California Joe, the Mysterious Plainsman

CHAPTER VII.
JOE STRIKES A BARGAIN.

THE sentinel at Fort ---- was considerably surprised the next morning, after the attack an the emigrant train, while waiting to be relieved from duty, to see, what he at first supposed, was a regiment of cavalry coming toward him.

A closer look however showed him that though the equine portion of a regiment was there the bipeds were wanting.

In other words the horses were riderless.

At a slow, weary trot they came on over a distant roll of the prairie, nearly, two hundred in number, and they, were heading directly for the fort.

The sentinel sung out for the corporal of the guard, and made his report and that worthy reported to the sergeant, and so on to the officer of the day, which sent the news flying through the fortress that:

"A drove of wild horses was coming."

Officers at once ordered out their swiftest steeds, seized their lassoes and scouts and hunters joining them, all dashed out from the stockade inclosure to suddenly descry that the herd had a driver.

What could it mean?

There was but one man behind them and he was waving his hat as though for those at the fort to head them off.

A line was quickly formed, and the herd was headed straight for the corral, and were at once secured, while all seemed anxious to see the single driver of so many ponies that had upon them the bridle and saddles they knew belonged to red-skin masters.

As this person rode up he saluted the officers and said bluntly: "Them are Injun ponies."

"So I see, my young friend; but who are you?" asked the major in command of the fort, and a thorough sportsman he had come out for a wild horse chase as he had supposed.

"Oh! I'm Joe, was the quaint reply.

"Joe who, or Joe what?" asked the major with a smile looking fixedly at the strange youth before him.

"Either one or t'other, for it's all the same to me."

"But no matter about me, for I've brought you some ponies I'll sell to you for the sogers if you wants to buy 'em, and if you don't, I guess I'll give 'em to you."

"I think it would be cheaper for me to say I don't care to buy," answered the major.

"Guess it would, so you can have 'em, all but my white here," was the cool response.

"No, my young friend, I will buy them of you, for we are sadly in need of stock just now.

"How many have you?"

"I tried to count 'em as I was driving 'em: but one time I made a thousand, next time only seventy, and then I run 'em. up to eight hundred, so I don't know: but I guess there are about two hundred, more or less."

"Well, I'll give you thirty dollars a head for them."

"I take it," was the frank response,

"But where did you get them, my young friend?"

"I captured them from old Bad Blood and his braves."

"When and where did this happen?" and it was evident that the words of Joe created great excitement!

"Fifty miles from here at Gable Bluff, and last night several hours before daybreak."

"And you dismounted old Bad Blood and his warriors you say!"

"No, they dismounted themselves, and I drove their ponies off while they were attacking a train."

"This grows most interesting, young man.

"Come, tell me all about it, as we ride toward my quarters."

Joe told his story as it had happened, but not a word regarding himself could the major get from him, that is of his antecedents.

He refused all hospitality extended to him by the generous and kind-hearted major, and telling him to keep his money for the ponies for him until he called for it, he mounted his white horse and rode away from the fort, leaving the impression with all who had seen him that he was a mysterious person.

But the services he had rendered in dismounting Bad Blood and his band, made him a hero and the major at once ordered a squadron of cavalry off on the trail of the old chief and his braves, for Joe had told them how to go to head them off on their way to their village, which he knew that they would at once make for to get a remount, as an Indian who is a good horseman, feels as though he had lost a part of himself in losing his pony.*


[Back] *The Comanches and several other tribes, are most cowardly when dismounted, but the bravest of the brave on horseback. -THE AUTHOR.
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