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

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Under Fire" ***


[Illustration: RED DOG'S ARREST.

_Frontispiece._ _Page 264._]







"A bad dhrill, a wake voice, an' a limp leg--thim three things are the
signs av a bad man."--PRIVATE MULVANEY.











Trancriber's note: Minor typos have been corrected, and ads moved to the
end of the book.


It is ten years since "The Colonel's Daughter" ventured before the
public and found so many friends that "Marion's Faith" and later
"Captain Blake" set forth in reinforcement, and even then there came the
call for more. Pelham's old regiment was not the only one to contain
either odd, laughable, or lovable characters, so now the curtain is
raised on the Eleventh Horse,--a command as apocryphal as the --th, yet
equally distinguished in the eyes of those who trod the war-path twenty
years ago.

C. K.

October, 1894.



It was the last day of Captain Wilbur Cranston's leave of absence. For
three blissful months he had been visiting his old home in a bustling
Western city, happy in the happiness of his charming wife in this her
first long restoration to civilization since their marriage ten years
before; happy in the pride and joy of his father and mother in having
once more under their roof the soldier son who had won an honored name
in his profession, and in their delight in the exuberant health and
antics of two sturdy, plains-bred little Cranstons. The visit proved one
continuous round of home pleasures and social gayeties, for Margaret
Cranston had been a stanch favorite in the days of her girl- and
bellehood, and all her old friends, married and single, rose _en masse_
to welcome her return. Parties, dances, dinners, concerts, theatre and
opera, lectures, pictures, parks, drives and rides,--all the endless
resources of the metropolitan world had been laid at the feet of the
girl who, leaving them to follow her soldier lover to his exile and
wanderings, had returned in the fulness of time, in the flush of
womanhood, a proud wife and proud and happy mother. People could not
understand her choice at the time of her marriage: "Cranston's all
right, but the idea of going to live in a tent or dug-out," was the
popular way of putting it, and people were still unable to understand
how she could have ever found anything to enjoy in that wild life or to
make her wish to see it again. It was, therefore, incomprehensible to
society that she and her two bouncing boys were utterly overwhelmed with
distress at having to remain in so charming a circle, so happy a home,
when it came time for the captain to return. Society even resented it a
little. Juvenile society--feminine--took it amiss that the Cranston boys
should so scorn the arts of peace, and persist furthermore in saying the
buffalo and bear and wolves in the municipal "Zoo" were frauds as
compared with what they had seen "any day" all around them out on the
plains. Tremendous stories did these little Nimrods tell of the big game
on which they had tired of dining, but some of their tales were true,
and that's what made it so hard for junior society masculine, in which
there wasn't a boy who did not honestly and justly hate these young
frontiersmen, even while envying with all his civilized heart. Loud was
the merriment at school over the Cranstons' blunders in spelling and
arithmetic, but what--what was that as offset to their prowess on
pony-back, their skill with the bow and sling-shot, their store of
Indian trinkets, trophies, ay, even to the surreptitiously shown Indian
scalp? What was that to the tales of tremendous adventure in the land of
the Sioux and Apache,--the home of the bear and the buffalo? What
city-bred boy could "hold a candle" to the glaring halo about the head
of two who could claim personal acquaintance with the great war chiefs
Red Cloud and Spotted Tail?--who had actually been to ride and hunt with
that then just dawning demigod of American boyhood,--Buffalo Bill? Sneer
and scoff and cavil as did their little rivals for a time, calumny was
crushed and scoffers blighted that wonderful March morning when, before
the whole assembled school, there suddenly appeared that paragon of
plainsmen, that idol of all well-bred young Westerners, he whom only on
flaring posters or in the glare of the footlights had they been
permitted to see, and smiling, superbly handsome, king of scouts and
Indian-fighters, Buffalo Bill himself stepped into their midst and
clasped the little Cranstons, madly rejoicing, in his arms, while their
father, the cavalry captain, and even the dreaded teacher looked
approvingly on. It was after that episode of no avail for even the
sturdiest of their schoolmates to seek to belittle the Cranston fame.
Louis, the elder, could not invent a whopper so big as to tax the
credulity of the school. Buffalo Bill was "starring it" with his
theatrical company through the States that spring, playing some
blood-curdling, scalp-taking; hair-raising border drama which all boys
eager strove to see, and when his old chum and comrade, the captain,
went to call on him at his hotel, the great chief of scouts would not
rest until together they had gone to see his friends "the boys." That
other parents should have been pestered half to death as a result of
this visitation any one who knows boys has not to be told, and many were
the queries and complaints addressed to the laughing cavalryman upon
that score. Parents, as a rule, had no proper conception of the honest
merit and deserved fame of this transplanted hero, Bill,--were amazed
to learn from Cranston that he was no fraud at all, but a man whom he
and his regimental comrades swore by. A total change had come over the
spirit of the school-boys' dreams. Nothing but Indian raids,
buffalo-hunts, or terrific combats diversified the hour of recess. The
little girls chose romantic prairie names, were either Indian maidens or
ever-ready-to-be-rescued damsels in distress. The boys became
redoubtable chiefs or rival imitation scouts, but Louis Cranston alone
was permitted to play the _rôle_ of Buffalo Bill; in his presence no
other boy dare attempt it.

It was a revolutionized society long before that budding May morning on
which the captain had to take train for the far West, leaving wife and
little ones to his father's care until the long threatened and now
imminent campaign should be over. Then, should God spare his life
through what proved to be the fiercest and most fatal of ten fierce and
fatal summers, they should rejoin him at some distant frontier fort, and
the boys' triumphant reign at school be ended. Loudly did they clamor to
be taken with him. Stoutly did Louis maintain that his pony could keep
up with the swiftest racer in the regiment, and indirectly did he give
it to be understood at school that just as soon as the war really began
he'd be out with "C" troop as he had been in the past. The war had begun
and some savage fighting had already taken place, when the orders were
launched for the Eleventh Cavalry to concentrate for field service.
Cranston wired that he would give up the last ten days of his leave, and
Mrs. Cranston, brave, submissive, but weeping sore at times, set to
packing her soldier's trunk. It was their last evening together for
many a long month, and their friends knew it, and therefore, even if
they called to leave a sympathetic word with the grandparents, they did
not expect to see the captain and his wife. Once or twice the
gray-haired mother had come to twine her arms about her big boy's neck,
or to say that Mr. and Mrs. Somebody had just called, but wouldn't
intrude. It was, therefore, a surprise when towards nine o'clock she
came to announce a caller below,--a caller who begged not to be
denied,--Mrs. Barnard.

"Mrs. _Barnard_!" exclaimed the army wife, in that tone in which
incredulity mingled with surprise tells to the observant ear that no
welcome awaits the announced one.

"_Who is_ Mrs. Barnard?" asked the trooper, looking up from the depths
of his big trunk.

"Oh, her husband owns about half the tenth ward," said Mrs. Cranston the
elder, city bred, "and," hesitatingly, "you've often seen her in

"At church--yes," answered her daughter-in-law, "but no one ever sees
her anywhere else. She has never called on me, has she?"

"No," said the elder lady. "They are old residents, though, and years
ago when the city was new your father and hers--indeed, her husband and
mine--were well acquainted, but we drifted apart as the city grew. She
was Almira Prendergast."

"I'm sure I never heard of her when I was a girl, though, of course, I
was away at school a good deal. Every one knows her by sight now because
she's the most conspicuous woman in church. She dresses magnificently,"
said Mrs. Cranston the younger. "I couldn't help noticing her diamonds
last Sunday."

"They must have been big, Meg," put in the captain, reflectively, as he
was getting himself out of his smoking-jacket. "Let's see,--ours is a
hundred-dollar pew down near the foot of the side aisle, and hers a
thousand-dollar box-stall just in front of the centre. Could they flash
all that distance? They'd be useful for signalling----"

"Wilbur! I do wish you wouldn't mingle church and cavalry slang. It's
downright irreverent, and at the bottom of your heart you're anything
but an irreverent man."

"I won't," said the captain, solemnly; "at least I'll try to separate
the ideas--they are a trifle incongruous--if you'll tell me how at that
distance you could mingle your devotions with appraisal of Mrs.
Barnard's diamonds."

"I didn't. If you'd gone to church yourself you'd understand these
things. I couldn't help it. I simply happened to be next to her
afterwards--at communion."

"Oh, I see," said Cranston, giving a jab at his thinning hair with the
thickest and stiffest of brushes. "That does bring us to close quarters,
doesn't it?" Then with provoking deliberation he rearranged his necktie
and began pulling on his coat. "Hum, let's see," he went on, his eyes
twinkling and his lips twitching ominously, "anything wrong about Mrs.
B., mother mine, or with the millionaire husband? No? I see: just some
of those people one meets at the Lord's table and nobody else's."

"Wilbur!" exclaimed Mrs. Cranston, in tones of horror. "Indeed, indeed,
mamma, he isn't a bit like that out on the frontier. It's only when he
gets into civilized church circles that he says these outrageous things.
If you could hear him read the burial service over some of our poor
fellows as I have heard him, you'd know he lacked no reverence at all.
He's queer,--he always has been about these social distinctions. You
know and I know they are inevitable."

But leaving wife and mother to deplore his conduct and comfort each
other with the assurance that he really knew better and wasn't as bad as
he painted himself, which was occasionally in lurid colors, as must be
admitted, Captain Cranston went down-stairs with a certain stiffness of
gait which his intimates were well aware was attributable entirely to a
war reminiscence of Pickett's parapet at Five Forks, but which nine out
of ten, uninitiated, ascribed to military _hauteur_. He was still
smiling his whimsical, teasing smile, for, though a devoted son,
husband, and father, Wilbur Cranston was at times a trial to his
feminine connections, and entertained on matters of church and state
some views that were incompatible with those of high society. With
opportunities second to none other when he joined the pioneer circle in
the early days, Mr. Cranston, senior, had but moderately prospered from
a worldly point of view. Eminent in his profession, he was destitute of
any instinct of accumulation. He was a man the whole county
honored,--whose word was his bond, whose purse-strings had never known a
knot,--who had made large moneys in the law and spent them in charity,
until now, occupying a social position at the top of the ladder, he
lived but modestly in the house that was once the envy of all his
neighbors, many of whom once, and more than once, the beneficiaries of
his charity, now looked down upon him from the colossal heights of their
wheat elevators or sixteen-story office blocks. "The Cranstons were
among our oldest and best people," said Society; "it is too bad they are
so poor." For there had been a time when the old lawyer's health failed
and practice was forbidden, and when Wilbur, once the recipient of a
liberal allowance, felt called upon not only to resign that, but often
to help from a captain's pay. Better times had come, and the soldier son
had been able to make investments for himself and for his father in far
Western mining property that yielded good return; but even when known as
one of the few well-to-do men in his regiment, Cranston had persisted in
a certain simplicity of living that some people could not understand.
There were officers who had married wealthy women,--women whose gowns
were superb, whose parlors and tables were richly furnished, whose
household establishments put to shame those of three-fourths of their
companions; whereas Cranston, even when he was able to dress his family
fashionably and furnish his quarters elaborately, would not do it.
"Every year," said he, "some of our most promising young officers are
going to the devil because they or their wives try to dress or to
entertain as do their wealthy neighbors. It's all wrong, and I won't set
the example. It's getting to be the curse of our army, Meg, and if I had
my way I'd introduce a law the reverse of that in force in foreign
armies. Over there no officer can marry unless he and his bride-elect
can show that they will have over a certain income to live upon. In a
republican army like ours no man ought to be commissioned unless he will
agree to live on less than a fixed amount for each successive grade."
They called him "Crank Cranston" in the Eleventh for quite a while, but
without affecting in the faintest degree his sturdy stand. Margaret's
gowns continued simple and inexpensive, and their mode of living modest
as any subaltern's, and many women spoke of them as "close" and "mean,"
but many men wished openly they had Cranston's moral courage. At home,
too, better times had come. There was the old homestead, and Mr.
Cranston as counsel of certain big corporations had his easy salary and
little work. There was no anxiety, but there should be, said he, no

On the other hand, neighbor Barnard, who in by-gone days, tin
dinner-pail in hand, tramped cheerily by the lawyer's rose-trellised
home long hours before the household was awake, and who in his early
struggles to maintain his little lot and roof had often availed himself
of his neighbor's known liberality, had been surely and steadily
climbing to wealth and honors, was now among the ranking capitalists of
the great and growing city, and a few years back had been united in
marriage to the admiration of his early school days,--Almira
Prendergast, who, disdaining him in the early 50's and wedding the youth
of her choice, was overwhelmed with joy to find in the days of want and
widowhood, fifteen years later, that Barnard had been faithful to his
ideal, had remained single for her sake, and so at last had she
consented to accept him and the control of his household. A pew in the
"First Presbyterian" had been for years his habitual resort on the
Sabbath, but as time wore on and wealth accumulated and the lady of his
love assumed more and more the leadership in all matters, spiritual and
domestic, he saw his establishment blossoming into unaccustomed
splendor, he met new people, later comers from the distant East, and
dropped the old, the friends of his boy days. He never meant to. He was
engrossed in his affairs. He let Mrs. Barnard "run the machine," as he
used to phrase it, knowing nothing of that sort of thing himself, and
Almira's buxom beauty, attired now in splendor hitherto undreamed of,
was rapidly rising into prominence in the new and growing circle wherein
the old families revolved but seldom, but the errant orbits of Eastern
stars were quick entangled; and some few years after their marriage a
new and gorgeous edifice having been erected by the congregation of St.
Jude's, and a daughter having been born to Barnard, the man of money
heard without surprise and with little resistance his wife's change of
faith in revealed religion. St. Jude's, a parochial offspring of old and
established St. Paul's down-town, had become an ecclesiastical necessity
in the growing north side. The Cranstons transferred their pew, as did
others, to follow a favorite rector and his gospel closer to home. Mrs.
Barnard experienced a long projected change of heart because the
acknowledged leaders of the social circle herded thither, and Barnard
followed as his wife might lead. The great memorial window in the south
transept, through whose hallowed purpling the noon-day sunshine
streamed rich and mellow on the gray head in that prominent central pew,
was the devout offering of Thomas Barnard and Almira, his wife, in
testimony of their abandonment of the faith of their fathers and the
adoption of that which in school days they had held to be idolatrous.
Wilbur Cranston well recalled how in his school days Tom Barnard's
honest, sturdy form went trudging by at nightfall from the long day's
labor with the railway gang of which he was "boss," but Tom was a
division superintendent when the lawyer's boy came home from West Point
on furlough just as the war dogs began their growling along the border
States. And now Tom Barnard owned all the tenth ward and most of the
railroad, did he? And it was Tom Barnard's wife, a fair, fat penitent in
sealskin and sables, who drove by in such a magnificent sleigh and style
to humble herself at the altar by the side of such as we, whose social
shoes she was as yet held unworthy to unlatch? Wilbur remembered how
once, some years before, when his father's affairs were straitened and
his own were cramped, when Meg and the baby actually and sorely needed
change, but she sturdily refused to leave him and go East because of the
expense, he had bethought him of Tom Barnard, the rising railway man,
and wrote him a personal note explaining the situation and asking
through his influence if such a thing as a pass for himself and wife
could be obtained over certain roads east of the Missouri, and the
answer came, written by a secretary, brief and to the point. Mr. Barnard
enclosed pass over the Q. R. & X. for Mr. Cranston and wife, but did not
feel in a position to ask favors of any other road. And now Tom
Barnard's wife had come almost at the last moment of his stay and begged
that he would not refuse to see her. What on earth could she want?

A boy with a telegram had just entered and was at the open door as the
captain reached the hall. Under the gas lamp without Cranston saw the
carriage standing by the curb--a livery team, not the beautiful roans
that had caught his trooper eye the first Sunday of his leave when he
went to church with mother and Meg. The message was sharp and clear
enough in all conscience:

     "We march at once. You can catch us at Fetterman.

    GRAY, _Adjutant_."

"So old Winthrop goes in command and Bob Gray as adjutant," he mused.
"Then I've no minute to waste."

His step was quicker, his bearing unconsciously more erect and
soldierly, as he entered the parlor and found himself facing the lady.

"I ask your pardon for keeping you waiting, Mrs. Barnard. I was in the
midst of packing when you came, as I must go West at once."

She had not risen from the easy-chair,--a comfortable old family relic
which stood opposite the old-fashioned piano. She leaned forward,
however, so that the sealskin mantle, which the warmth of the room and
the length of her wait had prompted her to throw back, settled down from
her shoulders in rich and luxurious folds. She gave him, half extended,
a hand, which he lifted and lowered once after the fashion of the day
and then released. He remembered her now perfectly,--the Almira
Prendergast the big boys used to say was by long odds the prettiest girl
in the days when half a dozen big brick ward schools were all the town
afforded, but he did not say so, nor did she care to have him.

"Perhaps I ought to begin by apologizing for taking up your time," she
said, as though not knowing how to begin; and then he saw that heavy
lines of grief and anxiety had eaten their way underneath her dark and
luminous eyes,--ravages that no tinsel could cover or wealth dislodge.
"Was it the driver you spoke to at the door? I heard you say wait. I had
already told him; but it isn't my carriage," she went on deprecatingly.
"Our horses cannot stand night work, the coachman says, and there's
always something the matter with them when they are most needed."

She was looking at him appealingly, as though she hoped he might suggest
some way of helping her to say what had brought her thither--besides a
livery carriage; but Cranston had taken a seat and was waiting, the
telegram crushed in his hand. At last she spoke again.

"You--went to West Point, didn't you?"

"I? Yes."

"Well, then, you could tell me, couldn't you, how to get my boy there?"

"You mean by-and-by when he is old enough?"

"No. I mean now,--at once,--this week in fact."

"W--ell. That is hardly possible, Mrs. Barnard. Cadets are admitted only
in June or September, and only then when there's a vacancy in their
congressional district. But, pardon me. How old is your boy?"

"He is twenty-one,--my eldest,--my first husband's."

"And you wanted to make a soldier of him?" asked Cranston, smilingly.

"Indeed, no! It's the last thing on earth I'd have chosen, nor would he,
I am sure, if he were in his right mind."

"Oh, well, then I shouldn't worry about it, Mrs. Barnard. In this
country, you know, no one has to be a soldier unless he very much wants
to, and very often then he can't. And no boy who isn't in his right mind
could get into the Point even if given a cadetship. What made you think
of it?"

"Why, it seemed--at least I was told--it was the only way out of the
trouble he is in. He--is already in the army, but I'm told it isn't so
bad if one is an officer."

Cranston kept his face with admirable gravity.

"Then I assume that he has enlisted. If he is only just twenty-one and
enlisted without your consent before his birthday, you can still have
him out."

"Oh, we've tried that," said Mrs. Barnard, gravely, "but he had tried
twice before he was twenty-one, and they refused him until he brought
papers to prove his age. Then when he did enlist and we attempted to
have it annulled, they confronted us with these. They refused to believe
our lawyer."

"Well, pardon me, which was right, the papers or the lawyer?"

"The paper. It was my own letter; but I didn't suppose they had it
when--when we sought to have him released as not of legal age."

Cranston smiled. "Was it Mr. Barnard's proposition or the lawyer's?"

"Well, the lawyer said at first there was no other way that he knew of,
we'd have to do that. Of course you understand I wouldn't ordinarily
authorize an untruth, but--consider the degradation."

"The degradation of--having to--authorize the untruth?"

"No; of his enlisting,--becoming a soldier. I thought I'd had to suffer
a good deal, but I never looked for that."

And then Cranston saw her eyes were full of tears.

She had tried lawyers. She had used money. She had invoked the influence
of powerful friends. Each and everyone consulted assured her that the
case could be settled in a twinkling. They would get the boy discharged
at once. Then one after another all had failed, and then some one
suggested to see him, Cranston; he was a regular, perhaps he could help.
It was hard to think of her son as a soldier, but, said she, if he had
to be, for a time at least, why not get him out of where he was and put
him at West Point? She had come, she said, to tell Cranston the whole
story, and then he could have kicked himself for the momentary amusement
she had caused him.

Ah, what an old, time-worn story of mother love, mother spoiling, mother
sorrow! Her bonny boy, her first-born, wild, impulsive, self-indulgent,
overindulged as was his father before him, he had gone the pace from
early youth; had been sent to and sent from one school after another;
had filled and forfeited half a dozen clerkships; tampered with cards
and drink and bad company. Mr. Barnard had been willing to do
anything--everything for him, but he had dishonored every effort, broken
every compact, failed in every trial, forfeited every trust. At last
there had been hot and furious words, expulsion from the house and home,
a life of recklessness, gambling and drinking on moneys wrung from her
until her patience and supplies both had given out. Then some darker
shadow,--arrest and incarceration, one more appeal to mother, one more,
on her knees, from mother to husband, a compromised case, a quashed
indictment, temporary residence at a resort for cure of inebriates--the
one condition exacted by Barnard--and prompt relapse, when discharged,
into his former habits,--disgraceful arrest because of some trouble into
which he had been led while drinking. This, all this she had borne, but
never dreamed, said she, that worse still could follow,--that he could
sink so low as to become a soldier.

What Captain Cranston would have said to a man who had come to him with
such a tale, and with such unflattering conception of the profession he
was proud of, need not here be recorded. It was a mother, helpless,
sorrowing, and honest at least in her impression of the step taken by
her recreant boy. She had come craving help and counsel, not instruction
in the injustice of her estimates. Quivering, trembling, weeping, the
heart-sick woman in her magnificent robes had opened the flood-gates of
her soul and poured out to this comparative stranger the story of her
son's depravity. Aloft, two women listened awe-stricken to her sobs.
Cranston brought her water, made her drink a little wine, and bade her
take comfort, and amazed her by saying that at last her boy had shown a
gleam of manhood, a promise of redemption. She looked up through her
tears in sudden amaze. How was that possible? He must have been drunk
when he did it, and couldn't have been anything but drunk ever since.
Cranston patiently explained that so far from being drunk, the boy must
have been perfectly sober or they couldn't have taken him. He had been
frequently to the recruiting office, according to her account, and must
have been sober at such times, or they would have discouraged his coming
again. He couldn't have been drinking to any extent since enlistment or
he could not be where she said he was, and knew he was, on daily duty as
clerk in the office of the adjutant at the barracks. So far from its
indicating downfall, degradation, it was the one ray of hope of better
days. She looked at him, joy and incredulity mingling in her swimming
eyes. "Then why does everybody I've consulted, even our rector, urge me
to leave no stone unturned to get him out of it, even if we have to buy
him a place at West Point?" was her query. And again Cranston found it
hard to control his muscles--and his temper. Had it come to this?--that
here in his old home the accepted idea of the regular soldier was that
of something lower than the refuse of the prisons and reformatories? He
could only tell her that it was because they knew no better. Up to the
time of her boy's determination to enter the army had there been one
single moment in the last five years when he had been free from his
habits of drinking? asked Cranston. No, not one. And yet that step was
her conception of final degradation. What had occurred, he asked, to
make her feel renewed anxiety, to cause her to seek a cadetship for him?
Because the boy had written that recruits were soon to be sent to
cavalry regiments out on the plains, and he had asked to go. The thought
was terror. And Mrs. Barnard had learned that a congressman from the
interior of the State had a cadetship to dispose of, but he lived at
Urbana, the very place where poor Harry had spent his two months in the
retreat, and then had disbehaved so afterwards. And Mr. Goss, the
congressman, wanted references,--wanted him to pass examination, which
he could not do, because he's only been a little while at school. Harry
wrote a beautiful hand, and had read everything--everything, but he
hated anything like arithmetic as a study, and Cranston had to smile and
tell her that that in itself put West Point out of the question. But,
said he, if he has ambition and ability, why not encourage him to
persevere where he is and win commission from the ranks as many another
boy had done? Bless the mother heart! That, too, had occurred to her,
but they had told her it would take two years at least, whereas Harry
was a born leader, a born commander. That boy could step right out now
and command an army if need be, she said, and no doubt believed it; but
when she wrote to Mr. Cooper about it (and Mr. Cooper it seems was
Colonel Cooper, the boy's commanding officer), that gentleman replied
that while the young soldier had certainly conducted himself in a most
exemplary way and had given promise of being an ornament to the
service,--"He used those very words," said she, producing the colonel's
letter. "See, 'an ornament to the service,'"--still, the colonel could
hardly promise that the boy could rise above the grade of sergeant
inside of two years.

Cranston recognized the handwriting, and took the letter. "I know
Colonel Cooper," he said, "and he means just exactly what he writes.
Mrs. Barnard, I am glad you came. I am glad to take a weight off your
mind. I wish your friends and advisers were here that I might say this
in their presence, especially our good rector, but I say to you with all
my heart, I congratulate you on the step your boy has taken. I honestly
believe he has done better for himself than you could do for him, and I
advise you to let him go and learn campaigning on the frontier. It will
make a man of him if anything will," and he added under his breath, "or
kill him."

"And if you meet my boy, you'll help him? You'll be a friend to him?"
she smiled through her tears. "God bless you for so helping me."

"I'll help him every way I know how," said Cranston.

And so they parted. She infinitely comforted, he oddly impressed. But
Mrs. Barnard felt that fate was still against her and her boy when, four
weeks later, flashed the news of savage battle with the Sioux, of
Captain Cranston shot through the body and fearfully wounded in the
fierce encounter.


Fifty seats in the parquette had been reserved for the members of the
class graduated from West Point on the beautiful morning of the 12th of
June. The brilliant auditorium was thronged with friends of the young
fellows. Officers of the Academy were seated in the boxes, interested no
more in the play than in the enjoyment of "the boys" just released from
their four years of hard study and rigid discipline. Two of the chairs
were vacant almost until the close of the first act, then their owners
came in.

"You fellows have missed a heap of fun," whispered a classmate. Then a
burst of laughter and applause drowned his words. "All the same we
didn't miss the train," was the reply as soon as the new-comer could
make himself heard, after the lowering of the curtain. "Poor old Dad! It
wasn't easy to let him go."

"What took him off in such a devil of a hurry? We counted on his being
with us at the last supper."

"Oh, the Parson don't take much stock in last suppers--of this kind,"
answered the other in no irreverence of spirit, for the young fellow
spoke in genuine earnestness; "still, he couldn't have gone back on us
if it hadn't been for bad news from home."

"What, his mother?"

"No--o. It's a girl. He said he had to go."

"Ah, yes, we knew all along he was engaged, though he never said
anything about it. Parson never struck me as being one of the spoony

"No, he wasn't a bit. He wrote to her every week, but her letters kept
coming all the time--regular continued stories; but he wouldn't stand
chaffing about them and didn't fancy remarks, so I quit."

"Know anything about her? Ever see her picture?"

"Once, by accident,--a mighty pretty girl, too,--but he never talked
about her; it wasn't his way. We lived together the last two years, and
I reckon there isn't anything I didn't tell him. I remember how you all
laughed at the idea of my taking up with 'Parson' Davies, but he's pure

"There's no discount on that, Jimmy; but what a time it took to find it
out! If it weren't for the riding-hall we never would have known how
much there was to him. There may be some prettier riders than Parson,
but he's all round the best horseman in the class. What on earth did he
choose the infantry for?"

"Something about that girl, I reckon. Looks to me as though he were
going to get married before he joined the regiment."

"Sacrificing himself and his profession for the sake of a spoons, is it?
Well, thank God, I'm not in love, and I wish he weren't."

Meantime the subject of this cadet chat, a tall, slender, serious-faced
young fellow, was sitting in one of the crowded cars of the night
express whistling away up the shores of the Hudson, shadowy yet
familiar, fifty miles to the hour. His new civilian dress--donned that
morning for the first time--bore something of the cadet about it in its
trim adjustment to the lines of his erect, even gaunt figure. He sat
very straight, looking silently across the aisle out on the starlit
river to his left, and holding on his knees the new dark-blue cape and
an old travelling-bag. A lone woman in search of a seat had entered the
car at Harlem and passed by a dozen unsympathetic travellers, who made
no move to share the seat over which they sprawled aggressively. The
first to lift his satchel and make way for her was the tall, thin-faced
young man in the straw hat and pepper-and-salt suit. He rose and offered
her the inner half, which she accepted gratefully, then thanked him in
broken English for stowing her various bundles in the rack above.

The conductor looked oddly at him as he unrolled his ticket.

"Going through? Don't you want a sleeper?"

"How much is a single berth to Chicago?"

"Five dollars."

"No. I'll get along here."

Not until they reached Albany, after midnight, had he a seat to himself.
Meantime, finding his companion overcome by drowsiness and her poor old
head bobbing helplessly, he rolled his new cloak cape into a sort of
pillow, wedged it between her and the window seat, and bade her use it.
As they came in view of the brightly-lighted station she awoke with a
start and made a spring for her belongings. She had slept soundly ever
since they left Poughkeepsie, and was again profuse in gratitude. "We
stay here several minutes," said Mr. Davies. "Let me help you with your
bundles." And, unheeding her protest, he marched off with a bird-cage
and a big band-box. A burly German made a rush for the car the moment
she appeared upon the platform and lifted her off with vehement
osculatory welcome, Davies standing silently and patiently by the while,
then surrendering her traps to her legal protector. "He is such a kind
young man," said the smiling frau. "He gif me his seat. We have a sohn,
yust so old as you," she added, "but he is farder as Chick-ago. He is a
soldier, out by Fort Larmie."

"Yes?" said Davies, smiling. "Then perhaps I'll see him some day. I
expect to be out there before long."

"And you are a soldier, too! Ach Gott! ein offizier?" she exclaimed, in
consternation, born of German associations.

"Not yet, though I suppose I shall be very soon. What is your boy's

And, jabbering excitedly now, both at once, the two old people began
pouring their tale into his ears; told their boy's name,--"He was a
gorboral alretty,"--and they were justly proud, and Davies made them
happy by noting the name and company in his book and giving his own,
though he explained that he was not yet a lieutenant, only a
just-graduated cadet, but that if ever he found the corporal, he said,
he should tell him of his pleasant meeting with the old folks, and then,
after a cup of coffee at the restaurant counter, he returned to his own
thoughts and the car.

Soon they were spinning up along the shining Mohawk, and still his
eyelids would not close. In his waistcoat-pocket lay a bulky letter,
the last of many in the same superscription--a prim, unformed,
school-girlish hand--that had come to him during the last two years of
his cadet life. Its predecessors, carefully wrapped and tied, were in
the old trunk somewhere ahead among the baggage. In his hand again was
the telegram that, reaching him at the moment when he was bidding adieu
to the academic shades he had grown so deeply to love, had determined
him in the already half-formed resolution to cut loose from his comrades
and the class festivities in New York and take the first train for the
far West.

    "URBANA, June 12.

     "Doctor says come quick. Almira worse.


"B" was Almira's elder sister. Urbana, the home of his boy- and her
girlhood, the home where his father lived and died, pastor of the
village flock, a man whose devotion and patriotism during the great war
had won for himself the friendship of the leaders of the armies of the
West and for his only son, years afterwards, the prize of a cadetship at
West Point. Deeply religious in every fibre of his soul, the chaplain
had labored among the hospitals in the field from first to last, and
died not long after the close of the historic struggle, a martyr to the
cause. He died poor, too, as such men ever die, laying up no treasures
upon earth, where moth and rust and thieves are said to lessen treasure
there accumulated, yet where its accumulation seems the chief end of man
not spiritually constituted as was Davies, who was imposed upon by every
beat and beggar, tramp and drab, within reachable distance of Urbana.
Far and wide had spread abroad the words of his personal creed,--that he
would rather it were recorded against him that he had been duped a
million times than that one human being had left his door hungering. His
widow was not only merely penniless, she was helpless but for the strong
arms of her son, who slaved for her as the father had slaved for the
Union. Those were the days when pensions were few. It was too soon after
the war, and facts were fresher in men's minds. Percy did all the
farm-work by day and taught school by night until, in his twenty-first
year, he was sent to the Military Academy by the President himself, who
had known his father from the days of Donelson. It was told of the tall,
taciturn young man that he seriously contemplated resigning during his
fourth class year when he found that he could not send home the little
savings from his cadet pay. If the rule of the sacred commandment could
but be made to work both ways, and days would be indeed long in the land
the Lord our God had given to him who most honored his father and
mother, no life insurance company in all America would have hesitated in
Percy Davies's case, had the policy been millions and the premium unity.
A gentle woman was Mrs. Davies, but a distressingly helpless and
dependent one, and it was an old saying in Urbana that Davies had
married poor Salome Percy because if he didn't nobody would; not because
he stood in need of her, but because she was much in need of him. And
when, not long after his father's death, Percy appealed to a well-to-do
citizen on the widow's behalf, he was refused, and the brawny son and
heir of the well-to-do citizen told of the incident, and was idiot
enough in Percy's presence to repeat this old village saw as the reason
of the refusal, it nearly led to tragedy. Seizing the first available
weapon, a flail, which he wielded with uncommon skill, in one mad moment
the indignant youth smote the other hip and thigh,--the first, and for
years the only, time he was ever known to lose control of himself. In
ten seconds the battered gossip was sprawled full length, and they who
would have rushed to tear his assailant away stood amazed to see him
tearfully imploring the pardon of the vanquished.

And then as Percy grew in years and grace, working day and night that he
might obey that last sacred whispered injunction, "Take care of poor
mother," and Urbana grew in population and importance, one mortgage was
lifted by the sale of part of their little farm, and the home made more
comfortable for the ailing, querulous woman. She loved young folks, and
yet lacked the faculty of attracting them. Striving to interest some of
the village maids in her, Percy interested more than one in himself, and
among these was a rural beauty, by name Almira Quimby. She was only
sixteen, a romantic child with an exquisite complexion, big melting blue
eyes, and curling ringlets. She lived, said other village maids, "on
Sylvanus Cobb and slate-pencils." She devoured with avidity every bit of
sensational trash procurable in the public or post-office libraries, and
made eyes at the tall, strong school-master,--the best rider, reaper,
thresher in the field, and best reader and declaimer in the winter
lyceums. He was intellectually far ahead of his fellows, and his father
had labored to teach him. He was "serious," which was our Western way of
saying he had strong religious views, and Almira became devoted in her
attentions at church, Bible-class, and Sunday-school. Still, he did not
become an adorer, and she began visiting the widow in her affliction,
and thereby seeing more and more of the widow's son. There were
strapping prairie beaux who would have given all they possessed for any
one of the soft, shy looks she stole at Percy Davies, and who began to
hate him vehemently as her fancy for him increased.

He would have been of utterly unimpressionable material could he have
looked unmoved day after day upon her budding beauty, and it was not
long before Davies found himself strangely interested, and still he
would not speak. It was not until his appointment came, and he was
preparing to go to the Academy, that he owned himself vanquished.
Almira's red eyes and not entirely concealed emotion had told the mother
how the girl was grieving at the prospective loss of her first love, and
she with motherly solicitude took Percy to task. If he cared for Almira
why didn't he say so? With perfect truth the young man replied that he
couldn't help admiring her, but had struggled against it because he was
in no position to marry, and did not know when he would be. To this the
mother replied that she had grown very fond of Almira, and had learned
to depend upon her. She was not only very pretty but, what was much
better, a very good girl, and her father was as "well-to-do" as anybody
in Urbana, except the hotel-keeper. He could well afford to give her
part of the big farm and build them a house near the widow's own roof.
She knew, or thought she knew, as do so many of us, just what her
neighbor could and should do, but overlooked the fact that old Quimby
had two sons and three daughters older than Almira. The fact that most
of them were married in no wise detracted from their expectations of
material aid from the "old man." The fact that he might care to take
unto himself a wife to replace the late incumbent now sleeping placidly
in Urbana's leafy cemetery was no more contemplated by them than by the
Widow Davies. But there was another widow in Sangamon County who knew
better and who wisely said naught. Almira's father was well off, said
Mrs. Davies. She had rich relations in the great metropolis of the
State. Her Aunt Almira was married to the manager of the Q. R. & X.
Railway,--the man who used to send father Davies an annual pass so long
as he lived. Mrs. Davies longed, she said, to see her son happily mated,
and then she would be glad to go and rest by the father's side under the
shadow of the soldier's monument. How it all happened would be too long,
too old, and by no means uncommon a story. When Percy Davies went to
West Point he left behind him a weeping maid who vowed that she would
wait for him a lifetime, if need be. It was really quite a romantic
parting, and the young man believed himself very deeply in love, and so
did Almira.

And yet he was not easy in his mind. Percy Davies was old for his years.
He was going to the Point because of his father's strong predilection
for the graduates of that institution. The son had no especial taste
for a military life. He was studious. He would far rather have gone to
some college or university and pursued a classical course, and then
studied for the law or the ministry. He had no means for such an end,
however, and accepted what was offered him on his father's account, with
no little uneasiness on his own. It was not his desire or purpose to
remain in the army. If he could honorably do so he meant to leave the
military service within the four years which his letter of appointment
stipulated he should serve after graduation. He doubted the propriety of
his accepting it under the circumstances, and he--looked upon by his
fellow-men and youths as the most enviable of their number--left his
home for the new life in no enviable frame of mind.

For some months after his departure Almira fairly lived with the invalid
mother, and was faithful both to her and to the absent lover. Not a day
passed without her spending hours with the widow and discoursing on the
perfections of the absent one. Old Quimby, a hard-fisted, hard-headed
old democrat, had made no objection to the engagement, remarking that if
'twan't Davies 'twould be somebody else, and seeing as he was the
smartest lad at farming and schooling, and that it would be four years
anyhow, why, there was no call for him to worry. Then Urbana built a
bigger school-house and got a new teacher, and for two years saw naught
of Percy Davies. Property increasing in value, another slice of the
homestead lot had been sold, and with economy the widow could be
comfortable on her little income; but it was not long before the
gossips, dropping in to cheer her up a bit, began to tell of the swains
who were making eyes at 'Mira, and then of 'Mira's growing consciousness
of her charms and fascinations. The second year of Percy's absence there
could be no doubt that three or four bucolical hearts were turned on her
account. Had there been just one devotee the absent lover's claims might
have been endangered, but there being several she was content in a
placid cowlike way in their attentions, and became less devoted to
mamma. With the second summer, however, Percy came home on cadet
furlough. The slight stoop was gone. An erect, martial carriage and
quick, springy step had replaced the somewhat plodding gait of the
school and farm. The sprouting beard and whiskers had vanished, and a
stiff moustache, which soon began to curl and twist becomingly, adorned
his upper lip. The "store clothes" of the Western town long since cast
aside, Davies appeared in stylish and trim-fitting civilian dress, but
resolutely declined all appeals to wear--except for mother's eyes--the
uniform of his famous corps. When he went on sunshiny Sundays to the
church that seemed hallowed to his father's memory, the spotless white
trousers and natty sack coat of dark-blue flannel were, however, so
military in their effect as to create, despite himself, almost the
effect of regimentals. Then he had acquired already an air and manner, a
polish that distinguished him at once above his fellow-townsmen, and
Almira's wavering allegiance gave place to new romance and fervor. The
old flame had found too little breath in his earnest, honest letters to
keep it alive. As for him, though he had belonged to what was termed the
"bachelor gang" at the Point and mingled but little in ladies' society,
he was a close observer, and Percy Davies saw at a glance that though
more radiant in her rustic beauty than before, more appealing to the
senses in the flush of her health and unconscious grace, there was still
something besides the fashion of her gown that differed widely from the
beauties who thronged the gravelled walks, the shady groves, the tented
field of the national military academy. The swains of the winter gone by
were less in evidence now, and it pleased her anyhow during the two
months of his home stay to forget them one and all and cling only to
him. Changes came in the next two years--and trouble. Old Quimby married
again. Almira's home-life became unhappy. Quarrels ensued between the
new wife and the children. Reproaches fell from the lips of the failing
widow because of Almira's tacit acceptance of the devotions of young Mr.
Powlett, son of the resident physician of the sanitarium that was now
bringing so many patients to Urbana. A handsome, dare-devil sort of boy
was Powlett, who speedily cut out all the local beaux at the parties and
picnics which filled the summer of '75. A beautiful dancer was he, and
taught Almira to waltz and "glide" in a style never before seen in
Urbana, and that other couples first derided, then envied, then vainly
strove to imitate. That Urbana censors should go to the widow with
invidious comment upon Almira's misbehavior was a matter of course, and
that the widow should transmit their tales, not entirely without
embellishment and reproof, was only to be expected. Almira accepted both
with ill grace, was moved to tears and protest. She couldn't help it if
people admired her and liked to dance and walk and talk with her. She
must either submit to it or shut herself up and mope and not go out at
all. She thought Mrs. Davies most unjust, but she did not promise to
amend. Then the widow, finding Almira obdurate, was moved to write to
Percy advising him that he should caution her, who was only
light-hearted and thoughtless, and, to the widow's surprise, Percy
refused. He gravely wrote that Almira was but a child when she engaged
herself to him. She had seen nothing of the world or of other men, and
it was a matter he would not interfere with, and one that he desired his
mother to leave alone. This was simply incomprehensible. Urbana was very
gay that autumn and early winter. The sanitarium was the means of
bringing business to town, and a number of new stores were opened, and
new young men came to tend the counter and swell the parties, and still
young Powlett held supremacy, and everybody began to say that the cadet
was cut out, and Almira Quimby had gone over heart and soul to the new
claimant, when there came a cataclysm,--a scandal at the sanitarium, a
stir at the Palace Hotel, Urbana's new hostelry, the arrest of a
recently discharged patient by the name of Brannan, an afflicted young
man with what was described as an unconquerable mania for drink, and the
sudden disappearance of young Powlett. There was investigation and more
scandal. It transpired that this young Adonis had abused his father's
trust to the extent of smuggling liquor to certain patients and of
heaven only knew what else. Dr. Powlett resigned, crushed and
humiliated. Lawyers came and bailed out the other unfortunate, of whom
it soon was rumored that he was Almira Quimby's own cousin, the son of
her rich city aunt, and that was the reason the lawyers and not the
relatives came. It was presently established that young Brannan was more
sinned against than sinning, and the holidays opened, with a fearful gap
in Urbana, for Almira's devoted lover, to the comfort of every
right-thinking maid and swain in Sangamon society, had fled, no one knew

Two weeks later the Widow Davies lay at death's door. Her son was
telegraphed for, and came. His leave was for only one week,--even that a
most unusual concession, granted only because of his unimpeachable
conduct and his safe though not high standing in scholarship. His coming
seemed to give new life to the mother, and Almira vied with him in
attention and devotion. Urbana took it much to heart that after her
months of monopoly of Mr. Powlett, of whom the most damaging and
dreadful things were now told, she should so calmly and complacently
resume her apparent sway over this martial and dignified and superior
sort of person, the widow's son. Urbana fully meant that his eyes should
be opened just so soon as the mother's were closed. But Urbana found
that luck was dead against it. The widow began to mend,--the son it was
who was suddenly prostrated on the eve of his return to the Point.

Leaving Almira at her father's door one night after seeing her safely
home, Davies was found lying in the high-road, senseless, an hour later,
and never, said Urbana, knew what hit him. Concussion of the brain was
feared, for he had evidently been assaulted in the dark from behind and
felled to earth by blows of some heavy, blunt instrument. Robbery was
evidently the motive, for his little store of money and the beautiful
and costly watch presented to his father at the close of the war were
gone. Almira had two patients now, and devotedly she attended them. When
in a fortnight Percy declared he must return, and did return to pass his
midwinter examination, she wore at last an engagement ring. Urbana did
not know that he had offered--and she had refused--freedom. Urbana did
not know that she declared she loved him as she never did before, and as
she never had another. Urbana resented it that he who was so soon to
occupy the exalted station of an officer of the regular army, and the
princely salary of something over a thousand dollars a year "with all
expenses paid,"--double the sum enjoyed by the head salesman of Miller &
Crofts,--should be so utterly deluded as to the frivolous character of
his betrothed, and means were taken to enlighten him. Anonymous letters
came to Cadet Davies of the graduating class, which that grave and
reverend senior committed, not to memory, but to flames. Whatever she
had been before his visit and mishap, Almira was all devotion now. In
May he wrote to her gravely and affectionately, bidding her remember
that he always felt that she had been pledged to him when too young to
know her own mind, that his must needs be a life of self-denial,
privation, and danger, that he must live with the utmost economy
consistent with his position as an officer, because his mother's comfort
must be a sacred charge so long as she lived, and that it might be years
before he could see his way to asking any woman to come and share his
lot. All this he had conscientiously explained to her before, and she
had met it with tears and reproaches. She could help him live
economically. They could sell the homestead and take mother to live with
them. She would welcome the day when she could leave her father's roof,
now no longer a home to her. She knew it must be that he was tiring of
her,--that he had met some proud lady in the East, and his poor little
village maid was forgotten, etc. Now, in answer to this last letter,
virtually proffering release if she so desired, her response was
vehement. He would kill her with his cruelty and coldness. She had no
hope or ambition other than to share his lot, however humble. To be her
noble soldier, her hero Percy's bride, would be her heaven, and neither
gold nor grandeur nor princely mansion could tempt her from his side,
and she would welcome the grave if he proved false to her. It was all
the high-flown, emotional, melodramatic trash to be expected of an
ill-balanced girl whose pretty head was stuffed with the romance of the
country post-office type, and Davies sighed heavily as he read.

He had planned to visit an old friend of his father's and see something
of New York harbor and city before turning his back on the East. Never
yet had he set foot in Gotham, and as it would be years before
opportunity might again be afforded him, he had weighed it all pro and
con, and decided that Dr. Iverson's advice and invitation should be
accepted. He would go with his classmates, spend the last evening with
them, and join the reverend doctor on the morrow. His mother, even in
her invalided state, urged that he should do so, but Almira heard the
plan with fresh outburst of tears. There was to be a grand picnic of
all the beaux and belles of Urbana on the 18th. She had counted on
having her soldier lover in attendance on that occasion. She had told
him of it, and that was enough. She had declined all other invitations,
saying that Mr. Davies was to hasten thither the moment the graduating
exercises were over, and now to think of the triumph and malicious
delight of the other girls was intolerable. Her lover should fly to her
like homing-pigeon the instant he was released from prison. It was
tantamount to treason that he should purpose anything else. Almira
fretted herself into a fever. She wrote one long letter to the recreant
Parson, and her sister Be_ay_trice, as they called her, followed it up
with another still more alarming. Then, as he did not wire instant
submission, the telegram was sent. Old Quimby was on the platform at the
Urbana station as Davies sprang from the train. "Nothing much," said he,
in response to the young man's eager inquiry. "Some dam girl nonsense
she and Bee have cooked up between them. When they ain't devilling the
life out of their step-mother they're worrying somebody else. Oh,
yes!--'course the doctor's been humbugging for a week,--too glad to get
a chance of shovin' in a bill."

Davies went gravely up the sunny street to his mother's home,--a meeting
that served to chase away the clouds, and then an hour later to Almira's
bower. Bee ushered him into a pretty room whose windows were overhung
with honeysuckle and pink chintz, and there in a great old-fashioned
rocking-chair reclined the lovely invalid, who greeted him with
outstretched arms and rapturous cry, and who was sufficiently restored
to exhibit him at the Sunday-school picnic as originally planned. So far
as she was concerned, all went blithely as a marriage-bell until the
morning of July 5, when there came the fearful news of the massacre of
General Custer and his troops at the hands of the Sioux. That evening
the city papers said all officers on leave were hurrying to their
regiments, that reinforcements were being pushed to the front, that
recruits were needed at once; and the next day, followed by a mother's
prayers and a maiden's unavailing protest, Percy Davies was gone. Just
as his father did in '61, leaving all to pursue the path of duty, the
young soldier, though not yet commissioned, sped to the nearest army
post, and joined the first command _en route_ for the field.


In the hot July sunshine, up the long vista of the street the flags hung
drooping, every one, with a single exception, at half staff. Over the
building where hearts were heaviest the colors soared highest; the
general commanding, until ordered from Washington, being debarred a
manifestation of mourning which the sovereign citizen adopts as a matter
of course. It was bitter disaster that had befallen the national arms
and involved so popular a commander with scores of his gallant men; the
stars and stripes that had been saluted all over town in honor of the
ever-glorious Fourth were now set at mid-height or draped with black.
The crowds that had gathered about the newspaper offices and department
head-quarters all the previous day were scattered, in the conviction
that little remained to be told, but there was a gathering at the
railway station to bid adieu to the battalion of infantry from the
neighboring fort, leaving by special train for the seat of war. They had
cheered the dusty fatigue uniforms as the cars rolled away, and many a
young fellow would gladly have gone with the boys in blue could he have
faced the social ban which a misguided public has established against
its most loyal servants, holding enlistment in the regular army as
virtual admission of general worthlessness. And now the crowds still
lingered under the glass roof of the big passenger shed, for word had
gone out that another train coming across the bridge was loaded with
more troops, and there was a fascination in watching these prospective
victims of the stake and scalping-knife. It had been a fierce campaign
thus far, and one in which the losses and vicissitudes both (there are
no honors to speak of) had been borne principally by the cavalry, but
now the "doughboys" with their "long toms" were being pushed to the
front. "Wait till Emma Jane gets her eye on ould Squattin' Bull," said
an Irish private, patting the butt of his rifle, as with head and
shoulders half-way out of the car window he confidentially addressed the
crowd. "It'll be the last spache he'll ever ax to hear."

"That'll do there, Moriarty; get that gun inside," said a lieutenant,
briefly. And as Moriarty obeyed, with a grin and wink at the throng, the
laugh and cheer that went up were evidently for Private Pat and not for
his superior. It is the smiling face, not official gravity, that wins
the great heart of the people. The band which had headed the column on
the march in from the post, but was not to accompany it to the field,
was still waiting to give the next comers a fitting "send off." Two or
three staff officers in civilian dress stood in earnest talk with the
superintendent of the railway, a knot of curious citizens surrounding
them, eager to pick up any point with reference to the troops or their
transportation. Expectant eyes were cast towards the east where the
towers of the great bridge loomed in the shimmer and glare of the hot
noontide. "She ought to be here now," said the railway-man with an
impatient snap of his watch-case. "What keeps No. 5, Gus?" he asked of
an assistant hurrying by.

The man hauled up short and touched his hat. "This just came at the
train-despatcher's office, sir," said he, as he handed up a slip of
paper, which the superintendent quickly read, a queer look coming into
his face as he did so.

"Hu-m-m, gentlemen. This is something _you_'ll have to straighten out.
It doesn't seem to be in my line." And he handed the paper to Major
Ludlum, chief quartermaster of the department, who in turn read it, his
eyes filling with grave concern.

"Recruits on No. 5 broke loose at Bluff Siding,--drunk--raiding the
saloon. Can't get 'em on train again. Can guards or police be sent?" It
was signed by the conductor.

"Well," said Ludlum, disgustedly, "we might have known that would
happen. The idea of sending three car-loads of raw recruits with only
one officer, and that one old Muffet. It's tempting Providence."

"Why, I thought he had a lieutenant with him. Somebody said so at the
office this morning," said the department engineer officer.

"Not even a lieutenant,--a cadet, if you like; graduated not a month
ago,--not yet commissioned. Some young cub just out of school, with
about as much idea how to handle drunken recruits as I have of dressing
a doll. Home on graduating leave and thought it his duty to volunteer is
all I can make out of it."

"Well, bully for him!" spoke up the superintendent. "The boy's got the
right stuff in him if that's the case."

"What's his name?" asked the engineer officer. "I knew most of this
year's class when I was there on duty."

"Davies," said the quartermaster, consulting a notebook. "Remember him?"

"Why,--yes,--vaguely. He was not in the section I had charge of," said
Captain Eustis. "One of the last men to attract attention,--Parson
Davies they called him, I believe. He was one of the Bible-class. Don't
think anybody knew him outside of the Sunday-school."

"No wonder the recruits jumped the traces with no one but old Muffet and
a parson," said the quartermaster, disdainfully. "Now the question is,
what's to be done? Somebody's got to go over and pull them out of the

The situation was indeed serious. Many of the commands now suddenly
ordered to take the field were so short of men that, after the manner of
doing things in the 70's, a detachment of undrilled recruits, one
hundred and eighty strong, was hurriedly tumbled aboard the cars at the
cavalry depot on the Mississippi, while others were shipped from the far
East for the Foot. Only one officer--a semi-invalided old trooper--could
be spared from Jefferson Barracks to accompany the batch. There was no
time to wait, and just an hour before the detachment started there
arrived at the office of the depot commander a tall, slim, solemn young
man in brand-new fatigue uniform,--that of the infantry,--who introduced
himself as Mr. Davies of the graduating class, who said he was not yet
assigned to a regiment, but having read that all officers were hastening
to join their commands before they got beyond communication in the
Indian country, thought it possible that he might be assigned to some
company in the field and didn't wish to be left behind. That night he
was seeing his first service. Colonel Cooper, the post commander, shook
him by the hand and presented him to old Muffet, who was in a devil of a
stew and glad of professional help, and then wired on ahead to the
general commanding across the Missouri, or to his representatives at
head-quarters,--he being in the field. All went well enough early in the
night, but, towards morning, whiskey had been smuggled aboard in
sufficient quantity to start the devil of mischief, and finally, at
Bluff Siding, just before reaching the Missouri bridge, overpowering the
unarmed and perhaps sympathetic sentries at the car doors, and defying
the orders of their sergeants, the half-drunken crowd swarmed out and
made a swoop upon a saloon across the side-track. In less time than it
takes to tell it every cubic foot of space of the bar-room was packed
with rioting humanity in grimy blue flannel. The proprietor, who had
stood his ground at the instant of initial impact, was now doubled up
underneath the counter; his shrieking family--Hibernians all, and
somewhat used to war's alarms, though hardly to the sight of raiding
boys in blue--had taken refuge in the privacy of their own apartments
above and behind the saloon itself, while within the reeking
establishment pandemonium had broken loose. Bottles, glasses, and raw
liquor were liberally besprinkling the heads and shoulders of the
surging throng. A brawny Irishman, mad with the joy of unlimited riot
and whiskey, was on top of the counter impartially cracking the heads of
all men within reach with the blows of a big wooden bung-starter. Four
or five who had found the trapdoor leading presumably to the supplies in
the cellar were furiously fighting back the crowd so as to admit of
their raising it and forcing a passage down the wooden flight. Poor
Muffet, vainly pleading and swearing, was scouting on the outskirts of
the crowd about the door-way, occasionally turning and shrieking orders
to some bewildered lance sergeant to find the lieutenant and tell him he
must get in there and do something, but the lieutenant was nowhere to be
seen. At a respectful distance the neighbors were looking curiously on,
half a dozen roustabouts from the wharf-boat moored under the bank, a
little batch of railway employés, a number of slatternly women, not
entirely unsympathetic, and perhaps half a dozen hands from a
neighboring saw-mill, but all these, combined with the townsfolk
hurrying to the scene, would have been powerless as opposed to the
sixscore drink-maddened "toughs." Of the recruits, perhaps a dozen had
remained in the cars; of their non-commissioned officers, perhaps half a
dozen were trying to do something, but having no directing head or hand,
accomplishing little. It looked as though nothing but the bursting
asunder of that ramshackle building would liberate its human charge, for
even those who, battered, bleeding, and suffocated, would gladly have
escaped into outer air, were packed in, sardine-like, and incapable of
self-extrication. To the appeal of the conductor that he should regain
control of his men and prevent destruction of property, the luckless
Muffet plaintively responded, "My God, what can I do? I've done my best,
and nobody else has done anything. The only officer I've got has
deserted me."

But even as he spoke, accompanied by a jutting and hissing and spraying,
by outburst of yells, jeers, maudlin laughter, there came sudden
vomiting forth of drenched and dripping forms. Over the heads of the
throng within, into the hot faces of the throng without the double door,
hurling them back from the battered entrance in sudden panic, a powerful
stream of cold water, shooting from unseen nozzle, broke up and
demoralized the drunken barrier. Skilfully directed into the heart of
the crowd at the door-way, then into the ruck and tumult within, it
first cleared a passage, then, torrent-like, swept away into it,
tumbling and swearing and cursing, but going, the last able-bodied
invader of saloon sanctity, bestowing upon its foul interior the first
thorough washing it ever received, driving the despoilers before it with
the force of a battering-ram, yet even then, unsatisfied, following up
its victory. With perhaps half a dozen soldiers and as many mill-hands
hauling on the slack of the hose behind him, through a north window came
the tall, slender, serious-faced person of Mr. Davies, a laughing young
lance corporal manning the butt with him, and, aiming low and driving
discipline and punishment at the rate of a gallon a second, _a
posteriori_, at the now drenched and scattering mob, and shouting, "Back
to the train! Back to your seats!" never did they cease their deluge
until the last laggard capable of locomotion took shelter within the
cars. Muffet, recoiling in time to escape both rush of men and muddy
water, stood shouting confirmatory orders from the platform the while.
Many a mob will face the shock of charging steel and hissing lead that
melts away before ridicule and squirted water. The _emeute_ was ended
long before the police arrived, and Muffet had regained some measure of
his accustomed presence of mind. "Oh, we simply manned the saw-mill
hose," said he, in complacent acknowledgment of the congratulation of
the staff officials first to meet him. "It didn't take long to souse
them to their sober senses."

Indeed, the three car-loads of dripping and bedraggled humanity, meekly
side-tracked under the guarding bayonets of the one company of infantry
left at the fort, found not a sympathetic eye among the lookers-on. An
ambulance had carted off to the hospital four or five, whose battered
skulls bore witness to the hammering powers of big Milligan and his
bung-starter. That redoubtable giant himself, weak from the shock of
having involuntarily gulped more water in a second than ever before he
had swallowed in weeks, was flattened out in a baggage-car. Two more of
the arriving reinforcements failed to appear to the public eye at the
scene of congratulation, and, as sometimes happens in even so well
regulated a family as our little army, these were the two who most
deserved any honors that were being bestowed,--Mr. Davies and his
assistant pipeman.

Just as the last prostrate victim of that powerful combination--rum and
riot--had performed the frog's march to the baggage-car, the raving
saloon-keeper had been instructed to send his bill of damages to the
chief quartermaster across the bridge, the conductor had signalled "Go
ahead," and the young officer, ruefully scanning the wreck of his new
fatigue uniform, was clambering on the platform of the sleeper, when he
saw that the blood was dripping from the corporal's hand, despite the
big handkerchief wrapped about it.

"Come in here, corporal," said he. "Let me look at that. How did it
happen?" And he led the way into the men's toilet-room of the sleeper.

"I must have cut it with some of that broken glass at the window," was
the answer.

He was paling now, drooping evidently from loss of blood. Quickly Mr.
Davies unrolled the bandage, and there, beside a little jagged gash,
disclosed a deep cut from which the blood was oozing. "Why, man," said
he, "that's as clean as though done with a razor. Did any one try to
knife you?"

But the soldier made no answer. He sank limp upon a seat. Two civilian
travellers, in prompt sympathy, tendered flasks, and a stiff cup of
brandy brought back some vestige of the flitting color. Then a young
lady came forward from the interior of the car. "Please let me help
you," she said. "My father was a surgeon and I know something about
these wounds." Davies gratefully gave way to her, and found himself
watching the swift, skilful touch of her slender white hands as she bent
over the work. It was finished in a minute, and then with calm decision
the girl spoke again. "I will take him back to our section. He needs
quiet for a while," said she, standing erect now and addressing herself
to Mr. Davies, and rather pointedly ignoring the younger civilian, whose
interjected remarks fell upon ears that were dainty but deaf. "I am with
Mrs. Cranston," said she, "whose husband is among the wounded. Do you
know him?--Captain Cranston?"

"Only by reputation," answered Davies, raising his cap. "You are very
good to our men. Go with this young lady, corporal. I'll come as soon as
I can wash my hands."

Hardly waiting, however, for his reply, the girl had passed her hand
underneath the soldier's arm and led him rearwards as the train slowly
rounded the long curve to the bridge embankment. Davies slipped out of
his sack coat and plunged his hands in the basin. "Would you mind
pumping for me?" he said to the nearest civilian, who with his companion
stood gazing admiringly after the girl. "My hands are covered with that
poor fellow's blood."

"Certainly," was the prompt answer, as one of them grasped the
nickel-plated lever. The other and younger man turned to the ice-water
tank, rinsed the tumbler that had just been used to such good purpose,
poured out another stiff load of spirits, and with confident kindliness
held it out to the young officer.

"Thank you," said Davies, shaking his head, "I never use it."

"You don't?" was the surprised answer. "Why, I thought all army officers

"That seems to be the general idea," was the quiet answer. "Much more
general than the practice, I hope. Thank you," he continued, as, drying
his hands, he quickly donned his coat and went on through the car. They
watched him a moment as he was presented to the elder of the two ladies,
one whose face, though still young, bore traces of grief and tears and
anxiety. They saw her look up and clasp his proffered hand, evidently
glad to meet one of her husband's cloth.

"Now, if I'd only known about her husband's being one of the wounded, I
could have rung in there all right," said the younger of the two
travellers. "I haven't seen a prettier girl in all my wanderings,--but
she stood me off even on a dodge I never knew to fail."

"You were too transparent, so to speak, Willett," said the elder. "She
couldn't help seeing you were trying to scrape acquaintance. All young
girls don't take to frivolity any more than all officers to whiskey."

Willett, nettled at this palpable hit, spoke resentfully. "Oh, I dare
say they'd make a good team,--one's a prude and the other a prig."

"Perhaps not a very bad team, as you put it, my boy," was the answer, as
the elder thoughtfully regarded the two now in earnest conversation.
"But a girl who won't flirt isn't necessarily a prude, nor a man who
won't drink a prig. If I were marrying again, I should be glad of a girl
like that for a wife. If I were soldiering again, I'd like that boy for
a sub."

And just before leaving the train on its arrival at the Omaha station
the speaker went to Davies and held out his hand. "Lieutenant," said he,
"my name is Langston. I met and knew a number of West Pointers during
the war, and I am glad to have met you. If ever I can be of service to
you in my way,--and my duties carry me out here on the frontier very
often,--let me know."

Never dreaming how it might be needed, Davies accepted the proffer of
services with all that the proffer implied.


Guarded by a detachment of veteran infantry, the recruits so turbulent
at noon were spiritless now in every sense of the word. Turning over his
charge, as well as his account of their conduct and of his own, to the
commander of the escort, Captain Muffet remained at department
head-quarters long enough to impress the officials thereat on duty with
his version of the riot at Bluff Siding,--its inciting cause and its
incisive cure. Then he went back to the cavalry depot and presumably
improved on his initial effort. The story of Muffet's wild ride with the
raw recruits and Muffet's method of quelling a mob was often told that
summer at the rear long after Lieutenant Davies and the recruits in
question had gone to the front and were lost to all communication. The
officer who went in command from Omaha was an expert. He established a
sergeant's guard in each recruit car, with orders to flatten out the
first man who left his seat, rap every head that showed outside a window
when the train stopped, and so turned over the one hundred and
seventy-two that were turned over to him a sick and subdued lot by the
time they reached Fort Sanders the following afternoon. "This is Mr.
Davies,--Lieutenant Davies,--just graduated,--who's to go on with 'em,"
said he to the commanding officer of that old army post, adding for his
private ear, "He's a tenderfoot and doesn't know anything but moral
suasion." To this conclusion Captain Tibbetts has been impelled by what
he had heard as well as by the events of the night. Mr. Davies, of whom
he knew nothing except what Muffet had to say, having been told that he
needn't bother about the men any more, had nevertheless bothered about
them, three or four at least, very much,--Lance Corporal Brannan to
begin with, who was slashed in the hand, and a couple of sorely battered
penitents in the middle car among them. No surgeon being with the
detachment, Davies had begged permission towards evening to fetch these
poor fellows back to the sleeper, where their hurts could be cleaned and
bandaged. Tibbetts said no, and two hours later yes. Meantime he had met
the ladies, one of whom, the elder, exhausted by the sleeplessness and
anxiety of forty-eight hours, was comforted by the despatch brought her
at Omaha to the effect that her husband was being sent in by easy stages
to Fort Fetterman, where she could meet and nurse him, and she was now
finally and peacefully sleeping in her berth. The other, a slender,
graceful girl, with very soft dark eyes and grave, sweet, mobile face,
who sat and fanned Mrs. Cranston during the heat of the afternoon, had
next surprised the captain by re-dressing the ugly wound in the young
corporal's hand. Tibbetts knew Captain Cranston well by reputation. He
was one of the finest troop commanders of the cavalry arm, but Tibbetts
had never before met Mrs. Cranston and her companion now consigned to
his care.

"You are well taught in first aid to the wounded," he said. "Where did
you learn?"

"My father was Dr. Loomis, of the army," she answered, simply. "He
taught me when I was quite a child. He died, as I think perhaps you

"We all knew him, Miss Loomis," was the instant reply. "Even those who
never met him, personally, knew him as I did,--for his devotion to our
poor fellows in the fever epidemic. And your mother?"

"Mother has been dead for years. I am alone now, but for my cousin
Margaret,--Mrs. Cranston. I am her companion."

And the captain, himself aging in the service, and with daughters who
might be left as was this girl,--penniless,--understood, and bowed in
silent sympathy. It was the sight of the gash in Brannan's fist that
called him back to the business before him.

"How did you get that?" he asked, with professional brevity, little
liking it--soldier bred as he was--that one of the new flock should thus
be parcelled out from his fellows and transported in a Pullman.

"Climbing through the window of the saloon I--cut it, sir," was the

"Yes--_there_ perhaps," said Tibbetts, indicating the smaller gash, "but
this one,--clean cut like a knife. Whose knife?"

Whereat Brannan looked confused and troubled. "I don't know, sir," he
finally said.

"I believe you do know, and that you got it in that saloon row. A pretty
thing for a man like you to be mixed in."

Whereat Brannan reddened still more, and looked as though he wanted to
speak yet feared to say. It was Miss Loomis who promptly took the word.

"Indeed, captain, you don't understand. He was ordered in. He was
handling the hose pipe--the very first--with Mr. Davies." And here she
turned as though to seek the other pipeman, while Tibbetts
effusively--impulsively--began to make amends.

"Well--well--well," said he. "That's a totally different matter. You got
your wound in a good cause, sir, and if I could find out who tried to
knife you, he'd repent it this night. Are you sure you don't know?"

"I don't think anybody tried to cut me, sir," was the answer, after a

"Didn't you see anybody with a knife?"

But this Brannan wouldn't answer, and the captain, after a moment's
thought, went lurching through the grimy, swaying cars, hunted up the
two damaged recruits and gruffly bade them follow him. Davies looked up
gratefully as they entered the sleeping-car, but the captain did not
notice him. "I have reconsidered," said he, "and brought these patients
to you, Miss Loomis," then turned abruptly away. It was the subaltern
who aided, and then who thanked the skilful, light-handed nurse, for the
poor fellows seemed both abashed and humbled. One of them, looking
furtively about, had caught sight of Brannan, sitting alone in a section
with his bandaged hand. Quick glance of recognition was exchanged. There
was an instant of question in the new-comer's eye. It was answered by
the corporal, who raised two fingers to his compressed lips one second,
then let them fall. But Davies saw,--saw also that when told by the
captain they might remain there in the roomier, cooler sleeper for a
time, the younger and more intelligent-looking of the two dropped into
the seat by Brannan's side. They chatted in low tone together, as the
night came on, their lips moving and their ears attent even though their
heads were turned apart,--communing as men commune who do not wish to be
thought in conversation.

"We shall have supper at Grand Island," said the captain, presently,
"and coffee will be sent through the cars for the men. If you will
escort Mrs. Cranston and Miss Loomis, Mr. Davies, my sergeants will look
after the command." And Mr. Davies being subordinate and just out of
four years' training in which no man may hesitate to do just as a
superior may bid, obeyed his instructions, not unwilling, even though
smarting under vague sense of being given to understand he was of no
military use.

Re-entering the car, refreshed after a hearty supper, and seeing his
fair charges to their section, Mr. Davies caught sight of his invalids
still seated where he had left them, and looking weak and hungry.

"Did they bring you no coffee? Have you had no supper?" he asked. And,
as a shake of the head was sole answer, he sallied forth. Appealing to
the sergeant in charge of the distribution of the cooked rations, he was
favored with the brief reply, "The captain didn't give me no orders."
Moreover, there didn't seem to be anything left. The captain was still
leisurely finishing his own supper, after having got the coffee started
on the train. The huge caldrons used for the purpose were already being
lifted off the cars, empty. Every drop had been spilled or swallowed by
the hungry and thirsty crowd. With quick decision Davies stepped to the
lunch-counter, loaded up with huge frontier sandwiches, doughnuts, and
hard-boiled eggs, and bade the manager draw a jug full of coffee and get
it, with some cups, milk, and sugar, on the sleeper at once. He came
forth laden, the Pullman porter with him, as the conductor was trolling,
"All aboard." Down the platform he went with the eyes of half the blue
coats on the cars upon him, and soldiers refreshed by food and coffee
are in more receptive mood than when dejected by hunger. Some men in the
third car who had heard his eager queries of the commissary sergeant
knew for whom those supplies were meant, others did not, and of these
latter one jocular and untutored Patlander sang out, "Bully for the
leftenint; 'tis he that knows how to look out for number wan." Whereat
there came furious shouts of "Shame!" "Shut up!" and inelegant and
opprobrious epithets, all at the expense of the impetuous son of Erin
who had spoken too soon. Some one whacked his empty head with an equally
empty canteen and called him a Yap. Some one else, farther back, sang
out, "Three cheers for the lieutenant," and stentorian authority in
chevrons bellowed "Silence there, fore and aft!" and then, when instant
hush and awe rewarded the mandate, followed up the order with the
military Milesianism, "Youse fellers wants to keep your mouths shut
barrin' you're atin'." The wounded in the Pullman ate and drank
gratefully and heartily at the lieutenant's expense, and these are
matters the rank and file remember. Lance Corporal Brannan, made
comfortable for the night in the sleeper, had a few murmured words with
the dark-eyed and more intelligent-looking of the two recruits before
they were remanded to their own car for the night, where they went, and,
after the manner of their kind, one of them bragged not a little over
the bully supper they had had with the lieutenant. "Enjoy it while you
can, me bucks," was the caustic comment of a fellow-recruit who had all
the ear-marks and none of the credentials of previous service about him.
"It's the last of that sort of hobnobbing you'll ever see."

For upwards of an hour during the night, while Mrs. Cranston lay
peacefully sleeping, Mr. Davies and Miss Loomis sat in conversation in
the opposite section. Tibbetts, who would fain have enjoyed such a
privilege, found no opportunity. Somewhere towards ten o'clock he came
quickly in. Davies read official matter in the captain's manner as he
approached the section, and rising, stood attention, cadet-like, when

"Mr. Davies, while I think everything will go quietly with those
fellows from this on, I wish to take all necessary precautions. I will
divide the night with you. After two o'clock I wish you to go through
the cars once every two hours and see that the recruits are quiet and
the guard alert, also to step outside to the platform when we stop at
stations. Better turn in now and get what sleep you can."

But though promptly at two o'clock the young officer aroused the
captain, who was dozing in the smoking-room, he himself had had little
sleep. The events of the day, the novelty of his position, the desire to
see something of the strange, half-settled land so recently the
roaming-ground of Indian and buffalo through which they were steadily
rolling, and which lay outspread, weird and ghostly, in the summer
moonlight,--these and thoughts of home and the rapidly nearing
possibilities of frontier warfare, all combined to make him wakeful. He
was only getting sleepy when he should have been wide awake. Captain
Tibbetts was an old campaigner and awoke from his doze with a start,
shook himself together, and said he'd take a turn through the car before
undressing for the night. In a moment or two he returned, the first
sergeant with him, and this faithful old soldier was rewarded by a long
pull from the captain's canteen before returning to the recruit car.

"Do you know anything about that young fellow,--ever meet him before?"
said Tibbetts, indicating with a nod the recruit corporal, who, with a
pillow under his head and his feet on the opposite seat, was now curled
up in slumber.

"No, sir," answered Davies.

"Well, he's a man of good education and family, if I'm not mistaken. I'm
told he's been on duty as clerk at the depot, and 'twas he who made out
the rolls. It will be long before he can write again. Better leave him
at Sanders." As he spoke the captain was holding out the well-filled
flask in one hand, the cup in the other. Davies took neither. "Won't you
have a nip?" asked the senior. "It'll help you to keep awake."

"Thank you, sir, I never have, and don't care to begin."

Tibbetts began screwing on the cap, looking his man over as he did so.

"I believe you're right," said he, "and if I were to begin over again
I'd do the same. But we were all taught the other way fifteen years
ago." He paused as though he half wanted to say more, but finally turned
away and disappeared in his section.

Obedient to his instructions, Davies made frequent tours through the
cars, and scouted the outside of the train at every stop. The night
passed, however, in perfect peace. The dawn came hours before the train
was due at Sidney, where coffee was again to be served. Only one
incident occurred to give him food for new thought. Towards four o'clock
he returned to the sleeper after an absence of some ten minutes, just as
the train pulled slowly away from one of those little prairie stations,
and as he entered the dimly-lighted aisle he saw that Brannan was not in
his place. Standing at Mrs. Cranston's section farther on, a little
phial and medicine-glass in her hand, her dark hair falling in heavy
braids down her back, attired in a loose, warm wrapper, was Miss Loomis,
calm, yet evidently anxious. Beyond her hovered Brannan, holding the
captain's flask.

"What is it?" asked Davies. "Can I be of assistance?"

"Mrs. Cranston woke up in some pain," was the answer. "I know just what
to do for her. Thank you, corporal, I believe we won't need the
flask.--He thought I needed it," said she, turning to Davies. And
Brannan, going to the captain's section, slipped his prize back into the
little russet leather satchel and shoved it underneath the berth. Davies
looked at him in some surprise, but made no comment.

"I am sorry I was not here to help you," said he. "Did you have to wake

"He was awake. A soldier was in here speaking with him when I heard Mrs.
Cranston, just after we stopped at the last station. We were there
several minutes, were we not?"

"Yes, taking on water; but Captain Tibbetts gave orders that no man
should leave his car. Who was the man who came in here, corporal?" asked
he of Brannan.

"I--I couldn't give his name, sir," was the answer, in evident
embarrassment. "He came in just the minute the lieutenant got off at the
station. He was only in here a few seconds, sir."

"What did he want?" asked Davies.

"He--wanted something of the captain, sir, but I told him the captain
was asleep."

Davies hastened through the passage and across the jolting platform to
the next car ahead.

"Sergeant," said he, "what man went through here into the sleeper when
we stopped last station?"

"No man, sir," said the non-commissioned officer, stoutly.

"But there must have been--or no, perhaps he could have run along the
left side of the train from a forward car and jumped on the platform. I
didn't think of that. Did you see or hear no one?"

"I heard some one on the platform of the sleeper, sir, but I thought it
was the lieutenant."

Going forward Davies met with no better success. The guard at each door
was positive no man had gone out. Then, unless there were collusion on
the part of the sentries, he must have slipped through some window, said
Davies to himself. Miss Loomis was still up and rearranging Mrs.
Cranston's pillows when he returned.

"Did you ascertain anything?" she asked.

"Nothing. They all deny any knowledge of such a thing."

"Do you know, I thought there was something strange about it. The man
seemed hurried and excited, talked low and fast, and when Brannan
refused or seemed to refuse what was asked, I heard him say, 'Well,
you'll be a sorry man if you don't.'"

But of this threat Brannan denied all knowledge whatsoever. Davies,
feeling sure that the young soldier was concealing something, decided to
ask no more questions inviting more lies, but to wait and report the
affair to the captain after breakfast. This time the sergeants did not
overlook the lance corporal in the distribution of coffee and rations.
Davies found that Miss Loomis had just finished dressing and bandaging
the wound when he returned to the sleeper shortly after they resumed
the journey. The soldier looked gratefully into her face as he turned
away, and murmured something the young officer could not hear. "Yes, I
understand," said Miss Loomis in reply.

A moment later she accosted him. "I'm going to ask you something that
may sound very strange," she said, and her color heightened and the lids
swept quickly over her eyes, "yet--I believe you won't misunderstand. I
want you to do something--or rather _not_ to do something--for me. You
were going to tell Captain Tibbetts about that affair of last
night,--that other soldier's coming in here, were you not?"

"I certainly was."

"Well--please don't."


A week later, with additional detachments of horse, foot, and recruits,
Mr. Davies found himself in camp on the sandy, sage-covered flats to the
west of old Fort Fetterman. Here, too, were gathered wagons and mules
laden with ammunition and supplies for the big column already in the
field far to the northward. Officers hurrying to the front from leave of
absence which they had promptly relinquished, newspaper correspondents,
packers, teamsters, scouts and would-be scouts, soldiers old and
soldiers new,--it was a strange and motley array, all awaiting the
coming of the cavalry command, which was to be their escort through the
Indian-infested region that lay between them and the main supply camp
beyond Cloud Peak. Between them and the barren slopes to the northward
rolled the swollen Platte, its shallowest fords breast-deep. At rare
intervals, with his life in his hands and his despatches done up in
oil-skin, some solitary courier came galloping down to the opposite bank
and was hauled over by the rope ferry, the only means of dry
communication between the shores. One day, strongly guarded, there
arrived a little procession of ambulances and _travois_, bearing such of
the wounded as could stand such rude transportation,--but this was while
Davies with his recruits was still on his foot tramp through the passes
of the Medicine Bow,--and among these wounded was Captain Cranston, now
comfortably housed in the quarters of a brother officer who was with his
troop at the front, and there Davies found the two ladies, his
companions of the railway ride, duly installed as nurses. Almost the
first question asked by Miss Loomis was about her patient, the lance

"He is here with us," said Davies, "his hand still in a sling. That was
a deep cut and a bad one, but he's a plucky young fellow and declined to
be left behind at Sanders. He tells me, however, that the hospital
steward with us cannot compare in skill with the nurse he had on the

Miss Loomis smiled. "You know I owe that to father," she said. Then,
with quick change of subject, "But I haven't congratulated you on your

"Is it here?--has it come?" he asked, eagerly. "I did not know. What

"To the Eleventh Cavalry,--Captain Cranston's own regiment."

"The Eleventh Cavalry!" he exclaimed, surprise and pleasure in his face.
"I had not hoped for that; and yet----" a shadow falling and constraint
creeping into his tone. "I fear I ought to have gone into the infantry.
I had made every preparation. Where did you hear?"

"About the orders? Why, from Colonel Denton. He came last evening to
call, and we were speaking of you. Haven't you been to see him yet? You
know that's an officer's first duty on coming to a post."

"I came here first," answered Davies. "It seemed most natural. Of course
I was going to call on the commanding officer. Captain Tibbetts said he
would take me as soon as he came up, a little later. I got away earlier,
as I wanted to inquire for my letters, but I missed them after
all,--they had been sent over to camp. Are you sure about my being
assigned to the cavalry?"

"There's no doubt about it. Colonel Denton said instructions came by
telegraph to notify you of your assignment to the Eleventh, and
directing you as having relinquished graduation leave to report to
Colonel Winthrop, now commanding the regiment in the field. Perhaps your
throwing up your leave and seeking instant service had something to do
with your good fortune,--if cavalry is really what you wanted."

"It is certainly what I would most like," he answered; "and yet,--there
were reasons."

She stood there in the door-way in her cool white dress looking so fresh
and dainty and fair to see; her dark eyes had lighted with pleasure at
sight of her friend, and the flush was still on her soft and rounded
cheek. She was noting how his few days of marching and campaigning had
improved him, even at the expense of a sensitive complexion. Mr.
Davies's nose was peeling, as a result of a week's exposure to
blistering Wyoming suns, his eyes were red-rimmed too, in tribute to
alkali dust and water. The gloss was gone from his trim fatigue dress, a
red silk handkerchief had replaced the white starched collar, and a soft
drab felt hat the natty forage-cap. But he looked the more soldierly and
serviceable if less trim, and being tall, spare, and athletic, if not
particularly handsome, Mr. Davies was at least as presentable as the
average of his fellows now thronging the post, for bristling beards and
frontier scouting-dress banish all vestige of dandyism. But if she liked
him still better now that the week had wrought its changes, what could
be said of his impressions? Attractive as she had appeared in the grime
and dust and heat of the railway car, now in that dainty gown of cool
white lawn, open at the rounded throat, she saw with woman's unerring
eye the unspoken approval if not open admiration in his face. Not yet
nineteen, she had lived a busy, earnest, thoughtful life. The Cranstons
had known her from early maidenhood. She was a child in the Southern
garrison in the days of the great epidemic, when the young captain owed
his life to the doctor's skill and assiduous care. It was this that led
to the deep friendship between the two men, and to Cranston's assuming
the duties of guardian and protector after Loomis's lamented death. It
was this that determined her hastening to Mrs. Cranston the moment the
sad news came, and then accompanying her to the frontier. A mature head
was that on her young shoulders, but she who had so easily repelled the
advances of the admiring fellow-passenger on the train had been
attracted by the bearing and behavior of the young officer, who,
absorbed in his new cares and duties, had apparently noticed her hardly
at all. She and the train conductor and Mr. Langston, the elder of the
two civilians, at least, knew who was the inspiration of that effective
squelching given the rioting recruits, whatever impression might be
prevailing at department head-quarters or at Sanders. She, presumably,
had her duties as assistant to Mrs. Cranston at the bedside of the
sorely wounded officer. Davies, too, had matters requiring his attention
about the post, for the word had gone the rounds that they were to march
at dawn on the morrow. Yet here under the vine-sheltered portico they
lingered, chatting on all manner of topics. Mrs. Cranston came smilingly
to congratulate the young officer on his assignment to her husband's
regiment, to say the captain was dozing now and that she thought she
would lie down a while, but that Miss Loomis was not to think of coming
in out of the sweet summer air.

"Oh, Mr. Davies is only waiting for Captain Tibbetts to come up from
camp to call with him on the post commander," said Miss Loomis; "and
here comes the captain now," she continued, as a stalwart, full-bearded,
heavily-built fellow swung himself off his horse at the gate, and,
leaving him with his orderly, came forward with cordial inquiries for
his wounded comrade, and with a packet of letters, at least a dozen,
which he handed to the new lieutenant.

"Seven of them addressed in the same fair, feminine hand, youngster,"
said he, in the easy jocularity of the frontier. "That gives you dead

And the color that mounted to Mr. Davies's forehead, a cloud of
embarrassment, told plainly that the shot was a centre. He had not
recovered himself when the captain again turned, saying they must go to
the commanding officer's quarters at once or be too late.

"Remember, you are to come and lunch with us, Mr. Davies," said the
captain's wife, as he was saying adieu.

"I--I'm afraid I can't, Mrs. Cranston," was his answer. "We march so
soon, and I have so many preparations to make."

"Preparations? Why, what on earth have you been doing ever since you
came up to the post?" asked his witless or too witty tormentor. "He's
simply eager to get off by himself somewhere and devour his ration of
spoon meat. I know how it is, Mrs. Cranston. I was there ten years ago."
And Davies's low-toned protestations were drowned in the jovial tones of
his burly comrade.

