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UNivEk-,: I •; j 

OOPTBIGHT, 1902, 1917, 


Set up and electrotyped. Published September, 191 7. 

J. S. Gushing Co. —Berwick & Smith Co. 
Norwood, Mass., U.S.A. 

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Introduction ix 

Author's Preface xiii 

The Virginian. 


I. Enter the Man 1 

II. "When you say that, Smile/*' ... 8 

III. Steve Treats 26 

IV. Deep into Cattle Land 36 

V. Enter the Woman 49 

VI. Em'ly 53 

VII. Through Two Snows ..... 69 

VIII. The Sincere Spinster 73 

IX. The Spinster Meets the Unknown .• . 78 

X. Where Fancy was Bred 87 

XI. "You're going to Love Me Before We Get 

Through" ....... 100 

XII. Quality and Equality 112 

XIII. The Game and the Nation — Act First . 121 

XIV. Between the Acts 130 

XV. The Game and the Nation — Act Second . 136 

XVI. The Game and the Nation — Last Act . 143 

XVII. Scipio Moralizes 167 

XVIII. "Would you be a Parson?" Dig„i,ed by GoOqIc- 1^3 




XIX. Dr. MacBride Begs Pardon 

XX. The Judge Ignores Particulars 

XXI. In a State or Sin . 

XXII. "What is a Rustler?" 

XXIII. Various Points 

XXIV. A Letter with a Moral 
XXV. Progress of the Lost Dog . 

XXVI. Balaam and Pedro 

XXVII. Grandmother Stark 

XXVIII. No Dream to Wake From . 

XXIX. Word to Bennington 

XXX. A Stable on the Flat . 

XXXI. The Cottonwoods . 
XXXII. Superstition Trail 

XXXIII. The Spinster Loses Some Sleep 

XXXIV. "To Fit Her Finger" . 
XXXV. With Malice Aforethought 

XXXVI. At Dunbarton 



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"In The Virginian one comes at last upon the real 
West. It is different from the West that one sees from the 
train. It is different from the romantic creation of story- 
tellers in search of material and from the carefully elabo- 
rated pictures of more self-conscious novelists. There is 
something broad and generous and free about it. It holds 
the wide horizons and makes evident the sweep of things 
across a new world. Something of the freshness of the 
open air is in these pages — hints of strange, far-away 
places where art is still undiscovered and life alone is capi- 
talized. The restlessness of cities, their excited pleasures 
and harsh ambitions, seem foolish and intangible. The 
open air gives a new perspective, a blander outlook, a 
gayer, freer, saner view of the relations of ^hings. In the 
readjustment everything is simplified and the natural 
becomes the inevitable. The earth is once again given 
her due in the scheme of things. She is allowed to play 
her share of the game. When one lives out of doors and 
takes account of the sky and the clouds, and the quiet 
earth, one lives hard, it maybe, but one lives true." 

Every reader must share to a degree the enthusiasm 
expressed in the review * of The Virginian from which the 
paragraph above is quoted. He will probably agree, too, 
that the hero, the Virginian himself, is a commanding 
figure, embodying as it were the strong, alert intelligence 
which has conquered the wild regions in which he played 
his part. And he will wonder, if he does not know, how 
* Critic, October, 1902.9 ^^^^d by ^uuy It: 


Mr. Owen Wister came by the experience necessary to 
such portraiture. 

As usual our work of art turns out to be no miracle. 
Bom of Quaker parentage in Philadelphia in 1860, edu- 
cated at St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire, 
and at Harvard, Mr. Wister, like his friend Theodore 
Roosevelt, was sent west in 1885 for his health, and 
sojourned for several months upon a Wyoming ranch Ijdng 
along the tributaries of the North Platte River. This was 
but the first of many such visits, which took him in all 
seasons to many states and territories. In 1893, for ex- 
ample, he was on ranches in Texas during February and 
March, in Wyoming during July, August, and September, 
and in Arizona during October and November, camping 
and himting. Thus he came to know intimately the 
whole of the ranching country, its landscape and the sol- 
diers, Indians, and cowboys who dwelt in it. Because 
he came to love the region and realized that it was all 
too little known, he conceived the idea of portrajdng it, 
and, beginning with short stories and sketches, he grad- 
ually developed a technique adapted to the task, gave up 
the law, in which he had won initial successes, and de- 
voting himself to literature, produced one of the really 
great American novels. 

Readers of The Virginian who have not done so will 
enjoy tracing its evolution by going through the pieces 
about the Wyoming country which preceded it. These 
are Red Men and WhitCy published in 1896, Lin McLean, 
1898, and The Jimmy John Boss, 1900. They will then 
understand how TAe Virginian came by its essentially 
episodic character. In the Bookman for January, 1917, 
wiU be foimd a lively description of the town of Buffalo, the 
scene of the Virginian's battle on the eve of his marriage, 
in which tradition still points out the favorite haimts of 
the author. Becoming enamoured of cowboy literature 
the reader may pass on to Emerson Hough's The Story 


of the Cowboy^ Andy Adamses CatUe Brands, John A. 
Lomax's Cowboy Songs, Frederick Remington's Done in 
the Open, and Stewart Edward White's Arizona Nights. 

The work of Owen Wister is not confined to the western 
plains. The scene of Lady Baltimore is laid in Charles- 
ton, South Carolina. This, many think, is a finely re- 
strained and finished piece of art and like The Virginian 
faithful to the * subject because based upon intimate 
knowledge. Philosophy 4 humorously depicts the ex- 
periences of two wealthy scapegraces at Harvard. Lives 
of Washington and of Grant, too, are in the list, as well as 
How doth the simple spelling bee. 

There is, as yet, no adequate account of Wister's liter- 
ary work. Articles by Stark in the Bookman, 15 : 569, 
by Marsh in the Bookman, 27 : 458 and by Monroe in 
The Critic, 41 : 358 are worth consulting ; also the chapter 
on Wister in Cooper's Some American Story Tellers. 

The present edition of The Virginian is intended for 
reading in the upper years of the high school. Little 
difficulty will be experienced with the text. In those 
occasional instances in which the student does not catch 
the meaning of a word from the context he should employ 
the standard reference works. Class discussion should 
center upon what happened, why it happened, and what 
appeals to each student as interesting, good, or doubt- 
ful. In short, the pupils should be led to know the story 
and to understand its significance as human experience. 
All activity that is brought to bear should be made to con- 
tribute to these two ends. In this way even the study of 
technique, the ways and means of the artist, will be in 
point as enabling each to appreciate the picture of life 
which the writer has drawn. The Virginian needs little 
commentary, certainly nothing more than the author him- 
self has supplied in his note " To the Reader." It is enough 
to say that it is at once sincere, romantic, and American. 

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Certain of the newspapers, when this book was first 
announced, made a mistake most natural upon seeing the 
sub-title as it then stood, A Tale of Sundry Adventures. 
**This sounds like a historical novel,'* said one of them, 
meaning (I take it) a colonial romance. As it now stands, 
the title will scarce lead to such interpretation ; yet none 
the less is this book historical — quite as much so as any 
colonial romance. Indeed, when you look at the root 
of the matter, it is a colonial romance. For Wyoming 
between 1874 and 1890 was a colony as wild as was Virginia 
one hundred years earlier. As wild, with a scantier popu- 
lation, and the same primitive joys and dangers. There 
were, to be sure, not so many Chippendale settees. 

We know quite well the common understanding of the 
term "historical novel." Hugh Wynne exactly fits it. 
But Silas Lapham is a novel as perfectly historical as is 
Hugh Wynne, for it pictvu-es an era and personifies a type. 
It matters not that in the one we find George Washington 
and in the other none save imaginary figures; else The 
Scarlet Letter were not historical. Nor does it matter that 
Dr. Mitchell did not live in the time of which he wrote, 
while Mr. Howells saw many Silas Laphams with iiis own 
eyes; else Uncle Tom's CMn were not historical. Any 
narrative which presents faithfully a day and a generation 
is of necessity historical ; and this one presents Wyoming 
between 1874 and 1890. 

Had you left New York or San Francisco at ten o'clock 
this morning, by noon the day after ^§-}}}0X(0^jm could 

■will ^ 


step out at Cheyenne. There you would stand at the 
heart of the world that is the subject of my picture, yet you 
would look around you in vain for the reality. It is a 
vanished world. No journeys, save those which memory 
can take, will bring you to it now. The mountains are 
there, far and shining, and the sunlight, and the infinite 
earth, and the air that seems forever the true fountain of 
youth, — but where is the buffalo, and the wild antelope, 
and where the horseman with his pasturing thousands? 
So like its old self does the sage-brush seem when revisited, 
that you wait for the horseman to appear. 

But he will never come again. He rides in his historic 
yesterday. You will no more see him gallop out of the 
unchanging silence than you will see Columbus on the 
unchanging sea come sailing from Palos with his caravels. 

And yet the horseman is still so near our day that in 
some chapters of this book, which were published separate 
at the close of the nineteenth century, the present tense 
was used. It is true no longer. In those chapters it has 
been changed, and verbs like "is" and "have" now read 
"was" and "had." Time has flowed faster than my ink. 

What is become of the horseman, the cow-puncher, the 
last romantic figure upon our soil? For he was romantic. 
Whatever he did, he did with his might. The bread that 
he earned was earned hard, the wages that he squandered 
were squandered hard, — half a year's pay sometimes gone 
in a night, — "blown in," as he expressed it, or "blowed 
in," to be perfectly accurate. Well, he will be here among 
us always, invisible, waiting his chance to live and play as 
he woidd like. His wild kind has been among us always, 
since tne beginning : a young man with his temptations, 
a hero without wings. 

The cow-puncher's ungovemed hours did not imman 
him. If he gave his word, he kept it ; Wall Street would 
have found him behind the times. Nor did he talk lewdly 
to women; Newport would have thought him old- 
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fashioned. He and his brief epoch make a complete 
picture, for in themselves they were as complete as the 
pioneers of the land or the explorers of the sea. A transi- 
tion has followed the horseman of the plains ; a shape- 
less state, a condition of men and manners as imlovely as 
is that moment in the year when winter is gone and spring 
not come, and the face of Nature is ugly. I shall not 
dwell upon it here. Those who have seen it know well • 
what I mean. Such transition was inevitable. Let us 
give thanks that it is but a transition, and not a finahty. 

Sometimes readers inquire, Did I know the Virginian? 
As well, I hope, as a father should know his son. And 
sometimes it is asked, Was such and such a thing true? 
Now to this I have the best answer in the world. Once a 
cow-pimcher listened patiently while I read him a manu- 
script. It concerned an event upon an Indian reservation. 
"Was that the Crow reservation?" he inquired at the 
finish. I told him that it was no real reservation and no 
real event; and his face expressed displeasure. "Why," 
he demanded, "do you waste your time writing what never 
happened, when you know so many things that did 

^ Aiid I could no more help telling him that this was the 
highest compliment ever paid me than I have been able to 
help telling you about it here ! 

O. W. 

Charleston, S. C, 

March 31st, 1902. 

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Some notable sight was drawing the passengers, both 
men and women, to the window; and therefore I rose 
and crossed the car to see what it was. I saw near the 
track an enclosure, and round it some laughing men, 
and inside it some whirling dust, and amid the dust some 6 
horses, plunging, huddling, and dodging. They were 
cow ponies in a corral, and one of them would not be 
caught, no matter who threw the rope. We had plenty 
of time to watch this sport, for our train had stopped 
that the engine might take water at the tank before it lo 
pulled us up beside the station platform of Medicine 
Bow. We were also six hours late, and starving for 
entertainment. The pony in the corral was wise, and 
rapid of limb. Have you seen a skilful boxer watch 
•his antagonist with a quiet, incessant eye ? Such an eye 15 
as this dUd the pony keep upon whatever man took the 
ropje. The man might pretend to look at the weather, 
which was fine; or he might affect earnest conversation 
with a bystander : it was bootless. The pony saw through 
it. No feint hoodwinked him. This animal was 20 
thoroughly a man of the world. His imdistracted eye 
stayed fixed upon the dissembling foe, and the gravity 
of his horse-expression made the matter one of hi^ 
comedy. Then the rope would sail out at him, but ^-^ 

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was already elsewhere ; and if horses laugh, gayety must 
have abounded in that corral. Sometimes the pony 
took a turn alone ; next he had slid in a flash among his 
brothers, aad the whole of them like a school of playful 
5 fish whipped rbund the corral, kicking up the fine dust, 
and (I take it) roaring with laughter. Through the 
window-glass of our Pullman the thud of their mischiev- 
ous hoofs reached us, and the strong, humorous curses of 
the cow-boys. Then for the first time I noticed a man 

10 who sat on the high gate of the corral, looking on. For 
he now climbed down with the undulations of a tiger, 
smooth and easy, as if his muscles flowed beneath his skin. 
The others had all visibly whirled the rope, some of them 
even shoulder high. I did not see his arm lift or move. 

15 He appeared to hold the rope down low, by his leg. But 
like a sudden snake I saw the noose go out its length and 
fall true ; and the thing was done. As the captur^ pony 
walked in with a sweet, church-door expression, our train 
moved slowly on to the station, and a passenger remarked 

20 "That man knows his business," 

But the passenger^s dissertation upon roping I was 
obliged to lose, for Medicine Bow was my station. I 
bade my fellow-travellers good-by, and descended, a 
stranger, into the great cattle land. And here in less 

25 than ten minutes I learned news which made me feel a 
stranger indeed. 

My baggage was lost; it had ilot come on my train; 
it was adnft somewhere back in the two thousand miles 
that lay behind me. And by way of comfort, the baggage- 

30 man remarked that passengers often got astray from their 
trunks, but the trunks mostly found them after a while. 
Having offered me this encouragement, he turned whistling 
to his affairs and left me planted in the baggage-room at 
Medicine Bow. I stood deserted among crates and boxes, 

35 blankly holding my check, furious and forlorn. I stared 
out through the door at the sky and the plains ; but I did 

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not see the antelope shining among the sage-brush, nor 
the great sunset light of Wyoming. Annoyance blinded 
my eyes to all things save my grievance. I saw only a 
lost trunk. And 1 was muttering half-aloud, "What a 
forsaken hole this is I " when suddenly from outside on the 5 
platform came a slow voice : — 

"Off to get married again f Oh, don't!" 

The voice was Southern and gentle and drawling; and 
a second voice came in immediate ansWr, cracked and 
querulous : — 10 

"It ain't again. Who says it's again? Who told you, 

And the first voice responded caressingly : — 

"Why, your Sunday clothes told me. Uncle Hughey. 
They are speakin' mighty loud o' nuptials." ** 16 

"You don't worry me I" snapped Uncle Hughey, with 
shrill heat. 

And the other gently continued, "Ain't them gloves 
the same yu' wore to your last weddin'?" 

"You don't worry me! You don't worry me!" now 20 
screamed Uncle Hughey. 

Already I had forgotten my trunk; care had left me; 
I was aware of the sunset, and had no desire but for more 
of this conversation. For it resembled none that I had 
heard in my Hfe so far. I stepped to the door and looked 26 
out upon the station platform. 

Lounging there at ease against the wall was a slim young 
giant, more beautiful than pictures. His broad, soft 
hat was pushed back ; a loose-knotted, dull-scarlet hand- 
kerchief sagged from his throat; and one casual thumb 80 
was hooked in the cartridge-belt that slanted across his 
hips. He had plainly come many miles from somewhere 
across the vast horizon, as the dust upon him showed. 
His boots were white with it. His overalls were gray with 
it. The weather-beaten bloom of his face shone through 86 
it duskily, as the ripe peaches look upon their trees in a 

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dry season. But no dingiaess of travel or shabbiness of 
attire could tarnish the splendor that radiated from his 
youth and strength. The old man upon whose temper 
his remarks were doing such deadly work was combed and 
Scurried to a finish, a bridegroom swept and garnished; 
but alas for age! Had I been the bride, I should have 
taken the giant, dust and all. 

He had by no means done with the old man. 

"Why, yuVe liung weddin' gyarments on every limb !" 
10 he now drawled, with admiration. "Who is the lucky 
lady this trip?'' 

The old man seemed to vibrate. "Tell you there ain't 
been no other ! Call me a Mormon, would you?" 

"Why, that— " 
15 "Call me a Mormon? Then name some of my wives. 
Name two. Name one. Dare you!" 

" — that Laramie wido' promised you — " 


" — only her docter suddenly ordered Southern climate 
20 and— " 

"Shucks! You're a false alarm:" 

" — so nothing but her lungs came between you. And 
next you'd most got united with Cattle Kate, only — " 

"Tell you you're a false alarm !" 
26 " — only she got hung. " 

"Where's the wives in all this? Show the wives! 
Come now ! " 

"That corn-fed biscuit-shooter at Rawlins yu' gave the 
canary — " 
30 "Never married her. Never did marry — " 

"But yu' come so near, uncle! She was the one left 
yu' that letter explaining how she'd got married to a young 
cyard-player the very day before her ceremony with you 
was due, and — " 
35 "Oh, you're nothing; you're a kid; you don't amount 

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" — and how she'd never, never forgot to feed the 

"This country's gettmg full of kids," stated the old man, 
witheringly. "It's doomed." This crushing assertion 
plainly satisfied him. And he blinked his eyes with 5 
renewed anticipation. His tall tormentor continued 
with a face of unchanging gravity, and a voice of gentle 
solicitude : — 

"How is the health of that unfortunate — " 

"That's right! Pour your insults! Pour 'em on a 10 
sick, afflicted woman ! ' ' The eyes blinked with combative 

" Insults ? Oh, no, Uncle Hughey ! ' ' 

"That's all right ! Insults goes ! " 

"Why, I was mighty relieved when she began to recover i o 
her mem'ry. Las' time I heard, they told me she'd got 
it pretty near all back. Remembered her father, and her 
mother, and her sisters and brothers, and her friends, and 
her happy childhood, and all her doin's except only your 
face. The boys was bettin' she'd get that far too, give 20 
her time. But I reckon afteh such a turrable sickness as 
she had, that would be expectin' most too much." 

At this Uncle Hughey jerked out a small parcel. 
"Shows how much you know!" he cackled. "There! 
See that! That's my ring she sent me back, being too 25 
unstrung for marriage. So she don't remember me, don't 
she? Ha-ha! Always said you were a false alarm." 

The Southerner put more anxiety into his tone. "And 
so you're a-takin' the ring right on to the next one !" he 
exclaimed. "Oh, don't go to get married again, Uncle 30 
Hughey! What's the use o' being married?" 

"What's the use?" echoed the bridegroom, with scorn. 
"Hm ! When you grow up you'll think different." 

"Course I expect to think different when my age is 
different. I'm havin' the thoughts proper to twenty-tour, 36 
and you're havin' the thoughts proper to sixlyji!3uyit: 


''Fifty !'^ shrieked Uncle Hughey, jumping in the air. 
The Southerner took a tone of self-reproach. "Now, 
how could I forget you was fifty," he murmured, "when 
you have been telling it to the boys so careful for the last 
5 ten years!'' 

Have you even seen a cockatoo — the white kind with 
the top-knot — enraged by insult? The bird erects 
every available feather upon its person. So did Uncle 
Hughey seem to swell, clothes, mustache, and woolly white 

10 beard; and without further speech he took himself on 
board the East-bound train, which now arrived from its 
siding in time to deliver him. 

Yet this was not why he had not gone away before. 
At any time he could have escaped into the baggage-room 

15 or withdrawn to a dignified distance until his train should 
come up. But the old man had evidently got a sort of 
•joy from this teasing. He had reached that inevitable age 
when we are tickled to be linked with affairs of gallantry, 
no matter how. 

20 With him now the East-bound departed slowly into 
that distance whence I had come. I stared after it as it 
went its way to the far shores of civilization. It grew 
sm^ in the unending gulf of space, until all sign of its 
presence was gone save a faint skein of smoke against the 

26 evening sky. And now my lost tnmk came back into my 
thoughts, and Medicine Bow seemed a lonely spot. A 
sort of ship had left me marooned in a foreign ocean; 
the Pullman was comfortably steaming home to port, 
while I — how was I to find Judge Henry's ranch ? Where 

30 in this unfeatured wilderness was Sunk Creek? No creek 
or any water at all flowed here that I could perceive. My 
host had written he should meet me at the station and drive 
me to his ranch. This was all that I knew. He was not 
here. The baggage-man had not seen him lately. The 

36 ranch was almost certain to be too far to walk to, to-night. 
My trunk — I discovered myself still [^teA?^g^^d^#y 


after the vanished East-bound ; and at the same instant I 
became aware that the tall man was looking gravely at 
me, — as gravely as he had looked at Uncle Hughey 
throughout their remarkable conversation. 

To see his eye thus fixing me and his thumb still hooked 6 
in his cartridge-belt, certain tales of travellers from these 
parts forced themselves disquietingly into my recollection. 
Now that Uncle Hughey was gone, was I to take his place 
and be, for instance, invited to dance on the platform to 
the music of shots nicely aimed ? 10 

"I reckon I am looking for you, seh," the tall man now 

Digitized by 



"when tou call me that, smile !'^ 

We cannot see ourselves as other see us, or I should 
know what appearance I cut at hearing this from the tall 
man. I said nothing, feeling uncertain. 

"I reckon I am looking for you, seh," he repeated 
5 politely. 

"I am looking for Judge Henry," I now replied. 

He walked toward me, and I saw that in inches he was 
not a giant. He was not more than six feet. It was 
Uncle Hughey that had made him seem to tower. But in 
10 his eye, in his face, in his step, in the whole man, there 
dominated a something potent to be felt, I shoidd think, 
by man or woman. 

"The Judge sent me afteh you, seh," he now explained, 
in his civil Southern voice; and he handed me a letter 
15 from my host. Had I not witnessed his facetious per- 
formances with Uncle Hughey, I should have judged him 
wholly ungifted with such powers. There was nothing 
external about him but what seemed the signs of a nature 
as grave as you could meet. But I had witnessed; and 
20 therefore supposing that I knew him in spite of his appear- 
ance, that I was, so to speak, in his secret and could give 
him a sort of wink, I adopted at once a method of easiness. 
It was so pleasant to be easy with a large stranger, who 
instead of shooting at your heels had very civilly handed 
25 you a letter. 

" YouVe from old Virginia, I take it?'' I T^egan. 

He answered slowly, "Then you have taken it correct, 
seh." Digitized by N^uuy It: 



A slight chill passed over my easiness, but I went 
cheerily on with a further inquiry. "Find many oddities 
out here like Uncle Hughey?" 

"Yes, seh, there is a right smart of oddities around. 
They come in on every train." 5 

At this point I dropped my method of easiness. 

"I wish that trunks came on the train," said I. And I 
told him my predicament. 

It was not to be expected that he would be greatly 
moved at my lossj but he took it with no comment what- lo 
ever. "We^ll wait in town for it," said he, always per- 
fectly civil. 

Now, what I had seen of "town" was, to my newly 
arrived eyes, altogether horrible. If I could possibly 
sleep at the Judge's ranch, I preferred to do so. is 

"Is it too far to drive there to-night?" I inquired. 

He looked at me in a puzzled manner. 

"For this valise," I explained, "contains all that I 
immediately need ; in fact, I could do without my trunk 
for a day or two, if it is not convenient to send. So if 20 
we could arrive there not too late by starting at once — " 
I paused. 

"It's two hundred and sixty-three miles," said the 

To my loud ejaculation he made no answer, but surveyed 25 
me a moment longer, and then said, "Supper will be about 
ready now." He took my valise, and I followed his steps 
toward the eating-house in silence. I was dazed. 

As we went, I read my host's letter — a brief, hospitable 
message. He -^yas very sorry not to meet me himself. 30 
He had been getting ready to drive over, when the surveyor 
appeared and detained him. Therefore in his stead he 
was sending a trustworthy man to town, who would look 
after me and drive me over. They were looking forward 
to my visit with much pleasure. This was all. S6 

Yes, I was dazed. How did they count distance in this 

' '^ Digitized by VjUUg It: 


country ? You spoke in a neighborly fashion about driving 
over to town, and it meant — I did not know yet how many 
days. And what would be meant by the term "dropping 
in/* I wondered. And how many miles would be con- 
Ssidered really far? I abstained from further questioning 
the "trustworthy man." My questions had not fared 
excessively well. He did not propose making me dance, 
to be sure : that would scarcely be trustworthy. But 
neither did he propose to have me familiar with him. 

10 Why was this? What had I done to elicit that veiled 
and skilful sarcasm about oddities coming in on every 
train ? Having been sent to look after me, he would do so, 
would even carry my valise ; but I could not be jocular 
with him. This handsome, imgrammatical son of the soil 

15 had set between us the bar of his cold and perfect civility. 
No polished person could have done it better. What was 
the matter ? I looked at him, and suddenly it came to me. 
If he had tried familiarity with me the first two minutes of 
our acquaintance, I should have resented it ; by what right, 

20 then, had I tried it with him ? It smacked of patronizing : 
on this occasion he had come off the better gentleman of 
the two. Here in flesh and blood was a truth which I had 
long believed in words, but never met before. The crea- 
ture we call a gentleman lies deep in the hearts of thousands 

26 that are born without chance to master the outward graces 
of the type. 

Between the station and the eating-house I did a deal of 
straight thinking. But my thoughts were destined 
presently to be drowned in amazement at the rare person- 

30 age into whose society fate had thrown me. 

Town, as they called it, pleased me the less, the longer 
I saw it. But until our language stretches itself and takes 
in a new word of closer fit, town will have to do for the 
name of such a place as was Medicine Bow. I have seen 

36 and slept in many like it since. Scattered wide, they 
littered the frontier from the Columbia to the Rio Grande, 

Digitized by VjUUy It: 


from the Missouri to the Sierras. They lay stark, dotted 
over a planet of treeless dust, like soiled packs of cards. 
Each was similar to the next, as one old five-spot of clubs 
resembles another. Houses, empty bottles, and garbage, 
they were forever of the same shapeless pattern. Mores 
forlorn they were than stale bones. They seemed to have 
been strewn there by the wind and to be waiting till the 
wind should come again and blow them away. Yet 
serene above their foidness swam a pure and quiet light, 
such as the East never sees ; they might be bathing in the lO 
air of creation's first morning. Beneath sun and stars 
their days and nights were immaculate and wonderful. 

Medicine Bow was my first, and I took its dimensions, 
twenty-nine buildings in all, — one coal shute, one water 
tank, the station, one store, two eating-houses, one billiard 15 
hall, two tool-houses, one feed stable, and twelve others 
that for one reason and another I shall not name. Yet 
this wretched husk of squalor spent thought upon ap- 
pearances ; many houses in it wore a false front to seem 
as if they were two stories high. There they stood, rearing 20 
their pitiful masquerade amid a fringe bf old tin cans, while 
at their very doors began a world of crystal light, a land 
without end, a space across which Noah and Adam might 
come straight from Genesis. Into that space went 
wandering a road, over a hill and down out of sight, and 25 
up again smaller in the distance, and down once more, and 
up once more, straining the eyes, and so away. 

Then I heard a fellow greet my Virginian. He came 
rollicking out of a door, and made a pass with his hand at 
the Virginian's hat. The Southerner dodged it, and I saw 30 
once more the tiger undulation of body, and knew my 
escort was he of the rope and the corral. 

"How are jru', Steve?" he said to the rollicking man. 
And in his tone I heard instantly old friendship speaking. 
With Steve he would take and give familiarity. 35 

Steve looked at me, and looked awayp-^.^^ciJl^^^s all. 


But it was enough. In no company had I ever felt so much 
an outsider, Yet I liked the company, and wished that 
it would like me. 

*' Just come to town?" inquired Steve of the Virginian. 
5 ''Been here since noon. Been waiting for the train." 

"Gomg out to-night?" 

''I reckon I'll pull out to-morro'." 

''Beds are all took," said Steve. This was for my 
10 "Dear me !" said I. 

"But I guess one of them drummers will let yu' double 
up with him." Steve was enjoying himself, I think. 
He had his saddle and blankets, and beds were nothing to 
15 "Drummers, are they?" asked the Virginian. 

"Two Jews handling cigars, one American with con- 
sumption killer, and a Dutchman with jew'lry." 

The Virginian set down my valise, and seemed to medi- 
tate. "I did want a bed to-night," he murmured gently. 
20 "Well," Steve suggested, "the American looks like he 
washed the oftenest." 

"That's of no consequence to me," observed the 

"Guess it'll be when yu' see 'em." 
25 "Oh, I'm meaning something different. I wanted a 
bed to myself." 

"Then you'll have to build one." 

"Bet yu' I have the Dutchman's." 

"Take a man that won't scare. Bet yu' drinks yu' 
30 can't have the American's." 

"Go yu'," said the Virginian. "I'll have his bed with- 
out any fuss. Drinks for the crowd." 

"I suppose you have me beat," said Steve, grinning at 

him affectionately. "You're such a son-of-a when 

.35 you get down to work. Well, so-long ! I got to fix my 
horse's hoofs." 

Digitized by VjOO^ ItT 


I had expected that the man would be struck down. 
He had used to the Vkginian a term of heaviest insult, I 
thought. I had marvelled to hear it come so imheralded 
from Steve's friendly lips. And now I marvelled still 
more. Evidently he had meant no harm by it, and 5 
evidently no offence had been taken. Used thus, this 
language was plainly complimentary. I had stepped into 
a world new to me indeed, and novelties were occurring 
with scarce any time to get breath between them. As to 
where I should sleep, I had forgotten that problem lo 
altogether in my curiosity. What was the Virginian going 
to do now? I began to know that the quiet of this man 
was volcanic. 

"Will you wash first, sir?" 

We were at the door of the eating-house, and he set 15 
my valise inside. In my tenderfoot innocence I was 
looking indoors for the washing arrangements. 

"It's out hyeh, seh," he informed me gravely, but 
with strong Southern accent. Internal mirth seemed often 
to heighten the local flavor of his speech. There were 20 
other times when it had scarce any special accent or fault 
in grammar. 

A trough was to my right, slippery with soapy water ; 
and hangmg from a roller above one end of it was a rag of 
discouraging appearance. The Virginian caught it, and it 25 
performed one whirling revolution on its roller. Not a 
dry or clean inch could be found on it. He took off his 
hat, and put his head in the door. 

"Your towel, ma'am," said he, "has been too popular." 

She came out, a pretty woman. Her eyes rested upon 30 
him for a moment, then upon me with disfavor ; then they 
returned to his black hair. 

"The allowance is one a day," said she, very quietly. 
"But when folks are particular — " She completed her 
sentence by removing the old towel and giving a clean one 36 

to us. Digitized by V^UUy It: 


"Thank you, ma'am," said the cow-puncher. 
She looked once more at his black hair, and without 
any word returned to her guests at supper. 
A pail stood in the trough, ahnost empty ; and this he 
5 filled for me from a well. There was some soap sliding at 
large in the trough, but I got my own. And then in a tin 
basin I removed as many of the stains of travel as I was 
able. It was not much of a toilet that I made in this first 
wash-trough of my experience, but it had to suffice, and I 
10 took my seat at supper. 

Canned stuff it was, — corned beef. And one of my 
table companions said the truth about it. ** When I slung 
my teeth over that,'' he remarked, "I thought I was 
chewing a hammock." We had strange coffee, and con- 
15 densed milk ; and I have never seen more flies. I made 
no attempt to talk, for no one in this country seemed 
favorable to me. By reason of something, — my clothes, 
my hat, my pronunciation, whatever it might be, — I 
possessed the secret of estranging people at sight. Yet 
20 1 was doing better than I knew; my strict silence and 
attention to the corned beef made me in the eyes of the 
cow-boys at table compare well with the over-talkative 
commercial travellers. 
The Virginian's entrance produced a slight silence. He 
25 had done wonders with the wash-trough, and he had 
somehow brushed his clothes. With all the roughness of 
his dress, he was now the neatest of us. He nodded to 
some of the other cow-boys, and began his meal in quiet. 
But silence is not the native element of the drummer. 
30 An average fish can go a longer time out of water than 
this breed can live without talking. One of them now 
looked across the table at the grave, flannel-shirted Vir- 
ginian; he inspected, and came to the imprudent con- 
clusion that he understood his man. 
36 " Good evening," he said briskly. 

"Good evening," said the Virginian, oigtized by Google 


"Just come to town?'' pursuied the drummer. 

"Just come to town," the Virgmian suavely assented. 

"Cattle business jumping along?" inquired the drum- 

"Oh, fair." And the Virginian took some more corned 5 

"Gets a move on your appetite, anyway," suggested 
the dnunmer. 

The Virginian drank some coffee. Presently the pretty 
woman refilled his cup without his asking her. 10 

"Guess I've met you before," the drunmier stated next. 

The Virginian glanced at hun for a brief moment. 

"Haven't I, now? Ain't I seen you somewheres? 
Look at me. You been in Chicago, ain't you? You look 
at me well. Remember Ikey's, don't you?" 16 

"I don't reckon I do." 

"See, now! I knowed you'd been in Chicago. Four 
or five years ago. Or maybe it's two years. Time's 
nothing to me. But I never forget a face. Yes, sir. 
Him and me's met at Ikey's all right." This important 20 
point the drummer stated to all of us. We were called to 
witness how well he had proved old acquaintanceship. 
"Ain't the world small, though!" he exclaimed com- 
placently. "Meet a man once and you're sure to run on 
to him again. That's straight. That's no bar-room 25 
josh." And the drummer's eye included us all in his 
confidence. I wondered if he had attained that high 
perfection when a man believes his own lies. 

The Virginian did not seem interested. He placidly 
attended to his food, while our landlady moved between 30 
dining room and kitchen, and the drummer expanded. 

"Yes, sir! Ikey's over by the stock-yards, patronized 
by all cattlemen that know what's what. That's where. 
Maybe it's three years. Time never was nothing to me. 
But faces ! Why, I can't quit 'em. Adults or children, 35 
male and female ; onced I seen 'em I couldn't lose one off 


my memory, not if you were to pay me bounty, five 
dollars a face. White men, that is. Can't do nothing 
with niggers or Chinese. But you're white, all right." 
The drummer suddenly returned to the Virginian with this 
5 high compliment. The cow-puncher had taken out a pipe, 
and was slowly rubbing it. The compliment seemed to 
escape his attention, and the drummer went on. 

"I can tell a man when he's white, put him at Ikey's 
or out loose here in the sage-brush." And he rolled a 
10 cigar across to the Virginian's plate. 

'* Selling them?" inquired the Virginian. 

"Solid goods, my friend. Havana wrappers, the 
biggest tobacco proposition for five cents got out yet. 
Take it, try it, light it, watch it bum. Here." And he 
15 held out a bunch of matches. 

The Virginian tossed a five-cent piece over to him. 

' ^ Oh, no, my friend ! Not from you ! Not after Ikey's. 
I don't forget you. See? I knowed your face right 
away. See? That's straight. I seen you at Chicago all 
20 right." 

"Maybe you did," said the Virginian. "Sometimes 
I'm mighty careless what I look at." 

"WeU, py damn!" now exclaimed the Dutch drummer, 
hilariously. "I am ploom disappointed. I vas hoping to 
26 sell him somedings myself." 

"Not the same here," stated the American. "He's too 
healthy for me. I gave him up on sight." 

Now it was the American di-ummer whose bed the 
Virginian had in his eye. This was a sensible man, and 
30 had talked less than his brothers in the trade. I had little 
doubt who would end by sleeping in his bed ; but how 
the thing would be done interested me more deeply than 

The Virginian looked amiably at his intended victim, 

36 and made one or two remarks regarding patent medicines. 

There must be a good deal of money in ^hprj^ l^^ji^ppi^sed, 


with a live man to manage them. The victim was flattered. 
No other person at the table had been favored with so 
much of the tall cow-puncher's notice. He responded, 
and they had a pleasant talk. I did not divine that the 
Virginian's genius was even then at work, and that this 5 
was part of his satanic strategy. But Steve must have 
divined it. For while a few of us still sat finishing our 
supper, that facetious horseman returned from doctoring 
his horse's hoofs, put his head into the dining room, took 
in the way in which the Virginian was engaging his victim 10 
in conversation, remarked aloud, " I've lost ! " and closed 
the door again. 

"What's he lost?" inquired the American drummer. 

"Oh, you mustn't mind him," drawled the Virginian. 
"He's one of those box-head jokers goes aroimd openin' 15 
and shuttin' doors that-a-way. We call him harmless. 
Well," he broke off, "I reckon I'll go smoke. Not allowed 
in hyeh?" This last he addressed to the landlady, with 
especial gentleness. She shook her head, and her eyes 
followed him as he went out. 20 

Left to myself I meditated for some time upon my lodg- 
ing for the night, and smoked a cigar for consolation as I 
walked about. It was not a hotel that we had supped in. 
Hotel at Medicine Bow there appeared to be none. But 
connected with the eating-house was that place where, 25 
according to Steve, the beds were all taken, and there I 
went to see for myseK. Steve had spoken the truth. 
It was a single apartment containing four or five beds, 
and nothing else whatever. And when I looked at these 
beds, my sorrow that I could sleep in none of them grew 30 
less. To be alone in one offered no temptation, and as for 
this courtesy of the country, this doubling up — ! 

"Well, they have got ahead of us." This was the 
Virginian standing at my elbow. 

I assented. 35 

"They have staked out their claims," Jj^zi^tSboQle 


In this public sleeping room they had done what one 
does to secure a seat in a railroad train. Upon each bed, 
as notice of occupancy, lay some article of travel or of dress. 
As we stood there, the two Jews came in and opened and 
6 arranged their valises, and folded and refolded their linen 
dusters. Then a railroad employee entered and began 
to go to bed at this hour, before dusk had wholly darkened 
into night. For him, going to bed meant removing his 
boots and placing his overalls and waistcoat beneath his 
10 pillow. He had no coat. His work began at three in the 
morning ; and even as we still talked he began to snore. 

"The man that keeps the store is a friend of mine,'' said 
the Virginian; "and you can be pretty near comfortable 
on his counter. Got any blankets?" 
15 I had no blankets. 

"Looking for a bed?'' inquired the American drummer, 
now arriving. 

"Yes, he's looking for a bed," answered the voice of 
Steve behind him. 
20 "Seems a waste of time," observed the Virginian. He 
looked thoughtfully from one bed to another. "I didn't 
know I'd have to lay over here. Well, I have sat up 

"This one's mine," said the drummer, sitting down on it. 
25 "Half's plenty enough room for me." 

"You're cert'nly mighty kind," said the cow-puncher. 
"But I'd not think o' disconveniencing yu'." 

"That's nothing. The other half is yours. Turn in 
right now if you feel like it." 
30 "No. I don't reckon I'll turn in right now. Better 
keep your bed to yourself." 

"See here," urged the drummer, "if I take you I'm safe 
from drawing some party I might not care so much about. 
This here sleeping proposition is a lottery." 
35 "Well," said the Virginian (and his hesitation was truly 
masterly), "if you put it that way — " 

Digitized by VjUUy It: 


"I do put it that wAy. Why, you're clean! You've 
had a shave right now. You turn in when you feel in- 
clined, old man ! I ain't retiring just yet." 

The drummer had struck a slightly false note in these 
last remarks. He should not have said "old man." 5 
Until this I had thought him merely an amiable person 
who wished to do a favor. But * * old man ' ' came in wrong. 
It had a hateful taint of his profession ; the being too soon 
with everybody, the celluloid good-fellowship that passes 
for ivory with nine in ten of the city crowd. But not so 10 
with the sons of the sage-brush. They live nearer nature, 
and they know better. 

But the Virginian blandly accepted "old man" from his 
victim : he had a game to play. 

"Well, I cert'nly thank yu'," he said. "After a while 16 
I'll take advantage of your kind offer." 

I was surprised. Possession being nine points of the 
law, it seemed his very chance to intrench himself in the 
bed. But the cow-puncher had planned a campaign 
needing no intrenchments. Moreover, going to bed 20 
before nine o'clock upon the first evening in many weeks 
that a town's resources were open to you, would be a dull 
proceeding. Our entire company, drummer and all, 
now walked over to the store, and here my sleeping ar- 
rangements were made easily. This store was the cleanest 25 
place and the best in Medicine Bow, and would have been 
a good store anywhere, offering a multitude of things for 
sale, and kept by a very civU proprietor. He bade me 
make myself at home, and placed both of his counters at 
my disposal. Upon the grocery side there stood a cheese 30 
too large and strong to sleep near comfortably, and I 
therefore chose the dry-goods side. Here thick quilts 
were unrolled for me, to make it soft ; and no condition 
was placed upon me, further than that I should remove 
my boots, because the quilts were new, and clean, and for 36 
sale. So now my rest was assured.DigtJfot^vJMDu^^ety 


remained in my thoughts. These 'therefore turned them- 
selves wholly to the other man's bed, and how he was going 
to lose it. 

I think that Steve was more curious even thaii myself. 

5 Time was on the wing. His bet must be decided, and 

the drinks enjoyed. He stood against the grocery counter, 

contemplating the Virginian. But it was to me that he 

spoke. The Virginian, however, listened to every word. 

"Your first visit to this country?" 
10 I told him yes. 

"How do you like it?" 

I expected to like it very much. 

"How does the climate strike you?" 

I thought the climate was fine. 
15 "Makes a man thirsty though." 

This was the sub-current which the Virginian plainly 
looked for. But he, like Steve, addressed himself to 

"Yes," he put in, "thirsty wliile a man's soft yet. 
20 You'll harden." 

"I guess you'll find it a drier country than you were 
given to expect," said Steve. 

"If your habits have been frequent that way," said the 
25 "There's parts of Wyoming," pursued Steve, "where 
you'll go hours and hours before you'll see a drop of 

"And if yu' keep a-thinkin' about it," said the Vir- 
ginian, "it'll seem l&e days and days." 
30 Steve, at this stroke, gave up, and clapped him on the 

shoulder with a joyous chuckle. "You old son-of-a ! " 

he cried affectionately. 

"Drinks are due now," said the Virginian. "My treat, 
Steve. But I reckon your suspense will have to linger a 
35 while yet." 

Thus they dropped mto direct talk fem b^t-b^itj^g^Qch 


of the fourth dimension where they had been using me for 
their telephone. 

"Any cyards going to-night?" inquired the Virginian. 

'' Stud and draw," Steve told him. "Strangers 
playing." 5 

"I think I^d like to get into a game for a while," said 
the Southerner. ' * Strangers, yu' say ? ' ' 

And then, before quitting the store, he made his toilet 
for this little hand at poker. It was a simple preparation. 
He took his pistol from its holster, examined it, then shoved lo 
it between his overalls and his shirt in front, and pulled 
his waistcoat over it. He might have been combing his 
hair for all the attention any one paid to this, except my- 
self. Then the two friends went out, and I bethought me 
of that epithet which Steve again had used to the Virginian 16 
as he clapped him on the shoulder. Clearly this wild 
country spoke a language other than mine — the word 
here was a term of endearment. Such was my conclusion. 

The drummers had finished their dealings with the pro- 
prietor, and they were gossiping together in a knot by the 20 
door as the Virginian passed out. 

"See you later, old man!" This was the American 
drummer accosting his prospective bed-fellow. 

"Oh, yes," returned the bed-fellow, and was gone. 

The American drummer winked triumphantly at his 25 
brethren. "He's all right," he observed, jerking a thumb 
after the Virginian. "He's easy. You got to know him 
to work him. That's all." 

"Und vat is your point?" inquired the German 
drummer. 30 

" Point is — he'll not take any goods off you or me ; but 
he's going to talk up the killer to any consumptive he runs 
acrost. I ain't done with him yet. Say," (he now ad- 
dressed the proprietor), "what's her name?" 

"Whose name?" 35 

"Woman runs the eating-house." by Google 


."Glen. Mrs. Glen." 
"Ain't she new?" 

" Been settled here about a month. Husband's a freight 
6 "Thought I'd not seen her before. She's a good- 

"Hm ! Yes. The kind of good looks I'd sooner see in 
another man's wife than mine." 
" So that's the gait, is it ? " 
10 "Hm! well, it don't seem to be. She come here with 
that reputation. But there's been general disappoint- 

"Then she ain't lacked suitors any?" 
"Lacked! Are you acquainted with cow-boys?" 
16 "And she disappointed 'em? Maybe she likes her 

"Hm! well, how are you to tell about them silent 

"Talking of conductors," began the drummer. And 
20 we listened to his anecdote. It was successful with his 
audience; but when he laimched fluently upon a second 
I strolled out. There was not enough wit in this narrator 
to relieve his indecency, and I felt shame at having been 
surprised into laughing with him. 
26 I left that company growing confidential over their leer- 
ing stories, and I sought the saloon. It was very quiet and 
orderly. Beer in quart bottles at a dollar I had never 
met before; but saving its price, I found no complaint 
to make of it. Through folding doors I passed from the 
30 bar proper with its bottles and elk head back to the hall 
with its various tables. I saw a man sliding cards from a 
case, and across the table from him another man laying 
counters down. Near by was a second dealer pulling cards 
from the bottom of a pack, and opposite him a solemn old 
36 rustic piling and changing coins upon the cards which lay 
already exposed. 

^ *^ Digitized by V^UUy It: 


But now I heard a voice that drew my eyes to the far 
corner of the room. 

"Why didn't you stay in Arizona?" 

Harmless looking words as I write them down here. 
Yet at the sound of them I noticed the eyes of the others 6 
directed to that comer. What answer was given to them 
I did not hear, nor did I see who spoke. Then came 
another remark. 

'*Well, Arizona's no place for amatures." 

This time the two card dealers that I stood near began 10 
to give a part of their attention to the group that sat in the 
corner. There was in me a desire to leave this room. 
So far my hours at Medicine Bow had seemed to glide 
beneath a simshine of merriment, of easy-going jocularity. 
This was suddenly gone, like the wind changing to north 16 
in the middle of a warm day. But I stayed, being ashamed 
to go. 

Five or six players sat over in the corner at a roimd 
table where counters were piled. Their eyes were close 
upon their cards, and one seemed to be dealing a card at a 20 
time to each, with pauses and betting between. Steve 
was there and the Virginian ; the others were new faces. 

"No place for amatures," repeated the voice; and now 
I saw that it was the dealer's. There was in his coun- 
tenance the same ugliness that his words conveyed. 26 

"Who's that talkin' ?" said one of the men near me, in a 
low voice. 


"What's he?" 

"Cow-puncher, bronco-buster, tin-horn, most any- 30 


"Think it's the black-headed guy he's talking at." 

"That ain't supposed to be safe, is it?" 

"Guess we're all goin' to find out in a few minutes." 36 

"Been trouble between 'em?" o.g.zedby^uuyit: 


"They've not met before. Trampas don't enjoy losin' 
to a stranger." 

"Fello's from Arizona, yu' say?" 

"No. Virginia. He's recently back fron; havin' 
6 a look at Arizona. Went down there last year for a 
change. Works for the Sunk Creek outfit." And then the 
dealer lowered his voice still further and said something 
in the other man's ear, causing him tp grin. After which 
both of them looked at me. 
10 There had been silence over in the comer ; but now the 
man Trampas spoke again. 

^^And ten," said he, sliding out some chips from before 
him. Very strange it was to hear him, how he contrived 
to make those words a personal taunt. The Virginian was 
16 looking at his cards. He might have been deaf. 

^^And twenty," said the next player, easily. 

The next threw his cards down. 

It was now the Virginian's turn to bet, or leave the game, 
and he did not speak at once. 
20 Therefore Trampas spoke. "Your bet, you son-of- 
a ." 

The Virginian's pistol came out, and his hand lay on the 
table, holding it unaimed. And with a voice as gentle as 
ever, the voice that sounded almost like a caress, but drawl- 
26 ing a very Httle more than usual, so that there was almost 
a space between each word, he issued his orders to the man 
Trampas : — 

"When you call me that, smile. ^^ And he looked at 
Trampas across the table. 
30 Yes, the voice was gentle. But in my ears it seemed as 
if somewhere the bell of death was ringing; and silence, 
like a stroke, fell on the large room. All men present, as 
if by some magnetic current, had become aware of this 
crisis. In my ignorance, and the total stoppage of my 
35 thoughts, I stood stock-still, and noticed various people 
crouching, or shifting their positions. 

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*^ Sit quiet/' said the dealer scornfully to the man near 
me. "Can't you see he don't want to push trouble? 
He has handed Trampas the choice to back down or draw 
his steel." 

Then, with equal suddenness and ease, the room came 6 
out of its strangeness. Voices and cards, the click of 
chips, the puff of tobacco, glasses lifted to drink, — this 
level of smooth relaxation hinted no more plainly of what 
lay beneath than does the surface tell the depth of the sea. 

For Trampas had made his choice. And that choice was lo 
not to "draw his steel." If it was knowledge that he 
sought, he had found it, and no mistake I We heard no 
further reference to what he had been pleased to style 
"amatures." In no company would the black-headed 
man who had visited Arizona be rated a novice at the cool 15 
art of self-preservation. f 

One doubt remained : what kind of a man was Tram- 
pas? A pubhc back-down is an unfinished thing, — 
for some natures at least. I looked at his face, and thought 
it sullen, but tricky rather than courageous. 20 

Something had been added to my knowledge also. 
Once again I had heard applied to the Virginian that 
epithet which Steve so freely used. The same words, 
identical to the letter. But this time they had produced 
a pistol. "When you call me that, smile!'' So I per- 26 
ceived a new example of the old truth, that the letter means 
nothing until the spirit gives it life. 

Digitized by 




It was for several minutes, I suppose, that I stood 
drawing these silent morals. No man occupied himself 
with me. Quiet voices, and games of chance, and glasses 
lifted to drink, continued to be the peaceful order of the 
5 night. And into my thoughts broke the voice of that 
card-dealer who had already spoken so sagely. He also 
took his turn at moralizing. 

"What did I tell you?" he remarked to the man for 
whom he continued to deal, and who continued to lose 
10 money to him. 


"Didn't I tell you he'd not shoot?" the dealer pursued 
with complacence. "You got ready to dodge. You 
had no call to be concerned. He's not the kind a man 
15 need feel anxious about." 

The player looked over at the Virginian, doubtfully. 
"Well," he said, "I don't know what you folks call a 
dangerous man." 

"Not him!" exclaimed the dealer with admiration. 
20 "He's a brave man. That's different." 

The player seemed to follow this reasoning no better 
than I did. 

"It's not a. brave man that's dangerous," continued 
the dealer. "It's the cowards that scare me." He 
26 paused that this might sink home. "Fello' came in here 
las' Toosday," he went on. "He got into some misun- 
derstanding about the drinks. Well, sir, before we 
could put him out of business, he'd hurt two perfectly 

OA Digitized by VjOOyitr 


innocent onlookers. They'd no more to do with it than 
you have," the dealer explained to me. 

"Were they badly hurt?" I asked. 

"One of 'em was. He's died since." 

" What became of the man? " 6 

"Why, we put him out of business, I told you. He 
died that night. But there was no occasion for any of 
it ; and that's why I never like to be around where there's 
a coward. You can't tell. He'll always go to shooting 
before it's necessary, and there's no security who he'll hit. lo 
But a man like that black-headed guy is (the dealer indi- 
cated the Virginian) need never worry you. And there's 
another point why there's no need to worry about him: 
mi he too later' 

These good words ended the moralizing of the dealer. 16 
He had given us a piece of his mind. He now gave the 
whole of it to dealing cards. I loitered here and there, 
neither welcome nor unwelcome at present, watching the 
cow-boys at their play. Saving Trampas, there was 
scarce a face among them that had not in it something 20 
very likeable. Here were lusty horsemen ridden from 
the heat of the sun, and the wet of the storm, to divert 
themselves awhile. Youth untamed sat here for an idle 
moment, spending easily its hard-earned wages. City 
saloons rose into my vision, and I instantly preferred this 26 
Rocky Mountain place. More of death it undoubtedly 
saw, but less of vice, than did its New York equivalents. 
And death is a thing much cleaner than vice. More- 
over, it was by no means vice that was written upon 
these wild and manly faces. Even where baseness was 30 
visible, baseness was not uppermost. Daring, laughter, 
endurance — these were what I saw upon the counte- 
nances of the cow-boys. And this very first day of my 
knowledge of them marks a date with me. For some- 
thing about them, and the idea of them, smote my Ameri- 35 
can heart, and I have never forgotten it, nor ever shall. 


as long as I live. In their flesh our natural passions ran 
tumultuous; but often in their spirit sat hidden a true 
nobility, and often beneath its imexpected shining their 
figures took on heroic stature. 
6 The dealer had styled the Virginian "a black-headed 
guy." This did well enough as an unflattered portrait. 
Judge Henry's trustworthy, man, with whom I was to 
drive two hundred and sixty-three miles, certainly had 
a very black head of hair. It was the first thing to notice 
10 now, if one glanced generally at the table where he sat 
at cards. But the eye came back to him — drawn by 
that inexpressible something which had led the dealer 
to speak so much at length about him. 

Still, "black-headed guy" justly fits him and his next 

16 performance. He had made his plan for this like a true 

and (I must say) inspired devil. And now the highly 

appreciative town of Medicine Bow was to be treated 

to a manifestation of genius. 

He sat playing his stud-poker. After a decent period 
20 of losing and winning, which gave Trampas all proper 
time for a change of luck and a repairing of his fortunes, 
he looked at Steve and said amiably, — 

"How does bed strike you?" 

I was beside their table, learning gradually that stud- 
26 poker has in it more of what I wiU call red pepper than 
has our Eastern game. The Virginian followed his own 
question : — 

"Bed strikes me," he stated. 

Steve feigned indifference. He was far more deeply 

30 absorbed in his bet and the American drmnmer than he 

was in this game; but he chose to take out a fat, florid 

gold watch, consult it elaborately, and remark, "It's only 


"Yu' forget I'm from the coimtry," said the black- 
35 headed guy. "The chickens have been roostin' a right 
smart while." Digitized by ^^uuy it: 


His sunny Southern accent was again strong. In 
that brief passage with Trampas it had been almost 
wholly absent. But different moods of the spirit bring 
different qualities of utterance — where a man comes by 
these naturally. The Virginian cashed in his checks. 6 

"A while ago/' said Steve, "you had won three months' 

"I'm still twenty dollars to the good," said the Vir- 
ginian. "That's better than breaking a laig." 

Again, in some voiceless, masonic way, most people in 10 
that saloon had become aware that something was in 
process of happening. Several left their games and came 
to the front by the bar. 

"If he ain't in bed yet — " mused the Virginian. 

"I'll find out," said I. And I hurried across to the 16 
dim sleeping room, happy to have a part in this. 

They were all in bed; and in some beds two were 
sleeping. How they could do it — but in those days I 
was fastidious. The American had come in recently 
and was still awake. 20 

"Thought you were to sleep at the store?" said he. 

So then I invented a little lie, and explained that I was 
in search of the Vii^nian. 

"Better search the dives," said he. "These cow-boys 
don't get to town often." 26 

At this point I stumbled sharply over something. 

"It's my box of Consumption Ealler," explained the 
drummer. "Well, I hope that man will stay out all 

"Bed narrow?" I inquired. 30 

"For two it is. And the pillows are mean. Takes 
both before you feel anything's under your head." 

He yawned, and I wished him pleasant dreams. 

At my news the Virginian left the bar at once, and 
crossed to the sleeping room. Steve and I followed softly, 36 
and behind us several more strung ^|^|^^y;ivJ|ij(j^|:^ctaTit 


line. "What is this going to be?" they inquired curi- 
ously of each other. And upon learning the great novelty 
of the event, they clustered with silence intense outside the 
door where the Virginian had gone in. 
6 We heard the voice of the drummer, cautioning his 
bed-fellow. "Don't trip over the Killer," he was say- 
ing. "The Prince of Wales barked his shin just now." 
It seemed my English clothes had earned me this title. 

The boots of the Virginian were next heard to drop. 
10 "Can yu' make out what he's at?" whispered Steve. 

He was plainly undressing. The rip of swift unbut- 
toning told us that the black-headed guy must now be 
removing his overalls. 

"Why, thank yu', no," he was repljang to a ques- 
l6tion of the drummer. "Outside or in's all one to me." 

"Then, if you'd just as soon take the wall — " 

"Why, cert'nly." There was a sound of bedclothes, 
and creaking. "This hyeh pillo' needs a Southern cli- 
mate," was the Virginian's next observation. 
20 Many listeners had now gathered at the door. The 
dealer and the player were Jboth here. The storekeeper 
was present, and I recognized the agent of the Union 
Pacific Railroad among the crowd. We made a large 
company, aad I felt that trembling sensation which is 
26 conmion when the cap of a camera is about to be removed 
upon a group. 

"I should think," said the drummer's voice, "that 
you'd feel your knife and gun clean through that pillow." 

"I do," responded the Virginian. 
30 " I should think you'd put them on a chair and be com- 

"I'd be uncomfortable, then." 

"Used to the feel of them, I suppose?" 

"That's it. Used to the feel of them. I would miss 
36 them, and that would make me wakeful." 

"Well, good night." ,,^,^,^^, ,,Google 


"Grood night. If I get to talkin' and tossing or what 
not, you'll understand you're to — " 

"Yes, ril wake you." 

"No, don't yu', for God's sake !" 

"Not?" 6 

"Don't yu' touch me." 


"Roll away quick to your side. It don't last but a 
minute." The Virginian spoke with a reassuring drawl. 

Upon this there fell a brief silence, and I heard the 10 
drummer clear his throat once or twice. 

"It's merely the nightmare, I suppose?" he said after 
a throat clearing. 

"Lord, yes. That's all. And don't happen twice a 
year. Was you thinkin' it was fits ? " 16 

"Oh, no! I just wanted to know. I've been told 
before that it was not safe for a person to be waked sud- 
deuly that way out of a nightmare." 

"Yes, I have heard that too. But it never harms me 
anv. I didn't want you to run risks." 20 


"Oh, it'll be all right now that yu' know how it is." 
The Virginian's drawl was full of assurance. 

There was a second pause, after which the drummer 
said : — 25 

"Tell me again how it is." 

The Virginian answered very drowsily. "Oh, just 
don't let your arm or your laig touch me if I go to jumpin' 
around. I'm dreamin' of Indians when I do that. And 
if anything touches me then, I'm liable to grab my knife 30 
right in my sleep." 

"Oh, I imderstand," said the drummer, clearing his 
throat. "Yes." 

Steve was whispering delighted oaths to himself, and 
in his joy applying to the Virginian one unprintable name 36 
after another. ^.g,^.^^, by ^uuy it: 


We listened again, but now no further words came. 
Listening very hard, I could half make out the progress* 
of a heavy breathing, and a restless turning I could clearly 
detect. This was the wretched dnmimer. He was wait- 
6 ing. But he did not wait long. Again there was a light 
creak, and after it a light step. He was not even going 
to put his boots on in the fatal neighborhood of the 
dreamer. By a happy thought Medicine Bow formed into 
two lines, making an avenue from the door. And then 

10 the conmiercial traveller forgot his Consumption Killer. 
He fell heavily over it. 

Immediately from the bed the Virginian gave forth a 
dreadful howl. 
And then everything happened at once ; and how shall 

16 mere words narrate it? The door burst open, and out 
flew the commercial traveller in his stockings. One hand 
held a lump of coat and trousers with suspenders dangling, 
his boots were clutched in the other. The sight of us 
stopped his flight short. He gazed, the boots fell from 

20 his hand; and at his profane explosion, Medicine Bow 
set up a united, unearthly noise and began to play Vir- 
ginia reel with him. The other occupants of the beds 
had already sprung out of them, clothed chiefly with 
their pistols, and ready for war. 

26 "What is it?" they demanded. "What is it?'* 

"Why, I reckon it's drinks on Steve," said the Vir- 
ginian from his bed. And he gave the first broad grin 
that I had seen from him. 
"I'll set 'em up all night!" Steve shouted, as the reel 

30 went on regardless. The drummer was bawling to be 
allowed to put at least his boots on. "This way, Pard," 
was the answer; and another man whirled him round. 
"This way, Beau!" they called to him; "This way, 
Budd!" and he was passed like a shuttle-cock down the 

35 line. Suddenly the leaders bounded into the sleeping- 
room. "Feed the machine!" they said:,,,;;|^4J;^r^" 


And seizing the German drummer who sold jewellery, 
they flimg him into the trough of the reel. I saw him go 
bouncing like an ear of com to be shelled, and the dance 
ingulfed him. I saw a Jew sent rattling after him ; and 
next they threw in the railroad employee, and the others 
Jew; and while 1 stood mesmerized, my own feet left 
the earth. I shot from the room and sped like a bob- 
bing cork into this mill race, whirling my tiuii in the wake 
of the others amid cries of, "Here comes the Prince of 
Wales!" There was soon not much English left about lo 
my raiment. 

They were now shouting for music. Medicine Bow 
swept in like a cloud of dust to where a fiddler sat playing 
in a hall; and gathering up fiddler and dancers, swept 
out again, a larger Medicine Bow, growing all the while. 16 
Steve offered us the freedom of the house, everywhere. 
He implored us to call for whatever pleased us, and as 
many times as we should please. He ordered the town 
to be searched for more citizens to come and help him 
pay his bet. But changing his mind, kegs and bottles 20 
were now carried along with us. We had found three 
fiddlers, and these played busily for us ; and thus we set 
out to visit all cabins and houses where people might 
still by some miracle be asleep. The first man put out 
his head to decline. But such a possibility had been fore- 25 
seen by the proprietor of the store. This seemingly 
respectable man now came dragging some sort of appara- 
tus from his place, helped by the Virginian. The cow- 
boys cheered, for they knew what this was. The man in 
his window likewise recognized it, and uttering a groan 30 
came immediately out and joined us. What it was, I 
also learned in a few minutes. For we found a house 
where the people made no sign at either our fiddlers or 
our knocking. And then the infernal machine was set 
to work. Its parts seemed to be no more than an empty 35 
keg and a plank. Some citizen informed me that I 

° ^ Digitized by VjUUy It: 


should soon have a new idea of noise ; and I nerved myself 
for something severe in the way of gimpowder. But the 
Virginian and the proprietor now sat on the ground hold- 
ing the keg braced, and two others got down apparently 
6 to play see-saw over the top of it with the plaii. But 
the keg and plank had been rubbed with rosin, and they 
drew the plank back and forth over the keg. Do you 
know the sound made in a narrow street by a dray loaded 
with strips of iron? That noise is a lullaby compared 

10 with the staggering, blinding bellow which rose from the 
keg. If you were to try it in your native town, you would 
not merely be arrested, you would be hanged, and every- 
body would be glad, and the clergyman would not bury 
you. My head, my teeth, the whole system of my bones 

16 leaped and chattered at the din, and out of the house 
like drops squirted from a lemon came a man and his wife. 
No time was given them. They were swept along with 
the rest; and having been routed from their own bed, 
they now became most furious in assailing the remain- 

20ing homes of Medicine Bow. Everybody was to come 
out. Many were now riding horses at top speed out 
iato the plains and back, while the procession of the plank 
and keg continued its work, and the fiddlers played in- 

26 Suddenly there was a quiet. I did not see who brought 
the message ; but the word ran among us that there was 
a woman — the engineer's woman down by the water- 
tank — very sick. The doctor had been to see her from 
Laramie. Everybody liked the engineer. Plank and 

30 keg were heard no more. The horsemen found it out 
and restrained their gambols. Medicine Bow went grad- 
ually home. I saw doors shutting, and lights go out; 
I saw a late few reassemble at the card tables, and the 
drummers gathered themselves together for sleep; the 

35 proprietor of the store (you could not see a more respect- 
able-looking person) hoped that I would be comfortable 

Digitized by VjUUy It: 


on the quilts ; and I heard Steve urging the Virginian to 
take one more glass. 

"WeVe not met for so long," he said. 

But the Virginian, the black-headed guy. who had 
set all this nonsense going, said No to Steve. "I have 6 
got to stay responsible," was his excuse to his friend. 
And the friend looked at me. Therefore I surmised that 
the Judge's trustworthy man found me an embarrassment 
to his holiday. But if he did, he never showed it to me. 
He had been sent to meet a stranger and drive him to 10 
Sunk Creek in safety^ and this charge he would allow no 
temptation to imperil. He nodded good night to me. 
"K there's anything I can do for joi', you'll tell me." 

I thanked him. "What a pleasant evening!" I added. 

"I'm glad yu' found it so." 16 

Again his manner put a bar to my approaches. Even 
though I had seen him wildly disporting himself, those 
were matters which he chose not to discuss with me. 

Medicine Bow was quiet as I went my way to my 
quilts. So still, that through the air the deep whistles 20 
of the freight trains came from below the horizon across 
great miles of silence. I passed cow-bojrs, whom half 
an hour before I had seen prancing and roaring, now rolled 
in their blankets beneath the open and shining night. 

"What world am I m?" I said aloud. "Does this 25 
same planet hold Fifth Avenue?" 

And I went to sleep, pondering over my native land. 

Digitized by 




Morning had been for some while astir in Medicine 
Bow before I left my quilts. The new day and its doings 
began around me in the store, chiefly at the grocery coun- 
ter. Dry-goods were not in great request. The early 
5 rising cow-boys were off again to their work ; and those 
to whom their night's holiday had left any dollars were 
spending these for tobacco, or cartridges, or canned pro- 
visions for the journey to their distant camps. Sardines 
were called for, and potted chicken, and devilled ham: 

10 a sophisticated nourishment, at first sight, for these sons 
of the sage-brush. But portable ready-made food plays 
of necessity a great part in the opening of a new country. 
These picnic pots and cans were the first of her trophies 
that Civilization dropped upon Wyoming's virgin soil. 

15 The cow-boy is now gone to worlds invisible; the wind 

has blown away the white ashes of his camp-fires; but 

the empty sardine box lies rusting over the face of the 

Western earth. 

So through my eyes half closed I watched the sale 

20 of these tins, and grew familiar with the ham's inevitable 
trade-mark — that label with the devil and his horns 
and hoofs and tail very pronounced, all colored a sultry 
prodigious scarlet. And when each horseman had made 
his purchase, he would trail his spurs over the floor, 

25 and presently the sound of liis horse's hoofs would be the 
last of him. Through my dozing attention came various 
fragments of talk, and sometimes useful bits of knowledge. 

36 Digitized by VjUUy It: 


For instance, I learned the true value of tomatoes in 
this country. One fellow was buying two cans of them. 

"Meadow Creek dry already?" commented the pro- 

"Been dry ten days," the young cow-boy informed 5 
him. And it appeared that along the road he was going, 
water would not be reached much before sundown, 
because this Meadow Creek had ceased to run. His 
tomatoes were for drink. And thus they have refreshed 
me many times since. 10 

"No beer?" suggested the proprietor. 

The boy made a shuddering face. "Don't say its 
name to me !" he exclaimed. " I couldn't hold my break- 
fast down." He rang his silver money upon the counter. 
"I've swore off for three months," he stated. "I'm going 15 
to be as pure as the snow !" And away he went jingling 
out of the door, to ride seventy-five miles. Three more 
months of hard, imsheltered work, ^nd he would ride 
into town again, with his adolescent blood crying aloud 
for its own. 20 

"I'm obliged," said a new voice, rousing me from a 
new doze. "She's easier this morning, since the medi- 
cine." This was the engineer, whose sick wife had brought 
a hush over Medicine Bow's rioting. "I'll give her them 
flowers soon as she wakes," he added. 25 

"Flowers?" repeated the proprietor. 

"You didn't leave that bunch at our door?" 

"Wish I'd thought to do it." 

"She likes to see flowers," said the engineer. And 
he walked out slowly, with his thanks unachieved. He 30 
returned at once with the Virginian ; for in the band of 
the Virginian's hat were two or three blossoms. 

"It don't need mentioning," the Southerner was say- 
ing, embarrassed by any expression of thanks. "If 
we had knowed last night — " 35 

"You didn't disturb her any," brokeginthe engineer. 


"She's easier this morning. I'll tell her about them 

"Why, it don't need mentioning," the Virginian again 
protested, almost crossly. "The Httle tlungs looked 

6 kind o' fresh, and I just picked them." His eye now fell 
upon me, where I lay upon the counter. "I reckon 
breakfast will be getting through," he remarked. 

I was soon at the wash trough. It was only half-past 
six. but many had been before me, — one glance at the 

10 roller-towel told me that. I was afraid to ask the land- 
lady for a clean one, and so I foimd a fresh handkerchief, 
and accomplished a sparing toilet. In the midst of this 
the drummers joined me, one by one, and they used the 
degraded towel without hesitation. In a way they had 

15 the best of me ; filth was nothing to them. 

The latest risers in Medicine Bow, we sat at breakfast 
together; and they essayed some light famiUarities with 
the landlady. But these experiments were failures. 
Her eyes did not see, nor did her ears hear them. She 

20 brought the coffee and the bacon with a sedateness that 
propriety itself could scarce have surpassed. Yet im- 
propriety lurked noiselessly aU over her. You could 
not have specified how; it was interblended with her 
sum total. Silence was her apparent habit and her 

25 weapon; but the American drimimer found that she 
could speak to the point when need came for this. Dur- 
ing the meal he had praised her golden hair. It was 
golden indeed, and worth a high compliment; but his 
kind displeased her. She had let it pass, however, with 

30 no more than a cool stare. But on taking his leave, when 
he came to pay for the meal, he pushed it too far. 

"Pity this must be our last," he said ; and as it brought 
no answer, "Ever travel?" he inquired. "Where I go, 
there's room for a pair of us." 

35 "Then you'd better find another jackass," she replied 

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I was glad that I had not asked for a clean towel. 

From the commercial travellers I now separated my- 
self, and wandered alone in pleasurable aimlessness. 
It was seven o^clock. Medicine Bow stood voiceless and 
mipeopled. The cow-boys had melted away. Thee 
inhabitants were indoors, pursuing the business or the 
idleness of the forenoon. Visible motion there was none. 
No sheU upon the dry sands could lie more Jifeless than 
Medicine Bow. Looking in at the store, I saw the pro- 
prietor sitting with his pipe extinct. Looking in at the lo 
saloon, I saw the dealer dealing dumbly to himself. Up 
in the sky there was not a cloud nor a bird, and on the 
earth the lightest straw lay becalmed. Once I saw the 
Virginian at an open door, where the golden-haired land- 
lady stood talking with him. Sometimes I strolled in 16 
the town, and sometimes out on the plain I lay down with 
my day dreams in the sage-brush. Pale herds of antelope 
were in the distance, and near by the demure prairie- 
dogs sat up and scrutinized me. Steve, Trampas, the 
riot of horsemen, my lost trunk. Uncle Hughey, with his 20 
abortive brides — all things merged in my thoughts 
in a huge, delicious indifference. It was like swimming 
slowly at random in an ocean that was smooth, and neither 
too cool nor too warm. And before I knew it, five lazy 
imperceptible hours had gone thus. There was the Union 26 
Pacific train, coming as if from shores forgotten. 

Its approach was silent and long drawn out. I easily 
reached town and the platform before it had finished 
watering at the tank. It moved up, made a short halt, 
I saw my trunk come out of it, and then it moved away 30 
silently as it had come, smoking and dwindling into dis- 
tance unknown. 

Beside my trunk was one other, tied extravagantly 
with white ribbon. The fluttering bows caught my 
attention, and now I suddenly saw a perfectly new sight. 35 
The Virginian was further down the platform, doubled 


up with laughing. It was good to know that with suffi- 
cient cause he could laugh like this ; a smile had thus 
far been his limit of external mirth. Rice now flew against 
my hat, and hissing gusts of rice, spouted on the platform. 

6 AU the tnen left in Medicine Bow appeared like magic, 
and more rice choked the atmosphere. Through the 
general clamor a cracked voice said, "Don't hit her in 
the eye, boys!" and Uncle Hughey rushed proudly by 
me with an actual wife on his arm. She could easily 

10 have been his granddaughter. They got at once into a 
vehicle. The trunk was lifted in behind. And amid 
cheers, rice, shoes, and broad felicitations, the pair drove 
out of town. Uncle Hughey shrieking to the horses and 
the bride waving unabashed adieus. 

16 The word had come over the wires from Laramie: 

'* Uncle Hughey has made it this time. Expect him on 

to-day's number two." And Medicine Bow had expected 


Many words arose on the departure of the new-married 

20 couple. 

"Who's she?" 

"What's he got for her?" 

" Got a gold mine up Bear Creek." 

And after comment and prophecy, Medicine Bow 

25 returned to its dinner. 

This meal was my last here for a long while . The Vir- 
ginian's responsibility now returned; duty drove the 
Judge's trustworthy man to take care of me again. He 
had not once sought my society of his own accord; his 

30 distaste for what he supposed me to be (I don't exactly 
know what this was) remained imshaken. I have thought 
that matters of dress and speech should not carry with 
them so much mistrust in our democracy; thieves are 
presumed innocent until proved guilty, but a starched 

35 collar is condemned at once. Perfect civility and obliging- 
ness I certainly did receive from the Virginian, onlj'' not 

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a word of fellowship. He harnessed the horses, got my 
trunk, and gave me some advice about taking provisions 
for our journey, something more palatable than what 
food we should find along the road. It was well thought 
of, and I bought quite a parcel of dainties, feeling that 5 
he would despise both them and me. And thus I took my 
seat beside him, wondering what we should manage to 
talk about for two hundred and sixty-three miles. 

Farewell in those days was not said in Cattle Land. 
Acquaintances watched our departure with a nod or with 10 
nothing, and the nearest approach to "Good-by^' was the 
proprietor's "So-long." 

We passed the ramparts of Medicine Bow, — thick 
heaps and fringes of tin cans, and shelving mounds of 
bottles cast out of the saloons. The sim struck these at 16 
a hundred glittering points. And in a moment we were 
in the clean plains, with the prairie-dogs and the pale 
herds of antelope. The great, still air bathed us, pure as 
water and strong as wine ; the sunlight flooded the world. 

It must have been five miles that we travelled in si- 20 
lence, losing and seeing the horizon among the ceaseless 
waves of the earth. Then I looked back, and there was 
Medicine Bow, seemingly a stone's throw behind us. It 
was a full half-hour before I looked back again, and there 
sure enough was always Medicine Bow. A size or two 25 
smaller, I will admit, but visible in every feature, like 
something seen through the wrong end of a field glass. 
The East-bound express was approaching the town, and 
I noticed the white steam from its whistle ; but when the 
sound reached us, the train had almost stopped. And 30 
in reply to my comment upon this, the Virginian deigned 
to remark that it was more so in Arizona. 

**A man come to Arizona," he said, "with one of them 
telescopes to study the heavenly bodies. He was a Yan- 
kee, seh, and a right smart one, too. And one night we 35 
was watchin' for some little old fallin' stai^^^^e said 


was due, and I saw some lights movin' along acrost the 
mesa pretty lively, an' I sang out. But he told me it 
was just the train. And I told him I didn't know yu' 
could see the cyars that plain from his place. ^Yu' 
6 can see them,' he said to me, *but it is las' night's cyars 
you're lookin' at.'" At this point the Virginian spoke 
severely to one of the horses. "Of course," he then 
resumed to me, "that Yankee man did not mean quite 
all he said. — You, Buck!" he again broke off suddenly 

10 to the horse. " But Arizona, seh," he continued, " cert'nly 
has a mos' deceivin' atmospheah. Another man told 
me he ha-d seen a lady close one eye at him when he was 
two minutes hard run from her." This time the Virginian 
gave Buck the whip. 

15 "What effect," I inquired with a gravity equal to his 
own, "does this extraordinary foreshortening have upon 
a quart of whiskey?" 

"When it's outside y', seh, no distance looks too far 
to go to it." 

20 He glanced at me with an eye that held more confidence 
than hitherto he had been able to feel in me. I had made 
one step in his approval. But I had many yet to go. 
This day he preferred his own thoughts to my conversa- 
tion, and so he did all the days of this first journey ; while 

25 1 should have greatly preferred his conversation to my 
thoughts. He dismissed some attempts that I made 
upon the subject of Uncle Hughey ; so that I had not the 
courage to touch upon Trampas, and that chill brief 
collision which might have struck the spark of death. 

30 Trampas ! I had forgotten him till this silent drive I was 
beginning. I wondered if I should ever see him, or Steve, 
or any of those people again. And this wonder I expressed 

"There's no tellin' in this country," said the Virginian. 

35*^ Folks come easy, and they go easy. In settled places, 
like back in the States, even a poor man mostly has a 

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home. Don^t care if it's only a barrel on a lot, the fello' 
will keep frequentin' that lot, and if yu' want him yu' 
can find him. But out hyeh in the sage-brush, a man's 
home is apt to be his saddle blanket. First thing yu' 
knoW; he has moved it to Texas." 5 

**You have done some moving yourself," I suggested. 

But this word closed his mouth. "I have had a look 
at the country," he said, and we were silent again. Let 
me, however, tell you here that he had set out for a "look 
at the country" at the age of fourteen; and that by his 10 
present age of twenty-four he had seen Arkansas, Texas, 
New Mexico, Arizona, California, Oregon, Idaho, Mon- 
tana, and Wyoming. Everywhere he had taken care of 
himself, and survived; nor had his strong heart yet 
waked up to any hunger for a home. Let me also tell 16 
you that he was one of thousands drifting and living thus, 
but (as you shall learn) one in a thousand. 

