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Title: The Carter Girls' Week-End Camp
Author: Speed, Nell, 1878-1913
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  [Illustration: She found Douglas sitting in a forlorn heap in
  their  tent.

  (_Frontis_)              (_The Carter Girls' Week-End Camp_)]



  THE CARTER GIRLS'
  WEEK-END CAMP

  By NELL SPEED

  AUTHOR OF
  "The Molly Brown Series," "The Tucker
  Twins Series," etc.

  A. L. BURT COMPANY
  Publishers      New York
  Printed in U. S. A.



  Copyright, 1918,
  By
  HURST & COMPANY



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                 PAGE
      I. A LETTER                            5
     II. THE RETURN                         12
    III. THE PROBLEM                        30
     IV. ROBERT CARTER'S ASTONISHING GIRLS  48
      V. THE TUCKERS                        66
     VI. POST-PRANDIAL CONVERSATIONS        78
    VII. THE STORM                          97
   VIII. THE DAMAGE DONE                   115
     IX. MR. MACHIAVELLI TUCKER            126
      X. MR. HIRAM G. PARKER               142
     XI. THE BIRD                          165
    XII. PLEASE REMIT                      185
   XIII. TEAKETTLE                         194
    XIV. THE FORAGERS                      212
     XV. BABES IN THE WOOD                 232
    XVI. TOM TIT                           252
   XVII. THE SPRING-KEEPER                 269
  XVIII. MORE FINDS                        278
    XIX. A DISCUSSION                      286
     XX. DR. WRIGHT TO THE RESCUE          298
    XXI. LETTERS                           311



The Carter Girls' Week-End Camp



CHAPTER I

A LETTER


From Douglas Carter to her mother, Mrs. Robert Carter


                                GREENDALE, VA., AUGUST --, 19--.

MY DARLING MOTHER:

Words cannot express the joy and gratitude all of us feel that father is
really getting well. I shall never forget the miserable time last spring
when Dr. Wright came into the library where Helen and Nan and Lucy and I
were sitting and told us of his very serious condition. I had felt he
was in a very bad way but did not realize it was quite so dreadful. I am
sure you did not, either. And when Dr. Wright said that you must take
him on a long sea voyage and we understood that we were to be left
behind, the bottom seemed to drop out of the universe.

And now, dear mother, I have a confession to make: You took for granted
we were going to the springs when we wrote we were to spend the summer
in the mountains, and we thought with all the worry you had about
father, perhaps it was best to let you go on thinking it. Of course you
did not dream of the necessity of our doing anything to make money as
father had never told you much about his finances. Well, mother dear,
there was about $80 in the bank in father's private account. Fortunately
for the business, which Mr. Lane and Dick have carried on to the best of
their ability, there was some more in another account, but we have
managed without touching that. I hope I am not going to shock you
now, but you shall have to know it--we have rented our lovely home,
furnished, for six months with privilege of a year, and we have sold the
car, dismissed the servants--all but Susan and Oscar, who are up here
at Greendale with us. This is what might shock you: We are running a
week-end boarding camp here in the mountains and the really shocking
part of it is--we are making money!

It was a scheme that popped into Helen's head and it seemed such an
excellent one that we fell to it, and with dear Cousin Lizzie Somerville
chaperoning us and Lewis Somerville protecting us, we have opened our
camp and actually would have to turn away boarders except that the boys
are always willing to sleep out-of-doors and that makes room for others
not so inclined.

We see Dr. Wright quite often. He comes up for the Sunday in his car
whenever he can spare the time. He has been kindness itself and has
helped us over many rough places. There have been times when we have
been downhearted and depressed over you and father, and then it has been
his office to step in and reassure us that father was really getting
better. He and Bobby are sworn friends and there is nothing Bobby will
not do for him--even keep himself clean.

We are well. Indeed, the mountain air has done wonders for all of us.
Helen is working harder than any of us, but is the picture of health in
spite of it. Nan is more robust than she has ever been in her life.
I think the tendency she has always had to bronchitis has entirely
disappeared. Dr. Wright says it is sleeping out-of-doors that has fixed
her. Lucy has grown two inches, I do believe. She has been very sweet
and helpful and as happy as the day is long with her chum Lil Tate here
for the whole summer. Mrs. Tate brought her up for a week-end and the
child has been with us now for over two months. We have two boys of
fifteen who are here for the summer, too, Frank Maury and Skeeter
Halsey. They are a great comfort to me as I feel sure Lucy and Lil will
be taken care of by these nice boys.

Of course, the original idea of our camp was to have only week-end
boarders, but we find it very nice to have some steadies besides as
that means a certain fixed amount of money, but I am not going to let
you worry your pretty head about money. We have a perennial guest,
also--none other than pretty, silly Tillie Wingo. She came to the
opening week-end and proved herself to be such a drawing card for the
male sex that we decided it would be good business to ask her to visit
us indefinitely. It was Nan's idea. You know Tillie well enough to
understand that she is always thoroughly good-natured and kind without
being helpful in any way. All she has to do is look pretty and chatter
and giggle. Of course she must dance, and she does that divinely. She is
a kind of social entertainer, and the number of youths who swarm to
Week-End Camp because of her would astonish you. She is certainly worth
her keep. Here I am touching on finances again when I did not mean to at
all.

We are so happy at the thought of having you and father with us for the
rest of the summer. Dr. Wright thinks the life here will be almost as
good for father as that on shipboard, provided the week-enders do not
make too much racket for him. If they do, we are to have a tent pitched
for him out of ear-shot. Poor Cousin Lizzie Somerville is very happy
over your coming because it will release her. Her duties as chaperone
have not been very strenuous, but the life up here has been so different
from anything she has ever had before that it has been hard on her, I
know, harder than she has ever divulged, I am sure. Now she can go to
her beloved springs and play as many games of cards as she chooses.

Dr. Wright says it would be better for you not to go to Richmond at all
before coming here, as father might want to go to work again, and it is
very important for him to be kept from it for many months yet. He is to
meet you in New York and bring you straight to Greendale. I can go down
to Richmond with you after we get father settled here, and we can get
what clothes you want for the mountains. We have everything in the way
of clothes stored at Cousin Lizzie Somerville's.

It is very lovely here at Greendale, and I do hope you and father will
like it as much as we have. Dr. Wright will tell you more about it when
he meets you in New York on Wednesday. I am sending this letter by him
as it seems safer than to trust to Uncle Sam.

We only hope the life up here will not be too rough for you. We will do
all we can to smooth it for you; but a camp is a camp, you know, dear
mother. Our best love to father.

                                      Your loving daughter,
                                                        DOUGLAS.



CHAPTER II

THE RETURN


"Oh, Douglas, I'm all of a tremble!" declared Helen Carter, as she
knotted her jaunty scarlet tie and settled her gray felt hat at exactly
the proper angle. "To think that they are really coming back!"

"I can hardly believe it. The time has gone quickly and still it seems
somehow as though we had been living in this camp for ages. I am afraid
it will go hard with the poor little mother."

"Cousin Lizzie stood it and she is years and years older than mother,"
and Helen looked critically at her dainty nose and rubbed a little
powder on it.

"Yes, I know, but Cousin Lizzie is made of sterner stuff than poor
little mumsy. I think that mother is the kind of woman that men would
fight to protect but when all is told that Cousin Lizzie is the kind
who would go out and help fight if need be. I can fancy her loading
rifles and handing them to the men----"

"So can I," laughed Helen, "and saying as she loaded: 'To everything
there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven; a time
to kill and a time to heal.'"

"I am ashamed of myself--but somehow I am glad Cousin Lizzie did not
think it was her duty to defer her going until mother and father got
here. She has been splendid and too good to us for anything, but it is a
kind of relief for her to be out of the cabin and away before they
come," said Douglas as she completed her rapid dressing by pulling an
old khaki hat down over her rather refractory, if very lovely Titian
hair.

"I know just what you mean. I hoped all the time she would realize that
the morning train was much the better one for her to get off on, and
then she could reach the springs in time for an afternoon game. It was a
feeling I had that she might be too critical of poor little mumsy. You
see we don't know just how camp life is going to appeal to mumsy," said
Helen.

"Exactly! It may take her a while to get used to it," and Douglas let a
little sigh escape her. "I wish they could have arrived on any other day
than Friday. Our week-ends in August have been so full. I fancy many of
the week-enders will want to stay on for holidays, too."

"If it is only not too much for father. Dr. Wright thinks it won't be.
He says noise in the open air is so different from housed noises for
nervous persons."

A honk from the faithful old mountain goat, a name they had given the
ancient Ford that Bill Tinsley had contributed to the camp's use, warned
them it was time to start for the station. One more dab of powder on
Helen's nose completed her toilet and calling to Nan and Lucy to pile
in, they started their ever perilous descent of the mountain to
Greendale.

Bobby, who had been captured by a determined Susan and washed and
dressed in honor of his returning parents, was occupying the seat of
state in Josh's cart, clean but indignant at the outrage committed.

"'Tain't no sense in washin'. I mos' wisht I'd been born a pig. If I
had, I betcher I'd a been a pet pig an' some fool woman would er wanted
to curl my tail and tie a bow 'round my neck."

Such pessimism was too much for Josh, who shook with laughter as the
slab-sided mule, Josephus, limped cheerfully down the mountain road.

To think that mother and father were really coming! The Carter girls
lined themselves along the little station awaiting the train bearing the
beloved passengers. What a healthy-looking quartette they were after a
whole summer in the open. Douglas' fair skin was reddened from exposure
and her hair showed the lack of care that her mother had always exacted.
Douglas attached very little importance to her appearance, and was
constantly being put to rights by the more correct Helen. Even now, as
they waited for the train, Helen was regretting that she had permitted
her older sister to wear the very disgraceful-looking khaki hat.

"Khaki color is certainly unbecoming to blondes," she thought. "I do
want Douglas to look her best for mother. Father will think all of us
are beautiful, anyhow, no matter what we wear," and Helen could not help
a feeling of satisfaction over her own very becoming cold-gravy costume
with the touch of scarlet at her throat. It had seen much service but
still had that unmistakable air of style that was characteristic of all
of Helen Carter's belongings.

Nan was quite robust-looking for Nan. She had inherited from her mother
that soft black hair and those dusky eyes and a complexion of wondrous
fairness that is seen sometimes in a rare type of Creole beauty. Mrs.
Carter's almost angelic beauty (her few enemies called it doll-like) was
repeated in her daughter in a somewhat more sturdy edition. Nan's mouth
was larger and her eyes not quite so enormous; her nose a bit broader
at the base and her chin squarer. Her attractive countenance showed a
mixture of poetic feeling and sturdy common sense with a plentiful
seasoning of humor and gave promise of her development into a very
enchanting woman. All Nan asked of life was plenty of books and time to
read them and a cloak of invisibility so that she would not be noticed.
She was gradually overcoming the shyness that had always made her
think that next to a cloak of invisibility the greatest boon her fairy
godmother could grant her would be seven-league boots, so that she could
get away from all embarrassing persons even if she could not hide from
them. The summer of camping had certainly taken from her the look of
fragility that had always been a source of uneasiness to her father but
which her beautiful mother had rather prided herself on as it was in her
eyes a mark of race and breeding.

Lucy Carter, the youngest of the four, was developing rapidly into a
very attractive girl. Her resemblance to Helen was growing more marked,
much to her pretended disgust, but to her secret delight. Already her
long legs had shot her saucy head up to within a level of Helen's,
which made the younger sister ecstatically confident of her equality
with the elder, whom in her heart of hearts she considered a paragon
of perfection but with whom she was usually on sparring terms.

Bobby, the idolized little brother, had changed more than any of the
Carters during that summer. He had lost forever the baby curves and had
taken on a lean, wiry spareness. His almost unearthly beauty was gone by
reason of a great gap in his face caused by the loss of his first teeth.
One permanent tooth had found its way through and, as is the way with
the first permanent tooth, seemed very enormous in contrast to the tiny
little pearls that had hitherto passed for teeth. His knees were scarred
and scratched as were his lean brown legs. Two sore toes were tied up
in dirty rags, having been ministered to by Aunt Mandy, the kind old
mountain woman who bore the proud distinction in Bobby's mind of being
the mother of Josh the boy and the owner of Josephus the mule.

"I hear the whistle!" exclaimed Lucy, prancing with excitement.

"So do I, but it is the saw mill over in the hollow," drawled Nan.

"Won't it be terrible if the train is late and all the week-enders get
here before mother and father?" wailed Helen.

"Awful!" exclaimed Douglas. "If we can only get them settled in the
cabin before the hullabaloo begins, maybe it won't seem so bad to them.
I just can't stand it if the camp is going to be too much for father."

"I'm most sure he will like it, but it's mother who will be the one to
kick," said Nan. Kicking was not a very elegant way to express what no
doubt would be the state of Mrs. Carter's mind over the rough camp life.

"She's a-comin' now!" shouted Bobby. "I kin hear her a-chuggin' up
grade! Listen! This is what she says: 'Catch a nigger! Catch a nigger!
I'm a-comin'! I'm a-comin'!'" and the scion of the Carter family
whistled shrilly through his sparse teeth, an accomplishment that had
but recently come to him by reason of his loss.

It was the train and on time, which would give the youthful proprietors
of the week-end boarding camp time to get their invalid father and
dainty mother safely stowed away in the cabin before the onrush of
harum-scarum guests should begin.

"Thank heaven!" was the pious ejaculation of the older girls.

Douglas and Helen felt all the qualms and responsibilities that had been
theirs on the opening of the camp at the beginning of the summer. It had
proved such a success that confidence had come to them, but now that
their parents were to join them, although they were very happy at the
thought of seeing them, they had grave doubts about the way in which
their mother would look upon their venture and about the ability of
their father to endure the noise and confusion.

Dr. Wright, who had gone to New York to meet the steamer, got off first,
laden with parcels. Then came Mrs. Carter, looking so young and pretty
that her daughters felt suddenly very mature. Mr. Carter followed his
wife. He also was laden with bandboxes and bundles, while the grinning
porter emerged with some difficulty from under a mass of suitcases,
steamer rugs and dress boxes. Lewis Somerville extricated him in time
for him to jump on the departing train as it made its laborious way up
the steep grade, still singing the song that Bobby had declared it sang:
"Catch a nigger! Catch a nigger! I'm a-comin'! I'm a-comin'!"

"My girls! My girls!" Mrs. Carter flew from one to the other like a
butterfly who cannot tell which flower to light on, but Robert Carter
dropped his parcels and enfolded all of them in a mighty embrace. How
lean and brown he was! On sight he seemed like his old self to Helen,
who was the first to find her way to his eager arms and the last to
leave their encircling shelter. A closer scrutiny of his face, however,
told her there was still something wrong. His snap and vim were gone.
Intelligence shone from his kind blue eyes and his countenance bespoke
contentment and happiness, but his old sparkle and alertness were
missing. The overworked nerves had lost their elasticity and a certain
power that had been a part of Robert Carter was gone forever. It was
the power of leading and directing, taking the initiative. There was
something very pathetic about it all, just as though a great general had
been reduced to the ranks and must ever after serve as a private. What
made it sadder was that he seemed content to follow. Someone else must
work out the problem of how to keep his expensive family in all the
luxuries they had demanded. It was no longer up to him! That was the way
his expression impressed Helen. She escaped from the others and ran
behind the little station.

"Father! Father!" she sobbed in an agony of love and misery. "He is not
well yet! He never will be!"

"Oh yes, he will," said a quiet, deep voice. It belonged to George
Wright, who had come around the other side of the waiting room after
helping Lewis Somerville deposit the luggage in Josh's cart. "He is much
better, better than I dared dream he would be. You see, he has had only
four months and I said all the time it would take a year of rest and
maybe more. What makes you think he is still so badly off?"

Dr. Wright had a ridiculous notion that he could explain to Helen much
better her father's condition if she would only put her head on his
shoulder and do her sobbing there, but he buried his hands firmly in his
pockets and made no intimation of his idea. He had constantly to take
himself to task for forgetting that Helen was little more than a child.
"You must wait, you fool!" he would reason with himself.

"But suppose someone else doesn't wait and she gets snapped up before
your eyes--what then?" But wait he felt he must, and in the meantime
Helen often felt that his sternness meant disapproval and wondered what
she had done to merit it--that is, what new thing. Of course she always
knew she had merited his disapproval by her behavior when he had given
the verdict that her father must go off on the voyage for health. And
now when he said: "What makes you think he is still so badly off?" he
sounded very stern and superior.

"He seems so--so--meek," she faltered.

"Well, who would not be meek with all those parcels?" he laughed. "Your
mother had only part of a day in New York, but she bought out the town.
I'm meek myself."

The conversation was interrupted by Lucy, who was always eager to find
out what Helen was doing so she could do it too. When she saw her
sister's tear-stained countenance she bitterly regretted her dry eyes
but cry she could not, especially as she did not see anything to cry
about.

Mrs. Carter, meanwhile, after flitting from daughter to daughter, had
cried out: "But Bobby! Where is my precious Bobby?"

"Here me!" said that youngster. "We uns ain't fur."

"Bobby! Bobby! I didn't know you! Where are your teeth? Why did you have
your hair cut so short? My baby, my baby!" and the poor little lady
enfolded a rather abashed boy in her arms.

"Baby your grandmother! I ain't nobody's baby. We uns is Dr. Wright's
shover cept'n when we uns is in the mountings and thin we uns is the
'spressman's sisterant."

"We uns? What do you mean, Bobby?" wailed the mother.

"I say we uns whenever we uns thinks to do it. That's the way
mountingyears talks."

"Robert! Robert, look at Bobby and listen to him!"

Mr. Carter did look at Bobby and the remembrance of his own boyhood came
back to him and he laughed as he seldom did now-a-days.

"Well, bless my soul, what a great big son I have got!" and he slapped
Bobby on the back. "I fancy you are too big to kiss, you rascal!"

"I ain't too big to kiss if you uns comes behind the station where
Josh'n Josephus can't see us," and Bobby led his willing parent behind
the station where Helen had gone to shed a bitter tear and where Dr.
Wright had discovered her and where Lucy had discovered them.

"Oh, shucks! They's too many folks here," he declared.

"Will all of you please step out of the way?" begged Mr. Carter. "Bobby
has an important thing to discuss with me and we should like the back of
the station to ourselves for a moment."

Left alone, the big man held his little son tight in his arms and in
spite of Bobby's boasted manhood he was very happy to be once more
hugged and kissed by his father.

Dr. Wright smiled into Helen's reddened eyes and said: "Bobby will do
more for your father than anyone else now. If he can be a boy again he
will get entirely well."

The many parcels were at last stowed away in the cart and Josh clucked
sadly to Josephus.

"I reckon Bobby's done left us all, now that his paw is come," he said
sadly to the sympathetic mule. But Bobby came running after him.

"Hi there! Wait, Josh! Father says he would sooner trust his bones to us
than that old Tin Lizzie. You'n him'n me can squzzle in on the front
seat."

"Sho' we kin!" declared the delighted Josh. He hadn't lost an old friend
after all, but gained a new one.

Mr. Carter proved even more agreeable to the little mountain boy than
his idol, Lewis Somerville. He had such wonderful things to tell of
ships and things and seemed to understand a boy so well. Mr. Somerville
was right strict with a fellow, expecting him to be clean all the time
and never forget, but somehow, Mr. Carter was a little easier.

"You are frightfully burned, Douglas," complained Mrs. Carter as they
finally got themselves stowed away in the faithful mountain goat. "I
can't see why you do not protect your skin. Your neck will take months
to recover from such a tanning."

"Well, I don't think that will make much difference," laughed Douglas.
"I fancy it will be many a day before I go décolleté."

"I don't see that. If you are not going to college, I see no reason why
you should not make your debut next winter."

Douglas looked at her mother in amazement. Could it be that even now she
did not understand? She said nothing, feeling that it would be wiser to
wait until she and her mother were alone. Never having economized in her
life, Mrs. Carter did not know the meaning of the word. The many parcels
that were borne from the train gave Douglas a faint feeling. Had her
mother been buying things in New York?

"I brought you a perfect love of a hat, darling," Mrs. Carter chattered
on, "but of course you shall have to bleach up a bit for it to be
becoming to you. I did not dream you were so burned or I should not have
selected such pale trimmings. I have a delightful plan! Since you are
to come out next winter, I think a fortnight at the White in late August
would be charming--give you that poise that debutantes so often lack. We
can leave the children with your father and go together----"

"But, mother----"

"Oh, we shan't go quite yet! I know you want to see your father for a
few days before you leave him even for a fortnight."

Douglas was speechless; Nan, who was crowded in by her, gave her a
sympathetic squeeze.

"It is lovely to be with my girls again," the little lady bubbled on.
"Of course your letter was a great surprise to me, Douglas. The idea of
my children making money!" and she gave a silvery laugh. "I am delighted
that you have, because now no doubt your coming out will be even more
delightful than I had anticipated. Of course those persons who are in
our house in Richmond will simply have to get out."

"But, mother----"

"Simply have to--how can a girl come out suitably unless she is in her
own home?"



CHAPTER III

THE PROBLEM


The cabin was looking very sweet and fresh after a thorough cleaning
from the willing hands of Susan, who was in a state of bliss because her
beloved mistress was returning. Gwen had found some belated Cherokee
roses and with a few sprays of honeysuckle added had glorified the plain
room.

"You think Miss Lizzie Somerville is el'gant! Well, you jes' oughter see
my missis. She is the mos' el'gantes' lady in the whole er Richmond. I
bet Mis' Carter ain't never in all her life done a han's turn. Gawd
knows what she gonter say 'bout these here young ladies er hern workin'
like they was in service," Susan remarked to the little English Gwen,
who had done many a hand's turn herself and still had an elegance all
her own, so evident that the colored servants recognized her as a "lady
bawn."

