She took his words as a direct rebuff. There was a little lump in her throat that she had to get rid of before she spoke again.
“Sorry. Perhaps some other time.” Joyce gave him her hand. “I’m mighty glad to have seen you again, Mr. Sanders.”
He bowed. “Thank you.”
After she had gone, Dave turned swiftly to his friend. “Where’s the nearest doctor’s office? Miller got me in the shoulder.”
“I’ll take off my hat to Dave,” said Hart warmly. “He’s chain lightnin’. I never did see anything like the way he took that street in two jumps. And game? Did you ever hear tell of an unarmed man chargin’ a guy with a gun spittin’ at him?”
“I always knew he had sand in his craw. What does Doc Green say?” asked Crawford, lighting a corncob pipe.
“Says nothin’ to worry about. A flesh wound in the shoulder. Ought to heal up in a few days.”
Miss Joyce speaking, with an indignant tremor of the voice: “It was the most cowardly thing I ever saw. He was unarmed, and he hadn’t lifted a finger when that ruffian began to shoot. I was sure he would be ... killed.”
“He’ll take a heap o’ killin’, that boy,” her father reassured. “In a way it’s a good thing this happened now. His enemies have showed their hand. They tried to gun him, before witnesses, while he was unarmed. Whatever happens now, Dave’s got public sentiment on his side. I’m always glad to have my enemy declare himself. Then I can take measures.”
“What measures can Dave take?” asked Joyce.
A faint, grim smile flitted across the old cattleman’s face. “Well, one measure he’ll take pronto will be a good six-shooter on his hip. One I’ll take will be to send Miller back to the pen, where he belongs, soon as I can get court action. He’s out on parole, like Dave is. All the State has got to do is to reach out and haul him back again.”
“If it can find him,” added Bob dryly. “I’ll bet it can’t. He’s headed for the hills or the border right now.”
Crawford rose. “Well, I’ll run down with you to his room and see the boy, Bob. Wisht he would come up and stay with us. Maybe he will.”
To the cattleman Dave made light of his wound. He would be all right in a few days, he said. It was only a scratch.
“Tha’s good, son,” Crawford answered. “Well, now, what are you aimin’ to do? I got a job for you on the ranch if tha’s what you want. Or I can use you in the oil business. It’s for you to say which.”
“Oil,” said Dave without a moment of hesitation. “I want to learn that business from the ground up. I’ve been reading all I could get on the subject.”
“Good enough, but don’t you go to playin’ geology too strong, Dave. Oil is where it’s at. The formation don’t amount to a damn. You’ll find it where you find it.”