Nell Speed.

The Carter Girls' Week-End Camp





CHAPTER X
MR. HIRAM G. PARKER

Susan had been kept very busy all week doing ladys maid work for her mistress. Susans usefulness in the kitchen was about over, the Carter girls feared. There never seemed to be a moment that she was not wanted to wait on Mrs. Carter. When she took the daintily arranged breakfast tray to the cabin she was kept to fetch and carry and do a million foolish little nothings that an idle woman can always find to occupy other persons. Then the many new dresses must be pressed and white skirts must be laundered. Mrs. Carter always had worn white in the summer, and although washing was something of a problem at the camp, she still must wear white. Not a speck must be on those snowy garments even if it did take all of Susans time to keep them in condition.

There is no excuse for letting oneself go even if it is necessary to live in a camp, she would assert. I think it is very important to look nice wherever one happens to be.

It sho is, Mis Carter, an you jes call on me to washanirn all the things you need. Thats what Im here fur, and Susan, who much preferred the job of ladys maid to that of assistant cook, gathered up an armful of rumpled skirts and blouses and carried them off to launder. She adored her mistress and saw no reason at all why the girls need mind doing extra work so that she could give all of her attention to the whims of the mother.

Whats all that? grumbled Oscar, who saw many reasons why Miss Helen should not be doing Susans work. You aint a-goin to do no washinanirnin in this hyar kitchen today. You know puffectly well that them thar week-enders is a-comin pilin in hyar this ebenin, all of em as empty as gourds.

Well, these here langery is got to be did up, an I is got to do em up, an as fur as I know thaint no place to do em up but in the kitchen. Its jes because of some of these here week-enders that they is got to be landered. You is so ignrant that you dont know that one of these here week-enders what is a-comin is what Mis Carter call a arbitrator of sassiety.

Well, I may be ignrant but I knows one thing, that ifn a nice little gal named Miss Page Allison hadnt a come in an helped Miss Helen an I, we wouldnt a got breakfast on the table. Miss Gwen warnt here this mornin cause that ole po white mounting ooman what she calls Aunt Mandy done took with cramps in the night an Miss Gwen couldnt leave her. This is a been the busiest week of the camp an you you aint been wuth standin room in de bad place all week. You an yo mistress with yo langery an yo arbors of sassiety. I dont know who he is a-comin but whoever he is, he aint no bettern our folks.

Hes Mr. Hiram G. Parker hisself!

What, that little ole Hi Parker? He aint nuthin. If hes done riz to the top er sassiety its caze hes the scum an the scum jes natchly gits on top. Who was his folks? Tell me that, who was they? You dont know an neither do lots er folks but I knows an he knows.

Thats the reason hes so particlar bout who he consorts with. He has to be! Yi! Yi! He has to be! Arbor er sassiety much! Back poch er sassiety, mo lak! and Oscar chuckled with delight at his wit.

I betcher Mis Carter better not hear you a-talkin thataway.

Well, she aint a-goin ter hear me cause I aint a-goin ter talk thataway befo her, but that aint a-keepin me from knowin all about little Hi Parkers fo-bars. Thaint much ter know cause he warnt troubled with many. His grandpap had a waggin with a bell on it an went aroun hollerin: Ragsoleioncopperanbrass! Ragsoleioncopperanbrass! I member it mighty well cause my mammy uster say she goin ter thow me in the waggin an sell me ter ole Parker if I didnt have myself.

Well, howsomever it might a-been, taint thataway now! Mis Carter is cited over his a-comin. She done made po Miss Douglas sleep with some kinder wax on her competence las night to peel off the remains of the sunburn an she done made her promus not to wear that there cowboy suit for supper. Mis Carter says she thinks Miss Douglas oughter be dressed in diafricanus interial.

Humph! The missus is all right, but she better let these here young ladies run this here camp like they been doin. If they take to dressin up itll mean all yo timell be spent pressin an fixin an I want ter know wholl be a-doin yo work. Not me! By the time I get through butlerin these here week-enders, I aint got the back ter washanwipe all the dishes.

Susan quietly started the charcoal brazier and put her irons to heat. She knew that the mistress word was law and that although Oscar might grumble until he was even blacker in the face than nature had made him, he would go on washing dishes until he dropped in his tracks rather than make a real disturbance.

Nan and Dum Tucker came to the kitchen after breakfast and helped him while Susan washed and ironed the many white things that Mrs. Carter had discarded as too soiled to appear before Mr. Hiram G. Parker.

Ill wash and you wipe, suggested Nan.

No, please let me wash, begged Dum, I adore sloshing in suds.

