Nell Speed.

The Carter Girls





They were up and almost dressed. Lucy and I thought maybe we could help, so we hurried. I know youve lots to do, said Nan.

That was dear of you both. Of course we wont have so much to do right now, as we have to wait for Dr. Wright to come home; and then if we can rent the house furnished, we must get everything in order. But first listen to the good news! and she read the telegram.

Isnt that splendid and wasnt it kind of Dr. Wright to send it to you?

I think so. If only Helen would not feel so unkindly to him! She utterly refuses to like him, and Douglas sighed.

I dont intend to like him either, then! exclaimed Lucy. He shant boss me if he isnt going to boss Helen.

How absurd you are, laughed Nan. You are so afraid that Helen will get something you dont have that you wont even let her have a private little dislike without wanting to have some, too. I bet if Helen got the smallpox you would think yourself abused if you didnt get it, too.

And in your heart of hearts you know you do like him, said Douglas with a severity that she felt such silliness warranted.

Well, if I do and and maybe I do, Im not going to take anything off of him that Helen wont.

Well, I reckon Dr. Wright will be glad to wash his hands of us, anyhow, said Nan. I cant see that it would be any sweet boon to look after you and Helen or any of us, for that matter.

I should think not, laughed Douglas; but you see his having power of attorney from Father makes it necessary for us to consult with him about some things, selling the automobile, for instance, and renting the house.

Selling the car! wailed Lucy. I think it is foolishness to do that. Id like to know how you are to occupy Dan, the chauffeur, if we havent a car to keep him busy.

Oh, you incorrigible girls! Of course we will have to let the chauffeur go immediately; and Ive got to tell the servants to-day that we cant keep them. Ill give them all a weeks warning, of course.

I understand all that, said Nan, so please dont bunch me in with the incorrigibles.

But, Douglas, Oscar has been with us since long before we were born. I dont see how you can have the heart to dismiss him, and Lucy looked resentfully at her older sister.

Heart! I havent the heart to let any of them go, but it would be a great deal more heartless to have them work for us with no money to pay them with.

Now, Lucy Carter, youve pretty near made Douglas cry. You sound like a half-wit to me. Heartless, indeed! If you had half of Douglass heart and one-fourth of her sense, you wouldnt make such remarks, and Nan put her arms around Douglas.

No, she didnt make me cry, but what does make me feel bad is that Lucy and Helen cant even now realize the state of affairs. I hated to have to tell Helen she mustnt charge anything more, no matter what it is she wants.

Charge! I should say not! I think I would walk on my uppers all the rest of my life before Id put any more burden like that on Father, declared Nan.

But dont people always charge when they havent got any money? What will we do when we need things? asked Lucy.

Do without, said Douglas wearily.

She saw it was going to take more than a few hours or a few days to make two of her sisters realize the necessity for reconstruction of their lives. Helen and I are going right after breakfast to see real estate agents about getting us a tenant, and Helen is going to purchase some cotton stockings. She still persists in sticking to the letter of her oath not to wear silk stockings until Daddy is home and well.

Im going to wear cotton stockings, too, if Helen is.

So you are, so are all of us, but we are going to keep on with the ones we have until we go to the country. Helen is spending her own money, some she had, on these stockings and no one is buying them for her, and Douglas went back to her room to dress and take up the burden of the day that was beginning to seem very heavy to her young shoulders. If only Helen and Lucy could see without being knocked down and made to see, she thought. Poor Father, if he had only not been so unselfish how much better it would have been for all of us now that we have got to face life!

True to their determination, Douglas and Helen went to several real estate agents. None of them were very encouraging about renting during the summer months to reliable tenants, but all of them promised to keep an eye open for the young ladies.

Your father gone off sick? asked one fatherly old agent. Well, I saw him going to pieces. Why, Robert Carter did the work of three men. Just look at the small office force he kept and the work he turned out! That meant somebody did the drudgery, and that somebody was the boss. What do the fellows in his office think of this?

I I dont know, stammered Douglas. She couldnt let the kind old man know that she had not even thought of informing the office of her fathers departure. How could she think of everything?

