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   Chapter 20 THE AFTER-MATH.

Vacation with the Tucker Twins By Nell Speed Characters: 16605

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


They took a steamer to New York, that Mecca of the newly-wed, and we all adjourned to the pier to wish them God-speed. As the vessel pulled out, Rags produced from his pocket the self-same old tennis shoes that we had found the morning we took possession of Mrs. Rand's cottage, and threw them after the departing couple. They looked very comical as they floated along for a moment like veritable gun-boats and then filled and sank.

"Requiescat in Pace!" muttered Wink. "At least you can't forget them again."

The boys were breaking camp next day, and the day after we were to get ready to turn over the cottage to Mrs. Rand's next tenants. Zebedee bitterly regretted that he had not taken the place for two months, but it was too late now. Besides, his holiday was over and we all well knew that Willoughby would not be quite the same thing with our kind host not there, the boys no longer in their camp, and good Miss Cox married and gone.

Zebedee had to go back to Richmond that night, ready for harness the next morning.

"My, but I dread it!" he exclaimed as he took us over to the trolley to start us back to Willoughby Beach. "I almost wish I had never had a holiday, it is so hard to go back to work. What are stupid old newspapers for, anyhow? Who wants to read them?" This made us smile, as Zebedee is like a raging lion until he gets the morning paper, and then goes through the same rampageous humour later in the day until the afternoon paper appears to assuage his agony. "We journalists get no thanks, anyhow. I agree with the Frenchman who says that a journalist's efforts are no more appreciated than a cook's; no one remembers what he had for yesterday's dinner or what was in yesterday's newspaper."

Blanche listened to Mr. Tucker's words with rapt attention. She always stood at a respectful distance but within easy ear-shot of the conversation, which she eagerly drank in and then commented on later to Tweedles and me. But this too nearly touched her heart for her to wait until we were alone to make her original and characteristic comments.

"Oh, Mr. Tucker, it is so considerable of you to find a symbolarity between the chosen professions of master and handymaiden! Sense I have been conductoring of the curlinary apartment of your enstablishment, I have so often felt the infutility of my labours. What I do is enjoyed only for the momentariness of its consumption, and is never more thought of unless it is to say too rich or something; and then, if it disagrees, poor Blanche is remembered again, and then not to say agree'bly. Sometimes whin I have been placin' clean papers on the kitchen shelves, the same sentimentality has occurred to me that you so apely quotetioned a moment ago, Mr. Tucker; namely, in relation to journalists and cooks. I see all that pretty printin' going to was'e jes as a restin' place for pots 'n pans, and then in the garbage pail I see the cold waffles that was once as fresh and hot as the next, one no more considered than the other, and I could weep for both of us. Our electrocution teacher used to say a piece about 'Impervious C?sar, dead and turned to clay doth stop the crack to keep the wind away.'"

We stood aghast during this speech. Dum looked as though she would welcome Death, the Deliverer, with joy, anything to relieve the strain she was on to keep from exploding with laughter; but Zebedee did not seem to think it was funny at all. He listened with the greatest courtesy and when she had finished with her quotation (which we afterwards agreed was singularly appropriate, since C?sar had been made "impervious" enough to keep out water as well as wind), he answered her very kindly:

"I thank you, Blanche, for understanding me so well. I can tell you that I, for one, will always remember your waffles; and had I known at the time that there was any more batter, there would not have been any cold ones to find their last ignominious resting place in the garbage pail."

"I also have saved some of your writings, Mr. Tucker,-an editorial that Miss Dum said you had written before you came for your holiday,-and I will put it in my mem'ry book as an epitaph of you."

Then Dum did explode. She made out that she was sneezing and even insisted upon purchasing a menthol inhaler before she went back to Willoughby, declaring she felt a head cold coming on.

The Beach seemed stale, flat and unprofitable somehow when we got back. We missed Miss Cox and above all we missed Zebedee.

"I'm glad we couldn't get the cottage for another month," yawned Dum. "Old Zebedeelums couldn't be here more than once or twice in that time and it would surely be stupid without him;" and all of us agreed with her in our hearts.

The cottage was in a terrible state of disorder. We had been too excited in the morning to do our chores. Beds were unmade, the living-room messy and untidy with sweaters on chairs, crumbs on the table and floor and shades some up, and some down, and some crooked (nothing to my mind gives a room a more forlorn look than window shades at sixes and sevens); the kitchen, usually in the pink of perfection, just as Blanche had left it after cooking what she had termed, a somewhat "forgetable" breakfast.

"Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow," said Dee. "Let's leave this mess and take a dip before supper. We will have fifteen minutes at least before Blanche can get the funeral baked meats on the table."

