Newest short story by Michael E. Mclean posted on Fictitious
Read the full story HERE>> Cloud
Newest Western Short Story by Darrel Sparkman posted on Fictitious
Read the full story HERE>> The Last Warrant
Western Short Story
"There's our ford," said Juan,--our half-blood trailer,--pointing to the slightest sag in a low range of hills distant twenty miles.
We were Texas Rangers. It was nearly noon of a spring day, and we had halted on sighting our destination,--Comanche Ford on the Concho River. Less than three days before, we had been lounging around camp, near Tepee City, one hundred and seventy-five miles northeast of our present destination. A courier had reached us with an emergency order, which put every man in the saddle within an hour after its receipt.
An outfit with eight hundred cattle had started west up the Concho. Their destination was believed to be New Mexico. Suspicion rested on them, as they had failed to take out inspection papers for moving the cattle, and what few people had seen them declared that one half the cattle were brand burnt or blotched beyond recognition. Besides, they had an outfit of twenty heavily armed men, or twice as many as were required to manage a herd of that size.
Our instructions were to make this crossing with all possible haste, and if our numbers were too few, there to await assistance before dropping down the river to meet the herd. When these courier orders reached us at Tepee, they found only twelve men in camp, with not an officer above a corporal. Fortunately we had Dad Root with us, a man whom every man in our company would follow as though he had been our captain. He had not the advantage in years that his name would indicate, but he was an exceedingly useful man in the service. He could resight a gun, shoe a horse, or empty a six-shooter into a tree from the back of a running horse with admirable accuracy. In dressing a gun-shot wound, he had the delicate touch of a woman. Every man in the company went to him with his petty troubles, and came away delighted. Therefore there was no question as to who should be our leader on this raid; no one but Dad was even considered.
Sending a brief note to the adjutant-general by this same courier, stating that we had started with twelve men, we broke camp, and in less than an hour were riding southwest. One thing which played into our hands in making this forced ride was the fact that we had a number of extra horses on hand. For a few months previous we had captured quite a number of stolen horses, and having no chance to send into the settlements where they belonged, we used them as extra riding horses. With our pack mules light and these extra saddlers for a change, we covered the country rapidly. Sixteen hours a day in the saddle makes camp-fires far apart. Dad, too, could always imagine that a few miles farther on we would find a fine camping spot, and his views were law to us.
We had been riding hard for an hour across a tableland known as Cibollo Mesa, and now for the first time had halted at sighting our destination, yet distant three hours' hard riding. "Boys," said Dad, "we'll make it early to-day. I know a fine camping spot near a big pool in the river. After supper we'll all take a swim, and feel as fresh as pond-lilies."
"Oh, we swim this evening, do we?" inquired Orchard. "That's a Christian idea, Dad, cleanliness, you know. Do we look as though a swim would improve our good looks?" The fact that, after a ride like the one we were near finishing, every man of us was saturated with fine alkaline dust, made the latter question ludicrous.
For this final ride we changed horses for the last time on the trip, and after a three hours' ride under a mid-day torrid sun, the shade of Concho's timber and the companionship of running water were ours. We rode with a whoop into the camp which Dad had had in his mind all morning, and found it a paradise. We fell out of our saddles, and tired horses were rolling and groaning all around us in a few minutes. The packs were unlashed with the same alacrity, while horses, mules, and men hurried to the water. With the exception of two horses on picket, it was a loose camp in a few moments' time. There was no thought of eating now, with such inviting swimming pools as the spring freshets had made.
Dad soon located the big pool, for he had been there before, and shortly a dozen men floundered and thrashed around in it like a school of dolphins. On one side of the pool was a large sloping rock, from which splendid diving could be had. On this rock we gathered like kid goats on a stump, or sunned ourselves like lizards. To get the benefit of the deepest water, only one could dive at a time. We were so bronzed from the sun that when undressed the protected parts afforded a striking contrast to the brown bands about our necks. Orchard was sitting on the rock waiting for his turn to dive, when Long John, patting his naked shoulder, said admiringly,--
"Orchard, if I had as purty a plump shoulder as you have, I'd have my picture taken kind of half careless like--like the girls do sometimes. Wear one of those far-away looks, roll up your eyes, and throw up your head like you was listening for it to thunder. Then while in that attitude, act as if you didn't notice and let all your clothing fall entirely off your shoulder. If you'll have your picture taken that way and give me one, I'll promise you to set a heap of store by it, old man."
