The Virginian: A Horseman Of The Plains "When You Call Me That, Smile!"
by Owen Wister

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"When You Call Me That, Smile!"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The Virginian, a tall, lanky cowboy, originally from Virginia, is sent to Medicine Bow to meet a man from the East who is going to visit Sunk Creek ranch, some 263 miles from the town. As the visitor's baggage had not arrived with him, he and the Virginian must spend the night in town to wait for the baggage before making the trip to the ranch. Several times during the afternoon, Steve, a friend of the Virginian, calls the latter a son-of-a–, without the Virginian's becoming upset. That evening, however, while the Virginian is playing cards in the saloon, one of the players, Trampas, says to him: "Your bet, you son-of-a–." The Virginian's reaction follows:

The Virginian's pistol came out, and his hand lay on the table, holding it unaimed. And with a voice as gentle as ever, the voice that sounded almost like a caress, but drawling a very little more than usual, so that there was almost a space between each word, he issued his orders to the man Trampas:–
"When you call me that, smile!"