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Title: Found in the Philippines - The Story of a Woman's Letters
Author: King, Charles, 1844-1933
Language: English
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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.

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FOUND IN THE PHILIPPINES

The Story of a Woman's Letters

BY
CAPTAIN CHARLES KING

GROSSET & DUNLAP PUBLISHERS
Eleven East Sixteenth Street New York

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Copyrighted 1899, by F. Tennyson Neely.

Copyrighted 1901, by The Hobart Company.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------



FOUND IN THE PHILIPPINES.

CHAPTER I.


Something unusual was going on at division headquarters. The men in the
nearest regimental camps, regular and volunteer, were "lined up" along
the sentry posts and silently, eagerly watching and waiting. For a week
rumor had been rife that orders for a move were coming and the brigades
hailed it with delight. For a month, shivering at night in the dripping,
drenching fogs drifting in from the Pacific, or drilling for hours each
day on the bleak slopes of the Presidio Heights, they had been praying
for something to break the monotony of the routine. They were envious of
the comrades who had been shipped to Manila, emulous of those who had
stormed Santiago, and would have welcomed with unreasoning enthusiasm any
mandate that bore promise of change of scene--or duty. The afternoon was
raw and chilly; the wet wind blew salt and strong from the westward sea,
and the mist rolled in, thick and fleecy, hiding from view the familiar
landmarks of the neighborhood and forcing a display of lamplights in the
row of gaudy saloons across the street that bounded the camp ground
toward the setting sun, though that invisible luminary was still an hour
high and afternoon drill only just over.

Company after company in their campaign hats and flannel shirts, in worn
blue trousers and brown canvas leggings, the men had come swinging in
from the broad driveways of the beautiful park to the south and, as they
passed the tents of the commanding general, even though they kept their
heads erect and noses to the front, their wary eyes glanced quickly at
the unusual array of saddled horses, of carriages and Concord wagons
halted along the curbstone, and noted the number of officers grouped
about the gate. Ponchos and overcoat capes were much in evidence on every
side as the men broke ranks, scattered to their tents to stow away their
dripping arms and belts, and then came streaming out to stare, unrebuked,
at headquarters. It was still early in the war days, and, among the
volunteers and, indeed, among regiments of the regulars whose ranks were
sprinkled with college men who had rubbed shoulders but a few months
earlier with certain subalterns, the military line of demarcation was a
dead letter when "the boys" were out of sight and hearing of their
seniors, and so it happened that when a young officer came hurrying down
the pathway that led from the tents of the general to those of the field
officers of the Tenth California, he was hailed by more than one group of
regulars along whose lines he passed, and, as a rule, the query took the
terse, soldierly form of "What's up, Billy?"

The lieutenant nodded affably to several of his fellows of the football
field, but his hand crept out from underneath the shrouding cape, palm
down, signalling caution. "Orders--some kind," he answered in tones just
loud enough to be heard by those nearest him. "Seen the old man anywhere?
The general wants him," and, never halting for reply the youngster
hurried on.

He was a bright, cheery, brave-eyed lad of twenty who six months earlier
was stumbling through the sciences at the great university on the heights
beyond the glorious bay, never dreaming of deadlier battle than that in
which his pet eleven grappled with the striped team of a rival college.
All on a sudden, to the amaze of the elders of the great republic, the
tenets and traditions of the past were thrown to the winds and the "Hermit
Nation" leaped the seas and flew at the strongholds of the Spanish
colonies. Volunteers sprang up by the hundred thousand and a reluctant
Congress accorded a meagre addition to the regular army. Many a college
athlete joined the ranks, while a limited few, gifted with relatives who
had both push and "pull," were permitted to pass a not very exacting
examination and join the permanent establishment as second lieutenants
forthwith. Counting those commissioned in the regular artillery and
infantry, there must have been a dozen in the thronging camps back of the
great city, and of these dozen, Billy Gray--"Belligerent Billy," as a
tutor dubbed him when the war and Billy broke out together--the latter to
the extent of a four-day's absence from all collegiate duty--was easily
the gem of the lot. One of the "brightest minds" in his class, he was one
of the laziest; one of the quickest and most agile when aroused, he was
one of the torpids as a rule: One of the kind who should have "gone in for
honors," as the faculty said, he came nearer going out for devilment. The
only son of a retired colonel of the army who had made California his
home, Billy had spent years in camp and field and saddle and knew the West
as he could never hope to know Haswell. The only natural soldier of his
class when, sorely against the will of most, they entered the student
battalion, he promptly won the highest chevrons that could be given in the
sophomore year, and, almost as promptly, lost them for "lates" and
absences. When the 'Varsity was challenged by a neighboring institute to a
competitive drill the "scouts" of the former reported that the crack
company of the San Pedros had the snappiest captain they ever saw, and
that, with far better material to choose from, and more of it, the
'Varsity wouldn't stand a ghost of a show in the eyes of the professional
judges unless Billy would "brace up" and "take hold." Billy was willing as
Barkis, but the faculty said it would put a premium on laxity to make
Billy a 'Varsity captain even though the present incumbents were ready,
any of them, to resign in his favor. "Prex" said No in no uncertain terms;
the challenge was declined, whereat the institute crowed lustily and the
thing got into the rival papers. As a result a select company of student
volunteers was formed: its members agreed to drill an hour daily in
addition to the prescribed work, provided Billy would "take hold" in
earnest, and this was the company that, under his command, swept the
boards six weeks later and left San Pedro's contingent an amazed and
disgusted crowd. Then Billy went to metaphorical pieces again until the
war clouds overspread the land; then like his father's son he girded up
his loins, went in for a commission and won. And here he was a "sub" in
Uncle Sam's stalwart infantry with three classmates serving under him in
the ranks and half a dozen more, either as junior officers or enlisted
men, in the camps of the volunteers. He was a handsome boy, a healthy,
hearty boy, and, as boys go, rather a good boy--a boy in whom his mother
would have found, had she not long since been lifted above the cares of
this world, much of comfort and more to condone, but a boy, nevertheless,
who had given his old dragoon of a dad many an anxious hour. Now, just as
he neared the legal dividing line between youth and years of discretion,
Billy Gray had joined the third battalion of his regiment, full of pluck,
hope and health, full of ambition to make a name for himself in a
profession he loved as, except his father, he certainly loved nothing
else, and utterly scoffing the idea that there might come into his life a
being for the sake of whose smile he could almost lay down his sword, for
he had yet to meet Amy Lawrence.

"Who are the women folks up at headquarters, Billy?" asked a youth of his
own years and rank, peering eagerly through the drifting mist at the dim,
ghostly outlines of the general's camp.

"Didn't get to see 'em. Where's the old man--the colonel?" was the reply.
"Chief wants him toot de sweet!"

"What's wanted?" called a voice from the biggest of the neighboring
tents, and a close-cropped head was thrust out between the front tent
flaps. "That you, Billy? Who wants the colonel? He and the 'brig' rode
over to the Presidio an hour ago--ain't got back. Come in; I've started a
fire in our oil stove." A puff of warm air blew from the interior and
confirmed the statement. It was well along in summer and, not a dozen
miles away to the east, men were strolling about with palm-leaf fans and
wilted collars. Here, close to the gray shores of the mighty sea,
blankets and overcoats were in demand. Hospitably the older officer
tugged at the lacings of the military front door, swore between his set
teeth when the knots, swollen by the wet, withstood his efforts and then
shouted:

"Sergeant-major; send somebody here to open this."

A light footstep sounded on the springy board floor, nimble fingers
worked a moment at the cords, then the flap was thrown open and the
adjutant's office stood partially revealed. It was a big wall tent backed
up against another of the same size and pattern. Half a dozen plain
chairs, two rough board tables littered with books, papers and smoking
tobacco, an oil stove and a cheap clothes rack on which were hanging
raincoats, ponchos and a cape or two, comprised all the furniture. In a
stout frame of unplaned wood, cased in their oilskins and tightly rolled,
stood the colors of the famous regiment; and back of them, well within
the second tent where one clerk was just lighting a camp lantern, were
perched on rough tables a brace of field desks with the regimental books.
The sergeant-major, a veteran of years of service in the regulars, sat at
one of them. A young soldier, he who had unfastened the tent flap to
admit Lieutenant Gray, was just returning to his seat at the other. Two
orderlies lounged on a bench well beyond and back of the sergeant-major's
seat, and a bugler, with his hands in his pockets, was smoking a short
brier-root pipe at the opposite or back doorway. Woe to the enlisted men
who sought the presence of the colonel or adjutant through any other
channel. The sergeant-major would drop on him with the force of a
baseball bat.

"Who all are over yahnduh at the chief's?" asked the adjutant, as soon as
he had his visitor well inside, and the soft accent as well as the quaint
phraseology told that in the colonel's confidential staff officer a
Southerner spoke.

"All the brigade and most regimental commanders 'cept ours, I should say,
and they seem to be waiting for them. Can't we send?" was the answer, as
the junior whipped off his campaign hat and sprinkled the floor with the
vigorous shakes he gave the battered felt.

"Have sent," said his entertainer briefly, as he filled a pipe from the
open tobacco box and struck a safety match. "Orderly galloped after him
ten minutes ago. Blow the brigade and battalion commanders! What I asked
you was who are the women up there?"

"No, you didn't! You said, 'who all are up yonder?' I'm a sub, and
s'posed you meant _men_--soldiers--officers. What have I to do with
anybody in petticoats?"

"And I'm a grizzled vet of a dozen years' duty, crows' feet and gray
hairs a-comin'," grinned the adjutant, pulling at a long curly mustache
and drawing himself up to his full height of six feet, "and when you're
as old as I am and half as wise, Billy, you'll know that a pretty girl is
worth ten times the thought our old frumps of generals demand. My name
ain't Gordon if I haven't a mind to waltz over there through the mist and
the wind just to tell them I've sent for Squeers. Then I'll get a look at
the girls."

"I've got to go back," said Billy, "and you've no business to--with Mrs.
Gordon and an interesting family to consider. What tent'd the ladies go
to? _I_ didn't see 'em."

"Mrs. Gordon, suh," said the adjutant, with placid superiority,
"considers it a reflection on her sex when I fail to pay it due homage.
Of course you didn't see the ladies. The party was shown into the
general's own domicile. Couldn't you see how many young fellows were
posing in picturesque attitudes in front of it? Awe Hank!" he suddenly
shouted to an officer striding past the tent in dripping mackintosh.
"Goin' up to division headquarters? Just tell the staff or the chief I've
sent an orderly galloping after Squeers. He's halfway to the Presidio
now, but it'll be an hour before they can get back." The silent officer
nodded and went on, whereat Gordon made a spring for the entrance and
hailed again.

"Say, Hank! Who are the damsels?"

The answer came back through the fog:

"People from the East--looking for a runaway. Old gent, pretty daughter,
and pretty daughter's prettier cousin. Heard the orders?"

"Damn the orders! They don't touch _us_. Where do they come from?"

"D'rect from Washington, they say. Three regiments to sail at once,
and----"

"Oh, I know all that!" shouted Gordon impatiently. "It was all over camp
an hour ago! Where do they--the girls--come from? What's their name?"

"Wasn't presented," was the sulky reply. "Let a lot of stuffy old women
show up in search of long-lost sons and those fellows at headquarters
unload them on us in less than no time, but a brace of pretty girls--!
Why, they double the gate guards so that no outsider can so much as see
them. Billy, here, knows 'em. Ask him."

By this time the youngster had ranged up alongside the adjutant and was
laughingly enjoying the latest arrival's tirade at the expense of the
headquarters' staff, but at his closing words Lieutenant Billy's grin of
amusement suddenly left his face, giving way to a look of blank amaze.

"_I_ know 'em! I haven't been east of the Big Muddy since I was a kid."

"They asked for you all the same, just after you started. 'Least one of
'em did--for What's-his-name?--the chief's military legal adviser, came
out bareheaded and called after you, but you were out of hearing. He said
the cousin, the prettiest one, recognized you as you skipped away from
the general's tent and pointed you out to her friend. Somebody explained
you were running an errand for one of those aides too lazy to go himself,
and that you'd be back presently."

"Then go at once, young man," said the adjutant, laying a mighty hand on
the junior's square shoulder. "Stand not upon the order of your going,
but git! Never you mind about the colonel. He won't be _here_ until after
he's been _there_, and he's in for a rasping over this morning's
inspection. Just look at the report. Sergeant-major, send me Colonel
Colt's report!" he called aloud, tossing his head back as he spoke, "Come
in, Parson; come out of the wet." And, eager enough to read a famous
inspector's criticisms of the appearance of the regiment, the officer
addressed as Parson shoved briskly into the tent.

The young soldier who had opened the tent flap a few minutes before came
forward with a folded paper which, in silence, he handed the adjutant and
turned back to his desk. Mr. Gordon took the paper, but his eyes followed
the soldier. Then he called, somewhat sharply:

"Morton!"

The young fellow stopped at the dividing crack between the two tent
floors, and slowly faced the three officers. He was slender, well built,
erect. His uniform fitted him trimly, and was worn with easy grace, his
hands and feet were small and slender, his eyes and hair dark and fine,
his features delicate and clear cut, his complexion a trifle blistered
and beaten by the harsh winds that whistled in every day from the sea,
and, as he turned, all three officers were struck by its extreme pallor.

"You're sick again, Morton," said the adjutant somewhat sternly. "I
thought I told you to see Dr. Heffernan. Have you done so?"

"I--wasn't sick enough," faltered the young soldier. "I was all right a
minute or two--or rather this morning, sir. It'll be over presently.
Perhaps it was the smell of the oil that did it--the stove is close to my
desk."

But Gordon continued to look at him doubtfully.

"Move your desk across the tent for the present, anyhow," said he, "and
I'll speak to the doctor myself. With all this newspaper hullabaloo about
our neglect of the sick," continued he, turning to his friends, "if a man
changes color at sight of a smash-up he must be turned over to the Red
Cross at once. What is it, orderly?" he finished suddenly, as the tent
flaps parted and a soldier in complete uniform, girt with his belt of
glistening cartridges, stood at salute, some visiting cards in his gloved
hand.

"Lieutenant Gray here, sir?" was the comprehensive answer. Then, catching
sight of the young officer who stepped quickly forward, he held forth the
cards.

"The adjutant-general's compliments, sir, and he'd be glad if the
lieutenant would come over at once."

Gray took the cards, curiously studied them and then read aloud, one
after the other, and placing the topmost underneath the other two as soon
as read.

                         "MR. LISPENARD PRIME."
                         "MISS PRIME."
                         "MISS AMY LAWRENCE."

It was the last name that lay uppermost at the end, receiving particular
attention, and the Parson noted it.

"That's the pretty cousin, Billy," quoth he. "Case of the last shall be
first, don't you see? Scoot now, you lucky boy, and tell us all about it
later."

But Gray was still gazing dreamily at the cards.

"I'm sure I never met any of them before in my life," said he. "There
must be some mistake. Yet--that name--sounds familiar--somehow," and
"that" was the only name now in sight. "I'm off," he suddenly announced,
and vanished.

There was a sound of light, quick footsteps on the flooring of the
rearward tent at the same time. The sergeant-major glanced up from his
writing; looked at a vacant desk, then at the clock, then, inquiringly,
at his regimental deity--the adjutant. It was just the hour of the day at
which all manner of papers were coming down from division and brigade
headquarters to be duly stamped, noted and stacked up for the colonel's
action. This was the young clerk Morton's especial function, but Morton
had left the office and was gone.



CHAPTER II.


The little party of visitors in the general's personal tent made a
striking contrast to that assembled under the official canvas. In the
latter, seated on camp stools and candle boxes or braced against the tent
poles were nearly a dozen officers, all in the sombre dark blue
regulation uniform, several in riding boots and spurs, some even wearing
the heavy, frogged overcoat; all but two, juniors of the staff, men who
stood on the shady side of forty, four of the number wearing on their
shoulders the silver stars of generals of division or brigade, and among
their thinning crops of hair the silver strands that told of years of
service. One man alone, the commanding general, was speaking; all the
others listened in respectful silence. In the gloom of that late,
fog-shrouded afternoon a lantern or two would have been welcome, but the
conference had begun while it was still light enough for the chief to
read the memoranda on his desk, and now he was talking without notes. In
the array of grave, thoughtful faces, some actually somber and severe in
expression, a smile would have seemed out of place, yet, all of a sudden,
grim features relaxed, deep-set eyes twinkled and glanced quickly about
in search of kindred sympathetic spirits, and more than half the bearded
faces broadened into a grin of merriment and as many heads were suddenly
uplifted, for just as the gray-haired chief ended an impressive period
with the words: "It will be no laughing matter if I can lay hold of
them," there burst upon the surprised ears of the group a peal of the
merriest laughter imaginable--the rippling, joyous, musical laughter of
happy girlhood mingling with the hearty, wholesome, if somewhat boyish,
outburst of jollity, of healthful youth.

"Merciful powers!" exclaimed the chief. "I had forgotten all about those
people. They must have been here twenty minutes."

"Sixty-five, sir, by the watch," said a saturnine-looking soldier, tall
and stalwart, and wearing the shield of the adjutant-general's department
on the collar of his sack coat.

"They ought to go, then," was the placid suggestion of a third officer, a
man with keen eyes, thin, almost ascetic, face, but there twitched a
quaint humor about the lines of his lips. "That visit's past the retiring
age."

And then another peal of merriment from the adjoining tent put stop to
conversation.

"They don't lack for entertainers," hazarded a staff officer as soon as
he could make himself heard. "The solemn-looking Gothamite who came with
them must have slipped out."

"It seems he knows Colonel Armstrong," said the chief thoughtfully. "I
sent for him an hour ago, and he may be piloting Mr. Prime around camp,
looking up the runaway."

"Another case?" asked a brigade commander with a shrug of his shoulders.

"Another case," answered the general, with a sigh. "It isn't always home
troubles that drive them to it. This boy had everything a doting father
could give him. What on earth could make _him_ bolt and enlist for the
war?"

No one answered for a moment. Then the officer with the humorous twinkle
about the eyes and the twitch at the lip corners, bent forward, placed
his elbows on his knees, his fingers tip to tip, gazed dreamily at the
floor, and sententiously said:

"Girl."

Whereupon his next neighbor, a stocky, thickset man in the uniform of a
brigadier, never moving eye, head or hand, managed to bring a sizable
foot in heavy riding boot almost savagely upon the slim gaiter of the
humorist, who suddenly started and flushed to the temples, glanced
quickly at the chief, and then as quickly back to the floor, his blue
eyes clouded in genuine distress.

The general's gray face had seemed to grow grayer in the gloom. Again
there came, like a rippling echo, the chorus of merry laughter from the
adjoining tent, only it seemed a trifle subdued, possibly as though one
or two of the merry-makers had joined less heartily. With sudden movement
the general rose: "Well, I've kept you long enough," he said. "Let the
three regiments be got in readiness at once, but relax no effort in--that
other matter. Find the guilty parties if a possible thing."

And then the group dissolved. One or two of the number looked back,
half-hesitating, at the entrance of the tent, but the chief had turned
again to the littered table before him, and seating himself, rested his
gray head in the hand nearest his visitors. It was as though he wished to
conceal his face. One of the last to go--the thin-faced soldier with the
twinkling blue eyes, hung irresolutely behind the chief a moment as
though he had it in his mind to speak, then turned and fairly tiptoed
out, leaving the camp commander to the society of a single staff officer,
and to the gathering darkness.

"Kindly say to Mr. Prime, or his friends, that I will join them in a
moment," said the former, presently, without so much as uplifting head or
eye, and the aide-de-camp left as noiselessly as his predecessor, the
humorist. But when he was gone and "The Chief" sat alone, the sound of
merry chat and laughter still drifted in with the mist at the half-opened
entrance. Shadowy forms flitted to and fro between the official tent and
the lights beginning to twinkle at brigade headquarters across the wide
roadway. An orderly scratched at the tent flap, but got no answer. The
lone occupant sat well back in the gloomy interior and could barely be
distinguished. The waiting soldier hesitated a moment, then entered and
stamped once upon the wooden floor, then turned and noiselessly stepped
out, for, anticipating his question, the general spoke:

"No light just yet, orderly. I'll call you--in a moment. Just close the
tent."

At his hand, he needed no light to find it, lay a little packet that had
been passed in to him with the mail while the council was still in
session. It was stoutly wrapped, tightly corded, and profusely sealed,
but with the sharp point of an eraser the general slit the fastenings,
tore off the wrapper, and felt rather than saw, that a bundle of letters,
rolled in tissue paper and tied with ribbon, ribbon long since faded and
wrinkled, lay within. This he carefully placed in a large-sized military
letter envelope, moistened and pressed tight the gummed flap, stowed it
in the inner pocket of the overcoat that hung at the rear tent pole,
reduced the wrapper and its superscription to minute fragments, and
dropped them into the waste-basket, all as carefully and methodically as
though life knew neither hurry nor worry; then bowed his lined face in
both hands a moment in utter silence and in unmistakable sadness.
Presently his lips moved: "Can you look down and see that I have kept my
word, Agnes?" he murmured. "God help me to find him and save him--yet."

Once again the laughter, the gay young voices, rang from the other tent.
All over camp, far and near, from the limits of the park to the very
slope of the height at the north, the evening bugles were calling by
thousands the thronging soldiery to mess or roll call. Slowly the General
rose, drew on his overcoat, and in another moment, under the sloping
visor of his forage-cap, with eyes that twinkled behind their glasses,
with a genial smile softening every feature, his fine soldierly face
peered in on the scene of light, of merriment and laughter under the
canvas roof of the only home he knew in the world--the soldier home of
one whose life had been spent following the flag through bivouac, camp or
garrison, through many a march, battle and campaign all over the broad
lands of the United States until now, at the hour when most men turned
for the placid joys of the fireside, the love of devoted and faithful
wife, the homage and affection of children, the prattle and playful
sports of children's children--homeless, wifeless, childless he stood at
the border of the boundless sea, soldier duty pointing the way to far
distant, unknown and undesired regions, content to follow that flag to
the end of the world, if need be, and owning no higher hope or ambition
than to uphold it to the end of his life.

There was nothing in such a face as his to put a check to fun and
merriment, yet, all on a sudden, the laughter died away. Three young
gallants in soldier garb sprang to their feet and faced him with appeal
and explanation in their speaking eyes, although only one of their number
found his tongue in time to put the matter into words. There were only
two girls when the general left that tent to meet his officers at four
o'clock, and now there were four, and the four were having five-o'clock
tea.

At least any one would have said they were four blithe girls, innocent of
graver responsibilities than social calls and dinner or dance
engagements, for never looked four young women so free from the cares of
this world as did those who were picturesquely grouped about the
General's camp table and under the brilliant reflector of the General's
lamp, but the plain gold circlet on the slender finger of the merriest
and noisiest and smallest of the four, and the fact that she had nothing
to say to the elder of the three attendant officers except in the brief,
indifferent tones of assured proprietorship, and very much to say to the
others, told a different story. The General's manner lost none of its
kindness, even though a close observer would have seen that his face lost
a little of its light as he recognized in the evident leader of the
revels and mistress of the situation the wife of his senior aide-de-camp.
An hour before he thought her a thousand miles away--and so did her
husband.

"Bless your dear old heart!" exclaimed the little lady, springing to her
feet, facing him with indomitable smiles and thrusting forward two
slender, white, bejeweled hands. "No--don't say you disapprove! Don't
scold! Don't do anything but sit right down here and have a cup of your
own delicious tea--(Frank, some boiling water)--that no one makes for you
as I do--you've owned it many a time. And then we're all going in to the
Palace for dinner and then to the theatre, and I'll tell you all about it
between the courses or between the acts. Oh, you poor dear! I ought to
have come before--you've been working yourself to death!"

And by this time, resolutely pulling, she had towed the General to a
chair, and into this, his favorite leather-armed, canvas-backed,
hickory-framed companion of many a year, she deftly dropped him and then,
giving him no chance for a word, gayly pirouetting, she seized one after
another upon each member of the party present--an accomplished little
mistress of ceremonies encased in a tailor-made traveling suit that
rendered her proof against a dozen minor ills, so beautifully was it cut
and fitted to her pretty figure--and, with inexhaustible flow of merry
words, presented her or him to the veteran in the chair:

"This, my honored General, first and foremost, is Miss Mildred Prime,
daughter of a thousand earls is she, yet one _vastly_ to be desired,
though I say it who should not, for she hails from New York, which is
enough to make me hate her, whereas we've just sworn an eternal
friendship. You've only casually met her and her folks before, but _I_
can tell you all about them. You should have put Frank at the head of
your Intelligence Bureau, General. _He'd_ never find out anything, but
_I_ would. We came on the same train together all the way from Ogden."

A tall, dark-eyed, dark-haired, oval-faced girl, coloring slightly in
evident embarassment over these odd army ways, courtesied smilingly to
the General and seemed to be pleading dumbly for clemency if there had
been transgression.

"This," hurried on the voluble little woman, seizing another feminine
wrist, "is Miss Cherry Langton--Cherry Ripe we call her at home this
summer, the dearest girl that ever lived except myself, and one you'll
simply delight in--as you do in me--when you get to know her. She is, as
you have often been told and have probably forgotten, the only
good-looking member of Frank's family--his first cousin. She was moping
her heart out after all the nice young men in Denver went to the wars,
and withering on the stem until I told her she should go too, when she
blossomed and blushed with joy as you see her now, sir. Cherry, make your
manners." Cherry, whose name well described her, was only waiting for a
chance, laughing the while at the merry flow of her chaperon's words,
and, at the first break, stepped quickly forward and placed her hand
frankly in the outstretched palm of her host, then glanced eagerly over
her shoulder as though she would say: "But you must see _her_," and her
bright eyes sought and found the fourth feminine member of the group.

"And this," said Mrs. Frank Garrison, bravely, yet with a trifle less
confidence of manner, with indeed a faint symptom of hesitancy, "is Miss
Amy Lawrence," and in extending her little hand to take that of the most
retiring of the three girls, only the finger tips and thumb seemed to
touch. Miss Lawrence came quickly forward, and waiting for no
description, bowed with quiet grace and dignity to the chief and, smiling
a bit gravely, said:

"Uncle left word that he would soon return, General, but he has been gone
with Colonel Armstrong nearly an hour. I hope we have not taken too great
a liberty," and her glance turned to the substantial tea service on the
rude camp table.

"Oh, _I'm_ responsible for that--and for any and every iniquity here
committed, solely because I know our General too well to believe he would
allow famishing damsels to faint for lack of sustenance." It was Mrs.
Garrison, of course, who spoke. "I simply set Frank and his fellows to
work, with the result that tea and biscuit, light and warmth, mirth and
merriment, faith, hope and charity sprang up like magic in this gloomy old
tent, and here we are still. Now, say you're glad I came, General, for
these stupid boys--Oh! I quite forgot! Let me present the slaves of the
lamp--the spirit lamp, General. Frank you know--too well, I dare say.
Stand forth, vassal Number Two. This, General, is Captain Schuyler, a mite
of a man physically--a Gothamite, in fact--but a tower of wit and wisdom
when permitted to speak." (A diminutive youngster, with a head twice too
big for his body, and a world of fun in his sparkling eyes, bowed
elaborately to his commanding general, but prudently held his peace.)
"Captain Schuyler, my dear General, meekly bears the crescent of the
subsistence department on his beautifully high and unquestionably New
York-made collars. He hasn't an idea on the subject of supplies except
that commissary cigars are bad, but his senator said he had to have
something and that's what he got. He'd rather be second lieutenant of
regular infantry any day, but that was too high for him. _Here's_ a youth
it fits to a 't'--Mr. William Gray of the --teenth Foot, whom I knew years
ago when we were kids in the same camp, and whose best claim to your
notice is that you knew his father. He says so, and hopes you'll forgive
all his budding iniquities on the strength of it." The General nodded with
a grin at the youngster who stood at Miss Lawrence's left, and then held
up his hand for silence, shutting off further presentations.

"I'll forgive anything but more chatter," said he, with a placid smile,
"provided you give me some tea at once. Then I should be glad to know how
you all happened to meet here."

"My doing entirely, General. (Frank, another cup--quick!) Cherry came
with me to surprise my husband--an easy thing to do--I'm always doing it.
We found him here, by your orders, striving to entertain these two
charming damsels--the last thing on earth he is capable of doing, however
valuable he may be with orders and correspondence. _I_ heard Mr. Prime's
story and at once suggested Colonel Armstrong. _I_ heard Miss Lawrence
exclaim at sight of Billy here, and saw a case of old acquaintance and
sent for him forthwith. So easy to say: 'The adjutant-general's
compliments'--_I_ found that, after all, they had never met, but Miss
Lawrence had seen him at the head of some famous student company. _I_ it
was who presented him to her, and summoned Captain Schuyler to meet once
more his fellow-citizens, the Primes. _I_ it was who ordered lamps, fire
and the tea things. _I_ am the good fairy who wrought the transformation.
Behold me with my wand!"

She seized Miss Langton's slender umbrella and, waving it over her curly
little head, pirouetted again in triumphant gayety.

The General was thoughtfully sipping his tea and studying her as she
chattered and danced. When she paused a moment for breath he again held
up his hand.

"Colonel Armstrong went with Mr. Prime, did he?"

"With every assurance that the prodigal should be produced forthwith and
restored to the paternal bosom," declaimed Mrs. Garrison melodramatically,
and would have ranted on, never noting the flush of pain and embarrassment
that almost instantly appeared in the faces of Miss Lawrence and her
dark-eyed Eastern cousin, nor seeing the warning in her husband's eyes,
but at the moment the tent flap was thrown back and held open to admit a
tall, gray-haired civilian whose silk hat was uplifted as he entered, in
courteous recognition of the group, despite the distress that was betrayed
in the pallor of his face and the instant glance of his dark eyes toward
the slender girl, who stepped eagerly forward. Mrs. Garrison, turning
quickly, saw, and with swift, agile movement, sprang to one side. The
General slowly struggled up from his easy-chair. Reaching her father's
side, Miss Prime laid her hand upon his arm, looking fondly and anxiously
into his face.

A soldierly, middle-aged officer, in dripping forage cap and rain coat,
stepped quickly in and lowered the flap. "Did you find him, father?" was
Miss Prime's low-toned, faltering question.

"We found--the soldier referred to; Colonel Armstrong has been most kind;
but--it wasn't your brother at all, my child."



CHAPTER III.


A day had dawned on the Presidio Heights as brilliant as its predecessor
had been dismal. A soft south wind had swept the fogs of the Pacific far
out to sea and cleared the summer sky of every wisp of vapor. The sun of
early August shone hot and strong upon the sandy wastes between the
westward limits of the division camps and the foamy strand beneath the
low bluffs, and beat upon the canvas homes of the rejoicing soldiery,
slacking cloth and cordage so that the trim tent lines had become broken
and jagged, thereby setting the teeth of "Old Squeers" on edge, as he
gazed grimly from under the brim of his unsightly felt hat and called for
his one faithful henchman, the orderly. Even his adjutant could not
condone the regimental commander's objectionable traits, for a crustier
old villain of a veteran lived not in the line of the army. "Ould Canker"
the troopers had dubbed him during the few years he had served in the
cavalry, transplanted from a foot regiment at the time of the
reorganization, so-called, of the army in '71; but a few years of mounted
duty in Arizona and later in the Sioux country had sickened him of
cavalry life and he gladly accepted a chance to transfer back to the
infantry. Now, twenty years after, risen by degrees to the grade of
lieutenant-colonel, he found himself in command of a famous old regiment
of regulars, whose colonel had donned the stars of a general officer of
volunteers, and the pet name--save the mark--of cavalry days had given
place to the unflattering _sobriquet_ derived from that horror of boyish
readers--the ill-favored schoolmaster of Dotheboys Hall. He had come to
the --teenth with a halo of condemnation from the regiment in which he
had served as major and won his baleful name, and "the boys" of his new
command soon learned to like him even less than those who had dubbed him
"Squeers," because, as they explained, there wasn't any privilege or
pleasure he would not "do the boys" out of if he possibly could. Gordon
had promptly tendered his resignation as regimental adjutant when his
beloved colonel left the post to report for duty in the army destined for
Cuba, but Lieutenant-Colonel Canker declined to accept it, and fairly
told Gordon that, as he hadn't a friend among the subalterns, there was
no one else to take it. Then, too, the colonel himself wrote a word or
two and settled the matter.

A big review had been ordered for the morning. An entire brigade of
sturdy volunteers was already forming and marching out by battalions to
their regimental parades, the men showing in their easy stride and
elastic carriage the effects of two months' hard drill and gradually
increasing discipline. The regulars were still out in the park, hidden by
the dense foliage and busy with their company drills. The adjutant and
clerk were at their papers in the big office tent, and only the sentries,
the sick and the special duty men remained about the body of camp. There
was no one, said Private Noonan to himself, as he paced the pathway in
front of the colonel's tent, after having scrupulously saluted him on his
appearance, "No wan fur the ould man to whack at, barrin' it's me," but
even Canker could find nothing to "whack at" in this veteran soldier who
had served in the ranks since the days of the great war and had borne the
messages of such men as Sheridan, Thomas and McPherson when Canker
himself was sweating under his knapsack and musket. Like most men, even
most objectionable men, Canker had some redeeming features, and that was
one of them--he had been a private soldier, and a brave one, too, and was
proud of it.

But life had little sunshine in it for one of his warped, ill-conditioned
nature. There was a profound conviction in the minds of the company
officers that the mere sight of happiness or content in the face of a
subordinate was more than enough to set Canker's wits to work to wipe it
out. There was no doubt whatever in the minds of the subalterns that the
main reason why Squeers was so manifestly "down on" Billy Gray was the
almost indestructible expression of good nature, jollity and enthusiasm
that had shown in the little fellow's face ever since he joined the
regiment. "If we call the old man Squeers we should dub Billy Mark
Tapley," said Gordon one day, when the lad had laughed off the effect of
an unusually acrimonious rasping over a trivial error in the Guard Report
book. "He's no end kind when a fellow's in a fix," said Gray, in
explanation, "and all the time he was soaking me I was thinking how he
stood by Jimmy Carson in _his_ scrape"--a serious scrape it was, too, for
young Carson, detailed to escort certain prisoners to Alcatraz and
intrusted with certain funds to be turned over to the chief quartermaster
of the department, had unaccountably fallen into a deep sleep aboard the
train and awoke to find both funds and prisoners gone. Explanations were
useless. The commanding general would listen to no excuse; a
court-martial was ordered, and a very worthy young officer's military
career seemed about to close under a cloud, when "Old Canker" threw
himself into the breach. He had long suspected the sergeant who had
accompanied the party in immediate command of the little guard. He hated
the commanding general with all his soul, and, how it came about no one
could thoroughly explain, but one day Canker turned up with indubitable
proof that the sergeant was the thief--that he was bribed to bring about
the escape of the prisoners, and that he had drugged the fresh spring
water he brought in to the young officer after the burning heat of the
desert was left behind in the dead of the summer night. Canker even
recovered most of the stolen money, for there was a woman in the case,
and she had safely stowed it away. Carson was cleared and Canker
triumphant. "See what the man can do when his sense of justice is
aroused," said the optimists of the army. "Justice be blowed," answered
the cynics. "He never would have raised his finger to help Carson but for
the joy of proving the General unjust, and a regimental pet--the
sergeant--a thief."

Yet Gray reverted to this episode as explanation of his tolerance of
Canker's harshness and thereby gave rise to a rejoinder from the lips of
a veteran company commander that many a fellow was destined to recall
before the regiment was two months older:

"In order to settle it, somebody's got to find his life or his commission
in jeopardy. Maybe it'll be you, Billy, and I'm betting _you_ won't find
Squeers a guardian angel."