Medicine Bow did not forever remain in sight. When 
next I thought of it and looked behind, nothing was 
there but the road we had come ; it lay like a ship's wake 20 
across the huge ground swell of the earth. We were 
swallowed in a vast solitude. A little while before sunset, 
a cabin came in view ; and here we passed our first night. 
Two yoimg men lived here, tending their cattle. They 
were fond of animals. By the stable a chained coyote 25 
rushed nervously in a circle, or sat on its haunches and 
snapped at gifts of food ungraciously. A tame young 
elk walked in and out of the cabin door, and during supper 
it tried to push me off my chair. A half-tame mountain 
sheep practised jumping from the ground to the roof. 30 
The cabin was papered with posters of a circus, and skins 
of bear and silver fox lay upon the floor. Until nine 
o'clock one man talked to the Virginian, and one played 
gayly upon a concertina; and then we all went to bed. 
The air was like December, but in my blankets and a 35 
buffalo robe I kept warm, and luxuriated ^inj^e^JLocky 


Mountain silence. Going to wash before breakfast at 
sunrise, I found needles of ice in a pail. Yet it was hard 
to remember that this quiet, open, splendid wilderness 
(with not a peak in sight just here) was six thousand feet 
6 high. And when breakfast was over there was no De- 
cember left; and by the time the Virginian and I were 
ten miles upon our way, it was June. But always every 
breath that I breathed was pure as water and strong as 

10 We never passed a human being this day. Some 
wild cattle rushed up to us and away from us ; antelope 
stared at us from a hundred yards ; coyotes ran skulking 
through the sage-brush to watch us from a hill; at our 
noon meal we killed a rattlesnake and shot some yoimg 

15 sage chickens, which were good at supper, roasted at our 

By half-past eight we were asleep beneath the stars, 
and by half-past four 1 was drinking coffee and shiver- 
ing. The horse, Buck, was hard to catch this second 

20 morning. Whether some hills that we were now in had 
excited him, or whether the better water up here had 
caused an effervescence in his spirits, I cannot say. But 
I was as hot as July by the time we had him safe in har- 
ness, or, rather, unsafe in harness. For Buck, in the 

25 mysterious language of horses, now taught wickedness 

to his side partner, and about eleven o'clock they laid 

their evil heads together and decided to break our necks. 

We were passing, I have said, through a range of demi- 

mountains. It was a little country where trees grew, 

30 water ran, and the plains were shut out for a while. The 
road had steep places in it, and places here and there 
where you could fall off and go bounding to the bottom 
among stones. But Buck, for some reason, did not think 
these opportunities good enough for him. He selected 

35 a more theatrical moment. We emerged from a narrow 
canon suddenly upon five hundred cattle and some cow- 

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boys branding calves by a fire in a corral. It was a sight 
that Buck knew by heart. He instantly treated it like 
an appalling phenomenon. I saw him lack seven ways; 
I saw Muggins kick five ways ; our furious motion snapped 
my spine like a whip. I grasped the seat. Somethings 
gave a forlorn jingle. It was the brake. 

"Don't jump I" commanded the trustworthy man. 

"No," I said, as my hat flew ofif. 

Help was too far away to do anything for us. We 
passed scathless through a part of the cattle ; I saw their lO 
horns and backs go by. Some earth crumbled, and we 
plunged downward into water, rocking among stones, 
and upward again through some more crumbling earth. 
I heard a crash, and saw my trunk landing in the stream. 
"She's safer there," said the trustworthy man. 16 

"True," I said. 

"We'll go back for her," said he, with his eye on the 
horses and his foot on the crippled brake. A dry gully 
was coming, and no room to turn. The farther side of 
it was terraced with rock. We should simply fall back- 20 
ward, if we did not fall forward first. He steered the 
horses straight over, and just at the bottom swung them, 
with astonishing skill, to the right along the hard-baked 
mud. They took us along the bed up to the head of the 
gully, and through a thicket of quaking asps. The light 25 
trees bent beneath our charge and bastinadoed the wagon 
as it went over them. But their branches enmeshed the 
horses' legs, and we came to a harmless standstill among 
a bower of leaves. 

I looked at the trustworthy man, and smiled vaguely. 30 
He considered me for a moment. 

"I reckon," said he, "you're feelin' about half-way be- 
tween ^Oh, Lord!' and 'Thank God!'" 

"That's quite it," said I, as he got down on the ground. 

"Nothing's broke," said he, after a searching examina-35 
tion. And he indulged in a true Virginian expletive. 


"Gentlemen, hush!" he murmured gently, looking at 
me with his grave eyes; "one time I got pretty near 
scared. You, Buck," he continued, "some folks would 
beat you now till yu'd be uncertain whether yu' was a 
Shawss or a railroad accident. I'd do it myself, only it 
wouldn't cure yu'." 

I now told him that I supposed he had saved both our 
Uves. But he detested words of direct praise. He made 
some grumbhng rejoinder, and led the horses out of the 

10 thicket. Buck, he explained to me, was a good horse, 
and so was Muggins. Both of them generally meant 
well, and that was the Judge's reason for sending them 
to meet me. But these broncos had their off days. Off 
days might not come very often; but when the humor 

16 seized a bronco, he had to have his spree. Buck would 

now behave himself as a horse should for probably two 

months. "They are just like humans," the Virginian 


Several cow-boys arrived on a gallop to find how many 

20 pieces of us were left. We returned down the hill ; and 

when we reached my trunk, it was surprising to see the 

distance that our runaway had covered. My hat was 

also found, and we continued on our way. 

Buck and Muggins were patterns of discretion through 

26 the rest of the mountains. I thought when we camped 
this night that it was strange Buck should be again allowed 
to graze at large, instead of being tied to a rope while we 
slept. But this was my ignorance. With the hard work 
that he was gaUantly doing, the horse needed more pasture 

30 than a rope's length would permit him to find. There- 
fore he went free, and in the morning gave us but little 
trouble in catching him. 

We crossed a river in the forenoon, and far to the north 
of us we saw the Bow Leg Mountains, pale in the bright 

36 sun. Sunk Creek flowed from their western side, and 
our two hundred and sixty-three miles began tq^^g^wta 


small thing in my eyes. Buck and Muggins, I think, knew 
perfectly that to-morrow would see them home. They 
recognized this region ; and once they turned off at a fork in 
the road. The Virginian pulled them back rather sharply. 

"Want to go back to Balaam's?" he inquired of them. 6 
"I thought you had more sense." 

I asked, Who was Balaam ? 

'*A maltreater of hawsses," repUed the cow-puncher. 
"His ranch is on Butte Creek oveh yondeh." And he 
pointed to where the diverging road melted into space. lO 
"The Judge bought Buck and Muggins from him in the 

"So he maltreats horses?" I repeated. 

"That's the word all through this country. A man 
that win do what they claim Balaam does to a hawssis 
when he's mad, ain't fit to be called human." The Vir- 
ginian told me some particulars. 

"Oh I" I almost screamed at the horror of it, and again, 

"He'd have prob'ly done that to Buck as soon as he 20 
stopped runnin' away. If I caught a man doin' that — " 

We were interrupted by a sedate-looking traveller 
riding upon an equally sober horse. 

"Mawnin', Taylor," said the Virginian, pulling up for 
gossip. "Ain't you strayed off your range pretty far? "26 

"You're a nice one!" replied Mr. Taylor, stopping his 
horse and smiling amiably. 

"Tell me something I don't know," retorted the Vir- 

"Hold up a man at cards and rob him," pursued Mr. 30 
Taylor. "Oh, the news has got ahead of you !" 

"Trampas has been hyeh explainin', has he?" said the 
Virginian with a grin. 

"Was that your victim's name?" said Mr. Taylor, 
facetiously. "No, it wasn't him that brought the news. 36 
Say, what did you do, anyway?" Dig,,edby^uuyit: 


"So that thing has got around," murmured the Vir- 
gmian. "Well, it wasn't worth such wide repawtin'." 
And he gave the simple facts to Taylor, while I sat won- 
dering at the contagious powers of Rumor. Here, through 
6 this voiceless land, this desert, this vacuum, it had spread 
like a change of weather. "Any news up your way?" 
the Virginian concluded. 

Importance came into Mr. Taylor's countenance. 
"Bear Creek is going to build a schoolhouse," said he. 
10 "Goodness gracious ! " drawled the Virginian. "What's 
that for?" 

Now Mr. Taylor had been married for some years. 
"To educate the offspring of Bear Creek," he answered 
with pride. 
16 "Offspring of Bear Creek," the Virginian meditatively 
repeated. "I don't remember noticin' much offspring. 
There was some white tail deer, and a right smart o' jack 

"The Swintons have moved up from Drybone," said 

20 Mr. Taylor, always seriously. "They found it no place 

for young children. And there's Uncle Carmody with 

six, and Ben Dow. And Westfall has become a family 

man, and — " 

"Jim Westfall!" exclaimed the Virginian. "Him 

26a fam'ly man! Well, if this hyeh Territory is goin' to 

get full o' fam'ly men and empty o' game, I believe I'll — " 

"Get married yourself," suggested Mr. Taylor. 

"Me! I ain't near reached the marriageable age. 
No, seh ! But Uncle Hughey has got there at last, yu' 
30 know." 

"Uncle Hughey!" shouted Mr. Taylor. He had not 
heard this. Rumor is very capricious. Therefore the Vir- 
ginian told him, and the family man rocked in his saddle. 

"Build your schoolhouse," said the Virginian. "Uncle 
35 Hughey has qualified himself to subscribe to all such prop- 
ositions. Got your eye on a schoolmann?" 

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"We are taking steps," said Mr. Taylor. "Bear 
Creek ain't going to be hasty about a schoolmarm/' 

"Sure," assented the Virginian. "The children 
wouldn't want yu' to hurry." 

But Mr. Taylor was, as I have indicated, a serious 6 
family man. The problem of educating his children 
could appear to him in no light except a sober one. "Bear 
Creek," he said, "don't want the experience they had 
over at Calef. We must not hire an ignoramus." 

"Sure !" assented the Virginian again. 10 

"Nor we don't want no gad-a-way flirt," said Mr. 

"She must keep her eyes on the blackboa'd," said the 
Virginian, gently. 

"Well, we can wait till we get a guaranteed article," 16 
said Mr. Taylor. "And that's what we're going to do. 
It can't be this year, and it needn't to be. None of the 
kids is very old, and the schoolhouse has got to be built." 
He now drew a letter from his pocket, and looked at me. 
"Are you acquainted with Miss Mary Stark Wood of 20 
Bennington, Vermont?" he inquired. 

I was not acquainted with her at this time. 

"She's one we are thinking of. She's a correspondent 
with Mrs. Balaam." Taylor handed me the letter. "She 
wrote that to Mrs. Balaam, and Mrs. Balaam said the 26 
best thing was for to let me see it and judge for myself. 

Q ^Q Digitized by VjUUy It: 


Vm. taking it back to Mrs. Balaam. Maybe you can give 
me your opinion how it sizes up with the letters they write 
back East?" 
The communication was mainly of a business kind, 
5 but also personal, and freely written. I do not think that 
its writer expected it to be exhibited as a document. 
The writer wished very much that she could see the West. 
But she could not gratify this desire merely for pleasure, 
or she would long ago have accepted the kind invitation 

10 to visit Mrs. Balaam's ranch. Teaching school was 
something she would like to do, if she were fitted for it. 
"Since the mills failed" (the writer said) 'Ve have all 
gone to work and done a lot of things so that mother 
might keep on living in the old house. Yes, the salary 

15 would be a temptation. But, my dear, isn't Wyoming 
bad for the complexion? And could I sue them if mine 
got damaged? It is still admired. I could bring one 
male witness at least to prove that!" Then the writer 
became businesslike again. Even if she came to feel 

20 that she could leave home, she did not at all know that 
she could teach school. Nor did she think it right to 
accept a position in which one had had no experience. 
"I do love children, boys especially," she went on. "My 
small nephew and I get on famously. But imagine if 

25 a whole benchful of boys began asking me questions that 
I couldn't answer! What should I do? For one could 
not spank them all, you know! And mother says that 
I ought not to teach anybody spelling, because I leave 
the u out of honor. '^ 

30 Altogether it was a letter which I could assure Mr, 
Taylor "sized up" very well with the letters written in 
my part of the United States. And it was signed, "Your 
very sincere spinster, Molly Stark Wood." 

"I never seen honor spelled with a w," said Mr. Tay- 

35 lor, over whose not highly civilized head certain portions 
of the letter had lightly passed. 

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I told him that some old-fashioned people still wrote 
the word so. 

" Either way would satisfy Bear Creek/' said Mr. Tay- 
lor, "if she's otherwise up to requirements." 

The Virginian was now looking over the letter mus-6 
ingly, and with awakened attention. 

"'Your very sincere spinster,'" he read aloud slowly. 

"I guess that means she's forty," said Mr. Taylor. 

"I reckon she is about twenty," said the Virginian. 
And again he fell to musing over the paper that he held. 10 

"Her handwriting ain't like any I've saw," pursued 
Mr. Taylor. "But Bear Creek would not object to that, 
provided she knows 'rithmetic and George Washington, 
and them kind of things." 

"I expect she is not an awful sincere spinster," surmised 16 
the Virginian, still looking at the letter, still holding it as 
if it were some token. 

Has any botanist set down what the seed of love is? 
Has it anywhere been set down in how many wajns this 
seed may be sown? In what various vessels of gossamer 20 
it can float across wide spaces? Or upon what different 
soils it can fall, and live imknown, and bide its time for 

The Virginian handed back to Taylor the sheet of note 
paper where a girl had talked as the women he had known 26 
did not talk. If his eyes had ever seen such maidens, 
there had been no meeting of eyes ; and if such maidens 
had ever spoken to him, the speech was from an established 
distance. But here was a free language, altogether new 
to him. It proved, however, not ahen to his understand- 30 
ing, as it was alien to Mr. Taylor's. 

We drove onward, a mile perhaps, and then two. He 
had lately been fidl of words, but now he barely answered 
me, so that a silence fell upon both of us. It must have 
been all of ten miles that we had driven when he spoke 35 
of his own accord. .^g,,,, by ^uuy it: 


"Your real spinster don't speak of her lot that easy," 
he remarked. And presently he quoted a phrase about 
the complexion, '^* Could I sue them if mine got dam- 
aged?'" and he smiled over this to himself, shaking his 
6 head. "What would she be doing on Bear Creek?" he 
next said. And finally: '*I reckon that witness will 
detain her in Vermont. And her mother'U keep livin' 
at the old house." 
Thus did the cow-puncher deliver himself, not know- 

lOing at all that the seed had floated across wide spaces, 
and was biding its time in his heart. 

On the morrow we reached Sunk Creek. Judge Henry's 
welcome and his wife's would have obliterated any hard- 
ships that I had endured, and I had endured none at all. 

16 For a while I saw little of the Virginian. He lapsed 
into his native way of addressing me occasionally as 
"seh" — a habit entirely repudiated by this land of 
equahty. I was sorry. Our common peril during the 
runaway of Buck and Muggins had brought us to a famil- 

20iarity that I hoped was destined to last. But I think 
that it would not have gone farther, save for a certain 
personage — I must call her a personage. And as I am 
indebted to her for gaining me a friend whose prejudice 
against me might never have been otherwise overcome, 

26 1 shall tell you her little story, and how her misadventures 
and her fate came to bring the Virginian and me to an 
appreciation of one another. Without her, it is likely 
I should also not have heard so much of the story of the 
schoolmarm, and how that lady at last came to Bear 

30 Creek. 

Digitized by 



My personage was a hen, and she lived at the Sunk 
Creek Ranch. 

Judge Henry^s ranch was notable for several luxuries. 
He had milk, for example. In those days his brother 
ranchmen had thousands of cattle very often, but not as 
drop of milk, save the condensed variety. Therefore 
they had no butter. The Judge had plenty. Next 
rarest to butter and milk in the cattle country were eggs. 
But my host had chickens. Whether this was because 
he had followed cock-fighting in his early days, or whether lO 
it was due to Mrs. Henry, I cannot say. I only know that 
when I took a meal elsewhere, I was likely to find nothing 
but the eternal "sowbelly,'' beans, and coffee; while at 
Sunk Creek the omelet and the custard were frequent. 
The passing traveller was glad to tie his horse to the fence 15 
here, and sit down to the Judge's table. For its fame 
was as wide as Wyoming. It was an oasis in the Terri- 
tory's desolate bill-of-fare. 

The long fences of Judge Henry's home ranch began 
upon Sunk Creek soon after that stream emerged from its 20 
cafion through the Bow Leg. It was a place always well 
cared for by the owner, even in the days of his bachelor- 
hood. The placid regiments of cattle lay in the cool of 
the cottonwoods by the water, or slowly moved among 
the sage-brush, feeding upon the grass that in those 25 
forever departed years was plentiful and tall. The 
steers came fat off his unenclosed range and fattened still 

(TO Digitized by VjOOyitr 


more in his large pasture; while his small pasture, a 
field some eight miles square, was for several seasons given 
to the Judge^s horses, and over this ample space there 
played and prospered the good colts which he raised from 
5 Paladin, his imported stallion. After he married, I have 
been assured that his wife's influence became visible in 
and about the house at once. Shade trees were planted, 
flowers attempted, and to the chickens was added the 
much more troublesome turkey. I, the visitor, was 

10 pressed into service when I arrived, green from the East. 
I took hold of the farmyard and began building a better 
chicken house, while the Judge was off creating meadow 
land in his gray and yellow wilderness. When any cow- 
boy was unoccupied, he would lounge over to my neighbor- 

15 hood, and silently regard my carpentering. 

Those cow-punchers bore names of various denomina- 
tions. There was Honey Wiggin; there was Nebrasky, 
and Dollar Bill, and Chalkeye. And thev came from 
farms and cities, from Maine and from California. But 

20 the romance of American adventure had drawn them all 
alike to this great playground of young men, and in their 
courage, their generosity, and their amusement at me 
they bore a close resemblance to each other. Each one 
would silently observe my achievements with the hammer 

25 and the chisel. Then he would retire to the bunk-house, 
and presently I would overhear laughter. But this was 
only in the morning. In the afternoon on many days of 
the summer which I spent at the Sunk Creek Ranch I 
wouTd go shooting, or ride up toward the entrance of the 

30 cafion and watch the men working on the irrigation ditches. 
Pleasant systems of water running in channels were being 
led through the soil, and there was a sound of rippling 
here and there among the yellow grain ; the green thick 
alfalfa grass waved almost, it seemed, of its own accord, 

35 for the wind never blew; and when at evening the sim 
lay against the plain, the rift of the cafion was filled with 

Digitized by VjUUy It: 


a violet light, and the Bow Leg Mountains became trans- 
figured with hues of floating and unimaginable color. The 
sun shone in a sky where never a cloud came, and noon 
was not too warm nor the dark too cool. And so for two 
months I went through these pleasant uneventful days, 6 
improving the chickens, an object of mirth, living in the 
open air, and basking in the perfection of content. 

I was jiistly styled a tenderfoot. Mrs. Henry had in 
the beginning endeavored to shield me from this humilia- 
tion ; but when she found that I was inveterate in laying 10 
my inexperience of Western matters bare to all the world, 
begging to be enlightened upon rattlesnakes, prairie-dogs, 
owls, blue and ^^ollow grouse, sage-hens, how to rope a 
horse or tighten the front cinch of my saddle, and that 
my spirit soared into enthusiasm at the mere sight of so 16 
ordinary an animal as a white-tailed deer, she let me 
rush about with my firearms, and made no further effort 
to stave off the ridicule that my blunders perpetually 
earned from the ranch hands, her own humorous husband, 
and any chance visitor who stopped for a meal or stayed 20 
the night. 

I was not called by my name after the first feeble eti- 
quette due to a stranger in his first few hours had died 
away. I was known simply as "the tenderfoot.' ' I was 
introduced to the neighborhood (a circle of eighty miles) 25 
as "the tenderfoot." It was thus that Balaam, the mal- 
treater of horses, learned to address me when he came a 
two days' journey to pay a visit. And it was this name 
and my notorious helplessness that bid fair to end what 
relations I had with the Virginian. For when Judge 30 
Henry ascertained that nothing could prevent me from 
losing myself, that it was not uncommon for me to saunter 
out after breakfast with a gun and in thirty minutes cease 
to know north from south, he arranged for my protection. 
He detailed an escort for me ; and the escort was once 35 
more the trustworthy man! The poor Virginian was 


taken from his work and his comrades and set to plajdng 
nurse for me. And for a while this humiliation ate into 
his untamed soul. It was his lugubrious lot to accom- 
pany me in my rambles, preside over my blunders, and 
6 save me from calamitously passing into the next world. 
He bore it in courteous silence, except when speaking 
was necessary. He would show me the lower ford, which I 
could never find for myself, generally mistaking a quick- 
sand for it. He would tie my horse properly. He would 

10 recommend me not to shoot my rifle at a white-tailed deer in 
the particular moment that the outfit wagon was passing 
behind the animal on the further side of the brush. There 
was seldom a day that he was not obliged to hasten and 
save me from sudden death or from ridicule, which is 

15 worse. Yet never once did he lose his patience ; and his 
gentle, slow voice, and apparently lazy manner remained 
the same, whether we were sitting at lunch together, or 
up in the mountains during a hunt, or whether he was 
bringing me back my horse, which had run away because 

20 1 had again forgotten to throw the reins over his head and 
let them trail. 

"He'll always stand if yu' do that," the Virginian would 
say. "See how my hawss stays right quiet yondeh." 
After such admonition he would say no more to me. 

25 But this tame nursery business was assuredly gall to him. 
For though utterly a man in countenance and in his 
self-possession and incapacity to be put at a loss, he was 
still boyishly proud of his wild calling, and wore his 
leathern chaps and jingled his spurs with obvious pleasure. 

30 His tiger limbemess and his beauty were rich with un- 
abated youth ; and that force which lurked beneath his 
surface must often have curbed his intolerance of me. In 
spite of what I knew must be his opinion of me, the 
tenderfoot, my liking for him grew, and I found his silent 

35 company more and more agreeable. That he had spells 
of talking, I had already learned at Medicine ^^oj^ju^^^ 


his present taciturnity might almost have effaced this im- 
pression, had I not happened to pass by the bunk-house 
one evening after dark, when Honey Wiggin and the rest 
of the cow-boys were gathered inside it. 

That afternoon the Virginian and I had gone duck 5 
shooting. We had found several in a beaver dam, and I 
had killed two as they sat close together ; but they floated 
against the breastwork of sticks out in the water some four 
feet deep, where the escaping current might carry them 
down the stream. The Judge's red setter had not accom- 10 
panied us, because she was expecting a family. 

"We don't want her along anyways," the cow-puncher 
had explained to me. "She runs around mighty irre- 
sponsible, and she'll stand a prairie-dog 'bout as often as 
she'll stand a bird. She's a triflin' ammal." 15 

My anxiety to own the ducks caused me to pitch into 
the water with all my clothes on, and subsequently crawl 
out a slippery, triumphant, weltering heap. The Virgin- 
ian's serious eyes had rested upon this spectacle of mud ; 
but he expressed nothing, as usual. 20 

"They ain't overly good eatin'," he observed, tjdng the 
birds to his saddle. "They're divers." 

"Divers!" I exclaimed. "Why didn't they dive?" 

"I reckon they was young ones and hadn't experience." 

"Well," I said, crestfallen, but attempting to be humor- 25 
ous, "I did the diving myself." 

But the Virginian made no comment. He handed me 
my double-barrelled English gun, which I was about to 
leave deserted on the ground behind me, and we rode 
home in our usual silence, the mean little white-breasted, 30 
sharp-billed divers dangling from his saddle. 

It was in the bunk-house that he took his revenge. 
As I passed I heard his gentle voice silently achieving 
some narrative to an attentive audience, and just as I 
came by the open window where he sat on his bed in shirt 35 
and drawers, his back to me, I hear4 b|Hs,i^G^luding 


words, "And the hat on his haid was the one mark showed 
yu^ he weren't a snappin'-turtle/' 

The anecdote met with instantaneous success, and 
I hurried away into the dark. 
5 The next morning I was occupied with the chickens. 
Two hens were fighting to sit on some eggs that a third 
was daily laying, and which I did not want hatched, and 
for the third time I had kicked Em'ly off seven potatoes 
she had rolled together and was determined to raise I know 
10 not what sort of family from. She was shrieking about 
the hen-house as the Virginian came in to observe (I 
suspect) what I might be doing now that could be useful 
for him to mention in the bunk-house. 

He stood awhile, and at length said, "We lost our best 
15 rooster when Mrs. Henry came to live hyeh." 

I paid no attention. 

"He was a right elegant Dominicker," he continued. 

I felt a little ruffled about the snapping-turtle, and 
showed no interest in what he was saying, but continued 
20 my fimctions among the hens. This unusual silence of 
mine seemed to eUcit unusual speech from him. 

" Yu' see, that rooster heM always live round hyeh when 
the Judge was a bachelor, and he never seen no ladies or 
any persons wearing female gyarments. You ain't got 
26 rheumatism, seh?'' 

"Me? No.*' 

"I reckoned maybe them little old divers yu' got damp 
goin' afteh — '' He paused. 

"Oh, no, not in the least, thank you." 
30 * ' Yu' seemed sort o' grave this mawnin' , and I'm cert'nly 
glad it ain't them divers." 

"Well, the rooster?" I inquired finally. 

"Oh, him! He weren't raised where he could see 

petticoats. Mrs. Henry she come hyeh from the railroad 

35 with the Judge afteh dark. Next mawnin' early she 

walked out to view her new home, and the rooster was 

Digitized by VjUUy It: 


a-feedin' by the door, and he seen her. Well, seh, he 
screeched that awful I run out of the bunk-house; and 
he jus' went over the fence and took down Sun Creek 
shoutin' fire, right along. He has never come back." 

"There's a hen over there now that has no judgment," 6 
I said, indicating Em'ly. She had got herself outside the 
house, and was on the bars of a corral, her vociferations 
reduced to an occasional squawk. I told him about the 

"I never knowed her name before," said he. "Thatio 
runaway rooster, he hated her. And she hated him same 
as she hates 'em all." 

"I named her myself," said I, "after I came to notice 
her particularly. There's an old maid at home who's 
charitable, and belongs to the Cruelty to Animals, and 15 
she never knows whether she had better cross in front of a 
street car or wait. I named the hen after her. Does 
she ever lay eggs?" 

The Virginian had not "troubled his haid" over the 
poultry. 20 

"Well, I don't believe she knows how. I think she 
came near being a rooster." 

" She's sure manly-lookin '," said the Virginian. We 
had walked toward the corral, and he was now scrutinizing 
Em'ly with interest. 26 

She was an egregious fowl. She was huge and gaunt, 
with great yellow beak, and she stood straight and alert 
in the manner of responsible people. There was something 
wrong with her tail. It slanted far to one side, one feather 
in it twice as long as the rest. Feathers on her breast 30 
there were none. These had been worn entirely off 
by her habit of sitting upon potatoes and other rough 
abnormal objects. And this lent to her appearance an 
air of being d6collet6, singularly at variance with her 
otherwise prudish ensemble. Her eye was remarkably 36 
bright, but somehow it had an outraged expression. It 


was as if she went about the world perpetually scandalized 
over the doings that fell beneath her notice. Her legs 
were blue, long, and remarkably stout. 

"She'd ought to wear knickerbockers," murmured the 
5 Virginian. ** She'd look a heap better'n some o' them col- 
lege students. And she'll set on potatoes, yu' say?" 

"She thinks she can hatch out anything. I've found 
her with onions, and last Tuesday I caught her on two 
balls of soap." 
10 In the afternoon the tall cow-puncher and I rode out to 
get an antelope. 

After an hour, during which he was completely taciturn, 
he said: "I reckon maybe this hyeh lonesome country 
ain't been healthy for Em'ly to live in. It ain't for some 
15 humans. Them old trappers in the mountains get skewed 
in the haid mighty often, an' talks out loud when nobody's 
nigher 'n a hundred miles." 

"Em'ly has not been solitary," I replied. "There are 
forty chickens here." 
20 "That's so," said he. "It don't explain her." 

He fell silent again, riding beside me, easy and indolent 

in the saddle. His long figure looked so loose and inert 

that the swift, light spring he made to the ground seemed 

an impossible feat. He had seen an antelope where I 

25 saw none. 

"Take a shot yourself," I urged him, as he motioned 
me to be quick. "You never shoot when I'm with 

"I ain't hyeh for that," he answered. "Now you've 
30 let him get away on yu' ! " 

The antelope had in truth departed. 

"Why," he said to my protest, "I can hit them things 
any day. What's your notion as to Em'ly ? " 

"I can't account for her," I replied. 
35 "Well," he said musingly, and then his mind took one 
of those particular turns that made me love^ h^m^'[JW^r 


ought to see her. She'd be just the schoolmarm for Bear 

"She's not much like the eatmg-house lady at Medicine 
Bow," I said. 

He gave a hilarious chuckle. "No, Em'ly knows 5 
nothing o' them joys. So yu' have no notion about her? 
Well, I've got one. I reckon maybe she was hatched 
after a big thunderstorm." 

"A big thimderstorm ! " I exclaimed. 

"Yes. Don't yu' know about them, and what they'll 10 
do to aiggs? A big case o' lightnin' and thunder will 
addle aiggs and keep 'em from hatchin'. And I expect 
one came along, and all the other aiggs of Em'ly's set 
didn't hatch out, but got plumb addled, and she happened 
not to get addled that far, and so she just managed 15 
to make it through. But she cert'nly ain't got a strong 

"I fear she has not," said I. 

"Mighty hon'ble intentions," he observed. "If she 
can't make out to lay anything, she wants to hatch some- 20 
thin', and be a mother anyways." 

"I wonder what relation the law considers that a hen 
is to the chicken she hatched but did not lay ? " I inquired. 

The Virginian made no reply to this frivolous suggestion. 
He was gazing over the wide landscape gravely and with 25 
apparent inattention. He invariably saw game before 
I did, and was off his horse and crouched among the sage 
while I was still getting my left foot clear of the stirrup. I 
succeeded in killing an antelope, and we rode home with 
the head and hind quarters. 30 

"No," said he. "It's sure the thunder, and not the 
lonesomeness. How do yu' like the lonesomeness your- 

I told him that I liked it.- 

"I could not live without it now," he said^^/*This35 
has got into my system." He swept his hand out at the 


vast space of world. '' I went back home to see my folks 
onced. Mother was dyin^ slow, and she wanted me. I 
stayed a year. But them Virginian mountains could please 
me no more. Afteh she was gone, I told my brothers 
5 and sisters good-by. We like each other well enough, but 
I reckon I'll not go back." ^* 

We found Em'ly seated upon a collection of green 
California peaches, which the Judge had brought from the 

10 "I don't mind her any more," I said; "I'm sorry for 

"IVe been sorry for her right along." said the Virginian. 
" She does hate the roosters so." And he said that he was 
making a collection of every class of object which he found 

16 her treating as eggs. 

But Em'ly's egg-industry was terminated abruptly 
one morning, and her unquestioned energies diverted to a 
new channel. A turkey which had been sitting in the 
root-house appeared with twelve children, and a family of 

20 bantams occurred almost simultaneously. Em'ly was 
importantly scratching the soil inside Paladin's corral 
when the bantam tribe of newly bom came by down the 
lane, and she caught sight of them through the bars. She 
crossed the corral at a run, and intercepted two of the 

26 chicks that were trailing somewhat behind their real 
mamma. These she undertook to appropriate, and 
assimaed a high tone with the bantam, who was the smaller, 
and hence obhged to retreat with her still numerous 
family. I interfered, and put matters straight; but the 

30 adjustment was only temporary. In an hour I saw Em'ly 

immensely busy with two more bantams, leading them 

about and taking a care of them which I must admit 

seemed perfectly efficient. 

And now came the first incident that made me suspect 

36 her to be demented. 

She had proceeded with her changelings behind the 


kitchen, where one of the irrigation ditches ran under the 
fence from the hay-field to supply the house with water. 
Some distance along this ditch inside the field were the 
twelve turkeys in the short, recently cut stubble. Again 
Em'ly set off instantly like a deer. She left the dismayed 5 
bantams behind her. She crossed the ditch with one jump 
of her stout blue legs, flew over the grass, and was at once 
among the turkeys, where, with an instinct of maternity 
as undiscriminating as it was reckless, she attempted to 
huddle some of them away. But this other mamma was 10 
not a bantanl, and in a few moments Em'ly was entirely 
routed in her attempt to acquire a new variety of family. 

This spectacle was witnessed by the Virginian and 
myself, and it overcame him. He went speechless across 
to the bimk-house, by himself, and sat on his bed, while 1 16 
took the abandoned bantams back to their own circle. 

I have often wondered what the other fowls thought of 
all this. Some impression it certainly did make upon 
them. The notion may seem out of reason to those who 
have never closely attended to other animals than man ; 20 
but I am convinced that any community which shares 
some of our instincts will share some of the resulting feel- 
ings, and that birds and beasts have conventions, the 
breach of which startles them. If there be anything in 
evolution, this would seem inevitable. At all events, the 26 
chicken-house was upset during the following several 
days.' Em'ly disturbed now the bantams and now the 
turkeys, and several of these latter had died, though I 
will not go so far as to say that this was the result of her 
misplaced attentions. Nevertheless, I was seriously 30 
thinking of locking her up till the broods should be a little 
older, when another event happened, and all was suddenly 
at peace. 

The Judge's setter came in one morning, wagging her 
tail. She had had her puppies, and she now took us to 35 
where they were housed, in between the floor of a building 


and the hollow ground. Em'ly was seated on the whole 

"No," I said to the Judge, "I am not surprised. 
She is capable of anything." 

5 In her new choice of offspring, this hen had at length 
encountered an unworthy parent. The setter was bored 
by her own puppies. She found the hole under the house 
an obscure and monotonous residence compared with the 
dining room, and our company more stimulating and 

10 sympathetic than that of her children. A much-petted 
contact with our superior race had developed her dog 
inteUigence above its natural level, and turned her into 
an unnatural, neglectful mother, who was constantly for- 
getting her nursery for worldly pleasures. 

15 At certain periods of the day she repaired to the puppies 
and fed them, but came away when this perfimctory cere- 
mony was accomplished ; and she was glad enough to have 
a governess bring them up. She made no quarrel with 
Em'ly, and the two imderstood each other perfectly. I 

20 have never seen among animals any arrangement so 
civilized and so perverted. It made Em'ly perfectly happy. 
To see her sitting all day jealously spreading her wings 
over some blind puppies was sufficiently curious ; but when 
they became large enough to come out from under the 

25 house and toddled about in the proud hen's wake, I 
longed for some distinguished naturahst. I felt that our 
ignorance made us inappropriate spectators of such a 
phenomenon. Em'ly scratched and clucked, and the 
puppies ran to her, pawed her with their fat limp little legs, 

30 and retreated beneath her feathers in their games of hide 
and seek. Conceive, if you can, what confusion must have 
reigned in their infant minds as to who the setter was ! 

"I reckon they think she's the wet-nurse," said the 

35 When the puppies grew to be boisterous, I perceived 
that Em'ly's mission was approaching its en4,byvEb^)W§re 


too heavy for her, and their increasing scope of playfulness 
was not in her line. Once or twice they knocked her over, 
upon which she arose and pecked them severely, and they 
retired to a safe distance, and sitting in a circle, yapped 
at her. I think they began to suspect that ^he was only 6 
a hen after all. So Emly resigned with an indifference 
which surprised me, until I remembered that if it had been 
chickens, she would have ceased to look after them by this 

But here she was again "out of a job," as the Virginian lo 

"She's raised them puppies for that triflin' setter, and 
now she'll be huntin' around for something else useful to 
do that ain't in her business." 

Now there were other broods of chickens to arrive in the 15 
hen-house, and I did not desire any more bantam and 
turkey performances. So, to avoid confusion, I played 
a trick upon, Em'ly. I went down to Sunk Creek and 
fetched some smooth, oval stones. She was quite satisfied 
with these, and passed a quiet day with them in a box. 20 
This was not fair, the Virginian asserted. 

"You ain't going to jus' leave her fooled that a-way?" 

I did not see why not. 

"Why, she raised them puppies all right. Ain't she 
showed she knows how to be a mother anyways ? Em'ly 26 
ain't going to get her time took up for nothing while I'm 
round hyeh," said the cow-puncher. 

He laid a gentle hold of Em'ly and tossed her to the 
ground. She, of course, rushed out among the corrals 
in a great state of nerves. 30 

"I don't see what good you do meddling," I protested. 

To this he deigned no reply, but removed the unrespon- 
sive stones from the straw. 

"Why, if they ain't right warm!" he exclaimed plain- 
tively. "The poor, deluded son-of-a-gun ! " And with 35 
this unusual description of a lady, he sent the stones sail- 

Digitized by \^UUy It: 


ing like a line of birds. "I'm regular getting stuck on 
Emly," contined the Virginian. "Yu* needn't to lau^. 
Don't jni' see she's got sort o' human feelin's and desires? 
I always knowed hawsses was like people, and my collie, 
6 of course. It is kind of foolish, I expect, but that hen's 
goin' to have a real aigg di-rectly, right now, to set on." 
With this he removed one from beneath another hen. 
"We'll have Em'ly raise this hyeh," said he, "so she can 
put in her time profitable." 

10 It was not accomplished at once ; for Em'ly, singularly 
enough, would not consent to stay in the box whence she 
had been routed. At length we found another retreat for 
her, and in these new surroundings, with a new piece of 
work for her to do, Em'ly sat on the one egg which the 

16 Virginian had so carefully provided for her. 

Thus, as in all genuine tragedies, was the stroke of Fate 
wrought by chance and the best intentions. 

Em'ly began sitting on Friday afternoon near sundown. 
Early next morning my sleep was gradually dispersed by 

20 a sound unearthly and continuous. Now it dwindled, 
receding to a distance ; again it came near, took a turn, 
drifted to the other side of the house; then, evidently, 
whatever it was, passed my door close, and I jumped 
upright in my bed. The high, tense strain of vibration, 

26 nearly, but not quite, a musical note, was like the threaten- 
ing scream of machinery, though weaker, and I bounded 
out of the house in my pajamas. 

There was Em'ly, dishevelled, walking wildly about, her 
one egg miraculously hatched within ten hours. The little 

30 lonely yellow ball of down went cheeping along behind 
following its mother as best it could. What, then, had 
happened to the established period of incubation? For an 
instant the thing was like a portent, and I was near join- 
ing Em'ly in her horrid surprise, when I saw how it all was. 

35 The Virginian had taken an egg from a hen which had al- 
ready been sitting for three weeks'. . i.i«,.,- 

•^ ° Digitized by VjOOyitr 


I dressed in haste, hearing Em'ly's distracted outcry. 
It steadily sounded, without perceptible pause for breath, 
and marked her erratic journey back and forth through 
stables, lanes, and corrals. The shrill disturbance brought 
all of us out to see her, and in the hen-house I discovered 5 
the new brood making its appearance punctually. 

But this natural explanation could not be made to the 
crazed hen. She continued to scour the premises, her 
slant tail and its one preposterous feather waving as she 
aimlessly went, her stout legs stepping high with an un- lo 
natural motion, her head lifted nearly off her neck, and 
in her briUiant yellow eye an expression of more than out- 
rage at this overturning of a natural law. Behind her, 
entirely ignored and neglected, trailed the little progeny. 
She never looked at it. We went about our various affairs, 16 
and all through the clear, sunny day that unending metallic 
scream pervaded the premises. The Virginian put out 
food and water for her, but she tasted nothing. I am glad 
to say that the little chicken did. I do not think that the 
hen's eyes could see, except in the way that sleep-walkers' 20 

The heat went out of the air, and in the canon the violet 
light began to show. Many hours had gone, but Em'ly 
never ceased. Now she suddenly flew up in a tree and sat 
there with her noise still going; but it had risen lately 26 
several notes into a slim, acute level of terror, and was not 
like machinery any more, nor like any sound I ever heard 
before or since. Below the tree stood the bewildered 
little chicken, cheeping, and making tiny jumps to reach 
its mother. 30 

"Yes,'' said the Virginian, "it's comical. Even her 
aigg acted different from anybody else's." He paused 
and looked across the wide, mellowing plain with the 
expression of easy-going gravity so ' common with him. 
Then he looked at Em'ly in the tree and the yellow chicken. 35 
"It ain't so damned funny," said he. 

*" Digitized by VjUUy It: 


We went in to supper, and I came out to find the hen 
lying on the ground, dead. I took the chicken to the 
family in the hen-house. 

No, it was not altogether fimny any more. And I did 
Snot think less of the Virginian when I came upon him 
surreptitiously digging a little hole in the field for her. 

"I have buried some citizens here and there," said he, 
^'that I have respected less.'' 

And when the time came for me to leave Sunk Creek, 
10 my last word to the Virginian was, "Don't forget Em'ly." 

"I ain't likely to," responded the cow-puncher. "She 
is just one o' them parables." 

Save when he fell into his native idioms (which, they 
told me, his wanderings had well-nigh obhterated untU 
15 that year's visit to his home again revived them in his 
speech), he had now for a long while dropped the "seh," 
and all other barriers between us. We were thorough 
friends and had exchanged many confidences both of the 
flesh and of the spirit. He even went the length of saying 
20 that he would write me the Sunk Creek news if I would 
send a line now and then. I have many letters from him 
now. Their spelling came to be faultless, and in the 
beginning was little worse than George Washington's. 

The Judge himself drove me to the railroad by another 
25 way — across the Bow Leg Mountains, and south through 
Balaam's Ranch and Drybone to Rock Creek. 

"I'll be very homesick," I told him. 

"Come and pull the latch-string whenever you please," 
he bade me. 
30 I wished that I might ! No lotus land ever cast its spell 
upon man's heart more than Wyoming had enchanted 

Digitized by 




"Dear Friend [thus in the spring the Virginian wrote 
me], Yours received. It must be a poor thing to be sick. 
That time I was shot at Cafiada de Oro would have made 
me sick if it had been a little lower or if I was much of a 
drinking man. You will be well if you give over city life 6 
and take a hunt with. me about August or say September 
for then the elk will be out of the velvett. 

"Things do not pleaze me here just now and I am going 
to settel it by vamosing. But I would be glad to see you. 
It would be pleasure not business for me to show you lo 
plenty elk and get you strong. I am not crybabying to 
the Judge or making any kick about things. He will 
want me back after he has swallowed a littel tincture of 
time. It is the best dose I know. 

"Now to answer your questions. Yes the Emmilyis 
hen might have ate loco weed if hens do. I never saw 
anything but stock and horses get poisoned with loco weed. 
No the school is not built yet. They are always big 
talkers on Bear Creek. No I have not seen Steve. He is 
around but I am sorry for him. Yes I have been to 20 
Medicine Bow. Do you remember a man I played poker 
and he did not like it? He is working on the upper 
ranch near Ten Sleep. He does not amount to a thing 
except with weaklings. Uncle Hewie has twins. The 
boys got him vexed some about it, but I think they 25 
are his. Now that is all I know to-day and I would 


like to see you poco presently as they say at Los Cruces. 
There's no sense in you being sick/* 

The rest of this letter discussed the best meeting point 
for us should I decide to join him for a hunt. 
6 The hunt was made, and during the weeks of its duration 
something was said to explain a httle more fully the Virgin- 
ian's difficulty at the Sunk Creek Ranch, and his reason 
for leaving his excellent employer the Judge. Not much 
was said, to be sure; the Virginian seldom spent many 

10 words upon his own troubles. But it appeared that owing 
to some jealousy of him on the part of the foreman, or 
the assistant foreman, he found himself continually doing 
another man's work, but under circumstances so skilfully 
arranged that he got neither credit nor pay for it. He 

15 would not stoop to telling tales out of school. Therefore 
his ready and prophetic mind devisetj the simple expedient 
of going away altogether. He calculated that Judge 
Henry would gradually perceive there was a connection 
between his departure and the cessation of the satisfactory 

20 work. After a judicious interval it was his plan to appear 
again in the neighborhood of Sunk Creek and await 

Concerning Steve he would say no more than he had 
written. But it was plain that for some cause this friend- 

25 ship had ceased. 

Money for his services during the hunt he positively 
declined to accept, asserting that he had not worked enough 
to earn his board. And the expedition ended in an un- 
travelled comer of the Yellowstone Park, near Pitchatone 

30 Caflon, where he and young Lin McLean and others were 
witnesses of a sad and terrible drama that has been else- 
where chronicled. 

His prophetic mind had foreseen correctly the shape of 
events at Sunk Creek. The only thing that it had not 

35 foreseen was the impression to be made upon the Judge's 
mind by hi§ conduct. , ,.im,,,^ 

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Toward the close of that winter, Judge and Mrs. Henry 
visited the East. Through them a number of things be- 
came revealed. The Virginian was back at Sunk Creek. 

"And," said Mrs. Henry, "he would never have left 
you if I had had my way. Judge H. I" 6 

"No, Madam Judge," retorted her husband; "I am 
aware of that. For you have always appreciated a fine 
appearance in a man." 

"I certainly have," confessed the lady, mirthfully. 
"And the way he used to come bringing my horse, with 10 
the ridges of his black hair so carefully brushed and that 
blue spotted handkerchief tied so effectively roimd his 
throat, was something that I missed a great deal after he 
went away." 

"Thank you, my dear, for this warning. I have plans 15 
that will keep him absent quite constantly for the future." 

And then they spoke less flightily. " I always knew," 
said the lady, "that you had found a treasure when that 
man came." 

The Judge laughed. "When it dawned on me," 20 
he said, "how cleverly he caused me to learn the value 
of his services by depriving me of them, I doubted whether 
it was safe to take him back." 

"Safe!" cried Mrs. Henry. 

"Safe, my dear. Because I'm afraid he is pretty nearly 25 
as shrewd as I am. And that's rather dangerous in a 
subordinate." The Judge laughed again. "But his 
action regarding , the man they call Steve has made me 
feel easy." 

And then it came out that the Virginian was supposed 30 
to have discovered in some way that Steve had fallen from 
the grace of that particular honesty which respects another 
man's cattle. It was not known for certain. But calves 
had begun i;o disappear in Cattle Land, and cows had been 
found killed. And calves with one brand upon them had 35 
been found with mothers that bore the brand of another 

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owner. This industry was taking root in Cattle Land, 
and of those who practised it, some were beginning to be 
suspected. Steve was not quite fully suspected yet. But 
that the Virginian had parted company with him was 

5 definitely known. And neither man would talk aboiit it. 
There was the further news that the Bear Creek school- 
house at length stood complete, floor, walls, and roof; 
and that a lady from Bennington, Vermont, a friend of 
Mrs. Balaam's, had quite suddenly decided that she would 

10 try her hand at instructing the new generation. 

The Judge and Mrs. Henry knew this because Mrs. 
Balaam had told them of her disappointment that she 
would be absent from the ranch on Butte Creek when her 
friend arrived, and therefore unable to entertain her. 

15 The friend's decision had been quite suddenly made, and 
must form the subject of the next chapter. 

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I DO not know with which of the two estimates — Mr. 
Taylor's or the Virginian's — you agreed. Did you 
think that Miss Mary Stark Wood of Bennington, Ver- 
mont, was forty years of age ? That would have been an 
error. At the time she wrote the letter to Mrs. Balaam, 5 
of which letter certain portions have been quoted in these 
pages, she was in her twenty-first year ; or, to be more 
precise, she had been twenty some eight months previous. 

Now, it is not usual for young ladies of twenty to 
contemplate a journey of nearly two thousand miles to a lo 
country where Indians and wild animals live unchained, 
unless they are to make such journey in company with a 
protector, or are going to a protector's arms at the other 
end. Nor is school teaching on Bear Creek a usual 
ambition for such young ladies. 15 

Biit Miss Mary Stark Wood was not a usual young lady 
for two reasons. 

First, there was her descent. Had she so wished, she 
could have belonged to any number of those patriotic 
societies of which our American ears have grown accus-20 
tomed to hear so much. She could have been enrolled 
in the Boston Tea Party, the Ethan Allen Ticonderogas, 
the Green Mountain Daughters, the Saratoga Sacred 
Circle, and the Confederated Colonial Chatelaines. She 
traced direct descent from the historic lady whose name 25 
she bore, that Molly Stark who was not a widow after 
the battle where her lord, her Captai^^^^^^^^l^ili^ so 


bravely as to send his name thrilling down through the 
blood of generations of schoolboys. This ancestress was 
her chief claim to be a member of those shining societies 
which I have enumerated. But she had been willing to 
5 join none of them, although invitations to do so were by 
no means lacking. I cannot tell you her reason. Still, 
I can tell you this. When these societies were much spoken 
of in her presence, her very sprightly countenance became 
more sprightly, and she added her words of praise or 

10 respect to the general chorus. But when she received an 
invitation to join c^ne of these bodies, her countenance, as 
she read the missive, would assume an expression which 
was known to her friends as "sticking her nose in the air." 
I do not think that Molly's reason for refusing to join could 

15 have been a truly good one. I should add that her most 
precious possession — a treasure which accompanied her 
even if she went away for only one night's absence — was 
an heirloom, a little miniature portrait of the old Molly 
Stark, painted when that far-off dame must have been 

20 scarce more than twenty. And when each summer the 
young Molly went to Dunbarton, New Hampshire, to 
pay her established family visit to the last survivors of 
her connection who bore the name of Stark, no word that 
she heard in the Dunbarton houses pleased her so much as 

25 when a certain great-aunt would take her by the hand, and, 
after looking with fond intentness at her, pronounce : — 
"My dear, you're getting more like the General's wife 
every year you live." 

"I suppose you mean my nose," Molly would then reply. 

30 "Nonsense, child. You have the family length of 
nose, and I've never heard that it has disgraced us." 
"But I don't think I'm tall enough for it." 
"There now, run to your room, and dress for tea. The 
Starks have always been punctual." 

35 And after this annual conversation, Molly would run to 
her room, and there in its privacy, even at the ^risk of 

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falling below the punctuality of the Starks, she would 
consult two objects for quite a minute before she began to 
dress. These objects, as you have already correctly 
guessed, were the miniature of the General's wife and the 
looking-glass. 6 

So much for Miss Molly Stark Wood's descent. 

The second reason why she was not a usual girl was her 
character. This character was the result of pride and 
family pluck battling with family hardship. 

Just one year before she was to be presented to the lo 
world — not the great metropolitan world, but a world 
that would have made her welcome and done her homage 
at its little dances and little dinners in Troy and Rutland 
and Burlington — fortiine had turned her back upon the 
Woods. Their possessions had never been great ones ; 15 
but they had sufficed. From generation to generation 
the family had gone to school like gentlefolk, dressed 
like gentlefolk, used the speech and ways of gentlefolk, 
and as gentlefolk hved and died. And now the mills 
failed. 20 

Instead of thinking about her first evening dress, 
Molly found pupils to whom she could give music lessons. 
She found handkerchiefs that she could embroider with 
initials. And she found fruit that she could make into 
preserves. That machine called the typewriter was then 26 
in existence, but the day of women typewriters had as 
yet scarcely begun to dawn, else I think Molly would have 
preferred this occupation to the handkerchiefs and the 
' preserves. 

There were people in Bennington who "wondered how 30 
Miss Wood could go about from house to house teaching 
the piano, and she a lady.*' There always have been such 
people, I suppose, because the world must always have a 
rubbish heap. But we need not dwell upon them further 
than to mention one other remark of theirs regarding 35 
Molly. They all with one voice declared th^^^^an- 


nett was good enough for anybody who did fancy em- 
broidery at five cents a letter. 

"I dare say he had a great-grandmother quite as good 
as hers," remarked Mrs. Flynt, the wife of the Baptist 
6 minister. 

"That's entirely possible," returned the Episcopal 
rector of Hoosic, "only we don't happen to know who she 
was." The rector was a friend of Molly's. After this 
little observation, Mrs. Flynt said no more, but continued 

10 her purchases in the store where she and the rector had 

happened to find themselves together. Later she stated 

to a friend that she had always thought the Episcopal 

Church a snobbish one, and now she knew it. 

So public opinion went on being indignant over Molly's 

16 conduct. She could stoop to work for money, and yet 
she pretended to hold herself above the most rising young 
man in Hoosic Falls, and all just because there was a dif- 
ference in their grandmothers ! 

Was this the reason at the bottom of it? The very 

20 bottom ? I cannot be certain, because I have never been 
a girl myself. Perhaps she thought that work is not a 
stooping, and that marriage may be. Perhaps — But 
all I really know is that Molly Wood continued cheerfully 
to embroider the handkerchiefs, make the preserves, 

26 teach the pupils — and firmly to reject Sam Bannett. 
Thus it went on until she was twenty. Then certain 
members of her family began to tell her how rich Sam 
was going to be — was, indeed, already. It was at this . 
time that she wrote Mrs. Balaam her doubts and her 

30 desires as to migrating to Bear Creek. It was at this 
time also that her face grew a little paler, and her friends 
thought that she was overworked, and Mrs. Fljmt feared 
she was losing her looks. It was at this time, too, that 
she grew very intimate with that great-aunt over at Dun- 

36 barton and from her received much comfort and 

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"Never!" said the old lady, "especially if you can't 
love him." 

"I do like him," said Molly; "and he is very kind." 

"Never !" said the old lady again. "When I die, you'll 
have something — and that will not be long now." 5 

Molly flung her arms around her aunt, and stopped her 
words with a kiss. 

And then one winter afternoon, two years later, came the 
last straw. 

The front door of the old house had shut. Out of it 10 
had stepped the persistent suitor. Mrs. Flynt watched 
him drive away in his smart sleigh. 

"That girl is a fool !" she said furiously; and she came 
away from her bedroom window where she had posted 
herself for observation. 15 

Inside the old house a door had also shut. This was 
the door of Molly's own room. And there she sat, in 
floods of tears. For she could not bear to hurt a man who 
loved her with all the power of love that was in him. 

It was about twilight when her door opened, and an2C 
elderly lady came softly in. 

"My dear," she ventured, "and you were not able — " 
. "Oh, mother!" cried the girl, "have you come to say 
that too?" 

The next day Miss Wood had become very hard. In 25 
three weeks she had accepted the position on Bear Creek. 
In two months she started, heart-heavy, but with a spirit 
craving the unknown. 

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On a Monday noon a small company of horsemen strung 
out along the trail from Sun Creek to gather cattle over 
their allotted sweep of range. Spring was backward, and 
they, as they rode galloping and gathering upon the cold 
5 week's work, cursed cheerily and occasionally sang. The 
Virginian was grave in bearing and of infrequent speech ; 
but he kept a song going — a matter of some seventy-nine 
verses. Seventy-eight were quite unprintable, and re- 
joiced his brother cow-punchers monstrously. They, 
10 knowing him to be a singular man, forebore ever to press 
him, and awaited his own humor, lest he should weary 
of the lyric ; and when after a day of silence apparently 
saturnine, he would lift his gentle voice and begin : — 

"K you go to monkey with my Looloo girl, 
15 I'll teU you what I'U do : 

I'll cyarve your heart with my razor, and 
I'll shoot you with my pistol, too — " 

then they would stridently take up each last hne, and 
keep it going three, four, ten times, and kick holes in the 
20 ground to the swing of it. 

By the levels of Bear Creek that reach like inlets among 
the promontories of the lonely hills, they came upon the 
schoolhouse, roofed and ready for the first native Wyoming 
crop. It symbolized the dawn of a n^ghj^pi^c^g^^gd it 


brought a change into the wilderness air. The feel 
of it struck cold upon the free spirits of the cow-punchers 
and they told each other that, what with women and chil- 
dren and wire fences, this country would not long be a 
country for men. They stopped for a meal at an olds 
comrade's. They looked over his gate, and there he was 
pottering among garden furrows. 

"Pickin* nosegays?" inquired the Virginian; and the 
old comrade asked if they could not recognize potatoes 
except in the dish. But he grinned sheepishly at them, 10 
too, because they knew that he had not always lived in a 
garden. Then he took them into his house, where they 
saw an object crawling on the floor with a handful of 
sulphur matches. He began to remove the matches, 
but stopped in alarm at the vociferous result ; and his 15 
wife looked in from the kitchen to caution him about 
humoring little Christopher. 

When she beheld the matches she was quite aghast ; but 
when she saw her baby grow quiet in the arms of the Vir- 
ginian, she smiled at that cow-puncher and returned to her 20 

Then the Virginian slowly spoke again : — 

"How many little strangers have yu' got, James?" 

"Only two.'' 

"My I Ain't it most three years since yu' married? 25 
Yu' mustn't let time creep ahaid o' 301', James." 

The father once more grinned at his guests, who them- 
selves turned sheepish and polite; for Mrs. Westfall came 
in, brisk and hearty, and set the meat upon the table. 
After that, it was she who talked. The guests ate scrupu- 30 
lously, muttering, "Yes, ma'am," and "No, ma'am," in 
their plates, while their hostess told them of increasing 
families upon Bear Creek, and the expected school- 
teacher, and little Alfred's early teething, and how it was 
time for all of them to become husbands like James. The 35 
bachelors of the saddle listened, always 4Jfl|d)Ejn|,^^^^ing 


heartily to the end ; and soon after they rode away in a 
thoughtful clump. The wives of Bear Creek were few 
as yet, and the homes scattered ; the schoolhouse was only 
a sprig on the vast face of a world of elk and bear and un- 

5 certain Indians ; but that night, when the earth near the 

fire was littered with the cow-punchers' beds, the Virginian 

was heard drawling to himself: "Alfred and Christopher. 

Oh, sugar!" 

They foimd pleasure in the dehcately chosen shade of 

10 this oath. He also recited to them a new verse about how 
he took his Looloo girl to the schoolhouse for to learn her 
ABC; and as it was quite original and unprintable, the 
camp laughed and swore joyfully, and rolled in its blankets 
to sleep under the stars. 

15 Upon a Monday noon likewise (for things will happen 
so) some tearful people in petticoats waved handkerchiefs 
at a train that was just leaving Bennington, Vermont. A 
girl's face smiled back at them once, and withdrew quickly, 
for they must not see the smile die away. 

20 She had with her a little money, a few clothes, and in 
her mind a rigid determination neither to be a burden to 
her mother nor to give in to that mother's desires. Ab- 
sence alone would enable her to carry out this determina- 
tion^ Beyond these things, she possessed not much except 

25 spelling-books, a colonial miniature, and that craving for 
the unknown which has been mentioned. If the ancestors 
that we carry shut up inside us take turns in dictating to 
us our actions and our state of mind, undoubtedly Grand- 
mother Stark was empress of Molly's spirit upon this 

30 Monday. 

At Hoosic Junction, which came soon, she passed the 
up-train bound back to her home, and seeing the engineer 
and the conductor, — faces that she knew well, — her 
courage nearly failed her, and she shut her eyes against 

35 this glimpse of the familiar things that she was leaving. 

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To keep herself steady she gripped tightly a little bunch 
of flowers in her hand. 

But something caused her eyes to open; and there 
before her stood Sam Bannett, asking if he might accom- 
pany her so far as Rotterdam Junction. 5 

"No!'* she told him with a severity born from the 
struggle she was making with her grief. "Not a mile 
with me. Not to Eagle Bridge. Good-by.'' 

And Sam — what did he do? He obeyed her. I 
should like to be sorry for him. But obedience was not lO 
a lover's part here. He hesitated, the golden moment 
hung hovering, the conductor cried "All aboard!" the 
train went, and there on the platform stood obedient 
Sam, with his golden moment gone like a butterfly. 

After Rotterdam Junction, which was forty minutes 15 
farther, Molly Wood sat gravely up in the through car, 
dwelling upon the unkuown. She thought that she had 
attained it in Ohio, on Tuesday morning, and wrote a 
letter about it to Bennington. On Wednesday afternoon, 
she felt sure, and wrote a letter much more picturesque. 20 
But on the following day, after breakfafet at North Platte, 
Nebraska, she wrote a very long letter indeed, and told 
them that she had seen a black pig on a white pile of 
buffalo bones, catching drops of water in the air as they fell 
from the railroad tank. She also wrote that trees were 25 
extraordinarily scarce. Each hour westward from the pig 
confirmed this opinion, and when she left the train at 
Rock Creek, late upon that fourth night, — in those days 
the trains were slower, — she knew that she had reaUy 
attained the unknown, and sent an expensive telegram to 30 
say that she was quite well. 

At six in the morning the stage drove away into the 
sage-brush, with her as its only passenger; and by sun- 
down she had passed through some of the primitive perils of 
the world. The second team, virgin to harness, and dis- .35 
pleased with this noveltv, tried to take it off, and went 

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down to the bottom of a gully on its eight hind legs, while 
Miss Wood sat mute and unflinching beside the driver. 
Therefore he, when it was over, and they on the proper 
road again, invited her earnestly to be his wife durmg 
6 many of the next fifteen miles, and told her of his snug 
cabin and his horses and his mine. Then she got down 
and rode inside. Independence and Grandmother Stark 
shining in her eye. At Point of Rocks, where they had 
supper and his drive ended, her face distracted his heart, 

10 and he told her once more about his cabin, and lamentably 
hoped she would remember him. She answered sweetly 
that she would try, and gave him her hand. After all, 
he was a frank-looking boy, who had paid her the highest 
compliment that a boy (or a man for that matter) knows ; 

15 and it is said that Molly Stark, in her day, was not a New 

The new driver banished the first one from the maiden's 
mind. He was not a frank-looking boy, and he had been 
taking whiskey. All night long he took it, while his 

20 passenger, helpless and sleepless inside the lurching stage, 
sat as upright as she possibly could; nor did the voices 
that she heard at Drybone reassure her. Sunrise found 
the white stage lurching eternally on across the alkali, 
with a driver and a bottle on the box, and a pale girl staring 

25 out at the plain, and knotting in her handkerchief some 
utterly dead flowers. They came to a river where the 
man bungled over the ford. Two wheels sank down over 
an edge, and the canvas toppled like a descending kite. 
The ripple came sucking through the upper spokes, and 

30 as she felt the seat careen, she put out her head and trem- 
ulously asked if anything was wrong. But the driver 
was addressing his team with much language, and also 
with the lash. 
Then a tall rider appeared close against the buried 

35 axles, and took her out of the stage on his horse so suddenly 
that she screamed. She felt splashes, saw a swimming 

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flood, and found herself lifted down upon the shore. The 
rider said something to her about cheering up, and its 
being all right, but her wits were stock-still, so she did not 
speak and thank him. After four days of train and thirty 
hours of stage, she was having a little too much of the 5 
unknown at once. Then the tall man gently withdrew, 
leaving her to become herself again. She limply regarded 
the river pouring round the slanted stage, and a number 
of horsemen with ropes, who righted the vehicle, and got 
it quickly to dry land, and disappeared at once with a 10 
herd of cattle, uttering lusty yells. 

She saw the tall one delaying beside the driver, and 
speaking. He spoke so quietly that not a word reached 
her, imtil of a sudden the driver protested loudly. The 
man had thrown something, which turned out to be a 15 
bottle. This twisted loftily and dived into the stream. 
He said something more to the driver, then put his hand 
on the saddle-horn, looked half-lingeringly at the passenger 
on the bank, dropped his grave eyes from hers, and 
swinging upon his horse, was gone just as the passenger 20 
opened her mouth and with inefficient voice murmured, 
"Oh, thank you!'' at his departing back. 

The driver drove up now, a chastened creature. He 
helped Miss Wood in, and inquired after her welfare with 
a hanging head ; then meek as his own drenched horses, 25 
he climbed back to his reins, and nursed the stage on 
toward the Bow Leg Mountains much as if it had been a 

As for Miss Wood, she sat recovering, and she wondered 
what the man on the horse must think of her. She knew 30 
that she was not ungrateful, and that if he had given her 
an opportunity she would have explained to him. If he 
supposed that she did not appreciate his act — Here into 
the midst of these meditations came an abrupt memory 
that she had screamed — she could not be sure when. 35 
She rehearsed the adventure from the beging^n^^^f^und 


one or two further uncertainties — how it had all been 
while she was on the horse, for instance. It was confusing 
to determine precisely what she had done with her arms. 
She knew where one of his arms had been. And the 
5 handkerchief with the flowers was gone. She made a 
few rapid dives in search of it. Had she, or had she not, 
seen him putting something in his pocket ? And why had 
she behaved so unlike herself? In a few miles Miss Wood 
entertained sentiments of maidenly resentment toward 
10 her rescuer, and of maidenly hope to see him again. 

To that river crossing he came again, alone, when the 
days were growing short. The ford was dry sand, and 
the stream a winding lane of shingle. He found a pool, — 
pools always survive the year round in this stream, — 

15 and having watered his pony, he lunched near the spot to 
which he had borne the frightened passenger that day. 
Where the flowing current had been, he sat, regarding 
the now extremely safe channel. 

"She cert'nly wouldn't need to grip me so close this 

20mawninV' he said, as he pondered over his meal. "I 
reckon it will mightily astonish her when I tell her how 
harmless the torrent is lookin\" He held out to his pony 
a slice of bread matted with sardines, which the pony 
expertly accepted. "You're a plumb pie-biter, you 

25 Monte," he continued. Monte rubbed his nose on his 

master's shoulder. "I wouldn't trust you with berries 

and cream. No, seh; not though yu' did rescue a 

drownin' lady." 

Presently he tightened the forward cinch, got in the 

30 saddle, and the pony fell into his wise mechanical jog; for 
he had come a long way, and was going a long way, and he 
knew this as well as the man did. 

To use the language of Cattle Land, steers had "jumped 
to seventy-five." This was a great and prosperous leap 

35 in their value. To have flourished in that golden time 

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you need not be dead now, ncfr even middle-aged ; but it 
is Wyoming mythology already — quite as fabulous as 
the high-jumping cow. Indeed, people gathered together 
and behaved themselves much in the same pleasant and 
improbable way. Johnson County, and Natrona, and Con- 5 
verse, and others, to say nothing of the Cheyenne Club, 
had been jumping over the moon for some weeks, all on 
account of steecs; and on the strength of this vigorous 
price of seventy-five, the Swinton Brothers were giving 
a barbecue at the Goose Egg outfit, their ranch on Bear 10 
Creek. Of course the whole neighborhood was bidden, 
and would come forty miles to a man ; some would come 
further — the Virginian was coming a hundred and 
eighteen. It had struck him — rather suddenly, as shall 
be made plain — that he should like to see how they were 15 
getting along up there on Bear Creek. "They," was 
how he put it to his acquaintances: His acquaintances did 
not know that he had bought himself a pair of trousers 
and a scarf, unnecessarily excellent for such a general 
visit. They did not know that in the spring, two days 20 
after the adventure with the stage, he had learned ac- 
cidentally who the lady in the stage was. This he 
had kept to himself ; nor did the camp ever notice that 
he had ceased to sing that eightieth stanza he had 
made about the ABC — the stanza which was not 25 
printable. He effaced it imperceptibly, giving the boys 
the other seventy-nine at judicious intervals. They 
dreamed of no guile, but merely saw in him, whether 
frequenting camp or town, the same not overangelic 
comrade whom they valued and could not wholly under- 8() 

All spring he had ridden trial, worked at ditches during 
summer, and now he had just finished with the beef 
round-up. Yesterday, while he was spending a little 
comfortable money at the Dry-bone hog-ranch, a casual ;^5 
traveller from the north gossiped of Bear Creek, and the 

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fences up there, and the farhi crops, the Westf alls, and the 
young schoohnarm from Vermont, for whom the Taylors 
had built a cabm next door to theirs. The traveller 
had not seen her, but Mrs. Taylor and all the ladies thought 
6 the world of her, and Lin McLean had told him she was 
'*away up in G." She would have plenty of partners 
at this Swinton barbecue. Great boom for the country, 
wasn't it, steers jumping that way? 
The Virginian heard, asking no questions; and left 

10 town in an hour, with the scarf and trousers tied in his 
slicker behind his saddle. After looking upon the ford 
again, even though it was dry and not at aU the same place, 
he journeyed inattentively. When you have been hard 
at work for months with no time to think, of course you 

15 think a great deal during your first empty days. "Step 
along, you Monte hawss! he said, rousing after some 
while. He disciplined * Monte, who flattened his ears 
affectedly and snorted. "Why, you surely ain' thinkin' 
of you'-self as a hero? She wasn't really a-drowndin', 

20 you pie-biter." He rested his serious glance upon the 
alkali. "She's not likely to have forgot that mix-up, 
though. I guess I'll not remind her about grippin' me, 
and all that. She wasn't the kind a man ought to josh 
about such things. She had a right clear eye." Thus, 

25 tall and loose in the saddle, did he jog along the sixty 
miles which still lay between him and the dance. 

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Two camps in the open, and the Virginian's Monte 
horse, untired, brought him to the Swintons' in good time 
for the barbecue. The horse received good food at length, 
while his rider was welcomed with good whiskey. Good 
whiskey — for had not steers jumped to seventy-five? 5 

Inside the Goose Egg kitchen many small delicacies 
were preparing, and a steer was roasting whole outside. 
The bed of flame under it showed steadily brighter against 
the dusk that was beginning to veil the lowlands. The 
busy hosts went and came, while men stood and men lay 10 
near the fire-glow. Chalkeye was there, and Nebrasky, 
and Trampas, and Honey Wiggin, with others, enjoying 
the occasion; but Honey Wiggin was enjoying himself: 
he had an audience ; he was sitting up discoursing to it. 

"Hello ! " he said, perceiving the Virginian. " So you've 15 
dropped in for your turn ! Niunber — six, ain't he, boys ? " 

"Depends on who's a-nmnin' the countin'," said the 
Virginian, and stretched himself down among the audi- 

"I've saw him niunber one when nobody else was 20 
around,." said Trampas. 

"How far away was you standin' when you beheld 
that ? " inquired the lounging Southerner. 

"Well, boys," said Wiggin, "I expect it will be Miss 
Schoolmarm says who's number one to-night." 25 

"So she's arrived in this hyeh country?" observed 
the Virginian, very casually. ^ , ., ..,.«^ 

° 7 ^^ ^ Digitized by VjUUy It: 


"Arrived!" said Trampas again. "Where have you 
been grazing lately?" 

"A right smart way from the mules." 

"Nebrasky and the boys was telUn' me they'd missed 
byvJ off the range," again interposed Wiggin. "Say, 
Nebrasky, who have yu' offered your canary to the school- 
marm said you mustn't give her?" 

Nebrasky grinned wretchedly. 

"Well, she's a lady, and she's square, not takin' a man's 
10 gift when she don't take the man. But you'd ought to get 
back all them letters yu' wrote her. Yu' sure ought to 
ask her for them tell-tales." 

"Ah. pshaw, Honey!" protested the youth. It was 
well known that he could not write his name. 
15 "Why, if here ain't Bokay Baldy!" cried the agile 
Wiggin, stooping to fresh prey. "Found them slippers 
yet, Baldy? Tell yu' boys, that was turruble sad luck 
Baldy had. Did yu' hear about that? Baldy, yu' know, 
he can stay on a tame horse most as well as the school- 
20marm. But just you give him a pair of young knittin'- 
needles and see him make em' sweat! He worked an 
elegant pair of slippers with pink cabbages on 'em for 
Miss Wood." 

"I bought 'em at Medicine Bow," blundered Baldy. 

25 "So yu' did!" assented the skilful comedian. "Baldy 

he bought 'em. And on the road to her cabin there at 

the Taylors' he got thinkin' they might be too big, and he 

got studyin' what to do. And he fixed up to tell her about 

his not bein' sure of the size, and how she was to let him 

30 know if they dropped off her, and he'd exchange 'em, 

and when he got right near her door, why, he couldn't 

find his courage. And so he slips the parcel under the 

fence and starts serenadin' her. But she ain't inside her 

cabin at all. ' She's at supper next door with the Taylors, 

35 and Baldy singin' 'Love has conqwered pride and angwer' 

to a lone hous(X. Lin Mclxan was comin' up by Taylor's 

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corral, where Taylor's Texas bull was. Well, it was tur- 
ruble sad. Baldy's pants got tore, but he fell inside the 
fence, and Lin druv the bull back and somebody stole 
them Medicine Bow goloshes. Are you goin' to knit her 
some more, Bokay?" 6 

"About half that ain't straight," Baldy commented, 
with mildness. 

"The half that was tore off yer pants? Well, never 
mind, Baldy; lin will get left too, same as all of 
yu'." 10 

"Is there many?" inquired the Virginian. He was still 
stretched on his back, looking up at the sky. 

"I don't know how many she's been used to where she 
was raised," Wiggin answered. "A kid stage-driver ^ 
come from Poiat of Rocks one day and went back the 16 
next. Then the foreman of the 76 outfit, and the horse- 
wrangler from the Bar-Circle-L, and two deputy mar- 
shals, with punchers, stringin' right along, — all got their 
tumble. Old Judge Burrage from Cheyenne come up in 
August for a hunt and stayed round here and never hunted 20 
at all. There was that horse thief — awful goodlookin'. 
Taylor wanted to warn her about him, but Mrs. Taylor 
said she'd look after her if it was needed. Mr. Horse- 
thief gave it up quicker than most; but the schoolmarm 
couldn't have knowed he had a Mrs. Horse-thief camped 25 
on Poison Spider till afterwards. She wouldn't go ridin' 
with him. She'll go with some, takin' a kid along." 

"Bah!" saidTrampas. 

The Virginian stopped looking at the sky, and watched 
Trampas from where he lay. 30 

"I think she encourages a man some," said poor Ne- 

"Encourages? Because she lets yu' teach her how to 
shoot?" said Wiggin. "Well — I don't guess I'm a 
judge. I've always kind o' kep' away from them good 35 
women. Don't seem to think of anything to chat about 

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to 'em. The only folks I'd say she encourages is the 
school kids. She kisses them." 

"Riding and shooting and kissing the kids," sneered 
Trampas. "That's a heap too pussy-kitten for me." 
5 They laughed. The sage-brush audience is readily 

"Look for the man, I say," Trampas pursued. "And 
ain't he there? She leaves Baldy sit on the fence while 
she and Lin McLean — " 
10 They laughed loudly at the blackguard picture which 
he drew; and the laugh stopped short, for the Virginian 
stood over Trampas. 

"You can rise up now, and tell them you lie," he said. 

The man was still for a moment in the dead silence. 
15 "I thought you claimed you and her wasn't acquainted." 
said he then. 

"Stand on your laigs, you polecat, and say you're a 

Trampas's hand moved behind him. 
20 "Quit that," said the Southerner, "or I'll break your 

The eye of a man is the prince of deadly weapons. 
Trampas looked in the Virginian's, and slowly rose. "I 
didn't mean — "he began, and paused, his face poison- 
26 ously bloated. 

"Well, I'll call that sufficient. Keep a-standin' still. 
I ain't going to trouble yu' long. In admittin' yourself 
to be a liar you have spoke God's truth for onced. Honey 
Wiggin, you and me and the boys have hit town too fre- 
30 quent for any of us to play Sunday on the balance of the 
gang." He stopped and surveyed Public Opinion, seated 
around in carefully inexpressive attention. "We ain't a 
Christian outfit a little bit, and maybe we have most for- 
gotten what decency feels like. But I reckon we haven't 
Zb plumb forgot what it means. You can sit down now, if 
you want." 

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The liar stood and sneered experimentally, looking at 
Public Opinion. But this changeful deity was no longer 
with him, and he heard it variously assenting, "That's 
•so," and "She's a lady," and otherwise excellently moraliz- 
ing. So he held his peace. When, however, the Vir-6 
ginian had departed to the roasting steer, and Public 
Opinion relaxed into that comfort which we all experience 
when the sermon ends, Trampas sat down amid the re- 
viving cheerfulness, and ventured again to be facetious. 

"Shut your rank mouth," said Wiggin to him, amiably, lo 
"I don't care whether he knows her or if he done it on 
principle. I'll accept the roundin' up he gave us — and 
say! you'll swallo' your dose, too! Us boys'U stand in 
with him in this." 

So Trampas swallowed. And what of the Virginian? 15 

He had championed the feeble, and spoken honorably 
in meeting, and according to aU the constitutions and 
by-laws of morality, he should have been walking in 
virtue's especial calm. But there it was ! he had spoken: 
he had given them a peep through the key-hole at his 20 
inner man ; and as he prowled away from the assemblage 
before whom he stood convicted of decency, it was vicious 
rather than virtuous that he felt. Other matters also 
disquieted him — so Lin McLean was hanging round that 
schoolmarm ! Yet he joined Ben Swinton in a seemingly 26 
Christian spirit. He took some whiskey and praised the 
size of the barrel, speaking with his host like this : — 

"There cert'nly ain' goin' to be trouble about a second 

"Hope not. We'd ought to have more trimmings, 30 
though. We're shy on ducks." 

"Yu' have the barrel. Has Lin McLean seen that?" 

"No. We tried for ducks away down as far as the 
liaparel outfit. A real barbecue — " 

"There's large thirsts on Bear Creek, Lin McLean 36 
will pass on ducks." 

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"Lin's not thirsty this month." 

"Signed for one month, has he?" 

" Signed ! He's spooning our schoohnarm ! " 

"They claim she's a right sweet-faced girl." 
5 "Yes; yes; awful agreeable. And next thing you're 
fooled clean through." 

"Yu' don't say!" 

"She keeps a-teaching the darned kids, and it seems 
like a good growed-up man can't interest her." 
10 ''Yu* don't say!'' 

"There used to be all the ducks you wanted at the 
Laparel, but their fool cook's dead stuck on raising 'tur- 
keys this year." 

"That must have been mighty close to a drowndin' 
15 the schoohnarm got at South Fork." 

"Why, I guess not. When? She's never spoken of 
any such thing — that I've heard." 

"Mos' likely the stage-driver got it wrong, then." 

"Yes. Must have drownded somebody else. Here 
20 they come! That's her ridin' the horse. There's the 
Westfalls. Where are you running to?" 

"To fix up. Got any soap around hyeh?" 

