Certainly the cook had no cause to be ashamed of his work. The coffee was excellent. The fish was done to a turn. The oysters, roasted, broiled, or stewed, and likewise the clams, were all that could have been asked of them. Bread there was in abundance; and all things were going finely, till Mrs. Kinzer asked her son, as his fire-red face showed itself at the kitchen-door,—
“Dabney, you’ve not sent in your vegetables. We’re waiting for them.”
Dab’s face grew redder, and he came near dropping a plate he held in his hand.
“Vegetables? Oh, yes! Well, Ford, we might as well send them in now. I’ve got them all ready.”
Annie opened her eyes, and looked hard at her brother; for she knew very well that not so much as a potato had been thought of in their preparations. Ford himself looked a little queer; but he marched right out, white apron and all. A minute or so later the two boys came in again, each bearing aloft a huge platter.
One of these was solemnly deposited at each end of the table.
“O Ford! how could you?”
The last exclamation came from Annie Foster, as she clapped her hands over her face. Bright-red were those lobsters, and fine-looking fellows, every one of them, in spite of Mrs. Lee’s poor opinion; but they were a little too well dressed, even for a dinner-party. Their thick shoulders were adorned with collars of the daintiest material and finish, while every ungainly “flipper” wore a “cuff” which had been manufactured for a different kind of wrist.
There were plenty of cuffs and collars, and queer enough the lobsters looked in them. All the queerer because every item of lace and linen was variegated with huge black spots and blotches, as if some one had begun to wash it in ink.
Joe and Fuz were almost as red as the lobsters; and Mrs. Foster’s face looked as severe as it could, but that is not saying a great deal. The Kinzer family knew all about those cuffs and collars, and Ham Morris and the younger ladies were trying hard not to laugh.
“Joe,” said Fuz snappishly, “can’t you take a joke? Annie’s got the laugh on us this time.”
“I?” exclaimed Annie indignantly: “no, indeed! That’s some of Ford’s work, and Dabney’s.—Mr. Kinzer, I’m ashamed of you.”
He muttered something about those being all the vegetables he had, and retreated to the kitchen.
Joe and Fuz, however, were not of the sort that take offence easily; and they were shortly helping themselves quite liberally to lobster, cuffs or no cuffs. That was all that was necessary to restore harmony at the table, but Dab’s plan for “punishing the Hart boys” was a complete failure.
As Ford told him afterwards:
“Feel it? Not they. You might as well try to hurt a clam with a pin.”
“And I hurt your sister’s feelings instead of theirs,” said Dab. “Well, I’ll never try any thing like it again. Anyhow, Joe and Fuz ain’t comfortable they ate too many roasted clams and a good deal too much lobster.”