"I'll come to say good-by to-night, perhaps," he stammered, as he was
led away, still clutching his packet; but Miss Loomis had turned and
gone within-doors before the visitors reached the gate.

"I'm sorry to hear of it," said Captain Cranston, when later that
evening his wife was laughingly telling of Davies's betrayal and
confusion. "I always feel distressed to find a young fellow, just
entering service, has already enlisted in one much more exacting. I was
in love when I graduated myself."

And Davies didn't come to say adieu. He wrote a note to Mrs. Cranston
saying he found so many duties crowding on him at the last moment, so
many home letters to be written owing to his having left in such haste,
that it was impossible for him to leave camp. He begged her to say
good-by for him to Miss Loomis, whom he sincerely hoped he might meet
again, and with his best wishes for the captain's speedy recovery and
restoration to duty, he begged to subscribe himself her friend and most
obedient servant.

"Now, I like that young fellow," said Mrs. Cranston, folding up the
letter, "only I didn't----"

"Well, didn't what?" asked her companion, seeing that she had faltered
for a word.

"Well--he didn't act at all like an engaged man,--like he ought to have
acted," said Mrs. Cranston, with honest disdain of masculine flirts or
malevolent rules of speech, due perhaps to long association with belles
of the Blue Grass country.

"Why, I didn't think he was engaged," said Miss Loomis.

"No,--and he didn't mean you to. But when one mail brings a man seven
letters from one girl, I've no use for him."

"Well, I should much rather he had them of one than from seven different
girls," said Miss Loomis, smiling resolutely.

"Oh, you're bound to uphold him, I see. All the same, I thought better
of him."

"Ah?" And now in a very pretty, playful way did Miss Loomis take her
companion's flushed face between two long, white, slender hands,--very
cool and dainty members were they,--and archly queried, "Are you
beginning to tire of your bargain, Lady Cranston? Are you planning
already to unload me, as the captain says, on somebody else?"

The answer came with sudden vehemence and a hug. "You are much too good
for any man I know,--except Will, and you can't have him. And I'll never
let you go till the right one comes."

After which outburst, and for over a week, did this young matron say
little more to Miss Loomis on the subject, but she must have enlivened
some hours of the captain's convalescence with her views on recent
graduates in general, and this one in particular, for when at last
letters came from the front announcing the arrival of the reinforcements
and the final cutting loose of the reorganized column from its base, the
prostrate warrior glanced up at his busy wife with an odd mixture of
merriment and concern in his haggard face.

"To whose troop do you suppose your friend Davies has been assigned?"

"Not to yours, surely. You have no vacancy."

"No. I fear I wish I had,--every time I see my bulky senior sub in
saddle. But, of all men you know----"

"Will Cranston! You don't mean Captain Devers?"

"Yes,--Captain Differs, for a fact."

"Well, then your _protégé_ and Mr. Davies have gone into the same troop.
What a strange coincidence! Isn't it time Mrs. Barnard answered Agatha's

"Time she answered it? Yes," replied Cranston, "yet not time for her
answer to get here. Poor lady! She was so distressed at the thought of
his going into the army. I hope that letter will comfort her. It ought
to. I doubt if he ever did an honest day's work before."


The battalion had halted at the foot of the slope, each troop closing up
on its predecessor and huddling in shivering silence. No trumpet
sounded; no word of command was heard. Every troop leader threw up his
hand when he thought he had gone far enough and rolled stiffly out of
saddle, his horse only too willingly standing stock-still the instant he
found himself no longer urged. "Dismount" either by signal or command
would have been an affront to a cavalry force two-thirds of whose array
seemed to be dismounted already, some towing along by taut bridle-rein
the famished relic of a once spirited charger, others comforting
themselves with the reflection that at least they had now only their own
carcass to care for, others still wishing they had not even that
responsibility, wondering how much longer their aggrieved stomachs might
have to struggle with the only pabulum upon which they had been allowed
to expend their gastric juices for over forty-eight hours, and suffering
the pangs of remorse, both physical and mental, in the poignant
consciousness that the cause of this distress was the undigested
portion of some late faithful four-footed friend and companion, for the
command for rations had been reduced to horse meat on the hoof. Three
hundred miles from the nearest post when their supplies gave out, in the
heart of the Bad Lands and the height of the worst season of the year,
except midwinter, it had turned its back to the forts and its face to
the foe, true to its orders, still following the trail of the hostile
tribe,--the only hot thing it had struck for a week. "Live on the
country, there isn't anything else," were their orders, as they cut
loose from the main command, and their major--a reserved and
conservative fellow at other times--came away from the grim presence of
his commander with blasphemy on his bearded lips. The only human
habitation within scores of miles of his line of march were Indian
lodges, and both grass for the horses and game for the men had been
fired off the face of the earth by those active foemen before the
drenching wintry rain set in and chilled to the marrow the shelterless
forms of starving trooper and staggering steed.

"Live on the country, indeed! Two antelope and ten prairie dogs was the
sum total of the game secured by the hunters in three days' pursuit. And
what are they," said Captain Truman, "among so many? Barley loaves and
Galilee perch might be made to go round in a bigger crowd in the days of
miracles, but this isn't Jordan's strand," he added, as he glanced
around at the dripping, desolate slopes, and then, fortified in his
opinion by the gloomy survey, concluded, with cavalry elegance, "not by
a damn sight."

"What's the matter ahead, anyhow?" hailed a brother captain, up to his
shins in sticky mud, who had been making mental calculation as to how
many more hours of such wearing work and wretched weather it would take
to unhorse his entire company.

"Don't know," was the short answer. Men fight, but they seldom talk on
empty stomachs.

"Why, I thought I saw you talking with Hastings when he rode back."
Hastings being the battalion adjutant. "Didn't he say what they were
pow-wowing about?"

"No, and I didn't ask. There was nothing to eat in sight, and that's the
only matter that interests my people just now. Just look at those poor
brutes!" And Truman heaved a sigh as he gazed about among his gaunt,
dejected horses, many of them so weak as barely to be able to stand.

"My men are as bad off as the horses, pretty near," said Captain Devers,
the other. "There isn't one of them that hasn't turned his saddle-bags
inside out to-day for the last crumb of hard-tack. They're worn to skin
and bone. Three of them broke down entirely back there at the creek
crossing, and if there weren't Indians all round us, nothing would have
fetched them along. There goes Davies, coddling 'em again, damn it! That
man would spoil any troop----Mr. _Davies!_" he called, and a gaunt, wiry
fellow, with a stiff beard sprouting on his thin, haggard face, turned
away from a bedraggled trooper who had thrown himself in utter
abandonment among the dripping sage brush at the side of the trail, and
came to his troop commander.

"I wish you wouldn't make such a fuss over those men," said Devers,
petulantly. "Just leave 'em alone. They'll come out all right. This
coddling and petting isn't going to do any good. Soldiers are not like
sick children."

"A good many of ours seem to feel that way just now, sir," said the
young officer. "I only thought to cheer him up a bit."

"Well, when my men need nursing, Mr. Davies, I'll have you detailed in
that capacity, but be so good as to refrain from it otherwise. I don't
like it. That's all."

Without a word Davies turned on his heel and went back to his horse.
Truman, looking after him with a not unkindly interest in his tired
eyes, saw that he swayed a little as he ploughed his way through the
thick and sticky mud. "That boy's as weak as a sick child himself,
Devers," said he. "You'll have to have a nurse for him before we get

"Well, it's his own fault, then. He had just as much in his haversack as
I had when we cut loose from the main column. I 'spose he's given it

"I know he has," was the curt rejoinder. "Neither of those two men could
stomach tough mule meat. I suppose that was the only way to get 'em

Devers turned gloomily about. Down in the bottom of his heart he felt
that in his annoyance at what he considered disregard of his
instructions he had spoken harshly and unjustly to a young officer of
whom he had heard many a word of praise during the hard and trying
campaign now drawing to a close. True, the words had fallen mainly from
the lips of those of the rank and file or from seniors whom he didn't
like. In some, cases, especially among the enlisted men, they would
appear to have been spoken for the captain's especial benefit. Devers,
while a painstaking officer and not unmindful of the care of his men,
was one who "lacked magnetism," to say the least, and never won from
them the enthusiastic homage they often lavished on others among their
superiors. The fact that Lieutenant Davies, finding Moore and Rupp
actually so weak from lack of food that they could hardly drag one leg
after another, had been sharing with them his own slender store of
provision was not the first thing the men had noted in his favor, but
that was no reason, thought Devers, why they should raise their voices
and glance covertly in his direction when referring to it. Devers was
one of the kind sometimes called unsympathetic, that is, he seemed so,
but it was more in manner than in fact, for few troop commanders in his
regiment were really more careful in providing for their men than he.
But these were days that tried men's tempers as well as their souls, and
the officer who could look back on that long campaign against the Sioux
without regretting some speech wrung from him by the exasperation
produced by incessant exposure, hardship, and finally by starvation,
were few indeed. Devers was honest enough to admit to himself at the
moment that he wished he hadn't said what he did say to Davies, but not
so honest as to confess it to any one else. Yet stealing a glance at the
young fellow whom he had humiliated, now wearily leaning against his
saddle, Devers would have been glad to find some way of making amends,
but, stealing another glance around another way after Truman, of whom he
was both jealous and afraid, he hardened his heart. It is one thing to
say "I was in the wrong" to the victim, and quite another to admit it to
one's fellows. It is fear of what the world will say that keeps many a
man from righting many a wrong, and men, too, who wouldn't flinch in
front of a mile of batteries.

Standing listlessly by their horses, the men of Devers's troop had, some
of them at least, been silent witnesses of the scene. One or two
officers also had marked and conjectured, though they had not heard,
what had taken place. Truman alone was cognizant of all, and, whatever
may have been his views, this was neither the time nor place to express
them. But he took occasion to stop as he was returning to the head of
his own troop and speak to the young officer in the case.

"Davies," said he, kindly, "come over with me a moment. I've got a
little chunk of antelope in my saddle-bags, and you need it, man. We'll
all have something to eat to-night--_sure_. We'll make the Belle Fourche
by nine."

Davies looked up gratefully. "I'm ever so much obliged, captain," he
began, "but I can't eat with all those poor fellows looking at me.
They're about done up."

"Oh, it's rough, I know, but all they've got to do is tag along with the
column till night and then eat their fill. You haven't had enough to
live on, and may have work ahead. Here comes Hastings now."

And as he spoke the battalion adjutant came spurring down from a low
ridge at the front fast as a miserably jaded horse could bear him.
Earlier in the campaign every man would have felt the thrill of coming
excitement,--a chase, a brush of some kind, perhaps,--but now all were
weak and weary. Even the Patlanders in Truman's troop, men of whom it
had often been said that they'd rather fight than eat, were no more full
of fight to-day than they were of food.

"What's he want?" growled Devers, sauntering over to where the officer
stood. "We've left the Indians miles behind. Surely there can't be any
between us and the river."

Many eyes were fixed on the coming horseman or on the little group of
scouts and soldiers surrounding the major, who, kneeling, was levelling
his field-glasses over the ridge at some objects far away, apparently
towards the southeast.

"They're everywhere,--damn them!" was the curt answer, "except where we
want them. But he's looking off square to the left, not ahead."

This was true. Whatever it might have been far to the front of the weary
column that caused the little squad of scouts to signal halt after their
first cautious peep over that ridge, the object at which so many were
now excitedly peering and pointing was at right angles to the direction
of the march. Yet did the advance keep well concealed against observant
eyes ahead, though why they should do so when every Indian in Dakota by
this time knew all about them, their movements, and those of the main
column farther over towards the Little Missouri, Truman couldn't

"Have you ten horses that can stand a side scout?" asked the adjutant,
urging his mud-spattered mount to the head of Devers's troop. He spoke
abruptly, and without salute, to his superior officer,--his own captain
at that.

"What are we on but a side scout now?" demanded that officer, in the
surly tone the best of men may fall into under such circumstances.

"That isn't the question," replied Mr. Hastings, "and we've no time for
points. Davies, it's your detail. There's something--we can't make out
what--over towards the river. Report to the major and I'll find your

"I doubt if my horse can stand any side scout," said Davies, slowly,
"but I am ready."

"Oh, your horse's as good as any in the outfit," interposed the
adjutant, impatiently. "The major wants ten men from your troop at once,
captain,--the ten who have the strongest horses. It won't take 'em more
than a dozen miles out of the way, I reckon. The whole crowd would go,
only men and horses can barely make the day's march as it is."

"See any Indians?" asked Truman, lounging up.

"I haven't. Crounse and the scouts say they have, and it's likely
enough. Of course you've seen the pony tracks, and what's queer is that
many of them head over towards the very point where this smoke is
drifting from. Looks as if they'd jumped some wagons and burned them."

Meantime, Mr. Davies had slowly mounted and was urging his reluctant
horse into some semblance of a canter. As the slope in front of him
steepened, however, both horse and rider abandoned the effort, and,
full fifty yards below the point where the battalion commander and his
scouts were in consultation, the lieutenant dismounted, and leaving his
steed unguarded to nibble at a patch of scant and sodden herbage that
had survived the Indian fires, he slowly climbed the ascent. "I am
ordered to report to you, sir," was all he had to say.

The major lowered his field-glass and looked back over a broad, burly
shoulder garbed in canvas shooting-jacket. Not a stitch of uniform
graced his massive person from head to heel, yet soldier was manifest in
every gesture or attitude. A keen observer might have said that a shade
of disappointment crossed his fine, full-bearded face as he heard the
subaltern's voice, but no sign of it appeared in his tone when he spoke.

"Mr. Davies, just take this glass and see what you make of that smoke
off yonder. The sun is getting low and it baffles me somewhat." Silently
the lieutenant obeyed, and creeping up towards the crest he knelt and
took a preliminary peep.

Issuing from the Bad Lands the jaded column had been plodding all day
long, though with frequent enforced rests, through a rolling sea of
barren, turfless earth. What grass had carpeted its surface in the
spring had been burned off by sagacious Indians, bent on impeding by
every known device the march of troops through their lands,--and what
device the Indian does not know is little worth knowing. Under a
dripping leaden sky the earth lay desolate and repulsive. Miles away to
the north the dim, castellated buttes and pinnacles of the range were
still faintly visible, and the tortuous trail of the column of twos
winding its way over wave after wave of barren prairie like the wake of
some terrestrial bark in a sea of mud. Far to the westward a jagged line
of hills, sharply defined, seemed to rear their crests from the general
level of the land, and somewhere along the eastern slope of that ridge,
and not far from where two twin-pointed buttes seemed peeping over at
these uncouth invaders, the main command of the expedition should have
passed earlier in the day, making for the crossing of the swift-running
stream that circled the northern border of some black, forbidding
heights lying like a dark patch upon the landscape at its southwestern
edge. Black as it looked, that was their one refuge. There alone dare
they hope to find food. Thither had been sent an advanced detail with
orders to buy at owners' prices flour, bacon, bread, coffee, anything
the outlying settlements might have for sale that would sustain life.
Men who had been living on horse or prairie-dog would not be fastidious.
Here, too, the major had hoped by night to bivouac his weary men, but it
seemed desperately far away. The march had been much impeded, and now,
far out on his left flank was something that could not be passed
uninvestigated. He, with his worn battalion of four troops, had been
detached from the main column three days previous with orders to follow
the trail of a war-party of Sioux, and smite them hip and thigh if he
could catch them in forty-eight hours; if not, to veer around for the
valley and rejoin the column at its bivouac among the foot-hills. There
they should rest and recuperate. The pursued Indians, fortunately, had
turned southward and gone jogging leisurely away towards their
reservations, until warned of the pursuit by ambitious young braves
still hovering about the troops in hope of slicing off the scalp of some
straggler. Then, every man for himself, they had apparently scattered
over the face of the country, laughing gleefully to think what fun the
white chief would have in deciding which trail to follow. The situation
on the third day out had been summarized by Crounse, the guide, about as
follows: "So long as this outfit pulls together it won't catch an
Indian; so soon as it doesn't pull together it'll catch hell," which
being interpreted meant that the four companies united were too strong
for the number of Indians within striking distance, or say three days'
march, but that if it were divided into little detachments, and sent
hither and yon in pursuit of such small parties as would then allow
themselves to be seen, the chances were that those pursuing squads would
one by one be lured beyond support, surrounded, cut off, and then
massacred to a man. The major and his officers, most of them, knew this
as well as Crounse. They knew, moreover, that even so large a command as
theirs had been cut off, surrounded, and massacred more than once in the
history of Sioux warfare, but then the Indians were massed, not
scattered helter-skelter all over the continent as was the case the end
of this eventful summer. Well did Major Warren understand that with such
broken-down horses and weakened men he could now effect little or
nothing against the Indians after whom he had been sent, even could he
overtake them, and his instructions were literally obeyed. It was high
time for him to restore his men to their comrades. He was making the
best of his way to the rendezvous, hoping almost against hope to reach
the welcome of the bivouac fires, and hot tins of coffee and toothsome
morsels of hard-tack and bacon, things they had not had a scrap of for
three days, and only occasional reminders of for the previous ten, when
lo! off to their flank, far to the southeast there appeared this
unwelcome yet importunate sign. Was it appeal for help or lure to
ambush? Who could say? Only one thing was certain,--a thick smoke
drifting westward from the clump of wallows and timber surrounding what
Crounse said was a spring could not be passed unheeded.

"If we march the whole command over there, it will be another
twenty-four hours before we can reach the regiment. I don't think many
of the men, or horses either, can go that much longer without a bite,"
said Mr. Hastings, the battalion adjutant, seeing in his senior's eye a
permission to speak.

"Well, there are no settlements there and never have been," said
Crounse, "so it can't be cabins or shacks. Wagons it may be, but who'd
be damn fool enough to start a wagon-train up the valley this year of
all others, when every Indian at the reservation except old Spot is in
league with the hostiles? I can't believe it's wagons, yet it's on the
road full a mile this side of the river itself. What I'm afraid of is
that it's a plant. They want to coax us over there and cut us off, as
they did Custer." The major was silent and thoughtful. Davies, still
studying the distant objects, said not a word. Leading their horses,
eight troopers following a sergeant, all wet, weary, and heaven only
knows how hungry, came slowly forward up the slope until they reached
the spot where Davies's horse was nibbling. Here the foremost halted
without a word, and the others grouped about him or, stopping short when
their leader did so, threw themselves on the wet ground reckless of cold
or rheumatism, as spiritless a squad as frontier warfare could well
develop. Valley Forge knew nothing like it. The retreat from Moscow
might have furnished a parallel.

Leaving his horse to do as his jaded fancy might suggest, the battalion
adjutant, returning from his quest, came slowly to the major's side.
"I've picked out nine, sir. It was simply impossible to find another in
the whole two hundred. Some of these look barely able to stagger as it

"And it's Davies's detail?" asked the major, in low tone.

"Yes, sir. He's the only sub in the battalion who hasn't been on
detachment duty since we left the Yellowstone, and his horse is able to
go. Look at him, actually kicking!"

This was true. The sergeant's starving charger, showing a disposition to
poach on the little preserve that Davies's steed had pre-empted, was
rewarded by a sudden whirl about and flourish of two shod hoofs.

"Davies," said the major, kindly, yet with quick decision, "I hate to
impose additional work on worn-out men, but we can't leave that matter
uninvestigated. I want you to ride over there and see what that smoke
means. I don't think Indians in any force are near, and ten men ought to
be enough to stand 'em off. If it's nothing of consequence you can
follow on up-stream or camp as you please. If it's a wagon outfit
attacked, and there's anything left to help, do your best. We'll keep a
troop in supporting distance, and instead of marching straight for the
hills, I'll edge off here towards the river, sending Devers well out
towards you. We've got nearly three hours of daylight yet. Think you

"I think so, sir," said Davies, slowly replacing his glass, then looking
hesitatingly around.

"Anything you want?" asked Warren.

"Well, I should like to see Captain Truman just a minute, sir."

"He's three hundred yards back there now, and time's precious. Can't I
do?" asked the major, not unkindly. "Want to leave anything?"

"No, sir. It's of no consequence." And turning abruptly, Davies went
half sliding, half shuffling down the slippery slope, kicked the mud off
his boots, and briefly nodding to the sergeant, said "Mount," hoisted
himself into saddle, and led his little party silently away. One of the
men looked appealingly back towards Crounse.

"Got any baccy, Jim?"

"Not a pinch. I'd give my boots for a chew."

Davies heard the appeal and turned to his sergeant. "Tell Dunn to come
up here alongside," said he, reaching down into his saddle-pocket; "I've
half a plug left, sergeant, and we'll divide."

"It'll help the men as much as a square meal, sir," said the trooper,
gratefully; "but I never saw the lieutenant chew."

"I don't, but it's some I fetched along for just such an emergency."

Meantime the major and his party stood gazing silently after them. They
saw them winding away down the southward face of the long ridge and
crossing the shallow ravine at its foot. Beyond lay another long, low
spur of treeless prairie.

"The Parson didn't seem over-anxious to go," muttered Mr. Hastings, as
though to himself.

"Small blame to him!" promptly answered the major. "I don't blame any
man in this command for declining any invitation, except to dinner.
Hallo! What's that?"

In Davies's little party the men had been seen passing some object from
one to the other. One or two who had ridden up alongside the young
officer touched their hats and fell back to their place. Suddenly two of
them left the squad and, urging their horses to such speed as they were
capable of, went at heavy plunging lope over the southern end of the
opposite ridge and disappeared from view.

"Antelope, by jimminy! I thought I saw a buck's horns over that crest
yonder a minute ago," said an orderly.

"Antelope be damned!" said Crounse, gritting his teeth. "If those men
knew this country as I do they'd think twice before they rode a hundred
yards away from the column. I wouldn't undertake to ride from here to
that butte yonder,--not for a beefsteak, I wouldn't,--God knows what
else I wouldn't do for that!"

"Why, you can see the whole valley, and there ain't an Indian in
sight," said the orderly trumpeter, disdainfully.

"Yes, and it's just when you can't see one that a valley's most apt to
be full of 'em, kid," began the frontiersman, but the major cut him off.

"Ride after Mr. Davies with my compliments, trumpeter, and tell him to
recall those men, and not to let them straggle, even after game."

The trumpeter touched his ragged hat-brim and turned away to get his
horse, which he presently spurred to a sputtering lope, and went
clattering away on the trail.

"We may as well mount now and push ahead," said the major, after a
moment's reflection. "Keep Davies in sight as much as possible,
Crounse." And so saying he went on and climbed stiffly into saddle, for
he, too, was wet and chilled and sore-spirited; but it was his business
to put the best face on matters in general, and the troopers, seeing the
major mount, got themselves to their horses without further order. None
of the horses, poor brutes, required holding, but stood there with
dejected crest, pasterns deep in the mud, too weak to wander even in
search of grass. Warren came riding slowly towards his men.

"Captain Devers," said he, "I have sent Mr. Davies off to the left to
scout towards the valley. I wish you to follow his trail a mile, and
then to march due south by compass, keeping about midway between him and
us. Hold him in sight, if possible, and be ready to support him if he
should be attacked. We will back you. If all is quiet by the time you
strike the old road in the valley, turn west and follow on to camp."

But Captain Devers was one of those officers who seemed never to grasp
an order at first hand. Even when it came in writing, clear, brief, and
explicit, he often required explanations. "I don't think I understand,
sir," he began, but Warren cut him short.

"I should have been prepared for that," he exclaimed, giving way for the
first time to the generally peppery and irascible spirit of semi-starved
men. "Mount!" he ordered. "Captain Truman, lead the column,--Crounse
will show you the line. I will ride here awhile with Devers and show him
what's wanted."

Now, it is one of the peculiarities of prairie landscape that where
whole counties may appear to be one general level or open slopes when
viewed from the distance, the face of the country is really cut up in
countless directions by ravines, watercourses and _coulées_, so that,
except in the level bottom-lands along a river-bed, it is next to
impossible to keep moving objects continually in view. Davies and his
little party were out of sight when the major reappeared on the ridge
with Devers's ragged troop at his heels. So, too, were the would-be
hunters. "Kid" Murray, the trumpeter, alone remained in view, and he had
just reached the crest of a parallel ridge somewhat lower and about a
quarter of a mile to the left.

Then those at the head of column saw a strange thing. The young
trumpeter, instead of pushing forward on the trail, had suddenly reined
in. Bending forward in his saddle, he was gazing eagerly in the
direction taken by the antelope-stalkers; then, suddenly again, whirled
about and began frantically signalling to the column. They saw him
quickly swing his battered trumpet from behind his back and raise it to
his lips, sounding some call. Floating across the wind, over the bleak
and barren prairie, came almost together the muffled sound of two
rifle-shots, then the stirring trumpet signal,--_gallop_.

"Away with you, Devers!" ordered the major. "Head Truman this way, Mr.
Hastings. Tell him to come on." And forty horsemen went laboring down
the gentle slope, lugging their rusty brown carbines, one by one, from
the mud-covered sockets.


Jaded as were the horses, it was only by vigorous spurring that they
were forced into anything like a gallop. Earlier in the campaign, only
with extreme difficulty could they have been held. In dispersed order,
spreading out, fan-like, to avoid the volleys of mud hurled back by the
leaders, the troop came struggling up to the opposite ridge, many of the
men loading as they rode, all with eager eyes and compressed lips
staring straight ahead for the first glance at what each knew must be
the foe. That no shot was to be dreaded from lurking Indians along the
ridge each reasoned from the fact that the trumpeter, after sounding his
signal and seeing them well on their way, had himself pushed on out of
sight. Once or twice the foremost thought they heard other shots. All
reined up as they reached the crest, and this was what they saw:

Far ahead, down towards the valley ran a long tongue or spur from the
high ground over which they had steadily been marching since the dawn.
Farther away, perhaps ten miles, a black fringe in the depths of the
valley marked the winding river-bed. Against this and the dull
background of the opposite rise a faint column of pale, blue-white smoke
was drifting slowly westward from a little patch of trees at least a
mile nearer them than the river. "That's Antelope Springs," said
Crounse, who knew every league of the valley. Straight towards this
point a little party of horse were now steadily moving, a dark spot upon
the slopes, and nearly a thousand yards away. They were gradually
descending to the valley along the eastern side of the long tongue
referred to, all ignorant, probably, of what might be going on upon the
other. Obedient to his orders then, Davies was riding by the shortest
line to the designated goal, and all with them thus far seemed tranquil
enough. But hardly half a mile to the right front of their supporting
comrades, afoot now, and stopping every minute to let drive a long-range
shot at some objects scurrying away over the slopes to the south, "the
Kid" was running, and ever and anon turning to beckon them on. One
glance told the experienced hands what those fleeing rascals
were,--Indians, fresh from some deviltry, their swift ponies bounding
over the little gullies and watercourses like so many goats. Once more
the troop spurred on, though every man realized the hopelessness of any
pursuit. The first thought in every mind was the fate of their two
venturesome comrades. Even "the Kid" could not be sure what that was as
they reached him. "They're just over around that point," he almost
sobbed in his excitement. "I saw the Indians sneaking up the ridge
yonder. They fired from there, and then rushed in with a yell, and I'm
afraid they've got 'em."

Brief search was all that was needed. Not half a mile west of the little
party, and hidden from the sight and hearing of their comrades, the two
eager, hungry hunters had met their fate. Four lurking warriors,--part
of the daring band that, hanging about the battalion, watched its every
move, ever on the alert for just such opportunity as this--had lashed
their ponies to the gallop, darted along the winding ravine between the
two ridges until opposite the point where the hunters crossed, then
crawling to the top, had shot the poor fellows from their hidden covert,
and rushing in as they tumbled from their saddles, had quickly finished
the bloody work. One of the men, Mullen, a notable shot, seemed to have
been killed at the first fire, as he lay face downward, his hands
gripping the wet soil, his scalp torn from the bare and bleeding skull.
Phillips, his chum, had died fighting, and was riddled with shot and
lance wounds. His horse, too, was killed, while that of Mullen was
wandering helplessly about in a dazed sort of way, as though unable to
comprehend his own narrow escape. For once there had been no time for
further mutilation. Contenting themselves with the arms, ammunition, and
scalps of the troopers, the Indians had scurried away on the instant.
The whole affair had not lasted two minutes, yet there on the open
prairie, in broad daylight, with a four-company battalion of horse not
six hundred yards away in one direction, and double their own number of
troopers riding along not six hundred yards away in another, they had
dared interpose between and swoop down upon their victims in their
fancied security. Devers was almost beside himself with grief and rage.

"It's all that damned Sunday-school soldier's fault!" he burst forth.
"He's let these poor fellows ride slap into ambush, and gone off without
a thought of them." He would have said more, and in the full hearing of
the whole command, but the stern voice of the major checked him.

"Hush, Devers, hush!" he ordered, as he rode into the midst of the pale
and excited group gathered about the lifeless forms. "Don't halt,
Truman," he ordered, as the senior captain came trotting up at the head
of the long straggling column. "Push right on and do your best to catch
those devils. I'll follow in a minute."

Without either orders or permission six or eight of Devers's men spurred
into the nearest gaps in Truman's column,--and gaps were many,--others,
half dazed, hung about their captain.

"Send a messenger to Mr. Davies and let him know what's happened,"
continued the major, after a moment of painful thought. "Bury your dead
as quick as you can, then carry out your orders. Better halt Davies
until you're ready to move ahead." Saying this, and followed by his
orderly, the battalion commander spurred away towards a bedraggled party
of some fifty dismounted men, some with horses meekly drooping at their
master's heels, several without even the shadow of a steed. Truman had
"fallen out" his utterly ineffective to form a guard for the sick and
unhorsed, Davies's two patients among them, and one of those now, in
weakness and excitement, crying like a child. A gray-haired lieutenant
was with the party striving to get this reserve into some kind of shape.
"Follow Captain Truman's trail to the river, Mr. Calvert," said the
major. "Bring your party along as well as you can. You'll find camp
somewhere up-stream. We'll have rations to meet you. I'll have to go on
now after the battalion,--what there is of it," he added to himself, his
teeth firmly set. "Was ever luck worse than this?"

And thus was Captain Devers, as senior officer, left in command with the
troops that remained clustered about the still warm and bleeding bodies
of their murdered comrades, and his first order was characteristic.
"Ride after Mr. Davies, trumpeter. Tell him to halt his party where they
are, and say I wish to see him at once." Dashing the tears away from his
eyes, little Murray said, "Yes, sir," and mounted his horse. He was
starting when Devers called him again. "You needn't tell Mr. Davies
what's happened," he said. "It would demoralize him entirely;" adding in
an undertone that was none the less audible to the men around him, "He's
worse than demoralized now."

Digging graves with hunting-knives and fingers as the only tools is
wearisome work. "What's the use of it anyhow?" reasoned the captain,
impatiently. "We simply can't dig anything but a shallow trench inside
an hour with the means at hand. The coyotes would paw up the bodies,
sure, before we'd gone five miles. Better carry them along on these led
horses by the shortest route to the river. We're bound to find plenty of
rocks there that the wolves can't roll away." It wasn't the first time
the sad little command had had to "pack" their dead and wounded, and in
a quarter of an hour, with perhaps thirty men trailing along behind him,
Devers, instead of obeying his original instructions, was striking
straight across country for the river. And so it happened as nightfall
approached there were four parties of cavalry, widely dispersed, in the
gathering gloom of the desolate prairie. The major with about one
hundred men was still hurrying far to the southwest on the trail of the
Indians, hoping before dark to find them in sufficient force to halt and
show fight. Calvert with his invalid corps followed three miles in their
wake, and losing ground with every minute; then Devers, with about
thirty men in saddle and two dead on their _travois_, was slowly
plodding southward towards the stream. Davies's little squad, halted as
ordered, was now isolated from all, far over on the east side of the
jagged spur, over whose crest their lieutenant had just disappeared from
their sight, with Murray in attendance, riding wearily back to find his
captain, disturbed by contradictory orders and dishearted to see him in
march full a mile farther away than he supposed, and diverging from the
point of direction of his own party with every step. Time and again had
Devers, still fuming with nervous tension and mingled wrath and
pain,--hungry and savage, too, it must be borne in mind,--given vent to
some petulant expression because of the non-arrival of the young officer
whom he saw fit to hold responsible for the loss of his men; and when at
last Mr. Davies neared them, riding diagonally towards the troop from
the low divide to the east, Devers did not change the direction of his
little column so as to meet him half-way, but held on sullenly
southward. Observance of the major's orders would have carried him along
the trail of Davies's party until well across that ridge or spur, then
having gone the designated mile he should now be marching southward
along the ridge where he could, frequently at least, see both Davies's
squad and their distant objective-point,--that smouldering fire in the
valley. Marching as he was he could see neither.

Presently coming to the head of one of those tortuous ravines washed out
from the general surface of the prairie by the melting snows of
centuries, and noting that if he kept to the eastward side he would have
to deflect a trifle to that direction, Devers inclined to his right, and
ten minutes later found it swinging around in front of him, already
broad and deep and obliquely crossing his path. Either he must dismount
and lead down the abrupt declivity and up the opposite bank, or, keeping
along the bluff, follow the windings of the ravine. One wrong step had
led with him to another. There is a fatality about such things that
besets the truest of men and bedevils the best intentions. The more he
followed the right bank the farther west of south it bore him, and
Devers hid his compass with his conscience in the breast of his
hunting-shirt, and found relief in renewed expletives. It was Davies
who had to urge his horse to the lope to overtake the command so
steadily pulling away from him. He wondered who the poor fellows could
be who seemed to have given out and were being dragged along on the
_travois_, but it soon became necessary for him to descend into the
depths of the ravine, down along a tributary break, and then even in
nearing he lost sight of them until, after another canter and a hard
pull up the opposite slope, he came at last suddenly face to face with
his captain. Murray by this time, his horse entirely used up, was far to
the rear.

"It's an hour since I sent for you, Mr. Davies," began the captain,
sternly. "What in God's name has kept you so long?"

"I could come no quicker, sir," was the reply, given in respectful yet
remonstrative tone. "My horse----"

"Oh, you've got the best horse in the battalion, and he carries the
lightest weight," said the captain, angrily; "physically and
intellectually both, by God!" he added to himself. "You must have been
far off your course to have been so long reaching me."

"I was heading straight for the fire, captain,--straight as men could
go. I kept it in sight every minute from the time we crossed the crest
yonder," said Davies, his tired, haggard eyes looking squarely into
those of his commander instead of seeking sympathetic glance from the
pale, drawn faces of the silent troopers nearest him.

"Well, then, that is your excuse, I suppose, for allowing men to
straggle in defiance of my orders."

"It is partially so, sir, partially not. I knew these were the orders
early in the campaign, but ever since we ran out of rations Mullen and
Phillips, as well as dozens of other men in the regiment, have been out
hunting on the flanks every day. They never stopped to ask permission
this time. I never knew that they were gone until they were out of
sight. I supposed, of course, they wouldn't be away so long."

"I have told you more than once, Mr. Davies, that you were reckless of
my instructions, and I've sent for you to show, once and for all, what
it has cost. Stand aside there!" he said sternly to the men, whom some
instinct of pity had prompted to gather between them and the stiffening
forms of the dead. "There are your hunters,--two of my best men, Mr.
Davies, and who but you is responsible for this?"

For a moment the young officer gazed as though stricken with sudden
horror, his blue eyes staring, his gaunt, pinched features ghastly
white, and then Sergeant Haney and another trooper sprang from their
horses and ran to his side. Weak, worn, starved, he had quailed at the
dreadful sight, and was toppling head-foremost to the ground, swooning


Page 96.]

When half an hour later the captain with his silent and gloomy party had
resumed his march for the river, only with the field-glasses could
occasional glimpses be had of the main command far away to the southwest
in the gathering dusk. Lieutenant Calvert, with his invalid corps, was
dragging wearily after them, something like two miles away over the
rolling surface, sometimes dipping out of sight among the swales and
_coulées_, sometimes crawling over some low wave, and Davies, restored
to consciousness and accompanied by one of Devers's oldest troopers,
Sergeant McGrath, had once more ridden away to join his distant and
isolated party. Just before it grew too dark to see anything at all he
was faintly visible at the top of the divide where he and the sergeant
had halted, evidently searching in the gloom of the lowlands beyond for
sign of the squad he had left over an hour before. Then they disappeared
and were seen no more.

Ten miles up-stream, around rousing camp-fires, in the thick of the
timber, the main body of the expedition--their lately starving
comrades--were holding high carnival. Men and horses were astonishing
their stomachs with dainties to which they had long been unaccustomed,
for wagons had come out from the settlements to meet them, pouring in
all the afternoon, and, mindful of his detached battalion, the colonel
had presently despatched three or four of these welcome loads, well
guarded, down the winding river in search of Warren, with instructions
to bivouac at once and feast, and at nightfall they had met him, halted
at the river after the luckless pursuit. The wagons were unloaded on the
spot, and two of them pushed on out to meet Calvert, and be loaded up
again with his exhausted plodders, while scouts, mounted on the draught
mules that had had so long and hard a pull all day, and yet were
stronger and fresher than the starving horses, were sent on down-stream
in search of Devers. With these latter went a pencilled note from the
battalion commander as follows:

"Rations here in plenty. Unless you and Davies are used up, you'd better
come along to camp. We'll keep bright fires burning to guide you. I
presume you've seen no Indians, or we'd have heard from you before

In sending this letter Major Warren assumed two things: first, that
Devers had carried out his orders, crossed the long spur that jutted
down almost to the stream at its deep concave bend, and then, moving
south, had kept Davies in sight, if not actually in touch. Second, that
Davies had carried out his orders, investigated the fire, and then
rejoined his captain. For, reasoned the major, had Davies been attacked,
Devers would have known it, supported him at once, and sent word to us.
Men instructed to watch for signals from the ridge had reported that
nothing had been seen, which surely would not have been the case had
Devers desired to communicate. He assumed further that Davies must now
be somewhere about the point where the spur sank to the general level of
the valley, some eight or nine miles down-stream, too far to send a
wagon in the dark where there was no road, but not too far for men to
march, with rations as their reward.

"Ride straight for that point," said he to the sergeant who was to carry
the note, "and watch for their fires in case they have camped." And the
sergeant and his companions--two wiry troopers whom nothing seemed to
daunt or tire--had ridden away on their ambling mules, their own
stomachs warmed with hot coffee and bread and bacon, and their soldier
maws crammed with that most beneficent and comforting of frontier
luxuries,--navy plug. What was a night ride after their weeks of
marching to the joy of being first to announce full rations for all
hands! They had gone only half-way, perhaps four miles, when from
somewhere in the timber to their right front, certainly not more than
five hundred yards ahead, they came suddenly in view of something at
which each man instantly reined in, and the sergeant, springing from his
saddle, grabbed his mule by the nose. "Grab yours, too," he muttered,
hoarsely; "for God's sake don't let the damn fools bray." And in another
instant each of the astonished and protesting brutes was grabbed

"Sure it must be the camp of 'B' Troop," said the other man,
resentfully. "Indians wouldn't be lighting camp-fires so close to us."

"It can't be the captain," answered Sergeant Rice, with emphasis he well
remembered and spoke of long months later. "I heard the major's orders
to him, and he couldn't be this side of that point without having
disobeyed them."

But just then, soft and faint, sad and plaintive and low, there came
floating on the night wind the familiar notes of the sweetest of trumpet
calls, and Rice turned to his comrades in amaze. "It _is_ old Differs,
by Jupiter! Who but he would be sounding taps with Indians on every
side? Does the darn crank think that worn-out men can't go to sleep
without it?" Even the soldiers, then, were alive to some of the
captain's peculiarities. Even they could not do him justice. Even Rice
supposed that Devers, rejoicing in being once more freed from the
supervision of superior authority which he so cordially hated and so
persistently strove to evade, was celebrating the event by resuming the
sounding of unnecessary bugle calls, prohibited for night use during
the recent campaign. But neither the sergeant nor his comrades dreamed
that it was in its other, in its saddest significance, the sweet old
call was sounding,--that Devers and his men were bidding the last
farewell, and piping "lights out" to them who rode forth gallantly at
morn, only at sundown to be numbered with the dead.


Morning dawned over the bivouacs along the stream in hilarity unknown
for previous weeks. The sun that for a fortnight had refused his face,
and sent wet skies to weep in sympathy with the hungering column, now
that the troopers no longer cared a rap whether he sulked or shone, came
forth in all his glory to surround and beam upon and shower
congratulation as do mundane friends who hold aloof when days are dark
and troublous, yet swarm like bees when dazzling and unexpected
prosperity bursts upon the lately fallen. Merrily rang the reveille as
"jocund day" came riding o'er the misty mountain-tops. With joke and
song and laughter answered the war-worn men, scores of whom had
alternately dozed and cooked and eaten and drunk all the live-long
night. Vain were counsels of captains and doctors. Soldier stomachs that
could tackle mule and horse meat could stand any load, said the boys,
and loaded accordingly. Cheer and laughter and merry-making, fun and
chaff and jollity, ran through the ranks, where all, but another sun
agone, was silence and despond. The rough campaign was practically over.
Only scattered bands of hostiles remained, in this part of the country
at least. Rest and recuperation for those "tatterdemalions" would be the
enforced order of the day for a month to come, for while they might
readily and speedily build up, it would take many a week to remount the
column or restore such horses as remained. Here among the Cottonwoods,
with fire and water and food at hand, the men could have loafed in
comfort and content a month, if need be; but here was no grass, and
barely a nibble of oats could be distributed for each surviving horse
from the scanty supply hurried forward the previous day. Before noon,
therefore, after another morning devoted principally to breakfasting,
the trumpets were sounding "boots and saddles." No need to sound "The
General" with its stirring summons to "Strike your tents and march
away," for tents had long months before been struck--by the pen of the
commander--from the list of camp equipage to be taken to the field. "We
were only waiting for Warren to come on," explained an aide of the
general to a regimental commander, "and we've sent him word to meet us
on the Birchwood farther up among the hills. We'll camp there to-night.
What kept him, do you suppose?"

But the colonel couldn't imagine. Away down the valley to the eastward
Warren's men had slept, as they had marched, much later,--those of them
who could sleep at all, for all through the night there had been cause
of disturbance to more than a few of the command. It was late before the
demands of hunger were appeased. Little fires blazed all through the
timber, and men cooked and ate until they could eat and drink and cook
no more. Then the luxury of tobacco kept many awake. Then came advanced
troopers to say Devers was coming in, and despite the fact that two good
and gallant comrades would no more gather with them about the camp-fire,
there went up a cheer of welcome, and many men ran to meet the worn
arrivals, to take their horses to feed and water so that the masters
might be fed at once, and the major's first thought had been to welcome
his subordinate and fill him with comfort before requiring of him
detailed account of the day's doings. "I hardly expected you so soon,"
he said; "but here's coffee all ready, baker's bread fresh in town
yesterday,--think of it!--and bacon and flapjacks. Your men must be
pretty tired."

"They're about used up," said Devers; "but of course when we got your
instructions to come on we came."

"Oh, I didn't mean you to come on if you were in camp for the night. Our
men would rather eat than sleep and we thought yours would; but
here--swallow this," said he, hospitably. "This is no time for business.
I haven't tasted anything so good as that coffee in years."

"Thanks," said Devers, pulling gratefully at the steaming tin. "That
_is_ good. I'm glad, for my part, you told us to come along," he went
on, reverting again to the subject of the major's note. "We shouldn't
have done anything of the kind, of course, otherwise,--especially with
Davies still out."

"_What!_ Isn't Davies with you?" asked Warren, with sudden anxiety and
suspicion. "Why, I thought----"

"Well, we couldn't wait for him, you know, in face of your directions,"
said the captain, his eyes glancing quickly, almost furtively, from one
to another of the bearded faces about him, for Truman, Hastings,
Calvert, and all the officers of the little command had gathered. "Of
course, I sent couriers right out to guide him----"

"Why--what I meant was for you to bring him along," said the major,
gravely, yet not unkindly. "I felt sure, of course, you were within
communicating distance at least, even if he hadn't come in. What did
that smoke turn out to be when you got a closer look at it?"

"We--didn't get any closer look," answered Devers, in apparent surprise.
"You ordered me to bury my dead and then go on. We had just buried them
when your next orders reached us,--to join you at once. These, of
course, superseded the others."

There was profound silence. The major stood by the camp-fire, his hands
clasped behind his back, looking full in the face of the troop
commander, all the old sayings that he had ever heard with regard to
Devers crowding upon him now. When promoted to the regiment only just in
time to join it on this hard campaign, and when assigned to the command
of this battalion in which Devers was senior captain, the colonel
himself had said, "Be on your guard with Devers. He's the trickiest of
subordinates." Old Riggs, lieutenant-colonel commanding the Twelfth, had
remarked, "So Devers is in your battalion, is he? Well, when you want
him to do anything you stand over him while he's at it, or else do it
yourself." An intimate friend and classmate whom he had not seen for
years had given the new major this significant pointer: "There's a man
who could be one of the most valuable officers in service if he devoted
to obeying an order one-tenth the energy he throws into finding a way of
avoiding it." Yet, in the honesty and earnestness of his own character,
Warren was slow to suspect a fellow-soldier of disloyalty. The campaign
had gone on without special friction, though he remembered that he had
heard Hastings swearing _sotto voce_ more than once at Devers's
cantankerous ways, and he recalled now two or three incidents--little
things--in which Devers claimed to have misunderstood instructions; but
this was so glaring, so gross a departure from both the spirit and
letter of the orders he had given when face to face with the captain,
that for a moment or two he was at a loss what to say. He was indignant,
too, but it was a rule of his to control his temper and never speak to a
subordinate in wrath. He had broken it that morning and was sorry; so
when at last he trusted himself to speak, he said,--

"It must have been more than six hours ago that I told you to bury those
two men and then go on. Surely, captain, you could not have taken all
this time."

"It was nearly five o'clock, sir, when you ordered me to bury my dead as
well as I could, and only a little after eight when we finished it;
meantime, we had to march seven or eight miles before we could find a
place where we could bury them at all well."

"Why, I meant you to bury them right then and there, just where you
were, not go marching in search of a place."

"But we couldn't bury them there; major, I had no tools to dig graves in
a hard prairie----"

"Then you mean that you failed to go on after Davies,--failed to support
him?--that you haven't seen him since I gave those orders? My heaven,
Captain Devers! I told you never to let him out of your sight."

"Oh, he wasn't out of sight until darkness,--that is, he was frequently
in sight. I not only saw, but communicated with him until that time."

"Thank God for that, at least! If he wasn't attacked before dark he's
probably safe,--Indians are cowards in the dark. He ought to be coming
along presently, I suppose. He couldn't have been more than a mile or so
east of you."

But to this observation, half query, half self-consolation, Captain
Devers made no verbal response. He bowed his head as he took a long swig
at his can of coffee, and then a big bite into a ham sandwich of
portentous size. The major and one or two others considered it a nod of
assent, and ascribed to ravenous hunger the captain's failure to respond
by word of mouth. Partially relieved of his anxiety on Davies's account
and unwilling to spoil a gentleman's first supper after such long
deprivation, the battalion commander turned away, saying,--

"Well, eat and drink till you're comforted, anyhow, captain, then we can
hear all about it. I'll take a smoke meantime." Truman and Hastings
joined him at a fallen Cottonwood a few yards away, and the three
puffed their pipes and thanked Providence for the mercies that had come
with the close of the day. And then the officer of the guard appeared to
ask a question about the posting of the pickets, and, leaving the others
with Devers, the major strode off with the officer through the timber to
satisfy himself as to the security of the horses for the night, and when
he returned--not having been gone ten minutes--Devers had disappeared.

"I wanted to hear his report," said Warren, "and told him so. I supposed
he understood." To which neither of his subordinates made reply. When
ten minutes more elapsed and Devers did not come, Hastings, noting the
major's impatience, called to the orderly trumpeter sitting at the
neighboring fire,--

"Raney, go and see if Captain Devers is over with his troop
anywhere,--the major desires to see him." Raney was gone full ten
minutes, and when he returned it was to say that Devers's first sergeant
said the captain had given orders that all talk must stop so that the
worn-out men could rest, and the captain himself, rolled in his blanket,
was already sound asleep.

"Well, I swear!" exclaimed the major. "Didn't you understand me to say I
wanted to hear all about his march as soon as he finished supper?"

"I certainly did," replied Captain Truman, with an accent on the I that
meant volumes.

"So did I," growled Hastings; but he never could bear Devers, who was
persistently distorting or misunderstanding the orders the adjutant was
compelled to convey to him.

"Well, let him sleep," said Warren, finally. "I suppose he's tired out,
and very probably Davies will speedily come in."

But midnight came and no Davies. Out on the prairie--now dimly lighted
by the rays of the waning moon--the pickets at the east had descried no
moving objects. Every now and then the yelp of a coyote on one side of
camp would be echoed far over at the other. These, with an occasional
paw or snort from the side-lined herd, and the murmuring rush of the
river over its gravelly bed, were the only sounds that drifted to the
night-watchers from the sleeping bivouac. Towards one o'clock the
sergeant of the guard came out to take a peep. Later, about two,
Lieutenant Sanders, officer of the guard, a plucky little chap of whom
the men were especially fond, made his way around the chain of posts and
stayed some time peering with his glass over the dim vista of prairie to
the eastward.

"I declare I thought I saw something moving out there," he muttered,
after long study. "Are you sure you've seen or heard nothing?" he
inquired of the silent sentry.

"Not a thing, lieutenant, beyond coyotes or Indian signals, I can't tell
which. They keep at respectful distance, whatever they are."

"Well, even if Mr. Davies's horses were too used up to come, the
couriers ought to have got back long ago. Tell them to find me as soon
as they come in," said he, and went back to his saddle pillow in the
heart of the grove. At its edge a solitary figure was standing gazing
out into the night.

"That you, Sanders?" hailed a voice in low tone.

"Yes," answered the lieutenant, shortly, for he recognized Devers and he
didn't like him.

"Isn't Davies in yet?"

"No, and it's two o'clock."

"Oh, he'll turn up all right," said the captain, in airy confidence. "It
was all absurd sending him out to scout a smoke,--as if we hadn't seen
and smelled smoke enough this summer to last a lifetime. He's probably
camped down the valley somewhere, and they're all waiting for morning.
I'm not worrying about him."

"No, I judge not," muttered Sanders to himself, as he trudged on in the
dark. "You're simply keeping awake for the fun of the thing." But even
Devers got to sleep at last, and when he woke it was with a sudden
start, with broad daylight streaming in his eyes, and stir and bustle
and low-toned orders and rapid movement among the men, and Hastings was
stirring him up with insubordinate boot and speaking in tones suggestive
of neither respect nor esteem.

"Come, tumble up, captain; we're all wanted; Davies has been cut off and

Already his orderly had led up the captain's horse, pricking his ears
and sniffing excitedly around him, and with trembling hands the young
German was dragging out from among the blankets the captain's saddle,
the hot tears falling as he stooped. His own brother was of Davies's
party. Devers was on his feet in an instant, dismayed, and, buckling on
his revolver, he went striding through the trees to where Warren stood,
pale and distressed, questioning a haggard trooper,--one of the
couriers sent on for Davies the previous evening. Devers burst in with
interrupting words, and was instantly coolly checked.

"Never mind now, captain. Mount at once and get your men in saddle." Nor
would Warren see or speak with him, as with a hundred troopers at his
heels--all whose horses were even moderately fit for a ten-mile
trot--the major led the way down the valley, a few eager scouts
cantering on before. All Devers could learn as they jogged along was
that Tate, one of the couriers, had ridden in at seven on an exhausted
mule to say that not until after dawn had they found Davies's
party,--seven of them,--stone dead, stripped, scalped, gashed, mutilated
almost beyond recognition, far out on the slopes east of that fatal spur
over which the September sun had risen before he came, leaving his
stunned comrade trailing hopelessly behind.


The prairie sod was torn by the hoofs of a hundred ponies. That was
evident. All around a little sink in the surface at a distance of
several hundred yards the warriors must have dashed and circled for full
an hour. Here along the rim of the shallow basin, each behind the
bloated and stiffening carcass of his horse,--each surrounded by
threescore copper shells, showing that he had fought till hope and
ammunition both were gone,--lay the poor remains of the gallant boys who
had ridden silently away in obedience to their orders on the previous
afternoon,--recognizable now only by their teeth or some still ungashed
body mark. How long they had pluckily, cheerily held out, confident of
the speedy coming of the comrades from over that westward spur, and
therefore less miserly of their lead and eager to stretch some of their
yelling foes upon the sward, could now only be conjectured. Little by
little their fierce, defiant fire had slackened. Little by little
confidence had waned, and doubt and dread replaced it. Some, probably,
had been earlier shot by the storm of centring bullets; some, possibly,
had sent their last shot into the reeling brain,--death by one's own
hand being better at least than by slow and fiendish torture; and at
last, probably just at dusk, the triumphant savages were able to close
in upon their helpless prey and reap their reward of scalps and plunder
and wreak their fury on a mute and defenceless foe.

But in a search of full an hour not a sign had Warren's best scouts
discovered of Davies or his companion. The Indian trail, that of a
war-party of at least fifty or sixty braves, led away southward again,
into and through the timber in the distant river bottom, and there it
became scattered, most of the party seeming to have ridden on towards
the reservation in the darkness of the night, while others turned
up-stream, and their pony-tracks led towards the point where Warren's
battalion had bivouacked. These were probably the causes of the flitting
shadows Sanders had detected far out on the prairie,--these the owls and
coyotes whose weird cries had at intervals disturbed the silence of the
night. Solemnly, sadly, now, the burial-parties labored. The soil was
comparatively soft in the neighboring ravine,--much more so than higher
up the slopes where the two crack shots had fallen earlier in the
afternoon,--and here, with picket-pins and a spade or two which happened
to be with the pack-train, a trench was scooped out, into which the poor
remains were lowered and then covered with stones, dragged from the
depths of the neighboring _coulée_. It took some hours to finish the sad
duty, and meanwhile sharp-eyed scouts were busily occupied striving to
determine what had become of Davies and Sergeant McGrath.

In this work the major himself took the lead, and here Devers's
statements had to be drawn upon. Old Indian-fighters pointed out many a
significant sign to sustain the theory that the fight must have lasted
full an hour,--the trampled condition of the turf,--the quantities of
shells lying behind every little hummock or ridge in the surrounding
prairie that commanded the position of the defence or afforded shelter
from its fire. Down in the very ravine in which the bodies were buried,
full four hundred yards from the scene of their desperate stand, the
soft, sandy soil was pawed and trodden by waiting war-ponies, whose
riders, lying flat on their stomachs along the bank above, had kept
their watch upon the besieged, firing whenever head or hand appeared
above their carcass fortification. The whole ingenuity of the Indian
plan became apparent as the situation was studied. Noting after ten
o'clock that morning that the battalion was no longer marching due
south, but had turned, heading southwest straight away for the landmark
of the valley,--that distant, black, pine-crested peak,--the lurking
warriors had devised their scheme to lure a scouting detachment away
from the support of the column. Far down in the river bottom, ten miles
away to the left of the trail, they had built at the springs a "shack"
from the relics of some miner's outfit captured thereabouts earlier in
the summer, and waiting until the head of the column was approaching the
crest of the water-shed to the north, set fire to their pile and then
secreted their main body in a deep ravine to await results, while small
parties were thrown well forward to pick off venturesome individuals, if
only such rode out in reconnoissance. If the white chief "bit" and
detached a small party, then every effort was to be made to keep the
battalion occupied and interested,--to draw it along, if possible,
towards the southwest,--just a few daring spirits devoting themselves to
this duty, while the stronger party, keeping in hiding until they lured
it far beyond rescuing distance, gradually encircled the isolated squad
and at last pounced upon their prey. It is no new device. It was to
prevent just such a play that Warren had ordered Devers with his troop
to keep midway, holding Davies's little party in sight and support and
the main column in communication. Had Devers obeyed the instructions
given him and gone on down along that jutting spur instead of far to the
west of it, the catastrophe would have been averted,--the Indian attack,
even if attempted, could have been beaten off.

In bitterness of spirit the major was riding over the field, too full of
exasperation as yet to trust himself to send for and speak to his
subordinate, even when he felt that he must hold conference with him in
order to determine how best to direct the search. Twice or thrice had
Devers essayed to open communication with his chief and impress him with
his views, but Warren had sent him word by Hastings to supervise at the
designated point--which he himself selected--the burial of the men,
while he, the major, went on with the search. Time and again it was
noted how often Devers would climb the bank and anxiously gaze off to
the west toward that fatal curtain,--the spur that separated him from
the sacrificed detachment the night before. What his thoughts were could
only be conjectured, but little Sanders seemed to hit pretty near the
mark when he confided to Hastings that Differs didn't seem to care a
damn whether Warren followed the Indian trail or not; what he was afraid
of was that the major would "get onto" his own. And indeed as the
morning wore on it began to look as though that were what the major was
bent on doing. The scouting-parties had come back with their report of
what they had found in the river bottom, and by this time Warren with
his escort was three miles over to the west and slowly searching along
the east face of the spur, peeping into every hollow and depression that
might shelter a human form and looking everywhere for the print of
horses' hoofs. At ten o'clock he had sent to Devers for some intelligent
non-commissioned officer who could point out about where they had last
seen Davies as he crossed the ridge returning to his men at sundown, but
Devers very plausibly responded that while it might not be difficult to
do so from where they parted, "just over on the west side," it couldn't
be reliably done from so far to the east. The reply must at least serve
to delay matters awhile, and every moment was of value to Devers.

His own theory was that, as twilight was setting in as Davies recrossed
the ridge, everything beyond in the low grounds was in deep obscurity.
The attack had probably begun about the time the young officer, with
Murray, first crossed the ridge in obedience to the captain's orders to
report to him in person. Less than an hour, Devers thought, elapsed
before he could again have come within sight of the spot where he left
his little command. By that time all was practically over. In the
gathering darkness and in the glut and greed of their savage triumph the
Indians had crowded about the victims. Davies and the sergeant,
returning, had been allowed unmolested to make their way well down
toward the scene. The fire in the bottom was fed to lure them on (it was
still smouldering when Warren's men trotted thither in the morning), and
the two had either been captured alive and run off with the main body to
grace the stake at the scalp-dance to be held with fiendish rejoicing
somewhere beyond danger of interruption, or else, warned in some way,
the two had sought to escape, and had been headed off and killed in some
of the still unexplored ravines or _coulées_ farther to the southwest.
In either case, provided the major did not persist in his investigation
and so discover how very far Devers had led his troop away from sight or
support of Davies's men, and how utterly he had failed to carry out his
orders, the captain felt tolerably confident that all the blame would be
landed where it properly belonged,--on the shoulders of the dead and
defenceless lieutenant, whose reluctance to undertake the duty many had
observed, and whose womanish swoon at sight of the slaughtered men had
not only proved his unfitness for frontier service, but long delayed his
return to his party. Devers had always said Davies was entirely
overrated by the colonel and Truman and others; he had held all summer
that the lieutenant was a "molly-coddle;" he had been reproved more than
once for what they termed his injustice to his subaltern, and now Davies
had proved just exactly what he knew he would prove,--a carpet knight, a
prayer-meeting soldier, with neither grit nor brawn nor backbone; and if
he was killed, at least he had died in time to save the regiment from
having to blush for him in the future. Devers had served throughout the
war of the rebellion in a regiment that saw no end of hard fighting, but
always when he happened to be on sick-leave or detached service of some
kind, for in all of his years of service no man in his grade or corps
had so seldom been under fire, either in the South or on the plains.
With abilities unquestioned and opportunities second to none, it was
nevertheless observed of him at the close of the four years' struggle
that there, at least, was a man who hadn't even mustering or recruiting
service to fall back upon when "brevets" went scattering broadcast over
the army, showering like the rain upon the just and the unjust. He had
lived all through it without having become distinguished for anything
that might become a man, winning a name for himself principally for
consummate skill in getting out of what he was told to do without
getting into a scrape or out of the service. He became a tremendous
paper-fighter in the days that followed, however, and like some of our
war generals, could find the weak points in the armor of his comrades if
he couldn't in that of the enemy. He became a club-room critic of other
fellows' campaigns, companies, or conduct, as probably the most
effective way of diverting attention from his own. He sneered at the war
record of every contemporary who had achieved rank superior to his own,
as with hardly an exception every one of them had done so, and made the
burden of his song among the younger men the blunders, faults, and
follies of the elders. Without a drop of Irish blood in his veins, he
inspired the belief that he must be own cousin to the newly-landed
Hibernian who announced himself as "agin the governmint," for post and
regimental commanders without exception found him the most adroit,
crafty, sinuous, and troublesome of captains,--one who was forever doing
something to try them, yet nothing on which they could try him. Well he
knew his unpopularity and sagely judged his opportunities. The liberties
he had dared with Warren he would not now have ventured with Riggs, or
Black Bill, or old Tintop, one and all of whom had learned to know him
well, and would have been prepared for some such betrayal of the trust
reposed in him.

He had worried Black Bill--long time his post commander--to the verge of
exasperation with his perpetual hair-splitting and quibbling. He had
played his last trump with Tintop early in the campaign, and received
that grizzled veteran's rasping intimation that one more experiment
would lead to arrest and court-martial, and received it with every
appearance of amaze and pain, which might have been effective had not
Hastings been called upon beforehand to give his version of the affair
that led to it. It was one of those constantly recurring examples of
Devers's "cussedness" which led many a stout cavalry officer to set
forth just what he'd do with Devers if he only had him under his
command, yet the very men so confident they could bring him to time were
not infrequently the ones who subsequently found him too adroit for
their straightforward methods. Black Bill told Tintop that Devers was as
bad as the Irishman's flea,--put your thumb on him and he isn't there.
"I'll cinch him," said Tintop in reply, "if he tries any of his damned
nonsense on me." But with every intention of doing his level best,
"Topsy" little knew the infinite resources of the man.

One of Devers's idiosyncrasies was a hatred of doing things as anybody
else did them. This in a service where absolute uniformity was expected
was prolific of no end of chafing. In every garrison where his troop was
stationed he had become notorious. If the other companies turned out in
white gloves at retreat, Devers's would come in gauntlets. When dress
parade, dismounted, was ordered at Fort Birney one mild November
evening, he marched his men out in arctics and fur caps, and claimed
that to be the proper full dress for the season. When Colonel Emerson in
regimental orders lauded the devotion of Sergeant Foley, who swam the
icy Missouri with despatches from Captain Cameron's beleaguered command,
and ordered a handsome collar to be made by the regimental saddler to be
worn thereafter by his gallant gray, now transferred to the band
because of the cuts and scars he had received in that fierce campaign,
Devers similarly decorated Trumpeter Finnegan's bull terrier "Mike," who
swam the Mini Ska in pursuit of his master the night of the wintry dash
on Tall Bull's village, and gravely paraded "Mike" with the troop next
muster day. These and a score of similarly annoying yet hardly
punishable attempts to bring ridicule upon or run counter to the orders
of his commanders, had actually rendered some of his seniors so averse
to having him under them that it often resulted in his being given
independent details, lonely detachment duty, "one-company posts," and
similar isolation which almost any other officer would have shrunk from,
but that Devers really seemed to enjoy, and, from having been so much
his own commanding officer, he was all the less fitted to render prompt
and cheerful obedience to others when they again had to have him. With
any command greater than that of a single troop he had never been
intrusted. There was no end of speculation and chaff around the
camp-fires, therefore, early in the summer, when Devers, most
unwillingly, it was said, was hauled in from some outlying post where he
had nothing to do but hunt, eat, and sleep, and reported for duty on
what turned out to be the toughest of Indian campaigns. What was worse,
he was ordered to report to Tintop, and now, said the boys, there _will_
be fun.

Well, there was. It took a week of persistent "cinching" to get Devers
and his troop to understand that they were no longer an independent
body, but must serve under the orders of a colonel or major. He had at
first been put in Bell's battalion, and every time the colonel pointed
out a fault Devers "thought" that was as Major Bell wanted it, and when
Bell called his attention to some irregularity, Devers had understood
Colonel Winthrop to say that that was the way it should be done. Bell
finally said that he'd be damned if he wouldn't rather have no command
at all than one with Devers in it. The first day Devers's horses were
herded to graze far out on the slopes,--five hundred yards beyond those
of any other troop,--and Tintop said he wished Captain Devers hereafter
not to allow his herd to be driven beyond those of the rest of the
regiment. Next day they were kicking up a dust not fifty yards from
Tintop's tent,--as far inside the cordon as they had been outside
before,--and Devers plausibly explained that he wanted to be sure he
wasn't too far away. The third day, after a long march with Indians on
every hand, Tintop ordered "double guards and side lines when the herds
went out to graze." The horses of the other troops were ridden out by
the men to good grazing-ground some five hundred yards from the bivouac
fires, and there the riders slipped off and the side lines were slipped
on; but Devers's horses were side-lined as soon as unsaddled, and then
the poor brutes, thus hobbled fore and aft, were driven, painfully
lurching, out to graze. Tintop boiled over at the sight of so
unhorsemanlike a proceeding and rode wrathfully at Devers to rebuke him.
"Why, colonel," said Devers, "I wouldn't have done it for the world, but
Mr. Gray was so positive in saying it must be done when they went out, I
couldn't do otherwise. Of course if he'd said when they _got_ out I----"
And though Tintop swore savagely through his teeth that Devers knew
well just what was meant, as did every other troop commander, he
couldn't prove it. Next day, before the side lines were put on, in some
mysterious way Devers's herd was stampeded and ran six miles before they
could be rounded up, and he explained it was all because they weren't
side-lined in the first place, as they were always accustomed to being,
and as the regulations required they should be in the Indian country.
This was another thing to make Tintop blaspheme. Every day for a week
something was amiss, and, having gone to the length of his own tether,
Devers took to saying that it was all Mr. Davies's fault or Sergeant
Somebody's,--"Mr. Davies had just joined and was utterly inexperienced."
Then Tintop gave Devers positive orders not to content himself with
telling people to do thus and so, but to see that the orders were
obeyed, and Devers then took his pipe and his blankets and
ostentatiously spent hours of the afternoon out on the open prairie, a
monument to the severity and exactions of his colonel. And still the
horses, all of them, got far out on the foot-hills, and Tintop ordered
him a day or two later, when on Scalp Creek, not to let his herd get
more than half a mile away from the troop fires, as they had no tents,
and then Devers had his herd-guards build fires and boil coffee far out
on the prairie, and claimed that those were his troop fires, and
therefore his herd was within reasonable distance of them. Then Tintop
swore another oath and ordered Devers not to let his horses graze more
than half or less than quarter of a mile from his own head-quarters
fire, and as there followed a few days of hot weather, Devers sent his
herd to the foot-hills again, claiming that there was no longer a
head-quarters fire to regulate by, which proved to be a fact, as in such
warm weather there was no need of one. Then, one day, Tintop in so many
words ordered the captain hereafter not to do as he thought, but simply
as his colonel said, and this led to the final incident, still more
side-splitting,--one that the boys in the regiment never tired of
telling. Tintop with his battalion was sent on a seven days' scout,
during which he ordered all the troop commanders, until further
instruction, not to permit their herds to graze more than five hundred
yards from camp. Three days later, what was his wrath to find Devers's
herd almost a mile away down the stream, and close by the tents of Major
Roome's battalion of Foot that had been for a week placidly awaiting the
return of the cavalry! Tintop had halted and unsaddled some distance
up-stream. There wasn't a shred of canvas with the regiment while on
this brisk raid, nor was there need of it in such perfect weather, and
Tintop with Gray by his side stood fuming in the midst of surrounding
cook fires, when Devers came placidly up in obedience to the summons of
the orderly, and many an ear was brought to bear and bets were given and
taken that this time Devers would catch it and no rebate. "How is it,
sir," demanded Tintop, "that in defiance of my positive orders you allow
your herd to go so far away?"

"Why, colonel, you distinctly said they mustn't be herded over five
hundred yards from camp. Of course if I'd been allowed to think I
probably wouldn't have done it, but I sent mine down there accordingly.
That's the only _camp_ I see,--this is only a bivouac." And all Tintop
could ejaculate in response was, "Well, may I be damned!"

These and a host of similar stories had come to Warren's ears in the
course of the campaign, and he had laughed at them as had everybody
else, for after all no man could say that actual harm had occurred as a
result of Devers's experiments. So curiously are we constituted that
when it is only the commander who is braved or his adjutant who is
ruffled, the bulk of the line can bear it with equanimity. Therefore,
while Tintop, Black Bill, Riggs, and his seniors generally could never
refer to Devers except with sympathetic swear words, there were not a
few of the officers junior in rank to his who found no little fun in all
these incidents. Like most stories in or out of the army, they were
perhaps exaggerative, but, like smoke, they could not exist without
smouldering fire. If there were any speculation about Devers in the
regiment, it was as to how he would behave if he ever did get into a
fight, or what would happen in the event of his some day squirming out
of an order on which vital issues depended. "You'll go too far yet,
Devers," said a soldier who strove conscientiously to be his friend and
counsellor, "and when you do, where will be the commander under whom you
have ever served to say a good word for you?"

And now on this fatal September morning that ominous warning was ringing
in his ears again and again. Down in the bottom of his brooding heart he
knew, and well knew, that had he obeyed, as he should have obeyed,
Warren's orders, this catastrophe could not have occurred, and that he
more than any other man on earth was responsible for the death of these
gallant fellows, who, whether they looked up to him or not, were by the
stern discipline of the service dependent on him for the expected
support. If he could realize this, how much the quicker would others be
to attach the blame to him! how much the more necessary must it be to
lose no time in diverting suspicion elsewhere! The fatal propensity to
distort or disobey, which perhaps he could have downed had Tintop or
Riggs been there, he could not resist with Warren,--an envied
contemporary, presumably new to his idiosyncrasies. Nor would he, of
course, even with him, have disobeyed could he have foreseen the fatal
consequences. That would have been risking too much. But now that he had
disobeyed, and in all probability would be held accountable for the
catastrophe, his one road to safety and to acquittal lay in saddling all
possible responsibility on some one else,--preferably Davies. This, if
Davies were silent in death, would not be difficult. Whatsoever others
might think or say, they could prove nothing. If, however, Davies turned
up alive and alert, then matters might be grave indeed. No wonder he
climbed again and again the westward bank and levelled his glasses at
the dull-hued ridge against the brilliant westward sky, frequently
giving vent to loud denunciation of the leaders in the mismanaged
campaign. It was nearly ten o'clock before his dead were laid
away,--before anything occurred that looked like discovery of the
missing pair. Then came new excitement.

Far down toward the point where the distant spur seemed to sink to the
general level of the prairie one or two of Warren's scouts could be seen
rapidly spurring, as though in answer to signals. Presently they, too,
began waving their hats to those searching higher up the ridge. Then all
disappeared over on the westward side. Something evidently had been
found, and Devers's men, their work completed, were grouped eagerly up
the bank. Over half an hour in mingled hope and suspense they waited,
and then there rode in a mounted messenger.

"The major's compliments to Captain Devers," he said, "and he'll wait
for the captain and his troop over yonder. I'm to show the way."

"Have they found anything?" asked Devers.

"Yes, sir,--Mr. Davies; but he's more dead than alive. There is no sign
of McGrath."

"Do you mean Mr. Davies is wounded?"

"No, sir. He seems just dazed-like."

"That's what I said all along," spoke the captain, loudly, so that it
was heard by all the soldiers near at hand. "He never tried to rejoin
his detachment. He never had any nerve. He probably saw what was going
on and hid himself, never daring even to let us know. Damn these
psalm-singing, Sunday-go-to-meeting soldiers anyhow! Here, Howard," he
continued, turning to a young trooper who stood silently at his horse's
head, "you come with me. Lead on, corporal. Sergeant Haney, mount the
troop and follow." And with that the captain rode away.

For a moment, as the men were bringing up their horses and leading them
into line, there was silence. Looking after the three horsemen now well
out on the prairie to the west, the party saw that the messenger was
riding some distance in advance, and that Howard, a recruit who joined
with the detachment early in the campaign, was now side by side and
evidently in conversation with the captain. It had been a summer of
campaigning in which not only the nicer distinctions as between officer
and man--not only all symbols of rank and uniform--had gradually
disappeared, but with them, little by little, some of the first
principles of good order and military discipline. Officers had been
heard openly condemning or covertly sneering at the seniors in command.
It was not strange that the rank and file should fall into similar ways.

"Never had any nerve, is it?" muttered Private Dooley, after a moment.
"Boy and man I've soldiered in this regiment longer than you, Captain
Differs, and I know an officer and a gentleman when I see wan, and it's
the public opinion av more than wan private that there's more av both in
that young feller's starvin' stummick than in your whole damn overfed,
bow-legged carcass. How's that, Brannan?" said he, turning to his next
neighbor, a wan, sad-faced recruit.

"Shut up there, Dooley!" ordered Sergeant Haney, briefly. "No more of
that! Count fours."


So far as the Eleventh and one or two other regiments were concerned,
that summer's campaign, so fraught with incident and tribulation, was
now at an end. It would take weeks and months of care to restore their
horses to serviceable condition. Others were ordered up to replace the
worn-out command, and while an indomitable general pushed fresh columns
into the field to track the savages to their winter lairs, the ragged
troopers--for all the world like so many beggars a horseback, so many
mounted scarecrows--were ordered in to the big garrisons near the supply
depots to refit, recuperate, and restore to discipline. Some, officers
and men both, had been sent ahead, too weak or ill to remain in the
field, and among these, consigned to the tender care of the post surgeon
of Fort Cameron, was Lieutenant Davies, over whose condition the doctors
shook their heads. Brain fever was the malady, but his system was so
reduced by starvation and exposure that even a moderate fever would have
been most serious. Not until he had been gone nearly a month did the
regiment follow, and then, scattered in detachments to various posts,
became busily occupied in the work of rehabilitation. Cameron was a big
new frontier fort with few accommodations, over-crowded, too; yet, being
the nearest to the field of action, thither had Captain Wilbur Cranston
gone just as soon as he was convalescent and able to move. Thither with
him went his devoted wife and her devoted cousin and companion, Miss
Loomis, for whose reception the subalterns of the infantry guard
promptly gave up their frame quarters and moved into tents, and Cranston
was there on light duty in charge of the big corral of remount horses
when Davies was bundled in and established under Cranston's roof. There,
carefully treated by Dr. Glover and regularly visited, often tenderly
nursed, by Mrs. Cranston and her friend, the naturally strong
constitution of the young officer triumphed and he began slowly to
mend. Meantime, as is or was the way, it fell to the lot of the gentle
and sympathetic army wives or maidens at the post to keep the distant
mother informed of her boy's slow progress toward recovery, and
presently to answer the importunate letters of another. Mrs. Cranston, a
shrewd observer, could not fail to note that as soon as her patient was
allowed to read at all it was his mother's letters, not the great packet
in Miss Quimby's unformed hand, that he eagerly opened. Then when at
last he did begin these latter the steady progress of his convalescence
was impaired. He became again feverish, restless, and depressed. Too ill
and weak as yet to write for himself, he read with grateful eyes his
mother's allusions to the kind and sympathetic missives sent her by Mrs.
Cranston, and occasionally, as happened, by Miss Loomis. Gladly, too,
did he avail himself of their services in reply. But when it became
necessary presently to answer those of his _fiancée_, there might have
been embarrassment but for Mrs. Cranston's tact. She had begun to feel a
strong interest in and respect for her patient. So, too, had her
husband, who came daily to sit by his bedside, but who avoided, as much
as possible, all reference to the closing days of the campaign.

As yet the young officer had not been told of McGrath's disappearance,
and had not been encouraged to tell of his own experience. Indeed, there
was very little he could tell, but his story was frankly imparted to his
friend and comrade, Captain Cranston. Much seemed to be a total blank.
He spoke with a shudder of his last look at poor Mullen and Phillips,
and at the pale, drawn faces of Captain Devers and the troop,--of
another backward glance from near the top of the ridge, then of their
losing sight of Devers and his men, and pushing on to the deeper gloom
of the east valley. It was then too dark to see, and for half an hour he
and McGrath, weary and heart-sick, had scouted northeastward in search
of his party. They had seen some flashes as they began the descent and
rode in their direction, believing them to be signals, but soon all was
darkness, all silence, but for the sigh of the night wind. Conscious of
growing faintness, he suggested firing a shot or two as signals, and
McGrath obeyed. Then off to the southeast, far from the point where they
had seen the first flashes, the shots were answered and distant yells
were heard. McGrath considered this ominous, and asked him to wait in a
little ravine while he reconnoitred. In ten minutes two or three shots
rang out in the direction taken by the sergeant, and presently back he
came fast as a staggering horse could bear him, crying, "Indians!
Indians everywhere!" It was all up with Davies's party, and their only
hope was to hasten back to find the command; but the Indians came in
chase, and though they plied spur, their poor horses seemed too weak for
speed. How far they got he never knew, but remembered a sudden plunge,
his horse's going down, rolling all over him, and nothing more.

"When you parted from Devers," asked Cranston one day, "how far was he
from the top of the ridge?--how far to the west?"

And Davies answered, "At least two and a half or three miles."

Over this did Cranston ponder long. It ill accorded with what they wrote
him from the front as Devers's story.

"You write to Mr. Davies's mother, Agatha," Mrs. Cranston had said. "I
haven't time for both, but I'll take care of Miss Quimby." Just what
might be the tone and tenor of that young lady's letters to her
prostrate lover Mrs. Cranston could not positively say, as no one saw
them but himself, but she was ready to hazard a something more than mere
conjecture when Miss Quimby took to writing to her as well. As was her
wont when moved, Mrs. Margaret unbosomed herself to her lord. "I've no
patience with the girl," she said. "She'll worry him to death. If she
writes such silly, romantic trash to me, what mustn't she be saying to
him? What on earth can he ever have seen in her?"

Now, that's just one thing no woman can find out,--what a man can see to
admire in one in whom she sees nothing. It didn't help matters that
Cranston, in his conservative, whimsical way, should counsel silence and
patience. What woman can be silent under strong provocation? What woman
can patiently abide the personal application of a general rule?

"I don't suppose there ever was a match yet of which some woman didn't
say she couldn't see what he saw," said Cranston, deprecatingly; and
then, with one of his whimsical grins, began to add, "Let's see, wasn't
it Kitty Benton who said, when she heard of our engagement, that
she----" But he got no further in face of his wife's impetuous outbreak:

"That's simply hateful in you, Wilbur, and you know it as well as I do.
She knew me only slightly, for we were not in the same set at school at

"Well,--still, didn't she know you rather better than you do Miss
Quimby, whom you never saw at all?"

"I don't care. I know what she's like," answered Mrs. Meg, with flushing
cheeks. And that was really before poor Almira's first letter came, and
if Mrs. Cranston thought she was right before, she knew it when she read

The closing paragraph of a long, almost incoherent missive must suffice.
Even Cranston's lips twitched under the heavy thatch of his moustache as
he listened. Even we, who like Mrs. Cranston, must admit it wasn't quite
kind in her, no matter how natural, to read it afterward to Agatha
Loomis, who, although declining to read, did not quite decline to hear
at least a line or two.

     "If you knew how I suffered--what tortures of anxiety, what
     nights of sleeplessness and woe, tossing on fevered pillow,
     tortured with visions of my beloved nobly fallen on the field
     of battle and pining for the touch of this hand--you would
     indeed pity me; but my father is inflexible. He refuses his
     daughter the poor boon of flying to the stricken lover's
     side,--her husband that is to be. In vain have I pointed out
     that I ask no sweeter bliss than to share my Percy's lot, for
     weal or woe, to live in the humblest cot, a tent, a hovel even,
     with only a crust,--it meets only his scornful refusal. When my
     arms are eagerly outstretched to enfold my soldier hero, I have
     to be content with nursing day and night his afflicted mother,
     whom for his sake I love as I would my own, had she not been
     taken from me years ago when I was but an unsophisticated
     child. When I think of you privileged to sit by his delirious
     bedside, cooling his fevered brow, I envy you as I never
     thought to envy any woman on earth since, long years ago, my
     Percy blessed me with his love; and now if after all he should
     be taken, or if some proud lady should win him from his simple
     little village maid, there would be no refuge for me but the

"Now," said Mrs. Cranston, "something besides the bedside is delirious
in that case. No wonder the poor fellow is picking up so slowly."

"Well, wait a little," responded her conservative lord and master.
"Seems to me a man ought to rejoice in knowing that the arms of lovely
woman are outstretched in eagerness to enfold him. Now, if I were

"Yes, if you were he I've no doubt you'd be off to Urbana by first
train; but this young man has some sense in his head" (here Cranston
began to finger his own skull tentatively), "and in losing his freedom
hasn't entirely parted with his wits."

"Was that--my predicament?" asked Cranston, looking plaintively up.

"Well, at least I have to do your thinking for you, and what you have to
do is help him here. Have you had any talk with him about--about what
Captain Truman and Mr. Gray wrote?"

"Certainly not, Meg," answered Cranston, becoming grave at once, "and I
do not mean to until he is well enough to hear it."

"Well, the more I know of him the more I know it's utterly untrue.
Hasn't anything been heard yet of Sergeant McGrath?"

"Not a word. Even friendly Indians say they haven't an idea what could
have become of him." And Cranston's face was both anxious and troubled.

The matter was indeed one to give him deep concern. The massacre of the
little detachment from Warren's battalion late in September--all of them
members of Devers's troop--had brought down sharp and deserved
criticism, and there was every prospect that the matter would be
officially investigated just as soon as the department commander could
turn his attention from the rounding up of the hostile band still at
large. Meantime, between Warren and his senior troop commander, Captain
Devers, strained relations existed,--the former holding to the theory
that the responsibility for the disaster lay with Devers and no one
else, the latter volubly, plausibly, incessantly protesting against the
imputation as utterly unjust, indeed, as utterly outrageous, and moving
heaven and earth to unload the entire blame on the shoulders of the
absent and defenceless.

Now, as a rule this is an easy matter, almost as easy in the army as out
of it, and had his accuser been any other captain in the entire field
column, poor Davies might indeed have been prejudged; but with Devers it
was different. His idiosyncrasies were notorious. His whole mental and
moral fabric was one of antagonism to his fellows in general and his
seniors in particular. It was said, and generally said, of him that the
mere fact that everybody liked or respected a man was enough to set
Devers dead against him. The fact that Mr. Davies had thrown up his
graduating leave and sought instant service in the field as a result of
the tragedies of the early days of the campaign had won him instantly
the interest and good will of officers and men throughout the entire
command. He started well, so to speak, and his quiet, reticent,
observant, but unobtrusive ways favorably impressed his regimental
comrades and led to many a commendatory remark from veteran officers.
But there was universal comment, half humorous, half commiserating, upon
his assignment to Devers's troop, and Devers knew it. He treated the
young man with cool civility at first, but became speedily captious and
irritating, rebuking him openly in the presence and hearing of other
officers and of enlisted men for matters for which he was not justly
blamable. Old Winthrop spoke to Devers about it one day, and spoke
seriously. "You'll disgust that young gentleman with the service if
you're not careful, Devers," said he, "and be the means of depriving us
of a good officer."

