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Hotel Keeping by Jonathan F. Kelley


Fortunes are made—very readily, it is said, in our large cities, by Hotel keeping. It does look money-making business to a great many people, who stop in a large hotel a day or two, and perhaps, after eating about two meals out of six—walking in quietly and walking out quietly—no fuss, no feathers, find themselves taxed four or five dollars!

We have had occasion to know something of travel and travellers, hotels, hotel-keepers and their bills, and it has now and then entered our head that money was or could be made—in the hotel business. We have stopped in houses where we honestly concluded—we got our money's worth, and we have again had reason to believe ourselves grossly shaved, in a “first-class” hotel, at two dollars a day—all hurry-scurry, poked up in the cock-loft, mid bugs, dirt, heat and effluvia, very little better than a Dutch tavern in fly time.

We did not fail to observe at the same time, that cool impudence and clamor had a most mollifying effect upon landlord and his attaches, the tinsel and mere electrotypes passing for real bullion, galvanized hums by their noise and pretensions faring fifty per cent. better for the same price—than the more republican, quiet and human wayfarer.

Under such auspices, it is not at all wonderful that ourself and scores of others, paying two dollars and a half per diem, got what we could catch, while Kossuth, and a score of his followers, fared and were favored like princes of a monarchical realm—“though all dead heads!

Hotels now-a-days must be showy, abounding in tin foil, Dutch metal and gamboge, a thousand of the “modern improvements”—mere clap-trap, and as foreign to the solid comforts of solid people, as icebergs to Norwegians or “east winds” to the consumptive. Without the show, they would be quite deserted; men will pay for this show, must pay for it, and all this show costs money; Turkey carpets, life-size mirrors, ottomans and marble slabs, from dome to kitchen, draw well, and those who indulge in the dance, must pay the piper.

The fact is, most people understand these things about as well as we do, and it but remains for us to give a daguerreotype of a few customers which landlords or their clerks and servants now and then meet. The conductor of one of our first-class houses, gives us such a truly piquant and matter-of-fact picture of his experience, that we up and copy it, believing, as we do, that the reader will see some information and amusement in the subject.

A fussy fellow takes it into his head that he will go on a little tour, he pockets a few dollars and a clean dickey or two, and—comes to town. He's no green horn—O! no, he ain't, he has been around some—he has, and knows a thing or two, and something over. He is dumped out of the cars with hundreds of others, in the great depots, and is assailed by vociferous whips who, in quest of stray dimes, watch the incoming trains and shout and bawl—

“Eh 'up! Tremont House!”

“Up—a! American House—right away!”

“Ha! up! Right off for the Revere!”

“Here's the coach—already for the United States!”

“Yee 'up! now we go, git in, best house in town, all ready for the Winthrop House!”

“Eh 'up, ha! now we are off, for the Pavilion!”

“Exchange Coffee House—dollar a day, four meals, no extra charge—right along this way, sir!”

“Hoo-ray, this coach—take you right up, Exchange Hotel!”

“Jump in, tickets for your baggage, sir, take you up—right off, best house in town, hot supper waitin'—way for the Adams House!”

And so they yell and grab at you, and our fussy friend, having heard of the tall arrangements and great doings of the American, he hands himself over to the coachman, and with a load of others he is rolled over to that institution, in a jiffy. Our fussy friend is slightly “took down” at the idea of paying for the hauling up, having a notion that that was a part of the accommodation! However, he ain't a going to look small or verdant; so he pays the coachman, grabs his valise, and rushes into the long colonnaded office; and making his way to the register, slams down his baggage, and in a dignified, authoritative manner, says—

“A room!”

“Yes, sir,” responds the Colonel, or some of the clerks—who may be officiating.

“Supper!” says Capt. Fussy, in the same tone of command.

“Certainly, sir—please register your name, sir!”

Captain Fussy off's gloves, seizes the pen, and down goes his autograph, Captain Fussy, Thumperstown, N. H.

“Now, I want a hot steak!” says he.

“You can have it, sir!” blandly replies the Colonel.

“Hot chocolate,” continues Fussy.

“Certainly, sir!”

“Eggs, poached, and a—hot roll!”

