The Young Trail Hunters
Samuel Woodworth Cozzens
Part 2 out of 4
giving us much useful information upon the subject, which I will endeavor
to repeat for the benefit of my young readers, some of whom may one day
be placed like Hal and Ned in a position where they will find it, not
merely a matter of entertainment, but exceedingly useful; for trailing is
as much an art as is painting or sculpture, and requires the most
constant practice to become a proficient in it.
Having filled and lighted his pipe, old Jerry began as follows:--
"There ain't no rules, boys, that anybody kin give yer. You must have a
sharp eye, a fine ear, and a still tongue;--these make your principal
stock in trade."
But I do not propose to follow old Jerry _verbatim_ in his long talk
with the boys, but shall give you merely the substance of his remarks;
and here let me add, that, in addition to the above requirements, a
successful trailer should possess quick perception, fertile resources,
and great presence of mind.
Almost any scout knows, that, in order to overtake a party of Indians who
have stampeded his stock the night previous, he should travel slowly at
the first, and follow persistantly at a moderate pace, giving his animals
the night to rest in, and starting at daybreak in the morning. By
following this course he is pretty certain of overtaking the party on the
third day, especially if they do not suspect pursuit. Then comes the time
when the services of an experienced trailer are requisite to tell you the
number and condition of the enemy, and how many hours have elapsed since
they passed a given point; for it is necessary to remain concealed after
you ascertain these facts, until you decide upon the manner of attack;
for, if Indians suspect pursuit, they always scatter, and it is
impossible to overtake them.
One can easily tell from the appearance of a trail, if it be made by a
war-party or not, because there are no Indians who take their families
along when starting on the war-path; consequently, they never carry their
lodge-poles with them, which are always fastened to the sides of the
animals, and the ends permitted to drag on the ground behind. If there
should be no trace of these, it is safe to regard it as a war-party.
It is always easy to distinguish the track of an Indian pony from that
made by a white man's horse; for the former will be much smaller, and
bear no impression of a shoe.
One of the most difficult things to accomplish in trailing is to learn to
correctly ascertain the age of a trail.
If a track is very fresh, it will show moisture when the earth is turned
up, which in a few hours becomes dry. If in the sand, little particles
will be found running into the impression left in the ground. Should rain
have fallen since the track was made, the sharp edges will have been
washed away. The condition of the ordure also furnishes an indication.
I once employed as scout, a Mexican, who could tell by a single glance at
a trail, by what tribe it had been made, their number, its age, and in
fact every particular concerning the party, as truthfully as though he
had seen them.
We were one time following an Apache trail, when we came to a ledge of
bare rock. I examined it carefully, and could detect no mark of any kind;
but the Mexican led us across as easily as though it had been a beaten
path, without even once hesitating a moment, during the two miles over
which it extended.
When I asked him what he saw that indicated the course of the trail, he
showed me that the surface of the rock was covered with a very fine, dry
moss, that, with the closest scrutiny, bore evidence of having been
pressed by the foot: so slight was the impression made, it would have
escaped the notice of ninety-nine out of every hundred persons; yet his
keen eyes detected every footprint as plainly as though it had been made
in the grass.
If a trail is for any reason lost, an expert will easily recover it by
following for a time its general direction and watching the formation of
the land; for all trails are made over the highest portions, thereby
affording a view of the entire country through which they pass.
In the grass, a trail can be seen for a long time: the blades will be
trodden down and bent in the direction followed by the party; and, even
after it has recovered its natural position, a good trailer will have no
difficulty in following it; for his keen eye will detect a slight
difference in the color of the grass that has been stepped on from that
growing around it.
So, also, the appearance of the tracks will at once show him the gait at
which the party were travelling, and he thus knows how to regulate his
pace so as to overtake them.
It is exceedingly rare to find a white person that can retrace his steps
for any distance in an open country; while an Indian is always able to do
it. No matter how circuitous may be the route by which you may have
reached a certain locality, an Indian will find his way back to the place
of starting by the most direct route, though it be in the darkest night;
and, if you ask him how he does it, if he replies to your question at
all, he will simply shrug his shoulders and say, "_Quien sabe?_" or
No matter how agreeable he may be about camp; on the road he never
speaks, except it should be necessary to give some direction or order.
Thus it will be seen, that he who would become a skilful trailer, must of
necessity be an observer, as well as thinker; and remember, boys, that he
who talks most, generally thinks the least.
On the evening of the second day after the incidents narrated in the
previous chapter, we encamped on the banks of the San Pedro, with wood,
water, and grass in abundance; in fact, using the words of Hal:
"Everything to make us comfortable, but fresh meat; and meat we must
have. Let's go out and get some. We shall be sure to find a deer or
antelope in this beautiful bottom."
"What say you, Jerry, shall we try it?" inquired I.
"I reckon so. We've got plenty of time before night, and I 'spect I may
as well go and show you how ter hunt 'em; 'cause yer won't git none
unless I go 'long with yer, that's sartin."
"Well, we'll see what we get if you do go along," responded Hal; "so come
Mounting our horses, Jerry, Hal, Ned, and myself set out in pursuit of
antelope, whose tracks could be seen in all directions about us.
We had ridden two or three miles without starting game of any kind, when
Jerry, who was a short distance in advance of us, suddenly dismounted,
and began studying the ground attentively.
"Hilloa!" exclaimed Ned, "Jerry's struck something."
As we rode up to him, he said,--
"Wal, boys, here's game, sartin sure."
"What is it, Jerry?" inquired Hal.
"What is it? Why, a fresh Comanche trail; and 'tain't no war party,
neither, for they've got their lodges with 'em."
"How do you know that?" inquired Ned."
"How do you know you're settin' on that horse?" asked Jerry. "Why, I know
one just ez well ez you know t'other. Can't you see whar the ends of the
poles dragged in the dirt behind 'em. Anybody could see that, I should
"How old is the trail, Jerry?" inquired I.
"That trail waz made afore eight o'clock this mornin'," was the answer.
"Before eight o'clock," sneered Hal. "Why don't you say that the
Comanches passed this spot at precisely seventeen minutes past six
o'clock this morning? You might just as well be particular, Jerry."
"Come, Jerry, tell us how you know when the Indians passed?" said I.
"Sartin I will," he good-humoredly replied. "Yer see we hed a purty hevy
dew last night, but the sun waz up so high that the grass waz all dry at
eight o'clock. Wall, now, if you'll look you'll see, that where the grass
was pressed down by the horses' feet into the earth, a little of the sand
stuck to it, (coz it waz damp), that has dried on since. Now if the trail
bed been made after eight o'clock, when the grass was dry, why, it
wouldn't stick eny more than it does now."
"A very satisfactory explanation," said I.
"Now what I propose is," continued Jerry, "thet we just foller the trail,
and we'll strike something afore many hours, ez sure's my name's Jerry
"But we may get into trouble," urged I.
"Ther ain't no danger. It's a party of squaws and pappooses, I reckon,
coz yer see ther ain't more'n four horses with 'em."
"I'm agreed," said I, and away we galloped over the beautiful green
prairie; but, before we had gone a mile, a fine large herd of antelope
appeared, quietly grazing upon a knoll at a little distance, who, when
they saw us, stood for an instant curiously regarding us, and then
trotted leisurely away.
"They're kinder wild, I reckon," said Jerry. "These Injuns must hev bin
huntin' 'em, and we might chase 'em all day without gittin' a shot. So
we'll just tie our horses in thet chaparral down there, out of sight, and
then we'll call 'em up."
We dismounted, and securing our horses, followed Jerry. He removed the
ramrod from his rifle, and tied to one end of it an old-fashioned, red
bandana handkerchief. This done, he planted the other end firmly in the
ground, leaving the flag to flutter in the breeze.
"Now, boys, you just lie down here, in the tall grass, so thet the
critters won't see yer, and wait awhile."
Following Jerry's instructions, we placed ourselves in the tall grass,
and lying still awaited the result of the experiment.
"Yer see," continued he, talking in a low tone of voice, "antelope's the
most curious critters in the world, 'ceptin' women. Jist ez soon ez they
see thet red flag, they'll want to know what it means, and they won't
rest easy till they find out, either."
And, sure enough, in a few moments we saw the graceful creatures, one
after another, turn and attentively look at the signal. Then they slowly
walked towards it. Then came a pause and a nibble of grass, and again, as
though they could not resist the desire to ascertain what this singular
thing fluttering in the breeze was, they hesitatingly came still nearer,
as though they feared some hidden danger. In this way they soon
approached within easy range, and we shot five with our revolvers.
"There," said Jerry, as the remainder of the herd finally galloped away
over the plain, "you boys see what curiosity does. Yer kin allers fetch
'em with a red hankercher, and gin'rally by jist layin' down on yer back,
and holdin' up yer feet. They're awful curious critters, them antelopes
is. I reckon we'd better quit this trail, and git them air carcasses
inter camp. What d'yer say, youngsters?"
"I declare, I forgot to fire at all!" exclaimed Ned. "I never once
thought of my pistol."
"Ha! ha! ha!" roared Jerry. "You've got the 'buck-fever' my boy. I might
a knowed you wouldn't a fired; no, nor you, neither," continued he,
turning towards Hal.
"But I did fire twice, though," said Hal.
"Le'me see yer pistol, youngster," said Jerry; after examining it, he
again burst into a loud laugh.
"Jest as I 'spected! Every barr'l loaded. Yer see you was so 'cited that
yer forgot all about firin'. You thought yer did, I s'pose; but don't be
too sartin next time, 'cause the fever allers takes what little sense a
feller's got, when it strikes him."
The antelope were soon dressed; but Hal's chagrin was so great at the
thought of being so cleverly detected by Jerry's shrewdness, that I
attempted to comfort him by promising to relate my own misfortunes upon
experiencing my first attack. After supper, and while we were smoking our
pipes, the boys claimed the fulfilment of my promise.
I only hope that the narrative may prove as interesting to my young
readers, as it did to Hal and Ned, who heard the story with roars of
laughter at my blunders.
Well, boys, I was once passing through the Sacramento range of mountains
in New Mexico, in company with an old trapper and hunter, named Nat Beal.
Nat was a jovial, pleasant companion; and, in truth one of the best
shots I ever saw.
While riding through one of the numerous little valleys with which that
range abounds, we saw at a little distance, a magnificent specimen of a
Now I had always wanted to kill a black-tailed deer, and this was the
first time I had ever seen one, so I begged Nat to let me shoot it.
