“Only two nephews, Sandy and Malcolm, in the ‘Land of Cakes,’” was the reply.
“What a good uncle you must be to them!”
“Thank you, laddie. I hope the bairns are as fine boys as you and your brother.”
“You are very kind to say so, sir. May I ask you a question?”
“A dozen, laddie. What is it?”
“When you overtook us on the desert you said it was not far to Tyson’s Wells, and that we should soon be there.”
“Ah! then you thought it a long way, sergeant?”
“Perhaps my terrible thirst had something to do with it, but it seemed more than twenty-five miles. I thought you had a queer notion of distances.”
“Only a little deception to keep up your heart, laddie. I saw you were in sad need of water, and I made a hard ride to send it to you, but I wanted you to do your best to meet it. What do you think of the shrinking properties of water when applied to a desert road?”
“Wasn’t it great, though! Those last twenty miles your four barrels shrank into nothing but a pleasant three hours’ ride.”
After dinner Mr. Hudson reported that he had dropped information at the hotels and business places that we were here to meet a director of the Colorado Navigation Company. We also learned from him that the steamer Cocopah had arrived that morning from up-river, and was now lying at her landing, one mile below town, awaiting the return of the director from Wickenburg. Both Mr. Gray and Hudson were of the opinion that the horse-thieves were suspicious of our presence, for their agents had been unable to locate the ponies at any stable in town. The horse-race was advertised to come off on the afternoon of the following day, half a mile below the steamboat-landing, and Texas Dick and Juan Brincos had entered horses for the stakes.
Mr. Gray thought the appearance of the ponies in the race would depend entirely upon what course we pursued. If we attended the race the ponies would not be there; if we stayed away he had no doubt they would run.
Believing the trader’s convictions to be correct, I instructed the escort not to go south of the town during the day of the races, and told Frank and Henry to amuse themselves about the streets or in the vicinity of Mr. Gray’s residence. I then started with our host to procure a building for a military storehouse.
For the rest of the day the boys showed little disposition to wander about; they spent most of their time lounging on their beds with a book, or asleep.
THE PONIES ARE FOUND
The following day the boy sergeants rose from their beds fully refreshed, and after breakfast began to explore the town. They made some purchases in the stores, and found much amusement in watching a bevy of Mojave Indian girls buying pigments to be used in adorning their necks, arms, and faces. Following the bronze maidens to the shore of a lagoon that backed up to the town from the river, they seated themselves beneath a cottonwood and witnessed the designing of tracings in many colors, made with endless and musical chatterings, accompanied by an evident consciousness that they were objects of interest to two pale-face boys.