Infomotions, Inc.An Apache Princess A Tale of the Indian Frontier / King, Charles, 1844-1933



Author: King, Charles, 1844-1933
Title: An Apache Princess A Tale of the Indian Frontier
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): blakely; angela; wren; natzie; byrne; plume; apache; sanders; sandy; elise; graham; janet; captain wren; kate sanders; colonel byrne; sergeant; neil blakely; aunt janet; major plume; lieutenant; captain; janet wren; miss wren; angela wren; camp sandy
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Title: An Apache Princess
       A Tale of the Indian Frontier

Author: Charles King

Illustrator: Frederic Remington and Edwin Willard Deming

Release Date: September 19, 2006 [EBook #19330]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII

*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK AN APACHE PRINCESS ***




Produced by Suzanne Shell, Sankar Viswanathan, and the
Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net









                [Illustration: THE FIGHT IN THE CANON]



                              AN APACHE
                              PRINCESS

                   _A Tale of the Indian Frontier_



                                  BY

                         GENERAL CHARLES KING

         AUTHOR OF "A DAUGHTER OF THE SIOUX," "THE COLONEL'S
         DAUGHTER," "FORT FRAYNE," "AN ARMY WIFE," ETC., ETC.



                           ILLUSTRATIONS BY

                         FREDERIC  REMINGTON

                                _and_

                         EDWIN WILLARD DEMING




                               NEW YORK
                          THE HOBART COMPANY
                                 1903


                           COPYRIGHT, 1903,
                                  BY
                         THE HOBART COMPANY.

       *       *       *       *       *




CONTENTS


CHAPTER I

THE MEETING BY THE WATERS,

CHAPTER II

SCOT VERSUS SAXON,

CHAPTER III

MOCCASIN TRACKS,

CHAPTER IV

A STRICKEN SENTRY,

CHAPTER V

THE CAPTAIN'S DEFIANCE,

CHAPTER VI

A FIND IN THE SANDS,

CHAPTER VII

"WOMAN-WALK-IN-THE-NIGHT,"

CHAPTER VIII

"APACHE KNIVES DIG DEEP,"

CHAPTER IX

A CARPET KNIGHT, INDEED,

CHAPTER X

"WOMAN-WALK-IN-THE NIGHT" AGAIN,

CHAPTER XI

A STOP--BY WIRE,

CHAPTER XII

FIRE!

CHAPTER  XIII

WHOSE LETTERS?

CHAPTER XIV

AUNT JANET BRAVED,

CHAPTER XV

A CALL FOR HELP,

CHAPTER XVI

A RETURN TO COMMAND,

CHAPTER XVII

A STRANGE COMING,

CHAPTER XVIII

A STRANGER GOING,

CHAPTER  XIX

BESIEGED,

CHAPTER XX

WHERE IS ANGELA?

CHAPTER XXI

OUR VANISHED PRINCESS,

CHAPTER XXII

SUSPENSE,

CHAPTER XXIII

AN APACHE QUEEN,

CHAPTER  XXIV

THE MEETING AT SANDY,

CHAPTER XXV

RESCUE REQUITED,

CHAPTER XXVI

"WOMAN-WALK-NO-MORE,"

CHAPTER  XXVII

THE PARTING BY THE WATERS,

_L'ENVOI_

       *       *       *       *       *




ILLUSTRATIONS


FRONTISPIECE

"NOW HALTING, DROPPING ON ONE KNEE TO FIRE,"

"BLAKELY LED 'EM ACROSS NO. 4'S POST,"

THE FIGHT IN THE CANON,

"INDIAN SIGNALS BEYOND POSSIBILITY OF A DOUBT,"

"THEN SLOWLY, THEY SAW HER RAISE HER RIGHT HAND,
STILL CAUTIOUSLY HOLDING THE LITTLE MIRROR,"

"THEY HUSTLED HER PONY INTO A RAVINE,"

"NATZIE WRENCHED HER HAND FROM THAT OF BLAKELY,
AND WITH THE SPRING OF A TIGRESS BOUNDED AWAY,"

       *       *       *       *       *




AN APACHE PRINCESS

CHAPTER I

THE MEETING BY THE WATERS


Under the willows at the edge of the pool a young girl sat
daydreaming, though the day was nearly done. All in the valley was
wrapped in shadow, though the cliffs and turrets across the stream
were resplendent in a radiance of slanting sunshine. Not a cloud
tempered the fierce glare of the arching heavens or softened the sharp
outline of neighboring peak or distant mountain chain. Not a whisper
of breeze stirred the drooping foliage along the sandy shores or
ruffled the liquid mirror surface. Not a sound, save drowsy hum of
beetle or soft murmur of rippling waters, among the pebbly shallows
below, broke the vast silence of the scene. The snow cap, gleaming at
the northern horizon, lay one hundred miles away and looked but an
easy one-day march. The black upheavals of the Matitzal, barring the
southward valley, stood sullen and frowning along the Verde, jealous
of the westward range that threw their rugged gorges into early shade.
Above and below the still and placid pool and but a few miles distant,
the pine-fringed, rocky hillsides came shouldering close to the
stream, but fell away, forming a deep, semicircular basin toward the
west, at the hub of which stood bolt-upright a tall, snowy flagstaff,
its shred of bunting hanging limp and lifeless from the peak, and in
the dull, dirt-colored buildings of adobe, ranged in rigid lines about
the dull brown, flat-topped _mesa_, a thousand yards up stream above
the pool, drowsed a little band of martial exiles, stationed here to
keep the peace 'twixt scattered settlers and swarthy, swarming
Apaches. The fort was their soldier home; the solitary girl a
soldier's daughter.

She could hardly have been eighteen. Her long, slim figure, in its
clinging riding habit, betrayed, despite roundness and supple grace, a
certain immaturity. Her hands and feet were long and slender. Her
sun-tanned cheek and neck were soft and rounded. Her mouth was
delicately chiseled and the lips were pink as the heart of a
Bridesmaid rose, but, being firmly closed, told no tale of the teeth
within, without a peep at which one knew not whether the beauty of the
sweet young face was really made or marred. Eyes, eyebrows, lashes,
and a wealth of tumbling tresses of rich golden brown were all superb,
but who could tell what might be the picture when she opened those
pretty, curving lips to speak or smile? Speak she did not, even to the
greyhounds stretched sprawling in the warm sands at her feet. Smile
she could not, for the young heart was sore troubled.

Back in the thick of the willows she had left her pony, blinking
lazily and switching his long tail to rid his flanks of humming
insects, but never mustering energy enough to stamp a hoof or strain
a thread of his horsehair _riata_. Both the long, lean, sprawling
hounds lolled their red, dripping tongues and panted in the sullen
heat. Even the girl herself, nervous at first and switching with her
dainty whip at the crumbling sands and pacing restlessly to and fro,
had yielded gradually to the drooping influences of the hour and,
seated on a rock, had buried her chin in the palm of her hand, and,
with eyes no longer vagrant and searching, had drifted away into
maiden dreamland. Full thirty minutes had she been there waiting for
something, or somebody, and it, or he, had not appeared.

Yet somebody else was there and close at hand. The shadow of the
westward heights had gradually risen to the crest of the rocky cliffs
across the stream. A soft, prolonged call of distant trumpet summoned
homeward, for the coming night, the scattered herds and herd guards of
the post, and, rising with a sigh of disappointment, the girl turned
toward her now impatient pony when her ear caught the sound of a
smothered hand-clap, and, whirling about in swift hope and surprise,
her face once more darkened at sight of an Indian girl, Apache
unquestionably, crouching in the leafy covert of the opposite willows
and pointing silently down stream. For a moment, without love or fear
in the eyes of either, the white girl and the brown gazed at each
other across the intervening water mirror and spoke no word. Then,
slowly, the former approached the brink, looked in the direction
indicated by the little dingy index and saw nothing to warrant the
recall. Moreover, she was annoyed to think that all this time,
perhaps, the Indian girl had been lurking in that sheltering grove and
stealthily watching her. Once more she turned away, this time with a
toss of her head that sent the russet-brown tresses tumbling about her
slim back and shoulders, and at once the hand-clap was repeated, low,
but imperative, and Tonto, the biggest of the two big hounds, uplifted
one ear and growled a challenge.

"What do you want?" questioned the white girl, across the estranging
waters.

For answer the brown girl placed her left forefinger on her lips, and
again distinctly pointed to a little clump of willows a dozen rods
below, but on the westward side.

"Do you mean--someone's coming?" queried the first.

"Sh-sh-sh!" answered the second softly, then pointed again, and
pointed eagerly.

The soldier's daughter glanced about her, uncertainly, a moment, then
slowly, cautiously made her way along the sandy brink in the direction
indicated, gathering the folds of her long skirt in her gauntleted
hand and stepping lightly in her slender moccasins. A moment or two,
and she had reached the edge of a dense little copse and peered
cautiously within. The Indian girl was right. Somebody lay there,
apparently asleep, and the fair young intruder recoiled in obvious
confusion, if not dismay. For a moment she stood with fluttering heart
and parting lips that now permitted reassuring glimpse of pearly
white teeth. For a moment she seemed on the verge of panicky retreat,
but little by little regained courage and self-poise. What was there
to fear in a sleeping soldier anyhow? She knew who it was at a glance.
She could, if she would, whisper his name. Indeed, she had been
whispering it many a time, day and night, these last two weeks
until--until certain things about him had come to her ears that made
her shrink in spite of herself from this handsome, petted young
soldier, this Adonis of her father's troop, Neil Blakely, lieutenant
of cavalry.

"The Bugologist," they called him in cardroom circles at the "store,"
where men were fiercely intolerant of other pursuits than poker, for
which pastime Mr. Blakely had no use whatever--no more use than had
its votaries for him. He was a dreamy sort of fellow, with big blue
eyes and a fair skin that were in themselves sufficient to stir the
rancor of born frontiersmen, and they of Arizona in the days of old
were an exaggeration of the type in general circulation on the Plains.
He was something of a dandy in dress, another thing they loathed;
something of a purist in speech, which was affectation unpardonable;
something of a dissenter as to drink, appreciative of "Cucumungo" and
claret, but distrustful of whisky--another thing to call down scorn
illimitable from the elect of the mining camps and packing "outfits."
But all these disqualifications might have been overlooked had the
lieutenant displayed even a faint preference for poker. "The Lord
loveth a cheerful giver--or loser" was the creed of the cardroom
circle at the store, but beyond a casual or smiling peep at the game
from the safe distance of the doorway, Mr. Blakely had vouchsafed no
interest in affairs of that character. To the profane disgust of Bill
Hyde, chief packer, and the malevolent, if veiled, criticism of
certain "sporty" fellow soldiers, Blakely preferred to spend his
leisure hours riding up and down the valley, with a butterfly net over
his shoulders and a japanned tin box slung at his back, searching for
specimens that were scarce as the Scriptures among his commentators.

Even on this hot October afternoon he had started on his entomological
work, but, finding little encouragement and resting a while in the
shade, he had dozed away on a sandy couch, his head on his arms, his
broad-brimmed hat over his face, his shapely legs outstretched in
lazy, luxurious enjoyment, his tall and slender form, arrayed in cool
white blouse and trousers, really a goodly thing to behold. This day,
too, he must have come afoot, but his net and box lay there beside
him, and his hunt had been without profit, for both were apparently
empty. Possibly he had devoted but little time to netting insects.
Possibly he had thought to encounter bigger game. If so his zest in
the sport must have been but languid, since he had so soon yielded to
the drowsy influences of the day. There was resentment in the heart of
the girl as this occurred to her, even though it would have angered
her the more had anyone suggested she had come in hope of seeing or
speaking with him.

And yet, down in the bottom of her heart, she knew that just such a
hope had held her there even to the hour of recall. She knew that,
since opportunities for meeting him within the garrison were limited,
she had deliberately chosen to ride alone, and farther than she had
ever ridden alone before, in hope of meeting him without. She knew
that in the pursuit of his winged prey he never sought the open _mesa_
or the ravines and gorges of the foothills. Only along the stream were
they--and he--to be found. Only along the stream, therefore, had she
this day ridden and, failing to see aught of him, had dismounted to
think in quiet by the pool, so she told herself, but incidentally to
wait and watch for him; and now she had found him, neither watching
nor waiting, but in placid unconcern and slumber.

One reason why they met so seldom in garrison was that her father did
not like him in the least. The captain was a veteran soldier,
self-taught and widely honored, risen from the ranks. The lieutenant
was a man of gentle breeding and of college education, a soldier by
choice, or caprice, yet quite able at any time to quit the service and
live a life of ease, for he had, they said, abundant means of his own.
He had been first lieutenant of that troop at least five years, not
five months of which had he served on duty with it. First one general,
then another, had needed him as aide-de-camp, and when, on his own
application, he had been relieved from staff duty to enable him to
accompany his regiment to this then distant and inhospitable land, he
had little more than reached Camp Sandy when he was sent by the
department commander to investigate some irregularity at the Apache
reservation up the valley, and then, all unsoliciting, he had been
placed in charge pending the coming of a new agent to replace the
impeached one going home under guard, and the captain said things
about his subaltern's always seeking "fancy duty" that were natural,
yet unjust--things that reached Mr. Blakely in exaggerated form, and
that angered him against his senior to the extent of open rupture.
Then Blakely took the mountain fever at the agency, thereby still
further delaying his return to troop duty, and then began another
complication, for the contract doctor, though skillful in his
treatment, was less assiduous in nursing than were the wife of the
newly arrived agent and her young companion Lola, daughter of the
agency interpreter and his Apache-Yuma wife.

When well enough to attempt light duty again, the lieutenant had
rejoined at Sandy, and, almost the first face to greet him on his
arrival was one he had never seen before and never forgot
thereafter--the sweet, laughing, winsome face of Angela Wren, his
captain's only child.

The regiment had marched into Arizona overland, few of the wives and
daughters with it. Angela, motherless since her seventh year, was at
school in the distant East, together with the daughters of the colonel
then commanding the regiment. They were older; were "finishing" that
summer, and had amazed that distinguished officer by demanding to be
allowed to join him with their mother. When they left the school
Angela could stand it no longer. She both telegraphed and wrote,
begging piteously to be permitted to accompany them on the long
journey by way of San Francisco, and so it had finally been settled.
The colonel's household were now at regimental headquarters up at
Prescott, and Angela was quite happy at Camp Sandy. She had been there
barely four weeks when Neil Blakely, pale, fragile-looking, and still
far from strong, went to report for duty at his captain's quarters and
was met at the threshold by his captain's daughter.

Expecting a girl friend, Kate Sanders, from "down the row," she had
rushed to welcome her, and well-nigh precipitated herself upon a
stranger in the natty undress uniform of the cavalry. Her instant
blush was something beautiful to see. Blakely said the proper things
to restore tranquillity; smilingly asked for her father, his captain;
and, while waiting for that warrior to finish shaving and come down to
receive him, was entertained by Miss Wren in the little army parlor.
Looking into her wondrous eyes and happy, blushing face, he forgot
that there was rancor between his troop commander and himself, until
the captain's stiff, unbending greeting reminded him. Thoughtless
people at the post, however, were laughing over the situation a week
thereafter. Neil Blakely, a squire of dames in San Francisco and other
cities when serving on staff duty, a society "swell" and clubman, had
obviously become deeply interested in this blithe young army girl,
without a cent to her name--with nothing but her beauty, native grace,
and sweet, sunshiny nature to commend her. And everyone hitherto had
said Neil Blakely would never marry in the army.

And there was one woman at Sandy who saw the symptoms with jealous and
jaundiced eyes--Clarice, wife of the major then commanding the little
"four-company" garrison. Other women took much to heart the fact that
Major Plume had cordially invited Blakely, on his return from the
agency, to be their guest until he could get settled in his own
quarters. The Plumes had rooms to spare--and no children. The major was
twelve years older than his wife, but women said it often looked the
other way. Mrs. Plume had aged very rapidly after his sojourn on
recruiting duty in St. Louis. Frontier commissariat and cooking played
hob with her digestion, said the major. Frontier winds and water dealt
havoc to her complexion, said the women. But both complexion and
digestion seemed to "take a brace," as irreverent youth expressed it,
when Neil Blakely came to Sandy and the major's roof. True, he stayed
but six and thirty hours and then moved into his own domicile--quarters
No. 7--after moving out a most reluctant junior. Major Plume and Mrs.
Plume had expected him, they were so kind as to say, to choose a vacant
half set, excellent for bachelor purposes, under the roof that sheltered
Captain Wren, Captain Wren's maiden sister and housekeeper, and Angela,
the captain's daughter. This set adjoined the major's big central house,
its south windows looking into the major's north gallery. "It would be
so neighborly and nice," said Mrs. Plume. Instead, however, Mr. Blakely
stood upon his prerogative as a senior subaltern and "ranked out" Mr.
and Mrs. Bridger and baby, and these otherwise gentle folk, evicted and
aggrieved, knowing naught of Blakely from previous association, and
seeing no reason why he should wish to be at the far end of the row
instead of the middle, with his captain, where he properly belonged,
deemed themselves the objects of wanton and capricious treatment at his
hands, and resented it according to their opportunities. Bridger, being
a soldier and subordinate, had to take it out in soliloquy and
swear-words, but his impetuous little helpmate--being a woman, a wife
and mother, set both wits and tongue to work, and heaven help the man
when woman has both to turn upon him! In refusing the room and windows
that looked full-face into those of Mrs. Plume, Blakely had nettled her.
In selecting the quarters occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Bridger he had
slightly inconvenienced and sorely vexed the latter. With no
incumbrances whatever, with fine professional record, with personal
traits and reputation to make him enviable, with comparative wealth and,
as a rule, superlative health, Blakely started on his career as a
subaltern at Sandy with three serious handicaps,--the disfavor of his
captain, who knew and loved him little,--the prejudice of Mrs. Bridger,
who knew and loved him not at all,--and the jealous pique of Mrs. Plume,
who had known and loved him, possibly, too well.

There was little duty doing at Sandy at the time whereof we write. Men
rose at dawn and sent the horses forth to graze all day in the
foothills under heavy guard. It was too hot for drills, with the
mercury sizzling at the hundred mark. Indian prisoners did the
"police" work about the post; and men and women dozed and wilted in
the shade until the late afternoon recall. Then Sandy woke up and
energetically stabled, drilled, paraded under arms at sunset, mounted
guard immediately thereafter, dined in spotless white; then rode,
drove, flirted, danced, gossiped, made mirth, melody, or monotonous
plaint till nearly midnight; then slept until the dawn of another day.

Indians there were in the wilds of the Mogollon to the southeast, and,
sometimes at rare intervals straying from the big reservation up the
valley, they scared the scattered settlers of the Agua Fria and the
Hassayampa; but Sandy rarely knew of them except as prisoners. Not a
hostile shot had been fired in the surrounding mountains for at least
six months, so nobody felt the least alarm, and many only languid
interest, when the white-coated officers reported the result of sunset
roll-call and inspection, and, saluting Major Plume, the captain of
"C" Troop announced in tones he meant should be heard along the row:
"Mr. Blakely, sir, is absent!"




CHAPTER II

SCOT VERSUS SAXON


Three women were seated at the moment on the front veranda of the
major's quarters--Mrs. Plume, Miss Janet Wren, the captain's sister,
and little Mrs. Bridger. The first named had been intently watching
the officers as, after the dismissal of their companies at the
barracks, they severally joined the post commander, who had been
standing on the barren level of the parade, well out toward the
flagstaff, his adjutant beside him. To her the abrupt announcement
caused no surprise. She had seen that Mr. Blakely was not with his
troop. The jeweled hands slightly twitched, but her voice had the
requisite and conventional drawl as she turned to Miss Wren: "Chasing
some new butterfly, I suppose, and got lost. A--what time did--Angela
return?"

"Hours ago, I fancy. She was dressed when I returned from hospital.
Sergeant Leary seems worse to-day."

"That was nearly six," dreamily persisted Mrs. Plume. "I happened to
be at the side window." In the pursuit of knowledge Mrs. Plume adhered
to the main issue and ignored the invalid sergeant, whose slow
convalescence had stirred the sympathies of the captain's sister.

"Yes, it was nearly that when Angela dismounted," softly said Mrs.
Bridger. "I heard Punch galloping away to his stable."

"Why, Mrs. Bridger, are you sure?" And the spinster of forty-five
turned sharply on the matron of less than half her years. "She had on
her white muslin when she came to the head of the stairs to answer
me."

Mrs. Bridger could not be mistaken. It was Angela's habit when she
returned from her rides to dismount at the rear gateway; give Punch
his _conge_ with a pat or two of the hand; watch him a moment as he
tore gleefully away, round to the stables to the westward of the big
quadrangle; then to go to her room and dress for the evening, coming
down an hour later, looking fresh and sweet and dainty as a dewy
Mermet. As a rule she rode without other escort than the hounds, for
her father would not go until the sun was very low and would not let
her go with Blakely or Duane, the only bachelor troop officers then at
Sandy. He had nothing against Duane, but, having set his seal against
the other, felt it necessary to include them both. As a rule,
therefore, she started about four, alone, and was home an hour later.
Five young maidens dwelt that year in officers' row, daughters of the
regiments,--for it was a mixed command and not a big one,--two
companies each of infantry and cavalry, after the manner of the early
70's. Angela knew all four girls, of course, and had formed an
intimacy with one--one who only cared to ride in the cool of the
bright evenings when the officers took the hounds jack-rabbit hunting
up the valley. Twice a week, when Luna served, they held these
moonlit meets, and galloping at that hour, though more dangerous to
necks, was less so to complexions. As a rule, too, Angela and Punch
contented themselves with a swift scurry round the reservation, with
frequent fordings of the stream for the joy it gave them both. They
were rarely out of sight of the sentries and never in any appreciable
danger. No Apache with hostile intent ventured near enough to Sandy to
risk reprisals. Miners, prospectors, and ranchmen were few in numbers,
but, far and wide they knew the captain's bonny daughter, and, like
the men of her father's troop, would have risked their lives to do her
a service. Their aversions as to Sandy were centered in the other sex.

Aunt Janet, therefore, had some reason for doubting the report of Mrs.
Bridger. It was so unlike Angela to be so very late returning,
although, now that Mrs. Bridger had mentioned it, she, too, remembered
hearing the rapid thud of Punch's galloping hoofs homeward bound, as
was she, at 5.45. Yet, barely five minutes thereafter, Angela, who
usually spent half an hour splashing in her tub, appeared full
panoplied, apparently, at the head of the stairs upon her aunt's
arrival, and was even now somewhere down the row, hobnobbing with Kate
Sanders. That Lieutenant Blakely should have missed retreat roll-call
was in itself no very serious matter. "Slept through at his quarters,
perhaps," said Plume. "He'll turn up in time for dinner." In fine the
major's indifference struck the captain as an evidence of official
weakness, reprehensible in a commander charged with the discipline of
a force on hostile soil. What Wren intended was that Plume should be
impressed by his formal word and manner, and direct the adjutant to
look up the derelict instanter. As no such action was taken, however,
he felt it due to himself to speak again. A just man was Wren, and
faithful to the core in his own discharge of duty. What he could not
abide was negligence on part of officer or man, on part of superior or
inferior, and he sought to "stiffen" Plume forthwith.

"If he isn't in his quarters, shall I send a party out in search,
sir?"

"Who? Blakely? Dear, no, Wren! What for?" returned the post commander,
obviously nettled. "I fancy he'll not thank you for even searching his
quarters. You may stumble over his big museum in the dark and smash
things. No, let him alone. If he isn't here for dinner, I'll 'tend to
it myself."

And so, rebuffed, as it happened, by an officer much his inferior in
point of experience and somewhat in years, Wren silently and stiffly
saluted and turned away. Virtually he had been given to understand
that his suggestion was impertinent. He reached his quarters,
therefore, in no pleasant mood, and found his sister waiting for him
with Duty in her clear and shining eyes.

A woman of many a noble trait was Janet Wren,--a woman who had done a
world of good to those in sickness, sorrow, or other adversity, a
woman of boundless faith in herself and her opinions, but not too much
hope or charity for others. The blood of the Scotch Covenanters was
in her veins, for her mother had been born and bred in the shadow of
the kirk and lived and died in the shadow of the cross. A woman with a
mission was Janet, and one who went at it unflinchingly. She had loved
her brother always, yet disapproved his marriage to so young and
unformed a woman as was his wife. Later, she had deprecated from the
start the soldier spirit, fierce in his Highland blood, that tore him
from the teachings of their gentle mother and her beloved meenister,
took him from his fair young wife when most she needed him and sent
him straightway into the ranks of the one Highland regiment in the
Union Army at the outbreak of the Civil War. His gallant colonel fell
at First Bull Run, and Sergeant Wren fought over his body to the
fervent admiration of the Southerners who captured both. The first War
Secretary, mourning a beloved brother and grateful to his defender,
commissioned the latter in the regulars at once and, on his return
from Libby, Wren joined the army as a first lieutenant. With genuine
Scottish thrift, his slender pay had been hoarded for him, and his now
motherless little one, by that devoted sister, and when, a captain at
the close of the war, he came to clasp his daughter to his heart, he
found himself possessed of a few hundreds more than fell to the lot of
most of his associates. It was then that Janet, motherless herself,
had stepped into the management of her brother's army home, and sought
to dominate in that as she had in everything else from early girlhood.
Wren loved her fondly, but he, too, had a will. They had many a
clash. It was this, indeed, that led to Angela's going so early to an
Eastern school. We are all paragons of wisdom in the management of
other people's children. It is in dealing with our own our limitations
are so obvious. Fond as she had become of Angela's sweet young mother,
it must be owned that whom Janet loved in this way she often
chastened. Neighbors swore it was not grief, nor illness, half so much
as sister-in-law, that wore the gentle spirit to the snapping-point.
The great strong heart of the soldier was well-nigh broken at his
loss, and Janet, who had never seen him shed a tear since early
boyhood, stood for once, at least, in awe and trembling at sight of
his awful grief. Time and nature played their part and brought him,
gradually, resignation, but never genuine solace. He turned to little
Angela with almost passionate love and tenderness. He would, mayhap,
have spoiled her had not frontier service kept him so much afield that
it was Janet who really reared her,--but not according to the strict
letter of her law. Wren knew well what that was and forbade.

Misfortunes came to Janet Wren while yet a comely woman of
thirty-five. She could have married, and married well, a comrade
captain in her brother's regiment; but him, at least, she held to be
her own, and, loving him with genuine fervor and devotion, she sought
to turn him in all things to her serious views of life, its manifold
duties and responsibilities. She had her ideal of what a man should
be--a monarch among other men, but one knowing no God but her God, no
creed but her creed, no master but Duty, no mistress but herself, and
no weakness whatsoever. A braver, simpler, kinder soul than her
captain there dwelt not in the service of his country, but he loved
his pipe, his song, his dogs, his horses, his troop, and certain
soldier ways that, during his convalescence from wounds, she had not
had opportunity to observe. She had nursed him back to life and love
and, unwittingly, to his former harmless habits. These all she would
have had him forswear, not for her sake so much, she said, but because
they were in themselves sinful and beneath him. She sought to train
him down too fine for the rugged metal of the veteran soldier, and the
fabric snapped in her hands. She had sent him forth sore-hearted over
her ceaseless importunity. She had told him he must not only give up
all his ways, but, if he would make her happy, he must put the words
of Ruth into his mouth, and that ended it. He transferred into another
corps when she broke with him; carried his sore heart to the Southern
plains, and fell in savage battle within another month.

Not long thereafter her little fortune, invested according to the
views of a spiritual rather than a temporal adviser,--and much against
her brother's wishes,--went the way of riches that have wings, and
now, dependent solely upon him, welcomed to his home and fireside, she
nevertheless strove to dominate as of yore. He had had to tell her
Angela could not and should not be subjected to such restraints as the
sister would have prescribed, but so long as he was the sole victim
he whimsically bore it without vehement protest. "Convert me all you
can, Janet, dear," he said, "but don't try to reform the whole
regiment. It's past praying for."

Now, when other women whispered to her that while Mrs. Plume had been
a belle in St. Louis and Mr. Blakely a young society beau, the
magnitude of their flirtation had well-nigh stopped her marriage, Miss
Wren saw opportunity for her good offices and, so far from avoiding,
she sought the society of the major's brooding wife. She even felt a
twinge of disappointment when the young officer appeared, and after
the initial thirty-six hours under the commander's roof, rarely went
thither at all. She knew her brother disapproved of him, and thought
it to be because of moral, not military, obliquity. She saw with
instant apprehension his quick interest in Angela and the child's
almost unconscious response. With the solemn conviction of the maiden
who, until past the meridian, had never loved, she looked on Angela as
far too young and immature to think of marrying, yet too shallow, vain
and frivolous, too corrupted, in fact, by that pernicious society
school--not to shrink from flirtations that might mean nothing to the
man but would be damnation to the girl. Even the name of this big,
blue-eyed, fair-skinned young votary of science had much about it that
made her fairly bristle, for she had once been described as an
"austere vestal" by Lieutenant Blake, of the regiment preceding them
at Sandy, the ----th Cavalry--and a mutual friend had told her all
about it--another handicap for Blakely. She had grown, it must be
admitted, somewhat gaunt and forbidding in these later years, a thing
that had stirred certain callow wits to differentiate between the
Misses Wren as Angela and Angular, which, hearing, some few women
reproved but all repeated. Miss Wren, the sister, was in fine a woman
widely honored but little sought. It was Angela that all Camp Sandy
would have met with open arms.

"R-r-robert," began Miss Wren, as the captain unclasped his saber belt
and turned it over to Mickel, his German "striker." She would have
proceeded further, but he held up a warning hand. He had come homeward
angering and ill at ease. Disliking Blakely from the first, a
"ballroom soldier," as he called him, and alienated from him later, he
had heard still further whisperings of the devotions of a chieftain's
daughter at the agency, above all, of the strange infatuation of the
major's wife, and these had warranted, in his opinion, warning words
to his senior subaltern in refusing that gentleman's request to ride
with Angela. "I object to any such attentions--to any meetings
whatsoever," said he, but sooner than give the real reason, added
lamely, "My daughter is too young." Now he thought he saw impending
duty in his sister's somber eyes and poise. He knew it when she began
by rolling her r's--it was so like their childhood's spiritual guide
and mentor, MacTaggart, erstwhile of the "Auld Licht" persuasion, and
a power.

"Wait a bit, Janet," said he. "Mickel, get my horse and tell Sergeant
Strang to send me a mounted orderly." Then, as Mickel dropped the
saber in the open doorway and departed, he turned upon her.

"Where's Angela?" said he, "and what was she doing out after recall?
The stable sergeant says 'twas six when Punch came home."

"R-r-robert, it is of that I wish to speak to you, and before she
comes to dinner. Hush! She's coming now."

Down the row of shaded wooden porticos, at the major's next door, at
Dr. Graham's, the Scotch surgeon and Wren's especial friend and crony,
at the Lynns' and Sanders's beyond, little groups of women and
children in cool evening garb, and officers in white, were gathered in
merry, laughing chat. Nowhere, save in the eyes of one woman at the
commanding officer's, and here at Wren's, seemed there anything
ominous in the absence of this officer so lately come to join them.
The voice of Angela, glad and ringing, fell upon the father's ears in
sudden joy. Who could associate shame or subterfuge with tones so
charged with merriment? The face of Angela, coming suddenly round the
corner from the side veranda, beamed instantly upon him, sweet,
trusting and welcoming, then slowly shadowed at sight of the set
expression about his mouth, and the rigid, uncompromising, determined
sorrow in the features of her aunt.

Before she could utter a word, the father questioned:

"Angela, my child, have you seen Mr. Blakely this afternoon?"

One moment her big eyes clouded, but unflinchingly they met his gaze.
Then, something in the stern scrutiny of her aunt's regard stirred all
that was mutinous within her; yet there was an irrepressible twitching
about the corners of the rosy mouth, a twinkle about the big brown
eyes that should have given them pause, even as she demurely answered:

"Yes."

"When?" demanded the soldier, his muscular hand clutching ominously at
the wooden rail; his jaw setting squarely. "When--and where?"

But now the merriment with which she had begun changed slowly at sight
of the repressed fury in his rugged Gaelic face. She, too, was
trembling as she answered:

"Just after recall--down at the pool."

For an instant he stood glaring, incredulous. "At the pool! You! My
bairnie!" Then, with sudden outburst of passionate wrath, "Go to your
room!" said he.

"But listen--father, dear," she began, imploringly. For answer he
seized her slender arm in almost brutal grasp and fairly hurled her
within the doorway. "Not a word!" he ground between his clinched
teeth. "Go instantly!" Then, slamming the door upon her, he whirled
about as though to seek his sister's face, and saw beyond her,
rounding the corner of the northwest set of quarters, coming in from
the _mesa_ roadway at the back, the tall, white figure of the missing
man.

Another moment and Lieutenant Blakely, in the front room of his
quarters, looking pale and strange, was being pounced upon with eager
questioning by Duane, his junior, when the wooden steps and veranda
creaked under a quick, heavy, ominous tread, and, with livid face and
clinching hands, the troop commander came striding in.

"Mr. Blakely," said he, his voice deep with wrath and tremulous with
passion, "I told you three days ago my daughter and you must not meet,
and--you know why! To-day you lured her to a rendezvous outside the
post--"

"Captain Wren!"

"Don't lie! I say you lured her, for my lass would never have met
you--"

"You shall _un_say it, sir," was Blakely's instant rejoinder. "Are you
mad--or what? I never set eyes on your daughter to-day--until a moment
ago."

And then the voice of young Duane was uplifted, shouting for help.
With a crash, distinctly heard out on the parade, Wren had struck his
junior down.




CHAPTER III

MOCCASIN TRACKS


When Mr. Blakely left the post that afternoon he went afoot. When he
returned, just after the sounding of retreat, he came in saddle.
Purposely he avoided the road that led in front of the long line of
officers' quarters and chose instead the water-wagon track along the
rear. People among the laundresses' quarters, south of the _mesa_ on
which stood the quadrangular inclosure of Camp Sandy, eyed him
curiously as he ambled through on his borrowed pony; but he looked
neither to right nor left and hurried on in obvious discomposure. He
was looking pale and very tired, said the saddler sergeant's wife, an
hour later, when all the garrison was agog with the story of Wren's
mad assault. He never seemed to see the two or three soldiers, men of
family, who rose and saluted as he passed, and not an officer in the
regiment was more exact or scrupulous in his recognition of such
soldier courtesy as Blakely had ever been. They wondered, therefore,
at his strange abstraction. They wondered more, looking after him,
when, just as his stumbling pony reached the crest, the rider reined
him in and halted short in evident embarrassment. They could not see
what he saw--two young girls in gossamer gowns of white, with arms
entwining each other's waists, their backs toward him, slowly pacing
northward up the _mesa_ and to the right of the road. Some old croquet
arches, balls, and mallets lay scattered about, long since abandoned
to dry rot and disuse, and, so absorbed were the damsels in their
confidential chat,--bubbling over, too, with merry laughter,--they
gave no heed to these until one, the taller of the pair, catching her
slippered foot in the stiff, unyielding wire, plunged forward and
fell, nearly dragging her companion with her. Blakely, who had hung
back, drove his barbless heels into the pony's flanks, sent him
lurching forward, and in less than no time was out of saddle and
aiding her to rise, laughing so hard she, for a moment, could not
speak or thank him. Save to flowing skirt, there was not the faintest
damage, yet his eyes, his voice, his almost tremulous touch were all
suggestive of deep concern, before, once more mounting, he raised his
broad-brimmed hat and bade them reluctant good-night. Kate Sanders ran
scurrying home an instant later, but Angela's big and shining eyes
followed him every inch of the way until he once more dismounted at
the upper end of the row and, looking back, saw her and waved his hat,
whereat she ran, blushing, smiling, and not a little wondering,
flustered and happy, into the gallery of their own quarters and the
immediate presence of her father. Blakely, meanwhile, had summoned his
servant:

"Take this pony at once to Mr. Hart," said he, "and say I'll be back
again as soon as I've seen the commanding officer."

When Downs, the messenger, returned to the house about half an hour
later, it was to find his master prostrate and bleeding on the bed in
his room, Dr. Graham and the hospital attendant working over him, the
major and certain of his officers, with gloomy faces and muttering
tongues, conferring on the piazza in front, and one of the
lieutenant's precious cases of bugs and butterflies a wreck of
shattered glass. More than half the officers of the post were present.
A bevy of women and girls had gathered in the dusk some distance down
the row. The wondering Milesian whispered inquiry of silent soldiers
lingering about the house, but the gruff voice of Sergeant Clancy bade
them go about their business. Not until nearly an hour later was it
generally known that Captain Wren had been escorted to his quarters by
the post adjutant and ordered to remain therein in close arrest.

If some older and more experienced officer than Duane had been there
perhaps the matter would not have proved so tragic, but the latter was
utterly unstrung by Wren's furious attack and the unlooked-for result.
Without warning of any kind, the burly Scot had launched his big fist
straight at Blakely's jaw, and sent the slender, still fever-weakened
form crashing through a case of specimens, reducing it to splinters
that cruelly cut and tore the bruised and senseless face. A corporal
of the guard, marching his relief in rear of the quarters at the
moment, every door and window being open, heard the crash, the wild
cry for help, rushed in, with his men at his heels, and found the
captain standing stunned and ghastly, with the sweat starting from his
brow, staring down at the result of his fearful work. From the front
Captain Sanders and his amazed lieutenant came hurrying. Together they
lifted the stricken and bleeding man to his bed in the back room and
started a soldier for the doctor on the run. The sight of this man,
speeding down the row, bombarded all the way with questions he could
not stop to answer, startled every soul along that westward-facing
front, and sent men and women streaming up the line toward Blakely's
quarters at the north end. The doctor fairly brushed them from his
path and Major Plume had no easy task persuading the tearful, pallid
groups of army wives and daughters to retire to the neighboring
quarters. Janet Wren alone refused point-blank. She would not go
without first seeing her brother. It was she who took the arm of the
awed, bewildered, shame-and conscience-stricken man and led him, with
bowed and humbled head, the adjutant aiding on the other side, back to
the door he had so sternly closed upon his only child, and that now as
summarily shut on him. Dr. Graham had pronounced the young officer's
injuries serious, and the post commander was angry to the very core.

One woman there was who, with others, had aimlessly hastened up the
line, and who seemed now verging on hysterics--the major's wife. It
was Mrs. Graham who rebukefully sent her own braw young brood
scurrying homeward through the gathering dusk, and then possessed
herself of Mrs. Plume. "The shock has unnerved you," she charitably,
soothingly whispered: "Come away with me," but the major's wife
refused to go. Hart, the big post trader, had just reached the spot,
driving up in his light buckboard. His usually jovial face was full of
sympathy and trouble. He could not believe the news, he said. Mr.
Blakely had been with him so short a time beforehand and was coming
down again at once, so Downs, the striker, told him, when some soldier
ran in to say the lieutenant had been half killed by Captain Wren.
Plume heard him talking and came down the low steps to meet and confer
with him, while the others, men and women, listened eagerly, expectant
of developments. Then Hart became visibly embarrassed. Yes, Mr.
Blakely had come up from below and begged the loan of a pony, saying
he must get to the post at once to see Major Plume. Hadn't he seen the
major? No! Then Hart's embarrassment increased. Yes, something had
happened. Blakely had told him, and in fact they--he--all of them had
something very important on hand. He didn't know what to do now, with
Mr. Blakely unable to speak, and, to the manifest disappointment of
the swift-gathering group, Hart finally begged the major to step aside
with him a moment and he would tell him what he knew. All eyes
followed them, then followed the major as he came hurrying back with
heightened color and went straight to Dr. Graham at the sufferer's
side. "Can I speak with him? Is he well enough to answer a question or
two?" he asked, and the doctor shook his head. "Then, by the Lord,
I'll have to wire to Prescott!" said Plume, and left the room at
once. "What is it?" feebly queried the patient, now half-conscious.
But the doctor answered only "Hush! No talking now, Mr. Blakely," and
bade the others leave the room and let him get to sleep.

But tattoo had not sounded that still and starlit evening when a
strange story was in circulation about the post, brought up from the
trader's store by pack-train hands who said they were there when Mr.
Blakely came in and asked for Hart--"wanted him right away, bad," was
the way they put it. Then it transpired that Mr. Blakely had found no
sport at bug-hunting and had fallen into a doze while waiting for
winged insects, and when he woke it was to make a startling
discovery--his beautiful Geneva watch had disappeared from one pocket
and a flat note case, carried in an inner breast pocket of his white
duck blouse, and containing about one hundred dollars, was also gone.
Some vagrant soldier, possibly, or some "hard-luck outfit" of
prospectors, probably, had come upon him sleeping, and had made way
with his few valuables. Two soldiers had been down stream, fishing for
what they called Tonto trout, but they were looked up instantly and
proved to be men above suspicion. Two prospectors had been at Hart's,
nooning, and had ridden off down stream toward three o'clock. _There_
was a clew worth following, and certain hangers-on about the trader's,
"layin' fer a job," had casually hinted at the prospect of a game down
at Snicker's--a ranch five miles below. Here, too, was something worth
investigating. If Blakely had been robbed, as now seemed more than
likely, Camp Sandy felt that the perpetrator must still be close at
hand and of the packer or prospector class.

But before the ranks were broken, after the roll-call, then invariably
held at half-past nine, Hart came driving back in a buckboard, with a
lantern and a passenger, the latter one of the keenest trailers among
the sergeants of Captain Sanders' troop, and Sanders was with the
major as the man sprang from the wagon and stood at salute.

"Found anything, sergeant?" asked Plume.

"Not a boot track, sir, but the lieutenant's own."

"No tracks at all--in that soft sand!" exclaimed the major,
disappointed and unbelieving. His wife had come slowly forward from
within doors, and, bending slightly toward them, stood listening.

"No boot tracks, sir. There's others though--Tonto moccasins!"

Plume stood bewildered. "By Jove! I never thought of that!" said he,
turning presently on his second troop commander. "But who ever heard
of Apaches taking a man's watch and leaving--him?"

"If the major will look," said the sergeant, quietly producing a
scouting notebook such as was then issued by the engineer department,
"I measured 'em and made rough copies here. There was _two_, sir. Both
came, both went, by the path through the willows up stream. We didn't
have time to follow. One is longer and slimmer than the other. If I
may make so bold, sir, I'd have a guard down there to-night to keep
people away; otherwise the tracks may be spoiled before morning."

"Take three men and go yourself," said the major promptly. "See
anything of any of the lieutenant's property? Mr. Hart told you,
didn't he?" Plume was studying the sergeant's pencil sketches, by the
light of the trader's lantern, as he spoke, a curious, puzzled look on
his soldierly face.

"Saw where the box had lain in the sand, sir, but no trace of the
net," and Sergeant Shannon was thinking less of these matters than of
his sketches. There was something he thought the major ought to see,
and presently he saw.

"Why, sergeant, these may be Tonto moccasin tracks, but not grown
men's. They are mere boys, aren't they?"

"Mere girls, sir."

There was a sound of rustling skirts upon the bare piazza. Plume
glanced impatiently over his shoulder. Mrs. Plume had vanished into
the unlighted hallway.

"That would account for their taking the net," said he thoughtfully,
"but what on earth would the guileless Tonto maiden do with a watch or
with greenbacks? They wouldn't dare show with them at the agency! How
far did you follow the tracks?"

"Only a rod or two. Once in the willows they can't well quit them till
they reach the shallows above the pool, sir. We can guard there
to-night and begin trailing at dawn."

"So be it then!" and presently the conference closed.

Seated on the adjoining gallery, alone and in darkness, stricken and
sorrowing, a woman had been silently observant of the meeting, and
had heard occasional snatches of the talk. Presently she rose; softly
entered the house and listened at a closed door on the northward
side--Captain Wren's own room. An hour previous, tortured between his
own thoughts and her well-meant, but unwelcome efforts to cheer him,
he had begged to be left alone, and had closed his door against all
comers.

Now, she as softly ascended the narrow stairway and paused for a
moment at another door, also closed. Listening a while, she knocked,
timidly, hesitatingly, but no answer came. After a while, noiselessly,
she turned the knob and entered.

A dim light was burning on a little table by the white bedside. A
long, slim figure, white-robed and in all the abandon of girlish
grief, was lying, face downward, on the bed. Tangled masses of hair
concealed much of the neck and shoulders, but, bending over, Miss Wren
could partially see the flushed and tear-wet cheek pillowed on one
slender white arm. Exhausted by long weeping, Angela at last had
dropped to sleep, but the little hand that peeped from under the
thick, tumbling tresses still clung to an odd and unfamiliar
object--something the older woman had seen only at a distance
before--something she gazed at in startled fascination this strange
and solemn night--a slender, long-handled butterfly net of filmy
gauze.




CHAPTER IV

A STRICKEN SENTRY


Sentry duty at Camp Sandy along in '75 had not been allowed to bear
too heavily on its little garrison. There was nothing worth stealing
about the place, said Plume, and no pawn-shop handy. Of course there
were government horses and mules, food and forage, arms and
ammunition, but these were the days of soldier supremacy in that arid
and distant land, and soldiers had a summary way of settling with
marauders that was discouraging to enterprise. Larceny was therefore
little known until the law, with its delays and circumventions, took
root in the virgin soil, and people at such posts as Sandy seldom shut
and rarely locked their doors, even by night. Windows were closed and
blanketed by day against the blazing sun and torrid heat, but, soon
after nightfall, every door and window was usually opened wide and
often kept so all the night long, in order that the cooler air,
settling down from _mesa_ and mountain, might drift through every room
and hallway, licking up the starting dew upon the smooth, rounded
surface of the huge _ollas_, the porous water jars that hung suspended
on every porch, and wafting comfort to the heated brows of the lightly
covered sleepers within. Pyjamas were then unknown in army circles,
else even the single sheet that covered the drowsing soldier might
have been dispensed with.

Among the quarters occupied by married men, both in officers' row and
Sudsville under the plateau, doors were of little account in a
community where the only intruder to be feared was heat, and so it had
resulted that while the corrals, stables, and storehouses had their
guards, only a single sentry paced the long length of the eastward
side of the post, a single pair of eyes and a single rifle barrel
being deemed amply sufficient to protect against possible prowlers the
rear yards and entrances of the row. The westward front of the
officers' homes stood in plain view, on bright nights at least, of the
sentry at the guard-house, and needed no other protector. On dark
nights it was supposed to look out for itself.

A lonely time of it, as a rule, had No. 5, the "backyard sentry," but
this October night he lacked not for sensation. Lights burned until
very late in many of the quarters, while at Captain Wren's and
Lieutenant Blakely's people were up and moving about until long after
midnight. Of course No. 5 had heard all about the dreadful affair of
the early evening. What he and his fellows puzzled over was the
probable cause of Captain Wren's furious assault upon his subaltern.
Many a theory was afloat, Duane, with unlooked-for discretion, having
held his tongue as to the brief conversation that preceded the blow.
It was after eleven when the doctor paid his last visit for the night,
and the attendant came out on the rear porch for a pitcher of cool
water from the _olla_. It was long after twelve when the light in the
upstairs room at Captain Wren's was turned low, and for two hours
thereafter, with bowed head, the captain himself paced nervously up
and down, wearing in the soft and sandy soil a mournful pathway
parallel with his back porch. It was after three, noted Private
Mullins, of that first relief, when from the rear door of the major's
quarters there emerged two forms in feminine garb, and, there being no
hindering fences, away they hastened in the dim starlight, past
Wren's, Cutler's, Westervelt's, and Truman's quarters until they were
swallowed up in the general gloom about Lieutenant Blakely's. Private
Mullins could not say for certain whether they had entered the rear
door or gone around under the deep shadows of the veranda. When next
he saw them, fifteen minutes later, coming as swiftly and silently
back, Mullins was wondering whether he ought not to challenge and have
them account for themselves. His orders were to allow inmates of the
officers' quarters to pass in or out at night without challenge,
provided he "recognized them to be such." Now, Mullins felt morally
certain that these two were Mrs. Plume and Mrs. Plume's vivacious
maid, a French-Canadian damsel, much admired and sought in soldier
circles at the post, but Mullins had not seen their faces and could
rightfully insist it was his duty and prerogative to do so. The
question was, how would the "commanding officer's lady" like and take
it? Mullins therefore shook his head. "I hadn't the nerve," as he
expressed it, long afterwards. But no such frailty oppressed the
occupant of the adjoining house. Just as the two had reached the rear
of Wren's quarters, and were barely fifty steps from safety, the
captain himself, issuing again from the doorway, suddenly appeared
upon the scene, and in low, but imperative tone accosted them. "_Who_
are you?" said he, bending eagerly, sternly over them. One quick look
he gave, and, almost instantly recoiling, exclaimed "Mrs. Plume! I
beg--" Then, as though with sudden recollection, "No, madam, I do
_not_ beg your pardon," and, turning on his heel, abruptly left them.
Without a word, but with the arm of the maid supporting, the taller
woman sped swiftly across the narrow intervening space and was lost
again within the shadows of her husband's home.

