Page images
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER XIV.

HOTELS AND BOARDING-HOUSES.

HOTELS are generally well managed, and in excellent order. In frequenting the temperance houses, the traveller is sure of society of one stamp, so that the conversation he may enter into will be of a correct, and very likely of an improving character.

The wholesome “click” of the ice against the water-pitchers has something re-assuring in its quiet sound; and the gong, giving forth its musical tone, first in the distant part of the parallelogram, then swelliug nearer, till it passes along the gallery where your own chamber is situated, and then again sinking into silence at the further end, summoning all who will to family worship, gives cheering token that you are in good society. It is very pleasant to meet three or four score of travellers in the saloon by seven in the morning, and nine at night, to join ' in a hymn, led perhaps by a son or daughter of the house, accompanied by an organ-toned pianoforte. Then to hear a passage of Holy Writ, read perhaps by the master of the hotel, and to join in a prayer by

him, if no clergyman be present, or by a clergyman, without reference to his denomination, or, as I once chanced to hear, by a senator. How calm and safe the progress of a day so entered upon!—and how orderly is such a household, even though it numbers at its noonday meal nearly two hundred guests! Enough has been said by English travellers about the amazing celerity with which Americans despatch their food, and of the knife nearly going down the throat after it. Though I had no chance at the race in eating, I generally saw many persons as slow, or slower than myself. One day, being at leisure to observe the proceedings of my neighbours, I saw a very respectable-looking lady reduce one half of an oval slice of bread to the shape of a horse-shoe by one goodly bite that she took out of the middle. This lady introduced herself to me in the saloon, and-0 Dickens! O Trollope ! can ye bear the dismal truth?—she told me she was a Londoner! Here ended my discoveries as to peculiarities in conduct at table. A gentleman did tell me, that he saw, at a New York hotel dinner, one person give his fork to another, with, “Just stick that fork into that potato for me, will you ?” His surly, unneighbourly neighbour did as he was requested, and left it sticking there. This was a most ungracious way of teaching a hasty man to apply to the waiter-yet it might be useful.

Waiters are always abundant, so that you never hear them rung for or called in an impatient tone.

[graphic]

They are there, and know what you want as soon as you do yourself. In Gadsby’s, at Washington, their mute observant attention-one black man ministering to the wants of two whites—was really too affecting. One could not eat—one wanted to get up and set them down and wait on them. They were not paid for their services. They were not volunteers in your cause. They could not go away if you ill-used them. They were slaves! They looked sleek and tranquil, however, and are in general under mild treatment in the district of Columbia.

In a country where everybody travels, the comforts and reasonable charges of hotels are important. Some of the arrangements are new to the English.

There is, generally, with the transient visitors, a mixture of those who make a permanent residence in the house. These are not only bachelors and young clerks, but young married people. Those who prefer to see what is going on linger in the saloons of an evening after leaving the eating-room, when it often happens that a musical guest, or a professional person, will play and sing for the entertainment of the company. You find as many newspapers as can be rescued from the reading and smoking rooms, and a few books, and sometimes ladies have their work. It is hardly deemed courteous to write letters in the saloon, and no provision is made for that in the way of material. At best, it is an idle life. People seem waiting for something that rarely comes, in the way of disembarrassed con

versation, something better than talk got up for the occasion; and one yawns and drops off, and then another, till the whole house retires to early repose.

The BOARDING-HOUSE is not for the accommodation of travellers, but of those who are for some time from home, or who have no other home. In busy cities, and at watering-places, there are thousands so accommodated. It is computed that 25,000 strangers are in New York at one season of the year, some of whom may, by their affairs, be obliged to remain a considerable time. For them, at least for single gentlemen, the boarding-house may be more convenient than the English method of lodging. But for families, and for a permanency, they are not calculated to promote settled habits, or cultivate home enjoyments.

It often happens that newly-married people choose that homeless, uncomfortable method of beginning life, induced by the idea that it is more economical and less troublesome than having the responsibilities of a house. The difficulty of procuring “helps,” or rather of knowing how to get any good use of them when procured, is another reason for preferring to board.

The effect of this plan on the mental and moral habits appears very unsalutary, and is silently working on the whole of society. It promotes improvident marriages, as people marry to board who could not afford to keep house. It promotes selfishness, as persons who are all paying for everything alike,

and who—the female part, at least-have not much to occupy them, get jealous and watchful lest others get any advantage which they do not enjoy. It promotes epicurism, as there must be a table kept beyond the style of the real circumstances of each individual; and as they pay for it, they feel that they have a right to be fastidious and critical. It is distressing to see the children's greedy eyes roam over all the dishes, liking this and hating that, and having their plates heaped with all manner of incongruous things, to prevent their disturbing the company by crying or exclaiming. Besides, the

tle creatures get the manners of grown persons, and talk away, polite and agreeable by the way, but forward, and in an unhealthy attitude withal. I remember seeing a little fellow about five years old, who had found a shining button with a broken eye, go the round of a large saloon, in the most gentlemanly way, inquiring of each if you had lost that, as he had found it, and it would give him pleasure to restore it to you if you could claim it.”

To dwell with persons in whom you have no special interest, or whom you only, or hardly, put up with, is the reverse of improving to the heart. For a young pair to begin by living in the presence of others, when their first year is required to learn each other's peculiarities, and how to assimilate and how to forbear, seems not merely disagreeable, but dangerous. A word, a look, an unintentional neglect, may, in the early stages of matrimonial union,

« PreviousContinue »