The Game And The Nation Last Act

: The Virginian

It has happened to you, has it not, to wake in the morning and wonder

for a while where on earth you are? Thus I came half to life in the

caboose, hearing voices, but not the actual words at first.

But presently, "Hathaway!" said some one more clearly. "Portland 1291!"

This made no special stir in my intelligence, and I drowsed off again

to the pleasant rhythm of the wheels. The little shock of stopping

brought me to, somewhat, with the voices still round me; and when we

were again in motion, I heard: "Rosebud! Portland 1279!" These figures

jarred me awake, and I said, "It was 1291 before," and sat up in my


The greeting they vouchsafed and the sight of them clustering

expressionless in the caboose brought last evening's uncomfortable

memory back to me. Our next stop revealed how things were going to-day.

"Forsythe," one of them read on the station. "Portland 1266."

They were counting the lessening distance westward. This was the

undercurrent of war. It broke on me as I procured fresh water at

Forsythe and made some toilet in their stolid presence. We were drawing

nearer the Rawhide station--the point, I mean, where you left the

railway for the new mines. Now Rawhide station lay this side of

Billings. The broad path of desertion would open ready for their feet

when the narrow path to duty and Sunk Creek was still some fifty miles

more to wait. Here was Trampas's great strength; he need make no move

meanwhile, but lie low for the immediate temptation to front and waylay

them and win his battle over the deputy foreman. But the Virginian

seemed to find nothing save enjoyment in this sunny September morning,

and ate his breakfast at Forsythe serenely.

That meal done and that station gone, our caboose took up again its easy

trundle by the banks of the Yellowstone. The mutineers sat for a while

digesting in idleness.

"What's your scar?" inquired one at length inspecting casually the neck

of his neighbor.

"Foolishness," the other answered.



"Well, I don't know but I prefer to have myself to thank for a thing,"

said the first.

"I was displaying myself," continued the second. "One day last summer it

was. We come on a big snake by Torrey Creek corral. The boys got betting

pretty lively that I dassent make my word good as to dealing with him,

so I loped my cayuse full tilt by Mr. Snake, and swung down and catched

him up by the tail from the ground, and cracked him same as a whip, and

snapped his head off. You've saw it done?" he said to the audience.

The audience nodded wearily.

"But the loose head flew agin me, and the fangs caught. I was pretty

sick for a while."

"It don't pay to be clumsy," said the first man. "If you'd snapped the

snake away from yu' instead of toward yu', its head would have whirled

off into the brush, same as they do with me."

"How like a knife-cut your scar looks!" said I.

"Don't it?" said the snake-snapper. "There's many that gets fooled by


"An antelope knows a snake is his enemy," said another to me. "Ever seen

a buck circling round and round a rattler?"

"I have always wanted to see that," said I, heartily. For this I knew to

be a respectable piece of truth.

"It's worth seeing," the man went on. "After the buck gets close in, he

gives an almighty jump up in the air, and down comes his four hoofs in

a bunch right on top of Mr. Snake. Cuts him all to hash. Now you tell me

how the buck knows that."

Of course I could not tell him. And again we sat in silence for a

while--friendlier silence, I thought.

"A skunk'll kill yu' worse than a snake bite," said another, presently.

"No, I don't mean that way," he added. For I had smiled. "There is a

brown skunk down in Arkansaw. Kind of prairie-dog brown. Littler than

our variety, he is. And he is mad the whole year round, same as a dog

gets. Only the dog has a spell and dies but this here Arkansaw skunk

is mad right along, and it don't seem to interfere with his business in

other respects. Well, suppose you're camping out, and suppose it's a hot

night, or you're in a hurry, and you've made camp late, or anyway you

haven't got inside any tent, but you have just bedded down in the open.

Skunk comes travelling along and walks on your blankets. You're warm. He

likes that, same as a cat does. And he tramps with pleasure and comfort,

same as a cat. And you move. You get bit, that's all. And you die of

hydrophobia. Ask anybody."

"Most extraordinary!" said I. "But did you ever see a person die from


"No, sir. Never happened to. My cousin at Bald Knob did."


"No, sir. Saw a man."

"But how do you know they're not sick skunks?"

"No, sir! They're well skunks. Well as anything. You'll not meet skunks

in any state of the Union more robust than them in Arkansaw. And thick."

"That's awful true," sighed another. "I have buried hundreds of dollars'

worth of clothes in Arkansaw."

"Why didn't yu' travel in a sponge bag?" inquired Scipio. And this

brought a slight silence.

"Speakin' of bites," spoke up a new man, "how's that?" He held up his


"My!" breathed Scipio. "Must have been a lion."

The man wore a wounded look. "I was huntin' owl eggs for a botanist from

Boston," he explained to me.