Private Mullins, silent and probably unseen witness of this episode,
slowly tossed his rifle from the port to the shoulder; shook his
puzzled head; stared a moment at the dim figure of Captain Wren again
in the starlit morning, nervously tramping up and down his narrow
limit; then mechanically sauntered down the roadway, pondering much
over what he had seen and heard during the brief period of his early
morning watch. Reaching the south, the lower, end of his post, he
turned again. He had but ten minutes left of his two-hour tramp. The
second relief was due to start at 3.30, and should reach him at 3.35.
He was wondering would the officer of the day "come nosin' round"
within that time, asking him his orders, and was everything all right
on his post? And had he observed anything unusual? There was Captain
Wren, like a caged tiger, tramping up and down behind his quarters.
At least he had been, for now he had disappeared. There were, or
rather had been, the two ladies in long cloaks flitting in the shadows
from the major's quarters to those of the invalid lieutenant. Mullins
certainly did not wish to speak about them to any official visitor,
whatever he might whisper later to Norah Shaughnessy, the saddler
sergeant's daughter--Norah, who was nurse girl at the Trumans', and
knew all the ins and outs of social life at Sandy--Norah, at whose
window, under the north gable, he gazed with love in his eyes as he
made his every round. He was a good soldier, was Mullins, but glad
this night to get off post. Through the gap between the second and
third quarters he saw the lights at the guard-house and could faintly
see the black silhouette of armed men in front of them. The relief was
forming sharp on time, and presently Corporal Donovan would be
bringing Trooper Schultz, of "C" Troop, straight across the parade in
search of him. The major so allowed his sentry on No. 5 to be relieved
at night. Mullins thanked the saints with pious fervor that no more
ladies would be like to flit across his vision, that night at least,
when, dimly through the dusk, against the spangled northern sky, he
sighted another figure crouching across the upper end of his post and
making straight for the lighted entrance at the rear of the
lieutenant's quarters. Someone else, then, had interest at
Blakely's--someone coming stealthily from without. A minute later
certain wakeful ears were startled by a moaning cry for aid.

Just what happened, and how it happened, within the minute, led to
conflicting stories on the morrow. First man examined by Major Plume
was Lieutenant Truman of the Infantry, who happened to be officer of
the day. He had been over at Blakely's about midnight, he said; had
found the patient sleeping under the influence of soothing medicine,
and, after a whispered word with Todd, the hospital attendant, had
tiptoed out again, encountering Downs, the lieutenant's striker, in
the darkness on the rear porch. Downs said he was that excited he
couldn't sleep at all, and Mr. Truman had come to the conclusion that
Downs's excitement was due, in large part, to local influences totally
disconnected with the affairs of the early evening. Downs was an
Irishman who loved the "craytur," and had been known to resort to
unconventional methods of getting it. At twelve o'clock, said Mr.
Truman, the striker had obviously been priming. Now Plume's standing
orders were that no liquor should be sold to Downs at the store and
none to other soldiers except in "pony" glasses and for use on the
spot. None could be carried away unconsumed. The only legitimate
spirits, therefore, to which Downs could have access were those in
Blakely's locked closet--spirits hitherto used only in the
preservation of specimens, and though probably not much worse than the
whisky sold at the store, disdainfully referred to by votaries as
"Blakely's bug juice." Mr. Truman, therefore, demanded of Downs the
possession of the lieutenant's keys, and, with aggrieved dignity of
mien, Downs had referred him to the doctor, whose suspicions had been
earlier aroused. Intending to visit his sentries after the change of
guard at 1.30, Truman had thrown himself into a reclining chair in his
little parlor, while Mrs. Truman and the little Trumans slumbered
peacefully aloft. After reading an hour or so the lieutenant fell into
a doze from which he awoke with a start. Mrs. Truman was bending over
him. Mrs. Truman had been aroused by hearing voices in cautious, yet
excited, colloquy in the shadows of Blakely's back porch. She felt
sure that Downs was one and thought from the sound that he must be
intoxicated, so Truman shuffled out to see, and somebody, bending
double in the dusk, scurried away at his approach. He heard rather
than saw. But there was Downs, at least, slinking back into the house,
and him Truman halted and accosted. "Who was that with you?" he asked,
and Downs thickly swore he hadn't seen a soul. But all the while Downs
was clumsily stuffing something into a side pocket, and Truman,
seizing his hand, dragged it forth into the light. It was one of the
hospital six-ounce bottles, bearing a label indicative of glycerine
lotion, but the color of the contained fluid belied the label. A sniff
was sufficient. "Who gave you this whisky?" was the next demand, and
Downs declared 'twas a hospital "messager" that brought it over,
thinking the lieutenant might need it. Truman, filled with wrath, had
dragged Downs into the dimly lighted room to the rear of that in which
lay Lieutenant Blakely, and was there upbraiding and investigating
when startled by the stifled cry that, rising suddenly on the night
from the open _mesa_ just without, had so alarmed so many in the
garrison. Of what had led to it he had then no more idea than the
dead.

Corporal Donovan, next examined, said he was marching Schultz over to
relieve Mullins on No. 5, just after half-past three, and heading for
the short cut between the quarters of Captains Wren and Cutler, which
was about where No. 5 generally met the relief, when, just as they
were halfway between the flagstaff and the row, Schultz began to limp
and said there must be a pebble in his boot. So they halted. Schultz
kicked off his boot and shook it upside down, and, while he was
tugging at it again, they both heard a sort of gurgling, gasping cry
out on the _mesa_. Of course Donovan started and ran that way, leaving
Schultz to follow, and, just back of Captain Westervelt's, the third
house from the northward end, he almost collided with Lieutenant
Truman, officer of the day, who ordered him to run for Dr. Graham and
fetch him up to Lieutenant Blakely's quick. So of what had taken place
he, too, was ignorant until later.

It was the hospital attendant, Todd, whose story came next and brought
Plume to his feet with consternation in his eyes. Todd said he had
been sitting at the lieutenant's bedside when, somewhere about three
o'clock, he had to go out and tell Downs to make less noise. Downs was
completely upset by the catastrophe to his officer and, somehow, had
got a few comforting drinks stowed away, and these had started him to
singing some confounded Irish keen that grated on Todd's nerves. He
was afraid it would disturb the patient and he was about to go out
and remonstrate when the singing stopped and presently he heard
Downs's voice in excited conversation. Then a woman's voice in low,
urgent, persuasive whisper became faintly audible, and this surprised
Todd beyond expression. He had thought to go and take a look and see
who it could be, when there was a sudden swish of skirts and scurry of
feet, and then Mr. Truman's voice was heard. Then there was some kind
of sharp talk from the lieutenant to Downs, and then, in a sort of a
lull, there came that uncanny cry out on the _mesa_, and, stopping
only long enough to see that the lieutenant was not roused or
disturbed, Todd hastened forth. One or two dim figures, dark and
shadowy, were just visible on the eastward _mesa_, barely ten paces
away, and thither the attendant ran. Downs, lurching heavily, was just
ahead of him. Together they came upon a little group. Somebody went
running southward--Lieutenant Truman, as Todd learned later--hurrying
for the doctor. A soldier equipped as a sentry lay moaning on the
sand, clasping a bloody hand to his side, and over him, stern, silent,
but agitated, bent Captain Wren.




CHAPTER V

THE CAPTAIN'S DEFIANCE


Within ten minutes of Todd's arrival at the spot the soft sands of the
_mesa_ were tramped into bewildering confusion by dozens of trooper
boots. The muffled sound of excited voices, so soon after the
startling affair of the earlier evening, and hurrying footfalls
following, had roused almost every household along the row and brought
to the spot half the officers on duty at the post. A patrol of the
guard had come in double time, and soldiers had been sent at speed to
the hospital for a stretcher. Dr. Graham had lost no moment of time in
reaching the stricken sentry. Todd had been sent back to Blakely's
bedside and Downs to fetch a lantern. They found the latter, five
minutes later, stumbling about the Trumans' kitchen, weeping for that
which was lost, and the sergeant of the guard collared and cuffed him
over to the guard-house--one witness, at least, out of the way. At
four o'clock the doctor was working over his exhausted and unconscious
patient at the hospital. Mullins had been stabbed twice, and
dangerously, and half a dozen men with lanterns were hunting about the
bloody sands where the faithful fellow had dropped, looking for a
weapon or a clew, and probably trampling out all possibility of
finding either. Major Plume, through Mr. Doty, his adjutant, had felt
it necessary to remind Captain Wren that an officer in close arrest
had no right to be away from his quarters. Late in the evening, it
seems, Dr. Graham had represented to the post commander that the
captain was in so nervous and overwrought a condition, and so
distressed, that as a physician he recommended his patient be allowed
the limits of the space adjoining his quarters in which to walk off
his superabundant excitement. Graham had long been the friend of
Captain Wren and was his friend as well as physician now, even though
deploring his astounding outbreak, but Graham had other things to
demand his attention as night wore on, and there was no one to speak
for Wren when the young adjutant, a subaltern of infantry, with
unnecessary significance of tone and manner, suggested the captain's
immediate return to his proper quarters. Wren bowed his head and went
in stunned and stubborn silence. It had never occurred to him for a
moment, when he heard that half-stifled, agonized cry for help, that
there could be the faintest criticism of his rushing to the sentry's
aid. Still less had it occurred to him that other significance, and
damning significance, might attach to his presence on the spot, but,
being first to reach the fallen man, he was found kneeling over him
within thirty seconds of the alarm. Not another living creature was in
sight when the first witnesses came running to the spot. Both Truman
and Todd could swear to that.

In the morning, therefore, the orderly came with the customary
compliments to say to Captain Wren that the post commander desired to
see him at the office.

It was then nearly nine o'clock. Wren had had a sleepless night and
was in consultation with Dr. Graham when the summons came. "Ask that
Captain Sanders be sent for at once," said the surgeon, as he pressed
his comrade patient's hand. "The major has his adjutant and clerk and
possibly some other officers. You should have at least one friend."

"I understand," briefly answered Wren, as he stepped to the hallway to
get his sun hat. "I wish it might be you." The orderly was already
speeding back to the office at the south end of the brown rectangle of
adobe and painted pine, but Janet Wren, ministering, according to her
lights, to Angela in the little room aloft, had heard the message and
was coming down. Taller and more angular than ever she looked as, with
flowing gown, she slowly descended the narrow stairway.

"I have just succeeded in getting her to sleep," she murmured. "She
has been dreadfully agitated ever since awakened by the voices and the
running this morning, and she must have cried herself to sleep last
night. R-r-r-obert, would it not be well for you to see her when she
wakes? She does not know--I could not tell her--that you are under
arrest."

Graham looked more "dour" than did his friend of the line. Privately
he was wondering how poor Angela could get to sleep at all with Aunt
Janet there to soothe her. The worst time to teach a moral lesson,
with any hope of good effect, is when the recipient is suffering from
sense of utter injustice and wrong, yet must perforce listen. But it
is a favorite occasion with the "ower guid." Janet thought it would be
a long step in the right direction to bring her headstrong niece to
the belief that all the trouble was the direct result of her having
sought, against her father's wishes, a meeting with Mr. Blakely. True,
Janet had now some doubt that such had been the case, but, in what she
felt was only stubborn pride, her niece refused all explanation.
"Father would not hear me at the time," she sobbed. "I am condemned
without a chance to defend myself or--him." Yet Janet loved the bonny
child devotedly and would go through fire and water to serve her best
interests, only those best interests must be as Janet saw them. That
anything very serious might result as a consequence of her brother's
violent assault on Blakely, she had never yet imagined. That further
complications had arisen which might blacken his record she never
could credit for a moment. Mullins lay still unconscious, and not
until he recovered strength was he to talk with or see anyone. Graham
had given faint hope of recovery, and declared that everything
depended on his patient's having no serious fever or setback. In a few
days he might be able to tell his story. Then the mystery as to his
assailant would be cleared in a breath. Janet had taken deep offense
that the commanding officer should have sent her brother into close
arrest without first hearing of the extreme provocation. "It is an
utterly unheard-of proceeding," said she, "this confining of an
officer and gentleman without investigation of the affair," and she
glared at Graham, uncomprehending, when, with impatient shrug of his
big shoulders, he asked her what had they done, between them, to
Angela. It was his wife put him up to saying that, she reasoned, for
Janet's Calvinistic dogmas as to daughters in their teens were ever at
variance with the views of her gentle neighbor. If Angela had been
harshly dealt with, undeserving, it was Angela's duty to say so and to
say why, said Janet. Meantime, her first care was her wronged and
misjudged brother. Gladly would she have gone to the office with him
and stood proudly by his side in presence of his oppressor, could such
a thing be permitted. She marveled that Robert should now show so
little of tenderness for her who had served him loyally, if
masterfully, so very long. He merely laid his hand on hers and said he
had been summoned to the commanding officer's, then went forth into
the light and left her.

Major Plume was seated at his desk, thoughtful and perplexed. Up at
regimental headquarters at Prescott Wren was held in high esteem, and
the major's brief telegraphic message had called forth anxious inquiry
and something akin to veiled disapprobation. Headquarters could not
see how it was possible for Wren to assault Lieutenant Blakely without
some grave reason. Had Plume investigated? No, but that was coming
now, he said to himself, as Wren entered and stood in silence before
him.

The little office had barely room for the desks of the commander and
his adjutant and the table on which were spread the files of general
orders from various superior headquarters--regimental, department,
division, the army, and the War Secretary. No curtains adorned the
little windows, front and rear. No rug or carpet vexed the warping
floor. Three chairs, kitchen pattern, stood against the pine partition
that shut off the sight, but by no means the hearing, of the three
clerks scratching at their flat-topped desks in the adjoining den.
Maps of the United States, of the Military Division of the Pacific,
and of the Territory, as far as known and surveyed, hung about the
wooden walls. Blue-prints and photographs of scout maps, made by their
predecessors of the ----th Cavalry in the days of the Crook campaigns,
were scattered with the order files about the table. But of pictures,
ornamentation, or relief of any kind the gloomy box was destitute as
the dun-colored flat of the parade. Official severity spoke in every
feature of the forbidding office as well as in those of the major
commanding.

There was striking contrast, too, between the man at the desk and the
man on the rack before him. Plume had led a life devoid of anxiety or
care. Soldiering he took serenely. He liked it, so long as no grave
hardship threatened. He had done reasonably good service at corps
headquarters during the Civil War; had been commissioned captain in
the regulars in '61, and held no vexatious command at any time
perhaps, until this that took him to far-away Arizona. Plume was a
gentlemanly fellow and no bad garrison soldier. He really shone on
parade and review at such fine stations as Leavenworth and Riley, but
had never had to bother with mountain scouting or long-distance Indian
chasing on the plains. He had a comfortable income outside his pay,
and when he was wedded, at the end of her fourth season in society, to
a prominent, if just a trifle _passee_ belle, people thought him a
more than lucky man, until the regiment was sent to Arizona and he to
Sandy. Gossip said he went to General Sherman with appeal for some
detaining duty, whereupon that bluff and most outspoken warrior
exclaimed: "What, what, what! Not want to go with the regiment? Why,
here's Blakely begging to be relieved from Terry's staff because he's
mad to go." And this, said certain St. Louis commentators, settled it,
for Mrs. Plume declared for Arizona.

Well garbed, groomed, and fed was Plume, a handsome, soldierly figure.
Very cool and placid was his look in the spotless white that even then
by local custom had become official dress for Sandy; but beneath the
snowy surface his heart beat with grave disquiet as he studied the
strong, rugged, somber face of the soldier on the floor.

Wren was tall and gaunt and growing gray. His face was deeply lined;
his close-cropped beard was silver-stranded; his arms and legs were
long and sinewy and powerful; his chest and shoulders burly; his
regimental dress had not the cut and finish of the commander's. Too
much of bony wrist and hand was in evidence, too little of grace and
curve. But, though he stood rigidly at attention, with all semblance
of respect and subordination, the gleam in his deep-set eyes, the
twitch of the long fingers, told of keen and pent-up feeling, and he
looked the senior soldier squarely in the face. A sergeant, standing
by the adjutant's desk, tiptoed out into the clerk's room and closed
the door behind him, then set himself to listen. Young Doty, the
adjutant, fiddled nervously with his pen and tried to go on signing
papers, but failed. It was for Plume to break the awkward silence, and
he did not quite know how. Captain Westervelt, quietly entering at the
moment, bowed to the major and took a chair. He had evidently been
sent for.

"Captain Wren," presently said Plume, his fingers trembling a bit as
they played with the paper folder, "I have felt constrained to send
for you to inquire still further into last night's affair--or affairs.
I need not tell you that you may decline to answer if you consider
your interests are--involved. I had hoped this painful matter might be
so explained as to--as to obviate the necessity of extreme measures,
but your second appearance close to Mr. Blakely's quarters, under all
the circumstances, was so--so extraordinary that I am compelled to
call for explanation, if you have one you care to offer."

For a moment Wren stood staring at his commander in amaze. He had
expected to be offered opportunity to state the circumstances leading
to his now deeply deplored attack on Mr. Blakely, and to decline the
offer on the ground that he should have been given that opportunity
before being submitted to the humiliation of arrest. He had intended
to refuse all overtures, to invite trial by court-martial or
investigation by the inspector general, but by no manner of means to
plead for reconsideration now; and here was the post commander, with
whom he had never served until they came to Sandy, a man who hadn't
begun to see the service, the battles, and campaigns that had fallen
to his lot, virtually accusing him of further misdemeanor, when he had
only rushed to save or succor. He forgot all about Sanders or other
witnesses. He burst forth impetuously:

"Extraordinary, sir! It would have been most extraordinary if I hadn't
gone with all speed when I heard that cry for help."

Plume looked up in sudden joy. "You mean to tell me you didn't--you
weren't there till after--the cry?"

Wren's stern Scottish face was a sight to see. "Of what can you
possibly be thinking, Major Plume?" he demanded, slowly now, for wrath
was burning within him, and yet he strove for self-control. He had had
a lesson and a sore one.

"I will answer that--a little later, Captain Wren," said Plume, rising
from his seat, rejoicing in the new light now breaking upon him.
Westervelt, too, had gasped a sigh of relief. No man had ever known
Wren to swerve a hair's breadth from the truth. "At this moment time
is precious if the real criminal is to be caught at all. You were
first to reach the sentry. Had you seen no one else?"

In the dead silence that ensued within the room the sputter of hoofs
without broke harshly on the ear. Then came spurred boot heels on the
hollow, heat-dried boarding, but not a sound from the lips of Captain
Wren. The rugged face, twitching with pent-up indignation the moment
before, was now slowly turning gray. Plume stood facing him in growing
wonder and new suspicion.

"You heard me, did you not? I asked you did you see anyone else
during--along the sentry post when you went out?"

A fringed gauntlet reached in at the doorway and tapped. Sergeant
Shannon, straight as a pine, stood expectant of summons to enter and
his face spoke eloquently of important tidings, but the major waved
him away, and, marveling, he slowly backed to the edge of the porch.

"Surely you can answer that, Captain Wren," said Plume, his clear-cut,
handsome face filled with mingled anxiety and annoy. "Surely you
_should_ answer, or--"

The ellipsis was suggestive, but impotent. After a painful moment came
the response:

"Or--take the consequences, major?" Then slowly--"Very well, sir--I
must take them."




CHAPTER VI

A FIND IN THE SANDS


The late afternoon of an eventful day had come to camp Sandy--just
such another day, from a meteorological viewpoint, as that on which
this story opened nearly twenty-four hours earlier by the shadows on
the eastward cliffs. At Tuesday's sunset the garrison was yawning with
the _ennui_ born of monotonous and uneventful existence. As
Wednesday's sunset drew nigh and the mountain shadows overspread the
valley, even to the opposite crests of the distant Mogollon, the
garrison was athrill with suppressed excitement, for half a dozen
things had happened since the flag went up at reveille.

In the first place Captain Wren's arrest had been confirmed and Plume
had wired department headquarters, in reply to somewhat urgent query,
that there were several counts in his indictment of the captain, any
one of which was sufficient to demand a trial by court-martial, but he
wished, did Plume, for personal and official reasons that the general
commanding should send his own inspector down to judge for himself.

The post sergeant major and the three clerks had heard with sufficient
distinctness every word that passed between the major and the accused
captain, and, there being at Sandy some three hundred inquisitive
souls, thirsting for truth and light, it could hardly be expected of
this quartette that it should preserve utter silence even though
silence had been enjoined by the adjutant. It was told all over the
post long before noon that Wren had been virtually accused of being
the sentry's assailant as well as Lieutenant Blakely's. It was
whispered that, in some insane fury against the junior officer, Wren
had again, toward 3.30, breaking his arrest, gone up the row with the
idea of once more entering Blakely's house and possibly again
attacking him. It was believed that the sentry had seen and
interposed, and that, enraged at being balked by an enlisted man, Wren
had drawn a knife and stabbed him. True, no knife had been found
anywhere about the spot, and Wren had never been known to carry one.
But now a dozen men, armed with rakes, were systematically going over
the ground under the vigilant eye of Sergeant Shannon--Shannon, who
had heard the brief, emphatic interview between the major and the
troop commander and who had been almost immediately sent forth to
supervise this search, despite the fact that he had but just returned
from the conduct of another, the result of which he imparted to the
ears of only two men, Plume, the post commander, and Doty, his amazed
and bewildered adjutant. But Shannon had with him a trio of troopers,
one of whom, at least, had not been proof against inquisitive probing,
for the second sensation of the day was the story that one of the two
pairs of moccasin tracks, among the yielding sands of the willow
copse, led from where Mr. Blakely had been dozing to where the pony
Punch had been drowsing in the shade, for there they were lost, as the
maker had evidently mounted and ridden away. All Sandy knew that Punch
had no other rider than pretty Angela Wren.

A third story, too, was whispered in half a dozen homes, and was going
wild about the garrison, to the effect that Captain Wren, when accused
of being Mullins's assailant, had virtually declared that he had seen
other persons prowling on the sentry's post and that they, not he,
were the guilty ones; but when bidden to name or describe them, Wren
had either failed or refused; some said one, some said the other, and
the prevalent belief in Sudsville circles, as well as in the barracks,
was that Captain Wren was going crazy over his troubles. And now there
were women, ay, and men, too, though they spake with bated breath, who
had uncanny things to say of Angela--the captain's only child.

And this it was that led to sensation No. 4--a wordy battle of the
first magnitude between the next-door neighbor of the saddler sergeant
and no less a champion of maiden probity than Norah Shaughnessy--the
saddler sergeant's buxom daughter. All the hours since early morning
Norah had been in a state of nerves so uncontrollable that Mrs.
Truman--who knew of Norah's fondness for Mullins and marveled not that
Mullins always preferred the loneliness and isolation of the post on
No. 5--decided toward noon to send the girl home to her mother for a
day or so, and Norah thankfully went, and threw herself upon her
mother's ample breast and sobbed aloud. It was an hour before she
could control herself, and her agitation was such that others came to
minister to her. Of course there was just one explanation--Norah was
in love with Mullins and well-nigh crazed with grief over his untimely
taking off, for later reports from the hospital were most depressing.
This, at least, was sufficient explanation until late in the
afternoon. Then, restored to partial composure, the girl was sitting
up and being fanned in the shade of her father's roof-tree, when
roused by the voice of the next-door neighbor before mentioned--Mrs.
Quinn, long time laundress of Captain Sanders's troop and jealous as
to Wren's, was telling what _she_ had heard of Shannon's discoveries,
opining that both Captain Wren and the captain's daughter deserved
investigation. "No wan need tell _me_ there was others prowling about
Mullins's post at three in the marnin.' As for Angela--" But here Miss
Shaughnessy bounded from the wooden settee, and, with amazing vim and
vigor, sailed spontaneously into Mrs. Quinn.

"No wan need tell _you_--ye say! No wan need tell _you_, ye
black-tongued scandlum! Well, then, _I_ tell ye Captain Wren did see
others prowlin' on poor Pat Mullins's post an' others than him saw
them too. Go you to the meejer, soon as ye like and say _I_ saw them,
and if Captain Wren won't tell their names there's them that will."

The shrill tones of the infuriated girl were plainly audible all over
the flats whereon were huddled the little cabins of log and adobe
assigned as quarters to the few married men among the soldiery. These
were the halcyon days of the old army when each battery, troop, or
company was entitled to four laundresses and each laundress to one
ration. Old and young, there were at least fifty pairs of ears within
easy range of the battle that raged forthwith, the noise of which
reached even to the shaded precincts of the trader's store three
hundred yards away. It was impossible that such a flat-footed
statement as Norah's should not be borne to the back doors of "The
Row" and, repeated then from lip to lip, should soon be told to
certain of the officers. Sanders heard it as he came in from stable
duty, and Dr. Graham felt confident that it had been repeated under
the major's roof when at 6 P. M. the post commander desired his
professional services in behalf of Mrs. Plume, who had become
unaccountably, if not seriously, ill.

Graham had but just returned from a grave conference with Wren, and
his face had little look of the family physician as he reluctantly
obeyed the summons. As another of the auld licht school of Scotch
Presbyterians, he also had conceived deep-rooted prejudice to that
frivolous French aide-de-camp of the major's wife. The girl did dance
and flirt and ogle to perfection, and half a dozen strapping sergeants
were now at sword's points all on account of this objectionable Eliza.
Graham, of course, had heard with his ears and fathomed with his
understanding the first reports of Wren's now famous reply to his
commanding officer; and though Wren would admit no more to him than
he had to the major, Graham felt confident that the major's wife was
one of the mysterious persons seen by Wren, and declared by Norah, in
the dim starlight of the early morning, lurking along the post of No.
5. Graham had no doubt that Elise was the other. The man most
concerned in the case, the major himself, was perhaps the only one at
sunset who never seemed to suspect that Mrs. Plume could have been in
any way connected with the affair. He met the doctor with a world of
genuine anxiety in his eyes.

"My wife," said he, "is of a highly sensitive organization, and she
has been completely upset by this succession of scandalous affairs.
She and Blakely were great friends at St. Louis three years ago;
indeed, many people were kind enough to couple their names before our
marriage. I wish you could--quiet her," and the sounds from aloft,
where madame was nervously pacing her room, gave point to the
suggestion. Graham climbed the narrow stairs and tapped at the north
door on the landing. It was opened by Elise, whose big, black eyes
were dilated with excitement, while Mrs. Plume, her blonde hair
tumbling down her back, her _peignoir_ decidedly rumpled and her
general appearance disheveled, was standing in mid-floor, wringing her
jeweled hands. "She looks like sixty," was the doctor's inward remark,
"and is probably not twenty-six."

Her first question jarred upon his rugged senses.

"Dr. Graham, when will Mr. Blakely be able to see--or read?"

"Not for a day or two. The stitches must heal before the bandages can
come off his eyes. Even then, Mrs. Plume, he should not be disturbed,"
was the uncompromising answer.

"Is that wretch, Downs, sober yet?" she demanded, standing and
confronting him, her whole form quivering with strong, half-suppressed
emotion.

"The wretch is sobering," answered Graham gravely. "And now, madame,
I'll trouble you to take a chair. Do you," with a glance of grim
disfavor, "need this girl for the moment? If not, she might as well
retire."

"I need my maid, Dr. Graham, and I told Major Plume distinctly I did
not need you," was the impulsive reply, as the lady strove against the
calm, masterful grasp he laid on her wrist.

"That's as may be, Mrs. Plume. We're often blind to our best
interests. Be seated a moment, then I'll let you tramp the soles of
your feet off, if you so desire." And so he practically pulled her
into a chair; Elise, glaring the while, stood spitefully looking on.
The antipathy was mutual.

"You've slept too little of late, Mrs. Plume," continued the doctor,
lucklessly hitting the mark with a home shot instantly resented, for
the lady was on her feet again.

"Sleep! People do nothing but sleep in this woebegone hole!" she
cried. "I've had sleep enough to last a lifetime. What I want is to
wake--wake out of this horrible nightmare! Dr. Graham, you are a
friend of Captain Wren's. What under heaven possessed him, with his
brutal strength, to assault so sick a man as Mr. Blakely? What
possible pretext could he assert?" And again she was straining at her
imprisoned hand and seeking to free herself, Graham calmly studying
her the while, as he noted the feverish pulse. Not half an hour
earlier he had been standing beside the sick bed of a fair young girl,
one sorely weighted now with grave anxieties, yet who lay patient and
uncomplaining, rarely speaking a word. They had not told the half of
the web of accusation that now enmeshed her father's feet, but what
had been revealed to her was more than enough to banish every thought
of self or suffering and to fill her fond heart with instant and
loving care for him. No one, not even Janet, was present during the
interview between father and child that followed. Graham found him
later locked in his own room, reluctant to admit even him, and
lingering long before he opened the door; but even then the
tear-stains stood on his furrowed face, and the doctor knew he had
been sobbing his great heart out over the picture of his child--the
child he had so harshly judged and sentenced, all unheard. Graham had
gone to him, after seeing Angela, with censure on his tongue, but he
never spoke the words. He saw there was no longer need.

"Let the lassie lie still the day," said he, "with Kate, perhaps, to
read to her. Your sister might not choose a cheering book. Then
perhaps we'll have her riding Punch again to-morrow." But Graham did
not smile when meeting Janet by the parlor door.

He was thinking of the contrast in these two, his patients, as with
professional calm he studied the troubled features of the major's wife
when the voice of Sergeant Shannon was heard in the lower hall,
inquiring for the major, and in an instant Plume had joined him. In
that instant, too, Elise had sped, cat-like, to the door, and Mrs.
Plume had followed. Possibly for this reason the major led the
sergeant forth upon the piazza and the conversation took place in
tones inaudible to those within the house; but, in less than a minute,
the doctor's name was called and Graham went down.

"Look at this," said Plume. "They raked it out of the sand close to
where Mullins was lying." And the major held forth an object that
gleamed in the last rays of the slanting sunshine. It was Blakely's
beautiful watch.




CHAPTER VII

"WOMAN-WALK-IN-THE-NIGHT"


The dawn of another cloudless day was breaking and the dim lights at
the guard-house and the hospital burned red and bleary across the
sandy level of the parade. The company cooks were already at their
ranges, and a musician of the guard had been sent to rouse his fellows
in the barracks, for the old-style reveille still held good at many a
post in Arizona, before the drum and fife were almost entirely
abandoned in favor of the harsher bugle, by the infantry of our
scattered little army. Plume loved tradition. At West Point, where he
had often visited in younger days, and at all the "old-time"
garrisons, the bang of the morning gun and the simultaneous crash of
the drums were the military means devised to stir the soldier from his
sleep. Then, his brief ablutions were conducted to the accompaniment
of the martial strains of the field musicians, alternating the sweet
airs of Moore and Burns, the lyrics of Ireland and Auld Reekie, with
quicksteps from popular Yankee melodies of the day, winding up with a
grand flourish at the foot of the flagstaff, to whose summit the flag
had started at the first alarum; then a rush into rattling "double
quick" that summoned the laggards to scurry into the silently forming
ranks, and finally, with one emphatic rataplan, the morning concert
abruptly closed and the gruff voices of the first sergeants, in
swift-running monotone, were heard calling the roll of their shadowy
companies, and, thoroughly roused, the garrison "broke ranks" for the
long routine of the day.

We have changed all that, and not for the better. A solitary trumpeter
steps forth from the guard-house or adjutant's office and, at the
appointed time, drones a long, dispiriting strain known to the drill
books as "Assembly of the Trumpeters," and to the army at large as
"First Call." Unassisted by other effort, it would rouse nobody, but
from far and near the myriad dogs of the post--"mongrel, hound, and
cur of low degree"--lift up their canine voices in some indefinable
sympathy and stir the winds of the morning with their mournful yowls.
Then, when all the garrison gets up cursing and all necessity for
rousing is ended, the official reveille begins, sounded by the
combined trumpeters, and so, uncheered by concord of sweet sounds, the
soldier begins his day.

The two infantry companies at Sandy, at the time whereof we tell, were of
an honored old regiment that had fought with Worth at Monterey--one whose
scamps of drum boys and fifers had got their teachings from predecessors
whose nimble fingers had trilled the tunes of old under the walls of the
Bishop's Palace and in the resounding Halls of the Montezumas. Plume and
Cutler loved their joyous, rhythmical strains, and would gladly have kept
the cavalry clarions for purely cavalry calls; but reveille and
guard-mounting were the only ones where this was practicable, and an odd
thing had become noticeable. Apache Indians sometimes stopped their ears,
and always looked impolite, when the brazen trumpets sounded close at hand;
whereas they would squat on the sun-kissed sands and listen in stolid,
unmurmuring bliss to every note of the fife and drum. Members of the guard
were always sure of sympathetic spectators during the one regular
ceremony--guard-mounting--held just after sunset, for the Apache prisoners
at the guard-house begged to be allowed to remain without the prison room
until a little after the "retreat" visit of the officer of the day, and,
roosting along the guard-house porch, to gaze silently forth at the little
band of soldiery in the center of the parade, and there to listen as
silently to the music of the fife and drum. The moment it was all over they
would rise without waiting for directions, and shuffle stolidly back to
their hot wooden walls. They had had the one intellectual treat of the day.
The savage breast was soothed for the time being, and Plume had come to the
conclusion that, aside from the fact that his Indian prisoners were better
fed than when on their native heath, the Indian prison pen at Sandy was not
the place of penance the department commander had intended. Accessions
became so frequent; discharges so very few.

Then there was another symptom: Sentries on the north and east front,
Nos. 4 and 5, had been a bit startled at first at seeing, soon after
dawn, shadowy forms rising slowly from the black depths of the valley,
hovering uncertainly along the edge of the _mesa_ until they could
make out the lone figure of the morning watcher, then slowly,
cautiously, and with gestures of amity and suppliance, drawing
gradually nearer. Sturdy Germans and mercurial Celts were, at the
start, disposed to "shoo" away these specters as being hostile, or at
least incongruous. But officers and men were soon made to see it was
to hear the morning music these children of the desert flocked so
early. The agency lay but twenty miles distant. The reservation lines
came no nearer; but the fame of the invader's big maple tom-tom (we
wore still the deep, resonant drum of Bunker Hill and Waterloo, of
Jemappes, Saratoga, and Chapultepec, not the modern rattle pan
borrowed from Prussia), and the trill of his magical pipe had spread
abroad throughout Apache land to the end that no higher reward for
good behavior could be given by the agent to his swarthy charges than
the begged-for _papel_ permitting them, in lumps of twenty, to trudge
through the evening shades to the outskirts of the soldier castle on
the _mesa_, there to wait the long night through until the soft
tinting of the eastward heavens and the twitter of the birdlings in
the willows along the stream, gave them courage to begin their timid
approach.

And this breathless October morning was no exception. The sentry on
the northward line, No. 4, had recognized and passed the post surgeon
soon after four o'clock, hastening to hospital in response to a
summons from an anxious nurse. Mullins seemed far too feverish. No. 4
as well as No. 5 had noted how long the previous evening Shannon and
his men kept raking and searching about the _mesa_ where Mullins was
stabbed in the early morning, and they were in no mood to allow
strangers to near them unchallenged. The first shadowy forms to show
at the edge had dropped back abashed at the harsh reception accorded
them. Four's infantry rifle and Five's cavalry carbine had been
leveled at the very first to appear, and stern voices had said things
the Apache could neither translate nor misunderstand. The would-be
audience of the morning concert ducked and waited. With more light the
sentry might be more kind. The evening previous six new prisoners had
been sent down under strong guard by the agent, swelling the list at
Sandy to thirty-seven and causing Plume to set his teeth--and an extra
sentry. Now, as the dawn grew broader and the light clear and strong,
Four and Five were surprised, if not startled, to see that not twenty,
but probably forty Apaches, with a sprinkling of squaws, were hovering
all along the _mesa_, mutely watching for the signaled permission to
come in. Five, at least, considered the symptom one of sufficient
gravity to warrant report to higher authority, and full ten minutes
before the time for reveille to begin, his voice went echoing over the
arid parade in a long-draw, yet imperative "Corporal of the Gua-a-rd,
No. 5!"

Whereat there were symptoms of panic among the dingy white-shirted,
dingy white-turbaned watchers along the edge, and a man in snowy white
fatigue coat, pacing restlessly up and down in rear, this time, of the
major's quarters, whirled suddenly about and strode out on the
_mesa_, gazing northward in the direction of the sound. It was Plume
himself, and Plume had had a sleepless night.

At tattoo, by his own act and direction, the major had still further
strained the situation. The discovery of Blakely's watch, buried
loosely in the sands barely ten feet from where the sentry fell, had
seemed to him a matter of such significance that, as Graham maintained
an expression of professional gravity and hazarded no explanation, the
major sent for the three captains still on duty, Cutler, Sanders, and
Westervelt, and sought their views. One after another each picked up
and closely examined the watch, within and without, as though
expectant of finding somewhere concealed about its mechanism full
explanation of its mysterious goings and comings. Then in turn, with
like gravity, each declared he had no theory to offer, unless, said
Sanders, Mr. Blakely was utterly mistaken in supposing he had been
robbed at the pool. Mr. Blakely had the watch somewhere about him when
he dismounted, and then joggled it into the sands, where it soon was
trampled under foot. Sanders admitted that Blakely was a man not often
mistaken, and that the loss reported to the post trader of the flat
notebook was probably correct. But no one could be got to see, much
less to say, that Wren was in the slightest degree connected with the
temporary disappearance of the watch. Yet by this time Plume had some
such theory of his own.

Sometime during the previous night, along toward morning, he had
sleepily asked his wife, who was softly moving about the room, to
give him a little water. The "monkey" stood usually on the window
sill, its cool and dewy surface close to his hand; but he remembered
later that she did not then approach the window--did not immediately
bring him the glass. He had retired very late, yet was hardly
surprised to find her wide awake and more than usually nervous. She
explained by saying Elise had been quite ill, was still suffering, and
might need her services again. She could not think, she said, of
sending for Dr. Graham after all he had had to vex him. It must have
been quite a long while after, so soundly had Plume slept, when she
bent over him and said something was amiss and Mr. Doty was at the
front door waiting for him to come down. He felt oddly numb and heavy
and stupid as he hastily dressed, but Doty's tidings, that Mullins had
been stabbed on post, pulled him together, as it were, and, merely
running back to his room for his canvas shoes, he was speedily at the
scene. Mrs. Plume, when briefly told what had happened, had covered
her face with her hands and buried face and all in the pillow,
shuddering. At breakfast-time Plume himself had taken her tea and
toast, both mistress and maid being still on the invalid list, and,
bending affectionately over her, he had suggested her taking this very
light refreshment and then a nap. Graham, he said, should come and
prescribe for Elise. But madame was feverishly anxious. "What will be
the outcome? What will happen to--Captain Wren?" she asked.

Plume would not say just what, but he would certainly have to stand
court-martial, said he. Mrs. Plume shuddered more. What good would
that do? How much better it would be to suppress everything than set
such awful scandal afloat. The matter was now in the hands of the
department commander, said Plume, and would have to take its course.
Then, in some way, from her saying how ill the captain was looking,
Plume gathered the impression that she had seen him since his arrest,
and asked the question point-blank. Yes, she admitted,--from the
window,--while she was helping Elise. Where was he? What was he doing?
Plume had asked, all interest now, for that must have been very late,
in fact, well toward morning. "Oh, nothing especial, just looking at
his watch," she thought, "he probably couldn't sleep." Yes, she was
sure he was looking at his watch.

Then, as luck would have it, late in the day, when the mail came down
from Prescott, there was a little package for Captain Wren, expressed,
and Doty signed the receipt and sent it by the orderly. "What was it?"
asked Plume. "His watch, sir," was the brief answer. "He sent it up
last month for repairs." And Mrs. Plume at nine that night, knowing
nothing of this, yet surprised at her husband's pertinacity, stuck to
her story. She was sure Wren was consulting or winding or doing
something with a watch, and, sorely perplexed and marveling much at
the reticence of his company commanders, who seemed to know something
they would not speak of, Wren sent for Doty. He had decided on another
interview with Wren.

Meanwhile "the Bugologist" had been lying patiently in his cot,
saying little or nothing, in obedience to the doctor's orders, but
thinking who knows what. Duane and Doty occasionally tiptoed in to
glance inquiry at the fanning attendant, and then tiptoed out. Mullins
had been growing worse and was a very sick man. Downs, the wretch, was
painfully, ruefully, remorsefully sobered over at the post of the
guard, and of Graham's feminine patients the one most in need,
perhaps, of his ministration was giving the least trouble. While Aunt
Janet paced restlessly about the lower floor, stopping occasionally to
listen at the portal of her brother, Angela Wren lay silent and only
sometimes sighing, with faithful Kate Sanders reading in low tone by
the bedside.

The captains had gone back to their quarters, conferring in subdued
voices. Plume, with his unhappy young adjutant, was seated on the
veranda, striving to frame his message to Wren, when the crack of a
whip, the crunching of hoofs and wheels, sounded at the north end of
the row, and down at swift trot came a spanking, four-mule team and
Concord wagon. It meant but one thing, the arrival of the general's
staff inspector straight from Prescott.

It was the very thing Plume had urged by telegraph, yet the very fact
that Colonel Byrne was here went to prove that the chief was far from
satisfied that the major's diagnosis was the right one. With soldierly
alacrity, however, Plume sprang forward to welcome the coming
dignitary, giving his hand to assist him from the dark interior into
the light. Then he drew back in some chagrin. The voice of Colonel
Byrne was heard, jovial and reassuring, but the face and form first to
appear were those of Mr. Wayne Daly, the new Indian agent at the
Apache reservation. Coming by the winding way of Cherry Creek, the
colonel must have found means to wire ahead, then to pick up this
civil functionary some distance up the valley, and to have some
conference with him before ever reaching the major's bailiwick. This
was not good, said Plume. All the same, he led them into his cozy army
parlor, bade his Chinese servant get abundant supper forthwith, and,
while the two were shown to the spare room to remove the dust of miles
of travel, once more returned to the front piazza and his adjutant.

"Captain Wren, sir," said the young officer at once, "begs to be
allowed to see Colonel Byrne this evening. He states that his reasons
are urgent."

"Captain Wren shall have every opportunity to see Colonel Byrne in due
season," was the answer. "It is not to be expected that Colonel Byrne
will see him until after he has seen the post commander. Then it will
probably be too late," and that austere reply, intended to reach the
ears of the applicant, steeled the Scotchman's heart against his
commander and made him merciless.

The "conference of the powers" was indeed protracted until long after
10.30, yet, to Plume's surprise, the colonel at its close said he
believed he would go, if Plume had no objection, and see Wren in
person and at once. "You see, Plume, the general thinks highly of the
old Scot. He has known him ever since First Bull Run and, in fact, I
am instructed to hear what Wren may have to say. I hope you will not
misinterpret the motive."

"Oh, not at all--not at all!" answered the major, obviously ill
pleased, however, and already nettled that, against all precedent,
certain of the Apache prisoners had been ordered turned out as late as
10 P. M. for interview with the agent. It would leave him alone, too,
for as much as half an hour, and the very air seemed surcharged with
intrigue against the might, majesty, power, and dominion of the post
commander. Byrne, a soldier of the old school, might do his best to
convince the major that in no wise was the confidence of the general
commanding abated, but every symptom spoke of something to the
contrary. "I should like, too, to see Dr. Graham to-night," said the
official inquisitor ere he quitted the piazza to go to Wren's next
door. "He will be here to meet you on your return," said Plume, with
just a bit of stateliness, of ruffled dignity in manner, and turned
once more within the hallway to summon his smiling Chinaman.

Something rustling at the head of the stairs caused him to look up
quickly. Something dim and white was hovering, drooping, over the
balustrade, and, springing aloft, he found his wife in a half-fainting
condition, Elise, the invalid, sputtering vehemently in French and
making vigorous effort to pull her away. Plume had left her at 8.30,
apparently sleeping at last under the influence of Graham's medicine.
Yet here she was again. He lifted her in his arms and laid her upon
the broad, white bed. "Clarice, my child," he said, "you _must_ be
quiet. You must not leave your bed. I am sending for Graham and he
will come to us at once."

"I _will_ not see him! He _shall_ not see me!" she burst in wildly.
"The man maddens me with his--his insolence."

"Clarice!"

"Oh, I mean it! He and his brother Scot, between them--they would
infuriate a--saint," and she was writhing in nervous contortions.

"But, Clarice, how?"

"But, monsieur, no!" interposed Elise, bending over, glass in hand.
"Madame will but sip of this--Madame will be tranquil." And the major
felt himself thrust aside. "Madame must not talk to-night. It is too
much."

But madame would talk. Madame would know where Colonel Byrne was gone,
whether he was to be permitted to see Captain Wren and Dr. Graham, and
that wretch Downs. Surely the commanding officer must have _some_
rights. Surely it was no time for investigation--_this_ hour of the
night. Five minutes earlier Plume was of the same way of thinking. Now
he believed his wife delirious.

"See to her a moment, Elise," said he, breaking loose from the clasp
of the long, bejeweled fingers, and, scurrying down the stairs, he
came face to face with Dr. Graham.

"I was coming for you," said he, at sight of the rugged, somber face.
"Mrs. Plume--"

"I heard--at least I comprehend," answered Graham, with uplifted hand.
"The lady is in a highly nervous state, and my presence does not tend
to soothe her. The remedies I left will take effect in time. Leave her
to that waiting woman; she best understands her."

"But she's almost raving, man. I never knew a woman to behave like
that."

"Ye're not long married, major," answered Graham. "Come into the air a
bit," and, taking his commander's arm, the surgeon swept him up the
starlit row, then over toward the guard-house, and kept him half an
hour watching the strange interview between Mr. Daly, the agent, and
half a dozen gaunt, glittering-eyed Apaches, from whom he was striving
to get some admission or information, with Arahawa, "Washington
Charley," as interpreter. One after another the six had shaken their
frowsy heads. They admitted nothing--knew nothing.

"What do you make of it all?" queried Plume.

"Something's wrang at the reservation," answered Graham. "There mostly
is. Daly thinks there's running to and fro between the Tontos in the
Sierra Ancha country and his wards above here. He thinks there's more
out than there should be--and more a-going. What'd you find, Daly?" he
added, as the agent joined them, mechanically wiping his brow.
Moisture there was none. It evaporated fast as the pores exuded.

"They know well enough, damn them!" said the new official. "But they
think I can be stood off. I'll nail 'em yet--to-morrow," he added.
"But could you send a scout at once to the Tonto basin?" and Daly
turned eagerly to the post commander.

Plume reflected. Whom could he send? Men there were in plenty,
dry-rotting at the post for lack of something to limber their joints;
but officers to lead? There was the rub! Thirty troopers, twenty
Apache Mohave guides, a pack train and one or, at most, two officers
made up the usual complement of such expeditions. Men, mounts, scouts,
mules and packers, all, were there at his behest; but, with Wren in
arrest, Sanders and Lynn back but a week from a long prod through the
Black Mesa country far as Fort Apache, Blakely invalided and Duane a
boy second lieutenant, his choice of cavalry officers was limited. It
never occurred to him to look beyond.

"What's the immediate need of a scout?" said he.

"To break up the traffic that's going on--and the rancherias they must
have somewhere down there. If we don't, I'll not answer for another
month." Daly might be new to the neighborhood, but not to the
business.

"I'll confer with Colonel Byrne," answered Plume guardedly. And Byrne
was waiting for them, a tall, dark shadow in the black depths of the
piazza. Graham would have edged away and gone to his own den, but
Plume held to him. There was something he needed to say, yet could not
until the agent had retired. Daly saw,--perhaps he had already imbibed
something of the situation,--and was not slow to seek his room. Plume
took the little kerosene lamp; hospitably led the way; made the
customary tender of a "night-cap," and polite regrets he had no ice
to offer therewith; left his unwonted guest with courteous good-night
and cast an eye aloft as he came through the hall. All there was dark
and still, though he doubted much that Graham's sedatives had yet
prevailed. He had left the two men opposite the doorway. He found them
at the south end of the piazza, their heads together. They
straightened up to perfunctory talk about the Medical Director, his
drastic methods and inflammable ways; but the mirth was forced, the
humor far too dry. Then silence fell. Then Plume invaded it:

"How'd you find Wren--mentally?" he presently asked. He felt that an
opening of some kind was necessary.

"Sound," was the colonel's answer, slow and sententious. "Of course he
is much--concerned."

"About--his case? Ah, will you smoke, colonel?"

"About Blakely. I believe not, Plume; it's late."

Plume struck a light on the sole of his natty boot. "One would suppose
he would feel very natural anxiety as to the predicament in which he
has placed himself," he ventured.

"Wren worries much over Blakely's injuries, which accident made far
more serious than he would have inflicted, major, even had he had the
grounds for violence that he thought he had. Blakely was not the only
sufferer, and is not the only cause, of his deep contrition. Wren
tells me that he was even harsher to Angela. But that is all a family
matter." The colonel was speaking slowly, thoughtfully.

"But--these later affairs--that Wren couldn't explain--or wouldn't."
Plume's voice and color both were rising.

"Couldn't is the just word, major, and couldn't especially--to you,"
was the significant reply.

Plume rose from his chair and stood a moment, trembling not a little
and his fingers twitching. "You mean--" he huskily began.

"I mean this, my friend," said Byrne gently, as he, too, arose, "and I
have asked Graham, another friend, to be here--that Wren would not
defend himself to you by even mentioning--others, and might not have
revealed the truth even to me had he been the only one cognizant of
it. But, Plume, _others_ saw what he saw, and what is now known to
many people on the post. Others than Wren were abroad that night. One
other was being carefully, tenderly brought home--_led_ home--to your
roof. You did not know--Mrs. Plume was a somnambulist?"

In the dead silence that ensued the colonel put forth a pitying hand
as though to stay and support the younger soldier, the post commander.
Plume stood, swaying a bit, and staring. Presently he strove to speak,
but choked in the effort.

