The Virginian, A Horseman Of The Plainsr
Part 4 out of 8
"I'm not," said I.
"No. But I'd 'most caught a-hold." And Scipio muttered to himself
again, "He wasn't sorry enough." Presently he swore loud and
brilliantly. "Tell yu'!" he cried. "What did he say to Trampas
after that play they exchanged over railroad improvements and
Trampas put the josh on him? Didn't he say, 'Trampas, I thought
you'd be afraid to do it?' Well, sir, Trampas had better have
been afraid. And that's what he meant. There's where he was
bringin' it to. Trampas made an awful bad play then. You wait.
Glory, but he's a knowin' man! Course he wasn't sorry. I guess he
had the hardest kind of work to look as sorry as he did. You
"Wait? What for? Go on, man! What for?"
"I don't know! I don't know! Whatever hand he's been holdin' up,
this is the show-down. He's played for a show-down here before
the caboose gets off the bridge. Come back to the fire, or
Shorty'll be leavin' it go out. Grow happy some, Shorty!" he
cried on arriving, and his hand cracked on Shorty's shoulder.
"Supper's in sight, Shorty. Food for reflection."
"None for the stomach?" asked the passenger who had spoken once
"We're figuring on that too," said Scipio. His crossness had
melted entirely away.
"Why, they're cow-boys!" exclaimed another passenger; and he
>From the station Trampas now came back, his herd following him
less compactly. They had found famine, and no hope of supplies
until the next train from the East. This was no fault of
Trampas's; but they were following him less compactly. They
carried one piece of cheese, the size of a fist, the weight of a
brick, the hue of a corpse. And the passengers, seeing it,
exclaimed, "There's Old Faithful again!" and took off their hats.
"You gentlemen met that cheese before, then?" said Scipio,
"It's been offered me three times a day for four days," said the
passenger. "Did he want a dollar or a dollar and a half?"
"Two dollars!" blurted out the enthusiast. And all of us save
Trampas fell into fits of imbecile laughter.
"Here comes our grub, anyway," said Scipio, looking off toward
the marshes. And his hilarity sobered away in a moment.
"Well, the train will be in soon," stated Trampas. "I guess we'll
get a decent supper without frogs."
All interest settled now upon the Virginian. He was coming with
his man and his gunny sack, and the gunny sack hung from his
shoulder heavily, as a full sack should. He took no notice of the
gathering, but sat down and partly emptied the sack. "There,"
said he, very businesslike, to his assistant, "that's all we'll
want. I think you'll find a ready market for the balance."
"Well, my gracious!" said the enthusiast. "What fool eats a
"Oh, I'm fool enough for a tadpole!" cried the passenger. And
they began to take out their pocket-books.
"You can cook yours right hyeh, gentlemen," said the Virginian,
with his slow Southern courtesy. "The dining-cyars don't look
like they were fired up."
"How much will you sell a couple for?" inquired the enthusiast.
The Virginian looked at him with friendly surprise. "Why, help
yourself! We're all together yet awhile. Help yourselves," he
repeated, to Trampas and his followers. These hung back a moment,
then, with a slinking motion, set the cheese upon the earth and
came forward nearer the fire to receive some supper.
"It won't scarcely be Delmonico style," said the Virginian to the
passengers, "nor yet Saynt Augustine." He meant the great
Augustin, the traditional chef of Philadelphia, whose history I
had sketched for him at Colonel Cyrus Jones's eating palace.
Scipio now officiated. His frying-pan was busy, and prosperous
odors rose from it.
"Run for a bucket of fresh water, Shorty," the Virginian
continued, beginning his meal. "Colonel, yu' cook pretty near
good. If yu' had sold 'em as advertised, yu'd have cert'nly made
Several were now eating with satisfaction, but not Scipio. It was
all that he could do to cook straight. The whole man seemed to
glisten. His eye was shut to a slit once more, while the innocent
passengers thankfully swallowed.
"Now, you see, you have made some money," began the Virginian to
the native who had helped him get the frogs.
"Bet your life!" exclaimed the man. "Divvy, won't you?" And he
held out half his gains.
"Keep 'em," returned the Southerner. "I reckon we're square. But
I expaict they'll not equal Delmonico's, seh?" he said to a
"Don't trust the judgment of a man as hungry as I am!" exclaimed
the traveller, with a laugh. And he turned to his
fellow-travellers. "Did you ever enjoy supper at Delmonico's more
"Never!" they sighed.
"Why, look here," said the traveller, "what fools the people of
this town are! Here we've been all these starving days, and you
come and get ahead of them!"
"That's right easy explained," said the Virginian. "I've been
where there was big money in frawgs, and they 'ain't been.
They're all cattle hyeh. Talk cattle, think cattle, and they're
bankrupt in consequence. Fallen through. Ain't that so?" he
inquired of the native.
"That's about the way," said the man.
"It's mighty hard to do what your neighbors ain't doin'," pursued
the Virginian. "Montana is all cattle, an' these folks must be
cattle, an' never notice the country right hyeh is too small for
a range, an' swampy, anyway, an' just waitin' to be a frawg
At this, all wore a face of careful reserve.
"I'm not claimin' to be smarter than you folks hyeh," said the
Virginian, deprecatingly, to his assistant. "But travellin'
learns a man many customs. You wouldn't do the business they done
at Tulare, California, north side o' the lake. They cert'nly
utilized them hopeless swamps splendid. Of course they put up big
capital and went into it scientific, gettin' advice from the
government Fish Commission, an' such like knowledge. Yu' see,
they had big markets for their frawgs,--San Francisco, Los
Angeles, and clear to New York afteh the Southern Pacific was
through. But up hyeh yu' could sell to passengers every day like
yu' done this one day. They would get to know yu' along the line.
Competing swamps are scarce. The dining-cyars would take your
frawgs, and yu' would have the Yellowstone Park for four months
in the year. Them hotels are anxious to please, an' they would
buy off yu' what their Eastern patrons esteem as fine-eatin'. And
you folks would be sellin' something instead o' nothin'."
"That's a practical idea," said a traveller. "And little cost."
"And little cost," said the Virginian.
"Would Eastern people eat frogs?" inquired the man.
"Look at us!" said the traveller.
"Delmonico doesn't give yu' such a treat!" said the Virginian.
"Not exactly!" the traveller exclaimed.
"How much would be paid for frogs?" said Trampas to him. And I
saw Scipio bend closer to his cooking.
"Oh, I don't know," said the traveller. "We've paid pretty well,
"You're late for Tulare, Trampas," said the Virginian.
"I was not thinking of Tulare," Trampas retorted. Scipio's nose
was in the frying-pan.
"Mos' comical spot you ever struck!" said the Virginian, looking
round upon the whole company. He allowed himself a broad smile of
retrospect. "To hear 'em talk frawgs at Tulare! Same as other
folks talks hawsses or steers or whatever they're raising to
sell. Yu'd fall into it yourselves if yu' started the business.
Anything a man's bread and butter depends on, he's going to be
earnest about. Don't care if it is a frawg."
"That's so," said the native. "And it paid good?"
"The only money in the county was right there," answered the
Virginian. "It was a dead county, and only frawgs was movin'. But
that business was a-fannin' to beat four of a kind. It made yu'
feel strange at first, as I said. For all the men had been
cattle-men at one time or another. Till yu' got accustomed, it
would give 'most anybody a shock to hear 'em speak about herdin'
the bulls in a pasture by themselves." The Virginian allowed
himself another smile, but became serious again. "That was their
policy," he explained. "Except at certain times o' year they kept
the bulls separate. The Fish Commission told 'em they'd better,
and it cert'nly worked mighty well. It or something did--for,
gentlemen, hush! but there was millions. You'd have said all the
frawgs in the world had taken charge at Tulare. And the money
rolled in! Gentlemen, hush! 'twas a gold mine for the owners.
Forty per cent they netted some years. And they paid generous
wages. For they could sell to all them French restaurants in San
Francisco, yu' see. And there was the Cliff House. And the Palace
Hotel made it a specialty. And the officers took frawgs at the
Presidio, an' Angel Island, an' Alcatraz, an' Benicia. Los
Angeles was beginnin' its boom. The corner-lot sharps wanted
something by way of varnish. An' so they dazzled Eastern
investors with advertisin' Tulare frawgs clear to New Orleans an'
New York. 'Twas only in Sacramento frawgs was dull. I expaict the
California legislature was too or'n'ry for them fine-raised
luxuries. They tell of one of them senators that he raked a
million out of Los Angeles real estate, and started in for a
bang-up meal with champagne. Wanted to scatter his new gold thick
an' quick. But he got astray among all the fancy dishes, an' just
yelled right out before the ladies, 'Damn it! bring me forty
dollars' worth of ham and aiggs.' He was a funny senator, now."
The Virginian paused, and finished eating a leg. And then with
diabolic art he made a feint at wandering to new fields of
anecdote. "Talkin' of senators," he resumed, "Senator Wise--"
"How much did you say wages were at Tulare?" inquired one of the
"How much? Why, I never knew what the foreman got. The regular
hands got a hundred. Senator Wise--"
"A hundred a MONTH?"
"Why, it was wet an' muddy work, yu' see. A man risked rheumatism
some. He risked it a good deal. Well, I was going to tell about
Senator Wise. When Senator Wise was speaking of his visit to
"Forty per cent, was it?" said Trampas.
"Oh, I must call my wife'" said the traveller behind me. "This is
what I came West for." And he hurried away.
"Not forty per cent the bad years," replied the Virginian. "The
frawgs had enemies, same as cattle. I remember when a pelican got
in the spring pasture, and the herd broke through the fence--"
"Fence?" said a passenger.