Orchard looked over the edge of the rock at his reflection in the water, and ventured, "Wouldn't I need a shave? and oughtn't I to have a string of beads around my swan-like neck, with a few spangles on it to glitter and sparkle? I'd have to hold my right hand over this old gun scar in my left shoulder, so as not to mar the beauty of the picture. Remind me of it, John, and I'll have some taken, and you shall have one."
A few minutes later Happy Jack took his place on the rim of the rock to make a dive, his magnificent physique of six feet and two hundred pounds looming up like a Numidian cavalryman, when Dad observed,
"How comes it, Jack, that you are so pitted in the face and neck with pox-marks, and there's none on your body?"
"Just because they come that way, I reckon," was the answer vouchsafed. "You may think I'm funning, lads, but I never felt so supremely happy in all my life as when I got well of the smallpox. I had one hundred and ninety dollars in my pocket when I took down with them, and only had eight left when I got up and was able to go to work." Here, as he poised on tiptoe, with his hands gracefully arched over his head for a dive, he was arrested in the movement by a comment of one of the boys, to the effect that he "couldn't see anything in that to make a man so _supremely happy_."
He turned his head halfway round at the speaker, and never losing his poise, remarked, "Well, but you must recollect that there was five of us taken down at the same time, and the other four died," and he made a graceful spring, boring a hole in the water, which seethed around him, arising a moment later throwing water like a porpoise, as though he wouldn't exchange his position in life, humble as it was, with any one of a thousand dead heroes.
After an hour in the water and a critical examination of all the old gun-shot wounds of our whole squad, and the consequent verdict that it was simply impossible to kill a man, we returned to camp and began getting supper. There was no stomach so sensitive amongst us that it couldn't assimilate bacon, beans, and black coffee.
When we had done justice to the supper, the twilight hours of the evening were spent in making camp snug for the night. Every horse or mule was either picketed or hobbled. Every man washed his saddle blankets, as the long continuous ride had made them rancid with sweat. The night air was so dry and warm that they would even dry at night. There was the usual target practice and the never-ending cleaning of firearms. As night settled over the camp, everything was in order. The blankets were spread, and smoking and yarning occupied the time until sleep claimed us.
"Talking about the tight places," said Orchard, "in which a man often finds himself in this service, reminds me of a funny experience which I once had, out on the head-waters of the Brazos. I've smelt powder at short range, and I'm willing to admit there's nothing fascinating in it. But this time I got buffaloed by a bear.
"There are a great many brakes on the head of the Brazos, and in them grow cedar thickets. I forget now what the duty was that we were there on, but there were about twenty of us in the detachment at the time. One morning, shortly after daybreak, another lad and myself walked out to unhobble some extra horses which we had with us. The horses had strayed nearly a mile from camp, and when we found them they were cutting up as if they had been eating loco weed for a month. When we came up to them, we saw that they were scared. These horses couldn't talk, but they told us that just over the hill was something they were afraid of.
"We crept up the little hill, and there over in a draw was the cause of their fear,--a big old lank Cinnamon. He was feeding along, heading for a thicket of about ten acres. The lad who was with me stayed and watched him, while I hurried back, unhobbled the horses, and rushed them into camp. I hustled out every man, and they cinched their hulls on those horses rapidly. By the time we had reached the lad who had stayed to watch him, the bear had entered the thicket, but unalarmed. Some fool suggested the idea that we could drive him out in the open and rope him. The lay of the land would suggest such an idea, for beyond this motte of cedar lay an impenetrable thicket of over a hundred acres, which we thought he would head for if alarmed. There was a ridge of a divide between these cedar brakes, and if the bear should attempt to cross over, he would make a fine mark for a rope.
"Well, I always was handy with a rope, and the boys knew it, so I and three others who could twirl a rope were sent around on this divide, to rope him in case he came out. The others left their horses and made a half-circle drive through the grove, beating the brush and burning powder as though it didn't cost anything. We ropers up on the divide scattered out, hiding ourselves as much as we could in the broken places. We wanted to get him out in the clear in case he played nice. He must have been a sullen old fellow, for we were beginning to think they had missed him or he had holed, when he suddenly lumbered out directly opposite me and ambled away towards the big thicket.
