With wondering, smiling faces they came—a pleasing array of city boarders—ease and comfort written upon every face.
His audience assembled, the distressed gentleman proceeded to pour forth his grievances. He asked what he should do in such a dilemma. His help had been engaged from the swarms of colored persons who infest the stations and public resorts along the coast. They had given trouble ever since the hotel was opened. They complained and annoyed him first about one thing, then about another, till he was well on to the verge of lunacy.
“Now, ladies and gentlemen,” he pathetically continued, “if I try to soothe and satisfy, and raise wages and make promises, what guarantee have I that the same thing will not occur to-morrow, and next day, and next week? I engaged them fairly and squarely, and have held strictly to my contract. They are so spoiled and unmanageable that there is no satisfaction in their service. Even now, while I am talking they are no doubt still in an uproar. Why, it is a wholesale mutiny. Something must be done at once. I have come to you for advice. If, as I say, they could be persuaded to remain, I cannot promise you any comfort. If I discharge the whole crew, it will be a day, perhaps two days, before I can supply their places; for I shall have to go to New York for white help. Can you solve the problem?”
For a moment there was silence. Then Miss May Delano, a handsome, wealthy city girl, said, with a challenging glance all around: “I’ll wait upon the table for my part, if somebody will get me something to serve!”
This was received with an outburst, and instantly all was chatter and confusion as they caught up the spirit of the thing.
“I’ll fill the orders as fast as you can take them,” boasted a Wall St. exquisite, who would have unbent his dignity to any degree to please the bewitching heiress.
“I’ll help anywhere—wherever I’m needed,” exclaimed another city belle.
“And I!” came in chorus. “We’ll be chambermaids,” said a party who had just donned bathing suits of blue flannel.
“All right! Get to work!” commanded the crowd. “You have on just the dress for the business.”
“Well, Mrs. Ingalls,” smilingly encouraged a plump matron, “I suppose we might do as good cooking here as we have done at home in times of emergency. Shall we try?”
“I’m agreeable,” laughed the lady. “That is, if we can manage the range.”
“Oh, leave that to me,” said her husband. “I guess I’ve handled ranges before.” Which caused more merriment, since that gentleman’s business was in the hardware line.
Fresh came another bevy of rosy faces, whose owners declared that they had been to a cooking school and knew all about it.
“Nothing like practical demonstration,” bantered the young men.
“Hurrah!” cried one Hamilton, the pet of the house. “Give me the girl who can don a white apron, roll up her sleeves, and plunge her pretty arms into the flour barrel! That’s what I’m looking for!” and he cleverly balanced a chair on his chin, amid a clamor of repartee and good-natured defiance.