Tamawaca Folks/Chapter 11
Jim speedily found himself upon friendly terms with all the "resorters" at Tamawaca. He worked for Jarrod mornings and in the afternoons and evenings enjoyed himself thoroughly. When "Regatta Week" arrived—the week of the Yacht Club boat races, when the four yachtsmen competed for the prizes that were donated by the liberal merchants of Kochton and Grand Rapids, and divided the spoils amicably—during that week Jim helped to get up the annual "Venetian Evening," the one really famous attraction of the year.
On this occasion the entire bay was enclosed with lines of gorgeous Japanese lanterns placed in artistic designs along the shore. The Yacht Club, the hotels at Iroquois Bay and Tamawaca and all the buildings facing the bay were elaborately decorated with bunting and lanterns, while the sail-boats anchored upon the mirror-like surface of the water displayed a like splendor. Bands played on the ferry-boats, bonfires on the neighboring heights glared and twinkled, many launches brilliant with colored lights moved slowly over the bay, while rockets and roman candles sent their spluttering displays into the dim sky overhead. All the world was there to see the sight and the popcorn and peanut men reaped a harvest.
It has been seriously asserted that Venice in its palmiest days has never been able to compete with Tamawaca on "Venetian Evening."
During the delightful August weather social functions at the resort reached their acme of enjoyment and followed one another as thickly as the fleeting hours would permit. In some circles these affairs were conducted with much solemn propriety; but many folks who suffered under the imperious exactions of "good form" during the rest of the year revolted from its tyranny while on their summer vacations, and loved to be merry and informal. They were gathered from many cities of the South, East, North and West, and here thrown together in a motley throng whose antecedents and established social positions at home it would be both difficult and useless to determine. So certain congenial circles were formed with the prime object of "having a good time," and they undoubtedly succeeded in their aim.
Jim, who before he quarrelled with his father had been accustomed to mingle with the 400 of old St. Louis, was greatly amused at some of these entertainments, many of which he attended with demure little Susie.
Rivers, a jolly fellow who owned a lake front cottage—one of the titles to distinction at Tamawaca—organized a "surprise party" on George B. Still (another lake-fronter) one evening. A band of some twenty people assembled at the cottage of a neighbor, all carrying baskets laden with frosted bricks in place of cake, beer-bottles filled with clear spring water but still bearing Budweiser labels, mud-pies with nicely browned crusts, turnips fried to resemble saratoga chips and other preposterous donations of a similar character.
Then they stole silently to George's cottage, and when he opened the door in answer to their timid knock burst into a sudden flood of merriment that never subsided until after midnight.
The Stills were as pleased as could be, but no one paid much attention to them. Somebody thumped the piano while everybody else danced a two-step regardless of interfering toes or furniture.
Little Drybug, a dapper man who weighed about seventy-six pounds but did n't look so heavy, cavorted with blushing Mrs. Still who weighed something less than three hundred—but not much—and nearly committed suicide in the attempt. Commodore Diller danced with Grandma Jones, a rosy-cheeked antiquity who blushed as charmingly as a girl of sixteen, and the general mix-up was about as laughable as could well be.
In the breathless pause that presently ensued as a matter of course, Mr. Idowno, a solemn faced gentleman who had attended the party with his smiling, chubby wife but could not dance a single caper, protested in an audible tone that it was time he must be going. "I have to work for a living, you know," explained this individual, who was director in several banks and controlled a number of business enterprises and could not get them off his mind.
But the company laughed him to scorn and decided to play "five hundred" for a series of prizes that had not been provided in advance, and were therefore invisible.
So the self-invited guests rigged up card tables and chose partners and fought and quarreled for points until Mrs. Rivers rung a gong and invited all to supper.
Then they jumped up and trooped into an adjoining room, where the frosted bricks and mud pies had been spread for a banquet; and although George B. accepted his donations with good humor the guests began to wonder if the joke was not on themselves, after all, since their jolly exertions had created a demand in their interiors for real food.
"Well, I must be going," said the solemn Idowno. "I have to work for—"
"This way, please!" called Mrs. Still, cheerily, and threw open another door, disclosing an enticing array of provender that caused a stampede in that direction.
"How on earth did you happen to have all this on hand?" Susie enquired of Mrs. Still, as she and Jim squeezed themselves into a corner. "Did n't Mrs. Rivers keep her surprise party a secret?"
"Of course, as secret as she can keep anything," answered the laughing hostess; "but I had an intuition there'd be a lot of hungry folks here tonight, so we've been busy all day getting ready for them."
After the supper, which consumed two hours in being consumed, Mr. Idowno once more claimed he must be going; but the guests rose up and loudly demanded the prizes they had won at cards. From the size of the hubbub it appeared that nearly every one present was entitled to a prize.
For once the Stills were nonplussed. They really had n't thought of "prizes" for their surprise party, and hesitated what to say or do. But their guests settled the matter in their own way.
Mr. Iward took possession of a Japanese screen; Mrs. Rivers grabbed a mantel ornament; Mrs. Jarrod seized upon an antique candlestick she had long coveted and plump Mrs. Diller grabbed a picture off the wall. Mrs. Purspyre found a Bible and appropriated it because she had always had a curiosity to read it. Mr. Bowsir espied a paper-cutter of ivory, which he secured after a struggle with George B., who wanted it himself, while Katherine Pance swiped an embroidered cover from the center-table and Mr. Connover took the table itself.
And so, amid screams and laughter, the pretty room was despoiled of its treasures, for the Stills were greatly outnumbered by their guests and powerless to protect their property.
As the heavily laden company trooped away down the walk, singing as blithely as the forty thieves might have done, Mr. Wright, the author-man, who had really won a prize but found the place stripped when he returned from the dining-room (where he had been to hunt for one last sandwich) gave a sigh and lifted the front door from its hinges, carrying it home with many protests that "it was just about as useful as any prize he had won that year."
And so ended the "surprise party," but little Minnie Still said confidentially to her chum next day:
"We had a rough-house at our cottage last night, and they behaved just dreadful! Why, if we young folks ever acted the way those old married people did, my mother would send me back to Quincy in double-quick time."
Such commentaries by children upon their elders are doubly sad when they happen to be true.