There was also last summer an apartment to let to a “respectable man” or, the announcement said, it “might do for friends.” One of the reasons why many people are bored by hunting lodgings is that they are not humble in spirit. They seek proud lodgings.
As to apartment houses, which are a very different matter: the newspapers publish at various seasons of the year copious Apartment-House Directories, with innumerable half-tone illustrations of these more or less sumptious places. And these directories are competent commentaries on their subject. George Moore remarked, “With business I have nothing to do—my concern is with art.” Except that I live in one, with apartment houses I have nothing to do—my concern is with lodgings.
There is only one philosophical observation to be made upon apartment houses. And that is this: How can all these people afford to live in them? When you go to look at apartments you are shown a place that you don’t like particularly. You don’t think, Oh, how I’d just love to live here if I could only afford it! But you ask the rental as a matter of form. And you learn that this apartment rents for a sum greater (in all likelihood) than your entire salary. And yet, there are miles and miles of apartment houses even better than that. And goodness knows how many thousand people live in them! People whose names you never see in the newspapers as ones important in business, in society, art, literature, or anything else. Obscure people! Very ordinary people! Now where do they get all that money? But about lodgings:
I one time went to look at lodgings in Patchin Place. I had heard that Patchin Place was America’s Latin Quarter. I thought it would be well to examine it. Patchin Place is a cul-de-sac behind Jefferson Market. A bizarre female person admitted me to the house there. It was not unreasonable to suppose that she had a certain failing. She slip-slod before me along a remarkably dark, rough-floored and dusty hall, and up a rickety stair. The lodging which she had to let was interesting but not attractive. The tenant, it seemed, who had just moved away had many faults trying to his landlady. He was very delinquent, for one thing, in the payment of his rent. And he was somewhat addicted to drink. This unfortunate propensity led him to keep very late hours, and caused him habitually to fall upstairs.
Well, I told her, by way of making talk, that I believed I was held to be a reasonably honest person, and that I was frequently sober.
“Oh,” she said, “I can see that you are a gentleman—in your way,” she added, in a murmur.
So, you see, in hunting lodgings you not only see how others live, but how you seem to others.
It is certainly curious, the places in which to dwell which one is shown in hunting lodgings. Once I was given to view a room in which was a strange table-like affair constructed of metal. “You wouldn’t mind, I suppose,” said the lady of the lodging, “if this remained in the room?”