The Virginian--A Horseman Of The Plainsr
The Game And The Nation--Act First
There can be no doubt of this: All America is divided into two classes,--the quality and
The latter will always recognize the former when mistaken for it. Both will be with us
until our women bear nothing but hangs.
It was through the Declaration of Independence that we Americans acknowledged the
ETERNAL EQUALITY of man. For by it we abolished a cut-and-dried aristocracy. We
had seen little mere artificially held up in high places, and great men artificially held
down in low places, and our own justice-loving hearts abhorred this violence to human
nature. Therefore, we decreed that every man should thenceforth have equal liberty to
find his own level. By this very decree we acknowledged and gave freedom to true
aristocracy, saying, "Let the best man win, whoever he is." Let the best man win! That is
America's word. That is true democracy. And true democracy and true aristocracy are one
and the same thing. If anybody cannot see this, so much the worse for his eyesight.
The above reflections occurred to me before reaching Billings, Montana, some three
weeks after I had unexpectedly met the Virginian at Omaha, Nebraska. I had not known
of that trust given to him by Judge Henry, which was taking him East. I was looking to
ride with him before long among the clean hills of Sunk Creek. I supposed he was there.
But I came upon him one morning in Colonel Cyrus Jones's eating palace.
Did you know the palace? It stood in Omaha, near the trains, and it was ten years old
(which is middle-aged in Omaha) when I first saw it. It was a shell of wood, painted with
golden emblems,--the steamboat, the eagle, the Yosemite,--and a live bear ate gratuities
at its entrance. Weather permitting, it opened upon the world as a stage upon the
audience. You sat in Omaha's whole sight and dined, while Omaha's dust came and
settled upon the refreshments. It is gone the way of the Indian and the buffalo, for the
West is growing old. You should have seen the palace and sat there. In front of you
passed rainbows of men,--Chinese, Indian chiefs, Africans, General Miles, younger sons,
Austrian nobility, wide females in pink. Our continent drained prismatically through
So I was passing that way also, walking for the sake of ventilation from a sleeping-car
toward a bath, when the language of Colonel Cyrus Jones came out to me. The actual
colonel I had never seen before. He stood at the rear of his palace in gray flowery
mustaches and a Confederate uniform, telling the wishes of his guests to the cook through
a hole. You always bought meal tickets at once, else you became unwelcome. Guests
here had foibles at times, and a rapid exit was too easy. Therefore I bought a ticket. It was
spring and summer since I had heard anything like the colonel. The Missouri had not yet
flowed into New York dialect freely, and his vocabulary met me like the breeze of the
plains. So I went in to be fanned by it, and there sat the Virginian at a table, alone.