expression floated peacefully on. We lay there
chatting and dreaming, washing off "the cares that infest the day,"
planning the future and gazing into the clear obscure of the darkening
sky.

    "'Star light, star bright, first star I've seen tonight!
      I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight,'"

sang Dum, and sure enough there was a star.

"Look here, girls, it's getting late! I hate to awaken you from this
dream of eternal bliss, but we've got to go in," and Dee turned over on
her face to swim in, thereby causing some commotion in the hearts of the
two swimmers newly initiated in the art.

"Don't leave me!" gasped Annie.

"Didn't your faithful Mary swear to take you safe to shore? Just lie
still and I'll tow you in;" and in they came, Mary steaming away like a
tug boat and Annie floating like an ocean liner, until her shoulders
grated on the sand and then and only then was she convinced that she
could touch bottom.

We raced back to the cottage, hungry and happy, the fifteen minutes that
we had meant to stay having turned into an hour in the twinkling of an
eye. From afar we espied Blanche on the porch, shooing us back with one
hand and beckoning with the other. We obeyed the beckoning one and
eagerly demanded what was the matter. Her face was so pale that the name
of Blanche was almost appropriate.

"What is it, Blanche? What has happened?" we cried.

But she was speechless except for gasping: "Oh, the disgrace, the
disgrace!"

We followed her trembling form into the living room, wet suits and all,
feeling that the exigency of the case was sufficient cause for
suspension of rules and for once we would bring dripping bathing suits
into the house. The cause of Blanche's perturbation of mind was easily
understood when we beheld the portly figure of Cousin Park Garnett
stiffly seated in a dusty chair (on Dum's Panama hat it was discovered
later). She was indignantly waving her turkey-tail fan, and such an
expression of disgust I have never seen on a human countenance.

The room looked no better than when we had left it and even a little
worse, as the pickup supper we were to have had been dumped on the table
in great confusion and not at all in Blanche's usual careful style. We
had told her not to set the table and she had taken us at our word. The
odour of sardines left in the opened boxes mingled with that of the
bananas, still in the bursting bag. The bread was cut in thick, uneven
slices. A glass jar of pickle and one of olives added to the sketchiness
of the table. It was "confusion worse confounded."

"Oh!" I gasped, on viewing my indignant relative, "I thought you had
gone!"

"No, I have not yet departed," stiffly from Cousin Park. "This is rather
an unusual time for bathing, is it not?"

"Yes'm, but----" and I began to stammer out something, fully aware of
the dismal figure I cut, standing limply in front of that august
presence, my wet clothes sending forth streams of water that settled in
little puddles on the floor. I was well aware of the fact that Cousin
Park had never approved of my friendship with the Tuckers, and now,
coming on us in this far from commendable state, she would have what she
would consider a handle for her hitherto unfounded objections.

But Dee, who by some power that she possessed in common with her father,
the power by a certain tact to become master of any situation, no matter
how embarrassing, came forward and with all the manners of one much
older and clothed in suitable garments, so that you lost sight of her
scant and dripping bathing suit, she said:

"We are very glad to see you, Mrs. Garnett, and are extremely sorry to
have missed any of your visit. You have found us in some disarray from
the fact that we are preparing to move and at the same time have just
been engaged in having a wedding in the family."

"A wedding! Whose wedding?" The wily Dee had taken her mind off of the
disorder in the room and now she felt she could soon win her over to
complacency at least. The wetting paled to insignificance beside the
wedding.

"Why, our dear friend and chaperone, Miss Cox."

"Your chaperone! Goodness gracious, child! Did she marry your father?"

"Heavens, no!" laughed Dee. "Mr. Bob Gordon is the happy man!"

"Miss Binks did not tell me a word of it," said Mrs. Garnett rather
suspiciously.

"No, she did not know about it." "Not know about it? That is strange!
Was there any reason for keeping it secret?"

"No especial reason for keeping it secret except that it was to be a
very quiet affair and the invited guests included only the most intimate
friends. Mabel Binks has a way of getting herself invited by hook or
crook, and we just decided not to tell her about the matter."

"How long were they engaged? It seems strange behaviour in a chaperone."

"I tell you what you do, Mrs. Garnett. If you won't mind the informality
of a picnic supper, you stay and have supper with us. We will run up and
get dressed and be down in a moment and then we will tell you the whole
thing, how they got engaged and all about it." And so anxious was my
cousin for a bit of news to retail to the ladies on the hotel porch that
she actually stayed.

When we got down stairs after very hasty toilets, we found the
good-natured Blanche had brought some order out of the chaos of the
supper table and with an instinct truly remarkable had made a pot of
delicious, fragrant coffee. Coffee, I had often heard Cousin Park
declare to be her one weakness. Now you may be sure that what Cousin
Park, with her smug self-satisfaction, considered a weakness in herself
would really have been a passion in anyone else.

As Dee, who was doing the honours at the head of the table, it being her
week as housekeeper, poured the coffee and our still far from mollified
guest saw the beautiful golden brown hue that it assumed the minute it
mingled with the cream, her expression softened and she looked very much
as she had when Judge Grayson recited, "My Grandmother's Turkey-tail
Fan." The colour of coffee when it is poured on cream is a never failing
test of its quality, and the colour of Blanche's coffee was beyond
compare.

The food was very good if not very elegantly served, and I really
believe Mrs. Garnett enjoyed herself as much as she was capable of
doing. When anyone's spinal column has solidified she can't have much
fun, and I truly believe that was the case with hers.

What she enjoyed as much as the coffee and even more, perhaps, was the
delightful news she was gathering in every detail to take back to the
old hens roosting on the hotel porch. Mr. and Mrs. Gordon had made no
secret of their affairs, even their former engagement and cause of the
break being known now to some twenty persons; so we felt that it would
be all right if we told the whole thing to our eager listener.

She agreed with the young lover that the Lobster Quadrille (of which she
had never heard before) was nonsense pure and simple. Dum had to recite
it twice and finally we all got up and danced it and sang it for her.
Then she did acknowledge that it might appeal to some persons, but that
a girl with as irregular features as the former Miss Cox had been very
foolish to let such twaddle as that stand in the way of matrimony, and
she was surely exceedingly fortunate, when Time had certainly done
nothing to straighten her face, to be able to catch a husband after all.

We well knew that while Time had not had a beautifying effect on our
beloved Miss Cox's countenance, it had made more lovely her character
and soul, and that was after all what Mr. Gordon loved more than
anything else. We kept our knowledge to ourselves, however, as Cousin
Park was not the kind of person to talk metaphysics to.

She finally departed, much to our relief, as we were one and all ready
for bed. We escorted her to the hotel and before we were out of earshot
we could hear her cackling the news to the other old hens very much as a
real barnyard fowl will do when she scratches up some delectable morsel
too large to swallow at one gulp. She immediately bruits it abroad,
attracting all the chickens on the farm, and then such another noise,
pecking, grabbing and clucking ensues, until the choice bit is torn to
shreds.

We were very tired but not too tired to applaud Mary Flannagan, who
imitated Cousin Park to the life as she recounted the tale to her
cronies. Then Mary followed the gossipy monologue with her favourite
stunt of barnyard noises, finally ending up with Cousin Park's parting
speech anent the Lobster Quadrille and Miss Cox's imprudence in not
taking a husband when she had a chance, even if their taste in the
classics did not coincide.



CHAPTER XXI.

SETTLING UP.


The next day, our last at the Beach, such scrubbing, sweeping and
dusting went on as was never seen before I am sure. We were determined
that Mrs. Rand should not say that girls at best were "goatish." Blanche
insisted that she could do all the cleaning herself, but we thought it
but fair to turn in and help.

"How could people in one short month collect so much mess?" demanded
Dum, as she turned bureau drawers out on the beds and did what she
called "picking rags." "Do you s'pose on a desert island we would find
ourselves littered up with a lot of doo-dads?"

"Well, Robinson Crusoe collected Friday, besides several other days of
the week that I can't remember," answered Dee, "and it seems to me he
got a dog and a cat and a parrot, and he certainly 'made him a coat of
an old Nannie goat.' He had no luggage at all on his arrival and had
much to cart away. And look at Swiss Family Robinson! There was nothing
they did not collect in the way of belongings on their desert island,
even a wife for one of the boys."

"Do you know, I used to think Swiss Family Robinson was the best book
that had ever been written," said I, emerging from the closet with an
arm full of shoes.

"Well, I don't know but that it is still," declared Dum. "Wouldn't it be
just grand to be cast on a desert island? Of course I mean if Zebedee
could be cast along, too."

"Of course we wouldn't be cast without him," said Dee, "Heaven would be
more like the other place if Zebedee wasn't there. Goodness, I wish he
didn't have to work and we could all stay together all the time!"

"When I grow up a little more and learn how, I am going to sculp such a
wonderful statue that Zebedee can stop working." Dum forgot all about
the rags she was picking and with the dreamy expression we knew so well,
began to ball up a perfectly clean shirt waist as though it were clay
and with her sculptor's thumb shape it into I don't know what image of
surpassing beauty.