"I think it is very wonderful that the Carter girls should be able to
work so well when they have never been brought up to it," said Gwen as
she hung the last freshly laundered sash curtain.

"That's they paw in 'em," declared Susan. "He is the wuckinest gemman I
ever seed. 'Tain't nothin' he won't turn his han' ter. He don't never
set back and holler fer help when he wants the fire fixed er sech like.
No'm, he jes' jumps up an' waits on hisself. Sometimes he used ter git
Mis' Carter kinder put out 'cause he'd even do his own reaching at the
table. Miss Douglas is the spittin' image of him. None of the gals
favors her much 'cep Miss Nan. She looks like her but she ain't so
langrous like when they's work on hand. Miss Helen is the same kind er
spender as her maw. I believe my soul them two would ruther buy than
eat. Cook used ter say that Mis' Carter an' Miss Helen spent like we
done come to the millionennium. Great Gawd! Here they is an' I ain't got
on my clean apron. That's one thing that Mis' Carter'll certainly git
cross over--aprons."

She did not, however. Too pleased to see the faithful Susan, Mrs. Carter
overlooked the doubtful apron.

"What a charming room! Is this where I am to be? And you girls in the
tents beyond? And Bobby--where does Bobby sleep?"

"He is with Lewis Somerville and his friend, Bill Tinsley. I believe he
wrote you about Bill," said Helen, "--the young man who was shipped from
West Point when Lewis was."

"Oh yes, I remember! I am glad to see you have not let yourself run down
like Douglas, my dear. Your hair looks well kept and your complexion is
perfect."

Douglas, much perturbed over her mother's plans, had rushed off to be
alone for a moment to compose herself.

"But, mother, I don't burn like Douglas, and then Douglas' hair is so
lovely it doesn't make any difference what she does to it. Mine must be
well kept to pass muster. I hope you are not going to find it too rough
here for you, mumsy," and Helen put a protecting arm around the little
mother, who was more like a sister, and a younger one at that, than a
mother to these great girls.

"Oh, I think it is delightful for a while. Of course I have been on
shipboard so long that I really am longing for some society. Did you
hear me tell Douglas what my plan is for her and me? I should like to
include you, too, but perhaps it would be best for you to wait a year."

"No, I did not hear; you see the car is such a noisy one that one never
can hear. What is your plan?"

"I want to take Douglas to the White for several weeks preparatory to
her making her debut this winter."

"Debut!" gasped Helen. "White Sulphur!"

"Certainly, why not?"

"But, mother, we haven't money for clothes and things."

"Nonsense! Our credit is perfectly good. I fancy there is not a man in
Richmond who has paid his bills so regularly as Robert Carter, and now
that he is not able to work for a few months I feel sure there is not a
single tradesman with whom we have always dealt who would not be more
than pleased to have us on his books for any amount."

"I wanted to charge a lot of things I thought we needed, but Douglas
just wouldn't have it. She never does realize the importance of clothes.
I don't mean to criticize Douglas, she is wonderful, but she is careless
about clothes."

"Well, I shall put a stop to that, now that I am back with my children.
Your father is so much better I can give my time to other things now.
How exciting it will be to have a daughter in society! I never did want
Douglas to go to college. What made her give it up? She never did say
what her reason was. Letters are very unsatisfactory things when one is
on shipboard."

"It was money, of course," said Helen. "There was no money for
college."

"Oh, to be sure! I forgot that college takes cash. Well, I am heartily
glad she has given it up. I think college girls get too independent. I
am dying to show you my purchases in New York."

"I am dying to see them, too, but, mumsy, I shall have to leave you now
and run and do a million things. We have a great crowd of week-enders
coming up on the late train."

"Can't Susan attend to the things?"

"Oh, Susan does a lot, but I am the chief cook and Douglas is the brains
of the concern and looks after all the money and does the buying. Nan
attends to all the letter writing, and you would be astonished to see
how much she has to do because we have showers of mail about board. Lucy
sees to the setting of the tables, and all of us do everything that
turns up to be done. Even Bobby helps."

"How ridiculous! Well, take care of your hands, darling. I hate to see
a girl with roughened hands. There is simply no excuse for it."

Helen was dazed by her mother's attitude.

"She is just presenting a duck-back to trouble," thought the girl,
looking rather ruefully at her shapely hands which were showing the
inevitable signs of work.

She found Douglas sitting in a forlorn heap in their tent. Her
countenance was the picture of woe.

"Helen! Helen! What are we to do?"

"Well, it wouldn't be so bad to take a trip to the White, and you
certainly deserve a change. Poor mumsy, too, is bored to death with such
a long sea trip and she needs some society."

"But, honey, the money!"

"Oh, I don't see that we need worry so about that. Mother says that
there is not a tradesman in Richmond who would not be pleased to have
us on his books for any amount. I, for one, am longing for some new
clothes. I don't mind a bit working and cooking, but I do think I need
some new things--and as for you--why, Douglas, you are a perfect rag
bag."

Douglas looked at her sister in amazement. The lesson, then, was not
learned yet! She had thought that Helen understood about the necessity
of making no bills as the bills were what had helped to reduce their
father to this state of invalidism, but here she was falling into the
mother's way of thinking--willing to plunge into debt to any amount.

"But Dr. Wright----"

"Oh, always Dr. Wright!"

"But, Helen, you know you like Dr. Wright now and you must trust him."

"So I do. I like him better and trust him entirely and he himself told
me at the station that father was getting well fast. He said it would
take a little more time but that he would be perfectly well again--at
least that is what I gathered. I know father would be the last man in
the world to want his girls to go around looking like ash cats and you
know it would make him ill indeed to think that mother wanted to go to
White Sulphur for a while and could not go because of lack of money."

"Of course it would, but surely neither you nor mother would tell him
that she wanted to go if you know there is no money to pay for such a
trip."

"But there is money!" exclaimed Helen with some asperity. "You told me
yourself that the camp was paying well enough for us to begin to have
quite a bank account."

"Yes--but----"

"Well now, if we have some money you must think that I have helped to
earn it!"

"Why, Helen dear, you have done more than any of us. You are so
capable----"

"I don't say I have done more, no one could have worked harder than you
have--in fact, everybody has worked, but if I have done my share of the
work, then I am certainly entitled to my share of the money and I intend
to take my share and send mother to White Sulphur for a change. Of
course you will simply have to go with her as she has set her heart on
it."

"I will not," announced Douglas, her girlish face taking on stern
determination.

A shout from Bobby heralded the arrival of Josephus with the luggage.
The discussion ended for the time being as Douglas and Helen were both
needed to prepare for the inroad of week-enders that were to arrive in a
few minutes. Mr. Carter alighted from the cart, already looking better.
He was most enthusiastic over the camp and all of its arrangements.

"I am going to be your handy man," he said, putting his arm around
Douglas. "Are you well, honey? You look bothered."

"Oh yes, I am as well as can be," said Douglas, trying to smooth her
wrinkled brow. How she did want to talk all the troubles over with her
father, but he of all persons must not be bothered. The old habit of
going to him with every worry was so strong that it was difficult to
keep from doing it now, but she bit her lips and held it in.

"I'll tell Lewis," she thought. "He will at least sympathize."

What was she to do about her mother and Helen? They seemed to have no
more gumption about money than the birds. Even then parcels were being
carried into the cabin from the cart that must have meant much money
spent in New York. Where did mother get it? The rent from the house in
town had been sent to Mrs. Carter for running expenses on shipboard and
hotels at the many places where they had stopped, but that must have
gone for the trip. Could she have charged the purchases in New York?
Poor Douglas! She had felt that the problem of making her sisters see
the necessity of economizing had been a great one, but she realized that
it was nothing to what she must face now. She felt that all her former
arguments had been in vain since Helen was dropping into her mother's
habit of thought and upholding that charming butterfly-like person in
all her schemes of extravagance. Lucy was sure to follow Helen's lead
and begin to demand clothes, treats, trips and what-not. Nan, dear
sensible, unselfish Nan, would be the only one who would sympathize with
her older sister in regard to the necessity of continuing the strict
economy they had practiced since early in May, when Dr. Wright had
declared that the only thing that would save their father's reason was
an immediate change, a long rest and complete cessation of all business
worries.

Nan's tastes were simple, but she had a passion for color and beautiful
textiles and sometimes indulged that taste in adorning her dainty little
person. As a rule, however, she was quite satisfied to behold the color
in a Persian rug or the wings of a butterfly. Beauty was to the girl
the most important thing in life whether it was of line, color, sound
or idea. She was perfectly happy with a good book and a comfortable
place in which to curl up. Her fault was laziness, a certain physical
inertia which her indulgent mother always attributed to her delicate
constitution; but the summer in the mountains with the enforced activity
had proven that the delicate constitution was due to the inertia and not
the inertia to the delicate constitution. Up to that time in her life
there had been no especial reason for exerting herself, but Nan was very
unselfish and when she realized that her sisters were one and all
busying themselves, she threw off her lazy habits as she would an ugly
robe, and many tasks at Week-End Camp fell to her share.

Douglas, in this trouble that had arisen, felt that she could go to
Nan for comfort and advice. Nan's mind was as normally active as her
graceful little body was inactive and she had a faculty of seeing her
way through difficulties that the conscientious but more slowly thinking
Douglas much envied her.

"Nan, it's fifteen minutes before train time when the week-enders will
come piling in--I'm dying to have a talk with you."

"Well, don't die--just talk," drawled Nan, looking up from her book but
never stopping turning the crank of the mayonnaise mixer. This was a job
Nan loved, making mayonnaise. She had gotten it down to a fine art since
she could mix and read at the same time. She declared it was a plain
waste of time to use your hands without using your head and since
turning a mayonnaise mixer crank required no intelligence beyond that of
seeing that the funnel was filled with olive oil, she was able to
indulge in her passion for poetry while she was making the quarts of
mayonnaise that the young housekeepers dealt out so generously to their
week-enders.

"Listen to this!" and Nan turned the crank slowly while she read:

      "'Alas for all high hopes and all desires!
        Like leaves in yellow autumn-time they fall--
      Alas for prayers and psalms and love's pure fires--
        One silence and one darkness ends them all!'"

The crank stopped and all of the oil flowed through the funnel while Nan
softly turned the leaves of Marston's "Last Harvest."

"Yes, honey, it is beautiful, but you had better read a livelier form of
verse or your salad dressing will go back on you."

"Heavens, you are right! I've got 'Barrack Room Ballads' here ready in
case I get to dawdling," laughed Nan.

"I want to talk about something very important, Nan. Can you turn your
crank and listen?"

"Yes, indeed, but you'll have to talk fast or else I'll get to poking
again. You see, I have to keep time."

So Douglas rapidly repeated the conversations she had had with her
mother and later with Helen.

"What are we to do? Must I tell Dr. Wright? I am afraid to get them
started for fear father will be mixed up in it. He must not know mother
wants to go to White Sulphur--he would be sure to say let her go and
then he would try to work again before he is fit for it, and he would
certainly get back into the same state he was in last spring."

"Poor little mumsy! I was sure she would not understand," and once more
the mixer played a sad measure.

"I was afraid she wouldn't," sighed Douglas, "but I did think Helen had
been taught a lesson and realized the importance of our keeping within
our earnings and saving something, too, for winter."

"Helen--why, she is too young for the lesson she learned to stick. She
is nothing but a child."

"Is that so, grandmother?" laughed Douglas, amused in spite of her
trouble at Nan's ancient wisdom (Nan being some two years younger than
Helen).

"Why, Douglas, Helen has just been play-acting at being poor. She has no
idea of its being a permanency," and Nan filled the funnel again with
oil and began to turn her crank with vigor.

"But what are we to do? I am not going to White Sulphur and I am not
going to make my debut--that's sure. I have never disobeyed mother that
I can remember, but this time I shall have to. I don't know what I am to
say about the trip to the White. Helen is saying she has helped to earn
the money and she means to spend her share giving poor mumsy a little
fun after her tiresome long journey on the water. I wish we had never
told her we were able to put something in the bank last month. It was
precious little and Helen's share would not keep them at White Sulphur
more than two or three days. Helen thinks I am stingy and mother thinks
I am stubborn and ugly and sunburned--and there's the train with all the
week-enders----" and poor Douglas gave a little sob.

"And I have turned my wheel until this old mayonnaise is done--just look
how beautiful it is! And you, poor old Doug, must just leave it to me,
and I'll think up something to keep them here if I have to break out
with smallpox and get them quarantined on the mountain."

"Oh, Nan! Is there some way out of it without letting father know that
mother wants something and cannot have it for lack of money?"

"Sure there is! You go powder your nose and put on a blue linen blouse
and give a few licks to your pretty hair while I hand over the
mayonnaise to Gwen and see that Lucy has counted noses for the supper
tables. I've almost got a good reason already for mumsy's staying here
aside from the lack of tin, but I must get it off to her with great
finesse."

"I knew you would help!" and Douglas gave her little sister and the
mayonnaise bowl an impartial hug, and then hastened to make herself more
presentable, hoping to find favor in the eyes of her fastidious mother.



CHAPTER IV

ROBERT CARTER'S ASTONISHING GIRLS


August, the month for holidays, was bringing much business to the
proprietresses of Week-End Camp. Such a crowd came swarming up the
mountain now that Lucy, who had set the tables with the assistance of
her chum, Lil Tate, and the two sworn knights, Skeeter Halsey and Frank
Maury, and had carefully counted noses according to the calculations Nan
had made from the applications she had received, had to do it all over
to make room for the unexpected guests.

"Just kilt-plait the places," suggested Lil.

"If they keep on coming we'll have to accordeon-plait 'em," laughed
Lucy.

"Gee, I'm glad your eats don't land in your elbows!" from Skeeter.

"Me, too!" exclaimed Frank. "Miss Helen tipped me a wink that there's
Brunswick stew made out of the squirrels we got yesterday. And there is
sho' no elbow room at these tables."

"Look at 'em swarming up the mountain. Where do you reckon they'll
sleep?" asked Lil.

"Have to roost in the trees."

"I bet more than half of them didn't bring their blankets," hazarded
Lucy.

"Yes, that's the way they do, these town fellows," said Skeeter,
forgetting that he too had been a town fellow only a few weeks before
that time.

The summer in the mountains was doing wonders for these youngsters.
Sleeping in the open had broadened their chests. They were wiry and
tanned and every day brought some new delightful duty that was never
called a duty and so was looked upon by all of them as a great game.
Theirs was the task of foraging for the camp, and no small job was it to
find chickens and vegetables and fruit for the hungry hordes that sought
the Week-End Camp for holiday and recreation.

They had found their way to many a remote mountain cabin and engaged all
chickens hatched and unhatched. They had spread the good news among the
natives that blackberries, huckleberries, peaches, apples, pears and
plums were in demand at their camp. Eggs were always needed. Little
wild-eyed, tangled-haired children would come creeping from the bushes,
like so many timid rabbits, bringing their wares; sometimes a bucket of
dewberries or some wild plums; sometimes honey from the wild bees, dark
and strong and very sweet, "bumblebee honey," Skeeter called it. All was
grist that came to the mill of the week-enders. No matter how much was
provided, there was never anything to speak of left over.

"These hyar white folks is same as chickens," grumbled old Oscar.
"They's got no notion of quittin' s'long as they's any corn lef' on the
groun'."

"They sho' kin eat," agreed Susan, "but Miss Douglas an' Miss Helen done
said we mus' fill 'em up and that's what we is hyar fur."

The above is a conversation that, with variations, occurred during
almost every meal at the camp. Oscar and Susan, the faithful servants
the Carters had brought from Richmond, were proving more and more
efficient now that the first sting of the country was removed and camp
life had become a habit with them. They were creatures of habit and
imbued with the notion that what was good enough for white folks was
good enough for them. Their young mistresses were contented with the
life in the camp, so they were, too. Their young mistresses were not
above doing any work that came to hand, so they, too, must be willing to
do what fell to their lot. Susan forgot the vows she had so solemnly
sworn when she became a member of the housemaids' league, to do
housework and nothing else. She argued that a camp wasn't a house and
she could do what she chose. Oscar had, while in town, held himself
above any form of labor not conducive to the dignity of a butler serving
for many years in the best families. But if Mr. Lewis Somerville and
Mr. Bill Tinsley, both of them belonging to fust famblies, could skin
squirrels, why then, he, Oscar, must be a sport and skin them, too.

These week-ends in August were hard work for all concerned and now there
was talk of some of the guests staying over for much longer and spending
two weeks with them. That meant no cessation of fillin' 'em up. Previous
to this time, Monday had been a blessed day for all the camp, boarders
gone and time to take stock and rest, but now there was to be no let up
in the filling process.

Susan, for the time completely demoralized by the return of her beloved
mistress, had left her work to whomsoever it might concern and had
constituted herself lady's maid for Mrs. Carter. She unpacked boxes and
parcels, hovering over the pretty things purchased in New York; she
fetched and carried for that dainty lady, ignoring completely the steady
stream of week-enders climbing up the mountain or being carried up by
the faithful and sturdy mountain goat, with the silent Bill as
chauffeur.

Helen had reluctantly torn herself from the delectable boxes and parcels
and was busily engaged in concocting a wonderful potato salad, something
she always attended to herself. Gwen was making batter bread after
having put to rise pan after pan of rolls. Oscar had begun to fry the
apples, a dish ever in demand at camp. The Brunswick stew had been
safely deposited in the fireless cooker early in the day and all was
going well.

"There!" exclaimed Helen, putting the finishing touch to the last huge
bowl of salad and stepping back to admire her handiwork. "That
substantial salad unites beauty and utility."

"It sho' do, Miss Helen, it sho' do!" declared Oscar, adroitly turning
his apples just as they reached the proper stage of almost and not quite
being candied. "They's nothin' like tater salid fer contitutioning a
foumdation stone on which to build fillin' victuals. It's mo' satisfying
to my min' than the staft of life itself. All I is a-hopin' is that they
won't lick the platter befo' I gits to it."

"You are safe there, Oscar, as I made this extra dishful to be kept back
so you and Susan will be sure to get some."

"Susan, indeed!" sniffed her fellow-servant. "She ain't called on to
expect no favors at yo' han'. To be foun' by the wayside, a fallin' down
wantin' jes' at this crucible moment!"

"I think she is helping mother."

"Then I's got nothin' to say--but I 'low she helpin' yo' maw with one
han' an' Susan Jourdan with yudder."

Mr. Carter and Dr. Wright looked into the kitchen a moment. Dr. Wright
had been showing his patient over the camp, as all of the daughters were
occupied. Mr. Carter was delighted with the arrangements and amazed at
the scope of the undertaking. Could this be his Helen, the queen of the
kitchen, attending to the preparation of this great quantity of food? He
never remembered before seeing Helen do any more strenuous work than
play a corking good game of tennis, and here she was handling a frying
pan with the same skill with which she had formerly handled a racquet,
looking after the apples while Oscar cracked ice and carried up into the
pavilion the great pitchers of cold tea destined to quench the thirst of
the week-enders.

Helen was looking wholly lovely in her becoming bungalow apron, with her
flushed cheeks and hair a bit dishevelled from the hurry of getting
things done without the assistance of the capable Susan. Robert Carter
looked in amazement at the great bowls of potato salad and the pans of
rolls, being taken from the oven to make room for other pans.

"In heaven's name, what is all this food for?" he asked, laughing.

"Have you seen the week-enders swarming up the mountain?"

"Why yes, but they couldn't eat all this."

"Don't you fool yourself!" and Helen gave her dear father a fried apple
hug. She was very happy. The beloved parents were back with them. Dr.
Wright assured her that her father was improving. The camp had been her
very own idea and it was successful. They were making money and she was
going to take her share of the profits and give her mother a trip. She,
Helen Carter, only eighteen, could do all of this! She had no idea what
the profits amounted to, but Nan and Douglas had only the week before
congratulated themselves that they were putting more money in the bank
than they were drawing out. She cared nothing for money in the bank
except as a means of gratifying the ones she loved. The poor little
mumsy had been shut up on shipboard for months and surely she deserved
some recreation. She was astonished at Douglas for being so stingy. It
was plain stinginess that would make her think more of having some
paltry savings than of wanting to give to their charming, beautiful
little mother her heart's desire, so Helen thought.

Dr. Wright was smiling on her, too. He seemed to think she was a very
remarkable girl, at least that was what one might gather from his
expression as he stood by the kitchen and gazed in through the
screening at the bright-eyed, eager young cook.

"Where are the other girls?" asked Mr. Carter.

"Oh, they have a million things to do! We always divide up and spread
ourselves over the whole camp when the train gets in. Lucy has just
finished setting the tables, and that is some job, I can tell you, but
Lil Tate and Frank Skeeter always help. Nan has been making mayonnaise
enough to run us over Sunday, and now she has gone with Douglas to
receive the week-enders and show them their tents and cots. Douglas is
the great chief--she does all the buying and supervising, looks after
the comfort of the week-enders and sees that everything is kept clean
and sanitary. Nan writes all the letters, and believe me, that is no
little task. She also makes the mayonnaise and helps me here in the
kitchen when I need her, but Gwen is my right hand man. But what am I
thinking of? You haven't even met Gwen!"

The young English girl was looking shyly at the big man and thinking
what she would give to have her own father back again. Dr. Wright had
told Mr. Carter of Gwen and her romantic history, how Helen had found
the wallet in the scrub oak tree containing all of the dead Englishman's
papers, of old Abner Dean's perfidy in taking the land from Gwen when
the receipt had not been found, although the child was sure her father
had paid for the side of the mountain before he had built his cabin
there. Mr. Carter had been greatly interested in the recital and now
his kind friendliness brought a mist to the eyes of the girl.

"I am very glad to know you, my dear. Dr. Wright has told me of you and
now I hope to be numbered among your friends."

Gwen looked so happy and grateful that Helen had to give her father one
more fried apple hug before she pushed him out of the kitchen to make
room for the important ceremony of dishing up supper.

