“A little. But I can walk without help, thank you. Little Jim is down there, stalking rabbits.”
At the spring Bartley knelt and washed the blood from his face and felt tenderly of his half closed eye, twisted his neck round and felt a sharp click—and then his head became clearer. His light shirt was half-torn from his shoulders, and he was scandalously mussed up, to put it mildly. He got to his feet and faced Dorothy.
“There’s a formula for this sort of thing, in books,” he said. “Just now I can’t recall it. First, however, you say you’re ‘all right,’ if you are alive. If you are not, it doesn’t matter. Then you say, ’a mere scratch!’ But I’m certain of one thing. I never needed a heroine more than I did when you arrived.”
Dorothy smiled in spite of herself. “You aren’t pretending, are you? I mean—about your condition?”
“I should say not. My eye is closed. My right arm won’t work, and my head feels queer—and I am not hungry. But my soul goes marching on.”
“Then we’ll have to find Jimmy. It’s getting late.”
“GIT ALONG CAYUSE”
It was dark when Bartley arrived at his hotel in San Andreas. Not caring to parade his black eye and his swollen mouth, he took his evening meal at a little Mexican restaurant, and then went back to his room, where he spent the evening adding a few more pertinent notes to his story; notes that were fresh in his mind. He knew what it felt like to take a good licking. In fact, the man is unfortunate who does not. Bartley thought he could write effectively upon the subject.
He had found Dorothy’s quiet sympathy rather soothing. She had made no fuss whatever about the matter. And she had not insisted that he stop at the ranch and get doctored up. Little Jim had promptly asked Bartley, “Who done it?” and Bartley had told him. Little Jim asked more questions and was silenced only by a promise from Dorothy to buy him more cartridges. “That is, if you promise not to say anything about it to Aunt Jane or Uncle Frank,” she stipulated. Little Jim gravely shook hands upon the agreement. Dorothy knew that he would keep his word.
This agreement had been made after Bartley had left them. Dorothy had sworn Little Jim to silence, not so much on Bartley’s account as on her own. Should the news of the fight become public, there would be much bucolic comment, wherein her name would be mentioned and the whole affair interpreted to suit the crude imaginings of the community. Bartley also realized this and, because of it, stuck close to his room for two days, meanwhile making copious notes for the new story.
But the making of notes for the story was a rather tame occupation compared with the possibilities of actual adventure on the road. He had a good saddle-horse, plenty of optimism, and enough money to pay his way wherever he chose to go. Incidentally he had a notebook and pencil. What more did a man need to make life worth while?