"Ditch, seh, and wire net. Every pasture was a square swamp with
a ditch around, and a wire net. Yu've heard the mournful,
mixed-up sound a big bunch of cattle will make? Well, seh, as yu'
druv from the railroad to the Tulare frawg ranch yu' could hear
'em a mile. Springtime they'd sing like girls in the organ loft,
and by August they were about ready to hire out for bass. And all
was fit to be soloists, if I'm a judge. But in a bad year it
might only be twenty per cent. The pelican rushed 'em from the
pasture right into the San Joaquin River, which was close by the
property. The big balance of the herd stampeded, and though of
course they came out on the banks again, the news had went
around, and folks below at Hemlen eat most of 'em just to spite
the company. Yu' see, a frawg in a river is more hopeless than
any maverick loose on the range. And they never struck any plan
to brand their stock and prove ownership."
"Well, twenty per cent is good enough for me," said Trampas, "if
Rawhide don't suit me."
"A hundred a month!" said the enthusiast. And busy calculations
began to arise among them.
"It went to fifty per cent," pursued the Virginian, "when New
York and Philadelphia got to biddin' agaynst each other. Both
cities had signs all over 'em claiming to furnish the Tulare
frawg. And both had 'em all right. And same as cattle trains,
yu'd see frawg trains tearing acrosst Arizona--big glass tanks
with wire over 'em--through to New York, an' the frawgs starin'
"Why, George," whispered a woman's voice behind me, "he's merely
deceiving them! He's merely making that stuff up out of his
"Yes, my dear, that's merely what he's doing."
"Well, I don't see why you imagined I should care for this. I
think I'll go back."
"Better see it out, Daisy. This beats the geysers or anything
we're likely to find in the Yellowstone."
"Then I wish we had gone to Bar Harbor as usual," said the lady,
and she returned to her Pullman.
But her husband stayed. Indeed, the male crowd now was a goodly
sight to see, how the men edged close, drawn by a common tie.
Their different kinds of feet told the strength of the
bond--yellow sleeping-car slippers planted miscellaneous and
motionless near a pair of Mexican spurs. All eyes watched the
Virginian and gave him their entire sympathy. Though they could
not know his motive for it, what he was doing had fallen as light
upon them--all except the excited calculators. These were loudly
making their fortunes at both Rawhide and Tulare, drugged by
their satanically aroused hopes of gold, heedless of the slippers
and the spurs. Had a man given any sign to warn them, I think he
would have been lynched. Even the Indian chiefs had come to see
in their show war bonnets and blankets. They naturally understood
nothing of it, yet magnetically knew that the Virginian was the
great man. And they watched him with approval. He sat by the fire
with the frying-pan, looking his daily self--engaging and
saturnine. And now as Trampas declared tickets to California
would be dear and Rawhide had better come first, the Southerner
let loose his heaven-born imagination.
"There's a better reason for Rawhide than tickets, Trampas," said
he. "I said it was too late for Tulare."
"I heard you," said Trampas. "Opinions may differ. You and I
don't think alike on several points."
"Gawd, Trampas!" said the Virginian, "d' yu' reckon I'd be
rotting hyeh on forty dollars if Tulare was like it used to be?
Tulare is broke."
"What broke it? Your leaving?"
"Revenge broke it, and disease," said the Virginian, striking the
frying-pan on his knee, for the frogs were all gone. At those
lurid words their untamed child minds took fire, and they drew
round him again to hear a tale of blood. The crowd seemed to lean
But for a short moment it threatened to be spoiled. A passenger
came along, demanding in an important voice, "Where are these
frogs?" He was a prominent New York after-dinner speaker, they
whispered me, and out for a holiday in his private car. Reaching
us and walking to the Virginian, he said cheerily, "How much do
you want for your frogs, my friend?"
"You got a friend hyeh?" said the Virginian. "That's good, for
yu' need care taken of yu'." And the prominent after-dinner
speaker did not further discommode us.
"That's worth my trip," whispered a New York passenger to me.
"Yes, it was a case of revenge," resumed the Virginian, "and
disease. There was a man named Saynt Augustine got run out of
Domingo, which is a Dago island. He come to Philadelphia, an' he
was dead broke. But Saynt Augustine was a live man, an' he saw
Philadelphia was full o' Quakers that dressed plain an' eat
humdrum. So he started cookin' Domingo way for 'em, an' they
caught right ahold. Terrapin, he gave 'em, an' croakeets, an'
he'd use forty chickens to make a broth he called consommay. An'
he got rich, and Philadelphia got well known, an' Delmonico in
New York he got jealous. He was the cook that had the say-so in
"Was Delmonico one of them I-talians?" inquired a fascinated
"I don't know. But he acted like one. Lorenzo was his front name.
He aimed to cut--"
"Domingo's throat?" breathed the enthusiast.
"Aimed to cut away
the trade from Saynt Augustine an' put Philadelphia back where he
thought she belonged. Frawgs was the fashionable rage then. These
foreign cooks set the fashion in eatin', same as foreign
dressmakers do women's clothes. Both cities was catchin' and
swallowin' all the frawgs Tulare could throw at 'em. So he--"
"Lorenzo?" said the enthusiast.
"Yes, Lorenzo Delmonico. He bid a dollar a tank higher. An' Saynt
Augustine raised him fifty cents. An' Lorenzo raised him a dollar
An' Saynt Augustine shoved her up three. Lorenzo he didn't expect
Philadelphia would go that high, and he got hot in the collar,
an' flew round his kitchen in New York, an' claimed he'd twist
Saynt Augustine's Domingo tail for him and crack his ossified
system. Lorenzo raised his language to a high temperature, they
say. An' then quite sudden off he starts for Tulare. He buys
tickets over the Santa Fe, and he goes a-fannin' and a-foggin'.
But, gentlemen, hush! The very same day Saynt Augustine he tears
out of Philadelphia. He travelled by the way o' Washington, an'
out he comes a-fannin' an' a-foggin' over the Southern Pacific.
Of course Tulare didn't know nothin' of this. All it knowed was
how the frawg market was on soarin' wings, and it was feelin'
like a flight o' rawckets. If only there'd been some
preparation,--a telegram or something,--the disaster would never
have occurred. But Lorenzo and Saynt Augustine was that absorbed
watchin' each other--for, yu' see, the Santa Fe and the Southern
Pacific come together at Mojave, an' the two cooks travelled a
matter of two hundred an' ten miles in the same cyar--they never
thought about a telegram. And when they arruv, breathless, an'
started in to screechin' what they'd give for the monopoly, why,
them unsuspectin' Tulare boys got amused at 'em. I never heard
just all they done, but they had Lorenzo singin' and dancin',
while Saynt Augustine played the fiddle for him. And one of
Lorenzo's heels did get a trifle grazed. Well, them two cooks
quit that ranch without disclosin' their identity, and soon as
they got to a safe distance they swore eternal friendship, in
their excitable foreign way. And they went home over the Union
Pacific, sharing the same stateroom. Their revenge killed frawgs.
"How killed frogs?" demanded Trampas.
"Just killed 'em. Delmonico and Saynt Augustine wiped frawgs off
the slate of fashion. Not a banker in Fifth Avenue'll touch one
now if another banker's around watchin' him. And if ever yu' see
a man that hides his feet an' won't take off his socks in
company, he has worked in them Tulare swamps an' got the disease.
Catch him wadin', and yu'll find he's web-footed. Frawgs are
dead, Trampas, and so are you."
"Rise up, liars, and salute your king!" yelled Scipio. "Oh, I'm
in love with you!" And he threw his arms round the Virginian.
"Let me shake hands with you," said the traveller, who had failed
to interest his wife in these things. "I wish I was going to have
more of your company."
"Thank ye', seh," said the Virginian.
Other passengers greeted him, and the Indian chiefs came, saying,
"How!" because they followed their feelings without
"Don't show so humbled, boys," said the deputy foreman to his
most sheepish crew. "These gentlemen from the East have been
enjoying yu' some, I know. But think what a weary wait they have
had hyeh. And you insisted on playing the game with me this way,
yu' see. What outlet did yu' give me? Didn't I have it to do? And
I'll tell yu' one thing for your consolation: when I got to the
middle of the frawgs I 'most believed it myself." And he laughed
out the first laugh I had heard him give.
The enthusiast came up and shook hands. That led off, and the
rest followed, with Trampas at the end. The tide was too strong
for him. He was not a graceful loser; but he got through this,
and the Virginian eased him down by treating him precisely like
the others--apparently. Possibly the supreme--the most
American--moment of all was when word came that the bridge was
open, and the Pullman trains, with noise and triumph, began to
move westward at last. Every one waved farewell to every one,
craning from steps and windows, so that the cars twinkled with
hilarity; and in twenty minutes the whole procession in front had
moved, and our turn came.
"Last chance for Rawhide," said the Virginian.
"Last chance for Sunk Creek," said a reconstructed mutineer, and
all sprang aboard. There was no question who had won his spurs
Our caboose trundled on to Billings along the shingly
cotton-wooded Yellowstone; and as the plains and bluffs and the
distant snow began to grow well known, even to me, we turned to
our baggage that was to come off, since camp would begin in the
morning. Thus I saw the Virginian carefully rewrapping
Kenilworth, that he might bring it to its owner unharmed; and I
said, "Don't you think you could have played poker with Queen
"No; I expaict she'd have beat me," he replied. "She was a lady."
It was at Billings, on this day, that I made those reflections
about equality. For the Virginian had been equal to the occasion:
that is the only kind of equality which I recognize.
XVII. SCIPIO MORALIZES
Into what mood was it that the Virginian now fell? Being less
busy, did he begin to "grieve" about the girl on Bear Creek? I
only know that after talking so lengthily he fell into a nine
days' silence. The talking part of him deeply and unbrokenly
Official words of course came from him as we rode southward from
the railroad, gathering the Judge's stray cattle. During the many
weeks since the spring round-up, some of these animals had as
usual got very far off their range, and getting them on again
became the present business of our party.
