“That’s true enuff,” said Jerry; “but who put ’em there? Somebody did, for sartin.”
“Probably some Traveller like ourselves,” replied Hal.
“Likely ez not!” grinned Jerry. “Travellers don’t ginerally have nothin’ ter do but pick up stones and pile ’em up in thet shape, do they? No, sir! them Comanches know what thet means better’n you nor me; and, ten ter one, that’s bin put there within twenty-four hours, too.”
An examination revealed the fact that the pile had indeed been recently collected and put together with great care, evidently for the purpose of giving information to some party who were expected over the route within a short time. I have since found, that, in the absence of stones, these Indians frequently set the bleached head of a buffalo or deer in some conspicuous place, with so much significance that the whole tribe understand its meaning perfectly.
Just before dark, we found good water and grass about fifty yards away from the road in a little ravine, and here I determined to encamp for the night, notwithstanding Jerry advised our moving to the top of a knoll, half a mile away.
Our wagons were drawn up between the camp and the ravine, so as to serve as a protection to our animals as well as ourselves in case of an attack. We also adopted the further precaution of securely fastening our mules to the wagon wheels and putting out an extra guard, that was to be relieved every two hours during the night, which proved to be cloudy and dark.
We all retired early, neither of us really apprehending any trouble; but, about two hours before daybreak, we were awaked by the guard, who reported that he heard noises in and about the ravine.
“If that’s the case, we may ez well git up and be ready for ’em,” said Jerry, “Rout ’em all out; it’s most daylight, anyway;” but, before the guard had time to obey this order, the war-whoop burst upon our ears, accompanied by a flight of arrows that went whizzing far over our heads into the darkness beyond.
In an instant every man was on his feet, rifle in hand. It soon became evident that the Comanches had taken possession of the ravine, its banks serving as a breastwork, behind which they were effectually sheltered in the darkness, from our bullets.
“Wal, there’s one good thing,” remarked old Jerry; “ez long ez they shoot from behind them banks there ain’t no danger of their hitting us; for they’ll allus aim too high.”
“I’m not so sure of that,” replied I, as an arrow struck me in the thigh.
“Nor I, either,” exclaimed Ned, as one of the mules dropped to the ground, with the shaft of an arrow sticking in his side.
“We can’t stan’ this a great while, no how; we must drive ’em out,” said Jerry. “Who’ll go with me round to the mouth of that cussed ravine? We must git inter their rear, somehow.”
“But we don’t know their exact position, nor how many there are of them,” replied I; “and it seems to me that the best thing we can do, is to remain where we are.”