A Study in Still Life: The Country Hotel

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A Study in Still Life: The Country Hotel
by Stephen Leacock
Appeared in Literary Lapses, published in 1910.

The country hotel stands on the sunny side of Main Street. It has three entrances.

There is one in front which leads into the Bar. There is one at the side called the Ladies' Entrance which leads into the Bar from the side. There is also the Main Entrance which leads into the Bar through the Rotunda.

The Rotunda is the space between the door of the bar-room and the cigar-case.

In it is a desk and a book. In the book are written down the names of the guests, together with marks indicating the direction of the wind and the height of the barometer. It is here that the newly arrived guest waits until he has time to open the door leading to the Bar.

The bar-room forms the largest part of the hotel. It constitutes the hotel proper. To it are attached a series of bedrooms on the floor above, many of which contain beds.

The walls of the bar-room are perforated in all directions with trap-doors. Through one of these drinks are passed into the back sitting-room. Through others drinks are passed into the passages. Drinks are also passed through the floor and through the ceiling. Drinks once passed never return. The Proprietor stands in the doorway of the bar. He weighs two hundred pounds. His face is immovable as putty. He is drunk. He has been drunk for twelve years. It makes no difference to him. Behind the bar stands the Bar-tender. He wears wicker-sleeves, his hair is curled in a hook, and his name is Charlie.

Attached to the bar is a pneumatic beer-pump, by means of which the bar-tender can flood the bar with beer. Afterwards he wipes up the beer with a rag. By this means he polishes the bar. Some of the beer that is pumped up spills into glasses and has to be sold.

Behind the bar-tender is a mechanism called a cash-register, which, on being struck a powerful blow, rings a bell, sticks up a card marked NO SALE, and opens a till from which the bar-tender distributes money.

There is printed a tariff of drinks and prices on the wall.

It reads thus:

  Beer . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 cents.
    Whisky . . . . . . . . . . 5 cents.
  Whisky and Soda. . . . . . . 5 cents.
    Beer and Soda. . . . . . . 5 cents.
  Whisky and Beer and Soda . . 5 cents.
    Whisky and Eggs. . . . . . 5 cents.
    Beer and Eggs. . . . . . . 5 cents.
      Champagne. . . . . . . . 5 cents.
      Cigars . . . . . . . . . 5 cents.
  Cigars, extra fine . . . . . 5 cents.

All calculations are made on this basis and are worked out to three places of decimals. Every seventh drink is on the house and is not followed by a distribution of money.

The bar-room closes at midnight, provided there are enough people in it. If there is not a quorum the proprietor waits for a better chance. A careful closing of the bar will often catch as many as twenty-five people. The bar is not opened again till seven o'clock in the morning; after that the people may go home. There are also, nowadays, Local Option Hotels. These contain only one entrance, leading directly into the bar.