"Yes," shouted Swinton, for the Virginian was now 
some distance away; "towels and everything in the 
25 dugout." And he went to welcome his first formal 

The Virginian reached his saddle under a shed. "So 
she's never mentioned it," said he, imtying his slicker for 
the trousers and scarf. "I didn't notice Lin anywheres 
30 around her." He was over in the dugout now, whipping 
off his overalls; and soon he was excellently clean and 
ready, except for the tie in his scarf and the part in his 
hair. "I'd have knowed her in Greenland," he remarked. 
He held the candle up and down at the looking-glass, and 
35 the looking-glass up and down at his head. "It's mighty 
strange why she ain't mentioned that."p.g^.Jg^y^[^Q^(Jbhe 


scarf a fold or two further, and at length, a trifle more 
than satisfied with his appearance, he proceeded most 
serenely toward the sound of the tuning fiddles. He 
passed through the store-room behind the kitchen, step- 
ping lightly lest he should rouse the ten or twelve babies 6 
that lay on the table or beneath it. On Bear Creek babies 
and children always went with their parents to a dance, 
because nurses were unknown. So little Alfred and Chris- 
topher lay there among the wraps, parallel and crosswise 
with little Taylors, and little Carmodys, and I^ees, and 10 
all the Bear Creek offspring that was not yet able to skip 
at large and hamper its indulgent elders in the ball- 

"Why, Lin ain't hyeh yet !" said the Virginian, looking 
in upon the people. There was Miss Wood, standing up 16 
for the quadrille. "I didn't remember her hair was that 
pretty," said he. "But ain't she a little, little girl !" 

Now she was in truth five feet three ; but then he could 
look away down on the top of her head. 

"Salute your honey!" called the first fiddler. All 20 
partners bowed to each other, and as she turned. Miss 
Wood saw the man in the doorway. Again, as it had 
been at South Fork that day, his eyes dropped from hers, 
and she divining instantly why he had come after half a 
year, thought of the handkerchief and of that scream of 25 
hers in the river, and became filled with tyranny and 
anticipation; for indeed he was fine to look upon. So 
she danced away, carefully imaware of his existence. 

"First lady, centre!" said her partner, reminding her 
of her turn. "Have you forgotten how it goes since last 30 

Molly Wood did not forget again, but quadrilled with 
the most sprightly devotion. 

"I see some new faces to-night," said she, presently. 

"Yu' always do forget our poor faces," said her 35 

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"Oh, no! There's a stranger now. Who is that black 

"Well — he's from Virginia, and he ain't alio win' he's 
5 "He's a tenderfoot, I suppose?" 

"Ha, ha, ha! That's rich, too!" and so the simple 
partner explained a great deal about the Virginian to 
Molly Wood. At the end of the set she saw the man by 
the door take a step in her direction. 
10 "Oh," said she, quickly, to the partner, "how warm it 
is! I must see how those babies are doing." And she 
passed the Virginian in a breeze of imconcem. 

His eyes gravely lingered where she had gone. "She 
knowed me right away," said he. He looked for a mo- 
ISment, then leaned against the door. "'How warm it is !' 
said she. Well, it ain't so screechin' hot hyeh; and as 
for rushin' after Alfred and Christopher, when their 
natural motheh is bumpin' around handy — she cert'nly 
can't be offended?" he broke off, and looked again where 
20 she had gone. And then Miss Wood passed him brightly 
again, and was dancing the schottische almost immedi- 
ately. "Oh, yes, she knows me," the swarthy cow- 
puncher mused. "She has to take trouble not to see me. 
And what she's a-fussin' at is mighty interestin'. Hello !" 
25 "Hello!" returned Lin McLean, sourly. He had just 
looked into the kitchen. 

"Not dancin'?" the Southerner inquired. 

"Don't know how." 

"Had scyarlet fever and forgot your past life?" 
30 Lin grinned. 

"Better persuade the schoolmarm to learn yu'. She's 
goin' to give me instruction." 

"Huh!" went Mr. McLean, and skulked out to the 
35 "Why, they claimed you weren't drinkia' this month !" 
said his friend, following. 

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"WeU, I am. Here's luck!" The two pledged in 
tin cups. "But I'm not waltzin' with her," blurted Mr. 
McLean grievously. "She called me an exception." 

"Waltzing" repeated the Vii-ginian quickly, and hearing 
the fiddles he hastened away. 6 

Few in the Bear Creek Country could waltz, and with 
these few it was mostly an unsteered and ponderous ex- 
hibition ; therefore was the Southerner bent upon profiting 
by his skill. He entered the room, and his lady saw him 
come where she sat alone for the moment, and her thoughts lo 
grew a little hurried. 

"Will you trj'^ a turn, ma'am?" 

"I beg your pardon?" It was a remote, well-schooled 
eye that she lifted now upon him. 

"If you like a waltz, ma'am, will you waltz with me?" 15 

"You're from Virginia, I understand?" said Molly 
Wood, regarding him politely, but not rising. One gains 
authority immensely by keeping one's seat. All good 
teachers know this. 

"Yes, ma'am, from Virginia." 20 

"I've heard that Southerners have such good manners." 

"That's correct." The cow-puncher flushed, but he 
spoke in his unvarying gentle voice. 

"For in New England, you know," pursued Miss Molly, 
noting his scarf and clean-shaven chin, and then again 25 
steadily meetmg his eye, "gentlemen ask to be presented 
to ladies before they ask them to waltz." 

He stood a moment before her, deeper and deeper 
scarlet; and the more she saw his handsome face, the 
keener rose her excitement. She waited for him to speak 30 
of the river ; for then she was going to be surprised, and 
gradually to remember, and finally to be very nice to him. 
But he did not wait. "I ask your pardon, lady," said he, 
and bowing, walked ofT^ lea%dng her at once afraid that he 
might not come back. But she had altogether mistaken 35 
her man. Back he came serenely wiJl]^.^||r^'^^|Qi|j, and 


was duly presented to her. Thus were the conventions 

It can never be known what the cow-puncher was going 
to say next; for Uncle Hughey stepped up with a glass 
5 of water which he had left Miss Wood to bring, and 
asking for a turn, most graciously received it. She danced 
away from a situation where she began to feel herself get- 
ting the worst of it. One moment the Virginian stared 
at his lady as she lightly circulated, and then he went out 
10 to the barrel. 

Leave him for Uncle Hughey ! Jealousy is a deep and 
delicate thing, and works its spite in many ways. The 
Virginian had been ready to look at Lin AIcLean with a 
hostile eye; but finding him now beside the barrel, he 
15 felt a brotherhood between himself and Lin, and his 
hostility had taken a new and whimsical direction. 

"Here's how !" said he to McLean. And they pledged 
each other in the tin cups. 

"Been gettin' them instructions?" said Mr. McLean, 
20 grinning. "I thought I saw yu' learning your steps 
through the window." 

"Here's your good health," said the Southerner. Once 
more they pledged each other handsomely. 

"Did she call you an exception, or anjrthing?" said 
25 Lin. 

"WeU, it would cipher out right close in that neighbor- 

"Here's how, then!" cried the delighted Lin, over 
his cup. 
30 "Jest because yu' happen to come from Vermont," 
continued Mr. McLean, "is no cause for extra pride. 
Shoo! I was raised in Massachusetts myself, and big 
men have been raised there, too, — Daniel Webster and 
Israel Putnam, and a lot of them politicians." 
35 "Virginia is a good little old state," observed the 
Southerner. .., «,,.^ 

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"Both of 'em's a sight ahead of Vermont. She told 
me I was the first exception she'd struck." 

"What rule were you provin' at the time, Lin?" 

"Well, yu' see, I started to kiss her." 

"Yu' didn't!" 5 

"Shucks ! I didn't mean nothin'." 

"I reckon yu' stopped mighty sudden?" 

"Why, I'd been ridin' out with her — ridin' to school, 
ridin' from school, and a-comin' and a-goin', and she 
chattin' cheerful and askin' me a heap o' questions all lo 
about myself every day, and I not Ijdn' much neither. 
And so I figured she wouldn't mind. Lots of 'em like it. 
But she didn't, you bet ! " 

"No," said the Virginian, deeply proud of his lady 
who had slighted him. He had pulled her out of the 15 
water once, and he had been her unrewarded knight even 
to-day, and he felt his grievance ; but he spoke not of it 
to Lin; for he felt also, in memory, her arms clinging 
roimd him as he carried her ashore upon his horse. But 
he muttered, "Plumb ridiculous!" as her injustice struck 20 
him afresh, while the outraged Mclean told his tale. 

"Trample is what she has done on me trj-night, and 
without notice. We was startin' to come here; Taylor 
and Mrs. were ahead in the buggy, and I was holdin' her 
horse, and helpin' her up in the saddle, like I done for 25 
days and days. Who was there to see us ? And I figured 
she'd not mind, and she calls me an exception! Yu'd 
ought to've just heard her about Western men respectin' 
women. So that's the last word we've spoke. We come 
twenty-five miles then, she scootin' in front, and her horse 30 
kickin' the sand in my face. Mrs. Taylor, she guessed 
something was up, but she didn't tell." 

"Miss Wood did not tell?" 

"Not she! She'll never open her head. She can take 
care of herself, you bet ! " 35 

The fiddles sounded hilariously in iiteJ^^^^^^S^Hj^l^ *^^ 


feet also. They had warmed up altogether, and their dancing 
figures crossed the windows back and forth. The two cow- 
punchers drew near to a window and looked in gloomily. 
"There she goes," said Lin. 
6 "With Uncle Hughey again," said the Virginian, sourly. 
"Yu' might suppose he didn't have a wife and twins, to 
see the way he goes gamboUin' aroimd." 

"Westfall is takin' a turn with her now," said McLean. 

"James!" exclaimed the Virginian. "He's another 

10 with a wife and family, and he gets the dancin', too." 

"There she goes with Taylor," said Lin, presently. 

"Another married man!" the Southerner commented. 

They prowled round to the store-room, and passed through 

the kitchen to where the dancers were robustly tramping. 

15 Miss Wood was still the partner of Mr. Taylor. "Let's 

have some whiskey," said the Virginian. They had it, 

and returned, and the Virginian's disgust and sense of 

injury grew deeper. "Old Carmody has got her now," 

he drawled. "He polkas Hke a land-slide. She learns 

20 his monkey-faced kid to spell dog and cow all the mawnin'. 

He'd ought to be tucked up cosey in his bed right now, 

old Carmody ought." 

They were standing in that place set apart for the sleeping 
children; and just at this moment one of two babies that 
25 were stowed beneath a chair uttered a drowsy note. A 
much louder cry, indeed a chorus of lament, would have 
been needed to reach the ears of the parents in the room 
beyond, such was the noisy volume of the dance. But in 
this quiet place the light sound caught Mr. McLean's 
30 attention, and he turned to see if anything were wrong. 
But both babies were sleeping peacefully. 
"Them's Uncle Hughey 's twins," he said. 
"How do you happen to know that?" inquired the 
Virginian, suddenly interested. 
36 "Saw his wife put 'em imder the chair so she could 
find 'em right off when she come to go home." GooqIc 


"Oh," said the Virginian, thoughtfully. "Oh, find 
'em right off. Yes. Uncle Hughey's twins." He walked 
to a spot from which he could ^dew the dance. "Well," 
he continued, returning, "the schoolmarm must have 
taken quite a notion to Uncle Hughey. He has got hers 
for this quadrille." The Virginian was now speaking 
without rancor; but his words came with a slightly aug- 
mented drawl, and this with him wajs often a bad omen. 
He now turned his eyes upon the collected babies wrapped 
in various colored shawls and knitted work. "Nine, ten, lo 
eleven, beautiful sleepin' strangers," he counted, in a 
sweet voice. "Any of 'em youm, Lin?" 

"Not that I know of," grinned Mr. McLean. 

"Eleven, twelve. This hyeh is little Christopher in 
the blue-stripe quilt — or maybe that other yello'-head 15 
is him. The angels have commenced to drop in on us 
right smart along Bear Creek, Lin." 

"What trash are yu' talkin' anyway?" 

"If they look so awful alike in the heavenly gyarden," 
the gentle Southerner continued, "I'd just hate to be the 20 
folks that has the cuttin' of 'em out o' the general herd. 
And that's a right quaint notion too," he added softly. 
"Them under the chair are Uncle Hughey's, didn't you 
tell me?" And stooping, he lifted the torpid babies and 
placed them beneath a table. "No, that ain't thorough," 25 
he murmured. With wonderful dexterity and solicitude 
for their welfare, he removed the loose wrap which was 
aroimd them, and this soon led to an intricate process of 
exchange. For a moment Mr. McLean had been staring 
at the Virginian, puzzled. Then, with a joyful yelp of 30 
enlightenment, he sprang to abet him. 

^d while both busied themselves with the shawls and 
quilts, the imconscious parents went dancing vigorously 
on, and the small, occasional cries of their progeny did not 
reach them. 36 

Digitized by 



"you're going to love me before we get through" 

The Swinton barbecue was over. The fiddles were 
silent, the steer was eaten, the barrel emptied, or largely 
so, and the tapers extinguished; round the house and 
sunken fire all movement of guests was quiet ; the families 
6 were long departed homeward, and after their hospitable 
turbulence, the Swintons slept. 

Mr. and Mrs. Westfall drove through the night, and 
as they neared their cabin there came from among the 
bundled wraps a still, small voice. 
10 "Jim," said his wife, "I said Alfred would catch cold." 

"Bosh! Lizzie, donH you fret. He's a little more 
than a yearlin', and of course he'll snuffle." And young 
James took a kiss from his love. 

"Well, how you can speak of Alfred that way, calling 
15 him a yearling, as if he was a calf, and he just as much your 
child as mine, I don't see, James Westfall ! " 

"Why, what under the sim do you mean?" 

"There he goes again ! Do hurry up home, Jim. He's 
got a real strange cough." 
20 So they hurried home. Soon the nine miles were 
finished, and good James was imhitching by his stable 
lantern, while his wife in the house hastened to commit 
their offspring to bed. The traces had dropped, and each 
horse marched forward for further unbuckling, when 
25 James heard himself called. Indeed, there was that in 
his wife's voice which made him jerk out his pistol as he 

IQQ Digitized by VjUUy It: 


ran. But it was no bear or Indian — only two strange 
children on the bed. His \sdfe was glaring at them. 

He sighed with relief and laid down the pistol. 

"Put that on again, James Westfall. You'll need it. 
Look here ! '* 5 

"Well, they won't bite. Wliose are they? Where 
have you stowed our'n?" 

"Where have I — '* Utterance forsook this mother 
for a moment. "And you ask me!" she continued. 
"Ask Lin McLean. Ask him that sets bulls on folks and 10 
steals slippers what he's done with our innocent lambs, 
mixing them up with other people's coughing, unhealthy 
brats. That's Charlie Taylor in Alfred's clothes, and I 
know Alfred didn't cough like that, and I said to you it 
was strange ; and the other one that's been put in Chris- 15 
topher's new quilts is not even a bub — bub — boy ! " 

As this crime against society loomed clear to James 
Westfall's understanding, he sat down on the nearest piece 
of furniture, and heedless of his wife's tears and his ex- 
changed children, broke into unregenerate laughter. 20 
Doubtless after his sharp alaim about the bear, he was 
imstrung. His lady, however, promptly restrung him; 
and by the time they had repacked the now clamorous 
changelings, and were rattling on their way to the Taylors', 
he began to share her outraged feelings properly, as a 25 
husband and a father should; but when he reached the 
Taylors' and learned from Miss Wood that at this house 
a child had been unwrapped whom nobody could at all 
identify, and that Mr. and Mrs. Taylor were already far 
on the road to the Swintons', James Westfall whipped up 30 
his horses and grew almost as thirsty for revenge as was 
his wife. 

Where the steer had been roasted, the powdered ashes 
were now cold white, and Mr. McLean, feeling through 
his dreams the change of dawn come over the air, sat up 35 

° Digitized by ^OlUUy It: 


cautiously among the outdoor slumberers and waked his 

"Day will be soon," he whispered, "and we must light 
out of this. I never suspicioned yu' had that much of the 
5 devil in you before." 

"I reckon some of the fellows will act haidstrong," the 
Virginian murmured luxuriously, among the warmth of 
his blankets. 

"I tell yu' we must skip," said Lin, for the second time ; 

10 and he rubbed the Virginian's black head, which alone 
was visible. 

"Skip, then, you," came muffled from within, "and keep 

yourself mighty scarce till they can appreciate our frolic." 

The Southerner withdrew deeper into his bed, and Mr. 

15 McLean, informing him that he was a fool, arose and 
saddled his horse. From the saddle-bag he brought a 
parcel, and lightly laying this beside Bokay Baldy, he 
mounted and was gone. When Baldy awoke later, he 
found the parcel to be a pair of flowery slippers. 

20 In selecting the inert Virginian as the fool, Mr. McLean 

was scarcely wise ; it is the absent who are always guilty. 

Before ever Lin could have been a mile in retreat, the 

rattle of the wheels roused all of them, and here came the 

Taylors. Before the Taylors' knocking had brought the 

25Swintons to their door, other wheels sounded, and here 
were Mr. and Mrs. Carmody, and Uncle Hughey with his 
wife, and close after them Mr. Dow, alone, who told how 
his wife had gone into one of her fits — she upon whom 
Dr. Barker at Drybone had enjoined total abstinence from 

30 all excitement. Voices of women and children began to be 
uplifted; the Westfalls arrived in a lather, and the 
Thomases ; and by sunrise, what with fathers and mothers 
and spectators and loud offspring, there was gathered such 
a meeting as has seldom been before among the generations 

35 of speaking men. To-day you can hear legends of it from 
Texas to Montana ; but I am giving you the full particulars. 

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Of course they pitched upon poor Lin. Here was the 
Virginian doing his best, holding horses and helping ladies 
descend, while the name of McLean began to be muttered 
with threats. Soon a party led by Mr. Dow set forth in 
search of him, and the Southerner debated a moment if 5 
he had better not put them on a wrong track. But he 
concluded that they might safely go on searching. 

Mrs. Westfall found Christopher at once in the green 
shawl of Anna Maria Dow, but all was not achieved thus 
in the twinkling of an eye. Mr. McLean had, it ap-io 
peared, as James WestfaU lugubriously pointed out, not 
merely "swapped the duds; he had shuffled the whole 
doggone deck;'* and they cursed this Satanic invention. 
The fathers were but of moderate assistance ; it was the 
mothers who did the heavy work; and by ten o'clock 15 
some unsolved problems grew so delicate that a ladies' 
caucus was organized in a private room, — no admittance 
for men, — and what was done there I can only surmise. 

During its progress the search party returned. It had 
not found Mr. McLean. It had found a tree with a notice 20 
pegged upon it, reading, "God bless our home!" This 
was captured. 

But success attended the caucus ; each mother emerged, 
satisfied that she had received her own, and each sire, now 
that his family was itself again, began to look at his neigh- 26 
bor sideways. After a man has been angry enough to kill 
another man, after the fire of righteous slaughter has 
raged in his heart as it had certainly raged for several 
hours in the hearts of these fathers, the flame will usually 
burn itself out. This will be so in a generous nature, imless 30 
the cause of the anger is still unchanged. But the children 
had been identified; none had taken hurt. AU had been 
humanely given their nourishment. The thing was over. 
The day was beautiful. A tempting feast remained from 
the barbecue. These Bear Creek fathers could not keep 35 
their ire at red heat. Most of them, being as yet more 

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their wives' lovers than their children's parents, began to 
see the mirthful side of the adventure; and they ceased 
to feel very severely toward Lin McLean. 

Not so the women. They cried for vengeance; but 
5 they cried in vain, and were met with smiles. 

Mrs. Westfall argued long that punishment should be 
dealt the offender. "Anyway,'' she persisted, "it was 
real defiant of him putting that up on the tree. I might 
forgive him but for that." 
10 "Yes," spoke the Virginian in their midst, "that wasn't 
sort o' right. Especially as I am the man you're huntin'." 

They sat dumb at his assurance. 

"Come and kill me," he continued, looking roimd upon 
the party. "I'll not resist." 
15 But they could not resist the way in which he had 
looked round upon them. He had chosen the right 
moment for his confession, as a captain of horse awaits 
the proper time for a charge. Some rebukes he did re- 
ceive ; the worst came from the mothers. And all that 
20 he could say for himself was, "I am getting off too easy." 

"But what was your point?" said Westfall. 

"Blamed if I know any more. I expect it must have 
been the whiskey." 

"I would mind it less," said Mrs. Westfall, "if you 
25 looked a bit sorry or ashamed." 

The Virginian shook his head at her penitently. "I'm 
tryin' to," he said. 

And thus he sat disarming his accusers until they began 

to limch upon the copious remnants of the barbecue. He 

30 did not join them at this meal. In telling you that Mrs. 

Dow was the only lady absent upon this historic morning, 

I was guilty of an inadvertence. There was one other. 

The Virginian rode away sedately through the autumn 

sunshine; and as he went he asked his Monte horse a 

35 question. " Do yu' reckon she'll have forgotten you too, 

you pie-biter?" said he. Instead of the new trousers, 

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the cow-puncher's leathern chaps were on his legs. But 
he had the new scarf knotted at his neck. Most men 
would gladly have equalled him in appearance. "You 
Monte," said he, "will she be at home r' 

It was Sunday, and no school day, and he found her in 5 
her cabin that stood next the Taylors' house. Her eyes 
were very bright. 

"I'd thought rd just call," said he. 

"Why, that's such a pity! Mr. and Mrs. Taylor are 
away." 10 

"Yes ; they've been right busy. That's why I thought 
I'd call. Will yu' come for a ride, ma'am?" 

"Dear me! I—" 

"You can ride my hawss. He's gentle." 

"What! And you walk?" 15 

"No, ma'am. Nor the two of us ride him this time, 
either." At this she turned entirely pink, and he, notic- 
ing, went on quietly: "I'll catchup one of Taylor's 
hawsses. Taylor knows me." 

"No. I don't really think I could do that. But thank 20 
you. Thank you very much. I must go now and see 
how Mrs. Taylor's fire is." 

"I'll look after that, ma'am. I'd like for yu' to go 
ridin' mighty well. Yu' have no babies this mawnin' to 
be anxious after." 25 

At this shaft, Grandmother Stark flashed awake deep 
within the spirit of her descendant, and she made a haughty 
declaration of war. "I don't know what you mean, sir," 
she said. 

Now was his danger ; for it was easy to fall into mere 30 
crude impertinence and ask her why, then, did she speak 
thus abruptly? There were various easy things of this 
kind for him to say. And any rudeness would have lost 
him the battle. But the Virginian was not the man to 
lose such a battle in such a way. His shaft had hit. She 35 
thought he referred to those babies about wl^wp^^^^ight 


she had shown such superfluous solicitude. Her con- 
science was guilty. This was all that he had wished to 
make sure of before he began operations. 

"Why, I mean," said he, easily, sitting down near the 

6 door, "that it's Sunday. School don't hinder yu' from 

enjoyin' a ride to-day. You'll teach the kids all the better 

for it to-morro', ma'am. Maybe it's your duty." And 

he smiled at her. 

"My duty ! It's quite novel to have strangers — " 
10 "Am I a stranger?" he cut in, firing his first broad- 
side. "I was introduced, ma'am," he continued, noting 
how she had flushed again. "And I would not be over- 
steppin' for the world. I'll go away if yu' want." And 
hereupon he quietly rose, and stood, hat in hand. 
15 Molly was flustered. She did not at all want him to go. 
No one of her admirers had ever been like this creature. 
The fringed leathern chaparreros, the cartridge belt, the 
flannel shirt, the knotted scarf at the neck, these things 
were now an old story to her. Since her arrival she had 
20 seen young men and old in plenty dressed thus. But 
worn by tMs man now standing by her door, they seemed 
to radiate romance. She did not want him to go — and 
she wished to win her battle. And now in her agitation 
she became suddenly severe, as she had done at Hoosic 
25 Jimction. He should have a pimishment to remember ! 

"You call yourself a man, I suppose," she said. 

But he did not tremble in the least. Her fierceness 
filled him with delight, and the tender desire of ownership 
flooded through him. 
30 "A grown-up responsible man," she repeated. 

"Yes, ma'am. I think so." He now sat down again. 

"And you let them think that — that Mr. McLean — 
You dare not look me in the face and say that Mr. McLean 
did that last night!" 
35 "I reckon I dassent." 

" There ! I knew it ! I said so from the first T' ,^i^ 

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"And me a stranger to you !" he murmured. 

It was his second broadside. It left her badly crippled. 
She was silent. 

"Who did yu' mention it to, ma'am ?'* 

She hoped she had him. "Why, are you afraid?" 6 
And she laughed lightly. 

" I told 'em myself. And their astonishment seemed so 
genu-wine I'd just hate to think they had fooled me that 4 
thorough when they knowed it all along from you seeing 
me." 10 

"I did not see you. I knew it must — Of course I 
did not tell any one. When I said I said so from the first, 
I meant — you can understand perfectly what I meant." 
. "Yes, ma'am." 

Poor Molly was near stamping her foot. "And what 15 
sort of a trick," she rushed on, "was that to play? Do 
you call it a manly thing to frighten and distress women 
because you — for no reason at all ? I should never have 
imagined it could be the act of a person who wears a big 
pistol and rides a big horse. I should be afraid to go 20 
riding with such an immature protector." 

"Yes; that was awful childish. Your words do cut a 
little; for maybe there's been times when I have acted 
pretty near like a man. But I cert'nly forgot to be intro- 
duced before I spoke to yu' last night. Because why? 25 
You've found me out dead in one thing. Won't you take 
a guess at this too?" 

"I cannot sit guessing why people do not behave them- 
selves — who seem to Imow better." 

"Well, ma'am, I've played square and owned up to yu'. 30 
And that's not what you're doin' by me. I ask your 
pardon if I say what I have a right to say in language not 
as good as I'd like to talk to yu' with. But at South Fork 
Crossin' who did any introducin'? Did yu' complain I 
was a stranger then ? " 35 

"I — no!" she flashed out; then, quite sweetly, "The 

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driver told me it wasn't really so dangerous there, you 

"That's not the point I'm makin'. You are a grown-up 
woman, a responsible woman. You've come ever so far, 
6 and all alone, to a rough country to instruct young chil- 
dren that play games, — tag, and hide-and-seek, and 
fooleries they'll have to quit when they get old. Don't 
you think pretendin' yu' don' know a man, — his name's 
nothin', but /lim, — a man whom you were glad enough to 

10 let assist yu' when somebody was needed, — don't you 
think that's mighty close to hide-and-seek them children 
plays? I ain't so sure but what there's a pair of us chil- 
dren in this hyeh room." 
Molly Wood was regarding him saucily. " I don't think 

15 1 like you," said she. 

"That's all square enough. You're goin' to love me 

before we get through. I wish yu'd come a-ridin', ma'am." 

"Dear, dear, dear! So I'm going to love you? How 

will you do it? I know men think that they only need 

20 to sit and look strong and make chests at a girl — " 

"Goodness gracious! I ain't makin' any chests at 
yu' !" Laughter overcame him for a moment, and Miss 
Wood liked his laugh very much. " Please come a-ridin'," 
he urged. "It's the prettiest kind of a day." 

25 She looked at him frankly, and there was a pause. "I 
will take back two things that I said to you," she then 
answered him. "I believe that I do like you. And I 
know that if I went riding with you, I should not have an 
immature protector.^' And then, with a final gesture of 

30 acknowledgment, she held out her hand to him. "And I 
have always wanted," she said, "to thank you for what 
you did at the river." 

He took her hand, and his heart boimded. "You're a 
gentleman!" he exclaimed. 

35 It was now her turn to be overcome with merriment. 
"I've always wanted to be a man," she said. 

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"I am mighty glad you ain't/' said he, looking at 

But Molly had already received enough broadsides for 
one day. She could allow no more of them, and she took 
herself capably in hand. "Where did you learn to make 5 
such pretty speeches?" she asked. "Well, never mind 
that. One sees that you have had plenty of practice for 
one so young." 

"I am twenty-seven," blurted the Virginian, and knew 
instantly that he had spoken like a fool. lO 

"Who would have^ dreamed it !" said Molly, with well- 
measured mockery. She knew that she had scored at 
last, and that this day was hers. " Don't be too sure you 
are glad I'm not a man," she now told him. There was 
something like a challenge in her voice. 15 

"I risk it," he remarked. 

" For I am almost twenty-three myself," she concluded. 
And she gave him a look on her own account. 

"And you'll not come a-ridin' ? " he persisted. 

"No," she answered him; "no." And he knew that 20 
he could not make her. 

"Then I will tell yu' good-by," said he. " But I am 
comin' again. And next time I'll have along a gentle 
hawss for yu'." 

" Next time ! Next time ! Well, perhaps I will go with 25 
you. Do you live far ? " 

"I live on Judge Henry's ranch, over yondeh." He 
pointed across the mountains. "It's on Sunk Creek. 
A pretty rough trail ; but I can come hyeh to see you in 
a day, I reckon. Well, I hope you'll cert'nly enjoy good 30 
health, ma'am." 

" Oh, there's one thing ! " said Molly Wood, calling after 
him rather quickly. "I — I'm not at all afraid of horses. 
You needn't bring such a gentle one. I — was very tired 
that day, and — and I don't scream as a rule." 35 

He turned and looked at her so that she could not meet 


his glance. "Bless your heart!" said he. "Will yu' 
give me one o' those flowers?" 

"Oh, certainly! I'm always so glad when people like 
5 "They're pretty near the color of your eyes." 

"Never mind my eyes." 

"Can't help it, ma'am. Not since South Fork." 

He put the flower in the leather band of his hat, and 

rode away on his Monte horse. Miss Wood lingered a 

10 moment, then made some steps toward her gate, from 

which he could still be seen ; and then, with something like 

a toss of the head, she went in and shut her door. 

Later in the day the Virginian met Mr. McLean, who 
looked at his hat and innocently quoted, " * My Looloo 
15 picked a daisy. ' " 

"Don't yu', Lin," said the Southerner. 

"Then I won't," said Lin. 

Thus, for this occasion, did the Virginian part from his 
lady — and nothing said one way or another about the 
20 handkerchief that had disappeared during the South Fork 

As we fall asleep at night, our thoughts will often ramble 
back and forth between the two worlds. 

"What color were his eyes?" wondered Molly on her 
25 pillow. "His mustache is not bristly like so many of 
them. Sam never gave me such a look as . . . Hoosic 
Junction. . . . No. . . . You can't come with me. . . . 
Get off vour horse. . . . The passengers are all star- 
ing. , . J\ 
30 And while Molly was thus dreaming that the Virginian 
had ridden his horse into the railroad car, and sat down 
beside her, the fire in the great stone chimney of her cabin 
flickered quietly, its gleams now and again touching the 
miniature of Grandmother Stark upon the wall. 
35 Camped on the Sunk Creek trail, the Virginian was 
telling himself in his blankets ; — oigtized by ^uuy it: 


"I ain't too old for education. Maybe she will lend 
me books. And FU watch her ways and learn . . . stand 
still, Monte. ... I can learn a lot more than the kids 
on that. . . . There, Monte . . . you pie-biter, stop. 
... He has ate up your book, ma'am, but Til gets 
yu' . . .'' 

And then the Virginian was fast asleep. 

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To the circle at Bennington, a letter from Bear Creek 
was always a welcome summons to gather and hear of 
doings very strange to Vermont. And when the tale of 
the changed babies arrived duly by the post, it created a 
5 more than usual sensation, and was read to a large number 
of pleased and scandalized neighbors. "I hate her to be 
where such things can happen," said Mrs. Wood. *'I 
wish 1 could have been there," said her son-in-law, Andrew 
Bell. "She does not mention who played the trick," said 

10 Mrs. Andrew Bell. "We shouldn't be any wiser if she 
did," said Mrs. Wood. "I'd like to meet the perpetrator,"- 
said Andrew. "Oh, no !" said Mrs. Wood. "They're all 
horrible." And she wrote at once, begging her daughter 
to take good care of herself, and to see as much of Mrs. 

15 Balaam as possible. "And of any other ladies that are 
near you. For you seem to me to be in a community of 
roughs. I wish you would give it all up. Did you expect 
me to laugh about the babies ? " 

Mrs. Fljmt, when this story was repeated to her (she 

20 had not been invited in to hear the letter), remarked that 

she had always felt that Molly Wood must be a little 

vulgar, ever since she began to go about giving music 

lessons like any ordinary German. 

But Mrs. Wood was considerably relieved when the 

25 next letter arrived. It contained nothing horrible about 
barbecues or babies. It mentioned the great beauty of 

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the weather, and how well and strong the fine air was 
makiag the writer feel. And it asked that books might 
be sent, many books of all sorts, novels, poetry, all the 
good old books and any good new ones that could be 
spared. Cheap editions, of course. "Indeed she shall 6 
have them!'* said Mrs. Wood. "How her mind must be 
starving in that dreadful place !^' The letter was not a 
long one, and, besides the books, spoke of little else except 
the fine weather and the chances for outdoor exercise 
that this gave. "You have no idea," it said, "how de- lo 
lightful it is to ride, especially on a spirited horse, which 
I can do now quite well." 

"How nice that is !" said Mrs. Wood, putting down the 
letter. "I hope the horse is not too spirited." — "Who 
does she go riding with?" asked Mrs. Bell. "She doesu't 15 
say, Sarah. Why?" — "Nothing. She has a queer way 
of not mentioning things, now and then." — "Sarah!" 
exclaimed Mrs. Wood, reproachfully. "Oh, well, mother, 
you know just as well as I do that she can be very inde- 
pendent and unconventional." — "Yes; but not in that 20 
way. She wouldn't ride with poor Sam Bannett, and 
after all he is a suitable person." 

Nevertheless, in her next letter, Mrs. Wood cautioned 
her daughter about trusting herself with any one of whom 
Mrs. Balaam did not thoroughly approve. The good 25 
lady could never grasp that Mrs. Balaam lived a long 
day's journey from Bear Creek, and that Molly saw her 
about once every three months. "We have sent your 
books," the mother wrote; "everybody has contributed 
from their store, — Shakespeare, Tennyson, Browning, 30 
Longfellow ; and a number of novels by Scott, Thackeray, 
George Eliot, Hawthorne, and lesser writers; some 
volumes of Emerson ; and Jane Austen complete, because 
you admire her so particularly." 

This consignment of literature reached Bear Creek 35 
about a week before Christmas time. 

I Digitized by VjOOyitr 

114 TBS VinOtNIAir 

By New Year's Day, the Virginian had begun his 

"Well, I have managed to get through 'em,'' he said, 
as he entered Molly's cabin in February. And he laid 
5 two volumes upon her table. 

"And what do you think of them?" she inquired. 

"I think that I've cert'nly earned a good long ride 

"Georgie Taylor has sprained his ankle." 
10 "No, I don't mean that kind of a ride. I've earned a 
ride with just us tWo alone. I've read every word of 
both of 'em, yu' know." 

"I'U think about it. Did you like them?" 

"No. Not much. If I'd knowed that one was a 
15 detective story, I'd have got jru' to try something else 
on me. Can vou guess the murderer, or is the author too 
smart for yu'^? That's all they amount to. Well, he 
was too smart for me this time, but that didn't distress 
me any. That other book talks too much." 
20 MoUy was scandalized, and she told him it was a great 

"Oh, yes, yes. A fine book. But it will keep up its 
talkin'. Don't let you alone." 

"Didn't you feel sony for poor Maggie Tulliver?" 
26 "Hump. Yes. Sorry for her, and for Tawmmy, too. 
But the man did right to drownd 'em both." 

"It wasn't a man. A woman wrote that." 

"A woman did! Well, then, o' course she talks too 
30 " I'll not go riding with you ! " shrieked Molly. 

But she did. And he returned to Sunk Creek, not 
with a detective story, but this time with a Russian novel. 

It was almost April when he brought it back to her — 

and a heavy sleet storm lost them their ride. So he spent 

35 his time indoors with her, not speaking a syllable of love. 

When he came to take his departure, he asked her for some 

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other book by this same Russian. But she had no more. 

"I wish you had/' he said. "IVe never saw a book 
could tell the truth Uke that one does." 

"Why, what do you like about it?" she exclaimed. 
To her it had been distasteful. 6 

"Everything," he answered. "That young corae-outer, 
^nd his fam'ly that can't understand him — for he is 
broad gauge, yu' see, and Ihey are narro' gauge." The 
Virgiaian looked at Molly a moment almost shyly. "Do 
you know," he said, and a blush spread over his face, "I lo 
pretty near cried when that young come-outer was dyin', 
and said about himself, 'I was a giant.' Life made him 
broad gauge, yu' see, and then took his chance away." 

Molly liked the Virginian for his blush. It made him 
very handsome. But she thought that it came from his 16 
confession about "pretty near crying." The deeper cause 
she failed to divine, — that he, like the dying hero in the 
novel, felt himself to be a giant whom life had made 
"broad gauge," and denied opportunity. Fecund nature 
begets and squanders thousands of these rich seeds in 20 
the wilderness of life. 

He took away with him a volume of Shakespeare. 
"I've saw good plays of his," he remarked. 

Kind Mrs. Taylor in her cabin next door watched him 
ride off in the sleet, bound for the lonely mountain trail. 26 

"If that girl don't get ready to take him pretty soon," 
she observed to her husband, "I'll give her a piece of my 

Taylor was astonished. "Is he thinking of herf^^ he 
inquired. 30 

"Lord, Mr. Taylor, and why shouldn't he?" 

Mr. Taylor scratched his head and returned to his 

It was warm — warm and beautiful upon Bear Creek. 
Snow shone upon the peaks of the Bow Leg range ; lower 35 

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on their slopes the pines were stirring with a gentle song ; 
and flowers bloomed across the wide plains at their feet. 

Molly and her Virginian sat at a certain spring where 
he had often ridden with her. On this day he was bidding 
6 her farewell before undertaking the most important trust 
which Judge Henry had as yet given him. For this 
journey she had pro\dded hyn with Sir Walter Scott's 
Kenilworth. Shakespeare he had returned to her. He 
had bought Shakespeare for himself. "As soon as I got 

10 used to readin' it," he had told her, "I knowed for certain 
that I liked readin' for enjoyment." 

But it was not of books that he had spoken much to-day. 
He had not spoken at all. He had bade her listen to the 
meadow-lark, when its song fell upon the silence Uke 

15 beaded drops of music. He had showed her where a 

covey of young willow-grouse were hiding as their horses 

passed. And then, without warning, as they sat by the 

spring, he had spoken potently of his love. 

She did not interrupt him. She waited until he was 

20 wholly finished. 

"I am not the sort of wife you want," she said, with an 
attempt of airiness. 

He answered roughly, "I am the judge of that." And 
his roughness was a pleasure to her, yet it made her afraid 

25 of herself. When he was absent from her, and she could 
sit in her cabin and look at Grandmother Stark, and read 
home letters, then in imagination she found it easy to play 
the part which she had arranged to play regarding him — 
the part of the guide, and superior, and indulgent com- 

30 panion. But when he was by her side, that part became 
a difficult one. Her woman's fortress was shaken by a 
force unknown to her before. Sam Bannett did not have 
it in him to look as this man could look, when the cold 
lustre of his eyes grew hot with internal fire. What color 

35 they were baffled her still. "Can it possibly change?" 
she wondered. It seemed to her that sometimes when 

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she had been looking from a rock straight down into clear 
sea water, this same color had Im'ked in its depths. "Is 
it green, or is it gray?^' she asked herself, but did not 
turn just now to see. She kept her face toward the 
landscape. 6 

"All men are bom equal,'' he now remarked slowly. 

"Yes," she quickly answered, with a combative flash. 

"Maybe that don't include women?" he suggested. 

"I think it does." 10 

"Do yu' teU the kids so?" 

"Of course I teach them what I believe !" 

He pondered. "I used to have to learn about the 
Declaration of Independence. I hated books and truck 
when I was a kid." . 15 

"But you don't any more." 

"No. I cert'nly don't. But I used to get kep' in at 
recess for bein' so dumb. I was most always at the tail 
end of the class. My brother, he'd be head sometimes." 

"Little George Taylor is my prize scholar," said Molly. 20 

"Knows his tasks, does he?" 

"Always. And Henry Dow comes next." 

"Who's last?" 

"Poor Bob Carmody. I spend more time on him than 
on all the rest piit together." 25 

" My ! " said the Virginian . "Ain't that strange ! " 

She looked at him, puzzled by his tone. "It's not 
strange when you know Bob," she said. 

"It's very strange," drawled the Virginian. "Knowin' 
Bob don't help it any." 30 

"I don't think that I understand vou," said Molly, 

"Well, it is mighty confusin'. George Taylor, he's 
your best scholar, and poor Bob, he's your worst, and 
there's a lot in the middle — and you tell me we're all 35 
bom equal!" . ....,,,,^ 

^ Digitized by VjUU^ It: 

118 TME vinmiriANr 

Molly could only sit giggling in this trap he had so in- 
geniously laid for her. 

"1*11 tell you what," pursued the cow-puncher, with 
slow and growing intensity, "equality is a great big bluff. 
6 It's easy called." 

"I didn't mean — " began Molly. 

"Wait, and let me say what I mean." He had made 

an imperious gesture with his hand. "I know a man 

ihat mostly wins at cyards. I know a man that mostly 

10 loses. He says it is his luck. All right. Call it his luck. 

I know a man that works hard and Tie's gettin* rich, and 

I know another that works hard and is gettin' poor. He 

says it is his luck. All right. Call it his luck. I look 

around and I see folks movin' up or movin' down, winners 

15 or losers everywhere. All luck, of course. But since 

folks can be bom that different in their luck, where's 

your equality ? No, seh ! call your failure luck, or call it 

laziness, wander around the words, prospect all yn' mind 

to, and yii'll come out the same old trail of inequality." 

20 He paused a moment and looked at her. "Some holds 

four aces," he went on, "and some holds nothin', and 

some poor fello' gets the aces and no show to play 'em ; 

but a man has got to prove himself my equal before I'll 

believe him." 

25 Molly sat gazing at him, silent. 

"I know what yu' meant," he told her now, "by sayin' 

you're not the wife I'd want. But I am the kind that 

moves up. I am goin' to be your best scholar." He 

turned toward her, and that fortress within her began to 

30 shake. 

"Don't," she murmured. "Don't, please." 

"Don't what?" 

"Why — spoil this." 

"Spoil it?" 
35 " These rides — I don't love you — I can't — but these 
rides are — " 

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"What are they ?'^ 

"My greatest pleasure. There! And, please, I want 
them to go on so." 

"Go on so! I don't reckon yu' know what youVe 
sayin\ Yu' might as well ask fruit to stay green. If 6 
the way we are now can keep bein' enough for you, it 
can't for me. A pleasure to you, is it ? Well, to mo it is 
— I don't know what to call it. I come to yu' and I 
hate it, and I come again and I hate it, and I ache and 
grieve all over when I go. No ! You will have to think 10 
of some other way than just invitin' me to keep green." 

"If I am to see you — " began the girl. 

"You're not to see me. Not like this. I can stay 
away easier than what I am doin'." 

"Will you do me a favor, a great one?" asked she, 15 

"Make it as impossible as you please!" he cried. He 
thought it was to be some action. 

"Go on coming. But don't talk to me about — don't 
talk in that way — if you can help it." 20 

He laughed out, not permitting himself to swear. 

"But," she continued, "if you can't help talldng that 
way — sometimes — I promise I will listen. That is the 
only promise I make." 

"That is a bargain," he said. 25 

Then he helped her mount her horse, restraining himself 
like a Spartan, and they rode home to her cabin. 

"You have made it pretty near impossible," he said 
as he took his leave. "But you've been square to-day 
and I'll show you I can be square when I come back. 30 
I'll not do more than ask you if your mind's the same. 
And now I'll not see you for quite a while. I am going a 
long way. But I'll be very busy. And bein' busy always 
keeps me from grieWn' too much about you." 

Strange is woman ! She would rather have heard some 35 
other last remark than this. r^^^^i^ 

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"Oh, very well!" she said. "I'll not miss you either." 
He smiled at her. "I doubt if yu' can help missin' 

me," he remarked. And he was gone at once, galloping 

on his Monte horse. 
5 Which of the two won a victory this day? 

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There can be no doubt of this : — 

All America is divided into two classes, — the quality 
and the equality. The latter will always recognize the 
former when mistaken for it. Both will be with us imtil 
our women bear nothing but kings. 5 

It was through the Declaration of Independence that 
we Americans acknowledged the eternal inequality of man. 
For by it we abolished a cut-and-dried aristocracy. We 
had seen little men artificially held up in high places, and 
great men artificially held down in low places, and ourio 
own justice-loving hearts abhorred this violence to human 
nature. Therefore, we decreed that every man should 
thenceforth have equal liberty to find his own level. By 
this very decree we acknowledged and gave freedom to 
true aristocracy, saying, "Let the best man win, whoever 15 
he is." Let the best man win ! That is America's word. 
That is true democracy. And true democracy and true 
aristocracy are one and the same thing. If anybody can- 
not see this, so much the worse for his eyesight. 

The above reflections occurred to me before reaching 20 
Billings, Montana, some three weeks after I had un- 
expectedly met the Virginian at Omaha, Nebraska. I 
hail not known of that trust given to him by Judge Henry, 
which was taking him East. I was looking to ride with 
him before long among the clean hills of Sunk Creek. 1 25 
supposed he was there. But I came upon him one morn- 
ing in Colonel Cyrus Jones's eating palace. 

Did you know the palace? It stood in Omaha, near 

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the trains, and it was ten years old (which is middle-aged 
in Omaha) when I first saw it. It was a shell of wood, 
painted with golden emblems, — the steamboat, the 
eagle, the Yosemite, — and a live bear ate gratuities at 

5 its entrance. Weather permitting, it opened upon the 
world as a stage upon the audience. You sat in Omaha's 
whole sight and dined, while Omaha's dust came and 
settled upon the refreshments. It is gone the way of the 
Indian and the buffalo, for the West is growing old. 

10 You should have seen the palace and sat there. In front 
of you passed rainbows of men, — Chinese, Indian chiefs, 
Africans, General Miles, younger sons, Austrian nobility, 
wide females in pink. Our continent drained prismatically 
through Omaha once. 

15 So I was passing that way also, walking for the sake of 
ventilation from a sleeping-car toward a bath, when the 
language of Colonel Cyrus Jones came out to me. The 
actual colonel I had never seen before. He stood at the 
rear of his palace in ^ay flowery mustaches and a Con- 

20 federate uniform, telling the wishes of his guests to the 
cook through a hole. You always bought meal tickets 
at once, else you became unwelcome. Guests here had 
foibles at times, and a rapid exit was too easy. There- 
fore I bought a ticket. It was spring and summer since 

25 1 had heard anything like the colonel. The Missouri 
had not yet flowed into New York dialect freely, and 
his vocabulary met me like the breeze of the plains. So 
I went in to be fanned by it, and there sat the Virginian 
at a table, alone. 

30 His greeting was up to the code of indifference proper 
on the plains; but he presently remarked, *4'm right 
glad to see somebody," which was a good deal to say. 
''Them that comes hyeh," he observed next, "don't eat. 
They feed." And he considered the guests with a sombre 

35 attention. "D' yu' reckon they find joyful di-gestion 
in this swallo'-an'-get-out trough?" 

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"What are you doing here, then?'' said I. 

"Oh, pshaw! When yu' can't have what you choose, 
yu' just choose what you have." And he took the bill- 
of-fare. I began to know that he had somethiilg on his 
mind, so I did not trouble him further. 6 

Meanwhile he sat studying the bill-of-fare. 

"Ever heard o' them?" he inquired, shoving me the 
spotted document. 

Most improbable dishes were there, — salmis, oanap^, 
supr^mes, — all perfectly spelt and absolutdy trans- lO 
parent. It was the old trick of copying some metropolitan 
menu to catch travellers of the third and last dimension 
of innocence; and whenever this is done the food is of 
the third and last dimension of awfulness, which the 
cow-puncher knew as well as anybody. 15 

"So they keep that up here still," I said. 

"But what about them?" he repeated. His finger was 
at a special item, Frogs' legs a la Delmonico. "Are they 
true anywheres?" he asked. And I told him, certainly. 
I also explained to him about Delmonico of New York 20 
and about Augustin of Philadelphia. 

"There's not a little bit o' use in lyin' to me this 
mawnin'," he said, with his engaging smile. "I ain't 
goin' to awdeh anything's laigs." 

"Well, I'll see how he gets out of it," I said, remember- 25 
ing the old Texas legend. (The traveller read the biU- 
of-fare, you know, and called for a volr-aiHjent. And the 
proprietor looked at the traveller, and running a pistol 
mto his ear, observed, "You'll take hash.") I was 
thinking of this and wondering what would happen to 30 
me. So I took the step. 

"Wants frogs' legs, does he?" shouted Colonel Cyrus 
Jones. He fixed his eye upon me, and it narrowed to a 
slit. "Too many brain workers breakfasting before jm' 
came in, professor," said he. "Missionary ate the last 35 
leg off me just now. Brown the wheat ! " he commanded, 

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through the hole to the cook, for some one had ordered 
hot cakes. 

"I'll have fried aiggs," said the Virginian. ''Cooked 
both sides." 
5 "White wings!" sang the colonel through the hole. 
"Let 'em fly up and down." 

"Coffee an' no milk," said the Virginian. 

"Draw one in the dark!" the colonel roared. 

"And beefsteak, rare." 
10 "One slaughter in the pan, and let the blood drip 1" 

"I should like a glass of water, please," said I. 

The colonel threw me a look of pity. 

"One Missouri and ice for the professor!" he said. 

"That fello's a right live man," commented the Vir- 
isginian. But he seemed thoughtful. Presently he in- 
quired, "Yu' say he was a foreigner, an' learned fancy 
cookin' to New Yawk?" 

That was this cow-puncher's way. Scarcely ever 
would he let drop a thing new to him until he had got 
20 from you your whole information about it. So I told 
him the history of Lorenzo Delmonico and his pioneer 
work, as much as I knew, and the Southerner listened 

"Mighty inter-estin'," he said — "mighty. He could 
25 just take little old o'rn'ry frawgs, and dandy 'em up to 
suit the bloods. Mighty inter-estin'. I expaict, though, 
his cookin' would give an outraiged stomach to a plain- 
raised man." 

" If you want to follow it up," said I, by way of a sudden 
30 experiment, "Miss Molly Wood might have some book 
about French dishes." 

But the Virginian did not turn a hair. "I reckon she 

wouldn't," he answered. "She was raised in Vermont. 

They don't bother overly about their eatin' up in Vermont. 

35 Hyeh's what Miss Wood recommended the las' time I was 

seein' her," the cow-puncher added, bringing Kenilworth 

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from his pocket. "Right fine story. That Queen Eliza- 
beth must have cert'nly been a competent woman. '^ 

"She was,'^ said I. But talk came to an end here. 
A dusty crew, most evidently from the plains, now entered 
and drifted to a table ; and each man of them, gave the 5 
Virginian about a quarter of a slouchy nod. His greeting 
to them was very serene. Only, Kenilworth went back 
into his pocket, and he breakfasted in silence. Among 
those who had greeted him I now recognized a face. 

"Why, that's the man you played cards with at Medicine 10 
Bow!" I said. 

"Yes. Trampas. He's got a job at the ranch now." 
The Virginian said no more, but went on with his breakfast. 

His appearance was changed. Aged I would scarcely 
say, for this would seem as if he did not look young. But 15 
I think that the boy was altogether gone from his face — 
the boy whose freak with Steve had turned Medicine 
Bow upside down, whose other freak with the babies had 
outraged Bear Creek, the boy who had loved to jingle his 
spurs. But manhood had only trained, not broken, his 20 
youth. It was all there, only obedient to the rein and 

Presently we went together to the railway yard. 

"The Judge is doing a right smart o' business this 
year," he began, very casually indeed, so that I knew 25 
this was important. Besides bells and coal smoke, the 
smell and crowded sounds of cattle rose in the air around 
us. "Hyeh's our first gather o' beeves on the ranch," 
continued the Virginian. "The whole lot's shipped 
through to Chicago in two sections over the Burlington. 30 
The Judge is fighting the Elkhorn road." We passed 
slowly along the two trains, — twenty cars, each car 
packed with huddled, round-eyed, gazing steers. He 
examined to see if any animals were down. "They 
ain't ate or drank anjrthing to speak of," he said, while 35 
the terrified brutes stared at us through their slats. . , ."Not 

° Digitized by VjVJijy It: 


since they struck the railroad theyVe not drank. Yu* 
might suppose they know somehow what they're travellin' 
to Chicago for." And casually, always casually, he told 
me the rest. Judge Henry could not spare his foreman 

5 away from the second gather of beeves. Therefore these 
two ten-car trains with their double crew of cow-boys had 
been given to the Virginian's charge. After Chicago, he 
was to return by St. Paul over the Northern Pacific ; for 
the Judge had wished him to see certain of the road's 

10 directors and explain to them persuasively how good a 
thing it would be for them to allow especially cheap rates 
to the Sunk Creek outfit henceforth. This was all the 
Virginian told me; and it contained the whole matter, 
to be smre. 

15 "So you're acting foreman," said I. 

"Why, somebody has to have the say, I reckon." 
"And of course you hated the promotion?" 
"I don't know about promotion," he replied. "The 
boys have been used to seein' me one of themselves. 

20 Why don't you come along with us far as Plattsmouth?" 
Thus he shifted the subject from himself, and called to 
my notice the locomotives backing up to his cars, and 
reminded me that from Plattsmouth I had the choice of 
two trains returning. But he could not hide or belittle 

25 this confidence of his employer in him. It was the care of 
several thousand perishable dollars and the control of 
men. It was a compliment. There were more steers 
than men to be responsible for; but none of the steers 
had been suddenly picked from the herd and set above 

30 his fellows. Moreover, Chicago finished up the steers; 
but the new-made deputy foreman had then to lead his 
six highly unoccupied brethren away from towns, and 
back in peace to the ranch, or disappoint the Judge, who 
needed their services. These things sometimes go wrong 

35 in a land where they say you are all born equal; and 
that quarter of a nod in Colonel Cyrus Jones's eating 

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palace held more equality than any whole nod you could 
see. But the Virginian did not see it, there being a time 
for all things. 

We trundled down the flopping, heavy-eddied Missouri 
to Plattsmouth, and there they backed us on to a siding, 5 
the Christian Endeavor being expected to pass that way. 
And while the equality absorbed themselves in a deep - 
but harmless game of poker by the side of the railway 
line, the Virginian and I sat on the top of a car, con- 
templating the sandy shallows of the Platte. 10 

"I shoidd think you'd take a hand," said I. 

" Poker ? With them kittens ? " One flash of the inner 
man listened in his eyes and died away, and he finished 
with his gentle drawl, '^When I play, I want it to be 
interestin'." He took out Sir Walter's Kenilworth once 15 
more, and turned the volume over and oyer slowly, with- 
out opening it. You cannot tell if in spirit he wandered 
on Bear Creek with the girl whose book it was. The 
spirit will go one road, and the thought another, and the 
body its own way sometimes. "Queen Elizabeth would 20 
have played a mighty pow'ful game," was his next 

"Poker?" said I. 

"Yes, seh. Do you expaict Europe has got any queen 
equal to her at present?" 25 

I doubted it. 

"Victoria'd get pretty nigh slain sliding chips out 
agaynst Elizabeth. Only mos' prob'ly Victoria she'd 
insist on a half -cent limit. You have read this hyeh 
Kenilworth? Well, deal Elizabeth ace high, an' she 30 
could scare Robert Dudlev with a full house plumb out 
o' the bettin'." 

I said that I believed she unquestionably could. 

"And," said the Virginian, "if Essex's play got next her 
too near, I reckon she'd have stacked the cyards. Say, 35 
d' yu' remember Shakespeare's fat man?" 

•^ ^ Digitized by V^UUy It: 


"Falstaff? Oh, yes, indeed." 

"Ain't that grand? Why, he makes men talk the way 

they do in life. I reckon he couldn't get printed to-day. 

It's a right down shame Shakespeare couldn't know about 

5 poker. He'd have had Falstaff playing all day at that 

Tearsheet outfit. And the Prince would have beat 

. hrni." 

"The Prince had the brains," said I. 
10 "WeU, didn't he?" 

"I neveh thought to notice. Like as not he did." 
"And Falstaff didn't, I suppose?" 
"Oh, yes, seh! Falstaff could have played whist." 
"I suppose you know what you're talking about; I 
15 don't," said I, for he was drawling again. 

The cow-puncher's eye rested a moment amiably upon 
me. "You can play whist with your brains," he mused, 
— "brains and cyards. Now cyards are only one o' the 
manifestations of poker in this hyeh world. One o' the 
20 shapes yu' fool with it in when the day's work is oveh. 
If a man is built like that Prince boy was built (and it's 
away down deep beyond brains), he'U play winnin' poker 
with whatever hand he's holdin' when the trouble begins. 
Maybe it will be a mean, triflin' army, or an empty six- 
25 shooter, or a lame hawss, or maybe just nothin' but his 
natural countenance. 'Most any old thing will do for a 
fello' like that Prince boy to play poker with." 

"Then I'd be grateful for your definition of poker," 
said I. 
30 Again the Virginian looked me over amiably. "You 
put up a mighty pretty game o' whist yourself," he re- 
marked. "Don't that give you the contented spirit?" 
And before I had any reply to this, the Christian Endeavor 
began to come over the bridge. Three instalments crossed 
35 the Missouri from Pacific Junction, bound for Pike's Peak, 
every car swathed in bright bunting, and at each window 

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a Christian with a handkerchief, joyously shrieking. 
Then the cattle trains got the open signal, and I jumped 

"Tell the Judge the steers was all right this far," said 
the Virginian. 5 

That was the last of the deputy foreman for a while. 

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My road to Sunk Creek lay in no straight line. By- 
rail I diverged northwest to Fort Meade, and thence, after 
some stay with the kind military people, I made my way 
on a horse. Up here in the Black Hills it sluiced rain most 
5 intolerably. The horse and I enjoyed the country and 
ourselves but little ; and when finally I changed from the 
saddle into a stage-coach, I caught a thankful expression 
upon the animaPs face, and returned the same. 

"Six legs inside this jerky to-night?" said somebody, 

10 as I climbed the wheel. '^Well, we'll give thanks for not 
havin' eight," he added cheerfully. "Clamp yoiu* mind 
on to that, Shorty." And he slapped the shoidder of his 
neighbor. Naturally I took these two for old companions. 
But we were all total strangers. They told me of the new 

15 gold excitement at Rawhide, and supposed it would bring 
up the l^orthern Pacific ; and when I explained the mil- 
lions owed to this road's German bondholders, they were 
of opinion that a German would strike it richer at Rawhide. 
We spoke of all sorts of things, and in our silence I gloated 

20 on the autumn holiday promised me by Judge Henry. 
His last letter had said that an outfit would be starting 
for his ranch from Billings on the seventh, and he would 
have a horse for me. This was the fifth. So we six legs 
in the jerky travelled harmoniously on over the rain-gutted 

25 roads, getting no deeper knowledge of each other than what 
our outsides might imply. 

Not that we concealed anything. The man who had 
slapped Shorty introduced himself early. "Scipio le 

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Moyne, from Gallipolice, Ohio/* he said. "The eldest of 
us always gets called Scipio. It's French. But us folks 
have been white for a huQdred years." He was limber 
and light-muscled, and fell skilfully about, evading bruises 
when the jerky reeled or rose on end. He had a strange, 5 
long, jocular nose, very wary-looking, and a bleached blue 
eye. Cattle was his business, as a rule, but of late he had 
been "looking around some," and Rawhide seemed much 
on his brain. Shorty struck me as "looking around" also. 
He was quite short, indeed, and the jerky hurt him almost lo 
every time. He was light-haired and mild. Think of a 
yellow dog that is lost^ and fancies each newcomer in sight 
is going to turn out his master, and you will have Shorty. 

It was the Northern Pacific that surprised us into 
intimacy. We were nearing Medora. We had made a 15 
last arrangement of our legs. I lay stretched in silence, 
placid in the knowledge it was soon to end. So I drowsed. 
I felt something sudden, and, waking, saw Scipio passing 
through the air. As Shorty next shot from the jerky, I 
beheld smoke and the locomotive. The Northern Pacific 20 
had changed its schedule. A valise is a poor companion 
for catching a train with. There was rutted sand and 
lumpy, knee-high grease wood in our short cut. A piece of 
stray wire sprang from some hole and hung caracoling 
about my ankle. Tin cans spun from my stride. But we 25 
made a conspicuous race. Two of us waved hats, and 
there was no moment that some one of us was not screech- 
ing. It meant twenty-four hours to us. 

Perhaps we failed to catch the train's attention, though 
the theory seems monstrous. As it moved off in our faces, 30 
smooth and easy and insulting, Scipio dropped instantly 
to a walk, and we two others outstripped him and came 
desperately to the empty track. There went the train. 
Even still its puffs were the separated puffs of starting, 
that bitten-off, snorty kind, and sweat and our true 35 
natures broke freely forth. 

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I kicked my valise, and then sat on it, dumb. 
Shorty yielded himself up aloud. All his humble secrets 
came out of him. He walked aimlessly round, lamenting. 
He had lost his job, and he mentioned the ranch. He 
5 had played cards, and he mentioned the man. He had 
sold his horse and saddle to catch a friend on tliis train, and 
he mentioned what the friend had been going to do for 
him. He told a string of griefs and names to the air, as 
if the air knew. 

10 Meanwhile Scipio arrived with extreme leisure at the 
rails. He stuck his hands into his pockets and his head 
out at the very small train. His bleached blue eyes shut 
to slits as he watched the rear car in its smoke-blur ooze 
away westward among the mounded bluffs. "Lucky 

15 it's out of range," I thought. But now Scipio spoke 
to it. 

/"Why, you seem to think youVe left me behind," he 
began easily, in fawning tones. " You're too much of a 
kid to have such thoughts. Age some." His next re- 

20 mark grew less wheedling, "I wouldn't be a bit proud to 
meet yu'. Why, if I was seen travellin' with yu', I'd have 
to explain it to my friends! Think you've got me left, 
do joi' ? Just because yu' ride through this country on a 
rail, do yu' claim yu' can find your way around ? I could 

25 take yu' out ten yards in the brush and lose yu' in ten 
seconds, you spangle-roofed hobo! Leave me behind? 
you recent blanket-mortgage yearlin' ! You plush-lined, 
nickel-plated, whistlin' wash room, d' yu' figure I can't 
go east just as soon as west? Or I'll stay right here if it 

30 suits me, yn' dude-inhabited hot-box! Why, yu' coon- 
bossed face-towel — " But from here he rose in flights 
of novelty that appalled and held me spellbound, and 
which are not for me to say to you. Then he came down 
easily again, and finished with expressions of sympathy 

35 for it because it could never have known a mother. 

"Do you expaict it could show a male parent offhand?" 

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inquired a slow voice behind us. I jumped round, and 
there was the Virginian. 

" Male parent I '' scoffed the prompt Scipio. "Ain't you 
heard about them yet?" 

"Them? Was there two?" 6 

"Two? The blamed thing was sired by a whole dog- 
gone Dutch syndicate." 

"Why, the piebald son of a gun!" responded the 
Virginian, sweetly. "I got them steers through all right," 
he added to me. "Sorry to see yu' get so out o' breath lo 
afteh the train. Is your valise suflferin' any?" 

"Who's 'he?" inquired Scipio, curiously, turning to me. 

The Southerner sat with a newspaper on the rear plat- 
form of a caboose. The caboose stood hitched behind a 
mile or so of freight train, and the train was headed west. 15 
So here was the deputy foreman, his steers delivered in 
Chicago, his men (I could hear them) safe in the caboose, 
his paper in his lap, and his legs dangling at ease over the 
railing. He wore the look of a man for whom things are 
going smooth. And for me the way to Billings wa^ smooth 20 
now, also. 

"Who's he?" Scipio repeated. 

But from inside the caboose loud laughter and noise 
broke on us. Some one was reciting "And it's my night 
to howl." 25 

"We'll all howl when we get to Rawhide," said some 
other one ; and they howled now. 

"These hyeh steam cyars," said the Virginian to Scipio, 
"make a man's language mighty nigh as speedy as his 
travel." Of Shorty he took no notice whatever — no 30 
more than of the manifestations in the caboose. 

"So yu' heard me speakin' to the express," said Scipio. 
"Well, I guess, sometimes I — See here," he exclaimed, 
for the Virginian was gravely considering him, " 1 may have 
talked some, but I walked a whole lot. You didn't catch 35 
me squandering no speed. Soon as -^;,,,,,^^^^yi^ 


"I noticed," said the Virginian, "thinkin' came quicker 
to yu* than runnin'." 

I was glad I was not Shorty, to have my measure taken 
merely by my way of missing a train. And of com^se I 
6 was sorry that I had kicked my valise. 

"Oh, I could tell yu'd been enjoyin' us!" said Scipio. 
"Observin' somebody else's scrape always kind o* rests 
me too. Maybe you're a philosopher, but maybe there's 
a pair of us dxawd in this deal." 
10 Approval now grew plain upon the face of the Virginian. 
"By your laigs," said he, "you are used to the saddle." 

"I'd be caUed used to it, I expect." 

"By your hands," said the Southerner, again, "you ain't 
roped many steers lately. Been cookin' or something?" 
15 "Say," retorted Scipio, "tell my future some now. 
Draw a conclusion from my mouth." 

"I'm right distressed," answered the gentle Southerner, 
"we've not a drop in the outfit." 

"Oh, drink with me uptown!" cried Scipio. "I'm 
20 pleased to death with yu'." 

The Virginian glanced where the saloons stood just 
behind the station, and shook his head. 

"Why, it ain't a bit far to whiskey from here!" urged 
the other, plaintively. "Step down, now. Scipio le 
25Moyne's my name. Yes, you're lookin' for my brass 
ear-rings. But there ain't no ear-rings on me. I've been 
white for. a hundred years. Step down, I've a forty-^ 
dollar thirst." 

"You're certainly white," began the Virginian. 
30 "But " 

Here the caboose resumed : — 

"I'm wild, and woolly, and full of fleas ; 
I'm hard to curry above the knees ; 
I'm a she-wolf from Bitter Creek, and 
35 It's my night to ho-o-wl — " n i 

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And as they howled and stamped, the wheels of the 
caboose began to turn gently and to murmur. 

The Virginian rose suddenly. "Will yu' save that 
thirst and take a forty-dollar job?'' 

"Missin' trains, profanity, or what?" said Scipio. 6 

"I'll tell yu' soon as I'm sure." 

At this Scipio looked hard at the Virginian. "Why, 
you're talkin*^ business!" said he, and leaped on the 
caboose, where I was already. "I was thinkin' of Raw- 
hide," he added, "but I ain't any more." 10 

"Well, good luck !" said Shorty, on the track behind us. 

"Oh, say!" said Scipio, "he wanted to go on that 
train, just like me." 

"Get on," called the Virginian. "But as to getting a 
job, he ain't just like you." So Shorty came, like a lost 15 
dog when you whistle to him. 

Our wheels clucked over the main-line switch. A train- 
hand threw it shut after us, jimiped aboard, and returned 
forward over the roofs. Inside the caboose they had 
reached the third howling of the she-wolf. 20 

"Friends of youm?" said Scipio. 

"My outfit," drawled the Virginian. 

"Do yu' always travel outside?" inquired Scipio. 

"It's lonesome in there," returned the deputy foreman. 
And here one of them came out, slamming the door. 25 

"Hell!" he said, at sight of the distant town. Then, 
truculently, to the Virginian, "I told you I was going 
to get a bottle here." 

"Have your bottle, then," said the deputy foreman, 
and kicked him off into Dakota. (It was not North 30 
Dakota yet; they had not divided it.) The Virginian 
had aimed his pistol at about the same time with his boot. 
Therefore the man sat in Dakota quietly, watching us 
go away into Montana, and offering no objections. Just 
before he became too small to make out, we saw him rise 35 
and remove himself back toward the saloons. 

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"That is the only step I have had to take this whole 

trip," said the Virginian. He holstered his pistol with a 

jerk. "I have been fearing he would force it on me." 

And he looked at empty, receding Dakota with disgust. 

5 "So nyeh back home !" he muttered. 

"Know your friend long?" whispered Scipio to me. 

"Fairly," I answered. 

Scipio's bleached eyes brightened with admiration as he 
considered the Southerner's back. ."Well," he stated 
10 judicially, "start awful early when yu' go to fool with him, 
or he'll make you feel onpxmctual." 

"I expaict I've had them alniost all of three thousand 
miles," said the Virginian, tilting his head toward the 
noise in the caboose. "And I've strove to deliver them 
15 back as I received them. The whole lot. And I would 
have. But he has spoiled my hopes." The deputy fore- 
man looked again at Dakota. "It's a disappointment," 
he added. " You may know what I mean." 

I had known a little, but not to the very deep, of the 
20 man's pride and purpose in this trust. Scipio gave him 
sympathy. "There must be quite a balance of 'em left 
with yu' yet," said Scipip, cheeringly. 

"I had the boys plumb contented," pursued the deputy 
foreman, hurt into open talk of himself. "Away along as 
25 far as Saynt Paul I had them reconciled to my authority. 
Then this news about gold had to strike us." 

"And they're a-dreamin' nuggets and Parisian bowley- 
vards," suggested Scipio. 

The Virginian smiled gratefully at him. >-- j 

■jO/> Digitized by VjOOQ IC 


"Fortune is shinin' bright and blindin' to their delicate 
young eyes/* he said, regaining his usual self. 

We aU listened a moment to the rejoicings within. 

"Energetic, ain't they?'* said the Southerner. "But 
none of 'em was whelped savage enough to sing himself 5 
bloodthirsty. And though they're strainin' mighty 
earnest not to be tame, they're goin' back to Simk Creek 
with me accordin' to the Judge's awdehs. Never a calf 
of them will desert to Rawhide, for all their dangerousness ; 
nor I ain't goin' to have any fuss over it. Only one is left 10 
now that don't sing. Maybe I will have to make some 
arrangements about him. The man I have parted with," 
he said, with another glance at Dakota, "was our cook, and 
I will ask yu' to replace him. Colonel." 

Scipio gaped wide. "Colonel! Say!" He stared at 15 
the Virginian. "Did I meet yu' at the palace?" 

"Not exackly meet," replied the Southerner. "I was 
praisent one mawnin' las' month when this gentleman 
awdehed frawgs' laigs." 

"Sakes and saints^ but that was a mean position !" 20 
burst out Scipio. "I had to tell all comers anything all 
day. Stand up and jump language hot off my brain at 
'em. And the pay don't near compensate for the drain on 
the system. I don't care how good a man is, you let him 
keep a-tappin' his presence of mind right along, without 25 
takm' a lay-off, and you'll have him sick. Yes, sir. 
You'll hit his nerves. So I told them they could hire some 
fresh man, for I was goin' back to punch cattle or fight 
Indians, or take a rest somehow, for I didn't propose to 
get jadied, and me only twenty-five years old. There ain't 30 
no regular Colonel Cyrus Jones any more, yu' know. He 
met a Cheyenne telegraph pole in seventy-four, and was 
buried. But his palace was doin' big business, and he had 
been a kind of attraction, and so they always keep a live 
bear outside, and some poor fello', fixed up like the Colonel 35 
used to be, inside. And it's a turruble mean positioi) 

138 THE VinOlNIAM 

Course I'll -cook for yu'. YuVe a dandy memory for 

"I wasn't right convinced till I kicked him off and you 
gave that shut to your eyes again," said the Virginian. 
6 Once more the door opened. A man with slim black 
eyebrows, slim black mustache, and a black shirt tied 
with a white handkerchief was looking steadily from one 
to the other of us. 

"Good day!" he remarked generally and without 
10 enthusiasm ; and to the Virginian, "Where's Schoffner?" 

"I expaict he'll have got his bottle by now, Trampas." 

Trampas looked from one to the other of us again. 
"Didn't he say he was coming back?" 

"He reminded me he was going for a bottle, and afteh 
16 that he didn't wait to say a thing?' 

Trampas looked at the platform and the railing and the 
steps. "He told me he was coming back," he insisted. 

"I don't reckon he has come, not without he dumb up 
ahaid somewhere. An' I mus say, when he got off he 
20 didn't look like a man does when he has the intention o' 

At this Scipio coughed, and pared his nails attentively. 
We had already been avoiding each other's eye. Shorty 
did not count. Since he got aboard, his meek seat had 
26 been the bottom step. 

The thoughts of Trampas seemed to be in difficulty. 
"How long's this train been started ? " he demanded. 

"This hyeh train?" The Virginian consulted his 

watch. "Why, it's been fanning it a right smart little 

30 while," said he, laying no stress upon his indolent syllables. 

" Huh ! " went Trampas. He gave the rest of us a final 
unlovely scrutiny. " It seems to have become a passenger 
train," he said. And he returned abruptly inside the 
35 "Is he the member who don't sing?" asked Scipio. 

"That's the specimen," replied the Southerner^ j 


"He don't seem muscial in the face/' said Scipio. 

"Pshaw!" returned the Virginian. "Why, you surely 
ain't the man to mind ugly mugs when they're hollow ! " 

The tioise inside had dropped quickly to stillness. 
You could scarcely catch the sound of talk. Our caboose 5 
was clicking comfortably westward, rail after rail, mile 
upon mile, while night was beginning to rise from earth 
into the clouded sky. 

"I wonder if they have sent a search party forward to 
hunt Schoffner ? " said the Virginian. "I think I'll maybe 10 
join their meeting." He opened the door upon them. 
'*Kind o' dark hyeh, ain't it?" said he. And lighting the 
lantern, he shut us out. 

"What do yu' think?'* said Scipio to me. "WiU he 
take them to Sunk Creek ? " 16 

' * He evidently thinks he will, ' ' said I . "He says he will, 
and he has the courage of his convictions." 

"That ain't near enough courage to have!" Scipio 
exclaimed. "There's times in life when a man has got 
to have courage without convictions — vrithout them — 20 
or he is no good. Now your friend is that deep constitooted 
that yoii don't know and I don't know what he's thinkin' 
about all this." 

"If there's to be Jlny gun-play," put in the excellent 
Shorty, "I'll stand in with him." ^ ^ 25 

"Ah, go to bed with your gun-play!" retorted Scipio, 
entirely good-humored. "Is the Judge paying for a 
carload of dead punchers to gather his beef for him ? And 
this ain't a proposition worth a man's gettin' hurt for him- 
self, anyway." 30 

"That's so," Shorty assented. 

"No," speculated Scipio, as the night drew deeper round 
us and the caboose click-clucked and click-clucked over 
the rail joints ; " he's waitin' for somebody else to open this 
pot. I'll bet he don't know but one thing now, and that's 35 
that nobody else shall know he don't know^^^f^Jmg^'* 


Scipio had delivered liimself. He lighted a cigarette, 
and no more wisdom came from him. The night was 
established. The rolling bad-lands sank away in it. A 
train-hand had arrived over the roof, and hanging the 
5 red lights out behind, left us again without remark or 
symptom of curiosity. The train-hands seemed interested 
in their own society and lived in their own caboose. A 
chill wind with wet in it came blowing from the invisible 
draws, and brought the feel of the distant mountains. 
10 "That's Montana!'' said Scipio, snuffing. "I am glad 
to have it inside my lungs again." 

"Ain't yu' getting cool out there?" said the Virginian's 
voice. "Plenty room inside." 

Perhaps he had expected us to follow him ; or perhaps 
15 he had meant us to delay long enough not to seem like a 
reenf or cement. "These gentlemen missed the express at 
Medora," he observed to his men, simply. 

What they took us for upon our entrance I cannot say, 
or what they believed. The atmosphere of the caboose 
20 was charged with voiceless currents of thought. By way 
of a friendly beginning to the three himdred mfles of 
caboose we were now to share so intimately, I recalled 
myself to them. I trusted no more of the Christian 
Endeavor had del ay ad them. " I am so lucky to have 
25 caught you again," I finished. "I was afraid my last 
chance of reaching the Judge's had gone." 

Thus I said a number of things designed to be agreeable, 
but they met my small talk with the smallest talk you can 
have. "Yes," for instance, and "Pretty well, I guess," 
30 and grave strikings of matches and thoughtful looks at the 
floor. I suppose we had made twenty miles to the imper- 
turbable clicking of the caboose when one at length asked 
his neighbor had he ever seen New York. 

" No," said the other. "Flooded with dudes, ain't it ? " 
35 "Swimmin'," said the first. 
"Leakin', too," said a third. 

Digitized by VjOOQ IC 


"Well, my gracious!'* said a fourth, and beat his knee 
in private delight. None of them ever looked at me. 
For some reason I felt exceedingly ill at ease. 

".Good clothes in New York,'' said the third. 

"Rich food," said the first. 5 

"Fresh eggs, too," said the third. 

"Well, my gracious !" said the fourth, beating his knee. 

"Why, yes," observed the Virginian, unexpectedly; 
"they tell ipe that aiggs there ain't liable to be so rotten as 
yu'U strike 'em in this country." 10 

None of them had a reply for this, and New York was 
abandoned. For some reason I felt much better. 

It was a new line they adopted next, led off by Trampas. 

"Going to the excitement?" he inquired, selecting 
Shorty. 15 

"Excitement?" said Shorty, looking up. 

"Going to Rawhide?" Trampas repeated. And all 
watched Shorty. 

"Why, I'm all adrift missin' that express," said Shorty. 

"Maybe I can give you employment," suggested the 20 
Virginian. "I am taking an outfit across the basin." 

"You'll find most folks going to Rawhide, if you're 
looking for company," pursued Trampas, fishing for a 

"How about Rawhide, anyway?" said Scipio, skilfully 25 
deflecting this missionary work. "Are they taking much 
mineral out? Have yu' seen any of the rock?" 

"Rock?" broke in the enthusiast who had beaten his 
knee. "There !" And he brought some from his pocket. 

"You're always showing your rock," said Trampas, 30 
sulkily ; for Scipio now held the conversation, and Shorty 
returned safely to his dozing. 

"H'm!" went Scipio at the rock. He turned it back 
and forth in his hand, looking it over; he chucked and 
caught it slightingly in the air, and handed it back. 35 
"Porphyry, I see." That was his only word about it. 


