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Edward Sylvester Ellis
NICK RIBSAM, of whom I had considerable to tell you in “The Young Moose Hunters,” returned to his humble home in Western Pennsylvania with his health fully restored by his stirring experience in the mountainous forests of Maine. He was naturally strong and active, and one glance at his bright eyes, his ruddy cheeks, and his alert movements told his sister Nellie and the beloved father and mother that the prescription of the physician had worked like a charm.
Nick was now a sturdy youth, a bright scholar and a general favorite with all who knew him. His parents were not of the kind that are demonstrative, but their hearts were wrapped up in their worthy son, and they were full of gratitude that he should come back to them at the end of what, after all, was only a brief absence, without a trace of the weakness that caused them so much misgiving when he went away.
They felt a strong friendship and affection, too, for Herbert Watrous and his parents, through whose kindness the trip down East was brought about. There was no “discounting” the fondness of the Watrouses for the manly youth. Mr. Watrous, as has been shown, possessed large means, and denied his son nothing, his affection for Herbert leading him astray in that respect. But he saw the great good done his boy through his association with Nick. You know that the most forceful sermon ever preached is that of example. It matters little what a person says, but it is everything what he does. It is not the profession, but the life which must be the test, as it certainly will be before the final Judge of all mankind.
Mr. Watrous and his wife welcomed Herbert home, and their eyes sparkled at sight of the immense stuffed moose forming a striking trophy of the young man’s visit to Uncle Dick Musgrove. He could not be blamed for feeling proud over his prize, and for having a number of large photographs struck off and sent to his friends, but that which touched the parents’ hearts was the change in Herbert himself. He had always been fond of them, but with that feeling was now mingled a tender respect that had been wanting before. He never forgot their wishes; he showed a deeper interest in his studies; he abandoned habits and associations which he knew his parents disliked; he made a confidant of his father as well as his mother, and consulted with them and asked their counsel in whatever important step he had in mind.
Now, what had wrought this change in Herbert Watrous? Nick had done very little “preaching” to him. True, whenever the chance was inviting, he dropped a word or two that clinched an important principle, and now and then, when their long talks took a favorable drift, he gave his views with a power and point that could not be mistaken, but it was the daily life of Nick that did the blessed work.
A family holding the social position of Mr. Watrous in New York has no lack of privileges for a son; but there was nothing that gave Herbert the genuine pleasure that he gained by a visit to Nick Ribsam, in his quiet country home in Western Pennsylvania. The pure air, the healthful food, the perfect cooking, the cleanliness that was everywhere, the cheerfulness, the mutual love and confidence, the warm welcome from everyone—these brought to him an enjoyment and satisfaction far beyond what mere wealth can buy.
It was during the early autumn succeeding the incidents told in “The Moose Hunters,” that Herbert paid his second visit to Nick. The latter met him at the railway station, but the delight of welcoming his old friend to his country home was sadly marred by the appearance of Herbert. Beyond a doubt he was in a bad way. He was nearly six feet tall, very slim, with a flushed face, a dragging walk, short breath, and, indeed, with every sign of incipient consumption.
“I know what you are thinking about,” said he, with a wan smile, “but I don’t look any worse than I feel.”
“You do look bad,” replied Nick, as he drove homeward in their old-fashioned carriage. “What does it mean?”
“I hardly know; the doctor says I am growing too fast, have studied too hard, and haven’t had enough exercise. You know I meant to enter Yale this fall and have been boning like the mischief. But I have given up that and postponed college for a year at least, and,” he added with a sigh, “perhaps forever.”
“You mustn’t talk that way,” said Nick, pained beyond expression; “you must stop all study and live outdoors for a few weeks. You have no bad habits, Herbert?”
“None at all, though I may be reaping the penalty of my former foolishness; but I haven’t touched tobacco or alcohol in any form for six months.”
“I see no reason why you should not come out all right in a short time,” added Nick, uttering the wish rather than the belief he felt.
“I have a letter in my pocket from my father to your father; I know what is in it, but I will let him tell you himself.”
Home being reached, the team put away, and a kind welcome given to Herbert by Nellie and her parents, all sat down to the meal awaiting them. At its conclusion, Herbert handed the letter he bore to Mr. Ribsam, who curiously broke the seal.
When he saw it was written in English he smiled and passed it to his son.
“I vill lets Nick read him, cause I don’t English reads as vell as German as I don’t.”