She was rudely awakened from her dream by Dee, who snatched the
imaginary clay from her twin, exclaiming:

"Since that happens to be my shirt waist, the one I am going to travel
back to Richmond in, I'll thank you to get-rich-quick on one of your own
... or this dirty middy blouse might prove a good medium," and she
tossed a very soiled article over Dum's head. It happened to be a middy
that she had gone crabbing in, so it was not overly pleasant. Anything
was enough to start Tweedles in a romp, and in a minute the air was
black with shoes and white with pillows, and what work we had
accomplished was in a fair way to be done over.

Annie and I took to the farthest cot for safety and Mary perched upon
the railing and egged the warriors to fiercer battle by giving her
inimitable dog fight with variations. As is often the case, the
non-combatants got the worst of the fight. Dee ducked a pillow, thrown
with tremendous force by her opponent, and Annie got it square on her
dainty nose, causing that aristocratic feature to bleed profusely.

"Oh, Annie, Annie, I'm so sorry!" wailed Dum.

"It is altogether my fault!" declared Dee. "I had no business ducking!"

"Id's dothing adall," insisted Annie, tightly grasping her offending
member, "by old dose always bleeds. Jusd a liddle dab will draw de
clared."

"Oh, but I just know it hurts awfully," and Dee raced off for a basin of
cold water while Dum rummaged in the debris for some of the gentleman's
handkerchiefs that she and Dee always used in common with their father.

Mary insisted upon dropping a large brass door key down the sufferer's
back, declaring that nothing stopped nose-bleed so effectively as the
shock occasioned by a brass door key dropped down the back.

"I just know it is going to disfigure you for days to come!" exclaimed
Dee.

"Oh, I don't bind the loogs but id's just the bordification of being
such a duisance," answered the poor girl, as usual embarrassed over
being the observed of all observers. And just then in spite of the basin
of gore and Annie's pitiful expression and Tweedles' great solicitude,
Mary and I went off into uncontrollable giggles.

"I'm not laughing at you, Annie, but at your 'bordification,'" gasped
Mary, holding her own nose to give the proper accent; and then everybody
laughed and it had the effect described in the nursery rhyme:

          "Little Tommy Grace
             Had a pain in his face
           So bad he couldn't learn a letter.
           In came Dicky Long,
           Singing such a funny song,
           Tommy laughed and his face felt much better."

Blanche arrived on the scene with a bottle of witch hazel and Annie was
made to lie down in the farthest corner with healing cloths bound round
her injuries.

"I never heard sech carryings on!" exclaimed the girl. "Mo' like a
passel of boys. I couldn't believe my yers that 'twas my young missusses
making sech hullybullyboo. That there rent woman come by jes' then, and
she rubbered 'til I thought she would sho' twis' her po' white neck
off."

Blanche had as frank a dislike to Mrs. Rand as that good woman had for
all darkeys, and it was only with the most tactful management that we
could keep them from coming to blows on the few occasions when Mrs. Rand
came over to inspect our cottage. The white woman was very free in her
use of the very objectionable term "nigger," and Blanche on the other
hand had an insolent bearing in her presence that was entirely foreign
to her usual polite manner and gentle disposition. It seemed strange
that two persons as excellent in their way as Mrs. Rand and Blanche
should be so antagonistic. They were like two chemicals, innocent and
mild until brought together and then such a bubbling and boiling and
exploding! Mrs. Rand always entered the house through the kitchen, which
in itself was an irritation to Blanche.

"I don't hold to no back-do' company. If'n she calls herself a lady,
wherefore don't she entrance like one? What call is she got to be
pryin' and appearin' auspiciously into all my intensils? I ain't goin'
to leave no mo' dirt than I found."

"Did she come in just now?" asked Dee as Blanche got off the foregoing
tirade after having administered to Annie.

"No'm, she never come in! I squared myself in the do'way and she
couldn't git by me and she couldn't git over me and Gawd knows she
couldn't git under me. I wa'n't goin' to let her or no one else come in
my kitchen 'til I got the dislocation indigent to the undue disordinary
of yesterday somewhat abated."

"Did she say anything?" laughed Dum.

"Yessum, she said a absolute piece of po'try what I would not defame my
lips by repeating to you."

"Oh, please tell us what it was!" we begged.

"Well, 'twas:

          "'Nigger, nigger, never die,
           Black face and shiny eye,
           Flat nose and crooked toes,
           That's the way the nigger goes.'"

"Wasn't that horrid of her?" we cried. "And what did you say?"

"Well, I held my head up same as a white lady, an' I answered her back
same as a white lady, an' I called out to her:

          "'I had a little dog
           An' his name was Dash,
           'Druther be a nigger
           Than po' white trash!'"

"Well, I'm glad you got back at her; and now come on and let's get the
cottage in such good order that we won't care which way the owner comes
in," and Dee gave Blanche a friendly pat on her broad shoulder. The girl
left us, her good-humour restored by our sympathy, and if there was a
speck of dirt left in that kitchen it would have taken a magnifying
glass to find it.

Trunks were soon packed, and we had proceeded to the business of
dismantling beds (all but on our porch), when we heard the rasping voice
of Mrs. Rand in the living room below, that wily woman having slipped in
through the kitchen while Blanche's back was turned.

"Hey--Miss Tucker Twins!! Where's that so-called paw of yours? I come
over to go over the inventory with him."

"Inventory! What inventory?" asked Tweedles from the balcony.

"What inventory? Why, land's sakes alive, what are you handin' out to
me? Didn't I give him a list of my goods and chattels to be returned to
me in the same condition in which they was delivered to him on the fust
of the month?"

"Oh, I believe there is a list of things in the blue tea-pot," and Dee
raced down the steps and drew out the important document from the
beautiful old blue tea-pot on the mantelpiece.

"But, Mrs. Rand, our father has gone back to Richmond, went yesterday,
and he told me to tell you to send him the bill for anything that was
broken or missing."

"Bill, indeed!" she sniffed. "I don't trust to bills with any of these
here tenants. Richmond is Richmond and Willoughby is Willoughby."

"Certainly, Mrs. Rand," said Dee with great dignity, "we will not ask
you to trust us for any sum provided we have cash enough to reimburse
you. There have been very few things broken and I fancy nothing will be
missing. A few water glasses and some cups, I think, are the only things
broken."

"Not with a nigger in the kitchen!" said our landlady, rudely. "Yer
can't tell me a nigger has gone through a month without bustin' mo'
things than that."

"Why, Blanche didn't break the things that have been broken. We did it
ourselves. I don't believe Blanche has broken a single thing," exclaimed
Dum.

"You is quite exactitude in yo' statement, Miss Dum," said Blanche,
appearing in the kitchen door, where she had overheard all of Mrs.
Rand's not too complimentary remarks. "I is not been the instructive
mimber of the household, and what brokerage has been committed has been
performed by you young ladies or yo' papa. I is fractured but one object
since I engaged in domestic disuetude and that was a cup without no
saucer, and before Gawd it was cracked whin I come."

Blanche no longer looked the mild and peaceful character we had found
her to be. Her pleasant gingerbread coloured face was purple with rage,
and one of her pigtails, usually tightly wrapped, had come unbound and
was standing up in a great woolly bush on the top of her head, giving
her very much the appearance of a Zulu warrior in battle regalia. A
rolling pin in one hand and a batter cake turner in the other added to
her warlike aspect.

"I never seed a nigger yet that didn't say everything she broke was
cracked when she come," sniffed Mrs. Rand scornfully.

"Blanche is quite right!" exclaimed Dum. "The cup she broke was cracked,
because I cracked it myself. I cracked the cup and broke the saucer the
first night at the beach, didn't I, Dee?"

"No, you didn't. I did it myself," said Dee.

"Well, hoity-toity! It looks like you both think you done something fine
to bust up the chiny," and Mrs. Rand smiled grimly as she gave an extra
twist to her Mrs. Wiggs knot and got out of her capacious pocket a huge
pair of brass-rimmed spectacles. "Come on, now, and go over this here
inventory. Business is business, and if the chiny is busted, no matter
who done it, it is the business of the renters to make good. I ain't
a-saying the nigger done it, but I'm a-saying if'n she didn't, she's the
fust nigger I ever seed that didn't behave like a bull in a chiny shop,
bustin' and breakin' wherever she trod."

But Blanche had not had her say out and she took up the ball and
continued:

"I is large, 'tis true, but I is light to locomotion, and brokerage is
never been one of my failures. My kitchen is open fer yo' conception at
any time, Miss Dee. You kin bring in the rent woman when it suits yo'
invention," and with a bow that took in all of us and left out Mrs.
Rand, Blanche retired to her domain and lifted up her voice in a doleful
hymn.

[Illustration: "Why don't you speak up, girl?"--_Page 255_]

Everything in the cottage was carefully checked off, living room first
and then the sleeping porches. We were thankful indeed that we had
cleaned up so well and had all of our accumulated mess out of the way.
The old woman complimented us on the appearance of everything. She was
not at all an unkind person, except where coloured people were
concerned. She seemed to take a motherly interest in us and highly
approved of Zebedee.