"Where did I ever get them, Doctor, these girls? Why, they are perfect
bricks! To think of my little Helen forgetting the polish on her
fingernails and actually cooking! I don't see where they came from."

It was rather wonderful and George Wright was somewhat at a loss himself
to account for them as he watched the dainty mother of the flock trip
lightly across the rough mountain path connecting the cabin with the
pavilion. Robert Carter himself had character enough to go around, but
when one considered that his character had been alloyed with hers to
make this family it was a wonder that they had that within them that
could throw off tradition and environment as they had done and undertake
this camp that was proving quite a stupendous thing for mere girls.

"Well, Dr. Wright," trilled Mrs. Carter, "isn't this a delightful
adventure for my girls to have amused themselves with? The girl of the
day is certainly an enterprising person. Of course a thing like this
must not be carried too far, as there is danger of their forgetting
their mission in life."

"And that mission is----?"

"Being ornaments of society, of course," laughed the little lady.

Mrs. Carter had long ago overcome the fear she had entertained for
the young physician. He had been so unfailingly kind to her and his
diagnosis of her husband's case had been so sure and his treatment so
exactly right that she could have nothing but liking and respect for
him. She even forgave him the long exile he had subjected her to on
that stupid ship. It had cured her Robert and she was willing to have
cut herself off from society for those months if by doing so she had
contributed to the well-being of her husband. She had been all
devotion and unselfishness in the first agony of his illness. The
habits of her lifetime had been seemingly torn up by the roots and
from being the spoiled and petted darling she had turned into the
efficient nurse. As his health returned, however, it had been quite
easy to slip back into her former place of being served instead of
serving. It was as much Robert Carter's nature to serve as it was
hers to be served. The habits had not been torn up by the roots, after
all, but only been trimmed back, and now they were sprouting out with
added vigor from their pruning.

Very lovely the little lady looked in her filmy lace dress. Her charming
face, framed by its cloud of blue-black hair, showed no trace of having
gone through the anxiety of a severe illness of one whom she loved
devotedly. Nothing worried her very long and she had the philosophy of
a young child, taking no thought of the yesterdays or of the morrows.
Dr. Wright looked on her in amazement. Her speaking of the camp as
an adventure chosen by the girls as something with which to amuse
themselves would have been laughable had it not been irritating to the
young man. And now, forsooth, their business in life was to become
ornaments of society!

"Humph!" was all he said, although he had to turn on his heel and walk
off to keep from asserting that their mission in life should be to
become useful members of society. He had a dread of appearing priggish,
however, and then this was Helen's mother and he wanted to do nothing to
mar in any way the friendship that had sprung up between that elusive
young person and himself.

"Where are all the children, Robert?" asked Mrs. Carter, wondering in
her well-bred mind why Dr. Wright should be so brusque.

"There aren't any children, Annette," sighed Mr. Carter, "but I
shouldn't sigh but be glad and happy. Why, they are perfect wonders!
Helen is in the kitchen, not eating bread and honey, but cooking and
bossing, and all the other girls are flying around taking care of the
boarders."

"Boarders! Oh, Robert, what a name to call them! I can't contemplate it.
Who are all those people I saw coming up the road?"

"They are the boarders."

"Not all that crowd! I thought they had only a select few."

"No, indeed, they take all that come and I can tell you they have made
the place very popular. I did not know they had it in them. I believe
it was a good thing I went off my hooks for a while, as it has brought
out character in my girls that I did not dream they had."

"It seems hardly ladylike for them to be so--so--successful at running
a boarding place. I wonder what people will say."

"Why they will say: 'Hurrah for the Carter Girls!' At least, that is
what the worth-while people will say."

"Well, if you think it all right, I know it must be," sighed the poor
little lady, "but somehow I think it would be much better for them to
have visited Cousin Elizabeth Somerville until we got back or had her
visit them in Richmond. I don't at all approve of their renting my
house. Douglas is so coarsened by this living out-of-doors. She has the
complexion that must be guarded very carefully or she will lose her
beauty very early. I think the summer before a girl makes her debut
should be spent taking care of her complexion."

Robert Carter laughed. He was always intensely amused by his wife's
outlook on life and society and looked upon it as one of her girlish
charms. Common sense had not been what made him fall in love with her
twenty years before, so the lack of it did not detract in any way from
his admiration of her in these latter years. She was what she had always
been: beautiful, graceful, sweet, charming; made to be loved, served and
spoiled.

"Where is Bobby? He, at least, cannot be busy with these awful
boarders."

"Bobby? Why, he is now engaged in helping Josh, the little mountain boy
who is serving as expressman for the girls, to curry Josephus, the mule.
These boarders are not awful, my dear. You will find many acquaintances
among them. Jeffry Tucker came with his two girls, the twins, and a
friend of theirs from Milton, Page Allison is her name. There are
several others whom you will be glad to see, I know. I think it would be
well for us to go up in the pavilion where they dine and then dance, and
you can receive them there as they arrive."

Mrs. Carter patted her creamy lace dress with a satisfied feeling that
she was looking her best. It was a new creation from a most exclusive
shop in New York--quite expensive, but then she had had absolutely no
new clothes for perfect ages and since the proprietor of the shop had
been most pleased to have her open an account with him, the price of the
gown was no concern of hers. It set off her pearly skin and dusky hair
to perfection. She was glad Jeffry Tucker was at the camp. He was a
general favorite in Richmond society and his being there meant at least
that her girls had not lessened themselves in the eyes of the elite.
Surely he would not bring his daughters to this ridiculous camp unless
he felt that it would do nothing toward lowering their position.

The pretty, puzzled lady took her place at one end of the great long
dining pavilion as the week-enders swarmed up the steps, attracted
hither by the odor of fried apples and hot rolls that was wafted o'er
the mountainside.



CHAPTER V

THE TUCKERS


There had been general rejoicing at Week-End Camp when Nan had announced
that Jeffry Tucker and his daughters were to come up for a short stay.
The Tuckers were great favorites and were always received with open
arms at any place where fun was on foot. Mr. Tucker had written for
accommodations for himself and daughters and their friend, Miss Allison.

No one would have been more astonished than Jeffry Tucker, the father
of the Heavenly Twins, at the kind of reputation he had with a society
woman of Mrs. Carter's standing. For her to think that his bringing
his daughters to the camp meant that he considered it to their social
advantage--at least not to their social detriment--would have convulsed
that gentleman. He thought no more of the social standing of his
daughters Virginia and Caroline (Dum and Dee) than he did of the fourth
dimension. He came to the camp and brought his daughters and Page
Allison just because he heard it was great fun. He had known Robert
Carter all his life and admired and liked him. His daughters had gone
to the kindergarten and dancing school with Douglas and Helen and when
rumor had it that these girls were actually making a living with
week-end boarders at a camp in Albemarle, why it was the most natural
thing in the world for the warm-hearted Jeffry Tucker immediately to
write for tent room for his little crowd.

I hope my readers are glad to see the Tuckers and Page Allison. The fact
of the business is that they are a lively lot and it is difficult to
keep them in the pages of their own books. They might have stayed safely
there had not the Carter girls started this venture in the mountains.
That was too much for them. Zebedee had promised Tweedles again and
again to take them camping, and since what they did Page must do too,
of course she was included in the promise. This is not their own camp
and not their own book but here they are in it!

"Douglas Carter, we think you are the smartest person that ever was!"
enthused Dum Tucker as Douglas showed them to their tent where three
other girls were to sleep, too. "Isn't this just too lovely?"

"I'm not smart, it's Helen who thought up this plan," insisted Douglas.
"We are so glad you have come and we do hope you will like it."

"Like it! We are wild about it," cried Dee, and Page Allison was equally
enthusiastic.

"Where is Helen?" demanded Dum.

"She is chief cook and can't make her appearance until she has put the
finishing touches to supper."

"Does she really cook, herself?" cried Dee. "How grand!"

"Sometimes she cooks herself," drawled Nan, coming into the tent to see
the Tuckers, who were great favorites with her, too, "sometimes when we
get out of provisions, which we are liable to do now as six persons have
come who had not written me for accommodations."

"Mother and father got here from a long trip this afternoon," explained
Douglas, "and we are so upset over seeing them that we are rather late.
Helen usually does all she has to do before the week-enders come."

"Let us help!" begged Dee. "Dum and I can do lots of stunts, and Page
here is a wonderful pie slinger."

"Well, we would hardly press Miss Allison into service when she has just
arrived," smiled Douglas.

"Please, please don't Miss Allison me! I'm just Page and my idea of
camping is cooking, so if I can help, let me," and Page, who had said
little up to that time, spoke with such genuine frankness that Douglas
and Nan felt somehow that a new friend had come into their circle.

"We'll call on all three of you if we need you," promised Douglas,
hastening off with Nan to see that other guests had found their tents
and had what they wanted in the way of water and towels.

"Isn't this great?" said Dee. "I'm so glad Zebedee thought of coming.
I think Douglas Carter looks healthy but awful bothered, somehow."

"I thought so, too. I'm afraid her father is not so well or something.
Think of Helen Carter's cooking!" wondered Dum.

"Why shouldn't she?" asked Page. "Is she so superior?"

"No, not that," tweedled the twins.

"Helen's fine but so--so--stylish. Mrs. Carter is charming but she is
one butterfly and we always rather expected Helen to be just like
her--more sense than her mother, but dressy," continued Dee.

"You will know what Mrs. Carter is, just as soon as you look at her
hands," declared Dum. "If the lilies of the field were blessed with
hands they would look exactly like Mrs. Carter's."

"Well, come let's find Zebedee. I smelt apples frying," and the three
friends made their way to the pavilion where Mrs. Carter was receiving
the week-enders with all the charm and ceremony she might have employed
at a daughter's debut party.

Her reception of the Tuckers was warm and friendly. It had been months
since she had seen anyone who moved in her own circle and now there were
many questions to ask of Richmond society. Jeffry Tucker, who could make
himself perfectly at home with any type, now laid himself out to be
pleasant to his hostess. He told her all the latest news of Franklin
street and recounted the gossip that had filtered back from White
Sulphur and Warm Springs. He turned himself into a society column and
announced engagements and rumors of engagements; who was at the beach
and who was at the mountains. He even made a stagger at the list of
debutantes for the ensuing winter.

"I mean that Douglas shall come out next winter, too," said the little
lady during the supper that followed. Nan, seeing that her mother was
having such a pleasant time with the genial Jeffry Tucker, arranged to
have the Tuckers placed at the table that had been set aside for their
mother and father. The Carter girls made it a rule to scatter themselves
through the crowd the better to look after the hungry and see that no
one's wants were unsatisfied.

"Ah, is that so? I had an idea she was destined for college. It seems
to me that Tweedles told me she had passed her Bryn Mawr exams."

"So she did, but I am glad to say she has given up all idea of that
foolishness. I am very anxious for her to make her debut."

Nan, who was making the rounds of the various tables to see that
everyone was served properly, overheard her mother's remark and glanced
shyly at Mr. Tucker. She caught his eye unwittingly but there was
something in the look that he gave her that made her know he understood
the whole situation and was in sympathy with Douglas, who was very
busy at the next table helping hungry week-enders to the rapidly
disappearing potato salad.

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 daughter's
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?"

"I's a-helpin' Mis' Carter. She kep' me a-openin' boxes an' hangin' up
things. I knowed Miss Helen wouldn't 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 qua'llin'
the way the young missises was a-talkin'."

"Well, all I got to say is that Mis' Carter ain't called on to git any
mo' waitin' on than the young ladies. They's as blue-blooded as what she
is an' even mo' so as they is got all the blood she's got an' they paw's
beside. I bet she ain't 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. I'll 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 isn't something I can do. I don't want to
butt in--you understand that, don't 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 don't 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 mother's every wish. Mr. Tucker, please don't think mother is
selfish--it isn't 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."

"Can't 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 don't 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 summer's
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!"

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

"Let's 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 lady's 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 won't 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. "Let's go this way and shake the crowd for a little
while," suggested Lewis.

"But we mustn't be long. Helen will have too much entertaining to do.
We can't get it out of our heads that we must treat these boarders as
though we were having a house-party."

"Well, I reckon that's 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
couldn't leave you without any protection----"

"Leave us! Oh, Lewis!"

"Do you mind really, Douglas?"

"Mind? Why, I can't 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, don't 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 can't 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 couldn't have done a thing without you and Bill."

"I don't 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 don't mean like a cousin--I'm
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, didn't 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! I'm not the least little bit like a brother. Bill's got
sisters and I don't 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 can't ask you to marry me now as I haven't 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 I'll be a lieutenant before Carranza
and Villa can settle their difficulty. Won't you be engaged to me so
I'll 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! I've been telling you for
pretty near eighteen years."

"Well, I never heard you!"

"Why don't you say you don't give a hang for me and let me go?"

"But, Lewis, I give a whole lot of hangs for you and I don't 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 girl's 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 didn't mean to, honey--I just want you to say you
love me the way I love you."

"And I can't 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, won't you?"

"Why, of course I will, Lewis! Haven't I always written to you?"

"Douglas, don't 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 I've 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 wouldn't have the least bit of respect for me and you know you
wouldn't; 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 don't 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. Isn't 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, I'm real practical
and know how to dress on very little and, if I do say it that shouldn't,
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 can't fool
me--and I'm 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 wouldn't 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
don't have such a lot on the ones who just quietly crawl out--like I
did, f'instance. 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
Tillie's chatter he had uttered not one word more than the "Whew" over
Mrs. Carter's extravagance. The picture of Tillie's quietly crawling
got the better of his risibles.

"You needn't 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 I'm still having, although I'm 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 wasn't 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 she's 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, you've 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 can't 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 Lewis'll be gone," broke in Bill.

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

"He'll 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! I'd be glad if you
would--if--I'm stuck on you for sure."

"Oh, come off! You know you think I'm 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. Won't you,
Tillie?"

"Well, I don't care if I do. You are a fine dancer and I think a heap of
you, Bill. I'd rather keep it dark, though, if you don't mind, as it
queers a girl's game sometimes if she gets engaged."

"Lord, no! I don't 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.

"I never dreamed you were thinking about me seriously," she confessed as
she emerged from his embrace.

"Honest? Been dotty about you ever since you took me for a jitney driver
and tipped me a quarter. Got it yet."

"Look how dark it is! I believe we are going to have a storm. What a
great black cloud! Let's hurry, as I have no idea of getting my frock
wet."

Hurry they did and reached the pavilion just as great drops began to
fall. Bill was in a state of happy excitement over his engagement,
although it was something he must keep to himself. He felt like shouting
it on the housetops, but instead he gave one of his great laughs that
startled Mrs. Carter so she stopped dancing and hunted up Bobby.

"It sounded like bears and lions," she declared, "and I felt uneasy
about my baby."

She found that youngster fast asleep cuddled up in his father's arms,
the father looking very happy and peaceful. Robert Carter felt quite
like a little child himself with his great girls taking care of him.



CHAPTER VII

THE STORM


That storm was always known as "The Storm" by everyone who was at the
Week-End Camp on that night in August. Greendale had been singularly
free from severe storms that season and the Carters had had no
difficulty up to that time in keeping dry. They had had rain in plenty
but never great downpours and their mountain had escaped the lightning
that on several occasions had played havoc not many miles from them.

The day had been exceptionally warm but very clear. The full moon had
taken the place of the sun when night came on and so brilliant was the
glow from that heavenly orb, one could almost fancy heat was reflected
as well as light. The great black cloud that came rolling over the
mountain was as much an astonishment to the dancers in the pavilion as
it was to the moon herself. They refused to recognize the fact that a
storm was coming up and the moon also held her own for some time after
the downpour was upon them. She kept peeping out through rifts in the
clouds and once when the storm was at its fiercest she sailed clear of
all clouds for a few moments, and then it was that the rarest of all
beauties in Nature was beheld by the damp and huddled-up crowd of
week-enders: a lunar rainbow.

It stretched across the valley, a perfect arc with the colors as clearly
defined as a solar bow but infinitely more delicate than any rainbow
ever beheld before.

There was no such thing as keeping dry. When Lewis Somerville and Bill
Tinsley built the pavilion, they had kept exactly to the architect's
plans, drawn so carefully by Robert Carter's assistant, Mr. Lane. The
roof projected so far on every side that they had remarked at the time
that nothing short of horizontal rain could find its way under that
roof. Well, this rain was horizontal and it came in first one direction
and then another until every bit of floor space was flooded. The thunder
sounded like stage thunder made by rolling barrels of bricks down
inclined planes and helped out with the bass drum. Great clouds rested
on the mountain tops and a wind, that seemed demoniacal in the tricks it
played, bent over great forest trees as though they were saplings and
then let them snap back into place with a deafening crack.

"Save the Victrola," whispered Tillie to Bill. "I want to dance with you
once before you go off, and water will ruin it."

That was enough for the devoted Bill. He took off his coat and wrapped
it tenderly over the top of the Victrola, which was still playing a gay
dance tune as no one had had the presence of mind to stop it. Then he
made a dash for the kitchen just as a river of water was descending and
in a twinkling was back bearing in his arms a great tin tub. This he
placed over the top of the precious music-maker. He felt very tender
toward Tillie just then for although her new dress was being ruined,
still her first thought had been for the Victrola so she could dance
with him.

The storm having come up so suddenly found the crowd totally unprepared.
Tent flys had been left up and the windows and door of the cabin, where
Mrs. Carter was installed, were wide open for the four winds of heaven
to blow through. Sad havoc they played with the dainty finery that Mrs.
Carter and Susan had left spread out on the bed. The wonderful hat,
brought as a present for Douglas, was picked up the next morning half
way down the mountain; at least the ruin was supposed to be that hat but
it was never quite identified as it had lost all semblance to a hat.

Lewis, after hearing the ultimatum from Douglas, as I have said, made
his solitary way to his tent where he threw himself on his cot to fight
it out with his disappointed self. A dash of rain on his tent aroused
him and then a mighty gust of wind simply picked up the tent and wafted
it away like thistledown.

"Well, of all----" but Lewis never finished of all the what, but in a
twinkling he had rolled up the bed clothes belonging to himself and his
tent mates, and then rushing to the neighboring tents that were still
withstanding the raging hurricane he rolled up blankets found there and
piled cots on top of the bundles.

It was a real fight, strong man that he was, to make his way to the
pavilion. Trees were bending before the wind and he found the only way
to locomote was to crawl.

"Just suppose the pavilion doesn't hold!" was ringing in his mind; but
the young men "had builded better than they knew." It did hold although
the roof was straining at the rafters and Lewis and Bill feared every
moment it might rise up and float off as their tent had done.

Lewis came under cover wetter than he would have been had he been in
swimming, he declared. Swimming just soaks the water in but the rain
had beat it in and hammered it down. The wind was still driving the rain
in horizontal sheets and the pavilion was getting damper and damper. The
week-enders were a very forlorn looking crowd and no doubt the majority
of them were far from blessing the day that had brought them to the camp
in Albemarle. They ran from corner to corner trying to get out of the
searching flood.

"I know they are blaming it on us!" cried Nan to Mr. Tucker.

"Who is blaming it on you?" laughed Page Allison. "Why, honey, it may be
doing worse things in other places. We should be thankful we are on a
mountain top instead of in a valley." Then she drew Mr. Tucker aside and
whispered to him: "See here, Zebedee, don't you think it is up to us
somehow to relieve this situation? If we get giddy and act as though it
were a privilege to be wet to the skin, don't you think we might stir up
these people and make a lark of this storm instead of a calamity? You
remember you told me once that you and Miss Jinny Cox saved the day for
a picnic at Monticello when a deluge hit you there?"

Zebedee was the Tucker Twins' pet name for their father, and Page
Allison, their best friend, was also privileged to use the name for that
eternally youthful gentleman.

"I've been thinking we must do something, but the lightning is so severe
that somehow I think I must wait."

"You are like Mammy Susan who says: 'Whin the Almighty is a-doing his
wuck ain't the time fur a po' ole nigger ter be a-doin' hern.'"

"Exactly! But it is letting up a bit now, that is, the lightning is, but
the rain is even more terrific."

A great crash of thunder, coming simultaneously with a flash of
lightning that cracked like a whip, put a stop to conversation, and
Page, in spite of her bravery, for she was not the least afraid of
storms as a rule--clung to Mr. Tucker. Everybody was clinging to
everybody else and in the stress of the moment no one was choosy about
the person to cling to. Bill cursed his stars that Tillie was hanging on
to Skeeter, as pale as a little ghost, when she might just as well be
hanging on to him, while he, in turn, was supporting a strange person he
had never even met.

"That hit close to us!" exclaimed someone.

"I believe it hit me!" screamed a girl.

"Where are Susan and Oscar?" cried Douglas. "They will be scared to
death."

"When I went down in the kitchen after the tub for the Victrola, Oscar
was under the table and Susan was trying to get in the fireless cooker,
head first," volunteered Bill. "The kitchen is really the dryest place
on the mountain, I fancy."

"You forget the shower bath," suggested Helen. "Turn it on full force
and it would still be a thousand times dryer than any place here."

"I tell you what let's do!" spoke Dum Tucker with an inspiration that
all regretted had not come sooner. "Let's climb up and sit on the
rafters!"

Suiting the action to the word, she lightly ascended the trunk of the
huge tulip poplar tree that had been left in the center of the pavilion
as a support to the roof. The branches had been sawed off, leaving
enough projecting to serve as hat racks for the camp. These made an
admirable winding stair which an athletic girl like Dum Tucker made
nothing of climbing.

"Splendid!" and Dee Tucker followed her twin. In short order many of the
more venturesome members of the party were perched on the rafters where
they defied the rain to reach them. Even poor Mrs. Carter, her pretty
lace dress, if not absolutely ruined, at least with all of its first
freshness gone, was persuaded to come up, too, and there she sat
trembling and miserable.

"Come on up, Page!" shouted Dee to her chum.