"That's just where I'm compelled to differ with you, colonel," was the
response, and it was this propensity for differing that had led to his
sobriquet. "I've had constant and daily opportunity of observing him,
and he's mistaken his vocation. That young man should be a missionary or
a Sunday-school superintendent. He's too pious for Indian fighting,
which is the only thing expected of us."

But for weeks after there was no Indian fighting. What had become of the
swarms of red warriors that had swooped upon the front, flank, and rear
earlier in the campaign no one could say. Their trails led all over the
northwest, and the pursuing column pushed on night and day in dust and
sun-glare, in mud and rain, in pelting hail-storm and darkness, and
never once until late in the autumn could they again come within
striking distance. By that time the jaunty riders of the early
spring-tide were worn to skeletons; the mettlesome horses--those that
were left--barely able to stagger through weakness, exhaustion, and
starvation. Then like prairie wolves the warriors closed once more about
the jaded flanks, waiting, watching every chance of picking off the
stragglers. Just one day did Differs's troop get under fire,--a long way
from under, said satirical subalterns of a command that sustained some
losses,--but so scientifically did the captain handle his men that not a
trooper or horse was scratched. Mr. Davies on this occasion commanded a
platoon, dismounted on the skirmish line. It was his first affair, and
he kept his appropriate thirty paces in rear of his dispersed men to
watch and direct their fire, expecting that the enemy would charge or
attack or do something, he didn't know just what. He simply behaved as
he had been taught at skirmish drill at the Point,--was ready to do his
full duty, but having no experience in Indian battle, thought it his
business to wait orders, which was precisely what Differs had told him
to do, until attacked. All the same, when others twitted Devers on the
fact that his troop "didn't seem to get in," that officer did not
hesitate to respond that they'd have to settle that with their
admiration, Mr. Davies, who was commanding the fighting line, but
probably wasn't done saying his prayers. There was a lively, rattling
skirmish next morning between the rear-guard and the Indians, and at one
time things looked as though the thinned battalion of their comrades of
the --th might be cut off, and some of Devers's regiment thought the
rearmost troops ought to be deployed in support of the fellows who were
fighting off the warriors, who came charging after them over wave after
wave of prairie. But Devers couldn't see it in that light. He was
bringing up the rear of his own regiment. Indeed, not until the fatal
day of their _débouchement_ from the Bad Lands and sighting the broad
valley of the Ska had Devers's men felt the sting of Indian lead, and
then he was not with them.

And now while the worn and ragged commands lay basking day after day in
the warm October sunshine at Camp Recovery, and men for the time had
nothing to do but eat and sleep and discuss the events of the late
campaign, the Eleventh was in turmoil over the tragedy of Antelope

When Davies was finally found that morning by Warren's scouts, he was
lying in a depression of the prairie at least a mile to the west of the
point where that long--that fatally long--curtaining ridge sank into the
general level of the valley, and therefore full four and a half or five
miles away from the point where his little detachment had died fighting,
and very nearly two miles south, or west of south, of the point where he
and McGrath had last been seen by their comrades,--just at dusk,--just
at what looked to be the comb or crest of the ridge from the point where
Devers had halted his troop and made the dramatic display of his dead.
But what looked to be the crest from the west was in point of fact not
the crest at all. Invisible to the halted command, there lay still
farther over to the eastward, where the spur seemed to broaden
considerably, a wave that overtopped the westward edge by a dozen feet
or more. Supposing from Devers's account that the trail of his command
could be found distinctly marked along the westward slope and close
under the crest, Warren was searching there with his scouts when
attracted by the signals two miles to the south announcing probably
important discoveries. He had found some Indian pony tracks, also those
of one shod horse, but dropped everything else to go at once in answer
to the signals. Then they had borne the unconscious officer
southeastward toward the clump of trees at the Springs, placed him in
the ambulance, and then came a courier from the general himself
directing Major Warren to report to him in person at Birchwood, thirty
miles away, and the major went, the ambulance following. And so, to his
unspeakable relief, Captain Devers was left once more the senior officer
on the ground to continue the search for McGrath, and in the conduct of
this he took excellent care that only himself and one or two of his
chosen should search any portion of the prairie that might involve
running over the trail west of the ravine which he had made the previous
day. The scouts and searching parties were kept in the valley and in the
timber along the river, not on the back track. _That_ search Devers
conducted in person, and made a rough topographical sketch of the
neighborhood as it appeared in his eyes and as he wished it to appear in
those of others. Just before dusk, sounding the rally far up the spur,
he rode to the point where his two hunters had met their fate, and
there assembled his men, gathering some fifty troopers, and thence led
them in column of twos southward close under the spur and well to the
east of the ravine which on the previous day had partially caused his
wide departure from the line of direction indicated to him by the major.
It was therefore very late, and his men were very tired,--much too tired
to sit up and talk,--when they got to camp.

Pursuing its homeward march, the main column under the general
commanding had gone on through the wild hill country, and not until
nearly a month had elapsed was the scene of the tragedy revisited. The
officer who went thither with an escort, and Captain Devers and Corporal
Finucane and Troopers Boyd and Howard, had had pointed out to him the
scene of the massacre itself, then, far up the spur, the spot where
Mullen and Phillips were shot, and from thence the trail of Davies's
little squad as it marched away on its fatal errand toward the Springs,
and the trails of the various parties. Off to the southwest went Truman
in chase of the murderers,--off after Truman went Calvert and the
invalid corps,--off straight to the south--to the river--along the
westward side of the ridge, far to the east of the ravine and close
under the crest, went another; that, he was assured, was the trail made
by Captain Devers. Many of these trails, said the officer's report, were
now dim and nearly effaced, "but there can be no mistaking that of
Captain Devers along the spur,--it is quite sharp and clear. It isn't
more than five hundred yards from the point where Mr. Davies and
Sergeant McGrath had disappeared over the ridge to the nearest point on
the trail, where--while Captain Devers couldn't be sure--his troopers
are positive Mr. Davies had left to return to his men, and where they
are also positive the captain had again enjoined upon him the necessity
of vigilance, and reminded him that as it was growing dark he could no
longer see, and must therefore depend upon his lieutenant to keep him
informed of what was going on over on that side, as under his new orders
he, Captain Devers, must now go on and bury his dead. Mr. Davies and his
sergeant must have seen the attack just as soon as they got back across
the ridge, but what they did and why they had not instantly warned their
captain remains a mystery. At all events it would seem that Captain
Devers," so concluded the report, "had conscientiously carried out his
instructions, though he might perhaps, if unburdened with his dead, have
kept higher up towards the crest, and should perhaps have detached a
couple of flankers to keep communication, and so relied less on
Lieutenant Davies, who was at least inexperienced in frontier warfare."
The officer could not understand how it was that in broad daylight Major
Warren when searching had failed to see Devers's trail. It certainly was
there. And so the old, old story was told again. The absent it was who
had to take care of himself, and Devers was inferentially "whitewashed"
and Davies held to explain, when convalescent, and McGrath to
substantiate his statement if McGrath ever again turned up on earth.
Otherwise there could be no substantiation until the judgment day. Now,
McGrath, lost in the thick of an Indian fight, was as apt to be found
alive, or found at all, as a pin in a mill-pond. Davies, broken by the
campaign and sore smitten with brain fever, had but one chance in a
hundred of recovery. All things considered, therefore, it may be
conceded that Captain Devers was a very gifted man.

But Devers wasn't the first man, or the last, to count on another
fellow's death or disappearance to cloak his own crime. It gave him a
queer turn to hear that Cranston and his wife and niece had undertaken
the building up of the absent patient. He hated Cranston,--his junior as
an officer, but infinitely his superior as a soldier. He feared him when
word came out to the homeward marching command that Cranston said Davies
was on the mend and would soon be on the war-path. But he drew another
long breath of relief when there reached them the news that General
Sheridan himself had telegraphed directing Davies to hasten home, that
his mother was dying. When next that young officer appeared upon the
scene and reported for duty, it was in midwinter at Fort Scott, a big,
brilliant, sunshiny post, the head-quarters of an infantry regiment, the
station of a cavalry battalion, whose major, Warren, had gone on long
leave abroad, whose senior captain, Devers, was its commander _pro
tempore_, whose other captains, Cranston, Truman, and Hay, were present
for duty; so were most of their subalterns, so were most of the infantry
officers, so were the wives and families of nine-tenths of the array,
for it was a much-married garrison, and there was not a little talk and
speculation when it was announced that Lieutenant Davies would come
accompanied by his bride.


"The main objection to Fort Scott," said Winthrop, when one of his
battalions was finally ordered thither, "is that it's too fashionable
for my taste. What this regiment needs now is more drill and less
dinners." He loved to be epigrammatic. The head-quarters, staff, band,
and six troops had taken station at a big frontier post, two other
troops went with the lieutenant-colonel to a second post, so that that
officer could have a command, and two more with the senior major, but
the Interior Department had moved some thousands of the lately hostile
Indians down close to the line of the railway, where they could be more
readily fed and cared for. Great thereat was the alarm of the settlers,
and great the protest of the cattlemen, whose steers now roamed all over
the prairies within tempting distance of the restless young braves
across the reservation line. Scott was not a cavalry post at all. It had
no suitable stables, and only infantry ordinarily had been stationed
there since the completion of the railway, and thither Devers had been
sent when the final dissolution of the field column took place, and no
one of the field officers wanted him in his command, and he preferred to
be as usual,--alone. But then came the move of the Indians and the cry
of inadequate protection. Tintop had to part with two of his pet
companies--Cranston's and Hay's--at the reluctant orders from department
head-quarters. Still a fourth had to be sent, and Truman was taken from
the lieutenant-colonel and Major Warren despatched from head-quarters to
Scott as commander of this cavalry battalion or squadron at the very
moment when he was clinching his arrangements for long leave of absence.
He went, commanded a month, but persisted in his application. Long years
of service entitled him to the indulgence and it was granted, but
neither the lieutenant-colonel nor senior major would consent to give up
the command of a post to go to Scott as a subordinate to old Colonel
Peleg Stone, an infantry veteran of many a war, both in garrison and in
the field. A shout of merriment was heard in the camp of the cavalry
when the original orders were read distributing the troops to stations.
"Old Pegleg's got his match at last," was the comment of the knowing
ones. "He can't worry Devers half as much as Devers will worry him."
Scott was the innermost and easternmost of all the stations to which the
three regiments of cavalry were distributed. The big, bustling, growing
cattle town of Braska lay but a few miles away. Thriving and populous
ranches surrounded the post on every side, replacing the buffalo,
antelope, and deer of the decade gone by with countless herds of horned
cattle. Braska sported a theatre, an assembly-room, restaurants,
concert-halls and banks--of all kinds. It had the unhallowed features of
the average frontier metropolis and some of the more agreeable traits of
an Eastern city. It contained a very large number of abandoned
characters who were not all half as bad as they were painted, and quite
an array of citizens of high repute who were not all as good as they
looked. As between bad morals and bad manners, society seems to find it
easier to forgive the former, and most of the Eastern men who had come
West to embark in business had charming manners and were welcome
visitors at the fort, welcome companions at every party, picnic, and
dance, most hospitable entertainers in their turn when the fort people
went to town. During the long battle summer Fort Scott was garrisoned by
Colonel "Pegleg," the chaplain, the doctors, the adjutant and
quartermaster, the band, one company of his reliable old corps, the
Fortieth Foot, and the wives and children of pretty much all the rest of
the regiment. Famous campaigners were they of the Fortieth. They hadn't
missed a chance, winter or summer, for ten long years. They had tramped,
scouted, picketed, escorted, explored, surveyed, fought and bled all
over the great Northwest, some of the officers being so incessantly
abroad as to find themselves quite ill at ease at home, many of their
ladies declaring it a difficult matter to know their lords on the rare
occasions of their return, some few, indeed, being accused of having
forgotten them entirely in their absence. These were days the army
little knew before and will never know again,--the decade that followed
the war of the rebellion. Too old to take the field himself, the veteran
colonel at least could take his ease at home, and was quite placid and
content when he had the band to play for him, one company to guard and
"police" the post, and a host of women and children, bereft of their
natural protectors, fluttering about him. When all his companies were
home he had to spend hours at his desk overhauling ration and post and
forage returns, and as he was essentially a "red-tape" soldier,--one
who knew the regulations and recognized nothing else,--he made in busier
times his own life and those of his officers something of a burden. The
summer had been lovely at Scott. Thrice a week on sunshiny afternoons
the band played in its kiosk, and the gallants from town or the
neighboring ranches drove in with their stylish "turnouts" and called on
the ladies at the fort or took them driving over the hard prairie roads,
or danced with them on the waxed floor of the airy assembly-room.
"Really," said some of the ladies, "if it hadn't been for our friends
from town and the ranches I don't know what we should have done." What
some of them--ay, many of them--did was to gather their little broods
about them morn and night and pray to the Father in heaven for the life
and safety of the father in the field,--to lead pure and patient and
faithful lives, striving to keep their little house in order against his
coming, to teach his children to honor and love his name, to guard that
name from any and every possibility of reproach. What others did was to
accept most liberally the parting injunction, "not to mope, but try to
have a good time and be brave and cheerful," while the soldier went his
way. From this it was an easy step to accept as liberally the proffered
attention of the gentlemen with the charming manners from Braska and
Braska County. It was a gay post, a fashionable post, a frivolous post,
for the tone of garrison life depends immeasurably upon its social
leader, the wife of the commanding officer, and Mrs. Stone was but
little older than her husband's daughters. The latter were East at
school or visiting their own mother's relatives. The former had been a
belle at home and was glad to continue her belledom on the plains. There
were times when Mrs. Stone and the colonel lent the countenance of their
presence to charming little dinners and lunches, or after theatre to
suppers at the leading restaurant in town. There were times when some of
the ladies accepted refreshment there without such official
accompaniment. "Really, one had to drive very frequently to Braska even
if there was no actual shopping, for there was nowhere else to go," was
an oft-heard remark at Scott that summer. But breathes there a woman who
cannot find excuse for shopping? And shopping was hungry work and the
drive was long, the air keen, bracing, appetizing. What more natural
than that Mr. Courtenay and Mr. Fowler of the bank, Mr. Willett or Mr.
Burtis of the Cattle Club,--such charming dancers these,--should
sometimes, indeed frequently, suggest just a little bite, just a hot
bird and a cold bottle at Cresswell's? Such delicious salads as he could
concoct out of even canned shrimp or lobster, such capital oysters as
came to him, fresh, three times a week from Baltimore, such delicious
champagne, so carefully iced. What possible harm could there be in Mrs.
Flight and Mrs. Darling and Mrs. Watson's going together, mind you, and
lunching with their friends? "Why, the ladies at Fort Russell all do the
same thing every time they go to Cheyenne!" said Mrs. Flight, when taken
to task about it. "When I was up there visiting Fanny Turner last month
we thought _nothing_ of it!" All the same Mrs. Wright and Mrs. Leonard
and others of their standard not only wouldn't go driving alone with
the gentlemen from town, but declined to go to Cresswell's with anybody.
And Mrs. Wright's bonny face flushed and her eyes flashed when she said
why. As to what the ladies of the --th did out at Russell, that was not
her business. "Nevertheless," said Mrs. Wright, "I'll warrant you that
Mrs. Stannard, or Mrs. Freeman, or Mrs. Truscott did nothing of the
kind, and I don't care what Mrs. Flight says or Mrs. Turner does."

And then the whole regiment came flocking home, and there was joy and
gladness unspeakable in many a little army household and some
modification thereof in others, and presently Devers and his troop
arrived after a long, long march, and Devers began giving "Pegleg"
something more to think about. The resources of the quartermaster's
department were insufficient to fill that ambitious dragoon's
requisitions. There wasn't anything he didn't want for his men, his
horses, or himself, and the next thing Pegleg knew he was involved just
as he was told he would be in a voluminous warfare with the troop
commander, and was minded of a saying attributed to the wag of the --th
Cavalry, a certain Lieutenant Blake, who knew Devers well and shared the
universal opinion of him. An officer had talked of challenging Devers in
by-gone days when vestiges of the code still lingered, but Blake scouted
the idea. "The only pistol he can fight with is the epistle," said
Blake. So Blake was another detestation of Devers, and doubtless for
good reason. He was forever getting a laugh on the captain when they
happened to come together, and, contentious and critical as he was, the
big dragoon couldn't abide being laughed at. Somebody once referred to
Devers as reminding her of a Hercules on horseback, which prompted Blake
to respond, "Hercules! yes, by Jove, of the Farnese variety," whereat
there was a guffaw among the men present who knew anything of art, and a
general titter on every hand, for no one was ignorant of Devers's wide
physical departure from artistic lines. But Tom Hollis and others of his
ilk only caught the "far knees" part of it, which, however, was quite
enough. Blake would have been a comfort to old Stone this breezy, wintry
December, but in default of native wit to aid him wrestle with his acute
antagonist, the colonel begged that if only one more cavalryman should
be sent to the post in response to the new outcry for protection, he
should come in the shape of a field officer to straighten out Devers.
"He's got," said he, "too damn much individuality for me."

And not only had more cavalry come, but the major had come and gone. If
anything, said Stone, Devers was more unbearable than before, as he now
had over two hundred men to represent instead of a little more than
fifty. Fort Scott was in the height of the holiday festivities, Captain
and Mrs. Cranston with Miss Loomis and the boys were just settling into
the new quarters when Lieutenant and Mrs. Davies were announced as _en
route_ to join.

And now arose a serious question. Who was to receive and entertain the
new-comers until they were able to furnish and move into their own
quarters? If any one, his own captain should be the first to tender
hospitality, but Captain Devers made no move whatsoever. He had a large
and interesting family of his own, which was sufficient excuse. There
were now two classmates of Davies at the post, both in the Fortieth, but
they were youngsters, only a few months in service, who roomed together
in the upper story of old Number Three, and lived at the bachelor mess,
which comprised the contract doctor, the sutler's clerk, and certain of
the quartermaster's employés. The boys would give "Dad" the best they
had and gladly, but they hadn't anything. Even the iron bunks on which
they slept were borrowed from the hospital. "How can a fellow invite a
bride to occupy his one room when he don't own C. and G. E. enough to
furnish a hen-coop?" And by C. and G. E., the army abbreviation for camp
and garrison equipage, the youngster meant to imply that he had no
furniture beyond a camp-chair and a trunk. Cranston himself would gladly
have taken them in but for two reasons,--he had not a vacant room under
his roof, and Margaret did not seem to wish it. It must be confessed
that there had been an outburst heard only by him--confided only to
him--when Mrs. Cranston received, a few weeks after the letter which
sadly told of Davies's mother's death, the brief and possibly
constrained note from her late patient announcing his approaching
marriage to Miss Quimby, who he said had been utterly devoted to poor
mother during her declining days and those of her brief but painful
illness. Margaret could not bear to speak of it to Miss Loomis. It was
Agatha herself who calmly asked, "And when is he to be married?" In
answering Mrs. Cranston found it impossible to conceal that she thought
it both quixotic and unnecessary. Miss Loomis quietly but decidedly took
the opposite view. No honorable man could have done otherwise. They had
long been engaged. It was not only their own but his mother's choice.
She was young, beautiful, deeply in love with him. He had long been in
love with her. Doubtless they would be very happy, as they deserved to
be. Margaret flared up again: "I believe he's doing it as he does
everything else,--from sheer sense of duty, and that you advised him
to." A random shot which went nearer the mark than the archer supposed,
for Miss Loomis flushed in an instant, and made no reply. "Well!" said
Mrs. Cranston, "she longs only to share the humblest cot, the rudest
habitation with her beloved. We'll see how she'll take to frontier

A detachment of thirty troopers had been ordered kept at the new agency
eighty miles to the north, and thither to his supreme disgust had
Lieutenant Boynton of the Eleventh been banished in command, with the
promise of relief soon after Christmas. Cranston wrote asking permission
to use the lieutenant's vacated rooms for the new-comers, saying he
would provide servants and such fittings as would be needed. Boynton
wired back yes, of course, and the dreary bachelor den was made as
habitable as Mrs. Cranston's busy hands and brain could make it. Other
kindly women lent their aid, as well as pillow shams, towels,
comforters, bed linen, lamps, wardrobe, bureau, rocking-chairs, lounge,
etc. The Davieses were to breakfast and lunch with the Cranstons each
day, and to be invited round to dinner until their own cot was ready.
And in thus wise did traditional army hospitality vindicate itself.
There was that still unexplained something hanging over Davies's head,
but as yet he knew nothing of it,--had never heard of the allegations so
vehemently, volubly laid at his door when Captain Devers had his own
portals to clear. Nor was the latter now given to faintest reference to
the matter. This at first glance may seem inconsistent, yet has its
explanation. As matters now stood there would be no further inquiry into
that wretched business. If Davies were once to know his good name had
been attacked, and that his explanation of his failure to reach his men
or give notice of their plight had been aspersed, somebody might put him
up to demanding a court of inquiry. Devers had even concluded it a
diplomatic move to treat the lieutenant with a courtesy hitherto
withheld. Mrs. Devers was already instructed to be particularly civil to
the bride.

Another thing had Devers done, and done most diplomatically. Realizing
his own narrow escape and suspecting his unpopularity in the regiment,
though little dreaming (which of us does?) how ill he was really
regarded, the temporary battalion commander began making friends of the
mammon of unrighteousness, so to speak, and exerting himself to show his
juniors how courteous and considerate he could be in that capacity. As a
general rule it is the subaltern who makes the greatest outcry against
the disciplinary measures of his captain, or the captain who most
vehemently condemns the policy of his colonel, who proves in turn the
most inconsiderate and annoying of superiors. But Devers was
shrewd,--"wise in his generation." He knew his reign must be short at
best. He felt that he had a difficult rôle to play. He had always been
an outspoken "company rights" man as opposed to the federalizing policy
of the battalion or regimental commander. He had bitterly resented in
the past any or all interference with his management of his troop, yet
had been an unsparing critic of everybody else's system, and, as we have
seen, a nimble and active opponent of anything like control on the part
of his commander. Of him it had been predicted that he would immediately
begin to "boss" the entire battalion and require his brother captains to
conform to his own ways of conducting troop affairs. He had always made
it a point to try to be cordial to other fellows' lieutenants, but was
never liked by his own. Mr. Hastings cordially hated him, but Hastings
had his peculiarities, too. As for the captains, Hay and Devers hadn't
been on speaking terms for two years. Truman could not like him, yet had
had no open rupture. Cranston and he were personally and officially
antagonistic. One and all, the officers regarded this detail under his
command as one of the most unpromising of their experience, and could
hardly contain themselves when Warren left. As for Warren, his relations
with the senior troop commander had been of the stiffest and most formal
character ever since the close of the campaign.

But just as he had baffled his own commanders in the past, so now did
Devers baffle all. Far from interfering or assuming control, he did so
only when in actual command at mounted inspection or drill, and then in
the most courteous way of which he was capable. He declined to overhaul
or inspect the quarters or stables of the other troops, which, as
battalion commander, it was really his duty to do at least once a
month. "I have always held that the captain should not be spied upon,"
he said, "and I have too much confidence in the ability and sense of
duty of you gentlemen to differ now."

Hay was amazed, so was everybody up at head-quarters. Colonel Tintop
didn't know what to make of it. Cranston presently decided he had solved
the mystery, but kept his theory to himself. Truman, a little later,
arrived at a like conclusion, and was for giving it abroad, but Cranston
counselled reticence. An appeal to Truman's regimental pride was always

"Never mind what's at the bottom of it all, old man. We're getting along
smoothly and swimmingly, just like a happy family. Let's keep up the
illusion and fool these fellows of the Fortieth awhile longer," said he,
and Truman promised. But these fellows of the Fortieth were not so
easily fooled. They had been on the campaign and knew a thing or two
themselves, and as Devers and the adjutant speedily locked horns again
and Devers said some unjustifiable things, the infantry retorted, and
the infantry weapon had a longer range. It was the very day of Davies's
arrival with his bride that this smouldering fire burst forth. Devers
was in the adjutant's office snarling about the neglect of the post
quartermaster to pay any attention to his requisitions. Now, it was an
aide-de-camp and a cavalry officer who had been sent to the scene of the
affair at Antelope Springs to compare the situation there with Devers's
description and rough sketch, and a cavalry officer who had written what
was practically a vindication of Devers's course. Stung by the language
of the captain, the adjutant, himself a veteran soldier of years of war
service such as Devers had never rendered, looked up from his desk and
sharply asked what was Devers's complaint at the expense of his
regimental comrade,--the quartermaster.

"What I mean," said Devers, "is simply this: that just so long as we
have to appeal to an infantry staff officer I can never get my stables

"We-l-l," said Mr. Leonard, looking his man squarely in the eye, "I am
inclined to think that the cavalry staff officer is sometimes given to
too much 'whitewashing,' and if an infantryman had been sent instead of
a cavalryman the most discreditable affair of the late campaign would
not have been, as it was, whitewashed entirely."

"If somebody had whitewashed old Differs's face he couldn't have turned
a sicker shade," said Tommy Dot, the only other infantryman present at
the moment. Cranston was there, so was Devers's own lieutenant, Mr.
Hastings, and the thing couldn't be overlooked. The adjutant was as big
and powerful a man as Devers, more so if anything, and his black eyes
were snapping like coals, and his mouth was rigid as the jaws of a
steel-trap as he rose and squarely confronted the irate captain, and
Devers knew and knew well that more than his match was there before him.

"This is something you'll have to answer for, Mr. Leonard," said he, in
tones that trembled, despite every effort at self-control. "You are
witness to the language, Captain Cranston, Mr. Hastings."

"The language will be publicly repeated, sir," said Leonard, "if you
desire more witnesses." But by this time the colonel at his desk in the
adjoining room seemed to catch a whiff of the impending crisis, and
could be heard calling his adjutant. "I'll return in a moment, sir,"
said Leonard, and he did, but when he returned Devers was gone.

And now the questions were, what will Devers do about it? and what will
Davies say when he hears what Devers has done? There could be no fight,
except on paper, for that was Devers's only field. He had gone forth in
evident wrath and excitement, bidding Cranston and Hastings to follow.
Hastings as his subaltern went without a word. Cranston said he had come
to transact certain business and would follow when that was done. Devers
was tramping up and down in front of his quarters; Hastings, with
embarrassed mien and moody face, leaning, his hands in his pockets,
against the fence.

"What do you think of that as an insult to the cavalry?" asked Devers of
his junior, as Cranston with his usual deliberation came finally to the

"I think it provoked, sir, by your slur on the infantry."

"I merely generalized," answered Devers. "He insulted both Archer and
me." Archer, by the way, was the aide-de-camp in question.

"Well, then I presume Archer and you can settle it," said Cranston,

"It's evident your sympathy for your patient has blinded your sense of
justice to--to the rest of the regiment. I looked for more loyalty from
you, Cranston."

"It is my loyalty to the regiment and my sense of justice that refuse to
be blinded by you, Devers. I cannot reconcile Mr. Davies's story with
your report, and I do not see how Archer could, if indeed he ever saw
Davies's story or heard of it."

"Captain Cranston, your _protégé_ may thank heaven that I haven't yet
preferred charges against him for that affair," said Devers, white with

"It has always been my belief, Captain Devers, that charges should have
been preferred, and the sooner that it is done the sooner will Davies be
cleared. I presume that you can want nothing further of me." And
Cranston walked calmly on.

And that evening the bride arrived. "The Parson's" classmates drove over
to the railway to meet the happy pair and escort them to the post. The
ladies, one and all, had done their best to brighten up the absent
Boynton's quarters so as to make a fitting habitation for the new-comers
to their ranks. The officers had passed the word, as was the expression,
to keep from Davies, for the present at least, all mention of these
affairs in which his name was involved. Somebody at division
head-quarters must have had an eye on the situation, for there came a
letter from a trusted aide of the lieutenant-general to old "Pegleg"
reminding him of the gratitude we all owed the young man's noble father,
and bidding him lend a helping hand to Davies, and see that his life
wasn't made a burden to him by his troop commander. The general
evidently knew of Devers's idiosyncrasies, but Mrs. Devers herself came
early to join the circle of helping hands, and announced that she would
be there to welcome the bride to her temporary nest; and she was there
in the crisp, cold starlight when the ambulance with its spanking team
drove briskly into the big quadrangle, and in warm furs and happy
blushes and half-shy delight, a very pretty girl was lifted from the
dark interior and presented to the little knot of hospitable friends
awaiting her coming.


Within the week of their arrival, thanks to the energetic movements of
Mr. Davies, the new couple were established in Number 12, the outermost
of the long row of officers' quarters, the one nearest the open prairie
and farthest from the official and social centre of the post, but the
best they could hope for on the rank of a junior lieutenant in a crowded
garrison. Even this roost was not to be entirely their own, for Acting
Assistant Surgeon Burroughs occupied the rear room aloft, and had he
chosen to fight for his rights, would probably have been accorded the
entire floor, but like everybody else he was eager to make everything
pleasant for the bride. Davies had expected no such luck, and had duly
explained to her that a combined dining-, sitting-, and bedroom, and an
out-door kitchen was absolutely all that they could expect, and more
than they were really entitled to. But Almira had enthusiastically
declared, as she had written, that even an Indian lodge in some vast
wilderness she would rather share with her Percy than a palace with a
prince royal. That there was a halo of romance about this marriage was
something everybody in the Fortieth had heard and many in the Eleventh
believed. All manner of theories and not a few stories had been put in
circulation, and no end of questions propounded of Captain Cranston's
household--who were believed to know all the facts--and not a few of the
fair bride herself, who showed no unreadiness to enter into particulars,
but had evidently been cautioned to curb her confidences. Taking a leaf
from the journalism of the day, let us congratulate the reader on having
now laid before him or her the first and only authentic record of the
facts in the case,--let us proudly await the commendation due their

It was no part of Percy Davies's plan when he left the roof of his
devoted nurses at Cameron to return to the regiment within two months a
married man, but other forces had been at work. A halo of heroism had
been thrown about his head by the events of the summer. The papers of
his State had made much of his prompt and soldierly tender of service.
It was before the day of illustrated daily journalism, or his picture
might have appeared in several papers, all, presumably, copies from the
same photograph, and no two of them recognizably alike. According to
local predictions he was on the high-road to fame, rank, and promotion,
and Almira's romance was redoubled, and her importance in the community,
in her own eyes at least, immeasurably enhanced. One paper indeed had
referred poetically to the lovely bride from whose entwining arms at the
call of duty the heroic youth had torn himself, and the pen-picture
drawn of Almira was as flattering as the wood-cut might have been
frightful. Then something occurred that turned her head as nothing had
before. Who should write to her but rich Aunt Almira, her own dear dead
mother's long-talked-of sister, now the wife of the great railway
magnate, and Aunt Almira urged her niece to come and visit her, and
Almira went, as pretty a village maid as ever set foot in a Pullman car;
but Aunt Almira looked aghast at the rural cut of her garments, even
though she gasped with envy over her complexion. She drove her lovely
niece forthwith to a great mart where all manner of feminine wear was in
readiness for immediate donning, and Almira was in a heaven of bliss and
her aunt in corresponding spell of complacency over the improvement
instantly effected. This, however, was only a temporary arrangement. To
her own milliner, mantua-makers and modistes, and what not, the happy,
blushing girl was next transported, and Urbana looked upon her with envy
and delight when at the close of that changeful moon she was restored to
friends and fireside. Aunt Almira had given her niece a party, to which
came famous officers of the army, stationed in the city, to say nice
things to her about her hero lieutenant and honeyed words about herself.
There was a reception at which three cavaliers appeared in blue and
gold, with medals on their broad chests, great braids and loops of
glittering cord pendent from their armored shoulders. (Percy at that
time, in the rags of his first uniform and a shocking bad hat and the
wreck of a pair of soldier boots, cold and wet, faint and starving, was
staggering through the Bad Lands, dragging his skeleton horse behind
him.) A great military band was playing thrilling waltz music, and a
young lieutenant-colonel swung her twice around the whirling parlor and
helped her to champagne and praised her waltzing, which he declared
perfect,--and indeed she had enjoyed excellent teaching, but, alas! at
the hands of Powlett, not Percy, who would not dance at all. Yes, the
aide-de-camp helped her to champagne and more flattery. There was a
military wedding in a great cathedral church one evening where some of
Percy's classmates in glittering uniforms served as ushers and crowded
about her to talk of "Dad," as they called him, and to dance with her
and marvel among themselves later at her beauty, her unsophistication,
and at her being his choice. She went back to Urbana at the end of the
month, believing army life to be one long round of balls, parties,
music, dancing, champagne,--army men heroic gallants in gorgeous attire
who danced divinely and said the sweetest things ever whispered into
dainty ears. She went back with Aunt Almira's promise to provide still
more raiment for her _trousseau_, and finally with Aunt Almira's tearful
tale that her heart, too, was with the Eleventh, wherein her own beloved
boy, her idolized black sheep, was a trooper serving his country on a
private's pay and under the name of Brannan; and then, with a start,
Almira bethought her of certain wild, raving letters that she had left
hidden at home,--letters she had never spoken of to anybody,--letters
that had come to her from time to time in the spring and early summer
and then suddenly ceased, as Percy's had, entirely, for there were long
weeks that battle year when the field column was cut off from all
communication with friends and home, and these letters, too, had told of
Brannan,--told things she would not, could not tell Aunt Almira,--could
not indeed tell anybody, for her letters, though signed Bertie, were
written by another trooper, whose address was Howard.

After such joys under Aunt Almira's roof, life at home became
insupportable. Mrs. Quimby said it was Almira herself, not the life.
Clash followed clash; there came sneers, tears, squabbles, rows, and at
last practical banishment. Old Quimby could stand it no longer. Almira
went to live with her prospective mother-in-law, who was not sorry, and
who, hearing for weeks only her side of the story, believed all she said
about home troubles and their inciting cause. She could not hear enough
about Percy, and so who so welcome as Almira, who never tired of the
topic, or of the telling of the officers she had met and all they had
said of him and of his spirited conduct. Even a great general, she said,
had been presented, and before all the company had drawn her to his
broad-sashed, button-studded bosom and kissed her mantling cheek, as was
his way with every pretty girl he met,--Almira did not mention that. And
then these two women, invalid mother and impatient daughter-in-law
elect, were drawn closely together by tidings of Percy's illness,
Percy's careful nursing, etc., then of Percy's slow convalescence. They
could not go to him, because Mrs. Davies was far too feeble. Almira
raved about going,--wanted to go,--wept, implored, and ranted, but her
father was implacable and Mrs. Davies opposed. The latter was sure
everything was being done that could be done and she needed Almira. But
from the very first Almira was suspicious of Mrs. Cranston and Miss
Loomis, jealous of their attention, fearful of their influence. Percy,
she cried, not she, would prove faithless. She would gladly, willingly,
eagerly fly to his side, nurse him night and day, dwell with him in
bliss and a wigwam if need be; but he--he was cold--he was changing--he
would prove faithless to his humble, adoring village maid, and then
there would be nothing left for her but despair. Then as his
convalescence progressed she became insistent and Mrs. Davies weaker.
Almira poured forth her plaint to her aunt by letter. Aunt Almira gave
another dinner, to which some of the staff were bidden, and a mellow
symposium it was, and over the oft-replenished champagne glasses did the
kindly woman tell of Mrs. Davies's craving to see her boy once more, and
how the boy would ask no favors, though her husband, the magnate,
offered to send to the lieutenant passes all the way from Cheyenne. Two
Almiras prevailed, and the last month of the mother's life was blessed
and gladdened by the presence of her devoted son. Almost the last
promise asked of him was that there should be no delay in the marriage
of her dear children, as she called them, though the poor soul had many
a misgiving now as to whether Almira, after all, would prove a worthy
helpmate for her earnest, duteous son. Indeed, she at one time had
thought to ask that they might be united before her eyes, but Almira's
wedding garment wasn't ready, and Almira, who had urged all speed, was
not prepared for speed so great as that. She, too, secretly nourished
the idea of a military wedding and a big church. Davies never meant to
retreat from his obligation, but he had hoped to make the girl fully
understand what was before her,--what army life and its duties were
really like,--but his every effort to talk with her gravely and
earnestly met with reproach and tears. She didn't care what it was, all
she asked was to share his lot, no matter how poor, how humble. It was
he who, after for years making her love him so, was now doubting and
distrusting her. She knew how it would be when those other women,
instead of her, had been chosen to nurse and care for him. They had
usurped her place. They had undermined her. That--that Miss Loomis whom
he was holding up as a model to her--all this time! He'd break her
heart, and she'd just go--anywhere except home--and die. She had no
home. She had given up everybody--everything for him, and now he was
tiring of her. Well, it was pretty trying, but Davies strove to explain
and to undeceive. He didn't take her in his arms and kiss away her tears
as he ought to have done, and plead and pet and soothe as she planned he
should do, poor child. It wasn't his way. He strove to appeal to her
judgment and to her common sense, but could not reach them. And then
came to him the great sorrow of his mother's death, peaceful, placid,
hopeful though it was,--and then when she was laid away and he faced the
world again, he found that there were outstanding claims against the
homestead of which, through motives of kindness, both his mother and
himself had been kept in ignorance during her life. Unless he could pay
regularly the interest on a large sum the old place his father loved
must go. It had ever been Percy's plan to hold it, and in the fulness
of time to return perhaps to take his father's place in the church, at
any rate to strive to do so in the community. He had planned to lease it
until he and Almira should be ready to go to housekeeping there if she
remained faithful all these years, but now only by pinching could he
hope to save it at all.

And this he explained, but it made no difference. She would help him
pinch and save and starve if need be. They could live on a crust, and
she could cook and bake and darn and sew and sweep for him. The one
thing she could no longer do was wait, for people were pestering to know
when she was to be married, and some girls had openly hinted that Percy
Davies had changed his mind. Then came the naming of the day, and, as he
was in deep mourning, to her bitter disappointment he said their wedding
must be very simple and quiet,--just a few friends present as witnesses.
She had projected on a smaller scale an imitation of the swell affair
she had seen in the fall, but Percy wouldn't even have a best man. Then
he told her gravely that as they must live so quietly he thought her
aunt should not lay out money on party and dinner dresses and expensive
trifles. Almira should dress very simply as became a poor soldier's
wife, and as he was in deep mourning, and they could not go to dances or
dinners or anything of the kind, that she should so notify her, but
Almira could not thwart her aunt, and Percy's brow darkened when the
trunks arrived. "I fear she looks in return for all this for various
things which I cannot possibly do for her son," said he. He had not seen
the boy for months, and did not know how he might be withstanding the
temptations surrounding garrison life after long months of enforced
abstinence in the field.

In the days of Davies's convalescence Cranston had told him of Mrs.
Barnard's call and of Brannan's story, and rejoiced that Brannan was
Miss Loomis's patient on the train, and that all through the campaign
the boy had borne himself well, and all this you may be sure did
Cranston write to Mrs. Barnard, and most gratefully was it all
acknowledged. She urged that as soon as possible now her son should be
transferred to Cranston's troop as a surer and simpler path to his
commission. After meeting and knowing the military gentlemen at
home,--people in whom she had taken no interest whatever until her
wayward son had taken to the army,--she had begun to picture him in a
staff uniform and on duty with the general at home, and, motherlike, was
eager to speed the consummation. And then Cranston's next letter told
her that her boy's best friend and adviser, Lieutenant Davies, was from
Urbana, and then very soon came the story of his engagement to Almira
Quimby, her own niece. It was then that Almira was sent for and became
Queen Paramount, for when do mothers cease to plan for wayward sons?

And now the bride was actually there in the army. The ladies had
gathered to welcome her. The band had seranaded her the night of her
arrival. The colonel and his wife, captains and lieutenants by the
dozen, came to call, most of them with their better halves, some of the
latter refined, high-bred, cultured women, some simple-mannered,
warm-hearted army girls who knew no home but the regiment, no life but
that on the plains. Some vapid, frivolous, and would-be fashionable, but
all full of kindly motive. She could have had luncheons, dinners, and
parties in her honor, and secretly moaned that it could not be, but Mr.
Davies's deep mourning prohibited. She had dined _en famille_ and in
deep constraint at the Cranstons the evening after her coming, and not
all Mrs. Cranston's cheery, chatty, cordial way, or Miss Loomis's
courtesy and tact, could put poor Almira at her ease. She was set
against them from the start, and it made the feast an ordeal which both
Cranston and Davies would gladly have eliminated from memory could they
do so. The latter had never yet spoken reprovingly to his wife, but this
night he felt that something must be said. Just in proportion as her
manner to her hostess had been unresponsive and cold so had her
assumption of little wifely airs and proprietorship been comical. She
seemed bent on extracting from Percy public and frequent demonstration
of his lover-like side, and her appeals and endearments had furiously
embarrassed him. They went home early, met callers at their own door,
and were kept up late. That Mrs. Cranston should have turned and looked
inquiringly into Agatha Loomis's face the instant the door closed upon
them was to be expected. Her eyes were sparkling, her lips twitching
with the mental ebullition going on within; but Agatha turned abruptly
away. Mrs. Cranston then sought to search her husband's face, but the
captain was forearmed and chose to keep his back towards his better half
and to pull on his arctics and overcoat and gather up his little
hurricane lamp. The trumpet was sounding first call for tattoo, and
though it was no concern of his, for Mr. Sanders, his cheery subaltern,
had just gone whistling by on his way to the troop quarters, Cranston
preferred to face the falling snow rather than those speaking, luminous,
quizzical, questioning, tormenting eyes, and so invented business for
the occasion. "Don't sit up for me, Meg," said he, and she knew he
simply would not be drawn into a discussion.

But she had to talk to somebody, and what was Agatha for? Agatha had
palpably dodged and gone to her room, and would have been glad not to
come down again. She even went into the boys' room and romped with her
two young trooper cousins instead of allowing them to go to sleep. So up
came Mrs. Cranston and ordered her out, and then, when the girl would
have escaped and gone down-stairs again, Margaret confronted her in the
hall, placed her hands on her shoulders, and with a world of mingled
merriment and commiseration in her tone said, or rather asked,--


"Well what?"

"What do you think now?"

"Simply what I have maintained all along. That he did right."

"But what do you think of--of her?"

And Miss Loomis, shaking herself free, hurried by her friend and down
the stairs. She refused to say.

Perhaps it might have been better had Mr. Davies postponed his first
marital lecture. It was very gentle, very brief, but Almira had seen his
vexation as they hastened home and had striven to avert the coming
comments. She well knew wherein she had erred. Public endearments of any
kind by word or touch had already been pointed out to her as
unconventional in society. There were no people on the post in whose
presence he more dreaded such demonstration than the two ladies of
Cranston's household. There were no people in the world in whose
presence she was more bent upon making display of her possession. He had
interdicted the gown she longed to wear and indicated a simple black
silk. In this point she had to yield, but she had conquered on the
other, and now when he gravely reminded her of his caution, she declared
she thought these people were his intimate friends, his confidants,--not
mere society people,--and--of course--if he was ashamed to have them
see--how dear he was to her----Oh, but why go on with the rest? Sobs and
tears and swollen eyelids and sore lamentation, and pleas to be taken
home again if this was to be the beginning of their married life. Davies
knelt alone that night, and his prayer for guidance and strength came
from the depths of an anxious heart.


One of the first inquiries made by Mr. Davies was for Trooper Brannan.
"He is with the detachment up at the reservation," said Mr. Hastings.
"That's our Botany Bay. That's where Differs ships his bad eggs. Not
that Brannan was a bad egg, but that Differs so regarded him."

"Had he been drinking or in any trouble?"

"Well, not exactly trouble," said Hastings. "He didn't get along with
one or two of the sergeants. They made frequent complaint of his 'lip,'
and the old man seemed suspicious of him." Only one new hand or recruit
had been selected to go to the agency with Boynton's detachment, and
that was Brannan. He was sent to replace Fogarty, who broke his leg,
just about the time the other troops came. When Davies reported to his
troop and battalion commander for duty, Captain Differs received him
with much grave dignity,--with a certain air in which majestic courtesy
was mingled with that of forgiveness for injuries received, as though he
would say, "Let by-gones be by-gones. We'll make a fresh start, and in
consideration of your ills, inexperience, and the like, I'll try to
overlook your shortcomings in the field." Davies had never set eyes on
him from the moment of their parting at dusk that gloomy Dakota evening
to the northwest of the Springs,--from that evening to that of his
return. Totally ignorant of much that had taken place during his
illness, he was ready to serve his captain faithfully, even though he
felt that he could not like or trust him. They had but brief converse.
"Take all the time you need to get your quarters ready, Mr. Davies. You
and Hastings can divide the detail work of stables and roll-call between
you," said Devers. "Just remember we've got an infantry adjutant here
who's only too anxious to find fault and stir up trouble between us and
the post commander."

Going into the troop office the day after his return, Davies was
surprised to see a dark-eyed, dark-haired, rather handsome young
soldier at the clerk's desk. He recognized him as one of the recruits
whom he had brought out in July, but of whom he had seen very little
during the campaign.

"That's our new company clerk," said Hastings. "One of Differs's latest
pets. There are better clerks and better men in the troop. He relieved a
better man when he sent Moran up to the agency. But what Devers is
driving at is past finding out. There's been a total shaking up since
that--well, since the campaign."

And that this was true Davies could see for himself. Never having known
the troop, except in the field on the worst of campaigns, it took him a
few days to become accustomed to the change. Some of the most prominent
of the troop sergeants were still on duty with it, but in their
spick-and-span uniforms and clean-shaven cheeks and chins he found them
greatly altered. The first sergeant was the same, and the relationship
between him and the captain seemed closer than ever. Haney recognized no
middleman in his dealings with the troop commander, and had long been
allowed to consider himself as of far more importance than a junior
lieutenant, a theory in which, perhaps, there was much to sustain him.
The manner of this magnate to the two subalterns, therefore, was just a
trifle independent. Two veteran corporals had stepped up to an
additional stripe vice Daly killed and McGrath missing in September.
Some new corporals had been "made." None of those whom Davies best knew
and most noticed during the summer were among them. He missed two or
three of the old hands and asked for them. Sergeant Lutz had gone to
the agency. Corporal O'Brien had been reduced for a spree on the
home-coming and was serving as private in Boynton's detachment, and
Privates Sercomb and Riley were up there, too. The resultant vacancies
in the troop had been filled by raw recruits who were being
energetically licked into shape.

When Cranston was asked why he supposed it had pleased Captain Devers to
send a recruit like Brannan up to the bleak and unwholesome life at the
agency, Cranston replied by saying, "Differs said it was to keep him out
of harm's way. Up there he couldn't get liquor, down here he could."
When Davies asked if Brannan had shown a disposition to drink since
getting back from the campaign, Cranston again used Devers's authority.
"Differs said he had,--two or three times." But when Cranston wrote to
Boynton, Boynton replied that young Brannan declared that he had been
totally abstemious since the day after they reached the post. The day of
their coming in, he arrived half frozen and all tired out, as he had
been kept back on wagon guard, and he was offered liquor by Sergeant
Haney himself, and drank several times, and was wretchedly ill all the
next day as a consequence,--so ill that it frightened him, and he swore
off more solemnly than before. Hastings said, in fact, that there was a
set in "A" troop, a clique that "stood in" with the first sergeant and
some of his favorites, and that no man outside of it could hope for
recognition and no one in it fear punishment. Brannan was not in it.

It was a Wednesday night, as has been said, that Davies arrived, and
not until the following Wednesday could they be installed in their
quarters, which were being simply but prettily furnished. Private
Barnickel had assumed the duties of striker, and Mrs. Maloney's
strapping daughter Katty was now presiding in Boynton's kitchen as cook
and maid-of-all-work. A tenant had been found for the old house at home,
who was to pay a certain rental to Squire Quimby, which sum was to be
supplemented by a monthly payment from his son-in-law's scanty purse.
"We must live very simply and economically, my wife," said Davies. "At
the very least it will take me two whole years to pay principal and
interest and set us foot free; but we have few other debts. We can be
warm and comfortable. You have all the clothing you will be apt to need
for a good while, and I will get along with what I have." And Mira had
received the suggestion with all wifely grace. They went to chapel
together that first crisp, sunshiny, wintry Sunday, and all Fort
Scott--at least all that happened to be there assembled--remarked on
Almira's rich color--and furs--and on Davies's reverent manner. He was
the only man in the little congregation who actually knelt. The old
chaplain rejoiced that afternoon when the tall lieutenant came in at
Sunday-school, and, taking immediate charge of the most turbulent of his
classes,--the big boys,--held them both interested and respectful until
the close of the session. Almira came too, and made an impression on the
juvenile minds of some of the laundresses' children, who studied her
pretty face and new hat and garments with close attention; but it gave
her a headache and she would rather not go to the evening service, she
said,--a service held more especially for the benefit of the soldiers
and their families, and but sparsely attended otherwise. Davies went,
however, and when he came home to their temporary quarters, found
Almira, all animation, chatting with Mrs. Flight and Mrs. Darling, to
whom she had been showing the contents of her big trunk. They were
called for presently by Mr. Sanders and his classmate Jervis, both of
whom had known the "Parson" in his cadet days, but from the somewhat
immeasurable altitude of a two years' start, yet they were the younger
looking now, gay, debonair bachelors, pillars of the social gatherings
at the post and most delightful partners, and, having completed their
duties with tattoo roll-call, they were now in search of these reigning
belles and an opportunity to talk over the hop projected for the coming
Wednesday night. Of course Mrs. Davies would come, said Jervis, but
Sanders's warning kick brought him to consciousness. "At least I
hope--we all hope you'll very soon be able to attend our parties, Mrs.
Davies. I suppose you've reformed the Parson and taught him to waltz."
Mira looked at her husband, and she knew not just what to say.

Davies smiled gravely and said no, he feared that he was too old and
awkward to learn even at the Point, but that Mrs. Davies was very fond
of dancing, and by and by, perhaps, they would attend. Then the chat
flowed merrily on, of the lovely time that they had all enjoyed,--that
is, the garrison people had enjoyed all summer, and the pleasant
associations they had formed with the gentlemen from town, and how much
lovelier it would be now. And while they were talking, through the thin
partition which separated Mr. Boynton's official and personal quarters
from those of Lieutenant and Adjutant Leonard there came the sound of
sacred music,--Mrs. Leonard at her piano, her clear, true voice blending
with the deep resonant bass of her soldier husband and the sweet treble
of the children, and Davies stopped to listen. It was a hymn his father
loved, one they often sang at the old church at home,--

    "Son of my soul, Thou Saviour dear."

It brought sweet and sacred memories. It spoke of home and holy
influences, of mother love and father's blessing and children's hope and
faith. It filled his heart with reverence and his eyes with tears. The
babble and chat for an instant were silenced, and then Mrs. Darling

"The worst of these army quarters is that you can hear just what's going
on next door; but," she added, cheerfully, "you'll soon be where you
won't be bothered on one side, at least."

Sanders gave a queer, quick glance at the speaker and then at Davies.
Jervis plunged into an immediate rhapsody on the subject of Mrs.
Leonard's children, whom he declared to be the best little beggars he
ever knew, unless it was Cranston's. "Of course," he added,
diplomatically, "I can safely praise them in your presence, ladies, as
you have none of your own."

Then conversation languished, for Davies was silent and Mrs. Davies
uninspired. The visitors left and went laughing down the row, their gay
voices ringing in the frosty air.

"How long had they been here, dear?" asked Davies as he returned to the

"The ladies? Oh, I don't know. Quite a little while. They were so
interested in everything,--so friendly. I quite forgot my headache while
they were here. Now it seems to be coming on again, and if you don't
mind I think I won't sit up,--unless somebody else is coming."

"There will hardly be any more callers to-night," he answered, gravely.
"If your head aches you might be better for going early to bed, and I
will sit here and read awhile."

But the wandering thoughts refused to be chained to the page before him.
His heart was full and vaguely troubled. "I shall be better for a turn
in the cold air," he thought, and so, throwing his cape over his
shoulders, he quietly left the house.

It was just after ten, a still, sparkling winter's night. Across the
snowy level of the parade the long rows of wooden barracks lay dark and
silent, no lights burning except in the window of some company office or
first sergeant's room. Those were the days of "early to bed and early to
rise," and every man was supposed to be sleeping by ten so as to be up
and doing stable duty--or nothing--at dawn. Officers and ladies, the
privileged class of the army, made their own regulations as to domestic
hours of retiring. The enlisted man slept or was supposed to sleep "by
order." Mr. Davies, finding it essential to his comfort to sally forth
and imbibe free air, had no one to say him nay,--Mrs. Davies having
retired,--and might wander the live-long night about the post at will.
Trooper Blaney or Private Rentz, on the contrary, might toss for hours
on sleepless pillow, and could only grin and bear it. It meant so many
dollars "blind," or such other punishment as a court-martial might
inflict to a soldier caught out of barracks after the sound of the
signal to extinguish lights.

Already, in the quarters of his next-door neighbor, the adjutant, the
parlor was darkened, and except for the studious head of the family, now
poring over some precious volume in the privacy of his den, the
household had gone aloft. Davies paused a moment, irresolute. To his
right the walk extended only a short distance. There were but two more
houses. To his left lay the main length of the line,--the colonel's, the
surgeon's, the cavalry commander's, and most of the captains'.
Cranston's roof, however, was one of the two to the right, and thither
Davies turned. Dim lights were burning in the little army parlor, as he
could see through the half-drawn curtain. A shadow flitted across the
dormer window above him,--Mrs. Cranston's. The other windows in the
upper floor were dark. He wanted to go in and commune with Cranston, the
man of all others whom he most liked, but he shrank from ringing their
bell at so late an hour. Elsewhere along the row many a window was
brilliantly illuminated and the social life of the post seemed in full
flow. The Cranstons were home-keeping folk as a rule, "not at all
sociable," said some of the dames of the Fortieth, and yet they were
highly regarded throughout the garrison.

Except for a mere bow, as they were going to morning service, he had not
met Mrs. Cranston or Miss Loomis since the dinner of Thursday
evening,--the evening of Almira's provincial display of endearments, for
between Katty and Striker Barnickel they had been enabled to breakfast
at Boynton's quarters, and had lunched and dined elsewhere among the
many hospitably disposed throughout the garrison. Davies wanted to see
and talk with the captain, but to-night he shrank unaccountably from
meeting either of the ladies. It is under such circumstances that many a
man finds Fate unkind. Even as he stood there the hall door flew open
and a bright beam from the astral lamp within shot athwart the road. A
blithe voice called back in answer to some presumable remonstrance.
"What nonsense, Margaret! I can run over there as well as not and be
back in a moment." The door closed, and muffled in her long fur-lined
cloak, Miss Loomis was at the gate. "Why! Mr. Davies!" she exclaimed in

"I was just wondering whether I might venture to ring and ask for the
captain," he hesitatingly said. "I wanted very much to see him."

"Captain Cranston is out. That is how it happens that _I_ am going out,"
she spoke, with prompt and cheery tone. "Old Sergeant Fritz is very low
to-night, and you'll find the captain there," and she indicated the way
to the married men's quarters over to the southwest. "I have to run over
to the hospital, for Louis's cough is very troublesome, and we happened
to be entirely out of medicine."

"Well, my talk with the captain can wait, Miss Loomis. Let me be your
orderly for to-night. What can I get for you?"

"Indeed you shall not!" she answered, with quick decision. "I'm
accustomed to doing my own errands. Good-night." And with that she
turned independently away to where the dim lights in the hospital
glimmered at the eastward.

"Then your ex-patient may at least trot along as escort," said he, as
promptly placing himself by her side and, army fashion, tendering his

"No, thank you," she answered, resolutely muffling her cloak about her
and rebelling against the rising impulse of vexation, "I do not need
support, and indeed, Mr. Davies, I need no escort. I'm quite accustomed
to going about the post by myself. I--I would very much rather you went
on to see Captain Cranston, as was your intention."

"And I would very much rather walk with you to the hospital," he
answered, with calm decision. "Come."

She had stopped as though striving to dismiss him from her side, but he
ignored her wishes entirely. His lips were curving into something very
like a smile of amusement, and it nettled her.

"To be perfectly frank with you, Mr. Davies, I wish now that I had made
a reconnoissance before venturing out so boldly. If there is anything I
hate it is this idea of burdening a man with escort duty. Just as though
one needed to be guarded at every step. It is the dependence of the
thing I despise,--a dependence that is entirely forced upon us."

"Well, so long as the escort is not forced upon you, I hope you will
not despise it. I am going with you because, as it's after taps, you may
need help in rousing the steward. He was up all last night, I'm told,
with Fritz, and may be abed now."

And so her protests, not her scruples, were silenced. Down the row they
rapidly walked, under the sparkling heavens, through the keen,
exhilarating air of the wintry prairie, passing, door by door, the
quarters of the officers of the garrison, some still brightly lighted,
others dark and silent. She was talking fast and with a nervous impulse
as they hurried by the colonel's, the broad portals of whose official
residence were just then thrown open to admit another party to join the
little circle sure every evening to be surrounding Mrs. Stone, and
welcoming voices and laughter floated out on the night. The moment
before they passed the gate whence he had issued forth barely three
minutes earlier. The hall light burned low as he left it, the parlor
shades were down. Almira presumably was nursing her headache in the
sanctity of the chamber at the rear. Boynton's upper story was occupied
by a junior subaltern of the Fortieth, who was believed to sleep there
at odd hours, but was generally to be found almost anywhere else.

"Mrs. Davies looked so well to-day," remarked Miss Loomis. "I hope she
finds her welcome pleasant."

"She is very well, except for a headache that sent her early to bed
to-night," he answered. "And her welcome from everybody has been most
kind and cordial, and from none more so than from Mrs. Cranston and
yourself. You are always adding to the obligations I am under."

"I shall quarrel with you some day if you talk of obligations, Mr.
Davies. But I'm so sorry to hear of her headache," she went on, quickly,
as though to prevent argument on the point. "The chapel does get very
hot and stuffy by evening service. Ought they not to air it after

"It would be a good plan. But my wife did not go to-night. Her headache
began earlier in the day. I thought the close atmosphere of the chapel
would only increase it and so counselled her remaining home."

He remembered, however, that he had counselled her going early to bed,
but found her engrossed in her volatile callers on his return. It was
all very natural. Upon spirits like Almira's, communion with such gay
and frothy natures acted like champagne. He was trying to believe he was
glad she could be so readily benefited. The houses grew darker as they
approached the east end. Even the hall lamp was extinguished at Devers's
quarters, though there were lights aloft. Devers had a storm-door,
another instance of his individuality, as even the colonel's quarters
were not so embellished. It was a perfectly still night, not a whiff of
wind astir, and yet Davies could have sworn the storm-door swung slowly
open a foot or so as they neared the gate, then suddenly shut to. What
was more, he felt that his companion had seen and noted the same
circumstance, for she drew an instant closer to his side, then as
quickly seemed to recollect herself and edged away.

Davies looked back over his shoulder. So certain was he that the
storm-door had been opened and closed by some unseen hand within the
wooden casing that he would have turned to investigate, but for his
companion. He could not well leave her. They had now reached the east
end, right in front of the set of quarters which were so soon to be his
own. The hospital loomed up dark and massive across an open space two
hundred yards away. Only a narrow foot-path had been cleared from the
end of the sidewalk to the main entrance of the big building. He had not
thought to put on his over-shoes, and so, letting Miss Loomis lead,
Davies fell behind. Now that they were away from ear-shot of the
quarters their talk languished. Davies at least was thinking of that
mysterious door and wondering if he should not have looked into the
matter then and there. Now it was too late. If some garrison prowler
were the cause, he had doubtless by this time taken alarm and slipped
away; if Captain Devers or any of his household were the "power behind,"
then it was none of Davies's business. Hurrying up the creaking,
snapping steps of the hospital, they found the office-door locked. "I
more than suspected you would need me," said Davies. "Will you wait one
moment?" He tiptoed away through the long corridor, found the drowsy
attendant in the big ward, and learned that the steward had gone to his
little home in Sudstown, but would return in five minutes. It was nearer
fifteen when he came, and meantime Miss Loomis and her escort seated
themselves in the warm corridor and chatted in low tone as befitted the
time and place. In one of the little wards a suffering soldier was
moaning, evidently in penance for recent spree, and weakly imploring
drink of a stolid nurse.

"Don't make a fellow mad with misery," they heard him plead. "You know
where to get it. You know it's worse than hell to have to choke off

"Of course I do," was the brutal answer. "If I'd never knew it before,
I'd learned it that night on the train when you could have sent me help
and wouldn't."

"My God, Paine! you asked me to steal from the captain's flask. I simply
ask for what's my own----"

But the voice was suddenly hushed, for, springing to his feet, Mr.
Davies hurried to the door. "Who is this--who have you here?" he asked.
"You--you? Brannan!"

And then, as a slender, graceful, womanly shape came noiselessly in and
appeared by the lieutenant's side, quivering, shaking in an agony of
shame and misery and nervousness, the lonely patient threw himself over
towards the wall, and burying his distorted face in his arms, burst into
a passion of tears, the attendant meantime slinking out into the hall.

"Come back here, my man," ordered Davies, in low, stern voice, while
Miss Loomis, without one instant of hesitation, threw off her cloak,
drew a chair to the bedside, and laid her soft white hand upon the
tumbled head of the wretched boy. Unwillingly, sullenly, the man obeyed.

"You are Paine, of 'A' troop, are you not?"

"Yes, sir. And the captain's orders and the doctor's were that he
shouldn't have a drop."

"Never mind that. When did he get here? How did he come?"

[Illustration: "COME BACK HERE, MY MAN."

Page 180.]

"With the mail-carrier this morning, from the agency, sir, and he'd been
drinking on the way and got to going harder as soon as he reached the
post. The captain ordered him confined and the doctor sent him here. But
my orders was----"

"Never mind your orders. What I want to know is, who detailed you, and
when were you detailed for hospital duty?"

"The captain sent me over, sir, after Brannan was taken in, and he's
been begging like that for a drink for an hour back."

Meantime, with great sobs shaking his form, Brannan lay there saying no
articulate word. Miss Loomis gently drew an arm from underneath his
head. "Let me have your wrist, Brannan," she gently said. "You know your
old nurse of last summer, don't you?" And in another moment her
practised touch was on the sufferer's pulse. In silence Davies awaited
the result. Her eyes filled with grave anxiety as she counted the feeble
fluttering,--a mere shadow of the vigorous throb of a soldier's heart.
"This man ought not to be here--neglected," she murmured to Davies.
Then, rising, she turned to the attendant. "Go at once to Dr. Burroughs
and say that Miss Loomis asks him to come here as quick as he can."

And Private Paine concluded it best to go without further words. The
steward, returning to his post, was met at the steps by the young
contract surgeon coming over from his corner on the run. A moment more
and the two stood in presence of the sufferer and of his nurse. She
smiled kindly upon the new-comers. "I sent for you, doctor, because I
knew you had not been informed of Brannan's state. His pulse----" and
here she lowered her voice so that only Burroughs and Davies could
hear,--"is so thin and wiry as to be almost gone. My father would say he
needed stimulant at once, and treatment later. See for yourself."

And the daughter of the well-known and beloved old army surgeon knew her
ground and never faltered. Burroughs made brief examination and no
remonstrance. In another minute the steward was administering brandy and
water in a tablespoon while, anxious to re-establish himself, the young
doctor was explaining. "I had no previous knowledge of the case," he
stammered. "Captain Devers told me of the man's arrival and downfall,
and I ordered him into hospital at his request, and,--yes,--I did say no
stimulants of any kind. The captain so urged, and of course that would
be the customary mode of treatment in most cases, but in a case like
this, of course, had I been aware----"

"Oh, certainly," she interposed, with the same gracious smile and
manner. "It was because I knew you hadn't been made aware. Now we'll
soon be able to make him comfortable, and then when he's on his feet
again he can tell us how it all happened." Again her white hand was laid
upon the haggard forehead. "Courage, Brannan. Don't worry. We'll get you
to sleep presently. Now, doctor, I want to send some medicine and a note
to Mrs. Cranston. With your permission I mean to stay here a while."

"I will be your messenger, Miss Loomis," said Davies, "as the attendant
doesn't seem to have returned, and then I can let Mrs. Davies know that
I shall come here again, myself."

As he sped along the row, note and medicine phial in hand, Davies was
surprised to see his captain's storm-door wide open and a light shining
through the transom within. A light was moving through the parlor, too,
but Davies paid no further heed, left the note and medicine in Mrs.
Cranston's hands with brief explanatory word, then hurried back to
Boynton's quarters. He had turned down the light when he went out for
his walk and had left his wife in the darkness of her room, trying,
presumably, to go to sleep. He found the lights turned on again, and
Almira, a heavy shawl bundled about her shoulders, sitting with white,
scared face, trembling and twitching, at the big coal base-burner in
what was called the parlor.

"Why, Mira!" he cried. "What has happened? Are you ill?" And he bent
over as though to fold her in his arms, but she shrank away.

"Don't!" she cried. "I was frightened. You--you were gone so long. I
thought you'd never come back." Then to his utter amaze she burst into a
wild fit of hysterical weeping. "Oh, take me away,--take me away from
this dreadful place, or I shall die,--I shall die!"


Mr. Davies was very late in returning to the hospital that night. For
nearly half an hour Almira sobbed and shivered and refused to be
comforted, and yet failed to explain. To his urgent plea to be told the
cause of her fright and distress she could give no intelligible reply.
"Oh, I don't know. I heard noises, or voices, or something. I was
all--all unstrung, I suppose. You--you talked to me so strangely, so
cruelly the other night, and I've--I've been thinking of it all day--all
day, and when you went away--and didn't come back, I--I thought all
sorts of things. I supposed you'd gone there, you know where,--to those
women,--those women who despise me and show it." It brought on fresh
moans and tragic wringing of hands, and new outpouring of salty tears
when he presently told her where he had been, but she would not listen
to the cause of his detention at the hospital. It was more than enough
that he had been out walking with her,--with _her_, in the dead of
night. That seemed the only fact she cared to grasp, and that she
crooned over with bitter wailing until his patience was exhausted.

"This is childish and absurd!" he said. "It is unworthy of you, my wife,
and unjust to Miss Loomis as well as unjust to me. It is not possible
that this has caused all your terror and distress. What noises--what
sounds did you hear?"

But these now she had forgotten. In the light of his confession, as she
termed it, all other calamities had faded into naught. He gradually
calmed her sufficiently to induce her to return to bed, but when he
announced that he must go again to the hospital to see how Brannan was
getting on, her lamentations were piteous. In vain he reminded her that
Brannan was her own cousin, the only son of her aunt and benefactress.
She would listen to none of it. Brannan was only an excuse to enable him
again to go and meet Miss Loomis, and finally, with white face and set,
rigid lips, Davies turned and left the house, walking rapidly to the

Miss Loom is still bent over the patient, who seemed now dozing. Dr.
Burroughs sat beside her at the moment, but had been away, he explained,
to see old Fritz again. A new attendant, a shy, awkward young fellow
from Devers's troop, was hovering about the bedside, and Davies glanced
at him inquiringly. "What became of Paine?" he asked, and the steward
shook his head and shrugged his shoulders.

"Captain Devers took him away," was the answer. The doctor arose and
stood by Davies a minute.

"I don't know what to make of that captain of yours," he said. "Either
he or I will keep out of this hospital in future. He came here and
'raised Cain' with my steward to-night, all on account of Brannan; then
went over to the troop barracks foaming like a mad bull. I fancy he
means to make it rather lively for you."

"Never mind me, doctor, so long as this poor boy's coming out all right.
How is he?"

"Doing nicely now, but--I wish I'd understood the case before. I'm bound
to say Captain Devers misled me entirely. _She's_ the doctor he needed,"
said he, with a jerk of his head towards the grave, beautiful girl
bending over the soldier's pillow, one hand still slowly, tenderly
stroking back the dark hair about his temples.

"Will you say good-night to her for me and escort her home? Mrs. Davies
is not well and I must return to her," said Davies, "that is,--unless I
am needed here."

"No, go by all means. Only I may need you at the colonel's office in the
morning when this thing has to be fought out. Dodge your captain,
meantime, if you can."

"I know of no reason why I should dodge him or anybody," said Davies,
with rising color. "I have done no wrong."

But on the steps without, as he hurried away, the lieutenant met a man
who differed with him as to that--who differed with most people as to
everything, and that he had been working up the case in his own mind
against his subaltern there was no room for doubt.

"By what right, sir, do you assume to over-ride my authority and undo my
orders? Time and again last summer I had occasion to caution you against
interference in the handling of the men and the management of the troop,
and now no sooner do you rejoin than here you are taking advantage of my
being probably abed and asleep to countermand my positive instructions
and overthrow my efforts at discipline."

Without one word of reply Mr. Davies assumed the position of attention
and stood like a soldier before his furious commander. "I say again,
sir," began Devers, "that you have deliberately sought to deride my
authority and have connived at the disobedience of my orders. You knew
perfectly well what orders I had given in the case of Brannan, and you
dared to set them aside."

Still not a word in reply.

"This silence is contemptuous. Why don't you speak, sir?"

"I simply deny each and every allegation, Captain Devers."

"Denial is ridiculous, Mr. Davies! Haven't I the evidence of my own
senses,--of the steward and the attendant? Don't I know? By God,

"One moment. Oblige me, captain. I wish to behave with all deference and
respect, but when you use blasphemy----"

"Oh, blasphemy be damned! Don't attempt to teach me! I've had too much
of your puritanical, psalm-singing business. I condoned your wretched
misconduct of last September in the hope that you might do better, but
now the time has come for you to be given the lesson you deserve. Things
have reached a pretty pass when an officer who leads his men into ambush
and then deserts them in their extremity----"

"Captain Devers!"

"No dramatics now. You're not in the pulpit----" The steward came forth
at the moment, and with instant modulation of tone Devers went on. "You
may not realize what you have done, but you have done it all the same,
despite every effort of mine to teach you the proper course----What is
it, steward?" he broke off, as though suddenly aware of that official's

"The doctor's compliments, sir, and the new man the captain has sent
over to relieve Paine seems to lack intelligence; he won't do at all as
an attendant."

"Tell the doctor I sent the best I had, and that he begged to be
relieved because he couldn't serve so many masters. When the post
surgeon hears of this night's work he will doubtless have his say as to
the manner in which his subordinates have trifled with their duties. I
will make no change.--You appear to be waiting, Mr. Davies. That's all,
sir, for to-night. You may go."

With a face almost as white as the snowy expanse of the parade, the
lieutenant still stood there, quivering with wrath and wrong. He looked
as though a torrent of reply were trembling on his lips, yet by supreme
effort he curbed the impulse. His chest heaved once or twice. His lips
were twitching. His hands were clenched and convulsive, but at last,
with one long look into his captain's eyes while the latter was going on
to say something about the necessity of his junior's accepting his
admonition in proper spirit, Davies turned abruptly and sprang down the
steps. Two soldiers stood there in the dusk, where they must have heard
every word that was said. One was the new company clerk, Howard, the
other Paine. Neither lifted a hand in salute to the officer. Both turned
their backs and feigned to be deeply interested in conversation of their

It was Mr. Hastings's duty that week to supervise reveille roll-call and
attend morning stables. He was surprised, therefore, as he went bounding
over the parade, to see his junior sub on the porch wrapped in a heavy
overcoat. Presently, after reporting to the post adjutant, as was the
local custom, the various officers came scattering back to their own
firesides, the infantry subs to turn in for another snooze, the cavalry
to swallow a cup of coffee before going down to stables. Sanders hailed
the lonely figure with characteristic levity.

"Hello, Parson! Up for all day and meditating a sermon?"

Davies ignored the question and went straight to business. "I want to
see Captain Cranston as soon as possible. Does he go to stables this

"Never misses 'em. What's up? Hope Mrs. Davies isn't ill."

"Mrs. Davies isn't very well, but it's on personal business I want to
see the captain. I'll go down with him."

"Come over to my house and have some coffee, or a cocktail," said
Sanders, with cheery hospitality. "Just what you need, old man. You look
as if you'd been dragged by the heels through a knot-hole."

"Barnickel is making some coffee for me, thank you, Sanders. It will
pull me together all right, I fancy." And Sanders went whistling on. The
world and its cares, the flesh and the devil all dropped lightly on the
shoulders of this young sinner, and either rode there or fell to the
ground unnoticed. Garrison days were but a merry-go-round with him. "If
that's a specimen of the bridegroom cometh," said he to himself, "I've
got no more use for matrimony than I have for the catechism." And
doubtless to this gay and nonchalant spirit the deeply religious
temperament of the Parson seemed a sombre and repellent thing,--a thing
to be lamented, yet indulged as something too solemn or sacred for

The morning air was bitter and Davies felt his toes and fingers
tingling. The boards cracked and snapped under his tread, so, rather
than disturb Almira, he stepped out on the walk and began pacing up and
down, still burning with indignation over the events of the previous
night. There had been a fresh fall of snow Sunday morning, and though
the walks and paths were cleared, the soft white mantle lay like a
glistening carpet over the parade and prairie and along the slanting
roofs of the quarters. There was an open space of sixty feet from outer
wall to wall along officers' row, and a paling or picket fence, running
at right angles to the roadway in front, divided this space equally, so
that each set of quarters had its own yard. Davies had remarked with a
smile the previous evening, the contrast presented by the Leonards's
yard at the west end and his at the east of the double set in which they
lived. Leonard's yard was criss-crossed, cut up in every direction by
tracks of sled-runners and sturdy little rubber boots. His own lay like
a flawless sheet without even a kitten's footprint to mar its virgin
surface. Now as he strode rapidly westward again and came in front of
the Leonard playground, he noted once more the traces that spoke so
eloquently of happy, healthy childhood, of rosy cheeks and sparkling
eyes and merry laughter. Then he turned back to his own, still tramping
briskly in the endeavor to send the blood to his finger-tips, and then
coming in view of what at nightfall had been an unbroken coverlet of
snow, Davies stopped short, amazed. Straight from the corner at the
front where the fences met, straight as a lance, went the footprints of
a man, in long, unhesitating stride, to a point immediately underneath
the closed blinds of the window behind which his wife now lay placidly
sleeping. Davies stood and studied the tracks a moment, then went to the
point of meeting of the front fence,--a flat-topped affair,--with its
picketed offshoot. Beyond doubt the maker of those tracks had swung
himself over the fence at that point, dropped lightly to the ground
inside and gone straightway to that side window. There he must have
stood a moment or two, for the snow was trampled. Thence the tracks led
around to the back of the house. Returning to his gate and hall-way,
Davies tiptoed noiselessly through the little dining-room to the kitchen
in the shed at the back. There Barnickel was sleepily starting a fire,
and the door leading into his little den farther back discovered the
soldier blankets of his bunk tumbled over as though he had just arisen.
The door to the yard was still bolted. Davies slipped the bolt and
stepped out on the plank walk leading from the kitchen to the gate in
the rear fence. These had been tramped by many feet in that direction,
and by only one pair in the other. Coming around from the side of the
house were the tracks of the same foot gear, the heavy soldier arctics
worn then by officers and men alike, that he had marked at the front.
They led to a point underneath the rear or north window of Almira's
room, and there, after evident shifting and tramping of a minute or two,
had turned sharply away, led straight past the kitchen door and were
lost in the general run of those towards the gate.

"What time did you come in to bed last night, Barnickel?" asked the
lieutenant, at the kitchen door.

"About 10.30, sir. I'd been over to Sergeant Walsh's quarters. I went in
to see if the lieutenant wanted anything, sir, but he'd turned down the
lights and gone out."

"Yes. And now did you hear any noise,--any footsteps?"

"No, sir. Only Mrs. Davies, sir; she was stirring round, excited like,
and peeped out of her room to ask did I know where the lieutenant was."

"Did you come in through the front hall or the back way?"

"The back way, sir. There's standing orders against enlisted men
crossing the parade or bein' on the officers' sidewalk."

Davies paused a minute. "Give me your broom," said he, and taking it
through the partly opened door he carefully turned the knob behind him,
swept away the traces leading to the rear window, swept and obliterated
those at the back and side, as far as and including those under the east
window, then, tossing the broom to the door, strode round the house to
the front just as stable call was pealing, and Captain Cranston in huge
beaver skin overcoat and cap came forth into the frosty day. The instant
he caught sight of Davies the captain hastened to him and drew his arm
within his own.

"The very man I want to see, and you are waiting for me!"

"Yes. I presume you know why."

"I've heard. Come with me to stables, by way of the hospital. I want to
see how Brannan passed the night."

"I cannot go in, captain. I am virtually forbidden further connection
with the case."

"I understand, but I am not included in the order, and wouldn't heed it
if I were." Plainly Captain Cranston was in aggressive mood. Other
officers, issuing from their quarters, set forth across the parade, but
catching sight of the popular troop commander, pulled up as though to
wait for him, then looked surprised to see him earnestly talking with
the pale-faced subaltern, going straight on eastward. Directly in front
of Devers's house they met that officer himself, a bundle of papers in
his hand. In the "Tactics" of the day one of the foremost paragraphs
read, "Courtesy among military men being indispensable, it is enjoined
on all officers to salute each other on meeting, the junior tendering
the first salute," or words to that effect, but it was a rule far more
honored in the breach than the observance. The post commander was about
the only one to receive such recognition from his juniors, all others,
as a rule, contenting themselves with a jovial "'Morning, Jack." "How
are you, major?" and, possibly, an off-hand and perfunctory touch of the
cap. Only among sticklers for military propriety like Leonard was the
salute tendered to superiors. In nine cases out of ten it meant, when
given, that personal relations were strained. Approaching the battalion
commander Mr. Davies looked him straight in the eye and raised his
gloved right hand to the cap visor. Cranston, with the most off-hand nod
imaginable, gruffly and shortly said, "Good-morning," without so much as
a tempering "sir" or "captain," and hurried sturdily by. Devers flushed,
looked after the two an instant as though tempted to call, then turned
back across the parade and was presently swallowed up in the door-way of
the troop office.

Leaving Davies outside, Cranston ran into the hospital, and presently
reappeared. "Sleeping quietly," said he, "and the poor devil would have
been in the terrors of delirium tremens if Devers's orders had been
carried out and the doctor hadn't been sent for. Now tell me the whole
story. Agatha has told me her version."

Lashed tight to the heavy picket rope, the horses were revelling in the
keen morning air and slanting sunshine, nipping at each other's noses,
challenging, with sparkling eye and tip-tilted ear, each well-known face
and form of officer or man to caress or frolic, snapping and squealing
at each other across the line, occasionally rearing and plunging in
uncontrollable jollity. Bending to their work in their white stable
frocks and overalls, the men were making brush and currycomb fly over
the shining coats of their pets, carefully guarding, however, the long,
thick winter crop of hair, for no man could say how soon they might have
to take the field and face unsheltered the keen Dakota blasts. The
frosty quadrangle was merry with musical tap, tap of the metal comb, and
the snort and "_purr_" and paw of hoof of the spirited bays. Little
Sanders, an enthusiastic horseman, was darting in and out among his
charges, praising this man's work, condemning that, and occasionally
seizing brush and comb himself and giving a practical lesson to some
comparative novice. And, leaving matters for the nonce to his subaltern,
Cranston paced gravely up and down, Davies by his side, absorbed in
close converse. Captain Devers left his line to Mr. Hastings and did not
appear at stables at all. "That means he's concocting an epistle," said
Hastings, with a grin. "He's hobnobbing with his new pet, Howard, and
somebody'll get the benefit of an official letter this morning."

"We expect you to breakfast," said Cranston, as he bade the lieutenant
good-by at the gate, "and I hope Mrs. Davies is feeling all right now."

But Mrs. Davies was not. She was so far from well that she had decided
to remain in bed. No, she wanted no breakfast, no doctor, no anybody.
All the same, Mrs. Cranston sent her a dainty tray on which was
displayed a most appetizing little feast, and Almira's resolution gave
way at sight of it. Wisely Mrs. Cranston refrained from calling, but
other women were presently on hand to cheer and sympathize when at ten
o'clock the commanding officer's orderly appeared with the commanding
officer's compliments and he desired to see Mr. Davies at the office.

"Precisely as I told you," said Cranston, who was waiting for him on the
walk without. "It was best to let Devers make the attack. Now for the

Colonel Stone was at his desk. "Come in, Cranston," he called, as he
caught sight of the soldier he so much liked. "I want to see you, too.
Er,--come in, Mr. Davies," he added in a tone less cordial and more
official. "Orderly, ask Mr. Leonard to step in here. Then shut the door
and remain outside. Er--sit down, gentlemen, er--sit down."

And then in came Leonard, silent, even saturnine; a massive fellow with
a mind as broad as his shoulders, a head full of reading and research
and knowledge of his profession, but the quietest man in the garrison
withal, and Leonard simply bowed to the new-comers, dropped into the
chair indicated by his commander, then dropped his eyes upon the floor
and waited.

Pegleg dandled a pencil, end for end, between his fingers a minute,
reflectively studying a knot-hole in the floor that yawned through a
corresponding breach in the matting. Then he flung the stump of a cigar
into a sawdust spittoon and began.

"Mr. Davies, I sent for you and I also invited in Captain Cranston
because I want to hear your side of a singular case. In an official
letter to the post adjutant, Captain Devers charges that you went to the
post hospital last night, ordered the attendant out of the room, and
proceeded to usurp control of a patient under the doctor's care,--that
you deliberately overthrew his authority and actually told the attendant
his orders were of no account. This, if true, is a most serious matter,
but I have learned that there are many sides to a story. What is yours?"

"As briefly as possible, colonel,--and just as I answered Captain
Devers,--I deny every such allegation."

"Well, you certainly went to the hospital?"

"I certainly did, sir; simply to get some medicine for Captain
Cranston's little son and without an idea that Brannan was there."

"Then you didn't go with the purpose of seeing Brannan?"

"Certainly not, sir. I believed him to be at the agency until I heard
his voice. I knew the young man well from an experience last summer and
during the campaign."

"But what about ordering the attendant out?"

"That is absurd. I found--or rather"--and now the hot color of
embarrassment flew up to his pale forehead--"Miss Loomis, who is
experienced in such matters, found Brannan in very dangerous
plight,--his pulse nearly gone. He was verging, perhaps, on an attack of
delirium. She considered, as did I, that the doctor ought to see him at
once, and, as his quarters were at the nearest corner, barely two
hundred yards away, she told the attendant to hurry for him. I should
have done the same thing, but it was unnecessary. The attendant should
have returned at once, but----"

"Well, didn't you undertake to administer brandy?"

"Not at all, sir. The doctor himself ordered that on his arrival."

"At your urging or suggestion?"

"I certainly approved it, sir, but I did not urge."

"Well, then, what does it mean--your having told the attendant his
orders were of no account?"

"I did nothing of the kind, sir. The attendant once or twice began
talking about his orders, but I had no time to listen. I did say, never
mind your orders, or something like that, but he knew perfectly well
what I meant. I inferred what the orders were,--I simply had no time to
hear them."