Nick took the missive and read aloud, the others listening attentively:
New York, October 13, 18—
My Dear Mr. Ribsam:
My son Herbert has expressed the gratitude which his mother and myself will ever feel toward your noble son Nicholas, for the immeasurable good he has done my boy by his precept and example. That influence will follow him like a blessing through life, and you and your good wife are to be congratulated on having such a worthy child.
I am about to ask a great favor of you. We are alarmed for Herbert’s health. It is certainly singular that last winter it was your son whose condition was bad, while now it is my own who is in a condition that causes us the gravest alarm. I have consulted the best physicians in New York, who tell me that he is threatened with consumption; that medicine will not cure him, but, like your own son last year, he must give up his indoors life at home and secure a radical change of air and surroundings.
I would arrange to have him spend a few weeks with you, where I know he is welcome, but the medical men tell me that he runs a risk so long as he is exposed to a northern climate, with its sudden and violent changes.
We have considered the question of a sea voyage, and a winter in the Bermudas, the West Indies, or in Southern France; but there are objections to all these, the principal of which is our dislike to have him go out of our own country, where he would have to meet a new language, different kinds of people, and unfavorable surroundings.
The plan we have decided upon is to send him on a tour through the southwestern section of our own country. We have arranged for him to visit Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and Southern California, hoping that by the return of spring he will be so fully restored to health that he can come home as sound in body as your own son.
The favor I ask of you is that you will consent that Nicholas shall accompany him. I am aware that this is asking a great sacrifice of you, and I have hesitated a long time before putting the request on paper. You need your boy at home with you; it will cause you and his mother and sisters great misgiving to let him go away for five or six months, and no doubt involve considerable pecuniary loss. Still, my solicitude for my own child forces me to ask this great sacrifice at your hands.
In doing so, there are several conditions upon which I shall insist. The first is that under no circumstances shall it cost you or your son a penny. My position in railway matters enables me to secure, without trouble, passes on the leading lines from your home over the entire route and return. These passes are now in Herbert’s possession. Other expenses will be involved, as some of the travelling will have to be done in stage coaches and on horseback, to say nothing of the cost of living. All this is provided for. My son has letters to bankers at various points en route which will secure him ample funds. They will need no outfit until they reach San Antonio, and start further westward. It is my earnest wish that if Nicholas accompanies Herbert, doing so as his friend, companion, and, in one sense, his escort, I shall be permitted to make compensation therefor, as properly due you for loss of his valuable services.
If you will consent that your son shall go with him, I advise that the start be made at once from your house. If you feel that I am presuming too much on your kindness do not hesitate to say so, and I will try to make other arrangements.
I am, my dear sir, very truly yours,
“J. H. Watrous.”
To quote a familiar expression, the reading of this letter produced a sensation. Every eye was fixed on Nick, as he sat in his chair with the missive in his hand, and pronounced the words in a clear voice.
It is not necessary to give the conversation that followed, for it was a long one in which all shared, but late that afternoon Nick harnessed up the old roan again and drove to the railway station with Herbert. Hastily leaving the vehicle, they passed into the telegraph office, where the city youth wrote out a telegram addressed to his father, and it ran thus:
It is all fixed: Nick and I leave for Texas and the southwest to-morrow. Good-by, and love to you and mother.
LET ME skip a great deal of what may be called introduction, for of necessity it bore a resemblance to that which has already been told, and has little if any connection with the main events of my story.
Mr. Watrous’ arrangements for the comfort of the boys was perfect. The ride to St. Louis in the famous Limited Express was the luxury of railway travelling, and they landed in the Mound City within twenty-four hours after leaving Philadelphia, where Nick met his old friend, Ned Osmun, who had given to him his wonderful ride on his engine to Jersey City. He wished them every pleasure on their long journey, which he said caused him a touch of envy, but he meant to even-up matters by another fishing excursion in Western Pennsylvania, with a call on Nick’s parents and pretty Nellie.
They stayed overnight at the Lindell in St. Louis, but were in such a hurry to reach their destination that, without spending any time in visiting the sights and interesting scenes, they left the following morning over the Iron Mountain Railway for Texarkana.
This ride, though long and at times tedious, was enjoyed by both, for the scenes and incidents gave a foretaste of what was coming. A number of cattlemen were on the train, and the boys struck up an acquaintance with them. They found them pleasant and ready to impart all the information that was asked for.