He said, with a laugh, "Shoot away!" and I took deliberate aim and
"Ha! ha! ha!" roared he, as the fellow bounded away unharmed, "it's as
clear a case of 'buck-fever' as ever I saw."
"Not at all. I aimed too high; that was the only trouble."
"Jest so," replied Nat; "a man with the 'fever' always aims too high."
"I'll bet I won't miss the next one," said I, angry at the imputation.
"I'll bet you will, two to one on it," said Nat. "But it's too late to
get another shot to-night, so we'll wait until to-morrow evening; and, in
the mean time, I'll give you a few idees 'bout deer."
"As soon as the sun had sunk to his rest the next evening, I borrowed
Nat's 'call' and started out."
"What's a 'call'?" inquired Ned.
"A 'call' is a whistle, made from an eagle's bone. It is generally
fancifully carved, and, when sounded, makes a noise that perfectly
resembles that made by a young one in calling its mother. So perfect is
the imitation of the bleating of a fawn, that, when properly sounded, you
will sometimes see half a dozen does, running to see if their young are
"But don't they stay with their little ones?" asked Hal.
"No: they hide them in the tall grass at night. You see a fawn gives out
no scent until after it's a month old, and can run well; but the old one
does, and knowing this she goes off to sleep alone, so that the wolves
and panthers won't be attracted by her scent to the fawn. This she
continues doing until the fawn is able to protect itself by running. In
the fall of the year, therefore, if you select a spot near the foot of a
mountain where the grass is tall and free from bushes, and, between
sundown and dark, conceal yourself in it and sound your call, you are
very apt to get a choice between four or five good fat doe's."
Well, I was determined to get a deer; so I borrowed the 'call,' and
started out. After walking a mile or two, I came to a beautiful stretch
of open prairie, where the tall grass served admirably for concealment.
I lay down upon my belly, and commenced crawling towards a grove of
young cedars, near the base of the mountain.
I very soon discovered that propelling myself along, Indian fashion,
with my elbows, was of itself no small job, especially when obliged to
carry a rifle and keep my head below the level of the grass about me.
I persevered however, and after working like a beaver for nearly an
hour, began to wonder why I did not see any deer, when all at once it
occurred to me, that I hadn't sounded the call; and that made me
remember, that I had forgotton in which pocket I put it.
I endeavored for some time to get hold of it, but was finally obliged to
roll over upon my back before I could fish it out of the depths of my
pantaloons pocket. This was easy enough to do, but to resume my former
position without betraying my presence--ah! that was another thing. I
eventually succeeded in doing it however, and placing the whistle between
my lips, put forth my hand to recover my rifle, when, to my horror and
dismay, I saw, within four feet of my face, a huge rattlesnake.
To say that I got up, don't half express it, boys. I bounded as man
never bounded before, startling deer, fawn, and everything else about me,
but the snake. He didn't seem to care a particle, but retained his
position near the rifle, looking as angry as if he thought me to blame
for jumping; and the worst of it was, there was neither stick nor stone
within sight, that I could get hold of.
I said, "Shoo!" but the snake wouldn't shoo worth a cent. I stamped on
the ground, and said, "Get out!" but he wouldn't move. There he was,
within six inches of my rifle; his long, slender body partially coiled so
that he could easily strike any object approaching; with form erect, and
long forked tongue, darting in and out of his half-opened mouth, as his
flat, ugly head slowly vibrated to and fro like the pendulum of a clock.
It was growing dark too, and I was a long distance from camp, and the
country was full of Mescalero Apaches, and I hadn't even a stick to reach
him with. What could I do?
I bethought myself of my powder-flask, and taking good aim, hurled it
with all the force I could muster. It struck him fairly on the body and
with a rattle of defiance, he sprang towards me, and I--well, I jumped.
I managed to get hold of my rifle, but the snake was gone: he was
somewhere in the grass about me, and I didn't know where; so I concluded
to stand not on the order of my going, but go at once to camp, and go I
did; but, before I was a hundred yards away I remembered that I had left
my powder-flask behind. Nor could I find Nat's whistle anywhere about me,
or even remember what I had done with it. In the surprise occasioned by
my discovery of the snake, I had dropped it.
It was too dark to think of returning to search for it that night;
besides, there was a snake loose in the vicinity that I didn't care to
I knew Nat would laugh at my returning without a deer, but I made up my
mind to endure that, without getting angry; for I felt confident, camp
was the place for me just then.
Nat asked no questions; but after a time, I voluntarily related to him
the mishaps of the afternoon. He laughed heartily, and promised to go
with me in the morning and give me a practical lesson in deer-stalking.
The next day we visited the scene of my discomfiture, which Nat
pronounced a splendid place for stalking, showing me where several fawns
had lain the previous night. We also found the 'call,' just where I
dropped it when I made my jump, which Nat pronounced, equal to any ever
made by a first-class circus-man: in fact, I felt rather proud of it
myself; and when Nat slyly remarked that I was better at jumping than at
hunting, I made up my mind that I would have a deer that night, come what
Sunset came; and telling Nat that I would not return to camp without the
deer, I started for the scene of my former ill luck. I was delighted to
find, that by following Nat's instructions, I was able to move over the
ground much easier than the night before. Still, it was pretty hard work.
But I persevered; and upon reaching the proper place, sounded my call--
once, twice, thrice; and in a short time, saw a fine fat doe coming
directly towards me, apparantly listening for a repetition of the sound.
Once more I used the 'call:' the imitation was perfect. She approached a
little nearer to me, and stopped.
I dropped my head, and once again sounded the 'call,' endeavoring to
give it the quick, impatient tone of the young when in danger.
The effect was perfect. I fairly laughed to myself, to see the doe bound
towards me until she stood within easy rifle range, when she suddenly
stopped again, as though frightened at her own temerity.
I brought my rifle to my shoulder, and was in the act of pulling the
trigger, when a slight rustling in the grass at my right attracted my
attention. Thinking of that snake, I turned my eyes in the direction of
the sound, and saw, to my horror and amazement, not the snake, but a
large panther, not twenty yards away, and creeping stealthily towards me,
with glaring eyes, gleaming white teeth, and ears well laid back upon his
head. For an instant I was dumbfounded; then, recollecting myself, I
turned the rifle and gave him its contents.
The creature made a convulsive leap into the air, and dropped to the
ground--dead; and I--well, I believe I started for camp to tell Nat.
We packed the carcass into camp and while removing the skin, Nat took
occasion to congratulate me, on being able to so perfectly imitate a fawn
as to lure a panther from its lair; advising me however, to give up
deer-stalking until I struck a better streak of luck.
"There boys, you see what the 'buck-fever' did for me. We are all liable
to take it."
"Yes; but you killed the panther," said Hal.
"True; but it was only a piece of luck that might not happen again in a
dozen times, and I didn't kill the deer."
The boys agreed that my story was both amusing and interesting; and as
for old Jerry, he laughed most heartily at my experience, saying that it
reminded him of his first adventure with a bear.
The boys, eager for another story, urged him to relate it then, but Jerry
declined; promising them however, that they should have it the next
Early on the following morning, we once more started on the road; and for
two days, met with no incident worthy of note.
We were now approaching the section of country bordering on the Rio
Pecos, one of the most barren and desolate portions on our whole route.
This stream runs for hundreds of miles through the plains, its course
being marked by the growth of no living green thing: in fact, you do not
know of its presence, until you stand upon its banks.
It is narrow, deep, extremely crooked, and very rapid, while the water is
both salt and bitter. The banks are very steep and there are but few
places throughout its entire length where it can be crossed in safety.
But little grass grows near it, and neither man nor beast can drink the
water with impunity.
Upon reaching the top of a long line of bluffs, towards which we had been
travelling for the last two days, we came in sight of a large wagon-train
encamped, apparantly upon the open plain.
Jerry at once declared it to be Magoffin's; and the boys and myself
volunteered to ride forward and ascertain the cause of their delay.
A brisk canter of a couple of hours brought us to the encampment, which
sure enough, proved to be Magoffin's train, delayed by the high water in
Right glad were we all, to fall in with our old companions once more;
for, aside from the company their presence furnished, we felt infinitely
safer than when travelling alone with our small party.
As soon as Jerry arrived with the wagons, a consultation was held; and it
was decided to go into camp and wait for the water to subside.
"It's high'n I ever see it afore," said Jerry, standing on the brink and
gazing at the turbid, swift current, that almost filled its banks; "and
the mischief is, that when she once gits up, there's no tellin' when
she'll go down. We may hev to lay here two weeks, afore we kin cross."
"Two weeks!" exclaimed I, why we'd better build a boat."
"Ef we hed a lot of empty casks, we might float our wagons over and swim
the mules; but we hain't got 'em, that's sartin."
"I'll tell you what we can do," said Hal; "we can build a raft."
"Yes; or better still, float the things over in one of the wagon-bodies,"
"Well thought of," exclaimed I: "we can at least make the attempt."
We soon had one of the wagons unloaded and on the ground; beneath which
we carefully stretched a couple of the sheets. One of the men was sent
across the stream with a small cord, by which he drew over a rope, to
which was attached a common block, after which the wagon-body was
launched, and pulled across the river in safety. It was then returned and
loaded, reaching the opposite bank without mishap, or leaking a drop.
The wagons were now taken apart; and piece by piece, carried across and
put together; into them, the goods as fast as ferried over, were
reloaded; and at the end of the second day we were ready to swim our
mules. This was accomplished without loss; and thanks to Ned, the day
following we were once more on the road.
I ventured to remind Jerry of his favorite saying regarding boys, but the
old man had no reply to make, save that "Ned was a most 'stonishin' boy.
He'd killed a Injin, and had a wonderful head on him, which was more'n he
could say of t'other one."
In consideration of Ned's valuable services, old Jerry consented that
evening, to relate for his especial benefit, the story of his first
experience in bear hunting, which I shall give as nearly as possible in
the old man's words:--
"Yer see boys, I was bringed up in Tennessee; leastways, I lived thar
till I was nigh onter seventeen year old, when I struck out and come to
"Father hed a farm in Tennessee, and ez I was the only boy, I had a heap
of work ter do on the cussid place. I didn't like fannin' much, and used
ter tease the old folks ter let me go down ter Knoxville and go into a
store, or enter inter some other ekelly 'spectable bizness. But the old
folks allowed that I must stay with 'em till I was twenty-one, any how.
