Nell Speed.

The Carter Girls' Week-End Camp





Well, I am not crazy about it, but Ill do it, and do it she did.

She found her mother in a dainty negligee writing notes at a little desk her devoted husband had fashioned from a packing box.

Ah, Nan, how sweet of you to come to me! I see so little of my girls now, they are so occupied with outside interests. Here, child, just run these ribbons in my underwear. It really takes a great deal of time to keep ones clothes in order. Susan should do such things for me, but she is constantly being called off to do other things, at least she says she is. What, I cant for the life of me see.

Nan dutifully began to do her mothers bidding, but when she saw the drawer full of things she was supposed to decorate with ribbons she had to call a halt.

I am very sorry, mumsy, but I am helping Douglas pack the lunch baskets. This is a day for a picnic, you know.

No, I didnt know. Who is going?

Everyone, we hope, as that gives Oscar and Susan a chance to get a thorough cleaning done, with no dinner to cook.

Oh, how absurdly practical you girls have become! I just hate it in you. What business has a girl of your age to know about who does thorough cleaning and when it is done? Nan restrained a giggle. She had come to a full realization of what a very frivolous person her little mother was and while it made her sad in a way it also touched her sense of humor irresistibly.

I am deeply disappointed in the fact that Douglas is not to come out next winter. Mr. Parker advises me strongly against trying to launch her. He says there are so many debutantes already and that he is engaged up to every dance and that all of the dancing men are in the same fix. Of course if I should go against his advice Douglas would fall as flat as possible. She has no desire to come out as it is and no doubt would do nothing to further her cause. I do not feel equal to the task of bringing her out and of putting spirit into her at the same time. She has been so lifeless and listless lately.

Nan smiled, thinking of how she had left Douglas actually dancing as she packed the goodies and smiling all over her happy face.

What a lot of letters you have, mumsy! You are almost as busy as I am with letters. It takes me hours every day answering applications for board.

Oh, yes, I have many notes to answer friends, welcoming me back to Virginia. This pile over here is nothing but bills things bought in New York, on my way home. I think it is most impertinent of these tradespeople to send them so promptly. They were so eager for me to open accounts, and now they write to me as though I were a pickpocket. Please Remit at the bottom of every bill, and one man actually accuses me of being slow in payment. He says he understood I was to send money as soon as I reached Virginia. I have no money myself. I shall just have to hand them over to your father

Oh, mother, please dont do that!

Why not? How else am I to get them paid?

But, mother, the doctor said no money matters must be brought to father for at least a year and maybe not then.

It was bills that made him ill, and bills would be so bad for him now.

Bills, indeed! It was overwork! I did my best to make him relax and not work so hard, but he would not listen to me. Many a time I tried to make him stop and go to the opera with me or to receptions, but it was always work, work, work! day and night. Im sure no one can accuse me of selfishness in the matter I did my best.

Yes, dear, I know you did, said Nan solemnly and gently, as though she were soothing a little child who had dropped a bowl of goldfish or done something equally disastrous and equally irreparable. I tell you what you do, though, honey, you give me the bills. You see, I write all the letters for the camp and I will attend to them.

Mrs. Carter handed over the offensive pile of envelopes with an air of washing her hands of the matter.

There is one thing, mumsy: if I were you, Id withdraw my patronage from such persons. Id never favor tradespeople like these with another order.

Never! exclaimed the mother. Please Remit, indeed! I never imagined such impertinence.

Nan bore off the sheaf of bills. They were not quite so large as they had feared. Mrs. Carter had unwittingly managed very well since she had accidentally struck August sales in New York and the things she had bought really were bargains.

We will pay them immediately, Nan, said Douglas. I am so thankful that father did not see them. It would be so hard on him that I am sure much of the good that has come to him from the long rest would be done away with.

Do they make you blue, these bills?

No, indeed! Nothing will make me blue now that mother has given up making me be a debutante. I can go on working and make more money to take the place of this we shall have to take out of the bank to pay for these things mother bought. But just suppose she had carried her point and forced me into society. I could have earned no money and would have had such a lot spent on me. Why cant she see, Nan?

She is color blind, I think, unless it is couleur de rose. We must be patient with her, Douglas.

All right, grandma! And if Mrs. Carter could have heard the peal of laughter from Douglas, she would not have thought her lifeless and listless. You are such a dear little wise old lady, Nan!