There were long hours of riding through the dismal pine woods of Missouri and Arkansas, where, mile after mile, they saw only an occasional settler’s cabin, with the half-dressed children playing around the door. In several cases, the openings between the logs were so large that they could look through both the front and rear of the structure and see the trees on the other side.
They left the train at Malvern, and took the narrow gauge railway to the celebrated Hot Springs, twenty-five miles distant, where they stayed overnight. One of the interesting facts learned here was the clever manner in which “Diamond Jo,” who built and owns the narrow gauge railway, outwitted the Arkansas Legislature, which forbade a charge of more than five cents a mile on every line in the State between any two places. The capitalist named had been charging and receiving ten cents a mile, and he now flanked the law by locating the western terminus of his line within two or three feet of the boundary of Hot Springs, and continued serenely to receive his excessive rates as before.
They reached Texarkana Saturday evening, and, since there was no travelling westward on Sunday, that day was spent in the town, which lies partly within Texas and partly within Arkansas, and includes within its odd name a portion of the appellation of each of the two States.
They attended church, which was capable of accommodating fifty people by crowding, and whose walls contained but a single placard, which was a request for the attendants not to spit on the floor.
The next stopping place was at Austin, the capital of Texas. The weather was quite warm, but the nights were cool and breezy, and the glimpses of the snowy cotton fields were a treat to the boys, who looked upon them for the first time.
They spent one night and a portion of a day in Austin, visiting the capitol and strolling through the city, which contains many fine buildings of white marble-like stone, peculiar to the vicinity. In the capitol they saw several fine paintings of the early heroes of Texas. On the cenotaph (since destroyed by the burning of the capitol), was the inscription to the memory of the defenders of the Alamo, which is one of the most striking tributes ever conceived by man: “THERMOPYLÆ HAD ITS MESSENGER OF DEFEAT: THE ALAMO HAD NONE.”
The railway line to San Antonio had recently been finished, and they arrived in that quaint old town as night was closing in. A bright moon was shining in an unclouded sky, and, after registering at the Menger House, facing the Plaza, they strolled through the city and enjoyed a view of the Alamo by moonlight. The brown adobe walls were softened in the mild radiance, and, as Nick described the defence made by the garrison of less than two hundred men against four thousand Mexicans under Santa Anna, it seemed to Herbert that he was witnessing that tremendous fight, which continued for eleven days, until only a dozen grimy, panting, and exhausted defenders were left. The terrible Colonel Bowie was shot in his sick bed, and Davy Crockett was among the handful that at last surrendered, under the promise of honorable treatment, but were treacherously massacred by Santa Anna.
The winding Colorado was impressively beautiful in the moonlight, and the adobe mission houses, which were visited the next day, were viewed with the interest that all tourists feel when they first look upon them. Each was over a century old. One, in a fine state of preservation, was pointed out, where the Jesuit fathers were besieged by the Comanche Indians for nearly two years.
Among the curiosities noticed in San Antonio were the Mexican dogs, without a hair on their bodies, and the other canines, known as “tramps” or “nobody’s dogs,” who roam over the country between the city and the Rio Grande, picking up their food, as do their biped brothers, and confessing to the ownership of no one. That portion of San Antonio called Mexico was squalid, and made up of old residents, many of whom cannot speak a word of English, while in other sections nearly everyone understands English, Spanish, and German.
The boys stayed several days in this city, for they looked upon it as their real starting point or entrance into the great southwest. They had talked over the question while on their way thither, and agreed upon the line to be followed. Herbert had a letter of recommendation to Mr. Lord, a banker, by which he could secure all the funds needed, and who showed a wish to help him in every way in his power.
He invited the boys to visit him at his house, where they spent an evening with the gentleman, who, having been a resident in Texas from a date several years before the Civil War, was able to give the very knowledge and counsel they needed. He told them a fact that they had not noticed. San Antonio itself is a resort for invalids threatened with, or suffering from, pulmonary weakness, who find the mild, equable climate very helpful. He had known of cases in which it had wrought a complete cure.
“But I see,” he said with a smile, “that that doesn’t suit your ideas; while there are many sights here that you have not seen—such as the Colorado Springs—yet you could not content yourselves in our sleepy town for more than a day or two longer. You can take the stage from here to El Paso, but the ride is tiresome, and, at this season of the year, dusty and trying to a degree.”
“I don’t think we should fancy that,” said Nick, who refrained from giving a hint of the plan they had formed.
“I suppose you are both good horsemen?” was the inquiring remark of the banker.
