Occasionally Aunt Jane gave a dance at her home. The young folks of the valley came, had a jolly time, and departed, some of them on horseback, some in buckboards, and one or two of the more well-to-do in that small but aggressive vehicle which has since become a universal odor in the nostrils of the world.
Little Jim detested these functions which entailed his best clothes and his best behavior. He did not like girls, and looked down with scorn upon young men who showed any preference for the sex feminine. He made but two exceptions to this hard-baked rule: his Aunt Jane, and her young friend who lived on the neighboring ranch, Dorothy. Little Jim called her Dorry because it sounded like a boy’s name. And he liked Dorry because she could ride, and shoot with a twenty-two rifle almost as well as he could. Then, she didn’t have a beau, which was the main thing. Once he told her frankly that if she ever got a beau, he—Jimmy—was going to quit.
“Quit what?” asked Dorothy, smiling.
Little Jim did not know just what he was going to quit, but he had imagination.
“Why, quit takin’ you out huntin’ and campin’ and showin’ you how to tell deer tracks from goat’s tracks—and everything.”
“But I have a beau,” said Dorothy teasingly.
“Who is he?” demanded Little Jim.
“Promise you won’t tell?”
Little Jim hesitated. He did not consider it quite the thing to promise a girl anything. But he was curious. “Uh-huh,” he said.
“Jimmy Hastings!” said Dorothy, laughing at his expression.
“That ain’t fair!” blurted Little Jim. “I ain’t nobody’s beau. Shucks! Now you gone and spoiled all the fun.”
“I was only teasing you, Jimmy.” And she patted Little Jim’s tousled head. He wriggled away and smoothed down his hair.
“I can beat you shootin’ at tin cans,” he said suddenly, to change the subject.
Shooting at tin cans was much more interesting than talking about beaux.
“I have to help Aunt Jane get supper,” said Dorothy, who had been invited to stay for supper that evening. In fact, she was often at the Hastings ranch, a more than welcome guest.
Jimmy scowled. Dorry was always helping Aunt Jane make dresses or trim hats, or get supper. A few minutes later Little Jim was out back of the barn, scowling over the sights of his twenty-two at a tomato can a few yards away. He fired and punctured the can.
“Plumb center!” he exclaimed. “You think you’re her beau, do you? Well, that’s what you get. And if I see you around this here ranch, just even lookin’ at her, I’ll plug you again.” Jimmy was romancing, with the recently discussed subject of beaux in mind.
When Little Jim informed the household that his father and another man were coming over, that evening, Uncle Frank asked who the other man was. Little Jim described Bartley and told about the wonderful Luger gun.