Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Foes in Ambush
Author: King, Charles, 1844-1933
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Foes in Ambush" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                           FOES IN AMBUSH.



                                 BY

                    CAPT. CHARLES KING, U. S. A.,

                              AUTHOR OF

   "THE COLONEL'S DAUGHTER," "MARION'S FAITH," "KITTY'S CONQUEST,"
                      "A SOLDIER'S SECRET," ETC.



                            PHILADELPHIA:

                      J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY.

                                1893.



COPYRIGHT, 1892,

BY

CHARLES KING.



FOES IN AMBUSH.


I.


The sun was just going down, a hissing globe of fire and torment.
Already the lower limb was in contact with the jagged backbone of the
mountain chain that rimmed the desert with purple and gold. Out on the
barren, hard-baked flat in front of the corral, just where it had been
unhitched when the paymaster and his safe were dumped soon after dawn,
a weather-beaten ambulance was throwing unbroken a mile-long shadow
towards the distant Christobal. The gateway to the east through the
Santa Maria, sharply notched in the gleaming range, stood a day's
march away,--a day's march now only made by night, for this was
Arizona, and from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same
anywhere south of that curdling mud-bath, the Gila, the only human
beings impervious to the fierceness of its rays were the Apaches. "And
they," growled the paymaster, as he petulantly snapped the lock of his
little safe, "they're no more human than so many hyenas."

A big man physically was the custodian and disburser of government
greenbacks,--so big that, as he stepped forth through the aperture in
the hot adobe wall, he ducked his head to avert unwilling contact with
its upper edge. Green-glass goggles, a broad-brimmed straw hat, a
pongee shirt, loose trousers of brown linen, and dust-colored canvas
shoes made up the outer man of a personality as distinctly unmilitary
as it was ponderous. Slow and labored in movement, the major was
correspondingly sluggish in speech. He sauntered out into the glare of
the evening sunshine and became slowly conscious of a desire to swear
at what he saw: that, though in a minute or two the day-god would
"douse his glim" behind the black horizon, no preparation whatever had
been made for a start. There stood the ambulance, every bolt and link
and tire hot as a stove-lid, but not a mule in sight. Turning to his
left, he strolled along towards a gap in the adobe wall, and entered
the dusty interior of the corral. One of the four quadrupeds drowsing
under the brush shelter languidly turned an inquiring eye and
interrogative ear in his direction, and conveyed, after the manner of
the mule, a suggestion as to supper. A Mexican boy sprawling in the
shade of a bale of government hay, and clad in cotton shirt and
trousers well-nigh as brown as the skin that peeped through occasional
gaps, glanced up at him with languid interest an instant, and then
resumed the more agreeable contemplation of the writhings of an
impaled tarantula. Under another section of the shed two placid little
burros were dreamily blinking at vacancy, their grizzled fronts
expressive of that ineffable peace found only in the faces of saints
and donkeys. In the middle of the enclosure a rude windlass coiled
with rope stood stretching forth a decrepit lever-arm. The
whippletree, dangling from the end over the beaten circular track,
seemed cracked with heat and age. The stout rope that stretched tautly
from the coil passed over a wooden wheel, and disappeared through a
broad-framed aperture into the bowels of the earth. Close at hand in
the shade of a brush-covered "leanto" hung three or four huge _ollas_,
earthen water-jars, swathed in gunny sack and blanket. Beyond them,
warped out of all possibility of future usefulness, stood what had
once been the running gear of a California buck-board. Behind it
dangled from dusty pegs portions of leather harness, which all the
neat's-foot oil of the military pharmacopoeia could never again
restore to softness or pliability. A newer edition of the same class
of vehicle was covered by a canvas "'paulin." A huge stack of barley
bags was piled at the far end of the corral, guarded from depredation
(quadrupedal) by a barrier of wooden slats, mostly down, and by a
tattered biped, very sound asleep.

"Where's the sergeant?" queried the paymaster, slowly, addressing no
one in particular, but looking plaintively around him.

Still leaning a brown chin on a nearly black hand, and stirring up his
spider with the forked stick he held in the other paw, the boy simply
tilted his head towards the dark opening under the farther end of the
shed, an aperture that seemed to lead to nothing but blackness beyond.

"What's he doing?"

"No sa-a-abe," drawled the boy, never lifting his handsome eyes from
the joys before him.

"Why hasn't he harnessed up?"

A shrug of the shoulders was the only reply.

"Hey?"

"No sa-a-abe," slowly as before.

"What's your name?"

"José."

"Well, here, José, you go and tell him I want him."

The boy slowly pulled himself together and found his feet; started
reluctantly to obey; glanced back at his captive, now scuttling off
for freedom; turned again, scotched him with his forked stick, and
then with a vicious "huh!" drove the struggling Araneid into the sandy
soil. This done, he lounged off towards the dark corner in the wall of
the ranch and dove out of sight.

Presently there slowly issued from this recess a sturdy form in dusty
blue blouse, the sleeves of which were decorated with chevrons in
far-faded yellow. Under the shabby slouch hat a round, sun-blistered,
freckled face, bristling with a week-old beard, peered forth at the
staff official with an expression half of languid tolerance, half of
mild irritation. In most perfunctory fashion the soldier just touched
the hat-rim with his forefinger, then dropped the hand into a
convenient pocket. It was plain that he felt but faint respect for the
staff rank and station of the man in goggles and authority.

"Sergeant Feeny, I thought I told you I wanted everything ready to
start at sunset."

"You did, sir, and then you undid it," was the prompt and sturdy
reply.

The paymaster stood irresolute. Through the shading spectacles of
green his eyes seemed devoid of any expression. His attitude remained
unchanged, thumbs in the low-cut pockets of his wide-flapping
trousers, shoulders meek and drooping.

"W-e-ll," he finally drawled, "you understood I wanted to get on to
Camp Stoneman by sunrise, didn't you? Didn't my clerk, Mr. Dawes, tell
you?"

"He did, yes, sir, and you don't want to get there no more than I do,
major. But I told you flat-footed if you let Donovan and those other
men go back on the trail they'd find some excuse to stop at
Ceralvo's, and, damn 'em, they've done it."

"Don't you s'pose they'll be along presently?"

"S'pose?" and the sun-blistered face of the cavalryman seemed to grow
a shade redder as he echoed almost contemptuously the word of his
superior. "S'pose? Why, major, look here!" And the short, swart
trooper took three quick strides, then pointed through the western gap
in the adobe wall to the gilded edge of the range where the sun had
just slipped from view. "It's ten mile to that ridge, it's ten minutes
since I got the last wig-wag of the signal-flag at the pass. They
hadn't come through then. What chance is there of their getting here
in time to light out at dark? You did tell me to have everything ready
to start, and then you undid it by sending half the escort back.
You've been here in hell's half-acre three days and I've been here
three years. You've never been through Cañon Diablo; I've been through
a dozen times and never yet without a fight or a mighty good chance of
one. Now you may think it's fun to run your head into an ambuscade,
but I don't. You can get 'em too easy without trying here. I'm an old
soldier, major, and too free spoken, perhaps, but I mean no
disrespect, only I wish to God you'd listen to me next time."

"You wouldn't have had me leave those women in the lurch back at the
crossing, would you?" queried the paymaster, half apologetically.

"Why, I don't believe that story at all," flatly answered Feeny; "it's
some damned plant that fellow Donovan's springing on you,--a mere
excuse to ride back so they could drink and gamble with those thugs at
Ceralvo's. They've just been paid off and had no chance for any fun at
all before they were ordered out on this escort duty. That money's
been burning in their pockets now for three whole nights, and they
just can't stand it so long as a drop of liquor's to be had by hard
riding. No soldier is happy till he's dead broke, major, leastwise
none I ever see."

"What makes you doubt the story, sergeant? It came straight enough."

"It came too damned straight, sir; that's just the trouble. It came
straight from Chihuahua Pete's monte mill. It's only a hook to draw
'em back, and they played it on you because they saw you were new to
the country and they knew I was asleep; and now, unless Lieutenant
Drummond should happen in with his troop, there's no help for it but
to wait for to-morrow night, and no certainty of getting away then."

"Well, if Mr. Drummond were here, don't you suppose he'd have gone or
sent back to protect those people?"

"Oh, he'd have gone,--certainly,--that's his business, but it isn't
yours, major. You've got government money there enough to buy up every
rum-hole south of the Gila. You're expected to pay at Stoneman, Grant
and Goodwin and Crittenden and Bowie, where they haven't had a cent
since last Christmas and here it is the middle of May. You ought to
have pushed through with all speed, so none of these jay-hawkers could
get wind of your going, let alone the Apaches. Every hour you halt is
clear gain to them, and here you've simply got to stay twenty-four
hours all along of a cock-and-bull story about some stage-load of
frightened women fifteen miles back at Gila Bend. It's a plant, major,
that's what I believe."

Old Plummer kicked the toe of his shoe into the sandy soil and hung a
reflective head. "I wish you hadn't shut your eyes," he drawled at
length.

"I wouldn't, sir, if I hadn't thought you'd keep yours open. You slept
all night, sir, you and Mr. Dawes, while I rode alongside with finger
on trigger every minute."

Absorbed in their gloomy conversation, neither man noticed that the
wooden shutter in the adobe wall close at hand had been noiselessly
opened from within, just an inch or two. Neither knew, neither could
see that behind it, in the gathering darkness of the short summer
evening, a shadowy form was crouching.

"Then you think we must stay here, do you?" queried the paymaster.

"Think? I know it. Why, the range ahead is alive with Apaches, and we
can't stand 'em off with only half a dozen men. Your clerk's no
'count, major."

Old Plummer stood irresolute. His clerk, a consumptive and broken-down
relative, was at that moment lying nerveless on a rude bunk within the
ranch, bemoaning the fate that had impelled him to seek Arizona in
search of health. He was indeed of little "'count," as the paymaster
well knew. After a moment's painful thought the words rose slowly to
his lips.

"Well, perhaps you know best, so here we stay till to-morrow night, or
at least until they get back."

One could almost hear the whisper in the deep recess of the retaining
wall,--sibilant, gasping. Some one crouching still farther back in the
black depths of the interior _did_ hear.

"_Santa Maria!_"

But when a moment later the proprietor of this roadside ranch, this
artificial oasis in a land of desolation, strolled into the big bare
room where half a dozen troopers were dozing or gambling, it was with
an air of confidential joviality that he whispered to the corporal in
charge,--

"Our fren', the major, he riffuse me sell you aguardiente,--mescal;
but wait--to-night."

"Oh, damn it, Moreno, we'll be half-way to Stoneman by that time,"
interrupted the trooper, savagely. "Who's to know where we got the
stuff? We'll make 'em believe Donovan's squad brought it in from
Ceralvo's. Give me a drink now anyhow, you infernal Greaser; I'm all
burnt out with such a day as this. We've got to start the moment they
get back, and there won't be any time then."

"Hush, caballero; they come not to-night. You will rest here."

"Why, how in blazes do you know?"

"Softly!--I know not. I know noting; yet, _mira!_--I know. They talk
long in the corral,--the major and that pig of a sergeant;--for him I
snap my finger. Look you!" And Moreno gave a flip indicative of
combined defiance and disdain.

"Don't you count on his not finding out, Moreno. It's all easy enough
so far as the major's concerned, but that blackguard Feeny's
different, I tell you. He'd hear the gurgle of the spigot if he were
ten miles across the Gila, and be here to bust things before you could
serve out a gill,--damn him! He's been keen enough to put that
psalm-singing Yankee on guard over your liquor. How're you going to
get at it, anyhow?"

For all answer the Mexican placed the forefinger of his left hand upon
his lips and with that of the right hand pointed significantly to the
hard-beaten earthen floor.

"Ah--I have a mine," he whispered. "You will not betray, eh? Shu-u!
Hush! He comes now."

The gruff voice of Sergeant Feeny broke up the colloquy.

"Corporal Murphy, take what men you have here and groom at once. Feed
and water too.--Moreno, I want supper cooked for eight in thirty
minutes.--Drop those cards now, you men; you should have been sleeping
as I told you, so as to be ready for work to-night."

"Shure we don't go to-night, sergeant?"

"Who says that?" demanded Feeny, quickly, whirling upon his
subordinates. The corporal looked embarrassed and turned to Moreno for
support. Moreno, profoundly calm, was as profoundly oblivious.

"Moreno there," began Murphy, finding himself compelled to speak.

"I?" gravely, courteously protested the Mexican, with deprecatory
shrug of his shoulders and upward lift of eyebrow. "I? What know I? I
do but say the Corporal Donovan is not come. How know I you go not out
to-night?"

"Neither you nor the likes of you knows," was Feeny's stern retort.
"We go when we will and no questions asked. As for you, Murphy, you be
ready, and it's me you'll ask, not any outsider, when we go. I've had
enough to swear at to-day without you fellows playing off on me. Go or
no go--no liquor, mind you. The first man I catch drinking I'll tie by
the thumbs to the back of the ambulance, and he'll foot it to
Stoneman."

No words were wasted in remonstrance or reply. These were indeed "the
days of the empire" in Arizona,--days soon after the great war of the
rebellion, when men drank and swore and fought and gambled in the
rough life of their exile, but obeyed, and obeyed without question,
the officers appointed over them. These were the days when veteran
sergeants like Feeny--men who had served under St. George Cooke and
Sumner and Harney on the wide frontier before the war, who had ridden
with the starry guidons in many a wild, whirling charge under Sheridan
and Merritt and Custer in the valley of Virginia--held almost despotic
powers among the troopers who spent that enlistment in the isolation
of Arizona. Rare were the cases when they abused their privilege.
Stern was their rule, rude their speech, but by officers and men alike
they were trusted and respected. As for Feeny, there were not lacking
those who declared him spoiled. Twice that day had the paymaster been
on the point of rebuking his apparent indifference. Twice had he
withheld his censure, knowing, after all, Feeny to be in the right and
himself in the wrong. And now in the gathering shades of night, as he
stood in silence watching the brisk process of grooming, and noted how
thorough and business-like, even though sharp and stern, was Feeny,
the paymaster was wishing he had not ventured to disregard the caution
of so skilled a veteran.

And yet the paymaster, having a human heart in his breast, had been
sorely tried, for the appeal that came for help was one he could not
well resist. Passing Ceralvo's at midnight and pushing relentlessly
ahead instead of halting there as the men had hoped, the party was
challenged in the Mexican tongue.

"_Que viene?_"

To which unlooked-for and uncalled-for demand the leading trooper,
scorning Greaser interference in American territory, promptly
answered,--

"Go to hell!"

All the same he heard the click of lock and was prompt to draw his own
Colt, as did likewise the little squad riding ahead of the creaking
ambulance. The two leaders of the mules whirled instantly about and
became tangled up with the wheel team, and the paymaster was pitched
out of a dream into a doubled-up mass on the opposite seat. To his
startled questions the driver could only make reply that he didn't
know what was the matter; the sergeant had gone ahead to see.
Presently Feeny shouted "Forward!" and on they went again, and not
until Ceralvo's was a mile behind could the major learn the cause of
the detention. "Some of Ceralvo's people," answered Feeny, "damn their
impudence! They thought to stop us and turn us in there by stories of
Indian raids just below us,--three prospectors murdered twenty-four
miles this side of the Sonora line. Cochises's people never came this
far west of the Chiricahua Range. It's white cut-throats maybe, and
we'll need our whole command."

And yet in the glaring sunshine of that May morning, after they had
unsaddled at Moreno's, after the sergeant, wearied with the vigils of
two successive nights, had gone to sleep in the coolest shade he could
find, there came riding across the sun-baked, cactus-dotted plain at
the west a young man who had the features of the American and the
grave, courteous bearing of the Mexican.

"My name is Harvey," said he. "My sisters, who have been in San
Francisco at school, are with me on the way to visit our parents in
Tucson. Father was to have met us at the Bend with relays of mules. We
have waited forty-eight hours and can wait no longer. For God's sake
let half a dozen of your men ride out and escort them down here.
There is no doubt in the world the Apaches are in the mountains on
both sides, and I'm trembling for fear they've already found our camp.
None of my party dared make the ride, so I had to come."

What was Plummer to do? He didn't want to rouse the sergeant. This
wasn't going back to Ceralvo's, but riding northward to the rescue of
imperilled beauty. He simply couldn't refuse, especially when Donovan
and others were eager to go. From Mr. Harvey he learned that his
father had married into an old Spanish Mexican family at Havana, had
been induced by them to take charge of certain business in Matamoras,
and that long afterwards he had removed to Guaymas and thence to
Tucson. The children had been educated at San Francisco, and the
sisters, now seventeen and fifteen years of age respectively, were
soon to go to Cuba to visit relatives of their mother, but were
determined once more to see the quaint old home at Tucson before so
doing; hence this journey under his charge. The story seemed straight
enough. Plummer had never yet been to Tucson, but at Drum Barracks and
Wilmington he had often heard of the Harveys, and Donovan swore he
knew them all by sight, especially the old man. The matter was settled
before Plummer really knew whether to take the responsibility or not,
and the cavalry corporal with five men rode back into the fiery heat
of the Arizona day and was miles away towards the Gila before Feeny
awoke to a realizing sense of what had happened. Then he came out and
blasphemed. There in that wretched little green safe were locked up
thousands enough of dollars to tempt all the outlawry of the Occident
to any deed of desperation that might lead to the capture of the
booty, and with Donovan and his party away Feeny saw he had but half a
dozen men for defence.

At his interposition the major had at least done one thing,--warned
Moreno not to sell a drop of his fiery mescal to any one of the men;
and, when the Mexican expressed entire willingness to acquiesce,
Feeny's suspicions were redoubled, and he picked out Trooper Latham, a
New Englander whom some strange and untoward fate had led into the
ranks, and stationed him in the bullet-scarred bar-room of the ranch,
with strict orders to allow not a drop to be drawn or served to any
one without the sanction of Sergeant Feeny or his superior officer,
the major. Even the humiliation of this proceeding had in no wise
disturbed Moreno's suavity. "All I possess is at your feet," he had
said to the major, with Castilian grace and gravity; "take or withhold
it as you will."

"Infernal old hypocrite!" swore Feeny, between his strong, set teeth.
"I believe he'd like nothing better than to get the escort drunk and
turn us over bag and baggage to the Morales gang."

Thrice during the hot afternoon had Feeny scouted the premises and
striven to find what number and manner of men Moreno might have in
concealment there. Questioning was of little use. Moreno was ready to
answer to anything, and was never known to halt at a lie. Old Miguel,
the half-breed, who did odd jobs about the well and the corral,
expressed profound ignorance both of the situation and Feeny's
English. The Mexican boy had but one answer to all queries: "No
sa-a-abe." Other occupants there were, but these even Feeny's sense of
duty could not prompt him to disturb. Somewhere in the depths of the
domestic portion of the ranch, where the brush on the flat roof was
piled most heavily and the walls were jealously thick, all
scouting-parties or escorts well knew that Moreno's wife and daughter
were hidden from prying eyes, and rumor had it that often there were
more than two feminine occupants; that these were sometimes joined by
three or four others,--wives or sweethearts of outlawed men who rode
with Pasqual Morales, and all Arizona knew that Pasqual Morales had
little more Mexican blood in his veins than had Feeny himself. He was
an Americano, a cursed Gringo for whom long years ago the sheriffs of
California and Nevada had chased in vain, who had sought refuge and a
mate in Sonora, and whose swarthy features found no difficulty in
masquerading under a Mexican name when the language of love had made
him familiar with the Mexican tongue.

Slow to action, slow of speech as was the paymaster, he was not slow
to see that Sergeant Feeny was anxious and ill at ease, and if a
veteran trooper whom his captain had pronounced the coolest,
pluckiest, and most reliable man in the regiment, could be so
disturbed over the indications, it was high time to take precaution.
What was the threatened danger? Apaches? They would never assault the
ranch with its guard of soldiers, whatsoever they might do in the
cañons in the range beyond. Outlaws? They had not been heard of for
months. He had inquired into all this at Yuma, at the stage stations,
by mail of the commanding officers at Lowell and Bowie and Grant. Not
for six months had a stage been "held up" or a buck-board "jumped"
south of the turbid Gila. True, there was rumor of riot and
lawlessness among the miners at Castle Dome and the customary shooting
scrape at Ehrenberg and La Paz, but these were river towns, far behind
him now as he looked back over the desert trail and aloft into the
star-studded, cloudless sky. Nothing could be more placid, nothing
less prophetic of peril or ambush than this exquisite summer night.
Somewhere within the forbidden region of Moreno's harem a guitar was
beginning to tinkle softly. That was all very well, but then a woman's
voice, anything but soft, took up a strange, monotonous refrain. Line
after line, verse after verse it ran, harsh, changeless. He could not
distinguish the words,--he did not wish to; the music was bad enough
in all conscience, whatsoever it might become when sung by youth or
beauty. As it fell from the lips of Señora Moreno the air was a
succession of vocal nasal disharmonies, high-pitched, strident,
nerve-wracking.

[Illustration: Music]

Unable to listen after the third repetition, Plummer slowly retired
from the corral and once more appeared at the front, just in time for
a sensation. Two troopers, two of the men who had ridden back with
Donovan, came lurching into the lighted space before the main
entrance. At sight of the paymaster one of them stiffened up and with
preternatural gravity of mien executed the salute. The other, with an
envelope in his hand, reeled out of saddle, failed to catch his
balance, plunged heavily into the sand and lay there. Corporal Murphy
sprang eagerly forward, the first man to reach him, and turned the
prostrate trooper over on his back.

"What's the matter?" queried Plummer. "Is he sick?"

"Sick is it?" was the quick retort, as the corporal sniffed at the
tainted breath of the sufferer. "Be the powers! I only wish I had half
his disayse."

And then came Feeny, glaring, wrathful.

"Come down off the top of that horse, Mullan," he ordered, fiercely.
"How--how'd ye get here? Which way'd ye come? Where's the rest?"

With the ponderous dignity of inebriety, Mullan slowly pointed up the
desert under the spot where the pole-star glowed in the northern
skies.

"Sarsh'nt," he hiccoughed, "we're--we're too late; 'Paches got
there--first."

"Hwat! hwat!" thundered Feeny. "D'ye mean there _were_ women,--that it
wasn't a plant?"

"Fack."

"Hware's your despatches, you drunken lout? How dare you dhrink when
there was fight ahead? Hware's your despatches? and may heaven blast
the souls of you both!"

"Here, sergeant," said Murphy, wrenching the soiled envelope from the
loose grasp of the prostrate trooper.

"It's to you, sir," said Feeny, with one glance at the sprawling
superscription. "In God's name read and let us know what devil's
work's abroad to-night."

Even Plummer's pudgy fingers trembled as he tore open the dingy
packet. Old Moreno came forth with a light, his white teeth gleaming,
his black eyes flashing from one to another of the group. Holding the
pencilled page close to the lantern, the paymaster read aloud,--

     "Camp burned. One man killed; others scattered; mules and
     buck-board gone. For God's sake help in the pursuit. Strike
     for Raton Pass. The Indians have run away my poor sisters.

"EDWARD HARVEY."

The major dropped the paper, fairly stunned with dismay. Feeny sprang
forward, picked it up, and eagerly scrutinized the page. Mullan,
standing unsteadily at the head of his wearied and dejected horse, was
looking on with glassy eyes, his lips vainly striving to frame further
particulars. Leaving their supper unfinished, the other men of the
little squad had come tumbling out into the summer night. No one paid
other heed to the trooper sprawling in the sand. Already in deep,
drunken slumber, he was breathing stertorously. Feeny's eyes seemed
fastened to the letter. Line by line, word by word, again and again he
spelled it through. Suddenly he leaped forward and clutched Mullan at
the throat, shaking him violently.

"Answer now. Hware'd you get your liquor? Didn't this fellow give it
to you?"

"On my honor--no, sarsh'nt, 'pon my 'on--"

"Oh, to hell with your honor and you with it! Hware'd you get it if it
wasn't from him? Shure you've not been near Ceralvo's?"

"No, sarsh'nt, no Ceralvo's. We met couple gen'l'men--perfec'
gen'l'men, ranchers; they were going after the Indians. They gave us
jus' o-one drink--'piece. Jus' five minutes--go."

"How far away was this? Hware were they? Answer or, damn you, I'll
shake the truth out of you!" shouted Feeny, suiting action to word.
"Spake before you, too, are lying like that other hog. Did you ever
see the camp? Did you ever get to the crossing at all? Douse a dipper
of water over him, you Latham, quick. Wake up, I say, Mullan. For the
love of God, major, I believe they're both drugged. I believe it's all
a damned lie. I believe it's only a skame to get you to send out the
rest of your escort, so they can tackle you alone. Kick him, Murphy,
kick him; throt him round; don't let him get to sleep. Answer me, you
scoundrel!" he fairly yelled, for Mullan's head was drooping on his
breast and every lurch promised to land him on his face. Twice his
knees doubled up like a foot-rule and the stout little sergeant had to
jerk him to his feet.

"Search 'em both. See if they've a flask betune 'em, Latham. Answer
me, Mullan, did you see the burned camp? Did you see the dead man?
Did--Oh, murther! he's gone! There's never a word to be got out of
aither of them this night. But don't you believe that letther, major.
Don't you trust a word of it; it's false as hell. It's only a plant to
rob ye of your escort first and your life and money later. That's it,
men, douse them, kick them, murther them both if you like,--the
curs!--and they'd drink when they knowed every man was needed." And
adding force to his words, Feeny drove a furious kick at the luckless
Mullan.

"Do you mean there is no truth in this? Do you mean you think it all a
fraud, a trick?" at last queried the major. "Why, it seems
incredible!"

"I say just what I mean, major. It's a plot to rob you. I mean the
gang has gathered for that very purpose. I mean that every story told
us about the Apaches west or south of here or between us and the Gila
is a bloody lie. The guard at the signal-station hadn't seen or heard
of them. They laughed at me when I told them what they tried to make
us believe at Ceralvo's. 'Twas there they wanted to have you stop, for
there you'd have no chance at all. Shure, do you suppose if the
Apaches _were_ out--if this story _was_ true--they wouldn't have heard
it and investigated it by this time, and the beacon-fire would have
been blazing at the Picacho?"

Then Murphy turned and ran around the corner of the corral to a point
where he could see the dim outline of the range against the western
sky. The next moment his voice rose upon the night air, vibrant,
thrilling,--

"Look! God be good to us, major! It's no lie. The signal-fire's
blazing at the peak."



II.


Late that night, with jaded steeds, a little troop of cavalry was
pushing westward across the desert. The young May moon was sinking to
rest, its pure pallid light shining faintly in contrast with the ruddy
glow of some distant beacon in the mountains beneath. Ever since
nightfall the rock buttress at the pass had been reflecting the lurid
glare of the leaping flames as, time and again, unseen but busy hands
heaped on fresh fuel and sent the sparks whirling in fiery eddies to
the sky. Languid and depressed after a long day's battling with the
fierce white sunshine, horses and men would gladly have spent the
early hours of night dozing at their rude bivouac in the Christobal.
Ever since nine in the morning, after a long night march, they had
sought such shade as the burning rocks might afford, scooping up the
tepid water from the natural tanks at the bottom of the cañon and
thanking Providence it was not alkali. The lieutenant commanding, a
tall, wiry, keen-faced young fellow, had made the rounds of his camp
at sunset, carefully picking up and scrutinizing the feet of his
horses and sending the farrier to tack on here and there a starting
shoe. Gaunt and sunburned were his short-coupled California chargers,
as were their tough-looking riders; fetlocks and beards were uniformly
ragged; shoes of leather and shoes of iron showed equal wear. A
bronze-faced sergeant, silently following his young chief, watched him
with inquiring eyes and waited for the decision that was to condemn
the command to another night march across the desert, or remand them
to rest until an hour or so before the dawn.

"How far did you say it was to Ceralvo's, sergeant?"

"About twenty-two miles, west."

"And to Moreno's?"

"About fifteen, sir; off here." And the sergeant pointed out across
the plain, lying like a dun-colored blanket far towards the southern
horizon.

"We can get barley and water at both?"

"Plenty, sir."

"The men would rather wait here, I suppose, until two or three
o'clock?"

"Very much, sir; they haven't been able to rest at all to-day. I've
fed out the last of the barley, though."

The lieutenant reflected a moment, pensively studying the legs of the
trumpeter's horse.

"Is there any chance of Moreno's people not having heard about the
Apaches in the Christobal?"

"Hardly, sir; they are nearer the Tucson road than we are. The stage
must have gone through this morning early. It's nothing new anyhow.
I've never known the time when the Indians were not in the
neighborhood of that range. Moreno, too, is an old hand, sir."

The lieutenant looked long and intently out over the dreary flats
beyond the foot-hills. Like the bottom of some prehistoric lake long
since sucked dry by the action of the sun, the parched earth stretched
away in mile after mile of monotonous, life-ridden desert, a Sahara
without sign of an oasis, a sandy barren shunned even by scorpion and
centipede. Already the glow was dying from the western sky. The red
rim of the distant range was purpling. The golden gleam that flashed
from rock to rock as the sun went down had vanished from all but the
loftiest summits, and deep, dark shadows were creeping slowly out
across the plain. Over the great expanse not so much as the faintest
spark could be seen. Aloft, the greater stars were beginning to peep
through the veil of pallid blue, while over the distant pass the sun's
fair hand-maiden and train-bearer, with slow, stately mien, was
sinking in the wake of her lord, as though following him to his rest.
Not a breath of air was astir. The night came on still as the realms
of solitude. Only the low chatter of the men, the occasional stamp of
iron-shod hoof or the munching jaws of the tired steeds broke in upon
the perfect silence. From their covert in the westward slope of the
Christobal the two sentries of the little command looked out upon a
lifeless world. Beneath them, whiffing their pipes after their frugal
supper, the troopers were chatting in low tone, some of them already
spreading their blankets among the shelving rocks. The embers from the
cook fire glowed a deeper red as the darkness gathered in the pass,
and every man seemed to start as though stung with sudden spur when
sharp, quick, and imperative there came the cry from the lips of the
farther sentry,--

"Fire, sir,--out to the west!"

In an instant Lieutenant Drummond had leaped down the rocky cañon and,
field-glass in hand, was standing by the sentry's side. No need to
question "Where away?" Far out across the intervening plain a column
of flame was darting upward, gaining force and volume with every
moment. The lieutenant never even paused to raise the glass to his
eyes. No magnifying power was needed to see the distant pyre; no
prolonged search to tell him what was meant. The troopers who had
sprung to their feet and were already eagerly following turned short
in their tracks at his first word.

"Saddle up, men. It's the beacon at Signal Peak."

Then came a scene of bustle. No words were spoken; no further orders
given. With the skill of long practice the men gathered their few
belongings, shook out the dingy horse-blankets and then, carefully
folding, laid them creaseless back of the gaunt withers of their
faithful mounts. The worn old saddles were deftly set, the crude
buckles of the old days, long since replaced by cincha loop, snapped
into place; lariats coiled and swung from the cantle-rings; dusty old
bits and bridles adjusted; then came the slipping into carbine-slings
and thimble-belts, the quick lacing of Indian moccasin or canvas
legging, the filling of canteens in the tepid tanks below, while all
the time the cooks and packers were flying about gathering up the pots
and pans and storing rations, bags, and blankets on the roomy
_apparejos_. Drummond was in the act of swinging into saddle when his
sergeant hastened up.

"Beg pardon, lieutenant, but shall I leave a small guard with the
pack-train or can they come right along?"

"They'll go with us, of course. We can't leave them here. We must head
for Ceralvo's at once. How could those Indians have got over that
way?"

"It is beyond me to say, sir. I didn't know they ever went west of the
Santa Maria."

"I can hardly believe it now, but there's no doubting that signal; it
is to call us thither at all speed wherever we may be, and means only
one thing,--'Apaches here.' Sergeant Wing is not the man to get
stampeded. Can they have jumped the stage, do you think, or attacked
some of Ceralvo's people?"

"Lord knows, sir. I don't see how they could have swung around there;
there's nothing to tempt them along that range until they get to the
pass itself. They must have come around south of Moreno's."

"I think not, sergeant."

The words were spoken in a very quiet voice. Drummond turned in
surprise, his foot in the stirrup, and looked at the speaker, a
keen-eyed trooper of middle age, whose hair was already sprinkled with
gray.

"Why not, Bland?"

"Because we have been along the range for nearly fifty miles below
here, sir, and haven't crossed a sign, and because I understand now
what I couldn't account for at two o'clock,--what I thought must be
imagination."

"What was that?"

"Smoke, sir, off towards the Gila, north of Ceralvo's, I should say,
just about north of west of where we are."

"Why didn't you report it?"

"You were asleep, sir, and by the time I got the glasses and looked it
had faded out entirely; but it's my belief the Indians are between us
and the river, or were over there north of Ceralvo's to-day. If not
Indians, who?"

"You ride with me, Bland. I'll talk with you further about this. Come
on with the men as soon as you have the packs ready, sergeant." And so
saying, Lieutenant Drummond mounted and rode slowly down the winding
trail among the boulders. At the foot of the slope, where the water
lay gleaming in its rocky bed, he reined his horse to the left to give
him his fill of the pool, and here the trooper addressed as Bland
presently joined him.

"Where was it you enlisted, Bland?" was the younger soldier's first
question. "I understand you are familiar with all this country."

"At Tucson, sir, six months ago, after the stage company discharged
me."

"I remember," was the answer, as the lieutenant gently drew rein to
lift his horse's head. "I think you were so frank as to give the
reason of your quitting their employment."

"Well, there was no sense trying to conceal it, or anything else a man
may do out here, lieutenant. They fired me for drinking too much at
the wrong time. The section boss said he couldn't help himself, and I
don't suppose he could."

"As I remember," said Drummond, presently, and with hesitation, for he
hated to pry into the past of a man who spoke so frankly and who made
no effort to conceal his weakness, "you were driver of the buck-board
the Morales gang held up last November over near the Catarinas."

"Yes; that's the time I got drunk, sir. It's all that saved me from
being killed, and between keeping sober and losing my life or getting
drunk and losing a job, I preferred the latter."

"Yet you were in a measure responsible for the safety of your
passengers and mail, were you not?"

"Well, no, sir, not after the warning I gave the company. I told them
Ramon Morales was in Tucson the night before we had to pull out, and
wherever he was that infernal cut-throat of a brother of his wasn't
far away. I told them it was taking chances to let Judge Gillette and
that infantry quartermaster try to go through without escort. I begged
to throw up the job that very night, but they held me to my contract,
and I had to go. We were jumped not ten miles out of town, and before
any one could draw a Derringer every man of us was covered. The judge
might have known they'd shoot him on sight ever since that Greaser
from Hermosillo was lynched. But they never harmed the quartermaster."

"Huh! The devil they didn't!" laughed the lieutenant. "They took his
watch and his money and everything he had on except his
underclothing. How long had you been driving when that happened?"

"Just eight months, sir, between Tucson and Grant."

"And did you never serve with the cavalry before? You ride as though
you had."

"Most men hereabouts served on one side or other," said Bland, calmly,
as his horse finished his long pull at the water.

"And your side was--?"

"Confederate," was the brief reply. "I was born in Texas. Here comes
the troop, sir."

"Come on, then. I want to ask you about that trail to Crittenden as we
ride. We make first for the Picacho Pass from here."