Yet on this sunshiny summer morning, with hope and sunshine and
confidence in his handsome, boyish face, Lieutenant Gray came bounding up
to the presence of the regimental commander as though that sour-visaged
soldier were an indulgent uncle who could not say him nay. A stylish open
carriage in which were seated two remarkably pretty girls and a
gray-haired, slender gentleman, had reined up in the street opposite the
entrance to the row of officers' tents and Canker had ripped out his
watch, with an ugly frown on his forehead, for three of his companies had
just marched in from drill, and three of their young lieutenants, on the
instant of dismissal, had made straight for the vehicle and he half-hoped
to find they had lopped off a minute or so of the allotted hour. The
sound of merry laughter seemed to grate on his ears. The sight of Gray's
beaming face seemed to deepen the gloom in his own. Instinctively he knew
the youngster had come to ask a favor and he stood ready to refuse.

"Colonel, I'd like mightily to go over and see that review this morning,
sir; and Mr. Prime is good enough to offer me a seat in his carriage. May
I go, sir?"

"You can't go anywhere, sir, with the tents of your company in that
disgraceful condition. Just look at them, sir,--as ragged as a wash line
on a windy day!" And Canker scowled angrily at the young fellow standing
squarely at attention before him.

"I know that, colonel, but the sun did that while we were out at drill,
and the men will straighten everything in ten minutes. I'll give the
order now, sir." And Billy looked as though refusal were out of the
question.

"You'll stay and see it done, sir, and _when_ it's done--to my
satisfaction--will be time enough to ask for favors. Mr. Gordon, send
word to the company commanders I wish to see them here at once,"
continued the senior officer, whirling on his heel and terminating the
interview by so doing. It was in Gray's mind for a brief minute to follow
and plead. He had made it tell many a time with an obstinate university
Don, but he knew the carriage was waiting--the carriage load watching,
and deep down in his heart there was keen disappointment. He would have
given a big slice of his monthly pay to go with that particular party,
occupy the seat opposite Amy Lawrence and gaze his fill at her fair face.
He well-nigh hated Squeers as he hurried away to hail his first sergeant
and give the necessary orders before daring to return to the carriage and
report his failure. His bright blue eyes were clouded and his face
flushed with vexation, for he saw that the rearmost regiment was even now
filing into the Presidio Reservation afar off to the north, and that no
time was to be lost if his friends were to see the review. The distant
measured boom of guns told that the General in whose honor the ceremony
was ordered was already approaching the appointed spot, and away over the
rolling uplands toward the Golden Gate a cavalry escort rode into view.
Billy ground his teeth. "Run and tell them I cannot get leave," he called
to a fellow sub. "Squeers has set me to work straightening up camp. Turn
out the company, sergeant! Brace the tent cords and align tents," and a
mournful wave of his forage cap was the only greeting he dare trust
himself to give, as after a few minutes of fruitless waiting the vacant
seat was given to another officer and the carriage rolled rapidly away. A
second or two it was hidden from his sight behind the large wall tents
along the line of fence, then shot into full view again as he stood at
the end of the company street looking eagerly for its reappearance. And
then occurred a little thing that was destined to live in his memory for
many a day, and that thrilled him with a new and strange delight. He had
never been of the so-called "spooney" set at the 'Varsity. Pretty girls
galore there were about that famous institute, and he had danced at many
a student party and romped through many a reel, but the nearest he had
ever come to something more than a mere jolly friendship for a girl was
the regard in which he held his partner in the "Mixed Doubles," but that
was all on account of her exuberant health, spirits, general comeliness
of face and form, and exquisite skill in tennis. But this day a new and
eager longing was eating at his heart; a strange, dull pang seemed to
seize upon it as he noted in a flash that the seat that was to have been
his was occupied by an officer many years his senior, a man he knew only
by sight and an enviable reputation, a man whose soldierly, clear-cut
face never turned an instant, for his eyes were fixed upon a lovely
picture on the opposite seat--Amy Lawrence bending eagerly forward and
gazing with her beautiful eyes alight with sympathy, interest and frank
liking in search of the sorely disappointed young officer. "There he is!"
she cried, though too far away for him to hear, and then, with no more
thought of coquetry than a kitten, with no more motive in the world than
that of conveying to him an idea of her sorrow, her sympathy, her perhaps
pardonable and exaggerated indignation at what she deemed an act of
tyranny on part of his commander, with only an instant in which to
express it all--her sweet face flushed, her eyes flamed with the light of
her girlish enthusiasm and in that instant she had kissed her hand to
him. Colonel Armstrong, turning suddenly and sharply to see who could be
the object of interest so absorbing, caught one flitting glimpse of Billy
Gray lifting his cap in quick acknowledgment, and the words that were on
the tip of Armstrong's tongue the moment before were withheld for a more
auspicious occasion--and it did not come too soon.

It was only four days after that initial meeting in the General's tent
the foggy evening of the girl's first visit to camp, but both in town and
on the tented field there had been several young ladies. Junior officers
had monopolized the time and attention of the latter, but Armstrong was a
close observer and a man who loved all that was strong, high-minded and
true in his own sex, and that was pure and sweet and winsome in woman. A
keen soldier, he had spent many years in active service, most of them in
the hardy, eventful and vigorous life of the Indian frontier. He had been
conspicuous in more than one stirring campaign against the red warriors
of the plains, had won his medal of honor before his first promotion, and
his captaincy by brevet for daring conduct in action long antedated the
right to wear the double bars of that grade. He had seen much of the
world, at home and abroad; had traveled much, read much, thought much,
but these were things of less concern to many a woman in our much married
army than the question as to whether he had ever loved much. Certain it
was he had never married, but _that_ didn't settle it. Many a man loves,
said they, without getting married, forgetful of the other side of the
preposition advanced by horrid regimental cynics, that many men marry
without getting loved. Armstrong would not have proved an easy man to
question on that, or indeed on any other subject which he considered
personal to himself. Even in his own regiment in the regular service he
had long been looked upon as an exclusive sort of fellow--a man who had
no intimates and not many companions, yet, officers and soldiers, he held
the respect and esteem of the entire command, even of those whom he kept
at a distance, and few are the regiments in which there are not one or
two characters who are best seen and studied through a binocular. Without
being sympathetic, said his critics, Armstrong was "square," but his
critics had scant means of knowing whether he was sympathetic or not. He
was a steadfast fellow, an unswerving, uncompromising sort of man, a man
who would never have done for a diplomat, and could never have been
elected to office. But he was truthful, just, and as the English officer
reluctantly said of Lucan, whom he hated, "Yes--damn him--he's brave."
The men whom he did not seem to like in the army and who disliked him
accordingly, were compelled to admit, to themselves at least, that their
reasons were comprised in the above-recorded, regretable, but
unmistakable fact--he didn't like them. Another trait, unpopular, was
that he knew when and how to say no. He smoked too much, perhaps, and
talked too little for those who would use his words as witnesses against
him. He never gambled, he rarely drank, he never lent nor borrowed. He
was a bachelor, yet would never join a "mess" but kept house himself and
usually had some favored comrade living with him. He was forty and did
not look thirty-five. He was tall, erect, athletic, hardy and graceful in
build, and his face was one of the best to be seen in many a line of
officers at parade. His eyes were steel-gray and clear and penetrating,
his features clear-cut, almost _too_ delicately cut, thought some of the
best friends he had among the men. His hair was brown, sprinkled
liberally with silver; his mouth, an admirable mouth in every way, was
shaded and half-hidden by a long, drooping mustache to which, some men
thought and some women said, his tapering white fingers paid too much
attention, but I doubt if a knowledge of this criticism would have led to
the faintest alteration in the habit. Generally the expression of
Armstrong's face was grave, and, on duty, a trifle stern; and not ten
people in the world were aware what humor could twinkle in the clear,
keen eyes, or twitch about the corners of that mobile mouth. There were
not five who knew the tenderness that lay in hiding there, for Armstrong
had few living kindred and they were men. There lived not, as he drove
this glorious August morning to the breezy uplands beyond the camps, one
woman who could say she had seen those eyes of Armstrong's melt and glow
with love. As for Amy Lawrence, she was not dreaming of such a thing. She
was not even looking at him. Her thoughts at the moment were drifting
back to that usually light-hearted boy who stood gazing so disconsolately
after them as they drove away, her eyes were intent upon an approaching
group that presently reclaimed her wandering thoughts.

Coming up Point Lobos Avenue strode a party of four--all soldiers. One of
these, wild-eyed, bareheaded, dishevelled, his clothing torn, his wrists
lashed behind him, walked between two armed guards. The fourth, a
sergeant, followed at their heels. Miss Lawrence had just time to note
that the downcast face was dark and oval and refined, when it was
suddenly uplifted at sound of the whirring carriage wheels. A light of
recognition, almost of terror, flashed across it, and with one bound the
prisoner sprang from between his guards, dove almost under the noses of
the startled team, and darted through the wide-open doorway of a corner
saloon. He was out of sight in a second.



CHAPTER IV.


The review that morning had drawn a crowd to the drill grounds that
baffled the efforts of the guards. Carriages from camps and carriages
from town, carts from the suburbs, equestrians from the parks and
pedestrians from everywhere had gradually encroached within kicking
distance of the heels of the cavalry escorting the general commanding the
department, and that official noted with unerring eye that the populace
was coming up on his flanks, so to speak, at the moment when the
etiquette of the service required that he should be gazing only to his
immediate front and responding to the salutes of the marching column.
Back of him, ranged in long, single rank, was drawn up what the
newspapers unanimously described as a "brilliant" staff, despite the fact
that all were in sombre campaign uniform and several had never been so
rated before. In their rear, in turn, was the line of mounted orderlies
and farther still the silent rank of the escorting troop. Sentries had
been posted to keep the throng at proper distance, but double their force
could have accomplished nothing--the omniscient corporal could not help
them, and after asking one or two stray officers what they would do about
it, the sentries gave way and the crowd swarmed in. It was just as the
head of the long tramping column came opposite the reviewing point, and
the brigade commander and his staff, turning out after saluting, found
their allotted station on the right of the reviewing party completely
taken up by the mass of eager spectators. A minute or so was required
before the trouble could be remedied, for, just as the officers and
orderlies were endeavoring to induce the populace to give way--a thing
the American always resists with a gay good humor that is peculiarly his
own--a nervous hack driver on the outskirts backed his bulky trap with
unexpected force, and penned between it and the wheels of a newly-arrived
and much more presentable equipage a fair equestrian who shrieked with
fright and clung to her pommel as her excited "mount" lashed out with his
heels and made splinters of the hack's rearmost spokes and felloes. Down
went the hack on its axle point. Out sprang a tall officer from the open
carriage, and in a second, it seemed, transferred the panic-stricken
horsewoman from the seismatic saddle to the safety of his own seat and
the ministrations of the two young women and the gray haired civilian who
were the latest arrivals. This done, and after one quick glance at the
lady's helpless escort, a young officer from the Presidio, he shouldered
his way through the crowd and stood, presently, on its inner edge, an
unperturbed and most interested spectator. Battalion after battalion, in
heavy marching order, in the dark-blue service dress, with campaign hats
and leggings, with ranks well closed and long, well-aligned fronts, with
accurate trace of the guides and well-judged distance, the great
regiments came striding down the gentle slope, conscious, every officer
and man, of the admiration they commanded. Armstrong, himself commander
of a fine regiment of volunteers in another brigade, looked upon them
with a soldier's eye, and looked approvingly. Then, as the rearmost
company passed the reviewing point and gentlemen with two stars on each
shoulder extended their congratulations to the reviewed commander with
one, Armstrong also made his way among the mounted officers in his calm,
deliberate fashion, heedless of threatening heels and crowding forehands,
until he, too, could say his word of cordial greeting. He had to wait a
few minutes, for the general officers were grouped and talking earnestly.
He heard a few words and knew well enough what was meant--that quantities
of stores intended for the soldiers--even dainties contributed by the Red
Cross Society--had been stolen from time to time and spirited off in the
dead of night, and doubtless sold in town for the benefit of a pack of
unknown scoundrels enlisted for no better purpose. In his own regiment
his system had been so strict that no loss was discoverable, but in
certain others the deficit was great. Complaints were loud, and the camp
commander, stung possibly by comments from the city, had urged his
officers to unusual effort, and had promised punishment to the extent of
the law on the guilty parties whenever or wherever found.

Even as he was exchanging a word with the brigadier, Armstrong heard the
exclamation: "By Jove--they've caught another!" for with a grim smile of
gratification the camp commander had read and turned over to his
adjutant-general a brief dispatch just handed him by a mounted orderly
who had galloped part.

"One of _your_ irreproachables, Armstrong," said one of the staff, with
something half-sneer, half-taunt as he too read and then passed the paper
to the judge-advocate of the division.

Armstrong turned with his usual deliberation. There was ever about him a
quiet dignity of manner that was the delight of his friends and despair
of his foes.

"What is his name?" he calmly asked.

"One of those society swells of whom you have so many," was the reply.

"That does not give his name--nor identify him as one of my men," said
Armstrong coolly.

"Oh, well, I didn't say he belonged to your command," was the staff
officer's response, "but one of the kid-glove crowd that's got into the
ranks."

"If you mean the recruits in the --teenth Infantry, I should be slow to
suspect them of any crime," said Armstrong, with something almost like a
drawl, so slow and deliberate was his manner, and now the steel-gray eyes
and the fair, clear-cut face were turned straight upon the snapping eyes
and dark features of the other. There was no love lost _there_. One could
tell without so much as seeing.

"You're off, then! That commissary-sergeant caught one of 'em in the
act--he got wind of it and skipped, and to-day came back in handcuffs."

"All of which may be as you say," answered Armstrong, "and still not
warrant your reference to him as one of my irreproachables."

By this time much of the crowd and most of the vehicles had driven away.
The generals still sat in saddle chatting earnestly together, while their
staff officers listened in some impatience to the conversation just
recorded. Everybody knew the fault was not Armstrong's, but it was
jarring to have to sit and hearken to the controversy. "Don't ever twit
or try funny business with Armstrong," once said a regimental sage. "He
has no sense of humor--of that kind." Those who best knew him knew that
Armstrong never tolerated unjust accusations, great or small. In his
desire to say an irritating thing to a man he both envied and respected,
the staff officer had not confined himself to facts, and it proved a
boomerang.

And now, Armstrong's eyes had lighted for an instant on the alleged
culprit. Seated opposite Miss Lawrence as the carriage whirled across
Point Lobos Avenue, and watching her unobtrusively, he saw the sudden
light of alarm and excitement in her expressive face, heard the faint
exclamation as her gloved hand grasped the rail of the seat, felt the
quick sway of the vehicle as the horses shied in fright at some object
beyond his vision. Then as they dashed on he had seen the running guard
and, just vanishing within the portals of the corner building, the slim
figure of the escaping prisoner. He saw the quivering hands tearing at
their fastenings. He turned to the driver and bade him stop a minute, but
it took fifty yards of effort before the spirited horses could be calmed
and brought to a halt at the curb. To the startled inquiries of Mr. Prime
and his daughter as to the cause of the excitement and the running and
shouting he answered simply: "A prisoner escaped, I think," and sent a
passing corporal to inquire the result. The man came back in a minute.

"They got him easy, sir. He had no show. His hands were tied behind his
back and he couldn't climb," was the brief report.

"They have not hurt him, I hope," said Armstrong.

"No, sir. He hurt them--one of 'em, at least, before he'd surrender when
they nabbed him in town. This time he submitted all right--said he only
ran in for a glass of beer, and was laughing-like when I got there."

"Very well. That'll do. Go on, driver. We haven't a minute to lose if we
are to see the review," he continued, as he stepped lightly to his seat.

"I saw nothing of this affair," said Miss Prime. "What was it all about?"

"Nor could I see," added her father. "I heard shouts and after we passed
saw the guard, but no fugitive."

"It is just as well--indeed I'm glad you didn't, uncle," answered Miss
Lawrence, turning even as she spoke and gazing wistfully back. "He looked
so young, and seemed so desperate, and had such a--I don't know--_hunted_
look on his face--poor fellow."

And then the carriage reached the entrance to the reservation and the
subject, and the second object of Miss Lawrence's sympathies, evoked that
day, were for the time forgotten. Possibly Mrs. Garrison was partly
responsible for this for, hardly had they rounded the bend in the road
that brought them in full view, from the left, or southern flank, of the
long line of masses in which the brigade was formed, than there came
cantering up to them, all gay good humor, all smiles and saucy coquetry,
their hostess of the evening at the General's tent. She was mounted on a
sorry-looking horse, but the "habit" was a triumph of art, and it well
became her slender, rounded figure.

No one who really analyzed Mrs. Frank Garrison's features could say that
she was a pretty woman. No one who looked merely at the general effect
when she was out for conquest could deny it. Colonel Armstrong, placidly
observant as usual, was quick to note the glances that shot between the
cousins on the rear seat as the little lady came blithely alongside. He
knew her, and saw that they were beginning to be as wise as he, for the
smiles with which they greeted her were but wintry reflections of those
that beamed upon her radiant face. Prime, paterfamilias, bent cordially
forward in welcome, but her quick eyes had recognized the fourth occupant
by this time, and there was a little less of assurance in her manner from
that instant. "How _per_fectly delicious!" she cried. "I feared from what
you said yesterday you weren't coming, and so I never ordered the
carriage, but came out in saddle--I can't say on _horse_back with such a
wreck as this, but every decent horse in the Presidio had to go out with
the generals and staffs, you know, and I had to take what I could
get--both horse and escort," she added, in confidential tone. "Oh!--May I
present Mr. Ellis? He knows you all by name already." The youth in
attendance and a McClellan tree two sizes too big for him, lifted his cap
and strove to smile; he had ridden nothing harder than a park hack before
that day. "Frank says I talk of nothing else. But--where's Mr. Gray?
Surely I thought _he_ would be with you." This for Armstrong's benefit in
case he were in the least interested in either damsel.

"Mr. Gray was detained by some duties in camp," explained Miss Prime,
with just a trace of reserve that was lost upon neither their new
companion nor the colonel. It settled a matter the placid officer was
revolving in his mind.

"Pardon us, Mrs. Garrison," he said briefly. "We must hurry. Go on,
driver."

"Oh, _I_ can keep up," was the indomitable answer, "even on this
creature." And Mrs. Garrison proved her words by whipping her steed into
a lunging canter and, sitting him admirably, rode gallantly alongside,
and just where Mr. Prime could not but see and admire since Colonel
Armstrong would not look at all. He had entered into an explanation of
the ceremony by that time well under way, and Miss Lawrence's great soft
brown eyes were fixed upon him attentively when, perhaps, she should have
been gazing at the maneuvers. Like those latter, possibly, her thoughts
were "changing direction."

Not ten minutes later occurred the collision between the hack and the
heels that resulted in the demolition of one and "demoralization" of the
rider of the victor. While the latter was led away by the obedient Mr.
Ellis lest the sight of him should bring on another nervous attack, Mrs.
Garrison was suffering herself to be comforted. Her nerves were gone, but
she had not lost her head. Lots of Presidio dames and damsels were up on
the heights that day in such vehicles as the post afforded. None appeared
in anything so stylish and elegant as the carriage of the Prime party.
She was a new and comparative stranger there, and it would vastly enhance
her social _prestige_, she argued, to be seen in such "swell"
surroundings. With a little tact and management she might even arrange
matters so that, willy nilly, her friends would drive her home instead of
taking Colonel Armstrong back to camp. That would be a stroke worth
playing. She owed Stanley Armstrong a bitter grudge, and had nursed it
long. She had known him ten years and hated him nine of them. Where they
met and when it really matters not. In the army people meet and part in a
hundred places when they never expected to meet again. She had married
Frank Garrison in a hand gallop, said the garrison chronicles, "before
she had known him two months," said the men, "before he knew her at all,"
said the women. She was four years his senior, if the chaplain could be
believed and five months his junior if _she_ could. Whatever might have
been the discrepancy in their ages at the time of the ceremony no one
would suspect the truth who saw them now. It was he who looked aged and
careworn and harassed, and she who preserved her youthful bloom and
vivacity.

And now, as she reclined as though still too weak and shaken to leave the
carriage and return to saddle, her quick wits were planning the scheme
that should result in _her_ retaining, and his losing the coveted seat.
There was little time to lose. Most of the crowd had scattered, and she
well knew that he was only waiting for her to leave before he would
return. Almost at the instant her opportunity came. A covered wagon
reined suddenly alongside and kind and sympathetic voices hailed her: "Do
let us drive you home, Mrs. Garrison; you must have been terribly
shaken." She recognized at once the wife and daughter of a prominent
officer of the post.

"Oh, how kind you are!" she cried. "I was hoping some one would come.
Indeed, I _did_ get a little wrench." And then, as she moved, with a
sudden gasp of pain, she clasped Miss Lawrence's extended hand.

"Indeed, you must not stir, Mrs. Garrison," said that young lady. "We
will drive you home at once." Miss Prime and her father were adding their
pleas. She looked up, smiling faintly.

"I fear I must trouble you," she faltered. "Oh, how stupid of me! But
about Stanley Armstrong--I haven't even thanked him. Ah, well--_he_
knows. We've been--such good friends for years--dear old fellow!"



CHAPTER V.


There had been a morning of jubilee in the camp of the Fifth Separate
Brigade, and a row in the tents of the regulars. Up to within a fortnight
such a state of affairs would have been considered abnormal, for the
papers would have it that the former were on the verge of dissolution
through plague, pestilence and famine due to the neglect of officials
vaguely referred to as "the military authorities," or "the staff," while,
up to the coming of Canker to command, sweet accord had reigned in the
regular brigade, and the volunteers looked on with envy. But now a great
martial magnate had praised the stalwart citizen soldiery whom he had
passed in review early in the day, and set them to shouting by the
announcement that, as reward for their hard work and assiduous drill,
they should have their heart's desire and be shipped across the seas to
far Manila. It had all been settled beforehand at headquarters. The
"chief" had known for four days that that particular command would be
selected for the next expedition, but it tickled "the boys" to have it
put that way, and the home papers would make so much of it. So there was
singing and triumph and rejoicing all along the eastern verge of a rocky,
roughly paved cross street, and rank blasphemy across the way. To the
scandal and sorrow of the --teenth Infantry some of the recent robberies
had been traced to their very doors. A commissary-sergeant had
"weakened," a cartman had "squealed," and one of the most popular and
attractive young soldiers in the whole command was now a prisoner in the
guardhouse charged with criminal knowledge of the whole affair, and of
being a large recipient of the ill-gotten money--Morton of the adjutant's
office, a private in Company "K."

What made it worse was the allegation that several others, noncommissioned
officers and "special duty men," were mixed up in the matter, and Canker
had rasped the whole commissioned force present for duty, in his lecture
upon the subject, and had almost intimated that officers were conniving at
the concealment of the guilt of their sergeants rather than have it leak
out that the felony was committed in a company of their commanding.

He and Gordon had had what was described as a "red-hot" row, all because
Gordon flatly declared that while _something_ was queer about the case of
the young clerk who "had money to burn," as the men said, he'd bet his
bottom dollar he wasn't a thief. Canker said such language was a
reflection on himself, as he had personally investigated the case, was
convinced Morton's guilt could be established, and had so reported to the
brigade commander in recommending trial by general court-martial. Indeed
he had made out a case against the lad even before he was arrested and
returned to camp. Gordon asked if he had seen the boy and heard his
story. Canker reddened and said he hadn't, and he didn't mean to and
didn't have to. Gordon said _he_ had--he had talked with the lad fully
and freely on his being brought to camp toward nine o'clock, and was
greatly impressed with his story--as would any one else be who heard it.
Canker reddened still more and said he wouldn't allow officers to
interview prisoners without his authority. "I'll prefer charges against
the next that does it," said he.

And not three hours later, Mr. Billy Gray, sprawling on his camp cot,
striving to forget the sorrow of the earlier morning, and to memorize a
page of paragraphs of army regulations, was suddenly accosted by an
orderly who stood at the front of the tent, scratching at the tent
flap--the camp substitute for a ring at the bell.

"A note for the lieutenant," said he, darting in and then darting out,
possibly fearful of question. It was a queer note:

  "I am a total stranger to you, but I wore in brighter days the
  badge of the same society that was yours at the university. Three
  of the fraternity are in my company--one is on guard and he urged
  me to write at once to you. They know me to be a Brother Delt, even
  though I dare not tell my real name. What I have to say is that the
  charge against me is utterly false, as I can convince you, but
  could not convince a court. I am confined at the moment of all
  others in my life when it is most vitally important that I should
  be free. Grant me ten minutes' interview this afternoon and if I do
  not prove myself guiltless I will ask no favor--but when I _do_
  convince you, do as you would be done by.

                                      Yours in [Greek:D S CH],
                                        "George Morton."

"Well, I'll be blessed!" said Mr. Gray, as he rolled out of his gray
blanket. "Here's a state of things! Listen to this, captain," he called
to his company commander in the adjoining tent. "Here's Morton, back from
forty-eight hours' absence without leave, brought back by armed guard
after sharp resistance, charged with Lord knows what all, wants to tell
me his story and prove his innocence."

"You let him alone," growled his senior. "Remember what Canker said, or
you'll go in arrest. What call has Morton on you, I'd like to know?"

The lad flushed. Fraternity was a very sacred thing in the _[Greek: D S
CH]_. It was "the most exclusive crowd at the 'Varsity." Its membership
was pledged to one another by unusual ties. It was the hardest society
for a fellow to get into in any one of the seven colleges whereat it
flourished, and its mystic bonds were not shaken off with the silken gown
and "mortar board" of undergraduate days, but followed its membership
through many a maturer year. It was a society most college men might ask
to join in vain. Money, social station, influence were powerless. Not
until a student had been under observation two whole years and was
_thoroughly_ known could he hope for a "bid" to become a "Delta Sig." Not
until another six months of probation could he sport its colors, and not
until he formally withdrew from its fold, in post graduation years, could
he consider himself absolved from its mild obligations. But the boast of
the "Delta Sig" had ever been that no one of its membership had ever
turned a deaf ear to a fellow in need of aid. Who of its originators ever
dreamed of such a thing as its drifting into and becoming a factor in the
affairs of the regular army?

No wonder Gray stood for a moment, the paper still in his hands,
irresolute, even disturbed. Not to answer the appeal meant to run counter
to all the tenets of his fraternity. To answer might mean arrest and
court-martial for deliberate disobedience of orders. Canker had no more
mercy than an Indian. It was barely forty-eight hours since he had been
publicly warned by an experienced old captain that he would find no
"guardian angel" in Squeers. It would seriously mar his prospects to
start now with Squeers "down on him," and as that lynx-eyed commander was
ever on watch for infractions of orders, Billy well knew that he could
not hope to see and talk with the prisoner and Canker not hear of it. To
ask permission of Canker would only make matters worse--he was sure to
refuse and then re-emphasize his orders and redouble his vigilance. To
ask the consent of the officer-of the-day or the connivance of the
officer-of-the-guard was to invite them to court arrest and trial on
their own account. He couldn't do that even to oblige a brother Delt. If
only Ned Craven were officer-of-the-guard something might be done--he was
a college man, too, and though not a "Delt," but rather of a rival set,
he "would understand" and possibly help. Guard mount was held toward dusk
and that was four hours away, at least. The prisoner's note and tone were
urgent. An idea occurred to Billy: What if he could get Gordon to let
_him_ "go on" this very evening? It wasn't his tour. He had "marched off"
only two days before as he well remembered, for Canker had "roughed" him
up and down about that little error in copying the list of prisoners from
the report of the previous day. Moreover, he had counted on going to town
right after "retreat," dining at the Palace, an extravagance not to be
thought of at other times, so as to be on hand when the Primes and Amy
Lawrence came down to dinner. He had planned it all--even to the amount
of surprise he was to exhibit when he should discover about when he had
finished his own dinner that they were just beginning theirs, and the
extent and degree of pleasurable emotion he might venture on showing as
he hastened over to greet them, and accept their offer to be seated with
them, even if he had been so unkind as to dine beforehand _solus_ instead
of with them. He had set his heart on having a chat with Miss Lawrence as
part recompense for all he had lost that morning, and all this he was
thinking of while still fumbling over that disturbing note. Time was
getting short, too; there was no telling how much longer they might stay.
Mr. Prime had brought his only daughter all that long journey across the
continent on the assurance that the boy he loved, with whom he had
quarreled, and whom, in his anger, he had sorely rebuked, had enlisted
there in San Francisco and was serving in a regiment at the great camp
west of the city. He had come full of hope and confidence; he had found
the young soldier described, and, in his bitter disappointment, he
declared there was no resemblance to justify the report sent him by the
boy's own uncle, who vowed he had met him with comrades on the main
street of the city, that the recognition was mutual, for the boy had
darted around the first corner and escaped. His companions were scattered
by the time Mr. Lawrence returned to the spot after a brief, fruitless
search, but private detectives had taken it up and "located," as they
thought, young Prime and telegraphed the father in the distant East.

Now, Mr. Lawrence was away on business of his own. Written assurances
that he couldn't be mistaken lost weight, and Mr. Prime, disheartened,
was merely waiting the report of an agent who thought he had traced the
boy to Tampa. In twenty-four hours he might spirit his daughter away on
another chase, and then there would be no further warrant for Miss
Lawrence's remaining in the city. She would return to her lovely home in
one of the loveliest of Californian valleys, miles away from the raw fogs
and chills of the Golden Gate, and would be no more seen among the camps.
That, said Billy Gray to himself, would take every bit of sunshine from
his life.

All this detail, or much of it, he had learned from the fair lips of Miss
Lawrence herself, for Mr. Prime and his daughter seemed to shrink from
speaking of the matter. From the first Miss Amy had had to take the young
gentleman under her personal wing, as it were. In her desire to aid her
uncle and cousin in every way, and knowing them to be strangers to the
entire camp, she had eagerly sent for him as the first familiar or
friendly object she saw. Then when he came and was presented, and proved
to possess little interest to the careworn man and his anxious and
devoted child, it devolved upon Miss Lawrence to make much of Billy in
proportion as they made little of him, and for three days or so the
blithe young fellow seemed fairly to walk on air. Moreover, she had taken
him into the family confidences in telling him of the missing son and
brother, for both her uncle and cousin, she said, were so sensitive about
it they could not talk to any one except when actually necessary. They
had leaned, as it were, on the General and on Colonel Armstrong for a
day, and then seemed to draw away from both. They even seemed to take it
much amiss that her father _had_ to be absent when they came, though they
had sent no word, until too late, of their coming. He was on his return,
might arrive any hour, but so might they go. Now if Billy could only
discover that missing son----

Then came an inspiration! Penciling a brief note he gave it to a soldier
of his company and bade him take it to the guard tents. It told Morton of
the colonel's orders, issued that very day, and bade him be patient--he
hoped and believed opportunity would be afforded for an interview that
evening. Then he hunted up a subaltern of his own grade whom he knew
would probably be the detail for officer-of-the-guard that evening.
"Brooke," said he, "will you swap tours with me if Gordon's willing. I
have--I'd like mightily to exchange if it's all the same to you."

Brooke hesitated. He had social hopes and aspirations of his own. By
"swapping" with Gray he might find himself doomed to a night in camp when
he had accepted for some pleasant function in town.

"Thought you were keen to go in to-night--right after retreat," he
hazarded.

"Well, I was," said Gray, pulling his drab campaign hat down over his
eyes to shut out the glare of the westering sun. "But I've got--a new
wrinkle."

"Some bid for Friday? That's your tour, isn't it?" And Brooke began
counting on his fingers. "Wait till I look at my notebook. Friday? Why,
that's the night of the Burton's card party--thought you didn't know
them."

"I don't," said Gray, glad enough to escape the other question. "And you
hate card parties, you know you do. It's a go, is it? I'll see Gordon at
once." And off he went, leaving Brooke to wonder why he should be so bent
on the arrangement.

But Gordon proved an unexpected foe to the plan. "Can't be done, Billy,"
said he, sententiously. "Canker watches those details like a hawk. He
hasn't forgotten you only came off two days ago, and if I were to mount
you to-night he'd mount _me_--with both feet."

"Think there's any use in asking him?" queried the boy, tossing a
backward glance toward Canker's tent. "Not unless you're suffering for
another snub. That man loves to say 'no' as much as any girl I ever
asked, and he doesn't do it to be coaxed, either. Best leave it alone,
Billy."

And then the unexpected happened. Into the tent with quick, impetuous
step, came the commanding officer himself, and something had occurred to
stir that gentleman to the core. His eyes were snapping, and his head was
high.

"Mr. Gordon," said he, "here's more of this pilfering business, and now
they're beginning to find out it isn't _all_ in my camp by a damned
sight. I want that letter copied at once." Then with a glance at Gray,
who had whipped off his cap and was standing in respectful attitude, he
changed his tone from the querulous, half-treble of complaint. "What's
this you'd best leave alone?" he suddenly demanded. "There are a dozen
things you'd best leave alone and a dozen you would do well to cultivate
and study. When I was--however, I never was a lieutenant except in
war-time, when they amounted to something. I got my professional
knowledge in front of the enemy--not at any damned charity school. You're
here to ask some new indulgence, I suppose. Want to stay in town over
night and fritter away your money and the time the government pays for.
No, sir; you can't have my consent. You will be back in camp at twelve
o'clock, and stop and report your return to the officer-of-the-guard, so
that I may know the hour you come in. Who's officer-of-the-guard
to-night, Mr. Gordon?"

"Mr. Brooke, sir."

"Mr. Brooke! Why, I thought I told you he was to take those prisoners in
town to-morrow. He has to testify before that court in the case of
Sergeant Kelly and it saves my sending another officer and having two of
our lieutenants away from drill and hanging around the Bohemian Club.
Detail somebody else!"

"All right, sir," answered Gordon imperturbably. "Make any odds, sir, who
is detailed?"

Canker had turned to his desk and was tossing over the papers with
nervous hand. Gray impulsively stepped forward, his eyes kindling with
hope. It was on the tip of his tongue to launch into a proffer of his own
services for the detail, but Gordon hastily warned him back with a sweep
of the hand and a portentous scowl.

"No. One's as bad as the other. Next thing _I_ know some of 'em will be
letting prisoners escape right under my nose, making us the laughing
stock of these damned militia volunteers." (Canker entered service in '61
as a private in a city company that was militia to the tip of its
spike-tailed coats, but he had forgotten it.) "I want these young idlers
to understand distinctly, by George, that the first prisoner that gets
away from this post takes somebody's commission with him. D'you hear
_that_, Mr. Gray?" And Canker turned and glared at the bright blue eyes
as though he would like to blast their clear fires with the breath of his
disapprobation. "Has that young fellow, Morton, been put in irons yet?"
he suddenly asked, whirling on Gordon again.

"Think not, sir. Supplies limited. Officer-of-the-day reported half an
hour ago every set was in use. Sent over to division quartermaster and he
answered we had a dozen more'n we were entitled to _now_. Wanted to know
'f we meant to iron the whole regiment----"

"The hell he did!" raged Canker. "I'll settle _that_ in short order. My
horse there, orderly! I'll be back by four, Mr. Gordon. Fix that detail
to suit yourself." And so saying the irascible colonel flung himself out
of the tent and into his saddle.

"You young idiot," said Gordon, whirling on Billy the moment the coast
was clear. "You came within an ace of ruining the whole thing. _Never_
ask Canker for anything, unless it's what you wish to be rid of. Tell
Brooke you're for guard, and he's to go to town instead."

"Hopping mad," as he himself afterward expressed it, Colonel Canker had
ridden over to "have it out" with the quartermaster who had ventured to
comment on his methods, but the sight of the commanding general, standing
alone at the entrance to his private tent, his pale face grayer than ever
and a world of trouble in his eyes, compelled Canker to stop short. Two
or three orderlies were on the run. Two aides-de-camp, Mr. Garrison and a
comrade were searching through desks and boxes, their faces grave and
concerned. The regimental commander was off his horse in a second.
"Anything amiss, General?" he asked, with soldierly salute.

