Story type: Essay
At Greeley a young man with a faded cardigan jacket and a look of woe got on the train, and as the car was a little crowded he sat in the seat with me. He had that troubled and anxious expression that a rural young man wears when he first rides on the train. When the engine whistled he would almost jump out of that cardigan jacket, and then he would look kind of foolish, like a man who allows his impulses to get the best of him. Most everyone noticed the young man and his cardigan jacket, for the latter had arrived at the stage of droopiness and jaded-across-the-shoulders look that the cheap knit jacket of commerce acquires after awhile, and it had shrunken behind and stretched out in front so that the horizon, as you stood behind the young man, seemed to be bound by the tail of this garment, which started out at the pocket with good intentions and suddenly decided to rise above the young man’s shoulder blades.
He seemed so diffident and so frightened among strangers, that I began to talk with him.
“Do you live at Greeley?” I inquired.
“No, sir,” he said, in an embarrassed way, as most anyone might in the presence of greatness. “I live on a ranch up the Pandre. I was just at Greeley to see the circus.”
I thought I would play the tenderfoot and inquiring pilgrim from the cultured East, so I said: “You do not see the circus often in the West, I presume, the distance is so great between towns and the cost of transportation is so great?”
“No, sir. This is the first circus I ever was to. I have never saw a circus before.”
“How did you like it?”
“O, tip-top. It was a good thing. I’d like to see it every day if I could, I laughed and drank lemonade till I’ve got my cloze all pinned up with pins, and I’d as soon tell you, if you wont give it away, that my pants is tied on me with barbed fence wire.”
“Probably that’s what gives you that anxious and apprehensive look?”
“Yes, sir. If I look kind of doubtless about something, its because I’m afraid my pantaloons will fall off on the floor and I will have to borrow a roller towel to wear home.”
“How did you like the animals?”
“I liked that part of the Great Moral Aggregation the best of all. I have not saw such a sight before. I could stand there and watch that there old scaly elephant stuff hay into his bosom with his long rubber nose for hours. I’d read a good deal first and last about the elephant, the king of beasts, but I had never yet saw one. Yesterday father told me there hadn’t been much joy into my young life, and so he gave me a dollar and told me to go over to the circus and have a grand time. I tell you, I just turned myself loose and gave myself up to pleasure.”
“What other animals seemed to please you?” I asked, seeing that he was getting a little freer to talk.
“Oh, I saw the blue-nosed baboon from Farther India, and the red-eyed sandhill crane from Maddygasker, I think it was, and the sacred Jack-rabbit from Scandihoovia, and the lop-eared layme from South America. Then there was the female acrobat with her hair tied up with red ribbon. It’s funny about them acrobat wimmen. They get big pay, but they never buy cloze with their money. Now, the idea of a woman that gets $2 or $3 a day, for all I know, coming out there before 2,000 total strangers, wearing a pair of Indian war clubs and a red ribbon in her hair. I tell you, pardner, them acrobat prima donnars are mighty stingy with their money, or else they’re mighty economical with their cloze.”
“Did you go into the side show?”
“No, sir. I studied the oil paintings on the outside, but I didn’t go in, I met a handsome looking man there near the side show, though, that seemed to take an interest in me. There was a lottery along with the show and he wanted me to go and throw for him.”
“Perhaps so. Anyhow, he gave me a dollar and told me to go and throw for him.”
“Why didn’t he throw for himself?”
“O, he said the lottery man knew him and wouldn’t let him throw.”
“Of course. Same old story. He saw you were a greeney and got you to throw for him. He stood in with the game so that you drew a big prize for the capper, created a big excitement, and you and the crowd sailed in and lost all the money you had. I’ll bet he was a man with a velvet coat, and a moustache dyed a dead black and waxed as sharp as a cambric needle.”
“Yes; that’s his description to a dot. I wonder if he really did do that a-purpose.”
“Well, tell us about it. It does me good to hear a blamed fool tell how he lost his money. Don’t you see that your awkward ways and general greenness struck the capper the first thing, and you not only threw away your own money, but two or three hundred other wappy-jawed pelicans saw you draw a big prize and thought it was yours, then they deposited what little they had and everything was lovely.”
“Well, I’ll tell you how it was, if it’ll do any good and save other young men in the future. You see this capper, as you call him, gave me a $1 bill to throw for him, and I put it into my vest pocket so, along with the dollar bill father gave me. I always carry my money in my right hand vest pocket. Well, I sailed up to the game, big as old Jumbo himself, and put a dollar into the game. As you say, I drawed a big prize, $20 and a silver cup. The man offered me $5 for the cup and I took it.”
“Then it flashed over my mind that I might have got my dollar and the other feller’s mixed, so I says to the proprietor, ‘I will now invest a dollar for a gent who asked me to draw for him.’
“Thereupon I took out the other dollar, and I’ll be eternally chastised if I didn’t draw a brass locket worth about two bits a bushel.”
I didn’t say anything for a long time. Then I asked him how the capper acted when he got his brass locket.
“Well, he seemed pained and grieved about something, and he asked me if I hadn’t time to go away into a quiet place where we could talk it over by ourselves; but he had a kind of a cruel, insincere look in his eye, and I said no, I believed I didn’t care to, and that I was a poor conversationalist, anyhow; and so I came away, and left him looking at his brass locket and kicking holes in the ground and using profane language.
“Afterward I saw him talking to the proprietor of the lottery, and I feel, somehow, that they had lost confidence in me. I heard them speak of me in a jeering tone of voice, and one said as I passed by: ‘There goes the meek-eyed rural convict now,’ and he used a horrid oath at the same time.
“If it hadn’t been for that one little quincidence, there would have been nothing to mar the enjoyment of the occasion.”
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