CHAPTER XVIII. HOTEL LIFE.

As we have said before, the majority of the better classes of New York prefer to board rather than keep house. Of these, a large number board at the hotels, the rest in private boarding-houses.

The principal hotels of the City are the Astor, St. Nicholas, Metropolitan, New York, Fifth Avenue, and the Hoffman, Albemarle, Clarendon, Everett, and Coleman Houses. These head the list, but there are scores of first class houses, some of which are elegant in every respect. The transient custom of the hotels of the City is enormous, but the permanent boarders of these establishments are very profitable. The rates are high, and the majority of these houses pay their proprietors well. There are two classes known in the City - those which are conducted on the old American style, or those known as "European houses." The former provide the guests with lodgings and full board at so much per day, or week, while the others furnish merely the room and attendance, and are either without the means of supplying meals to their guests, or charge for each article of food separately. It is hard to say which system is the more popular, though it would seem that the European is growing in favor.

                     THE GUESTS.

The proprietors of the city hotels are very active in their efforts to exclude improper characters from their houses, but with all their vigilance do not succeed in doing so. One is ever certain as to the respectability of his neighbor at the table, and it is well never to be in a hurry to form acquaintanceships at such places. Fallen women of the higher classes, and gamblers, abound at the hotels. The proprietor cannot turn them out until they commit some overt act, for fear of getting himself into trouble. As soon, however, as his attention is called to any improper conduct on their part, they are turned into the street, no matter at what hour of the day or night, and left to shift for themselves.

                     HOTEL SWINDLERS.

Quite a number of persons in this city make a regular business of staying at hotels, and absconding without paying their board. This class consists of both males and females, and is much larger than most people suppose. We take the following descriptions of some of the best known from the daily journals of the City. They will show also their mode of operations:

A man by the name of D - - , or R - - , purporting to hail from St. Louis, has enjoyed many years' experience as a hotel 'beat.' He is a tall, not ill-looking fellow, of tolerable address, and generally travels accompanied by his wife and three children, and by a large trunk; his wife sometimes contrives to smuggle in the third child secretly, and to hide it in the room allotted to them, so that only two children appear on the bill. At any rate the bill is never paid whenever settlement is demanded. Mr. D - , or R - , is always found in his apartment seated at the table, busy with an elaborate assortment of manuscripts, and so busy that really at present he cannot be disturbed. To-morrow he will attend to every thing. But to-morrow the birds have flown, or walked out, one by one, from the hotel, and when the trunk, is opened, there is a beggarly array of brickbats, old boxes, old rags, and carpets, the former having served to render the trunk weighty, the latter to prevent any noise or rolling that might excite suspicion.

Another adventurer, a bachelor, by the name of M - - , affects the eccentric, and, as the day approaches for the handing in of his bill, his eccentricity verges upon madness, till at last, when the document is really tendered, he becomes absolutely crazy - shouts, sings, performs in an antic manner, and declares himself to be the king of the Jews, the President of the United States, or something of that sort. He has sufficient method in his madness, however, to gain the advantage of the hotel proprietors, having on one occasion beaten the Fifth Avenue Hotel out of one hundred and seventy-one dollars in board and lodging. He sometimes is to be seen on Broadway in the guise of a military officer.

One of the most cunning and successful of adventurers is known by the name of W - - , alias Jones, alias several other titles. This fellow is an undersized man, blind of one eye, but of very genteel and prepossessing address, and is generally accompanied by his wife. The two practice the bundle game, which is a very adroit performance. Their modus operandi is as follows: They travel with a large Saratoga trunk, which is really well stocked with linen and clothing. Of this fact they contrive to render the detective and officials of the house aware, so as to quiet any suspicion. Having thus tolerably opened the ball they keep it rolling as long as possible, till within two days or so of the period of final settlement. Suddenly Mrs. W - - , or Jones, appears to be seized with a mania for going up and down stairs, and in and out of the hotel, carrying little parcels in her hand to and fro to the milliners and dressmakers, etc. Her husband also discovers that his clothes need revision, and sends them to tailors. Messengers also come to their rooms for bundles, etc., and at last Mr. Jones, or W - - , announces at the office that he is about to leave the next day, and would like his bill made out up 'till to-morrow night.' Meanwhile he goes on to state as his trunk requires some repairs he has removed his wardrobe into the bureau drawers, etc., and has sent for a trunkman to convey it to the nearest establishment, will they allow him a servant to assist the trunkman with it down stairs. The servant is sent to the room, sees that nothing is taken away but the empty trunk, and all is well. The adventurer and his female confederate eat with gusto, walk out arm in arm from the hotel, and are seen no more, neither their trunk, neither their wardrobe, which examination shows has not been removed into the bureau drawers; in short, the clothes of the worthy pair have been taken away bundle by bundle, parcel by parcel, and left at convenient places in the neighborhood, to be called for, while the trunk has been deposited at a friend's till further notice.