We were to have a very simple repast and we told Blanche just to put it on the table and we would wait on ourselves. The girl was as tired as we were and we felt we must spare her. We determined to get the cottage in perfect order the next day and just to "live keerless" for that evening and night, as Blanche expressed it.

Five hats and five pairs of gloves, dropped where the owners happened to fancy, did not help to make the living-room look any more orderly. Dum took off her white kid pumps, that had been pinching a little all day, and left them in the middle of the floor. The morning paper, despised of Zebedee but eagerly devoured nevertheless, was scattered all over the divan and floor, and a bag of bananas Blanche had been intrusted with was in a state of dishabille on the crummy table. It was surely a place to flee from and flee we did.

Such a swim as we had! It seemed the best of the whole month. The water was perfect, just a little cooler than the air, and the setting sun turned it to liquid gold.

"Why, look at Annie! She is swimming, really swimming!" called out Mary Flannagan. And sure enough there was Annie staying on top of the water and calmly paddling around like a beautiful white swan.

"Of course I can swim in golden water! Who couldn't? I do wish Mr. Tucker could see me. Isn't it too bad after all his patience with me that I wait until he is gone to show what I can do? Somehow this seems like a dream, and the water is fairy water."

"Let's all catch hold of hands and lie on our backs and float," I suggested.

"If you won't leave me when the tide comes, to turn over and swim in," pleaded Annie.

"I will stay with you until your shoulders grate against the shore," promised Mary.

And so we lay all in a row on top of the water, faces upturned to the wonderful evening sky, our bodies as light as air and our hearts even lighter.

"Gee, Dee! I am glad you suggested this!" sighed Dum. "I never felt more peaceful in my life than I do this minute, and I know I never felt more forlorn than I did when we first got back to the cottage."

"Me too! Me too!" we chorused.

"Let's float to Spain and never come back," suggested Annie.

"And this from a little lady who has been afraid to get her toes wet all month! Well, I'm game if the rest of you are," and Mary gave a few vigorous kicks that sent the line some distance from shore; and still Annie with her white-swan expression floated peacefully on. We lay there chatting and dreaming, washing off "the cares that infest the day," planning the future and gazing into the clear obscure of the darkening sky.

"'Star light, star bright, first star I've seen tonight!

I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight,'"

sang Dum, and sure enough there was a star.

"Look here, girls, it's getting late! I hate to aw

aken you from this dream of eternal bliss, but we've got to go in," and Dee turned over on her face to swim in, thereby causing some commotion in the hearts of the two swimmers newly initiated in the art.

"Don't leave me!" gasped Annie.

"Didn't your faithful Mary swear to take you safe to shore? Just lie still and I'll tow you in;" and in they came, Mary steaming away like a tug boat and Annie floating like an ocean liner, until her shoulders grated on the sand and then and only then was she convinced that she could touch bottom.

We raced back to the cottage, hungry and happy, the fifteen minutes that we had meant to stay having turned into an hour in the twinkling of an eye. From afar we espied Blanche on the porch, shooing us back with one hand and beckoning with the other. We obeyed the beckoning one and eagerly demanded what was the matter. Her face was so pale that the name of Blanche was almost appropriate.

"What is it, Blanche? What has happened?" we cried.

But she was speechless except for gasping: "Oh, the disgrace, the disgrace!"

We followed her trembling form into the living room, wet suits and all, feeling that the exigency of the case was sufficient cause for suspension of rules and for once we would bring dripping bathing suits into the house. The cause of Blanche's perturbation of mind was easily understood when we beheld the portly figure of Cousin Park Garnett stiffly seated in a dusty chair (on Dum's Panama hat it was discovered later). She was indignantly waving her turkey-tail fan, and such an expression of disgust I have never seen on a human countenance.

The room looked no better than when we had left it and even a little worse, as the pickup supper we were to have had been dumped on the table in great confusion and not at all in Blanche's usual careful style. We had told her not to set the table and she had taken us at our word. The odour of sardines left in the opened boxes mingled with that of the bananas, still in the bursting bag. The bread was cut in thick, uneven slices. A glass jar of pickle and one of olives added to the sketchiness of the table. It was "confusion worse confounded."

"Oh!" I gasped, on viewing my indignant relative, "I thought you had gone!"

"No, I have not yet departed," stiffly from Cousin Park. "This is rather an unusual time for bathing, is it not?"

"Yes'm, but--" and I began to stammer out something, fully aware of the dismal figure I cut, standing limply in front of that august presence, my wet clothes sending forth streams of water that settled in little puddles on the floor. I was well aware of the fact that Cousin Park had never approved of my friendship with the Tuckers, and now, coming on us in this far from commendable state, she would have what she would consider a handle for her hitherto unfounded objections.