"Well, you gals is sho' kept my house nice and I must say it is some
surprise to me. You look like such harum-scarums that I was fearing you
would be worser tenants than them boys---- Land sakes, if'n the tick
covers ain't clean enough ter use agin. I always changes 'em fer a new
tenant, but looks like it would be foolishness to take off perfectly
clean things, 'thout spot or speck on 'em. Of course, I'll take off the
nigger's tick."

Every time Mrs. Rand said nigger it made me wince. Mammy Susan had
brought me up to think that that was a word not to be used in polite
society or anywhere else.

"Niggers is the onliest ones what kin say nigger," she used to tell me.
"Whin white folks says niggers they is demeaning of themselves, an' they
is also paintin' of the nigger blacker than his Maker done see fit to
make him."

Blanche's room was in perfect order and I wondered if Mrs. Rand would
not give her some praise, but that stern person only sniffed and passed
on.

Dishes were next on the list and we ticketed them off easily. Four cups
were broken, three saucers and a plate and six water glasses, about a
dollar's worth in all, as the china and glass were of the plainest. Then
came the kitchen and cooking utensils. We hoped Blanche would go out,
but she stood to her guns bravely and refused to desert the ship. Mrs.
Rand poked her nose into every crack and crevice and seemed to be
hunting dirt which she could not discover. The tins were counted and
found O. K.; and then the kitchen spoons and forks were as carefully
gone over as though they had been of the finest silver. One iron spoon
was worn on the edges and a little bent from the vigorous beating and
stirring the batter bread had undergone, and the strictly business Mrs.
Rand looked at it dubiously, but finally let it pass along with the
"sheep," although her expression was very much what Peter's might be
if a goat had butt his way into Paradise.

"Where's that there can-opener, a perfectly good one that I bought from
a peddler? I wouldn't lose it for a pretty! I never seed one like it
before and the man I bought it from said he was the sole agent for it
and mor'n likely would not be back this way for years to come," and Mrs.
Rand rummaged in the table drawer like some lady who feared she had lost
some precious jewel.

Blanche stood back abashed and was silent, and Tweedles and I looked at
one another guiltily.

"Why don't you speak up, girl? You needn't think you can get off with my
can-opener, 'cause you can't." Still Blanche held to the policy of the
Tar Baby and said nothing, and Tweedles and I were as dumb as fish. "It
was one of these here combination implements, a cork-screw and
can-opener, beer-opener and knife-sharpener, with a potato-parer at one
end and apple-corer at the other, and in the middle a nutmeg-grater. I
never seen a finer thing, and besides it had a attachment fer the
slicin' of Sarytogy chips."

"I am very sorry, Mrs. Rand, but your can-opener is--is--lost," said
Dee. "Blanche is not responsible for it, as she had nothing to do with
it. Here is a very good can-opener, however, that our father brought
back from Norfolk," and she took from its accustomed nail a sturdy
little affair of the old-fashioned kind, meant to open cans and to do
nothing but open cans, and in consequence one that did open cans. "Here
is a cork-screw, and here is a nutmeg-grater! We never did know what all
the other parts of the thing were meant for or I am sure my father would
have got those, too, as he did not wish to defraud you in any way."

"You talk like that there so-called paw of yours had lost it, and I
believe you is just trying to shield this nigger. I never seed a nigger
yet who had the gumption to use one of these here labor-saving devices."

The purple colour again rose in Blanche's dusky countenance and the tuft
of unwrapped wool began to shake ominously, but still she held her
peace, showing that she was a lady at heart. She knew as well as we did
what had become of the prized and priceless implement, but her loyalty
made her keep silence.

The situation was tense and the irate owner looked from one to another
of our solemn countenances, trying to solve the riddle of the lost
can-opener. Annie and Mary had come to the kitchen door, Annie with her
nose not much the worse for the blow, but with her pretty face very pale
from the loss of blood, Mary with the whimsical expression that she
always wore when she was taking mental notes of anyone whom she intended
to imitate later on.

We all of us could recall with the keenest delight the memorable evening
when Zebedee undertook to open the sardines at a beach party we were
having and his scornful remarks anent our can-opener.

"Look at this thing!" he had said indignantly. "Pretends to do so much
and can't do a single thing right! Broke the cork in the olive bottle!
Won't cut anything but a little round, jagged hole in this square can of
sardines! I have cut a biscuit out of my hand with this butt end that
is meant for the Lord knows what!" (That must have been the end that was
meant for an apple-corer.) He continued, "If it's the last act of my
life, I intend to take this abomination out in the bay and drop it down
ten fathoms deep."

He was as good as his word, and the very next morning when we went out
for our usual before-breakfast dip, Zebedee appeared with the can-opener
in his mouth (to leave his hands free for swimming) and with strong,
rapid strokes shot out far into the bay, there to consign the hated
abomination to its watery grave.

And now what was to be said to Mrs. Rand? It wouldn't do to stand like
Patience on a monument smiling at Grief, indefinitely. We looked to Dee,
our social deliverer, to save us, and I only hoped that Mary and I would
not disgrace the crowd by going off into our usual giggles.

"As I said before, Mrs. Rand, it is lost and we are as sorry as can be.
I will either reimburse you for your property or I'll send you another
from Richmond." We were mighty proud of Dee, her reimburse sounded so
grown-up and business-like, but Mrs. Rand seemed not one whit
impressed.

"How kin you git something when they ain't no more of them, and how kin
you pay fer something when it is valued for its bein' so useful and so
rare? I wouldn't a lef' it here if'n I hadn't 'a' thought you was all
girls and had been raised proper, not to lose or break other folkses'
things."

"Well then, Mrs. Rand, all I can say is that we are sorry, and if you
will make out a receipted bill for the china and glass that is broken,
we will pay you immediately and wish you good-morning, as we have a
great deal to do on this our last day at the beach." Dee's dignity was
wonderful. How often I have seen her father behave in exactly that way:
do all he could to keep the peace, exercise all his tact to smooth
things over and, that failing, take on a dignity and a toploftical
manner that would reduce the offender to pulp.

"Well, now, you needn't get so huffy about it! Business is just
business----"

"Exactly, so please make out the receipted bill and let us pay you what
we owe you."

"Well, I never said I was goin' to charge you fer those few bits of
broken chiny. I reckon I kin make my fifteen per cent. off my
investment, anyhow," and the old woman gave her rare snaggle-toothed
grin. "I'll give it to you that you is leaving my house as clean as you
found it, and that's something I can't say of most tenants."

"Cleaner!" muttered Blanche, but if Mrs. Rand heard, she pretended not
to. Dee's grande dame manner had had its effect and she now treated us
with great cordiality, shaking hands and expressing a wish to see all of
us again at the beach and complimenting us again and again on the
neatness of the cottage. She sent messages to "that so-called paw" and
was almost genial as she bade us good-bye.

Mary and I managed to wait until she got away before we were shaken by
the inevitable storm of giggles. "All of that row about an old
can-opener," gasped Mary, "and after all it was a can't-opener."



CHAPTER XXII.

GOOD-BYE TO THE BEACH.


How we did hate to say good-bye to Willoughby! When I remembered my
feelings on our arrival and compared them to my feelings on departure, I
could hardly believe I was the same person or that it was the same
place. I no longer missed trees and grass; my eyes were accustomed to
the glare; and as for the dead monotony of sand and water: I had learned
to see infinite variety in the colour of the land and sea; no two days
had been alike, no two hours, indeed. Dum had taught me to see these
shifting effects, and now land and water and sky instead of seeming as
they had at first, like three hard notes that always played the same
singsong tune, were turned into three majestic chords that with changing
and intermingling could run the whole gamut of harmony.

We had spent a perfect month with so little friction that it was not
worth naming, and the friendship of the five girls was stronger than
ever. It would be impossible to sleep five on a porch, with cots so
close together that the covers had no room to slip between, without
finding out each other's faults and virtues.

Dee, for instance, who was an exceptionally rapid dresser, had a habit
of using more than her share of hair-pins. She always insisted that they
were hers or that she had not used them, and she would not take down her
hair to see. Then when she finally undressed at night and plaited her
thick, blue-black rope, she would be much abashed as we claimed our
share of hair-pins.

Mary Flannagan snored louder and more persistently than anyone I have
ever known; she also had a habit of talking in her sleep.

Annie Pore did take a little longer to arrange her ripe-wheat hair than
was quite fair where there was only one mirror and four other girls
trying to beautify themselves in front of it, but there is no telling
how long any of us would have taken to prink had we been as pretty as
Annie.