The General turned slowly toward him. "Can our men sell letters," he
said, "as well as food and forage? Do people _buy_ such things? A most
important package has been--stolen from my tent."



CHAPTER VI.


The great thoroughfare of that wonderful city, seated on more than her
seven hills, and ruling the Western world, was thronged from curb to
curb. Gay with bunting and streamers, the tall buildings of the rival
newspapers and the long _façades_ of hotels and business blocks were
gayer still with the life and color and enthusiasm that crowded every
window. Street traffic was blocked. Cable cars clanged vainly and the
police strove valiantly. It was a day given up to but one duty and one
purpose, that of giving Godspeed to the soldiery ordered for service in
the distant Philippines, and, though they hailed from almost every
section of the Union except the Pacific slope, as though they were her
own children, with all the hope and faith and pride and patriotism, with
all the blessings and comforts with which she had loaded the foremost
ships that sailed, yet happily without the tears that flowed when her own
gallant regiment was among the first to lead the way San Francisco turned
out _en masse_ to cheer the men from far beyond the Sierras and the
Rockies, and to see them proudly through the Golden Gate. Early in the
day the guns of a famous light battery had been trundled, decked like
some rose-covered chariot at the summer festival of flowers, through the
winding lanes of eager forms and faces, the cannoneers almost dragged
from the ranks by the clasping hands of men and women who seemed
powerless to let go. With their little brown carbines tossed jauntily
over the broad blue shoulders, half a regiment of regular cavalry,
dismounted, had gone trudging down to the docks, cheered to the gateway
of the pier by thousands of citizens who seemed to envy the very recruits
who, only half-uniformed and drilled, brought up the rear of the column.
Once within the massive wooden portals, the guards and sentries holding
back the importunate crowd, the soldiers flung aside their heavy packs,
and were marshalled before an array of tempting tables and there feasted,
comforted and rejoiced under the ministrations of that marvelous
successor of the Sanitary Commission of the great Civil War of the
sixties--the noble order of the Red Cross. There at those tables in the
dust and din of the bustling piers, in the soot and heat of the railway
station, in the jam and turmoil at the ferry houses, in the fog and chill
of the seaward camps, in the fever-haunted wards of crowded field
hospitals, from dawn till dark, from dark till dawn, toiled week after
week devoted women in every grade of life, the wife of the millionaire,
the daughter of the day laborer, the gently born, the delicately reared,
the social pets and darlings, the humble seamstress, no one too high to
stoop to aid the departing soldier, none too poor or low to deny him
cheer and sympathy. The war was still young then. Spain had not lowered
her riddled standard and sued for peace. Two great fleets had been swept
from the seas, the guns of Santiago were silenced, and the stronghold of
the Orient was sulking in the shadow of the flag, but there was still
soldier work to be done, and so long as the nation sent its fighting men
through her broad and beautiful gates San Francisco and the Red Cross
stood by with eager, lavish hands to heap upon the warrior sons of a
score of other States, even as upon their own, every cheer and comfort
that wealth could purchase, or human sympathy devise. It was the one
feature of the war days of '98 that will never be forgotten.

At one of the flower-decked tables near the great "stage" that led to the
main deck of the transport, a group of blithe young matrons and pretty
girls had been busily serving fruit, coffee, _bouillon_ and substantials
to the troopers, man after man, for over two hours. There was lively chat
and merry war of words going on at the moment between half a dozen young
officers who had had their eyes on that particular table ever since the
coming of the command, and were now making the most of their
opportunities before the trumpets should sound the assembly and the word
be passed to move aboard. All the heavy baggage and ammunition had, at
last, been swung into the hold; the guns of the battery had been lowered
and securely chocked; the forecastle head was thronged with the
red-trimmed uniforms of the artillerymen, who had already been embarked
and were now jealously clamoring that the troopers should be "shut off"
from the further ministrations of the Red Cross, and broadly intimating
that it wasn't a fair deal that their rivals should be allowed a whole
additional hour of lingering farewells.

Lingering farewells there certainly were. Many a young soldier and many a
lass "paired off" in little nooks and corners among the stacks of bales
and boxes, but at the table nearest the staging all seemed gay good
humor. A merry little woman with straw-colored hair and pert, tip-tilted
nose and much vivacity and complexion, had apparently taken the lead in
the warfare of chaff and fun. Evidently she was no stranger to most of
the officers. Almost as evidently, to a very close observer who stood a
few paces away, she was no intimate of the group of women who with good
right regarded that table as their especial and personal charge. Her Red
Cross badge was very new; her garb and gloves were just as fresh and
spotless. _She_ had not been ladling out milk and cream, or buttering
sandwiches, or pinning souvenirs on dusty blue blouses ever since early
morning. Other faces there showed through all their smiles and sweetness
the traces of long days of unaccustomed work and short nights of troubled
sleep. Marvelous were Mrs. Frank Garrison's recuperative powers, thought
they who saw her brought home in the Primes' stylish carriage, weak and
helpless and shaken after her adventure of the previous day. She had not
been at the Presidio a week, and yet she pervaded it. She had never
thought of such a thing as the Red Cross until she found it the center of
the social firmament after her arrival at San Francisco, and here she
was, the last comer, the foremost ("most forward" I _think_ some one
described it) in their circle at one of the most prominent tables,
absorbing much of the attention, most of the glory, and none of the
fatigue that should have been equally shared by all.

"_Adios_!" she gayly cried as the "assembly" rang out, loud and clear,
and waving their hands and raising their caps, the officers hastened to
join their commands. "_Adios_, till we meet in Manila."

"Do you _really_ think of going to the Philippines, Mrs. Garrison?"
queried a much older-looking, yet younger woman. "Why, _we_ were told the
General said that none of his staff would be allowed to take their
wives."

"Yet there are others!" laughed Mrs. Garrison, waving a dainty
handkerchief toward the troops now breaking into column of twos and
slowly climbing the stage. "Who would _want_ to go with that blessed old
undertaker? Good-by--_bon voyage_, Geordie," she cried, blowing a kiss to
the lieutenant at the head of the second troop, a youth who blushed and
looked confused at the attention thereby centered upon him, and who would
fain have shaken his fist, rather than waved the one unoccupied hand in
perfunctory reply. "When _I_ go I'll choose a ship with a band and broad
decks, not any such cramped old canal boat as the Portland."

"Oh! I thought perhaps your husband--" began the lady dubiously, but with
a significant glance at the silent faces about her.

"Who? Frank Garrison? Heavens! I haven't known what it was to have a
husband--since that poor dear boy went on staff duty," promptly answered
the diminutive center of attraction, a merry peal of laughter ringing
under the dingy archway of the long, long roof. "Why, the Portland has
only one stateroom in it big enough for a bandbox, and of course the
General has to have that, and there isn't a deck where one couple could
turn a slow waltz. No, indeed! wait for the next flotilla, when _our_
fellows go, bands and all. _Then_ we'll see."

"But surely, Mrs. Garrison, we are told the War Department has positively
forbidden officers' wives from going on the transports"--again began her
interrogator, a wistful look in her tired eyes. "I know I'd give
_anything_ to join Mr. Dutton."

"The War Department has to take orders quite as often as it gives them,
Mrs. Dutton. The thing is to know how to be of the order-giving side. Oh,
joy!" she suddenly cried. "Here are the Primes and Amy Lawrence--then the
regiments must be coming! And there's Stanley Armstrong!"

Far up the westward street the distant roar of voices mingled with the
swing and rhythm and crash of martial music. Dock policemen and soldiers
on guard began boring a wide lane through the throng of people on the
pier. A huge black transport ship lay moored along the opposite side to
that on which the guns and troopers were embarked, and for hours bales,
boxes and barrels had been swallowed up and stored in her capacious
depths until now, over against the tables of the Red Cross, there lay
behind a rope barrier, taut stretched and guarded by a line of sentries,
an open space close under the side of the greater steamer and between the
two landing stages, placed fore and aft. By this time the north side of
the broad pier was littered with the inevitable relics of open air
lunching, and though busy hands had been at work and the tables had been
cleared, and fresh white cloths were spread and everything _on_ the
tables began again to look fair and inviting, the good fairies themselves
looked askance at their bestrewn surroundings. "Oh, if we could only move
everything bodily over to the other side," wailed Madam President, as
from her perch on a stack of Red Cross boxes she surveyed that coveted
stretch of clean, unhampered flooring.

"And why not?" chirruped Mrs. Garrison, from a similar perch, a tier or
two higher. "Here are men enough to move mountains. All we have to do is
to say the word."

"Ah, but it isn't," replied the other, gazing wistfully about over the
throng of faces, as though in search of some one sufficient in rank and
authority to serve her purpose. "We plead in vain with the
officer-of-the-guard. He says his orders are imperative--to allow no one
to intrude on that space," and madam looked as though she would rather
look anywhere than at the animated sprite above her.

"What nonsense!" shrilled Mrs. Garrison. "Here, Cherry," she called to a
pretty girl, standing near the base of the pile, "give me my bag. I'm
army woman enough to know that order referred only to the street crowd
that sometimes works in on the pier and steals." The bag was duly passed
up to her. She cast one swift glance over the heads of the crowd to where
a handsome carriage was slowly working its way among the groups of
prettily dressed women and children--friends and relatives of members of
the departing commands, in whose behalf, as though by special
dispensation, the order excluding all but soldiers and the Red Cross had
been modified. Already the lovely dark-eyed girl on the near side had
waved her hand in greeting, responding to Mrs. Garrison's enthusiastic
signals, but her companion, equally lovely, though of far different type,
seemed preoccupied, perhaps unwilling to see, for her large, dark,
thoughtful eyes were engaged with some object on the opposite side--not
even with the distinguished looking soldier who sat facing her and
talking quietly at the moment with Mr. Prime. There was a gleam of
triumph in Mrs. Garrison's dancing eyes as she took out a flat notebook
and pencil and dashed off a few lines in bold and vigorous strokes.
Tearing out the page, she rapidly read it over, folded it and glanced
imperiously about her. A cavalry sergeant, one of the home troop destined
to remain at the Presidio, was leaning over the edge of the pier, hanging
on to an iron ring and shouting some parting words to comrades on the
upper deck, but her shrill soprano cut through the dull roar of deep,
masculine voices and the tramp of feet on resounding woodwork.

"Sergeant!" she cried, with quick decision. "Take this over to the
officer in command of that guard. Then bring a dozen men and move these
two tables across the pier." The cavalryman glanced at the saucy little
woman in the stunning costume, "took in" the gold crossed sabres, topped
by a regimental number in brilliants that pinned her martial collar at
the round, white throat, noted the ribbon and pin and badge of the Red
Cross, and the symbol of the Eighth Corps in red enamel and gold upon the
breast of her jacket, and above all the ring of accustomed authority in
her tone, and never hesitated a second. Springing to the pile of boxes he
grasped the paper; respectfully raised his cap, and bored his stalwart
way across the pier. In three minutes he was back--half a dozen soldiers
at his heels.

"Where'll you have 'em, ma'am--miss?" he asked, as the men grasped the
supports and raised the nearmost table.

"Straight across and well over to the edge," she answered, in the same
crisp tones of command. Then, with total and instant change of manner, "I
suppose _your_ tables should go first, Madam President," she smilingly
said. "It shall be as you wish about the others."

And the Red Cross was vanquished.

"I declare," said an energetic official, a moment later, leaning back on
her throne of lemon boxes, and fanning herself vigorously, "for a whole
hour I've been trying to move that officer's heart and convince him the
order didn't apply to us. Now how did--she--do it?"

"The officer must be some old--some personal friend," hazarded the
secretary, with a quick feminine comprehensive glance at the little lady
now being lifted up to shake hands with the carriage folk, after being
loaded with compliments and congratulations by the ladies of the two
favored tables.

"Not at all," was the prompt reply. "He is a volunteer officer she never
set eyes on before to-day. I _would_ like to know what was on that
paper."

But now the roar of cheering and the blare of martial music had reached
the very gateway. The broad portals were thrown open and in blue and
brown, crushed and squeezed by the attendant throng, the head of the
column of infantry came striding on to the pier. The band, wheeling to
one side, stood at the entrance, playing them in, the rafters ringing to
the stirring strains of "The Liberty Bell." They were still far down the
long pier, the sloping rifles just visible, dancing over the heads of the
crowd. No time was to be lost. More tables were to be carried, but--who
but that--"that little army woman" could give the order so that it would
be obeyed. Not one bit did the president like to do it, but something had
to be done to obtain the necessary order, for the soldiers who so
willingly and promptly obeyed her beck and call were now edging away for
a look at the newcomers, and Mrs. Frank Garrison, perched on the carriage
step and chatting most vivaciously with its occupants and no longer
concerning herself, apparently, about the Red Cross or its tables, had
the gratification of finding herself approached, quite as she had
planned, by two most prominent and distinguished women of San Francisco
society, and requested to issue instructions as to the moving of the
other tables. "Certainly, ladies," she responded, with charming smiles.
"Just _one_ minute, Mildred. Don't drive farther yet," and within that
minute half a dozen boys in blue were lugging at the first of the tables
still left on the crowded side of the dock, and others still were bearing
oil stoves, urns and trays. In less time than it takes to tell it the
entire Red Cross equipage was on its way across the pier, and when the
commanding officer of the arriving regiment reached the spot which he had
planned to occupy with his band, his staff and all his officers, there in
state and ceremony to receive the citizens who came in swarms to bid them
farewell, he found it occupied by as many as eight snowy, goody-laden
tables, presided over by as many as eighty charming maids and matrons,
all ready and eager to comfort and revive the inner man of his mighty
regiment with coffee and good cheer illimitable, and the colonel swore a
mighty oath and pounced on his luckless officer-of-the-guard. He had
served as a subaltern many a year in the old army, and knew how it was
done.

"Didn't I give you personal and positive orders not to let anything or
anybody occupy this space after the baggage was got aboard, sir?" he
demanded.

"You did, sir," said the unabashed lieutenant, pulling a folded paper
from his belt, "and the Red Cross got word to the general and what the
Red Cross says--_goes_. Look at that!"

The colonel looked, read, looked dazed, scratched his head and said:
"Well, I'm damned!" Then he turned to his adjutant. "You were with me
when I saw the general last night and he told me to put this guard on and
keep this space clear. Now, what d'you say to that?"

The adjutant glanced over the penciled lines. "Well," said he, "if you
s'pose any order that discriminates against the Red Cross is going to
hold good, once they find it out, you're bound to get left. They're
feasting the first company now, sir; shall I have it stopped?" and there
was a grin under the young soldier's mustache. The colonel paused one
moment, shook his head and concluded he, too, would better grin and bear
it. Taking the paper in his hand again he heard his name called and saw
smiling faces and beckoning hands in an open carriage near him, but the
sight of Stanley Armstrong, signalling to him from another, farther away,
had something dominant about it. "With you in a minute," he called to
those who first had summoned him. "What is it, Armstrong?"

"I wish to present you to some friends of mine--Miss Lawrence--Miss
Prime--Mr. Prime--my old associate, Colonel Stewart. Pardon me, Mrs.
Garrison. I did not see you had returned." She had, and was once more
perched upon the step. "Mrs. Garrison--Colonel Stewart. What we need to
know, Stewart, is this: Will all your men board the ship by this stage,
or will some go aft?"

"All by _this_ stage--why?"

But the colonel felt a somewhat massive hand crushing down on his own and
forebore to press the question. Armstrong let no pause ensue. He spoke,
rapidly for him, bending forward, too, and speaking low; but even as she
chatted and laughed, the little woman on the carriage step saw, even
though she did not seem to look, heard, even though she did not seem to
listen:

"An awkward thing has happened. The General's tent was robbed of
important papers perhaps two days ago, and the guardhouse rid of a most
important prisoner last night. Canker has put the officer-of-the-guard in
arrest. Remember good old Billy Gray who commanded us at Apache? This is
Billy Junior, and I'm awful sorry." Here the soft gray eyes glanced
quickly at the anxious face of Miss Lawrence, who sat silently feigning
interest in the chat between the others. The anxious look in her eyes
increased at Armstrong's next words: "The prisoner must have had friends.
He is now said to be among your men, disguised, and those two fellows at
the stage are detectives. I thought all that space was to be kept clear."

"It was," answered Stewart, "yet the chief must have been overpersuaded.
Look here!" and the colonel held forth a scrap of paper. Amy Lawrence,
hearing something like the gasp of a sufferer in sudden pain, turned
quickly and saw that every vestige of color had left Mrs. Garrison's
face--that she was almost reeling on the step. Before she could call
attention to it, Armstrong, who had taken and glanced curiously at the
scrap, whirled suddenly, and his eyes, in stern menace, swept the spot
where the little lady clung but an instant before. As suddenly Mrs.
Garrison had sprung from the step and vanished.



CHAPTER VII.


Billy Gray was indeed in close arrest and the grim prophecy was
fulfilled--Colonel Canker was proving "anything but a guardian angel to
him." The whole regiment, officers and men, barring only the commander,
was practically in mourning with sorrow for him and chagrin over its own
discomfiture. Not only one important prisoner was gone, but two; not only
two, but four. No man in authority was able to say just when or how it
happened, for it was Canker's own order that the prisoners should not be
paraded when the guard fell in at night. They were there at tattoo and at
taps "all secure." The officer of the guard, said several soldiers, had
quite a long talk with one of the prisoners--young Morton--just after
tattoo, at which time the entire guard had been inspected by the
commanding officer himself. But at reveille four most important prisoners
were gone and, such was Canker's wrath, not only was Gray in arrest, but
the sergeant of the guard also, while the three luckless men who were
successively posted as sentries during the night at the back of the
wooden shell that served as a guardhouse--were now in close confinement
in the place of the escaped quartette.

Yet those three were men who had hitherto been above suspicion, and there
were few soldiers in the regiment who would accept the theory that any
one of the three had connived at the escape. As for the sergeant--he had
served four enlistments in the --teenth, and without a flaw in his record
beyond an occasional aberration in the now distant past, due to the
potency of the poteen distilled by certain Hibernian experts not far from
an old-time "plains fort," where the regiment had rested on its march
'cross continent. As for the officers--but who would suppose an officer
guilty of anything of the kind--a flagrant military crime? And yet--men
got to asking each other if it were so that Bugler Curran had carried a
note from the prisoner, Morton, to Mr. Gray about 2:30 that afternoon?
And what was this about Gray's having urged Brooke to swap tours with him
an hour later, and what was that story the headquarters clerks were
telling about Mr. Gray's coming to the adjutant and begging to be allowed
to "march on" that evening instead of Brooke? It wasn't long before these
rumors, somehow, got to Canker's ears, and Canker seemed to grow as big
again; he fairly swelled with indignation at thought of such turpitude on
part of an officer. Then he sent for Gray--it was the afternoon following
the sailing of the ships with the big brigade--and with pain and
bewilderment and indignation in his brave blue eyes the youngster came
and stood before his stern superior. Gordon, who sent the message, and
who had heard Canker's denunciatory remarks, had found time to scribble a
word or two--"Admit nothing; say nothing; _do_ nothing but hold your
tongue and temper. If C. insists on answers say you decline except in
presence of your legal adviser." So there was a scene in the commander's
tent that afternoon. The morning had not been without its joys. Along
about ten o'clock as Gray sat writing to his father in his little canvas
home, he heard a voice that sent the blood leaping through his veins and
filled his eyes with light. Springing from his campstool and capsizing it
as he did so, he poked his curly head from the entrance of the tent--and
there she was--only a dozen feet away--Major Lane in courteous
attendance, Mr. Prime sadly following, and Miss Prime quite content with
the devotions of Captain Schuyler. Only a dozen feet away and coming
straight to him, with frank smiles and sympathy in her kind and winsome
face--with hand outstretched the moment she caught sight of him. "We
wanted to come when we heard of it yesterday, Mr. Gray," said Amy
Lawrence, "but it was dark when we got back from seeing the fleet off,
and uncle was too tired in the evening. Indeed we are all very, very
sorry!" And poor Billy never heard or cared what the others said, so
absorbed was he in drinking in her gentle words and gazing into her soft,
dark eyes. No wonder he found it difficult to release her hand. That
brief visit, filled with sweetness and sunshine, ought to have been a
blessing to him all day long, but Canker caught sight of the damsels as
they walked away on the arms of the attendant cavaliers--Miss Lawrence
more than once smiling back at the incarcerated Billy--and Canker
demanded to be informed who they were and where they had been, and Gordon
answered they were Miss Lawrence of Santa Anita, and Miss Prime of New
York--and he "reckoned" they must have been in to condole with Mr.
Gray--whereat Canker snarled that people ought to know better than to
visit officers in arrest--it was tantamount to disrespect to the
commander. It was marvelous how many things in Canker's eyes were
disrespectful.

So he heard these stories with eager ears and sent for Gray, and thought
to bully him into an admission or confession, but Gordon's words had
"stiffened" the little fellow to the extent of braving Canker's anger and
telling him he had said all he proposed to say when the colonel called
him up the previous day. The result of that previous interview was his
being placed in close arrest and informed that he should be tried by
general court-martial once. So he had taken counsel, as was his right,
and "counsel" forbade his committing himself in any way.

"Then you refuse to divulge the contents of that note and to say why you
were so eager to go on guard out of your turn?" said Canker, oracularly.
"That in itself is sufficient to convince any fair-minded court of your
guilt, sir." Whereat Gordon winked at Billy and put his tongue in his
cheek--and Billy stood mute until ordered, with much asperity, to go back
to his tent.

But there were other things that might well go toward convincing a court
of the guilt of Lieutenant Gray, and poor Billy contemplated them with
sinking heart. Taking prompt advantage of his position as officer of the
guard, he had caused the young prisoner to be brought outside the
guardhouse, and as a heavy, dripping fog had come on the wings of the
night wind, sailing in from the sea, he had led the way to the sheltered
side, which happened to be the darkest one, of the rude little building,
and had there bidden him tell his story. But Morton glanced uneasily at a
sentry who followed close and was hovering suspiciously about. "I cannot
talk about--the affair--with that fellow spying," he said, with an eager
plea in his tone and a sign of the hand that Gray well knew and quickly
recognized. "Keep around in front. I'll be responsible for this
prisoner," were his orders, and, almost reluctantly, the man left. He was
a veteran soldier, and his manner impressed the lieutenant with a vague
sense of trouble. Twice the sentry glanced back and hesitated, as though
something were on his mind that he must tell, but finally he disappeared
and kept out of the way during the brief interview that immediately
followed. The prisoner eagerly, excitedly began his explanation--swiftly
banishing any lingering doubts Gray might have entertained as to his
innocence. But he had come from a stove-heated guardroom into the cold
sea wind off the Pacific--into the floating wisps of vapor that sent
chill to the marrow. He was far too lightly clad for that climate, and
presently he began to shiver.

"You are cold," said Gray, pityingly. "Have you no overcoat?"

"It's at my tent--I never expected to spend this night here. I've been
before the summary court, fined for absence, and thought that would end
it, but instead of that I'm a prisoner and the man who should be here is
stalking about camp, planning more robberies. Yet I'd rather associate
with the very worst of the deserters or dead beats inside there," and the
dark eyes glanced almost in horror--the slender figure shook with mingled
repulsion and chill--"than with that smooth-tongued sneak and liar.
There's no crime too mean for him to commit, Mr. Gray, and the men are
beginning to know it, though the colonel won't. For God's sake get me out
of this before morning--" And again the violent tremor shook the lad from
head to foot.

"Here--get inside!" said Gray impulsively. "I'll see the adjutant at once
and return to you in a few minutes. If you have to remain until the
matter can be investigated by the General it might be----"

"It would be--" vehemently interrupted Morton, then breaking off short as
though at loss for descriptive of sufficient strength. He seemed to swell
with passion as he clinched his fists and fairly stood upon his toes an
instant, his strong white teeth grinding together. "It would be--simply
hell!" he burst in again, hoarse and quivering. "It would ruin--everything!
Can't the General give the order to-night?" he asked with intense
eagerness, while the young officer, taking him by the arm, had led him
again to the light of the guardhouse lamps at the front. The sergeant and a
group of soldiers straightened up and faced them, listening curiously.

"It may be even impossible to see the General," answered Gray doubtfully.
"Take Morton into the guardroom till I get back, sergeant, and let him
warm himself thoroughly." Don't put him with the prisoners till I return,
and so saying he had hastened away. Gordon, his friend and adviser, had
left camp and gone visiting over in the other division. The lights at
general headquarters were turned low. Even now, after having heard proofs
of the innocence of the accused soldier, Gray knew that it was useless to
appeal to the colonel. He could not understand, however, the feverish,
almost insane, impatience of the lad for immediate release. Another day
ought not to make so great a difference. What could be the reason--if it
were not that, though innocent of the robbery of the storehouse, or of
complicity in the sale of stolen goods, some other crime lay at his door
which the morrow might disclose? All the loyalty of a Delta Sig was
stretched to the snapping point as Gray paused irresolute in front of the
adjutant's tent, his quest there unsuccessful. The sergeant-major and a
sorely badgered clerk were working late over some regimental
papers--things that Morton wrote out easily and accurately.

"I suppose, sir, it's no use asking to have the prisoner sent up here
under guard," said that jewel of a noncommissioned officer. "Yet the
colonel will be savage if these papers ain't ready. It will take us all
night as things are going."

Gray shook his curly head. "Go ask, if you like, but--Morton's in no
shape to help you----"

"Has he been drinking, sir?" said the sergeant-major, in surprise. "I
never knew him----"

"Oh, it isn't that," said Gray hastily, "only he's--he's got--other
matters on his mind! Bring me his overcoat. He said it was in his tent,"
and the young officer jerked his head at the patch of little "A" tents
lined up in the rear of those of the officers.

"Get Morton's overcoat and take it to him at the guardhouse," snapped the
staff sergeant to the clerk. "Be spry now, and no stopping on the way
back," he added--well aware how much in need his assistant stood of
creature comfort of some surreptitious and forbidden kind. The man was
back in a moment, the coat rolled on his arm.

"I'll take it," said Gray simply. "You needn't come."

"Go on with it!" ordered the sergeant as the soldier hesitated. "D'ye
think the service has gone to the devil and officers are runnin' errands
for enlisted men? An' get back inside two minutes, too," he added with
portent in his tone. The subaltern of hardly two months' service felt the
implied rebuke of the soldier of over twenty years' and meekly accepted
the amendment, but--a thought occurred to him: He had promised Morton
paper, envelopes and stamps and the day's newspapers--the lad seemed
strangely eager to get all the latter, and vaguely Billy remembered
having heard that Canker considered giving papers to prisoners as
equivalent to aid and comfort to the enemy.

"Take it by way of my tent," said he as they started, and, once there it
took time to find things. "Go back to the sergeant-major and tell him I
sent you," said Gray, after another search. "He needs you on those
papers."

And when the officer of the guard returned to the guardhouse and went in
to the prisoner, the sergeant saw--and others saw--that, rolled in the
soldier's overcoat he carried on his arm, was a bundle done up in
newspaper. Moreover, a scrap of conversation was overheard.

"There's no one at the General's," said the officer. "I see no way
of--fixing it before morning."

"My God, lieutenant! There--must be some way out of it! The morning will
be too late."

"Then I'll do what I can for you to-night," said Mr. Gray as he turned
and hurriedly left the guardroom--a dozen men standing stiffly about the
walls and doorway and staring with impassive faces straight to the front.
Again, the young officer had left the post of the guard and gone up into
camp, while far and near through the dim, fog-swept aisles of a score of
camps the bugles and trumpets were wailing the signal for "lights out,"
and shadowy forms with coat collars turned up about the ears or capes
muffled around the neck, scurried about the company streets ordering
laughter and talk to cease. A covered carriage was standing at the curb
outside the officers' gate--as a certain hole in the fence was
designated--and the sentry there posted remembered that the officer of
the guard came hurrying out and asked the driver if he was engaged. "I'm
waiting for the major," was the answer.

"Well, where can one order a carriage to-night without going clear to
town?" inquired Gray. "I want one--that is--I wish to order one at once."

And the driver who knew very well there were several places where
carriages could be had, preferred loyalty to his own particular stable
away in town, and so declared there was none.

"You can telephone there, if you wish, sir," he added.

"And wait till morning for it to get here? No! I'll get it--somehow."

And that he did get it somehow was current rumor on the following day,
for the sentries on the guardhouse side of camp swore that a closed
carriage drove down from McAllister Street for all the world as though it
had just come out of the park, and rolled on past the back of the
guardhouse, the driver loudly whistling "Killarney," so that it could be
heard above the crunching of the wheels through the rough, loose rock
that covered the road, and that carriage drew up not a hundred yards
away, while the lieutenant was out visiting sentries, and presently they
saw him coming back along the walk, stopping to question each sentry as
to his orders. Then he returned and inquired if all was quiet among the
prisoners, and then went and put out his light in the tent reserved for
the officer of the guard, and once more left his post, briefly informing
the sergeant of the guard he was going to the officer of the day. Then it
was ascertained that he had visited half a dozen places in search of that
veteran captain, and appeared much disturbed because he could not find
him. In half an hour he was back, asking excitedly of the sentry in rear
of the guardhouse if a carriage had come that way. It had, said the
sentry, and was waiting down the street. Gray hurried in the direction
indicated, was gone perhaps three minutes, and returned, saying that the
sentry must be mistaken, that no carriage was there. But the sentry
reiterated his statement that it had been there and had been waiting for
some time, and must have disappeared while he was temporarily around at
the opposite side of the building. This was about 11 P.M.

Then when Gray appeared at reveille Morton had disappeared.

"It's not the sergeant let them fellers out," said the regimental
oracles. "This is no ten-dollar subscription business." And so until late
in the afternoon the question that agitated the entire range of
regimental camps was: "How did those fellows break away from the prison
of the --teenth?" Then came a clue, and then--discovery.

By order of Lieutenant-Colonel Canker a board of officers had been
convened to investigate the matter, and after questioning everybody whom
"Squeers" had already badgered with his assertions, threats and queries,
they went to the guardhouse and began a thorough inspection of the
premises. The wooden building stood in the midst of a waste of sand blown
in from the shore line by the strong sea wind. It was perched on
something like a dozen stout posts driven into the soft soil and then the
space between the floor level and the sand was heavily and stoutly
boarded in--thick planks being used. Between the floor and the sand was a
space of about eighteen inches vertical, and a dozen men could have
sprawled therein--lying at full length--but to escape would have required
the connivance of one or more of the sentries surrounding the building
and the ripping off of one or more of the planks. In his keen anxiety
Canker accompanied the Board on its tour of investigation--a thing the
Board did not at all like--and presently, as was his wont, began running
things his own way. It had been found useless to question the soldiers of
the guard. Not a man could be found to admit he knew the faintest thing
about the escape. As for the prisoners, most of them reckless,
devil-may-care rascals, they grinned or leered suggestively, but had
nothing to tell.

"We'll have this boarding ripped off," said Canker decisively, "and see
what they've got secreted under there. I shouldn't be surprised to find a
whisky still in full blast, or a complete gambling outfit--dash, dash 'em
to dash and dashnation! Send for a carpenter, sergeant."

The carpenter came, and he and two or three of the guard laid hold of one
end of the plank after its nails were drawn, and with little exertion
ripped it off the other posts. Then everybody held his breath a minute,
stared, and a small majority swore. So far from its being open to cats,
cans and rubbish, the space on that side was filled solid with damp,
heavy sea sand--a vertical wall extending from floor to ground. Canker
almost ran around to the opposite side and had a big plank torn off
there. Within was a wall as damp, solid and straight as that first
discovered, and so, when examined, were the other two sides provided.
Canker's face was a study, and the Board gazed and was profoundly happy.

At last the colonel exploded:

"By Jupiter! They haven't got away at all, then! There isn't a flaw in
the sand wall anywhere. They must be hiding about the middle now. Come
on, gentlemen," and around he trotted to the front door. "Sergeant," he
cried, "get out all the prisoners--all their bedding--every blessed thing
they've got. I want to examine that floor."

Most of the guardhouse "birds" were out chopping wood, and Canker danced
in among the few remaining, loading them with bedding belonging to their
fellows until every item of clothing and furniture was shoved out of the
room. One member of the Board and one only failed to enter with his
associates--a veteran captain who read much war literature and abhorred
Canker. To the surprise of the sentry he walked deliberately over to the
fence, climbed it and presently began poking about the wooden curb that
ran along the road, making a low revetment or retaining wall for the
earth, cinders and gravel that, distributed over the sand, had been
hopefully designated a sidewalk by the owners of the tract. Presently he
came sauntering back, and both sentries within easy range would have
sworn he was chuckling. Canker greeted him with customary asperity.

"What do you mean, sir, by absenting yourself from this investigation,
when you must have known I was with the Board and giving it the benefit
of the information I had gathered?"

"I was merely expediting matters, colonel. While you were looking for
where they went in I was finding where they got out."

"Went in _what_? Got out of what?" snapped Canker.

"Their tunnel, sir. It's Libby on a small scale over again. They must
have been at work at it at least ten days." And as he spoke, calmly
ignoring Canker and letting his eyes wander over the floor, the veteran
battalion commander sauntered across the room, stirred up a slightly
projecting bit of flooring with the toe of his boot and placidly
continued. "If you'll be good enough to let the men pry this up you _may_
understand."

And when pried up and lifted away--a snugly fitting trapdoor about two
feet square--there yawned beneath it, leading slantwise downward in the
direction of the street, a tunnel through the soft yielding sand, braced
and strengthened here and there with lids and sides of cracker-boxes.
"Now, if you don't mind straddling a fence, sir, I'll show you the other
end," said the captain, imperturbably leading the way, and Canker,
half-dazed yet wholly in command of his stock of blasphemy, followed. At
the curb, right in the midst of a lot of loose hay from the bales dumped
there three days before, the leader dislodged with his sword the top of a
clothing box that had been thickly covered with sand and hay--and there
was the outlet. "Easy as rolling off a log, colonel," said old Cobb, with
a sarcastic grin. "This could all be done without a man you've blamed and
arrested being a whit the wiser. They sawed a panel out of the floor,
scooped the sand out of this tunnel, banked it solid against the weather
boarding inside, filled up the whole space, pretty near, but ran their
tunnel under fence and sidewalk, crawled down the gutter to the next
block out of sight of the sentries, then walked away free men. Those
three thieves who got away were old hands. The other men in the
guardhouse were only mild offenders, except Morton. 'Course he was glad
of the chance to go with 'em. I s'pose you'll release my sergeant and
those sentries now."

"I'll do nothing of the kind," answered Canker, red with wrath, "and your
suggestion is disrespectful to your commanding officer. When I want your
advice I'll ask for it."

"Well, Mr. Gray will be relieved to learn of this anyhow. I suppose I may
tell _him_," hazarded the junior member, mischievously.

"Mr. Gray be ----. Mr. Gray has everything to answer for!" shouted the
angered colonel. "It was he who telephoned for a carriage to meet and run
those rascals off. Mr. Gray's fate is sealed. He can thank God I don't
slap him into the guardhouse with his chosen associates, but _he_ shan't
escape. Sergeant of the guard, post a sentry over Lieutenant Gray's tent,
with orders to allow no one to enter or leave it without my written
authority. Mr. Gray shall pay for this behind the prison bars of
Alcatraz."



CHAPTER VIII.


