[Illustration: "Do you know, Miss Dum, you looked like Diana when you
stood on that rock?"--_Page 230._]
AT BOARDING SCHOOL WITH THE TUCKER TWINS
By NELL SPEED
AUTHOR OF "THE MOLLY BROWN SERIES," ETC.
_WITH FOUR HALF-TONE ILLUSTRATIONS BY ARTHUR O. SCOTT_
HURST & COMPANY
HURST & COMPANY
I. LEAVING HOME 5
II. ENTER THE TUCKERS 23
III. GRESHAM 36
IV. MY ROOMMATES 48
V. LETTERS 60
VI. THE FOUNDLING 69
VII. KITTY'S FOSTER-FATHER 88
VIII. ABOUT MATHEMATICS AND ME 102
IX. FOOTBALL 110
X. BOYS 123
XI. LETTERS AND SEVERAL KINDS OF FATHERS 137
XII. ANNIE'S MOTHER 147
XIII. THE CONCERT 167
XIV. THE SPREAD 176
XV. HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS 191
XVI. A VISIT FROM THE TUCKERS 201
XVII. DEER HUNTING 210
XVIII. THE MIGHTY HUNTER 227
XIX. A VISIT TO RICHMOND 241
XX. DINNER AT COUSIN PARK'S 259
XXI. THE DESPERATION OF DUM 274
XXII. MORE LETTERS 294
XXIII. ZEBEDEE'S VISIT 300
"Do you know, Miss Dum, you looked like Diana when you
stood on that rock?" _Frontispiece_
They made such a racket
that a sad, crooked
poked into the door 48
"From mother," exclaimed the girl, trembling with
Dum looked at me aghast. "Page, you here, and Dee" 271
At Boarding School with the Tucker Twins.
Leaving home to go to boarding school was bad enough, but leaving on a
damp, cold morning before dawn seemed to be about the worst thing that
a girl of fifteen. I have noticed that whatever
happen to be seems to be the age in which hardships are the most
difficult to bear.
Anyhow, there I was, only fifteen, facing the necessity of saying
morning farewells, the first one of all to my comfortable bed, where I
had slept off and on, principally
on, for those fifteen years. And now I
and my bed must part.
"Day done bus'ed, Miss Page. The doctor is stirrin' an' you'd better
rise an' shine," and kind old Mammy Susan leaned yearningly over me. "I
hate to wake up my lamb. I knowd dis day would come when dey'd take you
'way from me, but I nebber did think 'twould be 'fo' dawn wif all de
long day 'head er me to be studyin' 'bout you. What yo' mammy goin' ter
do 'thout you, chile?"
"Well, Mammy, we'll have to grin and bear it. I'll be home Christmas,
and that isn't so far off." I jumped out of bed and pulled my hat-tub
into the middle of the floor, ready for my daily cold sponge
Probably I had inherited the habit of the cold bath from my English
grandfather along with the big hat-tub.
"Law, chile, can't you leave off punishin' yo'self jes' dis onct? You
can't be to say dirty, an' dis here water is pow'ful cold."
Mammy and I had had this discussion
about my cold bath every morning
since I had been old enough to bathe myself. It was only after many
battles that she had stopped sneaking warm water into my big can. That
morning I let it pass, although the water was lukewarm.
"Y'ain't mad wif yo' ole Mammy, is yer, honey chile? Looks like I didn't
have de heart to plunge
my baby lamb into sho'nuf cold water on sech a
day, wif her a-leavin' an' all. 'Tain't ter say warm now. I
jes' tempered it a leetle."
"That's all right, Mammy. 'God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb' and
you, it seems, temper
the water. They say there are lots of bathrooms at
Gresham, and I can have the water as deep and cold as I want it."
"Well, don't you go drown yo'self in any er dem new-fashioned plumbin'
tubs, an' fer de lan's sake, Miss Page, don't you let yo'self be drawed
down inter none er dem was'e pipes," and Mammy Susan hurried
bring in the all too early breakfast.
I dressed in my usual haste, putting on my nice blue traveling suit,
ordered by mail from New York. It was quite long, well down to my shoe
tops, and I felt very stylish and grown-up. I had never given any
thought to my appearance, and no one else in my life seemed to have
except Cousin Sue Lee and Mammy. I don't know just what Cousin Sue
thought about me, but Mammy thought I was the most beautiful creature
in the world and freely
told me so. That morning as I put on the little
toque, also purchased by mail, I looked at myself very
critically in the mirror.
