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   Chapter 23 UNTIL NEXT TIME.

Vacation with the Tucker Twins By Nell Speed Characters: 14346

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


Zebedee met us at the station in Richmond with the faithful Henry Ford, quite spruced up (I mean Henry) with a new coat of paint, put on while the family was at the beach. Brindle, Dee's precious dog, was perched on the front seat with the air of injured dignity he always assumed, so Dee said, when they went off to the seashore and left him behind. His damson-jam eyes were moist and sad and his breathing even more stertorous than usual.

"Well, you know yourself how you hate the water and how grouchy you were the last time you went with us!" said Brindle's mistress, hugging the old dog and speaking to him as though in answer to the reproach in his eyes. "If you would learn to be a more agreeable traveling companion and eat fish like a respectable canine, we would never leave you. Goodness knows, I miss you and long for you every minute of the day and night." Brindle snorted and gurgled and licked Dee's ear in token of forgiveness.

"I am sure any physician would say that Brindle's adenoids should be removed," commented Dum from the back seat. "Did you ever hear such a noise in your life as that old dog makes just simply living? Every breath he draws seems to require all the force and strength he can muster."

"Virginia Tucker, I will thank you not to be personal with Brindle. His breathing shows his breeding, which is more than your conversation does. You know how easy it is to hurt his feelings," and Dee looked daggers at her twin.

"Oh, excuse me, Brindle, I was merely joking!"

"You know perfectly well that Brindle's one fault is that he has no sense of humour."

"Well, I had forgotten it for the moment.-I saved him a chocolate peppermint out of the box we bought on the train. Do you think that would serve as balm to his wounded feelings?"

"It might!" said Dee dubiously. "Brindle is very fond of chocolate peppermints, but he does hate to be guyed." It did, however, and peace was restored before Zebedee finished attending to the trunks and cranking up Henry.

Blanche's brother, "Po' Jo," had met her at the station, much to the relief of all of us.

"I am no snob," declared Zebedee, "but I'll be hanged if I was relishing the prospect of running poor, dear Blanche uptown in Henry Ford, bedecked as she was in all that glory of second mourning."

Blanche's feelings were so hurt when we suggested that she should travel in the decent black skirt and plain shirtwaist bought for the wedding that we had to give in and let her return in the costume in which she had arrived.

"Po' Jo" was quite as comfortable in figure as his sister. He was, in fact, as fat and sleek as a 'possum, and like that animal he had a perpetual grin on his coffee-coloured countenance. His portly form stretched the seams of a Palm Beach suit, on the left sleeve of which was stitched a large black heart in honour of his recent bereavement. Brother and sister beamed on each other with family pride written all over their good-natured faces.

"Well, Sister Blanche, you is looking quite swanky, as a English gentleman at the Club is contingently saying." Jo was waiter at the Club.

"And you, Brother Jo, you is bearin' up wonderful an' lookin' mighty well in yo' new Palm Leaf suit," and she smoothed the sleeve with the black heart stitched thereon with an air of conscious pride that she could boast such a wonderful brother.

We were sorry to tell Blanche good-bye. She had endeared herself to all of us, and in spite of the fun we got out of her peculiarities, we were really very fond of her. She was perfectly honest and faithful, and above and beyond all that, as Zebedee said, she was a born cook. She was to stay a while with Jo and then go down to pay Mammy Susan a visit before returning to her school.

I was to spend one night with the Tuckers and then go back to my beloved Bracken. I was reproaching myself for staying even the one night longer away from Father, but Zebedee had planned all kinds of things for my pleasure, and Tweedles were so persistent in their entreaties that I had submitted, although I was getting very homesick for Father and Mammy Susan, to say nothing of the dogs and Peg, my old horse.

Lunch first! Dee made all of us eat beefsteak, ordering a huge porterhouse so she could get the bone for Brindle. "I know he is tired of the food at that old café," she said. "He does not look nourished to me and I intend to give him some building-up food."

"Why, Dee, he is as fat as a pig," insisted Dum.

"Yes, I know he is fat, but I don't like the colour of his tongue. Flesh is not always an indication of health, Dum Tucker."

