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 him.
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 help.
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.