"I'll be there soon," but Page had an idea that she meant first to
propose to Douglas.

Poor Douglas, this was a fitting ending to a day of worry and concern.
She felt like one

      "Whom unmerciful disaster
      Followed fast and followed faster."

Of course country folk are always made to feel in some intangible way
that they are responsible for the weather when the weather happens to be
bad and city folk are visiting them. Douglas thought she had enough not
to bear the weight of the storm, but somehow she felt that that, too,
was added to her burden.

"I know exactly what you are thinking," said Page, coming up and putting
her wet arm around Douglas' wet waist. "I have lived in the country all
my life and whenever we have a big storm at Bracken or unseasonable
weather of any sort, we are always held personally responsible for it by
a certain type of visitors. You think this is going to harm your camp
and keep people from coming, don't you?"

"Why, how did you know?"

"A little bird told me--a stormy petrel. Now I tell you what we must do:
we must whoop things up until all of these week-enders will think that
the storm was about the most interesting thing that ever happened at
Camp Carter and they will come again hoping for a repetition of the
experience."

"Oh, Page! How can we?" and Douglas smiled in spite of herself.

"Well, let's call a council and appoint a committee on ways and means."

Mr. Tucker was first on the list, then Helen and Dr. Wright, Bill
Tinsley and Lewis Somerville. Nan was so busy looking at the beauties of
Nature that she had to be called three times before she answered.

"Come on, Miss Nan!" begged Mr. Tucker. "Your wise little head is wanted
on this committee."

"Only look at that bank of clouds as the lightning strikes on the edge
of it! It looks like the portals of heaven."

"Yes, and it came mighty near being that same thing," muttered Mr.
Tucker.

The storm was really passing. Flashes of lightning and peals of thunder
grew farther and farther apart. The rain gave one big last dash and
stopped as suddenly as it had begun and then the moon asserted herself
once more.

Every member of the hastily called council had some suggestion to make
and every suggestion was eagerly taken by the committee on ways and
means, that committee being composed of the entire council.

Page said hot coffee for the entire camp must be made immediately and
she would do the making. Dr. Wright said a fire would be a pretty good
thing if it could be managed, and Bill Tinsley remembered some charcoal
braziers that Susan used for ironing and a box of charcoal in the corner
of the kitchen. Lewis went to gather up all the blankets in the camp and
those that were damp were draped along the rafters by the climbers. Soon
the brazier had a glow of coals that sent up heat to the rafters, and
Bill also put into use the great iron pot that had hung over the camp
fire just for picturesqueness. It had never had anything in it but
water, all the cooking being done on kerosene stoves and in a fireless
cooker. This made an excellent brazier and the coals were kept red hot
with the help of the automobile tire pump in lieu of bellows. Helen had
ambition for a welsh rarebit and started in with chafing dishes. This
called into requisition more workers and all of the camp was soon busy
cutting up cheese and toasting bread and crackers.

The Victrola was relieved of its tub and a ragtime record put on that
made all of the workers step lively, which did much toward starting
their circulation and warming them up generally. The Victrola ever after
that was called Diogenes, after a certain wise man who lived in a tub.

Everybody danced at his work and everybody was laughing and happy. The
moonlight was so dazzling in its brilliancy that it was difficult to
realize that not ten minutes before the biggest storm Greendale had ever
known had been making even the strong men tremble. Nan seemed to be the
only person who had not been afraid. Even those who had never before
minded a storm had been cowed by this one.

Page declared she had always liked storms before; even when a big gum
tree on the lawn at Bracken had been struck before her very eyes she had
not been afraid, but this time she was scared to death.

Dum said it seemed to be such a personal storm somehow and each flash
seemed to mean her. "I felt my naked soul was exposed to my Maker," she
said, as she gave her beloved father a hug. "I have got all kinds of
things to 'fess to you, Zebedee, things that I never thought made any
difference before," she whispered.

"Why, Dumdeedledums! What on earth?"

"Only this evening I smoked a cigarette, although I know you hate it--I
owe a little bill for soda water at Miller's, although I know you don't
want me to charge things--there are other things but I can't think of
them just now. Suppose--only suppose that I had winked out without
telling you or worse than that, suppose you had----" but Dum couldn't
finish for the big tears that rolled out of her eyes and which
Tucker-like she made no attempt to conceal. Zebedee lent her his
handkerchief and then had to wipe his own eyes, too.

"That is all right, honey, but don't do it any more. And now you turn in
and help these Carter girls and Page jolly up this crowd. Page is making
coffee and I am going with Somerville to right the tents and take stock
of the damage done by the storm."

When Page had first entered the kitchen she found the two negroes bent
over in abject woe. Oscar was praying while Susan moaned and groaned
with occasional ejaculations like a Greek chorus in a tragedy of
Euripides.

"Oh my Gawd, let the deep waters pass over me and let me come out whiter
than the snow and sweeter than the honey in the honey comb--let me be
putrified by fire and let the rollin' thunder's shock pass me by,
leavin' me stand steadfast, a pillar of smoke by day and a pillar of
fire by night like unto a lily of the valley, a bright an' mawnin' star
that casts its beams on the jest an' the onjest----"

"Yes, my Gawd!" wailed the chorus. "An' the jest an' the onjest shall
lie down together like the lion an' the lamb in that great an' mighty
day an' who Gawd has united let no man pull acinder."

"Yes! Yes! In that day when the Rock of Ages shall smite the Shibboleth
and the Urum an' Thurum may be delivered not--remember thou thy servant
Oscar----"

"Yes! Yes, Lord! an' thy handy maiden Susan!"

Page entered and put a stop to the impassioned appeal by asking for the
coffee pot, while Bill Tinsley bore off the big brazier full of
charcoal.

"The storm is over, I think," said Page, with difficulty restraining her
smiles. "It was very terrible indeed."

"Turrible ain't no word for it; an' now you say the white folks wants to
eat agin? Lord love us if ev'thing don't make these here week-enders
emptier an' emptier. Feedin' of them is like pourin' water down a rat
hole."

"Well, you see, uncle, they all of them got so wet that it is wise to
give them something hot to drink, and then, too, we want them to forget
the terrible storm and think of the camp only with pleasure. You see
they might not come back again."

"Forget it! forget it! You can't lose these here folks. They'd ride all
the way from Richmond jes' to fill theyselves up, if for no other
reason. They is the empties' lot I ever come acrost."

Dee Tucker followed Page to the kitchen to see if she could be of any
assistance in making the coffee. She felt keenly sorry for the Carters
on account of this storm. Not being connected with them in any way,
the grumblers had not hesitated to criticize the whole thing in Dee's
presence when they got wet and scared. Dee had done all in her power to
soften their judgment, but there were several who did not hesitate to
blame the Carter girls because of their wetting. Nothing is so catching
as criticism and it spreads like wildfire with the genus boarder. She
told Page of her fears.

"We'll have to put a stop to it. You get Tillie Wingo and you and she
soft soap the men who are grouching, and then get Zebedee to go after
the females. He can make them believe they only dreamed it stormed."



CHAPTER VIII

THE DAMAGE DONE


Jeffry Tucker and his daughter Caroline, otherwise known as Dee, were
surely the most tactful human beings in the world. They could almost
always gain any goal by tact. They set out now to make the grouchy
week-enders dry up and cheer up, and in half an hour after the storm was
over they had attained their object. Page overheard Mr. Tucker pacifying
a very disconsolate maiden lady whose hair had come out of curl and
whose rosy cheeks had run off--not far, however--only to her jaws.

"This is a most outrageous way to treat boarders!" she exclaimed. "The
idea of having no proper shelter for them--charging an enormous price,
too! I certainly intend to leave tomorrow and I will stop some friends
of mine who were planning to come up next week. Isn't it strange how
these places are overrated? Anyhow, I'll not give it a good name but
will get out the first thing in the morning."

"Oh, don't do that," begged the wily Zebedee. "I had planned to get you
to take a walk with me tomorrow evening. The moon will be gorgeous and
there are some wonderful spots around here--romantic spots."

"Well, of course I wouldn't think of going if it clears up."

"It has already cleared up! Just look at the moon! I almost think we
might take a walk now, but it might be very muddy. Let's fox trot
instead."

"'Done, for a ducat!'" laughed Page to herself, as Mr. Tucker and the
much mollified week-ender danced off together. "I am afraid poor Zebedee
will have his whole holiday taken up showing the moon to wet hens."

What Mr. Tucker accomplished with the females, Tillie and Dee did
likewise to the males. Tillie exercised all her fascinations on some
hallroom boys, while Dee went in for some old bachelors who loved their
ease and comfort and did not at all relish the idea of wet sheets on
soggy cots.

"Here is some hot coffee!" she said, with a very winning smile. "Two
lumps, or one?"

"None for me, miss," from a terrible old grouch who had been
particularly loud in his praise of Nature before Nature had shown what
she really could do. "I don't expect to sleep a wink as it is. I am
perfectly sure the beds will be damp."

"But I am sure they will not be. Douglas is seeing about it now and she
says they have plenty of dry bed linen. You had better have some coffee
and I will dance with you until you get sleepy."

"Egad, that would be very pleasant! I am going back to the city tomorrow
and I could sleep on the train, perhaps."

"Oh, please don't go tomorrow. I thought you would be here over Sunday
and we might get up a little crowd and go sit on the rocks and read
aloud or something."

"Well, if it clears I may change my mind."

"It has already cleared! Goody! Goody! Now you will have to stay.
Wouldn't the old-fashioned waltz go well with that record Helen has just
put on? Do you know I adore the old-fashioned waltz?"

As the old-fashioned waltz was the only thing that staid bachelor could
dance, never having been able to master the new dances, this put him in
rare good humor. He swallowed his coffee hastily, pronouncing it
excellent, and in a twinkling he and Dee were dancing the dances of the
early eighties and one more week-ender was saved to the Carters to give
the camp a good name.

After a severe storm sometimes it is more of a wonder what the damage
isn't than what it is. It seems at the time that nothing will ever be
dry and straight again, and then in a very short while the world looks
normal once more.

Camp Carter recuperated in a miraculous manner. Only one tent had been
blown away and those that stood the test of wind had also stood the test
of rain. Some of the blankets were damp but most of them, thanks to
Lewis' foresight, had been protected. The drainage on the side of a
mountain is naturally perfect so there were no disconcerting puddles,
and the rocky paths were hardly muddy, so hard and driving had been the
downpour.

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.

"Let's 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 won't be comfortable."

"Oh, that's 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 moment's 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 won't miss us at all."

"I didn't mean just the work you do," faltered poor Douglas.

"Oh, well, the rest won't 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 anyone's being anything
but happy. For his part he could not see why Lewis didn't 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 couldn't adjust herself
fast enough. She no doubt does love him but doesn't 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 can't 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.

"Aren't 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."

"How's 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 father's 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 Robert's 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 won't 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 I'll call you Mr. Machiavelli Tucker."

"Don't 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 don't want to sound conceited but I believe I can. This is our
secret, so don't 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. Isn't that
enough for her to be grateful over?"

"We--ll, I don't 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.

"He's up to something, but it wouldn't be very gentlemanly of me to try
to find out if he doesn't 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 don't 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 girl's 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 don't 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 don't want to go into society?"

"Why, for mother's 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 mustn't know she wants it and can't 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 didn't, 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.



CHAPTER X

MR. HIRAM G. PARKER


Susan had been kept very busy all week doing lady's maid work for her
mistress. Susan's 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 Susan's 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. That's what I'm here fur," and Susan, who much
preferred the job of lady's 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.

"What's all that?" grumbled Oscar, who saw many reasons why Miss Helen
should not be doing Susan's work. "You ain't 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 thain't no place to do 'em up but in the
kitchen. It's jes' because of some of these here week-enders that they
is got to be landered. You is so ign'rant that you don't 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 ign'rant but I knows one thing, that ifn a nice little
gal named Miss Page Allison hadn't a come in an' helped Miss Helen an'
I, we wouldn't a got breakfast on the table. Miss Gwen warn't 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 couldn't leave
her. This is a been the busiest week of the camp an' you--you ain't been
wuth standin' room in de bad place all week. You an' yo' mistress with
yo' langery an' yo' arbors of sassiety. I don't know who he is a-comin'
but whoever he is, he ain't no better'n our folks."

"He's Mr. Hiram G. Parker hisself!"

"What, that little ole Hi Parker? He ain't nuthin'. If he's done riz to
the top er sassiety it's caze he's the scum an' the scum jes natch'ly
gits on top. Who was his folks? Tell me that, who was they? You don't
know an' neither do lots er folks but I knows an' he knows. That's the
reason he's so partic'lar 'bout who he consorts with. He has to be! Yi!
Yi! He has to be! Arbor er sassiety much! Back po'ch 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 ain't a-goin' ter hear me--'cause I ain't a-goin' ter talk
thataway befo' her, but that ain't a-keepin' me from knowin' all about
little Hi Parker's fo-bars. Thain't much ter know 'cause he warn't
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 didn't 'have myself."

"Well, howsomever it might a-been, tain't 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 it'll mean all yo' time'll be spent pressin' an' fixin' an' I want
ter know who'll be a-doin' yo' work. Not me! By the time I get through
butlerin' these here week-enders, I ain't 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.

"I'll wash and you wipe," suggested Nan.

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

"Well, they's 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 it's time ter fry 'em for supper."

"Yes, indeed! Go!" from Dum. "We can do them in no time, can't we, Nan?"

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

"Yes, but if you can't 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 land's sake, Miss Dum, don't arsk
none of the week-enders ter lick they plates. They don't leave nothin'
now for my chickens. The gals even eat the tater peelin's. They say it
gwine make they har curl, but they eat so much they don't 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 Saturday's picnic. Page had
on one of Helen's 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 wasn't 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 Dum's enthusiasm, "also some
lemon pies, don't 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 don't 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. I've 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! Ain't
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 gentleman's 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. "Didn't you ever meet
Mr. Parker?"

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

"Oh, he'll 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 Zebedee's--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 doesn't; 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 can't 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 we'll 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 father's 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 Dee's
shoulder. "I don't know whether I am going to behave or not. That Mr.
Parker gets on my nerves. He's too clean, somehow. I'm mighty afraid I'm
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 it's
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 hadn't 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. Parker's 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. Nan's
judgment was in a measure more mature than Helen's although Helen was
almost two years her senior. Where Helen loved, she loved without any
thought of the loved one's having any fault. She wondered now that her
mother should have known of Mr. Parker's coming without mentioning it,
but as for that little lady's dressing up to see this society man, why,
that was just as it should be. She had absolutely no inkling of her
mother's maneuvering to push Douglas toward a successful debut. Susan's
intimation that Douglas was to preserve her complexion for Mr. Parker's
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 don't 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.

"One's 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 Parker's 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 won't 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 Carter's 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. Parker's 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 don't 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 hadn't heard that one of Robert Carter's daughters was to make
her debut. I haven't 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 don't
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, I'll 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 don't 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.

"I'll do what I can, but if you take the matter so much to heart why
don't you do it yourself, Tucker? I make it a rule not to butt in on
society's 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. Carter's opinion of that gentleman's 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.



CHAPTER XI

THE BIRD


      "Softly a winged thing
        Floats across the sky,
      And earth from slumber waketh
        And looketh up on high,
      Sees it is only a bird--
        A great white bird--
      That floating thro' the darkness undisturbed
        Floats on, and on, and on."

Late sleeping in a tent is rather a difficult feat as the morning sun
seems to spy out the sleeper's eyes and there is no way to escape him.
Some of the campers tied black ribbons around their eyes and some even
used black stockings, but the first rays of the sun always found Nan
stirring. It was not that she was especially energetic, she was indeed
rather lazy, according to her more vigorous sisters, but the charm of
the early morning was so wonderful that she hated to miss it lying in
bed. It was also such a splendid time to be alone. The camp was a
bustling, noisy place when everyone was up, and early morning was about
the only time the girl had for that communing with herself which was
very precious to one of her poetic temperament.

She slept in a tent, not only with her sisters but with Lil Tate and
Tillie Wingo, now that the week-enders had swarmed in on them at such a
rate, stretching their sleeping accommodations to the utmost. Of course
it was great fun to sleep in a tent but there were times when Nan longed
for a room with four walls and a door that she could lock. The next best
thing to a door she could lock was the top of the mountain in the early
morning. Unless some enthusiastic nature-lover had got up a sunrise
party she was sure to have the top of the mountain to herself.

Mr. Tucker had divulged to her the night before that her mother had
abandoned the designs she had been entertaining for Douglas, and she in
turn had been able to pass on the good news to Douglas. Mrs. Carter had
not told her daughter herself but was evidently going to take her own
good time to do so. Their mother's being a bit cattish was not worrying
either Douglas or Nan. They were too happy over the abandonment of the
plan. Of course they could not help feeling that since the plan was
abandoned, it would have been sweet of their mother to let Douglas
know immediately since she was well aware of the fact that the idea
was far from pleasing to her daughter. And since it would have been
sweet of her to let her know the moment she had abandoned the plan, it
was on the other hand slightly cattish of her to conceal the fact. Of
course the girls did not call it cattish even in their own minds--just
thoughtlessness. Douglas had no idea of how the change had come about,
and Nan held her counsel. It was Mr. Tucker's and her secret.

As she crept out of the cot on that morning, before the sun was up, she
glanced at her elder sister and a feeling of intense satisfaction filled
her heart to see how peacefully Douglas was sleeping. Her beautiful
hair, in a great golden red rope, was trailing from the low cot along
the floor of the tent; her face that had looked so tired and anxious
lately had lost its worried expression--she looked so young--hardly any
older than Lucy, who lay in the next bed.

"Thank goodness, the poor dear is no longer worried," thought Nan
devoutly as she slipped on her clothes and crept noiselessly out of the
tent.

What a morning it was! The sun was not quite up and there was a silver
gray haze over everything. The neighboring mountains were lost, as were
the valleys. The air had a freshness and sweetness that is peculiar to
dawn. "'The innocent brightness of a new-born day is lovely yet,'"
quoted Nan. "If I can only get to the top of the mountain before the sun
is up!" She hurried along the path, stopping a moment at the spring to
drink a deep draft of water and to splash the clear water on her face
and hands. She held her face down in the water a moment and came up
shaking the drops off her black hair, which curled in innumerable little
rings from the wetting. She laughed aloud in glee. Life was surely worth
living, everything was so beautiful.

The sides of the mountain were thickly wooded but at the top there was a
smooth plateau with neither tree nor bush. One great rock right in the
middle of this clearing Nan used as a throne whereon she could view the
world--if not the world, at least a good part of Albemarle county and
even into Nelson on one hand and Orange on the other. Sometimes she
thought of this stone as an altar and of herself as a sun-worshipper.

On that morning she clambered up the rock just a moment before the sun
peeped through a crack in the mist. She stood with arms outstretched
facing the sun. The mists were rolling away and down in the valley
she could distinguish the apple orchards and now a fence, and now a
haystack. There a mountain cabin emerged from the veil and soon a spiral
of thin blue smoke could be spied rising from its chimney.

"I wonder what they are going to have for breakfast!" exclaimed the
wood nymph, and then she took herself to task for thinking of food
when everything was so poetical. Just as she was wondering what the
mountaineers who lived in that tiny cabin were going to cook on the fire
whose smoke she saw rising in that "thin blue reek" the sun came up. A
wonderful sight, but the sun has been rising for so many æons that we
have become accustomed to it. Something else happened at that moment,
something we are not quite accustomed to even yet: Far off over the
crest of a mountain Nan thought she saw an eagle. The first rays of the
sun glinted on the great white wings. For a moment it was lost to view
as it passed behind a cloud and then it appeared again flying rapidly.

"It is coming this way, a great white bird! I am almost afraid it might
pick me up in its huge talons and carry me off, carry me 'way up in the
air--I almost hope it will--it would be so glorious to fly!"

She stood up on her throne and stretched her arms out, crying an
invocation to the winged thing.

She heeded not the buzzing of the aeroplane as it approached. To her it
was a great white bird and she only awakened from her trance when the
machine had actually landed on her plateau.

The humming had stopped and it glided along the grass, kept closely
cropped by Josephus, as this was his grazing ground when he was not busy
pulling the cart. Nan stood as though petrified, a graceful little
figure in her camp-fire girls' dress. Her arms were still outstretched
as when she cried her invocation to the great white bird.

The machine came to a standstill quite close to her altar and a young
man in aviator's costume sprang from it. Taking off his helmet and
goggles, he made a low bow to Nan.

"Oh, mountain nymph, may a traveler land in your domain?"

"Welcome, stranger!"

"And may I ask what is this enchanted land?"

"This is Helicon--and you--who are you?"

"I am Bellerophon and yonder winged steed is Pegasus. Maid, will you fly
with me?"

He held out his hand and Nan, with no more thought of the proprieties
than a real mountain nymph would have had, let him help her into his
machine. He wrapped a great coat around her, remarking that even nymphs
might get cold, and seemingly with no more concern than Bill Tinsley
felt over starting the mountain goat, he touched some buttons and turned
some wheels and in a moment the aeroplane was gliding over the plateau
and then floating in the air, mounting slowly over the tree tops. Up, up
they went and then began making beautiful circles in the air. Nan
sighed.

"Are you scared?" and the aviator looked anxiously at his little
companion. He had not resumed his helmet and goggles and his eyes were
so kind and so merry that Nan felt as though she had known him all her
life.

"Scared! Of course not! I am just so happy."

"Have you ever flown before?"

"Not in reality--but it is just as I have dreamed it."

"You dream then a great deal?"

"Yes! 'In a dream all day I wander only half awake.' I am sure I must be
dreaming now."

"I, too! But then the best of life is the dreams, the greatest men are
the dreamers. If it had not been for a dreamer, we could not have had
this machine. Look! Isn't that wonderful?"

