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   Chapter 15 THE JUDGE.

Vacation with the Tucker Twins By Nell Speed Characters: 17202

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


The morning after the hop we slept late. Of course we did not go to sleep as soon as we got into bed, as the best part of going to a dance is talking it over with the girls afterwards. We had much to tell and I for one had much that I couldn't tell. One and all we pronounced it a very delightful and successful party. Had we not, everyone of us danced every dance, except the fatal one that I sat out? Did we not have "trade lasts" enough to last 'til morning if sleep had not overtaken us? Hadn't Annie been freely spoken of as the prettiest girl there; the twins as the most popular; Mary as by all odds the brightest and funniest; and had not I overheard someone say that I had a nameless charm that was irresistible? Altogether, we were well pleased with ourselves and one another and slept the sleep of the just and healthy until late in the morning, when we heard Miss Cox singing at our door:

"'Kathleen Mavourneen! the gray dawn is breaking,

The horn of the hunter is heard on the hill;

The lark from her light wing the bright dew is shaking,-

Kathleen Mavourneen! what, slumbering still?

Oh, hast thou forgotten how soon we must sever?

Oh, hast thou forgotten this day we must part?

It may be for years and it may be forever!

Oh, why art thou silent, thou voice of my heart?

Oh, why art thou silent, Kathleen Mavourneen?

"'Kathleen Mavourneen, awake from thy slumbers!

The blue mountains glow in the sun's golden light;

Ah, where is the spell that once hung on my numbers?

Arise in thy beauty, thou star of my night!

Mavourneen, Mavourneen, my sad tears are falling,

To think that from Erin and thee I must part!

It may be for years and it may be forever!

Then why art thou silent, thou voice of my heart?

Then why art thou silent, Kathleen Mavourneen?'"

There was a storm of applause from our porch and a great clapping of hands from down stairs as Zebedee entered with old Judge Grayson. Miss Cox had an excellent voice and a singularly true one.

"Well, all of us Kathleens had better rise and shine after that appeal," yawned Dum. "It must be almost time for luncheon." And so it was. We just had time for a hasty dip in the briny and a hastier toilet in the way of middies and khaki skirts, when Blanche appeared to announce that our repast was reserved.

"Well, Gawd love us!" she exclaimed, when she beheld us dressed in our customary girlish middies. "Ef'n the butterflies ain't chrystalized agin into plain grubs! When I beholden you last night in all the begalia of sassioty I ruminated to myself that our young misses had done flew the coop, hair turned up and waistes turned down, an' here you is nothin' but gals agin. I'll be bound ef'n the beau lovers of the evenin' recently relapsed could see you now they would wonder how come they felt so warmed to'ds you. Not that you ain't as sweet as sugar now," she hastily added, fearing for our feelings, "but you is jes' sugar 'thout the proper ingredients to make you what you might call intoxicational."

Every single girl except Mary looked a little conscious while Blanche was talking, and I could not help wondering if there had not been others besides myself who had been the recipient of tender nothings. Zebedee overheard Blanche's remarks and I saw him go into the kitchen and a little later the girl came forth beaming, tying into the corner of her handkerchief a shiny new half dollar.

"Every time poor, dear Blanche opens her mouth diamonds and pearls of wisdom come forth," he whispered to me. "It seems a shame to buy such priceless gems for fifty cents. I would not take anything for what she has just handed to all of my girls."

The Judge proved to be a delightful old man and all of us were charmed with his courtly manners and compliments. He seemed to think we were lovely and quite grown-up in spite of what Blanche had just "handed" us. He quoted poetry to us with an old world grace and seemed to have a verse ready for every occasion. Even Blanche came in for her share of poetry as the Judge helped himself to another and yet another popover:

"'My mother bore me in the southern wild,

And I am black, but oh, my soul is white!'"

Blanche smiled on him as though at last she had found someone who really understood her.

After luncheon we repaired to the piazza where Zebedee and the Judge could enjoy their cigars and the family guitar was produced at the instigation of the host, hoping to persuade the Judge to give us some of his fine old ballads. The Tucker guitar was something of a joke, as none of them could really play on it; but it was always kept in perfect order if not in perfect tune and placed in a conspicuous place. "Ready for an emergency if one should arise in anyone else," explained Dum. Dee could thrum out an accompaniment, if it happened to be a very simple one with only one or two changes. Dum knew part of the Spanish Fandango, learned from a teacher who had struggled with the family once when they had determined that a musical education was necessary. Zebedee, who had a very good voice and a true ear, could tell when the guitar was out of tune but never could tune it to his satisfaction; but when someone else got it in tune he could put up a very good imitation of following himself in his favourite song of "Danny Deever."

The Judge jumped to the instrument as a trout to a fly and held it with a loving embrace.

"Gad, Tucker, but this is a good guitar!" and with a practiced hand and ear he quickly had it in tune.

"Sing, do sing!" we pleaded.

