Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: In the Hands of the Cave-Dwellers
Author: Henty, G. A. (George Alfred), 1832-1902
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "In the Hands of the Cave-Dwellers" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

CAVE-DWELLERS***


available by Internet Archive (https://archive.org)



      Images of the original pages are available through
      Internet Archive. See
      https://archive.org/details/inhandsofcavedwe00hentiala



IN THE HANDS OF THE CAVE-DWELLERS

by

G. A. HENTY

Author of "With Roberts to Pretoria" "Won by the Sword" "To Herat
and Cabul" &c.

Illustrated by Wat. Miller



Blackie and Son Limited
London Glasgow and Dublin



[Illustration: "FOUR INDIANS STEPPED FROM AMONG THE TREES"]



CONTENTS


    CHAP.                         PAGE

    I. A MIDNIGHT ATTACK            7

    II. A HEARTY WELCOME           23

    III.  AN AMBUSH                42

    IV.  A GREAT RANCH             61

    V. AN INDIAN RAID              81

    VI. HOPEFUL NEWS              101

    VII. THE PURSUIT              120

    VIII. THE CAVE-DWELLERS       140

    IX. RESCUED                   157



IN THE HANDS OF THE CAVE-DWELLERS



CHAPTER I

A MIDNIGHT ATTACK


It was late in the evening at San Diego, in the autumn of the year 1832;
there was no moon, but the stars shone so brightly in the clear, dry
atmosphere that it was easy to distinguish objects at some little
distance. A young fellow, in the dress of a sailor, was making his way
through the narrow streets that bordered the port, when he heard a
sudden shout, followed by fierce exclamations and Mexican oaths. Without
pausing to consider whether it was prudent to interfere, he grasped
tightly a cudgel he had that day cut, and ran to the spot where it was
evident that a conflict was going on. It was but some forty yards away,
and as he approached he made out four figures who were dodging round a
doorway and were evidently attacking someone standing there. The
inequality of the combat was sufficient to appeal to the sailor's
sympathies. The sand that lay thick in the street had deadened his
footsteps, and his presence was unmarked till his stick descended with a
sharp crack on the up-lifted wrist of one of the assailants, eliciting a
yell of pain, while the knife the man held flew across the street.

One of the man's companions turned upon the new-comer, but the sailor's
arm was already raised, and the cudgel lighted with such force on the
man's head that he fell stunned to the ground. This unexpected assault
caused the other two fellows to pause and look around, and in an instant
the defender of the doorway bounded forward and buried his knife in one
of their bodies, while the other at once fled, followed by the man
whose wrist had been broken by the sailor's first blow.

"Carambo, señor!" the Mexican said. "You have rendered me a service
indeed, and I tender you a thousand thanks. I could not have held out
much longer, for I had been more than once wounded before you arrived."

"You are heartily welcome, señor. It was but a slight business--two
blows with my stick and the matter was done."

"You are not a countryman of mine, señor," the other said, for the
sailor spoke with a strong accent; "you are a stranger, and, as I can
see now, a sailor."

"That is so. I am an American."

"Is that so?" the other said, speaking this time in English. "As you
see, I know about as much of your tongue as you do of mine. I thought
you must be a stranger even before I observed your dress, for street
frays are not uncommon in this town, whereas in other ports there are
scores of men ready for any villany, and few of my people would care to
interfere in a fray in which they have no interest. But do not let us
stay here. It is best to get out of this quarter."

"Shall we do anything with these fellows? The one I hit can only be
stunned, and I should think we ought to give him in charge to the
watch."

The other laughed. "You might wait some time before we found them, and,
besides, it would give us a deal of trouble. No; leave them where they
lie. The one I struck at least will never get up again. Now, señor, may
I ask the name of my preserver? Mine is Juan Sarasta."

"Mine is William Harland," the sailor replied.

"We are friends for life, Señor Harland," the Mexican said, as he held
out his hand and gripped that of the sailor warmly. "Where are you
staying?"

"I am staying nowhere at present," the sailor laughed. "I deserted from
my ship three days ago, bought a supply of food, and have been some
miles up the country. I knew that the vessel was to sail to-day, and I
came back again and watched her go out just before sunset, and have been
sitting on a barrel down at the wharf, wondering what I was going to do,
and whether, after all, it would not have been wiser of me to have put
up with that brute of a captain until we got down to Valparaiso."

"We will talk all that matter over later," the Mexican said. "I am
staying with some friends, who will, I am sure, make you welcome when I
tell them that you saved my life."

"I thank you very much," the sailor said, "but no doubt I shall be able
to find some little inn where I can obtain a night's lodging."

"Such a thing is not to be thought of, Señor Harland, and I shall feel
very much hurt if you do not accept my offer."

They were now in a wider street, and, passing a wine-shop from which the
light streamed out, Harland saw that the Mexican was a young fellow but
two or three years older than himself, and his dress showed him to
belong to the upper class. The Mexican's glance had been as quick as his
own, for he said, "Why, you are younger than I am!"

"I am just eighteen."

"And I twenty. Were you an officer on your ship?"

"No. My father is one of the leading citizens of Boston; he absolutely
refused to allow me to follow the sea as a profession, although he is a
large ship-owner himself; however, my mind was made up, and as I could
not go as an officer, I came as a sailor. This is not my first voyage,
for two years ago he let me sail in one of his ships as an apprentice,
making sure that it would have the effect of disgusting me with the sea.
However, the experiment failed, and to his anger I returned even fonder
of it than when I started. He wanted me to go into his office, but I
positively refused, and we had a serious quarrel, at the end of which I
went down to the river and shipped before the mast. I know now that I
have behaved like a fool. The captain was a brute of the worst sort, and
the first mate was worse, and between them they made the ship
unbearable. I stood it as long as I could, but three days before we got
to this port one of the young apprentices, whom they had pretty nearly
killed, jumped overboard, and then I made up my mind that as soon as we
landed I would bolt and take my chance of getting a berth on board some
other ship."

"But you speak Spanish very fairly, señor."

"Well, the last ship I was in traded along the western coast, putting in
at every little port, so I picked up a good deal of the language, for we
were out here nearly six months. The ship I have just left did the same,
so I have had nearly a year on this coast, and having learned Latin at
school, of course it helped me very much. And you, señor, how do you
come to speak English?"

"I have been down for the past six months in Valparaiso, staying with a
relation who has a house there, and my greatest friends there were some
young Englishmen of my own age, sons of a merchant. My father had spoken
of my paying a visit to your States some day, and therefore I was glad
of the opportunity of learning the language. This, señor, is the house
of my friends."

As Harland saw that his companion would take no denial, he followed him
into the house. The young Mexican led the way to a pretty room with
windows to the ground, opening on to a garden.

"You are late, Señor Juan," a gentleman said, rising from his seat; but
before the young man could reply, a girl of fifteen or sixteen years old
cried out: "Madre Maria, he is wounded!"

"It is nothing serious, and I had almost forgotten it till just now it
began to smart. I have two, or, I think, three stabs on my left arm;
they are not very deep, as I twisted my cloak round it when I was
attacked. But it would have been a very serious business had it not been
for this gentleman, whom I wish to introduce to you, Don Guzman, as the
saviour of my life. He is an American gentleman, the son of a wealthy
ship-owner of Boston, but, owing to some slight disagreement with his
father, he has worked his way out here as a sailor. I ventured to
promise that you would extend your hospitality to him."

"My house is at your service, señor," the Mexican said courteously. "One
who has rendered so great a service to my friend Don Juan Sarasta, is my
friend also. Christina, ring the bell and tell the servants to bring hot
water and clothes, and then do you go to your room while we attend to
Don Juan's injuries."

The wounds proved to be by no means serious; they were all on the
forearm, and, having to pierce through six or seven inches of cloth, had
not penetrated very far. They had, however, bled freely, and although
the young man laughed at them as mere scratches, he looked pale from the
loss of blood.

"A few bottles of good wine, and I shall be all right again."

"I must apologize for not having asked you before," Señor Guzman said to
Harland, when the wounds were bandaged, "but have you supped?"

"Yes, thank you, señor. I bought some food as I came through the town,
and ate it as I was waiting at the port."

"Have you any luggage that I can send for?"

"I have a kit-bag, which I will fetch myself in the morning. It is out
on the plain. I did not care to bring it from the town until I knew that
the vessel I came in had sailed."

"I can lend you some things for the night," Juan said. "You are a little
taller than I am, but they will be near enough."

Some wine and biscuits were now brought in, and some excellent cigars
produced.

"Were they thieves that attacked you, think you, Don Juan?" his host
asked, after the latter had given a detailed account of his adventure.

"I cannot say, but I own I have an idea it was my life that they wanted
rather than my valuables. I had a fancy that a man was following me, and
I went to see the man I had spoken to about the mules. Coming back I
heard a whistle behind me, and twenty yards farther three men sprang
out, and one ran up from behind, so that I don't think it was a chance
encounter."

"Do you suspect anyone?"

The young Mexican hesitated a moment before he answered. "No, señor; I
have no quarrel with anyone."

"I do not see how, indeed, you could have an enemy," Don Guzman said,
"seeing that you have been here only for a fortnight; still, it is
curious. However, I have no doubt there are plenty of fellows in the
town who would put a knife between any man's shoulders if they thought
he was likely to have a few dollars in his pocket. Your watch-chain may
have attracted the eye of one of these fellows, and he may have thought
it, with the watch attached to it, well worth the trouble of getting,
and would have considered it an easy matter, with three comrades, to
make short work of you, though I own that when you showed fight so
determinedly I wonder they did not make off, for, as a rule, these
fellows are rank cowards."

Will Harland observed that when the don asked if Juan had any suspicions
as to the author of the attempt, Donna Christina, who had returned to
the room when his wounds were dressed, glanced towards him, as if
anxious to hear his answer. Putting that and the young Mexican's
momentary hesitation together, he at once suspected that both he and the
girl had a strong idea as to who was at the bottom of this attempt. The
subject was not further alluded to, the conversation turning upon the
United States, concerning which the Mexican asked Harland many
questions.

"It is a pity so great a distance divides us from them," he said. "It is
more effectual than any ocean, and yet perhaps if we were nearer
neighbours your people would disturb our quiet life here. They are
restless, and forever pushing forward, while we abhor changes, and live
as our fathers did three hundred years ago. You see, the mountains act
as a barrier to us, and we have never even tried to extend the territory
we occupy beyond the strip of land between the coast and the mountains,
and, indeed, that is ample for us. Our population has decreased rather
than increased since Mexico declared its independence in 1821, and took
what I have always considered the ill-advised step of expelling all the
Spanish residents about six years ago.

"Not that we in this province took any very active part in the civil
wars that for ten years raged in Central Mexico; but although the
Spanish authorities were bad masters, it must be granted that, while
they were here, there was more trade and commerce than there has since
been, and that the advantages all expected to secure from the revolution
have by no means been obtained. It is curious that the same has been the
case in the other countries that gained their independence. In Central
America there are constant troubles, in Peru things have gone backward
rather than forward, and Chile alone shows signs of enterprise and
advancement. However, these things do not concern us greatly; we live
by the land and not by trade; we have all we want, or can desire, and
subsist, like the patriarchs of old, on our flocks and herds.

"Don Juan's father, a man of vigour and courage, has shown more
enterprise than any of us, for before the beginning of the troubles he
moved far up a valley running into the heart of the mountains, and
established himself there. He had large flocks and herds, but his land
was insufficient to support them, and, in spite of the warnings of all
his friends, he determined to move. So far he has proved himself a wise
man. He began by making a sort of treaty with the Indians of that part,
by which he agreed to give them a considerable amount of blankets and
other goods if they would bind themselves not to interfere with him in
any way. These people have generally proved themselves faithless in such
matters, but this has been an exception to the rule, and I believe that
he has not lost a single head of cattle since he went out there, and he
is now undoubtedly one of the richest men on this coast. The fact that
he should send his son on to Chile to enlarge his mind and prepare him
for a trip to the United States, and even to Europe, shows the energy of
the man, and how far removed his ideas are from those of the hacienderos
in general. I can assure you that Juan's departure caused quite a
sensation in this part of the province."

"Does your father often come down here himself, Don Juan?"

"He generally comes down once a year to arrange for the disposal of the
increase of his cattle--that is to say, of the tallow and hides; as to
the meat, it is practically of no value. Of course the bullocks are
killed on the estate; the daily consumption is large, for he has upwards
of fifty peons and vaqueros, but this is a comparatively small item, for
he generally kills from eighteen thousand to twenty thousand animals;
the carcasses are boiled down for the fat, and that and the hides are
packed on great rafts and sent down to the coast. His place is only a
few miles from the Colorado River. When he comes down here, he takes up
a ship, which he sends round to Loreto, and thence up to the mouth of
the Colorado."

"How far is this place from here?"

"About two hundred miles."

"I should have thought it would have been better to have them here."

"No, there is a range of hills about half-way between his place and the
coast, across which it would be difficult to get them. Another thing is,
that there is scarce any food by the way; rain seldom falls here, and
although the land is very rich when irrigated, it affords but a scanty
growth in its wild state. A herd of twenty thousand bullocks could
scarcely exist on the road, and even if they got here, they would have
lost so much fat that they would scarce pay for boiling down."

They sat smoking in the veranda until nearly midnight, and Don Guzman
then conducted the young sailor to the chamber that had been prepared
for him.



CHAPTER II

A HEARTY WELCOME


Early as Mexican households are awake, in order to enjoy the
comparatively cool hours of the morning, William Harland was the first
up, and, dressing hastily, he started out to fetch his kit-bag. At the
bottom of this he had stowed away, before he went on board, the clothes
that he had worn when he left home, and also the contents of a small
trunk that he had taken with him, buying an outfit for use on board from
a slop-shop. He was back in an hour, for he had hidden the bag in a
clump of bushes but two miles from the town. The servants were moving
about, but, with the exception of Juan, none of the others were yet
down. The latter met him as he entered.

"I have been to your room, and when I found it empty, guessed the errand
on which you were away. Why did you not tell me last night? You could
have had a negro slave to go with you and carry that sack of yours
back."

"Oh, I am not too proud to carry it myself, Don Juan, and I was really
anxious to get it the first thing this morning, for I certainly should
feel very uncomfortable sitting down to breakfast with your friends in
this rough sailor suit. Luckily, I have some decent clothes in my bag,
and half a dozen white jean jackets and trousers, which I bought for
wearing ashore when I was on my last voyage; for then, as an apprentice
and in a ship chiefly belonging to my father, I had a good many
privileges in the way of leave when we were in port."

"You look desperately hot, and if you would like a swim, there is a pond
in that clump of trees at the end of the garden--I have had a dip there
myself this morning."

"Thank you, I should like it extremely, and I can then finish my toilet
there."

The pond was an artificial one, the sides and bottom being lined with
stone; a thick band of trees and undergrowth surrounded it; it had
doubtless been formed for the purpose of a bath, and also, as was shown
by two or three seats placed around it, as a shady retreat during the
heat of the day. In half an hour Will rejoined Juan, looking cool and
comfortable in his white jacket and trousers, and a white flannel shirt,
with turn-down collar and black silk handkerchief around his neck.

"That is a good deal better," Juan said; "you only want a sombrero to
complete your costume. Sit down here; I told the servant to bring
chocolate for us directly I saw you coming out from the trees. Don
Guzman and Christina take their chocolate in their room. I don't suppose
that we shall see them till breakfast, which will not be served for an
hour and a half yet."

"How is your arm, Don Juan?"

"Drop the Don, please; I was always called simply Juan by my English
friends at Valparaiso. It is much more pleasant than our ceremonious way
of addressing each other. So call me Juan, please, and I will call you
Will."

"Now, Juan," Harland said, as they sipped their chocolate, "who do you
believe set those ruffians on to you? I could see plainly enough that
both you and the señorita had suspicions, though you did not choose to
mention them to her father."

"You are a sharp observer," Juan laughed. "Well, yes, I will tell you
frankly upon whom my suspicions fell. I must tell you first that Don
Guzman is a connection of mine, my father having married a first cousin
of his. When my father went out to this new ranch of his, twelve years
ago, he left me behind, under my cousin's charge, and I lived here for
five years, going to the mission to be educated by the fathers. Since
then I have generally spent a month or two here, and not unnaturally, as
you who have seen her will doubtless admit, I have grown to be very fond
of Christina. Of course till lately she has simply looked upon me as her
big cousin, but when I was last here, before going down to Valparaiso,
she was a little changed; she had grown to be shy with me, which she had
never been before, and I hoped that she had begun to return my
affection. Naturally enough, when I returned the other day, I spoke out
to her, and learned, to my delight, that this was so, but of course she
could say nothing until our parents had been consulted--an indispensable
step, as you of course know, for in Mexico, although young people may
have some voice in the matter, the parents' consent has to be obtained,
and the preliminaries are, in fact, settled by them. In this case,
happily, there is no fear of difficulty arising on that score. Don
Guzman and my father are firm friends, and the alliance would be a
suitable one in all respects, as, although my father may be more wealthy
than Don Guzman, Christina is an only child, while I have a sister who
is about her age."

