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   Chapter 25 BRACKEN IN AUGUST.

Vacation with the Tucker Twins By Nell Speed Characters: 13039

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


It was good to be home and how easily I slipped back into being a child again! I could hardly believe I had been so grown-up for a month, going to hops and having a proposal and what not. I spent a great deal of my time driving around with Father, who was very pleased to have me. Sometimes we squeezed Cousin Sue Lee into the narrow-seated buggy and then we would have a jolly time. Cousin Sue seemed younger even than the year before. It was incredible that she should be nearly fifty. It was not that she looked so young, as her hair was turning quite gray, but she was so young in her attitude towards life.

We had to have our annual confab on the subject of clothes, and a catalogue from the mail order house was soon the chief in interest of all our literature.

"I can't think what I would have done last year if you had not taken hold for me, Cousin Sue. My clothes were so satisfactory."

I told her of poor Annie Pore and at her suggestion sent my little English friend a catalogue with things marked that I was going to order.

My order was almost a duplicate of the year before except that I did not need quite so many things, as I had a goodly number of middies left over and some shirt waists.

Miss Pinky Davis, our country sempstress, was sent for, and again Cousin Sue spent hours planning how best to cut up and trim the bolts of nainsook she had ordered from Richmond. She laughed at my awkwardness with a needle and declared I did regular "nigger sewing." I tried to whip lace, but no matter how clean my hands were when I started, I ended with a dirty knotted thread and the lace went on in little bunches with plain, tightly drawn spaces intervening.

"I declare, child, I don't believe Jimmy Allison himself could have done it any worse," she said, looking at my attempt to whip lace on a petticoat. Cousin Sue always called Father, Jimmy. "How do you get it so grubby?"

"It gets itself! I don't get it!" I exclaimed. "I washed my hands with lye soap so as to be sure they were clean, but they just seem to ooze dirt when I begin to sew."

"Well, in the first place you are sewing with a needle as big as a tenpenny nail and who ever heard of whipping on lace with thirty-six thread?" And my dear cousin patiently threaded me a finer needle with the proper thread and started me again. "Go from left to right, honey, you are not a Chinaman."

"No, you are a Zulu, my dear, and should go clothed as such," said Father, coming in to view our operations. "I believe even you could string beads for your summer costume and cut a hole in a blanket for winter."

"Well, I do hate to sew so, no wonder I can't do it. I want the clothes but I don't want them bad enough to make 'em myself."

"The time will come when you will like to sew," said Miss Pinky, her mouth full of pins.

"That sounds terribly sad," laughed Father. "What is going to make her like it, Miss Pinky?"

"Oh, the time will come when she will find it soothing to sew."

Miss Pinky snipped away with a great pair of sharp shears as nonchalantly as though she were cutting newspapers instead of very sheer organdy for another white dress that Cousin Sue had decided I must have. I never could see how she could tell where the scissors were going to cut next, they were so big and she was so little. Miss Pinky always reminded me of a paper doll, somehow. She seemed to have no thickness at all to her. Her profile was like a bas-relief and rather low relief at that. I remember when I was quite a little girl I examined her dress very carefully to see if it could be fastened on the shoulders in the manner of my paper dolls, with little folded-over flaps.

"Maybe it will, but it is certainly not soothing now. It makes me want to scream."

"Don't do it! Just put up that flimsy foolishness and come drive over to Milton with me. I think I'll drop in on poor Sally Winn before supper and maybe she will get through the night without me. We can call for the mail, too, and beat R. F. D. to it."

The Rural Free Delivery is a great institution in the country where persons cannot go for the mail, but sometimes it was a great irritation to us. Our mail was taken from the Post Office very early in the morning and did not reach us until quite late in the afternoon, the carrier circling all around the county before he landed at our box. "Come on, Sue, you can squeeze in and we can have a jolly drive."

We found Sally Winn up and very busy. As she had been snatched from a yawning grave only two nights before, we were rather astonished.

"Comp'ny's coming and I had to get up and put things to rights. I've stirred up a cake and set some Sally Lunn for supper, and while I was up I thought I had better preserve those peaches on the tree by the dairy before they got too ripe. They make the best tasting preserves of any peaches I ever saw. I am certainly going to fix a jar for you, Doctor. Don't let me forget it. I've got two of Aunt Keziah's children, she is raising, here helping me, but they are not much good for anything but just to run to the spring and wring the frying size chickens' necks." In writing I am perforce compelled to use a few periods, but not so Sally. She poured forth this flow of conversation with never a pause for breath or reply.

"The company that's coming is Reginald Kent, son of my first cousin once removed. He is a great hand at eating and made so much fuss over my cooking that it seemed like an awful pity for me to lay up in bed when he was here, although it may be the death of me to be up and doing and no doubt will bring on one of my spells."

"If it does," broke in my wily parent, "take a teaspoonful of that pink medicine out of the low flat bottle and repeat in half an hour. Be sure you do not take more than a teaspoonful and be very careful to have half an hour between doses."

Father told us afterwards that there was nothing in the pink medicine in the flat bottle but a most harmless and attenuated mixture of bromide, but he warned her to take the exact dose and wait the full half hour to make her feel it was a potent medicine that she must handle with great care so she would think it would make her well. There was nothing much the matter with Sally Winn but imagination; but imagination is sometimes more powerful than the most potent drugs, and Sally was just as sick as she thought she was, so Father said. He was wonderfully patient with her and treated her ailments as seriously as though they really existed. She had a lea

ky heart but there was a chance of her outliving her whole generation. Of course there was also a chance of her being taken away at any time, but Father considered the chance quite small as she seemed to be growing better as time went on instead of worse.

