Nell Speed.

The Carter Girls' Week-End Camp





There was a rather pathetic droop to Douglas young shoulders as though the weight of the universe were getting a little too much for her. Mr. Tucker looked from her to Robert Carter who seemed to be accepting things as he found them with an astonishing calmness. He was certainly a changed man. Remembering him as a person of great force and energy, who always took the initiative when any work was to be done or question decided, his old friend wondered at his almost flabby state. Here he was calmly letting his silly wife, because silly she seemed to Jeffry Tucker, although charming and even lovable, put aside his daughters desires for an education and force her into society. He could see it all with half an eye and what he could not see for himself the speaking countenance of the third Carter, Nan, was telling him as plainly as a countenance could. He determined to talk with the girl as soon as supper was over and see if he could help her in some way, how, he did not know, but he felt that he might be of some use.

The supper was a very merry one in spite of the depression that had seized poor Douglas. She tried not to let her gloom permeate those around her. Helen was in a perfect gale and the Tucker Twins took their cue from her and the ball of good-humored repartee was tossed back and forth. Tillie Wingo was resplendent in a perfectly new dancing frock. The beaux buzzed around her like bees around a honey pot. The silent Bill Tinsley kept on saying nothing but his calf eyes were more eloquent than any words. He had fallen head over heels in love with the frivolous Tillie from the moment she offered to tip him on the memorable occasion of her first visit to the camp. Lewis Somerville, usually with plenty to say for himself, was almost as silent as his chum, Bill. It seemed as though Douglas low spirits had affected her cousin.

What is it, Douglas? he whispered, as he took the last plate of salad from her weary hand. You look all done up. Are you sick?

No, indeed! Nothing!

When the animals have finished feeding, I want to talk to you. Can you give me a few minutes?

Why, of course, Lewis, as many as you want.

Douglas and Lewis had been friends from the moment they had met. That had been some eighteen years before when Douglas had been crawling on the floor, not yet trusting to her untried legs, and Lewis, just promoted from skirts to breeches, had proudly paraded up and down in front of his baby cousin. There never had been a problem in Douglas life that she had not discussed with her friend, but she felt a delicacy in talking about this trouble that had arisen on her horizon because it would mean a certain criticism of both her mother and sister.

Walk after supper? Bill whispered to Tillie. Something to say. Tillie nodded an assent.

Supper over, the tables and chairs were piled up in a twinkling and the latest dance record put on the Victrola.

Why, this is delightful! exclaimed Mrs.

Carter, looking around for Mr. Tucker to come claim her for the first dance, but she saw that gentleman disappearing over the mountainside with Nan.

Nan is entirely too young for such nonsense! she exclaimed with some asperity, but partners were forthcoming a-plenty so she was soon dancing like any girl of eighteen, while her indulgent husband smoked his pipe and looked contentedly on.

Susan and Oscar washed the dishes with more rattling than usual as Oscar had much grumbling in store for the delinquent Susan.

Wherefo you done lef yo wuck to Miss Helen?

Is a-helpin Mis Carter. She kep me a-openin boxes an hangin up things. I knowed Miss Helen wouldnt min. She thinks her maw oughter have what she wants. I done heard her tell Miss Douglas that she means to see her maw has her desires fulfilled. Sounded mos lak quallin the way the young missises was a-talkin.

Well, all I got to say is that Mis Carter aint called on to git any mo waitin on than the young ladies. Theys as blue-blooded as what she is an even mo so as they is got all the blood shes got an they paws beside. I bet she aint goin to tun a han to fill any of these folks up. There she is now a-dancin round like a teetotaller a-helpin the boarders to shake down they victuals. Ill be boun some of these here Hungarians will be empty befo bed time.

CHAPTER VI
POSTPRANDIAL CONVERSATIONS

It was a wonderful night. The sun had set in a glory of clouds while Oscar was still endeavoring to fill em up. The moon was full and round as the shield of my fathers. It was very warm with not a breeze stirring. Jeffry Tucker drew Nan down on the first fallen log they came to out of reach of the noise from the pavilion.

It is fine to be able to leave the city for a while, he said, drawing in deep breaths of mountain air. And now, Miss Nan Carter, I want you to tell me what was the reason for the S. O. S. that you sent out to me as plain as one pair of eyes can speak to another. I am a very old friend of your father, have known him ever since I was a little boy at school where I looked up to him and admired him as only a little boy can a big one. I see he is in poor health, at least in a nervous state, and I am wondering if there isnt something I can do. I dont want to butt in you understand that, dont you? But if I can help, I want to.