Social circles at West Point at long, rare intervals are shocked by a
scandal, and at short ones, say every other summer--are stirred by some
kind of a sensation, and the "Fairy Sisters" were the sensation of the
year '97. They came in July; they went in September, and meanwhile they
were "on the go," as they expressed it, from morn till late at night.
Physically they were the lightest weights known to the hop room.
Mentally, as their admirers in the corps expressed it, "either of them
can take a fall out of any woman at the Point," and this was especially
true of the elder--Mrs. Frank Garrison--whose husband was on staff duty
in the far West. Both were slight, fragile, tiny blondes with light blue
eyes, with lighter, fluffy hair, with exquisite little hands and feet,
with oval, prettily shaped faces, and the younger--the maiden sister, had
a bewitching mouth and regular, snowy dots of teeth of which she was
justly proud. Yet, as has been previously said of Mrs. Frank, while the
general effect was in the case of each that of an extremely pretty young
girl, the elder had no really good features, the younger only that one.
They generally dressed very much alike in light, flimsy gowns, and hats,
gloves and summer shoes all of dazzling white--sometimes verging for a
change to a creamy hue--but colors, except for sashes or summer shawls,
seemed banished from their wardrobes. They danced divinely, said the
corps, and preferred cadet partners, to the joy of the battalion. They
rode fearlessly and well, and had stunning hats and habits, but few
opportunities for display thereof. They came tripping down the path from
the hotel every morning, fresh and fair as daisies, in time for guard
mounting, and at any hour after that could be found chatting with cadet
friends at the visitors' tent, strolling arm in arm about the shaded
walks with some of their many admirers until time to dress for the
evening hop, where they never missed a dance, and on rainy days, or on
those evenings when there was neither hop nor band practice, they could
be found, each in some dimly lighted, secluded nook about the north or
west piazza or on the steps leading down to the "Chain Battery Walk,"
sometimes surrounded by a squad of cadet friends, but more frequently in
murmured _tête-à-tête_ with only one cavalier. In the case of Mrs.
Frank no member of the corps seemed especially favored. She was just the
same to every one. In the case of her younger sister--Miss Terriss--there
presently developed a dashing young cadet captain who so scientifically
conducted his campaign that he headed off almost all competitors and was
presently accorded the lead under the universally accepted theory that he
had won the little lady's heart. Observant women--and what women are not
observant--of each other?--declared both sisters to be desperate flirts.
Society at the Point frowned upon them and, after the first formal call
or two, dropped them entirely--a thing they never seemed to resent in the
least, or even to notice. They were never invited out to tea or dinner on
the post--solemn functions nowhere near so palatable as the whispered
homage of stalwart young manhood. "Nita is yet such a child she
infinitely prefers cadet society, and I always did like boys," explained
Mrs. Garrison. Some rather gay old boys used to run up Saturday
afternoons on the Mary Powell and spend Sunday at the Point--Wall Street
men of fifty years and much lucre. "Dear old friends of father's," Mrs.
Frank used to say, "and I've simply got to entertain them." Entertained
they certainly were, for her wit and vivacity were acknowledged on every
side, and entertained not only collectively, but severally, for she
always managed to give each his hour's confidential chat, and on the
Sundays of their coming had no time to spare for cadet friends. Moreover,
she always drove down in the big 'bus with them Monday morning when the
Powell was sighted coming along that glorious reach from Polopel's
Island, and stood at the edge of the wharf waving her tiny kerchief--even
blowing fairy kisses to them as they steamed away. No wonder Nita Terriss
was frivolous and flirtatious with such an example, said society, and its
frowns grew blacker when the White Sisters, the Fairy Sisters--the
"Sylphites," came in view. But frowns and fulminations both fell harmless
from the armor of Mrs. Frank's gay _insouçiance_. Nita winced at first,
but soon rallied and bore the slights of the permanent and semi-permanent
residents as laughingly as did her more experienced sister. Nita, it was
explained, was only just out of school, and Mrs. Frank was giving her
this summer at the Point as a great treat before taking her to the far
West, where the elder sister must soon go to join her husband. Everybody
knew Frank Garrison. He had long been stationed at the Academy, and was a
man universally liked and respected--even very highly regarded. All of a
sudden the news came back to the Point a few months after his return to
his regiment that he was actually engaged to "Witchie" Terriss. Hot on
the heels of the rumor came the wedding cards--Lieutenant-Colonel and
Mrs. Terriss requested the honour of your presence at the marriage of
their daughter Margaret to Lieutenant Francis Key Garrison, --th U. S.
Cavalry, at the Post Chapel, Fort Riley, Kansas, November --, 1894--all
in Tiffany's best style, as were the cards which accompanied the
invitation. "What a good thing for old Bill Terriss!" said everybody who
knew that his impecuniosity was due to the exactions and extravagancies
of his wife and "Witchie."--"And what a bad thing for Frank Garrison!"
was the echo. His intimates knew that he had "put by" through economy and
self-denial about two thousand dollars, the extent of his fortune outside
of his pay. "She'll make ducks and drakes of it in the six weeks'
honeymoon," was the confident prophecy, and she probably did, for,
despite the fact that he had so recently rejoined the regiment, "Witchie"
insisted on a midwinter run to New Orleans, Savannah and Washington, and
bore her lord, but not her master, over the course in triumph. To a
student of human nature--and frailty--that union of a faded and somewhat
shopworn maid of twenty-seven to an ardent and vigorous young soldier
many moons her junior was easy to account for. One after another Witchie
Terriss had had desperate affairs with half a dozen fellows, older or
younger, in the army and was known to have been engaged to five different
men at different times, and believed to have been engaged to two
different men at one time. Asked as to this by one of her chums she was
reported to have replied: "Do you know, I believe it true; I had totally
forgotten about Ned Colston before Mr. Forman had been at the post a
week. Of course the only thing to do was to break with both and let them
start fresh." But this Mr. Colston, whose head had been somewhat cleared
by a month of breezy, healthful scouting, accepted only in part--that
part which included the break. Forman had the fresh start and a walk over
and held the trophy just two months, when it dawned upon him that
Margaret loved dancing far more than she did him--a clumsy performer, and
that she would dance night after night, the lightest, daintiest creature
in the hop room, and never have a word or a look for him who leaned in
gloomy admiration against the wall and never took his eyes off her. He
became jealous, moody, ugly-tempered and finally had the good luck to get
his _congé_ as the result of an attempt to assert himself and limit her
dances. She was blithe and radiant and fancy free when Frank Garrison
reached the post, a wee bit hipped, it was whispered, because of the
failure of a somewhat half-hearted suit of his in the far East, and the
Fairy bounded into the darkness of his life and fairly dazzled him.
Somebody had said Frank Garrison had money.

There is no need to tell of the disillusion that gradually came. Frank
found his debts mounting up and his cares increasing. She was all sympathy
and regret when he mentioned it, but--there were certain comforts,
luxuries and things she had always been accustomed to, and couldn't live
without. Surely he would not have her apply to papa. No, but--could she
not manage with a little less? He was willing to give up his cigars
(indeed, he had long since done so) and to make his uniforms last a year
longer--he who was in his day the most carefully dressed man at the Point.
Well--she thought perhaps he ought to do that--besides--men's fashions
changed but slowly, whereas women's--"Well, I'd rather be dead than out of
style, Frank!"

And so it went.

But if she did not love her husband there was one being in whom her
frivolous heart was really bound up--Nita--her "baby sister," as she
called her, and when Terriss, the colonel, went the way of all flesh,
preceded only a few months by the wife of his bosom, the few thousands in
life insurance he had managed to maintain went to the two daughters. Not
one penny was ever laid out in payment of the debts of either the father
or husband. Nita was sent to an extravagant finishing school in Gotham,
and along in May of the young girl's graduating year, blithe little Mrs.
Garrison arrived, fresh from the far West, and after a few weeks of
sightseeing and shopping the sisters appeared at the Point, even
half-mourning by this time discarded. Thirteen years' difference was
there in the ages of the Fairy Sisters, and not a soul save those who
knew them in former days on the frontier would have suspected it. Mrs.
Frank in evening dress didn't look over twenty.

One lovely evening early in August, just about the time that Cadet
Captain Latrobe began to show well to the front in the run for the prize,
the two sisters had gone to their room at the hotel to dress for the hop.
It was their custom to disappear from public gaze about six o'clock and
when they came floating down the stairs in filmy, diaphanous clouds of
white, the halls were well filled with impatient cavaliers in the natty
cadet uniform, and with women "waiting to see." Then the sisters would go
into the dining room and have some light refreshment, with a glass of
iced tea--and no matter how torrid the heat or how flushed and dragged
other women might look, they were inviting pictures of all that was ever
fresh, cool and fragrant. The two fluffy blonde heads would be huddled
close together a minute as they studied the bill of fare, and virtuous
matrons at other tables, fanning vigorously, would sniff and say: "All
for effect. They know that supper bill by heart. It never changes." All
the same, at the bottom of this public display of sisterly devotion and
harmony and in spite of occasional tiffs and differences, there was
genuine affection on both sides, for as a child Nita had adored Margaret,
and there could be no doubting the elder's love for the child. Some
regimental observers said that every bit of heart that eldest Terriss
girl had was wrapped up in the little one. Neither girl, even after
Margaret's marriage, would listen to a word in disparagement of the
other, but in the sanctity of the sisterly retreat on the third floor of
the old hotel there occurred sometimes spirited verbal tilts that were
quite distinctly audible to passers-by in the corridor, provided they
cared to listen, which some of them did. On this especial August evening
Mrs. Frank was in an admonitory frame of mind. They had known Mr. Latrobe
barely three weeks, and yet as Mrs. Frank was sauntering around a turn in
Flirtation Walk, leaning on the arm of the cadet adjutant, there in the
pathway right ahead stood Nita, a lovely little picture with downcast
eyes, and "Pat" Latrobe bending over her with love and passion glowing in
his handsome face, pleading eagerly, clinging fervently to both her tiny,
white-gloved hands. Mrs. Garrison saw it all in the flash of a second,
the adjutant not at all, for with merry laughter she repeated some words
he had just spoken as though they were about the wittiest, funniest
things in the world, and looked frankly up into his eyes as though he
were the best and brightest man she had met in years--so his eyes were
riveted, and the tableau had time to dissolve. All the same that sight
gave Mrs. Garrison rather more than a bad quarter of an hour. She was
infinitely worried. Not because Pat Latrobe had fallen desperately in
love with her charming little sister--that was his lookout--but what--oh,
what might not happen if the charming little sister were to fall in love
with that handsome soldier boy. At all hazards, even if she had to whisk
her away to-morrow, that had to be stopped, and this very evening when
they went to their room Margaret spoke.

"Nita, if it were only for Mr. Latrobe I should not care a snap of my
finger, but it's you--_you_! I thought you had more sense. I thought you
_fully_ understood that you couldn't afford to lose yourself a moment,
and yet if ever a girl _looked_ like yielding you did this very
afternoon. For my sake, for your own sake, Nita, don't let it go any
further--_don't_ fall in love--here--whatever you do."

The younger sister stood at the dressing table at the moment, her face
averted. The Mary Powell was just rounding the Point, and the mellow,
melodious notes of her bell were still echoing through the Highlands.
Nita was gazing out on the gorgeous effect of sunset light and shadow on
the eastern cliffs and crags across the Hudson, a flush as vivid mantling
her cheeks, her lip quivering. She was making valiant efforts to control
herself before replying.

"I'm _not_ in love with him," she finally said.

"Perhaps not--yet. Surely I hope not, but it looked awfully like it was
coming--and Nita, you simply mustn't. You've got to marry money if I have
to stand guard over you and see you do it--and you know you can this
minute--if you'll only listen."

The younger girl wheeled sharply, her eyes flashing. "Peggy, you promised
me I shouldn't hear that hateful thing again--at least not until we left
here--and you've broken your word--twice. You----"

"It's because I must. I can't see you drifting--the way I did when, with
your youth and--advantages you can pick and choose. Colonel Frost has
mines and money all over the West, and he was your shadow at the
seashore, and all broken up--he told me--so when we came here. Paddy
Latrobe is a beautiful boy without a penny--"

"His uncle--" began Nita feebly.

"His uncle had a sister to support besides Paddy's mother. His pay as
brigadier in the regular service is only fifty-five hundred. He _can't_
have saved much of anything in the past, and he may last a dozen years
yet--or more. Even if he does leave everything then to Latrobe, what'll
you do meantime? Don't be a fool, Nita, because I was. I _had_ to be. It
was that or nothing, and father was getting tired. _You_ heard how he
talked."

The younger sister was still at the dressing-table diligently brushing
her shining, curly tresses. She had regained her composure and was taking
occasional furtive peeps at Mrs. Frank, now seated at the foot of the
bed, busy with a buttonhook and the adjustment of a pair of very dainty
boots of white kid, whose buttons gleamed like pearls. The mates to them,
half a size smaller, peeped from the tray of Nita's new trunk.

There came a footstep and a rap at the door. "See what it is, Nita,
there's a love--I don't want to hop."

It was a card--a new arrival at the hotel.

"Gentleman said he'd wait in the parlor 'm," said the bellboy, and
vanished. Nita glanced at the card and instant trouble stood in her
paling face. Silently Mrs. Garrison held out her hand, took the card, and
one quick look. The buttonhook dropped from her relaxed fingers. The card
read:

"Mr. Gouverneur Prime."

For a second or two the sisters gazed at each other in silence.

At last the elder spoke: "In heaven's name, what brings that absurd boy
back here? I thought him safe in Europe."



CHAPTER IX.


One of the most charming writers of our day and generation has declared
that "the truest blessing a girl can have" is "the ingenuous devotion of
a young boy's heart." Nine mothers in ten will probably take issue with
the gifted author on that point, and though no longer a young girl in
years whatever she might be in looks, Margaret Garrison would gladly have
sent the waiting gentlemen to the right about, for, though he was only
twenty, "Gov" Prime, as a junior at Columbia, had been ingenuously
devoted to the little lady from the very first evening he saw her. A boy
of frank, impulsive nature was "Gov"--a boy still in spite of the budding
mustache, the twenty summers and the barely passed "exam" that wound up
the junior year and entitled him to sit with the seniors when the great
university opened its doors in October. Studies he hated, but tennis,
polo, cricket, riding and dancing were things he loved and excelled in.
Much of his boyhood had been spent at one of those healthy, hearty
English schools where all that would cultivate physical and mental
manhood was assiduously practiced, and all that would militate against
them was as rigorously "tabooed."

At the coming of his twentieth birthday that summer his father had handed
him his check for five thousand dollars--the paternal expression of
satisfaction that his boy had never smoked pipe, cigar or cigarette--and
the same week "Gov" had carried off the blue ribbon with the racquet, and
the second prize with the single sculls. It was during the "exams," the
first week in June, when dropping in for five o'clock tea on some girls
whom he had known for years, he was presented to this witching little
creature whose name he didn't even catch. "We met her away out at an army
post in Wyoming when papa took us to California last year," was whispered
to him, "and they entertained us so cordially, and of course we said if
ever you come to New York you must be sure to let us know--and she
did--but--" and there his informant paused, dubious. Other callers came
in and it began to rain--a sudden, drenching shower, and the little
stranger from the far West saw plainly enough that her hostesses, though
presenting their friends after our cheery American fashion, were unable
to show her further attention, and the newly presented--almost all women,
said "so very pleased" but failed to look it, or otherwise to manifest
their pleasure. She _couldn't_ go in the rain. The butler had 'phoned for
a cab. She wouldn't sit there alone and neglected. She deliberately
signaled Mr. Prime. "The ladies are all busy," she said, with a
charmingly appealing smile, "but I know you can tell me. I have to dress
for dinner after I get home, and must be at One Hundred and Tenth Street
at 7:30. How long will it take a carriage to drive me there? Oh, is that
your society pin? Why, are _you_ still in college? Why, I thought----"

That cab was twenty-five minutes coming, and when it came Mr. Prime went
with it and her, whom he had not left an instant from the moment of her
question. Moreover, he discovered she was nervous about taking that
carriage drive all alone away up to One Hundred and Tenth Street, yet
what other way could a girl go in dinner dress. He left her at her door
with a reluctantly given permission to return in an hour and escort her
to the distant home of her friends and entertainers. He drove to the
Waldorf and had a light dinner with a half pint of Hock, devoured her
with his eyes as they drove rapidly northward, went to a Harlem theater
while she dined and forgot him, and was at the carriage door when she
came forth to be driven home. Seven hours or less "had done the
business," so far as Gouverneur Prime was concerned.

It was the boy's first wild infatuation--as mad, unreasoning, absurd, yet
intense as was ever that of Arthur Pendennis for the lovely Fotheringay.
Margaret Garrison had never seen or known the like of it. She had
fascinated others for a time, had kindled love, passion and temporary
devotion, but this--this was worship, and it was something so sweet to
her jaded senses, something so rich and spontaneous that she gave herself
up for a day or two to the delight of studying it. Here was a glorious
young athlete whose eyes followed her every move and gesture, who hung
about her in utter captivation, whose voice trembled and whose eyes
implored, yet whose strong, brown, shapely hand never dared so much as
touch hers, except when she extended it in greeting. He was to accompany
his father and sister to Europe in a week, so what harm was there: He
would forget all about it. He knew now she was married. He was presented
to Nita, but had hardly a word and never a look for her when Margaret was
near. He was dumb and miserable all the day they drove in the park and
later dined at Delmonico's with Colonel Frost. He was sick, even when
mounted on his favorite English thoroughbred and scampering about the
bridle path for peeps at the drives, when she was at the park again with
that gray-haired reprobate, that money shark, Cashton--a Wall Street
broker black-balled at every decent club in New York. Why should she go
with him? He had been most kind, she said, in the advice and aid he had
given her in the investment of her little fortune. She told the lie with
downcast eyes and cheeks that burned, for most of that little fortune was
already frittered away, and Cashton's reports seemed to require many
personal visits that had set tongues wagging at the hotel, so much
frequented of the Army, where she had taken a room until Nita should have
been graduated and they could go to the seashore. She had promised to be
at home to her boy adorer that very evening and to go with him to Daly's,
and he had secured the seats four days ahead. Poor "Gov" had trotted
swiftly home from the park, striving to comfort himself over his bath and
irreproachable evening clothes, that _there_, with her by his side, the
wild jealousy of the day would vanish. Sharply on time he had sent up his
card and listened, incredulous, to the reply: "Mrs. Garrison has not yet
returned." He would wait, he said, and did wait, biting his nails,
treading the floor, fuming in doubt and despair until nearly ten, when a
carriage dashed up to the ladies' entrance and that vile Cashton handed
her out, escorted her in and vanished. She came hurrying to her boy lover
with both little hands outstretched, with a face deeply flushed and words
of pleading and distress rushing from her lips. "Indeed I could not help
it, Gov," she cried. "I told him of my engagement and said we must not go
so far, but away at the north end something happened, I don't know what,
a wheel was bent and the harness wrenched by too short a turn on a stone
post at a corner. Something had to be repaired. They said it wouldn't
take ten minutes, and he led me out and up to the piazza of that big
hotel--you know, we saw it the day I drove with you--" ("He was a
blackguard to take you there!" burst in Prime, the blood boiling in his
veins.) "Then we waited and waited and he went to hurry them, and then he
came back and said they had found more serious damages--that it would
take an hour, and meantime dinner had been ordered and was served. He had
telephoned to you and the butler had answered all right." "He's a
double-dyed liar!" raved "Gov," furiously. "And so what could I do, Gov?
The dinner was delicious, but I couldn't eat a mouthful." (This time it
wasn't Cashton who lied). "I was worrying about you, and--and--about
myself, too, Gov. I had set my heart on going with you. It was to be
almost our last evening. Oh, if you only didn't have to sail Saturday,
and could be here next week, you dear boy, you should have no cause for
complaint! Won't you try to forgive me?"

And, actually, tears stood in her eyes, as again she held out both hands.
They were the only people in the parlor, and in an instant, with quick,
sudden, irresistible action he had clasped and drawn her to his breast,
and though she hid her face and struggled, passionate kisses were printed
on her disheveled hair. It was the first time he had dared.

And then he did not sail Saturday. Prime Senior was held by most
important business. They gave up the Saturday Cunarder and took the
midweek White Star, and those four additional days riveted poor "Gov's"
chains and left her well-nigh breathless with excitement. The strain had
been intense. It was all she could do to make the boy try to behave in a
rational way in the presence of others. When alone with her he raved. A
fearful load was lifted from her spare little shoulders when the Teutonic
sailed. Even Nita had worried and had seen her sister's worry. Then no
sooner did "Gov" reach Europe than he began writing impassioned letters
by every steamer, but that wasn't so bad. She had several masculine
correspondents, some of whom wrote as often as Frank, but none of whom,
to do her justice, got letters as often as he did, which, however, was
saying little, for she hated writing. "Gov" was to have stayed abroad
three months, piloting the pater and sister about the scenes so familiar
to him, but they saw how nervous and unhappy he was. They knew he was
writing constantly to some one. Mildred had long since divined that there
was a girl at the bottom of it all, and longed and strove to find out who
she was. Through the last of June and all through July he resolutely
stood to his promise and did his best to be loving and brotherly to a
loving and devoted sister and dutiful to a most indulgent father. But he
grew white and worn and haggard, he who had been such a picture of rugged
health, and, in her utter innocence and ignorance as to the being on whom
her brother had lavished the wealth of his love, Mildred began to ask
herself should she not urge her father to let "Gov" return to America. At
last, one sweet July evening, late in the month, the brother and sister
were wandering along the lovely shore of Lucerne. He had been unusually
fitful, restless and moody all day. No letter had reached him in over a
fortnight, and he was miserably unhappy. They stopped at a grassy bank
that ran down to the rippling water's edge, and she seated herself on a
stone ledge, while in reckless abandonment he threw himself full length
on the dewy grass. Instantly the last doubt vanished. Bending over him,
her soft hand caressing his hair, she whispered: "Gov, dear boy, is it so
very hard? Would you like to go to her at once?"

And the boy buried his face in her lap, twined his arms about her slender
waist, and almost groaned aloud as he answered. "For pity's sake help me
if you can, Mildred, I'm almost mad."

Early in August the swiftest steamer of the line was splitting the
Atlantic surges and driving hard for home, with "Gov" cursing her for a
canal boat. The day after he reached New York he had traced and followed
the White Sisters to West Point, and Margaret Garrison stared in mingled
delight, triumph and dismay at the card in her hand. Delight that she
could show these exclusive Pointers that the heir to one of the oldest
and best names in Gotham's Four Hundred was a slave to her beck and call.
Dismay to think of the scene that might occur through his jealousy when
he saw the devoted attentions she received from so many men--officers,
civilians and cadets. Old Cashton came up now as regularly as Saturday
night came around--and there were others. Margaret Garrison was more
talked about than any woman in Orange County, yet, who could report
anything of her beyond that she was a universal favorite, and danced,
walked, possibly flirted with a dozen different cavaliers every day of
her life? There were some few among her accusers, demure and most
proper--even prudish--women, of whom, were the truth to be told, so
little could not be said.

"Gov" Prime took the only kind of room to be had in the house, so full
was it--a little seven by ten box on the office floor. He would have
slept in the coal bin rather than leave her. He saw her go off to the hop
looking radiant, glancing back over her shoulder and smiling sweetly at
him. He rushed to his trunk, dragged out his evening clothes, and stood
at the wall looking on until the last note of the last dance--he a noted
German leader in the younger set and the best dancer of his years in
Gotham. Not so much as a single spin had he, and he longed to show those
tight-waisted, button-bestrewed fellows in gray and white how little they
really knew about dancing well as many of them appeared on the floor. His
reward was tendered as the hop broke up. She came gliding to him with
such witchery in her upraised face. "Now, sir, it is your turn. I
couldn't give you a dance, for my card was made out days ago, but Mr.
Latrobe was glad enough to get rid of taking me home. He is daft about
Nita, and of course she _can't_ let him take her to more than one hop a
week. Mr. Stanton is her escort to-night."

Then she placed her little hand on his arm, and drew herself to his side,
and when he would have followed the others, going straight across the
broad plain to the lights at the hotel, turned him to the left. "I'm
going to take you all the way round, sir," she said joyously. "Then we
can be by ourselves at least ten minutes longer."

And so began the second period of Gouverneur Prime's thralldom. A young
civilian at the Point has few opportunities at any time, but when the
lady of his love is a belle in the corps, he would much better take a
long ocean voyage than be where he could hear and see, and live in daily
torment. One comfort came to him when he could not be with Mrs. Garrison
(who naïvely explained that "Gov" was such a dear boy and they were such
stanch friends, real comrades, you know). He had early made the
acquaintance of Pat Latrobe, and there was a bond of sympathy between
them which was none the less strong because, on Prime's side, it could
neither be admitted nor alluded to--that they were desperately in love
with the sisters, and it was not long before it began to dawn on Prime
that pretty little Nita was playing a double game--that even while
assuring her guardian sister that she had only a mild interest in
Latrobe, she was really losing or had lost her heart to him, and in every
way in her power was striving to conceal the fact from Margaret, and yet
meet her lover at hours when she thought it possible to do so without
discovery. As the friendship strengthened between himself and Latrobe
they began using him as Cupid's postman, and many little notes and some
big ones found their way to and from the Fourth Division of cadet
barracks. Mrs. Frank was only moderately kind to her civilian adorer
then, granting him only one dance at each hop, and going much with other
men, but that dance was worth seeing. Prime's was the only black
"claw-hammer" in the room, and therefore conspicuous, and cadets--who
know a good thing when they see it--and many a pretty girl partner, would
draw aside to watch the perfection of their step and the exquisite ease
with which they seemed to float through space, circling and reversing and
winding among the other dancers, he ever alert, watchful, quick as a cat
and lithe and strong as a panther--she all yielding lissome airy grace.
That dance was "Gov" Prime's reward, and almost only reward for hours of
impatient waiting. Other women, charming and pretty and better women,
would gladly have been his partners. Some two or three whom he met at the
hotel even intimated as much. But not until Lady Garrison told him he
must--to protect her from scandal--did he ask another to dance. At last
came the end of the summer's encampment, the return of the corps to
barracks and studies, one blissful week in which he was enabled to spend
several uninterrupted hours each day at her side, and then a cataclysm. A
letter intended only for Nita's hands fell into those of her sister. It
was bulky. It was from Latrobe. She hesitated only a moment, then, with
determination in her eyes, opened and read--all. Two days after Nita was
whisked away to New York, and within another week, leaving two most
disconsolate swains on the Hudson, the sisters, one of them bathed in
tears, went spinning away to the West, where Frank Garrison was on duty
at department headquarters. Prime was permitted to write once a fortnight
(he sent a volume), and Latrobe forbidden, but already the poor boy owned
a thick packet of precious missives, all breathing fond love and
promising utter constancy though she had to wait for him for years. For a
month Nita would hardly speak to her sister, but in October there were
lovely drives, picnics and gayeties of all kinds. There were attractive
young officers and assiduous old ones, and among these latter was Frost,
with his handsome gray mustache and distinguished bearing, and that air
of conscious success and possession which some men know so well how to
assume even when their chances are slimmer than my lady's hand. The
sisterly breach was healed before that beautiful month was over. Frost
dined at the Garrison's four times a week and drove Miss Nita behind his
handsome bays every day or two. In November he asked a question. In
December there was an announcement that called forth a score of
congratulations around headquarters, and in January the wedding cards
went all over the Union--some to West Point--but to Latrobe, who had been
looking ill and anxious for six weeks, said his classmates, and falling
off fearfully in his studies, said his professors, only a brief note
inclosing his letters and begging for hers. At reveille next morning
there was no captain to receive the report of roll call from the first
sergeant of Company "B." "Where's Latrobe?" sleepily asked the officer of
the day of the cadet first lieutenant. "I don' know," was the answer, and
to the amaze of Latrobe's roommate, who had gone to bed and to sleep
right after taps the night before, they found evidence that "Pat" had
left the post. He had not even made down his bedding. His cadet uniforms
were all there, but a suit of civilian clothes, usually in a snug package
up the chimney, that had been used several times "running it" to the
hotel after taps in August, was now, like its owner, missing. After three
days' waiting and fruitless search, the superintendent wired Latrobe's
uncle and best friend, old General Drayton, and that was the last seen or
heard of "Pat." In the spring and ahead of time his class was graduated
without him, for the war with Spain was on. In the spring an irate and
long-tried father was upbraiding another only son for persistent failures
at college. "Gov Prime will get the sack, not the sheepskin," prophesied
his fellows. And then somehow, somewhere the father heard it was a
married woman with whom his boy was so deeply in love, and there were
bitter, bitter words on both sides--so bitter that when at last he flung
himself out of his father's study Gov Prime went straight to Mildred's
room, silently kissed her and walked out of the house. This was in April.
The next heard of him he had enlisted for the war and was gone to San
Francisco with his regiment with the prospect of service in the
Philippines ahead of him, but that was full four months after his
disappearance. Thither, late in July the father followed, bringing
Mildred with him and--the reader knows the rest.



CHAPTER X.


One of Colonel Frost's consuming ambitions was to be the head of his
department, with the rank of brigadier-general, but he had strong rivals,
and knew it. Wealth he had in abundance. It was rank and power that he
craved. Four men--all with better war records and more experience--stood
between him and that coveted star, and two of the four were popular and
beloved men. Frost was cold, selfish, intensely self-willed, indomitably
persevering, and though "close-fisted," to the scale of a Scotch landlord
as a rule, he would loose his purse strings and pay well for services he
considered essential. When Frost had a consuming desire he let no money
consideration stand in the way, and for Nita Terriss he stood ready to
spend a small fortune. Everybody knew Mrs. Frank Garrison could never
dress and adorn herself as she did on poor Frank Garrison's pay, and when
she appeared with a dazzling necklace and a superb new gown at the
garrison ball not long after Frost and his shrinking bride left for their
honeymoon, people looked at her and then at each other. Nita Terris was
sold to "Jack" Frost was the verdict, and her shrewd elder sister was the
dealer. Mrs. Frank knew what people were thinking and saying just as well
as though they had said it to her, yet smiled sweetness and bliss on
every side. Frankly she looked up into the faces of her sisters in arms:
"I know you like my necklace. Isn't it _lovely_? Colonel Frost's wedding
present, you know. He said I shouldn't give Nita away without some
recompense, and this is it."

But that could have been only a part of it, said the garrison. An
honorarium in solid cash, it was believed, was far the greater portion of
the consideration which the elder sister accepted for having successfully
borne Nita away from the dangers and fascinations of the Point--having
guarded her, drooping and languid, against the advances of good-looking
soldier lads at headquarters, and finally having, by dint of hours of
argument, persuasion and skill, delivered her into the arms of the
elderly but well-preserved groom. All he demanded to know was that she
was fancy free--that there was no previous attachment, and on this point
Mrs. Frank had solemnly averred there was none. The child had had a
foolish fancy for a cadet beau, but it amounted to absolutely nothing.
There had been no vows, no pledge, no promise of any kind, and she was
actually free as air. So Frost was satisfied.

They made an odd-looking pair. Frost was "pony built" but sturdy, and
Nita seemed like a fairy--indeed as unsubstantial as a wisp of vapor, as
she came down the aisle on his arm. They were so far to the south on this
honeymoon trip as almost to feel the shock and concussion when the Maine
was blown to a mass of wreckage. They were in Washington when Congress
determined on full satisfaction from Spain, and Colonel Frost was told
his leave was cut short--that he must return to his station at once.
Going first to the Arlington and hurriedly entering the room, he almost
stumbled over the body of his wife, lying close to the door in a swoon
from which it took some time and the efforts of the house physician and
the maids to restore her. Questioned later as to the cause she wept
hysterically and wrung her hands. She didn't know. She had gone to the
door to answer a knock, and got dizzy and remembered nothing more. What
became of the knocker? She didn't know. Frost inquired at the office. A
bellboy was found who said he had taken up a card in an envelope given
him by a young feller who "seemed kind o' sick. Mrs. Frost took it and
flopped," and a chambermaid ran in to her, and then hurried for the
doctor. "What became of the letter or note or card?" asked Frost, with
suspicion and jealousy in his heart. Two women, mistress and maid, and
the bellboy swore they didn't know, but the maid did know. With the quick
intuition of her sex and class she had seen that there was or had been a
young lover, and sympathy for Nita and a dislike for Frost, who gave no
tips, prompted her to hide it until she could slip it safely into Nita's
hand; Nita who read, shuddered, tore it into minute scraps, and wept
more, face downward on the bed. They had reached their winter station
before the cable flashed the stirring tidings of Dewey's great victory in
Manila Bay, and within half a week came telegraphic orders for Colonel
Frost to proceed at once to San Francisco, there to await instructions.
The first expedition was organizing when he arrived, his pallid little
wife by his side, and there were his instructions to proceed to Manila as
chief of his department--an independent position, and yet it was a horrid
blow. But there was no recourse. Nita begged that she might stay with her
sister. She could not bear the idea of going. Frost knew that no women
could accompany the expedition, and, shipping his chest and desks by the
transport, he had secured passage for himself and wife to Hongkong on one
of the splendid steamers of the English line from Vancouver, and so
informed her. It dashed Nita's last hope. They were occupying fine rooms
at the Palace Hotel. The city was thronged with officers and rapidly
arriving troops. Other army women, eager to accompany their husbands,
were railing at the fate that separated them, and Nita had been forced to
conceal the joy with which she heard their lamentations. But she had yet
to learn how exacting Frost could be. It had never occurred to her that
he could obtain permission to go except by transport. It had not seemed
possible that he would take her with him. "You should have known," said
he, "that even if I had had to go by transport, you would have gone by
the Empress of India. It is only sixty hours from Manila to Hongkong, and
I could have joined you soon after your arrival. As it is I shall see you
safely established there--I have letters to certain prominent English
people--then shall go over to join the fleet when it arrives in Manila
Bay."

That night she wrote long and desperately to Margaret. "He swore he would
follow me wherever we went until I granted him the interview. You know
how he dogged me in Washington, followed me to Denver, and any moment he
may address me here. F. will not let me return to you. He insists on my
going to Hongkong, where he can occasionally join me. But Rollin holds
those letters over me like a whip, and declares that he will give them
into Frost's hands unless I see him whenever he presents himself. You
made me swear to Frost I never cared a straw for my darling that was. O
God, how I loved him! and if these letters ever reach the man to whom you
have sold me, he would treat me as he would a dog, even if he doesn't
kill me. Meg--Meg--you must help me for I live in terror."

And that she lived in terror was true, some women were quick to see.
Never would she go anywhere, even along the corridor, alone. If the
colonel could not come to luncheon she was served in their rooms. If she
had to go calling or shopping it was in a carriage and always with some
army woman whom she could persuade to go with her.

One day, just before their intended departure, she drove out paying
parting calls. It was quite late when the carriage drew up at the Market
Street entrance, the nearest to their elevator. The door boy sprang
across the sidewalk to open the carriage, and as she stepped wearily out,
a tall young man, erect and slender, dressed in a dark traveling suit,
fairly confronted her, raised his derby, and said: "You can give me ten
minutes now, Mrs. Frost. Be good enough to take my arm."

