“Well, I’ll go over and talk with Magoffin; and, if he’s lost any stock and will lend us the men, I’ve no objection to your making the attempt.”
“You bet, judge, he’ll see for himself, that them cussed varmints won’t hev more’n four hours the start; an’, ef he’ll let us hev the men, we kin ketch ’em, sartin.”
I visited Magoffin’s camp, and found it, like our own, in some confusion. I ascertained, however, that Magoffin himself was not with the train, which was in charge of his major-domo, or head man, Don Ignacio. Him I sought and learned that between twenty and thirty of their mules were missing. I then briefly stated Jerry’s proposition, to which Don Ignacio immediately assented, offering to accompany the expedition himself.
Word was sent to Jerry; and, half an hour afterwards, when I reached camp, I found him ready for a start.
Hal and Ned were both extremely anxious to go; but Jerry would not hear to it for a moment, declaring they must remain and take charge of camp during our absence.
The sun was just peeping above the eastern horizon when the party from Magoffin’s appeared. They were all Mexicans, each man provided with three days’ rations, which consisted of about a quart of atole [Wheat and brown sugar ground together and dried. A small quantity mixed with cold water makes a very pleasant and nutritious meal.] and a piece of jerked beef, securely fastened behind their saddles with their blankets. Every man was armed with a rifle and two revolvers, and carried, besides, forty rounds of ammunition in his belt.
A delay of a few moments only, and we were off.
We soon struck the Comanches’ trail and followed it in a north-easterly direction for three or four hours, when Jerry turned to me and said,—
“I was afraid of this, judge. Them varmints hev struck a ‘bee-line’ for the Pecos; and if we don’t ketch ’em afore they cross it and git into the Llano, [The Llano Estacado, or staked plain; a favorite resort of the Comanches. It is about four thousand feet above the level of the ocean, and entirely destitute of wood and water.] that’s the end on ’em, as fur as we’re concarned, so I reckon we’d best hurry on.”
Uttering the single word, ‘Adelante!’ or ‘Forward!’ we started in a brisk canter. It was a beautiful morning and the trail was easily followed.
Our animals were fresh, and everything appeared favorable for the success of our expedition, especially as we realized that the progress of the Indians must necessarily be somewhat impeded by the large number of animals they were driving before them.
The trail followed the course of the river for several miles in the direction of the Concho Springs; but, at last, turned abruptly to the left, and commenced the ascent of the great “divide” which separates the waters of the Pecos from the headwaters of the San Pedro, leading us directly towards the former stream.