muttering the while

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Stephen Schmidt

Senior Member
Hi everyone,
From the Iron Marshal novel by Louis L'Amour:

Shanaghy was sleeping in a train gondola, then came a railroad detective
who threatened-with his gun-that he'd shot him if he didn't get off of the moving train.
And then he dropped himself and hit the ground and got to his feet.

He dug sand from his eyes and ears, muttering the while,
and then he looked slowly around.
What does "muttering the while" mean? Does it mean muttering for a while?
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