"But I still do not see, Juan, how this explains anyone having an enmity
with you."

"No, I am just coming to that. You must know that the military
commandant of San Diego, Colonel Pedros Melos, has a son Enriques, who
is a captain in the regiment stationed here. Christina told me before I
went down to Chile that Captain Melos was a frequent visitor, and that
he was very attentive to her father, and frequently brought bouquets of
choice flowers. She added that, although he was very civil to her, as
far as the customs of the country permit a caballero to be civil to any
young lady not related to him, she did not like him. Well, it happened
the other day, that, just as Christina and I were coming to an
understanding, exactly where we are sitting now, this Captain Melos
stepped out from the window of the drawing-room. I should imagine that
he had no great difficulty in understanding the situation. A young
couple who have just declared their love for each other are apt to look
a little awkward when suddenly interrupted.

"The sound of his foot, as he stepped out on the veranda, caused us to
look round sharply. As his eye fell on us he turned as pale as if he had
received a blow, and if ever man's face wore for a moment an expression
of intense rage his did then. However, he checked himself, murmured a
word or two about believing that Señor Guzman was in the veranda, and
then turned on his heel and went back into the room. Christina caught my
arm. 'Beware, Juan, that man will be your deadly enemy!' And I felt that
she spoke truly. She said that his attentions of late had been very
marked, and she had been in constant fear that his father would call on
hers to ask for her hand for his son. We agreed that I should, without
loss of time, speak to her father on the subject of my suit, and I did
so on the same day.

"He was good enough to say that when a request from my father reached
him to that effect, he should most willingly accede to it. Colonel Melos
did, in fact, call the day before yesterday, and formally proposed the
alliance, to which Don Guzman replied that his daughter's affections
were already engaged with his perfect consent and approval. The colonel,
of course, had nothing to do but to bow himself out with as good a
grace as he could muster. I fancy from what I have heard that he is a
good officer and an honest man. He has played a part in all the civil
wars that we have had here, but, unlike most others, he always stuck to
the same side, which, fortunately for him, turned out in the end to be
the successful one. His son bears an altogether different character.
Here, indeed, there has been nothing much against him; the fact of his
father being commandant has no doubt acted as a check upon him, and
possibly the hope that he may have entertained of winning Christina's
hand may have helped to render him discreet, but I have heard that in
other places where his regiment has been in garrison, he bore the worst
of characters.

"Thus, you see, as a bitterly-disappointed man and as an unscrupulous
one, he might well have been the author of this attack upon me; and, as
you noticed, the idea occurred to Christina as well as myself,
remembering as we did the expression of his face when he saw us
together. That the affair was his work, however, we have no shadow of
proof, and I should not think of whispering my suspicions to anyone.
Still, I shall take every precaution for the three or four days that I
remain here, and shall not be out in the unfrequented streets after
nightfall. And now about yourself; tell me, frankly, what are you
thinking of doing? Do you intend to continue at sea, or are you thinking
of returning to your home, where, no doubt, you would be gladly received
by your father?"

"I have not thought it fully over yet, but I certainly shall not go back
to my father with the tale that I found my life unbearable and deserted
my ship. When I go it must be with a better record than that. He may
have objected most strongly to my taking to the sea, but I think it
would be an even greater annoyance to him to find that having, in
defiance of his wishes, done so, I had so soon backed out of it. He
himself is a man who carries through anything that he undertakes, no
matter if he incurs loss in so doing. I do not say that if I saw some
other opening and made a success of it, he would mind; but when I do go
back it must not be as a returned prodigal, but as a man who has done
something, who has in one line or another achieved a certain amount of
success. As far as I have thought it over, my ideas have been to take a
passage down to Valparaiso, which seems to me the most go-ahead place on
this coast, and there look round. I have money enough to last for some
little time, for my father, on my return from my last voyage, gave me a
cheque for five hundred dollars, and, beyond twenty or thirty dollars
expended on my sea-kit, I still have it all in my belt."

"But what do you think of doing in Valparaiso?"

"I would take anything that turned up except a clerkship. Then, if in
two or three months I could see nothing that seemed likely to lead to a
good thing, I would ship again."

"Well, you will not embark on any such wild-goose chase for some time,
for I intend to take you off with me to my father's hacienda for a long
visit. You will receive the heartiest of welcomes when I tell them what
you have done for me. I can promise you, I think, a pleasant time there,
and you will see what will be quite a new side of life to you, and learn
something of the ranching business, which, let me tell you, is as good
as another, though I admit that a considerable amount of capital is
required for making a fair start."

"I should like it extremely," Harland said, "but--"

"There are no buts in it, Will," the other broke in. "You don't suppose
that after what has happened you are going your way and I am going mine
in the course of a few days, as if we were but two passengers who had
made a short voyage together. My father would never forgive me if I did
not bring you up with me. I expect to-morrow or next day we shall have
three or four of the men down with horses, blankets, and other
necessities for travel. I sent a messenger off on the day I arrived.
There is generally a wagon or two that comes down every month for
groceries, wine, and other matters, and as I find that it is fully that
time since the last trip, I expect that the carts and men will both
arrive to-morrow. Travelling comfortably, we shall take the best part of
a week to get there; of course, with relays of horses it could be done
in less than half that time. The wagons take ten days, and that is good
travelling, especially as there are three days' heavy work over the
first range of hills. Here the mules will have a few days' rest and then
start again."

"You find mules better than horses for wagons?"

"Beyond all comparison better; the value of a mule is six times that of
a horse, except for exceptionally good and fast animals. Feed a mule
well, and there is no better beast in the world. Of course the mules are
big animals, being bred from the finest donkeys that can be imported
from Spain, and can drag as much as oxen and go half as fast again."

Acting under his friend's advice, Will purchased the necessaries for his
journey, the principal item being a Mexican poncho; this, in
appearance, was like a large blanket made of a long, soft wool that was
practically water-proof. A hole edged with braid was cut in the middle.
This was slipped on over the head, and a long riding-cloak, reaching to
the stirrups, was obtained, while at night it served all the purposes of
an ordinary blanket. Juan presented him with a rifle, a brace of
handsomely mounted double-barrelled pistols, and a sword.

"We always ride armed across the hills; we are on good terms with the
Indians near us, but might fall in with some wandering bands, or
possibly a party of white cut-throats, fugitives from justice. Besides,"
he added significantly, "there may possibly be dangers on this side of
the first range of hills."

"You think--" Will began.

"Yes, I think it possible that the organizer of the first attempt on my
life may try again. It is not probable that he likes me any better for
the failure he then made."

Some high riding-boots, a couple of pairs of fringed Mexican trousers,
and a few other necessaries completed the equipment, most of which was
to be sent up in the wagon with the kit-bag. Will was in high spirits.
Nothing could be more pleasant than the trip promised to be, and he
looked eagerly forward to the start. The wagons had arrived, and with
them four mounted men who had overtaken them on the day before they
reached San Diego. They brought down with them two riding horses,
intended for Juan's use.

"My father always sends two down," Juan said, "so that I can have a
change each day, and be beyond the reach of such accidents as a horse
straining himself or casting a shoe. Besides, on more than one occasion
I have brought back a friend with me, as I am going to do now."

"I suppose you breed a good many up there?"

"We breed enough for the wants of our vaqueros, and a few high-class
animals for our own riding. We don't care about having more than is
necessary, for a good horse is a temptation that an Indian can scarcely
withstand. Cattle they don't care so much for, for up in the mountains
feed would be scarce for them; besides, they have no difficulty in
getting meat--game is plentiful enough, deer and bear, while at times
they go down into the great plains on the other side of the Rockies and
kill as many buffalo as they please, jerk the meat, and bring it up to
their villages. In point of fact, we never refuse half a dozen or a
dozen cattle to any party of Indians who come down and ask for them. It
keeps us on good terms with them, and practically costs us nothing, for
they do not often take the hides, preferring greatly deer-skins for
their hunting-shirts and leggings, for which bullock hide is too heavy,
while for their lariats and heel ropes, and so on, they use buffalo
hide, which is stronger and tougher. So practically, you see, it is only
the value of the fat that we lose."

Three days later Juan and Will said good-bye to Señor Guzman and his
daughter and set out, the four mounted men riding behind them with two
led animals carrying provisions and water-skins.

"How far is it before we get beyond the settled country?"

"The country is cultivated as far as the Chocolate Hills, as there are
several small rivers, whose water is used for irrigating the fields.
Beyond these hills there are scattered villages and haciendas, their
positions being determined by the existence of streams coming down from
a great mountain range, for although rain seldom falls near the coast,
there are heavy showers there occasionally. Except in the rainy season,
the beds of these streams are dry, but wells sunk in them at all times
yield a plentiful supply of water. It is drawn up by the labour of
bullocks, and the ground irrigated; and they grow oranges, bananas,
grapes, melons, and all kinds of fruit, in fact, in abundance. Some of
these irrigated estates are of considerable size. For the last fifty
miles we shall come across no settlements until we reach our own
hacienda, for the country is too much open to Indian forays. Though we
do not suffer as much as they do on the other side of the Colorado;
still the risk is great--too great for men who embark their capital, to
say nothing of risking their lives. We are fortunate in the fact that
the tribe immediately in our neighbourhood is a small one, and far less
warlike than many of their neighbours. The goods they receive from us,
and the cattle, make them comparatively rich, and they have never shown
any signs whatever of enmity against us. We have promised them that if
they are attacked by any of their savage neighbours we will, if they
come down to us, assist them, and as the hacienda is strongly built and
we have a supply of arms sufficient for all our men, we could resist any
attack. I think this understanding has quite as much to do with their
friendly feeling towards us as the benefits they receive from us."

"It must be a large valley to be capable of sustaining so vast a herd as
that of your father?"

"Yes; the valley is not very wide at the lower end near the river, but
the hills open out and form a basin some ten miles wide and twenty miles
long. Beyond that it extends a considerable distance, but narrows fast;
a stream runs down the centre, and during the rainy season and at the
time of the melting of the snows there are innumerable rivulets coming
down from the hills, and in consequence the grass is sweet and long. Our
herds amount to about forty thousand head, and we do not let them exceed
that number. We do not use the upper part of the valley. By our
agreement with the Indians that is to remain untouched as a
hunting-ground for them."

That night they slept at the hacienda of some acquaintances of Señor
Sarasta, where they were most hospitably entertained; the next day they
halted for a few hours at San Felice, and rode on as soon as the sun had
lost its full power. They were now beyond the region of general
cultivation; the plain was, however, fairly green, as a short time
before the unusual circumstance of a heavy rain had occurred, with the
result that in the course of a few days the whole face of the country
was changed. As soon as the horses were unsaddled the men scattered to
collect dead brushwood, and in a short time a fire was blazing, and a
slice from a hindquarter of venison that had been presented to them by
their host of the night before was skewered on a ramrod and placed over
it. They had made sixty-five miles in two days' journey. They had not
been following any beaten track, but the men had all made the journey so
often that no path was needed. In the morning they would begin the
ascent of the lower slopes of the mountains, whose crest rose some
thirty miles ahead of them, although, seen in the clear air, they did
not seem to Will Harland to be more than a fifth of that distance.
Rather to the surprise of the men, Juan ordered that a watch should be
kept, a precaution they had never taken before.

"I have an idea," he said to Will, "that we shall be attacked either
to-night or while mounting the hill to-morrow. It is just as well to
take the precaution to set a guard to-night, but I do not really think
that if a party are out after us they will trouble us to-night. They
could not know exactly the road we should take, but will be sure that we
shall cross the hills and come down on the north side of the Great Dry
Lake, and probably stop at Martinez. From there the country is better
cultivated, as we go along the Chatenezonais Valley, in which there are
several villages. To-morrow's journey is, therefore, the most lonely and
dangerous, and they would have no motive whatever in going farther, so I
think that for to-night we can sleep tranquilly. To-morrow we shall have
to be on our guard."



CHAPTER III

AN AMBUSH


The night passed quietly. The soil was soft and sandy, and, rolled in
his poncho, Will slept as comfortably as if in a hammock. They were in
the saddle early, for the day's ride would be a very long one, and Juan
intended to give the horses a day's rest at Martinez.

"We don't consider sixty miles to be a long journey here," Juan said, as
they started, "and, indeed, if one starts on fresh horses it is a mere
nothing; but when one rides the same, day after day, forty is as much as
one has a right to expect from them after one is once fairly on his way.
We shall meet with no water to-day, and it is specially for this part of
the journey that we brought the water-skins with us."

"I noticed that you did not fill them half full at the last stream we
crossed."

"No, it was not necessary; the horses will have a good drink at a stream
we shall cross in a couple of hours, and we shall fill the skins there;
beyond that we enter the mountains and travel through an extremely
difficult pass, or, rather, I should say, passes, till we come down into
the valley. The carts do not come this way; they strike the Colorado
River many miles down and follow its bank. It is at least a third
longer, but if it were three times as long they would have to go that
way; the passes are difficult enough for horses, but they would be
impossible for wheeled carriages."

After riding for thirty miles they halted for half an hour; the horses
were watered, and the men ate some of the meat they had cooked overnight
and some cold pancakes that had been fried in deer's fat. They were now
far up on the hillside and following a regular track.

"Another hour's sharp climbing and we shall be on the top summit of the
pass. See to the priming of your rifles and pistols. If we are not
attacked before we reach the top I shall admit that I have been wrong,
and that the attack upon me was, after all, the work of street
ruffians."

The four vaqueros were ordered to look to their pistols before
remounting; they did not carry guns.

"Do you expect an attack, master?" one asked. "I have not heard of
there being any bands on the road just lately, but of course there may
be some, and this bit of road is their favourite lurking-place, as the
traffic between San Filepi and the Chatenezonais Valley all comes this
way."

"I do not know that I expect to be attacked, Lopez, but I have grounds
for suspecting that it is possible. If we should be ambushed, dismount
at once, and take up your position behind the rocks and fight them in
their own way. If the road were good enough I should say gallop on, but
it is too steep and too rough for that."

Will Harland soon found that his friend had not exaggerated the
difficulty of the pass. On both sides the hills sloped very steeply and
were covered by boulders. The track in the middle of the ravine was just
wide enough for a cart, but at distances of two hundred or three hundred
yards apart the rock had been cut away for some twenty yards, so that
two or three carts could draw aside there to allow others coming the
other way to pass. As it was inconvenient for two to ride abreast, Juan
said: "We had better go in single file."

"Yes, and I will ride first," Will replied. "If there should be a fellow
hiding among these rocks, it will be you they are after, and, riding
first, you would present an easy mark for them; whereas, if I am first,
they won't be able to aim at you till you are pretty nearly abreast of
them."

"I don't like that," Juan began, but Will pushed his horse forward. Both
had unslung their rifles from their shoulders, and were carrying them in
readiness for instant use.

"Keep your eyes on the rocks," Juan said to the men behind him; "if one
of you sees the least movement give a shout, and all throw yourselves at
once off your horses."

It would, however, have been no easy matter to distinguish a man's head
among the masses of rock and boulders through which in many places
brushwood and small trees had sprung up, and, although all kept scanning
the hillsides minutely, nothing suspicious was heard, until suddenly a
shot was fired from a spot some forty feet up the rocks on the left-hand
side. Will instantly swung himself to the ground, gave a sharp slap on
his horse's quarters, and ensconced himself behind a rock, while the
animal, relieved from the weight of his rider, made his way rapidly
along the path. The first shot had been followed by half a dozen others.
These came from both sides of the ravine, and a ball striking the rock
close to Will's head, showed him that his position was no more safe
there than it would have been on horseback. He therefore made a rush
upward, and took up a position between two rocks which covered him from
either side. Then he took advantage of some bushes and crawled some
yards farther along, until he came to a spot where he could lie in
shelter, and yet obtain a view through the bushes both above and below
him.

"Are you all right, Juan?" he shouted.

The answer came from rocks on the other side. "Yes; the ball aimed at me
has killed my horse, but I am unhurt. Lopez is killed."

For some time shots were fired at intervals. Juan shouted to the
vaqueros not to use their pistols.

"You would have no chance of hitting them," he said, "and they would
only pick you off one by one. Lie quiet for the present; keep your shots
till they come to close quarters. Now, Will," he said in English, "you
watch the rocks above me, and I will watch those above you. Mark, if you
can, where a shot is fired; lie with your rifle pointed at it until the
fellow stands up to fire again, and then let him have it."

