The Blue Hotel-Part One.The Palace Hotel at Fort Romper was painted a light blue,a color of blue found on the legs of a certain bird that makes it bright in any surroundings.The Palace Hotel,then,looked always loud and screaming in a way that made the bright winter scenes of Nebraska seem only a dull gray.It stood alone,and when the snow was falling,the town two hundred yards away could not be seen.When a traveler came from the railroad station,he was obliged to pass the Palace Hotel before he came to the group of low houses which was Fort Romper.It was believed that no traveler could pass the Palace Hotel without looking at it.Pat Scully,the hotel owner,had proved himself a master at choosing paints.It is true that on clear days,when the long lines of trains swept through Fort Romper,passengers were surprised at the sight.Those that knew the brown-reds,and the dark greens of the eastern part of the country laughingly expressed shame,pity,shock.But to the citizens of this western town and to the people who stopped there,Pat Scully had performed a wonder.
As if the displayed delights of such a blue hotel were not sufficiently inviting,Scully went every morning and evening to meet the trains that stopped at Romper.He would express greetings and welcome to anyone he might see hesitating.One morning when a snow-covered engine dragged its long string of cars to the station,Scully performed the marvelous trick of catching three men.One was a shaky and quick-eyed Swede,with a great,shining,cheap bag;one was a tall,sun-browned cowboy,who was on his way to a job near the Dakota border;one was a little silent man from the east coast,who didn't look like it and didn't announce it.Scully practically made them prisoners.He was so quick and merry and kindly that each probably thought it would be cruel to try to escape.So they followed the eager little man.He wore a heavy fur cap pulled tightly down on his head.It caused his two red ears to stand out stiffly,as if they were made of tin.At last,Scully grandly conducted them through the door of the blue hotel.The room which they entered was small.It was occupied mostly by a huge stove in the center,which was burning with great force.At various points on its surface the iron had become shiny and glowed yellow from the heat.Beside the stove,Scully's son,Johnnie,was playing a game of cards with a farmer.They were quarreling.
With loud words Scully stopped their play,and hurried his son upstairs with the bags of the new guests.He himself led them to three bowls of icy water.The cowboy and the Easterner washed themselves in this water until they were as red as fire.The Swede,however,merely placed his fingers in the bowl.It was noticeable throughout these proceedings that the three travelers were made to feel that Scully was very kind indeed.He was giving out great favors.Afterward they returned to the first room.There,sitting about the stove,they listened to Scully shouting at his daughters,who were preparing the noon meal.They employed the silence of experienced men who move carefully among new people.The Swede was especially silent.He seemed to be occupied in making secret judgments of each man in the room.One might have thought that he had the sense of foolish fear which accompanies guilt.He looked like a badly frightened man.Later,at dinner,he spoke a little,directing his conversation entirely to Scully.He said that he had come from New York,where he had worked for ten years as a suit maker.These facts seemed to interest Scully,and afterward he told that he had lived at Romper for fourteen years.The Swede asked about the crops and the price of labor.He seemed hardly to listen to Scully's lengthy replies.His eyes continued to wander from man to man.
Finally,with a laugh,he said that some of these western towns were very dangerous;and after this declaration he straightened his legs under the table,nodded his head,and laughed again,loudly.It was plain that this had no meaning to the others.They looked at him,wondering and in silence.After dinner,it was decided to play a game of cards.The cowboy offered to play with Johnnie,and they all turned to ask the Swede to play with the little Easterner.The Swede asked some questions about the game.Learning that it wore many names,and that he had played it under another name,he accepted the invitation.He came toward the men nervously,as though he expected to be attacked.Finally,seated,he looked from face to face and laughed sharply.This laugh was so strange that the Easterner looked up quickly,the cowboy sat with his mouth open,and Johnnie paused,holding the cards with still fingers.Afterward there was a short silence.Then Johnnie said,"Well,let's begin.Come on now!"They pulled their chairs forward until their knees touched under the table.They began to play,and their interest in the game caused the others to forget the str