“I wouldn’t miss such an opportunity for anything,” declared Bartley, yet he was looking at Dorothy when he spoke.
ALONG THE FOOTHILLS
Bartley, enjoying his after-dinner smoke, felt that he wanted to know more about the girl who had invited him to call at the Lawrence ranch again. He told himself that he wanted to study her; to find out her preferences, her ideals, her attitude toward life, and how the thought of always living in the San Andreas Valley, shut away from the world, appealed to her.
With the unconscious intolerance of the city-bred man, he did not realize that her world was quite as interesting to her as his world was to him. Manlike, he also failed to realize that Dorothy was studying him quite as much as he was studying her. While he did not feel in the least superior, he did feel that he was more worldly-wise than this young woman whose horizon was bounded by the hills edging the San Andreas Valley.
True, she seemed to have read much, for one as isolated as she, and she had evidently appreciated what she had read. And then there was something about her that interested him, aside from her good looks. He had known many girls far more beautiful. It was not her manner, which was a bit constrained, at times. Her charm for him was indefinable. Somehow, she seemed different from other girls he had met. Bartley was himself responsible for this romantic hallucination. He saw her with eyes hungry for the sympathetic companionship of youth, especially feminine youth, for he could talk with her seriously about things which the genial Cheyenne could hardly appreciate.
In other words, Bartley, whose aim was to isolate himself from convention, was unconsciously hungry for the very conventions he thought he was fleeing from. And in a measure, Dorothy Gray represented the life he had left behind. Had she been a boy, Bartley would have enjoyed talking with her—or him; but she was a girl, and, concluded Bartley, just the type of girl for the heroine of a Western romance. Bartley’s egoism would not allow him to admit that their tentative friendship could become anything more than friendship. And it was upon that understanding with himself that he saddled up, next morning,—why the hurry, with a week to spend in San Andreas,—and set out for the Lawrence ranch, to call on Aunt Jane.
Purposely he timed his arrival to follow the dinner hour—dinner was at noon in the ranch country—and was mildly lectured by Aunt Jane for not arriving earlier. Uncle Frank was at the lower end of the ranch, superintending the irrigating. Little Jim was on the veranda, needlessly cleaning his new rifle, preparatory to a rabbit hunt that afternoon. Bartley was at once invited to participate in the hunt, and he could think of no reason to decline. Dorothy, however, was not at the ranch.
Little Jim scrubbed his rifle with an oily rag, and scowled. “Got both hosses saddled, and lots of ca’tridges—and Dorry ain’t here yet! She promised to be here right after dinner.”