"Why, that's south of west, sir," answered Bland. "I had thought
perhaps the lieutenant would want to go northward towards the Gila to
head off any parties of the Apaches that might be striving to get away
eastward with their booty. They must have picked up something over at
the Bend."

"They're more likely to go southward, Bland, for they know where we've
been scouting all the week. No, I'll march straight to the signal.
There they must know where the Indians have gone."

"Ay, ay, sir, but then you can only pursue, and a stern chase is a
long one."

Drummond turned in saddle as they rode forth upon the dark _falda_
and gazed long and fixedly at the trooper by his side. Imperturbably
Bland continued to look straight ahead. Queer stories had been afloat
regarding this new acquisition. He mingled but little with the men. He
affected rather the society of the better class of non-commissioned
officers, an offence not likely to be condoned in a recruit. He was
already distinguished for his easy mastery of every detail of a
cavalryman's duty, and for his readiness to go at any or all times on
scout, escort, or patrol, and the more hazardous or lonely the task
the better he seemed to like it. Then he was helpful about the offices
in garrison, wrote a neat hand, was often pressed into service to aid
with the quartermaster or commissary papers, and had been offered
permanent daily duty as company clerk, but begged off, saying he loved
a horse and cavalry work too well to be mured in an office. He was
silence and reticence itself on matters affecting other people, but
the soul of frankness, apparently, where he was personally concerned.
Anybody was welcome to know his past, he said. He was raised in Texas;
had lived for years on the frontier; had been through Arizona with a
bull-team in the 50's, and had 'listed under the banner of the Lone
Star when Texas went the way of all the sisterhood of Southern (not
border) States, and then, being stranded after the war, had
"bullwhacked" again through New Mexico; had drifted again across the
Mimbres and down to the old Spanish-Mexican town of Tucson; had tried
prospecting, mail-riding, buck-board driving, gambling; had been one
of the sheriff's posse that cleaned out Sonora Bill's little band of
thugs and cut-throats, and had expressed entire willingness to
officiate as that lively outlaw's executioner in case of his capture.
He had twice been robbed while driving the stage across the divide and
had been left for dead in the Maricopa range, an episode which he said
was the primal cause of his dissipations later. Finally, after a
summary discharge he had come to the adjutant at Camp Lowell,
presented two or three certificates of good character and bravery in
the field from officers who bore famous names in the Southern army,
and the regimental recruiting officer thought he could put up with an
occasional drunk in a man who promised to make as good a trooper under
the stars and stripes as he had made under the stars and bars. And so
he was enlisted, and, to the surprise of everybody, hadn't taken a
drop since.

Now this, said the rank and file, was proof positive of something
radically wrong, either in his disposition or his record. It was
entirely comprehensible and fully in accordance with human nature and
the merits of the case that a man should quit drinking when he quit
the army, but that a man with the blot of an occasional spree on his
escutcheon should enlist for any other cause than sheer desperation,
and should then become a teetotaler, was nothing short of _prima
facie_ evidence of moral depravity.

"There's something behind it all, fellers," said Corporal Murphy, "and
I mean to keep an eye on him from this out. If he don't dhrink next
pay-day, look out for him. He's a professional gambler laying for your
hard-earned greenbacks."

And so while the seniors among the sergeants were becoming gradually
the associates, if not the intimates, of this fine-looking trooper,
the mass of the regiment, or rather the little detachment thereof
stationed at Lowell, looked upon Bland with the eye of suspicion.
There was one sergeant who repudiated him entirely, and who openly
professed his disbelief in Bland's account of himself, and that was
Feeny. "He may have testimonials from all Texas," said he, hotly, "but
I've no use for that sort of credentials. Who can vouch for his goings
and comings hereabouts before he joined us? I think Murphy's right,
and if I was stationed at Lowell and belonged to his troop, you bet
I'd watch him close."

Now, in all the command it would have been a hard matter to find a
soldier in whose favor appearances were so unanimously allied. Tall,
erect, sinewy, and active, he rode or walked with an easy grace that
none could fail to mark. His features were fine and clear cut; his
eyes a dark hazel, with heavy curling lashes and bushy, low-arched
brows; his complexion, naturally dark, was bronzed by sun and
sand-storm to a hue almost Mexican. He shaved clean all but the heavy
moustache that drooped over his firm lips, and the sprinkling of gray
about the brows, temples, and moustache was most becoming to his
peculiar style. One prominent mark had he which the descriptive book
of his company referred to simply as "sabre-scar on right jaw," but it
deserved mention more extended, for the whitish streak ran like a
groove from just below the ear-tip to the angle of the square,
resolute chin. It looked as though in some desperate fray a mad sweep
had been made with vengeful blade straight for the jugular, and, just
missing that, had laid open the jaw for full four inches. "But," said
Feeny, "what could he have been doing, and in what position could he
have been, sitting or standing, to get a sabre-stroke like that? Where
was his guard? A Bowie-knife, now ----" and there the suggestion ended.

But it was the scarred side of Bland's soldierly face that young
Lieutenant Drummond was so closely studying as they rode out into the
starlit Arizona night. He, too, had heard the camp chat about this
apparently frank, open-hearted trooper, and had found himself more
than once speculating as to his real past, not the past of his
imagination or of his easy off-hand description. By this time, in
perfect silence save for the occasional clink of canteen, the gurgle
of imprisoned water, or, once in a while, the click of iron-shod hoof,
the troop was marching in shadowy column of twos well out beyond the
_falda_ and over the almost dead level of the plain. Far ahead the
beacon still blazed brightly and beckoned them on. It was time for
precaution.

"Sergeant," said Drummond, "send a corporal and four men forward. Let
them spread out across the front and keep three or four hundred yards
ahead of us. Better take those with the freshest horses, as I want
them to scout thoroughly and to be on the alert for the faintest
sound. Any of our men who know this valley well?"

"None better than Bland here, sir," was the half-hesitant reply.

"W-e-l-l, I need Bland just now. Put some of the old hands and older
heads on, and don't let anything escape their notice."

"Beg pardon, lieutenant, but what's to be the line of direction? When
we started it was understood that we were to take the shortest cut for
Ceralvo's, and now we're heading for the Picatch."

"No, we make for the pass first; that's the quickest way to reach the
signal-station, then we learn where to strike for the Indians. Did
you ever hear of their being as far west as the Maricopa range
before?"

"Never, sir, in the whole time we've been here, and since the
lieutenant joined they've never been heard of crossing the Santa Maria
valley."

"What on earth could tempt them out so far? There's nothing to be
gained and every chance of being cut off by troops from Grant and
Bowie, even if they do succeed in slipping by us."

"That's more than I can tell, sir. The men say the paymaster's coming
along this week; they heard it from the quartermaster's train we
passed at the Cienega three days ago."

Trooper Bland was riding in silence on the left of the detachment
commander as he had been directed. The sergeant had come up on the
other flank.

"What men heard this?" asked Drummond, quickly.

"Why, Patterson told me, sir, and Lucas and Quinn, and I think Bland
here was talking with the train escort and must have heard it."

"Did you, Bland?" asked the lieutenant, as he whirled suddenly in his
saddle and faced the trooper.

"Yes, sir," was the prompt reply; "several of the men spoke of it.
It's about the most welcome piece of news they could give to fellows
who had four months' pay due."

In the isolation of this mountain scouting business, when, as often
happens, one officer is out alone for weeks with no comrades or
associates but his detachment, it naturally results that a greater
freedom of intercourse and speech is developed between the commander
and some, at least, of his party than would ever be the case in years
of garrison life; and so it happened that for the moment Drummond
forgot the commander in the man.

"It is most extraordinary," he said, "that just when a paymaster is
anxious to keep secret the date and route of his coming the whole
thing is heralded ahead. We have no telegraph, and yet three days ago
we knew that Major Plummer was starting on his first trip. He ought to
have been at Ceralvo's last night. By Jupiter! suppose he _was_--and
had but a small escort? What else could that signal-fire mean? Here!
get those men out to the front now at once; we must push ahead for all
we're worth."

And so at midnight, with steeds panting and jaded, with the pass and
the Picacho only four miles ahead, the little detachment was tripping
noiselessly through the darkness, and, all alert and eager, Drummond
was riding midway between his scouts and the main body so that no
sound close at hand might distract his attention from hails or signals
farther out. Suddenly he heard an exclamation ahead, the snort of a
frightened horse, then some muffled objurgations, a rider urging a
reluctant steed to approach some suspicious object, and, spurring his
own spirited charger forward, Mr. Drummond came presently upon the
corporal just dismounting in the darkness and striving to lead his
boon companion, whom he could not drive, up to some dark object lying
on the plain. This, too, failed. A low whistle, however, brought one
of the other scouts trotting in to the rescue.

"Hold him a minute, Burke," said the corporal, handing up the reins.
"There's something out here this brute shied at and I can't get him
near it again." With that he pushed out to the front while the others
listened expectant. A moment later a match was struck, and presently
burned brightly in the black and breathless night. Then came the
startled cry,--

"My God! lieutenant. It's Corporal Donovan and his horse,--both dead."

And even there Mr. Drummond noted that Bland was about the first of
the column to come hurrying forward to the scene.

Ten minutes' investigation threw but little light upon the tragedy.
Some stumps of candles were found in the saddle-bags and packs, and
with these the men scoured the plain for signs. Spreading well out
from the centre, they closely examined the sandy level. From the north
came the trail of two cavalry horses, shod alike, both at the lope,
both draggy and weary. From the point where lay Donovan and his steed
there was but one horse-track. Whirling sharply around, the rider had
sent his mount at thundering gallop back across the valley; then a
hundred yards away, in long curve, had reined him to the southeast.
The troopers who followed the hoof-marks out about an eighth of a mile
declared that, unwounded, both horse and rider were making the best of
their way towards Moreno's ranch. Farther search, not fifty yards to
the front, revealed the fact that at the edge of a little depression
and behind some cactus-bushes three human forms had been lying prone,
and from this point probably had sped the deadly bullet.

"Apaches, by God!" muttered one of the men.

"Apaches, your grandmother!" was the sergeant's fierce reply. "Will
you never learn sense, Moore? When did Apaches take to wearing store
clothes and heeled boots? There's no Apache in this, lieutenant. Look
here, sir, and here. Move out farther, some of you fellows, and see
where they hid their horses. Corporal Donovan was with 'C' troop down
the Gila last week, sir. They were to meet and escort the paymaster
most like. It's my belief he was one of the guard, and that the
ambulance has been jumped this very night. These are road agents, not
Apaches, and God knows what's happened if they've got away with Patsy.
Sure he was one of the nerviest men in the whole troop, sir."

Drummond listened, every nerve a-tingle, even while with hurried hands
he cut open the shirt at the brawny throat and felt for fluttering
heart-beat or faintest sign of life. Useless. The shot-hole under the
left eye told plainly that the leaden missile had torn its way through
the brain and that death must have been instantaneous. The soldier's
arms and accoutrements, the horse's equipments, were gone. The bodies
lay unmutilated. The story was plain. Separated in some way from the
detachment, Donovan and his companion had probably sighted the signal
blazing at the pass and come riding hard to reach the spot, when the
unseen foe crouching across their path had suddenly fired the fatal
shots. Now, where was the paymaster? Where the escort? Where the men
who fed the signal-fire,--the fire that long before midnight had died
utterly away. Whither should the weary detachment direct its march?
Ceralvo's lay a dozen miles off to the northwest, Moreno's perhaps
eight or nine to the southeast. Why had the escaped trooper headed his
fleeing steed in that direction? Had there been pursuit? Ay, ten
minutes' search over the still and desolate plain revealed the fact
that two horsemen lurking in a sand-pit or dry arroyo had pushed forth
at top speed and ridden away full tilt across the desert, straight as
the crow flies, towards Moreno's well. Even while Drummond, holding
brief consultation with his sergeant, was deliberating whether to
turn thither or to push for the signal-peak and learn what he could
from the little squad of blue jackets there on duty, the matter was
decided for him. Sudden and shrill there came the cry from the
outskirts of the now dismounted troop clustered about the body of
their comrade.

"Another fire, lieutenant! Look!--out here towards the Santa Maria."

The sergeant sprang to his feet, shouldering his burly way through the
excited throng. One moment more and his voice was heard in louder,
fiercer tones.

"No signal this time, sir. By God! they've fired Moreno's ranch!"



III.


Shortly after sunset on this same hot evening the sergeant in charge
of the little signal-party at the Picacho came strolling forth from
his tent puffing at a battered brier-root pipe. Southward and a few
hundred feet below his perch the Yuma road came twisting through the
pass, and then disappeared in the gathering darkness across the desert
plain that stretched between them and the distant Santa Maria. Over to
the east the loftiest crags of the Christobal were still faintly
tinged by the last touch of departed day. Southward still, beyond the
narrow and tortuous pass, the range rose high and precipitous, covered
and fringed with black masses of cedar, stunted pine, and juniper.
North of west, on the line of the now invisible road, and far out
towards the Gila, a faint light was just twinkling. There lay
Ceralvo's, and nowhere else, save where the embers of the cook fire
still glowed in a deep crevice among the rocks, was there light of any
kind to be seen. A lonely spot was this in which to spend one's days,
yet the soldier in charge seemed in no wise oppressed with sense of
isolation. It was his comrade, sitting moodily on a convenient rock,
elbows on knees and chin deep buried in his brown and hairy hands, who
seemed brooding over the desolation of his surroundings.

Watching him in silence a moment, a quiet smile of amusement on his
lips, Sergeant Wing sauntered over and placed a friendly hand on the
broad blue shoulder.

"Well, Pikey, are you wishing yourself back in Frisco?"

"I'm wishing myself in Tophet, sergeant; it may be hotter, but it
isn't as lonely as this infernal hole."

"No, it's populous enough, probably," was the response, "and," added
he, with a whimsical smile, "no doubt you've lots of friends there,
Pike."

"Maybe I have, and maybe I haven't. At all events, I've none here. Why
in thunder couldn't you let me look into that business over at
Ceralvo's instead of Jackson?--he gets everything worth having. I'm
shelved for his sake day after day."

"Couldn't send _you_, Pike, on any such quest as that. Those Greasers
have sharp eyes, and one look at your face would convince them that
we'd lost our grip or were in for a funeral. Jackson, now, rides in as
blithe as a May morning,--a May morning out of Arizona, I mean. They
never get the best of him. The only trouble is he stays too long; he
ought to be back here now."

"Humph! he'll be apt to come back in a hurry with Pat Donovan and
those 'C' troop fellows spending their money like water at Ceralvo's."

"You still insist they're over there, do you, Pike? I think they're
not. I flagged old Feeny half an hour ago that they hadn't come
through here."

"Who was that fellow who rode back here with the note?" asked Pike.

"I don't know his name. 'Dutchy' they call him in 'C' troop. He's on
his second enlistment."

"More fool he! The man who re-enlists in this Territory must be either
drunk or Dutch." And Pike relapsed into gloomy silence again, his eyes
fixed upon the faint flicker of the bar lights at Ceralvo's miles
away; but Wing only laughed again, and, still puffing away at his
pipe, went on down the winding trail to where in the deep shelter of
the rocky walls a pool of water lay gleaming. Here he threw himself
flat and, laying aside his precious pipe, drank long and eagerly; then
with sudden plunge doused his hot face in the cooling flood and came
up dripping.

"Thank the Lord I have no desert march to make to-day,--all on a
wild-goose chase," was his pious ejaculation. "What on earth could
have induced the paymaster to send a detachment over to the Gila?" He
took from his pocket a pencilled note and slowly twisted it in his
fingers. It was too dark to read, but in its soldierly brevity he
almost knew it by heart. "The major sent Donovan with half the escort
back to the Gila on an Apache scare this morning. They will probably
return your way, empty-handed. Signal if they have passed. Latham
knows your code and we have a good glass. Send man to Ceralvo's with
orders for them to join at once if they haven't come, and flag or
torch when they pass you. It's my belief they've gone there." This was
signed by Feeny, and over and again had Wing been speculating as to
what it all meant. When the escort with the ambulance and paymaster
went through before the dawn, Feeny had roused him to ask if anything
had been heard of Indians on the war-path between them and the Sonora
line, and the answer was both prompt and positive, "No." As for their
being north or north of west of his station, and up towards the Gila,
Wing scouted the suggestion. He wished, however, that Jackson were
back with such tidings as he had picked up at Ceralvo's. It was always
best to be prepared, even though this was some distance away from the
customary raiding-ground of the tribe.

Just then there came a hail from aloft. Pikey was shouting.

"All right," answered Wing, cheerily; "be there in a minute," and then
went springing up the trail as though the climb of four hundred feet
were a mere bagatelle. "What's up?--Jackson here?" he asked, short of
breath as he reached the little nook in which their brush-covered
tents were pitched. There was no reply.

"Pike. Oh-h, Pike! Where are you?" he called.

And presently, faint and far somewhere down in the dark cañon to the
south, a voice replied,--

"Down hyar. Something's coming up the road."

Surely enough. Probably a quarter-mile away a dim light as of a
swinging lantern could be seen following the winding of the rough and
rock-ribbed road. Then came the click of iron-shod hoofs, the crack of
the long mule-whip, and a resonant imprecation in Spanish levelled at
the invisible draught animals. Bounding lightly down the southward
path, Sergeant Wing soon reached the roadside, and there found Pike in
converse with a brace of horsemen.

"It's old Harvey's outfit, from Yuma, making for Moreno's," vouchsafed
the soldier.

"Oh, is that you, Sergeant Wing? I ought to have known you were here.
I'm Ned Harvey." And the taller horseman held out a hand, which Wing
grasped and shook with cordial fervor.

"Which way, Mr. Harvey, and who are with you?"

"Home to Tucson. My sisters are in the Concord behind us, going to
visit the old folks for a few weeks before their trip to Cuba."

"You don't tell me!" exclaimed Wing. "They're the first ladies to pass
through here since I came on duty at the station two months ago. You
stay at Moreno's, I suppose?"

"Yes; the governor meets us there with relays and four or five men. We
knew there would be no danger west of the Santa Maria."

"W-e-ll,--did you stop at Ceralvo's or see any of their people?"

"No, I never put in there. Father's very suspicious of that gang. Why
do you ask, though?"

Wing hesitated. "There was some story afloat about Apaches," he
finally said. "The paymaster's escort threw off a detachment towards
the Gila this morning, and I sent one of my two men back to Ceralvo's
to inquire. You must have met him."

"No, we made a circuit,--came by the old trail around the head of the
slough. We haven't passed anybody, have we, Tony?" he asked of the
silent horseman by his side.

"None, señor; but there were many hoof-trails leading to Ceralvo's,"
was the answer, in the Spanish tongue.

"Then you'll need water here, Mr. Harvey. It's a ten-mile pull across
to Moreno's," said Wing, as the four-mule team came laboring up to
the spot and willingly halted, the lantern at the forward axle slowly
settling into inertia from its pendulum-like swing.

"Where are we, Ned?" hailed a blithe young voice. Sweet and silvery it
sounded to the trooper's unaccustomed ears. "Surely not at Moreno's
yet?"

"Not yet, Paquita mia. Is Ruth awake? Tell her to poke that curly pate
of hers out of the door. I want you to know Mr. Wing, Sergeant Wing,
who has charge of the signal-station here."

Almost instantly a slender hand, holding a little brass hurricane
lantern, appeared at the opening, followed by a sweet, smiling face,
while just behind it peered another, only a trifle older and more
serious, yet every whit as pretty. Wing raised his old felt hat and
mentally cursed the luck that had sent him down there in his ragged
shirt-sleeves. Pike, the cynic, busied himself in getting the buckets
from underneath the stout spring wagon, and bumped his head savagely
against the trunk-laden boot as he emerged.

"I never dreamed of seeing ladies to-night," laughed the sergeant.
"It's the rarest sight in all the world here; but I remember you well
when you came to Yuma last year. That was when you were going to
school at San Francisco, I believe."

"That was when I was in short dresses and a long face, sergeant,"
merrily answered the younger girl. "I hated the idea of going there
to school. Fan, here, was willing enough, but I had never known
anything but Arizona and Mexico. All I could think of was that I was
leaving home."

"She was soon reconciled, Mr. Wing," said Miss Harvey; "there were
some very pleasant people on the steamer."

"Oh, very pleasant for you, Fan, but what did they care for a chit of
fourteen? _You_ had lovely times, of course."

"So did you, Ruth, from the very day Mr. Drummond helped you to catch
your dolphin."

"Ah! we were more than half-way to San Francisco then," protested Miss
Ruth, promptly, "and nobody had taken any notice of me whatever up to
that minute."

"Well, Mr. Drummond made up for lost time from that on," laughed the
elder sister. "I never told of her, Ned,--wasn't I good?--but Ruth
lost her young heart to a cavalry cadet not a year out of the Point."

"Is it our Lieutenant Drummond who was with you?" queried Wing.

"Oh, yes; why, to be sure, he _is_ of your regiment. He was going back
to testify before some court at the Presidio, and--wasn't madame
mean?--she wouldn't allow him to call on Ruth at the school, even when
I promised to play chaperon and insure strict propriety and no
flirting."

Ruth Harvey had, with quick movement, uplifted a little hand to
silence her sister, but the hand dropped, startled, and the color
rushed to her face at Wing's next words.

"Then you're almost sure to meet the lieutenant to-night or to-morrow.
He's been scouting the Santa Maria and the Christobal and is due along
here at this very moment."

And now Miss Harvey had the field to herself, for the younger sister
drew back into the dark depths of the covered wagon and spoke no more.
In ten minutes the team was rattling down the eastward slope, and
Sergeant Wing turned with a sigh, as at last even the sound of hoof
and wheel had died away. Slowly he climbed the steep and crooked trail
to their aerie at the peak. No sign of Jackson yet, no message from
the ranch, no signal-fires at Moreno's or beyond. Yet, was he right in
telling Harvey with such precious freight to push on across that open
plain when there was even rumor of Apache in the air? The loveliness
of those two dark, radiant faces, the pretty white teeth flashing in
the lantern light, the soft, silvery, girlish voices, the kindly,
cordial hand-clasp vouchsafed him by the elder, as they rolled
away,--these were things to stir the heart of any man long exiled in
this desert land. It had been his custom to spend an hour in chat with
his comrades before turning in for the night; but with Jackson still
away and Pike still plunged in gloom, with, moreover, new and stirring
emotions to investigate and analyze, Wing strolled off by himself,
passed around the rocky buttress at the point and came to the broad
ledge overlooking the eastward way to the distant range. Here a mass
of tinder, dry baked by weeks' exposure to the burning sunshine, stood
in a pyramid of firewood ready to burst in flame at first touch of the
torch. Close at hand were the stacks of reserve fuel. "Never light
this until you know the Indians are raiding west of the Christobal,"
were his orders. But well he knew that once ignited it could be seen
for many a league. Here again he filled his faithful pipe and, moving
safe distance away, lighted its charge and tossed the match-stump
among the jagged rocks below. He saw the spark go sailing downward,
unwafted from its course by faintest breath of air. Then he heard
Pike's growl or something like it, and called to him to ask if he
heard Jackson. No answer. Sure that he had heard the gruff, though
inarticulate, voice of his comrade, he hailed again more loudly than
before, and still there came no reply. Surprised, he stepped quickly
back around the rocky point to where the tents lay under the
sheltering cliff, and came face to face with three dark, shadowy
forms, whose moccasined footsteps gave no sound, whose masked and
blackened faces defied recognition, whose cocked revolvers were
thrust into his very face before a lariat settled over his shoulders,
snapped into place, and, yelling for help when help was miles beyond
range of his ringing voice, Sergeant Wing was jerked violently to
earth, dragged into a tent, strapped to a cot, deftly gagged, and then
left to himself. An instant later the Picacho was lighted up with a
lurid, unearthly glare; the huge column of sparks went whirling and
hissing up on high, and, far and near, the great beacon was warning
all seers that the fierce Apache was out in force and raiding the Yuma
road.

Away out across the desert its red glare chased the Concord wagon
wherein, all unconscious of the danger signal, the sisters were now
chatting in low tone.

"Drive your best," had Harvey muttered to his Mexican Jehu, as he
leaned out of the saddle to reach his ear. "Not a word to alarm the
girls," he cautioned his companion, "but be ready for anything."

Far out beyond the swaying, bounding vehicle; far out across the
blistered plain, the glare and gleam fell full upon the brown adobe
walls at Moreno's, and glittering eyes and swarthy faces peered
through the westward aperture, while out in the corral the night
lights were dancing to and fro, and Feeny, sore perplexed, but
obedient to orders, was hurrying the preparations of his men. Murphy's
wild announcement had carried conviction to the major's soul, despite
all Feeny's pleadings, and the sight of that beacon furiously
burning, the thought of those helpless women being borne off into the
horrors of captivity among the Indians, had conspired to rouse the
paymaster to unlooked-for assertion of himself and his authority. In
vain had Feeny begged him to think of his money, to remember that
outlaws would resort to any trick to rob him of his guard, and might
have even overpowered Wing and his party and then lighted the beacon.
The chain of evidence, the straight story told by his morning visitor,
the awful news contained in the pencilled note brought in by Mullan,
were considerations too potent to be slighted. In vain did Feeny point
out to him that if Apaches were really in the neighborhood Wing would
not be content with starting the fire, but would surely signal whither
to go in search of them, and that no vestige of signal-torch had
appeared. Old Plummer vowed he could never again know a moment of
peace if he neglected to do anything or everything in his power to
save the girls. Most reluctantly he agreed that Feeny should remain in
charge of the safe and the two drugged and helpless men. Murphy and
all the others were ordered out forthwith to march rapidly
northeastward until they struck the trail of the pursuit and then to
follow that. In fifteen minutes, with four pack-mules ambling behind,
away they went into the darkness, and all that was left to man the
ranch and defend the government treasury against all comers was the
phlegmatic but determined paymaster, his physically wrecked but
devoted clerk, Sergeant Feeny, raging at heart but full of fight, and
a half-breed packer named Pedro; the two senseless and drunken
troopers were of course of no use to anybody.

Even as the detachment mounted, Latham with it, old Moreno appeared at
the door-way shrouded in his _serapé_. Approaching Murphy by the side
farthest from Plummer and the sergeant, he slipped a fat canteen from
under his cloak and thrust it into the corporal's ready hand.

"Hush-h,--no words," he whispered. "All is well. I keep my promise."
And so saying he had slunk away; but Feeny was on the off side quick
as a shot, quicker than the corporal could stow the bulky vessel in
his saddle-bags. Wresting it from the nerveless hand of his junior,
Feeny hurled it with all his force after the Mexican's retreating
form. It struck Moreno square in the back of the neck and sent him
pitching heavily forward. Only by catching at a horse-post did he save
himself from a fall, but, as he straightened up, his face was one not
to be looked at without a shudder; grinding teeth, snapping, flashing
eyes, vengeful contortions of brow and jaw, hate, fury, and revenge,
all were quivering with the muscles under that swarthy skin, and the
gleaming knife was clasped in his upraised hand as, driving into the
ranch and out of sight of the hated "Gringos," he burst into the room
where sat his wife and daughter, and raging aloud, through that he
leaped like a panther to another door, fastened on the farther side,
where one instant he stood before admission could be gained, and
through a panel in which there warily peered a bearded face, swarthy
as his own. And then Señora Moreno hurriedly banged the shutter and
took up her guitar. Something had to be done to hush the uproar of
blasphemy and imprecation, mingling with the shout of exultation that
instantly followed her lord's admission to the den.

Nine o'clock came. Murphy and his party were gone. The beacon still
blazed at the westward pass. The twang of the guitar had ceased.
Silence reigned about the ranch. Old Plummer with anxious face plodded
slowly up and down the open space in front of the deserted bar. Feeny,
with three loaded carbines close at hand and his belt bristling with
revolvers, was dividing his attention between the safe and the still
sleeping troopers. Every once in a while he would station the major at
the safe, which had been hauled into the easternmost of the rooms that
opened to the front instead of on the corral, and, revolver in hand,
would patrol the premises, never failing to stop at a certain window
behind which he believed Moreno to be lurking, to warn that impulsive
Greaser not to show his head outside his room if he didn't want it
blown off his shoulders; never failing on his return to stir up both
recumbent forms with angry foot, and then to shower in equal portions
cold water and hot imprecations upon them. To Pedro he had intrusted
the duty of caring for the horses of his prostrate comrades. Every
faculty he possessed was on the alert, watching for the faintest sign
of treachery or hostility from within, listening with dread but stern
determination for the first sound of hoof-beats from without. It must
have been about ten o'clock when, leaving Mr. Dawes, the clerk, seated
in the dark interior beside the safe, Feeny stepped forth to make
another round, stopped to look at Mullan and his partner, now
beginning to twitch uneasily and moan and toss in their drunken sleep,
and then turned to seek the paymaster. Whatsoever lights Moreno had
been accustomed to burn by way of lure or encouragement to belated
travellers, all was gloom to-night. The bar was silence and darkness.
The bare east room adjoining the corral was tenanted now only by the
clerk and the precious iron box of "greenbacks." No glimmer of lamp
showed there. The westward apartments, opening only one into another
and thence into the corral, were still as the night, and even when a
shutter was slowly pushed from within, as though the occupants craved
more air, no gleam of light came through.

"Don't show your ugly mug out here, Moreno," cautioned Feeny for the
fourth or fifth time, "and warn any damned cut-throat with you to keep
in hiding. The man who attempts to come out gets a bullet through
him."

There had been shrill protestation in Mexican Spanish and Señora
Moreno's strident tones when first he conveyed his orders to the
master of the ranch, but Moreno himself had made no audible reply,
and, as was conjectured, had enjoined silence on his wife, for after
that outbreak she spoke no more.

"I've got this approach covered anyhow," muttered the veteran. "Now if
I only had men to watch those doors into the corral, I could pen
Moreno and whatever he has here at his back. It's that gang of
hell-hounds we passed at Ceralvo's that will pay us a call before
morning, or I'm a duffer."

Once again he found the paymaster wearily, anxiously patrolling his
self-assumed post out beyond the westward wall. The presence of common
danger, the staff official's forgetfulness of self and his funds in
his determination to aid the wretched women whom he firmly believed to
have been run off by the Apaches, had won from the sergeant the
tribute of more respectful demeanor, even though he held the story of
the raid to be an out-and-out lie.

"Any signs or sounds yet, sir?" he questioned in muffled tone.

"Why, I thought--just a moment ago--I heard something like the crack
of a whip far out there on the plain."

"That's mighty strange, sir; no stage is due coming east until
to-morrow night, and no stage would dare pull out on this stretch in
face of the warning there at Picacho."

"Well, it may have been imagination. My nerves are all unused to this
sort of thing. How do you work this affair when you want to reload,
sergeant? I'm blessed if I understand it. I never carried a revolver
before in my life."

Feeny took the glistening, nickel-plated Smith & Wessen, clicked the
hammer to the safety-notch, tested the cylinder springs, and, touching
the lever, showed his superior by the feel rather than sight how the
perfect mechanism was made to turn on its hinge and thrust the emptied
shells from their chamber.

"The Lord grant we may have no call to shoot to-night, sir, but I
misdoubt the whole situation. That fire's beginning to wear itself out
already, and any minute I look to hear the hoof-beats of the Morales
gang, surrounding us here on every side. If they'll only hold off till
towards morning and I can brace up these two poor devils they've
poisoned, we can stand 'em off a while until our fellows begin to
come back or Lieutenant Drummond hears of the gathering."

"And do you still believe there are no Apaches in this business?"
asked the major.

"Not out north or west, sir; they're thick enough ahead in the Santa
Maria, but not to the north, not to the west; I can't believe that.
Those Morales fellows know everything that is going on. They knew that
just about this time Ned Harvey was expected along escorting his
sisters home. They knew you had never seen him and could easily be
made to believe the story. Everything has been done to hold us back,
first at Ceralvo's and afterwards here, until they could gather all
their gang in force sufficient to attack, then--Hist! listen!
There's hoofs now. No, not out there, the other way, from the Tucson
road, east. God grant it's some of our fellows coming back! Keep watch
here, major; I'll run out and challenge."

Hastily picking up a carbine as he passed the door, Feeny ran nimbly
out across the sandy barren, disappearing in the darkness to the
southeast. Old Plummer's heart beat like a hammer as he listened for
the hail. A moment more he could hear hoof-beats and the voices of men
in low tones; then, low-toned too, but sharp and stern, Feeny's
challenge rose upon the night:

"Who comes there?"

Instantly the invisible party halted, surprised; but with the
promptness born of frontier experience, back came the answer:

"Friends."

"Who are you, and where from?"

"George Harvey and party from Tucson, looking for Moreno's. Who are
you?"

"United States cavalry on escort duty. How many in your party?"

"Only two here. We were delayed by Apache signs in the Santa Maria.
The rest are some miles behind with relay mules. Are we near the
ranch? What's that light out to the west?"

"Never mind that now. Dismount and come up alone, Mr. Harvey; I must
recognize you first."

Feeny wanted to gain time. His brain was whirling. Here was partial
confirmation of the story told by the alleged Ned Harvey in the
morning. Here was the father coming with guard and relay mules to meet
his children just as their morning visitor declared he was expected to
do. Was it possible after all that the tale was true,--that the
children were there at the Gila, making wide _détour_ around Ceralvo's
and taking the northward route around that ill-favored ranch? If so,
what awful tidings had he to break! Stout soldier that he was, Feeny
felt that he was trembling from head to foot. Up through the gloom
strode a tall figure, fearless and confident.

"There's no Irishman in all the Morales gang," laughed the coming man,
"and I know a cavalryman's challenge when I hear it, and so honor it
at once. Where are you, sentry?"

"Here; this way," answered Feeny, standing erect and peering sharply
through the gloom. "I've never met you, Mr. Harvey, but we all know
you by reputation. Just tell me your business and how you happen to be
riding the desert this time of night and then I'll tell you why I
ask."

"I am expecting my son and daughters coming up from Yuma. We were to
meet at Moreno's this evening; but a scouting-party in the mountains
warned us to hide until night, so we're late. Have they reached
Moreno's? We must be close there."

"You're close enough to Moreno's; it's not a hundred yards back there;
but that light across the valley is the warning beacon at Picacho.
They would hardly venture across knowing what that means."

"Why, my God, man!" exclaimed Harvey, "that says the Apaches are out
west of the Santa Maria or the Christobal. Have you seen,--have you
heard anything of them?"

"For the love of God, sir, don't ask me now. Come to the ranch. Major
Plummer's there,--the paymaster. He'll tell you all we know."

A moment more and, with glaring eyes, with agonized, ashen face, the
Arizona merchant stood at the entrance of the ranch, clinging to the
horse-rail for support, listening with gasping breath to Plummer's
faltering recital of the events of the morning.

"Are you sure it was my son,--my Ned?" he moaned.

"I never saw him before, Mr. Harvey; but some of my men were sure, and
old Moreno here--"

The wooden shutter behind them swung open. From the inner darkness
Moreno's voice, tremulous with sympathy and distress, fell upon their
ears.

"Señor Harvey, my heart bleeds for you. I saw him but an instant, but
it was he,--Señor Edward, your son."

"God of heaven! and your men have gone, all of them?"

"All but Feeny here."

"Northeast, towards the Christobal?"

"Yes; but stop one moment now, and look at this note. Is it your son's
writing?" And Plummer produced the crumpled page while Feeny held the
light. Feverishly Harvey examined the scrawl, his hand trembling so
hard he could not steady the paper.

