Nell Speed.

The Carter Girls' Week-End Camp





Lewis and Bill Tinsley went with Douglas and Nan to take stock of the damage and to repair what they could. Their relief was great at the state of affairs until they entered the cabin. The wind and rain had gone straight through it. The pretty rag rugs were sopping wet and, as I have said before, all the dainty finery spread out on the bed, was blown hither and yon. Douglas looked at the havoc in dismay. Would her mother want to buy more things to replace these that were ruined? She missed the pretty hat intended for her own fair head and was in a measure relieved that she would not have to wear it.

Lets build a fire immediately, and Nan began to pile up paper and chips in the open fireplace, the cabin boasting the one chimney in camp where a fire was possible. Now this will dry out the room before mother comes in to go to bed.

Yes, and we had better put a cot in here for Bobby, now that our tent is blown off, suggested Lewis.

But where will you and Bill sleep? asked Douglas.

Oh, we can curl up on the floor of the pavilion. Our cots are soaking. I kept the blankets dry, though.

But I am so afraid you wont be comfortable.

Oh, thats all right! Get us in training for the border! Bill and I have been living so soft I fancy a little roughing it will be good for us.

Lewis sounded rather bitter and Douglas felt that she would give worlds if she could tell him that she had decided she did care for him as he wanted her to. Other girls pretended, why not she? But there was an uprightness about Douglas Carter that would not let her be a party to any form of deceit. She was sorry, very sorry, but she could not be like Tillie Wingo and engage herself to anyone on a moments notice.

We are going to miss both of you ever and ever so much. Think what it would be in a time like this without you to help! I can hardly contemplate running the camp without you.

Oh, that will be easy enough! Skeeter and Frank can do what we have done. You wont miss us at all.

I didnt mean just the work you do, faltered poor Douglas.

Oh, well, the rest wont amount to much, declared Lewis, determined to be difficult.

Bill listened to his chum in amazement. He was in such a seventh heaven of bliss himself that he could not understand anyones being anything but happy. For his part he could not see why Lewis didnt settle matters with his cousin before going to the border. It never entered his head that anyone could refuse a Greek god of a fellow like Lewis Somerville. If a belle like Tillie Wingo could put up with him, why, there was not a girl living who would not jump at his friend.

Nan sniffed a romance in the air where she had not expected to find it. She, like all her family, was so accustomed to the friendship between her elder sister and Lewis that she had not thought of a more serious relationship being the outcome. Lewis was certainly sounding cold and formal and Douglas was looking distressed.

I see how it is, she said to herself; Lewis has proposed to Douglas and Douglas has turned him down.

He told her he was going to enlist and proposed all in one breath and poor old Doug couldnt adjust herself fast enough. She no doubt does love him but doesnt know it. Just wait until he gets out of sight!

The week-enders were finally all put to bed in dry sheets and warmed blankets, after having drunk hot coffee and eaten a rarebit that was so tender even the grouchiest of the grouchy could not get up indigestion over it. The leaven of good-humor spread by the Tuckers and Page Allison had begun to work and all were rising to the occasion and quite proud of themselves over taking everything so philosophically.

The maiden lady who had threatened to leave on the morning train but had been persuaded by Zebedee to stay over to take a moonlight walk with him was now loud in her praise of camp life.

I say the only way to get along is to take things as they come. I was just telling Mr. Tucker that one cant expect the comforts of the Jefferson Hotel up in camp, but then if one wants the comforts of the Jefferson one had better go there and not come to the country. Now I would give up any comforts for the beauties of nature! and so on, and so on!

Dee danced the old-fashioned waltz until she almost forgot how to do a single modern step. The grouchy bachelor forgot to worry about the possibility of damp sheets and babbled along about the dances of the eighties, and promised to teach his young partner the racket and the heel and toe polka if any of the records would fit those defunct dances.

The sprightliness of that particular bachelor was catching, and the two others, who had begun to inquire about time tables with a view to beating a hasty retreat to the safety-firstness of the city, found themselves cheering up, too; and warmed by the good hot coffee, they began to dance with youthful ardor and actually grumbled when the crowd broke up for needed repose.

Arent the Tuckers splendid? said Douglas, when she and her sisters were undressing.

