THE GOLDEN RULE HOTEL_ THE TRAIL OF THE TRAMP_ CHAPTER SIX_
It required some moments before the boys became accustomed to the strange sights which spread themselves out before their wondering eyes. The speed and the clanging of the horse-drawn street cars, the shouts of the teamsters, the gas lamps, which now as darkness was approaching were lit, while the brilliantly illuminated saloons, the gayly decorated windows of the stores and shops, in fact everything seemed to them a far different world from the one they had just left behind them upon the bleak prairie.
They walked about the streets until they felt that they must find a shelter for the night, but being afraid to accost one of the many strangers who rushed past them and who not even deigned to cast a glance at the open-mouthed lads who marvelled at the people's haste to be gone, they tackled a gaudily uniformed policeman. "Yes, my lads," the good-natured guardian of the peace explained to them, after he had noted their red-bandana wrapped bundles and that their suits were somewhat the worse for their three days riding in the box car, "you of course do not wish to stop at the Windsor, the highest classed hotel in Minneapolis, but I think that I know the proper place for you, it's the 'Golden Rule Hotel', the best place in our city for lads like you." And then he directed them so they could easily find the hotel, and as a parting word, told them that it was a most reasonably priced place, as they charged only fifteen cents for a night's lodging, and then finished his fatherly advice by adding, that every cent saved meant a cent gained.
They followed the officer's instructions, and within a short time found the "Golden Rule Hotel". They entered its office, a spacious well-kept room, but the next moment they were almost frightened out of their shoes by the loathsome sight which met their eyes, as they found themselves in the midst of a lot of cursing, semi-sober harvesters; crippled, alcohol-marked vagrants; blind mendicants; drunkards and blackguards, in fact a choice collection of the most degraded specimens of humanity.
James nudged Joe and whispered: "Brother Joe, this is no place for fellows like we are. No place for lads who have come to seek employment. Let's get out of here as quickly as we can and hunt a different lodging house." Joe, who acted as the treasurer, having in mind the sum that they could save by stopping at a reasonably-priced lodging place, calmed his brother's fears by replying: "Wait and see what sort of a place this is. The company may not exactly suit us, but has not the policeman told us that this is the best hotel in Minneapolis for us, and look, Jim, doesn't this office look rather inviting?" While they yet argued the point, the manager of the hotel, an oily-faced fellow, accosted them: "Strangers in Minneapolis, eh?" he queried, with utmost kindness, while at the same time his shifty eyes scanned the country-style suits they wore. "I welcome you to our hustling city, and invite you to make your headquarters at the "Golden Rule Hotel" during your stay." Noting that the lads were yet undecided what to do and correctly surmising that they had received an old-fashioned, Christian home training, he suavely added: "Our charges are most reasonable, only fifteen cents per night, and every Sunday morning we hold here in the office a most beautiful song and prayer service, and I am sure you lads will be glad to join us in singing grand hymns."
This last statement settled the whole matter, for the twins felt that a place in which prayer meetings were held and holy hymns chanted could never be an unfit place for the likes of them, and instead of landing in a "hobo-joint" as they had first feared, they concluded that they had actually struck a home. Perceiving the splendid impression his appeal had made upon the newcomers, the manager almost pushed the lads before the counter and made them write their names upon the soiled and tattered register. Then he explained to them that the charge was fifteen cents for one night's lodging, but if they wished to settle in advance by the week only seventy-five cents would be the rate. Seeing that he could save sixty cents, Joe paid for each a week's lodging. They left their bundles in the manager's care, and then inquired for a reasonable priced restaurant, to which they went and satisfied their appetites.
