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   Chapter 13 THE TURKEY-TAIL FAN.

Vacation with the Tucker Twins By Nell Speed Characters: 16023

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


Harvie and Shorty arrived in due time and very glad we were to see them. Mary and Shorty rushed together like long lost brother and sister. They made a pony team it was hard to beat.

"Gee, I'm glad to see you!" exclaimed the boy. "You and I don't have to be grown up, do we, Mary?"

"Not on your life! No one will expect the impossible of us. The boys we know here are real grown-ups, lots older than Harvie Price, real college men. They are very nice but I feel like an awful kid with them. Of course Mr. Tucker is as young as any of us."

"Of course!" echoed Shorty. "Isn't he just great?"

"You bet."

When we were all dressed for the hop, Zebedee declared we looked pretty well in spite of our tan and freckles. He kept us on needles and pins all the time, threatening to tell the boys of our dough masks. At supper he repeatedly asked Blanche for hot rolls, insisting that she must have them.

"I certainly smelled hot rolls when I got back from Norfolk and it seems to me I saw batch after batch rising. Couldn't you spare me just one, Blanche?" And when the girl rushed from the room to explode in the kitchen, he said in a tone of the greatest concern: "Why, what is the matter with poor, dear Blanche? Do you think perhaps she has eaten them all herself?"

"Mr. Tucker come mighty near infectin' my irresistibles," Blanche said to us after supper was over. "I tell you a kersplosion was eminent! 'Twas all I could do to keep from bringing disgracement on us all, in fact, to speak in vulgar langige, I was nigh to bus'in'. I certainly do think you young ladies looks sweet an' whin you puts a little talcim on yo' prebosseses the sunburn won't be to say notificationable. I'll be bound that ev'y las' one of you will be the belledom of the ball." All we hoped for was not to be wall flowers.

A hop was quite an event to most of us. Annie and I had never been to one in our lives, not a real hop. The dance at the Country Club when I visited the Tuckers in Richmond was the nearest I had ever come to a hop, and if this was to come up to that, I was expecting a pretty good time. Annie was very nervous as her dancing had all been done at Gresham and with girls, but we assured her that she was sure to do finely. The Tucker twins had been going to hops ever since they could hop, almost ever since they could crawl, so they were not very excited, but Mary was jumping around like a hen on a hot griddle, trying new steps all the time I was tying her sash. You may know that Mary would wear a great bulging sash, instead of a neat girdle or belt. Chunky persons with thick waists always seem to have a leaning towards sashes with huge bows. Mary looked very nice, although her dress did have about twice as much material in it as was necessary and she had put on an extra petticoat for luck and style. Since it was the summer of very narrow skirts, the effect was rather voluminous. She looked like the hollyhock babies I used to make for my fairy lands, only their heads were green while Mary's was red; but Mary's looks were the least thing about her. It was her good cheerful disposition and her ready, kindly wit and humour that counted with her friends.

Annie was lovely in the beautiful white crêpe de Chine, the dress that had been her mother's and that she had worn at the musicale at Gresham where she had charmed the audience with her old ballads. It was a pity for her to wear this dress to dance in on a hot night as it was really very handsome though so simple, but poor Annie had very few clothes and her father seemed to think that a girl her age needed none at all.

The Tuckers were appropriately dressed in white muslin, Dum with a pink girdle, Dee with a blue.

"Not that I should wear pink," grumbled Dum, "nor that Dee should wear blue, as I look better in blue and Dee looks better in pink; but Zebedee cuts up so when we go anywhere with him and don't dress in the colours we were born in, that to keep the peace we have to do as he wants us to. They tied pink ribbons on me and blue ribbons on Dee to tell us apart, and Zebedee declares he still has to have something tied on us to tell, which is perfectly absurd, as we do not look the least alike."

"You never have looked much alike to me, but I took such a good look at you the first time I saw you that I never have got you mixed up except once when I first saw you in bathing caps. I really do not think you look as much like each other as you both look like your father. Now he has Dee's dimple in his chin; and his hair grows on his forehead just like Dum's, in a little widow's peak; and all three of you have exactly the same shoulders."

"Well, all I know is I can tell myself from Dum on the darkest night." With which Irish bull, Dee, having hooked on the offending blue girdle, hustled us downstairs where the boys from the camp were awaiting our coming.

"Let me see, eight escorts for six ladies!" exclaimed Zebedee. "That means a good time all around!" And that is just what we had, a good time all around.

