Before I had time to reply to his question, the sharp, shrill war-whoop of the Comanches fell upon our ears, ringing out on the still night air with a yell fiendish enough to paralyze the stoutest heart. For a single instant it lasted, and then the most unearthly din that can possibly be imagined filled the air; while the neighing of horses, the braying of mules, beating of drums, and discordant jangle of bells, accompanied by an occasional discharge of firearms, rendered the scene as near pandemonium as it is possible to conceive.
We saw a dozen or more dusky forms coming towards us, and Jerry and myself raised our rifles and fired.
Hal, Ned, and the teamsters were by this time awake; the latter being obliged to give their whole attention to the animals, which were making frantic exertions to escape.
The boys rushed in the most frightened manner from one place to another, —not knowing what to do or where to go,—only adding to the terrible confusion; until, by Jerry’s direction, they ensconced themselves under one of the wagons, with orders not to leave it without express permission.
As the Indians swept by us, like a whirlwind, Jerry exclaimed, “Them ain’t nothin’ but a pack of thieves, tryin’ to stampede our stock. If ther boys tied them mules squar, they hain’t made nothin’ out ’er us, that’s sartain. You youngsters ’d better show yourselves, for there ain’t no more danger to-night.”
At the sound of Jerry’s voice, the boys came out from under the wagon, both looking exceedingly foolish.
“I’ll never get under a wagon again, if you do order me to,” said Hal, turning towards Jerry. “It was a shame to send me under there when I wasn’t scart a particle.”
“Oh! you wasn’t, hey? Wal, I’m glad to hear you say that, for mebbe you won’t object to go down and count ther stock; for I’ve an idee that we shall find just about ez many mules gone ez you tied up, young man.”
“I was scart, and I don’t deny it,” said Ned; “but I’ll go down and see about the mules, Jerry.”
“Bless you! don’t yer trouble yerself one mite, I’m going myself, now,” said Jerry.
An examination of our stock showed that, notwithstanding the care taken in securing them, seven mules were missing; and that, as Jerry surmised, they were the ones that had been tied by the boys.
“I wonder how many Magoffin’s folks hev lost,” said Jerry.
“I believe I’ll walk over to the camp and ascertain.”
“I wish you would,” said Jerry; “and, judge, ef they’ve lost any, and will let me hev twenty men, I’ll fetch every one o’ the critters back afore ter-morrow night at this time, or you may call old Jerry a liar, and that’s what no man ever done yet, that’s sartin.”
“Do you really think it can be done, Jerry?”
“I’m sartin of it,” was the confident reply.