California Joe, the Mysterious Plainsman
PREPARING FOR THE WORST.
SOMEHOW, all in the emigrant train, once they looked into the honest
face of the mysterious youth who answered only to the appellation of
Joe, trusted him..
The grumblers became silent, and the entire train was anxious to
follow his advice.
He sat upon his horse watching the emigrants get ready for the
march, and then rode on ahead as they pulled out of camp.
Captain Reynolds rode forward with him, and more and more
interested in the strange youth, tried to draw him out to speak more of
himself; but in vain, for Joe was reticent in a wonderful degree about
himself, and made no account of why he was there in that wild region,
the reason for his coming or whom he had come with.
In referring to the graves in the forest, by which he had been
seen seated on his horse, when first discovered by the hunters, he made
"Whose graves are they, Joe?" asked Captain Reynolds, kindly.
Joe made no response.
"Poor boy, I fear those you loved are in them, and that they were
victims of some massacre," said Captain Reynolds.
How many fighting men have you got, cap'n?" asked Joe, as though
he had not heard the foregoing remarks of his companion.
"Twenty-seven, men and boys that can handle a rifle well."
"Couldn't you drum up a few more?"
"There are several more boys that might be made useful."
"Boys are as good as men often, I guess," was the laconic
response, and looking at Joe, Captain Reynolds felt that be at least he
"Well, then, I can make the force thirty-one."
"No women what know how to shoot a rifle?" asked Joe, with utter
disregard for the proprieties of the Queen's English.
"Yes, but I wouldn't have them risk danger."
"Better risk it than make it certain."
"How do you mean Joe?"
"That if you got any women-folks that can shoot, take 'em on the
bluff with you, and pour in a heavy fire the first time.
"Then if you've got any extra rifles and shot-guns, load 'em and
lay 'em by the men to use, and the women can reload the other weapons.
"I tell you, cap'n, that Bad Blood is an old soldier for
fighting, and he has got two hundred braves.
"But if you can knock about fifty under the first two volleys,
and then pour the music in pretty lively, you'll see those Injuns dig
out in style."
"You seem to be an old soldier, too, Joe, for your advice is good
and I will follow it."
"I've seen some fighting," was the cool reply, and then Joe rode
up to the stream and said:
"Now here is camp, and you can't find a better place."
So it seemed, for the stream made a bend just there, and the
point ran in toward the bluff which formed the other bank.
This presented a space of about an acre for a camp, and the
wagons were stationed right across from the stream on one side to the
other forming thereby a breastwork.
The cattle were corraled in a circle formed by the vehicles, and
the camp-fires were built near the bank beneath the bluff and under the
shelter of a few trees that grew upon the point of land.
As the stream was not thirty feet in width, a tree was felled
that made a bridge across it, and standing upon this, Joe very
skillfully threw his lasso and caught the noose upon the branch of the
tree growing upon the bluff forty feet above.
Up this he went with the agility of a sailor, and soon hauled up
a rope ladder hastily constructed, and which he made fast to a tree-stump.
"That's called Gable Bluff, and there's no way to get on top
excepting you go up as I did, by fastening your lasso on some tree
growing near the edge.
"It's only a few acres in size, and the banks are steep all
round, so it would be a good place to hide the children and women," said
Then he gave advice about not having the guards set the following
night, but to keep the stock feeding all the next day near by upon the
prairie but to fasten them securely in their corral of wagons at sunset.
"And the dummies you spoke of, Joe?" asked Captain Reynolds.
"Oh, yes; you must keep your camp-fires burning brightly, and
dress up plenty of clothes to look like men lying under blankets, for
they will be what the reds will go for.
"Now I must go, but I guess
I'll be round near when the Injuns come," and without another word Joe
was turning away to mount his patiently waiting white horse that had
stood unhitched near, when Captain Reynolds's little girl of five years
old came up to him and said:
"You doin' away?"
"Yes," and Joe looked down upon the pretty little golden-haired
cherub, with a smile that lighted up his pale face and made it really
"Kiss Maddie dood-by," she lisped.
He bent over, raised in his arms, and kissed her, sat her down
Then springing upon his horse, with the ease of a circus rider,
he rode out of camp at a sweeping gallop, unhearing, or unheeding the
request of Captain Reynolds for him to remain with them as their guest.