Well, theys lots er suds here ter slosh in, grinned Oscar, bringing a great steaming dish pan, an if you is so enjoyful of suds, mebbe you young ladies could spare me altogether an let me pick them there chickens gainst its time ter fry em for supper.

Yes, indeed! Go! from Dum. We can do them in no time, cant we, Nan?

We can do them, but not in no time, drawled Nan. I cant think it is right for people to use so many dishes. Wouldnt it be grand to be like Aeneas and put your food on a little cake and then eat the cake?

Yes, but if you cant do that, I think the feeders should at least have the grace to lick their plates. What on earth do you do with all the scraps? asked Dum as she vigorously scraped plates, a part of the work that everyone hates.

Fatten chickens for killin, answered Oscar, sharpening a great knife fit for the deed he had to do. For lands sake, Miss Dum, dont arsk none of the week-enders ter lick they plates. They dont leave nothin now for my chickens. The gals even eat the tater peelins. They say it gwine make they har curl, but they eat so much they dont leave no room for they har ter curl.

Dum and Nan had become fast friends during that week at camp. The several years difference in their ages was as nothing. The feeling for beauty which both of them had to a great degree was what drew them together. Nan was so quiet and unostentatious in her unselfishness, few at the camp realized how much she did. For instance: the person who cooks a meal is usually praised by the hungry ones, but the person who patiently scrapes and washes dishes is hardly thought of at all by the satiated. On that Friday morning, Helen had, with the help of Page, produced a wonderful breakfast; and when these two girls came to that meal flushed but triumphant in the knowledge that their popovers popped over and that their omelettes had risen to the occasion, the breakfasters had given them three rousing cheers. No one thought of who was going to wash up.

While Dum was sloshing in the suds and Nan was busily drying the dishes that piled up to such great heights they looked like ramparts, Page and Helen came in to try their hands at pies for Saturdays picnic. Page had on one of Helens bungalow aprons and seemed as much at home as though she had been born and bred in camp. Page always had that quality of making herself at home wherever she happened to drop. Dee used to say she was just like a kitten and wasnt particular where she was, just so it was pleasant and people were kind.

What kind of pies shall it be? asked Helen.

Something not too squashy! pleaded Dum. Nan and I have found the most adorable spot for a picnic: a fallen tree about half a mile around the mountain not a freshly fallen one but one that must have fallen ages and ages ago as it has decided just to grow horizontally. Any old person could climb up it, just walk up it in fact such seats were never imagined the limbs all twisted into armchairs.

Of course if we are going to eat up a tree we had better have mighty solid pies, laughed Page. How about fried turnovers like Mammy Susan makes?

Grand! from Dum. Apple?

Yes, apple, laughed Helen, amused at Dums enthusiasm, also some lemon pies, dont you think? I mean cheese cakes.

Splendid and more and more splendid!

The girls went to work, Page on the fried turnovers and Helen on the cheese cakes. Such a merry time they were having, all busy and all talking! Oscar sat outside picking chickens and of necessity Susan was driven to the extreme corner of the kitchen with her heap of washing and ironing.

I think you are awfully clever, Helen, to learn to make pastry so quickly. How did you do it? said Page, deftly forming a turnover.

I dont know I just did it. It seems to me as though anyone can cook who will follow a recipe. I had a few lessons at the Y. W. C. A. in the spring and I learned a lot there. How did you learn?

Well, when I was a kiddie I had no one to play with but Mammy Susan, so I used to stay in the kitchen and play cooking. Ive been making thimble biscuit and eggshell cake ever since I could walk.

How do you make eggshell cake?

Just put the left-over scrapings of batter in the eggshells and bake it. It cooks in a minute and then you peel off the shell. Scrumptious!

Dee came running in with the mail, having been to the post office at Greendale with Josh and Bobby and the faithful Josephus.

A letter from Zebedee and he will be up for sure this evening! Aint that grand? But guess who is coming with him old Hiram G. Parker! I believe Zebedee must have lost his mind. I am really uneasy about him.

Why, what is the matter with Mr. Parker? asked Helen, who had been much interested in what she had heard of that gentlemans charms and graces.

No matter, no matter, only ideas! as the idealist said when the materialist saw him falling down stairs, bumping his head at every step, and asked him what was the matter, laughed Dee. Didnt you ever meet Mr. Parker?

No, but I have always understood he was all kinds of lovely things.