"It's the only proper explanation," said Graham, and between them they
led the major within doors.

And this is how it happened that he, instead of Wren, was pacing
miserably up and down in the gathering dawn, when the sentry startled
all waking Sandy with his cry for the corporal. This is how, far ahead
of the corporal, the post commander reached the alarmed soldier, with
demand to know the cause; and, even by the time he came, the cause had
vanished from sight.

"Apaches, sir, by the dozen,--all along the edge of the _mesa_,"
stammered No. 5. He could have convinced the corporal without fear or
thought of ridicule, but his voice lacked confidence when he stood
challenged by his commanding officer. Plume heard with instant
suspicion. He was in no shape for judicial action.

"Apaches!" This in high disdain. "Trash, man! Because one sentry has a
scuffle with some night prowler is the next to lose his nerve? You're
scared by shadows, Hunt. That's what's the matter with you!"

It "brought to" a veteran trooper with a round turn. Hunt had served
his fourth enlistment, had "worn out four blankets" in the regiment,
and was not to be accused of scare.

"Let the major see for himself, then," he answered sturdily. "Come in
here, you!" he called aloud. "Come, the whole gang of ye. The
concert's beginning!" Then, slowly along the eastward edge there began
to creep into view black polls bound with dirty white, black crops
untrammeled by any binding. Then, swift from the west, came running
footfalls, the corporal with a willing comrade or two, wondering was
Five in further danger. There, silent and regretful, stood the post
commander, counting in surprise the score of scarecrow forms now
plainly visible, sitting, standing, or squatting along the _mesa_
edge. Northernmost in view, nearly opposite Blakely's quarters, were
two, detached from the general assembly, yet clinging close
together--two slender figures, gowned, and it was at these the agent
Daly was staring, as he, too, came running to the spot.

"Major Plume," cried he, panting, "I want those girls arrested, at
once!"




CHAPTER VIII

"APACHE KNIVES DIG DEEP!"


At five o'clock of this cloudless October morning Colonel Montgomery
Byrne, "of the old Army, sir," was reviling the fates that had set him
the task of unraveling such a skein as he found at Sandy. At six he
was blessing the stars that sent him. Awakened, much before his usual
hour, by half-heard murmur of scurry and excitement, so quickly
suppressed he believed it all a dream, he was thinking, half drowsily,
all painfully, of the duty devolving on him for the day, and wishing
himself well out of it, when the dream became real, the impression
vivid. His watch told him reveille should now be sounding. His ears
told him the sounds he heard were not those of reveille, yet something
had roused the occupants of Officers' Row, and then, all on a sudden,
instead of the sweet strains of "The Dawn of the Day" or "Bonnie Lass
o' Gawrie" there burst upon the morning air, harsh and blustering, the
alarum of the Civil War days, the hoarse uproar of the drum thundering
the long roll, while above all rang the loud clamor of the cavalry
trumpet sounding "To Horse."

    "Fitz James was brave, but to his heart
    The life blood leaped with sudden start."

Byrne sprang from his bed. He was a soldier, battle-tried, but this
meant something utterly new to him in war, for, mingling with the
gathering din, he heard the shriek of terror-stricken women. Daly's
bed was empty. The agent was gone. Elise aloft was jabbering _patois_
at her dazed and startled mistress. Suey, the Chinaman, came
clattering in, all flapping legs and arms and pigtail, his face livid,
his eyes staring. "Patcheese! Patcheese!" he squealed, and dove under
the nearest bed. Then Byrne, shinning into boots and breeches and
shunning his coat, grabbed his revolver and rushed for the door.

Across the parade, out of their barracks the "doughboys" came
streaming, no man of them dressed for inspection, but rather, like
sailors, stripped for a fight; and, never waiting to form ranks, but
following the lead of veteran sergeants and the signals or orders of
officers somewhere along the line, went sprinting straight for the
eastward _mesa_. From the cavalry barracks, the northward sets, the
troopers, too, were flowing, but these were turned stableward, back of
the post, and Byrne, with his nightshirt flying wide open, wider than
his eyes, bolted round through the space between the quarters of Plume
and Wren, catching sight of the arrested captain standing grim and
gaunt on his back piazza, and ran with the foremost sergeants to the
edge of the plateau, where, in his cool white garb, stood Plume,
shouting orders to those beneath.

There, down in the Sandy bottom, was explanation of it all. Two
soldiers were bending over a prostrate form in civilian dress. Two
swarthy Apaches, one on his face, the other, ten rods away, writhing
on his side, lay weltering in blood. Out along the sandy barren and
among the clumps of mezquite and greasewood, perhaps as many as ten
soldiers, members of the guard, were scattering in rude skirmish
order; now halting and dropping on one knee to fire, now rushing
forward; while into the willows, that swept in wide concave around the
flat, a number of forms in dirty white, or nothing at all but
streaming breechclout, were just disappearing.

Northward, too, beyond the post of No. 4, other little squads and
parties could be faintly seen scurrying away for the shelter of the
willows, and as Byrne reached the major's side, with the
to-be-expected query "Whatinhell'sthematter?" the last of the fleeing
Apaches popped out of sight, and Plume turned toward him in mingled
wrath and disgust:

"That--ass of an agent!" was all he could say, as he pointed to the
prostrate figure in pepper and salt.

Byrne half slid, half stumbled down the bank and bent over the wounded
man. Dead he was not, for, with both hands clasped to his breast, Daly
was cradling from side to side and saying things of Apaches totally
unbecoming an Indian agent and a man of God. "But who did it? and
how?--and why?" demanded Byrne of the ministering soldiers.

[Illustration: "NOW HALTING, DROPPING ON ONE KNEE TO FIRE"]

"Tried to 'rest two Patchie girls, sir," answered the first,
straightening up and saluting, "and her feller wouldn't stand it, I
reckon. Knifed the agent and Craney, too. Yonder's the feller."

Yonder lay, face downward, as described, a sinewy young brave of the
Apache Mohave band, his newer, cleaner shirt and his gayly ornamented
sash and headgear telling of superior rank and station among his kind.
With barely a glance at Craney, squatted beside a bush, and with teeth
and hands knotting a kerchief about a bleeding arm, Byrne bent over
the Apache and turned the face to the light.

"Good God!" he cried, at the instant, "it's Quonathay--Raven Shield!
Why, _you_ know him, corporal!"--this to Casey, of Wren's troop,
running to his side. "Son of old Chief Quonahelka! I wouldn't have had
this happen for all the girls on the reservation. Who were they? Why
did he try to arrest them? Here! I'll have to ask him--stabbed or
not!" And, anxious and angering, the colonel hastened over toward the
agent, now being slowly aided to his feet. Plume, too, had come
sidelong down the sandy bank with Cutler, of the infantry, asking
where he should put in his men. "Oh, just deploy across the flats to
stand off any possible attack," said Plume. "Don't cross the Sandy,
and, damn it all! get a bugler out and sound recall!" For now the
sound of distant shots came echoing back from the eastward cliffs. The
pursuit had spread beyond the stream. "I don't want any more of those
poor devils hurt. There's mischief enough already," he concluded.

"I should say so," echoed the colonel. "What was the matter, Mr.
Daly? Whom did you seek to arrest?--and why?"

"Almost any of 'em," groaned Daly. "There were a dozen there I'd
refused passes to come again this week. They were here in defiance of
my orders, and I thought to take that girl Natzie,--she that led Lola
off,--back to her father at the agency. It would have been a good
lesson. Of course she fought and scratched. Next thing I knew a dozen
of 'em were atop of us--some water, for God's sake!--and lift me out
of this!"

Then with grave and watch-worn face, Graham came hurrying to the spot,
all the way over from Mullins's bedside at the hospital and breathing
hard. Dour indeed was the look he gave the groaning agent, now gulping
at a gourd held to his pale lips by one of the men. The policy of
Daly's predecessor had been to feather his own nest and let the Indian
shift for himself, and this had led to his final overthrow. Daly,
however, had come direct from the care of a tribe of the Pueblo
persuasion, peace-loving and tillers of the soil, meek as the Pimas
and Maricopas, natives who fawned when he frowned and cringed at the
crack of his whip. These he had successfully, and not dishonestly,
ruled, but that very experience had unfitted him for duty over the
mountain Apache, who cringed no more than did the lordly Sioux or
Cheyenne, and truckled to no man less than a tribal chief. Blakely,
the soldier, cool, fearless, and resolute, but scrupulously just, they
believed in and feared; but this new blusterer only made them laugh,
until he scandalized them by wholesale arrest and punishment. Then
their childlike merriment changed swiftly to furious and scowling
hate,--to open defiance, and finally, when he dared lay hands on a
chosen daughter of the race, to mutiny and the knife. Graham, serving
his third year in the valley, had seen the crisis coming and sought to
warn the man. But what should an army doctor know of an Apache Indian?
said Daly, and, fatuous in his own conceit, the crisis found him
unprepared.

"Go you for a stretcher," said the surgeon, after a quick look into
the livid face. "Lay him down gently there," and kneeling, busied
himself with opening a way to the wound. Out over the flats swung the
long skirmish line, picturesque in the variety of its undress, Cutler
striding vociferous in its wake, while a bugler ran himself out of
breath, far to the eastward front, to puff feeble and abortive breath
into unresponsive copper. And still the same flutter of distant,
scattering shots came drifting back from the brakes and canons in the
rocky wilds beyond the stream. The guard still pursued and the Indians
still led, but they who knew anything well knew it could not be long
before the latter turned on the scattering chase, and Byrne strode
about, fuming with anxiety. "Thank God!" he cried, as a prodigious
clatter of hoofs, on hollow and resounding wood, told of cavalry
coming across the _acequia_, and Sanders galloped round the sandy
point in search of the foe--or orders. "Thank God! Here,
Sanders--pardon me, major, there isn't an instant to lose--Rush your
men right on to the front there! Spread well out, but don't fire a
shot unless attacked in force! Get those--chasing idiots and bring
them in! By God, sir, we'll have an Indian war on our hands as it is!"
And Sanders nodded and dug spurs to his troop horse, and sang out:
"Left front into line--gallop!" and the rest was lost in a cloud of
dust and the blare of cavalry trumpet.

Then the colonel turned to Plume, standing now silent and sore
troubled. "It was the quickest way," he said apologetically.
"Ordinarily I should have given the order through you, of course. But
those beggars are armed to a man. They left their guns in the crevices
of yonder rocks, probably, when they came for the morning music. We
must have no fight over this unless they force it. I wish to heaven we
hadn't killed--these two," and ruefully he looked at the stark
forms--the dead lover of Natzie, the gasping tribesman just beyond,
dying, knife in hand. "The general has been trying to curb Daly for
the last ten days," continued he, "and warned him he'd bring on
trouble. The interpreter split with him on Monday last, and there's
been mischief brewing ever since. If only we could have kept Blakely
there--all this row would have been averted!"

If only, indeed! was Plume thinking, as eagerly, anxiously he scanned
the eastward shore, rising jagged, rocky, and forbidding from the
willows of the stream bed. If only, indeed! Not only all this row of
which Byrne had seen so much, but all this other row, this row within
a row, this intricacy of mishaps and misery that involved the social
universe of Camp Sandy, of which as yet the colonel, presumably, knew
so very little; of which, as post commander, Plume had yet to tell
him! An orderly came running with a field glass and a scrap of paper.
Plume glanced at the latter, a pencil scrawl of his wife's inseparable
companion, and, for aught he knew, confidante. "Madame," he could make
out, and "_affreusement_" something, but it was enough. The orderly
supplemented: "Leece, sir, says the lady is very bad--"

"Go to her, Plume," with startling promptitude cried the colonel.
"I'll look to everything here. It's all coming out right," for with a
tantara--tantara-ra-ra Sanders's troop, spreading far and wide, were
scrambling up the shaly slopes a thousand yards away. "Go to your wife
and tell her the danger's over," and, with hardly another glance at
the moaning agent, now being limply hoisted on a hospital stretcher,
thankfully the major went. "The lady's very bad, is she?" growled
Byrne, in fierce aside to Graham. "That French hag sometimes speaks
truth, in spite of herself. How d'you find him?" This with a toss of
the head toward the vanishing stretcher.

"Bad likewise. These Apache knives dig deep. There's Mullins now--"

"Think _that_ was Apache?" glared Byrne, with sudden light in his
eyes, for Wren had told his troubles--all.

"Apache _knife_--yes."

"What the devil do you mean, Graham?" and the veteran soldier, who
knew and liked the surgeon, whirled again on him with eyes that looked
not like at all.

The doctor turned, his somber gaze following the now distant figure of
the post commander, struggling painfully up the yielding sand of the
steep slope to the plateau. The stretcher bearers and attendants were
striding away to hospital with the now unconscious burden. The few
men, lingering close at hand, were grouped about the dead Apaches. The
gathering watchers along the bank were beyond earshot. Staff officer
and surgeon were practically alone and the latter answered:

"I mean, sir, that if that Apache knife had been driven in by an
Apache warrior, Mullins would have been dead long hours ago--which he
isn't."

Byrne turned a shade grayer.

"Could _she_ have done that?" he asked, with one sideward jerk of his
head toward the major's quarters.

"I'm not saying," quoth the Scot. "I'm asking was there anyone else?"




CHAPTER IX

A CARPET KNIGHT, INDEED


The flag at Camp Sandy drooped from the peak. Except by order it never
hung halfway. The flag at the agency fluttered no higher than the
cross-trees, telling that Death had loved some shining mark and had
not sued in vain. Under this symbol of mourning, far up the valley,
the interpreter was telling to a circle of dark, sullen, and
unresponsive faces a fact that every Apache knew before. Under the
full-masted flag at the post, a civilian servant of the nation lay
garbed for burial. Poor Daly had passed away with hardly a chance to
tell his tale, with only a loving, weeping woman or two to mourn him.
Over the camp the shadow of death tempered the dazzling sunshine, for
all Sandy felt the strain and spoke only with sorrow. He meant well,
did Daly, that was accorded him now. He only lacked "savvy" said they
who had dwelt long in the land of Apache.

Over at the hospital two poor women wept, and twice their number
strove to soothe. Janet Wren and Mrs. Graham were there, as ever, when
sorrow and trouble came. Mrs. Sanders and Mrs. Cutler, too, were
hovering about the mourners, doing what they could, and the hospital
matron, busy day and night of late, had never left her patient until
he needed her no more, and then had turned to minister to those he
left behind--the widow and the fatherless. Over on the shaded verandas
other women met and murmured in the soft, sympathetic drawl
appropriate to funereal occasion, and men nodded silently to each
other. Death was something these latter saw so frequently it brought
but little of terror. Other things were happening of far greater
moment that they could not fathom at all.

Captain Wren, after four days of close arrest, had been released by
the order of Major Plume himself, who, pending action on his
application for leave of absence, had gone on sick report and secluded
himself within his quarters. It was rumored that Mrs. Plume was
seriously ill, so ill, indeed, she had to be denied to every one of
the sympathizing women who called, even to Janet, sister of their
soldier next-door neighbor, but recently a military prisoner, yet now,
by law and custom, commander of the post.

Several things had conspired to bring about this condition of affairs.
Byrne, to begin with, had been closely questioning Shannon, and had
reached certain conclusions with regard to the stabbing of Mullins
that were laid before Plume, already stunned by the knowledge that,
sleeping as his friendly advisers declared, or waking, as his inner
consciousness would have it, Clarice, his young and still beautiful
wife, had left her pillow and gone by night toward the northern limit
of the line of quarters. If Wren were tried, or even accused, that
fact would be the first urged in his defense. Plume's stern
accusation of Elise had evoked from her nothing but a voluble storm of
protest. Madame was ill, sleepless, nervous--had gone forth to walk
away her nervousness. She, Elise, had gone in search and brought her
home. Downs, the wretch, when as stoutly questioned, declared he had
been blind drunk; saw nobody, knew nothing, and must have taken the
lieutenant's whisky. Plume shrank from asking Norah questions. He
could not bring himself to talking of his wife to the girl of the
laundresses' quarters, but he knew now that he must drop that much of
the case against Wren.

Then came the final blow. Byrne had gone to the agency, making every
effort through runners, with promises of immunity, to coax back the
renegades to the reservation, and so avert another Apache war. Plume,
in sore perplexity, was praying for the complete restoration of
Mullins--the only thing that could avert investigation--when, as he
entered his office the morning of this eventful day, Doty's young face
was eloquent with news.

One of the first things done by Lieutenant Blakely when permitted by
Dr. Graham to sit and speak, was to dictate a letter to the post
adjutant, the original of which, together with the archives of Camp
Sandy, was long since buried among the hidden treasures of the War
Department. The following is a copy of the paper placed by Mr. Doty in
the major's hands even before he could reach his desk:

                                        CAMP SANDY, A. T.,

                                         October --, 187--

     LIEUTENANT J. J. DOTY,

       8th U. S. Infantry,

         Post Adjutant.


     _Sir_: I have the honor to submit for the consideration of
     the post commander, the following:

     Shortly after retreat on the --th inst. I was suddenly
     accosted in my quarters by Captain Robert Wren, ----th
     Cavalry, and accused of an act of treachery to him;--an
     accusation which called forth instant and indignant denial.
     He had, as I now have cause to know, most excellent reason
     for believing his charge to be true, and the single blow he
     dealt me was the result of intense and natural wrath. That
     the consequences were so serious he could not have foreseen.

     As the man most injured in the affair, I earnestly ask that
     no charges be preferred. Were we in civil life I should
     refuse to prosecute, and, if the case be brought before a
     court-martial it will probably fail--for lack of evidence.


                                   Very Respectfully,

                                     Your Obedient Servant,

                                         NEIL D. BLAKELY,

                                    1st Lieut., ----th Cavalry.

Now, Doty had been known to hold his tongue when a harmful story might
be spread, but he could no more suppress his rejoicing over this than
he could the impulse to put it in slang. "Say, aint this just a
corker?" said this ingenuous youth, as he spread it on his desk for
Graham's grimly gleaming eyes. Plume had read it in dull, apathetic,
unseeing fashion. It was the morning after the Apache _emeute_. Plume
had stared hard at his adjutant a moment, then, whipping up the sun
hat that he had dropped on his desk, and merely saying, "I'll
return--shortly," had sped to his darkened quarters and not for an
hour had he reappeared. Then the first thing he asked for was that
letter of Mr. Blakely's, which, this time, he read with lips
compressed and twitching a bit at the corners. Then he called for a
telegraph blank and sent a wire to intercept Byrne at the agency. "I
shall turn over command to Wren at noon. I'm too ill for further
duty," was all he said. Byrne read the rest between the lines.

But Graham went straightway to the quarters of Captain Wren, a rough
pencil copy of that most unusual paper in his hand. "R-robert Wren,"
said he, as he entered, unknocking and unannounced, "will ye listen to
this? Nay, Angela, lass, don't go." When strongly moved, as we have
seen, our doctor dropped to the borderland of dialect.

In the dim light from the shaded windows he had not at first seen the
girl. She was seated on a footstool, her hands on her father's knee,
her fond face gazing up into his, and that strong, bony hand of his
resting on her head and toying with the ribbon, the "snood," as he
loved to call it, with which she bound her abundant tresses. At sound
of the doctor's voice, Janet, ever apprehensive of ill, had come forth
from the dining room, silver brush and towel in hand, and stood at the
doorway, gazing austerely. She could not yet forgive her brother's
friend his condemnation of her methods as concerned her brother's
child. Angela, rising to her full height, stood with one hand on the
back of her father's chair, the other began softly stroking the
grizzled crop from his furrowed forehead.

No one spoke a word as Graham began and slowly, to the uttermost
line, read his draft of Blakely's missive. No one spoke for a moment
after he had finished. Angela, with parted lips and dilated eyes, had
stood at first drinking in each syllable, then, with heaving bosom,
she slowly turned, her left hand falling by her side. Wren sat in
silence, his deep-set eyes glowering on the grim reader, a dazed look
on his rugged face. Then he reached up and drew the slim, tremulous
hand from his forehead and snuggled it against his stubbly cheek, and
still he could not speak. Janet slowly backed away into the darkness
of the dining room. The situation had softening tendencies and Janet's
nature revolted at sentiment. It was Graham's voice that again broke
the silence.

"For a vain carpet knight, 'whose best boast was to wear a braid of
his fair lady's hair,' it strikes me our butterfly chaser has some
points of a gentleman," said he, slowly folding his paper. "I might
say more," he continued presently, retiring toward the hall. Then,
pausing at the doorway, "but I won't," he concluded, and abruptly
vanished.

An hour later, when Janet in person went to answer a knock at the
door, she glanced in at the parlor as she passed, and that peep
revealed Angela again seated on her footstool, with her bonny head
pillowed on her father's knee, his hand again toying with the glossy
tresses, and both father and child looked up, expectant. Yes, there
stood the young adjutant, officially equipped with belt and sword and
spotless gloves. "Can I see the captain?" he asked, lifting his natty
_kepi_, and the captain arose and strode to the door.

"Major Plume presents his compliments--and this letter, sir,"
stammered the youth, blushing, too, at sight of Angela, beaming on him
from the parlor door. "And--you're in command, sir. The major has gone
on sick report."

That evening a solemn _cortege_ filed away down the winding road to
the northward flats and took the route to the little cemetery, almost
all the garrison following to the grave all that was mortal of the
hapless agent. Byrne, returned from the agency, was there to represent
the general commanding the department. Wren stalked solemnly beside
him as commander of the post. Even the women followed, tripping
daintily through the sand. Graham watched them from the porch of the
post hospital. He could not long leave Mullins, tossing in fever and
delirium. He had but recently left Lieutenant Blakely, sitting up and
placidly busying himself in patching butterfly wings, and Blakely had
even come to the front door to look at the distant gathering of
decorous mourners. But the bandaged head was withdrawn as two tall,
feminine forms came gravely up the row, one so prim and almost
antique, the other so lithe and lissome. He retreated to the front
room, and with the one available eye at the veiled window, followed
her, the latter, until the white flowing skirt was swept from the
field of his vision. He had stood but a few hours previous on the spot
where he had received that furious blow five nights before, and this
time, with cordial grasp, had taken the huge hand that dealt it
between his white and slender palms. "Forgive us our trespasses as we
forgive those," Wren had murmured, as he read the deeply regretful
words of his late accuser and commander, for had not he in his turn,
and without delay, also to eat humble pie? There was something almost
pathetic in the attitude of the big soldier as he came to the darkened
room and stood before his junior and subordinate, but the latter had
stilled the broken, clumsy, faltering words with which this strong,
masterful man was striving to make amend for bitter wrong. "I won't
listen to more, Captain Wren," he said. "You had reasons I never
dreamed of--then. Our eyes have been opened" (one of his was still
closed). "You have said more than enough. Let us start afresh
now--with better understanding."

"It--it is generous in you, Blakely. I misjudged
everything--everybody, and now,--well, you know there are still
Hotspurs in the service. I'm thinking some man may be ass enough to
say you got a blow without resenting--"

Blakely smiled, a contorted and disunited smile, perhaps, and one much
trammeled by adhesive plaster. Yet there was placid unconcern in the
visible lines of his pale face. "I think I shall know how to answer,"
said he. And so for the day, and without mention of the name uppermost
in the thoughts of each, the two had parted--for the first time as
friends.

But the night was yet to come.




CHAPTER X.

"WOMAN-WALK-IN-THE-NIGHT" AGAIN


So swift had been the succession of events since the first day of the
week, few of the social set at Sandy could quite realize, much less
fathom, all that had happened, and as they gathered on the verandas,
in the cool of the evening after Daly's funeral, the trend of talk was
all one way. A man who might have thrown light on certain matters at
issue had been spirited away, and there were women quite ready to vow
it was done simply to get him beyond range of their questioning.
Sergeant Shannon had been sent to the agency on some mission
prescribed by Colonel Byrne. It was almost the last order issued by
Major Plume before turning over the command.

Byrne himself still lingered at the post, "watching the situation," as
it was understood, and in constant telegraphic correspondence with the
general at Prescott and the commander of the little guard over the
agency buildings at the reservation--Lieutenant Bridger, of the
Infantry. With a sergeant and twenty men that young officer had been
dispatched to that point immediately after the alarming and
unlooked-for catastrophe of the reveille outbreak. Catastrophe was
what Byrne called it, and he meant what he said, not so much because
it had cost the life of Daly, the agent, whose mistaken zeal had
precipitated the whole misunderstanding, but rather because of the
death of two such prominent young warriors as "Shield" and his friend,
who had fallen after dealing the fatal blow to him who had laid
violent hands, so they regarded it, on two young girls, one a
chieftain's daughter and both objects of reverent and savagely
sentimental interest. "If war doesn't come at once," said Byrne, "it
will be because the Apache has a new sense or a deep-laid scheme. Look
out for him."

No news as yet had come from the runners sent forth in search of the
scattered fugitives, who would soon be flocking together again in the
fastnesses of the Mogollon to the east or the Red Rock country
northward--the latter probably, as being nearer their friends at the
reservation and farther from the few renegade Tontos lurking in the
mountains toward Fort Apache. Byrne's promise to the wanderers, sent
by these runners, was to the effect that they would be safe from any
prosecution if they would return at once to the agency and report
themselves to the interpreter and the lieutenant commanding the guard.
He would not, he said, be answerable for what might happen if they
persisted in remaining at large. But when it was found that, so far
from any coming in, there were many going out, and that Natzie's
father and brother had already gone, Byrne's stout heart sank. The
message came by wire from the agency not long after the return of the
funeral party, and while the evening was yet young. He sent at once
for Wren, and, seated on the major's front piazza, with an orderly
hovering just out of earshot, and with many an eye anxiously watching
them along the row, the two veterans were holding earnest conference.
Major Plume was at the bedside of his wife, so said Graham when he
came down about eight. Mrs. Plume, he continued, was at least no
worse, but very nervous. Then he took himself back to the hospital.

Another topic of talk along the line was Blakely's watch and its
strange recovery, and many were the efforts to learn what Blakely
himself had to say about it. The officers, nearly all of them, of
course, had been at intervals to see Blakely and inquire if there were
not something that they could do, this being the conventional and
proper thing, and they who talked with him, with hardly an exception,
led up to the matter of the watch and wished to know how he accounted
for its being there on the post of No. 5. It was observed that, upon
this topic and the stabbing of Private Mullins, Mr. Blakely was oddly
reticent. He had nothing whatever to suggest as explanation of either
matter. The watch was taken from the inner pocket of his thin white
coat as he lay asleep at the pool, of this he felt confident, but by
whom he would not pretend to say. Everybody knew by this time that
Angela Wren had seen him sleeping, and had, in a spirit of playful
mischief, fetched away his butterfly net, but who would accuse Angela
of taking his watch and money? Of course such things had been, said
one or two wise heads, but--not with girls like Angela.

But who could say what, all this while, Angela herself was thinking?
Once upon a time it had been the way of our young folk well over the
North and West to claim forfeit in the game of "Catching the weasel
asleep." There had been communities, indeed, and before co-education
became a fad at certain of our great universities, wherein the maid
caught napping could hold it no sin against watchful swain, or even
against her, that he then and there imprinted on her lips a kiss. On
the other hand, the swain found sleeping might not always expect a
kiss, but must pay the penalty, a pair of dainty gloves. Many a
forfeit, both lip and glove, had there been claimed and allowed in
army days whereof we write, and Angela, stealing upon Blakely as he
dozed beneath the willows, and liking him well and deploring her
father's pronounced aversion to him--perhaps even resenting it an
undutiful bit--had found it impossible to resist the temptation to
softly disengage that butterfly net from the loosely clasping fingers,
and swiftly, stealthily, delightedly to scamper away with it against
his waking. It was of this very exploit, never dreaming of the fateful
consequences, she and Kate Sanders were so blissfully bubbling over,
fairly shaking with maiden merriment when the despoiled victim,
homeward bound, caught sight of them upon the _mesa_. Ten minutes
more, and in full force she had been made to feel the blow of her
father's fierce displeasure. Twenty minutes more, and, under the blow
of her father's furious wrath, Blakely had been felled like a log.

When with elongated face and exaggerated gloom of manner Aunt Janet
came to make her realize the awful consequences of her crime, Angela's
first impulse had been to cry out against her father's unreasoning
rage. When she learned that he was in close arrest,--to be tried,
doubtless, for his mad assault,--in utter revulsion of feeling, in
love and tenderness, in grief and contrition inexpressible, she had
thrown herself at his feet and, clasping his knees, had sobbed her
heart out in imploring his forgiveness for what she called her wicked,
heedless, heartless conduct. No one saw that blessed meeting, that
scene of mutual forgiveness, of sweet reconciliation; too sweet and
serene, indeed, for Janet's stern and Calvinistic mold.

Are we ever quite content, I wonder, that others' bairnies should be
so speedily, so entirely, forgiven? All because of this had all
Janet's manifestations of sympathy for Robert to be tempered with a
fine reserve. As for Angela, it would never do to let the child so
soon forget that this should be an awful lesson. Aunt Janet's manner,
therefore, when, butterfly net in hand, she required of her niece full
explanation of the presence in the room of this ravished trophy, was
something fraught with far too much of future punishment, of wrath
eternal. Even in her chastened mood Angela's spirit stood _en garde_.
"I have told father everything, auntie," she declared. "I leave it all
to him," and bore in silence the comments, without the utterance of
which the elder vestal felt she could not conscientiously quit the
field. "Bold," "immodest," "unmaidenly," "wanton," were a choice few
of Aunt Janet's expletives, and these were unresented. But when she
concluded with "I shall send this--thing to him at once, with my
personal apologies for the act of an irresponsible child," up sprang
Angela with rebellion flashing from her eyes. She had suffered
punishment as a woman. She would not now be treated as a child. To
Janet's undisguised amaze and disapprobation, Wren decided that Angela
herself should send both apology and net. It was the first missive of
the kind she had ever written, but, even so, she would not submit it
for either advice or criticism--even though its composition cost her
many hours and tears and sheets of paper. No one but the recipient had
so much as a peep at it, but when Blakely read it a grave smile
lighted his pallid and still bandaged face. He stowed the little note
in his desk, and presently took it out and read it again, and still
again, and then it went slowly into the inner pocket of his white sack
coat and was held there, while he, the wearer, slowly paced up and
down the veranda late in the starlit night. This was the evening of
Daly's funeral, the evening of the day on which he and his captain had
shaken hands and were to start afresh with better understanding.

Young Duane was officer of the day and, after the tattoo inspection of
his little guard, had gone for a few minutes to the hospital where
Mullins lay muttering and tossing in his feverish sleep; then, meeting
Wren and Graham on the way, had tramped over to call on Blakely,
thinking, perhaps, to chat a while and learn something. Soon after
"taps" was sounded, however, the youngster joined the little group
gossiping in guarded tones on the porch at Captain Sanders', far down
the row, and, in response to question, said that "Bugs"--that being
Blakely's briefest _nom de guerre_--must be convalescing rapidly, he
"had no use for his friends," and, as the lad seemed somewhat ruffled
and resentful, what more natural than that he should be called upon
for explanation? Sanders and his wife were present, and Mrs. Bridger,
very much alive with inquiry and not a little malicious interest.
Kate, too, was of the party, and Doty, the adjutant, and Mesdames
Cutler and Westervelt--it was so gloomy and silent, said these latter,
at their end of the row. Much of the talk had been about Mrs. Plume's
illness and her "sleep-walking act," as it had been referred to, and
many had thought, but few had spoken, of her possible presence on the
post of No. 5 about the time that No. 5 was stabbed. They knew _she_
couldn't have done it, of course, but then how strange that she should
have been there at all! The story had gained balloon-like expanse by
this time, and speculation was more than rife. But here was Duane with
a new grievance which, when put into Duane's English, reduced itself
to this: "Why, it was like as if Bugs wanted to get rid of me and
expected somebody else," and this they well remembered later. Nobody
else was observed going to Blakely's front door, at least, but at
eleven o'clock he himself could still be dimly heard and seen pacing
steadily up and down his piazza, apparently alone and deep in thought.
His lights, too, were turned down, a new man from the troop having
asked for and assumed the duties formerly devolving on the wretch
Downs, now doing time within the garrison prison. Before eleven,
however, this new martial domestic had gone upstairs to bed and
Blakely was all alone, which was as he wished it, for he had things to
plan and other things to think of that lifted him above the
possibility of loneliness.

Down the line of officers' quarters only in two or three houses could
lights be seen. Darkness reigned at Plume's, where Byrne was still
rooming. Darkness reigned at Wren's and Graham's, despite the fact
that the lords of these manors were still abroad, both at the bedside
of Trooper Mullins. A dozen people were gathered by this time at
Sanders'. All the other verandas, except Blakely's with its solitary
watcher, seemed deserted. To these idlers of the soft and starlit
night, sitting bareheaded about the gallery and chatting in the
friendly way of the frontier, there came presently a young soldier
from the direction of the adjutant's office at the south end. "The
night operator," he explained. "Two dispatches have just come for
Colonel Byrne, and I thought maybe--"

"No, Cassidy," said Doty. "The colonel is at his quarters. Dispatch,
is it? Perhaps I'd better go with you," and, rising, the young officer
led the way, entering on tiptoe the hall of the middle house where,
far back on a table, a lamp was burning low. Tapping at an inner door,
he was bidden to enter. Byrne was in bed, a single sheet over his
burly form, but he lay wide awake. He took the first dispatch and tore
it open eagerly. It was from Bridger at the agency:

     Runners just in say Natzie and Lola had turned back from
     trail to Montezuma Well, refusing to go further from their
     dead. Can probably be found if party go at dawn or sooner.
     Alchisay with them. More Indians surely going out from here.

Byrne's brow contracted and his lips compressed, but he gave no other
sign. "Is Captain Wren still up?" he briefly asked, as he reached for
the other dispatch.

"Over at the hospital, sir," said Doty, and watched this famous
campaigner's face as he ripped open the second brown envelope. This
time he was half out of bed before he could have half finished even
that brief message. It was from the general:

     News of trouble must have reached Indians at San Carlos.
     Much excitement there and at Apache. Shall start for Camp
     McDowell to-morrow as soon as I have seen Plume. He should
     come early.

The colonel was in his slippers and inexpressibles in less than no
time, but Plume aloft had heard the muffled sounds from the lower
floor, and was down in a moment. Without a word Byrne handed him the
second message and waited until he had read, then asked: "Can you
start at dawn?"

"I can start now," was the instant reply. "Our best team can make it
in ten hours. Order out the Concord, Mr. Doty." And Doty vanished.

"But Mrs. Plume--" began the colonel tentatively.

"Mrs. Plume simply needs quiet and to be let alone," was the joyless
answer. "I think perhaps--I am rather in the way."

"Well, I know the general will appreciate your promptness. I--did not
know you had asked to see him," and Byrne looked up from under his
shaggy brows.

"I hadn't exactly, but my letter intimated as much. There is so very
much I--I cannot write about--that of course he's bound to hear,--I
don't mean you, Colonel Byrne,--and he ought to know the--facts. Now
I'll get ready at once and--see you before starting."

"Better take an escort, Plume."

"One man on driver's seat. That's all, sir. I'll come in presently, in
case you have anything to send," said Plume, and hurried again
upstairs.

It was barely midnight when Plume's big black wagon, the Concord, all
spring and hickory, as said the post quartermaster, went whirling away
behind its strapping team of four huge Missouri mules. It was 12.30 by
the guard-house clock and the call of the sentries when Wren came home
to find Angela, her long, luxuriant hair tumbling down over her soft,
white wrapper, waiting for him at the front door. From her window she
had seen him coming; had noted the earlier departure of the wagon; had
heard the voice of Major Plume bidding good-by, and wondered what it
meant--this midnight start of the senior officer of the post. She had
been sitting there silent, studying the glittering stars, and
wondering would there be an answer to her note? Would he be able to
write just yet? Was there reason, really, why he _should_ write, after
all that had passed? Somehow she felt that write he certainly would,
and soon, and the thought kept her from sleeping. It was because she
was anxious about Mullins, so she told herself and told her father,
that she had gone fluttering down to meet him at the door. But no
sooner had he answered, "Still delirious and yet holding his own,"
than she asked where and why Major Plume had gone.

"The general wired for him," answered Wren. "And what is my tall
girlie doing, spiering from windows this time of night? Go to bed,
child." She may be losing beauty sleep, but not her beauty, thought he
fondly, as she as fondly kissed him and turned to obey. Then came a
heavy footfall on the gallery without, and a dark form, erect and
soldierly, stood between them and the dim lights of the guard-house.
It was a corporal of the guard.

"No. 4, sir, reports he heard shots--two--way up the valley."

"Good God!" Wren began, then throttled the expletive half spoken.
Could they have dared waylay the major--and so close to the post? A
moment more and he was hurrying over to his troop quarters; five
minutes, and a sergeant and ten men were running with him to the
stables; ten, and a dozen horses, swiftly saddled, were being led into
the open starlight; fifteen, and they were away at a lunging bronco
lope, a twisting column of twos along the sandy road, leaving the
garrison to wake and wonder. Three, four, five miles they sped, past
Boulder Point, past Rattlesnake Hill, and still no sign of anything
amiss, no symptom of night-raiding Apache, for indeed the Apache
dreads the dark. Thrice the sergeant had sprung from his horse,
lighted a match, and studied the trail. On and on had gone the mules
and wagon without apparent break or interruption, until, far beyond
the bluff that hid the road from sight of all at Sandy, they had begun
the long, tortuous climb of the divide to Cherry Creek. No. 4 might
have heard shots, but, if intended for the wagon, they had been
harmless. It was long after one when Wren gave the word to put back to
the post, and as they remounted and took the homeward trail, they rode
for the first five minutes almost directly east, and, as they ascended
a little slant of hillside, the sergeant in advance reined suddenly
in. "Look there!" said he.

Far over among the rocky heights beyond the valley, hidden from the
south from Sandy by precipitous cliffs that served almost as a
reflector toward the reservation, a bright blaze had shot suddenly
heavenward--a signal fire of the Apache. Some of them, then, were in
the heart of that most intractable region, not ten miles northeast of
the post, and signaling to their fellows; but the major must have
slipped safely through.

Sending his horse to stable with the detachment, Wren had found No. 4
well over toward the east end of his post, almost to the angle with
that of No. 5. "Watch well for signal fires or prowlers to-night," he
ordered. "Have you seen any?"

"No signal fires, sir," answered the sentry. "Welch, who was on before
me, thought he heard shots--"

"I know," answered Wren impatiently. "There was nothing in it. But we
did see a signal fire over to the northeast, so they are around us,
and some may be creeping close in to see what we're doing, though I
doubt it. You've seen nothing?"

"Well, no, sir; we can't see much of anything, it's so dark. But
there's a good many of the post people up and moving about, excited, I
suppose. There were lights there at the lieutenant's, Mr. Blakely's, a
while ago, and--voices." No. 4 pointed to the dark gable end barely
forty yards away.

"That's simple enough," said Wren. "People would naturally come up to
this end to see what had become of us, why we had gone, etc. They
heard of it, I dare say, and some were probably startled."

"Yes, sir, it sounded like--somebody cryin'."

Wren was turning away. "What?" he suddenly asked.

No. 4 repeated his statement. Wren pondered a moment, started to
speak, to question further, but checked himself and trudged
thoughtfully away through the yielding sand. The nearest path led past
the first quarters, Blakely's, on the eastward side, and as the
captain neared the house he stopped short. Somewhere in the shadows of
the back porch low, murmuring voices were faintly audible. One, in
excited tone, was not that of a man, and as Wren stood, uncertain and
surprised, the rear door was quickly opened and against the faint
light from within two dark forms were projected. One, the taller, he
recognized beyond doubt as that of Neil Blakely; the other he did not
recognize at all. But he had heard the tone of the voice. He knew the
form to be, beyond doubt, that of a young and slender woman. Then
together the shadows disappeared within and the door was closed behind
them.




CHAPTER XI

A STOP--BY WIRE


Three days later the infantry guard of the garrison were in sole
charge. Wren and Sanders, with nearly fifty troopers apiece, had taken
the field in compliance with telegraphic orders from Prescott. The
general had established field headquarters temporarily at Camp
McDowell, down the Verde Valley, and under his somewhat distant
supervision four or five little columns of horse, in single file, were
boring into the fastnesses of the Mogollon and the Tonto Basin. The
runners had been unsuccessful. The renegades would not return. Half a
dozen little nomad bands, forever out from the reservation, had
eagerly welcomed these malcontents and the news they bore that two of
their young braves had been murdered while striving to defend Natzie
and Lola. It furnished all that was needed as excuse for instant
descent upon the settlers in the deep valleys north of the Rio Salado,
and, all unsuspecting, all unprepared, several of these had met their
doom. Relentless war was already begun, and the general lost no time
in starting his horsemen after the hostiles. Meantime the infantry
companies, at the scattered posts and camps, were left to "hold the
fort," to protect the women, children, and property, and Neil Blakely,
a sore-hearted man because forbidden by the surgeon to attempt to go,
was chafing, fuming, and retarding his recovery at his lonely
quarters. The men whom he most liked were gone, and the few among the
women who might have been his friends seemed now to stand afar off.
Something, he knew not what, had turned garrison sentiment against
him.

For a day or two, so absorbed was he in his chagrin over Graham's
verdict and the general's telegraphic orders in the case, Mr. Blakely
never knew or noticed that anything else was amiss. Then, too, there
had been no opportunity of meeting garrison folk except the few
officers who dropped in to inquire civilly how he was progressing. The
bandages were off, but the plaster still disfigured one side of his
face and neck. He could not go forth and seek society. There was
really only one girl at the post whose society he cared to seek. He
had his books and his bugs, and that, said Mrs. Bridger, was "all he
demanded and more than he deserved." To think that the very room so
recently sacred to the son and heir should be transformed into what
that irate little woman called a "beetle shop"! It was one of Mr.
Blakely's unpardonable sins in the eyes of the sex that he found so
much to interest him in a pursuit that neither interested nor included
them. A man with brains and a bank account had no right to live alone,
said Mrs. Sanders, she having a daughter of marriageable age, if only
moderately prepossessing. All this had the women to complain of in him
before the cataclysm that, for the time at least, had played havoc
with his good looks. All this he knew and bore with philosophic and
whimsical stoicism. But all this and more could not account for the
phenomenon of averted eyes and constrained, if not freezing, manner
when, in the dusk of the late autumn evening, issuing suddenly from
his quarters, he came face to face with a party of four young women
under escort of the post adjutant--Mrs. Bridger and Mrs. Truman
foremost of the four and first to receive his courteous, yet half
embarrassed, greeting. They had to stop for half a second, as they
later said, because really he confronted them, all unsuspected. But
the other two, Kate Sanders and Mina Westervelt, with bowed heads and
without a word, scurried by him and passed on down the line. Doty
explained hurriedly that they had been over to the post hospital to
inquire for Mullins and were due at the Sanders' now for music,
whereupon Blakely begged pardon for even the brief detention, and,
raising his cap, went on out to the sentry post of No. 4 to study the
dark and distant upheavals in the Red Rock country, where, almost
every night of late, the signal fires of the Apaches were reported.
Not until he was again alone did he realize that he had been almost
frigidly greeted by those who spoke at all. It set him to thinking.

Mrs. Plume was still confined to her room. The major had returned from
Prescott and, despite the fact that the regiment was afield and a
clash with the hostiles imminent, was packing up preparatory to a
move. Books, papers, and pictures were being stored in chests, big and
little, that he had had made for such emergencies. It was evident
that he was expecting orders for change of station or extended leave,
and they who went so far as to question the grave-faced soldier, who
seemed to have grown ten years older in the last ten days, had to be
content with the brief, guarded reply that Mrs. Plume had never been
well since she set foot in Arizona, and even though he returned, she
would not. He was taking her, he said, to San Francisco. Of this
unhappy woman's nocturnal expedition the others seldom spoke now and
only with bated breath. "Sleep-walking, of course!" said everybody, no
matter what everybody might think. But, now that Major Plume knew that
in her sleep his wife had wandered up the row to the very door--the
back door--of Mr. Blakely's quarters, was it not strange that he had
taken no pains to prevent a recurrence of so compromising an
excursion, for strange stories were afloat. Sentry No. 4 had heard and
told of a feminine voice, "somebody cryin' like" in the darkness of
midnight about Blakely's, and Norah Shaughnessy--returned to her
duties at the Trumans', yet worrying over the critical condition of
her trooper lover, and losing thereby much needed sleep--had gained
some new and startling information. One night she had heard, another
night she had dimly seen, a visitor received at Blakely's back door,
and that visitor a woman, with a shawl about her head. Norah told her
mistress, who very properly bade her never refer to it again to a
soul, and very promptly referred to it herself to several souls, one
of them Janet Wren. Janet, still virtuously averse to Blakely, laid
the story before her brother the very day he started on the warpath,
and Janet was startled to see that she was telling him no news
whatever. "Then, indeed," said she, "it is high time the major took
his wife away," and Wren sternly bade her hold her peace, she knew not
what she was saying! But, said Camp Sandy, who could it have been but
Mrs. Plume or, possibly, Elise? Once or twice in its checkered past
Camp Sandy had had its romance, its mystery, indeed its scandals, but
this was something that put in the shade all previous episodes; this
shook Sandy to its very foundation, and this, despite her brother's
prohibition, Janet Wren felt it her duty to detail in full to Angela.

To do her justice, it should be said that Miss Wren had striven
valiantly against the impulse,--had indeed mastered it for several
hours,--but the sight of the vivid blush, the eager joy in the sweet
young face when Blakely's new "striker" handed in a note addressed to
Miss Angela Wren, proved far too potent a factor in the undoing of
that magnanimous resolve. The girl fled with her prize, instanter, to
her room, and thither, as she did not reappear, the aunt betook
herself within the hour. The note itself was neither long nor
effusive--merely a bright, cordial, friendly missive, protesting
against the idea that any apology had been due. There was but one line
which could be considered even mildly significant. "The little net,"
wrote Blakely, "has now a value that it never had before." Yet Angela
was snuggling that otherwise unimportant billet to her cheek when the
creaking stairway told her portentously of a solemn coming. Ten
minutes more and the note was lying neglected on the bureau, and
Angela stood at her window, gazing out over dreary miles of almost
desert landscape, of rock and shale and sand and cactus, with eyes
from which the light had fled, and a new, strange trouble biting at
her girlish heart. Confound No. 4--and Norah Shaughnessy!

It had been arranged that when the Plumes were ready to start, Mrs.
Daly and her daughter, the newly widowed and the fatherless, should be
sent up to Prescott and thence across the desert to Ehrenberg, on the
Colorado. While no hostile Apaches had been seen west of the Verde
Valley, there were traces that told that they were watching the road
as far at least as the Agua Fria, and a sergeant and six men had been
chosen to go as escort to the little convoy. It had been supposed that
Plume would prefer to start in the morning and go as far as Stemmer's
ranch, in the Agua Fria Valley, and there rest his invalid wife until
another day, thus breaking the fifty-mile stage through the mountains.
To the surprise of everybody, the Dalys were warned to be in readiness
to start at five in the morning, and to go through to Prescott that
day. At five in the morning, therefore, the quartermaster's ambulance
was at the post trader's house, where the recently bereaved ones had
been harbored since poor Daly's death, and there, with their generous
host, was the widow's former patient, Blakely, full of sympathy and
solicitude, come to say good-bye. Plume's own Concord appeared almost
at the instant in front of his quarters, and presently Mrs. Plume,
veiled and obviously far from strong, came forth leaning on her
husband's arm, and closely followed by Elise. Then, despite the early
hour, and to the dismay of Plume, who had planned to start without
farewell demonstration of any kind, lights were blinking in almost
every house along the row, and a flock of women, some tender and
sympathetic, some morbidly curious, had gathered to wish the major's
wife a pleasant journey and a speedy recovery. They loved her not at
all, and liked her none too well, but she was ill and sorrowing, so
that was enough. Elise they could not bear, yet even Elise came in for
a kindly word or two. Mrs. Graham was there, big-hearted and brimming
over with helpful suggestion, burdened also with a basket of dainties.
Captain and Mrs. Cutler, Captain and Mrs. Westervelt, the Trumans
both, Doty, the young adjutant, Janet Wren, of course, and the ladies
of the cavalry, the major's regiment, without exception, were on hand
to bid the major and his wife good-bye. Angela Wren was not feeling
well, explained her aunt, and Mr. Neil Blakely was conspicuous by his
absence.

It had been observed that, during those few days of hurried packing
and preparation, Major Plume had not once gone to Blakely's quarters.
True, he had visited only Dr. Graham, and had begged him to explain
that anxiety on account of Mrs. Plume prevented his making the round
of farewell calls; but that he was thoughtful of others to the last
was shown in this: Plume had asked Captain Cutler, commander of the
post, to order the release of that wretch Downs. "He has been
punished quite sufficiently, I think," said Plume, "and as I was
instrumental in his arrest I ask his liberation." At tattoo,
therefore, the previous evening "the wretch" had been returned to
duty, and at five in the morning was found hovering about the major's
quarters. When invited by the sergeant of the guard to explain, he
replied, quite civilly for him, that it was to say good-by to Elise.
"Me and her," said he, "has been good friends."

