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   Chapter 6 A ROMANCE.

Vacation with the Tucker Twins By Nell Speed Characters: 10357

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


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 li

ked 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?

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