Four shots were fired almost together from Will's side, the assailants
aiming in the direction from which the voice had come, but Will had no
doubt that Juan had foreseen this and was in shelter when he spoke.
Presently he saw a puff of smoke shoot out from the side of a large
rock. He brought his rifle to bear upon it and watched intently. Three
minutes later a head appeared cautiously round the rock, then a shoulder
appeared, and a rifle was pointed towards the spot behind which he had
first sheltered. He fired, there was a sharp scream, and the rifle went
clattering down, exploding as it fell. The moment that he had fired,
Will drew back into the shelter of the stone. Two other shots rang out,
and the balls cut up and scattered the small pebbles on which he had
been lying. He was able to observe, however, the position of one of his
assailants. While he was reloading he heard the crack of Juan's rifle,
followed by an exclamation of satisfaction.

"That is two of them, Will. They will soon get tired of this game."

The distances were so short, in fact, that it was almost impossible for
even an indifferent shot to miss his aim when he once caught sight of
the head of an enemy. Presently another shot struck the rock close to
Will. It was fired some paces from the stone that he was watching, and
showed that the assailants were using the same tactics that he had done,
and were shifting their positions after firing. He moved a few yards
away, and did not answer to the next two or three shots that were
fired.

"He is done for," he heard one of the men on the other side of the
ravine say. They were but some fifty feet away from him, and it was,
therefore, easy to catch their words as they shouted from one to the
other.

"Well, then, go down and attack the man we want," another voice said.
"No one but the Englishman had a rifle over there, so you are quite
safe."

"You had better come and show us the way. We did not bargain for this
sort of thing. You said we should settle it all in one volley."

"So you would have done, you fools, if you could have shot straight. Who
could have supposed that you were all going to miss at that distance.
Why, a child of ten years old would have fired straighter. However, I am
ready to lead the way. You, over there, make a rush when we do."

Will marked the exact position of the speaker. It was behind a large
boulder some fifteen yards up the hill and as much ahead of him; he saw
that to join the men who had been firing he would have to pass an open
space between that and some other large masses of rock, and he laid his
sights on that spot. The speaker, who was evidently confident that he
was killed, and that therefore there was no danger of a shot being fired
at him while he moved to join the others, appeared half a minute later.
He was stooping, and held a pistol in each hand. The moment his body
appeared in the line of fire Will pressed the trigger, and the man
rolled over like a log. A cry of dismay burst from the hillside above
Harland, where the men had evidently been watching also for their leader
to join his comrades and give the signal for a rush.

"I have shot Melos, Juan!" Will shouted. "At least if he is, as you
suppose, their leader."

"Well done, indeed! We shall have no difficulty with the rest of them if
their paymaster is dead; they will think of nothing now but saving their
own wretched lives."

The parties on the opposite sides of the ravine now shouted to each
other. Two or three of them urged their companions to make a general
rush, but the majority were altogether against this.

"Why should we throw away our lives?" one said. "They have all got
pistols, and even if we got the better of them, four or five of us would
be likely to go down before we had finished with them. Indeed, they
would shoot us down directly we showed ourselves, and half of us would
never reach the bottom."

There was a silence which showed that there was a general feeling that
he was right. Then the same speaker went on:

"Caballeros, we have been cruelly misled; we are poor men, and have been
led into this. Two of us have been killed; we ask your mercy."

As he ceased there was a general cry of "Mercy! mercy!"

"You dogs!" Juan shouted back, "if it were not that all of your lives
are not worth as much as a drop of the honest blood of those with me, I
would not move from here until I had put an end to the last of you.
However, you have had a lesson now. Come down one at a time into the
road. When you get there drop your pistols and knives to the ground, and
then go down the hill. When one man has started let the next man come
down. How many are there of you?"

"There are six of us alive," the man answered. "We were eight besides
our leader. My brother was killed by you in San Diego the other night,
and if it had not been for that I should not have come."

"Look here," Juan said, "I shall see every one of your faces plainly as
you come down, and when you have thrown down your arms you will stand
and face this rock so that I may have a good look at you. I warn you to
leave San Diego as soon as you get back, for when I return I will have
the town searched for you, and any of you found there will pay for this
with your lives. Now you come down first."

One by one the six men came down, placed their weapons upon the ground,
turned to the rock where Juan was lying, and then went down the pass
without a word being uttered. When the last had gone Juan stepped down
into the road, and was at once joined by Will, who had kept his rifle
pointed on each man as he reached the road, in case he should intend
treachery against Juan. Two of the vaqueros also stepped out.

"Where is Pedro?" Juan asked.

"He is dead, sir. He was shot through the body, but had just strength to
throw himself in among the rocks. I heard him groaning just at first,
but he was soon silent; I could see him from where I lay, and he has not
moved since."

"See if he is dead, Sancho. This is a bad business."

The man returned in a minute.

"He is quite dead, señor."

"Where is the man you shot, Will? Let us see if my suspicions are
correct."

Will led the way to the spot, followed by the others. Juan glanced at
the dead man.

"It is as I thought," he said. Then he turned to the vaqueros. "You may
as well search him. It is likely he has money upon him."

"He has a bag, and a heavy one, sir," one of them said, as he lifted a
canvas bag from the dead man's sash.

"Let us see what he valued my life at," Juan replied.

The two vaqueros counted over the gold pieces.

"There are eighty of them."

"Ten apiece," Juan remarked. "Put aside sixty for the widows of Pedro
and Lopez, and take ten each yourselves."

"Shall we do anything with the body, señor?"

"Fetch some big stones and pile them over it. There will be no search
for him, for you may be sure he has not mentioned to anyone in the town
what he was going to do, or where he was going. He probably asked for a
week's leave of absence, and would likely enough say that he was going
up to Los Angeles or Santa Barbara, and when he does not return it will
be supposed that he has been murdered on the way. When you have done
with him you had better do the same thing with the bodies of your two
comrades. The ground is too rocky to dig graves, and they will sleep as
well there as elsewhere. It would be impossible for us to carry them
home."

An hour's labour and the work was finished. Will assisted the men in the
work. Juan did not offer to do so.

"I have a bullet in my shoulder," he said. "Another fellow fired the
instant that I shot his comrade. He luckily hit my shoulder instead of
my head. I will get you to fetch Pedro's sash and make a sling for my
arm. We can do nothing for it until we go down to Monterey."

"Have the horses gone far, do you think, Juan?"

"No, we shall probably find them a few hundred yards up the pass. They
are trained not to go on without riders, and when their first alarm at
the firing has ceased they will halt."

When the cairns were finished the vaqueros cut down two saplings and
made a couple of rude crosses, which they fixed above their fallen
comrades. Then they all proceeded up the pass, and soon came upon the
horses, and, mounting, continued their way down into Monterey, where
they arrived just as the sun was setting. Here Juan's wound was attended
to. The injury was to the left arm, which had been thrown forward in the
act of firing. The ball struck just above the elbow, and had cut a
groove from that point nearly up to the shoulder.

"This is evidently my unlucky arm at present, Will," he said, with a
smile; "after having had three gashes below the elbow a week ago, it now
gets ploughed with a rifle-bullet."

"I should call it a lucky limb, Juan, considering that they are nothing
but flesh wounds, and that had not the arm received them, both knife and
bullet might have given you a vastly more serious wound elsewhere."

"Yes, that is true enough. There is one comfort in being wounded in
this country. You can't go into the smallest village without finding
half a dozen people capable of dressing an injury, more especially a
knife wound. In fact, knife fights are so common that very little is
thought of them unless really dangerous injury is inflicted."

"Will not this prevent your riding for a day or two, Juan?"

"Not a bit of it. We had intended to stop here to-morrow to give a rest
to the horses, but the next day we will push on. Happily, we shall not
have to be on our guard against danger, for the risk of falling in with
marauding red-skins is too slight to be thought of. Our next day's ride
will be an easy one, across a cultivated country. Then we have a long
day and a half of mountain work."

The passes which they had to traverse before arriving at Señor Sagasta's
ranch astonished Harland, who had no previous experience of such
scenery. Sometimes they were travelling up ravines so deep and rugged
that it was almost twilight below, while at others they wound along on
natural ledges on the face of precipices where a stumble of the horse
would mean certain death to it and its rider. Higher and higher they
wound, until, crossing a narrow shoulder of bare rock, they looked down
into the broad valley owned by Juan's father.

"Do you see that white speck in front of the dark patch of trees? That
is the hacienda. As the crow flies, I do not suppose it is more than
seven or eight miles away, but by the way we have to go it is five times
that distance, and if we are there by this time to-morrow we shall have
every reason to be satisfied."

When they started the next morning, Juan sent one of the vaqueros on
with the news that he would arrive two hours after his messenger.

"It is just as well to give them notice," he said to Will. "I told him
to mention that I have my arm in a sling, but that I have no serious
injury. It has been hurting me a good bit for the past two days, and as
I have not got much sleep I expect that I am not looking what you call
very fit, therefore it is as well that they should not think me in a
very bad way when I ride up; besides, I dare say they are getting
anxious about me. You see, they will have calculated upon my having
ridden a good deal faster than we have done, for with the two horses one
can push on rapidly, and, knowing when the horses would have arrived at
San Diego, they have, I am sure, been on the look-out for me for the
past three or four days. Of course the wound was nothing in itself, but
in such rough riding as we have had one gets sudden jerks that do not
improve its condition. You have bathed it for me night and morning, but
there is no doubt it has become a good deal inflamed, and I shall have
to keep quiet for a few days after we get there."

Will himself was by no means sorry that the journey was approaching its
end. Wholly unaccustomed to riding, he had been so stiff at the end of
the second day's journey that he could scarcely dismount unassisted from
his horse. This had to some extent worn off, but he still felt that
every bone in his body ached. The last ten miles were performed at a
canter. The horses seemed as glad as their riders at being on level
ground again, and were doubtless well aware that they were close to
their home once more. They were within three miles of the hacienda, when
they saw two mounted figures riding to meet them.

"It is my father and sister," Juan said. "I thought that they would lose
no time in starting after Antonio arrived with the news that I was close
at hand."



CHAPTER IV

A GREAT RANCH


Antonio had indeed been charged to make light of the fight in the pass.

"My father is almost sure to mount and ride out to meet me," Juan said
to him before starting. "You can say we had a skirmish with some
brigands in the hills, and that I have a slight flesh wound in the
shoulder, but don't say more about it until he has started to meet us.
Then you can go to the huts and break the news of the death of Lopez and
Pedro to their wives, but keep them from going anywhere near the house
till I arrive. I don't wish my mother to know anything about it till I
see her. If she heard that two of the men had been killed she would at
once imagine that I had been badly wounded and that you were concealing
the truth from her. Of course you will tell them, Antonio, that I am
bringing a friend with me."

Señor Sarasta and his daughter came up. Will Harland reined in his horse
a little so as to allow his companion to meet his friends alone. Juan
checked his horse and dismounted as they came up to them, and they, too,
leaped from their horses.

"Welcome home again, Juan!" his father said, embracing him in Spanish
fashion; while the girl kissed him with warm affection.

"So I hear from Antonio that you have had trouble on the way and have
lost some blood."

"'Tis only a flesh wound, sir, but just at present it is smarting a good
deal. Riding over those mountains is not the best thing in the world,
even for a trifling wound. Now I wish to introduce you to my friend, Don
William Harland, an American gentleman, who has done me vital service,
as I will presently relate to you."

Will had also dismounted, and was standing by his horse, some fifteen
yards away. Juan's father walked across to him, and, lifting his
sombrero, said:

"As the friend of my son, señor, I welcome you most warmly, the more so
since he tells me that you have rendered him a signal service, though of
what nature I am not aware, but in any case, as his friend you are mine,
and I beg you to consider my house as your own. This is my daughter,
Donna Clara."

Will removed his sombrero and bowed deeply, while the girl made a
ceremonious salute.

"Now let us mount and ride on," Señor Sarasta said. "Your mother will
be anxiously expecting you, Juan. We have been looking for you for the
past two days. But where are your other two men?"

"I am sorry to say, father, that they are both killed," Juan replied.

"Killed!" the haciendero repeated; while the girl uttered an exclamation
of horror.

"Why, Antonio only spoke of the attack upon you as a trifle!"

"I told him to do so, sir. I did not wish for you or my mother to be
alarmed. She might well have imagined that the wound was much more
serious than he reported; but it was a serious affair. We were ambushed
by a party of nine men in the upper part of the pass in the hills beyond
Monterey. The two men were killed by their first fire. We took to the
rocks. My friend here shot their leader and one of the men. I shot
another, but should not have been much further use, for one of them
fired almost at the same instant that I did, and his bullet cut my arm
from the elbow to the shoulder. It is not at all a serious wound, but
it disabled the arm for a time. However, the fall of their leader
settled the affair. The other six men, finding that they could not get
away without a certainty of being shot, surrendered, coming out one by
one and throwing down their weapons in the road and then going down the
pass singly. I was obliged to let them go, for they were still superior
to us in number, and we could no more show ourselves out of shelter than
they could. Some at least of us might have fallen had the fight gone
on."

"Well, let us mount," the don said. "You must tell me all about it later
on. The first thing to do is to have your wound seen to. Padre Hidalgo
is a famous hand at such matters."

"Well, señor," he went on to Will, as they cantered along, "I can quite
understand now that the service that you rendered to my son is a
valuable one, for had you not shot the leader of these rascals, to say
nothing of some of the others, the fight might have terminated very
differently."

"That is certainly so," Juan said, "but that was not the service to
which I alluded. Don William and I made our first acquaintance in the
streets of San Diego after nightfall. I was returning through the
quarter by the port when I was attacked suddenly by four cut-throats. I
was defending myself as well as I could, but should certainly have been
killed had not this gentleman, who was an entire stranger to me, ran up
and levelled one of my assailants to the ground with a blow from a stick
he carried, and broke the wrist of another. The third, turning to defend
himself, I disposed of, and the other ran away."

"By the saints! you seem to have had a hot time of it, Juan, and,
indeed, we have all good reason to be most grateful to your preserver.
Señor Harland, my obligations to you are infinite--such as I can never
repay."

"Really, señor, you are making more of the matter than it is worth,"
Will said earnestly. "I was going quietly along when I heard shouts and
exclamations, and felt that someone was being attacked. I ran forward,
and, seeing four men attacking one, had no difficulty in deciding who
were the aggressors, and without hesitation joined in. As I took them by
surprise, and, in fact, disposed of two of them before they could attack
me, while almost at the same moment Juan killed another, the affair was
over almost before it began. It was not a quarter of a minute from the
time I came up to that in which the fourth man was running off at the
top of his speed. I have already benefited very largely by the affair,
having gained thereby the friendship of your son, the hospitality of his
friend, Señor Guzman, and the opportunity of making this journey and
paying you a visit. As to the affair in the mountains, I was defending
my own life also, and our success was as important to me as to him."

"It is well for you to make light of it, sir, but whether the first
affair lasted a quarter of a minute or a quarter of an hour, the result
was the same. Your quickness and courage in thus plunging into a street
fray on behalf of a stranger saved my son's life, as doubtless did the
shot that killed the leader of the party attacking you. It is strange,
indeed, that he should have met with two such adventures in the course
of a week. Possibly, Juan, the one was a sequel to the other, and those
engaged in it may have been the comrades of the men who attacked you at
San Diego, and who thus assaulted you to obtain revenge for their mishap
there."

"That was so, father. Both attacks were the work of one man, who, I am
happy to say, will trouble me no more, as he was the leader of the
second attack--the man whom Señor Harland shot."

"But who is the man, and what could have been his motive for thus
attacking you?"

"I only suspected the first time, father, and until I looked at the man
Harland had shot I was not sure of it. Happily none of the men who acted
for him are likely to open their lips on the matter, and no one else
will have a suspicion. Had it been otherwise we might have had a good
deal of trouble over it, for the man was Captain Enriques Melos."

Sarasta looked grave.

"As you say, that would lead to serious trouble were it known, although,
clearly, you were not to blame in the matter; but what was the reason of
his enmity against you?"

"He was a suitor for Donna Christina Guzman's hand, father."

"Ah, ah, that explains it! Well, we will think no more of it at present;
but what did you do with his body?"

"We piled rocks over it; there is no fear of his being discovered, and
as he certainly would not have mentioned to anyone his intention of
murdering me on my way home, no search is likely to be made in that
direction."

"That is well. Of course I received your letter, Juan, and sent off a
messenger at once to Señor Guzman, giving my and your mother's hearty
consent to the match, which indeed pleased us much."

Two or three minutes later they arrived at the hacienda, in front of
which a number of servants and peons employed in the gardens and stables
had gathered to welcome their young master back after his nine months'
absence. As they dismounted, Donna Sarasta appeared at the door. Juan
ran up the steps and tenderly embraced her; Señor Sarasta then led Will
up.