Presumably he had had his opportunity at the kitchen door before the
start, but still he lingered, feigning professional interest in the
condition of the sleek mules that were to haul the Concord over fifty
miles of rugged road, up hill and down dale before the setting of the
sun. Then, while the officers and ladies clustered thick on one side
of the black vehicle, Downs sidled to the other, and the big black
eyes of the Frenchwoman peered down at him a moment as she leaned
toward him, and, with a whispered word, slyly dropped a little folded
packet into his waiting palm. Then, as though impatient, Plume shouted
"All right. Go on!" The Concord whirled away, and something like a
sigh of relief went up from assembled Sandy, as the first kiss of the
rising sun lighted on the bald pate of Squaw Peak, huge sentinel of
the valley, looming from the darkness and shadows and the mists of the
shallow stream that slept in many a silent pool along its massive,
rocky base. With but a few hurried, embarrassed words, Clarice Plume
had said adieu to Sandy, thinking never to see it again. They stood
and watched her past the one unlighted house, the northernmost along
the row. They knew not that Mr. Blakely was at the moment bidding
adieu to others in far humbler station. They only noted that, even at
the last, he was not there to wave a good-by to the woman who had once
so influenced his life. Slowly then the little group dissolved and
drifted away. She had gone unchallenged of any authority, though the
fate of Mullins still hung in the balance. Obviously, then, it was not
she whom Byrne's report had implicated, if indeed that report had
named anybody. There had been no occasion for a coroner and jury.
There would have been neither coroner nor jury to serve, had they been
called for. Camp Sandy stood in a little world of its own, the only
civil functionary within forty miles being a ranchman, dwelling seven
miles down stream, who held some Territorial warrant as a justice of
the peace.

But Norah Shaughnessy, from the gable window of the Trumans' quarters,
shook a hard-clinching Irish fist and showered malediction after the
swiftly speeding ambulance. "Wan 'o ye," she sobbed, "dealt Pat
Mullins a coward and cruel blow, and I'll know which, as soon as ever
that poor bye can spake the truth." She would have said it to that
hated Frenchwoman herself, had not mother and mistress both forbade
her leaving the room until the Plumes were gone.

Three trunks had been stacked up and secured on the hanging rack at
the rear of the Concord. Others, with certain chests and boxes, had
been loaded into one big wagon and sent ahead. The ambulance, with
the Dalys and the little escort of seven horsemen, awaited the rest of
the convoy on the northward flats, and the cloud of their combined
dust hung long on the scarred flanks as the first rays of the rising
sun came gilding the rocks at Boulder Point, and what was left of the
garrison at Sandy turned out for reveille.

That evening, for the first time since his injury, Mr. Blakely took
his horse and rode away southward in the soft moonlight, and had not
returned when tattoo sounded. The post trader, coming up with the
latest San Francisco papers, said he had stopped a moment to ask at
the store whether Schandein, the ranchman justice of the peace before
referred to, had recently visited the post.

That evening, too, for the first time since his dangerous wound,
Trooper Mullins awoke from his long delirium, weak as a little child;
asked for Norah, and what in the world was the matter with him--in bed
and bandages, and Dr. Graham, looking into the poor lad's dim,
half-opening eyes, sent a messenger to Captain Cutler's quarters to
ask would the captain come at once to hospital. This was at nine
o'clock.

Less than two hours later a mounted orderly set forth with dispatches
from the temporary post commander to Colonel Byrne at Prescott. A wire
from that point about sundown had announced the safe arrival of the
party from Camp Sandy. The answer, sent at ten o'clock, broke up the
game of whist at the quarters of the inspector general. Byrne, the
recipient, gravely read it, backed from the table, and vainly strove
not to see the anxious inquiry in the eyes of Major Plume, his guest.
But Plume cornered him.

"From Sandy?" he asked. "May I read it?"

Byrne hesitated just one moment, then placed the paper in his junior's
hand. Plume read, turned very white, and the paper fell from his
trembling fingers. The message merely said:

     Mullins recovering and quite rational, though very weak. He
     says two women were his assailants. Courier with dispatches
     at once.

                                    (Signed) CUTLER, Commanding.




CHAPTER XII

FIRE!


"It was not so much his wounds as his weakness," Dr. Graham was
saying, later still that autumn night, "that led to my declaring
Blakely unfit to take the field. He would have gone in spite of me,
but for the general's order. He has gone now in spite of me, and no
one knows where."

It was then nearly twelve o'clock, and "the Bugologist" was still
abroad. Dinner, as usual since his mishap, had been sent over to him
from the officers' mess soon after sunset. His horse, or rather the
troop horse designated for his use, had been fed and groomed in the
late afternoon, and then saddled at seven o'clock and brought over to
the rear of the quarters by a stable orderly.

There had been some demur at longer sending Blakely's meals from mess,
now reduced to an actual membership of two. Sandy was a "much married"
post in the latter half of the 70's, the bachelors of the commissioned
list being only three, all told,--Blakely, and Duane of the Horse, and
Doty of the Foot. With these was Heartburn, the contract doctor, and
now Duane and the doctor were out in the mountains and Blakely on sick
report, yet able to be about. Doty thought him able to come to mess.
Blakely, thinking he looked much worse than he felt, thanks to his
plastered jowl, stood on his rights in the matter and would not go.
There had been some demur on part of the stable sergeant of Wren's
troop as to sending over the horse. Few officers brought eastern-bred
horses to Arizona in those days. The bronco was best suited to the
work. An officer on duty could take out the troop horse assigned to
his use any hour before taps and no questions asked; but the sergeant
told Mr. Blakely's messenger that the lieutenant wasn't for duty, and
it might make trouble. It did. Captain Cutler sent for old Murray, the
veteran sergeant, and asked him did he not know his orders. He had
allowed a horse to be sent to a sick man--an officer not on duty--and
one the doctor had warned against exercise for quite a time, at least.
And now the officer was gone, so was the horse, and Cutler, being
sorely torn up by the revelations of the evening and dread of ill
befalling Blakely, was so injudicious as to hint to a soldier who had
worn chevrons much longer than he, Cutler, had worn shoulder-straps,
that the next thing to go would probably be his sergeant's bars,
whereat Murray went red to the roots of his hair--which "continued the
march" of the color,--and said, with a snap of his jaws, that he got
those chevrons, as he did his orders, from his troop commander. A
court might order them stricken off, but a captain couldn't, other
than his own. For which piece of impudence the veteran went
straightway to Sudsville in close arrest. Corporal Bolt was ordered to
take over his keys and the charge of the stables until the return of
Captain Wren, also this order--that no government horse should be sent
to Lieutenant Blakely hereafter until the lieutenant was declared by
the post surgeon fit for duty.

There were left at the post, of each of the two cavalry troops, about
a dozen men to care for the stables, the barracks, and property. Seven
of these had gone with the convoy to Prescott, and, when Cutler
ordered half a dozen horsemen out at midnight to follow Blakely's
trail and try to find him, they had to draw on both troop stables, and
one of the designated men was the wretch Downs,--and Downs was not in
his bunk,--not anywhere about the quarters or corrals. It was nearly
one by the time the party started down the sandy road to the south,
Hart and his buckboard and a sturdy brace of mules joining them as
they passed the store. "We may need to bring him back in this," said
he, to Corporal Quirk.

"An' what did ye fetch to bring him _to_ wid?" asked the corporal.
Hart touched lightly the breast of his coat, then clucked to his team.
"Faith, there's more than wan way of tappin' it then," said Quirk, but
the cavalcade moved on.

The crescent moon had long since sunk behind the westward range, and
trailing was something far too slow and tedious. They spurred,
therefore, for the nearest ranch, five miles down stream, making their
first inquiry there. The inmates were slow to arise, but quick to
answer. Blakely had neither been seen nor heard of. Downs they didn't
wish to know at all. Indians hadn't been near the lower valley since
the "break" at the post the previous week. One of the inmates declared
he had ridden alone from Camp McDowell within three days, and there
wasn't a 'Patchie west of the Matitzal. Hart did all the questioning.
He was a business man and a brother. Soldiers, the ranchmen didn't
like--soldiers set too much value on government property.

The trail ran but a few hundred yards east of the stream, and close to
the adobe walls of the ranch. Strom, the proprietor, got out his
lantern and searched below the point where the little troop had turned
off. No recent hoof-track, southbound, was visible. "He couldn't have
come this far," said he. "Better put back!" Put back they did, and by
the aid of Hart's lantern found the fresh trail of a government-shod
horse, turning to the east nearly two miles toward home. Quirk said a
bad word or two; borrowed the lantern and thoughtfully included the
flask; bade his men follow in file and plunged through the underbrush
in dogged pursuit. Hart and his team now could not follow. They waited
over half an hour without sign or sound from the trailers, then drove
swiftly back to the post. There was a light in the telegraph office,
and thither Hart went in a hurry. Lieutenant Doty, combining the
duties of adjutant and officer of the day, was up and making the
rounds. The sentries had just called off three o'clock.

"Had your trouble for nothing, Hart," hailed the youngster cheerily.
"Where're the men?"

"Followed his trail--turned to the east three miles below here,"
answered the trader.

"Three miles _below_! Why, man, he wasn't below. He met them up Beaver
Creek, an' brought 'em in."

"Brought who in?" asked Hart, dropping his whip. "I don't understand."

"Why, the scouts, or runners! Wren sent 'em in. He's had a sharp fight
up the mountains beyond Snow Lake. Three men wounded. You couldn't
have gone a mile before Blakely led 'em across No. 4's post. Ahorah
and another chap--'Patchie-Mohaves. We clicked the news up to Prescott
over an hour ago."

The tin reflector at the office window threw the light of the
glass-framed candle straight upon Hart's rubicund face, and that face
was a study. He faltered a bit before he asked:

"Did Blakely seem all right?--not used up, I mean?"

"Seemed weak and tired, but the man is mad to go and join his troop
now--wants to go right out with Ahorah in the morning, and Captain
Cutler says no. Oh, they had quite a row!"

They had had rather more than quite a row, if truth were told. Doty
had heard only a bit of it. Cutler had been taken by surprise when the
Bugologist appeared, two strange, wiry Apaches at his heels, and at
first had contented himself with reading Wren's dispatch, repeating it
over the wires to Prescott. Then he turned on Blakely, silently,
wearily waiting, seated at Doty's desk, and on the two Apaches,
silently, stolidly waiting, squatted on the floor. Cutler wished to
know how Blakely knew these couriers were coming, and how he came to
leave the post without permission. For a moment the lieutenant simply
gazed at him, unanswering, but when the senior somewhat sharply
repeated the question, in part, Blakely almost as sharply answered: "I
did not know they were coming nor that there was wrong in my going.
Major Plume required nothing of the kind when we were merely going out
for a ride."

[Illustration: "BLAKELY LED 'EM ACROSS NO. 4'S POST"]

This nettled Cutler. He had always said that Plume was lax, and here
was proof of it. "I might have wanted you--I _did_ want you, hours
ago, Mr. Blakely, and even Major Plume would not countenance his
officers spending the greater part of the night away from the post,
especially on a government horse," and there had Cutler the whip hand
of the scientist, and Blakely had sense enough to see it, yet not
sense enough to accept. He was nervous and irritable, as well as
tired. Graham had told him he was too weak to ride, yet he had gone,
not thinking, of course, to be gone so long, but gone deliberately,
and without asking the consent of the post commander. "My finding the
runners was an accident," he said, with some little asperity of tone
and manner. "In fact, I didn't find them. They found me. I had known
them both at the reservation. Have I your permission, sir"--this with
marked emphasis--"to take them for something to eat. They are very
hungry,--have come far, and wish to start early and rejoin Captain
Wren,--as I do, too."

"They will start when _I_ am ready, Mr. Blakely," said Cutler, "and
you certainly will not start before. In point of fact, sir, you may
not be allowed to start at all."

It was now Blakely's turn to redden to the brows. "You surely will not
prevent my going to join my troop, now that it is in contact with the
enemy," said he. "All I need is a few hours' sleep. I can start at
seven."

"You cannot, with my consent, Mr. Blakely," said the captain dryly.
"There are reasons, in fact, why you can't leave here for any purpose
unless the general himself give contrary orders. Matters have come up
that--you'll probably have to explain."

And here Doty entered, hearing only the captain's last. At sight of
his adjutant the captain stopped short in his reprimand. "See to it
that these runners have a good supper, Mr. Doty," said Cutler. "Stir
up my company cook, if need be, but take them with you now." Then,
turning again on Blakely, "The doctor wishes you to go to bed at once,
Mr. Blakely, and I will see you in the morning, but no more riding
away without permission," he concluded, and thereby closed the
interview. He had, indeed, other things to say to, and inquire of,
Blakely, but not until he had further consulted Graham. He confidently
expected the coming day would bring instructions from headquarters to
hold both Blakely and Trooper Downs at the post, as a result of his
dispatches, based on the revelation of poor Pat Mullins. But Downs,
forewarned, perhaps, had slipped into hiding somewhere--an old trick
of his, when punishment was imminent. It might be two or three days
before Downs turned up again, if indeed he turned up at all, but
Blakely was here and could be held. Hence the "horse order" of the
earlier evening.

It was nearly two when Blakely reached his quarters, rebuffed and
stung. He was so nervous, however, that, in spite of serious fatigue,
he found it for over an hour impossible to sleep. He turned out his
light and lay in the dark, and the atmosphere of the room seemed
heavily charged with rank tobacco. His new "striker" had sat up, it
seems, keeping faithful vigil against his master's return, but, as the
hours wore on, had solaced himself with pipe after pipe, and wandering
about to keep awake. Most of the time, he declared, he had spent in a
big rocking chair on the porch at the side door, but the scent of the
weed and of that veteran pipe permeated the entire premises, and the
Bugologist hated dead tobacco. He got up and tore down the blanket
screen at the side windows and opened all the doors wide and tried his
couch again, and still he wooed the drowsy god in vain. "Nor poppy nor
mandragora" had he to soothe him. Instead there were new and anxious
thoughts to vex, and so another half hour he tossed and tumbled, and
when at last he seemed dropping to the borderland, perhaps, of dreams,
he thought he must be ailing again and in need of new bandages or
cooling drink or something, for the muffled footfalls, betrayed by
creaking pine rather than by other sound, told him drowsily that the
attendant or somebody, cautioned not to disturb him, was moving
slowly across the room. He might have been out on the side porch to
get cool water from the _olla_, but he needn't be so confoundedly slow
and cautious, though he couldn't help the creaking. Then, what could
the attendant want in the front room, where were still so many of the
precious glass cases unharmed, and the Bugologist's favorite books and
his big desk, littered with papers, etc.? Blakely thought to hail and
warn him against moving about among those brittle glass things, but
reflected that he, the new man, had done the reshifting under his,
Blakely's, supervision, and knew just where each item was placed and
how to find the passage way between them. It really was a trifle
intricate. How could he have gone into the spare room at Captain
Wren's, and there made his home as--she--Mrs. Plume had first
suggested? There would not have been room for half his plunder, to say
nothing of himself. "What on earth can Nixon want?" he sleepily asked
himself, "fumbling about there among those cases? Was that a crack or
a snap?" It sounded like both, a splitting of glass, a wrenching of
lock spring or something. "Be careful there!" he managed to call. No
answer. Perhaps it was some one of the big hounds, then, wandering
restlessly about at night. They often did, and--why, yes, that would
account for it. Doors and windows were all wide open here, what was to
prevent? Still, Blakely wished he hadn't extinguished his lamp. He
might then have explored. The sound ceased entirely for a moment, and,
now that he was quite awake, he remembered that the hospital attendant
was no longer with him. Then the sounds must have been made by the
striker or the hounds. Blakely had no dogs of his own. Indeed they
were common property at the post, most of them handed down with the
rest of the public goods and chattels by their predecessors of the ----th.
At all events, he felt far too languid, inert, weak, indifferent or
something. If the striker, he had doubtless come down for cool water. If
the hounds, they were in search of something to eat, and in either case
why bother about it? The incident had so far distracted his thoughts
from the worries of the night that now, at last and in good earnest, he
was dropping to sleep.

But in less than twenty minutes he was broad awake again, with sudden
start--gasping, suffocating, listening in amaze to a volley of
snapping and cracking, half-smothered, from the adjoining room. He
sprang from his bed with a cry of alarm and flung himself through a
thick, hot veil of eddying, yet invisible, smoke, straight for the
communicating doorway, and was brought up standing by banging his head
against the resounding pine, tight shut instead of open as he had left
it, and refusing to yield to furious battering. It was locked, bolted,
or barred from the other side. Blindly he turned and rushed for the
side porch and the open air, stumbling against the striker as the
latter came clattering headlong down from aloft. Then together they
rushed to the parlor window, now cracking and splitting from the
furious heat within. A volume of black fume came belching forth,
driven and lashed by ruddy tongues of flame within, and their shouts
for aid went up on the wings of the dawn, and the infantry sentry on
the eastward post came running to see; caught one glimpse of the glare
at that southward window; bang went his rifle with a ring that came
echoing back from the opposite cliffs, as all Camp Sandy sprang from
its bed in answer to the stentorian shout "Fire! No. 5!"




CHAPTER XIII

WHOSE LETTERS?


There is something about a night alarm of fire at a military post that
borders on the thrilling. In the days whereof we write the buildings
were not the substantial creations of brick and stone to be seen
to-day, and those of the scattered "camps" and stations in that arid,
sun-scorched land of Arizona were tinder boxes of the flimsiest and
most inflammable kind.

It could hardly have been a minute from the warning shot and yell of
No. 5--repeated right and left by other sentries and echoed by No. 1
at the guard-house--before bugle and trumpet were blaring their fierce
alarm, and the hoarse roar of the drum was rousing the inmates of the
infantry barracks. Out they came, tumbling pell-mell into the
accustomed ranks, confronted by the sight of Blakely's quarters one
broad sheet of flame. With incredible speed the blaze had burst forth
from the front room on the lower floor; leaped from window to window,
from ledge to ledge; fastened instantly on overhanging roof, and the
shingled screen of the veranda; had darted up the dry wooden stairway,
devouring banister, railing, and snapping pine floor, and then,
billowing forth from every crack, crevice, and casement of the upper
floor streamed hissing and crackling on the blackness that precedes
the dawn, a magnificent glare that put to shame the feeble signal
fires lately gleaming in the mountains. Luckily there was no
wind--there never was a wind at Sandy--and the flames leaped straight
for the zenith, lashing their way into the huge black pillar of smoke
cloud sailing aloft to the stars.

Under their sergeants, running in disciplined order, one company had
sped for the water wagon and were now slowly trundling that unwieldy
vehicle, pushing, pulling, straining at the wheels, from its night
berth close to the corrals. Rushing like mad, in no order at all, the
men of the other company came tearing across the open parade, and were
faced and halted far out in front of officers' row by Blakely himself,
barefooted and clad only in his pyjamas, but all alive with vim and
energy.

"Back, men! back for your blankets!" he cried. "Bring ladders and
buckets! Back with you, lively!" They seemed to catch his meaning at
the instant. His soldier home with everything it contained was doomed.
Nothing could save it. But there stood the next quarters,--Truman's
and Westervelt's double set,--and in the intense heat that must
speedily develop, it might well be that the dry, resinous woodwork
that framed the adobe would blaze forth on its own account and spread
a conflagration down the line. Already Mrs. Truman, with Norah and the
children, was being hurried down to the doctor's, while Truman
himself, with the aid of two or three neighboring "strikers," had
stripped the beds of their single blanket and, bucketing these with
water, was slashing at the veranda roof and cornice along the
northward side.

Somebody came with a short ladder, and in another moment three or four
adventurous spirits, led by Blakely and Truman, were scrambling about
the veranda roof, their hands and faces glowing in the gathering heat,
spreading blankets over the shingling and cornice. In five minutes all
that was left of Blakely's little homestead was gone up in smoke and
fierce, furious heat and flame, but the daring and well-directed
effort of the garrison had saved the rest of the line. In ten minutes
nothing but a heap of glowing beams and embers, within four crumbling
walls of adobe, remained of the "beetle shop." Bugs, butterflies,
books, chests, desk, trunks, furniture, papers, and such martial
paraphernalia as a subaltern might require in that desert land, had
been reduced to ashes before their owner's eyes. He had not saved so
much as a shoe. His watch, lying on the table by his bedside, a silk
handkerchief, and a little scrap of a note, written in girlish hand
and carried temporarily in the breast pocket, were the only items he
had managed to bring with him into the open air. He was still gasping,
gagging, half-strangling, when Captain Cutler accosted him to know if
he could give the faintest explanation of the starting of so strange
and perilous a fire, and Blakely, remembering the stealthy footsteps
and that locked or bolted door, could not but say he believed it
incendiary, yet could think of no possible motive.

It was daybreak as the little group of spectators, women and children
of the garrison, began to break up and return to their homes, all
talking excitedly, all intolerant of the experiences of others, and
centered solely in the narrative of their own. Leaving a dozen men
with buckets, readily filled from the acequia which turned the old
water wheel just across the post of No. 4, and sending the big water
wagon down to the stream for another liquid load, the infantry went
back to their barracks and early coffee. The drenched blankets, one by
one, were stripped from the gable end of Truman's quarters, every
square inch of the paint thereon being now a patch of tiny blisters,
and there, as the dawn broadened and the pallid light took on again a
tinge of rose, the officers gathered about Blakely in his scorched and
soaked pyjamas, extending both condolence and congratulation.

"The question is, Blakely," remarked Captain Westervelt dryly, "will
you go to Frisco to refit now, or wait till Congress reimburses?"
whereat the scientist was observed to smile somewhat ruefully. "The
question is, Bugs," burst in young Doty irrepressibly, "will you wear
this rig, or Apache full dress, when you ride after Wren? The runners
start at six," whereat even the rueful smile was observed to vanish,
and without answer Blakely turned away, stepping gingerly into the
heated sand with his bare white feet.

"Don't bother about dousing anything else, sergeant," said he
presently, to the soldier supervising the work of the bucket squad.
"The iron box should be under what's left of my desk--about there,"
and he indicated a charred and steaming heap, visible through a gap in
the doubly baked adobe that had once been the side window. "Lug that
out as soon as you can cool things off. I'll probably be back by that
time." Then, turning again to the group of officers, and ignoring
Doty--Blakely addressed himself to the senior.

"Captain Cutler," said he, "I can fit myself out at the troop quarters
with everything I need for the field, at least, and wire to San
Francisco for what I shall need when we return. I shall be ready to go
with Ahorah at six."

There was a moment of silence. Embarrassment showed plainly in almost
every face. When Cutler spoke it was with obvious effort. Everybody
realized that Blakely, despite severe personal losses, had been the
directing head in checking the progress of the flames. Truman had
borne admirable part, but Blakely was at once leader and actor. He
deserved well of his commander. He was still far from strong. He was
weak and weary. His hands and face were scorched and in places
blistered, yet, turning his back on the ruins of his treasures, he
desired to go at once to join his comrades in the presence of the
enemy. He had missed every previous opportunity of sharing perils and
battle with them. He could afford such loss as that no longer, in view
of what he knew had been said. He had every right, so thought they
all, to go, yet Cutler hesitated. When at last he spoke it was to
temporize.

"You're in no condition for field work, Mr. Blakely," said he. "The
doctor has so assured me, and just now things are taking such shape
I--need you here."

"You will permit me to appeal by wire, sir?" queried Blakely, standing
attention in his bedraggled night garb, and forcing himself to a
semblance of respect that he was far from feeling.

"I--I will consult Dr. Graham and let you know," was the captain's
awkward reply.

Two hours later Neil Blakely, in a motley dress made up of collections
from the troop and trader's stores--a combination costume of blue
flannel shirt, bandanna kerchief, cavalry trousers with machine-made
saddle piece, Tonto moccasins and leggings, fringed gauntlets and a
broad-brimmed white felt hat, strode into the messroom in quest of
eggs and coffee. Doty had been there and vanished. Sick call was
sounding and Graham was stalking across the parade in the direction of
the hospital, too far away to be reached by human voice, unless
uplifted to the pitch of attracting the whole garrison. The telegraph
operator had just clicked off the last of half a dozen messages
scrawled by the lieutenant--orders on San Francisco furnishers for the
new outfit demanded by the occasion, etc., but Captain Cutler was
still mured within his own quarters, declining to see Mr. Blakely
until ready to come to the office. Ahorah and his swarthy partner were
already gone, "started even before six," said the acting sergeant
major, and Blakely was fuming with impatience and sense of something
much amiss. Doty was obviously dodging him, there could be no doubt
of that, for the youngster was between two fires, the post commander's
positive orders on one hand and Blakely's urgent pleadings on the
other.

Over at "C" Troop's quarters was the lieutenant's saddle, ready packed
with blanket, greatcoat, and bulging saddle-bags. Over in "C" Troop's
stables was Deltchay--the lieutenant's bronco charger, ready fed and
groomed, wondering why he was kept in when the other horses were out
at graze. With the saddle kit were the troop carbine and revolver,
Blakely's personal arms being now but stockless tubes of seared and
blistered steel. Back of "C" Troop's quarters lolled a half-breed
Mexican packer, with a brace of mules, one girt with saddle, the other
in shrouding aparejo--diamond-hitched, both borrowed from the post
trader with whom Blakely's note of hand was good as a government four
per cent.--all ready to follow the lieutenant to the field whither
right and duty called him. There, too, was Nixon, the new "striker,"
new clad as was his master, and full panoplied for the field, yet
bemoaning the loss of soldier treasures whose value was never fully
realized until they were irrevocably gone. Six o'clock, six-thirty,
six-forty-five and even seven sped by and still there came no summons
to join the soldier master. There had come instead, when Nixon urged
that he be permitted to lead forth both his own troop horse and
Deltchay, the brief, but significant reply: "Shut yer gab, Nixon.
There's no horse goes till the captain says so!"

At seven o'clock, at last, the post commander came forth from his
doorway; saw across the glaring level of the parade the form of Mr.
Blakely impatiently pacing the veranda at the adjutant's office, and,
instead of going thither, as was his wont, Captain Cutler turned the
other way and strode swiftly to the hospital, where Graham met him at
the bedside of Trooper patient Patrick Mullins. "How is he?" queried
Cutler.

"Sleeping--thank God--and not to be wakened," was the Scotchman's
answer. "He had a bad time of it during the fire."

"What am I to tell Blakely?" demanded Cutler, seeking strength for his
faltering hand. "You're bound to help me now, Graham."

"Let him go and you _may_ make it worse," said the doctor, with a
clamp of his grizzled jaws. "Hold him here and you're sure to."

"Can't you, as post surgeon, tell him he isn't fit to ride?"

"Not when he rides the first half of the night and puts out a nasty
fire the last. Can't you, as post commander, tell him you forbid his
going till you hear from Byrne and investigate the fire?" If Graham
had no patience with a frail woman, he had nothing but contempt for a
weak man. "If he's bound to be up and doing something, though," he
added, "send him out with a squad of men and orders to hunt for
Downs."

Cutler had never even thought of it. Downs was still missing. No one
had seen him. His haunts had been searched to no purpose. His horse
was still with the herd. One man, the sergeant of the guard, the
previous day, had marked the brief farewell between the missing man
and the parting maid--had seen the woman's gloved hand stealthily put
forth and the little folded packet passed to the soldier's ready palm.
What that paper contained no man ventured to conjecture. Cutler and
Graham, notified by Sergeant Kenna of what he had seen, puzzled over
it in vain. Norah Shaughnessy could perhaps unravel it, thought the
doctor, but he did not say.

Cutler came forth from the shaded depths of the broad hallway to face
the dazzling glare of the morning sunshine, and the pale, stern,
reproachful features of the homeless lieutenant, who simply raised his
hand in salute and said: "I've been ready two hours, sir, and the
runners are long gone."

"Too long and too far for you to catch them now," said Cutler,
catching at another straw. "And there is far more important matter
here. Mr. Blakely, I want that man Downs followed, found, and brought
back to this post, and you're the only man to do it. Take a dozen
troopers, if necessary, and set about it, sir, at once."

A soldier was at the moment hurrying past the front of the hospital, a
grimy-looking packet in his hand. Hearing the voice of Captain Cutler,
he turned, saw Lieutenant Blakely standing there at attention, saw
that, as the captain finished, Blakely still remained a moment as
though about to speak--saw that he seemed a trifle dazed or stunned.
Cutler marked it, too. "This is imperative and immediate, Mr.
Blakely," said he, not unkindly. "Pull yourself together if you are
fit to go at all, and lose no more time." With that he started away.
Graham had come to the doorway, but Blakely never seemed to see him.
Instead he suddenly roused and, turning sharp, sprang down the wooden
steps as though to overtake the captain, when the soldier, saluting,
held forth the dingy packet.

"It was warped out of all shape, sir," said he. "The blacksmith pried
out the lid wid a crowbar. The books are singed and soaked and the
packages charred--all but this."

It fell apart as it passed from hand to hand, and a lot of letters,
smoke-stained, scorched at the edges, and some of them soaking wet,
also two or three _carte de visite_ photographs, were scattered on the
sand. Both men bobbed in haste to gather them up, and Graham came
hurriedly down to help. As Blakely straightened again he swayed and
staggered slightly, and the doctor grasped him by the arm, a sudden
clutch that perhaps shook loose some of the recovered papers from the
long, slim fingers. At all events, a few went suddenly back to earth,
and, as Cutler turned, wondering what was amiss, he saw Blakely, with
almost ashen face, supported by the doctor's sturdy arm to a seat on
the edge of the piazza; saw, as he quickly retraced his steps, a sweet
and smiling woman's face looking up at him out of the trampled sands,
and, even as he stooped to recover the pretty photograph, though it
looked far younger, fairer, and more winsome than ever he had seen it,
Cutler knew the face at once. It was that of Clarice, wife of Major
Plume. Whose, then, were those scattered letters?




CHAPTER XIV

AUNT JANET BRAVED


Nightfall of a weary day had come. Camp Sandy, startled from sleep in
the dark hour before the dawn, had found topic for much exciting talk,
and was getting tired as the twilight waned. No word had come from the
party sent in search of Downs, now deemed a deserter. No sign of him
had been found about the post. No explanation had occurred to either
Cutler or Graham of the parting between Elise and the late "striker."
She had never been known to notice or favor him in any way before. Her
smiles and coquetries had been lavished on the sergeants. In Downs
there was nothing whatsoever to attract her. It was not likely she had
given him money, said Cutler, because he was about the post all that
day after the Plumes' departure and with never a sign of inebriety. He
could not himself buy whisky, but among the ranchmen, packers, and
prospectors forever hanging about the post there were plenty ready to
play middleman for anyone who could supply the cash, and in this way
were the orders of the post commander made sometimes abortive. Downs
was gone, that was certain, and the question was, which way?

A sergeant and two men had taken the Prescott road; followed it to
Dick's Ranch, in the Cherry Creek Valley, and were assured the missing
man had never gone that way. Dick was himself a veteran trooper of
the ----th. He had invested his savings in this little estate and
settled thereon to grow up with the country--the Stannards' winsome
Millie having accepted a life interest in him and his modest property.
They knew every man riding that trail, from the daily mail messenger
to the semi-occasional courier. Their own regiment had gone, but they
had warm interest in its successors. They knew Downs, had known him
ever since his younger days when, a trig young Irish-Englishman, some
Londoner's discharged valet, he had 'listed in the cavalry, as he
expressed it, to reform. A model of temperance, soberness, and
chastity was Downs between times, and his gifts as groom of the
chambers, as well as groom of the stables, made him, when a model,
invaluable to bachelor officers in need of a competent soldier
servant. In days just after the great war he had won fame and money as
a light rider. It was then that Lieutenant Blake had dubbed him
"Epsom" Downs, and well-nigh quarreled with his chum, Lieutenant Ray,
over the question of proprietorship when the two were sent to separate
stations and Downs was "striking" for both. Downs settled the matter
by getting on a seven-days' drunk, squandering both fame and money,
and, though forgiven the scriptural seventy times seven (during which
term of years his name was changed to Ups and Downs), finally
forfeited the favor of both these indulgent masters and became
thereafter simply Downs, with no ups of sufficient length to restore
the average--much less to redeem him. And yet, when eventually
"bobtailed" out of the ----th, he had turned up at the old arsenal
recruiting depot at St. Louis, clean-shaven, neat, deft-handed,
helpful, to the end that an optimistic troop commander "took him on
again," in the belief that a reform had indeed been inaugurated. But,
like most good soldiers, the commander referred to knew little of
politics or potables, otherwise he would have set less store by the
strength of the reform movement and more by that of the potations.
Downs went so far on the highroad to heaven this time as to drink
nothing until his first payday. Meantime, as his captain's mercury,
messenger, and general utility man, moving much in polite society at
the arsenal and in town, he was frequently to be seen about
Headquarters of the Army, then established by General Sherman as far
as possible from Washington and as close to the heart of St. Louis. He
learned something of the ins and outs of social life in the gay city,
heard much theory and little truth about the time that Lieutenant
Blakely, returning suddenly thereto after an absence of two months,
during which time frequent letters had passed between him and Clarice
Latrobe, found that Major Plume had been her shadow for weeks, her
escort to dance after dance, her companion riding, driving, dining day
after day. Something of this Blakely had heard in letters from
friends. Little or nothing thereof had he heard from her. The public
never knew what passed between them (Elise, her maid, was better
informed). But Blakely within the day left town again, and within the
week there appeared the announcement of her forthcoming marriage,
Plume the presumably happy man. Downs got full the first payday after
his re-enlistment, as has been said, and drunk, as in duty bound, at
the major's "swagger" wedding. It was after this episode he fell
utterly from grace and went forth to the frontier irreclaimably
"Downs." It was a seven-days' topic of talk at Sandy that Lieutenant
Blakely, when acting Indian agent at the reservation, should have
accepted the services of this unpromising specimen as "striker." It
was a seven-weeks' wonder that Downs kept the pact, and sober as a
judge, from the hour he joined the Bugologist to the night that
self-contained young officer was sent crashing into his beetle show
under the impact of Wren's furious fist. Then came the last pound that
broke the back of Downs' wavering resolution, and now had come--what?
The sergeant and party rode back from Dick's to tell Captain Cutler
the deserter had not taken the Cherry Creek road. Another party just
in reported similarly that he had not taken the old, abandoned Grief
Hill trail. Still another returned from down-stream ranches to say he
could not have taken that route without being seen--and he had not
been seen. Ranchman Strom would swear to that because Downs was in his
debt for value received in shape of whisky, and Strom was rabid at the
idea of his getting away. In fine, as nothing but Downs was missing,
it became a matter of speculation along toward tattoo as to whether
Downs could have taken anything at all--except possibly his own life.

Cutler was now desirous of questioning Blakely at length, and
obtaining his views and theories as to Downs, for Cutler believed that
Blakely had certain well-defined views which he was keeping to
himself. Between these two, however, had grown an unbridgeable gulf.
Dr. Graham had declared at eight o'clock that morning that Mr. Blakely
was still so weak that he ought not to go with the searching parties,
and on receipt of this dictum Captain Cutler had issued his, to wit,
that Blakely should not go either in search of Downs or in pursuit of
Captain Wren. It stung Blakely and angered him even against Graham,
steeling him against the post commander. Each of these gentlemen
begged him to make his temporary home under his roof, and Blakely
would not. "Major Plume's quarters are now vacant, then," said Cutler
to Graham. "If he won't come to you or to me, let him take a room
there." This, too, Blakely refused. He reddened, what is more, at the
suggestion. He sent Nixon down to Mr. Hart's, the trader's, to ask if
he could occupy a spare room there, and when Hart said, yes, most
certainly, Cutler reddened in turn when told of it, and sent
Lieutenant Doty, the adjutant, to say that the post commander could
not "consent to an officer's occupying quarters outside the garrison
when there was abundant room within." Then came Truman and Westervelt
to beg Blakely to come to them. Then came a note from Mrs. Sanders,
reminding him that, as an officer of the cavalry, it would be casting
reflections on his own corps to go and dwell with aliens. "Captain
Sanders would never forgive me," said she, "if you did not take our
spare room. Indeed, I shall feel far safer with a man in the house now
that we are having fires and Indian out-breaks and prisoners escaping
and all that sort of thing. _Do_ come, Mr. Blakely." And in that blue
flannel shirt and the trooper trousers and bandanna neckerchief,
Blakely went and thanked her; sent for Nixon and his saddle-bags, and
with such patience as was possible settled down forthwith. Truth to
tell it was high time he settled somewhere, for excitement, exposure,
physical ill, and mental torment had told upon him severely. At
sunset, as he seemed too miserable to leave his room and come to the
dining table, Mrs. Sanders sent for the doctor, and reluctantly
Blakely let him in.

That evening, just after tattoo had sounded, Kate Sanders and Angela
were having murmured conference on the Wrens' veranda. Aunt Janet had
gone to hospital to carry unimpeachable jelly to the several patients
and dubious words of cheer. Jelly they absorbed with much avidity and
her words with meek resignation. Mullins, she thought, after his
dreadful experience and close touch with death, must be in receptive
mood and repentant of his sins. Of just what sins to repent poor Pat
might still be unsettled in his mind. It was sufficient that he had
them, as all soldiers must have, said Miss Wren, and now that his
brain seemed clearing and the fever gone and he was too weak and
helpless to resist, the time seemed ripe for the sowing of good seed,
and Janet went to sow.

But there by Mullins's bed, all unabashed at Janet's marked
disapprobation, sat Norah Shaughnessy. There, in flannel shirt and
trooper trousers and bandanna neckerchief, pale, but collected, stood
the objectionable Mr. Blakely. He was bending over, saying something
to Mullins, as she halted in the open doorway, and Blakely, looking
quickly up, went with much civility to greet and escort her within. To
his courteous, "Good-evening, Miss Wren, may I relieve you of your
basket?" she returned prompt negative and, honoring him with no
further notice, stood and gazed with Miss Shaughnessy at the
focus--Miss Shaughnessy who, after one brief glance, turned a broad
Irish back on the intruder at the doorway and resumed her murmuring to
Mullins.

"Is the doctor here--or Steward Griffin?" spoke the lady, to the room
at large, looking beyond the lieutenant and toward the single soldier
attendant present.

"The doctor and the steward are both at home just now, Miss Wren,"
said Blakely. "May I offer you a chair?"

Miss Wren preferred to stand.

"I wish to speak with Steward Griffin," said she again. "Can you go
for him?" this time obviously limiting her language to the attendant
himself, and carefully excluding Mr. Blakely from the field of her
recognition. The attendant dumbly shook his head. So Aunt Janet tried
again.

"Norah, _you_ know where the steward lives, will you--" But Blakely
saw rebellion awake again in Ireland and interposed.

"The steward shall be here at once, Miss Wren," said he, and tiptoed
away. The lady's doubtful eye turned and followed him a moment, then
slowly she permitted herself to enter. Griffin, heading for the
dispensary at the moment and apprised of her visit, came hurrying in.
Blakely, pondering over the few words Mullins had faintly spoken,
walked slowly over toward the line. His talk with Graham had in a
measure stilled the spirit of rancor that had possessed him earlier in
the day. Graham, at least, was stanch and steadfast, not a weathercock
like Cutler. Graham had given him soothing medicine and advised his
strolling a while in the open air--he had slept so much of the
stifling afternoon--and now, hearing the sound of women's voices on
the dark veranda nearest him, he veered to the left, passed around the
blackened ruin of his own quarters and down along the rear of the line
just as the musician of the guard was sounding "Lights Out"--"Taps."

And then a sudden thought occurred to him. Sentries began challenging
at taps. He was close to the post of No. 5. He could even see the
shadowy form of the sentry slowly pacing toward him, and here he stood
in the garb of a private soldier instead of his official dress. It
caused him quickly to veer again, to turn to his right, the west, and
to enter the open space between the now deserted quarters of the
permanent commander and those of Captain Wren adjoining them to the
north. Another moment and he stopped short. Girlish voices, low and
murmurous, fell upon his ear. In a moment he had recognized them. "It
won't take me two minutes, Angela. I'll go and get it now," were the
first words distinctly heard, and, with a rustle of skirts, Kate
Sanders bounded lightly from the piazza to the sands and disappeared
around the corner of the major's quarters, going in the direction of
her home. For the first time in many eventful days Blakely stood
almost within touch of the girl whose little note was even then
nestling in an inner pocket, and they were alone.

"Miss Angela!"

Gently he spoke her name, but the effect was startling. She had been
reclining in a hammock, and at sound of his voice struggled suddenly
to a sitting posture, a low cry on her lips. In some strange way, in
the darkness, the fright, confusion,--whatever it may have been,--she
lost her balance and her seat. The hammock whirled from under her, and
with exasperating thump, unharmed but wrathful, the girl was tumbled
to the resounding floor. Blakely sprang to her aid, but she was up in
the split of a second, scorning, or not seeing, his eager,
outstretched hand.

"My--Miss Angela!" he began, all anxiety and distress, "I hope you're
not hurt," and the outstretched hands were trembling.

"I _know_ I'm not," was the uncompromising reply, "not in the least;
startled--that's all! Gentlemen don't usually come upon one that
way--in the dark." She was panting a bit, but striving bravely,
angrily, to be calm and cool--icy cool.

"Nor would I have come that way," then, stupidly, "had I known you
were--here. Forgive me."

How could she, after that? She had no wish to see him, so she had
schooled herself. She would decline to see him, were he to ask for her
at the door; but, not for an instant did she wish to hear that he did
not wish to see her, yet he had haplessly, brusquely said he wouldn't
have come had he known she was there. It was her duty to leave him,
instantly. It was her desire first to punish him.

"My aunt is not at home," she began, the frost of the Sierras in her
tone.

"I just left her, a moment ago, at the hospital," said he, steadfastly
ignoring her repellent tone. Indeed, if anything, the tone rejoiced
him, for it told a tale she would not have told for realms and
empires. He was ten years older and had lived. "But--forgive me," he
went on, "you are trembling, Miss Angela." She was, and loathed
herself, and promptly denied it. He gravely placed a chair. "You fell
heavily, and it must have jarred you. Please sit down," and stepping
to the _olla_, "let me bring you some water."

She was weak. Her knees, her hands, were shaking as they never shook
before. He had seen her aunt at the hospital. He had left her aunt
there without a moment's delay that he might hasten to see her,
Angela. He was here and bending over her, with brimming gourd of cool
spring water. Nay, more, with one hand he pressed it to her lips, with
the other he held his handkerchief so that the drops might not fall
upon her gown. He was bending over her, so close she could hear, she
thought, the swift beating of his heart. She knew that if what Aunt
Janet had told, and her father had seen, of him were true, she would
rather die than suffer a touch of his hand. Yet one hand had touched
her, gently, yet firmly, as he helped her to the chair, and the touch
she loathed was sweet to her in spite of herself. From the moment of
their first meeting this man had done what no other man had done
before--spoken to her and treated her as a grown woman, with a man's
admiration in his fine blue eyes, with deference in word and chivalric
grace in manner. And in spite of the mean things whispered about
him--about him and--anybody, she had felt her young heart going out to
him, her buoyant, joyous, healthful nature opening and expanding in
the sunshine of his presence. And now he had come to seek her, after
all the peril and excitement and trouble he had undergone, and now,
all loverlike tenderness and concern, was bending over her and
murmuring to her, his deep voice almost as tremulous as her hand. Oh,
it couldn't be true that he--cared for--was interested in--that woman,
the major's wife! Not that she _ought_ to care one way or another,
except that it was so despicable--so unlike him. Yet she had promised
herself--had virtually promised her father--that she would hold far
aloof from this man, and here he stood, so close that their
heart-beats almost intermingled, and he was telling her that he wished
she had kept and never returned the little butterfly net, for now,
when it had won a value it never before had known, it was his fate to
lose it. "And now," he said, "I hope to be sent to-morrow to join your
father in the field, and I wish to tell you that, whenever I go, I
shall first come to see what you may have to send to him. Will you--be
here, Miss Angela?"

For a moment--silence. She was thinking of her duty to her father, of
her implied promise, of all that Janet had told her, and so thinking
could not for the moment answer--could not meet his earnest gaze. Dark
as it was she felt, rather than saw, the glow of his deep blue eyes.
She could not mistake the tenderness of his tone. She had so believed
in him. He seemed so far above the callow, vapid, empty-headed
youngsters the other girls were twittering about from morn till night.
She felt that she believed in him now, no matter what had been said or
who had said it. She felt that if he would but say it was all a
mistake--that no woman had crossed his threshold, all Camp Sandy might
swear to the truth of the story, and she would laugh at it. But how
could she ask such a thing of him? Her cheeks took fire at the
thought. It was he who broke the silence.

"Something has happened to break your faith in me, Miss Angela," said
he, with instant gravity. "I certainly had it--I _know_ I had it--not
a week ago"; and now he had dropped to a seat in the swaying hammock,
and with calm strength and will bent toward her and compelled her
attention. "I have a right to know, as matters stand. Will you tell
me, or must I wait until I see your father?" With that Neil Blakely
actually sought to take her hand. She whipped it behind her at the
instant. "Will you tell me?" he repeated, bending closer.

From down the line, dancing along the wooden veranda, came the sound
of swift footfalls--Kate Sanders hurrying back. Another moment and it
would be too late. The denial she longed to hear from his lips might
never be spoken. If spoken at all it must be here and now, yet how
could she--how could _she_ ask _him_?

"I will tell you, Mr. Blakely." The words came from the window of the
darkened parlor, close at hand. The voice was that of Janet Wren,
austere and uncompromising. "I got here in time to hear your
question--I will answer for my niece--"

"Aunt Janet--No!"

"Be quiet, Angela. Mr. Blakely, it is because this child's father saw,
and I heard of, that which makes you unworthy the faith of a young,
pure-hearted girl. Who was the--the creature to whom you opened your
door last Wednesday midnight?"

Kate Sanders, singing softly, blithely, came tripping along the
major's deserted veranda, her fresh young voice, glad, yet subdued,
caroling the words of a dear old song that Parepa had made loved and
famous full ten years before:

    "And as he lingered by her side,
    In spite of his comrade's warning
    The old, old story was told again
    At five o'clock in the morning."

Then came sudden silence, as springing to the sandy ground, the singer
reached the Wrens' veranda and saw the dim form of Mr. Blakely,
standing silently confronting a still dimmer form, faintly visible at
the side window against the soft, tempered light of the hanging lamp
in the hall.

"Who was the creature?" I repeat, were the strange words, in Miss
Wren's most telling tone, that brought Kate Sanders to a halt,
startled, silent.

Then Blakely answered: "Some day I shall tell Miss Angela, madam, but
never--you. Good-night."




CHAPTER XV

A CALL FOR HELP


That night the wire across the mountains to Prescott was long alive
with news, and there was little rest for operator, adjutant, or
commanding officer at Sandy. Colonel Byrne, it seems, had lost
telegraphic touch with his chief, who, quitting Camp McDowell, had
personally taken the field somewhere over in the Tonto Basin beyond
the Matitzal Range, and Byrne had the cares of a continent on his
hands. Three of the five commands out in the field had had sharp
encounters with the foe. Official business itself was sufficiently
engrossing, but there were other matters assuming grave proportions.
Mrs. Plume had developed a feverish anxiety to hie on to the Pacific
and out of Arizona just at a time when, as her husband had to tell
her, it was impossible for him, and impolitic for her, to go. Matters
at Sandy, he explained, were in tangled shape. Mullins partially
restored, but still, as Plume assured her, utterly out of his head,
had declared that his assailants were women; and other witnesses,
Plume would not give names, had positively asserted that Elise had
been seen along the sentry post just about the time the stabbing
occurred. Everything now, said he, must depend on Captain Wren, who
was known to have seen and spoken to Elise, and who could probably
testify that she returned to their roof before the tragic affair of
the night. But Wren was now away up in the mountains beyond Snow Lake
and might be going far over through Sunset Pass to the Colorado
Chiquito. Meantime he, Plume, was responsible for Elise, in duty bound
to keep her there to face any accuser. In her nervous, semi-hysterical
state the wife could not well be told how much she, too, was involved.
It was not necessary. She knew--all Fort Whipple, as Prescott's
military post was called, knew all about the fire that had destroyed
the "beetle shop" and Blakely's belongings. Elise, in wild excitement,
had rushed to her mistress with that news and the further information
that Downs was gone and could not be found. This latter fact, indeed,
they learned before Plume ever heard of it--and made no mention of it
in his presence.

"I shall have to run down to Sandy again," said Byrne, to Plume. "Keep
up your heart and--watch that Frenchwoman. The jade!" And with the
following day he was bounding and bumping down the stony road that led
from the breezy, pine-crested heights about headquarters to the sandy
flats and desert rocks and ravines fifty miles to the east and
twenty-five hundred feet below. "Shall be with you after dark," he
wired Cutler, who was having a bad quarter of an hour on his own
account, and wishing all Sandy to the devil. It had transpired that
Strom's rival ranchman, a little farther down the valley, was short
just one horse and set of horse equipments. He had made no complaint.
He had accused nobody. He had never failed in the past to appear at
Sandy with charge of theft and demand for damages at the expense of
the soldiery whenever he missed an item, big or little--and sometimes
when he didn't miss a thing. But now he came not at all, and Cutler
jumped at the explanation: he had sold that steed, and Downs, the
deserter, was the purchaser. Downs must have had money to aid in his
escape. Downs must have received it from someone eager to get him out
of the way. It might well be Elise, for who else would trust him? and
Downs must be striking for the south, after wide _detour_. No use now
to chase him. The wire was the only thing with which to round him up,
so the stage stations on the Gila route, and the scattered army posts,
were all notified of the desertion, and Downs's description, with all
his imperfections, was flashed far and wide over the Territory. He
could no more hope to escape than fly on the wings of night. He would
be cut off or run down long before he could reach Mexico; that is, he
_would_ be if only troopers got after him. The civil list of Arizona
in 1875 was of peculiar constitution. It stood ready at any time to
resolve itself into a modification of the old-day underground
railways, and help spirit off soldier criminals, first thoughtfully
relieving them of care and responsibility for any surplus funds in
their possession.