Nan was looking with all eyes at the panorama spread out below them. The
sun was up now in good earnest and the mountains had shaken off the mist
as sleepers newly aroused might throw off their coverlids. The orchards
in the valleys looked like cabbage beds and the great mansions that
adorn the hills and are the pride and boast of the county seemed no
larger than doll houses. From every chimney in the valley smoke was
arising. Nan was disgusted with herself that again the thought came to
her:

"What are all of these people going to have for breakfast?"

They dipped and floated and curvetted. Nan thought of Hawthorne's
description of Pegasus in the "Chimæra" and the very first opportunity
she had later on she got the book and reread the following passage:

"Oh, how fine a thing it is to be a winged horse! Sleeping at night, as
he did, on a lofty mountain-top, and passing the greater part of the
day in the air, Pegasus seemed hardly to be a creature of the earth.
Whenever he was seen, up very high above people's heads, with the
sunshine on his silvery wings, you would have thought that he belonged
to the sky, and that, skimming a little too low, he had got astray among
our mists and vapors, and was seeking his way back again. It was very
pretty to behold him plunge into the fleecy bosom of a bright cloud,
and be lost in it for a moment or two, and then break forth from the
other side."

Once they went through a low-hanging cloud. Nan felt the drops of water
on her face.

"Why, it is raining!" she cried.

"No, that was a cloud we dipped through," laughed her companion. "Are
you cold?"

"Cold? I don't know! I have no sensation but joy."

The young man smiled. There was something about Nan's drawl that made
persons want to smile anyhow.

"You forgot your hat and goggles," she said as she noticed his blue eyes
and the closely cropped brown hair that looked as though it had to be
very closely cropped to keep it from curling.

"That's so! Some day maybe I shall go back after them. Now shall we fly
to 'Frisco? How about High Olympus? Remember we are on Pegasus now and
he can take us wherever we want to go."

"Breakfast first," drawled Nan. "Come with me and I can feed you on
nectar and ambrosia."

"Oh what a wonderful wood nymph! She understands that mortal man cannot
feed on poetry alone."

They glided to the plateau and landed again by the great rock.

"This is a wonderful place to light," said the birdman. "And now, fair
mountain nymph, please tell me who you are when you are not a nymph--and
what you are doing on the top of a lonely mountain before the sun is
up."

"Nan Carter! And if you think this is a lonely mountain, you ought to
try to get by yourself for a few minutes on it. Before sunrise, on the
tip top point, is the only place where one can be alone a minute----"

"And then great creatures come swooping down out of the clouds and carry
you off. It was very kind of you to go with me."

"Kind of me! Oh, Mr. Bellerophon, I never can thank you enough for
taking me. I have never been so happy in all my life. It is perfect, all
but the noise-- I do wish it wouldn't click and buzz so. I know Pegasus
did not make such a fuss--only the swish of his wings could be heard and
sometimes, as the maiden said, the brisk and melodious neigh."

"Don't you want to know my name, too, Miss Nan Carter? I have a name I
use sometimes when I am not mounted on Pegasus."

"I don't want to know it at all, but perhaps my mother, who is
chaperoning the camp and who is rather particular, might think Mr.
Bellerophon sounded rather wily Greekish."

The young man laughed. Such a nice laugh it was that Nan could not help
thinking it sounded rather like a melodious neigh. He was possessed of
very even white teeth and a Greek profile, at least it started out to
be Greek but changed its mind when it got to the tip of his nose
which certainly turned up a bit. On the whole he was a very pleasant,
agreeable-looking young man, tall and broad-shouldered, clean-limbed and
athletic-looking. What Nan liked most about him were his eyes and his
hands.

"I hate to tell you my name, wood nymph. It sounds so commonplace after
what we have done this morning. I am afraid when you hear it you will
simply knock on one of these great oak trees and a door will open and
you will disappear from my eyes forever."

"Not before breakfast," drawled Nan. "But you must tell me your name
before breakfast because I shall have to introduce you to the others."

"What others? Not more wood nymphs!"

"More Carters--and week-enders!"

"You don't mean I have actually landed at Week-End Camp? Why, that is
what I have been looking for, but I had no idea of striking it the first
thing, right out of the blue, as it were. I heard about the camp at the
University, and want to come board there for a while."

"Well, I am the one to apply to," said Nan primly.

"Apply to a wood nymph for board! Absurd!"

"Not at all! Of course, I can't take you to board without knowing your
name and--er--number."

"Well, if you must, you must--Tom Smith is my name--as for my
number--there is only one of me."

"I mean by your number, where you live."

"Oh, I live in the air mostly. Sometimes I come down to have some
washing done and to vote--at least, I came down once to vote--that was
last June, but as no elections were going on just then and as my having
arrived at the age of twenty-one did not seem to make them hurry, I
went up in the air again. When I do vote, though, it will be out in
Louisville, Kentucky. That's where I have my washing done. You don't
say what you think of such a name as Tom Smith."

"It is not very--romantic, but it must have been a nice name to go to
school with."

"Great! There were so many of us that the lickings didn't go round."

The girl was leading the way down the mountain path and they came to the
spring where she had performed her ablutions earlier.

"This is the fountain of Pirene."

"Ah! I fancied we would come to it soon," and he stooped and drank his
fill, shaking the drops from his crisp curls as he got up.

"I love to drink that way," cried Nan. "I had a big deep drink as I went
up the mountain."

"Of course you drink that way! How else could a wood nymph drink? You
might make a cup of your little brown hand, but even that is almost too
modern. Ah, there is the camp! How jolly it looks! Are there any people
there? It looks so quiet."

"Any people there? Quiet! It is running over with people. They are all
asleep now, that is the reason it is so quiet. There will be noise
enough later."

As she spoke there were shouts from the shower bath where some of the
youths from the camp had assembled for a community shower, and as the
cold mountain water struck them they certainly made the welkin ring.

"There is father! Come, and I'll introduce you."

Mr. Carter was coming from the kitchen bearing a cup of coffee for his
wife, who stuck to the New Orleans habit of black coffee the first thing
in the morning, and Mr. Carter loved to be the one to take it to her
bedside.

"Father, this is Mr. Bel--Smith. He flew over here this morning," and
Nan suddenly remembered that she was not a wood nymph and that this
mountain in Albemarle was not Helicon. Also that it was not a very usual
thing for well-brought-up young ladies to go flying with strange young
men before breakfast, even if strange young men did almost have Greek
profiles. For the first time that morning Nan blushed. Her shyness
returned. She could hardly believe that it was she, Nan Carter, who had
been so bold. Her Bellerophon was plain Tom Smith and Pegasus was a very
modern flying machine lying up in Josephus's pasture, that pasture on
top of a prosaic mountain in Albemarle County and not Mount Helicon.
The fountain of Pirene was nothing but the spring that fed the
reservoir from which they got the water supply for the shower bath
where those boys were making such an unearthly racket. She was not a
wood nymph--there were no wood nymphs--but just a sentimental little
girl of sixteen who no doubt needed a good talking to and a reprimand
for being so very imprudent. What would her mother say to such an
escapade?

With all of Mrs. Carter's delicate spirituelle appearance there was
nothing poetical in her make-up. She would never understand this talk of
forgetting that one was not a wood nymph. There was more chance of the
father's sympathy. Nan took the bull by the horns and plunged into her
confession.

"Father, I have been up in Mr. Bel--Smith's flying machine. I don't know
what made me do it except I just--it was so early--I--I forgot it wasn't
a flying horse."

Mr. Carter looked at his little daughter with a smile of extreme
tenderness. He had taken flights on Pegasus himself in days gone by. He
seldom mounted him now--the burden of making a living had almost made
him forget that Pegasus was not a plough horse--not quite, however, and
now as his little girl stood in front of him, her hair all ruffled by
her flight, her cheeks flushed and in her great brown eyes the shadow of
her dream, he understood.

"It is still early in the morning, honey, for you--no doubt the
aeroplane is Pegasus. I envy you the experience. Everyone might not
see it as I do, however, so you and Mr. Belsmith and I had better keep
it to ourselves," and he shook the birdman's hand.

"Smith is my name--Tom Smith," and the young man smiled into the eyes of
the older man.

"I am very glad to see you, and just as soon as I take this coffee to
my wife, I will come and do the honors of the camp," and Robert Carter
hastened off, thinking what a boon it would be to be young again in
this day of flying machines.

Nan found her tent about as she had left it. The inmates were still
asleep. "How strange," she said to herself, "that I should have been to
the top of Helicon and taken flight with Bellerophon on Pegasus while
these girls have slept on not knowing a thing about it! I wonder where
their astral bodies have been! Douglas looks so happy, poor dear, I
fancy hers has been in heaven."

Aloud she cried: "Get up, girls! Wake up! It is awfully late--the camp
is stirring and there is a lot to do. I have found a new boarder! He
dropped from the clouds and is starved to death."



CHAPTER XII

PLEASE REMIT


Of course everyone was vastly interested in Mr. Tom Smith and his
aeroplane. That young man, however, exhibited a modest demeanor which
was very pleasant to members of his sex. He promised to take any and all
of the campers flying if his machine was in good order. He thought it
needed a little tinkering, however, as he had noticed a little clicking
sound above the usual clack and hum of the motor.

"How on earth did you happen to land here?" asked someone.

"Airman's instinct, I reckon. I was looking for the camp and had heard
there was a mountain with a smooth plateau around here somewhere. A
place to land is our biggest problem. The time will come when there
will be landing stations for flyers just as they have tea houses for
automobilists now. There is great danger of becoming entangled in trees
and telegraph wires. A place looks pretty good for lighting when you are
up in the clouds and then when you get down you find what seemed to be a
smooth, grassy plain is perhaps the top of a scrub oak forest."

After breakfast the whole camp of week-enders marched to the top of the
mountain to view the great bird, but the Carter girls had to stay behind
to prepare for the picnic. Many sandwiches must be made and the baskets
packed. Nan had her usual bowl of mayonnaise to stir. She looked very
demure in her great apron but her eyes were dancing with the remembrance
of her morning's escapade.

"You look very perky this morning, honey," said Douglas, as she packed a
basket of turnovers and cheese cakes with great care not to crush those
wonders of culinary art.

"You look tolerable perky yourself," retorted her sister. Just as the
sophomores and seniors of a college seem to fraternize, so it is often
the case with the first and third members of a family. Douglas and Nan
hit it off better with one another than they did with either Helen or
Lucy.

"I feel like flying!" declared Douglas. "I don't mean in an aeroplane
but just of my own accord. I am so happy that mother has given up that
terrible plan for me, given it up without father's knowing anything
about it. I wish I knew who had persuaded her or how it came about. She
is rather--well, not exactly cold with me--but not exactly chummy. She
has not told me yet, but if you say it is so, I know it is so. I went to
her room this morning so she could tell me if she wanted to, but she
didn't say a thing about it. She got a lot of letters from New York by
the early mail. I am mighty afraid they are bills."

"Pretty apt to be," sighed Nan. "I hope she won't give them to father."

"Oh, she mustn't do that. I shall have to ask her for them. I hate to do
it. She thinks I am so stern."

"Let me do it," said Nan magnanimously. "I wonder how much they amount
to."

"Oh, Nan! Would you mind asking for them?"

"Well, I am not crazy about it, but I'll 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 one's 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 can't for the life of me see."

Nan dutifully began to do her mother's 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 didn't 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 don't 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. I'm 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, I'd withdraw my patronage
from such persons. I'd 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 can't 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 won't 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, Susan's 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."

"I'm a-gonter let down a string and pull my eats up here," he declared.

"Oh, Bobby!" shuddered his mother. "Don't say such words!"

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

"Don't say eats! Say luncheon!"

"Yes, I won't! If I say luncheon, they'll send me up 'bout 'nough to put
in my eye. I've a great mind to say victuals like Oscar and then they'll
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 Helen's eyes
as she stooped under the tree, unpacking the basket containing the paper
plates and Japanese napkins.

"I won't put anything in the bucket unless you mind mother," said Helen
severely, but her eye was twinkling at Bobby's 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 don't put it in like a luncheon but
like it was jes' victuals. Luncheons ain't 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 Helen's; 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.

"Let's 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, that's 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, mammy's, 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 Skeeter's 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' isn't 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 don't believe I should care to remain."

"Teakettle fancier! Sounds like spinsters. I can't 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
year's 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 haven't 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?"

"I'm a-playin' I'm 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! I'd 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 didn't 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.

"Nan's turn again! That isn't fair when Skeeter really and truly was the
one who got him going. You've got to go, Skeeter," and Frank and Lil and
Lucy pounced on their chum and dragged him from the tree.

"Yes, I haven't! I'd never guess c-a-t. Get somebody else."

"I'll go," Mr. Tucker volunteered magnanimously.

"Let him; he's dying to!" exclaimed the twins in one breath.

"Well, don't 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 can't 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 can't 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 I'd rather have one than anything I can think of. In fact, I
mean to take one with me some day."

Mr. Tucker looked into the glowing countenance of the young birdman. He
saw there youth, character, romance.

"A 'teakettle' is a 'sweetheart,'" he said simply.

"Talking about spooks--what do you know about that?" cried one of the
crowd.

"Well, what did I tell you? Didn't I say you couldn't keep anything from
Zebedee?" said triumphant Dee.

"I betcher I ain't a-gonter take no sweetheart with me when I gits me a
arryplane," shouted Bobby from his vantage ground. "I'm a-gonter take
Josh and Josephus, ander--ander--father."

The picnic in the tree had been a decided success. It was one more
perfect day for the week-enders to report as worth while to the possible
future boarders. Even Mr. Parker was enthusiastic, although he was not
as a rule much of an outdoor man. He was conscious of the fact that he
shone in a drawing room, and under the "great eye of Heaven" did not
amount to quite so much as he did under electric lights with pink
shades.



CHAPTER XIV

THE FORAGERS


"Miss Douglas, them week-enders done cl'ared the coop. Thain't nary
chicken lef' standin' on a laig. Looks like these here Hungarians don't
think no mo' of 'vourin' a chicken than a turkey does of gobblin' up a
grasshopper."

"All of them gone, Oscar?"

"Yas'm! Thain't hide or har of them lef'. If I hadn't er wrung they
necks myself, I would er thought somethin's been a-ketchin' 'em; but
land's sakes, the way these week-enders do eat chicken is a caution!"

"All right, I'll get our young people to start out today and find some
more for us. A big crowd will be up on Friday."

"Yes, I'll be bound they will, and all of them empty. I should think the
railroad cyars would chawge mo' ter haul the folks back from this here
camp than what they do to git 'em here. They sho' goes back a-weighing
mo' than what they do whin they comes a-creepin' up the mountain actin'
like they ain't never seed a squar' meal in they lives."

Oscar's grumbling on the subject of the amount of food consumed by the
boarders was a never failing source of amusement to the Carter girls.
They were never so pleased as when the boarders were hungry and enjoyed
the food. No doubt Oscar was pleased, too, but he was ever outwardly
critical of the capacity of the week-enders.

Lucy and Lil, Skeeter and Frank were delighted to be commissioned to go
hunting for food. Many were the adventures they had while out on these
foraging parties and many the tales they had to tell of the inhabitants
of the mountain cabins. There were several rules they must obey and
besides those they had perfect liberty to do as they felt like. The
first rule was that they must wear thick boots and leggins on these
tramps. The snake bite Helen had got early in the summer had been a
lesson learned in time and now all the campers were made to comply with
the rule of leggins whenever they went on hikes. The second rule was
that they must be home before dark and must report to Douglas or Helen
as soon as they got home. The third was that they must tell all their
adventures to one of the older girls. If they obeyed these three rules
they were sure to get into no trouble.

"Fix us up a big lunch, please, Helen. We are going 'way far off.
There's a man on the far side of Old Baldy that Josh says has great big
frying-sizers," declared Lil.

"Well, be sure you are back before dark," admonished Helen, in her
grownupest tone, according to Lucy.

"All right, Miss Grandma, but I don't see why I have to get in before
dark if you don't. You know you and Doctor Wright came in long after
supper one night--said you got lost, but you can tell that to the
marines," said Lucy pertly.

"Just for that, I've a great mind to put red pepper in your sandwiches,"
said Helen, blushing in spite of herself.

"Well, I suppose if we get lost, we won't have to get in before dark,
either," teased Lucy.

"Yes, but don't you get lost. Douglas and I are always a bit uneasy
until you are back, as it is," pleaded Helen. "You know mother would
have a fit if you were out late."

"Oh, don't listen to her, Miss Helen. We'll take care of the girls and
bring 'em back safe. Frank and I couldn't get lost on these mountains if
we tried," and Skeeter drew himself up to his full height, which was
great for a boy of fifteen and seemed even greater because of his
extreme leanness.

"Can't we take our guns, Miss Helen?" pleaded Frank.

There was another rule that the boys must not take the guns if the girls
were along. Guns are safe enough if there are no bystanders.

"Oh, Frank, ask Douglas! I am afraid to be the one to let you do it."

"Can I tell her you say yes if she does?"

"Yes, I reckon so! But if she does say yes, please be awfully careful."

"Sure we will! I tell you, Miss Helen, if anything happens to these
girls, Skeeter and I'd never show our faces in camp again."

"I know you will look after them," said Helen. These boys were great
favorites with Helen, and they admired her so extravagantly that
sometimes Lil and Lucy, their sworn chums, were a bit jealous. "I've
made your kind of sandwiches, Frank, sardines. And I've stuffed some
eggs with minced ham the way you like them, Skeeter."

"Bully!" exclaimed both knights.

"And I s'pose what Lil and I like or don't like didn't enter your head,"
pouted Lucy.

"Why, Lucy, you know you like sardine sandwiches better than anything,
you said so yourself," admonished Lil.

"Helen didn't know it."

"If you don't like what I put up, you can do it yourself next time,"
snapped Helen.

      "''Tis dog's delight
      To bark and bite,'"

sang Douglas, coming into the kitchen to spy out the nakedness of the
land preparatory to sending her order for provisions to the wholesale
grocer in Richmond. "What are you girls scrapping about?"

"Helen said----"

"Lucy's always----"

"Yes, I haven't a doubt of it," laughed the elder sister, who was ever
the peacemaker. "I haven't a doubt that Helen did say it, but she was
just joking, and I know Lucy is always trying to help and is a dear
girl. Now you children trot along and bring back all the chickens you
can carry. Have you got your bags?" Gunnysacks were always taken to
bring home the provender. "And money to pay for the chickens? If you
see any eggs, buy them, and more roasting ears, but don't try to carry
everything you see. Have the mountaineers bring them to camp. Good-bye!
Be sure to come back before dark."

"Ask her about the guns," whispered Frank to Lil.

"Douglas, can the boys take their guns? Helen says she says yes if you
say yes. They won't carry 'em loaded."

"We--ll, I believe we can trust you; but do be careful, boys."

With a whoop the boys flew to their tent for the guns. The sizable
lunch was dumped in the bottom of a gunnysack and slung over Skeeter's
shoulder, and the cavalcade started, after many admonitions from Douglas
and Helen to be careful of their guns and to come back before dark.

"Ain't they the scared cats, though?" laughed Lucy.

"Yes; what on earth could happen to us?" said Lil.

"Nothing, I reckon, with Skeeter and me here to protect you--eh,
Skeeter?"

"I just guess we could hold a whole litter of bears at bay with these
guns. I almost wish we would run into some kind of trouble just so Frank
and I could show your big sisters we are responsible parties."

"Maybe we will," and Lil danced in glee at the possible chance of
getting into trouble so their devoted swains could extricate them.
"Maybe we will meet a drunken mountaineer--or maybe it will be a whole
lot of drunken mountaineers, a camp of moonshiners--maybe they will
capture Lucy and me and carry us to their mountain fastness and there
hold us for ransom."

"Huh! And what do you think Skeeter and I'll be doing while they are
carrying you off?" sniffed Frank. "Standing still, I reckon, and weeping
down our gun barrels!"

"Well, s'pose they are all of them armed to the teeth, a company of
stalwart brigands," suggested Lil, who, by the way, was something of a
movie fan, "and they come swooping down on us, the leader bearing a
lasso in his brawny hand."

"Yes," put in Lucy, "and he will swirl it around and will catch both of
you in the same coil and then will tie you to a tree there to await his
pleasure. I think there had better be two leaders, though, Lil. So you
can have one and I can have one. I bid for the biggest."

"Bid for him! If you girls don't beat all! I do believe you would like
to be attacked by outlaws," and Skeeter looked his disgust at the
eternal feminine.

"Of course we'd like it if it came out all right; that is, if the
leaders fell in love with us and reformed and turned out to be gentlemen
who took to moonshining and highwaying because they had been cheated out
of their inheritances by fat-faced uncles in Prince Albert coats," and
Lil looked very saucy as she switched on ahead of the others down the
narrow trail.

"And where would we come in?" asked Frank whimsically. "We would have to
stay tied to the tree while you and Lucy acted about a thousand feet of
reels. I tell you what I mean to do. I mean to train a squirrel to come
gnaw me free. What you say to that, Skeeter?"

"Squirrel much! I'm going to be so quick with my gun that the bold
brigands will wish they had stayed with Uncle Albert. As for lassoing--I
am some pumpkins myself with the rope. Look at this!" and twirling the
gunnysack around with the lunch serving as ballast, Skeeter caught his
chum neatly around the neck.

"Oh, oh! You'll mash the sandwiches!" wailed the others.

"Let's sit down and eat 'em up now," suggested Skeeter. "I am tired of
being made the beast of burden. I believe in distribution of labor."

"Why, Skeeter, we haven't walked a mile yet, and it can't be more than
ten o'clock."

"Well, then, my tumtum must be fast. I shall have to regulate it. It
tells me it is almost twelve." No one had a watch so there was no way to
prove the time except by the shadows, and Skeeter declared that the
shadows on the mountain perforce must slant even at twelve.

"Let's eat part of the lunch," suggested Lucy. "That will keep poor
Skeeter from starving and lighten the load some, too. There is no
telling what time it is, but if we are hungry I can't see that it makes
much difference what time it is. I'm starved myself almost."

