Nell Speed.

The Carter Girls' Week-End Camp





CHAPTER I
A LETTER

From Douglas Carter to her mother, Mrs. Robert Carter
Greendale, Va., August , 19 .

My darling Mother:

Words cannot express the joy and gratitude all of us feel that father is really getting well. I shall never forget the miserable time last spring when Dr. Wright came into the library where Helen and Nan and Lucy and I were sitting and told us of his very serious condition. I had felt he was in a very bad way but did not realize it was quite so dreadful. I am sure you did not, either. And when Dr. Wright said that you must take him on a long sea voyage and we understood that we were to be left behind, the bottom seemed to drop out of the universe.

And now, dear mother, I have a confession to make: You took for granted we were going to the springs when we wrote we were to spend the summer in the mountains, and we thought with all the worry you had about father, perhaps it was best to let you go on thinking it. Of course you did not dream of the necessity of our doing anything to make money as father had never told you much about his finances. Well, mother dear, there was about $80 in the bank in fathers private account. Fortunately for the business, which Mr. Lane and Dick have carried on to the best of their ability, there was some more in another account, but we have managed without touching that. I hope I am not going to shock you now, but you shall have to know it we have rented our lovely home, furnished, for six months with privilege of a year, and we have sold the car, dismissed the servants all but Susan and Oscar, who are up here at Greendale with us. This is what might shock you: We are running a week-end boarding camp here in the mountains and the really shocking part of it is we are making money!

It was a scheme that popped into Helens head and it seemed such an excellent one that we fell to it, and with dear Cousin Lizzie Somerville chaperoning us and Lewis Somerville protecting us, we have opened our camp and actually would have to turn away boarders except that the boys are always willing to sleep out-of-doors and that makes room for others not so inclined.

We see Dr. Wright quite often. He comes up for the Sunday in his car whenever he can spare the time. He has been kindness itself and has helped us over many rough places. There have been times when we have been downhearted and depressed over you and father, and then it has been his office to step in and reassure us that father was really getting better. He and Bobby are sworn friends and there is nothing Bobby will not do for him even keep himself clean.

We are well. Indeed, the mountain air has done wonders for all of us. Helen is working harder than any of us, but is the picture of health in spite of it. Nan is more robust than she has ever been in her life.

I think the tendency she has always had to bronchitis has entirely disappeared. Dr. Wright says it is sleeping out-of-doors that has fixed her. Lucy has grown two inches, I do believe. She has been very sweet and helpful and as happy as the day is long with her chum Lil Tate here for the whole summer. Mrs. Tate brought her up for a week-end and the child has been with us now for over two months. We have two boys of fifteen who are here for the summer, too, Frank Maury and Skeeter Halsey. They are a great comfort to me as I feel sure Lucy and Lil will be taken care of by these nice boys.

Of course, the original idea of our camp was to have only week-end boarders, but we find it very nice to have some steadies besides as that means a certain fixed amount of money, but I am not going to let you worry your pretty head about money. We have a perennial guest, also none other than pretty, silly Tillie Wingo. She came to the opening week-end and proved herself to be such a drawing card for the male sex that we decided it would be good business to ask her to visit us indefinitely. It was Nans idea. You know Tillie well enough to understand that she is always thoroughly good-natured and kind without being helpful in any way. All she has to do is look pretty and chatter and giggle. Of course she must dance, and she does that divinely. She is a kind of social entertainer, and the number of youths who swarm to Week-End Camp because of her would astonish you. She is certainly worth her keep. Here I am touching on finances again when I did not mean to at all.

We are so happy at the thought of having you and father with us for the rest of the summer. Dr. Wright thinks the life here will be almost as good for father as that on shipboard, provided the week-enders do not make too much racket for him. If they do, we are to have a tent pitched for him out of ear-shot. Poor Cousin Lizzie Somerville is very happy over your coming because it will release her. Her duties as chaperone have not been very strenuous, but the life up here has been so different from anything she has ever had before that it has been hard on her, I know, harder than she has ever divulged, I am sure. Now she can go to her beloved springs and play as many games of cards as she chooses.

Dr. Wright says it would be better for you not to go to Richmond at all before coming here, as father might want to go to work again, and it is very important for him to be kept from it for many months yet. He is to meet you in New York and bring you straight to Greendale. I can go down to Richmond with you after we get father settled here, and we can get what clothes you want for the mountains. We have everything in the way of clothes stored at Cousin Lizzie Somervilles.