He said it cheerily. He left no room for discussion. You 
could not damn a thing worse. "Ever been in Santa 
Rita?" pursued Scipio, while the enthusiast slowly pushed 
his rock back into his pocket. ^'That's down in New 
6 Mexico. Ever been to Globe, Arizona?" And Scipio 
talked away about the mines he had known. There was 
no getting at Shorty any more that evening. Trampas was 
foiled of nis fish, or of learning how the fish's heart lay. 
And by morning Shorty had been carefully in3tructed to 

10 change his mind about once an hour. This is apt to dis- 
courage all but very superior missionaries. And I too 
escaped for the rest of this night. At Glendive we had a 
dim supper, and I bought some blankets ; and after that 
it was late, and sleep occupied the attention of us all. 

15 We lay along the shelves of the caboose, a peaceful 
sight I should think^ in that smoothly trundling cradle. I 
slept almost immediately, so tired that not even our stops 
or anything else waked me, save once, when the air I was 
breathing grew suddenly pure, and I roused. Sitting 

20 in the door was the lonely figure of the Virginian. He 
leaned in silent contemplation of the occasional moon, and 
beneath it the Yellowstone's swift ripples. On the caboose 
shelves the others slept soimd and still, each stretched or 
coiled as he had first put himself. They were not un- 

25 trustworthy to look at, it seemed to me — except Trampas. 
You would have said the rest of that young humanity was 
average rough male blood, merely needing to be told the 
proper things at the right time; and one big bunchy 
stocking of the enthusiast stuck out of his blanket, solemn 

30 and innocent, and I laughed at it. There was a light 
sound by the door, and I found the Virginian's eye on me. 
Finding who it was, he nodded and motioned with his 
hand to go to sleep. And this I did with him in my sight, 
still leaning in the open door, through which came the 

35 interrupted moon and the swimming reaches of the Yellow- 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



It has happened to you, has it not, to wake in the 
morning fijid wonder for a while where on earth you are? 
Thus I came half to life in the caboose, hearing voices, 
but not the actual words at first. 

But presently, "Hathaway!" said some one mores 
clearly. "Portland 1291!'' 

This made no special stir in my intelligence, and I 
drowsed off again to the pleasant rh3rthm of the wheels. 
The little shock of stopping next brought me to, somewhat, 
with the voices still round me ; and when we were again in lo 
motion, I heard: "Rosebud! Portland 1279!'' These 
figures jarred me awake, and I said, "It was 1291 before," 
and sat up in my blankets. 

The greeting they vouchsafed and the sight of them 
clustering expressionless in the caboose brought last 1 5 
evening's uncomfortable memory back to me. Our next 
stop revealed how things were going to-day. 

"Forsythe," one of them read on the station. "Port- 
land 1266." 

They 'were counting the lessening distance westward. 20 
This was the undercurrent of war. It broke on me as I pro- 
cured fresh water at Forsythe and made some toilet in their 
stolid presence. We were drawing nearer the Rawhide 
station — the point, I mean, where you left the railway 
for the new mines. Now Rawhide station lay this side of 25 
Billings. The broad path of desertion would open ready 

140 Digitized by VjOOyitr 


for their feet when the narrow path to duty and Sunk 
Creek was still some fifty miles more to wait. Here was 
Trampas's great strength ; he need make no move mean- 
while, but lie low for the immediate temptation to front and 
5 waylay them and win his battle over the deputy foreman. 
But the Virginian seemed to find nothing save enjoyment 
in this sunny September morning, and ate his breakfast 
at Forsythe serenely. 
That meal done and that station gone, our caboose took 
10 up again its easy trundle by the banks of the Yellowstone. 
The mutineers sat for a while digesting in idleness. 

" What^s your scar?" inquired one at length, inspecting 
casually the neck of his neighbor. 
"Foolishness," the other answered. 
15 "Yourn?" 

"Well, I don't know but I prefer to have myself to 
thank for a thing," said the first. 

" I was displaying myself," continued the second. " One 

20 day last summer it was. We come on a big snake by 

Torrey Creek corral. The boys got betting pretty lively 

that I dassent make my word good as to dealing with him, 

so I loped my cayuse full tilt by Mr. Snake, and swimg 

down and catched him up by the tail from the ground, 

25 and cracked him same as a whip, and snapped his head off. 

You've saw it done? " he said to the audience. 

The audience nodded wearily. 

"But the loose head flew agin me, and the fangs caught. 
I was pretty sick for a while." 
30 "It don't pay to be clumsy," said the first man. "If 
you'd snapped the snake away from yu' instead of toward 
yu', its head would have whirled off into the brush, same 
as they do with me." 

"How like a knife-cut your scar looks !" said I. 
35 "Don't it?" said the snake-snapper. "There's many 
that gets fooled by it." 

Digitized by VjUUy It: 


"An antelope knows a snake is his enemy," said another 
to me. "Ever seen a buck circling round and round a 

"I have always wanted to see that," said I, heartily. 
For this I knew to be a respectable piece of truth. 5 

"It's worth seeing," the man went on. "After the 
buck gets close in, he gives an almighty jump up in the air, 
and down comes his four hoofs in a bunch right on top of 
Mr. Snake. Cuts him all to hash. Now you tell me now 
the buck knows that." 10 

Of course I could not tell him. And again we sat in 
silence for a whUe — friendlier silence, I thought. 

"A skunk'll kill yu' worse than a snake bite," said 
another, presently. "No, I don't mean that way," he 
added. For I had smiled. "There is a brown skunk 15 
down in Arkansaw. Kind of prairie-dog brown. Littler 
than our variety, he is. And he is mad the whole year 
round, same as a dog gets. Only the dog has a spell, and 
dies; but this here Arkansaw skunk is mad right along, 
and it don't seem to interfere with his business in other 20 
respects. Well, suppose you're camping out, and suppose 
it's a hot night, or you're in a hurry, and you've made 
camp late, or anyway you haven't got inside any tent, 
but you have just bedded down in the open. Skunk 
comes travelling along and walks on your blankets. 25 
You're warm. He likes that, same as a cat does. And he 
tramps with pleasure and comfort, same as a cat. And you 
move. You get bit, that's all. And you die of hydro- 
phobia. Ask anybody." 

"Most extraordinary!" said I. "But did you ever see 30 
a person die from this?" 

"No, sir. Never happened to. My cousin at Bald 
Knob did." 


"No, sir. Saw a man." 35 

"But how do you know they're not sick skunkgj^ 



"No, sir! They're well skunks. Well as anything. 
You'll not meet skunks in any state of the Union more 
robust than them in Arkansaw. And thick." 

"That's awful true," sighed another. "I have buried 
6 hundreds of dollars' worth of clothes in Arkansaw." 

"Why didn't yu' travel in a sponge bag?" inquired 
Scipio. And this brought a sUght silence. 

" Speakin' of bites," spoke up a new man, " how's that ? '' 
He held up his thimib. 
10 "My ! " breathed Scipio. "Must have been a lion." 

The man wore a woimded look. "I was huntin' owl 
eggs for a botanist from Boston," lo^ explained to 

"Chiropodist, weren't he?" said Scipio. "Or maybe a 
15 sonnabulator? " 

"No, honest," protested the man with the thumb; so 
that I was sorry for him, and begged him to go on. 

"I'U listen to you," I assured him. And I wondered 
why this politeness of mine should throw one or two of them 
20 into stifled mirth. Scipio, on the other hand, gave me a 
disgusted look and sat back sullenly for a moment, and 
then took himself out on the platform, where the Virginian 
was lounging. 

"The young feller wore knee-pants and ever so thick 
25 spectacles with a half-moon cut in 'em," resumed the 
narrator, "and he carried a tin box strung to a strap I 
took for his lunch till it flew open on him and a horn toad 
hustled out. Then I was sure he was a botanist — or 
whatever yu' say they're called. Well, he would have 
30 owl eggs — them httle prairie-owl that some claim can 
turn their head clean around and keep a-watchin' yu', 
only that's nonsense. We was ridin' through that prairie- 
dog town, used to be on the flat just after yu' crossed the 
south fork of Powder River on the Buffalo trail, and I said 
35 I'd dig an owl nest out for him, if he was willin' to camp 
till I'd dug it. I wanted to know abou1bi|b^\05d^weie 


myself — if they did live with the dogs and snakes, yn' 
know," he broke off, appealing to me. 

"Oh, yes,*' I told him eagerly. 

"So while the botanist went glarin' around the town 
with his glasses to see if he could spot a prairie-dog and 6 
an owl usin' the same hole, I was diggin' in a hole I'd seen 
an owl run down. And that's what I got." He held up 
his thumb again. 

"The snake I " I exclaimed. 

"Yes, sir. Mr. Rattler was keepin' house that day. 10 
Took me right there. I hauled him out of the hole hangin' 
to me. Eight rattles." 

"EightI"saidL "A big one." 

"Yes, sir. Thought I was dead. But the woman — " 

"The woman ? " said I. 15 

"Yes, woman. Didn't I tell yu' the botanist had his 
wife along? Well, he did. And she acted better than the 
man, for he was losin' his head, and shoutin' he had no 
whiskey, and he didn't guess his knife was sharp enough to 
amputate my thumb, and none of us chewed, and the doc- 20 
tor was twenty miles away, and if he had only remembered 
to bring his ammonia — well, he was screeching out 'most 
everything he knew in the world, and without arranging it 
any, neither. But she just clawed his pocket and bur- 
rowed and kep' yellin, 'Give him the stone, Augustus! '25 
And she whipped out one of them Injun medicine-stones, 
— first one I ever seen, — and she clapped it on to my 
thumb, and it started in right away." 

"What did it do?" said I. 

"Sucked. Like blotting-paper does. Soft and funny 30 
it was, and gray. They get 'em from elks' stomachs, yn' 
know. And when it had sucked the poison out of the 
wound, off it falls of my thumb by itself ! And I thanked 
the woman for saving my life that capable and keeping 
her head that cool. I never knowed how excited she had 35 
been till afterward. She was awful shocked."»ouyit: 


"I suppose she started to talk when the danger was 
over," said I, with deep silence around me. 

"No; she didn't say nothing to me. But when her 

next child was born, it had eight rattles." 

5 Din now rose wild in the caboose. They rocked 

together. The enthusiast beat his knee tumultuously. 

And I joined them. Who could help it? It had been so 

well conducted from the imperceptible beginning. Fact 

and falsehood blended with such perfect art. And this 

10 last, an effect so new made with such world-old material ! 

I cared nothing that I was the victim, and I joined them ; 

but ceased, feeling suddenly somehow estranged or chilled. 

It was in their laughter. The loudness was too loud. And 

I caught the eyes of Trampas fixed upon the Virginian 

15 with exultant malevolence. Scipio's disgusted glance 

was upon me from the door. 

Dazed by these signs, I went out on the platform to 
get away from the noise. There the Virginian said to me : 
"Cheer up ! You'll not be so easy for 'em that-a-way next 
20 season." 

He said no more; and with his legs dangled over the 
railing, appeared to resume his newspaper. 
"What's the matter?" said I to Scipio. 
"Oh, I don't mind if he don't," Scipio answered. 
25 "Couldn't yu' see? I tried to head 'em off from yu' all I 
knew, but yu' just ran in among 'em yourself. Couldn't 
yu' see ? Kep' hinderin' and spoilin' me with askin' those 
urgent questions of yourn — why, I had to let yu' go your 
way ! Why, that wasn't the ordinary play with the ordi- 
30 nary tenderfoot they treated you to ! You ain't a common 
tenderfoot this trip. You're the foreman's friend. 
They've hit him through you. That's the way they count 
it. It's made them encouraged. Can't yu' see?" 

Scipio stated it plainly. And as we ran by the next 
35 station, "Howard!" they harshly yelled. "Portland 

1256!" Digitized by vjuuy It: 


We had been passing gangs of workmen on the track. 
And at that last yell the Virginian rose. "I reckon I'll 
join the meeting again," he said. "This filling and repair- 
ing looks like the washout might have been true." 

"Washout? " said Scipio. 5 

"Big Hornbridge, they say — four days ago." 

"Then I wish it came this side Rawhide station." 

"Do yu'?" drawled the Virginian. And smiling at 
Scipio, he lounged in through the open door. 

"He beats me," said Scipio, shaking his head. "His 10 
trail is turruble hard to anticipate." 

We listened. 

"Work bein' done on the road, I see," the Virginian was 
saying, very friendly and conversational. 

"We see it too," said the voice of Trampas. 15 

"Seem to be easin' their grades some." 

"Roads do." 

"Cheaper to build 'em the way they want 'em at the 
start, a man would think," suggested the Virginian most 
friendly. "There go some more I-talians." 20 

"They're Chinese," said Trampas. 

"That's so," acknowledged the Virginian, with a 

"What's he monkeyin' at now?" muttered Scipio. 

"Without cheap foreigners they couldn't afford all this 25 
hyeh new gradin'," the Southerner continued. 

" Grading ! Can't you tell when a flood's been eating the 

"Why, yes," said the Virginian, sweet as honey. "But 
ain't yu' heard of the improvements west of Big Timber, 30 
all the way to Missoula, this season? I'm talkin' about 

"Oh ! Talking about them. Yes, I've heard." 

"Good money-savin' scheme, ain't it?" said the Vir- 
ginian. "Lettin' a freight run down one hill an' up the 35 
next as far as she'll go without steam, an' shavin'^i^he hill 


down to that point." Now this was an honest engineering 
fact. "Better'n settin' dudes squintin' through telescopes 
an' cipherin' over one per cent re-ductions," the Southerner 
6 "It's common sense," assented Trampas. "Have you 
heard the new scheme about the water-tanks?" 

"I ain't right certain," said the Southerner. 

"I must watch this," said Scipio, "or I shall bust." 
He went in, and so did I. 
10 They were all sitting over this discussion of the Northern 
Pacific's recent policy as to betterments, as though they 
were the board of directors. Pins could have dropped. 
Only nobody would have cared to hear a pin. 

"They used to put all their tanks at the bottom of their 
15 grades," said Trampas. 

"Why, yu' get the water easier at the bottom." 

"You can pump it to the top, though," said Trampas, 
growing superior. "And it's cheaper." 

"That gets me," said the Virginian, interested. 
20 "Trains after watering can start down hill now and get 
the benefit of the gravity. It'll cut down operating ex- 
penses a heap." 

"That's cert'nly common sense!" exclaimed the Vir- 
ginian, absorbed. "But ain't it kind o' tardy?" 
25 "Live and learn. So they gained speed, too. High 
speed on half the coal this season, until the accident." 

"Accident!" said the Virginian, instantly. 

"Yellowstone Limited. Man fired at engine-driver. 

Train was flying past that quick the bullet broke every 

30 window and kiUed a passenger on the back platform. 

You've been rimning too much with aristocrats," finished 

Trampas, and turned on his heel. 

"Haw, haw I" began the enthusiast, but his neigh- 
bor gripped him to silence. This was a triumph too 
35 serious for noise. Not a mutineer moved; and I felt 

^^^^* Digitized by VjUUy It: 


"Trampas/' said the Virginian, "I thought jru'd be 
af eared to try it on me." 

Trampas whirled round. His hand was at his belt. 

* * Afraid ! " he sneered. 

"Shorty!" said Scipio, sternly, and leaping upon that 6 
youth, took his half-drawn pistol from him. 

• "I'm obliged to 3niV' said the Virginian to Scipio. 
Trampas's hand left his belt. He threw a slight, easy 

look at his men, and keeping his back to the Virginian, 
walked out on the platform and sat on the chair where the 10 
Virginian had sat so much. 

"Don't you comprehend," said the Virginian to Shorty 
amiably, "that this hyeh question has been discussed 
peaceable by civilized citizens ? Now you sit down and be 
good, and Mr. Le Moyne will return your gim when we're 15 
across that broken bridge, if they have got it fixed for 
heavy trains yet." 

"This train will be lighter when it gets to that bridge," 
spoke Trampas, out on his chair. 

"Why, that's true, too !" said the Virginian. "Maybe 20 
none of us are crossin' that Big Horn bridge now, except 
me. Funny if yu' should end by persuadin' me to quit and 
go to Rawhide myself I But I reckon I'll not. I reckon 
I'll worry along to Sunk Creek, somehow." 

"Don't forget I'm cookin' for 3^1'," said Scipio, gruffly. 26 

"I'm obliged to yu'," said the Southerner. 

"You were speaking of a job for me," said Shorty. 

" I'm right obliged. But yu' see — I ain't exackly fore- 
man the way this comes out, and my promises might not 
bind Judge Henry to pay salaries." 30 

A push came through the train from forward. We were 
slowing for the Rawhide station, and all began to be busy 
and to talk. "Going up to the mines to-day?" "Oh, 
let's grub first." "Guess it's too late, anyway." And 
so forth ; while they rolled and roped their bedding, and put 3/> 
on their coats with a good deal of elbow motion, and other- 

152 THE riRomiAit 

wise showed off. It was wasted. The Vh-ginian did not 
know what was going on in the caboose. He was leaning 
and looking out ahead, arid Scipio's puzzled eye never left 
him; And as we halted for the water-tank, the Southerner 
5 exclaimed, "They ain't got away yet !'' as if it were good 
news to him. 

He meant the delayed trains. Four stalled expresses 
were in front of us, besides several freights. And two 
hours more at least before the bridge would be ready. 
10 Travellers stood and sat about forlorn, near the cars, 
out in the sage-brush, anywhere. People in hats and 
spurs watched them, and Indian chiefs offered them painted 
bows and arrows and shiny horns. 

"I reckon them passengers would prefer a laig o' 
15 mutton," said the Virginian to a man loafing near the 

"Bet your life!'' said the man. "First lot has been 
stuck here four days." 

"Plumb starved, ain't they?" inquired the Virginian. 
20 "Bet your life! They've eat up their dining-cars and 
they've eat up this town." 

"Well," said the Virginian, looking at the town, "I 

expaict the dining-cyars contained more nourishment." 

"Say, you're about right there!" said the man. He 

25 walked beside the caboose as we puffed slowly forward 

from the water-tank to our siding. "Fine business here 

if we'd only been ready," he continued. "And the Crow 

agent has let his Indians come over from the reservation. 

There has been a little beef brought in, and game and fish. 

30 And big money in it, bet your life! Them Eastern 

passengers has just been robbed. I wisht I had somethin' 

to sell!" 

"Anything starting for Rawhide this afternoon?" said 
Trampas, out of the caboose door. 
35 * * Not until morning, ' ' said the man. * * You going to the 
mmes?" he resumed to the Virginian. ,.^^,,,,,^^^^^,^ 


"Why," answered the Southerner, slowly and casually, 
addressing himself strictly to the man, while Trampas, on 
his side, paid obvious inattention, "this hyeh delay, yu* 
see, may unsettle our plans some. But it'll be one of two 
ways, — we're all goin' to Rawhide, or we're all goin' to 5 
Billings. We're all one party, yu' see." 

Trampas laughed audibly inside the door as he rejoined 
his men. "Let him keep up appearances," I heard him 
teU them. "It don't hurt us what he says to strangers." 

"But I'm goin' to eat hearty either way," continued the lO 
Virginian. "And I ain' goin' to be robbed. I've been 
kmd o' promisin' myself a treat if we stopped hyeh." 

"Town's eat clean out," said the man. 

" So yu' tell me. But all you folks has forgot one source 
of revenue that yu' have right close by, mighty handy. 15 
If you have got a gunny sack, I'll show you how to make 
some money." 

"Bet you| life !" said the man. 

"Mr. Le Moyne," said the Virginian, "the outfit's 
cookin' stuff is aboard, and if you'll get the fire ready, 20 
we'll try how frawgs' laigs go fried." He walked off at 
once, the man following like a dog. Inside the caboose 
rose a gust of laughter. 

"Frogs!" muttered Scipio. And then turning a blank 
face to me, " Frogs ? " 25 

"Colonel Cyrus Jones had them on his bill of fare," I 
said, "*Frogfs' Legs d la DelmonicoJ'^ 

"Shoo! I didn't get up that thing. They had it 
when I came. Never looked at it. Frogs?" He went 
down the steps very slowly, with a long frown. Reaching 30 
the ground, he shook his head. "That man's trail is 
surely hard to anticipate," he said. "But I must hurry 
up that fire. For his appearance has given me encourage- 
ment," Scipio concluded, and became brisk. Shorty 
helped him, and I brought wood. Trampas and the other 35 
people strolled off to the station, a co^^)^c|;^fc^gJ^^,^^^ 


Our little fire was built beside the caboose, so the cooking 
things might be eajsily reached and put back. You would 
scarcely think such operations held any interest, even for 
the hungry, when there seemed to be nothing to cook. 
5 A few sticks blazing tamely in the dust, a frying-pan, half 
a tin bucket of lard, some water, and barren plates and 
knives and forks, and three silent men attending to them 
— that was all. But the travellers came to see. These 
waifs drew near us, and stood, a sad, lorn, shifting fringe 

10 of audience ; four to begin with ; and then two wandered 
away ; and presently one of these came back, finding it 
worse elsewhere. *^ Supper, boys?" said he. ^* Break- 
fast," said Scipio, crossly. And no more of them ad- 
dressed us. I heard them joylessly mention Wall Street 

15 to each other, and Saratoga ; I even heard the name Bryn 

Mawr, which is near Philadelphia. But these fragments 

of home dropped in the wilderness here in Montana beside 

a freight caboose were of no interest to me n(«y. 

''Looks like frogs down there, too," said Scipio. ''See 

20 them marshy sloos full of weeds ? " We took a little turn 

and had a sight of the Virginian quite active among the 

ponds. "Hush! I'm getting some thoughts," continued 

Scipio. " He wasn't sorry enough. Don't interrupt me." 

"I'm not," said I. 

26 "No. But I'd 'most caught a-hold." And Scipio* 
muttered to himself again, "He wasn't sorry enougn." 
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 Tralnpas put 

30 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! 

36 Course he wasn't sorry. I guess he had the hardest kind 
of work to look as sorry as he did. You wait." 

Digitized by VjUUy It: 


" 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. 5 
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 before. 10 

"We're figuring on that too," said Scipio. His cross- 
ness had melted entirely away. 

"Why, they're cow-boys!" exclaimed another pas- 
senger ; and he moved nearer. 

Ftom the station Trampas now came back, his herd 16 
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. 20 
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, ddighted. 

"It's been offered me three times a day for four da3rs," 26 
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 30 
off toward the marshes. And his hilarity sobered away in 
a moment. 

"Well, the train will be m soon," stated Trampas. 
"I guess we'll get a decent supper without frogs." 

-AJl interest settled now upon the Virginian. He was 35 
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 business- 
like, to his assistant, "that's all we'll want. I think you'll 
5 find a ready market for the balance." 

"Well, my gracious!" said the enthusiast. "What 
fool eats a frog?" 

" Oh, I'm fool enough for a tadpole ! " cried the passenger. 
And they began to take out their pocket-books. 
10 "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 
15 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 fol- 
lowers. These hung back a moment, then, with a slink- 
ing motion, set the cheese upon the earth and came forward 
20 nearer the fire to receive some supper. 

"It won't scarcely be Delmonico style," said the Vir- 
ginian to the passengers, "nor yet Saynt Augustine." 
He meant the great Augustin, the traditional chef of Phila- 
delphia, whose history I had sketched for him at Colonel 
25 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 
30 near good. H yu' had sold 'em as advertised, yu'd have 
cert'iSy made a name." 

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, 
35 while the innocent passengers thankfully swallowed. 

"Now, you see, you have made som^i||igiftp^,'u began 


the Virginian to the native who had helped him get the 

"Bet your life!" exclaimed the man. "Diwy, won't 
you?" And he held out half his gains. 

"Keep 'em/' returned the Southerner. " I reckon we're 5 
square. But I expaict they'll not equal Delmonico's, seh ?" 
he said to a passenger. 

" Don't trust4he 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 10 
Delmonico's more than this?" 

"Never !" they sighed. 

"Why, look here," said the traveller, "what fools the 
people of this town are ! Here we've been all these starv- 
ing days, and you come and get ahead of them ! " 16 

"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. 20 

"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 26 
just waitin' to be a frawg ranch." 

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 30 
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 35 
big markets for their frawgs, — San Francisco, Los Angeles, 

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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 
5 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' 
10 nothm'." 

"That's a practical idea," said a traveller. "And little 

"And little cost," said the Virginian. 

"Would Eastern people eat frogs?" inquired the man. 
15 "Look at us!" said the traveller. 

"Delmonico doesn't give yu' such a treat!" said the 

"Not exactly!" the traveller exclaimed. 

"How much would be paid for frogs?" said Trampas 
20 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 see." 

"You're late for Tulare, Trampas," said the Virginian. 

"I was not thinking of Tulare," Trampas retorted. 
25 Scipio's nose was in the frying-pan. 

"Mos' comical spot you ever struck!" said the Vir- 
ginian, looking roimd upon the whole company. He 
allowed himself a broad smile of retrospect. "To hear 
'em talk frawgs at Tulare! Same as other folks talks 
aohawsses or steers or whatever they're raising to sell. 
Yu'd fall into it yourselves if yu' started the business. 
Anjrthing 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?" 
36 "The only money in the county was right there," 
answered the Virginian. "It was a dead county, and only 

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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 yvJ got accustomed, it would give 'most 
anybody a shock to hear 'em speak about herdin' the bulls 6 
in a pasture by themselves." The Virginian allowed him- 
self another smile, but became serious again. "That was 
their policy," he explained. "Except at certain times of 
year they kept the bull separate. The Fish Commission 
told 'em they'd better, and it cert'nly worked mighty well. 10 
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 15 
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 
Idland, an' Alcatraz, an' Benicia. Los Angeles was be- 20 
ginnin' to boom. The corner-lot sharps wanted something 
by way of varnish. An' so they dazzled Eastern investors 
with advertisin' Tulare frawgs clear to N' Yol'ans an' New 
York. 'Twas only in Sacramento frawgs was dull. I 
expaict the California legislature was too or'n'ry for them 25 
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 30 
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, 35 
" Senator Wise — " n r h h v .c n lu 1 1- 

Digitized by VjUUV IV^ 


"How much did you say wages were at Tulare?" in- 
quired one of the Trampas faction. 

"How much? Why, I never knew what the foreman 
got. The regular hands got a hundred. Senator Wise — " 
5 "A hundred a month f '* 

"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 Alaska — " 
10 "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 Vir- 
ginian. "The frawgs had enemies, same as cattle. 
15 1 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. YuVe heard 

20 the mournful, mixed-up sound a big bunch of cattle wttl 

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 

25 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 

30 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." 

35 "Well, twenty per cent is good enough for me," said 

Trampas, "if Rawhide don't suit me." ^ j 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 


"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 6 
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' out." 

"Why, George," whispered a woman's voice behind me, 10 
"he's merely deceiving them! He's merely making that 
stuff up out of his head." 

"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." 16 

"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 20 
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 25 
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 30 
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 36 
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 de- 
clared tickets to California would be dear and Rawhide had 
better come first, the Southerner let loose his heaven-bom 
5 imagination. 

"There's 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." 
10 "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, 

15 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 nearer. 

But for a short moment it threatened to be spoiled. A 
20 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 
25 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 
30 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 
35 Augustine was a live man, an' he saw Philadelphia was full 
o' Quakers that dressed plain an' eat l^i^d;^^gi^(j89ehe 


started oookin* Domingo way for 'em, an' they caught 
right a hold. 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 6 
that had the say-so in New York." 

"Was Delmonico one of them I-talians?" inquired a 
fascinated mutineer. 

" I don't know. But he acted like one. Lorenzo was his 
front name. He aimed to cut — " 10 

"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 15 
do women's clothes. Both cities was catchin' and swal- 
lowin' all the frawgs Tulare could throw at 'em. So he — " 

"Lorenzo?" skid the enthusiast. 

"Yes, Lorenzo Delmonico. He bid a dollar a tank 
higher. An' Saynt Augustine raised him fifty cents. 20 
An' Lorenzo raised him a dollar. An' Saynt Augustine 
shoved her up three. Lorenzo he didn't expect Phila- 
delphia would go that high, and got hot in the collar, an' 
flew round his kitchen in New York, an' claimed he'd twist 
Sajoit Augustine's Domingo tail for him and crack his 25 
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 30 
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 feeling' like a flight o' rawckets. If only 36 
there'd been some preparation, — a telegr^ir^Qr ^me- 


thing, — the disaster would never have occurred. But 
Lorenzo and Saynt Augustine was that absorbed watchin' 
each other — for, yu' see, the Santa Fe arid the Southern 
Pacific come together at Mojave, an' the two cooks 
5 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 

10 done, but they had Lorenzo singin' and dancin', while 
Sajmt 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 

15 friendship, in their excitable foreign way. And they went 
home over the Union Pacific, sharing the same stateroom. 
Their revenge killed frawgs. The disease — " 
"How killed frogs?" demanded Trampas. 
"Just killed 'em. Delmonico and, Saynt Augustine 

20 wiped frawgs off the slate of fashion. Not a banker in 
Fifth Avenue'U 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 

25 wadin', and yu'U 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. 

30 "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 yu', seh," said the Virginian. 
Other passengers greeted him, and the Indian chiefs 

35 came, sa3mig, "How ! " because they followed their feelings 
without understanding. ^ . m ..,,,- 

° Digitized by VjOOyitr 


"Don't show so humbled, boys," said the deputy fore- 
man 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. 6 
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. 10 

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 — 16 
apparently. Possibly the supreme — the most American 
— moment of all was when word came that the bridge 
was open, and the Pullmen trains, with noise and triumph, 
began to move westward at last. Every one waved fare- 
well to every one, craning from steps and windows, so that 20 
the cars twinkled with hilarity ; and in twenty minutes 
the whole procession in front had moved, and our turn 

" Last chance for Rawhide," said the Virginian. 

"Last chance for Sunk Creek," said a reconstructed 25 
mutineer, and all sprang aboard. There was no question 
who had won his spurs now. 

Our caboose trundled on to Billings along the shingly 
cottonwooded Yellowstone; and as the plains and bluffs 
and the distant snow began to grow well known, even to 30 
me, we turned to our baggage that was to come off, since 
camp would begin in the morning. Thus I saw the 
Virginian carefufly rewrapping Kenilworth, that he might 
bring it to its owner unharmed; and I said, "Don't you 
^j_^^ you could have played poker with ^ Qu^g^hza- 35 


"No ; I expaict she'd have beat me," he replied. "She 
was a lady." 

It was at Billmgs, on this day, that I made those reflec- 
tions about equality. For the Virginian had been equal to 
5 the occasion: that is the only kind of equality which I 

Digitized by 




Into what mood was it that the Virginian now fell? 
Being less busy, did he begin to "grieve'' about the girl 
on BearCreek ? I only know that after talking so lengthily 
he fell into a nine days' silence. The talking jmrt of him 
deeply and imbrokeniy slept. 6 

Ofl&cial 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 lo 
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 is 
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 20 
the camp, he yet kept altogether to himself. That talk- 
ing part of him — the mood which brings out for you your 
friend's spirit and mind as a free ^t or as an exchange — 
was down in some dark cave of his nature, hidden away. 
Peiiiaps it had been dreaming; perhaps completely re- 26 
poang. The Virginian was one of thoseei^pe^ion^Liwho 



are able to refresh themselves m sections. To have a 
thmg 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 end- 
slessly westward, and the men were on the ragged edge, 
the very jumping-off place, of mutiny and possible mur- 
der, I had seen him sleep like a child. He snatched the 
moments not necessary for vigU. I had also s^n him 
sit all night watching his responsibility, ready to spring on 

10 it and fasten his teeth in it. And now that he had con- 
founded them with their own attempted weapon of 
ridicule, his powers seemed to be profoimdly dormant. 
That final pitched battle of wits had made the men his 
captives and admirers — all save Trampas. And of 

16 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." 

20 "Yes," our friend Shorty murmured pregnantly, with 
his eye upon the quiet Virginian, "Jie's sure studying his 

"Studying your pussy-cat," said Scipio. "He knows 
what he'll do. The time ain't arrived." This was the 

26 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 
Imnp, one spot of sulkiness in camp will spread its dull 

30 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. 

36 Why he did not take himself off to other climes — "pull 
his freight casual," as Scipio said — I can explain oidy 

^ ' '^ Digitized by ViUUy It: ^ 


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 conmiand 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 6 
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 ofl&cially 
recognized superior, this foreman. Shorty's word about lO 
"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 plimib sick by the 15 
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 20 
game like he done to Trampas, why, yu've had all the 
revenge yu' can want, imless 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 
spite-work on you and quit thinkin' about him just 26 
because joi'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 30 
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 1 36 
invited him to tell me what sort of "j^is^'JJ^^^^^ted, 


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 
6 notions off to him, Scipio rose, and, with the frying-pan 
he had been washing, walked slowly to 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 

10 bleached blue eye biu-ned 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 

16 men to the ranch in as good shape as they'd been handed 
to him, and without losing any on the road through de- 
sertion or shooting or what not. He had to kick his 
cook off the train that day, and the loss made him sorrow- 
ful, I could see. But I'd happened to come along, and 

20 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 b^ter than satisfied it come out that way, and they're 
stajdn' with him; and he'll hand them all back in good 

25 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. 

30 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 ! 

35 D' yu' think it'll scare off the enemy?" Scipio looked 
across a little creek to where the Virginian was helping 

Digitized by VjOO^ ItT 


throw the gathered cattle on the bed-ground. "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 6 
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 Ufe." 

He had made me feel my inexperience, convinced me lo 
of innocence, undoubtedly ; and during the final days of 
our joimiey I no longer invoked his aid to my reflections 
upon this especial topic. What would the Virginian do to 
TVampas? Would it be another intellectual crushing of 
him, like the frog story, or would there be something 16 
this time more material — say muscle, or possibly gun- 
powder — in it? And was Scipio, after all, infaUible? 
1 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 1 20 
let him alone as to all this, discussing with him most 
other things good and evil in the world, and being con- 
vinced 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 26 
yet a native sense of decency and duty somewhere hard 
and fast enshrined. 

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. 30 

Experiments in conversation I did make — and failed. 
One day particularly while, after a sudden storm of hail 
had chilled the earth niunb 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 35 
equality on which I knew him to hold opinions as strong 

Digitized by VjUUy It: 


as mine. "Oh," he would reply, and "Cert'nly"; and 
when I asked hun 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 
6 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 swallow- 
ing every day. 

"Yes," said he, wiping the damp from his Winchester 
10 rifle. 

Our American climate, I said, had worked remarkable 
changes, at least. 

"Yes," he said; and did not ask what they were. 

So I had to tell him. "It has made successful poli- 
ISticians of the Irish. That's one. And it has given our 
whole race the habit of poker." 

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 
20 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 

26 shot its head off. 

Digitized by 


"would you be a parson?" 

After this I gave up my experiments in conversation. 
So that by the final afternoon of om* 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 5 
man," my thoughts rose to a considerable pitch of specu- 

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 10 
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 15 
nine days stood between it and our last real intercoiu-se. 

"Take?" I was still vaguely moving in my distance. 

His next question brought me home. 

"I expect the Pope's is the biggest of them parson 20 

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?" 25 

"His Holiness would say so if his Grace didmotii'iyit: 

174 THE rntGunjLJf 

The Vir^mian turned half m his saddle to see my face 

— I was, at the moment, riding not quite abreast of him 

— and I saw the ^eam <rf his teeth beneath his mustache. 
It was seldcon 1 could make him anile, even to this slight 

5 extent. But his eyes grew, with his next words, remote 
again in their speculation. 

"His Holiness and his Grace. Xow if I was to hear 
'em namin' me that-a-way every mawnin', I'd sea'cely 
get down to business." 

10 "Oh, you'd get used to the iwide of it." 

"Tlsn't the pride. Tlie lau^ is what would min me. 
TwouM take 'most all my attrition keeping a strai^t 
face. TTie Archbishop" — here he took one of his wide 
mental turns — "is apt to be a big man in them Shake- 

15 speare plays. Kings take talk from him the^^d not stand 
from anybody else ; and he talks fioe, frequently. About 
the bees, for instance, when Henry is going to fi^t France. 
He tells him a beehive is similar to a kingdom. Ileamed 
that piece." The Virginian could not have expected to 

20bluah 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 Keffdlwofiih even 
now in his cherishing pocket? So he now, to cover his 
blush, very deliberately recited to me the Archbi^op's 

25 discourse upon bees and their kingdom : — 

"'Where some, like magistrates, correct at home. . . . 
Others, like soldiers, armM in their stings. 
Make loot upon the smnmer's velvet buds ; 
Which pillage they with merry march bring home 
30 To the tent-royal of their emperor : 
He, busied in his majestyj 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 

35 before yu', and is poetry without |)^i||'^^^9^{^.i,.His 


Holiness and his Grace. Well, they could not hire me for 
either o' those positions. How many religions are there ? '' 

"AU over the earth?" 

"Yu' can begin with ourselves. Right hyeh at home 
I know there's Romanists, and Episcopals — '' 6 

"Two kinds!'' I put in. ■ "At least two of Episcopals." 

" That's three. Then Methodists and Baptists, and — " 

"Three Methodists!" 

"Well, yu' do the countin'." 

I accordingly did it, feeling my revolving memory slip lo 
cogs all the way round. "Anyhow, there are safely 

"Fifteen." He held this fact a moment. "And they 
don't worship a whole heap o' different gods like the 
ancieftts did?" 15 

"Oh, no!" 

"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 20 
of the wide, beautiful landscape. "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 25 
and Hvelier 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 un- 
religious. And I know that too." 

"So do I know it, my friend." 30 

"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 35 
preaching that has ever caught me and^n^je ^^g^^ned 


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 
6 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." 

10 He had looked away again to the hills behind Simk 
Creek ranch, to which our walking horses had now almost 
brought us. 

"As for parsons" — the gesture of his arm was a dis- 
claiming one — "I reckon some parsons have a ri^t to 

16 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 1 did not laugh this 

20 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 re- 
vealed, faded away abruptly. 

"What do yvi make of the proposition yondeh?" As 

26 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 

30 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. 

35 "I reckoned yu' hadn't noticed him," was the Vir- 
ginian's reply ta my ejaculation. "^|.e|.^y^,j^ 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. 5 
His hands were behind his back, and there was an air of 
waiting, of displeased waiting, in his movement. 

"Yes, he'll be a missionary," said the Virginian, con- 
clusively; and he took to singing, or rather to whining, 
with his head tilted at an absUrd angle upward at the 10 
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. 15 

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 20 
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 college? 

Neither has I. 25 

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 30 
are home." 

"It looks that way." Some ten yards were between 
ourselves and Trampas, where he foU^^^i^ij^ vjuuyit: 


''And I'll trouble yu' for my rope yii' 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 
5 flowed from his words. 

If it was discussion he tried for, he failed. The Vir- 
ginian'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 
10 which he had detached from his saddle. 

"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 
15 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. 

The Virginian wheeled his horse across the road. 

20"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, 

25 1 guess your having mine proves this one is yours." He 

rode up and received the coil which the Virginian held 

out, urdoosing 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 

30 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 roimd 

35 camp, and in the hustle I — " 

"Pardon me," said a sonorous voice behind ug6yQteou 


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 haves 
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, lo 
the boot half lifted from its dangling stirrup. He made 
himself the perfection of courtesy. "The Judge is fre- 
quently absent all night, seh." 

"Scarcely to-night, I think. I thought you might 
know something about him." 15 

"I have been absent myself, seh." 

"Ah! On a vacation, perhaps?" The divine had a 
ruddy face. 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 20 
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 sure !" 

That smile does not really please even good, tame little 25 
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 30 
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 35 
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 
5 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 face. 

From his fence the divine now spoke, in approbation, 
but with another strong, cheerless smile. "You pick up 

10 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 

15 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, 

20 1 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 

25 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 mis- 
sionary coming on top of Trampas had been more than 

30 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 

35 whole accumulation! 

"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 

But he spurred his own alongside of me ; and glancing 
at him, I saw that he was now convulsed with intemd 5 
mirth. I therefore drew down to a walk, and he straight- 
ened into gravity. 

"I'm right obliged to yu'," he laid his hand in its buck- 
skin gauntlet upon my horse's mane as he spoke, "for 
bringing me back out o' my nonsense. I'll be as serene 10 
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: some- 15 
body," 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 20 
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 worlds." 

As we reached the stables, he had become the serene 
bird he promised, and was sentimentally continuing : — 25 

"*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.' " 30 

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 deaiing 
should begin. I had half a mind to speak to the Judge, 35 

Digitized by VjUUy It: 


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 
5 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 

10 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 
15 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, 

20 and his foreman, and his imminent problem. 

Digitized by 




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 5 
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 al-10 
most 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 15 
the gentleman with his wife from New York, and to these 
I made my final bows. But I had not broken up the 

** We may be said to have met already." Dr. MacBride 
had fixed upon me his full, mastering eye ; and it occurred 20 
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 25 
saying to Judge Henry that I could wish such skilful 
horsemen might ride to a church uggn^^h^^^l;A>^h. A 


church, that is, of right doctrine, where they would have 
opportunity to hear frequent sermons." 

"Yes," said Judge Henry, "yes. It would be a good 
5 Mrs. Henry, with some murmur about the kitchen, 
here went into the house. 

"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 

10 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 

15 newest part of a new world." 

"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 

20 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 

25 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 fore- 
man's house had been prepared for two of us, and did we 
mind? The two of us were Dr. MacBride and myself; 

30 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 

35 it in the face of his mission. How the foreman and his 
wife relished being turned out during a week for a mis- 

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sionary and myself was nolr 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. 5 

Mrs. Henry gave us a meal so good that I have remem- 
bered it, and her husband the Judge strove his best that 
we should eat it in merriment. He poured out his anec- 
dotes like wine, and we should have quickly warmed to 
them ; but Dr. MacBride sat among us, giving occasional 10 
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 ! *' is 
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 fore- 
most," was her comment; "I suppose they have best 
feet, like the rest of us." Then she grew delightfully 20 
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 
time." 25 

"He will find a hardened pagan here." 

"Judge Henry?" 

" Oh, no ! The wild man you're taming. He's brought 
you Kenilworth safe back." 

She was smooth. "Oh, as for taming him ! But don't 30 
you find him intelligent ? " 

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. 35 

A great laugh from the rest of theig^iB^p^ilX)^de 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. 

5 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 gayety. 

"I'll never be able to stand seven sermons," said Miss 
Wood to me. 

10 "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 implored. 

15 "Seriously, sir, I think we grazed pretty wet tragedy; 
but your extraordinary man brought us out into comedy 
safe and dry." 

This gave me theii* attention ; and, from that afternoon 
in Dakota when I had first stepped aboard the caboose, 

20 1 told them the whole tale of my experience : how I grew 
immediately aware that all was not right, by the Vir- 
ginian's kicking the cook off the train ; how, as we jour- 
neyed, the dark bubble of mutiny swelled hourly beneath 
my eyes ; and how, when it was threatening I know not 

25 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; 

30 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 mission- 
ary which I saw riveted upon me indeed until the end; 

35 and they forthwith made plain their quite dissimilar 
opinions. , ,., ..,,,^ 

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Judge Henry struck the table lightly with his fist. 
** I knew it I '' 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 sayings 
"pardon me/' which rendered forgiveness well-nigh 

The Judge waited for him. 

"Am I to understand that these — a — cow-boys at- 
tempted to mutiny, and were discouraged in this attempt lo 
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— " 15 

"And what am I to call it, if it is not lying ? A competi- 
tion in deceit in which, I admit, he outdid them." 

"It's their way to—" 

"Pardon me. Their way to lie? They bow down to 
the greatest in this?" 20 

"Oh," said Miss Wood in my ear, "give him up." 

The Judge took a turn. "We-ell, Doctor—" He 
seemed to stick here. 

Mr. Ogden handsomely assisted him. "YouVe said 
the word yourself. Doctor. It's the competition, don't 25 
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 Cornwallis." v 30 

"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 ;i5 
tallest himself. And when they found they b^jpwpUowed 


it whole — well, it would certainly take the starch out of 
me," he concluded. "I couldn't be a serious mutineer 
after that." 
Dr. MacBride now sounded his strongest bass. "Par- 
5 don 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, m the end 
we have the spectacle of a struggle between men where 
lying decides the survival of the fittest. Better, far 

10 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 
(Jther than fear. Mrs. Henry at once introduced the 

15 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 as- 
sured him that the streams upon the west slope of the 

20 Bow Leg Mountains would afford him plenty of it. Thus 
we ended our meal in carefully preserved amity. 

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"Do you often have these visitations?" Ogden inquired 
of Judge Henry. Dr. MacBride, while we smoked apart 
from the ladies, had repaired to his quarters in the fore- 
man's house previous to the service which he was shortly 
to hold. 5 

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 

"You don't mean they'll —" 10 

"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'Udo— " 

"I doubt if he knows a word of science," said I, musing 15 
about the Doctor. 

"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, 20 
they are ready to acknowledge you — if you deserve it 
— as their superior. That's the whole bottom of Chris- 
tianity, 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 25 
when the Judge opened, the Virginian was standing there 
in the darkness. 

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''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." 
5 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 
10 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 

15 politely; "Shall I repawt to-morro'?" His grave eyes 

were on the Judge again. Of me he had taken no notice ; 

he had come as an employee to see his employer. 

"Yes, yes ; I'll want to hear about the cattle to-morrow. 

But step inside a moment now. There's a matter — " 

20 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 
25 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 
30 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. 
35 Contentment increased in the Judge's face. "Trampas 
a good boy too?" 

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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. 
**YouVe brought them all back, though, I understand, 
safe and sound, without a scratch?" 5 

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 lo 
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." 15 

The Judge had remained serious ; but he showed him- 
self 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 20 
you understand?" 

"Thank yu'." The Virginian understood that his 
employer was praising his management of the expedi- 
tion. But I don't think he at all discerned — as I did 
presently — that his employer had just been putting 25 
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 to rise. 

"I haven't finished," said the Judge. "I was coming 30 
to the matter. There's one particular — since I do happen 
to have been told. I fancy Trampas has learned some- 
thing he didn't expect." 

This time the Virginian evidently did not understand, 
any more than I did. One hand played with his hat, me- 35 
chanically turning it round. 

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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 under- 
stood now, and was unable to suppress this much answer. 
5 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." 

10 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 

15 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, 

20 this final fact, that Trampas had no longer any interven- 
ing shield. He and the Virginian stood indeed man to 

"And so," the Judge continued speaking to me, "here 
I am at a very inconvenient time without a foreman. 

25 Unless," I caught the twinkle in his eyes before he turned 
to the Virginian, "unless you're willing to take the posi- 
tion yourself . Wniyou?" 

I saw the Southeiaier's hand grip his hat as he was 
turning it round. He held it still now, and his other hand 

30 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 — per- 
haps — one step nearer to the woman he wanted. I don't 
know what words he might have said to the Judge had 

35 they been alone, but the Judge had chosen- to do it in our 
presence, the whole thing from beginning to end. The 

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Virginian sat with the damp coming out on his forehead, 
and his eyes dropped from his employer's. 

"Thani: yuV' 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. 5 
"That's excellent. I was in something 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 jo- 
cosely added to the Virginian, who was now also stand- 
ing up. "Begin right off. Leave the bunk house. The lo 
gentlemen won't mind your sleeping in your own house." 

Thus he dismissed his new foreman J 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 is 
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 20 
his brother cow-pimchers, and this was their answer. 

"I wonder if Trampas is shouting too?" inquired 

"Hm!" said the Judge. "That is one of the partic- 
ulars I wash my hands of." 25 

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. 30 

"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." 

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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 up- 
side down/' he said importantly. *'But it seems the 
5 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 inquired. 

This was the hour appointed, and it was only twenty 

10 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 
15 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 after-dinner cigars." 
20 "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. MacBride." 

"We'll share him with you now," I exclaimed. 
25 "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, 

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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 6 
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, anjrway," one declared. lo 

"I'm a Mormon, I guess," said another. 

"I belong to the Knights of Pythias," said a third. 
'*rm 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 15 
was out of the joking. He lay on his bed reading a news- 
paper, 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." 20 

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 25 
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 added. 

"Knows, does he? What's he say?" Scipio drew 30 
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 35 

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"How did he happen to hear about it?" snapped Seipio. 
"You told him!'' he immediately guessed, "/fe never 
would." And Seipio jerked his thumb at the Virginian, 
who appeared for a moment in the lighted window of 
5 the new quarters he was arranging. "He never would 
tell," Seipio 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 
10 surprise me any day he tried." 

"You're surprising me now," I said. "What's it all 

"Oh, him and Trampas." 

"What? Nothing surely happened yet?'* I was as 
15 curious as Seipio had been. 

"No, not yet. But there will." 

"Great Heavens, man! when?" 

"Just as soon as Trampas makes the first move," 
Seipio replied easily. 
20 I became dignified. Seipio had evidently been told 
things by the Virginian. 

"Yes, I up and asked him plumb out," Seipio 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 
25 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 Seipio stopped; I was not to 

"I had no idea," I said, "that your system held so much 
30 meanness." 

" Oh, it ain't meanness ! " And he laughed ecstatically. 

"What do you call it, then?" 

"He'd call it discretion," said Seipio. Then he be- 
came serious. "It's too blamed grand to tell yu'. I'll 
35 leave yu' to see it happen. Keep around, that's all. 
Keep around. I pretty near wish I cfidn't know it myself." 

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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 aroimd." You will there- 5 
fore 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 10 
began once more to think of the preacher and his congrega- 
tion. Our chairs were in the front line, of course ; but, 
being next the wall, I could easily see the cow-boys be- 
hind me. They were perfectly decorous. If Mrs. 
Ogden had looked for pistols, dare-devil attitudes, and 15 
so forth, she must have been greatly disappointed. Ex- 
cept for their weather-beaten cheeks and eyes, they were 
simply American young men with mustaches and with- 
out, and might have been sitting, say, in Danbury, Con- 
necticut. Even Trampas merged quietly with the gen- 20 
eral 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 25 
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, 30 
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 of hope. 

I had heard it all often before ; but preached to cow- 35 
boys it took on a new glare of untimeliness, of grotesque 


obsoleteness — as if some one should say, "Let me per- 
suade 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 
5 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 danma- 

lotion, 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 

15 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 gar- 
den. He did not tell them the splendor of its past, the 

20 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 

25 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 man- 
kind, they were invisible dots in creation ; like him, they 
were to feel as nothing, to be swept up in the potent heat 

30 of his faith. So he thrust out to them none of the sweet 

but all the bitter of his creed, naked and stem as iron. 

Dogma was his all in all, and poor humanity was nothing 

but flesh for its canons. 

Thus to kill what chance he had for being of use seemed 

35 to me more deplorable than it did evidently to them. 
Their attention merely wandered. Three hundred years 

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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 dis- 
tresses to which infants are liable, and from death pass- 5 
ing 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 

I said their attention wandered, but I forgot the Vir- 10 
ginian. At first his attitude might have been mere 
propdety. One can look respectfiJly at a preacher and 
be internally breaking all the commandments. But 
even with the text I saw real attention light in the Vir- 
ginian's eye. And keeping track of the concentration 15 
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. 20 

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 un- 
easiness of the Indians northward where he was going. 26 
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 30 
leading citizen in the Territory he kept open house for 
' all comers. -Policy and good nature made him bid wel- 
come 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 35 
at Sunk Creek Ranch. . , .. «,,,- 

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"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." 
5 "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 
10 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 

15 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 

20 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 

25 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!" 

30 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. 

35 "Huh! It would spoil him. You keep around, that's 

all. Keep around." 

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Scipio was not to be probed ; and I went, still baffled, 
to my repose. 

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 6 
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 10 
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 16 
wearing much, and in the dimness he seemed taller than 
common. I next made out that he was bending over Dr. 
MacBride. The divine at last sprang upright. 

"I am armed," he said. ''Take care. Who are 
you?" 20 

"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 bafiiing I had been treated to by Scipio melted to 25 
nothing in this. Did living men petnfy, I should have 
changed to mineral between the sheets. The Doctor 
got out of bed, lighted his lamp, and foimd a book ; and 
the two retired into the Virginian's room, where I could 
hear the exhortations as I lay amazed. In time the 30 
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?" 35 

"What? What's that? What is it,^,ld by Google 


"Excuse me, seh. The enemy is wimiing 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 hoiu*. 
6 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 my- 
10 self; 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 him. 
"Three," said he. 
15 I could not sleep any more now, and I lay watching 
the darkness. 

"I'm af eared 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' 
20 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 
26 in my belly." 

"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 comers of the furniture 
30 grow visible; and outside, the dry chorus of the black- 
birds 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. 
35 But although the cold hue that I lay staring at through 
the window warmed and changed, the ^Doctqr^f^tmued 


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 6 
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. 10 
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 : 15 
the Virginian with his lean race-horse shanks running 
to a point at his ankle, and the Doctor with his stomach 
and his fat sedentary calves. 

"You'll be going to breakfast and the ladies, seh, 
pretty soon," said the Virginian, with a chastened voice. 20 
"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 soimds as of a hen who has laid an 
egg. It broke on the Doctor with a total instantaneous 25 
smash, quite like an egg. 

He tried to speak calmly. "This is a disgrace. An in- 
famous 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 30 
being dignified in his red drawers, I was making the noise 
of a dozen hens. It was suddenly too much for the Vir- 
ginian. He hastened into his room, and there sank on 
the floor with his head in his hands. The Doctor immedi- 
ately slanmied the door upon him, and this rendered me 35 
easily fit for a lunatic asylum. I cried into my pillow. 

Digitized by VjUUy It: 


and wondered if the Doctor would come and kill me. But 
he took no notice of me whatever. I could hear the Vir- 
ginian's convulsions through the door, and also the Doc- 
tor furiously making his toilet within three feet of my head ; 
sand 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 he, weak and sore, and with a mind that had 

10 ceased all 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 


Then my mind worked again. "You've gone and 

15 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 

20 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 

25 vindictively stated, "I cert'nly ain't going' 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 
stiU oveh yondeh." He paused. "I don't care," he 

30 stated, quite as if he had been ten years old. Then he 
grinned guiltily. "I was mighty respectful to him all 

"Oh, yes, respectful! Especially when you invited 
him to turn his wolf loose." 

36 The Virginian gave a joyous gulp. He now came and 
sat down on the edge of my bed. "I spoke awful good 

Digitized by VjUUy IC 


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 under- 
stand some of it myself !" 

He was now growing frankly pleased with his exploit. 6 
He had builded so much better than he knew. He got 
up and looked out across the crystal world of light, '"nie 
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, lo 
"I never set up for bemg 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 16 
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 20 
are moments of insight when a guess amoimts to knowledge. 

"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 26 
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 — " 30 

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 suUenness of yesterday. 36 

We returned his greeting. Digitized by vjuuy it: 


"I believe I'm late in congratulating you on your 
promotion," said he. 

The Virginian consulted his watch. "It's only half 
afteh six/' he returned. 
6 Trampas's suUenness 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 Uked to let himself go. "I've 
10 not come here for any forgiveness," he sneered. 

"When did yu' feel yu' needed any?" The Virginian 
was impregnable. 

Trampas seemed to feel how little he was gaining this 
way. He came out straight now. "Oh, I haven't any 
15 Judge behind me, I know. I heard you'd be paying the 
boys this morning, and I've come for my time." 

"You're thinking of leaving us?" asked the new fore- 
man. ' * What's your dissatisfaction ? " 

"Oh, I'm not needing anybody back of me. I'll get 
20 along by myself." It was thus he revealed his expecta- 
tion 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 
25 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 Sclpio had preferred me to see with 

my own eyes. The fight was between man and man no 

30 longer. The case could not be one of forgiveness; but 

the Virginian would not use his official p)osition to crush 

his subordinate. 

Trampas departed with something muttered that I 
did not hear, and the Virginian closed intimate cpnversa- 
35tion by saying, "You'll be late for breakfast." With 
that he also took himself away. Digitized by vjuuy it: 


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. 5 

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 10 
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 con- 16 
fidence 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 lit- 
tle animal trotting in front of us at the edge of the 20 

"Oh, where is it? Don't let me see it!" screamed 
Molly. And at this deeply feminine remark, the Vir- 
ginian looked at her with such a smile that, had I been 
a woman, it would have made me his to do what he pleased 25 
with on the spot. 

Upon the lady, however, it seemed to make less im- 
pression. 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 30 
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 say. 35 

• "Yes; I have." She spoke in acceg^^^^Jlj^JiJ^^^ell 


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 : — 
5 "Don't 501' 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. 

Digitized by 



Mia it ^*?^ 




"what is a rustler?" 

We all know what birds of a feather do. 
be safely surmised that if a bird of any part 
has been for a long while unable to see othe 
kind, it will flock with them all the mon 
when they happen to alight in its vicinity. 

Now the Ogdens were birds of Molly's fe 
wore Eastern, and not Western, plumage, a 
was a different song from that which the Bea 
sang. To be sure, the piping of little Georg 
full of hopeful interest; and many other 
striking and melodious, were lifted in Catt 
had given pleasure to Molly's ear. But 
dians, and bears, and mavericks make w* 
for song, these are not the only songs in the w 
fore the Eastern warblings of the Ogdens soi 
sweet to Molly Wood. Such words as ^ 
Harbor, and Tiffany's thrilled her exceeding 
no difference that she herself had never beei 
or Bar Harbor, and had visited Tiffany's i 
admire than to purchase. On the contrary 
added a dazzle to the music of the Ogdens. 
whose Eastern song had been silent in this 
began to chirp it again during the visit that 
the Sunk Creek Ranch. 

Thus the Virginian's cause by no means 
this time. His forces were scattered, -^ 
were concentrated. The girl was not at tha 
p 209 


absence makes the heart grow fonder. While the Vir- 
ginian was trundling his long, responsible miles in the 
caboose, delivering the cattle at Chicago, vanquishing 
Trampas along the Yellowstone, she had regained herself. 

5 Thus it was that she could tell him so easily during 
those first hours that they were alone after his return, 
"I expect to like another man better than you.*' 

Absence had recruited her. And then the Ogdens 
had reenforced her. They brought the East back power- 

10 fully to her memory, and her thoughts fiUed with it. They 
did not dream that they were assisting in any battle. 
No one ever had more imconscious allies than did Molly 
at that time. But she used them consciously, or almost 
consciously. She frequented them ; she spoke oi Eastern 

15 matters ; she foimd that she had acquaintances whom the 
Qgdens also knew, and she often brought them into the 
conversation. For it may be said, I think, that she was 
fighting a battle — nay, a campaign. And perhaps this 
was a hopeful sign for the Virginian (had he but known 

20 it), that the girl resorted to allies. She surrounded her- 
self, she steeped herself, with the East, to have, as it were, 
a sort of counteractant against the speU of the black-haired 
And his forces were, as I have said, scattered. For 

26 his promotion gave him no more time for love-making. 
He was foreman now. He had said to Judge Henry, 
"I'll try to please yu'." And after the throb of emotion 
which these words had both concealed and conveyed, 
there came to him that sort of intention to win which 

30 amounts to a certainty. Yes, he would please Judge 

He did not know how much he had already pleased 
him. He did not know that the Judge was humorously 
undecided which of his new foreman's first acts had the 

35 more delighted him : his performance with the missionary, 
or his magnanimity to Trampas. Dig„,ed by ^uuy it: 


"Good feelbg is a great thing in any one/' the Judge 
would say; "but I like to know that my foreman has so 
much sense." 

"I am personally very grateful to him," said Mrs. 
Henry. 6 

And indeed so was the whole company. To be afflicted 
with Dr. MacBride for one night instead of six was a great 

But the Virginian never saw his sweetheart alone 
again ; while she was at the Sunk Creek Ranch, his duties lo 
called him away so much that there was no chance for 
him. Worse still, that habit of birds of a feather brought 
about a separation more considerable. She arranged 
to go East with the Ogdens. It was so good an opportu- 
nity to travel with friends, instead of making the journey 15 
alone I 

Molly^s term of ministration at the schoolhouse had 
so pleased Bear Creek that she was warmly urged to take 
a holiday. School could afford to begin a little late. 
Accordingly, she departed. - 20 

The Virginian hid his sore heart from her during the 
moment of farewell that they had. 

"No, I'll not want any more books," he said, "till 
yu' come back." And then he made cheerfulness. "It's 
just the other way round !" said- he. 26 

"What is the other way roimd?" 

"Why, last time it was me that went travelling, and 
you that stayed behind." 

"So* it was!" And here she gave him a last scratch. 
"But you'll be busier than ever," she said; "no spare 30 
time to grieve about me ! " 

She could wound him, and she knew it. Nobody else 
could. That is why she did it. 

But he gave her something to remember, too. 

"Next time," he said, "neither of us will stay behind. 36 
We'll both go together." oigtized by ^uuy it: 


And with these words he gave her no laughing glance. 

It was a look that mingled with the words ; so that now 

and again in the train, both came back to her, and she sat 

pensive, drawing near to Bennington and -hearing his 

6 voice and seeing his eyes. 

How is it that this girl could cry at having to tell Sam 
Bannett she could not think of him, and then treat 
another lover as she treated the Virginian? I cannot 
tell you, having never (as I said before) been a woman 

10 myself. 

Bennington opened its arms to its venturesome daughter. 
Much was made of Molly Wood. Old faces and old 
places welcomed her. Fatted calves of varying dimen- 
sions made their appearance. And although the fatted 

15 calf is an animal that can assume more divergent shapes 
than any other known creature, — being sometimes 
champagne and partridges, and again cake and currant 
wiae, — through each disguise you can always identify 
the same calf. The girl from Bear Creek met it at every 

20 turn. 

The Bannetts at Hoosic Falls offered a large specimen 
to Molly — a dinner (perhaps I should say a banquet) 
of twenty-four. And Sam Bannett of course took her 
to drive more than once. 

25 "I want to see the Hoosic Bridge," she would say. 
And when they reached that well-remembered point, 
"How lovely it is!" she exclaimed. And as she gazed 
at the view up and down the valley, she would grow pen- 
sive. "How natural the church looks," she continued. 

30 And then, having crossed both bridges, "Oh, there's the 
dear old lodge gate!" Or again, while they drove up 
the valley of the little Hoosic. "I had forgotten it was 
so nice and lonely. But after all, no woods are so inter- 
esting as those where you might possibly see a bear or an 

35eUc." And upon another occasion, after a cry of enthu- 
siasm at the view from the top of Mount Anthony, "It's 


lovely, lovely, lovely,^' she said, with diminishing cadence, 
ending in pensiveness once more. "Do you see that 
little bit just there ? No, not where the trees are — that 
bare spot that looks brown and warm in the sim. With a 
little sage-brush, that spot would look something like a 5 
place I know on Bear Creek. Only of course you don't 
get the clear air here." 

"I don't forget you," said Sam. "Do you remember 
me ? Or is it out of sight out of mind ? " 

And with this beginning he renewed his suit. She 10 
told him that she forgot no one; that she should return 
always, lest they might forget her. 

"Return always!" he exclaimed. "You talk as if 
your anchor was dragging." 

Was it? At all events, Sam failed in his suit. 15 

Over in the house at Dunbarton, the old lady held 
Molly's hand and looked a long while at her. "You 
have changed' very much," she said finally. 

"I am a year older," said the girl. 

"Pshaw, my dear!" said the great-aunt. "Who is 20 

"Nobody!" cried Molly, with indignation. 

"Then you shouldn't answer so loud," said the great- 

The girl suddenly hid her face. "I don't believe 1 25 
can love any one," she said, "except myself." 

And then the old lady, who in her day had made her 
courtesy to Lafayette, began to stroke her niece's buried 
head, because she more than half uuderstood. And un- 
derstanding thus much, she asked no prying questions, 30 
but thought of the days of her own youth, and only spoke 
a little quiet love and confidence to Molly. 

"I am an old, old woman," she said. "But I haven't 
forgotten about it. They objected to him because he had 
no fortune. But he was brave and handsome, and 1 35 
loved him, my dear. Only I ought ofezefef-^JG^^ ^^™ 


more. I gave him my promise to think about it. And he 
and his ship were lost." The great-aunt's voice had be- 
come very soft and low, and she spoke with many pauses. 
^'So then I knew. If I had — if — perhaps I should have 
6 lost him ; but it would have been after — ah, well ! So 
long as you can help it, never marry! But when you 
cannot help it a moment longer, then listen to nothing 
but that; for, my dear, I know your choice would be 
worthy of the Starks. And now — let me see his 

10 picture." 

"Why, aunty I" said MoUy. 

"Well, I won't pretend to be supernatural," said 
the aunt, "but I thought you kept one back when you 
were showing us those Western views last night." 

15 Now this was the precise truth. Molly had brought 
a number of photographs from Wyoming to show to her 
friends at home. These, however, with one exception, 
were not portraits. They were views of scenery and of 
cattle round-ups, and other scenes characteiistic of ranch 

20 life. Of young men she had in her possession several 
photographs, and all but one of these she had left behind 
her. Her aunt's penetration had in a way mesmerized 
the girl; she rose obediently and sought that picture of 
the Virginian. It was full length, displaying him in all 

26 his cow-boy trappings, — the leathern chaps, the belt 
and pistol, and in his hand a coil of rope. 

Not one of her family had seen it, or suspected its exist- 
ence. She now brought it downstairs and placed it in 
her aunt's hand. 

30 "Mercy !" cried the old lady. 

Molly was silent, but her eye grew warlike. 
"Is that the way — " began the aunt. "Mercy!" she 
murmured ; and she sat staring at the picture. 
Molly remained silent. 

35 Her aunt looked slowly up at her. "Has a man like 
that presumed — " ..„«,..- 

Digitized by VjUU^ It: 


"He's not a bit like that. Yes, he's exactly like that," 
said MoUy. And she would have snatched the photo- 
graph away, but her aunt retained it. 

"Well," she said, "I suppose there are days when he 
does not kill people." 6 

"He never killed anybody!" And Molly laughed. 

"Are you seriously — " said the old lady. 

" I almost might — at times. He is perfectly splendid." 

"My dear, you have fallen in love with his clothes." 

"It's not his clothes. And I'm not in love. He often 10 
wears others. He wears a white collar like anybody." 

"Then that would be a more suitable way to be photo- 
graphed, I think. He couldn't go round like that here. 
I could not receive him myself." 

"He'd never think of such a thing. Why, you talk as 16 
if he were a savage." 

The old lady studied the picture closely for a minute. 
"I think it is a good face," she finally remarked. "Is 
the fellow as handsome as that, my dear?" 

More so, Molly thought. And who was he, and what 20 
were his prospects? were the aunt's next inquiries. 
She shook her head at the answers which she received; 
and she also shook her head over her niece's emphatic 
denial that her heart was lost to this man. But when 
their parting came, the old lady said : — 25 

"God bless you and keep you, my dear. I'll not try 
to manage you. They managed me — " A sigh spoke 
the rest of this sentence. "But I'm not worried about 
you — at least, not very much. You have never done 
anything that was not worthy of the Starks. And if 30 
you're going to take him, do it before I die so that I can 
bid him welcome for your sake. God bless you^ my dear." 

And after the girl had gone back to Bennington, the 
great-aunt had this thought. "She is like us all. She 
wants a man that is a man." Nor did the old lady breathe 35 
her knowledge to any member of tl^g^fg^^y^^^jEpr she 


was a loyal spirit, and her girl's confidence was sacred 
to her. 

"Besides," she reflected, "if even / can do nothing 
with her, what a mess they^d make of it! We should 
5 hear of her elopement next." 

So Molly's immediate family never saw that photo- 
graph, and never heard a word from her upon this sub- 
ject. But on the day that she left for Bear Creek, as 
they sat missing her and discussing her visit in the even- 

loing, Mrs. Bell observed: "Mother, how did you think 
she was?" — "I never saw her better, Sarah. That 
horrible place seems to agree with her." — "Oh, yes, 
agree. It seemed to me— " — "Well?" — "Oh, just 
somehow that she was thinking." — "Thinking?" — 

15 "Well, I believe she has something on her mind." — 
"You mean a man," said Andrew Bell. — "A man, 
Andrew?" — "Yes, Mrs. Wood, that's what Sarah always 

It may be mentioned that Sarah's surmises did not 

20 greatly contribute to her mother's happiness. And 
rumor is so strange a thing that presently from the mali- 
cious outside air came a vague and dreadful word — one 
of those words that cannot be traced to its source. Some- 
body said to Andrew Bell that they heard Miss MoUy 

25 Wood was engaged to marry a riistler. 

" Heavens, Andrew ! " said his wife ; "what is a rustler ? " 

It was not in any dictionary, and current translations 

of it were inconsistent. A man at Hoosic Falls said that 

he had passed through Cheyenne, and heard the term 

30 applied in a complimentary way to people who were alive 
and pushing. Another man had always supposed it 
meant some kind of horse. But the most alarming ver- 
sion of all was that a rustler was a cattle thief. 

Now the truth is that all these meanings were right. 

36 The word ran a sort of progress in the cattle country, 
gathering many meanings as it went. It gathered more, 

•^ Digitized by VjUUy It: 


however, in Bennington. In a very few days, gossip 
had it that Molly was engaged to a gambler, a gold miner, 
an escaped stage robber, and a Mexican bandit; while 
Mrs. Mynt feared she had married a Mormon. 

Along Bear Creek, however, Molly and her "rustler" 5 
took a ride soon after her return. They were neither 
married nor engaged, and she was teUing him about 

"I never was there," said he. "Never happened to 
strike in that direction." 10 

"What decided your direction?" 

"Oh, looking for chances. I reckon I must have been 
more ambitious than my brothers — or more restless. 
They stayed around on farms. But I got out. When 
I went back again six years afterward, I was twenty. 15 
They was talking about the same old things. Men of 
twenty-five and thirty — yet just sittin' and talkin' about 
the same old things. I told my mother about what l^d 
seen here and there, and she Uked it; right to her death. 
But the others — well, when I found this whole world 20 
was hawgs and turkeys to them, with a Uttle gimnin' 
afteh small game throwed in, I put on my hat one mawnin' 
and told 'em maybe when I was fifty I'd look in on 'em 
again to see if they'd got any new subjects. But they'll 
never. My brothers don't seem to want chances." 25 

"You have lost a good many yom*self," said Molly. 

"That's correct." 

"And yet," said she, "sometimes I think you know a 
great deal more than I ever shall." 

"Why, of course I do," said he, quite simply. "1 30 
have earned my Uving since I was fourteen. And that's 
from old Mexico to British Columbia. I have never 
stolen or begged a cent. I'd not want yu' to know what 
I know." 

She was looking at him, half listening and half thinking 35 
of her great-aunt. ^ .,,»,.,. 

Digitized by VjUUy It: 


**I am not losing chances any more," he continued. 
"And you are the best Fve got." 

She was not sorry to have Georgie" Taylor come gal- 
loping along at this moment and join them. But the Vir- 
Sginian swore profanely under his breath. And on this 
ride nothing more happened. 

Digitized by 




Love had been snowbound for many weeks. Before 
this imprisonment its course had run neither smooth nor 
rough, so far as eye could see; it had run either not at 
all, or, as an under-current, deep out of sight. In their 
rides, in their talks, love had been dumb, as to spoken 6 
words at least ; for the Virginian had set himself a heavy 
task of silence and of patience. Then, where winter 
barred his visits to Beai: Creek, and there was for the while 
no ranch work or responsibility to fill his thoughts and 
blood with action, he set himself a task much lighter. 10 
Often, instead of Shakespeare and fiction, school books 
lay open on his cabin table ; and penmanship and spelling 
helped the hours to pass. Many sheets of paper did he 
fill with various exercises, and Mrs. Henry gave him her 
assistance in advice and corrections. 15 

"I shall presently be in love with him myself," she 
told the Judge. "And it*s time for you to become anx- 

"I am perfectly safe," he retorted. "There's only 
one woman for him any more." 20 

"She is not good enough for him," declared Mrs. 
Henry. "But he'll never see that." 

So the snow fell, the world froze, and the spelling- 
books and exercises went on. But this was not the only 
case of education which was progressing at the Sunk 25 
Creek Ranch while love was snowboiyj4.,dby^uuyit: 

219 ^ 


One morning Scipio le Moyne entered the Virginian's 
sitting room — that apartment where Dr. MacBride 
had wrestled with sin so courageously all night. 

The Virgmian sat at his desk. Open books lay around 

5 him ; a half -finished piece of writing was beneath his fist ; 

his fingers were coated with ink. Education enveloped him, 

it may be said. But there was none in his eye. That 

was upon the window, looking far across the cold plain. 

The foreman did not move when Scipio came in, and 
ro this humorous spirit smiled to himself. "It's Bear Creek 
he's havin' a vision of," he concluded. But he knew 
instantly that this was not so. The Virginian was look- 
ing at something real, and Scipio went to the window to 
see for himself. 
15 "Well," he said, having seen, "when is he going to 
leave us?" 

The foreman continued looking at two horsemen riding 
together. Their shapes, small in the distance, showed 
black against the universal whiteness. 
20 " When d' yu' figure he'll leave us? " repeated Scipio. 

"He," murmured the Virginian, always watching the 
distant horsemen; and again, "he." 

Scipio sprawled down, familiarly, across a chair. He 
and the Virginian had come to know each other very well 
25 since that first meeting at Medora. They were birds 
many of whose feathers were the same, and the Virginian 
often talked to Scipio without reserve. Consequently, 
Scipio now understood those two syllables that the Vir- 
ginian had pronounced precisely as though the sentences 
30 which lay between them had been fully expressed. 

"Hm," he remarked. "Well, one will be a gain, and 
the other won't be no loss." 

" Poor Shorty ! " said the Virginian. " Poor fool ! " 

Scipio was less compassionate. "No," he persisted, 
35"! ain't sorry for him. Any man old enough to have 
hair on his face ought to see through Trampas." 

Digitized by VjUUy It: 


The Virginian looked out of the window again, 
watched Shorty and Trampas as they rode in the dist^ 
"Shorty is kind to animals/* he said. "He has gei 
that hawss Pedro he bought with his first money. Gei 
him wonderful. When a man is kind to dumb anii 
I always say he had got some good in him." 

"Yes," Scipio reluctantly admitted. "Yes. B 
always did hate a fool." 

"This hyeh is a mighty cruel country," pursued 
Virginian. "To animals that is. Think of it! 1 
what we do to hundreds an' thousands of little ca 
Throw 'em down, brand 'em, cut 'em, ear mark 
turn 'em loose, and on to the next. It has got to b 
course. But I say this. If a man can go jammin' 
irons on to little calves and slicin' pieces off 'em wit 
knife, and live along, keepin' a kindness for animals i 
heart, he has got some good in him. And that's 
Shorty has got. But he is let tin' Trampas get a ho 
him, and both of them will leave us." And the Virg 
looked out across the huge winter whiteness again, 
the riders had now vanished behind some foothills. 

Scipio sat silent. He had never put these thoi 
about men and animals to himself, and when they 
put to him, he saw that they were true. 

"Queer," he observed finally. 



"Nothing's queer," stated the Virginian, "e: 
marriage and lightning. Them two occurrences can 
give me a sensation of surprise." 

"All the same it is queer," Scipio insisted. 

"Well, let her go at me." 

"Why, Trampas. He done you dirt. You pass 
over. You could have fired him, but you let him 
and keep his job. That's goodness. And badne 
resultin' from it, straight. Badness right from goodn 

Digitized by VjUUy It: 


"You're off the trail a whole lot,'* said the Virginian. 
"Which side am I off, then?'' 

" North, south, east, and west. First point : I didn't ex- 
pect to do Trampas any good by not killin' him, which 
6 1 came pretty near doin' tluree times. Nor I didn't expect 
to do Trampas any good by lettin' him keep his job. But 
I am foreman of this ranch. And I can sit and tell all 
men to their face: 'I was above that meanness.' Point 
two : it ain't any goodness, it is Trampas that badness 

10 has resulted from. Put him anywhere and it will be the 
same. Put him under my eye, and I can follow his moves 
a Httle, anyway. You have noticed, maybe, that since 
you and I run on to that dead Polled Angus cow, that was 
still warm when we got to her, we have found no more 

16 cows dead of sudden death. We came mighty close to 
catchin' whoever it was that killed that cow and ran her 
calf off to his own bunch. He wasn't ten minutes ahead 
of us. We can prove nothin'; and he knows that just 
as well as we do. But our cows have all quit dyin' of sud- 

20 den death. And Trampas he's gettin' ready for a change 
of residence. As soon as all the outfits begin hirin' new 
hands in the spring, Trampas will leave us and take a job 
with some of them. And maybe our cows'U commence 
gettin' kiUed again, and we'll have to take steps that will 

25 be more emphatic — maybe." 

Scipio meditated. "I wonder what killin' a man feels 
like?" he said. 

"Why, nothing to bother yu' — when he'd ought to 
have been killed. Next point: Trampas he'll take 

30 Shorty with him, which is certainly bad for Shorty. But 
it's me that has kept Shorty out of harm's way this long. 
If I had fired Trampas, he'd have worked Shorty into dis- 
satisfaction that much sooner." 

Scipio meditated again. "I knowed Trampas would 

35 pull his freight," he said. "But I didn't think of Shorty. 
What makes you think it?" 

Digitized by VjUUy It: 


"He asked me for a raise." 

"He ain't worth the pay he's getting now." 

"Trampas has told him different." 

"When a man ain't got no ideas of his own," said Scipio, 
"he'd ought to be kind o' careful who he borrows 'ems 

"That's mighty correct," said the Virginian. "Poor 
Shorty! He has told me about his life. It is sorrowful. 
And he will never get wise. It was too late for him to get 
wise when he was born. D' yu' know why he's after lO 
higher wages? He sends most all his money East." 

"I don't see what Trampas wants him for," said Scipio. 

"Oh, a handy tool some day." 

"Not very handy," said Scipio. 

"Well, Trampas is aimin' to train him. Yu' see, sup-i5 
posin' yu' were figuring to turn professional thief — yu'd 
be lookin' around for a nice young trustful accomplice 
to take all the punishment and let you take the rest." 

