But it was best that this one night should pass unimproved, and so all five threw themselves into their respective beds with equal zest and slept—and slept—and slept.
The next day came up out of the ocean fair and warm, and when it drew toward later afternoon no more propitious night for setting forth ever happened.
It was undeniably a night to be remembered. And Aunt Mary’s entertainers drew in deep breaths as they girded themselves for the conflict. They certainly intended to do themselves proud and on top of all the lesser “times of her life” to pile the one pre-eminent which should rest pre-eminent forever. Aunt Mary had been gay in the first part of the week,—gayer and gayer as the week progressed, but that final crowning night was indubitably the gayest of all. If you doubt this read on—read on—and be convinced.
They began with Burnett’s dinner in the private room. No matter where the private room was, for it really wasn’t a private room at all—it was a suite of rooms borrowed and arranged especially for that one occasion. They gathered there at eight o’clock and began with oysters served on a large brass tray in a half-dim Turkish room where incense sticks burned about and queer daggers held up the curtains. The oysters were served on their arrival and the megaphones stood like extinguishers over each with the name cards tied to the small end. The effect was really unique. Aunt Mary had one, too, and they were all rejoiced at her delight in the scheme, and a few seconds after they were doubly rejoiced over its success for no one had to speak loud—the megaphones did it all, producing a lovely clamor which deafened all those who could hear and caused Aunt Mary to feel that she heard with the rest.
Amidst the cheerful din they exchanged such very wild remarks as oysters always inspire and each and all were mutually content at the effect thereof. Then they finished, and Burnett rose at once, flung back the portieres, and led them in upon their soup which stood smoking on a large card table in the next room. There were boutonnieres with the soup, and violets for Aunt Mary, and again they used the megaphones and again the conversation partook of the customary conversation which soup produces.
The soup finished, Burnett jumped up again and threw back other portieres and they all moved out into a dining-room, with its table spread with a substantial dinner. This time it was the real thing. Candelabra, ice-pails, etc.
Aunt Mary had a parrot in a gilt tower, and all the men had white mice in houses shaped like hat-boxes. Mitchell’s seat was flanked with wine coolers, and Burnett’s, too. There was all that they could desire to eat and drink and more. The feast began, and it was grand and glorious.
“I’ll tell you what,” said Aunt Mary, in the midst of the revel, “if this is what it means in papers when it speaks of high livin’, I don’t blame ‘em for bein’ willin’ to die of it young. One week like this is worth ten years with Lucinda. Twenty. A whole life.”