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Tamawaca Folks/Chapter 5

 

CHAPTER V.

GETTING ACQUAINTED.

Mrs. Still, who lived but a few doors from the Jarrods, called upon Mrs. Jarrod the next afternoon, and after welcoming her cordially to Tamawaca and congratulating her upon acquiring pretty Lake View, invited her and Mr. Jarrod to attend a card party at the yacht club that evening.

Jarrod did n't play "five hundred," but when the good-natured Stills called for them soon after dinner he complacently accompanied his wife to the club, which was located half way around the bay and was reached by one of Wilder's ferry-boats after a five minutes' ride from the Tamawaca dock. It was a pretty building, gay with electric lights. On the ground floor was a reception room filled with sailing trophies, and a big room reached through swinging doors which was devoted to the needs of thirsty men. The upper floor was one large room set with card tables, and here Mrs. Still introduced Mrs. Jarrod to a numerous concourse of merry folks who were all impatient to get at the cards and gamble fiercely for two hours or so to win a set of prizes that represented an outlay of about seventy-five cents in the aggregate. When the "prizes" were won they were usually either dropped quietly into the lake on the way home or reserved to be gambled for at some other social gathering. I knew one lady who won the same prize seven times in the same season, and likewise gave it away seven times. The only reason that she kept it then was that her guests flatly refused to accept it as a trophy, it having become sadly shop-worn.

Jarrod was ushered by Geo. B. into the thirst room and introduced to a solemn group of three or four men who wore yachting caps and shirts, and had brass buttons sewn on their blue serge coats.

"Howdy," said Berwin, a man with a bald head and serious eyes. "Hear you've bought a cottage, Jarrod. Want to join our Club?"

"I'd like to," the lawyer replied, hesitating; "but I've—"

"Ten dollars, please. That's the price for season membership."

Jarrod paid it.

"But I've got no sail-boat," said he.

"That's all right," observed Stakes, a little fellow with a peppery and pugnacious countenance. "None of the crowd upstairs owns a sail-boat, but they're all club members, just the same. We four—Homperton, Berwin, Diller and myself—own boats, and we're the yacht club in reality. We built this shop on credit, and run it ourselves, but we let the folks upstairs support it by paying ten dollars a year. It pleases 'em to be members of a yacht club, you know, and helps us out financially. Much obliged for your donation."

"Do I have a vote?" asked Jarrod, much amused by this frank explanation.

"Of course; but according to our constitution only men with sail-boats can be officers of the club. So you must vote for us."

"Once," remarked Diller, a fine looking chap who was intently interested in a squat bottle and a siphon, "I had money and ambition and no sail-boat. Who was I, anyhow? A landsman! A nobody! Didn't belong to a yacht club, or anything else."

"Except Mrs. Diller," interjected Geo. B., with a sly wink at Jarrod.

"Then I bought a sail-boat—"

"And a dingy," added Geo. B.

"And paid up the debts of the club and was made Commodore. Commodore Diller! Who was I then? Why, ev'rybody said: 'Morn'n', Com-mo-dore!' 'Have a smoke, Com-mo-dore!' 'One more with me, Com-mo-dore!' Ah; that's bein' somebody, that is. Commodore Diller! Com-mo-dore Dil-ler."

"Some men acquire greatness," said Jarrod, sympathetically.

"Fact is," remarked the solemn Berwin, "that Diller's a fine sailor. Got a good boat, too. Every race we have, Diller's there."

"Where?" asked Diller, looking up with a puzzled expression.

"Oh, somewhere," said Berwin. "Only yesterday I said to Wilder—"

"Con-found Wilder!" yelled little Stakes, growing red with sudden rage and pounding the table fiercely. "Why should that monster's name be mentioned in the sanctity of the sanctum of this respectable Yacht Club? Wilder's a robber, a thief, a con-man, a—a rascal, and a—a—a—"

"That's all right," interrupted Homperton. "He's an upstairs member, and we've got his ten dollars."

"Well, that's something," admitted Stakes, calming down somewhat. "It's a pleasure to rob a robber, once in awhile."

"Sh—h!" said Geo. B., mischievously. "You forget that both Mr. Jarrod and I are present, and have also been separated from our membership fees."

"You don't mind," said Stakes. "You're good fellows, for folks that don't own sail-boats, and your wives will get ten dollars worth of struggle up stairs before the season's over. Eh?"

"I think so," said Jarrod.