Directions and commands--whatever communications to his
subordinates were needful to the forwarding of this--he duly
gave. But routine has never at any time of the world passed for
conversation. His utterances, such as, "We'll work Willo' Creek
to-morro' mawnin'," or, "I want the wagon to be at the fawks o'
Stinkin' Water by Thursday," though on some occasions numerous
enough to sound like discourse, never once broke the man's true
silence. Seeming to keep easy company with the camp, he yet kept
altogether to himself. That talking part of him--the mood which
brings out for you your friend's spirit and mind as a free gift
or as an exchange--was down in some dark cave of his nature,
hidden away. Perhaps it had been dreaming; perhaps completely
reposing. The Virginian was one of those rare ones who are able
to refresh themselves in sections. To have a thing on his mind
did not keep his body from resting. During our recent journey--it
felt years ago now!--while our caboose on the freight train had
trundled endlessly westward, and the men were on the ragged edge,
the very jumping-off place, of mutiny and possible murder, I had
seen him sleep like a child. He snatched the moments not
necessary for vigil. I had also seen him sit all night watching
his responsibility, ready to spring on it and fasten his teeth in
it. And now that he had confounded them with their own attempted
weapon of ridicule, his powers seemed to be profoundly dormant.
That final pitched battle of wits had made the men his captives
and admirers--all save Trampas. And of him the Virginian did not
seem to be aware.
But Scipio le Moyne would say to me now and then, "If I was
Trampas, I'd pull my freight." And once he added, "Pull it kind
of casual, yu' know, like I wasn't noticing myself do it."
"Yes," our friend Shorty murmured pregnantly, with his eye upon
the quiet Virginian, "he's sure studying his revenge."
"Studying your pussy-cat," said Scipio. "He knows what he'll do.
The time 'ain't arrived." This was the way they felt about it;
and not unnaturally this was the way they made me, the
inexperienced Easterner, feel about it. That Trampas also felt
something about it was easy to know. Like the leaven which
leavens the whole lump, one spot of sulkiness in camp will spread
its dull flavor through any company that sits near it; and we had
to sit near Trampas at meals for nine days.
His sullenness was not wonderful. To feel himself forsaken by his
recent adherents, to see them gone over to his enemy, could not
have made his reflections pleasant. Why he did not take himself
off to other climes--"pull his freight casual," as Scipio said--I
can explain only thus: pay was due him--"time," as it was called
in cow-land; if he would have this money, he must stay under the
Virginian's command until the Judge's ranch on Sunk Creek should
be reached; meanwhile, each day's work added to the wages in
store for him; and finally, once at Sunk Creek, it would be no
more the Virginian who commanded him; it would be the real ranch
foreman. At the ranch he would be the Virginian's equal again,
both of them taking orders from their officially recognized
superior, this foreman. Shorty's word about "revenge" seemed to
me like putting the thing backwards. Revenge, as I told Scipio,
was what I should be thinking about if I were Trampas.
"He dassent," was Scipio's immediate view. "Not till he's got
strong again. He got laughed plumb sick by the bystanders, and
whatever spirit he had was broke in the presence of us all. He'll
have to recuperate." Scipio then spoke of the Virginian's
attitude. "Maybe revenge ain't just the right word for where this
affair has got to now with him. When yu' beat another man at his
own game like he done to Trampas, why, yu've had all the revenge
yu' can want, unless you're a hog. And he's no hog. But he has
got it in for Trampas. They've not reckoned to a finish. Would
you let a man try such spitework on you and quit thinkin' about
him just because yu'd headed him off?" To this I offered his own
notion about hogs and being satisfied. "Hogs!" went on Scipio, in
a way that dashed my suggestion to pieces; "hogs ain't in the
case. He's got to deal with Trampas somehow--man to man. Trampas
and him can't stay this way when they get back and go workin'
same as they worked before. No, sir; I've seen his eye twice, and
I know he's goin' to reckon to a finish."
I still must, in Scipio's opinion, have been slow to understand,
when on the afternoon following this talk I invited him to tell
me what sort of "finish" he wanted, after such a finishing as had
been dealt Trampas already. Getting "laughed plumb sick by the
bystanders" (I borrowed his own not overstated expression) seemed
to me a highly final finishing. While I was running my notions
off to him, Scipio rose, and, with the frying-pan he had been
washing, walked slowly at me.
"I do believe you'd oughtn't to be let travel alone the way you
do." He put his face close to mine. His long nose grew eloquent
in its shrewdness, while the fire in his bleached blue eye burned
with amiable satire. "What has come and gone between them two has
only settled the one point he was aimin' to make. He was
appointed boss of this outfit in the absence of the regular
foreman. Since then all he has been playin' for is to hand back
his men to the ranch in as good shape as they'd been handed to
him, and without losing any on the road through desertion or
shooting or what not. He had to kick his cook off the train that
day, and the loss made him sorrowful, I could see. But I'd
happened to come along, and he jumped me into the vacancy, and I
expect he is pretty near consoled. And as boss of the outfit he
beat Trampas, who was settin' up for opposition boss. And the
outfit is better than satisfied it come out that way, and they're
stayin' with him; and he'll hand them all back in good condition,
barrin' that lost cook. So for the present his point is made, yu'
see. But look ahead a little. It may not be so very far ahead
yu'll have to look. We get back to the ranch. He's not boss there
any more. His responsibility is over. He is just one of us again,
taking orders from a foreman they tell me has showed partiality
to Trampas more'n a few times. Partiality! That's what Trampas is
plainly trusting to. Trusting it will fix him all right and fix
his enemy all wrong. He'd not otherwise dare to keep sour like
he's doing. Partiality! D' yu' think it'll scare off the enemy?"
Scipio looked across a little creek to where the Virginian was
helping throw the gathered cattle on the bedground. "What odds" --he pointed the frying-pan at the
Southerner-- "d' yu' figure
Trampas's being under any foreman's wing will make to a man like
him? He's going to remember Mr. Trampas and his spite-work if
he's got to tear him out from under the wing, and maybe tear off
the wing in the operation. And I am goin' to advise your folks,"
ended the complete Scipio, "not to leave you travel so much
alone--not till you've learned more life."
He had made me feel my inexperience, convinced me of innocence,
undoubtedly; and during the final days of our journey I no longer
invoked his aid to my reflections upon this especial topic: What
would the Virginian do to Trampas? Would it be another
intellectual crushing of him, like the frog story, or would there
be something this time more material--say muscle, or possibly
gunpowder--in it? And was Scipio, after all, infallible? I didn't
pretend to understand the Virginian; after several years'
knowledge of him he remained utterly beyond me. Scipio's
experience was not yet three weeks long. So I let him alone as to
all this, discussing with him most other things good and evil in
the world, and being convinced of much further innocence; for
Scipio's twenty odd years were indeed a library of life. I have
never met a better heart, a shrewder wit, and looser morals, with
yet a native sense of decency and duty somewhere hard and fast
But all the while I was wondering about the Virginian: eating
with him, sleeping with him (only not so sound as he did), and
riding beside him often for many hours.
Experiments in conversation I did make--and failed. One day
particularly while, after a sudden storm of hail had chilled the
earth numb and white like winter in fifteen minutes, we sat
drying and warming ourselves by a fire that we built, I touched
upon that theme of equality on which I knew him to hold opinions
as strong as mine. "Oh," he would reply, and "Cert'nly"; and when
I asked him what it was in a man that made him a leader of men,
he shook his head and puffed his pipe. So then, noticing how the
sun had brought the earth in half an hour back from winter to
summer again, I spoke of our American climate.
It was a potent drug, I said, for millions to be swallowing every
"Yes," said he, wiping the damp from his Winchester rifle.
Our American climate, I said, had worked remarkable changes, at
"Yes," he said; and did not ask what they were.
So I had to tell him. "It has made successful politicians of the
Irish. That's one. And it has given our whole race the habit of
Bang went his Winchester. The bullet struck close to my left. I
sat up angrily.
"That's the first foolish thing I ever saw you do!" I said.
"Yes," he drawled slowly, "I'd ought to have done it sooner. He
was pretty near lively again." And then he picked up a
rattlesnake six feet behind me. It had been numbed by the hail,
part revived by the sun, and he had shot its head off.
XVIII. "WOULD YOU BE A PARSON?"
After this I gave up my experiments in conversation. So that by
the final afternoon of our journey, with Sunk Creek actually in
sight, and the great grasshoppers slatting their dry song over
the sage-brush, and the time at hand when the Virginian and
Trampas would be "man to man," my thoughts rose to a considerable
pitch of speculation.
And now that talking part of the Virginian, which had been nine
days asleep, gave its first yawn and stretch of waking. Without
preface, he suddenly asked me, "Would you be a parson?"
I was mentally so far away that I couldn't get back in time to
comprehend or answer before he had repeated: "What would yu' take
to be a parson?"
He drawled it out in his gentle way, precisely as if no nine days
stood between it and our last real intercourse.
"Take?" I was still vaguely moving in my distance. "How?"
His next question brought me home.
"I expect the Pope's is the biggest of them parson jobs?"
It was with an "Oh!" that I now entirely took his idea. "Well,
yes; decidedly the biggest."
"Beats the English one? Archbishop--ain't it?--of Canterbury? The
Pope comes ahead of him?"
"His Holiness would say so if his Grace did not."
The Virginian turned half in his saddle to see my face--I was, at
the moment, riding not quite abreast of him--and I saw the gleam
of his teeth beneath his mustache. It was seldom I could make him
smile, even to this slight extent. But his eyes grew, with his
next words, remote again in their speculation.
"His Holiness and his Grace. Now if I was to hear 'em namin' me
that-a-way every mawnin', I'd sca'cely get down to business."
"Oh, you'd get used to the pride of it."
