“But can we go with any better prospect of success to-morrow or next day?” I asked.
“Yes, a march of sixteen miles and a half will bring us to the Colorado Chiquito—a stream flowing at all times with pure water; there, also, we shall find abundance of grass and a recently established cavalry camp. I received a letter from the department commander before I left Wingate, stating that Lieutenant Hubbell and forty New Mexican cavalry had been ordered there three weeks ago. We shall find an abundance of grain at the camp, and can put our animals in good condition for an expedition into Elarnagan’s country in a few days. Now, gentlemen, let us get such rest as we can, and start at an early hour in the morning.”
THE RESCUING PARTY
At the close of the consultation I rejoined Corporal Frank, and we went back to our former seat under the cliff. The boy was exceedingly depressed, and I did my best to persuade him that all would end well and his brother would be rescued.
“But he may be dead, or dying,” he answered to my arguments.
“No; that is improbable. Had he been killed, the Indians would have taken particular pains to mutilate and place his body where the passing column would have seen it. That in itself is good evidence that he is living. The worst that is likely to happen is that he may be held for ransom or exchange.”
“But how can I wait?” exclaimed Frank. “I feel as though I ought to start now.”
“That would do no good,” I replied. “You cannot find your brother’s trail, nor could you follow it in the night.”
“I cannot help thinking, sir, that Henry will send Vicky with a message, and I fear that she cannot follow us so far. She must be fearfully hungry and thirsty. I feel as if I ought to go and meet her.”
“You may be right about the message. As Vic was without her collar, she may not have been killed.”
The hours crept slowly on. The uneasy animals never ceased their walk backward and forward between the water and the wagons, uttering their discontent. Towards midnight, overcome by the fatigues of the day, I fell into a doze, and did not wake until called at three.
A breakfast similar to our supper was served, and we were ready for the road. The mules were harnessed while vigorously braying their protests against such ill usage, and, once under way, slowly drew the wagons to the summit of the divide between the Lithodendron and the Little Colorado, a distance of twelve miles.
I did not see Frank while overlooking the drawing out of the train, but gave myself no anxiety on his account, thinking he had accompanied the advance. We had proceeded about a mile when a corporal of the guard ran after me, and reported that the Arnolds were not hitching up. Halting the train, I rode back and found Brenda sitting by the road-side in tears.