|Chapter XXVI. |
The House Party in Camp
|“ROUGHING it” in the fashionable world (on the Atlantic coast) is rather suggestive of the dairymaid playing of Marie Antoinette; the “rough” part being mostly “picturesque effect” with little taste of actual discomfort. Often, of course, the “roughing it” is real, especially west of the Mississippi (and sometimes in the East too); so real that it has no place in a book of etiquette at all. In the following picture of a fashionable “camping party” it should perhaps be added, that not only the Worldlys but most of the women really think they are “roughing it.”||1|
|At the same time there is nothing that a genuine dependent upon luxury resents more than to be told he is dependent. It is he who has but newly learned the comforts of living who protests his inability to endure discomfort.||2|
|The very same people therefore who went a short time before to Great Estates, women who arrived with their maids and luggage containing personal equipment of amazing perfection and unlimited quantity (to say nothing of jewels worth a king’s ransom), and men who usually travel with their own man-servants and every variety of raiment and paraphernalia, on being invited to “rough it” with the Kindharts at Mountain Summit Camp, are the very ones who most promptly and enthusiastically telegraph their delighted acceptance. At a certain party a few years ago, the only person who declined was a young woman of so little “position” that she was quite offended that Mrs. Kindhart should suppose her able to endure discomfort such as her invitation implied.||3|
|This year the Worldlys, the Normans, the Lovejoys, the “Bobo” Gildings, the Littlehouses, Constance Style, Jim Smartlington and his bride, Clubwin Doe and young Struthers make up the party. No one declined, not even the Worldlys, though there is a fly in the amber of their perfect satisfaction. Mrs. Kindhart wrote “not to bring a maid.” Mrs. Worldly is very much disturbed, because she cannot do her hair herself. Mr. Worldly is even more perturbed at the thought of going without his valet. He has never in the twenty years since he left college been twenty-four hours away from Ernest. He knows perfectly well that Ernest is not expected. But he means to take him—he will say nothing about it; he can surely find a place for Ernest to stay somewhere.||4|
|The other men all look upon a holiday away from formality (which includes valeting) as a relief, like the opening of a window in a stuffy room, and none of the women except Mrs. Worldly would take her maid if she could.||5|
THE CLOTHES THEY TAKE
The men all rummage in attics and trunk-rooms for those disreputable looking articles of wearing apparel dear to all sportsmen; oil soaked boots, water soaked and sun bleached woolen, corduroy, leather or canvas garments and hats, each looking too shabby from their wives’ (or valet’s) point of view to be offered to a tramp.
|Every evening is spent in cleaning guns, rummaging for unprepossessing treasures of shooting and fishing equipment. The women also give thought to their wardrobes—consisting chiefly in a process of elimination. Nothing perishable, nothing requiring a maid’s help to get into, or to take care of. Golf clothes are first choice, and any other old country clothes, skirts and sweaters, and lots of plain shirt waists to go under the sweaters. An old polo coat and a mackintosh is chosen by each. And for evenings something “comfortable” and “easy to put on” in the way of a house gown or ordinary summer “day dress.” One or two decide to take tea gowns in dark color and plainest variety.||7|
|All the women who sew or knit take something to “work on” in unoccupied moments, such as the hours of sitting silent in a canoe while husbands fish.||8|
|Finally the day arrives. Every one meets at the railroad station. They are all as smart looking as can be, there is no sign of “rough” clothes anywhere, though nothing in the least like a jewel case or parasol is to be seen. At the end of somewhere between eight and eighteen hours, they arrive at a shed which sits at the edge of the single track and is labelled Dustville Junction, and hurrying down the narrow platform is their host. Except that his face is clean shaven and his manners perfect, he might be taken for a tramp. Three far from smart looking teams—two buckboards and an express wagon—are standing near by. Kindhart welcomes everyone with enthusiasm—except the now emerging Ernest. For once Kindhart is nonplussed and he says to Worldly: “This isn’t Newport, you know—of course we can give him a bed somewhere, but this is really no place for Ernest and there’s nothing for him to do!”||9|
|Worldly, for the moment at a loss, explains lamely: “I thought he might be useful—if you could find some corner for him to-night, then we can see—that’s all right, isn’t it?”||10|
|Kindhart as host can’t say anything further except to agree. Everyone is bundled into the buckboards (except Ernest who goes on top of the luggage in the express wagon), and a “corduroy” drive of six or eight miles begins.||11|
WHAT THE CAMP IS LIKE
Summit Camp is a collection of wooden shacks like a group of packing cases dumped in a clearing among the pine trees at the edge of a mountain lake. Those who have never been there before feel some misgivings, those who have been there before remember with surprise that they had liked the place! The men alone are filled with enthusiasm. The only person who is thoroughly apprehensive of the immediate future is Ernest.