And then Nan Carter did just exactly what everybody always did: she took Jeffry Tucker into her confidence and told him all of the troubles of the family. He listened attentively.

I see! The rent from the house in Richmond is the only income you can depend upon just now, and your mother wants to live at home again and have Miss Douglas make her debut in state. She has given up college for lack of funds, but she is to make her debut instead a much more expensive pastime, I fancy. What does your father say?

Oh, that is the terrible part of it! We dont want anyone to appeal to father he is sure to say that mother must do just as she chooses. He always has said that and he thinks that he is put on earth just to gratify mothers every wish. Mr. Tucker, please dont think mother is selfish it isnt that she is just inexperienced.

Certainly not! Certainly not! But that gentleman crossed his fingers and quickly possessed himself of a bit of green leaf, which was the Tucker twins method, as children, when they made a remark with a mental reservation, the remark for politeness and the mental reservation for truth.

You see, if father begins to think that mother wants things that it will take more money to buy, he will go back to work, and Dr. Wright says that nothing but a complete rest will cure him rest and no worries.

Cant Dr. Wright have a plain talk with your mother and explain matters to her?

Ye-e-s, but there is a kind of complication there, too. You see, Dr. Wright had a horrid time at first trying to beat it into us that father was in a bad way. Helen kicked against his diagnosis like I dont know what, treated Dr. Wright mighty badly. He was fine about it and so patient that by and by Helen came to her senses, and began to appreciate all he had done for father, and she and Dr. Wright are real good friends. Now Helen is siding with mother and thinks that whatever mother wants to do she should do. She even wants Douglas to go to White Sulphur with mother for several weeks, right now in our very busiest season.

Mr. Tucker could not help laughing at the child by his side, so seriously discussing the trials of her family and now talking about their busiest season like some veteran hotel keeper.

White Sulphur would mean an added expense, too, he suggested.

Of course, and Helen says she will take her share of the summers earnings and send mother. Helen is very generous and very impulsive, with no more idea of saving for winter than a grasshopper.

This is what I take it you want me to do: make your mother change her mind about going to White Sulphur and decide of her own accord that this winter it would be a mistake to bring Miss Douglas out to make her bow before Richmond society.

Exactly! Oh, Mr. Tucker, if you only could without having father even know that mother is not having everything she wants!

Ill do my best. I may have to take Dr. Wright into consultation before I get through. Already a plan is surging in my brain.

Lets fly back to the pavilion then and you start to work!

Nan forgot to be shy in her eagerness to thank Mr. Tucker for his interest in their affairs and her hurry to get him launched in the undertaking of coercing her mother without that little ladys knowledge. She wondered if she had spoken too plainly about Dr. Wright and Helen. Nan was sentimental, as one of her poetic nature would be apt to be, and the budding romance that she thought she could spy springing up between Dr. Wright and her sister, far be it from her to blight. She felt sure Dr. Wright would feel it to be his duty to protect his patient from mental worry, but she was also sure that Helen would be quite impatient if Dr. Wright ventured to criticize her mother. What a relief it was to have unbosomed herself to this dear, kind Mr. Tucker, who understood her so readily and still did not seem to think her poor little mother was selfish or silly! (The crossing of fingers and holding something green had escaped her notice.)

I wont tell Douglas I have said anything to him, she promised herself. It would be difficult to explain that I caught his eye at the supper table and he divined that I was in trouble. That is the truth, though, no matter how silly it sounds.

She wondered what the plan was that had begun to surge but she determined to leave it to Mr. Tucker. That gentleman, whatever his idea of attack, did not immediately approach her mother but made his way to the middle of the pavilion where he awaited his chance to break in on a dance with Page Allison, his daughters friend.

She may be part of his plan! Who knows? At any rate, I believe he is going to get us out of the trouble somehow.

As Douglas and Lewis left the pavilion they took the path straight up the mountain. Lets go this way and shake the crowd for a little while, suggested Lewis.

But we mustnt be long. Helen will have too much entertaining to do. We cant get it out of our heads that we must treat these boarders as though we were having a house-party.

Well, I reckon thats the reason you have been so successful. I have heard some of the fellows say that they never hear the chink of coin here. It really seems like a house-party.