Indeed they are, agreed Helen, and I like that little Allison girl a lot, too. She waltzed in and helped with the eats as though she were one of us.

I think Mr. Tucker is kind of gone on her, drawled Nan.

Nonsense! You are always thinking somebody is gone on somebody, laughed Helen.

Well, somebody always is. He treats her just like he does the twins, only different.

Hows that, like triplets?

But Nan had gone to sleep before she could formulate her ideas about how Mr. Tucker treated Page. She only devoutly hoped he would devise some method by which he could persuade her mother to give up the idea of going to White Sulphur and let Douglas alone about making her debut the following winter.

CHAPTER IX
MR. MACHIAVELLI TUCKER

Nan wondered what Mr. Tucker had in mind to relieve the situation which she had so ingenuously disclosed to him on that little walk in the moonlight. The next morning she watched him closely and there was something about the businesslike way in which he sought out Mrs. Carter, when that lady appeared long after breakfast, that made her divine he had something up his sleeve.

The charming lady was looking especially lovely in a white linen morning dress. She said she had slept splendidly in spite of the fact that she rather missed the rolling of the ship. Again she had kept Susan so busy waiting on her that the labor of serving breakfast properly had fallen on Helen. A tray of breakfast had to be arranged exactly as though they were still in the city, and Susan made many trips from the cabin to the kitchen.

Mrs. Carter was one of those persons who was always treated as more or less of an invalid because of a certain delicate look she had, but her girls could not remember her having had a real illness. She must not be awakened in the morning and she must never be asked to go out in bad weather. She must have the daintiest food; the warmest corner in winter and the coolest in summer. She had never demanded these things, but they had always been given her as though she had a kind of divine right to them. Her husband had, from the moment he saw her, the belle of belles at White Sulphur, felt that she was to be served as a little queen and the children had slipped into their fathers way.

No one would have been more astonished than Annette Carter had anyone accused her of selfishness. Selfishness was something ugly and greedy and no one could say that she was that. She never made demands on anyone. In fact, she quite prided herself on not making demands. Everyone was kind and thoughtful of her, but then was she not kind and thoughtful of everyone? Had she not brought a present to every one of her girls and a great box of expensive toys for Bobby? It was not her fault that Bobby preferred currying that disgraceful-looking old mule to playing with the fine things she had purchased for him at the most exclusive toy shop in New York. Had she not even remembered every one of the servants, not only Susan and Oscar but the ones who had been in her service when she had left Richmond? The fact that she had charged all of these gifts and that the money to pay for them was to be worked for by her daughters had not for a moment entered her mind.

And how is camp life treating you this morning? asked Jeffry Tucker, as he led the little lady to a particularly pleasant corner of the pavilion that commanded a view of the beautiful apple orchards of that county of Virginia famous for the Albemarle pippins. Did you ever see such a morning? I can hardly believe that only last night we were in the throes of the fiercest storm I have ever seen.

Oh, I am quite in love with camp life. It is not so rough as I expected it to be when I arrived yesterday. I have a very comfortable bed and a nice bright fire cheered me up wonderfully after I left the pavilion last night. I must confess I was scared to death during the storm, although I held on to myself wonderfully.

Yes, wonderfully! but Jeffry Tucker crossed his fingers and reached out for a bit of green from the pine tree growing close to the post. He could not but picture the little woman of the evening before hanging on to her husband, intent on protecting her dress and shrieking at every close flash of lightning or loud clap of thunder.

I am so glad you are here because I am thinking of leaving my girls at the camp for a while, and of course I could not think of doing it unless you were here to chaperone them.

Oh, I never thought of my presence being necessary as a chaperone! You know I am thinking of taking Douglas to the White for a fortnight.

Oh, I am sorry. Of course I could not leave my girls unless they are to be chaperoned.

But Robert will be here; he is enough chaperone surely.

Yes, enough in our eyes but not the eyes of the world. You see, I think one cannot be too careful about what Mrs. Grundy will say, and Jeffry Tucker crossed his fingers again and reached for more green, especially when girls are about the age of mine and yours, too, about to be launched in the world, as it were.