"It is like enough," he moaned. "It was written in such mad haste. My
horse!" he cried, "and you come with me, George. Send the others on
our trail as soon as they get in. Give me another pistol if you
can,--I have but one,--and in God's name order along the first troops
that reach you."

Then in less than a minute even the galloping hoofs had muffled their
dull thunder in the darkness and distance. With wild dread spurring
him on, the father was gone to the rescue of his children, leaving old
Plummer and his faithful sergeant shocked and nerveless at the ranch.



IV.


And now, with such confirmation of the truth of the story of an Apache
raid, the paymaster thought it only right to release Moreno from the
duress in which Sergeant Feeny had placed him. When so old an
inhabitant of Arizona as Mr. Harvey gave entire credence to the
report; recognized the note as really his son's handiwork and hastened
at all speed to overtake the pursuers, what room for doubt could be
left in the mind of a new-comer to the soil? It was time, thought
Plummer, to form an alliance, offensive and defensive, with the
Mexican denizens of the ranch against the enemy common to both. But
again Feeny shook his head in solemn protest.

"I may have been wrong as to the Apaches, sir, but I can't be mistaken
as to Moreno. He's in the pay of the Morales brothers, even if not an
active member of the gang. He is lurking in there now, I'll warrant
you, with two or three of them in hiding, waiting for the coming of
the main body. They'd 'a' been here before this, perhaps, if it hadn't
been for the Apache story. They're more afraid of one of Cochises's
band than of all the sheriffs from Tucson to Tacoma. I wish the rest
of Harvey's people would get here," he continued, looking longingly
out into the darkness. "Unless they are of better stuff than most of
these mule-whackers in the Territory, you won't catch them hustling
out alone trying to find their master this night. And yet, what use
would they be to us?"

Plummer turned anxiously away and gave himself up to thought. Nothing
but a faint glimmer now remained of the beacon-light. All was still as
the grave about the lonely rancho. Walking over to the eastward door
he entered the dark room, and was instantly hailed by the voice of his
clerk.

"You're there, are you, Dawes?" he asked. "Not getting sleepy, I
hope."

"Not a whit, major; I couldn't, even if I hadn't slept most of the
day. I'm sitting here on the safe with a Colt's six-shooter in each
hand. If old Moreno's door cracks, by gad! I'll let drive."

"Well, that's all right; but suppose they come around through the
corral to this door?"

"I'm ready. I came within an ace of blazing away at you, but I
happened to recognize your figure and step just in the nick of time."

A low whistle without broke up the colloquy. Plummer waddled off in
the direction of the sound.

"What is it, sergeant?"

"They're coming, sir. Harvey's men, I mean. Will you deliver his
message?"

"Just as you say; why shouldn't you?"

"It'll have so much more effect from your lips, major. They may
misdoubt me."

Far out on the trail the quick-tripping hoofs of mules could now be
heard. Presently a horseman shot up out of the gloom.

"Halt there!" sung out Feeny. "Whose party's this?"

"Harvey's, Tucson. Looking for Moreno's. Are we near?"

"You're there now, but you can't stop. Mr. Harvey wants you to come
right along after him. He has taken the trail to the Christobal, where
the Indians have carried off his daughters."

The man fairly reeled in saddle, shocked at the dreadful tidings.

"When?--how did it happen? Who's gone with him?"

"Some time this morning, from all we can learn. Two squads of cavalry
are on the trail, one with Ned Harvey, the other just out from here at
dark. The old man and George followed them as soon as they got in.
Who's with you?"

"Two Mexicans, that's all; they're no account. I'd best leave them
here with the mules. They're just behind and have been scared to death
already."

And so in ten minutes two more of the low-caste, half-breed Mexicans
were added to the paymaster's garrison, and Sergeant Feeny's brief
exposition of the situation at the ranch only delayed the incoming
American long enough to water his horse and stow a little grain in a
sack.

"I wouldn't wonder a damned bit if the Morales gang _were_ around
here," was his discomforting assurance. "None of 'em have been seen
about Tucson for a week before we left. Wish I could stay and stand by
you, but my first duty is with Mr. Harvey. I've been in his employ
nigh on to eight years."

"What sort of looking man is Ned Harvey?" persisted the sergeant,
still hopeful of some fraud.

"Tall, dark, smooth face; looks like a Spaniard almost. I never saw
anybody who resembled him hereabouts. I'm afraid it's no plant. I
don't want to offend you, sergeant, but I wish to God it _was_ all the
Morales gang's doings and that it was only your money they were after.
If it's Apaches and they have got the old man's children, he'll never
get over it."

"By heaven!" muttered Feeny to himself, as the loyal fellow put spurs
to his horse and disappeared,--"by heaven! I begin to believe it's
both."

And now with gloomy face the sergeant returned to where he had left
Major Plummer watching the westward trail. A brief word at the
door-way assured him the clerk was still alert and ready. A pause
under the open window, high above the ground, of the room where slept
Moreno's wife and daughter, if they slept at all, told him that all
was silence there if not slumber, and then he joined his superior.

"That fellow was of the right sort, sergeant," said Plummer. "I wish
we had one or two like him."

"I wish we had, sir; those Greasers are worse than no guards at all.
They'll sit there in the corral and smoke _papellitos_ by the hour,
and brag about how they fought their way through the Apaches with
Harvey's mules; but for our purpose they're worse than useless. At the
first sign of an attack they'd be stampeding out into the darkness,
and that's the last we'd see of them. Heard anything further out this
way, sir?"

"Why, confound it! yes. I try to convince myself it's only
imagination; but two or three times, far out there towards the
Picacho, I've heard that whip cracking. I have felt sure there was a
hammering sound, as though some one were pounding on a wagon-tire.
Once I was sure I heard a horse snort. _That_ I was in a measure
expecting. If those fellows mean to attack, they'll come mounted, of
course; but what wagon would they have?"

"One of Ceralvo's, perhaps, to cart off the safe in, if they couldn't
bust into it here."

"There! Hark now, sergeant! didn't you hear?" suddenly spoke the
major, throwing up a warning hand.

Both men held their breath, listening intently. For a moment nothing
but the beating of their own hearts served to give the faintest sound.
Then, out to the west, under the starlit vault of the heavens,
somewhere in that black expanse of desert, plainly and distinctly
there rose the measured sound of iron or stone beating on iron.
Whether it were tire or linch-pin, hame or brake, something metallic
about a wagon or buck-board was being pounded into place or shape.

"It's them, sir," muttered the sergeant; "it's that bloody gang, for
there's no stage due to-night, and if it was Harvey's ambulance,
recaptured, 'tis from the northeast it would be coming."

"Mightn't they have missed the trail in the darkness, and, having no
ranch lights to guide them, got lost somewhere out there?"

"Not likely, sir; shure there'd be a squad of the troop and half a
dozen old hands with 'em if it was Harvey's. This has come from the
pass, and it won't be long before they'll be coming ahead. You'll need
your carbine then. Damn that man Mullan! can't I wake him yet?"

Apparently not; even the well-directed kick only evoked a groan.
Taking a couple of carbines, Feeny returned to the major, silently
handing him one of the weapons, saying, "It's loaded, sir, and here's
more cartridges."

Then again both men listened intently.

No sound now. The hammering had ceased. One--two minutes they waited,
then nearer at hand than before, clear, sharp, and distinct, out from
the darkness came the unmistakable crack of a whip. At the sound Feeny
knelt. Click, click went the hammer of his carbine to full cock.
Another moment of breathless silence. Then the muffled sound of hoofs,
the creak of wagon-springs, then a voice,--

"It can't be far away. Ride ahead and see if you can't rout somebody
out."

And then Feeny's challenge again rang out on the still night air,
followed instantly by muffled sound of stir and excitement in the
ranch behind them.

"Who comes there?"

"Hello! What's that? Who's that? Is that Moreno?"

"Who comes _there_, I say? Halt! or I'll fire."

"For God's sake don't fire, man; we've got ladies here."

"What ladies? Who are you anyhow? Quick!"

"George Harvey's daughters, of Tucson. I'm his son."

"God be praised!" shouted Feeny, springing to his feet and rushing
forward. "Are they all safe?--unharmed? Where did you overtake them?"

"Overtake who? What in blazes are you talking about?" queried a tall,
slender fellow, bending down from his saddle. "Who are you?"

"Sergeant Feeny, of the cavalry,--and here's the major just back of
me."

"Major who?"

"Major Plummer; him you was talking with this morning when you came
for help," answered Feeny, his voice tremulous with excitement.
Already he was beginning to see light.

"Why, I've never seen Major Plummer nor any other major to-day. The
only troops I met were Sergeant Wing and his guard at the pass just
after nightfall. Have you met the Apaches? You saw the signal, of
course."

"Signal, yes, but devil an Apache. Tell me now, wasn't it you was here
at Moreno's this morning begging for troops to go and fetch your
ladies down from the Gila? Wasn't it you sent the note saying they was
run off by Indians?" And, as was the case whenever excited, Feeny's
grammar ran to seed.

"Not a bit of it. My sisters are here, safe and sound. We'd have been
here an hour ago but for slipping a tire. Is father here?"

"Talk to him, major; I'm done up entirely," was all poor Feeny could
say, as, between relief, rejoicing, and the inestimable comfort of
finding he was right in his theories after all, he dropped his
carbine, threw himself upon the soft, sandy ground, and fairly rolled
over and over in his excitement and emotion.

What wondering eyes,--what startled ears were at the wagon door-way,
as, in his ponderous manner, the major endeavored to tell of the
morning's adventure and the counterfeit presentment of the Ned Harvey
now before him! Long before he could finish, the thoughtful son begged
an instant's interruption.

"And father has gone on the trail to the Christobal?"

"Yes, an hour ago."

"After him, Leon! Ride like the devil, even if you have to ride all
night. Fetch him back here as quick as you can. Tell him Fan and Ruth
are safe here at Moreno's."

In ten minutes the Concord wagon with its fair freight, now trembling
and excited, was standing side by side with the paymaster's ambulance.
The weary mules were unhitched and, with the saddle-horses, led in to
water. The major and the sergeant, prompting each other, went on with
their recital, Harvey listening with attentive ear.

"It is one of the most perfect plants they ever put up," he burst in,
grinding his teeth in wrath. "Of course they knew of father's movements
and of mine. They know everything. They knew we were to meet here,
probably. They felt assured you knew nothing of it at all. They have
used our supposed peril to draw away your guard. They have succeeded
even better than they planned, for they have drawn off father, too, and
four of our best men into the bargain. But to think that this old
scoundrel Moreno should be in it. We've always suspected the Ceralvo
set; but father has done everything for Moreno,--practically built this
ranch for him, dug his well, set him up in business, and now he makes
this a rendezvous for thugs and assassins. By heaven! I'm glad you have
him trapped. How many has he with him, do you think?"

"I don't know. I only feel sure he must have one or two, but it's the
main gang we have to watch," answered Feeny; "they may be along any
minute, and I thought it was them when we heard you."

"And that's what is worrying me, Mr. Harvey," said the major, as he
drew the young man aside. "All they are after now, of course, is my
safe full of money. It is my business to defend it to the last, and
they can't have it without a fight. You and your sisters, ordinarily,
they would not molest, but by this time they know you are here. Very
possibly they've followed closely on your trail and may be gathering
all around us at this moment. Let me be brief. The sooner you can
hitch in those mules again, or those relay mules rather, and get out
of here, the better."

"Ah! but, major, how about the Apaches in the Santa Maria? We would
get there, you know, just about daybreak."

"By Jupiter! I never thought of them. You wouldn't have your guard now
that your father's gone?"

"No. We've simply got to stay here, major. Personally, I'm only too
glad to be here to help you out. It cannot be long before the troops
come hurrying back when they find they've been tricked. Very probably
they have found it out by this time." Then with quick decision he
stepped back to the door of the Concord. "Girls! Paquita! Ruthie!
tumble out, both of you; we're to stay here at Moreno's to-night."
And, the paymaster aiding, the silent, trembling sisters were lifted
from the wagon and led away into the one guest-room, the east room,
where, pistol in hand, still sat Dawes on the safe. The wraps and
pillows were quickly passed in. The little hurricane-lamp was stood in
one corner. A bundle of cavalry blankets, left behind by the
detachment when it took the trail, was spread out upon the earthen
floor. The safe was hauled into the empty bar-room, and, bidding his
sisters lie down and fear nothing, assuring them of their perfect
safety there and urging them to sleep all they could against their
move at dawn, Edward Harvey, looking well to his arms and bidding his
two men do likewise, came forth and joined his soldier friends.

"There are five of us now against Morales and his outfit, and I'll
just bet my horse we can thrash 'em."

"Only eleven o'clock," muttered old Plummer, as he struck a match and
consulted his watch. "It's been the longest evening I ever spent; but,
thank God, our worst fears are at an end. I never doubted for a moment
that your sisters were captives. Who could the man have been who
personated you?"

"I don't know. I've heard of him once before. He is about my height
and build, but darker they say, and with more of Mexico in his manner.
He has been to Tucson, but I never heard of his masquerading over my
name until now, though I have heard of the resemblance. He must have
copied my writing, too, to so completely fool father."

"Oh, that was a mere scrawl on soft paper with a broad-pointed pencil.
There was no time to scrutinize it closely," explained the major.
"Now, Feeny, you're officer of the guard. How do you want to post us?"

"It's what I've been thinking of, sir, ever since Mr. Harvey got in,
and we've no time to lose. We can't loop-hole this adobe now, but we
can barricade the door of these two rooms and stand off a good-sized
gang. Mr. Harvey will, of course, want to be where he can look after
the ladies; but if I can put one of his men in the corral, one who can
be relied upon to shoot down any of Moreno's people who should try to
come out, I think we can look out for the rest. Any minute now they'll
be coming. First thing, run these two wagons around to the corral, so
as to clear the approaches. There mustn't be anything behind which
they can hide or take shelter." And, laying hold of the pole while
willing hands manned the spokes, Feeny soon had the Concord and the
weather-beaten ambulance safely out of the way. Then came a moment of
consultation as to which of Harvey's men would be best suited for the
onerous post opposite the enemy's door, and then a sudden and
breathless silence.

"Listen!" whispered Feeny. "That's a signal. Hist! you'll hear it
again presently."

Grasping their rifles with nervous hands, the five men stood huddling
in a little group at the west end of the low, flat building.

Somewhere out on the dark expanse towards the peak a long, low
whistle, ending in an abrupt high note, had sounded. For a moment
there was no repetition. The invisible foe was signalling for reply.
From whom could answer be expected but Moreno?

"Watch the old scoundrel's window there and this shutter over here,"
whispered the sergeant, indicating a board-covered port in the
westward wall. "They'll try to show a light, perhaps. Run round into
the corral and smash the first man that tries to come out. I'll tend
to any feller that shows a head hereabouts."

Harvey turned with his employé and ran with him as far as the other
end of the ranch. Here he entered the low door-way. The little lamp
burned dimly, but two pairs of dark, dilated eyes gleamed eagerly upon
him.

"I'm going to close this door now, girlies," he whispered. "Lie still.
Do not venture near it or the window, and don't be frightened. It
looks as though some of the Morales gang were around here hoping to
find the paymaster unguarded. We'll give them a lesson they'll never
forget, if they attempt to attack him."

For all answer Ruth Harvey only nestled closer to her sister and clung
to her for courage and support. Paquita, however, became Amazonian at
once.

"Is there nothing I can do, Ned? I can't bear to lie here listening
and taking no part. Surely I could shoot a pistol well enough."

"You can help us best and most by lying flat and showing not so much
as a finger at the door. We can tend to them, Fan. It won't be long
before father and the troop come galloping back. Don't show a light
now unless we call." Then he darted to the bar-room.

"Are they coming?" hailed the clerk, in a hoarse whisper.

"Somebody signalled out on the plain. It's probably they. Look out for
Moreno now; don't let him or anybody through that door."

Far out on the desert again, louder, shriller, clearer, the whistle
was repeated.

"Ah, blow and be damned to ye!" muttered Feeny. "There's no answer
from here ye'll get this night. Watch out now. Some of 'em will try to
crawl up after a little."

But nearly five minutes passed without other sign or sound. Then,
closer in, a horse stamped and snorted; a coarse Mexican voice
muttered a savage oath. Feeny, crouching low, darted into the darkness
in the direction of the sound. Plummer and Harvey would have
restrained him, but it was too late; he was gone before either could
speak. Then a latch creaked and snapped behind them and, slowly and
cautiously, the wooden shutter began to open outward. In an instant
Harvey had raised his rifle and struck the resounding board a fierce
blow with the butt. The door flew back, crashing in violent contact
against the grizzled pate of Moreno himself, who, with a howl of
mingled rage and anguish, fell back from the aperture.

"Open that again and I'll blow your head off, you scoundrel!" growled
Harvey. "Don't you dare show hair nor hide outside your room. Every
man has orders to shoot you on sight, if that's any comfort to you."

Only for a second had the old Mexican's head appeared; only an instant
had he for plea or protestation, but that instant had served to show a
narrow streak of light from the room within, and this mere crack
revealed to the watchful eyes out upon the plain the position of the
ranch, possibly told them something more, for in less than half a
minute two horsemen came looming up out of the darkness and cantering
fearlessly towards them. Phlegmatic as he was, old Plummer's nerves
gave a twitch as, sharp and stern, young Harvey challenged.

"Halt there! Who are you? _Halt_! or we fire."

"Friends," shouted one voice; "Americans," the other, as promptly the
order to halt was obeyed, the trained horses going almost on their
haunches under the cruel force of the huge Mexican bit.

"We are seeking Moreno's," continued the first voice. "The Apaches
jumped our outfit just after sunset and we had to run for it."

"How many are there of you all told?" demanded Harvey.

"Only us two. We're partners, prospecting,--been down towards the
Sonora line. For the Lord's sake, gentlemen, don't keep us out here.
We've lost everything we had,--packs, packers, and grub. We're about
dead beat for a drink and something to eat."

"What do you think of this, major?" whispered Harvey. "Those are
Americans sure."

"Well, I'd let'em in," said the major; "but where the devil's Feeny?
He's the best judge, really. Their story may be all true. They may be
alone."

"I don't know; it isn't likely. You heard that voice out there a
moment ago; that was Mexican beyond any doubt. We've got to stand
those fellows off till we hear from Feeny." Then, raising his voice,
Harvey called,--

"Just stay where you are a moment. You're all right perhaps, but our
guards have orders to be on the lookout for Morales and his gang, and
you might get shot by mistake."

"Well, for God's sake turn out your men, if you've got any, and help
us catch these murdering thieves," was the impatient reply. "How many
are you?"

"Oh, there's plenty of us here," was Harvey's cheery answer. "Most of
'C' troop; but we've other business on hand just now. You wait there
quietly for a minute or two until the sergeant comes around with the
patrol; he'll see to you."

And then, as though the whole thing had been planned beforehand, out
in the darkness to the north Feeny's voice was heard in low-toned but
sharp command,--

"Patrol, halt! Close up there, Kennedy. Where are you, Number Five?"
And so, cool and confident as though he had a dozen troopers at his
back, Feeny came striding up to the spot.

"What's the matter, sentry? Didn't I hear you parleying here with
somebody?"

"Two strangers out there, sergeant;--say they're prospectors and been
jumped by Apaches."

"Hwere away are they?" Then in low tone, "Go you out beyond the
corral," he whispered to old Plummer. "There's four of them out there.
Challenge if they try to come in." Then aloud again, "Shure, I don't
see anything, sentry."

"Right out ahead there, sergeant. Two men, mounted."

"Come down, one of ye. Dismount and come in here. Lave your gun
behind. Give your reins to your pal there," was Feeny's next mandate.

There was a moment of hesitation, a faint sound of whispering as
though the self-styled prospectors were in consultation, and again
Feeny spoke in tone more sharp and imperative,--

"Dismount one, I say. Come in here, or I'll send a bullet for your
cards. Quick now."

Still another delay. The "prospectors" seemed anxious to edge off into
deeper darkness.

"If ye're not off that horse's back in ten seconds, be jabers, I'll
fire, so be lively." And as his excitement rose so did Feeny's Irish.

Four--five seconds ticked by and still there was no approach.
Fiercely, with sharp emphasis, the sergeant brought his carbine to
full cock. "It's aiming I am," said he, as he quickly raised the butt
to his shoulder. There was a sudden scurry and scramble of horses'
hoofs, low-voiced words of warning and a muttered curse or two. Then
leaped a tongue of fire into the night, and from the corral corner
came sharp report, followed by a cry, a gurgle, a groan, then silence.

"My God! they've shot the major," exclaimed Harvey, as he leaped away
in the direction of the shot. At the same moment away sped the two
horsemen in front of the post. No use to fire. They were shrouded in
thick darkness and out of harm's way before one could pull trigger.
Then came two flashes, two quick reports, then half a dozen rapid,
sputtering revolver-shots, then a vengeful howl and a rush out on the
plain. Feeny ran like a deer on the trail of Mr. Harvey, and in less
time than it takes to tell it they came upon the paymaster, sinking
shocked and nerveless to the sandy soil, his hands clasping on his
side.

"Pick him up, you and your man there; carry him into the ranch. I'll
bate back those blackguards yet," muttered Feeny, as he took a quick
snap shot at some dim object flitting across the plain and sent
another into the darkness, aiming vaguely where he could hear the thud
of horses' hoofs. For a moment, running from point to point after each
discharge, he kept up a rapid fusillade, under cover of which the
hapless paymaster was borne swiftly away around the corner of the
ranch and carried into the bar, where, wild with anxiety, but faithful
to his trust, Mr. Dawes still guarded the safe. Then Harvey stepped
through the narrow door-way to the eastern room.

"I have to borrow the lamp a moment, Fan," he whispered. "Now lie
still. We may have to stand a siege awhile until father can reach us."

Two minutes more, bending low and with his last cartridge crammed into
the chamber of his carbine, Feeny turned to make a run for the ranch.
Just as he came speeding in past the westward wall the wooden shutter
was hurled open and a strange voice, loud, exultant, strident, burst
upon his ear.

"Come on, Pasqual! Come ----"

But the rest was lost in the roar of Feeny's ready weapon. The rude
façade of adobe blazed red one instant in the flash of the carbine and
the loud report went bellowing out across the plain. But within the
ranch there went up a wail of terror and dismay, for Ramon Morales,
shot through the brain, was stretched lifeless at the feet of Moreno
and his shuddering wife.

And then Feeny, unscathed, leaped inside the bar-room.

"Now for it, men! Drag in those two drunken brute bastes," he cried,
laying hold of Mullan's limp carcass. "Lug in wan of them water-jars.
Stick their damned heads into that trough beyant. Now be lively. The
whole gang'll be on us in less than a minute."



V.


At midnight the situation at Moreno's ranch was a strange one. The
occupants of the two rooms farthest to the east were being besieged by
ten or fifteen outlawed men, some Mexican, some "Gringo," but all
cut-throats, and up to this moment the besieged had had the best of
it.

And yet their plight was desperate. In the easternmost room, secure
from bullet or missile of any kind so long as they crouched close to
the ground and back from the door-way, lay trembling in silence old
Harvey's daughters. At the door, only the barrel of his rifle
protruding, keeping under cover all he possibly could behind an
improvised parapet of barley-bags, knelt their devoted brother, cool
and determined, every now and then whispering words of hope and
encouragement. In the adjoining room, connected with the eastern
chamber by a doorless aperture through the adobe wall, lay the
paymaster, sorely wounded, but still conscious and plucky, his
faithful clerk ministering to him as best he could, stanching the flow
of blood and comforting him with cool water. At the door-way opening
on the hard-trampled space at the southern front of the ranch,
sheltering himself behind his breastwork of barley, but never relaxing
vigilant watch, knelt Sergeant Feeny, a bandana bound about his
forehead, the blood trickling down his right cheek, the sleeve of his
flannel shirt rent by a bullet that just grazed the upper arm.
Kneeling on the counter and peeping through a hole in the bottom of
the wooden window-shutter, one of Harvey's men kept guard, the other
faced the door-way into Moreno's domestic apartments, every now and
then letting drive a shot through the wood-work to keep them, as he
said, "from monkeying with the bolt on the other side." In planning
his roadside ranch Moreno had allowed outer doors only to those rooms
which were for public use; the three which lay to the west of the bar
could not be entered except through that resort or by a door giving on
the corral, both of these doors being supplied with massive bolts as
security against intruders, and all three rooms being furnished with
air-ports rather than windows, pierced at such a height through the
adobe that no one from without, except in saddle, could peer through
the aperture and see what was going on within. The travellers' room
and the bar-room ports, however, were low and large, and all the rooms
were spacious; the bar, of course, being the dining as well as
drinking-room, carried off the honors in point of size. This, too, was
furnished with an opening into the corral, but Feeny's, first thought
on reaching his comrades was to barricade. Springing into the walled
enclosure and bidding Harvey watch while the others worked, he had
soon succeeded in lugging a score of big barley-sacks into the
interior and piling them into breastworks at the three doors, the one
opening into the corral being provided in addition with a high
"traverse" to protect its guard against shots that might come through
from Moreno's room. All this was accomplished amidst the wailing of
the Mexican women and the fusillade begun by the assailants in hopes
of terrorizing the defence before venturing to closer quarters. Like
famous Croghan, of Fort Stephenson, Feeny had kept up a fire from so
many different points as to impress the enemy with the idea there were
a dozen men and a dozen guns where there was in reality only one, and
even the temptation of that vast sum in the paymaster's safe was not
sufficient to nerve the followers of Morales to instant attack. The
valor and vigor of the defence and the appalling death of one of their
leaders had so unnerved them that Pasqual himself, raging, imploring,
threatening by turns, was unable to urge them to close quarters. "Most
men are cowards in the dark" is a theory widely believed in. Indians
certainly are only brave against defenceless women and children at
such a time. Not until the firing had ceased and it was evident that
the defenders had retired to the shelter of the ranch, and then only
very slowly and cautiously, would these brigands of the desert be
induced to resume their stealthy approach. For full half an hour there
was a lull in the fight, and then, guided by the light Moreno was now
able to show, Pasqual and two of the stouter-hearted knaves approached
the western wall and held brief consultation with the rascally owner.
Rage at the death of their leader's brother and ally, the thirst for
vengeance, and the hope of securing such rich booty, all were
augmented by Moreno's fiery assurances and encouragement. All the
soldiers were gone, he said, except the "pig of a sergeant" and two
drugged and senseless swine. Somebody among them was wounded. There
were only three, possibly four, left. Let his _compañeros_ make
combined attack, two or three through his (Moreno's) rooms, two or
three rush in from the corral, and the same number from the south
front at once, and beyond doubt the cursed Yankees would succumb.
Then, no quarter, no quarter for the men. His connection with the
outlaw band was now known and these witnesses must be put to death.
Then--then the paymaster's safe could readily be battered open, then
there was the mint of money to be divided among the victors, then away
to Sonora with their spoil and with old Harvey's beautiful daughters.
What ransom would he not be willing to pay,--that proud, disdainful
father! Was ever luck so great? But haste! haste!--not a moment could
be lost; they must act at once.

And so Morales hurried to station and instruct his men. Prowling like
coyotes through the darkness and at respectful distance from the
guarded end of the ranch, half a dozen of the number crept into the
corral. Others were distributed over the southern front. Three of the
lighter and more slender of the band were "boosted" through the high
west window into Moreno's domain. Then through the middle room they
made their way, where sat the señora, rocking, weeping, and moaning
over the body of the outlaw leader, where, hiding under the bed,
shivering and praying, crouched the señorita, her daughter, and then,
barefooted, they crept into the room adjoining the bar and listened,
breathless, to the low-toned instructions of the veteran sergeant.
From without no glimmer of light could guide the assailants or help
them in their aim. The black apertures of the door-ways were poor
marks for night shooting, and the more enterprising and adventurous,
crawling like snakes to reconnoitre, were soon able to report that
most scientifically had the defence thrown up their breastworks. From
group to group flitted Pasqual. At his shrill battle-cry all hands
were to rush simultaneously to the attack, firing no shot for fear of
hitting one another; but with pistol in one hand and the long, deadly
knife in the other, close at once upon the defenders, leap over their
barriers and overwhelm them in the dark interior. In three minutes the
signal would be given. He himself would lead the dash of the party
within the corral. Pasqual was shrewd enough to know that where there
was only one door-way instead of two there would be better chance of
dodging the bullets. But keen eyes and ears and wits were there alert.
Feeny and Harvey well knew that this was but the lull before the
storm.

"Lay low, boys, and be ready. Shoot the first man that shows," was the
last caution old Plummer heard before the bursting of the tempest.

All on a sudden a wild cry went up in the corral. All on a sudden from
north and south the assailants dashed forward with answering yell. In
an instant the dark apertures flashed their lightning, and rifle and
revolver-shots rang on the still night air. Harvey's Henry barked like
a Gatling; Feeny's old Springfield banged like a six-pounder. Two of
the assailants on the south side went down in the dust, face foremost,
the others swerved, broke, and scurried for shelter. Pasqual Morales,
leading his men close under the north wall, made a panther-like spring
for the crest of the barley parapet, and was saved from instant death
when he fell by being dragged feet foremost, with a Colt's forty-four
tearing through his thigh. In vain Moreno's squad fired shot after
shot through the wooden door; their bullets buried themselves deep in
the improvised traverse but let no drop of blood, while two return
shots scattered the attack with the splinters from the heavy panels.
Pleading, raging, maddened, Morales learned that the dash had failed,
and that two of his most daring men, the two Americanos who had ridden
forward to personate prospectors and who had led the rush in the
southern front, were knocked out of the fight.

And then it was that the inhuman brute gave the order to resort to
Indian methods, and even old Moreno begged and prayed and blasphemed
all to no purpose. Furious at their repulse, the band were ready to
obey their leader's maddest wish. The word was "Burn them out." Ned
Harvey, crouching behind his barley-bags, felt his blood turn to ice
water in his veins when, with exultant yells and taunts, the corral
suddenly lighted up with a broad red glare. The match had been applied
to the big hay-stack close to the brush-covered shed, close to the
"leanto" under which so much inflammable rubbish was stored. It could
be a question of only a few moments, then they, too, would be a mass
of flames spreading rapidly westward. The stout adobe wall separating
the ranch proper from the sheds would protect the occupants from
direct contact with the flame, but what could save the roof?
Stretching from wall to wall were the dry, resinous pine logs that
formed the basis of the bulky structure; over these the lighter boards
of pine; and over all, thickly piled, dry as bone and inflammable as
tinder, heap on heap of brush. Once this was fairly ablaze the hapless
occupants of the rooms beneath might as well be under the grating of
some huge furnace.

High in air shot the leaping flames. Far and wide over the desert
spread the lurid glare. Screaming with terror, the women of Moreno's
household were already dragging into the corral their few treasures
and rushing back for such raiment as they could save. Far over at the
corral gate, where the bullets of the besieged could not find them,
Pasqual Morales and his exulting band were gathered, the chief lying
upon his _serapé_ with bloody bandages about his leg, his followers
dancing about him in frantic glee, all keeping carefully out of range
of the black door-ways, yet three or four crack shots lay flat in the
sands, their rifles covering the now glaring fronts of the threatened
rancho, ready to shoot down, Indian-like, the wretched garrison when
driven out.

It was at this juncture that from somewhere in the middle room behind
Moreno's heavy door a voice was heard.

"Hand out the safe. Hand out your money now and we'll leave you in
peace. Every man of us will ride away, and you can come out as soon as
we are gone. Answer, for you have no time to lose."

"Answer him, you!" shouted Feeny to Mr. Dawes. "Send a shot through
and hit him if you can."

But before the clerk could drop the fan with which he was striving to
revive his fainting chief, the young fellow from Harvey's party, he
who was stationed at the north door and had been so fortunate as to
shoot Morales himself, now suddenly sprang from his covert and,
placing the muzzle of his Henry rifle close to the door, deliberately
popped three shots in quick succession through the splintering
wood-work, and, in the confusion and dismay which resulted, was able
to leap nimbly into his corner again before the answering shots could
come.

"Take that for your answer," shouted Feeny again, "you black-hearted,
black-bellied thafe, and take this, too, bad scran to ye! Every dollar
of that money's in greenbacks that'll burn as aisy as tissue, and if
you want it, come and get it now. 'Tis you that's got no time to lose.
Come and get it, I say, for be the soul of St. Patrick you'll never
have another chance. Just as sure as ye let that fire reach this ranch
and harm those young leddies,--old Harvey's daughters that never did
ye a harm in the world,--every dollar in the safe goes whack into the
fire, and sorra a shinplaster will you have for all your pains. Ain't
that so, paymasther? Shure the government ought to be mighty glad of
the chance of saving all those promises to pay."

"Bravo, Feeny!" shouted young Harvey from the adjoining room. "We're
not smoked out yet by a good deal," he added in lower tone. "But if
the worst comes to the worst we can make a rush for the barley-stack
in the corral. Lie still, Ruth, little sister; it won't be any time
now before the soldiers will come galloping to us." And, hiding her
terror-stricken face in her sister's breast, the girl obeyed.

Out at the corral gate meantime a vehement council was being held.
Feeny's bold defiance and threat had produced their effect. His voice
had rung out above the roar of the flames, and what Morales could not
hear was promptly reported by those who had crawled up nearer to the
bar and could understand every word. Even hampered by the care of
their helpless women, the defence was undismayed; the little garrison
was fighting with magnificent hope and courage. Beyond the wounding of
one of their number, no impression apparently had been made, whereas
the bandits had a sorry loss to contemplate. Ramon shot dead, Pasqual
crippled, and the two "Gringos," the daring and enterprising leaders
of the attack, painfully wounded, one probably mortally so. And now
with the flames lighting up the whole valley between the Picacho and
the Christobal, with cavalry known to be out in several squads within
easy march, some of the men were already weakening. They had had
enough of it and were quite ready to slink away; but Pasqual was a
raging lion. Revenge for the death of his brother, wrath over his own
crippled condition, fury at the failure of the assault, and hatred on
general principles of all honest means and honest men, all prompted
him to order and enforce a renewal of the attack, all served to madden
him to such a degree that even burning his adversaries to death seemed
simply a case of serving them right. What cared he that two of the
besieged were fair young girls, non-combatants? They were George
Harvey's daughters, and that in itself was enough to bring balm to his
soul and well-nigh cause him to forget his physical ills. One or two
of the band strove to point out that the faintest indignity offered to
the sisters would array not only all Arizona, but all Mexico against
them. Like dogs they would be hunted to their holes and no quarter be
given. Returning hitherto with their spoils, Chihuahua or Sonora had
welcomed them with open arms; but what outlaw could find refuge in
Mexican soil who had dared to wrong the children of George Harvey and
Inez Romero? It was even as they were pointing this out to Pasqual and
urging that he consent to be lifted into the ambulance and driven away
southward before the return of the cavalry, that Moreno himself
appeared. Slipping out of his western window, dropping to the ground
and making complete circuit of the corral, he suddenly joined in the
excited conference. What he said was in Spanish, or that pan-Arizona
_patois_ that there passes current for such, and was a wild, fervid
appeal. They had ruined him, him and his. He was unmasked, betrayed,
for now his connection with the band was established beyond all
question; now he was known and would soon be branded as an outlaw. His
home was being destroyed before his eyes,--not that that amounted to
much now that he could no longer occupy it,--his wife and child must
flee at once for Sonora and he go with them, but recompense for his
loss he must have; never again could he venture into Arizona: he would
be known far and wide as the betrayer of his benefactor's children,
though he called God and all the saints in the Spanish calendar to
witness he never dreamed of their being involved in his plot. The
paymaster's funds, not the lives of any of the paymaster's men, were
what he had sought to take, and now, there lay the dollars almost
within their grasp, but unless captured at once would be gone forever.

