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   Chapter 7 OH, YOU CHAPERONE!

Vacation with the Tucker Twins By Nell Speed Characters: 14394

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


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!'"

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