"Chiropodist, weren't he?" said Scipio. "Or maybe a sonnabulator?"

"No, honest," protested the man with the thumb; so that I was sorry for

him, and begged him to go on.

"I'll listen to you," I assured him. And I wondered why this politeness

of mine should throw one or two of them into stifled mirth. Scipio, on

the other hand, gave me a disgusted look and sat back sullenly for a

moment, and then took himself out on the platform, where the Virginian

was lounging.

"The young feller wore knee-pants and ever so thick spectacles with a

half-moon cut in 'em," resumed the narrator, "and he carried a tin box

strung to a strap I took for his lunch till it flew open on him and a

horn toad hustled out. Then I was sure he was a botanist--or whatever

yu' say they're called. Well, he would have owl eggs--them little

prairie-owl that some claim can turn their head clean around and

keep a-watchin' yu', only that's nonsense. We was ridin' through that

prairie-dog town, used to be on the flat just after yu' crossed the

south fork of Powder River on the Buffalo trail, and I said I'd dig an

owl nest out for him if he was willing to camp till I'd dug it. I wanted

to know about them owls some myself--if they did live with the dogs and

snakes, yu' know," he broke off, appealing to me.

"Oh, yes," I told him eagerly.

"So while the botanist went glarin' around the town with his glasses to

see if he could spot a prairie-dog and an owl usin' the same hole, I was

diggin' in a hole I'd seen an owl run down. And that's what I got." He

held up his thumb again.

"The snake!" I exclaimed.

"Yes, sir. Mr. Rattler was keepin' house that day. Took me right there.

I hauled him out of the hole hangin' to me. Eight rattles."

"Eight!" said I. "A big one."

"Yes, sir. Thought I was dead. But the woman--"

"The woman?" said I.

"Yes, woman. Didn't I tell yu' the botanist had his wife along? Well, he

did. And she acted better than the man, for he was rosin' his head,

and shoutin' he had no whiskey, and he didn't guess his knife was sharp

enough to amputate my thumb, and none of us chewed, and the doctor

was twenty miles away, and if he had only remembered to bring his

ammonia--well, he was screeching out 'most everything he knew in the

world, and without arranging it any, neither. But she just clawed his

pocket and burrowed and kep' yelling, 'Give him the stone, Augustus!'

And she whipped out one of them Injun medicine-stones,--first one I ever

seen,--and she clapped it on to my thumb, and it started in right away."

"What did it do?" said I.

"Sucked. Like blotting-paper does. Soft and funny it was, and gray. They

get 'em from elks' stomachs, yu' know. And when it had sucked the poison

out of the wound, off it falls of my thumb by itself! And I thanked the

woman for saving my life that capable and keeping her head that cool.

I never knowed how excited she had been till afterward. She was awful


"I suppose she started to talk when the danger was over," said I, with

deep silence around me.

"No; she didn't say nothing to me. But when her next child was born, it

had eight rattles."

Din now rose wild in the caboose. They rocked together. The enthusiast

beat his knee tumultuously. And I joined them. Who could help it? It

had been so well conducted from the imperceptible beginning. Fact and

falsehood blended with such perfect art. And this last, an effect so

new made with such world-old material! I cared nothing that I was

the victim, and I joined them; but ceased, feeling suddenly somehow

estranged or chilled. It was in their laughter. The loudness was too

loud. And I caught the eyes of Trampas fixed upon the Virginian with

exultant malevolence. Scipio's disgusted glance was upon me from the


Dazed by these signs, I went out on the platform to get away from the

noise. There the Virginian said to me: "Cheer up! You'll not be so easy

for 'em that-a-way next season."

He said no more; and with his legs dangled over the railing, appeared to

resume his newspaper.

"What's the matter?" said I to Scipio.

"Oh, I don't mind if he don't," Scipio answered. "Couldn't yu' see? I

tried to head 'em off from yu' all I knew, but yu' just ran in among 'em

yourself. Couldn't yu' see? Kep' hinderin' and spoilin' me with askin'

those urgent questions of yourn--why, I had to let yu' go your way! Why,

that wasn't the ordinary play with the ordinary tenderfoot they treated

you to! You ain't a common tenderfoot this trip. You're the foreman's

friend. They've hit him through you. That's the way they count it. It's

made them encouraged. Can't yu' see?"

Scipio stated it plainly. And as we ran by the next station, "Howard!"

they harshly yelled. "Portland 1256!"

We had been passing gangs of workmen on the track. And at that last yell

the Virginian rose. "I reckon I'll join the meeting again," he said.

"This filling and repairing looks like the washout might have been


"Washout?" said Scipio.

"Big Horn bridge, they say--four days ago."

"Then I wish it came this side Rawhide station."

