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   Chapter 17 MR. ARTHUR PONSONBY PORE.

Vacation with the Tucker Twins By Nell Speed Characters: 10524

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


Mr. Pore was much more attractive than we had expected. Things in this life hardly ever come up to your expectations, either good or bad, which sounds as though I were still brooding over Mabel's proposed visit to Cousin Park and the possible enthralling of Zebedee. I remind myself of the Irishman who had raised a particularly fat pig from which he expected to realize great wealth. He took it to town on market day to sell. On the way home he met a neighbour who genially inquired:

"And how mooch did your pig be after weighing, Paddy?"

"Not as mooch as I thart it would,-and I thart it wouldn't," added Paddy pessimistically.

In the first place, Mr. Pore was handsome. He had a stately dignity and an aristocratic bearing that all the weighing of lard and drawing of molasses in the world could not lessen. His forehead was intellectual; his eyes piercing; his nose aquiline and rather haughty; his mouth a little petulant with a pathetic droop at the corners; and his chin (rather indicative of his character, I fancy, and explaining why he was keeping a country store at Price's Landing instead of taking that place in the world to which by birth and education he was entitled), his chin decidedly receded. In doing so, however, it gave you to understand that it retreated in good order and was unconvinced. I mean that it had that stubborn look that receding chins sometimes do have. After all, stubbornness was the key-note of Mr. Pore's character, rather than weakness. I had gathered that much from what Annie had divulged to me that night at Gresham when she had opened the box with her dead mother's dress in it and found the note from her mother, with the twenty-five dollars pinned in the sleeve.

He was dressed in what books call decent black. Certainly there was nothing about him to make anyone doubt he was a perfect gentleman, even had they been unaware of the fact that only one life stood between him and a title. He was so excessively English that it was hard to believe that he had spent the last fifteen years in a little settlement on the James River, never hearing his native tongue in all that time, perhaps. Our spoken language was very different from his, although I have heard it said that Virginians and Kentuckians and Bostonians come nearer to speaking the real English than any other Americans. We may come nearer than others but we are still far off from the kind of English that Mr. Arthur Ponsonby Pore spoke. I thought of Cousin Park and her "lower middle class" to which she had consigned the gentleman, and wished that he might just once look at her and Mabel through the gold pince nez that straddled his aristocratic, aquiline nose!

Zebedee had gone over to Norfolk to meet his guest, and under his genial influence I fancy Mr. Pore had somewhat melted; but his demeanor was still rather icy. He went through the introduction to Miss Cox and all of us girls as though it had been a court ceremony, and then turning to Annie, he gave her a little Arthur Ponsonby peck in lieu of a kiss. Shaking his hand, Dee declared was like grasping an old pump handle when the sucker is worn out. You take hold thinking you are to meet with some resistance, but instead, the handle flies up and you find yourself foolishly shaking it up and down with no chance of getting any returns for your trouble. The Tuckers were famous hand-shakers, as all their friends knew, but doubtless Mr. Pore was unprepared for such a vigorous grasp from young ladies.

I found nothing to complain of in his manner of greeting me. Not being such a hearty hand-shaker as Tweedles, I put my hand in his and left him to do the shaking. This he did not do, but he gave my hand a slight pressure and gazed earnestly into my eyes. So earnest and burning was his glance that I felt almost confused, but I thought that no doubt Annie had told him of her confiding in me about her birth and he felt some interest because of her affection for me.

As we took our seats on the porch, Mr. Pore's chair was by mine and still he gazed at me with his piercing, melancholy eyes.

"Did I hear your name aright? Was it not Miss Page Allison?"

"Yes, sir! I am Annie's friend from Gresham. We have been intimate from the day we entered school."

"Yes, yes! I know much of you and your courtesy. But tell me, Miss Allison, are you American?" (His American was so different from ours one could almost spell it A-m-e-h-r-i-k-e-n.)

"Yes, Mr. Pore, I am American, but my mother was English."

"Ah! I thought as much. Her name was Lucy Page, was it not?"

"Yes," I answered, wondering at his knowledge of my mother's name.

"Oh, Page! Page! Only think of it!" exclaimed Annie impulsively. "Lucy Page was my mother's little friend, the one who lent her the slippers to wear to the Charity Bazaar," and her enthusiasm went unrebuked by her father. Indeed, he seemed almost as excited as Annie. The poor man had been a long time away from persons who knew him and whom he knew and he had the absurd notion that very few "Amehrikens" were his social equal; now he found that his daughter had made friends with the child of his wife's old friend.