"I know that pig of a sergeant,--may the flames of hell envelop him
for all eternity!" he cried. "He will not scruple to do as he says. He
will cast every package into the seething furnace. _Mira!_ Look; the
shed is now all ablaze. In one minute the roof of the rancho will
burst into flame. There is not an instant to lose. I adjure you let
the daughters of Harvey, the son, the men come out at once; swear to
them safety, honor, protection. Let them go their way now, now. Then
you will have to deal with only two or three, and the treasure is
ours. Look you, Sanchez, Pedro, José, down with that shed next the
rancho! hurl it, drag it down so that its fire cannot reach the brush
beyond, then we can parley, we can win their ear. They will be but too
glad to be spared to go on their way unharmed. Yonder are their mules
across the corral. Hitch them in at once. Save the others for the
ambulance and the buck-board here, and for our noble chief. Is it not
so, capitan? Am I not right?"

Approving murmurs followed his fiery words. So long as the Yankees
held together there was little likelihood of the outlaws gaining the
ground except by burning out, and that now meant the destruction of
the very money they were after, the utter loss of the fortune that,
divided even among so many, would enable them to live like princes in
Hermosillo or beyond. They would be heroes, conquerors. But if that
were lost after all their plotting, planning, labor, and crime, there
was absolutely no recompense. Even through the brain-clouding fury of
his revenge Pasqual Morales saw the sound sense of Moreno's plea. He
made no effort to check the men who ran to do his bidding and were
even now with lariats and stalwart arms dragging the props from under
the shed and letting its western end come pattering down. Within the
eastern room the dense smoke was already finding its way. The sound of
falling beams and timber only conveyed to the occupants the idea that
already the shed was in embers, and that any instant the roof over
their heads would burst into a torrent of fire. Ned Harvey's brave
spirit was taxed to the utmost. Unless relief could come and come at
once, nothing remained for him but death, nothing for those fair
sisters but a fate far worse.

At one instant he was on the point of urging the paymaster to comply
with the outlaws' demand, pledging himself and his father's fortune to
make good to the government every cent so sacrificed. His father could
pay it four times over, and would rather sink his last cent than that
the faintest harm should come to those beloved children; but the next
moment Feeny's splendid defiance had so thrilled him that he could not
frame the words he thought to speak, and yet, here was awful peril
close at hand. What right had he to further jeopard the life, the
honor, of these, his father's fondest treasures? If it were only
himself it would be stay and fight it out to the bitter end. But if
the robbers could now be content with the money alone and pledge
safeguard for the party, was it not his duty, would it not be his
father's mandate were he there, to buy the safe and contents from the
agent of the general government and pay the ransom levied?

But he little dreamed of the fury of revenge and hatred burning in the
soul of Pasqual Morales. He little fathomed the treachery and cunning
of the outlawed scoundrel. Even as he was revolving these thoughts in
mind, ever and again listening with new hope for the sound of rallying
trumpet, the beat of rescuing hoofs, there resounded through the night
the sonorous and ringing voice that so short a time before had called
for the surrender of the safe.

"Edward Harvey, we pledge safe-conduct for you, your sisters, and your
party. Here is your wagon ready, your team hitched in. Throw your arms
out of the door. Come forth as you please. Put the señoritas in the
wagon. Look neither to the right nor left, but drive away, and God be
with you. We have no quarrel with you and yours. We war only with
these soldiers who have killed our chief."

Put yourself in his place. Death for him, perhaps for them,--dishonor
anyway,--was all they could look for if no rescue came. Was it not his
duty to his parents, to his sisters, even to God, to accept these
terms,--to withdraw his little force? Why should he be perilling such
precious lives and names in the defence of a government official who
had been so reckless as to part with his guard and put himself and his
funds in such a predicament? From the other room in which the major
now lay, feebly moaning, no word of remonstrance came. Even in their
extremity, then, the soldiers of the government would not urge that he
stay and encounter further peril in their defence. One of the drugged
troopers was beginning to regain some atom of sense, and, sitting up,
was miserably asking what had happened, what was the matter now.

"Go and douse water over your damned worthless head, Mullan," he heard
the sergeant say, so Feeny was evidently alert as ever and must have
heard the proposition from without. At his feet, huddled close to the
floor where the thick smoke was least distressing, Fanny and Ruth
still clung to one another, the latter trembling at the sound of the
voice from without. But Fanny had quickly, eagerly, raised her head to
listen. For a moment no reply was made. Then came the impatient
query,--

"Harvey, do you hear? You have no time to lose. You have but a minute
in which to answer."

"Major," he burst forth at last in an agony of doubt, "you hear what
they say, you see how I am fixed. If I were here alone you would never
need to ask my services, I'd fight with you to the bitter end; but
think of my father,--my mother if anything befall my sisters. Can
nothing be done?"

From the lips of the stricken paymaster there came only a groan in
reply.

"I fear he cannot hold out long, Mr. Harvey," muttered the clerk. "I
doubt if he heard or understood you."

"Well, why not let them have the safe if they'll guarantee that that
is all they want? How much have you there? I feel sure my father would
make it good."

"There's over twenty-five thousand dollars, Mr. Harvey."

"Well, if it was only twenty-five cents, Mr. Ned Harvey, all I've got
to say is, devil a wan of them would they get so long as I could load
a shot or pull a trigger. Go you if you will; take the leddies by all
means if you think it safer; but before I'd trust the wan sister I
ever had--God rest her soul--to the promise of any such blackguard
party as this, I'd bury my knife in her throat."

An awful stillness followed Feeny's words. For an instant there was no
sound but quick-beating hearts, the mutterings and complainings of
poor Mullan, staggering about in search of his carbine, the quickened
breath and low moaning of poor old Plummer. Then again came the loud
hail from without.

"Once more, Ned Harvey, will you come out and be saved, or stay there
and roast? Surrender now and you're all right; but, by the God of
heaven, if you refuse, it's the last chance for you or those you were
fool enough to bring here. Think for your sisters, man. There's no
hope for one of you if you delay another minute."

And then it was a woman's voice, tremulous but clear.

"Ned, wasn't it to save us that Major Plummer sent his men? Wasn't it
for our sake he gave up all his escort?"

"It was, Fan, yes; at least he thought so."

"And now you would desert him, would you?--leave him to be murdered by
these robbers, the worst gang we ever had or heard of. I say you shall
not. I for one will not go into their hands. Ruth cannot go without
me. Stay and fight it out, Ned, or you're not your father's son."

"Fan! Fan! you're a trump! God bless your brave heart!" cried Harvey.
"It seemed cowardly to go, yet the responsibility was more than I
could bear."

"May the saints in heaven smile on your purtty face for all eternity!"
muttered Feeny, in a rapture of delight. "The young leddy is right,
Mr. Harvey; though it wasn't for me to say it. Shure you can't trust
those scoundrels; they'd stab ye in the back, sir, and rob you of your
pretty sisters and drag them away before your dying eyes. That man
Pasqual is a devil, sir, nothing less. Shure we'll fight till rescue
comes, for come it will. I tell you the boys are spurring towards us,
hell to split, from every side now, and we'll whale these scoundrels
yet."

Then from without came the final hail,--

"What answer, Harvey? Now or never."

"Go to hell, you son of an ape and worse than a Greaser!" yelled
Feeny. "If you had a dhrop of Irish blood in your veins ye'd never ask
the question. Now if you think you can take this money, here's your
chance. No Harvey ever went back on his friends."

Even brain-muddled Mullan felt a maudlin impulse to cheer at Feeny's
enthusiastic answer. Even poor old Plummer gave a half-stifled cry.
Possibly he dreamed that rescue was at hand; but there was little time
for rejoicing. Springing back whence he came, the unseen emissary was
heard shouting some order to his fellows. The next instant the rifles
began their cracking on both sides, and the bullets with furious spat
drove deep into the adobe or whizzed through the gunny-sacks into the
barley. The unseen foe was once more investing them on every side and
not a shot could be wasted in return. Once more the furious crackle
and roar of flames was heard close at hand, and then the smoke grew
thicker, the heat increased, and poor Ned Harvey, his eyes smarting,
knelt steadfast at his post and prayed, prayed for the coming of
rescue, for the return of the loved father, all the gallant troop at
his back, and then--even as though in answer to his prayer--there came
a sudden lull in the fight.

"Something's coming!" shouted Feeny, excitedly. "They see or hear
somebody, sure. Look, Mr. Harvey, ain't that two of their fellows
scudding away westward out there?"

Surely enough. In the glare of the burning sheds the besieged caught a
glimpse of two of the gang bending low in their saddles a hundred
yards away and scudding like hounds over towards the open plain.

"Is it rescue? Are our people coming?" was the query that rose to
every lip. "God grant it!"

Heavens, how hearts were beating! How ears were straining underneath
that now blazing roof! Louder, fiercer soared the flames; furious
became the snapping of sun-baked branch and twig; stifling and thick
the smoke.

"Quick! Come here for a breath of air," called Harvey to his sisters.
"It's safe for a moment, at least." And instantly they joined him at
the door-way, still clinging close to the floor.

Listen! Hoofs! The thunder of galloping steeds! A distant cheer! A
soldierly voice in hoarse command,--

"Steady, steady there! Keep together, men!"

"God be praised!" screamed Feeny, in ecstasy. "Look up, major; look
up, sir. We're all safe now. Here come the boys. Hurroo!" And mad with
relief and delight, the sergeant sprang from his lair just as a tall
trooper in the Union blue shot into sight in the full glare of the
flames, sprang from his foaming steed, waving his hat and yelling,--

"All right! All safe, lads! Here we are!"

Down went Harvey's rifle as he leaped out into the blessed air to
greet the coming host. Down went Feeny's carbine as, with outstretched
hand, he sprang to grasp his comrade trooper's. With rush and thunder
of hoofs a band of horsemen came tearing up to the spot just as Feeny
reached their leader,--reached him and went down to earth, stunned,
senseless from a crashing blow, even as Ned Harvey, his legs jerked
from under him by the sudden clip of rawhide lariat, was dragged at
racing speed out over the plain, bumping over stick and stone, tearing
through cactus, screaming with rage and pain, until finally battered
into oblivion, the last sound that fell upon his ear was the shriek of
agony from his sisters' lips, telling him they were struggling in the
rude grasp of reckless and infuriated men.



VI.


Harvey could not long have lain unconscious. No bones were broken, no
severe concussion sustained in the rapid drag over the sandy surface,
and the awful sense of the calamity that had befallen him and the
dread and doubt as to the fate of his beloved ones seemed to rally his
stunned and bewildered faculties and bring him face to face with the
horror of the situation. Barely able to breathe, he found himself
rudely gagged. Striving to raise his hand to tear the hateful bandage
away, he found that he was pinioned by the elbows and bound hand and
foot by the very _riata_, probably, that had dragged him thither. No
doubt as to the nationality of his unseen captors here. The skill with
which he had been looped, tripped, whisked away, and bound,--the
sharp, biting edges, even the odor of dirty rawhide rope,--all told
him that though Americans were not lacking in the gang, his immediate
antagonists hailed from across the Sonora line. Who and what they were
mattered little, however. The fact that after hours of repulse in open
attack, the foe had all on a sudden carried their castle by a damnable
ruse was only too forcibly apparent. Writhing, struggling in
miserable effort to free himself from his bonds, poor Harvey's burning
eyes were maddened by the picture before him only a couple of hundred
yards away. There in the fierce light of the flames now bursting from
every window and roaring and shooting high in air from the
brush-heaped roof of Moreno's ranch,--there stood the Concord wagon,
stalwart men clinging to the heads of the plunging and excited mules,
a big ruffian already in the driver's seat, whip and reins in hand;
there beside it was the paymaster's ambulance, into which three of the
gang were just shoving the green-painted iron safe,--the Pandora's box
that had caused all their sorrows; there Moreno's California
buck-board, pressed into service and being used to carry the wounded,
drawn by the extra mules; and then--God of heaven! what a sight for
brother's eyes to see and make no sign!--then one big brute lifted
from the ground and handed up to a fellow already ensconced within the
covered wagon the senseless, perhaps lifeless, form of pretty little
Ruth, his father's idol. The poor child lay unresisting in the
ruffian's arms, but not so Paquita. It took two men, strong and burly,
to lift and force her into the dark interior, and one of those, to the
uttermost detail of his equipment, was to all appearance a trooper of
the United States cavalry. There stood his panting horse with hanging
head and jaded withers, the very steed whose rush they had welcomed
with such exceeding joy, saddled, bridled, blanketed, saddle-bagged,
lariated, side-lined, every item complete and exactly as issued by the
Ordnance Department. The trooper himself wore the field uniform of the
cavalry,--the dark-blue blouse, crossed by the black carbine sling,
whose big brass buckle Ned could even now see gleaming between the
broad shoulders, and gathered at the waist by the old-fashioned
"thimble belt" the troop saddlers used to make for field service
before the woven girdle was devised. Even more: Harvey in his misery
remembered the thrill of joy with which he had noted, as the splendid
rider reined in and threw himself from the saddle, the crossed sabres,
the troop letter "C," and the regimental number gleaming at the front
of his campaign hat. Who--who could this be, wearing the honorable
garb of a soldier of United States, yet figuring as a ringleader in a
band of robbers and assassins now adding rapine to their calendar of
crime? Edward Harvey's heart almost burst with helpless rage and
wretchedness when he saw his precious sisters dragged within the
canvas shelter,--saw the tall, uniformed brigand leap lightly after
them, and heard him shout to the ready driver, "Now, off with you!"

Crack! went the whip as the men sprang from the heads of the frantic
mules, and with a bound that nearly wrenched the trace-hooks from the
stout whippletree, the Concord went spinning over the sands to the
south, whirling so near him that over the thud of hoofs and whirl of
wheels and creak of spring and wood-work he could hear poor Fanny's
despairing cry,--the last sound he was aware of for hours, for now in
dead earnest Harvey swooned away.

Half an hour later, the rafters of the ranch having by this time
tumbled in and turned the interior into a glowing furnace, there came
riding from the west a slender skirmish line of horsemen in the worn
campaign dress of the regular cavalry. With the advance there were not
more than six or eight, a tall, slender lieutenant leading them on and
signalling his instructions. With carbines advanced, with eyes peering
out from under the jagged hat-brims, the veteran troopers came loping
into the light of the flames, expectant every instant of hearing the
crack of outlaw's rifle, or perhaps the hiss of feathered arrow of
unseen foe. Though some of the steeds looked hot and wearied, the big
raw-boned sorrel that carried the young commander tugged at his bit
and bounded impatiently as though eager for the signal--"charge."
Straight into the circle of light, straight to the southern entrance,
now a gate of flame, the soldier rode and loudly hailed "Moreno!"

But hissing, snapping wood-work alone replied. Guided by an
experienced sergeant, some of the troopers, never halting, rode on
into the eastward darkness, and there were stationed as videttes to
guard against surprise. Returning to where he had passed his
lieutenant, the sergeant dismounted, allowing his weary horse to
stand, and then began minute examination. Following the freshest
hoof-tracks, he found the young officer riding about through the thick
smoke within the corral.

"Any sign of Moreno or his people, sir?" he hailed.

"Not yet. Just see what's beyond that door-way. My horse is frightened
at something there and I can't see for the smoke."

Obedient, the sergeant pushed ahead, bending low to avoid the stifling
fumes. Between the tumbled-down heap of barley-sacks and the crumbling
wall lay some writhing objects in the sand, and his stout heart almost
failed him at the moan of agony that met his ear.

"Help! water! Oh, for Christ's sake, water!"

One bound carried him out of sight of his superior. The next instant,
dragging by the foot a prostrate form, he emerged from the bank into
the fresher air of the centre of the corral. Off came his canteen and
was held to the parched lips of a stranger in scorched civilian dress,
his beard and hair singed by the flames, his legs and arms securely
bound.

"Who are you and what's happened? Whose work is this?" demanded the
lieutenant, leaping from saddle to his side. The man seemed swooning
away, but the sergeant dashed water in his face.

"Quick!--the others!--or they'll burn to death."

"What others? Where, man?" exclaimed the soldiers, springing to their
feet.

"Oh! somewhere in there,--the far end of the corral--or Moreno's west
room," was the gasping reply.

Another rush into the whirling, eddying smoke, another search along
under the wall, and presently in the flickering light the rescuing
pair came upon a barrier of barley-sacks, burning in places from huge
flakes of fire falling from the blazing rafters of the overhanging
shed, and behind this, senseless, suffocated, helplessly bound, two
other forms. Thrusting the sacks aside, the troopers seized and
dragged forth their hapless fellow-creatures. Jarred by sudden
pressure, a burning upright snapped. There was a crackling, crashing
sound, and down came the rafters, sending another column of flame to
light up the features of men rescued not an instant too soon from the
death that awaited them.

"My God!" cried Sergeant Lee, "this is old Feeny,--and yet alive."

Together the two raised the senseless form, bore it out into the open
space, laid it gently beside their first discovery, and ran back for
the next, a big, heavy, bulky shape in loose and blood-stained
garments. It took all their strength to lug it forth. Then the
lieutenant bent by the side of the slowly recovering civilian.

"Are there any more we can reach?" he questioned eagerly, his heart
beating madly.

"No,--too late!--others were inside when the roof fell in. More
water,--more water!"

Sergeant Lee sprang to the _ollas_, gleaming there in the fire-light,
and brought back a brimming dipper, holding it to the poor fellow's
parched lips until he could drink no more, then slashing away the
thongs with which he was bound.

"This is Greaser work," he cried. "How could they have left you alive?
Where are Moreno's people? Who's done this, anyhow?"

"Pasqual Morales. Moreno was in it, too. 'Twas the paymaster they were
laying for; but they've killed Ned Harvey and got his sisters,--old
Harvey's children--from Tucson."

"What?" cried the officer, leaping to his feet. "Harvey's daughters
here?--here? Man, are you mad?"

"It's God's truth! Oh, if I had a drop of the whiskey that's being
burned in there! I'm nigh dead."

"Run to my saddle-bags, Lee; fetch that flask, quick; then call in the
men and send one back to hurry up the rest. Where have they gone? What
have they done with their captives?"

"God knows! I could hear them screaming and praying,--those poor
girls! Mullan and the pay-clerk picked up Feeny after he was stunned
and they rushed him back through here, where the paymaster had dragged
himself, to where you found him. That--that's the paymaster you've got
there. Then they tried to save a drunken soldier while all the gang
seemed crowding after the safe and the girls, but they were shot down
inside, and must have burned to death if they wasn't killed. Oh, God,
what a night!" And weak, unstrung, unmanned, the poor fellow sobbed
aloud.

At this instant there rode into the corral a couple of troopers.

"Lieutenant Drummond here?" cried one of them. "We've found a man out
on the plain to the southeast, gagged and bound. Shall we fetch him
in?"

"You go, Quinn, but get some one else to help you. Patterson, your
horse is fresh, gallop back on the trail. Tell Sergeant Meinecke to
come ahead for all he's worth. Let the packs take care of themselves.
Send Sergeant Lee in here to me again." Then with trembling hands the
young officer turned his attention to his other patients. Severing
the cords with his hunting-knife, he freed them from their bonds, then
dashed water over their scorched and blackened faces, meantime keeping
up a running fire of questions. Between his sobs, the young civilian
told him that the outlaws had hitched in both teams and taken also the
spare mules and the buck-board. They had lifted the Harvey girls into
the Concord, the safe and Pasqual Morales into the paymaster's
ambulance, while the wounded men and Moreno's people probably were put
on the open wagon. Then they had all driven furiously away to the
south, leaving only two or three men to complete the work at the
ranch. Finding the paymaster and sergeant well-nigh dead, they had
contented themselves with binding and leaving them to their fate, to
be cremated when the roof of the shed came down. Then one of the gang
whom he had once befriended in Tucson pleaded with his fellows to
spare the life of the only one of the party left to tell the tale.
Pasqual and the Mexicans were gone. Those who remained were Americans,
judging by their speech, though two of them were still masked. "My
name is Woods," said the poor fellow. "But that bandit had to beg
hard. They were ready to murder anybody connected with the defence,
for Ramon was killed and Pasqual shot through the leg. I did that,
though they didn't know it. They bound and left me here, but made me
swear I would tell Harvey and his friends when they got back that it
was no use following; they had thirty armed men and three hours'
start. They never thought of any one else getting here first. Oh, my
God! who can break it to Mr. Harvey when he does come?"

And then Sergeant Lee came hurrying back, one or two men with him, and
together they labored to restore to consciousness the paymaster,
breathing feebly, and old Feeny, bleeding from a gash in the back of
the skull and a bullet-hole through the body. For nearly quarter of an
hour their efforts were vain. Meantime Drummond, well-nigh mad over
the delay, was pacing about like a caged tiger. He set two of the men
to work to hitch the bewildered little burros to the well-wheel and
get up several huge bucketfuls of water against the coming of the
troop. He ordered others to rub down his handsome sorrel, Chester, and
the mounts of two of the advanced party. At last after what must have
seemed an age, yet could not have been over thirty minutes from the
time of their arrival, a soldier running in, said he could hear hoofs
out on the plain, and at the same instant two men appeared lugging
between them, bleeding and senseless, the ragged form of Edward
Harvey.

Scratched, torn, covered with blood and bruises, and still unconscious
though he was, Drummond knew him at a glance. They had met the
previous year, and though only once it was enough. Men with young and
lovely sisters are not soon forgotten. Kneeling by his side, the
lieutenant sought anxiously for trace of blade or bullet. Rents there
were many and many a bloody scratch and tear, but, to his infinite
relief, no serious wound appeared. Still in deep swoon, his friend
seemed to resist every effort for his restoration. The dash of water
in his face was answered only by a faint shivering sigh. The
thimbleful of whiskey forced between his lips only gurgled down his
throat, and Drummond felt no responsive flutter of pulse. The shock to
his system must indeed have been great, for Harvey lay like one in a
trance. Drummond feared that he might never again open his eyes to
light and home.

And then the weary troop came trotting into view, old Sergeant
Meinecke in command. Halting and dismounting at his signal, the men
stood silent and wondering at their horses' heads, while their leader
went in to report to his commander. Drummond barely lifted his eyes
from the pallid features before him.

"Unsaddle, sergeant; rub down; pick out the best and likeliest horses.
I want twenty men to go on a chase with me. How soon can the packs get
up?"

"They must be fully half an hour behind, sir."

"Sorry for that, sergeant. We've got to take at least four of them;
load them up with barley, bacon, hardtack, ammunition. Kick off
everything else. We'll feed and water here before starting, then we've
got to ride like the devil. Send Trooper Bland here as soon as he has
unsaddled. I want him to ride with me. He knows all the roads to the
south."

Meinecke saluted in his methodical German fashion, turned away, and
presently could be heard ordering "Unsaddle" and then shouting for
Private Bland.

"Are there any of our men besides the farrier who have any knowledge
of surgery?" asked the lieutenant of Sergeant Lee.

"They say Bland has, sir. I don't know any one else."

"Well, I've just sent for him. Mr. Harvey here doesn't seem to be
wounded, yet it's impossible to bring him to. Give Woods a little more
whiskey and see if you can get a word out of the major or Feeny."

But efforts with the half-suffocated men had no effect. The whiskey
with Woods had better results. He presently ceased his shivering sobs
and could answer more questions. Drummond begged for particulars of
the capture, and these the man found it difficult to give. He was
stationed at the back door, the corral side, he said, and hardly saw
the final rush. But there was something so queer about it. There had
been a few minutes' lull. Then Harvey and Feeny both began to talk
excitedly and to call out that the "road agents" were running away,
and then presently there came sound of galloping hoofs and cheering,
and both the sergeant and Mr. Harvey had shouted that the troops were
coming and rushed out to meet them,--"And the next thing I knew," said
Woods, "was seeing Feeny flattened out on the ground and crawling on
his hands and knees and the room filled with roughs, some Mexicans,
some Yanks, and I slipped into the corral and saw one of them shoot
Feeny as he was trying to crawl after me; and while they were swearing
and searching for the safe and carrying it out, Mr. Dawes and Mullan
managed, somehow, to help the paymaster out, and then went in after
the other man." Then Woods could tell little more. One thing, he said,
amazed and excited him so he couldn't believe his eyes, but he was
almost ready to swear that the fellow Feeny ran to shake hands with
was a soldier in uniform, and that he held Feeny's hand while another
man came up behind and "mashed" him with the butt of his pistol, and
that this fellow in soldier clothes was the man who afterwards shot
Feeny as he was trying to crawl away.

Drummond looked around at the man incredulous,--almost derisive. The
story was improbable, too much so to deserve even faint attention.
Just then Meinecke came back and, precise as ever, stood attention
and saluted.

"Herr Lieutenant, Private Bland is not with my party at all, sir."

"Did you leave him back with the packs?"

"No, sir; the men say he wasn't with us all night. He rode ahead with
the lieutenant until we came to Corporal Donovan's body."

"He's not been with me since," exclaimed the lieutenant. "Sergeant
Lee, ask if any of the men have seen him."

Lee was gone but a moment, then came back with grave face and troubled
eyes, bringing with him a young trooper who was serving his first
enlistment.

"Private Goss, here, has a queer story to tell, sir."

"What do you know? What have you seen?" asked Drummond.

"Why, sir, right after Sergeant Lee caught sight of the fire and sung
out that it was Moreno's I was back about a couple of rods looking for
my canteen. I was that startled when they found Corporal Donovan dead
that I dropped it, and all of a sudden somebody comes out past me
leading his horse, and I asked him what he had lost, and he said his
pipe, and passed me by, and I thought nothing more about it,--only no
sooner did he get out into the dark where I couldn't see him than I
heard all of a sudden a horse start at full gallop right over in this
direction, and now I think of it it must have been Bland, for it was
him that passed me, sir,--sneaking out like."

Drummond sprang to his feet.

"What say you to this, sergeant? Do you believe,--do you think it
possible that Bland has deserted and joined these outlaws?"

"I don't know what to think, sir, but I haven't forgotten what Feeny
said of him."

"What was that?"

"That he had too smooth a tongue to have led a rough and honest life;
that if he was a Texan as he claimed, Texas people had learned to talk
a different lingo since he was stationed among them with the old
Second Cavalry before the war, and that he wished he'd been there at
Lowell when the adjutant accepted those letters from former officers
of the regiment as genuine. Bland would never show them to Feeny. Said
he had sent 'em all to his home in Texas. That was what made bad blood
between them."

"By heaven! and now to think that one of our troop--'C' troop--should
have been engaged in this outrage! But we'll get them, men," said
Drummond, straightening up to his full height and raising his
gauntleted hand in air. "They can't go fast or far with those wagons
such a night as this. They'll strike the foot-hills before they've
gone ten miles, then they'll have to go slow. We'll catch them before
the sun is up, and, by the God of heaven, if Bland is with them, I'll
string him to the highest tree we can find."

"There's more than him that'll be strung up," growled a grizzled old
trooper in an undertone. "The gang that murdered Pat Donovan will find
scant mercy in this crowd."

"Ay, ay," said another, "and there's more than Pat Donovan to be
scored off. Look yonder." For at the instant one of the packers came
leading into the corral a resisting mule, at sight of whose burden
many of the horses started in fear. It was the lifeless body of
Donovan's companion, the soldier who had escaped the assassin's bullet
when "Patsy" fell only to be overtaken and cut down half-way to
Moreno's.

"It's the bloodiest night I've known even in Arizona," said Lee to his
young leader. "The paymaster and Mr. Harvey about as good as dead, old
Feeny dying, most like, the clerk and Mullan and some other trooper of
the escort burned to ashes in that hell-hole there, and Donovan and
this last one--some of our fellows think is Flynn, from 'F'
troop--shot to death. It's worse than Apache, lieutenant, and there'll
be no use trying to restrain our fellows when we catch the
blackguards."

Quarter of an hour later, leaving half a dozen soldiers under an
experienced sergeant to guard the packs, the wounded, and the
non-combatants at the smouldering ruins of the ranch, with barely a
score of seasoned troopers at his back, Lieutenant Jim Drummond rode
resolutely out towards the southern desert, towards the distant line
of jagged mountains that spanned the far horizon. The false and fatal
blaze at the Picacho had utterly disappeared, and all was darkness at
the west. The red glow of the smouldering embers behind was no longer
sufficient to light their path. Straight away southward led the
wheel-tracks, first separate and distinct, but soon blending, as
though one wagon had fallen behind and followed the trail of the
bolder leader in the first. Straight away after them went the ruck of
hoof-tracks, telling plainly that for a time at least the gang had
massed and was prepared to guard its plunder. Stop to divide it was
evident they dared not, for they had not with them the implements to
break into the safe, and all their searching and threatening had
failed to extract from the apparently dying paymaster any clue as to
what he had done with the key. Stick together, therefore, they
undoubtedly would, reasoned the lieutenant, and all their effort would
be to reach some secure haunt in the Sierras, and there send back
their demand for ransom. Twenty-five thousand dollars in cash and
George Harvey's precious daughters! It was indeed a rich haul,--one
that in all the dread history of the Morales gang had never been
equalled. Even had they failed to secure the safe the richer booty was
theirs in having seized the girls. But few people in Arizona--as
Arizona then was constituted--would make great effort to overhaul a
gang of robbers whose only victim was Uncle Sam and "his liveried
hirelings." Nobody in Sonora would fail to regard them with envious
eyes; but in the deed of rapine that made them the captors and
possessors of those defenceless sisters each man had put a price upon
his head, a halter round his neck, for "Gringo" and "Greaser,"
American and Mexican alike, would spring to arms to rescue and avenge.

As the rearmost of the little party of pursuers disappeared in the
darkness and the wearied pack-mules went jogging sullenly after, urged
on by the goad of their half-Mexican driver, the sergeant left in
charge of the detachment at the corral looked at his watch and noted
that it was just half-past two o'clock. The dawn would be creeping on
at four.

Wearied as were his men he did not permit them all to rest. The
condition of his wounded and the instructions left him by Lieutenant
Drummond made it necessary that they should have constant attention.
It was sore trouble for him to look at the old paymaster, whose life
seemed ebbing away, lying there so pallid and moaning at times so
pitifully, but Feeny lay torpid, breathing, yet seeming to suffer not
at all. Both were in desperate need of surgical attendance, but where
could surgeon be found? The nearest was at Stoneman, the little
cantonment across the Christobal, thirty miles to the east; and though
a gallant fellow had volunteered to make the ride alone through the
Apache-infested pass and carry the despatch that Drummond had
hurriedly pencilled, there was no possibility of doctors reaching them
before the coming night, and the thought of all they might have to
suffer through the fierce white heat of the intervening day was one
that gave the sergeant deep concern. Then, too, who could say whether
the solitary trooper would succeed in running the gauntlet and making
his way through? He was a resolute old frontiersman, skilled in Indian
warfare, and well aware that his best chance was in the dark, but
speed as he might the broad light of day would be on him long before
he could get half-way through the range. The stage from the west would
probably come along about sunset, but nothing could be hoped for
sooner. No troops were nearer than the Colorado in that direction
except the little signal-post at the Picacho. Corporal Fox and two men
had been sent thither to inquire what the signal meant, and it would
soon be time for them to come riding in with their report. How he
wished Wing were here! Wing knew something about everything. He was
an expert veterinarian, something of a doctor, knew more of mineralogy
than all the officers put together, and could speak Spanish better
than any man in the regiment. When it became necessary to have a
signal-station at the peak and it was found that no one knew anything
about the business, Wing got one of the old red manuals, studied the
system, and inside of a week was signalling with the expert sent down
from San Francisco.

The interior of the ranch was still a smouldering furnace as four
o'clock drew nigh. Woods, weak and exhausted, had fallen into an
uneasy sleep. The trooper detailed to watch over old Plummer and Feeny
and bathe their faces with cool water was nodding over his charge.
Here and there under the shed on the north side which the flames had
not reached the men were dozing, or in low, awe-stricken tones,
talking of the tragic events of the night. Near the east gate,
reverently and decently covered with the only shroud to be had, the
newest of the saddle-blankets, lay the stiffening remains of poor
Donovan and his comrade. Lurking about the westward end of the
enclosure, their beady eyes every now and then glittering in the
fire-light, the Mexicans, men and boy, were smoking their everlasting
_papellitos_, apparently indifferent to the fate that had deprived
them of home and occupation. One of the troopers had burrowed a hole
in the sand, started a little cook fire, and was boiling some coffee
in a tin quart mug. Overhead and far down to the horizon, on every
side the stars shone and sparkled through the vaporless skies.
Eastward towards the Christobal they were just beginning to pale when
a faint voice was heard pleading for water. Sergeant Butler sprang
from his seat and hastened to where he had left Mr. Harvey but a few
minutes before, still in deep and obstinate swoon.

"Water is it, sir? Here you are! I'm glad to see you picking up a
little. Mr. Drummond left this for you, too, sir. He said you would
maybe need it." And the sergeant raised the dizzy head and held a
little flask to Harvey's lips.

"Where is he?" at last the sufferer was able to gasp.

"Overhauling the outlaws, hand over fist, by this time, sir. He has
twenty good men at his back, and we'll have the ladies safe
to-night,--see if we don't."

"Oh, God!" groaned the stricken brother, burying his face in his arms
as the recollection of the fearful events of the night came crowding
upon him. For a moment he seemed to quiver and tremble in every limb,
then with sudden effort raised his head and turned again, the blood
trickling anew from a gash in his face as he did so.

"Give me more of that," he moaned, stretching forth a trembling hand.
"More water, too. Lend me a horse and your carbine. I must go! I
_must_ go!" But there his strength failed him, and grasping wildly at
empty air, poor Harvey fell heavily back before the sergeant could
interpose an arm to save.

"Don't think of it, sir; you're far too weak, and you're not needed.
Never fear, the lieutenant and 'C' troop will do all that men can do.
They'll bring the ladies safely back as soon as they've hung what's
left of that murdering gang.--Hello! That you, Fox?" he shouted,
springing up as two or three horsemen came spurring in.

"It's I,--Wing," was the answer in ringing tones. "Fox is coming
slower. Quick now. Is it so that that gang has run off the young
ladies?"

"It's God's truth. Here's Mr. Ned Harvey himself."

In an instant Wing was kneeling by the side of the prostrate man.

"Merciful heaven, my friend, but they've used you fearfully! They only
bound and held me till Jackson got back from Ceralvo's a couple of
hours ago. Are you shot,--injured?"

"No, no," groaned Harvey. "But I am broken, utterly broken, and my
sisters are in the hands of those hounds."

"Never worry about that, man. I know young Drummond well. There isn't
a braver, better officer in the old regiment if he is but a boy. He'll
never drop that trail till he overtakes them, and by the time he needs
us, old Pike here and I will be at his side. Thank the Lord, those
louts were frightened off and never took our horses. They're fresh as
daisies both of 'em. Cheer up, Mr. Harvey. If hard riding and hard
fighting will do it, we'll have your sisters here to nurse you before
another night.--Come, Pike," he cried, as he vaulted into saddle. "Now
for the liveliest gallop of your lazy, good-for-nothing life. Come
on!"



