Nell Speed.

The Carter Girls





When Helen appeared, she fancied Dr. Wright looked disapprovingly at her because of her legginless state, but on the contrary he was thinking what a very delightful looking person she was and never even thought of leggins. He only thought how nice it would be if she would permit him to walk by her side and hold back the low hanging branches and briars so that her bright, animated face would escape the inevitable scratches that attend a hike in the mountains. He liked the way she walked, carrying her head and shoulders in rather a gallant way. He liked the sure-footed way she stepped along in her pretty grey canvas ties. He liked the set and hang of her corduroy skirt and the roll of the soft collar of her shirt above all, he liked the little dash of red at her throat. She reminded him of a scarlet tanager, only they were black, and she was grey, grey like a dove but there was certainly nothing dovelike about her, certainly nothing meek or cooing as she swished by him.

No one laughed more or chattered more than Helen did on that hike, not even Tillie Wingo herself, the queen bee of laughers and chatterers; but Nan noticed that the last mile of their walk her sisters carriage was not nearly so gallant, and Dr. Wright noticed that the scarlet of her tie was even more brilliant because of an unwonted paleness of her piquant face. He tapped his breast pocket to be sure that the tiny medicine case he always carried with him was safe.

You never can tell what will happen when a lot of youngsters start off on a hike, and it is well to have first aid to the injured handy, he had said to himself.

Wal, if you uns is lowing to eat here, reckon we uns will drive Josephus round the mounting a bit. We uns feels like its a feedin the Devil and starvin God to eat in sech a spot, and Josh prepared to unload his mule after he had assisted Bobby to the ground.

Oh, please dont eat here, begged Nan, this is where the Englishman died.

Where? Where? the others demanded, and Josh, nothing loath to tell the dramatic incident and emboldened by the crowd and broad daylight, when hants were powerless, told again the tale of the man with the sad, tired face who was always trying to get away from the ringing and roaring in his head; how he had drifted into Greendale and bought the land with the cabin on it from old Dean and taken his little girl up there where they had lived about two years; and then how one night he had not come home, and Gwen had come to their cabin early in the morning to ask them to hunt her father, and after long search they had found him down in the Devils Gorge dead.

Deads a door nail and Gwen left thout so much as a sho nuf name, cause the Englishman allus called hisself Brown, but the books what Gwen fetched to we allses house is got another name writ in em, an my maw, she says that Gwens jes as likely to be named one as tother. My maw says that she dont hold to the notion that the Englishman took his own life, but that was what the coroner said susanside an accordin to law we uns is bleeged to accept his verdict.

I agree with your mother, said Dr.

Wright. It is more apt to have been vertigo that toppled the poor man over. That ringing in the head is so often accompanied with vertigo.

They carried the provisions around the mountain, out of sight of the gruesome spot, and under a mighty oak tree ate their very good luncheon.

CHAPTER XVII
FIRST AID

It is strange we havent seen a single snake, said one of the visiting girls.

Thank goodness for it! exclaimed another. I was almost afraid to come camping because of snakes.

We havent seen any around the camp at all, Douglas assured them.

Bill and Lewis exchanged sly glances, for the truth of the matter was they had killed several in the early days when they were breaking ground for the pavilion had killed and kept mum on the subject.

Girls are just as afraid of dead snakes as alive ones, so lets keep dark about them, Lewis had said, and they had also sworn Josh to secrecy.

There is one thing to be remembered about snakes, said Dr. Wright, most snakes, at least, that they are as afraid of you as you are of them and they are seldom the aggressors; that is, they do not consider themselves so. They strike when they think that you have encroached on their trail. If you look carefully where you walk, there is no danger ever of being bitten by a snake, and very few snakes will come deliberately where you are. I will wager anything that Josh here has never stepped on a snake.

We uns done it onct but Maw lambasted we uns with a black snake whip fer not lookin whar we uns trod, sos aint never had no accident since. Maw, she said if the har of a dog was good fer the bite, that a black snake whip would jest about cure we uns fer most gittin bit by a rattler.

Oh, he didnt bite you, then?

Naw, cause we uns war jes up from the measles an Maw had put some ole boots on we uns. Maw says that the best cure for snake bite is to have the measles an wear ole boots so you uns dont git bit.

Very sound reasoning, laughed Dr. Wright. In the mountains, top boots or leggins would cure all snake bites.

Helen wouldnt wear her leggins, declared Bobby, cause she said you couldnt come attorney-generaling her about her clothes, and mustard dont help cold gravy none, anyhow.

