Our course lay in the vicinity of two or three little salinas, or salt lakes, but over an arid, barren plain, destitute of any vegetation, except mesquite chaparral; and about three o’clock in the afternoon, we reached the timber that skirted the base of the mountains.
As the guides, who were some distance in advance, reached the extreme end of a spur, around which the trail led, we saw them pause for a few moments, and then hasten towards us.
Upon reaching us, old Jerry, in a voice husky with emotion, said, “They’re there for sartin;” pointing towards the end of the spur.
A retreat to the cover of the trees was instantly ordered, when the guides informed us, that upon reaching the point of rocks, they discovered several animals grazing in the meadow beyond, and that the Indians must be encamped in the immediate vicinity; but in order to make sure, would leave their horses with us, and return and make a reconnoissance.
They returned a couple of hours later, reporting that they had discovered the camp, but owing to its situation, could not get near enough to see into it, without running too much risk of discovery. There was one “wickey-up,” [The name given by scouts to Apache huts.] however, made of brush, in which the girl was undoubtedly confined. From appearances they thought the Indians intended to remain there, long enough to recruit their stock, as the grass was very good; and that as soon as it should be dark, they would return and take a closer inspection of the camp. Nothing more remained for us to do therefore, but to “possess our souls with patience” until darkness came.
Now that we were so near the success or failure of the expedition for which we had endured so much fatigue and anxiety, it was impossible to remain quiet. Every moment seemed an hour. Ned was constantly on the move, apparantly unable to remain in one position an instant. He had anticipated accompanying us in the attack upon the Indian camp, but the lieutenant positively forbade it, saying, that he was not only too young, but too good a fellow to be shot by Apaches, that year.
This did not satisfy Ned, however, who came to me to intercede for him, saying, that he wanted so much to be the first one to greet Hal, and had come so far to do it, it was pretty hard to be disappointed then.
I spoke to the lieutenant in regard to the matter, but he was very decided in his refusal, saying that the boy must stay in camp, and if necessary, he should put him under guard.
Ned bore his disappointment with wonderful fortitude, I thought, for he made no remark, even when I spoke of the “guard” hinted at, except to say that “he wished it was all over;” a wish that I echoed from the bottom of my heart.
It was with a feeling of relief that I saw the guides start to once more reconnoitre the Indian camp.
Everything had been prepared in our own camp for an immediate movement— the guard had been detailed, horses saddled and bridled, ready for use, if needed, ammunition distributed, and every detail faithfully executed.