“Why, cert’nly.” There was a sound of bedclothes, and creaking. “This hyeh pillo’ needs a Southern climate,” was the Virginian’s next observation.

Many listeners had now gathered at the door. The dealer and the player were both here. The storekeeper was present, and I recognized the agent of the Union Pacific Railroad among the crowd. We made a large company, and I felt that trembling sensation which is common 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.

“I should think you’d put them on a chair and be comfortable.” “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 them, and that would make me wakeful.” “Well, good night.” “Good night. If I get to talkin’ and tossin’, or what not, you’ll understand you’re to--”

“Yes, I’ll wake you.” “No, don’t yu’, for God’s sake!” “Not?” “Don’t yu’ touch me.” “What’ll I do?” “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 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?” “Oh, no! I just wanted to know. I’ve been told before that it was not safe for a person to be waked suddenly that way out of a nightmare.” “Yes, I have heard that too. But it never harms me any. I didn’t want you to run risks.” “Me?” “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.

“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 right in my sleep.” “Oh, I understand,” 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 after another.

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 drummer. He was waiting. 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 the commercial 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 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 his hand; and at his profane explosion, Medicine Bow set up a united, unearthly noise and began to play Virginia reel with him. The other occupants of the beds had already sprung out of them, clothed chiefly with their pistols, and ready for war. “What is it?” they demanded. “What is it?” “Why, I reckon it’s drinks on Steve,” said the Virginian from his bed. And he gave the first broad grin that I had seen from him.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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