Nell Speed.

The Carter Girls' Week-End Camp



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УExcuse me, Mrs. Carter, but as your husbandТs physician, I may perhaps be able to point out the relation of the steady, if small, income from the house and his very serious condition.Ф

УI Ц I thought he was almost well.Ф

УNo, madam, much better but not almost well! Do you think that if he were almost well he would sit passively down and let his daughters decide for him as he is doing now? Has he not always been a man of action, one to take the initiative? Look at him now, not even asking what the plans are when you leave the camp, which you will have to do in the course of a few weeks. CanТt you see that he is still in a very nervous state and the least little worry might upset his reason? No troubles must be taken to him. He must not be consulted about arrangements any more than Bobby would be. His tired brain is beginning to recover and a few more months may make him almost himself again, but,Ф and Dr. Wright looked so stern and uncompromising that Helen and her mother felt that the accusing angel had them on the last day, the day of judgment, Уif he is worried by all kinds of foolish little things, there will be nothing for him but a sanitarium. I am hoping that he will be spared this, and it rests entirely with his family whether he is spared it or not.Ф

УOh, Doctor, I shall try!Ф and poor little Mrs. Carter looked very like Bobby and not much older. УI have been very remiss. I did not know.Ф

УAnother thing,Ф and the accusing angel went on in a stern voice. He had heard all of this before from this little butterfly woman and he felt that he must impress upon her even more the importance of guarding her husband from all financial worries. УIf when heТs well he finds bills to be paid and obligations to be met, he will drop right back into the condition in which I found him last May when I was called to the case. You remember,Ф and he turned to Helen, Уhis troubled talk about lamb chops and silk stockings, do you not?Ф

Helen dropped the gay bouquet and covered her face with her hands. Great sobs shook her frame. Remember! Could she ever forget it? And yet she had been behaving as though she had forgotten it, only that morning insisting she must have a new suit before she could get a job. What was Dr. Wright thinking of her? He had spoken so sternly and looked so scornful.

His scorn was all turned to concern now. He had not meant to distress Helen so much, only to impress upon her the importance of not letting financial worries reach her father. He looked at the poor stricken little woman who seemed to have shrivelled up into a wizened little child who had just been punished. Had he been too severe in his harangue? Well, nothing short of severity would reach the selfish heart of Mrs. Carter. But Helen Ц Helen was not selfish, only thoughtless and young. He had not meant to grieve her like this.

УIТm sorry,Ф was all he could say.

УIt seems awful that we should be so blind that you should have to say such things to us,Ф said Helen, trying to control her voice.

УI know I am a worthless woman,Ф said the poor little mother plaintively.

УNobody ever expected me to be anything else and I have never been anything else. I donТt understand finance Ц I donТt understand life. Please call Douglas and Nan here, Helen. I want to speak to them.Ф

УLet me do it,Ф said the young doctor eagerly. He felt that running away from the scene of disaster would be about the most graceful thing he could do just then.

УI believe I should like you to be here if you donТt mind.Ф

Nan and Douglas were quickly summoned, indeed they were near the cabin, eagerly waiting to hear the outcome of the interview that they well knew Dr. Wright was having with their mother.

УMy daughters,Ф began the little lady solemnly, УI have just come to the realization of my worthlessness. I want all of you to know that I do realize it, and with Dr. Wright as witness I want to resign in a way as Ц as Ц as a guardian to you. Your judgment is better than mine and after this I am going to trust to it rather than to my own. I know nothing about money, nothing about economy. Douglas, you will have to be head of the family until your poor father can take up his burdens again. Whatever you think best to do, I will do. Treat me about as you treat Bobby and Lucy Ц no, not Lucy Ц even LucyТs judgment is better than mine.Ф

Douglas was on her knees by the bedside, holding her mother in her arms.

УOh, mumsy! Mumsy! DonТt talk that way about yourself. It Тmost kills me.Ф

Nan buried her face in her hands. She was sure she felt worse than any of them because she had given voice to exactly the same truth concerning her mother in her conversation with Douglas and Helen.

Dr. Wright would have been glad if he had never been born, but since he had been he would have welcomed with joy an earthquake if it had only come at that moment and swallowed him up. Would Helen ever forgive him? He had no idea he was having such an effect on Mrs. Carter. She had seemed to him heartless and selfish and stubborn. She was in reality nothing but a child. She was no more responsible than Bobby himself.

Mrs. Carter, childlike, was in a way enjoying herself very much. Had she not been punished and now were not all the grownups sorry for her and petting her? She had announced her policy for ever after and now nothing more was ever to be expected of her. Life was not to be so hard after all. Her Robert was still in a way ill, but he would get well finally, and now Douglas would take hold and think for her. Her girls would look after her and take care of her. She regretted not having a debutante daughter, as she well knew that society was one thing she could do, but since that was to be denied her, she would be the last person in the world to make herself disagreeable over her disappointment. A saccharine policy was to be hers on and after this date. Unselfishness and sweetness were to be synonymous with her name.

All of the daughters kissed her tenderly and Dr. Wright bent over her fair hand with knightly contrition.

How pleasant life was!

A tray, more daintily arranged than usual, was brought in at supper time, and under a covered dish there reposed the coveted sweetbreads.