"Me, too," chorused the others.

They ate only half, prudently putting the rest back in the gunnysack for
future reference.

"Gee, I feel some better," sighed Skeeter, whose appetite was ever a
marvel to his friends since it never seemed to have the slightest effect
on his extreme leanness. Oscar always said: "That there young Marster
Skeeter eats so much it makes him po' to carry it."

"Do you boys know exactly where we are going?" asked Lil. They had
walked a long distance since the distribution of burdens and now had
come to a place where the trail went directly down the mountainside.

"Of course we do! Josh said that when we got to a place where the path
suddenly went down we were almost over the cabin where Jude Hanford
lives. Didn't he, Frank?"

"He sure did!"

"But there was a place back further where a path forked off. I saw it,
didn't you, Lucy?"

"Yes, but I thought it was maybe just a washed place."

"This is right, I'm sure," said Skeeter confidently, so the young
people clambered down the mountainside following Skeeter's lead. The
path went almost exactly perpendicularly down the mountain for fifty
yards and then, as is the way with mountain paths, it changed its mind
and started up the mountain again.

"This is a terribly silly path," declared the self-constituted guide,
"but I reckon it will start down again soon. Josh said that Jude Hanford
lives almost at the foot of the mountain."

"Let's keep a-going; there's no use in turning back," said Frank. "This
path is obliged to lead somewhere."

"Maybe it leads to the brigand's cave," shivered Lil.

"Which way is home?" asked Lucy.

"That way!"

"Over there!"

"Due north from here!"

But as the three of her companions all pointed in different directions,
Lucy laughed at them and chose an entirely different point of the
compass as her idea of where Camp Carter was situated. They had been
walking for hours and as far as they could tell had not got off of their
own mountain. No one seemed to be the least worried about being lost, so
Lucy calmed her fears, which were not very great. How could they get
lost? All they had to do was retrace their steps if they did not find
Jude Hanford's cabin, where the frying-sized chickens and the roasting
ears were supposed to thrive.

"Let's eat again," suggested the ever empty Skeeter.

They had come to a wonderful mountain stream, one they had never seen
before in their rambles. It came dashing down the incline singing a gay
song until it found a temporary resting place in a deep hole which
seemed to be hollowed out of the living rock.

"What a place to swim!" they exclaimed in a breath.

"I bet it's cold, though, cold as flugians." Lil trailed her fingers
through the icy water and a little fish rose to the surface and gave a
nibble. "Look! Look! Isn't he sweet?"

"Let's fish," suggested Lucy.

"Fish with what? Guns?" asked Skeeter scornfully.

"No, fishing lines with minnows for bait," and Lucy found a pin in her
middy blouse and with a narrow pink ribbon drawn mysteriously from
somewhere tied to the pin, which she bent into a fine hook, she got
ready for the gentle art. A sardine from a sandwich made excellent bait,
at least the speckled beauties in that pool thought so as they rose to
it greedily.

"E--e-ee!" squealed Lucy, flopping an eight-inch trout out on the bank.
"I caught a fish! I caught a fish!"

"Oh, gimme a pin, please," begged the boys, so Lucy and Lil had to find
fish hooks for their cavaliers and more strings and in a short while all
of them were eagerly fishing.

"I never saw such tame fish in all my life," said Frank. "They are just
begging to be caught. It seems not very sporty to hook them in,
somehow."

"I didn't know there were any trout in these streams. Doctor Wright
says there used to be but the natives have about exterminated them. Gee,
there's a beaut!" and Skeeter flopped a mate to Lucy's catch out on the
grass.

"Let's stop fishing and fry these," he suggested, "I'm awfully hungry."

"Hungry! Oh, Skeeter! I'm right uneasy about you," teased Lil.

"Well, I never did think sandwiches were very filling. Somehow they
don't stick to your ribs. Come on, Frank, we can get a fire in no time."

"How can we fry anything without lard and a pan?"

"Oh, we won't fry, we'll broil."

"We, indeed!" sniffed Lucy. "You know mighty well, you boys, that when
cooking time comes, Lil and I'll have to do it. I know how to cook fish
without a pan--learned in Camp-Fire Girls. Just run a green switch
through the gills and lay it across on two pronged sticks stuck up on
each side of the fire. You go on and make the fire while Lil and I try
to catch some more fish. I wonder what Doctor Wright will say when we
tell him we caught game fish with a bent pin tied on lingerie ribbon. He
brought up all kinds of rods and reels and flies and whipped the streams
for miles around and never caught anything but Helen's veil."

The trout seemed to have become sophisticated when two of their number
had been caught and refused to be hooked any more with bent pins and
lingerie ribbon, although it was pink and very attractive. The fire went
out and Lucy and Lil had to try a hand at it before it could be
persuaded to burn.

"It looks to me like fire-making must be woman's work because they
certainly can do it better than us men," said Skeeter solemnly, and the
others laughed at him until Lil slipped into the water. Only one foot
got wet, however, so there was no harm done.

The fire finally burned and the two little fish, after being scaled and
cleaned, were strung across on a green wand. Of course the fire had not
been allowed to get to the proper state of red embers so the fish were
well smoked before they began to cook.

"Umm! They smell fine!" cried the famished Skeeter.

"They smell mighty like burnt fish to me," said Frank.

They tasted very like burnt fish, too, when they were finally taken from
their wand and the young folks drew up for the feast. They lacked salt
and were burnt at the tail and raw at the head, but Skeeter picked the
bones and pronounced them prime.

"I believe it's getting mighty late and we have not found Jude Hanford's
cabin yet. You stop stuffing now, Skeeter, and let's get along," said
Frank, gathering up the gunnysacks and guns.

"Do you think we had better cross this stream?"

"Sure, if we go back, it will just take us home. We won't dare show our
faces at camp unless we have at least the promise of some chickens and
roasting ears. I hope to carry back some in the gunnysacks."

"Of course we must go on," chorused the girls. "We are not one bit tired
and if we go on we are sure to come to Jude's cabin."

Go on they did, how far there was no telling. The path went down, down,
down, but led only to another spring. The boys shot some squirrels and
the girls found a vine laden with fox grapes.

"Let's get all we can carry so we can make some jelly. Helen was wishing
only the other day she had some. They make the best jelly going," said
Lucy, and so they pulled all they could reach and decided the ones that
hung too high would be sour.

"Do you know I believe it's most supper time--I'm getting powerful
empty," declared the insatiable Skeeter.

"Supper time! Nonsense! I betcher 'tain't three o'clock," and Frank
peered knowingly at the sun. "That mountain over yonder is so high,
that's the reason the sun is getting behind it. I betcher anything on
top of the mountain it is as light as midday."

"I do wish we could find Jude's cabin. This has been the longest walk
we ever have taken," sighed Lil. "Not that I am the least bit tired."
Lil was not quite so robust as Lucy, but wild horses would not drag from
her the admission that she could not keep up with her chum.

"Let's sit down a minute and rest," suggested Frank, "and kinder get our
bearings. I'm not sure but perhaps it would be less loony if we start
right off for home."

The sun had set for them and it was growing quite gloomy down in the
valley where the path had finally led them. Of course they well knew
that it was shining brightly on those who were so fortunate as to be on
the heights, but the thing is they were in the depths.

"All right, let's go home," agreed Skeeter. "We will strike them at
supper, I feel sure."

They retraced their steps, stopping occasionally to argue about the
trail. There seemed to be a great many more bypaths going up the
mountain than they had noticed going down.

"This is right. I know, because here is the fox grape vine we stripped
on the way down," cried Lucy, when there was more doubt than usual
about whether or not they were on the right road.

"Well, more have grown mighty fast," declared Skeeter. "Look, this is
still full."

"But we couldn't reach the high ones and decided like Brer Fox that they
were sour."

"Brer Fox, indeed! That wasn't Brer Fox but the one in Aesop," laughed
Lil.

"Well, he acted just like Brer Fox would have acted, anyhow, and I bet
Aesop got him from Uncle Remus. But see, Lil! This isn't the same vine.
We never could have skipped all these grapes. Only look what beauts!"

"We might just as well pick 'em," said Skeeter, suiting the action to
the word. "They might come in handy later on for eats if we can't find
our way home."

"Not find our way home!" scoffed Frank. "Why, home is just over the
mountain. All we have to do is keep straight up and go down on the other
side. These paths have mixed us up but the mountain is the same old
cove. He can't mix us up."



CHAPTER XV

BABES IN THE WOOD


The pull up that mountain was about the hardest one any of those young
people had ever had. As a rule Lil and Lucy required no help from the
boys, as they prided themselves upon being quite as active as any
members of the opposite sex, but now they were glad of the assistance
the boys shyly offered.

"Just catch on to my belt, Lil; I can pull you up and carry the grapes
and my gun, too," insisted Frank, while Skeeter made Lucy take hold of
his gun so he could help her.

"We are most to the top now," they encouraged the girls. Their way lay
over rocks and through brambles, as they had given up trying to keep to
a trail since the trails seemed to lead nowhere. They argued if they
could get to the top they could see where they were.

The top was reached, but, strange to say, it wasn't a top, after all,
but just an excrescence on the side of the mountain, a kind of a hump.
It led down sharply into a dimple covered with beautiful green grass,
and then towering up on the other side of this dimple was more and more
mountain.

"Well, ain't this the limit? I didn't know there was a place like this
on our mountain!" exclaimed Frank.

"Th'ain't! This is no more our mountain than I'm Josephus," said
Skeeter.

"Do you think we are lost?" asked Lil.

"Well, we are certainly not found," and Skeeter's young countenance took
on a very grim expression.

"Somebody please kick me, and then I'll feel better," groaned Frank.

"Why kick you? You didn't lose us; we lost ourselves," said Lucy.

"You just say that to keep me from feeling bad. I said all the time we
were on our own mountain and I was certainly the one to suggest our
climbing up to the top. I don't see how or when we managed to get in
this mix-up."

"You see, we were down at the foot of the mountain and we must have
spilled over on another one without knowing it. They so kinder run
together at the bottom," soothed Lucy.

Lil was so worn out after the climb that she could do no more than sink
to the ground; but she smiled bravely at poor self-accusing Frank as she
gasped out:

"What a grand, romantic spot to play 'Babes in the Wood'! I bid to be a
babe and let you boys be the robins."

"In my opinion it is nobody's fault that we have got lost, but lost we
are. Of course Frank and I ought to have had more sense, but we didn't
have it, and I reckon what we ain't got ain't our fault.--But if it
wasn't our fault for losing you girls, it is sure up to us to get you
home again and now we had better set to it somehow."

Skeeter deposited his gunnysack of squirrels beside the one of grapes
and threw himself down beside Lil on the green, green grass of the
unexpected dimple.

"Well, Lil and I are not blaming you. If we haven't got as much sense as
you boys, I dare one of you to say so. We could have told we were
getting lost just as much as either one of you, and it is no more your
business to get us home than it is our business to get you home, is it,
Lil?"

"I--I--reckon not," faltered Lil; "but I've got to rest a while before I
can get myself or anybody else home." Poor Lil! She was about all in but
she kept up a brave smile.

"There must be water here or this grass would not be so pizen green in
August," said Skeeter. "Let's go find the spring first, Frank." The boys
wanted to get off together to discuss ways and means and hold a council
of war.

"Say, Skeeter, what are we going to do?" asked Frank, as they made for a
pile of rocks down in the middle of the dimple, where it seemed likely a
spring might be hidden.

"Darnifiknow!"

"Do you know it's 'most night? I thought when we got to the top there
would be lots of light, but all the time we were coming up the sun was
going down, and blamed if it hasn't set now."

"Yes, and no moon until 'most morning. What will Miss Douglas and Miss
Helen say to us?"

"I'm not worrying about what they will say, but what will they think? I
am afraid Lil can't take another step tonight. She is game as game, but
she is just about flopped."

"We might make a basket of our hands and carry her thataway," suggested
Skeeter.

"Yes, we might! Lil is not so big but she is no dollbaby, and I don't
believe we could pack her a mile if our lives depended on it."

"Well, what will we do? Can you think of anything?"

"Well, I think that one of us must stay with the girls and the other one
go snooping around to try to find somebody, a house, or something. You
stay with them and I'll go. I bid to!"

"All--right!"

But Skeeter did think, considering he was at least two months older than
Frank and at least three inches taller, that he should be the one to go
the front. The rôle of home guard did not appeal to him much, but when a
fellow says "he bids to," that settles it.

The spring was found down low between the rocks--such a clear, clean
spring that even the greatest germ fearer would not hesitate to drink of
its waters.

"Look, there's a little path leading from the other side! It must go
somewhere!" cried Frank.

"Yes, it must go somewhere just as all the trails we have followed today
must--but where? Don't tell me about paths! They are frauds, delusions
and snares. I reckon there won't be any supper for us tonight, so I
might just as well fill up on water," and Skeeter stooped and drank
until his chum became alarmed. Skeeter's capacity was surely miraculous.

"Let's not tell the girls we might not be able to get back before night.
It might get them upset," cautioned Frank.

They reckoned without their host, however, in this matter. When the boys
returned to the forlorn damsels bearing a can of water for their
refreshment, the can having been discovered by the spring, they found
them not forlorn at all. They had spunked up each other and now were
almost lively. Lil was tired and pale and Lucy had a rather bedraggled
look, but they called out cheerily:

"What ho, brave knights!"

"Listen! Don't you hear a strange sound, kind of like music without a
tune?" said Lucy.

There was a sound, certainly. It might be the wind in the pines and it
might be a giant fly buzzing in a flower that had closed its doors for
the night.

"It is coming closer," cried Lil. "Maybe it is the bold brigands who are
to bear us off to captivity in their mountain fastnesses. I tell you, if
they want me they will have to bear me. I can't hobble."

Just then there came through the scrub growth on the opposite side
of the green dimple where our young people had made their temporary
abiding place, a strange figure. It was a tall, lean young man dressed
in a coat of many colors, a shirt that seemed to be made of patches, no
two patches of the same color and none of them matching the original
color of the shirt, which was of a vivid blue. His trousers were of
bright pink calico, the kind you see on the shelves of country stores
and that is usually spoken of as "candy pink." His head was bare; his
hair long and yellow. A large tin bucket was hung on his arm while he
diligently played a jew's-harp.

The effect of this strange figure was so weird as it appeared through
the gathering twilight that the girls could hardly hold in the screams
that were in their throats. They controlled them, however, so that they
only came out as faint giggles.

The music of the jew's-harp can be very eyrie in broad daylight when
made by an ordinary human being; but just at dusk in a mountain fastness
when four young persons have decided they are lost and may have to spend
the night in the woods, this music, coming from such a strange, motley
figure, seemed positively grewsome.

"Speak to it!" gasped Lucy.

      "'Angels and ministers of grace, defend us!
      Be thou a spirit of health, or goblin damned,
      Bring with thee airs from heaven, or blasts from hell,
      Be thy intents wicked, or charitable,
      Thou com'st in such a questionable shape,
      That I will speak to thee,'"

spouted Skeeter.

The youth stood still in his path but went on with his weird near-tune.
Skeeter approached him and the others followed, although poor Lil found
herself limping painfully.

"Please, we are lost!"

"Oh, no, not lost, for I have found you uns. We uns is always findin'."
His voice had an indescribable softness and gentleness and his blue eyes
a far-away look as though he lived in some other world. "Only t'other
day we uns 'most found a great bird floating in the sky, but it flew
away. We uns thought at first it was lost but it wasn't. If it had a
been lost, we uns would have found it. A great big bird, bigger'n a
bald-headed eagle, bigger'n a buzzard."

"Now that you have found us, what are you going to do with us?" asked
Lil.

"Oh, what we uns finds, we uns hides ag'in. Thar's a hole in the
mounting whar we uns puts things."

"Uhhh--a brigand, sure enough!" whispered Lucy.

"But you wouldn't put us there, because we are alive. You have a home
somewhere near here, haven't you?" asked Frank. But the half-witted
fellow shook his head sadly.

"We uns ain't got no mo' home since they came and found my maw--they
came and found her and hid her in the ground. We uns must have lost her
and never can find her--but there are lots of other things to find," and
his blue eyes that had looked all clouded at the sad thought of never
finding his mother, now began to sparkle. "Only this evening we uns
found the prettiest light in the sky--it's gone now--gone--before we
uns could hide it in the hole, but we uns will find another."

"Where do you live?"

Skeeter asked it gently.

"Oh, we uns lives with the spring-keeper."

"The spring-keeper! Who is he?"

"Oh, we uns found him when they took my maw! He is a little daffy--that
is what folks say, but we uns can't see but he is as smart as them what
laughs at him."

The young people were quite aghast at the news that the person with whom
this strange being lived was considered daffy. The boys had their doubts
about the advantage of asking shelter in a house where two crazy people
lived, but perhaps the spring-keeper was not crazy, after all. This
young man certainly seemed harmless enough, and perhaps he could show
them the way to Greendale.

"Does the spring-keeper live far from here?" asked Lil.

"Oh, no, just round the mounting. We uns will show you uns the way."

He filled his bucket at the crystal spring and then led the way along
the narrow path.

"Who taught you to play the jew's-harp?" asked Lucy.

"Nobody! We uns just makes the music we uns finds in the trees. We uns
can make the tune the bee tree makes, too. We uns can do so many things.
We uns made these pants and every day we uns sews a pretty new color on
this shirt. The spring-keeper fetches pretty cloth from the store and
sometimes we uns sews quilts. Look, thar's the place whar the
spring-keeper lives when he ain't a-tendin' to his business."

"What is his business?" asked Frank.

"We uns done told you he's a spring-keeper. Be you uns daffy, too?"

That made them all laugh, and then the guide laughed too, delightedly.

"Now we uns is found some happiness!" he exclaimed. "The spring-keeper
says that is all that's worth finding. He says he has found it but he
never laughs like that. He just smiles but never makes no music when
he's happy. But neither does the sunshine."

The cabin which they were approaching was different in a way from the
usual one found in the mountains. It was made of logs and had the
outline of the ordinary abode of the mountaineer, but a long porch went
along two sides and this porch was screened. Screening is something
almost unheard-of with the natives, although the flies abound in the
mountains as well as in the valleys. A little clearing around the cabin
was one great tangle of flowers: golden glow, love-in-the-mist, four
o'clocks, bachelor's buttons, zenias, asters, hollyhocks, sunflowers,
poppies, cornflowers, scarlet sage, roses and honeysuckles. Some greedy
bees were still buzzing around the roses, although the sun was down and
it was high time all laborers were knocking off for the night. There was
a light in the cabin which sent a very cheering message to the foot-sore
travelers--also an odor of cooking that appealed very strongly to all of
them but sent Skeeter off into an ecstasy of anticipation.

The guide put down his bucket of water and placing his jew's-harp to his
lips gave a kind of buzzing call. Immediately an old man came out of the
door.

"Is that you, Tom Tit?" It was such a kind, sweet voice that the four
were made sure they were right in coming to his abode.

"Yes, Spring-keeper, and we uns found something."

"I'll be bound you have! What is it this time? Another aeroplane or a
rainbow?"

"No, it is four laughs, look!"

The old man did look, and when he saw the wanderers, he hastened out to
make them welcome. Never was there a more charming manner than his. No
wonder the half-witted youth thought of the sunshine in connection with
his smile.

He was tall and stalwart, with a long gray beard that could only be
equalled by Santa Claus himself. His hair was silver white and his
cheeks as rosy as a girl would like to have hers. His eyes were gray and
so kind and twinkling that all fear of his being crazy was immediately
dispelled from the minds of our young people.

"They thought they were lost but they were wrong--we uns found 'em."

"Good work, Tom Tit! And now what are we to do with them?" he asked,
although he did not wait to find out what his poor companion had in his
befuddled mind but ushered them to the porch, where he made the girls
comfortable in steamer chairs and let the boys find seats for
themselves.

Their story was soon told and much was their amazement to learn that
they were more than ten miles from Greendale.

"You must have been walking all day in the wrong direction. No wonder
this poor little girl is limping. Now the first thing for us to do is to
have something to eat."

"Ahem!" from Skeeter.

The spring-keeper smiled.

"Ah, methinks thou hast a lean and hungry look."

"Hungry's not the word. Starving Belgium is nothing to me. I feel as
though I had had nothing to eat since yesterday."

"Oh, Skeeter! Think of all that lunch!" exclaimed Lil, lolling back
luxuriously in the steamer chair with grass cloth cushions tucked in
around her. "Why, Mr.--Mr.--Spring-keeper, he has done nothing but eat
all day!"

"We think it is very hard on you for all of us to come piling in on you
this way," said Lucy.

"Hard on us! Why, Tom Tit and I are so happy we hardly know what to do
to show it," said the old man kindly. "But you must excuse me while I go
prepare some food for you."

"But you must let us help!" from the girls, although Lil was rather
perfunctory in her offers of assistance. She felt as though nothing
short of dynamite could get her out of that chair.

"No, indeed! Tom Tit and I are famous cooks and we can get something
ready in short order."

"Please, sir," said Frank, who had been very quiet while the others were
telling their host of their adventures, "I--I--must not stop one moment
to eat or anything else. I want you to tell me how to find my way back
to Greendale so I can tell the people at the camp that Lucy and Lil are
all right. They were put in our charge, and I must let them know."

"Of course, I am going, too," put in Skeeter, "but I thought I might eat
first."

Everyone had to laugh at poor Skeeter's rueful countenance. The
spring-keeper smiled broadly, but he patted Frank on the back.

"Have you a telephone at camp?"

"Yes, we had to put one in."

"Well, then, we'll just 'phone them even before we begin to cook our
feast."

"'Phone! Have you a telephone here?" exclaimed Lucy.

"Yes, my dear young lady. I love the wildwood, but I have to know what's
going on in the world. A man who does not take the good the gods provide
him in the way of modern inventions is a fool. I may be a fool, but I'm
not that kind of a fool."

