that could cut anything it came against, was still not raised. “There ain’t fifteen. There ain’t two. There’s one kind. And when I meet it, I respect it. It is not praying nor preaching that has ever caught me and made me ashamed of myself, but one or two people I have knowed that never said a superior word to me They thought more o’ me than I deserved, and that made me behave better than I naturally wanted to. Made me quit a girl onced in time for her not to lose her good name. And so that’s one thing I have never done. And if ever I was to have a son or somebody I set store by, I would wish their lot to be to know one or two good folks mighty well--men or women--women preferred.” He had looked away again to the hills behind Sunk Creek ranch, to which our walking horses had now almost brought us.

“As for parsons “--the gesture of his arm was a disclaiming one--“I reckon some parsons have a right to tell yu’ to be good. The bishop of this hyeh Territory has a right. But I’ll tell yu’ this: a middlin’ doctor is a pore thing, and a middlin’ lawyer is a pore thing; but keep me from a middlin’ man of God.” Once again he had reduced it, but I did not laugh this time. I thought there should in truth be heavy damages for malpractice on human souls. But the hot glow of his words, and the vision of his deepest inner man it revealed, faded away abruptly.

“What do yu’ make of the proposition yondeh?” As he pointed to the cause of this question he had become again his daily, engaging, saturnine self.

Then I saw over in a fenced meadow, to which we were now close, what he was pleased to call “the proposition.” Proposition in the West does, in fact, mean whatever you at the moment please,--an offer to sell you a mine, a cloud-burst, a glass of whiskey, a steamboat. This time it meant a stranger clad in black, and of a clerical deportment which would in that atmosphere and to a watchful eye be visible for a mile or two.

“I reckoned yu’ hadn’t noticed him,” was the Virginian’s reply to my ejaculation. “Yes. He set me goin’ on the subject a while back. I expect he is another missionary to us pore cow-boys.” I seemed from a hundred yards to feel the stranger’s forceful personality. It was in his walk--I should better say stalk--as he promenaded along the creek. His hands were behind his back, and there was an air of waiting, of displeased waiting, in his movement.

“Yes, he’ll be a missionary,” said the Virginian, conclusively; and he took to singing, or rather to whining, with his head tilted at an absurd angle upward at the sky:

“’Dar is a big Car’lina nigger,
About de size of dis chile or p’raps a little bigger,
    By de name of Jim Crow.
Dat what de white folks call him.
If ever I sees hint I ’tends for to maul him,
    Just to let de white folks see
    Such an animos as he
Can’t walk around the streets and scandalize me.’”

The lane which was conducting us to the group of ranch buildings now turned a corner of the meadow, and the Virginian went on with his second verse:

“‘Great big fool, he hasn’t any knowledge.
Gosh! how could he, when he’s never been to scollege?
    Neither has I.
    But I’se come mighty nigh;
I peaked through de door as I went by.’”

He was beginning a third stanza, but stopped short; a horse had neighed close behind us.

“Trampas,” said he, without turning his head, “we are home.” “It looks that way.” Some ten yards were between ourselves and Trampas, where he followed.

“And I’ll trouble yu’ for my rope yu’ took this mawnin’ instead o’ your own.” “I don’t know as it’s your rope I’ve got.” Trampas skilfully spoke this so that a precisely opposite meaning flowed from his words.

If it was discussion he tried for, he failed. The Virginian’s hand moved, and for one thick, flashing moment my thoughts were evidently also the thoughts of Trampas. But the Virginian only held out to Trampas the rope which he had detached from his saddle.

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.