"Well, the attendant declares, or at least Captain Devers says he
declares, you twice choked him off when he tried to tell you what his
orders were by saying he shouldn't mind such orders. Here, Leonard, the
shortest way will be to read the whole letter. You do it." And slowly
Leonard took the official sheet and began.


     "SIR,--It is with extreme regret that I feel it necessary to
     report to the commanding officer certain occurrences tending to
     the overthrow of good order and military discipline in the
     command. Yesterday morning there arrived from the Ogallalla
     Agency, Trooper Brannan of Troop 'A,' Eleventh Calvary, who had
     been ordered hither by Lieutenant Boynton as attendant or
     escort to the mail-rider. First Sergeant Haney reported to me
     at ten o'clock that the man had evidently been drinking on the
     way and was in an advanced stage of intoxication. On
     examination of the man I was convinced that he needed medical
     attendance rather than incarceration, and, instead of sending
     him to the guard-house, as is customary in such cases, caused
     him to be taken to the hospital, where under Dr. Burroughs's
     orders he was put to bed and an attendant from my troop was
     detailed with instructions to see that no stimulants of any
     kind were given him. All seemed to progress favorably until
     shortly after taps, when Trooper Paine, the attendant in
     question, reported to me that Lieutenant Davies, Eleventh
     Calvary, entered the ward, accompanied by a member of the
     household of Captain Cranston, declared the treatment of the
     patient unjustifiable and ordered him, the attendant, out of
     the room. On Paine's attempting to define his orders he was
     abruptly silenced and again ordered to leave. Being on duty
     under the instructions of superior authority, Trooper Paine
     again strove to explain his orders, and this time was curtly
     told that he should pay no heed to such instructions, and was
     then sent out of the hospital. The trooper called the doctor on
     his way and then, very properly, reported his embarrassing
     dilemma to me. I closely questioned him, and there can be no
     doubt as to the language imputed to Lieutenant Davies, whose
     propensity to interfere in the discipline of the troop I had
     frequent occasion to notice and rebuke during the campaign of
     the past summer. As courteous and kindly admonition had no
     effect, and as the officer in question has seen fit to treat my
     words with apparent disdain, I am compelled to invoke the
     support of the post commander in suppressing the spirit of
     insubordination of which this is so flagrant an instance.

    "Very respectfully,
      "Your obedient servant,
        "JARED B. DEVERS,
          "_Captain Eleventh Cavalry_."

When Leonard had finished reading he folded the paper and looked
dreamily at the cobweb in the corner. He wished to be understood as
having no opinion whatever to express. Cranston sat in silence with lips
compressed under his heavy moustache. Davies never moved. His blue eyes
were fixed unflinchingly on the swarthy face of the veteran adjutant
until the latter had finished reading, then sought the eye of his
commander as though for permission to speak.

"Well, Captain Cranston, what do you think of the letter?" asked Pegleg,
after a moment's silence.

"I think it very ingenious, sir."

"Now, gentleman, the captain says that when he attempted to remonstrate
with Mr. Davies last night he was treated with absolute contempt, and,
Mr. Davies, he says that you refused to answer."

"I strove to control my tongue and temper both, colonel, and _not_ to
behave with disrespect. I did not answer him at once, but it was from no
lack of impulse to do so."

Pegleg reflected a moment, then addressed himself to Cranston. "I
confess that this matter is one that causes me much embarrassment," said
he. "The post surgeon says that he was not aware of the man being sent
to the hospital at all, and that it was Dr. Burroughs's case. Dr.
Burroughs says he did not consider the man drunk, but took Captain
Devers's statement, as he knew the man well. Captain Devers asked that
he be put in hospital to keep him from drinking, because he knew the
prisoners got liquor whenever they had money, and it wouldn't be safe to
have him in the guard-house. Is there anything peculiar about this
Brannan?--any reason why he should be treated by his captain on a
different system?"

"Colonel Stone," said Cranston, "I knew Brannan's mother, a wealthy and
prominent woman in society. Mr. Davies can perhaps tell you even more,
but I do not think Captain Devers knows anything of Brannan's past."

Leonard's dark eyes came down from the cobweb and studied Cranston's
face as though he wished to ask a question, and Pegleg saw it. He leaned
on Leonard, and had grown to respect his judgment.

"What were you about to ask?" said he.

"Do you know anything about the antecedents of that new company clerk of
Captain Devers?" asked the adjutant, thus authorized.

"Nothing whatever," said Cranston, wheeling round in his chair and
looking curiously at the big infantryman.

"Well,--pardon me, Mr. Davies. Had you never met or known him?"

"Never, except that he was one of the party of recruits I came out with
last summer."

"But you knew Brannan, did you not?"

"Yes, he was the man who handled a nozzle with me in showering a pack of
rioters among the recruits last June."

"But I mean you knew him before that, did you not?"

"Never," answered Davies, in surprise. "I never saw him in my life."

And then Leonard in turn reddened and looked confused, and shut his jaws
like a clam.

"Orderly," sang out the colonel, "go and give my compliments to Captain
Devers, and say I wish to see him." Then, turning to Cranston, "We may
as well get to the bottom of this business right here and now. I hate


But, as on more than one previous occasion, Captain Devers was not
immediately to be found. He was not at his quarters, not at the store
nor the stables. Mr. Hastings said later that just after Cranston and
Davies went to the adjutant's office, Devers came from his house and
went over to the barracks. Sergeant Haney did not know where the captain
had gone. Not until 10.30 o'clock did the orderly succeed in finding
him, coming up the bluff from the river bottom, whither he had ridden,
he said, to look over the prospective ice crop. By that time Pegleg was
tired of waiting and had dismissed his visitors. They, however, were
recalled in a minute, and when Captain Devers was made acquainted with
Mr. Davies's positive denial of his allegations, Captain Devers promptly
shifted the responsibility to the shoulders of the attendant, Private
Paine, who had persisted, he said, in his story despite his, Devers's,
incredulity and stringent cross-examination. Bang went Pegleg's fist on
the bell. "Send for Private Paine, Troop 'A,'" said he. "I'm bound to
get to the bottom of this at once." And then while the orderly was gone
he began pacing the floor, occasionally stopping to drum on the
frost-covered window. Leonard shifted his seat to Cranston's side and
entered into low-toned chat with him and Davies, though neither seemed
in mood to talk. A natural question that had risen to their lips was why
Leonard seemed to think that Brannan was well known to Davies before his
enlistment, and this question Leonard had disposed of by saying that he
had been assured that this was the case, and that he would ask his
informant's permission to give his name. It was an officer and a friend
of Davies, and the statement was made in all apparent good faith. Devers
sat nervously in a chair feigning to read a newspaper, but every now and
then furtively watching the three. Presently the orderly came back.
Trooper Paine wasn't in the post: he'd gone with the market wagon to

"Captain Devers," said Pegleg, irritably, "you ought to have known this.
Why didn't you say he'd gone, instead of keeping us waiting here?"

"I protest against the imputation, colonel," said Devers, to all
appearances much injured at such injustice. "The wagon rarely, if ever,
goes to town on Monday, and that Private Paine should have gone with it
is equally fortuitous."

"Well, just as soon as that wagon gets back I wish to examine that man,
and I wish you, gentlemen, to be present, also Doctor Burroughs. You see
to it, Mr. Leonard."

"I'll give instructions at once," said Leonard, rising quickly, and
then, with significant glance at Cranston, taking his cap and quitting
the office.

"Then, Colonel Stone," said Devers, "I must ask, in justice to myself,
that one or two officers, who are friends of mine, may be present at the
inquisition. I am conscious of nothing but enemies in this office, and I
can expect no fair play."

Stone whirled wrathfully upon him. "Your language is insubordinate,
Captain Devers, and there must be an immediate end to it. If you have
enemies here, they are of your own making. Bring any gentleman who will
consent to appear with you, and, meantime, sir, you may withdraw."

"And leave the field in possession of my opponents, sir, and, like Sir
Peter Teazle, my character in their hands. There is a higher court than
a post commander," said Devers, white and trembling with mingled wrath
and apprehension, "and to that court I shall appeal."

"You shall have every opportunity, sir," answered the colonel, with a
bang upon his bell, "and leave this office in arrest if I hear another
word.--Recall Mr. Leonard," said he to the orderly, who sprang in with
scared face as Devers went mumbling out, "Which way did he go?"

"To the cavalry barks, sir," answered the Irish soldier, and Devers
caught the reply before he was fairly out of the hall. He turned whiter
still, for sudden suspicion flashed upon him. He halted as though more
than half disposed to again address his commander, but realized that
already he had gone too far. He looked again across the white level of
the parade and saw the tall, dark figure of the adjutant stalking
straight to the door of his own troop office, and as with anxiously
throbbing heart he walked away homewards, Devers watched his hated
persecutor, almost divining what was his purpose,--what would be his
first question. He saw him halt and the office-door open and Sergeant
Haney come forth. Haney, who could be flippant and independent in the
presence of his own lieutenants, stood like a statue before that dark,
saturnine face. Officer or man, no soldier in that garrison ever took a
liberty with Leonard. Devers realized that he had made a fatal error at
last. He almost realized--almost divined the very words of that brief,
curt interview.

"Sergeant Haney, you must have known Trooper Paine would be needed at
the office this morning. How, then, did you select him to go to town?"

And Haney, to use his own expression, "wilted."

"Them was the captain's orders, sir."

"Captain who?"

"Captain Devers, sir."

"That's all."

And when Sergeant Haney was informed ten minutes later that the captain
wished to see him at his quarters at once, he realized that there were
breakers ahead in earnest, and went with his heart in his mouth. Later,
when he came forth after full confession of the adjutant's question and
his own compromising reply, the sergeant proceeded to the adjutant's
office, asked to see that gentleman, well known throughout the old army
as Black Larry, and nervously twitching his cap stood uneasily before
those penetrating eyes. "I've come to make a correction, sir. I
misunderstood the captain."

"As to what?"

"As to Paine. The captain told me he might be needed this morning. Then
he said he promised Paine he might go to town next trip of the
market-wagon. We were out of potatoes, sir, and there were fine ones in
market, so the captain said we'd better secure some without delay. I
took it he meant at once, and so the wagon went this morning and Paine
went along. I suppose I got it mixed, sir, but I thought the captain
meant Paine should go to-day."

"Which wasn't at all what the captain meant you should think, eh?" said
Leonard, dryly.

"No, sir. He says he meant to have him ready to go to see the colonel."

"Exactly. I only marvel at your misunderstanding such explicit and
clear-cut orders," said Leonard, with calm sarcasm. "That will do,
sergeant, so far as you are concerned." And Haney walked away, well
content that when Paine and the wagon got back there would be something
more for "the ould man" to explain, or stand the consequences.

But even Haney had only faint conception of his captain's squirming
powers. Not until evening stables was the wagon back from Braska. It was
loaded to the guards with fine Utah potatoes for the troop mess, and
there was no room for Trooper Paine. "You're wanted at the adjutant's
office at once," said the orderly to the wagon-driver, who was already
in conversation with Sergeant Haney, "and I'm to fetch you with me."

"The man can't go till he's put up his team, young fellow," said Haney
to the infantry bugler.

"He can when ould Pegleg's a-pullin', Misther Sergeant Haney, and he's
not to go anywhere else or talk with any one else furst off ayther," was
the significant answer,--another unpleasant item to impart to his now
wretchedly uneasy captain; and verily it seemed to Haney that the
halcyon days were done for good and all, when soon after dusk a little
squad from Cranston's troop, with Second Lieutenant Sanders in command,
rode briskly away on the Braska road, and it was speedily whispered
about the garrison that they were going to find Paine, drunk or sober,
dead or alive, and fetch him back to the post forthwith.

"It takes a heap of nagging to get old Pegleg fully worked up," said the
fellows of the Fortieth that night, _à propos_ of the snub given Devers,
and the pursuit by members of another troop of material witnesses, "but
when he locks horns in dead earnest, the other party's got to scratch
gravel; it's business and no quarter."

Meantime, acting under the advice of Captain Cranston, Davies had
refrained from making any complaint of the language which Devers had
seen fit to use at his expense. "Leonard says that some other matters
should come up first, and Leonard knows. The colonel is after Devers
with a sharp stick now, and all these charges are to be sprung upon him
presently. You go on getting your quarters ready for Wednesday's
house-warming. By that time you'll be wanted on the witness-stand.
To-morrow, Tuesday, there'll be fun at the commanding officer's office
with a general court-martial looming up behind it. Meantime, hold your

This was Monday evening, and when he returned, meditating, to his
temporary fireside, he found Mira surrounded by a swarm of post callers,
smiling and chatting, gracious and gay. He was in no mood for chatter
himself, but had to sit by and strive to be interested and sociable.
Most of their visitors had heard the story of Captain Devers's close
call at the office that morning, and not a few sought to hear the facts
of the case from the lips of an eye-witness. But Davies would not speak
of the matter at all, and, finding him intractable, some one asked if
Sanders had returned, and what success had attended his search for the
missing. It was nearly time for tattoo. Dr. Burroughs was among the
callers, and had just come over from the hospital. He had had no
addition to the list of patients. "On the contrary," said he, "I have a
man who might go to duty to-night were there need, and that is Miss
Loomis's patient, Brannan."

"Oh, do tell us about that, Mr. Davies," appealed Mrs. Flight, who was
again on hand, well knowing that next to the colonel's, where she was
not entirely in the good graces of the lady of the house, garrison
society would be most apt to be found in force doing homage to the
bride. "We've heard all manner of conjectures already, and are so eager
to know the truth. _Was_ he an old friend of her's, and _did_ he send
and beg her to come to him?"

"No," said Davies, promptly, "she got to the hospital by merest
accident. Louis Cranston's throat was sore, and he was coughing a great
deal. She went for medicine, and I happened to meet her on the way."

"But they said there was such a romantic scene; he wept and clung to her
hand, and----"

Here Burroughs opportunely and somewhat aggressively burst into a guffaw
of derisive laughter. "Miss Loomis is just one of those admirable
women," said he, "that empty-headed idiots prate about. I wish other
people had half her sense." A luckless way of essaying the defence of
the absent, for it reflected on many a woman present.

"Fie! Dr. Burroughs," exclaimed Mrs. Flight. "Your blushes give you
away, even more than your words. Don't you be falling in love with Miss
Loomis. She's aiming higher than one room and a kitchen and a thousand a
year." Whereupon there was shrill laughter, and further accusation and
indignant protest from the ill-starred medico. And Davies, who ought to
have rejoiced in the loyalty of such admiration for his friend and
whilom nurse, was conscious of a pang of annoyance and aversion. The
entrance of the old chaplain and his wife, and dark, swarthy Leonard
with the handsome partner of his joys and sorrows, gave instant turn to
the conversation. In a very few minutes Mrs. Flight and two younger
matrons took their departure, Almira following them with rustic
regretfulness, and exchanging some whispered confidences at the door,
which brought new flush to Davies's anxious face. Mrs. Leonard was
speaking of a recent visit "up the road," as in those days the Union
Pacific in its westward climb to the Rockies was referred to. She had
had such a lovely visit to Fort Russell, and had so much to tell about
affairs in that particularly swell regiment, the --th, and the Truscotts
had entertained her at such a pretty dinner; Mrs. Truscott was charming,
and Mrs. Stannard was such a noble woman, and they were all so
interested in Mr. Ray's engagement. It was practically announced. He was
to be married to Miss Sanford--an heiress and a great catch--early in
June, and this led to the chaplain speaking of Ray, whom in days gone by
he was prone to look upon with little favor, if not indeed as a
ne'er-do-well. "I always feared that he would fall, and I am so rejoiced
in this new phase to his character."

"Oh, _I_ met Mr. Ray!" exclaimed Almira, delightedly. "He was ordered in
to General Sheridan on some duty late in the summer, and some of the
young officers, Percy's classmates, said he was such a brave fellow."

"What did the old officers say?" asked Leonard, with a twinkle in his
black eyes, but not the vestige of a grin under his heavy moustache.

"They? Oh, I don't remember their saying anything about _him_. They said
lots of lovely things about Percy."

"Yes. That's right. I can understand their omitting no opportunity of
doing that. One learns to be something of a courtier even in Chicago,
when on staff duty, and as for Washington, service there is a liberal
education in diplomacy. One never knows who may have the strongest pull
with the President in the event of a vacancy in the staff corps."

"Leonard," said the chaplain, gravely, "you're a born cynic and a
pessimist to boot. Have we no generous impulses in the army?"

"Lots of 'em. Lots of 'em, chaplain, especially in the line and on the
frontier, where we can afford to pat a fellow on the back, since we know
that's about the extent of the reward he'll ever get. It's when we're
in big society in the East, above all in Washington, one has to be
guarded in what he says, or first thing he knows he'll be hoisting some
fellow over his own head in a moment of enthusiasm. No. I know just how
you regard me, but I spent six weeks of a three months' leave in
Washington last winter, and sat night after night at the club, or day
after day among the army crowd at the Ebbitt, or in some fellow's den at
the Department, and never once did I hear one word of frank, outspoken,
fearless praise of some other fellow's work or deeds, unless it were to
his face. Ask a man flat-footed if that wasn't a capital scout of
Striker's last winter in the Tonto Basin, or if Jake Randlett hadn't
done a daring thing in going all alone through the Sioux country to drum
up Crow scouts for Crook's command, or what he thought of Billy Ray's
cutting his way out through the Cheyennes to bring help to Wayne last
June, and ten to one he'll hum and haw and say yes, he _did_ hear
something about that, and now that I mentioned it he believed Striker or
Jake or Billy had really behaved quite creditably, but the whole tone
was significant of nothing like what some other fellow I might mention,
modesty only forbidding, would have done under similar circumstances.'
It's just the damnation of faint praise. The trouble with the whole gang
of those fellows seems to be a mortal dread lest somebody's eyes should
be deflected from the valor of the warriors at Washington to that of the
warriors on the plains. What recognition do you suppose Ray will ever
get for that feat? General Crook says it's useless to recommend him for
brevet, because the Senate wouldn't confirm it, and the reason they
won't is that those hangers-on about the capital don't mean to let such
rewards be given to the men on the frontier. And yet this sort of thing
doesn't happen only in Washington. It was a cavalry officer who said of
that very affair that Ray was simply a reckless fellow under a cloud,
with everything to gain and nothing to lose, and that doing a reckless
thing was just as much a matter of instinct with him as battle is to a

It was unusual to see Leonard warm up in this way. Besides the chaplain
and the silent host, there were three officers in the dreary little
bachelor den at the moment. Each and every one seemed surprised at the
adjutant's outbreak, but not one of them at the concluding revelation.

"No need to ask who that was," said Captain Hay, with a prefatory
"Humph." "It savors of Devers from first to last. That man is a born
iconoclast. He pulls down everybody's idols and sneers at what he cannot
pull down,--our ideals."

"Well, now let me ask you," said the chaplain, a man whose broad charity
led him at any and all times to the defence of the absent. "Without
detracting in the faintest degree from the heroism and value of Mr.
Ray's exploit, are there not degrees of personal bravery, are there not
possibilities of an order of courage higher even than his? As I recall
him, he was what I should term a fearless man, brave to a fault; but
have we not in the army tens and perhaps hundreds of honorable gentlemen
who are as keenly susceptible to the thrill of danger as Ray is
apparently dead to it? Have I not heard man after man say how his own
knees trembled or his comrade's cheek blanched at the whistle of the
first bullets of the battle? And as for this Indian campaigning, can
there be a warfare imagined in which the percentage of peril is so
great, the possibilities of ambush, surprise, sudden death in the midst
of fancied security so constant, the daily and nightly circumstances so
full of incessant nervous strain? Now, who is the better soldier,--the
really braver, or, perhaps better, the more courageous man,--he who
rides the trail utterly reckless of or insensible to its peril, or he
who, sighting danger in every bush, scenting death on every breeze,
looking every instant for the war-whoop, the death-wound, nevertheless
so bears himself with all his faculties in hand as to seem calm, serene,
confident, and stands ready for death or duty at any moment? I have
always held that the Christian gentleman was the highest type of the
highest order of courage; the man who replaced the fatalism of the
Mahometan with the sustaining faith of the soldier of the Cross. But I
see you think I'm in the pulpit and preaching again," said he, smiling
at Leonard. "We both warmed up to our hobby."

They were silent a moment. Across the wintry night the trumpets were
singing the lullaby of the crowded garrison, and hurrying footsteps told
of belated subalterns speeding to their companies to supervise the
roll-calls. Leonard rose to his full height and threw his cloak over his
broad shoulders.

"We are more in accord in this matter than you think, perhaps, chaplain;
only the man doesn't live who could be insensible to the danger of
cutting his way through a band of encircling Cheyennes. I've heard of
no braver deed in many a year than Ray's. I doubt if we'll hear of truer
grit or courage in many more."

"Perhaps not, Leonard," said the chaplain, as the adjutant paused an
instant at the threshold to say he would return the moment he had
received the reports. "Perhaps not, nor would I say one word to
underrate the heroism of Ray's exploit; but when we do hear of another I
look to hear of it in some fellow as firm in his faith as he is in his
sense of honor and duty, and some day we shall see."

But Leonard did not return in five minutes nor in ten, and Mrs. Leonard
grew anxious. "This never happens unless something unusual has
occurred." Captain Hay stepped through the hall and opened the outer

"There are lights dancing about over there on the parade near 'A'
Troop's quarters. I wonder what's up. Hullo, Sanders! That you? When did
you get back? Did you get your man?"

"Got two of 'em," was the breezy answer. "T'other one disguised as a
gentleman in cits and just about starting on the night train for the
West,--the gifted Mr. Howard, clerk of 'A' Troop."

Mrs. Davies was standing just within the parlor door at the moment,
blushing over the praises lavished on her by the chaplain's impulsive
helpmeet and trying hard to say civil and appropriate things to her
guests. The officers, one and all, had edged into the hall-way in
eagerness to hear the news.

"What was it Mr. Sanders said?" asked Mrs. Leonard, anxious to know
what detained her husband. Hay half turned.

"He says they arrested two men, one of them apparently deserting, being
in civilian dress and aboard the train,--Captain Devers's new clerk,

And then every one in the parlor saw that Mrs. Davies was seized as with
sudden faintness. She turned very white and grasped at the nearest chair
for support. "I'm only dizzy, not ill, or I don't know what it is," she
protested, as they crowded round her, and Davies came quickly in,
conscious that something was amiss. Nor did she recover her color or her
calm. Nervous, fluttering answers only could she give to their
sympathetic inquiries, and when presently Leonard reappeared, cool and
imperturbable as ever, she was evidently relieved to see her guests
departing. The adjutant explained his detention by saying he had gone to
the colonel's with Sanders, who had galloped ahead, leaving his guard to
bring along the prisoners in an ambulance, Paine too drunk to be able to
move. They would hardly arrive before eleven.

"The colonel desires to see you at the office at eight o'clock in the
morning," said he in low tone to Cranston. "Howard has been away all
day,--since guard-mounting, in fact,--and no report was made of it.
Devers has been notified that the colonel would investigate matters--the
whole business, in fact--early to-morrow."

But who can tell what a day may bring forth? Devers, after a sleepless
night, filled with foreboding of the wrath to come as the result of that
impending investigation, sat nervously over his coffee while the
trumpets were sounding first call for guard-mounting, and turned a shade
yellower at the ring of the front-door bell. The servant re-entered the
dining-room and announced that Lieutenant Leonard, the adjutant,
desired to speak to the captain. For a moment he could not rise.
Conscious of his own double-dealing, visions of arrest, charges,
court-martial--heaven knows what all--were floating before his startled
eyes, but go he had to. Summoning courage, bravado, or something, he
swaggered into the hall.

"Oh--ah--step into the parlor, Mr. Leonard," said he, airily, "I presume
you're here on business." He was preparing to exhibit amaze--virtuous
and soldierly indignation--at the idea of having, all unheard and
unrepresented, been ordered into arrest on the prejudiced statement of a
swarm of hostile officers and sorely badgered and bullied members of his
troop. Well knowing himself to be tottering on the ragged edge of final
discovery, his duplicity exposed, his deceit established, he
nevertheless braced himself for the supreme effort to bluff to the very
last. Thanks to the storm-shed without, the hall was dark, and for a
moment he could only vaguely see the huge bulk of the infantryman
standing erect before him, the very attitude indicative of stern
official purpose.

And then in sudden revulsion of feeling,--in a wild whirl of reviving
hope, courage, exultation,--he noticed that the adjutant was without his
sword, and listened, spell-bound, well-nigh incredulous and without
reply, to the brief official words which Mr. Leonard delivered, then
saluting, turned on his heel and left the house.

"It is my duty to announce, sir, that Colonel Stone has had a stroke of
apoplexy or vertigo and is seriously ill. As senior captain, you are in
command of the post."


That beautiful wintry Tuesday morning was as placid and serene as nature
could make it, but Fort Scott was in a ferment. Whether stricken by
apoplexy, which was the first, or vertigo, which was the later, theory,
Colonel Peleg Stone had been found lying bleeding and unconscious at the
foot of the stairs, and almost at his parlor door, just after sick-call.
He had arisen early, said his tearful and terrified wife, saying that
matters of importance demanded his presence at the office before
guard-mounting. He had been wakeful and restless during the night. He
had called for hot water soon after reveille, and gone into his
dressing-room to shave. This was all she knew until aroused an hour
later by her frightened maid, with the tidings that the colonel was
lying speechless in the hall. Both doctors and Mr. Leonard were
summoned. Violence was hinted at, but the orderly pacing the front
piazza declared that no one had entered the front door since he came
over and rang the bell to report himself for duty just as soon as he had
finished breakfast. "For them was the colonel's orders when he dismissed
me last night." Just about sick-call he heard the sound of a heavy fall
inside, and presently "Jane come a-runnin'," and told him to rush for
the doctors. Alonzo, the colonel's colored body-servant who had followed
his fortunes a dozen years, was in the kitchen below stairs, and was
sure no one had come in from the rear. He, too, had heard the fall and
ran up with Jane, finding his master completely dressed, lying close to
the parlor door, with blood streaming from his nose and mouth. There
were heavy contusions on the forehead and face, caused probably by his
having plunged blindly forward down the stairs. Something in the
stertorous breathing suggested apoplexy, but the doctors soon decided
against that. It might have been vertigo, or he might simply have
tripped at the top and come diving head-foremost all the way down, but
his clothing was not in such disorder as that would cause, and neither
the orderly, nor Jane, nor Alonzo had heard more than one single crash
or thud. Had they examined the parlor and sitting-room to see if any one
could have been there hidden? was asked. No, there wasn't time. The
house was one of the big double sets of quarters, with hall-way and
staircase in the middle, as frequently planned in those days for the
commanding officer of the large frontier garrisons. Four large rooms
were on the ground floor for use as parlor, sitting-, and reception- and
dining-room, all abundantly furnished, as Mrs. Stone was well-to-do, and
there were hiding-places enough if some one had stolen in, like a thief
in the night. The broad contusion on the forehead might have been caused
by some blunt instrument, to be sure, said the senior surgeon, but he
thought it improbable. Only one thing was certain,--Pegleg was knocked
out. It might be several days, possibly a week, before he could resume
duty. Captain Devers came over five minutes after the adjutant left him,
and was profuse in sympathy, sorrow, and proffers of aid. The despatch
sent to Department head-quarters that afternoon was a model of style,
but it did not reach the office until late in the afternoon, so late
that the general had gone home with his chief of staff, and not until
five o'clock was it placed in the hands of the latter, who took it at
once to his commander.

"Whew!" said the chief. "It's bad enough to have Pegleg down, but think
of having Devers up, even for a week."

"I don't see what we can do, sir," was the reply. "The
lieutenant-colonel of the Fortieth is on leave awaiting retirement, the
major on General Sheridan's staff. Major Warren, of the Eleventh, is
abroad, and Devers is the ranking captain."

"Well, let it stand," said the general, after a while. "Leonard will
look after affairs in the Fortieth, and you look after Devers. If he
gets to cutting up any didoes, send him up to the reservation to
investigate the trouble up there; it's something after his own heart, I
reckon,--or send him anywhere, and let the command devolve on the next
captain until Stone's on deck again. Devers says he'll be up in a week."

"That's just what makes me fear he won't be well in a month, and if he
isn't able to resume duty, Devers will say he only meant _sitting_ up in
bed, probably."

No matter what the opinion attaching to Captain Devers, however, the
fact remained that he was now in law and fact commanding officer of the
biggest post in the Platte Valley, and meant to make the most of his
opportunities. Leonard promptly asked to be relieved from duty as
post-adjutant, on the plausible ground that Captain Devers would
doubtless prefer to have one of his own cloth and corps in the office,
and Devers, well knowing how it would reflect upon him at Department
head-quarters, refused to change. "However strained may be our personal
relations, the good of the service demands that for the present they be
ignored. The differences between us can and shall be adjusted later on,"
was the purport of his reply. Meantime Mr. Leonard could be assured that
he should in no wise be disturbed in his functions as regimental
adjutant, or hampered no more than was necessary in those that related
to the post. Leonard swore impressively as he read the reply to his
friends, Captain Pollock of the Fortieth, and Cranston of the Eleventh,
but said nothing to any one else.

Davies was to relieve Hastings as troop duty officer for the week, and
assume charge of roll-calls and stables, all matters between himself and
his captain being incontinently shelved after conference with Cranston,
Truman, and Hay, until such time as somebody beside Devers should sit in
judgment on Devers's acts. The temporary post-commander spent very
little of Tuesday morning in the office. With official gravity he signed
the ration returns and such papers as were to be forwarded. "All matters
concerning the interior discipline of the companies I prefer leaving to
their proper commanders," said he, coldly, to the statuesque adjutant,
thereby hitting a self-comforting whack at the colonel, who rather liked
to interfere. "I have every confidence in the judgment of the captains
of the infantry, at least, and as for routine matters you will be
pleased to conduct them just as when Colonel Stone was on duty."

Then he went forth to his own sanctum, the troop office, raising his fur
cap in acknowledgment of the sentry's shrill, "Turn out the guard;
commanding officer!" and once there established, he sent his orderly
with directions to the sergeant of the guard. In five minutes prisoner
Howard, conducted by an armed sentry, made his appearance, and was
received within the sanctum. "You may retire, sentry, until called. I'll
be responsible for this man," said he, and from that conference even
Sergeant Haney was excluded. The interview lasted twenty minutes, at the
end of which time Howard was remanded to the guard-house and Paine
brought over in his place. Howard swaggered insolently past the sergeant
of the guard on his return, and when told to get ready to go out to
work, replied, "I guess not, Johnny, unless you want to lose your
stripes." But Paine came "home" scared and abject. Men in quarters said
that both the captain and Sergeant Haney stormed at him until he didn't
know black from white, and the temporary company clerk, excluded from
the office during the conference, was called in finally to witness
Paine's signature to a paper, the contents of which he did not see at

All day Tuesday Davies was occupied in getting his furniture and traps
into Number 12, and Almira--pretty as a picture, and eagerly assisted by
her now intimate friends, Mesdames Flight and Darling--was tacking up
curtains, brackets, and knickknacks. Army women have a gift of making
even a burrow look cheery and attractive, though they do accumulate an
amount of truck that becomes embarrassing in the inevitable event of a
move. On Wednesday, however, as has been said, his week of troop duty
was to begin, and at gun-fire he was up and dressed and ready for
business. Devers did not come down to stables. The first sergeant made
the various reports in somewhat off-hand and perfunctory style, but
Davies took, apparently, no notice of his manner, and, joining Captain
Cranston as soon as he had inspected the stables on the return of the
horses to their stalls, the two friends strolled slowly up the winding
road to the parade, the last officers to return homeward. Sick-call was
sounding as they passed the barracks, and Captain Devers met them on the
walk. Both officers saluted the post-commander, Davies in silence,
Cranston with an accompanying "Good-morning, sir." Devers responded in
the briefest possible way and went at once to business.

"Mr. Davies, that man Brannan will be returned to the troop from
hospital this morning. See that he is immediately confined in the
guard-house." And then, with his orderly following, the commander went
his way. Sergeant Haney was standing not forty yards away on the
barrack-porch awaiting his captain's coming. Such instructions were
generally given by the company commander direct to the first sergeant,
and the purpose of making Davies the medium and Cranston the witness of
the order was apparent at a glance. Devers meant to inflict his
punishment not only upon the soldier, but upon those who dared either in
person or through some "member of the household" appear as the
soldier's friend.

"What should I do, captain?" asked Davies, sadly. "Turn and carry the
order to the first sergeant at once?"

Cranston looked back, saw Devers halt to say some words to the troop
farrier, and seized the opportunity.

"Yes, and I will go with you to be ready to testify to your having

Retracing their steps, the two approached the quarters. "Go no farther,"
said Cranston, in low tone, as they got about half-way and were close to
where Devers stood. "Call the sergeant to you here." Davies did so, and
Devers whirled around in surprise. Haney came promptly, buttoning his
overcoat on the way. It wouldn't do to "slouch" in presence of Cranston,
whatsoever he might dare with a new lieutenant.

"Sergeant," said Davies, "the captain orders that Trooper Brannan be
confined in the guard-house the moment he returns from hospital."

"Yes, sir. I got the order, sir, last night," said Haney, forgetful in
Cranston's presence of the impulse to be flippant, and unconsciously
revealing just exactly what his captain meant to conceal. Davies turned
and looked at Cranston, and the latter, with a peculiar smile, linked
his arm in that of his friend and, carefully avoiding the spot where
Devers now stood watching them, led him away.

This for a starter was significant, but more was to come. Guard mounting
was hurried through that morning, for the air was sharply cold and a
northerly wind was beginning to moan through the garrison and whirl the
snow in drifts over the desolate prairie. Captains Truman and Pollock,
the former as old and the latter as new officer of the day, appeared in
fur caps and heavy overcoats and stood at the desk where Colonel Pegleg
for months past had administered the affairs of the post. The former
raised his hand in salute as he said, "I report as old officer of the
day, sir," and tendered the guard report. Devers glanced at once at the
list of prisoners. Foremost were the familiar names of the old stagers,
the general prisoners undergoing sentence of court-martial. Then those
of the men sentenced to brief confinement by the minor or garrison
court. Then came the names of those awaiting trial, and opposite each
name in the column headed "Charges" was the word "Preferred," as was the
custom of the day, and this significant word appeared opposite the next
to the last name on the list, that of Howard, Troop "A."

"Ah! What is the nature of the charges against prisoner Howard?" asked
Devers, blandly.

"I haven't seen them, sir. I understand that they were prepared by
Lieutenant Sanders as directed by Colonel Stone."

Devers tapped his bell and the orderly sprang in. "My compliments to the
adjutant," said he, and from the adjoining room, grave, stolid, and
imperturbable as ever, Leonard came in, pencil in hand, and stood at
attention without a word.

"Mr. Leonard, have charges been preferred against Trooper Howard?"

"Yes, sir. Desertion. The specification alleges that he was caught
aboard the west-bound train at Braska in civilian dress Monday evening."

"Anything else?"

"No, sir."

"Captain Pollock, you may release Howard. He was in town with my
approbation and assent, looking for an absentee whose haunts he knew and
whose presence was required here. He says he boarded the train expecting
possibly to find him thereon, and wore civilian dress because his
uniform might have caused his rejection at places he wished to search."

Captain Pollock touched his cap without a word.

"You will also see that Paine and Brannan, recently confined, are sent
out to work with the police cart. Other orders as usual. You are
relieved, Captain Truman. That is all, Mr. Leonard."

The talk that ensued among the officers of the calvary command when this
matter was detailed at the club room will have to be condensed. Davies
was not present. He never went there. Cranston was present for the first
time in weeks, for it was an establishment for which ordinarily he had
no use. He and Truman went thither because they knew that that was where
Sanders could be found, and there they found him. It was barely ten
o'clock, but this light-hearted young gentleman, together with three or
four kindred spirits of the Fortieth, was discussing, to the
accompaniment of hot Scotch, the relative values of hands dealt at
random from a grimy deck. That they should have taken to hot Scotch at
such an hour they explained by the statement that as they had to be up
with the dawn the day was already old, and that they should be playing
poker they didn't consider a matter calling for explanation of any kind.
It was "a way they had in the army" in those days when the other
three-quarters of the year was spent in sharp campaigning. Sanders
cheerfully dropped his hand as he had his money and told his story like
a little man.

"We trotted or galloped all the way to town and found Paine soon after
six, drunk, of course,--too drunk to ride the spare horse, so while we
were waiting for an ambulance from the quartermaster's depot, I ran over
to the Cattle Club for a drink, and was chatting there with Willett and
Burtis,--by the way, I asked them both to drive out and dine with us
to-night and take in the hop later,--and presently in came a couple of
cattlemen from Cheyenne who knew everybody at Russell and were jolly,
pleasant fellows. They were going up on the evening freight, and we
loaded up a lunch-basket and went down to the depot to see them off in
the caboose. The Braska crowd did their best to send them home full, and
they were full, and nothing would do but we must go into the bar and
drink Roederer with them until the conductor came rushing in to say all
aboard. Then they snaked me on to the caboose platform when the train
was under way, pulled me inside and ran me half a mile up the track
before they could stop her again. But that half-mile did the business
for Mr. Howard. There he was spruce and dandified as you please, dressed
fit to kill in a bang-up better suit than I ever hope to own, trying to
sit behind a newspaper. They pulled Burtis aboard, too, and in the
scuffle he fell all over Howard, knocked his hat off, and I knew the
face in a second, and when I came off that car he came with me, by the
scruff of his neck, swearing and protesting and denying that he was
Howard, and threatening to have the law on me and appealing to the
cattlemen for rescue. By Jupiter, if it wasn't that I had been with them
long enough to make a favorable impression they would have rescued him,
too. They didn't half want to let him go, and he straggled hard to get
away as it was."

Then Truman told him what Devers's orders and remarks were, and Sanders
fairly blazed with wrath. "It's the maddest kind of a lie," said he.
"That fellow had never looked for Paine or thought of such a thing. We
found where he had left his uniform and where he kept in hiding until
time to skip out and catch that train. He wasn't looking for anybody and
didn't care to see or be seen by anybody. If it wasn't a clear-cut case
of desertion may I be hanged. He had over two hundred dollars in his
clothes and fresh duds in his grip-sack."

Long before mid-day, therefore, Sanders's words were being repeated from
mouth to mouth, and Trooper Howard, with pale face and starting eyes,
was shut up in the company office where only the captain and Sergeant
Haney could get at him, and Devers was there with his sergeant and
clerk, when just at 10.45 the telegraph operator came bulging into Mr.
Leonard's office.

"An important despatch," said he, "for the commanding officer."

Leonard took it, then hesitated. Under Colonel Stone his instructions
were to open and read at once, but the relations between him and the
captain temporarily in command were neither confidential nor cordial.
"Take it to Captain Devers," said he, "and I will wait."

Devers read the despatch with kindling eye. It was from department
head-quarters at Omaha, and said briefly,--

"Send a discreet officer with twenty cavalrymen for temporary duty with
Boynton at the agency at once. Report action by wire."

For a few minutes the captain sat in deep thought, then with head erect,
and with quick, confident step, left the barracks and went straight to
the adjutant's office. "Orderly," said he, "my compliments to Mr. Davies
and say I wish to see him at once."

And so only a little more than an hour later, knowing absolutely nothing
of what might be going on at the agency, judging only from the reports
of the mail-carrier that there had been trouble between the agent and
some of Red Dog's people, and that the agent had determined to make
arrests, leaving his bride wildly weeping and protesting in the hands of
her devoted friends Mesdames Flight and Darling, yet commending her to
the guardianship of Captain and Mrs. Cranston, Percy Davies set forth
upon a bitter, wintry march of eighty miles, answering the call of duty
at the front, leaving wife and fireside, good name and character, to the
care of friends or foes who remained.


Long remembered at Fort Scott was the evening that followed Mr. Davies's
departure for the agency. Infantry and cavalry both, the garrison took
it much to heart that the detail should have devolved, of all men, upon
him. Not because he was comparatively young and inexperienced; not
because he was just back from long leave that had been necessitated by
long and serious illness, but solely and entirely because he had but
recently married a wife, and therefore shouldn't have been expected to
go,--should not have been torn from her side. The women opened the ball,
but the men were not slow in taking the floor. What Davies himself might
think no one knew, because Davies would not say. He received the order
of the post commander without a word, went home to his wife and sent
Barnickel to ask Captain Cranston to come to him as soon as possible.
Devers retired to his quarters and was not again seen until after
stables, when, scrupulously avoiding those of the other troops, he
visited his own lines, having previously sent his orderly to Mr.
Hastings to notify that gentleman that he should not require him to
attend stables this week, which was to have been Mr. Davies's, but would
expect him to superintend roll-calls. The temporary commanding officer
of the garrison and of the cavalry battalion appeared, therefore, in
solitary state in his capacity as captain of Troop "A." Officers who
passed him on the way to or from stables raised hand or cap in the
salute due the post commander, but few of them entered into
conversation. Old Dr. Rooke, the post surgeon, a man ten years Devers's
senior in the service, returning from a visit to Colonel Stone's
bedside, came face to face with the captain, and the captain stopped to
make inquiries. Rooke's face was grave.

"He is semi-conscious and resting fairly well, but has received a severe
shock that has clouded his faculties. I cannot say when he will be up
again. I do not see any likelihood of his returning to duty for a

Devers's face expressed all proper concern and sympathy. "It is best, of
course, that I should know this, but the colonel's friends are numerous
in garrison, and it is something that would have a depressing effect. I
suggest, therefore, that you do not confide your fears to any one else.
It affects me painfully to hear it, though I had not the good fortune to
be in the colonel's good graces. We differed as to various official

"I'm aware of that," said Rooke, dryly, "and I have felt more than half
constrained to remonstrate with you as to the confinement of Private
Brannan. He left the hospital in good condition, and with the
expectation of returning to his detachment and duty. Of course if new
charges have been lodged against him----"

"New charges _have_ been lodged against him, doctor. He was sent to the
hospital at my request that he might be restrained from liquor, which,
under the system pursued by Colonel Stone, could at any time be procured
by guard-house prisoners who had money. That he would be able to
indulge his propensity in your department had not, of course, occurred
to me as a possibility."

"Any criticisms you have to make at the expense of my department will
receive due weight, I have no doubt, with my superiors, and you will
oblige me by addressing them upon the subject, not me. The post
commander expressed his entire approval of it, and to him and not to the
company commanders am I responsible, Captain Devers. This, however, I
will say, sir, that sooner than submit to further comment of this
character, I shall telegraph to department head-quarters requesting
instant relief from duty as post surgeon here, if you are to retain the

And Rooke had gauged his man. He knew perfectly well that this
application, coming on top of Stone's prostration, would lead to the
inevitable conclusion at head-quarters that the colonel could not return
to duty for some time, and the surgeon could not contentedly perform
duty under Devers as temporary commander. In other words, that Devers
was already beginning, as the general expressed it, "to cut up didoes,"
and somebody--some field officer--would be at once detached, in all
probability, and sent from his proper post temporarily to take charge of
matters at Scott. On the other hand, if things worked smoothly and with
no apparent friction, Devers might hope to retain command for several
weeks, and that would be of inestimable benefit. What might not be
accomplished in that time? He was quick, yet not too precipitate,
therefore, in expressing grave and courteous disclaimer. No reflection
on Dr. Rooke's management was intended or implied, though Dr.
Burroughs, the junior, had, in Devers's opinion, laid himself open to
criticism. Of course being somewhat inexperienced, the unwarrantable
interference of Lieutenant Davies and Miss Loomis had confused and
hampered him. Surely Dr. Rooke could not say that he, Devers, had ever
interfered. On the contrary, had he not incurred the enmity of officers
and ladies of his own regiment by making formal report to the post
commander of what he considered an unjustifiable encroachment on their
part upon the sacred precincts of the post surgeon? Rooke looked at him
from under his shaggy eyebrows, suspicious and unmollified. He was a
shrewd old Scotchman, and Devers protested too much.

"So far as Miss Loomis and Mr. Davies are concerned," said he, "I have
no exceptions to take whatsoever. I knew the young lady's father well,
and I have faith in the young man. I hear he has been sent on some
temporary duty to the agency, captain, and had he consulted me I should
have advised against his going. The suffering and exposure of such duty
in such weather are more than many a rugged man can bear. Mr. Davies has
not yet half recovered his strength."

"Then I wish I had known it, doctor," said Devers, diplomatically; "but
not knowing it, I could make no other selection. The orders called for a
discreet officer, and Mr. Davies's friends consider him discretion
itself. I have even been led to think he had too much discretion. The
orders said 'cavalrymen,' therefore I was limited to the officers of my
battalion. They said to report to Lieutenant Boynton, therefore I was
limited to officers junior in rank to him, for no senior could be
required to do it. Mr. Boynton is a first lieutenant, and the only first
lieutenants junior to him here are Hastings, who is eminently
indiscreet, and Folsom, who is a martyr to rheumatism, as you very well
know. The only second lieutenants now on duty with us are Sanders,
Jervis, and Davies; certainly of the three Davies is the only one who
can be called discreet, and he was the only one who had not been on
scout or detached service of this character since he joined. I regret
having to break up his honeymooning, but even that is to be but
temporary, for so the orders said. I explain all this to you, doctor,
because I respect your rank and service, but I shall not condescend to
justify myself to my juniors."

"And have you reported action yet by wire?" asked Rooke, critically.

"Certainly," said Devers, but he reddened. Evidently there had been wide
spread talk over the selection already, and speculation as to what
department head-quarters would think of it. Evidently it was known that
he was ordered to report by telegraph, yet who could have "given it
away"? The despatch was still in his waistcoat-pocket, for Devers,
unlike his trimmer juniors, wore that unsoldierly garment underneath his
sack-coat. Even the adjutant had not seen the despatch, and the operator
was sworn to secrecy. He had reported by wire, and in these words:
"Discreet officer and twenty cavalrymen left post at noon with orders to
hasten to Ogallalla agency and report to Lieutenant Boynton for
temporary duty." This was sent at 1.15, and he had only just received
another inquiring name of the officer detailed. This he did not mean to
answer until after five o'clock, by which time he knew the Omaha offices
would be deserted and Davies some thirty miles away. "The horses are
hard and sound," he had said to the silent subaltern. "You should reach
there Friday morning without fail and without fatigue, and ought to camp
to-night at Dismal River. It's a long thirty miles, but you can easily
make it." He meant Davies to be beyond recall in the event of
disapproval, and that point secure, he didn't much care what
head-quarters might think or the garrison say.

And so Wednesday's sun went down red over the snow-streaked barren to
the west, and long, long before that the last vestige of Davies's little
party disappeared from view among the breaks and ravines in the low
range of treeless heights many a long desolate mile to the north, and
Almira's faithful comforters were still with her, and at dusk bustled
her over to Mrs. Darling's for change of scene and surroundings and tea
and a little music, and presently sleigh-bells were heard, and Mrs.
Flight screamed joyously at the window, "Oh, it's Mr. Willett and Mr.
Burtis with their lovely team, and they've come out for the hop!" And
before long Lieutenant Darling, accompanied by these very gentlemen,
came stamping in, and Sanders and Tommy Dot followed, and in the
firelight the little army parlor was a pretty picture as these gallants
entered and the lamps were lighted, and the gentlemen from town were
presented to Almira, and everybody thought it the proper thing to be
especially devoted to her by way of consoling her for this sudden and
heartless separation from her lord, and for nearly half an hour her
lovely face maintained its expression of pathetic and unconquerable
woe; but Willett had seated himself at the piano, and he and Sanders and
Tommy Dot began singing with inimitable drollery some of the popular
melodies of the day, and presently, "to save her life," as she declared,
Almira could not resist joining in the laughter and applause, and then
Willett began telling of the new step they were dancing in the East,--he
had been home just long enough to attend a few parties,--and while Tommy
Dot played a waltz he essayed to teach it to Mrs. Darling,--a charming
partner ordinarily, but still she did not seem to catch the idea, and
Mrs. Flight was even less successful. Mira looked on with sparkling eyes
and new and uncontrollable eagerness. It was the very step she had
danced with the aides-de-camp in Chicago the previous September,--almost
the same that she had danced time and again with Mr. Powlett at Urbana,
and not a lady at Fort Scott had yet learned it. At last Sanders

"Why, surely it is the glide step you were telling us about, Mrs.
Davies." And then Willett implored her to try it with him, and how could
she refuse? This was not a ball or party, it was only a dancing lesson;
and somehow, all in a moment, she was floating around that little parlor
on Willett's sustaining arm in long, graceful, gliding steps that seemed
admirably adapted to his, and Willett's face glowed with delight and
hers with pardonable triumph, for was she not showing the belles of the
army the latest thing out in the ball-rooms of fashionable society? And
Sanders and Darling applauded enthusiastically, and the ladies as
enthusiastically as they could, for one's charitable impulses ooze all
too rapidly when the object looms suddenly as a rival. Sanders begged
presently to try with Mrs. Davies, while Mrs. Flight tried again with
Willett, and presently all were trying and gradually mastering the new
step, and when it was time to separate for dinner it was solemnly agreed
that they would tell no one of their practice, but that very night at
the hop they would simply paralyze the entire assemblage by dancing the
latest waltz step.

"Now, Mrs. Davies," said Willett, "you've just _got_ to go, if only just
once to show them how," and Darling and Sanders joined eagerly in the
plea. There was not actual unanimity as to the propriety and necessity
of the project, however. Mrs. Flight was doubtful, but did not openly
oppose, and Mrs. Darling said, of course dear Mrs. Davies must know that
it would certainly cause remark. But all through tea it cropped out
again and again, and after tea Willett and Sanders came back from the
mess dinner and renewed their supplications. It was, at least, decided
that Almira could not be left to mope alone, and as her lady friends had
to go to the hop, why, she might as well go and peep in and hear the
music at any rate. There were good friends, true friends of her own and
her husband, who would have been glad indeed to spend the evening with
her, either at her fireside or their own, whose cards and condolences
she found on her little hall table when, escorted to the door by Mr.
Willett, she went home at half-past eight, just to make some slight
change in her toilet, which, as it stood, was too funereal for so
festive an occasion.

And so that night, while Davies and his men were huddling about the
little camp-fires in the snow at Dismal River and a wintry blast was
whistling through the bare, brown limbs of the cottonwoods, there were
sounds of revelry at the big frontier post, spirited music, merry
laughter, the rhythmic beat of martial feet in the measures of the
dance, the rustle of silk, and the pit-a-pat of dainty slippers. Only
two or three households were unrepresented. It was the first hop Mrs.
Stone had missed. It was something that the chaplain and his wife did
not care for. It was a nuisance to Leonard, who loved his books and his
home. It bored more than one old warrior, who went, however, on account
of his wife and daughters, but Captain and Mrs. Devers were on hand, as
befitted the official heads, temporary, of post and martial society, and
the Cranstons with Agatha Loomis, after again going to see if they could
do anything for Mrs. Davies, and again finding her absent from home,
concluded to go over to the hop-room soon after taps, and the first
thing that met their eyes was the sight of Mira--Mrs. Davies--waltzing
down the waxed floor, and waltzing beautifully in the new step that was
coming into vogue while they were still at home, and waltzing on the
encircling arm of the appreciative Mr. Willett. Beyond doubt she was the
observed of all observers.

It had all come about in the most natural and matter-of-fact way. Mira
had persisted for full an hour in her determination not to dance, but
again and again had Willett and Sanders implored,--Willett with eyes as
eloquent as his tongue. "None of these other ladies had yet really
learned the step. Everybody longed to see it. Everybody had heard how
beautifully she danced it," and presently body after body came and
coaxed "just to show us," and so, really before she knew it, she was
again on Willett's arm, he murmuring praise and encouragement into her
pretty little pink ear, and everybody seemed to stop to watch them, and
then strove to imitate. And then Sanders implored her to give him just
one turn for the honor of the Eleventh, and then Jervis wouldn't be
denied, and Willett and Burtis came for more,--Willett again and again,
and so she danced until the last waltz died away, and her first hop in
the army had been one long, vivid triumph; Willett in his eagerness
forgetting an engagement to waltz with Mrs. Hay. "She will never forgive
me," he murmured to Almira, as he saw her home, "but," and his voice
sank lower, "I only wonder I did not forget all--but yours." And that
was one of the lovely things said to her that night she did not report
in her long, explanatory, self-exculpatory letter to Percy. It is
possibly surprising that she had sense enough not to tell it to Mrs.
Flight, whose lord was on duty as officer of the guard, and who had
accepted Almira's urgent invitation to come and spend what was left of
the night with her. Almira was timid, even afraid to be left alone. Like
two schoolgirls they chattered about the cosey fire in Almira's bedroom,
Mrs. Flight filling the young wife's ears with tales of the compliments
that had been passed upon her beauty, her grace, her dancing, her lovely
costume,--one of Aunt Almira's _modiste's_ most charming creations, one
she assuredly would not have worn had Percy been there. Everybody had
praised her in one way or another, and many had done so to her face,
Captain and Mrs. Devers, even, taking heart, as they said, from seeing
her so delightfully occupied, came up to congratulate her on being the
belle of the ball and to express every manner of condolence for the
stern necessity which called her husband away. It was a piece of
diplomacy Almira was at a loss to answer.

Of all the women present the two whose opinion she most dreaded and
toward whom she felt absolute aversion, neither congratulated nor
praised her in any way. Miss Loomis smiled and bowed and said,
"Good-evening, Mrs. Davies," in very cheery manner when they met in
promenade. Mrs. Cranston bowed and smiled gravely, stopped, and extended
her hand, which Almira, with heightened color and drooping eyelids, took

"I need not say how we deplore the orders, Mrs. Davies. I'm so sorry to
have missed you to-day. Won't you lunch and dine with us to-morrow and
talk over plans? We shall be so glad to have you."

And Almira faltered that she had promised to lunch at Mrs. Darling's and
spend the afternoon, and was afraid she couldn't promise to come to
dinner, and Mrs. Cranston understood. They went home early, did the
Cranston's,--that is, early for Fort Scott,--whereas Mrs. Davies,
influenced by her energetic friends, danced until long after midnight,
and then sat up and talked it all over until long after two.

"Willett's simply gone on you," was Mrs. Flight's significant remark.
"No wonder lots of our primmers looked blue to-night. Willett used to
dance with Mrs. Wright and Mrs. Hay all the time, but he hardly looked
at them to-night. And did you see the look Miss Loomis gave him when he
invited her? He says she snubbed him outright." No, Almira hadn't seen,
but she had caught almost every look that Willett gave her, and was
thinking more of those and of what he said, and of his plea that she
should be at Mrs. Darling's for luncheon next day,--they wouldn't drive
back to Braska until afternoon,--and of the ball they meant to give at
the railway hotel in town, to return the courtesies of their friends at
the fort. He was to lead the german, and might have to lead it with Mrs.
Courtenay of the bank, who was the leader of local society but couldn't
dance any more than he could fly, and if Mrs. Davies would only promise
to be there all would be bliss. Mrs. Davies had said she could not be
there. They were in mourning for Mr. Davies's mother, as Willett well
knew, and she expected Percy home within a week or ten days. Captain
Devers had assured her it couldn't be for longer, and indeed, oh, no!
she couldn't think of going to a ball in town.

But she did think of it very much indeed. She thought of it, and the
dance of the evening gone, far more than she did of Percy and his party
now sleeping in the snow or shivering in the wind at Dismal River. She
wrote him one of her long letters Thursday morning, spending over an
hour in the effort, and an equal time in her toilet for the luncheon at
the Darlings. She was in the midst of this charming function, assisted
by Mrs. Flight, when the gong on the front door announced the coming of
a visitor. "I can't see anybody now, can I?" she hazarded to Mrs.
Flight, and Mrs. Flight thought she really wouldn't have time, and so
whispered to Katty, as that Milesian maid-of-all-work bustled through
to answer the summons, "Mrs. Davies will have to be excused to callers,"
and the parley at the hall door was brief enough. Almira and her
assistant listened,--as what woman would not?--heard the courteous,
cordial tone of inquiry for Mrs. Davies, and Katty's flurried "Begs to
be excused, mum," and there was no need of the question which Mrs.
Flight asked,--"Who was it, Katty?" for both knew Mrs. Cranston's voice.

"I've done my best, Wilbur," said Meg, as she threw herself on the arm
of the big easy-chair in which her lord was reading the Chicago papers
before the snapping, sparkling fireplace. "She did not want to see me
last night, and she practically refused to see me this morning. She has
chosen her intimates, and it is a case of like unto like. We are not
congenial. Yet I so wanted to be a friend to him and to her."

Cranston dropped his paper and threw his strong arm about her waist, and
when a man turns from the contemplation of his favorite journal to that
of the face of his wife her queendom is assured.

"You've done all I could ask, dear," was his answer, "but we may have to
pocket our pride a little. She is very young and inexperienced. She goes
to Darlings' to-day, does she?--and that coxcomb Willett is to be there,
too." The _Times_ slipped to the floor, forgotten, and Margaret, saying
nothing more, drew closer to his side and nestled her round, soft cheek
against his weather-beaten jowl, and Agatha, coming quickly in from her
supervision of the boys' lessons in the adjoining room, went back to the
book-littered table unnoticed. This frontier Darby and Joan, whose tin
wedding had passed and gone long months before, seemed spooning yet.
It's another "way we have in the army," and long may it live and linger.


Long remembered at the agency and among the lodges of the assembled
Sioux was the morning of the arrival of Lieutenant Davies with a squad
of half-frozen troopers at his back. The gale that swept the prairies on
Wednesday had died away. The mercury in the tubes at the trader's store
had sunk to the nethermost depths. The sundogs blazed in the eastern
sky, and even the rapids of the Running Water seemed turned to solid
blue. Borne on the wings of the blast, straight from the frozen pole,
the Ice King had swooped upon the sheltered valley. Cold as is the wide
frontier at such times, even among the gray heads, the old medicine-men,
the great-grandmothers of the tribes, huddling in the frowzy,
foul-smelling tepees, were legends of no such bitter, biting cold as
this. Cattle lying here and there stark and stiffened, hardy ponies,
long used to Dakota blizzards, even some among the Indian dogs had
succumbed to its severity, while over at the agent's, behind
double-listed doors and frost-covered sashes, around roaring coal fires
in red-hot stoves, the employés and their families herded together
almost as did the Indians, execrating the drop in the temperature one
minute even while thanking God for it the next. It was the main thing
that had interposed to save them from the vengeance of Red Dog's band.

All through the desperate battling of the previous summer, even in the
face of fiercest triumph the Indians had known in years, one little band
of Sioux had kept faith with the white brother and refused all effort to
draw its young men to the war-path. For months, from early spring-tide,
against three columns of regular troops, the hostiles in the Big Horn
and Powder River countries had more than held their own, and under the
spell of Sitting Bull and led by such war chiefs as Crazy Horse and Gall
and Rain-in-the-Face, the turbulent spirits of nearly every tribe had
swelled the fighting force until at times six thousand warriors were in
the field engaged in bloody work. The whole Sioux nation seemed in arms.
Ogallalla and Brulé, Minneconjou, Uncapapa, Teton and Santee, Sans Arc
and Black Foot, leagued with their only rivals in plainscraft and
horsemanship and strategy, the Cheyennes, thronged to that wild and
beautiful land once the home of the Crows. Three columns had striven to
hem them in,--three thousand wagon-hampered soldiers to surround six
thousand free lances of the plains, and the Indians laughed them to
scorn. When the columns pressed too close they swarmed upon the nearest,
stung it, sent it staggering back; then watched for the next, and swept
it out of existence. They flew at Crook on the 17th of June and fought
him luringly, begging him to follow farther into their traps in the
cañon, but the Gray Fox knew them and divined the numbers that lurked in
hiding behind the bold green curtain of bluffs, and so slipped out of
the toils. They turned on Custer eight days later and left no tongue to
tell the tale. Three columns, against such energetic measures, fell back
to recruit and refit, and not until late in the season, doubled in
strength, could they resume the offensive. Then, the summer's work
accomplished, the warriors scattered, spoil laden, and the troops chased
madly hither and yon until brought up standing at the boundaries of Her
Britannic Majesty on the one side or those of the Indian Bureau on the
other. Across the border-land Sitting Bull snapped his fingers at his
pursuers. Across the reservation lines did many a jeering chief hurl
taunt and challenge at the baffled soldiery. When winter came on there
were still a few strong bands of Sioux and Cheyennes dancing to the
war-drums in the fastnesses of the Big Horn, whence Miles and Mackenzie
and the Frost King soon routed them; but most of the warriors who had
spent their season in saddle in the field were once more at home under
the sheltering wing of the Department of the Interior, while their
chiefs and leaders, their hands still red with the blood of Custer's
men, their wigwams freshly upholstered with cavalry scalps, went
eastward on their customary junket to the capital of the nation, to be
fed and fêted and lionized, to come back laden with more spoil, more
arms, ammunition, clothing, blankets, tobacco, kickshaws and trumpery
dear to the savage heart, rejoicing, even though they marvelled, at the
fatuity of a people that annually rewarded instead of punishing their
murderous work. They, the heroes of the summer's campaign, rode in
triumph through the very homes of their victims, and weeping women and
children listened in amaze to the plaudits with which their townspeople
greeted the very savages who, not six months before, were hacking out
the last flutter of life, drinking the heart's blood, revelling in the
dying moan of beloved husband or father. Verily, we're a nation of odd

And, just as a sojourn in Washington seems to turn many a white
brother's head, so did this, though with better reason, send the savage
homeward with boastful heart. He and his were welcomed back to the fold,
lavishly provided for, all manner of requests and demands hitherto
denied now smilingly honored. They came back lords of the soil, monarchs
of all they surveyed, scornful of all who were not with them in the
warfare of the summer gone by, and of these was the household of Spotted
Tail. Long time chief of the Brulés, he had kept faith with the whites,
his kith and kin were loyal to their obligations, and in so far as
example and influence could go they had held their tribe, all but the
more turbulent young men, out of the fight. There was a band that for
years had never "drawn a bead" on white man,--settler or soldier,--a
band that had furnished scouts and runners and trailers and had done
yeoman's work upon the reservations. These were now, as was to be
expected, of no more consequence in council lodge or tribal dance.
Snubbed by the war chiefs, sneered at by the young men, slighted by the
maidens, it was bad enough that they should have lost caste among their
own people, it was worse, and what made it infinitely worse that it was
so utterly characteristic, that these faithful allies and servants
should now find themselves neglected by the very government which they
had so earnestly supported. Back from the war-path, day after day, came
dozens of grinning, hand-shaking warriors lately in rebellion, and to
them, their squaws and children, with lavish hand the agency dealt out
blankets and calicoes, bacon and beef, coffee, flour, and sugar. Such
redoubtables as Red Dog, Little Big Man, Prowling Wolf, and Kills Asleep
were swaggering about, as were their young men, in plethora of savage
adornment and "store clothes." Their squaws and children were warm and
fat and garbed in attractive motley. Even their dogs were in better
fettle than the social exiles of the Spotted Tail school, now in rags
and dependent for their daily bread on what the agent would give them.
Three times it happened on ration days that Red Dog and Kills Asleep,
swaggering about the corral, told their followers to pick out and drive
away such cattle as were passably fat and presumably tender, leaving to
the silent loyals only a miserable batch of beeves which Lieutenant
Boynton described as "dried on the hoof." The agent said he couldn't
help it, "Red Dog and the likes of him are now high in favor at
Washington. They and their fellows could have me removed in a minute if
I interfered, and they know it. There is no lie at my expense their
interpreters wouldn't tell the inspectors, and against so many witnesses
what could I do?"

"Do!" said Boynton, indignantly. "Do your duty, and I'll back you up.
I'll testify to the truth."

And then the agent smiled sadly, but scornfully, and said another
truism. "What good would that do? From Sheridan down, what army
officer's statement has any weight whatever with the Indian
Bureau,--when it isn't what it wants?"

"Well," said Boynton, "it's a damned shame, and I mean to make a formal
report to department headquarters at once."

And the agent said he wished he would, and Boynton did, but before that
document could reach Omaha there were other and more serious troubles.
Two Lance was the name given the chief of the little band that had stood
fast with Spotted Tail, and Two Lance had begged that he and his people
might be allowed to go back to where most of the Brulés lived, at the
old home on the White River. "This is no place for us," said he. "We are
poor, hungry, ragged, almost naked. We are jeered at. Even our maidens
are insulted by these our own people because we were taught to remain
true to the Great Father and take no part in the war. Now, behold, they
who killed his soldiers, murdered his settlers, and ravished his women
are fat and strong and rich. Their ponies are as the herds of buffalo in
our fathers' day, and we who served the great White Chief and protected
his children, we are a shame and a scorn. Let us go to him who never
broke a promise or told a lie and he will right us. Let us go back to
Sintogaliska--to Spotted Tail." But the agent said he had no authority.
It would be another moon before he could get it, and it might not come
then. If they pulled up stakes and went anyhow he would have to send the
white chief Boynton with his soldiers to fetch them back; and when Red
Dog and Kills Asleep heard of this they rode to the village of Two Lance
and jeered him anew and called him "White Heart" and "No Lance," and
some of Red Dog's young men said worse things to some of the Brulé girls
who stood shrouded in their ragged blankets, bidding them follow and be
the mothers of men and braves and warriors and not remain in the lodges
of faint hearted curs. There were Brulés there, young braves who longed
for battle then and there, and who leaped to their gaunt ponies and
shouted challenge and defiance, but Two Lance interposed. There must be
no fratricidal warring, said he. They would lay the matter before the
council fire of Sintogaliska,--he who had ruled the Brulés since first
the white tents of the soldiers gleamed along the Platte--Sintogaliska
who never lied. And this too was jeered and flouted. Sintogaliska,
indeed! Sintogaliska was a traitor, an old woman whom the white father
had bought with beads and candy. The warriors of the Sioux, the only men
fit to lead, were such as Red Dog and Kills Asleep. But still Two Lance
kept his temper and the public peace, and again he rode to the agent and
told his story, and Boynton fired up and said in common decency the
agent must do something to put a stop to Red Dog's insolence, and the
agent sent for Red Dog and bade him report himself at the agency
forthwith, and Red Dog replied that he would when he got ready, and if
the agent wanted him sooner, why, to come and get him, and Elk-at-Bay,
who brought his defiance, lunged in and laughed when he gave the
message, and helped himself to the cigars remaining in the agent's box
and swaggered out with them.

That evening in sudden brawl and in plain view of Mr. McPhail, the
agent, one of Red Dog's braves stabbed to the heart the lover of a
Brulé girl whom he had affronted.

"Arrest him!" ordered McPhail, who then turned and ran in-doors,--after
his pistol, as he said, possibly forgetting that it was already on his
hip. Boynton and his men were at the picket-line grooming horses, three
hundred yards away at the moment, and the young brave mounted his pony
and dared any one to take him, and rode singing defiantly down the
snow-covered valley. Only the previous day the mail rider had gone on
his weekly trip, and now a special messenger was needed to convey the
agent's despatch to the railway, for the flimsy single wire to the
reservation was down and useless. The Indian who attempted to carry the
letter was pulled off his pony by frolicsome friends of the murderer and
treated to a cold bath in the Niobrara. Not until Sunday night did he
get back, half frozen, and tell his story. Meantime there was more
defiance, so another attempt was made. Sergeant Lutz said he'd
take it this time, and he rode through to Braska on a single
horse,--seventy-three miles in thirty hours. The Interior Department
asked immediate assistance of the War Department to make arrests, and
the general commanding at Omaha was instructed by wire to place a
sufficient force with the agent to enable him to overpower two or three
turbulent Indians. This sent Davies and twenty troopers to reinforce
Boynton, and the very day they started ushered in the coldest wave of
the winter and further tragedy at Ogallalla.

Drunk and defiant, the exulting murderer with two or three reckless
friends had ridden up to the agency, renewed their boasts and jeers and
yells, while Boynton and his men, as instructed by the agent, were over
at the village of Two Lance, a long mile away, rounding up their pony
herd to prevent the warriors making an assault on Red Dog's more distant
township. A shot rang out from somewhere among the agency buildings, and
the days of the boaster were numbered. Back, bearing the body, scurried
the trio of friends, and in less than an hour, in fury and transport and
grief and rage, the women were tearing their hair and prodding
themselves with knives, while the warriors, singing the death-song, were
painting themselves for battle. In vain the agent despatched messengers
to say he and his men were innocent of blood and would bring the
murderer of the murderer, some prowling Brulé, to vengeance. Swift
return couriers bade him beware,--Red Dog and all his band were coming
to avenge the deed. Boynton was summoned in hot haste. He and his party
came sweeping in on the foremost wave of the wind, and between the two a
vengeful band of two hundred seasoned warriors, veterans of many a
foray, were held at bay from Wednesday night. It was too cold even for

And Friday morning, after hardship and suffering there was no time to
tell, Lieutenant Davies with his party reached the threatened agency,
and was greeted with ringing cheers. That evening the grasp of the Ice
King was loosened by the soft touch of the south wind, and Red Dog rode
in state to the adjoining camp to claim the alliance of his brother
chiefs in his attempt to wrest from the agent the perpetrator of the
murder of his tribesman. That the dead Indian was himself a murderer
had no bearing on the matter, said Red Dog. He had simply knifed in
self-defence a beggarly Brulé who quarrelled with him over a girl. The
blood of Lone Wolf cried aloud for vengeance, and the agent should not
be permitted to harbor or conceal his slayer. "You've got no time to
lose," said Boynton, who had kept his scouts on the alert. "You should
arrest that old villain at once or he'll stir the whole reservation into
mutiny." The agent thought he could accomplish more by seeing him and
having a talk. "Indians are always ready for a talk," said he. "I'll
take Mr. Davies and a couple of men just for appearance's sake and ride
right over to the village. He's at Kills Asleep's now."

Boynton argued, but the agent was afraid to adopt the only course an
Indian respects,--prompt and forceful measures. "Talk" means to him
delay, compromise, confession of weakness. "Well, if you must palaver,"
said Boynton, finally, "take me along. I've had more to do with those
beggars than Davies, and," he added to himself, "I'll make it possible
to nab that fellow."

A most impressive scene was that which met the eyes of the little party
as they rode to the village across the frozen stream. The moon was
shining almost at full in a clear and cloudless sky. The neighboring
slopes, the distant ridge, the broad level of the valley, all blanketed
in glistening snow. Half a mile away down-stream in one dark cluster of
jagged-topped cones lay the village of Red Dog's people. Away up-stream
a long mile, black against the westward slope, the corral and
storehouses, the school and office and quarters of the agency, the
watch-lights twinkling like the stars above. Close at hand, loosely
huddled along the bank, the grimy, smoke-stained lodges of Kills
Asleep's sullen band, and in their midst, surrounded at respectful
distance by a squatted semicircle of old men and braves, all muffled in
their blankets, and by an outer rim of hags and crones and young squaws
and children and snarling dogs and shaggy ponies, there with trailing
war-bonnet and decked with paint and barbaric finery, his robe cast
aside,--there like an orator of old stood the Indian chief in the heat
of his impassioned appeal. All eyes were upon him, all ears drinking in
his words. Guttural grunts of approval rewarded each resounding period.
"You're too late," muttered Boynton. "He's been getting in his work to
good effect. You should have arrested him an hour ago."

The agent reined in his panting horse and looked and listened. "He won't
talk to me now, I suppose. It would be an affront to his dignity to
interrupt. Best let him finish what he's begun. What shall we do

"What you'd best do is to give me orders to nab the old sinner in my own
way and go back to the agency as quick as you can. Your life won't be
worth a pin in that crowd when he's done speaking. Go while there's yet
time and tell Mr. Davies to send me Sergeant Lutz and six men mounted.
Keep the rest under arms in the corral. I'll land Red Dog inside the
walls within an hour if you'll only say the word. Damn it, man! you've
_got_ to, or your influence is gone."

"He's got more influence now than I ever had, and the whole Indiana
delegation backed me for the place," wailed McPhail. "What in heaven I
thought to gain by coming out here and taking such a job is more than I
can guess now. Every one said there was money in it; no one thought of
the danger. If my wife and kids were only safe at home I wouldn't care
so much. It's that that I'm thinking of. Can't we do this somehow
without bringing on a row?"

"The row's here now and growing worse every minute. His own bucks are
ready for battle. He'll have every son of a squaw in this camp painting
himself chrome-yellow inside an hour, and he'll never rest till he's
harangued every village in the valley twixt this and morning. Our one
chance is to nab him midway when he rides from here to Little Big Man's
roost up-stream. Tell Lutz to meet me at the willows, and for God's sake

And still the agent hesitated. Barely six months had he served in his
new and unaccustomed sphere. Old-world nations, either monarchies that
take no thought for the morrow's vote of the masses, or republics that
have outlived their illusions, suit their servants to the work in hand.
Uncle Sam, having hosts of importunate sons demanding recognition
irrespective of merit, and being as yet barely a centenarian, is at the
mercy of his clamorous and inconsiderate millions. Each salaried office
in his gift calls with each new administration for a new incumbent,
whose demanded qualifications are not "what can he do to improve the
service?" but "what has he done to benefit the party?" In this way do we
manufacture consuls who know next to nothing of the manners, customs,
language, and business abroad, and agents who know even less of the
Indians at home.

But the problem in hand was settled for the sorely troubled official in
a most unlooked-for way. Sharp-eyed squaws spied the little squad of
horsemen at the outskirts of the village, the agent in his wolf-skin
overcoat, the troopers in the army blue, with the collars of their
overcoats up about their ears, and some one ran to Red Dog with the
news. With all "the majesty of buried Denmark" he paused in his speech,
faced the intruders, then came striding slowly towards them, warriors,
women, squaws, and children opening out and making a lane for his royal

"Whatever you do, no words with him here," whispered Boynton to the
agent, now trembling with excitement and nervous apprehension. "Stand to
your terms. He can talk with you only at your office,--the agency."

With the stately war-bonnet of eagle feathers trailing down his back and
dragging along the ground, the chief came stalking on, never hastening,
never slackening his stride, and after him flocked the warriors and
women of the tribe, the men eager and defiant, the women trembling in
fearsome dread.

"Shall we turn and ride away?" asked the agent, his blue lips twitching.

"No. Face him now,--cool as you can. Look him straight in the eye. Make
no answer,--I'll do that. Ride slowly away when I say '_now_' and not
before. Advance carbine there, men! Fetch 'em up slowly."

Ten feet away from them Red Dog halted and stood erect, drawn up to his
full height. Slowly he folded his arms, and sternly he bent his gaze
upon the four white men. Silently his followers ranged up in big circle,
almost enveloping the stolid troopers. For a moment nothing was heard
but the shuffling of moccasined feet, the quick breathing or murmured
words of the squaws, the feeble wail of some Indian baby left to its own
devices in the parental lodge. Sniffing the tainted air the horses
shrank a bit, rallying under the prompt touch of the spur and standing
with erect, quivering ear and starting eyeball, staring at the coming
throng and uttering low snorts of fear. And then at last in the Dakota
tongue Red Dog hailed his visitors just as down the valley the
monotonous throb of the Indian drum began.

"Why are these soldiers here?"

To the agent it was, of course, unintelligible: he had been among the
tribe too short a time. Boynton understood, and in low tone muttered,
"Pay no attention to him whatever. Look around as though you were in
search of somebody you knew and wanted to see." Then aloud he called,
authoritively, "Come, step out there, some one of you who can speak
soldier English. Where's Elk? He'll do if you want to ask questions."
And presently Elk-at-Bay, he who bore the chieftain's message and
confiscated the agent's cigars, edged his way to the front, but with far
less truculence of mien than when the agent stood unsupported by

"Red Dog asks why soldiers here," said he.

"Tell him we're here to enjoy the scenery, if you know how to do it, and
minding our own business," was Boynton's reply.

"Red Dog not speak to soldiers. He asks the man the Great Father sends

"Well, you tell him the agent of the Great Father will talk with him
there, at his office, and nowhere else," said Boynton, "and that
to-night's his last chance to hear what the Great Father has to say to

Unfolding his arms, the chief took a splendid stride forward. He
understood Boynton, as Boynton well knew, and now was preparing for an
outburst of oratory. The instant he opened his mouth to speak Boynton
turned to the agent and whispered, "Now," and coolly and indifferently
as he knew how, that official reined his broncho around and headed him
for the twinkling lights of the distant buildings. Red Dog began in
sonorous Dakota, with magnificent sweep of his bare, silver-banded arm,
and Boynton touched up his charger impatiently and rode a length closer,
his two troopers sitting like statues with the butts of their carbines
resting on the thigh, the muzzles well forward.

"Red Dog wastes time and wind talking here. If he wants to be heard let
him go there," said Boynton, pointing to the distant agency. "Unless,"
he added, with sarcastic emphasis,--"unless Red Dog's afraid." And then
he, too, reined deliberately about and signalled to his men to follow.
For a moment there was silence as Elk stumblingly put into Sioux the
lieutenant's ultimatum. Then came an outburst of wrath and invective.
Red Dog afraid, indeed! Loudly he called for his horse, and the crowd
gave way as a boy came running leading the chief's pet piebald. In an
instant, Indian fashion, he had thrust his heavily-beaded moccasin far
into the off-side stirrup and thrown his leggined left leg over the high
silver-tipped cantle, and the trained war pony began to bound and
curvet. Swinging over his head his beautiful new Winchester, Red Dog
rode furiously to and fro, haranguing the excited tribesmen, and
speedily more Indians were sitting hunched up in saddle, but darting
skilfully hither and yon, yelping shrill alarm. Others dashed away to
the distant village to rouse Red Dog's own people and summon the
warriors that remained. In fifteen minutes, at the head of three hundred
mounted braves, Red Dog was riding straight for the agency, his escort
gaining numbers with every rod. Red Dog afraid, indeed!

Over the moonlit sweep of snow the watchers at the corral saw the coming
throng, a moving mass, black and ominous as the storm-cloud. Within the
buildings all hands were hastily barricading doors and windows and
bustling a few women and children, trembling and terrified, into the
cellars. Out in the corral in disciplined silence the troopers were
promptly mustering and forming line. Six or eight of the party that
arrived with Davies that morning having badly frozen fingers and toes
were told off to act as horse-holders. "We've simply to fight on the
defensive," said Boynton to his silent second in command, "and we'll
fight afoot. Thirty men can defend the corral and out-houses and the
front of the agency. The rest we'll put in the building. That's all
we've got."

Away from the excited group at the office door a horseman turned and
spurred full speed for the hills far to the southwest. "Tell 'em we're
attacked by overpowering numbers," said McPhail, "and want instant
help,--all they can send us." There was no time to write despatches; the
shouts and taunts and shrill defiance of the coming troop already rang
in their ears.

"Now then, McPhail," said Boynton, lunging up through the snow-drifts,
carbine in hand, "I've got my men at every loop and knot-hole, and those
beggars can't take this shop to-night. What I want is authority to
arrest that head devil the moment he gets here."

"It will only infuriate them and make matters worse," pleaded the
representative of the Indian bureau.

"Well, it's the only way to put an end to the row," said the soldier.
"The only thing in God's world those fellows respect is force and pluck.
You've temporized too long. Arrest him and tell his fellows to disperse
to their tepees in two minutes or we open fire."

"How can you arrest him in front of all that array?" was the tremulous
question. "Do you suppose they'll permit it?"

"That's my business," was Boynton's answer. "I don't mean to let that
gang come within three hundred yards, and you're a worse fool than I
thought if you overrule me. I'm going to ride out there now to halt them
at the creek. Then you order Red Dog forward with his interpreter and
bring him in here a prisoner. You've not an instant to lose," he
finished as a trooper came up at the run, Boynton's big bay trotting at
his heels. The lieutenant was in saddle in a second. "Are you agreed?"
he asked.

"Why, they'll say we began it, lieutenant. They'll swear they were only
coming to talk. They've always been accustomed to come here whenever
they wanted to. We have only a handful of men; they've got a thousand
fighting braves within a day's call. My God! I can't risk my family!"

"You've done that already with your confounded temporizing. Look there,
man. It's too late now. There's where I would have held them, along the
creek bank. Now they're swarming across."

Singing, shouting, brandishing lance and rifle, their barbaric ornaments
gleaming in the frosty moonlight, some of the younger men darting to and
fro on their swift ponies, mad with excitement, on came the surging
crowd, led by the majestic figure of the big chief, jogging straight on
at the slow, characteristic amble of the Indian pony, his war-bonnet
trailing to the ground. From far and near, up and down the valley, dim,
ghostly, shadowy horsemen came darting to join the array. Close behind
Red Dog some rabid warrior began a wild war chant, and others took it
up. Somewhere along the throng a tom-tom began its rapid, monotonous
thump, and here, there, and everywhere the rattles played their weird,
stirring accompaniment.

"Well, by God, McPhail! you may let them ride over you and yours, but
they can't ride over me and mine without a fight," said Boynton, now
wild with wrath. "That whole force will be swarming through the premises
in five minutes. Quick, Davies!" he cried. "Forward as skirmishers!
Cover that front! Ten men will do." And without further command,
scorning prescribed order of formation, but with the quick intuition of
the American soldier,--the finest skirmisher in the world,--a little
party of troopers watching at the corral gate, sprang forth into the
moonlight and, opening out like a fan, carbines at trail or on the
shoulder, forward at full run they dashed, spreading as rapidly as they
possibly could to irregular intervals of something like ten yards from
man to man, and presently there interposed between the coming host and
the black group of buildings at their back this thin line of dismounted
men, halted in silence to await the orders of the tall, slender
subaltern officer, who, afoot like themselves, now stood some thirty
paces in rear of their centre, calmly confronting the advancing Indians.
Up to Davies's side rode Boynton, bent and whispered a word, then
spurred forward to the line, and there, reining in, raised to the full
length of his arm a gauntleted hand, palm to the front, and gave the
universal signal known by every Indian and frontiersman from Hudson's
Bay to the Gulf of California,--"Halt!"

"Red Dog comes to talk with the Great Father's agent, not with you,"
shouted Elk, lashing forward for a parley.

"All right. Come on, you and Red Dog, but order your gang to stay where
they are. The agent will talk with Red Dog, but no one else."

Without audible orders of any kind, the Indians had suddenly ceased
their clamor, and now, apparently, were quickly ranging up into long,
irregular line in rear of their chief. Presently, as Red Dog and Elk
conferred, there stretched across the snow-streaked prairie some three
hundred motley braves, mounted on their war ponies, the flanks of the
line receiving constant additions from the direction of the distant
lodges. Then Elk again came forward, Red Dog sitting in statuesque
dignity in front of his tribesmen.

"The white chief has his soldiers. The agent of the Great Father has his
men. Red Dog demands the right to bring an equal retinue," was doubtless
what the Indian wished to say and what in the homely metaphor of the
plains he made at once understood. "You got soldiers. Agent got heap.
Red Dog he say he bring heap same," was the way Elk put it, and Boynton
expected it.

