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   Chapter 18 THE MACHINATIONS OF MABEL.

Vacation with the Tucker Twins By Nell Speed Characters: 6907

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


Dee must have laid it on rather thick with Mabel Binks, as anything like that young woman's change of manner towards Annie could not have been brought about by a light touch. I am afraid Dee represented Mr. Pore's brother, the present baronet, as in the last stages of some wasting disease, and by some juggling of facts in regard to English titles gave the impression that Annie was in a fair way to become the Duchess of Marlborough or at least the Honourable Anne. She afterwards told Dum and me when we accused her of not having drawn it mild, that she had neglected to tell Mabel the exact connection with the earl, but had hinted that it was very close and one likely to lead to untold honours to our little friend.

"I saw to it that your haughty relative, Mrs. Garnett, was informed of the coincidence of Annie's mother and your mother being friends and of their being at the house party of the big bugs together. Mrs. Garnett was duly impressed and somewhat astonished, intimating that her cousin, Dr. Allison, had picked up an English wife with no connections to speak of. She will evidently have a higher opinion of you now that she knows that your mother and grandfather were on visiting terms with an earl."

Dee pretended to be in jest about Cousin Park, but it was the truth that she had always rather looked down on my mother for not being Virginian. She never lost the chance to inform any stranger when I was introduced that my name was not the Virginia Pages. With her, F. F. V's were the first and last and only families worth considering in the Union or out of it. Of course, English nobility was in a way admirable, since it had given birth to F. F. V.dom, but the claim of inhabitants of any other state to aristocracy was brushed aside with scornful disdain.

I remember a story my father used to tell of an old gentleman who said he considered it very bad taste to ask any man where he came from. "If he is a Virginian, he is sure to let you know it without your asking, and if he is not, there is no use in rubbing it in on the poor fellow by making him own up to it."

Mabel's being invited to supper was a question that had been discussed up and down by the Tuckers, principally down; but they had finally determined that it was on the whole up to them. Dee had been appointed inviter as being the tactful member of the team, and Mabel naturally jumped at the chance, overlooking the fact that she did not consider us properly chaperoned.

Her politeness and cordiality to Annie were entirely unlooked for by that shy maiden, who almost fainted from astonishment; and she actually gushed over Mr. Pore. He looked at her for a moment through his ultra gold glasses and then, deciding that she was nothing but a vulgar "Amehriken," he never seemed to see her again, although he was forced to hear her very often. She addressed many remarks to him and tried in every way to make him notice her, but an "Aw, reahly!" was about all she could get from him.

"I simply adore the English!" she exclaimed. "They have so much reserve. Do you know, my grandfather Binks was English, and indeed he never lost his accent although he lived in this country for a great many years. I remember so well how he dropped his aitches and put them on in the most unexpected places."

"Aw, reahly now!"

"Aren't you and your sweet daughter going back to England soon? You don't know how we dote on your little Annie," and so on and so

on, until it was indeed sickening. It was easy to see that Miss Binks was as anxious to get an invitation to England as she had been to Richmond, while Mr. Pore was entirely unconscious of what she was driving at. He looked upon her as some kind of escaped lunatic and Annie sat in open-eyed wonderment, expecting every moment to be insulted as of yore.

They did not dream of Dee's having turned the tables on Mabel Binks as she had done. Mr. Pore was still the country store-keeper and Annie was the same shy girl with her wardrobe as limited as ever, but the wily Dee had turned them into dukes and duchesses in Mabel's eyes, and the snobbish creature was grovelling at the feet of the nobility. I have never seen two persons have as much fun as Tweedles did that evening. They were very quiet but spent the time "sicking Mabel on," as Dee expressed it.

I was pleased to see that Annie did not unbend in the least to her one-time persecutor. In spite of Annie's shyness she had a dignity that was most admirable; and while she was perfectly polite to Mabel, she permitted no advances. Getting invitations to England to visit in grand country houses that still belong to older brothers was certainly up-hill work. Winding purple and grey yarn for Mrs. Garnett and fetching and carrying for her, even agreeing with her at every point, was child's play to this thing of flattering a middle-aged Englishman who seemed to have no conversation at his command but "Aw, reahly!" or "My word!" and trying to undo the work of the last year and make a little English girl forget all the rudeness she had suffered at the hands of her persistent tormentor.

I kept wondering how about the lard and molasses that the middle-aged Englishman would perhaps spend the rest of his life weighing out and drawing from the barrel for his negro customers as well as white; also if Mrs. Binks would still think Gresham too democratic in the class of pupils it enrolled. I so naturally hate a snob that I did not have a pleasant evening at all, and I could not quite see the fun in it that Tweedles did.

I was glad when it was over and we could stretch out on our cots with the pure sea air blowing on us, and, lulled by the soothing sound of the waves lapping the shore, sleep the sleep of the just. We could be thankful, at least, that Mabel Binks was, after all, none of us and when we left Willoughby Beach we might never have to see her again.

As we lay side by side, all of us so quiet that one would have thought sleep held us fast, there was a sudden upheaval from Mary's cot and a sound that might have been sobbing.

"Mary! Mary! What is it?" we demanded. "Are you ill?" And then the possible sobs turned into unmistakable giggles.

"Oh! Oh! Oh! I can't get to sleep for thinking of Mr. Pore's countenance when Mabel told him of her Binks grandfather who dropped his aitches." Then we all went off into shrieks of laughter that very little would have turned into hysterics, if Zebedee had not knocked sternly on our dressing-room door and bade us remember that we had other guests. Of course he meant we must not do anything to make Mr. Pore think we were not perfect ladies, so we subsided with only an occasional upheaval and a smothered snicker.

And while we lay there I thought of a title for a short story and almost got a plot worked out; but I went to sleep before it was quite clear. The title was: "The Machinations of Mabel."

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