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   Chapter 10 THE FINISH.

Vacation with the Tucker Twins By Nell Speed Characters: 9107

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

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.

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