And with Downs gone one way, Wren's troop gone another, and Blakely
here clamoring to follow, Cutler was mentally torn out of shape. He
believed it his duty to hold Blakely at least until the colonel came,
and he lacked the "sand" to tell him so.

From Wren not another word had been received direct, but Bridger at
the agency had sent word that the Indians there were constantly in
receipt of news from the hostiles that filled them with excitement.
Wren, at last accounts, had gone into the mountains south of Sunset
Pass toward Chevlon's Fork, and his trail was doubtless watched to
head off couriers or cut down stragglers. Blakely's appeal to be
allowed to follow and join his troop had been declared foolish, and
the attempt foolhardy, by Captain Cutler. This and not the real reason
was given, coupled of course, with the doctor's dictum. But even
Graham had begun to think Blakely would be the better for anything
that would take him away from a station where life had been one swift
succession of ills and mishaps.

And even Graham did not dream how sorely Blakely had been hit. Nor
could he account for the access of nervous irritability that possessed
his patient all the livelong day, while waiting, as they all were, for
the coming of Colonel Byrne. Mrs. Sanders declared to Mrs. Graham her
private impression that he was on the verge of prostration, although,
making an effort, Blakely had appeared at breakfast after an early
morning walk, had been most courteous, gentle, and attentive to her
and to her wholesome, if not actually homely, Kate. How the mother's
heart yearned over that sweet-natured, sallow-faced child! But after
breakfast Blakely had wandered off again and was out on the _mesa_,
peering through a pair of borrowed glasses over the dreary eastward
landscape and up and down the deep valley. "How oddly are we
constituted!" said Mrs. Sanders. "If I only had his money, I'd never
be wearing my heart out in this desert land." She was not the only
army wife and mother that should have married a stockbroker--anything
rather than a soldier.

The whole post knew by noon that Byrne was coming, and waited with
feverish impatience. Byrne was the power that would put an end to the
doubts and distractions, decide who stabbed Pat Mullins, who set fire
to the "beetle shop," where Epsom Downs had gone, and could even
settle, possibly, the long-doubtful question, "Who struck Billy
Patterson?" Sandy believed in Byrne as it did in no one since the days
of General Crook. With two exceptions, all Sandy society was out on
the parade, the porticoes, or the northward bluff, as the sun went
down. These two were the Misses Wren. "Angela," said Miss Janet, "is
keeping her room to-day, and pretending to keep her temper"--this to
Kate Sanders, who had twice sought admission, despite a girlish awe
of, if not aversion to, this same Aunt Janet.

"But don't you think she'd like to see me just a little while, Miss
Wren?" the girl inquired, her hand caressing the sleek head of one of
the big hounds as she spoke. Hounds were other objects of Miss Wren's
disfavor. "Lazy, pilfering brutes," she called them, when after hours
of almost incredible labor and ingenious effort they had managed to
tear down, and to pieces, a haunch of venison she had slung to the
rafters of the back porch. "You can come in, Kate, provided you keep
out the dogs," was her ungracious answer, "and I'll go see. I think
she's sleeping now, and ought not to be disturbed."

"Then I won't disturb her," was Miss Sanders's prompt reply, as she
turned away and would have gone, but the elder restrained her. Janet
did not wish the girl to go at all. She knew Angela had asked for her,
and doubtless longed to see her; and now, having administered her
feline scratch and made Kate feel the weight of her disapproval, she
was quite ready to promote the very interview she had verbally
condemned. Perhaps Miss Sanders saw and knew this and preferred to
worry Miss Wren as much as possible. At all events, only with
reluctance did she obey the summons to wait a minute, and stood with a
pout on her lips as the spinster vanished in the gloom of the hallway.
Angela could not have been asleep, for her voice was audible in an
instant. "Come up, Kate," she feebly cried, just as Aunt Janet had
begun her little sermon, and the sermon had to stop, for Kate Sanders
came, and neither lass was in mood to listen to pious exhortation.
Moreover, they made it manifest to Aunt Janet that there would be no
interchange of confidences until she withdrew. "You are not to talk
yourselves into a pitch of excitement," said she. "Angela must sleep
to-night to make up for the hours she lost--thanks to the abominable
remarks of that hardened young man." With that, after a pull at the
curtain, a soothing thump or two at Angela's pillow, and the muttered
wish that the coming colonel were empowered to arrest recalcitrant
nieces as well as insubordinate subs, she left them to their own
devices. They were still in eager, almost breathless chat when the
crack of whip and sputter of hoofs and wheels through gravelly sands
told that the inspector's ambulance had come. Was it likely that
Angela could sleep until she heard the probable result of the
inspector's coming?

He was closeted first with Cutler. Then Dr. Graham was sent for, and
the three walked over to the hospital, just as the musicians were
forming for tattoo. They were at Mullins's bedside, with the steward
and attendants outside, when taps went wailing out upon the night.
There were five minutes of talk with that still bewildered patient.
Then Byrne desired to see Mr. Blakely at once and alone. Cutler
surrendered his office to the department inspector, and thither the
lieutenant was summoned. Mrs. Sanders, with Mrs. Truman, was keeping
little Mrs. Bridger company at the moment, and Blakely bowed
courteously to the three in passing by.

"Even in that rough dress," said Mrs. Sanders reflectively, as her
eyes followed the tall, straight figure over the moonlit parade, "he
is a most distinguished looking man."

"Yes," said Mrs. Bridger, still unappeased. "If he were a Sioux, I
suppose they'd call him 'Man-In-Love-With-His-Legs.'" Blakely heard
the bubble of laughter that followed him on his way, and wished that
he, too, felt in mood as merry. The acting sergeant major, a clerk,
and young Cassidy, the soldier telegraph operator, seated at the
westward end of the rough board porch of the adjutant's office, arose
and saluted as he entered. Byrne had sent every possible hearer out of
the building.

Five minutes the conference lasted, no sound coming from within.
Cutler and Graham, with Captain Westervelt, sat waiting on the porch
of the doctor's quarters, Mrs. Graham being busy with her progeny
aloft. Others of the officers and families were also on the piazzas,
or strolling slowly up and down the pathway, but all eyes wandered
from time to time toward the dim light at the office. All was dark at
the barracks. All was hushed and still about the post. The sentry call
for half-past ten was still some minutes' distant, when one of the
three seated figures at the end of the office porch was seen to rise.
Then the other two started to their feet. The first hastened to the
door and began to knock. So breathless was the night that over on the
verandas the imperative thumping could be distinctly heard, and
everyone ceased talk and listened. Then, in answer to some query from
within, the voice of young Cassidy was uplifted.

"I beg pardon, sir, but that's the agency calling me, and it's hurry."

They saw the door open from within; saw the soldier admitted and the
door closed after him; saw the two men waiting standing and expectant,
no longer content to resume their chat. For three minutes of suspense
there came no further sound. Then the door was again thrown open, and
both Byrne and Blakely came hurrying out. In the memory of the
earliest inhabitant never had Sandy seen the colonel walk so fast.
Together they came striding straight toward Cutler's, and the captain
arose and went to meet them, foreboding in his soul. Graham and
Westervelt, restrained by discipline, held back. The women and younger
officers, hushed by anxiety, gazed at the swift-coming pair in dread
and fascination. There was a moment of muttered conference with the
commanding officer, some hurried words, then Blakely was seen to
spring away, to be recalled by Cutler, to start a second time, only to
be again recalled. Then Cutler, shouting, "Mr. Doty, I need you!"
hurried away toward the office, and Blakely, fairly running, sped
straight for the barracks of Wren's troop. Only Byrne was left to
answer the storm of question that burst upon him all at once, women
thronging about him from all along the line.

"We have news from the agency," said he. "It is from Indian runners,
and may not be reliable--some rumor of a sharp fight near Sunset
Pass."

"Are there particulars, colonel--anybody killed or wounded?" It was
Mrs. Sanders who spoke, her face very pale.

"We cannot know--as yet. It is all an Indian story. Mr. Blakely is
going at once to investigate," was the guarded answer. But Mrs.
Sanders knew, as well as a dozen others, that there _were_
particulars--that somebody had been killed or wounded, for Indian
stories to that effect had been found singularly reliable. It was
Wren's troop that had gone to Sunset Pass, and here was Wren's sister
with question in her eye, and at sight of her the colonel turned and
hurried back to headquarters, following the post commander.

Another moment and Blakely, in the broad light streaming suddenly from
the office room of Wren's troop, came speeding straight across the
parade again in the direction of Sanders's quarters, next to the last
at the southward end of the row. They sought, of course, to intercept
him, and saw that his face was pale, though his manner was as composed
as ever. To every question he had but one thing to say: "Colonel Byrne
and the captain know all that I do--and more. Ask them." But this he
said with obvious wish to be questioned no further,--said it gently,
but most firmly,--and then, with scant apology, passed on. Five
minutes more and Nixon was lugging out the lieutenant's field kit on
the Sanders's porch, and Blakely, reappearing, went straight up the
row to Wren's. It was now after 10.30, but he never hesitated. Miss
Janet, watching him from the midst of her friends, saw him stride,
unhesitatingly, straight to the door and knock. She followed
instantly, but, before she could reach the steps, Kate Sanders, with
wonder in her eyes, stood faltering before him.

"Will you say to Miss Angela that I have come as I promised? I am
going at once to--join the troop. Can I see her?" he asked.

"She isn't well, Mr. Blakely. She hasn't left her room to-day." And
Miss Sanders began herself to tremble, for up the steps came the
resolute lady of the house, whom seeing, Mr. Blakely honored with a
civil bow, but with not a word.

"I will hear your message, Mr. Blakely," said Miss Wren, pallid, too,
and filled with wordless anxiety, but determined none the less.

"Miss Sanders has heard it, madam," was the uncompromising answer.
"Will you see Miss Angela, please?" This again to Kate--and, without
another word, she went.

"Mr. Blakely," began the lady impressively, "almost the last thing my
brother said to me before leaving the post was that he wished no
meetings between you and Angela. Why do you pursue her? Do you wish to
compel me to take her away?"

For a moment he was silent. Then, "It is I who must go, Miss Wren,"
was the answer, and she, who expected resentment, looked at him in
surprise, so gentle, so sorrowing was his tone. "I had hoped to bear
her message, but shall intrude no more. If the news that came to-night
should be confirmed--and only in that event--say to her, if you
please, that I shall do my best to find her father."




CHAPTER XVI

A RETURN TO COMMAND


With but a single orderly at his back, Mr. Blakely had left Camp Sandy
late at night; had reached the agency, twenty miles up stream, two
hours before the dawn and found young Bridger waiting for him. They
had not even a reliable interpreter now. Arahawa, "Washington
Charley," had been sent to the general at Camp McDowell. Lola's
father, with others of her kin, had taken Apache leave and gone in
search of the missing girl. But between the sign language and the
_patois_ of the mountains, a strange mixture of Spanish, English, and
Tonto Apache, the officers had managed, with the aid of their men, to
gather explanation of the fierce excitement prevailing all that
previous day among the Indians at the agency. There had been another
fight, a chase, a scattering of both pursuers and pursued. Most of the
troops were at last accounts camping in the rocks near Sunset Pass.
Two had been killed, several were wounded, three were missing, lost to
everybody. Even the Apaches swore they knew not where they were--a
sergeant, a trumpeter, and "Gran Capitan" himself--Captain Wren.

In the paling starlight of the coming day Blakely and Bridger plied
the reluctant Indians with questions in every form possible with
their limited knowledge of the sign language. Blakely, having spent so
many years on staff duty, had too little knowledge of practical
service in the field. Bridger was but a beginner at best. Together
they had decided on their course. A wire was sent to Sandy saying that
from all they could gather the rumors were probably true, but urging
that couriers be sent for Dick, the Cherry Creek settler, and Wales
Arnold, another pioneer who had lived long in Apache land and owned a
ranch on the little Beaver. They could get more out of the Indians
than could these soldiers. It would be hours after dawn before either
Dick or his fellow frontiersman could arrive. Meanwhile Sandy must
bear the suspense as well as it might. The next wire came from Bridger
at nine o'clock:

     Arnold arrived hour ago. Examined six. Says stories probably
     true. Confident Wren not killed.

For answer Byrne wired that a detachment of a dozen men with three
packers had marched at five o'clock to report to Blakely for such duty
as he might require, and the answer came within the minute:

     Blakely gone. Started for Snow Lake 4.30. Left orders
     detachment follow. Took orderly and two Apache Yuma scouts.

Byrne, Cutler, and Graham read with grave and anxious faces, but said
very little. It was Blakely's way.

And that was the last heard of the Bugologist for as much as a week.

Meantime there was a painful situation at Fort Whipple, away up in
"the hills." Major Plume, eager on his wife's account to get her to
the seashore--"Monterey or Santa Barbara," said the sapient medical
director--and ceaselessly importuned by her and viciously nagged by
Elise, found himself bound to the spot. So long as Mullins stuck to
his story Plume knew it would never do for him to leave. "A day or two
more and he may abate or amend his statement," wrote Graham. Indeed,
if Norah Shaughnessy were not there to prompt--to prop--his memory,
Graham thought it like enough that even now the soldier would have
wavered. But never a jot or tittle had Mullins been shaken from the
original statement.

"There was two women," he said, "wid their shawls over their heads,"
and those two, refusing to halt at his demand, had been overtaken and
one of them seized, to his bitter cost, for the other had driven a
keen-bladed knife through his ribs, even as he sought to examine his
captive. "They wouldn't spake," said he, "so what could I do but pull
the shawl from the face of her to see could she be recognized?" Then
came the fierce, cat-like spring of the taller of the two. Then the
well-nigh fatal thrust. What afterwards became of the women he could
say no more than the dead. Norah might rave about its being the
Frenchwoman that did it to protect the major's lady--this he spoke in
whispered confidence and only in reply to direct question--but it
wouldn't be for the likes of him to preshume. Mullins, it seems, was a
soldier of the old school.

Then came fresh and dire anxiety at Sandy. Four days after Blakely's
start there appeared two swarthy runners from the way of Beaver Creek.
They bore a missive scrawled on the paper lining of a cracker box, and
it read about as follows:

                              CAMP IN SUNSET PASS, November 3d.

     COMMANDING OFFICER, CAMP SANDY:


     Scouting parties returning find no trace of Captain Wren and
     Sergeant Carmody, but we shall persevere. Indians lurking
     all about us make it difficult. Shall be needing rations in
     four days. All wounded except Flynn doing fairly well. Hope
     couriers sent you on 30th and 31st reached you safely.

The dispatch was in the handwriting of Benson, a trooper of good
education, often detailed for clerical work. It was signed "Brewster,
Sergeant."

Who then were the couriers, and what had become of them? What fate had
attended Blakely in his lonely and perilous ride? What man or pair of
men could pierce that cordon of Indians lurking all around them and
reach the beleaguered command? What need to speculate on the fate of
the earlier couriers anyway? Only Indians could hope to outwit Indians
in such a case. It was madness to expect white men to get through. It
was madness for Blakely to attempt it. Yet Blakely was gone beyond
recall, perhaps beyond redemption. From him, and from the detachment
that was sent by Bridger to follow his trail, not a word had come of
any kind. Asked if they had seen or heard anything of such parties,
the Indian couriers stolidly shook their heads. They had followed the
old Wingate road all the way until in sight of the valley. Then,
scrambling through a rocky labyrinth, impossible for hoof or wheel,
had made a short cut to the head waters of the Beaver. Now Blakely,
riding from the agency eastward slowly, should have found that Wingate
trail before the setting of the first day's sun, and his followers
could not have been far behind. It began to look as though the
Bugologist had never reached the road. It began to be whispered about
the post that Wren and his luckless companions might never be found at
all. Kate Sanders had ceased her song. She was now with Angela day and
night.

One hope, a vague one, remained beside that of hearing from the
baker's dozen that rode on Blakely's trail. Just as soon as Byrne
received the Indian story concerning Wren's disappearance, he sent
runners eastward on the track of Sanders's troop, with written advice
to that officer to drop anything he might be doing along the Black
Mesa and, turning northward, to make his way through a country
hitherto untrod by white man, between Baker's Butte at the south and
the Sunset Mountains at the north. He was ordered to scout the canon
of Chevlon's Fork, and to look for sign on every side until, somewhere
among the "tanks" in the solid rock about the mountain gateway known
as Sunset Pass, he should join hands with the survivors of Webb's
troop, nursing their wounded and guarding the new-made graves of their
dead. Under such energetic supervision as that of Captain Sanders it
was believed that even Apache Yuma scouts could be made to accomplish
something, and that new heart would be given Wren's dispirited men.
By this time, too, if Blakely had not fallen into the hands of the
Apaches, he should have been joined by the intended escort, and, thus
strengthened, could either push on to the pass, or, if surrounded,
take up some strong position among the rocks and stand off his
assailants until found by his fellow-soldiers under Sanders. Moreover,
Byrne had caused report of the situation to be sent to the general via
Camp McDowell, and felt sure he would lose no time in directing the
scouting columns to head for the Sunset country. Scattered as were the
hostile Apaches, it was apparent that they were in greater force
northward, opposite the old reservation, than along the Mogollon Range
southeast of it. There was hope, activity, animation, among the little
camps and garrisons toward the broad valley of the Gila as the early
days of November wore away. Only here at Sandy was there suspense as
well as deep despond.

It was a starlit Sunday morning that Blakely rode away eastward from
the agency. It was Wednesday night when Sergeant Brewster's runners
came, and never a wink of sleep had they or their inquisitors until
Thursday was ushered in. It was Saturday night again, a week from the
night Neil Blakely strove to see and say good-by to Angela Wren. It
was high time other runners came from Brewster, unless they, too, had
been cut off, as must have been the fate of their forerunners. All
drills had been suspended at Sandy; all duty subordinated to guard.
Cutler had practically abolished the daily details, had doubled his
sentries, had established outlying pickets, and was even bent on
throwing up intrenchments or at least digging rifle pits, lest the
Apaches should feel so "cocky" over their temporary successes as to
essay an attack on the post. Byrne smiled and said they would hardly
try that, but he approved the pickets. It was noted that for nearly a
week,--not since Blakely's start from the agency,--no signal fires had
been seen in the Red Rock country or about the reservation. Mr.
Truman, acting as post quartermaster, had asked for additional men to
protect his little herd, for the sergeant in charge declared that,
twice, long-distance shots had come from far away up the bouldered
heights to the west. The daily mail service had been abandoned, so
nervous had the carrier become, and now, twice each week, a corporal
and two men rode the rugged trail, thus far without seeing a sign of
Apaches. The wire, too, was undisturbed, but an atmosphere of alarm
and dread clung about the scattered ranches even as far as the Agua
Fria to the west, and the few officials left at Prescott found it
impossible to reassure the settlers, who, quitting their new homes,
had either clustered about some favored ranch for general defense or,
"packing" to Fort Whipple, were clamoring there for protection with
which to return to and occupy their abandoned roofs.

And all this, said Byrne, between his set teeth, because a bumptious
agent sought to lay forceful hands upon the daughter of a chief. Poor
Daly! He had paid dearly for that essay. As for Natzie, and her shadow
Lola, neither one had been again seen. They might indeed have dropped
back from Montezuma Well after the first wild stampede, but only
fruitless search had the soldiers made for them. Even their own
people, said Bridger, at the agency, were either the biggest liars
that ever lived or the poorest trailers. The Apaches swore the girls
could not be found. "I'll bet Sergeant Shannon could nail them," said
Hart, the trader, when told of the general denial among the Indians.
But Shannon was far away from the field column, leading his moccasined
comrades afoot and in single file long, wearisome climbs up jagged
cliffs or through deep canons, where unquestionably the foe had been
in numbers but the day before, yet now they were gone. Shannon might
well be needed at the far front, now that most of the Apache scouts
had proved timid or worthless, but Byrne wished he had him closer
home.

It was the Saturday night following the coming of the runners with
confirmation of the grewsome Indian stories. Colonel Byrne, with
Graham, Cutler, and Westervelt, had been at the office half an hour in
consultation when, to the surprise of every soul at Sandy, a four-mule
team and Concord wagon came bowling briskly into the post, and Major
Plume, dust-covered and grave, marched into the midst of the
conference and briefly said: "Gentlemen, I return to resume command."

Nobody had a word to say beyond that of welcome. It was manifestly the
proper thing for him to do. Unable, in face of the stories afloat, to
take his wife away, his proper place in the pressing emergency was at
his post in command.

To Colonel Byrne, who guardedly and somewhat dubiously asked, "How
about Mrs. Plume and that--French thing?" the major's answer was
prompt:

"Both at Fort Whipple and in--good hands," said he. "My wife realizes
that my duty is here, and, though her recovery may be retarded, she
declares she will remain there or even join me. She, in fact, was so
insistent that I should bring her back with me that it embarrassed me
somewhat. I vetoed it, however."

Byrne gazed at him from under his shaggy eyebrows. "H'm," said he, "I
fancied she had shaken the dust of Sandy from her shoes for good and
all--that she hoped never to come back."

"I, too," answered Plume ingenuously. "She hated the very mention of
it,--this is between ourselves,--until this week. Now she says her
place is here with me, no matter how she may suffer," and the major
seemed to dwell with pride on this new evidence of his wife's
devotion. It was, indeed, an unusual symptom, and Byrne had to try
hard to look credulous, which Plume appreciated and hurried on:

"Elise, of course, seemed bent on talking her out of it, but, with
Wren and Blakely both missing, I could not hesitate. I had to come.
Oh, captain, is Truman still acting quartermaster?" this to Cutler.
"He has the keys of my house, I suppose."

And so by tattoo the major was once more harbored under his old roof
and full of business. From Byrne and his associates he quickly
gathered all particulars in their possession. He agreed with them
that another day must bring tidings from the east or prove that the
Apaches had surrounded and perhaps cut down every man of the command.
He listened eagerly to the details Byrne and others were able to give
him. He believed, by the time "taps" came, he had already settled on a
plan for another relief column, and he sent for Truman, the
quartermaster.

"Truman," said he, "how much of a pack train have you got left?"

"Hardly a mule, sir. Two expeditions out from this post swallows up
pretty much everything."

"Very true; yet I may have to find a dozen packs before we get half
through this business. The ammunition is in your hands, too, isn't it?
Where do you keep it?" and the major turned and gazed out in the
starlight.

"Only place I got, sir--quartermaster's storehouse," and Truman eyed
his commander doubtfully.

"Well, I'm squeamish about such things as that," said the major,
looking even graver, "especially since this fire here. By the way, was
much of Blakely's property--er--rescued--or recovered?"

"Very little, sir. Blakely lost pretty much everything, except some
papers in an iron box--the box that was warped all out of shape."

"Where is it now?" asked Plume, tugging at the strap of a dressing
case and laying it open on the broad window-seat.

"In my quarters, under my bed, sir."

"Isn't that rather--unsafe?" asked Plume. "Think how quick _he_ was
burned out."

"Best I can do, sir. But he said it contained little of value, mainly
letters and memoranda. No valuables at all, in fact. The lock wouldn't
work, so the blacksmith strap-ironed it for him. That prevents it
being opened by anyone, you know, who hasn't the proper tools."

"I see," said Plume reflectively. "It seems rather unusual to take
such precaution with things of no value. I suppose Blakely knows his
own business, however. Thank you very much Truman. Good-night."

"I suppose he did, at least, when he had the blacksmith iron that
box," thought Truman, as he trudged away. "He did, at any rate, when
he made me promise to keep it with the utmost care. Not even you can
have it, Major Plume, although you are the post commander."




CHAPTER XVII

A STRANGE COMING


With one orderly and a pair of Apache Yuma scouts, Neil Blakely had
set forth in hopes of making his way to Snow Lake, far up in the range
to the east. The orderly was all very well,--like most of his fellows,
game, true, and tried,--but few were the leaders who had any faith in
Apache Yumas. Of those Indians whom General Crook had successively
conquered, then turned to valuable use, the Hualpais had done well and
proved reliable; the Apache Mohaves had served since '73, and in scout
after scout and many a skirmish had proved loyal and worthy allies
against the fierce, intractable Tontos, many of whom had never yet
come in to an agency or accepted the bounty of the government. Even a
certain few of these Tontos had proffered fealty and been made useful
as runners and trailers against the recalcitrants of their own band.
But the Apache Yumas, their mountain blood tainted by the cross with
the slothful bands of the arid, desert flats of the lower Colorado,
had won a bad name from the start, and deserved it. They feared the
Tontos, who had thrashed them again and again, despoiled them of their
plunder, walked away with their young women, insulted and jeered at
their young men. Except when backed by the braves of other bands,
therefore, the Apache Yumas were fearful and timorous on the trail.
Once they had broken and run before a mere handful of Tontos, leaving
a wounded officer to his fate. Once, when scaling the Black Mesa
toward this very Snow Lake, they had whimpered and begged to be sent
home, declaring no enemy was there in hiding, when the peaks were
found alive with Tontos. The Red Rock country and the northward spurs
of the Mogollon seemed fraught with some strange, superstitious terror
in their eyes, and if the "nerve" of a dozen would desert them when
ordered east of the Verde, what could be expected of Blakely's two? No
wonder, then, the elders at Sandy were sorely troubled!

But the Bugologist had nothing else to choose from. All the reliable,
seasoned scouts were already gone with the various field columns. Only
Apache Yumas remained, and only the least promising of the Apache
Yumas at that. Bridger remembered how reluctantly these two had obeyed
the summons to go. "If they don't sneak away and come back swearing
they have lost the lieutenant, I'm a gopher," said he, and gave orders
accordingly to have them hauled before him should they reappear.
Confidently he looked to see or hear of them as again lurking about
the commissary storehouse after the manner of their people, beggars to
the backbone. But the week went by without a sign of them. "There's
only one thing to explain that," said he. "They've either deserted to
the enemy or been cut off and killed." What, then, had become of
Blakely? What fate had befallen Wren?

By this time, late Saturday night, acting for the department commander
now lost somewhere in the mountains, Byrne had re-enforced the guards
at the agency and the garrison at Sandy with infantry drawn from Fort
Whipple at Prescott, for thither the Apaches would never venture. The
untrammeled and sovereign citizen had his own way of treating the
obnoxious native to the soil.

By this time, too, further word should have come from some of the
field columns, Sanders's especially. But though runners had reached
the post bearing brief dispatches from the general, showing that he
and the troops from the more southerly posts were closing in on the
wild haunts of the Tontos about Chevlon's Fork, not a sign had come
from this energetic troop commander, not another line from Sergeant
Brewster or his men, and there were women at Camp Sandy now nearly mad
with sleepless dread and watching. "It means," said Byrne, "that the
hostiles are between us and those commands. It means that couriers
can't get through, that's all. I'm betting the commands are safe
enough. They are too strong to be attacked." But Byrne was silent as
to Blakely; he was dumb as to Wren. He was growing haggard with
anxiety and care and inability to assure or comfort. The belated
rations needed by Brewster's party, packed on mules hurried down from
Prescott, were to start at dawn for Sunset Pass under stout infantry
guard, and they, too, would probably be swallowed up in the
mountains. The ranch people down the valley, fearful of raiding
Apaches, had abandoned their homes, and, driving their stock before
them, had taken refuge in the emptied corrals of the cavalry. Even
Hart, the veteran trader, seemed losing his nerve under the strain,
for when such intrepid frontiersmen as Wales Arnold declared it
reckless to venture across the Sandy, and little scouting parties were
greeted with long-range shots from hidden foe, it boded ill for all
dwellers without the walls of the fort. For the first time in the
annals of Camp Sandy, Hart had sandbagged his lower story, and he and
his retainers practically slept upon their arms.

It was after midnight. Lights still burned dimly at the guard-house,
the adjutant's office, and over at the quarters of the commanding
officer, where Byrne and Plume were in consultation. There were
sleepless eyes in every house along the line. Truman had not turned in
at all. Pondering over his brief talk with the returned commander, he
had gone to the storehouse to expedite the packing of Brewster's
rations, and then it occurred to him to drop in a moment at the
hospital. In all the dread and excitement of the past two days, Pat
Mullins had been well-nigh forgotten. The attendant greeted him at the
entrance. Truman, as he approached, could see him standing at the
broad open doorway, apparently staring out through the starlight
toward the black and distant outlines of the eastward mountains.
Mullins at least was sleeping and seemed rapidly recovering, said he,
in answer to Truman's muttered query. "Major Plume," he added, "was
over to see him a while ago, but I told the major Pat was asleep."
Truman listened without comment, but noted none the less and lingered.
"You were looking out to the east," he said. "Seen any lights or
fire?"

"Not I, sir. But the sentry there on No. 4 had the corporal out just
now. He's seen or heard something, and they've moved over toward No.
5's post."

Truman followed. How happened it that when Byrne and Plume had so much
to talk of the latter could find time to come away over to the
hospital to inquire for a patient? And there! the call for half-past
twelve had started at the guard-house and rung out from the stables
and corrals. It was Four's turn to take it up now. Presently he did,
but neither promptly nor with confidence. There were new men on the
relief just down from Fort Whipple and strange to Sandy and its
surroundings; but surely, said Truman, they should not have been
assigned to Four and Five, the exposed or dangerous posts, so long as
there were other men, old-timers at Sandy, to take these stations. No.
4's "A-all's well" sounded more like a wail of remonstrance at his
loneliness and isolation. It was a new voice, too, for in those days
officers knew not only the face, but the voice, of every man in the
little command, and--could Truman be mistaken--he thought he heard a
subdued titter from the black shadows of his own quarters, and turned
his course thither to investigate. Five's shout went up at the
instant, loud, confident, almost boastful, as though in rebuke of
Four's timidity, and, as Truman half expected, there was the corporal
of the guard leaning on his rifle, close to the veranda steps, and so
absorbed he never heard the officer approach until the lieutenant
sharply hailed:

"Who's that on No. 4?"

"One of 'C' Company's fellers, sir," answered the watcher, coming to
his senses and attention at the instant. "Just down from Prescott, and
thinks he sees ghosts or Indians every minute. Nearly shot one of the
hounds a moment ago."

"You shouldn't put him on that post--"

"I didn't sir," was the prompt rejoinder. "'Twas the sergeant. He said
'twould do him good, but the man's really scared, lieutenant. Thought
I'd better stay near him a bit."

Across the black and desolate ruin of Blakely's quarters, and well out
on the northward _mesa_, they could dimly discern the form of the
unhappy sentry pacing uneasily along his lonely beat, pausing and
turning every moment as though fearful of crouching assailant. Even
among these veteran infantrymen left at Sandy, that northeast corner
had had an uncanny name ever since the night of Pat Mullins's
mysterious stabbing. Many a man would gladly have shunned sentry duty
at that point, but none dare confess to it. Partly as a precaution,
partly as protection to his sentries, the temporary commander had
early in the week sent out a big "fatigue" detail, with knives and
hatchets to slice away every clump of sage or greasewood that could
shelter a prowling Apache for a hundred yards out from the line. But
the man now on No. 4 was palpably nervous and distressed, in spite of
this fact. Truman watched him a moment in mingled compassion and
amusement, and was just turning aside to enter his open doorway when
the corporal held up a warning hand.

Through the muffling sand of the roadway in rear of the quarters, a
tall, dark figure was moving straight and swift toward the post of No.
4, and so far within that of No. 5 as to escape the latter's
challenge. The corporal sprung his rifle to the hollow of his arm and
started the next instant, sped noiselessly a few yards in pursuit,
then abruptly halted. "It's the major, sir," said he, embarrassed, as
Truman joined him again. "Gad, I hope No. 4 won't fire!"

Fire he did not, but his challenge came with a yell.
"W-whocomesthere?"--three words as one and that through chattering
teeth.

"Commanding officer," they heard Plume clearly answer, then in lower
tone, but distinctly rebukeful. "What on earth's the matter, No. 4?
You called off very badly. Anything disturbing you out here?"

The sentry's answer was a mumble of mingled confusion and distress.
How could he own to his post commander that he was scared? No. 5 now
was to be seen swiftly coming up the eastward front so as to be within
supporting or hearing distance--curiosity, not sympathy, impelling;
and so there were no less than five men, four of them old and tried
soldiers, all within fifty yards of the angle made by the two sentry
beats, all wide awake, yet not one of their number could later tell
just what started it. All on a sudden, down in Sudsville, down among
the southward quarters of the line, the hounds went rushing forth,
barking and baying excitedly, one and all heading for the brink of the
eastward _mesa_, yet halting short as though afraid to approach it
nearer, and then, darting up and down, barking, sniffing, challenging
angrily, they kept up their fierce alarm. Somebody or something was
out there in the darkness, perhaps at the very edge of the bluff, and
the dogs dare go no further. Even when the corporal, followed by No.
5, came running down the post, the hounds hung back, bristling and
savage, yet fearful. Corporal Foote cocked his rifle and went
crouching forward through the gloom, but the voice of the major was
heard:

"Don't go out there, corporal. Call for the guard," as he hurried in
to his quarters in search of his revolver. Truman by this time had run
for his own arms and together they reappeared on the post of No. 5, as
a sergeant, with half a dozen men, came panting from across the
parade, swift running to the scene.

"No. 4 would have it that there were Indians, or somebody skulking
about him when I was examining him a moment ago," said Plume
hurriedly. "Shut up, you brutes!" he yelled angrily at the nearest
hounds. "Scatter your men forward there, sergeant, and see if we can
find anything." Other men were coming, too, by this time, and a
lantern was dancing out from Doty's quarters. Byrne, pyjama-clad and
in slippered feet, shuffled out to join the party as the guard, with
rifles at ready, bored their way out to the front, the dogs still
suspiciously sniffing and growling. For a moment or two no explanation
offered. The noise was gradually quieting down. Then from far out to
the right front rose the shout: "Come here with that lantern!" and all
hands started at the sound.

Old Shaughnessy, saddler sergeant, was the first on the spot with a
light. All Sudsville seemed up and astir. Some of the women, even, had
begun to show at the narrow doorways. Corporal Foote and two of the
guard were bending over some object huddled in the sand. Together they
turned it over and tugged it into semblance of human shape, for the
thing had been shrouded in what proved to be a ragged cavalry blanket.
Senseless, yet feebly breathing and moaning, half-clad in tattered
skirt and a coarsely made _camisa_ such as was worn by peon women of
the humblest class, with blood-stained bandages concealing much of the
face and head, a young Indian woman was lifted toward the light. A
soldier started on the run for Dr. Graham; another to the laundresses'
homes for water. Others, still, with the lanterns now coming flitting
down the low bluff, began searching through the sands for further
sign, and found it within the minute--sign of a shod horse and of
moccasined feet,--moccasins not of Tonto, but of Yuma make, said
Byrne, after a moment's survey.

Rough, yet tender, hands bore the poor creature to the nearest
shelter--Shaughnessy's quarters. Keen, eager eyes and bending forms
followed hoof and foot prints to the ford. Two Indians, evidently, had
lately issued, dripping, from the stream; one leading an eager horse,
for it had been dancing sidewise as they neared the post, the other,
probably sustaining the helpless burden on its back. Two Indians had
then re-entered the swift waters, almost at the point of emergence,
one leading a reluctant, resisting animal, for it had struggled and
plunged and set its fore feet against the effort. The other Indian had
probably mounted as they neared the brink. Already they must be a good
distance away on the other side, rendering pursuit probably useless.
Already the explanation of their coming was apparent. The woman had
been hurt or wounded when far from her tribe, and the Indians with her
were those who had learned the white man's ways, knew that he warred
not on women and would give this stricken creature care and comfort,
food and raiment and relieve them of all such trouble. It was easy to
account for their bringing her to Sandy and dropping her at the white
man's door, but how came they by a shod horse that knew the spot and
strove to break from them at the stables--strove hard against again
being driven away? Mrs. Shaughnessy, volubly haranguing all within
hearing as the searchers returned from the ford, was telling how she
was lying awake, worrin' about Norah and Pat Mullins and the boys that
had gone afield (owing her six weeks' wash) when she heard a dull
trampin' like and what sounded like horses' stifled squeal (doubtless
the leading Indian had gripped the nostrils to prevent the eager
neigh), and then, said she, all the dogs roused up and rushed out,
howling.

And then came a cry from within the humble doorway, where merciful
hands were ministering to the suffering savage, and Plume started at
the sound and glared at Byrne, and men stood hushed and startled and
amazed, for the voice was that of Norah and the words were strange
indeed:

"Fur the love of hivin, look what she had in her girdle! Shure it's
Leese's own scarf, I tell ye--the Frenchwoman at the major's!"

And Byrne thought it high time to enter and take possession.




CHAPTER XVIII

A STRANGER GOING


At the first faint flush of dawn the little train of pack mules, with
the rations for the beleaguered command at Sunset Pass, was started on
its stony path. Once out of the valley of the Beaver it must clamber
over range after range and stumble through deep and tortuous canons. A
road there was--the old trail by Snow Lake, thence through the famous
Pass and the Sunset crossing of the Colorado Chiquito to old Fort
Wingate. It wormed its way out of the valley of the broader stream
some miles further to the north and in face of the Red Rock country to
the northeast, but it had not been traveled in safety for a year. Both
Byrne and Plume believed it beset with peril, watched from ambush by
invisible foes who could be relied upon to lurk in hiding until the
train was within easy range, then, with sudden volley, to pick off the
officers and prominent sergeants and, in the inevitable confusion,
aided by their goatlike agility, to make good their escape. Thirty
sturdy soldiers of the infantry under a veteran captain marched as
escort, with Plume's orders to push through to the relief of Sergeant
Brewster's command, and to send back Indian runners with full account
of the situation. The relief of Wren's company accomplished, the next
thing was to be a search for Wren himself, then a determined effort to
find Blakely, and all the time to keep a lookout for Sanders's troop
that must be somewhere north of Chevlon's Fork, as well as for the two
or three little columns that should be breaking their way through the
unblazed wilderness, under the personal direction of the general
himself. Captain Stout and his party were out of sight up the Beaver
before the red eye of the morning came peering over the jagged heights
to the east, and looking in upon a garrison whose eyes were equally
red and bleary through lack of sleep--a garrison worn and haggard
through anxiety and distress gravely augmented by the events of the
night. All Sandy had been up and astir within five minutes after Norah
Shaughnessy's startling cry, and all Sandy asked with bated breath the
same question: How on earth happened it that this wounded waif of the
Apaches, this unknown Indian girl, dropped senseless at their doorway
in the dead hours of the night, should have in her possession the very
scarf worn by Mrs. Plume's nurse-companion, the Frenchwoman Elise, as
she came forth with her mistress to drive away from Sandy, as was her
hope, forever.

Prominent among those who had hastened down to Sudsville, after the
news of this discovery had gone buzzing through the line of officers'
quarters, was Janet Wren. Kate Sanders was staying with Angela, for
the girls seemed to find comfort in each other's presence and society.
Both had roused at sound of the clamor and were up and half dressed
when a passing hospital attendant hurriedly shouted to Miss Wren the
tidings. The girls, too, would have gone, but Aunt Janet sternly bade
them remain indoors. She would investigate, she said, and bring them
all information.

Dozens of the men were still hovering about old Shaughnessy's quarters
as the tall, gaunt form of the captain's sister came stalking through
the crowd, making straight for the doorway. The two senior officers,
Byrne and Plume, were, in low tones, interrogating Norah. Plume had
been shown the scarf and promptly seconded Norah. He knew it at
once--knew that, as Elise came forth that dismal morning and passed
under the light in the hall, she had this very scarf round her
throat--this that had been found upon the person of a wounded and
senseless girl. He remembered now that as the sun climbed higher and
the air grew warmer the day of their swift flight to Prescott, Elise
had thrown open her traveling sack, and he noticed that the scarf had
been discarded. He did not see it anywhere about the Concord, but that
proved nothing. She might easily have slipped it into her bag or under
the cushions of the seat. Both he and Byrne, therefore, watched with
no little interest when, after a brief glance at the feverish and
wounded Indian girl, moaning in the cot in Mrs. Shaughnessy's room,
Miss Wren returned to the open air, bearing the scarf with her. One
moment she studied it, under the dull gleam of the lantern of the
sergeant of the guard, and then slowly spoke:

"Gentlemen, I have seen this worn by Elise and I believe I know how
it came to find its way back here--and it does not brighten the
situation. From our piazza, the morning of Major Plume's start for
Prescott, I could plainly see Downs hanging about the wagon. It
started suddenly, as perhaps you remember, and as it rolled away
something went fluttering to the ground behind. Everybody was looking
after the Concord at the moment--everybody but Downs, who quickly
stooped, picked up the thing, and turned hurriedly away. I believe he
had this scarf when he deserted and that he has fallen into the hands
of the Apaches."

Byrne looked at the post commander without speaking. The color had
mounted one moment to the major's face, then left him pallid as
before. The hunted, haggard, weary look about his eyes had deepened.
That was all. The longer he lived, the longer he served about this
woebegone spot in mid Arizona, the more he realized the influence for
evil that handmaid of Shaitan seemed to exert over his vain, shallow,
yet beautiful and beloved wife. Against it he had wrought and pleaded
in vain. Elise had been with them since her babyhood, was his wife's
almost indignant reply. Elise had been faithful to her--devoted to her
all her life. Elise was indispensable; the only being that kept her
from going mad with home-sickness and misery in that God-forsaken
clime. Sobs and tears wound up each interview and, like many a
stronger man, Plume had succumbed. It might, indeed, be cruel to rob
her of Elise, the last living link that bound her to the blessed
memories of her childhood, and he only mildly strove to point out to
her how oddly, yet persistently, her good name had suffered through
the words and deeds of this flighty, melodramatic Frenchwoman.
Something of her baleful influence he had seen and suspected before
ever they came to their exile, but here at Sandy, with full force he
realized the extent of her machinations. Clarice was not the woman to
go prowling about the quarters in the dead hours of the night, no
matter how nervous and sleepless at home. Clarice was not the woman to
be having back-door conferences with the servants of other households,
much less the "striker" of an officer with whose name hers, as a
maiden, had once been linked. He recalled with a shudder the events of
the night that sent the soldier Mullins to hospital, robbed of his
wits, if not of his life. He recalled with dread the reluctant
admissions of the doctor and of Captain Wren. Sleep-walking, indeed!
Clarice never elsewhere at any time had shown somnambulistic symptoms.
It was Elise beyond doubt who had lured her forth for some purpose he
could neither foil nor fathom. It was Elise who kept up this
discreditable and mysterious commerce with Downs,--something that had
culminated in the burning of Blakely's home, with who knows what
evidence,--something that had terminated only with Downs's mad
desertion and probable death. All this and more went flashing through
his mind as Miss Wren finished her brief and significant story, and it
dawned upon him that, whatever it might be to others, the death of
Downs--to him, and to her whom he loved and whose honor he
cherished--was anything but a calamity, a thing to mourn. Too
generous to say the words, he yet turned with lightened heart and met
Byrne's searching eyes, then those of Miss Wren now fixed upon him
with austere challenge, as though she would say the flight and fate of
this friendless soldier were crimes to be laid only at his door.

Byrne saw the instant distress in his comrade's face, and, glancing
from him to her, almost in the same instant saw the inciting cause.
Byrne had one article of faith if he lacked the needful thirty-nine.
Women had no place in official affairs, no right to meddle in official
matters, and what he said on the spur of his rising resentment was
intended for her, though spoken to him. "So Downs skipped eastward,
did he, and the Apaches got him! Well, Plume, that saves us a
hanging." And Miss Wren turned away in wrath unspeakable.

That Downs had "skipped eastward" received further confirmation with
the coming day, when Wales Arnold rode into the fort from a personally
conducted scout up the Beaver. Riding out with Captain Stout's party,
he had paid a brief visit to his, for the time, abandoned ranch, and
was surprised to find there, unmolested, the two persons and all the
property he had left the day he hurried wife and household to the
shelter of the garrison. The two persons were half-breed Jose and his
Hualpai squaw. They had been with the Arnolds five long years, were
known to all the Apaches, and had ever been in highest favor with them
because of the liberality with which they dispensed the _largesse_ of
their employer. Never went an Indian empty-stomached from their door.
All the stock Wales had time to gather he had driven in to Sandy. All
that was left Jose had found and corraled. Just one quadruped was
missing--Arnold's old mustang saddler, Dobbin. Jose said he had been
gone from the first and with him an old bridle and saddle. No Indian
took him, said he. It was a soldier. He had found "government boot
tracks" in the sand. Then Downs and Dobbin had gone together, but only
Dobbin might they ever look to see again.

It had been arranged between Byrne and Captain Stout that the little
relief column should rest in a deep canon beyond the springs from
which the Beaver took its source, and, later in the afternoon, push on
again on the long, stony climb toward the plateau of the upper
Mogollon. There stood, about twenty-five miles out from the post on a
bee line to the northeast, a sharp, rocky peak just high enough above
the fringing pines and cedars to be distinctly visible by day from the
crest of the nearest foothills west of the flagstaff. Along the sunset
face of this gleaming _picacho_ there was a shelf or ledge that had
often been used by the Apaches for signaling purposes; the renegades
communicating with their kindred about the agency up the valley.
Invisible from the level of Camp Sandy, these fires by night, or smoke
and flashes by day, reached only those for whom they were
intended--the Apaches at the reservation; but Stout, who had known the
neighborhood since '65, had suggested that lookouts equipped with
binoculars be placed on the high ground back of the post. Inferior to
the savage in the craft, we had no code of smoke, fire, or, at that
time, even sun-flash signal, but it was arranged that one blaze was to
mean "Unmolested thus far." Two blazes, a few yards apart, would mean
"Important news by runner." In the latter event Plume was to push out
forty or fifty men in dispersed order to meet and protect the runner
in case he should be followed, or possibly headed off, by hostile
tribesmen. Only six Indian allies had gone with Stout and he had eyed
them with marked suspicion and disfavor. They, too, were Apache Yumas.
The day wore on slowly, somberly. All sound of life, melody, or
merriment had died out at Camp Sandy. Even the hounds seemed to feel
that a cloud of disaster hung over the garrison. Only at rare
intervals some feminine shape flitted along the line of deserted
verandas--some woman on a mission of mercy to some mourning,
sore-troubled sister among the scattered households. For several hours
before high noon the wires from Prescott had been hot with demand for
news, and with messages from Byrne or Plume to department
headquarters. At meridian, however, there came a lull, and at 2 P. M.
a break. Somewhere to the west the line was snapped and down. At 2.15
two linesmen galloped forth to find and repair damages, half a dozen
"doughboys" on a buckboard going as guard. Otherwise, all day long, no
soldier left the post, and when darkness settled down, the anxious
operator, seated at his keyboard, was still unable to wake the spirit
of the gleaming copper thread that spanned the westward wilderness.

All Sandy was wakeful, out on the broad parade, or the officers'
verandas, and gazing as one man or woman at the bold, black upheaval a
mile behind the post, at whose summit twinkled a tiny star, a single
lantern, telling of the vigil of Plume's watchers. If Stout made even
fair time he should have reached the _picacho_ at dusk, and now it was
nearly nine and not a glimmer of fire had been seen at the appointed
rendezvous. Nine passed and 9.15, and at 9.30 the fifes and drums of
the Eighth turned out and began the long, weird complaint of the
tattoo. Nobody wished to go to bed. Why not sound reveille and let
them sit up all night, if they chose? It was far better than tossing
sleepless through the long hours to the dawn. It was nearly time for
"taps"--lights out--when a yell went up from the parade and all Sandy
started to its feet. All on a sudden the spark at the lookout bluff
began violently to dance, and a dozen men tore out of garrison, eager
to hear the news. They were met halfway by a sprinting corporal, whom
they halted with eager demand for his news. "_Two_ blazes!" he panted,
"two! I must get in to the major at once!" Five minutes more the
Assembly, not Taps, was sounding. Plume was sending forth his fifty
rescuers, and with them, impatient for tidings from the far front,
went Byrne, the major himself following as soon as he could change to
riding dress. The last seen of the little command was the glinting of
the starlight on the gun barrels as they forded the rippling stream
and took the trail up the narrow, winding valley of the Beaver.

It was then a little after ten o'clock. The wire to Prescott was still
unresponsive. Nothing had been heard from the linesmen and their
escort, indicating that the break was probably far over as the Agua
Fria. Not a sign, except Stout's signal blazes at the _picacho_, had
been gathered from the front. Camp Sandy was cut off from the world,
and the actual garrison left to guard the post and protect the women,
children and the sick as eleven o'clock drew nigh, was exactly forty
men of the fighting force. It was believed that Stout's couriers would
make the homeward run, very nearly, by the route the pack-train took
throughout the day, and if they succeeded in evading hostile scouts or
parties, would soon appear about some of the breaks of the upper
Beaver. Thither, therefore, with all possible speed Plume had directed
his men, promising Mrs. Sanders, as he rode away, that the moment a
runner was encountered he would send a light rider at the gallop, on
his own good horse--that not a moment should be lost in bearing them
the news.

