After a hot and tedious journey, George and his companion alighted one afternoon at a little station on a branch line, and Edgar looked about with interest when the train went on again. A telegraph office with a baggage-room attached occupied the middle of the low platform, a tall water-tank stood at the end, and three grain elevators towered high above a neighboring side-track. Facing the track, stood a row of wooden buildings varying in size and style: they included a double-storied hotel with a veranda in front of it, and several untidy shacks. Running back from them, two short streets, thinly lined with small houses, led to a sea of grass.
“Sage Butte doesn’t strike one as a very exhilarating place,” George remarked. “We’ll stroll round it, and then see about rooms, since we have to stay the night.”
They left the station, but the main street had few attractions to offer. Three stores, with strangely-assorted, dusty goods in their windows fronted the rickety plankwalk; beyond these stood a livery stable, a Chinese laundry, and a few dwelling-houses. Several dilapidated wagons and buggies were scattered about the uneven road. In the side street, disorderly rows of agricultural implements surrounded a store, and here and there little board dwellings with wire mosquito-doors and net-guarded windows, stood among low trees. Farther back were four very small wooden churches. It was unpleasantly hot, though a fresh breeze blew clouds of dust through the place.
“I’ve seen enough,” said Edgar. “The Butte isn’t pretty; we’ll assume it’s prosperous, though I haven’t noticed much sign of activity yet. Let’s go to the hotel.”
When they reached it, several untidy loungers sat half asleep in the shade of the veranda, and though they obstructed the approach to the entrance none of them moved. Passing behind them, George opened a door filled in with wire-mesh, and they entered a hot room with a bare floor, furnished with a row of plain wooden chairs. After they had rung a bell for several minutes, a man appeared and looked at them with languid interest from behind a short counter.
“Can you put us up?” George inquired.
“Sure,” was the answer.
The man flung down a labeled key, twisted round his register, which was fitted in a swivel frame, and handed George a pen.
“We want two rooms,” Edgar objected.
“Can’t help that. We’ve only got one.”
“I suppose we’d better take it. Where can one get a drink?”
“Bar,” replied the other, indicating a gap in a neighboring partition.
“They’re laconic in this country,” Edgar remarked.
“Ever since I arrived in it, I’ve felt as if I were a mere piece of baggage, to be hustled along anyway without my wishes counting.”
“You’ll get used to it after a while,” George consoled him.