"Reginald Kent is hoping that those Tuckers will be back here when he comes on this visit, though he doesn't exactly say so. He just intimates it by asking if the Allisons have any visitors. He is a mighty likely young fellow and is getting on fine with his work. He really is coming down here on business in a way. He wants to get some illustrations of some of these views around here. He says he wants Aunt Keziah's cabin and some of the little darkeys, and he wants an inside view of old Aunt Rosana's and Uncle Peter's house."

Here Father stopped her long enough to say that he would go over to Milton for the mail and come back for Cousin Sue and me. We had not got in a word edgewise, but I never tried to when Sally once started. I should think that anyone who saw as few persons as she did would want to listen and find out things instead of imparting knowledge, but Sally just seemed to be full to overflowing and she simply had to let off steam before she could take on anything more. She wanted to know but she wanted more to let you know.

She told us all she could about Reginald Kent, which was on the whole rather interesting. Then she began on her turkeys and chickens and enlarged somewhat on the subject of Jo and his irritating way of keeping news to himself, and then with a bound she leapt upon her symptoms. I knew it was coming and bowed my head in resignation.

"It looks like if I get to studying about things that one of my spells is sure to follow. Now I have been thinking a lot lately about Reginald Kent's mother, my first cousin once removed, and the more I think of her the more I get to brooding. If you would believe me, in the night I got to trembling so that I could have sworn there was an earthquake going through the county. My bed fairly rocked. I had to call Jo. He gave me a dose of my pink medicine and it ca'med me some. Each time I get one of those attacks I hope it means the end, but somehow I always come back."

"But, Sally, why do you hope it is the end?" I asked. "I don't see why you want to die. It would be very hard on Jo if you should leave him."

"Why, child, dying is one of the things I have always wanted to do. I somehow feel that in the other life I'm going to be so happy. I dream I am dead sometimes and, do you know, I am always real pretty and have curly hair in that dream and lots of young folks around me who seem somehow to belong to me."

Poor Sally! I felt very sorry for her and so did Cousin Sue, whom I saw wiping a furtive tear away. I fancy Sally's life had been a very stale, flat and unprofitable one and she had formed the habit of looking upon death as at least a change, an adventure where she would be the heroine for once. I determined to come to see her oftener and try to bring some young life into her middle-aged existence.

Father brought us quite a bunch of mail. In it was a letter from Dee telling the good news that they were going to motor down to Bracken on Friday, the very next day, and stay over Sunday with us.

"Now you will know them and they will know you," I exclaimed, hugging Cousin Sue. "I am going to bring them over to see you, too," I promised Sally, noting her wistful expression.

Silent Jo Winn, who had come back from the station with Father, grinned with delight when he heard that the Tuckers were coming. I remembered on our memorable deer hunt of the winter before how Dee had won his shy heart and had actually made him talk just like other folks.

"I tell you what let's do," he ventured. "This young cousin of ours, Reginald Kent, is to be here to-night and he has to go over to Uncle Peter's cabin to take some pictures. What's the reason we couldn't all go on a picnic? We might fish in the river near Uncle Peter's, where Miss Dum Tucker shot her deer."

"Splendid!" from Cousin Sue and me. Cousin Sue was always in for a picnic.

Sally Winn gasped and clutched her heart until I thought we'd have to run for her pink medicine; but she pulled herself together. It was nothing but astonishment at the long speech from Jo. Jo actually stringing words together and getting up a picnic! It was too much for Sally, but she rose to the occasion with plans for a big lunch.

"I've a ham all cooked-and some blue Dominicker chickens that have just reached the frying size-I'll make some fried pies-and some light rolls-some Columbus eggs would eat good-and my pear pickle can't be beat, and a stem to every one so you can eat it without messing yourself up--"

"I have some news that is not quite so entrancing as yours, my dear," said Father, interrupting Sally's flow of eatables as he read from a fat, crested, vellum letter. "Cousin Park Garnett will be with us to-morrow, also."

"But she said Monday next, in her last letter!"

"She has changed her mind. She arrives on the afternoon train and will bring her pug with her."

"Pug!"

"Yes, it seems the pug is the reason for her coming sooner. The doctor thinks he needs a change of air."

"Heavens! And Dee is bringing Brindle, too!"

"Well, they'll have to fight it out."

"But, Father," I wailed, "can we go on and have the picnic?"

"Yes, my dear," broke in Cousin Sue. "I'll stay with Cousin Park."

"Indeed you won't!" declared Father. "Cousin Park can be invited to go to the picnic, which of course she will not do. She can just stay at home with Mammy Susan to wait on her and Miss Pinky Davis to listen to her, while the pug dog breathes in great chunks of change of air. I have some business to attend to over in the neck of the woods near Uncle Peter's, so I can land at the ford for dinner with you."

Father was a great comfort to me. He always took such a sane view of subjects. I was very uneasy for fear he might think we would have to stay at home because of Cousin Park, as he was very strict with himself and me, too, where hospitality to disagreeable relatives was concerned. Cousin Park, however, could be perfectly well taken care of at Bracken without us and there was no reason why we could not go on with our plans; certainly no reason why dear little Cousin Sue should have to forego the pleasure of the picnic to stay with a person who never lost an occasion to mention her Lee nose and her spinsterhood.

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