Dum's fault was putting on anybody's and everybody's clothes, especially
stockings, and then wild horses could not drag them off her when once
she had them on. She had a habit of undressing and throwing her clothes
on top of other people's. No matter where you put your clothes or how
carefully you folded them, you were sure to find something of Dum's on
top of them in the morning. I was careless enough myself, so this did
not bother me much, but it was a continual irritation to Dee, who was
much more orderly than Dum; and poor little Annie suffered greatly from
this habit of dear old Dum's. Annie had very few clothes and she was
painfully neat and careful with them, and I have seen her turn away her
head to hide her emotion when she found Dum's wet stockings, that she
had been clamming in the day before, balled up on top of her clean shirt
waist, and her muddy shoes resting fondly in the lap of her, Annie's,
last fresh white skirt.

I know I had many faults as a room-mate, but I believe my habit of
selfishly hogging the bathroom was the worst. I think people born and
brought up without plumbing are always piggy about bath tubs when once
they come in contact with them. I was irreverent enough to wish with all
my heart that Mr. Pore had my grandfather's hat-tub and that Bracken, my
beloved home, could have water put into it with an altogether, all-over,
all-at-once bath tub.

One last look through all the dressing rooms and porches, to be sure
that we were not leaving any valuables for the next tenants to find, a
lingering glance at the quiet, peaceful living-room where we had spent
so many delightful hours, and we went out of the front door as Mrs. Rand
came in the back, pail and broom in hand, to make ready for the incoming
hordes.

"She won't find no use in that there kitchen fer buckets an' brooms.
It's clean enough to ask any potentiate of Europe to eat off'n any spot
in it. The King of France himself could make no claimant of the
perdition of my kitchen," and Blanche's countenance began to take on the
purple hue of rage.

"Oh, don't mind her, Blanche! She just likes for a new tenant to find
her busy. Here come the new tenants, too! Isn't it a good thing we got
out so early in the morning?"

Sure enough, as Dee spoke there loomed on the horizon a large family,
coming to take possession of the cottage: a mother and father, four
boys, two little girls, two young coloured maids and an old mammy
carrying a baby. The last sound we heard as we hurried to catch the
trolley was Mrs. Rand berating them for coming so early in the morning
before she had time to clean up after the last tenants.

"Of course I know it is the fust of August, but the fust of August don't
mean the fust thing in the morning. Tenants is all alike, skeered to
death for fear they ain't going to git all that's coming to them. I
never understood when you come dickerin' for my house that you had three
niggers. I ain't partial to rentin' to folks that keeps nigger help. Now
these last folks what jest left didn't keep but one nigger, but----" but
what, we never knew, as we got out of earshot. Blanche's countenance
lost its purple hue as we settled ourselves on the Norfolk trolley. We
hoped that Mrs. Rand would realize that to make fifteen per cent. on an
investment means one must be willing to put up with many things.

The boys who had been at the camp met us in Norfolk and engineered us to
the pier to see Annie and Mary off on the James River boat, and then
took Tweedles and me to the station and put us on the train for
Richmond.

At the boat Sleepy shook hands with Annie until I really thought the
Captain would have to interfere. With his face a fiery red, I heard him
implore her to write to him. I don't know what she said, but I can't
fancy Annie in an adamant mood, and as I saw Sleepy give her his card
and hastily write something in a memorandum book, I have an idea she
granted his request.

Wink's moustache was getting quite bushy, but his manner was still
grand, gloomy and peculiar. He would walk by me, but would not talk to
me, although I made every effort to make myself agreeable. He tugged
viciously at his little moustache until I felt like telling him: "Kill
it, but don't worry it to death!"

Just before we got on the train he said to me in a cold and formal
tone: "May I write to you, Miss Allison?"

"Certainly, Mr. White!"

"But will you answer my letters?" He looked so sad and melodramatic that
I burst out laughing.

"Of course I will, Wink! Don't be so silly!"

The last I saw of him he was trying seemingly to pull his poor little
moustache out by the roots.



CHAPTER XXIII.

UNTIL NEXT TIME.


Zebedee met us at the station in Richmond with the faithful Henry Ford,
quite spruced up (I mean Henry) with a new coat of paint, put on while
the family was at the beach. Brindle, Dee's precious dog, was perched on
the front seat with the air of injured dignity he always assumed, so Dee
said, when they went off to the seashore and left him behind. His
damson-jam eyes were moist and sad and his breathing even more
stertorous than usual.

"Well, you know yourself how you hate the water and how grouchy you were
the last time you went with us!" said Brindle's mistress, hugging the
old dog and speaking to him as though in answer to the reproach in his
eyes. "If you would learn to be a more agreeable traveling companion and
eat fish like a respectable canine, we would never leave you. Goodness
knows, I miss you and long for you every minute of the day and night."
Brindle snorted and gurgled and licked Dee's ear in token of
forgiveness.

"I am sure any physician would say that Brindle's adenoids should be
removed," commented Dum from the back seat. "Did you ever hear such a
noise in your life as that old dog makes just simply living? Every
breath he draws seems to require all the force and strength he can
muster."

"Virginia Tucker, I will thank you not to be personal with Brindle. His
breathing shows his breeding, which is more than your conversation does.
You know how easy it is to hurt his feelings," and Dee looked daggers at
her twin.

"Oh, excuse me, Brindle, I was merely joking!"

"You know perfectly well that Brindle's one fault is that he has no
sense of humour."

"Well, I had forgotten it for the moment.--I saved him a chocolate
peppermint out of the box we bought on the train. Do you think that
would serve as balm to his wounded feelings?"

"It might!" said Dee dubiously. "Brindle is very fond of chocolate
peppermints, but he does hate to be guyed." It did, however, and peace
was restored before Zebedee finished attending to the trunks and
cranking up Henry.

Blanche's brother, "Po' Jo," had met her at the station, much to the
relief of all of us.

"I am no snob," declared Zebedee, "but I'll be hanged if I was relishing
the prospect of running poor, dear Blanche uptown in Henry Ford,
bedecked as she was in all that glory of second mourning."

Blanche's feelings were so hurt when we suggested that she should travel
in the decent black skirt and plain shirtwaist bought for the wedding
that we had to give in and let her return in the costume in which she
had arrived.

"Po' Jo" was quite as comfortable in figure as his sister. He was, in
fact, as fat and sleek as a 'possum, and like that animal he had a
perpetual grin on his coffee-coloured countenance. His portly form
stretched the seams of a Palm Beach suit, on the left sleeve of which
was stitched a large black heart in honour of his recent bereavement.
Brother and sister beamed on each other with family pride written all
over their good-natured faces.

"Well, Sister Blanche, you is looking quite swanky, as a English
gentleman at the Club is contingently saying." Jo was waiter at the
Club.

"And you, Brother Jo, you is bearin' up wonderful an' lookin' mighty
well in yo' new Palm Leaf suit," and she smoothed the sleeve with the
black heart stitched thereon with an air of conscious pride that she
could boast such a wonderful brother.

We were sorry to tell Blanche good-bye. She had endeared herself to all
of us, and in spite of the fun we got out of her peculiarities, we were
really very fond of her. She was perfectly honest and faithful, and
above and beyond all that, as Zebedee said, she was a born cook. She was
to stay a while with Jo and then go down to pay Mammy Susan a visit
before returning to her school.

I was to spend one night with the Tuckers and then go back to my beloved
Bracken. I was reproaching myself for staying even the one night longer
away from Father, but Zebedee had planned all kinds of things for my
pleasure, and Tweedles were so persistent in their entreaties that I had
submitted, although I was getting very homesick for Father and Mammy
Susan, to say nothing of the dogs and Peg, my old horse.

Lunch first! Dee made all of us eat beefsteak, ordering a huge
porterhouse so she could get the bone for Brindle. "I know he is tired
of the food at that old café," she said. "He does not look nourished to
me and I intend to give him some building-up food."

"Why, Dee, he is as fat as a pig," insisted Dum.

"Yes, I know he is fat, but I don't like the colour of his tongue. Flesh
is not always an indication of health, Dum Tucker."

"That's so," put in Zebedee, "I've seen many a fat corpse, but my
opinion is that Brindle needs exercise. He is so lazy."

After lunch as we spun up Broad Street, we noticed quite a crowd
gathered near the marketplace. Zebedee, with an eye ever open and nose
ever twitching for news, slowed up his car.

"Nothing but a street fakir, but he must have something fine or be a
very convincing talker."

Just then Henry indulged in his little habit of stopping altogether, and
Zebedee had to get out and crank up. This enabled us to hear the fakir
and see his wares.

"This, ladies and gentlemen, is a most remarkable implement, taking the
place of a whole chest of tools! This is a potato-parer! This is an
apple-corer! This is a cork-screw! This is a can-opener! This is a
nutmeg-grater! This is a knife-sharpener! This----" But Dum leapt from
the car and without any ceremony interrupted the man's stream of
convincing eloquence. With every "this" he had illustrated the virtues
of his wares by slicing potatoes, coring apples, opening bottles and
cans, etc.

"How much?" she asked excitedly.

"Ten cents! Ten cents! Eight perfect implements in one for ten cents! I
am the sole agent in the United States and Canada and you miss the
chance of a lifetime if you do not purchase one. I am now on my way to
California and will not return to Virginia for many years."