The ballroom at the hotel was quite large with a splendid floor, and if there was a breeze to be caught, it caught it. Seated on chairs ranged around the wall were what Zebedee called the non-combatants, many old ladies: maids, wives and widows, some with critical eyes, some with kindly, but one and all bent on seeing and commenting on everything that was doing.

The first person I beheld on entering the ballroom was no other than Cousin Park Garnett, sitting very stiff and straight in a tight bombazine basque, at least, I fancy it must have been bombazine-not that I know what bombazine is; but bombazine basque sounds just like Cousin Park looked. With majestic sweeps she fanned herself with a turkey-tail fan, and her general expression was one of conscious superiority to her surroundings. How I longed for a magic cap so that I might become invisible to my relative! All sparkle went out of the scene for me. I felt that it would not be much fun to dance with the critical eye of Mrs. Garnett watching my every step and her unnecessarily frank tongue ready to inform me of my many defects. If I could only dissemble and pretend not to see her maybe she would not recognize me! But conscience whispered:

"Page Allison, aren't you ashamed of yourself? You know perfectly well what your father would say: 'She is our kinswoman, daughter, and proper respect must be shown her.' Go up and speak to her and give her no real cause for criticism." So, in the words of somebody or other, "I seen my duty and done it."

"How burned and freckled you are, child!" was her cheerful greeting, as she presented a hard, uncompromising cheek for me to peck.

"Yes, I've been on the water a good deal," I ventured meekly. "When did you come?"

"I have been here only a few hours but I have heard already of the very irregular household in which you are visiting."

"Irregular! Why, we have our meals exactly on time. Who said we didn't?"

"I was not referring to meals but morals," and the bombazine basque creaked anew as she once more took up the task of cooling herself with the turkey-tail fan. I felt myself getting very hot with a heat that a turkey-tail fan could not allay.

"Morals, Cousin Park! Why, Blanche is a very respectable coloured girl highly recommended by the president of her industrial school and Mammy Susan, besides."

"Blanche! I know nothing of Mr. Tucker's domestic arrangements. What I mean is that I hear from Miss Binks that you are absolutely unchaperoned and I consider that highly immoral."

"Unchaperoned! How ridiculous! Miss Jane Cox is our chaperone and there never was a lovelier one. Mabel Binks knows perfectly well Miss Cox is there with us and she herself would give her eyes to be one of the party," and then I bit my lip to keep from saying anything else about the mischief-making girl.

"I understood from Miss Binks that there were only five young girls in the cottage and that a camp of boys spent most of th

eir time there and that the carryings on were something disgraceful. She had some tale to tell of your going up to wake one of the boys yourselves and dragging him out of bed."

And so Mabel had distorted the truth about Sleepy to suit her own ends. I flushed painfully and to the best of my ability told the story, but it sounded very flat and stupid recounted to the unsympathetic, unhumorous ears of Mrs. Garnett. I brought up Miss Cox and introduced her to the turkey-tail fan, and our chaperone's quiet manner and dignity did much to reassure my strict relative. I was laughing in my boots when I realized that Mabel did not know of Miss Cox's engagement and so had not told Cousin Park of it, or that irate dame would have considered our chaperone not much of a chaperone, after all.

Zebedee claimed the first dance with me, speaking cordially to Cousin Park, but she gave him a curt nod and turned with unexpected amiability and condescension to converse with a faded little gentlewoman at her side who had up to that time been overshadowed by that lady's conscious superiority.

"Oh, my whole evening is ruined!" I wailed in Zebedee's ear. "It won't be a bit of fun to dance, no matter how many or how few partners I may get, while Cousin Park sits there and watches my every step, making mental notes of the disagreeable truths she will get off to me or poor Father the first time she gets a chance at him."

"Why, you poor little girl! Do you think I am going to let your first hop be a failure? I am going to get that old Harpie out of this room if I have to carry her out myself and propose to her in the bargain."

When the dance was over, Zebedee might have been seen eagerly looking around the hotel as if in search of someone, on the porches, in the lobby and finally in the smoking room, and then to pounce on a certain old Judge Grayson of Kentucky, who was there poring over the afternoon paper and smoking a very bad cigar. Judge Grayson was judge by courtesy and custom, as Zebedee afterwards told me. He had never been on any bench but the anxious bench of the grand stand, being a great judge of horses.

"Ha, Judge, I am glad to see you! Have a cigar." The Judge accepted with alacrity, first carefully extinguishing the light on the poor one he was engaged in consuming and economically putting it back into his cigar case, quoting in a pleasant, high old voice: "'For though on pleasure she was bent, she had a frugal mind.' How are you, Tucker? Gad, I'm glad to see you, boy! Dull hole this!"

