Nell Speed.

The Carter Girls' Week-End Camp





We uns kin talk like you uns when we uns remembers, said Bobby.

We uns would like to talk like Spring-keeper but always forgits, sighed Tom Tit. Spring-keeper used to talk just like we uns when he was little but hes got larnin now.

We uns dont never want no larnin, declared Bobby. Taint no use. Josh wants to git larnin, too, but when he does he aint goin to be my bes frien no mo. Im a-goin to be you bes frien then; I mean, we uns is.

Whats a bes frien? We uns aint never found one.

Oh, a bes frien is somebody you likes to be with all the time.

Oh, then Spring-keeper is a bes frien.

But he is an old man. A bes frien must be young.

Then we unsll have to take the baby fox. Will that do?

Oh, yes, thatll do ifn they aint no boys around.

We uns will keep the baby fox for one of them things until Josh gits larnin and then you kin be it, and Tom Tit laughed for joy.

Is you uns ever flew? Tom Tit asked Bobby.

No my mother is so skittish like, she aint never let me. Shes bout one of the scaredest ladies they is.

We uns maw is done flew away herself and she didnt mind when we uns went a bit. We uns useter think that when the men found maw they took her and hid her in a hole in the ground. Spring-keeper done tole me lots of times that she wasnt in the ground but had flew up to heaven, but we uns aint never seed no one fly, so we uns just thought he was a foolin. And you see, he whispered, Spring-keeper is kinder daffy sometimes, so the folks say, and we uns has to humor him. But now but now we uns done flewed away up in the air. If we uns kin fly, why maw kin do it, too. She aint in a hole in the ground no mo. We uns almost saw her flyin way up over the mountain tops.

Im I mean we uns is a-goin to come to see you. My father is goin to take me there some day. Kin you play on the Victrola?

No we uns aint never seed one. What is it?

Why, it makes music.

Oh, we uns kin play the jews-harp.

Gee! I wish I could I mean we uns wishes we uns could. If you show me how to play the jews-harp, Ill show you how to play the Victrola. Come on, Ill show you first while thaint nobody in the pavilion. You see, my sisters is some bossy an theys always sayin I scratch the records an wont never let me play it by myself, but they is about the bossiest ever. I aint a-goin to hurt the old records.

Tom Tit looked at the Victrola with wondering eyes while Bobby wound it up. He had seen a small organ once and the postmistress at Bear Hollow had a piano, but this musical instrument was strange indeed.

Im a-gonter leave the record on that Helens been a-playin. I dont know what it is. I cant read good yet but I reckon its something pretty.

It was Zimbalist playing the Humoresque. Fancy the effect of such a wonderful combination of sounds breaking for the first time on the sensitive ears of this mountain youth.

He had heard music in the wind and music in the water; the birds had sung to him and the beasts had talked to him; but what was this? He stood like one enchanted, his hands clasped and his lips parted. At one point in the music when the great artist was evidently putting his whole soul in it, Tom Tit began to sob. Tears rolled down his cheeks.

Why, whats the matter? Dont you like it? Ill put a ragtime piece on, cried Bobby, abruptly stopping the machine with a scraping sound that certainly proved he was a great scratcher of records.

Oh, now its lost! Its lost! We uns thought we uns had found something beautiful. Where has it gone?

Did you like it then? What made you bawl?

We uns has to cry when we uns finds something beautiful sometimes. We uns cries a little when the sun sets but it is tears of happiness. Can you uns play that again?

Sure! and Bobby started up the Humoresque again and this time Tom Tit dried his eyes and stood with a smile on his face.

Oh, Spring-keeper! he cried when Mr. McRae came hunting him, we uns has found something more beautiful than sunsets and flowers prettier than birds prettier than pink prettier than blue or yellow. It shines like dew and tastes like honey Oh, Spring-keeper, listen!

Yes, my boy, it is beautiful. And now I think you have found enough things for today and we must go home.

Go home and leave this! and Tom Tit embraced the Victrola. We uns cant leave it.

Listen, my boy! I will get one for you. I dont know why I never thought of it before. Within a week you shall have one all your own and play it as much as you choose.

Of course Bobby had to be instructed in the rudiments of jews-harp playing first, according to agreement, and then with many expressions of mutual regard our young people parted from the spring-keeper and Tom Tit.