"Do yu'?" drawled the Virginian. And smiling at Scipio, he lounged in

through the open door.

"He beats me," said Scipio, shaking his head. "His trail is turruble

hard to anticipate."

We listened.

"Work bein' done on the road, I see," the Virginian was saying, very

friendly and conversational.

"We see it too," said the voice of Trampas.

"Seem to be easin' their grades some."

"Roads do."

"Cheaper to build 'em the way they want 'em at the start, a man would

think," suggested the Virginian, most friendly. "There go some more


"They're Chinese," said Trampas.

"That's so," acknowledged the Virginian, with a laugh.

"What's he monkeyin' at now?" muttered Scipio.

"Without cheap foreigners they couldn't afford all this hyeh new

gradin'," the Southerner continued.

"Grading! Can't you tell when a flood's been eating the banks?"

"Why, yes," said the Virginian, sweet as honey. "But 'ain't yu' heard

of the improvements west of Big Timber, all the way to Missoula, this

season? I'm talkin' about them."

"Oh! Talking about them. Yes, I've heard."

"Good money-savin' scheme, ain't it?" said the Virginian. "Lettin' a

freight run down one hill an' up the next as far as she'll go without

steam, an' shavin' the hill down to that point." Now this was an honest

engineering fact. "Better'n settin' dudes squintin' through telescopes

and cypherin' over one per cent reductions," the Southerner commented.

"It's common sense," assented Trampas. "Have you heard the new scheme

about the water-tanks?"

"I ain't right certain," said the Southerner.

"I must watch this," said Scipio, "or I shall bust." He went in, and so

did I.

They were all sitting over this discussion of the Northern Pacific's

recent policy as to betterments, as though they were the board of

directors. Pins could have dropped. Only nobody would have cared to hear

a pin.

"They used to put all their tanks at the bottom of their grades," said


"Why, yu' get the water easier at the bottom."

"You can pump it to the top, though," said Trampas, growing superior.

"And it's cheaper."

"That gets me," said the Virginian, interested.

"Trains after watering can start down hill now and get the benefit of

the gravity. It'll cut down operating expenses a heap."

"That's cert'nly common sense!" exclaimed the Virginian, absorbed. "But

ain't it kind o' tardy?"

"Live and learn. So they gained speed, too. High speed on half the coal

this season, until the accident."

"Accident!" said the Virginian, instantly.

"Yellowstone Limited. Man fired at engine driver. Train was flying past

that quick the bullet broke every window and killed a passenger on the

back platform. You've been running too much with aristocrats," finished

Trampas, and turned on his heel.

"Haw, hew!" began the enthusiast, but his neighbor gripped him to

silence. This was a triumph too serious for noise. Not a mutineer moved;

and I felt cold.

"Trampas," said the Virginian, "I thought yu'd be afeared to try it on


Trampas whirled round. His hand was at his belt. "Afraid!" he sneered.

"Shorty!" said Scipio, sternly, and leaping upon that youth, took his

half-drawn pistol from him.

"I'm obliged to yu'," said the Virginian to Scipio. Trampas's hand left

his belt. He threw a slight, easy look at his men, and keeping his back

to the Virginian, walked out on the platform and sat on the chair where

the Virginian had sat so much.

"Don't you comprehend," said the Virginian to Shorty, amiably, "that

this hyeh question has been discussed peaceable by civilized citizens?

Now you sit down and be good, and Mr. Le Moyne will return your gun when

we're across that broken bridge, if they have got it fixed for heavy

trains yet."

"This train will be lighter when it gets to that bridge," spoke Trampas,

out on his chair.

"Why, that's true, too!" said the Virginian. "Maybe none of us are

crossin' that Big Horn bridge now, except me. Funny if yu' should end by

persuadin' me to quit and go to Rawhide myself! But I reckon I'll not. I

reckon I'll worry along to Sunk Creek, somehow."

"Don't forget I'm cookin' for yu'," said Scipio, gruffy.

"I'm obliged to yu'," said the Southerner.

"You were speaking of a job for me," said Shorty.

"I'm right obliged. But yu' see--I ain't exackly foreman the way this

comes out, and my promises might not bind Judge Henry to pay salaries."

A push came through the train from forward. We were slowing for the

Rawhide station, and all began to be busy and to talk. "Going up to the

mines to-day?" "Oh, let's grub first." "Guess it's too late, anyway."

And so forth; while they rolled and roped their bedding, and put on

their coats with a good deal of elbow motion, and otherwise showed

off. It was wasted. The Virginian did not know what was going on in the

caboose. He was leaning and looking out ahead, and Scipio's puzzled

eye never left him. And as we halted for the water-tank, the Southerner

exclaimed, "They 'ain t got away yet!" as if it were good news to him.

