“Oh, very well,” said Bartley, smiling in spite of himself.
That noon they stopped at a ranch where Bartley had dinner and fed his horse. Cheyenne had passed that way several days ago, the ranch folk told him. It was about twenty miles to the next town. Bartley was invited to stop by and spend the night, but he declined the invitation, even as they had declined to accept money for their hospitality. Meanwhile the dog had disappeared. He had not followed Bartley into the ranch. And it was some twenty minutes or so after Bartley was on the road again that he discovered the dog, coming round a bend on the run. There was no getting rid of him.
The dog, who had often been chased from ranches by other dogs, had at first waited patiently for Bartley to appear. Then, as Bartley did not appear, the dog made a short scout through the near-by brush. Finally he stirred up a rabbit. It was a long, hard chase, but the dog got his dinner. Then, circling, he took up Bartley’s trail from the ranch, overtaking him with grim determination not to lose sight of him again.
Arriving at the town of Stacey early that afternoon, Bartley arranged with the local liveryman for the dog’s keep that night. From that night on, the dog never let Dobe out of his sight. It was evidently intended that he should sleep in stalls and guard Dobe against the approach of any one save his master.
Bartley learned that Cheyenne had passed through Stacey headed south. He had stopped at the local store to purchase provisions. Estimating roughly, Bartley was making better time than had Cheyenne, yet it would be several days before he could possibly overtake him.
Next day Bartley had ridden better than forty miles, and that night he stayed at a ranch, where he was made welcome. In fact, any one who rode a good horse and appeared to be even halfway civil never suffered for want of a meal or a bed in those days. Gasoline has somewhat diluted such hospitality, yet there are sections of Arizona still unspoiled, where the stranger is made to feel that the word “home” has retained its ancient and honorable significance.
A few days later, Bartley stopped at a small town to have his horse shod. The blacksmith seemed unusually interested in the horse and complimented Bartley upon owning such a good mount.
“Comes from up San Andreas way,” said the smith, noticing the brand on Dobe’s flank.
“Yes. I picked him up at Antelope. I understand he was raised on Senator Brown’s ranch.”
“That’s Steve Brown’s brand, all right. Heard the news from up that way?”
“Seems somebody run off a bunch of Senator Steve’s horses, last week. Thought mebby you’d heard.”
“Well, thought I’d just tell you. I seen one posse ride through yesterday. They’ll be lookin’ for strangers along the road.”