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The Small Summer Hotel
by [?]

We certainly are the most eccentric race on the surface of the globe and ought to be a delight to the soul of an explorer, so full is our civilization of contradictions, unexplained habits and curious customs. It is quite unnecessary for the inquisitive gentlemen who pass their time prying into other people’s affairs and then returning home to write books about their discoveries, to risk their lives and digestions in long journeys into Central Africa or to the frozen zones, while so much good material lies ready to their hands in our own land. The habits of the “natives” in New England alone might occupy an active mind indefinitely, offering as interesting problems as any to be solved by penetrating Central Asia or visiting the man-eating tribes of Australia.

Perhaps one of our scientific celebrities, before undertaking his next long voyage, will find time to make observations at home and collect sufficient data to answer some questions that have long puzzled my unscientific brain. He would be doing good work. Fame and honors await the man who can explain why, for instance, sane Americans of the better class, with money enough to choose their surroundings, should pass so much of their time in hotels and boarding houses. There must be a reason for the vogue of these retreats–every action has a cause, however remote. I shall await with the deepest interest a paper on this subject from one of our great explorers, untoward circumstances having some time ago forced me to pass a few days in a popular establishment of this class.

During my visit I amused myself by observing the inmates and trying to discover why they had come there. So far as I could find out, the greater part of them belonged to our well-to-do class, and when at home doubtless lived in luxurious houses and were waited on by trained servants. In the small summer hotel where I met them, they were living in dreary little ten by twelve foot rooms, containing only the absolute necessities of existence, a wash-stand, a bureau, two chairs and a bed. And such a bed! One mattress about four inches thick over squeaking slats, cotton sheets, so nicely calculated to the size of the bed that the slightest move on the part of the sleeper would detach them from their moorings and undo the housemaid’s work; two limp, discouraged pillows that had evidently been “banting,” and a few towels a foot long with a surface like sand-paper, completed the fittings of the room. Baths were unknown, and hot water was a luxury distributed sparingly by a capricious handmaiden. It is only fair to add that everything in the room was perfectly clean, as was the coarse table linen in the dining room.

The meals were in harmony with the rooms and furniture, consisting only of the strict necessities, cooked with a Spartan disregard for such sybarite foibles as seasoning or dressing. I believe there was a substantial meal somewhere in the early morning hours, but I never succeeded in getting down in time to inspect it. By successful bribery, I induced one of the village belles, who served at table, to bring a cup of coffee to my room. The first morning it appeared already poured out in the cup, with sugar and cold milk added at her discretion. At one o’clock a dinner was served, consisting of soup (occasionally), one meat dish and attendant vegetables, a meagre dessert, and nothing else. At half-past six there was an equally rudimentary meal, called “tea,” after which no further food was distributed to the inmates, who all, however, seemed perfectly contented with this arrangement. In fact they apparently looked on the act of eating as a disagreeable task, to be hurried through as soon as possible that they might return to their aimless rocking and chattering.