He meant the delayed trains. Four stalled expresses were in front of us,

besides several freights. And two hours more at least before the bridge

would be ready.

Travellers stood and sat about forlorn, near the cars, out in the

sage-brush, anywhere. People in hats and spurs watched them, and Indian

chiefs offered them painted bows and arrows and shiny horns.

"I reckon them passengers would prefer a laig o' mutton," said the

Virginian to a man loafing near the caboose.

"Bet your life!" said the man. "First lot has been stuck here four


"Plumb starved, ain't they?" inquired the Virginian.

"Bet your life! They've eat up their dining cars and they've eat up this


"Well," said the Virginian, looking at the town, "I expaict the

dining-cyars contained more nourishment."

"Say, you're about right there!" said the man. He walked beside the

caboose as we puffed slowly forward from the water-tank to our siding.

"Fine business here if we'd only been ready," he continued. "And the

Crow agent has let his Indians come over from the reservation. There has

been a little beef brought in, and game, and fish. And big money in it,

bet your life! Them Eastern passengers has just been robbed. I wisht I

had somethin' to sell!"

"Anything starting for Rawhide this afternoon?" said Trampas, out of the

caboose door.

"Not until morning," said the man. "You going to the mines?" he resumed

to the Virginian.

"Why," answered the Southerner, slowly and casually, and addressing

himself strictly to the man, while Trampas, on his side, paid obvious

inattention, "this hyeh delay, yu' see, may unsettle our plans some.

But it'll be one of two ways,--we're all goin' to Rawhide, or we're all

goin' to Billings. We're all one party, yu' see."

Trampas laughed audibly inside the door as he rejoined his men. "Let him

keep up appearances," I heard him tell them. "It don't hurt us what he

says to strangers."

"But I'm goin' to eat hearty either way," continued the Virginian. "And

I ain' goin' to be robbed. I've been kind o' promisin' myself a treat if

we stopped hyeh."

"Town's eat clean out," said the man.

"So yu' tell me. But all you folks has forgot one source of revenue that

yu' have right close by, mighty handy. If you have got a gunny sack,

I'll show you how to make some money."

"Bet your life!" said the man.

"Mr. Le Moyne," said the Virginian, "the outfit's cookin' stuff is

aboard, and if you'll get the fire ready, we'll try how frawgs' laigs go

fried." He walked off at once, the man following like a dog. Inside the

caboose rose a gust of laughter.

"Frogs!" muttered Scipio. And then turning a blank face to me, "Frogs?"

"Colonel Cyrus Jones had them on his bill of fare," I said. "'FROGS'


"Shoo! I didn't get up that thing. They had it when I came. Never looked

at it. Frogs?" He went down the steps very slowly, with a long frown.

Reaching the ground, he shook his head. "That man's trail is surely

hard to anticipate," he said. "But I must hurry up that fire. For his

appearance has given me encouragement," Scipio concluded, and became

brisk. Shorty helped him, and I brought wood. Trampas and the other

people strolled off to the station, a compact band.

Our little fire was built beside the caboose, so the cooking things

might be easily reached and put back. You would scarcely think such

operations held any interest, even for the hungry, when there seemed

to be nothing to cook. A few sticks blazing tamely in the dust, a

frying-pan, half a tin bucket of lard, some water, and barren plates and

knives and forks, and three silent men attending to them--that was all.

But the travellers came to see. These waifs drew near us, and stood, a

sad, lone, shifting fringe of audience; four to begin with; and then two

wandered away; and presently one of these came back, finding it worse

elsewhere. "Supper, boys?" said he. "Breakfast," said Scipio, crossly.

And no more of them addressed us. I heard them joylessly mention Wall

Street to each other, and Saratoga; I even heard the name Bryn Mawr,

which is near Philadelphia. But these fragments of home dropped in the

wilderness here in Montana beside a freight caboose were of no interest

to me now.

"Looks like frogs down there, too," said Scipio. "See them marshy slogs

full of weeds?" We took a little turn and had a sight of the Virginian

quite active among the ponds. "Hush! I'm getting some thoughts,"

continued Scipio. "He wasn't sorry enough. Don't interrupt me."

"I'm not," said I.

"No. But I'd 'most caught a-hold." And Scipio muttered to himself again,

"He wasn't sorry enough." Presently he swore loud and brilliantly.

"Tell yu'!" he cried. "What did he say to Trampas after that play they

exchanged over railroad improvements and Trampas put the josh on him?

Didn't he say, 'Trampas, I thought you'd be afraid to do it?' Well, sir,

Trampas had better have been afraid. And that's what he meant. There's

where he was bringin' it to. Trampas made an awful bad play then. You

wait. Glory, but he's a knowin' man! Course he wasn't sorry. I guess he

had the hardest kind of work to look as sorry as he did. You wait."

