“Now for that rifle,” said Bartley.
Little Jim, itching all over to get hold of that new and shining weapon, squirmed as Hodges took it from the window and handed it to Bartley. Bartley examined it and passed it over to Little Jim.
“Is that the kind you wanted?” he asked.
“This is her! Twenty-two, long or short, genuwine repeater.” Jimmy pretended to read the tags tied to the trigger guard. “Yep! This is her.”
“And some cartridges,” suggested Bartley.
“How many?” queried the storekeeper.
“All you got,” said Little Jim.
But Bartley’s good nature was not to be imposed upon to that extent. “Give us five boxes, Mr. Hodges.”
“That cleans me out of twenty-twos,” declared Hodges.
Jimmy grinned triumphantly. Dorothy had come in and was viewing the purchase with some apprehension. She knew Little Jim.
Bearing the rifle proudly, Jimmy marched from the store. Dorothy and Bartley followed him, and Bartley briefly outlined Cheyenne’s recent sprightly exodus from San Andreas.
“I heard about it, from Mr. Hodges,” said Dorothy. “And I also noticed that you have hurt your hand.”
Bartley glanced at his right hand—and then at Dorothy, who was gazing at him curiously. It had become common news in town that Cheyenne Hastings and the Easterner had engaged in a free-for-all fight with the Sneed outfit, and that two of the Sneed boys were laid up for repairs. That was Mr. Hodges’ version.
“I also heard that you had left town,” said Dorothy.
Bartley’s egoism was slightly deflated. Then Dorothy had come to town to buy a few trinkets, and not to find out how it fared with him.
“We have to get back before dark,” she declared.
“And you got to drive,” said Little Jim. “I want to try my new gun!”
“Did you thank Mr. Bartley for the gun?”
Little Jim admitted that he had forgotten to do so. He stuck out his small hand. “Thanks, pardner,” he said heartily.
Bartley laughed and patted Jimmy’s shoulder—something that Jimmy utterly detested, but suffered nobly, under the circumstances.
“You earned that gun—and thank you for fetching Miss Dorry to town.”
“Huh! I didn’t fetch her. She fetched me. Uncle Frank was comin’, but Dorry said she just had to get some things—”
“Jimmy, please don’t point that gun at the horses.”
Bartley felt better. He didn’t know just why he felt better. Yet he felt more than grateful to Little Jim.
Nevertheless, Dorothy met Bartley’s eyes frankly as he said farewell. “I hope you will find time to ride over to the ranch,” she said. “I’m sure Aunt Jane would be glad to see you.”
“Thanks. Say, day after to-morrow?”
“Oh, it doesn’t matter. Aunt Jane is nearly always at home.”
“And I got lots of ca’tridges,” chirruped Little Jim. “We can shoot all day.”