“Hurrah!” cried Jerry, “there’s friends. This is the fust party we’ve seen out on the plains since we left San Antonio. We mustn’t let ’em go by without overhaulin’ ’em.”
We soon came up with them; and they proved to be Capt. Blodget and four companions from Missouri, on the way to Fort Davis, accompanied by an Arapahoe Indian as guide.
We were, of course, delighted to meet with Americans, and eagerly questioned them as to their adventures on the road; but they had seen no Indians; having, by the advice of their guide, kept a few miles away from the main travelled route, on account of there being less liability of meeting the prowling bands, who generally followed the course of the road, in expectation of more successfully conducting their thieving operations.
We soon parted with our new friends, and set out once more on our way to the Nueces.
[Illustration: The Missourians.]
Our arrival in camp, during the afternoon, was the signal for a general rejoicing among the men, who loudly applauded the determination and pluck shown by Jerry in pursuing and overtaking the thieves.
My first inquiry was for Hal and Ned, and was told that they had gone out after a flock of wild turkeys that had been heard clucking in the pecan trees, not far from camp. They had taken their guns with them, and expected to be back by noon.
Thinking they would soon return, I went over to consult with Don Ignacio about resuming our journey; but, as the water and grass were much better where we then were than at the next stopping-place, the California Springs, it was decided to remain encamped until morning.
Accepting an invitation to dine with Don Ignacio. I did not return to my own camp until about five o’clock, when I learned, to my surprise, that the boys had not put in an appearance.
Calling Jerry, I asked if he supposed any accident could have befallen them.
His reply was, “No: they had their rifles and revolvers with ’em, and they ain’t likely to meet with nothin’ bigger ’n an antelope. They ought to be able to take keer of themselves, specially as the biggest one ain’t afraid of Injuns, no how.”
“That may be true,” replied I; “but they are boys, Jerry, and I think we ought to start at once in search of them. I feel confident, if nothing had happened, they would have returned before this.”
“Boys ain’t nothin’ but a nuisance, no how, and hain’t no business travlin’ on the plains. Howsoever, I’ll hev a couple of critters ketched up and saddled, and we’ll see if we kin strike their trail,” said Jerry.
The mules were immediately brought up, and Jerry and myself mounted, and set out in pursuit of the wanderers. In a short time we struck their trail, which led through the underbrush and bottom grass, along the banks of the river for a mile or more, and then turned in the direction of a large post-oak opening, three or four miles away.