"One day when I was about sixteen year old, the old man said ter me,
'Jerry, I've got a lot of wood cut, up on the mountain-lot, that wants
piling up. Yer'd better take yer dinner and an axe along, and go up and
pile it. Do it nice now, 'cause I shall be up 'bout noon, ter see how you
"I knowed what that meant, well enuff; it meant that, if I didn't do it
right, I'd git a gaddin', 'cause the old man was famous for gaddins'.
"Arter breakfast mother put me up a good dinner of bread and meat, and I
shouldered my axe and started for the wood-lot, 'bout three miles up the
"I whistled along and didn't think nothin' 'bout ther walk; 'cause, yer
see, I allus liked ther woods, and enjoyed bein' thar. Arter I got to the
lot, I found the wood, and went ter work to get it piled. 'Twarn't much
of a job, and I got it done afore noon and then sot down on a log and
waited for the old man ter come. Wal, I sot and waited, and begun ter get
mighty lonesome and ter think 'bout Injins, though I knowed there warn't
no Injins thar. I waited so long I got hungry, and concluded I'd take a
bite of the bread and meat mother'd put up.
"I sot down on a log, and put my basket on the stump, and went ter
eatin'. I never smelt anything so good as that dinner smelt, less 'twas a
good venison steak on the coals, when you're putty hungry.
"Wal, I sot there, eatin' away, and, the fust thing I knowed, I kind 'er
felt suthin' tetch my shoulder. I turned my head, and thar was a big
black bar, with his nose within a foot of mine. I've seen bars sence that
time, and big ones too, but that bar looked bigger'n a ox ter me. I
didn't stop for nothin', but jist lited out, and the bar arter me. Maybe
yer think you've seen runnin'; but I tell yer honestly, boys, yer never
see nothin', like ther time I made gittin' away from that bar.
"I looked over my shoulder once in a while, but 'twarn't no use; thar was
that bar right behind me, growin' bigger and bigger every minute, it
seemed ter me. The harder I run, the wus I was off. I didn't gain a foot
on ther critter. My heart riz rite inter my throte, and my bar riz up so
I lost my cap,--leastways I've allus 'spected that was the reason I lost
it. I didn't know what ter do. I kep' on runnin', but my wind was givin'
out, and I knew I couldn't stan' it much longer; so I made a break for a
good sized white birch I see, and the way I shinned up thet tree, would a
bin a credit to any major-gen'ral, I tell yer.
"When ther bar come to ther foot of ther tree he sot down on his
haunches, ter kinder get breath a little, and then he begun ter climb it;
and blast my picter boys, ef he couldn't giv me three pints in the game
of climbin', and then beat me. It didn't seem ter me he was more'n a
second, gittin' up. I kep' climbin' higher an' higher, and the bar kep'
a-follerin'. By and by I got so high, that ther tree begun ter bend
backwards and for'ards, but ther bar kep' comin' higher and higher.
[Illustration: Jerry and the Bear.]
"I saw 'twarn't no use, so I made up my mind ter swing ther tree over ez
far ez I could, and drop and try my legs onct more. So I clim' a little
higher, and when the tree begun ter bend, that bar sot thar and just
laffed, if ever a bar laffed in this world. The tree kep' swayin'
back'ards and for'ards jist like a cradle.
"I watched my chance, and, when ther top come putty nigh ther ground, I
jist dropped, and, when I picked myself up, blast my eyes, ef thar warn't
ther bar, right side er me. Wal I started agin, but hadn't run more'n
fifty yards, afore I tripped and down I went. I knowed 'twas all up with
me then, so I jist laid still. Why, I was so scart I couldn't hev moved
ef I'd tried; but I did look up jist once, to see the bar set clus by,
watchin' me, and lookin' as mad as a wet hen.
"I never was so scart afore nor since. I 'spected every minute to feel
his teeth and hear my bones a-crunchin', but I didn't.
"Putty soon I heered somebody down in the woods a-callin'. I 'spectcd it
was dad, but I didn't dare to holler or make any noise. I heered 'em
callin' agin and agin; putty soon I jist looked out'er ther corner of my
eye, and see the bar was gone. At first I couldn't believe it, and
'spected he was playin' 'possum--waitin' ter see ef I moved, afore he
went for me. Well, I kep' putty still for a while, but not hearin'
anything from the bar, I finally looked up, and see that he'd gone for
good, and then I got up and started for home in just about ez big a
hurry, ez any feller ever went down a mountain.
"I hadn't got more'n half a mile afore I see a feller rite ahead of me,
a-leadin' that identical bar, thet bed been chasin' me all day.
"I never was so took down in my life boys, I wouldn't a bin s'prised at
anything, arter thet. I mustered up spunk enuff ter speak to the feller,
and he told me 'twas a tame bar, thet belonged ter him, thet hed got
loose thet day, and he'd bin up a-findin' him.
"Well boys, I never felt so ashamed of myself afore nor since.
"You may bet, I never told no one 'bout it afore, and I shan't agin.
We were very much amused at Jerry's story, and the boys pronounced it
decidedly the best they had yet heard, and as the hour was late, we all
"turned in," in search of a good night's rest.
The following morning, we once more took the road, and for three days
followed the course of the river, which carried us through the most
undesirable portion of country we had yet seen; even game seemed to have
The route then brought us into the vicinity of the celebrated "Comanche
Springs," situated in the open prairie, at the crossing of the great
Comanche war trail that leads into Mexico--a trail that may with truth,
be said, to be marked with whitened bones, its entire distance.
As we were likely at any time to meet with bands of Comanches in this
neighborhood, it became necessary to travel with the greatest precaution;
but even this did not appear to prevent one of the "varmints," as old
Jerry called him, from boldly coming into camp the next day, without any
one having seen his approach. Hal was the first who discovered him, and
as the fellow was alone, begged so hard for permission for him to remain,
that I yielded a reluctant assent, and permitted him to come into camp.
The fellow claimed to be very hungry, a good friend of the whites, and
said he was on his way from Mexico, to his home on the Brazos, and only
wanted permission to remain, long enough to rest a little and obtain
something to eat.
"I don't like the cut of any of them varmints," said Jerry, "they're all
natral thieves, and ez likely ez not, thet cuss is a spy. We can't tell
nothin' 'bout 'em, and ther best way is, ter steer clear on 'em, or at
any rate keep 'em at good rifle range."
Telling Hal not to lose sight of the fellow for an instant, and as soon
as he had rested an hour, to start him on, I laid down under one of the
wagons for the purpose of taking a _siesta_, but was awakened by
hearing Hal loudly inquiring, if any body knew what had become of his
pony. No one appeared to know anything about it, but I heard Jerry's
voice suggest, that probably his Comanche friend could tell where it was.
This aroused me in an instant, and I crawled out from under the wagon,
and, calling Hal, asked him where his horse was, when he saw him last.
"I saw him not half an hour ago, within twenty yards of this spot."
"How did he get away? pull his picket-pin?" asked I.
"No," replied Hal, "the lariat looks as though it had been cut."
"It's plain enuff to tell who's got yer hoss; it's that Comanche. Them
varmints are nat'ral hoss thieves, any how."
"Do you mean to tell me, that that Indian could steal my horse, right
here, under my very eyes, and I not see him?" angrily asked Hal.
"Well, you see he has, don't yer?" replied Jerry; "and not only you
didn't see him, but nobody else; and didn't he come walkin' into camp
this mornin' and not a soul know it, till he was right amongst us?"
"I don't care if he did, he never could have carried off my pony and I
not see him," declared Hal.
"But he did though youngster, as sure's you're a livin boy."
"I'm inclined to think you're right, Jerry; the Comanche has stolen the
pony without doubt," said I.
"But how could he?" demanded Hal. "I was sitting right here, close by him
all the time."
"Listen Hal, I'll give you a bit of my experience with these same
Comanches," said I: "About two years ago, I was sitting on the porch of
my ranche, one afternoon, and a couple of Comanches came up and asked for
"Manuel, the herder, recognized one of them as a fellow named 'Creeping
Serpent,' one of the most expert horse-thieves in his tribe. Naturally
enough, I wanted to know how he got the name; and, in consideration of a
bright red blanket, he consented to give an exhibition of his skill.
"The animals were all in plain sight, not a hundred yards from the ranche
door. I was bound not to lose sight of them, and I didn't; but, in less
than half an hour, I saw one of them bounding away over the plain, with
an Indian on his back.
"I was so astounded that when the fellow brought the horse back, I made
him show me just how it was done; and ever since then, I'm disposed to
believe anything relative to the thieving abilities of the Comanches,
"But how did he do it?" persistantly questioned Hal. "He never would have
done it before my eyes."
"Ha! ha! ha!" laughed old Jerry. "Didn't one of the cussid varmints, just
play the same trick on you?"
"But I won't admit he's got my pony," declared Hal.
"Tell us please, how he stole your horse, will you?" inquired Ned.
He laid himself flat upon the ground, and crawled through the grass
towards the animal selected, using his elbows as the propelling power.
This was done so slowly as not to alarm the herd in the least. Upon
reaching the picket-pin, he loosed it so that it could be easily
withdrawn; all the time taking good care that his head should not appear
above the top of the grass.
"He then began to slowly coil the rope, each coil imperceptibly drawing
the animal nearer to himself, until it finally stood beside him; then,
getting it between him and the ranche, he gradually pulled himself up,
and, clinging to its side, by skilful manipulation of the lariat, induced
the animal to take an opposite direction from camp, until fairly out of
sight or range; when, resuming his proper position on the creature, he
galloped rapidly away.
"Having seen how the thing is done Hal, I incline to Jerry's belief,--
that the fellow has stolen your pony."
"I can't think that he's got it," said Hal; "and I'd like to take Ned and
a couple of the Mexicans, and go out and see if we can't find him."
"We shall probably need everybody in camp putty soon," said Jerry. "Yer
see thet dust down thar to the southward, don't yer? Wall, that ain't no
whirlwind, ef the wind duz blow; that's Injins, and they're headed right
for our camp, too; so we'd better git reddy for 'em, and let the hoss go.
Maybe, though, they'll bring him back to yer. I've knowed sich things
done afore now," continued he, glancing at Hal.
The Indians were still nearly half a mile away, when Jerry, handing me
the glasses through which he had been looking, said, in a low voice,--
"It's jest as I reckoned; there's Hal's pony, and an Injun on him, I'll
bet two ter one it's the same cusssed varmint thet was a-sneakin' about
camp here, not an hour ago."