"I was riding a cream-colored horse, and he was as good a one as ever was built on four pegs, except that he was nervous. He had never seen a bear, and when I gave him the rowel, he went after that bear like a cat after a mouse. The first sniff he caught of the bear, he whirled quicker than lightning, but I had made my cast, and the loop settled over Mr. Bear's shoulders, with one of his fore feet through it. I had tied the rope in a hard knot to the pommel, and the way my horse checked that bear was a caution. It must have made bruin mad. My horse snorted and spun round like a top, and in less time than it takes to tell it, there was a bear, a cream-colored horse, and a man sandwiched into a pile on the ground, and securely tied with a three-eighths-inch rope. The horse had lashed me into the saddle by winding the rope, and at the same time windlassed the bear in on top of us. The horse cried with fear as though he was being burnt to death, while the bear grinned and blew his breath in my face. The running noose in the rope had cut his wind so badly, he could hardly offer much resistance. It was a good thing he had his wind cut, or he would have made me sorry I enlisted. I didn't know it at the time, but my six-shooter had fallen out of the holster, while the horse was lying on my carbine.
"The other three rode up and looked at me, and they all needed killing. Horse, bear, and man were so badly mixed up, they dared not shoot. One laughed till he cried, another one was so near limp he looked like a ghost, while one finally found his senses and, dismounting, cut the rope in half a dozen places and untied the bundle. My horse floundered to his feet and ran off, but before the bear could free the noose, the boys got enough lead into him at close quarters to hold him down. The entire detachment came out of the thicket, and their hilarity knew no bounds. I was the only man in the crowd who didn't enjoy the bear chase. Right then I made a resolve that hereafter, when volunteers are called for to rope a bear, my accomplishments in that line will remain unmentioned by me. I'll eat my breakfast first, anyhow, and think it over carefully."
"Dogs and horses are very much alike about a bear," said one of the boys. "Take a dog that never saw a bear in his life, and let him get a sniff of one, and he'll get up his bristles like a javeline and tuck his tail and look about for good backing or a clear field to run.
" Long John showed symptoms that he had some yarn to relate, so we naturally remained silent to give him a chance, in case the spirit moved in him. Throwing a brand into the fare after lighting his cigarette, he stretched himself on the ground, and the expected happened.
"A few years ago, while rangering down the country," said he, "four of us had trailed some horse-thieves down on the Rio Grande, when they gave us the slip by crossing over into Mexico. We knew the thieves were just across the river, so we hung around a few days, in the hope of catching them, for if they should recross into Texas they were our meat. Our plans were completely upset the next morning, by the arrival of twenty United States cavalrymen on the cold trail of four deserters. The fact that these deserters were five days ahead and had crossed into Mexico promptly on reaching the river, did not prevent this squad of soldiers from notifying both villages on each side of the river as to their fruitless errand. They couldn't follow their own any farther, and they managed to scare our quarry into hiding in the interior. We waited until the soldiers returned to the post, when we concluded we would take a little _pasear_ over into Mexico on our own account.
"We called ourselves horse-buyers. The government was paying like thirty dollars for deserters, and in case we run across them, we figured it would pay expenses to bring them out. These deserters were distinguishable wherever they went by the size of their horses; besides, they had two fine big American mules for packs. They were marked right for that country. Everything about them was _muy grande_. We were five days overtaking them, and then at a town one hundred and forty miles in the interior. They had celebrated their desertion the day previous to our arrival by getting drunk, and when the horse-buyers arrived they were in jail. This last condition rather frustrated our plans for their capture, as we expected to kidnap them out. But now we had red tape authorities to deal with.
"We found the horses, mules, and accoutrements in a corral. They would be no trouble to get, as the bill for their keep was the only concern of the corral-keeper. Two of the boys who were in the party could palaver Spanish, so they concluded to visit the alcalde of the town, inquiring after horses in general and incidentally finding out when our deserters would be released. The alcalde received the boys with great politeness, for Americans were rare visitors in his town, and after giving them all the information available regarding horses, the subject innocently changed to the American prisoners in jail. The
alcalde informed them that he was satisfied they were deserters, and not knowing just what to do with them he had sent a courier that very morning to the governor for instructions in the matter. He estimated it would require at least ten days to receive the governor's reply. In the mean time, much as he regretted it, they would remain prisoners. Before parting, those two innocents permitted their host to open a bottle of wine as an evidence of the friendly feeling, and at the final leave-taking, they wasted enough politeness on each other to win a woman.