"Your first welcome, my dear, should have been given to this gentleman,
Señor William Harland, for had it not been for him you would not have
Juan by your side now. He has twice saved his life."

"Twice saved his life!" Donna Sarasta exclaimed incredulously. "Is it
possible, Philip?"

"It is quite true," her husband said gravely. "Had it not been for him
Juan would never have returned to us. Do not be alarmed; the danger is
over, for the author of these attacks has fallen by Don William's
rifle."

The lady held out both hands to Will. The tears were streaming down her
cheeks.

"Señor," she said, "I cannot thank you now. Remember that it is our only
son's life that you have saved. Think of what we should have felt had
he not returned, and our men had brought us news of his death. May the
Blessed Virgin reward you and bless you! Give me your arm, Philip, I am
faint."

Her husband and son supported her into the house and placed her on a
couch.

"Look after your mother, Clara," the Mexican said, as two female
attendants came in.

"Sancho, go and call Father Hidalgo down from his study. Doubtless he is
unaware that my son has returned. Tell him that he is to bring bandages
and salves, for there is a wound to be dressed. He will find my son in
the dining-room. Do one of you fetch basins of hot water and sponges
there. Now, Señor Harland, I will lead you to your room. Doubtless a
bath will be agreeable to you after your journey."

Will was glad to be out of the way during this family meeting, and
willingly followed his host, who took him to a large chamber on the
first floor. A bath stood ready filled, with towels and all
conveniences.

"I told them to put a suit of Juan's clothes in readiness. I did not
know whether they would fit, but I have no doubt they will do so. They
will save you the trouble of opening your bag till evening. And now, if
you will excuse me, I will go down and look at the boy's wound."

"Well, luck has favoured me, indeed," Will said to himself, as he looked
round the room before proceeding to undress. "A fortnight ago there was
I, a runaway lad without plans, in a strange country, with nothing but
my kit-bag and some ninety pounds to rely upon. Now I am in clover, with
a good friend, a welcome assured as long as I choose to stay here, and
an amount of gratitude that seems to me almost ridiculous, considering
that it is all the result of my interfering in a street row, just as I
might have done in any other port. At any rate, I shall have some new
experiences to tell about when I get home. I shall certainly like the
señor; he has been so long out here that he has shaken off the indolent
air and the formal constraint that almost all these Spanish people
have, and is much more like an American than an Englishman. The mere
fact of his having settled in this out-of-the-way valley is a proof that
he has a lot of go and pluck.

"Of course I can't tell much about his wife yet; she is naturally upset
at the thought of Juan's danger. As to his sister, she is ever so much
prettier than his sweetheart, though certainly Christina Guzman is
pretty, too. She hardly said a word after her first welcome to him--I
suppose she was too upset to talk, and will brighten up when she finds
that Juan's wounds are really trifling. Well, I expect I shall have a
jolly time of it here, and get some shooting and hunting. It will be
great fun among all these herds of wild cattle. The first thing to do
will be to learn to ride properly. I should not like to have all these
Mexican fellows laughing at me. At any rate, I have learned something on
our way here. I will get Juan to go out alone with me for a bit till I
can be sure of sticking on. From what he was saying, some of their
horses must be brutes to sit, especially those who jump straight up
into the air, and keep on doing it until they get rid of their riders."

Having taken a bath and dressed very leisurely, he went downstairs
again, feeling pleased that Juan's clothes fitted him so well, and that
it was not necessary for him to get out his own, for, although new, they
would certainly not look so well after their journey in the kit-bag as
did the spotless white garments that had been provided for him. He found
Clara alone in the patio. This hacienda, like most of its kind, was a
large square building with a courtyard in its centre. In this case the
patio had been transformed into a shady little garden, with
orange-trees, bananas, and other tropical productions. Grape-vines
climbed round the light pillars that supported the veranda that
surrounded it, and covered its roof with a mass of foliage dotted with
great purple bunches of grapes. Two or three little fountains were
half-hidden among the trees, and the air was heavy with the scent of the
orange and citron flowers.

"My father and mother will be down directly, señor," she said; "the bell
will ring for the mid-day meal in a few minutes."

"What a lovely little garden this is!" Will said cheerfully, for he saw
that the girl was nervous and embarrassed. "You would not see anything
like this in the east, even under glass."

The girl was silent for a few moments, and then broke out:

"I hope you do not think me ungrateful, señor, that I have said nothing
to thank you for what you did for my brother, but it was not that. It
was because I felt that if I were to say a word I should break out
crying. We love each other dearly, Juan and I, and it was so awful to
think that I might never have seen him alive again;" and she stopped,
with her eyes full of tears.

"I quite understand, señorita," he said; "and, indeed, I have been very
much more than sufficiently thanked by your father and mother. As for my
share in the matter, it was really not worth talking about. I am a
sailor, you know, and I am sorry to say that sailors when in port are
often in the habit of getting into rows, and I have half a dozen times
at least, when in foreign ports, taken part in a scrimmage when I saw
drunken sailors engaged in a broil with others, and have had to fight
very much harder than I did at San Diego, where, in point of fact, so
far as I was concerned, there was really no fighting at all. I do not
say that your brother might not have come off very badly if I had not
happened to come along, but there was really no shadow of risk to
myself. A couple of blows and it was all over; and I do hope that no one
will say any more in the way of thanking me."

At this moment Señor Sarasta, his wife, and Juan, all came out together.

"Well, Juan, how do you feel now?" Will asked, well pleased at their
arrival.

"I feel a different man altogether," the young Mexican replied. "A warm
bath first and then the padre's salves have done wonders for me, and in
a week I shall have forgotten all about it."

The rest of the day was spent in sauntering or sitting in the gardens
round the house. They were of the Spanish fashion, containing but few
flowers except those borne by the fruit-trees, and resembling
shrubberies and orchards rather than gardens, shade being the principal
object aimed at. During the afternoon Will told his friend of his desire
to become a good horseman.

"I will put you in charge of Antonio; we have no better rider on the
ranch. He will put you through a course, beginning with comparatively
well-broken bronchos, until you can sit the worst buckers on the plains;
but you must not mind a few heavy falls at first."

"I shall not mind that a bit, Juan. Sailors have the knack of falling
lightly."

"Ah, well, he will choose a spot where the grass is long and the ground
soft for your lessons, and I can tell you it makes a good deal of
difference whether you come off on ground like that or on a spot where
there is next to no grass, and the ground is as hard as a brick. I have
no doubt that in the course of two or three weeks you will, if you
stick to it, be able to ride almost anything."

"You need not be afraid of my not sticking to it, Juan. I certainly
should not like to look like a fool to your vaqueros, still less before
your mother and sister."

Accordingly next morning Will's lessons began in a meadow close to the
stream, and half a mile away from the house. At first he was thrown an
innumerable number of times, for he had told Antonio to bring with him
some fairly restive horses.

"It is of no use my spending my time on quiet animals," he said. "I have
just had a week's riding on one of them. I may as well begin with a
fairly bad one at once; it only means a few more throws. I have got to
learn to hold on, and the sooner I begin that the better."

"With beginners we sometimes put a strap for them to hold on by, señor."

Will shook his head. "I don't want anything of that sort," he said. "I
want to be able to stick on by my knees."

"It is more by properly balancing yourself than by holding on," the man
said. "If you always keep your balance you will come straight down again
into the saddle, no matter how high he throws you, and there is no doubt
that the tighter you hold on by your knees the more heavy are the throws
that you will get."

"I can understand that, Antonio. Now I am ready to begin."

Will had expected to find it difficult, but he was fairly astounded by
the rapidity and variety of the tricks by which he was again and again
thrown off. After a time Antonio urged him to give it up for the day,
but he insisted on continuing until he was so absolutely exhausted that
he could do no more.

"Well, señor," the man said, "you have done wonderfully well for a
beginner, and I will guarantee that in another week you will be able to
ride any ordinary horse, and in a month you will be able to mount
fearlessly any animal that you may come across, except, of course, a few
brutes that scarcely a vaquero on the ranch would care to back."

Antonio's opinion was justified. It was ten days before Juan was able to
ride again, and by that time William Harland was so far accustomed to
the saddle that he was able to accompany him and his father on their
excursions to visit the herds and see that all was going on well. He did
not, however, give up his lessons with Antonio, devoting three or four
hours a day to the work, and at the end of the month he was able to sit
any ordinary bucker without difficulty. After that he practised for an
hour a day on vicious animals, and at the end of three months Antonio
said:

"Now, señor, I can do no more for you; that brute that you have been
riding the last week is the terror of the ranch, and after sitting him
as you have done for the last three days, without his being able to get
rid of you once, you can ride anything without fear."



CHAPTER V

AN INDIAN RAID


The time passed very pleasantly; Will had become a great favourite with
both Señor Sarasta and his wife, and was treated as one of the family.
Donna Clara often accompanied the party on horseback, and when her first
shyness with Will had worn off, he found that she was lively and
high-spirited. Accustomed to horses from her infancy, she was an
admirable rider, and, although both Juan and Will were mounted on some
of the best horses on the ranch, she could leave them behind on her
favourite mare, a beautiful creature that she herself had broken in. At
the end of three months Will felt that, much as he was enjoying himself,
he must not outstay his welcome; but, upon his broaching the subject of
leaving, the whole family protested so indignantly against such an idea,
that he felt they really desired him to stay with them. Juan spoke to
him on the subject as soon as they started on horseback together that
afternoon.

"The idea of your leaving us is altogether preposterous, Will; do you
think that we should for a moment let you go? Where, indeed, would you
go? What ideas have you in your mind? Are you not one of us completely?"

"You are awfully good to me; I was never so happy in my life," Will
replied, "but there is reason in all things; I cannot spend my life
here. I must be doing something for my living. As I told you, I do not
want to return home until I can say to my father, I have been a success,
I require no favours, and am in a position to keep myself."

"I understand that," Juan said, "but how do you propose doing it?"

"I should do it somehow. I can at least ride now, and have more ways of
making a living open to me than I had before."

"My dear Will, you are talking nonsense, and if you suppose that we are
going to let you go out into the world in that sort of way you are
altogether mistaken. At any rate, leave the matter alone for the
present; we may see our way more clearly in time;" and had Will happened
to glance at his companion's face, he would have been puzzled by the
slight smile that glanced across it.

Two months later all hands were busy on the ranch. It was the season at
which the herds were weeded out, the old bulls and some of the young
ones slaughtered, skinned, and boiled down. Will only once accompanied
Señor Sarasta and Juan to the scene of operations. He was interested in
the Indians, who, with their squaws and young ones, had come down and
established a camp of their own. They were free to take as much meat as
they pleased, not only for eating, but for drying for future
consumption; broad, thin slices of flesh were cut up and hung on ropes
between poles to dry in the sun. Three days sufficed for the operation.
The meat, now almost as hard as leather, was pounded by the women
between heavy stones, and then mixed with a little salt and packed
tightly in bags made of skins. In this state it would keep for an
indefinite time. Will Harland often went there, but could not be induced
to approach the spot where the animals were slaughtered. He was much
rallied by Señor Sarasta and Juan on what they called his
faint-heartedness.

"I admit all you say," he replied. "I don't mind going into a fight
myself, but I cannot stand seeing those poor brutes killed. I know that
it is necessary, and that your vaqueros do it almost instantaneously; at
the same time, it is not necessary for me to see it. I would very much
rather stay away and watch the natives, with the shrivelled old women,
and the funny little papooses."

Clara nodded approvingly. "You are quite right, Don William," for
although the others all, like Juan, called him simply by his Christian
name, Clara still continued the more formal mode of address. "I never go
near the yard myself when it is going on."

"Ah! it is one thing for a girl not to like it," Juan said, "but for
Will, whom I have seen as cool as possible when his life was in danger,
and who fired at a man as steadily as if he had been shooting at a
target, it seems odd. However, one does not go to see the animals
killed; no one can take pleasure in that. The interest lies in the skill
and courage of the vaqueros, who are constantly risking their lives;
and, indeed, there is scarcely a season passes in which one or two of
them are not killed."

The work occupied nearly a month; then Juan started with his father for
San Diego, where the formal betrothal of the former was to take place.
At this his father's presence was necessary, and the latter would make
his usual arrangements for chartering a ship to go down to receive the
hides and skins full of tallow at the mouth of the river. Will had again
proposed that he should accompany them and say good-bye to them there.
As before, his proposal was scoffed at.

"It will be time enough to think of that when I go down three months
hence to be married," Juan said; "and now you must take our places
here, and look after my mother and sister. You will have to play the
part of my younger brother, and keep things straight. When we come back,
we will have a serious talk about the future."

Will was indeed now quite at home in the work of the ranch, and not
infrequently rode in one direction to give orders respecting the herds,
while Juan rode in the other; and the vaqueros all regarded him as being
invested with authority by their master. The report of Antonio and
Sancho of what had taken place at San Diego and on the road, had greatly
predisposed them in his favour, and the manner in which he had succeeded
in sitting a horse that few of them would venture to mount had greatly
increased their respect for him. Don Señor Sarasta settled the matter by
saying, "If you were to go with Juan I could not leave at the same time,
Will, and I particularly wish to be present at his betrothal. It would
be strange and contrary to all custom if one of his family were not
there; still, we could hardly be away together unless there were
someone here to take our place. You know questions are constantly
referred to us. One herd strays into the ground allotted to another,
disputes arise between vaqueros, and, in fact, someone in authority must
be here."

"Very well, sir. Then, if you think that I can be really useful, I shall
be only too glad to stay. You know that my own inclinations are all that
way. I have already been here five months, and I feel that this
delightful life must come to an end before long. However, since you are
good enough to say that I can really be of use in your absence, I will
gladly remain here until Juan goes down again to fetch his bride."

Two days later the Mexican and his son rode off, accompanied by six
well-armed horsemen. Will found plenty to do, and was out the greater
part of the day. Two days after the others had started he saw one of the
Indians talking to Antonio. As soon as the latter saw him he left the
Indian and came up to him.

"This Indian, who is one of the chiefs of our tribe, señor, tells me
that there is a report that the Indians on the other side of the river
are preparing for an expedition. It is supposed that it is against
another tribe farther east. They have not raided on this side of the
river for many years, but he thought that it was as well to let us know
that they are at present in an unsettled state. He says that he will
have some of his warriors down near the river, and that he will let us
know as soon as he has any certain news."

"Is there anything to be done, do you think, Antonio?"

"No, señor; wars are frequently going on between the Indians to the
east, but we have never had any trouble with them since we came here. If
our Indians thought that there was any danger, they would very soon be
flocking down here, for they have always been promised that they should
be supplied with firearms were anything of that sort to happen, and they
know that, with the aid of our people, they could beat off any number of
these red-skins."

"I have no doubt that we could defend ourselves, Antonio; however, you
see that in Don Sarasta's absence I have a very heavy responsibility,
and I think that it would be as well to take some precaution. Will you
ask the chief to send down a dozen of his warriors? They shall be paid,
in powder and in blankets, whatever is the usual sum. I want them to
establish themselves round the hacienda, to keep guard at night. I don't
mean that they shall stay close to the house, but scout down towards the
river, so that in case of alarm there would be time to get you all in
from the huts. How many sleep there?"

"There are about thirty of us who look after the herds in the lower
parts of the valley, and eight or ten peons who work in the garden round
the house."

"Well, that force, with the half-dozen servants in the house, would be
able to hold the hacienda against almost any number of Indians, and you
could all be here in ten minutes from the alarm being given."

"Very well, señor, I will tell the chief."

He talked for a few minutes with the Indian.

"He will send twelve of his braves down to-morrow," he said, when he
rejoined Will.

"Very well, let him do so; I shall certainly feel more comfortable. What
tribe do these Indians on the other side of the river belong to?"

"They are a branch of the Tejunas, who are themselves a branch of the
Apaches. The head-quarters of the tribe lie on the east side of Arizona,
between the Gila River and the Little Colorado. The Tejunas lie between
them and the Colorado; they are just as bad as the Apaches themselves,
and both of them are scourges to the northern districts of Mexico."

"What are our Indians?"

"They are a branch of the Genigueh Indians. They live among the hills
between Iron Bluff, sixty miles below us, and those hills you see as
many miles up. A good many of them hunt during the season on the other
side as far east as Aquarius Mountains, in what is known as the Mohave
country, but they never go farther south that side than the river
Santemaria, for the Tejunas would be down upon them if they caught them
in what they consider their country."

"I wish the señor was back," Will said; "though I dare say it is all
right, and that, as the Indians haven't made a raid across here for many
years, they will not do so now. How would they get across the river?"

"They would swim across, señor. An Indian thinks nothing of swimming a
wide river; he simply slips off his horse, and either puts his hands on
its back, or more generally holds on by its tail."

"Have these fellows guns?"