There were ten Indians in the party, who, even at that distance,
commenced riding around in a circle just out of range of our rifles,
yelling furiously, using the most insulting gestures towards us, and
daring us to come out and meet them. It was quite evident that the
savages had no weapons but their bows and arrows; consequently, did not
like to come within range of our rifles. Up to this time, neither of us
had fired a shot, and Jerry suddenly went to one of the wagons; and,
procuring an old Sharp's carbine, loaded it; and, taking good aim, fired
at a group of four or five, that were huddled together on the plain.
To our amazement and delight, we saw one of the number throw his arms up
into the air and tumble headlong from his horse to the ground, while the
rest instantly scattered; nor did they come together again until they
were at least a mile away.
"That was a good one Jerry," cried I. "Give 'em another."
"'Twon't do no good; 'twan't nothin' but luck. I couldn't do it agin in
shootin' a dozen times, with this wind a-blowin'," muttered Jerry.
"That's enuff to scare 'em to death. They hadn't no more idee I could
reach 'em than I had."
"I wonder what they'll do now? They must be going to try that circle
dodge," said I, seeing the party separate.
In a very few moments, before either Jerry or myself realized what they
were doing, they had jumped from their horses, fired the tall, dry grass
to the windward of us, and were scudding away from it as fast as their
horses could carry them.
Quicker than thought, the wind caught the flames, that seemed to leap
fifty feet into the air, which, in an instant, became so filled with heat
and smoke, that suffocation seemed inevitable. We could scarcely see or
breathe; and the wind was driving the flames directly towards us.
The wagons, animals, ourselves even, were at their mercy. What could we
do to escape the horrible fate that stared us in the face?
Jerry was the first to realize our danger. Starting in the direction of
the fire so fast approaching, as he yelled, at the top of his voice,--
"Git ther empty corn-sacks, blankets, anything ter keep ther fire off
from ther wagons and critters. Be quicker'n lightnin', thar!" cried he,
as he hastily set another fire, not twenty yards from us.
In a second we were fighting the new fire with whatever we could lay our
So vigorously did we work, that we succeeded in keeping the flames from
our wagons and stock, which, in a few minutes, rolled by us in huge
billows of fire.
I never saw a grander sight than the vast blackened, smoking plain,
beyond which the flames raged and roared like thunder, while the dense
white smoke, settling low down, partially veiled the sunlight and gave a
weird, strange appearance, that is indescribable, to the scene.
"The cowardly cusses!" said Jerry, as we paused to take breath from our
labors. "They wanted to smoke us out, did they? Well, I reckon, by the
looks round, thet maybe they'll have ter huff it putty lively themselves,
ef they git away from it. I've heerd of the biters gittin' bit
themselves, afore now."
Notwithstanding our misfortune, we could hardly help laughing at the
sight of ourselves, as, with blacked faces, singed clothing, and
blistered hands, we talked the matter over.
Of course we could do nothing but submit, and console ourselves by
wishing that we had the cowardly fellows where we could punish them.
We passed a most uncomfortable night; and, as soon as daylight appeared,
were on the road, reaching the "Springs" late in the evening, and the
next morning taking up our line of march for Fort Davis. This fort is
situated upon Lympia Creek, in Wild Rose Pass, a most lovely
_canon_, through the _Sierra Diablo_. It is about two hundred
feet wide, and carpeted with the richest green sward, while the sides,
composed of dark, columnar, basaltic rocks, rise to the height of a
thousand feet. Here, cozily nestled in this beautiful dell, surrounded by
lofty mountains, we came upon the white walls of the fort.
We encamped within half a mile of the post; and, the next morning, the
boys and I rode in to pay our respects to Colonel Sewell, then in
The youngsters were delighted with everything they saw, and the sutler's
store proved a great attraction for them. They seemed determined to buy
out his entire stock in trade, this being their first opportunity to
spend money since we left San Antonio.
Colonel Young, the sutler, informed me that a friend from Chihuahua, Don
Ramon Ortiz, a wealthy Spanish gentleman, with his daughter and five
servants, had been for several days at the fort, awaiting the arrival of
some train with which they might travel to El Paso. If agreeable, they
would be pleased to accompany us.
I gladly gave assent, and was shortly introduced to the Don. He was a
fine-looking gentleman, about sixty years of age, intelligent, and
evidently a man of culture. The sickness of his daughter had caused his
delay at the fort; but, having recovered, he was anxious to resume his
The young lady proved to be a lovely little body, who spoke English like
a native, and was about sixteen years old. Her wealth of raven hair, eyes
of jet, and natural pleasant manner made _El Senorita Juanita_ as
bewitching a little companion as one would meet in many a day's travel.
From the instant Hal saw her he became a devoted admirer, and, I foresaw,
that so long as we travelled in company with Don Ramon, I need not again
fear his absence from the train.
One of the officers of the fort came to me, during the evening, with the
request that I would permit a young lad to travel through with me to the
Pacific coast, saying that he was without money or friends, and it would
be a charity if I would allow him to work his passage.
I had but just returned to camp when Ned appeared, bringing with him a
bright-looking Irish boy, about sixteen years of age. As he stood
twirling his hat, and resting awkwardly upon one foot, I asked,--
"What do you want of me, my boy?"
"Av yez plaze, sur, I'd loike a job."
"What kind of a job?"
[Illustration: Introducing Patsey.]
"A job ter go to Californy, shure, sur."
"Well, what's your name?"
"Patsey, yer honor; and a very good name it is, too. 'Twas my father's
before, me sur."
"Where did you come from?"
"The ould counthry, ov coorse, sur."
"Yes, but where did you come from now?"
"From the foort beyant, sur."
"Well, Patsey, what can you do?"
"Phat can I do, is it? Faix, yer honor, it's phat I can't do yer'd better
be axin'! There's nothin' in my loine that I don't understand parfectly,
"Have you a recommendation?"
"What's that, sur?"
"Any paper recommending you."
"Och, it's me characther, is it, yeze afther axin' fur? Will, thin, I've
gut it in me pocket, shure;" and, pulling out from the waistband of his
pants a well-worn piece of greasy paper, he proceeded to spit on it,
"jist for good luck," he said, and then, with a bow and a scrape, handed
it to me.
The paper was from Captain Givens, of the Mounted Rifles, recommending
the bearer, Patsey McQuirk, as an honest but ignorant boy.
I informed Patsey that his "character" was satisfactory, and I would take
him along, bidding him put his luggage in one of the wagons.
He stood looking at me with a comically puzzled expression on his face,
and, thinking that perhaps he did not understand what I said, I again
told him to put his things into one of the wagons, for we should probably
start early in the morning.
"What things'll I put in the wagin, sur?"
"Your baggage,--your clothes," said I.
"Shure, sur, ef I put my clothes in the wagin, it's little I'd hev to
wear mysilf," answered the boy.
"Well, well, then, go with Ned; he'll show you what to do."
It had been our intention to start early on the following morning; but,
information having been received at the fort that a large party of
Comanches had been seen, only two days before, on our direct route, it
was thought advisable to wait a short time, in the hope that Don Ignacio
and his train might overtake us. Nor did we wait in vain; for, on the
evening of the third day, he rode into camp, and announced his train a
short distance behind.
This was good news for us, and we immediately commenced preparations for
our departure the following day.
Hal begged permission to carry the news to Don Ramon, and I never saw a
happier boy than he, at the thought of once more being on the road.
About eight o'clock the next morning we again started, passing through
the _canon_, over a fine, natural road. Two hours later saw the
ambulance of Don Ramon, with its six white mules and four outriders,
approaching from the direction of the fort, at a pace that promised soon
to overtake us.
Hal at once took a position beside the carriage, and, during the rest of
the day, hardly left it. I did not interfere until we were approaching
our camping-ground, when I sent Patsey back, to say that I wished to see
The boy returned, saying,--
"He's a-comin', but he says, kape yer timper."
"What did he say?" inquired I, in no little astonishment.
"He said, Yis, he'd come, but kape yer timper; shure, so he did."
At this moment Hal rode up. I asked him what he meant by sending such an
extraordinary message, at the same time telling Patsey to repeat it.
Hal heard it, and burst into a laugh, declaring that he told Patsey to
say he would be with me "_poko tiempo_,"--in a little while--which,
as Patsey did not understand Spanish, he had interpreted into "kape yer
[Illustration: Antelope, Patsey and Ned.]
The night passed quietly, and, just after sunrise we were again on the
road, bound for "Dead Man's Hole," which was our next camping ground. We
reached it quite early in the afternoon, and, shortly afterwards, Ned
came to me in great glee, saying that he'd shot an antelope, and wanted
Patsey to go and help him bring it in.
Away they rushed, and soon returned, fairly staggering under the weight
of a fine fat antelope.
I could fully understand Ned's feeling of pride, as the men, one after
another, examined the game, and complimented him on his success; for Ned
was a great favorite in the camp; but, when old Jerry graciously told him
that he was more'n twice as old afore he killed an antelope, the boy's
eyes fairly danced with joy.
His greatest triumph, however, was at supper, when he helped Hal to a
bountiful supply of the fat, juicy steak. It had been a matter of rivalry
between the two, as to which of them would kill the first antelope; and
Hal was inclined to feel a little uncomfortable at Ned's victory,
especially before Patsey slyly suggested, that, ef he hadn't kilt an
antichoke, he'd got a _dear_ beyant, and that was betther than a
When I made my usual round of the camp, before going to bed, Jerry was
not to be found; so I concluded to sit up until his return.
Half an hour later he came in, informing me that "he'd heerd a
_coyote_ bark four or five times rather suspiciously nigh camp, and
had been out to reconnoitre, thinkin' p'raps it was an Injun signal; but,
havin' seen more or less of the critters prowlin' about, he rekconed it
was all right."
Commending him for his care and watchfulness, and, assured by his
confident manner that there was no danger, I "turned in," and soon fell
asleep. How long I had slept I could not tell, but I was awakened by a
sound that sent a thrill of terror to my heart, and caused the blood to
curdle in my veins; for it was the terrible war-whoop ringing in my ears,
so close and distinct, that it seemed to be in my very tent.
I sprang into a sitting posture, and hurriedly looked about me. I saw
Hal's and Ned's frightened faces, then seized my rifle and rushed out. As
I passed through the door of the tent, I received a blow that felled me
to the earth. When I recovered my senses, I found the camp a scene of
dire confusion: every one was hurrying hither and thither, giving orders,
and talking in the wildest manner. I caught sight of Don Ramon,
bare-headed, barefooted, and half clad, wringing his hands and calling in
frenzied tones for his darling Juanita. Hal was talking loudly one
minute, and, the next, crying, while Ned was vainly attempting to pacify
As Ned appeared to be the coolest person in sight, I asked him the cause
of the commotion, and learned that the Indians had attacked Don Ramon's
camp, and carried off his daughter and her maid, prisoners.