"To think of it, to think of it! My word, but it is strange! I knew the moment I saw you that I had

seen either you or your counterpart before. Tell me, child, all about your mother, and your grandfather, Major Page. What a fine old soldier he was!"

And so I sat on the porch by this strange, stiff Englishman, no longer stiff, but positively limber, Dum declared, and told all I knew of my poor little mother and the fine old soldier, her father. They had come to America to look up some investments made by the retired Army officer, had settled near Warrenton and there had met my father,-and the marriage had ensued.

"All I have left of my old English grandfather is his hat-tub, which I still use when I am at Bracken," I said.

"My word, how I should like to own one! I have not seen a hat-tub for twenty years," he sighed. "But tell me, Miss Allison, do you never see nor hear from your mother's family in England?"

"I think all correspondence with them died a natural death many years ago. Father used to write once a year to a great-aunt, Gwendoline was her name, but she died; after that some of her daughters wrote once or twice and then stopped. I don't even know whether they are alive and I fancy they neither know nor care whether I am."

"I have never seen a more striking likeness than you have to your mother. She was much younger than my wife when I knew her. We had all been visiting at the home of the Earl of Garth, my wife's uncle. Little Lucy Page was really not old enough to be out of the nursery, certainly should have been in charge of a governess; but Major Page had his own ideas about such things and took his daughter wherever he went. She was about sixteen, I fancy."

"Just your age!" tweedled the Tuckers, who had been listening, with open mouths and eyes, in speechless silence to Mr. Pore's revelations. When he spoke of the Earl of Garth as his wife's uncle they looked, as poor dear Blanche expressed it, "fittin' to bust." And then when in the most casual manner he let drop that his own father was a baronet, I know it was a relief to them that the hammock rope broke at the crucial moment and they were precipitated to the floor with Mary Flannagan who was between them.

"If something had not happened and happened pretty quick 'a kersplosion was eminent,'" whispered Dee to me. "And now I am going to beat it to the hotel as fast as my legs can carry me and let that hateful Mabel Binks know that she has been nasty to the nobility. Oh, I am going to be tactful and not let her know I came for the express purpose. I am going to ask her to tea and be generally sweet, and then just casually let it drop that Mr. Pore knew your mother while all of them were visiting at an earl's, and that said earl was Mrs. Pore's uncle. I'll rub in that it means that our modest, little English friend, called by Mabel and her ilk Orphan Annie, is the great-granddaughter of an earl on her mother's side and the granddaughter of a baronet on her father's."

All this Dee whispered to me while the hammock was being tied up more securely by Zebedee. The solemn Englishman was evidently much amused by the mishap, as he laughed in a manner almost hilarious for one so dignified and sober. I have always heard an accident like that spoken of as an English joke, and truly it did seem to strike him as very funny.

Harvie Price and Shorty made their appearance soon after. Harvie greeted Mr. Pore with great respect and in a few moments they were conversing most affably about Harvie's grandfather, General Price, and news of the settlement.

Mr. Pore seemed to like the boy and Harvie evidently liked him. Once he had told me that he admired Mr. Pore greatly as one who could think in Latin.

It was easy to see that Mr. Pore was not going to be such a difficult visitor, after all. He had evidently decided that we were good enough socially for him, because of my mother's having been at the Earl of Garth's. He had already admitted Harvie to his exclusive circle since he had permitted Annie to play with him when they were children. He liked Zebedee and Zebedee's cigars and Zebedee's children, who cracked such delicious jokes in falling out of hammocks. Altogether he intended to have a very pleasant weekend. I fancied he was a little sorry that he had spoken of his connections, as it was a subject he evidently had not touched on to strangers, but it had slipped out in his delight in meeting someone he considered of his world, that world that he had turned his back on so many years before but the world to which he still belonged. He had never identified himself with his "Amehriken" neighbours and had always held himself as an alien among them.

Annie looked a little startled and very happy. This was a new father to her, a genial gentleman who actually talked to her friends and admitted having titled connections in the old country. He had not censured her once and now he was talking to Harvie with actual affability.

"Oh, Page," she whispered to me, "how glad I am I accepted your slippers that night of the musicale at Gresham. You remember I said to you that my mother had borrowed slippers, too, when she had worn that dress, and that she did not mind borrowing them because she knew her friend loved her. To think of that friend's being your mother! Oh, Page, I am so happy!"

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