"Give me five," demanded Dum recklessly, producing her last fifty cents.

The delighted and mystified salesman counted them out to her and the
crowd began to buy excitedly, as though they thought that the wonderful
magic implements would start on their trip to California and back by the
Great Lakes and through Canada and they might be old men and women
before another chance came to own one of these rare combinations.

"Mrs. Rand's lost treasure," gasped Dee.

"Here's another for good measure!" and the man tossed an extra one into
Dum's lap as Henry got up steam and moved off. "You started my sales and
I won't have a one left by night at this rate."

"I am going to send all of these to that hateful old Mrs. Rand," and Dum
settled herself on the cushions, her lap full of can-openers.

We had told Zebedee of Mrs. Rand's carryings-on over her precious tool
and he had been vastly amused.

"Don't send them all," I pleaded. "Take one back to Gresham. It would be
invaluable at boarding school to get olives out of the bottles, and to
open trunks when the keys got lost. As a shoe-horn I am sure it could
not be surpassed, for the apple-corer end would do for that. As for a
finger-nail file, what could equal the nutmeg-grater?"

So Dum sent only five to Mrs. Rand, and one we took to boarding school
with us, where it ever after played an important part in the curriculum
under the pseudonym of "Mrs. Rand."

The Tuckers' apartment seemed especially crowded after the large
simplicity of the living-room at Willoughby. As a family they usually
managed to get anything they wanted very much, and they had had some
sixteen years of wanting and satisfying their desires. It was a
fortunate thing that they had, one and all, innate good taste. Mr.
Tucker had wanted pictures and prints; Dum had wanted bronzes, carved
curios of all sorts and casts of masterpieces; Dee had a leaning towards
soft Persian rugs, old china and pets. The pets had some of them been
mercifully overtaken by fate or I am sure we could not have squeezed
into the apartment on that hot afternoon in early August. All of them
had wanted books and the books wanted shelves, so wherever there wasn't
anything else there were book shelves. Small pictures were actually hung
on the doors, as there was no wall space available, and the rugs lapped
over each other on the floors.

"We usually have the rugs stored for the summer, but Brindle misses them
so much that I wouldn't let Zebedee do it this year. He loves to lie on
them and I truly believe he appreciates their colour as well as their
softness," and Dee leaned over and patted her beloved dog, who had
chosen a particularly wonderful old blue rug on which to take his
after-lunch nap.

"Well, I only hope they won't get moths in them with your and Zebedee's
foolishness," sniffed Dum.

"Oh, no, Brindle promised me to catch all the moths, didn't you,
Brindle, old boy?" Brindle, as though in answer to his mistress, looked
solemnly up and snapped at some tiny-winged creature which had
recklessly come too close to his powerful jaws.

"Look here, girls! Do you realize that our vacation is more than half
over? Before we can turn around we will be back at Gresham," I said,
fearing a discussion was imminent. I had heard the subject of moths and
Brindle's fondness for Persian rugs thoroughly threshed out before and
the gloves had had to be resorted to to prove the point that Brindle's
comfort was more important than mere rugs.

"Oh, Page, don't introduce such sad subjects!" exclaimed Dum. "Gresham
is all right in its way, but I can't bear to contemplate another winter
there. Still, I know it is up to us to go back."

"We'll be Juniors, too--and Juniors are always in hot water," sighed
Dee.

"Well, anyhow, we won't be beau-crazy Juniors like last year's class,"
declared Dum. "Did you ever see such a lot of boy grabbers in your
life?"

"I can't fancy our being grabby about boys, but I tell you one thing," I
laughed, "we are certainly much fonder of the male sex than we were a
year ago. Boys are nice and I do like 'em, and I don't care who knows
it, so there!"

Zebedee came in from his afternoon work just then and overheard the last
of my remarks. "What's all this? Page confessing to a fondness for the
opposite sex? You like boys, do you? Well, I am glad indeed of my
eternal youth. I am nothing but a boy, eh, Dum," he said, tweaking his
daughter's ear.

"Boy, indeed! You are nothing but a baby!"

"Well, I am a tired and hot baby and I thought I would find all of you
old ladies dressed and ready to go to the Country Club with me for a
game of tennis, a shower bath and supper afterwards on the terrace."

"Ready in a minute!" we chorused, and so we were.

Richmond was looking singularly attractive, I thought, as we spun along
Franklin Street, in spite of the fact that most of the houses were
closed for the summer and the female inhabitants off to the seashore or
springs. Here and there a lone man could be seen spreading himself and
his afternoon papers over his empty porch and steps, and occasionally a
faithful wife was conspicuous by reason of the absence of other faithful
wives. Usually she bore a conscious air of virtue and an expression that
plainly said: "Am I not a paragon to be sticking it out with John?"

The trees, however, seemed to be flourishing in the masculine element,
and in many places on that most beautiful of all streets the elms met
overhead, forming a dark-green arch. There was a delicious odour of
freshly watered asphalt and the streets were full of automobiles, all
seeming to be on pleasure bent now that the day's work was over. A few
carriages were making their stately way, but very few. The occupants of
the carriages were as a rule old and fat. I thought I saw Cousin Park
Garnett in one, with her cross, stupid, old pug dog on the seat by her,
but we were just then engaged in placing ourselves liable to arrest by
breaking the speed law, so I could not be quite sure. Dum was running
the car and she always seemed to court arrest and fine.

"When I see a clear stretch of road in front of me I simply have to
whoop her up a bit," she explained when Zebedee remonstrated with her.

"That's all right if you are sure you are out of sight of a cop, but I
have no idea of going your bail if you are hailed to the Juvenile Court
for speeding. A one hundred dollar fine would just about break me right
now. I don't set much store by the eleventh commandment in anything but
motoring, but in this thing of running a car it is mighty important:
'Don't get found out.' There's a cop now!"

Dum slowed up and looked very meek and ladylike as a mounted policeman
approached us, touching his cap to Mr. Tucker in passing.

"Zebedee knows every policeman on the force," said Dum teasingly. "There
is nothing like keeping in with the law."

"Certainly not, if a man happens to own two such harum-scarums as I do."

The Country Club was delightful, but they always are. When people club
together to have a good out-door time and to give others a chance to do
the same, a success always seems to be assured. Certainly that
particular club was most popular and prosperous and although we heard
repeatedly that everybody was out of town, there were, to my mind, a
great many left. The tennis courts were full to overflowing before the
evening light became too dim to see the balls, and the golf links had so
many players it resembled more a croquet ground. I had never played golf
and while the Tuckers all could, they did not care much for it,
preferring the more strenuous game of tennis.

"I'm saving up golf for that old age that they tell me is sure to come
some day," sighed Zebedee. "I don't really believe them."

None of us did, either. How could old age claim such a boy as Jeffry
Tucker?

However, time itself was flying, and the one day and night I was to
spend in Richmond with my friends passed in the twinkling of an eye.
Before I realized it, it was really over, my vacation with the Tucker
Twins was finished, and I was on the train for Milton, a volume of
Alfred Noyes' latest poems in my suitcase for Father and a box of Martha
Washington candy for Mammy Susan, who thought more of "white folkses'
sto' candy" than of all the silks of the Orient or jewels of the Sultan
of Turkey.



CHAPTER XXIV.

A BREAD-AND-BUTTER LETTER.



                                Milton, Va., August 3, 19--.

          Dear Tuckers:

          How can I ever tell you what a good time I have
          had with you? Maybe you know already by the
          glowing countenance I must have presented for the
          last month, only I can't believe it is really a
          month, it went flying by so fast. It took June
          tenants going out of Mrs. Rand's cottage and
          August tenants coming in to convince me that July
          was really gone, and still I don't see where it
          went.

          Father met me at Milton, driving the colt as
          usual, only the colt is getting to be quite a
          staid and respectable roadster. Father says a
          country doctor's horse that can stay skittish very
          long is a wonder, with all of the hard driving he
          is forced to give him. He still shies at
          automobiles, but I truly believe it is nothing but
          jealousy. I don't think he is in the least afraid
          of them, but he thinks the automobile is snorting
          and puffing at him, and like a spirited animal, he
          wants to let the car know that he is perfectly
          ready to fight and orders coffee and pistols for
          two.

          Mammy Susan was pathetically glad to see me. She
          is very grieved, however, over the new freckles on
          my nose and tried to make me bind cucumber
          peelings on that much-abused and perfectly
          inoffensive member. The dough mask is too fresh in
          my memory, however, for me to get myself messed up
          with anything else.

          Our neighbor, Jo Winn, was at the station and in
          his shy, husky voice actually had the spunk to
          inquire after Dee. He says his cousin, Mr.
          Reginald Kent, is making good in New York, and in
          every letter he writes he has something to say of
          the deer hunt and the wonderful Miss Tucker who
          shot the stag. His sister, Sally Winn, is at her
          old trick of trying to die. It is her midnight
          hurry calls that have tamed the colt, so Father
          declares.