"'Tisn't the pride. The laugh is what would ruin me. 'Twould take
'most all my attention keeping a straight face. The
Archbishop"--here he took one of his wide mental turns--"is apt
to be a big man in them Shakespeare plays. Kings take talk from
him they'd not stand from anybody else; and he talks fine,
frequently. About the bees, for instance, when Henry is going to
fight France. He tells him a beehive is similar to a kingdom. I
learned that piece." The Virginian could not have expected to
blush at uttering these last words. He knew that his sudden color
must tell me in whose book it was he had learned the piece. Was
not her copy of Kenilworth even now In his cherishing pocket? So
he now, to cover his blush, very deliberately recited to me the
Archbishop's discourse upon bees and their kingdom:
"'Where some, like magistrates, correct at home...
Others, like soldiers, armed in their stings,
Make loot upon the summer's velvet buds;
Which pillage they with merry march bring home
To the tent-royal of their emperor:
He, busied in his majesty, surveys
The singing masons building roofs of gold.'
"Ain't that a fine description of bees a-workin'? 'The singing
masons building roofs of gold!' Puts 'em right before yu', and is
poetry without bein' foolish. His Holiness and his Grace. Well,
they could not hire me for either o' those positions. How many
religions are there?"
"All over the earth?"
"Yu' can begin with ourselves. Right hyeh at home I know there's
Romanists, and Episcopals--"
"Two kinds!" I put in. "At least two of Episcopals."
"That's three. Then Methodists and Baptists, and--"
"Well, you do the countin'."
I accordingly did it, feeling my revolving memory slip cogs all
the way round. "Anyhow, there are safely fifteen."
"Fifteen." He held this fact a moment. "And they don't worship a
whole heap o' different gods like the ancients did?"
"It's just the same one?"
"The same one."
The Virginian folded his hands over the horn of his saddle, and
leaned forward upon them in contemplation of the wide, beautiful
"One God and fifteen religions," was his reflection. "That's a
right smart of religions for just one God."
This way of reducing it was, if obvious to him, so novel to me
that my laugh evidently struck him as a louder and livelier
comment than was required. He turned on me as if I had somehow
perverted the spirit of his words.
"I ain't religious. I know that. But I ain't unreligious. And I
know that too."
"So do I know it, my friend."
"Do you think there ought to be fifteen varieties of good
people?" His voice, while it now had an edge that could cut
anything it came against, was still not raised. "There ain't
fifteen. There ain't two. There's one kind. And when I meet it, I
respect it. It is not praying nor preaching that has ever caught
me and made me ashamed of myself, but one or two people I have
knowed that never said a superior word to me. They thought more o'
me than I deserved, and that made me behave better than I
naturally wanted to. Made me quit a girl onced in time for her
not to lose her good name. And so that's one thing I have never
done. And if ever I was to have a son or somebody I set store by,
I would wish their lot to be to know one or two good folks mighty
well--men or women--women preferred."
He had looked away again to the hills behind Sunk Creek ranch, to
which our walking horses had now almost brought us.
"As for parsons "--the gesture of his arm was a disclaiming
one--"I reckon some parsons have a right to tell yu' to be good.
The bishop of this hyeh Territory has a right. But I'll tell yu'
this: a middlin' doctor is a pore thing, and a middlin' lawyer is
a pore thing; but keep me from a middlin' man of God."
Once again he had reduced it, but I did not laugh this time. I
thought there should in truth be heavy damages for malpractice on
human souls. But the hot glow of his words, and the vision of his
deepest inner man it revealed, faded away abruptly.
"What do yu' make of the proposition yondeh?" As he pointed to
the cause of this question he had become again his daily,
engaging, saturnine self.
Then I saw over in a fenced meadow, to which we were now close,
what he was pleased to call "the proposition." Proposition in the
West does, in fact, mean whatever you at the moment please,--an
offer to sell you a mine, a cloud-burst, a glass of whiskey, a
steamboat. This time it meant a stranger clad in black, and of a
clerical deportment which would in that atmosphere and to a
watchful eye be visible for a mile or two.
"I reckoned yu' hadn't noticed him," was the Virginian's reply to
my ejaculation. "Yes. He set me goin' on the subject a while
back. I expect he is another missionary to us pore cow-boys."
I seemed from a hundred yards to feel the stranger's forceful
personality. It was in his walk--I should better say stalk--as he
promenaded along the creek. His hands were behind his back, and
there was an air of waiting, of displeased waiting, in his
"Yes, he'll be a missionary," said the Virginian, conclusively;
and he took to singing, or rather to whining, with his head
tilted at an absurd angle upward at the sky:
"'Dar is a big Car'lina nigger,
About de size of dis chile or p'raps a little bigger,
By de name of Jim Crow.
Dat what de white folks call him.
If ever I sees him I 'tends for to maul him,
Just to let de white folks see
Such an animos as he
Can't walk around the streets and scandalize me.'"
The lane which was conducting us to the group of ranch buildings
now turned a corner of the meadow, and the Virginian went on with
his second verse:
"'Great big fool, he hasn't any knowledge.
Gosh! how could he, when he's never been to scollege?
Neither has I.
But I'se come mighty nigh;
I peaked through de door as I went by.'"
He was beginning a third stanza, but stopped short; a horse had
neighed close behind us.
"Trampas," said he, without turning his head, "we are home."
"It looks that way." Some ten yards were between ourselves and
Trampas, where he followed.
"And I'll trouble yu' for my rope yu' took this mawnin' instead
o' your own."
"I don't know as it's your rope I've got." Trampas skilfully
spoke this so that a precisely opposite meaning flowed from his
If it was discussion he tried for, he failed. The Virginian's
hand moved, and for one thick, flashing moment my thoughts were
evidently also the thoughts of Trampas. But the Virginian only
held out to Trampas the rope which he had detached from his
"Take your hand off your gun, Trampas. If I had wanted to kill
yu' you'd be lying nine days back on the road now. Here's your
rope. Did yu' expect I'd not know it? It's the only one in camp
the stiffness ain't all drug out of yet. Or maybe yu' expected me
to notice and--not take notice?"
"I don't spend my time in expectations about you. If--"
The Virginian wheeled his horse across the road. "Yu're talkin'
too soon after reachin' safety, Trampas. I didn't tell yu' to
hand me that rope this mawnin', because I was busy. I ain't
foreman now; and I want that rope."
Trampas produced a smile as skilful as his voice. "Well, I guess
your having mine proves this one is yours." He rode up and
received the coil which the Virginian held out, unloosing the
disputed one on his saddle. If he had meant to devise a slippery,
evasive insult, no small trick in cow-land could be more
offensive than this taking another man's rope. And it is the
small tricks which lead to the big bullets. Trampas put a smooth
coating of plausibility over the whole transaction. "After the
rope corral we had to make this morning"--his tone was mock
explanatory--"the ropes was all strewed round camp, and in the
"Pardon me," said a sonorous voice behind us, "do you happen to
have seen Judge Henry?" It was the reverend gentleman in his
meadow, come to the fence. As we turned round to him he spoke on,
with much rotund authority in his eye. "From his answer to my
letter, Judge Henry undoubtedly expects me here. I have arrived
from Fetterman according to my plan which I announced to him, to
find that he has been absent all day--absent the whole day."
The Virginian sat sidewise to talk, one long, straight leg
supporting him on one stirrup, the other bent at ease, the boot
half lifted from its dangling stirrup. He made himself the
perfection of courtesy. "The Judge is frequently absent all
"Scarcely to-night, I think. I thought you might know something
"I have been absent myself, seh."
"Ah! On a vacation, perhaps?" The divine had a ruddy facet. His
strong glance was straight and frank and fearless; but his smile
too much reminded me of days bygone, when we used to return to
school from the Christmas holidays, and the masters would shake
our hands and welcome us with: "Robert, John, Edward, glad to see
you all looking so well! Rested, and ready for hard work, I'm
That smile does not really please even good, tame little boys;
and the Virginian was nearing thirty.
"It has not been vacation this trip, seh," said he, settling
straight in his saddle. "There's the Judge driving in now, in
time for all questions yu' have to ask him."
His horse took a step, but was stopped short. There lay the
Virginian's rope on the ground. I had been aware of Trampas's
quite proper departure during the talk; and as he was leaving, I
seemed also to be aware of his placing the coil across the cantle
of its owner's saddle. Had he intended it to fall and have to be
picked up? It was another evasive little business, and quite
successful, if designed to nag the owner of the rope. A few
hundred yards ahead of us Trampas was now shouting loud cow-boy
shouts. Were they to announce his return to those at home, or did
they mean derision? The Virginian leaned, keeping his seat, and,
swinging down his arm, caught up the rope, and hung it on his
saddle somewhat carefully. But the hue of rage spread over his
>From his fence the divine now spoke, in approbation, but with
another strong, cheerless smile. "You pick up that rope as if you
were well trained to it."
"It's part of our business, seh, and we try to mind it like the
rest." But this, stated in a gentle drawl, did not pierce the
missionary's armor; his superiority was very thick.
We now rode on, and I was impressed by the reverend gentleman's
robust, dictatorial back as he proceeded by a short cut through
the meadow to the ranch. You could take him for nothing but a
vigorous, sincere, dominating man, full of the highest purpose.
But whatever his creed, I already doubted if he were the right
one to sow it and make it grow in these new, wild fields. He
seemed more the sort of gardener to keep old walks and vines
pruned in their antique rigidity. I admired him for coming all
this way with his clean, short, gray whiskers and his black,
well-brushed suit. And he made me think of a powerful locomotive
stuck puffing on a grade.
Meanwhile, the Virginian rode beside me, so silent in his
volcanic wrath that I did not perceive it. The missionary coming
on top of Trampas had been more than he could stand. But I did
not know, and I spoke with innocent cheeriness.
"Is the parson going to save us?" I asked; and I fairly jumped at
his voice:"Don't talk so much!" he burst out. I had got the whole
"Who's been talking?" I in equal anger screeched back. "I'm not
trying to save you. I didn't take your rope." And having poured
this out, I whipped up my pony.
But he spurred his own alongside of me; and glancing at him, I
saw that he was now convulsed with internal mirth. I therefore
drew down to a walk, and he straightened into gravity.