"All right, I'll sing to all of you five girls if you will excuse an old man's faults. My voice is not what it used to be, but the heart is the same and

"'No matter what you do if your heart be true,

And his heart was true to Poll.'

"This song I am going to sing is one I have always loved and it seems to be singularly appropriate for all of you young ladies, who, last night as I peeped into the ballroom, showed promise of what you might be. But this morning I find you back 'Where the brook and river meet.' I can't tell whether it is because of the absence of the gallant swains or a mere matter of rearrangement of tresses."

Harvie and Shorty had gone to the camp for luncheon and to go crabbing with the boys, which was rather a relief, as Dum declared we could not have boys all the time without getting bored. Certainly on the morning after the hop we were glad just to be little girls again and not have to play "lady come to see" for a while at least. Dear old Judge Grayson and Zebedee were singularly restful after the friskings of the youths, and Miss Cox very calming as she sat on the piazza, an exalted expression on her good face, stitching, stitching on wedding clothes. All of us had undertaken to help her but mighty botches I am afraid we made of it, all except Annie Pore. She could take tiny stitches if shown exactly where to put them, but she was afraid to take the initiative even in sewing. Dum could design patterns for embroidery and Dee could tie wonderful bows; Mary was great on button-holes; I could not even sew carpet rags together well enough to pass muster, but I was very willing and did my poor best.

In his high, sweet old tenor the Judge began to sing:

"'My love she's but a lassie yet,

A lightsome, lovely lassie yet;

It scarce wad do

To sit and woo

Down by the stream sae glassy yet.

"'But there's a braw time coming yet,

When we may gang a-roaming yet;

An' hint wi' glee

O' joys to be,

When fa's the modest gloaming yet.

"'She's neither proud nor saucy yet,

She's neither plump nor gaucy yet;

But just a jinking,

Bonny blinking,

Hilty-skilty lassie yet.

"'But O, her artless smile's mair sweet

Then hinny or than marmalete;

An' right or wrang,

Ere it be lang,

I'll bring her to a parley yet.

"'I'm jealous o' what blesses her,

The very breeze that kisses her,

The flowery beds

On which she treads,

Though wae for ane that misses her.

"'Then O, to meet my lassie yet

Up in yon glen sae grassy yet;

For all I see

Are naught to me,

Save her that's but a lassie yet.'"

All of us sat very quietly as the old man finished his quaint, sweet song. Zebedee looked very shiny-eyed and I rather guessed he was thinking of his Tweedles, although he did look at me. I fancy he knew that I understood him and his anxiety about his dear girls. It is no joke to be the father of sixteen-year-old twins and only about thirty-six yourself. Dum and Dee were developing very rapidly and they had looked

so grown-up at the hop and had conducted themselves so like young ladies that their anxious parent was troubled for fear their womanhood was upon him. He would rather see them romping hoydens than the sedate young ladies they seemed to be turning into. No wonder he had tipped Blanche with the shiny fifty-cent piece. Had she not put his mind at rest for the time being at least? They were certainly girlish enough looking on that day, even boyish looking as they crowded each other out of the hammock, both intent on getting the middle.

"That's fine, Judge, give us another!" begged Zebedee, but the bard insisted upon Miss Cox's putting down her sewing and singing; and then Annie Pore must give us Annie Laurie; and so the lazy afternoon passed with songs and many good stories drawn from our guest by the tactful Zebedee.

Judge Grayson just naturally loved horses and next to being with them was talking about them. He had many delightful stories to tell of horses he had known and horses he had owned. He insisted that no horse was naturally vicious but always ruined in some way by its trainer, and no horse was irretrievably ruined if just the right person could get hold of it and by kindness bring it to reason. I had always felt that and of course this theory appealed to Dee, who thought much worse of humanity than animality, as she called it.

"The first horse I ever owned was the first horse I ever loved and he was in a way the best horse I ever owned," said the Judge, addressing his remarks to Dee who was all attention. "Dobbin was the very ordinary name for a very extraordinary horse. My father gave him to me when I was six years old. I say gave him to me but what really occurred was that I was presented to Dobbin. For if ever man was owned by an animal, Dobbin owned me. He was an old circus horse and his intelligence was far beyond that of the average human. He was milk white with pink nostrils and eyes, a real Albino, in fact. His legs were perfectly formed, his head small and very well shaped, his back broad and flat as though especially made for bare-back riding. If you fell off him it was your own fault, and no more was he to be blamed than a bed that you happen to roll out of. Indeed his gaits were so smooth that you might easily go to sleep on him. His temper was perfect and his character very decided and firm. He knew exactly what he wanted to do and he also knew that his judgment was much better than a child's. I shall never forget the first time I got on his back. My father was going to have me taught to ride by our old coachman, but in the meantime I was given the duty and pleasure of feeding my horse myself. I had only owned him a day and already I would have foundered him on oats if it had not been for his own superior intelligence and judgment. He ate what he considered proper and then deliberately turned over the bucket and puffed and blew and pawed until even the chickens had a hard time pecking up the scattered grain."

