“You be right here when they begin coming down,” Minerva said, “and stand close to the traffic sign and if any boy stays here too long turn the STOP sign on him.”
“And turn it on yourself if necessary,” said Townsend.
“I won’t let anybody eat more than about—about—five helpings. That’ll be enough for them, hey?” said Pee-wee.
“Goodness gracious, yes,” said Dora Dane Daring.
“You’re the steward, remember,” said Minerva. “Do you know what a steward is?”
“He’s—he’s named after a stew,” said Pee-wee, hitching up his spreading apron. “You leave the people to me, I’ll handle them.”
The steward (or the stew, as Townsend thenceforth called him) did not attend the party. A preliminary tour of the grounds convinced him that adventures of his particular kind were not to be found there. Dancing was not in his line. Music (except the clamorous music of his own voice) he did not care for. And he did not care to hear what Mrs. Wild had to say about the Camp-fire movement.
To him the crucial part of the whole party was the eats and he lingered near them like a faithful sentinel. The artistic quality of these saved them from devastation. Those pyramids of luscious beauty could not be denied by human hands without showing the indubitable signs of vandalism. Their very splendor saved them.
It is true that he skilfully extracted an olive from the symmetrical mound of chicken salad and took an almond and a macaroon and other detached dainties that were not made sacred and secure by their own architecture. But for the most part Pee-wee was faithful to his trust. He knew his time would come. And then, oh, then, that proud tower of interlaced sandwiches would look like Rheims Cathedral.
Thus an hour passed and the merry throng emerged upon the lawn and made a direct assault upon the dancing platform, lured by strains of irresistible music. Some strolled about but none out of the radius of that melodious magnetism, and Pee-wee remained undisturbed on the romantic isle of eats.
He sat upon the edge of the island, the extreme western coast, fishing for eels, with a string, a bent pin and a salted almond. It seemed that the eels did not care for salted almonds, so Pee-wee endeavored to tempt them with a chocolate bonbon but the bonbon dissolved on the pin, forming a sort of subterranean chocolate sundae, and the eels ignored it.
“I bet I know what’s the matter,” said Pee-wee; “they’re afraid to come near the island on account of the lights.” At all events the eels appeared to shun the neighborhood of the party; they were not in society.
Just then Pee-wee had an inspiration. In the light of its consequences it was probably the most momentous inspiration that he ever had. “I know what I’ll do,” he said. “I’ll use a long, long stick that’ll reach way, way, way out.” And he glanced about him in quest of a “long, long stick” with which to beguile the bashful eels. His inquiring eye lit upon one of the long clothes-line supporters which Townsend had driven into the river bottom to help hold the island in position.