CHAPTER XIII
TEAKETTLE

The fallen tree where Nan and Dum Tucker had chosen to have the picnic proved to be most attractive. It was a great oak that had attained its growth before it had been felled in some wind storm, and now it lay like some bed-ridden old giant who refuses to die. Part of the roots held to the soil while part stood up like great toes, poking their way through the blanket of ferns and moss that were doing their best to cover them. This tree not only clung to its old branches but had actually the hardihood to send out new shoots. These branches were not growing as the limbs of an oak usually grow, with a slightly downward tendency from the main trunk, but shot straight to the sky, upright and vigorous.

It is just like some old man who has to stay in bed but still is open to convictions of all kinds, who reads and takes in new ideas and is willing to try new things and think new thoughts, suggested Page Allison.

Yes, that strong green branch struggling to the light there might be equal suffrage, teased Mr. Tucker.

Yes, and that one that has outstripped all the others is higher education of women, declared Douglas.

These little ferns and wild flowers that are trying to cover up his ugly old toes are modern verse. He even reads the poetry of the day and does not just lie back on stuffy old pillows and insist that poetry died with Alfred Tennyson, whispered Nan, who did not like much to speak out loud in meetin. Tom Smith heard her, however, and smiled his approval of her imagery.

Well, I only hope while we are picnicking on his bed he wont decide to turn over and go to sleep. It would certainly play sad havoc with cheese cakes, laughed Helen.

Much to the satisfaction of the Carter girls, all the week-enders did decide to come on the picnic, also their mother. They knew very well that had that lady made up her mind to remain in camp, Susans time would have been taken up waiting on her and the thorough cleaning that the pavilion and kitchen were crying out for would never be accomplished.

Mr. Hiram G. Parker, in faultless morning costume, had proffered himself as squire of dames and was assisting that dainty little lady on the rough journey to the fallen tree. She, too, had attired herself with thoughtful care in sheer white linen lawn with a large picture hat of finest straw and a ruffled lace parasol. The girls were in strong contrast to their chaperone, since one and all, even Tillie Wingo, were dressed in khaki skirts and leggins. The only variation in costume was that some wore middies and some sport shirts.

First a fire must be built and a big one at that, as it takes many hot coals to roast potatoes. Lucy and Lil Tate, with their faithful followers, Skeeter and Frank, had gone on a little ahead, and when the rest of the crowd reached the spot the fire was already burning merrily. In a short time it was ready to drop the potatoes in, Irish potatoes and great yams that looked big enough for the bed-ridden giant himself to make a meal of. Then the roasting ears of corn must be opened, the silk removed and the ears wrapped carefully in the shucks again and placed in just exactly the right part of the fire to cook but not to burn.

There was some kind of work for all of those inclined to usefulness, and any who were not so inclined could wander around admiring the scenery or climb up in the tree to secure the choice seats. There were seats for all and to spare in the gnarled old limbs of the giant oak. Mrs. Carter was enthroned in a leafy armchair while Hiram G. perched beside her. Evidently he was prepared to be waited on and not to wait. Bobby climbed to the tiptop of one of the great branches where he looked like a little cherub that sits up aloft.

Im a-gonter let down a string and pull my eats up here, he declared.

Oh, Bobby! shuddered his mother. Dont say such words!

What I done now? cried that young hopeful, peeping down through the leafy screen, with an elfish, toothless grin.

Dont say eats! Say luncheon!

Yes, I wont! If I say luncheon, theyll send me up bout nough to put in my eye. Ive a great mind to say victuals like Oscar and then theyll send me up something sho. Hi, Helen! Put my victuals in a bucket and tie it to this string! he cried, dangling a string before Helens eyes as she stooped under the tree, unpacking the basket containing the paper plates and Japanese napkins.

I wont put anything in the bucket unless you mind mother, said Helen severely, but her eye was twinkling at Bobbys philological distinction.

Well, then, Helen dear, be so kind as to put my luncheon in that there little bucket what you see turned up over yonder by the fire. But, Helen, in a stage whisper, please dont put it in like a luncheon but like it was jes victuals. Luncheons aint never nough for workin mens. So all in good time Helen packed a hefty lunch in the bucket for her darling and he drew it up to his castle in the tree and feasted right royally.

When everyone was too hungry to stand it another moment the potatoes were done, all burnt on the outside and delicious and mealy within. There never were such sandwiches as Helens; and the corn, roasted in the shucks, was better than corn ever had been before. The cheese cakes and fried turnovers proved very good for tree eating and not too squashy. Boxes of candy appeared like magic from the pockets of masculine week-enders. Mr. Tucker produced three, one for each of his girls.