CHAPTER XIX
A DISCUSSION

August was over and our girls were not sorry. The camp had been like an ant hill all during that month of holidays. Not that it had been a month of holidays for the Carters, far from it. There had been times when they did not see how they could accomplish the work they had undertaken. They were two hands short almost all of the month which made the work fall very heavily on the ones who were left. Gwen was taken up with Aunt Mandy, the kind old mountain woman who had been so good to the little English orphan. Now that Aunt Mandy was ill, Gwen felt it her duty to be with her day and night. Susan was so busy waiting on Mrs. Carter that she never had time for her regular duties in the kitchen.

Lewis and Bill were terribly missed. They had done so many things for the campers, had been so strong and willing and untiring in their service that the girls felt the place could hardly be run without them. Skeeter and Frank did all they could but they were but slips of lads after all and there were many things where a mans strength was necessary.

Mr. Carter was glad to help when he was called on, but he did not seem to see the things that were to be done without having them pointed out. When there was much of a crowd he rather shrank from the noise and the girls felt they must not let him be made nervous by the confusion. Of course there was much confusion when twenty and more boarders would arrive at once, have to be hauled up the mountain and assigned tent room and then as Oscar would say, have to be filled up. The girls would do much giggling and screaming; the young men would laugh a great deal louder than their jokes warranted, and the boys seemed to think that camp was a place especially designed for practical jokes.

It was a common thing to hear shrieks from the tents when the crowd was finally made to retire by the chaperone, and then the cry, Ouch! Chestnut burrs in my bed! Once it was a lemon meringue pie, brought all the way from Richmond by an inveterate joker who felt that a certain youth was too full of himself and needed taking down a peg! Now there is nothing much better than a lemon meringue pie taken internally, but of all the squashy abominations to find in ones bed and to have applied externally, a lemon meringue pie is the worst.

It was as a censor of practical jokes that Douglas and Helen missed the young soldiers most. They had been wont to stand just so much and no more from the wild Indians who came to Camp Carter for the week-end, and now that there was no one to reach forth a restraining hand, there was no limit to the pranks that were played.

Mrs. Carter felt that the job of chaperone for such a crowd was certainly no sinecure. She complained quite bitterly of her duties. After all, they consisted of having the new-comers introduced to her and of presiding at supper and of staying in the pavilion until bed time. Miss Elizabeth Somerville had made nothing of it, and one memorable night when there was too much racket going on from the tents the boys occupied, she had arisen from her bed in the cabin and, wrapped in a dressing gown and armed with an umbrella, had marched to the seat of war and very effectively quelled the riot by laying about her with said umbrella.

The girls looked back on her reign, regretting that it was over. It was lovely to have their mother with them again but she was quite different from the mother they had known in Richmond in the luxurious days. That mother had always been gentle while this one had a little sharp note to her voice that was strange to them. It was most noticeable when she had expressed some desire that was not immediately gratified.

I am quite tired of chicken, she said to Douglas one day. I wish you would order some sweetbreads for me. I need building up. This rough life is very hard on me and nothing but my being very unselfish and devoted makes me put up with it.

Yes, mother! I am sorry, but my order for this week is in the mail and I could not change it now, but I will send a special order for some Texas sweetbreads to Charlottesville. I have no doubt I can get them there.

Either the order or the sweetbreads went astray. Mrs. Carter refused to eat any dinner in consequence and sulked a whole day.

If she only doesnt complain to father we can stand it, Douglas confided to Nan. What are we going to do, Nan? I am so afraid she will make father feel he must go back to work, and then all the good of the rest will be done away with. She treats me, somehow, as though it were all my fault.

Oh no, honey, you mustnt feel that way. Poor little mumsy is just spoiled to death and does not know how to adapt herself to this change of fortune.

You see, Nan, now that Mr. Lane has had to go to Texas with the militia the business is at a standstill. He was trying to fill the orders they had on their books without fathers help.

Yes, Mr. Tucker said that fathers business was a one man affair and when that one man, father, was out of the running there was nothing to do about it. Thank goodness, father is not worrying about things himself.

I know we should be thankful, but somehow his not worrying makes it just so much more dreadful. I feel that he is even more different than mother. It is an awful problem what to do.

Whats a problem? asked Helen, coming suddenly into the tent where her sisters were engaged in the above conversation.

Oh, just just nothing much! faltered Douglas.