They answered that they were fairly good riders. Nick had learned to ride horses almost as soon as he could walk, and Herbert had taken instructions at an academy in New York for a couple of years past.
“Everybody rides a horse or burro in Texas,” said Mr. Lord, “and the only caution you need is to make sure you possess a clear title to the animal you throw your leg over. There are few people hanged in Texas for murder, but plenty are strung up every year for horse-stealing. You would be objects of suspicion if you should take a walk out in the country. My advice, then, is to buy three excellent ponies, provide yourselves with a good outfit, including a fine repeating Winchester rifle and a revolver apiece, with plenty of ammunition. You will need an extra animal to carry your luggage. Then strike out for New Mexico. You will have to ride a clean five hundred miles before crossing the boundary, but it is the right season of the year, and the ride will do you good.”
“Do you advise us to go alone?” asked Herbert.
“By no means; you must have companions who are familiar with the country, and they can be easily secured.”
“There are hunters, miners, prospectors, and adventurers in San Antonio all the time, who have either just come from the wild regions beyond or are about to set out for them. They may be rough in their ways, but they are generally honest and trustworthy, and there will be no trouble in engaging them as companions.”
“You have laid out the plan Herbert and I had fixed upon, but we felt doubts about being able to carry it out. We have informed ourselves, so far as we can, concerning the country over which we wish to ride, and the more we learned, the more we saw the need of having men who were familiar with it. How about the Indians?”
“Well, you are liable to meet them, but I do not think there is much to be feared, as I have heard no disquieting rumors lately, though,” added the banker significantly, “I was shot at myself, within the present year, by a party of marauding Comanches, within six miles of San Antonio. When you get into New Mexico, you will be likely to find matters more lively.”
“Can you help us in engaging the right parties?”
“I think so; call around at my office to-morrow afternoon, when I am quite sure I will be able to put you on the track of the ones whom you ought to meet.”
The lads assured their host that they would be glad to do so, and, declining his kind invitation to spend the night at his home, bade him good-evening and started on their return to the Menger House.
NICK and Herbert stopped on the Plaza to inspect a bear, which a lank Texan had fastened to a staple by a rope, and was waiting thus late at night for a purchaser. The moment the boys passed, the owner began urging them to buy, offering the brute for fifteen dollars, and dwelling with much eloquence on the great bargain it was for anyone.
Our friends, however, had no use for any animals of that species, and, taking care to keep beyond reach of the beast, who showed a desire for closer acquaintance, they sauntered toward the hotel.
Just before reaching it, someone touched Nick’s arm in such a timid manner that he turned, wondering what it could mean.
A lad about twelve years of age, ragged and the picture of distress, asked in a tremulous voice:
“Please, sir, you’re from the North, aint you?”
“Yes,” replied Nick; “is your home there?”
“Yes, sir,” said the lad, swallowing a lump in his throat, “and I would give the world, if I had it, if I was back there again.”
“How is it you’re here?”
“Me and Dick Harrison run away from home; we lived in Philadelphia, and we haven’t had anything to eat since yesterday.”
“Where is Dick?”
“He’s off yonder, on the other side of the Plaza; he’s just dead broke up, and says he won’t try nothin’ more, but is goin’ to lay down and die.”
“I don’t believe anyone has ever died of starvation in San Antonio; can’t you get work?”
“We have been trying for two weeks; we got a job or two that fetched us a little to eat, but we can’t do nothin’ more.”
“Take us over to where Dick is,” said Herbert, whose heart was touched, “and let us see him.”
“Come on,” said the boy, so cheerfully that Nick and his friend were satisfied he was telling the truth. On the way across the Plaza, they questioned Fred Beekman, as he gave his name, still further.
“What made you run away from home, Fred?”
“Me and Dick started out to kill Injins and grizzly bears.”
“How did you make out,” asked Herbert, who recalled that it was not so long since he had indulged in similar ambitious ideas.
“We haven’t killed any yet,” replied Fred, in such a doleful voice that the others could not help smiling.
“How did you get the money to come to Texas?”
“Dick and me stole it from our folks; we bought rifles and pistols, but when we got to Texarkana we was took up and the guns took away from us; we managed to sneak off, and had enough money left to come to Santone; here it give out, and we’ve had it hard since.”
“Had you pleasant homes?” asked Nick.
