Great Country Hotels
Some years ago a small gasket which controls the plumbing in my country home gave way without warning, and while the plumbers were awaiting a duplicate from Cartier's, I tied a foxtail to the radiator of my Jordan cabriolet and went touring. Night found me at a crossroads before a spacious establishment with a handsome mansard roof and the inviting legend "Snapper Suppers." With many a cry of "Oh, dem snapper suppers!" and "Oh, dat succulent spoon bread wid cloudy honey fresh out ob de hive!" I flung myself on the dollar-and-a-quarter table d'hôte. The snapper supper turned out to have been prefabricated in Camden, New Jersey, and, dulling my hunger with something called a "spamwich" and a cup of lava, I mounted to my room.

It was dominated by the bed, a sizable Victorian affair with a mattress easily two inches thick. Anticipating that guests might want to read in bed, the management had thoughtfully strung a naked electric bulb twelve feet away from the ceiling. I read the Hotel Men's Guide until my eyes rolled around the counterpane like marbles, and then turned in. The light was scarcely off before the wicker furniture began a slow, sinister gavotte around the room, creaking and groaning like Foxe's Book of Martyrs. Simultaneously automobile headlights started flashing across the bay window opposite my bed, and I realized that Dead Man's Carrefour was in for a night of brisk traffic. I was lying there trying to distinguish the lady motorists by the way the brakes screeched on the curve, when the voices went into action in the bar below.

At first they were pitched in a low, rasping hum devoid of vowels, somewhat like Icelandic but more bestial. As time wore on they became interwoven with sharp cries and commands of "Glonfy!" and "Rehume!" None of the words was quite audible, and as a result I had to keep every faculty tense. For a while I courted the theory that a group of Mr. Joyce's admirers were reading aloud from Finnegans Wake, but suddenly somebody started to break the spindles out of the back of a Windsor chair, using an old-fashioned brass spittoon. I pounded on the floor; he cheerily beat an answering tattoo on the ceiling. I now decided to put my faith in the barbiturates, let the chips fall where they might, and swallowing several capsules that would have killed me had I been a horse, I crept back into my burrow.

A delightful surprise awaited me. Some sort of foreign body inside the pillow now insisted on obtruding into the back of my neck, a space ordinarily reserved for the caresses of wealthy middle-aged women. The obstruction seemed to be cylindrical, yielding to the touch, and about two and a half inches long --- in short, the exact size and consistency of a roll of bills. The more I thought about it, the more convinced I became that I had unwittingly stumbled across a cache. And if size meant anything, the world was mine. I exultantly began planning how I would track down Baron Danglars, what I would do to Mercedes the fair Catalan. All that remained was to Open the pillow. Any fool can open a pillow, I cackled.

It took me twenty minutes to realize that here was one fool who couldn't, armed with nothing more than a toothbrush, a comb and a commode. I hacked and tore at the seams of that pillow until my fingertips bled and I sobbed aloud with vexation. Meanwhile, in the bar below, the Walpurgisnacht was in full swing. On the stairs outside my room they were re-enacting Israel Putnam's escape from the British, and every so often somebody in the room overhead broke into a waltz clog in a pair of specially built lead shoes.

Whether it was frustration, Sedormid, or both which finally got me, I'll never know. But this I do know: from now on I'm strictly the Scholar Gipsy, with a knapsack and a bit of bread and cheese snapping at my heels. It may be hot in a haystack, but by God, it's private.

--- From Crazy Like a Fox
© 1945, S. J. Perelman
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