"I'm right obliged to yu'," he laid his hand in its buckskin
gauntlet upon my horse's mane as he spoke, "for bringing me back
out o' my nonsense. I'll be as serene as a bird now--whatever
they do. A man," he stated reflectively, "any full-sized man,
ought to own a big lot of temper. And like all his valuable
possessions, he'd ought to keep it and not lose any." This was
his full apology. "As for salvation, I have got this far:
somebody," he swept an arm at the sunset and the mountains, "must
have made all that, I know. But I know one more thing I would
tell Him to His face: if I can't do nothing long enough and good
enough to earn eternal happiness, I can't do nothing long enough
and bad enough to be damned. I reckon He plays a square game with
us if He plays at all, and I ain't bothering my haid about other
As we reached the stables, he had become the serene bird he
promised, and was sentimentally continuing:
"'De sun is made of mud from de bottom of de river;
De moon is made o' fox-fire, as you might disciver;
De stars like de ladies' eyes,
All round de world dey flies,
To give a little light when de moon don't rise.'"
If words were meant to conceal our thoughts, melody is perhaps a
still thicker veil for them. Whatever temper he had lost, he had
certainly found again; but this all the more fitted him to deal
with Trampas, when the dealing should begin. I had half a mind to
speak to the Judge, only it seemed beyond a mere visitor's
business. Our missionary was at this moment himself speaking to
Judge Henry at the door of the home ranch.
"I reckon he's explaining he has been a-waiting." The Virginian
was throwing his saddle off as I loosened the cinches of mine.
"And the Judge don't look like he was hopelessly distressed."
I now surveyed the distant parley, and the Judge, from the
wagonful of guests whom he had evidently been driving upon a
day's excursion, waved me a welcome, which I waved back. "He's
got Miss Molly Wood there!" I exclaimed.
"Yes." The Virginian was brief about this fact. "I'll look afteh
your saddle. You go and get acquainted with the company."
This favor I accepted; it was the means he chose for saying he
hoped, after our recent boiling over, that all was now more than
right between us. So for the while I left him to his horses, and
his corrals, and his Trampas, and his foreman, and his imminent
XIX. DR. MACBRIDE BEGS PARDON
Judge and Mrs. Henry, Molly Wood, and two strangers, a lady and a
gentleman, were the party which had been driving in the large
three-seated wagon. They had seemed a merry party. But as I came
within hearing of their talk, it was a fragment of the minister's
sonority which reached me first: "--more opportunity for them to
have the benefit of hearing frequent sermons," was the sentence I
heard him bring to completion.
"Yes, to be sure, sir." Judge Henry gave me (it almost seemed)
additional warmth of welcome for arriving to break up the present
discourse. "Let me introduce you to the Rev. Dr. Alexander
MacBride. Doctor, another guest we have been hoping for about
this time," was my host's cordial explanation to him of me. There
remained the gentleman with his wife from New York, and to these
I made my final bows. But I had not broken up the discourse.
"We may be said to have met already." Dr. MacBride had fixed upon
me his full, mastering eye; and it occurred to me that if they
had policemen in heaven, he would be at least a centurion in the
force. But he did not mean to be unpleasant; it was only that in
a mind full of matters less worldly, pleasure was left out. "I
observed your friend was a skilful horseman," he continued. "I
was saying to Judge Henry that I could wish such skilful horsemen
might ride to a church upon the Sabbath. A church, that is, of
right doctrine, where they would have opportunity to hear
"Yes," said Judge Henry, "yes. It would be a good thing."
Mrs. Henry, with some murmur about the kitchen, here went into
"I was informed," Dr. MacBride held the rest of us, "before
undertaking my journey that I should find a desolate and mainly
godless country. But nobody gave me to understand that from
Medicine Bow I was to drive three hundred miles and pass no
church of any faith."
The Judge explained that there had been a few a long way to the
right and left of him. "Still," he conceded, "you are quite
right. But don't forget that this is the newest part of a new
"Judge," said his wife, coming to the door, "how can you keep
them standing in the dust with your talking?"
This most efficiently did break up the discourse. As our little
party, with the smiles and the polite holdings back of new
acquaintanceship, moved into the house, the Judge detained me
behind all of them long enough to whisper dolorously, "He's going
to stay a whole week."
I had hopes that he would not stay a whole week when I presently
learned of the crowded arrangements which our hosts, with many
hospitable apologies, disclosed to us. They were delighted to
have us, but they hadn't foreseen that we should all be
simultaneous. The foreman's house had been prepared for two of
us, and did we mind? The two of us were Dr. MacBride and myself;
and I expected him to mind. But I wronged him grossly. It would
be much better, he assured Mrs. Henry, than straw in a stable,
which he had tried several times, and was quite ready for. So I
saw that though he kept his vigorous body clean when he could, he
cared nothing for it in the face of his mission. How the foreman
and his wife relished being turned out during a week for a
missionary and myself was not my concern, although while he and I
made ready for supper over there, it struck me as hard on them.
The room with its two cots and furniture was as nice as possible;
and we closed the door upon the adjoining room, which, however,
seemed also untenanted.
Mrs. Henry gave us a meal so good that I have remembered it, and
her husband the Judge strove his best that we should eat it in
merriment. He poured out his anecdotes like wine, and we should
have quickly warmed to them; but Dr. MacBride sat among us,
giving occasional heavy ha-ha's, which produced, as Miss Molly
Wood whispered to me, a "dreadfully cavernous effect." Was it his
sermon, we wondered, that he was thinking over? I told her of the
copious sheaf of them I had seen him pull from his wallet over at
the foreman's. "Goodness!" said she. "Then are we to hear one
every evening?" This I doubted; he had probably been picking one
out suitable for the occasion. "Putting his best foot foremost,"
was her comment; "I suppose they have best feet, like the rest of
us." Then she grew delightfully sharp. "Do you know, when I first
heard him I thought his voice was hearty. But if you listen,
you'll find it's merely militant. He never really meets you with
it. He's off on his hill watching the battle-field the whole
"He will find a hardened pagan here."
"Oh, no! The wild man you're taming brought you Kenilworth safe
She was smooth. "Oh, as for taming him! But don't you find him
Suddenly I somehow knew that she didn't want to tame him. But
what did she want to do? The thought of her had made him blush
this afternoon. No thought of him made her blush this evening.
A great laugh from the rest of the company made me aware that the
Judge had consummated his tale of the "Sole Survivor."
"And so," he finished, "they all went off as mad as hops because
it hadn't been a massacre." Mr. and Mrs. Ogden--they were the New
Yorkers-gave this story much applause, and Dr. MacBride half a
minute later laid his "ha-ha," like a heavy stone, upon the
"I'll never be able to stand seven sermons," said Miss Wood to
"Talking of massacres,"--I now hastened to address the already
saddened table,--"I have recently escaped one myself."
The Judge had come to an end of his powers. "Oh, tell us!" he
"Seriously, sir, I think we grazed pretty wet tragedy but your
extraordinary man brought us out into comedy safe and dry."
This gave me their attention; and, from that afternoon in Dakota
when I had first stepped aboard the caboose, I told them the
whole tale of my experience: how I grew immediately aware that
all was not right, by the Virginian's kicking the cook off the
train; how, as we journeyed, the dark bubble of mutiny swelled
hourly beneath my eyes; and how, when it was threatening I know
not what explosion, the Virginian had pricked it with humor, so
that it burst in nothing but harmless laughter.
Their eyes followed my narrative: the New Yorkers, because such
events do not happen upon the shores of the Hudson; Mrs. Henry,
because she was my hostess; Miss Wood followed for whatever her
reasons were--I couldn't see her eyes; rather, I FELT her
listening intently to the deeds and dangers of the man she didn't
care to tame. But it was the eyes of the Judge and the missionary
which I saw riveted upon me indeed until the end; and they
forthwith made plain their quite dissimilar opinions.
Judge Henry struck the table lightly with his fist. "I knew it!"
And he leaned back in his chair with a face of contentment. He
had trusted his man, and his man had proved worthy.
"Pardon me." Dr. MacBride had a manner of saying "pardon me,"
which rendered forgiveness well-nigh impossible.
The Judge waited for him.
"Am I to understand that these--a--cow-boys attempted to mutiny,
and were discouraged in this attempt upon finding themselves less
skilful at lying than the man they had plotted to depose?"
I began an answer. "It was other qualities, sir, that happened to
be revealed and asserted by what you call his lying that--"
"And what am I to call it, if it is not lying? A competition in
deceit in which, I admit, he out did them.
"It's their way to--"
"Pardon me. Their way to lie? They bow down to the greatest in
"Oh," said Miss Wood in my ear, "give him up."
The Judge took a turn. "We-ell, Doctor--" He seemed to stick
Mr. Ogden handsomely assisted him. "You've said the word
yourself, Doctor. It's the competition, don't you see? The trial
of strength by no matter what test."
"Yes," said Miss Wood, unexpectedly. "And it wasn't that George
Washington couldn't tell a lie. He just wouldn't. I'm sure if
he'd undertaken to he'd have told a much better one than
"Ha-ha, madam! You draw an ingenious subtlety from your books."
"It's all plain to me," Ogden pursued. "The men were morose. This
foreman was in the minority. He cajoled them into a bout of tall
stories, and told the tallest himself. And when they found they
had swallowed it whole--well, it would certainly take the starch
out of me," he concluded. "I couldn't be a serious mutineer after
Dr. MacBride now sounded his strongest bass. "Pardon me. I cannot
accept such a view, sir. There is a levity abroad in our land
which I must deplore. No matter how leniently you may try to put
it, in the end we have the spectacle of a struggle between men
where lying decides the survival of the fittest. Better, far
better, if it was to come, that they had shot honest bullets.
There are worse evils than war."