"That's so," put in Zebedee, "I've seen many a fat corpse, but my opinion is that Brindle needs exercise. He is so lazy."

After lunch as we spun up Broad Street, we noticed quite a crowd gathered near the marketplace. Zebedee, with an eye ever open and nose ever twitching for news, slowed up his car.

"Nothing but a street fakir, but he must have something fine or be a very convincing talker."

Just then Henry indulged in his little habit of stopping altogether, and Zebedee had to get out and crank up. This enabled us to hear the fakir and see his wares.

"This, ladies and gentlemen, is a most remarkable implement, taking the place of a whole chest of tools! This is a potato-parer! This is an apple-corer! This is a cork-screw! This is a can-opener! This is a nutmeg-grater! This is a knife-sharpener! This--" But Dum leapt from the car and without any ceremony interrupted the man's stream of convincing eloquence. With every "this" he had illustrated the virtues of his wares by slicing potatoes, coring apples, opening bottles and cans, etc.

"How much?" she asked excitedly.

"Ten cents! Ten cents! Eight perfect implements in one for ten cents! I am the sole agent in the United States and Canada and you miss the chance of a lifetime if you do not purchase one. I am now on my way to California and will not return to Virginia for many years."

"Give me five," demanded Dum recklessly, producing her last fifty cents.

The delighted and mystified salesman counted them out to her and the crowd began to buy excitedly, as though they thought that the wonderful magic implements would start on their trip to California and back by the Great Lakes and through Canada and they might be old men and women before another chance came to own one of these rare combinations.

"Mrs. Rand's lost treasure," gasped Dee.

"Here's another for good measure!" and the man tossed an extra one into Dum's lap as Henry got up steam and moved off. "You started my sales and I won't have a one left by night at this rate."

"I am going to send all of these to that hateful old Mrs. Rand," and Dum settled herself on the cushions, her lap full of can-openers.

We had told Zebedee of Mrs. Rand's carryings-on over her precious tool and he had been vastly amused.

"Don't send them all," I pleaded. "Take one back to Gresham. It would be invaluable at boarding school to get olives out of the bottles, and to open trunks when the keys got lost. As a shoe-horn I am sure it could not be surpassed, for the apple-corer end would do for t

hat. As for a finger-nail file, what could equal the nutmeg-grater?"

So Dum sent only five to Mrs. Rand, and one we took to boarding school with us, where it ever after played an important part in the curriculum under the pseudonym of "Mrs. Rand."

The Tuckers' apartment seemed especially crowded after the large simplicity of the living-room at Willoughby. As a family they usually managed to get anything they wanted very much, and they had had some sixteen years of wanting and satisfying their desires. It was a fortunate thing that they had, one and all, innate good taste. Mr. Tucker had wanted pictures and prints; Dum had wanted bronzes, carved curios of all sorts and casts of masterpieces; Dee had a leaning towards soft Persian rugs, old china and pets. The pets had some of them been mercifully overtaken by fate or I am sure we could not have squeezed into the apartment on that hot afternoon in early August. All of them had wanted books and the books wanted shelves, so wherever there wasn't anything else there were book shelves. Small pictures were actually hung on the doors, as there was no wall space available, and the rugs lapped over each other on the floors.

"We usually have the rugs stored for the summer, but Brindle misses them so much that I wouldn't let Zebedee do it this year. He loves to lie on them and I truly believe he appreciates their colour as well as their softness," and Dee leaned over and patted her beloved dog, who had chosen a particularly wonderful old blue rug on which to take his after-lunch nap.

"Well, I only hope they won't get moths in them with your and Zebedee's foolishness," sniffed Dum.

"Oh, no, Brindle promised me to catch all the moths, didn't you, Brindle, old boy?" Brindle, as though in answer to his mistress, looked solemnly up and snapped at some tiny-winged creature which had recklessly come too close to his powerful jaws.

"Look here, girls! Do you realize that our vacation is more than half over? Before we can turn around we will be back at Gresham," I said, fearing a discussion was imminent. I had heard the subject of moths and Brindle's fondness for Persian rugs thoroughly threshed out before and the gloves had had to be resorted to to prove the point that Brindle's comfort was more important than mere rugs.