"Tell Red Dog the soldiers will fall back and the agent come half-way
out afoot. Red Dog and you dismount and come forward half-way. If your
people advance a step we fire. That's all."

Another low-toned parley between the chief and his henchmen. Two minutes
of silent fidgeting along the line of mounted Indians. Like so many blue
statues the skirmishers stood or knelt, carbines advanced, every hammer
at full cock. Back in the shadows of the agency hearts were thumping
hard and all eyes were strained upon the scene at the east. The moon,
riding higher every moment, looked coldly down upon the valley. Elk came
forward again, and Red Dog's war-bonnet wagged first to right and then
to left. He was saying something in low tone to the braves at his back
and they were passing it along to the outer flanks of the line.

"Red Dog says soldiers go back and agent come out and talk," said he.

"All right so far, but does Red Dog agree to dismount? Does he agree to
hold his people where they are? Does he understand that if they advance
we fire? Here, Red Dog," said Boynton, riding forward half a dozen
yards, "you understand me well enough. If your crowd moves a pony length
forward we fire, and, mark you, any trick or treachery and down you go,
first man."

To this Red Dog deigned no other response than a scowl.

"Back up slowly, men, face to the front," said Boynton to his silent
line. "Hold 'em, Davies. I'll go back to McPhail."

But when the agent was told the terms of the parley he refused. "Why,
he'd knife or pistol me just as the Modocs did the Peace Commissioners,"
said he. "I won't step off the agency porch. We've got seven armed men
here. Let him bring seven, and you have your soldiers ready inside the
corral. Then if he wants to talk business he can see me here."

By this time, slowly retiring and gradually closing toward the centre,
Davies and his skirmishers had come back within twenty yards of the
building. Boynton swore a round oath. "There's no help for it, Parson,
we've got to do as this chump decides. There's one chance yet. Get your
men back to their loop-holes and join me here. No man to fire, remember,
except as ordered."

Quickly the troopers scurried back to their positions along the
stockade. Originally it had been intended to enclose all the buildings
within this defensive work, but the returning tourists were prompt to
express their disapprobation. Having just shaken hands with the Great
Father at Washington, they were suspicious of such an exhibition of
lack of confidence on the part of his agent. That the store-rooms should
have iron-barred windows was another ground for remark and remonstrance.
The red children refused to enter a stockade whose gates might be closed
behind them, or a room whose windows were barred. An inspector came out
and held a powwow and shook hands with everybody, and told the agent the
red children were lambs who would never harm him and he mustn't show
distrust. It hurt their sensitive natures. So the stockade only enclosed
the shed and stables, but it abutted, luckily, upon the agent's house
and office. Re-entering the house from the rear, after a few words of
instruction to Sergeant Lutz and his men, Davies pushed through
hurriedly to the front piazza. Red Dog in grand state, with an
interpreter at his left rear and seven stalwart braves aligned like a
general's staff six yards behind him, came riding with majestic dignity,
straight to the dark portico. Red Dog afraid, indeed! Turning his horse
over to an orderly and sending him within the stockade, Boynton ordered
the gate closed.

"We'll have a breeze here in a minute," he whispered to Davies. "That
sinner means mischief. You watch him and the agent. I'll keep my eye on
the main body."

Fifteen yards away, Red Dog halted and silently studied the shadowy
group on the agency porch. There stood the bureau's "ablegate," the
official interpreter by his side. In the door-way, dimly outlined, were
two of his assistants, men who had known the Sioux for years, but knew
not influential relatives in the East. Boynton ranged up close alongside
in hopes of prompting the official. "He's beginning to look knee-sprung
already," whispered he to Davies, "but I'll brace him if I can." Just
behind the agent stood one of his police, and this was before the days
of an Indian police that, properly handled, proved valuable as
auxiliaries. Then Red Dog in slow, sonorous speech began to declaim.

"Choke him off! Make him dismount and report at your office. He'll only
insult you where he is," whispered Boynton.

"Red Dog says, as the agent didn't dare come and get him, he concluded
to come in and see whether the agent would dare take him," began the
interpreter, in trembling tones, the moment the Indian paused.

"Too late, by God!" hissed Boynton between his set teeth. "He means to
blackguard the whole party right here and then ride off rejoicing."

And Red Dog reined closer and began anew. Throwing back his
quill-embroidered robe, he lifted a muscular arm to heaven, and with
clinching fist and flashing eyes seemed to hurl invective straight in
the agent's face.

"You dare demand the arrest of Red Dog, do you?" he thundered in his
native tongue, leaving hardly an instant for the interpreter. "Now hear
Red Dog's reply. The blood of one of our young men calls aloud for
vengeance. His slayer is here and you know him. Red Dog, backed by the
braves of every tribe at the reservation, comes to demand his surrender.
Give him up to us and your lives are safe. Refuse, and you, your wives
and children, are at the mercy of my young men. Red Dog dares and defies
the soldiers of the Great Father."

Consciously or unconsciously, in the magnificence of his wrath, the
chief had ridden almost to the very edge of the porch and there shook
his clinched fist in the ghastly face of McPhail. The agent started back
amazed, terrified, for as though to emphasize his defiance Red Dog's
gleaming revolver was whipped suddenly from its sheath and flashed aloft
over his feathered head.

And then there came sudden fury of excitement. A bound from the edge of
the porch, a fierce yell, an outburst of Indian war-cries, a surging
forward of the escort at the chieftain's back, a rush and scurry in the
offices, the slamming of doors, the flash and report of a dozen
revolvers, a distant roar and thunder of a thousand hoofs and chorus of
thrilling yells, a scream from the women and children in the cellars
below, a ringing cheer from the stockade, followed by the resonant bang,
bang of the cavalry carbine, and all in an instant a mad, whirling
maelstrom of struggle right at the steps, braves and ponies, soldiers
and scouts, all crashing together in a rage of battle, and then, bending
low to avoid the storm of well-aimed bullets from practised hands at the
stockade, some few warriors managed to dash, bleeding, away, just as a
determined little band of blue-coats, half a dozen in number, leaped
through the door-way and down the steps, blazing into the ruck as they
charged, and within another minute were coolly kneeling and firing at
the swarming, yelling, veering warriors, already checked in their wild
clash to the rescue, and within the little semicircle two furiously
straining forms, locked in each other's arms, were rolling over and over
on the trampled snow,--Red Dog, panting, raging, biting, cursing, but
firmly, desperately held in the clasp of an athletic soldier, for
without a word Percy Davies had leaped from the porch and borne the
Sioux chieftain struggling to the ground. Red Dog,--redder than ever
before, even on the bloody day of the Little Horn,--bound hand and feet
with cavalry lariats, spent that long winter's night a prisoner in the
hands of Boynton's men, while the prairie without was dotted with braves
and ponies, dropped by their cool, relentless aim. Red Dog at last had
had his day.


The blizzard that swept down on the broad valley of the Platte the night
of the hop,--the night Davies marched away,--though severe, had been of
short duration. A warm wind and a strong wind from the Arkansas met and
overthrew it, and pursued its decisive victory to the Dakota line. The
snow was "slumping," said the little Leonards, when Messrs. Burtis and
Willett drove out from Braska Friday afternoon and took Mrs. Davies and
Mrs. Darling sleighing up the valley. It was freezing, of course, again
by sundown, but judging from Mira's glowing cheeks the drive in the
exhilarating air had done her a deal of good, and she sat with Willett,
while Mrs. Darling faced the breeze at the side of his accomplished
associate. Many women watched the start and some saw the finish, and
none with more interest than Mrs. Flight, who had never before been
left on such occasions, nor with more distress than Mrs. Cranston, who
knew not what to say. The party dined at the Darlings' quarters that
evening, and later some of the boys came to Leonard and asked if it
wouldn't be possible to have a few of the band in the hop-room. They
wanted to dance and Darling's house was too small. Leonard said they
knew the colonel's decision,--the bandsmen were expected to play once a
week as late as any one cared to dance in consideration of certain small
extra pay. If they played at any other time, they had a right to expect
compensation. He would not order them out. Messrs. Sanders and Dot and
Jervis could go and see the leader and arrange with him as to terms and
men, if they chose, and have their dance. It wasn't what the boys
expected; moreover, it was late, but they were young, energetic, and
enthusiastic. Three musicians were found and a dozen couples, and long
after midnight the lights and laughter and merry strains of music told
that the younger element of Scott was enjoying itself irrespective of
anything that might be going on at the almost forgotten agency. The
chaplain and his wife, going earlier in the evening to call and cheer
Almira, were met by Katty at the door and the information that "the
misthress was dinin' at Mrs. Darlin's." Katty was short with her
visitors for two reasons. She didn't approve of the dominie, as he was
not of the faith of her Irish fathers, and she did approve of Corporal
Lenihan, who had come to spend the evening. When, therefore, the worthy
couple announced that they would return later after making other calls
in order to see if there were not something they could do for Mrs.
Davies, who must be dreadfully sad, Katty replied, "'Deed and they
needn't worry, for it's more'n _she_ did." The stern discipline of the
post took Lenihan off to his troop at tattoo, but Katty lacked not for
company. "It wasn't becoming," said her mother, "that she should be left
to herself at the dead of night with no one but that lout Barnickel to
look after her." So she came up from Sudsville at taps to discuss Mrs.
Davies's tea and preserves and, incidentally, her character with her
blooming daughter, and Barnickel was sociably disposed, and the kitchen
congress was in animated session when at 11.30 P.M. there came a sharp
ring at the bell.

"Bless us! I didn't suppose they'd be home till long after midnight,"
said Katty, as she scurried away. It wasn't the misthress, however; only
Mrs. Darling's maid, to say that Mrs. Davies would not come home; she
would spend the night at Mrs. Darling's, and Letty had come for her
things. This necessitated Mrs. Maloney's remaining all night to further
look after Katty, and what more natural than that they should light Mrs.
Davies's lamp and spend a blissful hour in her simply furnished but
pretty room, looking over the new gowns and garments and jimcracks, and
so absorbed were they in this occupation that they took no heed of time;
and so it happened that the good old chaplain, coming shortly after
midnight over from the hospital, whither he had been summoned to the
bedside of a sorely-stricken trooper, rejoiced to see that Mrs. Davies,
at least, had not gone to the dance, but was keeping wifely vigil in the
sanctity of her own room, praying, probably, for the safety of the loved
young husband now on perilous duty eighty miles away. At the corner, at
the end of the long row of quarters, a solitary figure was standing. The
chaplain recognized the beaver overcoat in the soft moonlight and the
soldierly face under the forage-cap.

"Ah, Cranston! Officer-of-the-day, I see. Just going the rounds?"

"I was,--yes,--but I saw you coming, so waited. How's Hooker?"

"Very low, poor fellow! Typhoid has him in tight grip. He's flighty
to-night. He thinks he's back on the summer campaign again, and his talk
is all of the Antelope Springs affair. Odd! this makes the third man to
come back from Boynton's party, two with typhoid fever and one with the
mail-carrier and a bottle,--Brannan I mean,--and they all talk about
that. From what I have gathered it would seem that Devers blamed Mr.
Davies for the whole tragedy, but the men, when their tongues are
loosened by fever or rum, lay loads of blame elsewhere."

"Yes?" said Cranston, with deep interest, yet reluctant to talk of
regimental scandal with an outsider. "I should like to know what they

"Well, they say McGrath could tell a tale if he were alive, and that
Lutz and the men at the agency believe they were shoved up there because
they had said things which First Sergeant Haney overheard and reported
to the captain. It seemed queer, even to me, so many men going from
Devers's troop under command of somebody else's lieutenant, and now
Davies himself has gone, and suppose he should hear of this talk?"

"He will know what to do, chaplain. Davies has earnest friends who will
not see him further wronged, but just now, as you probably understand,
nothing can be done. Now excuse me a moment. I may have been mistaken,
but I thought I saw a man's figure hanging about the back gate of Number
Twelve as I came up the bluff from the wood-yard. I thought he went
through Davies's yard and that I'd see him crossing the parade when I
got to the corner, but not a soul was in sight and it is almost as light
as the day. If he didn't go through he must be in the shadows there of
the wood-shed. There's been some prowling, and though this isn't the
sort of night for that sort of thing, it's still possible. Will you
kindly wait here and watch the front and this side while I beat up the

Wonderingly the chaplain assented, and, with his sabre clanking at his
side, Cranston strode away northward along the line of white
picket-fence until he came to the high rear barrier of the row, one of
black unplaned boards, and around behind that he disappeared. Across the
intervening yard and through the open gate-way at the back the chaplain
could see a patch of the snow-clad valley, and watched for the
appearance of Cranston's sturdy form in that silvery gap.

But another eye had also been alert. The very instant the figure of the
officer-of-the-day disappeared from view behind the high back fence, out
from the shadows of the shed there sprang a lithe, slender form, clad in
soldier overcoat, and, in less time than it takes to tell it, around it
darted behind the shed, was one instant poised at the top of the fence
that separated the yard of Davies's quarters from that of their
next-door neighbor, then noiselessly dropped out of sight on the other
side. The next minute Cranston appeared in the gap.

Instead of shouting, fearful of disturbing the inmates, the chaplain
quit his post, hastened along the front to Davies's gate and around the
house to the rear, where he found Cranston searching.

"There was a man. I saw him. He leaped the fence into the next yard. A
tall, slender fellow."

But search in there and in its fellows revealed nothing. The prowler had
had time to skip from yard to yard, and nothing short of the services of
the entire guard would be apt to result in his capture.

"I wish you had shouted to me. I could have grabbed him in Hay's yard,"
said Cranston.

"Well, I didn't like to for fear of startling Mrs. Davies," said the
chaplain, simply, and Cranston glanced quickly and queerly up at him
from under the visor of the little cavalry cap.

"Why, she----" he began, then checked himself abruptly.

"Could you give no description of him? Did he leave no trace?" asked
Captain Devers at the office next morning when the old
officer-of-the-day made his report.

"No, sir, but the chaplain might. He saw him plainly,--said he was tall
and slender."

And Captain Devers replied,--

"Very good, sir. You're relieved," and then turned to the new incumbent,
Captain Rogers, of the infantry: "I wish especial attention given to
this matter, Captain Rogers, and probably I shall take a turn with you
to-night after twelve."

But that night long after twelve the whole post took a turn. It was
towards four A.M. when the telegraph operator, who slept always beside
his instrument, came banging at the door of "A" Troop's office. It was
opened by an indignant Irish sergeant. "Go rout out the captain at once.
You know how to rouse him and I don't. There's hell to pay and the whole
crowd wanted." And Haney, who would have damned his impudence another
time, donned his clothes without an instant's delay, and together they
ran across the parade and brought up with a bang at Devers's storm-door.

Agatha Loomis was probably a light sleeper. It was her tap at the
Cranstons' room that first roused them.

"What is it?" cried Margaret, up in an instant and filled with no other
apprehension than that of more sore throat or cough in the nursery.

"There's some excitement and running about the post. The office is
lighted and people are hurrying over there."

Cranston looked at his watch,--4.15. Peering out of the dormer-window at
the front, he could see dark forms scurrying across the parade and
lights beginning to pop up here and there and everywhere along the row
of barracks. Hurriedly donning his stable dress and furs, he went down
to the hall-way, Margaret, pale and silent now, following. A man was
knocking at the door of the adjoining quarters, and Cranston recognized
the form of Lieutenant Jervis. "What's up?" he queried.

"Big row at the agency," came the murmured reply. "Reckon most
everybody will have to go." And though he spoke in low, guarded tone,
Margaret heard, and then clung to her husband's arm.

"Again! so soon?" she cried. "Oh, God! Are we never to know one-half
year of peace?"

Cranston led her into the warm little parlor and took her in his arms.
"I must go to head-quarters at once," he whispered. "Doubtless I should
have been there before; but don't borrow trouble, Meg, dear, wait until
I know what's to be done." Then he left her with Agatha and went his

The office was crowded. Devers sat in the colonel's chair pencilling
despatches to be sent to department head-quarters. Around him, sitting
or standing, were most of the officers of the garrison, either silently
regarding him or chatting in low tone. All that was known was that Sam
Poole, one of the best and most daring scouts employed at the agency,
had ridden into Braska about three o'clock, his horse nearly spent, with
the news that the whole gang of Sioux had risen in revolt and attacked
the agent. He left at 8.15 Friday night with McPhail's plea for instant
help and all they could send of it, but so deep were the drifts in
places and so exhausted was his horse that it had taken him all that
time to reach the railway. The wire was still down and he bore the
latest news. There could be no mistake: the attack had fairly begun
before he was out of hearing. The volleying and yelling beat anything
he'd heard since the battle at Slim Buttes in September. The
quartermaster in charge of the depot at Braska had despatches wired at
once to Omaha and another out to the fort. Devers was up in a few
minutes and had sent his orderly for certain of the officers, and the
noise of ringing or knocking along the row had roused others. Cranston
and Hay were not of those sent for, but Devers explained that he took it
for granted they were prepared to take the field with their troops at a
moment's notice, and did not care to disturb them until he knew what
they would be required to do. It would be several hours before orders
could reach them from Omaha, he reasoned, and he had no idea what the
orders would be. The whole command might be sent, or none of it.
Meantime vigorous preparations were going on in the store-rooms and
kitchens along the barrack row, "A" Troop's activity being conspicuous.
But without waiting for orders from their captains, the veteran first
sergeants of the other troops were getting everything in readiness, and
when Hay and Cranston walked over to the barracks to see how far
preparations were advanced, each had an approving word for his faithful

But Omaha was wider awake than Devers supposed. The Gray Fox was in
possession of the news almost as soon as the post commanders, and he and
his adjutant-general were at the telegraph-office within half an hour.
"I will go by first train," said he. "Meantime we must start a big

And so before the reveille bugles were singing through the wintry
morning along the slopes of the Rockies, the telegraph had roused the
officers at all the posts along the railway for five hundred miles.
Russell, Sanders, and Sidney were up and astir with preparation. Special
trains were ordered to meet and convey their detachments of horse, foot,
and pack-trains, so that a big command might concentrate at once at
Sidney and march thence, 'cross country, to the Ogallalla Agency,
Colonel Winthrop at their head. The commanding officer of Fort Scott was
directed to start three troops of cavalry and two companies of infantry
at once, with instructions to join Colonel Winthrop's column at the
Niobrara crossing, and, his own troop being now the smallest at the
post, owing to these details at the agency, Devers very properly decided
on sending everybody else's. Truman, Hay, and Cranston of the Eleventh
and Pollock and Muncey of the Fortieth were the captains ordered to
march forthwith. Before eight o'clock on Sunday morning the little
column had swung sturdily away over the prairies, and Captain Devers,
with his own attenuated troop and two companies of "doughboys," remained
to guard the post and its supplies, and take care of the invalid colonel
and the wives and children of the soldiers so summarily ordered into the

And now Almira could not lack sympathizers, for both Mrs. Flight and
Mrs. Darling had been called upon to say adieu to their respective
lords, who marched with their sturdy comrades in the wake of the
cavalry, guarding the few wagons which had to be taken; but these
gentlemen belonged to a famous regiment that had known no other history
since the day of its organization than that of constant active service.
The Fortieth was forever in the field,--its wives "perennially
grass-widowed," said the garrison wits,--its children so seldom blessed
with the sight of the paternal face as to be preternaturally wise in
picking out their own fathers. The Fortieth went as a matter of course.
The two companies remaining behind looked upon that as a mere accident
that time would surely rectify. The two that went made the customary
appeal to the post commander for the release of certain untried and
unpunished of their weaker members who happened to be at the moment
languishing in the guard-house, and the plea prevailed. Hearing this,
the chaplain, backed by Dr. Burroughs, came to the office with another
plea. There was the young man Brannan confined in the guard-house since
Wednesday morning last, he knew not on what charges and begged to be
released from durance so utterly vile and permitted to go with the
command to the rescue of his comrades at the agency,--what there might
be left of them.

But Devers replied that Brannan's troop was not going. Furthermore, he
intended to have Brannan brought before a garrison court on the morrow.
This was the sorrowful message the chaplain carried, and Brannan wrung
his hands. "I have violated no regulation, missed no roll-call, been
drunk on no duty. I did drink when half frozen on that hard ride from
the agency to the post. I drank after I got here, but drank no more and
behaved no worse than half a dozen others of the troop who were with me
at the store, and some of whom drank more, got drunk and were allowed to
sleep it off in quarters and nothing said about it. Why am I singled out
for punishment? Why is Paine--who went to town and had to be brought
back by a patrol--why is he released and allowed to go as wagoner, while
I am forbidden to go at all? There's surely something behind all this,

And the dominie didn't say so to the man, but thought so to himself. He
was still talking with the prisoner when the sergeant of the guard came
and said he was sorry, but orders had just come for Brannan to be sent
to the quartermaster's corral at once to help load wagons, and the young
fellow, with tears in his eyes, was led mutely away. Cranston happened
to ride by the corral ten minutes later and caught sight of the pale,
fine-featured face, whose-eyes looked up at him wistfully, imploringly.

"Why, Brannan," said he, "I had hoped to hear of your release by this
time. We march in less than an hour, and I fear nothing I can say to
Captain Devers will be apt to help you, but try to keep up good heart.
Say nothing about this confinement to your mother when you write, and
I'll ask Mr. Leonard to look out for you. He'll see that no great harm

"It seems as if everything had gone against me, sir," said the boy, with
quivering lips. "I don't know why I can't get justice in this troop. If
Captain Devers thinks me so bad a soldier, why don't he let me transfer?
I've asked twice, and he refuses. It's my belief he's trying to drive me
to desert so as to get me out of the way--or destroy my character."

"Hush, Brannan. You know that you ought not to talk to me in that way.
There's no time for words. I'll ask Mr. Hay to keep special lookout for
you. I know the general will overtake us to-morrow, and quick as
possible I'll have a word with him. Now, good-by, lad. Stand to your
guns a little longer and you're all right."

"I'll try, sir, if you'll give my--give my respects to Mr. Davies, and
say to Miss Loomis--God bless her." And with a choke in his voice the
young soldier turned suddenly away, dashing his sleeve over his eyes.

"Get to work there, you, Brannan," growled Sergeant Haney before
Cranston was out of hearing. "No more palavering with officers out of
your own troop this day unless you want double trouble in it,--and be
damned to you," he added, in low and cautious tone, his eyes furtively
following the captain, now twenty yards away. And Cranston was riding
home to don his winter field rig and to a parting that he dreaded beyond
all description, for now, more than for many a long year, had Margaret
need of all her husband's love and encouragement and devotion.

Sunday noon the detachment from Scott was across the railway and first
on march to the beleaguered agency. Sunday night they camped in the
breaks of the big divide, some fifteen miles north of Braska, and still
no tidings came from beyond the Niobrara. Restoring the telegraph line
as they went, digging it out from under the snow, the infantry trudged
along all day Monday, following the trail of their mounted comrades who
left them at dawn, and early Monday morning an ambulance drawn by six
spanking big brown mules whipped by them along the road, and the kindly
twinkling eyes of their old friend and fellow-campaigner, the general,
peered out at them. Away he went to overtake the foremost riders, with
just brief word or two and cordial grasp of the hand to the few officers
who hastened alongside. Without guard or escort, with only a single
aide-de-camp, with his life in his hands as usual, the Gray Fox was
heading straight for the scene of danger. "Heard anything at all?" he

"Not a thing." Who could tell whether man or woman was left to forward
word of any kind?

Monday night the cavalry reached the snow-covered banks of the Niobrara,
and went into bivouac on the northern shore to await the coming of the
black speck that, just before dusk, could be seen far in their wake
picking a way through the drifts in its descent from the crest of the
divide. "It's the general, of course," said everybody, and the general
it was.

"Anybody come ahead yet from Winthrop?" was his first question. No! The
Sidney road was covered in places by drifts that had lain unbroken ever
since the storm. "Any news from the agency?"

Not a word, and it lay now barely a dozen miles away. Tuesday morning,
too impatient to wait for coming reinforcements, and confident he could
hold his own with the little force at hand, the Gray Fox pushed ahead.
All were up and off at the break of the wintry day, and at eight o'clock
had neared the top of the divide between the shallow, placid Niobrara
and the swift Chasing Water beyond. Little Sanders, trotting far in the
advance with three or four light riders, threw himself from his horse,
unslung his field-glass, and peered long and anxiously into the
northward valley. All seemed desolate and deserted. A smoke was drifting
lazily upward from the site of the distant agency; not from peaceful
chimney, but rising from a mass of smouldering ruins. The villages of
Red Dog, Kills Asleep, Little Big Man, even of Two Lance, had
disappeared, and of the Ogallalla Agency not another vestige could be
seen but the grim outlines of the stockade.


When Sanders, with solemn face, turned to meet the general and report
his discovery, the difference between the young and the old campaigner
was told in their own words.

"I'm afraid we're too late to save 'em, sir. Everything's wiped out but
the stockade."

"If the stockade's left, they've saved themselves," was the answer, and
the Gray Fox was right. Long before the column reached the lowlands of
the valley horsemen could be seen spurring eagerly forward to meet it,
and the first-comer was Trooper O'Brien, who saluted the general with
all soldierly grace and the rest of the array with a sociable grin.

"We're all right, general,--leastwise most of us is. Two of the boys is
killed, and Loot'n't Boynton's wounded,--and four others,--but the
women's all safe, and the agent--bad scran to him! Is there a doctor
along?" A doctor was along,--Burroughs,--riding with the senior captain
commanding the battalion, and Burroughs was hurried forward with Sanders
and a squad of men, while O'Brien, proud of his prominence, rode by the
general's side and told the story of the sharp and sudden fight.

"They came down on us like a crowd of grasshoppers so soon as it was
light enough to see anything, but they couldn't get near us without our
bowling over bucks and ponies. The prairie's dotted with the corpses of
the poor beggars, sir,--the ponies, that is; they never left an Indian.
We stood 'em off first rate. Loot'nant Boynton and Loot'nant Davies was
everywhere at once, and after trying two dashes the Indians gave it up
and kept at long range. They was a thousand strong at least, and Elk
came in with a white flag for a parley, and Mr. Boynton ordered him
back, but McPhail let him in. He said we must give up Red Dog or they'd
burn the agency over our heads and massacre every man, and McPhail was
for letting him go then, but Mr. Boynton and he had words over it, and
they kept him. That night was cloudy and the moon was hid, and sure
enough at ten o'clock they crawled in on the storehouse side and heaped
up timber under them flimsy pine boards, and no one could see them on
that side until everything was in a broad blaze. It was when trying to
bucket out the fire the lieut'nant was shot, and it was a roaring
conflagration in five minutes, and from that it spread to the agency and
the other shebangs, and it was all we could do to get the women and
children out of the cellars and into the corral, and them bucks firing
from every sage brush for a mile around. The whole thing was down by
midnight, but it didn't do them no good: we was really better off with
less to take care of and more men to do it with, and we had wather in
the well and rations for all hands, and the agent and his non-combatants
under cover in one corner of the stockade, and Red Dog tied up in
another. All Sunday they kept up a long-range fire, and five or six
times made as though they was going to charge, but Loot'nant Davies was
on all four sides of that square from dawn till dark, sir, and they
never got within four hundred yards that we didn't drop them. Sure it
was just pie, general. The only trouble was, could they set fire to the
stockade at night? The loot'nant had buckets of water all around inside,
and every little while a patrol ran round on the outside, and half the
fellows kept watch at the loop-holes while the others slept, and Mr.
Davies had the office side of the stockade battened up with old wagons
and boxes and things to fill the gap. Faith, sir, he never seemed to
close an eye night or day until this blessed morning, when the valley
was clear of Indians and we knew it meant that the general was coming."
And as O'Brien told his tale to attentive ears, others of the little
garrison, lately beleaguered, joined the battalion, still steadily in
march, and found eager auditors everywhere along the jogging column.
Every one sorrowed at hearing of Boynton's serious wound, for he was a
soldierly, faithful fellow, albeit a trifle blunt and unsociable, but as
man after man spoke in lavish praise of Davies, of his plucky grapple
with the most redoubtable chief in the rebellious tribes, of his calm,
cool vigilance and skill in the conduct of the defence after the command
devolved upon him, Cranston's eyes sparkled, and Hay and Truman joined
in the chorus of congratulation.

When at last the battalion unsaddled at the stream and the officers
pressed into the stockade to shake hands with the defenders, they found
Boynton and the wounded feebly rejoicing in Burroughs's hands and
Davies tucked away in a corner under an old wagon, rolled in agency
blankets, sleeping the dreamless sleep of a tired child.

"Don't disturb him for anything," said the general, with moistened eyes.
"They tell me he hasn't had an hour's rest since Friday. He's behaved
like a trump."

That night our old friend Tintop came trotting in at the head of eight
strong troops of horse, some of his own, others of the --th Cavalry.
Behind them, with the wagons, came the infantry, supplementing the
little detachment of the Fortieth already on the ground,--the sturdy
trampers from Fort Scott. Next day the agent and his household, with the
other women and children, were bustled off to Braska until new quarters
should be built for them, and his red wards be rounded up, run down, and
returned to the arms of Uncle Sam by their natural oppressors, the
cavalry. Sending Red Dog in irons and Boynton and the wounded back to
Scott by easy stages, leaving four companies of the Fortieth to build
cantonments for themselves and their comrades, the Gray Fox took the
field with the residue of his force and set forth upon a winter campaign
in search of the now scattered and despondent Indians. The oratory of
Red Dog had borne its fruit. Four truculent bands had joined in the
outbreak at the agency and lost their leader, half a score of
mad-brained young warriors, scores of their best war ponies, but, what
was of most consequence, had burned up the whole store of agency
provisions and, with their squaws and children, were now lurking among
the trackless Bad Lands to the north, outcasts upon the face of the
frozen earth.

The only Indians whose condition was not made materially worse as a
result of this ebullition were the Brulé band of Two Lance, who had
taken advantage of the general confusion to slip away to their old head
chief Sintogaliska. He might not be able to feed or clothe them, and the
agent at Sheridan might say he had no authority to help, but they would
at least be getting as much comfort as was accorded them at Ogallalla,
and less abuse.

And then, while the soldiers were stalking the renegades, the
commissioner of Indian affairs sent out to stalk the soldiers.
Investigation as to the cause of this inexplicable outbreak was
demanded. Those very chiefs had left the capital in unbounded good humor
not two months before, and who was responsible for this sudden and
baleful change of heart? It was a matter soon and easily settled. In the
absence of military testimony to the contrary and the presence of so
unanimous a party as the agent and his assistants, the fault was laid on
the broad shoulders of the troopers. Devers rode over from Scott to
Braska to hear the evidence, Boynton being still in surgical bandage and
bondage, and without committing himself to anything absolutely
derogatory to Messrs. Boynton and Davies, was certainly understood to
raise no dissenting voice to the often expressed theory that but for the
impetuosity and interference of those two officers the whole trouble
could have been amicably settled by the authorities of the Indian
bureau. And with this most satisfactory conclusion the commissioner
returned to Washington. Red Dog was ordered released and restored to the
bosom of his family, and when the general had finally succeeded in
bringing in the scattered starvelings and the cavalry reappeared at the
site of the agency, the first thing whispered to Davies was, "Be on your
guard every moment. Look out for Red Dog!"

The general never swore. He was in this respect the mate of Grant, his
old-time friend and regimental comrade, but he could "look swear words
by the gallon," said the adjutant of the Eleventh, whose own chief was
in no wise tongue-tied. It fell to the lot of Mr. Gray, sent forward
from the Bad Lands to announce the coming of the field column with all
its humbled captives, to be the first on returning to announce to the
Gray Fox that Red Dog had been released from durance at Fort Scott,
equipped anew by McPhail at Braska, and had ridden to the cantonment to
harangue such Indians as were already reassembling there, and to thunder
furious threats at the officers of the Fortieth. Three bitter weeks had
the Gray Fox and his faithful men been scoring the wild, wintry
fastnesses along the Wakpa-Schicha, and, just as the Indians obtained
through the bureau the vast supplies of ammunition with which to battle
the soldiers through the summer past, so now, while the War Department
was running down the renegades in the field, the Interior Department was
running down the soldiery at home. The troops came in with the
conviction that they had been seeing some hard and trying service, many
of them with frosted fingers, toes, or ears, and thinking they deserved
rather well of their country for having finally rounded up a thousand
warriors with all their families, ponies, and unsavory impedimenta, and
the general so informed them, and leaving a command of eight companies,
equally divided among the horse and foot, to occupy the cantonments on
the Chasing Water and thereafter keep the Indians in check, he hastened
away to attend to important business in another lively section of his
big department. The agency buildings were being rapidly restored, which
was much more than could be said of its influence for good among the red
men, and presently McPhail and his family reappeared on the scene, shook
hands all around with the warriors who burned him out several weeks
before, slapped Elk at Bay on the back and called him a bully boy, and
promptly requested of the commanding officer of the new cantonment,
which was a mile away up stream, a guard of a lieutenant and twenty-five
men to be stationed at the agency itself. The major demurred, and the
agent wired to Washington with the usual result. Whatsoever slur upon
his actions McPhail had seen fit to cast at the expense of Mr. Davies
during the investigation recently referred to, he had heard enough to
convince him that the Indians spoke of that officer with awe and
reverence and as "heap brave," so the man he urgently asked for to
command his guard was the very one whom he had maligned. The
adjutant-general of the department could only transmit the order that
came from superior head-quarters within the week, and Lieutenant Davies,
just as he was expecting brief leave of absence to visit his wife at
Fort Scott, was detailed to the command of the permanent agency guard.
The Ides of March had come.

And how had it fared with Mira and her sympathetic friends at Scott
during all these weeks of toil and march and scout? Two at a time the
officers had been allowed to run in thither for a few days as soon as
their men and horses were made fairly comfortable at the cantonments.
Cranston and Hay went first, then Truman and Jervis, then came the turn
to which Sanders and the patient Parson had been looking forward, and
Sanders went alone. Already some of those fearless frontierswomen, the
amazons of the Fortieth, had come ahead with bag, baggage and babies and
moved into the log huts of their lords as contentedly as they would have
taken quarters at the Grand Central in Omaha, but Mesdames Flight and
Darling were not of the number. Indeed, there was no reason why they
should be, as it was settled that their companies were those designated
presently to return to Scott; so was Hay's troop, so presumably would be
the detached members of Devers's Troop, "A," as soon as he wrote and
called attention to the fact that nearly one-half his men were detained
eighty miles away where there was now an abundance of other soldiery,
and the truly remarkable thing was that he, always hitherto so quick to
find fault with or criticise the actions of his superiors, was keeping
utter silence, and so long as he made no protest no one else could.
Colonel Stone, still weak and dazed, was just beginning to hobble about
the post, and for six wonderful weeks had Devers succeeded in retaining
the command.

"Your husband will be home any day," said Mrs. Darling to Mira, when
they got the news of the triumphant return of the command to the
cantonments. "He belongs here with his troop, so he's sure to come, and
then," she added, archly, "what will poor Willett do?"

That was a question occurring to many another mind and falling from many
another tongue. The rapture of Cranston's home-coming one sharp evening
in late February was dashed only by the sight of a blooming face at
Willett's side behind that stylish Eastern team. In the windings of the
road among the willow islands in the Platte he had come suddenly upon
them, he riding at rapid gallop, they dawdling with loosened reins.
Willett was bending eagerly toward her, talking earnestly. She sat with
downcast eyes that never saw the swift rider until he had almost passed
them by. Mrs. Darling, chatting with Mr. Burtis on the rear seat, was
the first to announce his coming, and with rare presence of mind to turn
and send sweetest smiles and beaming glances and the welcome of a waving
hand after the grim, bearded face that had no smile for their civilian
escorts and only grave courtesy for the ladies themselves. He would not
mar the joy of his home-coming by the faintest reference to what he had
seen, but Margaret read his honest eyes as she read her boys', and knew
that he must have met them on the way. For weeks she had seen the rapid
growth of the new intimacy and deplored it, and had no one to confer
with about it except Agatha, but Agatha flatly refused to open her lips
upon the subject. It was a mercy that Wilbur at last came home and
unloosed her tongue. As she pathetically said, "I simply could not
contain myself any longer."

But if Mrs. Cranston had held her tongue, there was no lack of others
who had not, and foremost of these was Mrs. Flight, who spoke by the
card. For a fortnight or so the devotion of these two ladies, Mrs.
Flight and Mira, to one another had been of that seething and tireless
character that rendered them incapable of spending an hour apart, and
then came the little tiffs and coolnesses that betokened that this, too,
was inevitably going the way of all such feminine intimacies. Up to the
day of Mira's coming Mrs. Flight and Mrs. Darling had been inseparable
for as much as a week at a time. Both were young, pretty, and
empty-headed; neither was burdened with children nor ideas. Both were
healthy, one was wealthy, neither was wise. Mrs. Darling had the
advantage over Mrs. Flight in that she was able to entertain lavishly,
whereas Mrs. Flight could only entertain by personal charm and sprightly
chat. They were the reigning belles at Scott, and not only the young
officers at the post, but the young civilians in town, found great
pleasure in their society. There was capital sleighing for several
weeks, and Willett and Burtis came as often as every other day to take
the ladies an airing. At first it had been Mesdames Flight and Darling,
then the bride had to be invited because she was the bride, then because
she was a beauty, and finally because Willett would have no one else.
Then as it was generally at Darlings' they lunched, dined, danced,
supped, were wined and warmed and welcomed, it transpired that
Mrs. Flight found herself very frequently dropped from the
sleigh-rides,--only invited semi-occasionally, perhaps once in ten days,
when Burtis pointed out to Willett that they really must, you know, to
which the now infatuated Willett merely responded, "All right. You ask
her, then, and let her sit with you." No one but Mrs. Davies shared the
sleigh man's seat.

During the fortnight that followed the departure of Lieutenant Davies,
Mrs. Flight had been devotion itself to her dear, bereaved friend, and,
having wept with her, slept with her, sleighed with her, bared her
innermost soul to her, and made herself, as she supposed, indispensable,
it was to be expected that Mrs. Flight could not look with equanimity
upon the discovery that she was not so indispensable after all. She had
started Mira on the road to conquest, never dreaming that she herself
would be the first overtaken and supplanted. She had thought hitherto no
possible harm could come of their taking an occasional drive with their
friends, especially as Mr. Flight expressed himself so grateful for the
attention shown his wife, and as she and Mrs. Darling seemed chosen
rather to the exclusion of the other women, but when Mira and not
herself became the invariable occupant of the seat by the swell
civilian's side, the indiscretion, not to say the impropriety of the
affair, became glaringly apparent. It is rarely from the contemplation
of our own, but rather from the errors of our neighbors, that our moral
lessons are drawn, and now that in all its nakedness the scandalous
nature of Mira's conduct was forced upon her attention, Mrs. Flight
reasoned, most logically, that she could be no true friend if she failed
to remonstrate and, if need be, admonish and reprove. She did so, and
Almira pouted and was grievously vexed. She didn't think so at all,
neither had Mrs. Flight until--until she began to be counted out. This
led to war, and from pointing the moral Mrs. Flight now turned to
adorning the tale with what "everybody was saying." Mira challenged her
authorities. "I know who you mean,--Mrs. Cranston and Miss Loomis. They
hate me and would say anything mean of me." Now, it was not Mrs.
Cranston and Miss Loomis at all. They had no more intimacy with Mrs.
Flight than they had with Mira, nor as much. They looked upon Mrs.
Flight as responsible in great measure for Almira's wrong start. They
under no circumstances would confide to Mrs. Flight what they thought of
Mrs. Davies, and Mrs. Flight knew it, still she was not unwilling to let
Mira suppose that she was now enjoying their confidences even while she
referred to other authorities by the dozen as condemning or deploring
Mira's conduct, and a stormy scene followed, ending in tears and
reproaches,--much heat, followed by chilling cold.

For the following fortnight Almira's intimacy was transferred to Mrs.
Darling, and from going to spend the night with Mira, Mrs. Flight took
to revolving in mind her singular observations while she was there.
There had been a thrilling, a delicious, a mysterious and romantic
occurrence. Somebody twice came and whistled a strange, soft melody
under the window and tapped as with a cane, gently, stealthily, a signal
that sounded like Rattat _tat_, rattat _tat_, just once repeated, and
Mrs. Davies trembled all over and grew icily cold, and begged Mrs.
Flight to go to the window and say, "Go away, or I'll call the guard,"
and when pressed for explanation Mira moaned hysterically and said, but
Mrs. Flight must never, never tell, that there was once a young man whom
she had known long before who had got desperate on her account, for she
couldn't return his love, and he had run away from home and enlisted,
and she feared that he was there now, though she had never seen him and
never wanted to see him, and it became Mrs. Flight's belief that it was
no one less than that handsome young fellow, Brannan, who Captain Devers
said was drinking himself to death. And now that Mira had withdrawn from
her the confidences of the month gone by and was recklessly driving the
road to ruin, flouting her admonitions, what more natural than that Mrs.
Flight should forget her own vows of secrecy and conclude it time to
seek other advice? Mrs. Darling would have been her first confidante in
this revelation, but they, too, had once been devotedly intimate and had
now drifted apart. They were no longer on anything more than merely
frigidly friendly terms, smiling and kissing in public and hiding
womanfully their wounds, yet confiding to friends how much they had been
disappointed in the other's character, if not actually deceived. Mrs.
Flight found a confidante in the chaplain's wife, a woman simply swamped
under an overload of best intentions. It was Bulwer who declared that
"It is difficult to say who do the most harm, enemies with the worst
intentions or friends with the best," but Bulwer, who had reason to know
what he was talking about, never lived at Scott in the Centennial times
or at old Camp Sandy in the Arizona "days of the empire," for then he
would have known no such difficulty in deciding. Just as the stanch old
chaplain was just such another God-fearing, God-serving, devil-downing
man as Davies's father, so was the chaplain's wife a counterpart of
Davies's mother, filled with the milk of human kindness still unturned,
and overflowing with best intentions uncontrollably effervescent. Had
she told her husband all might have been stopped right there, but, as
the demon of ill luck would have it, he had gone to a distant
convention. So she sallied forth, brimming with eagerness to snatch this
lovely brand from the burning, to turn this fair, motherless, guideless,
possibly guileless girl to the contemplation of her dangers, to the
knowledge of her peril, to banish Willett from the dove-cote,--wily hawk
that he was,--and settle forthwith the fate of that young scamp Brannan.
She did not find Almira until after dark, but meantime told her
thrilling tale to Mrs. Stone (now full panoplied for further social
triumphs, the colonel being on the mend, and herself so young as not to
have looked unmoved on those famous sleigh-rides, nor without envy on
Almira's blooming cheek), and from her side sped the chaplain's wife to
hunt up Captain Devers. In him she found a listener indeed in whom there
was no end of guile.

This was just before Cranston's return. The ball to be given by the
townsfolk had been indefinitely postponed in deference to Colonel
Stone's condition and the absence of so many dancing men in the field,
but the weekly hops, although with thinned attendance, went regularly
on. Now there were several households who did not attend at all, among
them Cranston's, Leonard's, and Hay's. More civilians came out from
town, whom Devers welcomed affably and Hastings and the resident
"doughboys" entertained as best they could. No need to trouble
themselves: the visitors came to "dance with the grass widows at the
fort," and had no embarrassment other than richness. There were always
wall-flowers, but never in the person of pretty Mrs. Davies, to whom
"Phaeton" Willett's devotion was now the talk of all.

It was just at this time, too, that there came to Braska a middle-aged
lawyer with all the ear-marks of the soldier about him, including a
white seam along his cheek that told of a close call his intimates knew
to have occurred at Spottsylvania. His name was Langston, and his first
visit to the post was the result of a letter of introduction to Captain
Cranston from a classmate in the East. Cranston had driven over to
Braska to seek him out on receipt of the letter enclosing Langston's
card, bade him hearty welcome to the West, and was surprised to hear
that his practice brought him frequently to the neighborhood. He asked
him out to dinner two weeks later, Captain and Mrs. Hay, Mrs. Davies,
and Mr. Hastings being invited to meet him, for almost his first
question had been for that soldierly young officer, the hero of the riot
on the train. Mrs. Davies pleaded previous engagement, but Captain and
Mrs. Cranston took the trouble to call and explain that this Mr.
Langston especially admired and asked for her husband, Mr. Davies, and
so Almira simply had to go. Hastings called for and escorted her. He was
a blunt fellow, who held that when the husband was away and the lady of
the house alone, no other man ought to set foot within the threshold,
and he waited on the porch. But the lady was not alone. Willett's sleigh
was in the trader's stable, and Willett himself biting his nails and
swearing in Almira's parlor while Mrs. Darling was putting the finishing
touches to Almira's toilet. Willett had driven out _solus_ this time,
thinking to persuade Mrs. Davies to take a drive, with some other dames
playing propriety on the back seat, and, finding she was engaged for
dinner and could not go, lost a chance of scoring a point by asking the
other women anyhow, for by this time his infatuation had utterly
overcome his senses. Katty again appeared and begged the lieutenant to
step in wid Mr. Willett, and Hastings turned fiery red, scowled
malevolently, said "No," and took himself outside the gate, pacing up
and down like the orderly in front of Devers's quarters, a short
pistol-shot away, until Almira came fluttering out, Willett in close
attendance, Mrs. Darling mercifully following. Hastings bade the others
a gruff good-evening, silently tendered Mrs. Davies his arm, and led her
away with the sole remark "Aren't we late?" which gave her a chance to
talk the rest of the way.

And though Langston sat on Mrs. Cranston's right, with the pretty bride
on his other side, so that he might descant about the absent Percy to
his heart's content, his eyes ever wandered across the simple table and
dwelt on Agatha Loomis's noble face. She had recognized him at once as
the one of the two civilians on the sleeper the previous June who had
not been suggestively and impertinently intrusive, yet she welcomed him
only formally even now because of that association. Langston had heard
the first mention of a Mrs. Davies with an inexplicable little pang, and
the further description of her with quick reaction, for his instant
thought was of Miss Loomis. The dinner dragged, despite every effort,
for Almira was distinctly and determinedly unresponsive. Margaret was
glad when it was over, glad when Almira early went home, for matters
brightened somewhat with her disappearance. Langston paid his dinner
call with surprising promptitude, and then overjoyed "the ladies" with a
box of rarest roses expressed from Margaret's own beloved home. "I know
how many of these are meant for me," she said, with almost fierce
rejoicing. "Oh, Wilbur!" she cried that evening, as she nestled in his
arms in front of their cheery fire, "if only he is all they say of him,
and she should----"

"Should what, Meg?" he densely queried.

"Should--why, you know just as well as I do, and he has such a fine
practice, and comes from such an admirable family and all that."

"Undoubtedly,--but where does Agatha come in?"

"Wilbur, you are just as provokingly sluggish as our own Chicago
River,--what wouldn't I give for a sight of its dirty face sometimes
when--when you're away! Now, be honest. Don't you know he never could
have sent all that way for all those roses--just for me?"

"_I_ would."

"Oh, you,--you are----" but the entrance of Miss Loomis herself with
sorrow in her face blocked the conference.

"Captain Cranston," she said, "Brannan has been sent to the guard-house
again. I know he has not been drinking. What can it possibly mean?"

It meant, said Captain Devers, when respectfully approached upon the
subject in the morning, that on very strong circumstantial evidence he
had discovered the identity of the night prowler. Brannan certainly
answered the description given by the chaplain, despite the chaplain's
assurance that he didn't believe it was Brannan, and Brannan, said
Devers, when not in the guard-house or hospital, had frequently been out
of his quarters at midnight.


Cranston's six days home-keeping sped all too swiftly away. It was now
definitely settled that his troop and Truman's were to remain
indefinitely on duty at the agency. The general hated the idea of
building cantonments there, and had urged that all the Indians be
concentrated at the White River reservation, but without avail,--the
Interior Department would have its way. Troops had to be drawn from all
the posts along the railroad to make up the new command at the
Ogallalla, and out of his own pocket Cranston was adding to the log
quarters assigned to him, for Margaret had promptly announced that she
would not remain at Scott, that where he dwelt was her dwelling, and
they had known far greater isolation and danger in the past. Indeed,
there was little danger of their going now, for in the presence of so
strong a force the Indians would be meek enough. Two log huts were
connected and thrown into one as rapidly as possible, and it was fully
decided that by the 25th of March Mrs. Cranston, Agatha Loomis, and the
boys were to join him at the cantonment. It was not a very difficult
trip for such heroines as lived in those days in the army. Cranston's
strong spring wagon, fairly lined with buffalo-robes and blankets, would
carry them in perfect comfort from camp to camp. They would have an
escort and a baggage-wagon, spend the first night at Dismal River, the
next at Niobrara. Hastings would escort them, for he longed to get away
from Scott for a while and visit his comrades in the field. There was
nothing in the least unusual in it, said Margaret, in her home
letters,--for this had she married a soldier. The boys, of course,
gloried in the opportunity and bragged about it, or would brag about it
when they next got away from their kind in the army to their kind in
civil life,--boys who could only vainly long for such opportunities and
vaguely loathe those who had enjoyed them. As for Agatha, she accepted
the change of station with serene and philosophic silence until
cross-questioned as to her own intentions. "Why, certainly I mean to go
with Mrs. Cranston," she replied, with clear, wide-open eyes. "She will
have more need of me there than here--and I of her." Mr. Langston, who
drove out again to spend Sunday at the post, heard of the decision with
grave concern in his soldierly face, but in silence equal to her own.

Some others of the ladies whose lords were thus detached to Ogallalla
preferred, however, to wait until the snow was gone. There was now
abundant room at Scott,--why leave it, with its warmth, its comfort, its
society and all, to go to a mud-chinked hovel at that ghastly spot where
the Indians danced and coyotes howled the live-long night? Of course if
there were quarters in which a woman could live with even reasonable
comfort, that would be very different. Then their remaining at Scott
would be inexcusable. Mrs. Flight and Mrs. Darling were women who were
at variance on very many points of late, but openly in accord on this.
Indeed, almost every woman at Scott had all of a sudden been seized by
some strange lingual epidemic that manifested itself in the persistent
repetition of such expressions as "Of course no woman who could see her
way to any kind of a civilized house would be justified in not joining
her husband there instead of staying here." It was sure to attack them,
too, whenever Almira happened to be within ear-shot, for the news came
down one March morning that one officer at least was to have a very
comfortable little frame cottage,--the commander of the agency guard. It
would be finished in a week or two, and even the stoves, fuel, and much
of the furniture would be provided by the Indian bureau. Again did Mrs.
Cranston go and call on Mrs. Davies and warmly congratulate her, and say
that Captain Cranston's men who were packing up the troop property would
gladly box and pack her furniture too and send it out by their wagons,
and then she said there were six inside seats in the big Concord wagon
and it would afford so much pleasure if Mrs. Davies would go with them.
But Almira faltered unresponsively. Mr. Davies had not fully decided. It
was such a shock to her,--his being detained there. She had never
dreamed of his being away more than a week or ten days, if she had she
would have returned home to Urbana, but now it was nearly two months,
and really Mr. Davies would have to come down and look after the
household affairs and matters that she didn't fully understand.

Davies understood them well enough when he got the commissary and grocer
and butcher and baker and other bills that Mira had managed to run up,
both at Scott and at Braska. He went with grave face to Cranston. "I'm
afraid Mrs. Maloney and Katty have been taking advantage of my wife's
inexperience," said he, "and ordering all manner of things in all
possible quantities, and possibly, or probably, stocking the Maloney
larder at my expense. I simply cannot pay these and my home assessments

Cranston was a man of few words. "Davies," said he, after looking over
the accounts, "Mrs. Davies has been cheated right and left by those
people, but in any event you cannot keep up two establishments. Break up
the house at Scott at once, let her come out with my people and leave
the Maloneys and Barnickel--and Scott behind. Let my Braska banker be
yours for the present. A few mouths here will float you well above

And though Davies declined the offer of pecuniary aid, the very night of
Mrs. Cranston's visit the agency telegraph flashed to Mira a despatch
directing her to get ready to come on with them, whereat Mira fled in
tears to Mrs. Darling,--Mira, who, it may be remembered, longed to come
and cook and bake and darn and sweep and sew and share the merest hovel
with her Percy so long as she thought it just possible that he might yet
change his mind and leave his simple village maid no fate but lonely
grief and an early grave. Mira's enthusiasm for the bliss of frontier
life fled at the contemplation of the utter isolation at the
agency,--with wild Indians and animals all around, and without Mrs.
Darling, without the lovely, cosey fireside confidences, without the
band, the hops, the sleigh-rides, not to mention the glowing devotions
of Mr. Willett.

But Mrs. Darling rose to the occasion. From having been first favorite
in Scott social circles up to the time of Mira's coming she, with Mrs.
Stone and Mrs. Flight, was struggling now for second place. She felt
constrained to remind Mira that she was now a soldier's wife, and should
share a soldier's lot, especially a lot that included furnished
quarters. Other women had gone or were going to live in the log huts,
and it would never do to have it said of her, of Almira Davies,
that she had shrunk from joining her husband at the agency when
everything--everything was provided. Everything wasn't provided, by any
means, but in the largeness of her convictions woman sometimes drifts to
breadth of statement. The interview with Mrs. Darling proved but cold
comfort to poor Mira. She went homewards through the chill gloaming with
restless heart. There was a little parcel lying on her table, securely
wrapped and sealed. The post ambulance driver brought it out from
Braska, said Katty, "an' there was no address, 'twas only to be left for
Mrs. Davies," and Katty fain would have followed her mistress into her
chamber to see it opened, but Mira closed the door before she cut the
string. It contained some exquisite double violets and a tiny note
sealed as carefully as was the box.

Before tattoo Mrs. Flight and other ladies hastened in to offer their
congratulations. They were desolated at the thought of losing Mrs.
Davies, but rejoiced with her that she was so soon to be comfortably
housed with her devoted husband at the agency, and Mira's cheeks were
flaming, her eyes, full of a feverish excitement, flitted from one to
another. She had but very, very little to say. She was glad, oh, yes, so
glad, though it was dreadful to leave Fort Scott, where so many people
had been so kind to her,--dreadful.

This was about the 20th and the general situation of affairs was
somewhat complicated. The bureau, resuming control over the Indians
reassembled at the agency, conferred no longer with the general who had
gathered them in, and for whose naked word they had more respect than
for all the formal treaties of agents or inspectors, but contented
itself with sending curt, crisp orders signed, however reluctantly, by
his superiors at Washington. The general, leaving matters at Ogallalla
where he had no influence, had gone after other malcontent braves in a
far corner of Wyoming. Colonel Peleg was beginning to evince a desire to
resume command, despite Rooke's knitted brows and reluctant answers. An
official from Sheridan's headquarters had just paid informal visit to
Scott, had had long talks with Stone, Leonard, and the chaplain, and a
very short one with the plausible Devers, and had gone back to Chicago.
He arrived at Scott within four days of Cranston's departure for the
agency, and within five of the re incarceration of Trooper Brannan on
charge of night prowling. He made very brief examination in Leonard's
office of Sergeants Haney and Finucane, Corporal Boyd and Trooper
Howard, who were witnesses, so Devers said, to the frequent absences of
Trooper Brannan from quarters during the dead hours of the night, and
their expert testimony seemed to be given with much reluctance and to be
received with equal incredulity. He asked of Devers what his reasons
were for refusing to forward Brannan's application for transfer to
Cranston's troop, and Devers, much disturbed to find that this was
known, hesitated in his reply. He said he had not refused, he had merely
taken time to consider. The man had given him much trouble. Some
officers considered it all right for a captain under such circumstances
to shunt a reprobate off on some other company commander, but he
differed with them. He wanted to know something of the man's
antecedents. "Well," said the aide-de-camp, "Cranston knows all about
them and is willing to take him. You might relieve yourself of any
feeling of punctilio on that score."

"Then Captain Cranston is your informant in this business, colonel,"
said Devers, with an attempt at a sneer.

"Not at all," said the aide-de-camp, placidly. "Brannan's mother told us
all about it. She is a very superior woman, and we dine there

Devers stared blankly at the speaker just a moment, half incredulous,
half resentful, then at last he realized that it was no pleasantry on
the part of his visitor and, for once in his life, collapsed entirely.

That night Brannan was released and bidden to go to his troop and be
patient. This time there was no doubt of his application being forwarded
to regimental head-quarters, and there's no doubt, said the chaplain,
who had a talk with him within an hour of his restoration to duty, that
a week would see him _en route_ to join Cranston's troop at Ogallalla.
Devers was still commanding officer of the post, however, and gave the
chaplain to understand that so long as the man remained at Scott the
interests of discipline required that there should be no exhibition of
exuberant triumph on his part or of further interference on the part of
his spiritual sympathizers. He hated the chaplain by this time as much
as he feared Cranston. Something had told him that the aide-de-camp's
visit meant that the toils were tightening, and that even though the
Gray Fox was away his great superior, the lieutenant-general, had an eye
on the situation and an ear for the stories of his defamers. Devers felt
that the inspector came because of sudden and direct appeal from
Brannan's friends. He could not longer attribute it to Davies. Well, it
would take a week or ten days anyhow before Brannan's orders could come,
and a week was a long time to a man with a treacherous thirst.

But what Devers only suspected and did not know was that in the long
consultation with Leonard that officer gave, by request, his version of
the altercation which had taken place between himself and Devers, and of
the events leading up to it. The staff officer brought with him the
original report of the investigation made of the Antelope Springs affair
and Devers's topographical sketch of the ground, trails and all, and
Leonard's black eyes burned as he studied it. The aide-de-camp had some
social calls to pay and left these papers in Leonard's hands while he
was gone. "I have made a tracing of that map, colonel," said the
adjutant, when after two hours the official returned. "I hope you don't
object. I know you can't leave the originals with me."

"That's all right," was the answer. "Say, Leonard, who's that young cit
with the swell team who came to take Mrs. Davies sleighing? I didn't
catch the name."

"His name's Willett," said Leonard, briefly.

"What's he doing here?"


"Cattle in Braska, perhaps, but here, I mean."

"I don't know," said Leonard to the officer. "I wish I did," said
Leonard to himself. "If I did--I'd smash him."

Mr. Langston had driven out to the post with Willett that afternoon. He
had other calls to pay, and this was Saturday, a favorite day for
visiting at Braska. The Cranstons' house was topsy-turvy, everybody in
the midst of packing, but Langston had a box of _bon-bons_ which the
ladies, or the boys, might enjoy as reminders of Chicago, and he rang.
Miss Loomis herself, in cap and apron, opened the door. Her shapely,
soft white hands were covered with the dust of books and papers she had
been busily storing in the boxes, and her face flushed, just a bit, at
sight of her visitor.

"I cannot shake hands with you, Mr. Langston, and, as you see, we're all
at work, but welcome in. I'll call Mrs. Cranston."

"No. Don't," he said, hurriedly. "I only came to offer these trifles. I
heard you were all busy packing and had hoped to hear that, after all,
you were not going up to that forsaken spot. Is it true?"

"Certainly. Wherever Captain Cranston goes there goes his wife, and
where she goes to live is my home and duty."

He stood looking steadfastly into her brave, beautiful face. He was tall
and stalwart: she almost Juno-like in the grandeur of her form. He could
not conceal the admiration that glowed in his eyes. He could not, dare
not speak so soon the thoughts that had been surging in his brain,
springing up from his very heart. What would he not give could she but
accept the offer he longed to lay at her feet, that of a name, a love, a
home wherein she should reign as queen, not live as a dependent. Such
silences are eloquent. She turned quickly away. "Louis, tell mother Mr.
Langston has come out to say good-by," said she, and Mrs. Cranston, not
ten feet away, these being army quarters, had to appear.

"I didn't mean to say good-by here exactly," said Langston. "I rather
planned to see you. I thought perhaps you'd honor me by breakfasting or
lunching with me in Braska on your way," he said, hesitatingly. "They
tell me ladies often----"

"Well, we go direct. Ours is the through express, Mr. Langston," said
Mrs. Cranston, laughing, "and it's a hotel car we travel by. Braska is
some distance off the air line."

"Braska doesn't seem to have been in your line at any time," he said,
after a moment's pause. "I hear of frequent visits on the part of the
other ladies, many of them, but you never honor us."

"Oh, we sometimes go there for shopping."

"But to Cresswell's, I mean, for luncheon or supper. They say he gives
a very creditable spread, and as quite a number of the ladies go there
at times, and Willett and Burtis have a little party there to-night in
honor of some of your friends, I thought I might persuade you; but--of
course--if you do not go that way," he concluded, vaguely.

"No, thank you, Mr. Langston, we do not--go that way."

"But I shall see you, both, again before you start, I hope," he said,
addressing Mrs. Cranston, but palpably appealing to Miss Loomis in the
weakness of a strong man deeply in love.

"It will be a pleasure," said Margaret, cordially. She wished him to
come. She meant him to come. She saw and forgave the wandering eyes. He
might come any day he pleased before the 25th. There would still be a
box or a trunk for him to sit on; but now, she concluded, artfully, she
must get right back to the boys a minute. They were trying on some
clothes that had just come from home, and she'd return very soon. So
saying she vanished. It was half an hour before she reappeared, and
Langston was on his knees in the parlor--packing books. It was the
sweetest work he had known in years.

But when he was finally gone Margaret turned impulsively to Agatha. "Do
you think it possible that--that she _can_ be going there--with
him--to-night? No matter who else goes. She cannot realize what she's
doing. Would you go--should I go to see her?"

Miss Loomis stood at the window, leaning her forehead against the cold
pane and gazing silently out over the snowy expanse of the parade. "You
would be too late, Margaret," she answered, presently, and drew back
from the folds of the heavy curtain, and Mrs. Cranston seemed to read in
her companion's face what was coming along the road.

Two double sleighs drove briskly past the window. First came Stone's old
swan-head behind his sedate team of bays, but from a perfect nest of
robes and furs a gay party waved their hands in laughing salutation.
Mrs. Stone and Mrs. Flight on the back seat, Messrs. Darling and Tommy
Dot opposite them in the body of the sleigh. Captain Pollock in the
driver's perch with a fair companion whose husband was still detained at
the agency, but wanted her to have the best time possible instead of
moping at home. Then came Willett's stylish sleigh and team, Sanders on
the back seat with Mrs. Darling, Almira blooming in her accustomed place
by "Phaeton's" side. She neither bowed nor kissed her hand to Cranston's
window, but smiled sweetly up into her companion's eyes.

Mr. Langston, meantime, was dining at the officers' mess, and presently
when Mrs. Leonard came over to see if she could not help her neighbor a
trifle in her packing, she unfolded some of the details of the Braska
plan. Messrs. Burtis and Willett desired to entertain some of their fort
friends in town; Colonel "Pegleg" was the only man at the post who owned
a sleigh; Mrs. Stone was invited as a matter of course, and accepted,
provided the colonel felt well enough to let her go, and it was duly
settled that six of the party should go in her sleigh. The rest was
easily arranged. Langston was only too glad to go out with Willett and
spend the hours until the return of the party in calling and dining at
the post, hoping thereby to obtain more than one glance at and more than
a few words with Miss Loomis. It was nearly sundown when they started.
It would be eleven before they got back. Long before that hour the
lights in Cranston's quarters were out and all was silence and peace.
Langston, strolling by after making his evening calls, looked long, as
lovers will, at the window of the room he knew to be hers, then went
resignedly over to the store and took a hand with the officers at a game
for which at other times he had no use whatever,--pool. He had to do
something to while away the time until the sleigh-bells came tinkling
back, and that seemed to be the only thing going.

But midnight came before the foremost sleigh. Pollock safely tooled his
party into the post as the twelve o'clock call was going the rounds. Oh,
they had had a blissful time! a glorious time! Such a delightful
supper,--partridges and celery and all manner of dainties from Chicago,
and such oyster patties! to say nothing of Roederer _ad libitum_. Then
they had danced, and then they had more supper, and then started home.
Willett would be along in a minute.

But ten, twenty minutes sped and no Willett. Pegleg's horses, being
homeward bound, had possibly made phenomenal time, and Willett,
probably, was in no hurry. "It's about his last chance to have Mrs.
Davies beside him," laughed Mrs. Stone, "so he's making the most of it."
It was 12.30 when at last the bells of the New Yorker's sleigh were
heard tinkling faintly at the corner, and presently the party came
slowly into view. Only three now, and three silent, embarrassed if not
evidently agitated people, for they seemed to whip up and hurry by the
little knot of anxious faces gathered at the colonel's gate.

"Where's Mr. Sanders?" was the cry.

"Tell you in a minute!" shouted Willett, as he drove straight by to No.
12, where he sprang out, lifted Mira from the sleigh and almost bore her
to the gate, Mrs. Darling following. Already Mr. Darling was hastening
up the road to join his wife. At the door Willett simply had to turn
back to his spirited team, as they were standing unhitched, and Mrs.
Darling disappeared with Mira into the hall.

"Where's Sanders? What kept you?" panted Darling, hastening up.

"Hush! Don't make any fuss," muttered Willett. "He jumped out half a
mile back. Some drunken men, or soldiers perhaps, gave us a little
trouble. I'm going back after him now."

"Hold on one minute till I see my wife and I'll go with you," sang out
Darling, as he ran into the house, where Mira had sunk nerveless into a
big chair and was wildly imploring Mrs. Darling not to leave her.


The Cranstons were ready to start on the 23d, but nothing was in
readiness at Mrs. Davies's. On the contrary, that lovely and most
interesting young woman was, according to her own account, as
transmitted to the garrison by her now devoted friend and nurse, Mrs.
Darling, in a state of prostration and could do nothing at all. Mr.
Davies had been telegraphed for and was coming, and Dr. Rooke said she
must be kept very quiet meanwhile,--so at least Mrs. Darling reported to
sympathetic friends who called to inquire and possibly hoped to see.
Bluff old Rooke himself was besieged with questions as to his fair
patient, the nature of her malady and the cause of the sudden shock, and
Rooke told some people not to bother her, others not to bother him, and
others still not to bother themselves about her. She'd come out all
right if left alone. It was Mrs. Cranston and Miss Loomis to whom he
delivered himself of the last mentioned. He liked them both, which was
more than he did most people, for this Æsculapian countryman of Carlyle
had much of that eminent writer's sharpness of vision and bluntness of
speech together with even more of his contempt for the bulk of his
fellow-men. "No, Mrs. Cranston," said he, "don't wait a day for her.
Start just as soon as you are ready, and don't give a thought to this
little flibberty gibbet." And so the Cranstons, with Miss Loomis, bade
farewell to Scott, and one radiant winter morning drove buoyantly away,
almost all of the officers and ladies being out to wave them adieu.
Hastings, with a brace of troopers, trotted alongside as they crossed
the Platte and reported the camp wagon well on its way to Dismal River.
"I never was so glad to leave a place in all my life," said Margaret to
her friend, as they glanced back from the crest of the distant ridge
that spanned the northern sky. "I never have been at a post where there
were so few people I cared for." The driver halted his strong team at a
level spot after a long, tortuous climb, and let the mules breathe a
moment while his passengers took their final peep at the dim, dingy
patch, far away upon the southward slopes beyond the willow-fringed
river, which indicated the site of old Fort Scott. Already the snow had
disappeared on many an open tract and lay deep only in the ravines and
gullies, on the ice coat of the stream and in the dense undergrowth of
the islands. To right and left for miles the broad valley lay beneath
their eyes, the rigid line of the railway cutting a sharp, narrow slit
across the level prairie in the lowlands, straight away eastward until
all was merged in the misty, impenetrable veil at the horizon, while
westward near the forks of the river, in long, graceful curve, it swept
around an elbow of the snow-mantled stream and disappeared among the
roofs and spires of far-away Braska. The boys, with the agile energy of
their kind, had leaped out to scamper about on the rimy buffalo-grass,
dull gray, dried and withered, yet full of nutriment for the little
droves of horned cattle already browsing placidly along the slopes where
but a few years before the Sioux and Cheyenne chased great herds of
bison. Hastings and his men were riding along a hundred yards or so in
front, and the two women were left to their own low-toned confidences.

"I cannot help it," said Mrs. Cranston, "it may be uncharitable, unkind,
but I am simply glad she could not go with us. She does not like us,--me
at least. She has pointedly avoided me, and I half believe it was to
avoid going with us that she was taken ill. I only hope Wilbur will not
misunderstand the matter."

"I think you are unjust, Margaret, in one thing at least. There was
certainly some severe fright or shock Saturday night."

"Oh, a thing that might unstring a nervous, hysterical woman a few
hours, perhaps, but it is no case of nerves or hysteria with her. She's
a perfectly healthy country girl. Mrs. Darling, who isn't thoroughly
strong and well, seems to have been very little affected."

"Mrs. Darling has been three years out here and is accustomed to
frontier life. Mrs. Davies, probably, never had such an experience
before, and she has been worried by these queer incidents that Mrs.
Leonard tells us of,--those midnight whistlings and tappings at her
window. Mrs. Davies is alone, her husband miles away at the agency.
Everything has tended to worry the girl. I honestly feel sorry for her,
Margaret. I'm sorry that she wouldn't let us be her friends."

"You are full of excuse for her, Agatha, and down in the bottom of your
heart you know perfectly well she doesn't deserve it. I cannot forgive
her for this flirtation with Mr. Willett. I only welcomed the idea of
taking her with us because of the hope it gave me of breaking up that

"Has it never occurred to you that she may have broken it off
herself?--that besides this queer adventure with those drunken fellows
there was something else to agitate her? Be just, Margaret. She came to
us utterly inexperienced, even ignorant. She hasn't much mind, I'll
admit, but she is innocent of wrong intent. Is it not possible that
driving home he may have spoken to her in a way she could not mistake,
and that that has had much to do with her prostration? If not, if she
did not then and there forbid his coming near her again, how do you
account for it that he has not once been out to the fort since

"Well, it's only three days, and the sleighing is practically ended."

"Yes, but he hasn't let forty-eight hours pass hitherto without a visit,
so I'm told, and he has his buggy and wagon, and unless there was a
rupture of some kind was it not more than likely he would be out Sunday
or Monday? Wasn't it the proper thing, really, for him to call and
inquire for her?"

But here the Concord rattled on again, the boys playing "giant strides"
hanging to the boot at the back, and the driver, poking his head around
the canvas wind-screen at the front, called out to Mrs. Cranston,
"There's two of our fellows coming a couple of miles ahead, mum." And
both ladies leaned from the wagon to strain their eyes in vain effort to
distinguish the forms and faces of the distant party, Margaret half
hoping that her soldier husband might have been able to stretch a point
and ride far down to meet her, Miss Loomis half divining who it must be,
and it was Miss Loomis who was right. Fifteen minutes further and the
Concord halted again, and Mr. Hastings, with Davies at his side, rode up
to the open door.

Even at a glance one could see how much he was changed in the service of
those two months. The lines about his clear, thoughtful eyes had
deepened and his face was thinner, despite the full, heavy,
close-cropped beard, but there was no mistaking the joy with which he
met and welcomed his friends and nurses of that long autumn's
convalescence. He whipped off his gauntlets and flung them at Louis's
head, as the boys came dancing about his horse, and then extended both
hands in eager greeting to Mrs. Cranston, who was nearest him, and who
frankly grasped and shook them in hearty, cordial fashion.

"Oh, how glad I am to see you!" she cried. "We thought to meet you at
our first camp I had no idea you could come so fast." And by this time
she had released his hands and he was bending farther in to extend the
right to Miss Loomis, who welcomed him with friendly warmth, yet with
that womanly reserve which seemed never separable from her.

"We did not stop at the Niobrara," said he. "We came right through and
camped at Dismal River late last night. Did you see Mrs. Davies this
morning? How did you leave her?" he asked, with grave anxiety.

"We left her very comfortable. Dr. Rooke said there was no occasion
whatever for anxiety," answered Mrs. Cranston, tactfully evading the
question as to "seeing her," and then, fearful lest he should be moved
to repeat it, plunging impetuously ahead. "She was looking so bright and
well, so lovely in fact, that none of us were prepared for her being
ill. Of course you'll hear all about the excitement and adventure they
met with, so I won't speak of it now. In deed, you know, we hardly know
anything more about it ourselves than you do, for both Mrs. Davies and
Mrs. Darling saw so little of what followed the first appearance of the
fellows. Mr. Sanders jumped right out among them, it seems, and gave
chase after some who ran. The one they afterwards captured was one of
your recruits, Paine by name, and Mr. Sanders can tell you all about it
when he gets back. He was sent up to Cheyenne. One or two men who have
disappeared entirely are the suspected ones, and he is after them."

"But I don't understand," said Davies, gravely. "It seems incredible
that even drunken soldiers should have attempted an indignity to a party
of officers and ladies. Weren't you with them?"

"No; we were in the midst of packing, you know, and we weren't going
anywhere. Indeed, it was an extraordinary thing and no one knows how to
account for it, but you'll hear all about it at the fort, and I know you
are eager to push ahead, and we'll see you so soon at the Ogallalla, so
just tell me how you left my husband and you may gallop on."

How blithe and radiant was her face as she spoke! How could he suspect
the dread that lurked behind it,--the artfulness of her effort to escape
further questioning?

"The captain's as well as ever and counting the hours until your
coming," he answered. "How thankful I am, for my wife's sake as well as
my own, that you and Miss Loomis are to be so near us! Think of our
having a house while the rest of you live in log huts! But if any sub
would exchange with me I'd gladly give him the agency guard and the
house and come and live in cantonments." Then with a parting shake of
the hand he waved them on. The driver cracked his whip, the boys
scrambled aboard, and away they went bowling on northward, while Davies
and his single orderly turned again their horses' heads to the welcome
awaiting them at Scott.

Margaret sank back in her seat with fluttering heart and a deep sigh of
relief. "Thank heaven, that's over, and I have told nothing of any
consequence, have I?" she murmured to her silent friend. "What will he
say or think when he learns the truth? But you were saying Mr. Willett
had not reappeared. For that matter neither had Mr. Burtis nor Mr.
Langston. I believe they'll all be out to the fort this very day. Mr.
Langston thought we were not to start, you know, until to-morrow."

No answer to this observation. Miss Loomis was quite well aware of the
fact and had been, for her, an eager advocate of the earlier start the
moment it was declared that Almira could not attempt to move.

"I didn't fib, did I?" asked Mrs. Cranston, after a moment of deep

"No; you managed to control the examination quite successfully without

But people at Scott that afternoon were less skilful or less fortunate.
Arriving nearly ten hours earlier than he was expected, Mr. Davies
dismounted at his quarters and, tossing the reins to his orderly,
quickly and noiselessly entered. He expected to find his wife an invalid
in a darkened chamber. He strode in upon a cosey little party at
luncheon, Almira presiding at the tea things in a most becoming
_négligée_, and Mrs. Stone and Mrs. Darling nibbling at the dainties set
before them, rising in surprise and some confusion as the young wife
fluttered from her chair to the arms of her returned hero and becomingly
precipitated herself upon his breast. The visitors managed to retire
soon after luncheon was over, despite Almira's evident desire to hold
one or both at her side, for in that brief quarter of an hour Davies
learned, as the result of questions that presently became insistent,
very much to deepen the grave anxiety in his grave face, very much that
made him impatient to hear from other witnesses.

Over the interview between him and his now nervous and fluttering wife
we need not linger. She read disapproval, even distrust in his eyes, in
his grave, deep tones, and all the prostration of the three days
previous showed forcible symptoms of immediate return. She knew she was
going to be wretchedly ill again; she must have Mrs. Darling and Dr.
Rooke. Oh, why had they taken Dr. Burroughs away? he was so much nicer,
and Barnickel should go for Dr. Rooke at once; and Barnickel, who was
unpacking the lieutenant's saddle-bags and blanket roll, said he knew
the doctor had gone to town and there was no one but the steward about.
Mr. Sanders was just back, said he, and some gentlemen from town with
him; whereat Almira started nervously and with fear in her face, and
Davies took his cap and, presently, his leave.

"I will ask Mrs. Darling to come to you at once," he said, gently, "but
I must go and see Mr. Sanders." He stooped and kissed her flushed
forehead and then turned slowly away. The instant he closed the hall
door behind him she crept to the parlor window, watching him as he
walked rapidly westward along the row; then, slipping the bolt, she flew
back to her room, searching in the bureau drawer an instant, drew forth
two or three little notes, tied with silken ribbon, also a bunch of
faded violets. The next instant notes and violets were blazing in the
parlor base-burner.

Davies went straight to Sanders's quarters. It was then only a little
after two and no one happened to be visible along the row. Over at the
barracks and office there was the customary drowsy silence that followed
the mid-day meal of men who had to be up with the dawn, and at stables,
drill, or exercise until the noon recall. But Mrs. Stone had hurried
home to her colonel and told him of Davies's arrival, and the colonel
was eager to see him. Mrs. Darling had similarly warned her consort, and
Darling was as eager to dodge.

"Lieutenant Sanders has gone to report to Captain Devers," said the
striker who answered Davies's ring, and Davies said he would come in and
wait until his return. He wanted to get by himself and quietly think
over Almira's fragmentary and reluctant account and admissions
concerning this supper-party at Braska. He threw himself into Sanders's
big arm-chair drawn up in front of the stove, and leaned his head on his
thin, white hand. Trooper Hurley, Sanders's striker, acting under his
usual instructions, presently reappeared with a decanter of whiskey,
glasses, sugar, and spoon on a tray. "We're all torn up, sir, packing
the lieutenant's traps for the move, but here's everything but bitters,
or lemon, and I can get them in a moment, sir."

Davies wearily thanked him, but waved the proffered refreshment aside.
Hurley deposited his tray on the table close to the lieutenant's elbow
and tiptoed out.

"Did Mr. Sanders say he'd come back here?" called the visitor.

"No, sir," said Hurley, poking his head back in the door-way; "but he
will, sir. He was sent for by Captain Devers before he had been ten
minutes in the post, and he went as soon as he could change his clothes
and get into uniform. Mr. Darling run in here just a few moments ago
after him, but he was gone. Mr. Willett fetched him out from town, sir,
along with some other gentlemen. They went over to the store."

"I'll wait a few minutes," said Davies. So Hurley hospitably brought the
late papers and placed them within reach.

"There's pipes and tobacco if the lieutenant would like to smoke, and
I'll be in the back room, sir, packing."

"Did you hear whether Mr. Sanders had succeeded in arresting the other

"No, sir, he didn't. They couldn't be found and hadn't been heard of in
Cheyenne, but Mr. Sanders said they had bought their tickets for there,
and that they were on the train as far as Sidney anyhow. I heard him say
that. They were a bad lot, sir, them two fellows, especially Howard. The
men in 'A' Troop say he made many a ball for Paine to throw, and that he
was the one that was always making trouble for Brannan."

Davies bowed silently. He remembered Howard well all through the long
dismal summer, one of the very "likeliest looking" of the recruits, at
first glance, and almost the only one of the lot whom Captain Devers
seemed to fancy, yet Davies was surprised, when he rejoined after his
sick-leave, to find him in the troop office instead of the drill squad.
All through the regiment the story had gone the rounds of how Sanders
had arrested him on the train in "cits" and evident intent to desert,
and how Devers had ordered his release, virtually assuming
responsibility for the entire affair, and no man could account for
Devers's action in the matter except that it was Devers's, and therefore
bound to be different from that which any other officer would have

And it was Howard who, this time at least, had deserted for good, taking
with him a garrison ne'er-do-well whose going was only a good riddance,
and leaving as a captive in the hands of Lieutenant Sanders the luckless
Paine, now languishing in the guard-house, while, under the orders of a
nervous and evidently anxious post commander, parties were searching
everywhere for the other two.

From the somewhat garbled and excited account given by the ladies at the
luncheon-table, Davies had been able to gather only these
particulars,--that, as the second sleigh was coming along, oh, just a
little distance behind Colonel Stone's, and as they rounded a sharp turn
at the head of one of the islands, a brilliant light flashed from the
bank, so close to the horses that they shied violently, nearly toppling
Mrs. Davies out, and in this flash they distinctly saw the face and form
of a tall young man in dark slouch hat and civilian clothes, and the
expression on his face was so wicked, and he was so ghastly pale that it
looked like an apparition, and Mrs. Davies screamed and nearly fainted
from the fright and shock, and Mr. Willett, who was driving, made a
furious cut at the fellow with his whip, and then as the horses tore
away in fright the occupants of the sleigh had just time to catch a
glimpse of some soldier overcoats, and when at last Mr. Willett regained
control of his horses, Mrs. Darling cried out that they must go back for
Mr. Sanders. He had leaped right out among those brutes, and she was
sure she had heard shots. Mrs. Davies admitted that here she protested
against going back, so terribly was she frightened, but Mrs. Darling
said that they must do so and Willett said that they must, and go they
did, only to find the spot abandoned. Even when Willett called for
Sanders there was no answer, and then they were dreadfully alarmed for
fear he had met with violence, and Mrs. Darling took the reins while
Willett searched, and Mrs. Davies, as she admitted, cowered under the
buffalo robe, and then, all on a sudden, they heard the sound of angry
voices, heard some one furiously denouncing Mr. Willett for lashing a
gentleman with his whip, heard Willett curse the stranger for flashing a
match purposely to frighten his horses,--some sneering reply to the
effect that a man had a right to light a cigar on a public road, then
Willett's voice calling the man a liar, then heavy blows and scuffle,
and then Sanders came running up the road just in time, for the stranger
had Mr. Willett down in the snow and was throttling him. He sprang up
and dashed into the willows the instant he heard Sanders's voice, and
that was the last seen of him, for Sanders's first care was for the
civilian, who was bruised and choked, but, after all, not seriously
hurt. He helped Willett back to his seat, bade him drive the ladies at
once to the fort, but said he was going after those marauders, for two
at least were soldiers. That was all. When Willett and Mr. Darling drove
back they found that he had captured Paine, too drunk to run well, and
that the others were gone. Next morning Trooper Howard was reported
absent, and that settled the identity of the man in civilian dress. Mr.
Willett had not been out at the post since the affair simply because he
was nursing a black eye and a sprained thumb.

What Mrs. Darling and Mrs. Stone couldn't understand was what could
possibly have prompted the man Howard to stand right on that little
bank, close to the track, and there flash his phosphorus match. He must
have known it would scare the horses even if it did not terrify the
people. It was a reckless, diabolical thing to do, and then to think of
his daring to strike and beat Mr. Willett afterwards. Mrs. Darling was
full of indignation at his conduct; Mira was agitated, but had little to
say. She was thinking of the cross-questioning that was inevitable when
her supporters were gone.

And now, sitting there in Sanders's easy-chair, Davies was pondering
over all that he had been told at the table, and the little that he had
wrung from her reluctant lips, putting them together with the frequent
questions asked him by the few women who had joined their husbands at
the cantonment,--questions so frequent and persistent as to whether he
often heard from his wife, and wasn't she soon coming, _very_ soon, to
join him, that even to his unsuspicious nature they carried a
significance he could not down, and now it seemed that Almira had gone
with a gay party to a supper and dance in town at a time when he
supposed that she was spending her hours with his friends, the
Cranstons, or in quiet and seclusion at her home. There, at least, he
showed his inexperience, for in nine cases out of ten the friends the
newly-arrived wife is surest to fancy in garrison are not those whose
praises her lord has been sounding for six months ahead. Of the hops and
dances and drives that had preceded this eventful evening he had as yet,
_mirabile dictu_, heard nothing beyond Mira's own meagre account. In
fact, he had no idea of them at all.