The Doctor's eye glared righteously about him. None of us, I
think, trembled; or, if we did, it was with emotions other than
fear. Mrs. Henry at once introduced the subject of trout-fishing,
and thus happily removed us from the edge of whatever sort of
precipice we seemed to have approached; for Dr. MacBride had
brought his rod. He dilated upon this sport with fervor, and we
assured him that the streams upon the west slope of the Bow Leg
Mountains would afford him plenty of it. Thus we ended our meal
in carefully preserved amity.
XX. THE JUDGE IGNORES PARTICULARS
"Do you often have these visitations?" Ogden inquired of Judge
Henry. Our host was giving us whiskey in his office, and Dr.
MacBride, while we smoked apart from the ladies, had repaired to
his quarters in the foreman's house previous to the service which
he was shortly to hold.
The Judge laughed. "They come now and then through the year. I
like the bishop to come. And the men always like it. But I fear
our friend will scarcely please them so well."
"You don't mean they'll--"
"Oh, no. They'll keep quiet. The fact is, they have a good deal
better manners than he has, if he only knew it. They'll be able
to bear him. But as for any good he'll do--"
"I doubt if he knows a word of science," said I, musing about the
"Science! He doesn't know what Christianity is yet. I've
entertained many guests, but none--The whole secret," broke off
Judge Henry, "lies in the way you treat people. As soon as you
treat men as your brothers, they are ready to acknowledge you--if
you deserve it--as their superior. That's the whole bottom of
Christianity, and that's what our missionary will never know."
There was a somewhat heavy knock at the office door, and I think
we all feared it was Dr. MacBride. But when the Judge opened, the
Virginian was standing there in the darkness
"So!" The Judge opened the door wide. He was very hearty to the
man he had trusted. "You're back at last."
"I came to repawt."
While they shook hands, Ogden nudged me. "That the fellow?" I
nodded. "Fellow who kicked the cook off the train?" I again
nodded, and he looked at the Virginian, his eye and his stature.
Judge Henry, properly democratic, now introduced him to Ogden.
The New Yorker also meant to be properly democratic. "You're the
man I've been hearing such a lot about."
But familiarity is not equality. "Then I expect yu' have the
advantage of me, seh," said the Virginian, very politely. "Shall
I repawt tomorro'?" His grave eyes were on the Judge again. Of me
he had taken no notice; he had come as an employee to see his
"Yes, yes; I'll want to hear about the cattle to-morrow. But step
inside a moment now. There's a matter--" The Virginian stepped
inside, and took off his hat. "Sit down. You had trouble--I've
heard something about it," the Judge went on.
The Virginian sat down, grave and graceful. But he held the brim
of his hat all the while. He looked at Ogden and me, and then
back at his employer. There was reluctance in his eye. I wondered
if his employer could be going to make him tell his own exploits
in the presence of us outsiders; and there came into my memory
the Bengal tiger at a trained-animal show I had once seen.
"You had some trouble," repeated the Judge.
"Well, there was a time when they maybe wanted to have notions.
They're good boys." And he smiled a very little.
Contentment increased in the Judge's face. "Trampas a good boy
But this time the Bengal tiger did not smile. He sat with his eye
fastened on his employer.
The Judge passed rather quickly on to his next point. "You've
brought them all back, though, I understand, safe and sound,
without a scratch?"
The Virginian looked down at his hat, then up again at the Judge,
mildly. "I had to part with my cook."
There was no use; Ogden and myself exploded. Even upon the
embarrassed Virginian a large grin slowly forced itself. "I guess
yu' know about it," he murmured. And he looked at me with a sort
of reproach. He knew it was I who had told tales out of school.
"I only want to say," said Ogden, conciliatingly, "that I know I
couldn't have handled those men."
The Virginian relented. "Yu' never tried, seh."
The Judge had remained serious; but he showed himself plainly
more and more contented. "Quite right," he said. "You had to part
with your cook. When I put a man in charge, I put him in charge.
I don't make particulars my business. They're to be always his.
Do you understand?"
"Thank yu'." The Virginian understood that his employer was
praising his management of the expedition. But I don't think he
at all discerned--as I did presently--that his employer had just
been putting him to a further test, had laid before him the
temptation of complaining of a fellow-workman and blowing his own
trumpet, and was delighted with his reticence. He made a movement
"I haven't finished," said the Judge. "I was coming to the
matter. There's one particular--since I do happen to have been
told. I fancy Trampas has learned something he didn't expect."
This time the Virginian evidently did not understand, any more
than I did. One hand played with his hat, mechanically turning it
The Judge explained. "I mean about Roberts."
A pulse of triumph shot over the Southerner's face, turning it
savage for that fleeting instant. He understood now, and was
unable to suppress this much answer. But he was silent.
"You see," the Judge explained to me, "I was obliged to let
Roberts, my old foreman, go last week. His wife could not have
stood another winter here, and a good position was offered to him
near Los Angeles."
I did see. I saw a number of things. I saw why the foreman's
house had been empty to receive Dr. MacBride and me. And I saw
that the Judge had been very clever indeed. For I had abstained
from telling any tales about the present feeling between Trampas
and the Virginian; but he had divined it. Well enough for him to
say that "particulars" were something he let alone; he evidently
kept a deep eye on the undercurrents at his ranch. He knew that
in Roberts, Trampas had lost a powerful friend. And this was what
I most saw, this final fact, that Trampas had no longer any
intervening shield. He and the Virginian stood indeed man to man.
"And so," the Judge continued speaking to me, "here I am at a
very inconvenient time without a foreman. Unless," I caught the
twinkle in his eyes before he turned to the Virginian, "unless
you're willing to take the position yourself. Will you?"
I saw the Southerner's hand grip his hat as he was turning it
round. He held it still now, and his other hand found it and
gradually crumpled the soft crown in. It meant everything to him:
recognition, higher station, better fortune, a separate house of
his own, and--perhaps--one step nearer to the woman he wanted. I
don't know what words he might have said to the Judge had they
been alone, but the Judge had chosen to do it in our presence,
the whole thing from beginning to end. The Virginian sat with the
damp coming out on his forehead, and his eyes dropped from his
"Thank yu'," was what he managed at last to say.
"Well, now, I'm greatly relieved!" exclaimed the Judge, rising at
once. He spoke with haste, and lightly. "That's excellent. I was
in some thing of a hole," he said to Ogden and me; "and this
gives me one thing less to think of. Saves me a lot of
particulars," he jocosely added to the Virginian, who was now
also standing up. "Begin right off. Leave the bunk house. The
gentlemen won't mind your sleeping in your own house."
Thus he dismissed his new foreman gayly. But the new foreman,
when he got outside, turned back for one gruff word,-- "I'll try
to please yu'." That was all. He was gone in the darkness. But
there was light enough for me, looking after him, to see him lay
his hand on a shoulder-high gate and vault it as if he had been
the wind. Sounds of cheering came to us a few moments later from
the bunk house. Evidently he had "begun right away," as the Judge
had directed. He had told his fortune to his brother
cow-punchers, and this was their answer.
"I wonder if Trampas is shouting too?" inquired Ogden.
"Hm!" said the Judge. "That is one of the particulars I wash my
I knew that he entirely meant it. I knew, once his decision taken
of appointing the Virginian his lieutenant for good and all,
that, like a wise commander-in-chief, he would trust his
lieutenant to take care of his own business.
"Well," Ogden pursued with interest, "haven't you landed Trampas
plump at his mercy?"
The phrase tickled the Judge. "That is where I've landed him!" he
declared. "And here is Dr. MacBride."
XXI. IN A STATE OF SIN
Thunder sat imminent upon the missionary's brow. Many were to be
at his mercy soon. But for us he had sunshine still. "I am truly
sorry to be turning you upside down," he said importantly. "But
it seems the best place for my service." He spoke of the tables
pushed back and the chairs gathered in the hall, where the storm
would presently break upon the congregation. "Eight-thirty? he
This was the hour appointed, and it was only twenty minutes off.
We threw the unsmoked fractions of our cigars away, and returned
to offer our services to the ladies. This amused the ladies. They
had done without us. All was ready in the hall.
"We got the cook to help us," Mrs. Ogden told me, "so as not to
disturb your cigars. In spite of the cow-boys, I still recognize
my own country."
"In the cook?" I rather densely asked.
"Oh, no! I don't have a Chinaman. It's in the length of
"Had you been smoking," I returned, "you would have found them
short this evening."
"You make it worse," said the lady; "we have had nothing but Dr.
"We'll share him with you now," I exclaimed.
"Has he announced his
text? I've got one for him," said Molly Wood, joining us. She
stood on tiptoe and spoke it comically in our ears. "'I said in
my haste, All men are liars.'" This made us merry as we stood
among the chairs in the congested hall.
I left the ladies, and sought the bunk house. I had heard the
cheers, but I was curious also to see the men, and how they were
taking it. There was but little for the eye. There was much noise
in the room. They were getting ready to come to church,--brushing
their hair, shaving, and making themselves clean, amid talk
occasionally profane and continuously diverting.
"Well, I'm a Christian, anyway," one declared.
"I'm a Mormon, I guess," said another.
"I belong to the Knights of Pythias," said a third.
"I'm a Mohammedist," said a fourth; "I hope I ain't goin' to hear
nothin' to shock me."
And they went on with their joking. But Trampas was out of the
joking. He lay on his bed reading a newspaper, and took no pains
to look pleasant. My eyes were considering him when the blithe
Scipio came in.
"Don't look so bashful," said he. "There's only us girls here."
He had been helping the Virginian move his belongings from the
bunk house over to the foreman's cabin. He himself was to occupy
the Virginian's old bed here. "And I hope sleepin' in it will
bring me some of his luck," said Scipio. "Yu'd ought to've seen
us when he told us in his quiet way. Well," Scipio sighed a
little, "it must feel good to have your friends glad about you."
"Especially Trampas," said I. "The Judge knows about that," I
"Knows, does he? What's he say?" Scipio drew me quickly out of
the bunk house.
