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 I invited him to tell me what sort of “finish” he wanted, 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 notions off to him, Scipio rose, and, with the frying-pan he had been washing, walked slowly at 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 bleached blue eye burned 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 men to the ranch in as good shape as they’d been handed to him, and without losing any on the road through desertion or shooting or what not. He had to kick his cook ok the train that day, and the loss made him sorrowful, I could see. But I’d happened to come along, and 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 better than satisfied it come out that way, and they’re stayin’ with him; and he’ll hand them all back in good 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, 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! D’ yu’ think it’ll scare off the enemy?” Scipio looked across a little creek to where the Virginian was helping threw the gathered cattle on the bedground. “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 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 life.” He had made me feel my inexperience, convinced me of innocence, undoubtedly; and during the final days of our journey I no longer invoked his aid to my reflections upon this especial topic: What would the Virginian do to Trampas? Would it be another intellectual crushing of him, like the frog story, or would there be something this time more material--say muscle, or possibly gunpowder--in it? And was Scipio, after all, infallible? I 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 I let him alone as to all this, discussing with him most other things good and evil in the world, and being convinced 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 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.

Experiments in conversation I did make--and failed. One day particularly while, after a sudden storm of hail had chilled the earth numb 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 equality on which I knew him to hold opinions as strong as mine. “Oh,” he would reply, and “Cert’nly”; and when I asked him 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 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 swallowing every day.

“Yes,” said he, wiping the damp from his Winchester rifle.

Our American climate, I said, had worked remarkable changes, at least.

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