Bowing her head she strove to dodge by, but it was useless. Again he
confronted her. Piteously she looked up into his pale, stern face and
clasped her hands. "Oh, Rollin," she cried, "give me my letters. I dare
not--see you. Have mercy--" and down again she went in a senseless heap
upon the stone. Colonel and Mrs. Frost did not sail with the Empress of
India. Brain fever set in and for three weeks the patient never left the
hotel. Frost made his wife's dangerous illness the basis of an application
to be relieved from the Manila detail, but, knowing well it would be late
summer before the troops could be assembled there in sufficient force to
occupy the city, and that his clerks and books had gone by transport with
the second expedition in June, the War Department compromised on a
permission to delay. By the time the fourth expedition was ready to start
there was no further excuse; moreover, the doctors declared the sea voyage
was just what Mrs. Frost needed, and again their stateroom was engaged by
the Empress line, and, though weak and languid, Mrs. Frost was able to
appear in the dining-room. Meanwhile a vast amount of work was saddled on
the department to which Frost was attached, and daily he was called upon
to aid the local officials or be in consultation with the commanding
general. This would have left Mrs. Frost to the ministrations of her nurse
alone, but for the loving kindness of army women in the hotel. They
hovered about her room, taking turns in spending the afternoon with her,
or the evening, for it was speedily apparent that she had a nervous dread
of being left by herself, "or even with her husband," said the most
observing. Already it had been whispered that despite his assiduous care
and devotion during her illness, something serious was amiss. Everybody
had heard of the adventure which had preceded her alarming illness.
Everybody knew that she had been accosted and confronted by a strange
young man, at sight of whom she had pleaded piteously a minute and then
fainted dead away. By this time, too, there were or had been nearly a
dozen of the graduating class in town--classmates of Rollin Latrobe--their
much-loved "Pat"--and speedily the story was told of his devotion to her
when she was Nita Terriss, of their correspondence, of their engagement to
be married on his graduation, which in strict confidence he had imparted
to his roommate, who kept it inviolate until after her sudden union with
Colonel Frost and poor "Pat's" equally sudden disappearance. Everybody,
Frost included, knew that the young man who had accosted her must be
Latrobe, and Frost by this time knew that it must have been he who caused
her shock at the Arlington. He raged in his jealous heart. He employed
detectives to find the fellow, swearing he would have him arrested. He
became morose and gloomy, for all the arts by which Mrs. Garrison
persuaded him that Nita looked up to him with admiration and reverence
that would speedily develop into wifely love were now proved to be
machinations. He knew that Nita feared him, shrank from him and was very
far from loving him, and he believed that despite her denials and fears
and protestations she loved young Latrobe. He wrote angrily, reproachfully
to Margaret, who, now that her fish was hooked, did not greatly exert
herself to soothe or reassure him. That he could ever use violence to one
so sweet and fragile as Nita she would not believe for an instant. Then
the nurse, still retained, heard bitter words from the colonel as one
morning she came to the door with Mrs. Frost's breakfast, and while she
paused, uncertain about entering at such a time, he rushed angrily forth
and nearly collided with her. Mrs. Frost was in tears when the nurse
finally entered, and the breakfast was left untouched.

Late that afternoon, just after the various trunks and boxes of the
Frosts that were to go by the transport were packed and ready, and Mrs.
Frost, looking stronger at last, though still fragile, almost ethereal,
was returning from a drive with one of her friends, the attention of the
two ladies was drawn to a crowd gathering rapidly on the sidewalk not far
from the Baldwin Hotel. There was no shouting, no commotion, nothing but
the idle curiosity of men and boys, for a young soldier, a handsome,
slender, dark-eyed, dark-complexioned fellow of twenty-one or two, had
been arrested by a patrol and there they stood, the sergeant and his two
soldiers fully armed and equipped, the hapless captive with his arms half
filled with bundles, and over the heads of the little throng the ladies
could see that he was pleading earnestly with his captors, and that the
sergeant, though looking sympathetic and far from unkind, was shaking his
head. Mrs. Frost, listless and a little fatigued, had witnessed too many
such scenes in former days of garrison life to take any interest in the
proceeding. "How stupid these people are!" she irritably exclaimed.
"Running like mad and blocking the streets to see a soldier arrested for
absence from camp without a pass. Shan't we drive on?"

"Oh--just one moment, please, Mrs. Frost. He has such a nice face--a
gentleman's face, and he seems so troubled. Do look at it!"

Languidly and with something very like a pout, Mrs. Frost turned her face
again toward the sidewalk, but by this time the sergeant had linked an
arm in that of the young soldier and had led him a pace or two away, so
that his back was now toward the carriage. He was still pleading, and the
crowd had begun to back him up, and was expostulating, too.

"Awe, take him where he says, sergeant, and let him prove it."

"Don't be hard on him, man. If he's taking care of a sick friend give 'm
a chance."

Then the sergeant tried to explain matters. "I can't help myself,
gentlemen," said he; "orders are orders, and mine are to find this
recruit and fetch him back to camp. He's two days over time now."

"Oh, I wish I knew what it meant!" anxiously exclaimed Mrs. Frost's
companion. "I'm sure he needs help." Then with sudden joy in her
eyes--"Oh, good! There goes Colonel Crosby. He'll see what's amiss," and
as she spoke a tall man in the fatigue uniform of an officer of infantry
shouldered his way through the crowd, and reached the blue-coated
quartette in the center. Up went the hands to the shouldered rifles in
salute, and the young soldier, the cause of all the gathering which the
police were now trying to disperse, whirled quickly, and with something
suspiciously like tears in his fine dark eyes, was seen to be eagerly
speaking to the veteran officer. There was a brief colloquy, and then the
colonel said something to the sergeant at which the crowd set up a cheer.
The sergeant looked pleased, the young soldier most grateful, and away
went the four along the sidewalk, many of the throng following.

And then the colonel caught sight of the ladies in the carriage, saw that
one was signaling eagerly, and heard his name called. Hastening to their
side, he raised his cap and smiled a cordial greeting.

"Oh, I'm so glad you came, colonel, we are so interested in that young
soldier. Do tell us what it all means. Oh! I beg your pardon, Mrs. Frost,
I surely thought you had met Colonel Crosby--let me pre-- Why, Nita!
What's-- Are you ill? Here, take my salts, quick!"

"No--no--go on--I--I want to hear! Where are they taking him?" faintly
murmured Mrs. Frost.

"Try to control yourself," said her companion. "I'll tell you in one
moment." Meantime from without the carriage the colonel continued,
addressing Nita's companion:

"He tells a perfectly straight story. He says he has an old friend who is
here so desperately ill and out of money that he got a doctor for him and
had been nursing him himself. Those things he carried are medicines and
wine that the doctor bade him buy. All he asks is to take them to his
friend's room and get a nurse, then he is ready to go to camp and stand
his trial, so I told the sergeant I'd be responsible."

"Oh, thank you so much! Do see that the poor fellow isn't punished. We'll
drive right round. Perhaps we can do something. It is Red Cross business,
you know. _Good_-afternoon, colonel. Please tell our driver to follow
them."

But, to her consternation, no sooner had they started than she felt
Nita's trembling hand grasping her wrist, and turning quickly saw that
she was in almost hysterical condition.

"My poor child, I had forgotten you were so worn out. I'll take you home
at once--but then we'll miss them entirely. Oh, could you bear----"

"Oh! No! No!" moaned Nita, wringing her little hands. "Take me--anywhere.
No! Take me home--take me home! and promise me not to--not to tell my
husband what we saw."



CHAPTER XI.


For a man ordinarily absorbed in his own command, Colonel Stanley
Armstrong had become, all on a sudden, deeply engrossed in that of
Colonel Canker. The Frosts had been gone a week, via Vancouver--the
expedition only about sixteen hours--when he appeared at Gordon's tent
and frankly asked to be told all that tall Southerner knew of the young
soldier Morton, now gone from camp for the third, and, as Armstrong
believed, the last time.

"Why, that young fella's a bawn gentleman," drawled Gordon, as he offered
the colonel a chair and cigar. "He was behavin' tip top, steady as you
please until about a month ago. He's only been with us since the first of
May--came with a big batch of recruits--a regular athlete, you know. Then
after he'd drilled awhile I nailed him for headquarters clerk. I never
knew him to be off an hour until about four weeks ago. The men say
another young fella came out here one night, had a talk with Morton, and
they went out together. He got regular permission. Nobody has set eyes on
his friend out here since that time, but Morton got three passes to town
in ten days, and Squeers happened to want him, and gave orders _he_
should have to be consulted hereafter. 'Bout a fortnight since, by Jove,
Morton lit out suddenly and was gone forty-eight hours, and was brought
back by a patrol, perfectly straight, and he said he had to go on account
of a friend who had been taken very ill and was a stranger here. Squeers
let him off with a warning, and inside of three days he begged for a
twenty-four-hour pass, and Squeers wouldn't give it. He went without it,
by George! It was just about the time the Prime family arrived, looking
up the boy they heard was in your regiment. This time there was big
trouble. The patrol sent for him went directly to the lodgings of his
sick friend, and there they found him and he laid out two of our best men
for forcing a way into the room. They told me your carriage nearly ran
over him the day of the review. Then came that dam fool charge about his
being mixed up in this robbery. Then his escape from under Billy Gray's
nose, by George, and that's the last of him. Canker sent a party in to
look him up at the usual place, and both birds had flown, both, by
George! The sick man was well enough to be driven off in a carriage, and
there's nothing further to tell as yet."

"I wish I had known about him earlier--before the Primes came," said
Armstrong thoughtfully, knocking the ashes off his cigar. "Of course you
divine my theory?"

"That Morton's the missing son and heir? Of course. Now that I've seen
Miss Prime the family resemblance is strong. But if he wanted to soldier,
what's to prevent. Those tents yawnduh are full of youngsters better
educated than I am," and Gordon arose, tangling a long, lean leg in the
nearest campstool, which he promptly kicked through the doorway into the
sailing fog outside. It was barely eleven o'clock, but already the raw,
wet wind was whistling in over the barren, sandy slopes and dunes, and
the moisture dripped in big drops from the sloped rifles of the men
marching sturdily in from drill.

"Yawnduh comes the Prime carriage now, by George," continued the
adjutant, as he limped to the entrance. "Ole man seems all broke up,
don't he?" Armstrong had promptly risen and came striding to his
comrade's side.

"Naturally," was the answer. "He had hoped much from this visit. The boy
was just under twenty-one when he enlisted, and, as his father's consent
was lacking, a discharge could have been ordered. It may have been fear
of that that drove the youngster off. Where is the carriage--and your
glass?" continued the colonel, looking about until he found a binocular.

"Comin' right down the road back of the officers' tents. Reckon it's
another visit of condolence to Gray. You know I shouldn't wonduh if this
arrest of his proved a blessin' in disguise for that lucky boy."

No reply coming to this observation, Gordon glanced over his shoulder.
Armstrong was replacing the glasses. Again the adjutant hazarded.

"I--I was sayin' this arrest may be, after all, the biggest kind of
blessing in disguise for that lucky Billy. _Yes_, by Jove! They're comin'
to his tent. _That's_ a splendid girl, ole man!"

"Miss--Prime, you mean?" calmly queried Armstrong, striking match after
match in the effort to light a fresh cigar, his face averted.

"Miss Prime I _don't_ mean," answered Gordon, glancing curiously at the
senior officer. "Not but that she's a most charming young lady and all
that," he hurriedly interpolated, Southern chivalry asserting itself.
Then with a twitch about the lip: "By the way, ole man, those cigars
light better from the other end. Take a fresh one."

Armstrong quickly withdrew the ill-used weed from between his strong,
white teeth, gave it one glance, and a toss into the waste-basket.

"No, I've smoked enough. But how can they see him? How about that sentry
over Gray's tent?"

"Huh! Chief made him take it off directly he heard of it," grinned
Gordon. "Moses! But didn't Squeers blaspheme!" And the adjutant threw his
head back and laughed joyously over the retrospect. "Yes, there's that
curly pate of Billy's at the tent door now. Reckon he was expectin' 'em.
There they are, ole Prime, too. Don't be in a hurry, colonel."

They had known each other years, these two, and it had been "Armstrong"
and "Gordon" when they addressed each other, or "ole man" when Gordon
lapsed into the semi-affectionate. To the adjutant's Southern sense of
military propriety "ole man" was still possible. "Armstrong" would be a
soldierly solecism.

"I am to see the General before noon," said Armstrong gravely, "and it's
time I started. If you should hear of your runaway let me know. If you
shouldn't, keep our views to yourself. There's no use in rousing false
hopes." With that Armstrong turned up the collar of his overcoat and
lunged out into the mist.

Gordon watched him as he strode away, the orderly following at the
conventional distance. The shortest way to general headquarters was up
the row of company officers' tents in front of the still incarcerated
Billy; the longest was around back of the mess tent and kitchen.
Armstrong took the latter.

That escape of prisoners was still the talk of camp. Men had come by
battalions to see the tunnel, observing which Canker promptly ordered it
closed up. Opinion was universal that Canker should have released the
officers and men he had placed under arrest at once, but he didn't. In
his bottled wrath he hung on to them until the brigade commander took a
hand and ordered it. Canker grumblingly obeyed so far as the sergeant and
sentries were concerned, but entered stout protest as to Gray.

"I still hold that officer as having knowledge of the scheme and aiding
and abetting. I can prove that he telephoned for that carriage," he said.

"At least there's nothing to warrant the posting of that sentry at Mr.
Gray's tent, Colonel Canker," said the brigadier, with some asperity.
"Order him off at once. That's all for to-day, sir," and the man with the
starred shoulders "held over" him with the silver leaves. The latter
could only obey--and objurgate.

But Canker's knuckles came in for another rasping within the hour. The
brigadier being done with him, the division commander's compliments came
over per orderly, and would the colonel please step to the General's
tent. Canker was fuming to get to town. He was possessed with insane
desire to follow up that boarding house clue. He believed the landlady
could be bullied into telling where her boarder was taken, and what
manner of man (or woman) he was. But down he had to go, three blocks of
camp, to where the tents of division headquarters were pitched, and there
sat the veteran commander, suave and placid as ever.

"Ah, colonel, touching that matter of the robbery of your commissary
stores. Suspicion points very strongly to your Sergeant Foley. Do you
think it wise to have no sentry over him?"

"Why--General," said Canker, "I've known that man fifteen years--in fact,
I got him ordered to duty here," and the colonel bristled.

"Well--pardon me, colonel, but you heard the evidence against him last
night, or at least heard of it. Don't you consider that conclusive?"

Canker cleared his throat and considered as suggested.

"I heard the allegation sir, but--he made so clear an explanation to
_me_, at least--and besides, General"--a bright idea occurring to
him--"you know that as commissary sergeant he is not under my
command----"

"Tut, tut, colonel," interrupted the General, waxing impatient. "The
storehouse adjoins your camp. Your sentries guard it. Captain Hanford,
the commissary, says he called on you last night to notify you that he
had placed the sergeant under arrest, but considered the case so grave
that he asked that a sentry be placed over him, and it wasn't done."

"I dislike very much to inflict such indignity on deserving soldiers,
General," said Canker, stumbling into a self-made trap. "Until their
guilt is established they are innocent under the law."

"Apparently you apply a different rule in case of officers," calmly
responded the General, "_vide_ Mr. Gray. No further words are necessary.
Oblige me by having that sentry posted at once. Good-morning, sir."

But to Canker's dismay the officer of the guard made prompt report. The
sentry was sent, but the sergeant's tent was empty. The colonel's pet had
flown. This meant more trouble for the colonel.

Meantime Stanley Armstrong had hied him to General Drayton's
headquarters. The office tents were well filled with clerks, orderlies,
aides and other officers who had come in on business, but this meeting
was by appointment, and after brief delay the camp commander excused
himself to those present and ushered Armstrong into his own private tent,
the scene of the merry festivities the evening of Mrs. Garrison's
unexpected arrival. There the General turned quickly on his visitor with
the low-toned question:

"Well--what have you found?"

"Enough to give me strong reason for believing that Morton, so-called, is
young Prime, and that your nephew is with him, sir."

The old soldier's sad eyes lighted with sudden hope. Yet, as he passed
his hand wearily over his forehead, the look of doubt and uncertainty
slowly returned. "It accounts for the letters reaching me here," he said,
"but--I've known that boy from babyhood, Armstrong, and a more intense
nature I have never heard of. What he starts in to do he will carry out
if it kills him." And Drayton looked drearily about the tent as though in
search of something, he didn't quite know what. Then he settled back
slowly into his favorite old chair. "Do sit down, Armstrong. I want to
speak with you a moment." Yet it was the colonel who was the first to
break the silence.

"May I ask if you have had time to look at any of the letters, sir?"

"Do I look as though I had time to do _any_-thing?" said the chief,
dropping his hands and uplifting a lined and haggard face, yet so
refined. "Anything but work, work, morn, noon and night. The mass of
detail one has to meet here is something appalling. It weighs on me like
a nightmare, Armstrong. No, I was worn out the night after the package
reached me. When next I sought it the letters were gone."

"How long was that, General?"

Again the weary hands, with their long, tapering fingers, came up to the
old soldier's brow. He pondered a moment. "It must have been the next
afternoon, I think, but I can't be sure."

"And you had left them----?"

"In the inside pocket of that old overcoat of mine, hanging there on the
rear tent pole," was the answer, as the General turned half-round in his
chair and glanced wistfully, self-reproachfully thither.

Armstrong arose, and going to the back of the tent, made close
examination. The canvas home of the chief was what is known as the
hospital tent, but instead of being pitched with the ordinary ridgepole
and uprights, a substantial wooden frame and floor had first been built
and over this the stout canvas was stretched, stanch and taut as the head
of a drum. It was all intact and sound. Whoever filched that packet made
way with it through the front, and that, as Armstrong well knew, was kept
tightly laced, as a rule, from the time the General left it in the
morning until his return. It was never unlaced except in his presence or
by his order. Then the deft hands of the orderlies on duty would do the
trick in a twinkling. Knowing all this, the colonel queried further:

"You went in town, as I remember, late that evening and called on the
Primes and other people at the Palace. I think I saw you in the supper
room. There was much merriment at your table. Mrs. Garrison seemed to be
the life of the party. Now, you left your overcoat with the boy at the
cloak stand?"

"No, Armstrong, that's the odd part of it. I only used the cape that
evening. The coat was hanging at its usual place when I returned late,
with a mass of new orders and papers. No! no! But here, I must get back
to the office, and what I wished you to see was that poor boy's letter.
What can you hope with a nature like that to deal with?"

Armstrong took the missive held out to him, and slowly read it, the
General studying his face the while. The letter bore no clue as to the
whereabouts of the writer. It read:

  "March 1st, '98.

  "It is six weeks since I repaid all your loving kindness, brought
  shame and sorrow to you and ruin to myself, by deserting from West
  Point when my commission was but a few short months away. In an
  hour of intense misery, caused by a girl who had won my very soul,
  and whose words and letters made me believe she would become my
  wife the month of my graduation, and who, as I now believe, was
  then engaged to the man she married in January, I threw myself
  away. My one thought was to find her, and God knows what beyond.

  "It can never be undone. My career is ended, and I can never look
  you in the face again. At first I thought I should show the letters,
  one by one, to the man she married, and ask him what he thought of
  his wife, but that is too low. I hold them because I have a mad
  longing to see her again and heap reproaches upon her, but, if I
  fail and should I feel at any time that my end is near, I'm going to
  send them to you to read--to see how I was lured, and then, if you
  can, to pity and forgive.

                                                           "ROLLIN."

Armstrong's firm lips twitched under his mustache. The General, with
moist eyes, had risen from his chair and mechanically held forth his
hand. "Poor lad!" sighed Armstrong. "Of course--you know who the girl
was?"

"Oh, of course," and Drayton shrugged his shoulders.

"Well, we'll have to go," and led on to the misty light without.

Over across the way were the headquarters tents of a big brigade,
hopefully awaiting orders for Manila. To their left, separated by a
narrow space, so crowded were the camps, were the quarters of the
officers of the --teenth Infantry, and even through the veil of mist both
soldiers could plainly see along the line. Coming toward the gate was Mr.
Prime, escorted by the major. Just behind them followed Mildred and the
attentive Schuyler. But where was Miss Lawrence? Armstrong had already
seen. Lingering, she stood at Billy's tent front, her ear inclined to his
protruding pate. He was saying something that took time, and she showed
no inclination to hurry him. Miss Prime looked back, then she and
Schuyler exchanged significant smiles and glances. There was rather a
lingering handclasp before Amy started. Even then she looked back at the
boy and smiled.

"H'm!" said the General, as he gazed, "that youngster wouldn't swap
places with any subaltern in camp, even if he _is_ under charges."

There was no answer from the strong soldier standing observant at his
elbow. But when the chief would have moved Armstrong detained him. "One
more question, General. In case you were away and wanted something you
had left in this tent, you would send an aide--or orderly, or--would an
order signed by one of your staff be sufficient?"

"H'm, well--yes, I suppose it would," said the General.



CHAPTER XII.


Opinion was divided at Camp Merritt as to whether Billy Gray should or
should not stand trial. Confident as were his friends of his innocence of
all complicity in Morton's escape, there remained the fact that he had
telephoned for a carriage, that a carriage had come and that a carriage
with four men, apparently soldiers, had driven rapidly townward along
Point Lobos Avenue. It was seen by half a dozen policemen as it shot
under electric light or gas lamp. Then there was the bundle inside his
rolled overcoat that Gray had personally handed Morton when a prisoner.
Everybody agreed he should have sent it by orderly--everybody, that is,
except some scores of young soldiers in the ranks who could see no harm
in it having been done that way, especially two "Delta Sigs" in the
--teenth. Then there were the long conferences in the dark. What did they
mean? All things considered the older and wiser heads saw that, as the
lieutenant could or would make no satisfactory explanation of these to
his colonel, he must to a court--or take the consequences.

"You've made a mess of the thing and an ass of yourself, Billy," was
Gordon's comprehensive if not consolatory summary of the matter, "and as
Canker has been rapped for one thing or another by camp, division and
brigade commanders, one _after_ another, he feels that he's got to prove
that he isn't the only fool in the business. You'd better employ good
counsel and prepare for a fight."

"Can't afford it," said Billy briefly, "and I'm blowed if I'll ask my
dear old dad to come to the rescue. He's had to cough up (shame on your
slang, Billy) far too much already. I tell you, Gordon, I'm so fixed that
I can't explain these things unless I'm actually brought to trial.
It's--it's--well--you have no secret societies at the Point as we do at
college, so you can't fathom it. I'm no more afraid of standing trial
than I am of Squeers--and be d----d to him!"

"Good Lawd, youngster--you--you aren't quite such an ass as to suppose a
court is going to regard any schoolboy obligation as paramount to that
which your oath of office demands. Look hyuh, Billy, your head's just
addled! _I_ can't work on you, but somebody must!"

And Gordon went away very low in his mind. He liked that boy. He loved a
keen, alert, snappy soldier on drill, and Billy had no superior in the
battalion when it came to handling squad or company. The adjutant plainly
saw the peril of his position, and further consultation with his
brother-officers confirmed him in his fears. Schuyler, the brigade
commissary, being much with the --teenth--messing with them, in fact,
when he was not dancing attendance on Miss Prime--heard all this camp
talk and told her. Thus it happened that the very next day when he drove
with the cousins (Mr. Prime being the while in conference with the
detectives still scouring the city for the young deserter, who the father
now felt confident was his missing boy), Miss Lawrence looked the captain
full in the face with her clear, searching eyes and plumped at him the
point-blank question:

"Captain Schuyler, do Mr. Gray's brother-officers really consider him in
danger of dismissal?"

"Miss Lawrence, I grieve to say that not one has any other opinion now."

There could be no doubt of it. Amy Lawrence turned very pale and her
beautiful eyes filled.

"It is a shame!" she said, after a moment's struggle to conquer the
trembling of her lips. "Has--is there no one--influential enough--or with
brains enough" (this with returning color) "to take up his case and clear
him?"

They were whirling through the beautiful drive of the Golden Gate Park,
passing company after company at drill. Even as Amy spoke Schuyler lifted
his cap and Miss Prime bowed and smiled. A group of regimental officers,
four in number, stood, apparently supervising the work, and as Miss
Lawrence quickly turned to see who they might be, her eyes met those of
Colonel Armstrong. Five minutes later, the carriage returning drew up as
though by some order from its occupants, at that very spot. Armstrong and
his adjutant were still there and promptly joined them.

Long weeks afterward that morning lived in Stanley Armstrong's memory. It
was one of those rare August days when the wind blew from the southeast,
beat back the drenching Pacific fogs, and let the warm sun pour upon the
brilliant verdure of that wonderful park. Earth and air, distant sea and
dazzling sky, all seemed glorifying their Creator. Bright-hued birds
flashed through the foliage and thrilled the ear with their caroling. The
plash of fountain fell softly on the breeze, mingled with the rustling of
the luxuriant growth of leaf and flower close at hand. It was not chance
that brought the stalwart soldier instantly to Amy's side. Her gaze was
upon him before the carriage stopped, and irresistibly drew him. The man
of mature years, the hero of sharp combats and stirring campaigns with a
fierce and savage foe, the commander of hundreds of eager and gallant
men, obeyed without thought of demur the unspoken summons of a girl yet
in her teens. There was a new light in her clear and beautiful eyes, a
flush upon her soft and rounded cheek, a little flutter, possibly, in her
kind and loyal heart. Heaven knows his beat high with an emotion he could
not subdue, though his bearing was grave and courteous as ever, but about
that sweet and flushing face there shone the halo of a woman's brave
determination, and no sooner had be reached the carriage side than,
bending toward him, she spoke. Mildred Prime could not repress a little
gasp of amaze.

"Colonel Armstrong, will you kindly open the carriage door? I want to
talk with you a moment."

Without a word he wrenched the handle and threw wide the door. Light as a
bird she sprang to the ground, her fingers just touching the extended
hand. Side by side they strolled away across the sunlit lawn, he so
strong, virile, erect, she so lissome and graceful. Full of her purpose,
yet fearful that with delay might come timidity, she looked up in his
face:

"Colonel Armstrong, I have heard only to-day that Mr. Gray is in really
serious danger. Will you tell me--the truth?"

Just what Armstrong expected it might be hard to say. The light that had
leaped to his eyes faded slowly and his face lost something of the flush
of robust health. There was a brief pause before he spoke as though he
wished time to weigh his words.

"I fear it is true," he gravely said. Then in a moment: "Miss Lawrence,
will you not take my arm?" And he felt her hand tremble as she placed it
there. It was a moment before she began again.

"They tell me he should have counsel, but will not heed. I have not seen
him to-day. There is no one in his battalion, it seems, whom he really
looks up to. He is headstrong and self-confident. Do you think he
should--that he needs one?" And anxiously the brave eyes sought the
strong, soldierly face.

"It would seem so, Miss Lawrence."

She drew a long breath. She seemed to cling a little closer to his arm.
Then--straight came the next question:

"Colonel Armstrong, will you do me a great favor? Will you be his
counsel?"

He was looking directly to the front as she spoke. Something told him
what was coming, yet he could not answer all at once. What did it mean,
after all, but just what he had been thinking for a week, that the girl's
fresh young heart had gone out to this merry, handsome, soldierly lad,
whom he, too, had often marked with keen appreciation when in command of
his big company at drill. What possible thought of hers could he, "more
than twice her years," have ever hoped to win. She had come to him in her
sore trouble--and her lover's--as she would have gone to her father had
he been a soldier schooled in such affairs. Armstrong pulled himself
together with quick, stern self-command.

Looking down, he saw that her eyes were filling, her lips paling, and a
rush of tenderness overcame him as he simply and gently answered:

"Yes, and there is no time to be lost."

                    *       *       *       *       *

All these last days, it will be remembered, Mrs. Frank Garrison with
pretty "Cherry Ripe" had found shelter at the Presidio. The Palace was no
place for a poor soldier's wife, and there was no longer a grateful nabob
as a possible source of income. It is doubtful indeed whether that mine
could be further tapped, for the effusive brother-in-law of the winter
gone by had found disillusion in more ways than one. Garrison, busy day
and night with his staff duties, had plainly to tell his capricious wife
that she had come without his knowledge or consent, and that he could not
think of meeting the expense of even a two weeks' stay in town. He could
not account for her coming at all. He had left her with his own people
where at least she would be in comfort while he took the field. He
desired that she should return thither at once. She determined to remain
and gayly tapped his cheek and bade him have no concern. She could
readily find quarters, and so she did. The regular garrison of the
Presidio was long since afield, but the families of many of its officers
still remained there, while the houses of two or three, completely
furnished so far as army furnishings go, were there in charge of the post
quartermaster. From being the temporary guests of some old friends, Mrs.
Frank and her pretty companion suddenly opened housekeeping in one of
these vacated homes, and all her witchery was called into play to make it
the most popular resort of the younger element at the post. Money she
might lack, but no woman could eclipse her in the dazzle of her dainty
toilets. The Presidio was practically at her feet before she had been
established forty-eight hours. Other peoples' vehicles trundled her over
to camp whenever she would drive. Other peoples' horses stood saddled at
her door when she would ride. Other peoples' servants flew to do her
bidding. Women might whisper and frown, but for the present, at least,
she had the men at her beck and call. Morn, noon and night she was on the
go, the mornings being given over, as a rule, to a gallop over the breezy
heights where the brigade or regimental drills were going on, the
afternoons to calls, wherein it is ever more blessed to give than to
receive--and the evenings to hops at the assembly room, or to
entertaining--charmingly entertaining the little swarm of officers with
occasional angels of her own sex, sure to drop in and spend an hour.
Cherry played and sang and "made eyes" at the boys. Mrs. Frank was
winsome and genial and joyous to everybody, and when Garrison himself
arrived from camp, generally late in the evening, looking worn and jaded
from long hours at the desk, she had ever a comforting supper and
smiling, playful welcome for her lord, making much of him before the
assembled company, to the end that more than one callow sub was heard to
say that there would be some sense in marrying, by George, if a fellow
could pick up a wife like Mrs. Frank. All the same the post soon learned
that the supposedly blest aide-de-camp breakfasted _solus_ on what he
could forage for himself before he mounted and rode over to his long
day's labor at Camp Merritt. Another thing was speedily apparent, the
_entente cordial_ between her radiant self and the Primes was at an end,
if indeed it ever existed. _She_, to be sure, was sunshine itself when
they chanced to meet at camp. The clouds were on the faces of the father
and daughter, while Miss Lawrence maintained a serene neutrality.

They were lingering in 'Frisco, still hopefully, were the Primes. The
detectives on duty at the landing stage the evening Stewart's regiment
embarked swore that no one answering the description of either of the two
young men had slipped aboard. Those in the employ of the sad old man were
persistent in the statement that they had clues--were on the scent, etc.
He was a sheep worth the shearing, and so, while Mr. Prime spent many
hours in consultation with certain of these so-called sleuth-hounds, the
young ladies took their daily drive through the park, generally picking
up the smiling Schuyler somewhere along the way, and rarely omitting a
call, with creature comforts in the way of baskets of fruit, upon the
happy Billy, whose limits were no longer restricted to his tent, as
during the first week of his arrest, but whose court was ordered to sit
in judgment on him the first of the coming week. Already it began to be
whispered that Armstrong had a mine to spring in behalf of the defense,
but he was so reserved that no one, even Gordon, sought to question.

"Armstrong is a trump!" said Billy to Miss Lawrence, one fair morning.
"He'll knock those charges silly--though I dare say I could have wormed
through all right; only, you see, I couldn't get out to find people to
give evidence for me."

"Do you--see him often?" she asked, somewhat vaguely.

"Armstrong!" exclaimed Billy, in open-eyed amaze. "Why, he's here with me
every day."

"But never," thought Miss Lawrence, "in the morning--when we are."

The eventful Monday was duly ushered in, but not the court. That case
never came to trial. Like the crack of a whip an order snapped in by wire
on the Thursday previous--three regiments, the --teenth regulars and the
"Primeval Dudes," Armstrong's splendid regiment among them--to prepare
for sea voyage forthwith. More than that, General Drayton and staff were
directed to proceed to Manila at once. Two-thirds of the members of the
court were from these regiments. A new detail would be necessary. The
General sent for Armstrong.

"Can't we try that case here and now?" he asked.

"Certainly," said Armstrong, "if you'll send for Canker that _he_ may be
satisfied."

And Canker came and listened. It was admitted that Gray had had a long
talk with the prisoner, took him his overcoat, newspapers, etc., but, in
extenuation, they were members of the same college society and their
social standing was, outside the army, on the same plane. Gray deserved
reprimand and caution--nothing more. As to the carriage, he had nothing to
do with the one that drove to camp that night. A man in the uniform of a
commissary sergeant giving the name of Foley (how Canker winced) had
ordered it at the stable and taught the driver "Killarney." Gray had
'phoned for a carriage for himself, hoping to get the officer-of-the-day's
permission to be absent two hours to tell his story in person to the
General, who was dining with the department commander. He never got the
permission, and the carriage went to the wrong camp. Lieutenant W. F. Gray
was released from arrest and returned to duty.

"I shall never be able to thank you enough," said he, sentimentally, to
Miss Lawrence, at the Palace that evening. They were strolling up and
down the corridor, waiting, as was Schuyler, for Mildred to come down for
the theater. Gray's curly head was inclined toward the dark locks of his
fair partner. His eyes were fastened on her faintly flushing face. They
made a very pretty picture, said people who looked on knowingly, and so
thought the officer in the uniform of a colonel of infantry, who, while
talking calmly to Mr. Prime full thirty yards away, watched them with
eyes that were full of sadness. How could _he_ see at that distance that
her eyes, clear and radiant, were seldom uplifted to the ardent gaze of
her escort, and were at the moment looking straight at him? How could he
hear at that distance the prompt response, given with an inclination of
the bonny head to indicate her meaning?

"There's where your thanks are due, Mr. Gray."

Quite a gathering of army folk was at the Palace that night. So many
wives or sweethearts were going home, so many soldiers abroad, and Mrs.
Frank Garrison, gay and gracious, passed them time and again, leaning on
the arm of Captain McDonald, a new devotee, while poor Cherry, with an
enamored swain from the Presidio, languished in a dim, secluded corner.
She had been recalled by parental authority and was to start for Denver
under a matronly wing on the morrow. Mrs. Frank had been bidden, and
expected, to go at the same time, but that authority was merely marital.
Up to this time not one army wife had been permitted to accompany her
husband on any of the transports to Manila, though one heroine managed to
get carried away and to share her liege lord's stateroom as far as
Honolulu. The General and his staff, with a big regiment of volunteers,
were to sail on the morrow, the other regiments as fast as transports
could be coaled and made ready.

Something in Mrs. Garrison's gay, triumphant manner prompted a
sore-hearted woman, suffering herself at the coming parting, to turn and
say: "Well, Mrs. Garrison, I suppose that after your husband sails you'll
have to follow the rest of us into grass-widowhood."

One thing that made women hate Margaret Garrison was that she "could
never be taken down," and the answer came cuttingly, as it was meant to
go, even though a merry laugh went with it.

"Not I! When the ship I want is ready, I go with it!"

But as she turned triumphantly away, the color suddenly left her cheek
and there was an instant's falter. As though he had heard her words,
Stanley Armstrong too had suddenly turned and stood looking sternly into
her eyes.



CHAPTER XIII.


Still another expedition was destined to start for Manila, and keen was
the rivalry among the regiments held to daily drill at San Francisco. The
rumor was current in the camps that the next review was to decide the
matter, and that the commands pronounced to be foremost in discipline and
efficiency would be designated to embark. The transports that had
conveyed the earlier expeditions to the Philippines began to reappear in
the bay, and coaling and refitting were hurried to the utmost. The man
most eager to get away was Stanley Armstrong; and if merit were to decide
the matter it was conceded among the volunteers that in point of style
and equipment the "Primeval Dudes" "held over" all competitors, even
though every competitor believed itself more than a match for the Dudes
if actual campaigning and fighting were in contemplation. Senators and
members from the States represented by the volunteers at San Francisco
led burdensome lives, for officers and men were pulling every wire to
secure the longed-for orders for an immediate voyage to Manila, when, all
on a sudden, the hopes of all were crushed. Spain had begged for peace.
"No more men can be sent to Manila," said the officials consulted, and
Camp Merritt put on mourning forthwith.

