Table of Content

Chapter 31 - The Rifle Rangers by Mayne Reid

Captured by Guerilleros

We emerged from the forest and entered the fields. All silent. No sign or sound of a suspicion. The house still standing and safe.

“The guerillero must have been waiting for someone whom he expected by the Medellin road. Ride on, Raoul!”

“Captain,” said the man in a whisper, and halting at the end of the guardaraya (enclosure).


“Someone passed out at the other end.”

“Some of the domestics, no doubt. You may ride on, and—never mind; I will take the advance myself.”

I brushed past, and kept up the guardaraya. In a few minutes we had reached the lower end of the pond, where we halted. Here we dismounted; and, leaving the men, Clayley and I stole cautiously forward. We could see no one, though everything about the house looked as usual.

“Are they abed, think you?” asked Clayley.

“No, it is too early—perhaps below, at supper.”

“Heaven send! we shall be most happy to join them. I am as hungry as a wolf.”

We approached the house. Still all silent.

“Where are the dogs?”

We entered.

“Strange!—no one stirring. Ha! the furniture gone!”

We passed into the porch in the rear, and approached the stairway.

“Let us go below—can you see any light?”

I stooped and looked down. I could neither hear nor see any signs of life. I turned, and was gazing up at my friend in wonderment, when my eye was attracted by a strange movement upon the low branches of the olive-trees. The next moment a dozen forms dropped to the ground; and, before we could draw sword or pistol, myself and comrade were bound hand and foot and flung upon our backs.

At the same instant we heard a scuffle down by the pond. Two or three shots were fired; and a few minutes after a crowd of men came up, bringing with them Chane, Lincoln, and Raoul as prisoners.

We were all dragged out into the open ground in front of the rancho, where our horses were also brought and picketed.

Here we lay upon our backs, a dozen guerilleros remaining to guard us. The others went back among the olives, where we could hear them laughing, talking, and yelling. We could see nothing of their movements, as we were tightly bound, and as helpless as if under the influence of nightmare.

As we lay, Lincoln was a little in front of me. I could perceive that they had doubly bound him in consequence of the fierce resistance he had made. He had killed one of the guerilleros. He was banded and strapped all over, like a mummy, and he lay gnashing his teeth and foaming with fury. Raoul and the Irishman appeared to take things more easily, or rather more recklessly.

“I wonder if they are going to hang us to-night, or keep us till morning? What do you think, Chane?” asked the Frenchman, laughing as he spoke.

“Be the crass! they’ll lose no time—ye may depind on that same. There’s not an ounce av tinder mercy in their black hearts; yez may swear till that, from the way this eel-skin cuts.”

“I wonder, Murt,” said Raoul, speaking from sheer recklessness, “if Saint Patrick couldn’t help us a bit. You have him round your neck, haven’t you?”

“Be the powers, Rowl! though ye be only jokin’, I’ve a good mind to thry his holiness upon thim. I’ve got both him and the mother undher me jacket, av I could only rache thim.”

“Good!” cried the other. “Do!”

“It’s aisy for ye to say ‘Do’, when I can’t budge so much as my little finger.”

“Never mind. I’ll arrange that,” answered Raoul. “Hola, Señor!” shouted he to one of the guerilleros.

“Quien?” (Who?) said the man, approaching.

“Usted su mismo,” (Yourself), replied Raoul.

“Que cosa?” (What is it?)

“This gentleman,” said Raoul, still speaking in Spanish, and nodding towards Chane, “has a pocket full of money.”

A hint upon that head was sufficient; and the guerilleros, who, strangely enough, seemed to have overlooked this part of their duty, immediately commenced rifling our pockets, ripping them open with their long knives. They were not a great deal the richer for their pains, our joint purse yielding about twenty dollars. Upon Chane there was no money found; and the man whom Raoul had deceived repaid the latter by a curse and a couple of kicks.

The saint, however, turned up, attached to the Irishman’s neck by a leathern string; and along with him a small crucifix, and a pewter image of the Virgin Mary.

This appeared to please the guerilleros; and one of them, bending over the Irishman, slackened his fastenings a little—still, however, leaving him bound.

“Thank yer honner,” said Chane; “that’s dacent of ye. That’s what Misther O’Connell wud call amaylioration. I’m a hape aysier now.”

“Mucho bueno,” said the man, nodding and laughing.

“Och, be my sowl, yes!—mucho bueno. But I’d have no objecshun if yer honner wud make it mucho bettero. Couldn’t ye just take a little turn aff me wrist here?—it cuts like a rayzyer.”