|In front of the largest of the shacks, Mrs. Kindhart, surrounded by dogs and children, waves and hurries forward, beaming. Her enthusiasm is contagious, the children look blooming. That the “hardship” is not hurting them, is evident! And when the guests have seen the inside of the camps most of them are actually as pleased as they look. The biggest “shack” is a living-room, the one nearest is the dining camp, four or five smaller ones are sleeping camps for guests and another is the Kindharts’ own.||13|
|The “living” camp is nothing but a single room about thirty feet wide and forty feet long, with an open raftered roof for ceiling. It has windows on four sides and a big porch built on the southeast corner. There is an enormous open fireplace, and a floor good enough to dance on. The woodwork is of rough lumber and has a single coat of leaf-green paint. The shelves between the uprights are filled with books. All the new novels and magazines are spread out on a long table. The room is furnished with Navajo blankets, wicker furniture, steamer chairs, and hammocks are hung across two of the corners. Two long divan sofas on either side of the fireplace are the only upholstered pieces of furniture in the whole camp, except the mattresses on the beds.||14|
|The guest camps are separate shacks, each one set back on a platform, leaving a porch in front. Inside they vary in size; most have two, some have four rooms, but each is merely one pointed-roofed space. The front part has a fireplace and is furnished as a sitting-room, the rear half is partitioned into two or more cubicles, like box-stalls, with partitions about eight feet high and having regular doors. In each of the single rooms, there is a bed, bureau, washstand, chair, and two shelves about six or seven feet high, with a calico curtain nailed to the top one and hanging to the floor, making a hat shelf and clothes closet. The few “double” rooms are twice the size and have all furniture in duplicate. There is also a matting or a rag rug on the floor, and that is all!||15|
|Each cottage has a bathroom but the hot water supply seems complicated. A sign says your guide will bring it to you when needed. Mrs. Worldly, feeling vaguely uncomfortable and hungry, is firmly determined to go home on the next morning train. Before she has had much time to reflect, Mrs. Kindhart reports that lunch is nearly ready. Guides come with canisters of hot water, and everyone goes to dress. Town clothes disappear, and woods clothes emerge. This by no means makes a dowdy picture. Good sport clothes never look so well or becoming as when long use has given them an “accustomed set” characteristic of their wearer. The men put on their oldest country clothes too. Not their fishing “treasures” to sit at table with ladies! The treasured articles go on in the early dawn, and the guides are the only humans (except themselves) supposed worthy to behold them!||16|
|Presently a gong is sounded. The Kindhart children run to the guest houses to call out that “the gong means dinner is ready!” And “dinner” means lunch.||17|
In a short while the very group of people who only ten days before were being shown to their places in the Worldlys’ own tapestry-hung marble dining-room at Great Estates by a dozen footmen in satin knee breeches, file into the “dining camp” and take their places at a long pine table, painted turkey red, on ordinary wooden kitchen chairs, also red! The floral decoration is of laurel leaves in vases made of preserve jars covered with birch bark. Glass and china is of the cheapest. But there are a long centerpiece of hemstitched crash and crash doilies, and there are “real” napkins, and at each plate a birch bark napkin ring with a number on it. Mrs. Worldly looks at her napkin ring as though it were an insect. One or two of the others who have not been there before, look mildly surprised.
