Once more the detachment gathered near the ruins of the Arnold home, and began preparations for returning to Whipple. The remains of the dead wife and mother were lifted from beneath the charred timbers and deposited in a grave near by. While the burial was taking place, the two scouts, Weaver and Cooler, were absent, looking for the Apache trail. Day was dawning, and as it was probable when they returned that the command could start, I ordered the horses fed from the loose forage scattered about, and the men to prepare their breakfast.
The scouts returned as the men were dispersing from their meal, and Cooler placed in my hand a dainty lock of flaxen hair, wound around the middle with a strand of the same.
“I found it,” said the scout, “beside the ravine yonder, a little more than two miles from here. The young miss is alive, and dropped it for a ‘sign.’ The redskins all left in that direction.”
Whatever Brenda’s three cousins may have lacked in education and cultivation, they wanted nothing in affection. They gathered about the little tress, took it daintily in their palms, kissed it again and again, and moistened it with tears. Low sobs and endearing names for the brave darling who had been willing to sacrifice her life to preserve theirs fell from their lips. Poor, rude, frontier maids, they had shown an equal bravery all through the defence, and proved themselves to be worthy descendants of the race that lived through the colonial struggles with the Indians of the Mohawk Valley. The three girls gathered about me, and, clinging to my arms, besought me to go to the rescue of their cousin.
“Yes, yes, girls,” I replied; “everything shall be done that possibly can be. We will start at once, and I hope to bring her back to you.” Turning to the father, I said, “Mr. Arnold, I will leave you a luncheon for the road, and you must try to make the distance to Prescott on foot.”
“Yes, sir; we can do it easy, thank you.”
“I would leave you some of the men as escort, but in such an expedition I need more than I have.”
“That’s all right, Mr. Dunkin; ’f I had a beast I’d go with ye. There’ll be no Apaches round these parts agin for a considerable spell,” and his eyes ran sadly over the ruins of his home, the wreck of his property, resting finally on the grave of his wife.
Yes, Brenda was alive, and a prisoner of the Apaches, spared by them, probably, as children sometimes are after such raids, for adoption. It was plainly our duty to rescue her from the fate of a continued life with her captors.
ON THE TRAIL OF THE APACHES
After a further delay, to allow the scouts and their broncos to breakfast, the party mounted and turned to the west. Calling Paul Weaver to ride by my side, I questioned him about the region before us.
“I suppose you are familiar with this part of the country, Paul?”