But Armstrong had been studying the situation and was not easily daunted.
He was a man whose opinion carried weight, and from the very first he had
maintained that while fifteen or twenty thousand might be men enough to
hold Manila, fifty thousand might not be enough to subdue at once the
forces of Aguinaldo in case they should turn upon the Americans, which
said he, placidly, they will most certainly do before we are a year
older.

The Dudes, therefore, much to their disgust, were kept steadily at work.
Other regiments, profiting by example, followed suit; but in others
still, a small proportion of their membership, believing as they said,
that the "jig was up," took to lawless and unhallowed expression of their
disgust and became thereby a nuisance to the neighborhood. San
Franciscans, who had wept copiously when others sailed away, would have
seen these patriots sent into exile without shedding a tear.

"Every man of this command will yet be needed and yet be sent," said
Armstrong. So, too, did the veteran division commander, and the brigade
took heart accordingly. The last of the regulars, with the recruit
detachments for regiments already in the Philippines, had been shipped to
Honolulu, there to await orders, and September seemed destined to go by
without a change for the better in the prospects of the men still left in
camp about the reservation. The Primes, convinced at last that the boy
they sought was not to be found in California, had gone to Santa Anita
visiting their kindred, the Lawrences; and Armstrong, buckling down to
hard and constant work, was striving to persuade himself that he did not
care that the mornings no longer brought with them the carriage and the
fair face of that gentle girl; the department commander himself had gone
to take a look at his new responsibilities in Hawaii; little Mrs.
Garrison still held court, though with diminished retinue, at the
Presidio, when one day, just as October was ushered in, there came a
message from the adjutant-general in town. Would Armstrong drop in at the
office at the first opportunity? A matter of some importance had come up
in the general's first letter from Honolulu, one on which Armstrong's
opinion was desired; and the colonel, hoping for tidings of a chance to
move even that far to the front, made immediate opportunity and took the
first car for the Phelan Building. The adjutant-general looked up from a
littered desk as Armstrong entered.

"It is good of you to come so promptly," said he. "I'm in a stew, to tell
the truth, and I want your advice." Then he tapped his bell. "Excuse me
to any one who comes for the next ten minutes," said he, to the attendant
who entered. "I have business with Colonel Armstrong."

No sooner did the orderly vanish than the man of the desk whirled full on
the man of the saddle. "Armstrong," said he, "you defended Gray and
proved him innocent. What else has Canker against him?"

"Nothing that I know of--why?"

"Because he's got him in arrest again at Honolulu, and the chief is
worked up over something. Look here--do you suppose--did you ever hear
about certain letters that were stolen from General Drayton's tent?"

"I heard--yes. Why?" And the look of disappointment which had appeared in
the grave face of the colonel gave way to one of alert interest.

"Just read that," said the staff official, holding forth a letter. "Begin
there at 'Later!'"

And Armstrong read, his forehead slowly grooving into something very like
a frown.

"Later. I may have to remain here several days. Canker, with the
--teenth, went ahead before news of the protocol could stop him; but he
leaves here a number of sick--Lieutenant Gray, charged with using
threatening and insubordinate language to his commanding officer, among
them; and Gray is down with brain fever. The doctors say he is too ill to
be disturbed, and his side of the story is hard to get at, as the boy is
too flighty to talk sense. From Canker's own admission I learned that he
accused Gray of having knowledge of the whereabouts of that packet of
letters stolen from General Drayton's tent, and the youngster's reply was
furious. Canker _had_ to place him in arrest and prefer charges. When
asked if he were sure of his ground in making so serious an accusation,
he declared he had proof positive, at least he would have the instant
they reached Manila, and his intention was to take the boy along with him
to be tried there by court-martial, where "no meddling outsiders," as he
said, could buy off witnesses. It was plain that he considered himself
out of my jurisdiction, and that he resented my staff officer's
questions. But Dr. Morrow had appealed to me in behalf of Gray. Said that
if compelled to continue a prisoner aboard that transport under Canker's
tyrannical rule Gray might be goaded into insanity. He was in a condition
bordering on brain fever when Morrow came to see me, and in another day
was raving. That settled it. I ordered him taken off and placed in
hospital here, and Canker had to go without him. But I wish you would see
Armstrong and tell him about Gray, so that I may know the whole situation
as soon as I return. Canker evidently intended not to let us know his
proofs. He probably believes that he will find a more credulous and
complaisant listener in Drayton; but his insinuations pointed to Gray as
at least an abettor in the theft, and he went so far as to say that if
Armstrong could be brought before the court some very interesting
testimony could be dragged from him, and, finally, that both Armstrong
and Mrs.--well, the wife of a staff officer who is already well on the
way to Manila--might be compelled to testify. I cannot bring myself to
repeat more that he said; but he was in an ugly and almost defiant mood,
and I had to give him a dressing down. You may say to Armstrong for me
that I do not believe one word of Canker's calumny at his expense or that
of the lady in the case. But he declared his intention of laying the
whole matter before General Drayton immediately on his arrival, and it is
best that Armstrong should be prepared. As for the lady, Canker said she
and Armstrong were very close friends when they were at Fort Stanhope ten
years ago, though they no longer meet as such.

"And that brings me to another matter. I declined positively to allow two
or three ladies, wives of officers, to go on to Manila with Canker's
command; and they said that as I had promised Mrs. Garrison a passage I
had no right to refuse them. Pressed for their authority, two very
estimable women told me that, at the Presidio two days before we sailed,
Mrs. Garrison openly boasted of having my promise to send her on the very
next steamer. Now, who is really the fabricator? I told her positively
that, with my consent, she should not go; and she laughed delightedly,
and said she only asked as a matter of form--the whole thing had already
been settled. Just see to it that if any more transports start before my
return no woman is permitted aboard except, of course, authorized nurses.
Gray is a very sick boy to-night, but you might wire his father, saying
nothing of the arrest, that the doctors are confident of his recovery in
course of time."

Armstrong read these pages twice over before he looked up.

"How did this letter come?" he asked.

"By the Salvador yesterday."

"And the next mail for Honolulu?" queried Armstrong, rising from his
chair and handing back the folded letter.

"The next mail closed an hour ago, man. The China sails at two. No other
boat for a week. Where are you going now?"

"To camp for ten minutes, then to the Presidio."

"Oh, come over to the club and have a bite first?" said the
adjutant-general, rising and wriggling out of his uniform coat as he did
so. "I won't keep you half an hour."

"That half-hour may prove precious," answered Armstrong, already at the
door. "Many thanks all the same."

"Well. Hold on. What am I to say to the General as to Gray and those
letters?" asked the staff officer, intent upon the subject uppermost in
his mind at the moment.

"You can't say anything that will reach him before he returns. You have
just told me no other boat would start for a week. By that time he'll be
coming home." And with that Armstrong let himself out and strode to the
elevator, leaving his friend to cogitate on the question over his
luncheon. It was decidedly that officer's opinion that Armstrong knew
much more than he would tell.

But Armstrong knew much less than he himself believed. Hastening back to
camp and ordering his horse, he was soon speeding up the slope to the
wind-swept heights overlooking the Golden Gate. The morning had opened
fine as silk, but by noon the sky was hidden in clouds and the breath of
the sea blew in salt and strong. The whitecaps were leaping on the crest
of the surges driving in through the straits and the surf bursting high
on the jagged rocks at the base of the cliffs. A little coast steamer
from Santa Barbara way came pitching and plunging in from sea, and one or
two venturesome craft, heeling far to leeward, tore through the billows
and tossed far astern a frothing wake. With manes and tails streaming in
the stiff gale, the troop horses of the Fourth Cavalry were cropping at
the scanty herbage down the northward slope, and the herd guard nearest
the road lost his grip on his drab campaign hat as he essayed a salute,
and galloped off on a stern chase down the long ravine to the east, as
the colonel trotted briskly by. One keen glance over the bay beyond rocky
Alcatraz had told him the China was not yet away from her pier. He might
have to send a dispatch by that swift steamer, and even then it would be
six days getting to Hawaii. If the department commander should by that
time be on his homeward journey the information would still be of
interest to the general commanding the new military district at "the
Cross Roads of the Pacific," and of vast benefit, possibly, to his late
client, Mr. Gray. He wondered what Canker's grounds could be for saddling
so foul a suspicion on the boy's good name. He wondered how long that
poor lad would have to struggle with this attack of fever and remain,
perhaps happily, unconscious of this latest indignity. He wondered if Amy
Lawrence yet knew of that serious seizure, and, if she did, what would be
her sensations. Down the winding, sloping road he urged his way, Glencoe,
his pet charger, marveling at the unusual gait. The cape of the sentry's
overcoat whirled over the sentry's head and swished his cap off as he
presented arms to the tall soldier spurring past the guardhouse. "I envy
no one who has to put to sea this day," said Armstrong to himself, as he
turned to the right and reined up in front of a little brown cottage
peeping out from a mass of vines and roses, shivering in the wet wind.
Half a dozen strides took him across the narrow walk and up the wooden
steps. With sharp emphasis he clanged the little gong bell screwed to the
back of the door and waited impatient for the servant's coming. There was
no answer. He rang again and still again, and no one came. A glance at
the windows told that the white lace curtains hung there draped as
prettily as ever. Fresh flowers stood on the window sill. A shawl and a
pillow, the latter indented as by a human head, lay in the lounging chair
on the little porch. Another chair stood but a few feet away. There was
even a fan, though fans in a 'Frisco summer are less needed than furs;
but nowhere saw he other sign of the temporary mistress of the house. He
went round to a side window and rapped. No answer. Then he turned to the
walk again, and, taking the reins, bade the orderly inquire next door if
Mrs. Garrison could be found. Yes, was the answer; she went driving to
Golden Gate Park with Mrs. Stockman an hour ago, and Mrs. Stockman was to
leave for Los Angeles that night. Odd! If Mrs. Garrison drove to Golden
Gate Park the easiest and best way was that along which he came, and he
had met no carriage. In fact, not since that night at the Palace had he
set eyes on Mrs. Garrison, or until the coming of this sorrowful news
about Gray had he cared to. From all that he heard Mrs. Frank was
enjoying herself at the Presidio. Cherry having gone one way and her
devotee another, Mrs. Frank speedily summoned a chum of old garrison days
to come and keep house with her for a while, and Mrs. Stockman, whose
lord had left her at the call to duty, and gone to Manila with his men,
right gladly accepted and much enjoyed the fun and frolic that went on
night after night in Mrs. Frank's cozy parlor, or the mild flirtation,
possibly, in the recesses of Mrs. Frank's embowered porch. The last
expedition had borne off almost all the "regular" element at the post,
but had not left it poor, for, fast as camp grounds could be made ready
for them, vastly to the disgust of the saloon keepers and street-car
magnates who had reaped rich harvest from Camp Merritt, regiment after
regiment, the volunteers came marching over from the malodorous sand lots
and settled down in sheltered nooks about the Presidio. So cavaliers in
plenty were still to be had, cavaliers whose wives and sweethearts, as a
rule, were far away; and Mrs. Frank loved to console such as were so
bereft. The chafing dish and Scotch and soda were in nightly request; and
even women who didn't at all fancy Mrs. Frank, and spoke despitefully of
her among themselves, were not slow to come in "for just a minute," as
they said, as the evenings wore on, and to stay and chat with various
visitors--it was so lonesome and poky over home with the children asleep
and nothing to do. Women there were who never darkened Mrs. Garrison's
door after the first formal calls; but they were of those who deeply felt
the separation from all they held most dear, and who, forbidden
themselves, heard with envy and even distress her gay assertion that she
would sail for Manila the moment the Queen of the Fleet was ready. From
what source--or circumstance--did she derive her influence?

But with the edict that no more troops should be sent came comfort to the
souls of these bereaved ones. Transports would not go without troops, and
Mrs. Frank could not go without transports, the journey was far too
expensive. They wished her no evil, of course; but, if they were
themselves forbidden how could they rejoice that she should be permitted?
They were actually beginning to feel a bit charitable toward her when the
Queen of the Fleet herself came in from Honolulu with the latest news.
The fifth expedition had been halted there and put in camp. The hospital
held several officers. Billy Gray was down with brain fever, and there
had been a furious scene between him and his peppery colonel before the
breakdown; and by that same steamer Mrs. Garrison had got a letter that
made her turn white and tremble, as Mrs. Stockman saw and told, and then
shut herself up in her room an entire day. Now, for nearly a fortnight,
the lovely guest had been daily hinting that she really must go home,
"dear Witchie" was surely tired of her; and Witchie disclaimed and
protested and vowed she could not live without her devoted friend. But
then had come that letter and with it a change of tone and tactics.
Witchie ceased to remonstrate or reprove Mrs. Stockman, and the latter
felt that she must go, and Witchie consented without demur.

In no pleasant mood Armstrong mounted and trotted for the east gate. The
road was lined with camps and volunteers at drill. Vehicles were
frequently moving to and fro; but the sentry at the entrance had kept
track of them, and in response to question answered promptly and
positively Mrs. Garrison's carriage had not come that way. "But," said
he, "the wagon with the lady's baggage did. I saw the name on the
trunks."

The colonel turned in saddle and coolly surveyed him. "Do you mean Mrs.
Stockman's name?" he asked in quiet tone. "How many trunks were there?"

"Oh, some of them might have had Mrs. Stockman's name, sir; but the two
or three that I saw were marked M. G."

This was unlooked-for news. To her next-door neighbor Mrs. Garrison had
said nothing about going away with Mrs. Stockman, and Armstrong had grave
need to see her and to see her at once. The train for Los Angeles did not
leave until evening. Possibly they were lunching somewhere--spending the
afternoon with friends in town. He rode direct to headquarters. Some of
the staff might be able to tell, was his theory; and one of them
justified it.

"Did I happen to meet Mrs. Garrison? Yes, I just saw her aboard the
China."

"Aboard the China!" exclaimed Armstrong, with sudden thrill of
excitement. "D'you mean she is going?"

"Didn't ask her. They were hustling everybody ashore, and I had only time
to give dispatches to Purser; but she was on the deck with friends when I
came away."

People wondered that day at the speed with which the tall officer, followed
by his orderly, clattered away down Market Street. In less than ten minutes
Armstrong was at the crowded pier and pushing through the throng to the
China's stage. Too late! Already it was swung aloft, the lines were cast
loose, and the huge black mass was just beginning to back slowly from its
moorings. The rail of the promenade deck swarmed with faces, some radiant,
some tearful. Words of adieu, fluttering kerchiefs, waving hands, tossing
flowers were there on every side. Two officers, Honolulu bound, shouted
Armstrong's name, and a cheery good-by; but he did not seem to hear. A
gentle voice, the voice of all others he most longed to hear, repeated the
name and strove to call attention to his gesticulating comrades on the
upper deck; but he was deaf to both. Eagerly, anxiously, incredulously he
was searching along that crowded rail, and all on a sudden he saw her. Yes,
there she stood, all gayety, grace and animation, stylishly gowned and
fairly burdened with roses; and it was right at him she was gazing,
nodding, smiling, all sweetness, all confiding, trusting joy; with just a
little of triumph, too, and a tinge of sentimental sorrow in the parting.
Apparently, it was all for him; for her blue eyes never faltered till they
fixed his gaze, and then, kiss after kiss she threw to him with the
daintily gloved little hand, and, leaning far down over the rail, lowering
it toward him as much as possible, she finally tossed to him, standing
there stern and spellbound, a bunch of beautiful roses she had torn from
her corsage. It fell almost at his feet, for in his astonishment and rising
wrath he made no effort to catch it. A man, stooping quickly, rescued and
handed it to him. Mechanically he said "Thank you," and took it, a thorn
pricking deep into the flesh as he did so; and still his eyes were fixed on
that fairy form now surely, swiftly gliding away, and over him swept the
consciousness of utter defeat, of exasperation, of dismay, even as he
strove to fathom her motives in thus singling him out for such
conspicuous--even affectionate--demonstration. Triumph and delight he could
have understood, but not, not this semblance of confidential relations, not
at least until he felt his arm grasped by a cordial hand, heard his name
spoken by a friendly voice, and Mr. Prime's pleasant inquiry: "Have you no
greeting for other friends?" Then the hot blood rushed to his face and
showed even through the bronze as, turning, his troubled eyes met full the
clear, placid gaze of Amy Lawrence.



CHAPTER XIV.


Mid October. The Queen of the Fleet, the finest transport of the Pacific
service, thronged with boys in blue at last ordered on to Manila, lay at
the wharf at Honolulu, awaiting her commander's orders to cast loose. In
strong force, and with stentorian voices, the Primeval Dudes joined in
rollicking chorus to the crashing accompaniment of their band and, when
they could take time to rest, the crowd ashore set up a cheer. The
Hawaiian National Band, in spotless white, forming a huge and melodious
circle on the wharf, vied with the musicians from the States in the
spirit and swing of their stirring airs. "_Aloha Oe! Aloha Oe!_" chorused
the surging throng, afloat and ashore, as wreaths and garlands--the
_leis_ of the islanders--were twined or hung about some favorite officer
or favored man. The troops still held to service in Hawaii shouted good
will and good-by to those ordered on to the Philippines. The Dudes of the
Queen, and the lads from the prairies and the mountains on other
transports anchored in the deep but narrow harbor, yelled soldierly
condolence to those condemned to stay. The steam of the 'scape pipe
roared loudly and belched dense white clouds on high, swelling the
uproar. Dusky little Kanaka boys, diving for nickels and paddling
tireless about the ship, added their shrill cries to the clamor. The
captain, in his natty uniform of blue and gold, stepped forth upon the
bridge to take command, and raised his banded cap in recognition of the
constant cheer from the host ashore and the throng of blue shirts on the
forecastle head. Then arose another shout, as a veteran officer, in the
undress uniform of a general, appeared upon that sacred bound, and,
bowing to the crowd, was escorted by the captain to the end overlooking
the animated scene below; and then the signal was given, the heavy lines
were cast off and hauled swiftly in, the massive screw began slowly to
churn the waters at the stern, and gently, almost imperceptibly at first,
the Queen slid noiselessly along the edge of the dock, to the
accompaniment of a little volley of flowers and garlands tossed from
eager hands, and a cheer of godspeed from the swarm of upturned faces.
And then there uprose another shout, a shout of mingled merriment,
surprise and applause; for all on a sudden there darted up the stairway
from the crowded promenade deck to the sacred perch above, defiant of the
lettered warning, "Passengers are not allowed upon the Bridge," a dainty
vision in filmy white, and all in the next moment there appeared at the
General's side, smiling, bowing, blowing kisses, waving adieux, all
sparkle, animation, radiance and rejoicing, a bewitching little figure in
the airiest, loveliest of summer toilets. The Red Cross nurses on the
deck below looked at one another and gasped. Two brave army girls, wives
of wounded officers in the Philippines, who, by special dispensation,
were making the voyage on the Queen, glanced quickly at each other and
said--nothing audible. The General, lifting his cap, but looking both
deprecation and embarrassment, fell back and gave his place at the white
rail to the new arrival, and colored high when she suddenly turned and
took his arm. The captain, trying not to see her or to appear conscious
of this infraction of a stringent rule and invasion of his dignity, grew
redder as he shouted rapid orders and swung his big, beautiful ship well
out into the stream. The guns of the Bennington boomed a deafening salute
as the Queen turned her sharp nose toward the open sea; and almost the
last thing Honolulu saw of her human freight was the tiny, dainty,
winsome little figure in white, waving a spotless kerchief as in fond
farewell. Once clear of the narrow entrance the big troop ship headed
westward toward the setting sun, shook free the reins, as it were, and,
followed by less favored craft, sped swiftly on her way, Witchie
Garrison, the latest addition to the passenger list, entirely at home, if
not actually in command.

Leaning on the General's arm an hour later and deftly piloting that
bewildered veteran up and down the breezy deck, she came, just as she had
planned to come, face to face once more with Stanley Armstrong. Well she
knew that under the escort of that exalted rank she was safe from any
possibility of cross question or interference. Well she knew that had he
heard of her sudden determination to go to Honolulu she could not have
escaped stern interrogation, possibly something worse; and her heart
failed her when she realized that the man who had gauged her shallow
nature years before, now held a lash over her head in the shape of the
paper that mad vanity had prompted her to write and send to the officer
of the guard the day that Stewart sailed. What madness it was, indeed,
yet how could she have dreamed it would fall into the hands of the man of
all others she feared and respected--the one man who, had he but cared,
could years ago have had her love, the man who, because he cared not, had
won her hate! And, now that he held or had held this paper--nothing less
than a forged order in her husband's name as aide-de-camp to General
Drayton, she could have cowered at his feet in her terror of him, yet
braved him with smiles, sweetness and gayety, with arch merriment and
joyous words, quitting for the moment the General's arm that she might
extend to him both her little white-gloved hands. Gravely he took the
left in his left while with the right he raised his forage cap in
combined salute to the woman and to his superior officer. Gravely and
almost instantly he released it, and listened in helpless patience to her
torrent of playful words; but his eyes were on the General's face as
though he would ask could he, the General, know the true character of the
woman he had honored above all her sisterhood on board, in thus taking
her to the bridge whereon neither officer nor man nor nurse nor army wife
had presumed to set foot on all the six days' run from San Francisco, as
though he would ask if the General knew just what she was, this blithe,
dainty, winsome little thing that nestled so confidingly--indeed, so
snugly--close to his battered side, and who had virtually taken
possession of him in the face of an envious and not too silent circle of
her own sex. Truth to tell, the Chief would rather have escaped. He was
but an indifferent sailor, and the Queen's long, lazy roll over the ocean
surges was exciting in his inner consciousness a longing for cracked ice
and champagne. He had known her but the few days the Queen remained in
port, coaling and preparing for the onward voyage across the broad
Pacific; but a great functionary of the general government had told him a
pathetic tale the very day of his first peep at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel,
had given him a capital dinner at that famous hostelry, whereat she
appeared in charming attire, and in a flow of spirits simply
irresistible. Her sallies of wit had made him roar with delight; her
mimicry of one or two conscientious but acidulated dames who had come
over on the Queen, bound as nurses for Manila, had tickled him to the
verge of apoplexy; but when later she backed him into the coolest corner
of the "lanai" with the plash of fountain close at hand, and the sweet
music of Berger's famous band floating softly on the evening air, and
told him how her father had loved to talk of his, the General's, dash and
daring in the great days of the great war, and led him on to tell of his
campaigns in the Shenandoah and the West, listening with dilated eyes and
parted lips, the campaigner himself was captivated, and she had her will.
A great senator had told him how she had come thither to nurse a gallant
young officer in her husband's regiment, how she had pulled the boy
through the perils of brain fever until he was now convalescent and going
on to rejoin his comrades in Manila, and she, she was pining to reach her
husband now serving on General Drayton's staff. Other women were aboard
the Queen; could not General Crabb find room for her? It is hard for a
soldier to refuse a pretty woman--or a prominent member of the committee
on military affairs. There was not a vacant stateroom on the ship.
Officers were sleeping three or four in a room, so were the Red Cross
nurses; and the two army wives already aboard had been assigned a little
cubby-hole of a cabin in which only one could dress at a time. There were
only two apartments on the big craft that were not filled to their
capacity--the room occupied by that sea monarch, the captain, and that
which, from having been the "Ladies' Boudoir," had been fitted up for the
accommodation of the General. The piano had been wheeled out on deck, the
writing table stowed away, and a fine new wide brass bedstead, with
dainty white curtains and mosquito bar, a large bureau and a washstand
had been moved in, and these, with easy-chairs, electric fans, electric
lights and abundant air, made it the most desirable room on the ship.
Even Armstrong, colonel commanding the troops aboard, was compelled to
share his little cabin with his adjutant, and the General's aides were
bundled into a "skimpy" box between decks. There really seemed no place
for Mrs. Garrison aboard, especially when it was found that the passenger
list was to be increased by three, a surgeon and two officers going
forward from Honolulu; and one of these was our old friend and once
light-hearted Billy Gray, now nearly convalescent, but weak and, as all
could see, feverishly eager to get on to Manila.

All this was explained to the senator. It was even suggested that there
was room for Mrs. Garrison on the Louisiana, a safe old tub, if she was
slow; but Mrs. Frank looked so pathetic and resigned when this
arrangement was suggested that no one had the hardihood to actually dwell
upon it, and the senator said it was a shame to think of it. With whom of
her own sex could she associate on that long, hot voyage ahead of them?
Why not transfer some of the Red Cross nurses to the Louisiana? Mrs.
Garrison had no objections, but they had; and the surgeon in charge made
prompt and vigorous protest. He knew Mrs. Frank, and she knew him and did
not in the least despair. She still had a plan. There was a cozy dinner
one evening--just the evening before the departure of the Queen, and the
gallant captain of the ship, the veteran General, the quartermaster in
charge of transportation, the member of the senate military committee,
some charming girls,--but none so charming as Mrs. Garrison,--were of the
party. There was some sentiment and much champagne, as a result of which,
at one A.M., the big-hearted sea monarch aforementioned swore by the
bones of his ancestors in the slimy grasp of Davy Jones that that sweet
little woman shouldn't have to go a-begging for accommodations on his
ship. If the General would condescend to move into his room, by thunder,
he'd sleep up in his foul-weather den next the chart room, and Mrs.
Garrison--God bless her!--could take the General's room, and be queen of
the ship--queen of the Queen--queen of queens--by Jupiter! and here's her
health with all honor! A soldier, of course, could be no less gallant
than a sailor, especially as the captain's room was a bit better than the
"Boudoir," and had an ice chest and contents that the veteran campaigner
was bidden to consider his own. The agreement was clinched that very
night before the party broke up; and little Mrs. Frank shed tears of
gratitude upon the General's coat sleeve and threw kiss after kiss to the
handsome sailor as she hung over the balusters of the broad veranda and
waved them away in their swift-running cabs, and then danced off to her
room and threw herself on the bed after a mad pirouette about the
spacious apartment, and laughed and laughed until real tears trickled
from her eyes, and then gave orders to be called at seven o'clock. She
meant to be up and aboard that ship with all her luggage before sense and
repentance could come with the morning sun--before either soldier or
sailor could change his mind.

To the amaze of the women already aboard, to the grave annoyance of
Colonel Armstrong, to the joy of poor Billy Gray, and the mischievous
merriment of several youngsters on the commissioned list, Mrs. Frank
Garrison, the latest arrival, became sole occupant of the finest room on
the ship; and it was a bower of lilies and tropical fruit and flowers the
breezy day she sailed away from the bay of Honolulu.

No time need be wasted in telling the effect of this "assignment to
quarters." Prolific a source of squabble as is the custom ashore it
becomes intensified afloat, and, when coupled with it, came a shaking up
and rearrangement of seats at table, all hope of harmony vanished on the
instant. The two brave young army girls still retained their seats at the
captain's table; but two most estimable young women, Red Cross nurses,
were dropped therefrom and transferred to that of the second officer on
the port side, much to the comfort of a rather large percentage of their
sisterhood who had regarded their previous elevation with feelings of not
unmixed gratification. Then officers who had been seated with the
General's staff had to vacate in favor of Mrs. Frank and Dr. Prober and
Lieutenant Billy Gray, whose father and the chief were long-time chums,
and the Red Cross nurses who had been at the first officer's table fell
back to that of the third. It was every bit as good as the other, but it
didn't sound so, and they couldn't see it; and there were faces sour as
the product of the ship's baker when that evening all hands went down to
dinner, and the silence maintained, or the ominously subdued tone of the
talk, at the other tables, was in marked contrast with the hilarity that
prevailed where sat the gray-haired, ruddy-cheeked old chief and the
laughing coterie that listened to the fun that fell from the lips of
Witchie Garrison. Armstrong, silent and somber, at the captain's right,
looking forward from time to time, saw only one face at the General's
table that was not lighted up with merriment; it was the face of the boy
he envied, if envy of this kind ever entered into his heart, and he
wondered as he looked at Billy's curly head what could have come over
that glad young life to leave so deep a shadow on his handsome face.

One night, just one week later, Armstrong's eyes were opened. More than
once in the meanwhile he had invited the young officer's confidence, and
Billy, who three months earlier had been all gratitude and frankness,
protested there was nothing on his mind. He had been very ill, that was
all. As to Canker's charges they were simply rot. He hadn't the faintest
inkling what had become of the purloined letters any more than he had of
the whereabouts of his Delta Sig friend, young Morton, now officially
proclaimed a deserter. But Armstrong heard more tales of Witchie's
devotions to him in his illness, and the slow convalescence that ensued,
noted how the boy's eyes followed her about the deck, and how many a time
he would seek her side, even when other men were reading, walking or
chatting with her. Armstrong looked with wonderment that was close allied
to incredulity and pain. Was it possible that this blithe lad, who had
won such a warm interest in the heart of such a girl as Amy Lawrence,
could be forgetful of her, faithless to her, and fascinated now by this
selfish and shallow butterfly? It was incredible!

But was it? The days had grown hotter, the nights closer, and the air
between decks was stifling when the sea rolled high and closed the ports.
Officers had taken to snoozing up on deck in steamer chairs. By an
unwritten law the port side of the promenade deck was given up to them
after eleven at night; but the women folk had the run of the starboard
side at any hour when the crew were not washing down decks. Armstrong had
been far forward about two o'clock one breathless night to see for
himself the condition of things in the hospital under the forecastle. The
main deck was crowded with sleeping forms of soldiers who found it
impossible to stand the heat below; so on his return, instead of
continuing along the gangway, he decided to climb the iron ladder from
the main to the promenade deck. It would land him at the forward end on
the starboard side. There he could smoke a cigar in peace and quiet. It
was high time everybody was asleep.

But as his head and eyes reached the level of the deck he became suddenly
aware of a couple huddled close together in the shelter of a canvas
screen, and under the steps leading aloft to the bridge. He knew Gray's
voice at once, and Gray was pleading. He knew _her_ tones of old, and she
was imperative, and listening with obvious impatience, for, almost at the
instant of his arrival, she spoke, low, yet distinctly. "Do as I say; do
as I _beg_ you when we reach Manila, and then come--and see how I can
reward."



CHAPTER XV.


Manila at last! Queen city of the Archipelago, and Manila again besieged!
The loveliest of the winter months was come. The Luneta and the Paseo de
Santa Lucia, close to the sparkling waters, were gay every evening with
the music of the regimental bands and thronged with the carriages of
old-time residents and their new and not too welcome visitors. Spanish
dames and damsels, invisible at other hours, drove or strolled along the
roadway to enjoy the cool breezes that swept in from the beautiful bay
and wistful peeps at the dainty toilets of the American belles now
arriving by every boat from Hongkong. All the Castilian disdain they
might look and possibly feel toward the soldiery of Uncle Sam gave place
to liveliest interest and curiosity when the wives and daughters of his
soldiers appeared upon the scene; and there was one carriage about which,
whenever it stopped, a little swarm of officers gathered and toward which
at any time all eyes were directed--that of the White Sisters. Within the
old walled city and in the crowded districts of Binondo, Quiapo and San
Miguel north of the Pasig, and again in Paco and Ermita to the south,
strong regiments were stationed in readiness to suppress the first sign
of the outbreak so confidently predicted by the Bureau of Military
Intelligence. In a great semicircle of over twenty miles, girdling the
city north, east and south, the outposts and sentries of the two
divisions kept watchful eyes upon the Insurgent forces surrounding them.
Aguinaldo and his cabinet at Malolos to the north had all but declared
war upon the obstinate possessors of the city and had utterly forbidden
their leaving the lines of Manila and seeking to penetrate those broader
fields and roads and villages without. Still hugging to its breast the
delusion that a semi-Malaysian race could be appeased by show of
philanthropy, the government at Washington decreed that, despite their
throwing up earthworks against and training guns on the American
positions, the enemy should be treated as though they never could or
would be hostile, and the privileges denied by them to American troops
were by the American troops accorded to them. Coming and going at will
through our lines, they studied our force, our arms, equipment, numbers,
supplies, methods; and long before the Christmas bells had clanged their
greeting to that universal feast day, and the boom of cannon ushered in
the new year, all doubt of the hostile sentiments of the Insurgent
leaders had vanished. Already there had been ominous clashes at the
front; and with every day the demeanor of the Philippine officers and men
became more and more insolent and defiant. Ceaseless vigilance and
self-control were enjoined upon the soldiers of the United States, nearly
all stalwart volunteers from the far West, and while officers of the
staff and of the half-dozen regiments quartered within the city were
privileged each day to stroll or drive upon the Luneta, there were others
that never knew an hour away from the line of the outposts and their
supports. Such was the case with Stewart's regiment far out toward the
waterworks at the east. Such was the case with the Primeval Dudes on the
other side of the Pasig, lining the banks of the crooked estuary that
formed the Rubicon we were forbidden to cross. Such was the case with
Canker and the --teenth in the dense bamboo thicket to the south, and so
it happened that at first Armstrong and Billy Gray saw nothing of each
other, and but little of the White Sisters, probably a fortunate thing
for all.

Ever since that memorable night on the Queen of the Fleet, Gray had
studiously avoided his whilom friend and counselor, while the latter's
equally studious avoidance of Mrs. Garrison had become observed
throughout the ship. The dominion and power of that little lady had been
of brief duration, as was to be expected in the case of a woman who had
secured for her undivided use the best, the airiest and by far the
largest room on the steamer--a _cabine de luxe_ indeed, that for a week's
voyage on an Atlantic liner would have cost a small fortune, while here
for a sea sojourn of more than double the time, under tropic skies, and
while other and worthier women were sweltering three in a stuffy box
below, it had cost but a smile. The captain had repented him of his
magnanimity before the lights of Honolulu faded out astern. The General
began to realize that he had been made a cat's-paw of and, his _amour
propre_ being wounded, he had essayed for a day or two majestic dignity
of mien that became comical when complicated with the qualms of
seasickness. There was even noticeable aversion on part of some of the
officers of the Dudes who, having made the journey from "the Bay" to
Honolulu with the women passengers, army wives and Red Cross nurses,
naturally became the recipients of the views entertained by these ladies.
Quick to see if slow to seem to see, Mrs. Frank had lost no time in
begging one of the young soldier wives to share her big stateroom and
broad and comfortable bed, and the lady preferred the heat and discomfort
between-decks to separation from her friend. Then Mrs. Garrison tendered
both the run of her cabin during the day and evening; suggested, indeed,
that on hot nights they come and sleep there, one on the bed and one on
the couch; and they thanked her, but--never came. She coddled the General
with cool champagne cup when he was in the throes of _mal de mer_, and
held him prisoner with her vivacious chatter when he was well enough to
care to talk. But, after all, her most serious trouble seemed to consist
in keeping Billy Gray at respectful distance. He sought her side day
after day, to Armstrong's mild amaze, as has been said; and when he could
not be with her was moody, even fierce and ugly tempered--he whose
disposition had been the sunniest in all that gray, shivery, dripping
sojourn at the San Francisco camp.

But once fairly settled in Manila, the White Sisters seemed to regain all
the old ascendency. Colonel Frost had taken a big, cool, roomy house,
surrounded by spacious grounds down in Malate and close to the plashing
waters of the bay. Duties kept him early and late at his office in the
walled city; but every evening, after the drive and dinner, callers came
thronging in, and all Witchie's witcheries were called into play to charm
them into blindness and to cover Nita's fitful and nervous moods, now
almost painfully apparent. Frost's face was at times a thundercloud, and
army circles within the outer circle of Manila saw plainly that all was
not harmony betwixt that veteran Benedict and that fragile, fluttering,
baby wife. The bloom of Nita's beauty was gone. She looked wan, white,
even haggard. She had refused to leave Hongkong or come to Manila until
Margaret's arrival, then flew to the shelter of that sisterly wing. Frank
Garrison had been occupying a room under the same roof with his General,
but both General and aide-de-camp were now much afield, and Frank spent
far more days and nights along the line of blockhouses than he did at
home. The coming of his wife was unannounced and utterly unlooked for.
"Did I consult my husband!" she exclaimed in surprise, when asked the
question one day by the wife of a veteran field officer. "Merciful
heaven, Mrs. Lenox, there was no time for that except by cable, and at
four dollars a word. No! If any doubt of what Frank Garrison will say or
do exists in my mind I go and do the thing at once, then the doubt is
settled. If he approve, well and good; if he doesn't--well, then I've had
my fun anyway."