"Lucy, you had better do the 'phoning so they'll know you girls are
safe, first thing," suggested Frank.

"Yes, and it had better be done immediately," said their host. "Central
in the mountains goes to roost very early, and you might not get
connection. I'll call up Greendale and make them give me the camp."

Connection was got without much trouble and Lucy took the receiver.

"Hello! Is that Camp Carter? Well, this is me."

"Lucy! Is it you?" in Helen's distracted tones from the other end.

"Yes, it's me, and all of us are all right, but we are going to spend
the night out."

"Out where?"

"About ten miles from Greendale!"

"You mean outdoors?"

"Oh, no; with a spring-keeper!"

"A what? Oh, Lucy, are you crazy? We are so uneasy about all of you, we
are nearly wild! It's dark as can be and we are trying to keep it from
mother and father that you have not come home. Tell me where you are.
Speak distinctly and loudly and stop giggling." Of course the usual
giggles had rendered Lucy unable to speak.

"Here, Skeeter, come and tell her!" she gasped.

"Hello, Miss Helen! I'm Skeeter. The girls are all right. Yes, Frank and
I are, too. We got lost somehow and never did find Jude Hanford's, but
we found a kind gentleman who lives 'way over on another mountain and he
is going to feed us right now."

"Who is the gentleman?"

"Mr. Spring-keeper is his name."

"You can't get home somehow tonight?"

"No'm! Lil is mighty tired and will have to rest up some. We'll be home
tomorrow. You mustn't worry about the girls--they're all right and the
gentleman is bully. We'll tell you all about it when we see you. Say,
Miss Helen, the lunch was out of sight."

"You bet it was when once Skeeter got his hooks into it," muttered
Frank. "The supper will be, too, in no time."

"Well, good-bye, Skeeter! We are still trusting you and Frank to take
care of our girls and bring them back safely. I knew all the time you
were doing your best, although I was uneasy about all of you. I was
afraid you had shot each other or snakes had bitten you or something."

"Not on your life! We shot some squirrels and got you some fox grapes,
though. Good-bye! Good-bye!"

"I tell you, Miss Helen is a peach," he added to Frank, after he hung up
the receiver. "She is still trusting us."



CHAPTER XVI

TOM TIT


"I'm dying to know who he is and what he is," whispered Lil to Lucy, as
they tidied themselves up a bit in the neat little room to which the
gray-bearded host had shown them.

"So'm I! Did you ever see such a cute little room? It looks like a
stateroom on the steamboat. Do you reckon we will sleep in here?"

It was a tiny little room with one great window. Two bunks were built in
the wall opposite the window, one over the other. A little mirror hung
over a shelf whereon the girls found a white celluloid comb and brush,
spotlessly clean--indeed, the whole room was so clean that one doubted
its ever having been occupied. The floor was scrubbed until Lucy said
it reminded her of a well-kept kitchen table. A rag rug was the only
decoration the room boasted and that was a beautiful thing of brilliant
hue. The walls were whitewashed, also the doors, of which there were
two, one opening into the main room and the other one, the girls
fancied, into a cupboard.

"Ain't it grand we got lost?" from Lil, as she made a vain endeavor to
see her sunburned nose in the mirror that was hung so high she was sure
Mr. Spring-keeper had never had a female visitor before, or if he had,
it had been a giantess.

"Hurry up! Your nose is all right.--Maybe we can help him some, and I'm
just dying to hear the story of his life. Do you reckon he will tell us
all about himself and poor Tom Tit without our pumping him? I believe he
is a king or something."

Whether the old gentleman were a king or not, he could certainly cook
a supper to a king's taste. Skeeter's nostrils were quivering with
anticipatory enjoyment as the lost ones took their seats around the
massive table in the comfortable living room.

"It looks like a room I saw at the movies last spring," Frank had said
to Skeeter, as they waited for the girls to finish dolling up. "That
one had a stone fireplace and furniture that looked just like this,
great big tables and chairs that must have been made out of solid oak
or walnut or something. The hero had fashioned them himself with a
jack-knife, I believe. The mantelpiece was high just like this one,
but there were skins spread on the floor instead of these rag rugs."

"It is a bully room, and, gee, what a good smell of eats."

The supper was a simple one, consisting of corn pone and buttermilk,
bacon and scrambled eggs.

"I am giving you exactly what Tom Tit and I were to have. I only tripled
the quantity," said their host, as they drew up the chairs to the great
table.

"Then we aren't so very much trouble?" asked Lil.

"Trouble! Why, my dear young lady, Tom Tit and I would not live on this
thoroughfare if we did not love visitors."

"Thoroughfare!" gasped Lucy. Maybe the old gentleman was daffy.

"Why, certainly! You don't know how many things happen in the mountains.
Someone is always turning up. Eh, Tom Tit?"

"Yes, indeed! We uns finds something every day. One time it was a baby
fox and one time it was a man in ugly striped pants."

"He means our convict. It was a poor fellow who had escaped from a road
gang and took refuge in the mountains and Tom Tit found him almost
starved to death. We fed him up until he could go back to work."

"You didn't give him up!" asked Frank, his eyes flashing.

"Oh, no; he gave himself up. I got him to tell me just exactly why he
was put in the penitentiary, and since his crime surely warranted some
punishment, I made him understand that the best thing for him to do was
go back to his road making and expiate his crime. That was much better
than being hounded for the rest of his time. What do you think about
it?"

"Y-e-s, you are right, but I'm glad you didn't give him up."

"Tom Tit and I go see him every now and then. Tom Tit feels sorry for
him because his trousers are so ugly. He likes to work and wouldn't mind
road-building a bit."

"When we uns digs, we uns finds so many things, but we uns couldn't wear
such ugly pants. Sometime we uns is a-goin' to make the poor sick man
some pretty pink ones like these," and he stood up to show his bright
pink trousers. They were strangely fashioned, looking rather like
Turkish trousers.

"Was the man sick?" asked Lucy, devoutly praying that a fit of the
giggles would not choke her.

"You see, Tom Tit and I think that when persons are what the world and
the law calls bad, they are really sick. Sometimes they are too sick to
be cured, but not often. It is the fault of the doctors and the system
and not theirs when they are not cured."

"Do you live here all the time?" asked Lil. She was dying of curiosity
about the strange pair who were so ill assorted and still so intimate.

"Tom Tit does, but I have to go away for a time every fall and winter
and Tom Tit keeps house for me while I am gone. He is a famous
housekeeper."

"Do you get lonesome all by yourself?" asked Lucy.

"We uns ain't never alone. There's the baby fox and the cow and the
chickens, and every day we uns tries to find something and then we uns
has to write it down for the spring-keeper 'ginst he comes home. Every
day we uns has to go to the post office for the letter, too, and that
takes time. The days in winter are so short."

"Oh, do you get a letter every day? How jolly! My mother doesn't write
to me but once a week," said Lil, "--although of course she 'phones me
in the meantime and sends me candy and things."

"We uns never does git letters from maw," and poor Tom Tit's eyes
clouded sadly. "Ever since the men came and found her and hid her in
that hole she ain't writ a line to poor Tom Tit."

"But you write to her every time you write to me, don't you, Tom Tit?"
and the old gentleman put a calming and kindly hand on the shoulder of
the trembling youth. It seemed that at every mention of mothers the
thought of his own mother came back to him and the agony he went through
with at the time of her death seized hold of him. The young people
learned later from their host, while Tom Tit was washing the supper
dishes, all about the poor boy's history.

"Tom Tit's mother was a very fine woman of an intelligence and character
that was remarkable even in these mountains where intelligence and
character are the rule rather than the exception. She had no education,
but the things she could accomplish without education were enough to
make the ones who have been educated blush to think how little they do
with it. She had evolved a philosophy of her own of such goodness and
serenity that to know her and talk with her was a privilege. She seemed
to me to be like these mountains, where she was born and where she
died. She had had trouble enough to break the spirit of any ordinary
mortal, but she said her spirit was eternal and could not be broken.

"Her husband was a very desperate character. Convicted of illicit
distilling, he was sentenced to serve a term in the penitentiary, but he
managed to escape and for one whole year he evaded the sheriff, hiding
in the mountains. Of course his wife had to go through the agony of this
long search. She told me she had never slept more than an hour at a time
while her husband was in hiding. That was the one thing she was bitter
over--that long hounding of her husband. She used to say if the
government had spent the money and energy in educating the mountaineers
that they had in hunting for them, there would have been no cause for
hunting for them. Moonshining is to them a perfectly reasonable and
lawful industry, and nothing but education can make them see it
differently. His hiding place was finally ferreted out and he was
surrounded and captured, but not before he had managed to shoot five
men, killing two of them and being fatally wounded himself.

"That was many years ago when Tom Tit was a little chap of three.
Melissa, the mother, was wrapped up in the child. His intelligence then
was keen and his love of Nature and beautiful things was so pronounced
from the beginning that if this cloud had not come over his intellect he
would surely have been a great artist of some kind, whether poet,
painter or musician, I can't say."

"Perhaps all of them, like Leonardo da Vinci!" exclaimed Lil, who always
did know things.

The old gentleman smiled at her appreciatively.

"What is an artist but a person who finds things, just like my poor Tom
Tit, and then is able to tell to the world what he has found?"

"When he writes to you, does he tell you things in poetical language?"
asked Lucy, her gray eyes very teary as she listened to the story of the
mountain youth.

"My dear, his writing is not ordinary writing. He can neither read nor
write as you think of it. His letters to me are written in another way.
He tells me what he has found each day with some kind of rude drawing or
with some device of his own."

"Please show us some of them!" begged all four of the guests.

"I am going to let you guess what he meant." He took from his desk in
the corner a packet of large envelopes. "I leave with my friend enough
addressed and stamped envelopes to run him until I return, and all he
has to do is put in his letter and seal it and drop it in the box at
Bear Hollow, our post office. Sometimes he draws me a picture and
sometimes he just sends me something he has found. What do you think
he intended to convey by this?"

On a sheet of paper were drawn many stars of various kinds and sizes,
and down in the corner was what was certainly meant for an axe.

"Clear night and going coon hunting, I think," said Skeeter solemnly.

"No!" cried Lucy and Lil in a breath. "Those are meant for snow flakes!
It has begun to snow!"

"Right you are! Good girls, go up head! And how about the axe, since it
is not meant to signify coon hunting?"

"It is going to be cold," suggested the practical Frank, "and he must go
to work and lay in wood before the snow gets deep."

"Fine! I am glad to see there are others who can interpret my poor Tom
Tit's letters. Now this is the one I received the next day."

It was evidently meant for a deep snow. The roof of a house and a few
bare branches were shown but from the chimney a column of smoke ascended
and in that smoke was plainly drawn a grin: a mouth with teeth.

"Snowed under!" cried Skeeter.

"But he got his wood cut and is now sitting by the fire quite happy,
even grinning," declared Lucy.

"Right again! Now comes a piece of holly and a pressed violet. That
means that he finds a little belated violet in our flower beds in spite
of the fact that the holly is king at this season. Sometimes he has so
much to tell me that he must make many pictures. Here he found a sunset
and it was so beautiful that he had to paint it with his colored
crayons. This is where he fed the birds during the deep snow. He has a
trough where he puts grain and seeds and crumbs for his winged friends.
This is a picture of the trough and see the flocks of birds he has tried
to draw to show how many are fed in his trough. This means a stranger
has come in on him!" It was a picture of a hat and staff and down one
side of the page were many drops of water, at least that was what the
interested audience thought they were. At the top was an eye.

"Oh, I know!" exclaimed Lil. "If a hat and staff mean a stranger, those
drops of water must mean rain."

"The eye looks like a Mormon sign," suggested Skeeter.

"I bet it means this," said Lil, studying the page intently. "It means
the stranger is old, or he would not have a staff, and it means he is
unhappy. Those drops are tear drops. See how sad the eye looks!"

"'Oh, a Daniel come to judgment!' Young lady, you are right. That was a
tired, sick traveler that our Tom Tit found and brought in and looked
after for two weeks last winter. He was trying to cross the mountains
and got lost and Tom Tit picked him up, almost starved and frozen. In
this one, he shows the sick guest is still with him and in bed. He
cannot draw faces well and hates to make anything too grotesque, so he
usually has a sign or symbol for persons. The staff and hat in bed mean
the guest is there. These little saddle-bags and hat mean he had to send
for the doctor. Look at the medicine the poor staff and hat must take
from the cruel saddle-bags! His own symbol is usually a jew's-harp,
although sometimes he makes himself a kind of butterfly----"

"Just like Whistler!" cried Lil.

"Yes, and in his way he is as great an artist as Whistler," said the
old man sadly. "If he had only had his chance! Well, well! Maybe he
is happier as he is. I never saw a happier person, as a rule, than my
poor boy. Tom Tit could never have written letters that would have
been put in a book and called 'The Gentle Art of Making Enemies,' as
that other great artist did. He makes friends with every living thing,
and inanimate objects are friendly to him, too, I sometimes think. If
his wits had been spared him, the world would have called him and the
peace of the mountains would no longer have been his."

The old man fingered the packet of letters tenderly while the young
guests sat thoughtfully by. They could hear the cheerful Tom Tit in
the kitchen washing dishes and whistling a strange crooning melody.

"Here it is spring and he has found the first hepatica. See, he sends me
a pressed one! And this is my love letter. What do you make of it?"

It was six little stamped envelopes, all with wings, and in the corner
was a jew's-harp unmistakably dancing a jig.

"I know! I know!" cried Lucy.

"So do I!" from Lil.

"I can't see any kind of sense in it!" pondered Frank.

"Nor I," grumbled Skeeter. "You girls just make up answers."

"I'm going to whisper my answer to Mr. Spring-keeper," suggested Lil.

The old man smiled as Lil whispered her answer.

"Good! Splendid! And now what do you think?" turning to Lucy.

"I think that he has only six envelopes left, and that means you will be
back in six days. He is so happy he is dancing and he is so busy the
days are just flying away."

"Well, if you girls aren't clever! No wonder they say women are the most
appreciative sex although men are the creative. A few men create while
all women appreciate. And now, my dear young people, this is so pleasant
for me that I am afraid of being selfish, so I am going to insist on
your going to bed. You have had a hard day and must be tired."

"We have had a wonderful day with a wonderful en----" said Lil, a yawn
hitting her midway so she could not get out the "ding."

"But I hate to go to bed until you tell us something about yourself,"
blurted out Skeeter.

The story of the half-witted young mountaineer was very interesting, no
doubt, but Skeeter wanted to know why this highly educated gentleman was
spending so much time in the mountains, cooking for himself and taking
care of lost sheep.

"Oh, my story is such an ordinary one I can tell it while I light a
candle for these young ladies," laughed their host, not at all angry
at Skeeter's curiosity, although Lil and Lucy were half dead of
embarrassment when Skeeter came out so flat-footed with the question
which was almost bubbling over on their lips, but which they felt they
must not put.

"I am a successful manufacturer---- I have made enough money selling
clothes pins and ironing boards and butter tubs to stop. In fact, I
stopped many years ago and now I do nothing but enjoy myself in my own
way."

"And that way is----?"

"Trying to help a little. In the winter I live in New York and teach the
boys' clubs on the East Side, and in the summer I am spring-keeper in
the mountains."

"But isn't your name Mr. Spring-keeper?" asked Lil.

"No, my dear, spring-keeping is my occupation. My name is Walter McRae.
Here is your candle, and pleasant dreams."

"Won't you tell us some more about yourself?" asked Lucy as she took the
candle from him.

"Another time! Anything so dry as my story will keep."



CHAPTER XVII

THE SPRING-KEEPER


"Isn't this grand?" were the last words both of our girls uttered
as they rolled into the bunks that had been made up with fresh,
lavender-scented linen. The brigands had captured them certainly and
their adventure was complete. The boys were sleeping on the porch in
hammocks. Mr. McRae always slept on the porch unless weather drove him
in, and Tom Tit had a little room that he loved, where he kept his
treasures, all those he did not put in the hole in the mountain.

Dawn found the babes in the wood much refreshed. The boys were up and
out early, helping Tom Tit milk the cow and chop wood. Mr. McRae had
started the cooking of breakfast when Lucy and Lil appeared.

"We are so ashamed to be late but we almost slept our heads off," they
apologized. "Now let us help!"

"All right, set the table and skim the milk and get the butter out of
the dairy." The dairy was a cave dug in the side of the mountain where
all their food was kept cool in summer and warm in winter. "We shall
breakfast on the porch."

The girls made all haste and set the table with great care.

"Let's get him to tell us all about himself this morning," whispered
Lucy. "I'm dying to hear about him. Isn't he romantic?"

"I'm crazy about him. Don't you reckon he'll go to the camp with us? Nan
would be wild over him."

"Yes, but he's ours. We certainly found him."

"You sound like Tom Tit," laughed Lil.

"I hope the people at the camp won't laugh at poor Tom Tit," said Lucy.
"If we could only get there a little ahead and prepare them for his pink
pants."

She need not have worried, as the wise Mr. McRae knew how to manage Tom
Tit so that he discarded his pink pants when he was to go among
strangers.

"Now, Tom Tit, we must hurry with all of our duties so we can make an
early start to walk home with our guests; and we must put on our
corduroys for such a long tramp, as the brambles might tear your lovely
new trousers."

So poor Tom Tit did the outside chores with the help of the boys, while
the girls assisted Mr. McRae in the house.

Having breakfasted a little after dawn, by seven o'clock they were ready
for their ten mile tramp back to the camp. The boys shouldered their
guns and the sacks of fox grapes and squirrels. Mr. McRae took with him
a small spade while Tom Tit carried a hoe.

"I can't help thinking both of them are a bit loony," Skeeter whispered
to Lucy. "Why on earth do they want to carry garden tools on a ten mile
tramp?"

"Loony yourself! I reckon they want to dig something."

The old gentleman, as though divining Skeeter's thoughts, remarked:

"Tom Tit and I have a little duty to attend to today, so we are taking
our implements. There are several springs I have not been able to visit
this summer and I am going to combine duty with pleasure and look after
them today."

"Look after springs! What for?" from Skeeter.

"I thought I told you that I am a spring-keeper. Perhaps you don't know
what a spring-keeper is."

"N--o! Not exactly!" said Skeeter.

"Well, every country child knows that in every spring there is or should
be a spring-keeper to keep the water clear. It is a kind of crawfish.
It may be a superstition that he really does purify water. At any rate,
it is a pleasing idea that he can. Whether he can or not, I know I can
help a great deal by digging out of the springs the old dead roots and
vegetable matter that decays there, so my self-appointed job is to keep
the springs of Albemarle county in condition. I am sure I have saved
many families from typhoid in the last years. That is something.

"I was born in the mountains, born in a cabin that stands just where the
one I live in now stands, in fact the chimney is the same one that has
always been there, but the house is new. When I was a mere lad, about
twelve years old, there was a terrible epidemic of typhoid fever in the
mountains. My whole family was wiped out by it, my father, mother and
two sisters dying of it. I just did escape with my life and was nursed
back to health by Tom Tit's granny, as good a woman as ever lived.
Afterwards, having no home ties, I drifted to the city where I was
successful financially. We of the mountains had not known in the old
days what caused typhoid, but afterwards, when I learned it was the
water we drank, I determined to come back to my county whenever I could
and make some endeavor to better the conditions. Would God that I might
have been sooner! My poor boy had an attack of the dread disease just
the year before I got my affairs in condition to leave New York, and
that is what caused his brain trouble."

Tom Tit was ahead of the party, gazing up into the air as his old friend
spoke. He had a rapt expression on his face that made him for the moment
look like Guido Reni's Christ.

"Sometimes," continued the old man, "in typhoid, the temperature is so
high that certain brain tissue seems to be burned out. I am afraid that
is what has happened to my boy."

"All of us have been inoculated against typhoid," said Lucy. "Dr. Wright
insisted on it--every member of the family. Helen kicked like a steer
but she had to do it, too."

"Well named, well named, that young doctor! I try to get the friends in
the mountains to submit to it, too, but it is a difficult matter. I keep
the virus on hand all the time, a fresh supply. If I can't persuade them
to let me give them the treatment, I can at least keep their springs
clean for them. Sometimes they even object to that," he laughed, "but
they can't help it, as I do it without their leave. They say I take all
the taste out of the water."

Their way lay around the mountain instead of over it, the course they
had taken the day before, and much to the amazement of the young people,
they went to the left instead of to the right.

"But Greendale is that way!" declared Frank, pointing to the east.

"Greendale is really due north of us, but I thought you wanted to go by
Jude Hanford's cabin to do your errand. We could go either way to the
camp from here, but if we go east, we will miss Jude."

"Well, if that doesn't beat all!" exclaimed Frank.

Mr. McRae laughed. "What would you have done last night if Tom Tit had
not found you and brought you home?"

"I was going to lie right down and let the robins cover me up," said
Lil.

"I was going to climb the highest tree and look out and see if I could
spy a light, like the cock in the 'Musicians of Bremen,'" said Lucy.

"I was going to follow the path from the spring," said Frank. "I felt
sure from the cleanliness of the spring that we were near some house."

"And I was going to build a fire and skin the squirrels and have
supper," declared Skeeter. "I was just about famished and I knew that
food was what Lil and Lucy needed to put heart in them."

"Yes, it wouldn't!" laughed Lil. "Much good burnt squirrel without any
salt would do a bruised heel. That was all that was the matter with me."

That ten miles back to the camp seemed much shorter than it had the day
before, and in fact it was, as they made no digressions on the homeward
trip.

"We must really have walked twenty miles yesterday. Just think how many
times we doubled on our tracks," said Frank when they finally came to a
familiar spot.

They found Jude Hanford's yard running over with frying-sized chickens
and on his door step a water bucket full of eggs all ready to take to
the store. Of course he was pleased to sell them without having to take
off the commission for the middleman. He joined their procession, with
his eggs and three dozen chickens distributed among the bearers.