"No such thing!" cried Scipio, an^y. "I'm no 
shirker." And then, perceiving the Virginian's expression, 20 
he broke out laughing. "Well," he exclaimed, "yu' 
fooled me that time." 

"Looks that way. But I do mean it about Trampas." 

Presently Scipio rose, and noticed the half-finished 
exercise upon the Virginian's desk. " Trampas is a rolling 25 
stone," he said. 

"A rolling piece of mud," corrected the Virginian. 

"Mud! That's right. I'm a rolUng stone. Some- 
times I'd most like to quit being." 

"That's easy done," said the Virginian. 30 

"No doubt, when yu've found the moss yu' want to 
gather." As Scipio glanced at the school books again, 
a sparkle lurked in his bleached blue eye. "I can cipher 
some," he said. "But I expect I've got my own notions 
about spelling." 35 

" I retain a few private ideas that way mys^^^'^en^rked 


the Virginian, innocently; and Scipio's sparkle gathered 

"As to my geography," he pursued, "that's away out 
loose in the brush. Is Bennington the capital of Ver- 
5 mont ? And how d' yu' spell bridegroom ? " 

"Last point !" shouted the Virginian, letting a book fly 
after him: "don't let badness and goodness worry yu*, 
for yu'll never be a judge of them." 
But Scipio had dodged the book, and was gone. As 

10 he went his way, he said to himself, "All the same, it 

must pay to fall regular in love." At the bunk house 

that afternoon it was observed that he was unusually 


His exit from the foreman's cabin had let in a breath 

15 of winter so chill that the Virginian went to see his ther- 
mometer, a Christmas present from Mrs. Henry. It 
registered twenty below zero. After reviving the fire 
to a white blaze, the foreman sat thinking over the story 
of Shorty : what its useless, feeble past had been ; what 

20 would be its useless, feeble future. He shook his head 
over the sombre question. Was there any way out for 
Shorty? "It may be," he reflected, "that them whose 
pleasure brings yu' into this world owes yu' a living. But 
that don't make the world responsible. The world did 

25 not beget you. I reckon man helps them that help them- 
selves. As for the universe, it looks like it did too whole- 
sale a business to turn out an article up to standard every 
cUp. Yes, it is sorrowful. For Shorty is kind to his 

30 In the evening the Virginian brought Shorty into his 
room. He usually knew what he had to say; usually 
found it easy to arrange his thoughts; and after such 
arranging the words came of themselves. But as he 
looked at Shorty, this did not happen to him. There 

35 was not a line of badness in the face ; yet also there was 
not a line of strength ; no promise in eye, or no^, or chm ; 


the whole thing melted to a stubby, featureless medi- 
ocrity. It was a countenance like thousands ; and hope- 
lessness filled the Virginian as he looked at this lost dog, 
and his dull, wistful eyes. 

But some beginning must be made. 5 

"I wonder what the thermometer has got to be/' 
he said. "Yu' can see it, if yu'll hold the lamp to that 
right side of the window." 

Shorty held the lamp. "I iiever used any," he said, 
looking out at the instrument, nevertheless. 10 

The Virginian had forgotten that Shorty could not 
read. So he looked out of the window himself, and found 
that it was twenty-two below zero. "This is pretty good 
tobacco," he remarked; and Shorty helped himself, and 
filled his pipe. 16 

"I had to rub my left ear with snow to-day," said he. 
" I was just in time." 

"I thought it looked pretty freezy out where yu' was 
riding," said the foreman. 

The lost dog's eyes showed plain astonishment. "We 20 
didn't see you out there," said he. 

"Well," said the foreman, "it'll soon not be freezing 
any more ; and then we'll all be warm enough with work. 
Everybody wiU be working all over the range. And I 
wish I knew somebody that had a lot of stable work to 26 
be attended to. I cert'nly do for your sake." 

"Why?" said Shorty. 

"Because it's the right kind of a job for you." 

"I can make more — " began Shorty, and stopped. 

"There is a time coming," said the Virginian, "when 30 
I'll want somebody that knows how to get the friendship 
of hawsses. I'll want him to handle some special hawsses 
the Judge has plans about. Judge Henry would pay 
fifty a month for that." 

"I can make more," said Shorty, this tim^ with stub- 36 

bomneSS. Digitized by C^OOgic 


"Well, yes. Sometimes a man can — when he's not 
worth it, I mean. But it don't generally last." 

Shorty was silent. 

"I used to make more myself," said the Virginian. 
6 "You're making a lot more now," said Shorty. 

"Oh, yes. But I mean when I was fooling around the 

earth, jumping from job to job, and helling all over town 

between whiles. I was not worth fifty a month then, 

nor twenty-five. But there was nights I made a heap 

10 more at cyards." 

Shorty's eyes grew large. 

"And then, bang ! it was gone with treatin' the men and 
the girls." 

"I don't always — " said Shorty, and stopped again. 
15 The Virginian knew that he was thinking about the 
money he sent East. "After a while," he continued, "I 
noticed a right strange fact. The money I made easy 
that I wasn't worth, it went like it came. I strained mvself 
none gettin' or spendin' it. But the money I made hard 
20 that I was worth, why I began to feel right careful about 
that. And now I have got savings stowed away. If 
once yu' could know how good that feels — " 

"So I would kno\y." said Shorty, "with your luck." 

"What's my luckf" said the Virginian, sternly. 
26 "Well, if I had took up land along a creek that never 
goes dry and proved upon it like you have, and if I had 
saw that land raise its value on me with me lifting no 
finger — " 

"Why did you lift no finger?" cut in the Virginian. 

30 "Who stopped yu' taking up land? Did it not stretch 

in front of yu', behind yu', all around yu', the biggest, 

baldest opportimity in sight? That was the time I 

lifted my finger; but yu' didn't." 

Shorty stood stubborn. 
36 "But never mind that," said the Virginian. "Take 
my land away to-morrow, and I'd still have my savings 


in bank. Because, you see, I had to work right hard 
gathering them in. I found out what I could do, and I 
settled down and did it. Now you can do that too. The 
only tough part is the finding out what you're good for. 
And for you, that is found. If you'll just decide to work 5 
at this thing you can do, and gentle those hawsses for 
the Judge, you'll be having savings in a bank yourself." 

"I can make more," said the lost dog. 

The Virginian was on the point of saying, "Then get 
out ! " But instead, he spoke kindness to the end. "The lO 
weather is freezing yet," he said, "and it will be for a 
good long while. Take your time, and teU me if yu' 
change your mind." 

After that Shorty returned to the bunk house, and the 
Virginian knew that the boy had learned his lesson ofis 
discontent from Trampas with a thoroughness past all 
unteaching. This petty triumph of evil seemed scarce 
of the size to count as any victory over the Virginian. 
But all men grasp at straws. Since that first moment, 
when in the Medicine Bow saloon the Virginian had shut 20 
the mouth of Trampas by a word, the man had been try- 
ing to get even without risk ; and at each successive clash 
of his weapon with the Virginian's, he had merely met 
another public humiliation. Therefore, now at the Sunk 
Creek Ranch in these cold white days, a certain lurking 25 
insolence in his gait showed plainly his opinion that by 
disaffecting Shorty he had made some sort of reprisal. 

Yes, he had poisoned the lost dog. In the springtime, 
when the neighboring ranches needed additional hands, 
it happened as the Virginian had foreseen, — Trampas 30 
departed to a "better job," as he took pains to say, and 
with him the docile Shorty rode away upon his horse 

Love now was not any longer snowbound. The moun- 
tain trails were open enough for the^sure^ ^^^^^ove's35 


steed — that horse called Monte. But duty blocked the 
path of love. Instead of turning his face to Bear Creek, 
the foreman had other journeys to make, full of heavy 
work, and watchfulness, and councils with the Judge. 
5 The cattle thieves were growing bold, and winter had 
scattered the cattle widely over the range. Therefore 
the Virginian, instead of going to see her, wrote a letter 
to his sweetheart. It was his first. 

Digitized by 




The letter which the Vu*ginian wrote to Molly Wood 
was, as has been stated, the first that he had ever addressed 
to her. I think, perhaps, he may have been a little shy 
as to his skill in the epistolary art, a little anxious lest any 
sustained production from his pen might contain blunders 5 
that would too staringly remind her of his scant learning. 
He could turn off a business communication about steers 
or stock cars, or any other of the subjects involved in his 
profession, with a brevity and a clearness that led the 
Judge to confide three-quarters of such correspondence lo 
to his foreman. '• Write to the 76 outfit,*' the Judge would 
say, "and tell them that my wagon cannot start for the 
round-up until," etc. ; or "Write to Cheyenne and say that 
if they wiU hold a meeting next Monday week, I will," 
etc. And then the Virginian would write such communica- 15 
tions with ease. 

But his first message to his lady was scarcely written 
with ease. It must be classed, I think, among those 
productions which are styled literary efforts. It was 
completed in pencil before it was copied in ink ; and that 20 
first draft of it in pencil was well-nigh illegible with 
erasures and amendments. The state of mind of the 
writer during its composition may be gathered without 
further description on my part from a slight interruption 
which occiUTcd in the middle. 25 

The door opened, and Scipio put his head in. f"You 
commg to dinner?" he inquired. oigtizedby^OOgie 



"You go to hell," replied the Virginian. 
"My jinks !" said Scipio, quietly, and he shut the door 
without further observation. 
To tell the truth, I doubt if this letter would ever have 

6 been undertaken, far less completed and despatched, had 
not the lover's heart been wrung with disappointment. 
All winter long he had looked to that day when he should 
knock at the girPs door, and hear her voice bid hina come 
in. All winter long he had been choosing the ride he 

10 would take her. He had imagined a sunny afternoon, a 
hidden grove, a sheltering cleft of rock, a running spring, 
and some words of his that should conquer her at last and 
leave his lips upon hers. And with this controlled fire 
pent up within him, he had counted the dajrs, scratching 

15 them off his calendar with a dig each night that once or 
twice snapped the pen. Then, when the trail stood open, 
this meeting was deferred, put off for indefinite days, or 
weeks; he could not tell how long. So, gripping his 
pencil and tracing heavy words, he gave himself what 

20 consolation he coiJd by writing her. 

The letter, duly stamped and addressed to Bear Creek, 
set forth upon its travels; and these were devious and 
long. When it reached its destination, it was some twenty 
days old. It had gone by private hand at the outset, 

25 taken the stage-coach at a way point, become late in that 
stage-ooach, reached a point of transfer, and waited there 
for the postmaster to begin, continue, end, and recover 
from a game of poker, mingled with whiskey. Then it 
once more proceeded, was dropped at the right wig point, 

30 and carried by private hand to Bear Creek. The ex- 
perience of this letter, however, was not at all a remarkable 
one at that time in Wyoming. 

Molly Wood looked at the envelope. She had never 
before seen the Virginian's handwriting. She knew it 

35 instantly. She closed her door and sat down to read it 
with a beating heart. Digitized by vjuuy it: 

TffE VtmiNIAK 231 

Sunk Creek Ranch, 
May 6, 188- 

My i>ear Miss Wood : I am sorry about this. My 
plan was different. It was to get over for a ride with you 
about now or sooner. This year Spring is early. The 5 
snow is off the flats this side the range and where the sun 
gets a chance to hit the earth strong all day it is green 
and has flowers too, a good many. You can see them bob 
and mix together in the wind. The quaking-asps down 
low on the ^outh side are in small leaf and will soon be lO 
twinkling like the flowers do now. I had planned to take 
a look at this with you and that was a better plan than 
what I have got to do. The water is high but I could have 
got over and as for the snow on top of the moimtain a man 
told me nobody could cross it for a week yet. because he 15 
had just done it himself. Was not he a ninny man? 
You ought to see how the birds have streamed across the 
sky while Spring was coming. But you have seen them 
on your side of the mountain. But I can't come now 
Miss Wood. There is a lot for me to do that has to be 20 
done and Judge Henry needs more than two eyes just 
now. I could not thiii: much of myself if I left him for 
my own wishes. 

But the days will be warmer when I come. We will 
not have to quit by five, and we can get off and sit too. 25 
We could not sit now unless for a very short while. If I 
know when I can come I will try to let you know, but I 
think it will be this way. I think you will just see me 
coming for I have things to do of an unsure nature and a 
good number of such. Do not believe reports about 30 
Indians. They are started by editors to keep the soldiers 
in the country. The friends of the editors get the hay and 
beef contracts. Indians do not come to settled parts like 
Bear Creek is. It is all editors and politicianists. 

Notlung has happened worth telling you. I have read 35 
that play Othello. No man should ^^Hf ^(Qigvjfgch a 


thing. Do you know if it is true? I have seen one worse 
affair down in Arizona. He killed his little child as well 
as his wife but such things should not be put down in fine 
language for the public. I have read Romeo and Juliet. 
5 That is beautiful language but Romeo is no man. I like 
his friend Mercutio that gets killed. He is a man. If he 
had got Juliet there would have been no foolishness and 
Well Miss Wood I would like to see you to-day. Do 

10 you know what I think Monte would do if I rode him out 
and let the rein slack? He would come straight to your 
gate for he is a horse of great judgement. ("That's the 
first word he has misspelled/' said Molly.) I suppose you 
are sitting with George Taylor and those children right 

15 now. Then George will get old enough to help his father 
but Uncle Hewie's twins will be ready for you about then 
and the supply will keep coming from all quarters fdl sizes 
for you to say big A little a to them. There is no news 
here. Only calves and cows and the hens are laying now 

20 which does always seem news to a hen every time she does 
it. Did I ever tell you about a hen Emily we had here? 
She was venturesome to an extent I have not seen in other 
hens only she had poor judgement and would make no 
family ties. She would keep trying to get interest in the 

25 ties of others taking charge of little chicks and bantams 
and turkeys and puppies one time, and she thought most 
anjrthing was an egg. I will tell you about her sometime. 
She died without family ties one day while I was building 
a house for her to teach school in. ("The outragieous 

30 wretch!'' cried Molly. And her cheeks turned deep 
pink as she sat alone with her lover's letter.) 

I am coming the first day I am free. I will be a hundred 

miles from you most of the time when I am not more but 

I will ride a hundred miles for one hour and Monte is up 

35 to that. After never seeing you for so Ipn^ I^^^m^e 


one hour do if I have to. Here is a flower I have just been 
out and picked. I have kissed it now. That is the best 
I can do yet. 

Molly laid the letter in her lap and looked at the flower. 
Then suddenly she jumped up and pressed it to her lips, 5 
and after a long moment held it away from her. 

"No," she said. "No, no, no." She sat down. 

It was some time before she finished the letter. Then 
once more she got up and put on her hat. 

Mrs. Taylor wondered where the girl could be walking lo 
so fast. But she was not walking anywhere, and in half 
an hour ^e returned, rosy with her swift exercise, but 
with a spu-it as perturlDed as when she had set out. 

Next morning at six, when she looked out of her window, 
there was Monte tied, to the Taylors' gate. Ah, could he 15 
have come the day before, could she have found him when 
she returned from that swift walk of hers ! 

Digitized by 




It was not even an hour's visit that the Virginian was 
able to pay his lady love. But neither had he come a 
hundred miles to see her. The necessities of his wandering 
work had chanced to bring him close enough for, a glimpse 
5 of her, and this glimpse he took, almost on the wing. For 
he had to rejoin a company of men at once. 

"Yu' got my letter?'' he said. 


"Yesterday! I wrote it three weeks ago. Well, yu' 
10 got it. This cannot be the hour with you that I men- 
tioned. That is coming, and maybe very soon." 

She could say nothing. Relief she felt, and yet with 
it something like a pang. 

"To-day does not count," he told her, "except that 
15 every time I see you counts with me. But this is not the 
hour that I mentioned." 

What little else was said between them upon this early 
morning shall be told duly. For this visit in its own good 
time did count momentously, though both of them took 
20 it lightly while its fleeting minutes passed. He returned 
to her two volumes that she had lent him long ago, and 
with Taylor he left a horse which he had brought for her 
to ride. As a good-by, he put a bunch of flowers in her 
hand. Then he was gone, and she watched him going by 
25 the thick bushes along the stream. They were pink with 
wild roses ; and the meadow-larks, invisible in the grass, 
like hiding choristers, sent up across the empty miles of 

234 Digitized by VjUUy It: 


air their unexpected song. Earth and sky had been 
propitious, could he have stayed; and perhaps one por- 
tion of her heart had been propitious too. So, as he rode 
away on Monte, she watched him, half chilled by reason, 
half melted by passion, self-thwarted, self-accusing, un- 
resolved. Therefore the days that came for her now were 5 
all of them unhappy ones, while for him they were filled 
with work well done and with changeless longing. 

One day it seemed as if a lull was coming, a pause in 
which he could at last attain that hour with her. He left 10 
the camp and tm-ned his face toward Bear Creek. The 
way led him along Butte Creek. Across the stream lay 
Balaam's large ranch; and presently on the other bank 
he saw Balaam himself, and reined in Monte for a moment 
to watch what Balaam was doing. 15 

"That's what IVe heard," he muttered to himself. 
For Balaam had led some horses to the water, and was 
lashing them heavily because they would not drink. He 
looked at this spectacle so intently that he did not see 
Shorty approachmg along the trail. 20 

"Morning,'' said Shorty to him, with some constraint. 

But the Virginian gave him a pleasant greeting. 

"I was afraid I'd not catch you so quick/' said Shorty. 
"This is for you." He handed his recent foreman a letter 
of much battered appearance. It was from the Judge. It 25 
had not come straight, but very gradually, in the pockets of 
three successive cow-punchers. As the Virginian glanced 
over it and saw that the enclosure it contained was for 
Balaam, his heart fell. Here were new orders for him, 
and he could not go to see his sweetheart. 30 

"Hello, Shorty!" said Balaam, from over the creek. 
To the Virginian he gave a slight nod. He did not know 
him, although he knew well enough who he was. 

"Hyeh's a letter from Judge Henry for yu'," said the 
Virginian, and he crossed the creek. 35 

Digitized by VjOO^ ItT 


Many weeks before, in the early spring, Balaam had 
borrowed two horses from the Judge, promising to return 
them at once. But the Judge, of course, wrote very 
civilly. He hoped that "this dunning reminder" might 
5 be excused. As Balaam read the reminder, he wished that 
he had sent the horses before. The Judge was a greater 
man than he in the Territory. Balaam could not but 
excuse the "dunning reminder," — but he was ready to 
be disagreeable to somebody at once. 

10 " WeU," he said, musing aloud in his annoyance, "Judge 
Henry wants them by the 30th. Well, this is the 24th, 
and time enough yet." 

"This is the 27th," said the Virginian, briefly. 

That made a difference! Not so easy to reach Sunk 

15 Creek in good order by the 30th! Balaam had drifted 
three sunrises behind the progress of the month. Days 
look alike, and often lose their very names in the quiet 
depths of Cattle Land. The horses were not even here at 
the ranch. Balaam was ready to be very disagreeable 

20 now. Suddenly he perceived the date of the Judge's 
letter. He held it out to the Virginian, and struck the 

"What's your idea in bringing this here two weeks late ? " 
he said. 

25 Now, when he had struck that paper, Shorty looked at 
the Virginian. But nothing happened beyond a certain 
change of light in the Southerner's eyes. And when the 
Southerner spoke, it was with his usual gentleness and 
civihty. He explained that the letter had been put in 

30 his hands just now by Shorty. 

"Oh," said Balaam. He looked at Shorty. How had 
he come to be a messenger? "You working for the Sunk 
Creek outfit again?" said he. 
"No," said Shorty. 

35 Balaam turned to the Virginian again. "How do you 
expect me to get those horses to Sunk Creek by the 30tn? " 

Digitized by VjOOy ItT 


The Virginian levelled a lazy eye on Balaam. "I ain' 
doin' any expecting," said he. His native dialect was on 
top to-day. "The Judge has friends goin' to arrive from 
New Yawk for a trip across the Basin," he added. '*The 
hawsses are for them." 5 

Balaam grunted with displeasure, and thought of the 
sixty or seventy days since he had told the Judge he would 
return the horses at once. He looked across at Shorty 
seated in the shade, and through his uneasy thoughts his 
instinct irrelevantly noted what a good pony the youth 10 
rode. It was the same animal he had seen once or twice 
before. But something must be done. The Judge's 
horses were far out on the big range, and must be found 
and driven in, which would take certainly the rest of this 
day, possibly part of the next. 15 

Balaam called to one of his men and gave some sharp 
orders, emphasizing details, and enjoining haste, while 
the Virginian leaned sUghtly against his horse, with one 
arm over the saddle, hearing and understanding, but not 
smiling outwardly. The man departed to saddle up for 20 
his search on the big range, and Balaam resumed the un- 
hitching of his team. 

" So you're not working for the Sunk Creek outfit now ? " 
he inquired of Shorty. He ignored the Virginian. "Work- 
ing for the Goose Egg?" 25 

"No," said Shorty. 

"Sand Hill outfit, then?" 

"No," said Shorty. 

Balaam grinned. He noticed how Shorty's yellow hair 
stuck through a hole in his hat, and how old and battered 30 
were Shorty's overalls. Shorty had been glad to take a 
Uttle accidental pay for becoming the bearer of the letter 
which he had delivered to the Virginian. But even that 
sum was no longer in his possession. He had passed 
through Drybone on his way, and at Drybone there had 35 
been a game of poker. Shorty's money was now in the 


pocket of Trampas. But he had one valuable possession 
in the world left to him, and that was his horse Pedro. 

**Good pony of yours," said Balaam to him now, from 
across Butte Creek. Then he struck his own horse in 
5 the jaw because he held back from coming to the water as 
the other had done. 

"Your trace ain*t unhitched/' commented the Vir- 
ginian, pointing. 

Balaam loosed the strap he had forgotten, and cut the 
10 horse again for consistency's sake. The animal, be- 
wildered, now came down to the water, with its head in 
the air, and snuflSng as it took short, nervous steps. 

The Virginian looked on at this, silent and sombre. 
He could scarcely interfere between another man and his 
15 own beast. Neither he nor Balaam was among those who 
say their prayers. Yet in this omission they were not 
equal. A half-great poet once had a wholly great day, 
and in that great day he was able to write a poem that has 
lived and become, with many, a household word. He 
20 called it The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. And it is rich 
with many lines that possess the memory ; but these are 
the golden ones : — 

"He prayeth well who loveth well 
Both man and bird and beast. 

26 He prayeth best who loveth best 

All things both great and small ; 
For the dear God who loveth us. 
He made and loveth all." 

These lines are the pure gold. They are good to teach 
30 children; because after the children come to be men, 
they may believe at least some part of them still. The 
Virginian did not know them, — but his heart had taught 
him many things. I doubt ii Balaam knew them either. 
But on him they would have been as pearls to swine. 

Digitized by VjUUy It: 


"So youVe quit the round-up?" he resumed to Shorty. 

Shorty nodded and looked sidewise at the Virginian. 

For the Virginian knew that he had been turned off for 
going to sleep while night-herding. 

Then Balaam threw another glance on Pedro the horse. 5 

"Hello, Shorty!" he called out, for the boy was de- 
parting. "Don't you like dinner any more? It's ready 
about now." 

Shorty forded the creek and slung his saddle off, and on 
invitation turned Pedro, his buckskin pony, into Balaam's 10 
pasture. This was green, the rest of the wide world being 
yellow, except only where Butte Creek, with its bordering 
cotton-woods, coiled away into the desert distance like a 
green snake without end. The Virginian also turned his 
horse into the pasture. He must stay at the ranch till 16 
the Judge's horses should be found. 

"Mrs. Balaam's East yet," said her lord, leading the 
way to his dining room. 

He wanted Shorty to dine with him, and could not 
exclude the Virginian, much as he should have enjoyed 20 

"See any Indians?" he inquired. 

"Na-a !" said Shorty, in disdain of recent rumors. 

"They're headin' the other way," observed the Vir- 
ginian. "Bow Laig Range is where they was repawted." 25 

"What business have they got off the reservation, I'd 
like to know," said the ranchman — "Bow Leg, or any- 

"Oh, it's just a hunt, and a kind of visitin' their friends 
on the South Reservation," Shorty explained. "Squaws 30 
along and all." 

"Well, if the folks at Washington don't keep squaws 
and all where they belong," said Balaam, in a rage, "the 
folks in Wyoming Territory 'ill do a little job that way 
themselves." 36 

"There^s a petition out," said Sho^^.^^ ^ '{Pg^g'ft goin' 


East with a lot of names to it. But they ain't no harm, 
them Indians ain't." 

"No harm?" rasped out Balaam. "Was it white men 
druv off the 0. C. yearlings?" 
5 Balaam's Eastern grammar was sometimes at the mercy 
of his Western feelings. The thought of the perennial 
stultification of Indian affairs at Washington, whether by 
politician or philanthropist, was always sure to arouse 
him. He walked impatiently about while he spoke, and 

10 halted impatiently at the window. Out in the world the 
unclouded day was shining, and Balaam's eye travelled 
across the plains to where a blue line, faint and pale, lay 
along the end of the vast yellow distance. That was the 
beginning of the Bow Leg Mountains. Somewhere over 

15 there were the red men, ranging in unfrequented depths 
of rock and pine — their forbidden ground. 
Dinner was ready, and they sat down. 
"And I suppose," Balaam continued, still hot on the 
subject, "you'd claim Indians object to killing a white 

20 man when they run on to him good and far from human 
help? These peaceable Indians are just the worst in the 

"That's so," assented the easy-opinioned Shorty, 
exactly as if he had always maintained this view. "Chap 

25 started for Sunk Creek three weeks ago. Trapper he was ; 
old like, with a red shirt. One of his horses come into the 
round-up Toosday. Man ain't been heard from." He 
ate in silence for a while, evidently brooding in his child- 
like mind. Then he said, querulously, "I'd sooner trust 

30 one of them Indians than I would Trampas." 

Balaam slanted his fat bullet head far to one side, and 
laying his spoon down (he had opened some canned 
grapes) laughed steadily at his guest with a harsh relish 
of irony. 

35 The guest ate a grape, and perceiving he was seen 
through, smiled back rather miserably. 

Digitized by VjUUy It: 


"Say, Shorty," said Balaam, his head still slanted over, 
"what's the figures of your bank balance just now?" 

"I ain't usin' banks," murmured the youth. 

Balaam put some more grapes on Shorty's plate, and 
drawing a cigar from his waistcoat, sent it rolling to his 5 

"Matches are behind you," he added. He gave a cigar 
to the Virginian as an afterthought, but to his disgust, the 
Southerner put it in his pocket and lighted a pipe. 

Balaam accompanied his guest. Shorty, when he went 10 
to the pasture to saddle up and depart. "Got a rope?" 
he asked the guest, as they lifted down the bars. 

"Don't need to rope him. I can walk right up to 
Pedro. You stay back." 

Hiding his bridle behind him. Shorty walked to the 15 
river-bank, where the pony was switching his long tail 
in the shade ; and speaking persuasively to him, he came 
nearer, till he laid his hand on Pedro's dusky mane, which 
was many shades darker than his hide. He turned ex- 
pectantly, and his master came up to his expectations 20 
with a piece of bread. 

"Eats that, does he?" said Balaam, over the bars. 

"Likes the salt," said Shorty. "Now, n-n-ow, here! 
Yu' don't guess yu'll be bridled, don't you? Open your 
teeth ! Yu'd like to play yu' was nobody's horse and live 25 
private? Or maybe yu'd prefer ownin' a saloon?" 

Pedro evidently enjoyed this talk, and the dodging he 
made about the bit. Once fairly in his mouth, he ac- 
cepted the inevitable, and followed Shorty to the bars. 
Then Shorty turned and extended his hand. 30 

"Shake!" he said to his pony, who lifted his forefoot 
quietly and put it in his master's hand. Then the master 
tickled his nose, and he wrinkled it and flattened his ears, 
pretending to bite. His face wore an expression of know- 
ing rehsh over this performance. "Now the other hoof," 35 
said Shorty ; and the horse and master shook hands with 


their left. "I learned him that," said the cowboy, with 
pride and affection. "Say, Pede," he continu^, in 
Pedro's ear, "ain't yu' the best little horse in the country? 
What? Here, now! Keep out of that, you dead-beat! 
6 There ain't no more bread." He pinched the pony's nose, 
one-quarter of which was wedged into his pocket. 

"Quite a lady's Uttle pet!" said Balaam, with the rasp 
in his voice. " Pity this isn't New York, now, where there's 
a big market for harmless horses. Gee-gees, the children 
10 call them." 

"He ain't no gee-gee," said Shorty, offended. "He'll 
beat any cow-pony workin' you've got. Yu' can turn him 
on a half-dollar. Don't need to touch the reins. Hang 
'em on one finger and swing your body, and he'll turn." 
15 Balaam knew this, and he knew that the pony was only 
a four-year-old. "Well," he said, "Drybone's had no 
circus this season. Maybe they'd buy tickets to see 
Pedro. He's good for that, anyway." 

Shorty became gloomy. The Virginian was grimly 
20 smoking. Here was something else going on not to h& 
taste, but none of his business. 

"Try a circus," persisted Balaam. "Alter your plans 
for spending cash in town, and make a Uttle money in- 
25 Shorty having no plans to alter and no cash to sp^id, 
grew still more gloomy. 

"What'll you take for that pony?" said Balaam. 

Shorty spoke up instantly. * ' A hundred dollars couldn't 
buy that piece of stale mud off his back," he asserted, look- 
30 ing off into the sky grandiosely. 

But Balaam looked at Shorty. "You keep the mud," 
he said, "and I'll give you thirty dollars for the horse." 

Shorty did a little professional laughing, and began to 
walk toward his saddle. 
36 "Give you thirty dollars," repeated Balaam, picking m 
stone up and sUnging it into the river. ^.^^^^^^^ ^y v^uuy it: 


"How far do yu' call it to Drybone ? " Shorty remarked, 
stooping to investigate the bucking-strap on his saddle 
— a superfluous performance, for Pedro never bucked. 

"You won^t have to walk," said Balaam. "Stay all 
night, and I'll send you over comfortably in the morning, 5 
when the wagon goes for the mail." 

"Walk!" Shorty retorted. "Drybone's twenty-five 
miles. Pedro'U put me there in three hours and not know 
he done it." He lifted the saddle on the horse's back. 
"Come, Pedro," said he. 10 

" Come, Pedro ! " mocked Balaam. 

There followed a little silence. 

"No, sir," mumbled Shorty, with his head under Pedro's 
belly, busily cinching. "A hundred dollars is bottom 
figures." 15 

Balaam, in his turn, now duly performed some profes- 
sional laughing, which was noted by Shorty under the 
horse's beUy. He stood up and squared round on Balaam. 
"Well, then," he said, what'U yu' give for him?" 

"Thirty dollars," said Balaam, looking far off into the 20 
sky, as Shorty had looked. 

"Oh, come, now," expostulated Shorty. 

It was he who now did the feeling for an offer, and this 
was what Balaam liked to see. "Why, yes," he said, 
"thirty," and looked surprised that he should have to 26 
mention the sum so often. 

"I thought yu'd quit them first figures," said the cow- 
pimcher, "for yu' can see I ain't goin' to look at 'em." 

Balaam climbed on the fence and sat there. "I'm not 
crying for your Pedro," he observed dispassionately. 30 
"Only it struck me you were dead broke, and wanted to 
raise cash and keep yourself going till you hunted up a 
job and could buy him back." He hooked his right thumb 
inside his waistcoat pocket. "But I'm not cryin' for 
lum," he repeated. "He'd stay right here, of course. 36 
I wouldn't part with him. Why does he stand that way? 


Hello!*' Balaam suddenly straightened himself, like a 
man who has made a discovery. 

"Hello, what?" said Shorty, on the defensive. 

Balaam was staring at Pedro with a judicial frown. 
6 Then he stuck out a finger at the horse, keeping the thumb 
hooked in his pocket. So meagre a gesture was felt by 
the ruffled Shorty to be no just way to point to Pedro. 
"What's the matter with that foreleg there?" said 
10 "Which? Nothin's the matter with it!" snapped 

Balaam cUmbed down from his fence and came over 
with elaborate deliberation. He passed his hand up and 
down the off foreleg. Then he spit slenderly. "Mm!" 
16 he said thoughtfully ; and added, with a shade of sadness, 
"that's always to be expected when they're worked too 

Shorty slid his hand slowly ovfer the disputed leg. 
"What's to be expected?" he inquired — "that they'll 
20 eat hearty? Well, he does." 

At this retort the Virginian permitted himself to laugh 
in audible sympathy. 

"Sprung," continued Balaam, with a sigh. "Whirling 
roirnd short when his bones were soft did that. Yes." 
25 "Sprung!" Shorty said, with a bark of indignation. 
"Come on, Pede ; you and me'll spring for town." 

He caught the horn of the saddle, and as he swung into 
place the horse rushed away with him. "0-ee! yoi-yup, 
yup, yup!" sang Shorty, in the shrill cow dialect. He 
30 made Pedro play an e^diibition game of speed, bringing 
him roimd close to Balaam in a wide circle, and then he 
vanished in dust down the left-bank trail. 

Balaam looked after him and laughed harshly. He 

had seen trout dash about like that when the hook in their 

35 jaw first surprised them. He knew Shorty would show 

the pony off, and he knew Shorty's love for Pfidm^was not 


equal to his need of money. He called to one of his men, 
asked something about the dam at the mouth of the 
cafion, where the main irrigation ditch began, made a 
remark about the prolonged drought, and then walked 
to his dining-room door, where, as he expected. Shorty 6 
met him. 

"Say," said the youth, "do you consider that^s any 
way to talk about a good horse?" 

"Any dude could see the leg's sprung," said Balaam. 
But he looked at Pedro's shoulder, which was well laidio 
back; and he admired his points, dark in contrast with 
the buckskin, and also the width between the eyes. 

"Now you know," whined Shorty, "that it ain't sprung 
any more than yoiu- leg's cork. If you mean the right 
leg ain't plumb straight, I can tell you he was bom so. 16 
That dont make no difference, for it ain't weak. Try 
him onced. Just as sound and strong as iron. Never 
stumbles. And he don't never go to jumpin' with yu'. 
He's kind and he's smart." And the master petted his 
pony, who lifted a hoof for another handshake. 20 

Of course Balaam had never thought the leg was sprung, 
and he now took on an unprejudiced air of wanting to 
believe Shorty's statements if he only could. 

"Maybe there's two years' work left in that leg," he 
now observed. 25 

"Better give your hawss away, Shorty," said the 

"Is this your deal, my friend?" inquired Balaam. 
And he slanted his bullet head at the Virginian. 

"Give him away, Shorty," drawled the Southerner. 30 
"His laig is busted. Mr. Balaam says so." 

Balaam's face grew evil with baffled fury. But the 
Virginian was gravely considering Pedro. He, too, was 
not pleased. But he could not interfere. Already he 
had overstepped the code in these matters. He would 36 
have dearly Uked — for reasons good and bad, spite and 

Digitized by VjUUy It: 


mercy mingled — to have spoiled Balaam's market, to 
have offered a reasonable or even an unreasonable price 
for Pedro, and taken possession of the horse himself. 
But this might not be. In bets, in card games, in all 
6 horse transactions and other matters of similar business, 
a man must take care of himself, and wiser onlookers 
must suppress their wisdom and hold their peace. 

That evening Shorty again had a cigar. He had parted 
with Pedro for forty dollars, a striped Mexican blanket, 

10 and a pair of spurs. Undressing over in the bunk house, 
he said to the Virginian, "111 sure buy Pedro back off 
him just as soon as ever I rustle some cash." The Vir- 
ginian grunted. He was thinking he should have to travel 
hard to get the horses to the Judge by the 30th; and 

15 below that thought lay his aching disappointment and 
his longing for Bear Creek. 

In the early dawn Shorty sat up among his blankets on 
the floor of the bunk house and saw the various sleepers 
coiled or sprawled in their beds ; their breathing had not 

20 yet grown restless at the nearing of day. He stepped to 
the door carefully, and saw the crowding blackbirds begin 
their walk and chatter in the mud of the littered and 
trodden corrals. From beyond among the cotton woods, 
came continually the smooth unemphatic sound of the 

25 doves answering each other invisibly; and against the 
empty ridge of the river-bluff lay the moon, no longer 
shining, for there was established a new light through the 
sky. Pedro stood in the pasture close to the bars. The 
cow-boy slowly closed the door behind him, and sitting 

30 down on the step, drew his money out and idly handled 
it, taking no comfort just then from its possession. Then 
he put it back, and after dragging on his boots, crossed to 
the pasture, and held a last talk with his pony, brushing 
the cakes of mud from his hide where he had rolled, and 

35 passing a lingering hand over his mane. As the soimds 
of the morning came increasingly from tree and plain, 

Digitized by VjUUy It: 


Shorty glanced back to see that no one was yet out of the 
cabin, and then put his arms round the horse's neck, 
laying his head against him. For a moment the cow-boy's 
insignificant face was exalted by the emotion he would 
never have let others see. He hugged tight this animal 6 
who was dearer to his heart than anybody in the world. 

"Good-by, Pedro," he said — "good-by." Pedro 
looked for bread. 

"No," said his master, sorrowfully, "not any more. 
Yu' know well I'd give it yu' if I had it. You and me 10 
didn't figure on this, did we, Pedro? Good-by I" 

He hugged his pony again, and got as far as the bars 
of the pasture, but returned once more. "Good-by, my 
little horse, my dear horse, my little, little Pedro," he 
said, as his tears wet the pony's neck. Then he wiped 16 
them with his hand, and got himself back to the bunk 
house. After breakfast he and his belongings departed 
to Drybone, and Pedro from his field calmly watched this 
departure; for horses must recognize even less than men 
the black comers that their destinies turn. The pony 20 
stopped feeding to look at the mail-wagon pass by; but 
the master sitting in the wagon forebore to turn his head. 

Digitized by 




Resigned to wait for the Judge's horses, Balaam went 
into his ofl&ce this dry, bright morning and read nine 
accumulated newspapers ; for he was behindhand. Then 
he rode out on the ditches, and met his man returning with 
5 the troublesome animals at last. He hastened home and 
sent for the Virginian. He had made a decision. 

**See here," he said; ''those horses are coming. What 
trail would you take over to the Judge's?" 

** Shortest trail's right through the Bow Laig Moun- 
10 tains," said the foreman, in his gentle voice. 

''Guess you're right. It's dinner-time. We'll start 

right afterward. We'll make Little Muddy Crossing 

by sundown, and Sunk Creek to-morrow, and the next 

day'll see us through. Can a wagon get through Sunk 

15 Creek Canon?" 

The Virginian smiled. "I reckon it can't, seh, and 
stay resembling a wagon." 

Balaam told them to saddle Pedro and one packhorse, 
and drive the bunch of horses into a corral, roping the 
20 Judge's two, who proved extremely wild. He had de- 
cided to take this journey himself on remembering certain 
politics soon to be rife in Cheyenne. For Judge Henry was 
mdeed a greater man than Balaam. 

This personally conducted return of the horses would 

25 temper its tardiness, and, moreover, the sight of some 

New York visitors would be a good thing after seven 

months of no warmer touch with that metropolis than the 

248 Digitized by Vjuuy It: 


Sunday HerM, always eight days old when it reached the 
Butte Creek Ranch. 

They forded Butte Creek, and, crossing the well- 
travelled trail which follows down to Drybone, turned 
their faces toward the uninhabited country that began 5 
immediately, as the ocean begins off a sandy shore, ijid 
as a single mast on which no sail is shining stands at the 
horizon and seems to add a loneliness to the surrounding 
sea, so the long gray line of fence, almost a mile away, 
that ended Balaam's land on this side the creek, stretched 10 
along the waste ground and added desolation to the plain. 
No solitary watercourse with margin of cottonwoods or 
willow thickets flowed here to stripe the dingy, yellow 
world with inte;rrupting green, nor were cattle to be seen 
dotting the distance, nor moving objects at all, nor any 16 
bird in the soundless air. The last gate was shut by the 
Virginian, who looked back at the pleasant trees of the 
ranch, and then followed on in single file across the 
alkali of No Man's Land. 

No cloud was in the sky. The desert's grim noon shone 20 
sombrely on flat and hill. The sage-brush was dull like 
zinc. Thick heat rose near at hand from the caked 
alkali, and pale heat shrouded the distant peaks. 

There were five horses. Balaam led on Pedro, his 
squat figure stiff in the saddle, but solid as a rock, and 26 
tilted a little forward, as his habit was. One of the 
Judge's horses came next, a sorrel, dragging back con- 
tinually on the rope by which he was led. After him 
, ambled Balaam's wise pack-animal, carrying the light 
burden of two days' food and lodging. She was an old 30 
mare who could still go when she chose, but had been 
schooled by the years, and kept the trail, giving no 
trouble to the Virginian who came behind her. He also 
sat solid as a rock, yet subtly bending to the struggles of 
the wild horse he led, as a steel spring bends and balances 36 
and resumes its poise. Digitized by ^^uuy it: 


Thus they made but slow time, and when they topped 
the last dull rise of ground and looked down on the long 
^nt of ragged, caked earth to the crossing of Little 
Mudcty, with its single tree and few mean bushes, the final 

6 distance where eyesight ends had deepened to violet from 
the thin, steady blue they had staged at for so many hours, 
and all heat was gone from the universal dryness. The 
horses drank a long time from the sluggish yellow water, 
and its alkaline taste and warmth were equally welcome 

10 to the men. They built a Uttle fire, and when supper was 

ended, smoked but a short while and in silence, before they 

got in the blankets that were spread in a smooth place 

beside the water. 

They had picketed the two horses of the Judge in the 

16 best grass they could find, letting the rest go free to find 
pasture where they could. When the first light came, the 
Virginian attended to breakfast, while Balaam rode away 
on the sorrel to bring in the loose horses. They had gone 
far out of sight, and when he returned with them, after 

20 some two hours, he was on Pedro. Pedro was soaking with 
sweat, and red froth creamed from his mouth. The 
Virginian saw the horses must have been hard to drive in, 
especially after Balaam brought them the wild sorrel as 
a leader. 

26 "If you'd kep' ridin' him, 'stead of changin' off on your 
hawss, they'd have behaved quieter," said the foreman. 
"That's good seasonable advice," said Balaam, sarcas- 
tically. "I could have told you that now." 

"I could have told you when you started," said the 

30 Virginian, heating the coffee for Balaam. 

Balaam was eloquent on the outrageous conduct of 
the horses. He had come up with them evidently striking 
back for Butte Creek, with the old mare in the lead. 
"But I soon showed her the road she was to go," he 

35 said, as he drove them now to the water. 

The Virginian noticed the slight limp^ij^fjj^^jl^^^iiand 


how her pastern was cut as if with a stone or the sharp 
heel of a boot. 

" I guess she'll not be in a hurry to travel except when 
she's wanted to," continued Balaam. He sat down, and 
sullenly poured himself some coffee. "We'll be in luck 5 
if we make any Sunk Creek this night." 

He went on with his breakfast, thinking aloud for the 
benefit of his companion, who made no comments, pre- 
ferring silence to the discomfort of talking with a man 
whose vindictive humor was so thoroughly uppermost. 10 
He did not even listen very attentively, but continued his 
preparations for departure, washing the dishes, rolling 
the blankets, and moving about in his usual way of easy 
and visible good nature. 

"Six o'clock, already," said Balaam, saddling the horse». 16 
"And we'll not get started for ten minutes more." Then 
he came to Pedro. "So you haven't quit fooling yet, 
haven't you?" he exclaimed, for the pony shri8,nk as he 
lifted the bridle. "Take that for your sore mouth!" 
and he rammed the bit in, at which Pedro flung back and 20 

"Well, I never saw Pedro act that way yet," said the 

"Ah, rubbish!" said Balaam. "They're all the same. 
Not a bastard one but's laying for his chance to do for 25 
you. Some'U buck you off, and some'll roll with you, 
and some'll fight you with their fore feet. They may 
play good for a year, but the Western pony's man's enemy, 
and when he judges he's got his chance, he's going to do 
his best. And if you come out alive it won't be his fault." 30 
Balaam paused for a while, packing. "Ypu've got to 
keep them afraid of you," he said next; "that's vha-t 
you've got to do if you don't want trouble. That Pedro 
horse there has been fed, hand-fed, and fooled with like a 
damn pet, and what's that policy done? Why, he goes 36 
ugly when he thinks it's time, and decid§ii b^iC^t drive 


any horses into camp this morning. He knows better 

**Mr. Balaam," said the Virginian, "I'll buy that hawss 
off yu' right now." 
5 Balaam shook his head. "You'll not do that right now 
or any other time," said he. "I happen to want him." 

The Virginian could do no more. He had heard cow- 
punchers say to refractory ponies, "You keep still, or I'll 
Balaam you!" and he now imderstood the aptness of 
10 the expression. 

Meanwhile Balaam began to lead Pedro to the creek for 
a last drink before starting across the torrid drought. 
The horse held back on the rein a little, and Balaam turned 
and cut the whip across his forehead. A delay of forcing 
15 and backing followed, while the Virginian, already in the 
saddle, waited. The minutes passed, and no immediate 
prospect, apparently, of getting nearer Sunk Creek. 

"He ain' goin' to follow you while you're beatin' his 
haid," the Southerner at length remarked. 
20 "Do you think you can teach me anything about 
horses?" retorted Balaam. 

"Well, it don't look like I could," said the Virginian, 

"Then don't try it, so long as it's not your horse, my 
26 friend." 

Again the Southerner levelled his eye on Balaam. "All 
right," he said, in the same gentle voice. "And don't 
you call me your friend. You've made that mistake 
30 The road was shadeless, as it had been from the start, 
and they could not travel fast. During the first few hours 
all coolness was driven out of the glassy morning, and 
another day of illimitable sim invested the world with its 
blaze. The pale Bow Leg Range was coming nearer, but 
36 its hard hot slants and rifts suggested no sort of freslmess, 
and even the pines that spread for wide miles along near 


the summit coimted for nothing in the distance and the 
glare, but seemed mere patches of dull dry discoloration. 
No talk was exchanged between the two travellers, for 
the cow-pimcher had nothing to say and Balaam was 
sulky, so they moved along in silent endurance of each 5 
other's company and the tedium of the journey. 

But the slow succession of rise and fall in the plain 
changed and shortened. The earth's surface became 
lumpy, rising into moimds and knotted systems of steep 
small hills cut apart by staring gashes of sand, where lo 
water poured in the spring from the melting snow. After 
a time they ascended through the foot-hills till the plain 
below was for a while concealed, but came again into view 
in its entirety, distant and a thing of the past, while some 
magpies sailed down to meet them from the new country 15 
they were entering. They passed up through a small 
transparent forest of dead trees standing stark and white, 
and a little higher came on a line of narrow moisture that 
crossed the way and formed a stale pool among some willow 
thickets. They turned aside to water their horses, and 20 
found near the pool a circular spot of ashes and some poles 
lying, and beside these a cage-like edifice of willow wands 
built in the ground. 

"Indian camp," observed the Virginian. 

There were the tracks of five or six horses on the farther 25 
side of the pool, and they did not come into the trail, but 
led off among the rocks on some system of their own. 

"They're about a week old," said Balaam. "It's part 
of that outfit that's been hunting." 

"They've gone on to visit their friends," ad4ed the cow- 30 

"Yes, on the Southern Reservation. How far do you 
call Sunk Creek now?" 

"Well," said the Virginian, calculating, "it's mighty 
nigh fo'ty miles from Muddy Crossin', an' I reckon we've 35 
come eighteen." ^ ,.,..,. ,^ 

° Digitized by VjUUy It: 


"Just about. It's noon." Balaam snapped his watch 
shut. "We'U rest hpre tiU 12.30." 

When it was time to go, the Virginian looked musingly 
at the mountains. "We'll need to travel right smart to 

6 get through the cafion to-night," he said. 

"Tell you what," said Balaam ; "we'll rope the Judge's 
horses together and drive 'em in front of us. That'll 
make speed." 

" Mightn't they get away on us ? " objected the Virginian. 

10 "They're pow'ful wild." 

"They can't get away from me, I guess," said Balaam, 
and the arrangement was adopted. "We're the first 
this season over this piece of the trail," he observed pres- 

15 His companion had noticed the ground already, and 
assented. There were no tracks anjrwhere to be seen over 
which winter had not come and gone since they had been 
made. Presently the trail woimd into a sultry gulch 
that hemmed in the heat and seemed to draw down the 

20 sun's rays more vertically. The sorrel horse chose this 
place to make a try for liberty. He suddenly whirled 
from the trail, dragging with him his less inventive fellow. 
Leaving the Virginian with the old mare, Balaam headed 
them off, for Pedro was quick, and they came jumping 

26 down the bank together, but swiftly crossed up on the 
other side, getting much higher before they could be 
reached. It was no place for this sort of game, as the 
sides of the ravine were ploughed with steep channels, 
broken with jutting knobs of rock, and impeded by short 

30 twisted pines that swimg out from their roots horizontally 
over the pitch of the hill. The Virginian helped, but used 
his horse with more judgment, keeping as much on the 
level as possible, and endeavoring to anticipate the next 
turn of the runaways before they made it, while Balaam 

36 attempted to follow them close, wheeling short when they 
doubled, heavily beating up the face of the slope, veering 

Digitized by VjUUy It: 

TEE vntmmAN 255 

again, to come down to the point he had left, and whenever 
he felt Pedro begin to flag, driving his spurs into the horse 
and forcing him to keep up the pace. He had set out to 
ov^ake and capture on the side of the mountain these 
two animals who had been running wild for many weeks, 5 
and now carried no weight but themselves, and the futility 
of such work could not penetrate his obstinate and rising 
temper. He had made up his mind not to give in. The 
Virginian soon decided to move slowly along for the 
present, preventing the wild horses from passing down the lo 
gulch again, but otherwise saving his own animal from 
useless fatigue. He saw that Pedro was reeking wet, 
with mouth open, and constantly stumbling, though he 
galloped on. The cow-puncher kept the group in sight, 
driving the packhorse in front of him, and watching the 16 
tactics of the sorrel, who had now undoubtedly become the 
leader of the expedition, and was at the top of the gulch, 
in vain trying to find an outlet through its rocky rim to 
the levels above. He soon judged this to be no thorough- 
fare, and changing his plan, trotted down to the bottom 20 
and up the other side, gaining more and more ; for in this 
new descent Pedro had fallen twice. Then the sorrel 
showed the cleverness of a genuinely vicious horse. The 
Virginian saw him stop and fall to kicking his companion 
with all the energy that a short rope would permit. The 25 
rope slipped, and both, unencumoered, reached the top 
and disappeared. Leaving the packhorse for Balaam, the 
Virginian started after them and came into a high table- 
land, beyond which the mountains began in earnest. The 
runaways were moving across toward these at an easy 30 
rate. He followed for a moment, then looking back, and 
seeing no sign of Balaam, waited, for the horses were sure 
not to go fast when they reached good pasture or 

He got out of the saddle and sat on the ground, watching, 36 
till the mare came up slowly into sight, and Balaam behind 

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her. When they were near. Balaam dismounted and 
struck Pedro fearfully, until the stick broke, and he 
raised the splintered half to continue. 
Seeing the pony^s condition, the Virginian spoke, and 
6 said, "I'd let that hawss alone." 

Balaam turned to him, but wholly possessed by passion 
did not seem to hear, and the Southerner noticed how 
white and like that of a maniac his face was. The stick 
slid to the ground. 

10 "He played he was tired," said Balaam, looking at the 
Virginian with glazed eyes. The violence of his rage 
affected him physically, like some stroke of illness. "He 
played out on me on purpose." The man's voice was dry 
ana light. "He's perfectly fresh now," he continued, and 

15 turned again to the coughing, swaying horse, whose eyes 
were closed. Not having the stick, he seized the animal's 
unresisting head and shook it. The Virginian watched 
him a moment, and rose to stop such a spectacle. Then, as 
if conscious he was doing no real hurt, Balaam ceased, 

20 and turning again in slow fashion looked across the level, 
where the rimaways were still visible. 

"I'll have to take your horse," he said, "mine's played 
out on me." 

"You ain' goin' to touch my hawss." 

26 Again the words seemed not entirely to reach Balaam's 
understanding, so dulled by rage were his senses. He made 
no answer, but mounted Pedro; and the failing pony 
walked mechanically forward, while the Virginian, puzzled, 
stood looking after him. Balaam seemed without pur- 

30 pose of going anywhere, and stopped in a moment. 
Suddenly he was at work at something. The sight was 
odd and new to look at. For a few seconds it had no 
meaning to the Virginian as he watched. Then his mind 
grasped the horror, too late. Even with his cry of exe- 

36 cration and the tiger spring that he gave to stop Balaam, 
the monstrosity was wrought. Pedro sank motionless, 

Digitized by VjOOy ItT 


his head roUmg flat on the earth. Balaam was jammed 
beneath him. The man had struggled to his feet before 
the Virginian reached the spot, and the horse then lifted 
his head and turned it piteously round. 

Then vengeance like a blast struck Balaam. The 6 
Virginian hurled him to the ground, lifted and hurled him 
again, lifted him and beat his face and struck his jaw. 
The man's strong ox-like fighting availed nothing. He 
fended his eyes as best he could against these sledge- 
hammer blows of justice. He felt blindly for his pistol, lo 
That arm was caught and wrenched backward, and crushed 
and doubled . He seemed to hear his own bones, and set up 
a hideous screaming of hate and pain. Then the pistol at 
last came out, and together with the hand that grasped it 
was instantly stamped into the dust. Once again the 15 
creature was lifted and slung so that he lay across Pedro's 
saddle a blurred, dingy, wet pulp. 

Vengeance had come and gone. The man and the horse 
were motionless. Around them, silence seemed to gather 
like a witness. 20 

"If you are dead," said the Virginian, "I am glad of 
it." He stood looking down at Balaam and Pedro, prone 
in the middle of the open tableland. Then he saw 
Balaam looking at him. It was the quiet stare of sight 
without thought or feeling, the mere visual sense alone, 26 
almost frightful in its separation from any self. But as 
he watched those eyes, the self came back into them. 
"I have not killed you," said the Virginian. "Well, I 
ain't goin' to go any more to yu* — if that's a satisfaction 
to know." 30 

Then he began to attend to Balaam with impersonal 
skill, like some one hired for the purpose. "He ain*t 
hurt bad," he asserted aloud, as if the man were some 
nameless patient; and then to Balaam he remarked, "I 
reckon it might have put a less tough man than you out 35 
of business for quite a while. I'm goin' to get some water 

g Digitized by VjUUy It: 

258 THE nnoiNiAN 

now." When he returned with the water, Balaam was 
sitting up, looking about him. He had not yet spoken, 
nor did he now speak. The sunlight flashed on the six- 
shooter where it lay, and the Virginian secured it. "She 
5 ain't so pretty as she was," he remarked, as he examined 
the weapon. "But she'll go right handy yet." 

Strength was in a measure returning to Pedro. He was 
a yoimg horse, and the exhaustion neither of anguish nor 
of over-riding was enough to aflfect him Icmg or seriously. 

10 He got himself on his feet and walked waveringly over to 
the old mare, and stood by her for comfort. The cow- 
puncher came up to him, and Pedro, after starting back 
slightly, seemed to comprehend that he was in friendly 
hands. It was plain that he would soon be able to travel 

15dowly if no weight was on him, and that he would be a 
very good horse again. Whether they abandoned the 
runaways or not, there was no staying here for night to 
overtake them without food or water. The day was still 
high, and what its next few hours had in store the Virginian 

20 could not say, and he left them to take care of themselves, 
determining meanwhile that he would take command of 
the minutes and maintain the position he had assumed 
both as to Balaam and Pedro. He took Pedro's saddle 
off, threw the mare's pack to the ground, put Balaam's 

25 saddle on her, and on that stowed or tied her original 
pack, which he could do, since it was so light. Then he 
went to Balaam, who was sitting up. 

"I reckon you can travel," said the Virginian. "And 
your hawss can. If you're comin' with me, you'll ride 

30 your mare. I'm goin to trail them hawsses. If you're 
not comin' with me, your hawss comes with me, and you'll 
take fifty dollars for him." 

Balaam was indifferent to this good bargain. He did 
not look at the other or speak, but rose and searched about 

35 him on the ground. The Virginian was also indifferent 
as to whether Balaam chose to answer or not. Seeing 

Digitized by VjUUy It: 


Balaam searching the ground, he finished what he had to 

"I have your six-shooter, and you'll have it when I'm 
ready for you to. Now, I'm goin'," he concluded. 

Balaam's intellect was clear enough now, and he saw 5 
that though the rest of this journey would be nearly in- 
tolerable, it must go on. He looked at the impassive 
cow*puncher getting ready to go and tying a rope on 
Pedro's neck to lead him, then he looked at the mountains 
where the runaways had vanished, and it did not seem 10 
credible to him that he had come into such straits. He 
was helped stiffly on the mare, and the three horses in 
single file took up their journey once more, and came slowly 
among the mountains. The perpetual desert was endea, 
and they crossed a small brook, where they missed the 15 
trail. The Virginian dismoimted to find where the horses 
had turned off, and discovered that they had gone straight 
up the ridge by the watercourse. 

"There's been a man camped in hyeh inside a month," 
he said, kicking up a rag of red flannel. 20 

"White man and two hawsses. Ours have went up 
his old tracks." 

It was not easy for Balaam to speak yet, and he kept 
his silence. But he remembered that Shorty had spoken 
of a trapper who had started for Sunk Creek. 25 

For three hours they followed the runaways' course 
over softer ground, and steadily ascending, passed one 
or two springs, at length, where the mud was not yet 
settled in the hoof-prints. Then they came through a 
comer of pine forest and down a sudden bank among 30 
quaking-asps to a green park. Here the runaways beside 
a stream were grazing at ease, but saw them coming, and 
started on again, following down the stream. For the 
present all to be done was to keep them in sight. This 
creek received tributaries and widened, making a valley 36 
for itself. Above the bottom, Uning the first terrace of 

Digitized by VjUUy It: 


the ridge, began the pines, and stretched back, unbroken 
over intervening summit and basin, to cease at last where 
the higher peaks presided. 

"This hyeh's the middle fork of Sunk Creek," said the 
5 Virginian. "We'll get on to our right road again where 
they join." 

Soon a game trail marked itself along the stream. K 
this would only continue, the runaways would be nearly 
sure to follow it down into the cafion. Then there would 

10 be no way for them but to go on and come out into their 
own coimtry, where they would make for the Judge's 
ranch of their own accord. The great point was to reach 
the cafion before dark. They passed into permanent 
shadow; for though the other side of the creek shone in 

15 full day, the sun had departed behind the ridges imme- 
diately above them. Coolness filled the air, and the si- 
lence, which in this deep valley of invading shadow seemed 
too silent, was relieved by the birds. Not birds of song, 
but a freakish band of gray talkative observers, who came 

20 calling and croaking along through the pines, and inspected 
the cavalcade, keeping it company for a while, and then 
flying up into the woods again. The travellers came 
round a corner on a little spread of marsh, and from some- 
where in the middle of it rose a buzzard and sailed on its 

25 black pinions into the air above them, wheeling and wheel- 
ing, but did not grow distant. As it swept over the 
trail, something fell from its claw, a rag of red flannel; 
and each man in turn looked at it as his horse went 

30 "I wonder if there's plenty elk and deer hyeh?" said 
the Virginian. 

"I guess there is," Balaam replied, speaking at last. 
The travellers had become strangely reconciled. 

"There's game 'most all over these mountains," the 

35 Virginian continued; "country not been settled long 
enough to scare them out." So they fell into casual 

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conversation, and for the first time were glad of each 
other's company. 

The somid of a new bird came from the pines above — 
the hoot of an owl — and was answered from some other 
part of the wood. This they did not particularly notice 6 
at first, but soon they heard the same note, unexpectedly 
distant, like an echo. The game trail, now quite a defined 
path beside the river, showed no sign of changing its course 
or fading out into blank ground, as these imcertain 
guides do so often. It led consistently in the desired 10 
direction, and the two men were relieved to see it continue. 
Not only were the nmaways easier to keep track of, but 
better speed was made along this valley. The pervading 
imminence of Might more and more dispelled the lin^ring 
afternoon, though there was yet no twilight in the open, 16 
and the high peaks opposite shone yellow in the invisible 
sun. But now the owls hooted again. Their music had 
something in it that caused both the Virginian and Balaam 
to look up at the pines and wish that this valley would 
end. Perhaps it was early for night-birds to begin; or 20 
perhaps it was that the sound never seemed to fall bdiind, 
but moved abreast of them among the trees above, as 
they rode on without pause down below; some influence 
made the faces of the travellers grave. The spell of evil 
which the sight of the wheeling buzzard had begun, 25 
deepened as evening grew, while ever and again along the 
creek the singular call and answer of the owls wanaered 
among the darkness of the trees not far away. 

The sun was gone from the peaks when at length the 
other side of the stream opened into a long wide meadow. 30 
The trail they followed, after crossing a flat willow thicket 
by the water, ran into dense pines, that here for the first 
time reached all the way down to the water's edge. The 
two men came out of the willows, and saw ahead the capri- 
cious runaways leave the bottom and go up the hill and 35 
enter the wood. Digitized by vjuuy it: 


"We must hinder that," said the Virginian; and he 
dropped Pedro's rope. "There's your six-shooter. You 
keep the trail, and camp down there" — he pointed to 
where the trees came to the water — "till I head them 
shawsses off. I may not get back right away." He 
galloped up the open hill and went into the pine, choosing 
a place above where the vagrants had disappeared. 

Balaam dismounted, and picking up his six-shooter, 
took the rope off Pedro's neck and drove him slowly down 

10 toward where the wood began. Its interior was already 
dim, and Balaam saw that here must be their stopping- 
place to-night, since there was no telling how wide this 
pine strip might extend along the trail before they could 
com* out of it and reach another suitable camping-ground. 

15 Pedro had recovered his strength, and he now showed 
signs of restlessness. He shied where there was not even 
a stone in the trail, and finally turned sharply round. 
Balaam expected he was going to rush back on the way 
they had come; but the horse stood still, breathing 

20 excitedly. He was urged forward again, though he turned 
more than once. But when they were a few paces from 
the wood, and Balaam had got off preparatory to camping, 
the horse snorted and dashed into the water, and stood 
still there. The astonished Balaam followed to turn 

25 him; but Pedro seemed to lose control of himself, and 
plunged to the middle of the river, and was evidently 
intending to cross. Fearing that he would escape to the 
opposite meadow and add to their difficulties, Balaam, 
with the idea of turning him round, drew his six-shooter 

30 and fired in front of the horse, divining, even as the flash 
cut the dusk, the secret of all this — the Indians; but 
too late. His bruised hand had stiffened, marring his 
aim, and he saw Pedro fall over in the water, then rise 
and struggle up the bank on the farther shore, where he 

35 now hurried ako, to find that he had broken the pony's 

leg. Digitized by Vjuuy It: 


He needed no interpreter for the voices of the seeming 
owls that had haunted the latter hour of their journey, 
and he knew that his beast^s keener instinct had perceived 
the destruction that lurked in the interior of the wood. 
The history of the trapper whose horse had returned with- 6 
out him might have been — might still be — his own ; 
and he thought of the rag that had fallen from the buzzard's 
talons when he had been disturbed at his meal in the marsh. 
"Peaceable'* Indians were still in these mountains, and 
some few of them had for the past hour been skirting lo 
his journey unseen, and now waited for him in the wood, 
which they expected him to enter. They had been too 
wary to use their rifles or show themselves, lest these 
travellers should be only part of a larger company follow- 
ing, who would hear the noise of a shot, and catch them 15 
in the act of murder. So, safe under the cover of the 
pines, they had planned to sling their silent noose, and 
drag the white man from his horse as he passed through 
the trees. 

Balaam looked over the river at the ominous wood, 20 
and then he looked at Pedro, the horse that he had first 
maimed and now ruined, to whom he probably owed his 
life. He was lying on the ground, quietly looking over 
the green meadow, where dusk was gathering. Perhaps 
he was not suffering from his wound yet, as he rested on 25 
the ground ; and into his animal intelligence there prob- 
ably came no knowledge of this final stroke of his fate. 
At any rate, no sound of pain came from Pedro, whose 
friendly and gentle face remained turned toward the 
meadow. Once more Balaam fired his pistol, and this 30 
time the aim was true, and the horse rolled over, with a 
ball through his brain. It was the best reward that re- 
mained for him. 

Then Balaam rejoined the old mare, and turned from 
the middle fork of Sunk Creek. He dashed across the 35 
wide field, and went over a ridge, [^4j|QMdj;^?§ way 


along in the night till he came to the old trail — the 
road which they would never have left but for him and 
his obstinacy. He unsaddled the weary mare by Sunk 
Creek, where the cafion begins, letting her drag a rope 
5 and find pasture and water, while he, lighting no fire to 
betray him, crouched close under a tree till the light 
came. He thought of the Virginian in the wood. But 
what could either have done for the other had he stayed 
to look for him among the pines? If the cow-puncher 

10 came back to the corner, he would follow Balaam's tracks 
or not. They would meet, at any rate, where the creeks 

But they did not meet. And then to Balaam the pros- 
pect of going onward to the Sunk Creek Ranch became 

15 more than he could bear. To come without the horses, 
to meet Judge Henry, to meet the guests of the Judge's 
looking as he did tow after his punishment by the Virgin- 
ian, to give the news about the Judge's favorite man — 
no, how could he tell such a story as this ? Balaam went 

20 no farther than a certain cabin, where he slept, and wrote 
a letter to the Judge. This the owner of the cabin de- 
livered. And so,^ having spread news which would at 
once cause a search for the Virginian, and having con- 
structed such sentences to the Judge as would most 

26 smoothly explain how, being overtaken by illness, he had 
not wished to be a burden at Sunk Creek, Balaam turned 
homeward by himself. By the time he was once more at 
Butte Creek, his general appearance was a thing less to 
be noticed. And there was Shorty, waiting! 

30 One way and another, the lost dog had been able to 
gather some ready money. He was cheerful because of 
this momentary purseful of prosperity. 

"And so I come back, yu' see," he said. "For I figured 
on getting Pedro back as soon as I could when I sold him 

35 to yu'." 

"You're behind the times. Shorty, '^^g.^i^^^JR^^^^. 


Shorty looked blank. "YouVe sure not sold Pedro?" 
he exclahned. 

"Them Indians," said Balaam, "got after me on the 
Bow Leg trail. Got after me and that Virginian man. 
But they didn't get meJ* 5 

Balaam wagged his bullet head to imply that this 
escape was due to his own superior inteUigence. The 
Virginian had been stupid, and so the Indians had got him. 
"And they shot your horse," Balaam finished. "Stop 
and get some dinner with the boys." 10 

Having eaten, Shorty rode away in mournful spirits. 
For he had made so sure of once more riding and talking 
with Pedro, his friend whom he had taught to shake 

Digitized by 





Except for its chair and bed, the cabin was stripped 
ahnost bare. Amid its emptiness of dismantled shelves 
and walls and floor, only the tiny ancestress still hung in 
her place, last token of the home that had been. This 
5 miniature, tacked against the despoiled boards, and its 
descendant, the angry girl with her hand on an open box- 
lid, made a sort of couple in the loneliness : she on the 
wall sweet and serene, she by the box sweet and stormy. 
The picture was her final treasure waiting to be packed 

10 for the journey. In whatever room she had called her 
own since childhood, there it had also lived and looked 
at her, not quite familiar, not quite smiUng, but in its 
prim colonial hues deUcate as some pressed flower. Its 
pale oval, of color blue and rose and flaxen, in a battered, 

15 pretty gold frame, unconquerably pervaded any surround- 
ings with a something like last yearns lavender. TiU 
yesterday a Crow Indian war-bonnet had hung next it, 
a sumptuous cascade of feathers ; on the other side a bow 
with arrows had dangled ; opposite had been the skin of 

20a silver fox; over the door had spread the antlers of a 
black-tail deer; a bearskin stretched beneath it. Thus 
had the whole cosey log cabin been upholstered, lavished 
with trophies of the frontier ; and yet it was in front of the 
miniature that the visitors used to stop. 

26 Shining quietly now in the cabin's blackness this summer 
day, the heirloom was presiding until the end. And as 
Molly Wood's eyes fell upon her ancestress of Bennington, 
1777, there flashed a spark of steel in them, alone here in 

c\f*f* Digitized by VjOOyitr 


the room that she was leaving forever. She was not 
going to teach school any more on Bear Creek, Wyoming ; 
she was going home to Bennington, Vermont. When 
time came for school to open again, there should be a 
new schoolmarm. 6 

This was the momentous result of that visit which the 
Virginian had paid her. He had told her that he was 
coming for his hour soon. From that hour she had 
decided to escape. She was nmning away from her own 
heart. She did not dare to trust herself face to face a^in 10 
with her potent, indomitable lover. She longed for him, 
and therefore she would never see him again. No great- 
aunt at Dunbarton, or anybody else that knew her and 
her family, should ever say that she had married below 
her station, had been an unworthy Stark I Accordingly, 16 
she had written to the Virginian, bidding him good-by, 
and wishing him everything in the world. As she 
happened to be aware that she was taking everything in 
the world away from him, this letter was not the most 
easy of letters to write. But she had made the language 20 
very kind. Yes; it was a thoroughly kind communica- 
tion. And all because of that momentary visit, when he 
had brought back to her two novels, Emma and Pride 
and Prejudice, 

"How do you like them?" she had then inquired ; and 26 
he had smiled slowly at her. "You haven't read them ! " 
she exclaimed. 


"Are you going to tell me there has been no time?" 

"No." 30 

Then Molly had scolded her cow-puncher, and to this 
he had listened with pleasure undisguised, as indeed he 
listened to every word that she said. 

"Why, it has come too late," he had told her when the 
scolding was over. "If I was one of your little scholars, 36 
hyeh in Bear Creek schoolhouse, yu'p.g}9U^d,J^|3\,fpe to 


like such frillery, I reckon. But I'm a mighty ignorant, 
growed-up man." 

"So much the worse for you!" said Molly. 

"No. I am pretty glad I am a man. Else I could not 
shave learned the thing you have taught me." 

But she shut her lips and looked away. On the desk 
was a letter written from Vermont. "If you don't tell 
me at once when you decide," had said the arch writer, 
"never hope to speak to me again. Mary Wood, seriously, 
10 1 am suspicious. Why do you never mention him now- 
adays? How exciting to have you bring a live cow-boy 
to Bennington ! We should all come to dinner. Though 
of course I understand now that many of them have ex- 
cellent manners. But would he wear his pistol at table ? " 
15 So the letter ran on. It recounted the latest home gossip 
and jokes. In answering it Molly Wood had taken no 
notice of its childish tone here and there. 

"Hyeh's some of them cactus blossoms jru' wanted," 
said the Virginian. His voice recalled the girl with 
20 almost a start. " I Ve brought a good hawss I Ve gentled 
for yu', and Taylor'll keep him till I need him." 

"Thank you so much! but I wish — " 

"I reckon yu' can't stop me lendin' Taylor a hawss. 
And you cert'nly'll get sick school-teachin' if yu' don't 
25 keep outdoors some. Good-by — till that next time." 

"Yes; there's always a next time," she answered, as 
lightly as she could. 

"There always will be. Don't yu' know that?" 

She did not reply. 
30 "I have discouraged spells," he pursued, "but I down 
them. For I've told yu' you were going to love me. You 
are goin' to learn back the thing you have taught me. I'm 
not askin' anything now; I don't want you to speak a 
word to me. But I'm never goin' to quit till 'next time' 
35 is no more, and it's 'all the time' for you and me." 

With that he had ridden away, not even^^t^gJgMtier 


hand. Long after he had gone she was still in her chair, 
her eyes lingering upon his flowers, those yellow cups of 
the prickly pear. At length she had risen impatiently, 
caught up the flowers, gone with them to the open window, 
— and then, after all, set them with pains in water. 5 

But to-day Bear Creek was over. She was going 
home now. By the week's end she would be started. 
By the time the mail brought him her good-by letter she 
would be gone. She had acted. 

To Bear Creek, the neighborly, the friendly, the notio 
comprehending, this move had come unlooked for, and 
brought regret. Only one hard word had been spoken 
to Molly, and that by her next-door neighbor and kindest 
friend. In Mrs. Taylor's house the girl had daily come and 
gone as a daughter, and that lady reached the subject 15 
thus : — 

"When I took Taylor," said she, sitting by as Robert 
Browning and Jane Austen were going into their box, "I 
married for love." 

"Do you wish it had been money?" said Molly, stoop- 20 
ing to her industries. 

"You know both of us better than that, child." 

"I know I've seen people at home who couldn't possibly 
have had any other reason. They seemed satisfied, too." 

"Maybe the poor ignorant things were !" 26 

"And so I have never been sure how I might choose." 

"Yes, you are sure, deary. Don't you think I know 
you? And when it comes over Taylor once in a while, 
and he tells me I'm the best thing in .his life, and I tell 
him he ain't merely the best thing but the only thing in 30 
mine, — him and the children, — why, we just agree we'd 
do it all over the same way if we had the chance." 

Molly continued to be industrious. 

"And that's why," said Mrs. Taylor, "I want every 
girl that's anything to me to know her luck when it comes. 35 
For I was that near telling Taylor I wouldn't? P^yi*^ 


"If ever my luck comes," said Molly, with her back to 
her friend, "I shall say *I will' at once." 

"Then you'll say it at Bennington next week." 

Molly wheeled round. 
5 "Why, you surely will. Do you expect he's going to 
stay here, and you in Bennington?" And the campaigner 
sat back in her chair. 

"He? Goodness! Who is he?" 

"Child, child, you're talking cross to-day because you're 
10 at outs with yourself. You've been at outs ever since 
you took this idea of leaving the school and us and every- 
thing this needless way. You have not treated him right. 
And why I can't make out to save me. What have you 
found out all of a sudden? If he was not good enough 
15 for you, I — But, oh, it's a prime one you're losing, Molly. 
When a man like that stays faithful to a girl 'spite all the 
chances he gets, her luck is come." 

" Oh, my luck ! People have different notions of luck." 

20 "He has been very kind." 

"Kind!" And now without further simmering, Mrs. 
Taylor's wrath boiled up and poured copiously over Molly 
Wood. "Kind! There's a word you shouldn't use, my 
dear. No doubt you can spell it. But more than its 
26 spelling I guess you don't know. The children can learn 
what it means from some of the rest of us folks that don't 
spell so correct, maybe." 

"Mrs. Taylor, Mrs. Taylor—" 

"I can't wait, d^ary. Since the roughness looks bigger 
30 to you than the diamond, you had better go back to Ver- 
mont. I expect you'll find better grammar there, deary." 

The good dame stalked out, and across to her own cabin, 

and left the angry girl among her boxes. It was in vain 

she fell to work upon them. Presently something had 

35 to be done over again, and when it was the box held 

several chattels less than before the readjustment. She 


played a sort of desperate dominos to fit these objects in 
the space, but here were a paper-weight, a portfoUo, 
with two wretched volumes that no chink would harbor ; 
and letting them fall all at once, she straightened herself, 
still stormy with revolt, eyes and cheeks still hot from the 6 
sting of long-parried truth. There, on her wall still, was 
the miniature, the little silent ancestress ; and upon this 
face the girPs glance rested. It was as if she appealed to 
Grandmother Stark for support and comfort across the 
hundred years which lay between them. So the flaxen lo 
girl on the wall and she among the boxes stood a moment 
face to face in seeming communion, and then the descend- 
ant turned again to her work. But after a desultory 
touch here and there she drew a long breath and walked 
to the open door. What use was in finishing to-day, when 15 
she had nearly a week? This first spurt of toil had swept 
the cabin bare of all indwelling charm, and its look was 
chill. Across the lane his horse, the one he had " gentled " 
for her, was grazing idly. She walked there and caught 
him, and led him to her gate. Mrs. Taylor saw her go 20 
in, and soon come out in riding-dress; and she watched 
the girl throw the saddle on with quick ease — the ease 
he had taught her. Mrs. Taylor also saw the sharp cut 
she gave the horse, and laughed grimly to herself in her 
window as horse and rider galloped into the beautiful sunny 25 

To the punished animal this switching was new and 
at its third repetition he turned his head in surprise, 
but was no more heeded than were the bluffs and flowers 
where he was taking his own undirected choice of way. 30 
He carried her over ground she knew by heart — Comcliff 
Mesa, Crowheart Butte, Westfall's Crossing, Upper 
Cafion; open land and woodland, pines and sage-briLsh, 
all silent and grave and lustrous in the sunshine. Once 
and again a ranchman greeted her, and wondered if she 35 
had forgotten who he was; once ^§gP|i^§^^i^pii^e cow- 


punchers with a small herd of steers, and they stared after 
her too. Bear Creek narrowed, its mountain-sides drew 
near, its little falls began to rush white in midday shadow, 
and the horse suddenly pricked his ears. Unguided, he 
5 was taking this advantage to go home. Though he had 
made but little way — a mere beginning yet — on this 
trail over to Sunk Creek, here was already a Sunk Creek 
friend whinnying good day to him, so he whinnied back 
and quickened his pace, and Molly started to life. What 

10 was Monte doing here ? She saw the black horse she knew 
also, saddled, with reins dragging on the trail as the rider 
had dropped them to dismovmt. A cold spring bubbled 
out beyond the next rock, and she knew her lover's horse 
was waiting for him while he drank. She pulled at the 

15 reins, but loosed them, for to turn and escape now was 
ridiculous; and riding boldly round the rock, she came 
upon him by the spring. One of his arms hung up to its 
elbow in the pool, the other was crooked beside his head, 
but the face was sunk downward against the shelving rock, 

20 so that she saw only his black, tangled hair. As her horse 
snorted and tossed his head she looked swiftly at Monte, as 
if to question him. Seeing now the sweat matted on his 
coat, and noting the white rim of his eye, she sprang and 
ran to the motionless figure. A patch of blood at his 

25 shoulder behind stained the soft flannel shirt, spreading 
down beneath his belt, and the man's whole strong body 
lay slack and pitifully helpless. 