I am so glad, but I am glad of the chink of coin, too.

But, Douglas, I did not bring you out here to talk about boarders and coin I have got something else to say. Bill and I have just been waiting until Cousin Robert and Cousin Annette got back because we couldnt leave you without any protection

Leave us! Oh, Lewis!

Do you mind really, Douglas?

Mind? Why, I cant tell you how much I mind!

We know we have no business staying here indefinitely and we feel we must get to work. We are going to enlist for the Mexican border. We have got over our grouch against Uncle Sam for firing us from West Point and now that he needs us, we are determined to show him we are ready to serve him in any capacity. You know we are right, dont you?

Ye-e-s, but

By that time Lewis had taken possession of Douglas hands and with a voice filled with emotion, he said:

I cant bear to leave you, but now Cousin Robert is here he will make it safe for you. I have tried to help some

Oh, and you have! We couldnt have done a thing without you and Bill.

I dont know about that. I believe there is no limit to what you Carter girls can do but, Douglas honey before I go to Mexico I I just have to tell you how much I love you. I dont mean like a cousin Im not such close kin to you after all I mean I love you so much that the thought of leaving you is agony. You knew all the time that it was no cousin business, didnt you, Douglas?

Why, Lewis, I never thought of such a thing. You are almost like my brother, and Douglas devoutly wished the moon would hurry up and get behind a big black cloud that was coming over the mountain.

Brother much! Im not the least little bit like a brother. Bills got sisters and I dont believe he is bothering about leaving them one-tenth as much as he is leaving Tillie Wingo. Why, honey, ever since I can remember I have been meaning to get you to marry me when we both grew up. Of course, I cant ask you to marry me now as I havent a piece of prospect and will have to enlist in the ranks and work up, but I mean to work up fast and be so steady that Ill be a lieutenant before Carranza and Villa can settle their difficulty. Wont you be engaged to me so Ill have something to work for until I can see you again?

Engaged to you! Why, Lewis, I I how can I be when it is so sudden? You never told me before that you cared for me the least little bit.

Told you before! Ye Gods and little fishes! Ive been telling you for pretty near eighteen years.

Well, I never heard you!

Why dont you say you dont give a hang for me and let me go?

But, Lewis, I give a whole lot of hangs for you and I dont want you to go.

Oh, I know the kind of hangs you give: just this brother and sister business, and the young man dropped the girls hands.

Douglas felt like crying, but Lewis was so absurd she had to laugh. What time had she to think about getting engaged? She felt as though the whole world rested on her young shoulders. Here was her mother wanting her to make a debut, and Helen wanting to spend on a silly trip the pitiful little money they had begun to save from their boarding camp. And now Lewis Somerville and Bill Tinsley, the brawn and sinew of their undertaking, suddenly deciding that they must enlist and hike out for the Mexican border!

We must go back to the pavilion, she said wearily. Her voice sounded very tired and she stumbled a little as she turned to go down the path.

Now, Douglas, I have distressed you, and Lewis was all thoughtfulness and consideration. I didnt mean to, honey I just want you to say you love me the way I love you.

And I cant say it, because I never thought of your caring for me in any different way. You are the best friend I have in the world.

Well, that is something and I am going to keep on being it. Maybe when I come back from Mexico you will think differently. You will write to me, wont you?

Why, of course I will, Lewis! Havent I always written to you?

Douglas, dont you think you could love me a little?

But, Lewis, I do love you a whole lot!

But I mean be engaged to me?

Lewis Somerville, would you want me to be engaged to you when you know perfectly well that I have never thought of you except as the very best friend Ive got in the world, and if not as a brother, at least as a cousin who has been almost like a brother? If I did engage myself to you, you wouldnt have the least bit of respect for me and you know you wouldnt; would you?

But Lewis would not answer. He just drew her arm in his and silently led her back to the pavilion. The big cloud had made its way in front of the moon and he took advantage of the darkness to kiss her hand, but he was very gentle and seemingly resigned to the brother business that he had so scorned. His youthful countenance was very sad and stern, however, as he turned and made his way to the tent that he shared with Bill and Bobby.

Bill Tinsley and Tillie Wingo, too, were walking on the mountainside, Bill as silent as the grave but in a broad grin while Tillie kept up her accustomed chatter. It flowed from her rosy lips with no more effort than water from a mountain spring.