"A great many of them have. They capture them from the Mexicans, or, in
peaceable times, trade skins or their blankets or their Indian trumpery
for them. It is against the law to sell guns to the Indians, but most
Mexicans will make a bargain if they have the chance, without the
slightest regard to any law."

"How is it that the Mexican government does not try and get rid of these
Indians? I see by the map that the frontier line is a long way north of
the Gila."

"Yes, señor; they may put the line where they like, but there is not a
white man for a couple of hundred miles north of the Gila, except on the
Santa Fé River, and even there they are never safe from the Apaches and
the Navajoes. Why, it would want an army of twenty thousand men to
venture among the mountains north of the Gila, and they would all die of
starvation before they ever caught sight of an Apache. No, señor; unless
there is an earthquake and the whole region is swallowed up, I don't see
any chance of getting the better of the red rascals."

After entering the house, Will said nothing of the news which he had
heard. It seemed that there was no real ground for alarm, and yet he
could not but feel very uneasy. The next morning he rode down to the
river, where a number of peons were engaged in loading the rafts with
hides and tallow. He had told Donna Sarasta that he should be down
there all day, as he wanted to get the work pushed on. He had been there
but two hours when Antonio rode up at a headlong gallop.

"What is it, Antonio?" Will exclaimed, for it was evident from the man's
appearance that his errand was one of extreme importance.

"The hacienda has been attacked by Indians, señor; I was with the herd
two miles this side of it when I heard some shots fired. I galloped to
see what was the matter, but when I got within a quarter of a mile I saw
that the Indians were swarming round it. A dozen started in pursuit of
me, but they did not follow me far."

Will stood as one thunderstruck.

"But how can they have got there, Antonio?"

"They must have come by what is called the little gap. You know it,
señor,--that valley that runs off from the other nearly abreast of the
hacienda. Following that and crossing a shoulder, you cross down on to
the river some ten miles higher up. They must have crossed there by
swimming in the night."

"But the chief said he had scouts there."

"They could hardly watch thirty miles of the river, señor; besides, the
red-skins would have sent over two or three swimmers to silence anyone
they found near the place where they were to cross."

By this time a dozen other vaqueros, who had been warned by Antonio as
he came down, joined them.

"We must ride for the hacienda at once," Will said, leaping into the
saddle.

"No use, señor, no use. I should say there must be four hundred or five
hundred of the red-skins, and we may be sure that there is not a soul
alive now at the hacienda or at the huts. They will be here in a short
time, of that there is no doubt; probably half will come down the valley
and half will go up. We must ride for it, sir; follow the river down
till we are past the hills; there is not a moment to be lost."

The peons who had gathered round gave a cry of despair. "You can go if
you like, Antonio; I see we can do nothing at present, but I will not
leave the place."

"What will you do then, señor?"

"We will take the rafts and pole them across the river; there are no
signs of Indians there, and it is not likely there will be now." Then he
turned to the peons. "You have heard what I said. Get to the rafts at
once, there is not a moment to be lost. Look at that herd galloping
wildly; you may be sure that the red-skins are after them."

"The señor's advice is good," Antonio said, "and there is not a moment
to be lost. Get on board all of you, comrades; tie your bridles to the
rafts."

All hurried on to the rafts, the ropes that held them to the shore were
cut, and the peons, putting out the poles, pushed them into the stream.
The rafts were already heavily laden, by far the greater portion of the
cargo having been placed on board. Most of the vaqueros had their rifles
slung across their shoulders, as they had heard from Antonio what the
Indian had said, and had, on starting out, taken their guns with them.

"One never can tell what will happen," Antonio said; "it is always well
to be on the safe side."

Although the peons exerted themselves to the utmost, the rafts moved but
slowly, and they were but seventy or eighty yards from the shore when a
large band of Indians rode down to the bank and at once opened fire. As
they approached, Will shouted to all the men to take their places on the
other side of the piles of hide, and, using these as a breast-work,
those having guns at once returned the Indian fire. Five or six of the
red-skins fell, and the plunging of many horses showed that they were
wounded. A chief, who seemed to be in command, waved his hand and
shouted to his followers, who were evidently about to urge their horses
into the river, when Will, who had held his fire, took a steady aim at
the chief, and the latter fell dead from his horse.

"Will they take to the water, Antonio?" he asked the vaquero, who had
taken his place on the raft with him.

"I do not think so, señor; it is not in Indian nature to run such a risk
as that. We should shoot down numbers of them before they reached us,
and they would have a tough job then, for the peons would fight
desperately with their long knives, and it is no easy matter to climb
out of the water on to a raft with two or three men with long knives
waiting for you. This band are Apaches, señor; they have evidently
joined the Tejunas in a big raid."

The Indians for a few minutes continued their fire, but as those on the
rafts only showed their heads when they stood up to fire, and every
bullet told in the crowded mass, the Indians sullenly rode off.

The peons then resumed their poles, and in ten minutes reached the
opposite shore. Will sat down as soon as he had seen the horses landed,
with a feeling of despair in his heart. In the hurried arrangements for
the safety of those with him he had scarcely had time to think. Now
that there was nothing to do, the full horror of the situation was felt,
and the thought of Donna Sarasta and of Clara being murdered altogether
overpowered him, and his cheeks were moistened with tears. What would
the señor and Juan say on their return? They had left him in charge, and
although he could hardly be said to be to blame, yet he might have taken
greater precautions. He should not have relied upon the Indian scouts,
but have kept at least enough of the men up at the house to offer a
serious defence. Antonio, who was at the head of one of the parties in
charge of a herd, came up to him presently.

"Well, señor, 'tis no use grieving, and assuredly if anyone is to blame
it is I rather than you, for I assured you that there was no danger. I
shall tell the señor so when he comes. Had he been here he would, I feel
sure, have waited for further news before regarding the matter as
serious. Now, señor, what do you propose to do next? You are our
leader."

"The first thing to do is to go to the hacienda after dark, and to find
out what has happened there. How long do you think that the Indians will
remain in the valley?"

"Some days, I should say, señor. They will no doubt kill a number of
cattle and jerk the meat. Then they will drive off as many as they think
they can take with them, and probably slay the rest out of pure
wickedness."

"The principal point is to find out if all at the hacienda have been
killed."

"That you may be sure of, señor; but still it is right that we should
know. There may be one exception, although I can hardly hope."

"How do you mean, Antonio?"

"I mean, señor, that the señorita may have been spared for a worse
fate--I mean, may have been carried off by them. The Indians, while
sparing no one else, old or young, always carry off the young women."

"Great heavens!" Will exclaimed, stepping back, as if he had been
struck. "You do not say so! A thousand times better had she been
murdered by her mother's side. It is maddening to sit here and be able
to do nothing, not even to be able to find out if this dreadful thing is
true. How many men have we with guns?"

"Thirteen besides myself and you, señor."

"Those who have no rifles will be useless; they had better go down with
the rafts as soon as it becomes dark."

"Yes, señor, that would be best. The Indians are sure to swim across
to-night, and the four rafts would do well to push off as soon as they
can no longer be seen from the other side. The four head men, who will
go down with them, are all here."

"Call them up."

The four white men came to him.

"As soon as it is dark," he said, "you must push off; do not make the
slightest noise; when you get out in the middle of the stream let the
current take you down, only using the poles, when it is absolutely
necessary to keep you from approaching either bank. The twelve vaqueros
who have not guns had better go with you; that will give three to each
raft. We will pick out thirteen of the best horses, the others you must
kill this afternoon for food. Have you fishing-lines?"

"Yes, señor, we always carry them with us; and we have spears and can
fish by torch-light."

"Good! then you will manage very well. The vaqueros and what peons you
do not require must be landed as soon as you have passed the mountains;
they had better strike up to Monterey and wait there for orders. I will
give money to one of them to buy a horse there and ride with the news to
Don Sarasta at San Diego."



CHAPTER VI

HOPEFUL NEWS


When all the arrangements had been made for the departure of the raft,
Will Harland said to Antonio: "Do you think that it will be absolutely
impossible to approach the hacienda by daylight?"

"It could not be done, señor, and, indeed, I don't see that any good
could come of it, for even if we could get in unobserved, there would be
no one of whom we could ask questions or find out anything as to what
has taken place. It is just possible that in the confusion of the attack
some of the peons employed in the house, the stables, or our huts may
have escaped and hidden themselves. The Indians are good searchers, but
just at first they would be anxious to make their success as complete as
possible, and doubtless a large party rode up the valley at once while
the others started down it. It was important that they should surprise
the men with the various herds before they could gather together, for
even if twenty or thirty could have rallied they would have made a hard
fight of it before they lost their scalps. Therefore, any who escaped in
the attack on the house may have hidden themselves from the first
search, and we may possibly come across them at night. They would
assuredly never leave their hiding-places until darkness had fallen.

"I have some hopes of Sancho. If anyone has got out safe he has. He had
a good deal of experience in Indian fighting some fifteen years ago,
when he was farther east, and is sure to have his wits about him. He was
at our hut when I came along this morning. As you know, he got hurt by a
young bull in the yard ten days since. He was nearly well again, but the
padre said he had better keep quiet for another day or two. I fancy that
he was the only man there except the peons, for it is a busy time. At
the first war-whoop he heard he would make for shelter, for he would
know that it was no use his trying to fight the whole tribe. There is a
thick patch of brush twenty or thirty yards from the huts. I expect that
he would make for that straight. There is a tank in the middle that was
used at one time, but the water was always muddy, and the master had a
fresh one made handy to the huts, and since then the path to the old
tank has been overgrown, and no one ever goes there. If Francisco is
alive, he is lying in that pond under the bushes that droop over it all
round."

"He would not be able to give us any information as to what was done in
the house."

"No, señor. But he would be of great assistance to us if we follow the
red-skins. He is up to all their ways, and is a good shot with the
rifle. At any rate, if we go down to the house I should like to try to
find him. We have been comrades a good many years now."

"Certainly, Antonio, you shall see if you can find him. He is a good
fellow, and, as you say, would be of great assistance to us. Do you
think that we could make a circuit and come down on the river again two
or three miles higher up, and cross there and get anywhere near the
house?"

"We might do it, señor, but as we cannot get near enough to do any good,
I think we should be wrong to move from here. You may be sure that
there are some of the red-skins hiding on the opposite bank, keeping a
sharp watch on us. If any of us were to ride away, one of them would
carry the news at once, and they would be on the look-out for us. If we
all stay here till it is dark, they would suppose that we have all gone
down with the rafts. That will be good for the rafts, too, for the
Indians would be unlikely to attack them, believing that there were some
fifteen or twenty men with guns on them; and, in the next place, they
will think that they are clear of us altogether and be less cautious
than they might be if they were to suppose that we were still in their
neighbourhood."

"You are right, Antonio, and I will try and be patient."

As soon as it was dark the little party of fifteen men started, moving
as noiselessly as possible. They rode two miles up the river to a point
where Antonio said they were opposite a path by which they could keep
along at the foot of the hills until in a line with the hacienda.

"You don't think that there is any fear of there being any red-skins on
the farther side?"

"Not the slightest, señor. Long before this they will have their fires
lighted and be gorging themselves with meat. They know how small our
force is, and will never dream of our venturing back into their midst."

As they rode into the river they slipped off their horses as the latter
began to swim, holding on with one hand, and with the other keeping
their guns, pistols, and ammunition above the water. The river at this
point was some two hundred yards wide, and flowing with a quiet current.
In a few minutes they were across. Antonio soon discovered the path,
and, following it, they rode in single file for an hour. Then they
reached a spot where there was an opening among the trees, and Antonio
said that they were abreast of the hacienda, which was some four miles
away; the building itself was not visible, but the number of fires which
blazed round it was a sufficient indication of its position. At various
other points up and down the valley fires also blazed, but there was
none much nearer their side of the valley than those round the hacienda.

"Do you mean to go with me, señor?"

"Certainly I mean to go. How had it best be done?"

"I should say that we had better ride to within two miles; it would not
be safe to go with so large a party nearer than that; then we will take
one of the others with us to hold our horses, and, going at a foot-pace,
we might get within half a mile of the house without their hearing us.
There will be a good deal of movement in the valley; the cattle will be
restless, having been chased all day, and the herds broken up, so I
think that we can reckon on getting pretty close. Then we will go
forward on foot. We had better make for the huts first; you see, the
Indians are thick round the house; I don't think there is any chance of
anyone being saved there, because that would be the first point of
attack. If we do not find Sancho, possibly we may come upon one or two
of the peons, who would be likely enough to make for the same shelter;
if not, we can try round the stables. Still, I am afraid there is no
chance of hearing what has happened at the house--I mean, whether the
señorita is killed or a prisoner. If there is no other way we must get
hold of an Indian and kill him; I will then dress up in his clothes, and
see if I can get into the house. As there are two tribes engaged, one
would have more chance of passing unsuspected than if they all knew each
other personally. At any rate, it must be risked. I know the Indian ways
pretty well, and might pass muster, but you would have no chance,
señor."

When they dismounted Antonio said:

"We had better leave our jackets and sombreros here; their outline would
show on the darkest night that we were not Indians."

Before leaving the raft Will had obtained from one of the head men a
pair of the Mexican fringed leggings, as their own white trousers would
betray him at once, and now, with a dark blanket thrown over his
shoulder, he might at a short distance be easily mistaken for an Indian.
He had already left his riding-boots behind him, and had obtained a pair
of moccasins from one of the peons.

"I will lead the way, señor, as I know every foot of the ground,"
Antonio said.

Moving along noiselessly they came down upon the huts of the white
employés of the hacienda. As there were no fires burning here, they had
but slight fear of encountering any of the Indians. Each, however,
carried a long knife ready for instant action. They had left their
rifles and pistols behind them, for if it was necessary to fight, the
combat must be a silent one.

They crossed to the clump of bushes of which Antonio had spoken.

"You stop outside, señor; it is of no use two of us making our way into
the tangle."

As he parted the bushes before entering, a slight sound was heard.

"Good! there is someone here," he muttered; and then, making his way a
few paces forward, he uttered Sancho's name. There was no reply, and he
repeated it in a louder tone. At once there was a low reply: "Here am I.
Is it you, Tonio?"

"Yes; I have come to look for you. I thought you would have made a
bee-line here as soon as you heard the red-skins."

"You were right, and there are two peons here. We were just going to
start to make our way down to the river. Are you alone?"

"I have the young señor with me."

"That is good. I was afraid that we had all been wiped out."

In a couple of minutes the four men emerged from the bushes.

"I am glad to see that you are safe, Sancho," Will said warmly. "Now can
you tell me what has happened?"

"I know nothing whatever, señor. I was eating my breakfast when I heard
a sudden yell, and knew that it was the Apache war-whoop, and that there
must be a big force of them. There was evidently no fighting to be done,
so I caught up my rifle and pistols and made for the bush. These two
peons who were outside followed me. I told them to hide as best they
could, and I went on into the pool, found a good place under some thick
bushes, hid my powder-horn and weapons handy for use close by, and lay
down with my head out of water, listening. Already they were down at the
huts, and I heard the cries of the peons they caught there. Luckily I
was the only Mexican above. A few shots were fired up at the hacienda,
and I thought I heard screams, but, owing to the yells of the Indians, I
could not be sure. Presently it all died away. I don't fancy they
suspected that anyone had got away, the attack being so sudden; at any
rate, they made no search here. I made up my mind to lie down till most
of them would be asleep and then to make for the river, and I told the
peons that we must each shift for ourselves, as we had more chances of
getting away singly than if together." All this was spoken in a low
voice.

"The principal thing that I wanted to ask you is, do you know whether
the señorita was killed, or whether they have kept her to carry off?
But, of course, you don't know."

"They would not kill her," the man said confidently; "but so far as I
know, they have not even caught her. I was at the stables maybe half an
hour before the señorita came down and had her horse saddled. She had a
basket with her, and told me she was going to ride up the valley to that
wigwam that remained when the Indians went away, carrying as much meat
as their ponies could take. There were an old Indian and his wife left
there--she had got a fever or something, and was too ill to travel, and
the señorita was going to take a basket of food and some medicine that
the padre had made up for the old man. I have been thinking of her all
day. I should say she was coming back when the red-skins rode up the
valley after the cattle. She could hardly have helped seeing them, and I
wondered whether she would take to the trees and ride on this way until
after they had passed, or whether she had turned and ridden on. If she
did the first, she is pretty sure to have been captured when she got
down near home; if she went the other way, she gave them a mighty long
chase, for there is not a horse on the estate as fast as hers, and as
for the Indian ponies, she could leave them behind as if they were
standing still."

"Thank God, there is a hope, then!" Will exclaimed. "Now we must move
farther off and chat it over."