This question set Fred to crying. His fingers were in his eyes, and he stumbled along for several paces before he could answer:
“Nobody ever had better homes, but we got it into our heads that it would be nice to shoot grizzly bears and Injins, and here we are. If we only had enough money to keep us from starvin’ we could walk home like reg’lar tramps.”
“You are a good many miles from Philadelphia,” said Nick. “If you could get there, would you go straight home, or would you start off on some other wild-goose chase like this?”
“Oh, if I could see father and mother and my brother and two sisters, I would work and go to school and do anything; I never knowed how good a home I had till I run away, and Dick feels the same way.”
A few minutes later they reached the spot where Dick had been left, but he was nowhere in sight. Fred looked around in wonder, and then became frightened.
“I’ll bet he’s gone and drownded hisself,” he said, in an awed whisper, “for he felt ’nough like it.”
“Boys like him don’t drown themselves,” replied Nick, who began to distrust the truthfulness of the lad; “if you want us to give you any help you must find Dick and bring him——”
“There he is!” broke in Fred, pointing to a figure lurking among the shadows some distance off, as if afraid to venture closer. “Here, Dick, come here! You needn’t be scart, they won’t hurt you!”
Seeing the lad approaching, Nick said: “Now, Fred, I don’t want you to speak a word till I get through with Dick.”
With considerable hesitation Dick ventured nearer, and Nick immediately took him in hand. After much questioning, he became convinced that the story told by the two was true. They were equally ragged and wretched looking, and, despite their coarse language, gave evidence of having belonged to good families.
Nick and Herbert provided them with an excellent supper. They were as ravenous as wild animals, and left no doubt that they were half famishing. Then, having made sure that they had a place to sleep during the night, Nick told them to call at the hotel in the morning, and he would see whether he and his friend could do anything for them.
During the interview, Nick managed to get the addresses of their parents in Philadelphia, without either suspecting his purpose. On reaching the Menger, he at once telegraphed to each father, asking whether a son whose name he gave was missing. He hardly doubted their story, but it was well that he took means to make sure, before acting upon that belief.
In the course of the evening, a reply came to each message, saying that the boys had been missing for six weeks, begging Nick to send both home without delay, and pledging that the expense would be paid by the senders of the telegrams, or, if desired, funds would be telegraphed. Nick notified the parents that the boys would start northward in the morning, and a statement of the money expended would be forwarded by mail.
When Fred and Dick presented themselves to Nick and Herbert, and were told that word had been received from their relatives, who would be delighted to receive them, they could hardly believe it, but were finally satisfied that there was no deception about it.
Herbert and Nick took the boys to a clothing establishment, where they were provided with comfortable outfits, a through ticket was furnished to each, enough money given to pay their expenses, and then, with a few words of counsel, they were despatched homeward, the happiest boys in the big State of Texas.
Then Nick inclosed the memoranda to the proper parties, and dismissed the subject from his mind, for weightier matters required attention.
Upon calling at the banker’s office in the afternoon, they were surprised to find he had not only selected the two men that were to bear them company, but they were present, by appointment with Mr. Lord, who knew at what time the youths would arrive.
The individuals were typical cowboys, with their broad-brimmed sombreros and rattlesnake bands, their heavy shirts, trousers tucked in the tops of their boots, immense spurs, long wavy hair, handkerchiefs knotted about their necks, bright eyes and not unhandsome countenances.
Arden Strubell, the elder, was about thirty-five years of age and wore a long moustache and goatee, which, like his hair and eyes, were of a dark auburn. Baker Lattin, his companion, was a few years younger, with lighter hair, a faint moustache, no goatee, was wide across the temples, and his eyes were light blue or gray, but his appearance was as alert and intelligent as the other’s.
These men were old friends of banker Lord, who had engaged with them upon several hunting excursions. It had fallen within his power to do for them a number of monetary favors, and they were the men who were ready to show their gratitude in any way he desired.
Strubell and Lattin intended to start in the course of a day or two for a ranch in New Mexico. They expected to travel the entire distance on horseback, accompanied by a single pack animal. Both once belonged to the mounted rangers of Texas, and had probably ridden over as much of that vast area as any other man within its limits, from No Man’s Land on the north, through the Pan Handle and across the Llano Estacado to the Rio Grande and the Pecos on the south and west.
Strubell had been in several brushes with the terrible Geronimo and his dusky desperadoes, but he did not expect to reach the section where there was danger of collision with them, their stamping ground being further to the west.