But Dee, who by some power that she possessed in common with her father, the power by a certain tact to become master of any situation, no matter how embarrassing, came forward and with all the manners of one much older and clothed in suitable garments, so that you lost sight of her scant and dripping bathing suit, she said:

"We are very glad to see you, Mrs. Garnett, and are extremely sorry to have missed any of your visit. You have found us in some disarray from the fact that we are preparing to move and at the same time have just been engaged in having a wedding in the family."

"A wedding! Whose wedding?" The wily Dee had taken her mind off of the disorder in the room and now she felt she could soon win her over to complacency at least. The wetting paled to insignificance beside the wedding.

"Why, our dear friend and chaperone, Miss Cox."

"Your chaperone! Goodness gracious, child! Did she marry your father?"

"Heavens, no!" laughed Dee. "Mr. Bob Gordon is the happy man!"

"Miss Binks did not tell me a word of it," said Mrs. Garnett rather suspiciously.

"No, she did not know about it." "Not know about it? That is strange! Was there any reason for keeping it secret?"

"No especial reason for keeping it secret except that it was to be a very quiet affair and the invited guests included only the most intimate friends. Mabel Binks has a way of getting herself invited by hook or crook, and we just decided not to tell her about the matter."

"How long were they engaged? It seems strange behaviour in a chaperone."

"I tell you what you do, Mrs. Garnett. If you won't mind the informality of a picnic supper, you stay and have supper with us. We will run up and get dressed and be down in a moment and then we will tell you the whole thing, how they got engaged and all about it." And so anxious was my cousin for a bit of news to retail to the ladies on the hotel porch that she actually stayed.

When we got down stairs after very hasty toilets, we found the good-natured Blanche had brought some order out of the chaos of the supper table and with an instinct truly remarkable had made a pot of delicious, fragrant coffee. Coffee, I had often heard Cousin Park declare to be her one weakness. Now you may be sure that what Cousin Park, with her smug self-satisfaction, considered a weakness in herself would really have been a passion in anyone else.

As Dee, who was doing the honours at the head of the table, it being her week as housekeeper, poured the coffee and our still far from mollified guest saw the beautiful golden brown hue that it assumed the minute it mingled with the cream, her expression softened and she looked very much as she had when Judge Grayson recited, "My Grandmother's Turkey-tail Fan." The colour of coffee when it is poured on cream is a never failing test of its quality, and the colour of Blanche's coffee was beyond compare.

The food was very good if not very elegantly served, and I really believe Mrs. Garnett enjoyed herself as much as she was capable of doing. When anyone's spinal column has solidified she can't have much fun, and I truly believe that was the case with hers.

What she enjoyed as much as the coffee and even more, perhaps, was the delightful news she was gathering in every detail to take back to the old hens roosting on the hotel porch. Mr. and Mrs. Gordon had made no secret of their affairs, even their former engagement and cause of the break being known now to some twenty persons; so we felt that it would be all right if we told the whole thing to our eager listener.

She agreed with the young lover that the Lobster Quadrille (of which she had never heard before) was nonsense pure and simple. Dum had to recite it twice and finally we all got up and danced it and sang it for her. Then she did acknowledge that it might appeal to some persons, but that a girl with as irregular features as the former Miss Cox had been very foolish to let such twaddle as that stand in the way of matrimony, and she was surely exceedingly fortunate, when Time had certainly done nothing to straighten her face, to be able to catch a husband after all.

We well knew that while Time had not had a beautifying effect on our beloved Miss Cox's countenance, it had made more lovely her character and soul, and that was after all what Mr. Gordon loved more than anything else. We kept our knowledge to ourselves, however, as Cousin Park was not the kind of person to talk metaphysics to.

She finally departed, much to our relief, as we were one and all ready for bed. We escorted her to the hotel and before we were out of earshot we could hear her cackling the news to the other old hens very much as a real barnyard fowl will do when she scratches up some delectable morsel too large to swallow at one gulp. She immediately bruits it abroad, attracting all the chickens on the farm, and then such another noise, pecking, grabbing and clucking ensues, until the choice bit is torn to shreds.

We were very tired but not too tired to applaud Mary Flannagan, who imitated Cousin Park to the life as she recounted the tale to her cronies. Then Mary followed the gossipy monologue with her favourite stunt of barnyard noises, finally ending up with Cousin Park's parting speech anent the Lobster Quadrille and Miss Cox's imprudence in not taking a husband when she had a chance, even if their taste in the classics did not coincide.

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