VII.


A new May morning was breaking, its faint rosy light warming the
crests of the Santa Maria, when Lieutenant Drummond signalled "halt"
to his little band, the first halt since leaving Moreno's at half-past
two. Down in a rocky cañon a number of hoof-prints on the trail
diverged to the left and followed an abrupt descent, while the wagons
had kept to the right, and by a winding and more gradual road seemed
to have sought a crossing farther to the west. It was easy to divine
that, with such elements in the gang, there had been no long
separation between the horsemen and the treasure they were guarding,
and, eager as he was to overtake the renegades, Drummond promptly
decided to follow the hoof-tracks, rightly conjecturing, too, that
they would bring him to water in the rocky tanks below. Dismounting
and leading his big sorrel, he sprang lightly from ledge to ledge down
what seemed a mere goat-trail, each man in succession dismounting at
the same point, and, with more or less elasticity, coming on in the
footsteps of his leader. The faint wan light of early dawn was
rendering neighboring objects visible on the sandy plain behind them,
but had not yet penetrated into the depths of the gorge. Lying far to
the west of the Tucson road, this was a section of the country unknown
to any of the troop, and with every prospect of a broiling ride across
the desert ahead so soon as the sun was up, no chance for watering
their horses could be thrown away. Just as he expected, Drummond found
the descent becoming more gradual, and in a moment or two the bottom
of the dark rift was found, and presently, keeping keen lookout for
the reflection of the stars still lingering overhead, the leading men
were rewarded, and halted at the edge of a shining pool of clear,
though not very cool, water, and the horses thrust their hot muzzles
deep into the wave. Here, shaded by the broad-brimmed hats of white
felt, such as the Arizona trooper of the old days generally affected,
a match or two was struck and the neighborhood searched for "sign."
The rocks around the tank were dry, the little drifts of sand blown
down from the overhanging height were smooth. Whatsoever splashing had
been done by the horses of the outlaws there had been abundant time
for it to evaporate, therefore the command could not thus far have
gained very rapidly on the pursued. But Drummond felt no
discouragement. Up to this point the way had been smooth and
sufficiently hard to make wheeling an easy matter. The wagons had
been lugged along at brisk trot, the attending cavaliers riding at
lively lope. Now, however, there would be no likelihood of their
making such time. The ambulance could only go at slow walk the rest of
the way, and the guards must remain alongside to protect the stolen
funds, not so much from envious outsiders as from one another. Pasqual
Morales showed his accustomed shrewdness when he forbade that any one
should try to burst into the safe and extract the money, for well he
knew that if divided among the men there would be no longer a
loadstone to hold them together, to call for their fiercest fighting
powers if assailed. The instant the money was scattered the gang would
follow suit, and he be left to meet the cavalry single-handed.

The horses of the little detachment were not long in slaking their
thirst. The noiseless signal to mount was given, and, following in the
lead of their young lieutenant, the troopers rode silently down the
winding cañon, Drummond and Sergeant Lee bending low over their
chargers' necks to see that they did not miss the hoof-prints. Little
by little the light of dawn began to penetrate the dark depths in
which they were scouting, and trailing became an easier matter.
Presently the sergeant pointed to the face of the opposite slope, now
visible from base to summit where an abrupt bend threw it against the
eastern light.

"Yonder's where the ambulance came down, sir."

"I see, and we can't be far from where it crossed. Trot ahead and take
a look. Let Patterson go with you. If you find a chance for
short-cuts, signal."

Another half-hour passed away and still the trail led along this
strange, rock-ribbed groove in the desert, the dry bed of some
long-lost stream. When first met it seemed to be cutting directly
across their line of march, now it had turned southward, and, for
several miles ahead, south or west of south was its general course.
The light was now broad and clear, though the sun had not yet peeped
across the mountain range to their left. The pace was rapid, Drummond
frequently urging his men to the trot or canter. Out to the front four
or five hundred yards, often lost to view in the windings of the way,
Sergeant Lee with a single trooper rode in the advance, but not once
had he signalled a discovery worth recording. Both wagon and
hoof-tracks here pursued a common road. It was evident that some
horsemen had found it necessary to ride alongside. It was evident,
too, that the outlaws were travelling at full speed, as though anxious
to reach some familiar lair before turning to face their expected
pursuers. Every one in the gang, from Pasqual down to their humblest
packer, well knew that it could not be long before cavalry in strong
force would come trotting in chase. The squadron at Stoneman would
surely be on the march by the coming sunset. As for "C" troop, they
had little to fear. Pasqual laughed with savage glee as he thought how
he had lured them in scattered detachments far up to the Gila or over
to the Christobal. No need to fear the coming of the late escort of
the paymaster. By this time those not dead, drugged, or drunk were
worn out with fatigue. Over the body of his bandit brother, the
swarthy Ramon, he had fiercely rejoiced that seven to one he had
avenged his death, and Pasqual counted on the fingers of his brown and
bloody hand the number of the victims of the night. Donovan and his
fellow-trooper killed on the open plain. The paymaster and his clerk,
Mullan and the other soldier, dead in their tracks and burned to ashes
by this time, and, best of all, "that pig of a sergeant," as Moreno
called him, that hound and murderer, Feeny,--he who had slain
Ramon,--bound, gagged, and left to miserable death by torture. Indeed,
as he was jolted along in the ambulance, groaning and cursing by
turns, Pasqual wondered why he had not insisted that Harvey, too,
should be given the _coup de grace_ before their start. It was an
unpardonable omission. Never mind! There in the brand-new Concord that
came clattering along there was booty that outrivalled all. There was
wealth far exceeding the stacks of treasury notes,--old Harvey's
daughters,--old Harvey's daughters. It was with mad, feverish joy that
when at last the sun came pouring in a flood of light over the desert
of the Cababi he listened to the report of a trusted subordinate.

"I could see every mile of the road with my glasses, _capitan_, from
the cliff top yonder--every mile from Moreno's to where we struck the
cañon. There isn't a sign of dust,--there isn't a sign of pursuing
party."

"_Bueno!_ Then we rest when we reach the cave. This is even better
than I hoped."

But there were two elements in the problem Capitan Pasqual had failed
to consider,--Lieutenant Drummond's scout in the Christobal,
Cochises's band of Chiricahuas in the Santa Maria. Who could have
foreseen that the little troop, finishing its duties at the northern
end of the range and about turning south to re-scout the Santa Maria,
had ridden out upon the plain, summoned by the beacon at Picacho Pass,
and less than two hours after their hurried start from the burning
ruins at Moreno's were speeding on their trail? The best field-glasses
ever stolen from the paternal government could not reveal to the
fleeing outlaw that, only two or three miles back in the dim recesses
of the crooked gorge, the blue-coats were following in hot pursuit.
Who could have dreamed that a band of Apaches, cut off from their
native wilds by detachments from Bowie, Lowell, and Crittenden, and
forced to make a wide _détour_ to the southwest, had sought refuge in
the very gorge of the Cababi whither Pasqual with all speed was urging
his men?

"We rest when we reach the cave."

Ah, even the torment of his wound could not have wrung from the robber
chief this longed-for order had he dreamed what was coming at his
back.

"How are the girls getting on?" he asked of his hot and wearied aide.
"Are they tranquil now?"

"They have to be," was the grim reply. "The little one dare not open
her eyes, and Sanchez has his knife at the elder's throat."

And the sunrise had brought with it new inspiration,--new purpose to
those who came trotting to the rescue. Just as the cliffs on the
western side were tipped and fringed with rose and gold, Sergeant Lee,
riding rapidly far ahead from point to point, always carefully peering
around each bend before signalling "come on," was seen suddenly to
halt and throw himself from his horse. The next instant he stood
erect, waving some white object high in air. Spurring forward,
Drummond joined him.

"A lady's handkerchief, lieutenant," he quietly said. "They seem to
have halted here a moment: you can tell by the hoof-prints. One of
their number rode over towards that high point yonder and rejoined
them here. I don't believe they are more than half an hour ahead."

Drummond reverently took the dainty kerchief, hurriedly searched for
an initial or a name, and found the letters "R. H." in monogram in one
corner.

"Push on, then, Lee! Here, one more of you,--you, Bennet, join the
sergeant. Look alive now, but do not let yourselves be seen from the
front."

Then as they hastened away he stowed the filmy trifle in the pocket of
his blouse, and, drawing his Colt from the holster, closely inspected
its loaded chambers. Only a boy, barely twenty-three, yet rich in
soldierly experience already was Drummond. He had entered the Point
when just seventeen. His father's death, occurring immediately before
the memorable summer of their first class camp, had thrown him
perforce into the society of the so-called bachelor club, and he was
graduated in the June of the following year with a heart as whole as
his physique was fine. But there were some cares to cloud his young
life in the army,--a sister whose needs were many and whose means were
few. He found that rigid economy and self-denial were to be his
portion from the start, and was not sorry that his assignment took him
to the far-away land of Arizona, where, as his new captain wrote him,
"you can live like a prince on bacon and _frijoles_, dress like a
cow-boy on next to nothing or like an Apache _in_ next to nothing,
spend all your days and none of your money in mountain scouting, and
come out of it all in two or three years rich in health and strength
and experience and infinitely better off financially than you could
ever have been anywhere else. Leave whiskey and poker alone and you're
all right."

He _had_ left whiskey and poker alone, severely alone. He had sought
every opportunity for field service; had shown indomitable push,
pluck, and skill in pursuit of Apaches and cool courage in action. He
had been able to send even more than was needed, or that he had hoped,
to his sister's guardian, and was proud and happy in the consciousness
of a duty well done. There were no young girls in the scattered
garrisons of those days, no feminine attractions to unsettle his peace
of mind. The few women who accompanied their lords to such exile as
Arizona were discreet matrons, to whom he was courtesy itself on the
few occasions when they met, but only once had he been brought under
the influence of girlish eyes or of girlish society, and that was on
the memorable trip to San Francisco during the previous year when he
had had the great good fortune to be summoned as a witness before a
general court-martial convened at the Presidio. He had been presented
to the Harvey sisters by the captain of the "Newbern" and would fain
have shown them some attention, but there had been much rough weather
in the Gulf which kept the girls below, and not until after passing
Cape San Lucas and they were steaming up the sunny Pacific did he see
either of them again. Then one glorious day the trolling-lines were
out astern, the elders were amidship playing "horse billiards," and
"Tuck," the genial purser, was devoting himself to Paquita, when
Drummond heard a scream of excitement and delight, and saw the younger
sister bracing her tiny, slender feet and hanging on to a line with
all her strength. In an instant he was at her side, and together, hand
over hand, they finally succeeded in pulling aboard a beautiful
dolphin, and landed him, leaping, flapping, splashing madly about, in
the midst of the merry party on the deck. It was the first time Ruth
had seen the gorgeous hues of this celebrated fish, and her excitement
and pleasure over being heralded as its captor were most natural. From
that time on she had pinned her girlish faith to the coat-sleeve of
the tall, reserved young cavalryman. To him she was a child, even
younger by a year than the little sister he had left, and of whom he
soon began to tell her. To her he was a young knight-errant, the hero
of a budding maiden's shyest, sweetest, fondest fancy, and ere long
the idol of the dreams and thoughts she dared not whisper even to
herself. Paquita, with the wisdom of elder sisterhood, more than half
believed she read the younger's heart, but wisely held her peace. No
wonder the little maid had so suddenly been silenced by the
announcement at the pass that that very night she might again see the
soldier boy to whom, in the absence of all others, her heart had been
so constant. No wonder the ride forward to Moreno's was one of
thrilling excitement and shy delight and anticipation; no wonder her
reason, her very life, seemed wrecked in the tragic fate that there
befell them.

And now as he rode swiftly in pursuit Drummond was thinking over the
incidents of that delightful voyage, and marvelling at the strange
fate that had brought the Harvey girls again into his life and under
circumstances so thrilling. Never for an instant would he doubt that
before the sun could reach meridian he should overtake and rescue them
from the hands of their cowardly captors. Never would he entertain the
thought of sustained defence on part of the outlaw band. Full of high
contempt for such cattle, he argued that no sooner were they assured
that the cavalry were close at their heels than most of their number
would scatter for their lives, leaving Pasqual to his fate, and
probably abandoning the wagons and their precious contents on the
road. A sudden dash, a surprise, would insure success. The only fear
he had was that in the excitement of attack some harm might befall
those precious lives. To avert this he gave orders to be passed back
along the column to fire no shot until they had closed with the band,
and then to be most careful to aim wide of the wagons. Every man in
the little troop well knew how much was at stake, and men, all mercy
to their beasts at other times, were now plying the cruel spur.

Five, six o'clock had come and gone. The chase was still out of sight
ahead, yet every moment seemed to bring them closer upon their heels.
At every bend of the tortuous trail the leader's eye was strained to
see the dust-cloud rising ahead. But jutting point and rolling
shoulder of bluff or hill-side ever interposed. Drummond had just
glanced at his watch for perhaps the twentieth time since daybreak and
was replacing it in his pocket when an exclamation from Sergeant
Meinecke startled him.

"Look at Lee!"

The head of column, moving at the moment at a walk to rest the panting
horses, had just turned a rocky knoll and was following the trail into
a broader reach of the cañon, which now seemed opening out to the
west. Instead of keeping in the bottom as heretofore, the wagon-track
now followed a gentle ascent and disappeared over a spur four hundred
yards ahead. Here Lee had suddenly flung himself from his horse,
thrown the reins to Patterson, and, crouching behind a bowlder, was
gazing eagerly to the front, while with hat in hand he was signalling
"Slow; keep down." Up went Drummond's gauntlet in the well-known
cavalry signal "Halt." Then, bidding Meinecke dismount the men and
reset blankets and saddles, the young officer gave "Chester" rein and
was soon kneeling by the side of his trusty subordinate.

Lee said no word at all, simply pointed ahead.

And here was a sight to make a soldier's pulses bound. Not a
quarter-mile away the rocky, desolate gorge which they had been
following since dawn opened out into a wide valley, bounded at the
west by a range of rugged heights whose sides were bearded with a dark
growth of stunted pine or cedar. On each side of their path a tall,
precipitous rock stood sentry over the entrance and framed the view of
the valley beyond. For full a mile ahead the trail swept straight
away, descending gently to the valley level, and there, just pushing
forth upon the wide expanse, with dots of horsemen on flank and front
and rear, dimly seen through the hot dust-cloud rising in their wake,
were the three wagons: the foremost, with its white canvas top, was
undoubtedly the new Concord; the second, a dingy mustard-yellow, the
battered old ambulance of the paymaster; the third and last, with no
cover at all, Moreno's buck-board. It was what was left of the
notorious Morales gang, speeding with its plunder to some refuge in
the rocky range across the farther valley.

Somewhere in the few evenings Drummond had spent in the garrisons of
Lowell, Bowie, or Stoneman, he had heard mention of a mysterious
hiding-place in the Cababi Mountains whither, when pressed by
sheriffs' posses, Pasqual Morales had been wont to flee with his
chosen followers and there bid defiance to pursuit. And now the young
soldier saw at a glance that the chase was heading along a fairly well
defined track straight for a dark, frowning gorge in the mountains
some three or four miles ahead of them. If allowed to gain that refuge
it might be possible for Morales to successfully resist attack. With
quick decision Drummond turned to the men still seated in saddle.

"Dismount where you are, you two. Reset all four saddles. We mount
again here, sergeant, and we'll take the gallop as soon as the troop
comes up."

"It's the only way, I believe, sir," answered Lee, his eyes kindling,
his lips quivering with pent excitement. "Most of them will stampede,
I reckon, if we strike them in the open. But once they get among the
rocks, we'd have no chance at all."

Drummond merely nodded. Field-glasses in hand he was closely studying
the receding party, moving now at leisurely gait as though assured of
safety. His heart was beating hard, his blood was bounding in his
veins. He had had some lively brushes with the Indian foe, but no such
scrimmage as this promised to be. Never once had there been at stake
anything to compare with what lay here before his eyes. Sometimes in
boyish day-dreams he had pictured to himself adventures of this
character,--the rescue of imperilled beauty from marauding foe; but
never had he thought it possible that it would actually be his fortune
to stand first in the field, riding to the rescue of the fair
daughters of one of the oldest and most respected citizens of the
Territory. In view of their peril the paymaster's stolen funds were
not be considered. Jim Drummond hardly gave a single thought to the
recapture of the safe. So far as he could judge the forces were about
equally matched. Some saddle-horses led along after the wagons seemed
to indicate that their usual riders were, perhaps, with others of the
band, resting in the wagons themselves. Surprise now was out of the
question. He would marshal his men behind the low ridge on which he
lay, form line, then move forward at the lope. No matter how noiseless
might be the advance, or how wearied or absorbed their quarry, some
one in the outlaw gang would surely see them long before they could
come within close range. Then he felt sure that a portion at least
would stampede for the hills, and that he would not have to fight more
than ten or a dozen. His plan was at all hazards to cut out,
recapture, and hold Harvey's wagon. That, first of all; then, if
possible, the others.

And now the time had come. In eager but suppressed excitement
Meinecke and the men came trotting up the slope.

"Halt!" signalled Drummond; then "Forward into line," and presently
the lieutenant stood looking into the sun-tanned faces of less than
twenty veteran troopers, four sets of fours with two sergeants, dusty
and devil-may-care, with horses jaded, yet sniffing mischief ahead and
pricking up their ears in excitement. Drummond had been the troop
leader in scout after scout and in several lively skirmishes during
the year gone by. There was not one of his troopers whom he could not
swear by, thought he, but then the recollection of Bland's treachery
brought his teeth together with vengeful force. He found his voice a
trifle tremulous as he spoke, but his words had the brave ring the men
had learned to look for, and every one listened with bated breath.

"Our work's cut out for us here. Not more than a mile ahead now is
just the worst band of scoundrels in all the West, and in their midst
George Harvey's daughters. You all know him by reputation. They are in
the white-topped wagon, and that is the one we must and shall have.
Don't charge till I give the word. Don't waste a shot. Some of them
will scatter. Let them go! What we want is their captives." With that
he swung quickly into saddle.

"Ready now? No! don't draw pistol till you're close in on them, and
no carbines at all this time. All right. Now--steady.--Keep your
alignment. Take the pace from me. Forward!"

Up the gentle slope they rode, straining their eyes for the first
sight of the hunted quarry, opening out instinctively from the centre
so that each trooper might have fighting space. No squares of
disciplined infantry, no opposing squadrons, no fire-flashing lines
were to be met and overthrown by compact and instantaneous shock. It
was to be a _mêlée_, as each trooper well knew, in which, though
obedient to the general plan of their leader, the little detachment
would be hurled forward at the signal "Charge," and then it would be
practically a case of "every man for himself."

"I want you four fellows to stick close to me now," said Drummond,
turning in saddle and indicating the desired set with a single
gesture. "We move straight for the leading wagon. See that you don't
fire into it or near it."

And these were the last instructions as they reached the ridge, and a
hoarse murmur flew along the eager rank, a murmur that, but for
Drummond's raised and restraining hand and Sergeant Lee's prompt
"Steady there; silence!" might have burst into a cheer. And then the
leader shook loose his rein, and just touching "Chester's" glossy,
flank with the spur, bounded forward at the lope.

Out on the sandy barren, winding among the cactus plants, the weary
mule-teams with drooping heads were tugging at the traces. Bearded
men, some still with coal-blackened faces, rode drowsily alongside the
creaking wagons. In one of these, the foremost, an arm in blue flannel
suddenly thrust aside the hanging canvas curtain, and a dark, swarthy
face, grooved from ear-tip to jaw with a jagged scar, appeared at the
narrow opening.

"How much farther have we got to go, Domingo?"

"Only across this stretch, two--three miles, perhaps."

"Well, I want to know exactly. The sun is getting blazing hot and
these girls can't hold out longer. Tell Pasqual I say there is more
danger of his killing them with exhaustion than there is of their
making way with themselves. Say the little one's about dead now. Here,
take this canteen and get some fresher water out of the barrel under
the wagon."

The fellow hailed as Domingo leaned to the right, took the
canteen-strap, and then reined in his foaming broncho.

"Hold your team one minute, Jake," was the order to the driver, and,
nothing loath, the mules stopped short in their tracks. Pasqual's
ambulance was a few rods behind, and, to save time, Domingo dismounted
and, placing the canteen under the spigot, drew it full of water,
rewarded himself with a long pull, handed it up to the waiting hand
above, and swung again in the saddle just as the second ambulance
closing on the first came also to a willing halt, and the lead mules
of the buck-board, whereon lay two wounded bandits, attended by
Moreno's womenfolk, bumped their noses against the projecting boot.

"Some cool water, for God's sake!" gasped one of the prostrate men,
and a comrade rode to the leading wagon to beg a little from Harvey's
well-filled barrel. One or two men threw themselves from the saddle to
the sands for brief rest. The dust-cloud slowly settled earthwards in
their wake. Mules, horses, and men blinked sleepily, wearily. There
hung in the heavy air a dull, low rumble as of thunder in the far-off
mountains. There seemed a faint quiver and tremor of the soil. Was
there distant earthquake?

Suddenly a wild yell, a scream from Moreno's buck-board, a
half-stifled shriek from the white-covered wagon. The man in blue
leaped forth and made a mad dash for the nearest riderless horse.
Whips cracked and bit and stung. The maddened mules flew at their
collars and tore away, the wagons bounding after them, and Pasqual
Morales, thrusting forth his head to learn the cause of all the panic,
grabbed the revolver at his belt with one fierce curse.

"_Carajo!_"



VIII.

Whatever might have been his other moral attributes, Pasqual Morales
had borne a name for desperate courage that seemed justified in this
supreme moment of surprise and stampede. What he saw as he leaned out
of the bounding vehicle was certainly enough to disgust a bandit and
demoralize many a leader. Scattering like chaff before the gale his
followers were scudding out across the desert, every man for himself,
as though the very devil were in pursuit of each individual member of
the gang. Eight or ten at least, spurring, lashing their horses to the
top of their speed, were already far beyond reach of his voice. Close
at hand, however, six or seven of the fellows, desperadoes of the
first water, had unslung their Henry rifles and, blazing away for all
they were worth, showed evidence of a determination to die game.
Behind them, screaming at the tops of their shrill, strident voices,
Señora Moreno and her daughter were clinging stoutly to the iron rail
of their seats as the buck-board was whirled and dashed across the
plain. Already both the wounded men had been flung helplessly out
upon the sands, and, even as he looked, the off fore wheel struck a
stout cactus stump; flew into fragments; the tire rolled off in one
direction, and Moreno's luckless family shot, comet-like, into space
and fetched up shrieking in the midst of a plentiful crop of thorns
and spines. The husband and father, gazing upon the incident from over
his shoulder and afar, blessed the saints for their beneficence in
having landed his loved ones on soft soil instead of among the jagged
rocks across the plain. But for himself the sooner he reached the
rocks the better. A tall Gringo, who cast aside a dark-blue blouse as
he rode, stooping low over his horse's neck, seemed bent on racing the
late ranch-owner to the goal where both would be, and there was none
to dispute with them the doubtful honor. Even those who had stampeded
at the first yell of alarm were now reining back in broad, sweeping
circle, unslinging the ready rifle and pouring in a long-range fire on
the distant rank of cavalry, just bursting into the triumph of the
charge. Here, there, and everywhere across the plain little puffs of
blue-white smoke were shooting up, telling of the leaden missiles
hurled at the charging line. But on like the wind came the troopers in
blue, never pausing to fire a shot, their leader at racing speed.

Wounded though he was, Pasqual Morales was not the man to fail in the
fight. Yelling orders and curses at his driver, he succeeded in
getting him to control his frantic team just long enough to enable the
outlaw captain to tumble out. Then away they dashed again, the
stiffening body of Ramon and the weighty little safe being now sole
occupants of the interior. In the mad excitement of the first rush two
or three horses had broken loose, leaving their owners afoot, and
believing that no quarter would be the rule, these abandoned roughs
were fighting to the last, selling their lives, as they called it, as
dearly as possible. From their rifles and from others the shots rained
fast upon the troopers, but never seemed to check the charge. The rush
was glorious. Drawing their revolvers now, for they carried no sabres,
the soldiers fired as they rode down those would-be obstructers, and
two poor wretches were flattened out upon the plain when the main body
of the troop dashed by, making straight for the fleeing Concord with
the white canvas top. Drummond had not fired at all. Every thought was
concentrated on the occupants of the wagon. Every shot might be needed
when he got to them. "Chester" was running grandly. The designated
four who were to follow the lieutenant were already over a hundred
yards behind when, from the trail of the ambulance, from a little
patch of cactus, there came a flash and report, and the beautiful
horse swerved, reeled, but pushed gamely on. Noting the spot, two of
the following troopers emptied a cartridge into the clump, but left
the lurking foe to be looked after later. They were too close to the
Concord to think of anything else,--so close they could hear the cries
and pleadings of a woman's voice, the terrified scream of another, and
then, all on a sudden, "Chester" pitched heavily forward, and, even as
the wagon came to a sudden stand, the gallant steed rolled over and
over, his rider underneath him.

When Lieutenant Drummond regained his senses he found himself unable
to believe them. Conscious at first only of being terribly bruised and
shaken, he realized that he was being borne along in some wheeled
vehicle, moving with slow and decorous pace over a soft yet unbeaten
and irregular trail. Conscious of fierce white light and heat about
him on every side, he was aware of a moist, cool, dark bandage over
his eyes that prevented him from seeing. Striving to raise a hand to
sweep the blinding cloth away, he met rebellion. A sudden spasm of
pain that made him wince, the quick contraction of his features, the
low moan of distress, were answered instantly by a most surprising
wail in a sweet girlish voice.

"Oh, Fanny, see how he suffers! Can't something be done?"

And then--could he be mistaken?--soft, slender fingers were caressing
the close-cropped hair about his temples. A glow of delight and
rejoicing thrilled through his frame as he realized that the main
object of the fierce and determined pursuit was accomplished, that the
precious freight was rescued from the robber band, and that
somehow--somehow he himself was now a prisoner.

Striving to move his head, he found it softly, warmly pillowed; but as
he attempted to turn, it was held in place by two little hands, one on
each side. Then as he found his voice and faintly protested that he
was all right and wanted to look about him, another hand quickly
removed the bandage, and Fanny Harvey's lovely face, pale and framed
with much dishevelled hair, was bending anxiously over him; but a
smile of hope, even of joy, was parting the soft lips as she saw the
light of returning reason in his eyes. At this same instant, too, the
hands that supported his face were suddenly drawn away, and his pillow
became unstable. One quick glance told him the situation. The seats of
the Concord had been lifted out, blankets had been spread within; he
was lying at full length, his aching head supported in Ruth Harvey's
lap. Fanny, her elder sister, was seated facing him, but at his side.
No wonder Jim Drummond could not quite believe his senses.

It was Fanny who first recovered her self-poise. Throwing back the
hanging curtain at the side, she called aloud,--

"Mr. Wing, come to us! He's conscious."

And the next instant the slow motion of the wagon ceased, the door was
wrenched open, and there in the glowing sunshine stood the tall
sergeant whom he last had seen when scouting through Picacho Pass.

"Bravo, lieutenant! You're all right, though you must be in some pain.
Can you stand a little more? We're close to the caves now,--cool water
and cool shade not five hundred yards ahead."

"How did you get here, sergeant?" Drummond weakly questioned. "Where
are the others?"

"Followed on your trail, sir, Private Pike and I. Most of the men are
gathering up prisoners and plunder. You've made the grandest haul in
all the history of Arizona. I got up only just in time to see the
charge, and Pike's now on his way back already with the good news. We
are taking you and the ladies to the refuge in the rocks where Morales
and all his people have hid so long. Old Moreno, with a lariat around
his neck, is showing the way."

"Got him, did you? I'm glad of that. There was another,--a deserter
from my troop; did you see anything of him?"

"I haven't heard yet, sir. One thing's certain, old Pasqual is with
his hopeful brother in another if not a better world. 'Twas he that
killed poor 'Chester,' the worst loss we've met. Not a man is hit, and
by daybreak to-morrow Dr. Day from Stoneman will be here to
straighten you out, and these young ladies' father here to thank you."

"Thank you, Mr. Drummond? Ah, how can he or I ever begin to thank you
and your brave fellows half enough? I had lost all hope until that
disguised bandit suddenly leaped from the wagon, and Ruth was swooning
again, but she heard your voice before I did. 'Twas she who saw your
charge." And Fanny Harvey's lips quivered as she spoke, and the voice
that was so brave at the siege became weak and tremulous now.

Drummond closed his eyes a moment. It was all too sweet to be
believed. His right hand, to be sure, refused to move, his left stole
up and began groping back of his head.

"May I not thank my nurse?" he said. "The first thing I was conscious
of was her touch upon my forehead."

But the hands that were so eager, so active when their patient lay
unconscious, seemed to shrink from the long, brown fingers searching
blindly for them, and not one word had the maiden vouchsafed.

"I heard your voice a moment ago, Ruthie. Can't you speak to me now?"
he asked, half chiding, half laughing. "Have you forgotten your friend
Jim Drummond and the long, long talks we used to have on the
'Newbern'?"

Forgotten Jim Drummond and those long talks indeed! Forgotten her
hero, her soldier! Hardly. Yet no word would she speak.

"The little lady seems all unstrung yet, lieutenant. Miss Fanny will
have to talk for her, I fancy." And Wing's clear, handsome eyes were
raised to Miss Harvey's face as he spoke in a look that seemed to tell
how much he envied the soldier who was the object of such devoted
attention. "Shall we move ahead? The others will join us later on."

But when a few minutes later strong arms lifted the tall lieutenant
from the wagon and bore him to a blanket-covered shelter in a deep
rocky recess where the sun's rays seemed rarely to penetrate, and a
cup of clear, cool water was held to his lips, Drummond's one
available hand was uplifted in hopes of capturing the ministering
fingers. There was neither difficulty nor resistance. It was Sergeant
Wing's gauntlet, and Wing's cordial voice again accosted him.

"Glad to see you so chipper, lieutenant. Now, I have some little
knowledge of surgery. Your right arm is broken below the elbow, and
you're badly shocked and bruised. I have no doubt the surgeon will be
with us by this time to-morrow, but I can set that arm just as soon as
I have looked the ground over and disposed of ourselves and our
prisoners to the best advantage."

"How many prisoners have we?" asked Drummond.

"Well, as yet, only Moreno and his interesting family and two of their
gang, who are very badly wounded. Some of the others were neither
prompt nor explicit about surrendering, and the men seem to have been
a trifle impatient in one or two cases. You should hear the old woman
protesting to Miss Harvey her innocence and her husband's spotless
character. You understand Spanish, do you not?"

"No, only the smattering we pick up at the Point and what 'broncho'
Spanish I have added to it out here. Where did you learn it, sergeant?
They tell me you speak it like a native."

Wing's sunburned face--a fine, clear-cut, and manly one it was--seemed
to grow a shade or two redder.

"Oh, I have spoken it many years. My boyhood was spent on the Pacific
slope. Pardon me, sir, I want to look more carefully after your
injuries now."

"But the ladies, where are they?" asked Drummond, uneasily.

"Occupying the sanctum sanctorum, the innermost shrine among the
rocks. This is a wonderful spot, sir. We might eventually have starved
these people out if once they got here, but ten determined soldiers
could hold it against ten hundred. I've as yet had only a glance, but
the Morenos have been here before, it is most evident, for the
señorita herself showed Miss Harvey into the cave reserved for the
women. There they have cool water, cool and fresh air, and complete
shelter."

And now, as with experienced hands the sergeant stripped off
Drummond's hunting-shirt and carefully exposed the bruised and
lacerated arm and shoulder, he plied his patient with questions as to
whether he felt any internal pain or soreness. "How a man could be
flattened out and rolled over by such a weight and not be mashed into
a jelly is what I can't understand. You're about as elastic as ivory,
lieutenant, and you have no spare flesh about you either. That and the
good luck of the cavalryman saved you from worse fate. You've got a
battered head, a broken arm, and had the breath knocked out of you,
and that's about all. But we'll have you on your feet by the time the
fellows come from Stoneman."

"But how about the young ladies?" again asked Drummond, wearily and
anxiously, for his head was still heavy and painful and his anxiety
great. He was weak, too, from the shock. "Won't they suffer meantime?"

"Well, they might,--at least Miss Ruth, the younger, might in the
reaction after their fearful experience; but I'm something of a
doctor, as I said, and I shall be able to prevent all that."

"How?"

"Well, by giving her something to do. Just as soon as they've had a
chance to rest, both young ladies will be put on duty. Miss Ruth is to
nurse you."

"Suppose she doesn't want to?"

"The case isn't supposable, lieutenant. She would have gone into
hysterics this morning, I think, had she not been detailed, as a
preventive, to hold your head. At all events, she quieted down the
instant she was told by her sister to climb into the wagon again and
sit still as a mouse and see that your face was kept cool and moist
and shaded from the glare." And now Sergeant Wing's lips were
twitching with merriment, and Drummond, hardly knowing how to account
for his embarrassment, asked no more. His amateur surgeon, however,
chatted blithely on.

"There's an abundant store of provisions here, dried meat, frijoles,
chile, chocolate.--You shall have a cup in a moment.--There's
ammunition in plenty. There's even a keg of mescal, which, saving your
presence, sir, as I am temporary commander, shall be hidden before the
men begin coming in with their prisoners. There's barley in abundance
for horses and mules; water to drink and water to bathe in. We could
hardly be better off anywhere."

Drummond looked curiously about him, so far as was possible without
moving his pain-stricken head. He was lying in a deep recess in some
dark and rocky cañon whose sides were vertical walls. Tumbling down
from the wooded heights above--rare sight in Arizona--a little brook
of clear, sparkling water came brawling and plashing over its stony
bed at his feet and went on down the gorge to its opening on the sandy
plain. There, presumably, it burrowed into the bosom of the earth, for
no vestige of running stream could the Cababi Valley show. The walls
about him were in places grimy with the smoke of cook fires. Overhead,
not fifty feet away, a gnarled and stunted little cedar jutted out
from some crevice in the rocks and stood at the edge of the cliff. A
soldier was clinging to it with one hand and pointing out towards the
east with the other. Drummond recognized the voice as that of one of
his own troop when the man called out,--

"Two of our fellers are coming with the old yellow ambulance,
sergeant; but I can't see the others."

"All right, Patterson. Try to see where the rest have gone and what
they're doing. I'll send the glass up to you presently. What I'm
afraid of, lieutenant, is that in their rage over Donovan's death, and
Mullan's, and all the devil's work done there at Moreno's, and your
mishap, too, the men have become uncontrollable, and will never let up
on the pursuit until they have killed the last one of that gang. These
two who are coming in with the bodies of the Morales brothers
probably have worn-out horses, or perhaps Lee ordered them to stay and
guard the safe. The last I saw of any of the gang they were
disappearing over the desert to the south, striking for Sonora Pass."

"I wonder they didn't all come in here," said Drummond.

"Well, hardly that, lieutenant. They knew they would be followed here,
penned up, where their capture would only be a question of time. A
hundred cavalrymen would be around them in a very few hours, and we
could send to Lowell for those old mountain howitzers and just
leisurely shell them out. Then, when they surrendered,--as they'd have
to,--the civil authorities would immediately step in and claim
jurisdiction, claim the prisoners, too. We'd simply have to turn them
over to justice as a matter of course, and you know, and they know,
that the only judge apt to sit on their case would be that of our
eminent frontiersman and fellow-citizen,--Lynch. They are scattering
like Apaches through the mountains and will reassemble and count noses
later on. Thanks to you and 'C' troop, they have lost all they had
gained and their leaders besides. No, sir, they won't stop this side
of the Mexican line."

