Nell Speed.

The Carter Girls' Week-End Camp





Mr. Tucker looked into the glowing countenance of the young birdman. He saw there youth, character, romance.

A teakettle is a sweetheart, he said simply.

Talking about spooks what do you know about that? cried one of the crowd.

Well, what did I tell you? Didnt I say you couldnt keep anything from Zebedee? said triumphant Dee.

I betcher I aint a-gonter take no sweetheart with me when I gits me a arryplane, shouted Bobby from his vantage ground. Im a-gonter take Josh and Josephus, ander ander father.

The picnic in the tree had been a decided success. It was one more perfect day for the week-enders to report as worth while to the possible future boarders. Even Mr. Parker was enthusiastic, although he was not as a rule much of an outdoor man. He was conscious of the fact that he shone in a drawing room, and under the great eye of Heaven did not amount to quite so much as he did under electric lights with pink shades.

CHAPTER XIV
THE FORAGERS

Miss Douglas, them week-enders done clared the coop. Thaint nary chicken lef standin on a laig. Looks like these here Hungarians dont think no mo of vourin a chicken than a turkey does of gobblin up a grasshopper.

All of them gone, Oscar?

Yasm! Thaint hide or har of them lef. If I hadnt er wrung they necks myself, I would er thought somethins been a-ketchin em; but lands sakes, the way these week-enders do eat chicken is a caution!

All right, Ill get our young people to start out today and find some more for us. A big crowd will be up on Friday.

Yes, Ill be bound they will, and all of them empty. I should think the railroad cyars would chawge mo ter haul the folks back from this here camp than what they do to git em here. They sho goes back a-weighing mo than what they do whin they comes a-creepin up the mountain actin like they aint never seed a squar meal in they lives.

Oscars grumbling on the subject of the amount of food consumed by the boarders was a never failing source of amusement to the Carter girls. They were never so pleased as when the boarders were hungry and enjoyed the food. No doubt Oscar was pleased, too, but he was ever outwardly critical of the capacity of the week-enders.

Lucy and Lil, Skeeter and Frank were delighted to be commissioned to go hunting for food. Many were the adventures they had while out on these foraging parties and many the tales they had to tell of the inhabitants of the mountain cabins. There were several rules they must obey and besides those they had perfect liberty to do as they felt like. The first rule was that they must wear thick boots and leggins on these tramps. The snake bite Helen had got early in the summer had been a lesson learned in time and now all the campers were made to comply with the rule of leggins whenever they went on hikes. The second rule was that they must be home before dark and must report to Douglas or Helen as soon as they got home.

The third was that they must tell all their adventures to one of the older girls. If they obeyed these three rules they were sure to get into no trouble.

Fix us up a big lunch, please, Helen. We are going way far off. Theres a man on the far side of Old Baldy that Josh says has great big frying-sizers, declared Lil.

Well, be sure you are back before dark, admonished Helen, in her grownupest tone, according to Lucy.

All right, Miss Grandma, but I dont see why I have to get in before dark if you dont. You know you and Doctor Wright came in long after supper one night said you got lost, but you can tell that to the marines, said Lucy pertly.

Just for that, Ive a great mind to put red pepper in your sandwiches, said Helen, blushing in spite of herself.

Well, I suppose if we get lost, we wont have to get in before dark, either, teased Lucy.

Yes, but dont you get lost. Douglas and I are always a bit uneasy until you are back, as it is, pleaded Helen. You know mother would have a fit if you were out late.

Oh, dont listen to her, Miss Helen. Well take care of the girls and bring em back safe. Frank and I couldnt get lost on these mountains if we tried, and Skeeter drew himself up to his full height, which was great for a boy of fifteen and seemed even greater because of his extreme leanness.

Cant we take our guns, Miss Helen? pleaded Frank.

There was another rule that the boys must not take the guns if the girls were along. Guns are safe enough if there are no bystanders.

Oh, Frank, ask Douglas! I am afraid to be the one to let you do it.

Can I tell her you say yes if she does?

Yes, I reckon so! But if she does say yes, please be awfully careful.

Sure we will! I tell you, Miss Helen, if anything happens to these girls, Skeeter and Id never show our faces in camp again.

I know you will look after them, said Helen. These boys were great favorites with Helen, and they admired her so extravagantly that sometimes Lil and Lucy, their sworn chums, were a bit jealous. Ive made your kind of sandwiches, Frank, sardines. And Ive stuffed some eggs with minced ham the way you like them, Skeeter.

Bully! exclaimed both knights.