"Says it's no business of his."
"Said nothing but that?" Scipio's curiosity seemed strangely
intense. "Made no suggestion? Not a thing?"
"Not a thing. Said he didn't want to know and didn't care."
"How did he happen to hear about it?" snapped Scipio. "You told
him!" he immediately guessed. "He never would." And Scipio jerked
his thumb at the Virginian, who appeared for a moment in the
lighted window of the new quarters he was arranging. "He never
would tell," Scipio repeated. "And so the Judge never made a
suggestion to him," he muttered, nodding in the darkness. "So
it's just his own notion. Just like him, too, come to think of
it. Only I didn't expect--well, I guess he could surprise me any
day he tried."
"You're surprising me now," I said. "What's it all about?"
"Oh, him and Trampas."
"What? Nothing surely happened yet?" I was as curious as Scipio
"No, not yet. But there will."
"Great Heavens, man! when?"
"Just as soon as Trampas makes the first move," Scipio replied
I became dignified. Scipio had evidently been told things by the
"Yes, I up and asked him plumb out," Scipio answered. "I was
liftin' his trunk in at the door, and I couldn't stand it no
longer, and I asked him plumb out. 'Yu've sure got Trampas where
yu' want him.' That's what I said. And he up and answered and
told me. So I know." At this point Scipio stopped; I was not to
"I had no idea," I said, "that your system held so much
"Oh, it ain't meanness!" And he laughed ecstatically.
"What do you call it, then?"
"He'd call it discretion," said Scipio. Then he became serious.
"It's too blamed grand to tell yu'. I'll leave yu' to see it
happen. Keep around, that's all. Keep around. I pretty near wish
I didn't know it myself."
What with my feelings at Scipio's discretion, and my human
curiosity, I was not in that mood which best profits from a
sermon. Yet even though my expectations had been cruelly left
quivering in mid air, I was not sure how much I really wanted to
"keep around." You will therefore understand how Dr. MacBride was
able to make a prayer and to read Scripture without my being
conscious of a word that he had uttered. It was when I saw him
opening the manuscript of his sermon that I suddenly remembered I
was sitting, so to speak, in church, and began once more to think
of the preacher and his congregation. Our chairs were in the
front line, of course; but, being next the wall, I could easily
see the cow-boys behind me. They were perfectly decorous. If Mrs.
Ogden had looked for pistols, daredevil attitudes, and so forth,
she must have been greatly disappointed. Except for their
weather-beaten cheeks and eyes, they were simply American young
men with mustaches and without, and might have been sitting, say,
in Danbury, Connecticut. Even Trampas merged quietly with the
general placidity. The Virginian did not, to be sure, look like
Danbury, and his frame and his features showed out of the mass;
but his eyes were upon Dr. MacBride with a creamlike propriety.
Our missionary did not choose Miss Wood's text. He made his
selection from another of the Psalms; and when it came, I did not
dare to look at anybody; I was much nearer unseemly conduct than
the cow-boys. Dr. Mac Bride gave us his text sonorously, "'They
are altogether become filthy; There is none of them that doeth
good, no, not one.'" His eye showed us plainly that present
company was not excepted from this. He repeated the text once
more, then, launching upon his discourse, gave none of us a ray
I had heard it all often before; but preached to cow-boys it took
on a new glare of untimeliness, of grotesque obsoleteness--as if
some one should say, "Let me persuade you to admire woman," and
forthwith hold out her bleached bones to you. The cow-boys were
told that not only they could do no good, but that if they did
contrive to, it would not help them. Nay, more: not only honest
deeds availed them nothing, but even if they accepted this
especial creed which was being explained to them as necessary for
salvation, still it might not save them. Their sin was indeed the
cause of their damnation, yet, keeping from sin, they might
nevertheless be lost. It had all been settled for them not only
before they were born, but before Adam was shaped. Having told
them this, he invited them to glorify the Creator of the scheme.
Even if damned, they must praise the person who had made them
expressly for damnation. That is what I heard him prove by logic
to these cow-boys. Stone upon stone he built the black cellar of
his theology, leaving out its beautiful park and the sunshine of
its garden. He did not tell them the splendor of its past, the
noble fortress for good that it had been, how its tonic had
strengthened generations of their fathers. No; wrath he spoke of,
and never once of love. It was the bishop's way, I knew well, to
hold cow-boys by homely talk of their special hardships and
temptations. And when they fell he spoke to them of forgiveness
and brought them encouragement. But Dr. MacBride never thought
once of the lives of these waifs. Like himself, like all mankind,
they were invisible dots in creation; like him, they were to feel
as nothing, to be swept up in the potent heat of his faith. So he
thrust out to them none of the sweet but all the bitter of his
creed, naked and stern as iron. Dogma was his all in all, and
poor humanity was nothing but flesh for its canyons.
Thus to kill what chance he had for being of use seemed to me
more deplorable than it did evidently to them. Their attention
merely wandered. Three hundred years ago they would have been
frightened; but not in this electric day. I saw Scipio stifling a
smile when it came to the doctrine of original sin. "We know of
its truth," said Dr. MacBride, "from the severe troubles and
distresses to which infants are liable, and from death passing
upon them before they are capable of sinning." Yet I knew he was a
good man; and I also knew that if a missionary is to be tactless,
he might almost as well be bad.
I said their attention wandered, but I forgot the Virginian. At
first his attitude might have been mere propriety. One can look
respectfully at a preacher and be internally breaking all the
commandments. But even with the text I saw real attention light
in the Virginian's eye. And keeping track of the concentration
that grew on him with each minute made the sermon short for me.
He missed nothing. Before the end his gaze at the preacher had
become swerveless. Was he convert or critic? Convert was
incredible. Thus was an hour passed before I had thought of time.
When it was over we took it variously. The preacher was genial
and spoke of having now broken ground for the lessons that he
hoped to instil. He discoursed for a while about trout-fishing
and about the rumored uneasiness of the Indians northward where
he was going. It was plain that his personal safety never gave
him a thought. He soon bade us good night. The Ogdens shrugged
their shoulders and were amused. That was their way of taking it.
Dr. MacBride sat too heavily on the Judge's shoulders for him to
shrug them. As a leading citizen in the Territory he kept open
house for all comers. Policy and good nature made him bid welcome
a wide variety of travellers. The cow-boy out of employment found
bed and a meal for himself and his horse, and missionaries had
before now been well received at Sunk Creek Ranch.
"I suppose I'll have to take him fishing," said the Judge,
"Yes, my dear," said his wife, "you will. And I shall have to
make his tea for six days."
"Otherwise," Ogden suggested, "it might be reported that you were
enemies of religion."
"That's about it," said the Judge. "I can get on with most
people. But elephants depress me."
So we named the Doctor "Jumbo," and I departed to my quarters.
At the bunk house, the comments were similar but more highly
salted. The men were going to bed. In spite of their outward
decorum at the service, they had not liked to be told that they
were "altogether become filthy." It was easy to call names; they
could do that themselves. And they appealed to me, several
speaking at once, like a concerted piece at the opera: "Say, do
you believe babies go to hell?"--"Ah, of course he
don't."--"There ain't no hereafter, anyway."--"Ain't
there?"--"Who told yu'?"--"Same man as told the preacher we were
all a sifted set of sons-of-guns."--"Well, I'm going to stay a
Mormon."--"Well, I'm going to quit fleeing from
temptation."--"that's so! Better get it in the neck after a good
time than a poor one." And so forth. Their wit was not extreme,
yet I should like Dr. MacBride to have heard it. One fellow put
his natural soul pretty well into words, "If I happened to learn
what they had predestinated me to do, I'd do the other thing,
just to show 'em!"
And Trampas? And the Virginian? They were out of it. The
Virginian had gone straight to his new abode. Trampas lay in his
bed, not asleep, and sullen as ever.
"He ain't got religion this trip," said Scipio to me.
"Did his new foreman get it?" I asked.
"Huh! It would spoil him. You keep around that's all. Keep
Scipio was not to be probed; and I went, still baffled, to my
No light burned in the cabin as I approached its door.
The Virginian's room was quiet and dark; and that Dr. MacBride
slumbered was plainly audible to me, even before I entered. Go
fishing with him! I thought, as I undressed. And I selfishly
decided that the Judge might have this privilege entirely to
himself. Sleep came to me fairly soon, in spite of the Doctor. I
was wakened from it by my bed's being jolted--not a pleasant
thing that night. I must have started. And it was the quiet voice
of the Virginian that told me he was sorry to have accidentally
disturbed me. This disturbed me a good deal more. But his steps
did not go to the bunk house, as my sensational mind had
suggested. He was not wearing much, and in the dimness he seemed
taller than common. I next made out that he was bending over Dr.
Mac Bride. The divine at last sprang upright.
"I am armed," he said. "Take care. Who are you?"
"You can lay down your gun, seh. I feel like my spirit was going
to bear witness. I feel like I might get an enlightening."
He was using some of the missionary's own language. The baffling
I had been treated to by Scipio melted to nothing in this. Did
living men petrify, I should have changed to mineral between the
sheets. The Doctor got out of bed, lighted his lamp, and found a
book; and the two retired into the Virginian's room, where I
could hear the exhortations as I lay amazed. In time the Doctor
returned, blew out his lamp, and settled himself. I had been very
much awake, but was nearly gone to sleep again, when the door
creaked and the Virginian stood by the Doctor's side.
"Are you awake, seh?"
"What? What's that? What is it?"
"Excuse me, seh. The enemy is winning on me. I'm feeling less
inward opposition to sin."
The lamp was lighted, and I listened to some further
exhortations. They must have taken half an hour. When the Doctor
was in bed again, I thought that I heard him sigh. This upset my
composure in the dark; but I lay face downward in the pillow, and
the Doctor was soon again snoring. I envied him for a while his
faculty of easy sleep. But I must have dropped off myself; for it
was the lamp in my eyes that now waked me as he came back for the
third time from the Virginian's room. Before blowing the light
out he looked at his watch, and thereupon I inquired the hour of
"Three," said he.