When they had gone a quarter of a mile from the house they stopped.
Antonio told the two peons that the rafts had started fully two hours
before. "The current is only about a mile and a half an hour, and if you
cross the river and keep on, you ought to catch them up before morning,
and can then swim off to them. Don't keep this side of the river, there
are red-skins on the bank; but if you stay on this side of the valley,
among the trees, down to the river, you will meet none of them. We have
come that way."

The peons at once started.

"Now, señor, will you go on to where the horses are? Sancho and I will
go back to the house; he understands the Apache language. We will crawl
up near the fires, and I should think that we are pretty certain to hear
if they have caught the señorita or not. However, we may be some time,
so do not be anxious, and don't move if you hear a sudden row, for we
might miss you in the dark. We shall make straight to this tree, and for
a bit my horse must carry double; you had better hand your jacket to
Señor Harland, Sancho, and take his blanket."

"How far are the horses?"

"There are three of them about two hundred yards farther on."

"I will go there first, then," the man said. "This is a terrible
business, señor."

"Terrible, indeed. I am afraid there is no doubt that Donna Sarasta has
lost her life."

"I reckon," the man said, "that except ourselves and any you may have
with you, there ain't a dozen alive in the valley; it is a clean wipe
out. I never knew a worse surprise. How about the party by the river?"

Antonio related what had taken place there.

"Well, that is something saved," he said, "and with sixteen of us all
well armed we can manage to make a decent fight of it. We must get
another horse, but that won't be very difficult; most of the others are
sure to have their lassos with them, there are a score of horses running
loose on the plains, and they cannot have roped them all in yet."

When they reached the horses he went on: "You had better stop here,
Tonio; you are not accustomed, as I am, to them Injuns, and as you don't
know much of their lingo, you would not understand much of their talk. I
would much rather go alone."

"All right, old man!" the other said.

"Now for my toilet," Sancho went on; and, going up to one of the horses,
he pricked it with his knife. "Steady, boy, steady!" he said, as the
horse plunged.

"It is for your good as well as mine, for you would not find life in an
Indian village as pleasant as the life you have been used to." He dipped
his fingers in the blood, drew a broad line across his forehead and
round his eyes, placed a patch on his cheek; then he cut off two
handfuls of long hair from the animal's tail, tied these together with
string and fastened them in his hair, so that the horse-hair fell down
on to his shoulder on each side and partially hid his face.

"It is rough," he said, "but it will pass in the darkness. It is lucky
you have got a 'Pache blanket; that will help me wonderfully."

"Yes; I bought it from the Indians when they traded here a few weeks
since. The man I got it of said that he had traded a good pony for it
when he was hunting in the spring on the other side of the river."

"I will take your rifle, Tonio," Sancho said. "I must either have that
or a bow and arrow. Now, good-bye!"

Without another word he turned and strolled away towards the hacienda.
It was nearly two hours before he returned.

"The señorita has got away so far," he said. "The red-skins came across
her half-way up the valley; she turned and rode straight up; a dozen
well-mounted men were sent after her. I heard that they sent so many
because they were afraid that they might fall in with a party of the
Genigueh Indians, who would certainly attack them at once."

"Thank God!" Will exclaimed fervently. "There is a chance of saving her,
after all, for if they overtake her--and they won't do that for some
time--we can attack them as they come back again."

"Now let us join the others at once, and make up the valley."

During the time Sancho had been away he had been questioning Antonio as
to the extent of the valley.

"It goes a long way into the heart of the mountains, señor, but none of
us know it beyond what we have learned from the Indians, for we were
strictly forbidden to go beyond the boundary for fear of disturbing the
game in the Indian country. They say that it runs three hours' fast
riding beyond our bounds. After that it becomes a mere ravine, but it
can be followed up to the top of the hill, and from there across a wild
country, until at last the track comes down on a ford on the Colorado.
From there there is a track leading west at the foot of the San
Francisco Mountain, and coming down on the Little Colorado, close to the
Moquis country."

"How far would that be from here?" Will asked.

"I have never been across there, señor, and I doubt whether any white
man has--not on that line. I should think that from what the Indians say
it must be some fifty miles from the end of our part of the valley to
the ford of the Colorado, and from there to the Little Colorado it must
be one hundred and fifty miles in a straight line, perhaps two hundred
by the way the track goes--that is to say, if there is a track that
anyone can follow. These tracks mostly run pretty straight, so that I
should say that it would be about as far to the Moquis country as it
would be to San Diego from here; however, we may be sure that we are not
going to make such a journey as that; the Apaches are not likely to
follow her farther than the end of this valley, or at most to the
Colorado ford."

As they rode along Will learned from Sancho how he had obtained the
news.

"There was no difficulty about that," the other said carelessly. "I
waited till the fires were a bit low, and then sauntered about near
those of a party of the Tejunas, and heard them talking about it. I
learned that they had, as they believed, wiped out all our people except
those who crossed the river on rafts, and the señorita, though they
allowed that a few of the men with the herds might have got away, and
they were going to search the valley thoroughly to-morrow. Not a soul in
the hacienda escaped. The red-skins were exultant over the amount of
booty they had taken, and were glad that the cattle were amply
sufficient for both tribes, so that there would be no cause for dispute
as to the division; and were specially pleased with the stores of flour
and goods of all kinds in the magazines."

When they joined the main body Sancho was heartily welcomed by his
comrades, who were delighted to hear that there was at least a chance of
saving the señorita, of whom all hands on the estate were fond. It was
arranged at once that Sancho should ride by turns behind the others, and
then they started at a gallop up the valley, keeping close within the
edge of the trees that covered the hillside.



CHAPTER VII

THE PURSUIT


But few words were spoken until the party arrived at a spot where the
valley began to narrow in near the boundary of the ranch. They were now
considerably beyond the Indian fires.

"There is no fear of our meeting with any of the red devils now," Sancho
said. "They know well enough that our Indians would not venture to
attack them, and that there are no other enemies near. A quarter of a
mile and we shall be at the wigwam where the señorita went this
morning."

"We will stop there for a moment," Will said; "it is not likely that we
shall find anything that will give us useful information, but at any
rate the horses may as well have a short rest there as well as anywhere
else."

They had come fifteen miles now at a smart pace.

The men all dismounted. One of them struck a light with his flint and
steel, and then lit the end of a short coil of cord that had been soaked
in saltpetre, and waved it round his head till it burst into a flame. As
they expected, they found the two Indians lying dead; both had been
tomahawked and then scalped. On the ground lay a broken medicine bottle
and a portion of some soft pudding.

"That does not tell us much," Will said.

Sancho made no answer, but looked all round the wigwam. "The basket is
not here," he said. "I noticed that it was pretty full."

"I suppose the red-skins took it, Sancho?"

"They would not bother about a basket; it is the last thing they would
think of taking. My idea is that the señorita came back here. I expect
she came to warn the Indians. She would, to begin with, if she rode at
full speed, have distanced the 'Paches, who would not be able to get
through the herd, which must have been between them and her when she
first saw them. If she were half-way down the valley she might have been
here some minutes before them. Of course the two old Indians knew that
there was no escape for them, and made no effort to avoid their fate. I
expect they had only taken that pudding and medicine out of the basket
when she got back. Now, seeing that the basket and all that was in it
are gone, it seems to me possible enough that the señorita may have
caught it up and ridden off with it, knowing that she had a long ride
before her, and through a country where there are no posadas."

"I hope, indeed, that it may be so, Sancho, for I have been wondering
what she would do if she were lost in these mountains. What would she
be likely to put in the basket?"

"I handed it up to her, señor, when she had mounted; there were two
bottles of milk, a bottle of wine, and a pile of cakes. There were a few
other things, but I did not notice what they were."

"I only hope that your idea is correct, Sancho; it would be a great
comfort to know that she had enough provisions to last her for two or
three days."

"I expect you will find that it is so, señor; the señorita is
quick-witted and cool. I saw her once when a dozen bulls stampeded when
we were trying to drive them into the yard; she was sitting her horse a
short distance from the gate, and was just in their line. She didn't try
to dash aside across their path, as many would have done, but turned and
started, keeping her horse in at first, and then letting him out
gradually and edging off out of their line, and she came cantering back
laughing as she joined her father, who was looking pale as death at the
danger she had been in. I have very little doubt that it has been as I
said; she galloped at first at full speed, then when she got near this
hut she saw that she was well ahead of the red-skins. She rode up here,
jumped off to warn the Indians, and when she found they would not go she
took the basket, knowing the things could be of no use to them, and
might be worth a hundred times their weight in gold to her. Maybe the
old Indian may have suggested it to her; at any rate, I feel sure she
took them."

"Well, we will ride steadily on. Is there any place where she could have
left the valley?"

"Not beyond this, señor; at least, I know of none; but, as I told you,
we know very little of the valley beyond this point. Certainly she could
have known no path; no doubt she went straight on. Well mounted as she
was, she would feel sure that the red-skins could not overtake her, and
I expect she did not press her horse much, but contented herself with
keeping out of rifle-shot. I don't know whether she knew of the ford
across the river, but she would naturally plunge in at the point where
the track comes down on it, and would, no doubt, be surprised at finding
that the horse was able to cross without swimming."

"She would not be able to turn, after she had crossed, and come down on
the opposite bank?"

"No, señor; that would not be possible; there are high mountains there,
and the river at some places runs through deep gorges."

"How far do you think the Apaches would follow?"

"I think that they would keep on for some distance beyond the river;
when they found at last that they had no chance of catching her, they
might turn and come back and cross the river, and camp on this side. By
that time their horses would be done for; you see, they most likely had
a long ride yesterday; maybe they were travelling all night, and, of
course, it gave the señorita an immense advantage that her horse was
fresh, while theirs had anyhow a great deal taken out of them before
they set out in pursuit. I should recommend that we halt, as soon as it
becomes light, in some clump of trees and wait for them as they come
back. We are pretty well matched in numbers, and with the advantage of a
surprise we ought to be able to wipe them out altogether. We might go as
far as we can up the valley to the point where it becomes a mere ravine,
before daylight breaks, and our horses will be all the better for a rest
of a few hours. They will have gone over forty miles since they left the
river, and we may probably have a very long journey to do again
to-morrow. There is no saying how far the señorita may have gone; she
would not know whether the red-skins might not follow all night, and I
should think that she would keep on till daybreak, though, of course,
she would only go at a walk."

"It is difficult to say what she is most likely to do."

"It is, indeed, señor; if I myself were in her place I should be
puzzled. I should reckon that all in the valley had been wiped out. The
red-skins would assuredly first make a rush for the hacienda, because it
was most important that they should carry that before the men could
rally round and make a defence. I should reckon that the red-skins would
remain there for four or five days before they had jerked as much meat
as they could carry, and that, when they started, a party would like
enough be placed in ambush to catch me as I came back. I should know
that it was next to hopeless to try and find my way down across such
mountains as there are ahead, through which, so far as I know, there are
no tracks, and I am not sure that I should not push on in hopes of
reaching the Moquis, who are peaceful Indians, as I have heard, with
their villages perched on the top of hills, and having flocks and herds,
and being in all ways different from all the other tribes except the
Zunis.

"The red-skins say that these people were here before them, and that
they really belong to the tribes of Central Mexico, and came from there
long before the white man ever set foot in America. From there one could
travel north, strike the Santa Fé trail, and possibly make one's way
through safely, though the Navajoes are pretty nearly as bad there as
the Apaches are here. Whether the señorita has ever heard of the Moquis
I cannot say, but if she finds that she is on a trail she will follow
it, thinking anything better than going back and falling into the hands
of the Apaches."

"Are there any other tribes she would have to pass through on the way?"

"I think not. It is a great mountain track, where even red-skins could
not pick up a living. As far as I have heard, the track from the ford
leads through a series of passes between lofty hills. It is not the
course of a river, and, therefore, there are not likely to be any
villages. I should say that there would be forest on the lower slopes,
and we are sure to meet with enough game to keep us."

They now proceeded at a walk, for the trees in most places grew thickly,
and the ground here and there was broken by boulders that had rolled
down from the hillside. At last they came to a point where the valley
was but a hundred yards wide. Here they halted, took off the horses'
bridles to allow them to pick what grass there was, and threw themselves
down, and most of them were asleep in a few minutes.

"Is it necessary to keep watch?" Will said.

"No, señor, the 'Paches will assuredly not start to come back until
morning. The country is as strange to them as it is to us. I should say,
from what I have heard, it is about ten miles from the river, and in an
hour or an hour and a half after daylight they are likely to be here."

Will took a seat by the trunk of a tree. He had no inclination for
sleep. His thoughts were busy with the girl--alone in these mountains
with an unknown country before her and a band of relentless savages who
might, for aught she knew, be still pressing after her. It was difficult
to conceive a more terrible situation. She might lose the trail,
which was sure to be a faintly-marked one, and in some places
indistinguishable save to an eye accustomed to tracking. If so, her fate
was sealed. She must wander about till she died of hunger and thirst. It
was maddening to be waiting there even for an hour or two and to know
that she was alone. As soon as daylight broke, Sancho sent four of the
men back to hunt for game. If they did not come upon something in the
course of three-quarters of an hour, they were to return. They had been
gone, however, half that time when the crack of a rifle was heard, and
ten minutes later they rode back, bringing with them a stag they had
shot. Already a fire had been lighted one hundred yards behind the
camping-ground. Antonio had collected some perfectly dry wood for the
purpose.

"There will be no smoke to speak of," he said to Will, "and what little
there is will make its way out through the leaves. It is unlikely in the
extreme that the Indians will notice it, and if they do, they will think
that it is a fire made by one of our Indians."

A couple of the hunters at once set about skinning and cutting up the
carcass. They were to go on cooking it until a signal was made to them
that the Indians were approaching. The horses had now been collected,
and the men disposed themselves behind trunks of trees, each with his
horse a few yards behind him. All these were well trained to stand still
when the reins were thrown over their heads. In front of them was a
clear space some thirty yards across. After half an hour's anxious
waiting, Sancho, who was lying with his ear to the ground, raised his
hand as a signal that he could hear the Indians coming. The men from the
fire ran up and took their places with the rest. The rifles were thrown
forward in readiness. All could now hear the dull tread of the horses,
with an occasional sharper sound as the hoofs fell upon rock. As the
Apaches rode out from the wood their leader suddenly checked his horse
with a warning cry, but it was too late.

Sixteen rifles flashed out, half the Apaches fell, and before the
others could recover from their surprise at this unexpected attack the
vaqueros charged down upon them. Hopelessly outnumbered as they were,
the Apaches fought desperately, but the combat was short. The pistols of
Will and Sancho were used with deadly effect, and in a couple of minutes
the fight was over and the last Indian had fallen.

"Now, let us waste no time," Will said. "Ten minutes must do for our
breakfast; then we will be off."

None of the party was seriously hurt, and the wounds were soon bandaged.
The joints hanging above the fire were soon taken down, cut into slices,
and grilled. They were being eaten when four Indians stepped from among
the trees, one of them being evidently a chief.

"You are breaking the rules," he said to Will, whom he recognized as the
leader of the party. "We shall lay a complaint before the great master."

Will did not answer, but Antonio, who spoke their language fairly,
replied, "Have you not heard the news?"

"We have heard no news," the chief said. "We heard a gun fire when we
were hunting two miles down the valley. We came to see what it was. Then
we heard many guns, and, not knowing what it could be, hid our horses
and came on."

"Then do you not know that there are three or four hundred Apaches and
Tejunas in the valley below; that the hacienda has been attacked, all
within it killed, and that the herds have been destroyed? So far as we
know, we alone have escaped."

The Indians uttered deep exclamations of surprise.

"What was the firing?" the chief asked.

"If you go on a hundred yards farther up, you will find the dead bodies
of twenty Apache braves; they have been riding in pursuit of Donna
Clara, the daughter of the señor, who was fortunately at your end of the
valley, having gone there with food and medicine for the old Indian of
your tribe who was too ill to leave with the rest, a fortnight since."

"I saw her often then," the chief said, "and this young brave"--and he
motioned to Will--"he was often in our camp, and the girl visited our
wigwams and gave many little presents to our women. Did she escape
them?"

"She did, but where she is we know not. We are going in search of her.
If you and your warriors will go with us, we shall be glad, for your
eyes are better than ours, and could follow the footmarks of her horse
where we should see nothing."

"Teczuma, with one of his warriors, will go," the chief said. "The other
two must go and carry the news to our people, and, though they are not
strong enough to fight so large a force, yet they will not be idle, and
many of the Apaches and Tejunas will lose their scalps before they cross
the river again."

He spoke a few words to the three men, who at once left, and in ten
minutes one returned with two horses. The chief had already eaten two
slices of deer's flesh, and he mounted and rode on with the others,
while his follower waited for a minute to eat the flesh that had already
been cooked for him. Sancho had chosen the horse that had been ridden
by the Apache chief, and, without stopping, they rode on until they
were, a few minutes later, joined by the other Indian. They now pushed
on rapidly, ascending the ravine, and on reaching the top Will saw with
satisfaction that high hills on both sides bordered what was, in fact, a
pass between them, and that Clara must therefore have kept on straight.

