“But it certainly is some creature’s track,” said I. “You’ll admit that, won’t you?”
“Admit it? No; sartin not: that ain’t no critter’s track,” declared Jerry.
“It’s a bear’s track,” rejoined I. “You certainly are mistaken, Jerry. Look! here is the imprint of the heel, and there the toes, as plain as the nose on your face, and as clear as though made not an hour ago.”
“Well, it may look like a bar’s track, but ’tain’t one. What you call the heel and toes, is made by them spires of grass which the wind bends, makin’ ’em scoop out the sand, as you see thar. You ought to hev seen that yourself; but you see you ‘States’ men never stop to think. If a hundred was ter travel over them plains once a year for fifty years, not more than one out er the hull lot would make a respectable woodsman.”
“Why not?” interrupted both Hal and Ned, in a breath.
“Why not, youngsters? I’ll tell you why: ’cause ’Mericans allus travel with their mouths open and their eyes shet tight. A Mexican or Injun will go all day without speakin’, onless he’s spoke to; but he’ll see everything there is ter be seen on the route: a ’Merican’ll talk continually, and see nothin’ but a blasted dried-up country, that ain’t fit for nothin’.”
“I wish I knew something about trailing,” remarked Ned. “Can’t you give us a few general rules, Jerry?”
“Rules!” repeated Jerry, contemptuously, “what good d’yer s’pose rules ’ed do you? Yer wouldn’t foller ’em. P’r’aps ter-night, after we git inter camp, if these cussed varmints’ll let us alone long enuff, I’ll give yer a lectur’ on trailin’, ter pay fer yer killin’ that Comanche last night;— there they be agin, surer’n shootin’,” exclaimed he, suddenly pausing, and pointing to a dark spot far away on the prairie.
We had just reached the top of a long ridge that gave us an extensive view of the country around; and far, very far in the distance, Jerry’s keen eyes had detected this moving object.
I brought my glasses to bear upon it, and could distinctly see a party of three or four Indians, and some one who was dressed in skirts, like a woman.
I remarked that I believed there was a woman with them, and Jerry, who had been looking long and earnestly at the party, said,—
“Yes, there’s six on ’em, and one hez got on a white woman’s dress, ez near ez I kin make out. We’ve hed ’bout ‘nuff Comanche fightin’, so far ez I’m consarned; but ef them devils hev got a woman pris’ner, why we’d be less than men not ter go arter her whatever happened. We kin head ’em off easy enuff by riding along on this side the ridge; but we must stop the wagons down in the holler there, so they won’t see ’em.”
After some little hesitation, caused by a reluctance to leave the wagons in the unprotected situation that we should if we attempted to overtake the Indians, we finally decided that common humanity required we should rescue the woman, if it could be done; and, procuring a good supply of ammunition, Jerry, myself, Hal, and one of the Mexicans started, leaving Ned in charge of the wagons, with directions relative to camping for the night in case we did not return before dark.