"When the boys returned to us other two, we were at our wits' end. We were getting disappointed too often. The result was that we made up our minds that rather than throw up, we would take those deserters out of jail and run the risk of getting away with them. We had everything in readiness an hour before nightfall. We explained, to the satisfaction of the Mexican hostler who had the stock in charge, that the owners of these animals were liable to be detained in jail possibly a month, and to avoid the expense of their keeping, we would settle the bill for our friends and take the stock with us. When the time came every horse was saddled and the mules packed and in readiness. We had even moved our own stock into the same corral, which was only a short distance from the jail.
"As night set in we approached the _carsel_. The turnkey answered our questions very politely through a grated iron door, and to our request to speak with the prisoners, he regretted that they were being fed at that moment, and we would have to wait a few minutes. He unbolted the door, however, and offered to show us into a side room, an invitation we declined. Instead, we relieved him of his keys and made known our errand. When he discovered that we were armed and he was our prisoner, he was speechless with terror. It was short work to find the men we wanted and march them out, locking the gates behind us and taking jailer and keys with us. Once in the saddle, we bade the poor turnkey good-by and returned him his keys.
"We rode fast, but in less than a quarter of an hour there was a clanging of bells which convinced us that the alarm had been given. Our prisoners took kindly to the rescue and rode willingly, but we were careful to conceal our identity or motive. We felt certain there would be pursuit, if for no other purpose, to justify official authority. We felt easy, for we were well mounted, and if it came to a pinch, we would burn powder with them, one round at least.
"Before half an hour had passed, we were aware that we were pursued. We threw off the road at right angles and rode for an hour. Then, with the North Star for a guide, we put over fifty miles behind us before sunrise. It was impossible to secrete ourselves the next day, for we were compelled to have water for ourselves and stock. To conceal the fact that our friends were prisoners, we returned them their arms after throwing away their ammunition. We had to enter several ranches during the day to secure food and water, but made no particular effort to travel.
"About four o'clock we set out, and to our surprise, too, a number of horsemen followed us until nearly dark. Passing through a slight shelter, in which we were out of sight some little time, two of us dropped back and awaited our pursuers. As they came up within hailing distance, we ordered them to halt, which they declined by whirling their horses and burning the earth getting away. We threw a few rounds of lead after them, but they cut all desire for our acquaintance right there.
"We reached the river at a nearer point than the one at which we had entered, and crossed to the Texas side early the next morning. We missed a good ford by two miles and swam the river. At this ford was stationed a squad of regulars, and we turned our prizes over within an hour after crossing. We took a receipt for the men, stock, and equipments, and when we turned it over to our captain a week afterwards, we got the riot act read to us right. I noticed, however, the first time there was a division of prize money, one item was for the capture of four deserters."
"I don't reckon that captain had any scruples about taking his share of the prize money, did he?" inquired Gotch.
"No, I never knew anything like that to happen since I've been in the service."
"There used to be a captain in one of the upper country companies that held religious services in his company, and the boys claimed that he was equally good on a prayer, a fight, or holding aces in a poker game," said Gotch, as he filled his pipe.
Amongst Dad's other accomplishments was his unfailing readiness to tell of his experiences in the service. So after he had looked over the camp in general, he joined the group of lounging smokers and told us of an Indian fight in which he had participated.
"I can't imagine how this comes to be called Comanche Ford," said Dad. "Now the Comanches crossed over into the Panhandle country annually for the purpose of killing buffalo. For diversion and pastime, they were always willing to add horse-stealing and the murdering of settlers as a variation. They used to come over in big bands to hunt, and when ready to go back to their reservation in the Indian Territory, they would send the squaws on ahead, while the bucks would split into small bands and steal all the good horses in sight.
"Our old company was ordered out on the border once, when the Comanches were known to be south of Red River killing buffalo. This meant that on their return it would be advisable to look out for your horses or they would be missing. In order to cover as much territory as possible, the company was cut in three detachments. Our squad had twenty men in it under a lieutenant. We were patrolling a country known as the Tallow Cache Hills, glades and black-jack cross timbers alternating. All kinds of rumors of Indian depredations were reaching us almost daily, yet so far we had failed to locate or see an Indian.
"One day at noon we packed up and were going to move our camp farther west, when a scout, who had gone on ahead, rushed back with the news that he had sighted a band of Indians with quite a herd of horses pushing north. We led our pack mules, and keeping the shelter of the timber started to cut them off in their course. When we first sighted them, they were just crossing a glade, and the last buck had just left the timber. He had in his mouth an arrow shaft, which he was turning between his teeth to remove the sap. All had guns. The first warning the Indians received of our presence was a shot made by one of the men at this rear Indian. He rolled off his horse like a stone, and the next morning when we came back over their trail, he had that unfinished arrow in a death grip between his teeth. That first shot let the cat out, and we went after them.