"Wait? What for? Go on, man! What for?"

"I don't know! I don't know! Whatever hand he's been holdin' up, this is

the show-down. He's played for a show-down here before the caboose gets

off the bridge. Come back to the fire, or Shorty'll be leavin' it

go out. Grow happy some, Shorty!" he cried on arriving, and his hand

cracked on Shorty's shoulder. "Supper's in sight, Shorty. Food for


"None for the stomach?" asked the passenger who had spoken once before.

"We're figuring on that too," said Scipio. His crossness had melted

entirely away.

"Why, they're cow-boys!" exclaimed another passenger; and he moved


From the station Trampas now came back, his herd following him less

compactly. They had found famine, and no hope of supplies until the

next train from the East. This was no fault of Trampas's; but they were

following him less compactly. They carried one piece of cheese, the

size of a fist, the weight of a brick, the hue of a corpse. And the

passengers, seeing it, exclaimed, "There's Old Faithful again!" and took

off their hats.

"You gentlemen met that cheese before, then?" said Scipio, delighted.

"It's been offered me three times a day for four days," said the

passenger. "Did he want a dollar or a dollar and a half?"

"Two dollars!" blurted out the enthusiast. And all of us save Trampas

fell into fits of imbecile laughter.

"Here comes our grub, anyway," said Scipio, looking off toward the

marshes. And his hilarity sobered away in a moment.

"Well, the train will be in soon," stated Trampas. "I guess we'll get a

decent supper without frogs."

All interest settled now upon the Virginian. He was coming with his man

and his gunny sack, and the gunny sack hung from his shoulder heavily,

as a full sack should. He took no notice of the gathering, but sat down

and partly emptied the sack. "There," said he, very businesslike, to his

assistant, "that's all we'll want. I think you'll find a ready market

for the balance."

"Well, my gracious!" said the enthusiast. "What fool eats a frog?"

"Oh, I'm fool enough for a tadpole!" cried the passenger. And they began

to take out their pocket-books.

"You can cook yours right hyeh, gentlemen," said the Virginian, with

his slow Southern courtesy. "The dining-cyars don't look like they were

fired up."

"How much will you sell a couple for?" inquired the enthusiast.

The Virginian looked at him with friendly surprise. "Why, help yourself!

We're all together yet awhile. Help yourselves," he repeated, to Trampas

and his followers. These hung back a moment, then, with a slinking

motion, set the cheese upon the earth and came forward nearer the fire

to receive some supper.

"It won't scarcely be Delmonico style," said the Virginian to the

passengers, "nor yet Saynt Augustine." He meant the great Augustin, the

traditional chef of Philadelphia, whose history I had sketched for him

at Colonel Cyrus Jones's eating palace.

Scipio now officiated. His frying-pan was busy, and prosperous odors

rose from it.

"Run for a bucket of fresh water, Shorty," the Virginian continued,

beginning his meal. "Colonel, yu' cook pretty near good. If yu' had sold

'em as advertised, yu'd have cert'nly made a name."

Several were now eating with satisfaction, but not Scipio. It was all

that he could do to cook straight. The whole man seemed to glisten.

His eye was shut to a slit once more, while the innocent passengers

thankfully swallowed.

"Now, you see, you have made some money," began the Virginian to the

native who had helped him get the frogs.

"Bet your life!" exclaimed the man. "Divvy, won't you?" And he held out

half his gains.

"Keep 'em," returned the Southerner. "I reckon we're square. But I

expaict they'll not equal Delmonico's, seh?" he said to a passenger.

"Don't trust the judgment of a man as hungry as I am!" exclaimed the

traveller, with a laugh. And he turned to his fellow-travellers. "Did

you ever enjoy supper at Delmonico's more than this?"

"Never!" they sighed.

"Why, look here," said the traveller, "what fools the people of this

town are! Here we've been all these starving days, and you come and get

ahead of them!"

"That's right easy explained," said the Virginian. "I've been where

there was big money in frawgs, and they 'ain't been. They're all cattle

hyeh. Talk cattle, think cattle, and they're bankrupt in consequence.

Fallen through. Ain't that so?" he inquired of the native.

"That's about the way," said the man.

"It's mighty hard to do what your neighbors ain't doin'," pursued the

Virginian. "Montana is all cattle, an' these folks must be cattle,

an' never notice the country right hyeh is too small for a range, an'

swampy, anyway, an' just waitin' to be a frawg ranch."

At this, all wore a face of careful reserve.

