The Grub-and-Stakers Pinch a Poke
The Grub-and-Stakers Pinch a Poke
"WHAT THE HECK DO we need Sarah Bernhardt's Sunday bustle for?" demanded Zilla Trott.
"There's nothing here about Sarah Bernhardt's bustle," said Dittany Henbit Monk. As secretary to the trustees of the Aralia Polyphema Architrave Museum and also to the Grub-and-Stake Gardening and Roving Club into whose collective hands had fallen the task of managing the museum, Dittany had dealt with a wide range of correspondence. This letter opened up a new vista. "It just says theatrical memorabilia."
"Huh! Signed photographs of Ivor Novello and a lock of Rudy Vallee's hair, I'll bet." Hazel Munson was on a diet, therefore inclined to take the darker view.
"Oh, for Pete's sake have a cookie and quit grumping," said Minerva Oakes. "Rudy Vallee had gorgeous hair. Come on, Dittany. Let's hear the rest of the letter before we get down to the wrangling."
"Well, as I said, it's from Desdemona Portley on behalf of the Traveling Thespians. You know how hard she's worked to keep the troupe together, but things haven't been the same with them since Mum married Bert and went into the fashion eyewear business."
"I'll bet the fashion eyewear business hasn't been the same, either," said Dot Coskoff, who'd once played the former Mrs. Henbit's bosom friend in a souped-up production of Anne of Green Gables. "Skip Dessie's maunderings, she always did go on and on. What's the gist?"
"The gist is that Jenson Thorbisher-Freep and his daughter Wilhedra are trying to get up a drama festival over at Scottsbeck. They want to restore the old opera house and make it a center of cultural vibration for the citizens of Scottsbeck and surrounding communities of which, as Dessie points out in some detail, Lobelia Falls is one."
"As if we didn't know," sniffed Dot. "Cultural vibration sounds like a pretty shaky proposition to me. Is she trying to hit us up for a donation?"
"I expect she means vibrancy and not exactly a donation," Dittany replied. "She wants us to participate."
"Participate how?" Zilla shook her head till her thick short gray hair stood out like a Sioux war bonnet, though in fact she was mostly Cree. "Are we supposed to dance in the chorus?"
"Why not?" chirped Minerva. "My varicose veins are no worse than Dessie's."
"And your teeth are a darn sight better," Zilla conceded loyally.
"Look," snarled Dittany. "Do you want to hear this or don't you?"
"Offhand I'd say no," snapped Hazel Munson, "but go ahead and get it over with. Desdemona Portley wants us to be in some play she's getting up for the Thorbisher-Freeps, is that it?"
"Not precisely, eh. The thing of it is, the Thorbisher-Freeps expect the different groups to produce their own plays. Dessie's asking us to write the play, paint the scenery, provide costumes and props, fill whatever parts the Traveling Thespians don't have enough actors for, and sell lemonade and cookies between the acts on behalf of the Opera House Fund."
"Nope, that seems to be it. The plum in the pudding is that whichever group puts on the best performance wins the Jenson Thorbisher-Freep collection of theatrical memorabilia."
"You already said that, and what's so plummy?" Zilla argued. "What would we do with a bunch of false whiskers and old theater programs?"
"We'd be expected to keep the collection intact and on permanent display either at the opera house or in some appropriate public building," Dittany explained. "Like for instance the Architrave."
"We do still have that little back bedroom over the kitchen to fill up," Minerva pointed out.
"Yes, but would that be the right kind of stuff to fill it with?" asked Hazel. "The Architrave's supposed to represent a typical Canadian house of the post-prairie settling period, you know."
"Couldn't it be the typical home of some Canadian who collected theatrical memorabilia?" Dittany ar