Oh, Zebedee! exclaimed Dum. I am so relieved. I thought you were getting hippy. It was candy all the time.

When every vestige of food was devoured and all the paper plates and papers carefully burned, as Nan said, to keep from desecrating Nature, someone proposed that they should play games.

Lets play teakettle! exclaimed Skeeter, so teakettle it was. Some of the company had to be enlightened as to the game and perhaps some of my readers may have to be also. This is the way: whoever is It or Old Man must go out of ear shot and then the company selects a word. The Old Man then returns and asks a question to each one in turn. The answer must contain the chosen word, but in place of the word, teakettle must be inserted.

You go out, Zebedee, you are so spry, suggested the irreverent Dum.

No, thats not fair! We must count out, declared Dee, determined that her parent must be bossed only by her own sweet self.

I bid to count! from Lucy. Eny, meny, miny mo, cracker, feny, finy, fo, ommer noocher, popper toocher, rick, bick, ban, do, as, I, went, up the, apple, tree, all, the, apples, fell, on, me, bake a, pudding, bake, a, pie, did, you, ever, tell, a, lie, yes, you, did, you, know, you, did, you, broke, your, mammys, tea, pot, lid, did, she, mind? She stopped at Lil Tate, who was equal to the occasion.

No! cried Lil; and Lucy took up her counting out in the sing-song we hear from children engaged in that delightful occupation of finding out who is to be It. No matter where one lives east, west, north or south it is the same except for slight variations in the sense of the incantation.

N, o, spells, the, word, no, and, you, are, really It! An accusing finger was pointed at Nan, who perforce must crawl from her comfortable perch and go around the side of the mountain while the assembled company chose a word.

After much whispering, Mr. Tucker hit on a word that appealed to all of them, and Nan was whistled for to return.

Helen, what do you enjoy most in camp life?

Teakettles! was the prompt response.

Skeeter, did you and Frank get any squirrels yesterday?

No, not one! We told them if they would let us shoot them that they could come with us on the picnic but they said: no teakettles for them! Indignant cries from Skeeters chums ensued.

You came mighty near giving us away, you nut!

Nan thought a moment.

Is it pies? Helen certainly enjoys pies, and if the squirrels had come on the picnic it would have been in a pie.

No; guess again! Guess again!

Mother, are you comfortable up there?

Yes, my dear; I had no idea one could have an armchair at a teakettle.

Picnic! Picnic! I know that is the word. Mumsy gave it away. You have to go out, mumsy.

Picnic was the word and everyone thought Nan very clever to guess it so quickly. Mrs. Carter was loath to leave her leafy bower, so Mr. Parker gallantly offered to take her place and be It.

A word was quickly chosen for Mr. Parker although they feared it would be too easy. That gentleman was really enjoying himself very much. Climbing trees was not much in his line, but he congratulated himself that while his suit no doubt looked perfectly new, it was in reality three years old and was only his eighteenth best. The lapels were a little smaller than the prevailing mode and the coat cut away a bit more than the latest fashion. He could not wear it much longer, anyhow, and in the meantime he was having a very pleasant time. The girls were a ripping lot and he would no doubt have the pleasure of bringing them out in years to come. He might even stretch a point and ask some of them to dance the german with him before they made their debuts. That little Allison girl from the country was a charmer and as for the Tucker twins the only trouble about them was he could not decide which one would take the better in society. Helen Carter was sure to win in whatever class she entered. Douglas Carter had deceived him somewhat. The evening before, while looking very pretty she had lacked animation. He had been quite serious in his advice to Mrs. Carter not to bring her out that year. With the scarcity of beaux only a girl who was all animation had any show of having a good time in her debutante year. Now today this girl had thrown off her listlessness and was as full of life as anyone. She was really beautiful. If a complexion could show up as well as hers did in the sunlight what would it not do in artificial light? And her hair! Hair like that could stand the test of dancing all night, and Mr. Hiram G. Parker had found out from long experience that not much hair could stand the test.

Always coming out of curl and getting limp! he muttered, but just then they whistled for him and he returned to the tree.

Ahem! Miss Douglas, are you expecting to miss the boys who have gone to the border with the Blues?

Yes, indeed! blushed Douglas; but if I were a teakettle it would be even worse.

Is it a mother? Of course it would be worse if you were a mother! Ah, maybe you have been promising to be a sister to one of them.

Douglas blushed so furiously that she almost fell off her precarious perch.

