“I don’t believe that I can reach them: it will only be throwing away a cartridge, to make the attempt,” replied I.
“Well, jest try it,” continued he; “’cause, if yer could hit one of ’em, they’d leave mighty sudden, and save us considerable trouble.”
“Yes, you can reach ’em,” said Ned. “I wish you would try.”
Dismounting, and resting the carbine over the back of my horse, I took careful, deliberate aim, and fired.
That the bullet did reach them, and they were badly frightened, was evident from the suddenness with which they wheeled, and galloped over the plain, in an opposite direction.
The next moment, Jerry grasped my shoulder, and shouted, “You hit one of the devils, sartin.”
Bringing my glass to bear, I saw one of the Indians reel in his saddle, then recover himself a little, again waver, and finally fall to the ground, while his horse continued on with the remainder of the party, who, after riding some distance, stopped.
In a little time, they were joined by the two who had previously left them. Then three of their number rode towards the spot where their fallen comrade lay; and, securing his body, one of them took it before him on the horse, and the whole party galloped off.
“That ere shot of yourn was a good one,” said Jerry. “Tit for tat is my rule for them varmints; an’ we’re even with ’em on this arternoon’s work. I reckon we’d better take a shovel along, an’ bury that poor feller that’s a-lyin’ there.”
“Certainly, Jerry; but wouldn’t it be better to bring the body in, and bury it here?” asked I.
“We don’t want the men to see it, ef we kin help it. It allus makes ’em skeery; for there ain’t nobody that wants to be cut and hacked to pieces, ef they be dead, as them red devils have sarved that poor Mexican, sartin.”
Directing Patsey to bring a shovel, Jerry and I started on our sad errand. After riding about a mile, we came upon the body of the dead man, stretched upon the green grass, naked, scalped, and terribly mutilated.
For a few moments we sat upon our horses, silently gazing upon the horrible spectacle, too much shocked to speak. The silence was broken by Jerry, who exclaimed,—
“Ef them ‘Paches ain’t devils, then thar ain’t no use of havin’ any, that’s all I’ve got to say. A pictur like that ain’t a very appetizin’ thing for a Traveller that’s like to git ketched the same way, any day; so I reckon we’d better git it under kiver.”
A grave was soon dug; and, wrapping the poor mutilated body in my saddle-blanket, we laid it within the narrow walls, and hastily covered it from sight; then, remounting oar horses, silently rode back to camp.
No question was asked upon our return, and neither Jerry nor myself felt much like talking; for the scene we had just witnessed impressed upon us more strongly than words could have done, the responsibility as well as constant watchfulness and care necessary in travelling through a country so full of peril.