Now thats a nice way to treat a partner. You and Nan are always getting off and whispering together and not letting me in on it. Whats worrying you?

The situation!

Political or climatic?

Carteratic! drawled Nan. We were talking about mother and father.

What about them? Is father worse? Helen was ever on the alert when her fathers well-being was in question.

No, he is better in some ways, but unless he is kept free from worry he will never be well, said Douglas solemnly.

She had not broached the subject of money with Helen since the question of White Sulphur had been discussed by them, feeling that Helen would not or could not understand.

Whos going to worry him? Not I!

Of course not you. Just the lack of money is going to worry him, and he is going to feel the lack of it if mother wants things and cant have them.

Why dont you let her have them?

How can I? I havent the wherewithal any more than you.

I thought we were making money.

So we are, but not any great amount. I think it is wonderful that we have been able to support ourselves and put anything in the bank. I had to draw out almost all of our earnings to pay for the things mother bought in New York, not that I wasnt glad to do it, but that means we have not so much to go on for the winter.

Oh, for goodness sake dont be worrying about the winter now! Mother says our credit is so good we need not worry a bit.

Douglas and Nan looked at each other sadly. Douglas turned away with a whats the use expression. Helen looked a little defiant as she saw her sisters distress.

See here, Helen! and this time Nan did not drawl. Helen realized her little sister was going to say something she must listen to. You have got a whole lot of sense but you have got a whole lot to learn. I know you are going to laugh at me for saying you have got to learn a lot that I, who am two years younger than you, already know. You have got to learn that our poor little mumsys judgment is not worth that, and Nan snapped her finger.

Nan! You ought to be ashamed of yourself.

Well, I am ashamed of myself, but I am telling the truth. I dont see the use in pretending any more about it. I love her just as much, but anyone with half an eye can see it. I think what we must do is to face it and then tactfully manage her.

Douglas and Helen could not help laughing at Nan.

You see, she continued, it is up to us to support the family somehow and make mumsy comfortable and keep her from telling father that she hasnt got all she wants. Of course she cant have all she wants, but she can be warm and fed at least.

But, Nan, it isnt up to you to support the family, said Douglas. You must go back to school, you and Lucy.

Well, it is up to me to spend just as little money as possible and to earn some if I can. I am not going to be a burden on you and Helen. You neednt think it.

Well have the one hundred from the rent of the house and then Helen and I shall have to find jobs. What, I dont know.

Well, I, for one, cant find a job until I get some new clothes, declared Helen. I havent a thing that is not hopelessly out of style.

Cant your last winters suit be done over? Mine can.

Now, Douglas, whats the use in going around looking like a frump? I think we should all of us get some new clothes and then waltz in and get good jobs on the strength of them. If I were employing girls I should certainly choose the ones who look the best.

Douglas shook her head sadly. Helen was Helen and there was no making her over. She would have to learn her lesson herself and there was no teaching her.

Dr. Wright says we must keep father out of the city this winter but we need not be in the dead country. We can get a little house on the edge of town so Nan and Lucy can go in to school. I think we can get along on the rent from the house if you and I can make something besides.

When the question of where they were to live for the winter was broached to Mrs. Carter, she was taken quite ill and had to stay in bed a whole day.

No one considers me at all, she whimpered to Nan, who had brought her a tray with some tea and toast for her luncheon. Just because you and Douglas like the country you think it is all right. I am sure I shall die in some nasty little frame cottage in the suburbs. It is ridiculous that we cannot turn those wretched people out of my house and let me go back and live in it again.

But, mumsy, soothed Nan, we are going to make you very comfortable and we will find a pretty house and maybe it will be brick.

But to dump me down in the suburbs when I have had to be away from society for all these months as it is! I am sure if I could talk it over with your father he would agree with me but you girls even coerce me in what I shall and shall not say to my own husband. I do not intend to submit to it any longer.

Oh, mother, please please dont tell father. Dr. Wright says

Dont tell me what Dr. Wright says! I am bored to death with what he says. I know he has been kind but I cant see that our affairs must be indefinitely directed by him. I will sleep a little now if you will let me be quiet.

CHAPTER XX
DR. WRIGHT TO THE RESCUE

Nan went sadly off. What should she do? Dr. Wright was expected at the camp that afternoon and she determined to speak to him and ask him once more to interfere in the Carters affairs. Even if the young physician did bore her mother, it was necessary now for him to step in. If only she would not carry out her threat of speaking to her husband!

