“’I was detailed with ten men to convoy a wagon train through to Fort Lewis. We had no trouble till we came to the end of that canyon, just where she breaks out onto the flats. There we got it. They were hidden up on the ridges; we lost two men and one wagon before we could get out onto the prairie.
“’I got touched up in the neck, first clatter, and was bleeding pretty badly; still I hung to my horse, and we stood ’em off till the teams made it out of the gulch; but just as we came out my horse fell and threw me—broke his leg. I yelled to the boys:
“’"Go on! For God’s sake go on!” Any delay there meant loss of the whole outfit. Besides, the boys had more than they could manage, Injuns on three sides.
“’We had a young Texan driving the last wagon. When I went down he swung those six mules of his and came back up that trail into the gut, where the bullets snapped like grasshoppers.
“’It was the prettiest bit of driving I ever saw, not to mention nerve. He whirled the outfit between me and the bluff on two wheels, yelling, “Climb on! Climb on! We ain’t going to stay long!” I was just able to make it onto the seat. In the turn they dropped one of his wheelers. He ran out on the tongue and cut the brute loose. We went rattling down the gulch behind five mules. All the time there came out of that man’s lungs the fiercest stream of profanity my ears ever burned under. I was pretty sick for a few weeks, so I never got a chance to thank that teamster. He certainly knew the mind of an army mule, though. His name was—let me see—Wiggins—yes, Wiggins.
“‘Oh, no it wasn’t,’ I breaks in, foolish; ‘it was Joyce.’
“Then I stopped and felt like a kid, for the Colonel comes up and shuts the circulation out of both my hands.
“‘I wasn’t sure of you, Bill,’ he says, ’till I saw you preside over those mules out there and heard your speech—then I recognized the gift.’ He laughed like a boy, still making free with my hands. ’I’m darn glad to see you, Bill Joyce. Now then,’ he says, ’tell me all about this killing up in the hills,’ and I done so.
“After I finished he never said anything for a long time, just drummed the desk again and looked thoughtful.
“’It’s too bad you didn’t speak out, Bill, when you first came in. Now, you’ve showed everybody that you can talk—just a little, anyhow,’ and he smiles, ’and they all think you’re the man caused the trouble. I don’t see but that you’ve got to stand trial. I wish I could help you, Bill.’
“‘But see here, Colonel,’ I says; ’I couldn’t squeal on Kink. We’re pardners. I just had to give him a chance to cut. I played dumb ’cause I knew if I talked at all, being simple and guileless, you all would twist me up and have the whole thing in a jiffy. That man give me the last drop of water in his canteen on the Mojave, and him with his own tongue swelled clean out of his mouth, too. When we was snowed in, up in the Bitter Roots, with me snow-blind and starving, he crawled from Sheeps-Horn clean to Miller’s—snow twelve foot deep, too, and nary a snow-shoe in miles, but he brought the outfit in to where I was lyin’ ’bout gone in. He lost some fingers and more toes wallering through them mountain drifts that day, but he never laid down till he brought the boys back.