          Bracken is looking very lovely and peaceful. Some
          of Father's old-maid cousins have just left; they
          were nice, soft ones, so Father really enjoyed
          having them. Next week Cousin Park Garnett is
          coming for her annual visitation. I told Father
          about Judge Grayson and the Turkey-tail Fan and he
          nearly died laughing. He says he is going to try
          reading his new book of Alfred Noyes to her and
          see what effect it will have on her.

          Dear Cousin Sue Lee is coming tomorrow and all of
          us are delighted. She is the dearest and sweetest
          in the world. I do hope you will all motor down to
          Bracken while she is here. You simply must get to
          know one another.

          Father is still regretting that he could not get
          to Willoughby. I think he works too hard and he
          says he knows he does, but what is a doctor to
          do? The people will get sick and will send for
          him.

          Good-bye, my dear friends! I would feel depressed
          that our wonderful vacation together is over, if I
          did not have the future to look forward to and
          know that I will soon be back at school with the
          Tucker Twins!

                                       Your best friend,
                                               PAGE ALLISON.



CHAPTER XXV.

BRACKEN IN AUGUST.


It was good to be home and how easily I slipped back into being a child
again! I could hardly believe I had been so grown-up for a month, going
to hops and having a proposal and what not. I spent a great deal of my
time driving around with Father, who was very pleased to have me.
Sometimes we squeezed Cousin Sue Lee into the narrow-seated buggy and
then we would have a jolly time. Cousin Sue seemed younger even than the
year before. It was incredible that she should be nearly fifty. It was
not that she looked so young, as her hair was turning quite gray, but
she was so young in her attitude towards life.

We had to have our annual confab on the subject of clothes, and a
catalogue from the mail order house was soon the chief in interest of
all our literature.

"I can't think what I would have done last year if you had not taken
hold for me, Cousin Sue. My clothes were so satisfactory."

I told her of poor Annie Pore and at her suggestion sent my little
English friend a catalogue with things marked that I was going to order.

My order was almost a duplicate of the year before except that I did not
need quite so many things, as I had a goodly number of middies left over
and some shirt waists.

Miss Pinky Davis, our country sempstress, was sent for, and again Cousin
Sue spent hours planning how best to cut up and trim the bolts of
nainsook she had ordered from Richmond. She laughed at my awkwardness
with a needle and declared I did regular "nigger sewing." I tried to
whip lace, but no matter how clean my hands were when I started, I ended
with a dirty knotted thread and the lace went on in little bunches with
plain, tightly drawn spaces intervening.

"I declare, child, I don't believe Jimmy Allison himself could have done
it any worse," she said, looking at my attempt to whip lace on a
petticoat. Cousin Sue always called Father, Jimmy. "How do you get it
so grubby?"

"It gets itself! I don't get it!" I exclaimed. "I washed my hands with
lye soap so as to be sure they were clean, but they just seem to ooze
dirt when I begin to sew."

"Well, in the first place you are sewing with a needle as big as a
tenpenny nail and who ever heard of whipping on lace with thirty-six
thread?" And my dear cousin patiently threaded me a finer needle with
the proper thread and started me again. "Go from left to right, honey,
you are not a Chinaman."

"No, you are a Zulu, my dear, and should go clothed as such," said
Father, coming in to view our operations. "I believe even you could
string beads for your summer costume and cut a hole in a blanket for
winter."

"Well, I do hate to sew so, no wonder I can't do it. I want the clothes
but I don't want them bad enough to make 'em myself."

"The time will come when you will like to sew," said Miss Pinky, her
mouth full of pins.

"That sounds terribly sad," laughed Father. "What is going to make her
like it, Miss Pinky?"

"Oh, the time will come when she will find it soothing to sew."

Miss Pinky snipped away with a great pair of sharp shears as
nonchalantly as though she were cutting newspapers instead of very sheer
organdy for another white dress that Cousin Sue had decided I must have.
I never could see how she could tell where the scissors were going to
cut next, they were so big and she was so little. Miss Pinky always
reminded me of a paper doll, somehow. She seemed to have no thickness at
all to her. Her profile was like a bas-relief and rather low relief at
that. I remember when I was quite a little girl I examined her dress
very carefully to see if it could be fastened on the shoulders in the
manner of my paper dolls, with little folded-over flaps.

"Maybe it will, but it is certainly not soothing now. It makes me want
to scream."

"Don't do it! Just put up that flimsy foolishness and come drive over to
Milton with me. I think I'll drop in on poor Sally Winn before supper
and maybe she will get through the night without me. We can call for
the mail, too, and beat R. F. D. to it."

The Rural Free Delivery is a great institution in the country where
persons cannot go for the mail, but sometimes it was a great irritation
to us. Our mail was taken from the Post Office very early in the morning
and did not reach us until quite late in the afternoon, the carrier
circling all around the county before he landed at our box. "Come on,
Sue, you can squeeze in and we can have a jolly drive."

We found Sally Winn up and very busy. As she had been snatched from a
yawning grave only two nights before, we were rather astonished.

"Comp'ny's coming and I had to get up and put things to rights. I've
stirred up a cake and set some Sally Lunn for supper, and while I was up
I thought I had better preserve those peaches on the tree by the dairy
before they got too ripe. They make the best tasting preserves of any
peaches I ever saw. I am certainly going to fix a jar for you, Doctor.
Don't let me forget it. I've got two of Aunt Keziah's children, she is
raising, here helping me, but they are not much good for anything but
just to run to the spring and wring the frying size chickens' necks." In
writing I am perforce compelled to use a few periods, but not so Sally.
She poured forth this flow of conversation with never a pause for breath
or reply.

"The company that's coming is Reginald Kent, son of my first cousin once
removed. He is a great hand at eating and made so much fuss over my
cooking that it seemed like an awful pity for me to lay up in bed when
he was here, although it may be the death of me to be up and doing and
no doubt will bring on one of my spells."

"If it does," broke in my wily parent, "take a teaspoonful of that pink
medicine out of the low flat bottle and repeat in half an hour. Be sure
you do not take more than a teaspoonful and be very careful to have half
an hour between doses."

Father told us afterwards that there was nothing in the pink medicine in
the flat bottle but a most harmless and attenuated mixture of bromide,
but he warned her to take the exact dose and wait the full half hour to
make her feel it was a potent medicine that she must handle with great
care so she would think it would make her well. There was nothing much
the matter with Sally Winn but imagination; but imagination is sometimes
more powerful than the most potent drugs, and Sally was just as sick as
she thought she was, so Father said. He was wonderfully patient with her
and treated her ailments as seriously as though they really existed. She
had a leaky heart but there was a chance of her outliving her whole
generation. Of course there was also a chance of her being taken away at
any time, but Father considered the chance quite small as she seemed to
be growing better as time went on instead of worse.

"Reginald Kent is hoping that those Tuckers will be back here when he
comes on this visit, though he doesn't exactly say so. He just intimates
it by asking if the Allisons have any visitors. He is a mighty likely
young fellow and is getting on fine with his work. He really is coming
down here on business in a way. He wants to get some illustrations of
some of these views around here. He says he wants Aunt Keziah's cabin
and some of the little darkeys, and he wants an inside view of old Aunt
Rosana's and Uncle Peter's house."

Here Father stopped her long enough to say that he would go over to
Milton for the mail and come back for Cousin Sue and me. We had not got
in a word edgewise, but I never tried to when Sally once started. I
should think that anyone who saw as few persons as she did would want to
listen and find out things instead of imparting knowledge, but Sally
just seemed to be full to overflowing and she simply had to let off
steam before she could take on anything more. She wanted to know but she
wanted more to let you know.

She told us all she could about Reginald Kent, which was on the whole
rather interesting. Then she began on her turkeys and chickens and
enlarged somewhat on the subject of Jo and his irritating way of keeping
news to himself, and then with a bound she leapt upon her symptoms. I
knew it was coming and bowed my head in resignation.

"It looks like if I get to studying about things that one of my spells
is sure to follow. Now I have been thinking a lot lately about Reginald
Kent's mother, my first cousin once removed, and the more I think of her
the more I get to brooding. If you would believe me, in the night I got
to trembling so that I could have sworn there was an earthquake going
through the county. My bed fairly rocked. I had to call Jo. He gave me a
dose of my pink medicine and it ca'med me some. Each time I get one of
those attacks I hope it means the end, but somehow I always come back."

"But, Sally, why do you hope it is the end?" I asked. "I don't see why
you want to die. It would be very hard on Jo if you should leave him."

"Why, child, dying is one of the things I have always wanted to do. I
somehow feel that in the other life I'm going to be so happy. I dream I
am dead sometimes and, do you know, I am always real pretty and have
curly hair in that dream and lots of young folks around me who seem
somehow to belong to me."

Poor Sally! I felt very sorry for her and so did Cousin Sue, whom I saw
wiping a furtive tear away. I fancy Sally's life had been a very stale,
flat and unprofitable one and she had formed the habit of looking upon
death as at least a change, an adventure where she would be the heroine
for once. I determined to come to see her oftener and try to bring some
young life into her middle-aged existence.