He was worn and weary after the long, hard eighty-mile ride. The fire
was warm, the room still and peaceful; no sound broke the silence but
Hurley's occasional step and soft whistle out in the "linter" at the
rear where lay his packing-boxes. Possibly Davies may have become
drowsy, dreamy, as he reclined there. At all events he never moved as a
quick, nervous step came bounding across the veranda and into the hall.
The door burst open and a voice, surely a little tremulous and agitated,
spoke low and quickly.

"Where are you, Sanders? Oh, say, will you do me a favor? I can't--at
least I don't want these other women to know. Was there ever such a
streak of hell's luck as this? He's home. I've got to go. Will you see
that Mrs. Davies gets this before to-night?"

And in the dim light of the little bachelor den, Percy Davies, slowly
turning, was aware of a stylishly-dressed, handsome young civilian,
whose face, though pale and apparently bruised, was vaguely familiar to
him, in whose outstretched hand was a little box-shaped packet. Just
then another step came bounding into the hall-way, into the room, and
the lawful occupant of the quarters halted short at sight of the two
tall, slender forms confronting each other, one that of the civilian,
slowly recoiling toward the door with twitching, tremulous hands, and a
face livid as death, the other, in cavalry undress, with bearded,
haggard face, deeply lined, under whose heavy, bushy, overhanging brows
a pair of blue eyes were blazing. For a moment not a word was spoken,
then Davies broke the silence.

"Sanders, this gentleman wishes you to see that that package is promptly
delivered to my wife, and I should be glad to see you as soon as
possible at my quarters."

Not until the speaker had coolly stepped past them both and out of the
room had Sanders recovered sufficient presence of mind to sing out, "All
right, old man; I'll come." Then, as the outer door closed after the
retiring officer, he whirled on Willett.

"You inveterate ass! How dare you haul me into this?"


Among the gentlemen from Braska visiting the post that afternoon was Mr.
Langston, who drove thither full of eager anticipation, and hailed the
first glimpse of the bright hues of the flag with a thrill of hope and
joy. No spot in all God's green earth at that moment held in his eyes
such vivid charm and interest. Ten minutes later no spot in all the
world seemed so barren and desolate. The sunshine, the sailing clouds in
the vault of blue, the chasing shadows along the slopes, the streaming
colors of blue and white and scarlet at the tip of the swaying staff,
the glint and sparkle of the accoutrements of the guard, the gaudy
lining of the troopers' capes, were absolutely unaltered, yet the light
had gone from his eyes--following the trail to the far Ogallalla. To him
who loves a woman with all his heart there is more beauty in a
mud-chinked hovel in a frontier fort where she may dwell than in all
"the castled crags" of storied Rhineland or the cloud-capped towers and
gorgeous palaces among the mirror lakes of Alpine Italy.


Page 324.]

Langston learned of the departure five minutes after he reached the
post, and lost all further interest in the day. He said he would "loaf"
at the club room until Burtis and Willett got through their calls,
which, said they, would occupy some hours,--two or three at least.
Indeed, Willett "didn't know but what he might stay out with Sanders
overnight" and let Burtis "tool the trap" back to Braska when he got
ready. When, therefore, in less than forty minutes Willett's team was
reported being hurriedly harnessed in the post trader's corral and that
gentleman himself came bustling in with a pale, scared face that
intensified the blue blotch under his eye, Langston was astonished. He
was listlessly turning over the leaves of a magazine at the moment and
seeking solace in a cigar. Willett looked nervously about him, bade the
attendant bring him some brandy and soda, and threw himself into a chair
in front of the stove.

"You look used up, Willett," said the elder. "What's the matter? Seen
anything more of your midnight antagonist?"

"No, by heaven! I wish I had. I believe the devil himself has gone in
league with the gang at this garrison. I never knew such a string of
mishaps in all my life. Say, are you ready to go back?"

"Any time; but I thought you wanted to stay."

"Oh, so did you when you came out, Langston, and now you don't, and I'm
simply in the same boat."

The attendant brought him a tall glass and poured the soda hissing into
the brandy. Willett drank eagerly, then started for the door. "Come,
then," he called; "the trap's ready--or ought to be." Langston knew it
was not, so temporized.

"How about Burtis?" he asked.

"Burtis? Oh, I don't know or care. He can get back just the best way he
knows how. There's an ambulance coming over to town to-night."

"Well, I think you ought to let him know, Willett."

"I have. I sent him word by Sanders, whom I just left."

"Very well, then I'll go with you now. Only stop one minute at Sanders's
so that I can say good-by to him. He goes back to the agency to-morrow,
I believe."

"Well, he isn't there. He's gone out to pay a call. Jump in."

But as they drove around the level road towards the northwest gate, and
the long line of officers' quarters lay to their right front, two
officers could be seen in earnest conversation at the front gate of No.
12, the farthest away.

"There's Sanders now," said Langston. "It won't take you five minutes
out of your own way. Turn over there, won't you?"

"I can't. I--I've got to hurry, Langston. If you want to see him you can
jump out, and I'll wait for you outside the gate."

"Well, if you're in a hurry that'll take much more time than if you
drove. I'd have to walk both ways, don't you see?" was the cool answer.
"Never mind, though; go ahead. Who's that with Sanders?"

Willett, who had turned red with confusion at his own blunder, turned
redder at the question, then went gray again. "That's Lieutenant
Davies," said he, briefly.

"Oh, then he's home. Why, how I'd like to meet him again! Here--just let
me out, will you? and you go ahead. I'll come back with Burtis."

"No; come on with me, Langston. I'm in a devil of a fix and want your

And as they bowled swiftly along homeward over the smooth, hard, prairie
road, Langston admitted to himself, as Willett falteringly unfolded his
tale, that the young man was indeed "in a devil of a fix,"--in what
Langston, who was an old soldier, found it more descriptive to say, a
damnable fix. He pondered over it a moment and then said, "I don't
understand what you want me to do, Willett," and his tone was very cold.
"I don't see how I can help you. From your own account you have behaved
either like a fool or a blackguard, and what I can't fathom is why
Davies's commanding officer, or some friend or comrade, did not warn you
off weeks ago."

Now, admitting that in the absence of almost all his comrades in the
field, and that it was distinctly his duty to protect the honor and
interest of his regimental comrade, let us see to what extent Captain
Devers felt disposed to exercise his prerogative and act against this
indisputable wolf in the sheepfold. Precedents he did not lack.
Everybody had heard how Colonel Atherton, of the --th, had served a
would-be gallant whose attentions to a lady of the regiment, during the
prolonged absence of her husband in the field, had become the talk of a
big garrison. Everybody knew how old Tintop, when he made up his mind
that Lieutenant B---- was becoming infatuated with Mrs. Captain
Potiphar, calmly recommended B.'s immediate and indefinite detail at the
Shoshone Agency, an isolated nook in the heart of the Wind River country
where the mails got through only once a week in midwinter and no one but
the mail rider thought of trying to get out. Colonel Pegleg, in the days
of his original wife, had taken a fatherly interest in garrison matters,
and instituted a system of post government that was almost patriarchal,
especially when most of the men were absent in the field, but Mrs. Stone
the second was made of flimsier stuff, and fond of gladness and gayety,
dancing and feasting, and what she termed "an innocent flirtation" was
harmless occupation so long as her own queendom was unimpaired. There
can be no question, however, that she would long since have put her
husband on the trail of this new disturber of the garrison peace but for
the illness that followed Stone's sudden prostration. The command with
its powers having devolved upon Devers, she could do nothing. It is a
hard thing for a man to find himself by reason of illness suddenly
stripped of the robe of command and forced to become only a lay figure,
but it is harder yet to many a woman whose social powers were dependent
mainly upon the rank of her husband to see herself, through his
prostration, suddenly set aside as though of only vicarious consequence.
Naturally, Mrs. Stone could not bear Captain Devers,--few of the women
could,--and it was only through his own wife that the gossip of the
garrison was apt to reach him, and Mrs. Devers had troubles of her own
that seemed to stifle to a great extent her interest in those of her
neighbors. She was neither young nor pretty; she shone not in society
and had no great ambition in that direction. She had seen Mr. Willett's
devotions to Mrs. Davies,--as who had not?--but with only languid
interest. Such things concerned her less than they did those belles of
the active list, who felt themselves thereby defrauded of attentions
that had been quite lavishly, even if impartially, bestowed up to the
time of Mrs. Davies's dawning on the social horizon. Actually,
therefore, Captain Devers was not so much to blame as Langston thought,
for of his own regiment only one officer was present to advise him, and
Hastings's advice, as that officer had long since been informed, would
be asked for when desired. In point of fact only three officers remained
at the post for whose opinions Devers entertained any respect, Leonard,
Rooke, and the chaplain, and he had quarrelled with the first and
second, and treated with indignity the third, so that no one of the
three now felt disposed to confer with him on any subject. This would
not have deterred the chaplain in a matter of duty, however, for that
honest and stalwart soldier of the cross was as ready to battle with
himself as he was to take issue with the devil, but the chaplain had
been absent for long days, and returned only when it was supposed that
Mira would be whisked away to the agency with the Cranstons, and, safe
in Percy's sheltering arms, be beyond the reach of harm or temptation.

There were other reasons, however, for Devers's inaction, and grave
ones. Ever since the ominous visit of the staff officer from division
head quarters he had felt that the ground was caving beneath his feet.
For years had he been skimming along on the very verge of serious
trouble, yet ever adroitly evading trial; always incurring censure, but
escaping court-martial. One after another he had alienated or betrayed
every commander under whom he had served. One after another he had lost
the respect of every officer with whom he associated, and now he
realized that if the regiment could but settle down somewhere for a few
months, there would speedily follow a crystallization of the sentiment
against him,--a deposit of all this floating mass of testimony now
apparently held in solution, and the true inwardness of the tragedy of
Antelope Springs, the falsity of his insinuations against Davies, the
trickery of his methods, one and all be brought to light. Already,
through Haney, he heard of the sensation created among the men by his
defence of Howard, and of the depth of feeling among the old hands
against this airy upstart recruit, not a year in service, who frequently
boasted that he had more influence with "Cap." than all the rest of
them put together. Haney himself could not cipher out the secret of
Howard's importance, and was plainly and palpably jealous. Ever since
early in the campaign, when young Brannan was pointed out to Devers as
Miss Loomis's patient and as a trooper who wanted to get out of "A"
troop and into "C,"--ever since the colonel and the major began
interfering with Devers because of his open rebuke of Mr. Davies, it was
noticed that Howard, a mere raw recruit, could get the captain's private
ear at almost any time, and those were days when a soldier was not
supposed to address his company commander on any point until he had
first obtained the sanction of the first sergeant. Every man in the
troop knew that soon after their arrival at Scott, Howard began to get
letters from the East, and some of these contained money orders, which
he had cashed in Braska. Some men in the troop, notably that babbling
drunkard Paine, declared that in a little strong box he had brought with
him Howard had some letters tied up in ribbon that he watched with
jealous care. "New hands" who came out in the same batch of recruits
said that at St. Louis Arsenal, whither they were shipped on enlistment,
Brannan, Howard, and Paine had at first been very intimate, but that
some coldness had sprung up and Brannan kept aloof from them. They were
wild and full of "gall," Brannan was sad and sober. Howard used to write
lots of letters then to some girl, Paine said, and go off and post them
in obscure letter-boxes outside the gates when he could get leave, but
he had quit writing long since, Haney knew, for he watched the new
company clerk with jealous eyes. He knew and knew well that Howard was
savagely glad when Brannan was sent to the reservation with Boynton's
party. He noted that Howard became of a sudden fitful, restless, sullen,
and then reckless and negligent of his work and eager to go frequently
to Braska. Presently he heard things of him that made him believe Howard
was contemplating desertion, and no sooner had Lieutenant Davies arrived
than he became assured of it. "I had to serve under that damned, canting
Methodist preacher," said Howard, "and I won't have him nosing around
where I am. I'll desert first." Now, Haney had no objection to Howard's
"skipping,"--it would be good riddance to dangerous timber,--but he
wanted first to find out what was the secret of his dislike of Davies,
whom most of the men, and all the better ones, had learned to respect
and esteem. He plied Howard with questions, hints, suggestions, and
whiskey, but Howard's head, or stomach, was stronger than he thought,
and the liquor failed in the short time at his disposal to overcome it.
With a few months the result would have been different. Howard once
admitted, however, that he hated the lieutenant and had reason to, but
that was all that Haney ever wormed out of him, but he and others were
morally certain that Howard meant to desert when the very day of Paine's
trip to Braska the company clerk disappeared. They counted on his
court-martial and downfall when brought back to the post in "cits" by
Sanders's squad. They were amazed at the abortive outcome of the affair,
and then at last the gang that "had stood in with" the first sergeant as
the surest means of keeping on the right side of the captain began to
realize that here was a man with more "pull" than Haney, and the latter,
feeling his influence going, determined that the time had come to regain
it, cost what it might. He knew beyond peradventure who was the
mysterious night prowler, knew why Captain Devers had ordered Paine to
watch Brannan in hospital, he knew why, or believed he knew why, the
captain was so down on Brannan and so fiercely bent on breaking him or
driving him out. He knew that he could, if he would, lay before Mr.
Leonard certain damaging facts in connection with Brannan's two relapses
into drinking, and of Paine's detail to town that day when he was
needed, as they knew he would be needed, at the adjutant's office. He
required just one or two links more to make a chain so powerful he could
twist his troop commander in its coils and dictate the terms of their
future relations, but he needed Howard's testimony to complete the
chain, and the liquor with which he tempted him, in and out of the
office, at last began to take effect. Howard was getting more and more
reckless, sullen, savage. He would get up at night and drink and dress
and slip out of barracks and be gone an hour sometimes, yet so stealthy
was he that when Haney strove to trail him he turned on him like a tiger
and damned him for a spy, and still the sergeant felt that perseverance
and whiskey would bring him triumph yet, when all on a sudden came the
dramatic episode of that still Saturday night,--the flash that revealed
him for one instant to the frightened revellers in Willett's sleigh and
then covered his track in shadows impenetrable. All on a sudden Howard
had vanished,--deserted in earnest this time, leaving his first
sergeant in a tangle of unfinished toils and his captain in sore
anxiety. It was the contemplation of his own meshes that blinded Devers
to those which Willett would have thrown over Mira's pretty, curly,
empty head.

The conversation between Sanders and Davies was very brief and decidedly
grave. Sanders had at first assumed the light air of superiority of the
old cadet toward the plebe, and, to head off questioning, plunged into
that species of deprecatory and officious advice which is generally
prefaced by, "Now, my dear boy, let me as a friend," etc., etc. Like the
chaplain's wife, Sanders started with the best intentions, and just as
she had excited Mira's resentment so had Sanders aroused Davies's wrath.

"Stop right there, Sanders, and say nothing about friendship until you
explain that scene. Where is the packet you were asked to deliver to my

"I haven't it. I wouldn't touch it. You don't suppose I'd be a party to
such a thing. The man was an ass to ask me, and I told him so."

"He doubtless reasoned that a man who could accompany the wife of a
brother officer to a place of such miscellaneous character as
Cresswell's would not be above carrying secretly to her that which he
dare not send openly."

"He had no right to judge by it, Davies! Lots of ladies go there,--and
Mrs. Stone matronized us."

"No ladies of our regiment have ever gone there, Sanders, until you
accompanied my wife,--an inexperienced and ignorant child. What Mrs.
Stone or her associates may have seen fit to do is no concern of mine.
You know and I know that women like Mrs. Cranston, like Mrs. Truman,
like Mrs. Leonard or Mrs. Wright would not go there under any
circumstances, and the fact that a party of women from the fort was in
one room simply served to attract a party of--very different women to
the next."

"Then I'll bust Cresswell's head for him inside of twenty-four hours,"
exclaimed Sanders. "The idea of his daring to allow such people in there
at such a time!"

"The idea of your not standing my friend--you, the only fellow-graduate
of my regiment here at the post--and preventing my wife's being taken
there at any time. Think of that, Sanders."

"Why, damn it, Parson, don't be so brutally unjust. I supposed if you
cared a rap you'd have stopped it before."

"Stopped it before? Why, Sanders, what are you saying? You don't mean
she--my wife--had been there before?" And all the indignation had gone
from Davies's face. It was now white, almost awe-stricken.

For a moment Sanders knew not what to say. All at once there dawned upon
him the realization that now through him, in this utterly untoward,
clumsy, miserable way, was Davies for the first time being made aware of
what common, every-day rumor said of his wife. He would have cut his
tongue out rather than wilfully put in circulation a word of scandal,
yet it had been reserved for him to bring to a husband's ears the first
ill-omened tidings of a wife's misdoing.

"God forgive me, Davies, if I've blundered!" he burst out at last. "I'll
never forgive myself. I supposed--they all talked of it so fully--freely
together--I supposed you knew all about it. I never dreamed of harm in
it. Mrs. Flight--or rather Mrs. Darling and she together--occasionally
went there, and the other ladies had their husbands as a rule, or at
least sometimes, and there was good sleighing, you know, between here
and town, and absolutely nowhere else were the roads beaten. They sort
of had to go there, don't you see?"

"Go there with whom?" said Davies, grasping the rail of the fence and
breathing hard.

"Why, with Willett, of course; he was the only fellow that had a good
turnout. He used to come for them, I believe, and sometimes he had Mrs.
Darling and Mrs. Davies--he and Burtis--and sometimes Mrs. Flight."

"And do you mean that they--that these four, went there to Cresswell's?
Do you know this, Sanders?"

"Well," said Sanders, "they were all talking and laughing about it,
never dreaming of anything harmful or unbecoming. Why, Parson, old man,
you mustn't be too strait-laced out here. You know it's the way of the

But Davies threw out his hand as though imploring silence, seemed about
to speak again and ask another question, but finally turned without
another word, and leaving Sanders standing dejectedly at the gate,
re-entered his hall and closed the door behind him.


That night Dr. Rooke called twice at No. 12, and went away both times
saying opprobrious things about his fellow-men and women. The chaplain,
who had gone over to see Davies about three o'clock, presently went back
for his wife, and that good-hearted woman remained until late at night.
Mrs. Darling coming over in the early evening to congratulate dear Mira
again on her husband's return and invite them both to dinner on the
morrow, was met by Davies himself at the door, but not invited in. Her
sweet smiles and words of greeting and proffers of hospitality were
checked at sight of his stern, sad face. In brief words he told her Mrs.
Davies was too ill to receive callers or accept invitations, and in
response to her flurried "Is there anything in the world I can do?"
coldly answered that Mrs. Darling had already done--too much.

In her natural and justifiable indignation, Mrs. Darling at once sought
Mrs. Stone and Mrs. Flight. "They had an awful scene, I'm sure," said
she, "for his face was as black as a storm, and I knew how it would be.
Some one's been blabbing and making matters infinitely worse than they
really were. What do you suppose will happen when he and Willett really

"They _have_ met," cried Mrs. Flight, forgetful of her determination to
keep at odds with Mrs. Darling in the bliss of imparting exciting
news,--"they _have_ met at Sanders's quarters, and there must have been
something dreadful, because Willett came out, oh, with such a face! and
went right over to the store and drove off to town. Sanders is all
broken up about something. Flighty says he wouldn't tell anybody." And
by "Flighty" the lady referred to her consort.

The awful scene of Mrs. Darling's imagination was really not very
tragic. Almira had shut herself in her room in preparation for the
coming visits of the doctor and Mrs. Darling. Her tea-gown being a most
becoming garment, she was still enveloped in its soft and clinging
folds, and had let her long, lustrous hair fall rippling down her back.
She had once seen a queen of the emotional drama similarly gowned and
groomed and a lasting impression was the consequence. The tea-gown and
tumbling hair became Mira's conception of the proper make-up for wronged
and injured and deeply-suffering wifehood. She had prepared to deluge
the doctor with symptoms and Mrs. Darling with tears, but nearly an hour
went by and neither came. Katty was clearing away the luncheon table,
and to her Almira faintly appealed for tidings, and Katty said that the
masther had come in for a minute and walked up and down in the parlor
and gone to the front door himself to meet Mr. Sanders, and they were
talking out in front. When the second time her husband entered the house
she prepared to hide her face and refuse him a word, but he did not come
near her. She heard him pacing up and down, up and down, at first with
quick nervous stride and at last more slowly. Then he seemed to sit at
his desk and write. She could hear him sigh heavily. What business had
he to sigh? She was suffering for lack of sympathy, nursing, tender
care. Why should he sit there sighing in that absurd fashion? She heard
him go to the kitchen and tell Barnickel to take that note to the
chaplain, and then he came back to write some more. She grew impatient,
lonely. She determined to bring him to her side, and if possible to her
feet again. Other men were abject enough; why should she be lorded over
in this way? She threw herself again upon her bed and covered her eyes
with her filmy handkerchief and faintly called "Percy!" As he did not
hear she tried again, louder, and still he did not seem to be at her
door listening for the slightest sign, and she was compelled to sit up
and call loudly, not for him but for Katty.

And Katty, being out among the pots and pans and kettles, didn't hear
her at all; so Davies went and summoned the girl, instead of going to
Almira himself, as Almira thought he should have done. Presently Katty
came out. The misthress wanted to know was the doctor ever coming--and
Mrs. Darling? Then Davies entered the room and closed the door.

"Dr. Rooke has not yet returned, Mira," he said. "Mrs. Darling with my
consent will not visit you again until you are experienced enough to
know right from wrong. You never told me of these visits with her to
Cresswell's or I should have forbidden them utterly. It never occurred
to me that you would be tempted to go thither or I should have warned
you. I do not blame you so much, my wife, as I do those who have so
misled you. There are some things I have been told that are past my
understanding, and that when you are well again I shall have to ask you
to explain. Now rest as well as you can. The doctor will come to you
just as soon as he returns to the post. Is there anything I can do to
help you?"

But Mira burst into a wail. She didn't wish to see anybody--anybody but
the doctor and Mrs. Darling. It was cruel, heartless, brutal on his part
to come in and taunt and torment her when she was so helpless and ill.
It was wicked to cut her off from the only friends she loved or who had
been kind to her. She would have died of loneliness and misery while he
was gone if it hadn't been for Mrs. Darling and for her friends. _His_
friends hadn't come near her,--hadn't done anything for her, and now he
was angry because, when she was neglected and scorned by them, others
like Mrs. Darling had been good and kind to her. Oh, why couldn't she go
home to her dear old father and the sisters who loved her, and weep her
heart out on her m-m-mother's grave? Davies sadly realized that neither
argument nor appeal would help matters. He heard the chaplain's ring at
the outer door, and went to him with sore-laden heart. Later the two
left the fair invalid to the care of the chaplain's wife and went in
search of Leonard. Boynton, still unable to walk about, was occupying
his old quarters next to the adjutant's, and, propped up in an
easy-chair near the window, caught sight of his comrade, the captor of
Red Dog, and eagerly beckoned him in. Davies had to go and shake hands,
though at the moment he wished that he might avoid almost everybody.

"Why, Parson, old boy, you can't stand that agency work. It's making an
old man of you now before half your time. You look ten years older. I
hope you're not ill."

"No, not ill; a little tired and worn perhaps," said Davies. "We were
just going in to see Leonard."

"Well, I wish you'd fetch him in here the first evening you can. There
are some things that I want to talk over with you two, things that
affect us both. Have you seen Differs?"

"No, not yet. I'll report to him at guard-mounting in the morning. The
regulations say the first orderly hour, don't they?"

"Yes,--but you'd better report your arrival to him the moment he comes
out of his house or else go to the office and do it. We've got a bone to
pick with him, Parson, and I don't want you to get into any outside
tangle. I'll be up and about in a couple of days, then we'll settle it
with him."

For a man who had striven conscientiously to do his duty, it seemed to
Davies, as he rejoined the chaplain, that he had become involved in
tangles enough without seeking new ones. His friend had already rapped
at Leonard's door and been informed that the adjutant was over at his
office, so thither went the two, many eyes following them as they
crossed the broad, brown level of the parade. The snow had disappeared
entirely except in dirty hummocks along the pathways and walks whither
it had been shovelled after the heavy fall. The post looked even less
cheery and attractive than before. The few men moving about had the
listless air of soldiers with nothing to do, going fat and "soft" for
lack of vigorous exercise. Over in front of the colonel's quarters his
sedate bay team was waiting, and presently that veteran, with Mrs. Stone
and Tommy Dot and a striker in attendance, was aided down the steps and
into his open carriage for a drive.

"Is it not late for them to take him out?" asked Davies. "Why don't they
make an earlier start?"

"Ordinarily they have done so. To-day, though, he has been having a
conference with your captain; rather an extended and trying one, I
fancy, and not agreeable to either party. Captain Devers was leaving
there as I returned to yours. Davies, my friend, there is a man who is a
veritable Ishmael. His hand seems against every one and every man's hand
against him. You could never have wronged him,--what on earth has set
him against you?"

"Indeed," was the earnest answer, "I do not know;" and then, solemnly,
Davies added, "Trouble seems the lot of many of us, yet even in one's
saddest hour it is impossible not to feel sorrow and pity for one like
him, who stands before his fellows an utterly friendless man."

The adjutant rose with an eager light in his dark eyes at sight of the
two. "I have been hoping to see you, Davies," said he, "yet I knew you
would have much to detain you at home. Mrs. Davies is better, I hope?"

"Mrs. Davies is not well, but I think the matter is not serious. I came
first to report my arrival from the reservation. Mrs. Davies will go
there with me just as soon as we can pack. Then the chaplain and I want
to consult you personally about some important matters. Have you a spare

"Frankly, Davies, I haven't, and won't have until tattoo. There are some
reports here that will occupy me pretty much every minute. Is it
business that can wait until then?"

"It will have to," said Davies.

"Then let me get at once to the reason of my desiring to see you before
to-night. Captain Devers has been called upon by department
head-quarters to explain some discrepancies in an official report or
two, and I was present at the long interview between him and the colonel
this afternoon. Davies, have you ever seen a map or sketch of that
ground north of Antelope Springs where you had your adventure last

"No," said Davies, wondering.

"Then I want you to look at this, compare it with your recollections,
and tell me how accurate it is, especially as to the tracing of the
trails of the various parties."

The short winter day was already waning and the light in the dingy
office growing dim. Leonard called for candles, then stretched a huge
white blotter upon a wide-topped stand and spread open upon it the filmy
sheet of tracing paper. An almost exact copy of Devers's map was thrown
into bold, black relief, and for the first time Percy Davies saw the
plan on which was based the report that, exonerating his captain,
inferentially held him accountable for the massacre of his comrades at
Antelope Springs.

"Why! when was this made?" he asked, in grave surprise. "Whose work is

"It was made while you were lying ill at Cranston's up at the old post,"
said Leonard, calmly. "Had you never heard of the investigation?"


"The general sent Mr. Archer of his staff up there to go over the ground
with Devers and let him explain, if he could, why he got so far away
from you and your people as to permit that tragedy to occur, especially
after the orders he'd received from Major Warren. Devers cleared himself
by proving to Archer's satisfaction that he obeyed his orders exactly
and marched right along the ridge here. This trail, the one that runs
due south, just west of the summit of the divide, was made by Devers's
main command moving in support of you and your detachment. This one off
here"--and Leonard's pencil rode lightly along another that skirted a
ravine apparently two miles away from the ridge--"this one was made by
his command the next day after you had been found by Warren's men," and
Leonard was narrowly eying Davies as he spoke.

"Pardon me, Mr. Leonard, it was just the other way," said Davies,
assuming that the adjutant in his personal ignorance of the facts was
stating a theory. "Captain Devers never approached the ridge that
evening. He was going farther away from it all the time. I had to gallop
to catch him. This, out here to the southwest, is what might be called
an approximation to his trail. I finally overtook him away out over here
somewhere, across the ravine," and Davies indicated with the point of a

"Well, then who made this trail up here on the ridge? You must have
crossed it twice before dark."

"There was no such trail there, sir, nor was there any party to make it.
Everything in the battalion except my own little squad was away off to
the southwest, anywhere from two to ten miles."

"You could swear to that, Davies? You remember it distinctly--despite
your illness?"

"Swear to it? Certainly, sir," said Davies, with wonderment in his eyes.
"So could McGrath, who was with me, if he were only alive. So could
Devers himself, or Haney, or Finucane, or a dozen others of the command
who must know that wasn't their trail."

"I fear me, Davies," said Leonard, gravely, "that some of the very men
you name have told it, if not sworn to it, the other way, and that your
captain has allowed it to be accepted as the basis of his release from

In the gloomy office the darkness was gathering thicker. At the head of
the table, his coat thrown over his arm, his hat in his folded hands,
stood the strong figure of the chaplain, his thoughtful brow shining in
the light of the candles the clerks had placed upon the board. His was
the first face to be seen by one entering the room from the hall-way, or
peering in at the window, for the figures of Leonard and Davies, their
backs to the entrance, were thrown in black silhouette against the
glare; but as Leonard spoke the two who had been bending over the work
drew slightly apart and gazed silently, significantly, into each other's
faces, Leonard calm, massive, masterful, Davies searching, questioning,
the light of a new and grave suspicion in his troubled eyes.

And looking on this picture,--on this triumvirate,--there stood on the
porch without, close to the uncurtained window, a fourth form, heavy,
massive almost as Leonard's, but far less soldierly. Then noiselessly
this latter turned to the hall-way, and with cautious step drew near the
open office door; the heavy arctics, which it was Devers's habit to wear
so long as the weather was even moderately cold, deadened the sound of
his footfalls, and now with beating heart the troop commander stood
listening to what he could catch of the conversation within.

"It is absolutely false and misleading," said Davies, "and if it has
been used, as you say, to clear him or anybody else, it should be
exposed at once."

"That," said the adjutant, in his deep, deliberate tone, "is precisely
what I believe, but needed your evidence to establish. Now you will
excuse me from further talk about this or anything else until, say,
after office hours to-morrow morning. I have much to attend to. If you
and the chaplain will meet me at ten o'clock, we can settle various
matters. Meantime I'll lock these papers in my desk." Across the dim
hall-way, as the two friends left the office, stood the door of the
sanctum of the post commander. It was just ajar, but there was no light
beyond, and to all appearances the room was as deserted as it was dark.
Rooke was just coming out of No. 12 as they returned thither.

"I'm glad you're home, Mr. Davies, and I'll be gladder when you've got
that pretty little bunch of nerves and nonsense off my hands and off
this military reservation."

"She will be well enough to travel--when?" asked Davies, as placidly as
he could. Even when the wife of one's bosom has been behaving
outrageously it isn't pleasant to hear it from one's neighbors,

"She could go to-morrow and be the better for it," said Rooke, bluntly.
"What she needs is a firm hand and a change of scene--and surroundings.
We're too volatile hereabouts." And this it seems was practically what
he had told Almira herself, much to her scandal and dismay. She
piteously asked why she couldn't see Dr. Burroughs; and was unfeelingly
told that there was no reason whatever, provided she started to-morrow;
that he was at Ogallalla and would be very glad to see her. "Once up
there," said the old cynic, "you can have Burroughs and lollipops to
your heart's content."

"Oh, doctor, but think of the peril, the danger," she moaned.

"Tut, woman, you'll be in no such danger there as here," he answered
brusquely; and Davies found her weeping dejectedly, but weeping to no
purpose. When morning came Barnickel and Katty were boxing up the lares
and penates, and toward nightfall Mira herself was meekly, though not
resignedly, bearing a hand. This indeed was not what she had pictured
army life to be. Davies and the chaplain were to have joined Leonard as
planned at ten o'clock. At nine the orderly came to the door of No. 12,
and said that Mr. Leonard would be very much obliged if Mr. Davies would
come to the office at once, and Davies went. Colonel Stone, as had been
arranged, was once more restored to his desk in the office, and though
looking gray and ten years older, was "on deck." He was absorbed in
turning over some official papers, so Davies did not disturb him. He
went into Leonard's den. The officer of the day was comparing the list
of prisoners in the guard report with some memoranda on the adjutant's
desk, but presently finished, shook hands with Davies and said welcome
back to Scott, then went his way.

The moment he was gone Leonard whirled about in his chair. "Davies, you
remember our locking those papers in this drawer last night?"


"Well, look at it now, and as I found it ten minutes ago."

The drawer was absolutely empty.


The closing week of March was marked by a furious snow-storm that swept
the big prairie like a besom, but plugged up every _coulée_ and ravine.
For four days no communication had been held with the Ogallalla Agency.
The wires were down, the road impassable, and Mrs. Davies had reached
her new harbor of refuge none too soon. The quartermaster's ambulance
bore the couple half-way to the new station, and Cranston's Concord came
to meet and carry them the rest of the way. Mira's parting with her
devoted lady friends at Scott was cut short by a start at early dawn,
against which she rebelled faintly, but to no purpose. It had taken only
two days to pack their few belongings. They spent the last night of
their stay in Scott under Leonard's roof, and Mrs. Leonard did her best
to cheer and gladden the mournful bride. It was of little avail,
however. Almira was dimly beginning to see that her conduct had cost her
the respect of those women most worth knowing, and that although the
dreaded interrogatories which Percy was to put to her as soon as she was
stronger were still in the future, his faith in and love for her,
whatsover they might have been, were seriously shattered. In manner he
was still grave, kind, and gentle almost as before, but everything like
tenderness had vanished. One question he said he must ask her before
they left Scott. Had she ever accepted any gifts or letters or anything
from Mr. Willett? And Almira answered that once he had sent her just a
few violets with a note inviting Mrs. Darling and her to drive with him
the next day, but she had tossed them into the fire long ago. Nothing
more, nothing else at any time? asked Davies, gravely, and Almira
answered no. How could he torment her with such unjust suspicions? Far
better would it be to let her return to the father and sisters who
longed for and missed her, to her peaceful home where down in the bottom
of her heart Mira knew she was not wanted by either father or sisters or
step-mother. Davies looked graver, but questioned no longer. The day
before their start Mr. Langston came out from Braska and inquired for
Davies, and told him how glad he was to renew his acquaintance, and
Davies greeted him with much reserve. This was the man who was
travelling with Willett the June gone by, and just as it had at first
affected Miss Loomis, so did the recollection now prejudice the officer
against him. Langston saw it, but went quietly on with the business in

"I am the bearer of a note to you from Mr. Willett, whose people, at
least, are old friends of mine. He has gone home, at my advice, and it
will be against my advice if he return here within a year. If he should
do so, I wash my hands of him. It is not to make excuses for him or
Burtis that I have come, but to ask you about one matter. On his way
back to the agency your comrade Mr. Sanders came to town and heaped
reproaches on Willett and on the proprietor of the restaurant, alleging
that certain disreputable people were allowed to occupy the adjoining
dining-room while the party from the fort was dancing. Cresswell was
very indignant at the charge. He says that the party in the adjoining
room was the family of old Pierre Robideau, from Kearney,--just himself,
his wife and daughter, with a friend whom they called Mr. Powell, and it
was Mr. Powell who paid the bill.

"Robideau is an old trader and trapper, but he and his people are honest
and respectable as any in Braska, and the young man with them was
supposed to be paying attention to the daughter. Robideau and his family
went back to Kearney that night after a week's visit to friends up here
in Braska. The daughter, Angie, had been here some time visiting a
school friend. We feel sure you have made no such statement to Mr.
Sanders without some strong ground of suspicion. May I ask how you heard
it so soon after your arrival?"

"I heard it before I got here," said Davies, quietly, "though when it
was told me I had no idea my wife was one of the party. My orderly was
cold and tired and we stopped at the Scott station at the point where
the road crosses the railway to give him a cup of coffee and water the
horses. There were some trappers and plainsmen in there, and one of them
was telling with much gusto of the performances of a soldier of our
troop who deserted that night,--how he had chartered the adjoining room
to that in which the officers and ladies were dancing and had a whirl to
the officers' music with some ladies of his own choosing, and the girls
lassoed a waiter and hauled him into their room and got a bottle of the
officers' champagne----"

"Pardon me, Mr. Davies, but do not these plainsmen rather like to tell
big stories at the expense of the officers,--the bigger the better?"

"I believe so, and paid little attention to it at first, but among the
listeners was a scout who went through last summer's campaign with us
and did good service. He rode over to the post with me, and on the way
we met a sergeant and two men of 'A' Troop, returning from an
unsuccessful pursuit of deserters. They told the same story with some
additions, and said the fellow openly boasted in Braska that afternoon
that he was going to the dance. Then the scout admitted reluctantly that
he had heard the story from several sources, and gave the names of the
women who were said to have been introduced there, and they were not
Robideau's family. The sergeant had heard just what the scout had as to
the identity of the intruders. Then on my arrival at home I learned that
Mrs. Davies was one of the fort party, and Mrs. Stone and other ladies
who were present referred to some rude creatures in a neighboring room
who peeped and stared at the dancing. There was also awaiting me with my
mail an anonymous letter, which I burned without reading through. Next
I learned that the man who frightened them on the homeward way and then
deserted after a fracas with Mr. Willett was Howard, of 'A' Troop, and
that man's associations in town are matters of notoriety. That was the
chain that led to my belief in the story."

Langston looked grave. "And Howard was probably Robideau's friend,
though Cresswell didn't know it! He had been paying court to Robideau's
daughter during her visit to Braska, always in civilian dress and always
claiming to be a civilian clerk in the quartermaster's department with a
salary of twelve hundred a year. I have seen her friends in town where
she visited, and they are very plain, honest, and well-to-do people,
whose daughter was sent to Illinois to school and met Angeline Robideau
there. They had another friend living in Cheyenne, and when they were up
there visiting her for a few days they said Mr. Powell was coming up to
spend one evening,--Powell is the name they all knew him by, and the
belief is that Angie was much fascinated by him, and had met him East
before meeting him here. Mr. Davies, I am glad to relieve your mind of
one uncomfortable theory in connection with this affair. I wish I could
extenuate or explain Willett's conduct as easily, but that young man is
a fool of the first magnitude."

Davies had taken the note handed him by Langston and was mechanically
turning it and twisting it in his fingers. His impulse was to toss it,
as he had the anonymous billet, into the fire. There was something about
the handwriting of the former that was vaguely familiar to him even
through its disguise, but Willett's scrawling superscription he had
never seen. Something told him, however, that anything of which a man of
Langston's calibre chose to be the bearer was entitled to consideration.
He made no reply to Langston's closing words. He had fully made up his
mind as to what his course should be, and what was the extent of Mira's
misdoing. Just as he said to her, he blamed those who should have been
her advisers and protectors far more than he blamed her, and as to this
popinjay who had become infatuated with her beauty, though the
lieutenant's blood boiled in wrath and indignation, his calmer judgment
and his disciplined spirit tempered any and every expression. He had
spent long, wakeful, prayerful hours in the silence and solemnity of the
night, and no man knew the story of the struggle. He had trained himself
to meet this man who had so openly and persistently shown himself a
worshipper at the feet of his wife, and to meet him with cool contempt,
yet the same hot blood that rioted in his veins when, long years before,
he had downed the village scoffer who had ventured to ridicule his aged
mother, now prompted him to horsewhip Willett should he venture again to
visit the fort.

It was relief, therefore, to hear that he had gone.

At last he opened and read the note, a clumsy, cubbish attempt to
explain his language in Sanders's room, and to say the package was
absolutely nothing but some violets, to apologize for any and every
annoyance he might have caused Mr. and Mrs. Davies, for whom he
entertained nothing but sentiments of the most profound respect and
esteem, and begging if ever they met again to be regarded as most
sincerely their friend, etc.

"There is no answer," said Davies, as he finished it, a smile of
contempt on his lips. "You must have known there couldn't be, did you

"Well, I fancied as much. He had no friend to carry it for him unless I
would, and the young idiot has gone off feeling profoundly wretched
about the whole business, as he deserves to. Had I been here, as an old
friend of his family, it would have been my right to warn him weeks ago,
and to put a stop to his foolishness if he was not to be advised. More
than that, Mr. Davies, I wish to say that ever since I met you on the
train last June I felt an interest in you that would have prompted me to
stand your friend in your absence whether I felt any interest in him or
not. I should like to know you better and to convince you that I meant
what I said when we parted there."

And Davies at last held out a cordial hand.

This was the afternoon before his early start, and though he left the
post feeling that he had gained a friend worth having, Davies did not
fully realize how dangerous a thing it was to leave a community of
women, none of whom he had sought to placate and some of whom he had
offended. Mrs. Darling had declared war against him, and Mrs. Stone, if
not Mrs. Flight, was in full sympathy with her. How dare he say they
were responsible for Mrs. Davies's flirtation? How dare he insinuate
that they had led her to the forbidden shades of Cresswell's? There was
a tempest in a teapot among Mrs. Stone's friends and associates over
Mrs. Darling's account of his rebuke to her, for Mrs. Darling had
deftly managed to include Mrs. Stone and Mrs. Flight in the scope of his
condemnation, and very possibly old Peleg might have been wrought up to
pitch of sympathetic resentment but for the fact that he was
concentrating all of his shattered faculties on the mysterious robbery
of the adjutant's desk.

Captain Devers, relieved at last from command of the post and
overshadowed by vague sense of official condemnation, was now, in
hopeful imitation of the Homeric Achilles, sulking in his tent. Invited
by Colonel Stone to appear at the office and give his counsel as to the
matter, Captain Devers had replied that in view of the discourtesies to
which he had been subjected at the hands of the adjutant he could hardly
be expected to care to visit the building except when compelled to do
so, and having been relieved from command under circumstances indicative
of disapproval of his methods, he should consider it indelicate on his
part to say what he thought of the matter in question.

But the orderly trumpeter had told the sergeant-major that Captain
Devers was on the piazza looking in the adjutant's window when the
gentlemen were there examining the map, and that he entered the
hall-way. The sergeant-major told Mr. Leonard, and Leonard was actually
startled. He conveyed the information to Pegleg, and Pegleg sent his
compliments to Captain Devers with the information that his immediate
presence was desired, so Devers came, and shrewdly guessed what was the
cause. Certainly, he said, he went to the office to get certain papers
that he had left in the commanding officer's desk. He did look in for
one instant through the adjutant's window, attracted by the unusual
sight of the adjutant, the chaplain, and his own subaltern, of whose
services he had been deprived, in apparent consultation. They were so
absorbed in talk that they did not hear him as he entered his own office
or when he left. Certainly he lit no candle; he needed none. He knew
just where his papers were, got them, and came away. Did he leave before
or after the others? Really, that was a matter he couldn't answer. He
was absorbed in his own reflections when he came out and couldn't say
whether the other gentlemen were there or not.

Pegleg asked whether he had any theory as to the disappearance of the
batch of papers from Leonard's desk, and Devers said he had none
whatever, he didn't know how the matter could be supposed to interest
him. He did not inquire the means resorted to, but perhaps that was
unnecessary, as the drawer had evidently been forced by a heavy chisel
and the woodwork about the lock was crushed. Leonard glowered at him
with stormy eyes during the brief interview but, true to his notions of
subordination, asked no questions whatever. It was the colonel who
presently gave it up as a hopeless job and dismissed the cavalryman with
a brief, "Well, that will do, captain; I see you can't help us," and
Devers left with livid, twitching face. He had no fear of Stone,
weakened as he evidently was both physically and mentally by his recent
shock. It was that silent, gloomy thunder-cloud of an adjutant he
dreaded, and with good reason. There was an unsettled account between
these men and one that Devers would have been glad indeed to drop, but
Leonard was a man who never let go. "I hate to have you leave just now,"
he said to Davies, "for I know we shall need you presently."

But once more there was a week of no communication with the Ogallalla
agency. Three days of blizzard and three of repairs before the flimsy
telegraph line could be used again. Mrs. Davies, busily occupied in
putting her new house in order, was aided by Mrs. McPhail and one of the
ladies from the cantonment, who, happening to be visiting the agent's
wife when the storm broke, found it pleasanter to remain there than go
back to the log huts across that mile of blast-swept prairie. The
Indians, with the stoicism of their race, huddled in their foul, smoky
tepees instead of swarming about the agency, and except Davies's
detachment none of the command appeared. It was therefore a rather busy
time for Mira, as there was abundant opportunity for conversation, and
both Mrs. McPhail and Mrs. Plodder rejoiced in so interested a listener.
The three seemed to be getting along together famously, a fact which
Davies noted with the same half-dreamy, half-amused smile. It was a
relief in seeing her really interested in setting her little house to
rights, but it was as evidently a relief to her that the otherwise
inevitable visitors were blockaded by the storm. Davies really did not
know which she dreaded most, the Cranstons or the Indians.

It was the latter who were the first to call. The gale went down with
the sun one night, and the morning dawned clear and fine. Up with the
sun, true to his cavalry teaching, Davies had been out superintending
the grooming and feeding of his horses. He and Mira were at breakfast
and Mrs. Plodder had come to help. Trooper Gaffney was the household
cook for the time being, and a good one. The coffee was excellent,
despite the fact that Gaffney could get no cream, and condensed milk was
the only substitute obtainable. The steak was juicy and tender, as the
finest of the contractor's beef was sure to go to the agency itself, and
Gaffney's soda biscuits were enticing, whatsoever might be the
after-effect. The two ladies were chatting in very good spirits when one
considers the depths of woe from which Mira had so recently emerged, and
the lieutenant was beginning to take some comfort in the outlook, when
all on a sudden Mira turned a chalky white, screamed violently, and
cowered almost under the table, her face hidden in her hands. Davies's
instant thought was of the repeated whisper of warning that came to him
regarding Red Dog, but Mrs. Plodder's merry peal of laughter reassured
him, as he whirled to confront what proved to be the foe. There on the
porch without, crouching low, shading their eyes with their broad brown
paws, their painted faces almost flattened against the window, three
Indians, a brave and two squaws,--all innocent of any violation of
etiquette or decorum, but just as their kith and kin and instincts
taught them,--were staring hungrily into the room. To Eastern readers it
would have seemed bare, homely, plain in the last degree; to the
untutored minds of these children of the prairie it spoke of wealth,
luxury, and plenty. Peering over the shoulders of one of the squaws,
from its perch on her toil-bowed back, was a wee pappoose, its beady
little black eyes gleaming, its tiny face expressive of emotions that
in later years it would speedily learn to suppress,--wonderment and
interest. A thinly-clad girl of five or six clung to the mother with one
hand and clutched her little blanket with the other. They all looked
cold and hungry, and the big eyes wore that dumb, professionally
pathetic look which these born beggars are adepts in assuming.

"Go 'way! Scat!" called Mrs. Plodder, with appropriate gesticulation as
she waved them aside. "You're darkening the room." But for answer the
visitors only huddled the closer and mournfully patted and rubbed the
region of their stomachs. Davies, laughing, went to the door and called
them in, which signal they promptly obeyed, and came trooping smilingly
after the stalking warrior, who took the lead as he would have taken
anything else. Mira by this time had backed into a corner, where she
cowered in terror, but Mrs. Plodder laughingly shook hands with the man
as Davies passed them in, and then blockaded him in an opposite corner
where he could not lay hands on anything they might give the squaws and
children. He wanted to shake hands with Mira, too, but she implored them
to keep him away. Davies took the little girl by the arm and led her to
his wife. "Do look at her, dear, and see what a pretty, intelligent face
she has. I want you to know how really friendly they mean to be." And
still Mira shrank and trembled. The younger woman was a Minneconjou
girl, with frank, attractive, almost pretty face. She dropped her
blanket from her head and let it fall about her calico-covered
shoulders, smiling affably about her, but eying the breakfast things
appreciatively. Davies held out a lump of sugar to the baby, which that
embryo warrior grasped eagerly and thrust into his ready maw, and then
buttering one of Gaffney's biscuits and calling for a fresh supply, the
lieutenant, with Mrs. Plodder lending active aid, began feeding their
unbidden guests. Gaffney came in with a heaping platter of his
productions and a pitcher of maple syrup. "This is what they like, mum,"
said he to the lady of the house. "Give that little kid a molasses
sandwhich and she'll be your friend for life. Heap walk? heap hungry?"
he continued, addressing the head of the family, in sympathetic tone.

"Heap walk--plenty heap hungry," was the warrior's prompt response, with
appropriate pantomime and immediate lapse of dignity. Mrs. Plodder had
cut off a big slice of the steak and handed it to the mother with
reassuring gesture, but that well-disciplined wife passed it immediately
on to her lord, and in eloquent silence pleaded with open hand and eyes
for more. "The heathens!" exclaimed Mrs. Plodder. "We'd cure them of
that notion in no time, wouldn't we, Mrs. Davies?" But Mira was watching
the Minneconjou maiden, forgetful even of the adulation in the eyes of
the little five-year-old girl now licking the syrup off her slab of
soldier bread and gazing adoringly up into the shrinking donor's face.
Miss Minneconjou had caught sight of her own winsome face in a mirror
that hung in a stained-wood frame opposite Mira's seat, and with no
little shy giggling was revelling in the study of her charms even while
busily munching the big biscuit in her slender brown hand. Here was a
trait that formed a bond of sympathy, and Mira took courage. It is not
the contemplation of their nobler qualities, but their weaknesses, that
puts us on easy terms with our fellow-men. Breakfast promised to last a
long time. Gaffney, with the adaptability of the trooper of years of
service on the frontier, had been worming something of their visitors'
story out of them. The average Indian never wants to tell his name, but
gets a friend to give it for him. It proved, however, to be
Bear-Rides-Double who, with his wife, sister, and little ones, had
honored them with this early visit, and after riding double long years
among his people, this young chief had come afoot long miles to see the
Great Father's man and lodge a complaint. He had actually walked from
the Minneconjou village, five thousand yards away down-stream. But for
the chance of making a theatrical _coup_ Bear-Rides-Double could easily
have borrowed a pony, even though his own were gone to pay a poker debt
incurred within thirty-six hours, and when he waked up the morning after
the protracted play he found that Pulls Hard and the half-breed "squaw
man" with whom he had been gambling had not only played him with cogged
dice, but plied him with drugged liquor, and then gone off with his war
ponies as well as the rest. He wanted the Great Father to redress his
wrongs, recover his stock, and give him another show with straight
cards, and then he'd show Pulls Hard and Sioux Pete a trick or two of
his own. Davies had proffered chairs during this recital, which Gaffney
managed between the sign language and a species of "pidgin English,"
called "soldier Sioux," to interpret for him, but the family preferred
to squat on the floor. Mrs. Plodder, tiring of the diplomatic features,
took Miss Minneconjou into Mira's room to show her the pretty gifts the
pale-face bride had brought with her, and Mira, with her five-year-old
friend toddling alongside, speedily followed. Davies strove to make the
double equestrian understand that he had no authority in the premises,
and that McPhail was the proper person to apply to, but the warrior
wished to deal only with his kind,--a heap brave chief,--the conqueror
of the redoubtable Red Dog. He could get more to eat through him in any
event, and in the midst of it all Gaffney came in from a brief visit to
his kitchen to say that Sioux Pete, the malefactor in question, was
actually in the corral at that moment trying to sell two ponies to the
sergeant of the guard. Leaving Gaffney to the duty of entertaining his
guests, Davies went out to investigate. Pete had come over from Red
Dog's camp with some of his plunder, and had no idea the complainant had
forestalled him. Pete spoke English,--that is, plains English,--but he
shrank a little at sight of the tall, grave-faced young officer of whom
Red Dog's people spoke with bated breath.

"You want how much for these ponies?" asked the lieutenant, as though he
had heard the talk.

"Tirty dollar."

"Where are the others?"

"No got."

"You rode off with four ponies from the lodge of Bear-Rides-Double two
nights ago. Where are the other two?"

Pete turned sickly gray. Could this white-faced soldier read visions
and dreams and thoughts? Was he a medicine-man?

"No got," he sullenly answered once more.

"You will leave these two with me for safe-keeping," said Davies, "and
go and fetch the others at once, even if you have to take them from
Pulls Hard, and get back here with them at noon without fail. No, you
need not appeal to the agent, or I'll tell him that you loaded Bear with
drugged liquor and marked cards and cogged dice. Off with you, Pete," he
continued, and the half-breed rode away on his Cayuse pony with scared
face, and told in the camp of Red Dog that the young chief Davies was a
seer, a mind-reader as well as a brave who feared not to grapple their
war chief; and when he was gone, Bear-Rides-Double was summoned and
bidden to ride double if he could, but to go and sin no more with cogged
dice, and the Minneconjou looked with evident awe and wonderment upon
the grave, reticent cavalryman, and went away homeward on one of the
recovered ponies, his women-folk, laden with Mira's discarded finery and
leading the other, trudging contentedly along behind him afoot.

"You'll be a heap bigger man among the Indians than the agent can ever
hope to be, lieutenant," said Gaffney, with an Irish grin.

But Davies said nothing. Had he overstepped his authority? Would McPhail
approve? The point was soon settled. Through the hangers-on about the
store McPhail heard rumors flitting like lightning among the villages.
The young officer was a medicine-man, a mind-reader, and far and wide
the Indians spoke of him in fear and reverence. It might be a good
thing, said the canny Scot, to back him up and reap the benefit. "Just
so long as I can keep him here in charge of the guard we can run things
to suit ourselves, for no red-skin will dare buck against him."


For nearly a fortnight there was sunshine at the agency,--sunshine and
prosperity, and then came manifestation of that pride which goeth before
destruction. Because there were more of the Ogallalla tribe than of
others herded there when originally established the agency on the
Chasing Water had been given this name, but after the stirring events of
the winter and the revolt of Red Dog, it happened that rather more of
the Minneconjou and not a few of the Uncapapa backsliders were gathered
among the grimy tepees. Two Lance and his people, having made their way
to the fold of Spotted Tail, were permitted to abide with him as a
result of the earnest plea made in their behalf by the general in
command of the department. Young-Man-Afraid-of-His-Horses and some other
chiefs of the wiser--the peace element, had also been transferred, and
such Brulés as remained under the wing of McPhail were of the class old
Spot denounced as "devil-dreamers," men who would stir up a row in any
community, men he wouldn't entertain among the lodges of his people. The
Uncapapas were of Sitting Bull's own tribe, malcontents almost to a
man, "mouth-fighters" who, like some recent exponents of Southern
oratory, were far more conspicuous after than during the battle days,
and between these breeders of devilment and the renegade Brulés, there
lay the village of Red Dog's reviving band,--three gangs of aboriginal
jail-birds who looked upon Red Dog's release as virtual confession on
part of the White Father that he dare not keep him, and they were only
waiting until the grass sprouted and their ponies could wax fat and
strong to take the war-path for another summer, and take all they could
carry with them when they did it. April had come. The last vestiges of
ice and snow were slipping away out of the broad, sun-kissed valley. Up
at the cantonments a stalwart infantry major had a battalion of the
Fortieth out along the prairie slopes for over two hours every morning,
drilling, drilling, drilling, until officers and men came
double-quicking in at 11.30, exuding profanity and perspiration from
every pore, but owning up to it, after a rub down and a rest and a
hearty dinner, that old Alex was a boss soldier who knew how to take the
conceit out of the cavalry, even if he did nearly have to run his
bandy-legs off, and the lean shanks of his men, in doing it. The cavalry
major was far less energetic. He sent his troops out under their
respective chiefs, and ambled around among them after a while making
audible comment to this captain and that, but never drawing sabre
himself. Cranston had a capital troop and was a born cavalryman who
needed neither coach nor spur and there were others nearly as good as
he, but each worked on his own system, whereas the doughboys pulled
together. Not to be outdone, Davies laid out a riding-school back of
the agency corral, and every day had his detachment out for a vigorous
mounted gymnastic drill as well as another at platoon exercise. He was
wiry, athletic, and an enthusiastic teacher, and presently it was noted
that the Indians, who for a time hovered impartially all over the
prairies and slopes, watching the manoeuvres of the soldiers, began
gathering in daily augmenting crowds about the agency grounds,
frequently applauding the leaping and hurdling, but only too readily
jeering the awkwardness of some of the men in mounting and dismounting
at the gallop, a thing they had learned and practised since early
boyhood. Then Cranston and the other troop leaders got to working down
toward the agency and, during the rests, moving close up to the corral
and watching the riding-school. It was capital work, said Cranston and
his contemporaries, though some jealous youngsters used to say to their
cynical selves that Parson probably "put up a prayer-meeting as a
stand-off." McPhail and his people began to come out and look on, and
Mira to watch from the window, for she still trembled and shrank at
sight of the savage painted faces and glittering eyes of the Indians,
and equally shrank from meeting the Cranstons. But presently Mrs.
Cranston and other women came driving over in their ambulances, the
generic term by which army carriages were known in the days when a
provident Congress first began curtailing the transportation facilities
of the line where, _sous entendu_, all great reformatory experiments
were tried, the staff being, of course, beyond even congressional
suspicion, and so it resulted that about eleven o'clock every fine day
the biggest gathering of the people, red and white, in all the broad
valley of the Chasing Water, as far east as its confluence with the
shadowy Niobrara and thence to the shores of the Big Muddy, was that to
be found about the rectangular space where the Parson held forth to his
faithful squad.

Now, McPhail came back to his recaptured children with conciliation for
his watchword, willing, eager to shake hands with one and all from Red
Dog down, or up, according to the proper plane of that warrior on the
scale of merit; but as he noted the humility of bearing exhibited by all
except a truculent few, and the evident awe with which even these looked
upon the stern and taciturn commander of his guard, the agent began,
like Mulvaney after his fifth drink, "to think scornful av elephints,"
in other words, of the red wards of his bailiwick, and with McPhail to
"think scornful" was to act. Just in proportion as he was meek and
cringing before did he become arrogant and abusive now. There was no
Boynton on hand to warn him with what he termed brutal bluntness that he
was tempting Providence again. Even the worm will turn, and the
difference between the worm and the Indian is that one can anticipate
the former and prepare for the blow. Up to the 10th of April Red Dog had
held himself haughtily apart from the whites--agent, officers, troops,
and all, but there were half-breeds and scouts who warned them that the
humiliation of his capture still rankled in his bosom, and that a mad
thirst for revenge possessed him. "Watch him as you would a snake," said
old Spotted Tail himself, when he came down to visit the agency. "He
never sleeps without dreaming of vengeance." The agent told Davies what
the loyal old chief had said, and Davies looked grave, but made no
reply. He was thinking, however, of Mira's danger. Indians could not be
put under bonds to keep the peace, however: the Bureau's system being to
let them kill first and explain afterwards. It wasn't pleasing to the
relatives of the deceased or even to the army, but what were they among
so many?--the millions of Indian sympathizers dwelling at discreet

One morning half a dozen ladies drove down from the cantonment, and
their wagons were ranged up close alongside the rail near the high
hurdle. Around them were thickly clustered a number of squaws and
children and a few Indian boys, though most of the men, old or young,
kept to their ponies around on the south and east sides. McPhail came
out later with his household, and really was not unprepared to find his
usual place, on a little raised platform, pre-empted by a score of
blanketed "reds." Mac had some odd views. He couldn't understand why the
soldiers should not be made to salute him as they did their own
officers, who, having occasionally to report to him for instructions,
might be considered as his inferiors. He liked to impress the ladies of
the cantonment with the extent of his power and authority, and had more
than once interrupted the proceedings in the ring by loudly-shouted
orders to some of the Indians on the other side. This annoyed Davies,
but he said nothing. McPhail spoke of the detachment as "My guard,"
etc., and once or twice in the presence of the army ladies had
addressed Davies in the crisp, curt tone of the superior officer, or
such imitation of it as he was enabled to compass, and this, too, the
young man had suffered without remark, though with a quiet smile. Seeing
the swarm of Indians on McPhail's platform, Mrs. Cranston and Miss
Loomis presently called to him to bring Mrs. McPhail to a seat in their
wagon, but the agent sprang up on the flimsy structure, sharply ordering
off the Indians right and left, and emphasizing his order with his boot
toes. Mac's twelve-year-old son, taking the cue from his father,
proceeded to deliver a vicious kick at a slowly-moving, blanketed form,
and the very next instant was screaming for help, flat on his back among
a swarm of Indian boys. All in a second the little savage had flashed
out of his blanket like lightning from a black cloud, and, grappling,
had hurled McPhail junior to earth. The agent made a furious lunge to
the rescue of his first-born, and the squaws and young girls scattered
shrieking at his charge. Startled and excited, the horses of Cranston's
wagon whirled sharply around, nearly capsizing the vehicle. Other horses
followed suit despite the efforts of their drivers, and in less than a
moment all the young braves on the opposite side came lashing their
ponies at mad gallop around the long rectangle just as McPhail
reappeared on the platform, bringing captive a furiously struggling
Indian boy screaming with rage and yelling for help. In less than that
moment too, it seemed, Percy Davies had leaped his horse over the
breast-high barrier and spurred to the heads of Cranston's team, seizing
the reins of the near horse. "Come right on," he shouted to the driver.
"Let them follow me." Out through the surging, scurrying crowd he guided
them to the edge of the road, then, pointing to the cantonment, called
to the driver, "Home with you, quick!" And with hardly a glance at the
grateful occupants, whirling his horse about, he burst his way back
again through the excited crowd until he found himself at the edge of
the platform. Already a dozen Indians were furiously demanding the
release of the prisoner. Little McPhail had scudded for home; Mira's
white face had disappeared from her window. Some of the guard had darted
into the corral for their arms, others, unarmed, had pressed to the
support of the agent. Before Davies could reach him four warriors were
out of their blankets and high-pommelled saddles, and had hurled
themselves on McPhail. "Rescue! Help!" he screamed, with ashen face,
releasing the Indian boy and vainly striving to draw his revolver. Away
sped the escaped captive, darting between the legs of struggling braves,
sheltered by the robes of hurrying squaws; away, right, left, anywhere,
everywhere, scattered the blanketed, jabbering groups, leaving on the
scene of action only the agent, the quickly rallying guard, and upward
of fivescore of jeering, taunting screeching warriors, at least a dozen
of them now dismounted, dancing and brandishing knife and tomahawk,
rifle or revolver, about the still writhing group rolling upon the
wooden floor,--McPhail and his assailants. Into the midst of this mad
mellay sprang the cavalryman, turning loose his horse, which animal,
urged by shrill yells and slyly administered lashings, went tearing away
over the prairie. Right at the lieutenant's back, almost as he had
fought his way with him, nozzle in hand, into the ruck of the rioting
crowd at Bluff Siding, striking out scientifically with his clinched
fists, charged young Brannan, only three days since transferred to the
agency guard. Vaulting the low rail and lunging in among the
devil-dreamers, came Sergeant Lutz and a squad of his fellow-troopers,
and in a dozen seconds, breathless and dust-begrimed, half stifled, but
practically unhurt, the agent was dragged from among the whirl of
moccasined feet and propped up, panting and swearing, against the rail,
while burly forms in trooper blue were hustling the half-raging,
half-jeering crowd of warriors off the platform. Even in the moment of
mad excitement they knew too much to use their weapons. Wise old heads
had been cautioning them against any deed of blood so long as the grass
was barely beginning to shoot. All they demanded was the instant release
of that boy, the chieftain's son, but incidentally, if McPhail insisted
on wrestling, they could not deny the Great Father's man or spare him
vigorous handling while about it. Davies had seized one brawny, muscular
throat and sent a gauntleted fist plump against the sweat-gleaming jaw
of a second brave. Brannan had backed him with half a dozen
well-delivered blows, but even these had evoked neither shot nor knife.
The instant the savages realized that it was the young commander of the
guard, they seemed to give way without further struggle, and so it
resulted that in a moment more every red-skin was off that sacred square
of board, and that a thick, deep semicircle of warriors, some few afoot,
but most of them astride their ponies, glowered in silence now at the
tall soldier who, interposing between them and the victim of their rude
horse play, stood confronting them with grave, set, indomitable look in
his pale face, on which the sweat was already starting. Behind the
officer, leaping up on the platform, were now a little squad of his men,
and McPhail, fuming and raging malevolently. "Arrest those blackguards,
arrest them instantly, Davies! Every man of them, by God! They shall pay
for this or there's no power in Washington." But Davies never moved hand
or foot. Calmly eying the surrounding crowd, he was searching for some
familiar face among the scowling warriors. Some few were men well on in
years, others mere striplings. Some were still covertly fuming with rage
for battle, others slyly tittering at the agent's expense, but all faces
were turned in instant interest, all ears attent when Davies began to
speak. "Where is Charging Bear?" he asked. "What is the meaning of this

Probably not ten Indians in the throng could speak a dozen words of
reputable English; probably not ten, however, failed to read his

"Charging Bear is not here," suddenly spoke in deep guttural a grizzly
Indian, who urged his pony forward. "The son of McPhail struck and
kicked the son of White Wolf,--the son of a clerk struck the first-born
of a war chief, and the Great Father's man would punish, not the
striker, but the struck."

"Nab that damned lying scoundrel, Davies. He put 'em up to this whole
business. He's another of your mission whelps. I know you, Thunder
Hawk," continued McPhail, his courage and his choler rising alike as he
saw that the Indians were slowly recoiling, and evidently meant no
further mischief. "I know you, and I order your arrest right here and
now. As for the young dog that attacked my son, I'll demand him of White
Wolf in half an hour with five hundred soldiers at my back."

"Then bring your own, who gave the first blow, if you want him in
exchange. As for me," continued the old man, in calm dignity, "I have
done no wrong, but my people shall not be made to suffer because of me.
I know the power of the Great Father, but he would not demand my
surrender to such as you. Here is the chief to whom the Indian yields,"
he said, turning to the lieutenant, and then, riding a pony length
closer, gravely swung his handsome repeating rifle from its
gayly-fringed sheath of skins and extended it, butt foremost, to Davies.

But before that officer could receive the proffered rifle a warning cry
came from the outskirts of the swarm. There was instantaneous lashing of
quirts, a sudden scurry and rush, and like one great herd of elk smitten
with sudden panic, away surged and sped the entire throng, Thunder
Hawk's stampeded pony bearing him irresistibly away with the rest. Only
a cloud of dust settling slowly to earth remained to greet the long line
of Cranston's troop as it came sweeping in from the foot-hills at
thundering gallop. Far out across the prairie the manoeuvring cavalry
had sniffed the "sign" of trouble at the agency, and his was the first
to answer the alarm.


Again was there scene of mad excitement among the Indian villages on the
Chasing Water. Again was Red Dog in saddle, exhorting, declaiming,
prophesying, but with no such ready result as during the winter days
gone by. It was one thing to rally to the standard of a war chief and
follow him on a raid against the agent of the Great Father when but a
handful of soldiers could back the authorities. It was quite another to
rise in revolt when five hundred war-trained blue-coats were aligned to
defend him. Within two hours after the exciting scene at the corral the
Indians in every band knew that McPhail had launched his ultimatum at
the little village of White Wolf. "Send in Chaska, the assailant of my
son, and Thunder Hawk, the boaster, or there is war between the Great
Father and you and yours."

Already had Chaska and Chaska's mother, with three trusty friends,
mounted on swift ponies, been spirited away northward, with instructions
to ride all night through the devious trails of the Bad Lands, and never
draw rein until they reached the shelter of the Uncapapa lodges beyond
the Wakpa Schicha. Already had Red Dog dashed over to the lodge of
Thunder Hawk, offering him asylum in the heart of his tribe, and
pledging his uttermost brave to his defence. But the old Indian would
none of him. Long years before, a fatherless boy, he had been reared
and taught by a priest of the Church of Rome,--is there a people they
do not know, a peril they do not dare?--and when finally his friend and
teacher and protector was gathered to his fathers and laid in the old
mission churchyard, the boy drifted back to his tribe, a mature and
thoughtful man, to find his kindred among the tents of the
Ogallallas,--among, worse luck, the malcontents of Red Cloud. From this
time on he had cast his lot with them, marrying, rearing children, yet
but slowly gaining influence among them. When his great and cruel chief
lured the garrison of a mountain stockade into the neighboring hills and
massacred every man, Hawk had refused to take part. His heart was not at
war with the whites. When swarms of the warriors left to join the great
renegade bands gathering under Crazy Horse and Gall to reinforce Sitting
Bull, Hawk had held aloof. "The people of Red Cloud," said he, "have no
grounds for war. The Great Father has done everything he promised them
and more," and Red Cloud called him dastard and squaw; but when an
Indian girl was missing from her lodge, and the gossips told how she had
been lured by a white soldier to the distant banks of the Laramie, Hawk
rode thither, rode into the presence of the post commander and told her
story and his, and found and brought her back to her people. He strove
to find the man for whose sake she had abandoned her father's lodge and
forfeited her good name. Hawk well knew how futile was her trust that
the white chief would ever claim her as his wife, but among so many
comrades he was concealed, and Hawk left his message. Sooner or later
his people should find the white man who had wrought the wrong and his
days were numbered. Every knife in all his band was whetted for that
particular scalp. And now again, when Indian blood had been fired by the
insult to the son of White Wolf, he stepped forward to interpose between
his people and the fury of the Great Father's man. He had repressed, not
incited the wrath of his brothers, but the agent in authority ruled
otherwise and demanded his surrender. His people would have fought to
save him. He would suffer willingly rather than that one drop of blood
should be spilt on his account. Refusing Red Dog's clamorous offer,
Thunder Hawk mounted his pony and, despite the wails and lamentations of
his village, rode forth in calm dignity to meet the coming soldiery, to
offer in silent submission his hands to the clinch of the steel.

The recall had sounded at the cantonment, and mounted orderlies had
galloped out to bring in such troops as might have trotted too far away
for the sound. The infantry battalion, practising skirmish drill, had
quickly rallied, re-formed, and was marched within the log walls to
exchange blank for ball cartridge and await orders. The four cavalry
troops galloped back to their stables and dismounted, while their
officers gathered about the major commanding. Cranston to him had
briefly recounted the story of the excitement as he had heard it from
McPhail's lips. "I am bound to say, sir," said he, "that Mr. Davies did
not seem to agree with the agent in either his statements or his
conclusions. He considers the agent to have been the aggressor, and if
he is required to go to arrest Hawk and White Wolf's boy, it will be
with an unwilling hand."

"Yes," said the major, coldly, "the trouble with Davies seems to be that
he has displayed similar unwillingness on previous occasions."

The command of the cantonment had been given to this veteran field
officer of infantry, a man whose motto had been fight from boyhood on.
For ten days had he been hammering away here, hours at a time, to get
his own battalion in readiness for what he considered the inevitable
summer's work. He had fought every one of the dozen or more tribes of
plains Indians, and considered fighting their normal condition as it was
his own. He had made it his boast that during the previous summer his
battalion, day after day, had outmarched the cavalry, and even while the
statement was misleading, the boast was based on facts. The horses of
the cavalry, starved and staggering, worn to skin and bone, had to be
towed along instead of ridden, and the cavalry were therefore
handicapped. Yet there was not a trooper who did not honor the bluff
senior major, and none who really disliked him, except perhaps the
battalion commander of the cavalry, a gentleman whose gold leaves were
as dazzlingly new as the senior's were old and withered, and just about
to be changing into silver, the silver of the lieutenant-colonel. The
contrast between Major White's spirited handling of his battalion of
foot and Major Chrome's listless management of a similar body of horse
was vivid in the last degree. The latter and two of his troops belonged
to Atherton's fine regiment, the --th, the other two troops, Cranston's
and Truman's, were, as we know, of the Eleventh, and here in presence of
four officers of the latter's regiment, and a dozen of the Fortieth
Foot and of the --th Horse,--here on the broad parade of the cantonment,
at high noon and in plain sight and hearing even of three or four
enlisted men, orderlies, horse-holders, etc., had the post commander
spoken words that meant nothing short of discredit, if not disgrace, to
the subaltern who was at that very instant riding away on a perilous as
well as thankless mission. Deep, embarrassed silence fell on one and all
of the major's hearers for a single instant. Cranston reddened with
indignation, little Sanders with wrath. Truman looked quickly and
curiously about him. All three were eager and ready to speak, yet by
common consent the duty devolved upon Cranston, who took the floor.

"It would be idle, Major White, to feign ignorance of what you refer to,
but let me say right here and now that you have been utterly misled as
to that young officer's character, and I doubt if you properly estimate
that of his detractors."

"I base my opinion on a cavalry report, Captain Cranston,--on Mr.
Archer's vindication of Captain Devers."

"As one-sided a report as was ever written, sir, for the other side--Mr.
Davies--had never a hearing,--never even heard of the investigation
itself until a week ago, and is now bound to silence pending action at
department head-quarters; but meantime, sir, as a friend of his, and a
man who believes in him, I protest against any such impression as you
have received, and I ask you how it is that you can believe such a story
of an officer who, single-handed, arrested Red Dog in the face of his
followers? There has been an insidious influence at work against him
ever since last summer, and we of the Eleventh know just where to place

"If I've wronged him, Cranston, you know me well enough to know that
I'll make every amend possible. I have heard, I own, much more than
Archer's report, so have my brother officers, not only before the recent
outbreak in which he seems to have outwrestled Red Dog, but since. Since
his recent visit to Scott stories have come to our ears very much to his

"Not from Leonard, sir, I warrant you," interposed Cranston, hotly.

"No, not from Leonard, for Leonard never talks against anybody, but from
officers at Scott who seem to speak by the card. There is general
indignation because of his affront to the wife of one of our number. If
your friend is so far above suspicion, and did not feel some sense of
the sentiment against him, why did he utterly shun the society of every
officer at the post-except the chaplain? It reminds me of that English
snob who was sent to Coventry for abandoning the Prince Imperial, and
then took refuge in the prayers of the Church."

"Major White, there are reasons for Davies's conduct for which I will be
answerable, and which you could not fail to respect. The fault, sir, lay
on the other side. This is something that can't be discussed here, for a
woman's war is mixed up in it, but if I have any place in your esteem,
let me urge you to suspend judgment. While the responsibility for the
original wrong done Davies must rest in my regiment, there have been
later wrongs done him in yours, and I learn it for the first time

It was an impressive scene, this impromptu gathering at the foot of the
flag-staff while anxiously awaiting further tidings from the agency.
Over among the quarters the humid eyes of frightened women peered from
many a door-way, watching with fluttering hearts for sign of action.
Stacking arms in front of their barracks, the infantry had been sent in
to a hurried dinner, and the cavalry horses, saddled, still stood at the
lines, watched by a few troopers, while the rest were packing
saddle-bags and taking a bite on their own account. The sentries to the
eastward kept gazing over toward the grim stockade and the clustering
groups of Indian lodges far away down-stream. Ten minutes since a party
of a dozen troopers had been seen to ride slowly away from the agency in
the direction of White Wolf's tepees, a mile beyond; "Davies going to
demand the surrender" were the words that passed from mouth to mouth and
gave the text for the startling conversation that had just taken place,
a topic which was now by common consent dropped as having reached a
point where the utmost caution should be observed. Everybody seemed to
know in some mysterious way that the circulators of the new and
unflattering stories about Davies were not so much the invalid colonel
or Messrs. Flight and Darling of the Fortieth as their more voluble,
active, and dangerous helpmeets. Indeed, the very day Trooper Brannan
arrived, transferred by regimental orders from "A" to "C" troop, he
brought one letter from Mrs. Leonard to Mrs. Cranston, and two or three,
each, of the missives of Mesdames Stone, Flight, and Darling to ladies
at the cantonment. Mrs. Leonard's letter said that her husband, the
adjutant, had been summoned by telegraph to General Sheridan's office in
Chicago, and he expected to be gone a week. No trace had been found of
the papers stolen from his desk, but it was undoubtedly on that business
that he had been sent for, and Mrs. Leonard felt confident that when he
returned it would be with news that full justice would at last be
awarded Mr. Davies for his conduct during the campaign as well as at the
agency, and Mrs. Leonard could not control the impulse to add, "If
justice could only be meted out to his accuser!--but will that man ever
get his deserts?"

It must be owned that Mrs. Leonard had good grounds for being doubtful
on that point.

Meantime how fared it with the embassy to White Wolf? Smarting under the
injury to his pride and person, McPhail had decided to inflict severe
humiliation on the red men prominent in the affair. First, White Wolf's
boy should be made to suffer, and then Thunder Hawk, who had dared to
oppose his views, should be ironed as an inciter of riot and placed
under guard. Knowing the feeling of veneration, almost of awe, with
which Davies was regarded by many of the Indians, he desired to avail
himself of the fact and send him to make the arrest, and at last Davies
asserted himself. Calmly, but positively, he refused. "My orders are
simply to protect the agency and the agent and his family from attack,"
said he, "not to act as the agent's police."

"Do you refuse to obey my orders?" asked McPhail, angrily.

"You are not empowered to give me any orders, Mr. McPhail,--above all,
such orders. It is no question of obedience or disobedience."

"Then I'll ask to have you relieved and sent to your regiment, and some
man sent here who will do his duty," said McPhail.

"You cannot do it too soon, sir," was the answer. "It has been most
unwelcome from the start, and I shall now ask to be relieved in any

And so, finding Davies inflexible, Mr. McPhail had no alternative but to
go himself. He had sent his demand; it had met with no response. He must
attempt the arrest in person or become the laughing-stock of his Indian
wards. Here at last Davies had to back him. It might be true that the
officer would be sustained in his refusal to go and do his bidding, but
if the agent went in person the lieutenant would have to send a
detachment as a guard. Davies did more. He calmly informed McPhail that
he should place himself at the head of the party and protect him to the
extent of his ability; and so with the detachment as it marched away,
watched by many an anxious eye, rode McPhail with his agency

And when barely half-way to the cluster of tepees among the Cottonwoods
at the point, there came to meet them in solitary state old Thunder Hawk
himself. He wore no barbaric finery. His pony was destitute of
trappings. He, himself, wore not even a revolver. Everything that might
speak of war or even self-defence was left behind. When within a hundred
yards of the foremost horsemen he reined in his pony and calmly awaited
their approach.

Half a mile farther down the valley, clustered in front of their
lodges, some of them lashing about on their excited ponies, could be
plainly seen the warriors of Red Dog's band, and that that hot-blooded
chief was in their midst could hardly be doubted, though he was too far
away for personal recognition. All at once the seething group seemed to
obey some word of command, for it heaved suddenly forward, and,
breasting its way through the scattering outskirts, just as it had
advanced on the agency that moonlit winter's night, the centre burst
into view, one accurate rank of mounted Indians, and in another moment,
wheeling and circling, all the individual horsemen came ranging into
line at the flanks, and, reinforced every moment by galloping braves
from the villages in the rear, Red Dog's big squadron, like Clan Alpine,
came sweeping up the vale. Borne on the breeze like one long wail of
foreboding, the weird chant of squaws and stay-behinds was wafted to the
ears of the agency party. Another instant and the song was taken up in
swelling chorus by the coming foe. McPhail, who had spurred eagerly
forward as Thunder Hawk halted, now irresolutely checked his horse and
glanced back, as though feeling for the support of the grim and silent

"By God, Mr. Davies, I believe that traitor Red Dog means mischief!"

Making no reply whatever, the lieutenant simply raised his sword arm in
signal to his party,--halt! whereat, sniffing the tainted breeze and
anxiously eyeing the distant cavalcade, the horses of Davies's party
stood nervously pawing and stamping. Evidently they liked the outlook as
little as did McPhail. And there, all alone, fifty yards out in their
front now, grave and motionless, still sat old Thunder Hawk.

"Do you suppose they will try to rescue if we arrest him here?" asked

"Very probably. They regard him as a martyr, and so do I," was the

"Here! gallop to the cantonments for help at once," said McPhail to his
interpreter. "Say that Red Dog and his whole gang are coming," he
shouted, instantly reining about and looking anxiously back. Behind him,
nearly a thousand yards, lay the low, squat buildings of his official
station. Beyond that, nearly two thousand more, and but for the flag and
staff almost indistinguishable from the dull hues of the prairie, except
to Indian eye, lay the low log walls of the cantonment. Already signs of
alarm and bustle could be seen about the former. A buckboard was just
hurriedly driving off, full gallop, for the distant barracks, scudding
for shelter before the storm should break. Evidently Mrs. McPhail didn't
mean to stand siege in her cellars this time. Already Lutz, who remained
with the reserve, had mounted his men and was trotting out to the
support of the advance. Already the long, barbaric array of Red Dog's
band had come within rifle-range, and their clamoring chief, all
bristling with eagle feathers, rode up and down across their advancing
front, brandishing aloft his gleaming rifle. "Watch him as you would a
snake," indeed! Here he came once more in open, defiant hostility, bent
beyond possibility of doubt on instant attack should the agent attempt
to lay hands on Thunder Hawk.

"Come in here, Hawk. I suppose you surrender!" yelled McPhail,
nervously. Evidently something had to be done, and done at once.

"Not to you," was the determined answer. "I will surrender to soldiers
when they demand, and to them only, and I'll await justice as their
prisoner and not as yours."

"My God! Mr. Davies, you've _got_ to do something!" wailed the agent,
shrinking still farther back now, as Red Dog's line unmistakably
quickened the pace and the earth began to quiver and tremble.

"Take the men and fall back towards the agency, sir," said Davies,
quickly, sternly, and then without an instant's hesitation spurred
forward. As he rode he whipped off his right gauntlet, and then halting
within a horse-length of the silent warrior, held out his bare hand.
"Thunder Hawk, this is the hand of a friend. Will you ride with me and
turn Red Dog back?"

"I will go with you wherever you say."

Over among the lodges of Thunder Hawk's people the signs of intense
excitement were on the increase. Women and young girls had taken up the
weird war-song of the advancing array. Young men springing to their
ponies and no longer able to restrain their desire to act in his behalf,
all forgetful of his injunction, came galloping forth to join the band
of Red Dog riding to the rescue. Over at the agency, far to the rear,
there was mad flurry and consternation. Women and children of the few
employés, now that there was a military post within range, were
gathering up such valuables as they could carry and scurrying away along
the cantonment road. Conscious of his own impotence, McPhail had lost
the last vestige of his truculent manner and, eagerly availing himself
of Davies's advice, turned nervously to the senior corporal of the
little squad of troopers and said, "Fall back! We've got to fall back to
the reserve." The corporal glanced first at him, irresolutely, then back
at the coming reserve now spurring forward with Lutz at their head, then
around at the whirl and turmoil and trouble in the villages, at Red
Dog's now "magnificently stern array," and finally at the two figures,
calmly, slowly riding straight at the very centre of the advancing line,
straight at the heart of Red Dog's chanting battalion; and then, when
McPhail nervously repeated his instructions, and, adding example to
precept, turned and strove to lead the party in retreat, briefly
addressed first his fellows and then the agent.

"Stand fast, men!--You--go to hell!"

