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Ten days later the party took passage in a large boat going up the river to Santa Fe. It had come down freighted with hides, and the odor still hung about it. However, by this time they had become accustomed to the smell, and scarcely noticed it. The boat was manned by six Mexicans, who sometimes poled it along, sometimes, when the stream was rapid, got ashore and towed from the bank.
It took them six days to arrive at Santa Fe. Although just inside the United States frontier, the population was almost entirely Mexican. There were, however, a few American stores, containing European goods of all kinds, for the use of the natives, and such articles as miners or prospectors going up among the hills would require. Here they had no difficulty in purchasing horses. Five rough, serviceable ponies for the carriage of the baggage were picked up at twenty dollars a piece, and five well-made and wiry horses for their own riding. Mexican saddles, with very high pommels and cantles, heavy and cumbersome to look at, but very comfortable for long distances, were also obtained without difficulty. At the stores were bought two sacks of flour and two sides of bacon, a frying pan, saucepan, baking pot, and a good supply of tea and sugar; four large water-skins, five small ones, completed their purchases, with the exception of shovels, picks, and pails for washing the gravel.
"Going up among the hills again, Dave?" remarked the store-keeper, with whom the miners had often dealt before.
"Yes, we are going to try a new direction this time, and don't want to have to come back directly we have struck anything. We have got enough grub here for three or four months, reckoning as we shall occasionally get hold of bear or deer meat."
"Well, you had better keep clear of the Indian country, Dave. They made a raid down South, I hear, last month, and burnt half a dozen Mexican villages, and they would make short work with you if they came across you anywhere near their country. However, I suppose you aint going to be fool enough to go that way, especially as I see you have got two green hands with you."
"They are old enough to be useful," Dave said. "We can put them to cook and look after the horses, if they can't do anything else. They are Britishers, and one of them stood by me pluckily in a mess I got into in San Diego; so as they had left their ship and were out of a berth, I thought I would bring them with me, as they had a fancy for seeing a little of mining life, before they shipped back again."
Two days after their arrival at Santa Fe they started.
"We will strike due south as if intending to enter Mexico; one never knows who is watching one," Dave said the evening before. "There are always some pretty hard men about these border towns--miners who are down on their luck; men who have had to run from the northern diggings, and such like. We may say what we like, but they will make a guess that we have located something rich, and are going back to work it quietly and keep it to ourselves, and like enough some of them will take it in their heads to follow us. Anyhow, we will travel south for a day or two, and then turn off sharp to the west. It aint as I should grudge anyone else a share in the mine, but the more there are the more chance of the Injuns finding us. Besides, some of these chaps are so reckless that like as not they would light a big fire if they wanted to cook a loaf of bread. We three have been up that way before, although not so far as we are going now, and we know what we have got to expect, and that, if we are going to bring our scalps out again, we have got to sleep with our eyes open."
Another fortnight's traveling and they had passed the last settlements, had left Fort Mason behind them, and had entered the country that the Apaches and kindred tribes claimed as their own.
The two lads had enjoyed the journey immensely. They had traveled about fifteen miles a day, their pace being regulated by that of the pack animals. During the heat of the day they had all halted in the shade of some clump of tree or bush. Here the horses had picked up their sustenance, grass and leaves, while the men slept. At night they had camped, when they could find such a spot, on the banks of a stream. Then a big fire would be lighted, a dough of flour, water, and soda would be mixed, and placed in the baking pot. This was put among the red embers, which were drawn over the lid so as to bake it from above as well as below. Then, if they had no other meat, rashers of bacon would be grilled over the fire, and eaten with the hot bread. Generally, however, they had been able to purchase a kid or some fowls at one or other of the little villages through which they passed.
They always carried with them two of the large skins filled with water, in case none should be met with at their halting places; this sufficed for tea and for a good drink at night, and before starting in the morning for the horses. The villages, however, had become fewer and fewer, and at the last through which they had passed they had bought one of the little bullocks of the country, cut the flesh into strips, and hung it in the sun to dry, halting three days for the purpose.
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