She touched the hand beside his head, but it seemed 
neither warm nor cold to her; she felt for the pulse, as 

30 nearly as she could remember the doctors did, but could 
not tell whether she imagined or not that it was still; 
twice with painful care her fingers sought and waited for 
the beat, and her face seemed like one of listening. She 
leaned down and lifted his other arm and hand from the 

35 water, and as their ice-coldness reached her senses, clearly 
she saw the patch near the shoulder she^^^i^^p^^Y^^K^pw 


wet with new blood, and at that sight she grasped at the 
stones upon which she herself now sank. She held tight 
by two rocks, sitting straight beside him, staring, and 
murmuring aloud, "I must not faint; I will not faint;" 
and the standing horses looked at her, pricking their ears. 5 

In this cuplike spread of the ravine the sim shone warmly 
down, the tall red cliff was warm, the pines were a warm 
film and filter of green; outside the shade across Bear 
Creek rose the steep, soft, open yellow hill, warm and high 
to the blue, and Bear Creek tumbled upon its sun-sparkling 10 
stones. The two horses on the margin trail still looked at 
the spring and trees, where sat the neat flaxen girl so rigid 
by the slack prone body in its flannel shirt and leathern 
chaps. Suddenly her face livened. " But the blood ran ! " 
she exclaimed, as if to the horses, her companions in this. 15 
She moved to him, and put her hand in through his shirt 
against his heart. 

Next moment she had sprung up and was at his saddle, 
searching, then swiftly went on to her own and got her 
small flask and was back beside him. Here was the cold 20 
water he had sought, and she put it against his forehead 
and drenched the woimded shoulder with it. Three times 
she tried to move him, so he might lie more easy, but his 
dead weight was too much, and desisting, she sat close 
and raised his head to let it rest against her. Thus she 25 
saw the blood that was running from in front of the, 
shoulder also ; but she said no more about fainting. She 
tore strips from her dress and soaked them, keeping them 
cold and wet upon both openings of his wound, and she 
drew her pocket-knife and cut his shirt away from the place. 30 
As she continually rinsed and cleaned it, she watched his 
eyelashes, long and soft and thick, but they did not stir. 
Again she tried the flask, but failed from being still too 
gentle, and her searching eyes fell upon ashes near the 
pool. Still undispersed by the weather lay the small 35 
charred ends of a fire he and she had made, once here to- 

Digitized by N^XJOV?TC 


gether, to boil coffee and fry trout. She built another fire 
now, and when the flames ?rere going ?rell, filled her 
fiask-cup from the spring and set it to heat. Meanwhile, 
she returned to nurse his head and wound. Her cold 
5 water had stopped the bleeding. Then she poured her 
brandy in the steaming cup, and, made rough by her 
desperate helplessness, forc«l some between has lips and 

Instantly, almost, she felt the tremble of life creeping 

10 back, and as his deep eyes opened upon her she sat still 
and mute. But the gaze seemed luminous with an un- 
noting calm, and she wondered if perhaps he could not 
recognize her; she watched this internal clearness of his 
vision, scarcely daring to breathe, imtil presently he be^m 

16 to speak, with the same profoimd and clear impersonality 
sounding in his slowly uttered words. 

"I thought they had found me. I expected they were 
going to kill me." He stopped, and she gave him more of 
the hot drink, which he took, still lying and looking at 

20 her as if the present did not reach his senses. "I knew 
hands were touching me. I reckon I was not dead. I 
knew about them soon as they began, only I could not 
interfere." He waited again. "It is imghty strange 
where I have been. No. Mighty natural." Then he 

25 went back into his revery, and lay with his eyes still full 
open upon her where she sat motionless. 

She began to feel a greater awe in this living presence 
than when it had been his body with an ice-cold hand; 
and she quietly spoke his name, venturing scarcely more 

30 than a whisper. 

At this, some nearer thing wakened in his look. "But 
it was you all along," he resumed. " It is you now. You 
must not stay — " Weakness overcame him, and his 
eyes closed. She sat ministering to him, and when he 

36 roused again, he began anxiously at once. "You must not 
stay. They would get you, too." 

•^ '^ o ^ 7 Digitized by V^UUy It: 


She glanced at him with a sort of fierceness, then reached 
for his pistol, in which was nothing but blackened empty 
cartridges. She threw these out and drew six from his 
belt, loaded the weapon, and snapped shut its hinge. 

"Please take it,'' he said, more anxious and mores 
himself. "I ain't worth trjdn' to keep. Look at 

"Are you giving up?" she inquired, trying to put scorn 
in her tone. Then she seated herself. 

"Where is the sense in both of us — " 10 

"You had better save your strength," she interrupted. 

He tried to sit up. 

"Lie down!" she ordered. 

He sank obediently and began to smile. 

When she saw that, she smiled too, and unexpectedly 15 
took his hand. " Listen, friend," said she. " Nobody shall 
get you, and nobody shall get me. Now take some more 

"It must be noon," said the cow-puncher, when she had 
drawn her hand away from him. "I remember it was 20 
dark when — when — when I can remember. I reckon 
they were scared to follow me in so close to settlers. Else 
they would have been here." 

"You must rest," she observed. 

She broke the soft ends of some evergreen, and putting 25 
them beneath his head, went to the horses, loosened the 
cinches, took off the bridles, led them to drink, and 
picketed them to feed. Further still, to leave nothing un- 
done whifch she could herself manage, she took the horses' 
saddles off to refold the blankets when the time should 30 
come, and meanwhile brought them for him. But he 
put them away from him. He was sitting up against a 
rock, stronger evidently, and asking for cold water. His 
head was fire-hot, and the paleness beneath his swarthy 
skin had changed to a deepening flush. 35 

"Only five miles !" she said to hiii^ig|?j.J^^QgJy& J^ead. 


"Yes. I must hold it steady," he answered, waving 
his hand at the cUff. 

She told him to try and keep it steady until they got 
5 "Yes," he repeated. "Only five miles. But it's 
fightin' to turn around." Half aware that he was be- 
coming light-headed, he looked from the rock to her and 
from her to the rock with dilating eyes. 

"We can hold it together," she said. "You must get 

icon your horse." She took his handkerchief from round 
his neck, knotting it with her own, and to make more 
bandage she ran to the roll of clothes behind his saddle 
and tore in halves a clean shirt. A handkerchief fell 
from it, which she seized also, and opening, saw her own 

15 initials by the hem. Then she remembered: she -saw 
again their first meeting, the swollen river, the overset 
stage, the unknown horseman who carried her to the bank 
on his saddle and went away unthanked — her whole 
first adventure on that first day of her coming to this 

20 new country — and now she knew how her long-forgotten 
handkerchief had gone that day. She refolded it gently 
and put it back in his bundle, for there was enough bandage 
without it. She said not a word to him, and he placed a 
wrong meaning upon the look which she gave him as she 

25 returned to bind his shoulder. 

"It don't hurt so much," he assured her (though extreme 
pain was clearing his head for the moment, and he had 
been able to hold the cliff from turning). "Yu' must not 
squander your pity." * 

30 "Do not squander your strength," said she. 

"Oh, I could put up a pretty good fight now!" But 
he tottered in showing her how strong he was, and she 
told him that, after all, he was a child still. 

"Yes," he slowly said, looking after her as she went to 

35 bring his horse, "the same child that wanted to touch the 
moon, I guess." And during the slow climb^dqym.gito 


the saddle from a rock to which she helped him he said, 
**You have got to be the man all through this mess." 

•She saw his teeth clinched and his drooping muscles 
compelled by will ; and as he rode and she walked to lend 
him support, leading her horse by a backward-stretched 6 
left hand, she counted off the distance to him continually 
— the increasing gain, the lessening road, the landmarks 
nearing and dropping behind ; here was the tree with the 
wasp-nest gone ; now the burned cabin was passed ; now 
the cottonwoods at the ford were in sight. He was lo 
silent, and held to the saddlehom, leaning more and more 
against his two hands clasped over it ; and just after they 
had made the crossing he fell, without a sound, slipping 
to the grass, and his descent broken by her. But it started 
the blood a little, and she dared not leave him to seek 15 
help. She gave him the last of the flask and all the water 
he craved. 

Revived, he managed to smile. " Yo' see, I ain't worth 

*'It's only a mile," said she. So she found a log, a 20 
fallen trunk, and he cratvled to that, and from there crawled 
to his saddle, and she marched on with him, talking, 
bidding him note the steps accomplished. For the next 
half-mUe they went thus, the silent man clinched on the 
horse, and by his side the girl walking and cheering him 25 
forward, when suddenly he began to speak : — 

"I will say good-by to you now, ma'am." 

She did not understand, at first, the significance of this. 

"He is getting away," pursued the Virginian. "I 
must ask you to excuse me, ma'am." 30 

It was a long while since her lord had addressed her as 
"ma'am." As she looked at him in growing apprehension 
he turned Monte and would have ridden away, but she 
caught the bridle. 

"You must take me home," said she, with ready in- 36 
spiration. "I am afraid of the Indian^HedbyGooyit: 


"Why, you — why, they've all gone. There he goes. 
Ma'am — that hawss — '* 

"No/' said she, holding firmly his rein and quickeniHg 
her step. "A gentleman does not invite a lady to go out 

5 riding and leave her." 

His eyes lost their purpose. "I'll cert'nly take you 
home. That sorrel has gone in there by the wallow, and 
Judge Henry will imderstand." With his eyes watching 
imaginary objects, he rode and rambled, and it was now 

10 the girl who was silent, except to keep his mind from its 
half-fixed idea of the sorrel. As he grew more fluent she 
hastened still more, listening to head off that notion of 
return, skilfully inventing questions to engage him, so 
that when she brought him to her gate she held him in a 

15 manner subjected, answering faithfully the shrewd un- 
realities which she devised, whatever makeshifts she could 
summon to her mind ; and next she had got him inside her 
dwelling and set him down docile, but now completely 
wandering ; and then — no help was at hand, even here. 

20 She had made sure of aid from next door, and there 
she hastened, to find the Taylors' cabin locked and silent ; 
and this meant that parents and children were gone to 
drive ; nor might she be luckier at her next nearest neigh- 
bor's should she travel the intervening mile to fetch them. 

25 With a mind jostled once more into uncertainty, she re- 
turned to her room, and saw a change in him already. 
Illness had stridden upon him ; his face was not as she 
had left it, and the whole body, the splendid supple horse- 
man, showed sickness in every line and limb, its spurs 

30 and pistol and bold leather chaps a mockery of trappings. 
She looked at him, and decision came back to her, clear 
and steady. She supported him over to her bed and laid 
him on it. His head sank flat, and his loose, nerveless 
arms stayed as she left them. Then among her packing- 

35 boxes and beneath the little miniature, blue and flaxen 
and gold upon its lonely wall, she undressed^^jp^ He 


was cold, and' she covered him to the face, and arranged the 

Eillow, and got from its box her scarlet and black Navajo 
lanket and spread it over him. There was no more that 
she could do, and she sat down by him to wait. Among 
the many and many things that came into her mind was 5 
a word he said to her lightly a long while ago. "Cow- 
punchers do not live long enough to get old," he had told 
her. And now she looked at the head upon the pillow, 
grave and strong, but still the head of splendid, unworn 
youth. 10 

At the distant jingle of the wagon in the lane she was 
out, and had met her returning neighbors midway. They 
heard her with amazement, and came in haste to the 
bedside; then Taylor departed to spread news of the 
Indians and bring the doctor, twenty-five miles away. 15 
The two women friends stood alone again, as they had 
stood in the morning when anger had been between them. 
"Kiss me, deary," said Mrs. Taylor. "Now I will 
look after him — and you'll need some looking after your- 
self." 20 

But on returning from her cabin with what store she 
possessed of lint and stimulants, she encountered a rebel, 
mdependent as ever. Molly would hear no talk about 
saving her strength, would not be in any room but this 
one until the doctor should arrive ; then perhaps it would 25 
be time to think about resting. So together the dame and 
the girl rinsed the man's wound and wrapped him in clean 
things, and did all the little that they knew — which was, 
in truth, the very tiling needed. Then they sat watching 
him toss and mutter. It was no longer upon Indians or 30 
the sorrel horse that his talk seemed to run, or anything 
recent, apparently^ always excepting his work. This 
flowingly merged with whatever scene he was inventing or 
living again, and he wandered unendingly in that incom- 
patible world we dream in. Through the medley of events 35 
and names, often thickly spoken, bjj|.jigi^(^ Jl^mes to 


grotesque coherence, the listeners now and then could 
piece out the reference from their own knowledge. 
^' Monte," for example, continually addressed, and Molly- 
heard her own name, but invariably as "Miss Wood"; 

5 nothing less respectful came out, and frequently he 
answered some one as "ma'am." At these fragments of 
revelation Mrs. Taylor abstained from speech, but eyed 
Molly Wood with caustic reproach. As the night wore on, 
short lulls of silence intervened, and the watchers were 

10 deceived into hope that the fever was abating. And when 
the Virginian sat quietly up in bed, essayed to move his 
bandage, and looked steadily at Mrs. Taylor, she rose 
quickly and went to him with a question as to how he was 

15 "Rise on your laigs, you polecat," said he, "and tell 
them you're a liar." 

The good dame gasped, then bade him lie down, and 
he obeyed her with that strange double understanding of 
the delirious; for even while submitting, he muttered 

20 "liar," "polecat," and then "Trampas." 

At that name light flashed on Mrs. Taylor, and she 
turned to Molly ; and there was the girl struggling with a 
fit of mirth at his speech ; but the laughter was fast be- 
coming a painful seizure. Mrs. Taylor walked Molly 

25 up and down, speaking inmiediately to arrest her attention. 

"You might as well know it," she said. "He would 

blame me for speaking of it, but where's the harm all this 

while after? And you would never hear it from his 

mouth. Molly, child, they say Trampas would kill him 

30 if he dared, and that's on account of you." 

"I never saw Trampas," said Molly, fixing her eyes upon 
the speaker. 

"No, deary. But before a lot of men — Taylor has 
told me about it — Trampas spoke disrespectfully of 

35 you, and before them all he made Trampas say he was a 
liar. That is what he did when you were almost a stranger 

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among us, and he had not started seeing so much of you. 
I expect Trampas is the only enemy he ever had in this 
country. But he would never let you know about that." 
"No," whispered Molly ; "I did not know." 
"Steve!" the sick man now cried out, in poignant 5 
appeal. "Steve!" To the women it was a name un- 
known, — unknown as was also this deep inward tide of 
feeling which he could no longer conceal, being himself no 
longer. "No, Steve," he said next, and muttering 
followed. " It ain't so ! " he shouted ; and then cimningly lo 
in a lowered voice, "Steve, I have lied for you." 
In time Mrs. Taylor spoke some advice. 
"You had better go to bed, child. You look about 
ready for the doctor yourself." 

"Then I will wait for him," said Molly. • 15 

So the two nurses continued to sit until darkness at 
the windows weakened into gray, and the lamp was no 
more needed. Their patient was rambling again. Yet, 
into whatever scenes he went, there in some guise did the 
throb of his pain evidently follow him, and he lay hitching 20 
his great shoulder as if to rid it of the cumbrance. They 
waited for the doctor, not daring much more than to turn 
pillows and give what other ease they could; and then, 
instead of the doctor, came a messenger, about noon, to 
say he was gone on a visit some thirty miles beyond, 25 
where Taylor had followed to bring him here as soon as 
might be. At this Molly consented to rest and to watch, 
turn about ; and once she was over in her friend's house 
lying down, they tried to keep her there. But the rev- 
olutionist could not be put down, and when, as a last 30 
pretext, Mrs. Taylor urged the proprieties and conven- 
tions, the pale girl from Vermont laughed sweetly in her 
face and returned to sit by the sick man. With the ap- 
proach of the second night his fever seemed to rise and 
master him more completely than they had yet seen it, 35 
and presently it so raged that the women called in stronger 

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arms to hold him down. There were times when he 
broke out in the language of the round-up, and Mrs. 
Taylor renewed her protests. "Why/' said Molly, 
"don't you suppose I knew they could swear?" So the 

5 dame, in deepening astonishment and affection, gave up 
these shifts at decorum. Nor did the delirium run into 
the intimate, coarse matters that she dreaded. The cow- 
puncher had lived like his kind, but his natural daily 
thoughts were clean, and came from the untamed but un- 

10 stained mind of a man. And toward morning, as Mrs. 
Taylor sat taking her turn, suddenly he asked had he been 
sick long, and looked at her with a quieted eye. The 
wandering seemed to drop from him at a stroke, leaving 
him altogether himself. He lay very feeble, and inquired 

15 once or twice of his state and how he came here ; nor was 
anything left in his memory of even coming to the spring 
where he had been found. 

When the doctor arrived, he pronounced that it would 
be long — or very short. He praised their clean water 

20 treatment; the wound was fortunately well up on the 
shoulder, and gave so far no bad signs ; there were not 
any bad signs ; and the blood and strength of the patient 
had been as few men's were ; each hour was now an hour 
nearer certainty, and meanwhile — meanwhile the doctor 

25 would remain as long as he could. He had many inquiries 
to satisfy. Dusty fellows would ride up, listen to him, 
and reply, as they rode away, "Don't yu' let him die, 
Doc." And Judge Henry sent over from Sunk Creek to 
answer for any attendance or medicine that might help 

30 his foreman. The country was moved with concern and 
interest; and in Molly's ear its words of good feeling 
seemed to unite and sum up a burden, "Don't yu' let him 
die, Doc." The Indians who had done this were now in 
military custody. They had come unpermitted from a 

35 southern reservation, hunting, next thieving, and as the 
slumbering spirit roused in one or two of the young and 

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ambitions, they had ventured this in the secret moun- 
tains, and perhaps had killed a trapper found there. 
Editors immediately reared a tall'war out of it ; but from 
five Indians in a guard-house waiting punishment not 
even an editor can supply war for more than two editions, 5 
and if the recent alarm was still a matter of talk any- 
where, it was not here in the sick-room. Whichever 
way the case should turn, it was through Molly alone 
(the doctor told her) that the woimded man had got this 
chance — this good chance, he repeated. And he told 10 
her she had not done a woman^s part, but a man's part, 
and now had no more to do ; no more till the patient got 
well, and could thank her in his own way, said the doctor, 
smiling, and supposing things that were not so — misled 
perhaps by Mrs. Taylor. 15 

"Fm afraid I'll be gone by the time he is well," said 
Molly, coldly; and the discreet physician said ah, and 
that she would find Bennmgton quite a change from 
Bear Creek. 

But Mrs. Taylor spoke otherwise, and at that the 20 
girl said: "I shall stay as long as I am needed. I will 
nurse him. I want to nurse him. I will do everything 
for him that I can!" she exclaimed, with force. 

"And that won't be anything, deary," said Mrs. Taylor, 
harshly. ** A year of nursing don't equal a day of sweet- 25 

The girl took a walk, — she was of no more service in 
the room at present, — but she turned without going far, 
and Mrs. Taylor spied her come to lean over the pasture 
fence and watch the two horses — that one the Virginian 30 
had "gentled" for her, and his own Monte. During this 
.suspense^ came a new call for the doctor, neighbors profit- 
ing by his visit to Bear Creek ; and in his going away to 
them, even under promise of quick return, Mrs. Taylor 
suspected a favorable sign. He kept his word as pimc- 35 
tuaUy as had been po93ible, arriving after some six hours 

•^ ^ Digitized by VjUUy It: 


with a confident face, and spending now upon the patient 
a care not needed, save to reassure the bystanders. He 
spoke his opinion that ^11 was even better than he could 
have hoped it would be, so soon. Here was now the be- 
5 ginning of the fifth day ; the wound's look was wholesome, 
no further delirium had come, and the fever had abated a 
degree while he was absent. He believed the serious 
danger-line lay behind, and (short of the unforeseen) the 
man's deep untainted strength would reassert its control. 

10 He had much blood to make, and must be cared for during 
weeks — three, four, five — there was no saying how long 
yet. These next few days it must be utter quiet for him ; 
he must not talk nor hear anything likely to disturb him ; 
and then the time for cheerfulness and gradual company 

15 would come — sooner than later, the doctor hoped. So he 
departed, and sent next day some bottles, with further 
cautions regarding the wound and dirt, and to say he 
should be calling the day after to-morrow. 

Upon that occasion he found two patients. Molly 

20 Wood lay in bed at Mrs. Taylor's, filled with apology and 
indignation. With little to do, and deprived of the strong 
stimulant of anxiety and action, her strength had quite 
suddenly left her, so that she had spoken only in a sort of 
whisper. But upon waking from a long sleep, after Mrs. 

25 Taylor had taken her firmly, almost severely, in hand, her 
natural voice had returned, and now the chief treatment 
the doctor gave her was a sort of scolding, which it pleased 
Mrs. Taylor to hear. The doctor even dropped a phrase 
concerning the arrogance of strong nerves in slender 

30 bodies, and of undertaking several people's work when 
several people were at hand to do it for themselves, and 
this pleased Mrs. Taylor remarkably. As for the wounded • 
man, he was behaving himself properly. Perhaps in 
another week he could be moved to a more cheerful room. 

35 Just now, with cleanliness and pure air, any bam would 

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"We are real lucky to have such a sensible doctor in 
the country," Mrs. Taylor observed, after the physician 
had gone. 

"No doubt," said Molly. "He said my room was a 
bam." 5 

"That's what youVe made it, deary. But sick men 
don't notice much." 

Nevertheless, one may believe, without going widely 
astray, that illness, so far from veiling, more often quickens 
the perceptions — at any rate those of the naturally keen. 10 
On a later day — and the interval was brief — while 
Molly was on her second drive to take the air with Mrs. 
Taylor, that lady informed her that the sick man had 
noticed. "And I could not tell him things liable to dis- 
turb him," said she, " and so I — well, I expect I just didn't 15 
exactly tell him the facts. I said yes, you were packing 
up for a little visit to your folks. They had not seen you 
for quite a while, I said. And he looked at those boxes 
kind of silent like." 

"There's no need to move him," said Molly. "It is 20 
simpler to move them — the boxes. I could take out 
some of my things, you know, just while he has to be kept 
there. I mean — you see, if the doctor says the room 
should be cheerful — " 

"Yes, deary." 26 

"I will ask the doctor next time," said Molly, "if he 
believes I am — competent — to spread a rug upon a 
floor." Molly's references to the doctor were usually 
acid these days. And this he totally failed to observe, 
telling her when he came, why, to be sure ! the very thing ! 30 
And 2 she could play cards or read aloud, or afford any 
other light distractions, provided they did not lead the 
patient to talk and tire himself, that she would be most 
useful . Accordingly she took over the cribbage-board, and 
came with unexpected hesitation face to face again with 35 
the swarthy man she had saved and tended^ He was not 


so swarthy now, but neat, and chin clean, and hair and 
mustache trimmed and smooth, and he sat propped among 
pillows watching for her. 

** You are better," she said, speaking first, and with un- 
5 certain voice. 

"Yes. They have given me awdehs not to talk," said 
the Southerner, smiling. 

"Oh, yes. Please do not talk — not to-day." 

"No. Only this" — he looked at her, and saw her 
10 seem to shrink — "thank you for what you have done," 
he said simply. 

She took tenderly the hand he stretched to her; and 
upon these terms they set to work at cribbage. She 
won, and won again, and the third time laid down her cards 
15 and reproached him with playing in order to lose. 

"No," he said, and his eye wandered to the boxes. 
"But my thoughts get away from me. I'll be strong 
enough to hold them on the cyards next time, I reckon." 

Many tones in his voice she had heard, but never the 
20 tone of sadness until to-day. 

Then they played a little more, and she put away the 
board for this first time. 

"You are going now?" he asked. 

"When I have made this room look a little less forlorn. 
25 They haven't wanted to meddle with my things, I sup- 
pose." And Molly stopped once again among the chattels 
destined for Vermont. Out they came; again the bear- 
skin was spread on the floor, various possessions and orna- 
ments went back into their ancient niches, the shelves 
30 grew comfortable with books, and, last, some flowers 
were stood on the table. 

"More like old times," said the Virginian, but 

"It's too bad," said Molly, "you had to be brought into 
36 such a loo*king place." 

"And your folks waiting for you," said he. r^^^^i^ 

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"Oh, I'll pay my visit later," said Molly, putting the 
rug a trifle straighter. 

"May I ask one thing? ''.pleaded the Virginian, and at 
the gentleness of his voice her face grew rosy, and she fixed 
her eyes on him with a sort of dread. 6 

"Anything that I can answer," said she. 

"Oh, yes. Did I tell yu' to quit me, and did yu' 
load up my gun and stay? Was that a real business? 
I have been mixed up in my haid." 

"That was real," said Molly. "What else was there 10 
to do?" 

"Just nothing — for such as you!" he exclaimed. 
"My haid has been mighty crazy; and that little grand- 
mother of yours yondeh, she — but I can't just quite 
catch a-hold of these things" — he passed a hand over his 15 
forehead— "so many — or else one right along — well, 
it's all foolishness ! " he concluded, with something almost 
savage in his tone. And after she had gone from the 
cabin he lay very still, looking at the miniature on the wall. 

He was in another sort of mood the next time, cribbage 20 
not interesting him in the least. "Your folks will be 
wondering about you," said he. 

"I don't think they will mind which month I go to 
them," said Molly. "Especially when they know the 
reason." 25 

"Don't let me keep you, ma'am," said he. Molly 
stared at him ; but he pursued, with the same edge lurking 
in his slow words: "Though I'll never forget. How 
could I forget any of all you have done — and been? If 
there had been none of this, why, I had enough to re- 30 
member! But please don't stay, ma'am. We'll say I 
had a claim when yu' found me pretty well dead, but I'm 
gettin' well, yu'- see — right smart, too!" 

"I can't understand, indeed I can't," said Molly, "why 
you're talking so!" 35 

He seemed to have certain moods wl^eij^lj^ ^^^^.fjdress 


her as '^ma^am," and this she did not like, but could not 

"Oh, a sick man is funny. • And yu' know I'm grateful 
to you." 
5 '^Please say no more about that, or I shall go this 
afternoon. I don't want to go. I am not ready. I think 
I had better read something now." 

'*Why, yes. That's cert'nly a good notion. Why, 
this is the best show you'll ever get to give me education. 

10 Won't yu' please try that Emma book now, ma'am? 
Listening to you will be different." This was said with 
softness and himoiility. 

Uncertain — as his gravity often left her — precisely 
what he meant by what he said, Molly proceeded with 

15 Emma; slackly at first, but soon with the enthusiasm 
that Miss Austen invariably gave her. She held the 
volimie and read away at it, commenting briefly, and then, 
finishing a chapter of the sprightly classic, found her pupil 
slumbering peacefully. There was no uncertainty about 

20 that. 

"You couldn't be doing a healthier thing for him, 
deary," said Mrs. Taylor. " If it gets to make him wakeful, 
try something harder." This was the lady's scarcely 
sympathetic view. 

25 But it turned out to be not obscurity in which Miss 
Austen sinned. 

When Molly next appeared at the Virginian's threshold, 
he said plaintively, "I reckon I am a dunce." And he 
sued for pardon. "When I waked up," he said, "I was 

30 ashamed of myself for a plumb half-hour." Nor could 
she doubt this day that he meant what he said. His 
mood was again serene and gentle, and without referring 
to his singular words that had distressed her, he made her 
feel his contrition, even in his silence. "I am right glad 

35 you have come," he said. And as he saw her going to the 
bookshelf, he continued, with diflSdence : "As regyards 

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that Emma book, yu* see — yu' see, the doin's and sayin's 
of folks like them are above me. But I think" (he spoke 
most diffidently), "if yu' could read me something that 
was about something, I — Fd be liable to keep awake." 
And he smiled with a certain shyness. 5 

"Something abovi something?" queried Molly, at a 

"Why, yes. Shakespeare. Henry the Fourth. The 
British king is fighting, and there is his son the prince. 
He cert'nly must have been a jim-dandy boy if that is all 10 
true. Only he would go around town with a mighty 
triflin* gang. They sjported and they held up citizens. 
And his father hated his travelling with trash like them. 
It was right natural — the boy and the old man! But 
the boy showed himself a man too. He killed a big fighter 15 
on the other side who was another jim-dandy — and he 
was sorry for having it to do." The Virginian warmed 
to his recital. "I understand most all of that. There 
was a fat man kept everybody laughing. He was awful 
natural too ; except yu' don't commonly meet 'em so fat. 20 
But the prince — that play is bed-rock, ma'am ! Have 
you got something like that?" 

"Yes, I think so," she replied. "I believe I see what 
you would appreciate." 

She took her Browning, her idol, her imagined affinity. 25 
For the pale decadence of New England had somewhat, 
watered her good old Revolutionary blood too, and she 
was inclined to think under glass and to Hve underdone — 
when there were no Indians to shoot! She would have 
joyed to venture "Paracelsus" on him, and some lengthy 30 
rhymed discourses; and she fondly turned leaves and 
leaves of her pet doggerel analytics. "Pippa Passes" 
and others she had to skip, from discreet motives — 
pages which he would have doubtless stayed awake at; 
but ^ she chose a poem at length. This was better than 35 
Emma, he pronounced. And shortBigitizTfei)8LA$)iD^n^was a 


good horse. He thought a man whose horse must not 
play out on him would watch the ground he was galloping 
over for holes, and not be likely to see what color the rims 
of his animal's eye-sockets were. You could not see them 
5 if you sat as you ought to for such a hard ride. Of the 
next piece that she read him he thought still better. "And 
it is short/' said he. " But the last part drops." 

Molly instantly exacted particulars. 

"The soldier should not have told the general he was 
10 killed," stated the cow-puncher. 

"What should he have told him, Fd like to know?" 
said Molly. 

"Why, just nothing. If the soldier could ride out of 

the battle all shot up, and tell his general about their 

I5takin' the town — that was being gritty, yu' see. But 

that truck at the finish — will yu' please say it again?" 

So Molly read : — 

" 'You're wounded ! ' * Nay,' the soldier's pride 
Touched to the quick, he said, 
20 'I'm killed, sire!' And, his chief beside, 
Smiling, the boy fell dead." 

"'Nay, I'm killed, sire,'" drawled the Virginian, 

amiably; for (symptom of convalescence) his freakish 

irony was revived in him. "Now a man who was man 

25 enough to act like he did, yu' see, would fall dead without 

mentioning it." 

None of Molly's sweet girl friends had ever thus chal- 
lenged Mr. Browning. They had been wont to cluster 
over him with a joyous awe that deepened proportionally 
30 with their misunderstanding. Molly paused to consider 
this novelty of view about the soldier. "He was a French- 
man, you know," she said, under inspiration. 

"A Frenchman," murmured the grave cow-puncher. 
"I never knowed a Frenchman, but I reckon they might 
35 perform that class of fooliahness." 

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"But why was it foolish?" she cried. "His soldier's 
pride — don't you see ? " 


Molly now burst into a luxury of discussion. She 
leaned toward her cow-puncher with bright eyes searching 5 
his ; with elbow on knee and hand propping chin, her lap 
became a slant, and from it Browning the poet slid and 
toppled, and lay unrescued. For the slow cow-puncher un- 
folded his notions of masculine courage and modesty 
(though he did not deal in such high-sounding names), 10 
and Molly forgot everything to listen to him, as he forgot 
himself and his inveterate shyness and grew talkative to 
her. "I would never have supposed that!" she would 
exclaim as she heard him; or, presently again, "I never 
had such an idea ! " And her mind opened with delight to 15 
these new things which came from the man's mind so simple 
and direct. To Browning they did come back, but the 
Virginian, though interested, conceived a dislike for him. 
"He is a smarty," said he, once or twice. 

"Now here is something," said Molly. "I have never 20 
known what to think." 

"Oh, Heavens!" murmured the sick man, smiling. 
"Is it short?" 

"Very short. Now please attend." And she read 
him twelve lines about a lover who rowed to a beach 25 
in the dusk, crossed a field, tapped at a pane, and was 

"That is the best yet," said the Virginian. "There's 
only one thing yu' can think about that." 

"But wait," said the girl, swiftly. "Here is how they 30 
parted : — 

" * Round the cape of a sudden came the sea. 

And the sun looked over the mountain's rim — 
And straight was a path of gold for him. 
And the need of a world of men for me.' " , ,, .^i^ 35 

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"That is very, very true/' murmured the Virginian, 
dropping his eyes from the girl's intent ones. 

"Had they quarrelled?" she inquired. 

"Oh, no!" 
5 "But—" 

"I reckon he loved her very much." 

"Then you're sure they hadn't quarrelled?" 

"Dead sure, ma'am. He would come back afteh he 
had played some more of the game." 
10 "The game?" 

"Life, ma'am. Whatever he was a-doin' in the world 
of men. That's a bed-rock piece, ma'am!" 

"Well, I don't see why you think it's so much better 
than some of the others." 
15 "I could sca'cely explain," answered the man. "But 
that writer does know something." 

"I am glad they hadn't quarrelled," said Molly, thought- 
fully. And she began to like having her opinions refuted. 

His bandages, becoming a Httle irksome, had to be 
20 shifted, and this turned their discourse from literature to 
Wyoming; and Molly inquired, had he ever been shot 
before? Only once, he told her. "I have been lucky in 
ha^^ng few fusses," said he. "I hate them. If a man has 
to be killed—" 
25 "You never — " broke in Molly. She had started 
back a httle. "Well," she added hastily, "don't tell me 

"I shouldn't wonder if I got one of those Indians," 
he said quietly. "But I wasn't waitin' to see! But I 
30 came mighty near doing for a white man that day. He 
had been hurtin' a hawss." 

"Hurting?" said Molly. 

"Injurin'. I will not tell yu' about that. It would 

hurt joi' to hear such things. But hawsses — don't they 

35 depend on us? Ain't they somethin' like children? I 

did not lay up the man very bad. He was abje Jj^^^el 


'most right away. Why, you'd have wanted to kill him 

So the Virginian talked, nor knew what he was doing 
to the girl. Nor was she aware of what she was receiving 
from him as he unwittingly spoke himself out to her in 5 
these Browning meetings they held each day. But Mrs. 
Taylor grew pleased. The kindly dame would sometimes 
cross the road to see if she were needed, and steal away 
again after a peep at the window. There, inside, among 
the restored home treasures, sat the two: the rosy alert 10 
girl, sweet as she talked or read to him ; and he, the grave, 
half-weak giant among his wraps, watching her. 

Of her delayed home visit he never again spoke, either 
to her or to Mrs. Taylor; and Molly veered aside from 
any trend of talk she foresaw was leading toward that 15 
subject. But in those hours when no visitors came, and 
he was by himself in the quiet, he would lie often sombrely 
contemplating the girPs room, her little dainty knick- 
knacks, her home photographs, all the delicate manifesta- 
tions of what she came from and what she was. Strength 20 
was flowing back into him each day, and Judge Henry's 
latest messenger had brought him clothes and mail from 
Sunk Creek and many inquiries of kindness, and returned 
taking the news of the cow-puncher's improvement, and 
how soon he would be permitted the fresh air. Hence 25 
Molly found him waiting in a flannel shirt of highly be- 
coming shade, and with a silk handkerchief knotted 
round his throat; and he told her it was good to feel 
respectable again. 

She had come to read to him for the allotted time ; and 30 
she threw around his shoulders the scarlet and black 
Navajo blanket, striped with its splendid zigzags of bar- 
barity. Thus he half sat, half leaned, languid but at 
ease. In his lap lay one of the letters brought over by the 
messenger; and though she was midway in a book that 35 
engaged his full attention — David S^IiB^fyMc~ h^" 


silence and absent look this morning stopped her, and she 
accused him of not attending. 

"No," he admitted; "I am thinking of something 
6 She looked at him with that apprehension which he 

"It had to come," said he. "And to-day I see my 
thoughts straighter than IVe been up to managing since 
— since my haid got clear. And now I must say these 
10 thoughts — if I can, if I can!" He stopped. His eyes 
were intent upon her ; one hand was gripping the arm of his 

"You promised — " trembled Molly. 

."I promised you should love me," he sternly interrupted. 
15 "Promised that to myself. I have broken that word." 

She shut David Copperfield mechanically, and grew 

"Your letter has come to me hyeh," he continued, 
gentle again. 
20 " My — " She had forgotten it. 

"The letter you wrote to tell me good-by. You wrote 
it a little while ago — not a month yet, but it's away and 
away long gone for me." 

"I have never let you know — " began Molly. 
25 "The doctor," he interrupted once more, but very 
gently now, "he gave awdehs I must be kept quiet. I 
reckon yu* thought telUn* me might — " 

"Forgive me!" cried the girl. "Indeed I ought to 
have told you sooner ! Indeed I had no excuse ! " 
30 "Why should yu' tell me if yu' preferred not? You 
had written. And you speak" (he Ufted the letter) "of 
never being able to repay kindness ; but you have turned 
the tables. I can never repay you by anything ! by any- 
thing! So I had figured I would just jog back to Sunk 
35 Creek and let you get away, if you did not want to say 
that kind of good-by. For I saw the boj^es^,^^^ ^IS^i^jAj^or 


is too nice a woman to know the trick of lyin*, and she 
could not deceive me. I have knowed y\i^ were going 
away for good ever since I saw those boxes. But now 
hyeh comes your letter, and it seems no way but I must 
speak. I have thought a deal, lyin* in this room. Arid — 5 
to-day — I can say what I have thought. I could not 
make you happy.'' He stopped, but she did not answer. 
His voice had grown softer than whispermg, but yet was 
not a whisper. From its quiet syllables she turned away, 
blinded with sudden tears. . 10 

"Once, I thought love must surely be enough,'* he 
continued. "And I thought if I could make you love me, 
you could learn me to be less — less — more your kind. 
And I think I could give you a pretty good sort of love. 
But that don't help the little mean pesky things of day by 15 
day that make roughness or smoothness for folks tied 
together so awful close. Mrs. Taylor hyeh — she don't 
know anything better than Taylor does. She don't want 
anything he can't give her. Her friends will do for him 
and his for her. And when I dreamed of you in my 20 
home — "he closed his eyes and drew a long breath. At 
last he looked at her again. "This is no country for 
a lady. Will yu' forget and forgive the bothering I have 

" Oh ! " cried Molly. " ph ! " And she put her hands 25 
to her eyes. She had risen and stood with her face 

"I surely had to tell you this all out, didn't I?" said 
the cow-puncher, faintly, in his chair. 
. "Oh!" said Molly again. 30 

"I have put it clear how it is," he pursued. "I ought 
to have seen from the start I was not the sort to keep you 

"But," said Molly — "but I — you ought — please 
try to keep me happy!" And sinking by his chair, she 35 
hid her face on his knees. , .....,..- 

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Speechless, he bent down and folded her round, putting 
his hands on the hair that had been always his delight. 
Presently he whispered : — 

"You have beat me; how can I fight this?" 
5 She answered nothing. The Navajo's scarlet and black 
folds fell over both. Not with words, not even with 
meeting eyes, did the two plight their troth in this first 
new hour. So they remained long, the fair head nesting 
in the great arms, and the black head laid against it, 
10 while over the silent room presided the little Grandmother 
Stark in her frame, rosy, blue, and flaxen, not quite 
familiar, not quite smiling. 

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For a long while after she had left him, he lay still, 
stretched in his chair. His eyes were fixed steadily upon 
the open window and the sunshine outside. There he 
watched the movement of the leaves upon the green 
cottonwoods. What had she said to him when she went ? 5 
She had said, "Now I know how unhappy I have been." 
These sweet words he repeated to himself over and over, 
fearing in some way that he might lose them. They 
almost sUpped from him at times; but with a jump of 
his mind he caught them again and held them, — and 10 
then — 

"I'm not all strong yet," he murmured. "I must 
have been very sick." And, weak from his bullet woimd 
and fever, he closed his eyes without knowing it. There 
were the cottonwoods again, waving, waving; and he 15 
felt the cool, pleasant air from the window. He saw the 
light draught stir the ashes in the great stone fireplace. 
"I have been asleep," he said. "But she was cert'nly 
here herself. Oh, yes. Surely. She always has to go 
away every day because the doctor says — why, she was 20 
readin'!" he broke off, aloud. ** David Copper field.*' 
There it was on the floor. "Aha! nailed you anyway!" 
he said. "But how scared I am of myself! — You're a 
fool. Of course it's so. No fever business could make 
yu' feel like this." 25 

His eye dwelt awhile on the firepl%c^^^^e^(5)@ J|^ deer 


horns, and next it travelled toward the shelf where her 
books were; but it stopped before reaching them. 

"Better say off the names before I look," said he. 
"I've had a heap o' misleading visions. And — and 
5 siipposin' — if this was just my sickness fooling me some 
more — I'd want to die. I would die! Now we'll see. 
If Copper field is on the floor" (he looked stealthily to be 
sure that it was), "then she was readin' to me when 
ever5rthing happened, and then there should be a hole 

10 in the book row, top, left. Top; left," he repeated, and 
warily brought his glance to the place. "Proved!" he 
cried. "It's aU so!" 

He now noticed the miniature of Grandmother Stark. 
" You are awful like her," he whispered. " You're cert'nly 

15 awful like her. May I kiss you too, ma'am ? " 

Then, tottering, he rose from his sick-chair. The 
Navajo blanket fell from his shoulders, and gradually, 
experimentally, he stood upright. Helping himself with 
his hand slowly along the wall of the room, and round to 

20 the opposite wall with many a pause, he reached the 
picture, and very gently touched the forehead of the 
ancestral dame with his lips. "I promise to make your 
little girl happy," he whispered. 
He almost fell in stooping to the portrait, but caught ^ 

26 himseK and stood carefully quiet, trembling, and speakmg 
to himself. "Where is your strength?" he demanded. 
"I reckon it is joy that has unsteadied your laigs." 

The door opened. It was she, come back with his 

30 "My Heavens!" she said; and setting the tray dowp, 
she rushed to him. She helped him back to his chair, 
and covered him again. He had suffered no hurt, but 
she clung to him; and presently he moved and let him- 
self kiss her with fuller passion. 

35 "I will be good," he whispered. 

"You must," she said. "You looked so pale4»'' ^^i^ 

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"You are speakin' low Kke me," he answered. "But 
we have no dream we can wake from." 

Had she surrendered on this day to her cow-puncher, 
her wild man? Was she forever wholly his? Had the 
Virginian's fire so melted her heart that no rift in it re- 5 
mained ? So she would have thought if any thought had 
come to her. But in his arms to-day, thought was lost 
in something more divine. 

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They kept their secret for a while, or at least they 
had that special joy of believing that no one in all the 
world but themselves knew this that had happened to 
them. But I think that there was one person who knew 

5 how to keep a secret even better than these two lovers. 
Mrs. Taylor made no remarks to any one whatever. 
Nobody on Bear Creek, however, was so extraordinarily 
cheerful and serene. That peculiar severity which she 
had manifested in the days when Molly was packing her 

10 possessions had now altogether changed. In these days 
she was endlessly kind and indulgent to her "deary." 
Although, as a housekeeper, Mrs. Taylor believed in 
punctuality at meals, and visited her offspring with 
discipline when they were late without good and sufficient 

15 excuse, Molly was now exempt from the faintest hint of 

"And' it's not because you're not her mother," said 
George Taylor, bitterly. "She used to get it, too. And 
we're the only ones that get it. There she comes, just as 

20 we're about ready to quit! Aren't you going to say 
nothing to her?" 

"George," said his mother, "when you've saved a 
man's life it'll be time for you to talk." 

So Molly would come in to her meals with much irregu- 

25larity; and her remarks about the imperfections of her 
clock met with no rejoinder. And yet one can scarcely 
be so severe as had been Mrs. Taylor, and become wholly 

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as mild as milk. There was one recurrent event that 
could invariably awaken hostile symptoms in the dame. 
Whenever she saw a letter arrive with the Bennington 
postmark upon it, she shook her fist at that letter. 

"What's family pride?" she would say to herself. 5 
"Taylor could be a Son of the Revolution if he'd a mind 
to. I wonder if she has told her folks yet." 

And when letters directed to Bennington would go 
out, Mrs. Taylor would inspect every one as if its en- 
velope ought to grow transparent beneath her eyes, and 10 
yield up to her its great secret, if it had one. But in 
truth these letters had no great secret to yield up, imtil 
one day — yes ; one day Mrs. Taylor woidd have burst, 
were bursting a thing that people often did. Three 
letters were the cause of this emotion on Mrs. Taylor's 15 
part; one addressed to Bennington, one to Dimbarton, 
and the third — here was the great excitement — to 
Bennington, but not in the little schoolmarm's delicate 
writing. A man's hand had traced those plain, steady 
vowels and consonants. 20 

"It's come!" exclaimed Mrs. Taylor, at this sight. 
"He has written to her mother himself." 

That is what the Virginian had done, and here is how 
it had come about. 

The • sick man's convalescence was achieved. The 26 
weeks had brought back to him, not his whole strength 
yet — that could come only by many miles of open air 
on the back of Monte ; but he was strong enough now to 
get strength. When a patient reaches this stage, he is 
out of the woods. 30 

He had gone for a Uttle walk with his nurse. They 
had taken (under the doctor's recommendation) several 
such little walks, beginning with a five-minute one, and 
at last to-day accompHshing three miles. ^ 

"No, it has not been too far," said he, "I am afraid 35 
I could walk twice as far," ^ , ,, . . .. .^..^ 

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"Yes. Because it means I can go to work again. 
This thing we have had together is over." 

For reply, she leaned against him. 
5 "Look at you 1" he said. "Only a little while ago you 
had to help me stand on my laigs. And now — " For a 
while there was silence between them. "I have never 
had a right down sickness before," he presently went on. 
"Not to remember, that is. If any person had told me 
10 1 could enjoy such a thing — " He said no more, for she 
reached up, and no more speech was possible. 

"How long has it been?" he next asked her. 

She told him. 

"Well, if it could be forever — no. Not forever with 
15 no more than this. I reckon I'd be sick again! But if 
it could be forever with just you and me, and no one else 
to bother with. But any longer would not be doing 
right by your mother. She would have a right to think 
ill of me." 
20 " Oh 1 " said the girl. " Let us keep it." 

"Not after I am gone. Your mother must be told." 

"It seems so — can't we — oh, why need anybody 

"Your mother ain't 'anybody.' She is your mother. 
26 1 feel mighty responsible to her for what I have d6ne." 


"Do you think so? Your mother will not think so. 
I am going to write to her to-day." 

"You! Write to my mother! Oh, then everything 
30 will be so different! They will all — " Molly stopped 
before the rising visions of Bennington. Upon the fairy- 
tale that she had been living with her cow-boy lover 
broke the voices of the world. She could hear them 
from afar. She could see the eyes of Bennington watch- 
35 ing this man at her side. She could imagine the ears of 
Bennington listening for slips in his English. There 

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loomed upon her the round of visits which they would 
have to ma;ke. The ringing of the door-bells, the wait- 
ing in drawing-rooms for the mistress to descend and 
utter her prepared congratulations, while her secret eye 
devoured the Virginian's appearance, and his manner of 5 
standing and sitting. He would be wearing gloves, 
instead of fringed gauntlets of buckskin. In a smooth 
black coat and waistcoat, how could they perceive the 
man he was? During those short formal interviews, what 
would they ever find out of the things that she knew 10 
about him? The things for which she was proud of 
him? He would speak shortly and simply; they would 
say, "Oh, yes I'' and "How different you must find this 
from Wyoming!'' — and then, after the door was shut 
behind his departing back they would say — He would 15 
be totally underrated, not in the least understood. Why 
should he be subjected to this ? He should never be ! 

Now in all these half-formed, hurried, distressing 
thoughts which streamed through the girl's mind, she 
altogether forgot one truth. True it was that the voice 20 
of the world would speak as she imagined. True it was 
that in the eyes of her family and acquaintance this lover 
of her choice would be examined even more like a speci- 
men than are other lovers upon these occasions : and all 
accepted lovers have to face this ordeal of being treated 25 
Uke specimens by the other family. But dear me ! most 
of us manage to stand it, don't we? It isn't, perhaps, 
the most delicious experience that we can recall in con- 
nection with our engagement. But it didn't prove fatal. 
We got through it somehow. We dined with Aunt Jane, 30 
and wined with Uncle Joseph, and perhaps had two fingers 
given to us by old Cousin Horatio, whose enormous for- 
tune was of the greatest importance to everybody. And 
perhaps fragments of the other family's estimate of us 
subsequently reached our own ears. But if a chosen 35 
lover cannot stand being treated as a specimen by the 

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other family, he's a very weak vessel, and not worth 
any good girl's love. That's all I can say for him. 

Now the Virginian was scarcely what even his enemy 
would term a weak vessel; and Molly's jealousy of the 
5 impression which he -might make upon Bennington was 
vastly superfluous. She should have known that he 
would indeed care to make a good impression; but that 
such anxiety on his part would be wholly for her sake, 
that in the eyes of her friends she might stand justified 

10 in taking him for her wedded husband. So far as he was 
concerned apart from her, Airnt Jane and Uncle Joseph 
might say anything they pleased, or think anything 
they pleased. His character was open for investigation. 
Judge Henry would vouch for him. 

15 This is what he would have said to his sweetheart had 
she but revealed to him her perturbations. But she did 
not reveal them ; and they were not of the order that he 
with his nature was likely to divine. I do not know what 
good would have come from her speaking out to him, 

20 unless that perfect understanding between lovers which 

indeed is a good thing. But I do not believe that he 

could have reassured her; and I am certain that she 

could not have prevented his writing to her mother. 

"Well, then," she sighed at last, "if you thhik so, I will 

25 tell her." 

That sigh of hers, be it well understood, was not only 
because of those far-off voices which the world would in 
consequence of her news be lifting presently. It came 
also from bidding farewell to the fairy-tale which she 

30 must leave now ; that land in which she and he had been 
living close together alone, unhindered, unmindful of all 

"Yes, you will tell her," said her lover. "And I must 
tell her too." 

35 "Both of us?" questioned the girl. 

What would he say to her mother? How would her 

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mother like such a letter as he would write to her? Sup- 
pose he should misspell a word? Would not sentences 
from him at this time — written sentences — be a further 
bar to his welcome acceptance at Bennington? 

"Why don't you send messages by me?" she asked him. 6 

He shook his head. "She is not going to lilce it, any- 
way," he answered. "I must speak to her direct. It 
would be like shirking." 

Molly saw how true his instinct was here ; and a little 
flame shot upward from the glow of her love and pride 10 
in him. Oh, if they could all only know that he was like 
this when you understood him ! She did not dare say 
out to him what her fear was about this letter of his to 
her mother. She did not dare because — well, because 
she lacked a little faith. That is it, I am afraid. And 15 
for that sin she was her own punishment. For in this 
day, and in many days to come, the pure joy of her love 
was vexed and clouded, all through a little lack of faith ; 
while for him, perfect in his faith, his joy was like crystal. 

"Tell me what you're going to write," she said. 20 

He smiled at her. "No." 

"Aren't you going to let me see it when it's done?" 

"No." Then a freakish look came into his eyes. 
"I'll let yu' see anything I write to other women." And 
he gave her one of his long kisses. "Let's get through 25 
with it together," he suggested, when they were once 
more in his sick-room, that room which she had given to 
him. "You'll sit one side o' the table, and I'll sit the 
other, and we'll go ahaid ; and pretty soon it will be done." 

"0 dear!" she said. "Yes, I suppose that is the best 30 

And so, accordingly, they took their places. The ink- 
stand stood between them. Beside each of them she dis- 
tributed paper enough, almost, for a presidential message. 
And pens and pencils were in plenty. Was this not the 35 
headquarters of the Bear Creek schoolmarm? 

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"Why, aren't you going to do it in pencil first?'* she 
exclaimed, looking up from her vacant sheet. His pen 
was moving slowly, but steadily. 

"No, I don't reckon I need to," he answered, with his 

6 nose close to the . paper. "Oh, danmation, there's a 

blot!" He tore his spoiled beginning in small bits, and 

threw them into the fireplace. "You've got it too full," 

he commented; and taking the inkstand, he tipped a 

Uttle from it out of the window. She sat lost among her 

10 false starts. Had she heard him swear, she would not 

have minded. She rather Hked it when he swore. He 

possessed that quaUty in his profanity of not offending 

byJt. It is quite wonderful how much worse the same 

word will sound in one man's lips than in another's. But 

16 she did not hear him. Her mind was among a litter of 

broken sentences. Each thought which she began ran 

out into the empty air, or came against some stone wall. 

So there she sat, her eyes now upon that inexorable blank 

sheet that lay before her, waiting, and now turned with 

20 vacant hopelessness upon the simdry objects in the room. 

And while she thus sat accomplishing nothing, opposite to 

her the black head bent down, and the steady pen moved 

from phrase to phrase. 

She became aware of his gazing at her, flushed and 
25 solemn. That strange color of the sea-water, which she 
could never name, was lustrous in his eyes. He was 
folding his letter. 

"You have finished?" she said. 

"Yes." His voice was very quiet. "I feel like an 
30honester man." 

"Perhaps I can do something to-night at Mrs. Taylor's,'* 
she said, looking at her paper. 

On it were a few words crossed out. This was all she 
had to show. At this set task in letter-writing, the cow- 
36 puncher had greatly excelled the schoolmarm ! 

But that night, while he lay quite fast asleep in 

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his bed, she was keeping vigil in her room at Mrs. 

Accordingly, the next day, those three letters departed 
for the mail, and Mrs. Taylor consequently made her 
exclamation, "It's come!'' 5 

On the day before the Virginian returned to take up 
his work at Judge Henry's ranch, he and Molly announced 
their news. What Molly said to Mrs. Taylor and what 
Mrs. Taylor said to her, is of no interest to us, though it 
was of much to them. 10 

But Mr. McLean happened to make a call quite early 
in the morning to inquire for his friend's health. 

"Lin," began the Virginian, "there is no harm in your 
knowing an hour or so before the rest. I am — " 

"Lord!" said Mr. McLean, indulgently. "Everybody 15 
has knowed that since the day she foimd yu' at the spring." 

"It was not so, then," said the Virginian, crossly. 

"Lord! Everybody has knowed it right along." 

"Hmp!" said the Virginian. "I didn't know this 
country was that rank with gossips." 20 

Mr. McLean laughed mirthfully at the lover. "Well," 
he said, "Mrs. McLean will be glad. She told me to 
give yu' her congratulations quite a while ago. I was 
to have 'em ready just as soon as ever yu' asked for 'em 
yourself." Lin had been made a happy man some twelve 25 
months previous to this. And now, by way of an ex- 
change of news, he added: "We're expectin' a little 
McLean down on Box Elder. That's what you'll be 
expectin' some of these days, I hope." 

"Yes," murmured the Virginian, "I hope so too." 30 

"And I don't guess," said Lin, "that you and I will 
do much shufflin' of other folks' children any more." 

Whereupon he and the Virginian shook hands silently, 
and understood each other very well. 

On the day that the Virginian parted with Molly, beside 35 
the weight of farewell which lay heavy on his heart, his 


thoughts were also grave with news. The cattle thieves 
had grown more audacious. Horses and cattle both were 
being missed, and each man began almost to doubt his 
5 "Steps will have to be taken soon by somebody, I 
reckon," said the lover. 

"By you?" she asked quickly. 

"Most likely I'll get mixed up with it." 

"What wiU you have to do?" 
10 "Can't say. I'll tell yu' when I come back." 

So did he part from her, leaving her more kisses than 
words to remember. 

And what was doing at Bennington, meanwhile, and 
at Dunbarton? Those three letters which by their 
15 mere outside had so moved Mrs. Taylor, produced by 
their contents much painful disturbance. 

It will be remembered that Molly wrote to her mother, 
and to her great-aunt. That announcement to her mother 
was undertaken first. Its composition occupied three 
20 hours and a half, and it filled eleven pages, not counting 
a postscript upon the twelfth. The letter to the great- 
aunt took only ten minutes. I cannot pretend to explain 
why this one w£is so greatly superior to the other; but 
such is the remarkable fact. Its beginning, to be sure, 
26 did give the old lady a start ; she had dismissed the cow- 
boy from her probabilities. 

"Tut, tut, tut!" she exclaimed out loud in her 
bedroom. "She has thrown herself away on that 
30 But some sentences at the end made her pause and sit 
still for a long while. The severity upon her face changed 
to tenderness, gradually. "Ah, me," she sighed. "If 
marriage were as simple as love !" Then she went slowly 
downstairs, and out into her garden, where she walked 
35 long between the box borders. "But if she has found a 
great love," said the old lady at length, ^.^g^^^j^toned 


to her bedroom, and opened an old desk, and read some 
old letters. 

There came to her the next morning a communication 
from Bennington. This had been penned frantically by 
poor Mrs. Wood. As soon as she had been able to gather 5 
her senses after the shock of her daughter's eleven pages 
and the postscript, the mother had poured out eight 
pages herself to the eldest member of the family. There 
had been, indeed, much excuse for the poor lady. To 
begin with, Molly had constructed her whole opening lo 
page with the express and merciful intention of preparing 
her mother. Consequently, it made no sense whatever. 
Its effect was the usual effect of remarks designed to 
break a thing gently. It merely made Mrs. Wood's head 
swim, and filled her with a sickening dread. "Oh, mercy, 15 
Sarah,'' she had cried, "come here. What does this 
mean?" And then, fortified by her elder daughter, she 
had turned over that first page and found what it meant 
on the top of the second. "A savage with knives and 
pistols!" she wailed. "Well, mother, I always told 20 
you so," said her daughter Sarah. " What is a foreman ? " 
exclaimed the mother. "And who is Judge Henry?" 
"She has taken a sort of upper servant," said Sarah. 
"If it is allowed to go as far as a wedding, I doubt if I 
can bring myself to be present." (This threat she pro- 25 
ceeded to make to Molly, with results that shall be set 
forth in their proper place.) "The man appears to have 
written to me himself," said Mrs. Wood. "He knows no 
better," said Sarah. " Bosh ! " said Sarah's husband later. 
"It was a very manly thing to do." Thus did consterna- 30 
tion rage in the house at Bennington. Molly might have 
spared herself the many assurances that she gave concern- 
ing the universal esteem in which her cow-puncher was 
held, and the fair prospects which were his. So, in the 
first throes of her despair, Mrs. Wood wrote those eight 35 
not maturely considered pages to the great-aunt. 

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"Tut, tut, tut!'' said the great-aunt as she read them. 
Her face was much more severe to-day. ** You'd suppose," 
she said, "that the girl had been kidnapped! Why, she 
has kept him waiting three years!" And then she read 
6 more, but soon put the letter down with laughter. For 
Mrs. Wood had repeated in writing that early outburst 
of hers about a savage with knives and pistols. "Law!" 
said the great-aunt. "Law, what a fool Lizzie is !" 
So she sat down and wrote to Mrs. Wood a wholesome 

10 reply about putting a little more trust in her own flesh 
and blood, and reminding her among other things that 
General Stark had himself been wont to carry knives and 
pistols owing to the necessities of his career, but that he 
had occasionally taken them off, as did probably this 

16 young man in Wyoming. "You had better send me the 
letter he has written you," she concluded. "I shall know 
much better what to think after I have seen that." 

It is not probable that Mrs. Wood got much comfort 
from this communication; and her daughter Sarah was 

20 actually enraged by it. "She grows more perverse as 
she nears her dotage," said Sarah. But the Virginian's 
letter was sent to Dunbarton, where the old lady sat her- 
self down to read it with much attention. 

Here is what the Virginian had said to the unknown 

25 mother of his sweetheart. 

Mrs. John Stark Wood, 
Bennington, Vermont. 

Madam: If your daughter Miss Wood has ever told 
you about her saving a man's life here when some Indians 
30 had shot him that is the man who writes to you now. I 
don't think she can have told you right about that affair 
for she is the only one in this country who thinks it was a 
little thing. So I must tell you it, the main points. 
Such an action would have been thought highly of in a 

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"Western girl, but with Miss Wood's raising nobody had a 
right to expect it. 

"Indeed!'' snorted the great-aunt. "Well, he would 
be right, if I had not had a good deal more to do with her 
'raising' than ever Lizzie had." And she went on with 6 
the letter. 

I was starting in to die when she found me. I did not 
know anything then, and she pulled me back from where 
I was half in the next world. She did not know but what 
Indians would get her too but I could not make her leave 10 
me. I am a heavy man one hundred and seventy-three 
stripped when in full health. She lifted me herself from 
the ground me helping scarce any for there was not much 
help in me that day. She washed my wound and brought 
me to with her own whiskey. Before she could get me 15 
home I was out of my head but she kept me on my horse 
somehow and talked wisely to me so I minded her and 
did not go clean crazy till she had got me safe to bed. 
The doctor says I would have died all the same if she had 
not nursed me the way she did. It made me love her more 20 
which I did not know I could. But there is no end, for 
this writing it down makes me love her more as I write it. 

And now Mrs. Wood I am sorry this will be bad news 
for you to hear. I know you would never choose such a 
man as I am for her for I have got no education and must 25 
write humble against my birth. I wish I could make the 
news easier but truth is the best. 

I am of old stock in Virginia English and one Scotch 
Irish grandmother my father's father brought from Ken- 
tucky. We have always stayed at the same place farmers 30 
and hunters not bettering our lot and very plain. We 
have fought when we got the chance, under Old Hickory 
and in Mexico and my father and two brothers were 
killed in' the Valley sixty-four. Always with us one son 
has been apt to run away and I was the ^^^p^^ time. 35 


I had too much older brothering to suit me. But now I 
am doing well being in full sight of prosperity and not too 
old and very strong my health having stood the sundries 
it has been put through. She shall teach school no more 
5 when she is mine. I wish I could make this news easier 
for you Mrs. Wood. I do not like promises I have heard 
so many. I will tell any man of your family anything he 
likes to ask me, and Judge Henry would tell you about 
my reputation. I have seen plenty rough things but can 

10 say I have never killed for pleasure or profit and am not 
one of that kind, always preferring peace. I have had 
to live in places where they had courts and lawyers so 
called but an honest man was all the law you could find 
in five hundred miles. I have not told her about those 

15 things not because I am ashamed of them but there are 
so many things too dark for a girl like her to hear about. 

I had better tell you the way I know I love Miss Wood. 
I am not a boy now, and women are no new thing to me. 
A man like me who has travelled meets many of them as 

20 he goes and passes on but I stopped when I came to Miss 
Wood. That is three years but I have not gone on. 
What right has such as he? you will say. So did I say 
it after she had saved my life. It was hard to get to that 
point and keep there with her aroimd me all day. But I 

25 said to myself you have bothered her for three years with 
your love and if you let your love bother her you don't 
love her like you should and you must quit for her sake 
who has saved your life. I did not know what I was 
going to do with my life after that but I supposed I could 

30 go somewhere and work hard and so Mrs. Wood I told 
her I would give her up. But she said no. It is going 
to be hard for her to get used to a man like me — 

But at this point in the Virginian's letter, the old great- 
aunt could read no more. She fose, and went over to 
35 that desk where lay those faded letters of her own. She 

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laid her head down upon the package, and as her tears 
flowed quietly upon it, "O dear,'' she whispered, "O 
dear ! And this is what I lost ! " 

To her girl upon Bear Creek she wrote the next day. 
And this word from Dunbarton was like balm among 5 
the harsh stings Molly was receiving. The voices of the 
world reached her in gathering numbers, and not one of 
them save that great-aunt's was sweet. Her days were 
full of hurts ; and tjiere was no one by to kiss the hurts 
away. Nor did she even hear from her lover any more 10 
now. She only knew he had gone into lonely regions 
upon his errand. 

That errand took him far : — 

Across the Basin, among the secret places of Owl Creek, 
past the Washakie Needles, over the Divide to Gros 15 
Ventre, and so through a final barrier of peaks into the 
borders of East Idaho. There, by reason of his bidding 
me, I met him, and came to share in a part of his errand. 

It was with no guide that I travelled to him. He had 
named a little station on the railroad, and from thence 20 
he had charted my route by means of landmarks. Did I 
believe in omens, the black storm that I set out in upon 
my horse would seem like one to-day. But I had been 
living in cities and smoke ; and Idaho, even with rain, was 
delightful to me. 25 

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When the first landmark, the lone clump of cotton- 
woods, came at length in sight, dark and blurred in the 
gentle rain, standing out perhaps a mile beyond the 
distant buildings, my whole weary body hailed the ap- 

Sproach of repose. Saving the noon hour, I had been in 
the saddle since six^ and now six was come round again. 
The ranch, my restmg-place for this night, was a ruin — 
cabin, stable, and corral. Yet after the twelve hours of 
pushing on and on through silence, still to have silence, 

10 stiU to eat and go to sleep in it, perfectly fitted the mood 
of both my flesh and spirit. At noon, when for a while 
I had thrown off my long oilskin coat, merely the sight 
of the newspaper half crowded into my pocket had been 
a displeasing reminder of the railway, and cities, and 

15 affairs. But for its possible help to build fires, it would 
have come no farther with me. The great levels aroimd 
me lay cooled and freed of dust by the wet weather, and 
full of sweet airs. Far in front the foot-hills rose through 
the rain, indefinite and mystic. I wanted no speech with 

20 any one, nor to be near human beings at all. I was 
steeped in a revery as of the primal earth ; even thoughts 
themselves had almost ceased motion. To lie down with 
wild animals, with elk and deer, would have made my 
waking dream complete ; and since such dream could not 

25 be, the cattle around the deserted buildings, mere dots as 

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yet across separating space, were my proper companions 
for this evening. 

To-morrow night I should probably be camping with 
the Virginian in the foot-hills. At his letter's bidding I 
had come eastward across Idaho, abandoning my hunting 5 
in the Saw Tooth Range to make this journey with him 
back through the Tetons. It was a trail known to him, 
and not to many other honest men. Horse Thief Pass 
was the name his letter gave it. Business (he was always 
brief) would call him over there at this time. Returning lO 
he must attend to certain matters in the Wind River 
country. There I could leave by stage for the railroad, 
or go on with him the whole way back to Sunk Creek. 
He designated for our meeting the forks of a certain 
little stream in the foot-hills which to-day's ride had 15 
brought in sight. There would be no chance for him to 
receive an answer from me in the intervening time. If 
by a certain day — which was four days off still — I had 
not reached the forks, he would understand I had other 
plans. To me it was like living back in ages gone, this 20 
way of meeting my friend, this choice of a stream so far 
and lonely that its very course upon the maps was wrongly 
traced. And to leave behind all noise and mechanisms, 
and set out at ease, slowly, with one packhorse, into the 
wilderness, made me feel that the ancient earth was in- 25 
deed my mother and that I had found }ier again after 
being lost among houses, customs, and restraints. I 
should arrive three days early at the forks — three days 
of margin seeming to me a wise precaution against delays 
unforeseen. If the Virginian were not there, good; 1 30 
could fish and be happy. If he were there but not ready 
to start, good; I coiQd still fish and be happy. And 
remembering my Eastern helplessness in the year when 
we had met first, I enjoyed thinking how I had come to 
be trusted. In those days I had not been allowed to go 35 
from the ranch for so much as an a||.^^^^^^^5id^ unless 


tied to him by a string, so to speak ; now I was crossing 
immapped spaces with no guidance. The man who could 
do this was scarce any longer a "tenderfoot." 
My vision, as I rode, took in serenely the dim foot-hills, 

5 — to-morrow's goal, — and nearer in the vast wet plain 
the clump of cottonwoods, and still nearer my lodging for 
to-night with the dotted cattle round it. And now my 
horse neighed. I felt his gait freshen for the journey's 
end, and leaning to pat his neck I noticed his ears no longer 

10 slack and inattentive, but pointing forward to where 
food and rest awaited both of us. Twice he neighed, 
impatiently and long; and as he quickened his gait still 
more, the packhorse did the same, and I realized that 
there was about me still a spice of the tenderfoot : these 

15 dots were not cattle ; they were horses. 

My horse had put me in the wrong. He had known 
his kind from afar, and was hastening to them. The 
plainsman's eye was not yet mine ; and I smiled a little 
as I rode. When was I going to know, as by instinct, 

20 the different look of horses and cattle across some two or 
three miles of plain? 

These miles we finished soon. The buildings changed 
in their aspect as they grew to my approach, showing 
their desolation more clearly, and in some way bringing 

25 apprehension into my mood. And around them the 
horses; too, all standing with ears erect, watching me as 
I came — there was something about them; or was it 
the silence? For the silence which I had liked until now 
seemed suddenly to be made too great by the presence of 

30 the deserted buildings. And then the door of the stable 
opened, and men came out and stood, also watching me 
arrive. By the time I was dismounting more were there. 
It was senseless to feel as unpleasant as I did, and I strove 
to give to them a greeting that should sound easy. I told 

35 them that I hoped there was room for one more here to- 
night. Some of them had answered my greetine. but 


none of them answered this; and as I began to be sure 
that I recognized several of their strangely imperturbable 
faces, the Virginian came from the stable; and at that 
welcome sight my relief spoke out instantly. 

"I am here, you see!'' 5 

"Yes, I do see." J looked hard at him, for in his voice 
was the same strangeness that I felt in everything around 
me. But he was looking at his companions. "This 
gentleman is all right," he told them. 

"That may be," said one whom I now knew that 10 
I had seen before at Sunk Creek; "but he was not due 

"Nor to-morrow," said another. 

"Nor yet the day after," a third added. 

The Virginian fell into his drawl. "None of you was 15 
ever early for anything, I presume." 

One retorted, laughing, " Oh, we're not suspicioning you 
of complicity." 

And another, "Not even when we remember how thick 
you and Steve used to be." 20 

Whatever jokes they meant by this he did not receive as 
jokes. I saw something like a wince pass over his face, 
and a flush follow it. But he now spoke to me. "We 
expected to be through before this," he began. "I'm 
right sorry you have come to-night. I know you'd have 25 
preferred to keep away." 

"We want him to explain himself," put in one of the 
others. "If he satisfies us, he's free to go away." 

"Free to go away!" I now exclaimed. But at the in- 
dulgence in their frontier smile I cooled down. "Gentle- 30 
men," I said; "I don't know why my movements interest 
you so much. It's quite a compliment ! May I get under 
shelter while I explain?" 

No request could have been more natural, for the rain 
had now begun to fall in straight floods. Yet there was a 35 
pause before one of them said, "He might as well." 

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The Virginian chose to say nothing more; but he 
walked beside me into the stable. Two men sat there 
together, and a third guarded them. At that sight I 
knew suddenly what I had stumbled upon; and on the 

5 impulse I murmured to the Virginian : — 
"You're hanging them to-morrow." 
He kept his silence. 

"You may have three guesses," said a man behind me. 
But I did not need them. And in the recoil of my 

10 insight the clump of cottonwoods came into my mind, 
black and grim. No other trees high enough grew within 
ten miles. This, then, was the business that the Vir- 
ginian's letter had so curtly mentioned. My eyes went 
into all corners of the stable, but no other prisoners were 

15 here. I half expected to see Trampas, and I half feared 
to see Shorty ; for poor stupid Shorty's honesty had not 
been proof against frontier temptations, and he had fallen 
away from the company of his old friends. Often of late 
I had heard talk at Sunk Creek of breaking up a certain 

20 gang of horse and cattle thieves that stole in one Terri- 
tory and sold in the next, and knew where to hide in the 
mountains between. And now it had come to the point: 
forces had been gathered, a long expedition made, ana 
here they were, successful under the Virginian's lead, but 

25 a little later than their calculations. And here was I, 
a little too early, and a witness in consequence. My 
presence seemed a simple thing to account for ; but when 
I had thus accounted for it, one of them said with good 
nature : — 

30 "So you find us here, and we find you here. Which is 
the most surprised, I wonder?" 

"There's no telling," said I, keeping as amiable as I 
could ; "nor any telling which objects the most." 

"Oh, there's no objection here. You're welcome to 

35 stay. But not welcome to go, I expect. He ain't wel- 
come to go, is he?" 

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By the answers that their faces gave him it was plain 
that I was not. "Not till we are through," said one. 

"He needn't to see anything," another added. 

"Better sleep late to-morrow morning," a third sug- 
gested to me. 5 

I did not wish to stay here, I could have made some 
sort of camp apart from them before dark; but in the 
face of their needless caution I was helpless. I made 
no attempt to inquire what kind of spy they imagined 
I could be, what sort of rescue I could bring in this lonely 10 
country ; my too early appearance seemed to be all that 
they looked at. And again my eyes sought the prisoners. 
Certainly there were only two. One was chewing to- 
bacco, and talking now and then to his guard as if nothing 
were the matter. The other sat dull in silence, not moving 15 
his eyes ; but his face worked, and I noticed how he con- 
tinually moistened his dry lips. As I looked at these 
doomed prisoners, whose fate I was invited to sleep through 
to-morrow morning, the one who was chewing quietly 
nodded to me. 20 

"You don't remember me?" he said. 

It was Steve ! Steve of Medicine Bow ! The pleasant 
Steve of my first evening in the West. Some change of 
beard had delayed my instant recognition of his face. 
Here he sat sentenced to die. A shock, chill and painful, 25 
deprived me of speech. 

He had no such weak feelings. "Have yu' been to 
Medicine Bow lately?" he inquired. "That's getting to 
be quite a while ago." • 

I assented. I should have liked to say something 30 
natural and kind, but words stuck against my will, and I 
stood awkward and ill at ease, noticing idly that the 
silent one wore a gray flannel shirt like mine. Steve 
looked me over, and saw in my pocket the newspaper 
which I had brought from the railroad and on which 1 35 
had pencilled a few expenses. He asked ^^^Wpuld I 


mind letting him have it for a while? And I gave it to 
him eagerly, begging him to keep it as long as he wanted. 
I was overeager in my embarrassment. "You need not 
return it at all," I said; "those notes are nothing. Do 
5 keep it." He gave me a short glance and a smile. 
"Thank you," he said; "111 not need it beyond to- 
morrow morning." And he began to search through it. 
"Jake's election is considered sure," he said to his com- 
panion, who made no response. "Well, Fremont Coimty 

10 owes it to Jake." And I left him interested in the local 

Dead men I have seen not a few times, even some lying 
pale and terrible after violent ends, and the edge of this 
wears off ; but I hope I shall never again have to be in 

15 the company with men waiting to be killed. By this 
time to-morrow the gray flannel shirt would be buttoned 
round a corpse. Until what moment would Steve chew? 
Against such fancies as these I managed presently to 
barricade my mind, but I made a plea to be allowed to 

20 pass the night elsewhere, and I suggested the adjacent 
cabin. By their faces I saw that my words merely helped 
their distrust of me. The cabin leaked too much, they 
said ; I would sleep drier here. One man gave it to me 
more directly : "If you figured on camping in this stable, 

25 what has changed your mind?" How could I tell them 
that I shrunk from any contact with what they were 
doing, although I knew that only so could justice be 
dealt in this country? Their wholesome frontier nerves 
knew nothing of such refinements. 

30 But the Virginian understood part of it. "I am right 

sorry for your annoyance," he said. And now I noticed 

he was under a constraint very different from the ease of 

the others. 

After the twelve hours' ride my bones were hungry for 

35 rest. I spread my blankets on some straw in a stall by 
myself and rolled up in them ; yet I lay growing broader 

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awake, every inch of weariness stricken from my excited 
senses. For a while they sat over their councils, whisper- 
ing cautiously, so that I was made curious to hear them 
by not being able; was it the names of Trampas and 
Shorty that were once or twice spoken? I could not be 5 
sure. I heard the whisperers cease and separate. I 
heard their boots as they cast them off upon the ground. 
And I heard the breathing of slumber begin and grow in 
the inteiior silence. To one after one sleep came, but 
not to me. Outside, the dull fall of the rain beat evenly, lo 
and in some angle dripped the spouting pulses of a leak. 
Sometimes a cold air blew in, bearing with it the keen 
wet odor of the sage-brush. On hundreds of other nights 
this perfume had been my last waking remembrance ; it 
had seemed to help drowsiness ; and now I lay staring, 15 
thinking of this. Twice through the hours the thieves 
shifted their positions with clumsy sounds, exchanging 
muJBed words with their guard. So, often, had I heard 
other companions move and mutter in the darkness and 
lie down again. It was the very naturalness and usualness 20 
of every fact of the night, — the stable straw, the rain 
outside, my familiar blankets, the cool visits of the wind, 
— ^nd with all this the thought of Steve chewing and the 
man in the gray flannel shirt, that made the hours un- 
earthly and strung me tight with suspense. And at last 25 
I heard some one get up and begin to dress. In a little 
while I saw light suddenly through my closed eyelids, 
and then darkness shut again abruptly upon them. They 
had swung in a lantern and found me by mistake. I was 
the only one they did not wish to rouse. Moving and 30 
quiet talking set up around me, and they began to go 
out of the stable. At the gleams of new daylight which 
they let in my thoughts went to the clump of cottonwoods, 
and I lay still with hands and feet growing steadily cold. 
Now it was going to happen. I wondered how they 35 
would do it ; one instance had been described to me by a 

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witness, but that was done from a bridge, and there had 
been but a single victim. This morning, would one have 
to wait and see the other go through with it first? 
The smell of smoke reached me, and next the rattle of 
6 tin dishes. Breakfast was something I had forgotten, 
and one of them was cooking it now in the dry shelter of 
the stable. He was alone, because the talking and the 
steps were outside the stable, and I could hear the sounds 
of horses being driven into the corral and saddled. Then 

10 1 perceived that the coffee was ready, and almost im- 
mediately the cook called them. One came in, shutting 
the door behind him as he reentered, which the rest as 
they followed imitated; for at each opening of the door 
I saw the light of day leap into the stable and heard the 

15 louder soimds of the rain. Then the sound and the light 
would again be shut out, until some one at length spoke 
out bluntly, bidding the door be left open on account of 
the smoke. What were they hiding from? he asked. 
The runaways that had escaped? A laugh followed this 

20 sally, and the door was left open. Thus I learned that 
there had been more thieves than the two that were 
captured. It gave a little more ground for their suspicion 
about me and my anxiety to pass the night elsewh^e. 
It cost nothing to detain me, and they were taking no 

25 chances, however remote. 

