Story type: Essay
A young man, with a plated watch-chain that would do to tie up a sacred elephant, came into Denver the other day from the East, on the Julesburg Short line, and told the hotel clerk that he had just returned from Europe, and was on his way across the continent with the intention of publishing a book of international information. He handed an oilcloth grip across the counter, registered in a bold, bad way and with a flourish that scattered the ink all over the clerk’s white shirt front.
He was assigned to a quiet room on the fifth floor, that had been damaged by water a few weeks before by the fire department. After an hour or two spent in riding up and down the elevator and ringing for things that didn’t cost anything, he oiled his hair and strolled into the dining-room with a severe air and sat down opposite a big cattle man, who never oiled his hair or stuck his nose into other people’s business.
The European traveler entered into conversation with the cattle man. He told him all about Paris and the continent, meanwhile polishing his hands on the tablecloth and eating everything within reach. While he ate another man’s dessert, he chatted on gaily about Cologne and pitied the cattle man who had to stay out on the bleak plains and watch the cows, while others paddled around Venice and acquired information in a foreign land.
At first the cattle man showed some interest in Europe, but after awhile he grew quiet and didn’t seem to enjoy it. Later on the European tourist, with soiled cuffs and auburn mane, ordered the waiters around in a majestic way, to impress people with his greatness, tipped over the vinegar cruet into the salt and ate a slice of boiled egg out of another man’s salad.
Casually a tall Kansas man strolled in and asked the European tourist what he was doing in Denver. The cattle man, who, by the way, has been abroad five or six times and is as much at home in Paris as he is in Omaha, investigated the matter, and learned that the fresh French tourist had been herding hens on a chicken ranch in Kansas for six years, and had never seen blue water. He then took a few personal friends to the dining-room door, and they watched the alleged traveler. He had just taken a long, refreshing drink from the finger bowl of his neighbor on the left and was at that moment, trying to scoop up a lump of sugar with the wrong end of the tongs.
There are a good many fools who drift around through the world and dodge the authorities, but the most disastrous ass that I know is the man who goes West with two dollars and forty cents in his pocket, without brains enough to soil the most delicate cambric handkerchief, and tries to play himself for a savant with so much knowledge that he has to shed information all the time to keep his abnormal knowledge from hurting him.