The sudden transition from despondency to joy, quite overpowered them; and, for the first time, they gave way to their feelings.
“Both of us tried as hard as we could,” said Ned, “to make ’em think we didn’t care a snap about it. But we did, though, I can tell you. We were mighty glad when we saw you, wasn’t we, Hal?”
This question was too much for Hal. The boys looked into each others faces for a moment, then burst into tears.
Everybody about camp was delighted with their safe return, and they were obliged many times to repeat their story, not forgetting a description of their supper on dog meat, in the Comanches’ camp.
On the following morning the camp was astir and we were under way at a very early hour,—long before sunrise, in fact,—but we had hardly proceeded a mile from our halting-place, before one of the Mexicans, who was riding ahead of the wagons, came rushing back with the information that there was a large body of Indians a short distance in advance of us.
“It’s the balance of them cusses that had the boys, as true as preachin,” exclaimed Jerry. “The sneaks! I s’pose they found out all they wanted to from ’em, and then let ’em go. Ther best thing we kin do is ter camp right here whar we’ve got water and grass, and git ready for a brush; ’cause they’ll fight us, if ther’s any show for ’em, you bet.”
“We’ll jist camp right on this knoll, and then we shall have a fair chance all round; get your animals corralled with the wagons, and then we’ll ride out and meet ’em, that is, we must keep ’em as far away from the wagons as possible.”
Everything was soon arranged; but, to our surprise, the Indians made no attack.
[Illustration: The Comanche’s Attack.]
Jerry, myself and Hal rode out towards the spot where we had seen them, and a very few moments served to convince us that they meant business; for they were scattered, with the evident intention of surrounding us.
“That won’t work,” said Jerry. “We’ll just go back to the wagons and stay there and fight it out on our own dung-hill. There ain’t more’n a dozen of ’em, and, ef we can’t lick that number of thievin’ Comanches, we don’t desarve to git to California, no how.”
We had hardly returned to the wagons before the Indians began to show their tactics by riding around us in a circle, each time coming nearer and nearer, until finally, when within easy range, they threw themselves over upon the sides of their horses and let fly a shower of arrows, that fell among us without doing any harm, other than frightening the stock.
“Don’t a man of yer fire till I giv the order, and when they come abreast of us agin give it to ’em with your rifles; but don’t one of yer waste a shot.”
Once more we saw them coming—saw them preparing to throw themselves over to shoot from under their horses’ necks, and—