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 on Poison Spider till afterwards. She wouldn’t go ridin’ with him. She’ll go with some, takin’ a kid along.” “Bah!” said Trampas.

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

“I think she encourages a man some,” said poor Nebrasky.

“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 women. Don’t seem to think of anything to chat about 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.” They laughed. The sage-brush audience is readily cynical.

“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--”

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. “I thought you claimed you and her wasn’t acquainted,” said he then.

“Stand on your laigs, you polecat, and say you’re a liar!” Trampas’s hand moved behind him.

“Quit that,” said the Southerner, “or I’ll break your neck!” 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 poisonously bloated.

“Well, I’ll call that sufficient. Keep a-standin’ still. I ain’ 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 frequent 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 forgotten what decency feels like. But I reckon we haven’t forgot what it means. You can sit down now, if you want.” 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 moralizing. So he held his peace. When, however, the Virginian 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 reviving cheerfulness, and ventured again to be facetious.

“Shut your rank mouth,” said Wiggin to him, amiably. “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’ll stand in with him in this.” So Trampas swallowed. And what of the Virginian?

He had championed the feeble, and spoken honorably in meeting, and according to all 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 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 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 helpin’.”

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