“Large hands laid him down tenderly, but a fit of coughing came on. He struggled in a hemorrhage for a moment, and then crossed over to the waiting figures among the oleanders. Of all the broke-up outfits, we were the most. Dead tough men bawled like babies. I had a good one myself. When we came around to our senses, we all admitted it was for the best. Since he could not get well, he was better off. We took him next day about ten miles and buried him with those freighters who were killed when the Pawnees raided this country. Some man will plant corn over their graves some day.”
As Edwards finished his story, his voice trembled and there were tears in his eyes. A strange silence had come over those gathered about the camp-fire. Mouse, to conceal his emotion, pretended to be asleep, while Bradshaw made an effort to clear his throat of something that would neither go up nor down, and failing in this, turned and walked away without a word. Silently we unrolled the beds, and with saddles for pillows and the dome of heaven for a roof, we fell asleep.
THE RANSOM OF DON RAMON MORA
On the southern slope of the main tableland which divides the waters of the Nueces and Rio Grande rivers in Texas, lies the old Spanish land grant of “Agua Dulce,” and the rancho by that name. Twice within the space of fifteen years was an appeal to the sword taken over the ownership of the territory between these rivers. Sparsely settled by the descendants of the original grantees, with an occasional American ranchman, it is to-day much the same as when the treaty of peace gave it to the stronger republic.
This frontier on the south has undergone few changes in the last half century, and no improvements have been made. Here the smuggler against both governments finds an inviting field. The bandit and the robber feel equally at home under either flag. Revolutionists hatch their plots against the powers that be; sedition takes on life and finds adherents eager to bear arms and apply the torch.
Within a dozen years of the close of the century just past, this territory was infested by a band of robbers, whose boldness has had few equals in the history of American brigandage. The Bedouins of the Orient justify their freebooting by accounting it a religious duty, looking upon every one against their faith as an Infidel, and therefore common property. These bandits could offer no such excuse, for they plundered people of their own faith and blood. They were Mexicans, a hybrid mixture of Spanish atrocity and Indian cruelty. They numbered from ten to twenty, and for several months terrorized the Mexican inhabitants on both sides of the river. On the American side they were particular never to molest any one except those of their own nationality. These they robbed with impunity, nor did their victims dare to complain to the authorities, so thoroughly were they terrified and coerced.