Dr. Wright treated the matter quite seriously when Nan told him of the mix-up.

Certainly your father must not be worried. It is quite necessary that he shall be kept out of the city for many months yet and no one must talk money to him. Cant your mother see this?

She doesnt seem to.

But Helen understands, surely!

I I think Helen thinks father is so much better that we can we can kind of begin to spend again, faltered Nan, whose heart misgave her, fearing she might be saying something to obstruct the course of true love which her romantic little soul told her was going on between Helen and Dr. Wright. At least she could not help seeing that he was casting sheeps eyes at Helen, and that while Helen was not casting them back at him she was certainly not averse to his attentions.

Begin to spend again! Ye gods and little fishes! Why, if bills begin to be showered in again on Robert Carter I will not answer for his reason. He is immensely improved, but it is only because he has had no worries. Where is your mother? His face looked quite stern and his kind blue eyes were not kind at all but flashed scornfully.

She is in bed.

Is she ill?

Well, not exactly she she is kind of depressed.

Depressed! Depressed over what?

Oh, Dr. Wright, I hate to be telling you these things! It looks as though I did not love my mother to be talking about her, but indeed I do. Douglas and I are so miserable about it, but we we somehow we feel that we are a great deal older than mumsy. We know it is hard on her all of this

All of what?

This living such a rough life and having to give up society and our pretty house and everything.

Of course it is hard, but then arent all of you giving up things, too?

But we dont mind at least we dont mind much. It is harder on Helen and mother because because they they are kind of different. And they dont understand money.

And do you understand it? laughed the young doctor.

Well, Douglas and I understand it better. We know that when you spend a dollar you havent got a dollar, but Helen and mother seem to think if you havent got it you can charge it. I think they are suffering with a kind of disease chargitis.

George Wright was looking quite solemn as he made his way to the cabin where Mrs. Carter had taken to her bed. He was not relishing the idea of having to speak to the wife of his patient, but speak he must. He knew very well that Nan would never have come to him if matters had not reached a crisis. How would Helen take his interference? He could not fool himself into the belief that what Helen said and thought made no difference to him. It made all the difference in the world. But duty was duty and since he was ministering to a mind diseased, he must guard that mind from all things that were harmful to it, just as much as a doctor who is treating an open wound must see that it is kept aseptic. If Robert Carters wife was contemplating upsetting the good that had been done her husband, why, it was his duty as that husbands physician to warn her of the result.

Mrs. Carter was looking very lovely and pathetic, acting the invalid. An extremely dainty and costly negligee accentuated her beauty. Her cabin room, while certainly not elegant, was perfectly comfortable and kept in spotless condition by the devoted Susan. There were no evidences of rough living in her surroundings and the hand which she extended feebly to welcome the physician could not have been smoother or whiter had it belonged to pampered royalty.

Ah, Dr. Wright, it is kind of you to come in to see me. She smiled a wan smile.

I am sorry you are ill. What is troubling you? He felt her pulse, and finding it quite regular, he smiled, but did not let her see his amusement.

I think it is my heart. I can make no exertion without great effort.

Any appetite?

Oh, very little I never eat much, and I am so tired of chicken! Fried chicken, broiled chicken, stewed chicken!

Yes, spring chicken is a great hardship, no doubt, he said rather grimly.

I like broiled chicken very much in the spring, but I never did care very much for chicken in the summer. People seem to have chicken so much in the summer. I never could see why.

It might be because it is cheaper when they are plentiful, he suggested, finding it difficult to keep the scorn he felt for this foolish little butterfly out of his voice.

Perhaps it is, I never thought of that.

Helen came in just then, bringing a bouquet of garden flowers that Mr. McRae had sent to the ladies of the camp.

I might as well tackle them together, he thought, taking a long breath.

Ahem are your plans for the winter made yet? he asked Mrs. Carter.

Why, the girls at least Douglas and Nan, have some ridiculous scheme about taking a cottage in the suburbs and letting those people keep my house. I dont see why I need call it my house, however, as I seem to have no say-so in the matter, she answered complainingly. Helen and I both think it would be much more sensible to go into our own house and be comfortable. Douglas is very unreasonable and headstrong. The paltry sum that these tenants pay is the only argument she has against our occupying the house ourselves.





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