A MINUTE TOO LATE
The Overland, westbound, was late. Nevertheless, it had to stop at Antelope, but it did so grudgingly and left with a snort of disdain for the cow-town of the high mesa. Curious-eyed tourists had a brief glimpse of a loading-chute, cattle-pens, a puncher or two, and an Indian freighter’s wagon just pulling in from the spaces, and accompanied by a plodding cavalcade of outriders on paint ponies.
Incidentally the westbound left one of those momentarily interested Easterners on the station platform, without baggage, sense of direction, or companion. He had stepped off the train to send a telegram to a friend in California. He discovered that he had left his address book in his grip. Meanwhile the train had moved forward some sixty yards, to take water. Returning for his address book, he boarded the wrong Pullman, realized his mistake, and hastened on through to his car. Out to the station again—delay in getting the attention of the telegraph operator, the wire finally written—and the Easterner heard the rumble of the train as it pulled out.
Even then he would have made it had it not been for a portly individual in shirt-sleeves who inadvertently blocked the doorway of the telegraph office. Bartley bumped into this portly person, tried to squeeze past, did so, and promptly caromed off the station agent whom he met head on, halfway across the platform. Gazing at the departing train, Bartley reached in his pocket for a cigar which he lighted casually.
The portly individual touched him on the shoulder. “’Nother one, this afternoon.”
“Thanks. But my baggage is on that one.”
“You’re lucky it ain’t two sections behind, this time of year. Travel is heavy.”
Bartley’s quick glance took in the big man from his high-heeled boots to his black Stetson. A cattleman, evidently well to do, and quite evidently not flustered by the mishaps of other folks.
“There’s a right comfortable little hotel, just over there,” stated the cattleman. “Wishful runs her. It ain’t a bad place to wait for your train.”
Bartley smiled in spite of his irritation.
The cattleman’s eyes twinkled. “You’ll be sending a wire to have ’em take care of your war bag. Well, come on in and send her. You can catch Number Eight about Winslow.”
The cattleman forged ahead, and in the telegraph office, got the immediate attention of the operator, who took Bartley’s message.
The cattleman paid for it. “’Tain’t the first time my size has cost me money,” he said, as Bartley protested. “Now, let’s go over and get another cigar. Then we can mill around and see Wishful. You’ll like Wishful. He’s different.”
They strode down the street and stopped in at a saloon where the cattleman called for cigars. Bartley noticed that the proprietor of the place addressed the big cattleman as “Senator.”