And I spose what Lil and I like or dont like didnt enter your head, pouted Lucy.

Why, Lucy, you know you like sardine sandwiches better than anything, you said so yourself, admonished Lil.

Helen didnt know it.

If you dont like what I put up, you can do it yourself next time, snapped Helen.


Tis dogs delight
To bark and bite,

sang Douglas, coming into the kitchen to spy out the nakedness of the land preparatory to sending her order for provisions to the wholesale grocer in Richmond. What are you girls scrapping about?

Helen said

Lucys always

Yes, I havent a doubt of it, laughed the elder sister, who was ever the peacemaker. I havent a doubt that Helen did say it, but she was just joking, and I know Lucy is always trying to help and is a dear girl. Now you children trot along and bring back all the chickens you can carry. Have you got your bags? Gunnysacks were always taken to bring home the provender. And money to pay for the chickens? If you see any eggs, buy them, and more roasting ears, but dont try to carry everything you see. Have the mountaineers bring them to camp. Good-bye! Be sure to come back before dark.

Ask her about the guns, whispered Frank to Lil.

Douglas, can the boys take their guns? Helen says she says yes if you say yes. They wont carry em loaded.

We ll, I believe we can trust you; but do be careful, boys.

With a whoop the boys flew to their tent for the guns. The sizable lunch was dumped in the bottom of a gunnysack and slung over Skeeters shoulder, and the cavalcade started, after many admonitions from Douglas and Helen to be careful of their guns and to come back before dark.

Aint they the scared cats, though? laughed Lucy.

Yes; what on earth could happen to us? said Lil.

Nothing, I reckon, with Skeeter and me here to protect you eh, Skeeter?

I just guess we could hold a whole litter of bears at bay with these guns. I almost wish we would run into some kind of trouble just so Frank and I could show your big sisters we are responsible parties.

Maybe we will, and Lil danced in glee at the possible chance of getting into trouble so their devoted swains could extricate them. Maybe we will meet a drunken mountaineer or maybe it will be a whole lot of drunken mountaineers, a camp of moonshiners maybe they will capture Lucy and me and carry us to their mountain fastness and there hold us for ransom.

Huh! And what do you think Skeeter and Ill be doing while they are carrying you off? sniffed Frank. Standing still, I reckon, and weeping down our gun barrels!

Well, spose they are all of them armed to the teeth, a company of stalwart brigands, suggested Lil, who, by the way, was something of a movie fan, and they come swooping down on us, the leader bearing a lasso in his brawny hand.

Yes, put in Lucy, and he will swirl it around and will catch both of you in the same coil and then will tie you to a tree there to await his pleasure. I think there had better be two leaders, though, Lil. So you can have one and I can have one. I bid for the biggest.

Bid for him! If you girls dont beat all! I do believe you would like to be attacked by outlaws, and Skeeter looked his disgust at the eternal feminine.

Of course wed like it if it came out all right; that is, if the leaders fell in love with us and reformed and turned out to be gentlemen who took to moonshining and highwaying because they had been cheated out of their inheritances by fat-faced uncles in Prince Albert coats, and Lil looked very saucy as she switched on ahead of the others down the narrow trail.

And where would we come in? asked Frank whimsically. We would have to stay tied to the tree while you and Lucy acted about a thousand feet of reels. I tell you what I mean to do. I mean to train a squirrel to come gnaw me free. What you say to that, Skeeter?

Squirrel much! Im going to be so quick with my gun that the bold brigands will wish they had stayed with Uncle Albert. As for lassoing I am some pumpkins myself with the rope. Look at this! and twirling the gunnysack around with the lunch serving as ballast, Skeeter caught his chum neatly around the neck.

Oh, oh! Youll mash the sandwiches! wailed the others.

Lets sit down and eat em up now, suggested Skeeter. I am tired of being made the beast of burden. I believe in distribution of labor.

Why, Skeeter, we havent walked a mile yet, and it cant be more than ten oclock.

Well, then, my tumtum must be fast. I shall have to regulate it. It tells me it is almost twelve. No one had a watch so there was no way to prove the time except by the shadows, and Skeeter declared that the shadows on the mountain perforce must slant even at twelve.

Lets eat part of the lunch, suggested Lucy. That will keep poor Skeeter from starving and lighten the load some, too. There is no telling what time it is, but if we are hungry I cant see that it makes much difference what time it is. Im starved myself almost.

Me, too, chorused the others.

They ate only half, prudently putting the rest back in the gunnysack for future reference.

