That evening, by the light of a brilliant moon, the dead Navajos were buried upon a hill-top overlooking the town, amid the wailing of their women and much ceremonious demonstration by the Jemez people, and Frank and I retired for the night to the house of the hospitable priest.
Early the following morning I held an inspection of the mules and horses, and finding the wheel and swing spans were much exhausted by the unaccustomed gait they had maintained in the forced march from the valleys, I determined to give them a day’s rest before making the return trip. Finding Sergeant Cunningham’s, Frank’s, and my own horses none the worse for their exertions, I concluded that we three would return at once to camp. I placed Corporal Duffy in charge of the party, and told him after one day had passed to return by way of the hot springs.
Instead of returning by the route we came, the sergeant, Frank, and I were to take a shorter and rougher one pointed out to us by Padre Gutierrez. This trail was almost as straight as an arrow, but led through a section of the country over which we had not scouted. At half-past nine o’clock the three of us started, Vic bounding and barking at my horse’s head.
IN A NAVAJO TRAP
Six miles from Jemez our road, which, after leaving the cultivated valley of the Pueblos had narrowed to a path, entered the forest and ran along the side of a small brook, which it continued to follow for several miles, and then rose gradually to the side of a range of hills. We were walking our animals along the side of this acclivity, at a considerable distance above the brook on our left, their hoofs making no noise in the soft, black earth, when I was startled by the braying of an ass somewhere in the ravine.
Sergeant Cunningham and Corporal Frank threw themselves quickly from their saddles and held the horses by the bits to prevent them from responding to the greeting, and I quickly sought a place from which I could make an observation.
We were in a clump of evergreen trees which commanded a view of the ravine and obscured us from sight in all directions. Looking across the ravine, I caught a glimpse of a party of Indians a little beyond the brook. Through my glass I made them out to be a party of twenty-seven Navajos, sitting about a camp-fire eating their dinner.
As many ponies were grazing near, and a mule and burro. From certain peculiar markings I had observed the day Cordova joined me in the valleys, I had no difficulty in recognizing the last two animals to be his property. Packs were lying near the fire, showing that the captured animals were being used as beasts of burden.
All this time I had entirely overlooked the presence of my dog Vic. Had I thought of her in season, it would have been easy to have kept her close at my heels; but I had left her free to wander, not thinking of any threatening danger.