"I'm not claimin' to be smarter than you folks hyeh," said the

Virginian, deprecatingly, to his assistant. "But travellin' learns a

man many customs. You wouldn't do the business they done at Tulare,

California, north side o' the lake. They cert'nly utilized them hopeless

swamps splendid. Of course they put up big capital and went into it

scientific, gettin' advice from the government Fish Commission, an' such

like knowledge. Yu' see, they had big markets for their frawgs,--San

Francisco, Los Angeles, and clear to New York afteh the Southern Pacific

was through. But up hyeh yu' could sell to passengers every day like yu'

done this one day. They would get to know yu' along the line. Competing

swamps are scarce. The dining-cyars would take your frawgs, and yu'

would have the Yellowstone Park for four months in the year. Them hotels

are anxious to please, an' they would buy off yu' what their Eastern

patrons esteem as fine-eatin'. And you folks would be sellin' something

instead o' nothin'."

"That's a practical idea," said a traveller. "And little cost."

"And little cost," said the Virginian.

"Would Eastern people eat frogs?" inquired the man.

"Look at us!" said the traveller.

"Delmonico doesn't give yu' such a treat!" said the Virginian.

"Not exactly!" the traveller exclaimed.

"How much would be paid for frogs?" said Trampas to him. And I saw

Scipio bend closer to his cooking.

"Oh, I don't know," said the traveller. "We've paid pretty well, you


"You're late for Tulare, Trampas," said the Virginian.

"I was not thinking of Tulare," Trampas retorted. Scipio's nose was in

the frying-pan.

"Mos' comical spot you ever struck!" said the Virginian, looking round

upon the whole company. He allowed himself a broad smile of retrospect.

"To hear 'em talk frawgs at Tulare! Same as other folks talks hawsses or

steers or whatever they're raising to sell. Yu'd fall into it yourselves

if yu' started the business. Anything a man's bread and butter depends

on, he's going to be earnest about. Don't care if it is a frawg."

"That's so," said the native. "And it paid good?"

"The only money in the county was right there," answered the Virginian.

"It was a dead county, and only frawgs was movin'. But that business was

a-fannin' to beat four of a kind. It made yu' feel strange at first, as

I said. For all the men had been cattle-men at one time or another.

Till yu' got accustomed, it would give 'most anybody a shock to hear 'em

speak about herdin' the bulls in a pasture by themselves." The Virginian

allowed himself another smile, but became serious again. "That was their

policy," he explained. "Except at certain times o' year they kept the

bulls separate. The Fish Commission told 'em they'd better, and it

cert'nly worked mighty well. It or something did--for, gentlemen, hush!

but there was millions. You'd have said all the frawgs in the world had

taken charge at Tulare. And the money rolled in! Gentlemen, hush! 'twas

a gold mine for the owners. Forty per cent they netted some years.

And they paid generous wages. For they could sell to all them French

restaurants in San Francisco, yu' see. And there was the Cliff House.

And the Palace Hotel made it a specialty. And the officers took frawgs

at the Presidio, an' Angel Island, an' Alcatraz, an' Benicia. Los

Angeles was beginnin' its boom. The corner-lot sharps wanted something

by way of varnish. An' so they dazzled Eastern investors with

advertisin' Tulare frawgs clear to New Orleans an' New York. 'Twas only

in Sacramento frawgs was dull. I expaict the California legislature

was too or'n'ry for them fine-raised luxuries. They tell of one of them

senators that he raked a million out of Los Angeles real estate, and

started in for a bang-up meal with champagne. Wanted to scatter his new

gold thick an' quick. But he got astray among all the fancy dishes,

an' just yelled right out before the ladies, 'Damn it! bring me forty

dollars' worth of ham and aiggs.' He was a funny senator, now."

The Virginian paused, and finished eating a leg. And then with diabolic

art he made a feint at wandering to new fields of anecdote. "Talkin' of

senators," he resumed, "Senator Wise--"

"How much did you say wages were at Tulare?" inquired one of the Trampas


"How much? Why, I never knew what the foreman got. The regular hands got

a hundred. Senator Wise--"

"A hundred a MONTH?"

"Why, it was wet an' muddy work, yu' see. A man risked rheumatism some.

He risked it a good deal. Well, I was going to tell about Senator Wise.

When Senator Wise was speaking of his visit to Alaska--"

"Forty per cent, was it?" said Trampas.

"Oh, I must call my wife'" said the traveller behind me. "This is what I

came West for." And he hurried away.

"Not forty per cent the bad years," replied the Virginian. "The frawgs

had enemies, same as cattle. I remember when a pelican got in the spring

pasture, and the herd broke through the fence--"

"Fence?" said a passenger.