Oh, Bobby! gasped Helen.

So it wont, Bobby, said Dr. Wright, somewhat mystified as to the hidden meaning of mustard and cold gravy but feeling sure that there was some significance in it. He did not interpret it as did Mrs. Bardell the cryptic notes from Mr. Pickwick concerning tomato sauce as being love messages, but well knew that they were more nearly proofs of dislike if not hate from Helen.

Nothing can help cold gravy in my opinion, drawled Nan, not even heating it up.

How about cold shoulders? asked the doctor.

Or icy mitts?

Or glacial reserve?

Or chilling silence? Suggestions from different ones of the picnickers.

What will melt frigid replies?

Or frozen glances?

Hot air! from Bill. Melt anything. And then he gave a laugh at his own wit that bid fair to dislodge the great rock so delicately balanced in the Devils Gorge.

Lets go explore the Devils Gorge now! suggested Helen, springing to her feet, forgetting all about her fatigue, only thankful for the foolishness that had been started by Nan to hide her sisters embarrassment. What would Dr. Wright think of her? He must have understood very well what Bobby meant by attorney-generaling, if the mustard and cold gravy was a mystery.

The girls held back when they looked down the frightful abyss so well named, but the spinster educators went on, determined to get geological specimens if they died for it, and Helen, in a spirit of bravado, leaped ahead of the exploring party and sprang down the rocks like a veritable mountain goat. Her cheeks were still glowing over the remarks of that enfant terrible, Bobby.

Be careful, Helen! called Lewis Somerville, who had constituted himself squire of spinsters and was helping those intrepid geologists down the slippery rocks. Helen tossed her head at her cousin and went on in her mad descent, swinging from rock to rock with the occasional help of a scrub oak that had somehow gained foothold on the barren boulders.

Look out for snakes, Helen! cried Douglas, who had turned back with the rest of the party.

But Helen heeded nothing and seemed bent on reaching the lowest point of the chasm. It flashed across her mind that she was a little like the Englishman. He was trying to escape from the buzzing and roaring in his head while she was in a mad race with her conscience. Why should she be so unkind and sharp with Dr. Wright? She didnt know.

She could hear the people above talking and their voices seemed thin and far away, so deep had she penetrated into the gorge.

Jest a leetle below whar Miss Helen is standing was whar they picked up the Englishman, she could hear Joshs peculiar mountain voice recite before the party moved off back toward the temporary camp where they had had luncheon. The ladies on science bent, their squire, Dr. Wright and she were the only explorers left.

Right down there is where that poor man fell, she said to herself. I dont believe it was suicide, either, and then she blushed for agreeing with Dr. Wright. But it would be so easy to fall from any of these slippery crags. He might have been on the opposite cliff, which is certainly a precarious spot, and vertigo might have attacked him, and he might have gone over backwards, clutching at the scrub oaks as he fell, and gone down, down why, what is that hanging in the tree there?

Something was certainly caught in the branches of a dwarf tree that clung to the unfriendly rocks with determined roots something that looked like a wallet, but she could not be sure.

Lewis! she called, but Lewis was so taken up with hanging by his toes and reaching for a particularly rare specimen of fern that one of the dames wanted for her collection, that he did not hear her calling.

Will I do? asked Dr. Wright from somewhere above her.

Oh, no, I thank you. I dont want anything. And then the buzzing conscience started up and she said more cordially, I see something hanging in a scrub oak over there that I am going to get.

Let me get it for you, and the young doctor started to swing himself down the cliff to the ledge where Helen was standing.

Before he reached her, however, she had determined to make the attempt herself. It was not much of a jump for one as athletic as Helen. It was several feet below where she was standing and the gorge narrowed at that point, making little more than a step across to the opposite ledge.

She gave a flying leap and landed safely, clutching the scrub oak in whose branches the wallet was lodged. Dr. Wright reached the spot where she had been standing just as she touched the rock below. He could not help admiring her grace and athletic figure as she made the jump, although his heart was sore at her persistent unkindness to him. He did not want to find her attractive and determined to let this visit to the camp be his last. She seemed to think that he had courted the power of attorney that had been thrust upon him, or why should she have said whatever she had said that had caused Bobbys prattling? It was thoroughly ungenerous of her and unkind and he for one was not going to place himself in a position to have to endure it. The other members of the family were so very nice to him that he did not relish letting the summer go by without visiting them again and Bobby dear little shover. He could but confess, however, that their kindness was outweighed in his heart by Helens unkindness, and he determined to stay away.

