“I don’t reckon he has come, not without he clumb up ahaid somewhere. An’ I mus’ say, when he got off he didn’t look like a man does when he has the intention o’ returnin’.” 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 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 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 caboose.

“Is he the member who don’t sing?” asked Scipio.

“That’s the specimen,” replied the Southerner.

“He don’t seem musical 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 noise inside had dropped quickly to stillness. You could scarcely catch the sound of talk. Our caboose 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 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. “Will he take them to Sunk Creek?” “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-- without them--or he is no good. Now your friend is that deep constitooted that you don’t know and I don’t know what he’s thinkin’ about all this.” “If there’s to be any gun-play,” put in the excellent Shorty, “I’ll stand in with him.” “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 himself, anyway.” “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 that nobody else shall know he don’t know anything.” Scipio had delivered himself. 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 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.

“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 he had meant us to delay long enough not to seem like a reenforcement. “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 was charged with voiceless currents of thought. By way of a friendly beginning to the three hundred miles of caboose we were now to share so intimately, I recalled myself to them. I trusted no more of the Christian Endeavor had delayed them. “I am so lucky to have caught you again,” I finished.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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