"Page Allison, are you pretty or not? I, for one, think not. You've got
freckles on your nose and your mouth is simply huge. I'd like to say
something about your eyes to take the conceit
out of you, but they look
so like Father's that I'd feel just like I was sassing him if I did.
Anyhow, I'm glad your hair curls."
I had intended to sentimentalize over leaving my room and going out into
the world, but I forgot all about it, and grabbing my ready-packed
suitcase, also a mail order, I raced downstairs
as Mammy Susan rang the
Father was already in the dining-room, standing
with his back to the
little wood fire that Mammy had kindled to cheer us up with. Mammy
always seemed to feel that when we were in any distress
she must warm us
and feed us whether we were cold and hungry or not. That morning we were
neither, but we warmed by her fire and tried to choke down a great deal
of her batter
bread and roe herring
to show her we appreciated her
Father looked up as I came in and for a moment regarded me in speechless
"Why, honey, you almost took my breath
away! You look so grown-up
new dress and hat. I didn't know you were so like your Mother, child,"
and he drew me to him and kissed me.
Father and I were as a rule not very demonstrative, but I clung to him
for a moment and he held me close with his long, wiry arm.
"I wish I could take you to Gresham, honey, but old Mrs. Purdy is very
low and she expects me to be with her at the end."
"That's all right, Father, don't you worry. There are certain to be
other girls on the train who are going to Gresham and I'll butt in on
them," I answered much more bravely
than I felt. It did seem terribly
lonely and forlorn
to be going off and installing myself in boarding
school. "I think it's fine that you can drive me over to Milton and put
me on the train. Last night when I heard such a knocking at the door I
was afraid I wouldn't see you in the morning because you'd be off on
some life or death mission. What was the matter?"
"Oh, just Sally Winn's bread pills had given out and she was afraid she
would not last through the night without them." Father always took me
into his confidence about the bread pills he administered to the
"Do you know, Father, I believe if you charged midnight
fees for those
bread-pill and pink-well-water prescriptions, that Sally Winn and some
more just like her would at least wait until morning to die."
"Oh, well, little daughter, Sally's got lots of good in her, and trying
to die is the only excitement
she has ever had in her whole life."
"Well, I won't begrudge it to her but I do hate to have your rest
broken. Mammy," I said to Mammy Susan as she came in bearing
a plate of
cakes, "don't you let Father be too late getting into
his heavy underwear; and make a row every time he drives the colt until
he will stop it from sheer weariness. And, Father, you make Mammy take
her tonic; and don't let her go out in the wet dew waddling around
after her ducks. She will catch her death."
"Susan, you hear Miss Page? Don't dare go in anything but dry dew. A few
inches on her skirt and her curls tucked up under her bonnet
think she's been taking
care of us all these years instead of our taking
care of her."
"Law, ain't she the spit of her Ma, Doc Allison? 'Cep fer yo' eyes.
Ain't quite so tall; but she's young yit in spite er sich a long
trailin' skirt. I's sorry to be de one to break de news, but de colt is
out dere a-prancin' an' pawin', an' ef you's a-goin' you'd better go."
I had often pictured my going away and had always seen myself with
difficulty restraining my tears; but now the time had come and the colt
was cutting up, so I forgot to cry even when I told the dogs good-by;
and just as I was giving Mammy Susan a last hug, and if tears were ever
to come they must hurry, Father called to me to jump in, for he couldn't
hold the colt another minute. And in I was and away and not crying at
all but laughing, as we turned around on one wheel and went skimming
down the drive.
The sun was all the way up at last and it wasn't a cold, damp day at
all, but promised to be fair and clear. We had a six-mile drive to the
station at Milton and the colt saw to it that we got there in plenty of
"Now, Page, be certain when you make the change at Richmond, if you have
to ask any questions to ask them of a man in brass buttons."
"Yes, Father," and I smiled demurely, remembering how I always acted as
courier when we went on our trips. Father, being the most absent-minded
of men except where his profession
was concerned, was not to be trusted
with a railroad ticket.
Moving away on the train at last and waving good-by to his long, sad
face, made me realize that the knot was cut. What a good father he was!
How had we ever been able to make up our minds to this boarding school
scheme? Nothing but the certainty
that my education was a very one-sided
affair and that I must broaden
out a bit had determined Father; and as
for me, I longed to know some girls.
