“The hunt’s over,” said Franklin, looking at the dead animals. “We’ve enough for us all.”
“Yes, sir,” said Curly, “we shore got meat, and got it plenty sudden.—Juan, vamos, pronto!” He made signs showing that he wished the Mexican to skin and dress the buffalo, and the latter, as usual, proceeded to give immediate and unhesitating obedience.
Occupied for a few moments with the other at the wagon, Franklin ceased to watch Juan, as he went slowly but not unskilfully about the work of dressing the dead buffalo. Suddenly he heard a cry, and looking up, saw the Mexican running hurriedly toward the wagon and displaying an animation entirely foreign to his ordinary apathetic habit. He pointed out over the plain as he came on, and called out excitedly: “Indios! Los Indios!”
The little party cast one long, careful look out toward the horizon, upon which now appeared a thin, waving line of dust. A moment later the two wagons were rolled up side by side, the horses were fastened securely as possible, the saddles and blanket rolls were tossed into breastworks at the ends of the barricade, and all the feeble defences possible were completed. Four rifles looked steadily out, and every face was set and anxious, except that of the Mexican who had given the alarm. Juan was restless, and made as though to go forth to meet the advancing line.
“Vamos—me vamos!” he said, struggling to get past Curly, who pushed him back.
“Set down, d——n you—set down!” said Curly, and with his strange, childlike obedience, the great creature sat down and remained for a moment submissively silent.
The indefinite dust line turned from gray to dark, and soon began to show colours—black, red, roan, piebald—as the ponies came on with what seemed an effect of a tossing sea of waving manes and tails, blending and composing with the deep sweeping feather trails of the grand war bonnets. Hands rose and fell with whips, and digging heels kept up the unison. Above the rushing of the hoofs there came forward now and then a keen ululation. Red-brown bodies, leaning, working up and down, rising and falling with the motion of the ponies, came into view, dozens of them—scores of them. Their moccasined feet were turned back under the horses’ bellies, the sinewy legs clamping the horse from thigh to ankle as the wild riders came on, with no bridle governing their steeds other than the jaw rope’s single strand.