A moment later and far out at the front now the two figures had halted,
a strange contrast. The man on the right, tall, slender, of athletic and
graceful build, clad in trim simple undress uniform of the cavalry,
sitting his horse as straight as a young pine; the other, bent,
blanket-robed, hunched up on his pony in the peculiarly ungraceful pose
of the Indian rider when at rest, but resolute and immovable; both
sublimely devoted in the duty now before them. When by the sweeping
advance of the Indian line these two, the young officer, the old
sub-chief, were brought nearly midway between the little party of
blue-coats and the great rank of red warriors, both men as by common
impulse threw upward the right hand, signalling "Stand where you are!"
to the coming line.

And recognizing their challengers, little by little, gradually reining
in, the Indians obeyed. Only Red Dog, followed closely by Elk, sullenly,
angrily continued the advance; his fierce eyes, avoiding Davies's calm
face, were bent glowering upon his fellow-tribesman.

"Why is Thunder Hawk here?" was his demand in the Ogallalla tongue. "Is
he ally or prisoner of the soldiers?"

"Thunder Hawk is their friend and the friend of his people. The white
chief came as his friend and brother to protect him from indignity. Now
as friends and brothers we stand between Red Dog and the wrong he would
do. Only over our bodies shall Red Dog move another lance-length against
the Great Father's people."

Davies could not comprehend this talk, but there was no mistaking its
import or its effect on the rabid chief. Furiously Red Dog pressed
forward, his rifle still clutched in his sinewy hand.

"Thunder Hawk is a traitor and a liar! He has sold himself to the
whites! He is their prisoner, and when they have used him they will iron
and brand and starve him. Even a sub-chief of the Dakotas shall not live
to be their tool. Thunder Hawk rides back with us at once or dies here
and now." And around came the ready weapon, muzzle to the front, with
Red Dog's hand at the guard.

"Ride back to your men, lieutenant," muttered the old Indian. "You have
my word that I will join you as soon as I can, but this man is crazed.
He means to force a fight."

"If that be so my place is here with you," was the answer. "What does he
demand?" "No parlying with your soldier friends," shouted Red Dog,
again in the Sioux tongue. Then, as though losing all control of himself
in his hatred of his captor, he dashed furiously at Davies. "Back!" he
shouted. "Back!" And he pointed with grand dramatic action up the
valley. "Back to your own people! This is Indian land." Then seeing that
his words fell on heedless ears and that Davies never relaxed his cool,
steadfast gaze into the raging red face, he fell into such English as he
knew. "Run or I kill."

And then Lutz and his reserve, just reaching their comrades under
Corporal Clanton, saw a sudden flash of sunshine from the silver
mountings of the Indian's beautiful Winchester as it was whirled to the
brawny shoulder, saw sudden rear and plunge of Davies's spirited horse,
a grapple as though in mid-air, and with a mad cry of "My God! They'll
murder him!" young trooper Brannan dashed forward from the ranks just as
the shot from Red Dog's rifle whirled harmless into space, and horse and
man, the pride of the Ogallalla hostiles, were rolling in the dust,
overthrown by the officers heavier charger, while the butt of the
polished weapon, wrested from the warrior's grasp and wielded by
muscular hand, came down with resounding whack on the head of the
struggling chief, and for the second time, in the very face of his
astonished braves, Red Dog, the redoubtable, went sprawling to earth,
downed by the white chief whom he affected to despise.

In the fierce mellay that followed the advantage lay with the first to
move. Lutz and his party had not really checked their gait, and so
leaped into the charge with a flying start. Sixteen ready troopers had
darted forward to the support of their beloved young officer. Thunder
Hawk had lashed his pony so as to interpose between him and the rush of
the Indian band, but even as those red-skins nearest the centre, where
the drums and rattles were keeping up their low, threatening din, with
one impulse dashed forward to rescue the chief, those on the flanks,
far-seeing, held wisely back, even while around the prostrate chief
there raged for a brief, hot, furious moment a wild babel of threat and
execration, a mad whirl of brandishing knives and pistols and naked red
limbs and brawny arms in dusty blue, Hawk and two other stalwart Sioux
had thrown themselves between avenging blows and the young white chief,
standing afoot now with pale, set face, over his writhing victim. Lutz
and his men, lunging in among the lighter ponies, bore them back by
sheer force of weight. 'Only one or two shots were heard; even in that
frantic turmoil friend and foe alike seemed to realize that a battle
must be avoided so long as each side held possession of its own. And
then from the outskirts came loud yells of warning. By fives and tens
the mounted warriors melted hurriedly away, and presently all the broad
prairie to the eastward, back toward the lodges from which they came,
was alive with circling, darting, screaming red-skins, keeping up their
shrill appeal to brethren still hot-handed in the struggle for out from
behind the curtain of the agency corral swept the long column of
galloping horse under its curtaining cloud of dust, and down at full
speed came the whole squadron, far more than Red Dog's band dare tackle
in heady fight. Out from beneath his struggling pony they dragged him,
bleeding and bedaubed with sweat and paint and blood, and when
presently as the long skirmish line of Cranston's troop swept over the
spot and drove before it all the mounted warriors, only two or three of
the faithful remained to share the fortunes of their fallen chief, for
like Thunder Hawk, Red Dog was the prisoner, not of the Great Father's
agent, who was somewhere far to the rear, but of the soldier chief of
the cantonments, who came galloping up in the wake of the cavalry,
wrathful, if anything, that the whole thing was over without a fight.

And then, and not until nearly ten minutes after he had downed his man,
was it noticed that Mr. Davies had not recovered color, that he was too
faint to remount his horse.

"What is it, lad?" murmured Cranston, with keen anxiety in his eyes.

"I'm stabbed, captain. I--think you'd better not let Mrs. Davies know."

But Davies need not have worried on that score. When a little later they
bore him, faint, unconscious from loss of blood, to his own roof at the
agency, there was lack of woman's nursing, there was dearth of woman's
tears,--Mira had fled with the McPhails with the first alarm, and was in
hiding somewhere up at the cantonment.


One soft spring morning, some two weeks later, a little knot of officers
had gathered about the Cranstons' quarters at the cantonment. Under an
awning of tent flies they were conning the papers that had just reached
them and eagerly discussing their contents. Mrs. Cranston, a shade of
anxiety on her winsome, sunburned face, was glancing quickly from one
speaker to another. Through the open door-way in the cool interior Miss
Loomis could be seen bending over the boys as they fidgeted at their
books. Neither felt like studying this day of days, for absorbing news,
and lots of it, had come. To begin with, a general court-martial had
been ordered to meet at Omaha for the trial of Captain Devers, Eleventh
Cavalry, and officers of high rank and distinction were to be his
judges. With Atherton as president of the court there could be no
"monkey business," said Mr. Sanders, by which that young gentleman was
understood to mean that there would be no trifling with the subject. It
was noticeable that neither Riggs nor Winthrop was of the detail, an
omission readily understood, as Devers would unquestionably object, as
was his privilege, to either or both on the ground of bias, prejudice,
or malice, which, whether sustained or not, would lead to their asking
to be excused from serving and so reducing the array. The court had been
ordered from division head-quarters by the lieutenant-general himself,
and its members, as a rule, were summoned from distant posts and
commands, so as to preclude the possibility of the accused captain
saying it was "packed" from the ranks of his enemies. In other words,
except Atherton, the court was made up entirely of officers who had
taken no part in the campaign of the previous summer. It was understood
that the charges were grave and numerous; rumors of misconduct in the
face of the enemy, disobedience of orders, misrepresentation of facts,
etc., being among the items mentioned. Major Warren had been summoned
from abroad a month earlier than he had planned to come. Colonel Peleg
Stone and Mr. Leonard had both been notified that they would be required
as witnesses, so had Captains Cranston, Truman and Hay, Lieutenants
Boynton, Hastings and Davies. The court could not meet before mid-May
because several of the members came from the department of Dakota, far
up the Missouri, but that it was to be a "clinch" at last was the
generally expressed sentiment. Devers had run to the end of his tether,
said Boynton, unfeelingly. "I could add a charge or two myself if I
didn't know he was loaded with them so deep that he can't stagger."
Boynton, limping still, had come back to resume command of the agency
guard, for Davies's wound had proved deep and serious. He had been
stabbed by Red Dog after that warrior was raised to his feet, after
Cranston's skirmishers had swept the field, after Davies thought the
struggle at an end, and was unprepared for the stealthy blow. Nothing
but Brannan's vigilance, and the warning cry which caused the lieutenant
to turn in the nick of time, had saved his life. Red Dog in irons lay in
the log guard-house. Thunder Hawk, on parole,--for White had dared the
wrath of the bureau and refused to let McPhail have him,--walked the
garrison at will. Mr. Davies, still weak and languid, lay in the big
hospital tent, really the most comfortable dwelling at the station, now
that the weather was growing warm, and there, attended by Burroughs and
ministered to by a pathetically pretty wife (who had somewhat recovered
from her panic, now that she was within the stockade of a military post
with lots of men around to watch her and be fascinated), was on the road
to speedy convalescence. He was being allowed occasional visitors, and
while his own comrades vied in their attentions, nothing could exceed
the anxiety of old White, the major commanding. Twice did he have
Thunder Hawk recount to him the details of Davies's calm courage in this
second daring capture, red-handed, of the rebellious chief, and White
went to Cranston like the blunt, outspoken campaigner that he was.

"It begins to look to me," said he, "as if this young fellow had been
most damnably backbitten. You can haul Devers before a court, but what
can we do with these women?"

"You have never told me, major, what these women had to say against

"And I'm not going to," said White. "When a man's ashamed of having
believed a mean story, the sooner he buries it the better. Men like him
don't go round abusing their own wife or insulting anybody else's. It's
my belief that the swarm that buzzes around the throne there at Mrs.
Pegleg's ought to be muzzled, and if the old man hadn't lost his grip in
this seizure he's had, I'd tell him so."

But this seizure of Pegleg's had indeed proved a serious matter. So far
from recovering his accustomed spirits, the old colonel seemed to grow
feebler and less inclined to move about with every day. One morning he
sent word to Captain Devers that he would not leave his bed, as he felt
too weak, and that night it was that Leonard got back from Chicago. When
told by Pollock, who met him at the railway station, that Devers was
again in command, Leonard stepped into the telegraph-office and wrote a
message which he showed to nobody. Within thirty-six hours Lieutenant
Archer of the department staff reached Fort Scott with orders from the
general commanding. Captain Pollock was placed in command of the post
and Devers in close arrest. The next day Mr. Langston came out from
Braska and was closeted an hour with Leonard at the adjutant's office,
and then, taking advantage of a returning escort and ambulance, the
civilian lawyer left for the agency. Even while the group of officers at
Cranston's was eagerly discussing the news, he had made his bow to a
deeply blushing Mira over at the hospital tent, and was seated by
Davies's side. "Business first, pleasure afterwards," hummed Cranston to
himself when he heard of the arrival, and noted how Meg's bright eyes

"Business, indeed!" thought she. "I know the business that brings him
here, despite Agatha's assumption of sublime indifference."

But grave though some of the older faces grew as the news was read, and
eager and excited as were some of the younger, it was not because of the
long-prophesied trial of Captain Devers. The papers, letters, and
despatches were full of detail of the serious condition of affairs to
the northwest. Inspired by the success of the Sioux in their grand
uprising of the previous year, and reasoning that they had little to
lose and everything to gain by similar methods, a big tribe had cut
loose from its reservation and taken the field, one band of it prudently
massacring all the white men to be found in their neighborhood as
necessary preliminary to the move. This was bad to begin with, but
worse was to follow. The other agencies were overrun by a number of
young Indians of what might be termed the unreconstructed class, and
these, excited by reports brought in by runners from the openly hostile,
were slipping off in scores to join them. Already had the epidemic
struck McPhail's "angels." Already had Mac, with long face and longer
story, been up to see Major White and beg for cavalry to be sent in
pursuit. White said it was preposterous. The renegades had two or three
days' start to begin with, and if pursued, all they had to do was to
hide in the Bad Lands and pick off their pursuers. Cavalry could only go
there in single file. Ten Indians could hold the narrow, tortuous trail
against ten hundred troops. Relations were strained between Mac and the
military anyhow. Everybody knew by this time that he had lied about
Boynton and Davies, and had striven to make it appear, and with no
little success, too, so far as Eastern newspapers were concerned, that
all the turbulence and rioting at Ogallalla was caused by the arrogance
of the army. Then Mac pointed out that if something weren't done to
drive those renegades back, all the young braves over at the big
reservation beyond the Mini Ska would follow suit. Already the cattlemen
were complaining. Already settlers were drifting in to Pawnee station
and Minden on the railway to the west, and besieging old Tintop at
regimental head-quarters at Fort Ransom, and stirring up "screamers" in
the columns of the infantile dailies at Butte and Braska, alleging
apathy on part of the authorities and cowardice on that of the cavalry.
Already letters had passed between the officers of the Eleventh at the
cantonment and their comrades at Ransom. "If we have to take the field
again this summer let us try to get together as a regiment and not be
split up in all manner of crowds," was the cry. What Cranston and Truman
dreaded, too, was that they might be squadroned with some of the --th
under Major Chrome. The --th was all right, but Chrome was so horribly
slow that his own comrades chafed under his command, and Atherton really
wanted him to retire and get "a live man" in his place. Truman, Hay, and
Cranston felt certain that it would not be a fortnight before they were
ordered into the field. Tintop and Gray were sure of it. Captain Fenton
and others at Ransom were talking of sending their families East, and
now the question that agitated Cranston was, what to do with his dear
ones? It was all well enough to have them at the cantonment while the
cavalry were there, but with all the troops in the field except a single
company of infantry, he did not dare leave them. They must go back to

No wonder then that Mrs. Cranston's bonny face was clouded this sweet
spring morning. No wonder the boys could not pin their vagrant thoughts
to the books before them while snatches of the low, eager talk came
drifting in through the open door. No wonder Miss Loomis went about her
work with conscious effort, but when told of the arrival of Robert
Langston, the woman in her knew he would not go until he had seen and
spoken with her.

The day of Red Dog's capture was still fresh in the minds of Cranston's
household, as indeed in that of every household at the cantonment. With
field-glasses they had marked the threatening gathering at the distant
village, and the ominous advance in line. Old White had his men in ranks
in less than no time, and the cavalry column, masked by the agency
buildings, was sent at brisk trot to the eastward, so that McPhail's
messenger, spurring at mad gallop for aid, met them midway. Cranston's
troop was instantly deployed into long skirmish line at the gallop, and
the affair was practically over by the time Major White, leaving the
infantry battalion to guard the post, had reached the scene. Meantime
the composure of the mothers and children left at the cantonment was in
no wise augmented by the panic-stricken guise of the arriving refugees,
Mrs. McPhail, with her children, and Mira being the first to appear. It
so happened that the Cranstons' bungalow, being near the eastern end of
the line, proved the natural refuge of the first wagon-load, and that
Mrs. Cranston and Miss Loomis were the angels who thus had to minister
to their weaker sisters. Even then, when nearly "dead with terror," as
she expressed it, Mira would gladly have gone somewhere else, but as
Mrs. McPhail promptly bundled herself and her youngsters out of the
wagon and under the shelter of the Cranstons' wing, there was nothing
left for Mira but to follow suit. Dr. Burroughs came promptly to see
what he could do for her. Both Mrs. Cranston and Miss Loomis mastered
their own anxiety in the effort to comfort these weaklings, and as no
sounds of battle came from the eastward, and the watchers on the roofs
reported Red Dog's people as scattering for their tepees before the
advance of the cavalry, comparative composure was gradually being
restored when the first messenger came in from the front, a corporal of
Cranston's troop, whom the boys hailed with eager acclaim.

"Everything's all right, mum," he blithely saluted Mrs. Cranston. "We've
got old Red Dog again,--Lieutenant Davies nabbed him," he added, with
prompt recognition of Mira's lovely face. "They want Dr. Burroughs to
come down to the agency though." And as the doctor mounted the trooper
said something more in a low tone, glancing furtively at Mrs. Davies as
he did so. Burroughs nodded, but rode rapidly away, the corporal after
him. Mrs. McPhail became instantly lachrymose. Dr. Burroughs wanted at
the agency? That could mean only one thing,--Mr. McPhail must be
wounded, he was always so impetuous. In vain Mrs. Cranston strove to
soothe her. She ran out on the roadway in front and hailed the very next
party straggling in,--the wife and the cook of the agency clerk,
importuning them to say was Mac badly hurt.

"Mac ain't hurt at all," said the new arrivals, hot after a long and
needless tramp. "How was he to get hurt? It's Loot'nant Davies that's
shot. Red Dog tried to kill him."

And here Mira promptly and appropriately shrieked and fainted.

Nor was she of use when presently restored to a limp and dejected
consciousness. Other messengers had come by this time. Dr. Burroughs had
examined Mr. Davies's hurts. He was stabbed, not shot. It was serious,
not dangerous. He was being made comfortable at home, where Captain
Cranston said it was perfectly safe for Mrs. Davies to join him, and
the ambulance was speedily ready to take her to the bedside of her
wounded hero, but again poor Mira's nerves gave way. She could not go to
that dreadful place, so much nearer those frightful savages. Oh, why,
why hadn't they brought her Percy here? Even Mrs. McPhail was no such
coward as that. She drove back without her, and not for hours after was
Mira strong enough to go. By that time he was sleeping placidly when,
trembling still and pathetically pale, Mira was escorted to his bedside,
and that night Mrs. Cranston had her revenge.

"Agatha Loomis," said she, "you declared all along that he did perfectly
right in marrying that--that--in marrying _her_. What do you say now?"

And Miss Loomis said--nothing.

They had been talking of Davies again this very morning before the mails
and Langston came. No sooner had he been well enough to move than he
asked to be sent up to the garrison. He was no longer commander of the
guard, and no longer entitled to the house. What was more, he must
decline to serve McPhail in any such capacity again, and had had a
letter written to department head-quarters representing the facts, and
one was received from the general promising that another officer should
be detailed immediately. Furthermore, Mr. Davies announced that Mrs.
Davies simply could not stand the life at that point. Then Boynton
expressed a desire to return to it, as he was now able to stump around a
little, and he enjoyed chaffing McPhail, and so the wounded second
lieutenant of Devers's troop was shifted to the hospital tent put up
for his accommodation at the cantonment, and there Mira was made far
more comfortable than many an army wife had been, awaiting the day when
they could with safety be started on the road to Scott, now his proper

"Langston's paying the Parson a mighty long visit," exclaimed Mr.
Sanders, unslinging his sabre and flopping down into the first
camp-chair on his way back from morning drill. "Mrs. Cranston, what do
you want to bet y'all go back to Scott inside of a week?"

"I like it very much better here, especially as our going to Scott would
mean 'y'all' were to be again in the field," was the laughing reply.

"Well, I like duty here better, but I do hanker for a waltz on that old
waxed floor. Think, we haven't had a dance since we came."

"The men had some good music the other evening; why didn't you suggest a
waltz on the prairie to Mrs. Davies?"

"Well, I did think of it. She looks bored to death. I saw her just now
as I came by. She was yawning in the shade of the tent fly while
Langston and the Parson were chatting inside." Why don't you and Miss
Loomis go over there and cheer her up sometimes? was the question he
checked just as it trembled on his lips. Some brief inspiration of
discretion warned him that that was ground too sacred for his blundering
intrusion. "She seems downright lonely," he concluded, somewhat lamely
and suggestively. "I don't think Mrs. Davies is cut out for this kind of
army life. Here comes Langston now." He needn't have made that
announcement. Mrs. Cranston was watching, waiting for him, and she
glanced quickly to see where Miss Loomis was. That young lady, however,
never looked up from the slate whereon Louis's hieroglyphics were in mad
arithmetical tangle, even when she heard Langston's courteous greeting
to the lady of the house and his inquiries for the captain, and heard
them without evidence of any emotion whatsoever.

"The captain is at the stables, Mr. Langston. We are so glad to see you.
I'll send him word in a moment. Do sit down and tell us all the news
from Braska," said Mrs. Cranston, hospitably.

"I will do all that most gladly, Mrs. Cranston, but the matter on which
I desire to see him at once is urgent, and perhaps Mr. Sanders will walk
over to the stables with me. Then, may I not call and see you later?"

"By all means! and will you not dine with us? A real campaign dinner,
you know, but we shall be so pleased to have you."

Langston's face fairly glowed. "I'll be here in half an hour, if I may,
but I must see the captain at once, and will go. I trust--Miss
Loomis--is well."

"Very well, and quite able to answer for herself," said Mrs. Cranston,
mischievously, while Langston's eyes eagerly searched the door-way and
dim interior; but Miss Loomis was nowhere in sight, and chose to appear
to be not within hearing.

"Why didn't you come or speak?" said Meg, reproachfully, the moment he
was gone.

"I was busy. These are school days," was the calm reply, one that would
have been no comfort to Langston, who walked rather ruefully on with the
subaltern. The business with Cranston proved interesting.

"You have a young trooper, Brannan, whom I need to see confidentially,
and at once. May I do so, captain?"

"Certainly. Send Corporal Brannan here," said the troop commander,
wondering what new complication had involved this wayward son; and
presently, erect and soldierly, with a fine tan on his cheek and
brand-new chevrons on his sleeves, "lanced for bravery in the field," as
the troopers expressed it in those days, the young soldier stood
attention before them.

"You probably do not remember me, Corporal Brannan," said Langston, in
courteous tone, "but I remember you favorably and well for the day at
Bluff Siding last June." And the light in the young soldier's eyes
indicated that he recalled the civilian. "Your captain knows something
of the matter on which I wish to see you, and I have asked him to remain
here with us." And now an anxious, troubled look crept over Brannan's
face, some swift overshadowing from the coming cloud. "You have never
yet told any one whose knife it was that cut you that day."

Brannan's lips moved and he turned even paler, but he said no word.

"Well, corporal, the time seems to have come when instead of keeping
silence to protect another man you may have to speak for your own sake."

Brannan glanced quickly, anxiously, from one face to another, from the
lawyer to his troop commander, as though appealing to the latter to say
how could that be. Presently he faltered, "I don't understand." "Well,
I will tell you, in part at least. Your captain and I know something of
your past history, and I do not think you will have cause to regret that
fact. We know that you were at Dr. Powlett's at the time Mr. Davies was
assaulted and robbed near his Urbana home. You had there been on terms
of intimacy with young Powlett, who disappeared after much disreputable
doing. You soon enlisted, and were for a time very intimate with a
recruit, Howard, who corresponded with the description I have of
Powlett. You both had frequent letters,--you from your mother and he
from several sources. Then came a disagreement and you held yourself
apart from him and his new chum, a young fellow called Paine, and, while
you continued loyal to an old friendship and kept silent as to Howard's
past, he was less considerate of you. There was serious trouble between
yourself and Sergeant Haney and Howard the night you reached Fort Scott
after the campaign, and you were ordered confined. I have heard there at
Scott a story I do not believe. Will you not tell your captain and me
the real cause?"

"Well, sir, it was about my writing-case," said the corporal, in low and
hesitant voice. "I kept mother's letters and some pictures and things I
valued in it. It went with me up to the Big Horn camp all right, but
when we started on the campaign and cut loose from the wagons I had to
turn it over to Sergeant Haney. I saw him lock it in the big company
chest, and the night we got into Scott with the wagons and that chest
was unloaded, over three months afterwards, I asked for it at once, and
I had been kept back with the wagons, and I'd been drinking a little,
for it was a bitter cold march, and Haney and Howard gave me more
liquor and told me I'd better not take it until I'd quit drinking. We
had trouble that night later, and I was confined for abusing the
sergeant and being drunk, though I could prove I hadn't abused him, and
that it was just the other way, and that I was only slightly affected by
the liquor. The next day I sent word from the guard-house for my case,
and the reply came that the sergeant gave it to me the previous night. I
knew he hadn't and said so. They answered that I was drunk and must have
lost it, and that was all the satisfaction I got."

"Why didn't you tell me about this at the time, Brannan?" asked
Cranston, kindly.

"I meant to, sir, the moment I got out, but they fixed things so as to
send me direct from the guard-house with Lieutenant Boynton's detachment
to the agency, and when I wrote from there to Howard and Haney both,
they answered that they had a clue, and if I'd only keep quiet they'd
get it sure, and the man who stole it from me. I never told mother about
it,--it shamed me so. I was afraid the liquor was drugged, and--it might
be true, though I thought I knew everything that happened." Then he
stopped abruptly.

"Go on," said Langston, with deep interest in his keen, shrewd face.
"There is even more to this than I thought. What followed?"

"I got tired waiting, and there was a chance to go to Scott with the
mail rider and I took it, and a bitter cold ride it proved to be. We
couldn't get coffee on the way, the rider and I, but we could get
whiskey, worse luck, for he had it with him, and so I had been drinking
when we reached the post, and made my demand of Haney. He put me off
with more liquor and soft words. Then I threatened to appeal to Captain
Cranston or Lieutenant Davies, and the next thing they had me in
hospital with Paine to watch me. I had been drinking enough to make me
mad with suffering for more by that time."

"Well, did you never appeal to Captain Devers?"

"No, sir; there was no use in doing that," said Brannan, coloring
uneasily as he spoke. "I beg Captain Cranston's pardon for saying so of
an officer, but no one could hope for justice in 'A' Troop unless he was
solid with Sergeant Haney."

"And you have never seen your writing-case to this day?" continued

"Never, sir."

"Well, one thing more. Now that you know Howard's character,--know him
to have deserted and to have striven to injure you in many a way, will
you still persist in saying he did not wield the knife that slashed

"I have said, sir, that I knew no one in all the recruits who would have
used a knife on me."

"True! You put it well, Brannan," said Langston, with a smile of deep
meaning, "and among simple-minded military folk the answer would be
enough, perhaps, but not to a lawyer. Would you declare that Howard did
not wield the knife that slashed you--but was meant for Lieutenant

And Brannan colored still deeper. "I cannot say anything about him, sir;
at least not now."

"Very well. Then it is useless to ask just now what you know of his

"Yes, sir."

"All right, Brannan. It is my belief that in the near future that
writing-case of yours will turn up, and I mean to stay to see it, for
when it does you'll need us both."

But Langston's hope for a speedy and brilliant coup was dashed by the
news that came that very night. Forty-eight hours thereafter a little
caravan of army wagons, Concords and ambulances, with an infantry
escort, was slowly wending its way southward toward the welcoming roofs
of old Fort Scott, with the wives and children of several families, with
Mira and her newest friend, Mrs. Plodder, with the tall, martial-looking
civilian riding in close attendance on the Cranston's equipage, basking
in the life-giving sunshine and in the thrill and hope and sweet unrest
of an ever-growing love, devoted and insistent in spite of vague and
jealous dread, for there was not the feeblest flicker of encouragement
in Miss Loomis's calm and oft-averted eyes. Langston asked himself in
the still hours of the starlit night, camping on the banks of Dismal
River, was it possible that her heart was following some soldier in the
dusty column, riding hard, riding fast long miles away to the northwest
now, eager to overtake the comrade soldiery already on the flank of the
foe, and bear a trooper's part in the battle summer so suddenly to open.
Even Percy Davies, laughing at the feeble protest of Dr. Burroughs, and
heartily congratulated by old White himself, had donned his field dress
and climbed stiffly into saddle, to ride once more with the fighting
column, to the savage disappointment of his one red foe at the
cantonments, and the utter confusion of other foes at Scott.


A hundred miles away,--a hundred as the crow flies, and not by the
tortuous route the cavalry had to follow, through a region that, all in
an hour's march, shifted its scene from the dull monotone of barren
waves of prairie to bold, beautiful heights and deep sheltered ravines
and cañons, the winding thread of the Mina Ska went foaming and leaping
over its stony bed, taking occasional cat-naps in wide, shadowy
shallows, only to wake up again to wilder riot under the frowning,
fir-crested cliffs of the Black Rock Range. For many a long, sunshiny
mile it had come floating placidly eastward, issuing from the great
water-shed of the continent, drifting leisurely between low-lying,
grassy banks all criss-crossed with ancient buffalo-trails, or the
recent footprints of long-horned cattle, past the broad plateau, crowded
by the wooden walls of Fort Ransom, past the roofs and spires of
bustling Butte, a prairie metropolis, a railway and cattle town that
rivalled Braska, past long miles of gleaming tangents of the
transcontinental railway until it met the bold bluffs east of Alkali
Station and was shouldered from its course and sent on long, tortuous
_détour_ to the northeast, until, beyond the great reservation of the
red men in the loveliest hill country of the wild frontier, it once more
turned sharply eastward at the point described in the sonorous language
of the plains as "the Big Bend of the Mina Ska." Midway between its
sweeping curve near Alkali and the sharp deflection at the big bend
there came flowing into it from the westward, through the very heart of
the Dakota lands, the clear, translucent waters of the Wakpa Wakon,--the
Spirit River of the Sioux, all along whose storied shores for mouths had
clustered the thronging villages of the tribe, living through the long,
fierce winter in sheltered comfort, fed, warmed, inspired by the spoils
and stories of the great campaign the year gone by. But now as though by
magic had the tepees vanished. Only around the protecting agency, miles
to the west, miles deeper in among the tumbling hills, were the lodges
now clustered, hundreds of them, with their swarming occupants,--old
men, old crones, Indian mothers, wives, sweethearts, maids, young boys,
children, and pappooses,--all confidingly clinging to the protecting
hand of the Great Father and claiming his bounty; while the husbands and
fathers, the stalwart young warriors of the Sioux themselves, were
skulking through the Bad Lands across the Ska, eagerly, warily watching
the coming of the little cavalry column from the distant Chasing Water,
while even in greater numbers their wild red cohorts patrolled the deep
valley, the overhanging heights of the Ska itself, watching every move
of the coming force from Ransom, bent on luring both, if possible, far
within their borders, far in among those tangling, treacherous ravines
and cañons, and, there surrounding, to massacre the last man.

Southwestward, at Painted Lodge Butte, after a long, long march through
the heat and glare of the long June day, Colonel Winthrop had ordered
his men to bivouac for the night. Riding steadily eastward by the
"foot-hill" trail from Ransom, they had reached Willow Springs on Friday
noon, purposing to camp there until the following dawn, but so alarming
were the reports of the few fleeing settlers whom they met that the old
colonel decided after an hour's rest to push on again. Without being
trammelled by precise orders, the general tenor of his instructions was
to march on down the Ska, and strike and punish any Indian war-parties
he could find, and clear the valley as soon as possible. Major Chrome,
with four troops, two of the Eleventh, his own, and two of the --th,
Atherton's regiment, was ordered to march across country from the
Chasing Water, and join Winthrop in the valley of the Ska. One hundred
miles, as has been said, had Chrome to march to reach the valley at the
nearest point, nearly opposite the mouth of the Spirit River. Nearly two
hundred if he followed the stream would Tintop have to cover in going
from Fort Ransom to that point, but he had started on a Wednesday
morning, twenty-four hours ahead of Chrome. Each well knew he would
probably have to fight his way. Each meant, according to his own lights,
to do his best, and each resorted to measures radically different.
Winthrop, active, eager, nervous in temperament, pushed forward boldly,
rapidly, bent on "getting there," as he expressed it, and hitting hard
before the reds could slip back to their holes. Chrome, slow,
phlegmatic, cautious, advanced by carefully-studied marches, with scouts
far ahead and flankers far dispersed. Arguing that Winthrop, with one
hundred and fifty miles or more to go, and a bigger crowd to handle, and
with Indians on his flank every inch of the way, would not be able to
reach the Spirit River crossing inside of seven days,--Chrome parcelled
out his own march accordingly. Starting with all speed from the
cantonment, according to his instructions from Major White, he soon
slowed down to a pace more in accordance with his own views. "If we get
there Monday or Tuesday even," said he, "we'll be 'way ahead of Tintop."
And this was at the close of the second day's march, when he could point
to less than a total of forty-four miles covered. The country was still
open, the trails distinct, the Indians reported in the distance were in
small parties, probably from the Ogallalla reservation. To Cranston and
Truman, as well as to the captains of the --th, there seemed every
reason to push ahead. It was urged among them that, at last, Truman
should speak, and Truman did, as the captains of the --th positively
declined. "We have known Colonel Winthrop well, sir," said Truman, "and
we believe he will make long marches, perhaps forced marches, to throw
himself between the raiders and the reservation. Just as soon as a big
force gets there, they will scatter for the far north and northwest. The
only chance of punishing them is to get there at once while there is
still something left for them to kill or burn,--something to tempt them.
I fear, major, that unless we make better time we'll be too late for the

Chrome listened placidly and without impatience of any kind. Yes, he
admitted, that was what White himself said. White was fuming with wrath
because he wasn't given command of a field column instead of being sent
west to cover the Pawnee Station road. "Small blame to him!" muttered
Cranston. "Why on earth couldn't this tortoise have been left to that
work and old Whitey given to us?" No! Major Chrome meant to advance with
caution and deliberation. If the Indians saw them coming precipitately,
they might be equally precipitate in their flight, and thereby defeat
the general's plans of having Tintop get in their rear, at which
characteristic opinion Captain Canker, of the --th, a man of many moods,
but a fighter, turned gloomily away, and was heard soon afterwards
swearing viciously. It was the old story of the army of lions with a
sheep at their head.

And then came a calm, cloudless, radiant June Sunday, a day as perfect
and serene aloft as was that June Sunday of the year gone by on whose
high noon there rose the mad clamor of the battle on the Little Horn,
whose pitiless sun looked fiercely down upon the slaughtered ranks of
Custer and his gallant Seventh, and just as the red went out of the
western sky, and the sharp, jagged line of the Warrior Buttes melted
into softer purple, there came galloping in from the distant outpost an
excited trooper, who gave a paper to Major Chrome. The officers were
seated about him at a tiny fire, and Cranston quickly lighted a candle
lantern and the major read. It was from the officer of the picket.

"Thunder Hawk and Rides Double just in from over toward the Ska. They
say they have seen 'plenty warriors' all day and are sure there has been
a big fight far across the valley. We could plainly see Indian
signal-smokes an hour ago, and Hawk says a heavy dust-cloud rose between
him and the sunset." It was signed "Davies."

"Now, _there_, gentlemen!" said Chrome, "if we had pushed ahead any
faster Davies couldn't have kept up with us, and this evening he's
commanding the advance. If we had hurried, those Indians would have
hurried too and got clear away before Tintop could have got behind them
and struck them as he has. See how well it worked?" And Chrome glanced
contentedly about him.

"That's all well enough, sir, so far as it goes," growled Captain
Canker, "but where do we come in on this campaign? What will be said of
our failure to get into the fight?"

"What a growler you are, Canker! Why, man, in matters of this kind
individual ambition must give place to concerted plans. It's the _team_
work, the _combinations_ that tell." And here the silent circle became
engrossed in pipes or in whittling, or in the contemplation of the very
ground at their feet, though from under the broad brims of their
scouting hats veteran campaigners exchanged meaning glances. Canker only
growled the more sulkily.

"What I'm afraid of, Major Chrome, is that Colonel Winthrop may have
wanted us this very day, and forty miles wouldn't have reached him."

"My heaven!" said Cranston, later that night, tossing upward his
clinched fists and nervous straining arms, "I feel like a man in a
nightmare. One long winter of incessant friction and undecided
clashings with Devers, and now this mad eagerness to be doing something
choked and smothered by this incubus at our head. If to-morrow brings no
relief I want to quit for good and all."

But the long weeks of indecisive warfare, in camp as in the field, were
destined to have their climax at last. Well for the little battalion,
perhaps, was it, after all, that officers and men alike were boiling
over with repressed, pent-up fury for action, for when the morrow came
it called each soldier into line, and gave him giant work to do.

Somewhere towards one o'clock in the morning, under the glitter and
sheen of the myriad stars overhead, while, all but the guard, the
troopers slept peacefully upon the prairie turf and, all but a few early
risers, their chargers, too, were drowsing undisturbed by the occasional
querulous yelp of the coyote,--somewhere, far out over the dim, shadowy
slopes to the westward, there rose upon the night the faint sound of a
trumpet call, seemingly miles away. In his extreme caution Chrome had
posted little parties full a mile out from the bivouac, north, east, and
west, and it was while slowly riding to the westernmost of these that
the officer of the guard first thought he heard the sound. A corporal of
Cranston's troop was at his heels. "Yes, sir," he said, in answer to the
low, eager question, as the two reined in their horses, "I could almost
swear I heard it. I couldn't make out the signal though--could only hear
a note or two." They found the picket alert, even excited. They, too,
had heard something very like a faint trumpet call very far to the west,
and Davies waited no longer. "You remain here, corporal. I'll call the
captain." And in a few moments he was bending over Cranston. The latter
was awake in a minute, and together they hastened out afoot, past
snoring troopers or snorting steeds, and stood some hundred yards
outside the inner sentry line.

"Hay left Scott with 'A' and 'I' troops Wednesday, as we know," said
Cranston, "but it's impossible he could have caught us yet, though he
took the cutoff. That night trumpeting's a trick of the --th. They tried
it twice last summer."

"I know, sir, and may not that be some of them trying to find us?"

"Well, hardly. You know Atherton only had one troop left at Russell, the
other five were sent up toward the Big Horn ten days ago. Listen! There
it goes again!"

Yes, unmistakably, faint, far, but clear, the notes of a cavalry trumpet
could be heard, and, while Davies hurried to rouse the major, Cranston
stirred up his boy bugler. It took a minute or two to make Chrome
comprehend the situation. "Why," said he, "who'd be ass enough to be
marching or drilling with trumpet calls this hour of the night and in
the midst of a campaign?"

Cranston reminded him how scattered troops of the --th, his own
regiment, had found each other by night the previous year; how Truscott
announced the coming of his relieving column to Wayne's beleaguered
squadron; and Chrome slowly found his legs and faculties, but wouldn't
believe his subordinates. He demanded the evidence of his own senses,
and unwillingly accompanied them to the point beyond the lines,
Cranston's trumpeter sleepily following. It was full five minutes before
again the call was heard, and then it seemed farther away than before,
too far away for Chrome, who still could not believe it.

"Let my trumpeter hail them," urged Cranston, "then they'll answer." But
Chrome said that wouldn't do; it would wake up or startle everybody in
camp, and so declined.

"It's all your fancy," he said. "There are none of our fellows with
Tintop, and----"

"But he knows you, with at least two troops of the --th, are somewhere
out here, sir, and he takes a regimental way of trying to communicate
with you. I beg you to listen one moment more. _There!_" And this time
even Chrome was convinced, and the next instant guards and pickets,
sleeping troopers, and drowsing steeds all came staggering to their
feet, roused by the shrill blast from Cranston's trumpet sounding

And half an hour later there came jogging wearily into camp, guided for
a time only by the call, and finally met and escorted by the picket, a
sergeant and trumpeter from old Tintop himself, and the letter they bore
put an end even to Chrome's inertness. In brief, terse words it told the
story. He and his command had had a sharp, stubborn fight with a big
force of hostiles that very day, with considerable loss to both. "If you
had been here with your men," Tintop said, "I believe we could have
cleaned them out entirely." The main body, however, had retired toward
the agency at the head of Spirit River, but a band of Uncapapas and
Minneconjous, that had cut loose from all, had gone on down the Ska,
making for a junction with some of Red Dog's people at the confluence of
the streams. Tintop held that Chrome must be there by this time, but if
detained from any cause this was to tell him to strike, strike hard and
instantly with every man at his back, and that he, Winthrop, would
support as soon as possible.

Fording the Ska above the narrows of the valley, the faithful messengers
had plunged into the open country to the east, so as to keep well in
rear of the fleeing Indians, then sounding officers' call, the night
signal of the --th, as they came, rode eastward through the starlight,
scouring the broad prairies for the comrade column.

Half an hour later the command was saddling. Coffee had been hurriedly
served. The packers were lashing their bulky sacks and boxes to the
_apparejos_ and turning loose the patient little burden-bearers. Old
Thunder Hawk, grave and dignified, had been standing in consultation
with Chrome and his troop commanders. He knew the point where the
hostiles were probably in camp, and placed it, as did Tintop's scouts,
close to the confluence of the Wakpa Wakon and the Ska. Thunder Hawk was
of the Ogallallas, therefore not a tribesman of the renegades, but he
was a Sioux, and therefore a brother. He had counselled peace to his
people, and they had rewarded him with taunts and jeers. He had
accompanied the column, formally enrolled as a scout, and he would be
guide and adviser to the white chief, yet shrank from personal part in
the coming battle. He had been asked how many miles it was to the forks
and replied fifteen, "but," said he, "it is much farther by the way the
chief should go."

"We want to go the shortest way," was Chrome's short reply. "The
quickest way to reach and strike them."

Already Cranston seemed to divine what the old Indian meant to
counsel,--"The longest way round is the shortest way home," in fact, as
Hawk calmly explained. They knew the white soldiers were coming from
Ogallalla. They expected them from the southeast,--had seen them coming
from that direction and, falling back to the stream before them, were
watching for their coming on the following morn. Their scouts could not
be more than a few miles in front of them now. They would be up and away
the moment they heard of the near approach of the column. Then it would
be a stern chase into the heart of the hills, and there, reinforced by
renegades from all sides, they might be able to turn upon and overwhelm
their pursuers. There was only one likely way of striking them where
they were, and that was by making wide circuit to the north, fording the
Ska far behind their camp, and then, turning up-stream, attack them from
the north or northeast. Chrome saw the point and yielded. When at 1.30
the little command mounted and moved away it was at brisk, steady walk,
"column half right," with the pole star high aloft but straight ahead.
Ten minutes out and they struck the trot. "Bedad!" said Trooper Riley,
at the rear of column, "Old Chrome Teller's had his nap out at last."

Many's the time a cavalry column, after an all-night march, finds
itself jaded and drowsy just as a blithe young world is waking up to
hail the coming day. Far different is the feeling when, refreshed by a
few hours' sound and dreamless sleep, warmed with that soldier comfort,
coffee, and thrilled by the whispered news of "fight ahead," the troop
pricks eagerly on. Then the faint blush of the eastern sky, the cool
breath of the morning breeze, the dim gray light that steals across the
view, all are hailed with bounding pulse and kindling eyes. It was just
at the peep of day, after a glorious burst over the bounding turf, that
Chrome's little battalion, some two hundred and forty strong, riding in
broad column of fours, and guided by old Thunder Hawk himself, turned
squarely to the left at the head of a long, dark, winding ravine, and,
diminishing front to two abreast, and steadying down to the walk again,
dove out of sight among the tortuous depths. Thirty minutes more and the
Ska was foaming about the horses' bellies as they boldly forded the
stream, every man whipping out and raising carbine as his steed plunged
in. Then, turning southwestward, close under the bluffs of the Indian
shore, they rode within the reservation lines at last, with the dawn no
longer at the sabre hand, but at the bridle. Peering out through the dim
ghostly light, long miles to the south, were the Uncapapa scouts,
watching for the first sign of the coming of the column that, slipping
away from before them in the darkness of midnight, had ridden in wide
circuit around and across their front, burrowed into the earth at the
first blush of the morning sky, reappeared dripping on the left bank of
the bordering stream, the Rubicon of the reservation, and now was
swiftly bearing down upon the devoted village from a quarter utterly

"Just 4.15," said Cranston, glancing at his watch as soon as it was
possible to see. "How do you feel, Davies?"

"Better than I have for a month, though tired. I told Burroughs no harm
could result. That scratch is almost entirely healed. How far ahead are
they supposed to be, captain? It'll be broad daylight, even in this deep
valley, in a quarter of an hour."

Sanders, acting as Chrome's adjutant, came riding back from the head of
column at the very moment and reined about alongside his own troop
commander. "I'd rather be here in my old place, sir, and you're in big
luck to have it, Parson. The major says he wants to capture their whole
pony herd, if it takes three troops to do it, and 'C' is to charge the
village and rout out the bucks."

It so happened that Cranston's troop was bringing up the rear of
column,--only the pack-mules and their guard being behind,--a long
distance behind at the moment, for the pace had been trot or lope for
ten miles until the command reached the shelter of the ravine.

"I was in hopes there was no village," said Cranston; "that we'd only
strike the wickyups of a war-party. Do you mean village, Sanders?"

"Thunder Hawk says he's afraid so, sir. He thinks the Uncapapas and
Minneconjous who were rounded up last fall really want to get away and
join the bulk of their tribe who are summering in Canada with Sitting
Bull. If so this was their chance, and they've got their women and
children with them."

Cranston's face seemed to grow paler in the gray gathering light.
"There's no help for it, then," he said; "but I hate that sort of thing.
How near are we?"

"Within two or three miles," Hawk says. "He and Bear and two others have
galloped out ahead. We'll know by the time we've reached that bluff
yonder." And he pointed to a magnificent rose-tipped palisade of rock
that jutted out across their path. "That's Good Heart Butte, and the
Wakon comes in just around it. It's ten to one we'll find them right
there. Where're you going, Cullen?" he called to a trooper who came
cantering back past the flank of the column.

"To hurry up the pack-train, sir. It's the major's orders," sung out the
trooper, only momentarily checking his horse. It always annoys the
officers of a marching column to have messengers galloping up and down
along their flanks, but this was the major's own orderly, and no man
might rebuke but the chief himself.

"Reckon I'd better get up to the front again," said Sanders, as he
spurred away and left the friends together. Cranston looked back at his
leading four. His veteran first sergeant was commanding a platoon, and
it was a junior sergeant who rode with the head of column, and next him
a stunted little Irish corporal, for by the inexorable rule of the
cavalry the shorter men rode at the flanks of the troop. Midway down the
column the guidon-bearer was just unfurling and shaking out its silken
folds, but without raising it so as to attract the attention of possible
spies. Forward, in the ranks of the two companies of the --th, uniforms
were rare and no guidons visible;--long campaigning in Arizona had
taught the uselessness of both in Indian warfare, but the Eleventh had
their traditions, as had the Seventh, and rode into action with a
certain old-fashioned style and circumstance that lent inspiration to
the scene. Turning out of column for a moment the captain rode slowly
alongside, looking over his men as they passed him by. There was always
something trim, elastic, jaunty about his troop, and they knew it, and
even on long marches in hard campaigns the men would instinctively
"brace up" and raise their heads and square their dusty shoulders when
they felt the captain's eye upon them. He couldn't help seeing how
eagerly and with what trust and faith in their leader many of his sixty
glanced at him as though to question what work he might have in hand for
them to-day. Side by side with the guidon-bearer rode Corporal Brannan.
"Another chance for our prodigy," smiled Cranston to himself. "I wonder
if it will be as warm in Chicago as it promises to be here. More than
one mother there will be kneeling little dreaming, even as she prays for
his safety, what scenes her boy may be battling through this day." The
thought sent a lump into his throat and softened the soldier light in
his eye. "You'd rather be here than at the agency guard, I fancy,

"Indeed I would, sir, if we get a fight out of 'em."

"We'll get it, I think, and speedily, too. Look to your pistols, men.
We're to charge them."

One could almost feel the thrill that leaped along the column. Every
horse seemed to start and paw and dance as though impatient for the
word. Some faces flushed, others lost a shade or two of tan, as some
faces will in presence of sudden peril or the news of stirring battle
just ahead. Out from the holsters came the blue-brown Colts, each man
twirling the cylinder, testing the hammer and trigger, and counting his
shots, even while holding the weapon steadfastly "muzzle up." Nervous
troopers have been known to kill a comrade or his horse at just such

"Look to it that each has six shots ready, and remember the old rules
now, men. Stop for nothing unless some one falls. Charge through and
rally on the farther side. Careful about the women and children if there
are any. Return pistol now." And here again came Sanders galloping back,
his face aglow, his eyes snapping.

"Treed 'em, captain," he shouted, gleefully. "A thundering big,
loose-jointed village, too, tepees and all. It covers a ten-acre lot and
more. Must be a thousand ponies in the herd right around the point. The
major says to come ahead with 'C.'"

Just here the ground was open and fairly level, the trail cutting across
a bend in the stream. Just ahead towered Good Heart Butte, with its
glistening, gilded crest throwing a black shadow half-way up the
billowing westward slopes. Over at the east across the stream, bold and
beautifully rounded, the bluffs went rolling away, knoll after knoll,
shoulder after shoulder heavily wooded and fringed at their bases and in
the deep ravines, and away over those natural ramparts, far out to the
southeast, still rode and peeped and peered the young braves, but ever
in the direction of the far Ogallalla, marvelling that no sign appeared
of the threatening foe. Not half a mile in front, along a low ridge, a
little group of scouts, Hawk, Bear, and two half-breed Sioux, were
lying, peeping at the village still sleeping in fancied security.
Chrome, riding a trifle heavily, and speaking with just a tinge of
excitement in his tone, came jogging back from the ridge to meet his men
just as Cranston's troop trotted up from the rear of column, parallel
with their comrades of the --th, at whose head rode Canker with that
injured expression on his face that was habitual to him at no time more
than when he thought somebody else was going to get into a fight ahead
of him. He couldn't understand why Chrome should have picked out
Cranston for the dash on the village and retained him for so much less
conspicuous a duty. Everybody, however, who knew Canker knew he had
absolutely no dash at all. Brave and determined he might be, but
Canker's idea of a charge was a steady advance in line, to be instantly
checked and corrected and done over again if the men lost either touch
or "dress."

"We haven't a moment to lose, gentlemen," sang out the major. "The
village is already waking. Cranston, you charge through and stir 'em up
all you can. Truman, you support Cranston in line, but don't follow in
unless he's checked. Captain Canker, take the two troops and round up
that pony herd; it's half a mile long. Just as quick as you've rallied
beyond the village, Cranston, you face about and stand off any Indians
who rip out on that side. What I want is to drive every pony across the
Wakon and up the Ska valley, where we'll find support. Get them on the
jump and we're all right. Now I'll ride somewhere between Canker and
Truman. All ready now?" "What I want to know, major, is this," began
Canker, always on the lookout for some point or flaw.

"Well, you can ask what you want as we advance, captain. Are you ready,

"Ay, ay, sir," answered Cranston, in the hearty, nautical fashion he so
much liked that it had become habitual with him.

"Then shove ahead. We're backing you now. Now, Canker, what is it?"

But no one else cared what Canker wanted. All eyes were on Cranston and
his troop. Quickening the pace he led the way, keeping in fours until
clear of the head of column, then rapidly forming line. "Now, Davies,
just keep them so," he ordered, as he rode diagonally over in front of
the first platoon, "while I gallop ahead and get a peep over that

Another minute and, curveting with impatience even after their
twenty-mile spurt, the handsome bays were dancing in one long line over
the springy turf, Davies and two stalwart sergeants in front of the
three platoons. They saw their soldierly leader whip off his hat as he
rode up the slope, rein cautiously in and peer eagerly over, saw him
gesticulating as he conferred with old Hawk, who lay on his stomach a
dozen yards farther to the front and to the right, where the ridge was a
little higher. Every man knew that just ahead of him, over that curtain,
lay in overwhelming force the mass of their red enemies. Not one of
their rank had yet set eyes on the point of attack. Not one man knew how
many lodges, much less how many braves, would leap into view the instant
they went bounding over the crest; yet not a soul faltered, for, turning
with confident, eager mien, their captain signalled come on, and Davies
ordered "Trot!"

"It's all right, lads," cheerily rang Cranston's voice, as he rode
circling down to place himself at their head. "The ground's open and
level. We can go through like a blizzard. Draw pistol! Now, not a sound
till I say charge, but take the pace from me."

Up the gentle slope they go, many horses already plunging and tugging at
their bits, the glorious excitement of the rider communicating itself,
as it must and will where horse and man are in sympathy. Right behind
Cranston rides his second sergeant commanding the second platoon, the
streaming guidon, lowered still, a little to his left and rear. Already
the men are opening out a trifle, for this is to be no charge upon
serried masses of disciplined troops, no crash of cavalry upon cavalry,
where the line which rides with the greater impetus, the closer touch,
the more accurate alignment, hurls the greater shock and weight upon the
foe. Here no naked sabre flames in air,--a useless blade in Indian
battle,--but all through the plunging rank are keen old campaigners
whose eyes blaze from underneath the slouching hat brims, whose muscular
brown hands grasp the pistol butt, who ride with close gripping thighs,
for well they know that once over the crest, "gallop" and "charge" will
follow in quick succession, and there will be but an instant in which to
see and think or plan. Indeed, from a cavalry point of view it really is
not a charge at all, not even a charge as foragers, but rather a wild
dash into and through a straggling, swarming village of Indian lodges,
every man for himself when once turned loose, the whole object being to
carry terror, panic, and confusion to the half-waking warriors, and so
cover the major's main effort, which is to whirl away with him every
pony in the valley. This done the red renegades are crippled for good
and all, and their outbreak is at an end.

All eyes are on Cranston's gallant troop then as it goes sweeping up the
gentle slope. Already Truman's men are galloping front into line so as
to follow and support. Already Chrome is spurring eagerly forward to
watch the effect. Already Canker, grim, cynical, dissatisfied, but
obedient, is launching his leading troop well over to the right front,
at swift gallop, too, so as to head off such fugitives--Indians or
ponies--as may attempt to scurry away westward; but still the eyes of
all men seem to follow Cranston, for his, after all, is the perilous
part. Already Thunder Hawk and Bear have run back down the slope to leap
into saddle, for the earth begins to quiver and shake under the bounding
hoofs, and with another moment all the valley will wake to the ringing
battle-cry. "My God!" mutters little Sanders, lunging along after his
major, "why ain't I with my own instead of loafing here?"

And now they see Cranston glancing back over his shoulder and carrying
hand to holster. Up like a centaur he bounds against the sky line, up
after him the long rank of ragged hat brims and blue-shirted,
broad-belted, manly forms, up the plunging line of hard-tugging bays,
their black tails streaming in the morning wind, and then Cranston's arm
flings up aloft; up into plain view streams and flaps the silken
guidon,--the stars and stripes in swallow-tailed miniature that the
troopers loved to see,--and then the thud gives way to thunder, for as
one man "C" troop strikes the gallop with the thronging Indian village
not five hundred yards ahead.

Scattered over the low level between the receding bluffs and the rapid
stream, loosely covering a stretch of nearly half a mile along the
shores, with their ragged crown of pole tops wrapped in smoky hide or
canvas, their spreading bases littered with the rude crates,
"parfleches" and travois, some fourscore Indian wigwams burst into view
as the line darts over the crest. "Oh, murther! Six to wan at least,"
gasps an old growler in the right platoon, and Davies whirls about in
saddle. "Silence there, Donovan!" is all he says.

And now can be seen wild scurry and confusion. Four or five dingy forms
dart in and out among the tepees. Three or four Indian boys are lashing
in from the almost countless herd of ponies. Startled by the tremor and
thunder, the nearest of these sturdy little beasts, with tossing heads
and manes, have taken alarm, and are already beginning an aimless
scamper that in another moment will spread to the entire flock. Not a
moment to lose, indeed! One more backward glance does Cranston fling as
his magnificent bay quickens his stride, and the long line instantly
responds. One half nod, half smile to Davies, for the Parson rides like
moss trooper of old, with grim set face, despite the eager light in his
keen, blue-gray eyes.

"Open out now a little, men! Gently, keep your rank!" for the chargers
are tugging madly, straining for a race. A terrified squaw, clasping her
baby to her breast, bursts from the nearest tepee, pauses one instant
as though paralyzed, and then, with unerring instinct, holding her
little one on high, runs straight forward, mutely appealing, straight
for the galloping line. "Open out! Look out for the kid! Let her
through, lads," are the low, hurried cautions. Somewhere on the near
skirt of the village a wild war-whoop rings out on the air, a mad cry of
warning, then bang, zip, comes the first shot from the tepees, whistling
over Cranston's shoulder and skimming a mile away down-stream. No need
of further caution now. Now is the time. Cranston's voice rings like the
bugler's clarion mingling in the order "Charge!" and the welkin rings,
the rocks re-echo to the grand burst of cheers with which "C" Troop goes
tearing, thrashing into the heart of the village, swallowed up instantly
in a dense cloud of dust. For a moment cheer and yell and rallying and
war-cry, mingling with the thunder of hoofs and the sharp crackling of
revolver and rifle, drown all other sounds. Then the screams of Indian
women and children add to the clamor, and, with slashing knives, the
startled braves hew their way out through the tepees. Then the thunder
is swelled by the mad rush of the pony herd away from the driving storm.
The cheer is renewed by Canker's men, yelling and hat waving at the
heels of the herd. The dust-cloud in the village is but a flimsy veil to
the dense volume that goes floating skyward and southward, for practised
hands have prevailed, and the red man's most precious possessions, all
but a scattered few stampeding to and fro among the wigwams, are swept
from his maddened sight.

And then comes the rally on the flats beyond. Sweeping and circling in
the effort to control their excited horses, the troopers, exultant, come
reining up into line long pistol-shot south of the terror-stricken
village. Off to the west the great dust-cloud is slowly settling to
earth, and through it Truman's men, in perfect order, with carbines
advanced, can be seen moving by the flank, but interposing ever between
the village and the captured herds. Cranston, easily reining his pawing
charger, sits facing the reforming centre of his panting line. The
guidon-bearer is there all right and waves aloft the fluttering folds,
and the boy trumpeter tries to sound the recall, but makes a mess of it,
and throws the forming rank into convulsions of unrebuked chaff and
laughter. The captain is proud of his men and unbends for the occasion,
but, all the same, he eagerly counts the files, looking for this
familiar bearded face or that. Both sergeant platoon commanders are
there. The second and third platoons re-form without much delay and with
hardly a missing face. It's the first that proves to be the last. They
had to charge through the thickest part of the village,--the westward
side, where more Indians were awake and alert, roused by the cries of
the herd guards. The dust-cloud is still settling. Galloping forms still
issue from it and the western skirts of the village, from the clumps of
Cottonwoods, from under the banks, whither the mad dash of some horses
had carried their riders. But Cranston's face loses its smile, a world
of anxiety suddenly replaces it, for shots and yells ring from the midst
of the village still, and the chief of the first platoon is not here to
rally his men.

"Who's missing there, sergeant?" he calls, spurring over to where a
trooper comes riding heavily forward, drooping a little as he rides.

"Four or five, sir. Donovan was shot from his horse and the lieutenant
went back for him."

"_Quick_, trumpeter! Ride to Captain Truman and tell him to whirl about
and help us. _Now_, men, follow for all you're worth!"

And when the dust-cloud settles on the flats south of the Minneconjou
village, only one of "C" Troop remains to greet the eyes of the
battalion adjutant, sent back with Major Chrome's impatient query as to
why on earth the Eleventh doesn't come on. It is Sergeant Grant, who has
toppled out of saddle--dead.


If there be any truth in the saying that a burnt child shuns the fire,
the two officers who led "C" troop in its dash on the village should
have been almost anywhere else, and at least ten of Cranston's men bore
the scars of previous battle, either in the South or on the frontier.
The captain was still reminded of his ugly wound, received the previous
summer, by sharp, burning twinges of pain. Davies, the junior, as we
know, had not yet recovered his strength, and had gone on this sudden
raid, stepping practically from a sick-bed to the saddle. Twice that
morning, as the captain looked with ill-concealed anxiety into the face
of his friend and subaltern, he noted its pallor, despite the expression
of stern determination. Had there been time he would covertly have
warned three or four "stalwarts" of the first platoon not to lose sight
of their lieutenant, and to hold themselves close in support, but there
was no time. Indeed, as the sequel proved, there was no need. Soldier
stories fly fast among the rank and file, and the men of "C" Troop had
heard from many a source how the young officer on his first campaign had
denied himself, stinted himself, starved himself, nearly, in order to
share his scant supply of food with the weak and suffering in his own
troop, and so they welcomed his presence with them now when the column
marched from the cantonment, and spoke among themselves their admiration
of the pluck of the young officer in being so soon again on duty.

[Illustration: "LOOK OUT! DON'T HARM THE WOMEN."

Page 431.]

And so it happened that as the pace quickened that stirring June morning
and the long line swept down upon the rousing, shrieking village, and
the first shot came singing over their heads and the wild cheer leaped
to their lips as the trumpet sounded charge, while many troopers sought
their own course through and among the fire-spitting lodges, Sergeant
Grant with Donovan and two others drove their horses close at the heels
of the lieutenant's. Only squaws or children appeared among the tepees
as they dashed furiously in. "Look out! Don't harm the women!" they
heard him cry, as he held his own pistol hand well aloft, but in another
second a scowling, painted faced flashed one brief instant into view as
their leader went lunging by, a shot rang on the air, and flame and
smoke jetted from the lodge opening. Three pistols barked in answer and
Davies galloped on unhurt, but poor Donovan, with an Irish howl, dropped
his revolver, clapped his hands to his stomach as he toppled out of
saddle. "My God, fellers, I've got it," was his moan, as Davies, a
superb rider, quickly turned his horse about, and in the twinkling of an
eye leaped to the ground to the trooper's side.

"Quick, sergeant. Quick, men, help me lift him on my saddle, I'm too
weak," was his almost breathless order, and gallantly did they answer

"Are ye badly hit, Jimmy?" gasped an honest Irish lad, as he strove to
raise him from the ground. But deathly pallor and staring, sightless
eyes were the sole reply. "My God, lieutenant, he's killed outright.
There's no use staying," cried another trooper. "Mount, sir, mount for
God's sake! They'll be on us in a minute." But tugging still at the limp
and lifeless form, Davies did not seem to hear. The fierce clamor of the
charge was receding. Already the second and third platoons had cleared
the village and were reining about and rallying on the flats up-stream.
Already the pony herds, driven full tilt by Canker's squadron, were out
of sight in the dense dust-cloud and could be heard thundering up the
valley. Only a portion of Truman's troop could be dimly seen through the
settling dust, but, worst of all, the warriors recovering from their
panic came rushing from their lodges, and in a moment all would be over
with the struggling little group of blue-coats. Fortunately, they were
at the western skirt of the village, and almost all the rallying braves
were running, rifle in hand, down to the southern edge, the direction of
the chase. Some few, springing upon the scattered ponies left among the
tepees, rode furiously away into the dust-cloud in the hope of
recapturing some of their stampeded stock, and so it happened that,
except for some shrieking women, only one or two Indians appeared aware
of the little knot of troopers still in their midst, but that was more
than enough. Davies's horse, pierced by a rifle bullet, went rolling in
agony upon the ground just as a devoted Irishman was trying to bolster
the almost exhausted officer into saddle, and, luckily for him, Davies
was borne to earth out of the way of the shots that came driving at them
from the surrounding lodges. "Save yourselves," he faintly called to the
remaining men. Already Grant had darted away for help, receiving his
death wound as he rode. Then down came another horse, while Donovan's,
snorting, tore away among the tepees, and then there was help for it.
The little Irishman, Carney, bending low, strove to drag his prostrate
leader, stunned by a kick from his dying horse, around behind the
nearest lodge, when he, too, was sent blindly stumbling forward and
sprawling in the dust, shot through and through from an unseen rifle not
ten feet away, and the gallant fellow never heard the furious cheer with
which "C" Troop came charging back to the rescue.

It is one thing to dash into an Indian village; it is another to get out
of it. Wounded or unhorsed, any men left behind are doomed to cruel and
certain death. Within another minute, Cranston and his men came tearing
in, firing right and left at every dusky form that appeared. Within a
minute the prostrate bodies were found, and half a dozen men, Brannan
among them, had sprung from their saddles, while the others rode
blazing with their revolvers at the nearest lodges, some bringing their
carbines into play. But even within that minute the scalping-knife had
been at work, and poor Donovan's mutilated head lay in a pool of blood.
Short-lived triumph for the scalper, sneaking to shelter with his
hideous prize, for Cranston's pistol stretched him in his tracks, and
Sergeant Buckner's big charger knocked the foremost of the rescuing
warriors scrambling back between the lodges, where other troopers drove
their horses trampling them under foot. But every wigwam had its
garrison. The village swarmed with maddened braves, who now came rushing
to the scene, and, they on foot and the troopers in saddle, they with
their repeating rifles, the troopers with their pistols or
single-shooters, annihilation of the latter could be but a question of a
few moments. Even before Davies and his brave defenders could be lifted
to the saddle and led away, two or three more of Cranston's horses went
down, and Corporal Bertram was shot through both thighs. Then came the
effort to retire fighting, covering their dead and wounded. There was
only one way to go,--out across the westward flat, where the ponies were
peacefully grazing when the attacking column hove in sight. Even as he
shouted his orders to his savagely fighting troop, Cranston looked back
with keen anxiety. To what pitiless fire must they be exposed in
retreating over that prairie! Yet, with Indians on every hand within the
village, it was manifestly his duty to get out. "Go on with the
wounded!" he cried to the men afoot. "Go on! We'll cover you." And then
Davies slowly opened his eyes and began to look feebly about him. Oh,
if Truman would only come! Every second the fight waged fiercer, hotter,
and more men dropped as they backed slowly away. Down went Buckner's
horse. Down went the guidon, and then, when it seemed as though half the
troop must fall before they could reach the open field, the
half-frenzied, half-joyous cheer of Truman's men rose shrill above the
clamor, and again the dancing, howling Indians dove for cover underneath
the tepees as "F" Troop came thundering through.

"By the Lord, but that's the hottest place I ever struck!" cried
Sergeant Buckner a moment later, as, slowly falling back now, most of
the men fighting on foot, with the led horses and the disabled soldiers
well beyond them, "C" Troop was making its way southwestward towards the
clump of Cottonwoods and willows, close along the stream. Truman's men,
after their spirited and successful charge, were now rallying well to
the north of the village beyond the ridge, where for the time being they
were safe from the Indian fire. But once more now the warriors in the
village were swarming along its western limit and, flat on their
bellies, firing vengefully on Cranston's retiring line, now three
hundred yards away, and every moment some horse would rear and plunge,
stung by the hissing lead, but only one more soldier had been hit.
Davies, faint and dizzy and only semi-conscious still, was riding slowly
away with Brannan's supporting arm about him. The bodies of Carney and
Donovan were thrown across led horses and lashed on with lariats, and
Cranston had just sent a corporal to tell the horse-holders to move more
quickly when, up the slopes to the north, the men caught sight of a
horse and rider darting toward them from the distant ridge over which
Truman's men had disappeared. Straight as an arrow's flight they came,
heedless of the fact that their course was along the western edge of the
Indian village and barely two hundred yards away. "My God, fellers, it's
little Millikin!" cried an excited trooper. "Ride wide, you young
idiot!" yelled another, but all to no purpose. The boy trumpeter who had
borne the message to Truman and charged with him through the village was
now on his homing flight to rejoin his own. Vengeful yells and
war-whoops rang from the village as warrior after warrior caught sight
of him and blazed away. Throwing himself out of saddle, Indian fashion,
and clinging like a monkey to the off side, the young dare-devil drove
straight onward, the bullets nipping the bunch grass and kicking up the
dust under his racer's flying feet, yet mercifully whizzing by him.
Running the gauntlet of more than half the length of the village, the
little rascal darted, grinning, through the cheering skirmish line, and
tumbled to his feet before his beloved chief.

"Captain Truman's compliments, sir, and he'll rejoin you at the timber,"
was his message, delivered while his quivering horse stood flicking his
long tail at a red seam in his silky coat where one bullet at least had
scored its way, and Cranston bade him take his horse--and no more such
fool chances--and get under cover straightway.

But now in falling back the skirmish line had made an irregular half
wheel to the southward with a flying pivot toward the village, and the
Indians were darting or crawling out south of the tepees so as to get
an enfilading fire on the line. Cranston's quick eyes saw the danger and
warned his right skirmishers. "Back there! Fall back, you men! Run for
it!" he shouted; and to the jeering rage of the Indians the run began,
the men halting and refacing the village as soon as beyond danger of
flank fire, and then came still another excitement. Even while falling
steadily back, with wary eyes on the smoking lodge lines, the men at the
right became suddenly aware of a rush of several Indians to the point
where the troop had re-formed after its initial charge. "They're making
for the timber," was the first cry, for a few scattered, stunted trees
grew along the low ridge. Then came a yell from the rear, from the
sergeant in charge of the led horses.

"It's one of our men lying there wounded. For God's sake save him!" and
that was enough. Every carbine along the line was brought to bear on the
stooping, crouching, scurrying warriors who had ventured so far out from
the sheltering tepees. Obedient to Davies's order, Brannan and two or
three men in saddle left the wounded to take care of themselves, and
spurred headlong across the prairie to the scene, and Cranston, catching
sight of the affair at the same instant, waved his cap in eager signal,
while his voice, now hoarse and choked, could hardly be heard in the
order "By the right flank." Truman's column of fours, reappearing at the
instant at the north, but well to the westward of the village, could not
imagine what that distant manoeuvre meant, but it was no time to ask
questions. "Gallop" was the order, and down they came. And so it
happened that barely twenty minutes after the first shot was fired the
comrade troops of the Eleventh were once more united, and, facing nearly
north, were in furious fight with an overwhelming force of Indians,
while Chrome, turning deaf ear to Sanders's supplications, was vainly
striving to round up a galloping herd of several hundred ponies full
three miles away. Picking up the body of Sergeant Grant, saved from
scalping and mutilation by the dash of Brannan and his squad, "C" Troop
was once more wearily retiring toward the timber along the Wakon, and
Truman deploying his dismounted skirmishers to their relief.

And then, as the horses were huddled at last under the bank, and the
wounded were tenderly lowered to the shade of the willows, and the dead,
with soldier reverence, laid, blanket covered, under a spreading tree,
the captains met to compare notes and sum up the losses. Grave indeed
were their faces, for two of the best sergeants were killed as well as
five veteran troopers, and nearly a dozen were more or less severely
wounded. Davies, unscarred by bullet, lay faint from loss of blood, and
dizzy and dazed from the blow from his horse's hoof. The knife wound,
Red Dog's treacherous work, had reopened as a result of his violent
throw to earth, and there was no surgeon nearer than Chrome's battalion,
now out of sight far up the Ska. "Thank God! they've got few ponies
left," said Cranston, fervently. "We can hold them here until help

And help was coming, hard and fast,--harder and faster than Cranston
dreamed, but not to them. Within the next quarter hour, greeted by
frantic acclamations from the hostile village, there rode into view on
the opposite bluff, and came shouting their war-song, brandishing
feathered lance or gleaming rifle, more than a hundred red
warriors,--Ogallallas, Brulés, Minneconjous all, with Red Dog himself,
escaped from durance at the agency, madly revelling in their midst.


It was barely sunrise when Chrome's battalion struck the hostile camp
this hot June day, and two hours later the situation was comfortless
enough--for the strikers. Hampered with their wounded and having lost a
dozen horses killed, the two troops of the Eleventh on whom had devolved
the harsher share of the work had been compelled to halt in the timber
and stand off the now exultant Indians. With a hundred mounted warriors
at his back and as many more afoot in the village, Red Dog promptly took
the offensive, sent his yelling braves in big circle all around the
clump of timber in which Truman and Cranston had posted their men, cut
off communication with Chrome's party, now "doing herd guard duty half a
dozen miles up the Ska," as some of Cranston's men derisively said, and
then, little by little, established the dismounted braves in every
hollow, behind every little ridge or mound, and soon had a complete
circle of fire all about the wearied little force. As senior officer,
Captain Truman was now in command of the detachment, but between him
and Cranston there was a bond of cordial esteem and comradeship, and the
command was purely a matter of form. Each had had long years of
experience in frontier warfare, each knew just what had to be done, and
neither regarded the situation as either desperate or particularly
dangerous. It would have been an easy matter to cut their way out
anywhere but for the helpless wounded, who would be butchered to a man
if left behind. Here in the timber, with water in abundance, and
comparative shelter for the disabled men and for the horses under the
banks, they could remain until relief should reach them. This with
Chrome's two troops not very far away and their own old colonel, with
half the regiment, somewhere over in the hills to the southwest, they
felt very well assured ought to be only a matter of a few hours. "It was
big luck," said Truman, "that our little pack-train got in when it did.
Ten minutes later and they'd have been cut off and massacred."

But the further advantage lay with the Indians that they just knew
exactly where Chrome was and Tintop, too, and knew that neither one was
making the first effort to relieve his surrounded comrades, Tintop
because he was twenty miles away and had no knowledge of what was going
on at the mouth of the Spirit River, and Chrome because he was utterly
rattled by the mounted warriors now beginning to appear in increasing
numbers around him. He had sustained no loss to speak of. None of his
men had been hit. Only two horses had been struck by their long-range
fire. He was, to use his own words, "Really provoked at Truman and
Cranston. They might know he needed them in holding such a big herd of
ponies." Poor Sanders was in a miserable state of anxiety. He begged the
major to let him take ten men and go back to find them, or even to let
him go back alone. He pointed out that they must have had a fierce
fight. He had found Sergeant Grant dead, and heard the fierce battling
in the villages where both troops were engaged, and then he had galloped
through the dust-cloud to Chrome, narrowly escaping death as he did so,
and told him the situation, confidently expecting that Chrome would turn
the ponies loose, rally his men and dash back to the village; but Chrome
did nothing of the kind. "They should have come to me," he said. "We're
the ones in need," then sent him with an order to Canker, who, out on
the right flank, was making the morning blue with blasphemy, and Sanders
poured his tale into Canker's ears, and begged him to come and make
Chrome understand the situation, and Canker replied that nothing short
of a pile-driver could hammer an idea into a skull as thick as Chrome's,
and nothing short of a blast get anything out of it. The man was a born
idiot and had no more idea how to command cavalry in the field than he,
Canker, had of teaching Sunday-school. Oddly enough, many of Canker's
contemporaries said the same of him, but one never knows and rarely
suspects half what one's brethren say or think of him. The valley was
black with ponies, the troopers were black with dust, and a pall as of
night hung over the herd, so dense that the sun rays were swallowed up
in its depths and gave but little light below, and tears of rage and
misery that started from Sanders's eyes trickled down through a sandy
desert on each sun-blistered cheek. He rode back to his temporary chief
just as an Indian bullet had whizzed in front of the major's nose and
made his eyes almost pop from his head. "Don't you see," he urged,
reproachfully, "how very much more they are around us? If Truman or
Cranston needed help they would have let us know long ago."

After a brisk gallop of three or four miles up the valley of the Ska,
the troopers of the --th had permitted the stampeded ponies to take
things more leisurely, and so it resulted that by six o'clock many of
their number were stopping occasionally to nibble at the grass which
grew here luxuriantly, but there was, all the same, a steady, persistent
movement of the living mass,--an enforced migration at the rate of at
least three miles an hour. Well out on the foot-hills Canker's troop had
thrown its flankers, while the other in long skirmish line, with
appropriate reserves, interposed between the herd and possible Indian
attack from the north. The eastern banks of the Ska along here were high
and steep, and the stream flowed deep and rapid at their base, so attack
from that quarter was not to be dreaded. All the same, occasional
warriors could be seen along the bluff, scampering from point to point,
firing long-range chance shots at the officers or men distinguishable
through the edge of the dust-cloud, but venturing no closer. It was
Chrome's idea, as he frankly said, to keep moving southwestward until
Tintop's scouts should see the huge column of dust, and send forth to
meet and guide him with his prizes to the colonel's camp. Every
quarter-hour, therefore, was taking him farther and father away from his
corralled comrades down-stream, but he refused to see it. "Oh, they'll
come along all right, Sanders," he declared, as he saw how his
adjutant's eyes constantly gazed back beyond the dispersed line of
skirmishers, "and we'll have a regular jubilee when we meet your colonel
this evening. Some day, perhaps, you'll get a brevet for this."

"Damn the brevet!" groaned the youngster. "Give me a sight of 'C' and
'F' Troops safe and sound, and I'd rather have it than any brevet in
creation." Then a brilliant idea struck him. "By the way, major, suppose
they don't come along, what will you do for breakfast and dinner?
They've got the pack-train--unless the Indians have."

"By heavens, I never thought of the packs. They were way behind when we
struck the village," said the major, whipping out his watch. "It's 6.30
now. Sanders, I reckon you'll have to go back and see what's become of
them. Take six or eight men from the reserves here and try to rejoin us
by eight." And glad enough to slip out from the shadows of that
overhanging pall, Sanders went, half a dozen Arizona "jayhawkers" riding
silently with him.

And that was the last Major Chrome saw of his battalion adjutant, of the
"Eleventh" half of his battalion, and of all but one of the six
jayhawkers referred to, in many a long week. One of the latter made his
way back afoot in the course of half an hour, saying his horse was shot
under him in the valley, which was thick with Indians, and Chrome looked
yellow-white and a trifle undecided. But again the big herd of ponies
from some unseen cause was in rapid motion, loping away southwestward.
All the guards and flankers were on the run, and it was half an hour
before things quieted down again, and when eight o'clock came Canker
sent in word that there were dozens of Indians on the bluffs ahead where
the valley narrowed, and it would be well to halt and round up the herd
right there and wait for Cranston and Truman, and Chrome so ordered.
Presently the dust-cloud began to settle, and by and by, when it floated
slowly to earth again, half a dozen at a time, under cover of their
comrades' carbines, the troopers ventured to the stream to fill their
canteens and souse their grimy heads. There, peacefully grazing again,
were the Indian ponies by the hundreds and their dusty guardians by the
score; but, far as eye could see down the beautiful valley, not a sign
of Sanders, his party, his comrades of the Eleventh, or, worse than all,
of the pack-train, and Chrome and his people were getting hungry.

There were still with him the sergeant and trumpeter who had brought the
despatch from Colonel Winthrop, and to them again did Chrome appeal for
an estimate of the probable distance and direction of the colonel's
camp. With an officer and twenty troopers as an escort they rode to the
summit of the nearest bluff on the western shore, and with their
field-glasses studied the landscape for miles. Far to the southwest lay
the placid valley, unvexed now by sign of hostile force of any kind, and
the sergeant indicated, some fifteen miles away, the butte near which
they made their crossing of the stream the previous day. Far to the west
and northwest rolled a wild, tumbling sea of prairie upland, wave after
wave of gray-green earth, spanned at the horizon by the black,
pine-covered range of the Medicine Hills, pierced nearly due west from
them by the deep slit the sergeant said was Slaughter Cove. To the
northwest they could trace the general course of the Wakon valley,
though the stream itself was nowhere in view, even among the broader
levels toward its mouth, for everything down the Ska beyond a point
three miles away was hidden from their sight by the bold cliffs that
jutted out almost into the foaming waters. "Somewhere off there, fifteen
or twenty miles," said the sergeant, pointing towards Slaughter Cove,
"the colonel is probably marching." He had pursued the warriors into the
hills after their heavy fight, and wouldn't let up on them till he ran
them back to the agency, but the camp where he had left his wounded, his
wagons, and supplies and their guard couldn't be more than twenty miles
farther up the valley. Of the Indian village they had attacked at
sunrise nothing could be seen. Eastward and south westward the opposite
bluffs cut off the view, and such Indians as watched them did so from
the concealment of the ridges and ravines. Chrome's triumphant rejoicing
of the early day was rapidly giving place to uneasiness. In the absence
of rations even martial fame is an empty thing. It was a bitter pill to
have to go down and consult with Canker, but he did not know what else
to do. Noon found him, watched by the lurking Indians among the bluffs,
still guarding his captured herd and waiting for Sanders to come along
with the pack-train. But there was no dinner for Chrome's command that
day, and, by nightfall, even the ponies were gone.

Barely two hours after the triumphant appearance of Red Dog and his
reinforcements on the scene of the morning's fight, Truman and Cranston,
making the rounds together, came upon Davies among the rifle-pits on the
north front, instead of resting with the wounded under the banks. He was
still pallid and ill, but, having dressed and bandaged his wound and had
a refreshing dip in the stream, he had made his way out among the men.
He shook his head gravely in answer to Truman's suggestion that he ought
to be lying down. "We _are_ lying down all around here, sir," he said,
"and I can get more rest out here than under the banks."

But Truman did not know that, weak as he was, the Parson was dividing
his time between the wounded and the effectives, ministering to the one
and cautioning the other, for the latter could not always resist the
temptation to fire at such Indians as appeared in view within five or
six hundred yards, and ammunition might be scarce before the siege was
ended. Grimly, but without uneasiness, the command watched Red Dog's
scientific manoeuvres in his "surround," the mounted warriors being
gradually replaced, except on the open prairie, by the bereaved
villagers. "Oh, we can stand off double their force easily," was the
confident saying of the old hands. "We have food, water, ammunition, and
a smart chance for more fighting," so what more could soldier ask? There
was even jollity in the little command, despite the losses of the early
morning. There was keen and lively interest in Red Dog's movements when,
by nine o'clock, it was seen that he was calling most of the mounted
warriors around him and could be heard haranguing them at the farther
end of the village. None of the lodges had been taken down,--there were
no ponies to haul them away,--but those nearest the southern end were
now deserted of women and children and used only as shelter for a few
lurking braves. Presently on every side the Indian prowlers opened sharp
fire on the troops, a long-range and hap-hazard fusillade, for what with
logs and earth, sand, trees, and river-banks and little wooded isles,
the defence was well covered, only some of the horses being where they
could be plainly seen. The bullets came zipping overhead or spitting
vengefully into the sand, doing little harm, yet teaching the troopers
to lie low; and then in the midst of it all Red Dog rode magnificently
away from the north end of the village, across the open prairie, heading
for some point far up the valley of the Wakon, and sixty braves rode
valiantly at his back. He was a good half-mile away from the defence,
but the troopers let drive a few shots, "for old acquaintance' sake," as
one of them expressed it, but without disturbing the pomp and dignity of
the procession. It was soon out of sight, and then the encircling fire
slackened. "Now, what on earth are they up to?" was the question.

And in less than an hour after his disappearance there came new
excitement, and the men set up a cheer. Sharp firing was heard toward
the south. What could it mean but that their comrades of the --th were
fighting their way back to join them? Then four or five horsemen
appeared along the southward slopes, darting and dashing about as only
Indians ride, evidently firing at something between them and the Ska,
and Truman ordered a platoon to mount and drive away the Indians on that
front so as to open a road for the new-comers to enter. This was
accomplished with little loss, for the Indians broke from before the
spirited dash, but rallied, of course, far out on the flanks, and again
poured in their rapid fire from their repeating rifles, and then after a
while the troops could be seen slowly retiring, firing as they fell
back, some afoot now, and some leading and supporting in saddle others
who were evidently wounded, and finally, as these latter came within a
few hundred yards of the rifle-pits, the cry went up that it was
Lieutenant Sanders and some of the --th, and so it proved. Four more
wounded to care for, and Sanders, faint and heart-sick, among them.

"I tried to get old Chrome to drop that herd and come back to you," he
moaned, "but it was useless. He wouldn't have let me come--only to get
him something to eat. Damn this having to fight Indians under office
soldiers anyhow!" And with this pithy protest on his blue lips the
little bantam fainted away.

Then Chrome wasn't coming. Truman looked grave and Cranston angry. "No
matter. We can lick them endwise by staying just where we are," he said.
"Relief is bound to come to-night."

