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- In the Pecos Country - 1/32 -
IN THE PECOS COUNTRY Lieutenant R. H. Jayne [pseudonym of Edward Sylvester Ellis (1840-1916)]
CHAPTER I A WARNING
In the valley of the Rio Pecos, years ago, an attempt at founding a settlement was made by a number of hardy and daring New Englanders, whose leader was a sort of Don Quixote, who traveled hundreds of miles, passing by the richest land, the most balmy climate, where all were protected by the strong arm of law, for the sake of locating where the soil was only moderate, the climate no better, and where, it may be said, the great American government was as powerless to protect its citizens as was a child itself. The Rio Pecos, running through New Mexico and Texas, drains a territory which at that time was one of the most dangerous in the whole Indian country; and why these score or more of families should have hit upon this spot of all others, was a problem which could never be clearly solved.
The head man, Caleb Barnwell, had some odd socialistic theories, which, antedating as they did the theories of Bellamy, were not likely to thrive very well upon New England soil, and he pursuaded his friends to go with him, under the belief that the spot selected was one where they would have full opportunity to increase and multiply, as did the Mormons during their early days at Salt Lake. Then, too, there was some reason to suspect that rumors had reached the ears of Barnwell of the existence of gold and silver along this river, and it was said that he had hinted as much to those whom he believed he could trust. Be that as it may, the score of families reached the valley of the Upper Pecos in due time, and the settlement was begun and duly christened New Boston.
"How long do yer s'pose you folks are goin' to stay yer? Why, just long enough for Lone Wolf to hear tell that you've arriv, and he'll down here and clear you out quicker'n lightning."
This was the characteristic observation made by the old scout, hunter and guide, Sut Simpson, as he reined up his mustang to chat awhile with the new-comers, whom he looked upon as the greatest lunk-heads that he had ever encountered in all of his rather eventful experience. He had never seen them before; but he did not care for that, as he had the frankness of a frontiersman and never stood upon ceremony in the slightest degree.
"Did you ever hear tell of Lone Wolf?" he continued, as a group, including nearly the entire population, gathered about the veteran of the plains. "I say, war any of you ever introduced to that American gentleman?"
He looked around, from face to face, but no one responded. Whenever he fixed his eye upon any individual, that one shook his head to signify that he knew nothing of the Apache chief whose name he had just mentioned.
"What I meant to say," he continued, "is that any of you have got any yearnin' toward Lone Wolf, feeling as if your heart would break if you did n't get a chance to throw your arms about him, why, you need n't feel bad, _'cause you'll get the chance_."
There was a significance in these words which made it plain to every one of those who were looking up in the scarred face of the hunter. As they were spoken, he winked one of his eyes and cocked his head to one side, in a fashion that made the words still more impressive. As Sut looked about the group, his gaze was attracted by two figures--a man and a boy. The former was an Irishman--his nationality being evident at the first glance--while the latter seemed about fourteen years of age, with a bright, intelligent face, a clear, rosy, healthy complexion, and a keen eye that was fixed steadily and inquiringly upon the horseman who was giving utterance to such valuable information. The hunter was attracted by both, especially as he saw from their actions that they were friends and companions. There was something in the honest face of the Irishman which won him, while the lad by his side would have carried his way almost anywhere upon the score of his looks alone.
As the entire group were gazing up in the face of the scout, he spoke to them all, although, in reality, his words were now directed more at the two referred to than at the others. When he had completed the words given, there was silence for a moment, and then Mickey O'Rooney, the Irishman, recovered his wits. Stepping forward a couple of paces, he addressed their visitor.
"From the manner of your discourse, I judge that you're acquainted with the American gentleman that you've just referred to as Mr. Lone Wolf?"
"I rather reckon I am," replied Sut, with another of his peculiar grins. "Me and the Wolf have met semi-occasionally for the past ten years, and I carry a few remembrances of his love, that I expect to keep on carrying to my grave."
As he spoke, he laid his finger upon a cicatrized wound upon his cheek, a frightful scar several inches in length, and evidently made by a tomahawk. It ran from the temple to the base of the nose, and was scarcely concealed by the luxuriant grizzled beard that grew almost to his eyes.
