“Let us stop a minute and prepare, senorita,” Blas said. He set the brake and using the wheel and axle for steps, got off the wagon.
“Prepare how?” Esther May scanned the brush to the left of the trail and reined in her gelding. On her right, the rocky riverbed was three times wider than the stream it carried.
Blas swept his arm in an arc. “If they are in the bushes they will be close. We must be ready fast.” He went to Esther May and took the packhorse lead rope. “Let’s tie this one to the back so you can carry your rifle.”
Esther May gave him the rope and dismounted to untie her Henry repeater.
Blas hitched the animal to the buckboard.
Back at the front of the wagon, he leaned over the toe-board to reach under the seat. “I’ll get my rifle too. Be ready for—”
An arrow struck him in the back of his thigh.
Esther May whirled and ducked, her pistol ready.
Blas jerked the arrow out, grabbed his rifle and fired a round into the brush.
[Stop! Don’t shoot.]
The Spanish-speaking voice was familiar.
Blas chambered another round, but held his fire. “Abuela?”
The bushes shook and the sounds of a scuffle caused Esther May to creep forward, ready to shoot the first thing she saw.
Abuela Has a Culprit
Abuela stepped onto the trail with her hand full of an Indian boy’s hair. His soiled, blue headband had tipped forward over one eye as she yanked him to his tiptoes. His chest and legs were scratched and dirty. In one hand he held his bow, his other gripped Abuela’s wrist.
Esther May thought the boy might be ten or so years old. He was clad as an Apache warrior: a loincloth, high moccasins, and the fabric around his head which had slipped so far he released his grip on Abuela and grabbed it.
Behind them, hesitant as a fawn, taking one cautious step at a time, was a wide-eyed girl. Younger than the boy, her brown-speckled calico dress was a near-perfect concealment in the brush. She held three mesquite arrows close to her chest.
Abuela thrust the boy forward. [I said you wouldn’t hurt them.]
“What’s she saying, Blas?” Esther May asked. “Are these kids all that’s out there?”
Blas pointed at the arrows. “Let me see them.”
The girl shrunk behind a bush.
“En Español,” Abuela said.
Esther May cast glances between the driver and the Indians. “Blas, what’s going on? Are there more of them?”
“One moment, senorita. I don’t think we’re in danger.” He switched to Spanish. [Girl, I would like to see the arrows, please.]
Abuela said, [Show him.]
The girl partially emerged, gripping the arrows in her tawny brown fists, one above the other.
[Come out.] Abuela said.
Blas waved off the command. [It is enough. I wanted to see if the young brave left an arrowhead in me. These arrows are only pointed.] He stood and slid his rifle under the seat.
Esther May followed his lead and put away her gun. She rummaged around in the wagon and found a sack of apples.
The boy glared at her. The girl had edged closer and licked her lips, but neither child would take one when Esther May held them out.
Esther May turned to Blas to ask for help communicating with the Indian children, but he was in a twist, pulling at his pants leg trying to see the wound in his leg.
Abuela spoke in Spanish, making no sense to Esther May.
Blas had a strip of cloth and was limping toward the brush. “I’ll be back.”
Esther May handed the apples to Abuela. “Maybe they’ll eat ‘em if you have one, too.”
When Abuela released the boy to accept the fruit, he bolted, closely followed by the girl.
They disappeared through the brush.
Are the kids still dangerous? Leave a comment now.
Here’s an entertaining short article covering Indian bows.
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