"Ditch, seh, and wire net. Every pasture was a square swamp with a ditch

around, and a wire net. Yu've heard the mournful, mixed-up sound a big

bunch of cattle will make? Well, seh, as yu' druv from the railroad to

the Tulare frawg ranch yu' could hear 'em a mile. Springtime they'd sing

like girls in the organ loft, and by August they were about ready to

hire out for bass. And all was fit to be soloists, if I'm a judge. But

in a bad year it might only be twenty per cent. The pelican rushed 'em

from the pasture right into the San Joaquin River, which was close

by the property. The big balance of the herd stampeded, and though of

course they came out on the banks again, the news had went around, and

folks below at Hemlen eat most of 'em just to spite the company. Yu'

see, a frawg in a river is more hopeless than any maverick loose on the

range. And they never struck any plan to brand their stock and prove


"Well, twenty per cent is good enough for me," said Trampas, "if Rawhide

don't suit me."

"A hundred a month!" said the enthusiast. And busy calculations began to

arise among them.

"It went to fifty per cent," pursued the Virginian, "when New York and

Philadelphia got to biddin' agaynst each other. Both cities had signs

all over 'em claiming to furnish the Tulare frawg. And both had 'em all

right. And same as cattle trains, yu'd see frawg trains tearing acrosst

Arizona--big glass tanks with wire over 'em--through to New York, an'

the frawgs starin' out."

"Why, George," whispered a woman's voice behind me, "he's merely

deceiving them! He's merely making that stuff up out of his head."

"Yes, my dear, that's merely what he's doing."

"Well, I don't see why you imagined I should care for this. I think I'll

go back."

"Better see it out, Daisy. This beats the geysers or anything we're

likely to find in the Yellowstone."

"Then I wish we had gone to Bar Harbor as usual," said the lady, and she

returned to her Pullman.

But her husband stayed. Indeed, the male crowd now was a goodly sight

to see, how the men edged close, drawn by a common tie. Their different

kinds of feet told the strength of the bond--yellow sleeping-car

slippers planted miscellaneous and motionless near a pair of Mexican

spurs. All eyes watched the Virginian and gave him their entire

sympathy. Though they could not know his motive for it, what he was

doing had fallen as light upon them--all except the excited calculators.

These were loudly making their fortunes at both Rawhide and Tulare,

drugged by their satanically aroused hopes of gold, heedless of the

slippers and the spurs. Had a man given any sign to warn them, I think

he would have been lynched. Even the Indian chiefs had come to see in

their show war bonnets and blankets. They naturally understood nothing

of it, yet magnetically knew that the Virginian was the great man. And

they watched him with approval. He sat by the fire with the frying-pan,

looking his daily self--engaging and saturnine. And now as Trampas

declared tickets to California would be dear and Rawhide had better come

first, the Southerner let loose his heaven-born imagination.

"There's a better reason for Rawhide than tickets, Trampas," said he. "I

said it was too late for Tulare."

"I heard you," said Trampas. "Opinions may differ. You and I don't think

alike on several points."

"Gawd, Trampas!" said the Virginian, "d' yu' reckon I'd be rotting hyeh

on forty dollars if Tulare was like it used to be? Tulare is broke."

"What broke it? Your leaving?"

"Revenge broke it, and disease," said the Virginian, striking the

frying-pan on his knee, for the frogs were all gone. At those lurid

words their untamed child minds took fire, and they drew round him again

to hear a tale of blood. The crowd seemed to lean nearer.

But for a short moment it threatened to be spoiled. A passenger came

along, demanding in an important voice, "Where are these frogs?" He was

a prominent New York after-dinner speaker, they whispered me, and

out for a holiday in his private car. Reaching us and walking to the

Virginian, he said cheerily, "How much do you want for your frogs, my


"You got a friend hyeh?" said the Virginian. "That's good, for yu'

need care taken of yu'." And the prominent after-dinner speaker did not

further discommode us.

"That's worth my trip," whispered a New York passenger to me.

"Yes, it was a case of revenge," resumed the Virginian, "and disease.

There was a man named Saynt Augustine got run out of Domingo, which is

a Dago island. He come to Philadelphia, an' he was dead broke. But Saynt

Augustine was a live man, an' he saw Philadelphia was full o' Quakers

that dressed plain an' eat humdrum. So he started cookin' Domingo

way for 'em, an' they caught right ahold. Terrapin, he gave 'em,

an' croakeets, an' he'd use forty chickens to make a broth he called

consommay. An' he got rich, and Philadelphia got well known, an'

Delmonico in New York he got jealous. He was the cook that had the

say-so in New York."

"Was Delmonico one of them I-talians?" inquired a fascinated mutineer.

"I don't know. But he acted like one. Lorenzo was his front name. He

aimed to cut--"

"Domingo's throat?" breathed the enthusiast.