I could not restrain myself from laughing, in which Clayley and Raoul joined me; and we formed a chorus that seemed to astonish our captors. Lincoln alone preserved his sullenness. He had not spoken a word.

Little Jack had been placed upon the ground near the hunter. He was but loosely tied, our captors not thinking it worth while to trouble themselves about so diminutive a subject. I had noticed him wriggling about, and using all his Indian craft to undo his fastenings; but he appeared not to have succeeded, as he now lay perfectly still again.

While the guerilleros were occupied with Chane and his saints, I observed the boy roll himself over and over, until he lay close up against the hunter. One of the guerilleros, noticing this, picked Jack up by the waistbelt, and, holding him at arm’s length, shouted out:

“Mira, camarados! qui briboncito!” (Look, comrades! what a little rascal!)

Amidst the laughing of the guerilleros, Jack was swung out, and fell in a bed of shrubs and flowers, where we saw no more of him. As he was bound, we concluded that he could not help himself, and was lying where he had been thrown.

My attention was called away from this incident by an exclamation of Chane.

“Och! blood, turf, and murther! If there isn’t that Frinch scoundhrel Dubrosc!”

I looked up. The man was standing over us.

“Ah, Monsieur le Capitaine!” cried he, in a sneering voice, “comment vous portez-vous? You came up dove-hunting—eh? The birds, you see, are not in the cot.”

Had there been only a thread around my body, I could not have moved at that moment. I felt cold and rigid as marble. A thousand agonising thoughts crowded upon me at once—my doubts, my fears on her account, drowning all ideas of personal danger. I could have died at that moment, and without a groan, to have ensured her safety.

There was something so fiendish in the character of this man—a polished brutality, too—that caused me to fear the worst.

“Oh, heaven!” I muttered, “in the power of such a man!”

“Ho!” cried Dubrosc, advancing a pace or two, and seizing my horse by the bridle, “a splendid mount! An Arab, as I live! Look here, Yañez!” he continued, addressing a guerillero who accompanied him, “I claim this, if you have no objection.”

“Take him,” said the other, who was evidently the leader of the party.

“Thank you. And you, Monsieur le Capitaine,” he added ironically, turning to me, “thank you for this handsome present. He will just replace my brave mustang, for whose loss I expect I am indebted to you, you great brute!—sacre!”

The last words were addressed to Lincoln; and, as though maddened by the memory of La Virgen, he approached the latter, and kicked him fiercely in the side.

The wanton foot had scarcely touched his ribs, when the hunter sprang up, as if by galvanic action, the thongs flying from his body in fifty spiral fragments. With a bound he leaped to his rifle; and, clutching it—he knew it was empty—struck the astonished Frenchman a blow upon the head. The latter fell heavily to the earth. In an instant a dozen knives and swords were aimed at the hunter’s throat. Sweeping his rifle around him, he cleared an opening, and, dashing past his foes with a wild yell, bounded off through the shrubbery. The guerilleros followed, screaming with rage; and we could hear an occasional shot, as they continued the pursuit into the distant woods. Dubrosc was carried back into the rancho, apparently lifeless.

We were still wondering how our comrade had untied himself, when one of the guerilleros, lifting a piece of the thong, exclaimed:

“Carajo! ha cortado el briboncito!” (The little rascal has cut it!) and the man darted into the shrubbery in search of little Jack. It was with us a moment of fearful suspense. We expected to see poor Jack sacrificed instantly. We watched the man with intense emotion, as he ran to and fro.

At length he threw up his arms with a gesture of surprise, calling out at the same time:

“Por todos santos! se fue!” (By all the saints! he’s gone!)

“Hurrah!” cried Chane; “holies!—such a gossoon as that boy!”

Several of the guerilleros dived into the thicket; but their search was in vain.

We were now separated, so that we could no longer converse, and were more strictly watched, two sentries standing over each of us. We spent about an hour in this way. Straggling parties at intervals came back from the pursuit, and we could gather, from what we overheard, that neither Lincoln nor Jack had yet been retaken.

We could hear talking in the rear of the rancho, and we felt that our fate was being determined upon. It was plain Dubrosc was not in command of the party. Had he been so, we should never have been carried beyond the olive-grove. It appeared we were to be hung elsewhere.

At length a movement was visible that betokened departure. Our horses were taken away, and saddled mules were led out in front of the rancho. Upon these we were set, and strapped tightly to the saddles. A serape was passed over each of us, and we were blinded by tapojos. A bugle then sounded the “forward”. We could hear a confusion of noises, the prancing of many hoofs, and the next moment we felt ourselves moving along at a hurried pace through the woods.

 Table of Content