But midnight came without a sign. Long before that hour, as though by
common impulse, almost all the women of the garrison had gathered
about Truman's quarters, now the northernmost of the row and in plain
view of the confluence of the Sandy and the Beaver. Dr. Graham, who
had been swinging to and fro between the limits of the Shaughnessys'
and the hospital, stopped to speak with them a moment and gently drew
Angela to one side. His grave and rugged face was sweet in its
tenderness as he looked down into her brimming eyes. "Can you not be
content at home, my child?" he murmured. "You seem like one of my own
bairns, Angela, now that your brave father is afield, and I want to
have his bonnie daughter looking her best against the home-coming.
Surely Aunt Janet will bring you the news the moment any comes, and
I'll bid Kate Sanders bide with you!"

No, she would not--she could not go home. Like every other soul in all
Camp Sandy she seemed to long to be just there. Some few had even gone
out further, beyond the sentries, to the point of the low bluff, and
there, chatting only in whispers, huddled together, listening in
anxiety inexpressible for the muffled sound of galloping hoofs on soft
and sandy shore. No, she _dare_ not, for within the four walls of that
little white room what dreams and visions had the girl not seen? and,
wakening shuddering, had clung to faithful Kate and sobbed her heart
out in those clasping, tender, loyal arms. No beauty, indeed, was
Kate, as even her fond mother ruefully admitted, but there was that in
her great, gentle, unselfish heart that made her beloved by one and
all. Yet Kate had pleaded with Angela in vain. Some strange, forceful
mood had seized the girl and steeled and strengthened her against even
Janet Wren's authority. She would not leave the little band of
watchers. She was there when, toward half-past twelve, at last the
message came. Plume's own horse came tearing through the flood, and
panting, reeking, trembling into their midst, and his rider, little
Fifer Lanigan, of Company "C," sprang from saddle and thrust his
dispatch into Truman's outstretched hand.

With women and children crowding about him, and men running to the
scene from every side, by the light of a lantern held in a soldier's
shaking hand, he read aloud the contents:

                                 "BIVOUAC AT PICACHO, 9 P. M.

     "C. O. CAMP SANDY:

     "Reached this point after hard march, but no active
     opposition, at 8 P. M. First party sent to build fire on
     ledge driven in by hostiles. Corporal Welch shot through
     left side--serious. Threw out skirmishers and drove them off
     after some firing, and about 9.20 came suddenly upon Indian
     boy crouching among rocks, who held up folded paper which I
     have read and forward herewith. We shall, of course, turn
     toward Snow Lake, taking boy as guide. March at 3 A. M. Will
     do everything possible to reach Wren on time.

                                 (Signed) "STOUT, Commanding."

Within was another slip, grimy and with dark stains. And Truman's
voice well-nigh failed him as he read:

                                               "November --th.

     "C. O. CAMP SANDY:

     "Through a friendly Apache who was with me at the
     reservation I learned that Captain Wren was lying wounded,
     cut off from his troop and with only four of his men, in a
     canon southwest of Snow Lake. With Indian for guide we
     succeeded reaching him second night, but are now surrounded,
     nearly out of ammunition and rations. Three more of our
     party are wounded and one, Trooper Kent, killed. If not
     rushed can hold out perhaps three days more, but Wren sorely
     needs surgical aid.

                                           (Signed) "BLAKELY."

That was all. The Bugologist with his one orderly, and apparently
without the Apache Yuma scouts, had gone straightway to the rescue of
Wren. Now all were cut off and surrounded by a wily foe that counted
on, sooner or later, overcoming and annihilating them, and even by the
time the Indian runner slipped out (some faithful spirit won by
Blakely's kindness and humanity when acting agent), the defense had
been reduced just one-half. Thank God that Stout with his supplies and
stalwart followers was not more than two days' march away, and was
going straightway to the rescue!

It was nearly two when Plume and his half-hundred came drifting back
to the garrison, and even then some few of the watchers were along the
bluff. Janet Wren, having at last seen pale-faced, silent Angela to
her room and bed, with Kate Sanders on guard, had again gone forth to
extract such further information as Major Plume might have. Even at
that hour men were at work in the corrals, fitting saddles to half a
dozen spare horses,--about all that were left at the post,--and Miss
Wren learned that Colonel Byrne, with an orderly or two, had remained
at Arnold's ranch,--that Arnold himself, with six horsemen from the
post, was to set forth at four, join the colonel at dawn, and together
all were to push forward on the trail of Stout's command, hoping to
overtake them by nightfall. She whispered this to sleepless Kate on
her return to the house, for Angela, exhausted with grief and long
suspense, had fallen, apparently, into deep and dreamless slumber.

But the end of that eventful night was not yet. Arnold and his
sextette slipped away soon after four o'clock, and about 4.50 there
came a banging at the major's door. It was the telegraph operator. The
wire was patched at last, and the first message was to the effect that
the guard had been fired on in Cherry Creek canon--that Private
Forrest was sorely wounded and lying at Dick's deserted ranch, with
two of their number to care for him. Could they possibly send a
surgeon at once?

There was no one to go but Graham. His patients at the post were doing
fairly well, but there wasn't a horse for him to ride. "No matter,"
said he, "I'll borrow Punch. He's needing exercise these days." So
Punch was ordered man-saddled and brought forthwith. The orderly came
back in ten minutes. "Punch aint there, sir," said he. "He's been gone
over half an hour."

"Gone? Gone where? Gone how?" asked Graham in amaze.

"Gone with Miss Angela, sir. She saddled him herself and rode away not
twenty minutes after Arnold's party left. The sentries say she
followed up the Beaver."




CHAPTER XIX

BESIEGED


Deep down in a ragged cleft of the desert, with shelving rock and
giant bowlder on every side, without a sign of leaf, or sprig of
grass, or tendril of tiny creeping plant, a little party of haggard,
hunted men lay in hiding and in the silence of exhaustion and despond,
awaiting the inevitable. Bulging outward overhead, like the counter of
some huge battleship, a great mass of solid granite heaved unbroken
above them, forming a recess or cave, in which they were secure
against arrow, shot, or stone from the crest of the lofty, almost
vertical walls of the vast and gloomy canon. Well back under this
natural shelter, basined in the hollowed rock, a blessed pool of fair
water lay unwrinkled by even a flutter of breeze. Relic of the early
springtime and the melting snows, it had been caught and imprisoned
here after the gradually failing stream had trickled itself into
nothingness. One essential, one comfort then had not been denied the
beleaguered few, but it was about the only one. Water for drink, for
fevered wounds and burning throats, they had in abundance; but the
last "hardtack" had been shared, the last scrap of bacon long since
devoured. Of the once-abundant rations only coffee grains were left.
Of the cartridge-crammed "thimble belts," with which they had entered
the canon and the Apache trap, only three contained so much as a
single copper cylinder, stopped by its forceful lead. These three
belonged to troopers, two of whom, at least, would never have use for
them again. One of these, poor Jerry Kent, lay buried beneath the
little cairn of rocks in still another cavelike recess a dozen yards
away, hidden there by night, when prowling Apaches could not see the
sorrowing burial party and crush them with bowlders heaved over the
precipice above, or shoot them down with whistling lead or
steel-tipped arrow from some safe covert in the rocky walls.

Cut off from their comrades while scouting a side ravine, Captain Wren
and his quartette of troopers had made stiff and valiant fight against
such of the Indians as permitted hand or head to show from behind the
rocks. They had felt confident that Sergeant Brewster and the main
body would speedily miss them, or hear the sound of firing and turn
back _au secours_, but sounds are queerly carried in such a maze of
deep and tortuous clefts as seamed the surface in every conceivable
direction through the wild basin of the Colorado. Brewster's rearmost
files declared long after that never the faintest whisper of affray
had reached their ears, already half deadened by fatigue and the
ceaseless crash of iron-shod hoofs on shingly rock. As for Brewster
himself, he was able to establish that Wren's own orders were to "push
ahead" and try to make Sunset Pass by nightfall, while the captain,
with such horses as seemed freshest, scouted right and left wherever
possible. The last seen of Jerry Kent, it later transpired, was when
he came riding after them to say the captain had gone into the mouth
of the gorge opening to the west, and the last message borne from the
commander to the troop came through Jerry Kent to Sergeant Dusold, who
brought up the rear. They had passed the mouths of half a dozen
ravines within the hour, some on one side, some on the other, and
Dusold "passed the word" by sending Corporal Slater clattering up the
canon, skirting the long drawn-out column of files until, far in the
lead, he could overtake the senior sergeant and deliver his message.
Later, when Brewster rode back with all but the little guard left over
his few broken-down men and mounts in Sunset Pass, Dusold could
confidently locate in his own mind the exact spot where Kent overtook
him; but Dusold was a drill-book dragoon of the Prussian school,
consummately at home on review or parade, but all at sea, so to speak,
in the mountains. They never found a trace of their loved leader. The
clefts they scouted were all on the wrong side.

And so it happened that relief came not, that one after another the
five horses fell, pierced with missiles or crushed and stunned by
rocks crashing down from above, that Kent himself was shot through the
brain, and Wren skewered through the arm by a Tonto shaft, and plugged
with a round rifle ball in the shoulder. Sergeant Carmody bound up his
captain's wound as best he could, and by rare good luck, keeping up a
bold front, and answering every shot, they fought their way to this
little refuge in the rocks, and there, behind improvised barricades or
bowlders, "stood off" their savage foe, hoping rescue might soon reach
them.

But Wren was nearly wild from wounds and fever when the third day came
and no sign of the troop. Another man had been hit and stung, and
though not seriously wounded, like a burnt child, he now shunned the
fire and became, perforce, an ineffective. Their scanty store of
rations was gone entirely. Sergeant Carmody and his alternate watchers
were worn out from lack of sleep when, in the darkness of midnight, a
low hail in their own tongue came softly through the dead
silence,--the voice of Lieutenant Blakely cautioning, "Don't fire,
Wren. It's the Bugologist," and in another moment he and his orderly
afoot, in worn Apache moccasins, but equipped with crammed haversacks
and ammunition belts, were being welcomed by the besieged. There was
little of the emotional and nothing of the melodramatic about it. It
was, if anything, rather commonplace. Wren was flighty and disposed to
give orders for an immediate attack in force on the enemy's works, to
which the sergeant, his lips trembling just a bit, responded with
prompt salute: "Very good, sir, just as quick as the men can finish
supper. Loot'nent Blakely's compliments, sir, and he'll be ready in
ten minutes," for Blakely and his man, seeing instantly the condition
of things, had freshened the little fire and begun unloading supplies.
Solalay, their Indian guide, after piloting them through the woodland
southwest of Snow Lake, had pointed out the canon, bidden them follow
it and, partly in the sign language, partly in Spanish, partly in the
few Apache terms that Blakely had learned during his agency days,
managed to make them understand that Wren was to be found some five
miles further on, and that most of the besieging Tontos were on the
heights above or in the canon below. Few would be encountered, if any,
on the up-stream side. Then, promising to take the horses and the
mules to Camp Sandy, he had left them. He dared go no farther toward
the warring Apaches. They would suspect and butcher him without mercy.

But Solalay had not gone without promise of further aid. Natzie's
younger brother, Alchisay, had recently come to him with a message
from her, and should be coming with another. Solalay thought he could
find the boy and send him to them to be used as a courier. Blakely's
opportune coming had cheered not a little the flagging defense, but,
not until forty-eight hours thereafter, by which time their condition
had become almost desperate and the foe almost daring, did the lithe,
big-eyed, swarthy little Apache reach them. Blakely knew him
instantly, wrote his dispatch and bade the boy go with all speed, with
the result we know. "Three more of our party are wounded," he had
written, but had not chosen to say that one of them was himself.

A solemn sight was this that met the eyes of the Bugologist, as
Carmody roused him from a fitful sleep, with the murmured words,
"Almost light, sir. They'll be on us soon as they can see." Deep in
under the overhang and close to the pool lay one poor fellow whose
swift, gasping breath told all too surely that the Indian bullet had
found fatal billet in his wasting form. It was Chalmers, a young
Southerner, driven by poverty at home and prospect of adventure abroad
to seek service in the cavalry. It was practically his first campaign,
and in all human probability his last. Consciousness had left him
hours ago, and his vagrant spirit was fast loosing every earthly bond,
and already, in fierce dreamings, at war with unseen and savage foe
over their happy hunting grounds in the great Beyond. Near him,
equally sheltered, yet further toward the dim and pallid light, lay
Wren, his strong Scotch features pinched and drawn with pain and loss
of blood and lack of food. Fever there was little left, there was so
little left for it to live upon. Weak and helpless as a child in arms
he lay, inert and silent. There was nothing he could do. Never a
quarter hour had passed since he had been forced to lie there that
some one of his devoted men had not bathed his forehead and cooled his
burning wounds with abundant flow of blessed water. Twice since his
gradual return to consciousness had he asked for Blakely, and had
bidden him sit and tell him of Sandy, asking for tidings of Angela,
and faltering painfully as he bethought himself of the last
instructions he had given. How could Blakely be supposed to know aught
of her or of the household bidden to treat him practically as a
stranger? Now, he thought it grand that the Bugologist had thrown all
consideration of peril to the wind and had hastened to their aid to
share their desperate fortunes. But Wren knew not how to tell of it.
He took courage and hope when Blakely spoke of Solalay's loyalty, of
young Alchisay's daring visit and his present mission. Apaches of his
band had been known to traverse sixty miles a day over favorable
ground, and Alchisay, even through such a labyrinth of rock, ravine,
and precipice, should not make less than thirty. Within forty-eight
hours of his start the boy ought to reach the Sandy valley, and surely
no moment would then be lost in sending troops to find and rescue
them. But four days and nights, said Blakely to himself, was the least
time in which they could reasonably hope for help, and now only the
third night had gone,--gone with their supplies of every kind. A few
hours more and the sun would be blazing in upon even the dank depths
of the canon for his midday stare. A few minutes more and the Apaches,
too, would be up and blazing on their own account. "Keep well under
shelter," were Blakely's murmured orders to the few men, even as the
first, faint breath of the dawn came floating from the broader reaches
far down the rocky gorge.

In front of their cavelike refuge, just under the shelving mass
overhead, heaped in a regular semicircle, a rude parapet of rocks gave
shelter to the troopers guarding the approaches. Little loopholes had
been left, three looking down and two northward up the dark and tortuous
rift. In each of these a loaded carbine lay in readiness. So well chosen
was the spot that for one hundred yards southeastward--down stream--the
narrow gorge was commanded by the fire of the defense, while above, for
nearly eighty, from wall to wall, the approach was similarly swept. No
rush was therefore possible on part of the Apaches without every
probability of their losing two or three of the foremost. The Apache
lacks the magnificent daring of the Sioux or Cheyenne. He is a fighter
from ambush; he risks nothing for glory's sake; he is a monarch in craft
and guile, but no hero in open battle. For nearly a week now, day after
day, the position of the defenders had been made almost terrible by the
fierce bombardment to which it had been subjected, of huge stones or
bowlders sent thundering down the almost precipitous walls, then
bounding from ledge to ledge, or glancing from solid, sloping face
diving, finally, with fearful crash into the rocky bed at the bottom,
sending a shower of fragments hurtling in every direction, oft
dislodging some section of parapet, yet never reaching the depths of the
cave. Add to this nerve-racking siege work the instant, spiteful flash
of barbed arrow or zip and crack of bullet when hat or hand of one of
the defenders was for a second exposed, and it is not difficult to fancy
the wear and tear on even the stoutest heart in the depleted little
band.

And still they set their watch and steeled their nerves, and in dogged
silence took their station as the pallid light grew roseate on the
cliffs above them. And with dull and wearied, yet wary, eyes, each
soldier scanned every projecting rock or point that could give shelter
to lurking foe, and all the time the brown muzzles of the carbines
were trained low along the stream bed. No shot could now be thrown
away at frowsy turban or flaunting rag along the cliffs. The rush was
the one thing they had to dread and drive back. It was God's mercy the
Apache dared not charge in the dark.

[Illustration: THE FIGHT IN THE CANON]

Lighter grew the deep gorge and lighter still, and soon in glorious
radiance the morning sunshine blazed on the lofty battlements far
overhead, and every moment the black shadow on the westward wall,
visible to the defense long rifle-shot southeastward, gave gradual way
before the rising day god, and from the broader open reaches beyond the
huge granite shoulder, around which wound the canon, and from the
sun-kissed heights, a blessed warmth stole softly in, grateful
inexpressibly to their chilled and stiffened limbs. And still, despite
the growing hours, neither shot nor sign came from the accustomed haunts
of the surrounding foe. Six o'clock was marked by Blakely's watch. Six
o'clock and seven, and the low moan from the lips of poor young
Chalmers, or the rattle of some pebble dislodged by the foot of
crouching guardian, or some murmured word from man to man,--some word of
wonderment at the unlooked for lull in Apache siege operations,--was the
only sound to break the almost deathlike silence of the morning. There
was one other, far up among the stunted, shriveled pines and cedars that
jutted from the opposite heights. They could hear at intervals a weird,
mournful note, a single whistling call in dismal minor, but it brought
no new significance. Every day of their undesired and enforced sojourn,
every hour of the interminable day, that raven-like, hermit bird of the
Sierras had piped his unmelodious signal to some distant feathered
fellow, and sent a chill to the heart of more than one war-tried
soldier. There was never a man in Arizona wilds that did not hate the
sound of it. And yet, as eight o'clock was noted and still no sight or
sound of assailant came, Sergeant Carmody turned a wearied, aching eye
from his loophole and muttered to the officer crouching close beside
him: "I could wring the neck of the lot of those infernal cat crows,
sir, but I'll thank God if we hear no worse sound this day."

Blakely rose to his feet and wearily leaned upon the breastworks,
peering cautiously over. Yesterday the sight of a scouting hat would
have brought instant whiz of arrow, but not a missile saluted him now.
One arm, his left, was rudely bandaged and held in a sling, a rifle
ball from up the cliff, glancing from the inner face of the parapet,
had torn savagely through muscle and sinew, but mercifully scored
neither artery nor bone. An arrow, whizzing blindly through a
southward loophole, had grazed his cheek, ripping a straight red seam
far back as the lobe of the ear, which had been badly torn. Blakely
had little the look of a squire of dames as, thus maimed and scarred
and swathed in blood-stained cotton, he peered down the deep and
shadowy cleft and searched with eyes keen, if yet unskilled, every
visible section of the opposite wall. What could their silence mean?
Had they found other game, pitifully small in numbers as these
besieged, and gone to butcher them, knowing well that, hampered by
their wounded, these, their earlier victims, could not hope to escape?
Had they got warning of the approach of some strong force of
soldiery--Brewster scouting in search of them, or may be Sanders
himself? Had they slipped away, therefore, and could the besieged dare
to creep forth and shout, signal, or even fire away two or three of
these last precious cartridges in hopes of catching the ear of
searching comrades?

Wren, exhausted, had apparently dropped into a fitful doze. His eyes
were shut, his lips were parted, his long, lean fingers twitched at
times as a tremor seemed to shoot through his entire frame. Another
day like the last or at worst like this, without food or nourishment,
and even such rugged strength as had been his would be taxed to the
utmost. There might be no to-morrow for the sturdy soldier who had so
gallantly served his adopted country, his chosen flag. As for
Chalmers, the summons was already come. Far from home and those who
most loved and would sorely grieve for him, the brave lad was dying.
Carmody, kneeling by his side, but the moment before had looked up
mutely in his young commander's face, and his swimming, sorrowing eyes
had told the story.

Nine o'clock had come without a symptom of alarm or enemy from
without, yet death had invaded the lonely refuge in the rocks,
claiming one victim as his tribute for the day and setting his seal
upon still another, the prospective sacrifice for the dismal morrow,
and Blakely could stand the awful strain no longer.

"Sergeant," said he, "I must know what this means. We must have help
for the captain before this sun goes down, or he may be gone before we
know it."

And Carmody looked him in the face and answered: "I am strong yet and
unhurt. Let me make the try, sir. Some of our fellows must be scouting
near us, or these beggars wouldn't have quit. I can find the boys, if
anyone can."

Blakely turned and gazed one moment into the deep and dark recess
where lay his wounded and the dying. The morning wind had freshened a
bit, and a low, murmurous song, nature's AEolian, came softly from the
swaying pine and stunted oak and juniper far on high. The whiff that
swept to their nostrils from the lower depths of the canon told its
own grewsome tale. There, scattered along the stream bed, lay the
festering remains of their four-footed comrades, first victims of the
ambuscade. Death lurked about their refuge then on every side, and was
even invading their little fortress. Was this to be the end, after
all? Was there neither help nor hope from any source?

Turning once again, a murmured prayer upon his lips, Blakely started
at sight of Carmody. With one hand uplifted, as though to caution
silence, the other concaved at his ear, the sergeant was bending
eagerly forward, his eyes dilating, his frame fairly quivering. Then,
on a sudden, up he sprang and swung his hat about his head. "Firing,
sir! Firing, sure!" he cried. Another second, and with a gasp and moan
he sank to earth transfixed; a barbed arrow, whizzing from unseen
space, had pierced him through and through.




CHAPTER XX

WHERE IS ANGELA?


For a moment as they drew under shelter the stricken form of the
soldier, there was nothing the defense could do but dodge. Then,
leaving him at the edge of the pool, and kicking before them the one
cowed and cowering shirker of the little band, Blakely and the single
trooper still unhit, crept back to the rocky parapet, secured a
carbine each and knelt, staring up the opposite wall in search of the
foe. And not a sign of Apache could they see.

Yet the very slant of the arrow as it pierced the young soldier, the
new angle at which the bullets bounded from the stony crest, the
lower, flatter flight of the barbed missiles that struck fire from the
flinty rampart, all told the same story. The Indians during the hours
of darkness, even while dreading to charge, had managed to crawl,
snake-like, to lower levels along the cliff and to creep closer up the
stream bed, and with stealthy, noiseless hands to rear little shelters
of stone, behind which they were now crouching invisible and secure.
With the illimitable patience of their savage training they had then
waited, minute after minute, hour after hour, until, lulled at last
into partial belief that their deadly foe had slipped away, some of
the defenders should be emboldened to venture into view, and then one
well-aimed volley at the signal from the leader's rifle, and the
vengeful shafts of those who had as yet only the native weapon, would
fall like lightning stroke upon the rash ones, and that would end it.
Catlike they had crouched and watched since early dawn. Catlike they
had played the old game of apparent weariness of the sport, of
forgetfulness of their prey and tricked their guileless victims into
hope and self-exposure, then swooped again, and the gallant lad whose
last offer and effort had been to set forth in desperate hope of
bringing relief to the suffering, had paid for his valor with his
life. One arrow at least had gone swift and true, one shaft that,
launched, perhaps, two seconds too soon for entire success, had barely
anticipated the leader's signal and spoiled the scheme of bagging all
the game. Blakely's dive to save his fallen comrade had just saved his
own head, for rock chips and spattering lead flew on every side,
scratching, but not seriously wounding him.

And then, when they "thought on vengeance" and the three brown muzzles
swept the opposite wall, there followed a moment of utter silence,
broken only by the faint gasping of the dying man. "Creep back to
Carmody, you," muttered Blakely to the trembling lad beside him. "You
are of no account here unless they try to charge. Give him water,
quick." Then to Stern, his one unhurt man, "You heard what he said
about distant firing. Did you hear it?"

"Not I, sir, but I believe _they_ did--an' be damned to them!" And
Stern's eyes never left the opposite cliff, though his ears were
strained to catch the faintest sound from the lower canon. It was
there they last had seen the troop. It was from that direction help
should come. "Watch them, but don't waste a shot, man. I must speak to
Carmody," said Blakely, under his breath, as he backed on hands and
knees, a painful process when one is sore wounded. Trembling,
whimpering like whipped child, the poor, spiritless lad sent to the
aid of the stricken and heroic, crouched by the sergeant's side,
vainly striving to pour water from a clumsy canteen between the
sufferer's pallid lips. Carmody presently sucked eagerly at the
cooling water, and even in his hour of dissolution seemed far the
stronger, sturdier of the two--seemed to feel so infinite a pity for
his shaken comrade. Bleeding internally, as was evident, transfixed by
the cruel shaft they did not dare attempt to withdraw, even if the
barbed steel would permit, and drooping fainter with each swift
moment, he was still conscious, still brave and uncomplaining. His
dimmed and mournful eyes looked up in mute appeal to his young
commander. He knew that he was going fast, and that whatever rescue
might come to these, his surviving fellow-soldiers, there would be
none for him; and yet in his supreme moment he seemed to read the
question on Blakely's lips, and his words, feeble and broken, were
framed to answer.

"Couldn't--you hear 'em, lieutenant?" he gasped. "I can't
be--mistaken. I know--the old--Springfield _sure_! I heard 'em way
off--south--a dozen shots," and then a spasm of agony choked him, and
he turned, writhing, to hide the anguish on his face. Blakely grasped
the dying soldier's hand, already cold and limp and nerveless, and
then his own voice seemed, too, to break and falter.

"Don't try to talk, Carmody; don't try! Of course you are right. It
must be some of our people. They'll reach us soon. Then we'll have the
doctor and can help you. Those saddle-bags!" he said, turning sharply
to the whimpering creature kneeling by them, and the lad drew hand
across his streaming eyes and passed the worn leather pouches. From
one of them Blakely drew forth a flask, poured some brandy into its
cup and held it to the soldier's lips. Carmody swallowed almost
eagerly. He seemed to crave a little longer lease of life. There was
something tugging at his heartstrings, and presently he turned slowly,
painfully again. "Lieutenant," he gasped, "I'm not scared to die--this
way anyhow. There's no one to care--but the boys--but there's one
thing"--and now the stimulant seemed to reach the failing heart and
give him faint, fluttering strength--"there's one thing I ought--I
ought to tell. You've been solid with the boys--you're square, and I'm
not--I haven't always been. Lieutenant--I was on guard--the night of
the fire--and Elise, you know--the French girl--she--she's got most
all I saved--most all I--won, but she was trickin' me--all the time,
lieutenant--me and Downs that's gone--and others. She didn't care.
You--you aint the only one I--I--"

"Lieutenant!" came in excited whisper, the voice of Stern, and there
at his post in front of the cave he knelt, signaling urgently.
"Lieutenant, quick!"

"One minute, Carmody! I've got to go. Tell me a little later." But
with dying strength Carmody clung to his hand.

"I must tell you, lieutenant--now. It wasn't Downs's fault. She--she
made--"

"Lieutenant, quick! for God's sake! They're coming!" cried the voice
of the German soldier at the wall, and wrenching his wrist from the
clasp of the dying man, Blakely sprang recklessly to his feet and to
the mouth of the cave just as Stern's carbine broke the stillness with
resounding roar. Half a dozen rifles barked their instant echo among
the rocks. From up the hillside rose a yell of savage hate and another
of warning. Then from behind their curtaining rocks half a dozen dusky
forms, their dirty white breechclouts streaming behind them, sprang
suddenly into view and darted, with goatlike ease and agility,
zigzagging up the eastward wall. It was a foolish thing to do, but
Blakely followed with a wasted shot, aimed one handed from the
shoulder, before he could regain command of his judgment. In thirty
seconds the cliff was as bare of Apaches as but the moment before it
had been dotted. Something, in the moment when their savage plans and
triumph seemed secure, had happened to alarm the entire party. With
warning shouts and signals they were scurrying out of the deep ravine,
scattering, apparently, northward. But even as they fled to higher
ground there was order and method in their retreat. While several of
their number clambered up the steep, an equal number lurked in their
covert, and Blakely's single shot was answered instantly by half a
dozen, the bullets striking and splashing on the rocks, the arrows
bounding or glancing furiously. Stern ducked within, out of the storm.
Blakely, flattening like hunted squirrel close to the parapet, flung
down his empty carbine and strove to reach another, lying loaded at
the southward loophole, and at the outstretched hand there whizzed an
arrow from aloft whose guiding feather fairly seared the skin, so
close came the barbed messenger. Then up the height rang out a shrill
cry, some word of command in a voice that had a familiar tang to it,
and that was almost instantly obeyed, for, under cover of sharp,
well-aimed fire from aloft, from the shelter of projecting rock or
stranded bowlder, again there leaped into sight a few scattered,
sinewy forms that rushed in bewildering zigzag up the steep, until
safe beyond their supports, when they, too, vanished, and again the
cliff stood barren of Apache foemen as the level of the garrison
parade. It was science in savage warfare against which the drill book
of the cavalry taught no method whatsoever. Another minute and even
the shots had ceased. One glimpse more had Blakely of dingy, trailing
breechclouts, fluttering in the breeze now stirring the fringing pines
and cedars, and all that was left of the late besiegers came
clattering down the rocks in the shape of an Indian shield. Stern
would have scrambled out to nab it, but was ordered down. "Back, you
idiot, or they'll have you next!" And then they heard the feeble
voice of Wren, pleading for water and demanding to be lifted to the
light. The uproar of the final volley had roused him from an almost
deathlike stupor, and he lay staring, uncomprehending, at Carmody,
whose glazing eyes were closed, whose broken words had ceased. The
poor fellow was drifting away into the shadows with his story still
untold.

"Watch here, Stern, but keep under cover," cried Blakely. "I'll see to
the captain. Listen for any shot or sound, but hold your fire," and
then he turned to his barely conscious senior and spoke to him as he
would to a helpless child. Again he poured a little brandy in his cup.
Again he held it to ashen lips and presently saw the faint flutter of
reviving strength. "Lie still just a moment or two, Wren," he murmured
soothingly. "Lie still. Somebody's coming. The troop is not far off.
You'll soon have help and home and--Angela"--even then his tongue
faltered at her name. And Wren heard and with eager eyes questioned
imploringly. The quivering lips repeated huskily the name of the child
he loved. "Angela--where?"

"Home--safe--where you shall be soon, old fellow, only--brace up now.
I must speak one moment with Carmody," and to Carmody eagerly he
turned. "You were speaking of Elise and the fire--of Downs, sergeant
----" His words were slow and clear and distinct, for the soldier had
drifted far away and must be recalled. "Tell me again. What was it?"

But only faint, swift gasping answered him. Carmody either heard not,
or, hearing, was already past all possibility of reply. "Speak to me,
Carmody. Tell me what I can do for you?" he repeated. "What word to
Elise?" He thought the name might rouse him, and it did. A feeble hand
was uplifted, just an inch or two. The eyelids slowly fluttered, and
the dim, almost lifeless eyes looked pathetically up into those of the
young commander. There was a moment of almost breathless silence,
broken only by a faint moan from Wren's tortured lips and the childish
whimpering of that other--the half-crazed, terror-stricken soldier.

"Elise," came the whisper, barely audible, as Carmody strove to lift his
head, "she--promised"--but the head sank back on Blakely's knee. Stern
was shouting at the stone gate--shouting and springing to his feet and
swinging his old scouting hat and gazing wildly down the canon. "For
God's sake hush, man!" cried the lieutenant. "I must hear Carmody." But
Stern was past further shouting now. Sinking on his knees, he was
sobbing aloud. Scrambling out into the daylight of the opening, but
still shrinking within its shelter, the half-crazed, half-broken soldier
stood stretching forth his arms and calling wild words down the echoing
gorge, where sounds of shouting, lusty-lunged, and a ringing order or
two, and then the clamor of carbine shots, told of the coming of rescue
and new life and hope, and food and friends, and still Blakely knelt and
circled that dying head with the one arm left him, and pleaded and
besought--even commanded. But never again would word or order stir the
soldier's willing pulse. The sergeant and his story had drifted
together beyond the veil, and Blakely, slowly rising, found the lighted
entrance swimming dizzily about him, first level and then up-ended;
found himself sinking, whither he neither knew nor cared; found the
canon filling with many voices, the sound of hurrying feet and then of
many rushing waters, and then--how was it that all was dark without the
cave, and lighted--lantern-lighted--here within? They had had no
lantern, no candle. Here were both, and here was a familiar face--old
Heartburn's--bending reassuringly over Wren, and someone was ----. Why,
where was Carmody? Gone! And but a moment ago that dying head was there
on his knee, and then it was daylight, too, and now--why, it must be
after nightfall, else why these lanterns? And then old Heartburn came
bending over him in turn, and then came a rejoiceful word:

"Hello, Bugs! Well, it _is_ high time you woke up! Here, take a swig
of this!"

Blakely drank and sat up presently, dazed, and Heartburn went on with
his cheery talk. "One of you men out there call Captain Stout. Tell
him Mr. Blakely's up and asking for him," and, feeling presently a
glow of warmth coursing in his veins, the Bugologist roused to a
sitting posture and began to mumble questions. And then a burly shadow
appeared at the entrance, black against the ruddy firelight in the
canon without, where other forms began to appear. Down on his knee
came Stout to clasp his one available hand and even clap him on the
back and send unwelcome jar through his fevered, swollen arm. "Good
boy, Bugs! You're coming round famously. We'll start you back to Sandy
in the morning, you and Wren, for nursing, petting, and all that sort
of thing. They are lashing the saplings now for your litters, and
we've sent for Graham, too, and he'll meet you on the the way, while
we shove on after Shield's people."

"Shield--Raven Shield?" queried Blakely, still half dazed. "Shield was
killed--at Sandy," and yet there was the memory of the voice he knew
and heard in this very canon.

"Shield, yes; and now his brother heads them. Didn't he send his card
down to you, after the donicks, and be damned to him? You foregathered
with both of them at the agency. Oh, they're all alike, Bugs, once
they're started on the warpath. Now we must get you out into the open
for a while. The air's better."

And so, an hour later, his arm carefully dressed and bandaged,
comforted by needed food and fragrant tea and the news that Wren was
reviving under the doctor's ministrations, and would surely mend and
recover, Blakely lay propped by the fire and heard the story of
Stout's rush through the wilderness to their succor. Never waiting for
the dawn, after a few hours' rest at Beaver Spring, the sturdy
doughboys had eagerly followed their skilled and trusted leader all
the hours from eleven, stumbling, but never halting even for rest or
rations, and at last had found the trail four miles below in the
depths of the canon. There some scattering shots had met them, arrow
and rifle both, from up the heights, and an effort was made to delay
their progress. Wearied and footsore though were his men, they had
driven the scurrying foe from rock to rock and then, in a lull that
followed, had heard the distant sound of firing that told them whither
to follow on. Only one man, Stern, was able to give them coherent word
or welcome when at last they came, for Chalmers and Carmody lay dead,
Wren in a stupor, Blakely in a deathlike swoon, and "that poor chap
yonder" loony and hysterical as a crazy man. Thank God they had not,
as they had first intended, waited for the break of day.

Another dawn and Stout and most of his men had pushed on after the
Apaches and in quest of the troop at Sunset Pass. By short stages the
soldiers left in charge were to move the wounded homeward. By noon
these latter were halted under the willows by a little stream. The
guards were busy filling canteens and watering pack mules, when the
single sentry threw his rifle to the position of "ready" and the gun
lock clicked loud. Over the stony ridge to the west, full a thousand
yards away, came a little band of riders in single file, four men in
all. Wren was sleeping the sleep of exhaustion. Blakely, feverish and
excited, was wide awake. Mercifully the former never heard the first
question asked by the leading rider--Arnold, the ranchman--as he came
jogging into the noonday bivouac. Stone, sergeant commanding, had run
forward to meet and acquaint him with the condition of the rescued
men. "Got there in time then, thank God!" he cried, as wearily he
flung himself out of saddle and glanced quickly about him. There lay
Wren, senseless and still between the lashed ribs of his litter. There
lay Blakely, smiling feebly and striving to hold forth a wasted hand,
but Arnold saw it not. Swiftly his eyes flitted from face to face,
from man to man, then searched the little knot of mules, sidelined and
nibbling at the stunted herbage in the glen. "I don't see Punch," he
faltered. "Wh-where's Miss Angela?"




CHAPTER XXI

OUR VANISHED PRINCESS


Then came a story told in fierce and excited whisperings, Arnold the
speaker, prompted sometimes by his companions; Stone, and the few
soldiers grouped about him, awe-stricken and dismayed. Blakely had
started up from his litter, his face white with an awful dread,
listening in wordless agony.

At six the previous morning, loping easily out from Sandy, Arnold's
people had reached the ranch and found the veteran colonel with his
orderlies impatiently waiting for them. These latter had had abundant
food and coffee and the colonel was fuming with impatience to move,
but Arnold's people had started on empty stomachs, counting on a
hearty breakfast at the ranch. Jose could have it ready in short
order. So Byrne, with his men, mounted and rode ahead on the trail of
the infantry, saying the rest could overtake him before he reached the
rocky and dangerous path over the first range. For a few miles the
Beaver Valley was fairly wide and open. Not twenty minutes later, as
Arnold's comrades sat on the porch on the north side of the house,
they heard swift hoof-beats, and wondered who could be coming now.
But, without an instant's pause, the rider had galloped by, and one of
the men, hurrying to the corner of the ranch, was amazed to see the
lithe, slender form of Angela Wren speeding her pet pony like the wind
up the sandy trail. Arnold refused to believe at first, but his eyes
speedily told him the same story. He had barely a glimpse of her
before she was out of sight around a grove of willows up the stream.
"Galloping to catch the colonel," said he, and such was his belief.
Angela, he reasoned, had hastened after them to send some message of
love to her wounded father, and had perhaps caught sight of the trio
far out in the lead. Arnold felt sure that they would meet her coming
back, sure that there was no danger for her, with Byrne and his
fellows well out to the front. They finished their breakfast,
therefore, reset their saddles, mounted and rode for an hour toward
the Mogollon and still the pony tracks led them on, overlying those of
the colonel's party. Then they got among the rocks and only at
intervals found hoof-prints; but, far up along the range, caught sight
of the three horsemen, and so, kept on. It was after ten when at last
they overtook the leaders, and then, to their consternation, Angela
Wren was not with them. They had neither seen nor heard of her, and
Byrne was aghast when told that, alone and without a guide, she had
ridden in among the foothills of those desolate, pathless mountains.
"The girl is mad," said he, "and yet it's like her to seek to reach
her father."

Instantly they divided forces to search for her. Gorges and canons
innumerable seamed the westward face of this wild spur of the Sierras,
and, by the merest luck in the world, one of Arnold's men, spurring
along a stony ridge, caught sight of a girlish form far across a deep
ravine, and quickly fired two shots in signal that he had "sighted"
the chase. It brought Arnold and two of his men to the spot and,
threading their way, sometimes afoot and leading their steeds,
sometimes in saddle and urging them through the labyrinth of bowlders,
they followed on. At noon they had lost not only all sight of her, but
of their comrades, nor had they seen the latter since. Byrne and his
orderlies, with three of the party that "pulled out" from Sandy with
Arnold in the morning, had disappeared. Again and again they fired
their Henrys, hoping for answering signal, or perhaps to attract
Angela's attention. All doubt as to her purpose was now ended. Mad she
might be, but determined she was, and had deliberately dodged past
them at the Beaver, fearing opposition to her project. At two,
moreover, they found that she could "trail" as well as they, for among
the stunted cedars at the crest of a steep divide, they found the
print of the stout brogans worn by their infantry comrades, and, down
among the rocks of the next ravine, crushed bits of hardtack by a
"tank" in the hillside. She had stopped there long enough at least to
water Punch, then pushed on again.

Once more they saw her, not three miles ahead at four o'clock, just
entering a little clump of pines at the top of a steep acclivity. They
fired their rifles and shouted loud in hopes of halting her, but all
to no purpose. Night came down and compelled them to bivouac. They
built a big fire to guide the wanderers, but morning broke without
sign of them; so on they went, for now, away from the rocks the trail
was often distinct, and once again they found the pony hoof-prints and
thanked God. At seven by Arnold's watch, among the breaks across a
steep divide they found another tank, more crumbs, a grain sack with
some scattered barley, more hardtack and the last trace of Angela.
Arnold's hand shook, as did his voice, as he drew forth a little
fluttering ribbon--the "snood" poor Wren so loved to see binding his
child's luxuriant hair.

They reasoned she had stopped here to feed and water her pony, and had
probably bathed her face and flung loose her hair and forgotten later
the binding ribbon. They believed she had followed on after Stout's
hard-marching company. It was easy to trail. They counted on finding
her when they found her father, and now here lay Wren unconscious of
her loss, and Blakely, realizing it all--cruelly, feverishly realizing
it--yet so weakened by his wounds as to be almost powerless to march
or mount and go in search of her.

No question now as to the duty immediately before them. In twenty
minutes the pack mules were again strapped between the saplings, the
little command was slowly climbing toward the westward heights, with
Arnold and two of his friends scouting the rough trail and hillsides,
firing at long intervals and listening in suspense almost intolerable
for some answering signal. The other of their number had volunteered
to follow Stout over the plateau toward the Pass and acquaint him with
the latest news.

While the sun was still high in the heavens, far to the northward,
they faintly heard or thought they heard two rifle shots. At four
o'clock, as they toiled through a tangle of rock and stunted pine,
Arnold, riding well to the front, came suddenly out upon a bare ledge
from which he could look over a wild, wide sweep of mountain side,
stretching leagues to north and south, and there his keen and
practiced eye was greeted by a sight that thrilled him with dread
unspeakable. Dread, not for himself or his convoy of wounded, but
dread for Angela. Jutting, from the dark fringe of pines along a
projecting bluff, perhaps four miles away, little puffs or clouds of
smoke, each separate and distinct, were sailing straight aloft in the
pulseless air--Indian signals beyond possibility of doubt. Some
Apaches, then, were still hovering about the range overlooking the
broad valley of the Sandy, some of the bands then were prowling in the
mountains between the scouting troops and the garrisoned post. Some
must have been watching this very trail, in hopes of intercepting
couriers or stragglers, some _must_ have seen and seized poor Angela.

He had sprung from saddle and leveled his old field glass at the
distant promontory, so absorbed in his search he did not note the
coming of the little column. The litter bearing Blakely foremost of
the four had halted close beside him, and Blakely's voice, weak and
strained, yet commanding, suddenly startled him with demand to be told
what he saw, and Arnold merely handed him the glass and pointed. The
last of the faint smoke puffs was just soaring into space, making
four still in sight. Blakely never even took the binocular. He had
seen enough by the unaided eye.

[Illustration: "INDIAN SIGNALS BEYOND POSSIBILITY OF A DOUBT"]

With uplifted hand the sergeant had checked the coming of the next
litter, Wren's, and those that followed it. One of the wounded men,
the poor lad crazed by the perils of the siege, was alert and begging
for more water, but Wren was happily lost to the world in swoon or
slumber. To the soldier bending over him he seemed scarcely breathing.
Presently they were joined by two of Arnold's party who had been
searching out on the left flank. They, too, had seen, and the three
were now in low-toned conference. Blakely for the moment was unnoted,
forgotten.

"That tank--where we found the ribbon--was just about two miles
yonder," said Arnold, pointing well down the rugged slope toward the
southwest, where other rocky, pine-fringed heights barred the view to
the distant Sandy. "Surely the colonel or some of his fellows must be
along here. Ride ahead a hundred yards or so and fire a couple of
shots," this to one of his men, who silently reined his tired bronco
into the rude trail among the pine cones and disappeared. The others
waited. Presently came the half-smothered sound of a shot and a
half-stifled cry from the rearmost litter. Every such shock meant new
terror to that poor lad, but Wren never stirred. Half a minute passed
without another sound than faint and distant echo; then faint, and not
so distant, came another sound, a prolonged shout, and presently
another, and then a horseman hove in sight among the trees across a
nearly mile-wide dip. Arnold and his friends rode on to meet him,
leaving the litters at the crest. In five minutes one of the riders
reappeared and called: "It's Horn, of the orderlies. He reports
Colonel Byrne just ahead. Come on!" and turning, dove back down the
twisted trail.

The colonel might have been just ahead when last seen, but when they
reached the tank he was far aloft again, scouting from another height
to the northward, and while the orderly went on to find and tell him,
Arnold and his grave-faced comrade dismounted there to await the
coming of the litters. Graver were the faces even than before. The
news that had met them was most ominous. Two of those who searched
with Colonel Byrne had found pony tracks leading northward--leading in
the very direction in which they had seen the smoke. There was no
other pony shoe in the Sandy valley. It could be none other than
Angela's little friend and comrade--Punch.

And this news they told to Blakely as the foremost litter came. He
listened with hardly a word of comment; then asked for his scouting
notebook. He was sitting up now. They helped him from his springy
couch to a seat on the rocks, and gave him a cup of the cold water.
One by one the other litters were led into the little amphitheater and
unlashed. Everyone seemed to know that here must be the bivouac for
the night, their abiding place for another day, perhaps, unless they
should find the captain's daughter. They spoke, when they spoke at
all, in muffled tones, these rough, war-worn men of the desert and
the mountain. They bent over the wounded with sorrowing eyes, and
wondered why no surgeon had come out to meet them. Heartburn, of
course, had done his best, dressing and rebandaging the wounds at
dawn, but then he had to go on with Stout and the company, while one
of the Apache Yumas was ordered to dodge his way in to Sandy, with a
letter urging that Graham be sent out to follow the trail and meet the
returning party.

Meanwhile the sun had dropped behind the westward heights; the night
would soon be coming down, chill and overcast. Byrne was still away,
but he couldn't miss the tank, said one of the troopers who had ridden
with him. Twice during the morning they had all met there and then
gone forth again, searching--searching. Punch's little hoof-tracks,
cutting through a sandy bit in the northward ravine, had drawn them
all that way, but nothing further had been found. His horse, too, said
the orderly, was lame and failing, so he had been bidden to wait by
the water and watch for couriers either from the front or out from the
post. Byrne was one of those never-give-up men, and they all knew him.

Barley was served out to the animals, a little fire lighted, lookouts
were stationed, and presently their soldier supper was ready, and
still Blakely said nothing. He had written three notes or letters, one
of which seemed to give him no little trouble, for one after another
he thrust two leaves into the fire and started afresh. At length they
were ready, and he signaled to Arnold. "You can count, I think, on
Graham's getting here within a few hours," said he. "Meantime you're
as good a surgeon as I need. Help me on with this sling." And still
they did not fathom his purpose. He was deathly pale, and his eyes
were eloquent of dread unspeakable, but he seemed to have forgotten
pain, fever, and prostration. Arnold, in the silent admiration of the
frontier, untied the support, unloosed the bandages, and together they
redressed the ugly wound. Then presently the Bugologist stood feebly
upon his feet and looked about him. It was growing darker, and not
another sound had come from Byrne.

"Start one of your men into Sandy at once," said Blakely, to the
sergeant, and handed him a letter addressed to Major Plume. "He will
probably meet the doctor before reaching the Beaver. These other two
I'll tell you what to do with later. Now, who has the best horse?"

Arnold stared. Sergeant Stone quickly turned and saluted. "The
lieutenant is not thinking of mounting, I hope," said he.

Blakely did not even answer. He was studying the orderly's bay. Stiff
and a little lame he might be, but, refreshed and strengthened by
abundant barley, he was a better weight-carrier than the other, and
Blakely had weight. "Saddle your horse, Horn," said he, "and fasten on
those saddle-bags of mine."

"But, lieutenant," ventured Arnold, "you are in no shape to ride
anything but that litter. Whatever you think of doing, let me do."

"What I am thinking of doing nobody else can do," said Blakely. "What
you can do is, keep these two letters till I call for them. If at the
end of a week I fail to call, deliver them as addressed and to nobody
else. Now, before dark I must reach that point younder," and he
indicated the spot where in the blaze of the westering sun a mass of
rock towered high above the fringing pine and mournful shadows at its
base, a glistening landmark above the general gloom at the lower level
and at that hour of the afternoon. "Now," he added quietly, "you can
help me into saddle."

"But for God's sake, lieutenant, let some of us ride with you,"
pleaded Arnold. "If Colonel Byrne was here he'd never let you go."

"Colonel Byrne is not here, and I command, I believe," was the brief,
uncompromising answer. "And no man rides with me because, with another
man, I'd never find what I'm in search of." For a moment he bent over
Wren, a world of wordless care, dread, and yet determination in his
pale face. Arnold saw his wearied eyes close a moment, his lips move
as though in petition, then he suddenly turned. "Let me have that
ribbon," said he bluntly, and without a word Arnold surrendered it.
Stone held the reluctant horse, Arnold helped the wounded soldier into
the saddle. "Don't worry about me--any of you," said Blakely, in brief
farewell. "Good-night," and with that he rode away.

Arnold and the men stood gazing after him. "Grit clean through," said
the ranchman, through his set teeth, for a light was dawning on him,
as he pondered over Blakely's words. "May the Lord grant I don't have
to deliver these!" Then he looked at the superscriptions. One letter
was addressed to Captain, or Miss Janet, Wren--the other to Mrs.
Plume.




