“I think I’ll step over to the drug-store and get a few things,” said Bartley.
“So you figure to bed down at the hotel, eh?”
“Yes. For a few days, at least. I want to get over the idea that I have to take the next train West before I make any further plans.”
The Senator accompanied Bartley to the drug-store. The Easterner bought what he needed in the way of shaving-kit and brush and comb. The Senator excused himself and crossed the street to talk to a friend. The afternoon sun slanted across the hot roofs, painting black shadows on the dusty street. Bartley found Wishful, the proprietor, and told him that he would like to engage a room with a bath.
Wishful smiled never a smile as he escorted Bartley to a room.
“I’ll fetch your bath up, right soon,” he said solemnly.
Presently Wishful appeared with a galvanized iron washtub and a kettle of boiling water. Bartley thanked him.
“You can leave ’em out in the hall when you’re through,” said Wishful.
Bartley enjoyed a refreshing bath and rub-down. Later he set the kettle and tub out in the dim hallway. Then he sat down and wrote a letter to his friend in California, explaining his change of plan. The afternoon sunlight waned. Bartley gazed out across the vast mesas, lavender-hued and wonderful, as they darkened to blue, then to purple that was shot with strange half-lights from the descending sun.
Suddenly a giant hand seemed to drop a canopy over the vista, and it was night. Bartley lighted the oil lamp and sat staring out into the darkness. From below came the rattle of dishes. Presently Bartley heard heavy, deliberate footsteps ascending the stairway. Then a clanging crash and a thud, right outside his door. He flung the door open. Senator Steve was rising from the flattened semblance of a washtub and feeling of himself tenderly. The Senator blinked, surveyed the wrecked tub and the kettle silently, and then without comment he stepped back and kicked the kettle. It soared and dropped clanging into the hall below.
Wishful appeared at the foot of the stairs. “Did you ring, Senator?”
“Yes, I did! And I’m goin’ to ring again.”
“Hold on!” said Wishful, “I’ll come up and get the tub. I got the kettle.”
The Senator puffed into Bartley’s room and sat on the edge of the bed. He wiped his bald head, smiling cherubically. “Did you hear him, askin’ me, a member of the Society for the Prevention of Progress, if I rang for him! That’s about all the respect I command in this community. I sure want to apologize for not stoppin’ to knock,” added the Senator.
Bartley grinned. “It was hardly necessary. I heard you.”
“I just came up to see if you would take dinner with me and my missus. We’re goin’ to eat right soon. You see, my missus never met up with a real, live author.”
“Thanks, Senator. I’ll be glad to meet your family. But suppose you forget that author stuff and just take me as a tenderfoot out to see the sights. I’ll like it better.”