"There's one, Wing, I hope to heaven they'll never lose sight of till
they run him down."

"Who's that, sir?"

"The fellow who was enlisted in 'C' troop last winter at Tucson and
who deserted last night to join this gang. He drove for the stage
company last year and was discharged. He gave his name as Bland."

"Bland! Henry Bland!" exclaimed Sergeant Wing, leaping to his feet in
uncontrollable excitement. "Do you mean it, sir? Had he enlisted? Do
you mean that he was the man Miss Harvey spoke of,--the disguised
soldier she called him?"

And Drummond, amazed at Wing's emotion, gazed up to see the sergeant's
features working almost convulsively, his face paling, his eyes full
of intense anxiety.

"Why, I cannot doubt it, sergeant. He ran away from us on the
discovery of Donovan's body and rode straight for Moreno's, beating us
there probably by an hour or so, for no one happened to miss him."

Wing's hands were raised on high in a gesture almost tragic, then
dropped helplessly by his side. With a stifled groan the tall soldier
turned abruptly away and went striding towards the opening of the
cañon, leaving Drummond wondering and perplexed.

When, quarter of an hour later, the sergeant returned, bringing with
him some improvised splints and bandages, and Drummond believed it his
duty to make inquiry as to whether he knew Bland and what was the
cause of his excitement, Wing turned his grave, troubled face and
looked his young superior straight in the eye.

"Mr. Drummond, I have known that man for good and for ill many a long
year. If our fellows have killed him, let his crimes die with him. If
he is brought in alive,--brought to trial,--I may have to speak, but
not now, sir. Bear with me, lieutenant,--not now."

Was Drummond dreaming? He could have declared that tears were starting
in the sergeant's eyes as he turned hastily away, unable for the
moment to continue the setting and bandaging of the broken arm.

"Take your own time, Wing," said the young officer, gently. "Speak or
keep silent as you will. You have earned the right." And the sergeant
mutely thanked him.

The primitive surgery of the frontier took little time, and, with his
arm comfortably and closely slung, Drummond lay impatient for the
coming of his men, impatient perhaps to hear a softer voice, to feel
again the light touch of slender fingers, yet in his weakness and
exhaustion dropping slowly off to sleep. All efforts to keep awake
proved vain. His heavy eyelids closed, and presently he was in
dreamland.

Meantime Sergeant Wing had busied himself in many a way. First he had
gone to loosen old Moreno's bonds,--enough, at least, to relieve his
pain yet hold him securely. The soldier sitting drowsily on the rock
beside the prisoner gladly accepted permission to put aside his
carbine and go to sleep.

"I'll watch him, Mat," said Wing. "You lie down there, Moreno, and see
to it that you make no effort to slip a knot while I'm at work here.
How far away is that ambulance now, Patterson?" he called to the man
on lookout.

"Halted down at the edge of the plain, sergeant. That's where they
struck water first, and I reckon they couldn't make up their minds to
come farther. I can make out one or two of the fellows coming back far
down the desert to the south. Horses played out probably."

"Anything to be seen across the valley along the trail we came?"

"Nothing, sir; not a puff of dust. But here's something I don't
understand--off here in the range south of us--well up towards the
top."

"What's that?" asked Wing, dropping the coil of lariat he held in his
hand and looking quickly up.

"Well, it's more like signal-smoke than anything else. Just exactly
such smoke as we have seen in the Chiricahua and Catarinas and ----
Well, just come up here with your field-glass, if you can, sergeant. I
believe there's an answer to it way down to the southeast,--t'other
side of the valley."

In an instant Wing turned. "Sorry for you, Señor Moreno," he grimly
muttered. "But as only two men are with me and both are otherwise
engaged, I'll have to secure you temporarily. It isn't pleasant, but
it serves you right."

In vain the Mexican pleaded and protested. A rawhide _riata_ was wound
and looped about him in a few scientific turns and he was left
reclining against the rock, conquered yet inwardly raging, while Wing
stole in to Drummond's rude couch, slipped the field-glass from its
case, then, with a longing look into the darker depths beyond, and a
moment's hesitation, he stepped to the projecting rock that seemed to
divide the cave into two apartments and called in lower tone, "Miss
Harvey."

"Here, Mr. Wing. What is wanted?"

And at the instant, prompt, alert, even smiling, Fanny Harvey appeared
before him. The pallor was gone. The dishevelled hair had been twisted
into shape. Food, rest, relief from dread and misery, and that little
appreciated beautifier, fresh water, had wrought their transformation
here. Wing's handsome eyes glistened as he removed his hat.

"I have to go up to that point yonder a few minutes, leaving old
Moreno alone, bound, to be sure, but his wife or daughter might slip
out and release him. Will you have the goodness--to take this--and
shoot him if they should make the attempt?" And he handed her his
pistol.

"I'll see to it that no one interferes with him, Mr. Wing. What has
happened? Are the others coming?" And she took the revolver, balancing
it in her accustomed and practised hand. The admiration deepened in
Wing's gaze.

"I see you handle a pistol as though you had used one. You're a true
frontiersman's daughter. I'll have to be away for a few minutes. I'm
going up to look from our rock above there. Some of our men, they say,
are in sight slowly returning, and the paymaster's ambulance is only a
mile away, probably waiting for the rest of the party. How is Miss
Ruth?"

"Sleeping like a baby, bless her heart."

"Well, I have promised Mr. Drummond that she should be his nurse. I
hope you will consent. He is sleeping, too. No fever yet, I am
thankful to say."

"Ruth will be ready, and so will I, to help in any way we can. But
when are you to have a rest, may I ask?"

"O-oh--by and by. Lee and the others must have theirs first. They have
been in saddle much longer and farther than I. When is Miss Harvey to
have _her_ rest, may _I_ ask?"

"We-l-l, I don't know. I'll say, 'perhaps by and by' too. Look! that
man is calling you."

Whirling about, Wing saw his sentinel beckoning, and in a moment he
went clambering up the rocky trail, active as a mountain Apache.

"What is it, Patterson?"

"It _is_ signal-smoke, sir, across the valley. That ain't more than
eight miles away, and down here in the range ain't more than six. What
Indians could be out here, I would like to know? Do they grow
everywhere in this infernal country?"

Wing took his glasses and long and earnestly studied the bluish-white
clouds rising in puffs, faint and barely distinguishable in the
opposite heights, then fixed his gaze upon the filmy column soaring up
among the dark pines at the heart of the range to the southward. His
face grew graver every minute.

"Stay here and watch," he said. "I must go and get those other men in
with the ambulance. Of course if it is Apaches, they've sighted that
party and the few men straggling back, and those signals mean, 'close
on them.' I'll send the team right in and then ride and hurry the
other fellows out."

The sun was retiring behind the Cababi Range as Wing went leaping down
the trail.

"Sorry for you, Dick, old boy," he said to his horse, who was drowsing
in the shade. "More work for us both now."

Never stopping to saddle, he leaped upon the bare, brown back and went
clattering down the cañon.

"Keep your eye on Moreno, there!" he shouted up to the lookout. "If he
tries to slip away, shoot him."

Ten minutes' brisk gallop through the windings of the gorge brought
him to the edge of the sandy plain. There, under a little clump of
willows, was the ambulance, its mules unhitched and hoppled securely,
nibbling placidly at such scant herbage as they could find. The horses
of the two guards, unsaddled, were drooping in the shade, too tired to
hunt for anything to eat.

"Saddle up, men. Hitch in and get that team to the head of the cañon,
lively now," was his brief order to the sleepy trooper who greeted
him, carbine in hand.

"What's up, sergeant?" queried another, springing out from the
willows. "Lee told us to wait here, or wherever we could find shade
and water."

"Wait? How long and what for?"

"Blessed if I know how long. None of 'em ain't in sight from here
coming back; but 'what for' is easy to answer. The paymaster's chest."

"The paymaster's chest?" cried Wing. "Why, isn't that here in the
ambulance?"

"Not a hinge of it. Those Greasers swapped it onto an _apparejo_ while
we were all running for Harvey's daughters. The money's half-way to
Sonora by this time."



IX.


Peaceful as was his rest, Drummond slept only an hour or so. For
months he had lived in the open air, "on the war-path" said his
captain, a veteran who had won his spurs twice over in the war of the
rebellion, and declared himself quite ready to take his ease now and
let the youngsters see for themselves the hollowness of military
glory. Weariness and physical exhaustion had lent their claims, and
despite bruises and many a pang, despite the realization of the
presence of the fair girls whom his dash and energy had rescued from
robber hands, the young fellow had dozed away into dreamland. Why not?
The object of his mission was accomplished. Fanny and Ruth Harvey were
safe. All that was left for the party to do now was rest in quiet
until another morn, then it would be quite possible to start on the
return without waiting for the coming of their friends. Before sunset
his men would be reassembled; they could have a long night's sleep,
and with the rising of the morrow's sun, convoying their three wagons
and their recaptured treasures, the little detachment would take the
back track for the Tucson road, confident of meeting "old Harvey"
and, probably, a doctor on the way. He himself, though most in need of
surgical attention when they reached the caves, had such confidence in
the skill of Sergeant Wing as to feel that his arm was set as
perfectly as could be done by almost any other practitioner, and
before dropping off to sleep had quite determined that he would make
the morning march in saddle.

Still, he could not sleep for any great length of time. The instinct
of vigilance and the sense of responsibility would not leave him. In
his half-dreaming, half-waking state, he once thought he heard a light
foot-fall, and presently as he dozed with eyelids shut there came a
soft touch upon his temple. Lifting his hand he seized that of his
visitor,--Fanny Harvey.

"Why are you not resting?" he asked, "and where is Ruth?"

"Ruth is sleeping, as we hoped you might be. 'Tired Nature's sweet
restorer' is all you need, Mr. Drummond, yet you do not seem to have
had more than a cat nap. Twice I have stolen in here to see you, and
then, though I was fearful of waking you, you slept peacefully through
it all."

"Well, I must have slept a couple of hours anyway, and I slept soundly
until within the last few minutes. Have none of the men got back yet,
Miss Harvey? Do you know what time it is? I suppose Wing is
sleeping."

"Mr. Wing ought to be sleeping, but he isn't. The sentry--Patterson I
think they call him--summoned him up to the lookout there in the
rocks, oh, about an hour ago, and when the sergeant came back he
mounted his horse and rode away down the cañon. He said there was
something requiring his attention. But you are to drink this chocolate
and lie still."

Drummond slowly strove to rise. He was too anxious, too nervous, to
remain where he was.

"And none of them have returned yet?" he asked. "I cannot understand
that. No, please do not strive to detain me here. I'm perfectly able
to be up and about, and if Wing is gone it's my business to look after
things."

Over among the rocks across the narrow cañon the first object to meet
his gaze as he arose was Moreno, reclining there bound and helpless,
while near at hand a soldier had thrown himself on his saddle blanket
and was sound asleep. The plash of the waters in the brook, dancing
and tumbling down the chasm, made sweet, drowsing music for his ears,
a lulling, soothing sound that explained perhaps the deep slumber of
his trooper friend.

"I heard Mr. Wing tell that man to lie down and sleep," said Miss
Harvey, as the young officer's eyes seemed to darken with menace at
the sight of a sentry sleeping on guard. "Moreno is securely tied, and
both Patterson up there and I here are now his keepers. The señora and
her daughter are in the other cave, forbidden to go near him."

Glancing up at the stunted cedar where Patterson stood faithful to his
trust, Drummond saw that he was peering steadily southward through the
black field-glasses.

"What do you see, Patterson?" he hailed. "Where is Wing? Any of the
men coming back?"

"Wing has gone on down the valley, sir. Some of our fellows, two or
three only, were coming back, but they didn't come fast enough to suit
him. The ambulance will be here in a minute or two,--it's just below
us down the cañon now."

Indeed, almost at the moment the click of iron-shod hoofs was heard,
and the dejected mule-team came into view around a jutting point, the
dingy yellow ambulance jolting after them, one soldier in the driver's
seat handling the reins, the other riding behind and leading his
comrade's horse.

"Come up here to the mouth of the cave, Merrill," called the
lieutenant. "You can unhitch and unharness just beyond; but I want
that safe unloaded and put in here."

"The safe's gone, sir."

"What?"

"The safe's gone, sir. We never got it. That's what took Sergeant Wing
off down the valley, I reckon. I supposed you knew it, sir, and him,
too, but he didn't. Those Morales fellows got away with it on
burro-back while we were chasing the white wagon."

For a moment Drummond stood astounded.

"Man alive!" he at last exclaimed, "why was I not told of this? Get me
a horse at once, Walsh," he ordered. "I'll take Patterson's. You two
remain here and see that that old scoundrel don't get loose,--Moreno
there,--and that no harm befall the ladies. I'll ride down after
Wing."

"Oh, Mr. Drummond, you must not think of going," exclaimed Miss
Harvey. "You're far too seriously hurt, far too weak, to attempt such
a thing. Please lie down again. Surely Mr. Wing will do all that any
man could do to recover the safe. All the others are in pursuit. They
must have overtaken them by this time. Come; I am doctor now that he
is away. Obey me and lie still."

Drummond's one available hand found itself clasped by warm, slender
fingers. He would have drawn it away and striven to carry out his
design, but a glance at his two troopers told him that they plainly
and earnestly advocated Miss Harvey's view of the case. He was in no
condition to make the attempt. And at the moment, too, even as he
strove to release his hand, another voice was heard, almost imploring.

"Oh, don't let him go, Fan; don't let him try to ride!"

And turning suddenly at the sound, Mr. Drummond found Ruth Harvey
standing close behind her sister, her eyes suffused, her cheeks
blushing red. It was the first time he had seen her to speak to since
they landed at the old wharf at San Francisco a year gone by, and for
the moment he forgot the safe, the funds, the crippled arm, the
bandaged head, and every other item that should have occupied his
thoughts.

"Why, Ruthie, is this you? How you have grown!"

And then the imprisoned hand was released only to be transferred to
the clasp and keeping of another. In her fear that her knight, her
soldier, would leave them, and, wounded though he was, insist on
attempting to follow his men in their pursuit, the shyness of
maidenhood was forgotten. Ruth had seized and clasped the long, brown
fingers, and Drummond forgot for the moment all thought of quitting
her presence for the field.

And then having--as she supposed--won her point, and having caught the
new light in his admiring eyes, it became necessary to struggle for
the release of the hand she had so unhesitatingly used to detain him.
This might have proved a difficult matter, judging from the expression
in Drummond's face, but for a sudden hail from Patterson.

"Can the lieutenant come up here a moment? There's something going on
down there I can't understand."

Old Moreno, whose bonds could not restrain his shifting, glittering
eyes, glanced quickly upward. Then, as he caught a menacing look in
the sunburned face of the Irish trooper Walsh, he became as suddenly
oblivious to all earthly matters beyond the pale of his own physical
woes. And now it was Ruth's hand that would retain its clasp and
Drummond's that was again struggling for release. In a moment the
lieutenant stood under Patterson's perch.

"What did you see? What was it like? How far away?"

"Six or seven miles, sir. The valley is broad and open, and three of
our fellows were riding slowly back on the west side, while Wing was
galloping as though to meet them, and when they weren't more than a
mile apart Wing's horse went down,--looks no bigger than a black
speck,--and the other three sheered off away from the rocks on this
side and seemed to be scattering apart."

The words were low spoken so as to reach only his ear. Now it was no
easy scramble for a man in Drummond's condition to make, but it took
him only a little time to clamber to Patterson's side.

"There's something back of all this, and you know it, Patterson. What
Apache sign have you seen?"

"Smoke, sir, on both sides. But we agreed, the sergeant and I, that
the young ladies mustn't be alarmed nor you aroused. Then he rode away
to hurry in any of our fellows who were in sight and warn them to keep
out from the rocks. What I'm afraid of is that they've been ambushed,
or at least that the Indians have ambushed him. His horse is down, and
those others you see are away out on the plain now. They're working
around towards the horse as though he were lying behind it, and they
appear to be firing mounted."

What was Drummond to do? To leave his charges here, unprotected, was
out of the question. Fail to go, or send, to Wing's relief he could
not. Decide he must and decide quickly.

"Patterson, that party of Apaches can't be over a dozen strong or they
would have rushed out of their cover by this time, yet they are too
strong and too securely posted to be driven by that little squad,
especially if Wing is wounded. I can't shoot now, but I can ride and
direct. Every man who can shoot may be needed here. You have four now
and can stand off forty Apaches--Tonto or Chiricahua--in such a
position as this, so I leave you in charge. You have everything to
help you stand a siege. Now see to it that the ladies are kept well
under cover, and I'll hurry back with Walsh and what men I can find."

Then down he scrambled, giving one look at Moreno and his sleeping
guardian as he passed, then gave a low-toned order to Walsh.

"Saddle your horse again and ride just to the other side of that rock
yonder and wait for me."

Well he understood that it would be impossible for him to ride away
without Fanny Harvey's knowing that something of a serious nature was
impending, and that he could not get away at all without their knowing
it. What he desired was to conceal from them that there was any danger
from Apaches.

Just as he expected, both girls were eagerly awaiting him at the
entrance to the cave. His revolvers were in there beside the rude
couch on which he had slept so peacefully.

"Now are you ready to return to hospital and proper subjection?" asked
Miss Harvey, laughingly. "It is high time. What could have tempted you
to climb to that high point?"

"Why, it's the first chance I've had of a look around," was the
answer. "This is an awfully strong spot for a place of refuge. You are
safe here, safer than anywhere between Yuma and Tucson, now that the
former possessors are scattered. But did you hear what took Wing off?"

"No, he didn't stop to explain matters. He simply dashed away without
even a saddle. 'Something I must look after,' was all he vouchsafed to
say."

"Well, the men just in tell me the paymaster's safe was spirited off.
Confound that little green box of greenbacks! Some shrewd packer among
Morales's people whisked it out of the wagon and onto a _burro_, and
now we are all keen to get it back. Of course I can't sleep again
until we know. Some of our people are coming slowly up the valley and
Wing went on down to meet them."

But all the time he talked so airily with the elder sister, Ruth stood
watching him with suspicious eyes.

"Mr. Drummond, please do not go," she broke forth. "You have no right
to--now." And James, the dissembler, found himself trapped.

"Go I must, Ruthie," he said, with sudden change of manner. "I know
you will not blame me or detain when I tell you, as I feel forced to
tell you now, that Sergeant Wing is hurt. His horse has fallen with
him far out on the desert. I'll be back and very soon."

Then with sudden impulsive movement he bent, kissed her forehead, and
turned as suddenly away.

When the sisters looked into each other's eyes a moment later one
face was blushing like the dawn, the other was pallid with a new and
deep anxiety.

And now we, too, must follow Wing. He was a total stranger, it is to
be remembered, to the regiment when, after its years of battling in
the Army of the Potomac, it was sent into exile on the far Pacific
coast and speedily lost to sight in the deserts of Arizona. The type
of non-commissioned officer most familiar to the rank and file as well
as to their superiors was the old-fashioned "plains raised,"
"discipplin furst and rayson aftherwards" class of which Feeny was so
prominent an exponent. Brave to rashness and faithful to the very
death, they had reason to look for respect and appreciation. They were
men whose only education was that picked up in the camps and campaigns
of the famous old regiments to which, when mere recruits, they had
been assigned. They were invaluable in the army, and would have been
utterly misjudged and out of their element anywhere else. That "book
learning" and soldiering could ever go hand in hand no man in the old
dragoons would ever have believed for an instant. Such scholars as had
drifted into the ranks were, as a rule, irreclaimable drunkards, lost
to any chance of redemption at home, and only tolerated in the service
in the rough old days because of their meek and uncomplaining
performance of long hours of extra duty in the troop or regimental
offices when, their whiskey and their money alike exhausted, they
humbly went back to their desks, asking only to live in the hope of
another drunk. Hundreds of the old dragoons could barely sign their
names, many could only touch the pen when called upon to make "his (X)
mark." "Another busted clerk" was the general expression when the
young Californian came forward to enlist. Yet he was the picture of
clear-eyed, athletic manhood, was accepted with much hesitancy by the
officers and undoubted suspicion by the men, yet speedily proved a
splendid horseman, scout, shot, and, as was the final admission,
"all-round trooper," despite the fact that he was well educated and
spoke Spanish like a native. Still, such was the prevailing faith, as
it ever is among veteran soldiers, that the old style was the best, it
was long before he won promotion. No one who has not known both can
begin to imagine the difference between the army of a quarter-century
ago and the army of to-day. Just as Feeny was a resolute specimen of
the old, so was Wing a pioneer of his class in the new. At the moment
when the latter struck spurs to the wearied flanks of poor Dick and
called on him for one more effort, the stalwart and handsome sergeant
sped away on the path of duty, confident of the fact that by this time
every man in his own troop and every soldier who knew him at all would
stake his last dollar on "Bob" Wing's tackling the problem before him
as fearlessly and intelligently as any veteran in the regiment.

Having ordered the ambulance up the gorge, he himself spurred away to
gather in all stragglers within reach, so as to reinforce the little
garrison at the caves in the event of attack from the Apaches. To his
practised eye no vestige of doubt remained as to the character and
purpose of the signal-smokes. Not a moment was to be lost. Within that
very hour, perhaps, unseen Indians would come skulking, spying,
"snaking" upon their refuge, would be able, infallibly, to determine
the number and character of its occupants, and, if their own force
were considerable and that of the garrison weak, God alone could help
those innocent women.

When last noted the westward signal was puffing slowly up into the
cloudless sky from a point in the range perhaps six miles below
Patterson's station in the rocks. The three wearied troopers dragging
slowly back from the chase could be seen coming up the valley probably
four miles away, some distance, therefore, ahead of the supposed
position of the foe. Wing well knew with what goat-like agility the
mountain Indians could speed along from rock to rock and still keep
under cover, and every man who had served a month in Arizona could
have predicted that if Indians in any force were within a day's march
of those three stragglers ambush and death would be their fate,
perhaps even when within view of their longed-for goal. That they had
not seen the sign, that they were ignorant of the possible presence of
Apaches in the range, was manifest simply because they rode close
along under the foot-hills, often over the bowlder-strown outskirt of
the _falda_, and, though still far from them, such was Wing's anxiety
for their safety that he rode furiously along, signalling with his
left hand as though to say "Keep out! Keep to your right! Don't go so
close to the rocks!"

In this way, urging Dick to his speed and never thinking of his own
safety, intent only on saving his comrades from possible death,
believing, too, that no Apache could yet have worked his way so far up
the range, Wing was riding, straight as the crow flies, from the
little oasis at the mouth of the cañon towards the ambling laggards to
the south. His course led him along within a hundred yards of many a
bowlder or "_suwarrow_," though his path itself was unobstructed. The
sun had gone westering and he was in the shadow. Presently, however,
as Dick panted painfully, heavily, up a very gentle slope and the
sergeant came upon the low crest of a mound-like upheaval, he saw some
four hundred yards ahead a broad bay of sunlight stretching in from
the glaring sea to the east, and, glancing to his right, noted that
there was a depression in the range,--something like a broad cleft in
the mountains, possibly a pass through to the broader desert on the
other side. He gave it little thought, however. There, only a mile or
so away now, came his fellow-troopers, two in front, another lagging
some distance behind, riding sleepily towards him and dangerously
close to a number of sheltering rocks. Intent only on them and still
wishing to attract their attention, he swung his broad-brimmed hat,
waving it off to the left, but with no apparent result. Confound them!
Were they sound asleep? Could they never be made to see? Poor Dick was
able now only to strike a feeble canter, so utterly was he used up,
and just when Wing, looking only to the front, was thinking that he
might as well discontinue the spur and let his poor horse rest, they
labored forth from the sheltering shade full upon the tawny, sunlit
sand. Then, while the sergeant's eyes were temporarily blinded by the
glare, there came from the rocks to his right a sudden flash and
report. He felt at the same instant a stinging pang in the leg. He had
just time to grasp his own carbine and to attempt to swing off when
the second shot echoed loudly from the rocks. He felt poor Dick start
and swerve; he felt him going headlong, and the next thing he knew he
was vainly striving to peer into the face of the evening sun from over
the quivering body of his faithful friend, unable for the moment to
see the faintest sign of an enemy, and then the blood came welling
through the little hole in his worn cavalry trousers, midway between
the hip-bone and the knee, and he knew he had received a serious,
perhaps a desperate wound.

For the moment, therefore, he could do nothing more but look for
succor. A glance down the desert told him his fellows were at last
rudely awakened. True to the practice of the craft, the instant fire
was opened from the rocks each man had put spurs to his horse and
dashed away to a safer distance with such speed as was possible with
their jaded mounts, each trooper warily scanning the dark line of the
foot-hills in search of the foe and striving as he rode to unfasten
the flap that held his carbine, in the fashion of the day, athwart the
pommel of his saddle; and now, circling farther out upon the plain, in
wide sweep, with carbines advanced, they were hastening to the succor
of their comrade. Presently one of their number suddenly drew rein,
halted his startled "broncho," aimed to the left of the horse's head
and fired, then, cramming a cartridge into the chamber, came riding
farther. The others, too, followed suit, shooting at some object
apparently among the rocks in front of the sergeant's position. One of
the men threw himself from his saddle, and kneeling on the sands drove
two or three shots at long range. Eager to add his own fire to
theirs, Wing pulled his hat-brim over his eyes, threw forward the
barrel over the now stilled carcass of poor Dick, and peered eagerly
up the ravine in search of some foe at whom to aim. Blindly he
searched for dusky Apache skulking from rock to rock; there was no
moving thing in sight. But what was this,--this object that suddenly
shot out from behind a little ledge and, turning sharply to the left,
went clattering into the depths of a dark and frowning gorge? Could he
believe his eyes? Did the Chiricahuas, then, have horses and wear
trooper hats? Bending low over his steed and spurring him to the
uttermost exertion, a tall, even soldierly, form had darted one
instant into view and then gone thundering out of sight. Up to this
moment Wing never had lost full control of his faculties. Now his
brain reeled. Before his eyes rose a dense cloud of mist rushing forth
from the mountain-side. Bowlders, near at hand, took to waltzing
solemnly with their neighbors, and when at last the foremost trooper
flung himself from his horse and crept to the sergeant's side, while
his comrades rode on, keeping vigilant watch against the appearance of
other foe, Sergeant Wing was found lying beside his dead horse: he had
swooned utterly away.

By and by, with anxious face and bandaged head and arm, Lieutenant
Drummond came galloping down; Wing was then submitting to the rude
bandaging of his leg and lying limp and weak, his head resting on
Dick's stiffening shoulder. But Wing's eyes were covered by his
gauntleted hand; he never looked up at his young commander, though he
heard his anxious queries.

"Is he much hurt? Were there many of them?"

"Shot through the leg here, sir," answered the sturdy corporal, "and
was in a dead faint when we got to him. I don't know how many there
was of them, lieutenant; they skipped off the moment we opened fire."

"They couldn't have seen us coming, lieutenant," eagerly spoke a young
recruit. "They must have thought the sergeant was alone, for when we
charged they just lit out for all they were worth, didn't they, Mike?"
he eagerly asked his comrade, an older trooper.

"Oh, shut up, Billy! There's nothing an Apache doesn't see, but we
were too far off to tell how many there was. I only saw one as he lept
away. Shure the sergeant was nearer,--he could have seen."

"Sergeant Wing, it is I, Lieutenant Drummond. Look up a moment if you
can. You were close to them, how many did you see?"

"How many Indians, sir?" asked Wing, faintly.

"Yes, how many?"

A pause. Then at last,--

"I didn't see one, sir."



X.


Another day had dawned and another patient was added to Miss Harvey's
hospital list at the caves. The original plan of starting on the
return soon after daybreak had now to be abandoned, as Drummond
explained, because here was a man who could not stand the journey.
Surely there would not be many hours before the relief party from
Stoneman, following their trail, would come speeding to the rescue,
bringing to the wounded the needed surgical skill and attention,
bringing to the Harvey girls their devoted father. The only question
in the young lieutenant's mind as the sun rose, a burning, dazzling
disk over the distant mountains to the east, was, which will be first
to reach us, friends or foes?

Wearied and shattered though he was and replete as the night had been
with anxiety and vigil, Drummond climbed the goat-track that led to
the sentry's perch feeling full of hope and pluck and fight. He and
his men had divided the night into watches, one being awake and astir,
not even permitting himself to sit a moment, while the others slept.
The fact that he was able to send back to the caves, have an
ambulance hitched in and driven down to where Wing lay wounded, and to
bear him slowly, carefully, back to shelter, reaching the caves
without further molestation before darkness set in, had served to
convince the young commander that he could count on reasonable
security for the night. Unless they know their prey to be puny and
well-nigh defenceless, Apaches make no assault in the darkness, and
so, with the coming of the dawn, he had about him fit for service a
squad of seven troopers, most of them seasoned mountain fighters. His
main anxiety now was for Wing, whose wound was severe, the bullet
having gone clear through, just grazing the bone, and who, despite the
fact that Fanny Harvey early in the night had every now and then crept
noiselessly in to cool his fevered head, seemed strangely affected
mentally, seemed unnaturally flighty and wandering, seemed oppressed
or excited alternately in a way that baffled Drummond completely, for
no explanation was plausible. Two or three times during the night he
had been heard moaning, and yet the moment Drummond or, as once
happened, Miss Harvey hastened to his side, he declared it was
nothing. "I must have been dozing and imagined the pain was greater
than it was." Awake and conscious, so stout a soldier as he would be
the last to give way to childish exhibition of suffering, yet twice
Drummond knew him to be awake despite his protestation of dozing, and
he did not at all like it that Wing should bury his face in his arms,
hiding it from all. What could have occurred to change this buoyant,
joyous, high-spirited trooper all on a sudden into a sighing, moaning,
womanish fellow? Surely not a wound of which, however painful, any
soldier might be proud.

Somewhere along towards four o'clock, when it was again Patterson's
watch and Drummond arose from his blanket after a refreshing sleep of
nearly two hours and he and his faithful sentry were standing just
outside the mouth of the cave, they distinctly heard the same moan of
distress.

"Is there nothing we can do to ease the sergeant, sir?" whispered
Patterson. "This makes the second time I have heard him groaning, and
it's so unlike him."

"We have no opiates, and I doubt if he would use one if we had. He
declares there is no intense pain."

"Well, first off, sir, I thought he was dreaming, but he was wide
awake, and Miss Harvey came in only a moment after I got to him. Could
those devils poison a bullet as they do their arrows, and could that
make him go into fever so soon?"

"I hardly think so; but why did you say dreaming?"

"Because once it was 'mother' he called, and again--just now--I
thought he said mother."

The lieutenant turned, looking straight at his soldierly subordinate.

"By Jove! Patterson, so did I."

There was a little stir across the cañon. Moreno was edging about
uneasily and beginning to mutter blasphemy at his bonds.

"That fellow begged very hard to be moved down into that wolf-hole of
a place where the Mexican women are, lieutenant, with those two
bunged-up bandits to take care of. Nice time we'd have, sir, if the
three of them was able to move. The boys'd make short work of them
now, the way they're feeling. I went in and took a look at those two
fellows. One of 'em is a goner, sure, but they're dead game, both of
'em. Neither one has a word to say."

"No," answered Drummond, "they refused to give their names to
me,--said it was no earthly consequence what name we put over their
graves, the right set of fellows would be along after a while and do
them all the honor they cared for. How were the Moreno women
behaving?"

"The girl was asleep, I should judge, sir. The old hag was rocking to
and fro, crooning to herself until one of the two--the live one, I
should call him--hurled a curse at her in Spanish and told her to dry
up or he'd kill her. All a bluff, for he can't move a peg."

"Watch them well, Patterson, all the same. Hush!"

Again from within the deep shelter of the rocky cave came the low moan
of anguish,--

"Mother! mother! if you knew--"

"Here, Patterson, I can't stand this. I'm going in to him." And,
picking up the dim lantern which he had taken from the Harvey wagon,
Drummond stole in on tiptoe and knelt again beside his wounded
comrade.

"Wing! sergeant! Look up, man. Speak to me. You must be in distress,
mental or bodily. Do let me help you in some way."

For a moment no reply whatever. Wing's face was hidden. Then he looked
gently upward.

"Lieutenant, I'm ashamed to be giving you so much trouble. Please go
and lie down again, sir; you're worse hurt than I am,--only I suppose
I get to dozing off and then turn on that side."

"No, it isn't that, sergeant. There's something wrong, and it has all
come on you since yesterday morning. Where is your mother?"

Again Wing turned away, burying his face in his arms.

"Listen, sergeant; we hope to get you out of this by to-night. Dr.
Gray ought surely to reach us by that time, and while we may have to
keep up a field hospital here a day or two, my first duty will be to
write and tell your mother how bravely you have served us, and she
shall be told that you are wounded, but not in such a way as to alarm
her."

Out came a restraining hand.

"Lieutenant, she must not know at all."

"Well, she can't, so far as I'm concerned, as I don't know her
address. But think a moment; you know and I know--Hold on, wait!"
And Drummond rose and tiptoed to a cleft in the rock through which
shone a dim light; it was the entrance to the remote inner cave where
the Harvey girls were sleeping. Assured that his words could reach
there no listening ears, Drummond returned, kneeling again by the
sergeant's side. "Just think, man; any moment after daybreak the
Apaches may be upon us, and, who knows? it may be my last fight. Of
course I believe that our fellows can stand them off until rescue
comes, but a bullet may find me any moment, and then who is there to
report your conduct and secure the recognition due you, or, if the
doctor should be late in coming and fever set in and this wound prove
too much for your strength, is there nothing that ought to be said to
her for you?"

Again only painful silence. At last Wing spoke.

"I understand. I appreciate all you say. But I've got to think it
over, lieutenant. Give me an hour or so. Don't ask me to tell you
now."

"So be it, man. Now rest all you possibly can. It's almost day. The
crags are beginning to light up back of us here already. Yes, and the
sentry's calling me now. I'll be back by and by. What is it,
Patterson?" he whispered, going to the mouth of the cave.

"I've just come down from the tree up there, sir. You can see quite a
ways down the range now, though the light is dim, and what I take to
be a signal-fire leaped up not three miles below us, certainly this
side of where Wing was shot."

"So soon? All right, then get back to the post just as quick as you
can. I'll rouse the man who has slept longest. All must be astir in
half an hour, but you keep watch there."

And half an hour later it is that, field-glass in hand, the young
officer is there by Patterson's side, peering eastward almost into the
eye of the sun, searching with anxiety inexpressible for any sign of
dust-cloud rising along the trail on which they came, for the sight he
has seen down the range, now brilliant in the morning light, has
filled his heart with the first real dread it has yet known. In three
places, not more than four or five miles apart, down along the sunlit
side of this wild and picturesque mountain-chain, signal-smokes have
been puffing straight up skyward, the nearest only a couple of miles
from this lone picket post, but all on the same side of the valley.