It is very lovely here at Greendale, and I do hope you and father will like it as much as we have. Dr. Wright will tell you more about it when he meets you in New York on Wednesday. I am sending this letter by him as it seems safer than to trust to Uncle Sam.

We only hope the life up here will not be too rough for you. We will do all we can to smooth it for you; but a camp is a camp, you know, dear mother. Our best love to father.

Your loving daughter,

Douglas.

CHAPTER II
THE RETURN

Oh, Douglas, Im all of a tremble! declared Helen Carter, as she knotted her jaunty scarlet tie and settled her gray felt hat at exactly the proper angle. To think that they are really coming back!

I can hardly believe it. The time has gone quickly and still it seems somehow as though we had been living in this camp for ages. I am afraid it will go hard with the poor little mother.

Cousin Lizzie stood it and she is years and years older than mother, and Helen looked critically at her dainty nose and rubbed a little powder on it.

Yes, I know, but Cousin Lizzie is made of sterner stuff than poor little mumsy. I think that mother is the kind of woman that men would fight to protect but when all is told that Cousin Lizzie is the kind who would go out and help fight if need be. I can fancy her loading rifles and handing them to the men

So can I, laughed Helen, and saying as she loaded: To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven; a time to kill and a time to heal.

I am ashamed of myself but somehow I am glad Cousin Lizzie did not think it was her duty to defer her going until mother and father got here. She has been splendid and too good to us for anything, but it is a kind of relief for her to be out of the cabin and away before they come, said Douglas as she completed her rapid dressing by pulling an old khaki hat down over her rather refractory, if very lovely Titian hair.

I know just what you mean. I hoped all the time she would realize that the morning train was much the better one for her to get off on, and then she could reach the springs in time for an afternoon game. It was a feeling I had that she might be too critical of poor little mumsy. You see we dont know just how camp life is going to appeal to mumsy, said Helen.

Exactly! It may take her a while to get used to it, and Douglas let a little sigh escape her. I wish they could have arrived on any other day than Friday. Our week-ends in August have been so full. I fancy many of the week-enders will want to stay on for holidays, too.

If it is only not too much for father. Dr. Wright thinks it wont be. He says noise in the open air is so different from housed noises for nervous persons.

A honk from the faithful old mountain goat, a name they had given the ancient Ford that Bill Tinsley had contributed to the camps use, warned them it was time to start for the station. One more dab of powder on Helens nose completed her toilet and calling to Nan and Lucy to pile in, they started their ever perilous descent of the mountain to Greendale.

Bobby, who had been captured by a determined Susan and washed and dressed in honor of his returning parents, was occupying the seat of state in Joshs cart, clean but indignant at the outrage committed.

Taint no sense in washin. I mos wisht Id been born a pig. If I had, I betcher Id a been a pet pig an some fool woman would er wanted to curl my tail and tie a bow round my neck.

Such pessimism was too much for Josh, who shook with laughter as the slab-sided mule, Josephus, limped cheerfully down the mountain road.

To think that mother and father were really coming! The Carter girls lined themselves along the little station awaiting the train bearing the beloved passengers. What a healthy-looking quartette they were after a whole summer in the open. Douglas fair skin was reddened from exposure and her hair showed the lack of care that her mother had always exacted. Douglas attached very little importance to her appearance, and was constantly being put to rights by the more correct Helen. Even now, as they waited for the train, Helen was regretting that she had permitted her older sister to wear the very disgraceful-looking khaki hat.

Khaki color is certainly unbecoming to blondes, she thought. I do want Douglas to look her best for mother. Father will think all of us are beautiful, anyhow, no matter what we wear, and Helen could not help a feeling of satisfaction over her own very becoming cold-gravy costume with the touch of scarlet at her throat. It had seen much service but still had that unmistakable air of style that was characteristic of all of Helen Carters belongings.

