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   Chapter 9 THE START.

Vacation with the Tucker Twins By Nell Speed Characters: 10722

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

"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 man?uvres, 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.

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