As soon as I could get upon my feet, I inquired for Jerry, and was told
he was looking after the mules. I immediately sent for him, and he came,
accompanied by Don Ignacio, who, hearing the disturbance, had come over
to ascertain what it meant. When we could secure the presence of Don
Ramon, we learned from him the story of the surprise.
[Illustration: Capture of Juanita.]
Every heart was moved to pity as the old man, in broken sentences, told
us that he had been awakened by hearing his beautiful, his darling,
shriek. He had sprung to his feet, half asleep, and seen two Indians
tearing her from her bed in the ambulance, while calling upon him for
One of the Indians threw her across his horse, and then jumping upon the
animal himself, galloped madly off. Another seized her maid in the same
way; but she, poor girl, made such a desperate resistance that the savage
brutally plunged a knife into her heart, and then, with the rapidity of
lightning, scalped her and flung her body to the ground.
Piteously the half-crazed father besought us to rescue his child from the
terrible fate in store for her. Offering half--yes, the whole of his
immense fortune to any one who would restore her once more to him.
After a hurried consultation, we decided to send a messenger back to the
fort to notify the officers, and ask them to send a company of dragoons
in pursuit, at once; Don Ignacio offering to dispatch his assistant, a
thoroughly trustworthy man, who knew every foot of the country, with the
message. While I was writing the note to Colonel Sewall, Hal came to me,
and urged strongly to be allowed to accompany the messenger, saying that
Don Ignacio thought I should send some one, and had offered to mount him
upon one of his best horses if I would permit him to go. I hesitated a
long time before consenting; but he pleaded so earnestly, I finally said
yes, warning him on no account to leave the travelled road. This he
promised, and the two set out.
A short time after they left, we decided to send a party out ourselves,
to follow the Indians and recapture the girl if possible, as well as
recover the mules stolen. Jerry offered to lead the party in person,
provided I would accompany it, and Don Ignacio could be induced to take
charge of the camp during our absence. The arrangements perfected, Jerry
selected a dozen of the best men; and before daylight, we were in the
saddle and on the trail.
All day we rode over rocky _mesas_ or through dense
_chapparal_,--here fording a stream, now thundering over a barren
plain, or picking our way through gloomy _canons_ or up steep
The sun set; but Jerry did not pause in the pursuit. With his eyes on the
ground, and the same eager, anxious expression on his face, he rode as he
had ridden all day. Every nerve was strung to its utmost tension, every
sense was on the alert. Hardly had he spoken, not once hesitated as to
the course, nor for a single instant lost the track we had been
At last we came to a little valley, shut in by dark gray rocks and tall
mountains. At a signal from Jerry, we dismounted, unsaddled our animals,
and partook of a hasty supper; then again took to the trail; penetrating
deeper and deeper into the mountain fastnesses, over rocks and through
dense underbrush, until at last the shimmer of the waters of a broad
river met our gaze, and we paused upon its banks.
It was the Rio Grande; and here we decided to encamp for the night.
A few hours' rest and, just at daylight, we plunged into the water and
renewed our search, following the banks for miles; but no trace of the
track could we find. Just as we were giving up in despair, one of the
party, who was a long distance in the lead, uttered a shout: he had again
found the trail. It was evident now, that, in order to deceive any party
that might follow them, they had entered the river and followed its bed
through the water, nearly ten miles; hoping thereby to successfully hide
We now sent one man back to the point where the trail entered the river,
that he might guide the soldiers, whom we every moment expected to arrive
from Fort Davis.
It was a useless precaution however, for no soldier came. If we had but
known! but, alas! how could we? We waited until twilight came, and then
reluctantly retraced our steps, believing it useless to attempt to follow
the thieves after so long a time had been given them in which to escape
with their prisoners. I was much pleased, however, to hear Jerry express
the opinion, that the Comanches would gladly ransom them, and that the
only obstacle in the way would be the difficulty in communicating with
the band who made the capture; for it seemed probable that they belonged
in that, then, almost inaccessible portion of the state, known as the
When midnight came and no tidings reached us from the fort, we
reluctantly determined to start homeward.
While pursuing our way towards camp, Jerry and myself determined to visit
a spring several miles to the east of our course, and then to overtake
our party at a point where the trail led over a spur of the mountains,
that ran far out into the plain.
We experienced no difficulty in finding the spring; and, after a short
rest, filled our canteens with the cool, sparkling water, and started to
intercept our friends at the place agreed upon.
Ere we were a mile upon the road. Jerry uttered a low whistle, and said,
"Look behind you, will you?"
I turned; and, to my astonishment, not more than a mile away, saw eight
mounted Indians; and it was evident from the cloud of dust in which they
rode, that they were coming at no very slow gait.
We were not an instant deciding that we had no wish to encounter eight
mounted Comanches, well armed, upon the open plain, if it were possible
to avoid them.
The ground was a dead level for miles in every direction; and, in a
straight line six or seven miles away, we could see the spur of the
mountains where we expected to meet our party. If we could only reach
that, we were safe.
We had more than a mile the start of our pursuers; but our horses were
worn with long travel, while it was evident theirs were comparatively
fresh and vigorous; our escape therefore, must be a question of speed and
"Now," said Jerry, as we shook our reins and put spurs into the flanks of
our horses, "set low, and bend in your saddle, take the motion of your
horse, and let's git."
And "git" we did. Our animals seemed fairly to fly as we urged them
forward. They appeared to understand every word spoken, and to be quite
as anxious to escape capture as their riders.
Every ejaculation uttered, every caress bestowed, gave them fresh
courage, urged them to greater exertions. Every nerve was braced, every
muscle strained to its utmost tension, while their foam-flecked sides
said, as plainly as words could say it, "We are doing our level best."
I cast a glance over my shoulder and saw that the Indians were "spread"
in the pursuit, but evidently gaining on us. I looked at Jerry and then
at the goal, each moment growing nearer, and still so far away that I
began to doubt the ability of our horses to continue at the tremendous
pace they were going until we could reach it.
Every minute seemed an age.
Jerry's face was a study, as, with compressed lips, and eyes that
appeared to fairly flash fire, he bent so low in his saddle as to almost
touch his horse's mane. On, on, we sped! Not a word was spoken--not a
sound could be heard, save the dull, heavy thud of our horses' feet upon
the soft turf beneath us.
Once I fancied I felt my horse waver, as though about to fall; but I
spoke sharply to him, and he straightened out, just as a bullet whistled
by our heads.
"That's a Comanche sign; you can always tell them devils," muttered
Jerry, between his teeth.
A mile farther, and we are safe. Can we make it? Why don't our men see
us, and hasten to the rescue?
Another look behind. The Indians were still gaining on us, and I fancied
I could hear the breath of their unshod horses, as they thundered after
us; but it was only the distressed breathing of our own noble animals,
warning us that their strength was almost gone.
Will our friends ever see us? Can we hold out five minutes longer? I hear
Jerry mutter something between his closed teeth; and, the next moment,
saw a dozen men dash out from behind the rocks.
"We are saved! we are saved!" is my cry. I have just strength enough left
to pull up my weary horse, throw myself out of the saddle, and sink upon
the ground, when the faithful creature, completely exhausted, reels and
falls, as the men thunder past us, in pursuit of the now flying foe.
"Wall," said Jerry, as he dismounted, "thet was a touch and go, and no
mistake. I've been chased many a time afore, but never come so near a go,
ez this has been. Them critters of ourn are worth a fortune, and no
We had a good hour's rest, before our friends returned from the pursuit;
and then, once more mounting, we set out for camp, which we reached late
in the afternoon, to learn that neither of the messengers sent to the
fort, had returned, nor had any tidings been received from them.
What did it mean? Could they have been captured?
Don Ramon was almost heart-broken, when he learned the result of our
pursuit; and nothing that we could say, afforded him any comfort. His
continual cry was, "Give me my daughter! my darling Juanita!"
I was extremely anxious about Hal; and at once dispatched Don Ignacio to
the fort, to ascertain the reason of the non return of our messengers;
and then, as nothing further could be done, "turned in" for a little
sleep, giving Ned directions to call me immediately upon the arrival of
Just before daybreak, I was awakened by the startling intelligence, that
neither Hal or the messenger had reached the fort; but Colonel Sewell
had, upon Don Ignacio's request, immediately ordered a company of
dragoons in pursuit of the Indians.
The only inference to be drawn from the facts was, that both Hal and the
messenger had been killed or taken prisoners, by a portion of the same
band that attacked our camp; and, although myself, greatly depressed by
the uncertainty attending their absence, I endeavored to assure Don
Ramon, that their capture was extremely fortunate, on his daughter's
account, for it would be certain to ensure her safe return to her
This thought appeared to afford the old man a little comfort, and he
finally decided, to continue with the train, until we should arrive at El
Paso. We got under way about noon; and, with sad hearts, followed the
windings of the road through the _Canon de los Camenos_, and on to
the Rio Grande; thence, following the course of the river, to the old
_Presidio_ of San Elezario, and so on to Fort Bliss, about one mile
below the town of El Paso.
At this post we found Colonel Jim Magoffin, the owner of the train with
which we had travelled from San Antonio; and, upon conferring with him,
he informed me that Anastacio, who had been captured with Hal, was an old
scout who had been in his employ for years. He was not only trustworthy,
but thoroughly acquainted with the country, as well as the habits and
customs of the Indians; and, if alive, would certainly find means to
communicate with his family, who resided near the fort.
The colonel also recommended, that Don Ramon, should endeavor to enlist
the Mexican authorities in the matter, in case the Indians, should by any
chance have crossed the river with their captives.
We decided, therefore, to remain a few days in camp at El Paso, as this
would give our animals an opportunity to recruit, and ourselves a
I found by carefully watching Ned, that the terrible uncertainty
regarding Hal's fate was preying upon his mind to such an extent, that I
must do something to rouse him from the apathy into which he had fallen,
and for this purpose proposed a visit to the celebrated Stephenson silver
mine, in the Organos Mountains, only a few miles distant from the post.
The proposed plan pleased the boy so much, that, accompanied by Jerry, we
set out upon our trip.
