Calling Jerry’s attention to their singular appearance, he pronounced it a mirage, which I watched with great curiosity; for it was the first time I had ever seen the phenomenon.
In a little while, the long line of trees connected themselves at each end, with the land below, and then we saw, a beautiful lake, with its white-capped waves gently driven before the breeze, rippling and dancing in the bright sunlight, like living things of life and beauty. The picture grew larger and larger as we rode, changing into a mighty ocean, with a grand old rocky shore, which appeared to be indented with scores of little bays and bayous, upon the banks of which, grew great live-oaks, their umbrageous tops casting a shade so refreshing, that it was with the greatest difficulty I could be persuaded that the scene was not a reality.
I could only console myself, however, with the wish that the boys were along to enjoy it with me; but they were in Mesilla, and Jerry was so accustomed to sights of the kind, that he merely gave the beautiful picture a passing glance, regarding it as one of the matter-of-course things, to be met with on a trip like ours.
We went into camp about four o’clock; and, just at twilight, the guard that had been stationed back on the road about a quarter of a mile, came riding furiously in, his swarthy face almost white from fright, shouting at the top of his voice,—
“Los Indios! los Indios! Los Apaches!”
In an instant the quiet camp became a scene of the utmost confusion. Jerry’s first thought was for the animals; mine, for the absent boys. I stationed the men at what I deemed the best points for defense; and Jerry, as soon as he had secured the mules, hastened to my side. We then called the Mexican who had given the alarm, and found that the fellow had really not seen anything, but had heard strange noises, that he believed came from Apaches.
Jerry volunteered to ride back and ascertain, if possible, the cause of the disturbance. He had scarcely been gone five minutes, before one of the Mexicans rushed towards me, saying,—
“Don Jerry is shouting to El Senor from the rise of ground out back upon the road.”
Springing upon my horse I rode rapidly toward the spot where he stood, when the sight that met my gaze, almost convulsed me with laughter.
Coming up the road were the boys. Ned was mounted upon his pony, and trying to lead Hal’s mule. Like most Spanish mules, the animal had a will of its own, and would not be led; but on the contrary, pulled back so strongly upon the lariat, which Ned had attached to the pommel of his saddle, that the pony could scarcely move a step.
Hal’s coat was off, his face black with dust and sweat, and he, tugging at a lariat drawn tightly over his shoulder, at the end of which was a small black bear, scarcely more than a cub. The animal insisted upon squatting on his haunches, and in that position, Hal was dragging him through the dust, the creature all the while expressing his disapprobation by low, snarling growls of defiance, and a vigorous shaking of himself between each growl.