Gee, I feel some better, sighed Skeeter, whose appetite was ever a marvel to his friends since it never seemed to have the slightest effect on his extreme leanness. Oscar always said: That there young Marster Skeeter eats so much it makes him po to carry it.

Do you boys know exactly where we are going? asked Lil. They had walked a long distance since the distribution of burdens and now had come to a place where the trail went directly down the mountainside.

Of course we do! Josh said that when we got to a place where the path suddenly went down we were almost over the cabin where Jude Hanford lives. Didnt he, Frank?

He sure did!

But there was a place back further where a path forked off. I saw it, didnt you, Lucy?

Yes, but I thought it was maybe just a washed place.

This is right, Im sure, said Skeeter confidently, so the young people clambered down the mountainside following Skeeters lead. The path went almost exactly perpendicularly down the mountain for fifty yards and then, as is the way with mountain paths, it changed its mind and started up the mountain again.

This is a terribly silly path, declared the self-constituted guide, but I reckon it will start down again soon. Josh said that Jude Hanford lives almost at the foot of the mountain.

Lets keep a-going; theres no use in turning back, said Frank. This path is obliged to lead somewhere.

Maybe it leads to the brigands cave, shivered Lil.

Which way is home? asked Lucy.

That way!

Over there!

Due north from here!

But as the three of her companions all pointed in different directions, Lucy laughed at them and chose an entirely different point of the compass as her idea of where Camp Carter was situated. They had been walking for hours and as far as they could tell had not got off of their own mountain. No one seemed to be the least worried about being lost, so Lucy calmed her fears, which were not very great. How could they get lost? All they had to do was retrace their steps if they did not find Jude Hanfords cabin, where the frying-sized chickens and the roasting ears were supposed to thrive.

Lets eat again, suggested the ever empty Skeeter.

They had come to a wonderful mountain stream, one they had never seen before in their rambles. It came dashing down the incline singing a gay song until it found a temporary resting place in a deep hole which seemed to be hollowed out of the living rock.

What a place to swim! they exclaimed in a breath.

I bet its cold, though, cold as flugians. Lil trailed her fingers through the icy water and a little fish rose to the surface and gave a nibble. Look! Look! Isnt he sweet?

Lets fish, suggested Lucy.

Fish with what? Guns? asked Skeeter scornfully.

No, fishing lines with minnows for bait, and Lucy found a pin in her middy blouse and with a narrow pink ribbon drawn mysteriously from somewhere tied to the pin, which she bent into a fine hook, she got ready for the gentle art. A sardine from a sandwich made excellent bait, at least the speckled beauties in that pool thought so as they rose to it greedily.

E e-ee! squealed Lucy, flopping an eight-inch trout out on the bank. I caught a fish! I caught a fish!

Oh, gimme a pin, please, begged the boys, so Lucy and Lil had to find fish hooks for their cavaliers and more strings and in a short while all of them were eagerly fishing.

I never saw such tame fish in all my life, said Frank. They are just begging to be caught. It seems not very sporty to hook them in, somehow.

I didnt know there were any trout in these streams. Doctor Wright says there used to be but the natives have about exterminated them. Gee, theres a beaut! and Skeeter flopped a mate to Lucys catch out on the grass.

Lets stop fishing and fry these, he suggested, Im awfully hungry.

Hungry! Oh, Skeeter! Im right uneasy about you, teased Lil.

Well, I never did think sandwiches were very filling. Somehow they dont stick to your ribs. Come on, Frank, we can get a fire in no time.

How can we fry anything without lard and a pan?

Oh, we wont fry, well broil.

We, indeed! sniffed Lucy. You know mighty well, you boys, that when cooking time comes, Lil and Ill have to do it. I know how to cook fish without a pan learned in Camp-Fire Girls. Just run a green switch through the gills and lay it across on two pronged sticks stuck up on each side of the fire. You go on and make the fire while Lil and I try to catch some more fish. I wonder what Doctor Wright will say when we tell him we caught game fish with a bent pin tied on lingerie ribbon. He brought up all kinds of rods and reels and flies and whipped the streams for miles around and never caught anything but Helens veil.

The trout seemed to have become sophisticated when two of their number had been caught and refused to be hooked any more with bent pins and lingerie ribbon, although it was pink and very attractive. The fire went out and Lucy and Lil had to try a hand at it before it could be persuaded to burn.

It looks to me like fire-making must be womans work because they certainly can do it better than us men, said Skeeter solemnly, and the others laughed at him until Lil slipped into the water. Only one foot got wet, however, so there was no harm done.