"Aimed to cut away the trade from Saynt Augustine an' put Philadelphia

back where he thought she belonged. Frawgs was the fashionable rage

then. These foreign cooks set the fashion in eatin', same as foreign

dressmakers do women's clothes. Both cities was catchin' and swallowin'

all the frawgs Tulare could throw at 'em. So he--"

"Lorenzo?" said the enthusiast.

"Yes, Lorenzo Delmonico. He bid a dollar a tank higher. An' Saynt

Augustine raised him fifty cents. An' Lorenzo raised him a dollar

An' Saynt Augustine shoved her up three. Lorenzo he didn't expect

Philadelphia would go that high, and he got hot in the collar, an' flew

round his kitchen in New York, an' claimed he'd twist Saynt Augustine's

Domingo tail for him and crack his ossified system. Lorenzo raised his

language to a high temperature, they say. An' then quite sudden off

he starts for Tulare. He buys tickets over the Santa Fe, and he goes

a-fannin' and a-foggin'. But, gentlemen, hush! The very same day Saynt

Augustine he tears out of Philadelphia. He travelled by the way o'

Washington, an' out he comes a-fannin' an' a-foggin' over the Southern

Pacific. Of course Tulare didn't know nothin' of this. All it knowed

was how the frawg market was on soarin' wings, and it was feelin' like

a flight o' rawckets. If only there'd been some preparation,--a telegram

or something,--the disaster would never have occurred. But Lorenzo and

Saynt Augustine was that absorbed watchin' each other--for, yu' see, the

Santa Fe and the Southern Pacific come together at Mojave, an' the

two cooks travelled a matter of two hundred an' ten miles in the

same cyar--they never thought about a telegram. And when they arruv,

breathless, an' started in to screechin' what they'd give for the

monopoly, why, them unsuspectin' Tulare boys got amused at 'em. I never

heard just all they done, but they had Lorenzo singin' and dancin',

while Saynt Augustine played the fiddle for him. And one of Lorenzo's

heels did get a trifle grazed. Well, them two cooks quit that ranch

without disclosin' their identity, and soon as they got to a safe

distance they swore eternal friendship, in their excitable foreign way.

And they went home over the Union Pacific, sharing the same stateroom.

Their revenge killed frawgs. The disease--"

"How killed frogs?" demanded Trampas.

"Just killed 'em. Delmonico and Saynt Augustine wiped frawgs off the

slate of fashion. Not a banker in Fifth Avenue'll touch one now if

another banker's around watchin' him. And if ever yu' see a man that

hides his feet an' won't take off his socks in company, he has worked in

them Tulare swamps an' got the disease. Catch him wadin', and yu'll find

he's web-footed. Frawgs are dead, Trampas, and so are you."

"Rise up, liars, and salute your king!" yelled Scipio. "Oh, I'm in love

with you!" And he threw his arms round the Virginian.

"Let me shake hands with you," said the traveller, who had failed to

interest his wife in these things. "I wish I was going to have more of

your company."

"Thank ye', seh," said the Virginian.

Other passengers greeted him, and the Indian chiefs came, saying, "How!"

because they followed their feelings without understanding.

"Don't show so humbled, boys," said the deputy foreman to his most

sheepish crew. "These gentlemen from the East have been enjoying yu'

some, I know. But think what a weary wait they have had hyeh. And you

insisted on playing the game with me this way, yu' see. What outlet did

yu' give me? Didn't I have it to do? And I'll tell yu' one thing

for your consolation: when I got to the middle of the frawgs I 'most

believed it myself." And he laughed out the first laugh I had heard him


The enthusiast came up and shook hands. That led off, and the rest

followed, with Trampas at the end. The tide was too strong for him. He

was not a graceful loser; but he got through this, and the Virginian

eased him down by treating him precisely like the others--apparently.

Possibly the supreme--the most American--moment of all was when word

came that the bridge was open, and the Pullman trains, with noise and

triumph, began to move westward at last. Every one waved farewell to

every one, craning from steps and windows, so that the cars twinkled

with hilarity; and in twenty minutes the whole procession in front had

moved, and our turn came.

"Last chance for Rawhide," said the Virginian.

"Last chance for Sunk Creek," said a reconstructed mutineer, and all

sprang aboard. There was no question who had won his spurs now.

Our caboose trundled on to Billings along the shingly cotton-wooded

Yellowstone; and as the plains and bluffs and the distant snow began to

grow well known, even to me, we turned to our baggage that was to come

off, since camp would begin in the morning. Thus I saw the Virginian

carefully rewrapping Kenilworth, that he might bring it to its owner

unharmed; and I said, "Don't you think you could have played poker with

Queen Elizabeth?"

"No; I expaict she'd have beat me," he replied. "She was a lady."

It was at Billings, on this day, that I made those reflections about

equality. For the Virginian had been equal to the occasion: that is the

only kind of equality which I recognize.