"We had two big piebald calico mules, and when we charged those Indians, those pack mules outran every saddle horse which we had, and dashing into their horse herd, scattered them like partridges. Nearly every buck was riding a stolen horse, and for some cause they couldn't get any speed out of them. We just rode all around them. There proved to be twenty-two Indians in the band, and one of them was a squaw. She was killed by accident.
"The chase had covered about two miles, when the horse she was riding fell from a shot by some of our crowd. The squaw recovered herself and came to her feet in time to see several carbines in the act of being leveled at her by our men. She instantly threw open the slight covering about her shoulders and revealed her sex. Some one called out not to shoot, that it was a squaw, and the carbines were lowered. As this squad passed on, she turned and ran for the protection of the nearest timber, and a second squad coming up and seeing the fleeing Indian, fired on her, killing her instantly. She had done the very thing she should not have done.
"It was a running fight from start to finish. We got the last one in the band about seven miles from the first one. The last one to fall was mounted on a fine horse, and if he had only ridden intelligently, he ought to have escaped. The funny thing about it was he was overtaken by the dullest, sleepiest horse in our command. The shooting and smell of powder must have put iron into him, for he died a hero. When this last Indian saw that he was going to be overtaken, his own horse being recently wounded, he hung on one side of the animal and returned the fire. At a range of ten yards he planted a bullet squarely in the leader's forehead, his own horse falling at the same instant. Those two horses fell dead so near that you could have tied their tails together. Our man was thrown so suddenly, that he came to his feet dazed, his eyes filled with dirt. The Indian stood not twenty steps away and fired several shots at him. Our man, in his blindness, stood there and beat the air with his gun, expecting the Indian to rush on him every moment. Had the buck used his gun for a club, it might have been different, but as long as he kept shooting, his enemy was safe. Half a dozen of us, who were near enough to witness his final fight, dashed up, and the Indian fell riddled with bullets.
"We went into camp after the fight was over with two wounded men and half a dozen dead or disabled horses. Those of us who had mounts in good fix scoured back and gathered in our packs and all the Indian and stolen horses that were unwounded. It looked like a butchery, but our minds were greatly relieved on that point the next day, when we found among their effects over a dozen fresh, bloody scalps, mostly women and children. There's times and circumstances in this service that make the toughest of us gloomy."
"How long ago was that?" inquired Orchard.
"Quite a while ago," replied Dad. "I ought to be able to tell exactly. I was a youngster then. Well, I'll tell you; it was during the reconstruction days, when Davis was governor. Figure it out yourself."
"Speaking of the disagreeable side of this service," said Happy Jack, "reminds me of an incident that took all the nerve out of every one connected with it. When I first went into the service, there was a well-known horse-thief and smuggler down on the river, known as El Lobo. He operated on both sides of the Rio Grande, but generally stole his horses from the Texas side. He was a night owl. It was nothing for him to be seen at some ranch in the evening, and the next morning be met seventy-five or eighty miles distant. He was a good judge of horse-flesh, and never stole any but the best. His market was well in the interior of Mexico, and he supplied it liberally. He was a typical dandy, and like a sailor had a wife in every port. That was his weak point, and there's where we attacked him.
"He had made all kinds of fun of this service, and we concluded to have him at any cost. Accordingly we located his women and worked on them. Mexican beauty is always over-rated, but one of his conquests in that line came as near being the ideal for a rustic beauty as that nationality produces. This girl was about twenty, and lived with a questionable mother at a ranchito back from the river about thirty miles. In form and feature there was nothing lacking, while the smouldering fire of her black eyes would win saint or thief alike. Born in poverty and ignorance, she was a child of circumstance, and fell an easy victim to El Lobo, who lavished every attention upon her. There was no present too costly for him, and on his periodical visits he dazzled her with gifts. But infatuations of that class generally have an end, often a sad one.
"We had a half-blood in our company, who was used as a rival to El Lobo in gathering any information that might be afloat, and at the same time, when opportunity offered, in sowing the wormwood of jealousy. This was easy, for we collected every item in the form of presents he ever made her rival señoritas. When these forces were working, our half-blood pushed his claims for recognition. Our wages and prize money were at his disposal, and in time they won. The neglect shown her by El Lobo finally turned her against him, apparently, and she agreed to betray his whereabouts the first opportunity--on one condition. And that was, that if we succeeded in capturing him, we were to bring him before her, that she might, in his helplessness, taunt him for his perfidy towards her. We were willing to make any concession to get him, so this request was readily granted.