Last evening the answer came from across the broad desert. They have
come over, therefore, and are hastening up the chain to join the eager
advance here so close to their hiding-place. Beyond a doubt watchful
spies are already lurking among those heights to the west, striving to
get close enough to peer into the rocky fortress and estimate the
strength of the garrison. Great they well know it cannot be, for did
not their keen eyes count nearly twenty chasing those hated brigands
far down towards Sonora Pass, and of that number how many have
returned?--only three. Did they not see the flurry and excitement when
that sergeant was shot from ambush? Now, therefore, is the time to
strike,--now while the main body is far away. Whatsoever booty there
may be obtainable in that rocky cañon 'tis well worth the attempt. And
so from north to south the puff-balls of blue-white smoke go sailing
upward through the pines, and it all means speed! speed!

At seven o'clock the little command has had coffee and a hearty
breakfast. No lack of provender here in this hitherto undiscovered
robbers' roost. Drummond, cool, confident, has had his men about him
where none others could see or hear, has assigned them the stations
which they are to take the instant of alarm, and has given them their
instructions. Walsh it is who is now on lookout, and he is peering
away down southward so intently that some comrade is prompted to call
up to him in a low tone,--

"See anything?"

To which, without removing the glass from under his hat-brim, the
Irish trooper merely shakes his head.

"Any more smokes?"

"Sorra a smoke have I seen at all."

"Well, then, what in blazes are you staring at?"

"How can I tell ye till I find out?" is the Hibernian reply, and this
is enough to send the corporal on a climb. Drummond at the moment is
again kneeling by Wing, who has but just awakened from a fitful sleep,
Miss Harvey being the first to hear him stir and sigh. Ruth and her
sister, too, seem about to withdraw, but Wing, whose voice is weak
now, begs them to remain.

"Has anything been seen yet--back on the trail--of the Stoneman
party?" he asks.

"No, sergeant," replies Drummond; "but remember that we can only see
some six miles of the trail, after that it is lost in that tortuous
ravine down which we rode on the chase. Walsh is up there on lookout,
and I'll ask if he can see anything now;" and calling to one of the
men, Drummond bids him inquire. All eagerly await the reply.

At last it comes,--

"No dust on the back track, sir, but something that looks like it far
to the south. We think it may be some of our fellows coming back, but
it is too faint and far to make it out yet."

The corporal is the speaker, his resonant voice contrasting strongly
with the feeble accents of his immediate superior, the wounded
sergeant.

"Then I have something that must be told you, lieutenant, something
Miss Harvey already has an inkling of, for she has met and known my
dear mother. If this pain continue to increase, and fever set in, I
may be unable to tell it later. Some of the men thought I had enlisted
under an alias, lieutenant, but they were wrong. Wing is my rightful
name. My father was chief officer of the old 'Flying Cloud' in the
days when American clipper ships beat the world. The gold fever seized
him, though, and he quit sailing and went to mining in the early days
of San Francisco, and there when I was a little boy of ten he died,
leaving mother with not many thousand dollars to take care of herself
and me. 'You will have your brother to help you' were words he spoke
the last day of his life, and even then I noted how little comfort
mother seemed to find in that fact. It was only a few months after
father's death that Uncle Fred, from being an occasional visitor, came
to living with us all the time, made his home there, though seldom
within doors night or day. He was several years younger than mother.
He was the youngest, it seems, of the family, 'the baby,' and had been
petted and spoiled from earliest infancy. I soon found why he came.
Mother was often in tears, Uncle Fred always begging or demanding
money. The boys at school twitted me about my gambler uncle, though
I've no doubt their fathers gambled as much as he. These were just
before the early days of the great war that sprang up in '61 and that
we boys out on the Pacific coast only vaguely understood. Sometimes
Uncle Fred came home drunk and I could hear him threatening poor
mother, and things went from bad to worse, and one night when I was
just thirteen I was awakened from sound sleep by her scream. In an
instant I flew to her room, catching up as I ran father's old
bowie-knife that always hung by my door. In the dim light I saw her
lying by the bedside, a man bending over and choking her. With all my
strength I slashed at him just as he turned. I meant to kill, but the
turn saved him. He sprang to his feet with an oath and cry and rushed
to the wash-stand. I had laid Uncle Fred's cheek open from ear to
chin.

"It was long before mother could check the flow of the blood. It
sobered him, of course, and made him piteously weak. For days after
that she nursed and cared for him, but forbade my entering the room.
Men came to see him,--insisted on seeing him,--and she would send me
to the bank for gold and pay their claims and bid them go. At last he
was able to walk out with that awful slash on his thin white face.
Once then he met and cursed me, but I did not mind, I had acted only
to save mother. How could I suppose that her assailant was her own
brother? Then finally with sobs and tears she told me the story, how
he had been their mother's darling, how wild and reckless was his
youth, how her mother's last thought seemed to be for him, and how on
her knees she, my own mother, promised to take care of poor Freddie
and shield him from every ill, and this promise she repeated to me,
bidding me help her keep it and to conceal as far as I could her
brother's misdeeds. For a few months things went a little better.
Uncle Fred got a commission in a California regiment towards the close
of the war and was sent down to Arizona. Then came more tears and
trouble. I couldn't understand it all then, but I do now. Uncle Fred
was gambling again, drawing on her for means to meet his losses. The
old home went under the hammer, and we moved down to San Diego, where
father had once invested and had left a little property. And then came
the news that Uncle Fred had been dismissed, all on account of drink
and gambling and misappropriation of funds. Miss Harvey knows all
about this, lieutenant, for mother told her and had reason to. And
next came forgery, and we were stranded. We heard that he had gone
after that with a wagon-train to Texas. I got employment on a ranch,
and then mother married again, married a man who had long befriended
us and who could give her a comfortable home. She is now Mrs. Malcomb
Bland, of San Francisco, and Mr. Bland offered to take me into his
store, but I loved the open air and independence. Mr. Bland and Mr.
Harvey had business relations, and when Uncle Fred was next heard from
he was 'starving to death,' he said, 'actually dying.' He wrote to
mother from Yuma. Mother wired me to go to him at once, and I did. He
was considerably out at elbows, but in no desperate need yet. Just
then Mr. Harvey offered him a good salary to take charge of his
freight-train. We all knew how that must have been brought about, and
I felt that it would only be a matter of time when he would rob his
new employer. He did; was discharged, but Mr. Bland made the amount
good, and the matter was hushed up. Then he drove stage awhile and
then disappeared. Mother has written me time and again to find him or
find out what has become of him, and I promised I would leave no stone
unturned. Tell her I have kept my word. Tell her I found him. But tell
her for God's sake to think no more of him. Tell her not to strive to
find him or to ask what he is or even where he is beyond that he has
gone to Sonora."

"Lieutenant," said Patterson, suddenly appearing at the opening,
"could you step here a moment?"

Drummond springs up.

"One moment, Mr. Drummond," whispers Wing, weakly; "I must say one
word to you--alone."

"I'll return in a minute, sergeant. Let me see what Patterson wants."

Miss Harvey and Ruth have risen; the former is very pale and evidently
trembling under some strong emotion. Once more she bends over him.

"Drink this, Mr. Wing, and now talk no more than you absolutely have
to."

Then renewing the cooling bandage on his forehead, her hands seem to
linger--surely her eyes do--as she rises once more to her feet.

Meantime the lieutenant has stepped out into the cañon.

"What is it, Patterson? quick!"

"That was some of our fellows, sir, a squad of four; but they turned
all of a sudden and galloped back out of sight. It looks to me as
though they were attacked."

"How far away were they? How many miles down the desert?"

"Oh, at least six or eight miles down, sir; down beyond where you met
them yesterday."

"How about our trail? Anybody in sight there?"

"Nobody, sir, not even a thing, not even a whiff of dust."

"Very well. Keep on the alert. It's good to know that all the Apaches
are not around us yet. Neither bullet nor arrow can get down here so
long as we man the rocks above. I'll be out in a moment."

Then once more he kneels by Wing.

"Lieutenant, did you ever see a girl behave with greater bravery? Do
you know what she has undergone?--Miss Harvey, I mean?"

"Both are behaving like heroines, Wing, and I think I am beginning to
see through this plot at last."

"Never let mother know it,--promise me, sir,--but when Harvey
discharged him--my uncle, I mean--he swore he'd be revenged on the old
man, and 'twas he----"

"The double-dyed villain! I know, I understand now, Wing; you needn't
tell me. He has been in the pay of the Morales gang for months. He
enlisted so as to learn all the movements of officers and
scouting-parties. He enlisted under his benefactor's name. He has
forged that, too, in all probability, and then, deserting, it was he
who sought to carry away these precious girls, and he came within an
ace of succeeding. By the Eternal, but there will be a day of
reckoning for him if ever 'C' troop runs foul of him again! No wonder
you couldn't sleep, poor fellow, for thinking of that mother. This
caps the climax of his scoundrelism. Where,--when did you see him
last?--since he enlisted?"

But now Wing's face is again averted. He is covering it with his arms.

"Wing, answer me!" exclaims Drummond, springing suddenly to his feet.
"By heaven, I demand to know!" Then down on his knees he goes again,
seizing and striving to pull away the nearest arm. "You need not try,
you cannot conceal it now. I see it all,--all. Miss Harvey," he cries,
looking up into the face of the trembling girl, who has hastened in at
sound of the excitement in his voice,--"Miss Harvey, think of it;
'twas no Apache who shot him, 'twas a worse savage,--his own uncle."

"Promise me mother shall not know," pleads poor Wing, striving to rise
upon his elbow, striving to restrain the lieutenant, who again has
started to his feet. "Promise me, Miss Fanny; you know how she loved
him, how she plead with you."

"I promise you this, Wing," says Drummond, through his clinching
teeth, "that there'll be no time for prayer if ever we set eyes on him
again; there'll be no mercy."

"You can't let your men kill him in cold blood, lieutenant. I could
not shoot him."

"No, but, by the God of heaven, I could!"

And now as Wing, exhausted, sinks back to his couch his head is caught
on Fanny Harvey's arm and next is pillowed in her lap.

"Hush!" she murmurs, bending down over him as mother might over
sleeping child. "Hush! you must not speak again. I know how her heart
is bound up in you, and I'm to play mother to you now."

And as Drummond, tingling all over with wrath and excitement, stands
spellbound for the moment, a light step comes to his side, a little
hand is laid on the bandaged arm, and Ruth Harvey's pretty face, two
big tears trickling down her cheeks, is looking up in his.

"You, too, will be ill, Mr. Drummond. Oh, why can't you go and lie
down and rest? What will we do if both of you are down at once with
fever?"

She is younger by over two years than her brave sister. Tall though
she has grown, Ruth is but a child, and now in all her excitement and
anxiety, worn out with the long strain, she begins to cry. She strives
to hide it, strives to control the weakness, and, failing in both,
strives to turn away. All to no purpose. An arm in a sling is of
little avail at such a moment. Whirling quickly about, Drummond brings
his other into action. Before the weeping little maid is well aware
what is happening her waist is encircled by the strong arm in the
dark-blue sleeve, and how can she see that she is drawn to his breast,
since now her face is buried in both her hands and those hands in the
flannel of his hunting-shirt,--just as high as his heart? Small wonder
is it that Corporal Costigan, hurrying in at the mouth of the cave,
stops short at sight of this picturesque _partie carrée_. Any other
time he would have sense enough to face about and tiptoe whence he
came, but now there's no room left for sentiment. _Tableaux-vivants_
are lovely in their way, even in a cave lighted dimly by a
hurricane-lamp, but sterner scenes are on the curtain. Drummond's
voice is murmuring soothing, yes, caressing words to his sobbing
captive. Drummond's bearded lips, unrebuked, are actually pressing a
kiss upon that childish brow when Costigan, with a preliminary
clearing of his throat that sounds like a landslide and makes the rock
walls ring again, startles Ruth from her blissful woe and brings
Drummond leaping to the mouth of the cave.

"Lieutenant, there's something coming out over our trail."

"Thank God!" sighs Wing, as he raises his eyes to those of his fair
nurse. "Thank God! for your sakes!"

"Thank God, Ruth!" cries Fanny, extending one hand to her sister while
the other is unaccountably detained. "Thank God! it's father and the
Stoneman party and Doctor Gray."

And Ruth, throwing herself upon her knees by her sister's side, buries
her head upon her shoulder and sobs anew for very joy.

And then comes sudden start. All in an instant there rings, echoing
down the cañon, the sharp, spiteful crack of rifles, answered by
shrieks of terror from the cave where lie the Moreno women, and by
other shots out along the range. Three faces blanch with sudden fear,
though Wing looks instantly up to say,--

"They can't harm you, and our men will be here in less than no time."

Out in the gorge men are springing to their feet and seizing their
ready arms; horses are snorting and stamping; mules braying in wild
terror. Two of the ambulance mules, breaking loose from their
fastenings, come charging down the resounding rock, nearly
annihilating Moreno, who, bound and helpless, praying and cursing by
turns, has rolled himself out of his nook and lies squarely in the way
of everything and everybody. But above all the clamor, the ring of
carbine, the hiss and spat of lead flattening upon the rocks,
Drummond's voice is heard clear and commanding, serene and confident.

"Every man to his post now. Remember your orders."

Gazing out into the cañon with dilated eyes, Ruth sees him nimbly
clamber up the opposite side towards the point where Walsh is kneeling
behind a rock,--Walsh with his Irish mug expanded in a grin of
delight, the smoke just drifting from the muzzle of his carbine as he
points with his left hand somewhere out along the cliffs. She sees her
soldier boy, crouching low, draw himself to Walsh's side, sees him
glancing eagerly over the rocks, then signalling to some one on their
own side, pointing here and there along the wooded slope beyond her
vision; sees him now, with fierce light in his eyes, suddenly clutch
Walsh's sleeve and nod towards some invisible object to the south;
sees Walsh toss the butt of his carbine to the shoulder and with quick
aim send a bullet driving thither; sees Drummond take the field-glass
and, resting it on the eastward ledge, gaze long and fixedly out over
the eastward way; sees him start, draw back the glass, wipe the lenses
with his silken kerchief, then peer again; sees him drop them with a
gesture almost tragic, but she cannot hear the moan that rises to his
lips.

"My God! those are Apaches, too."



XI.


Ten o'clock on a blazing Arizona morning. The hot sun is pouring down
upon the jagged front of a range of heights where occasional clumps of
pine and cedar, scrub oak and juniper, seemed the only vegetable
products hardy enough to withstand the alternations of intense heat by
day and moderate cold by night, or to find sufficient sustenance to
eke out a living on so barren a soil. Out to the eastward, stretching
away to an opposite range, lies a sandy desert dotted at wide
intervals with little black bunches of "scrub mezquite" and blessed
with only one redeeming patch of foliage, the copse of willows and
cottonwood here at the mouth of a rock-ribbed defile where a little
brook, rising heaven knows how or where among the heights to the west,
comes frothing and tumbling down through the windings of the gorge
only to bury itself in the burning sands beyond the shade. So narrow
and tortuous is the cañon, so precipitous its sides, as to prove
conclusively that by no slow process, but by some sudden spasm of
nature, was it rent in the face of the range. And here in its depths,
just around one of the sharpest bends, honey-combed out of the solid
rock are half a dozen deep lateral fissures and caves where the
sunbeams never penetrate, where the air is reasonably cool and still,
where on this scorching May morning, far away from home and relatives,
two young girls are sheltered by the natural roofs and walls against
the fiery sunshine and by a little band of resolute men against the
fury of the Apaches.

Down in the roomiest of the caves Fanny and Ruth Harvey are listening
in dread anxiety to the sounds of savage warfare echoing from crag to
crag along the range, while every moment or two the elder turns to
moisten the cloth she holds to a wounded trooper's burning, tossing
head. Sergeant Wing is fevered indeed by this time, raging with misery
at thought of his helplessness and the scant numbers of the defence.
It is a bitter pill for the soldier to swallow, this of lying in
hospital when every man is needed at the front. At nine o'clock this
morning a veteran Indian fighter, crouching in his sheltered lookout
above the caves and scanning with practised eye the frowning front of
the range, declared that not an Apache was to be seen or heard within
rifle-shot, yet was in no wise surprised when, a few minutes later, as
he happened to show his head above the rocky parapet, there came
zipping a dozen bullets about his ears and the cliffs fairly crackled
with the sudden flash of rifles hidden up to that instant on every
side. Indians who can creep upon wagon-train or emigrant camp in the
midst of an open and unsheltered plain find absolutely no difficulty
in surrounding unsuspected and unseen a bivouac in the mountains.
Inexperienced officers or men would have been picked off long before
the opening of the general attack, but the Apaches themselves are the
first to know that they have veteran troopers to deal with, for up to
this moment only one has shown himself at all. At five minutes after
nine o'clock Lieutenant Drummond, glancing exultingly around upon his
little band of fighters, had blessed the foresight of Pasqual Morales
and his gang that they had so thoroughly fortified their lair against
sudden assault. Three on the southern, two on the northern brink of
the gorge and behind impenetrable shelter, and two more in reserve in
the cañon, his puny garrison was in position and had replied with such
spirit and promptitude to the Apache attack that only at rare
intervals now is a shot necessary, except when for the purpose of
drawing the enemy and locating his position a hat is poked up on the
muzzle of a carbine. The assailants' fire, too, is still, but that, as
Drummond's men well know, means only "look out for other devilment."

Out on the eastward desert, still far over towards the other side, a
little party of Apaches is hurrying to join the fray. Two are riding.
Where got they their horses? The others--over half a dozen--come along
at their tireless jog-trot. It was this party that, seen but dimly at
first, gave rise to such ebullition of joy among the defenders and
defended. It was this party that, closely scanned through his
field-glass, occasioned Lieutenant Drummond's moan of distress. With
all his heart he had been hoping for the speedy coming of relief over
that very trail,--had counted on its reaching him during the day. He
was sure it could be nothing else when the corporal reported something
in sight, and so when he discovered the approaching party to be
Apaches no words could describe the measure of his disappointment and
dismay. Not for himself and his men; they were old hands and had a
fine position to defend. His thoughts are all for those in whose
behalf he has already made such gallant fight and for poor Wing, whose
feeble moaning every now and then reaches his ear.

At ten o'clock he is able through his glasses to distinctly make out
the number and character of the coming party. Nine Apaches, all
warriors, but one of them apparently wounded or disabled, for they
have to support him on the horse, and this it is that hampers their
advance and makes it slower. They are heading for the oasis at the
mouth of the cañon. There they will leave their horses and their
wounded, and then come creeping up the winding gorge or crouching
among the bowlders from the east to join in the attack on the hated
pale-face. Drummond can have no doubt of that. New dispositions are
necessary.

"Stay where you are!" he shouts to his men. "You take charge up here,
Costigan; I want to post a man or two below at the bend." And down he
goes, sliding and scrambling until he reaches the edge of the brook.
Moreno, squatted against a rock, glances up at him appealingly.

"Señor Teniente, I pray you unloose me and let me help. The Apache is
our common enemy," he pleads.

An idea comes to Drummond. Wing's carbine can be utilized. He can post
Moreno down the gorge at the second bend to command that approach and
put little McGuffey, the recruit, at the next bend to command Moreno
and send a bullet through him if he shirk or swerve.

"I declare, I believe I will, you old scoundrel," he says. "Here,
McGuffey, untie this fellow. I've got to look around a minute."

Into the depth of the fissure where Moreno's women are praying and
rocking he peers a moment. One of the wounded bandits is now past
praying for. The other, painfully shot but plucky, begs to be given a
chance to fight for his life.

"You are too badly hurt now. We couldn't get you up there," is the
answer.

"Well, then, put me on with Moreno, wherever you're going to assign
him. Surely if you can trust a Greaser you can a white man. I'm only
fit to hang, perhaps, but damn me if I want to lie here when there's
an Indian fight going on."

And so he, too, is unloosed and lifted to his feet. Leaning on
McGuffey's shoulder and supported by his arm, the pale-faced stranger,
preceded by Moreno, who goes limping and swearing _sotto voce_ down
the rocky way, is led a hundred yards along the cañon where it makes a
second bend. Here they can see nearly one hundred and fifty more ahead
of them, and here some loose bowlders are hurriedly shoved or rolled
to form a rifle-pit, and these volunteer allies are placed in
position.

"We cover the approaches above so that they can't sneak up and heave
rocks down upon you. All you've got to do now is to plug every Apache
that shows his nose around that bend below," says Drummond. "McGuffey,
you take post at the point behind. Watch the overhanging cliffs and
support as best you can." And "Little Mack," as the men call him, gets
further instructions as he takes his position, instructions which
would give small comfort to Moreno could he only hear them. Then back
goes the lieutenant to where Wing is lying, Miss Harvey bending
anxiously over him, her beautiful eyes filling with tears at sight of
Drummond's brave but haggard young face. Ruth is crouching by her
sister's side, but rises quickly as Drummond enters, her fears
lessening, her hopes gaining.

"Any news? Anything in sight--of ours?" is Miss Harvey's eager query.

"Not yet, but they're bound to be along almost any minute now. Some
Apaches whom I could see coming across from the east have a wounded
man with them. It makes me hope our fellows have met and fought them
and are following close on their trail. How's Wing?"

She can only shake her head.

"He seems delirious every now and then; perhaps only because of so
much mental excitement and suffering. He is dozing now."

"Gallant fellow! What would we have done without him? I only wish we
had more like him. Think how all my detachment has become scattered.
If we had them here now I could push out and drive the Indians to the
rocks and far beyond all possibility of annoying you with their
racket. Of course you are safe from their missiles down here."

"Yes, _we_ are; but you and your soldiers, Mr. Drummond! Every shot
made me fear you were hit," cries poor little Ruth, her eyes filling,
her lips quivering. Then, just as Drummond is holding forth a hand,
perhaps it is an arm, too, she points up to the rock above where Walsh
is evidently exercised about something. He has dropped his gun, picked
up the glasses, and is gazing down the range to the south.

"Perhaps he sees some of our fellows coming for good this time. Four
of them tried it awhile ago, but were probably attacked some miles
below here and fell back on the main body. They'll be along before a
great while, and won't it be glorious if they bring back the safe and
all?" He says this by way of keeping up their spirits, then, once more
wearily, but full of pluck and purpose, he climbs the rugged path and
creeps to Walsh's side.

"Is it any of our men you see?" he whispers.

"Divil a wan, sir! it's more of thim infernal Apaches."

Drummond takes the glass and studies the dim and distant group with
the utmost care. Apaches beyond doubt, a dozen, and coming this way,
and these, too, have a couple of horses. Can they have overpowered his
men, ambushed and murdered them, then secured their mounts? Is the
whole Chiricahua tribe, reinforced by a swarm from the Sierra Blanca,
concentrating on him now? The silence about him is ominous. Not an
Indian has shown along the range for half an hour, and now these
fellows to the east are close to the copse. In less than twenty
minutes there will be five times his puny force around him. Is there
no hope of rescue?

Once more he turns to the east, across the shimmering glare of that
parched and tawny plain, and strains his eyes in vain effort to catch
sight of the longed-for column issuing from the opposite valley, but
it is hopeless. The hot sun beats down upon his bruised and aching
head and sears his bloodshot eyes. He raises his hand in mute appeal
to heaven, and at the instant there is a flash, a sharp report not
thirty yards away, an angry spat as the leaden missile strikes the
shelving top of his parapet and goes humming across the gorge, a
stifled shriek from Ruth looking fearfully up from below, an Irish
oath from Walsh as he whirls about to answer the shot, and Drummond
can barely repress a little gasp.

"Narrow squeak that, Walsh! That devil has crawled close up on us. Can
you see him?"

"Begad, sir, I can see nothing at all but rocks, rocks, rocks. How can
a man fight anyway agin' human beings that crawl like snakes?"

Zip! Another shot close at hand, too, and from another unseen foe. The
first came from somewhere among the bowlders down to the southeast,
and this second whizzed from across the cañon. A little puff of blue
smoke is floating up from among the rocks fifty yards or so to the
north of the narrow slit.

Crouching lower, Drummond calls across to Costigan, posted as the
easternmost of the two men on the opposite side,--

"That fellow is nearest you, corporal; can you see nothing of him?"

"Nothing, sir; I was looking that way, too, when he fired. Not even
the muzzle of his gun showed."

This is serious business. If one Indian or two can find it so easy to
creep around them and, armed only with their old muzzle-loading guns,
send frequent shots that reach the besieged "in reverse," what can be
hoped when the whole band gathers and every rock on every side
shelters a hostile Apache? From the first Drummond has feared that
however effective might be these defences against the open attack of
white men, they are ill adapted to protect the defenders against the
fire of Indians who can climb like squirrels or crawl or squirm
through any chink or crevice like so many snakes.

Another shot! Another bullet flattens itself on the rock close to his
right shoulder and then drops into the dust by his knee. It comes from
farther up the cliff,--perhaps two hundred yards away among those
stunted cedars,--but shudderingly close. Costigan and the other men
glance anxiously over their shoulders at the point where their young
commander and Walsh are crouching. They are not yet subjected to a
fire from the rear, these others. The lookout, the signal-station, as
it might be called, is the highest point and most exposed about the
position.

"For God's sake, lieutenant," cries the corporal, "don't stay there.
They've got your range on two sides anyhow. Come out of it. You and
Walsh can slip down as we open fire. We'll just let drive in every
direction until you are safe below."

Drummond hesitates. He sees a half-pleading look in Walsh's honest
face. The Irishman would willingly tackle the whole tribe in open
fight, but what he doesn't like is the idea of being potted like a
caged tiger, never knowing whence came the shot that laid him low.
Then the lieutenant peers about him. Yes, it is exposed to fire from a
point in the cliffs to the west, and there are rocks over there to the
north that seem to command it; but if abandoned there will be no way
of preventing a bold advance on part of the Apaches up the rugged
eastward slope. It would then stand between the defenders and the
assailants, giving to the latter incalculable advantage. Hold it he
must for a few minutes at least, until, recalling McGuffey, he can set
him and one or two others to work piling up a rock barricade in front
of the cave. Then if driven out and no longer able to stand the
Indians off, they can retire into the caves themselves, hide their
precious charges in the farthest depths, and then, like Buford at
Gettysburg, "fight like the devil" till rescue come.

"No, down with you, Costigan," he answers. "Get McGuffey and Fritz;
block up the front of the cave with rocks; move in those Moreno women;
carry Sergeant Wing back to the farther cave,--Miss Harvey will show
you where. Stand fast the rest of you. Don't let an Indian close in on
us."

"Look, lieut'nant," whispers Walsh; "they're coming up down beyant you
there."

And, peeping through a narrow slit left in his parapet, Drummond can
just see bobbing among the bowlders far down towards the willow copse
two or three Apache crests,--Apache unmistakably, because of the
dirty-white turban-like bandages about the matted black locks. At that
distance they advance with comparative security. It is when they come
closer to the defenders that they will be lost to view.

Obedient to his orders, Costigan slips out of his shelter and "takes a
sneak" for the edge of the cliff. In an instant, from half a dozen
points above, below, and on both sides, there come the flash and crack
of rifles. The dust is kicked up under his nimble feet, but he reaches
unharmed the cleft in which some rude steps have been hacked, and
goes, half sliding, half scraping, down into the cooler depths below.

"Mother of Moses!" he groans, "but we'll never get the lieut'nant out
alive. Shure they're all around him now."

Then bounding down the gorge he finds McGuffey kneeling at the point.

"They're coming, Barney," whispers the boy, all eager and tremulous
with excitement, and pointing down between the vertical walls. "Look!"
he says.

Gazing ahead to the next bend, Costigan can see Moreno and his Yankee
_compadre_ crouching behind their shelter, their carbines levelled,
their attitude betokening intense excitement and suspense. It is
evident the enemy are within view.

"I'll have one shot at 'em, bedad, to pay for the dozen their brother
blackguards let drive at me," mutters Costigan. "Come on, you; it's
but a step." And, forgetful for the moment of his orders in his
eagerness for fight, the Irishman runs down the cañon, leaps the
swirling brook just as he reaches the point, and, obedient to the
warning hand held out by their bandit ally, drops on his knees at the
bend, McGuffey close at his heels. Off go their hats. Those broad
brims would catch an Indian eye even in that gloom.

"How many are there coming?" he whispers.

Moreno puts his finger on his lips, then throws out his hand, four
fingers extended.

"One apiece then, be jabers! Now, Little Mac, you're to take the
second from the right,--their right, I mean,--and doan't you miss him
or I'll break every bone in your skin."

"Hist!"

Down they go upon their faces, then, Indian-like, they crawl a few
feet farther where there is a little ledge. The cañon widens below;
the light is stronger there, and, bending double, throwing quick
glances at one another, then from sheer force of Indian habit shading
their eyes with their brown hands as they peer to the front;
exchanging noiseless signals; creeping like cats from rock to rock;
leaping without faintest sound of the moccasined foot across the
bubbling waters, four swarthy scamps are coming stealthily on. Two
others are just appearing around the next bend beyond.

"Ready, boys? They're near enough now. Cover the two leaders! Drop the
first two anyhow!"

Breathless silence, thumping hearts one instant longer, then the chasm
bellows with the loud reports. The four guns are fired almost as one.
One half-naked wretch leaps high in air and falls, face downward, dead
as a nail. Another whirls about, bounds a few yards along the
brook-side, and then goes splashing into a shallow pool, where he lies
writhing. The two farthest down the cañon have slipped back behind the
rocky shoulder. The other two, close at hand, have rolled behind the
nearest shelter and thence send harmless bullets whizzing overhead.
Costigan lets drive a wild Irish yell of triumph and delight.

"Now, then, run for it, boy. Well done, you two, if ye are
blackguards," he calls to Moreno and his mate. "They won't disturb ye
again for ten minutes anyhow. Hold your post, though, till we call you
back. We're going to block the mouth of the cave."

Twenty minutes later and, working like beavers, Costigan and his two
men have lugged rocks, logs, bales of blankets, everything, anything
that can stop a bullet, and the entrance to the cave is being stoutly
barricaded. Patterson, who was sorely exposed at his post and ordered
down by Lieutenant Drummond, is aiding in the work. Wing has been
carefully borne into the back cave, whither, too, the wailing, quaking
Moreno women are herded and bidden to hold their peace. There, too,
Fanny and Ruth, silent, pallid perhaps, but making no moan, are now
kneeling by their patient. Costigan runs in with two buckets he has
filled with water and "Little Mac" follows with half a dozen dripping
canteens. More rocks are being lifted on the barricade, convenient
apertures being left through which to fire, and Costigan, feverishly
eager, is making every exertion, for any minute may be the last with
those plucky fellows battling there aloft. The air rings with the
shots of the encircling Apaches and with the loud report of the
cavalry carbine answering the hidden foe. Twice has Costigan implored
the lieutenant to come down anyhow, so long as his crippled condition
prevents his firing a gun, but Drummond pokes his bandaged head one
instant over the edge to shout something to the effect that he is "on
deck" until he has seen the last man down, and Costigan knows it is
useless to argue. At last the barricade is ready. Walsh, peering
grimly around, just the top of his head showing over the parapet, begs
for one shot and shouts his Hibernian challenge to the Apache nation
to come forth and show itself. Drummond picks up the glasses for one
final look down the desert and across the valley in search of friends
who surely should be coming, cautiously places the "binocular" on the
inner edge of the top of his shelving rock, then raises his head to
the level.

"Fur the love o' God, loot'n'nt, don't sit so high up!" implores
Walsh. "They're sure to spot--Oh, Christ!" And down goes the poor
faithful fellow, the blood welling from a deep gash along the temple.
He lies senseless at his commander's feet.

For a moment the air seems alive with humming missiles and shrill with
yells from on every side. In their triumph three or four savage foes
have leaped up from behind their sheltering rocks, and one of them
pays the penalty,--a vengeful carbine from across the cañon stretches
the lithe, slender, dusky form lifeless among the rocks, with the
dirty white of his breech-clout turning crimson in the noonday glare.
Up from the cave, cat-like, Patterson and "Little Mac" come climbing
the narrow trail. Between them they drag Walsh's senseless body to the
edge, and then, somehow, despite hissing, spattering lead, they bear
him safely down and carry him within the cave.

"Now call in Moreno and help his partner back!" shouts Drummond, and
Costigan goes at speed to carry out the order. A few minutes of
intense excitement and suspense, then Moreno is seen limping around
the point. Behind him Costigan is slowly helping their brigand friend.
A few more shots come singing overhead. A moment more and the watchful
Indians will come charging up the now unguarded cañon and crowning
both banks.

"Now, lads, give 'em two or three shots apiece to make them hug their
cover. Then down for the caves, every man of you," is the order.

For a moment the Indian fire is silenced in the rapid fusillade that
follows. Sharp and quick the carbines are barking their challenge, and
whenever a puff of powder-smoke has marked the probable lurking-place
of an Apache, thither hiss the searching bullets warning him to keep
down. Then Costigan comes climbing to the lookout.

"Let us help you, lieut'nant; now's your time, sir, while they're
firing."

But Drummond shakes his head. He wants to be the last man down.

"Don't hang on here, sir. Come now. Sure the others can get down from
where they are easy enough, but you can't except when they're firing.
Please come, sir," and Costigan in his eagerness scrambles to the
lieutenant's side and lays a broad, red hand on his shoulder. The men
have fired more than the designated number of shots and now are
looking anxiously towards their commander. They do not wish to move
until he does.

"Give 'em another whack all around, fellers," shouts Costigan, "while
I help the loot'n'nt down;" and so, with a laugh, Drummond gives it
up, and after one last wistful glance out over the desert, turns to
pick up the binocular, when it is struck, smashed, and sent clattering
down into the cañon by a shot fired not twenty yards away.

"Fur God's sake come quick, sir!" gasps Costigan. Then, desperate at
his loved young leader's delay, the Irishman throws a brawny arm about
him and fairly drags him to the end of the steep. Then down they go,
Costigan leading and holding up one hand to sustain Drummond in case
of accident. Down, hand under hand, to the accompaniment of cracking
rifles and answering carbines, while every other second the bullets
come "spat" upon the rocky sides, close and closer, until, panting,
almost breathless, Costigan reaches the solid bottom of the gorge and
swings Drummond to his feet beside him. Seeing their leader safely
down, the men, with one defiant shot and cheer, scurry to the edge of
the cañon, and come slipping and sliding to join their comrades. At
the mouth of the cave Costigan strives to push Drummond in through the
narrow aperture left for their admission, but miscalculates his
commander's idea of the proprieties. Like gallant Craven at Mobile
Bay, Drummond will seek no safety until his men are cared for. "After
you, pilot," the chivalric sailor's last word as the green waters
engulfed his sinking ship, finds its cavalry echo in Drummond's "After
you, corporal," in this far-away cañon in desert Arizona. The men have
scrambled through the gap, then Costigan, with reluctant backward
glance, is hurried in just as a flash of flame and smoke leaps
downward from the crest and the foremost Apache sends a hurried,
ill-aimed shot at the last man left. Before another shot can follow,
Drummond's arm is seized by muscular hands and he is dragged within
the gap. Two or three huge stones are rolled into place, and in an
instant through the ragged loop-holes the black muzzles of half a
dozen carbines are thrusting, and Costigan shouts exultingly, "Now,
you black-legged blackguards, come on if ye dare!"