Father brought us quite a bunch of mail. In it was a letter from Dee
telling the good news that they were going to motor down to Bracken on
Friday, the very next day, and stay over Sunday with us.

"Now you will know them and they will know you," I exclaimed, hugging
Cousin Sue. "I am going to bring them over to see you, too," I promised
Sally, noting her wistful expression.

Silent Jo Winn, who had come back from the station with Father, grinned
with delight when he heard that the Tuckers were coming. I remembered on
our memorable deer hunt of the winter before how Dee had won his shy
heart and had actually made him talk just like other folks.

"I tell you what let's do," he ventured. "This young cousin of ours,
Reginald Kent, is to be here to-night and he has to go over to Uncle
Peter's cabin to take some pictures. What's the reason we couldn't all
go on a picnic? We might fish in the river near Uncle Peter's, where
Miss Dum Tucker shot her deer."

"Splendid!" from Cousin Sue and me. Cousin Sue was always in for a
picnic.

Sally Winn gasped and clutched her heart until I thought we'd have to
run for her pink medicine; but she pulled herself together. It was
nothing but astonishment at the long speech from Jo. Jo actually
stringing words together and getting up a picnic! It was too much for
Sally, but she rose to the occasion with plans for a big lunch.

"I've a ham all cooked--and some blue Dominicker chickens that have just
reached the frying size--I'll make some fried pies--and some light
rolls--some Columbus eggs would eat good--and my pear pickle can't be
beat, and a stem to every one so you can eat it without messing yourself
up----"

"I have some news that is not quite so entrancing as yours, my dear,"
said Father, interrupting Sally's flow of eatables as he read from a
fat, crested, vellum letter. "Cousin Park Garnett will be with us
to-morrow, also."

"But she said Monday next, in her last letter!"

"She has changed her mind. She arrives on the afternoon train and will
bring her pug with her."

"Pug!"

"Yes, it seems the pug is the reason for her coming sooner. The doctor
thinks he needs a change of air."

"Heavens! And Dee is bringing Brindle, too!"

"Well, they'll have to fight it out."

"But, Father," I wailed, "can we go on and have the picnic?"

"Yes, my dear," broke in Cousin Sue. "I'll stay with Cousin Park."

"Indeed you won't!" declared Father. "Cousin Park can be invited to go
to the picnic, which of course she will not do. She can just stay at
home with Mammy Susan to wait on her and Miss Pinky Davis to listen to
her, while the pug dog breathes in great chunks of change of air. I have
some business to attend to over in the neck of the woods near Uncle
Peter's, so I can land at the ford for dinner with you."

Father was a great comfort to me. He always took such a sane view of
subjects. I was very uneasy for fear he might think we would have to
stay at home because of Cousin Park, as he was very strict with himself
and me, too, where hospitality to disagreeable relatives was concerned.
Cousin Park, however, could be perfectly well taken care of at Bracken
without us and there was no reason why we could not go on with our
plans; certainly no reason why dear little Cousin Sue should have to
forego the pleasure of the picnic to stay with a person who never lost
an occasion to mention her Lee nose and her spinsterhood.



CHAPTER XXVI.

THE PICNIC.


The Tuckers arrived right on the dot with Cousin Park. I had hoped they
would get in first, but Henry Ford had a blow out and they had to stop
for repairs.

We always had to send for Cousin Park in a great old sea-going rockaway
that was never pulled out of the carriage house except on state
occasions. Father and I hated to ride in it as it always reminded us of
funerals and Cousin Park. It was a low swung vehicle with high, broad
mud guards and a peculiar swaying motion that was apt either to put you
to sleep or make you very seasick, if you were inclined that way. It
took two large strong plow horses to propel it. I don't know where
Father got it but I do know that he had always had it. I believe there
are no more built like it but its counterpart may be seen in museums. I
used to play dolls in it when I was a kid, and on rare hilarious
occasions when I had a companion we would get up great games of Jesse
James and Dick Turpin and other noted highwaymen who would stop the
coach and rob all the dolls.

Cousin Park came riding up in state, her ugly, cross old pug placed
between her and Cousin Sue, who had most generously offered to go to
Milton to meet our august relative so I could be at home to receive the
Tuckers. As the rockaway made its ponderous way down the drive, the plow
horses foaming painfully after their twelve-mile pull, six to Milton and
six back, I spied Henry Ford, in a swirling cloud of dust, turn into the
avenue, and in a trice he was whizzing up behind the old sea-going
rockaway. Pug wrinkled his fat neck and whimpered when he saw Brindle,
who occupied the back seat with Dee; Cousin Park gave an audible snort.
Brindle paid no attention at all to Pug but sat like a bulldog done in
bronze and for the time being even refrained from snuffling.

I dreaded the meeting between my dear friends, the Tuckers, and Cousin
Park, knowing that lady's overbearing manner when things did not go to
suit her. But I really had not fathomed the depth of Zebedee's mixing
powers. I remembered what Dee had said about his being able to make
crabs and ice cream agree if he set his mind to it.

All the Tuckers looked rather aghast as they drew up near the rockaway
from which Cousin Park was emerging, Pug clasped in her arms. They
composed their countenances quickly, however, at least Dee and Zebedee
did; Dum was never able to pull her social self together quite so
quickly as her father and sister. Zebedee shut off his engine and in a
moment was assisting my dignified relative with her many traveling
necessities: small pillows of various sizes and shapes, designed to ease
different portions of one's anatomy on trains and in carriages (she
carried four of them); several silk bags bulging with mysterious
contents; a black sunshade; her turkey-tail fan; Pug and a box of dog
biscuit.

Zebedee got them all safely into the house, even taking Pug tenderly in
his arms, much to the astonishment of that dull-witted canine. He
assured Cousin Park that Brindle would not hurt Pug, provided Pug did
not try to get too intimate with him and bore him.

"We can count on Brindle up to a certain point, but if he gets very
bored he is apt to be cross," another human attribute my dear Tuckers
gave their pet. Cousin Park rather bridled at the idea of her precious
dog's boring anything, but Zebedee's manner was so deferential and his
solicitude so apparent that mortal woman could not have withstood him.

Cousin Sue and the Tuckers took to one another from the beginning. I had
thought they would, but sometimes the friends that you expect to like
one another are the very ones that act "Dr. Fell" and develop a strange
and unreasoning dislike.

The picnic was under discussion and was approved of unanimously. I
thought Dum blushed a little when I announced that Mr. Reginald Kent was
back in the county. She undoubtedly had a soft spot in her girl's heart
for the good looking young illustrator who had been so enamoured of her
the winter before.

One thing occurred to mar our pleasant anticipations: Cousin Park,
instead of declining the invitation to go on the picnic, which Father
and I pressed upon her, expecting of course that she would refuse,
accepted with alacrity, announcing that the piney air would be good for
Pug. We told her the road was impossible for the rockaway and that she
would have to go in a spring wagon; but that made no difference, go she
would and go she did, four little cushions, bulging silk bags, purple
and black knitting, Pug and package of dog biscuit, turkey-tail fan and
all.

We made an early start to avoid the heat of the August day. Mammy Susan
had packed a hamper with every conceivable good thing the countryside
afforded, and the floor of the spring wagon was filled with watermelons,
the pride of my dear father's heart. Next to his library, Father loved
his watermelon patch. My earliest remembrance is watermelon seed spread
out on letter paper to dry, with a description of that particular melon
written on the paper. Every good melon must have some seed saved from it
for the purpose of reproducing the species. "Very rich in colour with
black seeds and thin rind. Sweet and juicy," would be one; then another:
"Small, round, dark green,--meat pale in colour but mealy and very
delicious;" another: "Large, striped rattlesnake variety,--good if
allowed to ripen, but great favourite with niggers."

On that hot day in August small round ones rubbed noses with large
rattlesnake varieties and the rich red ones with thin rinds and black
seeds jostled each other in the bottom of the wagon as we bumped over
the none too smooth roads that our country boasted.

Cousin Park required a whole back seat for herself and Pug and her many
belongings. Zebedee drove with Cousin Sue Lee and Brindle on the front
seat with him, and we three girls sat in the back with the tail gate
down and our legs a-dangling. It was thoroughly selfish of Cousin Park
to allow us to do it but we enjoyed it hugely. Father had many morning
calls to make but was to land at the ford for dinner.

Jo Winn was waiting at the cross roads in his knock-about, his favourite
setter between his knees and his handsome cousin by his side. Mr. Kent
could hardly wait for the vehicle to stop to jump out and speak to us.
Again he seemed to think we needed masculine protection so Dee changed
places with him and joined the grinning and delighted Jo, and the young
advertising artist squeezed in between Dum and me.

A jolly ride we had in spite of the many bumps in the road and the fact
that at every bump the watermelons would roll against our backs. Cousin
Park sat in solemn silence, but Zebedee and Cousin Sue kept up a lively
conversation on the front seat and we three with our legs a-dangling
never paused a moment in our lively chatter.

