It had happened so quickly that Bartley hardly realized what had happened. Panhandle was on the floor, literally down and out. Bartley was surprised that such an apparently light tap on the head should put a man out.
“Get him out of here,” said Tom, the proprietor. “I don’t want any rough stuff in here. And if I were in your boots, Cheyenne, I’d leave town for a while.”
“I’m leavin’ to-morrow mornin’.” Cheyenne was coolly counting his winnings.
Wishful, the silent, doused a glass of water in Panhandle’s face. Presently Panhandle was revived and helped from the saloon. His former attitude of belligerency had entirely evaporated. Wishful followed him to the hitch-rail and saw him mount his horse.
“Your best bet is to fan it back where you come from, and stay there,” said Wishful softly. “You don’t belong in this town, and you can’t go slappin’ any of my guests in the face and get away with it. And when you git so you can think it over, just figure that if I hadn’t ‘a’ slowed you down, Cheyenne would ‘a’ killed you.”
Panhandle did not feel like discussing the question just then. He left without even turning to glance back. If he had glanced back, he would have seen that Wishful had disappeared. Wishful, familiar with the ways of Panhandle and his kind, immediately sought the shadows, leaving the lighted doorway a blank. He entered the saloon from the rear.
Cheyenne was endeavoring to make Bartley take half of the winnings. “You staked me—and it’s fifty-fifty, pardner,” insisted Cheyenne.
Finally Bartley accepted his share of the money and stuffed it into his pocket.
“Now I can get back at you,” stated Cheyenne, gesturing toward the bar.
His gesture included both Wishful and Bartley. Bartley, a bit shaken, accepted the invitation. Wishful, not at all shaken, but rather a bit more silent and melancholy than heretofore, also accepted.
Alone in his room at the hotel, Bartley wondered what would have happened if Wishful had not rapped Panhandle on the head. Bartley recalled the fact that he had drawn back his arm, intending to take one good punch at Panhandle, even if it were his last. But Panhandle had crumpled down suddenly, silently, and Wishful had stood over him, gazing down speculatively and swinging his gun back and forth before he returned it to the holster. “They move quick, in this country,” thought Bartley. “And speaking of material for a story—” Then he smiled.
Somewhere out on the mesa Cheyenne had spread his bed-roll and was no doubt sleeping peacefully. Bartley shook his head. He had been in Antelope but two days and yet it seemed that months had passed since he had stepped from the westbound train to telegraph to his friend in California. Incidentally, he decided to purchase an automatic pistol.