But no Apache is fool enough to attack a strong position. Keeping well
under cover, the Indians soon line the crest and begin sending down a
rain of better-aimed bullets at the loop-holes, and every minute the
flattened lead comes zipping through. One of these fearful missiles
tears its way through Costigan's sleeve and, striking poor old Moreno
in the groin, stretches him groaning upon the floor. A glance shows
that the wound is mortal, and, despite his crimes, the men who bear
him, moaning, in to the farther cave are moved to sudden sympathy as
his hapless wife and child prostrate themselves beside his rocky bier.
Drummond can afford to lose no more, and orders the lower half of each
hole to be stopped with blankets, blouses, shirts, anything that will
block a shot, and then for an hour the fire of the besiegers is
harmless, and no longer can the besieged catch even an occasional
glimpse of them. At noon their fire has ceased entirely and, even when
breathing a sigh of relief, the men look into one another's faces
questioningly. How long can this last? How hot, how close the air in
the cave is growing!

Drummond has gone for a moment into the inner chamber, where Moreno is
now breathing his last, to inquire for Wing and to speak a word of
cheer to his fair and devoted nurses. Not one murmur of complaint or
dread has fallen from their lips, though they know their father to
have ridden on perilous quest and into possible ambush; though they
know their brother to be lying at the ruined ranch, perhaps seriously
wounded; though their own fate may be capture, with indescribable
suffering, shame, and death. Fanny Harvey has behaved like a heroine,
as the two troopers remarked, and Ruth has done her best to follow her
sister's lead. Yet they, too, now realize how close and stifling the
heavy atmosphere is growing. Is it to be black hole of Calcutta over
again? Even as he takes her hand in his Drummond reads the dread in
Ruth's tearless face. Even as he holds it and whispers words of hope
and comfort there is a heavy, continuous, crashing sound at the mouth
of the cave, just in front of the rock barricade, and he springs back
to learn the cause.

"They're heaving down logs and brushwood, sir," whispers Costigan.
"They mean to roast us out if they can't do anything else."

More thunder and crash; more heaping up of resinous logs from the
cliffs above them. Some of the men beg to be allowed to push out and
die fighting, but Drummond sternly refuses. "At the worst," he says,
"we can retire into the back cave; we have abundant water there. The
air will last several hours yet, and I tell you help will
come,--_must_ come, before the day is much older."

Two o'clock. Hissing flames and scorching heat block the cavern
entrance. The rocky barrier grows hotter and hotter; the air within
denser and more stifling. The water in the canteens and pails is no
longer cool. It is hardly even cooling. The few men who remain with
Drummond in the front of the cave are lying full length upon the
floor. The pain in Drummond's battered head has become intense: it is
almost maddening. Wing is moaning and unconscious. Walsh is incoherent
and raving. All are panting and well-nigh exhausted. The front of the
cave is like an oven. Overcome by the heat, one or two of the men are
edging towards the inner cave, but Drummond orders them back. To the
very last the lives of those fair girls must be protected and
cherished. In silence, almost in desperation, the men obey, and lie
down again, face downward, their heads at the rear wall of the cave.

And then Costigan comes crawling to the lieutenant's side,--

"Have you heard any more logs thrown down lately, sir?"

"No, corporal. I have heard nothing."

"They were yellin' and shootin' out there in the gulch half an hour
ago. Have ye heard no more of it, sir?"

"No; no sound but the flames."

"Glory be to God, thin! D'ye know what it manes, sir?"

"I know what I hope," is Drummond's faint answer. "Our fellows are
close at hand, for the Indians are clearing out."

"Close at hand, is it?" cries Costigan, in wild excitement, leaping to
his feet. "Listen, sir! Listen, all of ye's! D'ye hear that?--and
that? And _there_ now! Oh, Holy Mother of God! isn't that music?
Thim's the thrumpets of 'K' throop!"

Ay. Out along the crests of the winding cañon the rifles are ringing
again. The cheers of troopers, bounding like goats up the rocky sides,
are answered by clatter of hoof and snort of excited steeds in the
rocky depths below. "Here we are, lads! Dismount! Lively now!" a
well-known voice is ordering, and Costigan fairly screams in ecstasy
of joy, "Tear away the fire, captain, an' then we'll heave over the
rocks."

Stalwart forms, brawny arms, are already at the work. The
wagon-tongues are prying under the heavy, hissing, sputtering logs.
Daring hands scatter the embers. Buckets of water are dashed over the
live coals. "Up wid ye now, boys!" shouts Costigan. "Heave over thim
rocks!" Down with a crash goes the barricade. A cloud of steam rushes
into the cave. A dozen sturdy troopers come leaping in, lifting from
the ground the helpless and bearing them to the blessed coolness of
the outer air, and the last thing Jim Drummond sees--ere he swoons
away--is the pale, senseless face of little Ruth close to his at the
water's brink; her father, with Fanny clinging about his neck,
kneeling by her side, his eyes uplifted in thanks to the God who even
through such peril and distress has restored his loved ones, unharmed,
unstained, to his rejoicing heart.



XII.


It is a sultry day, early in July, and the sun is going westward
through a fleet of white, wind-driven clouds that send a host of deep
shadows sweeping and chasing over the wide prairie. Northwards the
view is limited by a low range of bluffs, destitute of tree or
foliage, but covered thickly with the summer growth of bunch-grass.
Southward, three miles away at least, though it seems much less, a
similar range, pierced here and there with deep ravines, frames the
picture on that side. Midway between the two ridges and fringed with
clumps of cottonwood and willow, a languid stream flows silently
eastward and is lost, with the valley, in the dim distance. Out to the
west in long, gradual curve the southward range veers around and spans
the horizon. Midway across this monotone of landscape, cutting the
stream at right angles, a hard prairie road comes twisting and turning
out of one of the southern ravines and, after long, gradual dip to the
ford among the cottonwoods, emerges from their leafy shade and goes
winding away until lost among the "breaks" to the north. It is one of
the routes to the Black Hills of Dakota,--the wagon road from the
Union Pacific at Sidney by way of old Fort Robinson, Nebraska, where a
big garrison of some fourteen companies of cavalry and infantry keep
watch and ward over the Sioux Nation, which, one year previous, was in
the midst of the maddest, most successful, war it ever waged against
the white man. That was the Centennial year--'76. This is another
eventful year for the cavalry,--'77; for before the close of the
summer even the troops so far to the southeast are destined to be
summoned to the chase and capture of wary old Chief Joseph,--the
greatest Indian general ever reared upon the Pacific slope,--and even
now, on this July day, here are cavalrymen at their accustomed task,
and though it is five years since we saw them under the heat and glare
of the Arizona sun, there are familiar faces among these that greet
us.

All along under the cottonwoods below the crossing the bivouac
extends. Long before sunrise these hardy fellows were in saddle and,
in long column, have come marching down from the north,--four strong
troops,--a typical battalion of regular cavalry as they looked and
rode in those stirring days that brought about the subjugation of the
Sioux. Out on the prairie the four herds of the four different troops
are quietly grazing, each herd watched by its trio of alert, though
often apparently dozing, guards. One troop is made up entirely of
black horses, another of sorrels,--two are of bays. Another herd is
grazing close to the stream,--the mules of the wagon-train, and the
white tops of these cumbrous vehicles are dotting the left bank of the
winding water for two or three hundred yards. Cook-fires are
smouldering in little pits dug in the yielding soil, but the cooking
is over for the present; the men have had their substantial dinner and
are now smoking or sleeping or chatting in groups in the shade,--all
but a squad of a dozen, commanded by a grizzled veteran on whose worn
blouse the chevrons of a first sergeant are stitched. Booted and
spurred, with carbines slung and saddles packed, these sun-tanned
fellows are standing or sitting at ease, holding the reins of their
sleepy chargers and waiting apparently for the passengers who are to
start in the stout-built "Concord" drawn by four sleek, strong-looking
mules, now standing in the shade near the canvas homestead of the
commanding officer.

Presently two soldiers following a young man in civilian dress come
forward lugging a little green painted iron safe, and this, with a
swing and a thud, they deposit in the wagon.

"You've seen that before, sergeant," laughs the civilian.

"I have, begad, an' when it had a heap more green inside an' less
outside than it has now. Faith, I never expected to see it again, nor
the paymaster either. We were both bored through and through. 'Twas
our good habits that saved us. Sure your predecessor was a game
fighter, Mr. Barnes, if he _was_ a tenderfoot."

"Yes, the major often tells me he wishes he had him back, and me in
the place he has instead of the one he had," answers the clerk,
whimsically. "Does he know you're to command the escort in? You got
him into such a scrape then that he's never tired of telling of it."

"Then he may feel gratified at the honor I am doing him now. Sure it's
beneath the dignity of a first sergeant to command a squad like this
except on extraordinary occasion, and it's to take the taste of the
last time out of his mouth I volunteered to escort the major now.
'Twas a strong taste to last five years, though my reminder will go
with me many a year longer. Here they come now."

As the sergeant speaks a little group of officers issues from the
battalion commander's tent. Foremost among them, in loose flapping
raiment and broad-brimmed hat and green goggles, the rotund and portly
shape of Major Plummer, the paymaster.

"Well, old man," says the cavalry leader, "you can hardly get into a
scrape 'twixt here and Sidney. We've seen you through all right so
far; now we'll go on about our scouting. Your old friend Feeny asked
permission to see you safely to the railway."

"What, Feeny? and a first sergeant too? I'm honored, indeed! Well,
sergeant," he adds, catching sight of the grizzled red face under the
old scouting hat, "I'll promise to let you run the machine this time
and not interfere, no matter what stories come to us of beauty in
distress. All ready?"

"All ready, sir, if the major is."

"He wasn't that civil to me in Arizona," laughs the paymaster, as he
turns to shake hands with the officers about him.

"You see you were new to the business then," explains a tall captain;
"Feeny considers you a war veteran now, after your experience at
Moreno's. We all had to serve our apprenticeship as suckling
lieutenants before he would show us anything but a semblance of
respect. Good-by, major; good luck to you."

"Good-by all. Good-by, Drummond. Good-by, Wing.--Here! I must shake
hands with you two again." And shake he does; then is slowly "boosted"
into his wagon, where, as the whip cracks and the mules plunge at
their collars and tilt him backward, the major's jolly red face beams
on all around, and he waves his broad-brimmed hat in exuberant
cordiality as they rattle away.

The group of officers presently disperses, two tall lieutenants
strolling off together and throwing themselves under the spreading
branches of a big cottonwood. One of them, darker and somewhat heavier
built now, but muscular, active, powerful, is Drummond; the other, a
younger man by a brace of years, tall, blue-eyed, blonde-bearded,
wearing on his scouting-blouse the straps of a second lieutenant, is
our old friend Wing, and Wing does not hesitate in presence of his
senior officer--such is the bond of friendship between them--to draw
from his breast-pocket a letter just received that day when the
courier met them at the crossing of the Dry Fork, and to lose himself
in its contents.

"All well with the madam and the kid?" queries Drummond, after the
manner of the frontier, when at last Wing folds and replaces his
letter, a happy light in his brave blue eyes.

"All well; Paquita says that Harvey has captured the entire household,
and that Grandpa Harvey is his abject slave. There isn't anything in
Chicago too good for that two-year-old. They've had them photo'd
together,--the kid on his grandfather's shoulder."

"Aren't you afraid his Arizona uncle will be jealous for his own boy's
sake?" laughs Drummond.

"I don't believe Ned would begrudge Fanny anything the old man might
feel for her or for hers. He is generosity itself towards his sisters,
and surely I could never have found a warmer friend--out of the army.
You know how he stood by me."

"I know, and it was most gratifying,--not but that I feel sure you
would have won without his aid. The old man simply couldn't quite be
reconciled to her marrying in the army and living in Arizona."

"A strange land for a honey-moon certainly,--yet where and when was
there a happier? Do you remember how the Apaches jumped the Verde
buck-board the very week after we were married?"

"And you spent half of the honey-moon scouting the Tonto Basin? I
should say so! What with a courtship in a robbers' cave, a marriage in
a cavalry camp, and a wedding tour in saddle, you had a unique
experience, Wing, but--you deserved her." And Drummond turns and grips
his comrade's hand.

Wing is silent a moment. His eyes are wistfully searching the elder's
half-averted face.

"Jim, you told me awhile ago of your sister's approaching marriage.
Are you not going on?"

"Yes. It will be early in October. She's blissfully happy is Puss, and
he's a very substantial, solid sort of a fellow. I'm well content, at
last, that her future is assured."

"And you are a free agent, practically. Isn't it time we heard of
your own happiness,--your own vine and fig-tree, old man?"

"Time's gone by, I reckon," laughs Drummond, yet not merrily. "I've
had too much to think of,--too much responsibility, and probably have
lost my chance."

Wing looks as though he wanted mightily to say something, but conquers
his impulse.

"October is a long way off," he finally remarks, "and I thought you
might find earlier opportunity of going East. Now that Ned has entire
charge of the business in Arizona the old gentleman takes life easier.
The winter in Cuba did him a lot of good, and Fan writes that he seems
so happy now, having his two girls and his little grandson under the
same roof with his sister and her children. What a reunion after all
these years!"

"Where are they living in Chicago?"

"You would know better than I, for--think of it!--I have never been
east of the Missouri since my babyhood," answers Wing. "Fan writes
that her aunt has a lovely house on what they call the North
Side,--near the great water-works at the lake front."

"I know the neighborhood well," says Drummond. "Chicago is as familiar
to me as San Francisco was to you. Only--I have no roof to call my own
anywhere, and as soon as Puss is married shall not have a relative or
friend on earth who is not much more deeply interested in somebody
else." And the senior lieutenant is lying on his back now, blinking up
at the rapidly scudding clouds. Presently he pulls the broad brim of
his campaign hat down over his eyes. "What do you hear from your
mother, Wing?"

"Nothing new. Bless the dear old lady! You should have seen her
happiness in Harvey. She could hardly bear to let the little fellow
out of her arms, and how she cried and clung to him when we parted at
the Oakland wharf! Poor little mother! She has never given up the hope
of seeing that scapegrace of an uncle of mine again."

"Has she ever heard how he tried to murder his nephew?" queries
Drummond, grimly.

"Never. Nor have we the faintest trace of him since the break up of
the old Morales gang at Fronteras. They went all to pieces after their
encounter with you and 'C' troop. What a chain of disasters! Lost
their leaders and three of their best men, lost their rendezvous at
Moreno's, lost horses and mules,--for what our men didn't get the
Apaches did,--and won absolutely nothing except the twenty-four-hour
possession of a safe they hadn't time to open. Whereas I got my
commission and my wife; Feeny, honorable wounds and mention and the
chevrons of a first sergeant; Costigan got his sergeant's stripes and
the medal of honor, Murphy his sergeantcy, Walsh and Latham medals
and corporalships; and the only fellow who didn't get a blessed thing
but scars was the commanding lieutenant,--your worthy self,--thanks to
wiseacres at Washington who say Indian fighting isn't war."

"Didn't I get a letter of thanks from the department commander?" grins
Drummond. "What else could I expect?"

"What else?" is Wing's impulsive rejoinder. Then, as though mindful of
some admonition, quieting at once and speaking in tone less
suggestive. "Well, in your case I suppose you can be content with
nothing, but bless me if I could." Then, suddenly rising and
respectfully touching his weather-beaten hat, he salutes a
stoutly-built, soldierly-looking man in rough scouting dress, whose
only badge of rank is the tarnished shoulder-strap with the silver
leaf on the shabbiest old fatigue-coat to be found in the battalion,
most of whose members, however, wear no coat at all.

"Hullo, Wing!--didn't mean to disturb your _siesta_,--Drummond here?"
says the commander in his off-hand way, and at sound of the well-known
voice Drummond, too, is on his feet in a twinkling.

"Seen the papers that came in to-day?" queries the colonel,
obliterating from his sentences all verbal superfluities.

"Not yet, sir; any news?"

"Hell to pay in Chicago, so far as heard from. The railway strike has
taken firm hold there. Police and militia both seem unable to do
anything against the mob, and the authorities are stampeded. Your
home, isn't it?"

"It was once, sir, but that was many a long year ago."

"W-e-ell," says the colonel, reflectively, stroking his grizzled
beard, "it's my belief there is worse to come. It isn't the striking
railway hands that will do the mischief, but every time there's a
strike all the thieves and thugs and blackguards in the community turn
out. That's what happened in Pittsburg,--that's what's the matter in
Chicago. It looks to me as though the plea for regular troops would
have to be granted."

"Think we can get there, sir?" asks Wing, eagerly.

"Can't say. We're supposed to have our hands full covering this
section of Nebraska, though I haven't heard of a hostile Sioux this
summer. Besides, they have full regiments of infantry at Omaha and
along the lakes. Doesn't Mrs. Wing say anything about the trouble?"

"Her letter is four days old, sir, and only says her father looks upon
the situation as one of much gravity; but women rarely see troubles of
this kind until they come to their doors."

"Well, this is the _Times_ of two days ago. It reached Sidney at
breakfast-time this morning, and Hatton brought two or three copies
out when he came with the mail. I thought you two might be
interested." And with that the colonel goes strolling along down the
bank of the stream, pausing here and there to chat with some officers
or give some order relative to the grazing of the horses,--one of his
especial "fads."

And this evening, just as the sun disappears over the low bluff line
to the west and the horses are being picketed for the night, while
from a score of cook-fires the appetizing savor of antelope-steak and
the aroma of "soldier coffee" rise upon the air, a little dust-cloud
sweeps out from the ravine into which disappears the Sidney road and
comes floating out across the prairie. Keen-eyed troopers quickly note
the speed with which it travels towards them. Officers and men, who
have just been looking to the security of their steeds, pause now on
their way to supper and stand gazing through the gloaming at the
coming cloud. In five minutes the cause is apparent,--two swift
riders, urging their horses to full speed, racing for the ford. Five
minutes more and the foremost throws himself from saddle in the midst
of the group at the colonel's tent and hands that officer a
telegraphic despatch, which is received, opened, read with
imperturbable gravity, and pocketed. To the manifest chagrin of the
courier and disappointment of his officers, the colonel simply says,--

"W-e-ell, I'm going to supper. You all'd better have yours too."

"Why, blame his old hide!" pants the courier later, "the quartermaster
told me never to lose a second, but git that to him before dark. The
hull outfit's ordered to Chicago by special train."

And so, finding the secret out, the colonel presently puts aside
professional _sang-froid_ and condescends to be human again.

"Get a hearty supper all round, gentlemen, then--'boots and saddles'
and away for Sidney!"

Two days later. A fierce July sun is pouring down a flood of humid,
moisture-laden heat upon a densely-packed, sweltering mass of
turbulent men, many of them flushed with drink, all of them flushed
with triumph, for the ill-armed, ill-disciplined militia of the
seventies--a pygmy force as compared with the expert "Guardsmen" of
to-day--has been scattered to the winds: the sturdy police have been
swept from the streets and driven to the shelter of the stations. Mob
law rules supreme. Dense clouds of smoke are rising from sacked and
ruined warehouses and from long trains of burning cars. Here and there
little groups of striking employés have gathered, holding aloof from
the reckless and infuriated mob, appalled at the sight of riot and
devastation resulting from their ill-advised action. Many of their
number, conscious of their responsibility for the scenes of bloodshed
and pillage and wanton destruction of property, public and private,
would now gladly undo their work and array themselves among the few
defenders of the great corporations they have served for years and
deserted at the call of leaders whom they never saw and in a cause
they never understood, but there can be "no footsteps backward" now.
The tide of riot has engulfed the great city of the West, and the
majesty of the law is but the laughing-stock of the lowest of the
masses. Huddled in their precinct stations the police are bandaging
their bruised and broken heads. Rallied at their armories, the more
determined of the militia are preparing to defend them and their
colors against the anticipated attack of fifty times their force in
"toughs,"--Chicago's vast accumulation of outlawed, vagabond, or
criminal men. The city fathers are well-nigh hopeless. Merchants and
business-men gather on 'Change with blanched faces and the
oft-repeated query, "What next? What next?" Every moment brings
tidings of fresh dismay. New fires, and a crippled and helpless
department, for the rioters slash their hose and laugh their efforts
to scorn. A gleam of hope shone in at ten o'clock, and the Board-room
rang with cheers at the president's announcement that the regulars
were coming,--a whole regiment of infantry from Omaha was already
more than half-way. But the gleam died out at noon when, with white
lips, an official read the telegram saying the strikers had
"side-tracked" the special trains bearing the soldiers and they could
not advance another mile.

And so they had on one road, but there are others, better guarded,
better run. The sun is well over to the west again, Chicago is
resigning itself to another night of horror, when from the suburbs
there comes gliding in to the heart of the city the oddest-looking
railway train that has been seen for years: a sight at which a host of
riotous men break away from the threatening front, dragging with them
those "pals" whom drink has either maddened or stupefied; a sight at
which skulking blackguards who have picked up paving-stones drop them
into the gutters and think twice before they lay hand on their
revolver butts. No puffing engine hauls the train: the motor-power is
at the rear. First and foremost is a platform car,--open, uncovered,
but over its buffer glisten the barrels of the dreaded Gatling gun,
and around the gun--can these be soldiers? Covered with dust and
cinders, hardly a vestige of uniform among them, in the shabbiest of
old felt hats, in hunting-shirts of flannel or buckskin, in scout-worn
trousers and Indian leggings, but with their prairie-belts crammed
with copper cartridges, their brawny brown hands grasping the browner
carbine, their keen eyes peering straight into the faces of the
thronging crowd, their bronze features set and stern, the whole car
fairly bristles with men who have fought tribe after tribe of savage
foes from the Yellowstone to the Sonora line, and who hold a savage
mob in utter contempt. Here by the hub of the Gatling's wheel stands
old Feeny, close at the elbow of dark-faced Drummond. "C" troop's
first platoon "mans" the Gatling gun, and under its old leader of the
Arizona campaigns "leads the procession" into the "Garden City" of the
ante-bellum days. By Drummond's side is a railway official gazing
ahead to see that every switch is properly set and signalling back to
the engineer when to "slow," when to come confidently ahead. Behind
the platform car come ordinary baggage and passenger coaches, black
with men in the same rough, devil-may-care scouting rig. All but their
horses and horse equipments left with the quartermaster at the Sidney
station, the battalion has been run to Chicago exactly as it came from
the plains, and Chicago's "toughs," who would have hooted and jeered,
perhaps, at sight of polished brasses and natty uniforms, recoil
bewildered before this gang of silent and disciplined "jay-hawkers."
Steadily, silently, ominously, the train rolls along. As it is
rounding a curve several ugly-looking fellows are seen running at
speed towards the switch-lever at the next street-crossing. Excitedly
the railway man clutches Drummond's elbow and points. Two troopers are
kneeling close at hand.

"Shoot if they touch that switch," says Drummond, and instantly the
locks click as the hammers are brought to full cock. The foremost
runner is almost at the iron stand; his hand is outstretched to grasp
it when a gasping, warning cry reaches his ears; glancing back he sees
his fellows scattering to either side, and one look at the smooth
rolling car reveals the cause: two carbines are levelled at him, and
flat he throws himself on his face and rolls to one side amid derisive
laughter from the strikers themselves. A little farther on a knot of
surly rioters are gathered on the track. No warning whistle sounds and
the clanging bell is too far to the rear to attract their attention.
"Out of the way there!" is the blunt, roughly-spoken order. No time
this for standing on ceremony. Vengeful and scowling the men spring
aside, some stooping to pick up rocks, others reaching into their
pockets for the ready pistol; but rocks are dropped and pistols
undrawn as the train whirls rapidly by, and wrath gives place to
mystification. Who--what are these strange, silent, stubbly-bearded,
sun-tanned fellows in slouch hats, flannel shirts, and the worn old
black belts over the shoulder? Even the engine has its guard, and half
a dozen of them, perched upon the tender, have levelled their
carbines to flank and rear, ready to let drive into the crowd the
instant a brick is heaved or a trigger pulled.

And so into the great stone station they roll, and here they find the
platforms jammed with citizens,--some drawn by curiosity, some active
sympathizers in the strike, and many of them prominent leaders of the
mob surging in the crowded thoroughfare without. The train has hardly
come to a stand when from every direction the mass of outsiders is
heaving up around it.

"Now, Feeny, clear the platform to the left. Take the other side,
Wing," says Drummond, quietly, to the officer at the front door of the
next car.

In the very fraction of a second the first sergeant and a dozen men
have leaped from the deck, and straight into the heart of the crowd
they go. "Back with ye! Out o' this!" are the stern, determined
orders, emphasized by vigorous prods with the heavy carbine butts.
Astonished at methods so prompt and decided, there is only such
resistance as the weight and bulk of those in rear can offer, and that
is but momentary. The sight of those gleaming Gatling barrels, the
stern, brief orders and the rapid, confident advance combine to
overcome all idea of resistance. On both sides, at the head of the
train, the huge crowd, half laughing, half suffocating, is heaved back
upon itself and sent like a great human wave rolling up to the iron
lattice at the office end. Meantime, without an instant's delay the
battalion springs out from the cars, forms ranks on the north
platform, counts fours, and then, arms at right shoulder, away it goes
with swinging, steady tramp around the rear of its train, across the
parallel rows of rails, and in another moment, greeted by tremendous
cheers from the occupants of long lines and high tiers of stores,
offices, business blocks, the grimy, dusty, war-worn campaigners come
striding down the crowded street. Heavens! how the people shout! Staid
old burghers, portly business-men, trot panting alongside waving their
hats and cheering themselves hoarse. "Them fellers hasn't no _bo_quets
in their guns," is the way a street _gamin_ expresses it.

"Whither are they going?"--"What have they first to do?" is the cry.
Police officials ride now with the captain temporarily in command: a
carriage has whisked the colonel over to head-quarters, but haste!
haste! is the word. On they go, silent, grim, with the alkali dust of
the North Platte crossing still coating their rusty garb. A great
swing bridge looms ahead: a dozen police deploy on either side and
check the attending crowd. Over they go at route step, and then,
turning to the right, tramp on down a roughly-paved street, growing
dim and dimmer every minute with stifling smoke. Presently they are
crossing snake-like lines of hose, gashed and useless; passing fire
apparatus standing unhitched and neglected; passing firemen exhausted
and listless. Then occasional squads of scowling men give way before
their steady tramp and are driven down alley-ways and around
street-corners by reviving police. Then the head of column turns to
the left and comes full upon a scene of tumult,--a great building in
flames, a great mob surging about it defying police interference and
bent apparently on gutting the structure from roof to cellar and
pillaging the neighboring stores. Now, men of the ----th, here's work
cut out for you! Drive that mob! bloodlessly if you can, bloodletting
if you must!

The colonel is again at the head. All are on foot. "Left front into
line, double time;" the first company throws its long double rank from
curb to curb, Drummond, its commander, striding at its front; Wing,
his subaltern, anxiously watching him from among the file-closers.
Already they have reached the rearmost of the rioting groups and, with
warning cries and imprecations, these are scurrying to either side and
falling into the hands of the accompanying police. Thicker, denser
grows the smoke; thicker, denser the mob.

"Clear this street! Out of the way!" are the orders, and for a
half-block or so clear it is. Then comes the first opposition. On a
pile of lumber a tall, stalwart man in grizzled beard and slouching
hatevidently a leader of mark among the mob--is shouting orders and
encouragement. What he says cannot be heard, but now, tightly wedged
between the rows of buildings, the mob is at bay, and, yelling mad
response to the frantic appeals and gesticulations of their leader, at
least two thousand reckless and infuriated men have faced the little
battalion surging steadily up the narrow street.

"You may have to fire, Drummond," says the colonel, coolly. "Get in
rear of your company." Obedient, the tall lieutenant turns and follows
his chief along the front of his advancing line so as to pass around
the flank. He is not fifty paces from the pile on which the mob
leader, with half a dozen half-drunken satellites, is shouting his
exhortations. Just as the lieutenant's arm is grazing grim old Feeny's
elbow as he passes the first sergeant's station a brick comes hurtling
through the air, strikes full upon the back of the officer's
unprotected head, and sends him, face forward, into the muddy street.
In the yell of triumph that follows, Wing's voice for an instant is
unheard. Obedient to its principle, "Never load until about to fire,"
the battalion's carbines are still empty, but all on a sudden "C"
troop halts. "With ball cartridges _load_!" is Wing's hoarse, stern
order. "Now aim low when I give the word. _Fire by company._
_Company_, READY!" and, like one, the hammers click. But no
command "Aim" follows. "Look out! Look out!--For God's sake don't
fire! Out of the way!" are the frantic yells from the throats of the
mob. Away they go. Scattering down side streets, alley-ways, behind
lumber-piles, everywhere--anywhere. Many even throw themselves flat on
their faces to escape the expected tempest of lead. "Don't fire," says
the colonel, mercifully. "Forward, double time, and give them the
butt. We'll support you." Down from the lumber-piles come the
erstwhile truculent leaders. "Draw cartridge, men," orders Wing in
wrath and disappointment. "Now, butts to the front, and give them
hell. _Forward!_" And out he leaps to take the lead, dashing straight
into the thick of the scattering mob, his men after him. There is a
minute of wild yelling, cursing, of resounding blows and trampling
feet, and in the midst of it all a single shot, and when Wing,
breathless, is finally halted two squares farther on, only a dozen
broken-headed wretches remain along the street to represent the
furious mob that confronted them a few minutes before. Only these few
and one writhing, bleeding form, around which half a dozen policemen
are curiously gathered, and at whose side the battalion surgeon has
just knelt.

"He's shot through and through," is his verdict, presently. "No power
can save him. Who is he?"

"About the worst and most dangerous ringleader of riot this town has
known, sir," is the answer of one of the police officials. "No one
knew where he came from either--or his real name."

And then in his dying agony the fallen demagogue turns, and the other
side of his twitching face comes uppermost. Even through the thin,
grizzly beard there is plainly seen an ugly, jagged scar stretching
from ear to chin.

"This isn't his first row by any manner of means, if it is his last,"
says a sergeant of police. "Look at that! Who shot him, anyhow?"

"I did," is the cool, prompt answer, and Sergeant Feeny raises his
hand to his carried carbine and stands attention as he sees the
surgeon kneeling there. "I did, and just in the nick of time. He had
drawn a bead on our lieutenant; but even if he hadn't I'd have downed
him, and so would any man in that company yonder." And Feeny points to
where "C" troop stands resting after its charge.

"You knew him, then?"

"Knew him instantly, as a deserter, thafe, highway-man, and
murderer,--knew him as Private Bland in Arizona, and would know him
anywhere by that scar."

A policeman bends and wrenches a loaded revolver from the clutching,
quivering fingers just as Wing comes striding back and shoulders a way
into the group.

"Is he badly hurt, doctor? That was an awful whack."

"It isn't the lieutenant, sir," says Feeny, respectfully, but with
strange significance in his tone as he draws a policeman aside.
"Look!"

And Wing, bending over, gives one glance into the dying face, then
covers his eyes with his hands and turns blindly, dizzily, away.

That evening a host of citizens are gathered about the bivouac of the
battalion at the water-works while the trumpets are sounding tattoo. A
few squares away the familiar notes come floating in through the open
windows of a room where Jim Drummond is lying on a most comfortable
sofa, which has been rolled close to the casement, where every whiff
of the cool lake breeze can fan his face, and where, glancing
languidly around, he contrasts the luxury of these surroundings with
the rude simplicity of the life he has lived and loved so many years.
Gray-haired George Harvey, kindly Mrs. Stone, his sister, blissful,
beautiful Fanny Wing with burly baby Harvey in her arms and her proud,
soldierly husband by her side, and a tall, lovely, silent girl have
all been there to minister to his needs and bid him thrice welcome and
make him feel that here, if anywhere on earth, he is at home. And here
the battalion surgeon and the family physician unite in declaring he
must remain until released by their order, and here for three days
and nights he is nursed and petted and made so much of that he is
unable to recognize himself, and here sister Puss comes to cry over
and kiss and bless him and, in her turn, to be made much of and
forbidden to leave, and then, after her big brother's return to duty
with the battalion, now being fed and _fêted_ by all the North Side,
he must needs come over every evening to see her; and, now that
presentable uniforms have arrived and the rough beards have been
shaved and the men of the old regiment look less like "toughs," but no
more like American soldiers as our soldiers look in the field of their
sternest service, her sisterly pride in her big brother is beautiful
to see,--so is her self-abnegation, for, somehow or other, though he
comes to see her he stays to look at Ruth Harvey, shy, silent, and
beautiful, and soon, as though by common consent, that corner of the
big parlor is given up to those two, the tall, stalwart trooper and
the slender, willowy girl. And one evening he comes earlier than usual
in manifest discomposure, and soon it transpires that important orders
have reached him. Fanny turns pale. "Are you--all--ordered back?" she
cries, and is for an instant radiant at his assurance that the order
involves only himself. He is called to department head-quarters to
report in person to the general commanding, who is about to make a
tour through the mountains in Northwestern Wyoming and wants Drummond
with the escort. She is radiant only until she catches sight of her
sister's face. It is not so very warm an evening, yet she marshals the
household out on the steps, out on the back veranda,--anywhere out of
that parlor, where, just as the faint notes of the trumpets are heard,
sounding their martial "tattoo," and just as Lieutenant Wing,
returning from a tiptoed visit to his sleeping boy and escaped for the
moment from the vigilance of his wife, now happens to go blundering
in,--there is heard from the dimly-lighted corner near the piano the
sound of subdued sobbing, the sound of a deep, manly voice, low,
soothing, wondrously happy, the sound--a sound--indescribable in
appropriate English, yet never misunderstood,--a sound at which Wing
halts short, pauses one instant irresolute; then faces about and goes
tip-toeing out into the brilliant sheen of the vestibule lamps,--into
the brilliant gleam of his fond wife's questioning, reproachful eyes.

And for all answer, it being perhaps too public a spot for other
demonstration, Wing simply hugs himself.

That night, under the arching roof of the great railway station, the
comrades, so long united by the ties of such respect and affection as
are engendered only by years of danger and hardship borne in common,
and now so happily united by a closer tie, are pacing the platform
absorbed in parting words.

"Jim, think what a load I've had to carry all these five years and
forbidden by my good angel to breathe a word of it to you."

"I can't realize my own happiness, old man. I never dreamed that,
after she got out into the world and saw for herself, that she would
remember her girlish fancy or have another thought for me."

"I know you didn't. Yet Fan says that ever since the voyage in the
'Newbern' little Ruth has never had a thought for anybody else."

There is a moment's silence, then Wing speaks again:

"There has not been time for mother's letter to reach me. I had to
write, of course, and tell her of the fate that at last befell him. Do
you know I feel as though after all it was my hand that did it."

"How so?"

"Feeny says he knew him the instant that side of his face was turned
towards him,--the side my knife laid open years ago. That was a fatal
scar."


THE END.


NOVELS BY CAPT. KING.


CAPTAIN BLAKE.      Illustrated.   12mo      Cloth, $1.25

THE COLONEL'S DAUGHTER.      Illustrated.      "     1.25

THE COLONEL'S CHRISTMAS DINNER                 "     1.25

MARION'S FAITH.      Illustrated               "     1.25

STARLIGHT RANCH                                "     1.00

KITTY'S CONQUEST                               "     1.00

LARAMIE                                        "     1.00

THE DESERTER, AND FROM THE RANKS               "     1.00

TWO SOLDIERS, AND DUNRAVEN RANCH               "     1.00

A SOLDIER'S SECRET, AND AN ARMY PORTIA         "     1.00


FOR SALE BY ALL BOOKSELLERS.


J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY, Publishers,

715 and 717 Market Street, Philadelphia.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Foes in Ambush" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home