Nan was quite robust-looking for Nan. She had inherited from her mother that soft black hair and those dusky eyes and a complexion of wondrous fairness that is seen sometimes in a rare type of Creole beauty. Mrs. Carters almost angelic beauty (her few enemies called it doll-like) was repeated in her daughter in a somewhat more sturdy edition. Nans mouth was larger and her eyes not quite so enormous; her nose a bit broader at the base and her chin squarer. Her attractive countenance showed a mixture of poetic feeling and sturdy common sense with a plentiful seasoning of humor and gave promise of her development into a very enchanting woman. All Nan asked of life was plenty of books and time to read them and a cloak of invisibility so that she would not be noticed. She was gradually overcoming the shyness that had always made her think that next to a cloak of invisibility the greatest boon her fairy godmother could grant her would be seven-league boots, so that she could get away from all embarrassing persons even if she could not hide from them. The summer of camping had certainly taken from her the look of fragility that had always been a source of uneasiness to her father but which her beautiful mother had rather prided herself on as it was in her eyes a mark of race and breeding.

Lucy Carter, the youngest of the four, was developing rapidly into a very attractive girl. Her resemblance to Helen was growing more marked, much to her pretended disgust, but to her secret delight. Already her long legs had shot her saucy head up to within a level of Helens, which made the younger sister ecstatically confident of her equality with the elder, whom in her heart of hearts she considered a paragon of perfection but with whom she was usually on sparring terms.

Bobby, the idolized little brother, had changed more than any of the Carters during that summer. He had lost forever the baby curves and had taken on a lean, wiry spareness. His almost unearthly beauty was gone by reason of a great gap in his face caused by the loss of his first teeth. One permanent tooth had found its way through and, as is the way with the first permanent tooth, seemed very enormous in contrast to the tiny little pearls that had hitherto passed for teeth. His knees were scarred and scratched as were his lean brown legs. Two sore toes were tied up in dirty rags, having been ministered to by Aunt Mandy, the kind old mountain woman who bore the proud distinction in Bobbys mind of being the mother of Josh the boy and the owner of Josephus the mule.

I hear the whistle! exclaimed Lucy, prancing with excitement.

So do I, but it is the saw mill over in the hollow, drawled Nan.

Wont it be terrible if the train is late and all the week-enders get here before mother and father? wailed Helen.

Awful! exclaimed Douglas. If we can only get them settled in the cabin before the hullabaloo begins, maybe it wont seem so bad to them. I just cant stand it if the camp is going to be too much for father.

Im most sure he will like it, but its mother who will be the one to kick, said Nan. Kicking was not a very elegant way to express what no doubt would be the state of Mrs. Carters mind over the rough camp life.

Shes a-comin now! shouted Bobby. I kin hear her a-chuggin up grade! Listen! This is what she says: Catch a nigger! Catch a nigger! Im a-comin! Im a-comin! and the scion of the Carter family whistled shrilly through his sparse teeth, an accomplishment that had but recently come to him by reason of his loss.

It was the train and on time, which would give the youthful proprietors of the week-end boarding camp time to get their invalid father and dainty mother safely stowed away in the cabin before the onrush of harum-scarum guests should begin.

Thank heaven! was the pious ejaculation of the older girls.

Douglas and Helen felt all the qualms and responsibilities that had been theirs on the opening of the camp at the beginning of the summer. It had proved such a success that confidence had come to them, but now that their parents were to join them, although they were very happy at the thought of seeing them, they had grave doubts about the way in which their mother would look upon their venture and about the ability of their father to endure the noise and confusion.

Dr. Wright, who had gone to New York to meet the steamer, got off first, laden with parcels. Then came Mrs. Carter, looking so young and pretty that her daughters felt suddenly very mature. Mr. Carter followed his wife. He also was laden with bandboxes and bundles, while the grinning porter emerged with some difficulty from under a mass of suitcases, steamer rugs and dress boxes. Lewis Somerville extricated him in time for him to jump on the departing train as it made its laborious way up the steep grade, still singing the song that Bobby had declared it sang: Catch a nigger! Catch a nigger! Im a-comin! Im a-comin!

My girls! My girls! Mrs. Carter flew from one to the other like a butterfly who cannot tell which flower to light on, but Robert Carter dropped his parcels and enfolded all of them in a mighty embrace. How lean and brown he was! On sight he seemed like his old self to Helen, who was the first to find her way to his eager arms and the last to leave their encircling shelter. A closer scrutiny of his face, however, told her there was still something wrong. His snap and vim were gone. Intelligence shone from his kind blue eyes and his countenance bespoke contentment and happiness, but his old sparkle and alertness were missing. The overworked nerves had lost their elasticity and a certain power that had been a part of Robert Carter was gone forever. It was the power of leading and directing, taking the initiative. There was something very pathetic about it all, just as though a great general had been reduced to the ranks and must ever after serve as a private. What made it sadder was that he seemed content to follow. Someone else must work out the problem of how to keep his expensive family in all the luxuries they had demanded. It was no longer up to him! That was the way his expression impressed Helen. She escaped from the others and ran behind the little station.