I could not sleep any more now, and I lay watching the darkness.
"I'm afeared to be alone!" said the Virginian's voice presently
in the next room. "I'm afeared." There was a short pause, and
then he shouted very loud, "I'm losin' my desire afteh the
sincere milk of the Word!"
"What? What's that? What?" The Doctor's cot gave a great crack as
he started up listening, and I put my face deep in the pillow.
"I'm afeared! I'm afeared! Sin has quit being bitter in my
"Courage, my good man." The Doctor was out of bed with his lamp
again, and the door shut behind him. Between them they made it
long this time. I saw the window become gray; then the corners of
the furniture grow visible; and outside, the dry chorus of the
blackbirds began to fill the dawn. To these the sounds of
chickens and impatient hoofs in the stable were added, and some
cow wandered by loudly calling for her calf. Next, some one
whistling passed near and grew distant. But although the cold hue
that I lay staring at through the window warmed and changed, the
Doctor continued working hard over his patient in the next room.
Only a word here and there was distinct; but it was plain from
the Virginian's fewer remarks that the sin in his belly was
alarming him less. Yes, they made this time long. But it proved,
indeed, the last one. And though some sort of catastrophe was
bound to fall upon us, it was myself who precipitated the thing
that did happen.
Day was wholly come. I looked at my own watch, and it was six. I
had been about seven hours in my bed, and the Doctor had been
about seven hours out of his. The door opened, and he came in
with his book and lamp. He seemed to be shivering a little, and I
saw him cast a longing eye at his couch. But the Virginian
followed him even as he blew out the now quite superfluous light.
They made a noticeable couple in their underclothes: the
Virginian with his lean racehorse shanks running to a point at
his ankle, and the Doctor with his stomach and his fat sedentary
"You'll be going to breakfast and the ladies, seh, pretty soon,"
said the Virginian, with a chastened voice. "But I'll worry
through the day somehow without yu'. And to-night you can turn
your wolf loose on me again."
Once more it was no use. My face was deep in the pillow, but I
made sounds as of a hen who has laid an egg. It broke on the
Doctor with a total instantaneous smash, quite like an ego.
He tried to speak calmly. "This is a disgrace. An infamous
disgrace. Never in my life have I--" Words forsook him, and his
face grew redder. "Never in my life--" He stopped again, because,
at the sight of him being dignified in his red drawers, I was
making the noise of a dozen hens. It was suddenly too much for
the Virginian. He hastened into his room, and there sank on the
floor with his head in his hands. The Doctor immediately slammed
the door upon him, and this rendered me easily fit for a lunatic
asylum. I cried into my pillow, and wondered if the Doctor would
come and kill me. But he took no notice of me whatever. I could
hear the Virginian's convulsions through the door, and also the
Doctor furiously making his toilet within three feet of my head;
and I lay quite still with my face the other way, for I was
really afraid to look at him. When I heard him walk to the door
in his boots, I ventured to peep; and there he was, going out
with his bag in his hand. As I still continued to lie, weak and
sore, and with a mind that had ceased an operation, the
Virginian's door opened. He was clean and dressed and decent, but
the devil still sported in his eye. I have never seen a creature
more irresistibly handsome.
Then my mind worked again. "You've gone and done it," said I.
"He's packed his valise. He'll not sleep here."
The Virginian looked quickly out of the door. "Why, he's leavin'
us!" he exclaimed. "Drivin' away right now in his little old
buggy!" He turned to me, and our eyes met solemnly over this
large fact. I thought that I perceived the faintest tincture of
dismay in the features of Judge Henry's new, responsible, trusty
foreman. This was the first act of his administration. Once again
he looked out at the departing missionary. "Well," he
vindictively stated, "I cert'nly ain't goin' to run afteh him."
And he looked at me again.
"Do you suppose the Judge knows?" I inquired.
He shook his head. "The windo' shades is all down still oveh
yondeh." He paused. "I don't care," he stated, quite as if he had
been ten years old. Then he grinned guiltily. "I was mighty
respectful to him all night."
"Oh, yes, respectful! Especially when you invited him to turn his
The Virginian gave a joyous gulp. He now came and sat down on the
edge of my bed. "I spoke awful good English to him most of the
time," said he. "I can, yu' know, when I cinch my attention tight
on to it. Yes, I cert'nly spoke a lot o' good English. I didn't
understand some of it myself!"
He was now growing frankly pleased with his exploit. He had
builded so much better than he knew. He got up and looked out
across the crystal world of light. "The Doctor is at one-mile
crossing," he said. "He'll get breakfast at the N-lazy-Y." Then
he returned and sat again on my bed, and began to give me his
real heart. "I never set up for being better than others. Not
even to myself. My thoughts ain't apt to travel around making
comparisons. And I shouldn't wonder if my memory took as much
notice of the meannesses I have done as of--as of the other
actions. But to have to sit like a dumb lamb and let a stranger
tell yu' for an hour that yu're a hawg and a swine, just after
you have acted in a way which them that know the facts would call
pretty near white--"
"Trampas!" I could not help exclaiming.
For there are moments of insight when a guess amounts to
"Has Scipio told--"
"No. Not a word. He wouldn't tell me."
"Well, yu' see, I arrived home hyeh this evenin' with several
thoughts workin' and stirrin' inside me. And not one o' them
thoughts was what yu'd call Christian. I ain't the least little
bit ashamed of 'em. I'm a human. But after the Judge--well, yu'
heard him. And so when I went away from that talk and saw how
positions was changed--"
A step outside stopped him short. Nothing more could be read in
his face, for there was Trampas himself in the open door.
"Good morning," said Trampas, not looking at us. He spoke with
the same cool sullenness of yesterday.
We returned his greeting.
"I believe I'm late in congratulating you on your promotion,"
The Virginian consulted his watch. "It's only half afteh six," he
Trampas's sullenness deepened. "Any man is to be congratulated on
getting a rise, I expect."
This time the Virginian let him have it. "Cert'nly. And I ain't
forgetting how much I owe mine to you."
Trampas would have liked to let himself go. "I've not come here
for any forgiveness," he sneered.
"When did yu' feel yu' needed any?" The Virginian was
Trampas seemed to feel how little he was going this way. He came
out straight now. "Oh, I haven't any Judge behind me, I know. I
heard you'd be paying the boys this morning, and I've come for my
"You're thinking of leaving us?" asked the new foreman. "What's
"Oh, I'm not needing anybody back of me. I'll get along by
myself." It was thus he revealed his expectation of being
dismissed by his enemy.
This would have knocked any meditated generosity out of my heart.
But I was not the Virginian. He shifted his legs, leaned back a
little, and laughed. "Go back to your job, Trampas, if that's all
your complaint. You're right about me being in luck. But maybe
there's two of us in luck."
It was this that Scipio had preferred me to see with my own eyes.
The fight was between man and man no longer. The case could not
be one of forgiveness; but the Virginian would not use his
official position to crush his subordinate.
Trampas departed with something muttered that I did not hear, and
the Virginian closed intimate conversation by saying, "You'll be
late for breakfast." With that he also took himself away.
The ladies were inclined to be scandalized, but not the Judge.
When my whole story was done, he brought his fist down on the
table, and not lightly this time. "I'd make him lieutenant
general if the ranch offered that position!" he declared.
Miss Molly Wood said nothing at the time. But in the afternoon,
by her wish, she went fishing, with the Virginian deputed to
escort her. I rode with them, for a while. I was not going to
continue a third in that party; the Virginian was too becomingly
dressed, and I saw KENILWORTH peeping out of his pocket. I meant
to be fishing by myself when that volume was returned.
But Miss Wood talked with skilful openness as we rode. "I've
heard all about you and Dr. MacBride," she said. "How could you
do it, when the Judge places such confidence in you?"
He looked pleased. "I reckon," he said, "I couldn't be so good if
I wasn't bad onced in a while."
"Why, there's a skunk," said I, noticing the pretty little animal
trotting in front of us at the edge of the thickets.
"Oh, where is it? Don't let me see it!" screamed Molly. And at
this deeply feminine remark, the Virginian looked at her with
such a smile that, had I been a woman, it would have made me his
to do what he pleased with on the spot.
Upon the lady, however, it seemed to make less impression. Or
rather, I had better say, whatever were her feelings, she very
naturally made no display of them, and contrived not to be aware
of that expression which had passed over the Virginian's face.
It was later that these few words reached me while I was fishing
alone: "Have you anything different to tell me yet?" I heard him
"Yes; I have." She spoke in accents light and well intrenched. "I
wish to say that I have never liked any man better than you. But
I expect to!"
He must have drawn small comfort from such an answer as that. But
he laughed out indomitably: "Don't yu' go betting on any such
expectation!" And then their words ceased to be distinct, and it
was only their two voices that I heard wandering among the
windings of the stream.
XXII. "WHAT IS A RUSTLER?"
We all know what birds of a feather do. And it may be safely
surmised that if a bird of any particular feather has been for a
long while unable to see other birds of its kind, it will flock
with them all the more assiduously when they happen to alight in
Now the Ogdens were birds of Molly's feather. They wore Eastern,
and not Western, plumage, and their song was a different song
from that which the Bear Creek birds sang. To be sure, the piping
of little George Taylor was full of hopeful interest; and many
other strains, both striking and melodious, were lifted in Cattle
Land, and had given pleasure to Molly's ear. But although
Indians, and bears, and mavericks, make worthy themes for song,
these are not the only songs in the world. Therefore the Eastern
warblings of the Ogdens sounded doubly sweet to Molly Wood. Such
words as Newport, Bar Harbor, and Tiffany's thrilled her
exceedingly. It made no difference that she herself had never
been to Newport or Bar Harbor, and had visited Tiffany's more
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