O'henry — a midsummer masquerade

A MIDSUMMER MASQUERADE

"Satan," said Jeff Peters, "is a hard boss to work for. When other
people are having their vacation is when he keeps you the busiest. As
old Dr. Watts or St. Paul or some other diagnostician says: 'He always
finds somebody for idle hands to do.'

"I remember one summer when me and my partner, Andy Tucker, tried to
take a layoff from our professional and business duties; but it seems
that our work followed us wherever we went.

"Now, with a preacher it's different. He can throw off his
responsibilities and enjoy himself. On the 31st of May he wraps
mosquito netting and tin foil around the pulpit, grabs his niblick,
breviary and fishing pole and hikes for Lake Como or Atlantic City
according to the size of the loudness with which he has been called by
his congregation. And, sir, for three months he don't have to think
about business except to hunt around in Deuteronomy and Proverbs and
Timothy to find texts to cover and exculpate such little midsummer
penances as dropping a couple of looey door on rouge or teaching a
Presbyterian widow to swim.

"But I was going to tell you about mine and Andy's summer vacation
that wasn't one.

"We was tired of finance and all the branches of unsanctified
ingenuity. Even Andy, whose brain rarely ever stopped working, began
to make noises like a tennis cabinet.

"'Heigh ho!' says Andy. 'I'm tired. I've got that steam up the yacht
Corsair and ho for the Riviera! feeling. I want to loaf and indict my
soul, as Walt Whittier says. I want to play pinochle with Merry del
Val or give a knouting to the tenants on my Tarrytown estates or do
a monologue at a Chautauqua picnic in kilts or something summery and
outside the line of routine and sand-bagging.'

"'Patience,' says I. 'You'll have to climb higher in the profession
before you can taste the laurels that crown the footprints of the
great captains of industry. Now, what I'd like, Andy,' says I, 'would
be a summer sojourn in a mountain village far from scenes of larceny,
labor and overcapitalization. I'm tired, too, and a month or so of
sinlessness ought to leave us in good shape to begin again to take
away the white man's burdens in the fall.'

"Andy fell in with the rest cure at once, so we struck the general
passenger agents of all the railroads for summer resort literature,
and took a week to study out where we should go. I reckon the first
passenger agent in the world was that man Genesis. But there wasn't
much competition in his day, and when he said: 'The Lord made the
earth in six days, and all very good,' he hadn't any idea to what
extent the press agents of the summer hotels would plagiarize from
him later on.

"When we finished the booklets we perceived, easy, that the United
States from Passadumkeg, Maine, to El Paso, and from Skagway to Key
West was a paradise of glorious mountain peaks, crystal lakes, new
laid eggs, golf, girls, garages, cooling breezes, straw rides, open
plumbing and tennis; and all within two hours' ride.

"So me and Andy dumps the books out the back window and packs our
trunk and takes the 6 o'clock Tortoise Flyer for Crow Knob, a kind of
a dernier resort in the mountains on the line of Tennessee and North
Carolina.

[Illustration: "Dumps the books out of the back window."]

"We was directed to a kind of private hotel called Woodchuck Inn, and
thither me and Andy bent and almost broke our footsteps over the rocks
and stumps. The Inn set back from the road in a big grove of trees,