He was devoutly thankful that his girls could not hear him indulging in this homily. If there ever lived a person who scorned Mrs. Grundy that was this same Jeffry Tucker. He devoutly hoped that Mrs. Carter would not hear that Page Allison was in the habit of being chaperoned by him, if one could call it being chaperoned. He well knew that as a chaperone Robert Carter had him beat a mile but he felt that a little subterfuge was permissable in as strenuous a case as this.

Why, Mr. Tucker, I did not dream you were such a stickler for the proprieties!

Ahem I am more so than I used to be. Having these girls almost grown makes me feel I must be more careful than my nature er er dictates.

Exactly! I respect you for it. I, too, think it very important, especially if a girl is to make a debut as I mean that Douglas shall. I am very sorry, though, that you could not leave Virginia and Caroline up here in Roberts care. I am sure it will be all right for once. I have quite set my heart on White Sulphur for a few weeks. I think it gives a girl a certain poise to be introduced to society in an informal way before she makes her debut.

Well, I am sorry, too, sorrier than I can say. You see, I had planned to come up again myself next Saturday and I thought I would bring with me Hiram G. Parker. He would like this sort of thing and fit in nicely with these young girls. You know how much he takes to the girls before they are quite grown.

Ye es! and Mrs. Carter was lost in a revery.

She well knew that the name of Hiram G. Parker was one that controlled society. He was the Beau Brummel of Richmond and in some unaccountable way had become the dictator of society, that is of the debutante society. He passed the word about whether or not a girl was to be a belle and his judgment was seldom gainsaid. Mrs. Carter was thinking that no doubt the presence of Hiram G. Parker in their camp would be of more benefit than a trip to White Sulphur. Her position in society was of course assured beyond a doubt but that did not mean a successful debut for one of her daughters, certainly not for one who was to be persuaded if not forced to be a debutante. The business of coming out must be taken quite seriously and the importance of it not belittled. Poor Douglas was taking it seriously enough, but not in a way her mother thought desirable for success.

Do you know, Mr. Tucker, I have half a mind to give up the trip to White Sulphur. It is so pleasant here and so delightful to be with my children again; and if your daughters and that sweet little friend of theirs care to remain with us, I shall be more than pleased to chaperone them.

Oh, you are kind! exclaimed the wily Zebedee. I cannot thank you enough. If you choose to make it so, Camp Carter will vie with White Sulphur as a resort. I shall certainly bring Parker up next week.

Mr. Tucker grasped the first opportunity to inform the anxious Nan of his successfully performed mission.

Oh, how did you do it?

By just a little twist of the wrist. You shall have to put up with my girls though for another week or so. Your mother has promised to chaperone them until I fetch them away.

Splendid! Do they want to stay?

They are dying to. I only hope they wont tear things wide open at camp. They are terribly hoydenish at times.

Mr. Tucker, tell me: did you really get mother to give up White Sulphur just to chaperone the twins and Page?

You ask her! I think she thinks she did.

I believe Ill call you Mr. Machiavelli Tucker.

Dont flatter me so yet. Wait until I accomplish the seemingly impossible of making your mother decide of her own accord that your sister had better not come out yet.

Can you do that, too?

I dont want to sound conceited but I believe I can. This is our secret, so dont tell a soul that we have any hand in this matter. Just let Douglas think it is fortune smiling on her.

All right, but nothing can ever make me forget your kindness! and Nan held his hand with both of hers with no more trace of shyness than Hiram G. Parker might have shown in dancing a german.

What on earth have you done to make Nan so eternally grateful? demanded Dum Tucker, coming suddenly around a spur of rock on the mountain path where her father had accosted Nan.

I am going to leave you girls up here for some days longer. Isnt that enough for her to be grateful over?

We ll, I dont know that sounds rather fishy.

And besides, I am going to send her up a ouija board to pass the hours away until I return. How about that?

Oh, now you are talking! That is something to be grateful about. We are all of us dying to try it, but Dum could not see why Nan was blushing so furiously and evidently trying to hold in the giggles, and she plainly caught a wink passing between her dignified parent and the demure Nan.

Hes up to something, but it wouldnt be very gentlemanly of me to try to find out if he doesnt want me to know, she said to herself.

