Scipio Moralizes

Into what mood was it that the Virginian now fell? Being less busy, did he begin to “grieve” about the girl on Bear Creek? I only know that after talking so lengthily he fell into a nine days’ silence. The talking part of him deeply and unbrokenly slept.

Official words of course came from him as we rode southward from the railroad, gathering the Judge’s stray cattle. During the many weeks since the spring round-up, some of these animals had as usual got very far off their range, and getting them on again became the present business of our party.

Directions and commands--whatever communications to his subordinates were needful to the forwarding of this--he duly gave. But routine has never at any time of the world passed for conversation. His utterances, such as, “We’ll work Willo’ Creek to-morro’ mawnin’,” or, “I want the wagon to be at the fawks o’ Stinkin’ Water by Thursday,” though on some occasions numerous enough to sound like discourse, never once broke the man’s true silence. Seeming to keep easy company with the camp, he yet kept altogether to himself. That talking part of him--the mood which brings out for you your friend’s spirit and mind as a free gift or as an exchange--was down in some dark cave of his nature, hidden away. Perhaps it had been dreaming; perhaps completely reposing. The Virginian was one of those rare ones who are able to refresh themselves in sections. To have a thing on his mind did not keep his body from resting. During our recent journey--it felt years ago now!--while our caboose on the freight train had trundled endlessly westward, and the men were on the ragged edge, the very jumping-off place, of mutiny and possible murder, I had seen him sleep like a child. He snatched the moments not necessary for vigil I had also seen him sit all night watching his responsibility, ready to spring on it and fasten his teeth in it. And now that he had confounded them with their own attempted weapon of ridicule, his powers seemed to be profoundly dormant. That final pitched battle of wits had made the men his captives and admirers--all save Trampas. And of him the Virginian did not seem to be aware.

But Scipio le Moyne would say to me now and then, “If I was Trampas, I’d pull my freight.” And once he added, “Pull it kind of casual, yu’ know, like I wasn’t noticing myself do it.” “Yes,” our friend Shorty murmured pregnantly, with his eye upon the quiet Virginian, “he’s sure studying his revenge.” “Studying your pussy-cat,” said Scipio. “He knows what he’ll do. The time ’ain’t arrived.” This was the way they felt about it; and not unnaturally this was the way they made me, the inexperienced Easterner, feel about it. That Trampas also felt something about it was easy to know. Like the leaven which leavens the whole lump, one spot of sulkiness in camp will spread its dull flavor through any company that sits near it; and we had to sit near Trampas at meals for nine days.

His sullenness was not wonderful. To feel himself forsaken by his recent adherents, to see them gone over to his enemy, could not have made his reflections pleasant. Why he did not take himself off to other climes--“pull his freight casual,” as Scipio said--I can explain only thus: pay was due him--“time,” as it was called in cow-land; if he would have this money, he must stay under the Virginian’s command until the Judge’s ranch on Sunk Creek should be reached; meanwhile, each day’s work added to the wages in store for him; and finally, once at Sunk Creek, it would be no more the Virginian who commanded him; it would be the real ranch foreman. At the ranch he would be the Virginian’s equal again, both of them taking orders from their officially recognized superior, this foreman. Shorty’s word about “revenge” seemed to me like putting the thing backwards. Revenge, as I told Scipio, was what I should be thinking about if I were Trampas.

“He dassent,” was Scipio’s immediate view. “Not till he’s got strong again. He got laughed plumb sick by the bystanders, and whatever spirit he had was broke in the presence of us all. He’ll have to recuperate.” Scipio then spoke of the Virginian’s attitude. “Maybe revenge ain’t just the right word for where this affair has got to now with him. When yu’ beat another man at his own game like he done to Trampas, why, yu’ve had all the revenge yu’ can want, unless you’re a hog. And he’s no hog. But he has got it in for Trampas. They’ve not reckoned to a finish. Would you let a man try such spitework on you and quit thinkin’ about him just because yu’d headed him off?” To this I offered his own notion about hogs and being satisfied. “Hogs!” went on Scipio, in a way that dashed my suggestion to pieces; “hogs ain’t in the case. He’s got to deal with Trampas somehow--man to man. Trampas and him can’t stay this way

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