Meanwhile, downstairs, the cowboy, span class="inline-character">Johnnie, and the Easterner are speculating on the reasons behind the Swede's strange behavior. The cowboy thinks, based on the Swede's accent, that he is actually a Dutchman. The Easterner says that he can't determine the Swede's background but is quite sure that his behavior comes from his fear of being killed in the West. The Easterner thinks the fear likely comes from reading violent dime novels, which makes the cowboy “deeply scandalized”—“this ain’t Wyoming, ner none of them places. This is Nebrasker.” The Easterner laughs, saying that the Swede must think he’s “right in the middle of hell,” while the cowboy comments that he hopes they don’t get snowed in with such a strange man.
Johnnie, the cowboy, and the Easterner bond over their shared confusion and concern over the Swede's behavior, connecting them to each other at the same time they alienate the Swede. The Swede's ignorance about the realities of life in Nebraska is the cause of his fear, and the reason that he has alienated himself from the others in the group.
Scully and the Swede come downstairs boisterously, as if they are now friends. The other men are confused by the sudden change in the Swede's behavior. Scully demands that the men make room around the fire for the Swede, who begins talking loudly and arrogantly. The others sit in stunned silence—except for Scully, who appears as hospitable and eager as ever. However, when the Swede gets up to get himself a drink of water, Scully leans over the table to the other men and says that upstairs the Swede thought Scully was trying to poison him. Johnnie urges his father to throw the Swede out into the snow, but Scully insists that the Swede is just afraid, and that he is “okay now.” The other men nod at the Easterner, who they believe was right in his assumptions about the Swede acting out of fear. Johnnie remains skeptical, saying the Swede was now acting “too fresh.”
The Swede again tries to hide his vulnerability and fear behind a veil of confident boisterousness, which only serves to alienate him further from the other hotel guests—who are growing weary of the Swede’s strange behavior. Despite Scully’s hospitality, it is clear that he, too, is confused and unnerved by the Swede. Johnnie is clearest in his distrust of the Swede in this scene, foreshadowing his impending violent confrontation with the man.
Scully gives a short speech about how, as a hotel keeper, his hospitality is the most important part of his character, and that “no guest” would be turned away because they were “too afraid” to stay under his roof. As such, he says, he cannot throw the Swede out of the hotel. The cowboy and the Easterner agree with him.
Scully's speech makes it clear that his reputation is more important to him than are the clear signs that tensions are building in his hotel. This suggests his own culpability in the violence to come.