The first day after reaching the mountains, a severe storm came upon us,
so suddenly, that we were forced to take shelter beneath a grove of
cedar; and, while waiting for the storm to pass over, Jerry's keen eye
discovered, some distance above us, an opening in the rocks, that he
surmised might be a cave.
With this idea, we started to explore it. Upon reaching the mouth of the
opening, Jerry entered it, and in a few moments reappeared, beckoning for
Ned and myself to join him.
Upon reaching him, he said,--"It's a cave, but there's some kind of a
critter got possession of it. I reckon it's a bar."
We hastened to secure our animals, and then cautiously entered what
appeared to be a large crack between the rocks; but, upon nearing the end
of it, we distinctly heard a deep, angry growl.
It was so dark within, that, upon this protest of-its occupant, we deemed
it prudent to retreat.
"We've got to git the critter out, someway," said Jerry, "and the sooner
we go about it, the better for us."
"Suppose we try smoking him out," said Ned.
"I dunno but that's the best way, after all, youngster," said Jerry.
"Hand us the hatchet, and we'll soon have a fire here." We shortly had
some splinters from a prostrate pine that lay near, and in a little while
a brisk fire was burning, which we covered with pine brush to make the
smoke more dense, and then retreated to watch the effect.
In a little time the flame and smoke appeared to die out, and we
proceeded to make an examination for the cause. We found that the bear
had advanced to the fire, and, with his paws, succeeded in scattering the
"He's an old fellow, and won't be ketched napping," said Jerry. "The only
way is to meet him, on his own ground. I'll fix him! You get two or three
of them splinters, and light 'em, and foller me."
We cautiously advanced upon Bruin, torches in one hand and revolvers in
the other, but his low, angry growl caused us, even then, to hesitate a
moment before venturing further.
"Now, you take this 'ere torch, youngster," said Jerry, addressing Ned,
"and hold it so you kin see, and then I kin. My narves is steadier'n
clock-work, and I'll do the shootin'."
Another forward movement, and another growl saluted our ears.
"Steady, there," said Jerry, "I see him;" and the next instant, he fired.
As soon as the almost deafening reverberations and din, caused by the
discharge, had subsided, holding our torches so as to throw the light as
far in advance as possible, we entered the cave, and in one corner found
a large black bear--dead.
"Hurrah!" cried Ned. "We've got him! Ain't he a noble fellow?"
"Here's room enough for all," said Jerry, as the extent of the cave was
made apparent. "We'll get our critters in, and have bar meat for supper,
sure." The apartment in which we were standing was about twenty feet
square, and nearly as many high, and, in one corner, we found a spring of
clear, cool water.
"Nothing could be nicer than this," declared Ned. "I'd like to stay here
for a month; it's just splendid," But Ned's enthusiasm soon died out, for
we discovered unmistakable evidence that Indians were in the habit of
visiting it. We determined to pass the night there, however, which we did
without being disturbed, and the next morning again started for the mine,
which we reached about two o'clock in the afternoon.
The mine consisted of a horizontal shaft, cut into the mountain-side,
that had reached a depth of between two and three hundred feet; the ore
being drawn up in large leathern buckets, by mule power, attached to a
windlass. Such portions as were deemed sufficiently rich were at once
conveyed to the smelting furnace, where the pure ore was melted down and
extracted from the virgin fossil. If of inferior quality, it was
submitted to the process of amalgamation.
We found much to interest us while examining the working of the mine,
which was conducted upon the old Mexican plan. Ned was particularly
pleased with the manner of packing the silver, which was in rough cakes,
These were placed in sacks made of raw hide, which, when dry, shrunk, and
thus pressed the contents so closely, that all friction was avoided. Two
of these sacks, each containing about fifteen hundred dollars' worth of
the ore, constituted an ordinary mule-load.
We spent the entire day at the mine, watching the process of separating
the ore, extracting the gold, roasting, grinding, etc., and the following
day returned to El Paso, with the intention of leaving for Fort Fillmore
As soon as we arrived at this post, in company with Ned, I called upon
Lieutenant Howland, then in command, and communicated to him the facts
regarding the attack upon, and capture of a portion of our party, and
from him learned the startling intelligence that a scout from Fort
Stanton, had that day arrived at the post, reporting that, the day
previous, he had discovered the fresh trail of a party of Indians near
the eastern base of the Organos Mountains, who had with them, three white
persons, one of whom, was a woman.
As soon as Ned heard the lieutenant make this statement, he started to
his feet, exclaiming, "That's them! that's them! Hurrah! we'll find 'em,
sure. Let's start now!" and away he went to carry the glad tidings to the
At my request, the scout was sent for. He proved to be a keen, shrewd
Yankee, who had spent the last twenty years of his life, among the
mountains of New Mexico.
His statement was clear and concise, and showed a familiarity with Indian
manners and habits, that entitled his opinion to great weight. After a
long interview, both Lieutenant Howland and myself became convinced that
Hal and Juanita were with the party he described. So positive was the
lieutenant that he volunteered to send a force in pursuit early on the
following morning, with Tom Pope as guide.
When this determination was announced I hastened back to camp to consult
old Jerry, and found all assembled around Ned, who was repeating over and
over again, the story told by Tom. Even Patsey, whom I had scarcely
noticed since he joined the train, was tossing his well-worn cap in the
air, catching it upon the toe of a toeless boot, while executing a lively
Irish jig, and exclaiming every time he drew a long breath,--
"Whoo-o-o-op! think of it now, will yez! The boss has got the byse, sure.
Whoo-o-o-op now, whoo-o-op!"
In fact, all seemed delighted at the idea of our receiving even the
meagre information we had obtained at the fort.
As soon as Jerry found a moment's leisure, I gave him a detailed account
of the interview with Tom Pope, as well as Lieutenant Howland's opinion
He expressed much satisfaction at the Lieutenant's intention to pursue
the party, and asked, if I thought the guide would object to his
accompanying him on the expedition.
While talking the matter over, we saw Tom himself approaching camp. Jerry
at once recognized him as an old Comanche scout, whom he had once met in
Texas; and the two were soon upon the most friendly terms. It was
understood, that Jerry and myself were to accompany Tom on the
expedition, and finally I obtained permission to take Ned along.
I invited Tom to remain and take supper with us, and afterwards, while
Jerry was making his preparations for the morrow's expedition, Ned and
Patsey asked Tom for a story; but Tom said "he warn't no account at story
tellin' and would let that job out to somebody else."
Remembering Jerry's remark, that Tom was a Comanche scout, I asked him if
he had had much experience with that tribe.
"Consid'rable," answered he.
"Is it a fact, that the Comanches frequently cook their meat by placing
it under the saddle and riding on it all day?" asked I.
"I 'spect 'tis," replied Tom; "leastways, I've seen 'em do it, and done
"Oh! tell us all about it Tom, will you?" cried Ned.
"Wall, I don't mind telling you about that, youngster, though I ain't
much of a story-teller. You just wait till I get my pipe filled, and I'll
spin a yarn for you, as they used to say down in New Bedford."
"Be gorra, now, ain't this fun?" exclaimed Patsey, as he and Ned settled
themselves in a comfortable position by the fire, to listen to--
Having filled and lighted his pipe, he began.
"Six years ago this fall, I had been down to Mattamoras on the Rio
Grande, and returning home, had camped for the night, in the ruins of an
Old ranche on the San Saba. Wall, I was alone and pretty tired. I didn't
think nothin' about Injuns, so I went ter sleep; and when I woke up I was
a prisoner, with a dozen Comanches caperin' round me."
"I couldn't do nothin', 'cause they'd taken my rifle and my knife; so I
jist made up my mind, that I'd better keep still and wait for my chance
to come. They tied my hands behind me, and put me on a horse. Then we
started, and I soon saw that they had been down into Mexico on a stealing
expedition, and had had, good luck; for they had five scalps, and nearly
a hundred head of Spanish mares, that they were a-driving home with 'em
to their village, which was on the Clear Fork of the Brazos."
"In ten days, we got to within about a mile of their home, and then we
halted; and one of the braves, all painted and fixed up in regular war
style, started in to let 'em know we were there."
"Pretty soon one of their squaws came out to meet us, and then the
Injuns, fixed to a long lance the five scalps they had taken, and we all
started for the village, the squaw leading and carryin' the scalp-pole,
all the while singing a war-song."
"Just before we got into their settlement we were met by a lot of the
women folks, who joined in the procession. Then we went through the
village. The squaws danced as they went along and made a great noise,
singing songs about the brave deeds of their husbands and sons, who had
taken so many scalps and stolen so many cattle."
"I'd been wonderin' all the time what they were going ter do with me.
Then we stopped before the chief's lodge,--Tabba-ken, or the Big Eagle,
he was called,--and they motioned for me to dismount. I hadn't hardly
struck the ground, before I found what they were going to do with me; for
would you believe it, every old squaw and pappoose in that village, that
had strength enough, flew at me and commenced biting, and kicking, and
scratching me. You see I couldn't do much, for my hands were tied, but I
made up my mind that Tom Pope would die like a man, even though he never
had calculated to be bit and kicked to death, by a lot of Comanche
"So I jest set my teeth, and stood the pain the best I was able. After a
while, they got tired of the fun, and quit; but you never see such a
lookin' chap as I was when they got through. Why, there wasn't a spot on
me as big as a five-cent piece, that didn't show some kind of a mark. I
thought I had a pretty hard time in some of my travels, before, but
t'warn't no tetch ter that Comanche village. I was sore for a month after
"Arter they'd got through with their fun, they set me to work and kept me
at it, till I finally got away from 'em; though they treated me well
enough after the first few days. When I got into Phantom Hill, the
officers there told me, that they treated me as they always did all their
prisoners. I had enough to eat, such as it was, and hain't no complaints
to make on that score. They had two Mexican women who were prisoners
there, and old Tabba-ken himself had married one of 'em."
"Do they have any particular ceremonies, when they start on the war-path,
Tom?" asked I.
"I saw one party start out ter fight the Arapahoes; and I see 'em come
back, too," replied Tom.
"One morning I see that a lot of the braves took their bows and arrows,
and placed 'em on the east side of their lodges. They was all ornamented
and fixed, and set where the sun's first rays should fall on 'em. That
night a lot of the squaws commenced going around through the village,
singing their war-songs, and making a great noise. They kept it up for
three nights, so that I couldn't sleep a wink; and I asked one of the
Mexican women what it all meant. She told me, that it was a war-party,
getting ready for an expedition.
"I'd suspected as much, when I see the braves a-cavortin' around so
lively on their horses, and makin' such a fuss as they did.