Later in the evening the ferry-boat called for the card players, but broke her engines just as she reached the dock. That was unfortunate, for she had broken her engines only four times that day and this was her last trip. Wilder was with her, and he promptly hustled all the people aboard, collecting the fares as they crossed the gang-plank, and then, after some delay, he informed his passengers in a despairing voice that the blamed thing would n't go. Something was wrong with the engines, but if they would be patient he would tie up to the dock and overhaul the machinery and get things in shape again. Of course they all trooped off to the dock again. One or two ventured to suggest a return of their fares; but Wilder had gone somewhere for a lantern and taken the pocketful of nickels with him. Before he returned his people had formed a merry procession to the shore back of the club house, where they struck the trolley-car tracks and tramped the half mile to Tamawaca singing and joking and thoroughly enjoying themselves. They were acquainted with Wilder's ferry-boat, and never allowed it to make them unhappy.

Mrs. Jarrod was pleased and triumphant. She had won the third prize—a nineteen cent handkerchief embroidered with the initial "S."—and it was indeed fortunate that she did not overhear the remark of Mrs. Sauters that it was the same one she had dropped at the last yacht club party.

Next morning Jarrod went down to the post office and met several of his fellow cottagers. They were, as a class, highly respectable, well-to-do and good natured business men, who sought in this delightful nook rest and recreation after months of weary toil in their offices, factories, mills or mines. They talked freely of the adverse conditions existing in Tamawaca, of their abject dependence upon the whims of Wilder and Easton, of the usurpation by these men of the cottagers' rights and privileges, and ended always by expressing an opinion that the law, if appealed to, would not support the owners of Tamawaca in their autocratic actions.

"Wilder's all right," said one. "He's a good fellow, personally, and mighty accommodating. But he owns only a one-third interest, so what can he do against a man like Easton, who owns two-thirds and refuses to spend a nickel to keep his own property in repair?"

"Easton is n't so bad," remarked another; "but he's an old man, and weak, and Wilder makes him do anything he likes."

"Why don't the cottagers organize?" asked Jarrod.

"They are organized. The annual meeting is to be held next Saturday night," was the reply. "But they never do anything at those meetings except bewail their condition of slavery and mildly denounce Wilder and Easton."

"What we lack," said a grizzled old fellow with piercing black eyes glinting underneath shaggy brows, "is a leader; an organizer. The whole system of imposition here is a fester that is gradually coming to a head. What we shall require presently is a clever surgeon with a sharp lancet."

As the speaker walked away Jarrod looked thoughtfully after him.

"Who is that man?" he enquired.

"Why, that's Colonel Kerry. Years ago he used to be one of the owners of Tamawaca; but they say he quarreled with the methods of his partners and sold out to them. That was before either Wilder or Easton bought in; but the Colonel has never mixed in public affairs since."

"I wonder he does n't use the lancet himself," said Jarrod.

"Oh, he's capable enough, I assure you; but the Colonel is n't hunting trouble. He sticks to his cottage up on the hillside and minds his own business. But he's a shrewd observer, and no one knows the inside history of all the encroachments upon the rights of our residents during the last dozen or so years better than old man Kerry."

Jarrod strolled along the walks for an hour or two, noting carefully the conditions of neglect everywhere apparent. Nature had done wonders for Tamawaca; man had done little but mar nature, if we except the many handsome or cosy cottages that peeped enticingly from their leafy bowers or stood on the hills overlooking the two lakes.

Tamawaca occupies the point between the channel and Tamawaca Pool to the north, and Lake Michigan on the west, where a sloping height is thickly covered with a noble forest that creeps past the dwellings down to the water's edge. In the hills are romantic ravines, flower-strewn vales and vine-covered cliffs. To a lover of nature nothing could be more exquisitely beautiful.

Jarrod tripped and stumbled along the walks. The boards were rotted and falling apart. In places the sand had drifted over and covered the high-way completely. An air of neglect brooded everywhere in the public places, and where a bit of land had originally been left for a small park the ground was strewn with empty tin cans, bones, papers and other debris.

It grieved him to note this condition of affairs. A little well directed energy and a little well expended money would make Tamawaca blossom like a rose; but both these essentials seemed lacking. The cottagers would do nothing because they were told the streets and public places were not theirs, and the owners would do nothing because they figured they could get as much out of the cottagers without additional investment. The people who built at Tamawaca, and lived there during the summer months, were perhaps regarded as legitimate prey by those who directed their fates during that time. Wilder and Easton supplied them with everything. They owned the electric light plant and the water works. Indeed, they owned and controlled everything that the cottagers were obliged to have, and netted a fine income each year.

All this was a challenge to Jarrod. The fires of his mental energy must be fed, even when he was "resting," and without the slightest personal antagonism to Wilder and Easton, but simply because he saw there was a battle to be fought for the cottagers, whose ranks he had joined, his logical mind began to figure out ways and means to force the fighting.

A day or two later the lawyer took the electric car to Kochton and read a little Michigan law in the office of a friendly attorney. The result apprised him that he was uncovering nothing more than a huge game of "bluff," which had been played so long and with such amazing assurance that it had completely cowed its victims.

Jarrod came home smiling.

"There's nothing like a summer resort for quieting one's nerves," he told his wife.