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   Chapter 11 CAPE HENRY.

Vacation with the Tucker Twins By Nell Speed Characters: 14753

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


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 d

ear, 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.

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