By this system of operations the St. Nicholas, Lafarge New York, and Howard Hotels were victimized. Their triumphant career was checked, however, at the Fifth Avenue Hotel, by efforts of the special detective of the house, who discovered one day a piece of paper containing W - - Jones' private memorandum of the places at which he and his wife had left their different bundles. By confronting Jones, accusing him of his dishonesty, presenting the paper and accompanying him nolens volens to these various places, the detective contrived to recover the bill due to his hotel.

There are many adventurers hanging round a hotel, who are not enrolled, however, among its regular lodgers. There are numerous 'beats' who merely direct their energies to obtaining meals gratis, taking advantage of the rush to the tables during meal hours. As many as thirty-four of this class were detected at the Fifth Avenue Hotel in a single month. These adventurers often practice the hat game, depositing, when they enter the dining-room, a worthless chapeau, and taking up, when they pass out, a valuable one - by inadvertence, of course. The Metropolitan Hotel has a colored man in its employ stationed at the door of the dining-rooms, who has proved thus far too much for the efforts of any of these gentry, consequently this hotel has been, in this respect, peculiarly fortunate.

A man named W - - , lately gained the advantage of a hotel detective in a rather amusing manner. He was in the habit of stealing his meals, and was detected so doing, but as he was one day also seen to draw from his pocket a gold watch, attached to a heavy chain, it was determined to give him a little longer indulgence. At last his time was up, and the officer, advancing to him, told him that he had been waited for; that he had taken just so many meals, and must just pay so much money. "But I have no money." "Then I will seize your watch." When, lo! the watch had disappeared, and all the detective could find, in its place was but a bunch of keys - the watch itself having been originally borrowed for a purpose which it had fulfilled.

                     HOTEL THIEVES.

All the first-class hotels employ private detectives and watchmen. The business of these men is to keep a watch over the upper part of the house, to prevent thieves from entering and robbing the rooms of the guests. Suspicious persons are at once apprehended, and required to give account of themselves.

A friend of the writer once called on an acquaintance at the St. Nicholas, and, being on intimate terms with the gentleman, went immediately to his room, without making the customary inquiries at the office. Although he knew the house very well, he missed his way in the long corridor, and failed to find the stairway. While endeavoring to "get his bearing," he was accosted by a quiet-looking individual, who told him he must go with him to the office and give an account of himself. The man was the private detective of the house, and seeing that the gentleman had lost his way, supposed at once that he was a hotel thief who had become bewildered in trying to make off from the house. Fortunately, the gentleman was well known at the office, where the mistake was at once discovered and apologized for.

                     AN AGILE THIEF.

Some time ago, a man entered the St. Nicholas and robbed the occupant of one of the rooms, during his sleep, of a gold watch and chain, worth about one hundred and fifty dollars, a small amount of money, and a gold shirt-stud, with which he escaped to the hall-way. Succeeding so well, he concluded to try again, and proceeded to room 175, occupied by the cashier of the hotel, lifted that gentleman's clothing from a table, and stole some money from the pockets. As the thief was in the act of leaving the room, the cashier awoke, and, seeing a stranger, asked, "Who's there?" To which the robber replied, "I beg your pardon, sir; I have made a slight mistake." Upon which he hastily left, followed by the cashier, who cried, "Stop thief!" At that moment, detective Golden, employed in the hotel, appeared on the scene of action, and pursued the fugitive. The latter, in his haste, leaped down a whole flight of stairs, when detective Golden cried out to the men below to stop him; and accordingly he was seized and held till the detective ran down and took charge of the prisoner. On searching him, the gold watch and chain were found in his possession; also five different parcels of moneys, doubtless stolen from as many different rooms.