CHAPTER XXII

SUSPENSE


Sandy again. Four of the days stipulated by Lieutenant Blakely had run
their course. The fifth was ushered in, and from the moment he rode
away from the bivouac at the tanks no word had come from the
Bugologist, no further trace of Angela. In all its history the
garrison had known no gloom like this. The hospital was filled with
wounded. An extra surgeon and attendants had come down from Prescott,
but Graham was sturdily in charge. Of his several patients Wren
probably was now causing him the sorest anxiety, for the captain had
been grievously wounded and was pitiably weak. Now, when aroused at
times from the lassitude and despond in which he lay, Wren would
persist in asking for Angela, and, not daring to tell him the truth,
Janet, Calvinist that she was to the very core, had to do fearful
violence to her feelings and lie. By the advice of bluff old Byrne and
the active connivance of the post commander, they had actually, these
stern Scotch Presbyterians, settled on this as the deception to be
practiced--that Angela had been drooping so sadly from anxiety and
dread she had been taken quite ill, and Dr. Graham had declared she
must be sent up to Prescott, or some equally high mountain resort,
there to rest and recuperate. She was in good hands, said these
arch-conspirators. She might be coming home any day. As for the troop
and the campaign, he mustn't talk or worry or think about them. The
general, with his big field columns, had had no personal contact with
the Indians. They had scattered before him into the wild country
toward the great Colorado, where Stout, with his hickory-built
footmen, and Brewster, with most of Wren's troop, were stirring up
Apaches night and day, while Sanders and others were steadily driving
on toward the old Wingate road. Stout had found Brewster beleaguered,
but safe and sound, with no more men killed and few seriously wounded.
They had communicated with Sanders's side scouts, and were finding and
following fresh trails with every day, when Stout was surprised to
receive orders to drop pursuit and start with Brewster's fellows and
to scout the west face of the mountains from the Beaver to the heights
opposite the old Indian reservation. There was a stirring scene at
bivouac when that order came, and with it the explanation that Angela
Wren had vanished and was probably captured; that Blakely had followed
and was probably killed. "They might shoot Blakely in fair fight,"
said Stout, who knew him, and knew the veneration that lived for him
in the hearts of the Indian leaders, "but they at least would never
butcher him in cold blood. Their unrestrained young men might do it."
Stout's awful dread, like that of every man and woman at Sandy, and
every soldier in the field, was for Angela. The news, too, had been
rushed to the general, and his orders were instant. "Find the chiefs
in the field," said he to his interpreter and guide. "Find Shield's
people, and say that if a hair of her head is injured I shall hunt
them down, braves, women, and children--I shall hunt them anyhow until
they surrender her unharmed."

But the Apaches were used to being hunted, and some of them really
liked the game. It was full of exhilaration and excitement, and not a
few chances to hunt and hit back. The threat conveyed no terror to the
renegades. It was to the Indians at the reservation that the tidings
brought dismay, yet even there, so said young Bridger, leaders and
followers swore they had no idea where the white maiden could be, much
less the young chief. They, the peaceable and the poor servants of the
great Father at Washington, had no dealings with these others, his
foes.

About the post, where gloom and dread unspeakable prevailed, there was
no longer the fear of possible attack. The Indian prisoners in the
guard-house had dropped their truculent, defiant manner, and become
again sullen and apathetic. The down-stream settlers had returned to
their ranches and reported things undisturbed. Even the horse that had
been missing and charged to Downs had been accounted for. They found
him grazing placidly about the old pasture, with the rope halter
trailing, Indian-knotted, from his neck, and his gray hide still
showing stains of blood about the mane and withers. They wondered was
it on this old stager the Apaches had borne the wounded girl to the
garrison--she who still lay under the roof of Mother Shaughnessy,
timidly visited at times by big-eyed, shy little Indian maids from the
reservation, who would speak no word that Sudsville could understand,
and few that even Wales Arnold could interpret. All they would or
could divulge was that she was the daughter of old Eskiminzin, who was
out in the mountains, and that she had been wounded "over there," and
they pointed eastward. By whom and under what circumstances they swore
they knew not, much less did they know of Downs, or of how she chanced
to have the scarf once worn by the Frenchwoman Elise.

Then Arnold's wife and brood had gone back to their home up the
Beaver, while he himself returned to the search for Angela and for
Blakely. But those four days had passed without a word of hope. In
little squads a dozen parties were scouring the rugged canons and
cliffs for signs, and finding nothing. Hours each day Plume would come
to the watchers on the bluff to ask if no courier had been sighted.
Hours each night the sentries strained their eyes for signal fires.
Graham, slaving with his sick and wounded, saw how haggard and worn
the commander was growing, and spoke a word of caution. Something told
him it was not all on account of those woeful conditions at the front.
From several sources came the word that Mrs. Plume was in a state
bordering on hysteric at department headquarters, where sympathetic
women strove vainly to comfort and soothe her. It was then that Elise
became a center of interest, for Elise was snapping with electric
force and energy. "It is that they will assassinate madame--these
monsters," she declared. "It is imperative, it is of absolute need,
that madame be taken to the sea, and these wretches, unfeeling, they
forbid her to depart." Madame herself, it would seem, so said those
who had speech with her, declared she longed to be again with her
husband at Sandy. Then it was Elise who demanded that they should
move. Elise was mad to go--Elise, who took a turn of her own, a
screaming fit, when the news came of the relief of Wren's little
force, of the death of their brave sergeant, of the strange tale that,
before dying, Carmody had breathed a confession to Lieutenant Blakely,
which Blakely had reduced to writing before he set forth on his own
hapless mission. It was Mrs. Plume's turn now to have to play nurse
and comforter, and to strive to soothe, even to the extent of
promising that Elise should be permitted to start by the very next
stage to the distant sea, but when it came to securing passage, and in
feverish, nervous haste the Frenchwoman had packed her chosen
belongings into the one little trunk the stage people would consent to
carry, lo! there came to her a messenger from headquarters where
Colonel Byrne, grim, silent, saturnine, was again in charge. Any
attempt on her part to leave would result in her being turned over at
once to the civil authorities, and Elise understood and raved, but
risked not going to jail. Mullins, nursed by his devoted Norah, was
sitting up each day now, and had been seen by Colonel Byrne as that
veteran passed through, ten pounds lighter of frame and heavier of
heart than when he set forth, and Mullins had persisted in the story
that he had been set upon and stabbed by two women opposite Lieutenant
Blakely's quarters. What two had been seen out there that night but
Clarice Plume and her Gallic shadow, Elise?

Meantime Aunt Janet was "looking ghastly," said the ladies along that
somber line of quarters, and something really ought to be done. Just
what that something should be no two could unite in deciding, but
really Major Plume or Dr. Graham ought to see that, if something
wasn't done, she would break down under the awful strain. She had
grown ten years older in five days, they declared--was turning
fearfully gray, and they were sure she never slept a wink. Spoken to
on this score, poor Miss Wren was understood to say she not only could
not sleep, but she did not wish to. Had she kept awake and watched
Angela, as was her duty, the child could never have succeeded in her
wild escapade. The "child," by the way, had displayed rare
generalship, as speedily became known. She must have made her few
preparations without a betraying sound, for even Kate Sanders, in the
same room, was never aroused--Kate, who was now well-night
heartbroken. They found that Angela had crept downstairs in her
stockings, and had put on her riding moccasins and leggings at the
kitchen steps. There, in the sand, were the tracks of her long,
slender feet. They found that she had taken with her a roomy
hunting-pouch that hung usually in her father's den. She had filled
it, apparently, with food,--tea, sugar, even lemons, for half a dozen
of this precious and hoarded fruit had disappeared. Punch, too, had
been provided for. She had "packed" a half-bushel of barley from the
stables. There was no one to say Miss Angela nay. She might have
ridden off with the flag itself and no sentry would more than think of
stopping her. Just what fate had befallen her no one dare suggest. The
one thing, the only one, that roused a vestige of hope was that
Lieutenant Blakely had gone _alone_ on what was thought to be her
trail.

Now here was a curious condition of things. If anyone had been asked
to name the most popular officer at Sandy, there would have been no
end of discussion. Perhaps the choice would have lain between Sanders,
Cutler, and old Westervelt--good and genial men. Asked to name the
least popular officer, and, though men, and women, too, would have
shrunk from saying it, the name that would have occurred to almost all
was that of Blakely. And why? Simply because he stood alone,
self-poised, self-reliant, said his few friends, "self-centered and
self_ish_," said more than Mrs. Bridger, whereas a more generous man
had never served at Sandy. That, however, they had yet to learn. But
when a man goes his way in the world, meddling with no one else's
business, and never mentioning his own, courteous and civil, but never
intimate, studying a good deal but saying little, asking no favors and
granting few, perhaps because seldom asked, the chances are he will
win the name of being cold, indifferent, even repellent, "too high,
mighty, and superior." His very virtues become a fault, for men and
women love best those who are human like themselves, however they may
respect. Among the troopers Blakely was as yet something of an enigma.
His manner of speaking to them was unlike that of most of his
fellows--it was grave, courteous, dignified, never petulant or
irritable. In those old cavalry days most men better fancied something
more demonstrative. "I like to see an officer flare up and--say
things," said a veteran sergeant. "This here bug-catcher is too damned
cold-blooded." They respected him, yes; yet they little understood and
less loved him. They had known him too short a time.

But among the Indians Blakely was a demi-god. Grave, unruffled,
scrupulously exact in word and deed, he made them trust him. Brave,
calm, quick in moments of peril, he made them admire him. How
fearlessly he had stepped into the midst of that half-frenzied
sextette, _tiswin_ drunk, and disarmed Kwonagietah and two of his
fellow-revelers! How instant had been his punishment of that raging,
rampant, mutinous old medicine man, 'Skiminzin, who dared to threaten
him and the agency! (That episode only long years after reached the
ears of the Indian Advancement Association in the imaginative East.)
How gently and skillfully he had ministered to Shield's younger
brother, and to the children of old Chief Toyah! It was this, in fact,
that won the hate and envy of 'Skiminzin. How lavish was Blakely's
bounty to the aged and to the little ones, and Indians love their
children infinitely! The hatred or distrust of Indian man or woman,
once incurred, is venomous and lasting. The trust, above all the
gratitude, of the wild race, once fairly won, is to the full as
stable. Nothing will shake it. There are those who say the love of an
Indian girl, once given, surpasses that of her Circassian sister, and
Bridger now was learning new stories of the Bugologist with every day
of his progress in Apache lore. He had even dared to bid his impulsive
little wife "go slow," should she ever again be tempted to say
spiteful things of Blakely. "If what old Toyah tells me is true," said
he, "and I believe him, Hualpai or Apache Mohave, there isn't a decent
Indian in this part of Arizona that wouldn't give his own scalp to
save Blakely." Mrs. Bridger did not tell this at the time, for she had
said too much the other way; but, on this fifth day of our hero's
absence, there came tidings that unloosed her lips.

Just at sunset an Indian runner rode in on one of Arnold's horses, and
bearing a dispatch for Major Plume. It was from that sturdy
campaigner, Captain Stout, who knew every mile of the old trail
through Sunset Pass long years before even the ----th Cavalry,--the
predecessors of Plume, and Wren, and Sanders,--and what Stout said no
man along the Sandy ever bade him swear to.

     "Surprised small band, Tontos, at dawn to-day. They had
     saddle blanket marked 'W. A.' [Wales Arnold], and hat and
     underclothing marked 'Downs.' Indian boy prisoner says Downs
     was caught just after the 'big burning' at Camp Sandy
     [Lieutenant Blakely's quarters]. He says that Alchisay,
     Blakely's boy courier, was with them two days before, and
     told him Apache Mohaves had more of Downs's things, and that
     a white chief's daughter was over there in the Red Rocks.
     Sanders, with three troops, is east of us and searching that
     way now. This boy says Alchisay knew that Natzie and Lola
     had been hiding not far from Willow Tank on the Beaver
     trail--our route--but had fled from there same time Angela
     disappeared. Against her own people Natzie would protect
     Blakely, even were they demanding his life in turn for her
     Indian lover, Shield's. If these girls can be tracked and
     found, I believe you will have found Blakely and will find
     Angela."

That night, after being fed and comforted until even an Indian could
eat no more, the messenger, a young Apache Mohave, wanted _papel_ to
go to the agency, but Plume had other plans. "Take him down to
Shaughnessy's," said he to Truman, "and see if he knows that girl." So
take him they did, and at sight of his swarthy face the girl had given
a low cry of sudden, eager joy; then, as though reading warning in his
glance, turned her face away and would not talk. It was the play of
almost every Apache to understand no English whatever, yet Truman
could have sworn she understood when he asked her if she could guess
where Angela was in hiding. The Indian lad had shaken his head and
declared he knew nothing. The girl was dumb. Mrs. Bridger happened in
a moment later, coming down with Mrs. Sanders to see how the strange
patient was progressing. They stood in silence a moment, listening to
Truman's murmured words. Then Mrs. Bridger suddenly spoke. "Ask her if
she knows Natzie's cave," said she. "Natzie's cave," she repeated,
with emphasis, and the Indian girl guilelessly shook her head, and
then turned and covered her face with her hands.




CHAPTER XXIII

AN APACHE QUEEN


In the slant of the evening sunshine a young girl, an Indian, was
crouching among the bare rocks at the edge of a steep and rugged
descent. One tawny little hand, shapely in spite of scratches, was
uplifted to her brows, shading her keen and restless eyes against the
glare. In the other hand, the right, she held a little, circular
pocket-mirror, cased in brass, and held it well down in the shade.
Only the tangle of her thick, black hair and the top of her head could
be seen from the westward side. Her slim young body was clothed in a
dark-blue, well-made garment, half sack, half skirt, with long, loose
trousers of the same material. There was fanciful embroidery of bead
and thread about the throat. There was something un-Indian about the
cut and fashion of the garments that suggested civilized and feminine
supervision. The very way she wore her hair, parted and rolling back,
instead of tumbling in thick, barbaric "bang" into her eyes, spoke of
other than savage teaching; and the dainty make of her moccasins; the
soft, pliant folds of the leggins that fell, Apache fashion, about her
ankles, all told, with their beadwork and finish, that this was no
unsought girl of the tribespeople. Even the sudden gesture with which,
never looking back, she cautioned some follower to keep down, spoke
significantly of rank and authority. It was a chief's daughter that
knelt peering intently over the ledge of rocks toward the black
shadows of the opposite slope. It was Natzie, child of a warrior
leader revered among his people, though no longer spared to guide
them--Natzie, who eagerly, anxiously searched the length of the dark
gorge for sign or signal, and warned her companion to come no further.

Over the gloomy depths, a mile away about a jutting point, three or
four buzzards were slowly circling, disturbed, yet determined. Over
the broad valley that extended for miles toward the westward range of
heights, the mantle of twilight was slowly creeping, as in his
expressive sign language the Indian spreads his extended hands, palms
down, drawing and smoothing imaginary blanket, the robe of night, over
the face of nature. Far to the northward, from some point along the
face of the heights, a fringe of smoke was drifting in the soft breeze
sweeping down the valley from the farther Sierras. Wild, untrodden,
undesired of man, the wilderness lay outspread--miles and miles of
gloom and desolation, save where some lofty scarp of glistening rock,
jutting from among the scattered growth of dark-hued pine and cedar,
caught the brilliant rays of the declining sun.

Behind the spot where Natzie knelt, the general slope was broken by a
narrow ledge or platform, bowlder-strewn--from which, almost
vertically, rose the rocky scarp again. Among the sturdy, stunted fir
trees, bearding the rugged face, frowned a deep fissure, dark as a
wolf den, and, just in front of it, wide-eyed, open-mouthed, crouched
Lola--Natzie's shadow. Rarely in reservation days, until after Blakely
came as agent, were they ever seen apart, and now, in these days of
exile and alarm, they were not divided. Under a spreading cedar, close
to the opening, a tiny fire glowed in a crevice of the rocks, sending
forth no betraying smoke. About it were some rude utensils, a pot or
two, a skillet, an earthen _olla_, big enough to hold perhaps three
gallons, two bowls of woven grass, close plaited, almost, as the
famous fiber of Panama. In one of these was heaped a store of
_pinons_, in the other a handful or two of wild plums. Sign of
civilization, except a battered tin teapot, there was none, yet
presently was there heard a sound that told of Anglo-Saxon
presence--the soft voice of a girl in low-toned, sweet-worded
song--song so murmurous it might have been inaudible save in the
intense stillness of that almost breathless evening--song so low that
the Indian girl, intent in her watch at the edge of the cliff, seemed
not to hear at all. It was Lola who heard and turned impatiently, a
black frown in her snapping eyes, and a lithe young Indian lad,
hitherto unseen, dropped noiselessly from a perch somewhere above them
and, filling a gourd at the _olla_, bent and disappeared in the narrow
crevice back of the curtain of firs. The low song ceased gradually,
softly, as a mother ceases her crooning lullaby, lest the very lack of
the love-notes stir the drowsing baby brain to sudden waking.

With the last words barely whispered the low voice died away. The
Indian lad came forth into the light again, empty-handed; plucked at
Lola's gown, pointed to Natzie, for the moment forgotten, now urgently
beckoning. Bending low, they ran to her. She was pointing across the
deep gorge that opened a way to the southward. Something far down
toward its yawning mouth had caught her eager eye, and grasping the
arm of the lad with fingers that twitched and burned, she whispered in
the Apache tongue:

"They're coming."

One long look the boy gave in the direction pointed, then, backing
away from the edge, he quickly swept away a Navajo blanket that hung
from the protruding branches of a low cedar, letting the broad light
into the cavelike space beyond. There, on a hard couch of rock, skin,
and blanket, lay a fevered form in rough scouting dress. There, with
pinched cheeks, and eyes that heavily opened, dull and suffused, lay
the soldier officer who had ridden forth to rescue and to save,
himself now a crippled and helpless captive. Beside him, wringing out
a wet handkerchief and spreading it on the burning forehead, knelt
Angela. The girls who faced each other for the first time at the
pool--the daughter of the Scotch-American captain--the daughter of the
Apache Mohave chief--were again brought into strange companionship
over the unconscious form of the soldier Blakely.

[Illustration: "THEN SLOWLY THEY SAW HER RAISE HER RIGHT HAND, STILL
CAUTIOUSLY HOLDING THE LITTLE MIRROR"]

Resentful of the sudden glare that caused her patient to shrink and
toss complainingly, Angela glanced up almost in rebuke, but was
stilled by the look and attitude of the young savage. He stood with
forefinger on his closed lips, bending excitedly toward her. He was
cautioning her to make no sound, even while his very coming brought
disturbance to her first thought--her fevered patient. Then, seeing
both rebuke and question in her big, troubled eyes, the young Indian
removed his finger and spoke two words: "Patchie come," and, rising,
she followed him out to the flat in front.

Natzie at the moment was still crouching close to the edge, gazing
intently over, one little brown hand nervously grasping the branch of
a stunted cedar, the other as nervously clutching the mirror. So
utterly absorbed was she that the hiss of warning, or perhaps of
hatred, with which Lola greeted the sudden coming of Angela, seemed to
fall unnoted on her ears. Lola, her black eyes snapping and her lips
compressed, glanced up at the white girl almost in fury. Natzie,
paying no heed whatever to what was occurring about her, knelt
breathless at her post, watching, eagerly watching. Then, slowly, they
saw her raise her right hand, still cautiously holding the little
mirror, face downward, and at sight of this the Apache boy could
scarcely control his trembling, and Lola, turning about, spoke some
furious words, in low, intense tone, that made him shrink back toward
the screen. Then the wild girl glared again at Angela, as though the
sight of her were unbearable, and, with as furious a gesture, sought
to drive her, too, again to the refuge of the dark cleft, but Angela
never stirred. Paying no heed to Lola, the daughter of the soldier
gazed only at the daughter of the chief, at Natzie, whose hand was
now level with the surface of the rock. The next instant, far to the
northwest flashed a slender beam of dazzling light, another--another.
An interval of a second or two, and still another flash. Angela could
see the tiny, nebulous dot, like will-'o-the-wisp, dancing far over
among the rocks across a gloomy gorge. She had never seen it before,
but knew it at a glance. The Indian girl was signaling to some of her
father's people far over toward the great reservation, and the tale
she told was that danger menaced. Angela could not know that it told
still more,--that danger menaced not only Natzie, daughter of one
warrior chief, and the chosen of another now among their heroic
dead--it threatened those whom she was pledged to protect, even
against her own people.

Somewhere down that deep and frowning rift to the southwest, Indian
guides were leading their brethren on the trail of these refugees
among the upper rocks. Somewhere, far over among the uplands to the
northwest, other tribesfolk, her own kith and kin, were lurking, and
these the Indian girl was summoning with all speed to her aid.

And in the slant of that same glaring sunshine, not four miles away,
toiling upward along a rocky slope, following the faint sign here and
there of Apache moccasin, a little command of hardy, war-worn men had
nearly reached the crest when their leader signaled backward to the
long column of files, and, obedient to the excited gestures of the
young Hualpai guide, climbed to his side and gazed intently over.
What he saw on a lofty point of rocks, well away from the tortuous
"breaks" through which they had made most of their wearying marches
from the upper Beaver, brought the light of hope, the fire of battle,
to his somber eyes. "Send Arnold up here," he shouted to the men
below, and Arnold came, clambering past rock and bowlder until he
reached the captain's side, took one look in the direction indicated,
and brought his brown hand down with resounding swat on the butt of
his rifle. "Treed 'em!" said he exultantly; then, with doubtful,
backward glance along the crouching file of weary men, some sitting
now and fanning with their broad-brimmed hats, he turned again to the
captain and anxiously inquired: "Can we make it before dark?"

"We must make it!" simply answered Stout.

And then, far over among the heights between them and the reservation,
there went suddenly aloft--one, two, three--compact little puffs of
bluish smoke. Someone was answering signals flashed from the rocky
point--someone who, though far away, was promising aid.

"Let's be the first to reach them, lads," said Stout, himself a
wearied man. And with that they slowly rose and went stumbling upward.
The prize was worth their every effort, and hope was leading on.

An hour later, with barely half the distance traversed, so steep and
rocky, so wild and winding, was the way, with the sun now tangent to
the distant range afar across the valley, they faintly heard a sound
that spurred them on--two shots in quick succession from unseen
depths below the lofty point. And now they took the Indian jog trot.
There was business ahead.

Between them and that gleaming promontory now lay a comparatively open
valley, less cumbered with bowlders than were the ridges and ravines
through which they had come, less obstructed, too, with stunted trees.
Here was opportunity for horsemen, hitherto denied, and Stout called
on Brewster and his score of troopers, who for hours had been towing
their tired steeds at the rear of column. "Mount and push ahead!" said
he. "You are Wren's own men. It is fitting you should get there
first."

"Won't the captain ride with us--now?" asked the nearest sergeant.

"Not if it robs a man of his mount," was the answer. Yet there was
longing in his eye and all men saw it. He had led them day after day,
trudging afoot, because his own lads could not ride. Indeed, there had
been few hours when any horse could safely bear a rider. There came
half a dozen offers now. "I'll tramp afoot if the captain 'll only
take my horse," said more than one man.

And so the captain was with them, as with darkness settling down they
neared the great cliff towering against the southeastward sky. Then
suddenly they realized they were guided thither only just in time to
raise a well-nigh fatal siege. Thundering down the mountain side a big
bowlder came tearing its way, launched from the very point that had
been the landmark of their eager coming, and with the downward
crashing of the rock there burst a yell of fury.

Midway up the steep incline, among the straggling timber, two lithe
young Indians were seen bounding out of a little gully, only just in
time to escape. Two or three others, farther aloft, darted around a
shoulder of cliff as though scurrying out of sight. From the edge of
the precipice the crack of a revolver was followed by a second, and
then by a scream. "Dismount!" cried Brewster, as he saw the captain
throw himself from his horse; then, leaving only two or three to
gather in their now excited steeds, snapping their carbines to full
cock, with blazing eyes and firm-set lips, the chosen band began their
final climb. "Don't bunch. Spread out right and left," were the only
cautions, and then in long, irregular line, up the mountain steep they
clambered, hope and duty still leading on, the last faint light of the
November evening showing them their rocky way. Now, renegadoes, it is
fight or flee for your lives!

Perhaps a hundred yards farther up the jagged face the leaders came
upon an incline so steep that, like the Tontos above them, they were
forced to edge around to the southward, whither their comrades
followed. Presently, issuing from the shelter of the pines, they came
upon a bare and bowlder-dotted patch to cross which brought them
plainly into view of the heights above, and almost instantly under
fire. Shot after shot, to which they could make no reply, spat and
flattened on the rocks about them, but, dodging and ducking
instinctively, they pressed swiftly on. Once more within the partial
shelter of the pines across the open, they again resumed the climb,
coming suddenly upon a sight that fairly spurred them. There, feet
upward among the bowlders, stiff and swollen in death, lay all that
the lynxes had left of a cavalry horse. Close at hand was the battered
troop saddle. Caught in the bushes a few rods above was the folded
blanket, and, lodged in a crevice, still higher, lay the felt-covered
canteen, stenciled with the number and letter of Wren's own troop. It
was the horse of the orderly, Horn--the horse on which the Bugologist
had ridden away in search of Angela Wren. It was all the rescuers
needed to tell them they were now on the trail of both, and now the
carbines barked in earnest at every flitting glimpse of the foe,
sending the wary Tontos skipping and scurrying southward. And, at
last, breathless, panting, well-nigh exhausted, the active leaders
found themselves halting at a narrow, twisting little game trail,
winding diagonally up the slope, with that gray scarp of granite
jutting from the mountain side barely one hundred yards farther; and,
waving from its crest, swung by unseen hands, some white, fluttering
object, faintly seen in the gathering dusk, beckoned them on. The last
shots fired at the last Indians seen gleamed red in the autumn
gloaming. They, the rescuers, had reached their tryst only just as
night and darkness shrouded the westward valley. The last man up had
to grope his way, and long before that last man reached the ledge the
cheering word was passed from the foremost climber: "Both here, boys,
and safe!"

An hour later brought old Heartburn to the scene, scrambling up with
the other footmen, and speedily was he kneeling by the fevered
officer's side. The troopers had been sent back to their horses. Only
Stout, the doctor, Wales Arnold, and one or two sergeants remained at
the ledge, with rescued Angela, the barely conscious patient, and
their protectors, the Indian girls. Already the boy had been hurried
off with a dispatch to Sandy, and now dull, apathetic, and sullen,
Lola sat shrouded in her blanket, while Arnold, with the little Apache
dialect he knew, was striving to get from Natzie some explanation of
her daring and devotion.

Between tears and laughter, Angela told her story. It was much as they
had conjectured. Mad with anxiety on her father's account, she said,
she had determined to reach him and nurse him. She felt sure that,
with so many troops out between the post and the scene of action,
there was less danger of her being caught by Indians than of being
turned back by her own people. She had purposely dashed by the ranch,
fearing opposition, had purposely kept behind Colonel Byrne's party
until she found a way of slipping round and past them where she could
feel sure of speedily regaining the trail. She had encountered neither
friend nor foe until, just as she would have ridden away from the
Willow Tanks, she was suddenly confronted by Natzie, Lola, and two
young Apaches. Natzie eagerly gesticulated, exclaiming, "Apaches,
Apaches," and pointing ahead up the trail, and, though she could
speak no English, convincing Angela that she was in desperate danger.
The others were scowling and hateful, but completely under Natzie's
control, and between them they hustled her pony into a ravine leading
to the north and led him along for hours, Angela, powerless to
prevent, riding helplessly on. At last they made her dismount, and
then came a long, fearful climb afoot, up the steepest trail she had
ever known, until it brought her here. And here, she could not tell
how many nights afterwards--it seemed weeks, so had the days and hours
dragged--here, while she slept at last the sleep of exhaustion, they
had brought Mr. Blakely. He lay there in raging fever when she was
awakened that very morning by Natzie's crying in her ear some words
that sounded like: _"Hermano viene_! _Hermano viene_!"

[Illustration: "THEY HUSTLED HER PONY INTO A RAVINE"]

Stout had listened with absorbing interest and to the very last word.
Then, as one who heard at length full explanation of what he had
deemed incredible, his hand went out and clutched that of Arnold,
while his deep eyes, full of infinite pity, turned to where poor
Natzie crouched, watching silently and in utter self-forgetfulness the
doctor's ministrations.

"Wales," he muttered, "that settles the whole business. Whatever you
do,--don't let that poor girl know that--they"--and now he warily
glanced toward Angela--"they--are _not_ brother and sister."




CHAPTER XXIV

THE MEETING AT SANDY


December, and the noonday sun at Sandy still beat hotly on the barren
level of the parade. The fierce and sudden campaign seemed ended, for
the time, at least, as only in scattered remnants could the renegade
Indians be found. Eastward from the Agua Fria to the Chiquito, and
northward from the Salado to the very cliffs of the grand canon, the
hard-worked troopers had scoured the wild and mountainous country,
striking hard whenever they found a hostile band, striving ever,
through interpreters and runners, to bring the nervous and suspicious
tribes to listen to reason and to return to their reservations. This
for long days, however, seemed impossible. The tragic death of Raven
Shield, most popular of the young chiefs, struck down, as they
claimed, when he was striving only to defend Natzie, daughter of a
revered leader, had stirred the savages to furious reprisals, and
nothing but the instant action of the troops in covering the valley
had saved the scattered settlers from universal massacre. Enough had
been done by one band alone to thrill the West with horror, but these
had fled southward into Mexico and were safe beyond the border. The
settlers were slowly creeping back now to their abandoned homes, and
one after another the little field detachments were marching to their
accustomed stations. Sandy was filling up again with something besides
the broken down and wounded.

First to come in was Stout's triumphant half hundred, the happiest
family of horse and foot, commingled, ever seen upon the Pacific
slope, for their proud lot it had been to reach and rescue Angela,
beloved daughter of the regiment, and Blakely, who had well-nigh
sacrificed himself in the effort to find and save her. Stout and his
thirty "doughboys," Brewster, the sergeant, with his twenty troopers,
had been welcomed by the entire community as the heroes of the brief
campaign, but Stout would none of their adulation.

"There is the one you should thank and bless," said he, his eyes
turning to where stood Natzie, sad and silent, watching the attendants
who were lifting Neil Blakely from the litter to the porch of the
commanding officer.

They had brought her in with them, Lola and Alchisay as well--the last
two scowling and sullen, but ruled by the chieftain's daughter. They
had loaded her with praise and thanks, but she paid no heed. Two hours
after Stout and his troopers had reached the cliff and driven away the
murderous band of renegades--Tontos and Apache Yumas--bent on stealing
her captives, there had come a little party of her own kindred in
answer to her signals, but these would have been much too late.
Blakely would have been butchered. Angela and her benefactors, too,
would probably have been the victims of their captors. Natzie could
look for no mercy from them now. Through Wales Arnold, the captain and
his men had little by little learned the story of Natzie's devotion.
In the eyes of her father, her brother, her people, Blakely was
greater even than the famous big chief, Crook, the Gray Fox, who had
left them, ordered to other duties but the year gone by. Blakely had
quickly righted the wrongs done them by a thieving agent. Blakely had
given fair trial to and saved the life of Mariano, that fiery brother,
who, ironed by the former agent's orders, had with his shackled hands
struck down his persecutor and then escaped. Blakely had won their
undying gratitude, and Stout and Arnold saw now why it was that one
young brave, at least, could not share the love his people bore for
_Gran Capitan Blanco_--that one was Quonothay--the Chief Raven Shield.
They saw now why poor Natzie had no heart to give her Indian lover.
They saw now why it was that Natzie wandered from the agency and
hovered for some days before the outbreak there around the post. It
was to be near the young white chief whom she well-nigh worshiped,
whom she had been accustomed to see every day of her life during his
duties at the agency. They saw now why it was the savage girl had
dared the vengeance of the Apaches by the rescue of Angela. She
believed her to be Blakely's sister, yet they could not give the
reason why. They knew very little of Neil Blakely, but what they did
know made them doubt that he could ever have been the one at fault.
Over this problem both ranchman and soldier, Arnold and Stout, looked
grave indeed. It was not like Blakely that he should make a victim of
this young Indian girl. She was barely sixteen, said Arnold, who knew
her people well. She had never been alone with Blakely, said her
kinsfolk, who came that night in answer to her signals. She had saved
Angela, believing her to be Blakely's own blood, had led her to her
own mountain refuge, and then, confident that Blakely would make
search for it and for his sister, had gone forth and found him,
already half-dazed with fever and exhaustion, and had striven to lead
his staggering horse up that precipitous trail. It was the poor
brute's last climb. Blakely she managed to bring in safety to her
lofty eerie. The horse had fallen, worn out in the effort, and died on
the rocks below. She had roused Angela with what she thought would be
joyful tidings, even though she saw that her hero was desperately ill.
She thought, of course, the white girl knew the few words of Spanish
that she could speak. All this was made evident to Arnold and Stout,
partly through Natzie's young brother, who had helped to find and
support the white chief, partly through the girl herself. It was
evident to Arnold, too, that up to the time of their coming nothing
had happened to undeceive Natzie as to that relationship. They tried
to induce her to return to the agency, although her father and brother
were still somewhere with the hostile bands, but she would not, she
would go with them to Sandy, and they could not deny her. More than
once on that rough march of three days they found themselves asking
what would the waking be. Angela, daughter of civilization, under safe
escort, had been sent on ahead, close following the courier who
scurried homeward with the news. Natzie, daughter of the wilderness,
could not be driven from the sight of Blakely's litter. The dumb,
patient, pathetic appeal of her great soft eyes, as she watched every
look in the doctor's face, was something wonderful to see. But now, at
last, the fevered sufferer was home, still only semi-conscious, being
borne within the walls of the major's quarters, and she who had saved
him, slaved for him, dared for him, could only mutely gaze after his
prostrate and wasted form as it disappeared within the darkened
hallway in the arms of his men. Then came a light step bounding along
the veranda--then came Angela, no longer clad in the riding garb in
which hitherto Natzie had seen her, but in cool and shimmering white,
with gladness and gratitude in her beautiful eyes, with welcome and
protection in her extended hand, and the Indian girl looked strangely
from her to the dark hallway within which her white hero had
disappeared, and shrank back from the proffered touch. If this was the
soldier's sister should not she now be at the soldier's side? Had she
other lodge than that which gave him shelter, now that his own was
burned? Angela saw for the first time aversion, question, suspicion in
the great black eyes from which the softness and the pleading had
suddenly fled. Then, rebuffed, disturbed, and troubled, she turned to
Arnold, who would gladly have slipped away.

"Can't _you_ make her understand, Mr. Arnold?" she pleaded. "I don't
know a word of her language, and I so want to be her friend--so want
to take her to my home!"

And then the frontiersman did a thing for which, when she heard of it
one sunset later, his better half said words of him and to him that
overstepped all bounds of parliamentary usage, and that only a wife
would dare to employ. With the blundering stupidity of his sex, poor
Arnold "settled things" for many a day and well-nigh ruined the
sweetest romance that Sandy had ever seen the birth of.

"Ah, Miss Angela! only one place will ever be home to Natzie now. Her
eyes will tell you that."

And already, regardless of anything these women of the white chiefs
might think or say, unafraid save of seeing him no more, unashamed
save of being where she could not heed his every look or call or
gesture, the daughter of the mountain and the desert stood gazing
again after the vanished form her eyes long months had worshiped, and
the daughter of the schools and civilization stood flushing one-half
moment, then slowly paling, as, without another glance or effort, she
turned silently away. Kate Sanders it was who sprang quickly after her
and encircled the slender waist with her fond and clasping arm.

That night the powers of all Camp Sandy were exhausted in effort to
suitably provide for Natzie and her two companions. Mrs. Sanders, Mrs.
Bridger, even Mother Shaughnessy and Norah pleaded successively with
this princess of the wilderness, and pleaded in vain. Food and
shelter elsewhere they proffered in abundance. Natzie sat stubbornly
at the major's steps, and sadly at first, and angrily later, shook her
head to every proposition. Then they brought food, and Lola and
Alchisay ate greedily. Natzie would hardly taste a morsel. Every time
Plume or Graham or a soldier nurse came forth her mournful eyes would
study his face as though imploring news of the sufferer, who lay
unconscious of her vigil, if not of her existence. Graham's treatment
was beginning to tell, and Blakely was sleeping the sleep of the just.
They had not let him know of the poor girl's presence at the door.
They would not let her in for fear he might awake and see her, and ask
the reason of her coming. They would not send or take her away, for
all Sandy was alive with the strange story of her devotion. The
question on almost every lip was "How is this to end?"

At tattoo there came a Mexican woman from one of the down-stream
ranches, sent in by the post trader, who said she could speak the
Apache-Mohave language sufficiently well to make Natzie understand the
situation, and this frontier linguist strove earnestly. Natzie
understood every word she said, was her report, but could not be made
to understand that she ought to go. In the continued absence of Mrs.
Plume, both the major and the post surgeon had requested of Mrs.
Graham that she should come over for a while and "see what she could
do," and, leaving her own sturdy bairnies, the good, motherly soul had
come and presided over this diplomatic interview, proposing various
plans for Natzie's disposition for the night. And other ladies
hovering about had been sympathetically suggestive, but the Indian
girl had turned deaf ear to everything that would even temporarily
take her from her self-appointed station. At ten o'clock Mother
Shaughnessy, after hanging uneasily about the porch a moment or two,
gave muttered voice to a suggestion that other women had shrunk from
mentioning:

"Has she been tould Miss Angela and--him--is no kin at all, at all?"

"I don't want her told," said Mrs. Graham briefly.

And so Natzie was still there, sitting sleepless in the soft and
radiant moonlight, when toward twelve o'clock Graham came forth from
his last visit for the night, and she lifted up her head and looked
him dumbly in the face,--dumbly, yet imploring a word of hope or
comfort,--and it was more than the soft-hearted Scot could bear.
"Major," said he, as he gently laid a big hand upon the black and
tangled wealth of hair, "that lad in yonder would have been beyond the
ken of civilization days ago if it hadn't been for this little savage.
I'm thinking he'll sleep none the worse for her watching over him.
Todd's there for the night, the same that attended him before, and she
won't be strange with him--or I'm mistaken."

"Why?" asked Plume, mystified.

"I'm not saying, until Blakely talks for himself. For one reason I
don't _know_. For another, _he's_ the man to tell, if anybody," and a
toss of the head toward the dark doorway told who was meant by "he."

"D'you mean you'd have this girl squatting there by Blakely's bedside
the rest of the night?" asked the commander, ruffled in spirit.
"What's to prevent her singing their confounded death song, or
invoking heathen spirits, or knifing us all, for that matter?"

"What was to prevent her from knifing the Bugologist and Angela both,
when she had 'em?" was the sturdy reply. "The girl's a theoretical
heathen, but a practical Christian. Come with us, Natzie," he
finished, one hand extended to aid her to rise, the other pointing to
the open doorway. She was on her feet in an instant, and, silently
signing her companions to stay, followed the doctor into the house.

And so it happened that when Blakely wakened, hours later, the sight
that met him, dimly comprehending, was that of a blue-coated soldier
snoozing in a reclining chair, a blue-blanketed Indian girl seated on
the floor near the foot of his bed, looking with all her soul in her
gaze straight into his wondering eyes. At his low whisper, "Natzie,"
she sprang to her feet without word or sound; seized the thin white
hand tremulously extended toward her, and, pillowing her cheek upon
it, knelt humbly by the bedside, her black hair streaming to the
floor. A pathetic picture it made in the dim light of the newborn day,
forcing itself through the shrouded windows, and Major Plume, restless
and astir the hour before reveille, stood unnoted a moment at the
doorway, then strode back through the hall and summoned from the
adjoining veranda another sleepless watcher, gratefully breathing the
fragrance of the cool, morning air; and presently two dim forms had
softly tiptoed to that open portal, and now stood gazing within until
their eyes should triumph over the uncertain light--the post commander
in his trim-fitting undress uniform, the tall and angular shape of
Wren's elderly sister--the "austere vestal" herself. It may have been
a mere twitch of the slim fingers under her tawny cheek that caused
Natzie to lift her eyes in search of those of her hero and her
protector. Instantly her own gaze, startled, was turned straight to
the door. Then in another second she had sprung to her feet, and with
fury in her face and attitude confronted the intruders. As she did so
the sudden movement detached some object that hung within the breast
of her loose-fitting sack--something bright and gleaming that
clattered to the floor, falling close to the feet of the drowsing
attendant, while another--a thin, circular case of soft leather,
half-rolled, half-bounded toward the unwelcome visitors at the door.

Todd, roused to instant action at sight of the post commander, bent
quickly and nabbed the first. The girl herself darted after the
second, whereat the attendant, misjudging her motive, dreading danger
to his betters or rebuke to himself, sprang upon her as she stooped,
and dropping his first prize, dared to seize the Apache girl with both
hands at the throat. There was a warning cry from the bed, a flash of
steel through one slanting ray of sunshine, a shriek from the lips of
Janet Wren, and with a stifled moan the luckless soldier sank in his
tracks, while Natzie, the chieftain's daughter, a dripping blade in
her uplifted hand, a veritable picture of fury, stood in savage
triumph over him, her flashing eyes fixed upon the amazed commander,
as though daring him, too, to lay hostile hands upon her.




CHAPTER XXV

RESCUE REQUITED


A change had come over the spirit of Camp Sandy's dream. The garrison
that had gone to bed the previous night, leaving Natzie silent,
watchful, wistful at the post commander's door, had hardly a thought
that was not full of sympathy and admiration for her. Even women who
could not find it possible to speak of her probable relations with
Neil Blakely dwelt much in thought and word upon her superb devotion
and her generosity. That he had encouraged her passionate and almost
savage love for him there were few to doubt, whatsoever they might
find it possible to say. That men and women both regarded her as,
beyond compare, the heroic figure of the campaign there was none to
gainsay. Even those who could not or did not talk of her at all felt
that such was the garrison verdict. There were no men, and but few
women, who would have condemned the doctor's act in leading her to
Blakely's bedside. Sandy had spoken of her all that wonderful evening
only to praise. It woke to hear the first tidings of the new day, and
to ask only What was the cause?--What had led to her wild, swift
vengeance? for Todd had in turn been carried to hospital, a
sore-stricken man. The night before Natzie was held a queen: now she
was held a captive.

It all happened so suddenly that even Plume, who witnessed the entire
incident, could not coherently explain it. Reveille was just over and
the men were going to breakfast when the major's voice was heard
shouting for the guard. Graham, first man to reach the scene, had
collided with Janet Wren, whimpering and unnerved, as he bounded into
the hallway. His first thought was that Plume's prophecy about the
knifing had come true, and that Blakely was the victim. His first
sight, when his eyes could do their office in that darkened room, was
of Blakely wresting something from the grasp of the Indian girl, whose
gaze was now riveted on that writhing object on the floor.

"See to him, doctor," he heard Blakely say, in feeble, but commanding
tone. "I will see to her." But Blakely was soon in no condition to see
to her or to anybody. The flicker of strength that came to him for a
second or two at sight of the tragedy, left him as suddenly--left him
feebler than before. He had no voice with which to protest when the
stretchermen, who bore away poor Todd, were followed instantly by
stout guardsmen who bore away Natzie. The dignity of the chieftain's
daughter had vanished now. She had no knife with which to deal death
to these new and most reluctant assailants--Graham found it under
Blakely's pillow, long hours later. But, with all her savage, lissome
strength she scratched and struck and struggled. It took three of
their burliest to carry her away, and they did it with shame-hidden
faces, while rude comrades chaffed and jeered and even shouted
laughing encouragement to the girl, whose screams of rage had drawn
all Camp Sandy to the scene. One doctor, two men, and the steward went
with their groaning burden one way to the hospital. One officer, one
sergeant, and half a dozen men had all they could do to take their
raging charge another way to the guard-house. Ah, Plume, you might
have spared that brave girl such indignity! But, where one face
followed the wounded man with sympathetic eyes, there were twenty that
never turned from the Indian girl until her screams were deadened by
the prison doors.

"She stabbed a soldier who meant her no harm," was Plume's sullen and
stubborn answer to all appeals, for good and gentle women went to him,
begging permission to go to her. It angered him presently to the
extent of repeating his words with needless emphasis and additions
when Mother Shaughnessy came to make her special appeal. Shure she had
learned how to care for these poor creatures, was her claim, along o'
having little Paquita on her hands so many days, "and now that poor
girl beyant will be screaming herself into fits!"

"Let her scream," said Plume, unstrung and shaken, "but hold you your
tongue or I'll find a separate cell for you. No woman shall be knifing
my men, and go unpunished, if I can help it," and so saying he turned
wrathfully from her.

"Heard you that now?" stormed Mother Shaughnessy, as he strode away.
"Who but he has helped his women to go unpunished--" and the words
were out and heard before the sergeant major could spring and silence
her. Before another day they were echoing all over the post--were on
their way to Prescott, even, and meeting, almost at the northward
gateway, the very women the raging laundress meant. Of her own free
will Clarice Plume was once again at Sandy, bringing with her, sorely
against the will of either, but because a stronger will would have it
so--and sent his guards to see to it--a cowed and scared and
semi-silent companion of whom much ill was spoken now about the
garrison--Elise Lebrun.

The news threw Norah Shaughnessy nearly into spasms. "'Twas she that
knifed Pat Mullins!" she cried. "'Twas she drove poor Downs to dhrink
and desartion. 'Twas she set Carmody and Shannon to cuttin' each
other's throats"--which was news to a garrison that had seen the
process extend no further than to each other's acquaintance. And more
and stormier words the girl went on to say concerning the commander's
household until Mullins himself mildly interposed. But all these
things were being told about the garrison, from which Lola and
Alchisay had fled in terror to spread the tidings that their princess
was a prisoner behind the bars. These were things that were being
told, too, to the men of Sanders's returning troop before they were
fairly unsaddled at the stables; and that night, before ever he sought
his soldier pillow, Shannon had been to "C" Troop's quarters in search
of Trooper Stern and had wrung from him all that he could tell of
Carmody's last fight on earth--of his last words to Lieutenant
Blakely.

Meantime a sorely troubled man was Major Plume. That his wife would
have to return to Sandy he had learned from the lips of Colonel Byrne
himself. Her own good name had been involved, and could only be
completely cleared when Wren and Blakely were sufficiently recovered
to testify, and when Mullins should be so thoroughly restored as to be
fit for close cross-examination. Plume could in no wise connect his
beloved wife with either the murderous assault on Mullins or the
mysterious firing of Blakely's quarters, but he knew that Sandy could
not so readily acquit her, even though it might saddle the actual deed
upon her instrument--Elise. He had ordered that Blakely should be
brought to his own quarters because there he could not be reached by
any who were unacceptable to himself, the post commander. There were
many things he wished to know about and from Blakely's lips alone. He
could not stoop to talk with other men about the foibles of his wife.
He knew that iron box in Truman's care contained papers, letters, or
_something_ of deep interest to her. He knew full well now that, at
some time in the not far distant past, Blakely himself had been of
deep interest to her and she to Blakely. He had Blakely's last letter
to himself, written just before the lonely start in quest of Angela,
but that letter made no reference to the contents of the box or to
anything concerning their past. He had heard that Wales Arnold had
been intrusted with letters for Blakely to Clarice, his wife, and to
Captain, or Miss Janet Wren. Arnold had not been entirely silent on
the subject. He did not too much like the major, and rather rejoiced
in this opportunity to show his independence of him. Plume had gone so
far as to ask Arnold whether such letters had been intrusted to him,
and Wales said, yes; but, now that Blakely was safely back and
probably going to pull through, he should return the letters to the
writer as soon as the writer was well enough to appreciate what was
being done. Last, but not least, Plume had picked up near the door in
Blakely's room the circular, nearly flat, leather-covered case which
had dropped, apparently, from Natzie's gown, and, as it had neither
lock nor latch, Plume had opened it to examine its contents.

To his surprise it contained a beautifully executed miniature, a
likeness of a fair young girl, with soft blue eyes and heavy, arching
brows, a delicately molded face and mouth and chin, all framed in a
tumbling mass of tawny hair. It was the face of a child of twelve or
thirteen, one that he had never seen and of whom he knew nothing.
Neither cover, backing, nor case of the miniature gave the faintest
clew as to its original or as to its ownership. What was Natzie doing
with this?--and to whom did it belong? A little study satisfied him
there was something familiar in the face, yet he could not place it.

The very night of her coming, therefore, he told his wife the story
and handed her the portrait. One glance was enough. "I know it, yes,"
said Mrs. Plume, "though I, too, have never seen her. She died the
winter after it was taken. It is Mr. Blakely's sister, Ethel," and
Mrs. Plume sat gazing at the sweet girl features, with strange
emotion in her aging face. There was something--some story--behind all
this that Plume could not fathom, and it nettled him. Perhaps he, too,
was yielding to a fit of nerves. Elise, the maid, had been remanded to
her room, and could be heard moving about with heavy, yet uncertain
tread. "She is right over Blakely," quoth the major impatiently. "Why
can't the girl be quiet?"

"Why did you bring him _here_, then?" was the weary answer. "I cannot
control Elise. They have treated her most cruelly."

"There are things you cannot explain and that she must," said he, and
then, to change the subject, stretched forth his hand to take again
the picture. She drew it back one moment, then, remembering,
surrendered it.

"You saw this in--St. Louis, I suppose," said he awkwardly. He never
could bear to refer to those days--the days before he had come into
her life.

"Not that perhaps, but the photograph from which it was probably
painted. She was his only sister. He was educating her in the East."
And again her thoughts were drifting back to those St. Louis days,
when, but for the girl sister he so loved, she and Neil Blakely had
been well-nigh inseparable. Someone had said then, she remembered,
that she was jealous even of that love.

And now again her husband was gazing fixedly at the portrait, a light
coming into his lined and anxious face. Blakely had always carried
this miniature with him, for he now remembered that the agent, Daly,
had spoken of it. Natzie and others might well have seen it at the
reservation. The agent's wife had often seen it and had spoken of his
sorrow for the sister he had lost. The picture, she said, stood often
on his little camp table. Every Indian who entered his tent knew it
and saw it. Why, surely; Natzie, too, mused the major, and then aloud:

"I can see now what we have all been puzzling over. Angela Wren might
well have looked like this--four years ago."

"There is not the faintest resemblance," said Clarice, promptly rising
and quitting the room.

