Maryland: The Spinsters' Ball

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Holly trees arch gracefully over the neat white fences that line the dirt road leading to the brick mansion at West Hatton, the 630-acre Zantzinger farm-estate in southern Maryland. The mansion's colonnaded porch faces the somnolent Wicomico River, which flows past a placid pond and a white summerhouse. Also on the estate is an austere farmhouse from which William Devereux Zantzinger, 24, runs one of the most prosperous tobacco operations in Charles County.

The setting befits William Zantzinger's status as a rural aristocrat. His father, a former member of the Maryland house of delegates and the state planning commission, still lives in the mansion, where he and his wife entertain in convivial country style. William and his attractive wife, Jane, 24, organized the Wicomico Hunt Club, love to halloo after hounds across their fields. William is unlike many a gentleman farmer. His farming success is due not to the efficiency of hired supervisors, but to the long hours of gritty, grubby work he himself does afield. But by last week it was apparent that he can play even harder than he plows.

Whacks, But No Tips. The Zantzingers set out for a gay social evening of dancing at Baltimore's annual Spinsters' Ball, a white-tie affair in which passed-over postdebutantes in their late 20s take another try at meeting the right sort of men. With another couple, the Zantzingers stopped off for preball dinner at downtown Baltimore's Eager House.

As witnesses tell it, Zantzinger downed two fast drinks at the bar, then whacked the restaurant's hostess and its elderly sommelier with a wooden carnival cane that he had picked up somewhere. Coaxed into checking the cane, he lunged at the wine steward's cordial tray, then his neck chain, caught a sharp elbow in the stomach in return. Zantzinger had two double bourbons with his steak; Jane Zantzinger, four double Cutty Sarks with her prime ribs. When the head barman refused to serve more, Jane hopped to another table, sipped from the glasses of its surprised occupants. Zantzinger left no tip for the waitress.

At the ball in the Emerson Hotel, the pace picked up. Zantzinger stung a Negro bellhop's rear with his cane. After a few bourbons and ginger at the open bar, he asked a Negro waitress, Mrs. Ethel Hill, 30, something about a firemen's fund. She said she did not know what he meant. "Don't say no to me, you nigger, say no, sir," said Zantzinger. He flailed her with the cane. She fled to the kitchen.

Too Slow. Minutes later, Zantzinger strode to the bar for another drink. Mrs. Hattie Carroll, 51, a Negro barmaid, did not move fast enough for him. "What's the matter with you, you black son of a bitch, serving my drinks so slow?" he railed. He beat her with his cane. She collapsed and an ambulance was called.

Through it all, the orchestra of Howard Lanin* played on, many of the spinsters missing the commotion—even when Zantzinger turned on his 125-lb. wife, who fell to the floor. More blows flew as two men struggled to calm Zantzinger. A physician felt Mrs. Zantzinger's pulse, decided she would be all right.

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