The chief with his follower rode a little ahead of the others, Will,
with Antonio and Sancho, following closely behind him. Once or twice the
chief pointed down to marks on the rocks, with the remark, "A shod
horse".

"That is all right," Antonio said. "The Indians do not shoe their
horses, so we may be sure it was the señorita."

The path soon began to descend again, and in an hour from the time of
starting they emerged from the pass within one hundred yards of the
river; the ground here being soft, a well-marked track was visible.

"Made by our people," the chief said, turning round. "They often cross
ford to hunt on the other side--large forests there, two hours' ride
away--good hunting-ground. Apache not come there. Hills too big to
cross."

Beyond the river the track was for some time perfectly distinct, but it
presently became fainter. However, as the Indians rode on rapidly, Will
had no doubt that, although he could not see the tracks on the ground,
they were plain enough to the eyes of the Indians.

"It is a mighty good job we have the chief with us," Antonio said. "The
trail is plain enough at present, but it is sure to get fainter when we
get into these forests they speak of. Probably it goes straight enough
there, but once among the trees it will break up, as the Indians would
scatter to hunt. We should have lost a lot of time following it. Now we
have got these two red-skin fellows, they will pick it up almost as fast
as we can ride."

The road, indeed, after passing over a rocky plateau, dipped suddenly
down into a deep valley running up from the river, and extending as far
as one could see almost due east among the hills. The track they were
following turned to the right at the foot of the hill. For miles it was
clearly defined, then gradually became fainter, as the Indians who had
followed it turned off in search of game. The footprints of the shod
horse continued straight up the valley, until, ten miles from the point
at which they had entered it, they turned to the left.

"It has been going at a walk for some miles," the chief said, "and the
white girl has been walking beside it. I saw her footprints many times.
We shall find that she halted for the night at the little stream in the
middle of the valley. It must have been getting dark when she arrived
here. She must be a good horsewoman and have a good horse under her, for
it is nearly eighty miles from here to the hacienda."

By the stream, indeed, they found the place where Clara had slept. The
Indian pointed to spots where the horse had cropped the grass by the
edge of the stream, and where it had at last lain down near its
mistress, who had, as a few crumbs showed, eaten some of the cakes.

"I wonder we don't see one of the bottles," Will remarked.

Antonio translated his remarks to the chief, who said, "Girl wise; fill
bottle with water; not know how far stream come. We halt here; cannot
follow trail farther; soon come dark."

This was evident to them all; men and horses alike needed rest. They lit
a fire and sat around it for a short time; all were encouraged by the
success so far, and even the fact that they were supperless did not
affect them.

"Teczuma and Wolf go out and find game in the morning," the chief said
confidently. "Plenty of game here."

Long before the others were awake, indeed, the chief and his follower
were moving. Just as daylight broke, the latter ran into camp.

"Come," he said, "bring gun; grizzly coming down valley. Teczuma watch
him."

The men were on their feet the instant Antonio translated the Indian's
words, and followed the Indian on foot.

"Was the bear too much for the two Indians?" Will asked Sancho.

"If they had been alone they would have fought it, but the chief was
right to send for us. It was like enough they might have got badly hurt,
and that would have been a bad thing for us."

Presently the Indian stopped. It was still twilight under the trees, but
they could make out a great gray form advancing towards them. When
within twenty yards it scented danger, and stopped with an angry growl.
Almost at the same moment a rifle flashed out behind a tree near its
flank. With a furious growl it turned, exposing its flank to the
watchers. Antonio had warned five of these not to fire; the other ten
rifles were fired simultaneously, and the bear rolled over and over. It
scrambled to its feet again, and stood rocking itself, evidently wounded
to death. The other five men ran forward together, and when three yards
distant poured in their fire, and the bear fell dead. The vaqueros lost
no time in skinning it. A portion of the flesh was carried to the fire,
cut up into strips, and at once cooked. As soon as the meal was
finished, the rest of the meat was cut off and divided between the
party, who then mounted and rode on, the two Indians again leading the
way.



CHAPTER VIII

THE CAVE-DWELLERS


Three days later the party stood on the brow of a steep bluff looking
down upon the Colorado Chiquita river. It had been a weary journey. It
was evident that the girl had, after the second day's riding, allowed
the horse to go its own way, trusting perhaps to its instinct to make
for some habitation, should there be any in the region. There had been
no difficulty in following its footsteps until the third day, when they
were passing over a stony plateau. Here even the keen sight of the
Indians sometimes failed them, and hours were lost in taking up the
trail. There was no water to be met with here, and the Indians agreed
that the horse was going slowly and weakly, and the girl for the most
part walking beside it, as they pointed out by a crushed blade of grass
or flattened lichen by the side of the horse's track. Later in the day
the trail was straighter, and the chief said confidently, "The horse
smells water; the river cannot be many miles away."

It was an hour after starting, on the third morning, that they reached
the bluff opposite to them. For a distance of a couple of miles rose a
steep island of basalt, some hundreds of feet above the plain around it,
and on the summit a large village could be seen.

"Moquis," the Indian said, pointing to it.

"Then she must have got there in safety!" Will exclaimed in delight. The
chief shook his head. "Horse not able to swim river, must stop a day to
eat grass. There horse!" and he pointed to an animal seven hundred or
eight hundred feet below them.

"That is its colour, sure enough," Antonio exclaimed, "but I don't see
the señorita."

"She may be asleep," Will suggested.

"Likely enough, señor; we shall soon see."

Dismounting, they made their way down the steep descent. Then all leaped
into their saddles and galloped forward to the edge of the stream, a
quarter of a mile away. The mare, which evidently scented that the
new-comers were not Indians, cantered to meet them with a whinny of
pleasure. There were no signs of the girl, and all dismounted to search
among the low bushes for her, Will loudly calling her name. Presently
the Indian, who, with his follower, had moved along the bank, called
them.

"She slept here yesterday," he said, and the level grass close to a
shrub testified to the truth of the exclamation. The two Indians looked
serious.

"What is it, chief?"

"Indians," he said. "White girl come down to river to drink; then she
lay down here; then Indians come along; you see footprints on soft earth
of bank; they catch her when asleep and carry her off. Teczuma and the
Wolf have looked; no marks of little feet; four feet deeper marks than
when they came along; Indian carry her off."

"Perhaps they have taken her along the river to some ford, and carried
her up to their village."

"Soon see;" and he and the Wolf moved along the bank, the others
following at a short distance, having first taken off their horses'
bridles, allowing them to take a good drink, and turned them loose to
feed.

"Small men," the chief said, when Will with the two chief vaqueros came
up to him. "Short steps; got spears and bows."

"How on earth does he know that?" Will said, when the words were
translated to him. Sancho pointed to a round mark on the ground.

"There is the butt end of a spear, and I dare say the chief has noticed
some holes of a different shape made by the ends of bows."

Half a mile farther the bluffs approached the river and bordered it with
a perpendicular cliff, which had doubtless been caused by the face of
the hill being eaten away by the river countless ages before. The stream
was here some thirty yards from the foot of the cliff. More and more
puzzled at the direction in which Clara had been carried, the trackers
followed. They had gone a hundred yards along the foot of the cliff when
a great stone came bounding down from above, striking the ground a few
yards in front of the Indians, who leaped back. Almost instantly a
shrill voice shouted from above, and, looking up, they saw a number of
natives on a ledge a hundred feet above them, with bows bent
threateningly.

"Back, all of you!" Sancho shouted. "Their arrows may be poisoned."

Seeing, however, that the party retreated in haste, the Indians did not
shoot; when a short distance away a council was held, and all returned
to their horses, mounted, and swam the river; then they rode along to
view the cliff. Three or four openings were seen on the level of the
ledge on which the Indians were posted, and Will was astonished to see
that above, the cliff, which was here quite perpendicular, was covered
with strange sculptures, some of which still retained the colour with
which they had in times long past been painted.

"They are the old people, the cave-dwellers," Sancho said. "I have heard
of them; they were here long before the Moquis were here. They were a
people dwelling in caves. There are hundreds of these caves in some
places. They have always kept themselves apart, and never made friends
with the Moquis. In the early times with the Spaniards there were
missionaries among the Moquis, but they could never do anything among
the cave people, who are, they say, idolaters and offer human
sacrifices."

"How do the people live?" Antonio asked.

"They fish, and steal animals from the Moquis when they get a chance,
and they dwell in such inaccessible caves that, once there, they are
safe from pursuit.

"If you like, señor, I will go up to the Moquis village, and try to find
out something about them. I don't know the Moquis language, but I
understand something of the sign language, which is understood by all
Indians, and I dare say that I shall be able to learn something about
these people."

Will dismounted as the vaquero rode off, and, bidding Antonio do the
same, told the man to take their horses a quarter of a mile away, and
there to dismount and cook a meal.

"Now, Antonio," he said, "we have to see how this place can be climbed."

Antonio shook his head. "I should say that it was altogether impossible,
señor. You see there is a zigzag path cut in the face of the cliff up to
that ledge. In some places the rock is cut away altogether, and then
they have got ladders, which they would no doubt draw up at once if they
were attacked. You see the lower ones have already been pulled up. Like
enough sentries are posted at each of those breaks when they are
threatened with an attack. Besides, the chances are that if they thought
there were any risk of our getting up, they would kill the señorita."

"I see all that, Antonio, and I have no thought of making my way up by
the steps; the question is, could it be climbed elsewhere? The other end
of the ledge would be the best point to get up at, for any watch that is
kept would certainly be where the steps come up."

Antonio shook his head. "Unless one could fly, señor, there would be no
way of getting up there."

"I don't know that," Will said shortly; "wait till I have had a good
look at it."

Lying on the ground, with his chin resting on his hands, he gazed
intently at the cliff, observing even the most trifling projections, the
tiny ledges that here and there ran along the face.

"It would be a difficult job and a dangerous one," he said, "but I am
not sure that it cannot be managed. At any rate, I shall try. I am a
sailor, you know, Antonio, and am accustomed, when we have been sailing
in the gale, to hold on with my toes as well as my fingers. Now, do you
go back to the others. I shall want two poles, say fifteen feet long,
and some hooks, which I can make from ramrods. Do you see just in the
middle of that ledge, where the large square entrance is, the cliff
bulges out, and I should say the ledge was twenty feet wide; this is
lucky, for if there are sentries on the steps they would not be able to
see beyond that point. If they could do so, I should not have much
chance of getting up, for it will be a bright moonlight night. When I
get to the top--that is, if I do get there--I shall lower down a rope.
You can fasten the lariats together. They would hold the weight of a
dozen men. The lightest and most active of you must come up first. When
two or three are up we can haul the rest up easily enough. Now you can
go. I shall be here another half-hour at least. I must see exactly the
best way to climb, calculate the number of feet along each of those
little ledges to a point where I can reach the one above with my hook,
and get the whole thing well in my mind."

Antonio went away shaking his head. To him the feat seemed so impossible
that he thought that it was nothing short of madness to attempt it. Such
was the opinion of the rest of the vaqueros and the two Indians when, on
arriving at the fire, he told them what Will proposed doing. Their
leader, however, when he joined them, had a look of confidence on his
face.

"I am more convinced than ever that it can be done," he said. When the
meal of bear's flesh had been eaten, he lit his pipe and began to smoke
quietly. The chief came up and spoke to him.

"What does he say, Antonio?"

"He says that you are a brave man, señor, but that no man could do what
you are talking of, and that you will throw away your life."

"Tell him I will bet my horse against his that I shall succeed, and you
shall be witness to the bet in case I don't come back again."

The chief nodded gravely when the offer was made to him. Indians of all
tribes are given to wagering, and as the horse Will was riding was a far
better one than his own, he regarded the matter rather as a legacy than
a bet.

An hour later Sancho came down, accompanied by several of the Moquis
Indians, leading four sheep as a present, and followed by women carrying
pans of milk, baskets of eggs, and cakes of various descriptions. Sancho
presented the chief to Will.

"They are quite friendly, señor; they hate the cave-dwellers, who are
constantly robbing them, and who compel them to keep guard over the
animals at night. I can understand them pretty well; they bid me tell
you that they would gladly assist you against the cave-dwellers, but
that it is impossible to reach the caves."

Will shook hands with the chiefs, and asked Sancho to explain by signs
that he was much obliged for their presents.

"Tell them, Sancho, that I am going to try to scale the cliff
to-night."

"You are going to scale the cliff?" the vaquero asked incredulously.

"I did not say that I was going to scale it, but that I was going to
try; and I may add that I hope that I shall succeed. Will you ask if the
cave-dwellers poison their arrows?"

"I have already asked that, señor, but he said no. The cattle have often
been wounded by them, and unless the wound is a mortal one, they
recover."

"That is very satisfactory," Will said, "for I own I have more fear of
being hit by a poisoned arrow than I have of scaling the cliff."

"The chief says that if you will go up to their village he will place a
house at your disposal, señor."

"Tell him that I am much obliged, and that to-morrow I may accept their
invitation. Our horses will require three or four days' rest before
starting back, and I can hardly hope that the señorita will be fit to
travel for a good deal longer than that."

Although they had but just eaten a meal, the vaqueros were perfectly
ready to begin another. A number of eggs were roasted in the ashes, and
washed down by long draughts of milk. The chiefs then left them, but a
number of the villagers came down and watched the proceedings of the
strangers with great interest. Will at once proceeded to carry out his
plan of bending the ramrods: a hot spot in the fire was selected, and
two of the vaqueros increased the intensity of the heat by fanning it
with their sombreros. Three others went down to the river and brought up
a large flat boulder and two or three smaller ones, and, using the large
one as an anvil, the ends of the hooks were hammered into sharp, broad,
chisel-shaped blades. Sancho had explained to the chiefs that two poles,
some fifteen feet long, were required, and when these were brought down
the ramrods were securely bound to them with strips of wetted hide.
Other strips were, by Will's directions, bound round the pole so as to
form projections a foot apart.

"That will greatly assist me in climbing it," he said. "I don't say I
could not do without it, but it will make it very much easier."

In order to lull the cave-dwellers into security, the camp was shifted
in the afternoon to the foot of the Moquis hill, and there Will gave his
men instructions as to the operations.

"We will cross the river on the horses a mile above the cave," he said;
"we must use them, or we could not keep our rifles and pistols dry. You
must all remove your boots as soon as you dismount, and we will now tear
up two or three blankets, and twist strips round the barrels of the
guns, so that, should they strike against the rocks, no sound shall be
made. You had better do the same with the barrels of your pistols."

Then he chose the lightest of the vaqueros to follow him. Another
light-weight was to be third. Antonio was to follow him, and then
Sancho, and the order in which all the others were to go was arranged.
Lariats were securely knotted together, and the knots tied with strips
of hide, to prevent the possibility of their slipping. The men carried
out his orders, but it was evident from their manner that they had not
the slightest hope that his attempt would be successful. An hour after
sunset they started. It was two days after full moon, and they had,
therefore, as many hours to reach the foot of the cliffs before it rose.

An hour was sufficient to traverse the distance, and they therefore
rested for that time, after darkness set in, before starting, swam the
river, and after removing their boots made their way noiselessly along,
keeping some distance from the river bank until they reached the spot
where the cliff rose perpendicularly; then, keeping close to its foot,
they held on until they arrived at the spot Will had fixed upon. There
all lay down among the boulders close to the rock wall, and remained
there until the moon rose.

There had been several discussions as to the best way to get the lariat
up, as it was agreed that, whether carried in a coil over the shoulder
or wound round the body, it would hamper the climber's movements. The
question was finally solved by his taking a coil of thin hide, which,
while little thicker than string, was amply strong enough to support the
weight of the lariat. Four or five bullets had been sewn up in a piece
of skin and attached to one end. A strap was fastened to each pole so
that these could be slung behind him, so permitting him the free use of
both hands where it was not needful to use them.

"The saints watch over you, señor!" Antonio whispered, as Will prepared
to start, and he and Sancho gave him a silent grip of the hand, while
the Indian chief laid his hand on his shoulder and muttered, "Ugh, heap
brave!"

For a short distance the ascent was comparatively easy. Then he arrived
at the first of the ledges he had noticed. It was some ten inches wide,
and, keeping his face to the wall and using his hands to grip the most
trifling irregularity, or to get a hold in small crevices, he made his
way along until he arrived at a projection which barred farther
progress. Slipping one of the slings from his shoulder, he reached up
until the hook caught the next ledge, and obtained a good hold there. He
then climbed the pole until his fingers got a grip of the ledge, when he
hauled himself up to it. It was some fifteen inches wide here, and
without difficulty he obtained a footing, again slung the pole on his
shoulder and went on. The ledge narrowed rapidly, and he was now at one
of the points which appeared to him the most difficult, for from where
he had been lying the ledge seemed almost to cease, while the next ledge
above it was also so narrow that he knew he could not obtain standing
room upon it.