A second after Helen had made her triumphant leap, she gave a sharp cry. Dr. Wright started toward her and his keen gaze saw an ugly snake gliding away across the rocks, disappearing in a crevice.

My God, Helen! Did he bite you? No bitterness now was in the young mans heart as he jumped the chasm and landed by Helens side, just as she sank trembling to the ground.

She said afterwards it was not because it hurt so much, only for a moment was the pain intense, but she felt a kind of horror as though the poison had penetrated her very soul. She was filled with fear that could only have been equalled by Susans dread of hants.

Where is it? the doctor questioned with a voice of such sympathy and tenderness that Helens thoughts went back to a time in her childhood when she had her tonsils removed. When she came from under the anesthetic, her father was holding her hand and he spoke to her in just such a tone.

My heel! Just above the shoe! she gasped.

Take off your shoe and stocking as quick as you can.

She obeyed without question and Dr. Wright, with a deftness surprising in a man, twisted a handkerchief around her ankle just above the injured spot, and so tightly did he bind it, that it was all Helen could do to keep from crying out.

I know it hurts, but we have to bear it.

His we made her feel in some way that it hurt him, too. But what was he doing? Without a word he had knelt and had his mouth to the wound and was sucking out the poison.

Helen hid her face in her hands. It took only a moment and then the kind voice said: Now we have a little more to stand. He quickly opened his miniature case and, handing her a tiny phial, told her to take two of the pellets, which she did, while he got out a small hard alcohol lamp and lighted it. Then, producing the proper instruments from the wonderful case, he proceeded to cauterize the wound. Helen gritted her teeth and made not one murmur.

Your fathers own daughter, was all he said as he put up his instruments, but that was as music in the ears of Helen. He then produced a small bottle from another pocket and washed out his own mouth with a thoroughness that explained his exceedingly perfect teeth.

The wound is a very slight one and I truly believe you will have absolutely no trouble, but you must take every precaution and be very quiet for a day or so. Lewis and I together will carry you up to Josephus. A snake bite can be of little consequence if it is taken hold of immediately. Can you stand the ligature a little tighter?

Ye s!

Ah, I see it is tight enough. You can put your stocking on again, but first I must make assurance doubly sure and cut out a great hole where the rascal attacked you. There might be poison in it. He deftly bandaged the injured ankle with a roll of gauze he produced from yet another pocket, first treating the wound with iodine. I wish I had some permanganate of potash but I fancy the work is already done and the iodine will be all right. He got you on the Achilles tendon. I wonder if it is your only vulnerable spot, too.

No, it is not. I am full of vulnerable spots! Oh, Dr. Wright, I am not nearly so mean as I seem. I am so sorry I was so rude to you I I am going to be better. I am sorry I did not wear the leggins and I am sorry I did not look where I was stepping I am sorry I jumped over the gorge when I saw you coming. I just did it to irritate you. I am sorry to have caused you all this trouble and I am so grateful to you that I can hardly but here Helen actually blubbered, something that she never did.

Why, you poor little girl! I havent a doubt that I have been as horrid as you have thought I was and dictatorial and interfering and mean and everything. Please forgive me and suppose we just be the good friends that somehow I believe we were cut out to be, you and Bobby and I; and he took the girls hand in his and patted it gently while she wept on.

Cant you stop crying, honey?

I be be believe I could if I had a handkerchief, but Ive lost mine.

And mine is made into a ligature. Would a few yards of gauze help any? And then they both laughed while he unwound the gauze.

All of this had taken but a few minutes and Lewis and the scientific devotees had no idea that anything so terrifying as a snake bite was going on. They came in view just as Helen dried her eyes on the few yards of gauze.

Hello! Whats up?

Oh, Lewis, a snake bit me!

Gee! A rattler?

Dr. Wright held up a warning finger behind Helens back.

He got out of the way so fast we did not get a good look at him, but it is not a bad bite, and everything has been done that could be done, and now Miss Helen is going to take one more of these little green pellets and you and I are going to carry her up to Josephus.

The ladies were very solicitous and anxious to do anything in their power, but they were calm and quiet and Helen thanked her stars that the rest of the party had gone back and not ventured so far into the gorge.

It would have been awful to have them buzzing all around me, yelling and screaming and squealing, she said to herself, and then the thought came to her of the horror all the girls had of snakes and the consternation her accident would cause among the week-enders. But why need they know? It was her own fault that she had been bitten, and such a thing need never happen again if only proper precautions were taken, such as leggins and looking where you stepped and keeping away from the Devils Gorge, where snakes were sure to abound.