The fresh air and the light now filled the stable, and I 
lay listening while their breakfast brought more talk from 
them. They were more at ease now than was I, who had 
nothing to do but carry out my r61e of slumber in the 

30 stall; they spoke in a friendly, ordinary way, as if this 
were like every other morning of the week to them. They 
addressed the prisoners with a sort of fraternal kindness, 
not bringing them pointedly into the conversation, nor 
yet pointedly leaving them out. I made out that they 

35 must all be sitting round the breakfast together, those 
who had to die and those who had to kill them. The 

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Virgmian I never heard speak. But I heard the voice of 
Steve ; he discussed with his captors the sundry points of 
his capture. 

"Do you remember a haystack?'' he asked. "Away 
up the south fork of Gr OS Ventre?" 5 

"That was Thursday afternoon," said one of the captors. 
"There was a shower." 

"Yes. It rained. We had you fooled that time. I 
was laying on the ledge above to report your movements." 

Several of them laughed. "We thought you were over lo 
on Spread Creek then." 

"I figured you thought so by the trail you took after 
the stack. Saturday we watched you turn your back on 
us up Spread Creek. We were snug among the trees the 
other side of Snake River. That was another time we 15 
had you fooled." 

They laughed again at their own expense. I have 
heard men pick to pieces a hand of whist with more 

Steve continued : "Would we head for Idaho? Would 20 
we swing back over the Divide ? You didn't know which ! 
And when we generalled you on to that band of horses 
you thought was the band you were hunting — ah, we 
were a strong combination ! " He broke off with the first 
touch of bitterness I had felt in his words. 25 

"Nothing is any stronger than its weakest point." ■ 
It was the Virginian who said this, and it was the first 
word he had spoken. 

"Naturally," said Steve. His tone in addressing the 
Virginian was so different, so curt, that I supposed he 30 
took the weakest point to mean himself. But the others 
now showed me that I was wrong in this explanation. 

"That's so," one said. "Its weakest point is where 
a rope or a gang of men is going to break when the 
strain comes. And you was linked with a poor partner, 35 

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"You're right I was," said the prisoner, back in his 
easy, casual voice. 

"You ought to have got yourself separated from him, 
5 There was a pause. "Yes," said the prisoner, moodily. 
"I'm sitting here because one of us blundered." He 
cursed the blunderer. "Lighting his fool fire queered the 
whole deal," he added. Ak he again heavily cursed the 
blunderer, the others murmured to each other various 
10 "I told you so's." 

"You'd never have built that fire, Steve," said one. 

"I said that when we spied the smoke," said another. 
"I said, * That's none of Steve's work, lighting fires and 
revealing to us their whereabouts.'" 
15 It struck me that they were plying Steve with compli- 

"Pretty hard to have the fool get away and you get 
caught," a third suggested. 

At this they seemed to wait. I felt something curious 
20 in all this last talk. 

"Oh, did he get away?" said the prisoner, then. 

Again they waited ; and a new voice spoke huskily : — 

"I built that fire, boys." It was the prisoner in the 
gray flannel shirt. 
25 "Too late, Ed," they told him kindly. "You ain't a 
good liar." 

"What makes you laugh, Steve?" said some one. 

" Oh, the things I notice." 

"Meaning Ed was pretty slow in backing up your play? 
30 The joke is really on you, Steve. You'd ought never to 
have cursed the fire-builder if yo.u wanted us to believe 
he was present. But we'd not have done much to 
Shorty, even if we had caught him. All he wants is to 
be scared good and hard, and he'll go back into virtuous- 
35ness, which is his nature, when not travelling with 

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Steve's voice sounded hard now. "You have caught 
Ed and me. That should satisfy you for one gather.'* 

"Well, we think different, Steve. Trampas escaping 
leaves this thing unfinished." 

"So Trampas escaped too, did he?" said the prisoner. 6 

"Yes, Steve, Trampas escaped — this time; and 
Shorty with him — this time. We know it most as well 
as if we'd seen them go. And we're glad Shorty is loose, 
for he'll build another fire or do some other foolishness 
next tinie, and that's the time we'll get Trampas." 10 

Their talk drifted to other points, and I lay thinking 
of the skirmish that had played beneath the surface of 
their banter. Yes, the joke, as they put it, was on Steve. 
He had lost one point in the game to them. They were 
playing for names. He, being a chivalrous thief, was 16 
playing to hide names. They could only, among several 
likely confederates, guess Trampas and Shorty. So it 
had been a slip for him to curse the man who built the 
fire. At least, they so held it. For, they with subtlety 
reasoned, one curses the absent. And I agreed with 20 
them that Ed did not know how to lie well; he should 
have at once claimed the disgrace of having spoiled the 
expedition. If Shorty was the blunderer, then certainly 
Trampas was the other man; for the two were as in- 
separable as dog and master. Trampas had enticed 25 
Shorty away from good, and trained him in evil. It now 
struck me that after his single remark the Virginian had 
been silent throughout their shrewd discussion. 

It was the other prisoner that I heard them next ad- 
dress. "You don't eat any breakfast, Ed." 30 

"Brace up, Ed. Look at Steve, how hardy he eats!" 

But Ed, it seemed, wanted no breakfast. And the tin 
dishes rattled as they were gathered and taken to be 

"Drink this coffee, anyway," another urged; "you'll 36 
feel wanner." ^ ,,,»,,.. 

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These words almost made it seem like my own execu- 
tion. My whole body turned cold in company with the 
prisoner's, and as if with a clank the situation tightened 
throughout my senses. 
5 "I reckon if every one's ready we'll start." It was the 
Virginian's voice once more, and different from the rest. 
I heard them rise at his bidding, and I put the blanket 
over my head. I felt their tread as they walked out, 
passing my stall. The straw that was half under me 

10 and half out in the stable was stirred as by something 
heavy dragged or half lifted along over it. "Look out, 
you're hurting Ed's arm," one said to another, as the 
steps with tangled sounds passed slowly out. I heard 
another among those who followed say, "Poor Ed couldn't 

16 swallow his coffee." Outside they began getting on their 
horses; and next their hoofs grew distant, until all was 
silence round the stable except the dull, even falling of the 

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I DO not know how long I stayed there alone. It was 
the Virginian who came back, and as he stood at the foot 
of my blankets his eye, after meeting mine full for a 
moment, turned aside. I had never seen him look as 
he did now, not even in Pitchstone Cafion when we came 5 
upon the bodies of Hank and his wife. Until this moment 
we had found no chance of speaking together, except in the 
presence of others. 

"Seems to be raining still," I began after a little. 

"Yes. It's a wet spell." 10 

He stared out of the door, smoothing his mustache. 

It was again I that spoke. "What time is it?" 

He brooded over his watch. "Twelve minutes to 

I rose and stood drawing on my clothes. 15 

"The fire's out," said he; and he assembled some new 
sticks over the ashes. Presently he looked round with a 

"Never mind that for me," I said. 

"We've a long ride," he suggested. 20 

"I know. I've crackers in my pocket." 

My boots being pulled on, I walked to the door and 
watched the clouds. "They seem as if they might lift," 
I said. And I took out my watch. 

"What time is it?" he asked. 25 

"A quarter of ^ — it's run down." 

While I wound it he seemed to be consulting his own. 

327 Digitized by NoiUUy It: 


"WeU?^' I inquired. 
"Ten minutes past seven." 

As I was setting my watch he slowly said: "Steve 
wound his all regular. I had to night-guard him till two.'* 
5 His speech was like that of one in a trance : so, at least, 
it sounds in my memory to-day. 

Again I looked at the weather and the rainy inmiensity 
of the plain. The foot-hills eastward where we were going 
were a soft yellow. Over the gray-green sage-brush moved 
10 shapeless places of light — not yet the uncovered sunlight, 
but spots where the storm was wearing thin ; and wander- 
ing streams of warmth passed by slowly in the surrounding 
air. As I watched the clouds and the earth, my eyes 
chanced to fall on the distant clump of cottonwoods. 
15 Vapors from the enfeebled storm floated round them, 
and they were indeed far away; but I came inside and 
began rolling up my blankets. 

"You will not change your mind?" said the Virginian 
by the fire. "It is thirty-five miles." 
20 I shook my head, feeling a certain shame that he should 
see how unnerved I was. 

He swallowed a hot cupful, and after it sat thinking; 

and presently he passed his hand across his brow, shutting 

his eyes. Again he poured out a cup, and emptying this, 

25 rose abruptly to his feet as if shaking himself free from 


"Let's pack and quit here," he said. 

Our horses were in the corral and our belongings in the 

shelter of what had been once the cabin at this forlorn 

30 place. He collected them in silence while I saddled my 

own animal, and in silence we packed the two packhorses, 

and threw the diamond hitch, and hauled tight the slack, 

damp ropes. Soon we had mounted, and as we turned 

into the trail I gave a look back at my last night's lodging. 

35 The Virginian noticed me. "Good-by forever!" he 


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"By God, I hope so!" 

"Same here/' he confessed. And these were our first 
natural words this morning. 

"This will go well," said I, holding my flask out to 
him ; and both of us took some, and felt easier for it and 5 
the natural words. 

For an hour we had been shirking real talk, holding 
fast to the weather, or anything, and all the while that 
silent thing we were keeping off spoke plainly in the air 
around us and in every syllable that we uttered. But 10 
now we were going to get away from it ; leave it behind 
in the stable, and set ourselves free from it by talking it 
out. Already relief had begun to stir in my spirits. 

"You never did this before," I said. 

"No. I never had it to do." He was riding beside 15 
me, looking down at his saddle-horn. 

"I do not think I should ever be able," I pursued. 

Defiance sounded in his answer. "I would do it again 
this morning." 

"Oh, I don't mean that. It's all right here. There's 20 
no other way." 

"I would do it all over again the same this morning. 
Just the same." 

"Why, so should I — if I could do it at all." I still 
thought he was justifying their justice- to me. 25 

He made no answer as he rode along, looking all the 
while at his saddle. But again he passed his hand over 
his forehead with that frown and shutting of the eyes. 

"I should like to be sure I should behave myself if I 
were condemned," I said next. For it now came to me 30 
■ — which should I resemble ? Could I read the newspaper, 
and be interested in county elections, and discuss coming 
death as if I had lost a game of cards? Or would they 
have to drag me out? That poor wretch in the gray 
flannel shirt — "It was bad in the stable," I said aloud. 35 
For an after-shiver of it went througlj.gija^^^^^^jy^,. 


A third time his hand brushed his forehead, and I ven- 
tured some sympathy. 

"I'm afraid your head aches." 

"I don't want to keep seeing Steve," he muttered. 
6 "Steve!" I was astounded. "Why he — why all I 
saw of him was splendid. Since it had to be. It was — " 

"Oh, yes; Ed. You're thinking about him. I'd for- 
got him. So you didn't enjoy Ed?" 

At this I looked at him blankly. "It isn't possible 
10 that— " 

Again he cut me short with a laugh almost savage. 
"You needn't to worry about Steve.- He stayed game." 

What then had been the matter that he should keep 
seeing Steve — that his vision should so obliterate from 
15 him what I still shivered at, and so shake him now? For 
he seemed to be growing more stirred as I grew less. I 
asked him no further questions, however, and we went on 
for several minutes, he brooding always in the same 
fashion, until he resumed with the hard indifference that 
20 had before surprised me : — 

"So Ed gave you feelings! Dumb ague and so 

"No doubt we're not made the same way," I retorted. 

He took no notice of this. "And you'd have been 

25 more comfortable if he'd acted same as Steve did. It 

cert'nly was bad seeing Ed take it that way, I reckon. 

And you didn't see him when the time came for business. 

Well, here's what it is : a man may be such a confirmed 

miscreant that killing's the only cure for him; but still 

30 he's your own species, and you don't want to have him 

fall around and grab your laigs and show you his fear 

naked. It makes you feel ashamed. So Ed gave you 

feelings, and Steve made everything right easy for you ! " 

There was irony in his voice as he surveyed me, but it 

35 fell away at once into sadness. "Both was miscreants. 

But if Steve had played the coward, too, it would have 

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been a whole heap easier for me." He paused before 
adding, "And Steve was not a miscreant once." 

His voice had trembled, and I felt the deep emotion 
that seemed to gain upon him now that action was over 
and he had nothing to do but think. And his view was 6 
simple enough: you must die brave. Failure is a sort 
of treason to the brotherhood, and forfeits pity. It was 
Steve's perfect bearing that had caught his heart so that 
he forgot even his scorn of the other man. 

But this was by no means all that was to come. He lO 
harked back to that notion of a prisoner helping to make 
it easy for his executioner. "Easy plumb to the end," 
he pursued, his mind reviewing the acts of the morning. 
"Why, he tried to give me your newspaper. I didn't — " 

"Oh, no," I said hastily. "I had finished with it." 15 

"Well, he took dying as naturally as he took living. 
Like a man should. LS^e I hope to." Again he looked 
at the pictures in his mind. "No play-acting nor last 
words. He just told good-by to the boys as we led his 
horse under the limb — you needn't to look so dainty," 20 
he broke off. "You ain't going to get any more shocking 

"I know I'm white-livered," I said with a species of 
laugh. "I never crowd and stare when somebody is 
hurt in the street. I get away." 25 

He thought this over. "You don't mean all of that. 
You'd not have spoke just that way about crowding and 
staring if you thought well of them that stare. Staring 
ain't courage; it's trashy curiosity. Now you did not 
have this thing — " 30 

He had stretched out his hand to point, but it fell, and 
his utterance stopped, and he jerked his horse to a stand. 

My nerves sprang like a wire at his suddenness, and I 
looked where he was looking. There were the cotton- 
woods, close in front of us. As we had travelled and 36 
talked we had forgotten them. Now they were looming 

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within a hundred yards ; and our trail lay straight through 

"Let's go around them," said the Virginian. 

When we had come back from our circuit into the trail 
5 he continued : "You did not have that thing to do. But 
a man goes through with his responsibilities — and I 
reckon you could." 

"I hope so," I answered. "How about Ed?" 

"He was not a man, though we thought he was till 
10 this. Steve and I started punching cattle together at 
the Bordeaux outfit, north of Cheyenne. We did every- 
thing together in those days — work and play. Six 
years ago. Steve had many good points onced." 

We must have gone two miles before he spoke again. 
16 "You prob'ly didn't notice Steve? I mean the way he 
acted to me ? " It was a question, but he did not wait for 
my answer. "Steve never said a word to me all through. 
He shunned it. And you saw how neighborly he talked 
to the other boys." 
20 "Where have they all gone?" I asked. 

He smiled at me. "It cert'nly is lonesome now, for a 

"I didn't know you felt it," said I. 

"Feel it! — they've went to the railroad. Three of 
25 them are witnesses in a case at Evanston, and the Judge 
wants our outfit at Medicine Bow. Steve shunned me. 
Did he think I was going back on him?" 

"What if he did? You were not. And so nobody's 
going to Wind River but you?" 
30 "No. Did you notice Steve would not give us any 
information about Shorty? That was right. I would 
have acted that way, too." Thus, each time, he brought 
me back to the subject. 

The sun was now shining warm during two or three 

35 minutes together, and gulfs of blue opened in the great 

white clou(£. These moved and met among each other, 

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and parted, like hands spread out, slowly weaving a spell 
of sleep over the day after the wakeful night storm. The 
huge contours of the earth lay basking and drying, and 
not one living creature, bird or beast, was in sight. Quiet 
was returning to my revived spirits, but there was none 5 
for the Virginian. And as he reasoned matters out aloud, 
his mood grew more overcast. 

"You have a friend, and his ways are your ways. You 
travel together, you spree together confidentially, and 
you suit each other down to the ground. Then one day 10 
you find him putting his iron on another man's calf. 
You tell him fair and square those ways have never been 
your ways and ain't going to be your ways. Well, that 
does not change him any, for it seems he's disturbed over 
getting rich quick and being a big man in the Territory. 15 
And tne years go on, untU you are foreman of Judge 
Henry's ranch and he — is dangling back in the cotton- 
woods. What can he claim? Who made the choice? 
He cannot say, 'Here is my old friend that I would have 
stood by.' Can he say that?" 20 

"But he didn't say it," I protested. 

"No. He shunned me." 

"Listen," I said. "Suppose while you were on guard 
he had whispered, *Get me off' — would you have done 
it?" 25 

"No, sir!" said the Virginian, hotly. 

"Then what do you want?" I asked. "What did you 

He could not answer me — but I had not answered him, 
I saw; so I pushed it farther. "Did you want indorse- 30 
ment from the man you were hanging? That's asking a 
little too much." 

But he had now another confusion. "Steve stood by 
Shorty," he said musingly. "It was Shorty's mistake 
cost him his life, but all the same he didn't want us to 35 

catch " Digitized by V^UUy It: 


''You are mixing things/' I interrupted. "I never 
heard you mix things before. And it was not Shorty's 
He showed momentary interest. " Whose then ? ' ' 
5 "The mistake of whoever took a fool into their enter- 

"That's correct. WqU, Trampas took Shorty in, and 
Steve would not tell on him, either." 
I still tried it, saying, " They were all in the same boat." 

10 But logic was useless ; he had lost his bearings in a fog of 
sentiment. He knew, knew passionately, that he had 
done right ; but the silence of his old friend to him through 
those last hours left a sting that no reasoning could assuage. 
"He told good-by to the rest of the boys ; but not to me." 

15 And nothing that I could point out in common sense turned 
him from the thread of his own argument. He worked 
round the circle again to self-justification. "Was it 
him I was deserting? Was not the deserting done by 
him the day I spoke my mind about stealing calves? I 

20 have kept my ways the same. He is the one that took to 

new ones. The man I used to travel with is not the man 

back there. Same name, to be sure. And same body. 

,But different in — and yet he had the memory! You 

can't never change your memory!" 

25 He gave a sob. It was the first I had ever heard from 
him, and before I knew what I was doing I had reined my 
horse up to his and put my arm aroimd his shoulders. I 
had no sooner touched him than he was utterly overcome. 
"I knew Steve awful well," he said. 

30 Thus we had actually come to change places ; for early 
in the morning he had been firm while I was unnerved, 
while now it was I who attempted to steady and comfort 

I had the sense to keep silent, and presently he shook 

35 my hand, not looking at me as he did so. He was always 
very shy of demonstration. And he t9j^]^J|5^^pft^^M<^he 


neck of his pony. "You Monte hawss," said he, "you 
think you are wise, but there's a lot of things you don't 
savvy/' Then he made a new beginning of talk between 

"It is kind of pitiful about Shorty." 6 

"Very pitiful," I said. 

"Do you know about him?" the Virginian asked. 

"I know there's no real harm in him, and some real 
good, and that he has not got the brains necessary to be 
a horse thief." 10 

"That's so. That's very true. Trampas has led him 
in deeper than his stature can stand. Now back East you 
can be middling and get along. But if you go to try a 
thing on in this Western coimtry, you've got to do it well. 
You've got to deal cyards well; you've got to steal weU; 15 
and if you claim to be quick with your gun, you must be 
quick, for you're a public temptation, and some man will 
not resist trying to prove he is the quicker. You must 
break all the Commandments well in this Western country, 
and Shorty should have stayed in Brooklyn, for he wm20 
be a novice his livelong days. You don't know about 
him? He has told me his circumstances. He don't re- 
member his father, and it was like he could have claimed 
three or four. And I expect his mother was not much 
interested in him before or after he was born. He ran 25 
around, and when he was eighteen he got to be help to a 
grocery man. But a girl he ran with kept taking all his 
pay and teasing him for more^ and so one day the grocery 
man caught Shorty robbing his till, and fired him. There* 
wasn't no one to tell good-by to, for the girl had to go to 30 
the. country to see her aunt, she said. So Shorty hung 
aroimd the store and kissed the grocery cat good-by. He'd 
been used to feeding the cat, and she'd sit in his lap and 
purr, he told me. He sends money back to that girl now. 
This hyeh country is no country for Shorty,, for he will 35 
be a conspicuous novice all his days." 

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"Perhaps he'll prefer honesty after his narrow shave," 
I said. 

But the Virginian shook his head. "Trampas has got 
hold of him." 
5 The day was now all blue above, and all warm and dry 
beneath. We had begun to wind in and rise among the 
first slopes of the foot-hills, and we had talked ourselves 
into silence. At the first running water we made a long 
nooning, and I slept on the bare ground. My body was 

10 lodged so fast and deep in slumber that when the Virginian 
shook me awake I could not come back to life at once ; it 
was the clump of cottonwoods, small and far out in the 
plain below us, that recalled me. 

"It'll not be watching us much longer," said the Vir- 

15 ginian. He made it a sort of joke ; but I knew that both 
of us were glad when presently we rode into a steeper 
country, and among its folds and curvings lost all sight 
of the plain. He had not slept, I found. His explanation 
was that the packs needed better balancing, and after that 

20 he had gone up and down the stream on the chance of 
trout. But his haunted eyes gave me the real reason — 
they spoke of Steve, no matter what he spoke of ; it was 
to be no short thing with him. 

Digitized by 




We did not make thirty-five miles that day, nor yet 
twenty-five, for he had let me sleep. We made an early 
camp and tried some misuccessful fishing, over which 
he was cheerful, promising trout to-morrow when we should 
be higher among the mountains. He never again touched 5 
or came near the subject that was on his mind, but while 
I sat writing my diary, he went off to his horse Monte, 
and I could hear that he occasionally talked to that friend. 

Next day we swung southward from what is known 
to many as the Conant trail, and headed for that short 10 
cut through the Tetons which is known to but a few. 
Bitch Creek was the name of the stream we now fol- 
lowed, and here there was such good fishing that we 
idled; and the horses and I at least enjoyed ourselves. 
For they found fresh pastures and shade in the now plen- 15 
tiful woods; and the mountain odors and the mountain 
heights were enough for me when the fish refused to rise. 
This road of ours now became the road which the pursuit 
had taken before the capture. Going along, I noticed 
the footprints of many hoofs, rain-blurred but recent, 20 
and these were the tracks of the people I had met in the 

**You can notice Monte^s," said the Virginian. "He 
is the only one that has his hind feet shod. There's 
several trails from this point down to where we have 25 
come from." 

We mounted now over a long slant of rock, smooth 
and of wide extent. Above us it went up easily into a 

Z 337 Digitized by Vjuuy It: 


little side canon, but ahead, where our way was, it grew 
so steep that we got off and led our horses. This brought 
us to the next higher level of the mountain, a space of 
sage-brush more open, where the rain-washed tracks 
5 appeared again in the softer ground. 

*'Some one has been here since the rain,'* I called to 
the Virginian, who was still on the rock, walking up be- 
hind the packhorses. 

"Since the rain!" he exclaimed. "That's not two 

10 days yet." He came and examined the footprints. 

"A man and a hawss," he said, frowning. "Going the 

same way we are. How did he come to pass us, and us 

not see mm?" 

"One of the other trails," I reminded him. 
15 "Yes, but there's not many that knows them. They 
are pretty rough trails." 

"Worse than this one we're taking?" 

"Not much; only how does he come to know any of 
them? And why don't he take the Conant trail that's 
20 open and easy and not much longer? One man and a 
hawss. I don't see who he is or what he wants here." 

"Probably a prospector," I suggested. 

"Only one outfit of prospectors has ever been here, 
and they claimed there was no mineral-bearing rock in 
25 these parts." 

We got back into our saddles with the mystery unsolved. 
To the Virginian it was a greater one, apparently, than to 
me; why should one have to account for every stray 
traveller in the mountains? 
30 "That's queer, too," said the Virginian. He was now 
riding in front of me, and he stopped, looking down at 
the trail. "Don't you notice?" 

It did not strike me. 

"Why, he keeps walking beside his hawss; he don't 
35 get on him." 

Now we, of course, had mounted at the beginnineofthe 


better trail after the steep rock, and that was quite half 
a mUe back. Still, I had a natural explanation. "He's 
leading a packhorse. He's a poor trapper, and walks." 

"Packhorses ain't usually shod before and behind," 
said the Virginian ; and sliding to the ground he touched 5 
the footprints. "They are not four hours old," said he. 
"This bank's in shadow by one o'clock, and the sun has 
not cooked them dusty." 

We continued on our way ; and although it seemed no 
very particular thing to me that a man should choose id 
to walk and lead his horse for a while, — I often did so 
to limber my muscles, — nevertheless I began to catch 
the Virginian's uncertain feeling about this traveller 
whose steps had appeared on our path in mid- journey, as 
if he had alighted from the mid-air, and to remind myself 15 
that he had come over the great face of rock from another 
trail and thus joined us, and that indigent trappers are 
to be found owning but a single horse and leading him with 
their belongings through the deepest solitudes of the moun- 
tains — none of this quite brought back to me the com- 20 
fort which had been mine since we left the cottonwoods 
out of sight down in the plain. Hence I called out sharply, 
"What's the matter now?" when the Virginian suddenly 
stopped his horse again. 

He looked down at the trail, and then he very slowly 25 
turned roimd in his saddle and stared back steadily at 
me. "There's two of them," he said. 

"Two what?" 

"I don't know." 

"You must know whether it's two horses or two men," 30 
I said, almost angrily. 

But to this he made no answer, sitting quite still on 
his horse and contemplating the groimd. The silence 
was fastening on me like a spell, and I spurred my horse 
impatiently forward to see for myself. The footprints 35 
of two men were there in the trail. ^ _ . ,,,,,, ,.^ 

Digitized by vjvJvJy IV^ 


"What do you say to that?'* said the Vu-ginian. 
" Kind of ridiculous, ain't it ? " 

"Very quaint," I answered, groping for the explanation. 

There was no rock here to walk over and step from into 

5 the softer trail. These second steps came more out of 

the air than the first. And my bram played me the evil 

trick of showing me a dead man in a gray flannel shirt. 

"It's two, you see, travelling with one hawss, and they 
take turns riding him." 
10 "Why, of course!" I exclaimed; and we went along 
for a few paces. 

"There you are," said the Virginian, as the trail proved 
him right. "Number one has got on. My God, what's 
15 At a crashing in the woods very close to us we both 
flung round and caught sight of a vanishing elk. 

It left us confronted, smiling a little, and sounding 
each other with our eyes. "Well, we didn't need him for 
meat," said the Virginian. 
20 "A spike-horn, wasn't it?" said I. 
"Yes, just a spike-horn." 

For a while now as we rode we kept up a cheerful 

conversation about elk. We wondered if we should 

meet many more close to the trail like this; but it was 

25 not long before our words died away. We had come into 

a veritable gulf of mountain peaks, sharp at their bare 

summits like teeth, holding fields of snow lower down, 

and glittering still in full day up there, while down among 

our pines and parks the afternoon was growing sombre. 

30 All the while the fresh hoof prints of the horse and the 

fresh footprints of the man preceded us. In the trees, 

and in the opens, across the levels, and up the steeps, they 

were there. And so they were not four hours old ! Were 

they so much? Might we not, round some turn, come 

35 upon the makers of them? I began to watch for this. 

And again my brain played me an evil trick, against 

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which I found myself actually reasoning thus: if they 
took turns riding, then walking must tire them as it did 
me or any man. And besides, there was a horse. With 
such thoughts I combated the fancy that those foot- 
prints were being made immediately in front of us all 5 
the while, and that they were the only sign of any presence 
which our eyes could see. But my fancy overcame my 
thoughts. It was shame only which held me from asking 
this question of the Virginian: Had one horse served 
in both cases of Justice down at the cottonwoods? I lO 
wondered about this. One horse — or had the strangling 
nooses dragged two saddles empty at the same signal? 
Most likely ; and therefore these people up here — Was 
I going back to the nursery? I brought myself up short. 
And I told myself to be steady ; there lurked in this 16 
brain-process which was going on beneath my reason a 
threat worse than the childish apprehensions it created. 
I reminded myself that I was a man grown, twenty-five 
years old, and that I must not merely seem like one, but 
feel like one. "You're not afraid of the dark, I suppose ? " 20 
This I uttered aloud, unwittingly. 

"What's that?'' 

I started;, but it was only the Virginian behind me. 
"Oh, nothing. The air is getting colder up here." 

I had presently a great relief. We came to a place 26 
where again this trail mounted so abruptly that we once 
more got off to lead our horses. So likewise had our 
predecessors done; and as I watched the two different 
sets of bootprints, I observed something and hastened 
to speak of it. 30 

"One man is much heavier than the other." 

"I was hoping I'd not have to tell you that," said the 

"You're always ahead of me ! Well, still my education 
is progressing." 35 

"Why, yes. You'll equal an Injun if you keep on." 

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It was good to be facetious; and I smiled to myself 
as I trudged upward. We came off the steep place, leav- 
ing the cafion beneath us, and took to horseback. And 
as we proceeded over the final gentle slant up to the rim 
5 of the great basin that was set among the peaks, the Vir- 
ginian was jocular once more. 

"Pounds has got on,*' said he, "and Ounces is walking." 

I glanced over my shoulder at him, and he nodded as 
he feed the weather-beaten crimson handkerchief roimd 
10 his neck. Then he threw a stone at a pack animal that 
was delaying on the trail. "Damn your buckskin hide," 
he drawled. "You can view the scenery from the 

He was so natural, sitting loose in the saddle, and 

16 cursing in his gentle voice, that I laughed to think what 

visions I had been harboring. The two dead men riding 

one horse through the mountains vanished, and I came 

back to every day. 

"Do you think we'll catch up with those people?" I 
20 asked. 

"Not likely. They're travelling about the same gait 
we are." 

"Ounces ought to be the best walker." 

"Up hill, yes. But Pounds will go down a-foggin'." 
25 We gained the rim of the basin. It lay below us, 
a great cup of country, — rocks, woods, opens, and 
streams. The tall peaks rose like spires around it, mag- 
nificent, and bare in the last of the sun ; and we surveyed 
this upper world, letting our animals get breath. Our 
30 bleak, crumbled rim ran like a rampart between the 
towering tops, a half circle of five miles or six, very wide 
in some parts, and in some shrinking to a scanty foot- 
hold, . as here. Here our trail crossed over it between 
two eroded and fantastic shapes of stone, like mushrooms, 
35 or misshapen heads on pikes. Banks of snow spread up 
here against the black rocks, but half an hour would see 

'^ Digitized by VjUUy It: 


US descended to the green and the woods. I looked 
down, both of us looked down, but our forerunners were 
not there. 

"They ^11 be camping somewhere in this basin, though," 
said the Virginian, staring at the dark pines. "They have 5 
not come this trail by accident." 

A cold little wind blew down between our stone shapes, 
and upward again, eddying. And round a comer upward 
with it came fluttering a leaf of newspaper, and caught 
against an edge close to me. 10 

"What's the latest?" inquired the Virginian from 
his horse. For I had dismounted, and had picked up 
the leaf. 

"Seems to be inter-esting," I next heard him say. 
" Can't you tell a man what's making your eyes bug out 15 

"Yes," my voice replied to him, and it sounded like 
some stranger speaking lightly near by; "oh, yes! De- 
cidedly interesting." My voice mimicked his pronun- 
ciation. "It's quite the latest, I imagine. You had 20 
better read it yourself." And I handed it to him with a 
smile, watching his countenance, while my brain felt as if 
clouds were rushing through it. 

I saw his eyes quietly run the headings over. "Well?" 
he inquired, after scanning it on both sides. "I don't 25 
seem to catch the excitement. Fremont County is going 
to hold elections. I see they claim Jake — " 

"It's mine," I cut him off. "My own paper. Those 
are my pencil marks." 

I do not think that a microscope could have discerned 30 
a change in his face. "Oh," he commented, holding the 
paper, and fixing it with a critical eye. "You mean this 
IS the one you lent Steve, and he wanted to give me to 
give back to you. And so them are your own marks." 
For a moment more he held it judicially, as I have seen 36 
men hold a contract upon whose terms they were finally 

Digitized by VjUUy It: 


passing. "Well, you have got it back now, anyway." 
And he bounded it to me. 

"Only a piece of it!" I exclaimed, always lightly. 
And as I took it from him his hand chanced to touch 
5 mine. It was cold as ice. 

"They ain't through readin' the rest," he explained 
easily. "Don't you throw it away ! After they've taken 
such trouble." 

"That's true," I answered. -"I wonder if it's Pounds 
10 or Ounces I'm indebted to." 

Thus we made further merriment as we rode down 
into the great basin. Before us, the horse and boot tracks 
showed plain in the soft slough where melted snow ran half 
the day. 
15 "If it's a paper chase," said the Virginian, "they'll 
drop no more along here." 

"Unless it gets dark," said I. 

"We'll camp before that. Maybe we'll see their fire." 

We did not see their fire. We descended in the chill 

20 silence, while the mushroom rocks grew far and the 

sombre woods approached. By a stream we got off 

where two banks sheltered us ; for a bleak wind cut down 

over the crags now and then, making the pines send out a 

great note through the basin, like breakers in a heavy 

25 sea. But we made cosey in the tent. We pitched the 

tent this night, and I was glad to have it shut out the 

mountain peaks. They showed above the banks where 

we camped; and in the starlight their black shapes rose 

stark against the sky. They, with the pines and the 

30 wind, were a bedroom too unearthly this night. And as 

soon as our supper dishes were washed we went inside 

to our lantern and our game of cribbage. 

"This is snug," said the Virginian, as we played. 
"That wind don't get down here." 
35 "Smoking is snug, too," said I. And we marked our 
points for an hour, with no words save about the cards. 

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"I'll be pretty near glad when we get out of these 
mountains," said the Virginian. "They're most too 

The pines had altogether ceased; but their silence 
was as tremendous as their roar had been. 5 

"I don't know, though," he resumed. "There's times 
when the plains can be awful big, too." 

Presently we finished a hand, and he said, "Let me 
see that paper." 

He sat reading it apparently through, while I arranged lo 
my blankets to make a warm bed. Then, since the paper 
continued to absorb him, I got myself ready, and slid 
between my blankets for the night. "You'U need an- 
other candle soon in that lantern," said I. 

He put the paper down. " I would do it all over again," 15 
he began. "The whole thing just the same. He knowed 
the customs of the country, and he played the game. 
No call to blame me for the customs of the country. 
You leave other folks' cattle alone, or you take the con- 
sequences, and it was all known to Steve from the start. 20 
Would he have me take the Judge's wages and give him 
the wink ? He must have changed a heap from the Steve 
I knew if he expected that. I don't believe he expected 
that. He knew well enough the only thing that would 
have let him off would have been a regular jury. For 25 
the thieves have got hold of the juries in Johnson County. 
I would do it all over, just the same." 

The expiring flame leaped in the lantern, and fell blue. 
He broke off in his words as if to arrange the light, but 
did not, sitting silent instead, just visible, and seeming 30 
to watch the death struggle of the flame. I could find 
nothing to say to him, and I believed he was now winning 
his way back to serenity by himself. He kept his outward 
man so nearly natural that I forgot about that cold touch 
of his hand, and never guessed how far out from reason 35 
the tide of emotion was even now p^,hkli|i& .hi^t. "I 


remember at Cheyemie onced," he resumed. And he 
told me of a Thanksgiving visit to town that he had 
made with Steve. "We was just colts then," he said. 
He dwelt on their coltish doings, their adventures sought 
Sand wrought in the perfect fellowship of youth. "For 
Steve and me most always hunted in couples back in 
them gamesome years," he explained. And he fell into 
the elemental talk of sex, such talk as would be an elk's 
or tiger's ; and spoken so by him, simply and naturally, 

10 as we speak of the seasons, or of death, or of any actu^ty« 
it was without offence. But it would be offence should 
I repeat it. Then, abruptly ending these memories of 
himself and Steve, he went out of the tent, and I heard 
him dragging a log to the fire. When it had blazed up, 

15 there on the tent wall was his shadow and that of the log 
where he sat with his half-broken heart. And all the 
while I supposed he was master of himself, and self-justi- 
fied against Steve's omission to bid him good-by. 
I must have fallen asleep before he returned, for I 

20 remember nothing except waking and finding him in his 
blankets beside me. The fire shadow was gone, and 
gray, cold night was dimly on the tent. He slept rest- 
lessly, and his forehead was ploughed by lines of pain. 
While I looked at him he began to mutter, and suddenly 

25 started up with violence. "No!" he cried out; "no! 
Just the same!" and thus wakened himself, staring. 
"What's the matter?" he demanded. He was slow in 
getting back to where we were; and full consciousness 
found him sitting up with his eyes fixed on mine. They 

30 were more haunted than they had been at all, and his 
next speech came straight from his dream. "Maybe 
you'd better quit me. This ain't your trouble." 
I laughed. "Why, what is the trouble?" 
His eyes still intently fixed on mine. "Do you think 

35 if we changed our trail we could lose them from us?" 

I was framing a jocose reply about^ Oj^n^e^^^^ a 


good walker, when the sound of hoofs rushing in the dis- 
tance stopped me, and he ran out of the tent with his 
rifle. When I followed with mine he was up the bank, 
and all his powers alert. But nothing came out of the 
dimness save our three stampeded horses. They crashed 5 
oyer fallen timber and across the open to where their 
picketed comrade grazed at the end of his rope. By him 
they came to a stand, and told him, I suppose, what they 
had seen ; for all four now faced in the same direction, 
looking away into the mysterious dawn. We likewise 10 
stood peering, and my rifle barrel felt cold in my hand. 
The dawn was all we saw, the inscrutable dawn, coming 
and coming through the black pines and the gray open of 
the basin. There above lifted the peaks, no sun yet on 
them, and behind us our stream made a little tinkling. 15 

'*A bear, I suppose," said I, at length. 

His strange look fixed me again, and then his eyes 
went to the horses. "They smell things we can't smell,'* 
said he, very slowly. "Will you prove to me they don't 
see things we can't see ? " 20 

A chiU shot through me, and I could not help a fright- 
ened glance where we had been watching. But one of 
the horses began to graze and I had a wholesome thought. 
"He's tired of whatever he sees, then," said I, pointing. 

A smile came for a moment in the Virginian's face. 25 
"Must be a poor show," he observed. All the horses 
were grazing now, and he added, "It ain't hurt their 
appetites any." 

We made our own breakfast then. And what uncanny 
dread I may have been touched with up to this time 30 
henceforth left me in the face of a real alarm. The shock 
of Steve was working upon the Virginian. He was aware 
of it himself ; he was fighting it with all his might ; and 
he was being overcome. He was indeed like a gallant 
swimmer against whom both wind and tide have con- 35 
spired. And in this now forebodin|. ,foJit^^^<^p was 


only myself to throw him ropes. His strokes for safety 
were as bold as was the undertow that ceaselessly annidled 

"I reckon I made a fuss in the tent?" said he, feeling 
5 his way with me. 

I threw him a rope. "Yes. Nightmare — indiges- 
tion — too much newspaper before retiring." 

He caught the rope. "That's correct! I had a hell 
of a foolish dream for a growed-up man. You'd not 
10 think it of me." 

"Oh, yes, I should. IVe had them after prolonged 
lobster and champagne." 

"Ah," he murmured, "prolonged! Prolonged is what 
does it." He glanced behind him. "Steve came back — " 
15 "In your lobster dream," I put in. 

But he missed this rope. "Yes," he answered, with 
his eyes searching me. "And he handed me the paper — " 

"By the way, where is that?" I asked. 

"I built the fire with it. But when I took it from him 
20 it was a six-shooter I had hold of, and pointing at my 
breast. And then Steve spoke. *Do you think you're 
fit to live?' Steve said; and I got hot at him, and I 
reckon I must have told him what I thought of him. 
You heard me, I expect?" 
25 "Glad I didn't. Your language sometimes is — " 

He laughed out. "Oh, I account for all this that's 
happening just like you do. If we gave our 'explanations, 
they'd be pretty near twins." 

"The horses saw a bear, then?" 
30 "Maybe a bear. Maybe" — but here the tide caught 
him again — "What's your idea about dreams?" 

My ropes were all out. "Liver — nerves," was the 
best I could do. 

But now he swam strongly by himself. 
35 "You may think I'm discreditable," he said, "but I 
know I am. It ought to take more t^^)^dTFvF§U#yi||en 


have lost their friendships before. Feuds and wars have 
cloven a right smart of bonds in twain. And if my haid 
is going to get shook by a little old piece of newspaper 
— I'm ashamed I buraed that. I'm ashamed to have 
been that weak." 5 

"Any man gets unstrung," I told him. My ropes had 
become straws; and I strove to frame some policy for 
the next hours. 

We now finished breakfast and set forth to catch the 
horses. As we drove them in I found that the Virginian 10 
was telHng me a ghost story. "At half-past three in the 
morning she saw her runaway daughter standing with a 
babe in her arms ; but when she moved it was all gone. 
Later they found it was the very same hour the young 
mother died in Nogales. And she sent for the child and 16 
raised it herself. I knowed them both back home. 
Do you believe that?" 

I said nothing. 

"No more do I believe it," he asserted. "And see 
here! Nogales time is three hours different from Rich- 20 
mond. I didn't know about that point then." 

Once out of these mountains, I knew he could right 
himself; but even I, who had no Steve to dream about, 
felt this silence of the peaks was preying on me. 

"Her daughter and her might have been thinkin' mighty 25 
hard about each other just then," he pursued. "But 
Steve is dead. Finished. You cert'nly don't believe 
there's anything more?" 

"I wish I could," I told hun. 

"No, I'm satisfied. Heaven didn't never interest 30 
me much. But if there was a world of dreams after you 
went — " He stopped himself and turned his searching 
eyes away from mine. "There's a heap o' darkness 
wherever you try to step," he said, "and I thought I'd 
left off wasting thoughts on the subject. You see" — 35 
he dexterously roped a horse, and once mor^^^^l^ndid 


sanity was turned to gold by his imagination — "I ex- 
pect in many growed-up men you'd call sensible there's 
a httle boy sleepin' — the little kid they onced was — 
that still keeps Ms fear of the dark. You mentioned the 
5 dark yourself yesterday. Well, this experience has woke 
up that kid in me, and blamed if I can coax the Httle 
cuss to go to sleep again ! I keep a-telling him dayUght 
will sure come, but he keeps a-crying and holding on to 
10 Somewhere far in the basin there was a faint sound, 
and we stood still. 

"Hush!" he said. 

But it was like our watching the dawn ; nothing more 
15 "They have shot that bear," I remarked. 

He did not answer, and we put the saddles on without 
talk. We made no haste, but we were not over half an 
hour, I suppose, in getting off with the packs. It was 
not a new thing to hear a shot where wild game was in 
20 plenty ; yet as we rode that shot sovmded aLready in my 
mind different from others. Perhaps I should not beUeve 
this to-day but for what I look back to. To make camp 
last night we had turned off the trail, and now followed 
the stream down for a while, taking next a cut through 
25 the wood. In this way we came upon the tracks of our 
horses where they had been galloping back to the camp 
after their fright. They had kicked up the damp and 
matted pine needles very plainly all along. 

"Nothing has been here but themselves, though," 
30 said I. 

"And they ain't showing signs of remembering any 
scare," said the Virginian. 

In a little while we emerged upon an open. 

"Here's where they was grazing," said the Virginian; 

35 and the signs were clear enough. "Here's where they 

must have got their scare," he pursued. "You s|;^^^^Jih 


them while I circle a little." So I stayed ; and certainly 
our animals were very calm at visiting this scene. When 
you bring a horse back to where he has recently encoun- 
tered a wild animal his ears and his nostrils are apt to be 
wide awake. 6 

The Virginian had stopped and was beckoning to 
me. . 

"Here's your bear," said he, as I arrived. "Two- 
legged, you see. And he had a hawss of his own." There 
was a stake driven down where an animal had been 10 
picketed for the night. 

"Looks like Ounces," I said, considering the boot- 

"It's Ounces. And Ounces wanted another hawss very 
bad, so him and Pounds could travel like gentlemen 15 

"But Pounds doesn't seem to have been with him." 

"Oh, Pounds, he was making coffee, somewheres in 
yonder, when this happened. Neither of them guessed 
there 'd be other hawsses wandering here in the night, 20 
or they both would have come." He turned back to our 
pack animals. 

"Then you'll not hunt for this camp to make sure?" 

"I prefer making sure first. We might be expected 
at that camp." 25 

He took out his rifle from beneath his leg and set it 
across his saddle at half-cock. I did the same ; and thus 
cautiously we resumed our journey in a slightly different 
direction. "This ain't all we're going to find out," said 
the Virginian. "Ounces had a good idea; but I reckon 30 
he made a bad mistake later." 

We had found out a good deal without any more, I 
thought. Ounces had gone to bring in their single horse 
and coming upon three more in the pasture had under- 
taken to catch one and failed, merely driving them where 35 
he feared to follow. 

Digitized by VjUUy It: 


"Shorty never could rope a horse alone," I remarked. 
The Virgmian grinned. " Shorty ? Well, Shorty sounds 
as well as Ounces. But that ain't the mistake I'm think- 
ing he made." 

5 I knew that he would not tell me, but that was just 
like him. For the last twenty minutes, having something 
to do, he had become himself again, had come to earth 
from that unsafe country of the brain where beckoned 
a spectral Steve. Nothing was left but in his eyes that 

10 question which pain had set there ; and I wondered if his 

friend of old, who seemed so brave and amiable, would 

have dealt him that hurt at the solemn end had he known 

what a poisoned wound it would be. 

We came out on a ridge from which we could look 

15 down. "You always want to ride on high places when 
there's folks around whose intentions ain't been de- 
clared," said the Virginian. And we went along our 
ridge for some distance. Then suddenly he turned down 
and guided us almost at once to the trail. "That's it," 

20 he said. "See." 

The track of a horse was very fresh on the trail. But it 
was a galloping horse now, and no bootprints were keep- 
ing up with it any more. No boots could have kept up 
with it. The rider was making time to-day. Yesterday 

25 that horse had been ridden up into the mountains at 
leisure. Who was on him ? There was never to be any 
certain answer to that. But who was not on him? We 
turned back in our journey, back into the heart of that 
basin with the tall peaks all rising like teeth in the cloud- 

30 less sun, and the snowfields shining white. 

"He was afraid of us," said the Virginian. "He did 
not know how many of us had come up here. Three 
hawses might mean a dozen more around." 
We followed the backward trail in among the pines, 

35 and came after a time upon their camp. And then I 
understood the mistake that Shorty had made. He had 

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returned after his failure, and had tofd that other man of 
the presence of new horses. He should have kept this a 
secret ; for haste had to be made at once, and two cannot 
get away quickly upon one horse. But it was poor 
Shorty^s last blunder. He lay there by their extinct fire 6 
with his wistful, lost-dog face upward, and his thick yel- 
low hair unparted as it had always been. The murder 
had been done from behind. We closed the eyes. 

"There was no natural harm in him," said the Virgin- 
ian. "But you must do a thing well in this country." 10 

There was not a trace, not a clew, of the other man; 
and we found a place where we could soon cover Shorty 
with earth. As we lifted him we saw the newspaper 
that he had been reading. He had brought it from the 
clump of cotton woods where he and the other man had 15 
made a later \asit than ours to be sure of the fate of their 
friends — or possibly in hopes of another horse. Evi- 
dently, when the party were surprised, they had been 
able to escape with only one. All of the newspaper was 
there save the leaf I had picked up — all and more, for 20 
this had pencil writing on it that was not mine, nor did 
I at first take it in. I thought it might be a clew, and I 
read it aloud. "Good-by, Jeff," it said. "I could not 
have spoke to you without playing the baby." 

"Who's Jeff?" I asked. But it came over me when 25 
I looked at the Virginian. He was standing beside me 
quite motionless ; and then he put out his hand and took 
the paper, and stood still, looking at the words. "Steve 
used to call me Jeff," he said, "because I was Southern, 
I reckon. Nobody else ever did." 30 

He slowly folded the message from the dead, brought 
by the dead, and rolled it in the coat behind his saddle. 
For a half-minute he stood leaning his forehead down 
against the saddle. After this he came back and con- 
templated Shorty's face awhile. "I wish I could thank 35 
him," he said. "I wish I could." Digitized by v^uuy it: 


We carried Shorty over and covered him with earth, 
and on that laid a few pine branches; then we took up 
our journey, and by the end of the forenoon we had gone 
some distance upon our trail through the Teton Moun- 
6 tains. But in front of us the hoofprints ever held their 
stride of haste, drawing farther from us through the 
hours, until by the next afternoon somewhere we noticed 
they were no longer to be seen ; and after that they never 
came upon the trail again. 

Digitized by 




Somewhere at the eastern base of the Tetons did 
those hoofprints disappear into a mountain sanctuary 
where many crooked paths have led. He that took 
another man's possessions, or he that took another man's 
life, could always run here if the law or popular justice 5 
were too hot at his heels. Steep ranges and forests walled 
him in from the world on all four sides, almost without a 
break; and every entrance lay through intricate soli- 
tudes. Snake River came into the place through cafions 
and mournful pines and marshes, to the north, and went 10 
out at the south between formidable chasms. Every 
tributary to this stream rose among high peaks and ridges, 
and descended into the valley by well-nigh impenetrable 
courses: Pacific Creek from Two Ocean Pass, Buffalo 
Fork from no pass at all. Black Rock from the To-wo-ge-tee 16 
Pass — all these, and many more, were the waters of 
loneliness, among whose thousand hiding-places it was 
easy to be lost. Down in the bottom was a spread of 
level land, broad and beautiful, with the blue and silver 
Tetons rising from its chain of lakes to the west, and other 20 
heights presiding over its other sides. And up and down 
and in and out of this hollow square of mountains, where 
waters plentifully flowed, and game and natural pasture 
abounded, there skulked a nomadic and distrustful 
population. This in due time built cabins, took wives, 26 
begot children, and came to speak of itself as "The honest 


settlers of Jackson's Hole." It is a commodious title, 
and doubtless to-day more accurate than it was once. 

Into this place the hoof prints disappeared. Not many 
cabins were yet built there; but the unknown rider of 
5 the horse knew well that he would find shelter and wel- 
come among the felons of his stripe. Law and order 
might guess his name correctly, but there was no next 
step, for lack of evidence ; and he would wait, whoever he 
was, until the rage of popular justice, which had been 

10 pursuing him and his brother thieves, should subside. 
Then, feeling his way gradually with prudence, he would 
let himself be seen again. 

And now, as mysteriously as he had melted away, 
rumor passed over the country. No tongue seemed to 

15 be heard telling the first news; the news was there, one 
day, a matter of whispered knowledge. On Sunk Creek 
and on Bear Creek, and elsewhere far and wide, before 
men talked, men seemed secretly to know that Steve, and 
Ed, and Shorty, would never again be seen. Riders 

20 met each other in the road and drew rein to discuss the 
event, and its bearing upon the cattle interests. In town 
saloons men took each other aside, and muttered over it 
in corners. 

Thus it reached the ears of Molly Wood, beginning 

25 in a veiled and harmless shape. 

A neighbor joined her when she was out riding by 

"Good morning," said he. "Don't you find it lone- 
some?" And when she answered lightly, he continued, 

30 meaning well: "You'll be having company again soon 
now. He has finished his job. Wish he'd finished it 
more! Well, good day." 

Molly thought these words over. She could not tell 
why they gave her a strange feeling. To her Vermont 

35 mind no suspicion of the truth would come naturally. 
But suspicion began to come when she returned from her 

Digitized by VjUUy It: 


ride. For, entering the cabin of the Taylors, she came 
upon several people who all dropped their talk short, and 
were not skilful at resuming it. She sat there awhile, 
uneasily aware that all of them knew something which 
she did not know, and was not intended to know. A 5 
thought pierced her : had anything happened to her 
lover? No; that was not it. The man she had met 
on horseback spoke of her having company soon again. 
How soon? she wondered. He had been unable to say 
when he should return, and now she suddenly felt that a 10 
great silence had enveloped him lately: not the mere 
silence of absence, of receiving no messages or letters, but 
another sort of silence which now, at this moment, was 
weighing strangely upon her. 

And then the next day it came out at the schoolhouse. 15 
During that interval known as recess, she became aware 
through the open window that they were playing a new 
game outside. Lusty screeches of delight reached her ears. 

"Jump ! '' a voice ordered. "Jump ! " 

"I don't want to," returned another voice, uneasily. 20 

"You said you would," said several. "Didn't he 
say he would? Ah, he said he would. Jump now, 

"But I don't want to," quavered the voice in a tone so 
dismal that Molly went out to see. 25 

They had got Bob Carmody on the top of the gate by 
a tree, with a rope round his neck, the other end of which 
four little boys were joyously holding. The rest looked on 
eagerly, three little girls clasping their hands, and spring- 
ing up and down with excitement. 30 

"Why, children!" exclaimed Molly. 

"He's said his prayers and everything," they all 
screamed out. "He's a rustler, and we're lynchin' 
him. Jump, Bob!" 

"I don't want — " ^ , 35 

"Ah, coward, won't take his medicine I'^^^byLjOOgle 


"Let him go, boys," said Molly. "You might really 
hurt him." And so she broke up this game, but not 
without general protest from Wyoming's young voice. 
"He said he would," Henry Dow assured her. 
5 And George Taylor further explained: "He said he'd 
be Steve. But Steve didn't scare." Then George pro- 
ceeded to tell the schoolmarm, eagerly, all about Steve 
and Ed, while the schoolmarm looked at him with a rigid 

10 "You promised your mother you'd not tell," said 
Henry Dow, after all had been told. "You've gone and 
done it," and Henry wagged his head in a superior manner. 
Thus did the New England girl learn what her cow- 
boy lover had done. She spoke of it to nobody • she 

15 kept her misery to herself. He was not there to defend 
his act. Perhaps in a way that was better. But these 
were hours of darkness indeed to Molly Wood. 

On that visit to Dunbarton, when at the first sight of 
her lover's photograph in frontier dress her aunt had 

20 exclaimed, "I suppose there are days when he does not 
kill people," she had cried in all good faith and mirth, 
"He never killed anybody!" Later, when he was lying 
in her cabin weak from his bullet wound, but each day 
stronger beneath her nursing, at a certain word of his 

26 there had gone through her a shudder of doubt. Perhaps 
in his many wanderings he had done such a thing in self- 
defence, or in the cause of popular justice. But she had 
pushed the idea away from her hastily, back into the 
days before she had ever seen him. If this had ever 

30 happened, let her not know of it. Then, as a cruel re- 
ward for his candor and his laying himself bare to her 
mother, the letters from Bennington had used that very 
letter of his as a weapon against him. Her sister Sarah 
had quoted from it. "He says with apparent pride," 

36 wrote Sarah, "that he has * never killed for pleasure or 
profit.' Those are his exact words, aij^zS^QRJ&Ayy^ess 


their dreadful effect upon mother. I congratulate you, 
my dear, on having chosen a protector so scrupulous." 

Thus her elder sister had seen fit to write ; and letters 
from less near relatives made hints at the same subject. 
So she was compelled to accept this piece of knowledges 
thrust upon her. Yet still, still, those events had been 
before she knew him. They were remote, without detail 
or context. He had been Httle more than a boy. No 
doubt it was to save his own life. And so she bore the 
hurt of her discovery all the more easily because her sister's 10 
tone roused her to defend her cow-boy. 

But now ! 

In her cabin, alone, after midnight, she arose from her 
sleepless bed, and lighting the candle, stood before his 
photograph. 15 

"It is a good face " her great-aunt had said, after 
some study of it. And these words were in her mind now. 
There his hkeness stood at full length, confronting her: 
the spurs on the boots, the fringed leathern chaparreros, 
the coiled rope in hand, the pistol at hip, the rough flannel 20 
shirt, and the scarf knotted at the throat — and then the 
grave eyes, looking at her. It thrilled her to meet them, 
even so. She coiud read life into them. She seemed to 
feel passion come from them, and then something like 
reproach. She stood for a long while looking at him, and 25 
then, beating her hands together suddenly, she blew out 
her light and went back into bed, but not to sleep. 

"You're looking pale, deary," said Mrs. Taylor to her, 
a few days later. 

"Ami?" 30 

"And you don't eat anything." 

"Oh, yes, I do." And Molly retired to her cabin. 

"George," said Mrs. Taylor, "you come here." 

It may seem severe — I think that it was severe. 
That evening when Mr. Taylor came home to his family, 35 
George received a thrashing for disobedience.. uuy it: 


"And I suppose," said Mrs. Taylor to her husband, 
"that she came out just in time to stop 'em breaking Bob 
Carmody's neck for him." 

Upon the day following Mrs. Taylor essayed the 

5 impossible. She took herself over to Molly Wood's 

cabin. The girl gave her a listless greeting, and the 

dame sat slowly down, and surveyed the comfortable 


"A very nice home, deary," said she, "if it was a home. 
10 But you'U fix something like this in your real home, I 
have no doubt." 

Molly made no answer. 

"What we're going to do without you I can't see," 
said Mrs. Taylor. "But I'd not have it different for 
15 worlds. He'll be coming back soon, I expect." 

"Mrs. Taylor," said Molly, all at once, "please don't 
say anything now. I can't stand it." And she broke 
into wretched tears. 

"Why, deary, he— " 
20 "No; not a word. Please, please — I'll go out if you 

The older woman went to the younger one, and then 
put her arms round her. But when the tears were over, 
they had not done any good ; it was not the storm that 
25 clears the sky — all storms do not clear the sky. And Mrs. 
Taylor looked at the pale girl and saw that she could do 
nothing to help her toward peace of mind. 

"Of course," she said to her husband, after returning 
from her profitless errand, "you might know she'd feel 
30 dreadful." 

"What about?" said Taylor. 

"Why, you know just as well as I do. And I'll say 
for myself, I hope you'll never have to help hang 
35 "Well," said Taylor, mildly, "if I had to, I'd have to, 

I guess." Digitized by V^UUy It: 


"Well, I don't want it to come. But that poor girl is 
eating her heart right out over it." 

"What does she say?" 

"It's what she don't say. She'll not talk, and she'll 
not let me talk, and she sits and sits." 5 

"I'll go and talk some to her," said the man. 

"Well, Taylor, I thought you had more sense. You'd 
not get a word in. She'll be sick soon if her worry ain't 
stopped someway, though." 

**What does she want this country to do?" inquired 10 
Taylor. "Does she expect it to be like Vermont when 

"We can't help what she expects," his wife interrupted. 
"But I wish we could help /ler." 

They could not, however ; and help came from another 15 
source. Judge Henry rode by the next day. To him 
good Mrs. Taylor at once confided her anxiety. The 
Judge looked grave. 

" Must I meddle? " he said. 

"Yes, Judge, you must," said Mrs. Taylor. 20 

"But why can't I send him over here when he gets 
back? Then they'll just settle it between themselves." 

Mrs. Taylor shook her head. "That would unsettle it 
worse than it is," she assured him. "They mustn't meet 
just now." 25 

The Judge sighed. ."Well," he said, "very weU. I'll 
sacrifice my character, since you insist." 

Judge Henry sat thinking, waiting until school should 
be out. He did not at all relish what lay before him. 
He would like to have got out of it. He had been a 30 
federal judge ; he had been an upright judge ; he had met 
the responsibilities of his difficult office not only with 
learning, which is desirable, but also with courage and 
common sense besides, and these are essential. He had 
been a stanch servant of the law. And now he was in- 35 
vited to defend that which, at first sight, nay, even at 

Digitized by VjOOy It: 


second and third sight, must always seem a defiance of 
the law more injurious than crime itself. Every good 
man in this world has convictions about right and wrong. 
They are his souPs riches, his spiritual gold. When his 
5 conduct, is at variance with these, he knows that it is a 
departure, a falling ; and this is a simple and clear matter. 
If falling were all that ever happened to a good man, all 
his days would be a simple matter of striving and repent- 
ance. But it is not all. There come to him certain 

10 junctures, crises, when life, like a highwayman, sprthgs 
upon him, demanding that he stand and deliver his con- 
victions in the name of some righteous cause, bidding 
him do evil that good may come. I cannot say that I 
believe in doing evil that good may come. I do not. I 

15 think that any man who honestly justifies such course 
deceives himself. But this I can say: to call any act 
evil, instantly begs the question. Many an act that man 
does is right or wrong according to the tinie and place 
which form, so to speak, its context ; strip it of its sur- 

20 rounding circumstances, and you tear away its meaning. 
Gentlemen reformers, beware of this common practice of 
yours ! Beware of calling an act evil on Tuesday because 
that same act was evil on Monday ! 

Do you fail to follow my meaning? Then here is an 

25 illustration. On Monday I walk over my neighbor's 
field; there is no wrong in such walking. By Tuesday 
he has put up a sign that trespassers will be prosecuted 
according to law. I walk again on Tuesday, and am a 
law-breaker. Do you begin to see my point? or are you 

30 inclined to object to the illustration because the walking 
on Tuesday was not wrong ^ but merely illegal f Then 
here is another illustration which you will find it a trifle 
more embarrassing to answer. Consider carefully, let 
me beg you, the case of a young man and a young woman 

35 who walk out of a door on Tuesday, pronounced man and 
wife by a third party inside the door. It matters not that 

Digitized by VjUUy It: 


on Monday they were, in their own hearts, sacredly vowed 
to each other. If they had omitted stepping inside that 
door, if they had dispensed with that third party, and gone 
away on Monday sacredly vowed to each other in their 
own hearts, you would scarcely have found their conduct 5 
moral. Consider these things carefully, — the sign-post 
and the third party, — and the difference they make. 
And now, for a finish, we will return to the sign-post. 

Suppose that I went over my neighbor's field on 
Tuesday, after the sign-post was put up, because I saw a 10 
murder about to be committed in the field, and therefore 
ran in and stopped ^it. Was I doing evil that good might 
come? Do you no't think that to stay out and let the 
murder be done would have been the evil act in this case ? 
To disobey the sign-post was right; and I trust that you 15 
now perceive the same act may wear as many different 
hues of right and wrong as the rainbow, according to the 
atmosphere in which it is done. It is not safe to say of 
any man, "He did evil that good might come." Was the 
thing that he did, in the first place, evil? That is the 20 

Forgive my asking you to use your mind. It is a 
thing which no novelist should expect of his reader, and 
we will go back at once to Judge Henry and his medita- 
tions about lynching. 26 

He was well aware that if he was to touch at all upon 
this subject with the New England girl, he could not put 
her off with mere platitudes and humdrum formulas ; not, 
at least, if he expected to do any good. She was far too 
intelligent, and he was really anxious to do good. For 30 
her sake he wanted the course of the girl's true love to 
run more smoothly, and still more did he desire this for 
the sake of his Virginian. 

"I sent him myself on that business," the Judge re- 
flected uncomfortably. "I am partly responsible for the 35 
lynching. It has brought him one great unhappiness 

Digitized by VjUUOlt: 


already through the death of Steve. If it gets running in 
this girPs mind, she may — dear me!" the Judge broke 
off, "what a nuisance !" And he sighed. For as all men 
know, he also knew that many things should be done in 
5 this world in silence, and that talking about them is a 

But when school was out, and the girl had gone to her 
cabin, his mind had set the subject in order thoroughly, 
and he knocked at her door, ready, as he had put it, to 
10 sacrifice his character in the cause of true love. 

"Well," he said, coming straight to the point, "some 
dark things have happened." And .when she made no 
answer to this, he continued: "But you must not mis- 
understand us. We're too fond of you for that." 
15 "Judge Henry," said Molly Wood, also coming straight 
to the point, "have you come to tell me that you think 
well of lynching?" 

He met her. "Of burning Southern negroes in public, 
no. Of hanging Wyoming cattle-thieves in private, yes. 
20 You perceive there's a difference, don't you?" 

"Not in principle," said the girl, dry and short. 

"Oh — dear — me !" slowly exclaimed the Judge. 
"I am sorry that you cannot see that, because I think 
that I can. And I think that you have just as much sense 
25 as I have." The Judge made himself very grave and very 
good-humored at the same time. The poor girl was 
strung to a high pitch, and spoke harshly in spite of 

"What is the difference in principle?" she demanded. 
30 "Well," said the Judge, easy and thoughtful, "what 
do you mean by principle?" 

"I didn't think you'd quibble," flashed Molly. "I'm 
not a lawyer myself." 

A man less wise than Judge Henry would have smiled 

35 at this, and then war would have exploded hopelessly 

between them, and harm been added to what was going 

Digitized by VjUUyTl:: 


wrong already. But the Judge knew that he must give 
to every word that the girl said now his perfect consid- 

"I don't mean to quibble," he assured her. "I know 
the trick of escaping from one question by asking an- 5 
other. But I don't want to escape from anything you 
hold me to answer. If you can show me that I am wrong, 
I want you to do so. But,'' and here the Judge smiled. 
"I want you to play fair, too." 

"And how am I not?" 10 

"I want you to be just as willing to be put right by 
me as I am to be put right by you. And so when you 
use such a word as principle, you must help me to answer 
by saying what principle you mean. For in all sincerity 
I see no likeness in principle whatever between burning 15 
Southern negroes in public and hanging Wyoming horse- 
thieves in private. I consider the burning a proof that 
the South is semi-barbarous, and the hanging a proof that 
Wyoming is determined to become civihzed. We do not 
torture our criminals when we lynch them. We do not 20 
invite spectators to enjoy their death agony. We put 
no such hideous disgrace upon the United States. We 
execute our criminals by the swiftest means, and in the 
quietest way. Do you think the principle is the same?" 
Molly had listened to him with attention. "The way is 25 
different," she admitted. 

"Only the way?" 

"So. it seems to me. Both defy law and order." 

"Ah, but do they both? Now we're getting near the 
principle." 30 

"Why, yes. Ordinary citizens take the law in their 
own hands." 

"The principle at last!" exclaimed the Judge. "Now 
tell me some more things. Out of whose hands do they 
take the law?" 35 

"The court's." Digitized by ^^uuy it: 


''What made the courts?" 

"I don't understand." 

"How did there come to be any courts?" 

"The Constitution." 
5 "How did there come to be any Constitution? Who 
made it?" 

"The delegates, I suppose." 

"Who made the delegates ? " 

"I suppose they were elected, or appointed, or some- 
10 thing." 

"And who elected them?" 

"Of course the people elected them." 

"Call them the ordinary citizens," said the Judge. 

"I like your term. They are where the law comes from, 

15 you see. For they chose the delegates who made the 

Constitution that provided for the courts. There's your 

machinery. These are the hands into which ordinary 

citizens have put the law. So you see, at best, when they 

lynch they only take back what they once gave. Now 

20 we'll take your two cases that you say are the same in 

principle. I think that they are not. For in the South 

they take a negro from jail where he was waiting to be 

duly hung. The South has never claimed that the law 

would let him go. But in Wyoming the law has been 

25 letting our cattle-thieves go for two years. We are in a 

very bad way, and we are trying to make that way a 

little better until civilization can reach us. At present 

we lie beyond its pale. The courts, or rather the juries, 

into whose hands we have put the law, are not dealing 

30 the law. They are withered hands, or rather they are 

imitation hands made for show, with no life in them,. no 

grip. They cannot hold a cattle-thief. And so when 

your ordinary citizen sees this, and sees that he has placed 

justice in a dead hand, he must take justice back into his 

35 own hands where it was once at the beginning of all things. 

Call this primitive, if you will. But go,.fj|5y^^9|^bf^g a 


defiance of the law, it is an assertion of it — the fundamental 
assertion of self-governing men, upon -whom om* whole 
social fabric is based. There is yom* principle, Miss 
Wood, as I see it. Now can you help me to see anything 
different?" 5 

She could not. 

"But perhaps you are of the same opinion still?" the 
Judge inquired. 

"It is all terrible to me," she said. 

"Yes; and so is capital punishment terrible. And 10 
so is war. And perhaps some day we shall do without 
them. But they are none of them so terrible as unchecked 
theft and murder would be." 

After thd Judge had departed on his way to Sunk 
Creek, no one spoke to Molly upon this subject. But her 15 
face did not grow cheerful at once. It was plain from her 
fits of silence that her thoughts were not at rest. And 
sometimes at night she would stand in front of her lover's 
likeness, gazing upon it with bath love and shrinking. 

Digitized by 




It was two rings that the Virginian wrote for when 
next I heard from him. 

After my dark sight of what the Cattle Land could be, 
I soon had journeyed home by way of Washakie and 
5 Rawlins. Steve and Shorty did not leave nly memory, 
nor will they ever, I suppose. 

The Virginian had touched the whole thing the day I 
left him. He had noticed me looking a sort of farewell at 
the plains and mountains. 

10 "You will come back to it," he said. "If there was a 
headstone for every man that once pleasured in his free- 
dom here, yu'd see one most every time yu' turned your 
head. It's a heap sadder than a graveyard — but yu' 
love it all the same.'' 

15 Sadness had passed from him — from his uppermost 
mood, at least, when he wrote about the rings. Deep 
in him was sadness of course, as well as joy. For he had 
known Steve, and he had covered Shorty with earth. He- 
had looked upon life with a man's eyes, very close ; and 

20 no one, if he have a heart, can pass through this and not 
carry sadness in his spirit with him forever. But he sel- 
dom shows it openly ; it bides within him, enriching his 
cheerfulness and rendering him of better service to his 

25 It was a commission of cheerfulness that he now gave, 
being distant from where rings are to be bought. He 


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could not go so far as the East to procure what he had 
planned. Rmgs were to be had in Cheyenne, and a 
still greater choice in Denver ; and so far as either of these 
towns his affairs would have permitted him to travel. 
But he was set upon having rin^s from the East. They 5 
must come from the best place m the country ; nothing 
short of that was good enough "to fit her finger," as he 
said. The wedding ring was a simple matter. Let it be 
right, that was all : the purest gold that could be used, 
with her initials and his together graven round the inside, lo 
with the day of the month and the year. 

The date was now set. It had come so far as this. 
July third was to be the day. Then for sixty days and 
nights he was to be a bridegroom, free from his duties at 
Simk Creek, free to take his bride wheresoever she might 15 
choose to go. And she had chosen. 

Those voices of the world had more than angered her ; 
for after the anger a set purpose was left. Her sister 
should have the chance neither to come nor to stay away. 
Had her mother even answered the Virginian's letter, 20 
there could have been some relenting. But the poor lady 
had been inadequate in this, as in all other searching 
moments of her life : she had sent messages, — kind ones, 
to be sure, — but only messages. If this had hurt the 
Virginian, no one knew it in the world, least of all the girl 25 
in whose heart it had left a cold, frozen spot. Not a good 
spirit in which to be married, you will say. No ; frozen 
spots are not good at any time. But MoUy's own nature 
gave her due punishment. Through all these days of 
her warm happiness a chill current ran, like those which 30 
interrupt the swimmer's perfect joy. The ^1 was only 
half as happy as her lover; but she hid this deep from 
him, — hid it until that final, fierce hour of reckoning that 
her nature had with her, — nay, was bound to have with 
her, before the punishment was lifted, and the frozen spot 35 
melted at length from her heart. 

n Digitized by VjUUy It: 


So, meanwhile, she made her decree against Benning- 
ton. Not Vermont, but Wyoming, should be her wedding 
place. No world's voices should be whispering, no world's 
eyes should be looking on when she made her vow to 
5 him and received his vow. Those vows should be spoken 
and that ring put on in this wild Cattle Land, where first 
she had seen him ride into the flooded river, and lift her 
ashore upon his horse. It was this open sky which should 
shine down on them, and this frontier soil upon which 

10 their feet should tread. The world should take its turn 

After a month with him by stream and cafion, a month 
far deeper into the mountain wilds than ever yet he had 
been free to take her, a month with sometimes a tent and 

16 sometimes the stars above them, and only their horses 
besides themselves — after such a month as this, she 
would take him to her mother and to Bennington; and 
the old aunt over at Dunbarton would look at him, and 
be once more able to declare that the Starks had always 

20 preferred a man who was a man. 

And so July third was to be engraved inside the wedding 
ring. Upon the other ring the Virginian had spent much 
delicious meditation, all in his secret mind. He had even 
got the right measure of her finger without her suspecting 

25 the reason. But this step was the final one in his plan. 

During the time that his thoughts had begim to be 

busy over the other ring, by a chance he had learned from 

Mrs. Henry a number of old fancies regarding precious 

stones. Mrs. Henry often accompanied the Judge in 

30 venturesome mountain climbs, and sometimes the steep- 
ness of the rocks required her to use her hands for safety. 
One day when the Virginian went with them to help mark 
out certain boundary comers, she removed her rings lest 
they should get scratched ; and he, being just behind her, 

35 took them during the climb. 

"I see you're looking at my topaz," she had said, as 

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he returned them. "If I could have chosen, it would 
have been a ruby. But I was bom in November." 

He did not understand her in the least, but her words 
awakened exceeding interest in him; and they had de- 
scended some five miles of mountain before he spokes 
again. Then he became ingenious, for he had half worked 
out what Mrs. Henry's meaning must be; but he must 
make quite sure. Therefore, according to his wild, shy 
nature, he became ingenious. 

"Men wear rings," he began. "Some of the men on 10 
the ranch do. I don't see any harm in a^ man's wearin' 
a ring. But I never have." 

"Well," said the lady, not yet suspecting that he was 
imdertaking to circumvent her, "probably those men 
have sweethearts." 15 

"No, ma'am. Not sweethearts worth wearin' rings 
for — in two cases, anyway. They won 'em at cyards. 
And they like to see 'em sMne. I never saw a man wear 
a topaz." 

Mrs. Henry did not have any further remark to make. 20 

"I was born in January myself," pursued the Virginian, 
very thoughtfully. 

Then the lady gave him one look, and without further 
process of mind perceived exactly what he was driving at. 

"That's very extravagant for rings," said she. "Jan- 25 
uary is diamonds." 

"Diamonds," murmured the Virginian, more and 
more thoughtfully. "Well, it don't matter, for I'd not 
wear a ring. And November is — what did yu' say, 
ma'am?" 30 


"Yes. Well, jewels are cert'nly pretty things. In 
the Spanish Missions yu'U see large ones now and again. 
And they're not glass, I think. And so they have got 
some jewel that kind of belongs to each month right 35 
around the twelve? " Digitized by ^^uuy it: 


"Yes," said Mrs. Henry, smiling. "One for each 
month. But the opal is what you want." 

He looked at her, and began to blush. 

"October is the opal," she added, and she laughed 
6 outright, for Miss Wood's birthday was on the fifteenth of 
that month. 

The Virginian smiled guiltily at her through his crimson. 

"IVe no doubt you can beat around the bush very 

well with men," said Mrs. Henry. "But it's perfectly 

10 transparent with us — in matters of sentiment, at least." 

"Well, I am sorry," he presently said. "I don't 

want to give her an opal. I have no superstition, but 

I don't want to give her an opal. If her mother did, or 

anybody like that, why, all right. But not from me. 

15 D' yu' understand, ma'am?" 

Mrs. Henry did undei:gtand this subtle trait in the 
wild man, and she rejoiced to be able to give him imme- 
diate reassurance concerning opals. 

"Don't you worry about that," she said. "The opal 

20 is said to bring ill luck, but not when it is your own 

month stone. Then it is supposed to be not only deprived 

of evil influence, but to possess peculiarly fortunate power. 

Let it be an opal ring." 

Then he asked her boldly various questions, and she 
25 showed him her rings, and gave him advice about the 
setting. There was no special custom, she told him, rul- 
ing such rings as this he desired to bestow. The gem 
might be the lady's favorite or the lover's favorite ; and 
to choose the lady's month stone was very well indeed. 
30 Very well indeed, the Virginian thought. But not 
quite well enough for him. His mind now busied itself 
with this lore concerning jewels, and soon his sentiment 
had suggested something which he forthwith carried 
36 When the ring was achieved, it was an opal, but set 
with four small embracing diamond^fg^i,JJ3^ol^^,-her 


month stone joined with his, that their luck and their 
love might be inseparably clasped. 

He fomid the size of her finger one day when winter 
had departed, and the early grass was green. He made a 
ring of twisted grass for her, while she held her hand for 5 
him to bind it. He made another for himself. Then, 
after each had worn their grass ring for a while, he begged 
her to exchange. He did not send his token away from 
him, but most carefully measured it. Thus the ring fitted 
her well, and the lustrous flame within the opal thrilled lo 
his heart each time he saw it. For now June was near its 
end ; and that other plain gold ring, which, for safe keep- 
ing, he cherished suspended round his neck day and night, 
seemed t9 bum with an inward glow that was deeper than 
the opal's. 15 

So in due course arrived the second of July. Molly's 
punishment had got as far as this: she longed for her 
mother to be near her at this time ; but it was too late. 

Digitized by 




Town lay twelve straight miles before the lover and 
his sweetheart, when they came to the brow of the last 
long hill. All beneath them was like a map: neither 
man nor beast distinguishable, but the veined and tinted 
6 image of a country, knobs and flats set out in order clearly, 
shining extensive and motionless in the sim. It opened 
on the sight of the lovers as they reached the sudden edge 
of the tableland, where since morning they had ridden 
with the head of neither horse ever in advance of the 

10 other. 

At the view of their journey's end, the Virginian looked 
down at his girl beside him, his eyes filled with a bride- 
groom's light, and, hanging safe upon his breast, he could 
feel the gold ring that he would slowly press upon her 

15 finger to-morrow. He drew off the glove from her left 
hand, and stooping, kissed the jewel in that other ring 
which he had given her. The crimson fire in the opal 
seemed to mingle with that in his heart, and his arm lifted 
her during a moment from the saddle as he held her to 

20 him. But in her heart the love of him was troubled by 
that cold pang of loneliness which had crept upon her like 
a tide as the day drew near. None of her own people 
were waiting in that distant town to see her become his 
bride. Friendly faces she might pass on the way; but 

25 all of them new friends, made in this wild country : not 
a face of her childhood would smile upon her ; and deep 

^JA Digitized by VjOijyitr 


within her, a voice cried for the mother who was far away 
in Vermont. That she would see Mrs. Taylor's kind 
face at her wedding was no comfort now. 