And here the old man laughed and took another cigar Zebedee offered him, pausing in his narrative while he bit off the end and lit it.

"But how about the first time you rode him?" demanded Dee.

"I'm coming to that. He was a very high horse, was Dobbin, so high that it was a tall mount for a grown man and of course it was seemingly impossible for a little boy to climb up on such a mountain, but get up I did. My father came out on the gallery and there I was as proud as Punch perched on the broad back of my snow-white steed. 'You rascal!' he shouted. 'Who put you up there?' 'Dobbin put me here,' I answered, and so he had, but my father could not believe it until Dobbin and I demonstrated the fact for him. I slid down the shapely leg of my circus horse and then he lowered his head and I nimbly climbed up his neck and landed safely on his back. I can still hear my father laugh and then all the household was called out to witness this great feat, and my mother brought out sugar to feed my pet. She pulled down his head and whispered in his ear, 'Be careful of my boy, Dobbin! I am going to trust him to you, do you understand?' and Dobbin whinnied an answer and blew in my mother's hair with his pink nostrils. After that he felt that he was a kind of nurse for me and he certainly did make me walk chalk," and the old man chuckled in delighted memory.

"Tell us more about him," pleaded Dee. "He must have been darling."

"Well, sometimes he was right annoying. For instance, he saw to it that I minded my black mammy. One of Mammy's rules was that I could play in the mud all I wanted to in the morning, but in the afternoon when I was dressed in my clean linen shirt and little white piquet pants, I had to keep clean. The mud attracted me as much in the afternoon as morning, and sometimes I would lose track of time and would begin to mix my delectable pies in spite of my spotless attire. Do you know that old horse many and many a time has come up behind me and gently but firmly caught me by my collar or the seat of my breeches, whichever presented itself handiest, and after giving me a little shake put me out of temptation? He never was known to do it in the morning when I was in my blue jean jumpers. Why, that horse knew morning from afternoon and jeans from white linen. He was a great disciplinarian, I can tell you. My mother would let me go anywhere just so Dobbin was of the party. She knew perfectly well he would take care of me. Had he not told her so as plainly as a horse could speak, and that is pretty plain to those who understand horse talk."

Dee nodded approval and muttered: "Dog talk, too!"

"We had an old basket phaeton with a rumble (they don't make them now-a-days) and in the afternoon in summer my sister and I would hitch up old Dobbin and go off for a picnic in the beech woods. Sam, my body servant and private property, perched in the rumble and Dilsey, my sister's maid, crouched at our feet. Dobbin would jog along until he found what he considered a suitable spot for a picnic and then he would stop, and no matter how we felt about it, out we had to get. Nothing would budge Dobbin. He would look at us and whinny as much as to say that he had forgotten more about picnic places than we could ever hope to know and no doubt he was right.

"He usually stopped at a very nice spot where there was plenty of shade and a spring and maybe some luscious blue grass for him to nibble at. He was never tied but allowed to roam at his own sweet will. When the shadows lengthened, he would turn the phaeton around, with his nose headed for home, and as the sun touched the horizon he would send forth a warning neigh, gentle at first but if his voice was not hearkened to, more peremptory and then quite sharp. He would give us about five minutes and then he would start for home. I tell you there would be scrambling then to get in the phaeton, as none of us relished the thought of walking home, getting in late to supper and making the necessary explanations to the grown-ups. One time Dilsey almost got left, having loitered behind in a fit of stubbornness. 'I's plum wo' out wif dis here brute beas' a bossin' er me!' she panted as she clambered over the wheel and sank on the floor of the phaeton. 'Ef'n he was mine I'd lay him out.' With that ole Dobbin turned his head around in the shafts, looked sternly at the girl, and deliberately switched her with his tail until she cried out for mercy, 'Lawsamussy, Marse Dobbin, I's jes a foolin',' and then that old horse gave a whinny more like laughing than anything you ever heard and trotted peacefully home."

The old man stopped and shook the ashes from his cigar. "Yes, yes, I loved that old horse as much as I did Mammy, and God knows Mammy was next to my parents in my affection. Not have souls! Why, I as firmly believe I am going to meet Dobbin when I cross the river as I am Mammy."

At that, Dee Tucker got up out of the hammock and went over and hugged and kissed the old Judge, and Zebedee and Dum both wiped the tears from their eyes. I felt like it, too, but then tears are not mine to command as they are the Tuckers'.

Certainly the Judge had touched us all with his story. I wanted to ask him more about Dobbin but I was afraid the next thing would be Dobbin's death, as he must have been old when he was presented to the little boy, and somehow I felt none of us could bear up over the dear old horse's death. It must have been more than sixty years since those picnics in the beech woods, but you felt that in Judge Grayson's mind it was but as yesterday.

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