Banker Lord had been offered a ranch over the line in New Mexico, at such reasonable figures that he was much inclined to buy it, but, with his usual caution, he desired to know of a certainty its value before investing the money. Strubell and Lattin had been employed, therefore, to make a thorough examination and to report on the same to him.
This happened most opportunely for Nick and Herbert, who thus were furnished with the very best company on their long and dangerous ride through Western Texas, while the ranchmen were ordered to go with them, if necessary, beyond into Arizona and Southern California.
IT did not take the boys long to become acquainted with Strubell and Lattin. The former showed by his conversation that he possessed a fair education, though Lattin was barely able to write his name. They were frank, outspoken, courageous, ready of resource, familiar with all the dangers they were likely to meet on the long ride toward the northwest, and the finest horsemen the boys had ever seen.
Through the help of the Texans, Nick and Herbert secured three excellent animals, two of them possessing great speed and endurance, while the third was the equal of the best burro or mule for carrying a heavy burden. The Winchesters were the best, too, of their kind, the men being similarly armed. Nick and Herbert took care to provide themselves with an excellent field-glass apiece, for nothing was more likely than that they would find abundant call for their use. The rest of the supplies were bought on the advice of the cowboys.
They passed near a number of towns and settlements during the first week, in one of which they generally stayed overnight. So long as they were able to secure the comforts of ordinary travel through a settled section, they would have been foolish to decline it.
It had been so long since the boys had ridden far on horseback, that they were stiffened for the first few days, so that, when they dismounted, they were hardly able to walk. This, however, soon wore off until they were able to stand a ride of forty or fifty miles without any ill effects.
No physician could have watched a patient with greater care than Nick watched Herbert. He tried to keep it from the knowledge of his friend, and thought he succeeded, though Herbert told him afterward that he knew all the time what he was doing.
The elder youth felt bad when they reached St. Louis, and was still worse on their arrival in San Antonio. The long ride in the cars made him feverish, and he had little appetite, but the new scenes and surroundings, the cheerful company of Nick, and his own ambition did wonders in the way of keeping him up.
He showed an improvement within twenty-four hours after arriving in the City of the Alamo, and this continued steadily, until the second day out, when the beautiful weather, that they had been having for weeks, was broken by a norther which, however, was not severe, though it brought so much rain and dismal weather that they were compelled to lie by at one of the straggling frontier towns for several days.
They rode through the hills and highlands between Fredericksburg and Fort Clark, fording a tributary of the Llano River, and pushing almost due northwest toward New Mexico, whose southeast corner they were aiming to strike at the point of intersection between the twenty-sixth meridian and thirty-second parallel.
The country now began to assume a wilder appearance. The weather was like a dream, and Nick could well understand how it is that more than twenty thousand people in Texas never sleep under a roof from one year’s end to another. He could appreciate, too, the reason why the immigrant, no matter how homesick, who braves it out for six months, never leaves Texas unless for a brief visit to his northern home, returning to die in the Lone Star State, which has become the land of his adoption.
The appearance showed the country, or rather that portion of it, to contain a great many more people than the boys supposed before entering Texas. The settlements were generally miserable collections of shanties, with the inevitable gambling and drinking saloon and the quota of “bad men,” on the lookout for tenderfeet, or those of their own class that were ready to mingle in a row off-hand. Everyone rode on horseback, and carried his revolver and rifle, the latter generally a Winchester of the repeating pattern.
The cattlemen were numerous, some of them nearly always in sight among the hills, or on the broad, rolling prairie. Occasionally an Indian was met, but he was far from being the romantic individual that boys generally have in mind, when reading about the noble red man. He was untidy and sullen looking, with an appetite for whiskey that was never sated, and the odor of rank tobacco around him.
It was about a week after the departure from San Antonio that the youths noticed a marked change in things. The country became more broken, the settlements disappeared, and during the middle of the afternoon, when Herbert swept the horizon with his field glass, he made known, with an expression of surprise, that there was not a living person, so far as he knew, in sight.
“We’ve put a good piece of country behind us,” said Strubell, “and if nothing goes wrong, we ought to strike New Mexico in the course of the next ten days.”
“I fancied we would make it in less time than that.”
“So we mought,” remarked Lattin, “if there was any call to hurry; but, as I understand this business, we aint runnin’ the pony express for Santa Fé or Rincon.”
That night their camp was in a section which charmed the boys, for there was an air of loneliness, and the danger that seemed to be brooding over the vicinity was of a kind not yet encountered since entering Texas.