CHAPTER XXI
LETTERS

Miss Nan Carter from Mr. Thomas Smith
By Wireless from the Clouds,
September Е 19..

My dear Wood Nymph:

I have made many flights and many landings but no landing has been so delightful as the one I made on Helicon and no flight so beautiful as when a certain little wood nymph deigned to accompany me.

I think very often of the few happy days I spent at Week-End Camp and of the hospitable Carters. The picnic on the fallen tree was the very best picnic I ever attended and the game of teakettle the best game I ever played.

Some day, and not so many years hence I hope it will be, I intend to make a flight and take my teakettle with me. Guess what that word is!

Bellerophon.

Miss Douglas Carter from Mr. Lewis Somerville
Brownsville, Texas, September Е 19..

My dear Douglas:

Your letter telling of the doings of the camp made Bill and me mighty blue. We think maybe we should not have left you when we did, but we felt we were getting too soft hanging round you girls all the time, and then, too, we wanted to let Uncle Sam know that we were willing to do any kind of old work that came up to do. If he wanted to ship us from West Point, all well and good Ц that was his own affair, but we feel that since he has given us three yearsТ education we must pay him back somehow, and enlisting is about the only way we can do it. At first we thought perhaps it had better be with the volunteers, and then we thought maybe the regulars could do better service, so regulars it is. It does seem funny to be in the ranks when we had always expected to be officers, but that is all right Ц we are not grouching. No doubt it is good for us. At least we can get the outlook of the private, and if because of bravery or luck we ever rise from the ranks, we can better understand the men under us.

It is awfully hot down here but just when it is so hot that you feel you must turn over on the other side to keep from burning and to brown evenly, why a wind comes up they call Уa northerФ and you sizzle like a red hot poker stuck into cold water. A norther is about the coldest and most penetrating thing I have ever struck. We never seem to catch cold, however. The norther blows all the germs off of one, I fancy.

Bill is fine. Already he is known by his guffaw. He let out a laugh the other day that made General Funston jump, and I can tell you that is going some. Not many people can lay claim to the distinction of having made that great man jump. I think they ought to send Bill out to hunt Villa. If that bandit is hiding in the mountains, I bet Bill could laugh loud enough to make him peep out to see whatТs up. HeТs mighty soft on Tillie Wingo and carries her tin-type around his neck.

I want to tell you, dear Douglas, that I think you were just exactly right to turn me down the way you did. I am ashamed of myself to have asked you to think of me when I realize how far I am from success. I may be a private for the rest of my life and what could I offer a girl like you? I know it wasnТt that that kept you from being engaged to me, but it would have been very ridiculous for me to have bound you by a promise when I may be old and gray-headed before I even get a sergeantТs stripes.

Please write to me when you find time and tell me what the plans are for the winter. I wish I could help you some, but about all I am good for is to keep the Mexicans from getting into Texas and maybe finding their way up to Virginia, where you are. I feel about as big as a grain of sand on a Texan prairie. My love to all the Carters.

Your very affectionate cousin,

Lewis Somerville.

Miss Helen Carter from Dr. George Wright
Richmond, Va., September Е 19..

My dear Miss Helen:

The thought of having wounded you is very bitter to me. I did not mean to be unkind either to you or your mother. I know you must wish you had never seen me. I seem to have spent my time since I first met you making myself unpleasant. If you can forgive me, please write and say so. I hope your mother is better and that her appetite has returned. If I can be of any service to you at any time and in any way, you must call on me.

Very sincerely,

George Wright.

Miss Lucy Carter from Frank Maury
Richmond, Va., September Е 19..

Dear Lucy:

Not much on writing but here goes. Skeeter and I took Lil to the movies last night and we wished for you some. Movies donТt touch the tramps in the mountains but they are better than nothing. When are you going to leave those diggings and come back to the good old burg? Skeeter ate three cream puffs and two ice cream cones after the show and washed them down with a couple of chocolate milk shakes. Mrs. Halsey says she may have to go to boarding to fill her hopeful up. I pity the boardinghouse keeper. The worst thing about Skeeter is that he never shows his keep. After all those weeks in the mountains and all those good eats he is as skinny as ever. Do you ever see Mr. Spring-keeper and Tom Tit? I sent Tom Tit a rag time record for his new Victrola. It is a peach and I bet it will set him to dancing to beat a jewТs-harp. Lil, who is mighty missish, says Tom Tit has too good taste to like such common music but I just know he will like it. Skeeter sends his regards. He and I are both to have military training at the high school so you will see us in skimpy blue gray uniforms when you come back to Richmond. Skeeter looks powerful skinny in his. I donТt know what I look like in mine.

Yours truly,

Frank Maury.

The silence of September settled down upon Camp Carter. The mountains had never been more glorious nor a period of rest and recreation more welcome. Noise, numbers, confusion Ц all were conspicuously absent. To look back was gratifying and to feel an inward sense of Уwell done!Ф was satisfying.

The summer was over for the Carter girls but their work was by no means finished. Unforeseen obstacles were no doubt to be met and overcome; many problems were to puzzle them and hard lessons were to be learned. But at the same time happy days were to be in store for them, their lives, like all of ours, a mixture of sunshine and shadow, work and play. They looked toward the future with eager hope. In УThe Carter GirlsТ Mysterious NeighborsФ we will hear how they came in touch with some of the wide-reaching events of the world war.

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