I think Cousin Park regretted many times that she had not decided to
spend the day quietly at Bracken with Miss Pinky Davis for company and
Mammy Susan to wait on her. We had not let her come without informing
her of the bad roads and the long drive to Uncle Peter's cabin and then
the rough walk to the ford, but nothing would keep her from coming and
now she was making the best of it. She emitted an occasional groan but
never a word of complaint, which was quite fine of her in a way.

We found Uncle Peter hoeing his tobacco but glad of an excuse to stop.
Aunt Rosana was as fat as ever and her cabin just as clean. She was
overjoyed to see us and flattered beyond measure when Mr. Kent told her
he had come all the way back from New York just to get another picture
of the inside of her house. This time he wanted to make a drawing, not
being satisfied with the time exposure he had taken before. Of course he
could not possibly find his way to the ford alone, so the wily youth
persuaded Dum to wait with him while he made his sketch. She seemed
nothing loath and even made a sketch herself.

"Lawsamussy, Rosana! Come look at dese here watermillions Docallison
done sent to de pickanigger!" exclaimed Uncle Peter, his eyes rolling in
delight. Aunt Rosana waddled out.

"Great Gawd! They mus' be one apiece."

"So they are, Aunt Rosana, and you must have one left here for you so
you can have your share. Which kind do you like best?" I asked.

"Well, all watermillions is good but some is scrumptious, and I low
I'll take a chanct on one er dem striped rattlers. If it do prove to be
scrumptious they will be so much er it. I is jes' lak a lil' pig wif a
million--whin he'll eat a whole bucket er slop an' thin git in de
bucket. I eats all they is an' thin jes' fair wallows in de rime."

"I can't raise no millions, it looks like," said Uncle Peter sadly. "Dem
dere swamp niggers comes an' gathers 'em whin dey's no bigger 'n
cowcumbers." He reached into the back of the wagon and thumped every
melon with his horny forefinger, a smile of extreme satisfaction
lighting his kindly features. "I tell yer, Docallison ain't a gwine ter
hab no millions on his plantation pulled green. He knows de music ub a
ripe un 'bout as well as he reckernizes de soun' ub pneumony in a sick
man's chist. Whin I comes to think ub it they is similar sounds. I'll be
boun' Docallison done got up hisself an' pulled dese here millions wif
de dew on 'em. Dey's still cold in spite of the heat dey done been in."

That was so. Father always pulled the watermelons himself and always did
it very early in the morning when the dew was still on them.

We started on our walk to the ford, the same walk we had taken the
winter before on our memorable deer hunt. Uncle Peter loaded the melons
into his wheelbarrow and Zebedee and Jo Winn swung the baskets on a
stout pole which they carried between them. Cousin Park got between Dee
and me and taking an arm of each proceeded on her ponderous way. I would
gladly have wheeled the watermelons or carried the hampers. It would
have been child's play beside the load we carried. Pug and Brindle
trotted along, Brindle still ignoring the existence of Pug and Pug
whimpering every time he caught Brindle's eye. Jo's setter kept well in
advance and pretended he was none of us.

"Why do we go so far? Why not sit down right here and have our repast?"
panted poor Cousin Park.

"But we are to fish at the river," suggested Cousin Sue, who was laden
with Cousin Park's many cushions and bags and the knitting and dog
biscuit.

"And there is such a fine spring there, too," I said, and added, knowing
Cousin Park's weakness: "We can't make the coffee unless we get near a
spring." And so we trudged on, Zebedee and Uncle Peter taking down the
worm fences to let Cousin Park and the watermelons through, and then
patiently building them up again.

There was the deep cathedral peace in the pine woods and our presence
seemed almost a sacrilege as we tramped heavily over the soft bed of
fragrant pine needles. Cousin Park had to sit down and rest every now
and then and it took the combined effort of all the males, white and
coloured, to get her on her feet after one of these pauses.

At last we reached our camping ground. The kindly and resourceful
Zebedee made a bed for my august relative of pine boughs and with the
help of the different sized and shaped pillows she was quite
comfortable. With her various bags distributed around her and her
knitting and her stupid Pug by her side she went off into a deep sleep,
much to the relief and delight of all of us.

"Now we can be ourselves!" exclaimed Zebedee, turning handsprings like a
boy; and Cousin Sue and Dee and I caught hold of hands and ran to the
spring which sparkled and gurgled in a beautiful stone grotto at the
foot of the hill near the river ford. Uncle Peter put all the melons
into the little branch flowing from the spring and there they cooled to
a queen's taste.

We made the camp fire and prepared the coffee well away from Cousin Park
and we devoutly hoped that she would sweetly sleep until her favourite
beverage was ready.

What a good time we did have that day! We fished in the river, and while
our catch was nothing to be proud of, we had fun all the same. Dee
caught a catfish that pulled and tugged at her line like a veritable
whale. She finally landed it with a shriek that made Cousin Park stir
uneasily from her bed of pine boughs and brought on herself, Dee, a good
shaking from Zebedee.

"Wake her up, and I declare you will have to entertain her! It's your
turn, anyhow."

I caught what Uncle Peter called "a mud turkle." We threw him back into
his delectable mud and he went in with a grateful "kerchunk," sending
back many bubbles of appreciation.

"Almost as good at making bubbles as a young lady I know," said
Zebedee, re-baiting my hook for me.

Enough small river perch were caught to make a little mess which Uncle
Peter cleaned with great skill and fried on our camp fire. Dum and her
cavalier, having finished the sketching, joined us with such a racket
that Cousin Park really waked up and confessed herself much refreshed
when she detected the odour of coffee in the air. She was much more of a
sport than I had expected to find her and not such a bad picnicker after
all.

Father got there in time to sit down to as good a dinner as was served
in all the land on that hot day in August, I am sure. Sally Winn had put
on the big pot and the little, and Mammy Susan had out-Susaned herself.
We had no forks for our fried fish, but the person who can't eat a fried
fish without a fork deserves to go fishless. Cousin Park drank so much
strong coffee that she was really boozy and actually flirted with
Zebedee.

The watermelons were--well, there are no words to describe those melons.
Watermelons are like sunsets--no words can picture them. You have to be
on the spot with both wonders to appreciate them. Father's pockets were
bulging with seeds, saved for next year's planting. Uncle Peter, who sat
over behind a pine tree having his dinner, declared himself "fittin' fur
to bust!"

All of us had reached our limit of endurance and when the food was all
disposed of decided we should either have to go on a long walk or drop
to sleep. Cousin Park again sought her pine bough couch where she sat in
state, dozing and knitting on her ugly black and purple shawl. Uncle
Peter acted as body guard to her while all the rest of us went on a long
tramp on the other side of the river.

We came back feeling fine and no longer full to "stuffifaction," as poor
dear Blanche used to say. Zebedee held up two fingers, the sign all the
world over among boys that a swim would be in order. Father responded
with a boyish laugh and all the men trooped off to a swimming hole that
Jo knew of a little way down the river. We could hear their shouts of
laughter and a great splashing.

They were hardly out of sight when we were out of our shoes and
stockings and in wading, Cousin Sue as eager as any of us. How good it
felt! I'd rather wiggle my toes in a clear brown stream with a sandy
bottom than do anything in the world. We took bits of bark and slender
twigs and scraps of stray paper and sailed them down the swift-flowing
water, watching to see which reached the tiny eddying rapids first and
cheering the winners. Then at Dee's suggestion we picked up little
pieces of wood and named them _Volunteer_, _Valiant_, _Vixen_, and
_Valkyrie_ and held an exciting cup race.

We dabbled our hands in the cool water. We splashed and sang. We romped
and ran. You know what we did and what fun we had if you ever spent part
of an August day in such a lovely spot.

But bye and bye we heard laughter again and voices, and we knew the men
were coming back. So we scrambled out of the stream, dried our feet on
the sunny bank and popped them again into demure and proper coverings.

We sighed a little that it was over--that glorious bit of freedom--but
argued that it must stop sometime.

And that reminds me: this book, too, must stop, and it might as well be
now, although the picnic story is not quite ended.

I had thought of telling how Uncle Peter took Cousin Park back to the
spring wagon in his wheelbarrow, and something of the wonderful drive
home with the crescent moon shining in the glow of the sunset. How
Father drove Cousin Sue in his buggy and I sat on the front seat with
Zebedee,--but I must stop.

I wonder,--shall I meet you all again when I am "Back at School with the
Tucker Twins?"



       *       *       *       *       *



Transcriber's note:

Obvious punctuation errors were corrected.

Varied hyphenation was retained. This includes words such as cork-screw
and corkscrew; football and foot-ball. This text spells the more usual
"Monticello" as "Montecello."

Table of Contents, chapter VIII actually begins on page 82 instead of
the 83 that the original prints. This was changed.

Page 51, "Dun" changed to "Dum" (come!" wailed Dum)

Page 226, "dinnor" changed to "dinner" (for yesterday's dinner)

Page 270, "po'" changed to "Po'" ("Po' Jo," had met her)





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