"Oh, Page, don't introduce such sad subjects!" exclaimed Dum. "Gresham is all right in its way, but I can't bear to contemplate another winter there. Still, I know it is up to us to go back."

"We'll be Juniors, too-and Juniors are always in hot water," sighed Dee.

"Well, anyhow, we won't be beau-crazy Juniors like last year's class," declared Dum. "Did you ever see such a lot of boy grabbers in your life?"

"I can't fancy our being grabby about boys, but I tell you one thing," I laughed, "we are certainly much fonder of the male sex than we were a year ago. Boys are nice and I do like 'em, and I don't care who knows it, so there!"

Zebedee came in from his afternoon work just then and overheard the last of my remarks. "What's all this? Page confessing to a fondness for the opposite sex? You like boys, do you? Well, I am glad indeed of my eternal youth. I am nothing but a boy, eh, Dum," he said, tweaking his daughter's ear.

"Boy, indeed! You are nothing but a baby!"

"Well, I am a tired and hot baby and I thought I would find all of you old ladies dressed and ready to go to the Country Club with me for a game of tennis, a shower bath and supper afterwards on the terrace."

"Ready in a minute!" we chorused, and so we were.

Richmond was looking singularly attractive, I thought, as we spun along Franklin Street, in spite of the fact that most of the houses were closed for the summer and the female inhabitants off to the seashore or springs. Here and there a lone man could be seen spreading himself and his afternoon papers over his empty porch and steps, and occasionally a faithful wife was conspicuous by reason of the absence of other faithful wives. Usually she bore a conscious air of virtue and an expression that plainly said: "Am I not a paragon to be sticking it out with John?"

The trees, however, seemed to be flourishing in the masculine element, and in many places on that most beautiful of all streets the elms met overhead, forming a dark-green arch. There was a delicious odour of freshly watered asphalt and the streets were full of automobiles, all seeming to be on pleasure bent now that the day's work was over. A few carriages were making their stately way, but very few. The occupants of the carriages were as a rule old and fat. I thought I saw Cousin Park Garnett in one, with her cross, stupid, old pug dog on the seat by her, but we were just then engaged in placing ourselves liable to arrest by breaking the speed law, so I could not be quite sure. Dum was running the car and she always seemed to court arrest and fine.

"When I see a clear stretch of road in front of me I simply have to whoop her up a bit," she explained when Zebedee remonstrated with her.

"That's all right if you are sure you are out of sight of a cop, but I have no idea of going your bail if you are hailed to the Juvenile Court for speeding. A one hundred dollar fine would just about break me right now. I don't set much store by the eleventh commandment in anything but motoring, but in this thing of running a car it is mighty important: 'Don't get found out.' There's a cop now!"

Dum slowed up and looked very meek and ladylike as a mounted policeman approached us, touching his cap to Mr. Tucker in passing.

"Zebedee knows every policeman on the force," said Dum teasingly. "There is nothing like keeping in with the law."

"Certainly not, if a man happens to own two such harum-scarums as I do."

The Country Club was delightful, but they always are. When people club together to have a good out-door time and to give others a chance to do the same, a success always seems to be assured. Certainly that particular club was most popular and prosperous and although we heard repeatedly that everybody was out of town, there were, to my mind, a great many left. The tennis courts were full to overflowing before the evening light became too dim to see the balls, and the golf links had so many players it resembled more a croquet ground. I had never played golf and while the Tuckers all could, they did not care much for it, preferring the more strenuous game of tennis.

"I'm saving up golf for that old age that they tell me is sure to come some day," sighed Zebedee. "I don't really believe them."

None of us did, either. How could old age claim such a boy as Jeffry Tucker?

However, time itself was flying, and the one day and night I was to spend in Richmond with my friends passed in the twinkling of an eye. Before I realized it, it was really over, my vacation with the Tucker Twins was finished, and I was on the train for Milton, a volume of Alfred Noyes' latest poems in my suitcase for Father and a box of Martha Washington candy for Mammy Susan, who thought more of "white folkses' sto' candy" than of all the silks of the Orient or jewels of the Sultan of Turkey.

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