Oh, hell do, put in Dum, if you like wax works. He wears the prettiest pants in town and has more neckties and socks than an ordinary man could buy if he went shopping every day. He knows all the latest jokes and when they give out, he starts in on the others. He makes jokes of his own, too not like Zebedees Zebedee always bubbles out in a joke but Hiram G. leads up to his. First he gets one, a joke I mean, and then he gets a crowd of listeners. Then he directs the conversation into the proper channel and dams it up and when it is just right he launches his joke.

You certainly do mix your metaphors, laughed Page, crimping her turnovers with a fork. You start out with bubbling brooks and end up with the launching of ships.


She starts! she moves! she seems to feel
The thrill of life along her keel.

Well, Zebedee does bubble and Hiram G. Parker doesnt; neither does a boat, so there. Oh, oh! Look at the goodies. How on earth do you make such cute edges to your tarts? Just see them, girls!

I did mine with a broken fork but Mammy Susan says she knows an old woman who always did hers with her false teeth. After the shout that went up from this had subsided, Helen begged to know more of Mr. Parker.

Is he a great friend of your father?

Why no, that is the reason I cant divine why he is bringing him up here. I believe Zebedee likes him well enough at least I never heard him say anything to the contrary. There is no harm in the dude that I ever heard of. Of course he is the Lord High Muck-a-Muck with the buds. He decides which ones are to ornament society and which ones to be picked for funerals. He has already looked over Dum and me at a hop last Thanksgiving at the Jefferson; Page, too. I believe he thinks well do, at least he danced us around and wrote on our back with invisible chalk: Passed by the Censor of Society. I believe he thinks a lot of Zebedee, but then everyone does who has even a glimmering of sense, and Dee reread her fathers letter, a joint one for her and her sister, with a postscript for Page.

Well, all he says is that he is coming and going to bring the immaculate Hi and we must behave, declared Dum, reading over Dees shoulder. I dont know whether I am going to behave or not. That Mr. Parker gets on my nerves. Hes too clean, somehow. Im mighty afraid Im going to roll him down the mountain.

Mis Carter is fixin up a lot for the gent, said Susan, who had been busily engaged with her wash tub while the girls were talking, if its Mr. Hiram G. Parker you is a-speakin of. She done say he is a very high-up pusson. I do believe it was all on account of him that she done made Miss Douglas look after her hide so keerful this week.

Why, does mother know he is coming up? asked Helen. She never told me. Nan, did you know he was coming?

Nan hadnt known, but she had a great light break on her mind when she heard that her mother knew he was to come: Mr. Tucker had certainly used this visit of Mr. Parkers to persuade her mother to give up the trip to White Sulphur.

No! I never heard a word of it, Nan answered sedately but her eyes were dancing and it was with difficulty that she restrained a giggle.

How could her mother be so easily influenced? She must consider Mr. Parker very well worth while to stay at camp just to see him. That was the reason for all of this extra washing and ironing Susan had on hand. Nan loved her mother devotedly but she had begun to feel that perhaps she was a very well, to say the least a very frivolous lady. Nans judgment was in a measure more mature than Helens although Helen was almost two years her senior. Where Helen loved, she loved without any thought of the loved ones having any fault. She wondered now that her mother should have known of Mr. Parkers coming without mentioning it, but as for that little ladys dressing up to see this society man, why, that was just as it should be. She had absolutely no inkling of her mothers maneuvering to push Douglas toward a successful debut. Susans intimation that Douglas was to preserve her complexion for Mr. Parkers benefit was simply nonsense. Susan was after all a very foolish colored girl who had gotten things mixed. Douglas was to protect her delicate blond skin for all society, not for any particular member of it.

The train arrived bearing many week-enders and among them Zebedee and the precious Mr. Hiram G. Parker, looking his very fittest in a pearl gray suit with mauve tie and socks and a Panama hat that had but recently left the block. Zebedee could not help smiling at the fine wardrobe trunk that his companion had brought and comparing it with his own small grip with its changes of linen packed in the bottom and the boxes of candy for Tweedles and Page squeezed on top.

Thank Heaven, I dont have a reputation to keep up! he said to himself.

The wardrobe trunk was not very large, not much more bulky than a suitcase but it had to be carried up the mountain by Josephus and its owner seemed to be very solicitous that it should be stood on the proper end.

Ones things get in an awful mess from these mountain roads. A wardrobe trunk should be kept upright, otherwise even the most skillful packing cannot insure one that trousers will not be mussed and coats literally ruined.