|Mrs. Kindhart smiles, “I’m sorry, but I told you it was ‘roughing it.’ Any one who prefers innumerable paper napkins to using a washed one twice, is welcome. But one napkin a day apiece is camp rule!” Mrs. Worldly tries to look amiable, all the rest succeed.||19|
|The food is limited in variety but delicious. There are fresh trout from the lake and venison steak; both well cooked in every way that can be devised appear at every meal. All other supplies come in hampers from the city. The head cook is the Kindharts’ own, and so is the butler, with one of the chauffeurs (when home) to help him wait on table. They wear “liveries,” evolved by Mrs. Kindhart, of gray flannel trousers, green flannel blazers, very light gray flannel shirts, black ties, and moccasins!||20|
|The table service, since there are only two to wait on twenty including the children, is necessarily somewhat “farmer style”; ice, tea, rolls, butter, marmalade, cake, fruit, are all on the table, so that people may help themselves.||21|
THE AMUSEMENTS OFFERED
After luncheon Kindhart points out a dozen guides who are waiting at the boat-house to take anyone who wants to be paddled or to sail or to go out into the woods. There is a small swimming pool which can be warmed artificially. Those who like it cold swim in the lake. All the men disappear in groups or singly with a guide. The women go with their husbands, or two together, with a guide. Should any not want to go out, she can take to one of the hammocks, or a divan in the living-room, and a book.
|At first sight, this hospitality seems inadequate, but its discomfort is one of outward appearance only. The food is abundant and delicious, whether cooked in the house or by the guides in the woods. The beds are comfortable; there are plenty of warm and good quality, though not white, blankets. Sheets are flannel or cotton as preferred. Pillow cases are linen, towels of the “bath” variety because washing can be done by “natives” near by, but ironing is difficult. Let no one, however, think that this is a “simple” (by that meaning either easy or inexpensive) form of entertainment! Imagine the budget! A dozen guides, teams and drivers, natives to wash and clean and to help the cook; food for two or three dozen people sent hundreds of miles by express!||23|
|It is true that the buildings are of the most primitive, and the furnishings, too. The bureau drawers do stick, and there is only “curtained” closet room, and mirrors are few and diminutive, and orders for hot water have to be given ahead of time, but there is no discomfort, except bathing in the cold! The huge fire, lighted early every morning by one of the guides in each guest house, keeps the main part fairly warm but the temperature of one of the bathrooms on a cold morning is scarcely welcoming.||24|
People do not “dress” for dinner, that is, not in evening clothes. After coming in from walking or shooting or fishing, if it is warm they swim in the pool or have their guides bring them hot water for a bath. Women change into house gowns of some sort. Men put on flannel trousers, soft shirts, and flannel or serge sack coats.
|In the evening, if it is a beautiful night, every one sits on steamer chairs wrapt in rugs around the big fire built out doors in front of a sort of penthouse or windbreak. Or if it is stormy, they sit in front of a fire, almost as big, in the living-room. Sometimes younger ones pop corn or roast chestnuts, or perhaps make taffy. Perhaps some one tells a story, or some one plays and everyone sings. Perhaps one who has “parlor tricks” amuses the others—but as a rule those who have been all day in the open are tired and drowsy and want nothing but to stretch out for a while in front of the big fire and then turn in.||26|
|The etiquette of this sort of a party is so apparently lacking that its inclusion perhaps seems out of place. But it is meant merely as a “picture” of a phase of fashionable life that is not much exploited, and to show that well-bred people never deteriorate in manner. Their behavior is precisely the same whether at Great Estates or in camp. A gentleman may be in his shirt sleeves actually, but he never gets into shirt sleeves mentally—he has no inclination to.||27|
|To be sure, on the particular party described above, Mrs. Worldly wore a squirrel fur cap in the evening as well as the daytime; she said it was because it was so warm and comfortable. It was really because she could not do her hair!||28|
| Perhaps some one asks about Ernest? At the end of two days of aloof and distasteful idleness, Ernest became quite a human being; invaluable as baiter of worms for the children’s fish-hooks, as extra butler, and did not scorn even temporary experiments as kitchen-maid. In fact, he proved the half-hearted recommendation that he “might be useful” so thoroughly that the first person of all to be especially invited for next year and future years, was—exactly—Ernest.|
Post, Emily. Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1922. Bartleby.com