"The deserted condition of the ranchito where the girl lived was to our advantage as well as his. The few families that dwelt there had their flocks to look after, and the coming or going of a passer-by was scarcely noticed. Our man on his visits carefully concealed the fact that he was connected with this service, for El Lobo's lavish use of money made him friends wherever he went, and afforded him all the seclusion he needed.
"It was over a month before the wolf made his appearance, and we were informed of the fact. He stayed at an outside pastor's camp, visiting the ranch only after dark. A corral was mentioned, where within a few days' time, at the farthest, he would pen a bunch of saddle horses. There had once been wells at this branding pen, but on their failing to furnish water continuously they had been abandoned. El Lobo had friends at his command to assist him in securing the best horses in the country. So accordingly we planned to pay our respects to him at these deserted wells.
"The second night of our watch, we were rewarded by having three men drive into these corrals about twenty saddle horses. They had barely time to tie their mounts outside and enter the pen, when four of us slipped in behind them and changed the programme a trifle. El Lobo was one of the men. He was very polite and nice, but that didn't prevent us from ironing him securely, as we did his companions also.
"It was almost midnight when we reached the ranchito where the girl lived. We asked him if he had any friends at this ranch whom he wished to see. This he denied. When we informed him that by special request a lady wished to bid him farewell, he lost some of his bluster and bravado. We all dismounted, leaving one man outside with the other two prisoners, and entered a small yard where the girl lived. Our half-blood aroused her and called her out to meet her friend, El Lobo. The girl delayed us some minutes, and we apologized to him for the necessity of irons and our presence in meeting his Dulce Corazon. When the girl came out we were some distance from the jacal. There was just moonlight enough to make her look beautiful.
"As she advanced, she called him by some pet name in their language, when he answered her gruffly, accusing her of treachery, and turned his back upon her. She approached within a few feet, when it was noticeable that she was racked with emotion, and asked him if he had no kind word for her. Turning on her, he repeated the accusation of treachery, and applied a vile expression to her. That moment the girl flashed into a fiend, and throwing a shawl from her shoulders, revealed a pistol, firing it twice before a man could stop her. El Lobo sank in his tracks, and she begged us to let her trample his lifeless body. Later, when composed, she told us that we had not used her any more than she had used us, in bringing him helpless to her. As things turned out it looked that way.
"We lashed the dead thief on his horse and rode until daybreak, when we buried him. We could have gotten a big reward for him dead or alive, and we had the evidence of his death, but the manner in which we got it made it undesirable. El Lobo was missed, but the manner of his going was a secret of four men and a Mexican girl. The other two prisoners went over the road, and we even reported to them that he had attempted to strangle her, and we shot him to save her. Something had to be said."
The smoking and yarning had ended. Darkness had settled over the camp but a short while, when every one was sound asleep. It must have been near midnight when a number of us were aroused by the same disturbance. The boys sat bolt upright and listened eagerly. We were used to being awakened by shots, and the cause of our sudden awakening was believed to be the same,--a shot. While the exchange of opinion was going the round, all anxiety on that point was dispelled by a second shot, the flash of which could be distinctly seen across the river below the ford.
As Dad stood up and answered it with a shrill whistle, every man reached for his carbine and flattened himself out on the ground. The whistle was answered, and shortly the splash of quite a cavalcade could be heard fording the river. Several times they halted, our fire having died out, and whistles were exchanged between them and Root. When they came within fifty yards of camp and their outlines could be distinguished against the sky line in the darkness, they were ordered to halt, and a dozen carbines clicked an accompaniment to the order.
"Who are you?" demanded Root.
"A detachment from Company M, Texas Rangers," was the reply.
"If you are Rangers, give us a maxim of the service," said Dad.
"_Don't wait for the other man to shoot first_," came the response.
"Ride in, that passes here," was Dad's greeting and welcome.
They were a detachment of fifteen men, and had ridden from the Pecos on the south, nearly the same distance which we had come. They had similar orders to ours, but were advised that they would meet our detachment at this ford. In less than an hour every man was asleep again, and quiet reigned in the Ranger camp at Comanche Ford on the Concho.