Mother isnt the word neither is sister! shouted the crowd. Guess again!

Miss Dum Tucker, are you going to remain long in camp?

I am afraid I shall have to leave on Monday, but if the teakettle fancier is no longer here, I dont believe I should care to remain.

Teakettle fancier! Sounds like spinsters. I cant see what it is. Miss Dee, what are these teakettles like?

There are as many styles of teakettles as there are teakettles, tall and narrow, short and squat, with snouts of all shapes.

Heavens! Still no light on the subject! Tucker, what is your opinion of the war? Will it last much longer?

I hope not, although I hear it is an excellent way to dispose of last years teakettles. They are using so many of them in the Red Cross service.

Oh, come now! I must do better than this. Mrs. Carter, have you any of these teakettles about you?

No, Mr. Parker, I havent a single teakettle ye-et, rather sadly.

Mr. Smith! That young aviator, not expecting to be called on, almost fell out of the tree, which would have been an ignominious proceeding for one accustomed to the dizzy heights of the clouds. Do you come across any of this stuff, whatever it is that these crazy folks call teakettles?

Yes, I do occasionally. Even here in this camp there is a lot of the stuff that teakettles are made of the raw material, I might say, but if I should, no doubt future teakettles would climb up the tree and mob me.

Debutantes! Debutantes! That is the word! Stupid of me not to guess it sooner. Thank you, Miss Dum, for the compliment you just paid me, or did you mean your father? Because I understand that he is somewhat fond of young girls himself.

I meant you in the game but Zebedee in reality, declared Dum, who had no more idea of coquetting than a real teakettle.

Mr. Smith is It! shouted Lucy. We are going to get a hard one for him.

Skeeter wanted to take flying machine but that was too easy. Many suggestions were made but Nan finally hit on a word that they were sure he could never guess.

The trouble is it is hardly fair to take a word that is so obscure, objected Mr. Carter, who had been quietly enjoying the fun as much as any of the party.

Well, it is a compliment to give him a hard one, declared Mr. Tucker. It means we have some reliance on his wit.

Tom Smith was proving himself a very agreeable companion and old and young were feeling him to be an acquisition to the camp.

You youngsters up there in the top of the tree, come down and be questioned! cried the Old Man. You, Bobby, what are you doing up there?

Im a-playin Im one er them there teakettles, said that ready-witted infant. Everyone shouted for joy at his answer.

And you, Frank Maury! Do you want to take a trip with me some day?

Sure! Id ruther be a birdman than a teakettle, said Frank lamely.

Did you ever see one of these teakettles, Skeeter?

Naw, and nobody else.

But you didnt use the word, Skeeter, admonished Lil.

Then you use it for him, suggested the questioner. I take it then if he never saw a teakettle and no one else has ever seen one, that it is some kind of mythological creature. Am I right? he appealed, following up the advantage Skeeter had given him.

Yes, a teakettle is a mythological being, said Lil primly.

Skeeter can give more things away without using the word than most folks can using it, declared Lucy cruelly.

Miss Nan, did I ever see a teakettle that you know of?

I have an idea you thought you saw a teakettle once, drawled Nan.

Wood nymph! exclaimed Tom Smith.

Everyone thought he was very clever to have guessed a very difficult and obscure word in five questions.

Nans turn again! That isnt fair when Skeeter really and truly was the one who got him going. Youve got to go, Skeeter, and Frank and Lil and Lucy pounced on their chum and dragged him from the tree.

Yes, I havent! Id never guess c-a-t. Get somebody else.

Ill go, Mr. Tucker volunteered magnanimously.

Let him; hes dying to! exclaimed the twins in one breath.

Well, dont tweedle! commanded their father. He always called it tweedling when his twins spoke the same thing at the same time.

A word was hard to hit on because as his daughters said Mr. Tucker had what men call feminine intuition.

You cant keep a thing from him, Dum said.

And sometimes he sees something before it happens, declared Dee.

Oh, spooks! laughed Page.

Spooks would be a good word, suggested someone, but Mrs. Carter had a word which was finally determined on. Zebedee was whistled for and came quickly to the front.

Mr. Smith, tell me, while flying through the air would you like to have one of these teakettles with you? I mean would it be the kind of thing you could carry with you? Would it be of any value on the journey?

We el, I cant say that a teakettle would be of any great practical value on a flight, but it would certainly be great to have one. I believe Id rather have one than anything I can think of. In fact, I mean to take one with me some day.





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