CHAPTER XVIII

MORE FINDS


"Look!" exclaimed Lucy as they neared the camp. "Mr. Smith is flying
this morning. I wonder who is with him. He hasn't taken me yet but he
promised to today. Please don't tell mother. She would be terribly
alarmed at the prospect."

"Oh, there's my bird!" and Tom Tit dropped his hoe and the basket of
chickens he was carrying and clasped his hands in an ecstasy of delight.
"See, see, how it floats! I have found it again! I have found it again!"

"Tom Tit, would you like to fly with that great bird?" asked Lucy
gently.

"Fly? Oh, I always dream I can fly! Can I really fly?"

"Yes, Tom Tit, if you want to I will give you my place. The birdman
promised to take me today and I will get him to take you instead."

Tom Tit looked wonderingly and trustingly at Lucy. Mr. McRae smiled his
approval.

"It will be an experience my boy will remember all his life."

"Spending the night at your home will be one we will remember always,
too. It beat flying," and all of the wanderers agreed with her.

Mr. Tom Smith was perfectly willing to take Tom Tit on a flight if he
promised to sit still, which of course he did. The aeroplane was a great
astonishment to him and the fact that the birdman could leave the bird
and talk and walk filled him with awe.

"We uns ain't never seen buzzards and eagles git out'n their wings, but
then we uns ain't never been so clost to the big ones, the ones that
sails way up in the clouds."

When they landed after a rather longer flight than Tom Smith usually
took the would-be flyers, Tom Tit's expression was that of one who has
glimpsed the infinite. He said not a word for a moment after he found
himself once more on terra firma, and then he turned to his old friend
and whispered:

"Oh, Spring-keeper, I have found so many things that I'll never be sad
again."

The Carters, of course, gave Mr. McRae a warm welcome. They could not do
enough to express their gratitude for his kindness and hospitality to
their young people. Mrs. Carter was graciousness itself to the old man,
but looked rather askance at the queer figure of his companion. I wonder
what she would have thought had she seen his pink calico trousers and
his patched shirt that he considered so beautiful. Bobby, however, was
drawn to him immediately and treated him just as though he had been
another little boy who had come to see him. He took his new friend to
see all of his bird houses and water wheels, and Tom Tit followed him
about with adoration in his eyes.

"We uns kin talk like you uns when we uns remembers," said Bobby.

"We uns would like to talk like Spring-keeper but always forgits,"
sighed Tom Tit. "Spring-keeper used to talk just like we uns when he
was little but he's got larnin' now."

"We uns don't never want no larnin'," declared Bobby. "'Tain't no use.
Josh wants to git larnin', too, but when he does he ain't goin' to be my
bes' frien' no mo'. I'm a-goin' to be you bes' frien' then; I mean, we
uns is."

"What's a bes' frien'? We uns ain't never found one."

"Oh, a bes' frien' is somebody you likes to be with all the time."

"Oh, then Spring-keeper is a bes' frien'."

"But he is an old man. A bes' frien' must be young."

"Then we uns'll have to take the baby fox. Will that do?"

"Oh, yes, that'll do if'n they ain't no boys around."

"We uns will keep the baby fox for one of them things until Josh gits
larnin' and then you kin be it," and Tom Tit laughed for joy.

"Is you uns ever flew?" Tom Tit asked Bobby.

"No--my mother is so skittish like, she ain't never let me. She's 'bout
one of the scaredest ladies they is."

"We uns' maw is done flew away herself and she didn't mind when we uns
went a bit. We uns useter think that when the men found maw they took
her and hid her in a hole in the ground. Spring-keeper done tole me
lots of times that she wasn't in the ground but had flew up to heaven,
but we uns ain't never seed no one fly, so we uns just thought he was
a foolin'. And you see," he whispered, "Spring-keeper is kinder daffy
sometimes, so the folks say, and we uns has to humor him. But now--but
now--we uns done flewed away up in the air. If we uns kin fly, why maw
kin do it, too. She ain't in a hole in the ground no mo'. We uns
almost saw her flyin' way up over the mountain tops."

"I'm--I mean we uns is a-goin' to come to see you. My father is goin' to
take me there some day. Kin you play on the Victrola?"

"No--we uns ain't never seed one. What is it?"

"Why, it makes music."

"Oh, we uns kin play the jew's-harp."

"Gee! I wish I could--I mean we uns wishes we uns could. If you show me
how to play the jew's-harp, I'll show you how to play the Victrola. Come
on, I'll show you first while th'ain't nobody in the pavilion. You see,
my sisters is some bossy an' they's always sayin' I scratch the records
an' won't never let me play it by myself, but they is about the bossiest
ever. I ain't a-goin' to hurt the old records."

Tom Tit looked at the Victrola with wondering eyes while Bobby wound it
up. He had seen a small organ once and the postmistress at Bear Hollow
had a piano, but this musical instrument was strange indeed.

"I'm a-gonter leave the record on that Helen's been a-playin'. I don't
know what it is. I can't read good yet but I reckon it's something
pretty."

It was Zimbalist playing the "Humoresque." Fancy the effect of such
a wonderful combination of sounds breaking for the first time on the
sensitive ears of this mountain youth. He had heard music in the wind
and music in the water; the birds had sung to him and the beasts had
talked to him; but what was this? He stood like one enchanted, his hands
clasped and his lips parted. At one point in the music when the great
artist was evidently putting his whole soul in it, Tom Tit began to sob.
Tears rolled down his cheeks.

"Why, what's the matter? Don't you like it? I'll put a ragtime piece
on," cried Bobby, abruptly stopping the machine with a scraping sound
that certainly proved he was a great scratcher of records.

"Oh, now it's lost! It's lost! We uns thought we uns had found something
beautiful. Where has it gone?"

"Did you like it then? What made you bawl?"

"We uns has to cry when we uns finds something beautiful sometimes. We
uns cries a little when the sun sets but it is tears of happiness. Can
you uns play that again?"

"Sure!" and Bobby started up the "Humoresque" again and this time Tom
Tit dried his eyes and stood with a smile on his face.

"Oh, Spring-keeper!" he cried when Mr. McRae came hunting him, "we uns
has found something more beautiful than sunsets and flowers--prettier
than birds--prettier than pink--prettier than blue or yellow. It shines
like dew and tastes like honey--Oh, Spring-keeper, listen!"

"Yes, my boy, it is beautiful. And now I think you have found enough
things for today and we must go home."

"Go home and leave this!" and Tom Tit embraced the Victrola. "We uns
can't leave it."

"Listen, my boy! I will get one for you. I don't know why I never
thought of it before. Within a week you shall have one all your own and
play it as much as you choose."

Of course Bobby had to be instructed in the rudiments of jew's-harp
playing first, according to agreement, and then with many expressions
of mutual regard our young people parted from the spring-keeper and
Tom Tit.



CHAPTER XIX

A DISCUSSION


August was over and our girls were not sorry. The camp had been like an
ant hill all during that month of holidays. Not that it had been a month
of holidays for the Carters, far from it. There had been times when they
did not see how they could accomplish the work they had undertaken. They
were two hands short almost all of the month which made the work fall
very heavily on the ones who were left. Gwen was taken up with Aunt
Mandy, the kind old mountain woman who had been so good to the little
English orphan. Now that Aunt Mandy was ill, Gwen felt it her duty to be
with her day and night. Susan was so busy waiting on Mrs. Carter that
she never had time for her regular duties in the kitchen.

Lewis and Bill were terribly missed. They had done so many things for
the campers, had been so strong and willing and untiring in their
service that the girls felt the place could hardly be run without them.
Skeeter and Frank did all they could but they were but slips of lads
after all and there were many things where a man's strength was
necessary.

Mr. Carter was glad to help when he was called on, but he did not seem
to see the things that were to be done without having them pointed out.
When there was much of a crowd he rather shrank from the noise and the
girls felt they must not let him be made nervous by the confusion. Of
course there was much confusion when twenty and more boarders would
arrive at once, have to be hauled up the mountain and assigned tent
room and then as Oscar would say, "have to be filled up." The girls
would do much giggling and screaming; the young men would laugh a
great deal louder than their jokes warranted, and the boys seemed to
think that camp was a place especially designed for practical jokes.

It was a common thing to hear shrieks from the tents when the crowd
was finally made to retire by the chaperone, and then the cry, "Ouch!
Chestnut burrs in my bed!" Once it was a lemon meringue pie, brought all
the way from Richmond by an inveterate joker who felt that a certain
youth was too full of himself and needed taking down a peg! Now there is
nothing much better than a lemon meringue pie taken internally, but of
all the squashy abominations to find in one's bed and to have applied
externally, a lemon meringue pie is the worst.

It was as a censor of practical jokes that Douglas and Helen missed the
young soldiers most. They had been wont to stand just so much and no
more from the wild Indians who came to Camp Carter for the week-end, and
now that there was no one to reach forth a restraining hand, there was
no limit to the pranks that were played.

Mrs. Carter felt that the job of chaperone for such a crowd was
certainly no sinecure. She complained quite bitterly of her duties.
After all, they consisted of having the new-comers introduced to her
and of presiding at supper and of staying in the pavilion until bed
time. Miss Elizabeth Somerville had made nothing of it, and one
memorable night when there was too much racket going on from the tents
the boys occupied, she had arisen from her bed in the cabin and, wrapped
in a dressing gown and armed with an umbrella, had marched to the seat
of war and very effectively quelled the riot by laying about her with
said umbrella.

The girls looked back on her reign, regretting that it was over. It was
lovely to have their mother with them again but she was quite different
from the mother they had known in Richmond in the luxurious days. That
mother had always been gentle while this one had a little sharp note to
her voice that was strange to them. It was most noticeable when she had
expressed some desire that was not immediately gratified.

"I am quite tired of chicken," she said to Douglas one day. "I wish you
would order some sweetbreads for me. I need building up. This rough
life is very hard on me and nothing but my being very unselfish and
devoted makes me put up with it."

"Yes, mother! I am sorry, but my order for this week is in the mail and
I could not change it now, but I will send a special order for some
Texas sweetbreads to Charlottesville. I have no doubt I can get them
there."

Either the order or the sweetbreads went astray. Mrs. Carter refused to
eat any dinner in consequence and sulked a whole day.

"If she only doesn't complain to father we can stand it," Douglas
confided to Nan. "What are we going to do, Nan? I am so afraid she will
make father feel he must go back to work, and then all the good of the
rest will be done away with. She treats me, somehow, as though it were
all my fault."

"Oh no, honey, you mustn't feel that way. Poor little mumsy is just
spoiled to death and does not know how to adapt herself to this change
of fortune."

"You see, Nan, now that Mr. Lane has had to go to Texas with the
militia the business is at a standstill. He was trying to fill the
orders they had on their books without father's help."

"Yes, Mr. Tucker said that father's business was a one man affair and
when that one man, father, was out of the running there was nothing to
do about it. Thank goodness, father is not worrying about things
himself."

"I know we should be thankful, but somehow his not worrying makes it
just so much more dreadful. I feel that he is even more different than
mother. It is an awful problem--what to do."

"What's a problem?" asked Helen, coming suddenly into the tent where her
sisters were engaged in the above conversation.

"Oh, just--just--nothing much!" faltered Douglas.

"Now that's a nice way to treat a partner. You and Nan are always
getting off and whispering together and not letting me in on it. What's
worrying you?"

"The situation!"

"Political or climatic?"

"Carteratic!" drawled Nan. "We were talking about mother and father."

"What about them? Is father worse?" Helen was ever on the alert when her
father's well-being was in question.

"No, he is better in some ways, but unless he is kept free from worry he
will never be well," said Douglas solemnly.

She had not broached the subject of money with Helen since the question
of White Sulphur had been discussed by them, feeling that Helen would
not or could not understand.

"Who's going to worry him? Not I!"

"Of course not you. Just the lack of money is going to worry him, and he
is going to feel the lack of it if mother wants things and can't have
them."

"Why don't you let her have them?"

"How can I? I haven't the wherewithal any more than you."

"I thought we were making money."

"So we are, but not any great amount. I think it is wonderful that we
have been able to support ourselves and put anything in the bank. I had
to draw out almost all of our earnings to pay for the things mother
bought in New York, not that I wasn't glad to do it, but that means we
have not so much to go on for the winter."

"Oh, for goodness' sake don't be worrying about the winter now! Mother
says our credit is so good we need not worry a bit."

Douglas and Nan looked at each other sadly. Douglas turned away with a
"what's the use" expression. Helen looked a little defiant as she saw
her sister's distress.

"See here, Helen!" and this time Nan did not drawl. Helen realized her
little sister was going to say something she must listen to. "You have
got a whole lot of sense but you have got a whole lot to learn. I know
you are going to laugh at me for saying you have got to learn a lot that
I, who am two years younger than you, already know. You have got to
learn that our poor little mumsy's judgment is not worth that," and Nan
snapped her finger.

"Nan! You ought to be ashamed of yourself."

"Well, I am ashamed of myself, but I am telling the truth. I don't see
the use in pretending any more about it. I love her just as much, but
anyone with half an eye can see it. I think what we must do is to face
it and then tactfully manage her."

Douglas and Helen could not help laughing at Nan.

"You see," she continued, "it is up to us to support the family somehow
and make mumsy comfortable and keep her from telling father that she
hasn't got all she wants. Of course she can't have all she wants, but
she can be warm and fed at least."

"But, Nan, it isn't up to you to support the family," said Douglas. "You
must go back to school, you and Lucy."

"Well, it is up to me to spend just as little money as possible and to
earn some if I can. I am not going to be a burden on you and Helen. You
needn't think it."

"We'll have the one hundred from the rent of the house and then Helen
and I shall have to find jobs. What, I don't know."

"Well, I, for one, can't find a job until I get some new clothes,"
declared Helen. "I haven't a thing that is not hopelessly out of style."

"Can't your last winter's suit be done over? Mine can."

"Now, Douglas, what's the use in going around looking like a frump? I
think we should all of us get some new clothes and then waltz in and get
good jobs on the strength of them. If I were employing girls I should
certainly choose the ones who look the best."

Douglas shook her head sadly. Helen was Helen and there was no making
her over. She would have to learn her lesson herself and there was no
teaching her.

"Dr. Wright says we must keep father out of the city this winter but we
need not be in the dead country. We can get a little house on the edge
of town so Nan and Lucy can go in to school. I think we can get along on
the rent from the house if you and I can make something besides."

When the question of where they were to live for the winter was broached
to Mrs. Carter, she was taken quite ill and had to stay in bed a whole
day.

"No one considers me at all," she whimpered to Nan, who had brought her
a tray with some tea and toast for her luncheon. "Just because you and
Douglas like the country you think it is all right. I am sure I shall
die in some nasty little frame cottage in the suburbs. It is ridiculous
that we cannot turn those wretched people out of my house and let me go
back and live in it again."

"But, mumsy," soothed Nan, "we are going to make you very comfortable
and we will find a pretty house and maybe it will be brick."

"But to dump me down in the suburbs when I have had to be away from
society for all these months as it is! I am sure if I could talk it over
with your father he would agree with me--but you girls even coerce me in
what I shall and shall not say to my own husband. I do not intend to
submit to it any longer."

"Oh, mother, please--please don't tell father. Dr. Wright says----"

"Don't tell me what Dr. Wright says! I am bored to death with what he
says. I know he has been kind but I can't see that our affairs must be
indefinitely directed by him. I will sleep a little now if you will let
me be quiet."



CHAPTER XX

DR. WRIGHT TO THE RESCUE


Nan went sadly off. What should she do? Dr. Wright was expected at the
camp that afternoon and she determined to speak to him and ask him once
more to interfere in the Carters' affairs. Even if the young physician
did bore her mother, it was necessary now for him to step in. If only
she would not carry out her threat of speaking to her husband!

Dr. Wright treated the matter quite seriously when Nan told him of the
mix-up.

"Certainly your father must not be worried. It is quite necessary that
he shall be kept out of the city for many months yet and no one must
talk money to him. Can't your mother see this?"

"She doesn't seem to."

"But Helen understands, surely!"

"I--I--think Helen thinks father is so much better that we can--we
can--kind of begin to spend again," faltered Nan, whose heart misgave
her, fearing she might be saying something to obstruct the course of
true love which her romantic little soul told her was going on between
Helen and Dr. Wright. At least she could not help seeing that he was
casting sheep's eyes at Helen, and that while Helen was not casting
them back at him she was certainly not averse to his attentions.

"Begin to spend again! Ye gods and little fishes! Why, if bills begin to
be showered in again on Robert Carter I will not answer for his reason.
He is immensely improved, but it is only because he has had no worries.
Where is your mother?" His face looked quite stern and his kind blue
eyes were not kind at all but flashed scornfully.

"She is in bed."

"Is she ill?"

"Well, not exactly--she--she--is kind of depressed."

"Depressed! Depressed over what?"

"Oh, Dr. Wright, I hate to be telling you these things! It looks as
though I did not love my mother to be talking about her, but indeed I
do. Douglas and I are so miserable about it, but we--we--somehow we
feel that we are a great deal older than mumsy. We know it is hard on
her--all of this----"

"All of what?"

"This living such a rough life--and having to give up society and our
pretty house and everything."

"Of course it is hard, but then aren't all of you giving up things,
too?"

"But we don't mind--at least we don't mind much. It is harder on Helen
and mother because--because they--they are kind of different. And they
don't understand money."

"And do you understand it?" laughed the young doctor.

"Well, Douglas and I understand it better. We know that when you spend
a dollar you haven't got a dollar, but Helen and mother seem to think
if you haven't got it you can charge it. I think they are suffering
with a kind of disease--chargitis."

George Wright was looking quite solemn as he made his way to the cabin
where Mrs. Carter had taken to her bed. He was not relishing the idea of
having to speak to the wife of his patient, but speak he must. He knew
very well that Nan would never have come to him if matters had not
reached a crisis. How would Helen take his interference? He could not
fool himself into the belief that what Helen said and thought made no
difference to him. It made all the difference in the world. But duty was
duty and since he was ministering to a mind diseased, he must guard that
mind from all things that were harmful to it, just as much as a doctor
who is treating an open wound must see that it is kept aseptic. If
Robert Carter's wife was contemplating upsetting the good that had been
done her husband, why, it was his duty as that husband's physician to
warn her of the result.

Mrs. Carter was looking very lovely and pathetic, acting the invalid.
An extremely dainty and costly negligee accentuated her beauty. Her
cabin room, while certainly not elegant, was perfectly comfortable and
kept in spotless condition by the devoted Susan. There were no evidences
of rough living in her surroundings and the hand which she extended
feebly to welcome the physician could not have been smoother or whiter
had it belonged to pampered royalty.

"Ah, Dr. Wright, it is kind of you to come in to see me." She smiled a
wan smile.

"I am sorry you are ill. What is troubling you?" He felt her pulse, and
finding it quite regular, he smiled, but did not let her see his
amusement.

"I think it is my heart. I can make no exertion without great effort."

"Any appetite?"

"Oh, very little--I never eat much, and I am so tired of chicken! Fried
chicken, broiled chicken, stewed chicken!"

"Yes, spring chicken is a great hardship, no doubt," he said rather
grimly.

"I like broiled chicken very much in the spring, but I never did care
very much for chicken in the summer. People seem to have chicken so much
in the summer. I never could see why."

"It might be because it is cheaper when they are plentiful," he
suggested, finding it difficult to keep the scorn he felt for this
foolish little butterfly out of his voice.

"Perhaps it is, I never thought of that."

Helen came in just then, bringing a bouquet of garden flowers that Mr.
McRae had sent to the ladies of the camp.

"I might as well tackle them together," he thought, taking a long
breath.

"Ahem--are your plans for the winter made yet?" he asked Mrs. Carter.

"Why, the girls--at least Douglas and Nan, have some ridiculous scheme
about taking a cottage in the suburbs and letting those people keep my
house. I don't see why I need call it my house, however, as I seem to
have no say-so in the matter," she answered complainingly. "Helen and I
both think it would be much more sensible to go into our own house and
be comfortable. Douglas is very unreasonable and headstrong. The paltry
sum that these tenants pay is the only argument she has against our
occupying the house ourselves."

"Excuse me, Mrs. Carter, but as your husband's 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."

"I--I thought he was almost well."

"No, 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. Can't 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," 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, "if 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."

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

"Another thing," 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. "If when he's 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," and he turned to Helen, "his troubled talk about lamb
chops and silk stockings, do you not?"

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--Helen was not selfish, only thoughtless and
young. He had not meant to grieve her like this.

"I'm sorry," was all he could say.

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

"I know I am a worthless woman," said the poor little mother
plaintively. "Nobody ever expected me to be anything else and I have
never been anything else. I don't understand finance--I don't understand
life. Please call Douglas and Nan here, Helen. I want to speak to them."

"Let me do it," 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.

"I believe I should like you to be here if you don't mind."

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.

"My daughters," began the little lady solemnly, "I 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--as--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--no, not Lucy--even Lucy's judgment is better than mine."

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

"Oh, mumsy! Mumsy! Don't talk that way about yourself. It 'most kills
me."

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 .., 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 .., 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--that was his own affair, but we feel that
since he has given us three years' 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--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 "a norther" 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 what's up. He's 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 wasn't 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 sergeant's
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 .., 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 .., 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 don't 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 jew's-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 don't 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--all were conspicuously absent. To
look back was gratifying and to feel an inward sense of "well done!" 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 "The Carter
Girls' Mysterious Neighbors" we will hear how they came in touch with
some of the wide-reaching events of the world war.



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Transcriber's Note

In this text-version italics has been indicated with _italics_ and
bold with =bold=. Small capitals has been changed to all capitals.

A few obvious printer's errors have been corrected. Otherwise the
original has been preserved, including inconsistencies in spelling,
hyphenation or accentuation.





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