Entering the dark bar, Edgar refreshed himself with several ice-cooled drinks, served in what he thought were unusually small glasses. He felt somewhat astonished when he paid for them.
“Thirst’s expensive on the prairie,” he commented.
“Pump outside,” drawled the attendant. “It’s rather mean water.”
They went upstairs to a very scantily furnished, doubled-bedded room. George, warned by previous experience, glanced around.
“There’s soap and a towel, anyway; but I don’t see any water,” he remarked. “I’ll take the jar; they’ll have a rain-tank somewhere about.”
Edgar did not answer him. He was looking out of the open window, and now that there was little to obstruct his view, the prospect interested him. It had been a wet spring, and round the vast half-circle he commanded the prairie ran back to the horizon, brightly green, until its strong coloring gave place in the distance to soft neutral tones. It was blotched with crimson flowers; in the marshy spots there were streaks of purple; broad squares of darker wheat checkered the sweep of grass, and dwarf woods straggled across it in broken lines. In one place was the gleam of a little lake. Over it all there hung a sky of dazzling blue, across which great rounded cloud-masses rolled.
Edgar looked around as George came in with the water.
“That’s great!” he exclaimed, indicating the prairie; and then, turning toward the wooden town, he added: “What a frightful mess man can make of pretty things! Still, I’ve no doubt the people who built the Butte are proud of it.”
“If you talk to them in that style, you’ll soon discover their opinion,” George laughed; “but I don’t think it would be wise.”
Soon afterward a bell rang for supper, and going down to a big room, they found seats at a table which had several other occupants. Two of them, who appeared to be railroad-hands, were simply dressed in trousers and slate-colored shirts, and when they rested their elbows on the tablecloth, they left grimy smears. George thought the third man of the party, who was neatly attired, must be the station-agent; the fourth was unmistakably a newly-arrived Englishman. As soon as they were seated, a very smart young woman came up and rattled off the names of various unfamiliar dishes.
“I think I’ll have a steak; I know what that is,” Edgar told her.
She withdrew, and presently surrounded him with an array of little plates, at which he glanced dubiously before he attacked the thin, hard steak with a nickeled knife which failed to make a mark on it. When he made a more determined effort, it slid away from him, sweeping some greasy fried potatoes off his plate, and he grew hot under the stern gaze of the girl, who reappeared with some coffee he had not ordered.
“Perhaps you had better take it away before I do more damage, and let me have some fish,” he said humbly.