Mr. Tucker felt like laughing outright but he had an ax to grind and Hiram G. Parker was to turn the wheel, so he bridled his inclination. He had asked the society man to be his guest for the week-end, intimating that he had a favor to ask of him. Parker accepted, as he had an idea he would, since the summer was none too full of invitations with almost no one in town. His position in the bank held him in town and he must also hold the position, since it was through it he was enabled to belong to all the clubs and to have pressed suits for all occasions. He had no idea what the favor was but he liked to keep in with these newspaper chaps since it was through the newspapers, when all was told, that he had attained his success, and through the society columns of those dailies that he kept in the public eye. He liked Jeffry Tucker, too, for himself. There was something so spontaneous about him. With all of Hiram Parkers society veneer there was a human being somewhere down under the varnish and a heart, not very big, but good of its kind.

On the train en route to Greendale Mr. Tucker had divulged what that favor was. He led up to it adroitly so that when he finally reached it Mr. Parker was hardly aware of the fact that he had arrived.

Long list of debutantes this season, I hear, he started out with, handing an excellent cigar to his guest.

Yes, something appalling! answered Mr. Parker, settling himself comfortably in the smoker after having taken off his coat and produced a pocket hanger to keep that garment in all the glory of a recent pressing. I see many hen parties in prospect. There wont be near enough beaux to go round.

So I hear, especially since the militia has been ordered to the border. So many dancing men are in the Blues. I heard today that young Lane is off. He is Robert Carters assistant and since Carter has been out of the running has been endeavoring to keep the business going. I fancy it will be a blow to the Carters that he has had to go.

Yes, too bad! Quite a dancing man! He will be missed in the germans.

Jeffry Tucker smiled as he had been thinking the Carters might miss the assistance that Lane rendered their father, but since Mr. Parkers mind ran more on germans than on business that was, after all, what he was bringing him up to Greendale for.

Lewis Somerville has enlisted, too.

You dont say! I had an idea when he left West Point he would be quite an addition to Richmond society.

I think Mrs. Carter thought he would be of great assistance to her eldest daughter, said Mr. Machiavelli Tucker.

Oh, I hadnt heard that one of Robert Carters daughters was to make her debut. I havent seen her name on the list. Is she a good looker?

Lovely and very sweet! I think it is a pity for her to come out and not be a success, but her mother is determined that she shall enter the ring this winter.

Yes, it is a pity. This will be a bad year for buds. There are already so many of them and such a dearth of beaux I have never beheld. I dont care how good-looking a girl is, she is going to have a hard time having a good time this year, and the expert sighed, thinking of the work ahead of him in entertaining debutantes. He was not so young as he had been and there were evenings when he rather longed to get into slippers and dressing gown and let himself go, but a leader must be on the job constantly or someone else would usurp his place. Many debutantes and a few society men meant he must redouble his activities.

I hope you will be nice to this girl, Hi. She is a splendid creature. Since her father has been sick, she has taken the burden of the whole family on her shoulders. All of the girls help and the second one, Helen, is doing wonders, too in fact, all of them are wonders.

So thought the leader of germans, we are coming to the favor. Tucker wants me to help launch this girl. Well, Ill look her over first. No pig in a poke for me! He took another of the very good cigars, not that he wanted it at that moment, but he might need it later on.

Now this is what I want you to do, this is how I want you to be good to her. Hi Parker smiled a knowing smile. How many times had he been approached in just this way? I dont want you to ask her to dance a german with you

Oh, what was the fellow driving at, anyhow?

No, indeed! There is no man living that I would ask to do such a thing. I feel it is a kind of insult to a girl to go around drumming up partners for her.

Mr. Parker gasped.

What I want you to do for me is to persuade Mrs. Carter that this is a bad year to bring a girl out. You have already said you think it is, so you would be perfectly honest in doing so. The Carters finances are at a low ebb and this fine girl, Douglas, is doing her best to economize and have the family realize the importance of it, and now her mother is determined that she shall stop everything and go into society.

Mr. Tucker, during the journey to Greendale, succeeded in convincing Mr. Parker that it was an easy matter to persuade Mrs. Carter to give up the project.

Ill do what I can, but if you take the matter so much to heart why dont you do it yourself, Tucker? I make it a rule not to butt in on societys private affairs if I can possibly keep out of it.

I ask you because I believe in getting an expert when a delicate operation is needed. You are a social expert and this is a serious matter.

The upshot was that Mr. Hiram G. Parker was flattered into making the attempt and Mrs. Carters opinion of that gentlemans social knowledge was so great and her faith in him so deep-rooted that she abandoned her idea of forcing Douglas out for that season. She gave it up with a sigh of resignation. Anyhow, she was glad she had made Douglas bleach her complexion before Mr. Parker was introduced to her. The girl was looking lovely and the shyness she evinced on meeting that great man was just as it should be. Too much assurance was out of place with a bud and this introduction and impression would hold over until another year.





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