Dr. Wright, do you think it would be possible to keep this thing perfectly quiet? I am so afraid that my being bitten by a snake would give our camp such a bad name that it would be a failure from now on.

Of course it could be kept quiet. What do you think, Somerville?

Me! Why, Im game to keep my mouth shut.

All right, said Dr. Wright, it is perfectly ethical for a physician to keep his patients malady to himself. Miss Helen Carter is suffering from an injury to her ankle. If the inquisitive choose to make of it a sprain it is their own affair. Now, Lewis, how shall we manage? It will be pretty awkward for us to make a basket of our hands going up this cliff, and with that he stooped and picked Helen up in his arms, and with no more exertion than if she had been Bobby, he made his way up the mountain.

Would it hurt me to walk? I cant bear to be so much trouble.

It is best to keep very quiet. I am pretty sure there is going to be no trouble, but I must have you behave just exactly as though there was.

Lewis, you get Douglas off by herself and let her know what it was, but wait until we are back in camp. Tell her so she wont be scared, and let her know it is all right before you let her know what it is.

I believe the rattlesnake is called crotalus horridus, said one of the wise ladies.

Dr. Wright wished she would stop talking about snakes and especially rattlers, as he wanted to get Helens mind off the terrifying occurrence.

We are not sure this was a rattlesnake, he said.

I think it was, she whispered to him. I remember as I jumped I heard something that sounded like dry leaves. Did the young man hold her closer to him or was it just a fancy on her part?

It knocks me all up to think about it, he muttered. I am glad, so glad I followed you.

I am, too!

A wave of crimson flooded the young mans face. He didnt know why, but his blood was singing in his veins and his breath came quickly. If it had not been for the presence of the respectable spinsters, he was sure he would have had to kiss that piquant face so close to his.

Come on, Doc, my time now to take up the white mans burden. Helen is no featherweight and you are red in the face and panting from carrying her this far.

Not a bit of it! and Dr. Wright held on to his burden while Lewis endeavored to relieve him.

Well, lets cut the baby in two, like my Aunts favorite character in history.

If I give up, it will be for the same reason the woman in the Bible did, laughed Dr. Wright. You remember it was the woman who had the right who gave up?

The spinsters were still talking about the habits and customs of the horridus crotalus.

They know so much and keep piling on so much more, I fancy if they didnt give out some of their learning, they would bust, whispered Lewis, as he grasped his cousin in a bear hug and started to finish the journey to the temporary camp.

Do you remember a limerick, I think Oliver Herefords? asked Helen:


There was once a homo teetotalus
Who stepped on a horridus crotalus,
Hic! clavit in pain,
Ive got em again!
Ejacit this homo teetotalus.

CHAPTER XVIII
THE DIAGNOSIS

There was a great outcry from the party when Helen appeared in the arms of Lewis with an ostentatious bandage on her ankle, so that the verdict of a sprain was established without the attending physicians having to perjure himself with a false diagnosis.

Helen was looking very pale and tired, and thankful indeed was she for the bony back of Josephus, that was destined to bear her home. She and Bobby both found room on the patient old mule, who started off with his usual bird-like spirit, seemingly proud of his fair burden.

I am afraid we are too much for Josephus, Helen said to Josh.

Nawm! Josephus is proud to tote the likes of you allses. He is jes a been tellin we uns that he is thankful his short leg is up the mounting so Miss Helen will ride mo easy like.

Well, Ill give him some sugar when we get home, laughed Helen.

Dr. Wright kept close by the side of the mule wherever the trail permitted and once or twice held out his hand to feel the pulse of the patient. That is the danger of snake bite: that the pulse may become feeble. The old treatment of whisky, drunk in large quantities, is now thought to have been the cause of more deaths from snake bites than the bites themselves. Persons unaccustomed to liquor could not stand the large doses that were poured down them by well-meaning friends. The present day treatment is: strychnia to keep up the pulse and the thorough burning out of the wound, after it has been sucked by a healthy mouth.

A sprained ankle is nothing to dampen the spirits of youth and so the crowd went back as gaily as it came. Helen could not help thinking how differently they would have behaved had they known the true inwardness of her having to ride on the back of the mule that reminded her of nothing so much as a saw-horse. Had they understood that a rattlesnake had taken a nip out of her tendon Achilles, it would have put an end to their cheerfulness and also an end to their week-end boarders if she was not mistaken.





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