It was nearly midnight when they found their way back to the "Golden Rule Hotel", whose manager was waiting their return, and who explained to them that as every "room" was taken he was anxious to show them to their "beds", so he could lock the hotel and retire for the night. He lighted the stub of a candle, and telling the boys to follow him, he led them up a creaky stairway. Higher and higher he mounted, and when the twins thought he must have almost reached the roof, he opened a small door, and picking his way by the flickering light of the candle between wooden partitions, he at last stopped in front of two unoccupied bunks, one above the other, and after telling his surprised guests that these were the "beds" for which they had paid, and after cautioning them to blow out the candle as soon as possible, he bade them good-night and vanished into the darkness, and a moment later the slamming of a door below them told the lads that they were virtually prisoners, as the hotel had been locked for the night.
"Joe," whispered Jim to his brother, after both had inhaled several whiffs of the foul atmosphere into their lungs, which had heretofore only been accustomed to breathing the pure air of the prairie, "in what sort of an inferno have we landed?" And then he held the candle high, and by its unsteady, sickly-yellow light he counted five bunks, one above the other, in the tier they were to sleep, built from the floor right up to the ceiling, with only sufficient space intervening for a human being to crawl into. These vertical tiers of bunks looked for all the world like boarded up book shelves in a library, one adjoining the other as far as their eyes could penetrate the darkness of the hall, and in each and every bunk was a snoring human wretch, while the suffocating atmosphere caused by the overcrowding and the insufficient ventilation, which was greatly enhanced by the heat of the summer, made the "Golden Rule Hotel" an absolutely unfit place for human habitation.
"Let's get out of this horrid place, even if we have to sleep upon the chairs down below in the office," whispered Jim; but before he could add another word or make a move to leave the hall, a threatening voice, emanating from the tier of bunks in the darkness behind them, whose owner had evidently been disturbed by their conversation, roughly commanded them to "hush up and blow out the candle."
Unused to the ways of the city, the frightened boys obeyed the command, and after they had undressed in the darkness, they climbed into the bunks and being tired out by their sight-seeing, they were soon asleep.
In the early morning, after they had made their toilets by an open faucet to which a cake of perforated laundry soap had been chained, they descended to the office and there demanded of the manager the return of the money they had paid for their week's lodging, less the cost of the lodging of the preceding night, but this worthy not only absolutely refused to refund a single cent, but derided them so for being "Reubens" that they decided to stop, just for spite, at the "Golden Rule Hotel" until they received their money's worth.
After a hasty breakfast, they copied from the want columns of the Minneapolis Tribune, the best paper in the city, the addresses of those who had inserted advertisements which the twins thought would suit them, and set out to search for a job, that they had long ago planned should form the first stepping stone towards the fortune and the fame they had resolved to gather in the city.
It is an easy job for someone who has had experience in this line to find employment in a city. Many a bright city chap quits his job in the evening to be almost certain to pick up a new one the following morning. But for Joe and Jim, filled as they were with childish dreams of easy fortune, it was a far different matter, especially while they had dollars clinking in their jeans, as a boy possessing plenty of loose change is mighty particular about the employment he accepts, so, although the lads hunted high and low, from early till late, they could not find suitable places, and after supper they returned to the "Golden Rule Hotel" to "roost" again in their bunks, surrounded by those occupied by the riff-raff of the slums.
Joe and Jim were awakened the following morning by the racket the rising "guests" of the hotel made, and when they reached for their trousers to dress themselves, they not only found that these had disappeared, but that their shoes, hats and what proved to be their heaviest loss, their coats in which they had their purses with every cent that they possessed, had taken wing during the night from beneath their pillows, where they had hidden them for safety. They tried to explain their loss to the other inmates, but instead of receiving sympathy for their trouble, only malicious grunts and malevolent leers were their reward.
A few moments later the manager, having been apprised of the theft, entered the dimly lighted quarters, not to search the other bunks for their stolen property, but merely to console his robbed guests, so they would not report their loss to the police and cause unpleasant comment in the papers. While they listened to him they saw only ugly scowls upon the rum-soaked visages of the other inmates of the place, who had crowded around and seemed to greatly enjoy their misfortune, and who broke into shouts of boisterous laughter when the manager explained to the boys that the golden rule of the "Golden Rule Hotel" had always read: "Do everybody—before they do you."