But it made little difference what Frank Garrison might think, say or do
when Nita's need came in question. It was for Nita that Margaret Garrison
so suddenly quitted the Presidio and hastened to Hawaii. It was for her
sake, to be her counsel and protection, the elder sister had braved
refusal, difficulties, criticism, even Armstrong's open suspicion and
dislike, to take that long voyage to a hostile clime. That she braved,
too, her husband's displeasure was not a matter of sufficient weight to
merit consideration. She was there to help Nita; and until that hapless
child were freed from a peril that, ever threatening, seemed sapping her
very life, Margaret Garrison meant to stay.

For the letter that came by way of Honolulu had told the elder sister of
increasing jealousy and suspicion on the colonel's part, of his dreadful
rage at Yokohama on learning that even there--the very hour of their
arrival--when the consul came aboard with a batch of letters in his hand,
he had one for Mrs. Frost. She had barely glanced at its contents before
she was stricken with a fit of trembling, tore it in half, and tossed the
fragments on the swift ebbing tide, then rushed to her stateroom. There
she added a postscript to the long letter penned to Margaret on the
voyage; and the purser, not her husband, saw it safely started on the
Gaelic, leaving for San Francisco via Honolulu that very day. That letter
beat the ordinary mail, for the Queen was heading seaward, even as the
Gaelic came steaming in the coral-guarded harbor, and a little packet was
tossed aboard the new troop ship as she sped away, one missive in it
telling Witchie Garrison that the man whose life had been wrecked by her
sister's enforced desertion was already in Manila awaiting her coming,
and telling her, moreover, that the packet placed in General Drayton's
hands contained only her earlier letters. In his reckless wrath Latrobe
had told her that those which bound her to him by the most solemn
pledges, those that vowed undying love and devotion, were still in his
hands, and that she should see him and them when at last she reached
Manila.

Three mortal weeks had the sisters been there together, and never once in
that time did Nita venture forth except when under escort of her
black-browed husband or the protection of her smiling, witching, yet
vigilant Margaret. Never once had their house been approached by any one
who bore resemblance to the dreaded lover. All along the Calle Real, where
were the quarters of many officers, little guards of regulars were
stationed; for black rumors of Filipino uprising came with every few days,
and some men's hearts were failing them for fear when they thought of the
paucity of their numbers as compared with the thousands of fanatical
natives to whom the taking of human life was of less account than the loss
of a game chicken, and in whose sight assassination was a virtue when it
rid one of a foe. Already many an officer who had weakly yielded to the
importunity of a devoted wife was cursing the folly that led him to let
her join him. The outbreak was imminent. Any one could see the war was
sure to come--even those who strove to banish alarm and reassure an
anxious nation. And when the call to arms should sound, duty, honor and
law would demand each soldier's instant answer on the battle line, then
who was to care for the women? The very servants in each household, it was
known, were in most cases regularly enrolled in the Insurgent army. The
crowded districts in the city, the nipa huts surrounding the wealthy homes
in the suburbs swarmed with Filipino soldiery in the garb of peace. Arms
and ammunition, both, were stored in the great stone churches. Knives,
bolos and pistols were hidden in every house. Through the clergy, in some
instances, and foreign residents in others, the statement was set afloat
that every American officer's residence was mapped and marked, that the
Tagals were told off by name--so many for each house in proportion to the
number of American inmates--and day after day, awaiting the signal for
their bloody work, these native devotees greeted with servile bows and
studied the habits of the officers they were designated to fall upon in
their sleep and slay without mercy. Even women and children were not to be
spared; and many a woman, hearing this grewsome story, trembled in her
terror. For a time, in dread of this new peril, Nita Frost almost forgot
the other; but not so Margaret. She scoffed and scouted the rumor of
Filipino outbreak. She laughed at Frost, who all too evidently believed in
it, and was in hourly trepidation. He begged that the guard at his
quarters might be doubled, and was totally unnerved when told it might
even have to be reduced. Not so Mrs. Frank. She made friends with the
stalwart sergeant commanding; always had hot coffee and sandwiches ready
for the midnight relief; made it a point to learn the name of each
successive noncommissioned officer in charge, and had a winsome smile and
word for the sentries as she passed. It wasn't Filipino aggression that
she feared. The men wondered why she should so urgently bid them see that
no strangers--Americans--were allowed within the massive gates. There were
tramps, even in Manila, she said. When the sisters drove, their natty
little Filipino team flashed through the lanes and streets at top speed,
the springy Victoria bounding at their heels to the imminent peril of the
cockaded hats of the dusky coach and footman, if not even to the seats of
those trim, white-coated, big-buttoned, top-booted, impassive little
Spanish-bred servitors. The carriage stopped only at certain designated
points, and only then when a group of officers stood ready to greet them.
Not once had they been menaced by any one nor approached by any man even
faintly resembling poor Latrobe; and Witchie Garrison was beginning to
take heart and look upon that threatening letter as a mad piece of "bluff"
when one day the unexpected happened.

The men of the house, Frost and Garrison, were accustomed, when the latter
was at home, to breakfast together quite early. Then the colonel would
drive off to the Ayuntamiento in the walled city, and Frank would mount his
pony and ride away to his long day's duties. Later the sisters would have
their leisurely breakfast, secure in the protection of the guard, would
give their Chinaman _chef_ his orders for the day, and send him off to make
such purchases as were possible in the now scanty market. Then reading,
writing, receiving callers of their own sex would fill up the morning.
There would be a brief siesta after luncheon, an hour or so on the broad
veranda overlooking the sparkling bay, then dress and the inevitable drive.
Of Armstrong they had seen nothing, heard next to nothing. He was busy with
his men over toward East Paco. Of Billy Gray of late they had seen rather
too much. On one pretext after another he was now forever coming to the
house, and Witchie was beginning to wish that Canker had had his way; but
Canker had failed dismally. The witnesses he counted on proved dumb or
departed, and it had pleased the General-in-Chief to send him with a
regiment of infantry and a brace of guns to garrison an important point on
an adjacent island, and to tell him that in view of the impossibility of
his substantiating his charges against Gray the youngster had some shadow
of excuse for his violent outbreak. Rather than bring up a scandal it was
best to drop the matter entirely. Gray had been sent to duty with the
----teenth before he was thoroughly well, and a good-hearted battalion
commander, taking pity on his obvious change for the worse, had found
occasion after the first ten days at the front to send him back to quarters
in Malate, instead of incessantly on duty along the threatened line toward
Singalon Church; and while he seldom came in the evening when numbers of
visitors were present, the boy had a way of dropping in between three and
four, when he could generally count on a few moments, at least, alone with
Mrs. Frank. She had nursed him well in his slow convalescence, had made
deep impression on his boyish heart, lacerated as he conceived it by a
disappointment at home. She had won him to her service, as she thought,
until she felt sure he was ready to do almost anything for her sake, then
she had put him to the test, and he had failed her. Believing, as she did,
that the boy well knew the whereabouts of the alleged deserter, Morton, and
his friend, Nita's reckless lover, she had counted on him to wring from
them the letters poor Latrobe declared he still possessed; but the three
weeks had passed without a sign, and it was becoming evident to her that
Gray had lost track of them entirely.

One brilliant afternoon, as she lay on the broad, cane-bottomed bedstead
with its overhanging canopy of filmy netting, she drowsily heard the
corporal posting the new sentry in the marbled corridor below, and then
marching the relief to the rear gate opening to the beach. Nita was
already up and moving about in her room. Margaret heard the rustle of her
skirts and the light patter of her tiny feet as she sped over the
hardwood floor of the main _salon_. She heard her throwing back the
sliding shutters that kept out the glare of the sun in the morning hours,
and knew that she was gazing out over the tree-dotted lawn toward the
gate where the guard lounged through the warm afternoon. All of a sudden,
quick and stirring, a bugle sounded over on the Calle Nueva, where the
North Dakotas had a strong detachment. The call was repeated, and, army
woman though she was, she did not recognize it. She could not remember
ever having heard it before. Then up the street, from the Engineer
barrack, there came thrilling echo, and there was a sound of movement and
excitement along the dusty thoroughfare. She heard Nita calling her name,
and then the child's quick, nervous step along the hallway toward the
stairs. Then came a sudden stop, a gasping, wailing cry, and, springing
from her bed and to the door, Margaret found her sister cowering before a
tall, slender man in the rough dress and field equipment of a private
soldier. With a little packet--letters, apparently--held forth in one
hand, while the other grasped her wrist, Rollin Latrobe stood sternly
gazing at the girl shrinking at his feet.

The tableau was over in another second. Springing up the broad marble
stairs came Billy Gray, the corporal of the guard at his heels, and
Latrobe saw his danger in a flash. Throwing little Gray aside as he would
a terrier, the young athlete whirled on the stalwart regular. There was
the sound of a crashing blow, followed by a heavy fall. The corporal went
rolling down the steps with Latrobe bounding over the tumbling form, and
the next instant he had vaulted over the ledge of the open window on the
lower floor, and vanished through the gateway to the beach. And now all
along the Calle Real the bugles were sounding "To Arms!"



CHAPTER XVI.


That was a wild day in Manila. Far over near the Escolta somebody shot at a
vagrant dog lapping water from a little pool under one of the many
hydrants. The soldier police essayed an arrest; the culprit broke and ran;
the guard fired; a lot of coolies, taking alarm, fled jabbering to the
river side. The natives, looking for trouble any moment, rushed to their
homes. Some soldiers on pass and unarmed tumbled over the tables and chairs
in the Alhambra in their dash for the open street. A stampeded sergeant
told a bugler to sound to arms, and in the twinkling of an eye the call was
taken up from barrack to barrack, and the news went flashing out by wire to
the extreme front. The shopkeepers hastily put up their shutters and bolted
their doors. Cabs, carts, _quilez_ and _carromattas_--even the street
cars--were instantly seized by the soldiery scattered all over town, and
utilized to take them tearing back to join their regiments. In five minutes
the business streets down town were deserted. Chinese cowered within their
crowded huts. The natives, men and women, either hid within the shelter of
their homes or fled to the sanctuary of the many churches. All over the
great city the alarm spread like wildfire. The battalions formed under
arms, those nearest the outer lines being marched at once to their
positions in support, those nearer the walled city waiting for orders.
Foreign residents took matters more coolly than did the Asiatic; German
phlegm, English impassibility and Yankee devil-may-carishness preventing a
panic. But those who had families and owned or could hire carriages and
launches were not slow in seeking for their households the refuge of the
fleet of transports lying placidly at anchor in the bay, where Dewey's
bluejackets shifted their quids, went coolly to their stations and, grouped
about their guns, quietly awaiting further developments. In an agony of
fear Colonel Frost had bidden his driver to lash the ponies to a gallop and
go like the wind to Malate; but the appearance of the long ranks of sturdy
infantry resting on their arms and beginning to look bored, measurably
reassured him before he reached his home. Once there, however, the sight of
Nita, clinging hysterically to her sister and moaning on her bed was
sufficient to determine his first move, which was to wire for his launch to
come around to the bay shore and take them off to the fleet. The next was
to send and ask for an officer and twenty men from the Cuartel, on
receiving which message the major commanding, standing on the dusty roadway
in front of his men, grinned under his grizzled mustache and said, "Frost's
got 'em again. Here, Gray, you go over and tell him to keep his hair on,
that it's nothing but a fake alarm." And Gray, glad enough of the chance to
go again into the presence of the woman who so fascinated him, sped on his
mission. He was in a fury over his recent humiliation in her very
sight--he, a commissioned officer, tossed aside like a child and outwitted
by this daring intruder in the shape of a private soldier--he and his guard
brushed away and derided by a young fellow in some strange regiment--who
had easily escaped along the beach to an adjoining inclosure into which he
darted and was no more seen. The streets were full of scurrying soldiers,
and it was the simplest thing in the world for him to mingle with them and
make his way to his own command. Of course, Gray well knew who the man must
be--Nita's troublesome lover of whom Witchie had told him so much. There
was his chance to recover the letters and claim the reward; but man and
letters both had escaped his grasp; and when he pulled up, blown and
exhausted after fruitless chase, he was brought to his senses by the sight
of his own men falling in "for business," and he had to scamper for his
sword and join them.

That was a miserable evening. Margaret Garrison was the only member of
the household who seemed to have her wits about her and her nerves under
control, for Frank, her liege lord, had his duty elsewhere, and not until
hours later trotted slowly home. Margaret plainly let Gray understand how
he had fallen in her estimation at being so easily tossed aside. A
warning finger was laid upon her lips. "Not one word of what has happened
while he is here," she muttered; and a nod of her fluffy head toward the
perturbed colonel told plainly that the chief of the household really had
no place in the family councils. To the sisters that alarm was a blessing
in disguise. It was all sufficient to account for Nita's prostration. To
the rash and reckless lad, who, claiming to be an orderly with a letter
from the colonel, had been passed by the gate guard to the open stairway,
it afforded ample cover for escape, when, alarmed by Nita's cry, Gray and
the corporal came springing to her aid. To Gray himself it gave only a
few minutes' forgetfulness of his trouble, for, smarting under the sting
of a woman's only half-hidden disdain, he would have welcomed with almost
savage joy some fierce battle with a skillful foe, some scene in which he
could compel her respect and admiration. He was still smarting and stung
when at last that opportunity came.

Long will Manila remember the night! It followed close upon the heels of
warnings that for weeks held every officer and man to his post of duty.
Day after day the strain increased. The Insurgents, crowding upon our
outposts in front of Santa Mesa on the north and of Santa Ana on the
south side of the Pasig, had heaped insult and threats upon our silent
sentries, compelled by orders to the very last to submit to anything but
actual attack rather than bring on a battle. "The Americans are afraid,"
was the gleeful cry of Aguinaldo's officers, the jeer and taunt of his
men. The regulars were soon to come and replace those volunteers, said
the wiseacre of his cabinet, therefore strike now before the trained and
disciplined troops arrive and sweep these big boors into the sea. And on
the still, starlit night, sooner perhaps than his confederates within the
walls intended, the rebel leader struck, and, long before the dawn of the
lovely Sunday morn that followed, the fire flashed from forty thousand
rifles in big semicircle around Manila, and the long-expected battle was
on.

Hours after dawn, hours after the attack began, the --teenth were in
extended battle order to the south of Malate confronted by thickets of
bamboo that fairly swarmed with Insurgents, yet, only by the incessant
zip and "whiew" of their deadly missiles and the ceaseless crackle of
rifle fire, could this be determined; for with their smokeless powder and
their Indian-like skill in concealment nothing could be seen of their
array. Over to the westward on the placid waters of the bay the huge
Monadnock was driving shell after shell into the dense underbrush across
the abandoned rice fields and the marshy flats that lined the shore. Over
to the east resounding cheers and crashing volleys, punctuated by the
sharp report of field guns, told that the comrade brigade was heavily
engaged and, apparently, driving the enemy before them. To right and left
their volunteer supports were banging into the brush with their heavy
Springfields; and still there seemed no symptom of weakness along the
immediate front, no sign of yielding. If anything the fury of the
Insurgent volleying increased as the sun climbed higher, and all along
the blue-shirted line men grit their teeth and swore as they crouched or
lay full length along the roadside, peering through the filmy veil that
drifted slowly across their front--the smoke from the Springfields of the
volunteers. To lie there longer with the bullets buzzing close overhead
or biting deep into the low embankment, sometimes tearing a stinging path
through human flesh and bone, was adding to the nerve strain of the hours
gone by. To rush headlong across that intervening open space, through
deep and muddy pools and stagnant ditch, and hurl themselves upon the
lurking enemy in the bamboo copse beyond, had been the ardent longing of
the line since daylight came to illumine the field before them. Yet stern
orders withheld: Defend, but do not advance, said the General's message;
and the whisper went along from man to man. "There is trouble in town
behind us, and the chief may need us there."

But, as eight o'clock passed with no word of uprising in the rear, and
the cheering over toward Santa Ana grew loud and louder, the nerve strain
upon the --teenth became well-nigh intolerable. "For God's sake, can't we
be doing something instead of lying here firing into a hornet's nest?"
was the murmur that arose in more than one company along the impatient
line; and the gruff voices of veteran sergeants could be heard ordering
silence, while, moving up and down behind their men, the line officers
cautioned against waste of ammunition and needless exposure. "Lie flat,
men. Keep down!" were the words. "We won't have to stand this forever.
You'll soon get your chance."

And presently it came. The cheering that had died away, far over to the
left beyond the wooded knolls that surrounded Singalon and Block House
12, was suddenly taken up nearer at hand. Then crashing volleys sounded
along the narrow roadway to the east, and a bugle rang out shrill and
clear above the noise of battle; and then closer still, though unseen in
the gloom of the dense thicket in which they lay, the men of the second
battalion, strung along a Filipino trail that led away to the rice
fields, swung their big straw hats and yelled for joy. A young officer,
his eyes flashing, his face flushing with excitement, came bounding out
from the grove at the left of the crouching line and made straight to
where the veteran battalion commander knelt in rear of his center. It was
Billy Gray, adjutant of the third battalion, acting that day as adjutant
to the regimental commander. The bullets whistled by his head as he
darted springingly along; and in their joy at sight of him even old hands
forgot the reserve of the regular service and some man shouted: "Now
we're off!" and the popular query: "What's the matter with Lieutenant
Gray?"

At any other time, under any other circumstances both questioner and
respondents who gleefully shouted "He's all right," would have been
promptly and sternly suppressed. But the senior captain at their head
well knew the excitement tingling in the nerves of that long-suffering
line, and only smiled and nodded sympathy. He saw, too, that Gray was
quivering with pent-up feeling, as the boy halted short, saluted, and,
striving to steady his eager voice, said:

"Captain, the colonel directs that you open sharp fire on the woods in
your front and occupy the enemy there. He is about to charge with the
third battalion and drive them out of the trenches we've located over
yonder;" and Billy pointed eagerly to the left front--the southeast.

The captain's grizzled face took on a look of keen disappointment. "You
mean we've got to stay here, and see you fellows go in?"

"Only for a few minutes, sir. The colonel says that for you to charge
before he's got onto their flank would cost too many men. You'll get the
word as soon as he's got the works."

"Well said, Billy boy! That sounds almost epigrammatic. Hullo! You hit?
Stoop down here, man. Don't try to get perforated."

"My hat only," was the answer, as the boy stooped quickly to hide the
irrepressible twitching about the muscles of his lips. A Remington had
ripped from side to side, tearing a way through the curly hair at the top
of his head and almost scoring the scalp. To save his soul he could not
quite suppress the trembling of his knees; but, steadying himself by a
great effort, he continued: "The colonel says to commence firing by
volley the moment our bugles sound the charge. Now I must get back."

"All right, youngster. Tell the colonel I savey, and we'll do our level
best--only, let us into it as quick as you can."

But Gray heard only the first part of the sentence. He was panting when
he reached his placid, gray-mustached chief, and could only gasp out:
"The captain understands, sir." And then the regimental commander simply
turned to the battalion leader, standing silent at his left in a little
clump of timber--another veteran captain grown gray as himself in long,
long years of service:

"Now's our time, old man! Pitch in! Gray, we'll go with him."

All along the line from right to left there ran the cross-country road
connecting the broader highway, from Malate to San Rafael and Parañaque
on the west, and from West Paco by way of Singalon to Pasay. In front of
the right wing all was swamp, morass or rice fields. In front of the left
wing all was close, dense bamboo and jungle, save where the broad,
straight roadway led on past Block House 13, or the narrower cart track
stretched southward, overarched in places by spreading branches, and
commanded at its narrowest path by the swarm of dusky fighters in Block
House 14. A year before the blue-shirts stormed these forest strongholds
from the south, and took them from the troops of Spain. Now they were
compelled to turn and storm them from the north; for, just as Stanley
Armstrong said at San Francisco, the Filipinos had turned upon their ally
and would-be friend. Aguinaldo had bearded Uncle Sam.

And while the volunteers and regulars to the right could only remain in
support, it fell to the lot of the left wing of this brave brigade to
assault in almost impenetrable position an enemy armed with magazine
rifles or breech-loaders, and entirely at home. The bugles rang the
signal; the officers in silence took their stations, and, stepping into
the narrow pathways through the jungle, crouching along the road-ways or
crashing through the stiff bamboo, the blue-shirts drove ahead. Two,
three minutes, and their purpose seemed undiscovered. Then suddenly Block
House 14 blazed with fire and a storm of bullets swept the road. The
earthworks in the thickets to the right and left seemed to be crowded
with a running flame; and down on their faces fell the foremost soldiers,
their gallant leader shot through and through, plunging headlong, yet in
his dying agony waving his surviving men to get to cover. Vengefully now
the "Krags" opened in reply to Remington and Mauser. The blue-shirts
struggled on inch by inch through the network of bamboo. Still the storm
swept up the roadway, and no man could hope to face it and live. But,
little by little, the low-aimed, steady volleys, driven in by squad and
section through the canebreak, or by company and platoon across the
westward swamps, told on the nerve and discipline of the little brown men
in the bamboo. Their shots flew swift, but wild and higher. Then a daring
lad, in the rough field uniform of a subaltern of infantry, sprang like a
cat into the fire-flashing lane, and, revolver in hand and a squad of
devoted fellows at his heels, dashed straight at the wooden walls ahead.
In frantic haste the occupants blazed shot after shot upon him and his
heroic followers. One after another three went down; but, in another
instant, the lieutenant leading, they reached the block house and darted
through the open doorway, the last of its garrison fleeing in panic
before such unheard-of daring and determination. And then came the rush
of comrades cheering down the lane, tumbling over the earthworks and the
luckless gang that, still crouching there, held to their position, and
all the southward leading road was ours.

But, over along the next lane, a parallel track through the timber, there
had been as stern a check; and the fury of the fire from the trenches in
the thickets forced brave men to cover and dropped others in their
tracks. "By God, we must have it!" almost screamed a tall captain,
pointing with his sword to the flashing block house half hidden in the
trees. "Hear those fellows on the other road? Don't let them beat us.
Come on, lads!" and out he darted into the open, an instant target for a
score of Mausers. Out, too, leaped half a dozen men, one a tall, lithe,
superbly built young athlete, with a face aflame with resolution and rage
of battle. Out leaped Billy Gray from the corner of the cross-road, and,
cheering madly, called on others to follow. Down went the captain, shot
through the knee. Down went the nearmost man, the tall youth who was
first to follow. Down went a brawny sergeant, who had stopped to raise
his fallen captain; but on swept a score of others while the bamboos
blazed with the fierce volleying of the Krags. Forward in scores now,
yelling like Apaches, rushed the regulars; and somehow, he never just
knew how it happened, Gray found himself a moment later straddling an old
field gun in a whirl of dust and dirt and smoke and cheers, was conscious
of something wet and warm streaming down his side, and of being tenderly
lifted from his perch by brawny, blue-sleeved arms, given a sip from a
canteen, and then, half-led, half-supported back to where the surgeon was
already kneeling by the tall young soldier on whose brow the last dew was
settling, on whose fine, clear-cut face the shadow of the death angel's
wings was already traced. The poor fellow's eyes opened wearily as he
sipped the stimulant pressed upon him by eager, sympathetic hands, and
glanced slowly about as though in search of some familiar face; and so
they fell on those of Billy Gray, who, forgetful for the moment of his
own hurt, threw himself by the stranger's side and seized his clammy
hand. A half smile flitted over the pale face, the other hand groped at
the breast of his blue shirt and slowly drew forth a packet, stained and
dripping with the blood that welled slowly from a shothole in the broad
white breast. "Give to--General Drayton--Promise," he gasped, and pushed
it painfully toward Billy Gray. Then the brave eyes closed, the weary
head fell back; and Gray, staring as though in stupefaction into the
placid face, found himself drooping, too, growing dizzy and faint and
reeling, but still holding on to his trust.

"Don't some of you know him?" asked the surgeon. "He's past helping now,
poor lad. Here, you drink this, Billy;" and he placed a little silver cup
at Gray's pallid lips.

"He came a-runnin' from over at Block House 12 with a note from division
headquarters just as we went in," said a veteran sergeant, drawing the
back of a powder-stained hand across his dripping forehead, then
respectfully stepping back as a young officer bent down and glanced at
Gray.

"Much hurt, Billy, old man? No? Thank God for that! Look at who? Where?
Why, God of heaven, it's Pat Latrobe! Oh, Pat! Pat! dear old boy--has it
come to this!"



CHAPTER XVII.


In the fortnight of incessant action that followed the mad attack of that
starlit Sunday morning there was no place for Billy Gray. Sorely wounded,
yet envied by many a fellow soldier for the glowing words in which the
brigade commander praised his conduct and urged his brevet, the boy had
been carried back to the great reserve hospital at Malate. The breezy
wards were filled with sick or wounded, and certain of the rooms of the
old convent once used for study and recitation had been set apart for
officers. There were three cots in the one to which they bore him, and
two were already occupied. Even in his pain and weakness he could hardly
suppress a cry of dismay; for there, with his arm bandaged and in
splints, his face white from loss of blood, his eyes closed in the sleep
of utter exhaustion, lay Stanley Armstrong. Time and again the boy's
heart and conscience had rebuked him for the estrangement that had arisen
between him and this man who had proved his best friend. Time and again
he had promised himself that he would strive to win back that friendship;
but well he knew that first he must reinstate himself in Armstrong's
respect; and how could he hope for that so long as he surrendered to the
fascinations that kept him dangling about the dainty skirts of Witchie
Garrison? Oddly enough the boy had hardly bothered his head with any
thought of what Frank Garrison might think of his attentions or
devotions, whatever they could be called, to this very captivating and
capricious helpmate. When a husband is so overwhelmed with other cares or
considerations that he never sees his wife from morn till night, society
seems to correspondingly lose sight of him. Down in the depths of his
heart the boy was ashamed of himself. He never heard Armstrong mentioned
that he did not wince. He knew and she knew that, coming suddenly upon
them as Armstrong had that tropic night on the Queen, he must have heard
her words, must have realized that some compact or understanding existed
between them, which neither Gray nor Mrs. Frank could palliate or
explain. It had not needed that episode to tell her that Armstrong held
her in contempt; and yet, when they chanced to meet, she could smile up
into his eyes as beamingly, as guilelessly, as though no shadow of sin
had ever darkened her winsome face. But not so Gray. He moaned in secret
over the loss of a strong man's confidence and esteem. He longed to find
a way to win it back. He had even thought to go to the colonel with his
trouble, make a clean breast of it, tell him the truth--that he had
fallen deeply, as it was possible for him to fall, in love with Amy
Lawrence; had hoped his love was returned; had found it was not--that she
had only a frank, friendly, kindly interest in him; and that, wounded and
stung, he had fretted himself into a fever at Honolulu, aided by Canker's
aspersions, and then--well--any man is liable, said Billy to himself, to
get smitten with a woman who tenderly and skillfully nurses him day after
day; and that's just what Witchie Garrison did. But somehow the
opportunity to tell him never seemed to come; and now, now that Armstrong
and himself were thus thrown together with the prospect of being in the
same room day and night for the best of the month, a third officer, a
stranger, lay there, too, and in his presence or hearing any confidences
would be impossible, even if Armstrong encouraged them, which he probably
would not. In this embarrassment Billy's wish was that the colonel were
fifty miles away. It was fate and a hard one, thought he, that brought
him there--an ever-present reproach. It was luck of the worst kind that
they should be confronted under such circumstances, since neither could
retreat. He submitted in anxious silence to the keen, quick examination
of the skillful surgeon in charge and to the re-dressing of his wound. He
could have been proud and happy but for that shadow on his life, of which
Armstrong's presence would so constantly remind him. He could not even
think how his dear old dragoon daddy would rejoice in the congratulations
that would surely greet him when the story of the brave dash of the
--teenth, Billy among the foremost, should reach the States. He could not
even dream how it might affect her--Amy Lawrence. He was beginning to be
ashamed now in this presence to think how that other--how Margaret
Garrison might be impressed, forgetting that, to the army girl who has
lived long years on the frontier, tales of heroism are the rule, not the
exception. He wondered how long it could be before she would come to him
to bring him comfort. Surely by this time she knew that he had been
seriously, painfully wounded. He did not know, however, that at the very
first sound of battle Frost had bundled the sisters aboard his launch and
steamed away to the transports. Yet, what comfort could her visit bring
to him with that stern censor lying there, seeing and hearing all? Billy
Gray that Monday night could almost have wished that Armstrong's slumber
might be eternal, never dreaming that before a second Monday should come
he would thank Heaven with grateful heart for Armstrong's presence,
vigilance and intervention.

In three days the colonel was able to sit up. Within the week he was
permitted to take air and exercise in the spacious court of the old
college, his sword arm in its sling. But Gray and the young officer of
volunteers were too seriously wounded to leave their pillows. The
--teenth had occupied a new line far south of the old one; but, one at a
time, several of Billy's brother officers had dropped in to see him and
tell him regimental news; and one of them, the young West Pointer who had
broken down at sight of the dying face that stirring Sunday morning, told
him of Latrobe's soldier funeral and of General Drayton's presence and
speechless grief; and Billy's hand groped beneath the pillow for that
little blood-stained packet still undelivered. He had promptly caused the
information to be conveyed to the veteran commander that it was his own
lost nephew who had died his soldier death in front of the firing line;
but the packet still remained in his hands; and even before the tiny
thermometer confirmed his views, the keen eye of the surgeon saw that
something had heightened Billy's fever that day; and so, when just at
sunset there came driving into the court the most stylish equipage in all
Manila, and Mrs. Garrison fluttered up the broad stairway and confidently
asked to be announced to Mr. Gray, the steward in charge of the floor was
very, very sorry, but--the doctor had given instructions that no more
visitors should see the young gentleman that day. Mrs. Frank smiled
indulgently, and asked for the doctor himself, and beamed on him with all
her witchery and begged for just a few words; but the suave, placid, yet
implacable doctor said he, too, was sorry--sorry that Mr. Gray was not
able to see any one else, but such was the case. Mrs. Garrison said she
thought if Mr. Gray knew that it was--but perhaps Dr. Frank didn't know
it was she who had nursed Mr. Gray so assiduously at Honolulu. Dr. Frank
did know that and more; but he did not say so; neither did he yield.
There were tears in her eyes as she sprang into her carriage again; but
they were tears of anger and defeat. She dashed them away the very next
instant and smiled joy and congratulation, even adulation, at sight of
the tall, stalwart officer, his arm in a sling, who stood the center of a
staring group as her carriage flashed by. She would have ordered stop;
but while the rest of the party had gazed as they lifted their caps,
Armstrong's uninjured hand performed its duty, his cap had been lifted
with the others, but not so much as a glance went her way; and Margaret
Garrison, bitter in spirit, drove on down past the old cuartel to her
luxurious quarters where Nita, a piteous shadow of the "sweet girl
graduate" of the year before, was awaiting her coming. With the
Insurgents' retreat and the advance of the American lines there had been
a gradual return of the refugees among the transports; and Frost had
finally brought his birdling back to shore; but Nita dare not drive, she
said, for fear of again seeing those stern, reproachful eyes. The guard
at the gate had received orders to admit no more of the rank and file,
even when they came as messengers; and so the child was safe, said
Margaret. As for herself, she _must_ drive, she _must_ see Will Gray.

But the instant she re-entered the house Mrs. Garrison knew that during
her brief absence some new trouble had come. Good heavens, could she
never leave Nita's side that harm did not befall her! At the head of the
broad flight of stairs stood her brother-in-law, a black frown on his
brow.

"Go in and do what you can for her," he briefly said. "I thought--she'd
be glad to know that--that--fellow would trouble her no more."

"That fellow?" she gasped. "You mean----"

"I mean--Yes--Latrobe--killed and buried a whole week ago."

"And you told _her_!" she cried, clinching her little hands in impotent
wrath. "You--brute!"

                    *       *       *       *       *

Another week rolled by. The tide of battle had swept inland and
northward; and all eyes were on the plucky advance of MacArthur's strong
division, while far out to the south and east the thinned and depleted
lines of Anderson held an insurgent force that forever menaced but dare
not attack. The Primeval Dudes, sorely missing their calmly energetic
colonel, had drifted into a war of words with their nearest neighbors on
the firing line, a far Western regiment gifted with great command of
language and small regard for style. The latter had crowed mightily over
their more rigorously disciplined comrades because of the compliments
bestowed on them in an official report, wherein the Dudes received only
honorable mention. It was Captain Stricker of the volunteers who had led
the dash on the rebel works across the Tripa to the left of Blockhouse
12. It was their Sergeant Finney who whacked a Filipino major with the
butt of his Springfield, and tumbled out of him the batch of reports and
records that gave the numbers and positions of every unit of Pilar's
division on the southward zone. It was their Corporal Norton who got the
Mauser through the shoulder just as, foremost in the rush, he bayoneted
the last Tagal at the Krupp guns in the river redoubt. It was his devoted
bunky, Private Latrobe, who volunteered to carry the division commander's
dispatch across the open rice field and the yawning ditches that
separated the staff from the rest of the charging --teenth, and who died
gloriously in the rush on the rebel works. Man after man of the woolly
Westerners had been referred to by name while, but the Dudes had nothing
to show but their wounded colonel's modest report that "where every
officer and man appeared to do his whole duty it would be unjust to make
especial mention of even a limited few." The Dudes were getting hot over
the taunts of the "Toughs," as some one had misnamed their neighbors; and
one night when there was more or less interchange of pointed chaff in
lieu of fight with a common foe, there was heard a shrill voice from the
flank of the rifle pit nearest the Westerners, and what it said was
repeated in wonderment over the brigade before the Dudes were another day
older.

"Well, dash your thievin' gang! We made our record for ourselves anyhow.
We didn't have to rely on any dashed deserters from the regulars--as you
did."

And that was why Sergeant Sterne, of the Dudes, was sent for by the field
officers of both regiments the following morning and bidden to explain,
which he did in few words. He was ready to swear that the wounded
Corporal Norton was the very same young man he saw in the adjutant's
office of the --teenth Regulars at Camp Merritt, and was then called
Morton. And that evening the veteran sergeant major of the --teenth was
bidden to report at the reserve hospital in Ermita, close to the Malate
line, was conducted to the bedside of a pallid young soldier whose ticket
bore the name of Norton, and was asked to tell whether he had ever seen
him before.

"I have, sir," said the veteran, sadly and gravely. "He is a deserter
from the --teenth. His name on our rolls was Morton." And that night
Colonel Armstrong cabled to "Primate," New York, the single word "Found."
Nor was it likely the lad would soon be lost again, for a sentry with
fixed bayonet stood within ten feet of his bed with orders not to let him
out of his sight a second.

Mrs. Garrison appeared at the hospital that very evening and heard of the
episode, and reached Billy Gray's bedside looking harassed, even haggard.
During the past three days she had been accorded admission, for Gray was
so much improved there was no reason to longer forbid; but on each
occasion the wounded volunteer officer and the brace of attendants
present had precluded all possibility of confidential talk. She must bide
her time. Gray would be up in a few days, said the doctor; and then
nothing would do, said Mrs. Garrison, but he must be moved to their big,
roomy, lovely house on the bay side, and be made strong and well
again--made to give up those letters, too, thought she; for she had
wormed it out of a bystander that a packet of some kind had been given by
the dying soldier to the lieutenant, and she well knew what it must be.
She had even penned him a little note, since not a whisper could be
safely exchanged, and headed it "Give this back to me the moment you have
read it." In it she reminded him of his promise, and--did he need to be
reminded of hers? She knew that packet of Nita's letters had been
intrusted to his care. She assured him she had it straight from the
surgeon who attended both Latrobe and himself, and they must reach the
hands of no man on earth, but must come to her. Would he not give them at
once or tell her where she could find them?