Before seeing any more agents, she and Helen betook themselves to their fathers office, a breezy apartment at the top of a great bank building. Two young men were busily engaged on some architectural drawings. They stopped work and came eagerly forward to inquire for Mr. Carter. Their consternation was great on hearing of his sudden departure and their grief and concern very evident.

We will do all we can to keep things going, said the elder of the two.

You bet we will! from the other, who had but recently been advanced from office boy.

There is a big thing Mr. Carter has been working on for some time, a competitive design for a country club in North Carolina. It is about done and I will do my best to finish it as I think he would want it, and get it off. Did he leave power of attorney with any one? You see, Mr. Carter has two accounts, in different banks, one, his personal account, and one, his business one.

Yes, Dr. Wright, his physician, was given power of attorney. There was no time to let any of you know as it was important to have Father kept very quiet, with no excitement. Dr. Wright will come in to see you on Monday, I feel sure. He does not get back from New York until to-night.

More work and responsibility for the doctor, thought Douglas.

More power over us than we dreamed even, was in Helens mind.

We want to rent our house, furnished, for the summer, giving possession immediately, or almost immediately, continued Douglas; perhaps you may hear of some one who will be interested.

I know of some one right now, eagerly put in Dick, the promoted office boy. It is a family who have been driven from Paris by the war. They have been living there for years got oodlums of money and no place to spend it now, poor things! They want a furnished house for six months with privilege of renewing the lease for a year.

Oh, please, could you send them to me or me to them right off?

Yes, Miss Carter, thats easy! If you go home, Ill have the folks up there in an hour.

How kind you are!

Not a bit of it! Im so glad I happened to know about them and now you will be saved an agents fee.

How much do you think we should ask for our house? said Douglas, appealing to both young men.

Well, that house is as good a one as there is in Richmond for its size, said Mr. Lane, the elder. I know, because I helped on it. There is not one piece of defective material in the whole building. Even the nails were inspected. If it had been on Franklin Street, Id say one hundred a month, unfurnished, with all the baths it has in it; but since it is not on Franklin, I believe one hundred, furnished, would be a fair price.

Oh, wouldnt that be fine, Douglas? spoke Helen for the first time. She had been very quiet while these business conferences had been going on. That will be a whole lot of money. Now we need not feel so poverty stricken.

Certainly families do live on less, and the young man smiled. I think Mr. Carter usually takes out about six hundred a month for his household expenses of course, thats not counting when he buys a car. I know it is none of my business, but I am very much interested to know what you young ladies are going to do with yourselves. If I can be of any assistance, you must call on me.

Oh, weve got the grandest scheme! I thought of it myself, so I am vastly proud of it. We are going up to Albemarle County, where Father owns a tract of land right on the side of a mountain, and there we are going to spend the summer and take boarders and expect to make a whole lot of money.

Take boarders? Is there a house there? I understood from Mr. Carter that it was unimproved property.

So it is. That is the beauty of it. We intend to camp and all the boarders will camp, too.

The young men could not contain themselves but burst out laughing. They had not seen much of their employers family but they well knew the luxurious lives they lived and their helplessness. It was funny to hear this pretty butterfly of a girl talking about taking boarders and making money at it.

It does sound funny, said Douglas when the laugh in which she and Helen had joined subsided, but we are really going to do it that is, I think we are, remembering that the Power of Attorney had not yet been consulted and nothing could really be determined on until then. I dont know about our making lots of money, but we can certainly live much more cheaply camping than any other way.

Thats so! agreed Mr. Lane. Now maybe this is where Dick and I can help. Camps have to be built and we can get up some plans for you. There is a book of them just issued and we can get a working plan for you in short order.

That is splendid. We have a cousin, Lewis Somerville, who is home now and has nothing to do, and he is going up to Albemarle ahead of us and build the camp. Ill tell him to come down and see you and you can tell him all about it.

Then the girls, with many expressions of gratitude, hastened home to prepare for the poor rich people who had been driven from Paris and now had no place to spend their money.

They stopped on Broad Street long enough for Helen to spend one of her precious dollars for six sixteen-and-two-third-cent stockings.

Do you think it would be very extravagant if I spent a dime in market for flowers? asked Helen. It would make the house look more cheerful and might make the poor rich people like it better.

Why, no, I dont think that would be very extravagant, laughed Douglas.