Father! Father! she sobbed in an agony of love and misery. He is not well yet! He never will be!

Oh yes, he will, said a quiet, deep voice. It belonged to George Wright, who had come around the other side of the waiting room after helping Lewis Somerville deposit the luggage in Joshs cart. He is much better, better than I dared dream he would be. You see, he has had only four months and I said all the time it would take a year of rest and maybe more. What makes you think he is still so badly off?

Dr. Wright had a ridiculous notion that he could explain to Helen much better her fathers condition if she would only put her head on his shoulder and do her sobbing there, but he buried his hands firmly in his pockets and made no intimation of his idea. He had constantly to take himself to task for forgetting that Helen was little more than a child. You must wait, you fool! he would reason with himself.

But suppose someone else doesnt wait and she gets snapped up before your eyes what then? But wait he felt he must, and in the meantime Helen often felt that his sternness meant disapproval and wondered what she had done to merit it that is, what new thing. Of course she always knew she had merited his disapproval by her behavior when he had given the verdict that her father must go off on the voyage for health. And now when he said: What makes you think he is still so badly off? he sounded very stern and superior.

He seems so so meek, she faltered.

Well, who would not be meek with all those parcels? he laughed. Your mother had only part of a day in New York, but she bought out the town. Im meek myself.

The conversation was interrupted by Lucy, who was always eager to find out what Helen was doing so she could do it too. When she saw her sisters tear-stained countenance she bitterly regretted her dry eyes but cry she could not, especially as she did not see anything to cry about.

Mrs. Carter, meanwhile, after flitting from daughter to daughter, had cried out: But Bobby! Where is my precious Bobby?

Here me! said that youngster. We uns aint fur.

Bobby! Bobby! I didnt know you! Where are your teeth? Why did you have your hair cut so short? My baby, my baby! and the poor little lady enfolded a rather abashed boy in her arms.

Baby your grandmother! I aint nobodys baby. We uns is Dr. Wrights shover ceptn when we uns is in the mountings and thin we uns is the spressmans sisterant.

We uns? What do you mean, Bobby? wailed the mother.

I say we uns whenever we uns thinks to do it. Thats the way mountingyears talks.

Robert! Robert, look at Bobby and listen to him!

Mr. Carter did look at Bobby and the remembrance of his own boyhood came back to him and he laughed as he seldom did now-a-days.

Well, bless my soul, what a great big son I have got! and he slapped Bobby on the back. I fancy you are too big to kiss, you rascal!

I aint too big to kiss if you uns comes behind the station where Joshn Josephus cant see us, and Bobby led his willing parent behind the station where Helen had gone to shed a bitter tear and where Dr. Wright had discovered her and where Lucy had discovered them.

Oh, shucks! Theys too many folks here, he declared.

Will all of you please step out of the way? begged Mr. Carter. Bobby has an important thing to discuss with me and we should like the back of the station to ourselves for a moment.

Left alone, the big man held his little son tight in his arms and in spite of Bobbys boasted manhood he was very happy to be once more hugged and kissed by his father.

Dr. Wright smiled into Helens reddened eyes and said: Bobby will do more for your father than anyone else now. If he can be a boy again he will get entirely well.

The many parcels were at last stowed away in the cart and Josh clucked sadly to Josephus.

I reckon Bobbys done left us all, now that his paw is come, he said sadly to the sympathetic mule. But Bobby came running after him.

Hi there! Wait, Josh! Father says he would sooner trust his bones to us than that old Tin Lizzie. Youn himn me can squzzle in on the front seat.

Sho we kin! declared the delighted Josh. He hadnt lost an old friend after all, but gained a new one.

Mr. Carter proved even more agreeable to the little mountain boy than his idol, Lewis Somerville. He had such wonderful things to tell of ships and things and seemed to understand a boy so well. Mr. Somerville was right strict with a fellow, expecting him to be clean all the time and never forget, but somehow, Mr. Carter was a little easier.





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