I, who yearned for friends, was growing up without any. Fifteen years
old and I had never had a real chum! I couldn't remember my mother, but
I am sure she would have been my chum if she had lived. Mammy Susan did
her best and so did Father, but a little girl wants another little girl.
We had neighbors in plenty, but our county seemed to be composed
maids and childless widows with a sparse sprinkling of gray-bearded men.
My mother's people were English and she had no relatives on this side of
the water. Father belonged to a huge family, all of them great visitors,
but so far as I knew, no children among them. All kinds of old maids:
rich and poor, gentle and stern, soft and hard, big and little, they all
managed once a year to pay their dear cousin, Dr. Allison, a visit at
Bracken. I did not mind their coming. The soft ones seemed to have been
little girls once, which was something. I used to think when I was quite
a little thing that the hard ones must have been little boys, because
of the statement in my Mother Goose that little boys were made of "Snaps
and snails and puppy dog tails,"--not nice soft collie
either, but the tight, hard kind that grew on Cousin Park Garnett's pug.
Cousin Park Garnett was the rich, hard one whom I visited in Richmond
the winter before. On her annualvisitation
to us she had remarked to my
"Cousin James, are Page's teeth sound? White teeth like that are, as a
rule, not very strong. Her mouth is so enormous
you had better look to
it that her teeth are preserved," and she pursed up her own thin lips
and put on her green persimmon expression.
"Perfectly sound, I think, Cousin Park. Of course her teeth must be
preserved. As for her mouth being big, she'll grow up to it." But the
outcome of the conversation was that I had to visit Cousin Park and take
in the dentist. Think of the combination! Cousin Park took me to the
Woman's Club in the afternoon where we listened to a lecture on "The
Influence of Slavic Literature on the Culture of the Day." I was
longing for the movies but managed to keep my big mouth shut and listen
to the lecture, so I could tell Father about it and make him laugh. I
stayed in Richmond three days and did not speak to one single soul under
fifty. Even the dentist
was old and tottering, so shaky that I was
afraid he would fall into my mouth.
I saw loads of nice girls my own age skating on the sidewalk
arm-in-arm chattering away very happily, but Cousin Park didn't know who
they were or did know and knew nothing to their credit. I was glad to
get back to Bracken where there were no girls to know. There were at
least the dogs at Bracken that I could talk to and race over the hills
with. Even Cousin Park could not doubt their royal pedigrees.
It was dear little Cousin Sue Lee who persuaded Father and me both that
I ought to go to boarding school. Cousin Sue was the best of all
relatives. She was gentle and poor and had a job in the
Congressional Library in Washington. With all her gentleness, she was
sprightly and had plenty of what Father called "Lee spunk"; and with
all her poverty, she wore the sweetest clothes and always brought me a
lovely present every year and a nice shawl for Mammy or a black silk
waist or something or other to delight the old woman's heart. Cousin
Park never gave me anything,--not that I wanted her to. She would visit
us two weeks and then present Mammy with a dime, using all the pomp and
ceremony that a twenty-dollar gold piece would have warranted.
"Jimmy," Cousin Sue had said one day (she was the only one of all the
cousins who called Father Jimmy), "I know you and Page will think I am
an interfering old cat, but that child ought to go to school. I am not
going to say a word about her education. She has an excellent education
in some things. I have never seen a better read girl of her age. But the
time may come when she will regret knowing
no French, and she tells me
she stopped arithmetic
last year and never started algebra."
"Well, what good did algebra ever do you or me?" quizzed Father.
"Now, Jimmy, don't ask such foolish questions. It's just something all
of us have to have. What good does your cravat
do you? None; it's not
even a thing of beauty, but you have to have one all the same."
"Oh, you women," laughed Father, "there's no downing you with argument."
"But as I was saying," continued Cousin Sue, "it is not dear little
Page's education I am thinking of. It's something much more important. I
want her to know a whole lot of girls and make a million friends. Why,
I'm the only young friend the child has, and I am getting to be nearer
fifty than forty."
And so we wrote for catalogues of schools and settled on Gresham. And
Cousin Sue sent for a bolt of nainsook and yards and yards of lace and
insertion and made up a whole lot of pretty underclothes for me.
"Girls need a lot of things in this day and generation," I heard her say