The fire finally burned and the two little fish, after being scaled and cleaned, were strung across on a green wand. Of course the fire had not been allowed to get to the proper state of red embers so the fish were well smoked before they began to cook.

Umm! They smell fine! cried the famished Skeeter.

They smell mighty like burnt fish to me, said Frank.

They tasted very like burnt fish, too, when they were finally taken from their wand and the young folks drew up for the feast. They lacked salt and were burnt at the tail and raw at the head, but Skeeter picked the bones and pronounced them prime.

I believe its getting mighty late and we have not found Jude Hanfords cabin yet. You stop stuffing now, Skeeter, and lets get along, said Frank, gathering up the gunnysacks and guns.

Do you think we had better cross this stream?

Sure, if we go back, it will just take us home. We wont dare show our faces at camp unless we have at least the promise of some chickens and roasting ears. I hope to carry back some in the gunnysacks.

Of course we must go on, chorused the girls. We are not one bit tired and if we go on we are sure to come to Judes cabin.

Go on they did, how far there was no telling. The path went down, down, down, but led only to another spring. The boys shot some squirrels and the girls found a vine laden with fox grapes.

Lets get all we can carry so we can make some jelly. Helen was wishing only the other day she had some. They make the best jelly going, said Lucy, and so they pulled all they could reach and decided the ones that hung too high would be sour.

Do you know I believe its most supper time Im getting powerful empty, declared the insatiable Skeeter.

Supper time! Nonsense! I betcher taint three oclock, and Frank peered knowingly at the sun. That mountain over yonder is so high, thats the reason the sun is getting behind it. I betcher anything on top of the mountain it is as light as midday.

I do wish we could find Judes cabin. This has been the longest walk we ever have taken, sighed Lil. Not that I am the least bit tired. Lil was not quite so robust as Lucy, but wild horses would not drag from her the admission that she could not keep up with her chum.

Lets sit down a minute and rest, suggested Frank, and kinder get our bearings. Im not sure but perhaps it would be less loony if we start right off for home.

The sun had set for them and it was growing quite gloomy down in the valley where the path had finally led them. Of course they well knew that it was shining brightly on those who were so fortunate as to be on the heights, but the thing is they were in the depths.

All right, lets go home, agreed Skeeter. We will strike them at supper, I feel sure.

They retraced their steps, stopping occasionally to argue about the trail. There seemed to be a great many more bypaths going up the mountain than they had noticed going down.

This is right. I know, because here is the fox grape vine we stripped on the way down, cried Lucy, when there was more doubt than usual about whether or not they were on the right road.

Well, more have grown mighty fast, declared Skeeter. Look, this is still full.

But we couldnt reach the high ones and decided like Brer Fox that they were sour.

Brer Fox, indeed! That wasnt Brer Fox but the one in Aesop, laughed Lil.

Well, he acted just like Brer Fox would have acted, anyhow, and I bet Aesop got him from Uncle Remus. But see, Lil! This isnt the same vine. We never could have skipped all these grapes. Only look what beauts!

We might just as well pick em, said Skeeter, suiting the action to the word. They might come in handy later on for eats if we cant find our way home.

Not find our way home! scoffed Frank. Why, home is just over the mountain. All we have to do is keep straight up and go down on the other side. These paths have mixed us up but the mountain is the same old cove. He cant mix us up.

CHAPTER XV
BABES IN THE WOOD

The pull up that mountain was about the hardest one any of those young people had ever had. As a rule Lil and Lucy required no help from the boys, as they prided themselves upon being quite as active as any members of the opposite sex, but now they were glad of the assistance the boys shyly offered.

Just catch on to my belt, Lil; I can pull you up and carry the grapes and my gun, too, insisted Frank, while Skeeter made Lucy take hold of his gun so he could help her.

We are most to the top now, they encouraged the girls. Their way lay over rocks and through brambles, as they had given up trying to keep to a trail since the trails seemed to lead nowhere. They argued if they could get to the top they could see where they were.

The top was reached, but, strange to say, it wasnt a top, after all, but just an excrescence on the side of the mountain, a kind of a hump. It led down sharply into a dimple covered with beautiful green grass, and then towering up on the other side of this dimple was more and more mountain.

Well, aint this the limit? I didnt know there was a place like this on our mountain! exclaimed Frank.

Thaint! This is no more our mountain than Im Josephus, said Skeeter.

Do you think we are lost? asked Lil.

Well, we are certainly not found, and Skeeters young countenance took on a very grim expression.

Somebody please kick me, and then Ill feel better, groaned Frank.

Why kick you? You didnt lose us; we lost ourselves, said Lucy.





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