She learned to close the door if we simulated a shiver, to bring me my slippers when she saw me begin to remove my boots, to carry messages to the first sergeant or the cook, to return to the camp from long distances and bring articles I sent for.
Vic was an unerring setter and a fine retriever. She was taught not to bark when a sound might bring an enemy upon us, and she would follow patiently at my heels or those of either of the boys when told to do so and never make a break to the right or left.
Our repeated scoutings soon made us acquainted with every trail in and out of the valley. I obtained permission from department head-quarters to employ the elder Cordova as spy and guide, and he was of invaluable use to us. He was able to show me a mountain-trail into the valley of San Antonio besides the one through La Puerta, which I kept in reserve for any desperate emergency which might make it necessary to use another. We frequently went trout-fishing with an armed party, and could pack a mule with fish in a few hours.
One morning, near the close of October, Cordova left the camp before reveille on a solitary hunting-trip in order to reach Los Vallecitos, four miles to the south of our valley, before sunrise.
He had gone but half an hour, and I was dressing after first bugle-call for reveille, when I was startled by the rapid approach of some one running towards my door. Presently the guide tumbled into the cabin, gasping:
“Muchos Navajos, teniente, muchos Navajos!” (Many Navajos, lieutenant, many Navajos!)
“Where are they, and how many?” I asked.
“About half a league over the ridge,” pointing to the south. “They chased me from the Los Vallecitos trail. They number about a hundred.”
Without waiting for more definite information, I told the boys, who were hastily getting into their clothes, to stay in the cabin, and, going for Sergeant Cunningham, ordered him to parade the company under arms without delay; then, taking my glass, I went to the top of the ridge. Lying down before reaching the crest, I looked through the screening grass and saw a party of eighty-three Indians, halted and apparently in consultation. They were in full war costume, and were painted and feathered to the height of Indian skill.
The party of Indians halted for nearly ten minutes, evidently in excited dispute, accompanying their talk with much gesticulation. I had time to notice that the details of dress were not like those of the Navajos with whom we had recently had a fight; but as the old hunter Cordova had pronounced them Navajos, I gave the matter little consideration. They did not seem to be aware of the existence of an encampment of soldiers in the valleys, and after a brief delay moved on towards La Puerta.
Returning to the parade, I ordered the six mules and four ponies brought to my door, saddled and bridled, and all the men not on guard to assemble under arms with cartridge-boxes filled. Fortunately, the mail-riders had arrived the previous evening from Santa Fe, so I ordered them to form a part of the expedition, and placed the party of thirteen under command of Sergeant Cunningham, mounted upon my horse.