The Tucker Twins had been motherless since they were tiny babies and their ridiculously young father had had the rearing of them alone and unaided. Many stepmothers had been picked out for these irrepressible girls by well meaning friends and relatives, but Jeffry Tucker had remained unmarried, much to the satisfaction of the said twins.

He is much too young and inexperienced to marry, they would say when the matter was broached by wily mammas who hoped to settle their daughters. And so he did seem to be. Time had no power to age Jeffry Tucker. He was in reality very young to be the father of these great girls, as the romance of his life had occurred when he was only twenty, still in college, and the little wife had died after only a year of happiness.

In rearing his girls he had had only one rule to go by: they must conduct themselves like gentlemen on all occasions. I dont know what ladylike rules are but I do know what is expected of a gentleman, and if my girls come up to that standard I am sure they will pass muster, he had declared. As a rule the twins did pass muster. They were perfectly honorable and upright and the mischief they got into was never anything to be ashamed of only something to be gotten out of, never too serious to tell their father all about.

The fact that they were to stay longer than the week-end was greeted with joy by the Carters. Page had already made herself popular, too. Douglas was soon informed by her mother that she had given up the trip to the White, so some of the load was lifted from the poor girls heart. There was much more talk, however, of the proposed debut and Helen upheld her mother in thinking that since Douglas was not going to college she must come out.

But, Helen, the money for a debut! And if we go into our house and turn out the desirable tenants, where are we to get an income to exist on?

Oh, always money, money! It can be gotten, and mother says our credit is as good as the U. S. mint. She has often heard father say so.

Of course it was as good, but now that father is no longer able to earn money it would not be quite square to presume on that credit when we have no way of paying the bills. Douglas would go over and over the same argument and Helen would still not be convinced.

Are we to spend the rest of our lives digging and delving for gold and then not use the money? How does our bank account stand now?

I dont know, but it is not so large that we could make a debut on it, smiled Douglas.

But we could make a start and then earn some more.

But why spend it on me when I dont want to go into society?

Why, for mothers sake, goose. She has set her heart on it and you know we have always let her do whatever she wanted to. It would make father miserable to think mother wanted something and could not have it.

Yes, I know! He mustnt know she wants it and cant have it.

But she must have it. She is planning all the time for your being a great belle.

Dr. Wright said that father but Helen flounced off, refusing to hear what Dr. Wright said. She had overcome all of her antipathy for that young physician and in fact liked him rather more than anyone of her acquaintance of the male persuasion, but she still resented any tendency on his part to dictate to her.

Mrs. Carter, having given up her trip to White Sulphur, felt that virtue must be rewarded and so actually persuaded Douglas to protect her complexion. She was not allowed to go in the sun at all and in the shade she must wear a great hat tied under her chin, with a curtain of blue veiling draped over it. Every night she must be anointed with some kind of cucumber cream and her hair must be brushed with one hundred licks every night and morning.

Lewis Somerville and Bill Tinsley made their sorrowful adieux. Everyone missed them. They seemed as important to the camp as the great poplar tree in the center of the pavilion was to that edifice. There was a feeling that everything might topple over now that those two young men were gone. It didnt, however. Skeeter Halsey and Frank Maury did what they could to fill their places, but as they expressed it, they sho did rattle round in em.

Mr. Carter, too, delighted to be of use and to find something he could do without using his poor fagged brain too much, was busy at something from morning until night. First the reservoir must be repaired after the heavy rain had caved in part of the dam; then the roof of the cabin needed a shingle here and there. A rustic bench must be put by the spring which formed the reservoir, and then a table was added so that afternoon tea might be served there on occasions. He was so busy and so happy in being busy that it was delightful to see him. Bobby was his companion at all times, even deserting the beloved Josh and Josephus to be with his father. This was a new father, one who had time to play and talk. Together they made wonderful little water wheels and put them in a tiny mountain stream where they turned continuously to the delight of Bobby. The successful architect of other days drew plans for bird houses and he and his little son whittled them out of stray bits of lumber and cigar boxes and placed them in the trees, no doubt filling a long felt want for suburban villas in bird society.

The miracle was happening! The cure that Dr. Wright had predicted was taking place. Robert Carter was on the high road to recovery.





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