"She said, that they worshipped the sun, and their weapons was set out
there for the sun to bless, and give them good luck against their
enemies. They kept up these doin's for four or five days, and then they
had a grand war-dance; and the next morning at sunrise (they always start
on an expedition just at sunrise) a party of twenty braves, started off
to the north."
"Do they make the squaws work, like the other Indian tribes, Tom?" asked
"Yes! Injuns is Injuns, wherever you find 'em," answered Tom. "The squaws
allers do the hard work, and the men the heavy layin' round and talkin'."
"Oh! be gorra; don't I wish I was a Injin," exclaimed Patsey.
"Well," continued Tom, "after I'd been with 'em a couple of months or so,
they kind er got a notion that I didn't care much about gittin' away, and
didn't keep a very strict watch over me; so, one night, when I see
Carline (that was my old rifle) lyin' by one of the lodges, I made up my
mind to scoot. They was havin' a big time that night, gittin' ready for
another expedition, and I knew they'd be putty busy. As soon as 'twas
dark, I picked up the rifle, and, kind er slowly, made my way down ter
where their critters was feedin', and picked out the best hoss of the
lot, put a saddle on him, and started down the river towards the fort at
Phantom Hill. 'Twas a good hundred miles away; but I made up my mind I'd
fetch it, if nothin' happened.
"I rode putty hard all night; and, just after daylight, saw some deer on
the prairie, and shot one, never thinkin' that I hadn't another charge
for my rifle, and no way of buildin' a fire ter cook with.
"Yer see the Injuns always start a fire by rubbin' two dry sticks
together, but I hadn't no time for that, 'cause I wanted to put as many
miles as I could between me and ther village. While I was a-wonderin'
what ter do, I happened to think about puttin' it under the saddle; so I
hunted round and found a sharp stone, and managed to cut some putty fair
slices out ev the leg, and clapped 'em under the saddle and rode on.
"I got pretty hungry by noon, so I stopped to let my horse eat a little,
and looked at my steaks, and they was cooked just as nice as I ever see
steaks cooked in my life; and they was good, too, you bet.
"I made a tip-top meal, and then thought I'd lay down and take a little
nap. I slept for an hour or two, and then saddled up, and rode along.
Putty soon I happened ter look round, and, blast my picter, ef there
warn't eight Comanches a-comin' after me like the very devil.
"I just put the spurs to my hoss; and from the best calculations I could
make, I made up my mind thet they'd ketch me in just about ten miles
further. I see they was a-gainin' on me, and I hadn't nothin' to defend
myself with but a empty rifle, and that warn't no account agin bows and
arrows; so I throwed it away, and made up my mind, if wost came to wost,
I'd take my chances in the river, 'cause yer see the Comanches never let
a prisoner get away the second time. I kept urgin' my hoss, and the
critter kep' tryin', but I see he was about blowed, an' 'twarn't no use.
I had just concluded I must take to the river, when I happened to look up
and see a dozen soldiers coming right towards me. The Injuns see 'em as
quick as I did, and the way they turned and put back was a caution to
anything I ever see."
"What were the soldiers doing there?" asked Ned.
"Why, they was a scoutin' party out from the post, about twenty miles
below where we was. They chased the Injuns, but the devils scattered and
'twarn't no use.
"I went in to the fort with 'em, and stayed thar about a week, and then
went down to San Antonio with Major Neighbors, the Injun agent.
Afterwards, I heard that the soldiers went up and cleaned the village
out, but I don't know nothin' about that.
"There, youngsters, you've hed your story, and I reckon if you're goin'
with me to-morrow, you'd better go ter bed and git some sleep, and I'll
go back to the fort, and git ready, myself."
Ned was delighted with Tom's story, while Patsey declared that "he'd thry
that way of cooking, steak the first blissid thing he did in the
mornin',--that he would, sure."
With the first faint streak of light in the eastern sky, our little party
were on their way to the fort. We found that Lieutenant Howland had
detailed a squad of twenty of the "Mounted Rifles" under command of
Lieutenant Jackson, and ordered them provisions, for ten days. They were
to start at sunrise, and Tom Pope was to lead them directly to the
_canon_, where he had seen the trail, which we were to follow, until
we overtook the thieves.
Promptly, as the morning gun, announced the sun's appearance above the
horizon, Lieutenant Jackson, with the dragoons, rode into the parade-
ground, ready for a start. The final orders were given, and we fell into
line, and rode slowly forth in the direction of the mountains, followed,
not only by the good wishes of every man in the post, but by Patsey's
brogans, which he threw after us for "good luck, inyhow," with such force
that one struck a soldier in the head, and nearly knocked him out of the
saddle, much to his surprise and anger, and greatly to the amusement of
We struck into a brisk canter, and were soon out of sight of the post and
settlements. Our course lay to the east of north, over an elevated, arid
plain, covered with a thick growth of prickly-pear, and scrubby mesquite.
The mesquite is a shrub that somewhat resembles our locust. Its wood is
hard and close-grained, and its branches bear a long, narrow pod, filled
with saccharine matter, which, when ripe, furnishes a very palatable
article of food, that is relished both by men and animals.
The principal value of the mesquite, however, is for its roots, which are
used for fuel and very fine fuel they make, quite equal to the best
The plain over which we were now travelling, was more than four thousand
feet above the level of the sea. Notwithstanding its immense elevation,
it was covered with a peculiar kind of grass called _grama_, which
retains its nutritious qualities throughout the whole year. This grass is
sometimes cut by the inhabitants, who use for the purpose a hoe. It will
thus be seen, that, on these plains, wood is obtained with a spade and
hay secured by the hoe.
A ride of seven hours brought us to the eastern side of the mountains,
whose lofty, pinnacled peaks rose above us to the height of more than
three thousand feet, strangely and perfectly resembling the pipes of an
immense organ, from which fact the _Sierra de los Organos_ takes its
As we approached this remarkable range, we found a thick growth of live-oak
skirting its base, and could hardly resist the temptation, to enjoy
the cool and delicious shade, which their thick branches afforded; but we
pushed on, and in another hour reached the entrance to the _canon_,
in which Tom had discovered the Indians' trail. Here we found it
necessary to advance with the greatest precaution, as the dark pines and
evergreens, growing in the narrow defile, afforded an excellent place for
the concealment of our foes.
Jerry and Tom, rode a short distance in advance of the party, and we
slowly made our way up the gorge for about four hundred yards, when we
came to a large reservoir, or basin, into which the water from a spring
high up on the mountain-side, slowly trickled.
The guides examined this place with great care, for Tom declared it had
not been disturbed since he left it, two days before. We found evidence
sufficient to substantiate Tom's opinion fully, for we discovered the
tracks of three white persons, one of whom was a woman. Ned insisted that
he recognized Hal's footprints, while Jerry identified the peculiar shape
of one of the mule's tracks, by means of a shoe he himself fitted to the
Satisfied at last that we were on the right trail, the lieutenant decided
to halt for a short time to feed and rest.
While Ned was strolling about the encampment, he accidentally trod upon a
rattlesnake, and the venomous reptile, sounding his rattle, made a spring
and fastened his teeth into the boy's pants, just below the knee. I
chanced to be looking towards him at the moment, and saw him, without the
least hesitation draw his sheath-knife, and sever its head from its body,
with one stroke, leaving the head hanging to the leg of his pants. I
hurried towards him, but the boy was not in the least disconcerted or
frightened, although he could not tell if he had been bitten or not. An
examination showed that the fangs of the snake had passed through the
cloth and left their imprint upon the leather of his boot-leg, without
[Illustration: Snake Incident.]
We all congratulated him upon his narrow escape, and Lieutenant Jackson
told him that few men would have shown more nerve or presence of mind
under the circumstances than he had done. Tom Pope asserted the boy was a
"born Injin hunter," and old Jerry declared that he was "willing to make
a 'ception, so fur as Ned was concarned, though he'd be darned if he'd do
it for t'other one; for boys like him hadn't no bizness on the plains, no
Once more mounting our horses, we emerged from the cool and grateful
shade, out into the burning sunshine of the plain, when, making sure of
the trail, our guides started at a brisk canter towards the north-east,
followed by the entire party.
The trail was so plain and well-defined, that we were able to ride at a
good round pace, which was kept up until long after the sun had set and
darkness had fairly encompassed us. Finally we came to good grass, and
the lieutenant ordered a halt.
Shortly after unsaddling our horses, Tom came to me, and said, "Be you
pretty sure, judge, that them fellers was Comanches, that attacked you?"
I replied at once that I was.
"What makes you think so?" inquired Tom.
Up to this time I had not entertained a thought that they could be other
than Comanches. Now that my reasons for the opinion had been asked, I saw
that the only cause for it was the fact, that the attack had been made in
the Comanche country, and so far towards the interior, that the
possibility of their belonging to any other tribe had not entered my
I replied, that I had no other reason for supposing them to be Comanches
than the one above given.
"Well," said Tom, "as me and Jerry was ridin' along this arternoon, I
found this 'ere thing along side ther trail, so I picked it up ter show
As he spoke, he produced an old, well-worn moccasin, which, at a glance,
I recognized as having been made by the Apaches, its shape being entirely
different from those manufactured or worn by any other tribe.
For an instant I was speechless, utterly overwhelmed by the terrible
I thought of the warm-hearted, impulsive Hal, and the winsome, pretty
Juanita, prisoners in the hands of the cruel and merciless Apaches, who
were never known to surrender a captive alive. Then, as I thought of a
worse fate than death, that was in store for the bright, beautiful girl,
I thanked God that her old father was spared the anguish that such a
knowledge would have caused him.
As soon as I dared trust myself to speak, I said, in a tone of voice that
I was conscious must betray my anxiety to hear my own opinion condemned,--
"This is an Apache's moccasin, isn't it?"
"'Tis, for sartin," said Tom. "No other red-skinned varmint but a
devilish Apache, ever wore that moccasin."
"And what do you argue from that, Tom?" inquired I.
"Ther ain't nothin' to argue," sententiously answered Tom. "The gal's
been took by the Apaches instead of the Comanches, and that's all there
is of it; that moccasin tells the whole story. Ask Jerry. Me and him
agreed on that pint, as soon as ever we see it."
"It's surer'n preachin', judge," said Jerry, as he came up to where we
were standing; "and there ain't no help for it."
"Well, what can we do, Jerry?"