It developed with another day that Mrs. Plume had no desire to see
Miss Wren, the younger. She expressed none, indeed, when policy and
the manners of good society really required it. Miss Janet had come in
with Mrs. Graham and Mrs. Sanders to call upon the wife of the
commanding officer and say what words of welcome were possible as
appropriate to her return. "And Angela," said Janet, for reasons of
her own, "will be coming later." There was no response, nor was there
to the next tentative. The ladies thought Mrs. Plume should join
forces with them and take Natzie out of the single cell she occupied.
"Can she not be locked at the hospital, under the eye of the matron,
with double sentries? It is hard to think of her barred in that
hideous place with Apache prisoners and rude men all about her." But
again was Mrs. Plume unresponsive. She would say no word of interest
in either Angela or Natzie. At the moment when her husband was in
melting mood and when a hint from her lips would have secured the
partial release of the Indian girl, the hint was withheld. It would
have been better for her, for her husband, for more than one brave lad
on guard, had the major's wife seen fit to speak, but she would not.

So that evening brought release that, in itself, brought much relief
to the commanding officer and the friends who still stood by him.

Thirty-six hours now had Natzie been a prisoner behind the bars, and
no one of those we know had seen her face. At tattoo the drums and
fifes began their sweet, old-fashioned soldier tunes. The guard turned
out; the officer of the day buckled his belt with a sigh and started
forth to inspect, just as the foremost soldiers appeared on the porch
in front, buttoning their coats and adjusting their belts and slings.
Half their number began to form ranks; the other half "stood by,"
within the main room, to pass out the prisoners, many of whom wore a
clanking chain. All on a sudden there arose a wild clamor--shouts,
scuffling, the thunder of iron upon resounding woodwork, hoarse
orders, curses, shrieks, a yell for help, a shot, a mad scurry of many
feet, furious cries of "Head 'em off!" "Shoot!" "No, no, don't shoot!
You'll kill our own!" A dim cloud of ghostly, shadowy forms went
tearing away down the slope toward the south. There followed a
tremendous rush of troop after troop, company after company,--the
whole force of Camp Sandy in uproarious pursuit,--until in the dim
starlight the barren flats below the post, the willow patches along
the stream, the plashing waters of the ford, the still and glassy
surface of the shadowy pool, were speedily all alive with dark and
darting forms intermingled in odd confusion. From the eastward side,
from officers' row, Plume and his white-coated subordinates hastened
to the southward face, realizing instantly what must have
occurred--the long-prophesied rush of Apache prisoners for freedom.
Yet how hopeless, how mad, how utterly absurd was the effort! What
earthly chance had they--poor, manacled, shackled, ball-burdened
wretches--to escape from two hundred fleet-footed, unhampered,
stalwart young soldiery, rejoicing really in the fun and excitement of
the thing? One after another the shackled fugitives were run down and
overhauled, some not half across the parade, some in the shadows of
the office and storehouses, some down among the shrubbery toward the
lighted store, some among the shanties of Sudsville, some, lightest
weighted of all, far away as the lower pool, and so one after another,
the grimy, sullen, swarthy lot were slowly lugged back to the unsavory
precincts wherein, for long weeks and months, they had slept or
stealthily communed through the hours of the night. Three or four had
been cut or slashed. Three or four soldiers had serious hurts,
scratches or bruises as their fruits of the affray. But after all, the
malefactors, miscreants, and incorrigibles of the Apache tribe had
profited little by their wild and defiant essay--profited little, that
is, if personal freedom was what they sought.

But was it? said wise heads of the garrison, as they looked the
situation over. Shannon and some of his ilk were doing much
independent trailing by aid of their lanterns. Taps should have been
sounded at ten, but wasn't by any means, for "lights out" was the last
thing to be thought of. Little by little it dawned upon Plume and his
supporters that, instead of scattering, as Indian tactics demanded on
all previous exploits of the kind, there had been one grand, concerted
rush to the southward--planned, doubtless, for the purpose of drawing
the whole garrison thither in pursuit, while three pairs of moccasined
feet slipped swiftly around to the rear of the guard-house, out beyond
the dim corrals, and around to a point back of "C" Troop stables,
where other little hoofs had been impatiently tossing up the sands
until suddenly loosed and sent bounding away to where the North Star
hung low over the sheeny white mantle of San Francisco mountain.
Natzie, the girl queen, was gone from the guard-house: Punch, the Lady
Angela's pet pony, was gone from the corral, and who would say there
had not been collusion?

"One thing is certain," said the grave-faced post commander, as, with
his officers, he left the knot of troopers and troopers' wives
hovering late about the guard-house, "one thing is certain; with
Wren's own troopers hot on the heels of Angela's pony we'll have our
Apache princess back, sure as the morning sun."

"Like hell!" said Mother Shaughnessy.




CHAPTER XXVI

"WOMAN-WALK-NO-MORE"


More morning suns than could be counted in the field of the flag had
come, and gone, but not a sign of Natzie. Wren's own troopers, hot on
Punch's flashing heels, were cooling their own as best they could
through the arid days that followed. Wren himself was now recovered
sufficiently to be told of much that had been going on,--not all,--and
it was Angela who constantly hovered about him, for Janet was taking a
needed rest. Blakely, too, was on the mend, sitting up hours of every
day and "being very lovely" in manner to all the Sanders household,
for thither had he demanded to be moved even sooner than it was
prudent to move him at all. Go he would, and Graham had to order it.
Pat Mullins was once again "for duty." Even Todd, the bewildered
victim of Natzie's knife, was stretching his legs on the hospital
porch. There had come a lull in all martial proceedings at the post,
and only two sensations. One of these latter was the formal
investigation by the inspector general of the conditions surrounding
the stabbing at Camp Sandy of Privates Mullins and Todd of the ----th
U. S. Cavalry. The other was the discovery, one bright, brilliant,
winter morning that Natzie's friend and savior, Angela's Punch, was
back in his stall, looking every bit as saucy and "fit" as ever he did
in his life. What surprised many folk in the garrison was that it
surprised Angela not at all. "I thought Punch would come back," said
she, in demure unconcern, and the girls at least, began to understand,
and were wild to question. Only Kate Sanders, however, knew how
welcome was the pet pony's coming. But what had come that was far from
welcome was a coldness between Angela and Kate Sanders.

Byrne himself had arrived, and the "inquisition" had begun. No
examinations under oath, no laborious recordings of question and
answer, no crowd of curious listeners. The veteran inspector took each
man in turn and heard his tale and jotted down his notes, and, where
he thought it wise, cross-questioned over and again. One after
another, Truman and Todd, Wren and Mullins, told their stories,
bringing forth little that was new beyond the fact that Todd was sure
it was Elise he heard that night "jabbering with Downs" on Blakely's
porch. Todd felt sure that it was she who brought him whisky, and
Byrne let him prattle on. It was not evidence, yet it might lead the
way to light. In like manner was Mullins sure now "'Twas two ladies"
stabbed him when he would have striven to stop the foremost. Byrne
asked did he think they were ladies when first he set eyes on them,
and Pat owned up that he thought it was some of the girls from
Sudsville; it might even be Norah as one of them, coming home late
from the laundresses' quarters, and trying to play him a trick. He
owned to it that he grabbed the foremost, seeing at that moment no
other, and thinking to win the forfeit of a kiss, and Byrne gravely
assured him 'twas no shame in it, so long as Norah never found it out.

But Byrne asked Plume two questions that puzzled and worried him
greatly. How much whisky had he missed? and how much opium could have
been given him the night of Mrs. Plume's unconscious escapade? The
major well remembered that his demijohn had grown suddenly light, and
that he had found himself surprisingly heavy, dull, and drowsy. The
retrospect added to his gloom and depression. Byrne had not reoccupied
his old room at Plume's, now that madame and Elise were once more
under the major's roof, and even in extending the customary
invitation, Plume felt confident that Byrne could not and should not
accept. The position he had taken with regard to Elise, her ladyship's
companion and confidante, was sufficient in itself to make him, in the
eyes of that lady, an unacceptable guest, but it never occurred to
her, although it had to Plume, that there might be even deeper
reasons. Then, too, the relations between the commander and the
inspector, although each was scrupulously courteous, were now
necessarily strained. Plume could not but feel that his conduct of
post affairs was in a measure a matter of scrutiny. He knew that his
treatment of Natzie was disapproved by nine out of ten of his command.
He felt, rather than knew, that some of his people had connived at her
escape, and though that escape had been a relief to everybody at
Sandy, the manner of her taking off was to him a mystery and a
rankling sore.

Last man to be examined was Blakely, and now indeed there was light.
He had been sitting up each day for several hours; his wounds were
healing well; the fever and prostration that ensued had left him weak
and very thin and pale, but he had the soldier's best medicine--the
consciousness of duties thoroughly and well performed. He knew that,
though Wren might carry his personal antipathy to the extent of
official injustice, as officers higher in rank than Wren have been
known to do, the truth concerning the recent campaign must come to
light, and his connection therewith be made a matter of record, as it
was already a matter of fact. Wren had not yet submitted his written
report. Wren and the post commander were still on terms severely
official; but, to the few brother officers with whom the captain
talked at all upon the stirring events through which he and his troop
had so recently passed, he had made little mention of Blakely. Not so,
however, the men; not so Wales Arnold, the ranchman. To hear these
worthies talk, the Bugologist, next to "Princess Natzie," was the
central figure of the Red Rock campaign--the one officer, "where all
had done so well," whose deeds merited conspicuous mention. Byrne knew
this better than Wren. Plume knew it not as well as Byrne, perhaps.
Sanders, Lynn, and Duane had heard the soldier stories in a dozen
ways, and it stung them that their regimental comrade should so
doggedly refuse to open his lips and give Blakely his due. It is not
silence that usually hurts a man, it is speech; yet here was a case to
the contrary.

Now just in proportion as the Wrens would have nothing to say in
praise of Blakely, the Sanders household would have nothing _but_
praise to say. Kate's honest heart was hot with anger at Angela,
because the girl shrank from the subject as she would from evil
speaking, lying, and slandering, and here again, to paraphrase the
Irishman, too much heat had produced the coldness already referred to.
Sanders scoffed at the idea of Natzie's infatuation being sufficient
ground for family ostracism. "If there is a man alive who owes more
than Wren does to Blakely, I'm a crab," said he, "and as soon as he's
well enough to listen to straight talk he'll get it from me." "If
there's a girl in America as heartless as Angela Wren," said Mrs.
Sanders, "I hope I never shall have to meet her." But then Mrs.
Sanders, as we know, had ever been jealous of Angela on account of her
own true-hearted Kate, who refused to say one word on the subject
beyond what she said to Angela herself. And now they had propped their
patient in his reclining-chair and arranged the little table for "the
inquisitor general," as Mrs. Bridger preferred to refer to him, and
left them alone together behind closed doors, and had then gone forth
to find that all Camp Sandy seemed to wait with bated breath for the
outcome of that interview.

Sooner than was believed possible it came. An hour, probably, before
they thought the colonel could have gathered all he wished to know,
that officer was on the front piazza and sending an orderly to the
adjutant's office. Then came Major Plume, with quick and nervous step.
There was a two-minute conference on the piazza; then both officers
vanished within, were gone five minutes, and then Plume reappeared
alone, went straight to his home, and slammed the door behind him, a
solecism rarely known at Sandy, and presently on the hot and pulseless
air there arose the sound of shrill protestation in strange
vernacular. Even Wren heard the voice, and found something reminiscent
in the sound of weeping and wailing that followed. The performer was
unquestionably Elise--she that had won the ponderous, yet descriptive,
Indian name "Woman-Walk-in-the-Night."

And while this episode was still unexpired the orderly went for
Lieutenant Truman, and Truman, with two orderlies, for a box, a bulky
little chest, strapped heavily with iron, and this they lugged into
Sanders's hall and came out heated and mystified. Three hours later,
close-veiled and in droopy desolation, "Mademoiselle Lebrun" was
bundled into a waiting ambulance and started under sufficient escort,
and the care of the hospital matron, _en route_ for Prescott, while
Dr. Graham was summoned to attend Mrs. Plume, and grimly went. "The
mean part of the whole business," said Mrs. Bridger, "is that nobody
knows _what_ it means." There was no one along the line, except poor
Mrs. Plume, to regret that sudden and enforced departure, but there
was regret universal all over the post when it was learned, still
later in the afternoon, that one of the best soldiers and sergeants
in the entire garrison had taken the horse of one of the herd guard
and galloped away on the trail of the banished one. Sergeant Shannon,
at sunset parade, was reported absent without leave.

Major Plume had come forth from his quarters at the sounding of the
retreat, accurately dressed as ever, white-gloved, and wearing his
saber. He seemed to realize that all eyes would be upon him. He had,
indeed, been tempted again to turn over the command to the senior
captain, but wisely thought better of it, and determined to face the
music. He looked very sad and gray, however. He returned scrupulously
the salute of the four company commanders as, in turn, each came
forward to report the result of the evening roll-call; Cutler and
Westervelt first, their companies being the nearest, then Lieutenant
Lynn, temporarily in charge of Wren's troop, its captain and first
lieutenant being still "on sick report." The sight of this young
officer set the major to thinking of that evening not so many moons
agone when Captain Wren himself appeared and in resonant, far-carrying
tone announced "Lieutenant Blakely, sir, is absent." He had been
thinking much of Blakely through the solemn afternoon, as he wandered
nervously about his darkened quarters, sometimes tiptoeing to the
bedside of his feebly moaning, petulant wife, sometimes pacing the
library and hall. He had been again for half an hour closeted with
Byrne and the Bugologist, certain letters being under inspection. He
hardly heard the young officer, Lynn, as he said "Troop 'C,' all
present, sir." He was looking beyond him at Captain Sanders, coming
striding over the barren parade, with import in his eye. Plume felt
that there was trouble ahead before ever Sanders reached the
prescribed six paces, halted, raised his hand in salute, and, just as
did Wren on that earlier occasion, announced in tones intended to be
heard over and beyond the post commander: "Sergeant Shannon, sir, with
one government horse, absent without leave."

Plume went a shade white, and bit his lips before he could steady
himself to question. Well he knew that this new devilment was due in
some way to that spirit of evil so long harbored by his wife, and
suffered by himself. All the story of the strife she had stirred in
the garrison had reached him days before. Downs's drunkenness and
desertion, beyond doubt, were chargeable to her, as well as another
and worse crime, unless all indications were at fault. Then there was
the breach between Carmody and Shannon, formerly stanch friends and
comrades, and now Carmody lay buried beneath the rocks in Bear Canon,
and Shannon, as gallant and useful a sergeant as ever served, had
thrown to the winds his record of the past and his hopes for the
future, and gone in mad pursuit of a worthless hoyden. And all because
Clarice would have that woman with her wherever she might go.

"When did this happen?" he presently asked.

"Just after stable call, sir. The horses were all returned to the
corral except the herd guard's. The men marched over, as usual, with
their halters. Shannon fell out as they entered the gate, took young
Bennett's rein as he stood ready to lead in after them, mounted and
rode round back of the wall, leaving Bennett so surprised that he
didn't know what to say. He never suspected anything wrong until
Shannon failed to reappear. Then he followed round back of the corral,
found the sergeant's stable frock lying halfway out toward the bluff,
and saw a streak of dust toward Bowlder Point. Then he came and
reported."

Plume, after a moment's silence, turned abruptly. He had suffered much
that day, and to think of his wife lying stricken and whimpering,
professing herself a sorely injured woman because compelled at last to
part with her maid, angered him beyond the point of toleration.
Tossing his saber to the China boy, he went straightway aloft, failing
to note in the dim light that two soft-hearted sympathizers were
cooing by the gentle sufferer's side.

"Well, Clarice," he broke in abruptly, "we are never to hear the end
of that she-cat's doings! My best sergeant has stolen a horse and gone
galloping after her." It is always our best we lose when our better
half is to blame, nor is it the way of brutal man to minimize the
calamity on such occasions. It did not better matters that her
much-wronged ladyship should speedily reply: "It's a wonder you don't
charge the Indian outbreak to poor Elise. I don't believe she had a
thing to do with your sergeant's stealing."

"You wouldn't believe she stole my whisky and gave it to Downs, though
you admitted she told you she had to go back that night for something
she'd dropped. You wouldn't believe she married that rascally gambler
at St. Louis before her first husband was out of the way! You shielded
and swore by her, and brought her out here, and all the time the
proofs were here in Blakely's hands. It was _she_, I suppose, who
broke off--"

But here, indeed, was it high time to break off. The visitors were now
visibly rising in all proper embarrassment, for Mrs. Plume had started
up, with staring eyes. "Proofs!" she cried, "in Blakely's hands! Why,
she told me--my own letters!--my--" And then brutal man was brought to
his senses and made to see how heartless and cruel was his conduct,
for Mrs. Plume went into a fit and Mrs. Lynn for the doctor.

That was a wild night at Sandy. Two young matrons had made up their
minds that it was shameful to leave poor Mrs. Plume without anybody to
listen to her, when she might so long for sympathetic hearers, and
have so much to tell. They had entered as soon as the major came forth
and, softly tapping at the stricken one's door, had been with her
barely five minutes when he came tearing back, and all this tremendous
scene occurred before they could put in a word to prevent, which, of
course, they were dying to do. But what _hadn't_ they heard in that
swift moment! Between the two of them--and Mrs. Bridger was the
other--their agitation was such that it all had to be told. Then, like
the measles, one revelation led to another, but it was several days
before the garrison settled down in possession of an array of facts
sufficient to keep it in gossip for many a month. Meanwhile, many a
change had come over the scene.

At Prescott, then the Territorial capital, Elise Layton, _nee_ Lebrun,
was held without bail because it couldn't be had, charged with
obtaining money under false pretenses, bigamy as a side issue, and
arson as a possible backstop. The sleep-walking theory, as advanced in
favor of Mrs. Plume, had been reluctantly abandoned, it appearing
that, however dazed and "doped" she may have been through the
treatment of that deft-fingered, unscrupulous maid, she was
sufficiently wide awake to know well whither she had gone at that
woman's urging, to make a last effort to recover certain letters of
vital importance. At Blakely's door Clarice had "lost her nerve" and
insisted on returning, but not so Elise. She went again, and had
well-nigh gotten Downs drunk enough to do as she demanded. Frankly,
sadly, Plume went to Blakely, told him of his wife's admissions, and
asked him what papers of hers he retained. For a moment Blakely had
blazed with indignation, but Plume's sorrow, and utter innocence of
wrong intent, stilled his wrath and led to his answer: "Every letter
of Mrs. Plume's I burned before she was married, and I so assured her.
She herself wrote asking me to burn rather than return them, but there
were letters and papers I could not burn, brought to me by a poor
devil that woman Elise had married, tricked into jail, and then
deserted. He disappeared afterward, and even Pinkerton's people
haven't been able to find him. Those papers are his property. You and
Colonel Byrne are the only men who have seen them, though they were
somewhat exposed just after the fire. She made three attempts to get
me to give them up to her. Then, I believe, she strove to get Downs to
steal them, and gave him the money with which to desert and bring them
to her. He couldn't get into the iron box; couldn't lug it out, and
somehow, probably, set fire to the place, scratching matches in there.
Perhaps she even persuaded him to do that as a last resort. He knew I
could get out safely. At all events, he was scared out of his wits and
deserted with what he had. It was in trying to make his way eastward
by the Wingate road that there came the last of poor Ups and Downs."

And so the story of this baleful influence over a weak, half-drugged
girl, her mistress, became known to Plume and gradually to others. It
was easy for Elise to make her believe that, in spite of the word of a
gentleman, her impulsive love letters were still held by Blakely
because he had never forgiven her. It was Elise, indeed, who had
roused her jealousy and had done her best to break that engagement
with Blakely and to lead to the match with the handsome and devoted
major. Intrigue and lying were as the breath of the woman's nostrils.
She lived in them. But Sandy was never to see her again.
"Woman-Walk-in-the-Night" was "Woman-Walk-no-More."

And now the friendless creature stood charged with more crimes than
would fill the meager space of a Territorial jail, and yet the one
originally laid at her door, though never publicly announced, was now
omitted entirely--that of assault with deadly weapon, possibly with
intent to kill. Even Mother Shaughnessy and Norah were silenced, and
Pat Mullins put to confusion. Even the latest punctured patient at the
hospital, Private Todd, had to serve as evidence in behalf of Elise,
for Graham, post surgeon, had calmly declared that the same weapon
that so nearly killed Pat Mullins had as nearly and neatly done the
deed for Todd--the keen Apache knife of Princess Natzie.

"The heathen child was making her usual night visit to her white
lover," said Wren grimly, having in mind the womanly shape he had seen
that starlit morning at Blakely's rear door.

"You're right in one guess, R-robert Wren," was the prompt answer of
his friend and fellow Scot, who glared at Janet rather than his
convalescent as he spoke. "And ye're wrang in twanty. She _was_
tryin', and didn't know the way. She _was_ tryin', for she had his
watch and pocketbook. You're wrang if ye think she was ever there
before or after. The slut you saw cryin' at his back door was that
quean Elise, an' ye well know there was no love lost between them. Go
say yer prayers, man, for every wicked thought ye've had of him--or of
that poor child. Between them they saved your Angela!"




CHAPTER XXVII

THE PARTING BY THE WATERS


"Some day I may tell Miss Angela--but never you," had Mr. Blakely
said, before setting forth on his perilous essay to find Angela's
father, and with native tenacity Miss Wren the elder had remembered
the words and nourished her wrath. It was strange, indeed, that Plume,
an officer and a gentleman, should have bethought him of the "austere
vestal" as a companion witness to Blakely's supposed iniquity; but,
between these two natures,--one strong, one weak,--there had sprung up
the strange sympathy that is born of a common, deep-rooted, yet
ill-defined antipathy--one for which neither she nor he could yet give
good reason, and of which each was secretly ashamed. Each, for reasons
of her or his own, cordially disliked the Bugologist, and each could
not but welcome evidence to warrant such dislike. It is human nature.
Janet Wren had strong convictions that the man was immoral, if for no
other reason than that he obviously sought Angela and as obviously
avoided her. Janet had believed him capable of carrying on a _liaison_
with the dame who had jilted him, and had had to see that theory
crushed. Then she would have it that, if not the mistress, he dallied
with the maid, and when it began to transpire that virulent hatred was
the only passion felt for him by that baffling and detestable
daughter of Belial, there came actual joy to the soul of the
Scotchwoman that, after all, her intuition had not been at fault. He
was immoral as she would have him, even more so, for he had taken base
advantage of the young and presumably innocent. She craved some proof,
and Plume knew it, and, seeing her there alone in her dejection, had
bidden her come and look--with the result described.

His own feeling toward Blakely is difficult to explain. Kind friends
had told him at St. Louis how inseparable had been Clarice and this
very superior young officer. She had admitted to him the "flirtation,"
but denied all regard for Blakely, yet Plume speedily found her moody,
fitful, and unhappy, and made up his mind that Blakely was at the
bottom of it. Her desire to go to far-away Arizona could have no other
explanation. And though in no way whatever, by look, word, or deed,
had Blakely transgressed the strictest rule in his bearing toward the
major's wife, both major and wife became incensed at him,--Plume
because he believed the Bugologist still cherished a tender passion
for his wife--or she for him; Clarice, it must be owned, because she
knew well he did not. Plume sought to find a flaw in his subordinate's
moral armor to warrant the aversion that he felt, and was balked at
every turn. It was with joy almost fierce he discovered what he
thought to be proof that the subaltern was no saint, and, never
stopping to give his better nature time to rise and rebuke him, he had
summoned Janet. It was to sting Blakely, more than to punish the girl,
he had ordered Natzie to the guard-room. Then, as the hours wore on
and he realized how contemptible had been his conduct, the sense of
shame well-nigh crushed him, and though it galled him to think that
some of his own kind, probably, had connived at Natzie's escape, he
thanked God the girl was gone. And now having convinced herself that
here at last she had positive proof of Mr. Blakely's depravity, Aunt
Janet had not scrupled to bear it to Angela, with sharp and surprising
result. A good girl, a dutiful girl, was Angela, as we have seen, but
she, too, had her share of fighting Scotch blood and a bent for revolt
that needed only a reason. For days Aunt Janet had bidden her shun the
young man, first naming Mrs. Plume and then Elsie as the cause and
corespondent. One after another Graham had demolished these
possibilities, to the end that even Wren was ashamed of his unworthy
suspicions. Then it was Natzie who was the prey of Blakely's
immorality, and for that, Janet declared, quite as much as for
stabbing the soldier, the girl had been sent to the cells. It was late
in the day when she managed to find Angela away from her father, who,
realizing what Natzie had done and suffered to save his own ewe lamb,
was now in keen distress of mind because powerless to raise a hand to
aid her. He wondered that Angela seemed so unresponsive--that she did
not flare up in protest at such degrading punishment for the girl who
had saved her life. He little knew how his daughter's heart was
burning within her. He never dreamed that she, too, was
suffering--torn by conflicting emotions. It was a sore thing to find
that in her benefactress lived an unsuspected rival.

Just before sunset she had left him and gone to her room to change her
dress for the evening, and Janet's first swoop was upon her brother.
Once before during the exciting day she had had a moment to herself
and him. She had so constantly fanned the flame of his belief in
Blakely's gallantries as even to throttle the sense of gratitude he
felt, and, in spite of herself, that she felt for that officer's
daring and successful services during the campaign. She felt, and he
felt, that they must disapprove of Blakely--must stamp out any nascent
regard that Angela might cherish for him, and to this end would never
in her presence admit that he had been instrumental in the rescue of
his captain, much less his captain's daughter. Hurriedly Janet had
told him what she and Plume had seen, and left him to ponder over it.
Now she came to induce him to bid her tell it all to Angela. "Now
that, that other--affair--seems disproved," said she, "she'll be
thinking there's no reason why she shouldn't be thinking of him," and
dejectedly the Scotchman bade her do as seemed best. Women, he
reasoned, could better read each other's hearts.

And so Janet had gone and had thought to shock, and had most
impressively detailed what she had witnessed--I fear me Janet scrupled
not to embroider a bit, so much is permissible to the "unco guid" when
so very much is at stake. And Angela went on brushing out her
beautiful hair without a sign of emotion. To the scandal of Scotch
maidenhood she seemed unimpressed by the depravity of the pair. To the
surprise of Aunt Janet she heard her without interruption to the
uttermost word, and then--wished to know if Aunt Janet thought the
major would let her send Natzie something for supper.

Whatever the girl may have thought of this new and possible
complication, she determined that no soul should read that it cost her
a pang. She declined to discuss it. She did what she had not done
before that day--went forth in search of Kate Sanders. Aunt Janet was
astonished that her niece should wish to send food to that--that
trollop. What would she have thought could she have heard what passed
a few moments later? In the dusk and the gloaming Kate Sanders was in
conversation on the side veranda with a tall sergeant of her father's
troop. "Ask her?" Kate was saying. "Of course I'll ask her. Why, here
she comes now!" Will it be believed that Sergeant Shannon wished Miss
Angela's permission to "take Punch out for a little exercise," a thing
he had never ventured to ask before, and that Angela Wren eagerly
said, "Yes." Poor Shannon! He did not know that night how soon he
would be borrowing a horse on his own account, nor that two brave
girls would nearly cry their eyes out over it, when they were barely
on speaking terms.

Of him there came sad news but the day after his crack-brained,
Quixotic essay. Infatuated with Elise, and believing in her promise to
marry him, he had placed his savings in her hands, even as had Downs
and Carmody. He had heard the story of her visiting Blakely by night,
and scouted it. He heard, in a maze of astonishment, that she was
being sent to Prescott under guard for delivery to the civil
authorities, and taking the first horse he could lay hands on, he
galloped in chase. He had overtaken the ambulance on Cherry Creek, and
with moving tears she had besought him to save her. Faithful to their
trust, the guard had to interpose, but, late at night, they reached
Stemmer's ranch; were met there by a relief guard sent down by Captain
Stout; and the big sergeant who came in charge, with special
instructions from Stout's own lips, was a new king who knew not
Joseph, and who sternly bade Shannon keep his distance. Hot words
followed, for the trooper sergeant would stand no hectoring from an
equal in rank. Shannon's heart was already lost, and now he lost his
head. He struck a fellow-sergeant who stood charged with an important
duty, and even his own comrades could not interpose when the
infantrymen threw themselves upon the raging Irish soldier and
hammered him hard before they could subdue and bind him, but bind him
they did. Sadly the trooper guard went back to Sandy, bringing the
"borrowed" horse and the bad news that Shannon had been arrested for
assaulting Sergeant Bull, and all men knew that court-martial and
disgrace must follow. It was Shannon's last run on the road he knew so
well. Soldiers of rank came forward to plead for him and bear witness
to his worth and services, and the general commanding remitted most of
the sentence, restoring to him everything the court had decreed
forfeited except the chevrons. They had to go, yet could soon be
regained. But no man could restore to him the pride and self-respect
that went when he realized that he was only one of several plucked and
deluded victims of a female sharper. While the Frenchwoman ogled and
languished behind the bars, Shannon wandered out into the world again,
a deserter from the troop he was ashamed to face, an unfollowed,
unsought fugitive among the mining camps in the Sierras. "Three stout
soldiers stricken from the rolls--two of them gone to their last
account," mused poor Plume, as at last he led his unhappy wife away to
the sea, "and all the work of one woman!"

Yes, Mrs. Plume was gone now for good and all, her devoted, yet
sore-hearted major with her, and Wren was sufficiently recovered to be
up and taking the air on his veranda, where Sanders sometimes stopped
to see him, and "pass the time of day," but cut his visits short and
spoke of everything but what was uppermost in his mind, because his
better half persuaded him that only ill would come from preaching.
Then, late one wonderful day, the interesting invalid, Mr. Neil
Blakely himself, was "paraded" upon the piazza in the Sanders's
special reclining-chair, and Kate and Mrs. Sanders beamed, while
nearly all society at the post came and purred and congratulated and
took sidelong glances up the row to where Angela but a while before
was reading to her grim old father, but where the father now read
alone, for Angela had gone, as was her custom at the hour, to her own
little room, and thither did Janet conceive it her duty to follow,
and there to investigate.

"It won't be long now before that young man will be hobbling around
the post, I suppose. How do you expect to avoid him?" said the elder
maiden, looking with uncompromising austerity at her niece. Angela as
before had just shaken loose her wealth of billowy tresses and was
carefully brushing them. She did not turn from the contemplation of
her double in the mirror before her; she did not hesitate in her
reply. It was brief, calm, and to the point.

"I shall not avoid him."

"Angela! And after all I--your father and I--have told you!" And Aunt
Janet began to bristle.

"Two-thirds of what you told me, Aunt Janet, proved to be without
foundation. Now I doubt--the rest of it." And Aunt Janet saw the big
eyes beginning to fill; saw the twitching at the corners of the soft,
sensitive lips; saw the trembling of the slender, white hand, and the
ominous tapping of the slender, shapely foot, but there wasn't a
symptom of fear or flinching. The blood of the Wrens was up for
battle. The child was a woman grown. The day of revolt had come at
last.

"Angela Wr-r-ren!" rolled Aunt Janet. "D'you mean you're going to
_see_ him?--speak to him?"

"I'm going to see him and--thank him, Aunt Janet." And now the girl
had turned and faced the astounded woman at the door. "You may spare
yourself any words upon the subject."

The captain was seated in loneliness and mental perturbation just
where Angela had left him, but no longer pretending to read. His back
was toward the southern end of the row. He had not even seen the cause
of the impromptu reception at the Sanders's. He read what was taking
place when Angela began to lose her voice, to stumble over her words;
and, peering at her under his bushy eyebrows, he saw that the face he
loved was flushing, that her young bosom was swiftly rising and
falling, the beautiful brown eyes wandering from the page. Even before
the glad voices from below came ringing to his ears, he read in his
daughter's face the tumult in her guileless heart, and then she
suddenly caught herself and hurried back to the words that seemed
swimming in space before her. But the effort was vain. Rising quickly,
and with brave effort steadying her voice, she said, "I'll run and
dress now, father, dear," and was gone, leaving him to face the
problem thrust upon him. Had he known that Janet, too, had heard from
the covert of the screened and shaded window of the little parlor, and
then that she had followed, he would have shouted for his German
"striker" and sent a mandate to his sister that she could not fail to
understand. He did not know that she had been with Angela until he
heard her footstep and saw her face at the hall doorway. She had not
even to roll her r's before the story was told.

Two days now he had lived in much distress of mind. Before quitting
the post Major Plume had laboriously gone the rounds, saying good-by
to every officer and lady. Two officers he had asked to see
alone--the captain and first lieutenant of Troop "C." Janet knew of
this, and should have known it meant amende and reconciliation,
perhaps revelation, but because her brother saw fit to sit and ponder,
she saw fit to cling unflinchingly to her preconceived ideas and to
act according to them. With Graham she was exceeding wroth for daring
to defend such persons as Lieutenant Blakely and "that Indian squaw."
It was akin to opposing weak-minded theories to positive knowledge of
facts. She had seen with her own eyes the ignorant, but no less
abandoned, creature kneeling at Blakely's bedside, her black head
pillowed close to his breast. She had seen her spring up in fury at
being caught--what else could have so enraged her that she should seek
to knife the intruders? argued Janet. She believed, or professed to
believe, that but for the vigilance of poor Todd, now quite happy in
his convalescence, the young savage would have murdered both the major
and herself. She did not care what Dr. Graham said. She had seen, and
seeing, with Janet, was believing.

But she knew her brother well, and knew that since Graham's impetuous
outbreak he had been wavering sadly, and since Plume's parting visit
had been plunged in a mental slough of doubt and distress. Once before
his stubborn Scotch nature had had to strike its colors and surrender
to his own subaltern, and now the same struggle was on again, for what
Plume said, and said in presence of grim old Graham, fairly startled
him:

"You are not the only one to whom I owe amende and apology, Captain
Wren. I wronged you, when you were shielding--my wife--at no little
cost to yourself. I wronged Blakely in several ways, and I have had to
go and tell him so and beg his pardon. The meanest thing I ever did
was bringing Miss Wren in there to spy on him, unless it was in
sending that girl to the guard-house. I'd beg her pardon, too, if she
could be found. Yes, I see you look glum, Wren, but we've all been
wrong, I reckon. There's no mystery about it now."

And then Plume told his tale and Wren meekly listened. It might well
be, said he, that Natzie loved Blakely. All her people did. She had
been watching him from the willows as he slept that day at the pool.
He had forbidden her following him, forbidden her coming to the post,
and she feared to wake him, yet when she saw the two prospectors, that
had been at Hart's, ride over toward the sleeping officer she was
startled. She saw them watching, whispering together. Then they rode
down and tied their horses among the trees a hundred yards below, and
came crouching along the bank. She was up in an instant and over the
stream at the shallows, and that scared them off long enough to let
her reach him. Even then she dare not wake him for fear of his anger
at her disobedience, but his coat was open, his watch and wallet easy
to take. She quickly seized them--the little picture-case being within
the wallet at the moment--and sped back to her covert. Then Angela had
come cantering down the sandy road; had gone on down stream, passing
even the prowling prospectors, and after a few minutes had returned
and dismounted among the willows above where Blakely lay--Angela whom
poor Natzie believed to be Blakely's sister. Natzie supposed her
looking for her brother, and wondered why she waited. Natzie finally
signaled and pointed when she saw that Angela was going in
disappointment at not finding him. Natzie witnessed Angela's theft of
the net and her laughing ride away. By this time the prospectors had
given up and gone about their business, and then, while she was
wondering how best to restore the property, Lola and Alchisay had come
with the annoying news that the agent was angered and had sent
trailers after her. They were even then only a little way up stream.
The three then made a run for the rocks to the east, and there
remained in hiding. That night Natzie had done her best to find her
way to Blakely with the property, and the rest they knew. The watch
was dropped in the struggle on the _mesa_ when Mullins was stabbed,
the picture-case that morning at the major's quarters.

"Was it Blakely told you all this, sir?" Wren had asked, still
wrong-headed and suspicious.

"No, Wren. It was I told Blakely. All this was given me by Lola's
father, the interpreter, back from Chevlon's Fork only yesterday. I
sent him to try to persuade Natzie and her kinsfolk to return. I have
promised them immunity."

Then Plume and Graham had gone, leaving Wren to brood and ponder, and
this had he been doing two mortal days and nights without definite
result, and now came Janet to bring things to a head. In grim and
ominous silence he listened to her recital, saying never a word until
her final appeal:

"R-r-robert, is our girlie going daft, do you think? She solemnly said
to me--to me--but a minute ago, 'I mean to go to him myself--and thank
him!'"

And solemnly the soldier looked up from his reclining-chair and
studied his sister's amazed and anxious face. Then he took her thin,
white hand between his own thin, brown paws and patted it gently. She
recoiled slowly as she saw contrition, not condemnation, in his
blinking eyes.

"God forgive us all, Janet! It's what I ought to have done days ago."

       *       *       *       *       *

Another cloudless afternoon had come, and, under the willows at the
edge of the pool, a young girl sat daydreaming, though the day was
nearly done. All in the valley was wrapped in shadow, though the
cliffs and turrets across the stream were resplendent in a radiance of
slanting sunshine. Not a whisper of breeze stirred the drooping
foliage along the sandy shores, or ruffled the liquid mirror surface.
Not a sound, save drowsy hum of beetle or soft murmur of rippling
waters among the pebbly shadows below, broke the vast silence of the
scene. Just where Angela was seated that October day on which our
story opened, she was seated now, with the greyhounds stretched
sprawling in the warm sands at her feet, with Punch blinking lazily
and switching his long tail in the thick of the willows.

And somebody else was there, close at hand. The shadows of the
westward heights had gradually risen to the crest of the rocky cliffs
across the stream. A soft, prolonged call of distant trumpet summoned
homeward for the coming night the scattered herds and herd guards of
the post, and, rising suddenly, her hand upon a swift-throbbing heart,
her red lips parted in eagerness or excitement uncontrollable, Angela
stood intently listening. Over among the thickets across the pool the
voice of an Indian girl was uplifted in some weird, uncanny song. The
voice was shrill, yet not unmusical. The song was savage, yet not
lacking some crude harmony. She could not see the singer, but she
knew. Natzie's people had returned to the agency, accepting the olive
branch that Plume had tendered them--Natzie herself was here.

At the first sound of the uplifted voice an Apache boy, crouching in
the shrubbery at the edge of the pool, rose quickly to his feet, and,
swift and noiseless, stole away into the thicket. If he thought to
conceal himself or his purpose his caution was needless. Angela
neither saw nor heard him. Neither was it the song nor the singer that
now arrested her attention. So still was the air, so deep was the
silence of nature, that even on such sandy roads and bridlepaths as
traversed the winding valley, the faintest hoof-beat was carried far.
Another horse, another rider, was quickly coming. Tonto, the big hound
nearest her, lifted his shapely head and listened a moment, then went
bounding away through the willows, followed swiftly by his mate. They
knew the hoof-beats, and joyously ran to meet and welcome the rider.
Angela knew them quite as well, but could neither run to meet, nor
could she fly.

Only twice, as yet, had she opportunity to see or to thank Neil
Blakely, and a week had passed since her straightforward challenge to
Aunt Janet. As soon as he could walk unaided, save by his stick, Wren
had gone stumping down the line to Sanders's quarters and asked for
Mr. Blakely, with whom he had an uninterrupted talk of half an hour.
Within two days thereafter Mr. Blakely in person returned the call,
being received with awful state and solemnity by Miss Wren herself.
Angela, summoned by her father's voice, came flitting down a moment
later, and there in the little army parlor, where first she had sought
to "entertain" him until the captain should appear, our Angela was
once again brought face to face with him who had meanwhile risked his
life in the effort to rescue her father, and again in the effort to
find and rescue her. A fine blush mantled her winsome face as she
entered, and, without a glance at Janet, went straightway to their
visitor, with extended hand.

"I am so glad to see you again, Mr. Blakely," she bravely began. "I
have--so much--to thank you--" but her brown eyes fell before the fire
in the blue and her whole being thrilled at the fervor of his
handclasp. She drew her hand away, the color mounting higher, then
snuggled to her father's side with intent to take his arm; but,
realizing suddenly how her own was trembling, grasped instead the back
of a chair. Blakely was saying something, she knew not what, nor could
she ever recall much that anyone said during the brief ten minutes of
his stay, for there sat Aunt Janet, bolt upright, after the fashion of
fifty years gone by, a formidable picture indeed, and Angela wondered
that anyone could say anything at all.

Next time they met she was riding home and he sat on the south veranda
with Mrs. Sanders and Kate. She would have ridden by with just a nod
and smile; but, at sight of her, he "hobbled" down the steps and came
hurriedly out to speak, whereupon Mrs. Sanders, who knew much better,
followed to "help him," as she said. "Help, indeed!" quoth angry Kate,
usually most dutiful of daughters. "You'd only hinder!" But even that
presence had not stopped his saying: "The doctor promises I may ride
Hart's single-footer in a day or two, Miss Angela, and then--"

And now it was a "single-footer" coming, the only one at Sandy. Of
course it might be Hart, not Blakely, and yet Blakely had seen her as
she rode away. It was Blakely's voice--how seldom she had heard, yet
how well she knew it! answering the joyous welcome of the hounds. It
was Blakely who came riding straight in among the willows, a radiance
in his thin and lately pallid face--Blakely who quickly, yet
awkwardly, dismounted, for it still caused him pain, and then,
forgetful of his horse, came instantly to her as she stood there,
smiling, yet tremulous. The hand that sought hers fairly shook, but
that, said Angela, though she well knew better, might have been from
weakness or from riding. For a moment he did not speak. It was she who
began. She thought he should know at once.

"Did you--hear her singing--too?" she hazarded.

"Hear?--Who?" he replied, grudgingly letting go the hand because it
pulled with such determination.

"Why--Natzie, I suppose. At least--I haven't seen her," she stammered,
her cheeks all crimson now.

"Natzie, indeed!" he answered, in surprise, turning slowly and
studying the opposite willows. "It is only a day or two since they
came in. I thought she'd soon be down." Obviously her coming caused
him neither embarrassment nor concern. "She still has a notecase of
mine. I suppose you heard?" And his clear blue eyes were fastened on
her lovely, downcast face.

"Something. Not much," she answered, drawing back a little, for he
stood so close to her she could have heard the beating of his
heart--but for her own. All was silence over there in the opposite
willows, but so it was the day Natzie had so suddenly appeared from
nowhere, and he saw the hurried glance she sent across the pool.

"Has she worried you?" he began, "has she been--" spying, he was going
to say, and she knew it, and grew redder still with vexation. Natzie
could claim at least that she was not without a shining example had
she come there to spy, but Blakely had that to say to her that
deserved undivided attention, and there is a time when even one's
preserver and greatest benefactor may be _de trop_.

"Will you wait--one moment?" he suddenly asked. "I'll go to the rocks
yonder and call her," and then, almost as suddenly, the voice was
again uplifted in the same weird, barbaric song, and the singer had
gone from the depths of the opposite thicket and was somewhere farther
up stream, still hidden from their gaze--still, possibly, ignorant of
Angela's presence. The brown eyes were at the moment following the
tall, white form, moving slowly through the winding, faintly-worn
pathway toward the upper shallows where, like stepping stones, the big
rocks stretched from shore to shore, and she was startled to note that
the moment the song began he stopped short a second or two, listened
intently, then almost sprang forward in his haste to reach the
crossing. Another minute and he was out of sight among the shrubbery.
Another, and she heard the single shot of a revolver, and there he
stood at the rocky point, a smoking pistol in his hand. Instantly the
song ceased, and then his voice was uplifted, calling, "Natzie!
Natzie!" With breathless interest Angela gazed and, presently, parting
the shrubbery with her little brown hands, the Indian girl stepped
forth into the light and stood in silence, her great black eyes fixed
mournfully upon him. Could this be their mountain princess--the
daring, the resolute, the commanding? Could this be the fierce,
lissome, panther-like creature before whose blow two of their stoutest
men had fallen? There was dejection inexpressible in her very
attitude. There was no longer bravery or adornment in her dress. There
was no more of queen--of chieftain's daughter--in this downcast child
of the desert.

He called again, "Natzie," and held forth his hand. Her head had
drooped upon her breast, but, once again, she looked upon him, and
then, with one slow, hesitant, backward glance about her, stepped
forward, her little, moccasined feet flitting from rock to rock across
the murmuring shallows until she stood before him. Then he spoke, but
she only shook her head and let it droop again, her hands passively
clasping. He knew too little of her tongue to plead with her. He knew,
perhaps, too little of womankind to appreciate what he was doing.
Finding words useless, he gently took her hand and drew her with him,
and passively she obeyed, and for a moment they disappeared from
Angela's view. Then presently the tall, white form came again in
sight, slowly leading the unresisting child, until, in another moment,
they stepped within the little open space among the willows. At the
same instant Angela arose, and the daughter of the soldier and the
daughter of the savage, the one with timid yet hopeful welcome and
greeting in her lovely face, the other with sudden amaze, scorn,
passion, and jealous fury in her burning eyes, stood a breathless
moment confronted. Then, all in a second, with one half-stifled,
inarticulate cry, Natzie wrenched her hand from that of Blakely, and,
with the spring of a tigress, bounded away. Just at the edge of the
pool she halted, whirled about, tore from her bosom a flat, oblong
packet and hurled it at his feet; then, with the dart of a
frightened deer, drove through the northward willows. Angela saw her
run blindly up the bank, leaping thence to the rocks below, bounding
from one to another with the wild grace of the antelope. Another
instant and she had reached the opposite shore, and there, tossing her
arms wildly above her head, her black tresses streaming behind her,
with a cry that was almost a scream, she plunged into the heart of the
thicket; the stubborn branches closed behind her, and our Apache queen
was gone. As they met, so had they parted, by the waters of the pool.

[Illustration: "NATZIE WRENCHED HER HAND FROM THAT OF BLAKELY, AND
WITH THE SPRING OF A TIGRESS BOUNDED AWAY"]

When Blakely turned again to Angela she, too, was gone. He found her a
little later, her arms twined about her pony's neck, her face buried
in his mane, and sobbing as though her heart would break.

On a soft, starlit evening within the week, no longer weeping, but
leaning on Blakely's arm, Angela stood at the edge of the bluff,
looking far out over the Red Rock country to the northeast. The sentry
had reported a distant signal fire, and several of the younger people
had strolled out to see. Whatever it was that had caused the report
had vanished by the time they reached the post, so, presently, Kate
Sanders started the homeward move, and now even the sentry had
disappeared in the darkness. When Angela, too, would have returned,
his arm restrained. She knew it would. She knew he had not spoken that
evening at the willows because of her tears. She knew he had been
patient, forbearing, gentle, yet well she knew he meant now to speak
and wait no longer.

"Do you remember," he began, "when I said that some day I should tell
you--but never your aunt--who it was that came to my quarters that
night--and why she came?" and though she sought to remove her hand
from his arm he would not let it go.

"You _did_ tell me," she answered, her eyelids drooping.

"I _did_!--when?"

Though the face was downcast, the sensitive lips began to quiver with
merriment and mischief.

"The same day you took me for--your mother--and asked me to sing for
you."

"Angela!" he cried, in amaze, and turning quickly toward her, "What
can you mean?"

"Just what I say. You began as though I were your sister, then your
mother. I think, perhaps, if we'd had another hour together it would
have been grandmother." She was shaking with suppressed laughter now,
or was it violent trembling, for his heart, like hers, was bounding.

"I must indeed have been delirious," he answered now, not laughing,
not even smiling. He had possessed himself of that other hand, despite
its fluttering effort. His voice was deep and grave and tremulous. "I
called you anything but what I most longed to call you--what I pray
God I may call you, Angela--my wife!"




L'ENVOI


There was a wedding at Sandy that winter when Pat Mullins took his
discharge, and his land warrant, and a claim up the Beaver, and Norah
Shaughnessy to wife. There was another, many a mile from Sandy, when
the May blossoms were showering in the orchard of a fair old homestead
in the distant East, and then Neil Blakely took his bride to see "the
land of the leal" after the little peep at the lands that now she
shared with him. There is one room in the beautiful old Colonial
mansion that they soon learned to call "father's," in anticipation of
the time when he should retire and come to hang the old saber on the
older mantel and spend his declining years with them. There is
another, sacred to Aunt Janet, where she was often welcomed, a woman
long since reconciled to Angela's once "obnoxious," but ever devoted
admirer. There were some points in which Aunt Janet suffered sore. She
had views of her own upon the rearing and management of children, and
these views she did at first oppose to those of Angela, but not for
long. In this, as in her choice of a husband, Angela had to read her
declaration of independence to the elder woman.

There is another room filled with relics of their frontier
days,--Indian weapons, blankets, beadwork,--and among these, in a
sort of shrine of its own, there hangs a portrait made by a famous
artist from a little tintype, taken by some wandering photographer
about the old Apache reservation. Wren wrote them, ere the regiment
left Arizona, that she who had been their rescuer, and then so long
disappeared, finally wedded a young brave of the Chiricahua band and
went with him to Mexico. That portrait is the only relic they have of
a never forgotten benefactress--Natzie, their Apache Princess.


THE END.

       *       *       *       *       *




A DAUGHTER _of the_ SIOUX

By GENERAL CHARLES KING

A Tale of the Indian Frontier

Illustrations by Frederic Remington and Edwin Willard Deming

       *       *       *       *       *

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     Is the best piece of work General King has given his
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     worthy of subject and author.


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     To General King we are deeply indebted for much information
     concerning family life at fort and trading post. In these
     days of the problem novel and the yellow journal, it is a
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FOUND IN THE PHILIPPINES
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