Later that afternoon, under the shadows of the willows, there gathered a
little group, perhaps a score of officers and men, all who could be
spared from their stations in the rifle-pits, listening to the solemn
tones of one of their number reading the service for the burial of the
dead. Never did Cranston take the field without Margaret's stowing in
the corner of his saddlebag a little prayer-book of her church, and this
the captain had handed silently to Davies. Side by side the forms of the
two sergeants and their comrade troopers were laid in the sandy pit.
Reverently the bearded, war-worn men uncovered and stood with drooping
heads while their grave young officer read the solemn words. Here and
there along the big circle of their surrounding foe the faint distant
crack of the rifle punctuated the sentences as they fell from soldier
lips, and every moment a bullet whistled overhead. Somewhere down the
valley, borne on the wings of the breeze, the wail of Indian women
mourning their braves slain in the earlier battle echoed and almost
overwhelmed the solitary voice that rose in soldier tribute to the
soldier dead. Then with one brief, fervent prayer, the solemnly murmured
"Amen," carving no line, raising no stone, but tamping deep and heavy
the earth upon their blanket-shrouded forms, without the trooper
volleys, with only the faint soft winding of the trooper's last earthly
trumpet-call singing "lights out" to sadly listening ears, the little
group dispersed, each man going to his post.

An hour later still and the bluffs were throwing long shadows across the
valley, and the crack of Indian rifles and occasional loud bark of the
carbine close at hand seemed growing more frequent, and watchers at the
outskirts became conscious of increasing excitement among the warriors
up the valley to the west as well as over to the south, and listening
men, laying their ears to earth, declared that there was tremor and
vibration, and dull distant thunder of myriad hoofs, and over in the
village there was hurrying to and fro and growing clamor of squaws and
children, and dusky women could be seen clutching their little ones and
speeding away towards the hills down-stream, while others began rapidly
tearing down the painted lodges of hide or cloth, and such Indians as
had no mount, but were skulking under the banks or among the bluffs
across the stream, could be seen leaping and crouching and racing back
toward the village, and presently there went up a shout from the
lookouts towards the upper Ska: "Big dust-cloud coming. Must be the pony
herd again!" And men began springing to their feet and scrambling out of
their shelters, and staring around them and waving their hats and
shouting congratulation and encouragement, and ducking suddenly as more
bullets came whistling in, and from a low rumble the sound rose to
distant thunder, and from that to nearer uproar, and Truman and Cranston
made a rush for their own herds, ordering the men to side line and
hopple instantly, for the surviving horses were excitedly sniffing the
air, pawing and snorting, and then there hove in sight up the valley the
wiry leaders of the herd, galloping wearily, behind them a dull,
dust-hidden, laboring mass, the main body of the Indian prizes swept
away at sunrise. But who and what were these darting along the flanks of
the coming host, lashing furiously in and out, ever guiding,
controlling, commanding even while hurrying on? No blue-shirted,
slouch-hatted, broad-belted troopers these! No cheering comrades of the
stalwart --th, but in their stead few, but far more skilful, the most
accomplished herdsmen in all creation,--Indians by the dozen. And then
at last, amid the yell and clamor and shot and shout and furious rush of
riderless steeds, came explanation of the mysterious foray up the Spirit
valley. Circling far to the west and south, riding like the wind when
once well out of sight of watching foes, the Ogallallas had swung around
between the Ska and Winthrop's distant column, threaded ravines and
depressions well known to them from boyish days, and finally creeping
behind the curtaining bluffs into full view of the great herd drowsily
nibbling in the broad, sunny valley, had burst with maddening yell and
waving blankets and banging rifles, with sudden fury from their covert,
tearing by the weary pickets, stampeding their horses, and so had gone
thundering down upon the startled herd and, skilfully encircling it from
the south, reckless of rallying cry and rapid shot from Canker's men,
had sent the whole pack, with many a cavalry charger too, whirling
before them in wild triumph down the echoing valley, back to the waiting
village whence they came. "Red Dog versus Chrome Yaller," wailed little
Sanders from his bed of leaves. "Who wouldn't have bet on the bay?"

Vain the major's valiant effort to mount and follow. Forty at least of
his horses were swept away in the rush, his own among them; vain
long-range shots and Canker's vivid blasphemy. Black in the face with
rage, he mounted such men as had managed to restrain their horses and
went charging after, leaving Chrome to the care of his fellows. Vain the
rapid and telling fire opened upon herd and herders by Truman's men as
they came within range. Down went two or three yelling, painted
warriors, down a dozen ponies here and there, but on went the leaders,
plunging breast-deep into the stream, and, followed by the whole mass,
forded the Wakon in a flood of foam and splash and spray, losing only a
trivial few in the glorious effort, and then, sweeping well around the
rifle-pits of the command, were welcomed with mad rejoicing and acclaim
in the heart of the thronging village.

Instantly now did they send forward their own skirmish line,--scores of
Indians crawling, snake-like, through the grass, and from all sides
pouring rapid fire in on Cranston's front to keep him and his fellows
from attempting to mount or attack, which, indeed, would have been a
hopeless effort. The timber rang with the fierce volleying, and in the
excitement and exposure that resulted four more of the little command
were shot, Truman himself receiving a painful wound in the side. For
half an hour there was yell and clamor and furious crash of firearms,
but all this time the lodges were rapidly disappearing, the Indian
households were piling their goods and chattels, their babies, the old
and the wounded and the helpless, even their dead, on travois and drag
of lodge-poles, and then, guided by old chiefs, whole families were
flitting away down the Ska, and finally, as darkness lowered on the
valley, and the last lodge was down and gone, and the last warriors drew
away from their front, and silence and peace settled down upon the
exhausted command, Cranston, laying his broad hand on Davies's shoulder,
looked into his tired eyes with a world of soldier trust and admiration
in his own, and said, "If there was such a thing with us as promoting a
man on the battlefield, my lad, this day's work would win it for you."

And before the other could answer, far up the valley of the Wakon hailed
a trumpet call. Over from the bluffs across the stream another answered,
and man after man sprang from his blanket to give a welcome cheer. "We
might have known those beggars would have been in no such hurry to get
away," said Truman, faintly, "but for old Tintop's coming with the whole


They were discussing matters a week later at old Fort Scott, where two
little companies of the Fortieth kept watch and ward over the women and
children of their many comrades in the field. Barely mid-June now, yet
how all plans and projects for the summer had been changed. Guarded by
Chrome's "infantry," as his unhorsed troopers were jocularly described,
most of the wounded were being carried by short stages into Pawnee
Station, where a field hospital had been established. Truman and Sanders
were with these, but Winthrop, assuming command of all the cavalry that
was available at the forks, had gone on in pursuit of Red Dog's renegade
band. With him were Cranston and Davies; with him, too, were Hay and
Hastings. Only one officer of the Eleventh remained at Scott, the
captain of "A" Troop, in arrest awaiting trial. It was a time of sore
anxiety to wives and children, to some two or three sweethearts who had
happened there, and they showed it plainly. It was a time of strange
suspense and trouble to Captain Devers, but he hid it well. Few men
could better have portrayed the chafing, indignant soldier, robbed of
the right to lead his men to battle, than did Devers when his comrades
took the field. Hastings as first lieutenant went in command of "A"
Troop, but Devers had importuned head-quarters with letters and
telegrams imploring to be permitted to accompany the column. He asked
for only temporary release from arrest. He courted--he _demanded_ the
fullest investigation of his every act. He longed to meet his
accusers--his defamers, rather, and overthrow them before a jury of his
peers, but, as the court could not proceed now until the campaign was
over, why hold him chafing here? It was all capital, it was even
touching, but it "did not work." The general himself was far away in the
distant Big Horn; his adjutant-general could not act, and the
lieutenant-general in Chicago would not. Then, as Devers had been in
close arrest much over seven days, he demanded "extended limits," which
were readily accorded him. When "A" Troop marched away its captain's
only solace had been a long, closeted conference with Sergeant Haney,
who, as a consequence, had to gallop many a mile to overtake the troop.

The news of Red Dog's escape and the bolt of the Ogallallas from
McPhail's bailiwick created consternation at Scott. With the cavalry and
all but one company of White's battalion gone from the agency there was
ample opportunity, but it had not been foreseen. Then, three days later,
by way of Pawnee, came the details of the fierce fighting on the Ska,
of Truman's wound and Sanders's, of Chrome's catastrophe, the only humor
in the situation being the contemplation of how Captain Canker must have
sworn. Then came hurried letters, pencilled in the field, and Leonard
himself took hers to Mrs. Cranston, and then went in search of Mrs.
Davies, whom he found at Darling's quarters, though Darling was not
there. The ladies were at luncheon, and the adjutant contented himself
with sending Mira's missive in. There was a letter for Captain Devers in
the well-known hand of Sergeant Haney. This was sent him by the orderly.
There were others for others, which were duly delivered and brought at
least momentary joy, but Mrs. Cranston's eyes were dancing with delight
when Leonard met her half an hour later.

"I'm going to Mrs. Davies," she said. "I want to read her what the
captain says of her husband's conduct all through that fight of Monday
afternoon. He says he never saw anything calmer or braver in his life."

"Yes, I remember our chaplain's indulging in some prognostication to
that end," said Leonard, gravely; "but, Mrs. Cranston, did you want to
see Mrs. Davies?"

"Why, yes, assuredly."

"Well, she isn't home,--I think you'll find her at Mrs. Darling's."

But Mrs. Cranston's humor changed. She decided to wait and see her
later. She did not care to go to Mrs. Darling's; neither, as it
transpired, did she care to return home, at least not yet awhile. There
were people capable of believing of Mrs. Cranston that she had no
especial interest in Mrs. Davies, personally, and no genuine desire to
communicate to her the tidings which Mrs. Davies, perhaps, could hardly
appreciate. Mira had not once set foot within Mrs. Cranston's door since
their return from the cantonment, and there had been next to no
intercourse between them, and yet on this almost joyous afternoon
Margaret had eagerly seized upon this pretext of leaving Agatha Loomis
alone with Mr. Langston, who had returned that very day from some
investigation at Kearney and Cheyenne, and, after half an hour with Mr.
Leonard, had hastened to her door. He was still in the parlor when the
lady of the house came smilingly in an hour later,--she had been
visiting Mrs. Leonard the while,--but there was constraint in the air.
The boys were out with their ponies. There was no one to entertain him
during her absence but Miss Loomis, and Miss Loomis apparently must have
failed, for Langston's face had grown ten years older, and the moment
Mrs. Cranston left the room, on household cares intent, he must have
taken his leave, for when she returned from an inspection of the larder
in order to see if it would justify an invitation to stay and dine, the
parlor was empty. Langston had gone back to Braska, Miss Loomis to her
room. I regret to have to record it of Mrs. Cranston, but during the
following week she made more than one effort to induce her friend and
kinswoman to say what had happened to put so summary a stop to Mr.
Langston's visits, and that she wrote some peppery things to her
husband, the captain, in summing up her conclusions; she also looked
some, and I fear said some, to Miss Loomis herself, for one day, going
suddenly into Agatha's room, she surprised that young lady in the act of
packing her trunk. There ensued a scene which neither cared in
after-years to say much about. There were tears and reproaches on one
side, if not both, but Agatha's determination could not be changed. She
had made up her mind to leave Fort Scott, return to Chicago, and go she
did,--but not without Mrs. Cranston.

In less than ten days there came a long letter from the captain. He and
his troop were destined, he said, to long months of scouting in the
distant Northwest. The general had told him as much. They might again
have to go to the Yellowstone, and it would be November before he could
hope to see the inside of a garrison. "So," said he, "stow away the
goods and chattels, leave them with the quartermaster, pack your trunk,
and take the boys and Agatha for another visit to the old folks at
home,--who are most eager to welcome you." When the Fourth of July came,
the Cranston boys, in the added glory of all their experiences at the
cantonment, were once more the envied centre of youthful attention at

"We will have no more fighting this summer," said he, "for the Indians
have scattered," and "C" Troop did not; but there was abundant
opportunity for usefulness and distinction for "the prodigy," as
Cranston now generally referred in his home letters to Corporal Brannan,
whose devoted mother was almost the first to visit Margaret on her
arrival and overwhelm her with proffers of hospitality and with
questions about her boy. "C" Troop was detailed as escort to the
commanding general in a long tour he made to the Yellowstone Park, and
the prodigy's letters to that fond mother became more and more a cause
for rejoicing. Already had she learned to thrill with pride over the
accounts of his bravery and good conduct in the affairs at the agency
and the fighting on the Ska, but that, said she, was only as she knew he
would behave. From babyhood her boy had been conspicuous among his
fellows for absolute fearlessness and desperate courage, and her memory
was charged with a wealth of corroborative detail which that of his
fellows seemed to have lost. Those who were confidently appealed to were
polite and sympathetic, as became them when responding to a social
magnate of such prominence and influence, but they looked far from
confident and said satirical things when once away from her presence;
but then, no one knows how a boy is going to turn out. A few weeks and
the general himself would be home, and then, fresh from the
contemplation of the soldierly prowess and graces of her son, what could
he do less than have him commissioned a colonel or something and ordered
in on the staff, and then what store of fatted calves would not be
slaughtered in honor of this her son who was lost and was found, and who
had returned to her bringing his sheaves with him? If mother-dreams
could but come true all men would live and die immaculate, ennobled,
magnificently brave, steadfast, and commanding. And far away among the
fastnesses of the Yellowstone, living in close communion with nature, in
a glorious round of days, full of high health, courage, and hope, with
ambition fired, purpose strengthened, with freedom from care or
temptation, small wonder was it if Corporal Brannan's letters warranted
all her expectations. But those were the halcyon days of cavalry life,
not the typical. Our truest heroes are those who bear with equanimity
the heat and burden of the long, monotonous round of garrison life with
its petty tyrannies, exactions, exasperations, and bear them without a
break or murmur. It is a poor, poor soldier who cannot wax enthusiastic
on a full stomach--and a good horse--when serving in the field.

But while "C" Troop was doing escort duty, and its captain's wife and
little ones were safe at home, "A" Troop, long handicapped by the
frailties of its commander and notorious for bad drill, was now striving
to win a new name under the lead of Bachelor Hastings and its grim
Benedick second lieutenant, whose fair young bride could hardly be said
to be safe at Scott, restored to the sympathetic circle of which
Mesdames Stone, Flight, and Darling were the guiding stars. Old Pegleg
seldom left his piazza now except to go to bed or dinner, and did not
much care what was said or done around him so long as he was left in
peace. The post surgeon had bolstered him up again, after a few days in
bed, so that he could sign papers, and while he retained the nominal
command of the garrison, Leonard was its virtual and actual head, for
when July came only one detachment of the Fortieth remained with the
band as guard.

But that band was a host in itself, and why should women weep and mope
and mourn--with music and the dance so easily accessible? Mrs. Leonard's
letters to Mrs. Cranston became vividly interesting just about this
time. The hops were resumed, as well as the drives with friends in town.
Mr. Langston came no longer, but the bank and the Cattle Club poured
forth their homage. Messrs. Burtis, Courtenay, and Fowler were out twice
a week at least. Then Mr. Willett's beautiful team reappeared, and
presently Mr. Willett himself, and he had brought still another step
from the distant sea-shore. It is only the first step that counts, and
Mira had taken that. Mrs. Leonard thought she was learning another. She
danced as beautifully, dressed as divinely, smiled as bewitchingly, and
talked as inanely as ever. Mr. Leonard disapproved of Mr. Willett, but
that could not keep him off the post. When mid-July came Willett was
there almost every day. Twice he remained overnight, sleeping at the
sutler's. The chaplain had been to talk with Mr. Leonard, and had tried
to talk with Mira, but she fled from him in tears. What he said to her
was dreadful!--dreadful! and she should tell Mr. Davies about it just as
soon as he returned. "I," said the chaplain, gravely, "shall not wait
till then. I shall have to write and tell him now."

Meantime Captain Devers occupied his quarters in gloomy state and twice
each day patrolled the garrison limits with the air of an injured man.
At other times he was writing long letters and reading those which came
to him by every mail, but none came now from the faithful henchman
Haney, far away on the Indian trail with Tintop's pursuing column. Red
Dog was known to be with a remnant of his band somewhere in the wild Bad
Lands to the north of the Ska, and the last heard from the colonel was
that he, with six troops of the Eleventh, was scouring the southern
limit of those dismal features of our frontier landscape, looking for
Red Dog not far to the north of Antelope Springs. Devers had been
truculent in his demand for speedy trial up to the third week in
July,--up to the twentieth of the month in fact,--but that day brought
telegraphic sensation. Tintop had found and struck Red Dog's camp at
dawn on the sixteenth, guided thither by Thunder Hawk himself, had
struck hard and heavily, scattering not only Red Dog's people to the
hills but destroying their village and burning another that from its
foul condition seemed to have been standing there all winter. Red Dog
himself was killed, fighting like a tiger, and "A" Troop under Hastings
and Davies had won the distinction of heading the charge, doing most of
the work, and losing more in killed and wounded than the others
combined. Hastings was shot through the arm and crippled. Corporal Boyd,
one of Devers's pets, was killed, so were two troopers, and Sergeant
Haney had received what was reported to be a mortal wound. Leaving a
small guard with his invalids and invoking aid from Major White's
infantry battalion, now garrisoning the stockade where the new post was
to be built, Tintop had gone on into the hills to continue the work of
breaking up the bands, Davies commanding "A" Troop, and not until the
thirtieth was he heard from again.

But meantime Lieutenant Archer, of the general's staff, who had
accompanied the cavalry column, was staying with the wounded, and had
removed them from the smoking, malodorous neighborhood of the ruined
villages, and could be found, he wrote, with his charges at Antelope
Springs. This was news at which Leonard's eyes flashed. It was tidings
at which Devers turned very pale. The latter begged for authority to go
at his own expense and at once, and without a guard, though it involved
five days of buckboard driving or saddle work from Pawnee Station, to
join his wounded men. "Debarred," said he, "from the right to battle
with my men, I pray that I may at least be permitted to minister to
their needs,--they who have so gloriously maintained the honor and
credit of their troop." But the adjutant-general at department
head-quarters smiled sarcastically and said that this, with others of
Devers's letters and telegrams, deserved to be framed. August came, and
Devers again clamored to be brought to trial or relieved from arrest,
and two evenings later, as he sat in gloomy state upon his piazza, he
was amazed to see the adjutant turn grimly into the gate and calmly
stand attention before him.

"Captain Devers," said he, "I am directed by the post commander to read
to you this despatch:


     "'Notify Captain Devers that his letters have been received,
     and that the court for his trial will convene not later than
     the fifteenth instant.

    "'By command of General ----.'"

And when it is remembered that he had persistently demanded prompt trial
it is surprising that the accused officer looked completely
disconcerted. The fact of the matter was Captain Devers had no idea that
the members and witnesses could be brought together again before
mid-September, if then. That night he sat up writing until very late,
and sent two messages away by wire. He was sorely troubled now, but
could he have seen the group gathered solemnly about the dying sergeant
far away at Antelope Springs, and heard his faint, whispered words as
Archer took them down, Devers would have stood aghast.

A charming little informal dance was going on at the fort one August
evening about a week later. The Leonards would not attend them now, but
with five such belles as Mesdames Stone, Darling, Davies, Flight, and
Plodder, to say nothing of other lesser lights of the garrison galaxy,
there was no lack of womanly beauty, only the cavaliers were short. One
officer, an infantry subaltern, represented the martial element, the
other men were civilians. Courtenay had brought out two Eastern friends;
Burtis was on hand as usual, and Willett, metaphorically, at least, at
Mira's feet. The poor girl actually lacked the sense to see that his
infatuation was such that he had no eyes, ears, or senses left for any
one else. Possibly she gloried in his devotion. At all events he danced
with her again and again and watched her jealously when she danced with
others. At last towards eleven o'clock Leonard suddenly appeared at the
door of the dancing-room, holding an open letter in his hand, and
beckoned to his comrade. "I'll have to trouble you to come with me to
the quartermaster's storehouse," said he. "There is a chest there that
must be opened to-night." And though the lieutenant was surprised, he,
in common with everybody else in the Fortieth, had learned that Leonard
rarely opened his mouth except to speak by authority, and so went with
barely a word to the ladies left behind, nor did he return in ten
minutes, as he said he would. The old non-commissioned officer left in
charge of the "A" company stores was awaiting their coming with the
quartermaster sergeant. He looked troubled and perplexed when Leonard
handed him the key and bade him unlock and open Sergeant Haney's chest.
"I ought to have the orders of the company commander, sir," he began. "I
mean Captain Devers."

"Captain Devers is not the commanding officer," said Leonard, quietly.
"Here is the written order of the owner, Sergeant Haney, and the
instructions of Lieutenant Hastings. The actual commanding officer of
the company is with it in the field." So no more was said.

Down in the depths of the chest, among a roll of clothing, carefully
covered, but just as described in Hastings's letter, was found a leather
writing-case. "Lock the chest again," said Leonard, as this was handed
to him. "That is all we mean to disturb." And then he took the case to
the office, while the old trooper went to tell his captain what had
happened. Morning brought, as was to be expected, a letter from Devers
protesting against this new indignity. No property of his officers or
men should have been opened save in his presence, as he was but
temporarily suspended from his functions, and as to him the men would
look for the security of their effects. Lying in wait for Leonard as he
returned from the office, Devers demanded to be told what had been taken
from the sergeant's chest, and then went white as chalk when Leonard
calmly answered, "Certain stolen property, sir, including a map and
some written memoranda which will be required before the court-martial
that meets next week."

But this was not all that was found in Brannan's case, the lock of which
had long since been forced. There was a valuable gold watch presented to
Chaplain Davies by the officers and men of his brigade at the close of
the war. There were letters which Leonard barely glanced at,--some
silly, sentimental trash addressed to some one's darling Bertie by his
devoted Mira. All this, opened in presence of a regimental comrade and
certified to by him, was replaced, carefully sealed, and then the case
was locked in the commissary safe. "That goes with me to Omaha Monday
next," said Leonard to the much-mystified officer, "and you may be
needed to corroborate my testimony. Keep all this to yourself."

And, despite a vigorous cross-questioning, the youngster managed to hold
his own against even Captain Devers, whose suspicions, however, were now
fully aroused, and who obtained permission from Colonel Stone to visit
the telegraph-office at Braska, and there wired to a legal friend in
Omaha and to certain addresses in Washington, and on Friday came
telegraphic instructions permitting Captain Devers, for the purpose of
consulting with his counsel, to repair to Omaha at once, and he took the
midnight train. On Monday, as required, Leonard left, taking his prizes
with him, and on Wednesday the court met, with all but two members
present. Colonel Atherton inquired of the judge-advocate if he were
ready to proceed to business, and that officer replied that he was, but
that certain witnesses were still to arrive and the accused did not
seem to be in the building. A messenger to the hotel brought back word
that the captain breakfasted there that morning, had paid his bill and
gone out, his baggage being taken away by an expressman. This strange
news fluttered about from room to room at the headquarters building. The
members of the court fidgeted in their full-dress uniforms and smoked
and chatted and strolled about, calling on old acquaintances, and the
adjutant-general sent orderlies to and fro with inquiries.

And then came the sensation of the year among military circles in the
old frontier department. The grave, dignified, soldierly chief of staff
appeared at the court-room door with a telegraphic despatch in his
twitching fingers. "Gentlemen," said he, "your services in this case
will not be needed. The accused is beyond our jurisdiction."

There was a moment of intense silence, a look as of awe on many a face,
then came the question from one who knew not Devers:

"Killed himself?"

"No! Worse than that,--resigned under fire, and got it accepted."

Later that day there were shown to certain officers some scraps and
letters that had been left in the wastebasket in Devers's room; among
them was a telegraphic despatch from Butte, Sunday, repeated from Scott
on Monday, apparently after Leonard left. It was to this effect:

     "Haney split. Secure box. McGrath found. Send hundred at

And while detectives hastened Butteward in quest of its signer, Howard,
only malediction followed its recipient, now speeding eastward fast as
steam could carry him.

"By heaven!" said Leonard, in strange, unnatural excitement, "the
Eleventh have said all along that Devers could never be cornered, and I
believe they're right."

But on the following morning the adjutant's black eyes glowed with even
greater wrath and amaze. They had gone to the station,--several of the
officers,--to meet the in-coming train on which certain of the witnesses
were expected, and there another despatch was handed, this time to
Leonard himself. He tore it open, read it, and then, handing it without
a word to Truman, turned bitterly away.

And Truman, wondering, read, looked dazed an instant, then--understood.

     "Gone--with Willett--last night."


All manner of men were gathered at the station of the Union Pacific in
Omaha that August morning. Some of the members of the court, thus
unexpectedly absolved from a disagreeable duty, had obtained brief leave
of absence and were going to spend a few days in the East before
returning to their commands. They were there to take the train. Others
had come to see them off; others, like Truman and Leonard, to welcome
the coming witnesses. Far up into the fastnesses of the Big Horn had
gone the couriers from the frontier forts, bearing brief orders that had
come by telegraph, and even Winthrop's command, having an almost idyllic
time of it hunting and fishing in the mountains, was required to yield
up some of its officers and men at the beck of the law. A long ride had
these fellows to Fetterman and thence over the Medicine Bow to Rock
Springs. Davies was of this party, but Cranston and Corporal Brannan had
a ride still longer. The bulk of the army of witnesses, oddly enough,
was marshalled by Lieutenant Archer at the field hospital at Pawnee, and
this distinguished young staff officer was coming "with blood in his
eye," as wrathful a man as lived and swore in army blue that long,
eventful summer. To think that he who so prided himself on plainscraft
should have been so utterly hoodwinked by Captain Differs, of all men,
was worse to him than gall and wormwood, but he came now fairly snapping
with righteous indignation, fresh from another study of the famous field
over which he rode with the last man to part with Lieutenant Davies the
night of the tragedy of Antelope Springs,--Devers's long-missing
sergeant, McGrath.

Separated from his young officer in the gathering darkness by the
eagerly searching Indians, detected by them and shot through the leg, he
had taken refuge in a ravine until dawn, and then the cries of the
coyotes had attracted him to the scene of the massacre, and the sight of
his mutilated comrades had unmanned him utterly. Feeling sure the
Indians were still in the neighborhood, he had determined that if seen
he would adopt the plan told him by an old scout long months
before,--that of feigning insanity and boldly seeking their company.
Indians regard the insane as specially guarded by the Great Spirit and
look upon them with superstitious fear, but McGrath little dreamed how
narrow would become the border between the real and the feigned. Fleeing
in dismay from the sight of his slaughtered comrades, he had followed
the ravine to the timbered valley, lurked there two days and nights in
constant fear and nervous dread and suffering, and finally swooned from
exhaustion. When he waked with sudden, awful start, two Indian faces
were bending over him. Then he had fallen into the hands of the foe at

But he was in better luck than he had dared to dream. They were of a
peaceful band, wanderers from the fold of Red Cloud who had sought the
lower valley for peace and protection. They had a hunting lodge and led
him thither, and their squaws gave him food and ministered to him as
best they knew how in the mad fever that followed. McGrath never
realized how long he was ill, but when he came to himself it was bitter
cold and he was living somehow among these strange people,--a small
village of them in the heart of the Bad Lands. Not for months did he
recover strength. Not until May did he try to ride or walk beyond the
limits of their camp. They were poor; they had no spare ponies, and they
made him understand he was many, many "sleeps" from his friends with
hordes of marauding hostiles intervening, and so induced him to remain
with them in hiding until the rebellious tribes were driven from the
reservations and Red Dog himself fled to their fastness. Then again had
McGrath to remain in hiding, secreted by his humble friends, and there
he lay when Winthrop's bugles sounded the charge and his own old troop
came dashing in. He was so worn, ragged, and changed that he had
difficulty in making even "A" Troop know him, but, once they did, their
joy was boundless, for McGrath was a popular man, and the meeting
between him and Davies was something long to be remembered, for each
believed the other dead. Then, as the wounded were led back to the Ska
and he recovered strength and was happy in seeing his Indian protectors
lavishly fed, clothed, and rewarded, he began to talk of the events of
the campaign of the previous summer and to inquire why the captain was
away now; and then Hastings and Archer took him in hand, and later poor
stricken Haney, conscious of the approaching end, begged to see him, and
then came Haney's broken confession. No wonder Hastings and Archer were
confident they had Differs "done for" now.

These, the wounded and convalescent, were still at Pawnee hospital
awaiting telegraphic summons from the judge-advocate, but Archer was
already on the ground, and Cranston and Davies and others, reunited,
presumably, the previous morning at Rock Springs Station, were due at
Omaha by this very train for which all hands were waiting. So was
another principal witness, who, however, might decline to testify
because of the danger of self-incrimination. The detectives sent to
Butte the previous day went too late. Langston's trailers were ahead of
them, and deserter Howard, in irons, was being forwarded under charge
of a corporal of infantry from Ransom, arrested two days before in a
restaurant at Butte.

"Verily," said Truman, "there is quite a batch of interesting evidence
trundling over the Union Pacific to-day," and this was before he had
read that significant despatch from Scott.

But when he read and had pondered over it a moment, the captain suddenly
left the company of his fellows and strode away after Leonard, now
gloomily pacing the platform a dozen yards away.

"Man alive!" said he, "if they left last night what could they do but
take this train?"

Leonard nodded, darkly. Then again, after a moment's silence, Truman

"Could he have been so mad, do you think, as not to have thought of
that,--of some one being on that train?"

"No one at the fort knew. How was he to suspect when up to yesterday we
all supposed Davies would come down the Yellowstone."

Truman shuddered. "She ought to be in now," said he. "Just think of the
tragedy there may have been."

The train was late,--half an hour late, said the official at the
train-despatcher's office. No, there hadn't been any accident or
excitement up the road that he'd heard of. He really didn't know what
caused it. Did she reach and leave Braska on time? Yes, the delay
occurred this morning somewhere,--began after leaving Kearney.

Then there had been no excitement, no tragedy farther up the road. There
was comfort in that, said Truman. But there had been a sensation at old
Fort Scott, such as these counsellors little dreamed of.

For a brief time after their return from the cantonment Mrs. Davies and
her new friend, Mrs. Plodder, had kept house together. In those days
when so many of our officers were almost constantly in the field, it
became quite the thing for some of the ladies left at the garrisons to
club together, share expenses, and thereby economize. Old No. 12 was
still at Mira's service, but she couldn't bear the house, she said, and
so the ladies moved their furniture into an abandoned bachelor den next
to Flight's, and for a few days all went merrily. Then there came a
servants' squabble, and their cook differed with Mrs. Flight's
maid-of-all-work, and, refusing arbitration, was impudent to her
employers. Mrs. Plodder was an Amazon in whom there was no weakness. She
discharged the cook and sent her back to Braska. Then they "messed" with
Mrs. Flight, and about this time the hops began and the visits from town
and the drives, and Mrs. Plodder presently conceived it to be her duty
to remonstrate with Mira, who wept and stormed, and after a time, as
Willett's visits began to grow frequent, Mrs. Plodder said she would not
remain under the same roof with Mira, and moved over and kept house with
Mrs. Darling. The Cranston household had gone East some time before
this, and, as Mira could not bear the chaplain's worthy wife, and Mrs.
Stone had become estranged, and Mrs. Darling, with Mrs. Plodder, had
decided that she was openly encouraging Mr. Willett's devotions and told
her so, and as Mrs. Leonard held aloof from them, one and all, it must
be admitted that the poor brainless child was restricted in her choice
of friends and intimates. Davies had had but brief time in which to give
her instructions, and there is no use in setting forth their purport. He
asked Mrs. Cranston, if a possible thing, to give his wife the benefit
of her experience and aid her in any way Mira might need, and Margaret
warmly assured him that she was ready at any time and glad to be of any
and every service to Mrs. Davies, but even in so saying she felt well
assured that there was little hope of being of use. What made the matter
worse was that this summer Congress adjourned without making provision
for the pay of the army, even while expecting it to perform rather more
than its customary functions; but here Cranston stepped in and insisted
on placing at Mrs. Davies's disposal a certain sum in Courtenay's bank
at Braska. Davies could return it when Uncle Sam resumed payment, and so
Mira had been provided with a check-book and taught its use. She was, at
least, to have no financial anxieties. The regiment had to remain long
in the field and the Cranstons went home, as Davies expected and had
advised that Mira go with them to Chicago. Even if her people could not
make her welcome at Urbana, she could board there with former friends in
perfect comfort, and be ready to rejoin him by and by. Many and many an
army wife and mother had similarly to live a Bedouin life that summer.
One cavalry regiment, the --th, for instance, was scattered from
Cheyenne to Chicago, facing riotous mobs one month and chasing Indians
all over the upper Yellowstone the next. One thing Davies firmly yet
gently strove to impress upon Mira,--that her intimates at Scott were
not at all the women with whom a poor and debt-burdened officer's wife
should foregather. He begged her to be guided by Mrs. Cranston and Mrs.
Leonard, and wrote a brief line to the chaplain, commending Mira to his
care, and then he had to go.

But once back at Scott, where she could sport the lovely toilets with
which her hopeful aunt had supplied her, Mira went the way of the
empty-headed. Admiration, adulation were to her as the breath of life.
So long as she was perfectly innocent of wrong intent how could
people--how dare people rebuke her? She told Willett the horrid things
Mrs. Darling, Mrs. Plodder, and Mrs. Stone were reported to have said,
and he replied that it was all because they envied her her beauty and
were jealous of the attentions she won. She almost told him what the
chaplain said, but that sent the burning blushes to her forehead, yet
she dreaded what the old soldier of the cross might have written to her
husband. She knew he would surely condemn the renewal of her association
with Mr. Willett, but so long as he wasn't there to say so, and so long
as she intended the association to be purely platonic, as a rebuke to
all who had rebuked her, she proposed to assume that no objection

The news that he had been sent for and was coming in as a witness in
Captain Devers's court startled her inexpressibly, despite her conscious
rectitude. She told Willett that very evening, as they were driving
slowly among the willow-wooded islands, and he looked imploringly into
her eyes, and Mrs. Flight and Mr. Burtis on the back seat could see that
he was talking eagerly, earnestly, pleadingly, and that her eyes were
downcast, her cheeks aflame, and still they did not take alarm. "She's
too much in love with herself and her own good looks ever to do that
foolish thing," said Mrs. Flight to those who asked her why she didn't
warn her. Willett himself, so Burtis afterwards declared, had said in
answer to some friendly words of remonstrance on the Sunday night
preceding the meeting of the court, that the girl was as heartless and
cold as a stone. No one need worry on her account. It was plain to
Burtis that the young fellow was well-nigh insane about her, and he had
sent a letter ten days before to Langston urging him to come and look
after his kinsman; but Langston was far away at the time and never knew
that Willett had quit the sea-shore and gone back to the charmer in
mid-continent,--never knew, indeed no one ever knew until too late, that
it was she herself who baited the line that drew him there.

There was a gathering at the post on Tuesday evening and all the few
society men were out from Braska. The ladies, in their summer toilets,
sat on the verandas and told one another and their visitors from town
how dreadful it was to be so long bereft of their husbands and
protectors, and Mrs. Flight and Mrs. Darling said they wished with all
their hearts the court had called some witnesses from the infantry.
Surely they knew as much about the matter as some of the cavalry who had
been summoned. There was Mrs. Davies who could expect her husband within
the week, while it might be months before they set eyes on theirs. They
seemed to take comfort in harping on this theme for Willett's benefit,
He sat near Mira's side, as she reclined languidly in her wicker chair,
his eyes glowing, his hands and lips twitching at times, listening and
occasionally addressing low-toned, eager words to her. "Mr. Davies will
have finished his testimony by Thursday at the latest," said Mrs.
Flight, decisively; "I heard Mrs. Leonard say so to the chaplain
to-day," and here she glanced meaningly at Mira; "so what's to prevent
his being here early Friday morning? I know I'd let no grass grow under
my feet."

And Mira could only say she surely hoped so, but she couldn't tell. The
last letter from him was away up near the mouth of Powder River
somewhere, and he thought then they mightn't be home before November;
but she was plainly unwilling to discuss the matter, and with evident
relief took Willett's arm when the musicians presently were heard tuning
up at the hop-room.

But it was noticed then how flushed and excited she looked, how quickly
she seemed to tire of the dance and went out on the veranda for cooler
air, and presently they were missed and were gone from the room the rest
of the evening, so that the hop broke up early, and the anxious women
hurrying homeward were incensed to find her in a dark, vine-covered
corner of the veranda of the quarters, Willett in close attendance. "I
didn't feel like dancing," was her sole explanation. "I begged Mr.
Willett to go back to you, but he wouldn't." And Burtis, later, had to
shout angrily for him before he could get him into the wagon and off for

She slept that night in the room adjoining Mrs. Flight's, and slept but
little, said that lady later. She seemed ablaze with nervous excitement
and utterly unlike her usual self,--placid and satisfied except when
subjected to reproof. She had gone thither right after the departure of
the men and shut her would-be mentor out. Mrs. Flight afterwards
declared she saw the coming catastrophe and was determined to avert it
if a possible thing, but Mira said she had a dreadful headache and
wouldn't talk. Mrs. Flight, considering that she had a duty to perform,
began, however, from outside. The result was a quarrel and Mira's
announcement from behind the door that she would not speak to Mrs.
Flight again. When Wednesday came she refused to leave her room. It had
been arranged that three of the ladies were to drive to town with the
sole cavalier left at the post, a lieutenant of the Fortieth, and Mira
was one of them, but they supposed she had abandoned the plan. To the
surprise of everybody she appeared, satchel in hand, arrayed in sober
travelling garb, and asked the driver of the ambulance to help their
servant bring out her trunk, and took her seat in the Concord while it
was being tossed into the boot. It was Mrs. Darling who ventured to ask
what it meant, and Mira calmly explained. She had determined to go and
meet her husband in Omaha. They were amazed, yet what could they do or
say? It was after luncheon-time and she merely urged that they should
drive rapidly so as to get her to the bank before it closed, and then
she left them, saying she would remain at the hotel at the station until
her train arrived. It was due soon after midnight.

Before returning to the post the others, Mrs. Darling and Mrs. Plodder,
called upon Mira at the hotel, for they were oppressed with strange
fears. They strove to remonstrate with her, pointed out that Mr. Davies
would be with her in three days. Mira said it might not be for a week.
Well, wasn't it unusual for a lady to be going alone? Not at all. She
would sleep all the evening in her room, and the landlord would place
her in charge of the conductor. Surely Mrs. Plodder had come from Omaha
alone. That was different, said Mrs. Plodder, in rueful recognition of
the fact that a plain woman is exempted from annoyances which a beauty
has to suffer, yet would suffer indefinitely rather than be plain. "But,
_dear_ Mrs. Davies, is it not very expensive?" said Mrs. Darling. "Not
when I have passes all the way to Chicago," said Mira. So they had to
return to the fort at dusk, though Mrs. Plodder did suggest staying all
night and seeing her off. They had not set eyes on Willett. They both
entertained, though neither expressed, a hope that he was not to be of
the party. They asked for Willett casually when they met Mr. Burtis.
Burtis said with perfect truth that he was out at the ranch, that he had
hoped to be here to meet the ladies, but was called out by urgent

It was dark, and they were tired, hungry, and worried when they got back
to the post, and the lieutenant on escort found the ladies strangely
preoccupied and silent. The first thing on reaching home was to go in
search of the chaplain. As a devoted friend of Mr. Davies he should be
informed of this odd freak of Mira's, and, if there were any grounds for
their fears, there was still time to avert what would bring such awful
scandal about their social circle. They assumed that they were coming
back with sensational news, forgetful of the fact that garrison servants
helped pack Mira's trunk, and garrison eyes had seen it start with her
for town. The chaplain's wife knew all about it before two o'clock, and
the chaplain would have known it, too, had he not been long miles away
at the death-bed of an old soldier turned cow-boy. Not until after the
east-bound train was whistling far down the valley and the dawn was in
the sky did an inkling reach him. Somebody said he thought the least Mr.
Willett could have done was to come over and see how his best "puncher"
was getting on, and somebody else replied, in low tone, that any one
could see Willett had no thoughts for anything or anybody outside of
Fort Scott, whereupon somebody Number 1 replied that Willett had been at
his "shack" most of the afternoon, packing some things and burning
others, and had taken the midnight train at Duncan Switch, ten miles
west of Braska.

And even while the news of his going was bringing strange comfort to the
good old man, who rejoiced that this wolf in the sheepfold was even
temporarily out of the way, there came a messenger from the distant post
and a packet was handed in for him. Some letters and a note from his

"Expecting you home during the evening, I did not send these, but they
may be important. Mrs. Davies suddenly made up her mind to go to Omaha
this afternoon, and was to take the night train at Braska." Here the
other letters dropped to the floor, and the reader's eyes filled with
sudden consternation and dismay. Not until his ambulance had been
hitched and brought to the door did he cease his restless pacing to and
fro. Kneeling a brief moment at the bedside of the unconscious and
fast-failing sufferer, he bade his fellows hurried adieu and drove with
speed to town, a long eight miles. It was then broad daylight, but he
stirred up the sleepy telegraph operator and asked about wiring after
the train. "Grand Island's the place to catch 'em," said the operator.
"They breakfast there at seven." And the chaplain flushed and glanced
keenly at the man. Why should he speak of catching anybody or anything?
Was all the valley already aware of this shameful flight? The hotel
stood not a stone's throw away. There must be no unnecessary scandal
about this business. He needed to see the proprietor, and roused him,
too. Boniface came down anything but smiling, yet thawed a trifle at
sight of the man whom all Nebraska seemed to know and swear by.
Certainly, Mrs. Davies spent the evening at the hotel in her room, and
he put her aboard the sleeper at 12.20, the moment the train came in. He
had wired to Pawnee and secured her section and checked her trunk to
Omaha. She had her tickets, she said. Was Mr. Davies aboard or--anybody
else to meet her? Not that the landlord knew of. The porter showed her
in and said her section was ready. Everybody else was sound asleep,
apparently, but there were some soldiers in the forward cars. Some of
them got out and had a cup of coffee at the stand, and "piled aboard as
she pulled out." They had a prisoner, a deserter, in manacles. Then the
chaplain wired to Duncan Switch, and the answer came that Mr. Willett
left there, bound for Omaha, at midnight, and then he wired the
conductor of the train at Grand Island, and later to Leonard at Omaha,
then sat him down to wait and watch and pray.

The sleeping-car, said the conductor afterwards, was fuller than usual
that night. Some officers got aboard at Rock Springs, and sat up quite
late, chatting with others who had boarded them at Butte and Pawnee.
There were five officers in all. One of them, who had not taken a berth,
went forward about ten o'clock and made a "roost" in the day car. The
conductor heard the others talking about it, and how the lieutenant
would never spend an unnecessary cent, and some of them thought he was
foolish, and others said he was right, and they respected him for it.
These gentlemen slept late, saying they would rather breakfast after
they got to Omaha. The lady who came aboard at Braska was the first one
up in the morning. She was astir with the sun, and came back from the
dressing-room as soon as the porter had made up her section, looking as
fresh and fair as the day. Presently a gentleman joined her,--a man he
had often seen on the road,--who travelled, as most cattlemen did in
those days, with a pass, and who boarded them at Duncan Switch, and went
at once to his berth. He seemed very much surprised to meet the lady,
but sat down and talked with her until we whistled for Grand Island, and
there, said the conductor, "as I bustled off the train, the operator
handed me a despatch just at same minute that the brakeman came to tell
me we had a cracked wheel on the smoker. One look at the wheel told me
that the car must be left behind, so I ordered out the passengers while
another car was being put on."

But the telegram took more than one look. It puzzled him, said the
conductor. It was sent by the chaplain, a man he knew well, and in brief
words it said, "The lady in Section 7 is the wife of Lieutenant Davies,
Eleventh Cavalry. She needs escort to Omaha, where Lieutenant Leonard
will meet her. If any army officer is aboard, show him this and
introduce him. She should not leave the train."

"Now, there were officers on the car, but they were not yet up,"
continued the official. "Of course I supposed at once that she must be
out of her mind, and that was the trouble. Just at that moment I caught
sight of the young lieutenant who had spent the night in the forward
car. He was a tall, slender fellow, with thick, close-cropped brown
beard and clear blue eyes, and he had got that poor devil of a prisoner
and his guard together, and was fetching them back along the track to
the coffee-stand that happened to be right opposite where the sleeper
stopped. 'Will you read this, and see if you know what to make of it?'
said I, handing him the despatch, and then, as he stopped to read, my
brakeman asked me some question, and I turned around to answer, and
there, just stepping off the Pullman, was Mr. Willett, looking back and
giving his hand to the lady herself. The handcuffed prisoner was just
opposite them at the moment, between two soldiers, and then the next
thing I knew I heard an awful scream, and the lady had covered her face
with her hands and fallen back on the steps, right at the feet of an
officer who was just coming out, and the prisoner thought he saw a
chance, perhaps, and gave a spring and dove like a rat under the car,
the guard clumsily following, and Mr. Willett stared about him one
instant, with a face that turned the color of chalk, then he too gave a
sort of stifled exclamation, 'My God!' and sprang up the steps and over
the platform of the day-car and was out of sight in the flash of an eye.
We heard shouts of 'Halt, halt, or we fire!' from the guards on the
other side of the car, and then two quick shots a little distance away,
and another wail or cry from the lady, and then I felt some one brush by
me, and the lieutenant sprang to her side, lifted her in his arms as he
reached the steps, and carried her, without a word, into the car by an
open window, where she cowered and sobbed and shivered and moaned, and
he all the time bending over and striving to soothe and calm her."

But when that train drew up at the station at Omaha an ambulance
received the bleeding, pain-distorted form of the prisoner Howard, shot
through the leg in his mad effort to escape. Leonard and Truman,
scanning every face as the passengers stepped off the cars, waved their
hands in greeting to the knot of officers on the sleeper platform, and
Leonard sprang aboard, inquiry in his snapping black eyes. They made way
silently for him to enter, and then he knew not whether to believe his

"Leonard," said Davies, quietly, "my wife came on to surprise me at
Omaha, not expecting me this way. I supposed she'd already come in with
the Cranstons. She was hardly well enough for the journey. Will you
kindly order a carriage?"

She was driven away in the very dust of the ambulance that was trundling
one poor wounded fellow to hospital, the conductor lamenting that a
woman so young and lovely should be thus afflicted. No one else aboard
that train could dream from Davies's words or manner that any other
explanation for her coming existed than that she was simply hastening to
Omaha to meet him.

But no claimant appeared for the handsome leather bag and hat-box and
umbrella left in Section 10.

A few days later when the witnesses were scattering back to their
stations, or going on brief leaves of absence before so doing, Cranston
took his soldierly-looking corporal, the recruit of the previous year,
to gladden the eyes of the mother so eagerly awaiting him in Chicago;
but before starting they had been summoned to the hospital where Howard
lay, where "Brannan" formally, though still with sorrow and reluctance,
identified him as Powlett. Leonard was there with the leather
writing-case and its contents, at sight of which Brannan's last barrier
of compunction fell, and Davies stood by the bedside, looking pale,
haggard, and ten years older, and Colonel Rand, the inspector of the
department, and another sad-faced fellow, Langston. And Archer was
there, and Hastings, when Sergeant Haney's formal confession was read.
There was little sensation over it. Everybody seemed to know just about
what it would be. He said nothing to directly accuse Captain Devers of
conspiracy, but Haney had been his first sergeant for five years, and
the devious ways of his troop commander had necessitated the existence
of a right bower who could swear straight and strong to what the captain
thought should be established. They got to know each other thoroughly,
and each lived in mortal dread of some betrayal on the other's part.
There was a squad of six or eight men in the troop which practically
"ran things," and Haney was its head. For years these men had triumphed
over all efforts to break their line, just as Devers had baffled those
which would have cornered him, but they could see plainly that the
captain was nearing the end of his "tether," and his downfall meant
theirs. The catastrophe of Antelope Springs brought matters to a climax.
Half the men in the troop heard Major Warren's orders to Devers, and all
knew he had slighted if not disobeyed them. This, if proved, meant ruin
to the ring, and the plan to shift the blame on Davies's shoulders,--to
make the investigating officer believe the troop had marched right down
along the ridge within supporting distance, and that Davies had become
terror-stricken and had hidden instead of instantly communicating with
his captain, was the result. Devers, indeed, boldly announced that as
his theory and explanation of the whole affair, and Haney, Finucane,
Boyd, and the intelligent Howard were there ready to swear to it and
save the captain the trouble. So long as Davies and McGrath never turned
up to combat the accusation all would go well. The captain didn't tell
them in so many words they must swear to the ridge trail as the one they
pursued the evening of the tragedy, but he did not oppose it. He asked
them for their recollection of the matter and made his map, as did Mr.
Archer his report, accordingly.

Then when it was found that Recruit Brannan as well as certain old hands
resented the idea of Mr. Davies being held accountable, they had to
muzzle him. Brannan declared he would warn the lieutenant the moment he
returned to the troop, so they made up their minds that he must be
discredited, if not ruined. Howard said that there was in his
writing-case a sealed packet that contained evidence that would send him
to State's prison and "kill" him in the lieutenant's eyes; and this,
indeed, was no idle threat, for Powlett, fearing detection if he either
sold or kept the watch he had torn from Davies's pocket after the
cowardly assault, had sealed it in one package and tied Mira's gushing
letters in another, and long before had induced the unsuspecting boy to
promise to keep and guard them for him as a sacred trust. Only as a last
resort, said Haney, were they to exhibit the proofs of Brannan's
apparent criminality. Meantime, by sending him to the agency or tempting
him with liquor they hoped to keep him harmless.

But Howard soon began striking for leadership. He held the secrets of
his captain and two of his sergeants and was safely out of the troubles
that involved him at home. (He had been wise enough to confide these to
no one and to make poor Brannan swear to preserve his secret.) He was
beginning to hear from relations and receive money from them. He began
to put on airs over everybody, captain and all, and though Haney hated,
and was jealous of his influence, he dared not offend him. They knew it
was he who was seen prowling about Davies's quarters, but they could not
account for it, and strove to make it appear that Brannan was the
culprit. And then he began "sparking" Robideau's daughter in town, and
had become moody, nervous, excitable; talked about mysterious spies and
trailers, and then, suddenly and unaccountably, deserted after a spree
in Braska that had cost him much money,--after a mad scrape in which he
had terrified Mrs. Davies and thrashed Mr. Willett. Who he was or what
he was Sergeant Haney didn't know, but that he was a villain with a
history and a capacity for further devilment was certain. Haney had
still more to tell. The captain had sent for him and told him of the
adjutant's being in conference with the chaplain and Mr. Davies, and he
felt sure it was about the Antelope Springs matter. He was sure they had
his map, the one on which Archer based his report, and that this would
some day be brought up in evidence against him. It was locked for the
night in the second drawer of the adjutant's desk, said he, and Haney
understood. The drawer was chiselled that night and the map and papers
taken, but not until the robbery was known all over the post did the
captain see the map and see that it wasn't his original at all, but
simply a copy. Except for information obtained in the memoranda, they
had robbed the desk to no purpose.

Howard was gone before this, but there was Brannan's writing-case in
Haney's possession, why not throw further suspicion upon him? and so
there were the papers hidden in the hopes of further damning him should
he ever appear as a witness against them. For all this and much more the
poor dying sinner craved forgiveness, and, hearing promptly of the
confession, through Finucane, who had fled with horse, equipments, and
everything, Howard, in hiding and in want at Butte, wired to his
captain, hoping to extract more money, for Devers had been a thrifty,
and was regarded a wealthy, man.

And then when this confession had been made known to the wounded
sufferer the chaplain spoke. "You see the case that is building up
against you, Powlett, and just as soon as you are able to sit or stand
the court will meet for your trial. You have assault with intent to
kill, at Bluff Siding if not at Urbana, highway robbery, theft,
desertion, conspiracy, and kindred crimes to answer for; would it not be
infinitely better that you should confess fully and at once? Even the
men whom you have so bitterly wronged join in no clamor against--they
would even spare--you."

But Powlett was a villain game, and answered only with a sneer. It was
that packet of Mira's letters handed to Davies with his father's watch
that supplemented Brannan's story and told him all. Mira could not live
without adorers, could not resist the longing to flaunt her victims in
the faces of other girls, and Powlett was a conquest indeed until his
rascality at the institute became known. Then he had to flee, but such
was his infatuation that he returned in hopes of seeing her. She did
meet him in secret, for it was sweet to see his despair. She refused to
meet him again, however, and then he charged her with faithlessness and
demanded to be told the truth about Davies. If that fellow reappeared as
her lover he swore to kill him, and then she bade him go and never see
her more, with the result already known. And at Bluff Siding in the
crowd and confusion he might have killed Davies but for Brannan's
watchful eye and warding hand. That was the last pound that broke the
back of Brannan's feeling of friendship and gratitude. He would no more
of Powlett, yet remained true to his pledge of secrecy. Mira's dream of
joy and triumph as an army bride met its first rude shock when, under
her window at Scott, she heard stealthy footsteps and the soft, low
whistling of a familiar air, the signal with which he used to summon her
to their trysting-place at home. The mad fool thought either to recover
his ascendency over her or revenge himself by tormenting, and then, when
her husband was sent to the agency and he saw opportunity of meeting and
terrorizing her, he was infuriated with new jealousy by her flirtation
with Willett. Even there at Scott he must have written and made further
threats, for the freshest and newest of the precious collection of her
letters found in "Brannan's" case referred to something of the kind.
Driven to desperation, she wrote that she would expose him to her
husband and Captain Cranston if he again presumed to address her, and
finally wrote this last:

"My husband will be here within forty-eight hours and I have fully
resolved to confess all to him: that you, who made the cowardly assault
and left him for dead at Urbana, and have been guilty of such abominable
crimes, are here, in this garrison, a soldier in his troop. If you
remain it is at your peril. On my knees I swear it." And with this
melodramatic conclusion Mira had really frightened him. He had sense
enough to know that, with all the other complications in which he was
involved, this exposure was more than he could stand. He made other
efforts to see and plead with her, but they were fruitless, and his own
melodramatic _coup_,--his last appearance, as he supposed, before her
eyes, then followed. After that, desertion.

Davies read but two of these missives, the first and the last. He
restored them to her without a word. She was lying in the seclusion of
her shaded room at the hotel when he returned from the hospital, the
chaplain with him. They spoke few words together on the way, and parted
on the corridor, near her door, for there Davies turned and faced his

"And you must go back to Scott to-night, sir?"

"Yes." The chaplain was still grasping his hand and looking into the
sad, stern face with anxiety and tenderness and unspoken longing in his
eyes. "I will see to all you have charged me with." He placed his other
hand upon the broad shoulder before him. "My son, though I never met, I
knew, your father, and that told me what to look for in you." And now
the rich, deep voice was tremulous, and the kind old eyes were dim with
unshed tears. "The hand of the Lord has been laid in heaviness upon you,
but 'those whom He loveth He chasteneth.' Even could I lift the burden
of your sorrow as easily as I raise this hand, I should falter, because,
as I believe in God, so do I believe that through trial even such as
this your light shall yet shine before men so pure and strong that men
themselves shall be purer and stronger because of it."

There was a moment's pause. Davies stood with bowed head. Cranston,
coming into the hall-way, stopped at sight of them and tiptoed back,
motioning to others to wait. Then the chaplain spoke again,--

"You will write--as soon as--you have decided?"

"I have decided," was the low, calm answer.


"Yes, we go to-night. She is not too ill to move, and once at Urbana--no
one need know."

"Do you mean----?" began the chaplain.

"I mean," said Davies, looking calmly and with dry, tired eyes into the
chaplain's face, "that she is utterly alone in the world,--homeless,
friendless. Who knows but that her story may be true, despite
indications? What would be her fate if I were to fail her now? It was
'for better, for worse,' chaplain. I have tried to do my duty in the
past. God help me to do it to the end."

The tears were running down the old clergyman's face when, around the
corner, he came suddenly on Cranston and his friends, and they seemed to

       *       *       *       *       *

There was a new post commander at Scott when the first snows fell that
winter, for honest Pegleg had retired and Leonard had a colonel after
his own heart, and the Fortieth sang songs of praise when the campaign
was over, and moved into quarters and renewed acquaintances with their
families and "assurances" with the Eleventh when they happened to meet
along the Union Pacific, and said they sorely missed them at the post,
as probably they did, but the Eleventh didn't care to go back. It was
too near civilization, said Truman. Tintop had his warriors under his
own wing after the close of the fighting season, and they were having
grand times at Ransom. There this winter were most of the familiar names
and faces. The Cranstons, Trumans, and Hays, Boynton, Hastings, and
Sanders, battle-scarred heroes, most of them, and dozens of others in
the congenial circle; but Margaret Cranston sorely missed her boys, who
were big enough now to be at school, and far too big to be staying
around garrison. She missed, too, their fair teacher and her friend, but
Agatha Loomis firmly told her she had decided not to return to the
frontier now that she no longer had her pupils. To the unspeakable
indignation and grief of her cousin, she had chosen what Margaret termed
"a life of drudgery" as a teacher in Mrs. Forester's seminary for young
ladies, only a few miles out of Chicago. Even there had Langston
followed, but in vain. That, however, was a subject on which Margaret
had promised to dilate no more. She had done her best, she said, for
Agatha. She had striven to aid and abet this distinguished and worthy
gentleman in his suit. She thought the difference of some twenty-five
years between his age and her cousin's a feeble consideration as against
his sterling worth and wealth. Agatha owned that she respected and
esteemed him highly,--looked up to him, in fact,--but as a maid of
twenty looks up to the man of forty-five. She did not love and therefore
would not marry him. The whole regiment seemed to feel for him, but he
came to them no more. He was East again, and seeking resignation in the
one safe solace, hard and constant work.

But the Davieses, where were they? Time and again was that question
asked. He hurried back for the grand chase they had in September when
Chief Joseph made his memorable rush cross continent. He left Mira at
Urbana installed in lodgings near her father's home. He went back to her
in December when the troops returned, and then came orders announcing
that Lieutenant Percy Davies, Eleventh Cavalry, was detailed on
temporary duty at division head-quarters. It was at this time that Aunt
Almira urgently offered him and her pretty niece, his wife, the
hospitality of her home, begging that he, her boy's friend and
fellow-soldier and admiration, should bring her and be their guest in
Chicago as long as they could possibly stay, and Aunt Almira was amazed
at the refusal, grateful, gentle, courteous though it was in every way.
Mira, junior, had been devoted to society when there before, was it
possible she had so soon tired of it all? Davies had some topographical
work to do, it soon transpired, for the lieutenant-general wanted
certain maps made of the Bad Lands traversed during the campaigns of the
two years, and the Gray Fox recommended the silent, observant young
graduate, whose field-notes had proved so accurate and complete. Not
oftener than once a week did Davies go in to consult the chief engineer
at head-quarters. The work he did in quiet at Urbana, and it might
detain him several months. Aunt Almira thought it really strange that he
could succeed in it at all. She was sure that the descriptions her boy
had given of the Bad Lands were so vividly accurate that he must know
them even better than did her nephew-in-law, the lieutenant. She asked
her husband if it did not seem almost as though Davies might be afraid
to have her lambkin take any part in it lest it should rob the officer
of the credit, but that hard-headed old railway-man thought not. He
shared her gratification in the wonderfully improved appearance of the
boy, and secretly marvelled at his apparent reformation. He had several
talks with him, gave her for him abundant money, so that on his home
visit he might dress as became his mother's son and enjoy himself like a
gentleman. He expected him to turn up speedily somewhere on a tremendous
drunk, and was rejoiced and surprised that he did not. Aunt Almira had
planned a grand dinner to which should be bidden the general and staff,
the Cranstons and others, all in honor of the home-coming of their
fellow-soldier, her son, and was utterly bewildered and crestfallen when
the latter laughingly told her to go ahead with the dinner, but count
him out; corporals didn't dine with their generals and captains, despite
the teachings of the modern military drama. The mother indignantly
protested. The son was firm. If her boy, said she, wasn't good enough to
sit at table with the President of the United States then she wasn't. If
that was the result of his joining the cavalry, the sooner he resigned
and quit the better, and then he saw the indignant tears and teased no
more, but took her in his arms and soothed and strove to explain. Soothe
he could, but explain he could not. She gave up the dinner until after
he had gone back to his regiment, for go he would, as he meant to be a
sergeant inside of two years, and when she found that the sole
difference between sergeant and corporal in our blessedly democratic
service was simply half an inch or so more of stripe on his trousers,
and brought him no nearer the commission and little farther from the
rank and file, she marvelled that the Department of War could be so
slow to appreciate a soldier ready to do so much for so little. Go back
to "C" Troop he would and did, and was proud of it, and her husband
comforted her by saying "Bran" was a man at last.

But if the Eleventh heard but little of the Davieses for a time, they
had abundant news of Devers, and much comfort did he seem to find in
sending to them stacks of local papers, and in writing long,
argumentative letters in which he sought to convince his readers that he
was a wronged and injured man. When Trooper Howard came up for the trial
which resulted in his going in irons for a five years' tour in prison,
an effort was made to get Devers before the court as a witness, and a
_subpoena duces tecum_ was duly served upon him in his far distant
home within sight of the sounding sea, but it did not fetch him. Devers
explained that as a civilian he had no interest in the proceedings and
could not be required to obey the mandate of a purely military court, a
view in which the judiciary of the great republic, ever steadfast in the
principle that military must be subservient to the civil power,
virtually sustained him. It was perfectly competent for a court-martial
to summon a civilian witness, said the bench, but it had no recourse in
case the civilian treated both court and summons with contempt, and
Devers's fellow-citizens in the far East, headed by the editor of the
_Mooselemeguntic Mirror_, congratulated their returned hero on the
spirited and just rebuke he had administered to a satrapy which should
have no place among an enlightened people. Indeed, the _Mirror's_
interviews and editorials were both full of brilliant mendacity just
now. Devers's story was in every issue, more or less of it, and West
Point jealousy was the theme of many a paragraphic fling. Brilliant,
daring, conspicuous as had been Devers's services during the civil war
and on the wild frontier, he had never succeeded in winning recognition,
owing to the persistent calumnies of his seniors, who, graduates of the
great national charity school on the Hudson, were leagued to down any
man whose ability, dash, and daring made him the object of their narrow
jealousy and the victim of their inordinate greed. After years of
patient service, loyal and dutiful, their distinguished fellow-citizen,
said the _Mirror_, had been relieved from his command on trumped-up
charges, and, though he pleaded hard to be allowed to go with them in
any capacity, even as an humble trooper in the ranks, his company took
the field on the late campaign without him, and, deprived of the
services of their beloved captain, met with grievous and irreparable
disaster. Even then his enemies were not silenced. The faithful soldiers
who clamored for the restoration of their captain were driven to death
or desertion. He himself begged to be confronted with his accusers, but
met denial, delay, and deceit at every hand. One pretext after another
was resorted to in postponing the meeting of the court, and at last,
worn out with long struggle against prejudice, injustice, and organized
enmity, he had thrown up his commission in a thankless service and
returned to the welcoming arms of his fellow-citizens. The _Mirror_, in
which Devers had a controlling interest, inquired whether the time had
not come for the recall of the amiable fossil then misrepresenting the
district in Congress, and the unanimous election of Colonel Devers as
his successor. The governor, needing the support of the _Mirror_ in a
coming campaign, gladly availed himself of the opportunity of rewarding
a war-tried veteran, and named the returning soldier an aide-de-camp
with the rank of colonel on his staff, and humble subalterns of
artillery from the two-battery post at the entrance of Mooselemeguntic
Bay looked with awe upon the future military committeeman of the --th
Congress, yet were charmed with his affability at the governor's ball,
where his new uniform fitted him better than did those of his associate
aides, and where the artillerymen heard things confirmatory of their
convictions that their comrades of the cavalry really had no idea how to
fight Indians. Devers was on the high-road to fame and Congress, and
might indeed have made successful run had the election occurred within
four months after his return, but four months was too long for him to
live without differing, and little by little the _Mirror_ became dimmed
and Devers's image faded out of public sight.

Only once did it revive, and that was when, several years after, all on
a sudden there appeared in the columns of the army paper notice that a
bill had been introduced in Congress providing for the restoration to
the army, with the rank he would have held had he remained continuously
in the cavalry service, of Jared B. Devers, formerly captain Eleventh
Cavalry, who had tendered his resignation some years before owing to
disagreements with certain officers representing the West Point element,
which was hostile to him, and friends in Washington warned the Eleventh
that old Differs had strong political backing.

And then did the Eleventh arise in its wrath. Good old Tintop had been
gathered to his fathers by that time. Riggs was rusting out of active
service, Pegleg was buried and Mrs. Pegleg was married again,--a
lieutenant this time; but there was no lack of men to remember how he
had managed by political influence at Washington to secure the
acceptance of his resignation the moment he saw how surely, if brought
to trial, the case would go against him, and the Eleventh published a
memorial, signed by almost every surviving officer who was with it in
the old days. The bill if passed would make Devers a major well up on
the list, for Warren was now lieutenant-colonel of the --th, Truman
major of the Fourth, Cranston senior captain, Boynton and Hastings were
junior troop commanders, Sanders a senior first and regimental
quartermaster. All these and other names appeared attached to the
remonstrance, and that bill was never even reported in committee. It was
learned that in the course of some years of differing with his business
associates, the gentle Devers, though still a colonel on his native
heath, had nearly wrecked the "Mirror" and his fortune with it, and so
bethought him of this scheme of restoration to the army. Leonard was by
this time an assistant adjutant-general, and prompt to act. There was a
jubilee at Ransom the evening after his despatch was received reporting
arrival of the regimental protest and the remarks thereon by members of
the military committee. The officers gathered in the club-room and drank
long life to Leonard and confusion to Devers, and then little Sanders
tuned up his guitar and sang. He was just back from leave, and a
popular lyric of the day was one they called "The Accent On," for the
last line of every verse was "with the accent on" some syllable of the
last word of the previous line. There was nothing especially poetic or
refined about the composition, but the newspapers were ringing the
changes on it. A popular comedian had sung and made much of it, and its
composer had presumably made something if not much out of it, and
Sanders was sure of laughter and applause when he sang it at the
"stags." One verse was of a man who came home in a maudlin state and his
wife remarked, "Well, you are beautiful. With the accent on the full."
Another was of a man who wanted unlimited credit at a bar and was told,
"I like not your arithmetic. With the accent on the tick." All very poor
literature, perhaps, but it amused, and this night after singing three
verses of the old song, Sanders "turned loose" on a verse of his own
which, when heard, the mess applauded and chorused to the echo, and
broke up singing again and again Sanders's telling hit in the last line:

    We had a cap in our corps
      Who left us years ago,
    Who never said a manly word
      Nor struck a manly blow.
    He never faced when he could dodge,
      He only spoke to slur,
    And now he is a colonel,
      But the accent's on the cur.

And that was Devers's requiem in the Eleventh Horse as well as in the
house of Congress. He never vexed them more.

One of the old names was lacking on the list that accompanied the
remonstrance,--that of the man of whom, nearly a decade before, Devers
"only spoke to slur." Lieutenant Davies would not sign. He was with the
regiment too, but, just as of old, eschewed the club-room and all
gatherings of the kind. They had taken the paper to him and he read,
pondered, and said no. Gray it was, now captain of "I" Troop, with which
Davies was on duty as first lieutenant, who draughted the paper, and
confidently presented it to his subaltern. "Why not?" said he, in
surprise. "No man ever did more to injure you except perhaps----" And
here Gray broke off short in sudden confusion.

"Perhaps that is why I prefer not to be quoted against him," said
Davies, quietly. And mentally kicking himself, as he expressed it, for
making such a "break" as in his bungling half allusion to the exception,
Gray hastened away to tell of it. His story came to unsympathetic ears.

"In my opinion," said Sanders, "if you mean that other fellow, he didn't
injure Parson half as much as he hurt himself."

That, too, was an old story in the Eleventh by this time. Six long
months was Davies absent from the regiment on his map-work at division
head-quarters. Then came the customary call to the field for another
season of scouting and campaigning, and he rejoined his troop, somewhat
pallid and graver looking, the result probably of long days of toil over
his drawing board. He was only a few hours at Ransom before they
marched, but the ladies wanted to know all about Mrs. Davies and what
she was to do in his absence. Mrs. Davies would remain at Urbana, said
he, where her father and sister dwelt, and those were indeed his
injunctions to her, and for a month after his departure she observed
them, then repaired to Chicago and Aunt Almira's roof. Davies by this
time was with his troop scouting near Yellowstone Park, far beyond reach
of telegrams or letters. Society was unusually gay that summer. There
was dancing, boating, dining, summer resorting, and one of the loveliest
of summer resorts within an hour's run of the great city was Forest
Glen, the seat of the famous seminary where Agatha Loomis was enjoying
the quiet of her vacation, and one night, strolling with Mrs. Forrester
over to the hotel to watch the dancers and hear the lovely music, she
came face to face in the soft moonlight with a couple so absorbed in
their conversation that not until they were actually brushing by did
they look up, and even Mrs. Forrester saw the sudden confusion and
dismay in their faces. The man turned white and made a hurried movement
as though to lift his hat. The woman flushed, almost angrily. Miss
Loomis bowed calmly and coldly and passed on without a word.

The next day, however, she called at the Glen House, where the two
Almiras, aunt and niece, were spending the week, and asked for Mrs.
Percy Davies. Mrs. Davies was out. Miss Loomis wrote a few words in
pencil, slipped them into an envelope, sent that up, and the next day
called again, and Mrs. Davies begged to be excused. Miss Loomis sadly
went home, penned a long letter to Mrs. Davies, and on the following
morning sent it. In half an hour her messenger and note returned. Mrs.
Davies had left for home that morning. Urbana was not far away, and two
days later Miss Loomis was there inquiring for Mrs. Davies on her native
heath. She had not returned. She was visiting her aunt at Forest Glen,
and then Agatha knew she had come too late. She had striven to prove to
the poor empty-headed, empty-hearted girl that she had at least one
friend. She had hoped to plead, to point out the right, and, if
possible, save her from herself and the impending step, but all to no
purpose. Two years later, among the papers of her unhappy boy, a
sorrowing mother found two little notes written, like Beatrix Esmond's,
to lure her lover on. One was dated Fort Scott in the summer of '77. "We
are desolate again with all our soldiers in the field, but we pray for
happier days. Have you no new waltz music for us?" And this reached him
at the sea-shore. The second was posted on the railway and addressed to
his club in New York. "I am even more desolate than last year. Shall I
never hear from you again?" It contained a self-addressed envelope. And
that was why her boy postponed until later in the summer the voyage his
physician had advised, and why he lived apart from friends and kindred,
in Paris most of the time, until the death of his wretched companion
within a year of their flight. Then Langston, at his mother's prayer,
went over and fetched him home. It had been a year soon given over to
recrimination, bitter reproaches, and frequent and increasing
estrangement. Willett was but the moody wreck of his old self when
restored to the one faithful friend who clung to him as only mothers
will, in spite of all.

The Eleventh was a thousand miles or so away the summer of poor Mira's
final escapade, and not until she was across the sea did the news reach
her husband. She wrote a few words of farewell such as would be expected
of her. "You never loved me," she said, "never understood me, and in
every way I was made to feel that I was only a burden, only a doll. You
have mured me here in prison, where I have no soul to sympathize with
me, and I can bear it no longer. You will not miss me. Indeed, I know
too well how soon you will find solace, and where. Henceforth I dedicate
my life to one who adores me, whose soul responds to every thought of
mine. Adieu."

It was predicted about this time that Davies would resign, shoot
Willett, or study for the ministry. Many men thought that he bore his
wrongs so meekly that he had mistaken his calling. One man, a sergeant,
said as much in Corporal Brannan's presence, and the result was a scene
that called for the intervention of the guard and the adjudication of a
court-martial. Brannan lost his chevrons, but gained an enthusiastic
friend and champion in Cranston, who sifted out the cause of the
fight,--a matter scrupulously hidden from the court. Brannan went into
the Ute campaign the following year a sergeant, and out of the army with
an Indian bullet through his arm and into his chest, where the doctors
couldn't find it. Little by little the doting mother at home began to
learn how very far away that longed-for commission might be. Her boy
himself flouted the idea. "I haven't the education," he said, "and would
be ill at ease and out of place among them." And so the magnate was
steadily importuned, and when at last the young fellow came home after
the Milk River campaign, and generals like Sheridan and Crook praised
his pluck and devotion, and the doctors said he simply couldn't go back
to service, they got him his discharge,--a medal of honor came
later,--and presently in the long list of railway officials of the Q. R.
and X. appeared his name as assistant general passenger agent, and for a
couple of years the way that great corporation dealt out passes to the
army was a matter that finally came up at directors' meeting and led to
a preliminary to the Interstate Commerce Law of '87, and a restriction
of the powers of the assistant. But there was no longer any hitch in the
maternal schemes for elaborate dinners to generals and staff. They
enjoyed meeting "the sergeant," as he rejoiced in being called, as much
as he could wish, and if they did not quite look upon him as she did, as
the central figure, the one Prince Paramount of the late campaign, there
was at least warmth and cordiality and comradeship enough to gratify
even a mother's heart.

But the Parson did not resign. He was away from the regiment again a
long month after Mira's flight, and again after her death, returning
suddenly on each occasion because of the imminence of Indian hostilities
which for a time seemed breaking out in new spots with every spring.
Between Cranston and himself there was ever the same firm and steadfast
friendship. He sought no intimacies anywhere, but in the same calm,
grave, consistent way he went about his duties in garrison, waking up to
something like enthusiasm or excitement only when "on the trail." For
three years after his brief absence in the summer of '79 he never left
his troop a day. A wonderfully good drill officer was the Parson, with a
powerful, ringing voice. "Make a splendid exhorter," said some of the
boys. He was an accurate tactician, too, and a man who had the faculty
of getting admirable results out of his command "without ever a cuss
word," said Truman, a thing which that old-time troop leader could not
understand. Davies lived hours in the open air, but read and studied
much. Popular he was not, and never cared to be; but, honored and
respected by one and all and loved by little children, he went his
earnest way, and little by little Margaret Cranston found herself
leaning more and more upon his opinions as to the pursuits and studies
of her boys, and would sit with her needle-work listening to the long
discussions between him and her husband, who read not much outside the
papers, and presently it got to be the established thing for the Parson
to read aloud to them when he came, and though Wilbur scandalized her by
going to sleep and snoring on two occasions, he soon began to wake up
and talk and discuss, and others, dropping in, either stayed to take
part in Cranston's impromptu lyceum or took their chatter elsewhere. The
second and third winters at old Laramie were some of the loveliest, said
Margaret afterwards, she ever knew, and Mr. Davies had become one of
themselves. His promotion to "I" Troop and transfer to a different post
was nothing short of a domestic calamity.

But not until that promotion and transfer occurred--though who shall say
there was significance in the fact?--was Mrs. Cranston able to induce
Miss Loomis to visit the frontier again. They were together all the
summer of '81, at the sea-shore with the boys, while Captain Cranston
and Davies and others were scorching on the plains, and Miss Loomis
evidently needed rest and salt air and water. The next winter she gave
up her duties at the seminary and joined the Cranstons on a trip down
the Mississippi, eventually returning with her cousin to Wyoming, for
her health seemed to have suffered from the long confinement at the
school. Bob Gray, with "I" Troop, was away up at Fort McKinney then, but
an important court met at the old station down on the Platte, and, as
luck would have it, Lieutenant Davies was sent in as judge-advocate.

Just why Mrs. Cranston should have made no mention to Miss Loomis of his
coming is a matter only a woman can explain, but she kept the matter to
herself until the evening of his arrival. It was their first meeting in
four years. The court was in session a month, and three evenings out of
four Davies spent as of old at Cranston's fireside. Sanders suggested
that the Parson seemed to be "taking notice" again. But Davies went back
to his station and Miss Loomis went on about her daily avocations,
reading aloud while Margaret's busy needle flew, or playing sweet old
melodies at the piano. The young officers were rather afraid of her. She
was "a somewhat superior old maid," said a youngster whom she had found
it expedient to repress. Some women declared her a trifle
unapproachable, unsympathetic perhaps, but even that did not seem to
disconcert her. Something happened ere long that did, however, for a few
months after adjournment of the court Davies reappeared at Laramie. He
had actually taken a leave of absence, and now he was at Cranston's six
evenings out of seven, and garrison gossip began in good earnest. Was
the Parson seeking solace where poor Mira always said he would? If so,
he had little to build on by way of encouragement. The Cranstons missed
him sorely when he went back to Gray, and Miss Loomis frankly referred
to him as "most instructive" and much broadened and improved. She missed
him as any one must miss so well-informed a companion. Four years before
she used to exasperate Margaret by standing up for him no matter what he
did; now she vexed her by refusing to see anything remarkable in him
whatever. Davies wrote with increasing frequency from Fort McKinney to
Mrs. Cranston, and Margaret always wanted to read the letters aloud,
which was bad generalship in a would-be match-maker.

Then one day came the tidings that head-quarters and six troops were to
be stationed together, "C" and "I" among them, and Miss Loomis returned
to Chicago. "I'll never forgive you as long as I live," said Margaret.
"I know just why you won't stay, and you needn't have worried
yourself,--he's far too proud to importune a woman who won't listen
to--to reason."

But Mrs. Cranston meant love, not reason, and the two are miles or
oceans apart. Mr. Davies might be too proud to worry a woman who
couldn't appreciate reason, but a woman worth the winning was worth the
wooing, and not a little of it. Business called him to Urbana several
days the following winter, and something kept him several weeks. He
resumed duty in the spring, steadfast as ever, but even less disposed
to take part in garrison affairs. Mrs. Cranston wrote fiercely and
frequently to Agatha, and, for aught I know, called her opprobrious
things. For another year she refused to return to them. Then came a
winter indeed of discontent, and the Eleventh was ordered to far away,
burning, blistering Arizona, all but Cranston's troop, excepted at the
last moment and detailed for service at the School of Application.
Agatha again came to stay with them, and here at last Margaret Cranston
learned the momentous fact that, after all these years, something had
happened: they were actually corresponding.

She learned more within the fortnight that followed. One exquisite May
evening just as the sunset gun had fired and all the bordering walks and
piazzas were thronged with gayly-dressed groups, women and children
mainly, watching the scene on the parade, there was some stir among the
clerks and orderlies and a gentle movement over on the porch of the
colonel commanding. The long line of officers dispersed as usual at
dismissal of parade, and Cranston came strolling over homeward chatting
with his friend and next-door neighbor, Captain Blake, of the --th.
Blake's lovely wife was even then on Cranston's veranda, for she and
Miss Loomis seemed to have taken a fancy to each other from the moment
of their meeting. Margaret, as usual, met her hero at the steps, just as
a young officer came excitedly and hurriedly down the brick walk from
the colonel's. It was Blake who heard him calling some tidings to other
households and who hailed him as he neared them and was bustling by.

"What's the row, Tommy?"

"Big fight in Arizona," was the startling answer. "Captain Hastings and
Parson Davies killed."

And Nannie Blake saw in amaze the light go out of her companion's eyes
and every vestige of color from her face. Her arms were about her in an
instant, and none too soon. Oh, the blessing of those clinging,
clustering vines! No one else saw how they had to fairly carry her
within doors, but Agatha's secret was revealed.

There was little exaggeration in the first story of that savage battle
in the cañon. Many a gallant fellow lay stripped and bloated when the
relief party reached the scene a few days later, but Davies, though
pierced through and through, still lived, and was moved and borne away
weeks later to bracing mountain air, and found many a reason for wanting
to live for many a year. Two men had gone to him fast as trains could
speed, Cranston and our old friend the chaplain. It was the former who
within the week that followed that engagement announced another. It was
the latter who within the fortnight joined her hand in his, white,
feeble as it was, and poured out his very heart and soul in the fervent
prayer for blessing on this man and this woman now at last made one.

       *       *       *       *       *

That seems a long time ago. The regiment is famous now for its troop
commanders,--stalwart fellows in the prime of life who have brought the
training of men and mounts to a point of excellence such enthusiasts as
Cranston only dreamed of in the old campaigning days, when there was
little opportunity for experiment or practice in any other branch of
the trooper's art than that developed on the trail of savage foe.
Already the men who were stripling soldiers in '76 are wearing
patriarchal--long since they assumed patronizing--airs towards those who
came too late to learn campaigning when the Indian was not hemmed in by
railways, but ruled the Plains, proud monarch of all he surveyed.
Already silver threads are streaking the beards and temples of even such
rollicking spirits as Sanders, while Boynton is gray as the chargers of
the troop he commands. Cranston's squadron was cheered to the skies when
it marched away from Chicago after its month of riot duty, and on the
plains of Evanston during the manoeuvres the visitors thronged to see
the feats in horsemanship displayed by the men of Davies's troop. Even
in the Eleventh he was held to be the most brilliant instructor as well
as the most judicious and successful troop commander. Old-time dragoons
simply couldn't understand it. Here was a man who would neither drink,
swear, nor flare up and boil over when things went wrong on drill, but
preserved a calm, even-tempered, dignified bearing at all times. True,
he had native gifts which were not shared by all his kind,--a deep,
resonant voice, a ringing word of command, a fine physique, an admirable
seat, and an easy, practised hand, all of which were combined with a
consummate knowledge of his art. He was equally at home in saddle or
squad-room, and at all times was friend and almost father to his men.
"A" Troop, once the worst-drilled in the Eleventh, and universally known
as the "Differentials," is now called "the Parson's Flock," but there is
no irreverence in the term, for soldiers honor men like him whose faith
is backed by courage long tried on many a field. There isn't a man in
Cranston's squadron who would not resent an affront to their pet troop
commander, as they would were the major himself the object of aspersion,
and as for Agatha, his wife,--Florence Nightingale was not more beloved.

They were talking of it all the other evening, seated among the tents on
the broad, level prairie just before the separation for the winter
stations was announced. The old chaplain was there to say farewell to
his own stalwart son, now wearing his first shoulder-straps in the
regiment his father had known so long and well. "Sometimes," said the
dominie, "I look back almost wistfully on those old days with all their
danger and privation, and while the life our fellows lead to-day knows
little of the temptation and trial encountered twenty years ago, it
seems to lack its vim and vigor. Sometimes I almost wish my boy could
have begun--with you."

Davies was silent a moment. "It was a hard experience," said he,
finally. "It seems odd to think that to some of us there was more peace
on the war-path than at home, more rest in the field than in the fort.
Perhaps the reason why one's sterner qualities were so constantly called
into play was that not only in action but in all the surroundings of our
daily life we seemed forever 'under fire.'"



Captain Charles King, U.S.A.

UNDER FIRE. Illustrated. Cloth, $1.25.
THE COLONEL'S DAUGHTER. Illustrated. Cloth, $1.25.
MARION'S FAITH. Illustrated. Cloth, $1.25.
CAPTAIN BLAKE. Illustrated. Cloth, $1.25.
FOES IN AMBUSH. Cloth, $1.25.
KITTY'S CONQUEST. Cloth, $1.00.
WARING'S PERIL. Cloth, $1.00.

Editor of


For sale by all Booksellers.


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