| "Do you often have these visitations?" Ogden inquired of Judge
Henry. Our host was giving us whiskey in his office, and Dr.
MacBride, while we smoked apart from the ladies, had repaired to
his quarters in the foreman's house previous to the service which
he was shortly to hold.
The Judge laughed. "They come now and then through the year. I like the bishop to come. And the men always like it. But I fear our friend will scarcely please them so well."
"You don't mean they'll--"
"Oh, no. They'll keep quiet. The fact is, they have a good deal better manners than he has, if he only knew it. They'll be able to bear him. But as for any good he'll do--"
"I doubt if he knows a word of science," said I, musing about the Doctor.
"Science! He doesn't know what Christianity is yet. I've entertained many guests, but none--The whole secret," broke off Judge Henry, "lies in the way you treat people. As soon as you treat men as your brothers, they are ready to acknowledge you--if you deserve it--as their superior. That's the whole bottom of Christianity, and that's what our missionary will never know."
There was a somewhat heavy knock at the office door, and I think we all feared it was Dr. MacBride. But when the Judge opened, the Virginian was standing there in the darkness
"So!" The Judge opened the door wide. He was very hearty to the man he had trusted. "You're back at last."
"I came to repawt."
While they shook hands, Ogden nudged me. "That the fellow?" I nodded. "Fellow who kicked the cook off the train?" I again nodded, and he looked at the Virginian, his eye and his stature.
Judge Henry, properly democratic, now introduced him to Ogden.
The New Yorker also meant to be properly democratic. "You're the man I've been hearing such a lot about."
But familiarity is not equality. "Then I expect yu' have the advantage of me, seh," said the Virginian, very politely. "Shall I repawt tomorro'?" His grave eyes were on the Judge again. Of me he had taken no notice; he had come as an employee to see his employer.
"Yes, yes; I'll want to hear about the cattle to-morrow. But step inside a moment now. There's a matter--" The Virginian stepped inside, and took off his hat. "Sit down. You had trouble--I've heard something about it," the Judge went on.
The Virginian sat down, grave and graceful. But he held the brim of his hat all the while. He looked at Ogden and me, and then back at his employer. There was reluctance in his eye. I wondered if his employer could be going to make him tell his own exploits in the presence of us outsiders; and there came into my memory the Bengal tiger at a trained-animal show I had once seen.
"You had some trouble," repeated the Judge.
"Well, there was a time when they maybe wanted to have notions. They're good boys." And he smiled a very little.
Contentment increased in the Judge's face. "Trampas a good boy too?"
But this time the Bengal tiger did not smile. He sat with his eye fastened on his employer.
The Judge passed rather quickly on to his next point. "You've brought them all back, though, I understand, safe and sound, without a scratch?"
The Virginian looked down at his hat, then up again at the Judge, mildly. "I had to part with my cook."
There was no use; Ogden and myself exploded. Even upon the embarrassed Virginian a large grin slowly forced itself. "I guess yu' know about it," he murmured. And he looked at me with a sort of reproach. He knew it was I who had told tales out of school.
"I only want to say," said Ogden, conciliatingly, "that I know I couldn't have handled those men."
The Virginian relented. "Yu' never tried, seh."
The Judge had remained serious; but he showed himself plainly more and more contented. "Quite right," he said. "You had to part with your cook. When I put a man in charge, I put him in charge. I don't make particulars my business. They're to be always his. Do you understand?"
"Thank yu'." The Virginian understood that his employer was praising his management of the expedition. But I don't think he at all discerned--as I did presently--that his employer had just been putting him to a further test, had laid before him the temptation of complaining of a fellow-workman and blowing his own trumpet, and was delighted with his reticence. He made a movement to rise.
"I haven't finished," said the Judge. "I was coming to the matter. There's one particular--since I do happen to have been told. I fancy Trampas has learned something he didn't expect."
This time the Virginian evidently did not understand, any more than I did. One hand played with his hat, mechanically turning it round.
The Judge explained. "I mean about Roberts."
A pulse of triumph shot over the Southerner's face, turning it savage for that fleeting instant. He understood now, and was unable to suppress this much answer. But he was silent.
"You see," the Judge explained to me, "I was obliged to let Roberts, my old foreman, go last week. His wife could not have stood another winter here, and a good position was offered to him near Los Angeles."
I did see. I saw a number of things. I saw why the foreman's house had been empty to receive Dr. MacBride and me. And I saw that the Judge had been very clever indeed. For I had abstained from telling any tales about the present feeling between Trampas and the Virginian; but he had divined it. Well enough for him to say that "particulars" were something he let alone; he evidently kept a deep eye on the undercurrents at his ranch. He knew that in Roberts, Trampas had lost a powerful friend. And this was what I most saw, this final fact, that Trampas had no longer any intervening shield. He and the Virginian stood indeed man to man.
"And so," the Judge continued speaking to me, "here I am at a very inconvenient time without a foreman. Unless," I caught the twinkle in his eyes before he turned to the Virginian, "unless you're willing to take the position yourself. Will you?"
I saw the Southerner's hand grip his hat as he was turning it round. He held it still now, and his other hand found it and gradually crumpled the soft crown in. It meant everything to him: recognition, higher station, better fortune, a separate house of his own, and--perhaps--one step nearer to the woman he wanted. I don't know what words he might have said to the Judge had they been alone, but the Judge had chosen to do it in our presence, the whole thing from beginning to end. The Virginian sat with the damp coming out on his forehead, and his eyes dropped from his employer's.
"Thank yu'," was what he managed at last to say.
"Well, now, I'm greatly relieved!" exclaimed the Judge, rising at once. He spoke with haste, and lightly. "That's excellent. I was in some thing of a hole," he said to Ogden and me; "and this gives me one thing less to think of. Saves me a lot of particulars," he jocosely added to the Virginian, who was now also standing up. "Begin right off. Leave the bunk house. The gentlemen won't mind your sleeping in your own house."
Thus he dismissed his new foreman gayly. But the new foreman, when he got outside, turned back for one gruff word,--" I'll try to please yu'." That was all. He was gone in the darkness. But there was light enough for me, looking after him, to see him lay his hand on a shoulder-high gate and vault it as if he had been the wind. Sounds of cheering came to us a few moments later from the bunk house. Evidently he had "begun right away," as the Judge had directed. He had told his fortune to his brother cow-punchers, and this was their answer.
"I wonder if Trampas is shouting too?" inquired Ogden.
"Hm!" said the Judge. "That is one of the particulars I wash my hands of."
I knew that he entirely meant it. I knew, once his decision taken of appointing the Virginian his lieutenant for good and all, that, like a wise commander-in-chief, he would trust his lieutenant to take care of his own business.
"Well," Ogden pursued with interest, "haven't you landed Trampas plump at his mercy?"
The phrase tickled the Judge. "That is where I've landed him!" he declared. "And here is Dr. MacBride."