So they went over to the Sixth Street market, where the old colored women sit along the side-walk, and purchased a gay bunch of wild phlox for a dime. And then Helen could not resist squandering another nickel for a branch of dogwood. They jitneyed home, another extravagance. There was no tangible reason why they should not have ordered out their own car for this business trip they had been forced to take, but it had seemed to both of them a little incongruous to ride in a seven-seated touring car on the mission they had undertaken.

It doesnt gee with cotton stockings, somehow, declared Helen, to step out of a good car like ours. Jitneys are much more in keeping.

The exiles from Paris came with the faithful Dick; liked the house; did not mind the price, although furnished houses during the summer months are somewhat a drug in the real estate market; and were ready to close the bargain just as soon as Dr. Wright should return.

The son, an ?sthetic looking youth of seventeen, who was Dicks acquaintance, was carried away with the wild phlox and went into ecstasies over the branch of dogwood which Helen had placed near a Japanese print in the library.

Lets take it, Mamma! It is perfect! he exclaimed as he stood enraptured by the effect.

Helen always declared that the market flowers rented the house, and so they may have.

CHAPTER VII
A COINCIDENCE

Almost time for Dr. Wright! exclaimed Douglas. I believe I heard the R. F. & P. stop at Elba. I do wonder what he is going to say.

He is going to say we are a set of fools and lunatics and refuse to let us have any money to start the camp. Since we have been so extravagant and selfish for all these years, hell think we ought to go to the poor house, where we belong, said Helen, frowning. I can see him now looking through his eyebrows at me with the expression of a hairy wildman in a show.

Dr. Wright came with good news of the travelers. He had not only seen them safely on board but had sailed with them, coming back with the pilot. He reported Mr. Carter as singularly calm and rested already and Mrs. Carter as making an excellent nurse. Evidently he was rather astonished that that poor lady could make herself useful, and Helen, detecting his astonishment, was immediately on the defensive; but as Dr. Wright was addressing his remarks principally to Douglas, almost ignoring her, she had no chance to let him know what she thought of his daring even to think slightingly of poor little Mumsy.

I have a scheme for you girls, too, if you wont think I am presumptuous to be making suggestions, he said, now including all four of the sisters.

Of course, Douglas and Nan assured him that they considered it very kind of him to think of them at all, but Helen tossed her head and said nothing. Lucy waited to see what Helen would do and did the same thing, but she could not help smiling at the young doctor when he laughed out-right at her ridiculous mimicry of Helen. He flushed, however, showing he was not quite so callous to Helens scorn and distrust as he would have liked to appear.

I think the wisest thing for you to do would be to rent this house, furnished, if you can find a tenant

Weve done it! exclaimed Helen triumphantly.

That is, we have got a tenant if you think it is best, explained Douglas. We were going to do nothing without your approval.

Oh, come now! I have no jurisdiction over you, laughed the young man.

Isnt power of attorney jurisdiction? asked Lucy. Nan says I cant have any more stockings until you permit me.

Well, well! I must be a terrible bugaboo to you! I dont feel at all qualified to judge of your stockings, little girl, or anything else pertaining to the female attire. It was the merest accident that I was given power of attorney. I am not in the least an appropriate person to be having it. I only consented to have it wished on me when I saw your father was becoming excited and tired over the unexpected hitch when the notary spoke of Miss Douglass not being of age. I have transferred what cash your father has to your sisters account. I must find out from you whom you want to look after your affairs and consult that person

But, Dr. Wright, we would lots rather have you, if you dont mind! exclaimed Douglas. Any of our kinsmen that we might call on would insist upon our coming to live with them or make us go to some stuffy boarding house or something. They would not look at it as I believe you would at all. We have a scheme, too, but we want to hear yours first.

My scheme was, as I say, first to rent your house, furnished, and then all of you, with some suitable older person and some man whom you can trust, go and camp out on the side of the mountain in Albemarle. What do you say to it? The girls burst out laughing, even Helen.

Dr. Wright, this is absolutely uncanny! exclaimed Douglas. That is exactly what we were planning!

Only we were going you some better and were to have boarders, drawled Nan.

Boarders, eh, and what do you know about keeping boarders? laughed the doctor.