As he approached the narrow path he took the poles, one in each hand,
and obtained a grip of the upper ledge. He now made his way along on
tiptoe, having his weight almost entirely on the poles, shifting them
alternately. To a landsman this would have been an extraordinary feat,
but, accustomed to hang to the ropes by one hand, it was not so
difficult for him, especially as he obtained some slight support from
his feet. Without the poles it would have been impossible for him to
have passed, as the ledge in some places was only three inches wide. At
the end of some thirty feet it again widened; the next forty or fifty
feet upward were comparatively easy, for the rock sloped to some extent
inward, and there were many fissures in which he was enabled to get a
firm grip with his fingers. Then came several difficult places, but he
was confident now in the hold the hooks had on the rocks, and, always
working with great caution and using sometimes his hands, sometimes the
poles, he reached the top in half an hour after starting.



CHAPTER IX

RESCUED


He threw himself down on the platform, which was entirely deserted, and
lay there for five minutes; then he unwound the coil of leather-thong,
and threw the weighted end over. He knew that he had allowed ample
length, and drew it in until he felt a slight strain; then came three
jerks. The party below had hold of the thong; two more jerks told that
they had fastened the end of the lariat to it; in a couple of minutes it
was in his hands. There was a parapet some eighteen inches high along
the edge of the platform, intended doubtless to prevent the children
from falling over. Seeing no place to which he could fasten the lariat,
he tied it round the middle of the two poles, laid these on the ground
close to the parapet, put his feet upon them, and then leaned over. Two
pulls on the lariat told him that the next man was tied on, and he began
at once to haul upon it. He found the weight much less than he had
expected. Not only was the vaquero short and wiry, but he was using both
his hands and feet with such effect that in five minutes he stood beside
Will.

The work went on quickly now. One after another the men were pulled up,
and in less than an hour all were assembled on the platform, where, save
three engaged in pulling their comrades up, they had laid down as soon
as they reached it. Will had been glad to relinquish the work to others,
for his hands were cut and bleeding. He had crawled along, keeping by
the wall of rock until he reached the point where the bulge or bend in
the face of the cliff enabled him to see to the other end of the
platform. To his surprise not a soul was visible, but, peering over the
parapet, he saw four figures standing as sentinels at the points where
there were breaks in the path, and the moonlight enabled him to make out
that the ladders had been pulled up and laid beside them.

He could hear a confused hum of voices from the principal cave, but,
though most anxious to know what was going on there, he dared not
venture farther until all the men were up, as anyone coming out of the
cave would at once see him. He therefore rejoined the others. Each man
as he came up gave him a silent grip of the hand, and the Indian chief
muttered something which Sancho whispered meant "heap great brave". As
soon as the last man was up they moved silently forward. Every man knew
the part he had to play. Sancho and three others crept forward on hands
and knees, under shelter of the parapet, to the other end of the
platform, where they were to await the signal, the rest halting at the
front of the main entrance to the cave.

Here a sight met their eyes that filled them with horror. The entrance
opened into a wide hall, which was lighted by a dozen torches. At the
farther end was a hideous idol carved from a solid rock; in front of
this was a sort of altar, upon which lay a figure, which they at once
recognized as that of Donna Clara. Beside her stood two men, naked to
the waist, with their bodies painted with strange figures. They had
knives in their hands, and, rocking themselves to and fro, were uttering
some sort of prayer or incantation.

"You take the fellow to the left, Antonio, I will take the other."

[Illustration: THE FIGHT IN THE CAVE]

The shots rang out together--the distance was but sixteen or seventeen
yards--and without a cry the two priests or executioners fell dead. A
terrible cry of astonishment and dismay broke from the crowd, and before
they could recover from their surprise, the vaqueros and the two
Indians, headed by Will, burst their way through them. Will had given
strict orders that there was to be no general firing, as men, women, and
children were likely to be mixed up together, but as they entered they
caught the sound of four rifles outside, and knew that the sentries had
been disposed of. Will caught up the girl, who was evidently insensible,
and threw her over his shoulder, and, surrounded by his men, made his
way outside the cave. Here he handed her over to Antonio, who was a very
powerfully built man, and the latter, without a word, started for the
steps.

"Now, my men," Will shouted, as with cries of fury the Indians followed
them, "don't spare one of these bloodthirsty wretches, but don't touch
the women."

The fight was short, half the Indians being shot down as they poured out
on to the platform; the others, however, maddened by the loss of their
expected victim and the capture of their stronghold, fought desperately
to the end, the Mexicans using the butt ends of their rifles, while the
savages fought with knives. After the fight was over, the cave was
thoroughly searched; many of the women had fallen, for they had joined
in the fight as fiercely as the men, and in the darkness and confusion
it was impossible to distinguish them apart. The rest, with the
children, were forced to descend the steps. The ladders had been
replaced by Sancho and his party, who, having finished their work, had
run off at once to bring up the horses.

Clara was still unconscious when they returned. Will mounted, and
Antonio handed her to him. Sancho and two of the men accompanied him,
while the rest in charge of the captives followed more slowly. Fires
were blazing high at the Moquis village, and it was evident that the
attack had been eagerly watched, and that the firing on the platform had
shown that the caves had been taken, for on the still night air came
the sound of horses, drums, and loud shouting. Will at once urged his
horse into the water, his companions swimming by their horses close to
him so as to render assistance, if necessary; but the distance was
short, and it was not long before the horse felt the bottom again. The
sudden chill of the water had roused the girl from her faint.

"Where am I?" she murmured.

"You are safe in my arms," Will said. "We have got you safely out of the
hands of those wretches. All danger is over."

"Is it Will," she asked, "or am I dreaming?"

"It is I, sure enough, Clara," he said; "and I am glad that for once you
have dropped the don. I followed you with Antonio and Sancho and
thirteen other vaqueros. We were joined by the Genigueh chief, Teczuma,
and one of his tribe, who have been invaluable in following your track."

"Holy Virgin, I thank you!" the girl murmured, and then lay silent for a
time.

"Where are you going now?" she asked presently.

"To the Moquis village, where you will be most kindly received, and
where we shall stay till you have got your strength again."

"Zona, my gallant Zona! Is she safe?"

"Yes. She seemed pretty nearly recovered from her fatigue when we found
her this morning, and will be ready to carry you back again."

As they approached the hill they saw a number of people coming down the
zigzag path, with torches, who welcomed Will on his arrival with loud
cries of triumph. The horses could go no farther, as the path, like that
up to the caverns, was at several points cut away, the breaks being in
the daytime filled with long planks. As the girl was altogether unable
to walk, some of the boys ran up the hill, and in a quarter of an hour
returned with some poles, with which a litter was speedily improvised.
In this she was laid, and four Moquis carried her up the hill, Will
walking beside her and holding her hand. The whole of the villagers
were assembled on the top of the hill, shouting and dancing with joy at
the destruction of their enemies, for Sancho had already made the chiefs
aware that all the men had been killed, and the women and the children
were being brought in as prisoners.

The Moquis houses surprised Will, as they had neither windows nor doors
on the ground floor, and entrance was only obtainable by a ladder to the
upper story. Clara was here handed over to the care of the principal
women of the village. Half an hour later the rest of the party came up
with the prisoners. These were for the time confined in one of the
houses, two armed Moquis keeping guard over them. The women would,
Sancho explained to Will, be used as servants and to fetch water from
the springs at the foot of the hill. The children would probably be
adopted into the tribe.

It was ten days before Clara was strong enough to think of starting. She
had for twenty-four hours been in a high fever, but the care lavished
upon her, and her fine constitution, speedily brought her through this,
and two days later she was able to see Will.

"Tell me all that has happened," she said. "I feel sure that mother has
been killed, for the valley was full of Indians, and I know that there
were but few men at home."

"I am afraid that there is no doubt about that," Will said gently. "We
may be thankful, Clara, that your father and Juan were both away, or
they, too, might have fallen."

Then he related very briefly how those by the river had been saved, how
they had learned from Sancho that she had been away at the end of the
valley, and how they had started in chase; and then, in a few words,
told how he had scaled the face of the cliff, had assisted his followers
up, and had arrived just in time.

"I will tell you about my journey another time," she said. "I do not
like to think of the last part of it; we were both worn out, Zona and I,
and if we had not come down upon the river we should have both died. I
took a long drink, and then fell down and went to sleep. I was awakened
by being lifted up, and found that I was being carried by two Indians,
and that others were all round me. I was too weak even to struggle, but
I remember being carried up a very steep path on the face of the cliff.
As soon as I was laid down I went to sleep, and I suppose slept all
night. In the morning they gave me food and water, but left me alone
till it was dark again; then they led me into a large cave lit up by
torches, with a horrible idol at the end. They laid me down on a great
stone in front of it, and two men with knives came beside me. Then I
suppose I fainted, and I remember nothing more till I woke up feeling
strangely cold as we were swimming across that river."

Almost the whole of the inhabitants of the village paid a visit to the
cave on the morning after the fight, and when shown the ropes, still
hanging, by which the party had been drawn up, could at first hardly
believe Sancho and the two Indians who assured them that Will had
climbed up there unaided. After Clara's illness had taken a turn, and
there was no longer cause for anxiety about her, Will was greatly
interested in the Moquis village. He was taken into one of the
underground rooms that served as temples, and was horrified at finding
that hundreds of rattlesnakes and other venomous serpents were kept
there, and still more astonished when he saw the priests handle them
carelessly and take them in their mouths. He could not believe that they
had not been rendered harmless until shown that they still retained
their poison-fangs. He was told that once a year there was a great
festival in which all the men in the village took part and performed
dances, holding the snakes in their mouths.

The villagers endeavoured to show their thankfulness at the destruction
of their enemies by profuse hospitality to their guests, and the latter
thoroughly enjoyed their stay. On starting on the return journey Clara
rode with Will, the two vaqueros, and the Indian chief to the foot of
the cliff, and was shown the spot where Will had climbed up. After
looking at it for some time she suddenly burst into tears.

"It is dreadful even to think of your going up there, Will," she said.
"I should never have forgiven myself if you had been killed when risking
your life in that way to save me."

"You would never have known it," he said.

"I should have known it," she said earnestly, "when we met in the
Hereafter."

The journey home was conducted in easy stages. Wolf, the Indian, and one
of the vaqueros had been sent off the day after Clara rallied from her
attack of fever. If they found the Apaches still in the valley, they
were to return to warn them; if not, they were to ride on until they met
Señor Sarasta and told him of his daughter's safety.

When half-way back they met Juan with ten well-armed vaqueros. The
meeting was a joyful one, although saddened by the loss, now confirmed,
of their mother.

"Ah! Will," Juan exclaimed, after his first tender embrace of his
sister, "you are tenfold my brother now. You have saved Clara's life as
well as mine; your messengers have told me how you scaled a cliff that
seemed to all of them so impossible that none had the slightest hope
that you could succeed."

"And how are things in the valley?"

"Better than might have been hoped. The red-skins only remained three
days; some ten thousand of the cattle have been recovered; many were
found in the woods in the hillsides, more still had gone right up the
valley, and when the red-skins tried to follow them they were assailed
with such showers of arrows by the Geniguehs that they fell back, having
indeed already as many cattle as they could drive away. Two of the men
from the raft brought us the news to San Diego, and the commandant at
once told off one hundred cavalry to accompany us, and in future a fort
is to be built near the hacienda, and fifty soldiers are to be stationed
there. The commandant was rather reluctant to agree to this until he had
received orders from government, but on our undertaking to supply the
garrison with bread and meat, he consented, seeing that it would be a
distinct saving of expense. So we need have no fear of the red-skins
meddling with us again. My father has already sent down to Monterey to
arrange for the purchase of ten thousand head of cattle from the ranches
there, so in two or three years we shall be in full working order again.
We found twenty of the vaqueros assembled at the hacienda; they had
taken to the woods at the first attack, and had remained in hiding until
they found that the red-skins had gone."

A messenger was at once sent on ahead to inform Señor Sarasta of the
time at which the party would arrive, and he met them at the upper end
of the valley. The meeting was an affecting one. After embracing his
daughter the Mexican threw his arms round Will with as much affection as
if he had been his father.

"I did not think," he said, when the first emotion was over, "when I
left you in charge that the duty would be such an onerous one, but you
have nobly fulfilled your trust, most nobly, and I thank you from the
bottom of my heart."

On arriving at the hacienda they found that great efforts had been made
to remove all signs of the visit of the Apaches. Donna Sarasta had been
buried in the little chapel near the house. The broken and torn-up
shrubs had been replaced, and although inside the rooms were bare, for
the furniture had been hacked to pieces by the red-skins, everything was
spotlessly clean. Will did not enter with Señor Sarasta into the house,
but went straight to the stables with the vaqueros and saw his horse and
Zona cared for. When he went to the house, Don Sarasta and Juan went out
to him.

"We have been talking together, Will," the Mexican said, "and the result
is this: I do not know what your sentiments may be, but I have
ascertained those of my daughter. We have been as one family for seven
or eight months. We all wish that we shall continue to be so in reality,
and I now offer you formally the hand of my daughter, Donna Clara
Sarasta, in marriage. I know that I can intrust her happiness to you,
and the match will afford both myself and Juan the most lively
satisfaction."

"It would be altogether beyond my hopes, señor," Will said, greatly
moved. "I will not deny that I have from the first had a profound
admiration for your daughter, but I should never have spoken of it,
seeing that I am at present a penniless man, and am, indeed, much below
the age at which we think of marriage in the States."

The Mexican smiled. "According to Spanish law, and our own policy, the
legal age for marriage is fourteen for the man and twelve for the woman,
and although it is not often that marriages take place quite so young as
that, they are very frequent when the man is sixteen and the girl
fourteen or fifteen; therefore, that is no obstacle whatever."

"Then, señor, I accept your generous offer most gladly and thankfully,
and shall consider myself the most fortunate man alive in winning such a
bride as Donna Clara."

"Well, you had better go in and tell her so," the señor said. "I think
that that will be more in accordance with your American customs than for
me to go in and formally hand her over to you."

Three months later a double marriage took place at San Diego. Don
Sarasta settled a large sum of money upon his daughter, and, with Juan's
cordial assent, arranged that at his death the hacienda and ranch, and,
indeed, all of his property, should become the joint property of his son
and daughter, with power to make any future division of it that they
might think fit. After remaining a week at San Diego, Will sailed with
his wife to Panama, crossed the isthmus, and took ship to New York,
where he astounded his father and mother by presenting to them his wife,
and mentioning casually that she had a fortune of $200,000, and was
joint heiress to estates and property worth at least $2,000,000, which
caused Mr. Harland, senior, to acknowledge that Will's mania for the sea
had not turned out so badly after all.

       *       *       *       *       *

HISTORICAL TALES BY G. A. HENTY

The Cat of Bubastes: A Story of Ancient Egypt.

For the Temple: A Tale of the Fall of Jerusalem.

The Dragon and the Raven: or, The Days of King Alfred.

A Knight of the White Cross: The Siege of Rhodes.

The Lion of St. Mark: A Story of Venice in the 14th Century.

A March on London: A Story of Wat Tyler.

At Agincourt: A Tale of the White Hoods of Paris.

St Bartholomew's Eve: A Tale of the Huguenot Wars.

By England's Aid: or, The Freeing of the Netherlands.

The Lion of the North: A Tale of Gustavus Adolphus.

When London Burned: A Story of the Great Fire.

A Jacobite Exile: In the Service of Charles XII.

Bonnie Prince Charlie: A Tale of Fontenoy and Culloden.

At the Point of the Bayonet: A Tale of the Mahratta War.

With Frederick the Great: The Seven Years' War.

True To the Old Flag: The American War of Independence.

In the Reign of Terror: The French Revolution.

A Roving Commission: A Story of the Hayti Insurrection.

At Aboukir and Acre: Napoleon's Invasion of Egypt.

Under Wellington's Command: The Peninsular War.

Through the Fray: A Story of the Luddite Riots.

One of the 28th: A Story of Waterloo.

On the Irrawaddy: A Story of the First Burmese War.

Maori and Settler: A Story of the New Zealand War.

By Sheer Pluck: A Tale of the Ashanti War.

Out with Garibaldi: A Story of the Liberation of Italy.

The Dash for Khartoum: A Tale of the Nile Expedition.

With Roberts To Pretoria: A Tale of the South African War.


LONDON: BLACKIE & SON, LIMITED, 50 OLD BAILEY, E.C.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "In the Hands of the Cave-Dwellers" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home