Sometimes as, on entering a town or village, we asked some passer-by about the hotels, we would be looked over and somewhat doubtfully asked: “Do you want a two-dollar house?” And we soon learned to pocket our pride, and ask if there was not a cheaper house. Strange that people whose business is hospitality should be so inhospitable, and strange that the American travelling salesman, a companionable creature, not averse from comfort, should not have created a better condition of things. For the inn should be the natural harmonious close to the day, as much a part of the day’s music as the setting sun. It should be the gratefully sought shelter from the homeless night, the sympathetic friend of hungry stomachs and dusty feet, the cozy jingle of social pipes and dreamy after-dinner talk, the abode of snowy beds for luxuriously aching limbs, lavendered sheets and pleasant dreams.
But, as people without any humour usually say, “A sense of humour helps under all circumstances”; and we managed to extract a great deal of fun out of the rigours of the American country hotel.
In one particularly inhospitable home of hospitality, for example, we found no little consolation from the directions printed over the very simple and familiar device for calling up the hotel desk. The device was nothing more remarkable than the button of an ordinary electric bell, which you were, in the usual way, to push once for bell-boy, twice for ice-water, three times for chambermaid, and so on. However, the hotel evidently regarded it as one of the marvels of advanced science and referred to it, in solemnly printed “rules” for its use, as no less than “The Emergency Drop Annunciator!” Angels of the Annunciation! what a heavenly phrase!
But this is an ill-tempered chapter—let us begin another.
ONIONS, PIGS AND HICKORY-NUTS
One feature of the countryside in which from time to time we found innocent amusement was the blackboards placed outside farmhouses, on which are written, that is, “annunciated,” the various products the farmer has for sale, such as apples, potatoes, honey, and so forth. On one occasion we read: “Get your horses’ teeth floated here.” There was no one to ask about what this mysterious proclamation meant. No doubt it was clear as daylight to the neighbours, but to us it still remains a mystery. Perhaps the reader knows what it meant. Then on another occasion we read: “Onions and Pigs For Sale.” Why this curious collocation of onions and pigs? Colin suggested that, of course, the onions were to stuff the pigs with.
“And here’s an idea,” he continued. “Suppose we go in and buy a little suckling-pig and a string of onions. Then we will buy a yard of two of blue ribbon and tie it round the pig’s neck, and you shall lead it along the road, weeping. I will walk behind it, with the onions, grinning from ear to ear. And when any one meets us, and asks the meaning of the strange procession, you will say: ’I am weeping because our little pig has to die!’ And if any one says to me, ’Why are you grinning from ear to ear?’ I shall answer, ’Because I am going to eat him. We are going to stuff him with onions at the next inn, and eat roast pig at the rising of the moon.’”