We know enough not to do the way we have been done by at summer boarding houses where we have been sometimes.

Well, all I can say is that I think you are a pretty spunky lot. Please tell me which one of you thought up this plan. There must surely have been a current of mental telepathy flowing from one of you girls to me. It was you, I fancy, Miss Douglas.

No, I am never so quick to see a way out. It was Helen.

Yes, Helen thought of it, but I came mighty near doing it, declared Lucy. I would have done it all the way but I went to sleep.

Helen looked as though she did not at all relish having anything even so intangible as a current of mental telepathy connecting her with one whom she was still determined to look upon as an enemy. He was gazing at her with anything but the eyes of an enemy, however, and Nans remark about his eyes looking like blue flowers high up on a cliff that you must climb to reach, came back to her. She felt that those flowers were in easy reach for her now; that all she had to do to make this rugged young man her friend was to be decently polite. But her pride was still hurt from his former disapproval and while his present attitude was much better, she still could not bring herself to smile at him. She was very quiet while the other girls unfolded their plans for the camp. She did not take so much pleasure in it now that it was not altogether her scheme. To think that while she was working it up this bumptious young doctor was doing the same thing!

The keeping boarders part of it was mine, though, she comforted herself by thinking.

Dr. Wright was really astonished by the quickness with which these spoiled girls had acted and their eagerness to begin to be something besides the butterflies they had seemed. Douglas told him of the plans for the camp that the assistant in the office was to draw for them, and then showed him some of the advertisements of their boarding camp that Nan had been working on all day.

This is sure to draw a crowd of eager week-enders, he declared. In fact, I believe you will have more boarders than the mountain will hold.

I thought it best to have kind of catchy ads that would make people wonder what we were up to anyhow, said Nan. Now this one is sure to draw a crowd: A week-end boarding camp, where one can have all of the discomforts of camping without the responsibility. Here is another: Mountain air makes you hungry! Come to The Week-End Camp and let us feed you.

Fine! laughed the young man. But please tell me how you plan to feed the hungry hordes that are sure to swarm to your camp. Do you know how to cook?

Helen can make angels food and I know how to make mayonnaise, but sometimes it goes back on me, said Nan with the whimsical air that always drew a smile from Dr. Wright.

I can make angels food, too, declared Lucy.

Well, angels food and mayonnaise will be enough surely for hungry hordes.

Of course, we are going to take some servants with us, said Helen, breaking the vow of silence that she was trying to keep in Dr. Wrights presence. Old Oscar, our butler, and Susan, the housemaid, have both volunteered to go. I can make more things than angels food, and, besides, I am going to learn how to do all kinds of things before we go.

Thats so, you can make devils food, teased Nan. Somehow I didnt like to mention it.

Cook is going to teach me to make all kinds of things. I am going to get dinner to-morrow and have already made up bread for breakfast. I am going to buy some of the cutest little bungalow aprons to cook in, pink and blue. I saw them down town this morning. They are what made me think of learning how to cook.

Im going to learn how to cook, too, and I must have some aprons just like Helens.

All of us are Camp Fire Girls, said Douglas to the doctor, and of course we have learned some of the camping stunts, but we have not been as faithful as we might have been.

I am an old camper and can put you on to many things if you will let me.

We should be only too glad, responded Douglas sincerely.

One of the first things is canvas cots. Dont try to sleep on all kinds of contrived beds. Get folding cots and insure comfortable nights. Another is, dont depend altogether on camp fires for cooking. Kerosene stoves and fireless cookers come in mighty handy for steady meal getting. It will be another month at least before you go, wont it?

Just about, I think, if we can manage it. We have school to finish and I have some college exams that I want to take, although I see no prospect of college yet. Another thing I want to discuss with you, Dr. Wright, is selling our car. I think that might bring in money enough for us to pay for all the camp fixtures and run us for awhile.

Certainly; Ill see about that for you immediately.

The young man took his departure with a much higher opinion of the Carter sisters than he had held twenty-four hours before. As for the Carter sisters: they felt so grateful to him for his kindness to their parents and to them that their opinion of him was perforce good. Helen still sniffed disdainfully when his name was mentioned, but she could not forget the expression of approval in his blue eyes when he found that the camping scheme was hers.





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