There lay the town in the splendor of Wyoming space. 
Around it spread the watered fields, westward for a little 5 
way, eastward to a great distance, making squares of 
green and yellow crops; and the town was put a poor 
rag in the midst of this quilted harvest. After the fields 
to the east, the tawny plain began; and with one faint 
furrow of river lining its imdulations, it stretched beyond 10 
sight. But west of the town rose the Bow Leg Mountains, 
cool with their still unmelted snows and their dull blue 
gulfs of pine. From three canons flowed three clear 
forks which began the river. Their confluence was above 
the town a good two miles ; it looked but a few paces 15 
from up here, while each side the river straggled the mar- 
gin cottonwoods, like thin borders along a garden walk. 
Over all this map hung silence like a harmony, tremendous 
yet serene. 

**How beautiful! how I love it!'' whispered the girl. 20 
"But, oh, how big it is!" And she leaned against her 
lover for an instant. It was her spirit seeking shelter. 
To-day, this vast beauty, this primal calm, had in it for 
her something almost of dread. The small, comfortable, 
green hills of home rose before her. She closed her eyes 25 
and saw Vermont: a village street, and the post-office, 
and ivy covering an old front door, and her mother pick- 
ing some yellow roses from a bush. 

At a sound, her eyes quickly opened; and here was 
her lover turned in his saddle, watching another horse- 30 
man approach. She saw the Virginian's hand in a certain 
position, and knew that his pistol was ready. But the 
other merely overtook and passed them, as they stood at 
the brow of the hUl. 

The man had given one nod to the Virginian, and the 35 
Virginian one to him; and now he was already below 

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them on the descending road. To Molly Wood he was a 
stranger; but she had seen his eyes when he nodded to 
her lover, and she knew, even without the pistol, that 
this was not enmity at first sight. 
5 It was not indeed. Five years of gathered hate had 
looked out of the man's eyes. And she asked her lover 
who this was. 

"Oh," said he, easily, "just a man I see now and 
10 "Is his name Trampas?" said Molly Wood. 

The Virginian looked at her in surprise. "Why, where 
have you seen him?" he asked. 

"Never till now. But I knew." 

"My gracious! Yu' never told me yu' had mind- 
15 reading powers." And he smiled serenely at her. 

"I knew it was Trampas as soon as I saw his eyes." 

"My gracious I" her lover repeated with indulgent 
irony. " I must be mighty careful of my eyes when you're 
lookin' at 'em." 
20 "I believe he did that murder," said the girl. 

"Whose mind are yu' readin' now?" he drawled 

But he could not joke her off the subject. She took 

his strong hand in hers, tremulously, so much of it as her 

25httle hand could hold. "I know something about that 

— that — last autumn," she said, shrinking from words 

more definite. "And I know that you only did — " 

"What I had to," he finished, very sadly, but sternly, 
30 "Yes," she asserted, keeping hold of his hand. "I 
suppose that — lynching — " (she almost whispered the 
word) "is the only way. But when they had to die just 
for stealing horses, it seems so wicked that this mur- 
derer — " 
35 "Who can prove it?" asked the Virginian. 

"But don't you know it ? " n \ 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 


"I know a heap o* things inside my heart. But that's 
not proving. There was only the body, and the hoof- 
prints — and what folks guessed." 

"He was never even arrested !" the girl said. 

"No. He helped elect the sheriff in that county." 6 

Then Molly ventured a step inside the border of her 
lover's reticence. "I saw — " she hesitated, "just now, 
I saw what you did." 

He returned to his caressing irony. "You'U have me 
plumb scared if you keep oii seein' things." 10 

"You had your pistol ready for him." 

"Why, I believe I did. It was mighty unnecessary." 
And the Virginian took out the pistol again, and shook his 
head over it, like one who has been caught in a blunder. 

She looked at him, and knew that she must step outside 15 
his reticence again. By love and her surrender to him 
their positions had been exchanged. He was not now, as 
through his long courting he had been, her half-obeying 
half-refractory worshipper. She was no longer his half- 
indulgent, half-scornful superior. Her better birth and 20 
schooling that had once been weapons to keep him at his 
distance, or bring her off victorious in their encounters, 
had given way before the onset of the natural man him- 
self. She knew her cow-boy lover, with all that he lacked, 
to be more than ever she could be, with all that she had. 25 
He was her worshipper still, but her master, too. There- 
fore now, against the baffling smile he gave her, she felt 
powerless. And once again a pang of yearning for her 
mother to be near her to-day shot through the girl. She 
looked from her untamed man to the untamed desert of 30 
Wyoming, and the town where she was to take him as her 
wedded husband. But for his sake she would not let him 
guess her loneliness. 

He sat on his horse Monte, considering the pistol. 
Then he showed her a rattlesnake coiled by the roots of 35 
some sage-brush. "Can I hit it?" he inquiredjuyit: 


*'You don't often miss them," said she, striving to be 

"Well, Fm told getting married unstrings some men." 

He aimed, and the snake was shattered. "Maybe it's 

5 too early yet for the unstringing to begin!" And with 

some deliberation he sent three more bullets into the 

snake. "I reckon that's enough," said he. 

"Was not the first one?" 

"Oh, yes, for the snake." And then, with one leg 
10 crooked cow-boy fashion across in front of his saddle- 
horn, he cleaned his pistol, and replaced the empty car- 

Once more she ventiu^ near the line of his reticence. 
"Has — has Trampas seen you much lately?" 
15 "Why, no; not for a right smart while. But I reckon 
he has not missed me." 

The Virginian spoke this in his gentlest voice. But 
his rebuffed sweetheart turned her face away, and from 
her eyes she brushed a tear. 
20 He reined his horse Monte beside her, and upon her 
cheek she felt his kiss. "You are not the only mind- 
reader," said he, very tenderly. And. at this she clung 
to him, and laid her head upon his breast. "I had been 
thinking," he went on, "that the way our marriage is to 
25 be was the most beautiful way." 

"It is the most beautiful," she murmured. 

He slowly spoke out his thought, as if she had not said 

this. "No folks to stare, no fuss, no jokes and ribbons 

and best bonnets, no public eye nor talkin' of tongues 

30 when most yu' want to hear nothing and say nothing." 

She answered by holding him closer. 

"Just the bishop of Wyoming to join us, and not even 
him after we're once joined. I did tliink that would be 
ahead of all ways to get married I have seen." 
35 He paused again and she made no rejoinder. 

"But we have left out your mother. ^^g,.,,,,^ Google 


She looked in his face with quick astonishment. It was 
as if his spirit had heard the cry of her spirit. 

" That is nowhere near right," he said. " That is wrong." 

"She could never have come here," said the girl. 

"We should have gone there. I don't know how I can 6 
ask her to forgive me." 

"But it was not you!" cried Molly. 

"Yes. Because I did not object. I did not tell you 
we must go to her. * I missed the point, thinking so much 
about my own feelings. For you see — and IVe never lo 
said this to you until now — your mother did hurt me. 
When you said you would have me after my years of 
waiting, and I wrote her that letter telling her all about 
myself, and how my family was not hke yours, and — and 
— all the rest I told her, why you see it hurt me never to 16 
get a word back from her except just messages through 
you. For I had talked to her about my hopes and my 
failings. 1 had said more than ever Tve said to you, 
because she was your mother. I wanted her to forgive 
me, if she could, and feel that maybe I could take good 20 
care of you after all. For it was bad enough to have her 
daughter quit her home to teach school out hyeh on Bear 
Creek. Bad enough without havin' me to come along 
and make it worse. I have missed the point in thinking 
of my own feelings." 26 

"But it's not your doing!" repeated Molly. 

With his deep delicacy he had put the whole matter as 
a hardship to her mother alone. He had saved her any 
pain of confession or denial. "Yes, it is my doing," he 
now said. "Shall we give it up?" 30 

"Give what — ?" She did not understand. 

"Why, the order weVe got it fixed in. Plans are — 
well, they're no more than plans. I hate the notion of 
changing, but I hate hurting your mother more. Or, 
anyway, I ought to hate it more. So we can shift, if yu' 35 
say so. It's not too late." , , ., ..,.,^ 

•^ Digitized by VjUUy It: 


"Shift?'' she faltered. 

"I mean, we can go to your home now. We can start 
by the stage to-night. Your mother can see us married. 
We can come back and finish in the mounrtiains instead of 
6 beginning in them. It'U be just merely shifting, yu' see." 
He could scarcely bring himself to say this at all; yet 
he said it almost as if he were urging it. It implied a 
renunciation that he could hardly bear to think of. To 
put off his wedding day, the bliss upon whose threshold 

10 he stood after his three years of faithful battle for it, and 
that wedding journey he had arranged: for there were 
the moimtains in sight, the woods and cafions where he 
had planned to go with her after the bishop had joined 
them; the solitudes where only the wild animals would 

16 be, besides themselves. His horses, his tent, his rifle, 
his rod, all were waiting ready in the town for their start 
to-morrow. He had provided many dainty things to 
make her comfortable. Well, he could wait a little more, 
having waited three years. It would not be what his 

20 heart most desired: there would be the "public eye and 
the talking of tongues" — but he could wait. The hour 
would come when he could be alone with his bride at last. 
And so he spoke as if he urged it. 

' ' Never I " she cried . * ' Never, never I ' ' 

26 She pushed it from her. She would not brook such 
sacrifice on his part. Were they not going to her mother 
in four weeks? If her family had warmly accepted him 
— but they had not; and in any case, it had gone too 
far, it was too late. She told her lover that she would 

30 not hear him, that if he said any more she would gallop 
into town separately from him. And for his sake she 
would hide deep from him this loneliness of hers, and the 
hurt that be had given her in refusing to share with her 
his trouble with Trampas, when others must know of it. 

35 Accordingly, they descended the hill slowly together, 
lingering to spin out these last miles lon^, i^^^ i^es 


had taught their horses to go side by side, and so they 
went now: the girl sweet and thoughtful in her sedate 
gray habit ; and the man in his leathern chaps and car- 
tridge belt and flannel shirt,, looking gravely into the dis- 
tance with the level gaze of the frontier. 6 

Having read his sweetheart's mind very plainly, the 
lover now broke his dearest custom. It was his code 
never to speak ill of any man to any woman. Men's 
quarrels were not for women's ears. In his scheme^ good 
women were to know only a fragment of men's lives. He 10 
had Uved many outlaw years, and his wide knowledge 
of evil made innocence doubly precious to him. But 
to-day he must depart from his code, having read her 
mind well. He would speak evil of one man to one 
woman, because his reticence had hurt her — and was she 16 
not far from her mother, and very lonely, do what he 
could? She should know the story of his quarrel in 
language as light and casual as he could veil it with. 

He made an obhque start. He did not say to her: 
"I'll tell you about this. You saw me get ready for 20 
Trampas because I have been ready for him any time 
these five years. " He began far off from the point with 
that rooted caution of his — that caution which is shared 
by the primal savage and the perfected diplomat. 

"There's cert'nly a right smart o' difference between 26 
men and women," he observed. 

"You're quite sure?" she retorted. 

"Ain't it fortunate? — that there's both, I mean." 

"I don't know about fortunate. Machinery could 
probably do all the heavy work for us without your 30 

"And who'd invent the machinery?" 

She laughed. "We shouldn't need .the huge, noisy 
things you do. Our world would be a gentle one." 

"Oh, my gracious !" 36 

" What do you mean by that ? " Digitized by Google 


"Oh, my gracious! Get along, Monte I A gentle 
world aUfuU of ladies!'' 

"Do you call men gentle?" inquired Molly. 

"Now it's a funny thing about that. Have yu' ever 
5 noticed a joke about fathers-in-law? There's just a^ 
many fathers- as mothers-in-law ; but which side are your 

Molly was not vanquished. "That's because the men 
write the comic papers," said she. 
10 "Hear that, Monte? The men write 'em. Well, if 
the ladies wrote a comic paper, I expect that might be 

She gave up this battle in mirth ; and he resumed : — 

"But don't you really reckon it's uncommon to meet 
16 a father-in-law flouncin' around the house? As for 
gentle — Once 1 had to sleep in a room next a ladies' 
temperance meetin'. Oh, heavens! Well, I couldn't 
change my room, and the hotel man, he apologized to me 
next mawnin'. Said it didn't surprise him the husbands 
20 drank some." 

Here the Virginian broke down over his own fantastic 

inventions, and gave a joyous chuckle in company with 

his sweetheart. "Yes, there's a big heap o' difference 

between men and women," he said. "Take that fello' 

25 and myself, now." 

"Trampas?" said Molly, quickly serious. She looked 
along the road ahead, and discerned the figure of Trampas 
still visible on its way to town. 

The Virginian did not wish her to be serious — more 
30 than could be helped. "Why, yes," he replied, ^ith a 
waving gesture at Trampas. "Take him and me. He 
don't think much o' me. How could he? And I expect 
he'll never. But yu' saw just now how it was between 
us. We were not a bit like a temperance meetin'." 
35 She could not help laughing at the twist he gave to his 
voice. And she felt happiness warming her; for in the 


Virginian's tone about Trampas was something now that 
no longer exchided her. Thus he began his gradual re- 
cital, in a cadence always easy, and more and more 
musical with the native accent of the South. With the 
light turn he gave it, its pure ugliness melted into charm. 6 

'*No, he don't think anything of me. Once a man 
in the John Day Valley didn't think much, and by Cafiada 
de Oro I met another. It will always be so here and there, 
but Trampas beats 'em all. For the others have always 
expressed themselves — got shut of their poor opinion in 10 
the open air. 

"Yu' see, I had to explain myself to Trampas a right 
smart while ago, long before ever I laid my eyes on yu'. 
It was just nothing at all. A little matter of cyards in the 
days when I was apt to spend my money and my holidays 16 
pretty headlong. My gracious, what nonsensical times 
I have had ! But I was apt to win at cyards, 'specially 
poker. And Trampas, he met me one night, and I expect 
he must have thought I looked kind o' young. So he 
hated losin' his money to such a young-lookin' man, and 20 
he took his way of sayin' as much. I had to explain my- 
self to him plainly, so that he learned right away my age 
had got its growth. 

"Well, I expect he hated that worse, having to receive 
my explanation with folks lookin' on at us publicly that- 26 
a-way, and him without further ideas occurrin' to him at 
the moment. That's what started his poor opinion of 
me, not havin' ideas at the moment. And so the boys 
resumed their cyards. 

"I'd most forgot about it. But Trampas's mem'rySO 
is one of his strong points. Next thing — oh, it's a good 
while later — he gets to losin' flesh because Judge Henry 
gave me charge of him and some other pimchers taking 

"That's not next," interrupted the girl. 36 

"Not? Why — " ^ , 

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"Don't you remember?'' she said, timid, yet eager. 
"Don't you?" 

"Blamed if I do!" 

"The first time we met?" 
6 "Yes; my mem'ry keeps that — like I keep this." 
And he brought from his pocket her own handkerchief, 
the token he had picked up at a river's brink when he 
had carried her from an overturned stage. 

"We did not exactly meet, then," she said. "It was 
10 at that dance. I hadn't seen you yet ; but Trampas was 
saying something horrid about me, and you said — you 
said, ' Rise on your legs, you pole cat, and tell them you're 
a Uar.' When I heard that, I think — I .think it finished 
me." And crimson suffused Molly's coimtenance. 
15 "I'd forgot," the Virginian murmured. Then sharply, 
"How did you hear it?" 

"Mrs. Taylor— " 

"Oh! Well, a man would never have told a woman 
20 Molly laughed triumphantly. "Then who told Mrs. 

Being caught, he grinned at her. "I reckon hus- 
bands are a special kind of man," was all that he found 
to say. "Well, since you do know about that, it was the 
26 next move in the game. Trampas thought I had no call 
to stop him sayin' what he pleased about a woman who 
was nothin' to me — then. But all women ought to be 
somethin' to a man. So I had to give Trampas another 
explanation in the presence of folks lookin' on, and it was 
30 just like the cyards. No ideas occurred to him again. 
And down goes his opinion of me some more ! 

"Well, I have not been able to raise it. There has been 

this and that and the other, — yu' know most of the later 

doings yourself, — and to-day is the first time I've hap- 

35 pened to see the man since the doings last autumn. Yu' 

seem to know about them, too. He knows I can't prove 

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he was with that gang of horse thieves. And I can't 
prove he killed poor Shorty. But he knows I missed him 
awful close, and spoiled his thieving for a while. So d' yu' 
wonder he don't think much of me ? But if I had lived to 
be twenty-nine years old Uke I am, and with all my chances 6 
made no enem\'', I'd feel myself a failure." 

His story was finished. He had made her his confidant 
in matters he had never spoken of before, and she was 
happy to be thus much nearer to him. It diminished a 
certain fear that was mingled 'with her love of him. 10 

During the next several miles he was silent, and his 
silence was enough for her. Vermont sank away from 
her thoughts, ai\d Wyoming held less of loneliness. They 
descended altogether into the map which had stretched 
below them, so that it was a map no longer, but earth 15 
with growing things, and prairie-dogs sitting upon it, 
and now and then a bird flying over it. And after a while 
she said to him, "What are you thinking about?" 

"I have been doing sums. Figured in hours it sounds 
right short. Figured in minutes, it boils up into quite 20 
a mess. Twenty by sixty is twelve hundred. Put that 
into seconds, and yu' get seventy-two thousand seconds. 
Seventy-two thousand. Seventy-two thousand seconds 
yet before we get married." 

"Seconds! To think of its having come to seconds!" 25 

"I am thinkin' about it. I'm choppin' sixty of 'em 
off every minute." 

With such chopping time wears away. More miles 
of the road lay behind them, and in the virgin wilderness 
the scars of new-scraped water ditches began to appear, 30 
and the first wire fences. Next, they were passing cabins 
and occasional fields, the outposts of habitation. The 
free road became wholly imprisoned, running between 
unbroken stretches of barbed wire. Far off to the east- 
ward a flowing column of dust marked the approaching 35 
stage, bringing the bishop, probably, for whose visit here 

fy Digitized by VjOOQltr 


they had timed their wedding. The day still brimmed 
with heat and sunshine ; but the great daily shadow was 
beginning to move from the feet of the Bow Leg Moun- 
tains outward toward the town. Presently they began 
5 to meet citizens. Some of these knew them and nodded, 
while some did not, and stared. Turning a corner into 
the town's chief street, where stood the hotel, the bank, 
the drug store, the general store, and the seven saloons, 
they were hailed heartily. Here were three friends, — 
10 Honey Wiggin, Scipio Le Moyne, and Lin McLean, — 
all desirous of drinking the Virginian's health, if his lady 
— would she mind ? The three stood grinning, with their 
hats off ; but behind their gayety the Virginian read some 
other purpose. 
16 "We'll all be very good," said Honey Wiggin. 

"Pretty good," said Lin. 

"Good," said Scipio. 

"Which is the honest man?" inquired Molly, glad to 
see them. 
20 "Not one!" said the Virginian. "My old friends 
scare me when I think of their ways." 

"It's bein' engaged scares yu'," retorted Mr. McLean. 
"Marriage restores your courage, I find." 

"Well, I'U trust all of you," said Molly. "He's going 
26 to take me to the hotel, and then you can drink his health 
as much as you please." 

With a smile to them she turned to proceed, and he 

let his horse move with hers ; but he looked at his friends. 

Then Scipio's bleached blue eyes narrowed to a slit, and 

30 he said what they had all come out on the street to say : — 

"Don't change your clothes." 

"Oh!" protested Molly, "isn't he rather dusty and 
countrified ? " 

But the Virginian had taken Scipio's meaning. "Don't 

S5 change your clothes. '^ Innocent Molly appreciated these 

words no more than the average reader who reads a 

Digitized by VjUUQlt: 


masterpiece, complacently unaware that its style differs 
from that of the morning paper. Such was Scipio's 
intention, wishing to spare her from alarm. 

So at the hotel she let her lover go with a kiss, and 
without a thought of Trampas. She in her room unlocked 5 
the possessions which were there waiting for her, and 
changed her dress. 

Wedding garments, and other civilized apparel proper 
for a genuine frontiersman when he comes to town, were 
also in the hotel, ready for the Virginian to wear. It is 10 
only the somewhat green and unseasoned cow-puncher 
who struts before the public in spurs and deadly weapons. 
For many a year the Virginian had put away these child- 
ish things. He made a sober toilet for the streets. Noth- 
ing but his face and bearing remained out of the common 15 
when he was in a town. But Scipio had told him 
not to change his clothes; therefore he went out with 
his pistol at his hip. Soon he had joined his three 

"I'm obliged to yu'," he said. "He passed me this 20 

"We don't know his intentions,*' said Wiggin. 

"Except that he's hangin' around," said McLean. 

"And fillin' up," said Scipio, "which reminds me — " 

They strolled into the saloon of a friend, where, unfor- 25 
tunately, sat some fooHsh people. But one cannot always 
tell how much of a fool a man is, at sight. 

It was a temperate health-drinking that they made. 

"Here's how," they muttered softly to the Virginian; 
and "How," he returned softly, looking away from them. 30 
But they had a brief meeting of eyes, standing and loung- 
ing near each other, shyly ; and Scipio shook hands with 
the bridegroom. "Some day," he stated, tapping him- 
self ; for in his vagrant heart he began to envy the man 
who could bring himself to marry. And he nodded 35 
again, repeating, "Here's how." ^ ^ ^^ ^^,,^^ 

Digitized by VjUUy It: 


They stood at the bar, full of sentiment, empty of words, 
memory and affection busy in their hearts. All of them 
had seen rough days together, and they felt guilty with 
5 "It's hot weather," said Wiggin. 

"Hotter on Box Elder," said McLean. "My kid has 
started teething." 

Words ran dry again. They shifted their positions, 
looked in their glasses, read the labels on the bottles. 
10 They dropped a word now and then to the proprietor 
about his trade, and his ornaments. 
"Good head," commented McLean. 
"Big old ram," assented the proprietor. "Shot him 
myself on Gray Bull last fall." 
15 "Sheep was thick in the Tetons last fall," said the 

On the bar stood a machine into which the idle customer 

might drop his nickel. The coin then bounced among an 

arrangement of pegs, descending at length into one or 

20 another of various holes. You might win as much as ten 

times your stake, but this was not the most usual result ; 

and with nickels the three friends and the bridegroom 

now mildly sported for a while, buying them with silver 

when their store ran out. 

25 "Was it sheep you went after in the Tetons?" inquired 

- the proprietor, knowing it was horse thieves. 

"Yes," said the Virginian. "I'll have ten more 

"Did you get all the sheep you wanted?" the pro- 
30 prietor continued. 

"Poor luck," said the Virginian. 

"Think there's a friend of yours in town this after- 
noon," said the proprietor. 

"Did he mention he was my friend?" 
35 The proprietor laughed. The Virginian watched an- 
other nickel click down among the pegs. 

Digitized by VjUUy It: 


Honey Wiggin now made the bridegroom a straight 
offer. "We'll take this thing off your hands," said he. 

"Any or all of us," said Lin. 

But Scipio held his peace. His loyalty went every 
inch as far as theirs, but his understanding of his friend 5 
went deeper. "Don't change your clothes," was the first 
and the last help he would be likely to give in this matter. 
The rest must be as such matters must always be, between 
man and man. To the other two friends, however, this 
seemed a very special case, falling outside established 10 
precedent. Therefore they ventured offers of interference. 

"A man don't get married every day," apologized 
McLean. "We'll just run him out of town for yu'." 

"Save yu' the trouble," urged Wiggin. "Say the 
word." 16 

The proprietor now added his voice. "It'll sober him 
up to spend his night out in the brush. He'll quit his 
talk then." 

But the Virginian did not say the word, or any word. 
He stood playing with the nickels. 20 

"Think of her," muttered McLean. 

"Who else would I be thinking of?" returned the 
Southerner. His face had become very sombre. "She 
has been raised so different!" he murmured. He pon- 
dered a little, while the others waited, solicitous. 25 

A new idea came to the proprietor. "I am acting 
mayor of this town," said he. " I'll put him in the calaboose 
and keep him till you get married and away." 

"Say the word," repeated Honey Wiggin. 

Scipio 's eye met the proprietor's, and he shook his 30 
head about a quarter of an inch. The proprietor shook 
his to the same amount. They understood each other. 
It had come to that point where there was no way out, 
save only the ancient, eternal way between man and man. 
It is only the great mediocrity that goes to law in these 35 
personal matters. Digitized by v^uuy it: 


"So he has talked about me some?" said the Vii^inian. 
"It's the whiskey," Scipio explained. 
"I expect," said McLean, "he'd run a mile if he was 
in a state to appreciate his insinuations." 
5 "Which we are careful not to mention to yu'," said 
Wiggin, "unless yii' inquire for 'em." 

Some of the fools present had drawn closer to hear 
this interesting conversation. In gatherings of more than 
six there will generally be at least one fool; and this 
10 company must have numbered twenty men. 

"This country knows well enough," said one fool, who 
hungered to be important, "that you don't brand no 
calves that ain't your own." 
The saturnine Virginian looked at him. "Thank yu','' 
16 said he, gravely, "for your indorsement of my character." 
. The fool felt flattered. The Virginian turned to his 
friends. His hand slowly pushed his hat back, and he 
rubbed his black head in thought. 
"Glad to see yii've got your gun with you," continued 
20 the happy fool. "You know what Trampas claims 
about that affair of yours in the Tetons? He claims 
that if everything was known about the killing of 
"Take one on the house," suggested the proprietor to 
25 him, amiably. "Your news will be fresher." And he 
pushed him the bottle. The fool felt less important. 

"This talk had went the rounds before it got to us," 
said Scipio, "or we'd have headed it off. He has got 
friends in town." 
30 Perplexity knotted the Virginian's brows. This com- 
munity knew that a man had implied he was a thief and 
a murderer ; it also knew that he knew it. But the case 
was one of peculiar circumstances, assuredly. Could he 
avoid meeting the man? Soon the stage would be start- 
35 ing south from the railroad. He had already to-day pro- 
posed to his swe^th^art that they shoul^ti^taktjtiu^uld 


he for her sake leave unanswered a talking enemy upon 
the field? His own ears had not heard the enemy. 

Into these reflections the fool stepped once more. 
"Of course this country don't believe Trampas," said he. 
"This country—" 5 

But he contributed no further thoughts. From some- 
where in the rear of the building, where it opened upon 
the tin cans and the hinder purUeus of the town, came a 
movement, and Trampas was among them, courageous 
with whiskey. 10 

All the fools now made themselves conspicuous. One 
lay on the floor, knocked there by the Virginian, whose 
arm he had attempted to hold. Others struggled with 
Trampas, and his bullet smashed the ceiling before they 
could drag the pistoj from him. "There now! there is 
now!" they interposed; "you don't want to talk like 
that," for he was pouring out a tide of hate and vilifica- 
tion. Yet the Virginian stood quiet by the bar, and many 
an eye of astonishment was turned upon him. "I'd not 
stand half that language," some muttered to each other. 20 
Still the Virginian waited quietly, while the fools reasoned 
with Trampas. But no earthly foot can step between a 
man and his destiny. Trampas broke suddenly free. 

"Your friends have saved your life," he rang out, 
with obscene epithets. "I'll give you till sundown to 25 
leave town." 

There was total silence instantly. 

"Trampas," spoke the Virginian, "I don't want trouble 
with you." 

"He never has wanted it," Trampas sneered to the 30 
bystanders. "He has been dodging it five years. But 
I've got him coralled." 

Some of the Trampas faction smiled. 

"Trampas," said the Virginian again, "are yu' sure 
yu' really mean that?" 35 

The whiskey bottle flew through ollfefd bf^ofe^lt^ by 


Trampas, and crashed through the saloon window be- 
hind the Virginian. 

"That was surplusage, Trampas/* said he, "if yu' 
mean the other." 
6 "Get out by sundown, that^s all," said Trampas. 
And wheeling, he went out of the saloon by the rear, as 
he had entered. 

"Gentlemen," said the Virginian, "I know you will 
all oblige me." 
10 "Sure!" exclaimed the proprietor, heartily. "We'll 
see that everybody lets this thing alone." 

The Virginian gave a general nod to the company, 
and walked out into the street. 

"It's a turruble shame," sighed Scipio, "that he 
15 couldn't have postponed it." 

The Virginian walked in the open air with thoughts 
disturbed. "I am of two minds about one thing," he 
said to himself uneasily. 

Gossip ran in advance of him ; but as he came by, the 

20 talk fell away until he had passed. Then they looked 

after him, and their words again rose audibly. Thus 

everywhere a little eddy of silence accompanied his steps. 

"It don't trouble him much," one said, having reiad 
nothing in the Virginian's face. 
25 "It may trouble his girl some," said another. 

"She'll not know," said a third, "until it's over." 

"He'U not tell her?" 

"I wouldn't. It's no woman's business." 

"Maybe that's so. Well, it would have suited me to 
30 have Trampas die sooner." 

"How would it suit you to have him live longer?" 
inquired a member of the opposite faction, suspected of 
being himself a cattle thief. 

"I could answer your question, if I had other folks' 
35 calves I wanted to brand." This raised both a laugh 
and a silence. Digtizedby^uuyit: 


Thus the town talked, filling in the time before sunset. 

The Virginian, still walking aloof in the open air, 
paused at the edge of the town. "I'd sooner have a 
sickness than be undecided this way,'* he said, and he 
looked up and down. Then a grim smile came at his 5 
own expense. "I reckon it would make me sick — 
but there's not time.*' 

Over there in the hotel sat his sweetheart, alone, 
away from her mother, her friends, her home, waiting 
his return, knowing nothing. He looked into the west. 10 
Between the sun and the bright ridges of the mountains 
was still a space of sky ; but the shadow from the moun- 
tains' feet had drawn halfway toward the town. "About 
forty minutes more," he said aloud. "She has been raised 
so (Merent." And he sighed as he turned back. As he 15 
went slowly, he did not know how great was his own 
unhappiness. "She has been raised so different," he 
said again. 

Opposite the post-office the bishop of Wyoming met 
him and greeted him. His lonely heart throbbed at the 20 
warm, firm grasp of this friend's hand. The bishop saw 
his eyes glow suddenly, as if tears were close. But none 
came, and no word more open than, "I'm glad to see 

But gossip had reached the bishop, and he was sorely 25 
troubled also. "What is all this?" said he, coming 
straight to it. 

The Virginian looked at the clergyman frankly. "Yu' 
know just as much about it as I do," he said. "And I'll 
tell yu' anything yu' ask." 30 

"Have you told Miss Wood?" inquired the bishop. 

The eyes of the bridegroom fell, and the bishop's face 
grew at once more keen and more troubled. Then the 
bridegroom raised his eyes again, and the bishop almost 
loved him. He touched his arm, like a brother. "This 35 
is hard luck," he said. Digitized by voiuuy it: 


The brid^room could scarce keep his voice steady. 
"I want to do right to-day more than any day I have 
ever hved," said he. 

"Then go and tell her at once." 
6 "It will just do nothing but scare her." 
"Go and teU her at once." 

"I expected you was going to tell me to run away from 
Trampas. I can't do that, yu' know." 
The bishop did know. Never before in all his wilder- 
lOness work Imd he faced such a thing. He knew that 
Trampas was an evil in the country, and that the Vir- 
ginian was a good. He knew that the cattle thieves — 
the rustlers — were gaining in numbers and audacity; 
that they led many weak young fellows to ruin ; that they 
16 elected their men to office, and controlled juries; that 
they were a staring menace to Wyoming. BBs heart was 
with the Virginian. But there was his Gospel, that he 
preached, and believed, and tried to live. He stood 
looking at the ground and drawing a finger along his 
20 eyebrow. He wished that he might have heard nothing 
about aU this. But he was not one to blink his respon- 
sibility as a Christian server of the church militant. 

"Am I right," he now slowly asked, "in believing that 
you think I am a sincere man?" 
26 "I don't believe anything about it. I know it." 

"I should run away from Trampas," said the bishop. 

"That ain't quite fair, seh. We all imderstand you 

have got to do the things you tell other folks to do. And 

you do them, seh. You never talk like anjrthing but a 

soman, and you never set yourself above others. You can 

saddle your own horses. And I saw yu* walk unarmed 

into that White River excitement when those two other 

parsons was a-foggin' and a-fannin' for their own safety. 

Damn scoundrels ! " 

35 The bishop instantly rebuked such language about 

brothers of his cloth, even though hep^js§j)55:^M^^oth 


of them and their doctrines. "Every one may be an 
instrument of Providence," he concluded. 

"Well," said the Virginian, "if that is so, then Provi- 
dence makes use of instruments I'd not touch with a 
ten-foot pole. Now if you was me, seh, and not a bishop, 6 
would you run away from Trampas?" 

"That's not quite fair, either!" exclaimed the bishop, 
with a smile. "Because you are asking me to take an- 
other man's con\dctions, and yet remain myself." 

"Yes, seh. I am. That's so. That don't get at it. 10 
I reckon you and I can't get at it." 

"If the Bible," said the bishop, "which I beUeve to be 
God's word, was anything to you — " 

"It is something to me, seh. I have found fine truths 
in it." 16 

"'Thou Shalt not kill,'" quoted the bishop. "That is 

The Virginian took his tiim at smiling. " Mighty plain 
to me, seh. Make it plain to Trampas, and there'll be 
no killin'. We can't get at it that way." 20 

Once more the bishop quoted earnestly. "'Vengeance 
is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.'" 

"How about instruments of Providence, seh? Why, 
we can't get at it that way. If you start usin' the Bible 
that way, it will mix you up mighty quick, seh." 25 

"My friend^" the bishop urged, and all his good, warm 
heart was in it, "my dear fellow — go away for the one 
night. He'll change his mind." 

The Virginian shook his head. "He cannot change his 
word, seh. Or at least I must stay around till he does. 30 
Why, I have given him the say-so. He's got the choice. 
Most men would not have took what I took from him in 
the saloon. Why don't you ask him to leave town?" ^ 

The good bishop was at a standstill. Of all kicking 
against the pricks none is so hard as this kick of a profess- 35 
ing Christian against the whole instin(^g,|Qf^]^i,jg[\§,^^Hji§n. 


"But you have helped me some," said the Virginian. 
"I will go and tell her. At least, if I think it will be good 
for her, I will tell her." 

The bishop thought that he saw one last chance to 
6 move him. 

"You^re twenty-nine," he began. 

"And a Uttle over," said the Virginian. 

"And you were fourteen when you ran away from your 
10 "Well, I was weary, yu' know, of havin' elder brothers 
lay down my law night and mawnin'." 

"Yes, I know. So that your life has been your own for 
fifteen years. But it is not your own now. You have 
given it to a woman." 
15 "Yes; I have given it to her. But my life's not the 
whole of me. I'd give her twice my life — fifty — a 
thousand of 'em. But I can't give her — her nor any- 
body in heaven or earth — I can't give my — my — we'll 
never get at it, seh ! There's no good in words. Good- 
20 by." The Virginian wrung the bishop's hand and left 

"God bless him !" said the bishop. "God bless him !" 

The Virginian unlocked the room in the hotel where he 
kept stored his tent, his blankets, his pack-saddles, and 

26 his many accoutrements for the bridal journey in the 
mountains. Out of the window he saw the mountains 
blue in shadow, but some cottonwoods distant in the flat 
between were still bright green in the sun. From among 
his possessions he took quickly a pistol, wiping and load- 

30ing it. Then from its holster he removed the pistol 
which he had tried and made sure of in the morning. 
This, according to his wont when going into a risk, he 
shoved between his trousers and his shirt in front. The 
untried weapon he placed in the holster, letting it hang 

35 visibly at his hip. He glanced out of the wipdp^y 


and saw the mountains of the same deep blue. But the 
cottonwoods were no longer in the simlight. The shadow 
had come past them, nearer the town; for fifteen of the 
forty minutes were gone. "The bishop is wrong," he 
said. "There is no sense in telling her." And he turned 6 
to the door, just as she came to it herself. 

"Oh !" she cried out at once, and rushed to him. 

He swore as he held her close. "The fools!" he said. 
"The fools!" 

"It has been so frightful waiting for you," said she, lO 
leaning her head against him. 

"Who had to tell you this?" he demanded. 

"I don't know. Somebody just came and said it." 

"This is mean luck," he murmured, patting her. "This 
is mean luck." 15 

She went on. "I wanted to run out and find you; 
but I didn't ! I didn't ! I stayed quiet in my room till 
they said you had come back." 

"It is mean luck. Mighty mean," he repeated. 

"How could you be so long?" she asked. "Never 20 
mind, I've got you now. It is over." 

Anger and sorrow filled him. "I might have known 
some fool would tell you," he said. 

"It's all over. Never mind." Her arms tightened 
their hold of him. Then she let him go. "What shall 25 
we do ? " she said. " What now ? " 

" Now ? " he answered. " Nothing now." 

She looked at him without understanding. 

"I know it is a heap worse for you," he pursued, speak- 
ing slowly. "I knew it would be." 30 

"But it is over !" she exclaimed again. 

He did not understand her now. He kissed her. 
"Did you think it was over?" he said simply. "There 
is some waiting still before us. I wish you did not have 
to wait alone. But it will not be long." He was looking 35 
down, and did not see the happiness growacMil®^ upon her 


face, and then fade into bewildered fear. "I did my 
best," he went on. "I think I did. I know I tried. I 
let him say to me before them all what no man has ever 
said, or ever will again. I kept thinking hard of you — 
6 with all my might, or I reckon I'd have killed him right 
there. And I gave him a show to change his mind. I 
gave it to him twice. I spoke as quiet as I am speaking 
to you now. But he stood to it. And I expect he knows 
he went too far in the hearing of others to go back on 
10 his threat. He will have to go on to the finish now." 

"The finish?" she echoed, ahnost voiceless. 

"Yes," he answered very gently. 

Her dilated eyes were fixed upon him. "But — " 
she could scarce form utterance, "but you?" 
15 "I have got myself ready," he said. "Did you think 
— why, what did you think ? " 

She recoiled a step. "What are you going — " She 

put her two hands to her head. "Oh, God !" she almost 

shrieked, "you are going — " He made a step, and 

20 would have put his arm round her, but she backed against 

the wall, staring speechless at him. 

"I am not going to let him shoot me," he said quietly. 

"You mean — you mean — but you can come away I" 
she cried. "It's not too late yet. You can take yourself 
25 out of his reach. Everybody knows that you are brave. 
What is he to you? You can leave him in this place. 
I'll go with you anywhere. To any house, to the moun- 
tains, to anywhere away. We'll leave this horrible place 
together and — and — oh, won't you listen to me ? " 
30 She stretched her hands to him. "Won't you listen?" 

He took her hands. "I must stay here." 

Her hands clung to his. "No, no, no. There's some- 
thing else. There's something better than shedding 
blood in cold blood. Only think what it means ! Only 
35 think of having to remember such a thing! Why, it's 
what they hang people fori It's murderI"byVjuuyit: 


He dropped her hands. "Don't call it that name," 
he said sternly. 

"When there was the choice!" she exclaimed, half to 
heraelf, like a person stunned and speaking to the air. 
"To get ready for it when you have the choice !" 5 

"He did the choosing," answered the Virginian. "Lis- 
ten to me. Are you listening ? " he asked, for her gaze was 

She nodded. 

"I work hyeh. I belong hyeh. It's my life. If folks lo 
came to think I was a coward — " 

"Who would think you were a coward?" 

"Everybody. My friends would be sorry and ashamed, 
and my enemies woidd walk around saying they had always 
said so. I could not hold up my head again among 15 
enemies or friends." 

"When it was explained — " 

"There'd be nothing to explain. There'd just be the 
fact." He was nearly angry. 

"There is a higher courage than fear of outside opin-20 
ion," said the New England girl. 

Her Southern lover looked at her. "Cert'nly there is. 
That's what I'm showing in going against yours." 

"But if you know that you are brave, and if I know 
that you are brave, oh, my dear, my dear! what differ- 26 
ence does the world make? How much higher courage 
to go your own course — " 

"I am goin' my own course," he broke in. "Can't 
yu' see how it must be about a man? It's not for their 
benefit, friends or enemies, that I have got this thing to 30 
do. If any man happened to say I was a thief and I 
heard about it, would I let him go on spreadin' such a 
thing of me? Don't I owe my own honesty something 
better than that? Would I sit down in a comer rubbin' 
my honesty and whisperin' to it, * There! there! I know 36 
you ain't a thief? No,seh; not a lit^tl^J|t|^,mA^men 


say about my nature is not just merely an outside thing. 
For the fact that I let 'em keep on sayin' it is a proof I 
don't value my nature enough to shield it from their 
slander and give them their punishment. And that's 
6 being a poor sort of a jay." 

She had grown very white. 

"Can't yu' see how it must be about a man?" he 

"I cannot," she answered, in a voice that scarcely 
10 seemed her own. "If I ought to, I cannot. To shed 
blood in cold blood. When 1 heard about that last fall, 
— about the kilUng of those cattle thieves, — I kept say- 
ing to myself: *He had to do it. It was a public duty.' 
And lying sleepless I got used to Wyoming being different 
15 from Vermont. But this — " she gave a shudder — 
"when I think of to-morrow, of you and me, and of — 
If you do this, there can be no to-morrow for you and me." 

At these words he also turned white. 

"Do you mean — " he asked, and could go no farther. 
20 Nor could she answer him, but turned her head away. 

"This would be the end?" he asked. 

Her head faintly moved to signify yes. 

He stood still, his hand shaking a Uttle. "Will you 
look at me and say that?" he murmured at length. She 
25 did not move. "Can you do it?" he said. 

His sweetness made her turn, but could not pierce 
her frozen resolve. She gazed at him across the great 
distance of her despair. 

"Then it is really so?" he said. 
30 Her Ups tried to form words, but failed. 

He looked out of the window, and saw nothing but 
shadow. The blue of the mountains was now become a 
deep purple. Suddenly his hand closed hard. 

"Good-by, then," he said. 
35 At that word she was at his feet, clutching him. "For 
my sake," she begged him. "For my sake.". ,,, ,.,,,. 

•^ ' °° *' Digitized by VjUUy It: 


A tremble passed through his frame. She felt his legs 
shake as she held them, and, looking up, she saw that 
his eyes were closed with misery. Then he opened them, 
and in their steady look she read her answer. He un- 
clasped her hands from holding him, and raised her tor> 
her feet. 

"I have no right to kiss you any more,'^ he said. And 
then, before his desire could break him down from this, 
he was gone, and she was alone. 

She did not fall, or totter, but stood motionless. And lo 
next — it seemed a moment and it seemed eternity — 
she heard in the distance a shot, and then two shots. Out 
of the window she saw people beginning to run. At that 
she turned and fled to her room, and flung herself face 
downward upon the floor. 15 

Trampas had departed into solitude from the saloon, 
leaving behind him his ultimatum. His loud and pubhc 
threat Wks town knowledge already, would very likely be 
county knowledge to-night. Riders would take it with 
them to entertain distant cabins up the river and down 20 
the river ; and by dark the stage would go south with the 
news of it — and the news of its outcome. For every- 
thing would be over by dark. After five years, here was 
the end coming — coming before dark. Trampas had 
got up this morning with no such thought. It seemed 25 
very strange to look back upon the morning; it lay so 
distant, so irrevocable. And he thought of how he had 
eaten his breakfast. How would he eat his supper? For 
supper would come afterward. Some people were eating 
theirs now, with nothing hke this before them. His30 
heart ached and grew cold to think of them, easy and 
comfortable with plates and cups of coffee. 

He looked at the mountains, and saw the sun above 
their ridges, and the shadow coming from their feet. 
And there close behind him was the morning he could 3.^ 


never go back to. He could see it clearly; his thoughts 
reached out like arms to touch it once more, and be in it 
again. The night that was coming he could not see, and 
his eyes and his thoughts shrank from it. He had given 
5 his enemy until sundown. He could not trace the path 
which had led him to this. He remembered their first 
meeting — five years back, in Medicine Bow, and the 
words which at once began his hate. No, it was before 
any words ; it was the encounter of their eyes. For out 

10 of the eyes of every stranger looks either a friend or an 
enemy, waiting to be known. But how had five years of 
hate come to play him such a trick, suddenly, to-day? 
Since last autumn he had meant sometime to get even 
with this man who seemed to stand at every turn of his 

15 crookedness, and rob him of his spoils. But how had 
he come to choose such a way of getting even as this, 
face to face ? He knew many better ways ; and now his 
own rash proclamation had trapped him. His words 
were like doors shutting him in to perform his.fhreat to 

20 the letter, with witnesses at hand to see that he did so. 

Trampas looked at the sun and the shadow again. 

He had till sundown. The heart inside him was turning 

it round in this opposite way. It was to himself that in 

his rage he had given this lessening margin of grace. But 

25 he dared not leave town in all the world's sight after aU 
the world had heard him. Even his friends would fall 
from him after such an act. Could he — the thought 
actually came to him — could he strike before the time 
set? But the thought was useless. Even if his friends 

30 could harbor him after such a deed, his enemies would find 
him, and his life would be forfeit to a certainty. His own 
trap was closing upon him. 

He came upon the main street, and saw some distance 
off the Virginian standing in talk with the bishop. He 

35 slunk between two houses, and cursed both of them. 
The sight had been good for him, bringing some warmth 


of rage back to his desperate heart. And he went into a 
place and drank some whiskey. 

"In your shoes," said the barkeeper, "I'd be afraid to 
take so much.'' 

But the nerves of Trampas were almost beyond the 5 
reach of intoxication, and he swallowed some more, and 
went out again. Presently hd fell in with some of his 
brothers in cattle stealing, and walked along with them 
for a little. 

"Well, it will not be long now," they said to him. lO 
And he had never heard words so desolate. 

"No," he made out to say; "soon now." Their cheer- 
fulness seemed unearthly to him, and his heart almost 
broke beneath it. 

"We'll have one to your success," they suggested. 15 

So with them he repaired to another place ; and the 
sight of a man leaning against the bar made him start so 
that they noticed him. Then he saw that the man was 
a stranger whom he had never laid eyes on till now. 

"It looked hke Shorty," he said, and could have bitten 20 
his tongue off. 

"Shorty is quiet up in the Tetons," said a friend. 
" You don't want to be thinking about him. Here's how ! ' ' 

Then they clapped him on the back and he left them. 
He thought of lus enemy and his hate, beating his rage 25 
like a failing horse, and treading the courage of his drink. 
Across a space he saw Wiggin, walking with McLean and 
Scipio. They were watching the town to see that his 
friends made no foul play. 

"We're giving you a clear field," said Wiggin. 30 

"This race will not be pulled," said McLean. 

"Be with you at the finish," said Scipio. 

And they passed on. They did not seem like real 
people to him. 

Trampas looked at the walls and windows of the house^. 35 
Were they real? Was he here, walking in this street? 


Something had changed. He looked everjrwhere, and 
feeling it everywhere, wondered what this could be. Then 
he knew : it was the sun that had gone entirely behhid 
the mountains, and he drew out his pistol. 

5 The Virginian, for precaution, did not walk out of the 
front door of the hotel. He went through back ways, and 
paused once. Against his breast he felt the wedding ring 
where he had it suspended by a chain from his neck. His 
hand went up to it, and he drew it out and looked at it. 

10 He took it off the chain, and his arm went back to hurl 
it from him as far as he could. But he stopped and kissed 
it with one sob, and thrust it in his pocket. Then he 
walked out into the open, watching. He saw men here 
and there, and they let him pass as before, without speak- 

15 ing. He saw his three friends, and they said no word to 
him. But they turned and followed in his rear at a little 
distance, because it was known that Shorty had been 
found shot from behind. The Virginian gained a posi- 
tion soon where no one could come at him except from in 

20 front; and the sight of the mountains was almost more 
than he could endure, because it was there that he had 
been going to-morrow. 

''It is quite a while after sunset," he heard himself say. 
A wind seemed to blow his sleeve off his arm, and he 

25 replied to it, and saw Trampas pitch forward. He saw 
Trampas raise his arm from the ground and fall again, 
and lie there this time, still. A little smoke was rising 
from the pistol on the ground, and he looked at his own, 
and saw the smoke flowing upward out of it. 

30 *'I expect that's all,'* he said aloud. 

But as he came nearer Trampas, he covered him with 
his weapon. He stopped a moment, seeing the hand on 
the ground move. Two fingers twitched, and then 
ceased ; for it was all. The Virginian stood looking down 

35 at Trampas, .^g,,,, by ^uuy it: 


"Both of mine hit," he said, once more aloud. "His 
must have gone mighty close t^o my arm. J told her it 
would not be me." 

He had scarcely noticed that he was being surrounded 
and congratulated. ' His hand was being shaken, and he 5 
saw it was Scipio in tears. Scipio's joy made his heart 
like lead within him. He was near telling his friend every- 
thing, but he did not. 

"If anybody w^ts me about this," he said, "I will be 
at the hotel." * lO 

"Who'll want you?" said Scipio. "Three of us saw 
his gun out." And he vented his admiration. "You 
were that cool! That quick!" 

"ril see you boys again," said the Virginian, heavily; 
and he walked away. 15 

Scipio looked after him, astonished. "Yu' might 
suppose he was in poor luck," he said to McLean. 

The Virginian walked to the hotel, and stood on the 
threshold of his sweetheart's room. She had heard his 
step, and was upon her feet. Her lips were parted, and 20 
her eyes fixed on him, nor did she move, or speak. 

"Yu' have to know it," said he. "I have killed 

"Oh, thank God!" she saidj and he found her in his 
arms. Long they embraced without speaking, and what 25 
they whispered then with their kisses, matters not. 

Thus did her New England conscience battle to the 
end, and, in the end, capitulate to love. And the next 
day, with the bishop's blessing, and Mrs. Taylor's broad- 
est smile, and the ring on her finger, the Virginian de-3() 
parted with his bride into the mountains. 

Digitized by 




For their first bridal camp he chose an island. Long 
weeks before he had thought of this place, and set his 
heart upon it. Once established in his mind, the thoiight 
became a picture that he saw waking and sleeping. 
5 He had stopped at the island many times alone, and in all 
seasons ; but at this special moment of the year he liked 
it best. Often he had added several needless miles to his 
journey that he might finish the day at this point, might 
catch the trout for his supper beside a certain rock upon 

10 its edge, and fall asleep hearing the stream on either side 
of him. 

Always for him the fiirst signs that he had gained the 
true world of the mountains began at the island. The 
first pine trees stood upon it ; the first white columbine 

15 grew in their shade ; and it seemed to him that he always 
met here the first of the true mountain air — the coolness 
and the new fragrance. Below, there were only the 
cottonwoods, and the knolls and steep foot-hills with their 
sage-brush, and the great warm air of the plains ; here at 

20 this altitude came the definite change. Out of the lower 
country and its air he would urge his horse upward, talking 
to him aloud, and promising fine pasture in a httle while. 
Then, when at length he had ridden abreast of the island 
pines, he would ford to the sheltered circle of his camp- 

25 ground, throw off the saddle and blanket from the horae's 
hot, wet back, throw his own clothes off, and, shouting, 
spring upon the horse bare, and with a^.|oj^y^5^ri^e, 

406 ^. 


cross with him to the promised pasture. Here there was a 
pause in the mountain steepness, a level space of open, 
green with thick grass. Riding his horse to this, he would 
leap off him, and with the flat of his hand give him a blow 
that cracked sharp in the stillness and sent the horses 
galloping and gambolling to his night's freedom. And 
while the animal rolled in the grass, often his master 
would roll also, and stretch, and take the grass in his two 
hands, and so draw his body along, limbering his muscles 
after a long ride. Then he would slide into the stream be- 10 
low his fishing place, where it was deep enough for swim- 
ming, and cross back to his island, and dressing again, fit 
his rod together and begin his casting. After the darkness 
had set in, there would follow the lying drowsily with his 
head upon his saddle, the camp-fire sinking as he watched 16 
it, and sleep approaching to the murmur of the water on 
either side of him. 

So many visits to this island had he made, and counted 
so many hours of re very spent in its haunting sweetness, 
that the spot had come to seem his own. It belonged 20 
to no man, for it was deep in the unsurveyed and virgin 
wilderness ; neither had he ever made his camp here with 
any man, nor shared with any the intimate delight which 
the place gave him. Therefore for many weeks he had 
planned to bring her here after their wedding, upon the day 25 
itself, and show her and share with her his pines and his 
fishing rock. He would bid her smell the first true breath 
of the mountains, would watch with her the sinking 
camp-fire, and with her listen to the water as it flowed 
round the island. 30 

Until this wedding plan, it had by no means come home 
to him how deep a hold upon him the island had taken. 
He knew that he liked to go there, and go alone ; but so 
little was it his way to scan himself, his mind, or his feelings 
(unless some action called for it), that he first learned his 35 
love of the place through his love of her. ed bP^yJUlf 4ftid her 


nothing of it. After the thought of taking her there 
came to him, he kept his island as something to let break 
upon her own eyes, lest by looking forward she should look 
for more than the reality. 
5 Hence, as they rode along, when the houses of the town 
shrunk to dots behind them, and they were nearing the 
gates of the foot-hills, she asked hmi questions. She 
hoped they would find a camp a long way from the town. 
She could ride as many miles as necessary. She was not 

10 tired. Should they not go on imtil they found a good 
place far enough within the solitude ? Had he fixed upon 
any? And at the nod and the silence that he gave her 
for reply, she knew that he had thoughts and intentions 
which ^he must wait to learn. 

15 They passed through the gates of the foot-hills, follow- 
ing the stream up among them. The outstretching fences 
and the widely trodden dust were no more. Now and 
then they rose again into view of the fields and houses down 
in the plain below. But as the sum of the miles and hoiu^ 

20 grew, they were glad to see the road less worn with travel, 
and the traces of men passing from sight. The ploughed 
and planted country, that qiult of many-colored harvests 
which they had watched yesterday, lay in another world 
from this where they rode now. No hand but nature's 

25 had sown these crops of yellow flowers, these willow thickets 
and tall cottonwoods. Somewhere in a passage of red 
rocks the last sign of wagon wheels was lost, and after 
this the trail l^ecame a wild mountain trail. But it was 
still the warm air of the plains, bearing the sage-brush odor 

30 and not the pine, that they breathed ; nor did any forest 
yet cloak the shapes of the tawny hills among which they 
were ascending. Twice the steepness loosened the pack 
ropes, and he jumped down to tighten them, lest the horses 
should get sore backs. And twice the stream that they 

35 followed went into deep caflons, so that for a while they 

parted from it. When they came back to its, 

Digitized by Vj 



the second time, he bade her notice how its water had 
become at last wholly clear. To her it had seemed clear 
enough all along, even in the plain above the town. But 
now she saw that it flowed lustrously with flashes ; and 
she knew the soil had changed to mountain soil. Lower 6 
down, the water had carried the slightest cloud of alkah, 
and this had dulled the keen edge of its transparence. 
Full solitude was around them now, so that their words 
grew scarce, and when they spoke it was with low voices. 
They began to pass nooks and points favorable for camp- 10 
ing, with wood and water at hand, and pasture for the 
horses. More than once as they reached such places, 
she thought he must surely stop; but still he rode on in 
advance of her (for the trail was narrow) until, when she 
was not thinking of it, he drew rein and pointed. 16 

"AVhatr' she asked thnidly. 

"The pines," he answered. 

She looked, and saw the island, and the water folding 
it with ripples and with smooth spaces. The sun was 
throwing upon the pine boughs a light of deepening red 20 
gold, and the shadow of the fishing rock lay over a little 
bay of quiet water and sandy shore. In this forerunning 
glow of the sunset, the pasture spread like emerald; for 
the dry touch of simMner had not yet come near it. He 
pointed upward to the high mountains which they had 25 
approached, and showed her where the stream led into their 
first unfoldings. 

"To-morrow we shall be among them,'* said ho. 

"Then," she murmured to him, "to-night is here?" 

He nodded for answer, and she gazed at the island 30 
and tmderstood why he had not stopped before ; nothing 
they had passed had been so lovely as this place. 

There was room in the trail for them to go side by side ; 
and side by side they rode to the ford and crossed, driving 
the packhorses in front of them, until they came to the 36 
sheltered circle, and he helped her 4^^ibv^^?l§>4^f|6 soft 


pine needles lay. They felt each other tremble, and for a 
moment she stood hiding her head upon his breast. 
Then she looked round at the trees, and the shores, and the 
flowing stream, and he heard her whispering how beautiful 

5 it was. 

**I am glad," he said, still holding her. "This is how 
I have dreamed it would happen. Only it is better than 
my dreams.'" And when she pressed him in silence, he 
finished, "I have meant we should see our first sundown 

10 here, and our first simrise." 

She wished to help him take the i)acks from their horses, 
to make the camp together with him, to have for her 
share the building of the fire, and the cooking. She bade 
him remember his promise to her that he would teach her 

16 how to loop and draw the pack-ropes, and the swing- 
ropes on the pack-saddles, and how to pitch a tent. 
Why might not the first lesson be now? But he told her 
that this should be fulfilled later. This night he was to 
do all himself. And he sent her away imtil he should have 

20 camp ready for them. He bade her explore the island, or 
take her horse and ride over to the pasture, where she could 
see the surrounding hills and the circle of seclusion that 
they made. 

"The whole world is far from here," he said. And so 

25 she obeyed him, and went away to wander about in their 
hiding-place ; nor was she to return, he told her, until he 
called her. 

Then at once, as soon as she was gone, he fell to. The 
packs and saddles came off the horses, which he turned 

30 loose upon the pasture on the main land. The tent was 
unfolded first. He had long seen in his mind where it 
should go, and how its white shape would look beneath 
the green of the encircling pines. The groimd was level 
in the spot he had chosen, without stones or roots, and 

35 matted with the fallen needles of the pines. If there should 
come any wind, or storm of rain, the br%nj(||^^fl^^J^ck 


overhead, and around them on three sides tall rocks and 
undergrowth made a barrier. He cut the pegs for the 
tent, and the front pole, stretching and tightening the 
rope, one end of it pegged down and one round a pine tree. 
When the tightening rope had lifted the canvas to the 6 
proper height from the ground, he spread and pegged down 
the sides and back, leaving the opening so that they could 
look out upon the fire and a piece of the stream beyond. 
He cut tufts of young pine and strewed them thickly for 
a soft floor in the tent, and over them spread the buffalo lO 
hide and the blankets. At the head he placed the neat 
sack of her belongings. For his own he made a shelter 
with crossed poles and a sheet of canvas beyond the first 
pines. He built the fire where its smoke would float 
outward from the trees and the tent, and near it he stood 15 
the cooking things and his provisions, and made this first 
supper ready in the twilight. He had brought much with 
him ; but for ten minutes he fished, catching trout enough. 
When at length she came riding over the stream at his 
call, there was nothing for her to do but sit and eat at the 20 
table he had laid. They sat together, watching the last 
of the twilight and the gentle oncoming of the dusk. The 
final after-glow of day left the sky, and through the purple 
which followed it came slowly the first stars, bright and 
wide apart. They watched the spaces between them fill 25 
with more stars, while near them the flames and embers 
of their fire grew brighter. Then he sent her to the tent 
while he cleaned the dishes and visited the horses to see 
that the horses did not stray from the pasture. Some 
while after the darkness was fully come, he rejoined her. 30 
All had been as he had seen it in his thoughts beforehand : 
the pines with the setting sun upon them, the sinking camp 
fire, and now the sound of the water as it flowed murmuring 
by the shores of the island. 

The tent opened to the east, and from it they watched 35 
together their first sunrise. In his thoughts he had seen 

Digitized by VjUUy It: 


this morning beforehand also : the waking, the gentle 
sound of the water murmuring ceaselessly, the growing 
day, the vision of the stream, the sense that the world was 
shut away far from them. So did it all happen, except 
5 that he whispered to her again : — 
"Better than my dreams." 

They saw the sunlight begin upon a hilltop ; and pres- 
ently came the sun itself, and lakes of warmth flowed into 
the air, slowly filling the green sohtude. Along the island 

10 shores the ripples caught flashes from the sun. 

" I am going into the stream," he said to her ; and rising, 
he left her in the tent. This was his side of the island, he 
told her last night ; the other was hers, where he had made 
a place for her to bathe. When he was gone, she found it, 

16 walking through the trees and rocks to the water's edge. 
And so, with the island between them, the two bathed in 
the cold stream. When he came back, he found her 
already busy at their camp. The blue smoke of the fire 
was floating out from the trees, loitering undispersed in the 

20 quiet air, and she was getting their breakfast. She had 
been able to forestall him because he had delayed long at 
his dressing, not wiUing to return to her unshaven. She 
looked at his eyes that were clear as the water he had 
leaped into, and at his soft silk neckerchief, knotted with 

25 care. 

"Do not let us ever go away from here !" she cried and 
ran to him as he came. 

They sat long together at breakfast, breathing the 
morning breath of the earth that was fragrant with wood- 

30 land moisture and with the pines. After the meal he 
could not prevent her helping him make everything clean. 
Then, by all customs of mountain journeys, it was time 
they should break camp and be moving before the heat of 
the day. But first, they delayed for no reason, save that 

35 in these hours they so loved to do nothing. And next, 
when with some energy he got upon his feet and declared 

Digitized by VjUUy It: 


he must go and drive the horses in, she asked, Why? 
Would it not be well for him to fish here, that they mi^t 
be sure of trout at their nooning? And though he knew 
that where they should stop for noon, trout would be as 
sure as here, he took this chance for more delay. 5 

She went with him to his fishing rock, and sat watching 
him. The rock was tall, higher than his head when he 
stood. It jutted out halfway across the stream, and the 
water flowed round it in quick foam, and fell into a pool. 
He caught several fish ; but the sun was getting high, and 10 
after a time it was plain the fish had ceased to rise. 

Yet still he stood casting in silence, while she sat by 
and watched him. Across the stream, the horses wandered 
or lay down in their pasture. At length he said with half 
a sigh that perhaps they ought to go. 15 

"Ought?" she repeated softly. 

"If we are to get anywhere to-day," he answered. 

"Need we get anywhere?" she asked. 

Her question sent delight through him like a flood. 
"Then you do not want to move camp to-day?" said he. 20 

She shook her head. 

At this he laid down his rod and came and sat by her. 
"I am very glad we shall not go till to-morrow," he mur- 

"Not to-morrow," she said. "Nor next day. Nor any 25 
day until we must." And she stretched her hands out 
to the island and the stream exclaiming, "Nothing can 
surpass this ! " 

He took her in his arms. "You feel about it the way I 
do," he almost whispered. "I could not have hoped 30 
there 'd be two of us to care so much." 

Presently, while they remained without speaking by 
the pool, came a little wild animal swimming round the 
rock from above. It had not seen them, nor suspected 
their presence. They held themselves still, watching its 35 
alert head cross through the waves quiddyj^^git come 


down through the pool, and so swim to the other side. 
There it came out on a small stretch of sand, turned its 
gray head and its pointed black nose this way and that, 
never seeing them, and then rolled upon its back in the 
5 warm dry sand. After a minute of rolling, it got on its 
feet again, shook its fur, and trotted away. 

Then the bridegroom husband opened his shy heart deep 

* * I am like that fellow, ' ' he said dreamily. ' * I have often 

10 done the same." And stretching slowly his arms and 
legs, he lay full length upon his back, letting his head, 
rest upon her. "If I could talk his animal language, I 
could talk to him," he pursued. "And he would say to 
me : * Come and roll on the sands. Where's the use of 

15 fretting? What's the gain in being a man? Come roll 
on the sands with me.' That's what he would say." 
The Virginian paused . ' * But, ' ' he continued, ' * the trouble 
is, I am responsible. If that could only be forgot forever 
by you and me ! " Again he paused and went on, always 

20 dreamily. "Often when I have camped here, it has 
made me want to become the ground, become the water, 
become the trees, mix with the whole thing. Not know 
myself from it. Never unmix again. Why is that?" he 
demanded, looking at her. "What is it? You don't 

25 know, nor I don't. I wonder would everybody feel that 
way here?" 

"I think not everybody," she answered. 
" No ; none except the ones who understand things they 
can't put words to. But you did ! " He put up a hand 

.30 and touched her softly. "You understood about this 
place. And that's what makes it — makes you and me as 
we are now — better than my dreams. And my dreams 
were pretty good." 

He sighed with supreme quiet and happiness, and seemed 

35 to stretch his length closer to the earth. And so he lay, 
and talked to her as he had never talkeciiJiPeATOC^'^ilPt 


even to himself. Thus she learned secrets of his heart new 
to her: his visits here, what they were to him, and 
why he had chosen it for their bridal camp. "What I 
did not know at all/' he said, "was the way a man can 
be pining for — for this — and never guess what is the 6 
matter with him." 

When he had finished talking, still he lay extended and 
serene; and she looked down at him and the wonderful 
change that had come over him, like a sunrise. Was this 
dreamy boy the man of two days ago ? It seemed a dis- 10 
tance immeasurable ; yet it was two days only since that 
wedding eve when she had shrunk from him as he stood 
fierce and implacable. She could look back at that dark 
hour now, although she could not speak of it. She had 
seen destruction like sharp steel glittering in his eyes. 15 
Were these the same eyes? Was this youth with his 
black head of hair in her lap the creature with whom men 
did not trifle, whose hand knew how to deal death? 
Where had the man melted away to in this boy? For as 
she looked at him, he might have been no older than 20 
nineteen to-day. Not even at their first meeting — that 
night when his freakish spirit was uppermost — had he 
looked so young. This change their hours upon the island 
had wrought, filling his face with innocence. 

By and by they made their nooning. In the afternoon 25 
she would have explored the nearer woods with him, or 
walked up the stream. But since this was to be their 
camp during several days, he made it more complete. He 
fashioned a rough bench and a table ; aroimd their tent he 
built a tall wind-break for better shelter in case of storm ; 30 
and for the fire he gathered and cut much wood, and piled 
it up. So they were provided for, and so for six days and 
nights they stayed, finding no day or night long enough. 

Once his hedge of boughs did them good service, for 
they had an afternoon of furious storm. The wind rocked 35 
the pines and ransacked the island, the sun went out, the 

Digitized by VjUUy It: 


black clouds rattled, and white bolts of lightning fell close 
by. The shower broke through the pine branches and 
poured upon the tent. But he had removed everything 
inside from where it could touch the canvas and so lead 

5 the water tlirough, and the rain ran off into the ditch he 
had dug round the tent. While they sat within, looking 
out upon the bounding floods and the white lightning, 
she saw him glance at her apprehensively, and at once she 
answered his glance. 

10 "I am not afraid, "she said. "If a flame should consume 
us together now, what would it matter?" 

And so they sat watching the storm till it was over, 
he with his face changed by her to a boy's, and she leav- 
ened with him. 

15 When at last they were compelled to leave the island, 
or see no more of the mountains, it was not a final parting. 
They would come back for the last night before their 
journey ended. Furthermore, they promised each other 
like two children to- come here every year upon their 

20 wedding day, and like two children they believed that this 
would be possible. But in after years they did come, more 
than once, to keep their wedding day upon the island, and 
upon each new visit were able to say to each other, "Better 
than our dreams." 

25 For thirty days by the light of the sun and the camp- 
fire light they saw no faces except their own; and when 
they were silent it was all stillness, unless the wind passed 
among the pines, or some flowing water was near them. 
Sometimes at evening they came upon elk, or black-tailed 

30 deer, feeding out in the high parks of the mountains ; and 
once from the edge of some concealing timber he showed her 
a bear, sitting with an old log lifted in its paws. She for- 
bade him to kill the bear, or any creature that they did not 
require. He took her upward by trail and caiion, through 

35 the unfooted woods and along dwindling streams to their 
headwaters, lakes lying near the smnmit of the range, full 

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of trout, with meadows of long grass and a thousand 
flowers, and above these the pinnacles of rock and snow. 

They made their camps in many places, delaying several 
days here, and one night there, exploring the high solitudes 
together, and sinking deep in their romance. Sometimes 5 
when he was at work with their horses, or intent on casting 
his brown hackle for a fish, she would watch him with 
eyes that were fuller of love thai\ of understanding. Per- 
haps she never came wholly to understand him ; but in her 
complete love for him she found enough. He loved her lo 
with his whole man's power. She had listened to him tell 
her in words of transport, "I could enjoy dying''; yet 
she loved him more than that. He had come to her from 
a smoking pistol, able to bid her farewell — and she could 
not let hun go. At the last white-hot edge of ordeal, it 15 
was she who renounced, and he who had his way. Never- 
theless she found much more than enough, in spite of the 
sigh that now and again breathed through her happiness 
when she would watch him with eyes fuller of love than of 
understanding. 20 

They could not speak of that grim wedding eve for a 
long while after ; but the mountains brought them together 
upon all else in the world and their own lives. At the 
end they loved each other doubly more than at the begin- 
ning, because of these added confidences which they 25 
exchanged and shared. It was a new bliss to her to know a 
man's talk and thoughts, to be given so much of him ; and 
to him it was a bliss still greater to melt from that reserve 
his lonely life had bred in him. He never would have 
guessed so much had been stored away in him, unex-;{() 
pressed till now. They did not want to go to Vermont and 
leave these mountains, but the day came when they had 
to turn their backs upon their dream. So thej^ came out 
iato the plains once more, well astablished in their familiar- 
ity, with only the journey still lying between themselves 35 
and Bennington. 

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"If you could," she said, laughing. "If only you could 
ride home like this." 

"With Monte and my six-shooter?" he asked. "To 
your mother?" 
5 "I don't think mother could resist the way you look on a 

But he said, "It is this way she's fearing I will come." 

"I have made one discovery," she said. "You are 
fonder of good clothes than I am." 
10 He grinned. "I cert'nly like 'em. But don't tell my 
friends. They would say it was marriage. When you see 
what I have got for Bennington's special benefit, you — 
why, you'll trust your husband more than ever." 

She imdoubtedly did. After he had put on one particu- 
islar suit, she arose and kissed him where he stood in it. 

"Bennington will be sorrowful," he said. "No wild- 
west show, after all. And no ready-made guy, either." 
And he looked at himself in the glass with unhidden pleas- 
20 " How did you choose that ? " she asked. * * How did you 
know that homespun was exactly the thing for you?" 

"Why, I have been noticing. I used to despise an 
Eastern man because his clothes were not Western. I 
was very young then, or maybe not so very yoimg, as very 
25 — as what you saw I was when you first came to Bear 
Creek. A Western man is a good thing. And he gen- 
erally knows that. But he has a heap to learn. And he 
generally don't know that. So I took to watching the 
Judge's Eastern visitors. There was that Mr. Ogden 
30 especially, from New Yawk — the gentleman that was 
there the time when I had to sit up all night with the mis- 
sionary, yu' know. His clothes pleased me best of all. Fit 
him so well, and nothing flash. I got my ideas, and when 
I knew I was going to marry you, I sent my measure East 
35 — and I and the tailor are old enemies now." 

Bennington probably was disappointed. To see get 

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out of the train merely a tall man with a usual straw hat 
and Scotch homespun suit of a rather better cut than most 
in Bennington — this was dull. And his conversation — 
when he indulged in any — seemed fit to come inside the 
house. 5 

Mrs. Flynt took her revenge by sowing broadcast her 
thankfulness that poor Sam Bannett had been Molly's 
rejected suitor. He had done so much better for himself. 
Sam had married a rich Miss Van Scootzer, of the second 
families of Troy ; and with their combined riches this lo 
happy couple still inhabit the most expensive residence in 
Hoosic Falls. 

But most of Bennington soon began to say that Molly's 
cow-boy could be invited anywhere and hold his own. 
The time came when they ceased to speak of him as a 15 
cow-boy, and declared that she had shown remarkable 
sense. But this was not quite yet. 

Did this bride and groom enjoy their visit to her family? 
Well — well, they did their best. Everybody did their 
best, even Sarah Bell. She said that she found nothing 20 
to object to in the Virginian; she told Molly so. Her 
husband Sam did better than that. He told Molly he 
considered that she was in luck. And poor Mrs. Wood, 
sitting on the sofa, conversed scrupulously and timidly 
with her novel son-in-law, and said to Molly that she was 25 
astonished to find him so gentle. And he was undoubtedly 
fine-looking ; yes, very handsome. She believed that she 
would grow to like the Southern accent. Oh, yes ! Every- 
body did their best ; and, dear reader, if ever it has been 
your earthly portion to live with a number of people who .30 
were all doing their best, you do not need me to tell you 
what a heavenly atmosphere this creates. 

And then the bride and groom went to see the old great- 
aunt over at Dunbarton. 

Their first arrival, the one at Bennington, had been thus : 35 
Sam Bell had met them at the train, and Mrs. Wood, 

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waiting in her parlor, had embraced her daughter and 
received her son-in-law. Among them they had managed 
to make the occasion as completely mournful as any family 
party can be, with the window blinds up. '*And with 
5 you present, my dear," said Sam BeU to Sarah, "the 
absence of a coffin was not felt." 

But at Dunbarton the affair went off differently. The 

heart of the ancient lady had taught her better things. 

From Bennington to Dunbarton is the good part of a day's 

U) journey, and they drove up to the gate in the afternoon. 

The great-aunt was in her garden, picking some August 

flowers, and she called as the carriage stopped, "Bring my 

nephew here, my dear, before you go into the house." 

At this, MoUy, stepping out of the carriage, squeezed 

1 5 her husband's hand. " I knew that she would be lovely," 

she whispered to him. And then she ran to her aunt's 

arms, and let him follow. He came slowly, hat in hand. 

The old lady advanced to meet him, trembling a little, 
and holding out her hand to him. "Welcome, nephew, 
20 she said. "What a tall fellow you are, to be sure. Stand 
off, sir, and let me look at you." 

The Virginian obeyed, blushing from his black hair to his 
Then his new relative turned to her niece, and gave her 
25 a flower. * ' Put this in his coat, my dear, ' ' she said . "And 
I think I understand why you wanted to marry him." 

After this the maid came and showed them to their 
rooms. Left alone in her garden, the great-aunt sank on a 
bench and sat there for some time ; for emotion had made 
30 her very weak. 

Upstairs, MoUy, sitting on the Virginian's knee, put 
the flower in his coat, and then laid her head upon Yivs 

"I didn't know old ladies could be that way," he said. 
35 "D' yu' reckon there are many?" 

"Oh, I don't know," said the girl. "I'm so happvil" 

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Now at tea, and during the evening, the great-aunt 
carried out her plans still further. ^At first she did the 
chief part of the talking herself. Nor did she ask questions 
about Wyoming too soon. She reached that in her own 
way, and found out the one thing that she desired to know. 5 
It was through General Stark that she led up to it. 

"There he is," she said, showing the family portrait. 
'* And a rough time he must have had of it now and then. 
New Hampshire was full of fine young men in those days. 
But nowadays most of them have gone away to seek their 10 
fortunes in the West. Do they find them, I wonder?" 

"Yes, ma'am. All the good ones do." 

"But you cannot aU be — what is the name? — Cattle 

"That's having its day, ma'am, right now. And we are 15 
getting ready for the change — some of us are." 

"And what may be the change, and when is it to come? " 

"When the natural pasture is eaten off," he explained. 
" I have seen that coming a long while. And if the thieves 
are going to make us drive our stock away, we'll drive it. 20 
If they don't, we'll have big pastures fenced, and hay and 
shelter ready for winter. What we'll spend in improve- 
ments, we'U more than save in wages. I am well fixed 
for the new conditions. And then, when I took up my 
land, I chose a place where there is coal. It will not be 25 
long before the new railroad needs that." 

Thus the old lady learned more of her niece's husband in 
one evening than the Bennington family had ascertained 
during his whole sojourn with them. For by touching 
upon Wyoming and its future, she roused him to talk. He 30 
found her mind alive to Western questions: irrigation, 
the Indians, the forests ; and so he expanded, revefiling to 
her his wide observation and his shrewd intelligence. 
He forgot entirely to be shy. She sent Molly to bed, and 
kept him talking for an hour. Then she showed him old 35 
things that she was proud of, "because^" s|je^^d^^*we, 


too, had something to do with making our country. And 
now go to Molly, or you'll both think me a tiresome old 

"I think — '* he began, but was not quite equal to 
5 expressing what he thought, and suddenly his shyness 
flooded him again. 

"In that case, nephew," said she, *'I'm afraid you'll 
have to kiss me good night." 

And so she dismissed him to his wife, and to happiness 
10 greater than either of them had known since they had left 
the mountains and come to the East. "He'll do," she 
said to herself, nodding. 

Their visit to Dunbarton was all happiness and repara- 
tion for the doleful days at Bennington. The old lady 
15 gave much comfort and advice to her niece in private, 
and when they came to leave, she stood at the front door 
holding both their hands a moment. 

" God bless you, my dears," she told them. "And when 
you come next time, I'll have the nursery ready." 
20 And so it happened that before she left this world, 
the great-aunt was able to hold in her arms the first of their 
many children. 

Judge Henry at Sunk Creek had his wedding present 
ready. His growing affairs in Wyoming needed his 
25 presence in many places distant from his ranch, and he 
made the Virginian his partner. When the thieves pre- 
vailed at length, as they did, forcing cattle owners to leave 
the country or be ruined, the Virginian had forestalled this 
crash. The herds were driven away to Montana. Then, 
30 in 1892, came the cattle war, when, after putting their 
men in office, and coming to own some of the newspapiers, 
the thieves brought ruin on themselves as well. For in a 
broken country there is nothing left to steal. 

But the railroad came, and built a branch to that land 

35 of the Virginian's where the coal was. By that time he was 

an important man, with a strong grip^. jjn^ g[\a^y<^j^ous 


enterprises, and able to give his wife all and more than she 
asked or desired. Sometimes she missed the Bear Creek 
days, when she and he had ridden together, and sometimes 
she declared that his work would kill him. But it does 
not seem to have done so. Their eldest boy rides the 5 
horse Monte ; and, strictly between ourselves, I think his 
father is going to live a long while. 

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