"Do! foller till we git 'em, if we foiler 'em to hell. We mustn't leave
the trail now, till we know the gal's dead, for sartin. She'll be safe,
ez long ez they're travellin'; but if they ever git to where they're
going,--well judge, I'd rather see the pretty little critter layin' right
here, dead, than to meet her, that's sartin."
I immediately sought the lieutenant, and informed him of the terrible
facts I had just learned.
"I feared as much from the first," said he, "for during all the years
I've been stationed on this frontier, I've never known the Comanches to
venture so far 'up country' as this, but have frequently known the
Mescalleros to pass through the Comanche country into Mexico. I fear we
shall find this to be a band of Mescallero Apaches, but I shall follow
them, as long as my men and animals hold out. I have ordered a halt now,
because, twenty miles from here, in the direction that we are travelling,
we shall come to an extensive deposit of pure, white sand, in which we
shall be liable to lose the trail at night; and I want to reach there as
near daybreak as possible, so as not to waste more time than is necessary
in finding it. We shall rest here until midnight, so you'd better turn in
and get what sleep you can."
Midnight found us once more in the saddle, and when, some hours later, we
reached the deposit referred to, an examination showed, that, instead of
crossing it, the trail skirted its southern edge for a couple of miles,
and then took an easterly course towards the Sacramento Mountains,
distant about twenty-five miles.
Our course lay in the vicinity of two or three little _salinas_, or
salt lakes, but over an arid, barren plain, destitute of any vegetation,
except mesquite _chaparral_; and about three o'clock in the
afternoon, we reached the timber that skirted the base of the mountains.
As the guides, who were some distance in advance, reached the extreme end
of a spur, around which the trail led, we saw them pause for a few
moments, and then hasten towards us.
Upon reaching us, old Jerry, in a voice husky with emotion, said,
"They're there for sartin;" pointing towards the end of the spur.
A retreat to the cover of the trees was instantly ordered, when the
guides informed us, that upon reaching the point of rocks, they
discovered several animals grazing in the meadow beyond, and that the
Indians must be encamped in the immediate vicinity; but in order to make
sure, would leave their horses with us, and return and make a
They returned a couple of hours later, reporting that they had discovered
the camp, but owing to its situation, could not get near enough to see
into it, without running too much risk of discovery. There was one
"wickey-up," [The name given by scouts to Apache huts.] however, made of
brush, in which the girl was undoubtedly confined. From appearances they
thought the Indians intended to remain there, long enough to recruit
their stock, as the grass was very good; and that as soon as it should be
dark, they would return and take a closer inspection of the camp. Nothing
more remained for us to do therefore, but to "possess our souls with
patience" until darkness came.
Now that we were so near the success or failure of the expedition for
which we had endured so much fatigue and anxiety, it was impossible to
remain quiet. Every moment seemed an hour. Ned was constantly on the
move, apparantly unable to remain in one position an instant. He had
anticipated accompanying us in the attack upon the Indian camp, but the
lieutenant positively forbade it, saying, that he was not only too young,
but too good a fellow to be shot by Apaches, that year.
This did not satisfy Ned, however, who came to me to intercede for him,
saying, that he wanted so much to be the first one to greet Hal, and had
come so far to do it, it was pretty hard to be disappointed then.
I spoke to the lieutenant in regard to the matter, but he was very
decided in his refusal, saying that the boy must stay in camp, and if
necessary, he should put him under guard.
Ned bore his disappointment with wonderful fortitude, I thought, for he
made no remark, even when I spoke of the "guard" hinted at, except to say
that "he wished it was all over;" a wish that I echoed from the bottom of
It was with a feeling of relief that I saw the guides start to once more
reconnoitre the Indian camp.
Everything had been prepared in our own camp for an immediate movement--
the guard had been detailed, horses saddled and bridled, ready for use,
if needed, ammunition distributed, and every detail faithfully executed.
The lieutenant and myself were lying on the ground, conversing together
in low tones and waiting for the return of the guides, when suddenly the
sharp, clear ring of a rifle from the other side of the spur, broke upon
the evening air, followed by a confused noise and straggling discharge of
What did it mean?
The next instant, as though with one thought, every man, rifle in hand,
was rushing pell-mell in the direction of the sound.
The Lieutenant and myself, among the first to reach the point of rocks,
saw Jerry hurrying towards us, bearing in his arms a female form, clothed
in white. Quicker than a flash, the soldiers, as though divining the
situation by instinct, formed a line that completely shielded him from
the weapons of Indians.
Seeing me, he rushed towards me and thrust the girl into my arms, saying,
in an excited manner.
"Take keer o' her, while I go back and give the red devils, hell!"
Taking the girl in my arms, I found it to be indeed Juanita, alive, and
Apparantly unharmed. I carried her to camp, when, finding she had
fainted, I laid her on some blankets and hurried back to the assistance
of the party.
Before I could reach it, the Indians, completely surprised, had fled; and
the soldiers were in possession of the camp and a large portion of their
While hastening towards it, I saw Hal and Ned, who, as soon as they
discovered me, came running towards me, and the next moment, Hal was in
my arms, sobbing as though his heart would break, while Ned, the tears
running in a stream down his cheeks, could only jump up and down, like a
little child, exclaiming,--
"Oh! I'm so glad! I'm so glad!"
As soon as Hal could speak he blubbered out,--
I informed him she was safe in camp, and off the two started to find her;
and when, a short time afterwards, I reached camp myself, I found she had
recovered from her swoon, and was anxiously watching my return.
Her first question was for her father, and when I assured her that he was
well, but extremely anxious on her account, she said,--
"Ah! but I never expected to see him again on this earth."
"But didn't I tell you you would?" inquired Hal.
"Yes," responded the girl, "you did; but I heard you and Anastacio--"
"By the way, where is Anastacio?" interrupted I. Poor fellow! He had been
entirely forgotton by us; but, in a short time, the two guides appeared,
escorting him between them.
There being no longer any reason why we should not enjoy the brightness
and warmth of a camp-fire, we soon had one briskly burning, and by its
ruddy light, I was enabled to see the faces of the rescued prisoners. I
could scarcely believe that so great a change could have been made, in so
short a time, as had been wrought in Juanita, during her captivity.
Instead of the plump, rosy-cheeked, smiling _senorita_ who
entertained us so charmingly at Fort Davis, I saw a pale, wan-looking
young lady, prematurely old, and so weak, as to be scarcely able to stand
Hal, on the contrary, declared that he was "tougher than a knot," and
"dirtier than any greaser," a statement, which we readily believed when
he informed us "that he hadn't washed for ten days."
I ordered supper prepared at once. The Lieutenant came in soon after, and
reported that three of the Indians had been killed, and two, badly
wounded. Besides this, fifteen animals had been captured, and all the
camp equipage of the savages.
Looking around for Ned, he soon discovered him, and said,--
"You young rascal, you! I told you to stay in camp, and the first one I
saw over there, was you." Then, in a kinder tone, he inquired if he was
Hurt! it was the first intimation I had that he had been hurt; and for a
moment, my heart almost jumped into my throat, notwithstanding the boy
insisted it was nothing.
An examination showed that an arrow had penetrated the fleshy part of his
arm above the elbow, but without inflicting serious injury. The wound was
soon dressed, supper eaten, Juanita made as comfortable as possible for
the night, and then we gathered about the camp-fire to hear Tom Pope,
relate the story of the capture, as follows:--
"Me'n Jerry, started from here, and crawled through the grass and
underbrush, till we got pretty close to the varmints' camp. We seed ten
or a dozen of 'em layin' about, some doin' one thing and some another.
All of a suddent we seed the gal, there, crawl out of the 'wickey-up.'
She looked round as though she wanted to see somebody, for she started
and walked out a little ways. Jest then, a big buck Injun, got up and
follered her, but she walked on, right towards us, till she was within a
dozen feet of where me'n Jerry lay hid.
"The Injun told her in Spanish, to go back, and took her by the shoulder
to make her do it. Quicker'n lightnin', Jerry made a spring, and, afore
the Injun see him, he give him a blow with the butt of his rifle, that
stunned him, and grabbed the gal and run.
"The Injun give a kind of grunt as he fell. One of the others started to
see what was the matter, I s'pose, so I let Mertilda," patting his rifle,
"talk to him, and he laid right down without speakin' a word."
"As soon as the Injuns in camp heard Mertilda speak, eight or ten of 'em
jumped up and started towards us. But yer see, Jerry'd got so fur, they
couldn't stop him. The sojers was right on to 'em, and give 'em 'Hail
Columby,' and no mistake.
"That's my report, Lieutenant. That youngster there," pointing to Ned,
"is real grit. I seed the arrer strike him, and he a-pullin' of it out,
runnin' towards 'em all the time. Jest as sure's yer live, yer can call
Tom Pope a liar, if Jerry Vance didn't save that gal's life; 'cause, if
we'd ever attacked the Injuns in camp, the first thing they'd 'a' done,
would ha' been to killed the prisoners. I know the Apaches some, I
[Illustration: The Litter.]
A consultation was now held as to the best manner of getting Juanita to
the fort comfortably, and it was decided to construct a "mountain-litter."
This was done the next morning, by procuring two stout poles,
about twenty feet in length, and lashing them firmly to two short pieces
of wood about three feet long and six feet apart: we then stretched a
blanket between the poles, so as to form a comfortable bed. Two steady
mules were selected and harnessed between the poles, in the front and
rear of the bed, thus making a comfortable carriage.
Breakfast over, Juanita was placed in the carriage, and we started for
the fort, travelling slowly and making frequent halts. Ned scarcely
mentioned his wound; and, during the four days consumed on the trip, we
were all delighted to see that Juanita was daily recovering her bloom,
and buoyancy of spirits.
Upon reaching Fillmore, I dispatched Anastacio at once to Fort Bliss,
informing Colonel Magoffin, of the result of our expedition, and asking
him to send an ambulance through to Chihuahua with Juanita, in charge of
Two days later, the colonel's own carriage, with four good road-mules,
arrived, with an invitation, asking Juanita to accept his hospitality at
Fort Bliss, and promising that Anastacio should accompany her, to her
Juanita decided to leave on the following morning; and, during the
afternoon, I was surprised to learn, that Hal had ridden up to Las
Cruces, six miles above the fort; but, shortly after his return, I
noticed upon Juanita's finger, a little gold ring, that I had not seen
before, so I ventured pleasantly to refer to it, in the course of
conversation that evening, and was informed, with many blushes, that it
was-only a memento, of their trip through the Apache country.
Back to Full Books