He gave back the note, but closed his eyes and turned away. In the
presence of Armstrong day after day, and in the recollection of Latrobe's
dying face and the last parting touch of his stricken hand, Gray's eyes
were opening to his own deplorable weakness. She plainly saw her power
was going, if not gone. He had wrapped a silk handkerchief about the
packet and still kept it, with his watch and purse beneath his pillow. He
would not tell her where it lay. She smiled archly for the benefit of the
attendant; but her eyes again eagerly claimed a look from his, her lips
framed the word "to-morrow."

But neither on that morrow nor yet the next day came her opportunity. The
gallant fellow who had lain there for days, dumb and patient, but a
barrier to her plans, had taken a turn for the worse, and she was again
denied admission. Then came the tidings that the barrier was removed, the
long fight was over; and the heartless woman actually rejoiced. Now at
last she could talk to Will Gray; and when midnight came she knew that
now at last she must, for Frank Garrison, worn and weary, returning late
from the front, briefly announced that General Drayton purposed visiting
the hospital the following afternoon, and long before noon--long before
visiting hours, in fact, she was there with flowers as winsome as her
smile, and some jelly as dainty as her own fair hands. She was there, and
the instant the hour sounded was ushered in, and Billy Gray, propped on
his pillows, was writing to his father, and alone. No time was to be
lost. Any moment the attendant might return. She threw herself on her
knees beside the homely, narrow cot, seized his hand in hers, and looked
him in the face. "Where are they, Will?" she pleaded. "Quick! I must have
them now!" But well she realized that the spell was broken--that the old
fascination had died its death. Then it was useless to hint at love; and
in a torrent of impassioned words she bade him think of all he owed her,
appealed to his sense of gratitude and honor, and there, too, failed,
for, admitting all she claimed, he clumsily, haltingly, yet honestly told
her he saw now that it was all for an object, all done in the hope that
he might become her instrument for the recovery of those compromising
letters; and now that fate had delivered them into his hands he was bound
by honor and his promise--unheard, unspoken perhaps, but all the same his
promise--to the dead to give them to General Drayton.

Then rising in fury and denunciation, she played her last trump.
Trembling from head to foot, pale with baffled purpose and with growing
dread, she bent over him, both hands clinched.

"You mad fool!" she cried. "Do you know what I can do--will do--unless
you give them to me here and now? As God hears me, Will Gray, I will give
that other packet to General Drayton myself and swear that Colonel Canker
was right--that you _were_ the thief he thought you, and that I got those
letters from you."

For a moment she stood there, menacing, at his bedside, looking down in
almost malignant triumph on his amazed and incredulous face; and then,
with an awful fear checking the beat of her heart and turning her veins
to ice, she grasped at the flimsy framework that supported the netting
over the cot, and stood swaying and staggering, her eyes fixed in terror
on the man in the uniform of a colonel, who, quietly entering, stood
between her and the door, two papers in his half-extended hand--a man
whose voice, long and too well known, cut her to the very quick as she
heard, in calm and measured tone the words:

"Mrs. Garrison, here are two reasons why you will do nothing of the kind.
Shall I hand these to General Drayton--or to your husband?"



CHAPTER XVIII.


The long wait for the coming of the big transports with the regulars was
over. For the first time in history America was sending her soldiery past
the pyramids and through the Indian sea, landing them, after forty days
and nights of voyaging, upon the low, flat shores that hem Manila Bay,
and shoving them out to the hostile front before their sea-legs could
reach the swing and stride of the marching step; yet, to all appearance,
as unconcernedly at home as though they had been campaigning in the
Philippines since the date of their enlistment. This, to be sure, in the
case of more than half their number, would have given them scant time in
which to look about them, since raw recruits were more numerous than
seasoned men. But no matter what may be his lack of drill or preparation
the average Anglo-Saxon never seems to know the time when he doesn't know
how to fight. So, with all the easy assurance of a veteran, our Yankee
"Tommies" wriggled into their blanket rolls and trudged away to the posts
assigned them; and once more the army assumed the aggressive.

There were changes in the composition of the forces even before the move
began. The Dudes and the "Toughs" parted company; and the former, with
Stanley Armstrong once more riding silent at their head, joined forces
with Stewart's riddled regiment up the railway toward Malolos. Colonel
Frost had succeeded in convincing the surgeons that he would be as out of
place as his name itself in such a clime and climate, and was in daily
expectation of an order home. Billy Gray, mending only slowly, had been
sent to Corregidor, where the bracing breezes of the China Sea drove
their tonic forces through his lungs and veins, and the faintly rising
hue of coming health back into his hollow cheeks. The boy had been harder
hit than seemed the case at first, said the fellows of the --teenth; but
the wise young surgeon of the "Second Reserve" and a grave-faced colonel
of infantry could have told of causes little dreamed of in the
regiment--were either given to telling the half of what he knew.

That something most unusual had occurred in the room of Mr. Gray the day
that the sad-faced, kind old general visited the hospital at least half a
dozen patients could have told; for an attendant went running for one of
the women nurses, and the doctor himself hurried to the scene. It was on
his arm that, half an hour later, Mrs. Garrison slowly descended the
stairs, her flimsy white veil down, and silently bowed her thanks and
adieux as the doctor closed the door of her carriage and nodded to the
little coachman. It was the doctor who suggested to Colonel Frost that
Manila air was not conducive to his wife's recovery, and recommended
Nagasaki as the place for her recuperation until he could join her and
take her home. The Esmeralda bore the White Sisters over Hongkong way
within a week; and they left without flourish of trumpet, with hardly the
flutter of a handkerchief; for, since the battle of the 5th of February,
neither had been seen upon the Luneta. Their women friends were very few;
the men they knew were mainly at the front. The story got out somehow
that Garrison had asked to be relieved from further duty as aide-de-camp,
and returned to duty with his regiment, and that Drayton would not have
it. The General's manner toward that hard-working staff officer, though
often preoccupied as of old, grew even kinder. He did not see the sisters
off for China, he was "far too busy" was the explanation; but he offered
Garrison a fortnight's leave, and urged his taking it, and was obviously
troubled when Garrison declined. "You need rest and the change of air
more than any man I know," said he; but Garrison replied that change of
scene and air would not help him.

There were two young fellows in khaki uniforms landed from the hospital
launch on the back trip from Corregidor one warm March day. One wore the
badge of a subaltern of the --teenth Regulars, the other the chevrons of
a corporal and the hatband of a famous fighting regiment of volunteers;
yet the same carriage bore them swiftly through the sentineled streets of
the walled city, and the guards at the Ayuntamiento sprang to their arms
and formed ranks at sight of it, then dispersed at the low-toned order of
its commander when it was seen that, instead of stopping at the curb and
discharging an elderly general officer, it whirled straight by and held
two youths in field uniform.

"One of 'em's young Gray, of the --teenth; he that was hit in the charge
on the Pasay road," said the officer of the guard to a comrade. "But who
the devil's the other? He had corporal's chevrons on. Some fellow just
got a commission, perhaps." And that was the only way the soldier could
account for a corporal riding with a commissioned officer in a general's
carriage. They had a long whirl ahead of them, these two; and the
corporal told Gray, as he already had the General and Colonel Armstrong,
much of the story of his friendship for "Pat" Latrobe, of that poor
fellow's illness at San Francisco, and all the trouble it cost his friend
and chum. There was a strong bond between them, he explained; and the
blush of shame that stole up in the face of the narrator found instant
answer in that of Billy Gray. Determined to see service at the front and
not return to punishment in his regiment, never dreaming that, in
quitting a corps doomed apparently to inaction at home, and joining one
going straight to the enemy's country, he was committing the grave crime
of desertion, "Gov." Prime had spoken to some men in Stewart's regiment
and was bidden to come along and fetch his friend; for they were just as
ignorant as he. Having still considerable money "Gov." had bought
civilian clothes, and all the supplies they needed while about town, and
hired a boat that rowed them, with certain items contraband of war, to
the dark side of the transport as nightfall came; and they were easily
smuggled aboard and into uniform, and then, during the few days' stay at
Honolulu, were formally enlisted and no embarrassing questions asked.

And now poor Pat was gone and Prime's father had been cabling for him to
return home; but there was that awkward matter about the desertion.
General Drayton was trying to have it straightened out at Washington; for
he had been kindness itself the day of his visit to the hospital, where
almost his first act had been to seek out the wounded young soldier who
had been his beloved nephew's boon companion, and at one time sole
support. The sentry was relieved of his surveillance, and Corporal Norton
transferred to Corregidor to recuperate; and now that both lads were well
on the road to recovery, Drayton had sent for them. Strictly speaking,
some one should have seen to it that Corporal Norton of the Volunteers
was shifted back to Private Norton of the --teenth, and the chevrons
stripped from his sleeves; but no one had cared to interfere where the
worsted was concerned, especially as the boy had won such praise for
bravery at Concordia Bridge. So there the chevrons stood when the two
were ushered into the presence of the gray-haired chief; and he arose,
and stepping forward, held out a hand to each.

"I want you, boys," said he, "to be ready to take the next transport
home. The doctors say you need a sea voyage, Gray; so there is the order.
The doctors say your father needs you, Prime; and the record will be duly
straightened out in Washington--the charge of desertion, no doubt, will
be removed. It's a matter of influence. To-night you dine with me here;
and I have asked your good friend, Colonel Armstrong, to come."

Again the blood rose guiltily to Billy's cheek. Not yet had he made his
peace with his conscience, and that valued counselor and invaluable
friend from whose good graces he seemed to have fallen entirely. Not once
had opportunity been afforded in which to speak and open his heart to
him. As for writing, that seemed impossible. Billy could handle almost
any implement better than a pen. But even in the few minutes left him in
which to think he knew that now at least he must "face the music," like
the man his father would have him be, even though it took more nerve than
did that perilous dash on the Tagal works that Sunday morning. Billy
would rather do that twice over than have to face Armstrong's stern,
searching eyes, and hear again the cold, almost contemptuous tone in
which the colonel said to him the day the doctor led his vanquished and
hysterical charmer from the room: "Don't try to thank, man, try to
_think_ what you risk--what you deserve to lose--for putting yourself in
the power of such a woman."

From that day until this, here on the banks of the swift-running Pasig,
they had not met at all; and it seemed to Gray as though Armstrong had
aged a year. There was a lump in his throat as he went straight up to the
colonel, his blue eyes never flinching, though they seemed to fill, and
bravely spoke. "Colonel Armstrong, I have an explanation that I owe to
you. Will you give me a few minutes on the gallery?"

"Certainly, Gray," was the calm reply; and the youngster led the way.

It was a broken story. It told of his desperation and misery through
Canker's persecution, of his severe illness, then of the utter weakness
and prostration; then _her_ coming, and with her comfort, peace,
reassurance, gradual return to health, and with that, gradual surrender
to his nurse's fascinations. Then her demand upon him, her plea, her
final insistence that he should prove his gratitude and devotion by
getting for her those dangerous letters, and his weakness in letting her
believe he could and would do so. That was the situation when they went
on to Manila; and Armstrong knew the rest--knew that but for his timely
aid she might have triumphed over his repentance; but Armstrong had come,
had vanquished her and poor Latrobe's last wishes were observed. The
fateful packet containing the three letters that were most important was
placed in his uncle's trembling hand.

"But how was it--what was it that so utterly crushed her?" asked Billy,
when the colonel had once more extended his hand.

"The evidences of her own forgery, her own guilt," said Armstrong
gravely. "One was the order she wrote in excellent imitation of her
husband's hand and signature, authorizing the changing of guard
arrangements on the wharf the evening Stewart sailed. The other was a
note in pencil, also purporting to come from him, directing old
Keeny--you remember the General's Irish orderly--to search for a packet
of letters that had come by mail, and must be in the general's tent,
either about his desk or overcoat, and to bring them at once to room
number so and so at the Palace. Of course neither the General nor
Garrison was there when he arrived with them; but she was, and with all
her fascinations. She got the Irishman half drunk and told him a piteous
story and made him swear he'd never tell the General or anybody. If
questioned he could plead he had gone out, and--"got a little full with
the boys." She gave him money--a big bit, too; and he got more than full.
"The very vehemence of his denials made me suspect him," said Armstrong;
"but he was firm when examined." The General never required him to remain
at the tent at night. He could go to town any evening he wished; and to
cover his appearing at the Palace where the General long had a room, and
where he was well known, he could say he was only in to have a word with
one of the housemaids, and to give Mrs. Garrison a handkerchief one of
the ladies must have dropped. But one thing she failed in--getting the
letter back. Keeny had left it at camp in the pocket of his old blouse,
and when he sobered up and all the questions were asked he hung onto it
in case the truth came out, in order that he might save himself from
punishment. But it broke him--he got to drinking oftener, and the General
had to send him to his regiment; and then when we heard of Canker's
charge against you I saw the way to wring the truth out of him. He
worshiped your father, as did every Irish dragoon that ever rode under
him, and I told him you were to be brought to trial for the crime. Then
he broke down and gave the truth--and her penciled order--to me."

In the silence that followed the soldier of forty and the lad of only
twenty-one sat looking gravely into each other's face. It was Armstrong
who spoke again:

"Gray, it was manly in you to tell me your story and your trouble. I
could help you here; but--who can help you when you have to tell it--next
time?"

"Next time?--father, do you mean?" queried Gray, a puzzled look in his
blue eyes. "I hadn't thought, do you know, to worry dear old dad--unless
he asked."

Armstrong's grave face grew dark: "You ought to know what I mean, Gray.
This story may come up when least you think for, and--would you have it
told Miss Lawrence before she hears it from you?"

"Miss Lawrence," answered Billy, flushing, "isn't in the least
interested."

"Do you mean that you are not--that you were not engaged to her?" The
colonel had been gazing out over the swirling river; but now, with
curious contraction of brows, with a strong light in his eyes, he had
turned full on the young officer.

"Engaged to her! Do you suppose I could have been--been such an ass if
_she_ would have had me? No! She--she had too much sense."

It was full a minute before Armstrong spoke again. For a few seconds he
sat motionless, gazing steadily into Gray's handsome, blushing face; then
he turned once more and looked out over the Pasig and the scarred level
of the rice fields beyond. And the long slant of the sunshine on distant
towers and neighboring roofs and copse and wall, and the unlovely
landscape seemed all tinged with purple haze and tipped with gold. The
blare of a bugle summoning the men to supper seemed softened by distance,
or some new, strange intonation, and gave to the ugliest of all our
service calls the effect of soft, sweet melody; and there was sympathy
and genuine feeling in the deep voice as he once again held out his hand
to Billy.

"Forgive me, lad, for I judged you more harshly than you deserved."

One lovely, summer-like evening, some five weeks later, in long, heaving
surges the deep blue waves of the Pacific came lazily rolling toward the
palm-bordered beach at Waikiki, bursting into snowy foam on the pebbly
strand, and, softly hissing, swept like fleecy mantle up the slope of
wet, hard-beaten sand, then broke, lapping and whirling, about the stone
supports of the broad _lanai_ of one of the many luxurious homes that dot
the curving line of the bay to the east of Honolulu. Dimly outlined in
the fairy moonlight, the shadowy mountains of the Waianai Range lay low
upon the western horizon. Eastward the bare, bold volcanic upheaval of
Diamond Head gleamed in bold relief, reflecting the silver rays. Here and
there through the foliage shone the soft-colored fires of Chinese
lanterns, and farther away, along the concave shore, distant electric
lights twinkled like answering signals to the stars in the vault of blue,
and the "riding lights" of the few transports or warships, swinging at
anchor on the tide.

From a little grove of palms close to the low sea wall came the soft
tinkle of guitar, and now and then a burst of joyous song, while under
the spreading roof of the broad portico or _lanai_, the murmur of voices,
the occasional ripple of musical laughter, the floating haze of cigarette
smoke, told where a party of worshipers were gathered, rejoicing in the
loveliness of nature and the night.

It was a reunited party, too, and in the welcome of their winsome
hostess, in the soft, soothing influence of that summer clime, and
through the healing tonic of the long sea voyage, faces that had been
saddened by deep anxiety but a few weeks gone, smiled gladness into one
another now. A tall, gray-haired man reclined in an easy lounging chair,
his eyes intent on the clear-cut face of a young soldier in trim white
uniform who, with much animation, was telling of an event in the recent
campaign. By his side, her humid eyes following his every gesture, sat a
tall, dark, stylish girl, whose hand from time to time crept forth to
caress his--an evident case of sister worship. Close at hand another
young fellow, in spotless white, his curly head bent far forward, his
elbows on his knees, his fingertips joining, was studying silently the
effect of his comrade's story on another--a fair girl whose sweet face,
serene and composed, was fully illumined by the silvery light of the
unclouded moon. "Coming by transport, via Honolulu"--"Gov.'s" cabled
message had brought father and sister to meet him at these famed
"Cross-roads of the Pacific," and whither they journeyed Amy Lawrence,
too, must go, said they; and, glad of opportunity to see the land of
perennial bloom and sunshine, and wearied with long, long months of labor
in the service of the Red Cross, the girl had willingly accepted their
invitation. Coaled and provisioned the transport had pushed on for the
seven-day run for San Francisco; but the recovering of his long-lost son
and the soft, reposeful atmosphere of the lovely, yet isolated island
group, had so benefited Mr. Prime that in family council it had been
decided wise for them to spend a week or ten days longer at the Royal
Hawaiian; and the boys had found no difficulty in "holding over" for the
Sedgwick that followed swift upon the heels of their own ship. Five
joyous days had they together, and this, the fifth, had been spent in
sightseeing beyond the lofty Pali of the northward side. The "O. & O."
liner was coming in from Yokohama even as they drove away; and as they
sat at dinner on the open _lanai_, long hours later, it had been
mentioned by their host that the Sedgwick, too, had reached the harbor
during the afternoon, and that army people were passengers on both liner
and transport. Billy Gray, for one, began to wish that dinner were over.
He was eager to get the latest news from the Philippines, and the
Sedgwick left Manila full a week behind their slower craft.

"Did you hear who came with her?" he somewhat eagerly asked, "or on the
Doric?" he continued, with less enthusiasm.

"I did not," was the answer--"that is, on the Sedgwick;" and the
gentleman baited lamely and glanced furtively and appealingly at his
wife. There was that embarrassing, interrogative silence that makes one
feel the futility of concealment. It was Miss Lawrence who quickly came
to his relief and dispelled the strain on the situation.

"I should fancy very few army people would choose that roundabout way
from Manila when they can come direct by transport, and have the ship to
themselves."

"Well--er--yes; certainly, certainly," answered the helpless master of
the house, dodging now the warning and reproach in the eyes of his wiser
mate at the other end of the table. The crack of a coachman's whip and
the swift beat of trotting hoofs on the graveled road in front could be
heard as he faltered on. The gleam of cab lights came floating through
the northward shrubbery. "Except, of course, when they happen to
be--er--already, well, you know, at Hongkong or Nagasaki," he lamely
concluded.

There was an instant hurried glance exchanged between Gray and Prime.
Then up spoke in silvery tone their hostess:

"Other officers, you know, are ordered home. We have just heard to-day
that Colonel Frost comes very soon. His health seems quite shattered. I
believe--you knew--of them--slightly that is to say, Miss Prime, did you
not?" But even with her words she cast an anxious, furtive glance along
the dim reach of the _lanai_, for the pit-a-pat of footfalls, the swish
of feminine draperies was distinctly heard. Two dainty, white-robed forms
came floating into view, and, with changing color, their hostess suddenly
arose and stepped forward to meet them. Just one second of silence
intervened, then, all grace and gladness, smiles and cordiality, both her
little hands outstretched, Mrs. Frank Garrison came dancing into their
midst, her sister more timidly following.

"_Dear_ Mrs. Marsden, how perfectly (kiss, kiss) delicious! Yes, this is
the baby sister I've raved to you about. We go right on with the Doric;
but I _had_ to bring her out with me that you might have just one glance
at her. Why! Mr. Prime! Why, what could be more charming than to find you
here? And 'Gov.' _too_--you wicked boy! What won't I do to you for never
telling me you were in Manila? And Mildred!" (kiss--kiss, despite a
palpable dodge and heightened color on part of the half-dazed recipient).
"And you, too, Miss Lawrence?" (Both hands, but no kiss--one hand calmly
accepted). "Ah, then I know how happy _you_ are, Mr. Willie Gray!"
(beaming arch smiles upon that flushed and flustered young officer. Then,
turning again to twine a jeweled arm about the slim waist of their
hostess, to whom she clung as though defying any effort to dislodge, yet
pleading for protection): "Who on earth could have foretold that we of
all people should have met out here--of all places? How long did you say
you had been here? A week? And of course, dear Mrs. Marsden has done
everything to make it lovely for you. _I_ should have _died_ without
her." And so the swift play of words went on, the rapid fire of her
fluent tongue covering the movement of her allies and drowning all
possibility of reply. It was an odd and trying moment. Mrs. Marsden, well
knowing, as who in Honolulu did not, of Mrs. Frank's devotion to the
young lieutenant, barely six months agone, was striving to welcome the
shrinking little scare-faced thing that blindly and helplessly had
drifted in in the elder sister's wake. The introductions that followed,
after the American fashion, were as perfunctory as well-bred women can
permit. The greetings were almost solemn, smileless, and, on part of
Nita, fluttering to the verge of a faint; and nothing but Witchie's
plucky and persistent support, and the light flow of airy chat and
laughter, carried her through the ordeal. The two young soldiers stood
stiffly back, red-faced and black-browed; the father, pallid and cold,
could hardly force himself to unbend, yet his lips mumbled the name "Mrs.
Frost," as he bowed at presentation; Miss Prime stood erect and
trembling; Miss Lawrence, with brave eyes but heightened color. To leave
at once was impossible; to remain was more than embarrassment. Most
gallantly did they battle, Mrs. Marsden and Mrs. Frank, to lift the wet
blanket from the group and relieve the strain. Reward came to crown their
efforts in strange, unlooked-for fashion. Hoofs, wheels and flashing
lights were again at the entrance gate, even as Mrs. Frank, sparkling
with animation, distributing her gay good humor over the silent
semicircle, suddenly exclaimed: "Oh, if I'd _only_ known you were here, I
could have provided the one thing to make our reunion complete! If we
were not going on at daybreak I should do it yet." Then hoofs and wheels
and lights had come to a stop at the front of the house, and in measured,
martial tread a man's footsteps were heard upon the _lanai_. Then, all of
a sudden, with a cry of joy, Witchie burst in again: "_Should_ do it?--I
shall do it! Said I not I was the fairy queen? Behold me summon my
subjects from the ends of the obedient earth!" And, waving her parasol as
she would a wand, gayly pirouetting as she had that night in the tent at
old Camp Merritt, she danced forward: "Sound ye the trumpets, slaves!
Hail to the chief! See the conquering hero comes! Enter Brevet
Brigadier-General Stanley Armstrong!--though his arm is anything but
strong."

Bowing gravely to the sprite in front of him, vaguely to the group in the
shaded light at the edge of the _lanai_, and joyously to the little
hostess, as almost hysterically she sprang forward and clasped his hands,
the colonel of the Primeval Dudes stood revealed before them.

"_Colonel_ Armstrong! How--when did you get here? What does this mean? Is
your arm quite well again? Why _didn't_ you let us know you were coming?"
were the questions rained upon him by Mrs. Marsden, immediately followed
by the somewhat illogical statement that she was actually breathless with
surprise.

"Shall I answer in their order?" said he, smiling down at her flushed and
joyous face. "By the Sedgwick. This afternoon. That I wished to see you.
Doing quite well. Because I didn't know myself until two days before we
sailed." Then, as he stood peering beyond her, she would have turned him
to her other guests had not Mrs. Garrison made instant and impulsive rush
upon him.

"As fairy queen or fairy godmother I claim first speech," she gayly
cried. "What tidings of my liege lord, and where is hers, my fairy
sister's?" she demanded, waving in front of him her filmy parasol and
pirouetting with almost girlish grace.

"Captain Garrison was looking fairly well the day I sailed," he answered
briefly; "and Colonel Frost left for Hongkong only a few hours before in
hopes, as we understood, of finding Mrs. Frost at Yokohama. Permit me,"
he added, with grave courtesy. "I have but little time as I transfer to
the Doric to-night."

A shade spread over the radiant face one instant, but was as quickly
swept away. "And I have not met your guests," he finished, turning to
Mrs. Marsden, as he spoke, and quietly passing Mrs. Garrison in so doing.
The next moment he was shaking hands with the entire party, coming last
of all to Amy Lawrence.

"They told me of your being here," he said, looking straight into her
clear, beautiful eyes; "and I thought I might find you at Mrs. Marsden's.
She was our best friend when we were in Honolulu. They told me, too, that
you desired to go by the Doric, but feared she would be crowded," he
continued, turning to Mr. Prime. "There is one vacant stateroom now; its
occupants have decided to stay over and visit the islands. There will be,
I think, another." And drawing a letter from an inner pocket he calmly
turned to Nita, now shrinking almost fearfully behind her sister. "The
colonel gave this to me to hand to you, Mrs. Frost, on the chance of your
being here. He will arrive by next week's steamer, and, pardon me, it is
something I think you should see at once as a change in your plans may be
necessary."

It was vain for Margaret to interpose. The letter was safely lodged in
her sister's hands, and with so significant a message that it had to be
opened and read without delay. Gayly excusing herself, and with a low
reverence and comprehensive smile to the assembled party, she ushered her
sister into the long parlor, and the curtain fell behind them. There
followed a few minutes of brisk conference upon the _lanai_, the Marsdens
pleading against, the father and daughter for, immediate return to the
hotel, there to claim the vacated rooms aboard the steamer. In the eager
discussion, pro and con, both young soldiers joined, both saying "go,"
and promising to follow by the Sedgwick. In this family council, despite
the vivid interest Armstrong felt in the result, neither Amy Lawrence nor
himself took any part. Side by side at the snowy railing over the
breaking sea they stood almost silent listeners. Suddenly there came from
the front again the sound of hoofs and wheels, loud and distinct at the
start, then rapidly dying away with the increasing distance. Miss
Lawrence turned and looked inquiringly into the eyes she well knew were
fixed upon her. Mrs. Marsden hesitated one moment, then stepped across
the _lanai_, peered into the parlor and entered. It was a minute before
she returned, and in that minute the decisive vote was cast, the carriage
ordered.

"Oh, I ought to have known how it would be if I left you a moment!" she
cried despairingly, on her reappearance, a little folded paper in her
hand. "But at least you must stay half an hour. We can telephone direct
to the dock and secure the staterooms, if go you must on the Doric. Yes,"
she continued, lowering her voice, "they are not going farther until
Colonel Frost comes. Mrs. Garrison explains that her sister was really
too ill and too weak to come out here, but she thought the drive might do
her good. She thought best to slip quietly away with her, and bids me say
good-night to you all."

So, when next day the Doric sailed, four new names appeared upon the
passenger list, and the last men down the stage already "trembling on the
rise," were two young fellows in white uniform, who turned as they sprang
to the dock and waved their jaunty caps. "Join you in ten days at
'Frisco!" shouted the shorter of the two, gazing upward and backward at
the quartette on the promenade deck. "Oh! beg a thousand pardons," he
added hastily, as he bumped against some slender object, and, wheeling
about to pick up a flimsy white fan, he found himself face to face with
Witchie Garrison, kerchief waving, beaming, smiling, throwing kisses
innumerable to the party he had so lately left. The hot blood rushed to
his forehead, an angry light to his eyes, as she nodded blithely,
forbearingly, forgivingly at him. "Dear boy," she cried, in her clear,
penetrating treble, "how could you be expected to see any one after
leaving--her?" But Gov.'s arm was linked in his at the very instant and
led him glowering away, leaving her close to the edge of the crowded
dock, smiling sweetness, blessing and bliss upon a silent and
unresponsive group, and waving kerchief and kisses to them until, far
from shore, the Doric headed out to sea.

                    *       *       *       *       *

They were nearing home again. Day and night for nearly a week the good
ship had borne them steadily onward over a sea of deepest blue, calm and
unruffled as the light that shone in Amy's eyes. Hours of each
twenty-four Armstrong had been the constant companion, at first of the
trio, then of the two--for Mr. Prime had found a kindred spirit in a
veteran merchant homeward bound from China--then of one alone; for Miss
Prime had found another interest, and favor in the eyes of a young
tourist paying his first visit to our shores, and so it happened that
before the voyage, all too brief, was half over, Amy Lawrence and
Armstrong walked the spacious deck for hours alone or sat in sheltered
nooks, gazing out upon the sea. The soft, summer breezes of the first few
days had given place to keener, chillier air. The fog ahead told of the
close proximity of the Farallones. Heavier wraps had replaced the soft
fabrics of the Hawaiian saunterings. But warmth and gladness, coupled
with a strange new shyness in his presence, were glowing in her fresh
young heart. One day she had said to him: "You have not told me how you
came to leave there--just now," and it was a moment before he answered.

"That was the surgeons' doing. They sent me back from the front because
the wound did not properly heal, and then ordered a sea voyage until it
did; but I turn back at once from San Francisco."

She was silent a few seconds. This was unlooked for and unwelcome news.
"I thought," she said, "at least Gov. heard Dr. Frank say it would be
four months before you could use that arm." She plucked at the fringe of
the heavy shawl he had wrapped about her as she reclined in the low
steamer chair; but the white lids veiled her eyes.

"Possibly," answered Armstrong; "but you see I do not have to use it much
at any time. I'm all right otherwise, and there will soon be need of me."

"More campaigning?" she anxiously inquired, her eyes one moment
uplifting.

"Probably. Those fellows have no idea of quitting."

Another interval of silence. The long, lazy, rolling swell of the Pacific
had changed during the day to an abrupt and tumultuous upheaval that
tossed the Doric like a cork and made locomotion a problem. The rising
wind and sea sent the spray whirling from her bows, and Mildred's young
man, casting about for a dry corner, had deposited his fair charge on a
bench along the forward deck house and was scouting up and down for
steamer chairs. Armstrong had drawn his close to that in which Miss
Lawrence reclined, her knitted steamer cap pulled well forward over her
brow. His feet were braced against a stanchion. His eyes were intent upon
her sweet face. He had no thought for other men, even those in similar
plight. His gaze, though unhampered by the high peak of his forage cap,
comprehended nothing beyond the rounded outline of that soft cheek. Her
eyes, well-nigh hidden by her shrouding "Tam," saw the searching son of
Albion and told her his need. The best of women will find excuse for
interruption at such moments when sure of the devotion of the man who
sits with a fateful question quivering on his lips; and, even when she
longs to hear those very words, will find means to defer them as a kitten
dallies with a captured mouse or a child saves to the very last the
sweetest morsel of her birthday cake. Not ten minutes before, when the
Honorable Bertie Shafto had started impulsively toward the vacant chair
by Armstrong's side, a firm hand detained him, and Miss Prime had hastily
interposed. "Not on any account!" said she, imperiously. "Can't you see?"
And Mr. Shafto, adjusting his monocle, had gazed long and fixedly, and
then, transferring his gaze to her, had said:

"Eh--eh--yes. It's not ours, I suppose you mean."

But now Amy Lawrence was beckoning, and he made a rush for the rail, then
worked his way aft, hand over hand. Every movable on deck was taking a
sudden slant to starboard, and the sea went hissing by almost on level
with the deck as next she spoke. "Surely a soldier needs both arms in
battle, and you--Oh, certainly, Mr. Shafto, take that chair," she added.
Armstrong glanced up suddenly.

"Oh! that you, Shafto? Yes; take it by all means."

Anything, thought he, rather than that they should come here. The young
Briton stepped easily past between them and the rail--behind there was no
room--and, swinging the long, awkwardly modeled fabric to his broad
shoulder, started back just as a huge wave heaved suddenly under the
counter, heeled the steamer far over to port, threw him off his balance,
and, his foot catching at the bottom of her chair, hurled him, load and
all, straight at Amy's reclining form. One instant, and even her uplifted
hands could not have saved her face; but in that instant Armstrong had
darted in, caught the stumbling Briton on one arm, and the full force of
the shooting chair crashing upon the other, already pierced by Filipino
lead.

When, a moment later she emerged, safe and unscratched from the confused
heap of men and furniture, it was to cut off instantly the stutter and
stammer of poor Shafto's apologies, to bid him go instantly for the
ship's doctor, and, with face the color of death, to turn quickly to
Armstrong. The blow had burst open the half-healed wound, and the blood
was streaming to the deck.

                    *       *       *       *       *

Both liner and transport turned back without Stanley Armstrong, Doric and
Sedgwick sailed unheeded, for the highest surgical authority of the
Department of California had remanded him to quarters at the Palace and
forbidden his return to duty with an unhealed wound. He was sitting up
again, somewhat pallid and not too strong, but with every promise, said
the "medico," of complete recovery within two months. But not a month
would Armstrong wait. The Puebla was to start within the week, and he had
made up his mind. "Go," said he, "I must."

They had been sitting about him, the night this opinion was announced, in
the parlor of the suite of rooms the Primes had taken. Billy Gray had
gone with his father to the club, Shafto had been hanging about in the
agonies of an Englishman's first love, Gov. disappeared a moment and came
back with tickets for the Columbia, bidding Mildred get her hat and
gloves at once, and whispering Shafto that he had a seat for him. As the
little mantel clock struck eight Amy Lawrence, lifting up her eyes from
the book she was trying hard to believe she meant to read, saw that
Armstrong was rising from his easy-chair, and, springing to his side,
laying her white hand on his arm, she faltered, "Oh, please! You know the
stipulation was that you were not to stir."

But then her heart began to flutter uncontrollably. The blood went
surging to her brows, for all of a sudden, as through impulse
irresistible, her hand was seized in his--in both of his, in fact--and
the deep voice that had pleaded at her behest for the cause of Billy Gray
was now, in impetuous flow of words that fell upon her ears like some
strain of thrilling music, pleading at last his own. Ever since that day
in the radiant sunshine of the Park she had learned to look up to him as
a tower of strength, a man of mark among his fellows, a man to be honored
and obeyed. Ever since that night at the Palace, when she saw his glowing
eyes fixed intently upon her, and knew that he was following her every
move, she had begun to realize the depth of his interest in her. Ever
since that day when the China slipped from her moorings, with Witchie
Garrison singling him out for lavish farewell favors, she had wondered
why it so annoyed and stung her. Ever since the day she read the list of
killed and wounded in the first fierce battling with the "Insurrectos"
she knew it was the sight of his name, not Billy Gray's, that made her
for the moment faint and dizzy, and taught her the need of greater
self-control. Ever since that moonlit night upon the Marsden's _lanai_,
when her heart leaped at the sudden sound of his voice, she had realized
what his coming meant to her, and ever since that breezy day upon the
broad Pacific, with the sailor's song of "Land ho!" ringing from the
bows, and he, her wounded soldier, had sprung to shield her from the
crash of Shafto's hapless stumble, and the deck was stained with the
precious blood from that soldier's reopened wound, shed for her--for her
who so revered him--she had longed to hear him say the words that alone
could unlock the gates of maidenly reserve and let her tell him--tell him
with glad and grateful heart that the love he bore her was answered by
her own. Hovering over him only one minute, her lips half parted, her
eyes still veiled, her heart throbbing loud and fast, with sudden
movement she threw herself upon her knees at the side of the low chair,
and her burning face, ever so lightly, was buried in the dark-blue sleeve
above that blessed wound.

THE END.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

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