At the dinner table of one of our principal hotels yesterday –it matters not which, names being unnecessary for our purpose—there sat two men, plain in their apparel and unpretending in their appearance. They seemed to enjoy, with a keen relish and healthy appetite, the good things set out before them, and paid their court to the wine with a freedom that would have done credit to more experienced “ bons vivants.”

“ Great house this is, David,” remarked one of them. [1]

“ Reckon it is,” said David ; “ but I find it is a plaguey sight easier to eat their fixins, than it is to read ‘em in print.”

“ Read ‘em !” retorted David’s friend ; “ I’d scorn to read ‘em ; I didn’t come here to read, I came here to eat.”

“ But how are we to come at the best feed ?” said David, “ if we can’t pick it out ?”

“ By doing,” rejoined his friend, “ just as we do at a breakdown, when old Ned Morgan, the fiddler, plays the “ Boston Beauties”---by beginning here at the top [pointing to the head of the bill of fare], leading down the middle, and taking a turn at every thing we meet as we go along.”

“ Good as wheat !” said David—“ let us dig in ;”—and without further ceremony they commenced operations.

It need not be told that they did ample justice to the several dishes of which they partook, besides drinking deeply of the wine. When they had fully got through, smoked their cigars, talked of their lucky trip down, and congratulated themselves on the advantageous prices at which they had disposed of their corn, they in a swaggering, “ d–––d-the-expense” kind of tone called for the bill. The waiter, thinking they alluded to the bill of fare, handed them one. On the back, or on one side, of every bill of fare there is a list of the wines which the house is prepared to furnish, with the price affixed to each. The list of wines, instead of the list of dishes, happened to present itself to our Western friend, and the waiter noticed that in looking it over he suddenly became somewhat nervous.

[2]"Three dollars is three, and two dollars and fifty cents, is five dollars and a half,” said he, aloud, “ and two dollars is seven dollars and a half, and three is ten dollars and a half, and one fifty is twelve dollars,”—and here he flung the bill in a passionate manner before him on the table, saying to the waiter ;––“ Look here, stranger,––I thought I knew a little of cypherin,’ but it’s a huckleberry above my persimmon to calculate that ; besides, I think it’s a rascally take-in, to pile it on for all the wine my friend and I drank in that way. But I don’t care a cuss ; send the boss here, and if he says I’m to fork over for all the wine in that bill, I’ll do it. I reckon, however, you needn’t trouble yourself to turn down a chair for me any more. Of course, when I go up to Indiana I can say I dined at this great hotel. Your dinner,” he added, still addressing the waiter, “ was fust rate—I’m ready to sign for that 'value received ;’ but the way you figure it out for the wine is a caution !”

The waiter, who was now, for the first time, permitted to disabuse his guests, informed them that he did not present them the bill of fare as the one which was to be footed ; that the whole amount which they had to pay was—for dinners $2, and for wine $6 50.
Every thing was now acknowledged to be right, and the two Western men assured the waiter that they would patronise the establishment when they next visited the city.



Source: New York Spirit of the Times 14.10 (4 May 1844): 111. (University of Virginia Alderman Library).

Erin Bartels prepared this typescript.

[1] Original text includes an extra quotation mark here.

[2] Starting quotation mark for paragraph missing in original.

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