"That's only one," said Sut. "Here's another that mebbe you can see."
This time he removed his coon-skin hunting-cap and bending his head down, he parted the hair with his long, horny fingers, so that all saw very distinctly the scar of a wound that must have endangered the life of the recipient.
"I've got half a dozen other scars strung here and there about my body, the most of which was made by that lonely Apache chief that is called Lone Wolf; so I reckon you'll conclude that he and me have some acquaintance. Oh! we was as lovin' as a couple of brothers!"
Mickey O'Rooney lifted his cap, and scratched his red head in a puzzled way, as if he were debating some weighty matter. Suddenly looking up, he asked:
"Was this Mr. Wolf born in these parts?"
"I can't say, precisely, where he first seed the light, but it must have been somewhere round about this part of the world. Why did you ax?"
"I was thinking p'raps he was born in Ireland, and came to this country when he was of tender age. I once knowed a Mr. Fox, whose petaty patch was so close to ours, that the favorite amoosement of me respected parents was flingin' the petaties over into our field by moonlight. His name was Fox, I say, but I never knowed anybody by the name of Wolf."
"He's a screamer," continued Sut Simpson, who seemed to enjoy talking of such a formidable foe. "The Comanches and Apaches sling things loose in these parts, an' the wonder to me is how you ever got this fur without losing your top-knots, for you've had to come right through their country."
"We have had encounters with the red men times without number," said Caleb Barnwell, who was standing erect, with arms folded, looking straight at the hunter. He spoke in a deep, rich, bass voice, recalling the figures of the early Puritans, who were unappalled by the dangers of the ocean and forest, when the question of liberty of conscience was at stake. "We have encountered the red men time and again," he continued, "so that I may conclude that we have become acclimated, as they say, and understand the nature of the American Indian very well."
Sut Simpson shook his head with a displeased expression.
"If you'd understood Injin nature, you'd never come here to settle. You might have gone through the country on your way to some other place, for, when you're on the way, you can keep a lookout for the varmints; but you've undertook to settle down right in the heart of the Apache country, and that's what I call the biggest piece of tom-foolery that was ever knowed."
This kind of talk might have discouraged ordinary people, but Barnwell and his companions had long since become accustomed to it. They had learned to brave ridicule before leaving their homes, and they classed the expressions of the hunters who had called upon them with the utterances of those who failed to "look into the future."
"We were not the dunces to suppose that this was a promised land, in which there were no giants to dispossess," replied Barnwell, in the same dignified manner. "Our fathers had to fight the Indians, and we are prepared to do the same."
Sut Simpson had no patience with this sort of talk, and he threw up his head with an impatient gesture.
"Did you ever toss a hunk of buffler meat to a hungry hound, and seen how nice he'd catch it in his jaws, and gulp it down without winkin', and then he'd lick his chops, and look up and whine for more. Wal, that's just the fix you folks are in. Lone Wolf and his men will swallow you down without winkin', and then be mad that there ain't somethin' left to squinch thar hunger."
As the hunter uttered this significant warning, he gathered up the reins of his mustang and rode away.
CHAPTER II A BRIEF CONFERENCE
Sut Simpson was thoroughly impatient and angry. Knowing, as well as he did, the dangerous character of Arizona, New Mexico, Northwestern Texas and Indian Territory, he could not excuse such a foolhardy proceeding as that of a small colony settling in the very heart of that section. The nearest point where they could hope for safety was Fort Severn, fifty miles distant. There was a company of soldiers under command of an experienced United States officer, and they knew well enough to keep within the protection of their stockades, except when making reconnoissances in force.
All those who were acquainted with the veteran scout were accustomed to defer to his judgment, where Indians were concerned, and he was so used to receiving this deference, that when he was contradicted and gainsayed by these new settlers, he lost his patience, and started to leave them in a sort of mild passion.
The place fixed for the location of New Boston was in a gently sloping valley, with the Rio Pecos running on the right. The soil was
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