14. A MEMORABLE JOURNEY
The drivers were all armed, and spare rifles hung inside the ambulances. I wore a small derringer, with a narrow belt filled with cartridges. An incongruous sight, methinks now, it must have been. A young mother, pale and thin, a child of scarce three months in her arms, and a pistol belt around her waist!
The ranch had spaces for windows, covered with thin unbleached muslin (of mania, as it is always called out there), glass windows being then too great a luxury in that remote place. There were some partitions inside the ranch, but no doors; and, of course, no floors except adobe. Several half-breed children, nearly naked, stood and gazed at us as we prepared for rest. This was interesting and picturesque from many standpoints perhaps, but it did not tend to make me sleepy. I lay gazing into the fire which was smouldering in the corner, and finally I said, in a whisper, ‘‘“Jack, which girl do you think is Cooley's wife?”’’
Now this was too awful, but I knew he did not intend for me to ask any more questions. I had a difficult time, in those days, reconciling what I saw with what I had been taught was right, and I had to sort over my ideas and deep-rooted prejudices a good many times.
The two pretty squaws prepared a nice breakfast for us, and we set out, quite refreshed, to travel over the malapais (as the great lava-beds in that part of the country are called). There was no trace of a road. A few hours of this grinding and crunching over crushed lava wearied us all, and the animals as well.
We crossed Silver Creek without difficulty, and arrived at Stinson's ranch, after travelling twenty-five miles, mostly malapais. Do not for a moment think of these ranches as farms. Some of them were deserted sheep ranches, and had only adobe walls standing in ruins. But the camp must have a name, and on the old maps of Arizona these names are still to be found. Of course, on the new railroad maps, they are absent. They were generally near a spring or a creek, consequently were chosen as camps.
Mrs. Bailey had her year-old boy, Howard, with her. We began to experience the utmost inconvenience from the lack of warm water and other things so necessary to the health and comfort of children. But we tried to make light of it all, and the two Lieutenants tried, in a man's way, to help us out. We declared we must have some clean towels for the next day, so we tried to rinse out, in the cold, hard water of the well, those which we had with us, and, as it was now nightfall and there was no fire inside this apparently deserted ranch, the two Lieutenants stood and held the wet towels before the camp-fire until they were dry.
Mrs. Bailey and I, too tired to move, sat and watched them and had each our own thoughts. She was an army girl and perhaps had seen such things before, but it was a situation that did not seem quite in keeping with my ideas of the fitness of things in general, and with the uniform in particular. The uniform, associated in my mind with brilliant functions, guard-mount, parades and full-dress weddings —the uniform, in fact, that I adored. As I sat, gazing at them, they both turned around, and, realizing how almost ludicrous they looked, they began to laugh. Whereupon we all four laughed and Jack said: ‘‘Nice work for United States officers! hey, Bailey?’’
Thirty miles the next day, over a good road, brought us to Walker's ranch, on the site of old Camp Supply. This ranch was habitable in a way, and the owner said we might use the bedrooms; but the wild-cats about the place were so numerous and so troublesome in the night, that we could not sleep. I have mentioned the absence of windows in these ranches; we were now to experience the great inconvenience resulting therefrom, for the low open spaces furnished great opportunity for the cats. In at one opening, and out at another they flew, first across the Baileys' bed, then over ours. The dogs caught the spirit of the chase, and added their noise to that of the cats.
The two Lieutenants slipped on their blouses, and sat looking helplessly at us, waging war on the cats at intervals. And so the dawn found us, our nerves at a tension, and our strength gone—a poor preparation for the trying day which was to follow.
We were able to buy a couple of sheep there, to take with us for supplies, and some antelope meat. We could not indulge in foolish scruples, but I tried not to look when they tied the live sheep and threw them into one of the wagons.
Quite early in the day, we met a man who said he had been fired upon by some Indians at Sanford's Pass. We thought perhaps he had been scared by some stray shot, and we did not pay much attention to his story.
What was to be done? The officers took counsel; the men looked to their arms. It was decided to go through. Jack examined his revolver, and saw that my pistol was loaded. I was instructed minutely what to do, in case we were attacked.
At last, in mid-afternoon, we approached the Pass, a narrow defile winding down between high hills from this table-land to the plain below. To say that we feared an ambush, would not perhaps convey a very clear idea of how I felt on entering this Pass.
There was not a word spoken. I obeyed orders, and lay down in the bottom of the ambulance; I took my derringer out of the holster and cocked it. I looked at my little boy lying helpless there beside me, and at his delicate temples, lined with thin blue veins, and wondered if I could follow out the instructions I had received: for Jack had said, after the decision Was made, to go through the Pass,‘‘“Now,
So I lay very quiet in the bottom of the ambulance. I realized that we were in great danger. My thoughts flew back to the East, and I saw, as in a flash, my father and mother, sisters and brother; I think I tried to say a short prayer for them, and that they might never know the worst. I fixed my eyes upon my husband's face. There he sat, rifle in hand, his features motionless, his eyes keenly watching out from one side of the ambulance, while a stalwart cavalryman, carbine in hand, watched the other side of the narrow defile. The minutes seemed like hours.
At last, as I perceived the steep slope of the road, I looked out, and saw that the Pass was widening out, and we must be nearing the end of it. ‘‘Keep still,’’ said Jack, without moving a feature. My heart seemed then to stop beating, and I dared not move again, until I heard him say, ‘‘Thank God, we're out of it! Get up, Mattie! See the river yonder? We'll cross that to-night, and then we'll be out of their God d—d country!’’
This was Jack's way of working off his excitement, and I did not mind it. I knew he was not afraid of Apaches for himself, but for his wife and child. And if I had been a man, I should have said just as much and perhaps more.
We were now down in a flat country, and low alkali plains lay between us and the river, My nerves gradually recovered from the tension in which they had been held; the driver stopped his team for a moment, the other ambulance drove up alongside of us, and Ella Bailey and I looked at each other; we did not talk any, but I believe we cried just a little. Then Mr. Bailey and Jack (thinking we were giving way, I suppose) pulled out their big flasks, and we had to take a cup of good whiskey, weakened up with a little water from our canteens, which had been filled at Walker's ranch in the morning. Great Heavens! I thought, was it this morning that we left Walker's ranch, of was it a year ago? So much had I lived through in a few hours.