Do you know, Mr. Tinsley, that I have danced out five dresses this summer? As for shoes! If Helen had not given me some of her slippers, I would be barefooted this minute. I dont mind this rough dressing in the day time, but I must say when evening comes I like to doll up. I believe Mrs. Carter feels the same way. Isnt that a lovely dress she has on this evening? There is no telling what it cost. If their mother can buy such a frock as that, I think it is absurd for the girls to be working so hard and believe me, they are some workers. Now, Im real practical and know how to dress on very little and, if I do say it that shouldnt, I bet there is not a girl in Richmond who makes a better appearance on as little money as I spend, but I know what things cost you cant fool me and Im able to tell across the room that that filmy lace effect that Mrs. Carter is sporting set her back a good seventy-five.

Whew! from Bill.

Easy, seventy-five, I say, and maybe more! It would take a lot of week-enders to pay for it and I bet she no more thinks about it than she does about the air she breathes. Now she wants to bring Douglas out and you know she wouldnt be willing to let her come out like a poor girl no sirree! Douglas would have to have all kinds of clothes and all kinds of parties. She would have to come out in a blaze of glory if her mother has a finger in it. Girls who come out that way dont have such a lot on the ones who just quietly crawl out like I did, finstance. I just quietly crawled you could not call it coming

Here Bill gave one of his great laughs, breaking his vow of silence. At least it seemed as though he must have made such a vow as through all of Tillies chatter he had uttered not one word more than the Whew over Mrs. Carters extravagance. The picture of Tillies quietly crawling got the better of his risibles.

You neednt laugh! I can assure you I came out in home-made clothes and during the entire winter I had not one thing done for me to push me in society not a cup of tea was handed in my name. One lady did put my card in some invitations she got out, trying to relaunch a daughter who had been out for three seasons and gone in again, but she had an inconvenient death in the family and had to recall the invitations; so I got no good of it after all. Not that I cared goodness no! I had all the fun there was to have and Im still having, although Im not able to keep in the swim, giving entertainments and what not. Of course, I was not included in select luncheons and dinner dances and the like. Those expensive blowouts are given with a view of returning all kinds of obligations or of putting people in your debt so you are included in theirs but I got to all the big things and got there without the least wire-pulling or working. Of course, I did get to some of the small things because I was run in a lot as substitute when some girl dropped out. I wasnt proud and did not mind in the least being second or third choice. People who never entertain need not expect to be on the original list. I just took a sensible view of the matter. I tell you, if a girl wants to have a good time shes got no business with a chip on her shoulder. Society is a give-and-take game and if you are poorish and want to get without giving, youve got to be willing to do a lot in the way of swallowing your pride. At least, I had no slights offered me where the dancing men were concerned. I made every german and that is something many a rich debutante cant say for herself.

Tillie paused for breath and then Bill opened his mouth to speak, but the loquacious Tillie got in before he could begin and he had to wait.

Now I believe Douglas would have lots of attention even if her mother did nothing to help on, but Mrs. Carter would enjoy having a daughter in society more than a daughter would enjoy being there, I believe, and she would be entertaining and spending money from morning until night. Of course, Lewis Somerville would be lots of help as he would stand ready to take Douglas anywhere that she did not get a bid from some other man

But Lewisll be gone, broke in Bill.

Gone! Nonsense! Now that he is out of West Point Ill be bound he will just dance attendance on Douglas. He is dead gone on her. That helps a lot in a girls first year: to have a devoted that is, if he is not silly jealous.

Hell be gone.

Gone where?

Mexican border!

But he is out of soldiering.

Both of us enlisting! Tillie was absolutely silenced for a moment and Bill went on: See here, Miss Wingo, Tillie! Id be glad if you would if Im stuck on you for sure.

Oh, come off! You know you think Im the silliest ever.

I think you are about the prettiest, jolliest ever. I wish you would let me go off to Mexico engaged to you. It would make it lots easier to work and I mean to work like a whole regiment and make good. Wont you, Tillie?

Well, I dont care if I do. You are a fine dancer and I think a heap of you, Bill. Id rather keep it dark, though, if you dont mind, as it queers a girls game sometimes if she gets engaged.

Lord, no! I dont mind just so I know it myself, and the happy Bill enfolded his enamorata in his arms, although she carefully admonished him not to crush her new dress.





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