“They'll be all ready, sir.”

“How soon?”

“Five minutes, sir,” says the Colonel, talking to a dozen at the same time.

“Ah, well—show me my room!” says Captain Fussy.

The bells are ringing—servants running to and fro, like witches in a whirlwind; fifty different calls—tastes—orders and fancies, are being served, but Capt. Fussy is attended to, a servant seizes his valise and a taper, and in the most winning way, cries—

“This way, sir, right along!” With a measured tread and the air of a man who knew what it was all about, the Captain follows the garcon and mounts one flight of the broad stairs, and is about to ascend another, when it strikes him that he's not going up to the top of the house, nohow!

“Where are you going to take me to—up into the garret?”

“Oh! no, sir; your room's only 182; that's only on the third floor!”

“Third floor!” cries Capt. Fussy, “take me up into the third story?”

“Plenty of gentlemen on the fifth and sixth floors, sir,” says the servant, and he goes ahead, Capt. Fussy following, muttering—

“Pooty doin's this, taking a gentleman up three of these cussed long stairs, to room 182! I'll see about this, I will; mus'n't come no gammon over me; I'm able to pay, and want the worth of my money!”

The third floor is reached, and after a brief meandering along the halls, 182 is arrived at, the door thrown open and Capt. Fussy is ushered in; his first effort is to find fault with the carpets, furniture, bedding or something, but as he had never probably seen such a general arrangement for ease, comfort and convenience—he caved in and merely gave a deep-toned—

Ah. Got better rooms than this, ain't you?”

“There may be, sir, a few better rooms in the house, not many,” said the servant.

“Well, you may go—but stop—how soon'll my supper be ready?”

“There'll be a supper set at eight, another at nine, sir.”

“Ah, four minutes of eight,” says Fussy, pulling out a “bull's eye” watch, with as much flourish as if it was a premium eighteen-carat lever. “Well, call me when you've got supper ready, do you hear?”

“Yes, sir; but you'll hear the gong.”

“The gong—what's that? Ain't you got no bells?”

“The gong is used, sir, instead of bells,” says the servant.

Ah, well, clear out—but say, I want a fire in here.”

“Yes, sir; I'll send up a fireman.”

“A fireman? What do I want with firemen? Bring in some wood, and, stranger—start up—a hello! thunder and saw mills, what's all that racket about—house a-fire?”

“No, sir!” says the grinning servant—“the gong —supper's on the table!”

Ah, very well; go ahead; where's the room?”

Conducted to the dining-room, Capt. Fussy's eyes stretch at the wholesale display of table-cloths, arm-chairs, “crockery” and cutlery, mirrors and white-aproned waiters. A seat is offered him, he dumps himself down, amazed but determined to look and act like one used to these affairs, from the hour of his birth!

“I ordered hot steak, poached eggs—hain't you got 'em?”

“Certainly, sir!” says the waiter, and the steak and eggs are at hand.

“Coffee or tea, sir?” another servant inquires.

“Coffee and tea! Humph, I ordered chocolate—hain't you got chocolate?”

“Oh, yes, sir; there it is.”

Ah, umph!” and Fussy gazes around and turns his nose slightly up, at the whole concern, waiters, guests, table, steak, eggs, chocolate, and—even the tempting hot rolls—before him.

Fussy calls for a glass of water, wants to know if there's fried oysters on the table; he finds there is not, and Fussy frowns and asks for a lobster salad, which the waiter informs him is never used at supper, in that hotel.

Eventually, Capt. Fussy being crammed, after an hour's diligent feeding, fuss and feathers, retires, asks all sorts of questions about people and places, at the office; what time trains start and steamers come, omnibuses here and stages there, all of which he is politely answered, of course, and he finally goes to his room, rings his bell every ten minutes, for an hour, and then—goes to bed; next day puts the servants and clerks over another course, and on the third day—calls for his bill, finds but few extras charged, hands over a five, puts on his gloves, seizes his valise, looks savagely dignified and stalks out, big as two military officers in regimentals!

Ah,” says Fussy, as he reaches the street, “I put 'em through—I guess I got the worth of my money!

We calculate he did!


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