"Do you find it so? Why don't you get up a game of auction? I wish I could join you, but I've got my daughters and some of their young friends here and dancing is the order of the evening for me."

"Gad, I'd like a game but don't know a soul. Fool to come to such a place. I'll be off to Virginia Beach tomorrow."

"Now don't do that; you come see us tomorrow. I'll be bound you will fall in love with all my girls and no doubt they will fight over you."

"Why, that would be nice, Tucker. No doubt this place is all right but I have been lonesome," and the old fellow beamed on Zebedee.

Peeping in, we saw the game in full swing-Page 145

"Of course you have. Come on, I'll introduce you to some ladies and you can have a good game of auction bridge;" and before the Judge could find any objection, Zebedee had steered him across the ballroom floor and had him bowing and scraping in front of the haughty Mrs. Garnett. She unbent at his courtly, old-fashioned compliments, and I distinctly saw her tap him playfully with her turkey-tail fan. The faded gentlewoman was next introduced and readily joined in the proposed game. A fourth was easily found and before the next dance was over, Zebedee was beaming on me, as I danced around with Wink, delighted as he afterwards declared in having got the Harpie out of the room without having either to carry her out or propose to her himself. The rest of the evening I could enjoy to my heart's content with no hypercritical glances following me around. Cousin Park had a good time, too. Auction bridge was her dissipation and I have heard she played a masterly game. So Zebedee felt he had been a real all 'round philanthropist.

Once between dances Zebedee and I were out on the porch getting a breath of air and our steps took us near the window of the card room. Peeping in, we saw the game in full swing. Cousin Park had just made a little slam and she looked quite complacent and cheerful. The courtly Judge was dealing compliments with the cards, there was a flush of pleasure on the cheeks of the faded gentlewoman, and Cousin Park wielded her fan with almost a coquettish air, announcing her bids with elephantine playfulness.

Once Judge Grayson picked up the fan and, looking sentimentally at it, began to quote in his high, refined old voice the following poem. It was between rubbers so the card devotees listened with polite attention, but Zebedee and I were indeed thrilled:

"'It owned not a colour that vanity dons

Or slender wits choose for display;

Its beautiful tint was a delicate bronze,

A brown softly blended with gray.

From her waist to her chin, spreading out without break,

'Twas built on a generous plan:

The pride of the forest was slaughtered to make

My grandmother's turkey-tail fan.

"'For common occasions it never was meant:

In a chest between two silken cloths

'Twas kept safely hidden with careful intent

In camphor to keep out the moths.

'Twas famed far and wide through the whole country side,

From Beersheba e'en unto Dan;

And often at meeting with envy 'twas eyed,

My grandmother's turkey-tail fan.

"'A fig for the fans that are made nowadays,

Suited only to frivolous mirth!

A different thing is the fan that I praise,

Yet it scorned not the good things of earth.

At bees and at quiltings 'twas aye to be seen.

The best of the gossip began

When in at the doorway had entered serene

My grandmother's turkey-tail fan.'"

Zebedee clapped a vociferous but silent applause and I wiped a tiny tear from my eye. Poetry is the only thing that ever makes me weep but there is something about verse, recited in a certain way, that always makes me leak a little. The Judge knew how to recite that way and while there was nothing in "My Grandmother's Turkey-tail Fan" to make one want to weep, still that one little tear did find its way out. The faded gentlewoman was affected the same way and even Cousin Park's bombazine basque unbent a bit.

"Isn't he a sweet old man?" I exclaimed.

"Just the sweetest in the country. I have known the Judge for many years and I have never seen him anything but a perfect, courtly gentleman. He is to have luncheon with us tomorrow."

"Oh, won't that be fine! Maybe he will recite some poetry for us."

"I haven't a doubt but that he will, and sing you some songs, too."

"Well, he has my undying gratitude for taking Cousin Park out of the ballroom;" and just then Harvie came to hunt for me to claim his dance.

I danced every single dance that evening except one that I sat out with Wink, and hardly ever got through a dance without having to change partners several times. They say it is a southern custom, this thing of breaking in on a dance. It is all very well if you happen to be dancing with a poor dancer and a good one takes you away, but it is pretty sad if it happens to be the other way. Sometimes I would feel as you might if an over-zealous butler snatched your plate from under your nose before you had finished, and you saw him bearing off some favourite delectable morsel and in its place had to choke down stewed prunes or mashed turnips or something else you just naturally could not abide. As a rule, however, the "delectable morsel" would not go away for good, but hover around and break in again in time to let you finish the dance with some pleasure and at least get the taste of stewed prunes or mashed turnip out of your mouth.

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