“Was Miss Dorry going with you?”
Jimmy nodded. “You bet! She’s goin’ to take my old twenty-two. It’s only a single-shot,” added Jimmy scornfully. “But it’s good enough for a girl.”
“Isn’t it early to hunt rabbits?” queried Bartley.
“Sure! But we got to get there, clear over to the flats. If Dorry don’t come as soon as I get this gun cleaned, I’m goin’ anyhow.”
But Dorothy appeared before Jimmy could carry out his threat of leaving without her. Jimmy, mounted on his pony, fretted to be gone, while Dorothy chatted a minute or so with Aunt Jane and Bartley. Finally they rode off, with Jimmy in the lead, explaining that there would be no rabbits on the flat until at least five o’clock, and in the meantime they would ride over to the spring and pretend they were starving. That is, Dorothy and Bartley were to pretend they were starving, while Jimmy scouted for meat and incidentally shot a couple of Indians and returned with a noble buck deer hanging across the saddle.
It was hot and they rode slowly. Far ahead, in the dim southern distances, lay the hills that walled the San Andreas Valley from the desert.
Dorothy noticed that Bartley gazed intently at those hills. “Cheyenne?” she queried, smiling.
“I beg your pardon. I was dreaming. Yes, I was thinking of him, and—” Bartley gestured toward Little Jim.
“Then you know?”
“Cheyenne told me, night before last, in San Andreas.”
“Of course, Jimmy is far better off right where he is,” asserted Dorothy, although Bartley had said nothing. “I don’t think Cheyenne will ever settle down. At least, not so long as that man Sears is alive. Of course, if anything happens to Sears—”
Dorothy was interrupted by Little Jim, who turned in the saddle to address her. “Say, Dorry, if you keep on talkin’ out loud, the Injuns is like to jump us! Scoutin’ parties don’t keep talkin’ when they’re on the trail.”
“Don’t be silly, Jimmy,” laughed Dorothy.
“Well, they used to be Injuns in these hills, once.”
“We’ll behave,” said Bartley. “But can’t we ride toward the foothills and get in the shade?”
“You just follow me,” said Little Jim. “I know this country.”
It was Little Jim’s day. It was his hunt. Dorothy and Bartley were merely his guests. He had allowed them to come with him—possibly because he wanted an audience. Presently Little Jim reined his horse to the left and rode up a dim trail among the boulders. By an exceedingly devious route he led the way to the spring, meanwhile playing the scout with intense concentration on some cattle tracks which were at least a month old. Bartley recognized the spot. Cheyenne and he had camped there upon their quest for the stolen horses. Little Jim assured his charges that all was safe, and he suggested that they “light down and rest a spell.”
The contrasting coolness of the shade was inviting. Jimmy explained that there would be no rabbits visible until toward evening. Below and beyond them stretched the valley floor, shimmering in the sun. Behind them the hills rose and dipped, rose and dipped again, finally reaching up to the long slope of the mother range. Far above a thin, dark line of timber showed against the eastern sky.